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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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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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This weekend: Getting arty in the great outdoors.

Okay, so I’m not a huge advocate of art. I appreciate certain styles and I can recognise talent when I see it, but on the whole I don’t really ‘get’ modern art. The ‘Hey, here’s a photo of my dirty underwear, try and find the hidden meaning’ type of creativity doesn’t really float my boat. Sculptures, however, are a different story. Crafting something out of nothing would, I imagine, take a good deal of time, dedication and effort, not to mention a healthy dollop of imagination. As someone who struggles to concoct a story out of thin air, I feel a great sense of admiration for artists who can pull a defined image or concept out of their chosen material.

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield caters for customers who, like me, don’t want to see yet another pair of dirty underwear passing as art. Set in a patch of lush Yorkshire greenery, it’s the perfect setting for an outdoor gallery. The artwork on show ranges from the strange (a giant wire woman with a hare’s head) to the kitsch (plant pots with poetic labels) and the downright bizarre (a metal tree with bin branches). Because everything’s dotted around all over the place, you’re forced to explore and enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery. Some sculptures stand in plain sight in the middle of fields, while others are hidden in the depths of the woods. Even if you don’t like the look of everything, seeing other people’s imagination at work is a great way to stretch the muscles of your mind and untangle all those tight knots created by the daily grind (hell, it’s taken me just ten minutes to write this post!).

You can take a look at their website here http://www.ysp.co.uk/. It’s rather lovely, so you should have a gander even if you won’t be in this neck of the woods for a while.

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Posted by on August 11, 2012 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

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A Festival of Fairytales: Beyond The Border 2012

“Had I known but yesterday what I know today,
I’d have taken out your two gray eyes
And put in eyes of clay;
And had I known but yesterday you’d be no more my own
I’d have taken out your heart of flesh
And put in one of stone”
Tam Lin

For some reason, this passage from the legendary Scottish ballad Tam Lin chills me to the bone. In the tale, Tam Lin is kept from his true love by the Queen of the Fairies. Stories like this are not uncommon in European folklore; in fact, all the best tales are filled with love in all its tumultuous forms.

Unlike so many other things in this world, stories transcend time. They tumble through generations, ping-ponged back and forth between family members and inevitably morphing into moral tales designed to stop small children in their curious tracks. Today, stories are printed neatly in the crisp, brightly coloured pages of children’s books or splashed across a big screen in all the technicolour 3D glory the movie companies can muster. Rarely are they bellowed out across a church hall or whispered in hushed tones around a flickering bonfire.

Storytelling is theatre in its purest form. One person takes the stage (possibly two or three if there’s accompanying music), and that’s it. With the boundless depths of your imagination to delve into, what need can you possibly have for props?

Beyond The Border is the perfect outlet for this wonderful form of creative expression. Set in the heart of Glamorgan with a glorious Medieval castle as a backdrop, this three day festival transports you into a world where girls become boys and blue bearded tyrants use meat hooks in some rather unsavoury ways.

Below is a brief summary of just some of the acts we saw and why they were worth every penny. The next BTB festival will take place in 2014 at an as yet undecided location. Dive head-first into the fairytale world at http://www.beyondtheborder.com/.

  • The Three Snake Leaves by The Company of Storytellers – An inspired rendition of the Grimm Brothers’ classic, with plenty of suffering, repentance and (naturally) a happy ending.
  • She’koyokh – A Balkan band with a strikingly unique sound topped off by an unbelievably talented set of musicians.
  • Ferdowsi & The Shahnameh by Nick Jubber – An epic Persian poem and extraordinary travels through Iran and Afghanistan.
  • Looking for Grandpa’s Island by Pam Faro – A true story of one woman’s search for a name in the wilderness of Norway.
  • The Girl Who Became A Boy by Jo Blake Cave & The Glowglobes – A tale of opposites (and a whole lotta girl power) with some funky double bass thrown in.
  • The Fantasist by Theatre Temoin and Cle – A rather chilling insight into the world of an artist with more than her fair share of demons…
  • Shudder by Daniel Morden – A lively tale of a simple lad who, in his quest to ‘shudder in fear,’ finds himself bowling a ghostly head and sitting on the Devil (literally).
  • Trickster by Dominic Kelly – A wartime ‘Catch Me If You Can’ featuring a flame haired cheeky chappy from Mansfield.
  • Bluebeard by Cat Weatherill – A screaming good story of a mysterious blue bearded man with more than a few secrets up his sleeve.

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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Wooden dodgems, Magner’s mushrooms and a giant purple cow: A Saturday at the South Bank.

The Diamond Jubilee. A celebration of Her Majesty’s 60 years on the throne (so far) and a blissfully long bank holiday weekend. What’s not to love? I spent Saturday wandering along the South Bank, which has been decked out with all manner of exciting attractions in honour of the Jubilee as well as of course the upcoming Olympics.

Visitors to the area can’t fail to notice the giant upside down purple cow that has taken up residence just right of the South Bank centre. That’s right, E4’s shuddering ‘Udderbelly’ is back, bringing with it a plethora of comedy events designed to tickle us silly while we wait for Olympic fever to take hold. The Mastercard sponsored ‘London Wonderground’ promises entertainment of a more unusual kind, with stocking-clad lovelies wobbling on tightropes and blowing kisses to a blushing audience in a variety of circus, sideshow and cabaret acts.

If that sort of thing doesn’t float your boat, there’s always something art or music related going down at the Royal Festival Hall or the Hayward Gallery. In short, 2012 is a great year to go to the South Bank. Below are some (hopefully) useful links and a pretty little gallery of pictures!

Some useful links: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/https://www.underbelly.co.uk/e4-udderbelly-festival-at-southbank-centre

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Posted by on June 5, 2012 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

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