When life is just a right pain in the backside

Feeling sad? Eat an ice cream

Ice cream – the answer to all of life’s problems

It’s been a whole year since I last updated this blog, and I had grand ideas of lots of fun listings of stuff to do in London, and I do still keep an eye out for this kind of thing – www.escaperooms.co.uk being one example – but last summer was taken up with breaking up with my long-term boyfriend and moving out of our flat and this summer I was made redundant so this whole past year has been endless searching for things really. Not a lot of time for jousting sadly🙂

However – I have learnt a lot this past year, mostly about perseverance and managing disappointment, a bit on what not to do when going for interviews and a smattering of you never know what’s round the corner.

I’ve also learnt that the internet bloody loves lists, so when life takes a dump right on your face, here are five things I’ve learnt to do:

1. Eat an ice cream

I know – you’ve just lost your job and I’m saying ‘it’ll be fine, just eat an ice cream’. However, there is loads of information online about writing CVs, looking for jobs, interview skills, and so on, but a significant thing for me has been the psychological impact of not having that security there and the endless tedium of searching, applying and hearing nothing back. There’s a hell of a lot of slogging that needs to be done and it’s not much fun. So, what I’ve learnt is that taking a step back and doing something as silly as eating an ice cream out in the sun will do you a world of good. Have a walk somewhere new, write an email to a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with, or break out an episode of the box set you’ve been meaning to watch and don’t feel guilty because it interrupts the repetitive cycle of rotating through the job websites and then staring forlornly at Facebook because somebody’s in the Maldives and plastering photos everywhere of them diving with turtles. This time next year – you’ll be the one shoving turtles in people’s faces. Write ‘I want to shove turtles’ on a post-it note and stick it to your laptop for inspiration.

2. Write a list

I love lists – they’re so neat and tidy and make it look like you’re doing something useful. Hunting for stuff can start off interesting when there’s all that possibility out there, but when you’ve exhausted the job websites, the dating websites or the house moving websites, what’s left? You, that’s what. What things have you heard about and were interested in, but still haven’t gotten round to doing yet? Places that you’ve been meaning to visit? Books that you’ve been meaning to read (Wolf Hall and The Goldfinch in my case because I accidentally bought both in hardback)? Fun skills that you’ve been meaning to learn that are completely useless in any practical sense (archery and circus skills I’m looking at you)? Again, it’s something a bit more fun to focus on and break up the hard work. Have a look at www.meetup.com and try something new.

3. Talk it out

That’s what friends are there for, and people love giving advice for the most part. Also, you never know who they know and what might be available. Networking has a bad rep with images of soulless meeting rooms in the bowels of a hotel or conference centre where people are struggling to hold a coffee, eat a croissant and work out which seminar on inspiration in the workplace they should be in next, whilst also trying to look interested in whoever it is that’s trying to get their attention. That’s professional networking – look at personal networking or ‘having a drink down the pub’. Facebook could very well be your friend in this situation – apparently over half of users have over 200 people in their network. If somebody shares that you’re looking for a house or freelance work, you never know what will turn up.

4. Know when to change tack, or walk away

If you’ve been applying for permanent jobs – what about freelance? I worked in magazine publishing so it’s an obvious move to either tide me over or maybe even be a full time job. But freelance work isn’t just editing and writing – and even if your expertise is in a different area, that doesn’t mean you can’t write about it. There are websites on everything under the sun, and a lot of those need expert content written out of house. I’ve just joined www.flexjobs.com specifically to look for scientific copy writing / proofreading. If you’re an expert, make it pay. For dating I’ve tried a whole bunch of sites, from Guardian Soulmates and OkCupid to Tinder and Happen. I’ve had dates from several sites – nothing’s worked out as yet but if you exhaust the population of a site, just walk away for a bit. New people will appear, and you’re not going to die sad and alone with rats eating you just because you’ve decided to focus on doing a life drawing course instead.

5. Stay positive

This is the most difficult, because the constant disappointments when you don’t get a job, or you don’t find somebody, or the housemates in that house that you want to move into who were definitely on your wavelength and thought you were awesome actually gave the room to somebody else and didn’t bother to tell you, are a right bitch. There’s no getting around this – life can be a long and seemingly endless process of trying to get people to like you. But once you’ve got to where you need to be, all of that is completely irrelevant. So stay strong. Write a blog about it, that’s what I’ve done🙂


Up at the O2

20140711_161148The Millennium Dome – once the Great White Elephant of London and now renamed the O2 Arena; revamped to host overpriced stadium events and a branch of every high street food and drink chain imaginable – has clearly been wondering how to get people down to North Greenwich if they’re not going to an event. This isn’t an easy task because North Greenwich is essentially a building site which is a long way away. However, somebody’s had a plan, and that plan involves being tethered to a steel cable and walking up the side of it.

It’s a brilliant idea. And a really fun afternoon out. You book a time slot – they run a group up every 15 minutes from about 10am to 8.15pm this time of year – get put in your group, sign a form saying that if you fall off it’s your own fault, have a safety talk where a very overexcitable man chews the scenery for 10 minutes about how awesome it is, and then you get your gear on and head up a staircase to the start of the climb. 

The walkway itself is suspended above the roof of the dome and is made of a tent-like material that gives a bit under your feet so it feels like you’re walking on the surface, which is a nice touch. A steel cable runs along the centre of the walkway and this is what you are tethered to with a huge gear thing which you have to drag with you, but which also locks and stops you from skidding off the edge. We were in a large party so it was a slow shuffle up the steepest section at the beginning, with lots of photos being taken that can be yours for £15 at the other end if you so wish, but a steady pace was picked up as we moved up to the platform in the centre.

Once you get to th20140711_161807e circular viewing platform they untether you and you can take as many selfies as you wish. The guide told us of a bunch of women busy taking photos of themselves rather than the views and when asked why, the reply was that they could go on Google Earth and look at that any time🙂 Don’t go up there and take selfies – it isn’t the most stunning view you’ll ever see admittedly, but on a clear day the O2 says you can see for 15 miles across Greenwich, Canary Warf and the Olympic Park. The website says the guide will tell you about stuff around you but ours didn’t, so I imagine it depends on the guide, and they’ll answer questions if you have any.

Finally you gingerly shuffle your way down the other side, which is a steeper section and requires more concentration, especially if it’s a bit wet.

Overall it was a great experience and not as arduous as I thought it might have been. A top tip is to get somebody with an O2 phone and book through the Priority Moments app as this gives you 15% off the full price of £26. There’s also an Up At The O2 app (free) though I haven’t used it, which gives you a labelled view of the skyline and info on the climb. It took about an hour and a half altogether, and there are also opportunities for a walk up at sunset. Getting there, it’s on the Jubilee line so easy enough to get to, or there’s a Thames Clipper pier on the river for a more scenic arrival.

There is a weight20140711_161520 limit and a thigh-circumference limit as you have to wear a harness, but within these I’d recommend it to anybody who fancied doing something a bit different.The only issue we came across was that a woman had turned up for our slot with eight 14-year-olds who were having a birthday celebration and she’d called the helpdesk that morning to check she was okay being the only adult with them. Whoever it was had said yes that’s fine, but when she turned up at the arena, the guy behind the desk said there was an absolute rule that one adult could only look after two children under 16 because they are liable for their safety. He was very unhelpful to somebody who had clearly spent a lot of money, and who was faced with a failed birthday party and I felt that the situation could have been handled better as the assumption was that she was lying, rather than she’d been given the wrong information. We stepped in and took charge of two kids each so everybody did get to go up in the end, but clearly there’s a problem somewhere with regards to the information being handed out, but also with the way problems are dealt with on site. There’s also no point in taking your fancy camera along – you can take a phone or a small compact with you up there and that’s it.

Web: www.theo2.co.uk/do-more-at-the-o2/up-at-the-o2

Building the list(s)

I’ve been adding events to the listing, arranged by date so go take a look at that, and I’ve also launched a new page of alternative things to do in and around London, which includes everything from kayaking down the Thames to dressing up as a Victorian time traveler and helping prevent an awful mishap. This is still at an early stage so more stuff will be added to it and I’ll also be playing around with the appearance of the blog to make it look more interesting and to make the listings easier to use.

Plenty of stuff is happening this summer so go have a look!


Tudor music and dancing at the Epping Forest Festival


I’m back! Now with added jousting

Hello! It’s been over a year since I wrote anything and I’ve been trying to decide what to do with this blog as I write reviews for www.fantasybookreview.co.uk and that has taken over that side of things. For I while I was wondering whether to start some sort of challenge where I do something a bit different each week and then write about it, but that is a pretty large scale project to take on. Instead, I’ve decided to set up a new events page where I put up interesting events in and around London that I’ve come across and sound interesting to me. This is extremely subjective as it’s essentially just an extension of what I spend a lot of my time doing anyway, which is looking for something to do at weekends which isn’t going to the pub (make no mistake – I am very much in favour of pubs, but living in London it’s a pretty expensive pastime), so the events I choose will all be ones that I like the sound of.

I wanted to put this together as currently I don’t think there is a listing which really matches what I’m looking for. Time Out can occasionally have something interesting taking place but I find it a difficult website to use because there’s so much information and so much stuff cluttering it up which I have no interest in. Therefore, if you’re looking for a jousting event to go to, or rookie banger racing, or a sci fi festival hopefully this will be of use to you. I will be putting more work into populating the listing in coming weeks with what I come across and I’ll also be creating a page of more unusual things to do in London which are available all year round rather than for a specific event.

As well as the listing, I’ll be aiming to go to some of these events as that’s the whole point in me trawling the internet in the first place! I’ll then review them and get some pics up so you can see what was going on and whether I thought it worked or not.

If you’ve come across an event that sounds good or went to one and think people should keep an eye out for it in future let me know. As I get more material up on here hopefully it’ll become a useful guide for people like me who enjoy history, arts and crafts, literature, food, sci fi / fantasy / horror and just having an interesting trip out.

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Losing Hamish


It is with some difficulty that I am writing this post, because thinking about losing Hamish still moves me to tears.

Hamish was a Gordon Setter – a big, beautiful black and tan dog with a heart like a marshmallow and a passion for tennis balls that passed all understanding. It was just under two months ago, on Friday 9th of May – my beloved father’s birthday – that he passed away, on a warm spring day with the bluebells and rhododendrons in full, glorious bloom. He would have been ten in September.

On that Monday he had been happy, healthy, splashing about in Llyn Brenig with his friend Lexie. On Tuesday evening he ate his turkey but didn’t seem interested in his biscuits. I wasn’t unduly concerned, but on Wednesday my instincts told me he just wasn’t well, so I phoned the vet. I could see that the inside of his eyelids –…

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Sexism in Classic Rock magazine

This is a letter I wrote to Scott Rowley – the Editor in Chief of Classic Rock magazine. Hopefully I will get a reply, but we will see.

Dear Classic Rock,

I wanted to get in touch to convey my disappointment that Classic Rock is still pandering to lazy visuals of half naked women to sell your product. I’ve been a subscriber of Classic Rock magazine for several years, and find the journalism for the most part to be of a very high quality and very interesting, apart from the need to describe Nico as being ‘ball-achingly beautiful’, as I came across a few issues back. What difference does it make how much she makes a man’s balls ache? Have you ever had a female journalist describing a male rock star as being so hot he makes her ovaries ache? I don’t think so. Just imagine reading that and thinking how pathetic and juvenile that sounds, and that is exactly how I felt about that sentence.

As surprising as this may sound, women such as myself do read this magazine as well as men. However, I open the latest issue to find that even though a lot of effort has clearly been put into compiling the new CD Shoot To Thrill, the cover of a model thrusting her tits out and with little more than a studded belt to cover her groin is frankly quite pathetic. Why is this needed? Yes I want to hear about new bands, yes, being a magazine editor myself I understand that you want to inject some excitement into it, but this sort of ‘let’s get a woman in her underwear on the front’ choice surely is just getting embarrassing. Why is the classic rock award the statue of a naked woman? Seriously – please tell me why. Do you think only 15 year old boys read this magazine? All I can imagine is that you were all sat round a table and somebody said: ‘Well, rock fans like breasts, so let’s just get some breasts involved.’ I’ve got a pair of breasts, they’re really not that exciting.

I know fully well that you are aware that women like metal and rock as well – yes we are a minority compared to men in these genres, but why does this mean that we have to be subjected to this? I know there is still this misogynistic streak that unfortunately still prevails amongst a minority of men who are in the metal world, and I have heard some truly horrible comments about women from men at metal gigs, but I also know that this view is held by a few pathetic, childish men who can’t handle the fact that women are as perfectly entitled to enjoy heavy music as much as they are. This is why it disappoints me so much that a mainstream rock magazine like Classic Rock can’t seem to move on from women being there to get her cleavage out.

I feel we are under-represented in this magazine, and not just under-represented, but patronised and reduced to a mere caricature of tits and lips. On page 13 you have a Lucy Hellings as a highlighted contributor, and then I look at the new supplement and again it’s just more models getting their perfect bodies out. Come on!! Give me real women in metal – there are some fantastic bands out with women in like Royal Thunder, Alunah and In This Moment just to mention a few. I want to know what they think, not just to see how hot they look in a leather corset.

If you think I’m over reacting, just look at the Metal Hammer awards earlier this year. What was the need for the women on stage whose sole purpose was to walk the winner from the curtain on the edge of the stage to the middle of the stage? Really – that was necessary was it? Did you think Corey Taylor was going to get lost halfway across the stage and wander into the drum riser?

I would like to see more women in your magazine, and that doesn’t mean women with their backsides out covered in tattoos or women with their cleavage out selling whatever the fuck it is, I want women to be treated in the same way men are, in order to try and rebalance this adolescent slant. I will interview these women myself if I have to, and at no point will I describe my ovaries exploding at the sight of Slipknot.


byzantiumI didn’t see this when it came out at the cinema earlier in the year but remember middling reviews for it – it’s currently at 61% on Rotten Tomatoes – with reviewers highlighting the lack of scariness, but also commending it for not being a usual vampire film. However, not knowing much about it I thought I’d give it a go and I was strangely taken in.

Gemma Arterton, who I last saw marching about in leather and firing stakes like bullets in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, is still marching about in leather but this time she’s a 200 year old vampire called Clara on the run with her vampire daughter Eleanor, played by Saoirse Ronan. Tom Hollander, who was in the fantastic Hanna with Ronan also turns up in this as a college teacher, and Johnny Lee Miller staggers in and out as a whoring, thieving officer in the British army in Clara’s youth.

Clara and Eleanor are constantly on the move, and this time get washed up on the shinglebyzantium 3 beach of a dying English coastal town – full of retirement homes, drug addict prostitutes and desolate concrete boulevards. Byzantium is the old hotel they end up in, which Clara quickly turns into a brothel to make money, but Eleanor – forever protected by Clara and eternally 16 years old – lives a half life. Unable to settle down and unable to tell anybody her real story, she struggles to define herself and resorts to writing her story down on paper and throwing it into the wind for somebody, somewhere to read.

These vampires do not sink their fangs into their victims – instead they have this strange extendable thumbnail, which they stab into their victims’ necks to feed. Clara feeds on the powerful men who have done others wrong, whilst Eleanor is a merciful angel of death, bringing peace to those in pain. Everything comes to a head however, when their past catches up with them.

Byzantium 2I say that I was strangely taken in, and I think that’s because there are three separate strands to the film, each with a different feel. We have Eleanor’s aimless drifting and scribbling, telling us her story in voice over, and her budding relationship with a young waiter she meets, then we have the harder world of Clara who uses her body to get by and slaughters those who get in her way, and then we have the flashbacks to 200 years previously where we find out how they both became vampires. For me the flashback bits didn’t really work as well as they did in Interview With The Vampire, which Neil Jordan also directed, and the iffy CGI of spiralling birds and blood red waterfalls on the mysterious island which can only be found with a certain map didn’t quite match up with the more dreamy quality of Eleanor’s limbo.

I liked the contrast of Clara and Eleanor – one hard and vengeful and the other kinder andbyzantium 4 yearning for something more, but a deeper focus on how human they felt they were and what purpose they felt they had would have been more interesting for me. There is blood sucking in it, and lots of other blood, but I like that it went off on its own route a little where the vampirism wasn’t just what they were – they don’t seem particularly hampered by it in any way though you would think that after 200 years they would have learned how to get rid of a body rather than just leaving it on a beach. You only get a flash of hunger for blood occasionally, and for me this was more a symbol of Eleanor longing for intimacy with somebody else and sharing her story with them, whereas Clara uses it as a punishment.

Yes, it wasn’t perfect by a long way, but I thought it was interesting and in some parts touching, but the heavy-handed chasing of the two women by the Brotherhood who consider them to be abominations and Clara’s murdering of men left, right and centre thins out the more sensitive aspects. I was intrigued by the method of how one becomes a vampire – they enter a circular stone shrine on the mysterious island and are seemingly killed by themselves. An allegory of having to master yourself if you are to achieve what you want to achieve perhaps?