Thursday, 27 January 2011

movie overload

We have watched three films since Saturday:

- Up in the Air (George Clooney being mean but getting less mean)
- The American (George Clooney looking very worried whilst getting away with murder)
- Revolutionary Road (Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio being very miserable)

I need something to cheer me up!  I love a good drama but, dear me, where has all the fun gone?  I know these films aren't exactly up to the minute but is anyone making films for adults that have a little bit of joy?  Perhaps a few laughs?  

We have a new thing in Malmesbury which should make sure we actually leave the house to see films.  Our local town council has teamed up with Moviola the UK's 'rural multiplex'.  The idea is that the film and projectionist travel, not the audience.  A fantastic idea and very enjoyable unless you have back problems and don't fancy sitting on the standard village/town hall seating.  If you're in the South West, take a look at their website and see where they screen.  We're having a year's trial in Malmesbury and I'm spreading the word so that the trial turns into a regular venue.  As the most northern town in a rural county, it's can be difficult for the local population to access all sorts of services and entertainments.  A fortnightly trip to the cinema is not going to save lives but it is going to bring something a little different and an extra bit of joy.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

getting going....

...this week I've enjoyed an early zumba class (9.30am is early in my book) and a river walk each morning after drop-off.

It made me think how lucky I am to live in a place where I can walk my daughter to school, pop in my ipod earphones and stomp across fields to check that the River Avon is where it's meant to be.  And it's true - exercise is good for the soul, as well as the body.  I can feel the difference in my outlook.  Having spent about a month coughing, spluttering and slumped on the sofa, the effect of getting out into the fresh air is like some kind of power surge.

On Monday I saw a kingfisher for the first time ever IN MY LIFE.  And again, I marvelled at how great it is that even aged 43, there are still things I haven't seen - most of them, admittedly, nature related.

We have a busy week this week - surprise, surprise.   The Worker is turning into The Driver as he hurtles around the UK organising re-fits of pubs and hotels, E seems to have escalated her after school activities (not sure how that happened) and J is making his final choice for GCSE.  I thought this last activity would be fraught with anxiety and dithering but no.  J knows what he wants to do, is open to parental discussion but is quite determined.  His choices fit the paramaters that his school has laid down so that's that.  Done and dusted.

It has provoked a lot of memory sessions between myself and The Worker.  I wasn't allowed to do Art, so did Technical Drawing (then spent 25 years before starting a Fine Art degree) and he didn't want to do Art because it sounded too girly (all-boys-grammar school in the 80s - you can't blame him) so he did Technical Drawing too.  Must have been right for him, he's a surveyor/project manager.

It also made me think about how much angst over kids is too much/too little.  I can already see that this bit of parenting is going to be a lot more difficult solely because there's are two quite forceful individuals with their own point of view in the house.  Most of my parenting style is quite, I think, laid back but I do have a tendency to do the 'don't, because I say so' routine which has kind of worked but I can feel my power waning.  In fact, I think it's already gone.  They just walk off.  How rude but, ha ha, then I get the remote.  What's that about a silver lining?

Thursday, 13 January 2011

the big society....

...could be:

a) a comment on the rise of obesity in our great and glorious land (N.B. 'The Biggest Loser' - guaranteed to make a girl feel skinny once a week)

b) the vague, implausible, so-called social revolution proposed by our dear and beloved coalition

Today, I'm going to write about (b).  This is because I heard Frances Maud waffling on Radio 4 whilst driving around a sodden Chippenham while E & best friend, L did 'streetdance' (which is a whole other post).

First of all I must thank The Worker for providing me with the means to listen to Rt. Hon F Maud.  Second of all, is anyone feeling that we're in a bit of a time warp?  Listening to him reminded me of being at college in the 80s.  All I could hear was a plummy voice sounding as if he didn't really know what he was talking about.

This is what I heard (not necessarily, what was actually said).  I might have a listen online again - or maybe not.

'So, Mr Maud, what is The Big Society' asked nicey Radio 4 lady whose name I can't remember....
'Well, it's not that easy to define.  There's no policy as such.'
Pause for nicey Radio 4 lady to take that in....
'What does it actually mean?'
'That's defined, really by communities themselves'
'What will people do as part of The Big Society?'
'Whatever it is their community requires.'
'Will you have targets?  How will you know it's working?'
'No, there are no targets yet?  It will develop organically.'

Now, call me old-fashioned but isn't transparency in government all the rage?  The Big Society (or BS as I'm going to refer to it in the future) sounds a bit vague, a bit amorphous, a bit foggy.

I'm sure it's all in the national interest though.

There, rant of the week done and dusted.

Monday, 10 January 2011

all the ones....'s the 11th of the 1st, 2011 tomorrow.  11/1/11.  It must be an auspicious date of some sort and if not auspicious, then spookily dangerous with numbers like that.  I could google it but I've googled so much lately I can't bear to.

My googling habit got out of hand over the Christmas break.  I can't remember how many times I googled 'turkey leftover sprouts' or 'ultimate roast potatoes' or 'what to do with sprouts' or 'weather, Swindon'.  One of my favourite new year past-times (in a spirit of frugality) is to google random contents of the cupboard, fridge or freezer and see which recipes turn up.  I discovered chicken, chickpea and chorizo stew recently which I have to say was rather good.

I'm considering introducing an 'incommunicado day' each month where I will leave my mobile, email, ipad and laptop untouched for a full 24 hours.  Much as I appreciate (and love) to have almost everything at my fingertips and available online, I would quite like to experience that feeling of being away that we had a few years ago when if we left the office or home we just mentioned that we'd be back in a couple of hours and, well, went.  No-one could ask us something that could quite happily wait a couple of hours.  If I was on Facebook I think I would start a campaign, inviting people to join me on a 'switch off' day.  Imagine if we all switched off, if Twitter was tweetless and Facebook had no pokes or whatever it has.  What a day that would be.

I think of my nephew, currently in New Zealand, armed with Facebook, a mobile and an email address.  The worker and I went travelling 17 years ago and I remember packing airmail envelopes and visiting 'poste restantes'.  Family and friends heard from us regularly but by post.  At the end of our travels, my mum gave us all the letters we'd sent home and we had kept all those sent to us.  I had a look a couple of weeks ago (it was snowing, you know) and marvelled at the handwriting, the little drawings, the stamps.  We used to phone about once a month or if we moved to another country.  We stood in hot, sweaty, smelly phoneboxes or managed to persuade American Express offices that we were very important customers and needed to use the phone.  We phoned on birthdays and at Christmas.  That was it.  Was it better?  It was just different but there's something about knowing that you're properly away.  That you're immersed in where you are instead of having one foot where you've been. 

Sometimes I think our reliability on technology and all its advantages is rendering us a tad useless.  Most people, apparently, fear losing their mobile more than their wallet.  I read that landline use is falling like a brick and the sales of maps are waning.  'Easy Living' magazine recently ran an article about all the things we don't do any more, such as:
- read a map
- look something up in an encyclopedia
- write cheques
- write letters

We are losing the physical presence of money, the joy of receiving letters by post and the understanding of wherever we are through the maps that could guide us.  There are so many advantages of technology but they come with a bit of a price. 

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

in the beginning....

...there was Jeremy Vine encouraging us all to feel sorry for ourselves or to despise those that feel sorry for ourselves as VAT rises, jobs disappear, money dwindles and our bank balances dip further below the overdraft line in this first week of 2011.

There was no mention of new starts, healthy lifestyles, starting again, looking forward, general gung-ho optimism, no, he just wound his callers up.  Most of his callers sounded as if they hadn't left the house for a month.  I have sympathy with them due to my own seasonal agraphobia.  I still haven't quite recovered and find I get a little dizzy if away from the house for more than a couple of hours. 

I can only listen to Mr Vine for short periods of time before my ranting gets the better of me.  Phone-ins are such pointless things.  They don't solve anything.  There's not a great deal we can do about the VAT rise apart from a) make more money b) spend less.  No amount of complaining will change it.  We've just got to get on with it and accept that a millionaire who's never had a proper job is quite likely to be unaware of the impact his policies have on the ordinary minions about the place.  That's what we voted (or didn't) for last year.

We went to see 'Swallows and Amazons' at Bristol's Old Vic on Sunday.  It was lovely.  I always forget what a small theatre it is.  We had half the back row of the stalls and I was sat bang in the centre with a direct view of the stage. 

The production had a sense of austerity about it.  The biggest prop was a mast and there was a 'make do and mend' air about the rest of the staging.  The sea was represented by 4 blue ribbons and the boats were improvised from boards with castors and bits of wood.  Like 'Warhorse' the stage hands were part of the production and were much more than lugger-abouters, they played the instruments, sang in the choir and gave the main actors an energy and humour they otherwise wouldn't have had.  It made me want to come home and make things but then, I always do want to come home and make things.  We had a lovely time watching a nostalgic version of dear old Blighty and the fun we used to be able to have with nothing but a cardboard box and a sugar sandwich.

On a more materialistic note - FC brought me a new car stereo with a jack to play my ipod - no more tapes.  Just me, my ipod and a few CDs.  My old one crashed at the beginning of December and I've had enough of driving around with just my random thoughts to distract me.  I'm much better off if I can listen to Melvyn Bragg once in a while.  I'm sure my IQ rises simply by hearing him talk with all those dons and professors about ancient greece or the vikings.  Can you get brainier just by listening to brainy people?  When I'm not listening to Melvyn, I shall  be trying to blow my speakers with lots of age-inappropriate music on the way to Swindon College.

Happy New Year!