Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Screen Time

Of my vague resolutions the only one I’ve really made much head way with is my resolution to watch more films. Not exactly a difficult aim and quite an enjoyable one. So since the beginning of the year I’ve seen three films in the cinema, plus one regular film club screening.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
The previews described it as “part heist movie, part Greek tragedy” but it was pretty much all Greek tragedy really. It had that awful inevitability about it, where you want to scream “Don’t do that. That’s a really bad idea!” and you just know its going to end badly for everyone concerned. It didn’t end quite badly enough for Ethan Hawke’s character in my opinion, but that’s just because I have an unexplainable dislike of him.

No Country for Old Men
Its not that I didn’t understand it or that I’m a heathen who only likes blockbuster action films, but really I thought that was one of the most over-rated films I’ve ever seen. Every review I’d read of it, the reviewer was practically wetting themselves over it. But it did nothing for me. I didn’t hate it but it didn’t seem anything that special. The phrase "Emperors New Clothes" sprung to mind. Yes, it looked beautiful – give the cinematographer an Oscar by all means, but then again how difficult is it to make a good looking film with a million dollar budget? I've seen lots of good looking films. Sometimes I want something more.

Frank and Cindy
The film club screening this month was a documentary about a one-hit wonder musician and his wife, as filmed by her son. I’d never heard of Frank’s group Oxo who had one hit in the USA in the 80s, but that didn’t matter. Unlike No Country for Old Men, it didn’t look good. It won’t be winning any cinematography awards anytime soon but it had something more. It was funny, it was touching, it was interesting, it was original. Unfortunately it may never come to a cinema near you but it is still going round various festivals.

Courtesy of the Sunday Times, we went to a preview screening of this last night. A comedy about teenage pregnancy doesn’t sound the most promising (I was half expecting something like a Ken Loach film!) but it was brilliant. It was funny and heart-warming and really properly feel good, which is saying something as very little usually makes me feel good. I liked everything about it - the music, the titles and since I no longer have a father, I would like to be adopted by her father in the film.

My only qualms with it is the way it is being marketed as being a script by a stripper turned writer – actually she was an advertising executive turned stripper first of all, but that doesn’t make for such good copy.

The people coming out of the cinema behind me had a strange complaint about it though. They didn’t believe the girl was 16 as "she acted more like a 12 year old with her constant drinking of Sunny Delight". This wasn’t a major part of the plot and seemed a very small odd thing to pick on, but perhaps they were students doing a thesis on “the consumption of soft drinks in contemporary cinema”.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Some months ago, a popular high street bank near my work (HSBC actually, I don’t know why I’m being secretive here) was refurbished dramatically. It became rather futuristic looking, a vision of the future that would make Orwell proud. I didn’t like it but as it wasn’t my bank and I usually only used the machines outside, I thought no more of it until today when I went to use the Currency Exchange.

Gone is the nice man behind a counter who counts out currency while making pleasantries about your trip.!
Replaced by a machine!

A machine that allows you to withdraw different currencies but annoyingly restricts you to your normally maximum cash withdrawal amount, rather than it being a card transaction. It made no attempt at conversation and didn’t wish me Bon Voyage or anything.

Then afterwards, I go to Tesco where I scan my shopping and am told by a harsh robot voice to place my goods in the bagging area and insists mechanically that I use their plastic bags –as it won’t let me put my own bag anywhere near and if I move the shopping towards it, lights start to flash and she gets over-excited.

We are all being replaced by machines. And I’ve not even mentioned automated phone systems.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Conversation Killer

Last night I went out for drinks for a friends birthday. There was a mixture of her friends there, some of whom I knew, some I'd never met before. So, as you would expect, some conversations were a bit stilted, nothing more than small talk.

At one point I ended up in conversation with a girl I know reasonably well and her boyfriend who I had never met before. I mentioned the problems of funding in the theatre, not expecting anyone to be interested but in response to a question about how my job was going. I said it was a difficult time for the theatre and there was a bit of a money problem in the sector.

To which the boyfriend said

"One month I'm going to ask for my salary entirely in cash just so I can see what such a large sum of money looks like in notes"

I didn't quite know what to say at this point and at the earliest opportunity I moved to talk to someone else. I was well aware that this person had a well-paid job as I'd been told previously about his girlfriend's boasts. But is it not rather an odd thing to say in conversation? I don't have a problem with someone else's success and I am well aware that I made the decision to work in an industry that is never going to lead me to such material wealth.

But really is that what passes for polite conversation these days?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

It's Different If You're Famous Pt 2

I am disgusted at the reports that Leslie Ash is to get a £5 million pay out from the NHS because she got MRSA when she was in hospital being treated for broken bones from bedroom gymnastics. The record payout is to compensate for her loss of earnings as an actress.

I admit I’m not going to be the most objective about this since my auntie has suffered from this twice and neither time was she in hospital with something that was self-inflicted like Ms Ash.

But even so there are things about this that annoy me.

Firstly, her acting career was over before she got MRSA after a botched lip implant job left her looking like a trout.

Secondly, and more importantly, people have died with MRSA – are their families getting more than £5m because surely death is worse than a thwarted career?

I'm sure it must be awful for her, its a horrible thing to happen to anyone and its terrible that people no longer feel safe in hospitals, but does she deserve this huge amount? She doesn't need the money but I'm sure other families who've been affected genuinely need financial support, but they don't have the means of getting these results.

I assume that there is some sort of insurance that covers NHS compensation but even so I hate the thought of so much money going to one person when you think what good that could do within a hospital.

Yet again it is a case of the lives of the rich and famous being more important than everyone else.

Of course, I will revise my opinion entirely if it turns out that she donates all the money back to a hospital. That's what I would do.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Something Old, Something New

I wondered whether I'd be aching as I type this post this morning, but I'm not. The reason I may have been is that last night I went to aqua aerobics, after an absence of probably a year. Aqua aerobics is hardly one for the Olympic athelete but I enjoy it. Its quite fun, if you can get over silliness of it.

Last week's activity was a different matter entirely. Last week, for the first time ever, I went to a yoga class. Where I greeted aqua aerobics like a comforting old friend, yoga was a new strange creature to me. I am possibly the least flexible person in the world - its not an age things - even as a child I couldn't touch my toes. And how much did I ache afterwards? It didn't the decency to wait until the next morning - I started aching that day.

I was disheartened but have come to the conclusion that I should stick with it for the 8 week course because it is stupid to give up on something so quickly just because I wasn't the best in the class. Going back to the issue of New Year's Resolutions, I think this is a good starting point, not just for the exercise, but for trying something new and getting outside of my comfort zone.

If I don't post for a few more days it may be because I ache too much to type.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

7 Things about Me, Coffee and Tea

Around the web, people are doing these Seven Things pieces. At first I was struggling to think of seven things that regular readers wouldn’t already know, and then somehow I decided I had enough items to stick to the topic of tea and coffee (I can’t promise they will be very interesting).

  1. I like my tea very weak – just make the briefest introduction between the bag and the contents of the cup. I have been known to dive across a room to fish out a teabag
  2. I also like my tea made the traditional way of milk in first. This method was apparently used when people drank from fine bone china cups as it prevented the cups from cracking. With modern mugs it is no longer necessary but I prefer it that way
  3. I prefer to drink tea from a mug/cup with a white interior
  4. I gave up having a half a sugar in my tea for Lent when I was seven and now can’t stand even a sip of sugared tea
  5. I’m not so fussy about how I take coffee, although churlishly I often prefer instant to proper coffee which tends to send me a bit bendy
  6. Decaf coffee makes me feel sick, but half caf doesn’t make me feel half sick.
  7. I’m always slightly suspicious of people who don’t drink tea or coffee. I don’t mind if they drink one and hate the other, but I find drinking neither very odd. I wonder what they do to break up the day at work and what they drink during difficult times (I’m a firm believer in a consoling cuppa). Even if I go on to become good friends with these non-drinkers, I will never fully trust them because of this.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

And your specialist subject is…

Over Christmas, we caught a couple of episodes of Celebrity Mastermind. Aside from thinking that the questions were easier than those usually asked, it set me pondering about the specialist subject. The assembled celebrities’ subjects included Jamaican reggae music, bee keeping, Monty Python, Daphne du Maurier, the Sex Pistols, Captain Beefheart, and Lord Elgin and his Marbles (which is sounds like another punk band!).

My thoughts turned to what would my specialist subject be and the answer is, I don’t have one. This worried me. If I was going on the show (unlikely, but I do worry about these things –whenever I see ski jumping on television, I worry that I wouldn’t be able to do it), I suppose I could pick a topic and revise for it in preparation. But what would it be?

I honestly don’t know a lot about any one thing. I don’t mean I’m completely ignorant. I know a little bit about lots of things, but I don’t have a specialist subject.

So, dear readers, what would you specialist subject be?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Futility of Resolutions

I’m fighting the urge to write out a list of resolutions for 2008 as I fear they will be depressingly similar to those for 2007.

Get a New Job in particular has featured on the resolution list ever year that I’ve had a job.

Get Fit is always in there too.

As is Save More Money.

But that last one often conflicts with vaguer aims to Have a More Interesting Life or Be More Cultured (which can usually be broken down into Read More, Travel More, Learn Something New, Watch More Films, See Friends More Often, Go to More Exhibitions).

I may have once vowed to Give Up Coffee but I won't be doing that one again, although Drink More Water and Eat More Fruit will probably return.

What is particularly depressing about my failure with the resolutions as that they are all obtainable goals. Its not like I'm aiming to Swim the Channel, Win the Lottery or Win a Nobel Prize.

And yet each year its the same. Well maybe 2008 will be the year I succeed. If not I can always just cut and paste this post again in 2009.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

First Transport Rant of 2008

My anger this time is at National Express who have recently taken over the East Coast Mainline that was previously being run by GNER We’ve had our ups and downs over the years, me and GNER but I think I’m going to miss them, based on my first experience of the new regime.

For my return journey, I had booked a seat in First Class. Not that I’m usually this flash but the ticket was only £10 more than standard and past experiences with a large suitcase and the Christmas crowds made me think it was the way to minimise the stress of the journey. The train was 15 minutes late and when it arrived it was already full, every seat and spare inch of floor space was taken up with luggage and people standing. My seat that I naively thought was reserved had someone else in it who’d travelled from Scotland and also had a reservation for it.

So I spoke to a train guard, who said ‘All of the seats have been double-booked as its Christmas’

‘But I’ve paid for First Class’ I countered

To which he said parrot fashion ‘You haven’t paid for the seat reservation. We give you that free so it doesn’t guarantee you a seat’.

“But why would I pay extra for First Class if it didn’t get me a seat. Its not better standing in First Class than standing in Standard’, said I.

To which he had no reasonable answer, but instead said that the next train would be starting from this station so there might be more room on there and he signed my ticket to allow me to travel on the later train.

As I was getting off, another National Express employee told me there was no point getting off as the next train would be the same. I explained to her that there wasn’t even room to stand on the one I’d got off, so I didn’t have much choice. She said the next one would be as bad. Then we had the same conversation about seats not being guaranteed.

Our conversation was overheard by a couple of Americans who told me they thought it was a disgrace what these companies were allowed to get away with. Thankfully I got on the next train (which wasn’t anywhere near as busy but was delayed) but I will be writing a strongly worded letter of complaint to National Express.

Christmas Catch Up

Should I do a little round up of what has happened in the eons since I last posted?

We spent in the north with my family. It was the first time the OH and I had actually spent Christmas together as he normally spends it with his family. I was apprehensive about this to say the least, but it went ok. Yes, my family bickered and irritated me, but really it wasn’t so bad. We all survived.

It was very sad going to visit my auntie in hospital where she is making slow progress after her stroke. She is making some progress, but when her speech is limited to Good Morning, Yes and No (which she often gets around the wrong way) it is frustrating, and clearly gets her down. On the upside, the MRSA has gone so she should be able to start proper therapy soon.

The OH bought me a great present which wasn’t what I was expecting at all – he bought me a day at the Sanctuary Spa which I’ve always wanted to go to but have been put off by the price. So I’ve got a day of pampering and relaxation to look forward to at some point in 2008. I also received lots of other good gifts, including the book of the exhibition I went to a while ago (Amazon Wishlists are a wonderful thing for guiding the family in the right direction!).

New Year
We decide to opt out of New Years Eve celebrations by going away, just the two of us. We went to Canterbury to stay at the Abode Hotel, having enjoyed the one in Glasgow so much. So we watched films and drank champagne in bed as midnight struck and I enjoyed it enormously.

The strangest thing that happened over the holiday was that I got quite into the darts! I was scathing of it at first but was sucked in by Wayne “Hawaii 501” Mardle, his garish shirts and his range of facial expressions. Sadly, just after I’d adopted him as my favourite, he went out of the competition. But I still enjoyed the final and was amusing the OH with my almost insightful observations by the end of the tournament.