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2013: The Year I Left Neverland

And no, before you ask, this is not some weird memoir in which I expose the fact that in the past I’ve lived at Michael Jackson’s place. This is another stereotypical end of year post in which I reflect on what has been, and what is yet to come.

In many ways, 2013 was the year I “grew up.” In the first half of the year, my parents left London to go to Dubai, leaving my sister, my boyfriend and I to look after their flat and the family pooch. I also passed my driving test and purchased my parents’ van, which required me to take it for an MOT and do all the other boring, car owner related shizz required by UK law. In May, I left my full-time job to become a part-time library assistant. No, I don’t know what I was thinking either. I quickly realised that living on less than half your former salary is not a walk in the park and a lack of mental stimulation makes Becky a very dull girl indeed. My parents visited over summer, which was wonderful. Mum nagged me a little about the tidiness of the flat (however tidy I think I am I inevitably fall short of her standards), which in turn made me fantasise about the day when I can move into my own place.

In September or October, the family dog became unwell with a chronic e-coli infection. Thankfully he is okay, but he still suffers from incontinence which makes it difficult for him to be in the house for extended periods of time. This is the first time I’ve had to look after a sick animal, and while it was incredibly stressful at times I think it gave me a greater capacity for love and forgiveness.

At Christmas time, I visited Dubai in what was my first proper trip abroad since 2008 (okay so I went to Brussels last year, but that was via Eurostar and therefore doesn’t really count). To say it was absolutely AMAZING doesn’t do it justice. It was lovely of course to be together as a family again, but more than that it was so wonderful to explore a new place in the world. I tried a bunch of things that would ordinarily terrify me (quad biking and a 60ft drop slide, to name but a few). I was lucky enough to quench my thirst at the ridiculously inaccessible cocktail bar on the 123rd floor of the Burj Khalifa and bump my way across the desert in a bright white 4×4. The whole experience just reminded me of how refreshing and NECESSARY it is to go on holiday. We all need that break from routine to try new things and to convince ourselves to do some outright YOLO things. I’ve come back feeling more confident and determined with a renewed belief that I can tackle whatever life throws at me. I also feel very grateful for the things I have, and am dwelling less on the things I don’t. Who can accurately predict what they really want, anyway?

There’s no denying 2013 has been a “serious” year, filled with scary (and sometimes boring) adult tasks that have forced me to grow up and actually act my age. A necessary year, for sure, but perhaps a bit mundane for my liking. This year I’m hoping to relax a bit more, worry a whole lot less and, to quote One Direction, live while I’m young!

Below are a few of my resolutions for the year to come…

  • Go on holiday more
  • Stop wasting time on the internet (ha)
  • Learn new skills to improve my career prospects
  • Stop being a Wimpy burger and try new things, however scary they may seem
  • Join a club, sports or otherwise
  • Be more thoughtful, both in speech and action

Whatever your resolutions are, I wish everyone the very best of luck for the coming year. Make it a good one!

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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Cinema Time: ‘Oblivion’ by Joseph Kosinski

We’ve just run home in the rain after a relatively late night showing of the new sci-fi flick ‘Oblivion.’ This was my partner’s choice – as a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of robots, aliens or anything remotely futuristic. Having read a couple of reviews, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away, but I was pleasantly surprised by Mr.Kosinski’s screenplay.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the story focuses on Jack Harper, a survivor who works as a numbered ‘Tech’ repairing the drones that protect Earth (or what’s left of it). Earth’s demise, in case you’re wondering, was brought about by an alien race who effectively cut the Moon in two. The tides naturally went a bit loco and general havoc ensued. The remaining humans (like Jack) are biding their time in these fantastically futuristic sky pods before they jet off to Titan, their new home. Jack’s memory of his former life has been erased, but his frequent flashbacks are making him wonder whether all is not as it seems…

On the whole I really, really liked ‘Oblivion.’ The plot, although fast-paced, was plausible enough in sci-fi terms for me to feel properly involved in what was going on. There were even a few moments of hilarity chucked in for good measure! I let out a sputter of laughter (or was it disbelief?) when the camera pans out to reveal Tom Cruise running on a giant, futuristic hamster wheel. Someone in the audience chuckled rather loudly when a bespectacled Morgan Freeman appeared on the scene, so I don’t think my surprise outburst spoilt the movie for anyone.

I loved the contrasting landscape shots – lush, green forests and gushing waterfalls standing side by side with barren deserts and desiccated cities. The futuristic things, such as the sky pods and Jack’s cute aeroplane / car hybrid, were equally impressive. In fact, the only criticism I have of the film is the poor choice in theme tune. The dramatic drum beat had a very 80s style which reminded me of that Phil Collins song from the Cadbury’s advert. Man in a monkey suit + serious film = definite mood killer.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Miscellaneous

 

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Birthday Salutations to a Dad in a Distant Land…

Today, April 9th, is my Dad’s birthday. Both my parents are currently living abroad, so my sister and I haven’t really been able to send a gift this year. We did, however, get round to posting an amusing card with those googly eyed vegetable people on it (thank you, Moonpig!).

Recently when I was clearing out my old school things, I stumbled across a sort of essay entitled ‘My Hero.’ I presume this was an assignment set by my English teacher in my first or second year of school, but to be honest I can’t really remember.

At the tender age of 12 or 13, you’d think my list of heroes would be pretty much limited to Britney Spears at the height of her ‘Baby One More Time’ fame. Perhaps Giles from ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ at a stretch. Unlike most teenage dirtbags, however, it appears that one of the people I most admired was my Dad. I thought it might be nice to post an extract from this mini-essay, written by mini-me, as a tribute to him on his birthday.

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“During my early childhood, my family and I lived comfortably in a spacious apartment in Abu Dhabi. My father frequently worked abroad during our life there, and so his returns from distant shores seemed to me as times of celebration, as if he was a glorious victor of some unknown battle with important matters that were beneath me. His absence always seemed like a month even if he was only away for a week, as his character brought so much life to the family that when he was gone, it seemed like there was an empty space not only at the dinner table, but in the family.

Being the only male in my family (not of course counting the dog), I found him somewhat of a curiosity, and the ruler / protector of the rest of us. My father was someone I respected yet feared at the same time, a distant, powerful figure whose every words were wise and unique. As a child I had great respect for him, though being a mischievous youngster I didn’t always show it.

When in a bad mood, my father turned from warm and outgoing into a terrible, introverted creature who was prone to negativity when speaking. In contrast, when feeling happy my father became the entertainer of the family, and sudden outbursts of witty humour were not uncommon.

My father has always been somewhat tight when it comes to spending money, and this trait I distinctly remember in him as a child. He meticulously kept track of his money and where it was going, although when it came to horse racing he was willing to bet like any other avid fan. I regarded his precise way of handling money as a gift he had.”

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2013 in Miscellaneous

 

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A is for All The Small Things…

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the larger issues in life. From the moment we leave school or university, we’re bombarded by stories of how important it is to ‘get on the property ladder’ or ‘pursue a high earning career.’ We’re so hard-wired into thinking about the future that we often overlook the smaller things that are making us happy right now.

The official start of British Summertime happened about a week ago now, but yesterday was the first properly warm and sunny day of the year. Playing in the garden with Merlin, our border collie, I never once tried to calculate how many years it’s going to take to save up for a house deposit, or where exactly my career is heading. All the larger, seemingly ‘important’ issues I had been worrying about just went out the window.

As anyone who knows me will testify, I’m very much a glass half-full kinda gal. I’m a positive thinker and optimistic to the point of naivety. As a natural planner, I tend to focus on events in the future rather than thinking about my present situation. However, the sheer, unadulterated pleasure I got out of playing with my dog in the garden really made me realise the importance of those ‘right now’ moments. There’s so many things I like about my life at the moment, but my mind too often pushes these to one side. I can easily waste a weekend planning for the future (or reminiscing about the past with rose-tinted goggles), rather than living in the present.

Obviously planning for the future has its merits. Having goals, particularly where money is concerned, is generally speaking a very good idea. What isn’t so good is refusing to splash out on the smaller things that make you happy on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. The odd fancy restaurant meal isn’t going to put you out of pocket for long, nor is that really nice dress you’ve had your eye on. Sometimes to get a clearer picture of where you want to go in life you need to take a step back and appreciate what you’ve already got. That may sound like a huge dollop of processed nacho cheese, but it’s true I think. Whether I die tomorrow or in 80 years time, I don’t want people to be stuck for something to remember me by. A tombstone reading ‘she, uh, liked to eat a lot at weekends…’ isn’t the legacy I want to leave behind.

“Leap, don’t look, or you’ll never know” – Just Say Yes, The Cure

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Posted by on April 8, 2013 in Miscellaneous

 

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Recharging the Batteries: A Weekend in Windermere

Don’t get me wrong, I love London. I actively enjoy power walking in any (and every) situation, and I have no qualms about selfishly ploughing my way through people to get to the front of a platform. It just gets a bit much sometimes. All that gutsy determination and relentless competitiveness gets tiring, and after a while I simply run out of steam. Mental batteries can only last so long, after all.

With the flashing red ‘RELAX’ sign in my brain getting more and more persistent, I knew it was time to take a holiday. I’d had my eye on the Lake District for a while. Ten miles of water and not a Tube sign in sight. What scene could be more blissful to a tired city slicker?

The Lake District, and the area around Ambleside in particular, is peacefulness personified. The water literally looks like a shimmering layer of liquid metal. Devoid of any colour with that achingly fresh, clear look that can only be found in the countryside, Lake Windermere is like the stunningly beautiful step-sister of the tired old Thames. It was a world away from the bustling high streets, packed train carriages and noxious fumes of the capital city. In short, it was just what I needed.

The sun was shining all weekend, providing the perfect shooting conditions for the keen (but very amateur) photographer in me. I’m not certain that any camera could truly capture the breath-taking beauty of the Lake District on a crisp Autumn day, so don’t expect to be blown away by the pictures below. Hopefully they’ll just serve as a gentle reminder to recharge your batteries every now and again, because getting your willpower and tolerance to regenerate all by themselves is no mean feat.

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Posted by on October 7, 2012 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

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1Q84: A Tale of Two Moons

NO DOUBT ABOUT IT: there were two moons. One was the moon that had always been there, and the other was a far smaller, greenish moon, somewhat lopsided in shape, and much less bright. It looked like a poor, ugly, distantly related child that had been foisted on the family by unfortunate events and was welcomed by no-one. But it was undeniably here, neither a phantom nor an optical illusion, hanging in space like other heavenly bodies, a solid mass with a clear-cut outline. Not a plane, not a blimp, not an artificial satellite, not a papier-mâché moon that someone made for fun. It was without a doubt a chunk of rock, having quietly, stubbornly settled on a position in the night sky, like a punctuation mark placed only after long deliberation or a mole bestowed by destiny. – Haruki Murakami, 1Q84, Book 2, Chapter 20

I’ve been meaning to write about 1Q84 for some time now. First published in Japan in 2009 (back when I was still a teenage dirtbag), this epic three-parter by Haruki Murakami reached our shores sometime in October last year. As my best friend will tell you, I am notoriously bad at keeping up with current trends, so forgive me for jumping on the bandwagon just in the nick of time.

1Q84 is one of those rare reads that you know will stay with you for the rest of your life. In short, it’s the most imaginative piece of writing I’ve ever read. At its core, 1Q84 is a love story. So far, so stereotypical. Two characters, Tengo and Aomame, spent their school years in the same institution but only made contact once for the briefest of moments. Neither character can forget the other, and they spend the rest of their adult lives wondering what might have been.

For different reasons, Tengo and Aomame find themselves embroiled in a twisted tale involving a mysterious set of ‘Little People’ and a hippy commune in the country with a reputation for weirdness. One day, they both find themselves looking up at this second, lopsided moon that has miraculously appeared in the sky. It’s the stuff of pounding, love soaked dreams, the kind of moment that everyone who has ever been lonely has wanted to happen to them. In 1Q84, Tengo and Aomame are two people whose lives have been tightly bound together by the hands of fate. There is no doubt about this; they both know it, and the audience certainly know it. All we can do is watch and wait as they try to bring their lives to a congruent point.

Now I’m not normally a soppy person. Hand me a DVD of The Notebook and I’ll gladly burn it before you can say ‘I’m a bird.’ This book is not your average too-good-to-be-true rom com. To be together, these star-crossed lovers have to endure a helluva lot of aggro. Whether it’s being chased by creepy cult members or sought out by sinister ‘Little People’ who enjoy exploding dogs and crawling out of dead goats’ mouths, there’s always something to stop Tengo and Aomame in their tracks. In the topsy turvy world of 1Q84, nothing is impossible.

If you like your love stories dark with a pinch of surreality, this book will certainly quench your thirst. If, like me, you’re a recent graduate who’s already getting a bit tired of life, this book will be a breath of fresh air. If neither of the above applies, hopefully your curiosity will get the better of you and you’ll sneak a peek anyway. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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Posted by on September 29, 2012 in Miscellaneous, Uncategorized

 

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On the Fringes: A Long Weekend in Edinburgh

On the Fringes: A Long Weekend in Edinburgh

Right now I am recovering from a particularly unpleasant throat ache. It literally feels like a tiny, bitter lumberjack has been quietly hacking away at my voice box. My poor ears feel like they’ve been unceremoniously stuffed with sand.

Despite this, I am in good spirits. You see I rarely get ill, owing in part to my pretty healthy (and totally tedious) lifestyle. The very fact of me being ill means that I have had some genuine FUN. For once I have dropped the dull façade of a dispirited twenty-something and embraced the ‘You Only Live Once’ attitude (known as YOLO to the hip at heart) that my generation is so good at.

The four days I spent at Edinburgh Fringe Festival were, for want of a better word, FUN. Pure, unadulterated fun. This is the second time I’ve been lucky enough to attend the festival, and I sure as hell hope I get to go back again someday. With its cosmopolitan vibe and kooky Scottish charm, Edinburgh is the perfect stage for up-and-coming comedians, actors and performers. There’s something nice, too, about a festival where the likelihood of wading through knee-deep mud is very low. Unless you’re at The Hive, that is. We saw seven acts in total – a lucky number for some. Below I’ve scribbled a few words about each one!

Hot Dub Time Machine

How can I describe this? I would say ‘the best thing since sliced bread’ but that doesn’t quite do it justice. This amazing club night took us through a ‘time machine’ of music, starting from 1954 and ending in the present day. A super enthusiastic DJ manned the decks while an on-screen Aussie flight hostess took us through our paces. It was so good that our muscles ached the next day. Now that’s what I call clubbing.

Reginald D. Hunter – Work in Progress

I didn’t really know much about Reginald D. Hunter before going to see him. I’m one of those people who is happy to tag along and see something if the opportunity arises. So it was that I ended up sitting in a room stuffed full of people and trying my hardest not to wrinkle my brow as this ‘comedian’ spent an hour mouthing off about women. Sure, he did it in an intellectual way so that it couldn’t be misconstrued as misogyny. I just wasn’t buying it.

Out of the Blue

As always, this cheeky band of Oxford boys brought laughs and applause a-plenty. Along with some truly fabulous renditions of California Girls and Mambo No. 5 there was a new skit about a human drum kit and some more mellow tunes that really showcased their fantastic voices. The line-up changes every few years or so, but hopefully the band will stand the test of time. This acapella troupe really blows the brats from Glee out of the water.

The Ladyboys of Bangkok: Carnival Queens

The Thai lovelies never fail to disappoint with their terrible lip-synching and risqué costume changes. Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Britney were all immortalised as was living legend Tina Turner (complete with fabulous ‘eighties mullet). At one point, some giant beach balls were chucked around the crowd. It’s just that kinda show. Polite as always, the gang thanked their Scottish hosts by donning kilts for a moving rendition of Loch Lomond. I did spend some time searching for tell-tale bulges but honestly, there wasn’t even a hint of one. These ‘ladies’ know how to tuck!

Eastend Cabaret: Notoriously Kinky

Ever heard of a ‘danger wank’? Neither had I, until I saw this show. In a dingy, dungeon-like room in the Udderbelly the Eastend Cabaret coined the term. Sporting fabulously OTT costumes, this dynamic duo sang cheeky songs about everything from de-flowering to necrophilia, with a little bit of unrequited love thrown in for good measure.

The 27 Club

We’ve all heard of the 27 club – that tortured (but brilliant) gaggle of musicians who died bizarrely young. Set in one of the charming circus themed arenas, this show had arguably bagged the best location. The performance itself however was a bit, well, lacking. The singers, especially the buxom blonde lady who sang Janis Joplin’s hit tune ‘Another Little Piece of My Heart,’ were really talented, but they just didn’t match up to the real thing. Some of the ‘filler’ songs which told the story of each member’s death went on a little too long and I occasionally found myself zoning out. The best part of the show was hearing about the suspicious circumstances surrounding the deaths of these musical legends. I didn’t, for instance, know that the bullet from Kurt Cobain’s gun was found at the wrong side of his body for a suicide (he was left-handed).

Translunar Paradise

This play mime told the story of an old man who had recently lost his wife and was reminiscing about their time together. I have to say; this show wasn’t really my thing. Much as I appreciate theatre, I am by nature a wordsmith, so a story without spoken language doesn’t really appeal to me. Having said that, the acting was fantastic and the eerie mood set by the accordionist was spot on. The old people masks were terrifyingly realistic, and the minimal use of props was pretty admirable.

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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

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