Tag Archives: strangers

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.

Gratitude Attitude

EBB2A127B277C1E768F86D2CA9C0B9_h498_w598_m2

Happy Friday, you lovely thing!  How’s your week been?

My friend Tamsin recently nominated me for that “list three things you’re grateful for” thingy on Facebook.  While I am whole-heartedly supportive of such a positive, life-affirming use of social media, I am going to cheat and do it my way.  This is for three reasons:

1) I post blogs and articles and silly statuses on Facebook all the time.  If I did this thing properly (i.e. once a day for ten days – thirty things to be grateful for, all told), the message of gratitude would get drowned out by the sound of everyone frantically removing me from their news feeds.
2) I can assimilate the point of this exercise in one bite-sized, easy to digest blog post, which is what I’m about to do.
3) I’m a contrary little so-and-so.

So, here is my take on the gratitude exercise: ten categories, three examples per category, thirty things to be grateful for.  (So yeah, I am cheating, but technically I’ve done the exercise.)

Friends

  • The ones who can always make you laugh
  • The ones who are still friends after being miles and/or months apart
  • The ones with whom you have excellent eyebrow semaphore.

Jokes

  • In-jokes whose origins are lost in the mists of time, but which still make you laugh
  • Christmas cracker jokes
  • A joke you tell that makes EVERYONE laugh – no better feeling in the world, is there?

Family

  • The ones who looked after you when you couldn’t look after yourself
  • The ones who remember your most embarrassing moments but don’t bring them up in front of people
  • The ones who become real friends.

Experiences

  • Life-changing, unforgettable ones
  • Horrendous, lesson-learned-please-God-don’t-ever-let-that-happen-again ones
  • Ones that make for rocking anecdotes.

Strangers

  • Ones who inspire/amuse you without ever knowing
  • The ones who show you compassion when you’re lost/stuck/in trouble
  • The ones who have taught their children how to behave in public.

Aspects of Nature

  • Landscape awesomeness, e.g. sunsets
  • Biology, which proves that deep down we’re all the same
  • Penguins.  Who does not love penguins?

Bands/Musicians

  • Ones that always make you feel good
  • Ones that remind you of happy times and/or good friends
  • Guilty pleasures (did somebody say Hanson?)

Technological Wonderments

  • Television
  • Skype
  • The animatronics behind Ann Robinson’s face

Gut Reactions

  • “This isn’t right.”
  • “This is amazing!”
  • “I love you.”

Cheese

  • Retro, cringy pop music
  • Mushy, sentimental conversations
  • ACTUAL CHEESE

Bookworm Woes

Toc9t

Good morning, and welcome to what I hope will be the most marvellous Thursday of your life so far!

Today I would like to talk about a subject very close to my heart: reading.  Specifically, reading in public.  Here are some of the most irritating and troublesome aspects of being a public bookworm:

  • Who are you looking at?  Sometimes when you’ve been reading for a while, you look up from the page to go over a moment in your head or work something out about the storyline.  If you are sitting in public and you look up to make accidental eye contact with a stranger, they tend to look a bit confused.  Unfortunately, it’s not socially acceptable to say “I’m not looking at you, I’m reading.  Go back to your life.”
  • Unnecessary baggage: If you’re about to leave the house and you’ve only got a few pages left in a book, you have to take a spare one with you, don’t you?  It doesn’t really matter where we’re going:  we must always, always have a good chunk of book available to read.  If this means that we sometimes end up taking large handbags to nightclubs, so be it.
  • Anti-social issues: When meeting friends, we tend to arrive a bit early so that we can get some extra reading in.  Woe betide the friend who turns up in the middle of a chapter, and God help the poor soul who arrives expecting conversation from us when we’ve only got two pages of a thriller novel left.
  • What the heck is going on?  This one is especially true if you’re on public transport: reading can be an all-consuming activity, and if you’re not careful you can miss your bus stop without even noticing.  If you’re sitting on a park bench it can start to get dark or rain without you realising, and in some cases it takes physical prodding from a loved one to bring you back to reality.
  • I’m not crazy; I’m a bookworm.  Sometimes you are reading a book that is so surprising and engaging that you genuinely have to react verbally (potentially by swearing), or so funny that you laugh out loud.  Apparently in public situations this kind of behaviour is a little disconcerting for strangers.  Well, strangers, you’ll just have to deal with it.  I’m reading an awesome story over here.

Well, I’m off to finish The Subtle Knife.  Have a glorious day.

 

The Best People in Your World

51binveoUuL

Good morning to you dear reader, and congratulations on reaching your four-day weekend!  I hope that you have some lovely plans to keep you occupied during this unusually long rest period.

Being the soppy little so-and-so that I am, I sometimes get a bit sniffly just thinking about my friends and loved ones.  They are incredible people, and I seriously lucked out by meeting each and every one of them.  I hope that the people in your life are just as amazing (and that you are capable of thinking about them without getting all girly and emotional).  Today I’d like to identify some of the best people in all of our lives, because if I’m getting emotional then I’m taking you lot down with me:

  • The person you want to lie in bed and watch stupid films with
    It usually (although not always) takes a very specific amount of love, intimacy and trust to share a bed with someone, but especially on days when you are hungover, ill or just refusing to navigate the confusing world outside your duvet.  Lying in bed with someone watching a film is one of the greatest pleasures in life, and we should feel very glad to have suitable candidates for that activity in our lives (and beds).  This is particularly true of people who will not only allow but often suggest that the film is childish/terrible/ridiculous – for example, Ash and I have been known to cosy up and watch obscure Disney films on our duvet days.  We are also very partial to a musical film version of Cinderella called The Slipper and the Rose, which I heartily recommend to you the next time you’re in the mood for something silly.
  • The person who can make you laugh on your worst day
    I am slightly paraphrasing the Friends theme tune here, but it’s true.  Someone who can make you laugh – not just any laugh, but your real, embarrassing, uncontrollable laugh that only appears when something is incredibly funny – is a treasure.  If a person can take you out of your stress, sadness or generic turmoil, even just for a moment, you need to keep hold of them.
  • The person who remembers tiny things about you
    It’s probably because my own memory is so flipping appalling, but I am always touched when someone remembers a small fact or silly story about me that I wouldn’t have considered massively important.  There are certain things about ourselves that we hope our loved ones remember (allergies being a pretty important one, for example), but what makes up a person is a combination of the tiny things as well as the big ones.  If someone has taken the trouble to remember something seemingly inconsequential about you, it shows that they know and love the whole you, not just the obvious attributes.
  • The person who unknowingly makes your day
    We’ve all had the experience of walking past someone and overhearing a snippet of their conversation, or seeing someone being kind to another stranger in public.  People who don’t know you and will probably never talk to you have the capacity to make your day, and I am grateful to all of those individuals who have unknowingly made me smile.  My biggest thanks must go to the business man – complete with suit and briefcase – who did the Gangnam Style dance all the way down a platform at Marylebone station once.  Whoever you are, I salute you.
  • The person with their head screwed on
    I am not the most practical of people, and I tend to panic in the face of things like technical rehearsals, tax returns and pedestrian crossings.  For these moments (and many more) I invariably turn to Harry, the Operations Manager of my theatre company, excellent friend and all-round voice of reason.  If you are like me, I hope that you have someone just as sensible to calm you down in times of stress.  If you are like Harry, I hope you enjoy being the sensible one with the practical solutions.  To the rest of us, it looks like a super power.
  • The person who wakes you up with a ridiculous text
    There is nothing like starting your day well, and the tiniest things can make a difference: you could put on your favourite outfit, see something funny on the news or eat a delicious breakfast.  But what you really need is the kind of friend who will send you a ridiculous message like “What’s the plural of mongoose?!” before 8am.  That kind of message amuses you, intrigues you, and then it gets you straight out of bed to Google “mongoose”.  It’s mongooses, by the way.  Sounds like it should be mongeese, doesn’t it?  Anyway, the point is that ridiculous questions first thing in the morning are only ok between true and loyal friends, so make sure you appreciate those people.  You never know when niggling curiosity is going to strike you down.
  • The person who reminds you why you love what you do
    I really hope that you enjoy what you do.  I really hope that you like going to work at least most of the time, and that you have a passion to pursue.  More than that, I hope that you have people in your life who remind you that what you are doing is good, and that what you are aiming for is attainable.  I recently met a lovely lady called Angela at a directing thing in Stratford, and in the short time I’ve known her she has wowed me with her enthusiasm, passion for theatre and her generous support for what I’m trying to do with my life.  She hasn’t known me for long enough to “owe” me her encouragement, but she gives it to me anyway.  We all need someone like that.
  • The person who gives you butterflies
    Yes, alright – I know I’ve said that my friends and I don’t like fancying people, and that feelings in general tend to make us feel out of control, but I think that we all need to feel that way from time to time.  If you’ve met someone who makes you feel giddy and nervous that’s a bit scary, but it’s also exciting.   Where would we all be without butterflies?  Exactly.  We’d be caterpillars.

Have a magical Friday.

We Could Totally Go on Countdown

the.it.crowd.s04e02.ws.pdtv.xvid-river 092

Hello, dear reader!  Are you having a nice Sunday?

My birthday party was yesterday, and it was marvellous.  Lots of friends, Cards Against Humanity and an unholy amount of cake at my house followed by taking over a pub garden for the evening make for a pretty perfect Saturday.  On the trip from my house to the pub we were definitely “those people” on the tube who were being a bit too noisy, but we were also handing out cake to strangers, so I like to think that we balanced ourselves out in terms of transport karma.

One of my favourite things about my wider social circle is that pretty much all of my friends get along with each other, regardless of external factors.  My siblings get on with my uni friends, and my friends from school get on with the person who stole my tricycle at nursery school (and has somehow become one of my closest friends in just twenty-two years).  Last night I sat in a pub garden and looked at my friends chatting, drinking, and climbing on the garden furniture, and I realised how lucky I am to have so many people in my life who like each other (and me, hopefully).

Something else occurred to me about my friends last night: none of us are where we thought we would be at this age.  Geographically we are all pretty much where we expected to find ourselves (i.e. in London), but in terms of career stuff and personal lives I think our mid-twenties have caught us entirely by surprise.  That’s not a bad thing, but it’s interesting to look at our trajectories since university (for example) and see how far we’ve strayed from our original ambitions.  We are, like Moss caught up in the dark underworld of Countdown, not exactly who or where we thought we would be.

I think that that’s amazing, particularly because so many of my nearest and dearest are drama types who could feasibly have been forced to abandon their dreams because of discouragement, money and other nasty things.  Thankfully none of us have, and if anything we are more enthusiastic about our dreams now that we’ve lived in the real world for a bit.  We know more about how we’re going to get where we want to be.

Now, how does one go about being on Countdown?…

I hope you have the kind of Sunday dinner that would make Gordon Ramsey weep with joy.