Monday, 20 February 2012


Have you been wondering what it is that's been keeping me busy while I've been failing to blog recently?

Probably not.

But if you have been, the answer is that I've been refinding my reading groove. (And working too much. And watching a lot of Oscar-worthy films.)

Let it not be said that I am a discriminate reader. I'll try pretty much anything - I don't read to Improve My Mind, or Learn About The Human Condition. I read because it makes me happy, and it relaxes me. It also keeps me occupied while I'm waiting around at work.

Since moving to America, my literary habit has been much reduced - mainly because I couldn't find a decent second-hand bookstore anywhere near me, and because new books are so expensive here it's ridiculous. And I don't do libraries, because I inevitably forget to return books, or lose them, and it ends up being more expensive than forking out the full asking price for the books in the first place.

But the combination of Christmas, my birthday, and the discovery a decent second-hand bookstore when I was in Palm Springs have got me back on track. The little stack above is 2012's finished pile thus far. For some reason, it seems to be largely made up of Agatha Christie. (OK, I completely love Agatha Christie, I admit it.*) Bossypants arrived on Friday afternoon and I finished it within 24 hours - enough said. And I think my favourite of the stash so far has to be the Jeffrey Eugenides at the bottom of that pile, the Marriage Plot. Any book that combines discussion of Foucault, Lacan, unrequited love, early 80's pop culture and Jane Austen in a relatively  unpretentious fashion makes my geeky heart sing. Which is interesting (to me at least), because I almost exclusively prefer books by female writers.

Next up is another birthday present read, from my very thoughtful friend S, who has sent me a copy of her most favourite book - I can't wait to start it!

*So much so that my friend A - A stands for awesome in this case - bought and posted one of those collectible magazine/book combos of the Murder of Roger Ackroyd for me. The magazine was very educational. I am a history graduate and I was previously unaware that the 1890s, the decade of Christie's birth, were dubbed 'the mauve decade' because of a newly discovered colour of dye. And you thought my blog was light reading. Pah.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Big skies

I spent my birthday this year travelling to and staying in Phoenix, Arizona, on a work trip.

Poor me, you might say (if you're really kind-hearted) - working on my birthday, away from home.


This was my room:

It had a fully functional log fireplace, guys.

And a rather nice view.

And in the evening, there was a mashed potato bar.

It's possible you didn't quite comprehend the full significance of that first time around, so I'll repeat: A Mashed Potato Bar. With purple mash! And garlic mash! And toppings! And sour cream! And filet mignon to eat on the side.

Best birthday meal evah? Very possibly. Except there was no cake. That is something that needs remedying ASAP.

Anyway. I'm 28 now. I feel old. But Arizona was freaking gorgeous, and, as you can see above, somehow the skies there just seem very BIG in comparison with English ones. Anyone know why that is?

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Movie nerd

I mentioned not long ago that every year I try and watch all the big Oscar contenders ahead of the ceremony.

This year there are 9 Best Picture nominees, and, as of yesterday, I just have one left to watch:

The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life

I have to admit that of the eight I've seen so far, I'm very much rooting for the Artist. I also have a soft spot for the Help - partly because it's jolly nice to see a completely female-dominated film do so well, and partly because Allison Janney rocks (C.J? Hello!)

I couldn't help noticing, though, that if animals were eligible in the acting categories, Meryl, George and co. might have some competition on their hands. Uggie, the Jack Russell in the Artist? Steals the show, fo sho. Sasha Baron Cohen's Doberman in Hugo? The horse in Warhorse? I mean, come on, the film is actually named after him! Charlize Theron's fluffy lapdog in Young Adult? And as for the Jack Russell in Beginners, don't even get me started on the cuteness...

According to my mother, source of all useless knowledge, the Academy had to make dogs ineligable back in the day to stop Rin Tin Tin sweeping the board at the expense of the pesky humans. I say reverse the dog rule - I want to see Uggie's acceptance speech!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Starter for 10

Bali. Sunrise.

In exactly two weeks I turn 28.

Somehow 28 feels like a big deal. Maybe because this year will mark a decade since I left school, or started university, or embarked on the relationship that defined a large chunk of my life.

But I think really, it's a big deal because 28 is when I thought I'd become a proper GROWN-UP. I remember so clearly being 14 or 15, and planning my life in that way you do when you have no concept of how messy, and complicated, and unexpected life actually is. I thought that by 28 I'd have it all sorted.

I thought I'd get married at 28 (ha!). I thought I'd own a home, have lived abroad, have found the right career, and risen through the ranks of it in miraculous fashion, have travelled the world, seen Macchu Pichu and the statue of Liberty. I thought I'd know all the answers on University Challenge (except maybe the maths ones - I was delusional but not that delusional).

I thought that by 28, I'd have all the answers.

And I don't, of course. Some things I did achieve - I've seen the sun rise in Bali and set in the Caribbean, I've been inside 10 Downing Street, and Buckingham Palace. I've watched ice-skaters in Central Park, and eaten thousands of pounds worth of caviar in a Turkish luxury hotel where everything was covered in gold. I left home and small-town life far behind. I live abroad.

But the answers I do have now are not the ones I anticipated. The wisdom I've accrued is not helpful on University Challenge.

This is what I would tell 14-year-old me:

 - 28 is still young. So there.
 - Small town life really isn't that bad. Turns out you might even miss it one day
 - Other people aren't as scary as you think they are
 - There are worse things in the world than making a fool of yourself
 - You're beautiful, even though you don't think you are, because you're young
 - Having said that, step away from the Amethyst Shimmer lipstick. Immediately
 - The friends you have now will be even more important to you in adult life - be nice to them
 - You never stop being embarrassed by your family. But it kind of stops mattering
 - You're tougher than you think. One way or another, you can survive most things
 - That's useful, because sometimes shit just doesn't work out how you want it to
 - One day you will actually go to a party Leonardo di Caprio is also attending. He won't be as angelic looking c.2012 as he was c.1997. But you'll still be pretty freaking excited