Monday, October 30, 2006

The History Boys

Set in a Grammar School in Sheffield in the early 1980’s, The History Boys follows a group of boys preparing for their Oxbridge entrance examinations. The film, adapted by Alan Bennett from his own play for the National Theatre, directed by the National Theatre's director, Nicholas Hynter, and featuring the original cast of actors, begins with A level results and ends with the outcome of the admissions exams, the action centred in the school during the admissions term.

The boys are taught by their History tutor, Mrs Lintott (Frances de la Tour), their English tutor Hector (Richard Griffiths) and Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore), the new inspiration which the headmaster (Clive Merrison) has employed to achieve results. Despite none of the staff having attended Oxbridge (Durham, Sheffield, Bristol and Hull respectively) each member of the staff provides education and inspiration to the boys in equal parts. The action centres mainly in and around the school grounds; the narrative is intelligent, witty and amusing but with an edge of realism. “The journey of the History Boys becomes as much about how education works as it is about where education leads”.

Bennett emphasises the different teaching styles of Hector and Irwin, something that does not go unnoticed by the boys – “we don't know who we are, sir. Yours or Mr Irwin's”; Hector, allocated the task of teaching the boys ‘general studies’ although he says that “nothing about education is general” and “If heaven forefend, I was ever entrusted with the timetable, I would call these lessons A Waste of Time” teaches “sheer calculated silliness” - quotations, music, language and encourages the re-enactments of various old films – the ‘gobbets’ which will eventually make their essays stand out from the accurate but dull fact stating.

Irwin, a fan of facts but also the unexpected,”whose deconstructive approach to knowledge suggests a scholarly version of political spin”, teaches the boys to look at issues from the alternative angle. And then there is Mrs Lintott, the fan of facts, which must not just be learnt, but learnt inside out, who asks, “Can you, for a moment, imagine how dispiriting it is to teach five centuries of masculine ineptitude? History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.”

And so, as the film progresses through the term, the boys realize that they are learning more than they will need for the examinations. They are learning about life; how to present things as something that they are not, how to love and how that there may be occasions when actions, although unwarranted, are harmless. The acting is excellent, the narrative beautifully constructed. Some of the lines made me roar with laughter, others were almost moving. I have not had the opportunity to watch the stage version; I am led to believe that having watched this, I need not. One reviewer wrote “Admittedly, it's a rare pleasure to see any film where intelligence matters, let alone one that's actually an extended advert for the pleasures of thinking. Still, this isn't a film, but at best, a superior example of set-text cinema.” But I would have to disagree; The History Boys is not just ‘set-text cinema’; it is intelligent, funny and a pleasure to watch.

The History Boys (15) - On general release

Saturday, October 28, 2006

It's the weekend

It's been a long week. Was very pleased to have a lie-in this morning. Went out with work colleagues last night for L's leaving do. He started at the same time that I did, so it will be strange not to see him in the office on Monday. No doubt he will be having much more fun though - he is a musician and is leaving to concentrate on his band. He and another colleague of mine are collaborating and have their first gig next Thursday in Camden. Anyway, we went to a pub near our work and it was a real old re-union of staff past and present. You know you must have been popular when the managers attend the leaving party! M managed to join us after he finished work and we left when the pub closed. Texted Alexandra to see if her essay deadline had arrived without trauma. She reponded in the affirmative, adding that she was just about to go out for the evening. As M and I were heading home for bed, it once again made me feel old...

M had to work this weekend, so I got up at 8.30am to run him a bath and make him some coffee. Headed back to bed as soon as he left and slept for a few more hours. Ate lunch whilst reading some more of Debrett's Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners (much to M's amusement - "Rachel, are you reading that like a novel?" ) and am about to start cleaning the flat and doing some research.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Songs of Praise (filming)

Have just returned from the camera recording of Songs of Praise. It is an exhausting business, recording things. Each take has to be done as if it is the only one, but there are hundreds of takes - different lighting combinations, different camera angles, re-taking when a wierd shadow is present or one of the crew can be seen. And so on. Anyway, I will post more about it when I am not needing to fall into bed quite so much, but it is being screened on 19 November if anyone is interested.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Songs of Praise

Have spent tonight recording the audio track for the BBC Songs of Praise in which I am singing with the London Lawyers' Chorus. Another interesting experience - the church of St Bartholomew the Great is one of the oldest churches in London (it was built in 112o something) and absolutely beautiful. Apart from an enormous number of quite discreet microphones it was rather like being at a normal rehearsal - apart from the silence before and after each take and the fact that the conductor and the organist were both wearing DJ style headphones. All directions were coming out of a speaker - the voice of the sound producer, sat in his sound van and doing the recording from outside the church. We managed one of the hymns in one take and the others in two or three, so we were able to leave early. It was exhausting work though, but somehow very fulfilling. Must remember to tell my Grandparents about it so they can watch it.

The camera recording is on Thursday, so still have to try and work out a camera friendly outfit. Was planning to do some washing tonight but think I will go to bed instead. Burnt my omlette whilst chatting to my mother on the telephone so I think I will curl up in bed with a slice of apple cake and a cup of tea and wait for M to return from work.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Things to do before I die

Have enjoyed another domesticated evening. Met my good friend, H, after work. She is a teacher near Cambridge; luckily for her, it's half term. Unluckily for the rest of us who have to put up with children everywhere for a week. We had coffee in Starbucks near my work and then got the tube back to my house, where I cooked Cottage Pie with green beans and peas. As H needed to get a train back home, she left about 9pm. I spent the duration of Wife Swap producing apple sauce from the apples which M and I brought back from our respective parents' houses last week. Tonight, Shropshire apples; tomorrow, Berkshire apples.

Only tomorrow I will be at the audio recording for the Songs of Praise in which I am singing. So perhaps Wednesday. Anyway. I digress. The point of this post was to make a list (as suggested by Rachel) of some things I wish to achieve in life. So this is the start of my list:

1. Get a Training Contract and qualify as a solicitor;
2. Make enough money to pay off my Law School loans;
3. Buy a house;
4. Marry M;
5. Have a family with M;
6.Travel around the world;
7. Sail across the atlantic;
8. Publish a book;
9. Earn some money as a model;
10. Write a newspaper column;
11. Surf in a bikini;
12. Visit New York;
13. Work a ski-season.

That's enough for now. I need to go and take my cake out of the oven and have a cup of tea before going to bed. I think I'm getting old!

The History Boys (Part 2)

And I think that gets better every week. It is glossy and fast paced, but filled with interesting and useful advice on a variety of subjects in a way which other weekly on-line magazines are not. Both Glamour and seem to try to fit in this category, but neither satisfies so well, to me at least, the lunchtime fix for well written interesting articles and suggestions focusing on local places and people. Sadly both Glamour and seem to have gone down the 'celebs and gossip' route, which I find has less and less interest or relevance to my life. And while I might still have a quick, cursory, glance at the gossip headlines (old habits die hard) it is certainly not something I spend my whole lunchtime reading.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Spent Saturday morning baking cakes and making soup with M in preparation for S's visit. She arrived about 11.30 am and after a relaxing lunch we headed to the Tate Modern. After spending some time admiring the slides in the Turbine Hall we headed up to the bar on the 7th floor. I know I've said this before, but it really is one of my favourite views of London (the other being the view from Primrose Hill). Once we tired of tea and the sun had left St Paul's, we wandered back along the river as far as the London Eye. Back on the tube to Paddington, where I saw S onto a train to Berkshire and then headed to B's house in Maida Vale.

Spent the evening putting a further dent into the tequila which C won at T's fashion show before heading to sleep in B's recently vacated second bedroom at 5am. This is the room which M used to occupy when he and B shared a house and it was rather strange sleeping there again. Had a gloriously slobby Sunday watching DVDs and eating pizza. Wasn't able to attend church or play my flute because period pains so bad - didn't leave B's until 9.30pm - home to our flat, to bath and to bed - where I am writing this and waiting for M to finish his bath. And now to sleep.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Can't believe that it's Friday night already. It's been a long and busy week. Attended the Songs of Praise rehearsal, which was led by the choir master and organist of St Paul's Cathedral, Malcolm Archer. He was brilliant and the rehearsal went well. I believe that he used to teach at Wells, which is where my cousin was at school, so will have to check with her. It went so well that we finished early and so was home before 10pm.

Thursday night and the Topshop/Vogue Autumn/Winter Fashion show. It was a ticketed event on the lower ground floor of the Oxford Circus branch (although if you weren't worried about the goody bag, 20% discount or free Perrier Jouet then you could have stood behind the barriers and watched anyway). It was an interesting experience - for a promotional event it was acyually well organised, worth making the effort for and worth the goody bag. They also (almost) made you feel important. Anyway, it was nice to see a fashion show featuring the current season - that you could see what worked, current trends and how to interpret them - and then be able to go into to the shop, inspired and find the pieces on the shelves that were on the catwalk. Key pieces were black opaque tights, high waisted shorts and trousers, ankle boots, platform shoes in vibrant colours, blue, mustard, black, red,white, tartan and layering. Accessories were featured in the form of patent shoes, slouchy leather bags, vintage looking head scarves, beanie hats (in beret and cloche styles), long woollen scarves, skinny patent belts worn around the waist and arm/wrist warmers. Managed to pick up a couple of cheap pieces which I can wear both to work and at home and then left to make it to choir practice.

And finally, Friday arrived. It felt a long time coming this week. Have spent the evening at home with M, watching television and eating sausages and mashed potato with peas followed by chocolate rice pudding, courtesy of Nigella via Sainsbury's magazine. Even though I made it myself, it was delicious and I highly recommend it. And now, writing this, I feel that my eyes are closing and that the sound of the television is becoming increasingly loud and annoying. My bed is calling and I really need to sleep. Night night.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Songs of Praise

Only time for a quick post as am off to the singers rehearsal for Songs of Praise. Am intrigued as to what goes on in the making of a BBC production, so have agreed to sing in the choir. Next week I have to attend a sound recording and a camera recording; this is only the rehearsal.

My profile has also been uploaded to the website - there ends my remaining sliver of anonymity and the whole world (or those that read Marmaladya or this blog at any rate) will know who I am and where I live. It's a pretty amusing profile as well - I was interviewed early on Saturday morning in a cafe in Primrose Hill at the end of the summer, which is why I talk about flip-flops and some of the information is out of date. But still, nice to be in print!

History Matters

Am having some trouble uploading my diary to their website. Has anyone any idea what I might be doing wrong? I've checked word and character count and both are under the stated maximum. Help!

Update: Who knows why, but this afternoon after work it suddenly starting working again and I was able to upload my diary after all.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

History Matters - 17 October 2006

This post will be slightly more formulaic than usual - it is my offering for the history matters website and therefore is an account of what I did today...

The alarm rang at 7.30am and as usual, I pressed snooze and fell back to sleep for another hour or so before dragging myself out of bed to run a bath. The bath takes at least five minutes to reach a level high enough to wash in, so sneaked back into bed for a cuddle from M. He didn't have to work but I did. Bathed and washed hair, put towels into tumble drier, made tea, dressed and blew dry hair. Made M a cup of coffee and applied make up. Left the flat at about 9.30am and walked (and then ran) to the bus stop. Unusually, the bus was empty so was able to sit down and recover from the run in high heels. Arrived at work, switched on computer and purchased latte with caramel from the staff canteen. The morning passed very quickly as was extremely busy organising the hearing which is taking place in the Manchester office, for which I am responsible. Liaised with Legal Team and Investigation Officers and prepared documentation. Met M for lunch at the pub just round the corner from the office at 1pm, but in an effort to save money he brought with him ham and tomato sandwiches which we ate outside on the benches and drank beer (M) and tea (me). He also brought some of the cake I made last night, which I took back to the office to have with a cup of tea mid afternoon. Spent the afternoon catching up with e mails and post as well as answering queries and saving transcripts of recent hearings to the case management system. Left the office at 6.10pm and rushed to the tube station, picking up a free copy of thelondonpaper, which I read whilst waiting for the tube. Circle line was running with delays but eventually managed to reach destination of Notting Hill Gate to meet E. We had arranged to go to the cinema; unfortunately so had lots of other (more organised) people and the showing was already full. (It transpired that on Tuesdays, all showings are half price, so booking was essential). Rather than go straight home, we decided to drown our sorrows with a couple of cocktails and some chips in Trailer Happiness on Portobello Road, a bar which looks like it should be in California/Hawaii/Cuba but actually smells slightly of caravanning holidays and surfing trips. It sounds a little unpleasant but really isn’t – the cocktails are amazing and the bar staff are wonderful. Most of them are antipodeans, laidback, and if they don’t have the drink you want on the menu, they’ll usually make it for you anyway. Left the bar at about 9.15pm before walking back to the tube station, where I topped up my Oyster Card at the Quick Ticket machine. Tube home, minor delays, arrived at Chalk Farm at about 10.10pm. Walked back to the flat and found that M had been food shopping. Made another cup of tea, checked e mails and updated my blog whilst waiting for M to return from football. And so to bed about midnight, and the end of another day.

Set out in this fashion it seems a little dull, but that appears to be the point. I wonder what people will (a) be doing in 100 years time and (b) make of this exercise and all the (very boring) entries...

History Matters

The History Matters blog compilation starts today. Don't forget to note down what you do today so that you can write up to 600 words and post it on the History Matters website.

And to all those people who have told me that their lives would make incredibly boring blogs - you only have to write one entry and the idea is to compile an overview of what the nation was doing on 17 October 2006. And if that was getting up, feeding the cat, getting a latte, driving to work, doing some work, having a ham sandwich, doing some more work, drinking a cup of tea, sending a few letters, driving home, cooking spaghetti bolognese and eating it in front of Supernanny (or whatever), having another cup of tea and then a bath and bed, then so be it. This compilation is about the mundane, the ordinary, the everyday. It won't seem so boring to historians in 100 years time.

Update: BBC Article

Monday, October 16, 2006

Rachel and the two A's

I managed it... This is me with Annie and Alexandra in Berkshire yesterday afternoon.

Might post a few more when I'm not at work!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sunday Afternoon

Have spent the weekend in the country recovering from the latter part of Friday 13th. Bought some pasta and sauce in the work canteen and it ended up being poured all over my wrists and down my legs (it looked like I'd vomited), so spent some time being bandaged by the first aider. To recover from the trauma I went out for a few drinks after work with T and C. Finally made it home at 12.30am on the last tube and spent my first night alone at our flat.

Early Saturday morning I headed to Berkshire to the family home, where I was supposed to spend the weekend with my parents and sisters. As one had vanished to Reading, I headed to A & A's flat to see how A was coping after her operation. J also popped over so we spent a lovely few hours catching up and gossiping. Then back to J's for a glass of wine before home to supper and Time Team in front of a log fire. Just before bed, Dad remembered the present he had brought me from China; I am now the proud owner of a gorgeous scarf, fan and little evening bag.

Church this morning with Mum. Helped man the leprosy mission stall and bought a few Christmas presents. Family lunch and then spent the afternoon helping Dad plant tubs and tubs of bulbs, pick apples and tidy up. He then took several thousand photos, as this is the first time in almost 12 months that all his girls have been together in one place. If I can work out how to get them off his camera, I might try and upload one.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Centenary Post

Have just met one of my oldest friends, E, for coffee. Oldest in that we have known each other for twenty years, rather than her being 65 or similar. Anyway, she mentioned a project which is running on 17 October 2006 called History Matters (Pass it on). The idea is that as many people as possible will submit a blog entry, which will be stored on a central server in the British Library. The general public will then be able to search and read through the entries, and there will be a record of what the general public were doing in October 2006. It will form a historical record different to any other; the subject will not necessarily be earth shattering, royalty or celebrity based (although I think that if those things didn't form part of the record it would not be a true reflection of our culture in 2006) but will feature the mundane, the everyday and the monotony of life in the UK in 2006. This way, in hundreds of years time, people or historians will be able to see what a true cross section of the nation were doing in 2006 - something which we struggle to find out about our predecessors. Get involved yourself here.

And the idea that we are not permanent, that we are just a line in the history of the world reminded me of the lines with which The History Boys ends: "Pass the parcel. That's sometimes all you can do. Take it, feel it and pass it on. Not for me, not for you, but for someone, somewhere, one day. Pass it on, boys. That's the game I wanted you to learn. Pass it on." (Hector)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

18 DoughtyStreet

And I've immediately discovered one of the benefits of broadband - I can watch and listen to 18 DoughtyStreet television whilst doing other things on my (well, M's) computer. It doesn't cost a penny to watch, because this is free broadband. It feels almost like being part of television history, watching such a new and innovative show the week that it goes live. And it should have been the night it went live, but I couldn't the silly thing to work. It can join my list - I'm exactly the same age as Channel 4.

It's playing through the Windows Media Player and the pictures not half bad. Occasionally some of the guests appear to be speaking faster than their mouths are moving, but that well may be them rather than this computer. This is the link if you can't be bothered to scroll down to the last time I mentioned and linked to 18 DoughtyStreet.

And, as they're currently discussing the Times and articles written about tax, I am immediately on familiar territory, as I have read the paper and have it in front of me, so am able to refer to the articles in question immediately. Most blogs and conversation that centre around politics usually only discuss the Guardian and Independent. Good papers, but not like my favourite.

I think it's love

Broadband. We're finally connected; on the same page, in the same place. Committed to each other. In a wonderful relationship. I think it's love (especially as I can simply dial 150 and a lovely lady called Angie resolves all problems for the price of a telephone call).

It also means that I can blog from home. No more rushed lunchtimes, trying to compose well-thought out and reasoned arguments (ha!) or musings about the happiness of shoes. I can post in peace from home, just like all the other bloggers, although I don't expect I'll be getting up early to write before work like some people...

And just think of the possibilities: job applications, on-line shopping, e mail reading and writing, Glamour magazine flicking and travel-idea dreaming, all from my bed not my desk!

The History Boys (Part 1)

Attended a preview of The History Boys last night. Am in the process of writing a review of the film as well as my thoughts about it. Have spent some time researching and reading discussion forums, but have not had the time during my lunch break to fully formulate these ideas in writing, so will have to finish this later and post it this evening.

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

PDO and PGIs

It's been a busy week. Spent last night having supper with people from my church. Met several new people including a teacher who has spent the last year working at the International School in Paris but who now teaches at a private school in Sloane Square. As teaching is a career which M is considering, and several of my other friends are also teachers, it was interesting to hear of two widely different experiences.

Finished the evening off with a glass of wine near M's shop with two of his colleagues. One reminded me of a friend from university: not just his slightly unusual appearance but also his extreme enthusiasm for every subject and his ability to argue, passionately, about any subject (including ones of which he has absolutely no idea). It was odd; on the one hand I felt that I already knew him, so similar their characteristics were, but on the other, I felt he was an imposter whom I needed to keep at arm's length. We fell into lively debate: all three work in the wine trade and we discussed the pros and cons of legislation preventing fortified wine produced outside Portugal being called Port and so on. Further debate raged as to the method of legal protection given to such products; both patenting and trademarks were considered as options, but in actual fact, the protection is offered by EU law (Council Regulation (EEC) No 2081/92 of 14 July 1992 on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs) where a list is compiled and held by the European Commission . Fascinating stuff.


A few days ago, I read that the Pope is currently considering a proposal to abolish the state of “limbus infantium”. His conclusion is due to be published on Friday. A quick poll of my friends (including one who is an RE teacher) elicited nothing more than blank looks, so I was pleased to find discussion of the issue in the blogosphere, although it is not as widespread as I thought it might have been. Perhaps it has been overshadowed by events in North Korea and other religious discussions concerning veils. Or perhaps the concept is not one which people spend time worrying about.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Wife Swap

Spent a relaxing evening at home with M, much of which was spent trying (and failing) to set up my new broadband. Anyway, I happened to watch an episode of Channel 4's series 'Wife Swap'. The programme followed the usual format; two families with opposing ideals trying to impose their way on each other’s lives. I won't go into much background detail, as quite frankly it's too dull, but one particular part of the programme rather took me aback.

Family A's wife was Debbie Doody, a 'full time mum' with 2 boys and a husband married to his computer. Being a ‘full time mum’ transpired that Debbie stayed at home, cooked meals and acted like a skivvy (as no-one else did anything in the house) whilst her idea of spending time with her children was little more than being under the same roof whilst they occupied themselves. She went to live with Family B, where Angie Townsend, billed as a 'part-time mum' (which I found rather unfair, as whatever else one does for employment, it is a full time role) and 'full-time owner of a hair salon' managed a full time job and the household of three girls and a husband. Angie orchestrated household tasks, on which the whole family worked together. Her children may have moaned a little that she was rather busy, but they were also unstinting in their praise and admiration for her as a mother, wife and role model.

After living by the house rules for the first week, the 'wives' are able to impose their own rules for the second. Debbie, who had never had a full-time job in her life and manages on "whatever is left of his wages when all the bills are paid" announced on rule-change day that what the Townsend girls needed was a "proper mum". A what? And then went out and purchased several PSPs, a karaoke machine and a deep-fat fryer. She also banned all housework, cooking, cleaning and general household helpfulness, announcing that she would do all the cooking and cleaning from then on whilst the girls enjoyed themselves. She even went so far as to ban them from the kitchen and threw a tantrum when she realised that one of the girls had made their own bed.

Astounding. Debbie, whose husband couldn’t even afford to repair his car, appeared to think that this was a how ‘proper’ mother behaved; yet she was unable to hold a rational conversation or debate, favouring tantrums, abuse, crying and storming out of the room. Her sons had inherited this trait and during Angie’s first week refused not only conversation but to even leave their beds on several occasions. And for her to even suggest that banning household participation and providing food fried in a deep fat fryer to be consumed watching DVDs was what ‘proper mums’ should do, is quite frankly insulting. And I’m not even a mother.

I’m not suggesting that she didn’t love her sons, or that she didn’t believe that she had their best interests at heart, but extolling the virtues of a ‘proper’ mum in such a fashion suggested to me that she was not acting in a way any mother should. She paraded herself as the model mother, yet rather than listen to Angie’s praise for her children (who after a fashion had been open to activities other than electrical and had albeit grudgingly, actually learnt from the tutor Angie provided) Debbie screeched and wailed, shouting that she hoped her kids had given Angie some “real sh*t” and threatening to take Angie ‘outside’. And her reaction to learning that her seven year old son was unable to carry on a conversation? “He doesn’t know you from Adam…”. He might not, but that doesn’t prevent him from being taught to be polite and respectful. Debbie, on return to her home rubbished all Angie’s rules and suggestions, ripping down the sheets amid shouting and cursing. It is perfectly understandable to disagree with another person’s suggestions to one’s family – but what did it show her children? That tantrum throwing is an acceptable outcome, that there is no point being polite, pursuing learning, taking advice or being open to different opinions? It made me rather sad. Angie on the other hand, returned to her family willing to try and re-arrange her working hours and spend more time with her children on an individual basis. Two very different reactions to the experience and it left me feeling that there is an awful lot more to being a ‘proper mum’ than most people think.

Footnote – I realise that if you watched this programme, you might well be thinking ‘but what about the roles of the husbands’ or indeed, ‘what about the children’? I think that Debbie’s husband had been backed into a corner where he felt that his role as breadwinner but nothing further was, and was therefore expected, to remain. Once it had been suggested to him that perhaps he should take a more leading role within the house, he was willing to give it a go and he ended up changing more about the Doody household than his wife. An interesting development as far as the programme was concerned, but not the point that I was really trying to make about women and their (perceived) roles as mothers. Angie’s husband too was an interesting character; one felt that their family might be less successful if he had a viewpoint or was less willing to be dominated entirely, but that again is a separate issue. The programme also made a point of portraying Angie’s eldest daughter Kelly as rather rebellious, and yes, she did not go out of her way in the second week to make Debbie’s life any easier. But she made some interesting points: Debbie was unable to debate rationally with her, resorting to tantrum throwing and backing down in an angry and blameful fashion. And if you’d been told that you didn’t have a proper mother, banned from helping look after the house and family and been made to eat food from a deep fat fryer, wouldn’t you perhaps come over as a bit unfriendly as well?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Weekend Report

Spent 11 and a half hours at work on Saturday. A hateful hangover after an evenings drinking with no supper but managed to get to the office for 8.15am. Thankfully, B & C were driving past at 7pm and called to see if I was ready to leave (which I was) so I had a lift home. After a quick change, it was off to Maida Vale for supper with B & C and B & L. A lovely evening with wine, pizza and interesting discussions. Which ended when M woke me up at 4am (I was sleeping in B's bed) to take me home. Our new budget meant bus rather than taxi, so I finally fell into my own bed at 5am. Having bought the Sunday papers on the way.

Anyway, I digress. My point was that M brought to our collective attention a post he had read on Harry's Place concerning the arrest of two white men in Lancashire on suspicion of terrorist activities, namely storing chemicals and other bomb making equipment. One of the two men arrested was "an ex-member of the BNP" who was supposed to have stood for election last May. The interesting thing perhaps was that this story hadn't, at the time that M found the post, been picked up by the mainstream media. Intriguing. Anyway, I was going to have a look at this when I had my usual look at Rachel's blog. And she had already picked up the story and written an interesting article on the subject. How is wish that I was in the position she has managed: to be able to make a career from writing...

Carole Caplin

I hadn't expected to see Carole Caplin in the news so soon after meeting her at last month's WI. The Sunday Times ran an article yesterday speculating that Caplin is to become one of Blair's staff when he quits as Prime Minister. The article indicates that while Blair and Caplin are still in close contact (participating in long phone conversations with Blair accepting fashion and health advice), Caplin and Cherie are no longer on speaking terms. It also suggests that Caplin is no longer in contact with Cherie after she banned Caplin from Downing Street and formally dispensing with her role as a personal trainer last year.

Although I found meeting Caplin interesting and intriguing, the subject was not my interest in the article. My interest was the way that it was reported. Granted, I do not know the Blair's perspective; I have only heard Caplin's, but it differs widely to the reported version, even in this article. And it made me think. That I should be rather more aware when reading the media; instead of simply taking things at face value, I should be giving a lot more thought to the subtext and the angle and reasons the article (or publication) is written from.


I first heard about this in September when Rachel posted that she had been asked to be an e-reporter. Set up by Stefan Shakespeare and political bloggers including Iain Dale, 18 Doughty Street is set to be the first political Internet TV channel. It will be supported by a collection of blogs centered at the 18 Doughty Street website.

I am clearly very ill informed. I tried (and failed) to write what I know of this project, its aims and my own response. I have read several articles on the subject, in the Sunday Times last week and again on 8 October 2006 as well as on the BBC's website, but am still finding it hard to articulate anything remotely interesting or intellectual on the subject. Perhaps I shall give it another try one evening when I can spend longer than my lunch break researching and writing. Roll on the day when our broadband is installed...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Sainsbury's Magazine & the WI

At last. Publication in a national magazine... Well, standing and posing for Sainsbury's at least.

My local Sainsbury's oddly doesn't seem to sell the magazine (the staff were rather bemused when I asked if they had a copy) but thankfully, Lucy posted a preview on the WI website for us all to admire.

Turn off your office computer

I was appalled to realise that I am (was) one of the 1.7 million people in the UK who fail to turn off their computer before leaving work each night. Again, an article from the Independent brought to my attention by M.

I consider myself to be a reasonably ethical minded and conscientious person. We turn off lights (with energy saving bulbs), we don't keep the TV on standby, even though this means a chilly dash to the other side of the room before putting out the bedside lamp after watching a late night film. Our fridge is A grade efficient, we recycle, buy local and avoid excess packaging. But if my computer at work has been on continuously for the best part of a year, have my other efforts simply been in vain?

Friday, October 06, 2006


mongchacha has pointed me in the direction of this article. I haven't had time to read it properly as am snowed-under with work and am not really having a lunch-break. It looks an interesting concept though and as soon as I get some time, I will post further thoughts on Froogling and it's potential relation to my shopping habit. (For further thoughts by Mongchacha see here)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Champagne and Rose Petals

It was a night of free champagne. Started the evening with a Grazia/Reiss evening in the Kensington Church Street branch. Met L and left an hour later having drunk champagne and holding a goodie bag containing Aveda products and some Reiss earrings.

Was very nice to see L; she has been somewhat occupied with her marking of late. I don't envy her the holidays any longer - she left to get into bed with 32 essays describing (to varying degrees of success) ways in which Christians describe God. I left to meet M and his father for supper.

After waiting at least half an hour for a bus (something was very wrong with London traffic) I arrived at the Hilton in Green Park to attend a collaboration between the Hilton Hotel chain and the Malaysian tourist board: a Malaysian themed buffet. Beautifully presented with rose petals on every table and including my second free champagne of the evening, the food was interesting and unusual. I particularly enjoyed the spicy chicken soup, which was more along the lines of a broth, to which one added whatever one wanted. I added finely chopped spring onion, cubes of chicken, peanuts and dried meat. The main course included fish, beef, mutton and seafood - the buffet style presentation allowed one to try everything. I wasn't so keen on the pudding however; everything was flavoured with coconut. I tried cold green pancakes containing what tasted like maple syrup and rice and a cold steamed coconut dumpling. I had an enjoyable evening, but left feeling pleased that I enjoy British food so much.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cleaning up my act

As I am on a new very strict budget, I decided it was time other areas of my life were tidied up a little too. No money = no drinking in expensive bars, so my alcohol intake is vastly reduced. I have also pretty much given up smoking. In the last 5 weeks, I have smoked a few cigarettes on a handful occasions. In the past week: none.

I have also decided to try and reduce my caffeine addiction. On an average day, I drink perhaps 10 cups of tea or coffee. And some water, but largely tea and coffee. Given that I am also having trouble waking up in the morning, I have decided to conduct a little experiment. No more than three cups of tea (or coffee) per day; instead, fruit tea and more water. I am also trying to eat less processed food (such as crisps), although I don't eat an enormous amount anymore as it is. It's all about the baking and making of food in our house now. Homemade pizza for lunch, 'fake fruit cake' for elevenses, teatime and snacking. I am also trying to force myself to get out of bed in the morning at a sensible hour, regardless of how much a lie-in I desire. I'm giving it a week or so to see if I feel any better and then I'll re-assess.

And money. Have been offered some overtime at work and have managed to sell one of the books I listed on Amazon, so it is trickling in, albeit rather slowly. Which is pleasing, but what I really need is a sideline project. I wonder if there is anywhere I can sell articles? How does one go about these things?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Carole Caplin and the WI

October meeting of the Fulham WI and a room full of women are greeting each other and catching up on a months worth of gossip. It is always a rewarding and interesting experience, the monthly WI meeting; the speakers are informative and it is always great to meet new people, especially such interesting and diverse women that comprise Fulham WI. But I digress. Last night, one of the two speakers was Carole Caplin.

Immaculately groomed and well made up, with long dark hair worn loose over a brown fitted jersey cardigan and a pair of brown jogging bottoms (which were more flattering than they sound) with pockets that she spent much time pushing her hands in and out of, she paced and gestured to the room. On her feet, a pair of those MBT trainers which help posture and burn calories when you walk. She looked as you might expect; a well-groomed, good looking, fitness and lifestyle advisor. A little too perfect perhaps: she appeared to have had a nose job and perhaps botox and must have been wearing an excellent bra...

And so she began, explaining the ethos of her company, Lifesmart, describing the background to her extensive career and why she was so passionate about what she does. She starts work at 7am and clearly works very hard. She mentioned her mother's experiences in setting up some of the first public dance studios when she was a teen and how this had fueled her interest in fitness and health. Very open, very friendly. But also very evasive. She deflected questions seamlessly and answered others not asked. But she was strangely compelling, charismatic and charming. She stressed the importance of a holistic attitude towards health: there is no one answer or cure, that all aspects and angles need consideration. The orthodox way should not be discounted out of hand; it is a useful diagnostic tool. But so too is questioning oneself honestly and openly and starting with the basics. Enough water, enough sleep, the right diet for you, correct breathing and the right exercises. This is the Lifesmart promise.

And it does sound compelling. The idea of someone guiding all aspects of your life and looking so good whilst doing so is certainly appealing. But something didn't sit quite right with me last night. I felt almost that I needed to remain cynical so as not to be taken in; that if I admitted that she was making some valid points I would be seduced by her claims and would end up parting with vast sums of cash to be told some things I probably could work our for myself.

And finally, she was asked about the 'Downing Street Debacle' (her words). She explained some of the background and told a few 'antidotes' (again, her words. I think she meant anecdotes). Obviously this being her life, she knew more about it than I did. But she told her point of view in such a fashion it seemed she expected we would have known every aspect of it already. People were mentioned by first name only, dates were vague and issues glossed over. She mentioned, several times, that a £1 million book deal had been turned down many time, as too appearances on celebrity reality television. And then moved on, as swiftly as she turned to the subject, outlining her plans to take her 'blueprint' of Lifesmart to other walks of life. Starting with school children. To which it was suggested she should combine forces with Jamie Oliver(!).

I left not really knowing any more than I did to start with. Is she what she seems, a charismatic, compelling, well presented woman with a genuine desire to improve people's lives, who found herself in a situation which became too big for her - or is she a social climber with a desire for fame, making the most of her friendships and the situation (after all, she now writes a column for the newspaper which exposed her)? So I did some research on the Internet. Is she a lifestyle guru on whom successful and independent women find themselves reliant, or, is she just someone you can't help but find yourself liking?

Or, as my friend C puts it: "(meeting Carole and seeing her charisma) makes it much less easy to dismiss her out of hand... I don't think Cherie Blair is an idiot by any means and she seems to have been drawn to her quite strongly...".

Monday, October 02, 2006

Lunchtime Musings (Part 2)

I was pleased to read this morning that Rachel has decided to leave behind her career in advertising and become a writer. She has been alluding to this for a week or so, but yesterday confirmed that she has taken voluntary redundancy and is becoming a full time writer. Although at times she may not have believed it, I do firmly believe that someone is looking after her. Her life may not have always followed the path that she thought it might take, but the opportunity to pursue her dreams to become a writer (and to have a payment package to make this possible) may not have appeared without the pain and anguish that went before.

I have found Rachel's writing an inspiration; it was reading her blog which made me actually start mine, rather than just talking about it as an abstract idea. The way that she handled all the situations which life threw at her helped me realise that my issues were very small in comparison. I may not always agree with her, and sometimes I find that her writing is too politically charged for my liking, but I always read what she writes. And I feel I know her, just a little bit. And this is a privilege.

I have always wanted to be a writer, but my path has headed too deep into the field of law to return, at the moment. I have invested too much, mentally, physically and financially to turn back at this stage, but I have been reminded that writing can be a sideline project. So I have started writing this blog to get back into the practice of writing and I have really enjoyed it. I have written an article, which has been published in an online magazine. I won't say further until it is definitely uploaded, but it is a start. And hopefully other opportunities will follow. And Rachel has helped me believe that my life path will sort itself out, it just might not be the way that I expected it to.

Weekend Review

Another Monday morning, and this time it's October. 2006 is gathering speed at an alarming rate. In three months time, it will be 2007 and I will be 25. I will have left behind the 18-24 age box which I have occupied comfortably for the past six years and I will be officially 'grown up'.

And speaking of being 'grown up', for the first weekend in a while I was not hung over at any point, I did not smoke and I did not eat fast or convenience food of any kind. Unless you count a latte from Fresh & Wild which I took into the cinema on Saturday morning. It's quite a pleasant time to visit the cinema actually, especially the one in Camden. I guess 12.15pm is too early for most people - there were about 6 others there. For an advance preview of the Devil Wears Prada. I had expected to queue!!

The film I thought was excellent - in a shallow, glossy entertaining way. It is different to the book; some changes are done well, others seem to have little point. I will write about these a little later – I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for anyone who has yet to watch it…The clothes, shoes and bags are good, but I was slightly disappointed. Given that the costumes were created by Patricia Field, costume director of Sex and the City, I was expecting great things. Mostly, it seemed like product placement. But still, an enjoyable way to spend Saturday morning. (Although M may well disagree).

Returned home for a late lunch, courtesy of ingredients purchased at Melrose & Morgan. A wonderful shop and the food is great, but we have had to rename them Melrose & Mortgage, as we spent £8 on essentially bread, bacon and eggs. Still, cheaper than going out for lunch and it did taste delicious. And provided fortification for an afternoon cleaning, reading and doing washing. B & C arrived early evening and we made cocktails and M cooked a wonderful supper.

Sunday afternoon and it was too wet to go for a walk. So we went to Waitrose in Marylebone High Street instead and collated the ingredients for a roast dinner. Cooked expertly by B at his flat in Maida Vale before M and I caught the bus; to Primrose Hill, to home, to bed.


Have decided it is time to try and make my blog look a little more interesting. And where better to start than a photograph... I imagine it will be trial and error to get it to be my profile image, but we'll see.

UPDATE: I managed it! Not so anonymous now...