sirisa clark

the things I do and the words I choose


Almost Wordless Wednesday: Composed

So, I have to confess that between finishing the scarf, Ben’s Supervillain-themed fancy dress birthday party (yes, I was Catwoman again, causing some discussion about the moral ambiguity of her character), and catching a filthy stinking cold, I have a) not been blogging much, and b) not had any time to take photos.

Which was a slight problem for this week’s homework: find an interesting piece of architecture, and practice the 6 basic types of composition on it: Thirds, Diagonals, Lead In/Out, Pattern/Detail, Framing and Straight On.

In a bit of a panic, I turned to the past and decided to rifle through my photos of India and Japan to find some decent shots. And you know what I found? I’m not very good at taking photos. Yes I know, I was shocked too.

After a couple of hours, several hundred photos and a serious dose of despondency, I selected a handful from my visit to Japan. I got them printed, took a deep breath and headed to class. Only to find there was no critique this week, we were heading out to shoot St Pancras station instead.

But hey, that doesn’t mean you guys can’t critique them! Here are my shots of Japan, focusing on Torii gates.

Bonus fact: just realised I took all of these on my old Olympus Mju, so actually kind of pleased with the respective quality



Lead In


Detail/ Pattern


Straight On





1 Comment

Blog Action Day: The Cultural Environment

Today is Blog Action Day – a day for bloggers across the world to write on a common theme, and share their thoughts and their readers. I was introduced to the concept by my friend and fellow writer Yen.

As this year’s theme is the Power of We, I thought I’d take the opportunity to write a post I’ve been meaning to write since I was in Italy, in the hope that I can harness the Power of Blog Action Day to promote a worthwhile cause.

In a quiet corner of southern Italy, 8,000 olive trees are marked for destruction.

Why? Well, somebody thought it would be a good idea to expand the existing highway from two lanes to four. The words ‘hyperspace bypass’ spring to mind, but may not mean much to people who aren’t nuts about Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Anyway, I’ve been up and down this highway several times, and the last thing it needs is an additional two lanes.

Leila and her friends are engaged in a grass roots campaign to save the olive trees and halt expansion of the highway (or should I say, tree roots campaign! No, no I shouldn’t. Shut up, silly pun Siri). They’ve been working locally to raise awareness of the campaign, and to gather a thousand signatures on their petition. They have also launched the petition online with Avaaz to reach a wider audience, check it out (if you don’t read Italian, try opening it in Chrome and it will offer you a translation).

You all know that I think trees are kind of a big deal, so I won’t go off on one again about how no trees = asphyxiation and death.

But a funny thing struck me as I was reading through the petition. The petition makes reference to ancient Greco-Roman and Christian relics that will be destroyed in the process, such as the crypt of San Basilio. Google Translate makes a bit of a hash of this – or perhaps it’s a poetic interpretation?

“the dissipation and destruction of priceless and countless stories of the greek-Roman and Christian civilization and the work of our age-old civilization”

I was immediately reminded of an article I read recently on George Monbiot’s blog: Ash tree threat reminds us that when we lose wildlife, we lose stories.

The Ash tree has an incredibly important role in Norse mythology, but the Olive tree plays a major role in Mediterranean life and consequently, in Greek and Roman myths. It is said that Athena brought the olive to Greece, by casting her spear into the ground, which sprang to life as an olive tree.

The olive tree also crops up in the Bible and the Quran, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Obviously this is a very different situation from the possibility of the Ash tree dying out completely. But my point is that this kind of destruction wears away at more than just the environment – it also erodes our cultural heritage.

Local officials in Salento say that the new 4-lane highway will bring tourists to the region. But what do they think tourists are coming to see?

Leave a comment

All these things that I have done

Wow, so my mum responded to my Life List post by creating a Facebook album of some of the awesome things I did before I was 6 years old. Check it.

1. Get born. In Zimbabwe

I know right? This one took me months of careful planning: getting myself conceived, orchestrating the move to Zimbabwe, arriving nearly a month late so my mum had to deliver me herself.

(Yes, I was late for my own birth. Yes, I was late for my own wedding. My tombstone will read: In Death as in Life: the Late Sirisa Clark).

2. Travel all over Africa before the age of 2. Also: be outrageously blonde.

Bet you weren’t expecting that, after the mass of black hair I was born with eh?

Yes, blondes really do have more fun! Or at least my mum did, hitchhiking around southern Africa with a platinum-blonde baby whose name means “secret” in Swahili. (“What’s your baby’s name?” “It’s Siri” “… ah go on, you can tell me!” “No, it’s Siri” “Ah… confidential!”)

3. Visit Victoria Falls

My main memory of this event is this:

[Stands near falls] Ah, it’s raining

[Walks 5 paces away] …But not over here

[Walks back to falls] Still raining over here… WHAT SORCERY IS THIS??

4. Have deep and meaningful discussions with ex-guerilla fighters in Harare

Actually I have no idea what we’re discussing here. He may be asking why I have the ridiculous rat-tail at the back of my pudding bowl haircut, and I may be patiently explaining that it’s the 80s, and I have a peculiar inability to communicate what I want to hairdressers – an inability that would plague my adult life.

What I do know is that we had spent all afternoon playing in the yard and taking silly photos and that I adored this guy.

5. Clamber all over Great Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe doesn’t seem to crop up on many must do travel lists, but it’s incredible. Its construction spanned from the 11th century to the 14th. I would really like to go back there one day.

6. Have a Marylin Munroe moment in Paris

So what if I am wearing a possum t-shirt? I’m Marilyn-frickin’-Monroe!

Of course I’d love to claim major kudos points for being the most awesome globe-trotting 5 year old to ever stand on a subway grate, but I think it’s pretty obvious here that it was actually my parents who were busy being awesome. I just got to enjoy the ride! I hope when I have kids I am bold enough to go out and have crazy adventures in the world and just strap the kid on my back.

Speaking of her awesomeness, my mum has now kicked off a blog of her own, so you can check out her adventures in Southern Italy, over on Leila in Galatina.

Leave a comment

The Life List

For a while now – inspired by Mighty Girl (and actually borrowing some ideas from hers) – I’ve been meaning to write a life list, or bucket list as some people call it. Without wanting to go all hippy-visualisation bidness on you, I do find that writing down my goals seems to bring me a magical step closer to achieving them. Like Deathnote, but without killing any of my enemies.

So hey, if this post helps me achieve any of the following, that would be awesome!

  1. Visit the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland
  2. See the Aurora Borealis
  3. Take a dip in a thermo pool in Iceland
  4. Walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
  5. Spend a week on a narrowboat
  6. Travel around the UK in a campervan
  7. Take a flight in a hot air balloon
  8. Visit a redwood forest in California
  9. Ride in a gondola in Venice
  10. Take a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon
  11. Grow my own food
  12. Visit Yellowstone national park
  13. See the Great Wall of China
  14. Sail a yacht
  15. Visit Cuba
  16. Go to carnival in Rio
  17. Go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans
  18. Visit New York
  19. Ride a tram in San Francisco
  20. Sky dive
  21. Dance at the Swing Ball with Ben
  22. Ride the Orient Express
  23. Be in a film
  24. Tango in Argentina
  25. Get published
  26. Take a photography class
  27. Read Ulysses
  28. Do a 10k run
  29. Grow a bonsai tree
  30. Have a garden with a hammock
  31. Finish knitting Ben’s scarf
  32. Make a dress
  33. See Radiohead live
  34. See Tom Waits live
  35. Sleep in a treehouse
  36. Learn Italian
  37. Go island-hopping in Greece
  38. Visit Uluru
  39. Swim in the swimming ponds at Hampstead Heath
  40. Throw a Holi party
  41.  Attend Loy Krathong, the sky lantern festival in Thailand
  42. Swim with bioluminescent plankton in Puerto Rico
  43. See the Iguazu Falls in Argentina


And a handful of the really awesome things I have already ticked off the list:

Give blood

Dinner at Rick’s Café Americain in Casablanca

Do a 5k run

Learn to swing dance

Dress up as a geisha in Kyoto

Cross Thorung-La: the world’s highest mountain pass in the Himalayas

See a meteor shower

I didn’t get a photo, but it was a lot like this

Be a DJ

Believe it or not, I am DJing here…

Perform onstage

Onstage at Robin’s Well with Ben, Timmy and Sarah

Marry Ben

Leave a comment

Mad dogs and English girls

Another beautiful day in Southern Italy? Another trip to the beach!

We took a picnic of cheese, tomatoes and bread, and hit ridiculously clear waters with a lilo – the perfect way to simultaneously enjoy the sea and also sunbathe.

After about five minutes in the water, I started to notice a strange sensation: tiny white fish nipping at my feet! I don’t mind a fish pedicure, but these little guys were going for the softest, living bits of my feet.

Now I’m sure the Italians are all thinking: these English girls are maniaci! What on earth is she doing, knitting on the beach??

Why yes, red is my favourite colour!

Well, let me put it this way i miei amici italiani: not everybody gets 30C weather in September. Tomorrow we go back to London, where Autumn has already established dominion over the climate, and British hearts brace themselves for the rigours of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

More importantly, Ben’s birthday is just a few weeks away, and so suddenly I am working to a deadline.

Leave a comment

Notes from the Stiletto

Back in March, I came out to Italy to visit Leila, and had this brilliant idea.

I would leave a pair of shoes here ready for my next visit – I would save space in my tiny hand luggage allowance, and always have a pair of sandals here for future visits. Brilliant!

When I arrived on Tuesday, I remembered my cunning plan and pulled my battered old ballet flats from a drawer in Leila’s spare room. All around the heel and ball of both feet, tiny flowers of mildew were blooming. No matter – I left them out on the patio all day and overnight, certain that the mildew would dry out in the hot sun.

Next morning I skipped out to the patio to admire the sun’s handiwork. I discovered the inside of the shoes covered in trails of glittering snail slime, right alongside the persistent mildew flowers.

I decided it was time for more drastic action, and pulled out the white wine vinegar. I’ve read a million times on the interwebs what an amazing household cleaner vinegar is. Kills mould! Brings a shine to old mirrors! De-stinkyfies stinky things!

Sure enough it worked a treat on the mildew and snail goo, but I spent the rest of the day walking around, convinced I smelled like I’d shoved my feet into two bags of fish ‘n chips…

Mmmm, your feet are making me hungry…

Leave a comment


It’s Market Day in Galatina!

Leila woke us up with the threat that if we didn’t get up soon, we’d miss out on the market. Out of bed we leapt! Who would miss all of this?

We bought a mezzo-kilo of peanuts for Leila to make peanut butter, and a kilo of arborio rice for Ben to make risotto al funghi for dinner. Om nom nom nom!

Rani was taking a photo of my dress for this week’s Ebay Sunday, and this guy insisted we take his picture too. Okay!

We lunched on fresh tomatoes and capsicum, grilled aubergine slices, and the most delicious ricotta cheese you can imagine. I’m not gonna lie: I mostly just sat there eating the ricotta with a spoon.