Friday, 5 November 2010

Things that make me happy #3- Christmas tinglings

I got my first tingly Christmas feeling the other day when I saw a full on Christmas shop window display, featuring tree, tinsel, baubles, the works! I love the build up to Christmas as much as the day itself-Christmas markets (hoping to go to Leeds this year), lights, ice skating all make me so happy, and working in a toy shop definitely adds to the festive feeling, overhearing parents telling their kids to 'add it to their list for Santa' (and sometimes digging themselves holes with regards to Santa and finding it very difficult to get out)

 Although some people may think it's still a little premature to be getting excited about Christmas already, I feel it is entirely justified-Halloween has been and gone, Firework Night is in progress-Christmas is the next big thing! I also helps to acknowledge Christmas this early to start budgeting for Christmas shopping.
Whilst I love Christmas and feel it is justified to be thinking about it now that we are in November, I think it is ridiculous when Christmas cards appear in shops before the children have gone back to school, or certain chains of pubs have their Christmas trees up by the end of September.

Roll on December!!!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Waterloo Road Series 5-Series Review

It may feel like University has only just started, but school’s already out for the latest term at Waterloo Road. I’m sure other fans of the show will agree that this series has been different from any other, predominantly due to the departure of Rachel Mason at the end of the last series, and whilst it was good to finally see happiness for the well loved character in the form of her new husband, Adam Fleet, it was always going to be difficult to replace such a well loved character.
New headmistress Karen Fisher has brought an undeniable amount of fresh drama to the series in the form of tearaway daughter Jess, adulterous husband Charlie, bulimic son Harry and, most noticeably, missing daughter Bex.  Despite this, it is difficult to avoid the thought that the writers have strayed away from the original premise of the programme, documenting the real life turnaround of a failing comprehensive school in the North of England, to focus more on the personal life of a head teacher who, for many viewers, does not hold much interest.
On the other hand, it was good to see the writers tackling the issue of bulimia in a sensitive way from a male point of view for a change, rather than retreating to the stereotypical view of teenage girls with eating disorders due to the representation of celebrities in the media.
Another positive to come out of this series is the further exploration of the personal lives of regular teaching characters, such as Grantly Budgen, who, up until the end of this series had been unrelentlessly portrayed as an unsympathetic and uninterested teacher, however the storyline involving his wife Fleur’s struggle with Alzheimer’s and his subsequent financial struggle allowed viewers to empathise with him, opening up the potential for a variety of storylines for the character in the next series.
Despite the best efforts of the writers to steer this series away from the usual Waterloo Road format and try something new, I cannot help but feel that this series was not as wholly satisfying as previous series have been, and despite the reappearance of Bex within the final episode, the series finale struggled to evoke a sense of conclusiveness.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh, 2007)

A small budget joint venture between Channel 4 and the UK Film Council, it focuses on a small part of the life of Poppy, a London school teacher. Beginning with the theft of her bike, we are immediately introduced to an ever-cheery, uplifting spirit with a refreshingly upbeat view of life. Most people would be angry or upset at the theft; her main worry at that moment is that she never got to say goodbye to her beloved bike, a quirk that resembles the character of Phoebe Buffay from ‘Friends’.  As she begins to take driving lessons, we are taken with her on a stop-start journey through the streets of North London, as her impenetrable happiness allows the bitter world view of her driving instructor to bounce off her, her relentless energy for trampolining and flamenco dancing combined with her colourful dress sense presents her as the sort of person that most people wish they could be. A film that can be enjoyed on several levels, and is perfect for a mood lift and a bit of a giggle.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Little Manhattan (2005, Mark Levin)

At first glance, the plot of this film seems like a typical ‘rom com’-childhood friends cross paths again a few years on, boy falls for girl, boy doesn’t know if girl feels the same, boy runs after girl- I won’t spoil the end for you, but you get the picture. However there are some twists on the traditional that differentiate this from your average happily-ever-after chick flick.
It is narrated in first person by the male protagonist, introducing a refreshing change from the usual female angst of “he loves me, he loved me not” that recurs in this genre, which opens it up to a wider audience than the usual female teenage audience of similar films.
Even more original is the fact that the protagonists are aged just 10 and 11. With Gabe, an average boy growing up in modern day Manhattan and living through the bitterness of his parents impending divorce, we are taken through the painfully bittersweet journey of first love, as Rosemary races up his estimations from third prettiest girl in his class to the most important thing in his world. Audiences male and female, young and old, will be able to identify with his tongue tied, clumsy and cringe-inducing behaviour around the girl he loves as he battles through his confusion of the ‘iron wall’ psyche which seperates boys from girls in the playground.
Overall, a heartwarming story, and although amusing in places, some audiences may feel that the potential to evoke more laughter from the audience in strategic places was not entirely fulfilled.
Die hard ‘rom com’ fans will love it...for other audiences it may be a little too sickly sweet to swallow.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

An exciting time

So. Some exciting things have been happening in my life recently J
Firstly I got a place on an ‘Insight into Journalism day’ at the Guardian Newspaper in London in a couple of weeks time. I know it involves presentations and talks by some of their journalists about their careers, but other than that I’m not too sure what to expect, hopefully it will be useful nonetheless.
Then, the editor of Keys Magazine, the local parish magazine where I live, has agreed to publish a couple of my articles that I submitted. One was my blog entry about September mornings, and another was my view of the village where I live, having left it a year ago for university. Although this magazine only has a readership of around 2,000, it is a start, and I’m excited to see something I’ve written actually in print!!!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Is it always the younger generation?

We regularly hear in the news all sorts of stories that fuel hatred of the younger generation, the so-called  ‘youth of today’ as we have become negatively titled, words which in themselves do not suggest any sort of resentment, but which have become synonymous with connotations of thuggery, violence and a lack of respect towards elders and, well, anyone. It cannot be denied that there are a select few young people out there who fit into this category, however I cannot help but feel that the media choose to focus on these people and use them as a stereotype for a whole section of society. They know that the public enjoy a good old moan about the youth of today, and so choose to gratify their readers/listeners with carefully selected stories about the wild behaviour of young people. Meanwhile, older generations are portrayed as the victims, often too scared to leave their own homes or walk down their own street from fear of ‘ASBO kids.’ The reality is that the majority of young people are respectful, law-abiding citizens who are only too willing to give up their seat on the bus or help an elderly person with their shopping.
About a month ago I had a couple of friends from uni come to stay with me at home in Kent, one from Plymouth and one from Birmingham. One day we took a bus to a local shopping centre. Waiting for the bus back, a queue gathered, and as the bus pulled in right in front of a bus shelter, the queue of people split, with people queuing either side. When my friend got to the front of our queue she stopped, courteously, to allow people from the other queue to board the bus. Once we had been waiting, only for a few seconds, we heard a tutting from behind us and turned to see a lady of about 70 pushing her way through the queue to the front, regardless of the 10 or so people queuing in front of her and perhaps 8 more behind. She managed to make it all the way to the front of the queue and onto the bus, the people in the queue either too shocked, or too scared to say anything. Straight away, another woman started pushing through the queue, this one only aged about 40, taking advantage of the parting the first woman had left in the crowd. Every one in the queue looked at each other and tutted, but no-one seemed keen to do anything about it, not even the driver who had seen this happen. Yet I cannot help thinking, and I’m sure that many people will agree, that if anyone else, particularly someone around my age, had tried this, they would have been confronted, stopped, and succeeded in further blackening the image off young people today.
What is it about the older generation that allows them to think (mostly correctly) that they can get away with this sort of thing, whilst younger people can’t? I do not know whether this lady thought that she had a right to be at the front because of her age, or if she just saw her chance and took it, but I know that my friends were shocked and I feel ashamed that they saw this happen in Kent when they both agreed that it would never happen where they came from. I am not suggesting that the entire older generation would consider it appropriate to behave in this manner, but just like people need to understand that not all young people are ASBO thugs, it is also clear that not all older people are innocent victims, although the majority of both categories do not cause any harm.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Things that make me happy # 2-September mornings

A fog hangs over the sleeping earth, silent except for the occasional chirp of a starling or sparrow as they awake at the crack of dawn, creating an eerie effect reminiscent of a Peter Jackson film set. Yet despite this creepy atmosphere, there is something  I love about crisp September mornings. Having never had a chance to properly appreciate the early mornings at this time of year before, I have found myself enjoying rising early and enjoying the refreshing bite in the air as the sun emerges and burns off the fog.
Walking across a dew drenched field in the early morning, leaving a trail of footprints in your wake significant enough to make you feel, just for a second, that you are the first person to walk the earth, leaves crunching under your feet the only sound breaking into the world.
Cobwebs form a silken blanket over the browning bushes, as if trying to protect them from the impending grasp of the winter frost that will strip them of their natural finery, the architects of such beauty hidden away from the biting chill of the autumn daybreak. All of this conjures up images reminiscent of the hymns sung in junior school harvest assemblies. It is a shame that all too soon it will be winter, the dark mornings will be drawing in, leaves will have fallen from trees and many of the woodland creatures will have gone into hibernation for the winter.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Clarkson's call for leniency in courts

With all of the drama surrounding the BBC programme ‘Top Gear’ in recent weeks, regarding the identity of the Stig being revealed and the ensuing court battles, it seems that another of Jeremy Clarkson’s questionable comments has gone by unnoticed.
The Top Gear presenter and Sun columnist has been in trouble before for his offhand comments, coming to blows with gay rights groups in 2006 due to his description of a car as “gay...yes very ginger beer” and  at other times making Nazi salutes on the BBC programme.
I was surprised then, that his column in the Sun last week appears to have gone by, uncommented and uncontested.  Although not offensive to any particular group, he was asking for courts to be more lenient on those who have committed ‘minor’ driving crimes, such as speeding, claiming that losing a licence can mean a lot more than just that-the loss of a job, a family home etc. Whilst I agree that losing your driving licence can have serious repercussions, it takes several errors and a build up of points on your licence before it is removed, meaning that otherwise meticulously careful drivers who make one stupid mistake are not punished in the same way as careless drivers who most probably should not be on the roads in the first place. Clarkson, however, went on to argue that there is no harm in “a teeny little call home on a quiet road”, despite it being against the law, and went on to suggest that he himself has done this a few times.
Although his controversial comments and actions over the years have earned him much criticism,  he still has a great number of loyal fans, particularly in the motoring world, many of whom respect him as a figure of authority and wisdom on cars and driving. Is this therefore any example for him to be setting these people?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A thought that occured to me this morning whilst brushing my teeth....

Why is it that for the two minutes of the day you can’t speak, you find more to say than during the entire rest of the day? I’m in the habit of wandering round the house whilst brushing my teeth rather than standing still over the sink as I have been led to believe is the norm. Doing so this morning, I headed to the bathroom only to realise that there was someone in there, so stood in the kitchen and waited for them to come out before I could spit my toothpaste out. During the two minutes (although it felt like an hour) that I was waiting, my brain went into overdrive.  I remembered that I wanted to ask my Dad the name of the place we went on holiday one year. And then to offer to put out the washing. And to tell him about something that had happened to someone we know recently, and point out the large spider in the corner of the room (“we never get spiders in the house” he regularly claims). As all these thoughts rushed around my mind with no way to express them, my dad pottered off into the garden to hang the washing out and the bathroom became free. Looking up from the sink as I rinsed my mouth out I realised that I could no longer remember half the things I wanted to say, typical now that I could, and I noticed that the spider in the kitchen had disappeared, as if his aim in being there had been to taunt me that I couldn’t prove my dad wrong about his no spiders in the house theory.  My brain, having had it’s most active two minutes of the day, came up with little more for me to say for the rest of the day, and so I reverted to my usual comments about the weather etc etc. Maybe it’s something they put in the toothpaste?

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Things that make me happy #1-Views of Portsmouth

It may not be the edge of the Grand Canyon, or a vista over the sweeping valleys of Tuscany, but the view over the southern city of Portsmouth has a special place in my heart, and instils in me a pride of being English. I cannot explain what it is about this historical sea town, after all it is not surrounded by the mountains of the Black Forest or exquisite views of Ayres Rock, yet I still find it breathtaking, just for a second, every time I visit. Perhaps it is the sense of old meets new, history meets future, metropolis meets tranquility that the city emits. After all, Portsmouth is steeped in naval history, and is the birthplace of Charles Dickens, yet it is moving forward into the future, as can be seen from recent developments such as the Gunwharf Quays shopping centre and the addition of the Spinnaker Tower to the skyline.

Being as I am, a semi regular visitor to the area (due to family ties, I visit 3-4 times a year), it seems to me that the sun is always shining, which has perhaps helped to form my positive opinion of the area, although locals who live here all year round may disagree.

Approaching the area, as the A3 becomes the A27 (admittedly, directions like this do not make Portsmouth sound like a place that dreams are made of) the road runs next to a marshy area known as Langstone Harbour, and it is here for me that the excitement begins. The scene of the water gently lapping the sides of small sailing and fishing boats is reminiscent of Cape Cod, or perhaps the French Riviera, creating a sense of tranquillity and calm.

Further up, the ‘top road’ which runs along the top of a cliff overlooks the entirety of the city plus the land masses of Hayling Island and Gosport either side, and, on a particularly clear day, the Isle of Wight. The view on a clear day is even more impressive. In high summer, a heat haze lingers over the city, as if aspiring to match the smog of Beijing. That, combined with the image of the Spinnaker Tower and other tall buildings in the distance, creating a wall between the buzz of the city and the calm of the Solent, reminds me of a picture I once saw of Singapore Harbour; the skyscrapers, the boats, the water. Not bad for an old English naval town.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Toy Story 3 (2010, Lee Unkrich)

Where better to start a film blog than with the most recent film I have seen....Toy Story 3. Although I admit that this is not branching out and watching films that I wouldn’t have watched before, I still feel it deserves a special mention, as one of the most awaited films of the summer

The first two Toy Story films are, in true Disney Pixar fashion, brilliant for audiences of all ages, possibly even more so for viewers of my age who have grown up alongside Andy, and are now reaching the same stage of leaving home for college/ university. I work in a toy shop which sells some of the toys from the films; slinky dog, chatter telephone and Mr and Mrs Potato Head, and it often irritates me when children aged 5 or 6 come in with the parents and point out the toys as characters from Toy Story 3-the majority of the characters have been in the films since the first one, released 15 years ago, but such is the appeal of the characters that children young and old take to them. Everyone can recognise the characters, either as part of themselves, or as someone they know; Woody the leader, the cynical Mr Potato Head, the nagging Mrs Potato Head, slow but faithful Bullseye.

The film is brilliant. At one point (if you’ve seen it you will know the part I mean) I genuinely believed that Disney Pixar were going to give up their tradition, if you will, of happy endings and actually allow a tragedy to befall the characters, destroying the belief system of all viewers who can relax whilst watching Disney films, safe in the knowledge that they will have a happy ending. Nonetheless, in this particular case, disaster was averted, and in spite of a rather drawn out (and somewhat tear jerking) ending, the film was thoroughly enjoyable and exceeded expectations. I only hope that Disney Pixar do not try to draw it out any further by opening another chapter in the lives of the toys. Let a good thing lie!

Do holidaying habits relate to your ability to work?

It cannot be denied that the job market is becoming more competitive as a result of the economic climate, and consequently job interviews are becoming increasingly tougher. Yet I was shocked when I heard of some of the questions asked at interviews for sales assistants at a new shop in my town. The shop will remain nameless, but suffice to say it is a well known chain store worshipped by the young and naive on the loose with daddy’s credit card and a penchant for pink and navy stripes. The sorts of questions being asked included ‘What do your parents do for a living?’, ‘Did your parents go to university?’ and even ‘Where do you usually go on holiday?’ It cannot be denied that interviewers often ask questions such as the latter as an icebreaker, to relax candidates at the start of an interview, and perhaps it is important to match the staff to the clientele of the store, but surely none of this information is relevant to a candidate’s ability to serve customers to a high standard? Several people refused their interview after hearing the sorts of questions being asked, for fear of being rejected due to their holidaying habits rather than their qualifications or ability to do the job.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Great British Weather...

Whilst I wait for inspiration to strike, I feel that there is no better place to start my blog than a typical English rant about the Great British Weather (Whilst I do not intend this blog to be a series of whining posts about one thing and another, I feel that as a true Brit, a rant about the weather is inevitable some point along the line, and it is better to get it out of the way sooner rather than later and move on to more interesting things!)

Now, while us Brits are well known for out dissatisfaction with whatever mother nature throws our way (too hot/too cold/too much rain/ not enough rain for the plants/ too windy to wear a hat/ not windy enough for the washing to dry) it seems that we never learn to cope with these ‘extreme’ conditions that come our way. Although I am on my university holidays at the moment and at home in Kent (South England for the geographically illiterate), I recently went back to York (North England) where I study, for a couple of weeks, to work and see friends. Before leaving Kent, despite weeks of rain and colder than average weather, it brightened up the last couple of days, so ever the optimist, when packing for my trip to York I packed clothes suitable for this weather. Alas it was not to be, and so ensued two weeks of torrential rain and chilly winds, resulting in me buying a new coat and hoodie whilst I was in York. Needless to say, on my last day in York it brightened up no end! On my return train journey back to Kent, late on a Sunday evening, I got into Kings Cross station to be greeted with signs all over the platforms and announcements on the tanoy system apologising for the delays and disruptions, and warning me that the platforms were dangerous due to the ‘inclement weather’ that had been experienced during the day. I was slightly fazed, having not witnessed this ‘inclement weather’ myself, but nonetheless continued my journey across London and back to my home town in Kent. On arriving, my mum told me that the rain that greeted me was more or less the only rain they had had in the whole two weeks I had gone, and reverted to an old family joke about me dragging a black rain cloud behind me everywhere I travel, an offhand comment that I am believing to be true more and more every time I travel.

I was reminded of a family holiday in Devon a few years ago. Everyday we would set out in the car to whichever local site of interest we were going to that day, windscreen wipers going like the clappers in the driving rain until one of us piped up “Look at that lovely blue sky over there”, only to be shot down by a pessimistic “Yes, but that’s there and we’re over here”. So it turns out that the ‘inclement weather’ was nothing more than a heavier than average rain shower, drastically put in perspective by the current floods in Pakistan. Given the severity of the situation they face, surely we should be able to put up and shut up with the comparatively mild and tame weather conditions that we experience. Makes you wonder, if a heavy rain shower is described as ‘inclement weather’ by railway officials, how would they describe the floods in Pakistan? Maybe they’d just be grateful to have a legitimate excuse at last for delays and cancellations of services?

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome dear reader,

I see you have stumbled, be it intentionally or by accident, across my blog. If it is stimulating intellectual debate or deep and meaningful comments on the latest political scandal that you seek, I would urge you to continue seeking, as you will not find it here. My blog simply acts as an outlet for me to share the brilliant, bonkers and downright bizarre things that I witness or that occur to me as I go about my daily life. Feel free to comment, whether you agree with what I have to say or not, lest I become a lone voice in the darkness that is the world wide web. Be warned though, that my thought processes range from the slow but understandable to the downright bizarre-expect the unexpected!