Monday, 2 November 2015

A Foggy Night in London Town

For three days now London has been shrouded in fog. I am loving it. My city has become a new landscape. I know it will not last but it reminds me of a hazy impressionistic painting. I imagine this is what London must have looked like in the Victorian period when there was smog from coal fires.

On the way home this evening as I was walking away from work and down Aldwych in the misty fog, I heard the sound of church bells and realised they were coming from St. Clement Danes, one of the many famous churches on The Strand and along Fleet Street. Remember that famous tune 'Oranges and Lemons?'

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement's.

You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin's.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

The bells were all muffled in the fog, but they got louder as I approached and I recorded it all, as I am doing occasionally now. Capturing the sights of London life with my camera and the sounds of everyday life with my recorder....

https://soundcloud.com/clara-jean-jelly-bean/the-bells-of-st-clements-dane


Saturday, 31 October 2015

Happy Halloween!


It is Halloween! Or as I like to say it (in my spooky voice) 'All Hallooooooow's Eve!' London is especially spooky tonight. It is shrouded in at thick fog and since I did not pay enough attention in Geography class, I have no idea what science / weather combination-thingy would cause such a phenomenon. But I can say it has been quite a while since I have seen such white and dense fog in my hometown. And makes my familiar streets and parks look creepy as hell.

Today we spent the afternoon and evening watching the Rugby World Cup final (well done New Zealand All Blacks!) with my parents. Mr C deftly explained the finer points of rugby to my father, who exclaimed repeatedly, 'It just looks like chaos to me!' After talking up a storm about every subject known to man (as we usually do with my family) and consuming chicken kiev with rice and a bowl of impossibly large grapes, we embarked on the short drive home and out into the night of spooky fog. Fog has a strange effect. It seems to elongate all the light from the street lamps, the sidewalks look soft and the trees appear fuzzy. The night seems darker, velvet black and more rich and even more frightening. Perfect for Halloween. It did not help that at every bus stop, young people in terrifying costumes and painted in fake blood congregated, drunk and merry, waiting for a bus to take them home. Any costume you can think of, we saw as we drove past. Dead nurses, several werewolves, a couple of suave Draculas and even, what appeared to be, a version of the Disney character Maleficent. They stepped out into traffic, caught in the beams of foggy headlights like terrifying and malevolent local wildlife. One drunk teenager dressed as a dead Power Ranger stumbled across a zebra crossing. 'I hope he gets home safe.' I thought, like the concerned adult that I am. I think my dressing up and getting drunk days may be over.
Our neighbours really went to town with Halloween decorations this year. Traditionally I think Halloween is much more of an American celebration. I seem to remember reading a while ago that Halloween actually has Christian and Celtic roots, but the commercialisation of the holiday is definitely an American trend. When I was a child in the UK, very few people decorated their houses or went trick or treating. But recently us Brits have been embracing the spooky festive traditions and the supermarkets are full of candy to give to local children dressed as ghouls knocking on doors. We drove passed several houses and flats that were decorated in the most elaborate and creepy manner. One house even had a huge spider the size of a large double window on the side of the building. In the dark with the fog, the decorations looked even more real. Both Mr C and I did a double take as we passed by the huge black arachnid decoration. After we got home and scurried past a row of fake skulls hanging across our neighbors' doorway, we made ourselves cups of chamomile tea and settled down to warm up in bed. Unfortunately I was distracted from my warm and comfortable duvet by the local urban fox.

We have a local fox. In fact it is probably more than one, since the fox I saw tonight looks larger than the one I saw a few months ago. Our living room window looks directly out on to the street outside and over a small area of shrubs and bushes that is fenced off. It is land that belongs to the council but is extremely overgrown and no one goes in it or does anything with it. The local cats often go in there, mooch about and sometimes fight over it. In recent years I been observing the local foxes travel through it in the direction of the bins outside our apartment block. They love to investigate our rubbish, tear open our bin bags and drag our garbage all down the street and across the pavements. As annoying as this is, I still cannot get over the thrill of seeing such a beautiful and large wild animal so up close. The foxes never look up at our window, so they never see me starring at them and because this little patch of wilderness is blocked off from the street, people are always walking by in the dark and not looking over the hedge. They have no idea that less than a metre away a massive fox is just behind a fence starring out at them with dark glittering eyes in the shrouded shadows. The only times I have ever seen any humans behind this fence, was when a local council employee came to dump some rubbish in a big wheelie bin and then also when a few years ago, one sunny afternoon, a teenage boy took a teenage girl behind the bins to kiss her repeatedly.

Watching the foxes at night is magical. You rarely ever see a fox in London during the day. I have seen foxes in daylight only twice in 28 years and then it was from a long distance away (one fox was trotting beside some train tracks and the other time, I was in a car in traffic and the fox appeared in the upstairs window of an abandoned building beside the road). Urban foxes seem so large, but they move so lightly and quickly. They make very little sound as they trot through the streets. They don't seem to frightened of us, just a little wary. The bigger ones have thick coats and long bushy tails. The younger ones look lean and hungry and skittish. They live in the same city as us, all around us, but they are like pale orange ghosts that we only glimpse at briefly during the night. My lovely local fox felt like more like the real spirit of Halloween than a hundred Draculas or skeletons.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Mid-Week Video: Monthly Bleeding is a Luxury


It is that time again! Time for the Mid-Week Video. This week it is MP Stella Creasy (British Labour Co-operative politician who has been Member of Parliament for the London constituency of Walthamstow since 2010) speaking out against Tampons and sanitary towels being classed as 'luxury' items and so are not applicable to a zero tax rating. 

Because of course, bleeding each month is a luxury for every woman and we enjoy spending our hard-earned cash (which can be less than the hard-earned cash of our male colleagues according to gender pay gap statistics in the UK) on material to staunch the flow. And talking about this is confusing for everyone. Because periods and menstruation are an embarrassing and dirty subject that all women should keep quiet about. We should all talk about our boobs instead, Boobs never offended anyone. They used to be displayed on Page 3 of one our national newspapers for a better part of 30 years. Boobs are fine. Unless they are being used to feed babies in public places. Then they must be put away. 

Enough sarcasm for one day? Watch the video and let me know what YOU think.

http://veronicadearly.bigcartel.com/

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Mid-Week Video: The Future is Now!


So today is the day that Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled Back to the Future (in the second movie of the franchise)! To mark the occasion, Doc Brown delivered this sweet little motivational video. The future is what you make it folks, the crazy-haired Doc is right!

Tonight, Mr C and I traveled back in time (probably to the 1950s or 60s) by having a very retro dinner of Fish Pie and Peas and Jelly and Custard for desert.

Happy Mid-Week everyone!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

A Weekend of Japanese and Judaism

My name in Japanese...
It is a lazy Sunday evening, I am listening to Classic FM and drinking peppermint tea. My neighbor has just set off some fireworks and giddy like children, Mr C and I ran to window to watch them bloom brightly high up in the night sky. It has been an eventful weekend. Today we went to the Language Show at the Kensington Olympia exhibition hall. We were both curious to see if we might want to study another language some time soon. There were hundreds of stalls of people advertising language courses, centres, teaching materials and language learning apps and programmes. There was a talk from interpreters from the EU Parliament and EU Commission, which was very interesting and I learned how to write my name in Japanese. I bought a small ink stamp that said 'Wunderbar!' and portrayed a tiny man jumping for joy in lederhosen. I think it is meant for German language teachers but I fully intend to use it everywhere: on letters, on envelopes, in notebooks and on wrapping paper at Christmas. Because everything should 'Wunderbar' if possible.

At around 2pm, after consuming a turkey and brie sandwich, Mr C and I headed over to the seminar section to sit in a taster Japanese language lesson. There is only so much Japanese you can learn in 40 minutes, but we thought we would give it a try. The lesson was taught by a middle-aged Japanese woman who did not exactly have a firm grasp on the English language herself. She also shouted into a microphone while standing approximately 2 metres away from us. It was 15 minutes of sitting in the path of a incredibly loud hurricane of Japanese vocabulary and grammar. The audience began to find her more amusing than instructive and there were quite a few giggles across the rows of seats as everyone tried to vainly express themselves in basic Japanese. After 20 minutes or so, Mr C leaned across and whispered in my ear, 'I only have so much time left on this planet and I can't waste any more of it in this session. Can we go?' We slunk away out of the room and went to hang out by a stall promoting the German language.

On the way home we accidentally took the wrong train and ended up on the fast train to East Croydon (which is a few miles out of our way). My husband Mr C practically had a stroke from the frustration of watching our home station whizz by in a blur as the train sped on. I just sat back and tried to enjoy our little detour. It could have been worse. A recent news item about two elderly friends caught my eye. They accidentally caught the wrong train after a day out in London and ended up on the fast train all the way to York in the North of England! At least we did not end up going that far out of our way.
On the way back into town from East Croydon (we had to travel all the way back to Clapham to catch a train out again to our station - so we essentially passed our home on the train twice without being able to get off the train), we had to change carriages as the train was extra long and the platform at our station was short. So as we stumbled about the carriages trying to make our way down the train, the carriage jerked suddenly and I ended up falling on top of a seated passenger. She was gracious about it, but embarrassingly, I pretty much landed right her lap. Needless to say, we were exhausted when we got home despite having only traveled around 5 miles. That is London for you; short distances made longer than they really should be....

Earlier in the weekend Mr C and I attended his step-sister's Bat Mizvah. I have actually been to a Bat Mizvah before. Last year in fact. I attended his other step-sister, Gabby's Bat Mizvah. This year, it was Misha's turn. She has just turned 13 and is all tall, graceful and shy. I remember her as a cute 7 year old, so it was quite emotional watching her sing from the Torah in front of the whole congregation of the local Synagogue. She sang beautifully and was very poised. It was a long service as it contained two Bat Mizvah's, a blessing for a new baby and a celebration of a man turning 70. I am not Jewish, but I did enjoy the morning. It is nice to see a community come together and all the traditions they share. Having a little bit more knowledge of Judaism this time around (last year I was totally nervous and clueless) made the experience a lot more fun and interesting. The community seems very close, harmonious and friendly during the Shabbat service. Although there was some excitable gossiping that went on after the service as everyone took part in the Kiddish and a little bit of tension among some of the families. I suppose that the all communities have their friendships, families, squabbles and tensions.

It left me wondering, what community could I belong to? What community would I ever bring any children into?

Friday, 16 October 2015

Taking Stock In September / October

Phew! It has been a busy couple of weeks! I finally have found a little time to write. I did lots of work from home and my finances this morning, I did two loads of laundry, wrote two postcards to friends, signed a new tenancy agreement (so I can rent in the same property for another year), looked through the photos taken on a recent holiday to Cambridge in the UK, read two chapters of my bookclub book, drank two cups of coffee, did a grocery shop and flossed my teeth. Thanks to my husband Mr C cooking dinner (he is currently checking on jacket potatoes roasting in the oven) I can take a little time to focus a bit on my creative writing hobby.I can now let my fingers fly across the keyboard. Fly little fingers! Fly!

Except now my mind is..well...a little blank...I have been trying to write short stories lately. Maybe the occasional poem. The problem is I actually have a lot of writing projects on the go at the moment (I blog for two organisations as a volunteer and I am currently engaged in writing up summaries of two oral history projects that I interviewed people for. Plus I have my two 'fun' extracurricular blogs to update!). I also normally spend so much time rushing around, that when I stop and sit still to do some creative writing, I find myself sleepy or blank. So I have been trying to slow it down and notice my surroundings more. I walk slower in the Tube (against the rush of commuters clamoring to get past and in front of me) and try to concentrate on one thing at a time both at work and at home. It is difficult in this day and age of constant interruptions and distractions. Emails, text messages, phone calls, events to go to, people to see, chores to be done, places to be. I have plenty of ideas for stories, I just can't seem to find the time and when I do, I can't concentrate. But the urge to write is strong and ignoring it only makes me miserable and frustrated.This afternoon I finally got the chance to do some short story writing and managed to put a few paragraphs down on paper. It is just a start, but who knows where it will take me!

Anyway, I said the last two weeks have been busy, but it was not all chores! So I decided to take stock...(I got this excellent idea of compiling my random life into digestible chunks by reading the excellent crafty blog Meet Me at Mikes):

Making: A huge knitted blanket. For winter. Although at the moment it is just three large woolen rectangles (one cream, one navy blue and one banana yellow). I better get a move on since it is now October and our flat has suddenly just got colder. Ned Stark would definitely have something to say about this...



Cooking: I made chocolate Fridge Cake using a recipe from Waitrose. I added fudge, just because obviously dark chocolate, golden syrup and honeycomb is not sugary enough. I fed it to my husband, best friend Natalie and my parents. That's me, spreading around the love and risk of diabetes.

Drinking: Lots of coffee! Starbucks has started serving their Pumpkin Spiced Latte again.  My Scully mug is what I drink coffee out of when I am home. I combine Scifi coffee drinking with reading about Scandinavia...perfect combination!


Writing: Not much unfortunately (except lots and lots of lists of things I need to do), but I did write a post about the X Files revival...http://twooriginalgeeks.blogspot.co.uk/ - because, it is some of the biggest news to happen to the world of Scifi since..well..ever!

Reading: Jerusalem by Guy Delisle for my bookclub. It is a graphic travelogue of one man's experience of the Middle East. After our bookclub meeting on Monday, we decided on the next book which is Gut by Giulia Enders, so I will start reading that shortly. Horrifyingly I found my old University diary, so I have been reading a bit of that too.

Eating: This month has been a pretty amazing one for food so far. I had dinner with my father in a very nice restaurant called Joe Allen's and while spending a few days in Cambridge, my husband and I ate in a restaurant called Cocum. it served Keralan cuisine which was delicious. I have also treated myself twice to sandwiches from my favourite lunch place near work. The cafe is called Lincolns and is run by a small South American family. They have a huge sandwich toaster. They basically toast everything they make and are evidence to the fact that all sandwiches taste better toasted. In fact, everything probably tastes better toasted.

Wanting: One of these amazing lamps

Looking: Last week at two women on the Tube who happened to be wearing the same jacket and accidentally ended up sitting next to each other. Amusingly both of them were horrified that they matched and moved seats! Also earlier this month I watched 10 young men dressed as Saint George wander down the road off to watch the Rugby World Cup at Twickenham. It pays to keep your eyes pealed in London. You never know what you might see.

Playing: At being an oral historian! I have started interviewing everyone everywhere! I interviewed a security guard the other day, a sales assistant in Sainsbury's and two weeks ago I struck up a conversation with a train guard at Clapham Junction. He noticed my new jacket which I bought at the Africa Utopia festival at the Southbank. It was made by an Anglo-African company in Camden. It very nicely clashes withe everything else I own and almost any pattern on any seat on UK public transport. The Clapham train guard was from Africa and he recognised the fabric pattern, we got talking and he ended up telling me about the 50 trains of commuters that he deals with each day. He also told me the worst job he ever had was being a train guard at Wandsworth Common because it was such a quiet station and so colossally boring. He then yelled at the man standing next to me to get behind the yellow line on the platform.

Clashing on the Victoria Line
Deciding: To take more holidays and mini breaks more often. I often work until I am exhausted and stressed and so spend most of my well-earned holiday sleeping.

Wishing: I could visit this museum in Lyon!

Enjoying: Petting local cats. A particularly soft and fluffy youngster lives near my parents and she trots up for some adoration whenever she sees me.



Waiting: For Arne Dahl to return for a 2nd series on the BBC.

Swedish Crime Fighters looking prepared
Liking: Eating lunch with my friend Natalie at Whitecross Market. I had a huge pulled pork wrap and then wandered around the Barbican.

Down this street is a whole host of food stalls...

Wondering: Why a guy, trying to get spare change from passer-bys, continues to create tiny boats out of sand and plastic flowers on the pavement near Waterloo Station, during rush hour, when no one ever gives him any money.

And how this Weather Reporter managed to pronounce this Welsh place name:


You gotta love the Welsh and their names.....

Loving: The fact that last weekend I could stand outside on my balcony and watch a children's science-themed birthday party on the street below. They were learning how to make rockets and their noise was delightful. I recorded a small sample. Recording noises is now my new hobby.
(https://soundcloud.com/clara-jean-jelly-bean/little-scientists)

Pondering: Am I losing my hair? It does feel thinner. And strands of it does come out on my hairbrush...would I look okay if I was bald? I do have a bowler hat with cat ears on it, so I might be okay...

Considering: Going to the London Feminism Conference this month....

Buying: My new Zatchel. It is bright orange and came from a charity shop.

So bright you can see it from outer space
Watching: Munich (a very good, but very sad film), The X Files (of course!) and I Wish (Japanese Film, that was really lovely and sweet and made me homesick for Japan).

Hoping: For more time to write. And perhaps the ability to someday do without 8 hours sleep, so I have more time to write when the world is quiet.

Marvelling: At the music students at the Barbican intensively practicing their various different instruments in their practice rooms and mushrooms growing out of paving stones near my parents' flat.

Cringing: About having spinach in my front teeth from a batch of homemade pesto. It was in between my two front teeth all day long and no one said anything.

Needing: To start actually mediating for peace of mind and exercising for a better fitness level.

Questioning: Why on earth can the US not impose some stricter gun control laws! After the most recent shooting Oregon, even the shooter's father was arguing for more gun control! An interesting article on school shootings in the US was published recently in the New Yorker.

Meeting: My new work colleague and taking an instant liking to her and wanting to be her friend, Also meeting a whole chapter of the new Women's Equality Party in a pub in South London.

Smelling: Not much, I have a rotten cold.

Wearing: Alternating my new badges: (all made by this lovely lady - http://www.andsmilestudio.com/about/)

Autumn Girl badge
Magical Coffee badge
Mulder and Scully badges
Following: Very British Problems (https://twitter.com/SoVeryBritish) - favourite problem this week (now that supermarkets have started charging 5p per plastic bag in the UK):

Realising you've got about fifty grand's worth of plastic bags under your kitchen sink.

Noticing: How beautiful London is in the evening (around dusk) from the top of a double decker bus on Waterloo Bridge.

Knowing: My neighbor is sick. Because I can hear her hacking cough every evening in the flat below. Surprisingly her boyfriend does not stop smoking because I can smell that too....

Thinking: Lots of things. Far too many thoughts. I have a very busy brain that is far too overactive. But here are just a few thoughts that were quite prominent in my mind recently...
  • How much I dislike Theresa May and her anti-immigration speech during the Conservative Party Conference (especially liked this article about it).
  • How Cambridge University (as lovely as it looked in the Autumn sunshine) is really just one giant educational club that excludes everyone who does not belong to it...and that then echoes afterwards in to the workplace...and it has been doing this for hundreds and hundreds of years
  • How ridiculous and prevalent social media has become in our world and everyday life when 'de-friending' someone on Facebook could have been considered workplace bullying. Luckily a tribunal in Australia ruled that such an action was not workplace bullying in itself...


Admiring: King's College Chapel and its wonderful choir of choir boys during Evensong.

A Ceiling to remember...
Sorting: There is so much sorting to be done (where to live, what career to have, what story to write, what to do with all my craft materials, how to organise my time), that I am not sure it is even worth mentioning all the sorting in any detail, unless the detail has been sorted beforehand....deep sigh...

Surfing: The Net, when I should be doing better things. How else would I find Cats in Kimonos? (the cats look mightily unimpressed)

Getting: Totally behind on housework. The crappy slime green 70s carpet in my rented flat is covered in lint and needs to be vacuumed.

Bookmarking: Feminist Disney and this woman's excellent art blog on tumblr

Coveting: My husband's good circulation. He is always warm. I just get colder and colder in the winter...especially my feet...

Making the most of the warmth of the other person who occupies your bed
Disliking: Having a cold. Cough, Splutter, Sneeze.

Opening: A bag of sweet potato chips and then almost eating the entire bag in one sitting. Ugh.

Giggling: There is always time for a good giggle. Things that have made me giggle recently are:
  • My husband being loved up by a sausage dog in the park while doing some press-ups. Apparently the tiny dog came up and started enthusiastically nuzzling his ear.
  • Brian Blessed delivering a baby. In the 1960s. In Richmond Park. Probably the most frightening birth story ever. But give the man an 'A' for effort and enthusiasm.
  • My boss sending me this photo of her kitten sleeping in the most awkward sleep position:

The 'draping myself over a cliff' sleep position
Feeling: Tired.Very tired. As usual. Better get that 8 hours sleep!

Snacking: On Avocado Hummus. Absolutely amazing. God bless the Chickpea and it's friend the shapely Avocado...



Helping: To write summaries for over 40 hours of recordings for an Oral History Archive for a London university. An Epic amount to do! WHEN will I FIND the TIME?! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!

Planning: On taking the train more, rather than the Underground. On the train I can look out of the window and feel exactly like this:

I am on an adventure!
Hearing: The Friday Night Comedy Podcast from the BBC (The News Quiz) - literally the most funny radio programme on the radio at the moment. For their take on new Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn listen here. I listen to it every Friday on my iPhone without fail and sometimes I even listen to it again on my way to work on Monday morning to make myself feel more cheerful about the start of another working week.

Listening: To Youth by Daughter. Lovely little tune.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Laughing at Restrictive Attitudes to Women's Reproductive Choices


So there is a little bit of a problem across the pond with birth control. Well actually more specifically the organisation, Planned Parenthood in the USA. President Cecile Richards had to defend the organisation in front of members of Congress this week. Following this news story and reading about what appears to be the 'one step forward, two steps back' progress of gender equality in American health care, is something of a hobby of mine, I have always been interested in women's' rights and in recent years I have spent more time reading up on the state of gender equality in countries across the world. Here's a hint: it is pretty crap. And unequal.

There are several differences between the UK and the USA when it comes to birth control. The biggest one being, in the UK you can get most forms of birth control prescribed from your doctor for free. In fact when I was in secondary school, a nurse at my local GP surgery offered me a handful of condoms from what looked like a bread basket in her office, despite my insistence that I did not have a boyfriend and I was not interested in procuring one any time soon. I am sure there are a fair amount of people in the US who would shudder at this idea. In the USA, your access to birth control differs depending in which state you live in, how much money you have, what your health insurance says and sometimes even your workplace health care policy. In fact in 2014, the Supreme Court decided that for-profit corporations may offer insurance plans to female employees that do not cover contraception, by the rationale that the owners may hold that certain contraceptives violate their religious beliefs. So in other words if your boss thinks that you having sex for fun is against god's plan, then you probably won't be able to get the pill for free through your employee health insurance.

I find this insane. Obviously this is just my own opinion and as usual, you can take it or leave it, but I believe that women being able to control their own bodies, especially their own fertility is fundamental to securing great gender equality...everywhere. When a woman can control when and how she wants to have a baby, a whole bunch of new opportunities open up to her. She can choose to work, she can choose to travel, she can choose her own sexual partners and she can also choose never to have children if she so wishes. And if you don't care so much about doing what is morally right for women's freedom, why not use the financial argument...the added bonus that contraceptive use saves almost 19 billion US dollars in direct medical costs in America each year.

I have always found that when you want to express how truly ridiculous something is, the best way is to mock it. You can shout, you can argue, you can fume (and I do indeed to all three sometimes) but you can often get your point across much more effectively by exposing the flaws in a system by using comedy. Sharp comedy. Dark comedy, but a mocking form of criticism all the same. Earlier this week a feminist friend of mine sent me the below video:

You can click on the link above which will take you to the Buzzfeed site where you can watch the video. Go on! It is only a few minutes and has a cracking ending.

I love this video for so many reasons. It has Amy Schumer in it, who is a very successful female comedian in an industry where it is hard for women to succeed. It shows how women's health is often in the hands of men who have little or no experience or knowledge of such issues. It pokes fun at the idea that having sex for fun should not be something that women deserve or want. And it makes a tiny reference to how stupid America's gun laws are. Letting women control their own reproduction? No, that would be a step too far! Letting children play with hand guns? No problem! Fire away!

Many people in America have criticised this video claiming that it is not hard for them to secure birth control, but the point is, it is not the same for everyone throughout the country and whether or not you can get the pill free or you have to pay money towards a subscription, the video is a comedic social commentary on people’s restrictive attitudes toward women’s reproductive choices, including birth control. And on that note, I want to draw your attention to the below photo:

1917, almost a hundred years ago....
This photo is of Margaret Sanger, a prominent birth control activist, leaving a courthouse in New York in 1917. Margaret Sanger was an American birth control activist, sex educator, writer, and nurse. Sanger popularised the term 'birth control' and opened the first birth control clinic in the United States in 1916. That was almost a hundred years ago. Are we really STILL going to have to argue for this reproductive right? Are we STILL having THIS conversation?

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”


Today was the day that in 1868, the first volume of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women was published. The National Women's History Museum in the USA stated:

Alcott’s classic book for girls, which followed the lives of the sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March, championed themes of individuality and self-discovery for girls—a departure from typical narratives at the time.

This was one of the first long novels that my mother read to me when I was little and I always found strength in the character of the passionate and artistic Jo. She was clever, independent, brave, stubborn and she desperately wanted to write. I found her adventures enthralling and she made me feel confident about being studious and intellectual in a culture where such things were not considered 'cool.' The book has some wonderful quotes...

“I don't pretend to be wise, but I am observing, and I see a great deal more than you'd imagine. I'm interested in other people's experiences and inconsistencies, and, though I can't explain, I remember and use them for my own benefit.” 

“I like good strong words that mean something…” 

“You are the gull, Jo, strong and wild, fond of the storm and the wind, flying far out to sea, and happy all alone.” 

“Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.” 

And then there is this fantastic little quote from another piece of Louisa May Alcott's work that always makes me smile:

“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”

I also have a special space in my heart for this novel because it is a small part of the close literary connection I share with my mother. In recent years we have read different books, pursued different interests and lived busy lives so it is harder to share a book together. But there was a time when I was younger when we shared these stories, classics such as Charlotte's Web, Little Women, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Sheep Pig and Little House on the Prairie. I honestly feel that my childhood and to certain extent, my character was shaped by what my parents read to me and encouraged me to read. Little Women was just one of those many literary adventures. I have read too many books in my life and it has 'turned' my 'brain'.... into a free and lively thing that can take me anywhere.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Belonging to a Little Part of a Big Thing


It is all rugby rugby rugby in our flat this weekend. My husband, Mr C, is a big rugby fan. I am not a massive sport fan, but I am a fan of communal events and international competitions. I love it when a bunch of countries come together to compete in a tournament whether it be sport, baking or dancing. It is always nice to see countries challenge each other in something other than warfare. So I was almost as excited as Mr C on Friday night when the Rugby World Cup opened. Waterloo Station was a hive of activity as thousands of spectators made their way to the famous rugby stadium in Twickenham. 82,000 people took their seats for the opening ceremony and it was broadcast live in pubs around the UK. 

Rugby is a nice sport, the fans are often made up of families, the players are paid less inflated salaries than professional footballers and it is a real 'team' sport. You can't win a match unless you all play together as a cohesive team. As my husband told me repeatedly during Friday evening, rugby apparently originated from the Rugby School in Warwickshire in 1823 when a school boy (named William Webb Ellis) picked up the ball during a football match and ran across the pitch with it. It amuses me to think of this fellow clutching the ball in his arms racing across the grass pitch, wind in his hair, laughing while his fellow team mates run after him yelling, 'Hey! This would make a fun game!' 192 years later and countries from all around the world are taking their turns to race across the field, ball in hand. And this year some of them are huge! One player is 6ft9!

An enormous amount of work goes into international sporting tournaments or any massive communal event in fact (which is sweetly show in the above video). The Rugby World Cup does not just involve the players, but the coaches, the referees, the sports therapists, the journalists, the catering staff, the broadcasters and commentators, the stadium staff, the fans and spectators, all down to the hot dog salesman and the guy in the mascot suit. It is a whole little community in itself. Watching the last few matches this weekend and hearing people in the pub, in local cafes and in the streets made me realise what a wide community it is and what the sense of belonging brings to people. I generally like to go my own way through life and I am very independent but I can't deny that sometimes I do enjoy the feeling of belonging to a wider group. I may never belong to the world of rugby (I can't say I am a proper fan) but I do remember feeling euphoric when Ireland won the Six Nations rugby tournament in 2009. I was sitting in a pub in Dublin with Mr C and drinking a 1/2 pint of Guinness. Guinness in Ireland is better than anywhere else in the world. It is so creamy it is almost like drinking alcoholic ice cream. The bar was full of Dubliners and the atmosphere was jubilant and electric. Part of being a member of a community is sharing the joy of the others around you. 

Sometimes I wonder what communities I belong to. In my heart I am a Londoner. London is a difficult and fickle community to be part of, partly because it contains almost 10 million people. In a city as big as London, it is easy to feel isolated and lonely. But if you look carefully, everywhere there are opportunities to belong. From bookclubs (my bookclub has around 10 members) to local action groups, religious communities and sports clubs, the city is full of thousands of smaller communities. Even when you least expect it, you find yourself belonging somewhere. Yesterday I went for an asthma review appointment at my local GP surgery. I have suffered from asthma for a few years and although it bothers me very rarely now, it is important to have regular check ups. Asthma can have very serious consequences if  not treated properly, so every 6 months or so, I visit my local nurse and have my medication checked and test my lungs by breathing through an instrument called a 'peak flow meter.'

The local nurse at my doctor's surgery is a nice woman, who has a small office at the back of the building and grows sunflowers by her window. Every once in a while a local tabby cat stalks by on the wall outside the window, sits down, lifts one striped leg and proceeds to wash it's butt. The nurse assures me that the cat always regards her and her patients with the utmost disgust, regardless of what the health issue being discussed in the office is. The nurse knows everyone in her catchment area, she sees her patients in the supermarket, at the bus stop and in the local park. She looks at me once and immediately states when she last saw me and asks after my husband. It amazes me how phenomenal her memory is, but then we are part of her community and it is her job to work with this community. 

I am also a fixture of this community without even trying to be. The local library staff know I live just down the road and the gentleman who owns the local stationary shop calls me by my first name when I pass by. On the way to the doctor's surgery yesterday, I stepped out of my block of flats and nodded to my neighbor across the road. He likes to sit on his front step when the weather is nice and the sun hits his front door in the morning. He takes off his shoes and opens a newspaper and watches the world go by. After I walked a few yards I came across Bruce. Bruce is a sturdy white cat. I actually have no idea what his name is, but Mr C and I call him Bruce and he seems to respond to the name enthusiastically. We actually dubbed him Bruce the Baptist, because he lazes around the front of the Baptist Church across the road. Bruce is a very vocal friendly cat, who pesters people outside the local library. He has been chased out of our local Waitrose supermarket, the library, people's gardens and the church, but always seems to manage to duck back in to these places whenever he feels like it. He is not a stray, he has a collar and is well fed and healthy, but he seems to view everyone on the street and the local area as his property. He even makes the traffic wait for him to cross the road. He gets tidbits from locals sitting on the bench next to library, he intimidates the local urban foxes who tear into our garbage and if I pet him for long enough he climbs onto my shoulders and purrs loudly while covering me in handfuls of white fur. Everyone greets Bruce and each day he inspects his territory. I can view the whole street from the window of my flat, I watch Bruce strut about, curling around the legs of passer-bys, I watch my neighbor turning his smiling face to the sun and every once in a while I hear our local Pavarotti singing drunken opera down on the high street. 

Our local tube station has several entrances and staircases. Sounds echo up and down and across the street outside from within the bowls of the underground. Our local Pavarotti seems to appreciate these acoustics and often he can be found, beer can in hand singing opera at the top of one for the staircases to the Northern Line Tube. He is left alone by the Transport for London staff, partly because he is a rather good singer and he is not causing any trouble. His voice floats deep and melodic across the ticket barriers and into the street outside. He sings everything: Ave Maria, Nessun Dorma, snippets from Carmen and the Barber of Seville. I look forward to hearing him, as much as I look forward to the West Indian platform announcer on the Victoria Line at Victoria Station who always says, 'Mind the closing doors my friends! Driver, take these beautiful people all the way home to Brixton!'

This is my community. It is made up of these local people, my sun-loving neighbor, the long-suffering librarians, Bruce the cat, the local Pavarotti singing his opera tunes, the Jamaican tube announcer spreading joy among weary commuters, the two creative sisters who run my favourite cafe, the man who owns a little gift shop selling beautiful smelling candles and tells me all about his holidays in the Lake District each year and the young student who stacks the scifi magazines in my local newsagent. I may not work for them like my community nurse does, but I know all of them by sight. They might not always remember me, but I make sure I smile at them when I see them, perhaps even nod my head, because in a big city like London, part of being in a community is acknowledging each other. Just like Charles Dance in the promotional Rugby World Cup video, no matter how small a part you play, if you join in, in a community, you can feel that you belong to something bigger than yourself. That sense of belonging, is a pretty fantastic feeling.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Branching out to pastures new...

Hello my fine online friends! Apologies for the silence. I have spent the last few days working, drinking copious amounts of coffee and wondering what to do with my life. Every once in a while I have what I would call, a little crisis of faith, where I think to myself: 'What the hell am I doing?' It only lasts for a few days before I prop myself upright again and get back to daily life. Part of daily life at the moment is working on the many hobbies I have outside of my paid profession. Oral history, blogging, writing, photography and the recent addition of colouring. But more on that later...

As I mentioned in a few blog posts ago, my friend Natalie and I are starting a blog. It is our little geeky project to provide us with some writing experience, pop culture criticism and a respite from the reality of daily life. So without further ado, I present to you our new blog!

http://twooriginalgeeks.blogspot.co.uk/

An accurate representation of me watching TV

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

A Cinematic Portrayal of Loss

I have been thinking a lot about World War I recently. Last year was the centenary anniversary of the conflict (which was marked by several official events in the UK) and this year was the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF - http://www.wilpf.org.uk/) which was started in 1915 to try and bring an end to the war in Europe. I volunteered for WILPF last year and this year I have been blogging for them and doing oral history. They produced a short documentary about the origins of their organisation (you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0a2xYvXwGiw).

My experiences with World War I have been purely academic. I do not know of any family ancestors who fought in the conflict and I have little personal connection to the British patriotism of Remembrance Day. My husband supposedly had relatives who fought in the trenches and he is far more British than I am. Most of my ancestors come from all over the world and the only British blood I have in my veins comes from the Welsh coal mines where a set of great grandparents lived and worked until they decided to leave for America. But I do know a lot about the First World War and I have my English education to thank for this knowledge. I am not sure what children learn in school nowadays, but back when I attended Secondary School, we studied World War I religiously. Year after year we studied it. I was still writing essays about the conflict in my final year exams when I was 18. The First World War seems to be such a part of British consciousness and culture, even more than the Second World War or the Blitz. It permeates our popular culture in literature, museums, art, ceremonies, films, TV, music, ballets, theatre and even musicals. I don’t remember exactly when I first learned of the conflict, I do have a hazy memory of my mother trying to gently explain to me what the concept of war was when I was little and perhaps too inquisitive for my age. I remember thinking that this idea was terrible and sad and that it was sitting on the horizon of my knowledge somewhere in the future. That someday I would learn about upsetting and scary things that I couldn't quite understand right at that moment in time. Of course I was extremely lucky not to experience conflict first hand as a child. I have had a charmed and peaceful life and I am very grateful for that fact.

The history education I received at school was first rate. History was and still is one of my favourite subjects. When I was 13 or 14 years old, after reading countless books, eye-witness accounts, war poetry and writing essays, I was taken on a school trip to the World War I battlefields in northern France. We all bundled into a coach and drove the long and boring journey to Dover, took a ferry and then crossed the border into France. Boys misbehaved at the back of the coach, someone got carsick and threw up into a plastic shopping bag, girls gossiped and the long suffering teachers tried to snooze. Once we were let out of the coach, we were little wild for having been cooped up so long in stiff coach seats and there was a lot of excitable running around and shouting. No one really quietened down until we were all reprimanded and gathered to observe a minute of respectful silence in front of a large stone war memorial. It was then when I began to think and reflect on my surroundings. I remember being angry. I was surprised at my anger. I had thought how exciting it would be to see all the places I had learned about during the year in my history classes. I thought I would feel sad. Perhaps a little tearful. But all I felt was anger, rolling around hot and hard in my stomach. Perhaps it was seeing all the rows upon rows of names carved into the stone memorial in front of me. Perhaps it was how small No Man’s Land looked. So much smaller than how I had imagined it. All that fighting each day for that little sliver of land! All the men who lay dying on this miserable length of grass and soil that took me no longer than 5 to 10 minutes to cross from one trench to another! What a waste, I thought. What a colossal waste of life! My instinct as a young teenager was to feel furious at how stupid war was. I wanted to write in every school essay how wasteful the war was, how we should remember that first and foremost every Remembrance Day. I remember that angry and startled version of myself with fondness because now I am so different. After years of reading the news of international conflicts throughout the world, of studying history at University and of witnessing the rise of global terrorism, I have graduated into a more worldly and cynical individual. Now my reaction to World War I is to feel very very sad, not rebellious and furious.

This change in my outlook was something I was reflecting on recently, as I have just finished reading Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain for the second time. I read it when I was younger, but reading it a second time has been a much more moving experience for me, partly because I now have a deeper experience of romantic love and life than I did when I read it first time around. For those of you who have never heard of the book, Testament of Youth is a memoir of Vera Brittain’s experiences during the First World War as a nurse, a feminist and her burgeoning interest in pacifism. It is a heart-breaking story, partly because all four of the young men that Vera was close to, her brother, her fiancée and two male friends perished in the war. One by one they left and never returned. Reading it now, I can see that writing the book was a cathartic process for her, a way of trying to deal with the grief that she felt at the loss of these beloved young men and the devastation that the young women of her generation experienced by being left behind.


Although it is a sad and deeply upsetting book, it is one of my favourites. I love how introspective Vera is and how beautifully she writes. I first read the book at University and I identified with her thirst for knowledge (although I am sure I never studied as hard as she did at university!) and her desire to be taken seriously as an intelligent woman. So I was intrigued when I read that a new film of the book was being released in 2014. I know that a film adaptation of a book is rarely as good as the book itself, but I am no intellectual snob and I actually like varying adaptations of a story. I wrote a few essays at university analysing different adaptations (screen, theatre, poetry) of Greek myths and each different form of media had its own merits. I have been known to read Jane Eyre and then watch three different screen versions of it and then see a play adaptation as well. I think my interest in different versions of the same story has its roots in my love of mythology. After all, what are myths? They are just the same story told orally from one person to another, each time taking on a new element or added embellishment as it is told from one storyteller to another. So while I am sure some people scoffed at the idea of reducing a 688 page book to a 2 hour movie, I was curious to see how the filmmakers were going to pull off adapting this highly emotional memoir on to the screen.

I watched the movie, directed by James Kent and written by Juliette Towhid, last week and I was not disappointed. True, it is an adaptation and not exact, some scenes were invented (although with good reason, which I will explain later) and some of the details of the memoir were omitted just because there is only so much information you can squeeze into 2 hours. What emerges is a beautiful film about grief and loss. In fact I felt the film focussed more on the experience of loss even more than the experience of war. Vera's journey is told entirely from her point of view, Any images of the trenches or of the Front that the audience sees, is entirely from her own mind and her own tortured imagination. Her world is made up of the countryside where she grows up, the family home, her college at Oxford and the hospitals she works in as a nurse. The camera follows her closely, bringing the audience intimately into her heart and mind and the emotions that play across her face. The close camera angles on her face making the story of this war conflict feel tragically intimate. The events of the war are cleverly told as well. At first the outbreak of war is a distant and uninteresting political development, Vera is so engrossed in securing an education at Oxford University and falling in love with her brother's school friend, Roland. She is young and excited and very innocent. The actress Alicia Vikander, who is actually Swedish, but adopts a very good English accent, does a fantastic job in what can only have been a very difficult role to play convincingly. When the War does suddenly rear its ugly head and confront Vera with horrifying and distressing consequences, Alicia portrays all the many conflicting emotions Vera feels so realistically that several scenes reduced me to tears.

Alicia Vikander as Vera Brittain
The cinematography of the film is just gorgeous. The views of the English countryside, the costumes and the music were beautiful. I did feel that it was perhaps a little too beautiful. We don’t want to fall into the trap of making war seem gorgeous through the lens of a camera or lead to a mythologising of war, so it seems more palatable. Or even the pre-war period, which let’s be honest, was not a period of great societal equality in British history. Should we portraying these events with nostalgia or beauty? Could that be a danger when portraying any historical event through the medium of film?

A happy scene portraying the carefree days before the war
Wonderful detail by the costume department
Vera anxiously scans the list of war casualties in the newspaper
Vera as a nurse 
Despite my conflicted feelings on how World War I is portrayed in modern British popular culture, I must admit Testament of Youth was a very moving cinematic experience. As I expressed before, the film is more than just a war film. It is in fact a visual portrait of grief. This is shown in a very effective motif throughout the film: the theme of water. Vera goes for a swim in a local pond with her brother and his friends early in the film and at the end of the film she swims again but this time on her own, a single sad figure in the large empty pool. During the Armistice Day celebrations she takes refuge in a church and stands opposite a painting portraying people drowning in a shipwreck. She stares at the painting and imagines herself underwater, stripping off her coat and floating there in the depths. She is literally drowning in her grief, cut off from the rest of the celebrating crowds in this dark, silent and submerged world of sorrow. It is an incredibly powerful scene. Later in the film when she learns of her fiancé’s death, she stands on a beach and stares out to sea at a blank grey skyline and soft white foamed waves, as if she is reaching across the Channel to the battlefields of France with her very despair. The landscape is bleak and blank and holds no hope or comfort for her.

Vera by the sea
The film is filled with memorable moments and many of the scenes are so well shot they could be mini films or pictures in themselves. Some that I found particularly moving and interesting were Vera's father crying at a train station, while desperately trying to hide his tears from his family and the public milling around him by pretending to stare at the train timetables on a wall. Another powerful scene was Vera washing a soldier in hospital. Shocked by his nakedness, dirty body and smell, she awkwardly washes him until she thinks she hears him whisper her name and then as if realising that this man could be one of the men that she loves, she begins again and cleans him with determination, perseverance and care.  Later on, while stationed as a nurse in France, Vera, who is fluent in German, comforts a dying German officer, offering him the forgiveness he begs for. But perhaps one of the most memorable images from the film is Vera’s memory of the three young men (her brother Edward, fiancé Roland and friend Victor) walking ahead of Vera on a country path in Yorkshire and laughing. She walks behind them and watches them walk away ahead of her, not knowing they are walking straight towards no future at all. This memory is juxtaposed at the end of the film with the same landscape now empty of people, emphasising a whole generation gone, erased from the world. This is really the film's success. Not in being a completely accurate portrayal of Vera Brittain's memoir, but in conveying the absolute loss of life that war can cause.

A Colourful View of the World

So it is back to work after a long UK Bank Holiday weekend, during which, it..rained! Yes! It is the a universal truth acknowledged by all Brits that if you combine the country of the United Kingdom and an extra day off work tagged on to the end of a weekend you will receive torrential rain and grey skies. UK+Bank Holiday = Rain. Fact Of Life.

Scully accurately expresses that 'back to work' feeling.
Of course this morning, the sky was still grey, but since the population of the UK has to return to work today, it has been pretty dry and there has even been the occasional sliver of sunshine peaking through the clouds. The rain stops just as soon as we all have to go sit in offices and actually be productive. It figures. Not that I am complaining. I had a glorious number of days off work. I window shopped with my mother, ate roast chicken, visited the Royal Academy of Art, bought a fantastic new toy (a kaleidoscope!) went to see a movie in the afternoon, ate some salted caramel chocolate, played football in the park, coloured in a picture of a woman sitting in a giant teacup, cooked a full English breakfast for my husband, watched The X Files, did some new blog planning with my best pal Nat and read the New Scientist Magazine while in the bath.Oh and I did three loads of laundry. Gotta love it when you get a chance to do three loads in a row and end up having to hand wet laundry on door handles because you have run out of space on your drying rack. And I have actually been very productive at work today. I am one efficient busy little bee.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for my efforts with the August Break photo challenge. I have miserably fallen by the wayside and I could blame the crappy weather these last few weeks, but really I have been so consumed by work, household chores, writing, reading and movie-watching that I have not picked up my camera. My fingers are itching to swivel the lenses and press the shutter button, so I am going to extend my August Break challenge into September. Just be the odd one out. I have been taking photos with my iPhone, but I feel rather lazy if I don't use my camera and just rely on the phone. Using the phone does not challenge me as much in terms of composing the photo and adjusting the manual settings. I did take the below photo of my new kaleidoscope:

The colours inside
This was an impulse purchase in Covent Garden Market, while searching for a place to have tea with my mother. Both my Ma and I are very attracted to bright colourful things and we spent a good 30 minutes gazing at all the kaleidoscopes on the market stall and turning each one to observe the different patterns and mix of colours. The gentleman who makes these and sells them in Covent Garden had a whole range of them from tiny ones on key-chains to large heavy metal ones that needed two hands to hold them upright. There was something incredibly relaxing about turning the small discs on one end of the kaleidoscope while squinting into the small hole at the other end and glimpsing a beautiful tiny colourful internal world that constantly shifted into a hundred different patterns. After staring at each item and examining the prices, I decided on a medium sized kaleidoscope and passed over my hard-earned cash. I spent some of the weekend listening to the rain splatter our skylight window while I lay on the couch and squinted into my colourful new toy and shifted the beaded patterns.

So even if the sky may be grey outside, with my new kaleidoscope, I can indulge in my colourful view of the world any time I want!


Sunday, 16 August 2015

August Break Photo 16: Fire


Fire! What an exciting and excellent topic! I cheated a bit with this one and used a photo that I took in 2012 while at the Paralympic Games in London. What a summer 2012 was! What a glorious Olympic and Paralympic Games it was! Everyone I knew was excited about it. Seeing both Olympic and Paralympic events up close in my hometown was a truly once in a life time unforgettable experience. I still remember the sound of 80,000 people cheering in the Olympic stadium as David Weir, crossed the finish line in his wheelchair and won gold for Great Britain in the Paralympics. It seemed louder than a jumbo jet taking off and I was struck dumb by the sight of thousands of people all clapping, cheering, hugging and crying at once. That afternoon I got up close to the Olympic flame, felt its dizzying extreme heat and snapped a photograph.


I did think it would be a shame to not include a more recent photo, so here is one I took a week ago of the sky above my flat. It had just rained, but the sun shone briefly and a rainbow appeared. The storm clouds moved in again like some biblical tempest and I snapped this photo before the scene suddenly changed. I thought it looked like the sky was on fire,

Saturday, 15 August 2015

August Break 15: Art



For this subject, I chose to use my mother's Art as my inspiration. Over the years my mother has had an art studio and painted portraits, still lifes, landscapes and abstracts. She is a constant inspiration to me, especially in her use of colour and experimental painting techniques. I try to incorporate her experimental use of colour in my own photography. The above photos are of her studio and paints. The below is her work, a portrait of me.


Friday, 14 August 2015

August Break Photo 14: Favourite Smell


This was a hard subject to photograph because I have so many favourite smells! I chose a freshly made coffee because it is an easily photographed smell and I do love an excuse to photograph my food. This latte was made, bought, photographed and drunk at the Barbican Cafe in Central London. I especially liked the criss cross pattern of the tabletop as well.

My other favourite smells include:

  • Rosewater
  • Lavender
  • The side of my husband's neck just below his ear and hairline
  • The smoky woody smell of my parents' flat
  • Melted chocolate
  • Fried onions
  • Roast Chicken
  • The warm soft fur of my cat (when I was a child)
  • The musty smell of books
  • The dusty shelves in libraries
  • My mum's soap (I think it is Lily of the Valley or possibly Jajoba oil)
  • A fresh lime and coke
  • Ice (sounds weird, but ice does have a sort of smell)
  • My avocado and olive oil handcream
  • My Voyage en Mediterranee Mimosa de L`Esterel perfume
  • Pink grapefruit
  • Bonfires in November
  • Fresh grass
  • Soil and plants after it rains
  • Honeysuckle
  • My husband'a aftershave
  • A really ripe mango

Thursday, 13 August 2015

A Fully-Fledged X-Phile creeps out of hibernation...

So I have been re-watching The X Files from the beginning (201 episodes in total..phew!) in preparation for the new series starting in January 2016. If you Google the show you will notice I am one of millions of people doing this at the moment, so I don't feel so weird for binging on scifi and writing about it. Since I have not seen some of the early X Files episodes since I was literally a teenager, the experience of watching them as fully-fledged adult is both exciting and nostalgic. The scripts are a lot funnier than I remember and I can now really appreciate how excellently the show is made (some of those camera shots are epic!). Plus, now we have the internet and small mobile phones, but when the show first started the characters were still using books to do research! I get excited every time Mulder flicks through an encyclopaedia. How novel! How retro! It is sort of comforting to watch an era that you lived through and that is essentially gone now. Plus now I can see the common character trends in the series and laugh about them, rather than get all mixed up in the angst of the show, which when I was a teenager, was what I actually felt most of the time: Angst. Now I appreciate the humour:

Every Episode of The X Files

*something mysterious happens*

Mulder: ALIENS
Scully: SCIENCE
Mulder: Look, a thing...
Scully: Don't do the thing!
Mulder: I'M GOING TO DO THE THING
*sexual tension*
Mulder: It could have been aliens!
Scully: But science!

As a 32 year old I have a lot more appreciation for 'science' than I did when I was actually studying it in school and so this time round, while watching the show, I find myself sympathising with Scully a lot more and thinking Mulder is blatantly crazy half the time. And obviously now that I can look up anything on the internet, my obsession for the show just gets bigger. Looking for an amusing picture of Mulder arranging pencils? Just Google it and 'Wham!' There it is on your screen!

Pencil straightening...a common FBI activity...
When I was first watching the show in the 1990s (yes I am that old), I had a pretty slow dial-up-connection and we only had one computer, which really belonged to my father, so I would spend most of my time actually reading about the characters in fan magazines or in books from the library. Those were the days when I thought I was the only scifi fan or X-Phile (the term for a fan of the show) out there. It was pretty lonely to be honest. Now you can find a fandom for pretty much anything anywhere on the internet. Plus, years later, I have a best friend called Nat (who I met in University and who is as obsessive as me about things) who turns out was also an X-Phile when she was a teenager and guess what?! Even my husband confesses to having watched it religiously after school. So now I have three people to share my obsession with, which is joyous. Sort of like a madness shared by three...a 'folie a trois' if you like...

I can also indulge in all the other X-Philes' fan-created-websites out there, which is where I found the below gif of a very young Scully looking sceptical...pretty much her expression for the whole 9 years of the show...

Aliens? Mulder, please... (courtesy of http://mulder-pls.tumblr.com/)

Apparently according to the Urban Dictionary:

A true x phile should be able to quote every significant event throughout the 9 year run of the show. Possibly the only people to ever understand the complex conspiracy that just got more confusing as time went on. A typical x phile would be able to say any of these at least once every day and incorporate them into otherwise unrelated conversation: 

"That was like that time in that episode in Season 3 when Mulder asked Scully to..."
"That's why they put the 'i' in FBI!" 
"This must be a conspiracy" 
"Ooo! I feel like I'm stuck in an X File" 

Whilst watching TV: "That guy was once on the x files in an episode where Scully and Mulder...." 

Both Nat and I definitely fall into this category. Cursed with a photographic memory for faces, I am always pestering my husband when we watch TV by reminding him that this actor was in that movie or that we saw that actress in that TV show. So in light of our new found shared passion, Nat and I have decided to start a blog together...it won't be on this blog since this is a platform for my online ramblings and musings (such as they are), but I will link to the new site from this one once it is set up. Watch this Space! Oh...and The Truth is Out There!