Friday, 26 August 2011

It's Friday, and this is Matthew Rhys


“That was a dinosaur? THAT’S A DINOSAUR!”

This cute little clip is taken from series 1 of Brothers&Sisters where Matthew's character Kevin is getting a little stressed over losing a game of charades. If you don't watch Brothers&Sisters then seriously, why the hell not? You need to start because not only does it have Matthew - be still my beating heart - it's just all round general fabulousness on a plate. Every single episode makes me laugh and every single episode makes me cry and it is chock full of beautiful people.
This however is not a post about Brothers&Sisters. It's a post about Matthew Rhys because he's cute and does an amazing dinosaur impression.
Happy Friday.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

busy doing nothing

The bank holiday weekend is almost upon us.
Hurrah I hear you shout.
There’s something about a bank holiday that has me dancing round the office like a loon. The three day weekend. A chance to relax and regroup and recharge my batteries; 3 days worth of lie-ins and chilled out evenings and reading.
I imagine myself as a lady of leisure when I think about a bank holiday. I imagine in the days preceding it that this long weekend is going to change my life for a while and I shall be for it’s duration one of those people that smiles from morning til evening, that is never hurried or frazzled, that lunches with friends and then goes home to a spotlessly clean house and lies in a hammock reading high brow literature (don’t ask me how my house becomes spotless because at no point in this fantasy do I see myself doing the chores to make it so. The key word here is fantasy. Nobody - unless you have some kind of fetish and this is not that kind of blog – cleans in a fantasy. Clean in this context is merely an adjective not a verb. I also don’t have a hammock*. Or a garden.)
The problem is, that as is often the case, my fantasy remains just so. Let’s use this weekend as an example. Already I am excited at the prospect of three days of no work; 3 days of nothing – the fantasy. Already I have dinner plans (amazing cheap tapas at the little bar round the corner from our house. I shall be wearing loose fitting clothing. Yum) with friends for Friday; dinner plans (Chinese at the house of some other friends) for Saturday; coffee and park plans with family for Sunday and coffee, shopping and cinema plans for Sunday – the reality, a reality which leaves little to no time for relaxation or the reading of high brow literature (which by the way I don’t actually own) and will no doubt leave me falling asleep at my desk on Tuesday. That’s not to say I won’t have a lovely time, I know that I will. I am sleepily excited about all of it and wouldn’t change a single second. I just wish sometimes that I could just have three days where all I had to do was read in a hammock.
*My friend Emma has a hammock. Perhaps I should ask her to spend the weekend reading in it and live vicariously through her.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Around the world in a week and a half....

Sadly, my brain is currently too fried to give Michael Palin's 'Around the World in 80 Days' the credit it probably deserves; I think it probably deserves more than the 3 stars I gave it on my Goodreads account. The problem is, that I read this book over the last week and a half when my job has been so high pressure that I've been coming home, collapsing on the sofa and resembling somebody who has recently undergone a full frontal lobotomy. I haven't been able to concentrate for more than 2 minutes at a time because the second I get home and am no longer been paid to think my brain has been going into shutdown and refusing to do anything until the next day. I think I read days 25-30 of Palin's journey three times because the words just weren't sinking in and I can't remember enough about it to be able to tell you much about what happened other than Palin travelled the world in 80 days. Insightful, right?

That said, it was probably the perfect book to read last week because it didn't require much commitment, or concentration. I could dip into it at will and the diary format meant that if I had to put it down after 2 pages then it really didn't matter. I really liked Palin's writing style too: there's no over the top descriptions here, or long and convuluted explanations of every grain of sand he saw on his travels instead he is concise and to the point; he tells you just enough to keep you interested and somehow in the space of just a few lines he paints a picture of the places he visits and the people he meets so clear that you can really imagine it. I wanted all of the people he talks about to be my friends, and I felt so sad at the end of every leg of the journey when he had to say goodbye. All of this has been touched with the trademark Python humour: there were several times despite my extreme grumpiness that this book made me laugh out loud.

I have another 4 of Michael Palin's books in a set: Himalya, Pole to Pole, Sahara and another one. I might not pick them up for a while but I feel somehow comforted to know that they're there.

Friday, 19 August 2011

It's Friday. Spread the Dumbledore love.


I am so so glad that this week is over, so very glad. Problem is that I'm not entirely sure that next week will be any better. Oh well. I have two days of fun stuff to look forward to before I have to think about work and real life again. Until then I leave you with Professor Dumbledore.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Day 20 - Book that makes you laugh out loud:


The James Herriot series.
I’d all but forgotten about these books really, until I unearthed them on an enforced clear out of my parents attic. You know the type, the old “you moved out 11 years ago, get your stuff out of our house” type clear out. Mum and I sat on the attic floor surrounded by books whilst Ian tore out his hair downstairs, occasionally yelling up a ‘please Jo….no more books….’ We had two piles: a ‘send to the mobile library’ and a ‘take home with me’ and much to Ian’s despair the take home pile was winning. It was Mum’s fault “ooohhhh looooooook, it’s Stig of the Dump. You used to love that….*gasp* the family from one end street! *chuckle* pardon me your stepping on my eyeball, remember how much you loved that. Oh no love, you can’t throw away your Enid Blytons….’ And, in the back of the cupboard were my charity shop copies of the James Herriot books. I read them about 14 years ago, when I was I my mid teens and I just remember points where I laughed so hard I could barely read. James Herriot is a country vet and the books are basically his true life account of the animals (and people) he encounters. They can be sad at times, they can be hilariously funny at others and they’re consistently well-written – or so I remember anyway – with the characters being so well drawn that you can picture every little detail so clearly.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

I'm sensing a personal life here. Stop it, immediately. I need your giant head in the game.
- Wilhelmina Slater

So far this week has been nothing short of terrible. It's been one of those weeks where you wake up in the morning and even the light sneaking in through the gap in your curtains is grey and everything seems to go downhill from there. I'd quite like to take my cat and a patchwork quilt and some jelly beans and go and curl up somewhere with a good book and not come out again til I can be guaranteed that things will be better. Sadly, that is not an option. I must solider on. I need to suck it up. Fact.
How rubbish is that though? How utterly mind-numbingly depressing is it that when I am VERY tired and VERY busy and VERY short-staffed and therefore exceedingly grumpy I cannot just go and hide. I am like the Mr Kipling cake of grumpiness and I don't want to suck it up, thanks. I don't want to solider on. I want to go home and I want to wallow in the pile of s**t that is my life.


I think that what I might do, is take a leaf out of Wilhelmina Slater's book. She might be slightly more orange than a person should be but she takes no prisoners and whilst most people might despise her, everybody respects her. If Willy says do it, you do it. You do not sulk and grumble and walk out. The problem is that whilst I would like to be able to command some of that respect, I am aware that Wilhelmina Slater is a fictional person. She is not real. More's the pity: life would be much more fun if some fictional characters were less so....

Monday, 15 August 2011

Day 19 – Favourite book turned into a movie:

This question is open to interpretation a little I think…does it refer to the book you’ve most enjoyed that’s been adapted, or the best adaptation of a book?

Am I even making sense?

I think the obvious answer is Harry Potter on both counts. It would be so easy to sit here and slate the films, so so easy. "They changed this and they missed this and I LOVE GARY AS SIRIUS and this never happened and I LOVE GARY AS SIRIUS and why did they cut this and I LOVE GARY AS SIRIUS and how dare they not explain this and it's all not the same as the book" *angry face* but you know I'll be the first in line for tickets on release dates, you know I'll actually get a kick out of dissecting it, you know I'll go back to watch it three or four times, you know I'll buy the dvd, you know that I'll love it.

However! I do not wish to be obvious and I am well aware that I am at risk of looking a little bit Potter-mad, so, taking Harry Potter out of the equation, the book I liked the best that’s been made into a film is probably The Time Traveller’s Wife. I think it’s a beautiful, clever, wonderful, moving story, one that I loved as much when I revisited it as I did the first time around and I am still so angry with the film, which turned that beautiful, clever, wonderful story into a chick flick. Grrr.

My favourite adaptation is Atonement – quite possibly the best adaptation of a book that I’ve seen. I love Atonement. I love the beautiful book and I love the equally beautiful film, both of which make me cry a little.

I also feel I should give a little mention to Twilight, which made bad books into less bad films by casting RPattz!

Friday, 12 August 2011

It's Friday. Have some little Ron:


This clip makes me happy on so many levels. Ron is such a darling in Philosopher's Stone. Ron is a darling anyway (I have a bit of a Rupert crush, truth be told) but little Ron is so cute and the way he kicks serious ass at Wizard's Chess shows you just who he is: he might be the comic relief; he might not be as clever as Hermione or as heroic as Harry; he might have a major inferiority complex but he's solid and he's loyal and he's dependable and he's brave and he is very good at chess.
Everybody should have a pal like Ron Weasley.

Day 18: First “chapter book” you can remember reading as a child:

Dinner Ladies Don’t Count by Bernard Ashley.

"Jason comes to school in a foul temper. His teacher Miss Smith tries to deflect his anger onto the plasticine, but he isn't having it. He had come to school 'with a smack instead of breakfast' and all because mum has said he can't have a dog for his birthday. Mum has developed an allergy to dogs, but Jason is beyond understanding. He progresses to vandalising Donna's plasticine model, and then is accused of a crime he hasn't committed. Hauled off to the headmistress, he refuses to explain the real problem. An understanding dinner lady talks him round and back in the classroom he discovers what has really happened to the missing birthday cards. Succinct, but manages to get in all the right detail." - from healthybooks.org

There’s a photo of me somewhere reading this. I got it in an early Christmas book parcel and spent Christmas Day reading it. We still have it somewhere I think. I loved it.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

I watched Ugly Betty with Helen last night. I love that programme: it's so absolutely insane but somehow still so relevant and relatable too. It makes me laugh and Helen has a massive crush on Daniel Meade and Wilhelmina is always so orange and Betty is always so fabulously quirky.

Anyway, we're about halfway through the final season now, which mkaes me sad. What will we do when it's all over? I wonder if I'll be able to convince Helen to watch The Vampire Diaries. Yum . Anyway, Betty is all stressed about wanting to be taken seriously as a writer, about wanting to make a difference and live the dream and it just really made me think: where is my ambition? I used to want things. I wanted to write and I wanted a bookshop and I wanted to be successful and now, well it's not that I don't want those things anymore it's just that they feel massively out of reach and unlikely to ever be a reality; they're the things that might have happened to me in a different life and somehow that makes me sad.

In the actual life I have I feel a little like I am going nowhere. I'm pushing 30 years old doing a desk job that I'm not totally sure I like most of the time. I feel unappreciated and stagnant and I have neither the confidence or the drive right now to do anything about it. I actually wonder if I even have the ability to even make anything of myself in this job because I hear my boss talk about potential and driving things forward and I just feel full of self doubt and I don't know where to start. I don't necessarily want a new job; I'd be happy just to find a way to make something of the job I have. I think I just want to feel like I'm not wasting time and letting life pass me by. I wish I had the gumption to just go out there and find a way to be the person I want to be.

I sit here and I write about being frustrated about the direction my life has taken and I want so badly to turn things around but I know that I won't because I am all talk and I'll still be here in 12 months doing and feeling the same and I wonder: when did this become my life? When did I lose the determination to go out there and just take what I want? Why do I feel like I'm going nowhere, fast?

I wish I was more like Betty Suarez.

Day 17: favourite quote

they’ve come here to dance, drawn sideways from their route home by the music and by bravado, and now they are hesitating, unsure of how to begin, unfamiliar with the steps, embarrassed...they dance, and he smiles and nods and thinks of his wife sleeping at home, and thinks of when they were young and might still have done something like this... but here, as the dawn sneaks up on the last day of summer, and as a man with tired hands watches a young couple dance in the carpark of his restaurant, there are only these: sparkling eyes, smudged lipstick, fading starlight, the crunching of feet on gravel, laughter, and a slow walk home……

My favourite quote is from a book called ‘if nobody speaks of remarkable things’ by Jon Mcgregor and gives me goosebumps every single time. 'If nobody speaks…' is one of the most beautiful books I have read. I could probably just quote it from start to finish in this post but I won’t because that would be a very long post. I shall try to tell you instead why I love it so very much. It’s just….beautiful and clever and haunting and so wonderfully written that it makes you ache and as it slowly unfolds through the voices of two very distinct narrators it all but breaks your heart. Just writing this makes me want to go and read it again, to get lost in this poetic portrayal of all that is wonderful and terrible, of all that matters about life.

You know what, have another one. I don’t care if it’s against the rules!

He says my daughter, and all the love he has is wrapped up in the tone of his voice when he says those two words, he says my daughter you must always look with both of your eyes and listen with both of your ears. He says this is a very big world and there are many many things you could miss if you are not careful. He says there are remarkable things all the time, right in front of us, but our eyes have like the clouds over the sun and our lives are paler and poorer if we do not see them for what they are.

He says, if nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?

Day 16 – Favourite female character:


I'd have a stable full of Arabian steeds, rooms piled with books, and I'd write out of a magic inkstand, so that my works should be as famous as Laurie's music. I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle-something heroic, or wonderful-that won't be forgotten after I'm dead. I don't know what, but I'm on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all, some day. I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous; that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream.


I think every girl that ever read Little Women wanted to be Jo: creative, strong-minded and independent, how could you not? I certainly did, in fact, I actually thought I was her – after all we had the same name.

Even now, around 20 years after the first time I read Little Women (and the other books in the series) I still have a soft spot for Jo March. I spent a long long time admiring her, and still find her one of the characters I relate to the most today, maybe because the lines between the child I was and the child she was are a little blurry in my mind.
The reason I am known as Jo now, rather than Josephine, or the Josie my Mum always imagined being my being called is because of Jo March; the reason I dismissed Josie out of hand is because Jo March would have hated it; I cut my hair into a tomboy-ish crop and kept it as such until my late teens; like her I loved to spend hours hidden away with a book when I should be doing other things; I loved to write and dreamed of being published; I had a hot temper and I was stubborn. My cousin told me once after watching the Winona Ryder adapation that Jo reminded her of me; it’s one of the nicest things anybody has ever said to me. I can't think of another female character that I love as much as I love her.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

meanwhile, back in the real world...

Lifewise, not a lot has been happening. Aside from y'know, the premiere. Ha. I still can't get over that.

Ian and I disappeared to Cornwall for a week in the middle of last month. That was nice. We stopped in a gorgeous little beach hut just outside of St Ives and spent our days mooching around little fishing villages and eating seafood and cuddling up in bed reading (me) and playing on the iPad (Ian), it was very nice. We also took in a production of Madam Butterfly at the Minack Theatre.
Seriously, if you're ever in Cornwall, you have to do this. It's amazing. The Minack, if you don't know, is an open air theatre carved out of a cliff and it has the most spectacular views. The seats are basically just stone, some have a bit of grass growing out of them (if you're lucky) and you sit, or perch, on your little bit of stone with legs behind you and legs in front of you and if you're short like me then your legs don't quite touch the ground so by the interval you're aching and the play/musical/opera is performed against a backdrop of the ocean and crashing waves. It's breathtaking. You can hire little foldway seats for £1 to give you a bit of back support; I am so glad we did that, and we bought ponchos for £1.99 to protect against the weather which wasn't great. All of that, plus the ticket came to £11. Not bad for a night of culture. It was pretty good too, although it had been translated to English, which was random and quite possibly took away from the drama and passion of the piece. Things don't sound quite as dramatic in English and there's something quite amusing about hearing people sing about having a catch up tomorrow. We may or may not have gotten the giggles. Whoops.

It was a lovely break, even the less than fabulous weather for 60% of the time didn't spoil it.

Since we've come back we're focussing on sorting out our house. We are so rock and roll. We've also been spending lots of time with our lovely friends and took our gorgeous God-Daugher (or rather, one of our gorgeous God-Daughters) to Chester Zoo for her birthday on Saturday which was fun. Emily will be 7 at weekend and is a little ray of sunshine, we had a lovely time.
The rest of the month looks like being just as busy. We're supposed to be taking our Camper up to the Lakes this weekend for a weekend of camping with friends; we have plans for dinner with an old friend of Ian; a day of fun with Helen and my brother and other such fun stuff.

I had also hoped to meet up with Jen in Oxford, for a good old catch up and a cocktail to celebrate her book deal but I don't think I can afford that at the moment, not until I have gotten the month of birthdays and MOTs out of the way anyway. This makes me sad. However. I will see her this year come hell or high water or bankruptcy - that Jen, if you're reading this is a promise, a published on the t'interweb, actual promise.

Anyway, yup, you read that right: my pal Jen has a book deal and I am so proud because she is so good and works so hard and she deserves this more than anybody. Jen works in an (amazing) bookshop in Highgate and to say she gets some slightly eccentric customers would be an understatement. A while ago she started noting these little anecdotes on her blog, here: Jen's lovely blog
Due to Jen's wonderful style and her way with words (check out her other work via the links on her blog; she's an amazingly good writer) it wasn't long before things took off and soon she was featured in the Huffington Post and being tweeted and blogged about by Neil Gaiman(!!!) One thing led to another et voila: book deal. It's all very exciting and I am counting down the days til I can go into a book shop and see her book on the shelves (and buy ten copies and casually say to the cashier "she's a very good friend of mine you know...")
Those of you who know me personally can expect a copy of this for your next birthday!!

So yes, that's life in my world at the moment. Things are pretty good.

Day 15: your favourite male character:

Black was sprawled at the bottom of the wall. His thin chest rose and fell rapidly as he watched Harry walking slowly nearer, his wand pointing straight at Black's heart.
"Going to kill me, Harry?" he whispered.
Harry stopped right above him, his wand still pointing at Black's chest, looking down at him. A livid bruise was rising around Black's left eye and his nose was bleeding."You killed my parents," said Harry, his voice shaking slightly but his wand quite steady.
Black stared up at him out of those sunken eyes.
"I don’t deny it," he said very quietly. "But if you knew the whole story..”
I swear, I fell in love with Sirius from his very first page and I have loved him ever since. Warner Bros did such a good job of casting him in the movies because he looks just like Gary Oldman in my head.
I love how JK Rowling managed to develop Sirius's character in so few words - if you think about it, comparatively, he doesn't get much page time but still he makes such an impact and his story; Remus's story; the whole back story surrounding Remus and Sirius and The Marauders drew me in as much (if not more) as Harry, Ron and Hermione did. When a book had finished I could pretty much leave Harry and co where they'd left off, until next time. I could never do that with Sirius. I was always wondering what went on behind the scenes, after PoA, betweeen GoF and OotP? What was it like when he was at Hogwarts, or after he'd left? How was it really, in the first war? The little bit of story that JKR let me have of Sirius left me hungry for more. I loved Sirius and his story from the very beginning and I love it just as much now. I love him because he's gorgeous and clever and wise and funny and a little bit rebellious and never afraid to take a risk; in fact, Sirius lives for the risk – the first person to escape Azkaban, people, but let’s be honest here: he’s also arrogant (I’ve always found arrogant men attractive) and a little prone to making rash and careless decisions. It’s a very good job he had Remus around to prevent him from going completely off the rails. Sending him to Lupin’s was one of the best decisions Dumbledore made, but that’s a story for another day....
He’s fiercely loyal – to a fault, actually – and maybe naively he expects the same level of loyalty from everybody else:
"You don't understand!" whined Pettigrew, "He would have killed me, Sirius!"
"THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED!" roared Black. "DIED RATHER THAN BETRAY YOUR FRIENDS, AS WE WOULD HAVE DONE FOR YOU!”

And he’s brave. Stupidly brave. So brave that it cost him his life:
Only one couple were still battling, apparently unaware of the new arrival. Harry saw Sirius duck Bellatrix's jet of red light: He was laughing at her. "Come on, you can do better than that!" he yelled, his voice echoing around the cavernous room. The second jet of light hit him squarely on the chest. The laughter had not quite died from his face, but his eyes widened in shock.
[....]

It seemed to take Sirius an age to fall. His body curved in a graceful arc as he sank backward through the ragged veil hanging from the arch....
And Harry saw the look of mingled fear and surprise on his godfather's wasted, once-handsome face as he fell through the ancient doorway and disappeared behind the veil, which fluttered for a moment as though a high wind and then fell back into place.
He's pretty much everything he should be: he's just what the Harry Potter series needed, just what Harry needed, just what I needed.

I wonder if Ian would let me do this to our attic...

I’m thinking probably no, but still, a girl can dream. I think floor to ceiling bookshelves would look pretty. Pretty, pretty, pretty.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Day 14 –book from your favorite writer:

The Blind Assassin.

The last time she'd seen him, when they'd gone back to his room - it was like drowning: everything darkened and roared, but at the same time it was very silvery, and slow, and clear.
This is what it means, to be in thrall.”

I love all of Margaret Atwood’s work, or at least all that I’ve read, perhaps with the exception of Bodily Harm but The Blind Assassin has always been my favourite. It’s a gorgeous gorgeous book, exquisite and precise in it’s execution; bleak yet uplifting; brutally truthful and heartbreakingly passionate with Atwood’s trademark real, honest and human characters. It’s just wonderful and a very clever puzzle of a story – multiple stories within stories beginning with the narrator, Iris who is now an old lady, telling us about the day her sister Laura drove her car off a bridge just after WWII:

Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge. The bridge was being repaired: she went right through the Danger sign. The car fell a hundred feet into the ravine, smashing through the treetops feathery with new leaves, then burst into flames and rolled down into a shallow creek at the bottom. Chunks of the bridge fell on top of it. Nothing much was left of her but charred smithereens.
In a nutshell – although please bear in mind it’s actually so much more complex than this - the novel works through Iris’s life from her childhood onwards and cleverly intertwines it with Laura’s only novel “The Blind Assassin.” It’s hard to explain this book, or why I love it, without coming across as being jumbled and confused because unless you’ve been there then you can’t begin to understand: reading summaries of The Blind Assassin do it no justice at all and to try and explain the whole concept of the story within a story; about Iris and about Laura; about the love story; about Iris’s every day life; about Laura’s posthumous novel, it all just ends up sounding like overly-complicated nonsense. It’s not. It’s a unique idea that only somebody of Margaret Atwood’s talent could pull off, and pull it off she certainly does. It’s phenomenal. If you haven’t read this, then please please do; it’s not the easiest book you’ll ever read, or the quickest but I bet it’s one of the most rewarding.

"She’s the round O, the zero at the bone. A space that defines itself by not being there at all. That’s why they can’t reach her, lay a finger on her. That’s why they can’t pin anything on her. She has such a good smile, but she doesn’t stand behind it."