Posting delays

I’ve had a slightly strange couple of months, hence the posting delay. Taking a break from here (I say that as if my posting was regular, watched by millions and so this excuse is necessary. Awkward.) was important because I didn’t want to share how I was feeling angry and disappointed.

Being unemployed is a really mixed blessing. I had a horrible final year and there’s nothing more I want to say on it, so all I needed afterwards was to pause and become normal again. I needed time unemployed with no responsibilities to make up for having 60-bajillion responsibilities throughout my second term, but I have essentially been killing time since May now. Having time to sleep and look after myself has been good, but having no purpose or having no confirmation of when this monotony will end has been less good. It’s difficult trying to not waste my time feeling resentful, but I wonder if I went back in time and told my 17/18 year old self that having a degree would disadvantage me for casual jobs and give me no advantage for the ones that I dream of, I probably wouldn’t have come to university. It’s tough being £20k in debt with the knowledge of mistakes on my shoulders. Of course now I look back and think that those three years were wonderful and taught me pretty much everything I know, but I don’t feel that they prepared me for any future.

So, I’m back at home. The boxes that sat with uncertainty on my bedroom floor have slowly unpacked themselves; their contents have weedled their way back into my day-to-day existence. I am no longer a guest here, a temporary being, but rather a permanent member. Those boxes, the same ones that are squished full from last-minute university packing at the end of term have been filled with mixtures of things I wanted to find and things I couldn’t help but cry over as I brought them out. Why did I bring them home? Perhaps I thought that these memories would be dealt with or at least understood by the time they were forced back into my present consciousness. Maybe I just wanted to fill the boxes and go home to free food as soon as I could, which meant leaving the sorting until later.

The biggest box of memory sits on my floor with an uneasy promise of nostalgia within. When I directed Titus Andronicus in second term of final year, I submitted it as part of my degree (why write an essay when you can direct a play, I thought, foolishly) and so created a box filled with the details, including a huge and terrifying diary of every idea and rehearsal as I had them. I promised my friend Lily (who, in turn, promises to be a regular reader – hello!), who produced the play, that I would go through that box and write a blog post about why I love it. I do love that play, I still talk about it with fondness, and when I ran a workshop recently I boasted about my cast’s abilities with things like Harry Potter Zip-Zap-Boing. The box was submitted to external moderators as part of the marking, which meant that I wasn’t able to pick it up until the start of December, yet even though I have had it at home for over a month, I still can’t bring myself to look inside. Directing that play was a great experience, even if the finished product wasn’t quite what I wanted (my fault, no blame elsewhere), but there was so much other mess going on in my life at that time that it was much more misery-inducing and stressful than it should have been. As soon as I open that box, I will have to read that diary I wrote while directing and I will be forced to remember. I promise I will do it, but it may take a bit more time.

I’ve never been able to write diaries before. As a child I tried on many occasions, but my life was so boring (clearly creative writing was my outlet: see earlier posts…) that I didn’t have anything of interest to write and they are an embarrassment to look at now. Two choice examples (judging by my writing, you’d guess I was around 3, but the fact that my sister was in Upper-Two means I must have been six/seven and this is horrible and embarrassing for me. )

Sat the 2nd of August

Today we are going to wales on holiday we are going for two for the first week we are going to a converted farm house and for 2nd week we’re going to a cottage.

BYE BYE

The second entry reads:

1. My biggest secret is that the upper-two play is called the wizard of wobbeling rock.

2. I don’t really have a second secret so I gues thiss book is a secret.

This is then followed by a drawing of a fat girl jumping. No self-portrait jokes, please.

The other thing that those bits of creative-writing showed is that I was never much of a writer anyway. I’m trying to write a play at the moment but I’m beating myself up over every word because I can’t get them right, even though I care a lot about what I’m writing. At two of the most important stages of my life, when I could feel myself and the world beneath me changing, I did the lame literature student thing of writing a poem. (I don’t include in that list of two the one I wrote in my first year about a friend who made me very angry: it’s rubbish and not worth sharing because I think he reads this occasionally and I’m over it now, eek)

I wrote the first one in Sixth Form. I’ll admit it was for a competition on the subject of change, but I really took it to heart and it was genuinely important to me.

Change marks the not yet tangible but seemingly solid

movement of time. Temperless optimism lost as sand

filters through the crude bone structure that ebbs,

flows and curls its way to create the new. Fading

dreams no longer attainable dance in the memory like

paper in the wind – there for a moment but lost and un-

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recognisable until they are gone. Dreams are not all

dreams but the apocalyptic foresight of realisation: the

end is nigh and Cotardian beliefs slip upon us just for a

moment, as if remembering past lives or emotional

strays. Inheritance comes upon us and we question the

dead, we were invincible until now – we would never join them yet

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must we? Joining a world of lost souls, growing in all but

maturity – we come of age yet feel the same. Dancing

lights among us reveal the path but must we follow? Too

tempting is the soft comfort we left behind yet

regression is not an option. Juxtaposed against the

Elysium fields in which we, too, danced yet now we

trump and slod and delay, still awkward in the new

stresses of change

I grew up a lot in sixth form. I earned myself a reputation of being boring amongst my old friends, but I also earned myself the university place I had wanted, which was a relief. I think when I wrote this poem I didn’t know where I’d be going, I don’t think I had been accepted yet and I knew it depended on my exam results which were not guaranteed. I have always worried about change and have had varying anxieties since I was quite young. When I wrote this poem, I was feeling anxious about the change not just that I could foresee but also that I knew I had just had. This isn’t about to be some gross puberty paragraph. I think there’s meant to be a psychological moment when you recognise that you’re going to die and I definitely had this quite late in my teens. This poem was written when I had realised that I wasn’t invincible and there could well be future repercussions from a past hedonistic summer. I felt awkward and stressed about change: changes past and changes future.

So here I am 4 years later, once again completely changed. But coming back to this poem for the first time in a long time gives me comfort that I am still awkward, still stressed about change and yet, like then, I am excited. Just like then, my recent past has been full of change and I continue to hope for it in my future. I was angry then and I’m angry now and though the things that impassion and anger me have mostly changed, I take great comfort in reading this and knowing that I am still recognisable. Even if I don’t have complicated syntax and poetry inside me anymore, I have a whole play inside me instead that I am desperate to write. I hope I keep changing, but I hope I don’t ever stop feeling angry and passionate. I hope that in four years time, when I am changed and different, then I can look back and read the things I write now and recognise myself in my feelings about change. It’s cyclical, it makes my head hurt a bit.

While this may all sound unimportant, it’s not. Going back to the beginning (cyclical again, nice touch) and the frustration with being unemployed: the frustration lies in that every day is the same with nothing ever changing and that monotony is pretty depressing. To go through old university things and find this poem makes me breathe a huge sigh of relief that I had no need to worry about change in the past because it turned out ok. And I’m praying that this time it will turn out ok too.

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50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind

I occasionally blog-stalk a girl from school (Hi Honor!) who writes a really nice blog about her time at university. Have a look here. She had found a list entitled “50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind” and had chosen 10 good questions and answered them seriously and thought provokingly.

I will do no such thing.

I think half the reason this appealed was because it is so reminiscent of those egocentric questionnaires we used to forward around with infuriating speed and enjoy filling in, mostly because we got to admit to piercings, snogging and how well we got on with our parents. Rebellious. So, because I’d like to answer all 50 questions, I’ve tried to answer them quickly. We’ll see how it goes.

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50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

If I looked in the mirror, I’d guess about 20. If I looked at my collection of books, I’d guess 40. If I looked at my collection of shoes I’d guess, like, 12 with horrible taste.

Which is worse, failing or never trying?

Never trying. I got a fringe – I failed at it, because I hate it, but I am pleased I went and done it.

If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?

Because we’re lazy and don’t live in the Bahamas.

When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?

I write a blog because I have too many words in my head. I am clearly all about the talking.

What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?

REVOLUTION. No more capitalism  and no more bankers please.

If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?

Eating.

Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?

I’m unemployed, which means I sit on the sofa and occasionally go to the gym. I’m starting to make a bum shape into the sofa. Settling.

If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?

When the human life span was 40 then girls were married off at like, 13. So, at my grand old age of 21 I’d be feeling very spinstery and probably knitting a basket for my cats and working on a hobby like licking my elbow.

To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken?

I’m a Christian. I believe in a God who knows every decision I’ll make but doesn’t control them.

Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?

I wish I were the latter.

You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire.  They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend.  The criticism is distasteful and unjustified.  What do you do?

Kick them in the face.

If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Buy a waffle maker and use it to buy friends.

Would you break the law to save a loved one?

Depends on the law, depends on the loved one. I’d break a speed limit or sleep in a wheelie bin or knock a policeman’s hat off, but I don’t want to commit now to doing anything more serious.

Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity?

Yep. I’ve also seen insanity where other people saw creativity. Thank you theatre degree.

What’s something you know you do differently than most people?

Gesticulate.

How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy?

Because everyone else is wrong.

What one thing have you not done that you really want to do?  What’s holding you back?

Continue running my theatre company. I need moneys.

Are you holding onto something you need to let go of?

A moment ago I was chewing the cord on my hoodie until I realised my cat had done the same yesterday. A;ljadkf

If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why?

Scotland because I want to live in a castle.

Do you push the elevator button more than once?  Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?

Yes and no, I do it because it’s fun.

Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?

The former is doing me ok for now (snort)

Why are you, you?

Nature, nurture, blah.

Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend?

Yes, always.

Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you?

Moving away – I miss people from university.

What are you most grateful for?

Right now my slippers because my feet were cold.

Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?

Never be able to make new ones. At least that way I stay the same.

Is is possible to know the truth without challenging it first?

What is truth? Vom.

Has your greatest fear ever come true?

I’m terrified of hitting my head. Twice broken nose, a shattered hard palate, an exposed nerve and two false teeth later I’d say yes.

Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset?  Does it really matter now?

Yes, I think about it every day and am grateful for it.

What is your happiest childhood memory?  What makes it so special?

I was happy for most of my childhood, nothing stands out. Winding up my sister was fun, I remember seeing a man wearing a motorbike helmet and telling Katie to look at his shiny hair and she told me he must use a lot of conditioner. DUHHH HE WAS IN A HELMET

At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?

On Friday I ran a workshop for KCL about Much Ado About Nothing – it made me remember that theatre is where I’m supposed to be.

If not now, then when?

Right now I’m sitting on the sofa wearing the same hoody I’ve worn for like, 4 months since I graduated, so maybe when I put on better clothes.

If you haven’t achieved it yet, what do you have to lose?

My bum shaped dent in the sofa.

Have you ever been with someone, said nothing, and walked away feeling like you just had the best conversation ever?

No because I know what a conversation is. Plus anybody who knows me knows that I like to fill the silence.

Why do religions that support love cause so many wars?

Because there’s oil involved.

Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil?

I believe in God, Satan, Heaven & Hell. Beyond that I can’t categorise so easily.

If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job?

My job is sofa-sitting, so yes, maybe. Maybe I’d buy a new sofa. Who knows.

Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing?

I’d like work please. Any employers reading this?

Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before?

I have!

When was the last time you marched into the dark with only the soft glow of an idea you strongly believed in?

What does that even mean? I can see why Honor picked 10 good questions now.

If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today?

Tom

Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous?

Do I get to be extremely attractive/famous forever? I don’t want to be old and wrinkly.

What is the difference between being alive and truly living?

Being on or off a ventilator.

When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right?

5pm, when it is right to haulass off the sofa and go have a cup of tea.

If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?

Because it’s embarrassing.

What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?

My hair.

When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing?

I have a cold and can hear it right now and it is driving me insane.

What do you love?  Have any of your recent actions openly expressed this love?

I woke my cat up because she looked so cute and she tried to maul my face so I’m going to be more careful with expressions now.

In 5 years from now, will you remember what you did yesterday?  What about the day before that?  Or the day before that?

Yesterday, no. The day before I had a job interview (as;dklfja;lksdf) and the day before I ran a workshop. I hope so.

Decisions are being made right now.  The question is:  Are you making them for yourself, or are you letting others make them for you?

I might assert my decision making skills and make tea now, even if it is only 2.40.

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Sunday List: Soundtracked moments

It turns out, despite 21 years of practise, that I’m not that good at sleeping. My sister always used to tell me how much she envied my ability to fall asleep within moments of my head hitting the pillow, but for the last year I’ve really struggled to sleep like a normal person. I don’t have insomnia; I’ve never missed a night’s sleep in my life. The worst night of sleep I ever had was when I was about 15/16 and my group of friends were verboten from sleeping in the house we were expecting to stay in that night. Instead, we were banished to the garden, to sleep in the most horrible and terrifying caravan. Long story short, upon expressing the fact that I’d never pulled an all-nighter, a friend convinced me to stay awake until 7am. At which point I fell asleep for 45 minutes, ruined the attempt and so gave no justification for feeling quite so horrible the next day. The point is, I can’t not sleep, but I’m just not very good at getting there. I know it’s bad sleep hygiene, but watching telly and films at night send me off a lot better. I now have a Pavlov response: without something to watch it can take me hours to sleep, but when I start a film playing I’m asleep a lot faster. Problem solved. My watching of choice tends to be David Attenborough documentaries – Blue Planet is particularly relaxing – his voice is soothing, the images are pretty and I’m asleep before the programme even gets going. When David (first name terms) isn’t on iPlayer, though, I watch films, and it was watching the penultimate film on this list the other night that inspired me to write this post.

I wish I knew more about soundtracking. My favourite theatre company, Propeller, soundtrack their Shakespeare in a way that I envy. The actors often sing and play  instruments, creating music together that I dream of knowing even how to start to compose. Particularly haunting was their singing to their version of Richard III (which I saw in Coventry in late 2010), in which the unaccompanied singing had folksy, child-song and choral qualities. I wish I could write down my memory of the tune, but what would that even look like? For those who don’t know, Shakespeare’s Richard III was pretty much wholly responsible for our assumption that he killed or at least ordered the deaths of the princes in the tower. In Propeller’s version, the assassin we’d watched Richard hire earlier came away from the four-poster bed in the centre of the stage, having just killed the boys. He was a short but almost impossibly stocky man, with the shoulders of a rower who has such big muscles that he can’t put his arms by his side. He wore a tight white shirt that held him uncomfortably and on his face he had a completely clear plastic mask, which reflected the stage lights giving him a bizarre and brilliantly terrifying doll visage. The other actors, dressed in doctors’ white coats with their faces covered, sang the music as they rearranged the stage. Downstage, the very Aryan Richard entered stage left and shot the assassin, who had turned to face him. The singing stopped, the assassin fell to his knees before falling backwards, his knees still bent. A beat passed. Unexpectedly, the singing started again, but this time they sang the same tune and words backwards as the assassin pulled himself back up in an exact reverse of the way he had fallen, before walking off stage. It was so simple but so brilliant to watch and I felt that the soundtrack of this singing backwards was what really made the moment. This ten-or-so seconds of action at once summed up the whole bizarre nature of these bodies that pile up throughout the play, but also the idea of this moment being replayed in the nation’s memory for the next four hundred years. This idea of replaying was great too: the concept was full of post-modern film references: American PsychoConspiracySchindler’s ListSawTexas Chainsaw MassacreThe MatrixPsycho and even old Western films particularly stand out in my memory, though at the time I recognised so many more and the whole notion of post-modernism is this idea of replaying things that already existed. Most people know the story of the murdered princes, and most people suppose that Richard was to blame (Shakespeare was living under Tudor rule. The end of Richard III shows Richard killed by Henry Bolingbroke, aka Henry VII, the first Tudor king, so obviously they want to portray Richard as badly as possible and Henry as the opposite. It’s propaganda, innit), but here it is made so strange and ridiculous, so replayed but also so haunting that even as we see the aftermath of the moment that we waited to see, we can’t escape the idea that it probably didn’t really happen like that. Now THAT is good soundtracking.

(On the topic of Richard III, watch this. My favourite bit is when they rhyme Plantaganet. Amazing!)

I played with soundtracking when I directed Titus Andronicus earlier this year. I didn’t have the resources to get something composed, but I used Clint Mansell’s soundtrack to The Fountain (dir. Darren Aronofsky) in a perhaps too ambitious attempt to give more depth and weight to some of the harder and more emotionally draining scenes. A few moments fitted better than others, a scene where there’s an attack in the woods worked well, as did the mutilated Lavinia’s entrance, but I wish I’d done other moments better. Of course, I can’t compose music but I have no doubt that writing music to fit with the action in front of you is tough, but equally trying to make action fit to music that already exists and so is unchangeable is still really tough. I’d love to learn to do it better, but I suppose one can only learn through practice.

I wrote the other day, however, that I was really struggling with this post. I had hoped to publish it a week ago, but I held back. I’d written 5000 words, including the above introduction, on what I was arguing were my favourite soundtracked film/television moments. I thought that the reason I was reluctant to publish it was that it was too long, but I realised today that it wasn’t the entire problem. If people want to read it, they will, and I won’t know what their decision is unless they tell me (don’t tell me).

The problem, actually, was that they weren’t my favourite soundtracked moments. The reluctance actually came from embarrassment: I have no idea what I’m talking about with this. I don’t know anything about films and I don’t anything about music. I do enjoy films, but I’m sucked back into the same films again and again because I like this guarantee that I’ll enjoy it. It sounds stupid, I know that – three hours (maximum) is not much of my life to give up, the worst that can happen is that it’s boring and I can always switch it off. I have no excuse, I just like the comforts of what I know. I’m making this sound very serious, when really all I want to do is explain that this list isn’t what I intended and is based on no knowledge at all. I’ve got rid of all the moments that I inserted that I wasn’t sure about or that I hadn’t written about properly.

This is a stupidly long introduction: I have no confidence in what I’m about to copy and paste, but I like these moments and maybe you will too.

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A list of unranked but enjoyably soundtracked moments in film (and one on telly) 

Billy Elliot – Town called Malice by The Jam

I’ve been good at accents for a while, but even though I lived with a Geordie girl for two years, I could never get the hang of that accent. I used to pester her to say “Some dancers are as fit as athletes” or “Ah coulda bin a professional dancer” (that was my attempt at writing the accent) in homage to this film. Considering how frustratingly often I asked, she was kind enough to almost always comply.

Billy Elliot is a cracking film, it’s all dancing and accents and anger and denim and miners and swearing and ballet n that, which is a winning combination. Favourite moments include when Billy asks his brother if he ever thinks about death (not repeatable on a family friendly blog), when his father admits he’s never been to the capital city because there’s “no mines in London” (an enjoyable stereotype to use on a friend from the North East who really hasn’t been to London) and the moment when he dances angrily. There isn’t much to say about it: it’s great music (this film has a brilliant soundtrack, it’s such a shame that the final credits are ruined by Stephen Gateley. Who died over two years ago now, how weird is that?), great dancing and that Jamie Bell kid grew up NICE. It’s all a very satisfying conclusion to the angry build up of the scene before.

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame – The Bells of Notre Dame

I’m not sure if this counts as soundtracking because it’s a song, but this is my list and I like it. Also, yes yes I know I’m supposed to include The Lion King, like that moment when the pridelands are restored but that film always made me cry so I just avoid it.

Moving on. I love this as a Disney opening because it’s so dark. Maybe it’s because I only saw this film for the first time a few years ago, but the opening to me just seems so terribly sad in a way that I probably wouldn’t have recognised as a child. I love the repetition of the bells/eyes/steps/etc of Notre Dame and the cry of “Sanctuary, please give us sanctuary!” is a lovely foreshadowing of the way this religious right is used later in the story. I just bought Victor Hugo’s novel in an attempt to read the real story, but I’ve got a few more books to get through first. It’s a great big tome of a novel, which makes me feel guilty for having it on my bookshelf because it feels like a lie. I haven’t read it and people might think I actually know stuff about books when they see it. Awkward.

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Back to the Future – The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News

I love this film. I love this film more than is reasonable. Nobody can out-nerd me on BTTF knowledge: seriously, try it, you will fail. This song is my ringtone, it has a great opening and makes me smile every time I hear it, though whenever the song comes up on shuffle it freaks me out because I egotistically think I’m ringing. More fool me. As an opening song, this is such a great one, it warms me up for the rest of the film and the 80s-ness that is to come. Plus there’s a great cameo from Huey during Marty’s audition to play at the dance (YEAH CHECK MY KNOWLEDGE). This introduction makes me want to go back to school (just so I can yell “DAMN, I’M LATE FOR SCHOOL!”) and I want to skateboard all the way there.

I can’t mention music from BTTF without a reference to the theme music, which makes me want to wear high tops and a life preserver and travel THROUGH TIME.

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Tangled – When will my life begin

Vodpod videos no longer available.

It was songs/music like this that made me question my list in the first place I think. I didn’t think through every single film that I’ve seen or rewatch everything ever – I just looked through my iTunes soundtracks and got excited. I love this song, and the film is excellent. This is probably one of my favourite movie montages. It’s great, because she’s super cute and squeaky clean (in part thanks to Mandy Moore, equally super cute and squeaky clean) but also because it is self-aware of the cuteness of Disney: “And by then it’s like 7.15” as a good example. I love that it gets a bit random: ventriloquy, candle-making, etc. It’s such a great film, classic Disney in its cuteness but also great jokes. Plus the chap in it is super hot.

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The Prince of Egypt – The Plagues

(Sorry about the weird first 40 seconds, I don’t know why you can’t hear them speaking, but stick with it ‘cos it gets good)

I vividly remember seeing this film in the cinema as a child. I was completely blown away: at the time, it was the cutting edge of animation and I’ll never forget watching the moment when the Red Sea parts and the sea creatures are seen behind the wall of water. Animation has moved on, but every time I watch this film I’m still amazed by how beautifully it was made.

The scene when the plagues strike Egypt was the other moment I couldn’t forget. The music was so haunting, the voices that come in as a whisper of “Thus saith the Lord” before the plagues are listed in quick, neat rhymes that I appreciated more every time I listened and even as I write are giving me goosebumps. The visuals stood out too, the image of that cow collapsing always scared me, along with the two girls cowering from the burning hail. This is a story so filled with amazing miracles and I feel like this film captures these moments of the plagues in such a great way.

I just love the style of animation. It’s definitely worth watching The Road to El Dorado, which is drawn the same way but with songs by The Lion King team and it’s super funny. PLUS, Kenneth Branagh does one of the voices. YES.

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Atonement – Elegy for Dunkirk

I read a scathing review of this tracking shot, saying that it’s all very well to do such a long scene with no cuts in filming, but it doesn’t add anything to the film, it’s just the director showing off. Surely that’s in part what directing is – I was criticised during Titus for the self-indulgence of choosing to direct a play where I didn’t answer to anyone else, but I’m not really sure what else I was supposed to do. Directing is as much about showing off your own ideas and talents as those in your cast. Really, I just think who cares if he’s showing off? This scene is great, no wonder he wanted to show off what he could do. And this “showing off” doesn’t get in the way of the scene: the length isn’t so much that we notice nothing else, but rather I found myself sucked in, wanting to watch the busy scene again and again to notice everything. The edges of these shots are just as important as James McAvoy at the centre. A good example for me was the horses, which I think are particularly important. I read somewhere after seeing the film that these horses are trained to collapse upon hearing gunshot noises, specifically for scenes such as this. I have no idea how one trains a horse, I don’t even like them, but the way that they collapse, just in the background, is so real and so difficult not to watch. They’re perhaps the most obvious way that we’re shown the bizarre nature of Dunkirk, of this waiting and worrying and preparing right out in the open. Just as the horses seem strange and shocking because it’s shown right in front of us, so was the whole experience (I imagine) because the soldiers were so exposed, so out in the open.

Perhaps the best bit about this bit of soundtracking is the use of “Oh Lord and Father of Mankind” by John Greanleaf Whittier, one of my favourite hymns. The high notes, fading in and out as the trio walk past, are haunting with the words “Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire”. The idea of this “still, small voice of calm” being visible in this strange chaos is so alien, and yet there’s a dramatic irony as we watch this scene. The audience may understand the anxiety of those they see in front of them, but we all know that Dunkirk ends well for the British in not just an amazing escape but also a very calm and organised one considering the danger.

I don’t like this film, not because it’s badly done or badly acted, but just because I can’t believe the premise, which is why I never bothered fully with the book (yes, yes, bad literature student watching films without reading the book). It always seemed bizarre to me that Briony was believed above her sister and it seemed like so little evidence was taken. Regardless, Dario Marianelli’s soundtrack is great, I used to listen to it while pretending to write essays. My particular favourite is Briony – I love the way the music uses the noise of the typewriter at the start, mirroring the way that Robbie’s typewriting and Briony’s imagination (which, in turn, makes her write) kick-start the rest of the action.

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Corpse Bride – The Piano Duet

When I was about 14, I was, like pretty much everyone else who considered themselves to be “alternative”, pretty obsessed with The Nightmare Before Christmas. I’ve overwatched it, but I appreciate the time that must have gone into creating what was the first full-length stop motion animation film. And if you haven’t watched it, it is a total delight. Corpse Bride was definitely a nod back to this film, done in the same style but all the better for Tim Burton’s improved casting (Johnny Depp & Helena Bonham Carter, obv, in the lead roles with characters who look delightfully similar to their actors).

So, because I’m a loser I wanted to make it really obvious and clear why I love the piano duet so much before I link to the video. Basically, there’s two worlds in this film – the world of the living and the world of the dead. The former is grey, Victorian and austere, but the latter is fun, filled with jazz and bright colours. While still in the former, Victor (Johnny Depp) is waiting awkwardly in the house of his never-before-met fiancée while his parents negotiate his wedding to this unknown girl (she’s the one listening to the music. She’s called Victoria and we like her) and begins to play the piano. So, Victor’s solo:

Through a chain of events that look ridiculously stupid when I tried to write them down just now, Victor ends up in the land of the dead (still alive!), with the corpse bride (Helena B-C) convinced that they’re engaged, which he immediately tries to explain was an accident. Obviously heart-broken, she sings of her sadness in a song called No More Tears to Shed. This isn’t the best song, but it’s worth it for the next bit. Bear with me.

These bits of music are fine on their own, the former being rather lovely, but the really great moment is when Victor comes to apologise to the Corpse Bride (she seriously doesn’t have another name.) and finds her playing the melody of the latter tune. When she won’t listen to his apology, he begins to play alongside her, choosing to play parts of Victor’s Solo that we heard earlier. What we end up with is a great duet, because the music blending together is so clever. I’d love a chap to apologise by playing piano with me, though he’d have to be good enough at piano to not ruin it but also not so good that he’d make me feel rubbish because I haven’t played properly in a few years. Tough crowd.

Sigh.

x

The Phantom of the Opera – All I ask of you (Reprise)

Ok, I’m cheating slightly here. I loved this bit of music long before I saw the film, and to be honest, I still think the Michael Crawford version of this bit is a million times better, just because the chords are slower. But this is supposed to be films and telly, so I have to put the film bit in. If anybody wants to hear a better version, just click here. But anyway, everyone knows that the Phantom is better than Raoul, who is an idiot, even if his name is Erik (seriously). I love that the Phantom’s chords are brought back as he gets angry and we wait (and sort of hope he’ll win) for him to go after Christine for reals.

x

Peter Pan – ‘Flying’ by James Newton Howard

It was when I was watching this the other night that I decided to write this list. James Newton Howard is probably my favourite soundtrack composer and has the kind of IMDB profile that makes me feel a bit sick with the sheer number and quality of the titles. When I first saw this film I was the same age as Jeremy Sumpter & Rachel Hurd-Wood, who play Peter Pan and Wendy respectively, and pretty much was wracked with jealousy for the latter (I still am, she has had some great roles) and was totally in love with the former. Now I watch it and am like YOU ARE A CHILD AND THAT IS GROSS, but I guess I was too at the time. I think the music is fun and so magic and just that sequence is enough to make me tear up a bit (as in, the edge of crying, I don’t go crazy ripping things), which is all I really want from any film.

This particular music comes back at two other really lovely bits, when Tinkerbell is brought back (“I DO BELIEVE IN FAIRIES, I DO, I DO!”) and then when Wendy gives Peter the thimble, which is also SUPER GREAT. I love the way that it builds up in the background as you see the Darling parents run up the stairs and Peter pretty much seducing Wendy. “Never is an awfully long time.” There’s just this moment where you think GO WITH HIM, FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE HE IS REALLY HOT FOR HIS AGE, and the narration is lovely because it says just what we want to hear: “But then we would have no story!” – And we’re away! The music explodes, much louder and more prominent now, as the children fly over the sleeping London. The narration is done by the beautiful (if slightly chinny?) Saffron Burrows, who played the grown up Wendy in the alternative ending, where Peter comes back and she’s too old for Neverland and he takes away her daughter for an adventure. I always thought that was such a sad ending in the original J.M. Barrie version and I’m pleased that they cut it (also because when you watch the, albeit unedited and so full of strings to carry the flying children, alternative ending then the child playing Wendy’s daughter is REALLY BAD AT ACTING). Growing up is so sad, I find it totally bizarre that my childhood is over and it’s downhill towards feeling like a real grown up now. But also, I wouldn’t want to stay young – Peter’s situation is also sad. In this version, Wendy and Captain Hook (very hot, played by Jason Isaacs in a great Charles II-esque wig, who also plays her Dad, which is a very clever bit of double casting) discuss how Peter cannot love and I think that’s probably the saddest notion of all. Other versions of this story are fine, but I love that this film uses actors who are on that weird edge between childhood and sort-of-adulthood, where feelings don’t make any sense. It’s sad, then, that Peter will never grow old enough to understand any of it.

Anyway, the music’s great.

x

Casanova – soundtrack by Murray Gold

Murray Gold is a bit like the James NH of telly, probably most famous for his Doctor Who theme for when it was brought back a few years ago. If you haven’t seen this, go and buy it – it’s available on Play.com for a few quid – it’s great value for a beautiful and fun three hours. This was where I first fell in love with David Tennant, and clearly so did the Doctor Who team, as it’s also written by Russell T. Davis. It’s a fun and mostly light-hearted romp around Europe, with Venice at its heart. At the centre of Casanova’s infamous exploits is his love for Henriette, who is played by Laura Fraser, who gets to wear really nice dresses and have great hair and I’m always jealous of that. I pretty much want to live in this film.

There’s a piece of music that follows Casanova and Henriette around, let’s call it Henriette’s Theme. The first time it plays is the second time he meets her, just as he realises that she’s engaged to Rupert Penry-Jones’ character, Grimani, who is a massive douchebag. From then on, the music plays every time he thinks of her, every time Peter O’Toole who is playing the old Casanova reminiscing about his past remembers her then we hear twinklings of the music. It’s really beautiful, have a listen to the first time we hear it here:

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So, Casanova tries to get her out of his head. He ends up with Bellino (played by Nina Sosanya), and long story short they get engaged. He helps her become a famous singer, and in return she gives him to the girl that he really wants, which is of course Henriette. I love how this happens. Casanova has held a summer ball to announce his engagement, and while they are dancing, Bellino makes up the steps so that everyone swaps partners, letting Casanova dance with the girl he loves while Bellino distracts Henriette’s horrid fiancé. The music changes as soon as he begins to dance with Henriette:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This music comes back again and again whenever she’s there and just as we recognise the music, we recognise that she’s back and he can’t get her out of his head. The music is manipulated too and we realise how sad their situation is, that they love one another and can’t be together (watch it, I don’t want to give it all away). At one point, Casanova is in England and he sees her leaving on a boat. Again, we can hear the music change – they’ve just arrived in England (long story.) and the music we hear first is the same music that we hear when Casanova is winning, when he’s on his adventures and when things are going to plan. But then he sees Henriette and the music becomes her theme, and he sees that she now has children with the horrible man from before and he realises that this changes everything between them. It suddenly becomes clear that Henriette’s Theme is not just music for the woman he loves, but music for the woman he cannot have. The music we’ve heretofore (oh yah) associated with him winning and succeeding and having great adventures stops being that: it’s not about having a good time, it’s about being alone and always on the move. This scene cracks me up every time I watch it, to the point where the last ten days of editing this post have been an emotional rollercoaster.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Wonderfully, the music comes back at the end. The whole story is told as a flashback from old Casanova, retelling the story to Rose Byrne before she was super famous. Just before the credits roll, we see the young Casanova dancing outside with Henriette again, as they did in the moments following that first clip. The soundtrack becomes a music box, symbolic all at once of reminiscing, youth and simplicity.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Henriette’s Theme works so well at this point, and indeed throughout, because we recognise the melody and visually we associate it with Casanova seeing Henriette. This is the whole reason why I think music in all the above scenes is so important, and why I wish I were better at it in theatre. Music is based in memory, which is why we hear particular types of music, particular melodies, particular instruments, even particular notes, and associate it with something else that has happened. It’s almost like synaesthesia – I can’t be alone in that most of my music reminds me of particular friends or moments, both good and bad. What I mean is there’s a massive overlap between visual events and the sounds that go with them, to the point that when we hear those sounds we see those visuals and we are forced into remembering. We hear Henriette’s Theme and we don’t just watch this moment between her and Casanova, but we also remember every moment between them, every time this music has played and how it has made us feel. We don’t even do this consciously necessarily, which is why it’s even better. The music stops us forgetting.

The act of remembering is a big part of film, literature, theatre and television. It doesn’t have to be a postmodern way to deal with what we remember, but all four mediums rely on their audience to remember what they’ve already seen, heard or read. It would be stupid to show murder mystery programmes, for example, if the audience couldn’t even remember who the suspects were when they’re told whodunnit. Perhaps that sounds really obvious. The above is essentially a list of stories that were written and filmed as a way of retelling, which in itself is an act of memory. We are, at the most basic level, watching the actors remember – remembering lines, remembering direction, remembering what they know about their characters, etc – and we, too, remember. But we don’t just do that, we don’t just remember what we are told, what we see, what we hear and what we read. Crucially, we retell it and it becomes part of us. This is exactly what I was writing about with Richard III – we are part of huge stories that people remember and retell and manipulate ad infinitum, and that’s so exciting. You don’t have to be retelling the story of Rapunzel every thirty seconds for Tangled to become a part of you, just as you don’t have to turn into someone you’ve met for them to be a part of you too, but human beings are sponges for what they hear and see and who knows what words or phrases you might have picked up along the way and find yourself using without even realising (a few days ago I caught myself saying laughing with a northern “A” rather than the “larrfing” I’m used to down south: people never stop being a part of you) and so, we, too, are involved in this process of retelling in this huge and complicated narrative that we are constantly trying to understand.

x

Phew.

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Creative writing, c. 1997, part 2.

I left the school of yesterday’s post for various reasons and moved to a mixed boarding school, where I really began to develop my own horrible, horrible style as a writer. I became a bit more casual in my style of writing, so if there’s a word that’s even slightly onomatopoeic, just presume it is surrounded by some illustration of that.

11th September 1998

My life as a seed and tree

Once I was a tiny seed, I was a holly seed. I was red, a lovely red. I was picked up of the ground and I heard a girl say, “Mummy can I plant this seed”, I heard another, “OK if you really want.”

At last the day I was waiting for!!!

Well in the end I had to wait 2 weeks. After that I was so exited I could !BURST! I heard a voice “Mummy I’m gonna plant it now”. [Ed: Nice use of “gonna” to add a touch of realism to the girl’s speech.] I was dropped in the soil, lovely.

After five years I was already huge. At Christmas weirdly I was decorated with tinsel but it was lovely.

I grew more, More, MORE. When I was 15 I was the biggest tree in the garden, but sadly I drooped low and dull. I was green all year round but that didn’t make me feel any better.

Year after year after year after year went by, I just drooped more and more.

I had a boring life and there was no-way it was fun.

One day there was a horrid storm the lightning screamed, the thunder shouted, Flashes [Ed: surrounded by lines to suggest a flash, a nice touch] !BOOM’S! everywhere I got struck by lightning. The next morning I, I…

The implication at this point, if you weren’t sure, is that I died as I wrote. Nothing further needs to be said.

The next poem, which acts as a sort of climax for horrible plant poems was written for a Grandmothers day, when our grandmothers all came in and listened to our poems. Pretty much everyone else wrote nice ones, except me. Still, the teacher wrote “Superb!” and I had no shame. It’s about a nettle.

Mighty Me!

Mister Nasty thats my name,

Mister Nasty thats my game.

I see all the children running past me,

I stick out my leg and sting them as much as can be,

I’m tall and green I’m sure you’ve seen me.

Whenever I see a little pink flower

I thceem and thceem until I make mythelf thick. [Ed: I was thinking of Violet Elizabeth Bott from Just William here. So post-modern.]

My best friend’s the thistle as the dead nettle won’t sting.

I have a mean purple

They have a goody-goody white.

Animals hide under me I give them a sting.

I’m gorgeous, I’m a dream but nobody believes me.

What ho? oh no! they have got the spray

Please Please don’t spray me away,

I beg you, going, going gone and I’m dead

Yeah.

8th October 1998

The Perculiar Ring

“If only someone would help me” she said. It was then that she noticed the peculiar ring on the ground. Immediately she put the ring on and blew off all the dust. As soon as she did this her head swelled like there was no tomorrow, Her eyes grew thin and yellow and then shrank. Then she shrunk to the size of an aphid. She grew again, her head was its normal size. Everything was normal but her eyes.

She ran to school. “Oh no I can’t get the ring off” she said. She ran on to her class room. She was early. After Assembly was the test. These were the words they were supposed to learn:

Awkward

Survive

Ancient

Egypt

Egyptian

Summer

Uranus

Jupiter

Alphabet

Biscuit

These are the answers she had: [Ed: At this point, I whipped out my dictionary and found words I didn’t understand that began with the same letters. I am super smug that I now know all these words, oh yeah]

Anno-Domini  X

X-ylophone  X

Agglomeration  X

Ecological  X

Economy  X

Somnambulist  X

Ubiquitous  X

Jurisdiction  X

Afforestation  X

Bibliography  X

[Ed: the above Xs mark crosses next to her wrong answers, obviously. The test is also marked with a big F- crossed out and replaced with a G- in a big circle]

comments:

These aren’t the right words!! Bad work!

Celina (for that was her name) used Infra-Red [Ed: the word is outlined with a zig-zag line] beams from her thin yellow eyes and froze every one in the room including Miss Mork (that was the teacher) then melted Miss Mork. Celina didn’t want to, “The ring is still stuck on my finger” she thought. She ran home even though it wasn’t the right time. Her eyes did something to her test so now her mark was

A+

comments:

Excellent!

Her Mum was there when she got home. She didn’t work you see. Celina wished she was ill so she didn’t need to go to school. 10 seconds later she had the measles. She knocked on the door. Her Mum quickly opened the door, she quickly took Celina inside, she quickly pushed a thermometer into her mouth. This was her temperature: 43°C. Her Mum rushed her to the Hospital. Her head started throbbing, her ears hurt, her eyes went red and became infected. Then she fainted, she had a dream about being normal. Meanwhile, at school the class had crowded around Miss Morks puddle.

When Celina woke she was having an injection. She wished she was having a normal life without that stupid ring. A second later she was back where she was before she found the ring. After assembly was the test. Her paper did not have

Anno-Domini

X-ylophone

Agglomeration

Ecological

Economy

Somnambulist

Ubiquitous

Jurisdiction

Afforestation

Bibliography

on it it had…

Awkward √

Survive √

Ancient √

Egypt √

Egyptian √

Summer √

Uranus √

Jupiter √

Alphabet √

Biscuit √

comments

Well done!

A+

I think that’s probably the trippiest of my stories, but they continue in this fairly bizarre and horrid way.

Next up it’s another poem. I think we’d been learning about similes, so we were all trying to show off by thinking of weird things to imagine. As far as my poems go, this is pretty average until we get to taste, when I clearly had no idea what to write and so shoved in the first thing that came into my head.

5th November 1998

Emotions

Fear

Fear is a pale, silvery blue,

it makes me shiver inside.

It is sloppy and watery,

it slurps through my fingers and down to teh ground.

It sounds like a ghost howling,

howling through the night,

It tastes like a big, big mouldy sausage.

It smells like sweat,

disgusting thick sweat.

Its shapless body gobbles people to fear.

I met fear this morning when a tiger prowled by

I wish, oh I wish it would go away.

Pretty sure there weren’t that many tigers in Berkshire.

The next story was written after we’d learnt about hurricanes in possibly Geography. All the details of what each character does are taken from a discussion filled with “facts” around the class, where people shared information they “knew” from watching telly, etc.

12 November 1998

The day the hurricane came

Dear Mum,

I was at school, just after lunch when strangely a tree fell down, the lights went out. Everyone looked out the window there was a swirl of some kind and as it got closer somebody screamed “a hurricane” [Ed: not sure I actually knew what a hurricane was.] Mrs Hyde took the mirrors down and told us to hide under our desks She hid the T.V. then she hid like us. I was near the window I saw the caretaker atchully get thrown out of the hurricane. I prayed “God please keep us alive”. But the rumbling got louder and louder I then felt pain, deep pain. I called to Clarissa my best friend she called back, there was so much noise I thought I’d become deaf. I got up from my lieing position and I sat there shivering. I got cold and scared, a tree fell down by an inch it missed the school. Mrs Hyde turned the mirror tray upside down. We all were screaming. Jerry died of fright, so he didn’t have to cope with what was coming up. The hurricane was close. When it got here the whole school fell I’m now in hospital. So please come and visit me.

Love From

Melissa

XXX

The boy is wearing an action man tshirt.

14 January 1999

As if I’d believe that!

“One New Year’s Eve I met the tooth fairy”. I said. Everyone thought I was lying. I mean I don’t blame them but its true. “How can we beleive you, you’r allways lying”. Then it was time for the class photo.

I hate school photo’s [Ed: Such bad grammar, sob.]. I usually look as if I’m asleep. Eventually it was over. Immediatly my tooth fell out. “Yes” I whispered. When it was bedtime I put my tooth in my pyjama pocket. I stayed away until midnight then a little blue light appeared no bigger than my thum then a red light.

“We are fairys”. The little red light spoke.

“You have seen us you must come with us”.

“Tough” I wispered. I climed out of my bed. When I touched the ground I shrunk. The fairys picked me up. I turned into a fairy. I was Beautiful with a capital b. I was taken to fairy land where the sat me down on a block of wood. “You” I yelled. The block split in two. “AAAAAGH” I hit the bottom “Oof”. I couldn’t die, nobody does in fairy land. I’m still waiting to be taken out. I waited ages just looking up at the top. Suddenly I noticed a door way… I ran towards it, it had a dead end but therew as a bottle of I think poison. I wanted it. In fact I’m drinking it at the mo…

The pencil streaks off to the side during that final word, as if I’m actually dying while I write it. I am so imaginative! I remember writing this one, I stopped with “I’m still waiting to be taken out” but then decided that I could use this as an opportunity to use my clever dying-as-I-write technique that I was clearly working on so just added a bit more on the end.

The next one was meant to be a story where we were taught the ins and outs of using speech marks and how to write dialogue in stories. So, it’s a bit dialogue heavy with no real storyline. Enjoy.

The Victorian Disaster

“Good-morning, er my names, Vera I work for the Queen Victoria, It is er lovely to be aquainted with you. Excuse me m’ladys calling me. Oh please I really want to go home, to see mother and my five sisters and six brothers. Good-bye I must leave you.

“Where is that wretched girl.”

“I’m sorry m’lady.”

“We are not amused.”

“About what m’lady.”

“That your always late.”

“I’m sorry m’lady I really am.”

“Why have I not been told its dinner yet.”

“It is ready m’lady.”

“Since Albert died its been hard to keep my temper.” [Ed: Nice little historical knowledge of her husband. Good work.]

“Oh m’lady I did not know.”

“Well, now you do so I would like you to be here before I call you.”

“Well, m’lady. Will you go down for dinner.”

“Yes I will.”

Phew she’s gone. Oh no, I can not stay here any longer. I’ve got to run away now! Hmm I had better pack… Good everythings packed now Goodbye room ….. It is good to be outside. Mother is always telling me to follow my nose. So I guess I’d better.. It is late oh look my home.. Nearly there now phew I’m here. Now to knock.. Oh mother, oh father your back. Hello Jack, Tom, Ben, Albert, oh I can not remember the other names. It is so nice to be with you again!

The End

My teacher commented that she pretty much understood none of it, but she did like the conversation with Victoria, which I was pretty chuffed with.

Humans

Humans are clever I think, I think.

Some are not because they drink, they drink.

Some are ill, some are well.

Some stay up, others they fell,

Some are commen others they’re Royal,

Wich I think makes them terribly spoilt. [Ed: I was left wing even as a child]

I am happy some are not,

They haven’t even got…

Clothes, houses even,

Food or a clean drink,

Come on, come on

Get off your chair

So help them by sending some money.

I wish I knew the context in which this was written. I think it was probably just meant to be about humans generally, but I was such a dork that I took the opportunity to write about everything wrong with the world. I did a pretty good job.

A couple of the next stories are pretty standard fare for a child of my age, and actually not that bad. The next story, though, is where I really peak in my attitude of laziness towards writing. I tried to make it funny, so I wrote it all in an accent, but probably not the right accent for a Roman soldier.

A Roman Soldiers Diary

Dear Diary,

I ‘ate it ‘ere its all cold and ‘orrible. Luckily I’m not cleanin’ the loo because I’ve got a job at the lumbermill. Uh-Oh got to go, oh by the way I’m in Scotland… YUCK.

love Trinius

xxx

Dear Diary,

Time for bed. I’m the only one awake writin’ to you. It’s a shame ‘cos I’m only an auxilliary and my job is gone ‘cos I forgot to to make me masters spear. I ‘ave got to clean the loo tomorrow bit of a shame ‘cos um I can’t get a job wever its part time or not anywhere else!

love Trinius

Dear Diary,

I’m a !legionary! [Ed: underlined with a zig-zag for emphasis] Yahoo and I got a job as a job as a blacksmith but I got to clean the loo first. Oh and I’ve only got 15 more years to go till I leave.

love Trinius

(P.S. Yourr my only friend)

xxx

Dear Diary,

I fallen in love wif the emperors’s wife she is so pretty here she is

isnt she butiful I’m going on duty now . . . I’m ‘ere yuck its cold and wet and yuckky and … SPLAT yuck what was that ugh yuck bird splat uh oh theres a barbarian. Wheres my horn, wheres my horn ahh here now how do you work this. Oh I see BOOO, BOOOO.

Love Trinius.

XXXX

(P.S. I’m still in love.)

Dear Diary,

Sorry I haven’t written to you for 2 years. But I have great news I’m not a centurian but an emperer. I’m married to Marrian (the ex-emperers wife). And I’m happy as can be except I want to go home. Wait a moment…

… I’m going home YES! OK lets go

Love Trinius

Dear Diary,

I’m home at last oh happy day, oh happy day, I’m not going to need you anymore diary.

Love Trinius

XXX

The stories continue to get more and more average after this I think. I’ve had a good rummage through our boxes of things from my childhood but can’t find the sequel to the last book, and so the conclusion to the final story is missing. The story itself is pretty boring, though it shows how remarkably out of touch I was with the real world. The only bit really worth reading is the introduction:

Our Trip around the world

It seemed like a normal day because we were going shopping but no it was not normal because we had won 100 thousand million pounds in the lottery. We were going to spend it by going shopping. I was very excited.

We decided to buy a mansion with 90 floors, a gold helicopter, a bronze launchpad, a privet jet, a privet cruiser, a submarine and 60 maids and butlers and we still had 90 thousand million pounds left. We decided to go on a trip around the world. That left us with 50 thousand million pounds.

It’s amazing that my friends who bought round-the-world plane trips for their gap years managed to raise 40 thousand million pounds to do so. I underestimated how hard they must have worked.

In my Dad’s TES (Times Educational Supplement, he’s a teacher) I was reading yesterday about the imagination of children:

The importance of the enchantment factor becomes clear in an example related by Russian poet Korney Chukovsky, who described a policy instituted by the Soviet government in the 1920s banning all fantasy form the education of children in favour of simple, realistic, factual stories.

One of the educators, curious about the effects of this ruling, began to keep a diary of her own child’s development and found that her son, as if to compensate for what he was being denied, began to make up his own fantasies. He had never heard a fairy tale, never heard a folktale, but talking tigers, birds, and bugs, as well as beautiful maidens, castles, and underground cities soon populated his imaginative world.

Chukovsky concluded: “Fantasy is the most valuable attribute of the human mind and should be diligently nurtured from earliest childhood.”

I can only hope my children have as horrible an imagination as I did.

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Creative writing, c. 1997, part 1.

I’ve got to a point where I have no idea what anyone actually wants to read. I have about 15 or so unpublished posts sitting in my drafts, which all need some polishing, but are mostly there because I read them through and wonder if anyone would care. The post I’m going to put up on Sunday is a good example, I wrote it as a list for the Sunday just gone but it’s stupidly long, but equally I worked stupidly hard on it. I think I just have to work out whether this is a blog for me or a blog for you, or at least be happy with the medium that I reach. My sister says I should just shut up and split the post in two.

So, while I wonder whether anybody has the stamina to stick with the post I’ve just finished, I thought I’d write about something that I really enjoy reading. At this point, it’s important to note that I don’t have any syndromes or serious problems that I’m aware about, and I was actually quite a normal child. My mother is a doctor, which I think is in part the reason I don’t get squeamish about anything other than the thought of injuring my head (having broken my nose twice and the lower half of my face rather seriously I feel this is justified) and my dark sense of humour is definitely shared with my family.

When I was clearing out my room a few years ago, I found two books that have brought me great joy since their discovery. Year 3 and 4 Creative Writing books, aka the weird stories what I wrote between the ages of 6 and 8. I’m missing the sequel to the Year 4 book and one of the stories is cut off as I must have completed it in a new book. I’ll update more if I find it, don’t sweat. I have written such a vast quantity of things, that I’m going to split this post over today and tomorrow, so come back soon for my Year 4 book.

All spellings, grammar and phrases are exactly as they read in the book. I’m just sorry you can’t see my horrible handwriting.

Wednesday 1st October 1997

The strange spell

Ned and Deb were two adventurous children who loved to read they liked other subjects but reading was their favourite. Ned was 6 and Deb was 12. Deb had blonde hair and Ned had brown.

It was Saturday and Deb and Ned were going to the junk store. They looked at other stores like the painting store and the wood store and lots more then they saw the book store. When they got there they looked at useless books, [Ed: the comma is on a separate line to “books”] old books, true books, ancient books, cheap books and lots more.

Then Ned found a very old fashioned book first he thought it was a strange dictionary but it was a spell book! Ned saw that the book was called Ye Magic Spelle.

Ned showed Deb the book of spells. She said “Lets take it home” so they did and decided to make the spell fortunatly they had evrything so they started the spell.

First nothing happened then Ned and Deb started too fade then they appered again in another dimenshon! When their Mum came home she saw the mixture and she new straight away that they had been fooling with magic.

This is a good warm up for the other stories. It’s got stupidity and smug children in it, as well as unnecessary lists about book types and an omniscient mother.

26th November 1997

The little Fir tree: My story

My earliest memory was when I lived in the forest with all the big pine trees towering over me when I had animal freinds like birds who nested in my branches and animals playing underneath me. Then one day it started to snow!

And all my animal friends went to hibernate but I wasn’t lonerly because I soon heard children tobbogening down slopes but three small children came up to me and shouted “Dad can you come and chop this tree down” I was chopped down and put on a sledge then I was taken to a house and I was put in a large tub. Then I had some beautiful decirations put on me like a huge star with a mirror in the middle and lots of beautiful boubles. Soon the lights went out and everyone left the room then father Christmas came through the chimney and put presents under the tree. I was amazed I had atchually seen father Christmas! And then he went up the chimney. I think in my futer I will be planted again and again so there are lots of little fir trees all over England.

Again, this foreshadows stories to come. Note the positive end to this tree’s life as a point of comparison against the end of the lives of plants in future books.

Wednesday 10th December

The night before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas when my dad had fled,

I think its because my mums finger had bled,

We were all in bed and snuggled up tight,

All except two who were having a pillow fight,

I came in to the room and saw,

They were finding it a bit of abore,

Everything went quiet and then there were some bumps,

I thought that I had caught the mumps,

Suddenly it started to rain

And then we heard the bumps again.

POEMS ARE MY FAVOURITE. I continue to be no good at poetry writing, but this is just great and rubbish. But it gets worse. Clearly we had just learnt the story of Icarus flying into the sun. FYI, the title is written in MASSIVE letters, taking up a few lines to give emphasis.

Wednesday 6th May

Oh No!!

When Daedalus finished his maze,

At last he had done it,

He’d been on it for days!

He wanted to go back,

But he was stopped

“Tell us your secret or else!”


One day Daedalus had an idea,

To fly away,

“But” he said “We’ve got to get things first”

First they caught about 20 chickens!

Plucked off all the feathers,

Then the chickens were very bald.

Then they collected lots of wax,

Got stung,

Then felt funny

Stuck it together,

Made a big mess!

But it worked

Then off they go,

“Icarus come back!”

He flew too high

“OH-NO! Dad I’m falling”

Icarus was very quickly

“Help”

Poor Icarus fell more and more

Then plunged into the sea,

“You wouldn’t listen to me”

OH NO

I like to think it’s a bit ee cummings.

The above is a drawing I did in my creative writing book of some people stealing a robot dinosaur. I was 6 and clearly my imagination hasn’t developed much in the meantime.

The next story features a list of character names on the left hand side – I actually remember writing this, we were taught the word hogging and to write a story about this subject, probably to teach us how selfishness is WRONG. We were also taught about planning stories, told to make notes on the character names and a synopsis of our story so that we could stick to the plan. I wrote and misspelt the character names in the margin then got right into it. I think the fact that I knew my subject really well and had planned out the subtexts and story arcs really well comes out.

Hogging the ball

One day Henrietta, Mary, Thomas, Benjman and Harry wanted to play in the mud with Tom’s new ball. He came with them but wouldn’t let them touch the ball because it had gone through the window when it was closed. So he was told off. So he hoged the ball. The rest of them moaned and whined, especually Henrietta and Mary. They kept saying “Hey it’s not fair.” So they went home to mother and said he was being naughty. So mother came out and smacked him and sent him to bed. The others cheered exept Harry. They went to bed with a smack and Harry got some chips for supper. The End.

M. Night Shyamalan would be proud of that twist at the end.

For the next one, it should  be noted that my school house was called “Ducat” and I went to an all girls school at this point, so I’m not sure why my poem looking back on the day involves boys.

Sports Day

Today Jennifer seemed to be in a talking race,

But at least she ran at a good pace,

Ducat won again in first place,

Well we did run at our fastest pace.

I thought I’d win the sack race,

But I fell over Tom, the fat face,

People watching with their cameras

“Oh bother!” I said, “That one’s Pamela’s” [Ed: Who?]

I also thought I’d win the relays,

But if I fell over there would be replays.

Yellows and whites had the blues

Lucky Tim had the flu

I’m going to win the Runnig Race

I’m sure, I am very fast

I ran through the finish line

“Hip Hip Horay, you’ve Won!”

The picture at the end of that story was very much my style when I was 6. Please note the attention to detail with the teacher, including cable knit jumper and pleated skirt.

The next story is my personal favourite. One of the things it shows is that Tim and Tom are recurring character names because I wasn’t that good at names, but I definitely was imaginative.

The above photograph was badly stuck in next to the story. I’m still using my webcam, so apologies that the quality is lacking. It’s basically an old photograph of a boy in a mini go-kart going round a corner with lots of kids watching and having a jolly good time. It’s a happy, old fashioned photograph of better times. Please bear in mind that tone when you read the following:

Round the Bend

One day four-year-old Tim was bored, so h went to see his brother Tom who said, “Why don’t you play on your go-cart?” “OK.” said Tim, Tom pushed Tim all the way to the festival then went rushing round the bend. Woosh. Tom went wooshing over the go-cart and WAM head first on to the stones, had to go to casualty, And lived unhappily ever after. The End.

Story got a tick.

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Final year nostalgia

Like a lot of people, I found my final year really tough. I was constantly overworked and underslept and I look back on a lot of it like it was a bad dream. While at the time I was disappointed not to get a First, I now find it remarkable I even made it through the year. Some time during second term, I discovered one of the halls on campus which was weirdly beautiful, miles away from the ugly prison-block halls I had been cramped in during first year. The lake in the middle, filled with swans, had a tree jutting out, with a bench tacked on around it. It was always empty, and for my two final terms it became my favourite haunt. I’d go down there alone and read and write, sometimes doodling, a couple of times catching up on the work that hung over me, ruining these moments of downtime. When it got to summer, other people started to come and sit there, but they didn’t usually stay, perhaps frustrated that I was more stubborn than they were and I wouldn’t move if I didn’t have to. I’ve idealised the space now, when I tried to find images to show the way it really looked, it looked mundane and ugly, a dark and man-made puddle between boring redbrick buildings, but it doesn’t change it for me.

During third term, I bought an ugly notebook I could doodle in. I didn’t get very far, I’ve never been as much of a doodler, despite coming from a family of far more than doodlers. I claim no gift at art, I know it’s about practise, but I haven’t practised and this is no false modesty. I really am not good at drawing. Regardless, I drew this and wrote with it. (Apologies about my fingernails, I can’t find my camera so was forced to use my webcam)

I don’t come down here innocently – movies play through my mind and romanticise my blonde hair that blows around. Rather than flying in my face it should blow about, making me Kathy on the moors. My paper is lined, not the sketchbook I imagine I own, but its crude brother, ring-bound and tatty, expectant for words to be impregnated upon its fair skin, merely providing the vessel for catharsis and musings. Instead, my disappointing drawings and awkward, pretentious logorrhoea grey its pages with the wrong pencil for sketching. To HB or not to HB? I will never be enough, always brimming over with words and rhymes (at my best), rather than the drawings that claim not to but will always want out of me. I will never be the artist’s daughter, I will always be making the wrong meaning, misinterpreting.

I made a promise to myself at the end of university to leave the house every day. I was lucky enough to spend my final year living in a house full of talented and wonderful people, two of which were involved in the production of an opera at the end of our final term. The days after exams finished, then, were strange, a mixture of busy socialising, going from one meeting to another, and days when if I didn’t leave the house I could manage to see no other people all day. But how to fill days out of the house? My love of clothes meant living in a town with not-half-bad-shopping could mean leaving the house daily was pretty dangerous for my bank account. So I tried to find new spaces on campus. Some days it would get to the evening before I would realise I hadn’t kept my own promise and I would pull on clothes and force myself out of the house. One day stands out, I had the novel I was struggling through (who knew a literature degree would make it so hard to read?), my ugly notebook and, thankfully, my umbrella in my bag as I left the house to go back to this bench-lined tree, but as I walked the half-mile to the bus stop, I remember thinking that I was grateful for tights. The sky was a very ominous grey and the street lamps were already on: while it was light, it was darkening and glooming over and surprisingly cold. By the time I got to campus, the rain had obscured the bus windows and made heavy knocking noises on the metal, yet by the time I had got off the bus, the rain was reduced. Still wet enough to make my hair go weird, still wet enough to make the air muggy and bleak, but perhaps not wet enough to justify the umbrella I clutched. Walking to my favourite spot seemed stupid, but I am and was far too stubborn to consider just staying on that bus and going home. If I was out of the house, I was damn-well going to be out of the house. My leather jacket on the sodden steps, I sat down at one of the central points in campus and began to doodle. I drew the space in front of me, and once again decided to write.

Not sure what Monday means. The world walks past, they are in skirts too short and smartest shirts for scoring. Cellulite dimples its way past me, the lone one in opaque tights with my brolly spinning over my shoulder and goosebumps rippling my bare shoulders in a way that should get them too, but fake tan and trowelled on foundation protect them from the elements. The awkward modern building juts in front of me, every pillar and 45° angle rigid and misunderstanding, inappropriate. The floor, littered with beer-branded detritus contrasts those clean lines and stinks of the disappointment that building provided. Others, like me, alienated perhaps by the dolled up, desperate dollies, stroll past, their heads down, perhaps not confident enough to raise an umbrella in what can only be called drizzle.

As I said, final year was tough. These bits of writing seem more bleak now, looking back on them, than they did at the time. I probably just thought I was being perceptive. Finding this notebook was part of a clearing of university things, everything is drenched in nostalgia, ticket stubs clutched and marked with cracked fold lines from being stuffed in pockets during plays, postcards, bought and sent and received and thank you cards, littered with signatures from characters I once understood. But while this notebook seems now to be more grumpy than I’d originally realised, it was lovely finding a note from a friend that I’d forgotten him writing.

Perhaps the most complimentary line of it was him writing “you were… THE OPPOSITE OF BORING”. That sounds sarcastic, but it meant a lot. He was always a lot cooler than me.

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Sunday list: The ASOS game

My dear friend Fi and I have been playing a game for some time now. I say game in the loosest sense possible. Our friendship is based on shared amusement of this video and a habit to click on ASOS pretty much every thirty seconds. Now, ASOS, like any other clothes website that sells many brands of clothing, is bound to have something a bit weird on it fairly often. But every once in a while, something TRULY HIDEOUS appears, and it is our game to find it, post it on the Facebook wall of the other person and then laugh a bit that someone thought it would be a good idea to create in the first place. It’s a great game. As a result of obsessively reading our wall-to-wall, I would like to share:

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TOP TEN UGLY ITEMS OF CLOTHING THAT SHOULD NEVER HAVE EXISTED, AND YET THEY DO.

10. “River Island Multi Flower Alice Band”

River Island is a shop that has always bemused me. I live near Oxford, where the shop has been totally revamped. It used to be a bit like the Leaky Cauldron Pub: my eyes slid from the smoothie shop on one side straight to the Claire’s Accessories on the other without noticing the shop in the middle. I could only see it if it were shown to me by someone who already knew it was there. This summer, though, it moved into a NEW SHINY STORE, with massive great windows that are super cool and shiny and new but also a slightly weird clash against the Oxford aesthetic of old beige stuff. The clothes have got better too – I’m no longer ashamed at the RI things I own, but then there are items like this that make me wonder if I should be.

I really liked the flower headbands that came out this summer. I couldn’t wear one – I have masses of blonde hair and would look like a hippy who hadn’t bothered to pick the bits of greenery out of her matted hair after sleeping in an abandoned garden, but my friends and the random festival people in my friends’ photos look excellent in them. They’re a great mix of being pretty, delicate, bohemian and quirky as well as obviously from Topshop. Win win, I can appreciate that.

But what happened here River Island? You had so much potential in your revamp, and this is what you came up with? Really? The model is not looking down seductively as much as she is trying not to think about how a flower fairy has vomited on her head. I can’t even explain why these flowers enrage me so: the flowers themselves are fine, but they are so TALL. It’s like four mickey mouse ears or a giant ugly crown. Bad fashion move, great hilarity.

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9. “ASOS Leather Panel Neck Collar”

Well now this one, I hope, should speak for itself. It has the word collar in the title, as if it’s like a shirt collar (that doesn’t look like a word anymore. collarcollarcollar ugh) and no big deal. This, however, appears to be what should really be recognised as a homonym of that collar. The bit of a shirt around your neck that you button and the things that dogs wear may use the same word, but they should not be confused. Here, Zooey Deschanel (I would be willing to bet money on the fact that the nation’s massive girlcrush on Zooey is the reason that this item SOLD OUT. YES, AS IN PEOPLE BOUGHT EVERY SINGLE ONE FOR £30 A POP. And yes I do realise it isn’t ACTUALLY her) appears to be wearing a dog collar with an impractically short lead. It looks like it’s made from darkly painted light switches. The only thing that suits this to the NECKLACE section I found it in was the fact that the weird bits of glued together leather scraps is the big gold rings that tie it together. Juuust in case she tries to escape.

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8. ASOS Layered Chain Thigh Harness

If you want a laugh on ASOS, just search harness in the search box. This little number is now out of stock (whaaat) but at the time of writing there are thirteen alternatives. They also sell hand  harnesses, which are essentially ugly bracelets with more chain than there should be.

But this one? A THIGH HARNESS? Google suggests the following when one searches for “Define: Harness”:

“A set of straps and fittings by which a horse or other draft animal is fastened to a cart, plow, etc., and is controlled by its driver.”

Exactly.

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7. ASOS Genuine Leather and Metal Harness

And on a similar note…

I particularly like the title of this one. IT’S GENUINE LEATHER. GENUINELY.

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6. River Island Poppy Print Palazzo Trouser Set

Oh River Island. Twice mentioned in so little time. Despite the fact that I don’t read any fashion magazines to find out what skinnier people than me are wearing right now and what I should mimic, it is impossible to avoid the fact that there are lots of ugly 70s clothes around at the moment. I’ve just had a fringe cut in and when I wear playsuits I look like a Charlie’s Angel. This is why the 70s are great. Palazzo pants are pretty much the whole reason why the 70s were a bit wrong. They don’t really suit anyone as far as I can see – even the tall and leggy look like they aren’t tall and leggy. But River Island thought of this. The designers, terrified that the leggier amongst us wouldn’t buy palazzo pants for fear of looking a bit thighsy, decided to do away with any optical illusions and just make the trousers see-through so the real size of their legs would be a mystery to nobody. SEE-THROUGH. Surely that’s not sexy? SURELY.

But this outfit is so much worse than that. It’s not just seethrough trousers, it’s a SET. You get a little bit of ruchy fabric to match. AND OH HOW THEY DO MATCH. The fabric looks a bit like the the kind of primary colour messes I used to make at playschool with potatoes. I was a bit young to be cutting out exciting stamp shapes, so I’d cut a hole in the middle of the potato, splodge an exciting mix of three colours on them, occasionally excited about how they’d mix and form green, orange and purple but probably unable to name the colours that it made, and then I’d slam it on a bit of paper. I’d bring the paper home and my parents would express their great pleasure at my abilities before understandably and rightfully throwing the bit of paper away. Also I’m pretty sure I had this outfit for my barbie in c. 1994.

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5. Guest entry: Satin Stripe Peplum Dress by KTZ** (Sold by Topshop)

So, while we traditionally go to ASOS for our weirdass clothing fix, Topshop does come up trumps occasionally too. The stripes are bad enough, but the bits of bin bag and barbie-raincoat-material attached in what can only be described as a haphazard manner just make me squeal a little bit.

The thing is, there’s something I rather like about shamelessly ugly clothes. Perhaps that’s where this whole ASOS game began. When I was about 12 or 13, my feet stopped growing, and to me that suggested a world of possibilities. No longer did I need to buy new shoes every year. I could start buying shoes now, and even if I didn’t have a chance to wear them at this point in time, surely I would wear them when I had grown up, because my feet would be the same size and I would have a grown up heel-wearing career. This led to a collection of amazing and totally ugly heels that I am old enough to recognise that I will genuinely never wear, especially not for a heel-wearing career, and they will only be outed for outrageous and ugly fancy dress themes. One pair of shoes particularly stand out to me as wonderfully gruesome. I bought them as a 16th birthday present for myself:

Sorry that this is the only photo I can find and it’s teeny – they’re yellow and blue Irregular Choice heels with tartan-y bits and a massive green bow. OH YES. This photo doesn’t really capture how totally bizarre and unwearable these shoes are, and yet I refuse to throw them out. They are kind of wonderful at the same time. This dress is the same. I sort of want it because it is shameless in its ugliness. It understands its ugliness and it embraces it. This is something that ugly humans are never encouraged to do, so it’s nice that the dress can.

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4. Pearl & Ivy Kylie Hat

I love hats. The loss of the hat for casual occasions (or even smart ones) is something I lament pretty much every time I see a hat in a shop. People who have only been shopping with me once don’t mind this lament, sometimes agreeing before joining me in a putting-on-hats session. My poor sister, who has probably been going to the shops with me since I was born, may have heard this lament a few more times.

I look great in hats. It is seriously a waste. I watch that scene in My Fair Lady and reckon I could top Audrey Hepburn’s hat wearing AND speak in RP without training.

But this isn’t a hat. Surely a hat covers your head. Isn’t that what the point of a hat is? This is like the direct opposite of a hat. It’s got a big hole where the hat goes. It’s like a Black Swan tutu that got stuck on her head, like she was trying on fancy dress that was too small and had that DO I STEP INTO IT OR PULL IT OVER MY HEAD debate that we girls always have and she went for the head and then left it there because it’s trendy. IT’S NOT TRENDY, IT’S MISSING THE HAT PART OF THE HAT.

Though I am super impressed with the sheer height of her hair. IT’S SO TALL.

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3. ASOS Triple Station Skinny Bangle with Hanging Chain

Now that is a liberal use of the word “Bangle”.

Sometimes when I look at dresses or tops that are off the shoulder in a deliciously wonderful and 80s way, I look at them and go mmm off-the-shoulder-y and then I buy them and add them to my collection of clothes that continue to surprise me in their irritatingness to wear. Off-the-shoulder clothing forces you to become the girls off those Impulse spray adverts from the early 00s, in which a girl was presented with an emergency that she couldn’t solve because she couldn’t raise her arms, presumably because the smell and sweat patches underneath were so terrifyingly awful that it would destroy the entire world. Anyway, she would awkwardly prance about with her elbows glued to her sides in the same way we have to with off the shoulder tops, because as soon as one raises their arms then the sleevey things pop up and have to be adjusted.

While I may fall for off-the-shoulder tops pretty much every time I go shopping, I WILL NOT FALL FOR THIS ONE YOU SNEAKY “BANGLE”. If her pointy little elbows weren’t at that strategic angle (I’m bitter, she has great arms) surely it would keep falling down. I’d have to keep holding my arm in that awky way with my hand on my hip, so you’d better hope I’ve worn my Impulse spray when I wear that thing.

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2. ASOS PREMIUM Flower Detail Hat

The old lady synchronised swimming team called. They want their hat back.

How did this ever sell out? Even the model is like “Seriously.”

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1. Blaak Rainbow for ASOS Half Catsuit

As I said before, I love a good playsuit. I love feeling like a Charlie’s Angel. I love the fact that I get to wear opaque tights but I could kick someone’s ass if I needed to. Literally kick and I wouldn’t flash anything. They let you run around and they totally suit their name – when I wear playsuits, all I want to do is PLAY. But this isn’t a playsuit, it’s a catsuit, and nobody but Michelle Pfeiffer can wear them, really. The ASOS description of it is equally disturbing:

“Stripe half catsuit by Blaak Rainbow for ASOS. Featuring a tonal stripe print finish with a scoop neckline, sleeveless styling, a placement print to the chest, a high cut leg illusion and cropped half cut legs with a low open back and stretch bodycon fit.”

Is that a scoop neckline? And surely no sleeves is not “styling” but rather just a lack of sleeves. You can style sleeves if they’re there, but nobody can style the lack of them. I didn’t even notice the “high cut leg illusion”, which basically means there’s an ugly seam along the same horrific and kind of terrifying Baywatch cut that all 80s leotards have. Brilliant. It’s cropped, too, to make the wearer look short.

Half my degree was in Theatre Studies, so I read a lot of wishy-washy rubbish during my degree. Lots of things around the subject of “IS THIS A PERFORMANCE?” No, it’s not, was usually the answer, for future reference. Anyway, my alarm bells went off when I read the blurb about the company who designed this interesting outfit. Apparently, the creators were “Inspired by ‘non-colour’… the duo based their label around “contemplation on the emotions around the colour black.” ” ughhhh

But the bestest news of all is that it’s still in stock, so if you fancy going as Beetlejuice to Halloween, at least you’ll have something to wear.

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On a side note, it is blog posts like this which are why I have put an apology in my ‘About’ section that some may find my blog vacuous and boring. This is my second post, so it is not the time to be ranting and earning enemies, but let me say this: clothes are wonderful pieces of artwork, designed to create sometimes unbelievable optical illusions of our shape or our colouring and to me that is something quite fabulous. I like colours, I like patterns and I think fabric is pretty. My only knowledge of fashion is from looking at pictures of clothes almost daily – I don’t read fashion blogs or obsess over styles. The best fashion advice I’ve ever been given was from the Guardian, which said something along the lines of – if you like something, buy it and then wear it until you don’t like it anymore. The most empowering thing I can say about clothing is that enjoying it should not be embarrassing or an example of vanity. Appreciate the artwork and craftsmanship. But not of the clothing above please.

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