Friday, 23 December 2011

How to accidently hate Christmas

December so far had been festive bliss. I had that Christmassy feeling. I had spirit.

That was until today.

Taking a trip to Tesco two days before Christmas was what changed it all.

With a stressed out mother who had yet to buy a single sprout, I thought I would do an act of goodwill (‘tis the season), and help her with the dreaded Christmas food shop.

But as nothing but carnage descended on the aisles of the supermarkets today, that turned out to be a big mistake. In what can only be described as a domestic battlefield, this is how I accidently came to hate Christmas…

Rounding aisle number one I meet with the grocer shopper everyone hates – the ‘yum mum and Nigella Lawson wannabe’. Clad in this season’s finest from John Lewis and wearing enough makeup to try and knock off a few years, she manages to dart her way through the crowd and knock me out of the way to get the last bag of fresh cranberries. That’s OK, Nigella; I wasn’t going for the cranberries anyway!

Aisle number two is worse. Here, we meet the ‘clan family’ which consists of two parents and what can only be described as a flock of young children. They’re running all over the aisle, lifting food, and then throwing tantrums when they can’t get it. They run behind me, in front of me and then just stop and sit on the ground in front of my trolley. No, young child – get up and get out of my way before I tell you the truth about Santa.

Aisle three and things get worse. The number of people increases and I’m caught in some sort of trolley jam between an old man and a woman examining gravy prices. Then - just as I’m sussing out the spice rack for some cinnamon sticks - along comes ‘Nigella-Lawson-yum-mum’ again. She skulks up to the shelf beside me and scans along the rows. We know we’re both looking for the same thing and whoever finds it and grabs it first will be the ultimate winner of domesticity.

Suddenly she lunges for a jar on the bottom shelf, like an eagle swooping in for its prey. And with a quick glance and fake smile in my direction as if to say, ‘my mulled wine will be better than yours,’ she darts off again, shoulder-bumping me on the way for good measure.

So by the time I reach the final aisle, having incurred several trolley bumps and a pounding headache, I’m in no mood for the dithering granny I meet there who’s asking me where the sweet mince is. I’m sorry old lady, any other day I would help you out but this isn’t a typical super market on a typical day. This is an every-man-for-himself warzone.

Forget good will to all men. I used to believe in that.

But when it comes to the festive Tesco trip there’s no such thing as peace and love. It’s a dash for the cinnamon sticks and fresh cranberries and if you get injured on the way, tough. Better luck next year and merry bloody Christmas!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

My Cultured Day Out

Living in the centre of Southampton without a car and without much of a reason to leave, I barely get out of the city.
So when I got the chance to go to Winchester for the day I jumped at it. It felt like I was a child on a school trip - a little bit bored by educative walking tours but just being excited to get out of the classroom.
With all its quaint streets, small tutor buildings and stunning Cathedral, Winchester makes for one very photo-genic city.
So this is my cultured day out in photos…

Winchester Cathedral in some lovely autumn sunshine.

 Somewhere in the middle of the busy high street there's a little door which leads into this beautiful, hidden church.
It was such an unexpected find, but with its big stained glass windows and wooden archways it was a good one
for a few pictures. Even one of the younger sister posing by the pews thrown in there too.

River Itchen running between the city's quaint and old buildings.

You can't go to Winchester and not see the very thing that makes it famous: King Arthur's
Round Table in The Great Hall.
With more of those stained glass windows and arches, it has a really medieval feel. You have expect some knights
to walk into the room and join you.

And saving the best to last; Winchester's ducks! They were easily the healthiest and happiest looking
ducks I've ever seen. And they were hilarious to watch, they would paddle upstream, then stop and let
themselves flow back down again just for fun. Amazing!

And So the End Begins...

I’m writing this at 10 o’clock at night. I’m wearing a onesie, I’m drinking a mug of tea and I’m very happily tucked up in bed for the night.

Being a student, other people my age are just getting ready to go out. For other people, 10 o’clock is the beginning of another typical night - complete with funny drunken conversations and spontaneous trips to McDonalds at two in the morning.

Yet here I am, in the onesie with the tea.

It’s sad really, and I realise that. But honestly, since turning 20 this weekend past, I have physically felt myself get older. It’s as if leaving the teenage years and hitting the brink of a new decade has suddenly thrown me into a new spiral of early nights and no social life.

Now I know that sounds massively dramatic. It’s not as if I’m nearing any form of retirement or signing up to the local bingo yet, but I’ve seriously felt sudden changes in myself since the weekend.

Like my back for example. I kid you not, I have had back pain over the last week. Back pain! I might as well get a zimmer and call it a day.

But with the sudden stiffing of joints, I worry that this aging process has actually been happening for a while now.

I’ve always loved a quiet night in, I think Countdown is actually pretty good and I’ve been considering the benefits of those tartan shopping trolleys grannies use. I seriously think they would be handy for bringing the Asda shop home! That’s bad, isn’t it?

The worst thing about 20 though, is that it’s half way to 40. That seems big. That’s half way to having a house and a mortgage and doing school runs in a Renault Scenic.

And so here in my pyjamas at this painfully early hour it’s as if I feel my youth slipping away. It really feels like a significant downward turn in my life. The beginning of the end.

But still, I’m tempted to just boil the kettle again, stick Countdown on and accept it.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Tech-No Nonsense

It’s always a crushing moment.

That time when you log into Facebook to no notifications. Or check your phone and have no messages after what seems like days since the last one.

And though I’d never claim to be addicted to either, it’s still a heart breaking blow when you realise you’ve been rejected by almost all the forms of media you possess.

But I’ve realised over the last week - when BBM broke down and the world temporarily ended for half the nation – that as a society we’re mad about technology. Stupidly obsessed.

Now don’t get me wrong, Facebook has its advantages when it comes to photo browsing and event inviting -and I’ve even started posting the occasional Tweet myself (a big move forward in the times for me) - but for the majority it’s all so much. Tweeting, posting, liking, tagging and Facebook ‘chatting’ have come to be etched into who we are.

It’s almost as tragic as when people spend hours dissecting each text or every technical action one person could possibly make. “He ‘poked’ me on Facebook, what does that mean?” Well congratulations, I clicked a button once too!

Our friendships, relationships and very personalities are now determined by what’s written in a status or hash tagged in 140 characters. It’s so shallow and meaningless! It’s ridiculous.

And when did we suddenly start needing all of this on our phones? It just takes the twitch of a thumb before you’re back in that social media world, floating around in cyber space.

There’s nothing more annoying than trying to have a conversation with a friend when their hand starts to wander towards their Blackberry and their eyes suddenly glaze over with that blue-ish haze of a screen. Don’t worry, I’ll just sit here and admire the real world while I wait!

I just love the value of real conversation and properly spending time with people. I love really laughing, not LOL. And I love real kisses, not ‘xxx’.

So, though @wilson_naomi is now on Twitter, and though I may even consider upgrading the LG brick I call a phone to a flashier model- I never want to be obsessed. I never want scrutinise every last message or Tweet the world my thoughts upon waking up in the morning.

I want the real world to just be real, and people to just be people!  

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Cement Garden

When I was in sixth form at school, I took English Literature. I always loved a good book and a good discussion about it afterwards, so it seemed like an ideal A Level for me. My teacher however, was the only difficulty.
He loved to inflict deep, psychological books onto us- the kind where small children turn crazy and kill their neighbours and normal men have affairs with their mother. So it’s not surprising that we found ourselves falling into a slight mental disintegration ourselves.
But something from his depressing reading list must have stuck with me, because now I find myself still being drawn to those psychological, soul-draining books. So I guess that’s what appealed to me when I read the blurb on Ian McEwan’s The Cement Garden the book that definitely pushed me to the edge of insanity this summer.
The story follows the lives of four siblings after the death of their father and the following death of their mother a year later. Told from the perspective of the adolescent male of the house, Jack, the gloomy cloud that has become their lives sees him totally emasculated by his sisters- one of whom he has an obsessive sexual fascination for. And with their mother’s body encased in cement in the basement acting as a constant reminder of their troubles, the whole story seems pressed by an impending doom.
So yes, definitely no light hearted beach read.
And I’ll never forget where I was when I finished the book - out in the back garden of a lovely holiday home by the coast, soaking up the end of the summer rays- a beautifully relaxed place to read.
But when the ending of the book saw the cement around their mother crack, and a bit of incestuous action unfold between Jack and his sister, you can imagine I was far from relaxed. More like speechless; and utterly disturbed.
So, as I look out of the literal abyss The Cement Garden plummeted me into, I’m holding that English teacher responsible for the total hopeless void that has become my reading preference, and the general mental disintegration I’m bound to fall into as a result.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Northern Ireland: What I have learned to love...

I have to admit, I’ve never had much respect for Northern Ireland. Yes, I was born there and yes, it has been my home all my life, but it has never really evoked any form of patriotism in me in any way. In fact, both the country and its people have always been a bit of a joke to me- ironically, with me being one of them and all.
So after a year in Southampton, the idea of spending an unwilling 3 months in a tiny of country of fields and farmers did not appeal to me at all. But really, my time away has made me notice a few things about home that I can’t help but fall in love with.
Like the greenness. It’s so green here. I’m pretty sure nowhere does green hills as good as Ireland.  I didn’t realise this until I took a road trip with a friend out west to Donegal this summer. The whole time it felt like we were driving through one big cliché, with scenes from a stereotypical Irish postcard surrounding us- the kind of postcard that makes us look like a backward land of nothing but mass fields and farmyards- the kind of postcards Americans like to send. But I had to admit, stereotypical or not, we do have some seriously good green hills.
                                                                      Typical postcard-perfect?
Number two- doing outdoor activities in generally inappropriate weather. Long countryside walks in gale-force winds? Trips to the beach in torrential rain? All of which whilst wearing an attempt at summer clothing? Yeah, only the Northern Irish would do things like this and not actually complain, because weather-wise, we don’t know any better. So you have to love our dedication to at least pretending to have fun on the typical outdoor-summer day trips. Just give us our good coat and a pair of sunnies and we’re loving life.
                                         My friend Becky, loving the beach and some clear grey skies

And lastly; the potato. Yes, I know we are notoriously known for them and everyone loves a good joke about us and our potatoes, but I had honestly forgotten how much people from Northern Ireland love a good spud. And we are so inventive with them!  I don’t believe anyone can do as much with one potato than any typical Irish mother can. Boiled, roasted, fried- champ, potato bread and Taytos; we know how to make something good of possibly the most boring food known to man, and I love it.
So yes, these are pretty much all total stereotypes and the reason most other countries look down on us with a satirical pity. Green, rainy, potato-loving farmers? Yes. But I’ve realised this summer that I wouldn’t have us any other way.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Little List of Life Annoyances

I don’t like to admit it, but I can be a very irritable person. When I was younger, my mum constantly told me off for being impatient and often plagued me with what has now become a dreaded phrase for me; “patience is a virtue, possess it if you can.”
But you have to admit it, we all have those little things in life that just get right on our nerves- and you know what, I think that’s fine. Whether it is people cracking their knuckles, or the sound of nails on a chalkboard- don’t be afraid to hate it! Little annoyances in life are something we all have, and today, I thought I would simply express mine in a healthy way.
So here is my Little List of Life Annoyances:
1)      Noisy Eaters- Yes, I’m sorry if you are the kind who love a good chew with your mouth open, but really, none of us need to see or hear the process of digestion to the extent that you let us! And the worst thing about being a hater of the noisy eater is that, ironically, it always seems to be me that ends up sitting beside them. Whether it’s the open-mouthed slapping at the dinner table, or the slow, awkward crisp-cruncher during a quiet film- there’s always one, and they are always guaranteed to give my nerves a little shiver of annoyance!

2)      Biscuits falling into tea/coffee- I think this has to be a fairly common one. You know the scenario- you’ve made a nice cuppa, treated yourself to a chocolate digestive and just got comfortable on the sofa. You dunk the biscuit in, and just as you bring it out again and give it that inspection to see how well the chocolate has melted, half of it literally crumbles and falls into a sea of murky tea right in front of you. Gets me every time.

3)      Fruit Flies- They are those little tiny black ones that just seem to appear in swarms in the summer. It’s the way they just fly so slowly and idly around your kitchen- ironically not even near your fruit! But the worst encounter with them is when you are standing still, and you’re suddenly aware of something small hovering near your face. You swat it away, but it doesn’t seem to go anywhere. So you swat again, and again, and maybe even a fourth time. It’s only then that you realise what it is- and after another few failed attempts at swatting it away, you end up so frustrated and embarrassed that you’ve failed to scare the smallest house pest known to man. Always awkward and always annoying!

4)      The “millionaire’s shortbread” customer- I work in a coffee shop in Northern Ireland, and if you’re from there you will know that I sell Malteaser squares, lemon squares, mint squares and caramel squares. Yep, we Northern Irish are proud of our “squares traybakes”. So you can imagine my disgust when an English tourist comes in and refers to my caramel squares as “millionaire’s shortbread”. Millionaire’s shortbread? What is that, something off a Forbes list of most expensive cakes or something? No. It’s a caramel square. And it’s not just a caramel square- it’s a homemade, Northern Irish “cyaramel squuerrrr”. Get it right.

5)      Clocks ticking at night- Now, I don’t expect them to suddenly stop when it gets past bedtime or anything, but there’s something about the sound of a clock ticking while you’re trying to get to sleep that gets right on my nerves. Every tick, every tock just gets louder and louder; whilst you get more and more tired, and more and more frustrated. It’s like a constant thumping in your mind that wills you not to nod off. Unfortunately for me, my mother has an obsession with the things, and is, sadly, the proud owner of nine antique clocks- each with their own incessant tick and relentless tock. She keeps them just outside my room in the hallway, which, thinking about it now is a bit of a slap in the face to all those “patience is a virtue lessons” when I was younger. Good one mum.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Life Beyond the Border...

There’s something I have discovered as I have grown older and generally experienced more in life; and that is that the world is amazing.
I know that sounds really vague and dreamy, and makes me sound like I should be hugging a tree or pondering life by a lake or something. But over the few countries I have been lucky enough to travel to, I have realised that the culture, the sights and the people you can come across in other places can be ultimately remarkable to experience.
For me, a trip to Morocco last summer was what suddenly set me off on this “friend of the earth” kind of wave length- and I thought that since it was one year on from my time there, I would share all that I loved about the whole hot, dusty, donkey-smelling country.
                                                         Some of Morocco's hot and dusty Atlas Mountains
Simply getting there was a surreal experience in itself. You expect a country’s border to consist of tall wire fences, a fairly civilised, slowly moving queue of cars and a quick check of your passport – but not in Morocco. There, on the verge of the Spanish owned city of Melilla, was where life simply descended into chaos; and with a sweaty 5-hour wait in a pick-up truck, we found ourselves getting totally caught in the middle of it.
Women would stroll past with the blatantly obvious shape of fifty counterfeit shoes beneath their robes, children would come to your car window to sell you whatever they found lying around (we purchased a very handy half-used box of tissues); all while a few Moroccan policemen tried to flirt with you in an unusual Arabic-English mix.
And life beyond the border is equally as chaotic and colourful. The narrow streets of old town Fes are the best example. Tiny stalls line the alley sides, each of them like an alcove filled with glassy lanterns, gold ornaments or bright red spices- while multi-coloured shutters hang above your head- keeping the sun out and an interesting kind of leathery/sweaty smell in.
One thing you do need to adjust to though is the random spontaneous shouts of Arabic men. Something that sounds like “200 camels” as you walk past is probably an offer of what they’ll give to buy you- made worse for me by a guy I was travelling with who tried to pawn me off to some locals for free.
Another is just a crazed mix of Arabic words which suddenly sets the whole street into frenzy. People scatter into doorways and you’ll probably find a hefty Moroccan pulling you in against the wall. I came to learn this means “move or get hit” by the over loaded donkey that’s hurtling up the narrow, winding street towards you. 

The narrow, shuttered streets of Fes                                                               Colourful cloth handbags line the alley walls

So, I realise the picture I have painted of Morocco so far isn’t exactly a pleasant one. But what I found, was that just off the dusty, smelly hectic streets, there was always something entirely surprising and beautiful.
You would maybe find a narrow wooden doorway leading off an alley- and as dodgy as it may look, you might cautiously enter. But inside, a massive, beautiful building would open up before you, with cedar-carved ceilings and intricate mosaic covering the walls, filled with rich rugs, cloths or whatever the store happened to be selling. Moroccans love mint tea, and as soon as you come into their shop, they’ll have you seated around a small, low table while they pour you glasses of the concoction of mint leaves and about twenty six sugars- no exaggeration. It seems like a lot less of an offer than the 200 camels suggested to you earlier, but it’s definitely a lot safer.
     A friend and I get dressed by some local burka merchants

And that’s what I love about Morocco; about any other country at all really. Parts of it may smell of donkeys and the locals may seem a bit too presumptuous at times, but it’s all those little elements that make up its fascinating, beautiful culture.
It’s the sights, the smells, the people and their languages that left me totally enthralled with Morocco, and made me realise how amazing different parts of the world really are.
So while I probably won’t find myself embracing a tree in the classic “love for the earth” kind of way- I might just find myself back in the frenzied streets of Fes dodging over loaded donkeys and camel offers- but I’ll be loving every minute of it.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Back in the Summer of '99

Something magical used it happen about this time every year. It was the feeling the month of June used to have - it was a kind of building excitement that grew every day.. It was the feeling of doing less work in school and being able to watch videos and play with your toys in class. It was the feeling of knowing, that in a few short weeks you would reach the start of a long, long summer filled simply with fun.
But that was when you were eight years old. Now, on the brink of another summer, it has dawned on me that that simple jittery happiness you got at this time of year just isn’t the same when you’re nineteen.
Memories of my childhood summers always amuse me - they were so simple but at the time I was literally having the time of my life. The year I discovered how to build the perfect fort in the back garden, is a perfect example.  Turns out, all I needed was two large umbrellas and a picnic rug and I had the most amazing make-shift house for myself and my children (two teddies and a Barbie doll).
Another good one was the summer my sisters and I made a tyre swing on an apple tree in the orchard behind our house. Thinking about it now, I don’t know how a dirty rubber hoop and piece of rope gave us the full two months of fun it did – but being the country-bumpkin kids we were I guess it was more than enough.
                                         Loving life with a picnic and my older and younger sister

But the absolute highlight of the summer was almost as simplistic as our back garden antics. Each year we would drive up to the north coast of Northern Ireland to cram into a tiny three bedroomed holiday home with as many of our extended family as we could fit. I remember the drive there would feel like the longest ever, and when we finally saw the sea we would practically wet ourselves with excitement.
Whilst there, we would spend our days on the beach – and this was back when a day at the beach was a full blown swimsuit-picnic-beach ball-bucket and spade event. We would bring every beach-related item we could carry and make the most of every minute of it.
Now though, in my 19th summer of life, there’s definitely something different about those holiday months. It seems like there is no such thing as that “school’s out for summer” feeling and there definitely isn’t a reason to wet yourself when you see the sea. Honestly, all I’m thinking about is working and money, and if I can afford a week’s escapism in the form of a cheap holiday package to any given Spanish destination.
So is this what getting older is going to be? Gradually watching all excitement disappear from everything you loved as a child? If this is has happened to my summers, I’m worried for my Christmases…
I’m determined not to let it happen. So I’m realising I need to embrace the free months I have at home – and though building myself a fort in the garden might lead to a few weird looks from the neighbours; I’m determined to bring back the simple fun. Could be time to grab the bucket and spade…

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Writing for Multimedia: Assignment Blog

A Day for Women?         
By Naomi Wilson
To imagine your country being on the brink of war, your town to be in demolished chaos and your community to be in total uproar is almost unthinkable.
But to see seven of your neighbours and friends brutally murdered by government officials is something else altogether.
Appallingly, this is what happened in the Ivory Coast this month. As the country rises in protest to President Gbagbo’s refusal to leave to power, violence has become widespread throughout the nation as rebels battle with the government’s military.
But when women decided to hold a peaceful protest in their community in Abidjan on 3 March- open fire, random shots and bloodshed were certainly not anticipated. The result; seven innocent women killed for their search of a voice.
The demonstrators were members of a women’s group who are in support of Ouattara, the politician recognised as the winner of the last election. They lined the streets of Abidjan to sing and chant to encourage Gbagbo to leave, believing that the power of a women’s march would be what the leader needed to take notice.
Instead, the demonstration descended to carnage as military jeeps rampaged onto the scene and began firing. As hundreds were injured and blood ran down the streets, seven women lay dying- one with her baby still tied to her back.
It easily shows the corruption of the Ivory Coast - but what makes this worse is that this violence was brought out on innocent women who were doing nothing but trying to speak up for their country.
Ironically, this comes within the very week of the 100th International Women’s Day - a day dedicated to listening to the voice of women and examining their rights across all nations.
The date saw many female demonstrations unfold across the world, as women spoke out against the discrimination they still face. In Egypt, hundreds of women held a protest against the sexual harassment that revolves in the country; though disgustingly, were rebuked, beaten and sexually abused by the 200 men who invaded the march.
Furthermore, with the sex trafficking of young girls in Thailand, the forced labour of women in the rural Congo and 1 in 4 women being victims of sexual abuse or remarks here in the UK, it is obvious that worldwide women’s rights are far from being achieved.
I do not think of myself as a die-hard feminist. I haven’t taken part in any bra-burning expeditions of female power. But it is things like this that cannot help but disgust me.
I just don’t understand how now, in the 21st Century, governments can condone women being treated in such inhumane and demeaning ways.  How can we even hope for global development when women are being bought, sold, beaten, raped and even killed for their beliefs?
So, as International Women’s Day enters its 101st year, what can we hope for in basic female rights? All I know is that as women continue to speak out in the Ivory Coast, protest in Egypt and search for equality worldwide, it seems like the search for global equality for women is far from over.
"Don't shoot us": The simple pleas of protesting women in the Ivory Coast.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Writing For Multimedia Assignment: News Story

Fears Continue to Rise Over Student Safety
By Naomi Wilson
Two weeks on from the alarming daylight attack on a student in Southampton fears for safety in the city are still heavily felt.
It was approximately 5pm on Tuesday 25th January when the woman was assaulted as she entered Palmerston Park after leaving Southampton Solent University.
The attacker - who is yet to be identified - grabbed the 25-year-old student from behind and covered her mouth before piercing her neck with a sharp implement. The victim managed to kick herself free and flee the park to make her way home. She was later taken to hospital to be treated for minor injuries and the shock of the ordeal.
Though the attack was of an unusual nature, it proves to be just one of many regular assaults in the city centre.
Recent statistics released by the Hampshire Constabulary show the central Bargate area to be more dangerous than any other part of the city; with 225 incidents of violent crime having occurred in December 2010.
Such statistics prove a worrying trend, and as central Southampton hosts such a large student population it poses a question as to how safe young adults in the city are.
As a result, the Bargate region is now perceived as a dangerous and threatening place, where students cannot feel safe or protected.
Katy Kennedy, 21, a graduate from Southampton University said she never feels at ease when alone in the city.
“I don’t feel particularly safe. I seem to walk faster and avoid other people when I am on my own.”
Working for the University and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF), Kennedy understands that young adults are more likely to be the victim of assault.
“I think it is the time that students are out that makes them more vulnerable and susceptible to attack.”
She added: “Though, of course it’s not just students, I think it’s anyone between 16 and 25 years of age who are at risk.”
Kennedy also feels the council and other local authorities do not do enough to secure the Bargate area and advise young adults on staying safe.
“They seem to be good at creating a scare with police notices about crimes that have happened,” she said. “But you don’t actually see any advice.
“There should be more police community support officers out and about, because you don’t see them in the parks in the evening at all. The council could also provide some sort of a dial-a-ride service like they have for the elderly. It would make sure people got home safely.”
Despite this, Southampton Council member, Derek Stevens, claimed students to be safe from assault in the city centre.
He said: “I don’t think students are a target in terms of violence.”
Stevens, who works for the Safe City Partnership, had the opinion that students are, in effect, responsible for their own safety. He claimed: “They are a target in terms of theft. They have laptops, iPods and iPhones. They leave their premises wide open, with their doors unlocked and windows open.”
This comes as recently published reports show burglaries to have increased by 76.1 per cent in the month of January alone.
However, Stevens insisted that recent statistics do not provide a reason for fear among young Southampton residents.
“We have reduced violent crime by eight per cent and criminal damage by 18 per cent, and crime overall has fallen by 14 per cent.”
Nevertheless, these figures seem to offer little comfort. In a city where reports of crime against students remain at a high level it seems there will always be fear for safety in the area.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Now That's What I Call... 90s!

You remember the words, you remember the dance routine - you even remember the awful music video that came along with it. But realistically, who could ever forget 90s music anyway?
It was the decade pop took itself to a whole new level- where it was suddenly acceptable to have line dances and to sing about Barbie dolls. It was loud, it was colourful, it was very, very cheesy- but it was totally proud of it.
At the tender age of about 8 years old, I was already fully into the amazing pop fetish that was the 90s. ‘Steps’ were my life. They were your typical pop group really; complete with upbeat cheesy numbers and the classic love ballads as well. I used to have all their albums- CDs AND tape cassette- I had their calendar and bought their annual every year. I even a horrifically cheesy poster of them above my bed, just so I could remind myself of how great they were before I went to sleep each night.
But the most amazing and exciting night of possibly my whole life, was when my mum took me to see them in concert. At 8 years old seeing your heroes in the flesh is a pretty big deal, so I had my outfit planned about a week in advance and even got my hair done for the event.  When they first came on stage I was literally so enthralled I couldn’t even sing along with all the words I already knew by heart.
The best part of the night though, was when ‘H’- my absolute favourite- sang a solo and came flying out into the audience on strings. That’s right, he flew. How amazing! At that point I officially fell in love with him and for the next four years of my life I was totally convinced I would marry him someday.
Although, of course, like all 90s pop bands Steps broke up. Despite physically crying at the time and throwing all their CDs of my rack (then later replacing them because I felt bad) - I somehow managed to get over the heartache.
It was then that I turned my attention to S Club 7 and dedicated my life to becoming their eighth member.
Ten years later though, and it’s pretty obvious that the 90s lives on in its own little way. When I was in school, my friend and I had a very specific plan to revive the days of that amazing decade. Being big fans of the Venga Boys, we thought we would make our own Venga Bus.
We were going to buy a camper van, paint it multi-coloured and upholster the inside with a furry carpet. We were going to attach a megaphone to the top which would constantly play the Venga Bus song, and we were going to drive around with the doors open so if you wanted to party you could, “get on and move your body”- just as the lyrics suggested.  How amazing would that have been?
We all love to be nostalgic about 90s music though, and I didn’t notice this until recently.  I went to a 90s night out with a few equally cheesy friends, and no matter what song came on - whether it was B*Witched, Backstreet Boys or some old school Take That- the crowd went crazy to each tune. Everyone knew every lyric, and everyone was just so happy!
So, even though I never joined S Club 7, and I never married H from Steps- 90s pop definitely still lives on.
We know it’s embarrassingly cheesy, but we still love it shamelessly. We are always going to remember the dance moves, and we are always going to sing every lyric off by heart. We are always going to embrace the cheese – because, let’s face it; the 90s was the greatest musical decade there ever was.  

Thursday, 3 March 2011

The Greatest Thing You Will Ever Learn...

I am a girl. I like makeup and new shoes, I have fairy lights in my room, and I still cry every time I watch Bambi.
So naturally- like most girls- I love a good romantic film. Not necessarily the annoyingly predictable rom-coms that star Jennifer Anniston and are set in New York; but ones with a true love story line- maybe a tragic hero or two and the kind of ending that leaves you with a bit of a secret tear.
So with that in mind, it’s a wonder I hadn’t seen Moulin Rouge sooner. 
It does, after all, encompass everything I love in a film.  The heart felt tragic love story, the songs, the music and the ending that leaves you in total shock and awe.
At first, I was unsure of the loud and gaudy feel of the film. With Baz Luhrmman as the director- I should have expected it- but its colourful costumes, fantastical settings and somewhat curious sound effects seemed ridiculously showy at first.
But when the fast paced slapstick died down and the plot began to unfold, I was totally gripped.  What’s not to love about a romantic poet who comes to Paris for inspiration in love, life and loss and to experience the arts of a new city- but who manages to fall for a prostitute along the way? And when that romantic poet is played by Ewan McGregor…well, it just makes it all the more appealing.
The epic mix of love songs is another aspect of Moulin Rouge I couldn’t help but love. I didn’t think it was possible to take so many Elton John and Madonna numbers and mash them together into one dramatic show stopper.
And when this is side lined with unforgettable one- liners like, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return”- it’s just a full on romance fest. The oddest part is, it doesn’t even seem cheesy- it just seems to fit with the rest of the film.
Then, of course, there’s that awe inspiring ending. The unpredictable one, the dramatic one, and the one that leaves you with those teary eyes you so desperately try to hide. I’m not going to ruin it- but it is simply the perfect way to bring a serious ending to a crazy whirlwind of a film.
It should be cheesy and it should be annoyingly predictable- but it isn’t. Somehow, it just works. Really, Moulin Rouge is one of those films you just need to see
So the greatest thing you’ll ever learn… is to embrace the gaudy drama, the love song medleys and the romantic one-liners- because behind it lies an amazing film.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Word Disaster...

It only happens once every few months. It always takes a moment to settle in- to really soak into your mind. But when it does, it sends chills right through you.
I’m talking about that moment when turn on the radio, the news or log into the BBC website and there’s a story that automatically grabs your attention- a story that you know is so much worse than any you have heard in a while.
It sounds like I am being really dramatic here, and maybe I am, but this definitely happened me today when I saw the headlines about the earthquake in New Zealand this morning. So yeah, you can see that this is going to be a bit of a serious blog today I’m afraid.
It was the figures of the 65 dead, the 300 suspected dead and the 6.3 magnitude that gripped me, and with friends in New Zealand at the moment it’s needless to say it sent chills of fear straight through me.
Looking at the pictures of huge buildings which are just completely destroyed- with roofs caved in and one storey collapsed on top of the other- it all seemed so massive. And the pictures of normal, everyday people being physically pulled from the wreckage, or crying at the side of the road made it all seem so scarily real and ultimately horrific.
It got me thinking, how could we ever cope with something like that here in Britain? While other people’s hometowns are being completely destroyed by earthquakes, the worst we have had to deal with in the past while has been a mere foot of snow at Christmas.
I think because of that we can’t fully understand how awful it would be to be caught up in something like that. We hear the words ‘natural disaster’ all too much that we probably get to a stage where we fully can’t grasp the actual ‘disaster’ behind it. We can’t imagine the carnage and destruction an earthquake, a forest fire or a tsunami would cause because most of us haven’t lived anything like that. All we can do is watch from our TV screens, maybe shake our head and add a “that’s just awful”- but never fully understand the trauma.
So, I’ll keep this short, because I know it isn’t the most optimistic of things to read. As clichéd as it sounds, I just wanted to think about how fortunate we are here sometimes.
 And I wanted think of all the people in Christchurch who have got caught up in this and somehow say that I don’t fully understand the meaning of the word disaster, but I am sorry that you now do.

Monday, 14 February 2011

St Valentine's Way...

It comes around once a year, kind of sneaking up unknowingly as it does. It’s in the shops, it’s all over TV. It’s not Halloween, it’s not Christmas…it’s not even my birthday.
 And in case the title and the very date today didn’t give it away- it is in fact, Valentine’s Day.
I am sure that many columns and blogs will be written about this today. Some will be for the day of love- outpouring the warm, cosy feeling that comes with knowing you are happily taken. But there will definitely be many against it- most likely the emotionally-void-spinster-type and the proud owner of multiple cats.
I’m sorry, but I am feeling I might fall under the latter.
It’s just that, for some reason Valentine’s Day has always had this way of either depressing me or intimidating me- mostly because I didn’t get over my fear of boys until I was about  16.
My first experience of Valentine’s Day came in the form of a handmade card from a boy in my class at primary school. It was clad in way too much glitter and tissue paper and was delivered by his best friend.  But more amusingly, it declared his infinite love for me at the tender age of 9 years old.
While that seems like a sweet and innocent gesture now, at the time it left me so scared of him I genuinely couldn’t look him in the eye again.
Secondary school was not really any better. The charities’ committee at school used to set up this Valentine’s event where you could send a plastic rose to the person you liked, along with a message about your general life feelings towards them. It meant that the morning of every February the 14th was the most tense of your entire school year. You knew that if those charities’ committee members came to your classroom and delivered roses to everyone but you, it was- officially- the end of your life.
I would like to say that now, several years on -with all those petty teenage insecurities in the past- that things are different. I’d like to say the dreaded 14th of Feb doesn’t intimidate me anymore. But with the unique smugness that only Valentine’s Day can have against a single girl, this just isn’t true.
Being a mere 19 years of age, I should be content with being single- the world is my oyster and there’s plenty of fish in the sea and all of that. So, why is it that St Valentine’s just has this horrific way of hitting me a big smug smack in the face?
I don’t know if it is the endless TV adverts and soppy music that get to me- or the plastic roses or the ridiculously over-glittered cards. All I know is that St Valentine has some sort of way or depressing and demeaning the single amongst us every year- when all we really want is to be left alone in our emotional void with our numerous cats.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Dreaded "My Passion"...

Being asked to write about "My Passion" brings me back to the dreaded days in school when you were asked to write an essay on your hobbies and interests.

It was in that moment you suddenly realised that in actual fact, you didn't have any. You didn't play sport, you couldn't paint and you didn't go horse riding or paragliding or do anything else at the weekend.

I was always the child left sitting at the table, chewing on the end of my pen, trying to decide on something I could suddenly be passionate about. But I was always left feeling like the totally uninspired nobody of the class- who had no hobby, no talent and just generally no personality at all.

But over the years I have began to realise that passion doesn't just come in the form of idle recreational activities- it can be any type of feeling or emotion on anything at all really.

So with that in mind, being the emotional, heart-on-sleeve type of girl that I am, I have realised that I am actually passionate about so many things.

But if I was to choose one in particular for that dreaded "My Passion" assignment, it would be the world. Simply, the world.

At this point it seems like I am going reflect over some life changing experiences from a recent gap year, when I travelled the world to find myself or something - but I never took that gap year. I never went trekking in the Andes, surfing on Bonzai beach or elephant riding in Thailand.

Although anytime I have been lucky enough to travel, I have always been so fascinated by anywhere that wasn't home. I love the feeling of being in a place you do not know, where every one's day to day life - which is so different from yours- is the most intriguing thing ever.

I love being surrounded by different languages- being right in the middle of a place that doesn't understand you, and you don't quite understand it either.

I love the sights of other countries- the way even a simple street will still seem so foreign and different because it won't be one you have seen before, and it will always differ from any other in the next place you visit.

I could go on to describe every place I have ever been in every country I have already travelled to, but I won't do that right now.

At the moment, I am just happy to have realised that I am no longer that boring, uninspired child sitting with a pen in my mouth and no feelings on anything. I am just happy to realise that all those thoughts and feelings I have on the world and on life in general- they are my passion. And there is certainly going to be a lot more of those posted here in the near future...