Tag Archives: fun

Commute Like A Champion

spicing-up-the-commute

Good morning, dear reader.  How are you?

If you are a London-based commuter my heart goes out to you on this, the first full day of the tube strikes.  What a nightmare.  During the last strike it took me three hours on loads of horrible buses to do a forty minute journey.  In hindsight, I wish I’d just hired a Segway and had a bit of fun getting to work.

Given that public transport is not huge amounts of fun at the best of times, I have decided to compile a list of ways to improve our lot.  After all, if we are obliged to spend a couple of hours a day on trains, buses and enchanted broomsticks, we may as well have some fun with it.  You’re a very busy person and your time is precious, so don’t waste those hours being bored or annoyed.  Use the time to your advantage.

  • That is Fascinating

Music is great, but if you’re listening to a podcast by these guys, for example, you will be learning about all kinds of fascinating things just by sitting on a train.  Granted, when I listened to their podcasts on the way to work I tended to have a perpetual “surprised and intrigued” face that looked a bit odd to other people, but it’s hard to beat the feeling of having really learned something before 9am.

  • Story Time

This one might just appeal to me and my friends because we’re all silly drama types who like making stuff up, but it’s basically a fun extension of people watching: make up stories in your head (ONLY in your head) about your fellow passengers.  This one is particularly fun when there is an old lady on board, because I like to think that it’s the queen in disguise monitoring her loyal subjects.  This is especially fun when you get to “Green Park – alight here for Buckingham Palace” and the old lady gets off the train.  What more proof do you need?

  • If You Had To

Again, this is almost definitely something that my friends and I are peculiarly drawn to, but it does pass the time.  You have to select three people from the individuals in your carriage/on your bus whom you would spend the rest of your life with: marriage, kids, mortgage, everything.  (Again, this is just in your head or, if playing with friends, in VERY quiet discussions.)  The joy of this is that at each stop your selection pool changes, and the joy of playing this with male friends is that they take it incredibly seriously.

  • Magic Tricks

If you commute for long enough you learn all sorts of transferable skills.  You can essentially teach yourself Houdini-esque body contortions by boarding a train bound for Marylebone from Aylesbury before 8am, and ladies tend to get very good at applying make-up in extreme turbulence.  Think of your commute as an opportunity to hone these magic tricks of yours, and be proud of yourself for mastering them.  I personally am at Level 6: Liquid Eye Liner on the DLR.

  • Make Someone Else’s Day

This is as fun for you as it is for the other person: smile at someone (BRIEFLY – this is England, for heaven’s sake), give up your seat, help an old lady with her granny shopper or a mum with her pushchair.  It  takes two seconds and you’re making someone else happy.  Plus, you know, you can legitimately feel pretty smug for at least half an hour.

  • This is My Stop

I have actually done this one on a lift before, but one day on a tube train (two seconds before my stop, obviously), I really want to open my handbag, peer into it and say “have you got enough air in there?”  I will then close my handbag, look at the other passengers suspiciously and draw my handbag closer to myself in a fit of protective fear before sweeping off the train with a haughty sniff.

Have an absolute cracker of a Tuesday.

Connection Error

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Good afternoon, you lovely thing.  Sorry this post wasn’t written earlier; it’s been a bit of an odd day.

One of the biggest side effects of my mental health condition is feeling disconnected from reality.  I could be sitting in the middle of a pub with a large group of friends, talking, laughing and (not naming any names) burping, and still feel as though I am sitting in a bubble that prevents me from engaging with my surroundings.  This is, as I’m sure you can appreciate, a horrendously irritating state of affairs.

That’s not to say that I am alone in feeling this way.  Whether or not you suffer from a mental health disorder, we all have times when we feel cut off from the best and most fun things in our lives.  This might be because of stress, tiredness or even just having a short attention span, but the biggest challenge that all of us face at times like these is not to accept the disrupted connection.  We have to renew our efforts and keep trying to break through the bubble.  There are people on the other side of it who want to connect with us.

When I am feeling (for want of a more technical word) “bubbled”, it is as though I am sitting in the bottom of a pit and the people I love are standing around the edge of it, leaning down to me waving various potential remedies.  Sometimes it’s my lovely house mate Ash, who will be holding diet coke and offering me a hug; at other times it’s my uni lads, who usually come bearing cider and silly voices.  A lot of the time it’s my theatre company team Harry and Jules, who wave production meeting notes and coffee at me in an attempt to lure me out of the pit.  As you can see, beverages are a big factor in my recovery from feeling “bubbled”, but I’m not sure why…

There is a line that connects you individually to all of the people who love you, and that connection doesn’t go away, even when you feel completely isolated from them.  They hold onto the line very tightly when they need you, and they want you to hold on just as tightly when you’ve fallen into your pit.  If you have the courage and the humility to say “help me” when you’re totally lost, they will combine their efforts to support you and get you the heck out of the pit.  They don’t want you to be stuck in there, because when it’s their turn to fall down in one, they’ll need you.  Also (in my case at least) it’s just not practical for you to live in a hole in the ground.  How can anyone run a theatre company from down there?

Sorry about the mixed metaphors and similes; whatever you’re up to today, I hope that you feel neither bubbled nor pitted.  If you are, then let your loved ones haul you out.  They are quite right to want you around.

Let’s Kid Ourselves

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Good morning, lovely reader!  How’re you doing on this fine Friday?

Thank you very much for the birthday wishes yesterday; I had a really lovely day, and feel thoroughly spoilt.  I do not, however, feel twenty-five.  A few people have said “ooh, this is your last big birthday before thirty!” which I think is a lie based on the fact that humans like nice, round numbers, i.e. multiples of five.  This is a nice birthday for sure, but if I want to make my twenty-seventh birthday a “big” one, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll do it, convention be damned.  Two years from now we will all be meeting for afternoon birthday tea at the Ritz, OR running around a fairground that includes at least one bouncy castle and some dodgems. (No clowns, though.  Definitely, DEFINITELY no clowns.)

But this is the problem, as you can see from my two top party choices: everything in a twenty-something’s life comes back to trying to decide whether to be a grown-up or a child.  When is it ok to be silly, and when do we have to be on our best behaviour?

I am currently working on a really exciting digital project with two lovely lads, both of whom have a lot of expertise in creative and technical production.  They are perceptive, talented and passionate people who are an absolute joy to work with.  They are also old friends of mine who share a ludicrous sense of humour and the tendency to enjoy silly voices, so you can see why we all get on so well.  Anyway, we had a meeting a couple of weeks ago about the project, which was a seriously mature affair.  We took minutes, for crying out loud.  In the midst of a very technical, important, official discussion about equipment and release forms etc., one of the boys said “oh my God, this is so grown-up!” and the other immediately started singing a little song that went “we’re grown-ups, we’re grown-ups”, complete with hand-clapping.

So obviously as soon as we realise that we’re being adults, we feel compelled to do something to return to our childish roots.  Whenever I discover that someone my age is getting married, it immediately makes me want to balance out the universe by eating a McDonald’s Happy Meal (or something).  When I find out that someone my age has gone clubbing in Watford on a Friday night, it drives me to read a furniture assembly instruction manual.  We are grown-ups or big kids depending on the occasion, and I think that that’s absolutely fine, for two reasons:

1) We are supposed to be enjoying our lives.  As long as we can separate the silly moments from the serious, why do we have to behave a certain way all of the time?  Why can’t Ash and I impersonate the bunnies from Gnomeo and Juliet when we want to?  Not that we ever do that.  Ahem.

2) No matter how grown-up we get, we will never be completely free of our younger selves.  People who are married, buying houses and having kids still say that they feel like they’re pretending to be adults, and that they’re playing at being responsible.  There is a surreal and scary quality to adult life that we have to defend ourselves against by letting out the childish impulses once in a while.  Perfect example: my dad started his day at 8am by running down the stairs singing “tra la la!” very, very loudly and for no discernible reason.  The man is knocking on sixty and he’s still got time for childish behaviour, so I think the rest of us can give ourselves a break.

Have a spectacular Friday.  I hope that your post-work social plans are the highlight of your week.

I’ve Got “Changes” Stuck in My Head Now

MMFD2_Finn

Happy Friday, lovely reader!  Got any nice plans for your weekend?

Last night I watched the season finale of My Mad Fat Diary on that absolute blessing of a website, 4oD.  For those of you who don’t watch it, don’t worry: I’m not going to go into any massive amount of detail about it (although it’s well-worth watching just for Nico Mirallegro, who is beautiful, as you can see).  For those of you who do watch the show but haven’t seen the finale yet, also don’t worry: I won’t spoil it for you.

The reason that I brought it up at all is because one of the key messages that came out of the episode is that you really never know how things are going to change.  You might think that you know how you feel about something, and then find that your opinion is entirely turned around.  (For example, I live in hope that one day I will wake up and discover that I like olives.)  You can think that you know how you feel about a person, and that can change without you even noticing.  That’s how old friends fall in love and old couples fall apart; sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s terrible, but it does happen.  You never know how you might change.

I’ve just typed the word “change” so many times that I’ve now got Bowie’s Changes stuck in my head.  (Weird fact about that song: when it was released as a single in 1972 it never reached the Top 40 in America or the UK, but it got great reviews and has since been listed as #127 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.)

Lots of us think that things happen to us, and that we are forced to adjust to them.  Sometimes this is true, but a lot of the time we actually have more of a say in how we feel than we realise.  If something changes that you genuinely can’t help, you can always find a way to adapt to it.  For example, when I lost my job a month or so ago I could have sat around feeling sorry for myself, but I didn’t.  (My friends and loved ones would never have let me do that, because they’re brilliant.)  I have registered as self-employed, I’m writing this blog and articles on other websites, and I’m finally giving my theatre company some much needed attention.  I have time to see my friends, and I can appreciate living in London for what it is: a bizarre adventure.  Sometimes it can be confusing or a bit lonely, but mostly it’s bloody good fun.

I decided to take that course of action.  I chose not to accept “Episode 7: The One Where Vicki Loses Her Job” as the season finale.  Think about times when something’s gone wrong for you in the past.  Did you sit around and feel sorry for yourself?  Maybe for a while.  But where are you now?  Are you still sulking?  Of course not.  You’re a wonderful human being with a lot of brilliant stuff to do.  You chose to respond to that situation by getting the flip on with your life.  You, my friend, have been commissioned for an additional twelve seasons at least.  (I don’t know why I picked twelve.  I have no idea how the television industry works.)

Most of this week (as you may have noticed from previous posts) I have been in a bit of a strop on behalf of myself and my friends, because we think that having feelings for people makes us vulnerable, and we don’t like that at all.  No siree.  But I had a truly enlightening conversation with a friend the other day, who told me that loving someone (in any way, not just romantically) is not just something that happens to you; it’s something that you decide to do.  You can fight your feelings and you can hide them, but they’ll still be there.  Isn’t it better to use them for something positive, even if you don’t know what will happen?  You don’t necessarily have to make massive declarations of eternal devotion or (God help us all) some kind of huge gesture worthy of a Hollywood rom-com.  You just have to be brave.  You have to admit to yourself how you feel, and then see where it takes you.  I suppose that’s an example of instigating change rather than being a victim of it, which can only be a positive step.

I think that that’s a big ask (especially on a Friday, for crying out loud), and I think it takes most people a while to be able to do that.  To be perfectly honest, I’m not quite there yet.  Although surely if I can master that bit, the olives thing will just happen automatically?

Have the Friday to end all Fridays.

The Tinder Tantrum

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Good morning, dearest and darlingest reader.  How’s the world with you?

Yesterday was a lovely day for me, partly because so many of my close friends had lots of good news to share, but also because I got to spend most of the afternoon on Skype to my friend Steven, who is currently teaching dramatic stuff to bambinos in Italy.  Steven is a very good friend to have for many reasons, but mainly because he is just as good at silly voices/inane chatter as he is at serious and intellectual discussions.

In a slightly odd mixture of the two, yesterday our conversation wandered into Tinder territory, and the conundrum of online dating in general.  I should make two things very clear before I continue:

1) I have absolutely no problem with people who go in for online dating,  nor would I judge anyone for the origins of their relationship.  One of my friends is now blissfully happy with (and engaged to) a guy who got hideously drunk on their first date and behaved like an idiot, so it clearly doesn’t matter how things start out.

2) Having said that, I fear and mistrust online dating with an extremity of feeling that I usually reserve for my hatred of Keira Knightley.

If the good people at match.com are to be believed, a quarter of relationships now start online.  This is all very well and good: modern life is very busy, stressful and it flings us into all sorts of faraway geographical locations and bizarre schedules.  In times and places like these, it makes sense to engage with your dating life through a convenient and easy to navigate service.  I think that there’s something quite sweet about talking to someone for a bit before you meet them to gauge how well you get on, and obviously it’s handy to be able to pick and choose the photos that go onto your profile.  Best face forward and all that.

However, there are some very practical issues to consider when dipping one’s toe into the man-made reservoir of online dating: firstly, the safety issue.  It’s a well-worn topic, but you can pretend to be anyone you like online, and that’s just creepy.  Watch an episode of Catfish and you’ll see where I’m going with this.  In addition, real life doesn’t work like that: you don’t get to re-write conversations half way through because you’ve realised that the sentence you’re about to say doesn’t come across very well, or re-style your hair to look more like that photo of you from so-and-so’s wedding when you looked really nice.  It’s just not possible, unless one of you has got hold of Bernard’s Watch, in which case we should probably be putting it to better use than manipulating dating situations to your advantage.

If you’re particularly busy and/or attached to the idea of smartphone apps, then Tinder is the online dating forum for you.  Call me naive, but the idea of simply swiping through reams of potential partners makes my skin crawl.  According to Steven, the guy who invented Tinder said in an interview that he doesn’t understand why people have a problem with the app’s format, because it’s simply a digital translation of what we do when we are out in bars, clubs, etc.  We scope out the talent, if you’ll excuse that hideous turn of phrase.  It’s a valid point, but we are evolved to look for potential partners when we’re around other human beings: we’re trying to continue a species, here.  Smartphone apps and technology in general are supposed to be making our conscious processes better, not bolstering our innate instincts.  Educational podcasts, tools for early learning, apps for locating the nearest pub showing the Arsenal match and more are all there to challenge our brain power and help us to see as much of this amazing world as possible.  (With the possible exception of the football/pub app, which I realise is just something I find very handy on a Saturday afternoon.)  Why do we need apps and websites to help us do something that we can do perfectly well on our own in the real world?  We’re hard-wired to find each other attractive and then do something about it.  There’s no need to bring Apple into this.

My main problem with online dating is that it takes all the fun out of meeting someone and finding that you share a spark.  This conversation happens between the women in my social circle quite a lot:

“I really like *insert guy’s name*.”
“Aw, that’s great!”
“No it isn’t.  He gives me butterflies, for Christ’s sake.”
“Oh dear.”
“Exactly.”

My friends and I don’t like liking people.  It makes us feel vulnerable and girly and, as you can see, a bit grumpy.  But I would so much rather get cross about being emotionally exposed than go about my love life in the same way I go about banking or applying for jobs.  Ok, the butterflies are a pain, but they’re also pretty important, and you don’t get them with an app.  How can someone give you butterflies when you’ve never seen them smile at you?

I think the crux of the matter is that underneath many, many, many layers of sarcasm and a predisposition to sneer at lovey-dovey stuff, I am actually a bit of a romantic.  Urgh.  How embarrassing.  As I said, I don’t have a problem with online dating per se, but I hope that it never overtakes the joy of meeting someone for the first time and feeling like your insides have become the London Butterfly House.

Have a truly joyous Tuesday.  Make sure you drink plenty of water.