Sunday, 6 November 2011

Carpe diem, or something like that anyway.

Today I found myself meandering through unknown territory in Cambridge-land. The combination of appealing autumnal bleakness permeating the air, and the Bon Iver playing in my ears (via headphones I might add- the band's not turned teeny tiny!) propelled me into a pensive mood. It was in this very state that I stumbled across this work of, shall we say, 'penmanship.'

The author's message is surely that of carpe diem, seize the day, live for the moment, and this is an attitude I always tell myself I should adopt. I am happy to say, like many people I am sure, a number of wonderful consequences in my life have sprung from moments of such 'live for the now' intent.

Yet at the same time, I couldn't help but notice how part of this sentence is scribbed out. Ironic. Revised and edited, the message itself has hardly been delivered in the very 'moment' it was conceived has it? Living for the 'now' is perhaps so intangible a concept- are we ever truly in the present, or merely thinking back over/ anticipating it? Sometimes I am aware that part of me enjoys thinking about wonderful things to come, or nostalgically reminiscing on that which has been, more than I sometimes appreciate the very moment. It worries me. At times, however, the attitude of, I quote, 'if not now, when?'  can be a troublesome one (just look at marmite flavoured chocolate...' if not now, NEVER' would have been more apt... but that's for another time...). 'If not now.. perhaps at a later, more feasible, more considered date' is sometimes the best, most realistic or only option (although admittedly not quite as catchy), as placing the needs of now over everything can have long-term damaging effects.  

Seizing the day is a wonderful concept, and I advocate it strongly to bring us out of our comfort zones at times, but of late I have to recognise its romanticisation. Waiting for something, so that it will turn out well eventually, is often necessary, and can be all the better for it.

Amid my joyful wander of bleakness, I also crossed a rail bridge, and it was in THAT moment I was struck by this image. I don't know if I was looking back or looking forward, but either way I rather liked it.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Culture vulture worries.

As I sat watching 'The Culture Show' the other evening, I found myself thinking about my own attitude to 'culture'. The very name 'The Culture Show' itself seems to place the programme on precarious ground- is it just a platform on which to display cultural goings on.. or is it a form of culture in itself? Its almost too overt title seems to exclaim:  'Red alert: Here are all things cultural. Watch this and you will be officially 'cultured'. We promise.'

By watching Andrew Graham-Dixon talking about a new art gallery in Colchester, or, let's face it, GAWPING at the lovely Alistair Sooke discussing with Frank Stella his new Retrospective ( some very, very, dark paintings, and then, conversely, some very, very bright ones), I can securely say I know a little more about them, am aware of their existence, can nod knowingly at their mention, but do I have any right to  think myself in anyway 'cultured'... whatever that may mean... now? After all, I haven't actually experienced anything have I?

In truth, I am merely exploring a personal hang-up.I so often feel myself to be a cultural fraud, very interested by the world of art, cinema, literature, music but in reality having experienced relatively little, particularly in terms of art. I could perhaps account this partly to having not lived anywhere near London- the centre of 90% of things going on in every 'What to do/see this week' newspaper section I ever read. Yet, for this year, at least, I am living within 50 or so minutes of said cultural land, so I have run out of excuses... but perhaps this will be a turning point. Sometimes I think I am just happy to have 'heard' of things, or content being able to make some very mundane comment probably subconsciousy derived from some review or other I've recently absorbed, never really having much cultural gravitas of my own.

In fact, amid the process of writing this blog post, I am rapidly coming to the realisation that worrying about whether I am ever really 'being cultured' echoes everything I hate about the pretentions frequently surrounding it. The word 'culture' alone is a deliberately broad term, surely counteracting any notions of exclusivity often intimated through its high-brow associations. To 'be cultured' should not be a label, but exactly what it proclaims to be. An act of 'being', an experience, whether that occur contentedly and passively from one's own sofa, or at the Tate Modern, with no pressure to gain anything specifically from it, beyond our own enjoyment. And if Mr Sooke just happens to be involved...bonus.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Stick with A.A Milne, and you can't go far wrong.

Winnie the Pooh and his pals invented one of the greatest and most satisfying sporting competitions known to man. Pooh Sticks.

Of late I seem to have frequently, and fortunately, found myself in idyllic countryside settings complete with quaint bridge and sufficiently flowing stream (the sight of stagnant water to a hopeful Pooh Stick-er is beyond tragic measure), with only one activity in mind. Choosing the correct size and weight stick for the ‘match’ ahead is a skill in itself, whilst the throwing in of said stick, too, requires much attention. Throw it even slightly off target and one can find oneself victim to troublesome rocks or, dare I mention, straggly reeds. Of course, placing all of one’s trust in a gnarled, often (and sometimes amusingly) misshapen twig can feel alien and scary, but equally, it can provide a small, natural thrill, only, to my mind, ever found through nature’s simplicity.

I am not afraid to admit that I have suffered some heavy Pooh Stick defeats in my time, but this never deters me from trying again. The excitement of running across a bridge with fellow competitors, each desperate to catch a glimpse of their stick victoriously leading the way, is eternal.

With some research, I am pleased to discover I am not alone in this passion. In March 2011 a 9 year girl old won the World Pooh sticks Championships. It makes me ashamed that at the age of 22 I have achieved so little by comparison. At least I now have something to aim towards I suppose.

My lasting wish is that Eeyore could share in some of this enthusiasm. Lucky enough to live in the homeland of Pooh Sticks, I will never comprehend what he has to be so sad about.

Monday, 1 August 2011

A moment snapped.

Out of the hundreds of photos of university life, there are a particular ones which stick in my mind, this being one of them. Although ones in which everyone rotates their head to the most flattering angle, putting their best smile, or 'I refuse to conform to life's simple joy of smiling so will do my trademark ridiculous expression' (you know who you are) look on, emanate with the suitable level of happiness I will always take away from these times, I sometimes feel they detract from the very moment they are supposed to be conveying. This photo, capturing a particularly memorable and delightful evening, speaks so much more in its authenticity. No staging, only natural expressions, and the crème de la crème, the tesco shopping bag. And let's face it, one of these bad boys is always lurking somewhere near.

This is not to say I do not enjoy all photos in their various forms, and long may the '1,2,3, 'SMILE' days continue, when the moment's right. It's just nice to sometimes view life exactly as I have experienced it, shopping bags an' all.

Friday, 29 July 2011

A child's voice.

‘I say hello
I say goodbye
I say no more
For I am shy.'

I wrote this poem in my little notebook of ramblings many, many years ago. I would say when I was around the age of ten. No great work of art or Homeric epic by any means, but looking back now, I think my ten year old self may have captured something, many of us have, at some point in life, felt.  

I will say no more on the matter. In fact, I have probably already said too much.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Ad-dress-ing the clothing usurpation

Perusing the high street, the number of shops for women compared to those for men is alarming. Although Topshop, with its aptly named sidekick Topman, attempts to tackle the situation, it is fair to say that generally the weighting of the fashion world lies heavily with the female. Of course there is a commercially sound reason for this, yet part of me cannot help but feel sorry for the budding male shoppers in our midst.

Before the 20th century, the divide between male and female fashion was reasonably distinct. Yet as women increasingly took on the (often factory) jobs of fighting men during WWI, for many, trousers became a necessary garment.  Female clothing then increasingly encroached upon traditional male attire. Coco Chanel designed trousers for women stemming from her enjoyment of wearing her boyfriend’s suits. Diane Keaton’s high-waisted trouser, shirt, tie and jacket combo in Annie Hall has had a lasting influence upon many, including myself. Further still, numerous current fashion icons such as Alexa Chung or Agnes Deyn are known and celebrated for their androgynous image.

This seemingly, therefore, promotes equality between the sexes: ‘Hurrah for feminism!’ Yet in reality, a significant inequality exists. It is men who are limited by their choice of clothing; or rather, there is a choice, but for those who embrace it, in an ‘equal’ society, ridicule is so often the main response. David Beckham’s infamous sarong wearing antics of the mid 90s did not, as he perhaps may have hoped, begin a western revolution. Kilts, yes, are acceptable, but only within a very limited context. Day to day wearing down the local pub would most likely raise eyebrows, no matter how tasteful the tartan choice.

Where I take greatest issue is in the fact this inequality is now being cruelly flaunted before male eyes. A murky underworld of women resorting to wearing their boyfriend or husband’s clothes has long, long existed, yet in the last few years, such theft has been openly advertised to the world. With an influx of ‘boyfriend’ ranges of clothes for women, be they in the form of jeans, cardigans or blazers, it seems we quite literally have a clothing usurpation on our hands. As a female, I thoroughly enjoy such a look, but preferred it when we could authentically wear our boyfriends’ attire, yet remain sneaky about it. Now retailers have cottoned (ahem) on to such goings on and the secret is out.

The day we hear of the ‘girlfriend jumper’ will be a nationwide day of jubilation. (Note: The sinister connotations of the already existing ‘wife beater’ prevented any such celebrations.)  About its potential popularity and commercial success, I do wonder, but having the option would surely be nice? At least we can rest assured it would make a certain Monsieur Beckham a tiny bit smug.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

There is a reason nice people are called ‘good sports.’

The weekend I left University for good, I instantly sought some kind of structure to which I could cling. Fortunately, by the Monday, one shining pathway displayed itself effortlessly before me; a guide towards sanity. That pathway was green and white, meticulously well kept, smelt of strawberries, and led to the face of Sue Barker(and her endless array of generally pallid two piece suits.) Boris Becker’s narrow eyed, mouth pursed expression gave me confidence that here were two secure weeks in which, when at my most disorientated, I could guarantee a spot of Wimbledon would be on the box.

This is not a piece solely about the joys of Wimbles, however, or indeed an in-depth analysis of the varying developing relationships between its pundits (although I must mention right now McEnroe and Borg’s annual, nostalgic love-in, arms round each other pre-final on centre court, never fails to amuse). Rather, I aim to acknowledge and advocate the countless benefits of watching sport as a whole.

Perhaps this week is not exactly the best time to write on such a topic as I am feeling particularly delicate following the recent defeat of my most beloved sportsman, Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon final. Yet despite this deep, unbearable despair in which I am currently ensconced, it is this incitement of such extreme feeling which repeatedly draws me back to watching tennis, whether it have a successful, happy ending (preferably also ending in marriage to said player) or even one of failure. It is the emotional rollercoaster provoked through engaging with sport as a whole which I celebrate most strongly. Watching sport, something beyond our control, can provide a necessary outlet for emotion, perhaps transferred from other aspects of life, which has even been proven to act cathartically for a person’s mental health as a whole. For many, its test on one’s emotions and loyalty often renders it a kind of reassuring faith.

Further still, for me sport gives life a sort of... momentum.  Anticipating the next event on the calendar, especially for those interested in a number of different kinds, means there is barely a barren week in life.  It is equally sport’s ability to constantly surprise which further excites.  So often when watching television programmes and films, events in the proceeding scene, the next line to be said or indeed the baddie of the piece can be predicted all too easily. The joy of sport, however, is no matter what the ‘expert’ pundits, admittedly at times somewhat excessively, predict, one can never be certain of the eventual outcome. It is refreshing.

There is such a thrill in finding myself on the edge of my seat, peeking through fingers as the penalty spot is approached, the starter gun goes off, or that tentative birdie putt is taken. For that one moment, every inch of me is entirely focused, willing (or for enemies of my favourites, rather harshly  I confess, not willing) the competitors on.  Especially fun is finding even the apparently quietest of friends and family members suddenly animated in a way you never knew they could be, shouting at the television. This sometimes proves as entertaining as viewing the sporting event itself.  With this is mind, and at the horrifying (but inevitable)risk of sounding overly mawkish, it is equally the togetherness created by a major sporting event that is so important. Those who have never shown the slightest interest in football, once every four years, can sometimes be found  sharing in patriotic chants, ‘sporting’(haw haw) flags and becoming interested in the innumerable ‘stats’ proffered...or at least succeed in pretending to do so in order to humour the rest of us enthusiasts.

With its countless benefits, I can never endorse the pursuit of watching sport enough.  Having said this, I in no way, however, suggest more people should pursue Rafael Nadal. Hands off.

In the Beginning...

When said aloud, the word ‘blog’ sounds to me like the bored exhalation of a weighty toad or similar such amphibian.  Yet ironically, I have decided to begin this one as a means of freeing myself of such weight and to hopefully escape beyond the pressures I felt upon my writing whilst pursuing my degree. With this in mind, perhaps I should change its name to something lighter, such as a ‘blig!!!’(exclamation marks included) or  dare I suggest a ‘blop?’ 
I realise, in hindsight, suggesting such things at all is probably not a good idea. Instead, therefore, I will get on with proffering my very first proper, er, ‘bl-   ’ entry...