Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Link Love 🔗💓

Dear FOQ

I may not be blogging per se, for the foreseeable, but that doesn't mean I don't have a huge backlist of links to share with you.

Some are months old so relevance is not guaranteed but I'm-a just going to leave these here and you can dip in to them as and when you fancy, to borrow a metaphor, these links are like the proverbial bowls of sweets and biscuits and nibblies left out at Chrimbo.

I apologise if I've shared any of these before; just think of it as a review of the year...

Serious stuff 😐

Marie Kondo, you know what would spark joy? | Alexandra Spring

How I Marie Kondo'd my whole life | Emma Garland (*cheeky content*)

Invisible women in a world designed for men | Caroline Criado-Perez

Creatives on the spaces that inspire them | Hannah Booth

"We carry on": terrorism survivors' stories

When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez met Greta Thunberg: 'Hope is contagious' | Emma Brockes

A second-hand book is a glimpse into the lives of other readers | Hannah Jane Parkinson

Links above: The Guardian

Councillor's colour-coded knitting shows 'men talk too much' | Sherie Ryder | BBC

Smash the wellness industry | Opinion: Jessica Knoll | New York Times


Sites of note 🕸

https://www.arambalakjian.com/work/the-house/


Video vaults 📼

I may also have shared this before but, as they say, it bears repeating:





Well, that's about it; I'm off to watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation because it's not Christmas until that's done.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, ONE AND ALL!

qb xx

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Wait, pause.

Dear FOQ

Ladies and gents, I have an admission to make.

I've been suffering from what I'm calling 'blogger's block'.

It's not borne of any great concern about being read; I put the words into the world and sometimes people respond, and that's nice.

It's not even a mild form of writer's block; the paralysing fear of the blank page, that frozen-in-time moment when you doubt and loathe every sentence that floats through your brain.


Nope. I can still string a sentence together, it's what I do for a living and what I'm trying to do as a hobbying author.

And therein lies the problem.

For quite a while, blogging stopped being enjoyable and became an onerous task, albeit one I'd given myself and which had become a victim of its own small-pond 'success', if you can call it that. It had become something of a busman's holiday and even the busman had started sneaking looks on AirBnB from time to time.

I'll put it out there that there were a lot of other contributing factors in my anti-blog-freeze: general ennui; the questioning of the relevance of a blog when everyone's an 'influencer' (seriously, can product persuasion and the overuse of the words "heyyyyy guuuuuuys" actually earn you money? Asking for a friend); the burden of expectation to say something funny, quirky, profound, when being a little more reflective seemed to suit the mood – I could go on.


Instagram has been my buddy of late; the definitive quick fix. Uploading a photo of a sunrise or a sunset (sunriiiiise, sunset...)


and connecting with other folk who like something visual that's not too abysmal (place that quote) has been enough for the last, erp, six and a half months or so.

While I haven't exactly been the quintessential social butterfly since last we spoke, I've not been Queen Hermit Crab either.



But again while I might have had a surplus of visuals to show you (come round, I'll show yer me 'oliday slides, luv), explaining them all with quirky captions filled me with an ennui-laden dread like never before.

And I write a killer caption, let's be honest.

Compiling a cohesive list o' links, also, made me groan inwardly. And outwardly.

Because I love to share.


I love sharing the links I've found, videos I've enjoyed, I just don't love sitting on them until I find the mojo to write around them; by that point they become irrelevant.

More recently I've found myself drawn to watching TED talks. If you have the TED app on your phone or tablet, you can build up a little watchlist and download a choice few to watch, which whiles away a commute whilst simultaneously making you think about the way in which your day might pan out.

This particular talk, which is some ten years old now and yet has not lost resonance, struck a chord with me.


(Quick summary: every seven years Sagmeister shuts down his offices, takes time out of his work to recalibrate and refresh, and usually comes back with more great ideas than he would have done at his desk.)

It's not necessarily pertinent to my work life, but it made me think very hard, and differently, about the blog, and how I see the blog progressing or even continuing.

I don't read blogs any more, not in the ritualistic way in which I used to. Most of the bloggers I followed have migrated to more bite-size social media outlets, and that's OK. In a world of media geared towards bite-size feeds to grab your focus, shortened attention spans, and a heightened awareness of the perils of oversharing, perhaps that's the right way to go.

And perhaps that's the way the quirky brunette must also go.

It may have already gone there.


So, in short, friends, I'm sending the quirky brunette – the blog – on sabbatical, so she (I) can come back in a few months, and see how we both feel about being out there in the world.

To invigorate ourselves and come back with exciting new ideas about how to present ourselves.

(I really don't know why I'm talking like two people, it's just little ol' me.)

However.

However.

the quirky brunette is alive, well, active and posting on both the Face Book and the Instagrams.

And once I've re-educated myself in the ways of blog widgetry (that's a word, yep), I will be able to keep a relatively steady flow of content


flowing steadily onto the page without having to agonise over it too much.

We'll see how we go.

Until then, don't go away, we're still here on the interwebs.

Maybe just in a different guise for a while.


Link Love 🔗💓

I thought this was very important:


qb xx

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Sporadic Summary // The tide's gonna change and it's all gonna roll you away

Dear FOQ

if indeed any of you are left out there after the latest sustained silencio... eight weeks and counting? Something like that?

How are we all? Enjoying the more seasonal temperatures, I hope!

Me, I have my windows thrown open so I can enjoy the nonsensical music coming out of the phones of the delightful youffs passing my building:


and the tremulous growls of the motorcycles, while the potent odour of weed rises up from, well, pretty much everywhere these days.

Gotta love suburban life.

*EDIT* It's been rainin'.

Happy Bank Holiday Weekend, y'all.

But, it being a long weekend, I thought it were only fair to grace you with my online presence and throw down some wyrds for your perusal.

Here be said wyrds.

---

This ... however long it's been, I have mostly been ...

Reading 📗

This, still.


I'm enjoying it, when I get to it – well, not so much enjoying the countless tales of women being shut up and shot down for, yep, being women... It's enlightening in a sobering sort of way, let's just say that.

Watching 📺

... well, switching between:

Grey's Anatomy

I'm onto season 6. Izzie has survived her tumours (no more Denny hallucinations, sad face):

Sad face, I said. Not ridiculously alluring, dimpled smiley face. Stoppit.
... but not her marriage to King of Angst/Whiny Manchild Alex, and is now gawn for good.

Little George O'Malley is deaded, there's an influx of newbies in the wake of the merger with Mercy West, and the male characters left behind are increasingly vile. Especially Hunt. I just don't get it. Yang, wake up and smell the coffee; that man is no good for you, QUEEN.

The Goldbergs

Just as one has to form a little pyramid with one's fingers during the theme tune of The Big Bang Theory (thanks for that one, Jo!):


one is also now compelled to shout back "JTP" in response to Barry's greeting to his friends. Never gets old.


OK, maybe it does after two and a half solid minutes.

Pretty Little Liars

Precis: Painfully skinny girls with All the Issues put themselves in dangerous situations in every single episode, only use a torch when it's conducive to the plotline, and can't pull themselves away from their phones in case they get cyber-stalked by the mysterious, manipulative 'A'. This has gone on for two seasons so far with another four or so still to watch. They're all idiots.


It's oddly compelling even so.

Seeing 🎭

9 to 5 

with family friend Cassie.

(With thanks to Jos for the recommendation!)

Oh my hecking goodness.

All About Eve may have featured Queen Gillian Anderson which obviously made it a viewing necessity this year, but if I were to choose an all-round favourite Thing to Have Seen for Quite a While, 9 to 5 is it.

Based on the 1980-something film featuring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Queen Dolly of Parton, the musical, the book and lyrics for which were also penned by Parton, is just magnificent, with themes of male-female workplace disparity that are just as relevant almost forty years later (sad to say), from women being overlooked for promotion, being paid significantly less than their male counterparts to the casual everyday sexism that is at least now being called out more frequently thanks to the courage of those spearheading the #MeToo movement.

All that aside...

It's always surprisingly pleasant to be pleasantly surprised – nay, bowled right over – by a production, and there were a handful of performances in 9 to 5 that achieved that.

Wit the first:

Brian Conley.

You read that right.

Brian "Dangerous Brian/It's a puppet" Conley.

Superbly seedy, uninhibited and my goodness, he can actually sing. And really well. Even if some of his lower notes did mean we lost the diction a little bit down there.

Wit the second:

Denizen of stage and screen, Goddess Bonnie Langford.

She is super-bendy.

Super-funny.

Super-bendy.

Just brilliant.

Actually, her brilliance was less of a surprise (she is, after all, the walking embodiment of the successful stage school graduate) but still. I saw her as Peter Pan in the 80s; her role as the PA secretly in love with the seedy boss was a rather wonderful counteraction to that.

Wit the third.

Louise Redknapp née Nurding

One of these lasses from that there pop combo, Eternal:


I'll admit, her popstar days are a long time ago and I suspect she has done a lot of solid work since the Nineties that I've been blatantly unaware of since she's, well, Louise out of Eternal.

However.

She delivered a strong, epic performance (her vocals were actually fantastic; colour me stunned), and I forgot she was, well, this lass:


Fair play to her.

The sets are quirky and true to the 80s setting; props are brought on between scenes by members of the cast, the dance and singing numbers are strong and authentic and it carries a strong, feminist message.

... Ohmyword, just go and see it.

Having a minor revelation 💡

Yeah, I'm-a just going to drop that in there, as if the Yang-inspired revelation of my last post


wasn't quite dramatic enough.

A few weeks ago, Natalie and I took ourselves to a local college of a weekend, for a Wellness Fair. She was in the market for crystals, I was in the market for a decent free massage or reflexology sesh.

Ha, no such thing.

However, I managed to come away with a little lavender pulse-point roll-on and a sea-salt rock that I really need to start hugging again.

In a secluded corner of the hall, we came across a stand reserved by an organisation called the Kind Mind Academy; they were offering a couple of half-hour meditations during the day, plus the chance to take a survey and find out how kind you are to yourself.

Turns out both Natalie and I scored very low on that, which seemed incentive enough to sign up for the second of their meditation sessions.

Now, if I say to you the words 'self-care', what springs to mind?

Some factions of social media may have appropriated the expression 'self-care' to push expensive skin or body care products, or to promote a particular lifestyle that guilts people into believing that unless they subscribe to 'clean eating' they are 'dirty' or polluted in some way; at its core, self-care shouldn't be about that. It's about obliterating that sort of thinking.

The crux of the meditation session was, on some level, that self-care is about stepping outside yourself on a daily basis, and assessing and addressing your fundamental needs.

It's about being the friend to yourself that your closest friends are to you. Changing the dialogue in your head from criticism to kindness and encouragement.

It's not about pure selfishness, hashtag self-care hashtag it's all about me; it's about ensuring that your needs are met as much as those around you are having their needs met by you.

"You can't pour from an empty cup", as they say.


At the end of the meditation we were given a) a hug if it was needed and b) a bracelet on which is written the words "What's the kindest thing I can do for myself right now?"; a reminder if ever we need it that sometimes we need to take pause, step outside the chaos, the ridiculous workload, the demands, and just find something, one thing, that we can do that will make us feel a bit better about things, more in control, just for a moment.

One revelation I had in the wake of the meditation is that in different ways both Natalie and I are continually apologising for ourselves; if I'm in a shop or even browsing at the stand at a fair like this particular one, and I am in any way jostled or if people crowd me, if I'm in a queue and the person behind comes too close and won't wait their turn while I'm paying and packing up my shopping, that to me is a message that I'm not important enough to be given space or time, and I either step away from where I'm browsing, even if I haven't finished looking, or I get angry and harrassed and passively-aggressively start moving more slowly!

My point is that we should be the ones to determine our worth in this world; nobody else should be allowed to do that for us. And on some level, self-care is about stepping back and seeing where we fit in, what we can do to carve out our place, to push ourselves forward for something we believe we deserve, in the same way in which we'd push a friend forward for something we believe they deserve in their lives.

Equally, self-care is about removing ourselves from a situation or a mindset that is damaging, draining or toxic. It's about holding off putting unnecessary pressure on yourself because you mistakenly believe something is expected of you.

Or it's about coming to the end of a week in which you've had something booked in for every night of that working week, and you just want to be on your own, even if it means turning down well-meaning invitations.

Embracing self-care isn't easy; sometimes you have to realise you're martyring yourself, or you're competing too closely with someone else, comparing yourself and finding yourself lacking, or you're mired in a rut of frustration for one reason or another, and this can come out in all sorts of angry, toxic ways. The kind thing to do therefore won't just benefit you, it'll benefit everyone around you.

Time to take a quick check at the bracelet and think, "What's the kindest thing I can do for myself right now?"

...Pink gin, Pretty Little Liars: in other words, a lazy rest of the evening – that's the thing I'm embracing.


Link Love 🔗💓

Serious

Why introverts won't survive without self-care (apt?) | Introvert, Dear

Councillor's colour-coded knitting shows the imbalance of male:female verbal contributions | on BBC | via Inger

Invisible Women: are modern workplaces and buildings still geared primarily towards women? | Caroline Criado-Perez in The Guardian

Sweet

Tiny McDonalds opens in Sweden ... for bees! | on Pretty52 | via cousin Julie

---

Well, that's all for now. Enjoy the rest of the long weekend, and, see you when I see you!

qb xx

Sunday, 5 May 2019

A quick quirky hi from me

Dear FOQ

Well, I'm being duly chastised by Farcebook for not publishing anything in a while so here I am, just to say hi (through the medium of Neil Patrick Harris because, well, why not?):


and assure you that I am still here; just not done anything blogworthy of late, and if I have, I've been too goshdarn in-the-moment (and then just energy-depleted) to record it.

Turns out that the mojo and the urge to blog both oscillate and fluctuate, and ultimately I just have to go with the flow even if this means increasingly sporadic summaries. No point in forcing something as it will just come across as, well, forced.

Anyway, just wanted to pop up on here and say as much; I'm now back off to try to grapple with the ceaseless chaos that is My Flat.

Keep enjoying the long weekend, folks!

qb xx

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Sunday Summary | Mid-(OK, LATE-) Monthly Missive // Goodbye, my friend* ...

* Don't worry, this isn't actually goodbye, it's a lyric and it'll all make sense later, probably.

Dear FOQ

Yes, yes, I know, the whole mid-monthly missive thing has gone a bit to pot of late.

All I'll say is that my work-life balance needs redressing otherwise I will continue to have absolutely nothing to write home about. Literally. Bit tricky to blog with no content, amiright?

First of all, though, I want to wish Ma QB a very happy Mother's Day; she has very few demands for her day besides a bit of peace and quiet. I respect that.

---

Anyway, two weeks ago I did manage to leave the proverbial mainland (in the company of Alan and Brian, and then Allann...) for a lovely, relaxed weekend with Cousin Jo, during which we broke the back of Season Three of Queer Eye (can we just have a moment for Jonathan's whimsical new facial foliage...?).


Interesting choice there but still, YAS QUEEN.

We drank and ate spectacularly well...

{Sarabi cat, making sure Brian doesn't get too lashed on the veh VEH nice vintage}


{Pizza piggehs | It was Comic Relief night, ergo the schnozzes}

and also managed a short walk round the lake on Sunday morning but hail then happened so we hastened home, all the way home, Home Cottage in fact, for Sunday lunch.





Since then I have been doing too much of the hustle and not enough of the peopling (aside from a splendid brunch with my Lovelies, also undocumented, and a wonderful early dinner with my Foyles Goyls, again, with no photographic evidence because there was too much catching up to do).

I have very little other to report, apart from a revelation or two that I'll share with you later.


This month, I have been mostly...

Reading 📚


Moranifesto

So good. So good. The balance of articles selected for this collection ranges from the humorous to the profound, and the passionate and intelligent.

It only upsets me a tiny bit that Ms Moran, born 1975, is so much more accomplished than Ms Quirky Brunette, born 1978.

But, eh, different people, different lives. Comparison is pointless.

I'm now reading:



Do it like a Woman ...and change the world

which I should have read a long time ago. It's superb. (Let's just have a throwback moment to 2015.)


Watching 👀

All the things.

This, my friends, is the problem with working too much.

You get home, too late and too drained to socialise or 'people' on any level; the telly goes on and in between the fatigued weeping and wailing and excessive weekday evening imbibement of Terry's Chocolate Orange, all you can do is zone out. And that's another evening sucked into oblivion.

Derry Girls


If you were a teenager in the mid-nineties this is such a brilliant series.

If you weren't, it's still brilliant.

Pretty Little Liars




Because I meant to look for Big Little Lies and got confused. Ended up with Gossip Girl meets I Know What You Did Last Summer.

I've parked it for a short while but have been enjoying it more than I should. All the girls are as brittle-thin as twigs and could use a good, hearty burger once in a while but it's an intriguing watch nonetheless.

First Man

Watched in the company of Cousin Jo and Jim.


Surprisingly, surprisingly good regardless of any historical liberties that may have been taken.

Ryan "Hey Girl" Gosling is a little bit brilliant as an abrupt, seemingly unshakeable Neil Armstrong, and the take-off sequences are so terrifying and claustrophobic you begin to appreciate what a colossal risk every astronaut takes.

The Goldbergs




I just love it. Love it. Not sure what it is, the witty repartee, the 80s nostalgia, the basis on the creator's real life... the fact it makes me laugh out loud... All of the above?

---

Right. That's quite enough of that.

I have also been ...

Spring-cleaning my Facebook

or, as I'm now calling it:


On Friday night, I went for much-needed drinks and life evaluation with young Megan, my workmate.

As is the case with many of my younger workmates, we're in very different places in our lives by some sheer glitch of chronological freakery, but that's OK. We can still do the socialising.

{Me on the left, there...}

I'm in a place at the moment where I feel I can dispense a tiny bit of wisdom over an order of fries, from a place of ol' age, experience and constant emotional evolution (I will say my maturity hasn't quite caught up, but that's another thing for another time).

We talked for a while about social media, specifically about Fakebook.

I'm in a very strange relationship with Fakebook at present. Which one would gather by the fact I'm referring to it as Fakebook (occasionally Farcebook).

I spend plenty of time on there still (it whiles away a commute quite nicely) but this time is mostly spent cruising through the Friends of Alan 🐷 page; it feels like safe territory, a friendly escape from the current political omnishambles.

The Alans are pure. They're fun. The FOA are creative and clever.

A reprieve from the weird ol' real world. Whatever that is any more.

I had a revelation about FB, and my own use thereof for the last twelve years, and that revelation manifested itself repeatedly in this gif of "Queen" Cristina Yang (of Grey's Anatomy):


as I flicked through some old, and frankly embarrassing, posts.

Nobody cares, QB, that in 2008 you were listening to some 80s Richard Marx while cleaning your flat.

Nobody cares, QB, that in 2011 you had a craving for Jaffa Cakes.

Nobody cares, QB, that in 2014 you had to catch a bus home from Croydon, because, trains.

Literally:



It got to a point where every incarnation of QB on FB until about... December 2017 (and even then it was touch and go) just made me want to unfriend myself.

Yo, QB, word up:


So, I took a huge metaphorical red pen of Editorial Excellence to twelve years of QB-on-FB nonsense. And with a flourish of the metaphorical pen I began to delete post after post of my inane, pointless ramblings.

And I felt so, so much better for it.

To the point whereby I thought, actually, there's something in this.

Let me say this, friends: we are beholden to nobody on social media.

Nobody.

Modern culture has led us down this path but we're under no obligation to share our every movement or thought with the world as we go.

In fact, in some instances, it's healthier if we don't.

Fakebook, or any other similar social media platform, should not be where we lay ourselves bare.

Regardless of your intentions, there's almost always a subtext to what you post, and it isn't always obvious to anyone coming in afresh what that subtext is. Ultimately everything gets misinterpreted.

Recently, when I come to a point whereby I'm frustrated by a situation (like having to wait an hour for a train home from work), I find myself drafting a FB post, then deleting it before posting, when my internal Yang rears her wise little head:


Of course, this does mean I end up venting on WhatsApp to my nearest and dearest, and for that I can only apologise but thank you for occupying me nonetheless.

If I find myself venting on WhatsApp to Natalie, for instance, it's because I know that she will care, and I don't need to appeal to 330+ other Facebook friends to take time out of their days to react to me having another train-related rant-off.

It's not the forum. And it's taken me far too long to work that out.

My point is, then, not so much that nobody cares full stop; au contraire, mon cher: but that oversharing and overposting run the risk of diluting the impact of what you do want to say to the world, what you do want to put out there.

Right now, I'm using Fakebook purely for Alan things (all on a private group), or to share cute videos of animals, noteworthy articles on music, heinous puns or apposite posts about coffee.

(And to tag Natalie in Love Layla posts that make us both laugh and say, this is soooo you/me/us because we know each other too well not to identify and share the love.)

But I'm cutting way back on the train updates. (I got a little too 'known' for those for a while; it's frickin' sad when that happens.) Trains are crap. That's never going to change. And the more I go on about it, the more of an absolute tool I become.

I hereby present my:

Four Steps to Successful(ish) Fakebook Spring Cleaning


Disclaimer: I'm not saying you must do this; absolutely not. These are purely guidelines I've set myself, based on how I feel about the whole Farcebook/Fakebook set up at the moment.

However, if you find them useful, or advisory, by all means, do the things. But do all of them.

Commit.

You might feel better for it.

1) Delete your posting history.


Depending how long you've been on FB and how frequently you posted in the past, this may take some time.

But FB has actually made it more doable.

a) Go to your profile.
b) Under Timeline, select "Grid view".



c) To delete your own posts and updates, go to "Posted by > You" in the left column.

 

If you can remember when you joined FB and indeed if you want to start that far back, select your first year of posting (or your most recent: I've worked forwards as that's just how I roll).


d) Select Manage posts, and click on all the posts that year that you want to delete. I've had to do these six at a time, month by month, because that's just how slow my browser/FB is. Your browser may be a little more forgiving.


Select Delete Posts. (If this option is greyed out, you may share privileges on a particular post with someone else – an album, for instance; you can hide these posts, if you prefer, if you can't delete them outright.)

e) Be brave.



2) Streamline your Friends list.


This is the hardest part.

You do not have to unfriend people outright if you're going through something of a lull with them in the real world; you do still have the option to unfollow their posts if you're finding broadcasts of their life a little challenging for whatever reason.

I came to the decision to take that one step further and do some disconnecting when a particular person posted a curt remark on my request for advice on hiding the myriad paid ads that were popping up on FB, to the point whereby FB was nothing *but* ads for a short while.

I worked it out, more or less: go through your settings, delete all your alleged interests and preferences. Hide and feed back on anything that still pops up to drill it in to the FaceBots that you're not interested.

Basically, the individual's response was, "hey, you don't pay for FB so ads are the price you do pay, suck it up".

Yep, she actually used the expression "suck it up".

It might seem a trivial thing to unfriend someone for but when you consider that in the past she has shot me down for supporting No More Page Three, suggested I take more 'interesting' photographs in New York (of people: er, how about no? I *like* buildings, I went to New York largely for the buildings, so please step off) and picked a minor fight with another friend on my feed, again about feminism, it was high time to say:


One does not need that negativity in one's life even if it's intended as a joke.

After that, I gained momentum.

There's still a way to go, but I made good headway.

Remember, again, that you owe nothing to anyone on social media.

Sometimes on the groups I follow, or on an artist, writer, singer's personal page, someone will be affronted by a post. To wit, a fabricated example:
"i used 2 like ur music but ur politics suck. u shud stick 2 singing and keep ur opinions 2 urself. unfollowing"
To which a delicious abundance of people will bid them farewell with a cutting barb that I particularly enjoy in these situations:
"This isn't an airport. You don't have to announce your departure."


But seriously, you don't.

You can choose to leave a Facebook Friendship quietly and gracefully, like an introvert at a networking event, and bid an "Irish goodbye".

You don't need to leave breadcrumbs in your wake. It's OK. You still exist in the real world; you can still be found there.

Anyway, I digress.

I devised my own set of rules for my 'culling' session:

a) Spare the family members.
b) Do a Marie Kondo and, in your head, 'thank' the friend for their contribution to your life. If you haven't interacted online with that person for years, then quietly disconnect with them in the online world. If they're meant to be in your life they will rematerialise in the real world.
c) Remember the associations. I deleted a few people from school, as – while we're much older and wiser now, and I would hope, more, well, schooled in how to behave – the association with those people, in my mind, was still heavily grounded in a negative event. And if you can't forget the event in question some 28 years after, then you probably never will and there's no point in stewing on that all the time you're still seeing their posts.
d) Don't be tempted to announce to the survivors via the medium of status update that "if you can read this you survived my cull"; I mean, I know, lucky you, this does mean unfettered access to my wit and ceaseless supply of coffee-related memes, and of course who wouldn't be grateful for that? But still. There's no need.

3) Remember Yang.





What I'm about to say may be a little controversial and a little ouchy but in many senses is advice I'm giving myself so, read into that what you will and apply it to your own FB life if you think it may be necessary.

a) When you're posting, think, who am I posting to? Why am I posting?

I used to post through, well, let's face it, loneliness.

And while I'm still here, livin' the single-girl life twelve years after I was lured onto FB, the need to post out of any need to 'connect' has, I'm pleased to say, gradually dissipated.

I do, of course, have to check myself sometimes:

i) draft post
ii) read post
iii) think Yang
iv) delete post and find a more suitable forum for thoughts (sorry, friends, WhatsApp it is).

At the present time I am struggling to see the point of posting at all.

I cringe when I look back at old posts. Who were they for? Who did they benefit? Did they even benefit anyone but me?

Did the people I'm connected with really need to know "Beth is... eating curly fries in the Barn, Tunbridge Wells, with my girls" two years ago, for example?

No, no, they did not; the girls I was there with knew they were there, knew I was there, heck, they probably even bought me the fries.

It was a different story, I suppose, when I was using FB to check in for safety purposes on long walks, but even those posts have gone the way of my public 2011 yearnings for Jaffa Cakes. Deleted.

Think Yang.


Of course, you do have the option to restrict your audience to exclude Auntie Morag if you're openly asking your family members across the globe what Auntie Morag might like for her 80th birthday.

In addition, I have a Close Friends list comprised of people I trust enough to tolerate my Jaffa-Cake/Terry's Chocolate Orange-craving-related minutiae/occasional but less frequent train rants.

But even those posts will go through the shredder come New Year.


4) Live a little more offline.



I say this purely because of the comment I made at the beginning of this blog post. The work-life balance is swinging firmly in favour of work at present. Don't get me wrong, I love my job. At this time, however, I do seem to be expending my energy on it at the expense of very much else.

(Except maybe Alan things.)

So I've actually done little of note that I haven't mentioned here, and nothing I feel the great need to share on FB either. It just means that when I do have the chance to meet up with people in the real world, our exchanges aren't prefaced by, "Oh, you probably saw this on Facebook...".

Conversely, while I treasure the thousands of photos taken on great nights out, stored on my external hard drive for safe-keeping, I equally, and in fact, increasingly treasure the times for which I have no record except for the memory of good, proper, actual conversation and connection in the real world.


Link Love 🔗💓

Serious/sensible 😐


Silly 🤡



and...

  • Irish Family learns the Triangle Dance (this is the family who went viral after a bat flew into their kitchen!)




Until next time... tatty-bye!

qb xx

Monday, 18 February 2019

Mid-Monthly Missive // Brothers, sisters, everybody sing!

Dear FOQ

Fasten your belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride ...

(I'm kidding, it's really not.)

Anyway, how are we all?

Me, I think I'm still in recovery mode after Saturday's 1980s disco, hosted by my friend Julie and me; it was a success (people came, anyway, so that was nice, and what's more is they seemed to enjoy themselves, so, yay!); however, there's only so much MRD (that's Molly Ringwald Dancing to the uninitiated)


that a 40-year-old can do before reality kicks them in the flailing shins and reminds them that they're 40.

I speak, of course, of myself.

But more on that later.


This month, I have been mostly ...

Reading 📚

Moranifesto


I've had some quality public LOL moments over this book. I'd have more if I read it more frequently, I know; but sometimes train commutes are for dozin'.

Spark Joy





... I now have a small box of neatly folded carrier bags in my kitchen, and I've taken no fewer than five bulging bags of books and bits to charidee (after thanking them all for their service, obvs).

Watching 📺

All the things, darn it.

Darn you, BT Hub, for enticing me in, you minx.

The Goldbergs


If you haven't seen this series and you're in the mood for something deliciously light-hearted with an 80s vibe and references to 80s films you've known and appreciated, give it a go.


LIFE


Sweet mother of chocolate.

I like Jake Gyllenhaal. In spite of his awkward-to-spell surname. He has nice eyes and occasionally makes a semi-decent film*.

I like Rebecca "Not the X-Factor Finalist" Ferguson (and I'll admit she was the reason for giving this film another go; she at least tries to give good astronerd credibility).

It seems I also like tearing a bad, bad film apart (*yeah, Jake, this was not a highlight of your career) minute by minute, until:

SPOILER ALERT

only the two redeeming actors are left standing and even then it's a bit hit-and-miss.

Premise? A Mars mission is nearly compromised when samples taken from the planet are sent hurtling into outer space by accident (who's running the International Space Station these days? They're probably due a performance review...); the samples are recovered.

One sample appears to be a life form.

In the apparent safety of the ISS lab, one of the astronauts pokes and prods it into life. (To paraphrase 90s chanteuse Des'Ree, life... oh life, ooooohhhhh life ... Oh wait, is that why the film is called LIFE? I get it now.)

Aaah, cute, tiny floaty microscopic alien. Aaah.


The alien, known affectionately as Calvin (first error, people: don't give evil a name), grows. Quickly. Evilly.

Basically, by a series of rookie errors, the alien goes rogue and the rest of the film involves the astro-twerps trying to escape the big, bad alien squid thing.


Epic fails all round.

Case in point: Ryan Reynolds goes into the astro-lab after the original, pokey-proddy astronaut passes out when the alien wraps around his hand and crushes it to pieces.

{Yeah, try to kill it with FIRE. On the ISS. Good job, Ryan Reynolds. *slow clap*}
Ryan Reynolds ends up with the alien on his shoulder, its tentacles reaching around to his face.

What would you do if an alien were fondling your face?

Open your mouth?

Keep it shut?

He opens his mouth. Invites that bad boy right in.

Eejit.

Watch the film and laugh in deserved mockery over how gosh-darn stupid everyone is.

{Yeah, even you, nerdy-lookin' guy.}

Grey's Anatomy

Again. From the early series; before all the musical episodes kicked off and the characters were mildly less slappable.

(Besides, it's always worth watching for Cristina Yang. Always.)


I'm currently in Denny Duquette season again.


Dear sweet lord, those dimples.

Don't die, Denny.

Oh.

He dies.


Sex Education


Of course the perennial fabulosity of Queen Gillian Anderson


and the spectacular ocular appeal of Asa Butterfield are not the only draws to this series.

(Oh, the eyyyyyyyes. 👀)


After a slightly dubious first episode-and-a-half during which you find yourself wondering, "srsly, why have they lumped a trope of an American high school in the Welsh backwaters? Y tho? Cannot. Compute",



and also why the actual era setting is so goshdarn woolly (the costumes and cars say 70s, 80s, the mobile phones say the here and now), Sex Education gains momentum and becomes the most delicious play between really rather endearing characters.

Even the school bully has depth.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

In this case, the spectacular ocular appeal – and the insanely, brilliant and heart-rippingly precocious performance – of Asa Butterfield were the draws to rewatching this film which will make you angry and horrified and just a little shell-shocked.


Yes, tiny wondrous child.

Especially the moment at which young Bruno's older sister, seemingly brainwashed by her elderly tutor into becoming a hardened Hitler devotee, states, "he's trying to make the country great again".

Sound familiar?

Seeing 👀

All About Eve at the Noel Coward Theatre.

{Lily James and Gillian Anderson | All About Eve via here}

OK, OK, I really, really wanted to absolutely love the play.

And I enjoyed it, I really did.

I thought Queen Gillian Anderson was marvellous (but then I'm biased and I always think she's marvellous); she did a wonderful comic-tragic turn as Margo Channing and her barbed retorts were consistently on point. Admittedly she was a little quiet to start with then picked up volume and then away she went.

I thought Lily James was rather wondrous as the eponymous Eve, scheming and deceptive, always floating around in the background, behaving like the handmaid while plotting her ascent at Margo's expense.

There were some great supporting performances as well, notably Monica Dolan and Rhashan Stone as Margo's increasingly impatient friends, Karen and Lloyd, both naively complicit in Eve's plan to overthrow Margo.

I loved the simplicity of the set, but also the way that video cameras were cleverly used at times: one was implanted into the dressing room mirror into which Margo was looking while applying or removing makeup, so her every subtle eye roll was visible to the audience. Another camera was placed in a room just out of sight to the live audience – a kitchen, or a bathroom – to deliver the action in a different room without the constant need for set changes.

There were also lots of self-conscious jokes about the theatre, and acting, and about ageing in the media, that were well placed (if not at all subtle).

However.

However.

Music (by PJ Harvey, I'm told) was used, or overused, rather, to 'push' a mood on the audience; the music dictated how we were supposed to feel as Eve first tried on one of Margo's stage costume dresses (above). This is a device that might work in film or on TV but does not work in theatre, I don't think (unless you're watching a musical); you don't need to be told through music how to feel about a scene; the performance itself should tell you that.

The camera device was overused towards the end of the play during a restaurant scene; the camera operator was literally parked in front of the 'table', his back to the audience, so you could only see the action on the large projected screen, not live, which seemed a little unfair and gratuitous, given we were there for a live performance. It was undoubtedly there to perform the role of the interfering paparazzi or to give the scene visual momentum, but in truth, it was just interfering with the performance itself at that point. Less is more, people, less is more.

And the interaction between Eve and her own protegée, Phoebe, right at the end, seemed (Ma pointed out) underrehearsed and clumsy, starting as it did with an overly long song that Lily James sang at the piano (while she has a nice enough voice, with Mamma Mia II as testament, I still don't have a clue what the song was about and why it was there except to allow time for the set to be changed).

Oh and we're pretty sure that giant silver helium balloon numerals were not a thing in the 1940s, 50s or whenever AAE is supposed to be set.

All that said, Ma and I did see a preview, and perhaps a few of these things were refined, or ironed out by the time the play officially opened.

Meeting and eating 🎂

with ...

Natalie and Gaby






at Lamingtons in Bletchingley again, for lunch that stretched out over into tea time so of course we had to avail ourselves not only of the delicious soup and sandwiches but also of the insanely scrummy cake.

Pity, eh?

My Voicerox+ Lovelies


{Alan and Brian had no stake in my chocolate mousse.
I'm a very mean felt-mummy but, QB does not share food.}

at Côte, for a much-needed catch-up and slightly belated birthday-yays for Ms Jenny.

Celebrating 🎉

Burns Night at The Little Brown Jug in Chiddingstone with Ma, Pa and friend Jan.

This was my initiation into Burns Night celebrations: I have no Scots blood in me that I know of, but these days, it's all about embracing and appropriating different cultures, amiright?

So I put a tartan ribbon in my ponytail and thoroughly enjoyed the festivities and revelries, which involved bagpipes being played to herald the incoming haggis (which was rather nice but I suspect it was more mince and potato than actual haggis; I'll allow as it was tasty); drams of whisky (sadly I'm still not on board with whisky much as I'd like to be all MacSophisticated) and poetry and song performed by a Scots lass of bonny voice.


 {MacAlan and MacBrian even got involved; that's the
Allan tartan they're wearing, I'll have you know.}

{Pa QB "enjoying" the bagpipes...!}

{Oooh, books! In a pub! I've found my happy place!}

Singing 🎵😮

with ...

Actual John Rutter (and Ma QB).



Lemme tell you a little story.

When I was ten or so, I was in the Kent County Junior Choir.

(There's something about me and choirs. I like 'em. I'm on the periphery of choirs atm but I do like 'em.)

Anyway, digression.

We did a couple of summer-school weekend courses at Benenden School in Kent (so I like to tell people I "went" to Benenden... for all of six days in total, but I still went there); and we performed, one year, in the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank (before London freaked the becheesus out of me). This remains one of the ultimate highlights of my youff-and-early-childhood even if I can't remember very much about it now (old age, y'know).

What I do remember is that singing Rutter's For the Beauty of the Earth had, and still has, a profound effect on me.

It's beautiful, is what it is.

I hadn't heard it for decades; then, some years ago, when I was not in a good place mentally, it came back to me and stayed in my consciousness to the point whereby it might actually have 'led' me to the church, specifically St Matthew's Church, and into the choir for a time. 

Needless to say, to spend a day under the indirect but very entertaining, and valuable, tutelage of the composer himself, was wonderful. He's wonderful. Humorous, intelligent, full of little anecdotes that pay homage to his impressive, and prolific, career ... It was a superlative day of song. and I had to thank the man himself for effectively being the reason I got into choral singing. Yes, I am a Rutter Fangirl and I'm not even sorry.


It was somewhat fortuitous that I even found out about this workshop; there I was, some mere weeks ago, standing at the back of the church trying to sell tickets to the 80s disco, and the hallowed name 'John Rutter' caught my beady eye, on a leaflet advertising this one-day singing session.

I expected it to be taking place somewhere up that there London town (and we know how much I "love" going up there insofar as I really don't but I go up there anyway in order to remind myself that I really don't like London).

But no. No! The day of singing was to take place in Reigate! Actual, next-town-along-from-me Reigate. Rahgate, if you will.

Ma and I promptly booked ourselves into the event, the tickets for which were sold out by the actual day. So that was lucky.

Now, also luckily for us, both Ma and I have a moderate grasp on how to read music; which is just as well because for the duration of the five-and-a-bit-hour session we were more or less thrown in the proverbial deep end starting with a warm-up that comprised singing Rutter's arrangement of Amazing Grace. Contrary to what the publicity suggested, one absolutely had to have "a bit of musicality, please"; otherwise we'd all have been completely lost.

However, the magic and the allure of Rutter's music, to me, lies in its deceptive simplicity; there's a style and fluidity to his work that is instantly recognisable, and in most instances, it's possible to pick up exactly where the piece might be going next.

In precis, these are the anthems and pieces we tackled, some in part, some in whole throughout the day.
  1. Amazing Grace (arr: Rutter) Listen here
  2. Gloria (Hmm,  can't remember; may have been a Rutterly arrangement; Maaaa, can you remember?)
  3. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (Bach)
  4. Laudate Dominum (Mozart)
  5. Excerpts from Mass of the Children (Rutter)
  6. Hallelujah Chorus (Handel)
  7. Look to the Day (Rutter) Listen here
  8. A Flower Remembered (Rutter) Listen here
  9. Look at the World (Rutter) Listen here
  10. Who is Sylvia? (George Shearing)
  11. Irish Blessing (Bob Chilcott)
  12. The Lord Bless and Keep You (Rutter) Listen here
  13. Bogoroditsye Dyevo (Russian Ave Maria) (Rachmaninov)
  14. For the Beauty of the Earth** (Rutter) Listen here
  15. A Clare Benediction (Rutter) Listen here
** Oh man, here come the happy tears.

Dancin' 💃🕺

... to the tunes of the decade that taste might have forgotten but the good people of the Parish certainly hadn't!


Looking over my photos, I really don't have very many (we were too busy dancing or decorating, or tidying!) but here's a small handful, with hooge thanks to Natalie who came along to support us too!


Hmm, what does this remind you of?!

{I'm Monica, obvs. Via here}

{Natalie tests out the dance floor for suitability...}
{Yep, it's good to go!}


{Julie and me, performing our immaculately choreographed routine!}

{Prince Charming, Prince Charming...!}



{Cue the inevitable slow dance!}

I'll admit, the 80s are my favourite of the decades to parody through the medium of partay. The problem, then, with organising an 80s night is that you're so involved in organising it, and making sure other people are enjoying it, that sometimes it's not possible to fully enjoy it yourself.

But I like to think we made the most of it!

Can we please take a moment for the brilliant decorations that Julie both sourced and made?! The Rubik's-cube bunting, the cassette tape bunting and spirals, the pompoms, the splatter-painted lanterns (which Natalie now has to put up in her kids' rooms they were that fabulous)?

Me, I contributed a big lot of poster paper, plus the designs of the poster and the tickets, some retro neon bunting, and even a quiz, but as there was so much dancing to be done, the quiz didn't get done. I'll be looking at a way to make it public very soon!

I'd also like to give a shout-out to everyone else who helped, by simply rocking up in their most fabulous outfits and wigs), or sorted the food, or sold tickets on the door, or helped us put out the food, tidy up afterwards and provide all the music (Sound Division, as ever, we salute you).

Link Love 🔗

Just a handful of sillies for you this month!
  • Musicless Music Video {by Mario Wienerroither} | Journey // Separate Ways | via here



When man becomes gull.
  • The wondrous Malinda Kathleen Reese | Translate Fails ... Sings Panic! At the Disco (I only know 'I Write Sins...' but these are always quality) | via here

  • James Corden and Alicia Keys parody 'Shallow' in this rather wonderful duet that just goes to remind us how brilliant AK is | via here | with thanks to Glenda for flagging this one up for me!

  • ... and finally, for no other reason than Kevin! and novelty value: Jimmy Fallon and the Backstreet Boys perform a plucky cover (ahem) of 'Everybody (Backstreet's Back)' | via here



See you next month; over and out!

qb xx