Category Archives: Random

A Hostage Situation

Books, The Book Thief, The Mermaid and the Drunks, Junk, The Shadow of the Wind, Melvin Burgess, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Marcus Zusak, The Day of the Triffids, The Hobbit, J.R.R Tolkien, Helen Dunmore, The Siege, Charlotte's Web, E.B White, The Diary of Anne Frank, Enid Blyton, The Magic Faraway Tree, Adriana Trigiani, Lucia Lucia, Perfume, Patrick Suskind, The Silver Sword, Counting the StarsI was listening to the BBC History Hour podcast the other day (highly recommended), and one particular story caught my imagination… Continue reading

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Don’t Look at Me

It’s my inaugural post over at Searching for SuperWomen today, so I’m not going to bother talking to you here.

Just go look over there.

(Though do check back tomorrow as I have a post for you)

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In Case You Missed It

Searching for SuperwomenGood grief, what are you still doing here!?

You’ve had two days to check out the new blog – right here. Now, go away and read it! Continue reading

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Secret Project!

Secret ProjectI’m nearly done with my beta reading, so there will be book reviews back on a Friday very soon, I promise! I’ve started on The Wasp Factory so that’s on its way.

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When Real Life Gets in the Way

slow sign

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”
– John Lennon

How often does “life” get in the way of “living”? How many times have I disappeared without a trace from the blogosphere, only to return triumphantly / apologetically / inexplicably? Continue reading

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2012 in Review

2012So where have I been this past month!? Well… I can’t really say. It seemed to fly by and before I knew it the work Christmas party had sprung itself on me, then the mayhem that was Christmas, followed by the typically irritating bout of illness, and the swift passing of the Christmas holiday that right now feels like it’s been somewhat wasted. And I haven’t written any posts!

But this is not a time to whine. This is a time to reflect on the good bits, wave away the bad bits and look forward to next year – just like every other blog!

So what were my highlights of 2012? Continue reading

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On Neil Gaiman, Cars, Disney and Conferencing – and a Touch of NaNoWriMo

[Disclaimer: If this doesn’t make sense, please excuse it on NaNo-brain]

… So, you missed me!?

I know, I’ve been terribly remiss in blogging (both of them). It’s been one of those EVERYTHING-HAPPEN-AT-ONCE weeks that leaves you exhausted and bewildered on a Sunday night asking your mug of tea “what just happened?”

Well, I shall you exactly what just happened… Continue reading

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Olympic Fever

Okay. So I was fully prepared to be the un-sportsfan in the house, the un-Olympic one. I was all set not to care about Team GB, join in the whinging about how difficult London travel is whilst all these people are visiting.

I think that lasted all of about one day.

Now, I find myself invested in sports I didn’t realise were even sports and cheering at the TV as if they can hear me.

I think they call it Olympic Fever. I’ve been sucked in to the frenzy of Olympic enjoyment. I’m loving it – even though I feel I shouldn’t. I’ve even started counting medals like a miser over his coins.

I openly admit I enjoyed the opening ceremony (a little more cynical about the closing ceremony seeing as it’s going to be a blend of Monty Python and Spice Girls from all accounts). I openly admit I’m a bit in love with Usain Bolt (he’s just so lovely). I even openly admit I screamed just as loud as everyone else when Chris Hoy won his sixth gold. But I can’t believe how much I’ve been enjoying the Olympics!

I’ve enjoyed practically every second (although the lusting after Tom Daley just plain creeps me out – he’s far too young). It’s been observed that one of the British eccentricities that has come to light over the London 2012 Olympics is the ability to cheer on… well… just about anyone. We Brits love an underdog, let’s be honest, and it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what bizarre sport you’re competing in, we love you anyway and we’re going to cheer for you: welcome to London!

I think it helps that we’ve lucked out on the weather – two weeks earlier and I think the whole thing would have literally been a wash out. But apart from the odd shower here and there, the sun has shone on these Games, and with it the good will of all.

The first thing people talk about when they see each other is the Olympics, people who were – like me – unfazed by the whole thing have gone up to London to spend a day in the Olympic Park, or bought last-minute tickets. When I went to London the other day, I overheard someone on the train Googling the sport they were about to go and see. It didn’t matter what they were seeing – they were kitted out in the Team GB colours, foam finger and all, desperate to join in the party.

And what a party it is!

So I’m afraid I’ve been converted – I’m an Olympics advocate. I cheer on Team GB/anyone else. I am suddenly an expert in dressage, handball, synchronised swimming and track cycling. I nod knowingly at the 10-second 100m and cry foul at a fluffed pole vault. But isn’t that part of the experience?

Every Team GB medal is a medal for the country, and I’ve never been prouder to be a Brit (despite Morrisey whinging about blundering jingoism – what a prat, he has no idea what he’s talking about and is just spouting off for the sake of making news and getting attention).

I’m chuffed to bits for my country, and even prouder when I hear the likes of the Jamaicans complimenting us. I’m the most proud, however, of Team GB. Their sportsmanship and grace when they lose, but also their phenomenal efforts to win. As a country of sit-on-our-backsides-and-watch-Eastenders types, as a country of people who try to avoid sport as much as humanly possible – to see these incredible athletes proving their skills, their maturity and that Great Britain is a team to contend with, is hugely satisfying.

And now I’m gushing. So instead I’m going to watch the women’s handball match (and cheer for South Korea or Spain, whoever is the underdog!)

What’s your favourite bit of the Olympics so far? And for my non-UK readers – what do you think of London 2012?

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Once more unto the breach, dear friends…

O! for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention!
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene.

Henry V, Chorus I, Shakespeare

The Opening Ceremony

Did anyone spot Kenneth Branagh? Did you? Yeah, well, I guess that cameo is probably the least bizarre of all the happenings of the Olympics opening ceremony. You’ve got to give it to Danny Boyle – he did a bang-up job. Not knowing what to expect, I think that it was fascinating and cringey in equal measure – and therefore very British.

The parents put on a bit of a shindig for the opening ceremony – a friend was one of the winged cyclists! So it was wine, beer and coronation chicken aplenty, and sloping away to bed at the not unreasonable hour of 1am.

From the chimneys sprouting out of the green pastures – symbolising the Industrial Revolution, and a nod to Danny Boyle’s dad – to dancing through the ages, it was stages of wonderful, impressive and downright weird. Jolts of humour – Bond and the Queen, and Mr Bean at the piano – were countered by some truly masterful and astounding feats; those fireworks weren’t quite up to Beijing standards maybe, but using the entire stadium as a TV screen was.

Voldemort and Cruella de Ville being seen off by Mary Poppins, and a blast of The Archers soundtrack weren’t quite what I was expecting, neither was the modern-day love story, told by the medium of technology (not sure how that was portrayed to the audience in the stadium). But I adored the music sequence (yes, I am a Dizzy Rascal fan, and no I’m not ashamed) – including some timeless classics by The Jam and The Who. I definitely think music is a key piece of British culture, and Mr Boyle showed it with great aplomb.

My absolute favourite bit though (besides my friend on a bike with glowing wings), was the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron. Everyone was placing bets on who it would be – from the Queen, to Chris Hoy to Steve Redgrave, to Gandalf* (this was suggested after someone said that the opening scene of the grassy hill and the tree looked like Hobbiton).

I love the fact that it was no one we expected – that the people (picked by athletes) were simply the next generation of Olympic hopefuls. The London 2012 idea of “inspiring the next generation” in physical form. And whoever thought of that cauldron deserves a knighthood! It’s beautiful… I did cross my fingers and hoped it wouldn’t break whilst watching… but it was beautiful.

What did everyone think of the ceremony? And, for those not of the UK – did you get some of the references?

*For the record – Sir Ian McKellen is a legend and I would have loved to see him light it!

Henry V

A couple of weeks ago, Ana asked if I fancied going to see a performance at the Globe theatre in London of Shakespeare’s Henry V. Well, duh.

About a week ago, we realised that this visit would coincide with the first day of the Olympics. As a very unsporting person, I will hold my hand up and admit I’m not doing backflips over the Olympics – as great as they are – because I simply have no interest in the sports. Therefore, to discover that these sports – which I have no vested interest in, though commend anyone who does – were potentially going to ruin my Shakespeare day, it’s understandable that I was not amused.

Yesterday morning, getting the 9.35 train (leaving myself RIDICULOUS amounts of time to get to the Globe “just-in-case”), I found that although it was the first day of the Olympics, and people wearing various supportive outfits and costumes were climbing on at every stop, it was not an awkward journey. That’s fine, I said to myself, I will no doubt have to contend with the crowds on Waterloo concourse.

Erm. No. Contend with dithering tourists (but no more than usual) and avoiding the clusters of lost Olympics fans that seemed to gather around any Games Maker or police officer in sight, yes. But creep under the legs of thousands of people and praying I won’t get suffocated, no.

As it was a beautiful day, off I pottered to the riverside. I aimed straight for the London Eye (nothing like a giant ferris wheel landmark to navigate with), then turned right. And it wasn’t even busier than normal here! Street performers (including artists, comedians, dancers, magicians, and those creepy statue people), Games Maker help points and pop-up shops and restaurants have gathered along the banks of the River Thames, creating a carnival atmosphere (helped by the many people in fancy dress and carousel with shrieking kids).

I took a picture of the giant Olympic rings out on the water, and soaked up the sun, before Ana and Claire appeared and we had a very indulgent lunch of mussels in a creamy white wine sauce and butternut squash salad (me), linguine (Claire), and bruschetta and chips (Ana) at The Wharf.

But what about the play!? I hear you cry. Well… I really can’t say much about the play, because I’m a loss for words. Outstanding, would be a start. Jamie Parker is a fantastic Henry, and delivers his lines with the right amount of sobriety and fierceness. I have never seen Henry V (or read it) before, so coming to the whole thing with fresh eyes was brilliant. I knew what it was about, of course, but never expected the humour, and so found it all the funnier (and more poignant) when it did appear.

For £5, you can stand in the yard (the main area right in front of the stage) and see some of the greatest plays ever to be written, in the venue that they were written for. Okay, so standing for 3 hours wasn’t fun, and when the sun came over I did burn a bit because there’s not a lot of protection, but frankly I didn’t notice the standing part until the play was finished and broke the spell.

The cast was really strong, and they clearly enjoyed working together. I recognised a lot of faces (but I couldn’t tell you where from) and although the chorus woman felt a bit superfluous sometimes – I know she’s there to carry the story along, but it just got to the point where I just wanted the others back out on stage – there was never a point at which I was bored.

The acoustics (there were no microphones that I could see) were outstanding, and I loved being able to watch the reactions of the people in the galleries because it’s a circular theatre. The actors move through the audience and interact with them, which creates a frisson of excitement every time you hear a trumpet at the back of the stage, or see an actor lean down to the crowd. You want to be involved, you crave the attention of the King, long to be a drinking buddy of Pistol and Nym, and banter with Captain Fluellen.

I once considered A Midsummer Night’s Dream to be my favourite Shakespeare. But, I think Jamie Parker might have changed my mind!

By the end though, we were all exhausted and said our goodbyes outside the gates of the Globe. I decided to walk back to the Eye again; the sun had gone in, but the pop-up restaurants were doing booming business as tourists ventured along the riverside for food. This time I found a Michael Jackson impersonator, a street artist chalking all the flags of the Olympians onto the paving, and break dancers teaching the crowd a trick or two.

The homeward journey was as equally uneventful as the journey in; the only difference being everyone was slightly more sunburnt, the adults a bit tipsy, and the children coming down from sugar highs. The detritus of a visit to the capital – British flags and I Heart London tee-shirts, foam hands and deflated backpacks now devoid of snacks and drinks – dragged along Waterloo concourse, the sun sagging low over the river, and the trains took the passengers home to bed, myself amongst it all, my head full of Shakespeare and tummy full of mussels.

So now I sit here, tired and red and contented. Faced with a blank page of paper, convinced that whatever I will write, will never be as good as Shakespeare, but I might as well give it a go. Because, who knows? A couple of hundred years from now, what I write could be considered the greatest literature of our time, and someone in a blue and white sundress could be walking along the banks of the river Thames with friends, off to see an adaptation of one of my works…

A girl can dream.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect.

Henry V, Act III, Scene I, Shakespeare

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Happy Mother’s Day – to every Mother (though mine is the best of course)

Dinner cooked and pressies opened – Mummaloo has been suitably indulged for this fine Mother’s Day. This morning was spent opening a burial ground in the village at the very old and very beautiful church at the top of the hill (the same church alleged to be haunted, where my parents renewed their vows on their 25th wedding anniversary, and the very same church where we have all decided we want to be buried). This afternoon was spent with Little Sis, cooking dinner for the family and waving presents under Mummaloo’s nose (bouquet of roses, pot of hyacinths – her favourite – a Next voucher AND The Help on DVD). Hence the very late post. Hence, I am left with very little to say, except:

Happy Mother’s Day!

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