Sunday, 7 August 2011

A Lovely Day

Today, as you may have guessed from the title of the post, was a very nice day. (It was also not a very nice day at all, if we're talking about the weather; but I wasn't.)

In the morning - less than an hour after waking up, actually - I got on a train and went to Bath with a few of my friends. I absolutely adore Bath, it's one of the loveliest cities I've ever been to, and I really must remember to do some research into the university. We didn't really shop much - we walked around the shops, but in a rather vague, not really looking at anything sort of way, which was fine by me. Then we went into a lovely little café by the river and ate houmous and pitta bread and salad and chips - yummy! It was a lovely little trip, though potentially the least  productive supposed-shopping I've ever done. No matter, I should be saving money anyway.

When I got home, I had a sort-of-picnic with the boyfriend (by which I mean it was pouring with rain so we packed up a picnic and ate it in the summerhouse in my garden) and then watched An Education, which is a brilliant film, and stars the lovely Carey Mulligan and a Colin-Firth look-alike. (I can't remember his real name. He looks like Colin Firth; that's all that matters.)

You may have noticed the massive overuse of the word lovely in this post. It is actually deliberate, I promise. Because to me, the word lovely means contentment; and that is how I felt today. It is also, conveniently enough, what this post is about. Funny that!

Contentment. Isn't it a wonderful feeling? Not quite happiness - there is a subtle but significant difference between the two. Happiness is a bright, dynamic feeling - it leaps out at you, rather like an over-excitable puppy, and plasters a tell-tale smile across your face. Seeing a friend you haven't seen in a long time; hearing some really really good news; laughing until your stomach hurts with your best friends - that's happiness.

Contentment is more demure, more understated. It is the calmer, quieter puppy, which curls up neatly on your lap like a friendly cushion and stays there, keeping your legs warm. It's a warm, deep bath in the middle of winter; a quiet afternoon with the people you love most; a day when everything just goes smoothly. If happiness is bright golden sunshine and a clear blue sky, contentment is the light of the setting sun, or the glow of a gently crackling bonfire.

I've been thinking about this quite a lot lately, and I really do think contentment is my favourite feeling in the whole world - inexplicably more wonderful than happiness itself. I'm also really nosey, so now I have a question for you: what makes you feel content? Please do comment below, I would love to see what people have to say on this matter!

I'm going to end this post with a video of Bessie Cursons singing Wouldn't It Be Loverly at the auditions from the first series of Britain's Got Talent, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this song seemed appropriate because not only does the song have 'lovely' in the title, but I also think the lyrics describe very well the exact sort of situation that creates contentment.

Why this particular version? Well, one of the memories which first sprung to mind when I was trying to think of examples of times I'd felt content was sitting with my family tucked up in my duvet with a warm drink watching Britain's Got Talent. It's something we've always watched as a family - probably one of the only things - and I think that is one of the main reasons I love it. Plus Bessie is utterly adorable, and One Day I'll Fly Away from Moulin Rouge, is played briefly at the end. What's not to love?!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Sand, Sea and... Rain?

I arrived home this afternoon after spending two nights with a friend of my parents who lives in Penzance, in Cornwall. Nothing monumentally exciting, but it was a very pleasant couple of days - I read lots, wrote a bit, ate good food and saw some beautiful views. And I had gingerbread men for breakfast - what more could you want?

The main event of the trip, and the reason for our going in the first place, was to visit The Minack Theatre; an absolutely stunning open-air theatre built into the cliffs at Porthcurno, near Land's End, with amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean. (It also sold really scrummy vegan flapjack - bonus!) Now, in the pictures on the postcards, the Minack looks like this:

But as is so often the way, the weather was not on our side, and in reality, it looked like this:

Still beautiful, but not quite as practical, particularly once the rain had started to pour down in bucket-loads. So, sadly, the show - an excellent performance of Anthony Burgess's Cyrano de Bergerac - was called off during the interval for health and safety reasons (one of the actors had already slipped while trying to climb a ladder, and the rain didn't look like it was going to be letting up any time soon). A great shame, but they do say that every cloud has a silver lining - and believe me there were pleasantly of clouds! - and now my dad feels guilty and says he'll take me to see another play soon, which is very kind of him, and rather exciting.


One of my self-imposed tasks for the summer (see here) is to take more photographs, which I did with relative success. So I shall end this post with a few pictures I took.

Oh Cornwall, how I love you.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

A Very Special Happy Birthday

Today, I say happy birthday to two people whose importance to me is too great to properly put into words. These are people without whom I would be a completely different person, with completely different memories and experiences. They have provided me with some of the most treasured moments of my childhood, and continue to do so as I move (unwillingly, might I add) closer towards adulthood.

I have never met either of these two people. They do not know I exist. And one of them is a fictional character.

I am talking, of course, about Ms Joanne Rowling and Mr Harry James Potter.

The more I think about it, the more amazing it actually seems how much my life has been changed by this series of books. Or, perhaps more accurately, how much my life revolves around them. I know for certain that I would be a less openly nerdy person, less confident in my own eccentricities, if it weren't for my total dedication to this series - when you love something enough, you reach a stage where you don't care what people think; you just want to talk about it constantly, and wear your fandom with pride - and for the inspirational influence of one Miss Luna Lovegood.

But I digress. Perhaps another day I shall write a post about all the ways Harry Potter has changed me, but not today. Today, I want to reflect on the inspirational story of Joanne Rowling, and just how far she has come.

Less than twenty years ago, J.K. Rowling was unemployed and living off benefits; fresh from a divorce, and still mourning the loss of her beloved mother two years earlier. She suffered from clinical depression and recurring suicidal thoughts, and would wake up every morning expecting her one-year-old daughter to be dead. She saw herself as "the biggest failure [she] knew."

Today, she is the richest woman in show-business in the UK, and the first person ever to become a U.S billionaire on the back of a writing career. But more importantly, she has defeated her own personal dementors. In an interview for ITV's 50 Greatest Harry Potter moments, Jo described a particularly special moment on set for her:
The most vivid memory I have of visiting Leavesden for the first time, and the most poignant memory of all, was walking past the Mirror of Erised, which was standing in a dark corner.  And, this is going to sound so incredibly corny, but I did literally turn and look at myself in the Mirror of Erised, and I was standing there a published author, on the set of the adaptation of my novel, by a British crew, being made in Britain, all of which was very important to me, and that was a real shivers down the spine moment.
As Dumbledore tells us in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: "The happiest man on earth would look in the mirror and see only himself exactly how he is." That Jo, who less than two decades ago was contemplating suicide, is now in that position is, I think, one of the most inspirational rags-to-riches stories I have ever known. (And yes, I did cry at that point in the programme.)

So, happy birthday Jo, and happy birthday Harry. And thank you.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Legally Blonde at the Bristol Hippodrome - 19th July

I should say before I write this that it is not a review. I cannot write reviews. But I can write about shows, about why I loved them (I invariably do), and the thoughts and feelings they create in me. So that is what I shall do.

Signature shot, anyone? Source

I had seen this show before, at the Savoy Theatre in London last summer, and thoroughly enjoyed it then, so I was really looking forward to watching it again. We arrived at the Hippodrome suitably early (my mother cannot bear to get to the theatre less than half an hour early), and were met with lots and lots of pink! Pink bunting in the theatre, pink fairy lights on the ice cream trays, and all the staff were wearing pink ties with their uniforms. I did have to wonder, though, who it was who sat down and thought 'I know! Let's dye the fountain!'

Pink! Source

We were sitting slightly further back than usual, which I always take to be a sign that the show is very popular, considering my mum books all our tickets months in advance and gets what she considers to be the best seats left. I suppose this is only to be expected, for a show based on a very popular film, but it was still very nice to see it get the attention it deserves. I will admit to being slightly surprised by the average age of the audience - I had expected more young people, but I suppose it was a Tuesday night, and groups of young people wouldn't necessarily be sitting in the stalls anyway.

So, the show began, and right from the offset it was hard to stop smiling. I think this is one of the real joys of shows like this - as nice as it is to go and see things which challenge you,  make you think, or take your emotions for a ride; it is also nice to sit down and do nothing but grin for two and a half hours solid. (One of the really brilliant things about theatre, I suppose, is that you could go and see two shows one after the other and have two experiences which could not be more different.)

But actually, it would be unfair to say that this show was totally devoid of meaning. Beneath all the glorious cheese, and the hilarity, there is a very worthwhile moral - don't judge others on their appearances, and always stay true to yourself. The show's end is idealistic and unrealistically perfect, yes; but it is also undeniably heart-warming, and I would be lying if I said I didn't leave the theatre with a warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach. If we can't have fairy-tale endings in the theatre, where the hell can we have them?!

Don't you just love a good old happy ending? Source

The show was brilliant. Technically, some of the voices weren't quite as strong as I'd heard when I saw the show in London, but somehow that didn't matter in the slightest. This musical has some absolutely hilarious minor characters, all of whom were played excellently, and to much laughter. Highlights for me would have to be the adorable Emmett (played by Iwan Lewis), the hilarious Gay or European, and the absolutely fabulous camp male hairdresser, who managed to hold my attention the entire time he was on-stage without having a single line.

Oh Emmett. How I love you... Source

As we were walking back to the car after the show, my mum confessed that she "hadn't expected it to be that good." And that is often the way with notoriously cheerful shows, isn't it? I know I have been guilty of going to see a show with slightly lower expectations, for no real reason other than it was based on a cheesy 80's film. (Footloose, if you're wondering; and it was actually brilliant, made me cry, and got a well-deserved standing ovation.) Perhaps we Brits, known for our cynicism, just don't want to be seen to be liking something that is too *gasp* happy.

If you ever get the opportunity to watch this show - do! It is frothy, feel-good fun at its very finest.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Twenty Ways to Spend a Summer

I've got a whole month-and-a-bit of summer stretching out in front of me before I go back to school, and I would rather like to spend this time constructively. (That is, in ways which I will look back on in September and not regret.) So I've decided to make myself a to-do list.
  1. Write the story I promised my friend as a going-away present
  2. Buy myself some fabric paints, and use them
  3. Research universities
  4. Go and watch Love Never Dies
  5. Watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at least twice more
  6. Blog - twice a week minimum
  7. Work on my strength and flexibility
  8. Take more photographs
  9. Tidy my room - properly
  10. Reorganise my room
  11. Re-alphabetise my bookshelf
  12. Go to the library more often
  13. Convince my family to go and watch a show in London (to be fair, they won't take a lot of convincing)
  14. Read more
  15. Write more
  16. Reorganise my iTunes and my computer folders
  17. Paint presents for my friends (to make up for the fact that I somehow managed to not write in any of their Leaver's Books)
  18. Go to a theme park
  19. Bake cakes
  20. Buy my textbooks for school, and do the small amount of homework/homework I've been given

Okay, so maybe that didn't make for the most fascinating reading. I apologise, I'll try harder next time - promise! For now, I shall leave you with this adorable hedgehog.

Cute baby animals make everything better, right?

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Let's Hear it for New York

Today, more than anywhere else, I wish I was in New York. There are two reasons for this - both of which are undeniably very me.


The first reason is theatrical. 10 days ago, previews began at New World Stages in New York City for the revival production of the musical RENT, which is to open officially on August 11th. To say I loved this show would be a laughable understatement - it is undoubtedly one of my favourite musicals of all time, and that's coming from somebody who is hates picking favourites. But I have never had the pleasure of seeing it live, and to do so is something of a dream of mine. If only...

The RENT revival cast during Seasons Of Love. Source


The second reason is something very special which happened today - or rather, many very special somethings. As you may know, the Marriage Equality Act was passed on June 24th, making same-sex marriage legal in the state of New York. Today was the day this Act came into effect.

I cannot begin to imagine what the atmosphere must have been like, as hundreds of couples queued up to make their vows. Many, I'm sure, will have been patiently waiting months, years, or even decades for this day, when they could finally be officially wed to the one they love. Just the thought of it has had me periodically grinning to myself throughout the day; to have been there would have been simply incredible.

This is a small step, and there is still an enormous amount to be done before we reach equality. But it is a step nonetheless. And when you imagine the smiling faces of all those who married today, somehow it doesn't seem so small anymore. I wish every one of them all the best, and hope that other states, and other countries, will be following New York's example soon. 

Niagara Falls, New York. Source

Let's hear it for New York
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothing you can't do

Don't you just love it when song lyrics suddenly take on new meaning?


EDIT: Okay, so I just discovered that the New York Public Library looks like this:

New York Public Library. Source
Make that three reasons.

Post the First.

First blog posts are a curious thing. One never knows quite what to put in them, and yet it would seem somehow wrong to jump straight in without some sort of acknowledgement that this is new territory.

I suppose a sensible way to begin would be to explain why I choose my name. This is something that always fascinates me when I'm reading others' blogs, and I can only assume that I am not the only one.

I have always liked comparisons between life and books. This is more due to the fact that I like books than because it suits my philosophy on life, but I like them nonetheless. And our lives are books, then what is social networking if not our analysis of those books - highlighting the parts we feel are important; scribbling notes in the margins where we feel comment is due. The contents of this blog are my figurative scribblings.

And now, having got over that first awkward hurdle, I shall post this, hope I haven't got it all completely wrong, and get on with real posts. Adiós!

(Oh, and by the way: vegan cookies to those who get the reference in the title.)