Tag Archives: Voldemort

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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The Bully and The Victim

I’m a bit of a film aficionado, if I do say so myself. This by no means implies that I am a film buff, film snob, or film star wannabe. It just means that I love to watch films. Generally, this rule is pretty loose – I’ll watch any film available (my parents can attest to this and my hogging of Sky Movies). I’ll watch anything from Legally Blonde to Footloose to Thor – from Bridesmaids to Paranormal Activity to whichever Die Hard we’re on now. And, as a rule, I’ll enjoy them enough to watch them through to the end without (much) complaint.

I also have an interesting but annoying habit of being able to directly quote films after watching them once (and having a photographic memory of what happens in said films). Even if they are rubbish films.

So, back to my story. Of late I have watched two films of questionable quality; You Again, starring Kristen Bell, Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis and Betty White; and Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging, starring (believe it or not) a pre-Nowhere Boy Aaron Johnson, and based on the teen book series Louise Rennison (Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging being the first – a personal favourite read of mine back in the day).

Admittedly, the sight of Aaron Johnson was enough to get me through this dated and poorly-acted British film-flop (even if he was just 18 in the film) …

… And I’m not entirely sure how I got through You Again.

Both plotlines deal with two of the major character personalities in writing and cinema. These characters pretty much go hand-in-hand … The Bully and The Victim.

This is probably one of the most powerful character duets you could ever use in your writing – they are a written tour de force.

The Bully and The Victim story is well versed – it knows what it’s doing, okay? You can pretty much let them do what they like and they will succeed. This is because they create such strong emotion in people.

Even if you don’t relate personally to the Victim – which most people do – you will empathise with their plight.

Take You Again, for example. This is the Bully-Victim story in overload. Kristen Bell – tortured by the head cheerleader in school – comes back to her hometown years later to discover her older brother is marrying said head cheerleader. So ensues the typical high jinks that make up poor comedies (overused slapstick, screaming, and some form of humiliating dinner scene), and the touching-yet-realistic reconciliation, just in time for the Happy Ever After.

But the crux of the story is how much this cheerleader made Bell’s life hell. How much it’s affected her in later years, and how much strong feeling it generates when Bell is faced with her nemesis once again.

Ignore the horrifying rubbishness of the film – the fact that I sat through it allows me to say this with utter authority of course – let’s look at the Bully-Victim story here.

Kristen Bell’s character was the laughing-stock of the school – clumsy, ugly, probably too clever for her own good. Generally running under most people’s radar. Until the School Bully picks up on her. Joanna (played by Odette Annable) is the typical head cheerleader type; beautiful, popular, probably not top of the class but a comfortable middle ground intelligence, with enough aesthetically pleased attributes to grab the attention of boys. And Marni (KB) gets just enough attention from Joanna to have her life made a living hell.

Let’s face it folks, if you weren’t bullied at school, you were probably one of the kids thanking a variety of deities that you weren’t the victim, and making sure you laughed in the right bits to avoid the bully’s wroth.

But whether you were the victim or getting the hell out of the way, you can very easily relate to Marni’s torture. It hurts, because you remember what it felt like to be the butt of the joke, the ugliest kid in class, the one with the smallest boobs (or in my case, the biggest, which curiously is just as bad). Maybe you had braces, or dandruff, or maybe you didn’t get your growth spurt until you reached 16. Whatever the reason, you hurt when you see what Joanna does to Marni, because you felt that pain too.

In Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, 14-year-old Georgia (played by Georgia Groome) is harassed by the bully too. This bully has long blonde locks, fully developed boobs, and not a spot in sight. She also has the boy of Georgia’s dreams. This angst-ridden could-have-been-funny-if-it-weren’t-trying-so-hard film is full of the hairy, scary and humiliating adventures of a 14-year-old girl.

Relate much?

In my head I’m just a 16-year-old with an extra few years of self-loathing piled on top and money problems. I still have lumpy bits, horrendous breakouts of spots on my chin, and I still can’t get the guy. And there’s still the girl with the perfect complexion, perfect hair and – oh wait – the perfect man. The only difference here is; Georgia learns to love herself for just who she is – wise advice, and please do love yourself – but I’m still getting there.

Whatever situation The Victim is in – whether facing down an old enemy, or fighting for Mr Right, or simply just trying to survive school – you can feel that too. That is what makes the Bully-Victim saga so strong; you have a baddie that your readers love to hate, and a goodie that your readers desperately want to win – because they feel like if this Victim can win, then they can win in their own Bully-Victim storyline.

It’s David and Goliath, Perseus and the underworld, Harry Potter and Voldemort, Lindsay Lohan versus the Mean Girls … okay, maybe too far.

Whatever story you align this character duo to, you can see what an emotive and strong Power Couple they make. Christopher Booker called it overcoming the monster, I call it The Bully and The Victim.

My writing is always full of Bullies and Victims. I can’t help it – I love an underdog story. Maybe it harks back to my Victim days of being pushed down stairs or watching the Popular Girl walk off with the “man of my dreams”. Maybe I just want the Victim to win every now and then in my writing. If I could go back in time, I would stand up for myself. Swing a couple of punches maybe. But I can’t go back in time, I have to keep moving forward. So here’s how I swing my punches:

  1. I work. Hard. I work at what I love.
  2. I write. I write and write and write, and I write stories about the goodies beating the baddies.
  3. I dye my hair dark because I can.
  4. I drink wine with my friends and watch rubbish films, knowing that if – or when – I do find my soulmate, I might not get the chance to have this kind of experience again, and I’m okay with that, but I’m not letting it pass me by just because my eyes are on the horizon looking for my Aaron Johnson.
  5. I’m not going to my school reunion. No, not because it makes me feel old (it does). Not because I’m still single and living at home (hey, there’s a lot of people like me out there). But because I don’t need to. I don’t need to look back.

Films are rife with Bullies and Victims. And I sort of love watching these stories play out, because it’s exactly what I’ve been saying – I relate hugely. I get emotionally attached to the film, I invest time and hope and feeling in it. I do the same when reading these stories – they can be agonising when the Victim suffers a set-back (as inevitably they do), but I can’t put the book down. I have to know: can the Victim overcome the Bully? Because, if they can, then I have some hope overcoming my Bully.

And there you have the essence of The Bully and The Victim. They are your life, however you want to perceive it, playing out on screen or on pages.

Do you have a Bully-Victim story in your writing? Did you even realise that they were there before you started writing?

What’s your favourite Bully-Victim story?

And, how are you standing  up to your Bullies?

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