Thursday, 19 January 2023

Keep Joy Alive, Live Life! Finding Frida



This was the scene that greeted me when I drew back the curtains on Wednesday morning. I'm not keen on snow at the best of times never mind when I'd got an exciting day out planned. The side roads were  treacherous and, after a couple of near misses, Jon got me to the station on time to catch the Birmingham-bound train.


Dressed like a polar explorer, I successfully negotiated the ticket barrier at New Street station with the QR code on my phone, hopped on my connecting train, worked out how to take a selfie, downloaded a Pre-Raphaelite Society podcast, plugged in my ear phones, sat back and alighted at Coventry station half-an-hour later where Nikki was waiting.


Despite Coventry being less than 30 miles from Walsall, the weather was a world away with dazzling sunshine and not a hint of the dreaded white stuff (although it was still bastard freezing!)

It had been a while since I'd last seen Nikki and after a catch-up over pots of peppermint tea in the hip cafe, Bean & Leaf, we strolled around, lapping up compliments on the way we were dressed by random strangers.


St John the Baptist's church was erected in 1344 from money given by Queen Isabella, wife of Edward II, whom had been exiled from public life by her son Edward III. By 1590 the church had stopped being used for worship, and over the next 140 years, it was used for a variety of purposes, including a stable, a market hall, and a cloth dyers workshop. Most famously, it was used as a prison during the Civil War, when Scottish Royalist soldiers captured after the Battle of Preston in 1648 were incarcerated here.


Coventry was a Parliamentarian town, and the inhabitants shunned the Royalist Scots. This shunning of the prisoners is one theory for the origins of the phrase 'sent to Coventry', a fascinating fact told to me by an elderly chap who stopped and struck up a conversation. In 1734, it was once more made a place of worship and restored in 1875 by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the architect behind London's St Pancras Station and Mumbai University.



The Town Wall Tavern, a traditional British pub, apparently popular with actors appearing at the Belgrave Theatre opposite.


This mural on the wall of the Belgrade Theatre celebrates Ira Aldridge, who became the establishment's  manager in 1828, the first black person to ever run a British theatre.


The Reel Store, the building which once housed the print reels from the neighbouring offices of the Coventry Telegraph was our next destination, as it was hosting the immersive exhibition, the Life and Work of Frida Kahlo.


Artist. Icon. Rebel. Frida Kahlo was one of the most significant artists of the 20th Century, known for her vivid artwork, iconic style and extraordinary life. Based on her diary, this award-winning, multi sensory, immersive exhibition tells Kahlo’s story in her own words.


Don’t build a wall around your own suffering — it may devour you from the inside.


I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.


I drank because I wanted to drown my sorrows, but now the damned things have learned to swim.


Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.


What I wanted to express very clearly and intensely was that the reason these people wanted to invent and imagine heroes and gods is pure fear. Fear of life and fear of death.


Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it is true that I am here, and I'm just as strange as you.


I am my own muse. I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to better.


I hope the exit is joyful. And I hope never to return. 


Take a lover that looks at you like maybe you're a Bourbon biscuit.


You deserve the best, the very best, because you are one of the few people in this lousy world who are honest to themselves, and that is the only thing that really counts.


Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light. Tragedy is the most ridiculous thing.


I paint flowers so they will not die.


The most important part of the body is the brain. Of my face I like my eyebrows and eyes.


They thought I was a surrealist, but I wasn't. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.



At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.


Keep joy alive, live life!


What an experience! We left feeling uplifted and inspired (and a little bit giddy from the interactive light show). The exhibition runs until 29th January, if you're within easy travelling distance to Coventry go now!





Lunch was a chilli cheese paratha and a masala chai in Mychai, the food was delicious when it finally arrived!








We ambled down Mediaeval Spon Street and had a pint of IPA in a cosy 15th century pub, the Old Windmill, before Nikki walked me back to Coventry station where the train to Birmingham New Street was waiting to take me home. 


Thanks for a fabulous day, Nikki! See you for another adventure soon...


This morning I awoke to another wintery scene, pulled on all the layers and walked down to the baths for a half-mile swim....


And treated ourselves to another bargain Spoons breakfast....guacamole, pica de gallo and rocket served on a toasted muffin (unlimited coffee included) - £4.95.


My next trip? It involves tracking down what looks like my dream bar.....


See you on the other side.

PS All these photos brought to you via my new phone, ain't technology ace?

62 comments:

  1. Frida is my favorite painter. Just got a couple of awesome Frida t-shirts for Christmas. Amazing woman, too bad I'm nowhere near Coventry

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    1. It's a term bandied around far too often these days but she really was an inspiration, wasn't she? Those Xmas tees sound good. Hopefully the exhibition will travel across the pond and you'll get to see it soon. xxx

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  2. I went to the Frida Kahlo exhibition in London a few years ago. They had all her beautiful clothes on display. When you looked closely you could see they were covered in paint and cigarette burns as she wore them when she was working . Unfortunately you weren't allowed to take photos. Arilx

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    1. I'd have loved to have seen that exhibition, by the time I got my arse in gear I'd missed the boat. Frida had such incredible style, I loved watching the video of her chatting to Diego whilst she nonchalantly pinned up her hair, it would take me hours to do that and I'd still end up looking like i'd been dragged through a hedge backwards! xxx

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  3. Oh Vix, I haven't seen my hometown in at least 5 years, so seeing all those photos that you've taken on your snazzy new phone really brings it all back. It hasn't changed one bit! There used to be an Indian restaurant on Medieval Spon Street, I wonder if it's still there. It was absolutely amazing! I can't remember the name of it now, but if it is still there then I'd definitely give it a recommendation if you're ever having a night out in Cov. I love your cosy looking outfit and that Frida Kahlo exhibition looks amazing. I love Frida, and you and Nikki definitely look like the best dressed in all of the photos. xx

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    1. Hello Louise! Thanks so much! I've been dying for you to comment and wondered how much of Cov you recognised. Nikki pointed out an Indian restaurant on the corner of Spon Street when we walked past and said how amazing it was, it must be the same one! The exhibition was fabulous and really busy, too. I love how random people always stop and chat, us Midlanders are the friendliest folk! xxx

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  4. I’m chuckling at you joining the age of technology with your new phone. You’ll have to get Philip trained up, he’s still using his old Nokia.
    Frida is one of my all time favourites. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched the Salma Hayak film about her life. I first saw it over 20 years ago when I did my textile design HND. We went on to see an exhibition of her work at the Tate Modern. I don’t know why I was so shocked at how small the paintings were. Logically I should have known as she was lying on her back in bed. The Mexican music is amazing as well. I went to a concert at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester to see a Mexican band playing, it was captivating.
    So glad you left on a high xxx

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    1. I'm useless, aren't I? It took me a while to get through the barriers when I arrived at Coventry as I couldn't find the train app! Loving the camera and the podcasts, though, it sure beats having to listen to the other passengers inane phone conversations!
      I haven't seen the Salma Hayak film in years, I think it's time I rewatched it and maybe it'll be the kick up the bum I need to visit Mexico and see Frida's house & garden! xxx

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  5. Ooh, I love Frida Kahlo! What a cool exhibit - it seems there are more and more of these "light show" versions of art shows, vs. walls of paintings. I like that it's more immersive and overwhelms the senses. Love that monstrous furry hat (as always), and I like the little glimpses of your life that your phone gives, by dint of its more under-the-radar sneakiness (cameras always faintly alarm people). The baths! The train! So cool. What a lovely day you had! Bring on the next adventure, live life! Thank you, Vix!

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    1. I'm loving these immersive exhibitions. Much as I enjoy seeing paintings there's something magical about seeing art animated, at one point the monkeys came to life and skipped along the top of the walls!
      I ought to stick a hot water bottle under my hat for added warmth!
      That's a great thing about a phone, the sneaky photos. You're right about people clamming up when a camera's involved. xxx

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  6. I cant quite decide what I think of FK, her eyebrows are so odd yet she mentions them as one of her best features, she also (I believe) had a moustache - She was a strange and exotic creature and I am not sure of her gender although it doesn't matter much these days. I loved your outfit today and Coventry is a lovely place, you showed all the best bits so I would go for a visit. Isn't it fun having a phone that does so much!.

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    1. Thanks so much, Betty! My polar explorer outfit was a bit of a hit in Coventry! There was some video footage in the first room we went into and she was so petite and pretty. I know she lost three babies because her pelvis was so damaged from the tram accident. If you haven't seen the Salma Hayek film (which Lynn mentioned) it's a wonderful watch and will make you put Mexico at the top of your travel wishlist, one day I WILL see her house! xxx

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  7. Hi Vix, how super fabulous that exhibition is! I saw a Frida exhibition in London some years ago and it wasn't as lively as the one you saw. " Find a lover that looks at you like a bourbon biscuit" love that. She was such a great painter. Thank you for venturing out into the cold and sharing the results with us! Good to see you wearing that fab frock again. It's a beauty.

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    1. Isn't it fantastic? I'm loving these immersive exhibitions. Much as I adore her art, being enveloped in those projections was such a moving experience. The Bourbon biscuit quote is brilliant, that's what we all want, I think! I hope the exhibition moves around the country so more people can see it, too.xxx

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  8. Oh - so beautiful. Some of her words really hit home. Hard.
    One phrase, I will take with me to work - I know a volunteer that needs to read it and feel it and know.
    thank you

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    1. I'm so glad that at least one of Frida's comments resonated. I really got a sense of her spirit hearing her words! xxx

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  9. I've said it before and I'll say it again. You make a blimmin good travel writer. Hoping to buy a van this year and planning to sleep in it as we explore beautiful Britain

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    1. That's made my day, Cherie! There's some fabulous places to visit in the UK, the Midlands is full of gems. xxx

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  10. Yum to the paratha and chai. Indian food is my favourite. Amazingly poignant and deeply meaningful words from Frida.

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    1. The Indians make the best veggie food, don't they? Frida's words are so wise and uplifting. xxx

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  11. You're an old fashioned modern lady now. Thanks for sharing this day!

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    1. I'm liking that description! Thanks, Alex! x

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  12. That looks like just the perfect day out for you šŸ„³

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  13. Totally love Frida. I did have a print but it went walkies . I think the eldest took it for his home.
    I’m in Sendai today visiting family, they have never met kato, so I know he is going to get spoilt, plus the kids get new year money envelopes off all our relatives. They are richer than me lol.
    We had a Van Gogh experience like the Frida . I totally loved it you felt as if you were part of the art. Crazy but fun. Love and hugs Allie jane

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    1. That's a shame, Allie! There wasn't much left in the gift shop. I was very taken with some of the prints but I'm rapidly running out of wall. I've got three pairs of Frida earrings and an amazing necklace a lovely lady who used to blog made me, I shall have to dig them out.
      The Van Gogh experience came to us a week before lockdown - I bet it was ace! xxx

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  14. Always loved Frida. Think I might read The Lacuna again!My bestie has just been to a Frida exhibition in Auckland. Wonder if it's the same one?Just been to a Turner exhibition in Edinburgh but it was positively boring compared to the extraordinary Frida!xxx

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    1. I loved The Laguna, I'm sure it was you who recommended it. They've extended the Coventry exhibition for another month as it was so popular! xxx

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  15. There are quite a few of these immersive exhibitions now aren't there? I think they look amazing. Loved reading Frida's words. What a woman! I'm sure she would have loved it.
    You both looked fabulous! xxx

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    1. Thanks, Claire! That dress is the gift that keeps on giving, I've hung it on the wall and keep stroking it.
      Those immersive exhibitions are wonderful but can be quite overwhelming at first, a very different experience! xxx

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  16. Well done on mastering your phone's camera. I think it's just perfect for day trips like this, when you don't want to lug your camera around. I'm loving the selfie too!
    The Krida Kahlo exbition looks amazing, and I enjoyed reading the snippets from her diary. What an incredible talent she was!
    That photo of you in the pub is stunning, offering a proper, non-blurry look at your amazing dress.
    I can't wait to read all about your next trip! xxx

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    1. Thanks, Ann! I took my camera away with me last week and ended up abandoning it and using the phone instead, they are so much easier when you don't want to carry a bag around, aren't they? xxx

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  17. Glad to hear you've got to grips with the new phone!

    What a wonderful exhibition that looks. I had no idea it was running. I laughed at a couple of Frida Kahlo's quotes; especially the one about your lover looking at you like a bourbon biscuit! That sounds a bit too scary in a lover for me...it's so good to meet up with like minded friends.

    Your green velvet dress is wonderful and I loved the coat and hat with it. You looked like you were ready for anything the weather threw at you.

    We haven't had any snow thank goodness apart from one short lived shower; I hate it too.
    xxx

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    1. I'm getting there, Vronni even if Jon says I remind him of a granny as I take so long to text anything!
      The frida exhibition has been extended for another month if you can get up to Coventry before the end of Feb, it's well worth it if you can. xxx

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  18. I'd pay rather more than my usual ticket price to watch a film about the mysterious woman (why is she wearing those clothes? what is she thinking?) drinking an IPA in the window seat of the Old Windmill.

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    1. You wouldn't need to pay, I'd reveal all for free! xxx

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  19. I think one thing to remember is that much of Fridas 'image' was shaped by her politics and her wardrobe being very much in honour of her heritage. I think much of her clothing reflects her interest in maintaining her pride in national/traditional dress. So much of Frida's world is absolutely loaded with symbolism and subtle meaning beyond the surface. Having said that- the surface is magnificent!

    If you can source a copy of "Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress" I can recommend it - the book covers the opening of Frida's rooms after being sealed for 50 years after her death - and the restoration of the clothing/possessions therein. The book is very moving (and for some reason stupidly expensive now).
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2771550-self-portrait-in-a-velvet-dress?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=unQ0SME1T8&rank=1

    "You Are Always With Me" Letters to Mama, Frida Kahlo. Another lovely book this time letters to her mother - her own words - her own voice.
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42118356-you-are-always-with-me

    Thank you for another delicious post, Vix xx

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    1. Thanks for those amazing links, Elaine! I'd love Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress. Although a fictional work, The Laguna by Barbara Kingsolver is a fantastic read, too.
      One thing I learnt from the exhibition was that Frida's father was German, I had no idea. xxx

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    2. Ooh I'll look out for The Laguna, thanks for that Vix - on a different tack I was on the V&A You Tube channel and noticed this lovely crochet project
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1le7BjxrIlc

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    3. I love that! I might have to have a bash! Thanks, Elaine! xxx

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  20. What a beautiful post. So lovely to be reminded of her many truthful quotes. What an artist!

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  21. Every community need mural(s). I'm a fan of Frida Kahlo and I hope her immersive show comes to Spokane.
    I also like Leonora Carrington and Yayoi Kusama art work.
    Coffee is on and stay safe

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    1. I agree, I love to see art out in the community so it can reach everyone.
      I'm going to google those two artists you recommended, I'm sorry to say that i know neither of them. xxx

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  22. I do hope this one comes down under as an immersive exhibition her life and work looks amazing. She was such a talented woman who overcame so much in her lifetime . I had planned to see her house in Mexico after Cuba in 2020 but Covid intervened.
    I know you hate the cold but you do wear that Snow Princess look so well.
    Well done on embracing the challenge of a new phone. xx

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    1. You would love the Frida exhibition, Jill! I hope it comes to you. xxx

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  23. What new phone did you get? That's an amazing mural! It's been years since I visited Coventry, although I've passed through on the train many times.

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    1. Coventry's great - all the better for being City of Culture last year, too. It's a Samsung, I can't remember the model number but it's on my previous post. A favourite with the over 50s apparently! xxx

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  24. When I saw the photo of you and Nikki I thought you could be cousins x

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    1. You're not the first to say that, Flis! xxx

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  25. What an amazing exhibition.. we were just in Mexico a few months ago and were lucky enough to visit her house.

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    1. I loved your Mexico post, I bookmarked it for future reference! x

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  26. That looks like an amazing day, and no wonder you got so many compliments from random strangers, you look suitably exhibition worthy yourselves. I have to say Frida's eyebrows have always really bothered me, but hey ... maybe mine would have bothered her too!

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    1. It was a fantastic trip out, we loved it. I'm always a bit envious of Frida's brows, mine are pathetic! xxx

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  27. Wow, I'm admiring your resolution to make the most of your mobile camera!, total success!. Lovely pics of an amazing day, totally fascinated by the immersive exhibition on Frida's life and Arte, I'd squee in delight every second as she's one of my favourite artists ever.
    And lovely to hear that you got some compliments, as both you looked gorgeously stylish!. Love that photo of you in the pub enjoying the views of a timber framed house, really that's my kind of pub!. Looking evocative as a pre-raphaelite painting!. Nikki looks fabulous too, posing with a pint! (my kind of thing too! ;DD)
    Glad that you've discovered podcasts!, they're addictive!.
    Looking forward to see your new adventures!
    besos​

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    1. I hope that the Frida exhibition travels elsewhere and that you get to see it, too. Being immersed in art is such a strange feeling and you notice all kinds of small details. xxx

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  28. I was lucky enough to get to the Frida exhibition in London a few years, and I was so inspired I paid out for the catalogue. Worth every penny, I look at it regularly. She really is an icon.
    It's proper freezing at the moment, I can't wait for it to warm up a bit.
    Intrigued about the bar. I await your post with interest! :)

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    1. I bet that catalogue was a wonderful investment, Annie! Have you read The Laguna by Barbara Kingsolver? A must read for anyone interested in Frida. xxx

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  29. What a great exhibition! I am so glad you went- it looks wonderful! Your green gown is wonderful- hope to see this in more detail again!
    MMm, your Spoons brekkie looks super!x

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    1. Thanks, Kezzie! You might get fed up of this dress before too long, it's out again on Friday! xxx

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  30. Missed your posts, where are you? Hope you are well.

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    1. I'm back - sorry, had a cheeky holiday! x

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Thanks for reading and for leaving a message. Please don't be anonymous, I'd love it if you left a name (or a nom de plume).

Lots of love, Vix