Monthly Archives: March 2014

Chance is a Pretty Fine Thing

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Good morning, reader!  How are you feeling?  Ready for your weekend, I’ll bet.

Let me tell you a story.  Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess (i.e. a very good friend of mine) who had just come out of a horrible relationship.  Her ex-boyfriend had lied to her, stolen money from her and shown her no respect.  Out of shame and sadness, the princess had hidden most of this behaviour from the world, including the nasty boyfriend’s best friend.  The princess had always been good friends with the ex’s best friend, who was horrified when he discovered how badly his friend had been treating the princess.  In a fit of chivalry, he ditched the nasty friend, rushed to the princess’ side and vowed to support her – just as friends, you understand – with anything that she needed.  They rapidly became very good friends.

After several months of this very sweet friendship being strictly platonic and respectful, some courtiers (i.e. me and the girl’s parents) clocked that a pretty serious mutual crush was afoot.  Through subtle prodding and gentle encouragement – which mainly took the form of blatant chivvying – we got the girl to admit how she felt, and eventually she told him, too.  I believe his exact response to her declaration was “Thank God”.

I like that story for two major reasons: firstly, the girl in question is very important to me, and she really, really deserves that fairy tale ending.  Secondly, it was excruciatingly obvious to the rest of us that those two were nuts about each other, but in their respectively awkward situations they didn’t believe that the other person would or could feel the same.  The only way to find out conclusively was to take a chance.

Here is the thing about chances: we take them all the time without realising.  You cross a road because you expect to get to the other side (unless you are one of those mavericks who doesn’t wait for the green man, in which case you’ve really taken your life into your own hands).  We make suggestions in meetings at work, we pipe up with answers in lessons and we make jokes in the pub.  Nine times out of ten nothing terrible comes from these situations, but very occasionally your suggestion might be off-piste, your answer wrong and your joke unfunny.  We take the risk because we’ve calculated that the chance of a negative outcome is pretty small.  That’s brilliant, but we only got there by doing the research: the school kid gets cleverer by being brave enough to put their hand up and give answers every day.  The funny person discovers that they can make people laugh by making those quips or comments whenever they come to mind, and getting a good response.  We reduce risks all the way through life by playing to win from an early age, and learning from the situation when we lose.

As we get older, the chances that we take are much bigger: job applications, going travelling, proposing to someone, getting a mortgage.  Sometimes these are terrifying, but the principal of confidence still applies: we go for these things because we know, deep down, that we can do this.  There is always the possibility of defeat, but we are also very sure that success is obtainable, if not certain.  We take a chance because the chance is there to take.

It’s important to jump at opportunities because it builds up your confidence to tackle those same risks over and over, and build up your odds of winning: it’s the same as raising your hand in a classroom.  Doing it over and over again will make you wiser and more capable of dealing with wrong answers.  (As someone who is friends with a lot of teachers, I realise that it might also drive your educators mad, but you need to learn as much as possible.  Also, this is mainly a metaphor.)

Take a chance on something this weekend. It doesn’t matter how small or large it is: see that film you’re not too sure about or declare your love to someone; book a plane ticket to a faraway place or read a different newspaper.  It’s up to you.  But your weekend is so much more likely to be awesome (or at least memorable) if you use it to do something new.

Enjoy your Friday!

I’m Going to Weigh in Here…

Hello, you fabulous creature.  I hope your week is progressing as smoothly as a well-made batch of Angel Delight.

As pretty much everyone who has Facebook will already know, there’s a huge trend at the moment where women across the UK and North America (and presumably beyond, by now) take pictures of themselves without make-up on, and post them online to raise awareness of cancer.  Some people love this idea, some people hate it, and some people think all selfies are stupid.  Want to hear what I think?  Of course you do, you legend.  That’s why you’re here.

Right, let’s dive in: first of all, where did this craze come from?  Kim Novak’s appearance at the Academy Awards created a bit of a stir, with people criticising her for having had extensive plastic surgery.  According to the Guardian, Novak “has also made headlines in the press for diagnoses of breast cancer (2010) and bipolar disorder (2012).”  Not sure that dragging up the other two worst periods of Novak’s life is fair when she’s already having a crap time, but whatever.

I personally don’t agree with plastic surgery in most circumstances, but I would never presume to judge another person for their views on it, which obviously includes people who have actually had surgery.  It’s their body, so it’s their business.  So let’s just make one thing clear before we crack on: the people who judged Novak for her apparent surgery are absolute scum.  Judging someone based on their appearance perpetuates body dysmorphia, adolescent misery and unrealistic beauty standards across the Western hemisphere.  Her critics are a bunch of malicious asshats, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

Next up: the initial reaction.  The author Laura Lippman was mortified by how people were treating Novak, so she posted a picture of herself without make-up to show solidarity with Novak, and the natural beauty of women in general.  Fair enough.  First of all, I get what Lippman was trying to do, but has anyone pointed out to her that not wearing make-up and feeling the need to have plastic surgery are not the same thing (and are, in fact, sort of opposites)?  Just a thought.  I really do appreciate Lippman’s intentions, but I think she made a slightly odd choice there.  I digress.

Ok, so now: the craze.  Lippman challenged other women to follow her actions, and many of them have.  This is where I start to get confused: why is cancer awareness the motivation?  I thought it was about women’s natural beauty…but never mind.  Anything that promotes cancer awareness is a very, very good thing and should be praised, but the transition from one key message to another can only serve to dilute them both, which is a shame.  It gives nasty people like Novak’s critics the opportunity to criticise us for not knowing what we’re trying to achieve.

Also – and this is a big thing – awareness is all very well and good, but what will beat cancer is money, not publicity.  I wish that that weren’t the case, but it really is.  The research to find cures, training doctors and nurses, drugs and treatments, paying hospital and hospice staff’s salaries: all of these things require money, and lots of it from as many of us as possible.  Awareness leads to more people being inclined to donate, which is great and should absolutely keep being promoted.  The thing is that if you create awareness without donating, you may as well have just watched a Macmillan advert on television and told someone else that it was sad.  What’s the point in promoting awareness if you’re not aware enough to know what’s actually needed to cure cancer?

So, in the spirit of solidarity, feeling gutted for Novak and wanting to prove a point, here is my no make-up selfie:

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I’ve also just gone on the Macmillan website to donate.  In the long run, I think people will be ever so slightly more grateful for the money than for my face.

This is all just my opinion and I applaud everyone who wants to make a difference.  People are beautiful and cancer is shitty, and we should absolutely keep saying those things.  We should also be doing something about them.

I hope you have the kind of Thursday that makes Friday nervous in case it can’t live up to your expectations.

Weird and/or Wonderful

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Hello, dear reader!  How’s your week going so far?

Today’s blog is about how we respond to weird and/or wonderful things that happen around us.  (Don’t panic.  I’m not on a mission to convert people to anything, I’m just curious.)

We live in a very peculiar world where strange things happen all the time, but we call them different things: some would say “miracle”, others would say “coincidence”, a few could say “fate” while many would say “bollocks”.  People respond to phenomena in very different ways based on their upbringing, religious background and even the extent of their experience with strange stuff.  For example, an atheist might be  inclined to convert to a religion that included miracles in its doctrine if he or she had a near-death experience and felt “saved” from a perilous situation.

Some people ascribe inexplicable events to aliens, others to an undefined set of spirits, and some think that we are responsible (but that our horoscopes are essentially dictating our movements).  I find it fascinating that there are so many ways for human beings to react to the illogical things that happen around us.  I have my own (fairly  strong) opinions on some of the interpretations, but I think it’s more interesting to consider why we feel the need to have so many different options in the first place.

Firstly, if something odd happens to you, it’s an incredibly personal thing.  It will be very memorable, emotional and probably quite disconcerting.  Miracles/coincidences/moments of destiny will stay with us for the rest of our lives, and they might even change how we look at the world.  A couple of years ago, I was travelling home via the Circle line when I remembered that a friend of mine worked in High Street Kensington.  I hadn’t seen him for a while and it was lunch time, so I popped in to surprise him and take him out for food.  As it turned out, his grandmother had died the previous day and as I walked through the door he had just been thinking about how much he wanted to talk to someone about it.  He believes that his grandmother was watching over him and making sure that he had a friend that day.  I don’t know whether that’s the case, but it really doesn’t matter what I think.  This was my friend’s experience, and the person who needed to adjust to it  was him, not me.  When the weird experience is so personal, of course people come up with their own explanations: how could anybody else completely understand what you went through?

The second reason that we have so many interpretations is that we are all only human, and nobody trusts anybody else to know more than they do about the universe.  How can they?  None of us have super powers, a time machine or have been to the afterlife (except Bill and Ted, obviously). We don’t even trust people who are experts in their fields, such as historians, religious leaders, physicists and psychologists.  They might have perfectly sound explanations up their sleeves for why the world is weird, but they don’t get complete support from us because how can they possibly know (or indeed prove) that their explanation is the right one?

So our emotions and our sense of intellectual equality prevent us from agreeing, as a species, on just what the heck is going on in the universe.  Thank goodness.  Can you imagine how awful it would be if we conclusively found out what the source of coincidences/fate/miracles is?  That would just ruin it for everyone.  There’d be no mystery left, and no need for science fiction or fantasy writing.  There’d be no Bill and Ted!  Now that’s a disturbing thought.

Have a fantastic Wednesday, everyone.  If you’re wondering who on earth Bill and Ted are, click here.

Let’s Go on the Swings

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Hello, lovely reader.  How are you doing this morning?

Today I’d like to talk about spontaneity, which I just decided right this second.  (Not really, but that would have been so cool!)  Spontaneity in popular culture is often portrayed as one of two things: irresponsible or romantic.  Katherine Heigl jumping onto an already moving boat at the end of 27 Dresses is a good example of both.  That jump is a ridiculous thing to do in heels, but the woman had to get to James Marsden.  Fair enough.

Small children are very good at being spontaneous in their own way, because they haven’t learned “the rules” yet.  If they see something that interests them, regardless of what they were already doing, they will toddle off towards it on a determined voyage of discovery.  Nine times out of ten they will also try to grab it and/or eat it.  As teenagers we rediscover this sense of freedom in momentary decisions, but this time we call it “rebellion” because we are testing out a new set of toys: drinking, going on road trips, pulling all-nighters, driving to McDonalds at six in the morning and so on and so forth.  At the same time we are also learning to make decisions based on long-term considerations: which subjects to study, which universities to apply to, where to travel on our gap year.  We are slowly being drawn out of the world of irresponsible snap-decisions into the scary scenario of proper grown-up stuff, and although we don’t like it, we all give in eventually.

As we get older the moments of spontaneity become smaller and less consequential to the course of our lives.  That’s a massive generalisation, because obviously people of all ages can make huge, life-changing decisions on a whim, but think about it: spontaneity when I was nineteen was getting a tattoo.  Nowadays it’s going to an unfamiliar pub.

Having said that, last night some friends and I went to a pub quiz in Islington (which we came second in.  Very proud).  We were having such a great time that we decided to move on to another pub – it was St. Patrick’s Day, after all – but we got distracted by a children’s playground for several minutes.  We went on the swings, the see-saw and a weird spirally thing that none of us understood, but was pretty cool.  One or more of us may have fallen off at one point, but that’s by the by.

Childish whimsy aside, the spontaneity of doing something fun just because it’s there in front of you is a wonderful activity to rediscover, and I highly recommend it to you.  As adults spontaneity has become an expensive and/or a bad thing: that last round of drinks that you’ll regret tomorrow morning, for example.  I think it would be nice to rediscover the potential joy in spontaneity, particularly because there are ways to experience it without terrible consequences.  I mean, I’ve got a bruise on my knee from last night’s excursions, but that’s no big deal.  When I was six years old that happened all the time.

Have an amazing Tuesday.  Give me a shout if you fancy going on the swings.

St. Patrick’s Day Perspectives

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Good morning and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I was born and raised in Watford (which has its own special set of ramifications that we can come back to another time), but I also have a lot of Irish heritage.  I didn’t get some of the Irish genes that I would have liked -the gorgeous red hair and pale skin went to my little sister in this generation – but a lot of aspects of my personality are more Irish than Watfordian, such as my deep-rooted conviction that feeding people will solve everything.

I also have several Irish friends, and it is their perspective of this saint’s day that I would like to tell you about this morning.  These friends have been brought up in Northern Ireland (or “Norn Iron”, if you like), but moved over to England for university.  One of them stayed over here for a while and has only recently moved back to Belfast for a fantastic job, and another has just moved to Italy for a few months.  They are passionate, talented and interesting people who are definitely going places, but who are also (quite rightly) proud of where they’ve come from.

Interestingly, the general consensus of their favourite St. Patrick’s Days has been their first one away from Ireland.  I reckon the main reason for this is probably that they were at university with a whole new group of friends, and there is a novelty about today that we English like to maximise.  (For instance, walk into any Asda in the country and look at the St. Patrick’s Day costumes they’ve got in store.  Hey wow, as my friend Carly would say.)  One of my friends said that she was overwhelmed by how many people turned up to her first Paddy’s Day party in England: “They also didn’t just turn up, everyone dressed up – the face paint was everywhere!  It was brilliant craic!”  I was at that party and it’s true, the face paint really took over the evening, and we had a great time.

Another friend of mine decided to use what he describes as the “It’s St. Patrick’s Day and I’m Irish, so bend to my will” card by persuading the staff at one of our uni bars to change the television channel: “I got…them to put the schools’ rugby final (a Northern Irish tradition, it’s quite a big deal) on the big screens. I then got my first few drinks in of the day while I watched my old school get thoroughly trounced. I washed down the disappointment and disgust with a few more beers. Then travelled to the late Rutherford bar [another drinking hole on campus] for a brunch of “traditional Irish stew”.  (It was nothing of the sort. I mean, it was quite nice but nothing like mammy used to make…)”

When I asked my friends about the differences between celebrating St. Patrick’s Day over here and in Ireland, I got a very interesting set of responses: the biggest differences actually seem to be between Northern Ireland and the Republic, because of the Catholic/Protestant divide in Northern Ireland: “It isn’t an official bank holiday here like it is down South.  Nevertheless, quite a few schools and businesses take the day off work.”  I was also told that “in Ireland pretty much everything shuts down; transport, banks, schools etc. (Not the pubs. Obviously.) …I hear the Belfast and Dublin parties are pretty great (albeit the ones in Belfast can get a little hairy – St. Patrick’s Day is most definitely a Catholic holiday”.  In terms of how the English celebrate this day, one of my friends made a very canny observation: “I think for England it’s a great day to drink like the Irish and get the craic going, leaving that old stiff upper lip behind for a day!”  And who can argue with that?

Similarly, I got a very good explanation for why this day seems to be more popular than other UK patron saints’ days: “St Patrick’s Day is a whole lot of fun. Everyone around the world is familiar with the stereotype of what it is to be Irish (I’ve not been to a country yet where someone hasn’t piped up with the old “oh, you’re Irish, do you want a Guinness/potato/leprechaun?”) and more importantly, people like what that stereotype entails: being jolly, cracking jokes and getting drunk with your friends.” 

I completely agree with my friends that today’s socially acceptable jollity is something that we English find appealing because it’s the perfect meeting point between our binge-drinking culture and our traditional self-control, and who can resist shunning their own stereotype for the day in order to adopt someone else’s (which is also a lot more fun)?

So today is a good time for celebration and fun, but what would my Irish friends like to change about this holiday?  One of my friends has an excellent and touching St. Patrick’s Day wish: “I wish that all Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist communities throughout Northern Ireland who don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day due to it being associated with the Republic of Ireland and the Nationalist communities would come out and celebrate.  It is a day that can unite us, whether you are Irish, Northern Irish, Catholic, Protestant or from a minority.”

Another friend of mine who has a slightly different set of priorities has made this impassioned plea: “If I could change one thing about the day it’d probably be this: hot girls with atrociously fake Irish accents get more free pints than genuine Irish guys desperate for another pint. There is something very wrong about this and I think someone really ought to do something.”

Have a brilliant St. Patrick’s Day everyone, and remember to drink your novelty green beer responsibly.

Did You Know…?

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Hello, reader!  How’s your weekend going so far?

Today I wanted to take the opportunity to round up on a few things I’ve mentioned this week: following this post, I did indeed call my friend Becca, and today I will be hopping on a train to see her.  I foresee gallons of coffee, a Sunday roast and a very long catch up.  Marvellous.

I did visit some friends yesterday, but we didn’t end up putting furniture together.  Instead we watched Point Break, and I have to say that “Why don’t you astonish me, shitface?” is my new favourite question.  (I will save it for people less lovely than you, reader, don’t worry.)

The “will we won’t we?” saga of Pointless rattles on, and at this point Ash and I have no idea whether we’ll ever find dates that work.  In the meantime, I will keep revising.  Here are some of the interesting things I’ve discovered so far:

1) Joseph Merrick (AKA The Elephant Man) had something in common with Amy Winehouse and James Dean: he died aged 27.

2) Before she married Paul McCartney, Linda Eastman went out with Jimi Hendrix.  She also fancied John Lennon when she first met the Beatles.

3) Winnie the Pooh’s real name is Edward Bear.

4) David Cameron used to be president of the Oxfordshire Bee Keepers’ Association.

5) The word for swearing when you stub your toe is lalochezia.

6) More than a fifth of British households don’t own a kettle.  (Quick question: how do you people LIVE?)

7) France contains six villages called Silly, twelve called Billy and two called Prat.

8) Alaska is the northernmost, westernmost and easternmost state in America.

9) Diamonds boil.  (I know.  What the actual hell.)  Apparently this happens at 4027 degrees Centigrade.

10) Samuel Taylor Coleridge invented rock-climbing, which I wish I’d known during sixth form when we were studying Kubla Khan.  That poem’s got extreme sports (and opium) written all over it.

I hope you find these titbits of information interesting.  If not, take it up with Stephen Fry.  Have a glorious Sunday!

They’ll Be There For You

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Good morning!  How is everyone today?  Bit tired?  That’s ok, it’s Saturday.  Have a bit of a lie in if you can.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: practically every situation in the life of a twenty-something can be related back to Friends.  In many cases it’s actually necessary to explain things by comparing them to an incident from the programme.  There are also loads of situations from the show that play out pretty much exactly how they would if they happened in real life.  It says a lot about the show that it resonates so strongly with so many people, but I think it also says a lot about my actual friends, who are brilliant.  (Quick side note: I was watching television the other night and the announcer genuinely said “Feel like no one’s there for you?  Why not switch over to Comedy Central Extra for your Friends fix?”  I mean, REALLY.  There are limits, people.)  Here are some examples of times when friends and Friends are at their best:

1) The One Where No One Else Would Understand A Word You’re Saying
In the episode where Rachel has a farewell party before she moves to Paris, she has a heart to heart with each individual friend in turn.  Unsurprisingly, her chat with Monica descends into tearful gobbledegook, as you can see here.  In our own lives, there are many times when we would make no sense to people who don’t know us extremely well.  A real friend will always be able to understand you, even if you talk too fast, mumble or decide to use strange noises rather than actual words.

2) The One Where They Know You Far Too Well
One of my favourite episodes of the series is the one in which the boys win the girls’ apartment via a friendship quiz.  Feel free to remind yourself of it here.  I love this episode for two reasons: firstly, it says a lot about how close the characters are and how much history they have, and secondly I think that the friendship quiz is a genius idea.   Everyone who watches this episode thinks “I must do this with my lot”, because we all have friends that we never need to explain ourselves to: they already know everything.  I would probably abstain from gambling your home on it, though…

3) The One Where They Always Back You Up
My favourite dynamic in the programme is the friendship between Joey and Phoebe.  I love the fact that they’re such different people, but they really respond to one another’s quirks, and they always defend one another.  One brilliant example (which I couldn’t find a clip of, sorry) is just after Ross and Rachel get drunk and married in Vegas.

Ross: We were drunk.  I would’ve married Joey with that amount of alcohol!
Phoebe: Hey!  You could do a lot worse than Joey Tribbiani!

In terms of real life, it’s wonderful to find friends who love you despite your differences, and who will always stick up for you.  Some of my closest friends have entirely separate interests and lifestyles to mine, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t look out for each other.

4) The One Where They Forgive You
The characters in Friends make all sorts of mistakes: Ross sleeps with  someone when he is technically still with Rachel, Chandler drunkenly kisses one of Joey’s sisters and then forgets which one, Joey loses Ross’ wedding ring, Rachel steals Jean Claude Van Damme from Monica, Phoebe ruins Monica’s hair and Monica accidentally chops off Chandler’s toe.  Not a perfect bunch by any means.  But they all forgive one another and move past the problems, which is a great example to those of us who might write someone off for doing anything on the above list.  Although how often does someone chop off your toe?  Yuck.  Let’s not dwell on that bit.  The characters who cannot forgive don’t last (I’m talking about you, Emily), but the ones who do are still friends after more than a decade.  That could be you one day, if you can just move past the toe thing (or whatever the problem actually is).

5) The One Where They’re Not Just Your Friend
The ongoing love story between Ross and Rachel is so well-known that in my generation it’s slang for “meant to be together”.  It even got referenced in Scrubs, as you can see here.  Monica and Chandler are another example of a couple whose attitudes towards one another changed drastically during the course of the show.  I’m not suggesting that you start combing your social circle for potential partners (and God knows that moving a friendship up to the next level is an absolute minefield), but I really do think that good partners should also be good friends.  Whether you start off as platonic and then change gear or fall for someone as soon as you meet them, the person you spend your life with should be as much of a friend to you as they are anything else.

Well, I’m off to help some friends of mine assemble furniture, which is probably going to go something like this classic Friends moment.  Have the kind of Saturday that you’ll tell your grandchildren about.

Let It Go (or Drop it Like it’s Hot, if You Prefer)

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Happy Friday, everyone!  Did you know that on this day in 1958 Grace Kelly gave birth to Prince Albert of Monaco?  Me neither.

As you may already know from previous blog posts, the songs from the film Frozen have been very popular in my flat of late.  The sound of my house mate wandering around singing “do you wanna build a snowman?” has become pretty normal background noise.  The other song from the film that’s had a lot of attention (and not just in our bizarre little household) is Let it Go, which was made unbelievably creepy by this kid on YouTube.  I like the song (film version, not scary children’s choir version) because it has such a simple message: let go of things that are not good for your well-being.  Fair enough.  It seems like very basic common sense, but how easy is it to actually do?  And how many of us are holding on to things that we shouldn’t?

So to round up a week of fairly self-help focused blog posts, here are some things that I think we should all let go of:

1) The Unfinished Argument
The comedian Ed Byrne talks about obsessing over things he wished he’d said in arguments that happened eighteen months ago.  The routine  strikes a chord with people because it taps into a problem that lots of us have, i.e. Post-Argument Eloquence Syndrome.  You can be left spluttering or even speechless by someone’s cutting words in the middle of a row, but hours or even days later the perfect witty response will come to you, unbidden, and usually when it’s far too late to do anything about it.  It’s frustrating that our brains don’t work fast enough to make us the Oscar Wilde of every argument, but there’s nothing we can do about it.  in the long run, it’s probably better that we can’t think of the ultimate put-down when we would have used it.  It probably makes us nicer people (even though it’s not by choice).

2) The One Who Won’t Go Away
A lot of people have an ex whom they always think of as “the one who got away”, who invariably won’t go away in terms of your thoughts and feelings.  I hate to perpetuate a cliché, but honestly, if it’s meant to be – or rather, if getting back together will ever be right for both of you – then it will probably happen.  Your job is to crack on with being a fabulous human being.  It’s not even a case of waiting for that other person; it’s about accepting that things are not what they were, and trying to move on.  Don’t try to get them out of your head just for the sake of it: get them out of your head so that you can concentrate on other things.  There’s a lot of cool stuff to think about, you know.  Like what you would call your pet dragon if you had one.  (Mine would be called Jiminy Billy Bob, and you have to ask why then we can’t be friends.)

3) Bottle It
We’ve talked about this fairly recently: you are the only person who lies awake regretting stupid things you’ve said or done.  No one who loves you or cares about you thinks about inebriated errors you’ve made or silly things you’ve said while sober: they think about nice things you’ve done for them, or times you’ve made them laugh.  I am terrible for thinking about stuff I wish I hadn’t said or done (especially after one too many ciders), but it’s not going to do anyone any good.  You and I will just have to trust that our friends still love us, and that maybe in future we can avoid drunk dialling by turning our phones off at the start of a night out.  Or, you know, by drinking less…but who am I to tell you how to wind down of an evening?

4) Opportunities Wasted
Because so many of my friends work on a freelance basis as actors, writers and suchlike, I have a lot of conversations about ‘perfect’ opportunities that they are dying to grab hold of: casting briefs that seem to have been written for them, directing placements at that brilliant fringe theatre or writing workshops with their literary idol.  We apply for these things in feverish hope that this will be the key turning point in our meandering careers, that this one thing will open doors for us and make us better practitioners, and if we don’t get them we are bitterly disappointed.  That opportunity would have been perfect for us.  Sigh.  I am no stranger to the deflated feeling that comes with professional rejection, but I don’t think that the chances we miss out on were quite right for us in the first place.  On a pretty basic level, why would you want to work for someone who hasn’t got the common sense to accept an application from someone as brilliant as you?  Don’t worry about it.  There will be other jobs and projects.

5) The Artist Previously Known As
You are not who you were ten years ago.  You are not who you were three years ago, or last month, or when you woke up this morning.  We change in tiny, seemingly inconsequential ways every time we feel or experience anything, and that’s something to be happy about.  You know when someone says something odd like “tomorrow will be a better day”?  (How do they know, by the way?  Do they have some kind of prescience that surpasses the freakish knowledge of television weather forecasters?  Very suspicious.)  It’s not tomorrow that’s going to different, or better: it’s you.  In a way, I miss being sixteen and having the time of my life at sixth form (and working my bum off for my A Levels, of course).  I know for certain that I miss being eighteen and feeling like an independent adult for the first time, and being twenty-one and discovering how much I loved directing.  I am not any of those versions of me anymore, and although it would be lovely to keep hold of the good times, we have to trust that the person we are now is all the better for having adapted.

Have a lovely day.  Maybe treat yourself to a take away coffee or something.  What the hell, you deserve it.

Gloria Gaynor is Rooting For You

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Good morning!  How are you doing?  I hope you’ve got nice plans for your weekend.

For those of you who read this blog regularly (ish), you may be wondering why I haven’t yet written a post about what it was like recording Pointless.  There is a very good reason for this, and it’s a very serious, grown-up, intellectual reason: um…we haven’t been to the studio yet.  Due to numbers and other unpredictable things, we’ve had our studio dates postponed for a couple of weeks, but we are assured that this is a good sign and that the production team don’t usually bother providing people with alternative dates.  So that’s nice.

The other potential problem is that my house mate has an acting job in Salisbury that week, so she might not be able to attend one of our new studio dates.  I really hope that there’s a solution to the clash, but if not, we might not be going on Pointless after all.  Sniff.  It’s fine..all this revision for nothing…hours wasted on Sporcle…poring over QI books late into the night…but it’s fine.  I will survive, as per the wishes of Gloria Gaynor.

In general, human beings are capable of surviving all sorts of things: bereavement, break-ups, Soho on a Friday night.  Some things are more difficult to survive than others, but you are more than capable of coming out of an emotionally draining situation with your head held high.  Here are a few things that I think you should do to secure your survival in any emotional hardship:

1) Look at the long term

So difficult to do, especially if you are very angry or upset, but picturing yourself in a few years’ time can be really helpful when you’re trying to recover from a nasty situation.  For example, in a few years’ time you will be completely over your break-up.  In the future you might run into your ex from time to time.  Everybody wants to ‘win’ a break-up by being physically fitter, more successful and preferably going out with someone better-looking than the ex.  If you want to ‘win’ this break-up, it’s better to go to the gym than stay in bed eating ice-cream, even though it’s what you really want to do right now.  Put down the spoon.

2) Talk to nice people

Well, obviously.  Talking to nasty people is no fun at all.  What I mean is, it’s ok to be struggling with something and want to discuss it, whether you want practical advice or need a bit of a vent.  Choose your confidant wisely and make sure that you know what you want from the exchange.  I’ve made the mistake before of going to one of my clear-thinking, super-practical friends with a problem.  I just wanted a bit of a moan, and he sent me away with a colour-coded to do list and a Gantt chart.

3) Be kind to yourself

This covers all sorts of things: eat healthily, sleep at proper times, drink lots of water.  I know it sounds boring and mumsy-ish, but there’s a reason why people say weird things like “at least you’ve got your health”.  Having your health is important because it sets you up to cope with everything else in life.  And seriously, put down the ice-cream and go to the gym.  You’re not winning this break-up yet!

4) Use it

As those of you who read my blog post about The Hard Man the other day will know, I firmly believe the best thing to do in a bad situation is find a way to use it to your advantage.  Sometimes that’s not possible straight away, but if you’re looking for silver linings they don’t come any shinier than discovering a way to make a crisis into a success.  For example, losing my job didn’t feel like such a good thing at the time, but now I’m deliriously happy because I get to write all day every day.  Sure, a regular income would be lovely, but I’m doing what makes me happy, which is so much more important.

5) Aim for happiness

Don’t aim for survival.  Aim for the top.  Work towards your biggest goals, your most cherished ambitions and your ideal situations.  If you don’t quite make it you will at least have tried, and you’ll be somewhere between happy and surviving.  If you aim for survival and you fail, where the heck does that leave you?

The other thing about being happy is that it’s the best possible revenge against someone who treated you badly.  Most importantly, you deserve to be happy.  You’re lovely.  Gloria Gaynor and I are rooting for you.

Have a splendid Thursday!

People Love You (And You Don’t Have to Forward Them Anything)

Good morning, lovely reader!  How are you?

Aside from the funny videos  and viral memes that make the rounds on Facebook, there are also several people who make the effort to distribute positive, heart-warming material.  These can be adorable photos of small children and puppies, faith-in-humanity restoring tales of human heroics, or even a simple “I love my friends” status with said friends tagged and made aware of their awesomeness.

When I was a teenager and email messaging was starting to become popular among my social group, we also used to send each other chain emails: “You are a precious butterfly.  Send this email to 320 other people and you will get your wings in seven days”  You know the sort of thing.  I never did get my wings.  Bloody Royal Mail.  These emails were (and I suppose still are) sent by people who have the best intentions in the world, but they’re not very personal.

One email that you might also remember was basically a long list of nice facts that supposedly applied to everyone, and had been compiled in order to make anyone who read the email feel better about themselves: “someone loves you”, “someone is grateful for the help you’ve given them”, “someone thinks about you every day” and so on (and on and on and on).  These are all perfectly lovely things, and I do hope that they’re true for all of us.  But they are a bit too vague and a bit too grandiose, so I thought it was about time for an updated, more specific and slightly more down to earth version:

1) Someone always wants you on their team
Board games, pub quizzes, video games or even actual sports: you in particular are known for being good at something, and someone always thinks of you when they have to put a team together.  Your unique set of skills and knowledge make you invaluable to that team, whether you’re trying to win a round about anagrams or running around a field with a stick. (That’s how you play hockey, right?)

2) Someone brings up anecdotes about you at parties
Not in a mean way: in a fond way.  In the way that explains something central about your personality to the people at the party, or reminds the group of an absent friend who’s sorely missed. Cases in point: my house mate once commented that Wales were doing quite well in “the Four Seasons” when of course she meant the Six Nations tournament.  Another friend from university once re-enacted the Stations of the Cross using a Wetherspoons burger, chips and a lot of ketchup, and we bring that story up whenever we’re all together, because we haven’t seen him in yonks and we miss him.

3) Someone always thinks of you when a certain song plays
There are so many songs that make me think of specific people.  About ten of my favourite songs make me think of my friend Becca, who introduced me to lots of excellent music in our first year at university.  I can guarantee that certain songs will remind people of you, and you’d be surprised by how much good stuff comes out of seemingly inconsequential things like that.  For example, writing this one has made me realise how much I miss Becca.  I’m going to ring her when I’ve finished this post.

4) Someone enjoys how ridiculous your friendship is
Everyone has at least one friend with whom they act slightly strangely.  In-jokes, silly voices and strange traditions abound between old friends.  To be perfectly honest, I’m struggling to think of friends with whom I don’t have slightly odd habits: for example, one of my oldest friends and I like to make macaroni cheese together, and we have a song about it.  That’s right.  It’s called “We Love the Macaroni Cheese”.  There may or may not be a dance that goes with it.  ANYWAY, the point is that with true and loyal friends it’s ok to be a teensy bit insane, and the knowledge that we can’t behave that way in public makes us all the more appreciative of the people who allow us to be a bit weird.  Have you seen this?  This guy knows what I’m talking about:

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5) Someone walked past you today and thought you were fit
That’s just common sense.  Look at you; you’re gorgeous!

Have a brilliant day.  May your lunch be unusually delicious.