Follow by Email

Friday, 19 April 2013

Some Days

Occasionally, you'll have one of those days where your eyes see everything in a soft focus and you can stare into space for an indeterminate amount of time with only a throbbing pain behind your left eye for company. Some days your worry and fury and constant discontented internal dialogue will take leave and you'll be left with a watery landscape of emptiness and indifference, just there, doing nothing.

On these days, you'll go to your bed in broad daylight and think of nothing and do nothing and for a moment, feel like your existence is nothing, just waiting to be something. All the energy spent hoping and longing and being ashamed suddenly seems wasted and you consider for a moment whether it would be so bad after all just to give up on all your dreams and spend your days instead like a misplaced housewife, making cakes laced with despair and unfulfillment.

These days are rare but when they come around they are accompanied with some bizarre relief to be able to escape from your mostly solitary company and just be. Just exist without moving forward or backward or anywhere apart from a series of moments strung together by hazy indifference.

And these are the days when you'll awaken from an absence from your own head and see that there is a fly in your tea. And that will be a perfect metaphor for your life.

This may sound like I've just been on a substance-induced trip, but my life isn't interesting enough for that.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

A Beginner's Guide to the Books of the Deep South

My favourite thing to read about is the American Deep South, preferably the Old South. I find the whole concept utterly fascinating and so starkly different to anything I have ever experienced. It is a place and era so entrenched in subtleties, customs, traditions and a rich culture that has weathered great change and has great pride, and contains some of the most fascinating people and stories. It has a very unique identity which lends itself to mystery, injustice and heartbreak yet also beauty, celebration and love. The books that have touched my soul most deeply are those that are set against the backdrop of this fascinating corner of the world, so treat this article as a beginner's guide to the best books of this sort that I have come across in my twenty three (roughly nine of which I've spent seeking out the best literary southern belles that bookshops have to offer) years on this earth.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Let's start with the obvious and work from there. To Kill A Mockingbird is the story of a young brother and sister and their would-be idyllic childhood in Southern Alabama, apart from their mother is dead and their father is the only lawyer in the deeply prejudiced and racist county who is willing to represent a black man who is standing trial for the rape of a white woman. Essentially this is the story of the children's struggle to learn right from wrong in a place and time that is deeply conflicted in its ideals. Their father wants his children to grow up understanding that there is not a fundamental difference in credibility between races, despite the efforts of some to make it seem like there is. This is a beautiful and poignant yet frank tale of life in the old Deep South as seen through the eyes of a little girl who is struggling to understand the complexities and conflict of the world in which she lives. In my very humble opinion this is something that every human being should read at least once in their life. Oh and it's set in the early '30s. 

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This absolute diamond of a book has really risen to prominence over the last year-ish due to the film adaptation's release. The Help is a magnificent depiction of life as a maid in Mississippi in the '60s. Until reading this book I never realised the horrors that were still going on in The South as late as the '60s, and what life was really like for the women who worked their whole lives serving white families and bringing up their children. The characters are lovable and relatable and the story can be as sweet and humorous as it is brutal and honest. We see great victories which will go on to reshape history, along with the tiny defeats of the daily lives of the women who still have little choice but to be the maids of white families. The film is a good adaptation as it does the book justice and I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a story of friendship, empowerment and life in the Deep South as told by the help. 

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

A lesser-known feature of this list, but no less good. I actually found myself reading it as it came free with a magazine one summer when I was about 14. It is the story of 14-year old Lily in 1964 South Carolina who goes on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment which takes her, along with her maid, to a farm owned by four sisters as she escapes her abusive father. There is a slight underlying theme of Civil Rights, but this is mostly a story of growth, discovery, love and loss for both Lily and the sisters she finds herself amongst. It is a heartwarming and mystical story which follows Lily's coming of age in difficult circumstances. This is a perfect substitute for a mindless summer read that is as touching a thought-provoking as it is relatable and entertaining. 

The Color Purple by Alice Walker 

Another obvious choice but again a worthy contender. The Color Purple (I'll spell 'color' this way just this once) is heart-wrenching and bloody in nature and in the beginning I did wonder why I was putting myself through such a depressing experience but it is surprisingly enlightening. Reading this as a teenager, I struggled with the language to begin with as it is epistolary in the form of the protagonist's letters to God which are written in the true style of a poor, uneducated teenager of the 1930s, making it largely phonetic and employs a dialect that I was not familiar with. However, once I'd got over this I was completely engrossed. The book follows this girl's life and the horrific treatment she is subjected to in a world where is is neither safe nor fair to be a black girl and is completely powerless over her own life. The book follows her over many years and we see the growth, love, loss, empowerment and discovery of a character who we are rooting for from the very beginning and whose victories and emotions we feel that we are sharing by the end. A must-read if you don't mind a little gritty frankness in the violence and injustice that it depicts. 

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

As far as I understand, I think that this book is actually the second part of a trilogy (preceded by Little Altars Everywhere and succeeded by Ya-Yas in Bloom) but this one is the one that really stands out to me. Everything that enthralls me about the Deep South is in this book and I could read it every day for the rest of my life. It gives us a snapshot of the deeply dysfunctional love that can be created by a society which has so many rules and expectations. We follow the story of four friends growing up in 1930s-40s Louisiana who are the daughters of rich plantation owners and are at the heart of Louisiana society, but are damaged products of their circumstances. The reader learns about their childhoods and the events that sculpted who they became, and then their struggles and experiences as they then become parents themselves. This is the book that fed my fascination with a moment in time in a place that seemed so exotic and thrilling to me. It is fundamentally a story of friendship and family and how intertwined those two things are, but also looks at mental health and how it is dealt with in a time and place in which such things were scarcely acknowledged. I truly urge you to read this book and tell me that it doesn't enthrall you one tiny bit. 

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

The littlest-known item on this list, but definitely as worthy a contender. My dear friend Clare bought me this book after learning about my fascination with the Deep South, and boy did she do good. Set in the present day, this book tells the story of a girl who grew up in Alabama who has now escaped (as she puts it) to Chicago, after she vowed to never set foot in Alabama again, however the day has come that she must return. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn the intricacies of what this place-or rather the people in it- did to her for her to vow to never return. It is clever and compelling and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of this not-everything-is-as-it-seems coming-of-age story. 

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

There's a reason that 'Gone with the wind fabulous' is an actual recognised saying, because anything as fabulous as Gone With The Wind must be very fabulous indeed. I can't even really begin to put in my humble words why you should take the time to read this, but I will try. It is an epic tale of one Southern Belle's experience of the American Civil War. We see the metamorphosis from insufferable spoiled brat to strong independent businesswoman of Scarlett O'Hara as she must do whatever it takes to survive the destruction that is going on around her. She sees her beloved childhood home of Tara begin to crumble under the drastic change that Georgia-and the whole of the south- is experiencing and it is down to Scarlett to lead the way and keep it going. We live through her various marriages- though there is one man who will always have her heart but will always be out of reach- and begin to understand the intricacies of southern life and the change that happens in Scarlett's lifetime. Read it, it might just change your life. Or at least entertain you for a few hours. 

So if you are intrigued by the deep south and want an entertaining snapshot of what life as a southerner is like, then give this lot a try. You can learn about the civil rights movement, southern hospitality, love, loss, power, feminism, bravery, geography, history, friendship, childhood, coming of age, agriculture, climate and fashion. Most people can find something to relate to.

I understand that I have missed a few of the obvious here and this is simply because I haven't read them yet. I've got A Streetcar Named Desire (which I can't wait to get started on, I'm obsessed with New Orleans) and Huckleberry Finn lined up on my bookshelf waiting for me to get around to, and if you have any other recommendations, I'd love to hear them. 

What are your favourites? Do you find the Deep South as fascinating as I do?





Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Kerry Washington- Queen of Everything

This weekend I finally got to see Django Unchained (best film EVER btw, I could talk all day about how incredible it is) and those of you that know me will know that 90% of my film selection process is based on who the female lead actress is. Pretentious film-douches will cringe at this statement but sue me, I have a great respect for a few different actresses and like to make a habit of seeing those actresses in as many things as possible. A lot of girls I know will make a habit of seeing particular male actors in everything that they do, so I'm just the same really apart from I'm more of an admirer of the ladies. I just really enjoy well-written, well-acted and yes, pretty female characters and often find them not only relatable, but inspiring, thought-provoking or just plain funny.

One lady who is very much on my radar at the moment is a certain Kerry Washington. I first came across her in a little show called Scandal which premiered last year and is currently on its second season, in which Washington is the lead as 'crisis manager' Olivia Pope of Olivia Pope & Associates. She is the the suavest (is that a word?), most together, strong and powerful woman in Washington DC, dealing with the personal lives of those in the White House and DC's most high-profile characters. Washington's character in this role has the world at her fingertips and immeasurable power and influence over some of the US's most powerful people. She is cool and distant and doesn't so much as flinch at any scandal which comes her way.

Now imagine the absolute polar opposite circumstances to those that I just described and that is Washington's character in Django Unchained. A slave (the film is pre-civil war) who was married to the film's titular Django (Jamie Foxx) who suffers brutal treatment at the hands of her owners and is sold and separated from her husband, Washington's full acting range becomes apparent.

 Her ability to one day make us believe that she is capable of rigging the US election and the next show us how it feels to be helpless at the hands of a plantation owner in the antebellum era is astonishing. The commitment and determination that she brings to these roles really demonstrate not only her unparalleled acting ability but also her strength and poise as a person. She is fiercely dedicated to equal rights and was an active party in helping to get Obama re-elected, as well as absolutely downright bloody gorgeous, which means that this girl is only going to go from strength to strength.   

From what we've seen so far, I think the lil' troublemaker (Django reference) is here to stay. 

Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Dividing Line of Youth and Future.

This has been a long time coming but I think I have finally reached my all-time low. Every single day I awaken with a little less spirit and a more profound feeling of worthlessness than the one that I woke up with yesterday. My excitement, curiosity and simmering anticipation are all starting to fade away. I feel like I have let down a past version of myself who had this unwavering belief that I would get to be the best that I can be.  With every unanswered application comes a tiny chipping away at my soul and the little voice of doubt becomes a little bit louder, telling me that I should think about compromising on my dreams and start to settle for less. At what point does this time come? At what point should I give up on applying for the dream jobs and start applying for the 'get me by' jobs?

Since I was five years old and spent hours at a time in my bedroom making clothes for my barbies out of tissues I knew that fashion would become a big part of my life and I was excited at the thought that one day I could have a job in fashion. Then in my teens I devoured any kind of media I could get my hands on and enjoyed the access that it gave to a whole other world. Growing up in a rural village in Northern England I always knew there was something else out there and I always knew that I could be a part of it. And for a little while I was. I always felt like a bit of a fraud, masquerading as somebody that I'm not, but to my delight I found that no one doubted my right to be there. 

Somebody once gave me a tiny sticker that says the words 'Believe In Yourself and Everything That You Are' which I have on my bathroom mirror that I look at every day. Every inspirational piece of advice that anyone ever gives to anyone will contain something about believing in yourself in order for others to believe in you too, and this is something that I have started to struggle with. You see, I do-or at least I did- believe unquestioningly and whole-heartedly that I can be who I want to be and do what I want to do and go where I want to go, but this belief is worthless without an outlet in which to prove these claims.

Sometimes it feels like I'm in a glass cage in the middle of Piccadilly Circus; I can see everything that is going on and so desperately want to be a part of it but no one can hear me shouting to let me out, so I just have to stand by and watch everything that's going on. I'd be much more useful on the outside of the cage and I might even be able to make a difference but I start to wonder if people can see the cage around me.

I am so hungry to learn, poised at any moment to give it my all, but my moment never comes. I have a brain full of ideas, a heart full of dreams and a wardrobe full of clothes ready for a new life that I can no longer see within my grasp.  I am so acutely aware of how short life is and I hate myself every day that time is just slipping by, unremarkable.

I know this post is really just a rant and there are people who are far, far worse off than me, but it is a truly disheartening place to be, knowing that you have so much to give yet somehow being passed by by the people who hold the key to your future and success. I don't want to sound entitled or bitter because I'm sure that the posts I have applied for have been filled by people who are very deserving, but I am just hoping that my time will come soon. I feel like I've earned it, and at this point I'll definitely know how lucky I am when that time does come.

Monday, 21 January 2013

'Girls:' A Victim of its own Success?

I actually love HBO's Girls. It brings to television the types of issues that until now have been confined to blogs, books and late night drunken rants. Maybe it's the economy or maybe the world had just been waiting for someone like Dunham to come along, but until now there has been a severe lack of programming which examines the emotions, struggles and experiences of middle class, well-heeled twentysomethings who are desperately trying to find their way in life, and does it in such a frank, candid and self-mocking manner. The past decade has seen mostly either the thirtysomethings looking for love and fulfillment, a la How I Met Your Mother, Friends, New Girl, Sex and the City et al, or twentysomethings and teens who live impeccably glossy, flawless lives, as seen in The OC, Gossip Girl, 90210, Pretty Little Liars and the likes. In contrast, we'll occasionally see the other extreme such as Shameless, or My Name is Earl, but rarely do we see anything which reflects the lives and evokes the empathies of one of the main viewing demographics, which is the struggling twentysomething.

I appreciate that many will argue that the issues and emotions which are explored in Girls are barely issues at all; their parents are bankrolling their spoiled, entitled, melodramatic 'artists' lifestyles whilst they swan around Brooklyn like the world owes them something, but being unfulfilled isn't a competition. The way that these feelings are explored by Dunham is a refreshing take on what it is like to be us. To finally be accurately represented (however unflattering that may be) and get recognition for it is exciting and hopeful. It's nice to see someone has the guts and the talent to portray how it really feels to be fired from a job for the tenth time 'due to economics' or to be made to feel like your 'employer' is doing you a favour by allowing you to be an unpaid intern. It's also a welcome move to see a truer portrayal of those awkward, unfulfilling and generally embarrassing sexual experiences that we've all had but no one seems to ever acknowledge. Watching said sex scenes is excruciating and hilarious but also evokes a sad moment of recognition when one realises that we've all been there. It's so rare that our demographic is represented so reflectively in the media because it is mostly produced by people who think they know what it's like to be us, but haven't been there themselves in quite some time, so inevitably will get some of the details wrong.

I'm therefore going to go out on a limb and say that Girls may be short-lived in its accuracy, because never again is Lena Dunham going to experience truly what it is like to 'have enough money to stay in New York for four more days, seven if I don't eat lunch' or struggle to find someone willing to read the manuscript of her book. It is the irony of ironies that the show may become a victim of its own success; Dunahm is now firmly in place amongst Hollywood royalty, a position from which  it is difficult to make out how if feels to fall asleep on the subway, have your bag stolen and be stuck in Coney Island with no cab fare, or work in a coffee shop to be able to pay for your iPhone. So I'll be interested to see how well the show does long-term at staying in touch with reality, the way that it has done so beautifully so far.

Weigh in in the comments below!


Friday, 11 January 2013

Dangerous work: if you work at Seattle Grace, you will get seriously ill/die.

It's no secret by this point that I'm obsessive, and one of my particular obsessions is a little TV show called Grey's Anatomy. There have been 9 seasons of the show now, so fans will know that amongst the array of story lines, there is one thing which seems pretty dependable: at least once per season, at least one member of the main cast will either get seriously ill or die. So I have complied you a quick list of these occasions for your convenience:

I was going to do them in vaguely chronological order, but then I decided it would be easier do do by character, as some have had more than one incident:

Cristina Yang accidentally gets pregnant in season one (which, incidentally, leads to the very first 'you're my person' of the series) but it goes wrong and she dramatically collapses in the middle of the OR. Drama drama drama.

But this isn't the extent of Yang's experience as a patient rather than the doctor: a few seasons later, she is involved in a freak icicle accident, because icicles are dangerous and people need to be aware of this. 

She also has a few mental episodes but we won't go into that right now.

Meredith Grey gets appendicitis fairly early on in the series which leads to some hilarious scenes involving a drugged-up Mer, and a jealous Finn and McDreamy vying to be at her side

then there's the time she drowned and sort-of died, and my favourite part of that whole debacle was Cristina's reaction which was really touching

good old Derek saving the day

And there's the time that she donated part of her liver to her dad, so Mer has experienced the hospital a fair few times as a patient as well as a doctor. 

Izzie Stevens goes sort of crazy and has cancer, almost-but-then-doesn't die and then leaves. 

George O'Malley gets hit by a bus and dies. Two of the most heart-wrenching scenes of the whole series are related to this

The first being that harrowing moment where Meredith realises it's George

And the second being that elevator scene. Sob.

And rounding off the MAGIC segment of this piece is Alex, who was shot on the rampage that was the season 6 finale. The part where he shouts for Izzie was a really nice touch I felt. 

Owen Hunt also was shot at the hospital, which is kind of ironic given he managed to survive an actual war, but whatever.
He looks pretty uncomfortable at Kepner and Grey being the ones who haphazardly patch him up.

Whilst we're on the subject of shootings, let's not forget that Burke was also shot, but no one really cared because I seem to remember that it was at the same time that Denny died (can anyone confirm this?)

Next we have Callie, who was in a terrible car accident which nearly killed her and her unborn child

Lexie, who was casually just in a plane crash and died

Mark Sloan, who was on that same plane but didn't die, started to recover, but then died anyway

Arizona was also on the plane and ended up losing her leg

(or is this a picture from the car crash? TOO MANY ACCIDENTS TO KEEP TRACK OF)

Let's not forget Derek, who was shot in the massacre, and was severely injured in the plane crash

I also seem to remember that waaaaay back in season 1 Dr Weber had some weird brain thing that Derek had to operate on? Does anyone remember this?

Honorable mentions go to: the interns who had the severely premature baby, Bailey's husband on the day that their baby was born, Adele, Ellis, Thatcher, Henry and Denny. 

So, to conclude:

Let me know if I forgot anyone!