Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Happiness is...

Riding bicycles very quickly through quiet roads, trying to make it home before the rain (and failing!)

Her name is Rosie and she's perfect. Also, technically, my mother's bicycle.

Puppies falling asleep on you.
I call these my "sexy pajamas"

Reading books in the evening sunshine while the breeze carries scents of jasmine and gardenia.

I would pay exceptional amounts of money for a perfume that smelt like this flower in the evening sun.
Delicious, delicious, summer.

Children in fountains on hot summer days.
Williamson Square, Liverpool.

I really love the way the sun peeks through them.
Thanks to Alice for the inspiration for this post, I'm not sure I'll have her commitment to writing one every week, but it is good for the soul to look back now and again.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013


Pour the Pimms, dig out the bunting (bunting manufactures must be enjoying the greatest boom of all time, a Royal wedding, a jubilee, the Olympics and now a Royal baby. At least we're getting our money's worth) and set off the canons. If you've been living under an isolated rock with no internet connection you probably still heard that on Monday Prince Harry was ousted as third in line to the throne by his brand new nephew. 

Happy Family.

HRH Baby Cambridge still doesn't have a proper name (maybe they only planned for a girl?) but if they're open to suggestions I think HRH Tarquin Rupert Merryweather Cambridge has a good ring to it. My dad wants them to have a bit of fun and go with Austin.

The bonny blue might match his eyes.
I love babies, especially all the fun of naming them. This speculation over what Baby Cambridge will be called is my bread and butter. Now I'm not a Katie Hopkins but I do think names are important, that you want a name that's just as comfortable scrubbing floors as wearing a diadem and can kick ass in its spare time. Pretty sure I ripped that line from a Terry Pratchett book.

I only have the one name, Joy, which is a lovely name. It suits me in its own way. People generally remember it and I'm often told how 'nice' it is when filling in forms or introducing myself to new people. It has its flaws though, there's not much I can do with it, I am just Joy to everyone (or occasionally 'Harpy' but only to a certain someone) I never suited nicknames, Joyful and Joyous were as close as they came. I've never had much choice about my name, I don't even have a middle name I can fall back on to use and I've never been able to buy stuff with my name on. Except at Christmas and that doesn't really count. There aren't many ways you can personalise a single syllable really. I am Joy to my family, to my friends, to colleagues, employers and enemies. 

My children will not have this issue.

They will have many (many, many, many) other issues, but they will have plenty of names with which to disguise their identities. Three names has always felt like a reasonable number to give someone, that way I can give them a name, an epic name and something to fall back on in case it all goes wrong and they become accountants.

The current list is not set in stone, the fact that I haven't found some of the right names yet means there are gaps and I am, of course, open to the fact that all those crazy pregnancy hormones might come into it and in my befuddled post natal state let the father express an opinion. That seems unlikely however.

  1. Esmeralda Rose ????
  2. Anastasia Temperance Mayhem
  3. Guinevera Hero ????
  1. Lawrence Horatio Quantum
  2. Dylan Sebastian ????
  3. Oliver Danger Gwion

But like I said, this list isn't set in stone and I'm opening to new suggestions.

Monday, 22 July 2013


(The Titantic sinks, Romeo and Juliet die, the plot line of Macbeth is another one of those that can be talked about without needing a spoiler warning, right? If not, SPOILERS)

Nine minutes. 

Nine minutes is all it took for the tickets to see Macbeth at the Manchester International Festival (MIF) sell out. I’m not sure if it was an honest mistake that they all went on sale at the same time instead of being slowly made available, the way festival and music concert tickets are, or if the organisers perhaps did not thinks the citizens of Manchester would be terribly interested in seeing five time Oscar nominated Kenneth Branagh prance about in a skirt while his wife went mad. 

This was never meant to be a production seen by thousands, Branagh and co-director Rob Ashford chose a de-consecrated Anglican church with a capacity of 281 as their stage.  Very quickly though MIF saw an opportunity to take the magic further and announced a “Big Screen Relay” a live broadcast of the play onto a giant open air screen in Manchester City centre. I snaffled two of those tickets up for a very reasonable £8 each and took my dearly beloved to celebrate our third anniversary. It didn’t take long for the organisers to realise though that they had again underestimated just how excited the Great British public were for this. NT Live to the rescue.

National Theatre Live have been broadcasting plays from the National Theatre to cinemas all over the UK, and eventually the world, since 2009. In that time it has beamed out 25 different productions of everything from an adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Nation to Shakespeare’s Macbeth and has reached audiences of over 1.3 million people all over the world [x]. It was one of the bravest and most magnificent leaps of faith that any business, never mind one in an industry as faltering as The Arts, has made in the past decade. Can you imagine the pitch? “Well, plays are just like films, right? Expect you watch them all at once and just pretend not to see the scene changes. What if we filmed a play, like onstage with an audience watching, and put it on at the cinema and people could watch it like a film.” I’m so glad they took the gamble, when they broadcast This House earlier this year 45,000 people got to see it in one night. I don’t know how many people were watching it in cinemas, but there were a few thousand of us sat on the tarmac of the Bridgewater Hall car park.

Macbeth is not easy role; the reluctance to accept his own desires, making a devil’s pact with his wife, the haunting of knowing what he has done and the slow descent into a paranoid madness. Branagh captured it. You could see the cogs turning as his character made decisions, his whole body changed as he portrayed the aging man who took himself from Thane to uneasy King. Mac Bethad was a real king of Scotland after all who reigned for about 17 years, in films there are many tricks to age actors portraying a large chunk of time but it takes a real crafts man to show it happening by himself. This was Branagh’s first turn as Macbeth but he brought twenty-nine years of Shakespearean love and experience with him. He was not afraid of the language or of experimenting with it, he avoided just waxing lyrically in iambic pentameter but brought out the deep feelings in the poetry. It was a joy to watch a master at work.

I first studied Macbeth in school when I was 12, I went to an all girls school with more than its fair share of ambitious potential tyrants, so when we read it there was a lot of focus on Lady Macbeth. (Sidenote: I’ve just realised when I was twelve was ten years ago. Aging, urgh, it sneaks up on you.) Alex Kingston played Lady M, I know her best as River Song in the re-booted Dr Who. I had high expectations, I always do for that role because it’s one that I’ve gone back to over the years, she’s the person in the play I find most interesting, and it’s a role I would love to perform one day. I was not blown away by Ms Kingston’s portrayal.

Lady Macbeth convinces her husband of what must be done, she is the one with ruthless ambitions for him; and they are for him, she wants Macbeth to be all that he can be- King of Scotland- the fact that she would be his Queen is not her motivation. She holds him together and tries to cover up the cracks appearing in his psyche but she is consumed with her own guilt, guilt that is heavily repressed until it is clear her marriage is a broken thing. Lady Macbeth starts as the calculating and rational woman commanding her husband for his own sake, she ticks slowly towards madness. For me Kingston’s performance was a little to manic from the start, she was passionate and feisty and all good things in River Song but I didn’t quite see the strong metal I was looking for.

The other standout performance was Ray Fearon as Macduff. His heart wrenching howls of pain as he received the news of his own personal tragedy, the charged dialogue as he slowly crumpled down to lie huddled on the floor took my breath away. It was a vivid contrast to Branagh and his slow disconnection from everything that happened to him. The pace of the whole show kept you on the edge of your picnic blanket, there were moments I wished they'd allowed an extra second of pause between scenes but it brought a sense of the political chaos that was unfolding to the forefront.

The staging taking place in a church worked well, the audience was seated on both sides of a wide, mud filled aisle that served as the only set. They were very much in the thick of it with deaths taking place what sometimes appeared to close for comfort as audience members could be seen leaning back and recoiling. It was also very hot, the constant fanning of programmes made certain that this was a live show and a real audience, not one that had been prepped to stay static and think about the film cameras all around them. I’m glad I saw it in the open air though, there was something about the sky naturally darkening, the daylight and city noises fading that added to the magic.

There was love, treachery, swords fights, great choreography, impeccable acting and all in all 4.5 stars. Go and see it.

NTLive will be bringing Macbeth back, find out more HERE

Sunday, 14 July 2013

So... Writing about things

I've done a first blog, an introductory one and I've written a few "Argh! What do I put here, have a sentence and another one and oh god can we all agree that this is a real topic? Yes? Good."

I like the idea of blogging, I read lots of them and quite often they aren't about anything as such just the musings of women with internet access and a need for creative outlet or something. There seems to be a lot of quarter life crises going round as well.

Oh! And weddings, why do weddings prompt such a massive outpouring of previously undiscovered blogger talent? Is it because when you've spent so long obsessing over a certain day that ultimately comes down to you standing around and declaring your undying love for someone, bearing your soul in the open to a room full of close friends and people you barely know, suddenly the idea of sharing things with anonymous strangers on the internet seems less of a big deal?

There are lots of people who seem to start them because they know other people who blog, either through their blog or in real life. I don't any of the people who's blogs I follow, nor do I think I know anyone who blogs. I don't even know what I want to do with this.

Should I do outfit posts and talk about beauty tips? No, I can't see that happening, I my idea of a make up tip is "if you sharpen your eyeliner, you can get a finer line" and "Make sure you rub your foundation in properly so you don't have a tide mark around your hairline." Pro tips there, I imagine they'll be in all the magazines next month while I do a cover shoot for Vogue.

I'm not getting married anytime soon and I don't have a baby, so that's two major sources of "stuff to write about that people care about" crossed off.

I do like to read, I could do book reviews, but generally I think they'd turn into "Yeah, good book that, if you like detective mysteries give it a go" after a while.

So why limit myself? I can post posts about whatever I like and probably will. If I pair a particularly fetching coat with some expertly applied eyeliner you might get to see it, if I can think of something witty to say about a gripping book I'll probably say it. I might even bake a cake.

For at least the foreseeable future though this blog will probably mostly consist of pictures of my mother's adorable dogs and, while it lasts, the glory of the British summertime.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

An English Summer

This weekend, Andy Murray won the Mens Singles Tennis Open at Wimbledon. The first Brit to do so in many a long year. Cue national Pimms quaffing and celebration. 

I'm glad he won, Andy clearly works very hard to be as good as he is and it'll do a lot of good for British Tennis clubs. But really, I didn't care. The weather this weekend was glorious: blue skies and sunshine, flowers blooming and birds singing. 

I loved the Mediterranean I really did, but there is something utterly magical about the way an ordinary week can become so magical when imbued with a little extra UV. We get so used to the damp and the dreary in dear old Blighty, the unpredictable way the skies slide from yawning and empty to tempestuous with a side of bone-chilling, that the sudden monotony of sunshine seems miraculous.

The house my parents bought this year, and where I'm currently living, has a garden. A proper one, with grass and a path and is so much more than a yard with pots and hanging baskets. My mum has blossomed into a proper gardener with constantly soily hands and a desire to check on her seedlings at least once an hour. I'm not terribly green fingered but I have enjoyed watching the transformation up close as the plants have metamorphosed into delights for the senses.

These pots are full of plants that have moved on from being cosseted on the kitchen windowsill, they're strong enough to brave the great outdoors but not quite ready to leave their pots yet. They remind me more of science experiments all laid out on the benches than gardens.

There's plenty that are in the ground and making the garden look willfully untidy. As well as the odd wild creature...

The rarely seen Wild Dachshund exploring her kingdom. 

I love how the ones in the background look like they're throwing their arms wide open, celebrating the sunshine.

Here you can see a common or garden Feline Fattiest.

If anyone has recommendations for a better place to eat breakfast, I humbly submit that you are wrong.

Yellow, Orange, Pink. These are colours you can see a lot in our garden.

I love roses, especially the small exquisite pot sized roses, I'm less fussed about bushes. That may be down to having had my arms ripped to shreds by thorny roses in parks, the tiny ones my mum grows couldn't hurt a thing.  

P.S. I gave my piggies a trim to help keep them cool in the hot weather:

I don't think I'm cut out to be a hair dresser.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Holy Crap

I'm so bad at this.

Seriously, I have been back in the UK for over a week now.

That means I didn't once blog whilst out in Turkey and it then took me like five days to remember and another two to actually get round to writing anything. Sigh. It'll probably be another two days before I have something worth clicking "Publish" over.

I don't even know what I'm writing now, a ramble on the inadequacies of my commitment skills?

It's very strange, returning from adventures and suddenly being somewhere familiar. It becomes like a form of time travel, oh! I have been here previously, in that other age before I had climbed the Acropolis at Athens or drunk coffee in Istanbul. There is something about seeing places, spaces, objects, cultures that haven't changed since the last time you've seen them that really forces you on an introspective spirit journey.

Or it does if you, like me, are the type of person who prefers over-contemplating that which need not be dwelt upon to anything resembling real work.

There's a road very close to the house I grew up in, St John's Road, it wasn't the high street in Waterloo (our little town) but it was the second street, South Road and St John's Road where the roads that held the shops, the bakers, the cobblers and the rest. South Road has an Iceland and Boots, there used to be a Woolworths and Sayers, it's where all the pubs, clubs and restaurants are. St John's Road is more charity shops and optimistic 'antiques'; less trendy and more traditional, many of the shops have been there since before I was born.

There are no traffic lights or bus stops on St John's Road, it doesn't need them, but there is a level crossing for the railway. The train station is actually on South Road but as the central hub of the town it was deemed worthy of an artificial hill creating a bridge across the rails so the traffic could flow unhindered. The memories of standing at the level crossing waiting for the train to pass before the barrier would rise and we could go on and explore the shops we only sometimes went to are what stand out of my visits to St John's, the impatient waiting and the explosive power of trains thundering past.

When I was nine I joined a Cub Scout pack that held it's meetings just off St John's Road, this led to me spending more time in that distant area three blocks away from home in a different direction to the parks and marina which were my usual haunt. But Cubs didn't start until 6pm, the shops would all be closed, unlike Woolworths and Clintons they mostly didn't have automatic metal rollers that shuttered down to obscure the entire shop front. Instead the shop keepers would imprison their wares behind metal grills they carried out and hung up by hand, fiddling with latches and heavy padlocks.

It had been years since I last walked down St John's Road and it has changed: the garish neon pink of the costume shop has faded to a sun worn pastel; the pet shop has moved away from bunnies and other small fluffs to concentrate on the more financially satisfying sales of reptiles and tortoises. When I was a child I felt like I was stepping back in time because the shops were family run, sold sweets in paper bags and never had adverts on the TV. Now I feel like I'm stepping back in time because it takes me back to being nine years old.