Tag Archives: Dad;s Army

The Conservatory of the Mind Palace

sherlock__s_mind_palace_by_firelight_12-d4oc1nhWith absolutely no disrespect meant to Benedict Cumberbatch, he doesn’t own the phrase “mind palace”.  Using the method of loci (or going to your mind palace or whatever you want to call it) is a very useful thing to do, especially if you’re like me and your memory is about as reliable as Southern Rail.  I’m currently working on a show at the VAULT Festival, and a lot of the conversations I have with my producer Kate rely upon the idea of a mind palace, because we’ve got so many things to do:

“What was that rehearsal technique I said I wanted to use next week?”
“I don’t know, dear.  Look in your mind palace.”

“We said we were going to email Adam about something.  What on earth was it?”
“Er…I dunno, let me look in my mind palace…I can’t find it.”
“Have you checked the library?”
“Yep.”
“The ballroom?”
“Yep.”
“The cupboard under the stairs?!”

So far, so silly.  But what I am discovering is that, quite apart from being just an excellent memory aide, having a mind palace is a very healthy thing to do for emotional reasons.

For example, people talk about burying their feelings or locking negative thoughts away.  This would be very easy to do in a mind palace, because you could build yourself a cellar or a dungeon or whatever else took your fancy.  However, being the proud architect of a mind palace makes you feel the need to be more creative about these things.  For example, when I come across a particular fear or worry I let it loose in the palace grounds to run around the rose garden and splash in the ornamental fountains.  Mentally ‘releasing’ bad feelings is very helpful, because you can acknowledge their existence in your life without constantly feeling the need to monitor them.  They can really get under your feet if you keep them cooped up all the time.

“Hey Vicki, nice mind palace.  Where’s your fear of commitment got to?”
“Oh, he’s running around on the croquet lawn with my concerns about career trajectory.  They’re having a great time, don’t worry.  Would you like some tea?”

The best room in my mind palace is the conservatory.  It has no strange wicker/fabric combo bits of furniture in it, and it most certainly does not have leaves all over the roof.  It is a quiet, calm room where there is always sunlight streaming in from all angles, and it’s very warm and cosy the whole year round.

The sunlight in this room is a concoction of all of the things that make me happy: memories, people and other bits and pieces of life.  Highlights include the moment in Moulin Rouge when Jim Broadbent runs away screaming “LIKE A VIRGIN!”, my friend Andy’s laugh, the smell of coffee, the Dad’s Army theme tune, cheese jokes, watching Christmas movies with my family and excitement about my best friend’s wedding next year.

The reason why I am talking about these big, small and silly things that make me happy in my mind palace conservatory is that they are a huge part of how I maintain my mental health.  I think mental wellbeing is a very specific thing, and a huge part of why we struggle with it is that we always end up feeling isolated by our own thought processes.

One of the greatest and loveliest things about the show that I’m working on is that we teamed up with mental health charity Mind.  Mind do incredible work for people who struggle with their mental health, and I am so pleased and proud that they promote conversation about what is still a pretty taboo topic.  They effectively knock on the door of everyone’s mind palace to check that they’re ok, and to reassure you that you’re never alone.  Mind palaces exist in neighbourhoods.

So to conclude, dear reader, go and build yourself a mind palace that you would love to live in, and invite people in who will appreciate being there.

Have a stupendous evening.

 

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Television Teaches Us

Good morning, reader!  Did you enjoy the sunshine this weekend?  Oh good, me too.

As those of you who read yesterday’s slightly frantic blog post will know, my house mate and I have cause to revise our general knowledge in the next, er…twenty five hours.  I’m sure we can manage that.  You will also know that I have a fondness for the television show Dad’s Army.

It might seem strange that a television show from the seventies about the forties resonates so strongly with someone who arrived in the world right at the end of the eighties, but I love the show because I think it’s taught me quite a lot.  In general, television shows have given me an education that rivals my A Levels in terms of relevance to the world, and definitely overtakes my degree in terms of practicality.  Here are a few examples:

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1) Dad’s Army

Community is important.  Life is full of people with idiosyncrasies, funny foibles and general oddities, and they all matter as human beings.  However bizarre your colleagues, friends and family may be, you are stronger united than you are on your own.  Also, don’t panic (especially if your name is Mr. Mainwaring).

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2) Blackadder

This show is responsible for about ninety percent of my historical knowledge.  My sincere apologies to anyone who taught me History at school, but if you want me to retain information I need to hear it with a massive dose of sarcasm, preferably from Rowan Atkinson.

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3) How I Met Your Mother

Oh, so many things: nothing good happens after 2am; bros before hos (or sisters before misters, I suppose); the Hot/Crazy scale is scarily accurate; never invite an ex to your wedding.  Also, the best thing you can ask for from life is an evening in your favourite pub with your best friends.

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4) Red Dwarf

Similarly to the Dad’s Army ethos, when you’re stuck in a space ship three million years from Earth, you need to be a team.  Even if that team is made up of a robot, a dead hologram, a genetic mesh of cat and human and a Liverpudlian layabout.

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5) Friends

Of course Friends made the list.  There are many good lessons to learn from the show, but in my opinion the main one is that you can know someone for years and still be surprised by them.  You never know how your heart might change: Ross got the girl after more than a decade, and Monica and Chandler didn’t fall in love until they went to London.  (This raises some questions about London being the new Capital of Romance, but we can come back to that another time.)

Obviously it would be nice to think that the lion’s share of my knowledge comes from books, lectures and academia in general, but I don’t think that it does.  I’m not convinced that that’s such a bad thing, though: surely as long as we are learning something, the source is not too important.

That’s what I’ll tell myself while I stick BBC iPlayer on, anyway.  Have a great Monday.

Revision Panic

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Good morning to you, dear reader!  I hope that you’ve been enjoying this sunny weekend.  Is it barbecue weather yet, d’you think?

If you’ve read this post from a couple of weeks ago, you will already know that my house mate and I recently auditioned to go on the television show Pointless.  I am delighted to announce that our audition was successful, and on Tuesday we will potter off to the studio in hopes of being on the show.

Our appearance isn’t entirely guaranteed, because they have to allow for things like a good spread of age groups, specialist subjects, unexpected drop-outs, etc.  So basically we’ll turn up on Tuesday, but if the other contestants are all drama graduates in their mid-twenties with an unfortunate propensity to get distracted by shiny things, Ash and I might not make it onto that show.  C’est la show business.

Although we’re both very excited, Ash and I have come up with two pretty major concerns.  The first is that we’ve been asked not to wear black clothing or patterns; respectively speaking, that screws me (who never entirely grew out of my ill-advised goth phase) and Ash (who loves a pair of patterned tights) over pretty thoroughly.  We had a mooch round the charity shops yesterday and found a couple of potential outfits, but we each have to take FIVE clothing options to the studio for the wardrobe people to choose from.  FIVE.  If we’re not including hoodies and pyjamas, I’m not sure I even OWN five outfits.  Although my red hoodie is quite presentable, and it’s very comfy…no.  Stop it.  I can’t go on television looking like I just fell out of bed.

I know it shouldn’t worry me too much what I wear, since it’s a show about knowledge rather than appearances, but still: we’re going to be on television.  We don’t want to look rubbish.  Apparently they’re going to do our make-up for us as well, which Ash and I both baulked at.  Ash is a connoisseur of vintage make-up stylings, and is more than capable of making her face look its lovely best.  I usually go for the Claudia Winkleman/panda look myself, and I think it works for me, so I would prefer to be left alone with my gallons of black eye-liner and vampish mascara, thank you very much.

The second concern (which is actually a bigger one than the clothing issue, I promise) is that I don’t think I actually know anything.  Nothing useful, at any rate.  If you put me on QI I would absolutely rock out (mostly because I’ve seen every episode a thousand times, but also) because I’m the queen of the random fact.  But I don’t know the kings and queens of England, or the periodic table, or ANYTHING about geography.  I’ve been watching some episodes of Pointless this week as research, and I can tell you now that if a round about the England cricket team or celebrity culture comes up when we’re on there, I am screwed.  Ash is a clever girl and an excellent actress, so if we get a bad topic I’m sure she’ll style it out, but odds are I will just stand there in open-mouthed horror.  The other possibility is that I will swear loudly, which is probably not the way to go…

Even stuff that I think I do know about, I’m now beginning to second-guess.  When you apply to go on the show, you have to put three specialist subjects on the form.  I put Theatre (I have a Drama degree and I run a theatre company- fair enough), Literature (I read a lot) and Dad’s Army (mainly a joke, but I do love that show).  I HAVE STARTED WATCHING EPISODES OF DAD’S ARMY AS A FORM OF REVISION.  I’m not even enjoying them, because I’m too scared that Alexander Armstrong is going to ask me an obscure question that I won’t be able to answer!  My life has turned into this scene from Short Circuitexcept that I’m panicky rather than curious.

The obvious solution is to calm the heck down, have a cup of tea and brush up on whatever we realistically have to time to revise.  This is perfectly sage and sensible advice.  I will endeavour to do just that.  But could someone please explain to me why, when I was always terrible at exams, have never had a good memory for general knowledge and am almost twenty-five, I have deliberately put myself into a position where I am forced to revise?  Glutton for punishment, perhaps.  Or just a subconscious craving to look stupid on television.  If that’s the case, I sort of wish I’d just applied to Big Brother

Enjoy your Sunday everyone.  Go to the park or something while the weather’s nice.

Unbelievably Specific Knowledge

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Given that I no longer have to commute to central London every day, getting up at six o’clock this morning felt very strange (and not a little unfair).  However, I did have a good reason for being awake at the time that my parents refer to as ‘sparrow fart’: my house mate Ash and I had an audition for the television show Pointless.

For those of you haven’t seen the show, get yourself over to BBC iPlayer and watch a few episodes.  It’s so addictive.  The basic premise is that before the show, the production team have asked one hundred people to think of to think of as many ___ as they can in one hundred seconds.  The players have to think of the most obscure (but correct answers); if they come up with a correct answer that none of the pre-show one hundred thought of, the answer is deemed pointless.  For example, in this morning’s audition we had to try to think of the most obscure united football team; I answered Newcastle, which forty-nine people had thought of, so we scored forty-nine.  Given that the idea is to get the lowest score possible this wasn’t great news, but at least I didn’t say Manchester, which would have given us a whopping ninety-eight points.

One of the things that I really like about the show is that you play in pairs: friends, colleagues, spouses and siblings team up and try to balance out each other’s areas of knowledge.  Ash knows a fair amount about celebrity culture (which I think I’m probably allergic to on some level), and I know an obscene amount about Dad’s Army (which Ash is definitely allergic to, and still upset that I forced her to watch an episode once).  Between us we are pretty good on literature, theatre and television, but also woefully ignorant of all things geographical.

At the start of the audition we had to take a general knowledge quiz.  General knowledge doesn’t really exist anymore: the internet has broadened people’s fields of understanding considerably, and there are all sorts of other contributory factors that affect someone’s knowledge base.  The type of school you went to, your cultural heritage, your hobbies, your social circle and your career path all determine what kind of areas you know about.  Someone who went to a public or private school will potentially have a much firmer grip on the history of cricket, for example, than someone who attended a comprehensive.  (That’s hypothetical, by the way.  I’m not suggesting that that’s applicable to everyone, so don’t any of you Eton toffs come after me with a toasting fork.)  Facts and figures that pub quiz regulars used to take for granted have now been obscured by the sheer volume of bizarre and fascinating facts that you can discover in just one sitting of the programme QI.

I love QI.  I love knowing lots of random, useless facts.  I collect trivia like other people collect…er…stamps, if that’s still a thing.  This obsession with compiling snippets of information is also why I love pub quizzes.  The last one I went to was in Finsbury Park, and my team had a fairly wide range of topics covered between them, although in fairness my sister was basically covering music and geography all on her own. My frustration at missing an answer at one of these events is always balanced out by my excitement at finding out what the actual answer is (nerd).  Actually, we came a fairly respectable third in that quiz, and won a whole bag of crisps as our prize.  A bit stingy for a team of six people, but we were proud.

I wonder whether the abolition of general knowledge is a good or bad thing: on the one hand, it makes it more difficult to create pub quizzes, game shows and so on that can reliably be said to create a level playing field.  On the other hand, it means that almost everyone I meet and speak to can tell me something new and interesting that I wouldn’t have found out otherwise.  Even friends of mine who are interested in similar things to me – books, films, television, cheese – have a mental stockpile of intriguing information that I don’t.  I like finding out stuff, and I like talking to people: so specific knowledge is, I think, a very good thing.

Have a superlatively awesome Monday.