Monthly Archives: March 2010

I Am Always Rather Proud Of Myself When…

…I successfully alter a piece of clothing. Today’s was a maxi dress. It still is. But of course the wrap front neckline was far too low, and one of the straps was ripping at the back when I bought it, and therefore I haven’t yet worn it anywhere, not even round the house. I always thought to myself, when I want to wear it somewhere particular, I’ll alter it, but of course, you want to wear it but you have half an hour to get ready before you have to go and get on your train or whatever, and you don’t, do you, because perhaps actually having a shower is more important, or there are ‘safer’ clothing choices (maxi dresses are scary. Back me up here). So I realised that I’m only ever going to wear it if I can just whip it out of the wardrobe, put it on, and run. So today I mended it. It’s not the neatest mend ever, and I’m sure I could have done something cleverer about making the neckline less low and dangerous, but it looks good enough for what it is, and hopefully now I’ll have the balls one day to walk out of hte house in a large floppy straw hat, sandals, maxi dress and white cardigan, carrying my lecture notes in my bag. Because it is a floaty pre-exam lounging about and working kind of a dress, although that said if I undid my sewing and did it really neatly it would probably do for relaxed formal dress – my cousin’s wedding, say. With those same slightly (slightly? Really, Jenny?) battered old sandals.

Anyway, I am proud of myself. I got round to doing it, and I did it quite competently, and now I could wear it, if the weather were only to cheer up a little. Right now it would look ludicrous to wear a dress, we’re expecting, any moment, torrential rain.

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Long Day

I am copy-editing and wearing something that can only be described as a dirndl. Thus it is time for some Maru-based fun on Youtube.

Have you seen Maru in slow-motion?

My next question is – look at that yawn. how big are cat’s mouths? If I was a mouse I would be terrified. The other thing is, if you look at him in slow motion as this video does, you’re forced to really observe the way he moves, and you realise that even a plump, mollycoddled indoor cat like Maru is incredible. He may not seem hugely graceful but he has the balance and the strength of an Olympic gymnast, all precision and timing. Yet again: why can’t I be a cat?

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Women's Writes

I’m going to copy across the spiel for this wholesale from Shine Out Loud.

Okay, yes.  The grammar above makes me cringe.  But Marie and I tried fruitlessly to come up with a catchy slogan-thing for this and that’s the best thing our brains could find.  It’s a play on “women’s rights,” yo.  Shut up.

As most of you know, the Criminal Homicide and Abortion Amendments bill passed in Utah this last week. When we heard the news, Marie and I were both plagued with the question, “But what can we do?” What can we do to make our voices heard? We don’t live in Utah. We don’t even live anywhere near each other. But we wanted to be able to do SOMETHING. Or simply say something to make everyone aware of what is happening concerning women’s issues and rights.

While some of you may be on one side of an issue and others may be on the opposite side, Marie and I really wanted to ask everyone to come together on one day and write something about an issue that predominately affects women. It doesn’t matter what it is. We would never ask you to make yourselves uncomfortable. But we think it’s important to get those issues out there.

And we all know women have some issues, right?

We’re thinking that it would be really awesome if, on April 5, 2010 (That’s a Monday!), we all posted on issues that affect women. You can choose any topic (i.e. purity rings & programs for girls, sex education, birth control, abortion, abuse & women, sexual assault, etc.). We’ve made a handy button (seriously, HOW does that word always sound dirty to me…) for you to include in your post (grab it from the top of this post, or email me at shine [at] ishineoutloud [dot] com and I’ll send it to you), so it will be clear that we’re all doing this together and such.

Remember, if we don’t speak out, who will? Even in 2010, women’s issues are important and shouldn’t be ignored.

If you plan on posting (I do… probably. Although I don’t quite know what I’ll say) email shine(at)ishineoutloud(dot)com and she’ll post a link on the day.

You know I have some issues with the whole idea of Feminism as it stands today. I am quite happy to admit however that, well, women have a lot of problems. There’s the new bill (or is it law now? Shame on my ignorance) in Utah which would basically criminalise many miscarriages and ‘turns women into incubators’; there are the millions of women who are denied a basic education, there are the rural Chinese villages where it is still normal to kill girl babies in favour of having a son under the one-child policy; there is the issue of ‘corrective rape’ in South Africa and many other places; I could go on. Meanwhile here in the UK you’re beginning to see seriously weird female chauvinism, where women can rule the roost in a department and everyone else fears to criticise them for fear of being accused of sexism when that just isn’t a relevant point; pole-dancing and underwear-as-outerwear and Lady Gaga are supposed to be all about female empowerment (I just don’t know – maybe, maybe not); and I feel distinctly weird and like a bad apple in the sisterhood for wanting not the massively successful career and the promotions and the prestige but actually, just, enough for me to leave work to have children if that’s what I still want in a few years – what I’m saying is that feminism these days doesn’t seem to say much to me as a woman, instead speaking to high-flying careerist types or alternatively to oppressed women the other side of the world when surely the former is, well, a bit old now, we’re getting there, and the latter should surely be of general concern and not specifically labelled as a women’s thing and that’s where people like Amnesty and Oxfam come in, it’s about people, not women.

So there you go. Now I really don’t know what I will say in my Women’s Writes post, except that I will post something because it’s partly about making a stand against the whole Utah thing

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Tra-la-la

Tell you what, it’s beginning to feel properly like spring. Warm enough that you don’t have to wear a coat to go out unless you’re going to be out late, and the rain, when it rains, is wet, torrential, and very much not the same as winter rain. There are flowers and birds and daffodils emerging and primroses, too, here and there, and I saw some lambs a couple of weeks back, and it’s all highly lovely in a cold, shambolic, English way.

And my brain, conditioned after seven years of our Easter residential course with the orchestra, is fixating on new season spring clothes, dreaming extravagant dreams of linen trousers and nautically striped tops and big sunglasses and skirts and cardigans and, wait, what, shorts? Because we always used to go shopping either just before or just after this course – before, in order to look our best when faced with the serious sartorial competition one faced whilst away (seriously was it a music course or simply the Dorset Fashion Week, little known among celebrities and millionaires and the jet set but honestly no less important?) – or after, because, well, I’m not very organised, so I’d wander around feeling very underdressed and getting all sorts of ideas for things I wanted to buy when I got back, and then I’d go out and buy them, and dream of how at the same course next year I would look so glamourous that all those Fit List boys would fall in love with me. Ah, fifteen, how we miss thee.

Anyway, no new clothes for me, no new anything for me, I’ve done it again, I’m poor as a church mouse. And you should see some of the beautiful things I bought last term. It’s not as if I’m short of clothes, she says, still unpacking, and realising that if she puts things in her wardrobe in categories – dresses here, jackets there, jeans there, and so on – it because fearsomely obvious that she has over twenty dresses. Who needs that number of dresses, unless they’re a drag queen or something? I am so not a drag queen. There’s a bit of me that would like to be a drag king once in a while, but.

I am so superficial sometimes.

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Tosca

Last night I went to see Tosca, done by the WNO. I’m not very good at this reviewing thing, to be honest. Anyway, the set was beautiful, well thought-out, sumptuous, dramatic, forbidding, dark; they had real candles on stage and what was especially clever was the way the set seemed to continue out of sight: the first act takes place in a church and we could see the bottom half of a huge crucifix, and the bottom half of a large portrait of the Madonna, but not the top halves of either; giving a feeling of space and realism and shadow and general old cold churchiness, which was very effective.

What I like about Tosca is how the central part, and by far the largest part in the piece, is the character of Floria Tosca, who was brilliantly sung by, in fact, the understudy, I believe, last night (although I should really have had a closer look at the programme – it’s a long run, this, so each part was actually played by two people – one for the first half of the tour and one for the second; I can’t remember the names and so actually I would guess that whoever sung Tosca last night was in fact the soprano who is doing the second half of the tour rather than the singer doing the first who we should have had). Anyway, I don’t remember her name, but she was very good.

What was most interesting is that this is the first opera this particular director has directed – I assume he normally does plays, because what I do remember from the programme is that he doesn’t read music and that all he knew about Tosca was the music and the story, and had never seen it done on stage, so I suppose that means he comes to it with a fresh eye and a new perspective. Having never seen Tosca before either, I couldn’t possibly comment; but I do find it interesting that with no musical background whatsoever he came along and directed a whole opera and personally I really enjoyed myself and I guess that’s what counts. Tosca is probably a very good place to start, really – well-known, accessible, some really big tunes and famous moments.

I shan’t synopsise it here – if you want to know the story you can read the Synopsis helpfully provided by Wikipedia – but I will tell you this small anecdote. The opera finishes with Tosca throwing herself to her death off the battlements of the castle in which most of the action takes place, which is obviously quite difficult to stage because you have to jump off a battlement which is on the stage such that you land out of sight – which inevitably means you’re going to have to jump something higher than your own height (this is the major reason why I would never sing Tosca – I can’t jump that kind of height without absolutely murdering my ankles and knees – that and the fact that I can’t sing, but never mind…) whilst wearing a probably fairly long and awkward dress and so on. My mother’s friend once went to a production in which they got round this by providing a mattress or a trampet or something for Tosca to land on, leading to the unfortunately comic spectacle of Tosca, supposedly lying dead on the ground 100ft below, rebounding again and again above the level of the parapet. Oops. (For some reason at this point the line ‘may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest’ comes to mind). Thankfully this didn’t happen to our Tosca – she jumped off, her cloak fluttering behind her, and the music swelled and pounded and before we knew it we were all applauding.

Anyway. From what little I know about opera, there are certainly better productions, but there are certainly worse ones. It was ably sung and well acted and full of dramatic tension, the music was stunning, and there was ice-cream in the interval. What more can you ask for, really?

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Home For The Holidays

My parents are getting the builders in, as of Monday. So it’s all very much to the good that I will be heading off to Devon on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week to see my friend H whose parents have got a holiday cottage booked out there. It has a mooring of its own, with a dinghy and a kayak. How incredibly cool is that? I am going to fail epically at both of these things and it’s going to be great fun. I wonder if Sainsbury’s still do those weirdly cheap wetsuits that are probably terrible but equally probably better than trying to kayak in early April in a bikini…!

When I’m going to find the time to visit A as well I don’t know, especially as I’m hearing rumours and plans for all sorts of exciting things where I am, but I am determined. Those barbecues of his are legendary.

And as for the builders? Yes. All the stuff that wasn’t originally attached to the house – the utility room (more of a lean-to, really, it’s very jerry-built), the conservatory, the downstairs loo – is being taken out; the kitchen is being demolished and widened by quite a bit and pushed out further back so it will eventually extend out as far as where the utility room and a bit of the conservatory were. It’s going to be huge. Lots of room for, well, even a sofa, and lots of windows. As well as a far better organised utility room and downstairs loo with a sensible amount of space for boots and another sink.

As if that wasn’t already quite a lot of work the back wing of the house is being rearranged quite a lot. Who needs a bathroom the size of most peoples’ sitting rooms? As well as a shower room? So instead we’re getting another study, so that we will then have a separate spare room, rather than a bed in the study, or a desk in the spare bedroom, however you look at it. And they’re rebuilding the outside wall on that side of the house too so that it doesn’t collapse as threatened.

And on my floor they’re putting in a dormer roof over the stairs and putting a bathroom into the loft. I’ll have my very own shower! I say ‘I’, I know I’m not here much, but.

I’m getting very excited (for which read, ‘prematurely bossy’) about colours and tiles and worksurfaces and things. I can’t wait to have my own house for which to make all these decisions.

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Living Under A Rock

For reasons best known to herself my sister decided to switch the telly over from a perfectly good episode of Top Gear to some music channel or other yesterday. And it was just all this awful whiny R’n’B and Lady Gaga prancing about and I exclaimed, ‘wait, what, is that Beyonce with her?’ and my sister looked at me as if I was really dim and explained that actually they’ve apparently been working together quite a lot recently. Personally I was quite pleased that I recognised them both at all. I haven’t been following the charts at all, not since my first year when I found myself doing things like straightening my hair and drinking VK Apple; looking back it’s all like some slightly trippy dream. So yeah. I really don’t know how to get down with the kids these days.

My housemates tease me for having basically missed out on the nineties and also some fairly major elements of modern culture. So here I will lay myself bare to all of your collective derision and admit that I don’t really know who or what the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is; I have watched two episodes of Blackadder in my entire life; I have never watched the vast majority of so called ‘classic’ kids telly (seriously, quiz me on that one, I don’t even know enough to know what names I don’t know); I have never had a meal from MacDonalds (occasionally the chips when starving and having run out of other options) or for that matter from any other fast food joint; I didn’t even know what Nando’s was until a couple of years ago; if you ask me who I had a crush on from Five I would until J enlightened me have probably asked ‘five what?’, ditto any other boyband of the nineties; I don’t know the songs, let alone the dance moves, by S Club, Billie Whatserface-who-was-in-Doctor-Who, Steps, or whoever else; I haven’t watched most of the classic high school movies I should probably know by heart; and I get ribbed for listening to Radio 4 (‘can’t you listen to something more normal? Have you ever tried Radio 1?’ Yes. It annoys me lots).

To be honest this is where I run out of things I know I don’t know. It is now up to you to ask me things about nineties and early noughties popular culture and discover the great, gaping, glaring holes in my knowledge. I don’t know how I completely missed out on a decade. I didn’t know what Crystal Maze was until recently. But then, in my house, we always had to ask to watch telly, and I continued to ask if I could right up until I was about fifteen, so before that it was educational stuff or whatever my parents wanted to watch, in the main.

Anyway, it’s weird. I’m aware there’s a hell of a lot that has entirely passed me by and I really can’t quite account for it. To be honest, with the probable exception of some seriously classic comedy, I’m not sure I really mind that much…!

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For Someone So Unfussy About Food…

…for I really will eat more or less anything – I don’t drink much.

Non-alcoholic is tea, coffee (almost always decaff if I have the choice), tapwater. Rarely fruit juice. Almost never fizzy drinks (I had a Coke the other day and immediately wondered why). That’s about it. To be fair, tea can mean anything from China, India, Earl Grey and the like to any number of herbal and fruit infusions so long as they don’t involve chamomile in significant quantities. But yes, there you go.

Alcoholic it’s similarly small. Whisky for sorrow-drowning and mellow nightcap fireside chats (or in bed, if need be, I promise I’m not an alcoholic, functional or otherwise, it’s just that my room gets cold). G&T if nothing else is around or midafternoon a while before dinner but I can’t stand it unless there’s a large slice of lemon and some ice in it. I love ale, as I may have mentioned, of various descriptions, furthermore I’ve never been drunk on just ale, there’s always been some spirit to blame (seriously). Ginger wine – a whole bottle on nights of serious debauchery (not that I go in for that these days) but actually otherwise I often find it too strong these days. Red wine with meals (sometimes) but I can no longer drink white. A very selected number of cocktails. Sherry (alright, yes, you can buy me another cat).

I don’t know, it just struck me as weird that I will eat more or less anything and enjoy most food at that, and yet I can’t stand most drinkable things, or rather, most things that most normal people my age drink. I have to be already quite drunk before I will hastily gulp my way through apple sourz or Carlsberg and I cannot do the vast majority of spirits, rose wine, white wine, anything too sweet in any way. And furthermore drinks have a very specific place. If I feel like whisky, wine or beer won’t do. If I want coffee, tea tastes horrific and water bores me. Based on time of day, mood, weather, the lot.

I only thought of it because cider and Pimm’s are nearly upon us, and I am so looking forward to summer. It’s funny the things that mark the seasons – now we don’t all work the land, it’s things like sunglasses and whether we have salad or potatoes with our meals and whether or not it feels like a reasonable thing to do, to drink Pimm’s, at this time in the afternoon.

In other news, I am home. Hello cats, telly, and the bedside lamps I got for Christmas (they’re really pretty). It’s good to be back. And it does feel like summer, despite the rain (or perhaps because of it – no chance of any of this rain freezing).

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The Princess Bride

When I was in Year Seven, so, about eleven years old (in fact, definitely eleven years old, being as how I’m an August baby ‘n’all), one day our teacher was away for a lesson and so our form tutor took the period, but because he couldn’t be bothered or something, he let us watch the first part of a video (remember those?), The Princess Bride. I remember it being big and epic and scary and adventurous, with a love plot of some kind, but mainly about the adventure. And the big cliffs were really scary and there were these massive eels and a deep dark forest and an evil prince.

But I never got to see past the first forty minutes or so because people kept talking, our form tutor kept hitting pause to punish people into silence, and then the bell went for the next period anyway. I knew I wasn’t meant to like such a deeply uncool thing as a clearly very nineties fairytale, when all the kids in my class by that point were constantly quoting Forrest Gump and that awful film with cheerleaders and Kirsten Dunst, so I never breathed a word about it, but I always, always wanted to see the end.

So a few months ago I was in what H and her friends and I call ‘the sex shop’ (by which I mean Central Entertainment Exchange, or CEX, duh, we’re so funny, and I saw it on the shelf for £2.50, and so, now I’m a grown-up and don’t need to worry so much about things like ‘cool’, and only marginally about things like £2.50, I bought it.

I’ve been so busy these past few months, out of the house four evenings a week as well as every day, usually out with friends on Friday evenings anyway, and away for a number of weekends (leaving out for a moment that I was doing some seriously uncool things like IVFDF, the Church Weekend Away, and visiting my grandmother), so this term I’ve hardly watched any TV (and that would be on iPlayer whilst getting on with other things like packing/tidying/etc anyway) let alone found the time to sit down and watch a whole film (seriously this term my main source of narrative entertainment has been a couple of pages of a book sometimes before I go to sleep, and The Archers (oh I’m such a catch)), and anyway, I reach the end of term and I’m at my aunt’s house and having finally made sense of packing and not started cooking supper yet I decided to sit down and watch The Princess Bride.

I wish I had got to see it when I was eleven; I would have loved it. Heck, I enjoyed it now. It’s definitely a kids’ film, but it’s great fun. The love plot is soupy when relevant – swelling violins and chaste sunset-lit kisses and big declarations of undying love – but completely unobtrusive the vast majority of the time, since due to the complex twists and turns of the plot the lovers actually share the screen for probably about ten minutes total and spend eight minutes of that time with him fighting giant rats and swooping her out of the way of flames and killing things with his sword, and her twittering about looking scared and swishing her hair about (as heroines go she could definitely be more gutsy, but then, with a name like Buttercup, what can you do?). So basically that’s pretty much ideal for a pre-teen audience, keep the girls happy with a bit of kissing, but don’t do it enough that they get disgusted/bored. The script is pleasingly witty but obvious – I don’t think I would have found it so obvious at the age of eleven, but of course the villains are a bit pantomime and the hero always has a brilliant and biting comeback to more or less everything. There’s a swordfight, a distinctly unscary torture device, an albino, a tree with a secret door, lots of great costumery, Billy Crystal (I’m sorry but as far as I’m concerned he can do no wrong), Andre the Giant (oh yes that’s right), adventure, comedy, suspense, and a friendly grandfather to remind you all that it’s all just a story, just when you get most scared.

Funny, though – I don’t think it would get made now. I think kids of the right age to enjoy it are just a bit too knowing, aren’t they. They watch films ostensibly aimed at teenagers and adults, I think. I mean, ten years ago I felt embarrassed about enjoying this film just when I was bang in the demographic to which it is aimed; who knows how it would go down now. Can you imagine Jumanji being made now? Or Flubber, or The Secret Garden, or  any of the films we grew up on (she says, running out of ideas because she spent seemingly most of her childhood reading books instead)?

Anyway, that’s not the point. The main point is, The Princess Bride. And also, someone please remind me how every time I hear the words ‘pride’ or ‘prejudice’ I make yet another mental note to buy the BBC DVD of Pride And Prejudice since we only have it on VHS, and I haven’t got round to replacing it yet, and would that same kind someone forcibly drag me onto the Amazon site or something so that I actually do so? Thanks.

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Chasing The Storm

You can’t pretend it isn’t exciting. The maybe, perhaps, but probably not. The moments, the edges, the sparring of thoughts and minds and intentions. What is said and what isn’t. Who you choose and who you don’t, the opportunities you throw yourself at and into, the scheming, the planning, the juggling, having the choice. It’s all potential, perhaps it’s all in your head, perhaps half of it is, perhaps you really can grasp it all. But either you do the sensible thing, steer well clear of the rocks, the eddies, the cliff edge, or you dive in and you take the risk and you know you’re going to get hurt and it’s going to be horrible half the time and everyone tells you not to do it but everyone knows you’re not listening and of course they’re all fully aware that when there are pieces for you to pick up, they’ll be holding back your hair as you down the whisky and retch your guts out, they’ll be there as you cry, you haven’t run out of lives yet, you’ve still got time to pick the pieces up again and patch it all back up again and then laugh as you throw it down again and maybe, just maybe, it won’t break this time, whatever it is, perhaps you won’t be the one that gets hurt at the end of the day. May you live in interesting times? Don’t tell me that half of us don’t spend half our lives looking for the interesting in the times that we’re in.

Then again, it’s exhausting. Maybe this time I’ll choose the responsible path, bank on the safe option, aim at contentment and happiness, rather than this vivid chimera, this who-knows-what. Perhaps it’s time for tea and cake, for eating my greens and darning socks, not for whisky and moonshine and moonlight and madness. Honestly, I would rather be a grown-up. Perhaps this is the last dance, last chance, and then it stops. I wouldn’t want to miss the last dance, except that my feet are tired.

Then again it’s entirely possible that I’m off in my own world again.

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