Thursday, 28 February 2013

Seen & heard: February


1. A Chorus Line
Emma, Leanne and I 'watched' this on a recent DVD and pizza night.  I say 'watched', because as is the way with these things we actually spent most of the time gossiping rather than concentrating on the film, but as I pretty much know it off by heart it didn't matter too much. 

2. Because I Said So
I saw this film ages ago but can't have remembered much about it, because on second viewing I HATED it!  Diane Keaton, usually so appealing and relatable on screen, plays just about the most irritating character I've ever had the displeasure to view: a controlling mother who won't stop interfering in her youngest daughter's (played by Mandy Moore) life.  This is a terrible waste of a great cast.

3. Warm Bodies
I loved this book when I read it in November, so I was super-excited about the film release (especially because it stars the extremely hot Nicholas Hoult).  The movie is pleasingly faithful to the book; one of the things I was worried about was how they'd fully capture the humour of R's philosophical musings on being a zombie, but the voiceover does a good job.  Funny, sweet, romantic, exciting, gory... this would be a perfect date movie (as long as your date isn't too squeamish). 

4. The New Normal
I've been really enjoying this new sitcom on E4, despite it's tendency to indulge in cheesy platitudes at the end of each episode.

5. Funny People
I thoroughly enjoyed this comedy-drama, written and directed by Judd Apatow and starring his usual roster or actors (wife Leslie Mann, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill).  Adam Sandler essentially plays himself: a former cult stand-up comedian turned big budget sell-out, when he is diagnosed with terminal cancer he starts to re-examine his life, with the help of wannabe comic Rogen.  It's long (146 minutes, to be precise) but well worth watching.

6. Martha Marcy May Marlene
I loved this insidiously creepy film when I saw it last year at the cinema, and enjoyed it almost as much second time around.  The ambiguous ending will keep you thinking for hours afterwards.


I was talking about music to my head of department the other day, and he was complaining that he hardly listens to female-fronted music anymore.  I have the opposite issue: at the moment I'm completely obsessed with female vocalists.

1. Jessie Ware's latest single, If You're Never Gonna Move, is totally my new jam.  I listen to it constantly, and I'm pretty sure everyone else in my department is sick to death of hearing it on repeat, but it is Such. A. Tune.

2. Don't Save Me by LA sisters Haim is still being played a lot round my way.

3. I finally found a copy of Lucy Rose's album (I'm doing my best to buy CDs only from indies, so no just clicking on 'Buy it now' on Amazon... I have to find a shop with what I want in stock, which is easier said than done it seems) and am loving it.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A peek inside: part 2

As Sarah pointed out in the comments to my last post, I am extremely lucky to live in a real, actual house.  Friends who reside in more expensive cities (so, every city other than Leicester then) get a bit green-eyed when they realise I have two living rooms, two bedrooms, a sewing nook... and all for not that much more than a deposit in London. 

Last week I took you for a peek around my front room.  This is a tour of my other living room: the room at the back of my house, where I hang out in the evenings watching TV or DVDs, and where I read in winter (the front room being far too chilly to spend much time in between November and April, sadly).

My beloved wood-burning stove does a good job of keeping a draughty house warm in winter.  This TV is the first one I've ever bought new: I had huge CRT hand-me-downs until very recently, my last one gave up the ghost and I splashed out on a brand new one.  The wooden mask over the fireplace is from Malaysia.

This room always felt a bit soulless until I had the shelves put up last summer.  They're home to travel and history books (on the far left of the bottom shelf you can see two copies of the biography that was written about my grandparents).  The soapstone head is, of course, from South Africa, and the black & white photograph on the top shelf is just titled, "Men dancing, Durban 1952".  I found it at Spitalfields Market years ago, and I love it.

This is seriously the best couch ever.  The range was discontinued by Ikea a few years ago, but if you ever come across an Ekeskog on eBay, BUY IT!  The cushions are topped with feathers so are super-snuggly, and the whole thing is long enough for my 6'2" boyfriend to lie down comfortably.  I love it so very, very much.

Horrible Ikea coffee table with (clockwise from top left) wooden candle holders from South Africa; Nelson Mandela Warhol-style coasters from... yep, South Africa; the woven basket from Lesotho, which used to belong to my Grandparents, is a useful home for remote controls; travel guides for my upcoming trips with The Boy; magazine and 'zine pile; amazing cloth napkin which my aunt Jenny sent me from South Africa, featuring various South African delicacies (including malva pudding, melk tart, bobotie, koeksisters... trust me when I say they are all yummy!).

The door leading through to my kitchen (which you will definitely not be getting a tour of: it's filthy!).  My favourite print - the Aardvark manifesto - can be seen on the wall, and propping the door open is Ellie the elephant.  Bet you can't guess where she comes from...

My cosy reading chair, complete with piles of cushions and blankets to snuggle into.  The heart cushion is made of Lewis tweed and was bought on Shetland; the tartan blanket is made from recycled wool and was found in a shop in Hay-On-Wye. 

Monday, 25 February 2013

February reads

After two months of really struggling with reading - not having much time to devote to it; not being able to concentrate when I did find time; not really getting in to any books - I'm extremely happy that February has marked a return to my usual reading habits. 

1. I adored Wonder, the funny, touching and ultimately uplifting tale of a ten year old boy with an extreme facial disfigurement who goes to school for the first time.  Very much recommended.

2. There is an insidiously creepy atmosphere to this Louisiana-set thriller.  A dead body is found near the former slave quarters of a historical plantation, and the scene is set for a mystery which reaches back into the unhappy history of the Deep South.  A cut (no pun intended) above my usual trashy crime novels; I enjoyed it very much.

3. I'm reading this, very reluctantly, for my book group.  In fact, I'm enjoying it so little that I may give up... anyone want to convince me it's worth persevering with?  So far, it's just page after page of banging on about animal behaviour and religion: possibly the two things I am least interested in.

4. Given to me by Richard as a late Christmas present, with the charming words, "it might be too difficult for you; there aren't many pictures."  Cheers for having faith in my intellectual capabilities, bro.  Viking Age Iceland was actually a very readable history of saga-era Iceland (and actually, there were lots of pictures.  I "oohed" out loud at one diagram of a 10th century longhouse because I'm a massive loser).

5.  Continuing the Iceland theme, I really enjoyed this account, by writer and literature professor Sarah Moss, of relocating to Reykjavik for a year with her family.  If you've ever visited the country and - like me - toyed with a romanticised idea of living there, this is a great read.

6. The last in a trilogy of crime thrillers by Peter May, all set in the Outer Hebrides: specifically, the Isle of Lewis.  Not terribly intellectual or demanding, but it passed the time.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

A peek inside

I am endlessly nosy and never tire of seeing photographs of bloggers' houses.  It's always fascinating to see how writers I have a lot in common with may differ from me when it comes to interior decoration, but I don't often post photographs of my own place.  So when Louise posted her living room tour on Monday, I knew straight away that I fancied doing something similar.

I am lucky enough to live in what is pretty much my dream house.  Five years ago, if you'd asked me to write a description of the home I wanted, I would have described a Victorian terrace with a front yard (rather than fronting straight onto the street), a step up to the front door (weird I know, but I always wanted one!), stripped wooden floorboards, open fires, original features like cast iron fireplaces and ceiling roses.  I got all of those things, and more, although the further you get into my house, the more it deviates from my 'dream house' template.  My kitchen and bathroom are still in the same, erm, slightly 'grubby' state as when I bought the place four years ago, but I've never had the money to do anything (or, more accurately, whenever I've had the money I've gone travelling instead!).

I actually have two living rooms; preferring to not lose one of the two downstairs rooms to a rarely-used dining room, I use the front room as a reading and music room, and the back room as a cosier TV room.  This is my front room, which is a sunny, bright space in summer and a somewhat chillier proposition in winter.

When I walked into this room on my first viewing, my eye was immediately drawn to the imposing tiled fireplace and lovely stripped floorboards.  So much so, that I managed to overlook the fact that the walls were bright yellow.  My first job on taking posession of the keys was to get a gang of friends together and slap on layers and layers of white emulsion.  I love having a white background against which to display my favourite things, like this fabulous starburst mirror (a fiver in the Matalan sale!  Bargain).

My unread book pile (non-fiction only - novels are a whole other shelf upstairs), plus my lovely vintage rotary dial phone, which actually works but is never plugged in because I don't have a landline.

Terrible, blurry photograph of my beloved wall of books.  My absolute number one essential for a house is: is there space for an entire wall of shelves?  The books in this room are organised according to an arcane system only discernible to myself.  The shelves are also home to the objet d'art (otherwise known as random crap) that I collect: Buddha statues, soapstone African carvings, a set of Russian dolls, a giant pinecone. 

Vintage film posters, bought from a street market in Manhattan, adorn the walls.

I don't actually like purple all that much, but it just seems to work well in this room.  The Victorian features called for fairly traditional furnishings, although the cross-stitch cushion on the chair says "Bollocks", because I find swearing amusing.  So mature.
Never has a truer word been spoken.  This hangs next to my front door, so I see it and smile every morning as I leave for work.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

A letter to my past self

A few weeks ago Sarah wrote this brilliant post about how her past, present, and future selves might differ.  It immediately got the old cogs turning...

February 1993
I was fourteen years old: gawky, awkward, totally ill-at-ease*.  My parents were in the process of splitting up and I had found out in January that my mum was a lesbian (note in diary that night: "how can she do this to me?  I have so much to worry about already, like I'm sure Lamin [boy I fancied] looked at me yesterday!"  Ah, the self-absorption of youth).  I was beginning to lose interest in studying relentlessly, or at least beginning to realise that my school was so lacking in intellectual challenge that there was no point trying.  I listened to a lot of Take That and East 17, wore baggy denim shirts over black leggings with Doc Marten boots, and spent endless amounts of time fretting over whether my best friends really liked me or not.  When I thought of the future, all I dreamt of was escaping Bradford.  Going to university was a given, and I imagined that I would finally find my kindred spirits there.

*These things are all still true, actually, but I've become much better at hiding them behind behing a veneer of self-confidence.

February 2003
University having failed entirely to offer up kindred spirits, I'd looked instead to the alternative music scene in Leicester and had spent the past five years entirely immersed in a night-time world of clubs, gigs and parties, working two or three jobs to make ends meet and spending every spare moment with my gang of friends.  In 2003 I was living with my then-best friend, Becky, in her terraced house, where we spent a lot of time watching America's Next Top Model, drinking cheap white wine from the Co-op, and becoming embroiled in a feud with our neighbour due to his weekly drumming circles.  By the age of 24 I was beginning to tire of the party lifestyle and had decided (based largely, I'm afraid, on repeated viewings of Teachers) to try out a new career.  In February 2003 I was in the process of applying for a place on the PGCE course.  I was coming out of an eight year period of depression and medication and I had also - finally - moved on from the incredibly toxic guy on whom I had wasted most of my early twenties.  If asked where I'd be in ten years time, I would have hoped to be teaching and living nearer to home in Yorkshire, in my own house, and travelling a lot during my holidays.

February 2013
I'm somewhat baffled by the fact that I will be 35 in a few months; isn't that, like, well old?  I do not feel old, or all that more mature (my sense of humour still skews towards the 'puerile teenage boy' school of comedy), but I do feel a lot more sorted and - dare I say it - happier than I did at 24.  The last decade has seen me lose some old friends, gain many brilliant new ones, become a teacher, buy a house, learn to drive, do a lot of travelling... all the things 24 year old me would have hoped for.  When I put it like that, I feel pretty damn proud.  I'm currently annoyingly loved-up with a gorgeous boy, spending a lot of time shuttling between Leicester and the continent to visit him.  Ah yes, about that... the only thing I didn't manage to achieve in the last decade was leaving Leicester.  I tried... oh how I tried, but it wasn't to be, so I've made my home here and made my peace with that fact (for now, anyway!).

That being said, when I wrote to my future self I expressed a hope that I would finally - by the age of 44 - have escaped the gravitational pull of the East Midlands.  I'd be interested to know whether I'll still be teaching, as I go through phases of loving my job and then there are times when I hate it.  But, like Sarah, I'm quite happy to take life as it comes over the next decade. 

During the past twelve months I've started to address some massive questions in my life: do I want kids?  Do I want to be in a relationship?  Is a debt-free life attainable?  (Answers so far: no, yes, maybe)  It'll be fascinating to see whether those answers remain the same over the next decade.  What I'm most interested to find out in 2023, though, is whether I finally feel any more adult than I did at 14, 24 and 34.  I kind of hope that the answer is "no" and that, like Peter Pan, I never grow up.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Music Monday Q&A: Richard

Have you ever experienced the feeling of teaching and nurturing someone, only to have them surpass you?  That's how I feel about music fandom and my brother, Richard.  As the older sibling, in our teens I influenced and guided his tastes as much as he would let me.  Over the years, the situation has reversed and he now influences and guides me far more.  It's a standing joke that he introduced me to most of my recent favourite bands... and that I insisted most of them were crap on first listen.  But - apart from an inexplicable liking for the Fiery Furnaces and equally inexplicable dislike of Beirut - his taste is impeccable, and I've been badgering him to do a Q&A for me for ages. 

If anyone else fancies doing a Music Monday guest post, give me a shout in the comments!

What’s the first record (single or album) that you bought?
I’m horrified and ashamed to reveal the answer is Ten Good Reasons by Jason Donovan.  Undoubtedly his best work though.
I can still remember Richard listening to this album.  He also had a childhood fondness for Jive Bunny.
What was the first gig you went to?
REM in Huddersfield for their Monster tour.  I was taken along by my sister and her friends (who I’m sure were thrilled to have a 13 year old boy with them).  I don’t remember too much about the gig, other than being surrounded by Beautiful South fans (who were one of the support acts) and being bought a poster and T-shirt by Janet.
What song reminds you of being a teenager?
Anything from Monster, Fables Of The Reconstruction or Document by REM (they were the first three REM albums I owned).
How would you sum up your music tastes, in terms of genre?  Have your tastes changed over the years?
I mainly like American music nowadays.  I guess I’d sum it up as Indie-Americana-Folk-Noise-Rock.  I don’t think my tastes have changed much.  The first band I ever really got into was REM, and everything else I’ve got into has been a result of that initial REM infatuation.  It could have been so different though.  When I bought my first REM album (Monster) it was a toss-up between that and a Bon Jovi album – it was on the advice of my sister (thanks Janet!!) that I chose REM.  I shudder to think how my life would have been if I’d become a Bon Jovi fan instead.
Which songs will always get you on the dance floor?
I don’t dance.  Dancing’s for losers.  Plus, being white, male and heterosexual I think there’s some kind of law against it.  However, if I did decide to live dangerously and break this law, I would probably choose Don’t Be A Dropout by James Brown.
What are your top five favourite albums or artists of all time?
In no particular order:
1) Yo La Tengo
I love Yo La Tengo.  I love them for many reasons.  I love them because they appeared in The Gilmore Girls (which I am only partly ashamed to say I’m a fan of – as a great man once said, ‘Good is good’ (coincidence #1: that great man was the bass player from Yo La Tengo; coincidence #2: he was talking about The Gilmore Girls)).  I love them because they named a song after a joke from The Simpsons.  I love them because they once performed an entire episode of Seinfeld in lieu of a support act.  I love them because they’re the only band in which I can lose myself – forget all my troubles and just immerse myself in their music.  I love them because they have a female drummer (I surefire sign of a great band).  I love them because they just seem like nice, normal people.
They come top in most ‘best ever’ lists I can think of: Best song (The Story Of Yo La Tango); Best cover version (You Can Have It All); Best instrumental (I Heard You Looking); Best guitar solo (Pablo & Andrea); Best album title (I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Kick Your Ass); Best album artwork (Popular Songs); Best song title (Deeper Into Movies); Best music video (Sugarcube).
The comments on YouTube are usually a showcase for the very worst of humanity, but I saw something on there that just summed up how I feel about Yo La Tengo beautifully: ‘All my friends said “What is THAT?” Me? All I could say was “Can’t you FEEL it?!’.  Yes I can xbxbear. Yes I can.
2) Sufjan Stevens
I think he’s an incredible artist: musician, songwriter, lyricist, producer, the works.  Even his more experimental projects are better than most artists could dream of.  But at the top of his game he’s the best songwriter in the world today, and Illinois is the greatest album of the 21st century.
3) Boards Of Canada
I find their music strangely moving.  There’s an emotional depth that I thought was impossible for electronica.
4) The Beach Boys
Brian Wilson is undoubtedly the greatest genius in the history of popular music.  It’s incredible to consider that he was only 23 when Pet Sounds came out.  What could he have achieved if not for the drugs and mental health issues?  I find the Beatles vs. Beach Boys debate a bit unfair given that The Beatles had Lennon, McCartney and George Martin (and Harrison), whereas Brian Wilson was basically doing everything himself (with his bandmates often a hindrance).
5) Saint Etienne
I’m not choosing Saint Etienne per se, but the phenomenon of rediscovering an artist after many years.  I’ve got a lot of CDs (over 1000 albums at last count – and yes, I do occasionally count them) and most of the time I listen to the same 5%.  But sometimes I’ll pick out a CD that hasn’t been listened to for a while, which usually triggers a week or two of frenzied immersion in some band or other, only to then forget them for another 5 years.  Saint Etienne have been the most recent recipients of this honour.  But a quick word on Saint Etienne anyway: they’re a national institution and their best songs are Nothing Can Stop Us, Like A Motorway and Avenue.
Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to music?
Does The Beach Boys count as a guilty pleasure?  I guess the early stuff (Fun, Fun, Fun and the like) probably does.
If you could sum yourself up in one song or lyric, what would it be?
I have no idea.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Half term travels

1. & 2. On the way to Nijmegen;
3. & 4. Political graffitti art on the walls of the vegan cafe downstairs from The Boy's abode;
5. Gracie playing in the park in Brighouse, West Yorkshire;
6. Don't get excited!  As the only daughter of the only daughter, I've had the privilege of being entrusted with my late Granny's beautiful diamond engagement ring, and have enjoyed wandering around with massive rocks on my finger.
As you can tell from this and other recent posts, I'm slipping back into bad habits: relying on my phone and Instagram rather than using my camera.  Must do better, Janet.  It's been a good half term though: DVDs and pizza with friends to start it off, then five wonderful (but bloody cold) days in the Netherlands with The Boy, culminating in a fabulously romantic Valentines Day walk through Amsterdam in the snow.  Finally, I've spent the weekend at home at my mum's house.  She and my step-mum have just returned from my Granny's funeral in Cape Town,and we - and my brothers - enjoyed sharing stories and memories of my grandparents and looking through old photographs, letters and documents.  It's at times like these that we all find it hard to be living on a different continent to pretty much everyone in our extended family.  And it's back to school tomorrow... boo.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Hello and goodbye

I made a promise to be better with blogging once The Boy left, and that hasn't really come to pass.  The past couple of weeks have been hectic and I haven't had much chance to take photographs or to sit down and write. 

1. Treating myself to sushi on my day off; 2. A hint of spring in my kitchen;
3. Graffitti on the toilet door in a London pub; 4. Eurostar tickets - yay!
So what have I been up to? Well, I've...
- spent a fun weekend in London, shopping for my bridesmaid dress with my best friend - and soon-to-be-bride - Cara.  And so what if we did spend half of the ten-hour trip in the pub?  That's still five solid hours of dress shopping, and we were in dire need of liquid refreshment;
- enjoyed sharing meals, cinema trips, cups of tea and DVD nights with friends;
- 'learnt' to crochet at craft club: turns out it is not my forte;
- had a cuddle with my friend's six week old baby boy (always a scary proposition: I'm not really a baby person);
- visited my mum prior to her departure for my Granny's funeral in Cape Town;
- booked my train to Paris in April (I'm already excited!);
- got back into going to the gym, after a long break;
- baked yummy vegan lemon cake and made some delicious vegan curries.  Quite why I'm still cooking vegan food when The Boy isn't here is a mystery.

And tomorrow - snow permitting - I fly off to the Netherlands for five days in Nijmegen, so this is goodbye for a week.  Have a good one!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Reviewing my to-do list

Change was the theme of last year; my goal at the start of 2012 was to make drastic changes to my life by leaving Leicester for America.  When that all fell through, I took a look at how I could make smaller changes to enhance my life here.  My resolutions - made in July - have been variously successful and, six months on, I thought now was a good time to review them.

1. Appreciate and enjoy my city. 
What I said then: When I was trying to 'sell' Leicester to the teacher due to come here from the US, it made me really appreciate the good things about my adopted city. From great independent shops, to an amazing arthouse cinema and cutting edge theatre, to lovely countryside a short journey away, I am resolved to take advantage of the many things Leicester has to offer (and stop moaning about the bad things).
What I've achieved: I've done well on this.  Regular trips to the independent cinema, Phoenix Arts, and to the incredible Curve theatre have helped me gain a new perspective on Leicester's Cultural Quarter (oh ok, when I say 'new perspective', I really mean I like the bars there).  I've been making more of an effort to explore the hidden corners of the city and have been pleasantly surprised with how much loveliness there is hidden away.  And of course, we now have good old Richard III to be proud of!
Grade: A
The Cathedral Quarter, Leicester, one sunny September day

2. Appreciate and enjoy my country. 
What I said then: I picked up The Rough Guide To Great Britain the other day, and it made me realise how many amazing places there are in the UK that I've never been to. Some day trips and weekend jaunts are in order, and top of my list are Brighton, Winchester, Totnes and Dartmoor.
What I've achieved: Definite fail on this one.  Lack of money plus lack of time plus too many days off or weekends spent with hangovers (see above my comment about the bars in Leicester!) have meant I've been really rubbish at exploring.  One to focus on this year.
Grade: E

3. Appreciate and enjoy Europe. 
What I said then: It's been years since I took advantage of England's proximity to the continent, so instead of dreaming about the travelling I could have been doing in America, I'm going to start planning trips to the cities and countries on my doorstep.
What I've achieved: My three days in Amsterdam in October were lovely, but they made me realise I was sick of solo travel.  Ah well, 2013 is going to find me spending quite a bit of time in Europe - Nijmegen again next week, Paris in April, back to Nijmegen in May, Brussels in July followed by, you guessed it, Nijmegen again - and this time, I won't be alone.
Grade: B-

 The Jordaan, Amsterdam, in October

4. Get my house in order. 
What I said then: You know all those niggly little jobs that need doing around the house? The ones you live with, but that really bug you when you look too hard? I'm going to sort them out. Shelves will be put up, front doors painted, kitchen worktops replaced... if I can only find the number of the handyman.
What I've achieved: I am immensely proud of my front door, which was sanded, primed and painted all by my fair hand.  The shelves have indeed been put up, and I have grand plans for the living room.... watch this space.
Grade: B

5. Buy a bike and ride it. 
What I said then: Self-explanatory, this one.
What I've achieved: I finally bought a bike (with the financial aid of my brothers and their birthday gift) last month.  Since when, it has been sitting - still in its big cardboard box - in the hallway, waiting for me to have the time/energy/inclination to open it and put it together. 
Grade: C+

6. Take more photographs. 
What I said then: Stop feeling so self-conscious about taking photos in public. Accept that, at first, they will be crap but that I will get better. Persevere.
What I've achieved: Sarah has been a fantastic help with this target; the Image Association project giving me something to focus on every fortnight and helping me to be less self-concious about taking photographs. 
Grade: B

 New Walk, Leicester, on a bonus day off school in January
7. Work less, live more. 
What I said then: I've already made moves to sort this one out; I've asked to reduce my hours at work, taking one day a fortnight off. Hopefully the small reduction in salary will be more than made up for by the extra time to do what I please.
What I've achieved: Having one day off a fortnight started well; I baked, shopped, did DIY, went hiking, took photographs...  Then we hit November, and it all went a bit pear-shaped when I discovered the joys of a Monday evening night out.  My last few days off before Christmas were spent feeling hungover... oops.  However, if the freedom to go out with The Boy or with my friends on a weekday is what I gain from the day off, then that's fine with me.
Grade: A
8. Be a better teacher. 
What I said then: I really hope that reducing my hours slightly will give me energy to have fewer of the lazy, "let's make a poster," lessons and more of the good ones. 
What I've achieved: Amazingly, this is exactly what has come to pass.  I feel a huge deal more energised at school and am really appreciating the incredible young people I have the honour to work with.  This time last year, I was hating my job.  One of the biggest and most positive changes since making these resolutions has been falling back in love with teaching.
Grade: B+
9. Get a new tattoo. 
What I said then: I've been talking about adding to my collection for a year now, and although I'm still somewhat lacking in inspiration (I liked Richard's suggestion of having a polka dot sleeve tattooed on, but am a little worried about what would happen when/if I go off polka dots!) I'm determined to decide on a design soon.
What I've achieved: Tattoo in haste, repent at leisure.  I'm very glad I didn't rush into having another piece, as the more I've considered it the more I'm realising that I do not, in fact, want another one.
Grade: A very relieved E

10. Try and work out where to go next.
What I said then: In a metaphorical rather than physical sense. I am uncomfortably aware that, at 34, this is the point where I need to start making decisions. Do I want to settle down and find the man or woman of my dreams? Do I want to pursue the idea of working abroad? Do I want babies at some point? Do I want to study more? At the moment, my answer to all of these is, "yeah, kinda... I'm not sure... maybe?". I need to spend some time deciding on my priorities and making them happen.
What I've achieved: I found autumn difficult, because I was doing a lot of thinking and some of what I was coming up with was not particularly pleasant to realise.  But I think sorting my head out a bit - which included realising that I was commited to staying in Leicester and making my life here work out - meant I could open myself up to new experiences and opportunities in a way I perhaps wouldn't have been able to six months ago.  Do I know the answer to all of those questions I was asking six months ago?  No.  But does that matter?  No. 
Grade: B

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

11 things

Louise at Nekomentsu very kindly nominated me for the Leibster blog award, which is designed to promote small blogs with fewer than 200 followers.  The rules of the award are:
  • List 11 random facts about yourself
  • Answer the 11 questions which are given to you by your nominator
  • Ask 11 new questions for all the bloggers that you nominate to win the award
  • Nominate bloggers with 200 followers or less
  • Go to each of the bloggers pages and let them know about their nomination
So, first to answer Louise's questions:

1. If you could be any animal, which would you be and why?
A cat: they seem to lead such lovely lives, basically curling up and sleeping for 20 hours a day, punctuated by periods of eating too much and running around like a loon.
2. Who is your TV show/film doppelganger?
My dad's girlfriend has this random idea that I look like Dani Harmer, aka Tracey Beaker.  But I really don't. 
3. Can you speak other languages? If so, teach me a phrase please!
Despite getting an A for GCSE, I can't recall a word of German. 
4. If you could only wear one colour for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Blue.  I wear a lot of navy and dark blue when I'm being me, and when I'm teaching I like teal and turquoise shades.
5. Who is your favourite fictional cat?
Garfield, because we share a birthday (19th June - and he was even 'born' the same year as me) and because he loves lasagne and hates dogs as much as I do.
6. Sum up today in a song lyric please.
"I'll pretend that I'm kissing/the lips that I'm missing/and hope that my dreams come true," from All My Loving by The Beatles.  Six more days till I see The Boy, and it's all I can think about.
7. What is your favourite biscuit?
Terribly boring, but I love ginger nuts.
8. What is your favourite nail polish?
Right, this is a good place to make a confession.  I don't get this obsession with nail polish.  Most blogs I read are awash with nail art fans.  Life is too short, and my nails are too short and crappy, to faff around with that stuff.
9. Tell me about your worst holiday.
I don't think I've ever had a truly terrible holiday (or if I have, I've blocked it out).  Sorry, boring answer.
10. What is your life motto?
My mum shared a wonderful Helen Keller quote with me recently: "Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all," and I have tried to keep it in mind ever since.
11. What words or phrases do you overuse?
Amazing, fuck, dude. I call everyone 'dude', even my boyfriend. I love the word 'fuck' but have to watch my mouth at work, for obvious reasons. And at the moment, everything is 'amazing' or 'amaze', which irritates me but I can't seem to stop it.
Bonus: Do you like cats?
I do, but I'm allergic to them.

Me and my mum, for some reason posed as if for a local newspaper photographer covering a diplomatic visit. 
Long-time readers will realise that this is the first time I've posted an actual, proper, not-blurry or of-my-feet photograph of myself.  I thought it was time.  Also, my hair does not look like this anymore.

For my 11 facts I've cheated slightly and used some questions which I think I actually nicked from Louise's blog ages ago, and that have been languishing in my draft folder ever since.

1. Radio 1 or Classic FM?
Both.  I quite enjoy listening to Classic FM on the way to work, because I am old and too much noise upsets me first thing in the morning.  I also love Scott Mills on Radio 1, and am enjoying Nick Grimshaw's new tenure of the breakfast show. But at home, 6 Music is what I listen to most often, especially Steve Lamacq's late afternoon show, which I usually have on as I potter in the kitchen, cook dinner, or sit and blog.
2. Favourite tipple?
Aspalls or Thatchers cider.  Yum.
3. What super power would you have?
The ability to speak confidently to strangers would immeasurably improve my life.
4. All time favourite song?
This is so hard to answer! I can't narrow it down to one, and I think even five will be difficult, but I'll give it a go:
Impossible Soul by Sufjan Stevens
Hummer byThe Smashing Pumpkins
Cosmia by Joanna Newsome (although Only Skin is equally as brilliant)
While You Wait For The Others by Grizzly Bear (those harmonies!)
Grown Ocean by Fleet Foxes
5. Perfect Sunday?
It would involve a long lie-in, but I'd miraculously not sleep half the day away, (which I hate doing).  I'd have pancakes for breakfast while reading the bits of The Guardian I hadn't managed the day before. It would be a sunny day, so I'd go out hiking in the Peak District with my brother and we'd spend the time making lists a la Rob in High Fidelity. There'd be time for a pub lunch with some good cider, maybe a visit to a secondhand bookshop, then home to cuddle up with The Boy. I'd light the fire and sit and read while he cooked dinner... and on a truly perfect Sunday, I wouldn't have to get up for work the next morning!
6. Tea or coffee?
Tea all the way. I love coffee flavoured things - like cake or chocolates - but can't stand actual coffee, whereas I don't really function until I've had my cup of tea in the morning.
7. Ideal dinner party guests?
Even though everyone says this, I'd invite Nelson Mandela plus my late Grandpa, Theo (who knew Mandela so that'd making the seating plan easier!), Thomas Cromwell, Hilary Mantel (they can sit together), and Joseph Gordon Levitt. After all, I need someone to sit with...!
8. Best piece of advice?
From my mum, four years ago: "you should buy a house." She was right, it's the best thing I ever did.
9. What would you do with one million pounds?
The amount of free time that I spend pondering this question is ridiculous (especially given the fact that I don't play the lottery, so have no chance - however infinitesimally tiny - of ever getting my hands on such a sum).  I would do much the same as anyone else, I imagine.  Pay off my debts (and those of my family), donate some to charity (to the inspiring educational charities along the Wild Coast in South Africa), and then... party!
10. What one word best describes you?
Strictly speaking it's two words - 'space cadet'. It's ridiculous how stupid I can be, considering I'm actually pretty intelligent. I definitely lack common sense and struggle with logic.
11. What infuriates you?
On a mundane level: lorry drivers who overtake on dual carriageways. Hey! Driver! You're limited to the same speed as them, so it will take you eons to overtake and you will cause a queue of traffic a mile long! On a more important note, women who say they aren't feminists drive me up the wall. I want to say, "oh, in that case why don't you pack in your job and never wear trousers again and stop taking birth control and give up the vote". Don't take all the advantages that feminism has bestowed upon you but then refuse to recognise them as anything other than hard-won and fairly tenuously held.

As for nominations, I don't think I regularly read any blogs (barring Louise's) with fewer than 200 followers, which is a bit crap of me.  So anyone who wants to answer the 11 questions above is more than welcome to have a crack.