Tag Archives: photo

Christmas Presence

Barons

Happy Tuesday, you lovely thing!  Boy, am I glad to see you.  Have a seat, I’ve got a rant to get through.

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting outside a coffee shop in Camden, waiting for a friend and quietly minding my own business.  As anyone who lives in an urban area will know, sometimes when you’re out and about you have to talk to strangers.  Most people approach you to ask for the time, directions or to hand you a flyer, but the guy I encountered yesterday was a whole new breed of weird stranger (even by Camden’s gloriously bizarre standards).  He approached me to ask for my opinion on his hand-made Christmas cards, which were the most horrific, disturbing and unsettling images I have seen in a very long time.  Genuine excerpt from our conversation:

Stranger: “So, which one do you prefer?  There’s this one, which is the masses of sheep – the consumers, you get me? – bowing down to a tree made of bloodstained iPods, the one of Jesus shooting Ronald McDonald in the face, or the creepy Santa with a bag of kids’ faces.  What do you think?”
Me: “…I think you should talk to someone.”
Stranger: “So you don’t want to buy one?”
Me: “No, thank you.  I really like Christmas.”

And I do, I love Christmas.  I love the carols, parties, decorations, lovely food, sparkling drinks, shiny wrapping paper and rubbish cracker jokes.  (I would love the silly hats too, but they don’t fit over my ridiculous hair.  True story.)  I also love presents, as of course we all do.   I understand that the consumer-driven chaos of Christmas is what the guy in Camden was angry about, and I can respect that.  I also realise that most of the things I’ve just listed as ‘reasons to love Christmas’ are consumerist and non-essential.  I’m not going to apologise for liking things that don’t really matter, because I don’t think that crackers and all that stuff are more important than being with my family, or showing my friends how much I love and appreciate them.

Last year we Brits gobbled approximately 10 million turkeys, spent nearly £600 each on gifts, and probably splashed out thousands of pounds on stamps for our Christmas cards.  This is all in keeping with the Camden guy’s anti-establishment rage, but I don’t believe that the way to fix that is to send grotesque greeting cards.  Don’t get me wrong: I am not disputing this man’s right to express his opinion or use his creativity – fair play to him for coming up with such striking/memorable images – but I personally will not be swayed by his view.  (Although I will concede that this year’s Christmas advert war is starting to grate just a bit.)

Not to get all Tiny Tim about it, but the most important thing about Christmas is the people we spend it with: friends, family and loved ones.  (For instance, the photograph at the top of this post is courtesy of my dad, who captured this lovely moment of typical sibling silliness on Christmas day last year.)  We are allowed to enjoy the consumer stuff like food, drink and presents because they are much less important, but more controllable.  You can hope and pray that your parents won’t get into a row over dinner, or that your granddad won’t get drunk and be loudly racist, or that your sister will cheer up even though she got dumped a week ago, but you cannot make these things happen.  You can make nice food and an effort to find thoughtful gifts.

Even if you don’t have a completely harmonious, sober or exuberant Christmas, the consumer crap is a way of saying to people “I love you, and I want us to have a special day together.”  If we burn the turkey and get terrible presents, it doesn’t matter because it is just stuff and at least we tried.  I know that that’s not why the festive season is so financially spectacular, but if we’ve got this cultural phenomenon we might as well find the positive aspects of it.

Right, rant over.  I’m going to make some mince pies.  You go and have a marvellous day, whatever you’re up to.

Advertisements

A Bath is Not A Photo Booth

Good morning!  How the devil are you?

It’s been – crikey, a whole week!  Whoops – since I last wrote a blog post.  Sorry about that.  I moved house this week, which has taken up a fair amount of time.  The upshot is that I am writing to you now from the kitchen of my lovely new flat.  Isn’t the garden pretty?  Ignore the boxes of books and saucepans.  I’ll finish unpacking later.

Moving house is incredibly stressful, but it also has a lot of perks.  Here are a few that I’ve experienced over the past few days:

  • Rediscovery – Ash and I packed up our possessions and vacated Bag End almost a month ago.  Getting my stuff back out of storage was quite good fun, because I’d half-forgotten about some of the nice things we have, including an owl cushion called Archimedes:
    005
    Hands down the most important thing I’ve unpacked so far.
  • Wonderland – I’ve spent quite a bit of time in this area of London before, but now that I live here I am finding out all sorts of things about what the area has to offer.  My favourite pub in the entire city is a ten minute walk away, the coffee shops look amazing and there are charity book shops all over the place.  It’s opposite a massive park AND an indoor climbing centre.  Bring on the adventures.
  • Team Work – my lovely, kind and wonderful friends are a very helpful bunch, and moving house has been a lot easier because of them.  It has also been a lot funnier because of them.  Spending time putting furniture together has given us the chance to reminisce, with some surprising stories – “Have I not told you this story before?!” – and a lot of nostalgia.
  • Bizarre Rules – my friends and I have also decided that the first time someone visits my new house, they have to sit in the bathtub (not filled, obviously) and have their photo taken.  That sound weird, doesn’t it?  I know.  I have no defence, except that the bathtub is weirdly small and we all found it hilarious.  I’m not explaining this very well…
  • Bear Grylls Complex – when you’ve only had time to unpack a fraction of your possessions, you have to sort of make do with whatever comes to hand.  It might just be me, but the whole experience makes me feel like a scavenger living on the fringes of society.  For example, when we left Bag End Ash and I threw the kettle away, because it was a bit old and scummy.  I forgot about this when I moved in to the new flat.  I assumed the kettle was hiding in a box somewhere.  I have coffee, sugar, milk and teabags, but no kettle.  If you’ve ever met me, you will know that this is a Very Bad Situation.  We dispatched someone to buy a kettle yesterday afternoon, with no success.  This morning’s coffee has therefore come from water boiled in a saucepan.  I feel so primitive.  I feel like I’ve EARNED my coffee.
  • Building Blocks – last but not least, a new house means a new start.  Distributing your books and belongings around a new space is a very exciting thing to do, and it’s how we build somewhere up from being a house/flat into a home/hobbit hole.  There is, as Dorothy Gale would tell you if she weren’t fictional, no place like home.

Have a glorious Monday.  I’m going to go and buy a kettle.

Girl Code: Not Quite as Complicated as the Enigma Machine

4725669

Hello dear reader, and welcome to your weekend!

First of all, a lot of congratulations are in order: to my friends who just got engaged, the ones who got married yesterday and the ones who, as of this momentous day, can now get married in the UK.  What a fantastic day for love and marriage.

Now, to the topic at hand (which as usual is pretty silly): those of you who watch How I Met Your Mother and/or are male will be aware of a mysterious set of rules called The Bro Code.  This is a list of regulations that men are supposed to abide by when they’re out and about with their mates, and a lot of them pertain to their duties as wingman.  It’s fairly standard stuff about solidarity, the pursuit of women and being manly.  A lot of the guys I know follow this code whether they realise it or not, but here is my question: where’s the Sis Code?  The Magda Carta, if you will?

Well it exists, but it doesn’t, if you see what I mean.  You know how people talk about there being “unwritten rules”?  Well, girls have those rules off by heart backwards, upside down and in seven different languages.  We don’t have to write them down to know exactly what they are, and when we sense someone breaking the Girl Code we can tell over a distance of up to eight hundred metres (reduced to six hundred on a blustery day).  But just so that there are no misunderstandings, I have written a few of the rules down:

  • When a girl shows you a photo of the guy she likes, the appropriate response is only ever “Aw, he’s lovely!”  THAT’S IT.  Don’t comment on his massive ears, don’t start drooling over him yourself, and for heaven’s sake don’t ask what’s up with his facial hair.
  • You must always hate the new girlfriend of your friend’s ex-boyfriend, at least until said friend is over the situation.  Which brings us nicely on to:
  • Your ex’s friends and your friend’s ex are off-limits.  This is non-negotiable.  No, not even then.  Or then.  No, definitely not.  Stop trying to find ways around this; it’s insurmountable.
  • Use your make-up bag for good, not evil: if you’re dressing up and going out, make sure that you are doing it for the sake of your own confidence, not to make another woman feel small or to impress a man.  (Example: don’t wear white to someone else’s wedding.)
  • Always accompany your friend to the bathroom.  Guys never understand this, but there are several possible reasons for making this activity a team effort: being in an unfamiliar place and not wanting to get lost alone on the way; protecting one another from scary loo attendants; continuing a conversation that is already in progress.  There are loads more, but those are the ones that sound least odd.
  • On a related note, if you are out in public and your friend turns to you and says “I need to talk to you”, then you drop everything.  There is probably a socially-awkward situation to diffuse, or a wardrobe emergency.  As you get to know your friends you will be able to communicate this non-verbally across tables, crowded rooms and dance floors, but remember to use your eyebrows sensibly.  You don’t want to end up like Emma Watson, whose acting style is entirely dependent on the caffeine-infused caterpillars above her eyes.
  • Don’t be mean for no good reason.  (Ok, I definitely just broke that one by being mean about Emma Watson, but seriously.  Her eyebrows genuinely worry me.)
  • This one is my biggest pet peeves, and unfortunately loads of girls do this: don’t be a story-topper.  If someone tells you something really good or really bad that’s happened to them, do not under any circumstances say “Well if you think THAT’s good/bad, listen to what happened to me…”  You haven’t been listening to your friend, and it’s painfully obvious.  One day you will hear yourself say “Well if you think’s THAT’s good, I’ve just been made High Majestic Overlord of the Seas and Sky!” and realise how ridiculous you’re being.
  • Always be willing to lend your shoes.  I don’t know why, but it’s important.
  • Take the time to compliment each other, and not just “oh, I love your earrings, where did you get them?” Make the effort to tell people that you think they’re brave, kind, good at roller-skating, etc.  It’ll take you two seconds and it’ll make their day.

There are hundreds more of these, but I won’t keep you from your weekend any longer.  Have an amazing Saturday!

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:

2014-03-19 22.17.42

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.

Top Tips for the Thames

Good morning!  How’s your Thursday going so far?

I live in London, and although I am fairly far north I tend to gravitate towards the banks and bridges of the Thames whenever I can.  I love the river in this city, and it has a lot to offer that all Londoners know about: the BFI, the National Theatre and so on.  However, today I would like to recommend some less established entertainment and activities that the Thames offers.  Some of them are ridiculous, but I think they’re all definitely worth doing.  If you’re a proper grown up you might not agree with me, but then I’d rather be silly than sensible.  Being silly is how you have fun.  Speaking of which:

winnie-the-pooh-pooh-sticks

1) Play pooh sticks on a bridge

My friend Paul and I did this on New Year’s Eve (daytime) a couple of years ago, and we loved it.  It was a snap decision made in a coffee shop somewhere off Wardour Street.  Finding sticks between Soho and Embankment was a bit of a challenge, so if you do this I’d recommend raiding a park beforehand.  The added challenge with Embankment Bridge is that people are crossing it all the time, so you have a game-within-a-game situation whereby you’re playing Dodge the Tourist as you dash across the bridge.  If you don’t know what pooh sticks is (and you’d be surprised how many people don’t), then you need help.  Here is help.

southbank-merry-go-round

2) Go on the merry go round next to the Southbank Centre

I know you’re a grown up.  I know you feel silly.  But it’s a wonderful feeling to be soaring through the air on a noble steed, laughing your head off with your friends and watching the river swing around.  I’m sure we looked like eejits, but it felt brilliant.  And what is the point in looking normal/sensible/good when you could be having a good time?

0449220_29473_MC_Tx360

3) Re-enact the end of Sliding Doors where Gwyneth Paltrow is yelling at John Hannah and then they make up

This one is particularly good for Londoners, because it rains often enough to give you plenty of opportunities.  For a bit of variation, you could try Miranda and Steve’s reunion in the Sex and the City Movie or Anastasia; pick a film with a bridge in it and go for your life.  Maybe stay away from The Bridge on the River Kwai, though.

images

4) Stop and have a boogie to one of the buskers

One of my favourite things about the summer months in London is the buskers who play steel drums along the bridges.  Next time I see one, I’m going to stop and have a little dance.  No big deal, just a few minutes of boogie.  I’m a terrible dancer, but whatever.  I hope that whoever accompanies me on this occasion will be prepared to cut a rug (knowing my friends, they probably will be.  Hell, they’ll probably bring tap shoes).

2014-02-26 17.17.11

5) Just look at it

The Thames is amazing.  Especially on days like yesterday, when that photo was taken.  When I’m upset or confused or just feeling a bit weird, I love going and looking at the river.  Sometimes I go with someone and talk, but I’ve also been known to have a wander and ponder by myself.  Londoners sometimes look at the river as a barrier: something to traverse, something that could flood, something that makes the air colder.  But it’s actually a very beautiful thing that unites loads of parts of the city, and personally I think it’s London’s best feature.

Have a brilliant day – I hope your lunch break is the perfect length of time.

Top Ten Things We Are Officially Too Old For

toddler-tantrum1

Hello, reader! Long time no see!  How was your week?

After a few days’ hiatus while I was running amok in Paris, I am back in Blighty and brimming with blog ideas.  I also appear to be massively over-using the letter “b”, for some reason.

My favourite bit of the Paris trip was visiting the Eiffel Tower.  It says a lot that this was my favourite part of the weekend, because we had to queue for TWO HOURS to get inside.  Being British we were completely comfortable with the queueing process, but Mario and I were nonetheless obliged to play some fairly silly games while we waited, including the classic Would You Rather.  Here’s an example:

Me: Would you rather live in a cave for the rest of your life, or at the top of the Eiffel Tower?
Mario: Would you be able to leave to go shopping and stuff?
Me: Um…no.
Mario: Top of the Eiffel Tower, obviously.
Me: How would you get your shopping, then?
Mario: I’d get it flown in.
Me: How?  There’s no helipad or anything up there.
Mario: I’d get the people to throw the stuff at me and I’d catch it.
Me: Oh, of course.

In front of us in the queue were two families, both British, with five kids between them of various ages between six and twelve-ish.  Understandably these kids were as bored as we were, so they ran around, played games, annoyed each other and climbed on the railings.  I have two problems with this:

1) There is no way on earth my parents would EVER have let us behave that way when we were kids.  If we so much as raised our voices in public when we were little we didn’t know which way was up, I can tell you.  It’s so unfair that these kids can get away with messing around when I never did.  Mutter, grumble, back in my day etc.

2) Damn it, I’m a grown up now!  I’ll never get to run around and play silly games in public!  I’ve missed my opportunity forever!  More muttering and grumbling.

With this horrific injustice in mind, Mario and I came up with a list of the Top Ten Things We Are Officially Too Old For.  By “we” I mean people in their mid-twenties,  and by “officially” I mean “according to me and Mario, who are not qualified to be authorities on this kind of stuff, but we’re pretty sure we’re right”.  Let me know what you think:

1) Running around and messing about in queues
Even as a drama graduate with a Masters in (essentially) Messing About and Doing Silly Voices, I know that that’s not cool.

2) Ordering kids’ meals in restaurants
I tried this one in a Wetherspoons last week.  I’ve never seen such fear and confusion on another human being’s face before.

3) Drinking Nesquik
Mario argued this one, but would you drink it in public?  No.  Same goes for Panda Pops, sadly.

4) Friendship bracelets
Unless some kind of bizarre retro-kitsch fad comes around (and I’m not ruling it out), these lovely tokens are off-limits to us now, even ironically.  If you want to give your friend something that says “I like you, you’re pretty fun” you have to buy them a pint.  Or a puppy or something.

5) Weird hair ornaments
Scrunchies, Alice bands, smiley-face hair clips, glittery hair bobbles – basically anything from Claire’s Accessories is a no-no.

6) Crying in photos
As a baby or small child, crying or looking grumpy in photos is completely fine, and often makes for ammunition that your parents will use when you bring home your first girl/boyfriend.  I know of several school/family photos that meet the gleeful criteria of parents in those circumstances, but nobody cries in their graduation photo (I hope).

7) Light-up trainers
I waited MONTHS to get a pair of blue light-up trainers when I was a kid, and to this day they are my favourite of every pair of shoes I’ve ever owned.  As a grown up I own lots of shoes that I like, but none of them make me feel like a super hero.

8) Having tantrums in public
Let’s be honest: sometimes lying down on the floor, kicking your heels, pounding your fists and screaming blue murder is incredibly appealing.  But as adults we have learned that that’s not always the best way to get what we want, so we have to do more boring things like compromise and negotiate.

9) Drink Calpol
This one makes me the saddest of all, I think.  If I’m ill I have to wander wistfully past the purple syrup of magical well-being and head to the boring, tasteless Ibuprofen.

10) Ask simple questions
There are lots of questions that are seen as cutesy, typical kid questions: “Why is the sky blue?” “What’s love?” “Why can’t we feel the Earth spinning?” and I STILL don’t know the answers to most of them.  I’m too old pull off the eyelash-batting, adorable curiosity thing, so in my ignorant adulthood I turn to a different long-suffering parent: Wikipedia.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend; I hope your Sunday dinner involves the best roast potatoes in the universe.