Wednesday, 29 December 2010
Wednesday, 22 December 2010
READ BEFORE WATCHING:
1. I have huge bags under my eyes. I am not a drug addict, I've just been out a lot lately, which coupled with this getting old lark is taking its toll on my once youthful features.
2. Despite what this may sound like, I am not going to turn up on your doorstep, so fear not.
3. I keep sniffing. I am not a drug addict. I've just been ill.
4. I'm making a 'I'm going to kill you face' at the beginning. This is unintentional. I don't want to kill you, not in the slightest.
5. This is also complete rubbish.
Monday, 20 December 2010
Monday, 6 December 2010
This morning it seemed terribly apt. The snow has mostly melted, leaving the pavements covered in almost invisible patches of treacherous black ice. It was bitterly cold, and a dense freezing fog hung over the City, obscuring from view the top of the Gherkin and its new, and marginally taller, skyscraping neighbour. As Scrooge made his lonely way home through strikingly similar atmospheric conditions at the beginning of the story, so I scurried (and slid) my way to the office.
And as Scrooge ignored the pleas of two men seeking donations for the poor, so I avoid making eye contact with the people collecting for charities who camp outside Kings Cross, snaring unsuspecting commuters in their guilt-laced webs. It would seem then, that not so much has changed. Perhaps I'm not so different from Ebenezer. If this is indeed the case, then in what form would the spirits of my three Christmases appear?
THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST. I have perfected the art of holding a grudge, of clinging onto regret and embarrassment far longer than is necessary. From the Christmas Day I shot my mum in the face with a toy gun that propelled foam balls in whichever direction I pointed it (while shouting 'I'm not spoilt!') to the accidental flash in front of my cousin, my past Christmases have been full of moments I'd rather forget. Of course there have been happy times, too. They were predominantly happy, in fact. But it's the humiliations and awkwardness of my past that stay with me and colour my current outlook on life the most. My ghost of Christmas Past would be an amalgamation of all of these - the jokes gone too far, the drinks I really shouldn't have accepted, the tantrums and bouts of ingratitude. I was a snivelling child and a terrible teen for which I'll be eternally embarrassed - but these things have played a part in making me who I am.
Well, that was grim. But fear not - 'tis the season to be jolly after all and my CHRISTMAS PRESENT is a bloody jolly place. You see, I've learned from the past and used it to my advantage. I'm a better person, capable of thoughtful gifts and hiding the slightest trace of 'what were you thinking?' when I get presents I don't like. I've found a place and personality that I'm comfortable with and I've banished the majority of the demons that plagued me as I grew up. At the moment, I'm so chilled I put that icy pavement to shame.
And so to CHRISTMAS YET TO COME. It's hard to say what future yuletides will bring but in order to end this post in a way that reflects the unusual sense of optimism I'm currently enjoying, I'll stick to what I want and not what is definitely achievable. Some of you may already know that I'm yearning to move out. There are circumstances that prevent this at the moment, but one Christmas Day I'd like to wake up in a house of my own. I'd like to repay the favour so many have shown me. To cook Christmas Dinner for everyone that matters to me, maybe. A small thank you to the ever-patient family and friends who have stuck with me for so many years - through the bad, through the good and right up to the perfect. A bit ambitious, perhaps. Not least because I can barely cook a microwave meal, let alone a turkey.
Sunday, 5 December 2010
The Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat:
If you offer him pheasant he would rather have grouse.
If you put him in a house he would much prefer a flat,
If you put him in a flat then he'd rather have a house.
If you set him on a mouse then he only wants a rat,
If you set him on a rat then he'd rather chase a mouse.
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
You see, there's some sort of problem with the way I formulate sentences when preparing to say them out loud. It never works. I have an idea in my head that has the potential to be an interesting anecdote, an amusing joke, a poignant, deep and meaningful speech. Except it never fulfills this potential; the words stumble out of my mouth and lie in a heap - like alphabet spaghetti - in front of me. Attempting to follow one of these conversations is like bear-baiting, the thing you're contending with is desperate to leave you exhausted and confused, and it would take some skill to make it through without losing the point.
And then there's my accent. This isn't a problem with friends or family, of course, but it's incredible how quickly someone will assume that you're stupid based solely on the way you speak. The first time I realised I even had an accent (odd though that may sound) was my first year of university. The most cringe-worthy moment comes from a seminar on Roma Citta Aperta, an Italian neorealist masterpiece. At the time I knew nothing of literature, film or poetry, and had jumped headfirst into a degree course that was half made-up of all these things. Good move, Tom.
So I arrived, understanding what I was told but lacking the means to express it. This particular seminar was a massive turning point for me. We'd all watched the film, and been discussing it for half an hour. I sat at the back, as usual, avoiding the lecturer's eye lest she ask me a question. She asked if anyone had noticed anything in particular about the portrayal of the Nazi occupiers. The room was silent in response. Seized, all of a sudden, by a need to prove my worth, I ventured an opinion;
"Well, they're all, like, gay." I nearly added an 'innit' at the end there to make it sound even worse, but there's no need - it's bad enough as it is. I caught someone to my left rolling their eyes, some others actually laughed. The lecturer replied,
"Yes, exactly. There are definite homosexual undertones." I got it right, you bastards. I was right; I had the answer she was looking for, only I didn't have the correct words to express it. I realised then that this was generally the case in my literature classes - I knew these things, I noticed them, but I didn't know how to get the idea across without sounding like a complete chav. So I read an incredibly boring book on literary theory and criticism, and armed myself with enough knowledge to make myself sound like I knew what I was talking about.
So that solved that problem, but how often do you get into literary conversations at parties? Not often at all, so my complete lack of oratory skill remains an issue. My accent has improved (a year in Italy demanded it - otherwise the people I held conversation classes for could have auditioned for Eastenders). If you heard it now, you'd probably wonder what I was making a fuss about. I've buried it, almost. But I do lapse into it - especially after a drink - and I love it more now than I ever have before. I'd consider resurrecting it if I could do so without people thinking I'm retarded.
And so, to remind myself that I'm not stupid and to give me a place to communicate the strange things I think, I started a blog. I'm not sure why, but I communicate much more effectively in writing. Maybe that's because there's less pressure to perform; I can think, re-think, write and re-write. Then there's the added benefit that if someone doesn't get what I'm saying, I don't witness their reaction. I don't have to see their eyes glaze over as I struggle to pull the conversation back from the brink of nonsense. It's come to mean quite a lot to me, so when people say nice things about it I can be rather too gushing in my gratitude. But I'm British - we have to say please, thank you and sorry at every possible occasion, so my thanks to Amber, Tabitha, Risha, Kisekae, Gnetch and everyone who reads and comments. If it weren't for you, I'd be destined to a life of painful conversation - or silence, which may be preferable.
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
This was prompted in part by last weeks' student protests, which I observed (via news feeds and twitter) from my cluttered desk at work. How I wished I'd booked the day off and joined them in their insurrection. How I envied their passion and their anger. I toyed with the idea of joining them, but decided that a picture of me scaling Millbank in the paper would do my credibility no favours.
The feeling grew deeper as I wrote my TASG post on what I wanted to be when I grew up - dragging up memories of how magical the world once seemed. But don't worry - this isn't one of my usual woe-filled posts. In fact, it marks a new beginning. I stand at a crossroads; on each side a road that leads to an alleviation of the gloom in which I'm currently lost. I will not sit idly by while my life is taken over by bad news, bad prospects and austerity cuts. I will take action.
To my left (for that's the direction to which I'd lean) is a road that leads to the land of political involvement, home of last week's Feedom Fighters. Perhaps, instead of moaning or silently fearing the future, I should get off my arse and shout about it. However, as Rachel tweeted last week, it's incredibly annoying to hear ordinary people talk about topics they don't really understand. To be politically involved, without sounding like a complete pillock, I need to know about stuff. Really know about it, inside out, or else I won't feel comfortable shouting about it. At the moment, I don't know anything about...anything. This will need to be rectified.
Friday, 5 November 2010
Monday, 25 October 2010
I am, and always will be, a townie. While I appreciate that the countryside can be beautiful, peaceful and calming, it's really not for me; I much prefer the bright lights and loud noises of the city. So when N decided to arrange a camping trip for his birthday, I was decidedly underawed.
It wasn't, forunately, as bad as I thought; I had a fantastic weekend and I think I managed quite well without the internet, TV and...walls. Actually, that's a complete lie, and I respect you too much to lie to you. I'm sorry. The truth: I was completely rubbish and should not be allowed out of the concrete jungle. Bear Grylls I am not. Setting up tents, for a start, is a chore - especially when the ground beneath is so muddy you can hardly stand. That's something I like about houses; they generally come pre-assembled, ready and fit for habitation. Not so the tent, which requires assembly then reveals a sizeable insect community that has somehow survived those long months in the garden shed.
The first night was rainy, cold and dark and I was incredibly, stupidly inebriated. Towards the end of the night, the end of my night anyway, the group realised that I'd been missing for 25 minutes, and a search party was sent forth. N found me in the toilet block, hugging the hand-drier for warmth and escorted me back to the tents. I went to bed - not to sleep, just to lie with eyes wide open wondering what exactly was walking around outside. I wasn't expecting a bear or anything, but when you're out of your comfort zone, even badgers start to seem menacing.
The second night was less rainy, less cold and less dark. This was mostly because we figured out how to turn the electricity on and so the 'get back to nature' element of our camping trip went straight out of the window. Electricity gave us light. It gave us heat. We stole a picnic bench and installed it in our gazebo. We even, in the true hunting and gathering spirit of our country-dwelling ancestors, ordered a Chinese takeaway. In short, we may as well have booked a hotel.
I'm not meant for the great outdoors. I'll never be able to do without walls, a bed, central heating. I'm too attached these creature comforts and little luxuries to find sleeping on the floor enjoyable. Give me supermarkets that don't close, a mind-boggling transport network and brick, glass and steel. I don't care if I can't see the stars or see through the exhaust fumes. Just don't make me sleep outside again; the badgers might get me.
Thursday, 21 October 2010
Monday, 18 October 2010
Monday, 11 October 2010
Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Sunday, 26 September 2010
My friend recently went to a Blitz Party. 1940s fancy dress was compulsory, the venue was a warehouse decked out like an air raid shelter and a swing band played on stage.
Predominantly, I love it. I think it's a great idea. I'm a massive fan of anything retro, vintage or slightly past its sell-by-date. My dream home, in fact, will need to incorporate the following:
- a phone with a dial instead of buttons,
- a door-knocker, not a bell.
- a hatstand
- a globe
[I'd also like a gramophone, but I understand that, sometimes, practicality must be considered.]
However, part of me felt that maybe it could be slightly bad taste. Is it wrong for people who have grown up in times of relative peace and plenty to go out on the lash dressed as 1940s Londoners who faced hunger, loss and even death?
I swiftly concluded that I was being ridiculous. Who would want to go to a party that accurately depicted the 1940s? An evening of rationing, blackouts and the threat of war does not sound like much of a laugh. But what these parties are doing, in a way, is highlighting the things we miss that their generation had in abundance. A sense of community, for example. Glamour. The ability to get by on what little was available rather than needing everything immediately and paying for it with borrowed money. The music; dancing in pairs rather than sweating out in groups to a bass line that makes your brain ache. They may have had less, and faced dangers that we don't, but they lived.
As I thought about this on my what home, I realised that's the way the world works. Each generation carries its good and its bad to the next. The new generation adapts its inheritance - the fashions, the lifestylyes, the opinions - to fit in with their situation. And I suppose it will be no different for us; our hopes and fears will be carried over and kept, changed or discared as the younger generation sees fit. Perhaps in 50 years they'll do the same for us; a Global Recession Party, dress like bankers and G20 protesters. We're all in it together, I suppose - the women who held the fort in WW2, the bankers who sent the world into economic meltdown and the hipsters of the future, whizzing around on their space bikes and jet packs. We're all involved in a massive struggle, centuries of trial and error, to make the world a better place. I'm off to book tickets for the next Blitz Party. It's not bad taste at all; bad taste would be forgetting.
Monday, 20 September 2010
Monday, 13 September 2010
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
Sunday, 5 September 2010
My choice of film has recently been the subject of criticism. In brief, I've been accused of having an exceedingly narrow mind when it comes to choosing what to watch. Apparently, I will only admit to enjoying films that aren't in the English language [*cough* Bollocks! *cough*] and, according to my brother and N, I need to broaden my cinematic horizons from World Cinema and watch more mainstream films. If you ask me, that's a contradiction in terms and can only make my selection less varied, but I agreed in order to combat this assassination of my character.
The first genre of which I was deemed particularly ignorant was horror, so it was agreed that we would each choose one horror film, and watch them back-to-back. I had one condition: no torture porn. So I sat down yesterday evening with three DVDs (The Omen, Pontypool and Paranormal Activity), too much popcorn and a cushion to hide behind should the demons, zombies and the apostates of Hell get too much for me.
The fact that I haven't watched many horror films in the past is not, contrary to popular belief, because I think them unworthy. The fact is, they too often scare the shit out of me and I'm not very manly in my reactions. Despite being a complete wimp, however, I can't deny that it is fun to do. There's something about the adrenaline rush you get from horror films that isn't equalled by any other genre, and come to think of it, it's a thrill I'd never seek out in real life, either - you won't find me prowling dark alleys or graveyards in the dead of night looking for something to terrify me, thank you very much. It's all a bit odd really. I mean if fear is a natural reaction, designed to make us run as fast we can in the other direction, what are we getting out of putting ourselves through the nail-biting, blood-curdling, sleep-depriving scenes that we watch? Is that not a bit like self-flagellation? Why force yourself to be uncomfortable?
Perhaps it's meant to provide an escape from the monotony of reality - maybe we look to horror films to provide us with a surge of adrenaline that we don't get anywhere else. And, because the action unfolds behind a screen, we get the rush without the danger. I'd go with this - and add to the theory that, as the setting of horror films is usually rural US towns, I feel extra safe. I mean the chances of being allowed onto a plane with a chainsaw are slim, and I don't think demons have passports. I've also heard that horror films are often looked at challenges to overcome - endurance tests. This is, apparently, why horror is particularly popular with teenage boys - sitting through two hours of blood, guts and gore is a way proving their masculinity [perhaps this is where I went wrong - at their age I was probably still watching and re-watching Pretty Woman]. Others watch horror solely for the sense of relief at the end, the calm after the storm has passed.
While I'm not sure of the reason behind the popularity of the horror genre, I will admit to enjoying the films I watched last night. Perhaps the plan is working and soon I'll be horror movie buff, able to sit through all manner of torture scenes without flinching. But that's a long way off. In the meantime, I'm off to watch some more Almodóvar [my director of choice at the moment]. I need to watch something nice, something colourful, something relaxing. I didn't sleep last night you see; it's quite difficult with the light on.
Tuesday, 31 August 2010
It's two weeks before Christmas, and my dad has just told me what he's bought for my aunt and uncle; a microlight flight.
"Ha." I say, grinning. "Nice one. I would hate that. HATE it." In hindsight, this was a mistake, because it convinced my dad that booking me my very own microlight flight would be a really funny thing to do. I should know better by now; admitting any kind of weakness or vulnerability will never escape unpunished. Come Christmas morning, impressed I was not as I peeled open the envelope to find a voucher 'congratulating' me on my first flight in what I've since heard described as 'a lawnmower engine with wings'. I joked about the need to sort out my Last Will and Testament before going, but in all honesty that was the least of my worries. My biggest fear was actually fainting on the way up and spending the whole flight unconcious, dribbling over the edge. With a father like mine, I would never hear the end of it.
Well, yesterday, I did it. I spent 20 minutes flying over an immense patchwork quilt of fields, gardens, playgrounds, car parks and forests. On one side was the green Essex countryside, stretching towards the horizon, on the other the grey urban sprawl of London. I saw the Thames flowing lazily past busy docks, under bridges and then snaking around Canary Wharf, out of view and on towards Westminster, the sunlight dancing on its surface.
I have been in a plane before, but this was different. For a start it's lower, and smaller. You're exposed to the elements and your view is more or less unimpaired. I realise now that my perception of the geography of the region in which I live was incredibly skewed. I had no idea where we were flying until I could pinpoint landmarks; a windmill, a shopping centre, a pier or a station.
It didn't just sort out my abismal sense of direction, but also gave me a renewed respect for the world around us and how it works. I mean the man-made stuff, the logistics. We're so dependent on things that we don't know exist or take for granted - things like water treatment plants or electricity grids. Huge roads and railway lines carving their way through town and countryside. Tiny little cars whizzing around tiny little roundabouts, giving way at tiny little junctions. So many connections, exchanges, rules, systems. And that's just infrastructure; concrete, tactile and in-your-face. As soon as I started thinking about all the hundreds of houses, all the thousands of people, all the millions of thoughts, actions and conversations, my head was ready to explode.
And this was just a miniscule glimpse of part of the world; a tiny snapshot in an immense collage of millions of others, no one the same as any other. At one point we flew over a huge container ship waiting to be unloaded at the docks - a ship that probably contained goods from all over the world - from faraway lands with their very own roads, landmarks and fathers who think it's amusing to scare the shit out of their first-born sons.
I've always thought an experience like this would make me feel powerful, but it had the opposite effect. Rather than making the most of being on top of the world, I felt lucky to be living in it.
Saturday, 28 August 2010
Monday, 23 August 2010
Sunday, 22 August 2010
Thursday, 19 August 2010
Saturday, 14 August 2010
There was a great deal of talk last week about a spetacular meteor shower that was supposed to have been visible all over the UK. As I'm normally unable to appreciate the Great Big Light Show In The Sky, I was really quite up for it. And I wasn't the only one; the Facebook status of one of my brother's friends read:
"Sitting in the garden watching the meteor shower with a glass of baileys."
I'll put my surprise at his choice of tipple to one side for now, and concentrate on the biggest issue I have with this here status. You see, we live under the flight path to London Stansted and I believe my brother's friend was talking rubbish. He was watching aeroplanes, not comets. That's the only explanation I can offer. I looked for the meteors myself and there was nothing there. Nothing at all.
As I drunkenly made my way home on Thursday night, beered up and ready for bed, I stopped and had a look. Nothing. 'Perhaps it's a quiet period,' I thought, 'A dry spell.' I was torn between my desire to get home and the hope of seeing a shooting star. Anyone in possession of common sense would have made a choice; either keep walking or keep staring at the stars. I, on the other hand, decided on a compromise: I strode forward with my head bent right back looking up at the sky. In this way I could ensure that I would reach home at a decent hour without having to miss out. Looking back, it's nothing short of a miracle that I made it home in one piece, as I had no idea what was in front of me; I could only be sure that there was absolutely sod all above me. It's so unreasonable; I risked my life for those bloody comets and they didn't even have the decency to show up. That's it, Night Sky, we're done.
Thursday, 5 August 2010
My ongoing battle with my iPod has been well documented, but I've always been fond of my iPhone, with which I've experienced very few problems. At times I've even been proud of the little fellow; as I was when it transformed a dreadfully ordinary daytime shot of the Thames into the psychadelic masterpiece above. Alas, it would seem that this period of plain sailing has been nothing but a honeymoon period. The calm before the storm. There isn't actually anything wrong with my phone - my worries stem from a concern that it's too advanced. It knows too much.