Friday, 26 October 2012

'The Residents'

So I haven't posted in a while because I've developed this terrible habit of sitting around all day and watching movies and TV boxsets and eating and doing absolutely nothing else. As much as I love this hobby, I could probably be a little more productive so I've decided to post this:

As part of my English coursework we had to write a scene for a play and this is what I came up with. Annoyingly we only had a maximum of 550 words to play with but I sort of like what I managed to do. It's sort of inspired by some of the people I've met at the nursing home I volunteer at - some of the residents are such big characters and hilarious to talk to, not at all like I initially (and I imagine the majority of people) expected. It's a completely fictional exchange and the perspectives are exaggerated a little but mostly I just hope that Gwen comes across right to everybody - she's just an amazing and surly woman, and whilst I've given her more words than she actually cares to share with people, I imagine that if we could, a conversation like this would happen between us.
- Enjoy.

The Residents.
Centre-stage in a bland sitting-room in an OAP home, three aged residents [GWEN, BERYL and MAE] sit in large armchairs angled towards each other in a crescent shape, with blankets on their knees and newspapers and magazines on nearby side-tables. Another resident, JACK, crouches in front of an old television downstage-left, pressing buttons and muttering to himself. The crackle of static and blank grey screen shows. As GWEN begins speaking, he gives up and settles in the spare armchair next to her, wincing as he moves. Seated on the end, MAE fidgets uncomfortably throughout the conversation, repeatedly glaring at the others. Upstage-right a group of three other residents [JOHN, SUE and HARRY] sit around a table, playing gin rummy. They play silently, acting in the background.

BERYL: What was his name?

JACK: Smith.

BERYL: Really?

GWEN: Might as well have been.


BERYL: And a heart attack, they say?

JACK: Mmh.

BERYL: Don’t get many of those these days, do we? Mrs Pullan was a stroke, and so was that other woman she sat with. What was she called, the one with the drooping eye?

GWEN: Ah yes, frightful woman. Hated her.

BERYL: You never spoke to her!

GWEN: Didn’t have to.

JACK: Mmh, she was rather awful. Took her meals ‘fore the rest of us, ‘cause of her “weak stomach”. Pah! Old trout...

GWEN: I’d say good riddance if it wasn’t so un-Christian.

JACK: Yer blasted daughter’s nowhere around, do what you like.

GWEN: Well there’s a relative statement if ever I heard one. You’re an inmate as well as I. There’s not much we can do.

JACK: Quite. ‘Cept tally off the luckier buggers that escape, eh!

MAE: Oh, do be quiet. Have a little respect for the lost, will you? It’ll be us next.

GWEN [TO MAE]: From your mouth to God’s ears.

JACK [TO GWEN]: Or someone’s, anyway.

BERYL: [admonishing] Jack!

NURSE enters, pushing a tea-trolley.

NURSE: [nervously] Afternoon ladies. And gent.

BERYL [TO MAE]: They’re only joshing you, Mae. We’re all happy we’re here.

MAE begins to read newspaper.

GWEN: Speak for yourself. Last time I was happy was 1972, day before my lass started talking. Blight of my nerves, that girl.

JACK: Ruddy children. Never did quite live up to all the puff, did they?

JACK and GWEN guffaw.  NURSE pours tea. JACK winks at NURSE; she blushes and exits quickly. BERYL tuts.

GWEN: Still, like Mae says. It’ll be our turn soon.

JACK: Quite, quite. And out with a bang, I should hope, eh Beryl?

BERYL: Wouldn’t expect anything less from you.

GWEN: Heart attack’s been done though, mind. Old news, as it were. Myself, I’m more of a fader, I should think. Little nap, turning to eternal sleep.

BERYL: It’s morbid, but I agree. I don’t want any drama.

GWEN: I’d expect a fair bit of weeping from you three, mind. Even if it does interrupt the activities schedule.

JACK: [mock-outraged] What? Miss out on group-bloody-Sudoku to cry over you instead? Never.

MAE: [acidly] Well maybe us three’ll have to do. The rate you’re going at, Gwen, who else’ll be weeping? Not a friend in this house, I’d bet, outside us daft ones.

JACK laughs.

GWEN [TO MAE]: Now who’s being rude?!

Background group erupt in cheers (HARRY: Gin!), clapping HARRY on the back and dealing the cards again. MAE turns to them, glaring.

JACK: Well, she’s right. Truth is, excepting our fine selves, the rest ‘ere are merely room-fillers and obituary listings to us. And us to them. What does it matter? Circle of life.

MAE drops newspaper, exasperated.

MAE: Circle of life? You’re barking. There’s much more to life than waiting to die. If you don’t like it, suit yourself. Just don’t bring me down with you.

JACK: So you reckon you’re still on top? You’ll ’ave the screamin’ girls and cryin’ doves at your funeral, then? All the guests wailin’ ’bout your past glories?

MAE: A bit less dramatic, but something reverential, yes.

JACK: Oh, you just don’t geddit.

MAE: Get what?

JACK: Why we’re ‘ere. What we’re doin’.

MAE: Well, I’ve a good healthcare plan.

BERYL: Easy, Jack...

JACK: Rubbish. We’re ‘ere ‘cause it’s easier both ways.

MAE: Both ways for what?

JACK: To become what they no longer need.

Pause. JACK and GWEN look sagely at each other, then at MAE.

GWEN: [solemnly] We’re Smiths.

Lights darken. Exeunt.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Spotlight: Into the Wild

In short, this is a damned beautiful film.

In detailed ramblings, the same conclusion is still reached. Because what it comes down to is that this is just a beautiful, beautiful film. Stumbling across review sites, I had found that all of the critics were confident, and yet I often find that the films I am truly mesmerised by receive quieter praise so I was a little wary. But this film really was beautiful. The idea is just so attractive to me - of dropping everything and just escaping into rough existence. Just living experience-by-experience and allowing yourself to feel everything; it's enthralling. One of my favourite scenes is probably one of the simplest - protagonist Chris sits and has a conversation with/about an apple. It is so simple but really resounded with me, making me laugh and just think 'mmmm' to myself. I found that as I watched the film, my skin was itching to get outside and hike or camp or scream or something, despite the pesky dribbling English rain and the fact that it was nearing 11pm. That's how inspiring the film is - how stirring.

Emile Hirsch is faultless as Chris/Alex, the only thing distracting me being his strange resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio. But that's irrelevant. Hirsch is compelling, depicting the kind of character you just want to be with, simply basking in their 'themness'. Each other character is also perfectly devised (esp. Vaughn's Wayne and Holbrook's surly Ron), showing an array of character types that Chris waltzes through, the otherwise distant influence spheres being thrown together in a beautiful display  of compassion and camaraderie. 

The ending, of course, is a sad one. But I think the overall beauty of the film helps to offset the sheer tragedy of it to leave some idea of peace. The part that hits hardest is of course the dedication at the end, when the truth of the story is confirmed. It's hard to imagine such a thing to happen to someone you know, no matter how beautiful and inspiring the bulk of the story is. It's harsh, but so mesmerising. 

In the end, it's just one of those films that leaves you thinking pleasant things for days afterwards. Some sad things, yes, but all quiet and simple calm too. Job well done for Penn and Krakauer.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

'D of E Feet' should not be a legitimate condition.

If you ask me, the Duke of Edinburgh Award is a damn strange way to show your worth to universities and employers. It all makes very little sense to me, and if I (as a participant) can't understand it, then who exactly can???

I returned this week from my silver level expedition. What this equates to in layman's terms is three days and two nights of gahbdajbshsjba in return for part of a certificate. Obviously this sounds like a fair and sensible exchange. And in each of these three days, seven hours is to be spent hiking and completing an additional productive 'aim', all before retiring to a tent to not sleep or eat substantially in the cold and wet for the rest of the evening. And what exactly is this supposed to teach us? Survival skills? I still have none other than how to use a supermarket and to stay alive whilst spending the night in a synthetic bag. Team work? In many ways, we were mainly bonded together just by a fear of each other letting the general public know just how ugly we can look if left to the mercy of Mother Nature, and that's not going to help me get a degree.

But perhaps you can tell - I'm not so outdoorsy.

Well okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit. I had fun. I mean, stick four friends together in miserable rain (3 thunderstorms in 2 hours, to be exact) and it's not going to be all bad. If anything, you get some good 'bantz' out of it. Or more specifically, one of you is bound to do something ridiculously stupid like falling in a river, and the rest will be able to enjoy laughing at you for the rest of the time and telling anybody who'll listen that yeah, you really did just fall in a river. In between all that you just eat and gossip, and that's not bad either. In this way, it was a great time.

But of course the sheer pain caused by freakin' heavy backpacks and too-small walking boots, getting wetter than you ever thought possible (I'm talking osmosis kind of effects here, where water was passing in and out of all clothing in equal measure) and the biting cold of sharing one sleeping bag between two people because both your stuff is all soaked also equates to a horribly miserable time.

The thing is, you don't really remember the pain so well, only the amusing stories to pass on. And this is really bad, because as much as I remember screaming at the rain clouds and threatening to commit some godless sin if it didn't stop spitting at us, my brain seems to have blocked out the physical memory of how cold and generally crap it all felt - and that is exactly how people end up repeating such debacles, focussing only on the laughs, and not on the pain. Naturally, this only leads to further self-loathing as only you can be held accountable for committing yourself to Hell 2.0. It's such a vicious, vicious circle.

For now, however, I think I am relatively safe. Two days later and I'm still trying to recover my feet enough to walk normally (or at the very least, so as not to give the impression that my bladder is constantly full) and so I am quite firmly sticking to the resolution that, seeing as we passed, I never have to hike or camp ever again. The guys in my team, as short-sighted and, well, 'guy-ish' as they are, have it in their brains that they'll manage gold level next year (FYI that means another day and night of pain, people) but I pride myself on my guts in refusing to go along with such a scheme. Instead, my friend and I are considering the finer side of camping. 'Glamping', if you will. This is the clever/preposterous idea that camping can be made comfortable and enjoyable by having tents with appliances and three square meals a day. In truth, sitting in my miserable scrap of polyester this past week whilst watching other campers with their bacon sandwiches and television sets in dry, heated vans has led me to believe that camping could be alright if only it were.. well, better. And so the likelihood of our investigating 'glamping' (that's 'glamour camping', for you uneducated ones) has increased to about 63%, a notable increase from me of the previous year, to whom camping was simply unnecessary if it meant pitching a tent any further outside than your back garden. Of course, I also have camping at Reading Festival to deal with in a couple of weeks, but really, I'm pretty sure the deal is that you sleep in a nice patch of mud anyways, so no problems there.

Basically, the conclusion here is that nature is not quite as scary I had thought; but it is damn miserable at times. Credit here goes to Prince Philip in some measure (that's the Duke, halfwits) and The Other Phil, our assessor and the man fated with the ability to either pass or fail us. But let's be real honest here: if we'd failed, you would not have been able to get me back out there.

Just call me nature girl.

Actually, don't.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

There Is No Reason For This Post Whatsoever

Been feeling a lack of productivity lately. Seems like the minute I'm ready to get on with the myriad of things I ought to do, a bunch of far better alternatives present themselves. Why then, I ask, do they not exist on days when there is nothing pressing to do and thus nothing is done at all??

It's a little bit twisted, really.

But then I realised that in some ways, it's alright. Such as, I like making lists, and I'm disappointingly good at it. Plus, I can spend approximately half a day doing so, creating the illusion of being an productive member of the human race whilst actually doing nothing of the sort. Brilliant, isn't it? No, actually.

Contemplating the ever-increasing work list for this summer, I also realised that in many ways I'm over-dramatic and silly. I automatically add stuff to the list that doesn't need to be done; they're just things that rotate in the recesses of my brain, as potential tasks that aren't essential, but could be done if I were so inclined. Truth is, I never am inclined, but those recesses need to be doing something, I suppose. Also, I found myself transposing the same list in various different forms across various pieces of paper, so that my desk is now strewn with six different nagging possibilities. Not so encouraging, really.

But then I thought about the list. About 67% of it (approximate, unsurprisingly) is made up of books which I need to read before college begins again in September (8 in total). I've spent the last two weeks whining to anyone who has been stupid enough to listen about this 'ridiculous' and 'unreasonable' amount of work that I 'don't want to do'. Which is insanity, really, considering I had already created a list of 12 books I had been planning on reading this summer, just for fun. So what makes the difference between 8 eughhghhhhhsss and 12 yeeeeeeeeahs? Probably the fact that the latter were decided by me and the former rather thrust upon me by the academic Powers that Be. It seems I don't enjoy doing something that I enjoy if I'm told to do it; but getting there on my own is completely fine. Yeah, it's screwy. It's screwy and I don't appreciate my hypocrisy. Yet still, here I am complaining about it instead of just sitting down and reading the damn dictated things. Why the injustice, brain?

Basically, I don't know. This kind of pointless hypocrisy seems to be a recurring character trait that I ought to see to. The whole mindset of 'old dogs, new tricks' things has always bugged me, of course. But chances of motivation are still slim. So what to do there?

It's a Saturday here, and since I woke up annoyingly early this morning, I have had approximately 50 minutes of productivity, and then spent the following 8 hours of time in shifting my sitting-position to incorporate the new snack acquired and comfiest positioning of my laptop. It's senseless, but the grip is just so stroooooooooooooooonnggggggg. And if it hasn't occurred to you until now - yes, I am quite useless. A Hopeless Case, if you will.

And frankly, this post is losing steam.

Basically, in an attempt to become enlivened with passion and zeal for life or whatever, I was hoppin' all over the internet reading things and reading about people and shizz. I came across a load of crap that just fuelled my vegetation, but then I also came across these two photographers who do some amazing things and they're young too, which I like. It's kind of like, well if they've done all this and achieved stuff by 22 years, then what the hell am I doing? Answer = I'm doing nothing. Or rather, I've started some things, but that's it. So I managed to read another page of my book, but then I spent another hour looking at all their photos. Yeah. THANKS, GUYS. Anyways, the fact that I managed to write all these words and things makes me feel a little better. It's superficial, but whatever. And I guess I've got better hopes for tomorrow. Or delusions, go for synonyms..

Conclusions? If Saturdays were made for productivity, I wouldn't be invited. Score.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Biffy, Biffy, Biffy, Choke, Biffy, Biffy, Biffy...

I woke up this morning with a grey dent in my right foot, black ink dissipating deep into my left-hand skin and very little voice. For many teenagers across the country, perhaps this is not so unusual after a Friday night out, but for one whose nights out largely consist of nights spent no further than my living room, I found it a little shocking. And very, very funny.

You see, last night I saw Biffy Clyro play their festival warm-up show in Swindon, and to describe it with justice I can really only apply teenage non-words. It was mental. Freakin' insane. Utter madness. And I loved it. I guess you could say I had a few apprehensions; a year and a half ago I saw them play Wembley, and so you might see why next seeing them at a sports centre could feel like a step back. Of all the places in the UK they could have chosen, I simply cannot understand why Swindon was selected. That being said, I'm stupidly glad that they did.

Some people in the crowd seemed to be of a similar mindset, as they contemplated the size of venue and acoustics etc. as we waited for the support band; but frankly, as soon as Biffy came out it just did not matter. They're the kind of band that could play in your bathroom and they'd still be perfect. And so they were.

Their set was longish (21 songs, none of this 15-and-out rubbish) and included some new material which, obviously, was brilliant. They played four new ones (Modern Magic Formula, Sounds Like Balloons, The Joke's On Us and Victory Over The Sun) and the regular favourites (The Captain, Who's Got A Match?, Folding Stars...), whilst still covering material from all four albums, something most bands don't bother with any more. The only significant omission was 57, which the crowd chanted for throughout, but after a set like that you can't really complain.  Frankly, there's very little to say against them, except maybe ask why they used the forest image as a backdrop? But really, it looked so cool that no one actually cares.

Pure Love playing support were similarly amazing. Frank Carter's new project is something he's obviously really crazy for, as he explained to us before wading into the crowd to sing two songs in thick circles. They didn't really need to 'warm us up' though; it was impossible not to be psyched that evening.

And that's kind of it. Sadly I won't be seeing Biffy play any festivals this summer, having tickets for Reading and not RockNess, Download or Isle of Wight. Thing is, they leave you on such a high that I think I'll be able to cope for a few weeks yet anyway, before lapsing into despair and wishing I had had tickets for all three. But we'll burn that bridge when we get there.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Proof of the Importance of Proofing.

Again I lapse into a shoddy regime of largely ignoring the blogosphere, and for that I am sorry. I simply haven't written much lately, and this is largely due to my inherent laziness, for which a million apologies would scarcely cover (or alter my nature). Nonetheless I feel I have a little more solid reason. That of a self-inflicted embarrassment.

You may have read my post from January entitled 'A Free Scotland', one of my first attempts at a political piece, and one that I was not entirely unhappy with. It may demonstrate much of my ignorance, but is also a clear attempt at relieving some of the ignorance, an effort that should only be encouraged. In truth I wrote the piece in conjunction with my Journalism class at college, and was satisfied enough to offer it to an internet-based student-supplied magazine entitled 'Loud!'. They accept work from students across the UK, and I was more than a little bit pleased to hear that my article would run in the March edition.

Imagine my embarrassment, then, upon finding my piece in the published March issue only to find that I had made a myriad typing errors - little punctuations discrepancies, mostly - the very sort that I hate to read in other magazines, and lead me to rant against the incapabilities of the proofing team. Yet most annoyingly, I had made the largest error in misspelling the name of the principle subject, Alexander Salmond. It was terrible, and so I showed it to no one, despite happily telling friends previously that a piece of my work would be published (first time writers pride, as you do). Initially I planned to keep quiet about it. Whether I had believed my work would be proof-read by the editor of Loud! before printing is irrelevant, because really it all came down to me, and I realised this quite plainly. So after a while of wallowing in self-pity and believing my publishing career to be over, reduced to nothing but a one-time example of incompetency, I decided to get over it. I re-edited the piece, allowed it to be put forward as an assignment for my Journalism course, and republished it here on my blog. It is now more accurate, but still causes me a little embarrassment when I look over it from time to time. But really all this contributes to a greater message, one I had better get my lazy self to listen to more frequently; that of the importance of proofreading.

It's a simple concept, and I've done it for all other pieces of work in my 12 years of education thus far, which is why it was so surprising to me that I had made so many errors on that piece of writing. But at least it served to remind me that you cannot rely on others to ensure your writing is solidly put together, and talks sense - only you should be accountable, so I shall just own up to this.

Thus I re-emerge into blogging, hopefully with less shameful results. As the exam season finally declines, I hope to adhere to a more frequent writing regime over the summer. This may not happen, but I should at least promise that any pieces published will not refer to Scotland's First Minister Alexander 'Salmon'. I'm over that, capisce?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

An Abstract Substance Addiction.

I think that perhaps I have an addiction. On Monday and Tuesday of last week (30th and 31st Jan) I went to the concerts of All Time Low and Panic! At The Disco and now, seven days later, I'm experiencing that lousy come-down realisation that life is pretty much rubbish away from the rush of all that.

It was the fourth time I'd seen All Time Low, but this hardly dampened the euphoria. They create a stupidly addictive sense of enjoyment that is quite beyond most bands' capabilities, and you can feel it in the energy of every single audience member (not a sappy comment - the truth). The O2 Academy in Bristol is not giant, but that didn't matter to the masses of people crushing together in a half-jump-half-squeeze dancing combination. The only thing they were focussed on was the band up on the stage, systematically switching between songs, innuendos and calls for more dancing. It's an electric feeling that means I don't care how many times I see them. It'll probably go on for ever.

That being said, Panic! At The Disco prompt a different kind of psychosis. It was my second time seeing them play live and you could tell from the offset that the crowd were much more serious about these guys. That's not to say that ATL's crowd weren't as serious in their admiration, or to say that Panic! request a serious audience. It was just a different level of respect, more akin to worship than the new-best-bud atmosphere ATL tend to evoke. The setlist was much longer than the standard, at 20 songs including two covers, but the evening went by in a flash. And by this I'm not even referring to the stripping of lead singer Brendon Urie doing the encore. You could say it's because the crowd asked, but I'm pretty sure it has become Urie's signature goodbye-gift to his fans, and I won't pretend it isn't crazily appreciated. The banter between songs is personal but entertaining, from (basically serious) jokes about the songs and stories of Urie's mother, Panic! present everything with insane addictive energy. It was because of this that after I first saw them in concert back in May 2011, I was subject to three whole months of unending obsession where I couldn't go 30 minutes without listening to one of their songs or checking their twitter feed/website homepage etc. etc. This time, I forced myself (for health reasons) to be cautious, so the subsequent fever has been mild enough to cope with. That being said, I can't really fully express how much I like their music and the atmosphere they so easily create, and how affecting it is to me and thousands of other fans. I guess it's just something you have to experience for yourself.

One question to ponder over, however, is whether Dallon Weekes and Ian Crawford, the guitar and bass players who have been touring with Panic! since the start of last year's tour, will become permanent members of the band? They certainly fit in with Brendon and Spencer as if it was always these four guys, and not Ryan Ross and Jon Walker in the original outfit. Either way, it looks like it's set like this for a while, and I'm certainly cool with it.