Tag Archives: summer

The Summer – Autumn Trade-Offs

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Happy Monday, reader!  How was your weekend?

Despite making a glorious comeback effort over the past week, Summer’s career is definitely over.  Make way for Autumn, the awkward but loveable bassist of the seasons.  It’s time to trade our flip flops for wellies, and to have The Discussion about turning the central heating on.

A lot of us tend to regard this time of year with trepidation and mild despair, because the days are getting shorter and before we know it we’ll be panic-buying for Christmas.  If we think about it, Autumn has a lot of fun stuff to offer that makes up for losing our Summer sensibilities.  Here are a few examples:

Sunbathing to Sauntering
No more sunbathing at every available opportunity, but now we get to enjoy leisurely walks on crisp, cold days.  We might not be able to top up our tans, but we can still enjoy the fresh air.  Even if it’s raining and miserable, there’s always the jumping-in-puddles option (as long as you’re wearing wellies.  This activity is not appropriate for those of us who favour canvas shoes).

Floaty to Fur-Lined
Pretty summer dresses get relegated to the back of the wardrobe, but on the plus side, wrapping up season is here.  There’s a lot of joy to be taken from being snug in a scarf, and being justifiably smug about owning a matching pair of gloves.  I personally am very excited about wearing my penguin jumper, because it’s SO COMFY.  Childish but not chilly is how to dress this season (although I confess I haven’t consulted any women’s magazines about this point).

Picnics to Pies
Goodbye, healthy salad and picnic snacks.  Hello, hearty stews and home-made pies.  Actually, this isn’t even a trade-off thing: who would choose salad over pie?!

Lazy Days to Long Nights
Like everyone who possesses an iota of sanity, I hate getting out up when it’s cold and dark.  If the sun isn’t out of bed yet, then why the hell should we be?!  Equally, getting home in the dark when it’s something stupid like five in the afternoon is just depressing.  What happened to long, drawn-out, sunny evenings and early, blazing sunrises?  They’re gone, I’m afraid.  There’ll be a reunion tour next year.  In the meantime, we can partly dismiss our despair by remembering that we are more likely to get to sleep at a decent time during the winter, because the earlier sunsets make us feel more tired, and that a sunrise that happens at 11.32 am (I’m exaggerating a bit, but you know what I mean) is still a sunrise.  A sunrise which we’re more likely to see, in fact, because who is ever awake at 5.34 am during the summer?  Exactly.

Festivals to Festivities
Festival season is over: pack up your tents and put away your dry shampoo.  Wherever you’ve been this summer, I hope you have some nice memories and several entertaining photos.  We also have a lot of great events to look forward to in the next few months – Hallowe’en, Bonfire Night, Christmas, New Year – and there may even be a few birthdays and engagement parties in the mix.  Summer is a great time to meet new people, spend time with old friends and go on bizarre adventures, but let’s not forget that Autumn is pretty good for all of those things, too.

Have a superlatively hilarious Monday.

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The End of Summer Lovin’

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Hello and how on earth are you, dear reader?

Back in February I wrote this blog post about how to beat the winter blues, and it occurred to me the other day that the end of summer needs some similar attention.  Like Sandy and Danny at the beginning of Grease (excuse me, but even if they hadn’t seen each other, they would definitely have heard each other singing about their summer of love), we can all get a bit blue about the end of summer.  I don’t know whether it’s the weird weather or extracting ourselves from the Edinburgh Fringe bubble, but there’s a definite back-to-school, oh-God-do-we-have-to, I-hate-my-alarm-clock-why-is-it-such-a-bastard sort of mood going on in my social circle at the moment.

So, in the spirit of cheering you up at the end of what I hope has been a spectacular summer, here are a few little things we can all do to put ourselves back in a sunshiney mood:

1) Dance around your living room 
Stick on a song that makes you happy and just have a boogie.  Look like an idiot.  Throw your back out if you have to.  You ARE the dancing queen (or king).  My personal recommendations for feel-good tunes include Classic and When Can I See You Again.  And Dancing Queen, obviously.

2) Book something
Organise a coffee date with a friend, or a real date with someone you fancy.  Book that trip you and your mates keep talking about.  Splash out on theatre tickets.  Basically, pick something that would make you happy and make it happen soon.

3) Challenge yourself
Get cracking on something that’s been lingering on your “I could probably do that” list.  For example, my next challenge is going to be writing a radio play.  I have no idea how to do that, but I’m going to find out.  Whether it’s something a bit grown-up liking saving up for a house deposit, or something a bit crazy like climbing a mountain, use this time to rise to a challenge.

4) Find the funny
Look up silly jokes, or go and see a comedian you’ve never heard of.  Watch a classic comedy film.  Let your friends drag you to an open mic night.  As the late, great Charlie Chaplin once said, “a day without laughter is a day wasted”.

5) Spruce up
Look your best.  Not because you’re not perfect the way you are, but because it will make you feel more confident.  Dress up for your next night out.  Wear your favourite pair of shoes tomorrow.  The world deserves to see you looking happy and brim full of self-esteem because, after all, whose day would not be brightened by seeing you looking fabulous?

“Can You Drink the Water in Scotland?”

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Hello, dear reader!  Happy Friday!

Despite the lovely weather and the cheerful atmosphere, mid July has become the time of year that lots of people associate with stress.  In years gone by it was the worst point during the long wait for exam results, and not so very long ago it meant the end of another university year, and the inevitable drinking/farewells/moving house that followed.  These days, a lot of my friends find this time of year stressful, exciting and nerve-racking because we are about to pack our bags and trundle 400 miles up the road to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

There are some very specific things that southerners (Londoners in particular) feel and experience when they make the performance pilgrimage to the capital of Scotland.  Here are a few of my favourites:

Coffee Conundrum: the moment when you realise that it will be easier to meet a friend for coffee when you’re both at the Fringe than it would to try and organise something in London, even thought you live a twenty-minute tube ride apart.

Tourist Tantrum: resenting the tourists all over the Royal Mile, even though you’re just as much of a visitor as they are.  (Except a friend of mine who, before coming up to visit us while we were performing in 2012, genuinely asked us whether you could drink the water in Scotland.)

Regression Renegades: no matter how sensible you are or how long it’s been since your student days, the second you get to the Fringe you take advantage of the fact that every drinking establishment is open til 5am.

Fan Phenomenon: people go and see dozens of shows during the festival, but every so often you come across a show that turns you into an instant fan of the performers.  It’s amazing to find that you can get just as involved with and passionate about the work of non-famous (but fabulous) people as you do about the main players on London stages.

The Edinburgh Bar Principle: something I mentioned in this article I wrote for Everything Theatre – you never know who you’re going to meet at the festival, including very drunk, very interesting or very famous people.  You may even find yourself photo-bombing Rhod Gilbert and having him call you a maverick.

Whatever you’re up to this summer, I hope you have as much fun as physically possible.  Give me a shout if you’re planning on being at the Fringe.

Have an unbelievably brilliant weekend.

“Find a happy place, find a happy place!!”

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Good morrow, fair reader!  How fares the world with thee today?

Ahem.  Anyway, today I’d like to talk to you about happy places, and the different forms they take.  We all have literal locations that we love, but we also have mental go-to places that put us in a better mood.  Here are a few examples of the best happy places.  I hope that you have at least one of each of these:

The Happy Place of the Past
Isn’t it weird that when someone asks you to think of a song, every tune you’ve ever heard goes straight out of your head?  It’s the same when we’re asked to remember a time we felt truly happy.  That’s not to say that we’ve never been happy, but that the pressure of recollecting our bliss on demand is a little too much to deal with.  When we are at leisure to consider, we can all think of a period in our lives that brought us real joy.  Whether it’s a childhood era, an irresponsible summer in adolescence or an eye-opening travel experience, each of us has a memory that can bring back a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings.

The Happy Place that’s a Person
Sentimentality alert – our loved ones are also our happy places.  Whether it’s a partner, a family member or a best friend, the right person can immediately transport you away from your woes and worries into a place that only you two know about.  When we talk about real love, isn’t that what we actually mean?  The people we love don’t have to be perfect, or entirely compatible with our every personality aspect, or even physically present – they just have to represent a safe and happy place. Keane know what I’m talking about.

The Happy Place that Never Lets You Down
Some places make us happy time after time.  Lots of my friends have theatres that they always enjoy visiting, or pubs that always deliver a great night out.  Especially when we feel lost in general, or when life is confusing and annoying us, it’s a great thing to know that there is somewhere we can go that will always make us feel better.  If you’re stuck for ideas (and you happen to be in Richmond), I would like to recommend The Farmery, which I have visited three times in the last week.  I’m not even a tiny bit embarrassed about that.  Their frozen yoghurt is seriously tasty.

The Happy Place that’s a Good Old-Fashioned Metaphor
Whether it’s a memory, an idea or a vague daydream, we all have a handy bit of our brain that allows us to transcend the humdrum and the horrible.  We might not like to publicly admit the exact nature of our personal happy place, but it’s very healthy and helpful for us to have them.  Heck, have more than one.  Have as many as you like.  As long as you daydream in moderation, there is no limit to the places your mind can take you.

The Happy Place that’s Yet to Come
This might be a literal location – for example, I really want to visit Egypt one day – or it might be an ambition that you hold dear.  Either way, the best days of your life might not be ahead of you (although I sincerely hope that they are), but there is definitely happiness of some kind waiting for us one day.  If we keep working towards what we want and where we want to be, we can take comfort from the fact that we will always be moving closer to another, exciting happy place.

Have a glorious Wednesday.  May the place you are in be extremely happy.

“I Made A Friend!”

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Good morning, and congratulations on making it all the way to Friday!  I hope your week has been productive and filled with first-rate conversation.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2012 was one of the most challenging, stressful, enjoyable and amazing experiences of my life so far.  Of the many things I took away from that month of madness, the one I think I am most pleased about is that it taught me to be happy about going to the theatre by myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I almost always go to the theatre with a friend – in a few hours I am off to see Titus Andronicus with one of my best friends from university, in fact – but at the Fringe you see four or five shows a day, and it’s impossible for everyone to see everything they want to unless they split up.

A few months ago I went to see 1984 at the Almeida Theatre, and I went by myself.  An unexpectedly joyous side effect of this excursion was that I got chatting to the chap sitting next to me, who turned out to be an actor with whom I got on very well.  I came home to my flat mate that night saying “I made a friend!” in the excited tones of a six year-old girl, which amused her greatly.  However, she went to a vlogging event today where she had exactly the same experience, and it was lovely to hear her gleeful description of making a brand new friend in her mid-twenties.

We all have friends from various walks of life: primary and secondary school, college, university, work, and in my case, a summer school for gifted and talented teenagers (I’ll tell you about it later).  These people have seen us grow up and go from being starry-eyed youngsters to bleary-eyed adults.  They have been with us through crises, triumphs, boredom, hangovers, exams, dinner parties and summer days in the park.  A shared history with a friend is a wonderful thing.

The thing about these friends is that they have known you for long enough to make an educated assessment of how much they like you and want to spend time with you.  They have years of experience of your whims and ways under their belts, so to a certain extent you know that they have a firm grasp of who you are deep down.  Someone you went to Brownies with is not going to judge you based on a moment of verbal incontinence that happens in your twenties, for example.

Making friends as an adult – whether they’re a new colleague or a stranger at the theatre – is an added bonus to the strange situations life throws at us, because these fully-formed people meet you and make a judgement about being friends with you based purely on who you are now.  They don’t know anything you’ve done in the past, the places you’ve travelled to or the greatest successes you’ve had.  They decide to like you based entirely on what you say and do in that first moment of meeting, and that is just brilliant.

Your friends are absolutely right to love you for who you have been, but your new friends are equally correct in liking you for who you are now.  Clearly, the result of your endeavours to become a proper grown-up person have worked a lot better than you could have imagined.

Have a genuinely spectacular Friday.

It’s Only Monday

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Good morning and welcome to the new week!

Lots of people hate Mondays, including Garfield, the Bangles and the Boomtown Rats.  I personally quite like them, for the same reason that I love early mornings: the potential.  The beginning of something is always full of possibilities to explore and opportunities not yet taken.  Inevitably, Mondays (and early mornings) are also riddled with moments of clumsiness, missed trains and coffee spillages, but as far as I’m concerned it’s the good stuff yet to come that’s worth thinking about.  Who knows what this week might hold?

This time of year is a bit of an odd one, because British people’s moods are almost solely dictated by the weather: some people are a bit blue because it’s so chilly and there’s a lot of damage to be fixed after the floods, whereas others are tilting their faces towards the lukewarm sunshine and thinking dreamily of summer.  It is technically British Summer Time now…but we have to show some self-control.  Put down the deck chairs; we’ve got a few months and several degrees to go.

Apparently, people have always tended to be feeling a bit extreme around this date.  Whether these were all on Mondays or just end-of-March madness we’ll never know, but let’s look at some examples:

1603: After about a year of watching her closest mates drop dead one by one, Queen Elizabeth I succumbs to peer pressure and follows suit.  After forty-four and a half years on the throne she must be knackered, poor thing.

1832: Mormon Joseph Smith is beaten, tarred and feathered in Ohio.  I know I should be appalled by that, but actually it just made me giggle.  It’s the idea of a religious fanatic running around covered in feathers; how on earth could anyone take that zealous lunatic seriously after that?

1837: Canada gives black people the right to vote.  This is pretty amazing, especially when you consider the fact that America took another thirty-three years and a civil war to come to the same decision.  Good for you, Canada.

1882: German scientist Robert Koch announces the discovery of the bacterium that causes tuberculosis.  The disease has been considered hereditary until this point, but Koch’s work discovers the truth (and wins him a Nobel prize in 1905, and undoubtedly saves a heck of a lot of lives).

1906: A census of the British Empire reveals that Britain rules a fifth of the world.  Slightly awkward to look back at now, but is beautifully summarised by this Eddie Izzard clip.

1972: Northern Ireland’s Parliament is suspended after the prime minister resigns.  Britain’s direct rule over Northern Ireland is introduced.  This is just getting embarrassing.

1973: This one isn’t an example of March madness by any means, but on this day The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons is born.  He is looking very well for someone who hit the big four-one today, I must say.

I hope you enjoyed your miniature history lesson.  May your Monday turn out to contain all sorts of amazing things, such as the legendary all-chocolate Kit Kat.

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:

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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).

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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.