Tuesday, 20 December 2011 0 comments

We wish you a merry Quansanukahmas...

Our letterboxes are full of 'Gifts for Him and Her' brochures (not to mention the ever-present adverts for by-one-get-one-free pizza), the TV seems to be working as a sales representative for DFS, and the Capital has come to a standstill after 3 flakes of snow; it can only mean one thing: the holiday season is upon us once again. It is funny how every year the country seamlessly slips into the festive mindset, brainwashing us through every possible medium that our freezers must be stocked entirely with food from Iceland. Although it is comforting to spend this season at home, for many of us it represents an opportunity to escape and travel to warmer climates.

The concept, I have to agree, is rather appealing. Lounging on a deckchair, basking in the warmth of the sun's rays with a cooling breeze washing over your face is hardly a scenario we get to enjoy back in London. This bliss is heightened by the knowledge that, whilst you are slowly frying on the beach, you have left many behind who are now freezing in the winter snow. However, if any of you have ever travelled with family, you know that this is not the case. Within 10 minutes of arrival, the bickering quickly ensues. Moving the cases, unpacking the cases, sorting out the clothes, making sleeping arrangements, not one of these activities could be done with the slightest hint of cooperation at home, so why do we think that it makes a difference abroad?

Once everything is settled down, however, the holiday fun can finally begin. From my experience this turns out to be little different to what we do at home: sit, argue, and eat. Come to think of it, it is amazing how much food we get through on holiday. On a normal morning my breakfast would consist of a couple of bowls of cereal, maybe a few eggs on a Sunday, and that's me set till lunch. However, when presented with a buffet of a magnitude of delicious foods, I cannot contain my excitement and suddenly become six years old again. Running round and marveling at the vast array of culinary creations, I insist on eating a bit of everything that I set eyes on. I should probably have a few boundaries though; apparently it isn't acceptable to start eating from other people's plates and I should 'get off my lazy bottom and get some for myself'. This horrific (yet delicious) display of gluttony is extremely ironic considering how hundreds prepare for their holidays: dieting. After months spent starving themselves to gain that hallowed 'bikini body', the temptation for many proves too much. Each morning at breakfast, families will come down and sit tensely in their seats, trying desperately to avoid eye contact with the platters of pastries. After a few days, however, they will eventually break and adopt the 'scientifically documented' view that 'calories don't count when...'

Personally, I do not see the point in this self-destructive cycle. I'd much rather come away on holiday and be able to eat what I want rather than sit self-consciously by the pool holding my stomach in for eight hours a day. But ultimately, which ever approach you have to your holidays, be it the stress of looking after children, counting the thousands of calories of ice-cream that you will inevitably consume, or purely for that enjoyment factor, we British do like our winter breaks. Eventually, when the time comes and you happen to be stumbling through an airport at some ungodly hour, you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of burnt, tired, yet still smiling families carrying excessive amounts of luggage as they return home from what will have been a typically British holiday.
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 0 comments

Home comforts

We British like to complain. A lot. If we are not provided with sufficient material for our daily prarffarrflargnd at the morning's headlines (a rare occurrence), we have a rather sizeable arsenal to fuel our rants. Be it the weather, the economy, fuel prices, public transport, politics, or perhaps most importantly, the football, the common denominator for all the above revolves around the country we call home. For most of my life I have eagerly joined in with this thoroughly unpatriotic mockery, but over recent months spent abroad, I have had a small change of heart. I do heavily stress my use of the word small (old habits die hard and all), but whilst isolated from Blighty, have I actually discovered a residue of patriotism within me?

The short answer, I think, is no. Sorry. But I will go as far though as to say this: I am indeed very nostalgic. I miss the accent. I miss people driving on the CORRECT side of the road (I'm sorry, but just because you drive on the right doesn't make it 'right'). I miss the constant drizzle. I miss our two days of summer. And strangely, I also miss the typical British rudeness. Here I can ask a stranger for directions and instead of coming face to face with a man who is looking at me as if I have just farted, I stand a good chance of receiving an answer. The reliability and usefulness of the answer, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. There are probably plenty of other things that I haven't got round to mentioning. But I think that there is one thing I miss the most: I miss complaining about not liking any of the things I have mentioned above.
Tuesday, 22 November 2011 3 comments

"If I was a superhero who could fly and be invisible, that would be the best..."

Ah yes, superheroes. The subject of many children's, and indeed some adult's dreams. At some stage in our long or short lives, each one of us has had this discussion with ourselves: "if I had a superpower, what would it be?" and it is this question which shall be the topic for today's blog.

Although each of us are unique, the primary basis of the decision can be split into three main categories: domestic uses and enjoyment, the ability to do good, and the ability to do evil. I sincerely hope that nobody reading this would base their decision around the latter, but the choice between the first two options is where most of us will struggle. Obviously the correct approach would be to instantly go for the selfless route towards heroism, throwing caution to the wind and dedicating one's life to the greater good. Not to mention sacrificing one's dignity and donning an unflatteringly tight costume and forgetting what order to put on your underwear. However, this is only an ideal and for many of us (myself included), the lure of a supernatural ability is far too tempting to not focus even slightly of the personal benefits that might come from it. 

When having this discussion with a certain someone (see, I don't just ramble, I do research for these posts too!), they mentioned how mind reading would be their preferred power. Although I cannot say that this gift would not be useful on some occasions, in fact, I can think of a few specific situations when I would have given anything for it, I am not so keen on it. Not only would it be highly invasive to enter the private thought space of another person (I strongly pity anybody who enters mine), but you might discover things that you never wanted to uncover. For me, ignorance is bliss. Furthermore, it does not cover the main area that a superhero needs to address: transportation. There is no use having the ability to stop a crime when you will have to use the infamously unreliable London public transport system to make your way there. Waiting in brightly coloured tights for several hours for a bus that is meant to come every 12 minutes isn't exactly the material for a blockbuster superhero film.  

As some of you may have picked up (if you are as dedicated to watching Friends as me), the title is hand picked from many of the great lines of Chandler Muriel Bing. If we temporarily ignore his greed at picking two powers, his logic seems well thought through. He too has deduced the issue of transportation and addressed it by wishing for flight, and that too would be the power I would pick. The feeling of pure freedom, the ability to escape from earth's gravitational pull and move in whichever way your heart desires; I can't see why any other option would be considered, let alone why mind reading would ever enter into the equation.

Right, I think that pretty much concludes the longest and most thought through hypothetical debate that I have ever had, so I guess I should be going now. Until the next time, up up and away! 
Tuesday, 4 October 2011 0 comments

I had a dream!

"'Tell me one last thing,' said Harry. 'Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?'
Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry's ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.
'Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?'"

Now, beginning a post with a quote, and a quote from Harry Potter at that does seem strange, especially considering that throughout my entire education I was warned against doing so and had to painstakingly follow the 'point, quote, comment' method. Whoops. 5 points from Gryffindor I guess. But there is some method to my madness.

We all dream whether it be in our sleep or not. I don't think anybody can say that their mind has never wandered off on a tangent at one point or another (in my case, this is quite a regular occurrence). This often brings a welcome distraction to the monotony of reality, providing a brief escape from the limits of the physical world, allowing us to swim in our imaginations and fantasise to our hearts' content.

However, there has always been a clouded barrier between reality and our dreams. Inevitably, either our alarms will go off, teachers will inconveniently interrupt us (often incorrectly insisting that their drivel is much more important), or our subconscious reminds us that it does not look normal to stare blankly at a light switch for a prolonged period of time. Subsequently, our daydream comes to an end, dragging us back down to reality and filling us with a deep sense of longing to return.

Having set out my preliminary idea, I feel it is now time to explain the extract from The Deathly Hallows. As Dumbledore says, who can say that dreams are not real or cannot be achieved? Ultimately, everything we consider to be reality was a product of a dream. Material goods, inventions, concepts, and even the people we see around as all started off as ideas, nothing more than a tiny thought lost in the endless depths of one's mind. Furthermore, these thoughts are not unique to chosen individuals. Each and every one of us has aspirations or goals, and whose to say they cannot be achieved? It never hurts to dream.

Reality is where we reside, but in our dreams is where we live. 
Monday, 12 September 2011 0 comments


So often health experts (mothers seem to include themselves in this category) tell us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I sort of agree with them. After waking from what is usually an inadequate amount of sleep, food is highly necessary not just to provide our bodies with some fancy long named vitamins, but to put us non-morning sort of people into a bearable mood for the following few hours.

The problem is, none of us usually have enough time in the morning to prepare a sufficient breakfast to silence our stomach's complaints. I for one roll groggily out of bed, clamber to the bathroom, pull on some clothes, then rapidly shovel any cereal I can find down my throat in the vain hope that I will not miss the bus. Although (as the back of this morning's cheerios box is telling me) cereal is fortified with copius amounts of vitamins, and this slap-dash breakfast hardly seems to fulfil its role as the most important meal of the day.

However, once the weekend arrives things begin to change. The precious gift of 48 hours free from deadlines or the obligation to work gives breakfast (and indeed ourselves) time to shine. Finally, a full meal composing of an onion and mushroom omelette, toasted bagels and salad grants breakfast its "most important" title. Furthermore, not being too adept in the art of cookery, this simple task of breaking out a frying pan provides me with a momentary absence from reality, and for the next few minutes I have the opportunity to compete for a place in Masterchef. Cracking the eggs with the swift movements of a professional (trained for several years through the esteemed method of watching Come Dine With Me and Ready Steady Cook), throwing around the simmering vegetables in the pan, piecing the dish together, each step builds the picture of a perfect breakfast. However, the truth is far from this. Before anything is to be done, kitchen roll is needed to be laid down to prevent inevitable spillages, fire extinguishers need to be readied, and finally, I'm pretty sure that I have never seen anybody on Masterchef prodding at their food whilst tilting their head around at many angles to decipher if it has cooked through. Come to think of it, they probably don't scream "Hurry up!!" at it either.

I'm sure (and indeed hope) that I am not alone in creating such a scenario, but regardless of this fantasy, the breakfast is usually worth the week long wait. The warmth of the freshly cooked food flows to every corner of the body, fully reviving us from our slumber. Although there might not be as many 'essential vitamins' present, for many of us it is the substantial meal we have been craving in the mornings, giving the best possible beginning to the weekend.
Tuesday, 9 August 2011 0 comments


All things have to end. That sentence just ended. And that one. And that one too. You get the picture.

If things only began and didn’t end, life would be a mess and humanity would cease to function. We would never leave school, music would go out of control (I for one cannot cope with listening to “Friday” for the rest of eternity), and general peril would quickly ensue. With this notion in mind, endings can be seen to be very positive indeed, but that is far from how I feel at the moment. In under 24 hours I will leave my family and friends and move country, plunging myself into the unknown. This move has always been inevitable, but now that it is here, the sudden heavy weight of reality has come crashing down. My life is here. My friends and family are here. I have grown up here. And I wont be here for much longer. The sheer enormity of leaving life as I know it behind combined with trying to shove everything I own into a suitcase mars any hope for a happy ending. 

The common phrase “all good things come to an end” seems appropriate to use here, but I don’t like it. Not only is that because all bad things come to an end too (I doubt you could count the hours I spent in history lessons as 'good times'), but often, it is not until the end when you appreciate the good. As with many great novels and films, it is the ending which ties together the strings of the plot, forming them into a perfectly complete knot and allowing us to marvel over the finished product. I suppose then that this can be applied to my situation. Life is great. The time I have spent here, the people I have met, the friends I have made, and the memories I have shared will last long into the future, regardless of my location. 

It is this then which I shall focus on and share with you. It is only the end when you believe it to be. Carry your past with you and you will never leave. 

Thursday, 21 July 2011 0 comments

A Private Concert

Let's be honest. We all do it. Entering the backstage area with the appropriate equipment, we begin to prepare ourselves. As the anticipation and expectation brews within our chests, we step on stage and... turn the water on. 

Singing in the shower has become so familiar to me (although not to the extent of the narrative above), that in an experiment when I denied my audience (mainly comprised of shampoo bottles) of another rendition of "The Circle of Life", it felt unnatural. Standing silently with hot steaming water pounding down, the rhythmical drumming of the drops brought no alleviation to the haunting nature of the silence. 

The reasoning behind this habit remains unknown to me, but it is perfectly clear that it cannot be stopped. Many of us are not fully confident in our singing ability to muster the courage and perform publicly, and indeed some of us (myself included) possess such an inadequate voice that performing in front of others is ruled out. Music aims to stir emotions, but I doubt the desired effect was to create a sea of grimacing faces. Is this the reason why the shower is our chosen place of performance? Does the seclusion and isolation from society enable us to express ourselves when free from judgement?

Although it is undeniable that this remains a factor, it is also a love for music which motivates us. With the benefits of modern technology, music is almost always accessible, but the shower remains one of the few areas bereft of music, perhaps giving us an excuse to fill the silence with song. Sound has a miraculous ability to transform anything. A picture might tell a thousand words, by when teamed with music it can tell a hundred thousand, and it is for this reason why this habit should continue. Keep singing!