Saturday, 27 August 2016

Buying Back My Time

During a dead period at work the other day I found myself daydreaming about being rich and what exactly I would spend all my money on if I did happen to win the lottery. Is it just me who does this? Please tell me it's not because I have actually found myself doing it an awful lot recently.

And it made me think - why exactly do I want to become a millionaire?

Because, to be completely honest, I don't need or want lots of money. Yes I really do mean that. I am a strong believer in how money can't buy you happiness and how there are all sorts of other stresses that come with having money that we just don't see. On top of which, there isn't an awful lot that I would want to do/buy that I don't do/buy already.

After thinking about the issue a bit more deeply, I realised there was only one true reason I would want to have more money = I would be able to give up my job and use all my time to write and push getting published. Essentially I want to buy back my time.

We all spend a hell of a lot of our waking life working. Time is one of those things which is meant to be inherently ours. We are born and we have a certain amount of it to use how we like. Except we can't. Therefore we spend money to grab some of it back for ourselves.

Mostly, we achieve this through booking a holiday (completely quitting our jobs may be a little too drastic for some). By spending a few hundred quid we manage to secure a week or two of our lives a year that we can use purely for ourselves. We can explore a new place, breathe a different air and totally relax. Essentially we can do whatever we want to do.

I find it so sad that we can't do what we want all the time. It is our life after all, yet we have so little control over it. Which is why buying back our time for ourselves is so very important. Book your weeks off somewhere exotic for an explore and a relax. Give yourself treats. Visit friends and family. Eat, drink, do whatever makes you happy and don't feel guilty for spending that money. Remember that your life IS yours despite the fact the majority of the time, it does not feel like it.

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Sunday, 21 August 2016

What makes the Olympics truly great

The Olympics is like marmite - it is one of those events which you either love or you hate. If you are really into sport, well then I guess this is what your heaven would be like. Sport on telly, all day every day on every channel. While the rest of us just endure, trying not to complain too much (even when the Bake Off is pushed back a few weeks QUEL HORREUR!)

I am not exactly what you would call a sporty kind of gal. I don't play sport, I never watch sport and prefer to sit reading/writing/eating cake/all three rather than attempt to run or do something similarly energetic. But even I get gripped by Olympic Fever.

It happened so slowly that I barely noticed it. At first I treated the Olympics with a certain nonchalance. Oh it's here...fine...if it has to be. Then I had it on in the background while I was doing something else. Then I started watching the odd event and then I looked up when the finals of certain events were, to ensure I didn't miss them.

Because that's what the Olympics does - it sucks you in. We all get swept up into this crazy two week adventure and go totally nuts. We just can't help it.

The reason for this, quite simply, is because the Olympic athletes are so inspiring. They have worked incredibly hard for many years to reach this point of skill and fitness - they are at the top of their game. And because the media bigs up their journey so much, we almost feel like we have been on this journey with them although the television crews can barely scratch the surface of the amount of work that truly goes on. And then we look on as they succeed or we see them fail.

Either way, it is incredibly emotional. These athletes put everything into the tiny amount of time it takes them to compete. Literally everything that they have. They don't half arse it, they don't give up. They fight to the very last second until they can give no more. And the emotions that are produced afterwards (whether that is due to elation or despair) are so raw, it is almost intrusive to watch it. And we go through the emotions with them.

I watched the incredible performances followed by the extreme happiness of so many athletes - Tom Daley and Dan Goodfellow, Max Whitlock, Laura Trott, Jason Kenny, Andy Murray, Bryony Page and so many more....and I also saw the crushing disappointment of countless others.

I couldn't help but think what great role models these people are for youngsters. They advocate hard work, determination and never giving up on your ambitions which is an incredibly valuable thing to pass on to children. I hope that there were lots of children watching this summer, who then found out about a sport because one of their heroes won a gold in it. I hope they yearned to be like those people that we saw up on the podium. And I hope they copy them. Because if they do, there will be a great many fantastic Brits in the future.

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Thursday, 11 August 2016

Half a Sixpence

As a theatre blogger/lover/addict (delete as appropriate) I regularly lament that I do not live in London with access to the fabulous West End every night of the year. But when it is summer and you live in one of the most beautiful towns in the UK which boasts one of the best theatres in the country, I don't really have much to complain about.

I am, of course, talking about Chichester Festival Theatre, which I am so lucky to have just down the road from me. This year, amongst other productions, it has put on Half a Sixpence which I was invited to attend on Tuesday night with a group of fellow bloggers.

Half a Sixpence, based on the novel Kipps by HG Wells, is the story of overworked apprentice Arthur Kipps who yearns for a better life and more money. But when he comes into an unexpected fortune, he finds that it does not solve all his problems. He struggles with trying to straddle the two worlds that are as far away from each other as could possibly be - the world of the poor, with his friends and the world of the rich, which he now technically belongs to.

Prior to attending the show on Tuesday night, I made the decision not to watch the film. Perhaps this was foolish, but as this had been adapted by a writer you might possibly have heard of, Julian Fellowes (yes, the Downton Abbey genius!) and new songs had been added by musical dreamteam George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (who helped create shows such as Mary Poppins); I wanted to enter with a fresh perspective too. I didn't want to simply be comparing this exciting, brand new adaptation to the old version the whole time. But I was in good company as Charlie Stemp (who played lead, Arthur Kipps) didn't either

Talking of whom, Charlie Stemp was absolutely wonderful in his first lead role. With a little West End ensemble work already under his belt, Stemp actually auditioned to be understudy Kipps but after circumstances changed for the original lead, he got the role. Proving that sometimes luck and good fortune play a big part in this crazy industry. However, that doesn't take anything away from the fact that he is unbelievably talented. He serenaded, whistled, pranced and banjoed his way through the show with apparent ease. Which isn't easy at all considering that he is on stage for the majority of the runtime. His energy didn't seem to wane though and he definitely made you fall a little bit in love with this slightly doofus-like character as he carried out the plot of the show.

Devon-Elise Johnson and Emma Williams (who played his love interests Ann Pornick and Helen Walsingham) were similarly fantastic. Johnson's girl-next-door portrayal of the often ignored Ann really made us feel for her and the feistiness she brought to the part was spot on. Johnson's vocal prowess was proved time and time again too. From the emotional 'Long Ago' to the extremely comical new addition 'A Little Touch of Happiness' which had us all in stitches, Johnson proved how truly diverse her voice was. Williams, in some ways, had a much harder job in that she played a slightly less likable character. It would be easy to view the character of Helen as this horrible woman who stole Arthur away from his childhood sweetheart. But Williams' performance and stunningly heartfelt vocals allowed you to empathise with her and feel for her big time! Williams did a truly epic job.  

You might not feel like you know this musical but actually it is highly likely that you know at least one of the songs - Flash bang wallop which comes at the very end of this new reworking of the show. Giving the cast no chance to rest, it is this massive extravaganza which ends the show with a (literal) bang. The entire musical is a big spectacle with one huge glittering dance number following another. It is gorgeous to watch. Most of the songs have been adapted in some way to fit the changes that Fellowes made and then there were the additions of a whole bunch of new songs. These fitted seamlessly into the musical and were in keeping with the original score so well that it is hard to tell which are the additional ones. In fact, two of my favourites - 'A Little Touch of Happiness' and 'Pick Out a Simple Tune' - were new ones and I didn't realise until I had looked them up afterwards. One thing is for certain, whether new or old you won't be able to leave the theatre without them buzzing around your head and accidentally humming them.  

I do love the classic musicals and considering the popularity of Showboat, Guys and Dolls and Funny Girl this year, I hope that Half a Sixpence may have an opportunity to Flash (Bang and Wallop) its way into the West End. But in the meantime you can catch it at Chichester until the 3rd September. And if you are under 25 you can get tickets for £8.50 (find about their Prologue scheme here) so you really have no excuse.

**I was very kindly invited to attend Half a Sixpence and meet the cast by Chichester Festival Theatre but, of course, all the opinions expressed here are my own**

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Sunday, 7 August 2016

Harry Potter rewatched

Everyone has been a little Harry Potter mad recently  with the whole excitement surrounding the release of the book version of the play that is currently in the West End (and I still haven't seen. So sad about this!!!) Me included! I grew up with the stories. I mean I was 6 when the first book was read to me and I was 19 when the final film came out. It has literally been my companion throughout the entirety of my childhood.

So I thought to get in on the hype a little bit I would reread all the books and rewatch all the films. This is in fact, is the first I have rewatched the films as an adult, since they first came out. I have been wanting to do it for a while and then my brother gave me a box set of all of them for Christmas. So I did feel it was finally time. And here is my adult perspective of those wonderful films.

Harry Potter 1

This came out in 2001!!! Can you believe it. I was only 9 and the child actors were not that much older. They were incredibly cute!!!

When this first came out, I had to wait until it was on video (yes, video. Do you remember what they are???) and then I watched it over and over and over again. To the point where I could speak the lines along with the film. Even now, I could still talk along with the majority of Hermione's lines (did anyone else want to be Hermione when they were a kid??)

Since this has come out, I have struggled through boarding school and teacher training and I have realised that the teachers of Hogwarts seriously need to work on their disciplinary and general techniques.

Firstly - house points are neither a good deterrent nor a good motivational tactic for teenage kids. They are inherently selfish and don't care a monkeys about their house prestige.

Secondly -  the mixed signals. The teachers set down rules but then casually break them whenever they feel like it (for example when they send Harry, Ron, Hermione and Draco into the forest for detention after dark despite pressing on them how terrible it is to enter the forest/wander the castle and its grounds at night)

Three - their blatant shows of favouritism from Snape, McGonagall and Dumbledore. Really? Of course they are going to have favourites, every teacher does. But it is extremely unprofessional to show that favouritism quite so obviously.

Talking of Dumbledore and Snape, it did hit me half way through just how many of the actors are dead. I am not sure I am over Alan Rickman's death yet!!

Harry Potter 2
When I was a child, this was my least favourite movie out of the 8. I think it was mostly because it was kinda scary. The disembodied voice freaked me out and the spiders wasn't great either - Ron summed it up best when he said 'Follow the spiders? Why couldn't it be follow the butterflies?' Even as an adult, I still jumped when the basilisk appeared out of the water when Harry was down in the chamber.

Saying that, it was also a really really funny movie. There were some great one liners in there. For instance:
'You and that bloody pigeon aren't going anywhere'
'Have you seen my jumper? Yes dear, it's on the cat'
'You're a mess Harry'
'At least no one on the Gryffindor had to buy their way in'
'Oh Harry if you die down there, you're welcome to come and share my toilet.'

Hermione has better hair, Harry's voice has almost broken and Ron has learnt to drive - don't these kids grow up fast?

Harry Potter 3
So the Harry Potters have spent two movies introducing the world in general and the vague plot/threat. But the third one seems to be a lot more settled.

The characters really come into their own in this movie and you find out what they are made of. Hermione is calm, logical and the voice of reason. Ron tells it bluntly how it is. And Harry is kind hearted to the core. When Snape insults him and his father, he defends his father first. And he does the same when he is defending himself/his father to Marge too. And when Lupin nearly kills him but then gets knocked around by Buckbeak, he goes 'poor lupin, he's having a really rough night.'

I love the constant love and friendship that he displays when he is surrounded by his friends and how he is constantly searching for it in Sirius and Lupin in this movie. It's heartbreaking that he is just looking for love and acceptance and he finds it because he is wonderful to all the people he meets despite having a horrific childhood. He really is a great character.

Harry Potter 4
This is basically the one where they are all rubbish with girls. Hagrid puts his hand on his conquest's bum and she says no and he spikes flitwick's hand when he can't keep his eyes off her. Ron gets jealous about Hermione and Krum. Harry dribbles at Cho, and then fails to ask her out. Ron fancies his sister in law, and asks her out by screaming at her. The comedic moments are pretty endless.

In fact, they are great a relief from the dark Voldemort-based events that go on. The opening titles of this film are noticeably darker and the first death that we actually care about, happens. This is the beginning of the adultness of the Harry Potters, and it all just steps up a bit: the acting, the subject matter, the budget and the special effects are all a lot bigger form here on out.

Harry Potter 5
The Order of the Phoenix is the one where Harry finally learns the benefits of friendship. He has always been a bit of a lone ranger throughout the other films especially when facing the threats at the end of the year. He always battled them by himself and he has always been a touch arrogant because of it, putting himself above the others a little bit because of the experiences he has had. But now finally he understands just how important love and friendship is. It ultimately saves him. And he, in return, saves them. It was a joint effort. He's also all the more accepting of people who are different. Losing Sirius was completely heartbreaking and the acting is a lot better, particularly surrounding that event.

Harry Potter 6
This was always my favourite and watching it refreshed that opinion. I love it. There are some really funny lines in it and I think the banterous friendship between Harry and Ron is much more normal than it has been in the previous movies. I love the little moments like when they were fighting over getting the non-tattered potions book, when he was opening up about his love life and when they were talking about girls '[Ginny] is attractive, she has Hermione has nice skin don't you think. As skin goes.' The relationship with Hermione solidified too as the best friend of Harry and the love interest. He was her moral support when she had to watch Ron fawn over Lavender.

Harry Potter 7 Part 1
Everything is stepped up here. Most notably the action. There are long pauses between the different sections of action but when it comes, it is totally enthralling. The mystery surrounding the horcruxes and the hallows keeps you interested. The effects are much better and the deaths start coming from the very beginning. And every single one is heartbreaking. Whether that is Hedwig or one of the human characters, you feel as if you have got to know them all and you care about each one. It is horrible when they die.

Harry Potter 7 Part 2
And this is where it really comes together. Part 1 just seemed to be one long introduction to this film. In fact, all 7 films seemed to be an intro for this. It is fabulous. The amount of action. The amount of characters. The amount of answers you finally get.

Over the 8 films, you really feel like you get to know the characters. The films came out over a period of 10 years and span 7. You literally watch the characters grow up in front of you. You grow up with them. You almost view them as friends. SO when they have hardships, you really feel it. When Harry finally meets his Mum andDad, getting ready to die, your heart breaks. His line - I didn't mean any of you to die for me - it is survivor's guilt big time. The whole thing was beautifully done. The action was wonderfully entertaining, the emotional bits really pulled at your heart strings. Harry shows his humanity again and again. The friendship between the three are shown again and again. And you realise that they are everything to each other. They are the three sides of the triangle and co-exist wonderfully. It is a perfect series.

Preference 8, 6, 7, 3, 2, 1, 5, 4
Favourite character - Draco or McGonagall
Favourite non human character - Dobby obviously

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