Tag Archives: university

Never Too Old to Feel Like a Disney Princess

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Hello, lovely reader!  I hope that the universe is treating you with kindly good humour today.

I turned twenty-six last week, and it’s been a bit of a surreal experience.  As someone who loves a bargain, I am already mourning the loss of discounts available to the 16-25 age group. (“You want me to pay MORE than £5 for a theatre ticket now?  WHAT KIND OF WORLD ARE WE LIVING IN?!”) Up until this point I have always thought of the ageing process in the same way that I regard the stock market: a baffling, abstract concept that will probably have an impact on my life at some point, but is essentially just a random number thingy.

I’ve only been twenty-six for a few days, but I already think that I’m going to be ok at it.  This is largely because my age may as well be a randomly generated number if my lifestyle, habits and friends are anything to go by.  Here is a list of reasons why your age is inconsequential:

1) Your sense of humour doesn’t really change.  For instance, I love the film Despicable Me, and if there ever comes a day when I don’t laugh at this moment, you have my permission to shoot me.  Funny is funny, no matter how old you are.

2) You will always, always be able to get into ridiculous situations.  I was waiting for a train the other day, and I got my earphones so badly tangled in my hair that I had to go to the station bathrooms and use a mirror to get myself sorted out.  Is that the smooth, sophisticated behaviour of a woman in her mid/late twenties?  Absolutely not.  But things like that will still be happening to us during our retirement, so it’s as well to accept them.

3) Your friends will never see you as your true age.  One of my favourite people on the planet is getting married in a few weeks, and it seems bizarre to me that she is anything other than a twenty-one year-old drama student who enjoys impersonating velociraptors.  (I mean, she still enjoys impersonating velociraptors…but she’s also taking a huge step into adulthood, which is awesome but weird.)  As you get older your friends start to do things that make you even more proud of them, such as relationship commitments and career moves, and you celebrate those with them.  You wouldn’t turn up to your friend’s engagement party and mock them for being elderly, would you?  Precisely.  Age is not important, but life choices are.

4) Speaking of life choices, I would like to address this whole “if you don’t know what you’re doing with your life by the time you hit twenty then you have already failed” myth.  No matter how old you are, you have to make decisions about yourself and your life based on what is going to make you happy and/or be good for you.  If you still don’t know what you want to do when you’ve been out of university for six months or even six years, you are not a freak.  You are totally normal, and you mustn’t panic.  Case in point: my dad is sixty and he just changed jobs, so what does that tell you?

5) When my dad changed jobs, he was delighted to discover that the dress code at his new office was casual.  He is now the proud owner of a pair of “basketball boots”.  This leads me neatly on to my next point: clothes that makes you happy.  As small children we delighted in Disney or superhero costumes; as teenagers we were ecstatic to wear more adult items like heels or suits (or both).  There comes a point in life when we seem to abandon our garment-based glee and exchange it for obligatory outfits: “I need a new dress for this wedding”, “I have to buy some proper work clothes”, etc.  We should enjoy our clothes no matter how old we are.  For example, as I write this I am sporting a very fetching pair of turquoise harem pants, and I feel like Jasmine from Disney’s Aladdin.  I’m not even the slightest bit embarrassed by that.  In fact, I shall probably wear this very outfit to the pub tonight (although perhaps I should abandon the purple slipper socks).

I hope that you are happy in yourself no matter how old you are, and that you can see your future birthdays as opportunities to be proud of everything you’ve achieved.  Now, where is that handsome young man on a magic carpet?

Have a smashing day!

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Mind-Altering Circumstances

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Hello, reader!  How are you?  Take a seat.  Don’t mind the mess, I’m still unpacking.  Would you like a coffee?

I recently discovered that many forms of urban wildlife like to visit my garden, and in my naive, not-a-real-Londoner state I was delighted.  “I’m living in The Animals of Farthing Wood!” I thought.  (Except that time I saw a squirrel eating a potato waffle – pictured above – which was just baffling.)

Well, waking up this morning to discover that said wildlife had seen fit to POO on the patio made me rethink my position.  I have spent the last hour Googling how to deter foxes, with mixed success.  According to this nice pest control man, “young male urine” will do the trick.  Excuse me, but a) gross and b) I live with my sister.  How on EARTH are we supposed to ask our next young male visitor to oblige us with that particular type of pesticide?  It’s just not happening.

Anyway, vulpine poo problems aside, this last week or so has demonstrated to me that changing your mind is an inevitable part of life.  It doesn’t even take an unwelcome surprise (as it were) to create the change: as we experience life, we discover that our feelings about the world change accordingly.  This is a good thing, because it shows that we are not closed-minded people, but it’s also a bit disorientating, because our opinions form an integral part of who we are.  Here are some of the things I think we worry about too much in terms of where we stand:

The Career Conundrum
I won’t lie to you: pursuing a writing career is hands down the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and this is coming from someone who’s been to Hackney at night time.  Sometimes our choice of job or pursuit of passion leaves us feeling a bit lost, and we start to wonder whether we’ve made the right decisions.  This week I genuinely started to panic about the writing thing, and even though it’s sort-of on the wane now, it was weird how unappealing my lifelong passion started to look.
I really don’t believe that it is ever too late to change your mind about what you want to do.  I have a friend who is doing a degree course at the age of 26 (and getting insanely high marks as well, the jammy madam).  A lot of people I know – especially those lovely creative types – are constantly turning their hands to all sorts of endeavours, and it makes them much more rounded and fascinating people.  Society tells us that we must introduce ourselves with our job titles, as though our careers defined us.  They don’t, even though they do take up a lot of our time.  It’s not worth wasting time worrying about what your job title sounds like when the main thing is to be happy.  If you change your mind about what you want to do, that’s your business.  As far as I’m concerned, you should be allowed to introduce yourself as Grand High Master of the Universe for all that your job title actually matters.

The Marriage and Kids Debate
“I definitely want to get married one day.”  “I want lots of kids, but not marriage.”  “I would never have a church wedding.”  We’ve all had these conversations, haven’t we?  Especially once you hit my age, lots of people start to seriously consider what the long-term landscape of their personal lives is going to be.  At this point, particularly if you have a serious boy/girlfriend, it becomes very important to be completely honest with yourself about what you really want.  You may have spent your entire life saying that you categorically MUST be married by a certain age or have a minimum number of children, but of all things your vision of familial happiness has to be allowed to change.  It’s nice to have a hypothetical idea of what you want, but you have to be able to adapt to what your heart tells you as you get older.  At sixteen you may have been adamant that marriage was not for you, but if you meet the man/woman of your dreams at twenty-six and you change your mind, don’t fight it.  Your past self had no idea what life had in store for you, so why does s/he get to dictate your decisions now?

The Really Big Issues
It is a truly excellent thing to have an informed opinion about Syria, Scottish independence, euthanasia and how we can persuade David Cameron’s home planet to take him back.  The key word in that sentence is “informed” – new information and updates about all of these issues appear on a daily basis, and if situations change we are supposed to readjust our views accordingly.  It takes a much more intelligent and honest person to change their mind about huge political problems than it does to stick to narrow-minded guns.  Consistency is all very well and good, but have you noticed that the news is not consistent?  It changes every day, in fact.  We need to keep up, otherwise we’ll end up like those eejits who think that gay marriage causes hurricanes or whatever.

The main thing to remember is that changing our minds once doesn’t mean we’ll never change them back, or that we won’t form a new opinion entirely.  My writing worries will go, I’m sure, as soon I get stuck into my next play.  If they don’t, I could always retrain as an accountant or something.

Ok, that will NEVER happen.  But the point is that we can and should keep our options (and minds) open.

Have a stupendously enjoyable Thursday.

The Three Ages of Timehop

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Hello there!  How are you doing?  Did you remember your sunglasses this morning?

I recently installed Timehop on my phone.  I kept seeing lots of photos from the past cropping up on Facebook news feeds (and had been tagged in a couple – the horror), so I thought I’d find out what the whole thing was all about.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Timehop essentially digs through your posts on social media sites from today’s date x number of years ago, and then invites you to share them on social media again today.  New content is obviously generated at the beginning of each day, ’cause the date keeps changing.  Anyway.  These posts can be photos, links, videos, life-changing status updates or even just a common/garden Tweet.  Being no stranger to nostalgia I completely understand why people love this app, and sometimes it is very heart-warming to review specific events of our misspent youths, but I think we could all do with having a look at the pros and cons of hopping through time before we commit to it on a daily basis.

In Ancient Times
First of all, Timehop digs stuff out from the dawn of your social media time, which for a lot of us was around 2006/7.  As far as nostalgia value goes, it’s a slice of fried gold: seeing the very first words and pictures you tentatively shared on this new-fangled internet thing; the excitement of being able to talk to friends by writing on a virtual wall; your first ever Facebook status!  What joy!

On the downside, the start of our social media careers tend not to be our golden eras, do they? When I was eighteen I had BRIGHT YELLOW HAIR, for crying out loud.  Not blonde, not ginger, not anything remotely resembling a natural hair colour.  YELLOW.  I accept that those heady days of unwise bleaching are part of my past, but I would really, really prefer them to STAY in the past.  

The Middle Ages
The middle section of our online lives can be very interesting.  Let’s say between two and five years ago, our Timehop posts tend to be photos of us in places where we no longer live/work/study, wearing clothes that make us cringe and with friends whom we no longer speak to.  Sometimes this can be an excellent thing, prompting us to get back in touch with people whom we’ve long since lost track of.  Sometimes, however, it reminds you of difficult times or people who you are eternally glad to see the back of.

For a lot of my age group, it’s also an unwelcome reminder that we are “grown ups” now.  (Quotation marks are definitely applicable here.)  The Middle Ages of our social media careers mark time spent travelling or at university – or both – and therefore give us a chance to relive a time when life was more about adventure and potential than responsibilities and bills and stuff.  I don’t think any of us could hack going back to university now, but sometimes it’s hard to realise that we are a lot older than we think we are.  

Recent History
The Timehops from one year ago are the weirdest, in my opinion.  I realise that my memory is about as reliable as a promise from Nick Clegg, but even I can remember what I was doing this time last year.  I think. 

Having said that, this is a nice time frame to use for looking back and realising how much we’ve achieved.  The ancient times and middle ages are too massive to contemplate exactly how much we’ve done since then – we can name the milestones, but mainly we concentrate on how much better our fashion sense is these days – but if we look back over a single, solitary year, we can really pick out the specific moments that acted as turning points or triumphs.

I hope that you have an amazing day.  And that you had amazing day on this date several years ago, obviously.

Morals from Monsters

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Hello, lovely reader!  How are you?  

As I said in this post, day trips are brilliant, and yesterday’s was no exception.  I had a very successful meeting, went for some delicious food with my friends, and then we went all touristy and messed around on Brighton pier.  The last ride we went on was the ghost train, which is what I’d like to to use as a slightly odd starting point today.

The ghost train was my favourite part of yesterday’s trip.  D’you know what’s weird about that?  I didn’t even want to go on it at first.  One of my friends was very keen, but I was pretty reluctant because I hate everything horror-related.  But the train ride was a brilliant combination of quite jumpy (lots of stuff made us scream, even though it was mostly in surprise) and gloriously awful (lots of terrible, clunky puppets that made us laugh hysterically as soon as we’d finished screaming).

I think a lot of people find life scary, particularly those who are still working out their post-uni plan or a specific career path.  We don’t know what we’re doing, where we’re going to live or what to pursue.  As children we were led along the SATs-GCSEs-A Levels pathway with very carefully worked out stops for coursework, Duke of Edinburgh Awards and the always-awkward sex education lessons.  In other words, we always knew exactly what we were doing, even if it made us roll our eyes and start doodling on our notebooks.  

When you get out of education you have to start planning things based on your own timings, not end of term exams or essay deadlines.  Some people take to this like a duck to pancakes, but for some of us it’s more difficult to establish our own way of working.  How do we know how well we’re doing when there are no parents’ evenings?  How can we tell if our careers are progressing at a good pace unless we are graded?  When does it become unacceptable to own (and use) a Thunderbirds lunch box?

I’m not suggesting that adult life should be run like a school – no more navy and yellow uniforms for me, thank you so very much Watford Grammar School for Girls – but I think that the lack of objective structure to real life is a bit of a shock to the system after education.  Not knowing exactly what to do is pretty scary. 

A lot of the big things about adult life are like getting on a rubbish ghost train: you’re not sure what to expect, it could be pretty scary, and there’s no real way of knowing which direction you’re going in.  On a brighter note, the scary bits can be funny afterwards, and it’s all a lot easier to cope with if you’ve got a good friend with you.  I cannot believe that I learned a life lesson from a rubbish ghost train.

Have a gorgeous Thursday.  I hope you have the mother of all lunches today.

No More Drama

Hooray, it’s Monday!  A brand new week!  A fresh start!  Potentially the beginning of the best week of your life!  Joy and fuzzy feelings for all!!

Bit too cheerful?  Sorry, I’ll tone it down a bit.

Today I would like to show you the most upsetting and infuriating thing I’ve clapped eyes on since my house mate made me watch Jingle All the Way.

Here it is:

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My university is discontinuing my degree course.  What the actual hell.

Perhaps this shouldn’t bother me so much.  After all, I graduated three years ago.  I spent four years doing spinal rolls and writing essays (and drinking cider and other extracurricular activities that we don’t need to go into here).  At the end of it all I got to spend a day wearing a fancy gown and throwing my hat in the air.  In short, I got my degree.  So why do I have a problem with this?

First of all, it seems to be symptomatic of the degeneration of higher education in general.  People not being able to afford university fees means fewer applicants to previously popular courses, and eventually the courses become too expensive to justify running.  Due to the screw up with student fees (thanks a lot Clegg, you asshat), university education has gone from being something that anyone could pursue to something that requires re-mortgaging your kidneys.  This is unfair and elitist, and it can only lead to an increased class division between those who can afford university and those who cannot.  Why on earth should something as arbitrary as wealth decide your academic path?  

Secondly and more specifically, my drama degree is the bee’s knees.  I realise that I’m pretty biased about this point, but for people like me that course was the making of us.  The fourth year of the course is the main selling point of the degree, because it’s that final push in the right direction that gave us all the impetus to pursue our careers.  My Masters in Directing got me to start up Empty Photo Theatre.  A lot of the guys who took Stand-Up Comedy are still gigging now (and doing insanely well, in many cases).  My friends Laura and Jess set up the arts charity Ingeenium because of their year specialising in Applied Performance Practice, and Little Cauliflower would not exist if those guys hadn’t specialised in Contemporary Performance Practice.  

At £9,000 a year in fees, who is going to opt for a four-year course when they can just do a BA?  It’s such a shame that fear of lifelong debt is going to deprive future students of a lifelong creative passion.  Essentially, the most important thing about that four-year course is that it taught us to make our own work.  You will never find a Kent graduate sitting around waiting for the phone to ring – we get out there and we do stuff.  Dozens of excellent professional theatre companies, performers, writers, directors and producers have come out of my university.  And they are not happy about this situation:

“It’s a terrible shame that the Conservative ideal of economic viability being the presiding factor in academia has forced such a unique course that has value beyond the career it may or may not instantly provide for you.  The fourth year of specialised study at the University of Kent trained, inspired and invigorated me in ways that the previous three years of undergraduate study never did, and I know that I’m not alone in that.  My greatest fear is that great traditions within the university, such as the Monkeyshine comedy club and the week of directors’ plays, may fall casualty to this horrid decision and be lost forever.”

“It seems a shame that UKC has discontinued one of the only university courses that actually gave students an idea of the working practice of the theatre. I understand that as a qualification on a piece of paper the MDrama is next to useless and causes an endless need to explain exactly what on earth an MDrama is, however that extra year gave us the focus and work skills we needed to succeed that the general study in the other three years didn’t. The drama department at UKC however seems to have gone down hill in recent years with budget cuts, unexplained course changes and staff losses and losing the fourth year as an undergraduate seems another cut that only lessens the experience for the students.”

“I think it’s really sad, I found it to be such a fun and interesting year to specialise in one subject for a year, in something I never thought I’d even get the chance to do. It really got you to grips with a specific area and focussing on a particular topic, rather than just kind of glancing over a few areas. It’s a shame more people won’t experience that amazing and eye-opening year!

“It’s a complete shame and I feel very sorry for prospective students who will miss out on the invaluable fourth year that myself and many others benefited from immensely. It’s a year in which you are able to fully explore, deepen, and develop your specialist skills in either directing, producing, dramaturgy etc. that will make you stand out amongst fellow students from other theatre courses when you graduate.”

“I am saddened to learn that the course I gave four years of my life and many thousands of pounds to is being stopped. I don’t know if it saddens me because of the experience I had there – if only for the fourth year specialism, which is the one year I really felt as if I learnt a great deal and was given the opportunity to develop and grow, creatively and intellectually. It was also the year which I felt genuinely benefited me in terms of career progression, particularly for the contacts – and friends – I made along the way. But I fear that, selfishly, one of the main reasons it saddens me is that it may diminish the value of my degree. I fear it will go from “oh you went to Kent, that’s quite good for drama isn’t it?” to “Kent? I never even knew they did a drama degree” in a matter of short years. I know, realistically, that this will not hamper my future job prospects; no one will probably even ask where I went to uni, nor have an opinion of it if I tell them. But I’d like to think that those four years of hard work has a lasting value outside of my own development at that time. After all, it cost me enough.”

“It seems we’re seeing the repercussions of our government’s attitude towards the arts. The sad thing is, at the current extortionate prices, even I’d think twice about taking the course, and that’s coming from someone who has benefited immensely from it. Remember when we voted in that guy who swore he’d not raise the fees and then he stabbed us all in the back? At least Cameron and Clegg listened to us we turned out in huge numbers to march on the capital to voice our disapproval. Oh well, so long as the government gets its way, what does it matter if the arts get swept to the side and young people lose faith in democracy.”

“It’s a crying shame. UKC offered a unique course that appealed to such a wide range of potential Drama Students. The chance to choose a specialism in the last year makes the course feel focused and personal. UKC will now join the countless other universities offering a generic Drama and Theatre Studies MA. How is it going to stand out from the crowd? And how are its future students going to stand out from the crowd?  The four year course also offered another unique opportunity to it’s students. It kept then together for longer! I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many strong theatre companies are formed at UKC. Would The Noise Next Door have started if we’d only had three years? Would Little Bulb? Would Spun Glass Theatre? Would Accidental Collective? Would Wide Eyed Theatre? Would we have all developed into the varied theatre makers we are without our final specialisms?  What’s happening to Dr. Oliver Double? He’s the only Doctor of Comedy and a superb lecturer and inspiration. If UKC stop doing the final year stand-up specialism aren’t they wasting this unique asset? Ollie’s course has produced so many excellent comedians: Jimmy McGhie, Tiernan Douieb, Laura Lexx, two of Pappy’s, two of The Noise Next Door and many more besides. All these people are working in the industry that their final year trained them for! And for a drama degree that’s rare! It seems to me that in dropping the four year MDrama UKC are throwing away the thing that has made them and their students special.”

“As a graduate of the reputable MDrama & theatre studies degree at UKC, I’m really disappointed to hear of its discontinuation. Having the opportunity to gain further experience and to specialise in your area of choice is something that a BA simply doesn’t offer you. The specialism was, for myself and many of my peers, the stand out reason for applying to Kent, and it really set itself apart from competitor institutions. Admittedly, higher education faces more pressure than ever with the rise of fees and cuts in funding, but I feel giving into this pressure is a real disappointment for students, lecturers, alumni and of course prospective students.” 

“It’s sad to learn of the end of pre-professional practice at UKC. As someone who partook in the programme, studying stand-up, I found the resources and almost one on one tuition astounding. To be able to specialise practically at a high level with accomplished tutors in arts is something of an enigma amongst many theory-heavy courses on offer today. In terms of employment, university allows you to present the best version of yourself. It’s not to say that specialist skills can’t be learnt on the job, but being able to do so in a safe and progressive learning environment was well worth the time, money and fun!”

“In a nutshell I think losing the MDrama would be losing a big part of why a lot of people choose Kent to do drama. The ability to specialise for a whole year in something you find genuinely interesting without incurring the costs and lack of funding for a full masters was a huge draw. Also it sent Kent apart, showed that for however long a time the department really cared about taking a standard drama course in a new individual direction, one personal to the student. Now it will fall into the category of ‘another uni that does a 3 year BA in drama’. It’s reflective that for whatever reason, drama at Kent is changing, it’s falling into line with everywhere else and perhaps may indicate that people involved in the course don’t care about it as much as others that preceded them did. Or maybe they just got less funding. What do I know? I’m just a drama graduate.”

I realise at this stage that there’s nothing we can do about the discontinuation of the MDrama course at Kent.  Having said that, can we all agree that enough’s enough now?  This has to stop.  We cannot keep accepting the funding cuts and political decisions that are ruining our education system, particularly in the arts.  I hate to think of future drama students missing out on the life-changing year of education that inspired me and so many others to work in the arts.  Who knows what kind of side-splitting comedy or eye-opening theatre we will miss out on in future because the students who would have made it never discovered their passion?

I’m calling you out, David Cameron.  You’ve got to stop spoiling stuff.  If I were feeling particularly immature and petty, I might even tell you to do this.

Thanks for reading what turned out to be a pretty hefty piece.  Have a beautiful Monday, and I promise that tomorrow’s blog will be much more cheerful (and shorter).

Why Are We Waiting?

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Hello, reader.  How are you doing?  Excited about your weekend?  Oh good, me too.

Time is a tricky git, and it seems to speed up and slow down according to its own capricious will.  We have all fallen victim to this phenomenon: the last half hour at work on Friday feels like an eternity, but Netflix can take up an entire evening in what feels like seconds.

Some stuff just takes flipping ages for no good reason.  For example, going to bed.  In theory we should get tired, get into bed and fall asleep.  In practice, going to bed takes a lot of work: getting clothes ready for the next day, brushing your teeth, changing into pjs, taking make-up off, locking up the house, switching everything off, getting into bed, replying to the texts you forgot about earlier, swearing and getting back out of bed because you’ve left your phone charger in a different room, grumbling about your phone and demanding to know why it doesn’t know how to use less battery power if it’s so bloody smart, getting back into bed, setting your alarm for the next day and then not being able to fall asleep for ages because you’re sure you’ve forgotten about something.

The same sort of thing occurs when we are waiting for something good to happen in life: we feel that we have jumped through all manner of hoop-type obstacles and worked hard for a good end result.  This is particularly true when we are waiting for our degree results, or to hear back about a job.  We’ve done everything we were supposed to, so why are we waiting?  What is taking so flipping long?

When I left university and was a bit depressed about having no career to speak of as yet, and the months seemed to be dragging by with no hope of progress, my beloved friend Mario very wisely told me not to get bogged down by the situation.  His reasoning went thusly: first of all, pretty much everyone we knew was in the same position.  Secondly, when we look back on our post-graduation years as elderly folk, they will seem like a tiny part of our lives.  What dragged on and depressed us as twenty-somethings will seem like a momentary blip of time when we are older.

Ah, you are thinking that that’s all very well and good, but we’re not old yet, are we?  Some of us are still in that nasty post-uni slump.  I agree.  Unfortunately, at this point I have to recommend something that I would find incredibly difficult to do myself: we must be patient.  Being patient is the most irritating thing in the world, because it is a passive, boring and frustrating state that forces us to relinquish control over a situation.  I completely get that.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much of an alternative.

When we are waiting, we must be patient, and when things are going well, we must enjoy them.  No matter how long it actually takes us to get ready for bed, we do eventually get to sleep.  No matter how long it takes your friend to get ready, you will eventually leave the house and go clubbing.  No matter how long it takes to load, you will at some point get to watch that amusing YouTube video.  There’s a logical ending to all the ridiculous faffing.  Even when it feels like you’re just doing the same things day after day, or that nothing you do is making any difference to your success, have faith that you are always moving closer to your goal.  The passing of time, even when it’s infuriating, is a kind of progress in itself.

Have a magical Friday.

Crowded Carriages Are All in Your Head

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Good morning, you marvellous creature.  How’re you doing?

Today I would like you to imagine that your brain is a London Underground tube carriage.  What do you think it would be like?  Is it full of commuters?  Is there a school trip of fluorescently-clad children accompanied by one harassed teacher?  Maybe it’s the last train home, and a few sozzled friends are giggling manically in the corner.  For many of us, it will be the one with a homeless person wandering through asking for change, and a baby screaming at top volume.  In other words, our brains are crowded, noisy, awkward and confusing.

There are approximately 34 seats per tube carriage on London Underground trains, but you hardly ever see a train carriage that’s just neatly filled with 34 seated people, do you? In the same way, our thoughts and feelings do not sit neatly in our brains in a designated space; they run around and confuse us.  For example, the items on your mental to do list are like the school kids on a day trip, who run around and worry you in case one drops off.

Life is difficult , and worrying, and exciting.  It’s also going by very quickly.  Particularly in cities and especially for people who have busy lifestyles, it’s difficult to feel properly connected to one another.  (Like ships passing in the night, perhaps.  I have no idea where this transport obsession has come from, by the way.  I’ll be banging on about the “aeroplanes of ambition” next, I expect.)  It’s so irritating in its self-exacerbation: we get stressed out because we’re so busy and we have no time to see our friends and loved ones, and then we get more stressed out because we haven’t seen our friends or loved ones for ages, ad infibloodynitum.

It’s not easy to do, and for some people social stuff goes completely out of the window when the pressure’s on at work or what have you, but we have to keep connections with people during times of stress.  I’ve got a huge to do list on my desk (and I’m genuinely starting to think that it might be sentient), but I am aware that I’ll go loopy if I don’t talk to a good friend today.  Similarly, my friend Laura is studying all morning in the British Library, and her PhD will make her crazy if she doesn’t switch of from it for half an hour, so to solve both of our problems we are going to drink coffee together and have a chat.

Sounds like I’m encouraging procrastination, doesn’t it?  I’m honestly not.  I believe in working hard and doing something you’ve set out to do, but I also believe that burning out and cutting yourself off from people is an incredibly stupid and damaging thing to do.  Thinking that you are alone with your crowded carriage mind is silly, because everyone feels like that.  Also, when did you last see a train with six empty carriages and one full one?  Exactly.  Now go and ring someone who likes you.

Have a fantastic Tuesday.

Two Towers, No Hobbits

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Good morning, lovely reader!  Got any nice plans for your weekend?  I know for a fact that there are barbecues happening in London over the next couple of days.  Loving that weather-based optimism.

When I was writing this post I nearly called it “Real British Theatre”, but I disregarded that title for two reasons: firstly, it smacks somewhat of Nigel sodding Farage (and I have many faults, but voting for UKIP is definitely not one of them), and secondly it reminded me a little too forcefully of a university module I think I did, which was called something similar and was about theatre in the nineteenth century.  Maybe.  I think.  I don’t know, it was a very long time ago, and I wasn’t paying attention…

Yesterday I went to the Globe with one of my best buddies to see the play which, time-travel allowing, I’m pretty sure is Shakespeare’s homage to Tarantino: Titus Andronicus.  It was bloody, disturbing and impossible to stop watching.  It also had my absolute favourite characteristic of theatre: dark comedy.  It was funny at odd moments, it lightened the more blood-stained and grotesque scenes with a bit of whimsy, but most worryingly of of all, the actual subject matter and the characters’ situations made us laugh.  They also made us wince in disgust, groan in surprised nausea and sharply peg it out of the way when the actors were running around in the audience.

The actors had two metal towers on wheels to propel themselves around the groundling pit, and they used them spectacularly.  It still amazes me that something so un-British – barging through crowds of people, for heaven’s sake, and actually shouting at them to move, how very rude, I shall write to The Times – is such an integral part of the audience’s experience at the Globe.  The Globe is a beacon of British history and culture, and it attracts people from all over the – well, the globe, I suppose.  Ahem.

The un-British barging in a very British theatre is important, because it makes the story so immediate for the spectators (which is, after all, why they went to the Globe in the first place).  It made us feel genuinely at risk from the seething anger, the all-too-real swords and the fake blood being sprayed everywhere.  It was amazing.

The best things about this country are way beyond what politicians have to say about immigration or the Europe issue.  The best things about this country are the things that people gave us hundreds of years ago, and that we still enjoy today.  This country is about Winston Churchill’s determination, Charles Darwin’s curiosity and William Shakespeare’s imagination.

This country is about standing in the middle of an open air theatre and feeling things that audiences have felt about the same story for four hundred and twenty years.  That’s called a communal experience by the way, Mr. Farage, and the whole flipping point of it is that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from.

Have an amazing Saturday.  (Not you, UKIP.)

“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.

The Recovery Position is Not A Game

Hello, lovely reader!  How are you?  Sorry this is being posted so much later than usual.  Last night I was networking, then catching up on paperwork, and then my friends and I decided to play a very long game of “Who’s had the weirdest/worst/most unbelievable day?” and I didn’t get off the phone ’til stupid o’clock in the morning.  Ay, as they say, caramba.

If you’ve seen yesterday’s post, you will already know that I have just completed a two day first aid training course, so I am now qualified (shiny certificate pending) to help people who are unwell.  Bizarrely, I had cause to use my first aid skills almost the second I got to Victoria station after training, which was very odd.  I did remember what I was supposed to do though, which was nice.

I also had this conversation with my friend David, whose girlfriend is one of my best buds from university (and is just a little bit strange, as you can see):

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And I am proud, but I also feel a bit sorry for David…being put into the recovery position when you don’t actually need to recover is quite bewildering.

I am not in the least surprised by my friend’s silly behaviour, because I’ve known her long enough to anticipate her responses to things.  This is obviously not one hundred percent foolproof, because people can always surprise you.  However, being able to work out what someone’s likely response to a given scenario (or blog post) will be means that you are very well-equipped to make people laugh, feel better about themselves, and generally enjoy their relationship with you.

It’s sometimes the case (and I’m definitely guilty of this) that you anticipate people’s reactions in a negative way, for example, assuming that you can’t tell a friend about a problem because they’re a story-topper, or assuming that your outspoken vegetarian friend will have no sympathy for your meat-induced bout of food poisoning.  Sometimes this may be true, but not always.  Sometimes the notoriously bad listener will pay attention, the wreckhead will suggest a quiet night in and the emotionally unavailable one will ask how you are.  With that in mind, let’s not put people into boxes.  They’d need air holes, for a start.

Have a Thursday of dreams, rainbows and, wherever possible, cake.