Wednesday, 13 November 2013

i just wanted to hold you


Let's talk about books. Whilst I am not a technophobe by any means, I have never really got on board with the Kindle concept. I happily make use of my phone, tablet, pc and, at least before its demise, laptop, on a daily basis. I online bank, online shop and even did a whole masters degree online some years ago. However, there's certain things that I just don't like to digitise. I have always been a stationery geek, and although I have a backup electronic calendar I prefer the paper version in the filofax I bought myself when I started my new job, and I take comfort in writing with fountain pens, and using pretty notebooks.

I am an avid reader, or at least I was when I was younger. I dare not say I do not have the time, as this thought provoking post from Kelly recently made me recognise that not having time for something is generally quite a subjective matter. As I said in my response to the post, we seem to be a society that equates being busy and stressed with a life that is important and meaningful, and not having time to do the things we enjoy seems to be a way of quantifying how busy, and therefore how important, we are. I thought the post was right, if you want to do something, generally there are ways to make time. We decided to learn Italian recently, and now take two hours each week to go to classes. If you asked me each week to give up two hours I would undoubtedly feel it was a big commitment, but we manage to make the time, and very much enjoy it. Similarly, some people will sit and wait for an appointment, or commute and sit playing on their phone. Others see that as an opportunity to partake in a personal hobby, be that listening to audio books, or in my case, I often write (and then delete) blog posts when I am on a train.

I digress, as is my habit. What I was going to say is that I have always loved reading, and as befits my somewhat addictive, I've started so I must finish, personality, once I am engrossed in a book, it is usually finished the same day, even if it means reading until the small hours. I don't read so much recently, but more because I never know where to start with choosing some books. Reading blogs makes me realise how much reading other people do, and how well read they are, and I would like to start making time to read.

I am the proud owner of a Kindle, which The Husband bought me one Christmas. He had thought, quite reasonably, that my love of reading and my love of technology would combine into a love of e-books. He, misguidedly, thought my loud comments about not wanting a Kindle was an extreme attempt at reverse psychology, or me trying to dissuade him from buying me such an expensive present. Cue an awkward moment indeed on Christmas morning, as I laughed aloud at the Kindle box, incorrectly thinking it was a joke. He had also bought it a very beautiful case, exactly the style I would have picked, but I don't think he expected it to be more pleasing than the contents!

I do use the Kindle, mostly when travelling, and can see the value of transporting several tomes in something smaller than a magazine. I enjoy it, particularly the joy of downloading and reading books for free, especially the classics (The Husband downloaded Frankenstein for me to re-read after we saw the play). For me though, I would always choose a book. I have piles of them, shelves stacked, some unread, some with spines that are splintering from overuse. I like the weight of a book, feeling the paper, judging how much more there is to go from the thickness of the pages. I bargain between myself and the page numbers, just ten more pages, just one more chapter. I like things to be tangible, palpable, to buy a book and feel like I actually own it. Sometimes, traditional is best.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

if i had anything to say

(Travis - Something Anything)

I cannot think of anything to write. That is not strictly true. I have started this post no less than five times now. So far it has been about the following things:

The fact that this weekend has felt longer than usual and why I think that is. If anyone is interested, my hunch is that having something planned on a Friday night and something planned for a Saturday morning helps. Not very insightful, or interesting. I wince with boredom just writing those two sentences, let alone a whole post.

Following this post I have a few more things I feel like I want to say on the topic. These posts may yet materialise, but there is something I keep trying to write about the division of labour when both partners work, and also something along the lines of this reply to Harriet's comment.

Last Saturday, when things seemed to go wrong, and not quite to plan, and generally a bit disappointing all round. This post was going to include a witty take on going for bridesmaid dress fittings, which at the time I thought would make a pithy post, but now I can't really find a way to make it work. I feel guilty writing a post about the experience in tones that are anything less than positive as I feel like it would somehow be being mean to my close friend who is the bride, even though she knows nothing about this blog. The fact that she was a bridesmaid for me last year makes me also feel that I have no right to moan, even light heartedly, about the process of being a bridesmaid at all. However, the basis of the post was about the sample dresses all being in an American size 2 and 4, which means however pretty they look on the hanger they are not a becoming sight on my English rose hips. It does make one feel like a bad bridesmaid, for not being that particular brand of bony beauty that is de rigeur for bridal parties (and life in general). Furthermore there seems to be a cruel irony in the new trend of vintage tea parties alongside the dress fitting, putting biscuits and cupcakes on offer whilst showing someone lots of dresses that are too small strikes me as a weird mind game to play.

Finally, two attempts to write about a restaurant. I have a phone full of pictures of lovely food from lovely places we have eaten, but still feel too much of an amateur to actually write anything amounting to a review. After the disappointments of Saturday (and having bravely resisted the biscuits and cupcakes at the dress fitting) this was the meal that saved the day and put the smiles back on our faces. Having stumbled upon it when the place we planned to go was full (told you it was one of those days),they were obviously busy too but rearranged some bookings to fit us in, and we ended up on a cracking table by the window. Having arrived damp, dreary and having had a decidedly unsuccessful few hours, we left well-fed and in a much cheerier mood. When I was waitressing as a student, my mum (wise lady that she is) told me the best service is when you can go to a restaurant feeling grumpy, and end up leaving feeling happy (though I'm sure she put it more eloquently than that). She is, as ever, right. In a bad mood, it is easy to feel dissatisfied with even the smallest details when eating out, so somewhere must be really good to impress, let alone turn that mood around. The Hub, in Liverpool, did that for us, and meant that the night at the theatre that followed (still not confident enough to write a review of that either) was all the more enjoyable than it might have been. Good service, delicious, well-cooked food, and a great atmosphere. It really does deserve writing about, so in lieu of a longer review, The Hub  comes well recommended from me, and, to round up this post, some pictures of our sharing starter, and my beer-battered fish and chips.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

you'll be the prince and i'll be the princess

(Taylor Swift - Love Story)

Harriet at Is There A Plan B recently mentioned NaBloPoMo, which was an entirely new concept to me. As it was the 2nd of November by the time I read about it I thought I had failed at the first hurdle by not posting every day (looking back now I realise I had actually posted on the 1st already so I was even more silly to give up so quickly). Luckily for me Harriet is aiming to post twice a week during November, and, considering I also have an exam I should be revising for, this is probably a more feasible option. So more regular posts for November, if not every day.

When the laptop was dead, and the PC was yet to be resurrected, there was a post I bookmarked, specifically so I would find it when my technology was working more effectively. Written by Hannah, at Muddling Along Mummy, it lamented the myth of the happy ever after ideology presented in Disney classics, as a less than realistic representation of adult relationships. It triggered for me some similar thoughts and also brought to mind a magazine article I read recently.

I don't know which magazine, or the interviewee, (I realise what a terrible attempt this is to sound well read), I vaguely think it was a businesswoman in an article illustrated with pictures of her posing in various rooms of her home, and I may have read it in the kitchen at work one lunchtime. Anyway, these are minor details, what was said is the one thing I can remember (sort of, I am also paraphrasing, having tried to find the quote by googling potentially relevant words and "magazine article" and failing miserably). She reflected, having been asked what advice she gave to young women, that they shouldn't marry young, because what appears attractive when you are young, is not what you find attractive when you are older. In marriage, romance comes from someone who gets up in the middle of the night to feed the baby, and shares the housework. I found myself nodding vigorously, I am only 27 but have always been old-headed (and definitely knew The Husband was a keeper when he would help me tidy my teenage bedroom).

I agree with Hannah. In fact I would argue that it is far beyond Disney that the problem stretches. The majority of the classic love stories, and their presentations of romance, fail to focus on the drudgery of domestic life as the ideal scene for love to blossom. There is the Romeo and Juliet model, where all protagonists are part of the social elite, such that cleaning and working are never part of the picture. Alternatively, there is the Cinderella classic, where one character (usually the woman) is saved from a life of such hardship by falling in love with somebody who is part of the social elite, and so cleaning and working are no longer part of the picture.

As a romantic at heart, who thoroughly enjoys the classic love story in any guise it isn't a complaint. But, having been married eighteen months, it is difficult to trust that your marriage is "successful" when love seems to be presented in a way so far removed from daily life. The Husband and I get in from work, cook a meal, see to the dog, work out whether it is bin day, check we don't urgently need to shop or iron, tidy round and go to bed, destined to sleep and repeat. It is easy to feel dull in comparison to the conventional depiction of newlywedded bliss.

I don't think fairy tale romance is any bad thing, but it is just a story. Real love needs to be fixed firmly in reality. I think love is mostly about sharing the mundane and the everyday with someone, and finding pleasure in the small things, them usually seeming better, or more bearable, because that other person is by your side. Romantic gestures, for me can be as simple as The Husband having cooked dinner when I am late home. It is about sharing the load because you care about the other person, more than you care about yourself.

Friday, 1 November 2013

an ending fitting for the start

(The Libertines - Can't Stand Me Now)

We went watching Frankenstein last night, it was the cinema screening of the National Theatre production. It was an excellent choice for Halloween, and a brilliant adaptation of the book. I studied it at school and loved it, and now I want to read it all over again. It asks such deep questions about humanity and morality, and the ethics of scientific endeavours. I noticed when we got in we both seemed to make even more of a fuss of the dog than usual, I wondered if subconsciously we were both guilt-ridden about abandoning our creature!

The production had the actors playing Frankenstein and the Creature alternate the roles each night. The screening in the next few weeks shows the casting the opposite way to last night; I'm  tempted to go and see it the other way around. The production was directed by Danny Boyle in 2011, and it was also interesting to watch it now, following his celebrated Olympic opening ceremony, as you can see some of the beginnings of  it in elements of Frankenstein. The industrial imagery and the incredible lighting designs would both have fitted straight into the ceremony itself.

The man under the stairs at the bookshop does not work on Fridays. I didn't get to thank him in person for the lovely job he did of binding my dissertation. He was right to be proud of his gold lettering, I was right to hope that he would look after them.

The admin lady in the University Department does not work on Fridays either. I left them on her desk, I arranged them neatly, I pondered whether to write her a note, but it was blatantly obvious from my name printed on the cover, and the spine, too, for good measure, who had left them there. It felt rather anti climatic to leave them there, in silence, and slip away.

Walking to the car I discovered a hole in my shoe. I realised that is something you only ever find out when it is raining. I wasn't wearing socks. I blame the dog for the hole, she has a fondness for footwear. Back in work I submitted my research for an international conference. There was a box asking if I was under thirty. I am. It meant I could be considered a young researcher (I think they are awarding prizes). I like that in some circles I am still considered young.

I had to go to a meeting with some of my senior supervisors in my soggy shoes. I managed to tie back my hair, which had frizzed fantastically in the rain. I had forgotten about my hands though. The bright red nail polish which had felt bold and brave when I applied it on Sunday night, and which pleased me on Monday morning, has not lasted well throughout the week. My left hand has survived better than my right so I spent the whole meeting trying to pick up my cup with the wrong hand.  I couldn't work out how to hold my pen so that you couldn't see my nails, and probably made myself far more conspicuous with my bizarre contortions.

It was all very silly as I actually had a lot to contribute, and I can only hope that what I said was more easily memorable than my hands. I think I will go for a subtler colour this week just to be on the safe side though. On my journey today I passed the pub again, I honestly happened to go the same route, it wasn't a deliberate diversion. The pram had gone, though the pub still stood empty. It suddenly all seemed like a lot of worry about nothing, but that does tend to be my way.

I dedicated my dissertation to my mum. It is probably the best work I have done, it seemed only fitting to acknowledge her with it, my mum who has always taught me to do my best, has supported me in striving to be my best, and has always in life given me her best. We both had a little cry when I pointed out the page and it didn't feel anti climatic any more.