Materialistic Reviewsday

In this week’s reviewsday I’d like to invite you all into my life for a little while. It’s probably not the done thing, but this week we’re going to get a little bit materialistic. I want to review my 6 favourite things.

Now, I’m going to have to remove anything living – clearly my absolute favourite things are my family – human and various other mammals. I’m just looking at things that I can say I legally possess and could possibly dig out a receipt for (or the gift tag… some were presents). I’m also going to try to avoid anything too specific; these should all be accessible to other peoples, should they want to fill their lives with stuff I like! And yes, that would be SO weird. Please don’t do it.

Last disclaimer – this list is in no particular order, save for the order these things came to my mind. I guess it’s a case of the obvious ones first and the more obscure ones after…

1 – My car
Honda cr-v 4x4 car
Yeah, we’re starting with the biggie. I love my car. I started learning to drive when I was 17 and my Mum let me drive her Fiesta around a car park.
Years passed; I got my licence (2nd attempt) and was lucky enough to be in the situation where my Mum’s old Fiesta was looking for a new home. Thus began ten years of Fiesta-driving. In that time I had three different Fiestas; a little dark blue one which served me until my first and only car crash whilst I was behind the wheel. (We had to threaten him with a court case, but the arse driving the other car eventually admitted liability.) After that, and because of that, came a little dark red number which saw me to the end of uni and into my first job. Once I got a job I decided to upgrade to a newer model Fiesta in a gleaming black and all was well… Until the ferrets moved in.
It is impossible to fit a 100cm show cage in the back of a Fiesta, and it’s a right bugger to have to move eight ferrets around in a cat carrier, so this February I decided enough was enough and I part-exchanged my trusty Fiesta for a gas guzzling Honda CR-V. And I love it! From the rumble of its diesel engine to the HUGE bootspace, from the many secret storage spaces to the actual picnic table, it’s perfect. Sure it’s not quite as nippy on the corners as the Fiesta, but I needed a bit of slowing down if I’m going to be honest with you.
It’s more than just a big, shiny, grey thing. My car is very much my safe place. Always has been – if life feels a bit shitty I can go for a drive no matter the weather or the time of day. In my car I can crank my music up loud and belt out my frustrations, or simply just warble along happily if things happen to be going well. In my car I can go wherever I want (within reason) whenever I want. I can see my wonderful family, be they 10 minutes up the road, an hour away or further. I can take the ferrets to various country shows, or I can take HollyDog for a walk somewhere more exciting than the town we live in. My car is my freedom and that’s pretty much why it was the first thing to come to mind.

2 – My books
books
For longer than I can remember I have been a reader. It’s just always felt good – to get lost in a book, devouring the words, the characters, the worlds, the plots. It’s why I’m a writer. Part of being a constant reader is my collection of books. Every room of my house has at least a small pile of books in it. Most are in the little spare room, which may be barely big enough to swing a cat, but it’s certainly big enough to shove two overflowing bookcases into. More recently read books, and books yet to be started are in my bedroom. Books I want visitors to see are in the lounge whilst cookery books are in the kitchen (yeah, that’s sort of a given!) There are even books in the bathroom; reading in the bath does come with some risks, but it’s a must!
Amongst my books are old favourites which I could read from cover to cover again and again, never growing tired of. There are harder books which I finished and set aside, declaring I would rather not face again. There are epic serieses which took many, many months to get through, and small volumes which were finished in a single sitting. These books have made me laugh, made me cry and made me wish more than anything that I too could commit my words to paper. It is a matter of great pride that my bedside table contains a copy of the 400-page paperback which bears my name.
If I didn’t have my books to read I don’t think I would be the person I am today. I’d live I’d find other things to occupy my mind, but I’d be missing a large part of who I am.

3 – My Laptop
packard bell laptop red
This, sort of, follows on from my books. My laptop contains a lot of things which I value very highly. If this list were in order of irreplacable sentimental worth, the laptop would take the top spot. It contains my photographs, it contains my videos and it contains my words. Hundreds of thousands of typed words live in this machine. I have some of it backed up, but not enough that I wouldn’t mourn if this computer died tonight. Ever since I first had my own desktop PC (just the year before I got my car, I believe) I started writing this one story. There’s a girl, a boy, and a lot of dragons. The other details have changed with the years and the numerous re-tellings, and many other story ideas have bloomed. Word document after word document sit on this hard drive containing the beginnings of stories my mind wanted to tell. Most will never be finished, but they wait, just in case I return to them one day.
As well as my words, my laptop contains my link to the world. The internet, and with it Facebook, Skype, Hotmail and YouTube, not to mention my new friend WordPress. Without this laptop I don’t know what my life would be – I’d either get out more, or you’d find me sat in a corner rocking and talking to my imaginary friends!

4 – My mini-Dishwasher
table top dishwasher
Not much I can say here – this is for reasons of pure laziness! I don’t like washing up; it takes too long and I can think of so many things I’d rather do. My kitchen isn’t huge, so there’s no room for a proper size dishwasher, but as there’s only one of me I don’t make enough mess to fill a proper size dishwasher. That’s about it!

5 – Bath foam collection
bath products
I like a bath. I have quite a few baths. Admittedly this is because the shower in my bathroom does not work, so I need to have regular baths to keep clean! More than anything, however, I like to make the most of my bath. This includes music, a book (or a podcast) and lots and lots of bubbles. I don’t mind the flavour, I just like me a bubble bath. Alternatively a bath bomb will do – some sort of potion or unguent in the water making everything fizzy and aromatic and I’m a relaxed and happy bunny.
I can’t claim to have the busiest or hectic-est of lives; I’m not chasing around after children or juggling a billion social activities, but I do get aches and stresses and tired, and a good bath goes a long way to easing those aches, stresses and tireds.

6 – iPod
iPod
Last, but not least is my trusty iPod (or mp3 player of choice). It’s a good few years old now, and has a crack across the bottom of the screen from where I dropped it, but it’s definitely one of my favourite gadgets. I work in an office. For the past 6 and a half years I’ve worked in offices, albeit different rooms with different colleagues. The problem with offices is that some people work better with background noise, and others prefer silence. I’m one of the former category, needing some sort of noise to be happening. However offices generally seem to cater for the second group. So in comes the iPod – one ear in, one out so I don’t miss anyone talking to me, and I get to work to my own soundtrack. Likewise on the few rare occasions I go to London I can take my own soundtrack with me onto the tube, walking round the tourist-filled streets. Away from the Capital I can plug my iPod into my car, thanks to a nifty radio transmitter, and I can listen to my music as I travel. I don’t know why music’s so important, but I know I’m not such a huge fan of silence, and I’ve yet to find a rado station which doesn’t begin to annoy me after a short while. With my iPod I can skip and skip and skip until I find a track suited to my mood. I can block the world out, I can seek inspiration or motivation, and I don’t have to share with the worldd whatever highly unfashionable tune I’m listening to!

There we are – these are a few of my favourite things, along with related images. If you’d like to share your materialistic happy places, please do, otherwise I’ll see you in the next blog!

The Power of Procrastination

It’s been a little while since my last post… I’ve missed two articles. I could give you excuses – I was ill at the beginning of last week, and commuting to and from London every day. I was busy at the weekend; racing ferrets on the Saturday and at a family gathering on the Sunday. I could tell you I just lost track of time; I was busy or tired. I forgot.

The real truth of it is that something else came up. Something more exciting than blogging. So I did that, and not this.

I thought I would feel guilty, but I don’t. The blog was created as a place for me to get my thoughts and feelings out and arranged in sentences and paragraphs. I invited my best friend to join in and we invited our friends and families (and random strangers on the internet) to have a read. I hugely value the people who do take the time to read it, but given our massive range of topics, I don’t feel we owe regular articles, but it was sort of a personal challenge to myself to keep up a steady stream of content.

So I figured I would put my procrastination to better use by telling you all what it is that has caught my attention. It involves my fantastic fellow Gaveller, but I don’t think she’ll object to my telling you.

I’m writing a book.

In fact, I’m writing my second book.

This book, like the first, is only expected to have a print-run of 5. That’s 5 copies of the book. Hardly the next Harry Potter. It’s not even a novel; it’s going to be a collection of short stories. I’ve tried writing full length novels but it all comes back to this wonderful thing called Procrastination. I can’t keep focused on one thing for as long as writing an entire book takes.

So last year, in the post-Christmas lull, whilst discussing our convergent tastes in music, Charli and I decided that for Christmas 2012 we would write each other a book. We decided to pick 20 songs we particularly liked, and to write a short story for each song, then to compile them into actual manuscripts to be sent to CreateSpace, Amazon’s self-publishing company (many other self-publishing companies are available) and we would gift one another a specially written book for Christmas.

And we did. And it was fantastic.

So we’re doing it all again this year, except we left it until mid-late April to definitely decide we were doing it again. I’ve spent a lot of time this past fortnight putting together a spreadsheet (because all projects in my life have to start with a spreadsheet!) and coming up with basic outlines for my 20 stories. Last year we were constricted on the music front with a date range of 5 years from which to pick our songs. This year we have free rein on the music, but have to include 50 dares in our stories. This means a lot more planning is required!

Exciting, eh? Can you understand why that, coupled with the aforementioned illness and London-based training has meant I’ve allowed myself to be distracted from blogging?

But I’m back now, determined to continue, regardless of exciting new projects. Two blog posts a week isn’t too much to commit to, especially when one of them is a review, and so doesn’t require me to be up in arms about any one thing.

It’s a personalised gavel this week; aimed at myself, rather than the world I so often try to right.

Giving up is not cool; sometimes things aren’t easy, or seem for a moment uninteresting, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to put them aside in favour of something else. Work at it, find inspiration and motivation and keep at it. It’s quite possible you’ll refind your stride. And if you don’t, well quitting when you know you’ve tried your utmost is much better than quitting at the first sign of trouble.*

Gavel!

Discuss…

*Disclaimer: If trying your utmost is likely to cause damage to you, to someone else, or to our own wellbeing, then don’t. It’s important to recognise when something is a lost cause, and when something still holds so much potential. For me this blog still has a lot it can offer me, just as I still have a lot I can offer it. Other situations might not benefit from such perseverance…

The Best Article You Will Read About JLS Splitting Up *gavel*

Ooh, look at me, gavelling right there in the title! Well, dear Discussers, that’s because I feel so darn confident about my title reflecting the article. You see, the band who came second on the X Factor in 2008 have announced that they are splitting up. It’s a sad day for the fans, for music, heck, it’s a sad day for everyone. And I feel for loyal JLS fans. Your favourite band splitting up is like a rite of passage for teenagers. It’s like the first time you get dumped; you have that sense of rejection and loss for the first time. They said they’d always be there and you believed them, but they lied!

Usually bands split up in order to persue seperate projects or solo careers. So no doubt we’ll see Aston and Marvin and…the other one and…are there four of them? Yeah, I know next to nothing about the band, besides that their condom affiliation and I want to say that one of them is dating a Saturday. I don’t know and I can’t be bothered to look it up. It’s a hot day. Google it yourselves.

I don’t want to talk about JLS. I’ve used up my reserves of knowledge on them already. I don’t care that they are splitting up, but I do know what it feels like to love a band and have them break up. So that’s what I’m going to talk about. We’re going to delve into the nineties and the first decade of the noughties, so leave your dignity at the door folks and lets begin.

untitled

 Westlife

Look at that picture. Heartthrobs all of them. I remember being fiercely loyal to Mark, lower right in case you didn’t know. I had an argument with a friend at school where I maintained that Mark was the dishiest, whereas she favoured Shane, the other brown haired lead singer. These arguments took place over sheets of letters we wrote to each other in class and it got ugly. Really ugly.

The bands first single “Swear It Again” came out in 1999 and I was in lurve. They were Irish, they sung lovey-dovey ballads and they stood up for key changes. What wasn’t to like? The group suffered a break in 2004 when Brian McFadden, then married to ex-Atomic Kitten Kerry Katona, left the band. Things weren’t the same after and although they had a sort of come back as a foursome in 2011 they officially split in 2012.

imagesCA3Q2OH1Steps

There are boybands, there are girlbands and sometimes there are bands with boys and girls in them. Steps were formed in 1997 and quickly became famous for their catchy pop tunes and easy to follow dance routines. To this day it is not unusual to see someone throw their hands up either side of their head if they hear Tragedy, even if they hear the original Bee Gees version. Don’t fight it.

Their first song was “5, 6, 7, 8” and involved line dancing. Line dancing. Kids today have no idea.

The band also became famous for one of the most dramatic break ups in history when hours before their final night of their Gold Tour Claire and H both presented their bandmates with letters of resignation, allegedly completely independantly of the other.

big-reunion-bwitched-then-590x350 B*Witched

This band got me through the Spice Girls break up. They were an Irish four piece band who sang songs with twinkly tunes and they wore denim with more denim and they each had a logo of sorts. My favourite was Lindsay who had black curly hair and had a little black cat as her logo. They were magical to me and I would listen to their albums while playing Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and so the two have become fused in my memory.

They were active between 1997–2002 when they went their seperate ways due to the usual case of one person getting most of the lead vocals.

five5ive

These guys were part of my bad boy phase. Shut up.

They sang the same old pop songs, but cultivated a very kid-friendly “lad” image. They were essentially a British version of the Backstreet Boys or N*Sync.

They formed in 1997 and released “Slam Dunk (Da Funk)” as their debut single which reached number 10 in the charts. According to Wikipedia they split up in 2001, which is news to me as I thought they had disappeared way before that. I guess my bad boy phase was pretty short.

pa-1044982The Spice Girls

I don’t care who knows it, I LOVED the Spice Girls so, so much. They were The Band Of My Youth. I wanted to be Geri Halliwell and she made me feel good about my boobs, which developed before many of my peers and as a result of which I was bullied for having them. Looking back now I know they aren’t the feminist icons they allegedly were at the time and Girl Power was just an excuse to be a bit “crazy” and “wacky”. But whatever. I loved them.

They formed in 1994 after each one answered ads in The Stage. Each one cultivated a personality by which we came to know them. Ginger, Sporty, Baby, Posh and Scary Spice. They had a movie out in 1998 entitled Spiceworld and the VHS I owned was lime green. Awesome.

In 1998 Geri Halliwell decided to leave the Spice Girls and I, well, I cried. Only a bit, I didn’t need to ring a helpline like some Take That fans before me, but I was sad. It was the end of an era. The rest of the Spice Girls carried on for another two years until they officially split up and all of them went on to have moderately successful solo careers. They re-formed for a bit in 2007–2008 and currently a musical entitled Viva Forever is playing at the West End using the songs of the band. I will always love them for the musical place they had in my life when I was a teenager and for being the reason I wore platform shoes to school throughout ’97.

And there you have it Discussers. 5 bands I enjoyed in my youth who all split up and broke my teenage heart a little bit. And now I put it to you, because I’m sure we’ve all been there. Who are the bands that you loved? Do you remember what it was like when you heard them for the first time and how it felt when they broke up? Please add your thoughts in the comments; lets revel in teenage nostaligia. And if you are a current fan of JLS and are distraught by the announcement, take heart from this article. Yeah, it’s sad, but one day you’ll be able to write a blog post all about it and it’ll all be ok.

Musical Reviewsday

Musical Reviewsday

As promised last month – I’m going to make my musical reviewsday a fairly regular thing. The only trouble is that iTunes’s charts are pretty rubbish. The two genres I reviewed last month are pretty much unchanged. I find this very strange – 4 or 5 weeks have passed and people are still buying what they were buying back then? Anyway – that ruled out re-reviewing Alternative or Comedy music. As I’m currently in the middle of a week of looooong days, commuting into London each day for a training course, and I’m also suffering from a particularly annoying cough, I’m only going to pick one genre to review, and it’s gotta be
Rock. Even though I could very easily go to sleep right now and a bit of high-octane rock music sounds to be the opposite of what I want… That said, a quick sweep of the eyes over the US and UK rock charts suggests there may be something awry with their genre-classifications. But we’ll get to that…

Let’s get on with it, eh?

10 – Smooth Criminal – Alien Ant Farm
We appear to be starting in the nineties… No, wait, youtube says 2001, so it’s only 12 years old. Gawd, this is TEN years old… But yeah, anyone who was a teenager in the early 2000s will know this punk-rock offering; it’s catchy, it’s designed to be played loudly, there’s a guitar solo in the middle and a chimp in the video; what more could you ask for?!? I can’t believe there aren’t any newer rock songs to keep this out of the top ten, but I’m not complaining. At least it’s rock.

9 – Iris – Goo Goo Dolls
I love this song, but I don’t think I’d call it rock. Pop, maybe. Yeah, the pointy-faced John Rzeznik has a gravelly voice and there are guitars and drums, but really is this rock? I really do love the song though. For a long time it was my mobile phone ringtone (now it’s Back In Black, unless you’re special and have a different tune assigned to you…) and so whenever I hear it I am reminded of my old ringtone.
Again, though, it’s an old song. 2006. To be number 9 in the Rock charts on the evening of the 23rd April 2013 is a little bit odd. I’m growing slightly mistrustful of iTunes and their chartability.

8 – The Man Who Can’t Be Moved – The Script
Well, this is more modern… ish… 2008 – so not by much. As with Iris I’m half tempted to put it in pop rather than rock. It’s strange to look at a video of a pre-Voice Danny-from-the-Script. I think I would’ve liked them better ten years ago. Now I like the occasional song (Hall of Fame’s great for a sunny car drive) but their ballads, this one included, strike me as a bit whiny. I think I overdid the boyband ballads when I was a wee teeniebopper and I’m over them now. Maybe I’ll go full circle one day and be a crooning woman of her fifties, listening to Westlife and reminiscing about the good ol’ days, but for now Danny and his fellow Scripters aren’t really my cup of tea.

7 – I Will Wait – Mumford and Sons
This is Alternative. This is not Rock. I’m stamping my foot on this one. Of course that might be because I’m keeping time in the traditional folksy manner… I do love this song; from the furious banjo-ing to the simple-yet-lovely chorus. It’s bright (a lot of the Mumford & Sons songs have a tendency to err toward the solemn) and just brings a smile to my face, and I love that. I also like it because Mumford and Sons are one of the few bands I can listen to and say, sagely, ‘I’ve seen them live,’ as if that elevates me to the next level of fan status. Even though I only bought their latest album, Babel, last week when it’s been out for month already. Doesn’t matter that I was late; I saw them live once!

6 – God is Dead? – Black Sabbath
Something new… and it’s by Black Sabbath… I could not have predicted this chart, even if I’d had weeks to sit and think about what would be in the rock charts. It’s a proper old-fashioned rock song – it’s almost nine minutes long, and the first minute of that is introduction! I only know one Black Sabbath song – the same one I’m guessing most of you know, but it took no time at all to recognise the dulcet tones of one Mr Ozzy Osbourne once the singing started. It’s ok, I guess; would fit on any 70s/80s rock compilation album. At least it’s a rock song, I guess – can’t complain about this one being too pop or too alternative!!!

5 – Flame-Out! – Paul Weller
As with Black Sabbath, here’s someone else more commonly found on TOTP2’s late night replays, and yet the song is so new only half of it is on the youtube page of its singer, Paul Weller. It’s ok, I guess – not really my sort of thing; the vocals aren’t fab, and I’m not really that desperate to hear anything else from the upcoming album.

4 – Better Together – Jack Johnson
Meanwhile, back in the world of Should-Have-Been-On-the-Alternative-Chart…In-2005. It’s a looooovely song, it’s just not what I’d geared myself up for. In fact this whole chart just seems to be a random collection of songs which really don’t fit together. I remember the Alternative lot from last time being very much of that genre. The comedy too, although the definition of ‘comedy’ seemed to be ‘from youtube’ rather than anything broader.

3 – Don’t Save Me – Haim
I’ve heard the name ‘Haim’, but had never listened to the female trio until now. I’m pleasantly surprised, although that might be because they’re the first thing I’ve heard this evening which I would class as modern group playing a rock song! That said, I could imagine this playing over a John Hughes movie… The undertones and the repetitive chorus are a little bit 80s…

2 – Low – Sleeping with Sirens
And THIS is what I was expecting of this particular chart – the fast-paced, angsty, angry rock music of this modern age. I was imagining I would find 30 Seconds to Mars, My Chemical Romance, Bullet for My Valentine and bands of that ilk – not this confused collection of tracks… As for the song – it’s ok; hasn’t changed my world, but I wasn’t driven to turn it off… Meh, I guess is the right term.

1 – Falling – Haim
Back to our 80s-esque trio of long-haired girl-types for the number one entry. This offering also sounds like it could have been released 30 years ago; I can see my younger self finding it on an old compilation cd and dancing round the lounge to it. The video for this song is particularly odd – again I want to suggest it’s a little dated.

At the end of this foray into ‘rock’, I’m really rather confused. I don’t know what iTunes classes as Rock, and I don’t know who’s buying these songs… Nothing makes sense to me. Maybe it’s the tiredness talking, or maybe this IS what the modern rock fan listens to. It’s been an interesting journey through this chart – not as inspiring as the Alternative chart, not as amusing as the Comedy chart. Rock sort of feels like the chart time forgot.

I think I need a lie down…

Cookery Corner: Individual Chicken Wellingtons. Sort of.

It’s Tuesday, which means Reviewsday, but I’m going to sneak in a quick Cookery Corner. I know they are scheduled for Sundays, but you know. Life.

I made up a random meal with chicken and philly cheese and pasta and added some mushrooms and spinach to make it sort of resemble a beef wellington. With chicken. So, here’s what you need:

This was the smallest bag of spinach I could buy. We had spinach in everything until it was used up.

This was the smallest bag of spinach I could buy. We had spinach in everything until it was used up.

As with most chicken dishes, I like to cook the chicken first, then because I’m working with pastry, I set the chicken aside to cool down otherwise the pastry will suffer for it. And yeah, you could make your own pastry, but unless its choux I don’t tend to bother. I can make pastry and that’s all I need to know!

Next is the cream cheese to give the dish some yummy, gooey-ness. I could have bought philly with chives and garlic and stuff, but given that I took the cheaters way out on the pastry, I thought I’d make up for it buy essentially making my own mix!

021022024

That’s regular philly, chives, basil and garlic all mixed up. I used the whole tub of cheese and just added the ingredients to taste. This is a very lead-by-taste-buds meal!

Next cook the mushrooms. I made this once before and left the mushrooms raw–they oozed out moisture until the pastry wound up with the soggiest of bottoms, which is a big no-no for making pastry dishes, plus its a helluva mess to clear off the cooking tray. So cook your mushrooms and then let them cool, finally pressing them between sheets of kitchen roll to dry them out substantially. The cheese sauce melts beautifully so you don’t want excess liquid!

Then you get to pretend you are Captain America as you order your food to Assemble.

Stack 'em up!

Stack ’em up!

Just because

Just because

Then it’s just a case of using the old water-as-glue trick in order to paste the pastry together and then sticking on fun shapes because this post is sponsored by “just because”.

Beautifully golden brown

Beautifully golden brown

And there you have it. I didn’t bother listing measurements or ingredients beyond the pictures because I made this up and will probably tweak it the next time I make it. Its a fluid sort of dish, one you can make your own very easily. Change anything you like about it and as long as you cook the meat first you can pretty much just bake until the pastry looks done. No need to worry about precise times; just keep an eye on your oven.

Reviewsday – Fantasy Lands

You find yourself in front of seven identical doors.

A voice from above tells you :
“These seven doors lead to seven places :
Narnia, Neverland, Wonderland, Hogwarts,
Camelot, Middle Earth, and Westeros.”
Which door do you go through?
Why that door? What happens?

I saw the above image on facebook about 6 weeks ago, and have spent a long while thinking about it. Writing last week’s rant on the women of Westeros brought it back to me that, as a very-nearly-28 year old woman, there are many fantasy worlds I simply wouldn’t have a great time visiting. So this week’s review is going to be a look at the above listed fantasy places/lands from the perspective of me; a 28 year old female of the human persuasion. Think of it as a semi-realistic take on the common fanfiction trope, the Mary-Sue.

Narnia
Narnia’s a vast land with a vast history. I’m going to go with the Narnia from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a point in time, and the lamppost as a location. It just seems right. Ok, so it’s cold, and there aren’t many people about, but as a Mary-Sue I’d probably be found by a friendly fawn, nymph or dryad. Assuming I managed to befriend them I’d fall into the whole Aslan vs Jadis plot. Not being one of four children, two girls and two boys, I wouldn’t fall prey to the whole destined-monarchy system, but I could at least help out in the coming battle. Assuming I entered Narnia at the same time as the Pevensie children, I would be too old to consider any romantic entanglement with one of them. It’s possible I could be drafted into Aslan’s army as a defender of the good, maybe strike up a more-than-friendship with one of the fawns and live there forever with my little half-goat babies… Unless Jadis turned me to stone first, or I fell in battle.
I’d probably fall in battle…

Neverland
This one’s hard. I don’t even know how I would get to Neverland… Fly of course! Except I have a feeling that would only work for kids – my cynical adult brain would hamper my happy thoughts, and I’d need rather a lot of pixie dust. Once there I couldn’t go to join the Lost Boys – I’m far too old and no amount of Mary-Sueing could make that work, so instead my choices are to join Tiger Lily and her peoples, or to turn Pirate… I could probably make my peace with turning pirate.

Wonderland
I don’t want to go to Wonderland. Simple as that. I’ve just never really been into the Alice stories. I remember watching the films and just being a bit ‘meh’. I think if I ended up in Wonderland somehow I’d probably just sit in a corner (are there corners?) desperate for it all to be over…

Hogwarts
It was thinking about my role in Hogwarts which broke my spirit a little bit. I couldn’t be a student. Of course I couldn’t be a student. I’m by far out of that age range. My adventuring years (in terms of child/young-adult fantasy stories) are over. I’m now only fit to be a teacher. I tried to console myself with the thought that I can pick my subject, but the horrible realisation is that 28 year old women probably wouldn’t make good Hogwarts teachers. They sleep in the school. They eat, drink and breathe in the school. It’s a fine place to be if you want to completely devote 10 or 11 months of the year to schooling; only going home at Christmas and the Summer, but that means you only friends are school teachers (and those in canon weren’t particularly youthful.) What do the teachers do with their summer holidays? Return to their almost estranged spouses/empty houses? How can they raise families when they’re off in some remote Scottish castle almost all the time? Because of this I just can’t find a place in Hogwarts – it’s too secluded and cut off from the world. In the Potterverse as a whole I’d have some cool Ministry job and adventures would ensue – it’s as similar to our world as I’m likely to get in this list, so my life wouldn’t be drastically different.

Camelot
There are far too many versions of the Arthur/Merlin story. I’m going to assume we’re sticking to the recent BBC tv show where it’s all rather civilised. This is made extra easy by the fact that I’m actually around the same age as the main actors. Assuming the characters match the actors’ ages, I’m older than Merlin and younger than Arthur, Gwen and Morgana. The trick is just to figure out where I would fit. I’ve heard the complaint before that the show ‘Merlin’ was a bit of a boys’ club. Can’t really argue with that, as much as I loved watching it and would like to defend it. Gwen rarely went out on the adventures, and Morgana was the twisted, psychotic witch (with some degree of reason – she wasn’t always that way). It was always about Merlin and Arthur, with a varying number of knights thrown in. Ideally I’d like to be some sort of good witch, perhaps who works with Merlin on occasion, or a Laydee of Court, hiding her magics, but that’s assuming I gained magical powers in the journey from this world to theirs… The role of illicit sorceror working for the power of good is taken by Merlin, so isn’t really required. At the very least I’d be able to set up house somewhere; running or working at a shop in Camelot, or a farm outside the city walls. I could do well for myself, perhaps even bag a knight and become a fancy kept woman, yearning for adventure and slowly growing resentful as my good sir husband kept returning from dramatic trips, telling his tales of excitement in far off lands. Sounds wonderful(!)

Middle Earth
Oh good lord – I wouldn’t even get a name if I lived in Middle Earth. The male to female ratio of the books (and films) is weighted substantially in the favour of the menfolk. Unless I pulled an Eowyn, I’d be hiding in some caves whilst boys just over half my age went out to battle. There are very few places for womenfolk in Tolkien’s epic saga. The Fellowship are men, the people they meet are predominantly male.

Westeros
And here we are, back in last Thursday’s rant… In Westeros, if I hadn’t already been married off to whoever would have me, I’d probably be facing a bit of rape and murder. The seven kingdoms are at war and there are armies storming all over the place doing unthinkable things to everyone they meet. Seriously I’d highly likely be dead by now. There are female characters, though, so there’s more likelihood I’d actually get to play a role in plotty things than there is in the Lord of the Rings. I wouldn’t get to be the hero, but then there are so many characters I’m not sure I could tell you who the hero actually is!
Assuming I rocked up in the world at the beginning of book one, before everything fell apart, my badly-written-fanfic mind would throw me into some sort of noble role so as to give me a little protection from the impending awfulness. The problem is there are so many places I’d want to be… and so many I’d want to steer very well clear of. Regardless of where I ended up, I’d see lots of awful things and most likely end up beheaded, even though a Mary Sue version of me would totally save one character from dying and then be the other side of the country helping out another. Gotta love Mary Sue powers of just fixing everything!

The Right To A Peaceful Protest

For those of you who have been living under a rock over the past week, I can tell you that Margaret Thatcher died on the 8th of April 2013. Her funeral will be held on the 17th (that’s my fellow Gavellers birthday, fact fans!) In accordance with her wishes she will not be having a state funeral; instead she will be having a ceremonial funeral.

Call it what you like, it’s still costing £10m.

"I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand 'I have a problem, it is the government's job to cope with it!' or 'I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!'; 'I am homeless, the government must house me!' and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society?  "There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families, and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.  "It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations"

“I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the government’s job to cope with it!’ or ‘I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!’; ‘I am homeless, the government must house me!’ and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society?
“There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families, and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.
“It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations”

And that is an issue for many people. Our current government like to tell us that we must make cuts to national, necessary budgets such as the NHS, social care and local government (incidenatally where Maggie got her first taste of poltics as her father was a local councillor) yet somehow the Tories have managed to find a spare £10m lying around to spend on a funeral. What were they doing, en masse sofa checking? Did they all save their coppers and take them down to the bank in those little plastic bags? Did they all sell some stuff on eBay?

No, this money is coming from us, the tax payers.

I have nothing against using public money to fund funerals in certain cases. If a body goes unclaimed or if the family just don’t have the money to spare for a funeral then a modest burial provided by the state seems more than fair. But that’s not the case for the Thatchers, now, is it? Mrs Thatchers house is worth £6m, although it is owned by a business with links to 3 offshore accounts, leading to speculation that it is part of a grand scheme to avoid inheritance tax. That aside, my point is that we really shouldn’t be spending this money.

This leads me onto my main point: the right to protest. I am, unsurprisingly, not alone in feeling that this is not ok. Several protests have sprung up online to do with this funeral. In one case, groups of people have united to choose to turn their backs on the funeral procession as it winds through London. This has already been granted approval by Met Police. I am 100% behind this movement for this reason: the right to a peaceful protest. This will be a very simple protest, but it will speak volumes and will in no way harm the people who are there to pay their respects. Perfect!

There are also petitions online to protest against public money being used for the funeral which I also back.

Another form of protest has come about in the form of using the Radio 1 weekly charts to try to play the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” from the musical The Wizard of Oz. The BBC spoke last week about their decision to play a 5 second clip of the song, should it reach number 1 (traditionally played in full regardless of the song choice) along with a news item to explain the reason for the song and for its short play. I am not a huge fan of the BBC lately, but I have to admit that I agreed with their stance. Banning the song as some members of parliament shouted for would be a massive censorship and utterly wrong. Playing a clip with explanations of why the song was voted for and why Mrs Thatcher incited such division in the country made much more sense. As it happens the song reached number 2 in the charts.

Look, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes peaceful won’t cut it. Sometimes you have to be out on the streets making your voice heard and to fight back if you are silenced. Sometimes that is the neccessary way to overthrow facism and dictators and cruelty and oppression. Sometimes you have to fight. But this is not one of those times. Fighting in the street cannot change anything here: the woman is dead and her legacy is over. She was PM for three terms starting in 1979 and ending in 1990. We can’t change what she did in those times. Protesting about how much hate she invoked won’t do anything. But what we can argue against is the reckless spending of public money for a woman who’s estate and surviving family can easily afford to pay double that is something we can do and it’s something I personally think we should fight for.

So I say do not throw public money away on a funeral for Mrs Thatcher when we are being told that cuts must be made against the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, because that is simply not what that money is there for. Gavel!

Discuss…

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