Saturday, 9 December 2017

Wedding Traditions I'm NOT Following...

The concept of wedding traditions can be a little odd. We so often associate weddings with big white dresses, but white dresses did not come to be heavily associated with weddings until about 1840. Prior to that, you'd wear whatever colour or garments were accessible. We so often associate
weddings with tradition, but sometimes I feel like a lot of these traditions perpetuate the idea of having to spend additional money on your wedding and that simply doesn't work for me. So below, I'm going to discuss some of the wedding traditions that my partner and I will not be following for our wedding next year.

Hiring a fancy car for the journey to the venue

Firstly, this doesn't work for us on a personal level because we will both be going to the venue with our families to get ready there on the morning of our weddings. It seems the most stress-free option. No getting into traffic! No running late! Less of a chance of something splattering on your white dress on the way to the venue! The other reason I'm not particularly fussed about it is that, typically, none of your guests see you arrive in the car. You might utilise it for some pre-ceremony photos, but other than that it's almost a glorified taxi ride.

The Garter Hunt

I don't know about you, but I have a very sweet and very Christian Granny and the idea of my partner vanishing up my skirt in front of all our wedding guests just seems a bit much. I'm not certain Granny would appreciate the spectacle... Personally, I doubt I'd even wear a garter in the first place.

Concealed with a Veil

Apparently in Ancient Greek/Roman culture, bridal veils were worn as it was thought that the veil would protect brides from evil spirits. In other cultures, it works more in arranged marriages where the veil is lifted to allow the groom a proper look at the person they're marrying. For me, my partner has been looking at my ugly mug for almost eight years. I may wear a veil, but I don't see the need for one that covers my face. Also, I'm naturally quite clumsy and a veil covering my face will probably end up with me walking into something which would somewhat ruin my dramatic walk down the aisle.

Three Course Sit Down Meal

So, I've been to weddings with the three course sit down meal. It's very formal and definitely seems to be the 'done thing' at such events. However, I have two reasons why we won't be doing this at our wedding. The first reason is that it's quite expensive to do pre-meal nibbles and canapés AND a three course meal AND wedding cake AND an evening meal/buffet for the guests AND all the champagne/cocktails/drinks in between. For us, we're going to have the canapés in place of a starter and the wedding cake in place of a dessert. Suddenly, the main meal part will simply be a main meal. Catering can be one of the most expensive parts of the day, especially if you have big families or a lot of guests in attendance - suddenly you'll see costs rise substantially. My partner and I started to get sad thinking of how we'd have to cut our guest list down simply because the price of food was going to be so high. In the end, we decided to cut costs by altering the overall meal plan thus allowing us to have more guests - the more the merrier! In the evening, we're going to be getting some food trucks to come down so guests can simply pick out their own meals and it gives people some variety. 
YOU sit on the left, YOU sit on the right.

So it was once traditional that the families of the bride and groom would sit on opposite sides of the venue. However, it is becoming more and more popular to just allow people to sit where they want. Some people have bigger families and therefore more guests. There may be family rifts where it's best to keep space between people on your big day. I personally prefer the idea that people can sit where they want. It continues the laid back vibe we want for our wedding. It also joins the two families together. After all, isn't that the point of a wedding? 

Hiring a Wedding Planner

Some people have busy lives and want to make their nuptials as smooth and stress free as possible. For me, it's OUR day. It'll be OUR decisions. It makes sense to me that we're the ones calling the shots and orchestrating the event. We are doing a lot of DIY bits for our wedding. Why should the planning be any different? I can see why some people would want a wedding planner but personally I always like to feel in control. We've only got a few months to go and our little laid back wedding doesn't feel like a wedding planner is really needed. 

The Father Giving The Daughter Away

For some, this is a really sweet and traditional moment in the ceremony known as the father 'giving away' his daughter to the person they are marrying. I know this is one that some people really like but I don't enjoy the idea of being 'given' to anyone. My parents have known my fiancée for almost 8 years now and the notion of a patriarch handing me over seems odd. Instead, my partner and I will both walk down the aisle with both of our parents either side and our siblings walking down just before us. I prefer this because both of my parents should rightly be by my side in one of the biggest moments of my life. 

The Groom

I mean, just on a personal note, mine is a groomless wedding so there's that... (My bride-to-be told me to suggest this final point. Thanks, darling) 

There may be other things that I'm personally not going to be doing, but so far, these are the ones we've put aside at this stage of our planning. Please come back in the future as I blog my way through the wedding process in the run up to our July 2018 wedding. 

Monday, 4 December 2017

How To Plan A Wedding In 8 Months...

Some little girls grow up with a real plan of what they want for their wedding day. Me? Well, I've had some vague ideas, but I don't think it's something I've ever really obsessed over. I recall thinking when I was very young, wanting the dress Satine wears in Moulin Rouge. It has always been one of my favourite films and I love the detail in the bodice fabric.

Before I met my fiancee, if you had asked me what my plans would be for my wedding, I'd have probably told you that I wanted a black and white theme. I had even considered wearing a black wedding dress. I've bookmarked a castle in Scotland with plenty of Gothic touches. I wanted to get married in the emerald wallpapered library. I would probably have gotten married around October time in the autumn. I can imagine my bridesmaids in black dresses with my childhood favourite flowers: blue roses (more to come on my obsession with dyed blue roses later...)

But I grew up. I met the love of my life. I adapted. Planning a wedding is truly a marriage of the interests of both parties within the couple. My partner is sunshine personified. My love brings out the very best in me. So when planning this wedding, actually sitting down and putting ideas onto paper, I have realised that my ideas and plans have changed entirely to accommodate us both as a couple.

As you can see in my previous blog post, I got engaged last July in Milan on our 6 year anniversary. Since then we had a lot of discussions about what we wanted in a wedding. It's only recently that we've actually set a date and started to plan. We've set the date for the 23rd of July next year. It will be on our 8th anniversary since we started dating. We always wanted to get married on our anniversary and engaged on our anniversary. It all just seems so special. But here we are in December and, as my wedding app reminds me, I have a mere 230 days until my wedding and all I've done thus far is booked the venue....

Okay, so I've done a lot of planning. I think we've planned out all the major details so far apart from our dresses (honestly, I'm still hoping to find a dress like the Moulin Rouge gown) but that may take more time. Especially as our wedding involves two brides, therefore it will involve two dresses. (By the way, we hate constantly being asked 'so are you both going to wear dresses? Does one of you have to wear a suit? If you know any same sex couples getting married, don't ask it. Just don't)

So, 230 days to go. Roughly 7 months to get our ducks in a row. Originally, I didn't see much point in planning until we had booked a venue and secured our coveted 23rd of July anniversary wedding date. However, having booked our venue this weekend, the ball is well and truly rolling! Already I have seamstresses in wedding dress shops telling me to get a move on because apparently it takes months and months to perfectly alter a wedding dress. Who knew?

I used to do a lot of writing/blogging. I even wrote a book. My partner this evening lovingly suggested that I get back into writing blogs. What I've found recently, being a member of various wedding groups online, is that I quite enjoy the community aspect of it. We're all trying to put together our perfect day and other brides to be are often such a wonderful source of inspiration. I therefore thought it would be fun to write whilst I'm going through the wedding planning process. If I'm scrolling through and reading about weddings, someone may take enjoyment in my plans too. So over these next 230 days I'm going to try and write a little bit about my plans: wedding dress shopping, how we picked our venue, traditions we're going to reject, how to stick to a wedding budget. Hopefully some other clueless bride-to-be out there will find some comfort in this as I have done scrolling other blogs. So expect some more posts to come as I throw myself fully into a world of lace and cake tier decisions......

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Our Proposal Story

For me, good things happen in Northern Italy. It's where my life began. It's where my mother and father agreed they wanted to have a child at a wedding in Bergamo. It's where I spent my 18th birthday, in the midst of Carnivale in Venice. So when my partner and I were approaching our six year anniversary, we decided to spend five days in Milan to celebrate the milestone.

The day of our actual anniversary came around, and we decided to do the most recommended tourist attraction Milan has to offer: we decided to visit the stunning Milan Cathedral and then ascend to the Duomo di Milano. Due to our budget, we went for the cheapest ticket option, which meant we could enter the cathedral and then go up to the roof, but had to go by foot rather than paying the extra few Euros to go up by elevator. Inside, the experience was breathtaking. The Gothic Cathedral, uniquely designed, took centuries to complete.

A habit I've never really been able to shake is that whenever I enter a beautiful European cathedral, I will always feel compelled to light a candle where possible inside the building and say a prayer for my worries. Though I wouldn't consider myself strictly Christian, I know it's what my mother would do and so I find myself putting wax to flame nonetheless. The experience would have felt more spiritual were it not for the sheer amount of tourists swarming in and out of the building, leaving you feeling like a fish caught in a strong tide.

Eventually we began our ascension to the roof via a rectangular tower. It was at this point I remembered that I am not only afraid of heights, but I am horribly claustrophobic. As I walked up the seemingly never-ending and windowless tower, I regretted my choice of shoes - flip flops. Not great for climbing. When we finally got to the top, I had been fighting off a panic attack which came to fruition at the top as I saw how high up I was and began panicking. I got to the point that my breathing was shaky and I involuntarily started to cry, hot tears splashing from behind my dark black aviators. It didn't really conceal much though. My Italian is pretty shaky but I heard the guy behind me say to his friend, 'Oh, that poor girl!' My partner held my hand and lead me along slowly. I began to feel that, as long as I was with her, I would never have reason to be afraid. I calmed myself as we walked from the back of the building towards the front. The views, in truth, were spectacular. You can see for miles, rooftops beneath a sapphire sky. Just when I had calmed down, I saw there were more stairs. I began to hyperventilate. I could hear two Italians behind me saying, 'oh, that poor girl!' Nonetheless, Hannah held my hand and lead me on.

There is a spot near the very top of the cathedral where you can sit upon a stone bench and look down on the open square. Everything from up high looks so small. I forced myself to look down and fully absorb the moment, fighting my fear. I mean, I hyperventilated for a few good minutes. But eventually I calmed down. If you just force yourself to look down long enough, sometimes the fear subsides. Accept the height to take in the beauty, I told myself. I had a wonderful partner at my side and, just by sitting together, I felt safer. I knew I would always feel safer with her by my side. Eventually, she coaxed me over to a balcony to the side of the cathedral.We squeezed in and looked out over the rooftop and hustle and bustle of tourists going to and fro amongst the alleyways. There was just enough room for the two of us to stand there. I decided to push my boundaries just a little. I took my arm, and held it out over the balcony, and looked down.

'There,' I said, 'that's my brave deed for the day.'

'Have you enjoyed these last six years?' Han asked me.
I said yes.
'Do you want to keep doing stuff like this?'
Again, I said yes.
She sank to one knee, raising up a box housing a ring with sapphires matching the perfect blue of the sky above. I think she said something else, but I was too busy saying yes.

'Yes, of course,' are the words that I believe escaped my lips. Suddenly my fear vanished and my all too perfect fiancee earned her new status by ensuring we got the elevator back down to the ground.

Friday, 23 June 2017

"In The Garden of Whedon": Why Joss Whedon Is Awesome

Get it? Garden of Whedon/Garden of Eden? Seriously, if Joss Whedon doesn't already have a religion based on him for his fans I'm totally starting one. Joss Whedon has created so many wonderful shows, films and characters over the years. It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Joss Whedon and his work. Therefore, as it is his birthday today, here is a list of awesome facts about Joss Whedon.
  • Joss Whedon is a third-generation TV writer. As the son of Tom Whedon (who worked on Golden Girls) and John Whedon (who worked on the Donna Reed show) he is certainly carrying on the family tradition. 
  • Joss Whedon shot his film "Much Ado About Nothing" in a matter of days at his house. In fact is was done in just 12 days. What have you achieved in 12 days? Was it as impressive as that? Yeah, I bet not.
  • Whedon has provided female role models for a whole generation of young girls. In fact when I was growing up I had no queer female role models. No one ever explained to me that sometimes men can love men or women can love women. It was only really when I saw Tara and Willow's relationship that I even knew such love existed. Finally I didn't feel so alone. That little shred of queer representation really helped me and I am sure it helped so many others too. Representation matters. Also, characters like Buffy and Faith and Dawn and Anya who were not only compelling to watch, but complexly written female characters. 
  • But, I mean, can we talk about Buffy a little more and how amazing that show was? All you need to do is watch episodes like Hush, The Body, Once More With Feeling and more to see how quirky and experimental the show could be. Joss Whedon gave us several kick ass female characters and many of them started on Buffy. Buffy was his pet project that started as a film. The film didn't quite capture Joss's vision so he created a version for television that could live up to his hopes for the show. Even on Angel, Joss Whedon would take opportunities to experiment with 'what if' style scenarios to explore characters and situations further.

  • When Buffy ended her adventures on screen, Whedon partnered with Dark Horse Comics to share tales from the Buffyverse in comic book and graphic novel format. From further Buffy adventures to Fray: Future Slayer, the tales of girls fighting the forces of evil live on. Whedon has also written for popular titles from Marvel AND DC. He's bridging the gap, people!
  • FIREFLY. Nuff said.
  • Whedon co-wrote and produced the wonderful genre-busting film "Cabin In The Woods" which poked fun at the cliche pitfalls of the horror genre. This film is so good - definitely one you should sit down and watch without having read a review or watched a trailer. Horror connoisseurs are sure to love it.
  • Whedon seriously wanted to write and direct a Wonder Woman movie. Whedon had previously been in talks with Warner Bros for such a project but, due to artistic conflicts, it never happened. Now we have Gal Gadot in the role, and all we can do is wonder.... what if?
  • Whedon was one of the writers of Toy Story and if that doesn't impress you then clearly, unlike Angel, you have no soul.
  • I'm sure you know who The Avengers are, right? Whedon's take on The Avengers has rejuvenated the superhero genre and set new levels of awesome for comic book adaptations. In fact The Avengers is the third highest grossing film of all time at the moment.
  • As you may know, Marvel is now part owned by Disney. The Avengers and Toy Story are not Joss Whedon's only Disney credits. Did you know he worked on the script for Atlantis: The Lost Realm? Also Alien: Resurrection. Basically Joss Whedon is King of all your faves.  
  • Joss Whedon still has many awesome projects yet to be created so here's hoping that those projects eventually come to fruition. 

Monday, 17 April 2017

Songs That Changed My Life

A fellow blogger friend of mine recently did a post outlining songs that changed her life and I thought that it was a lovely idea. I've decided to highlight some of the influential songs I've known and loved in my life too. It's impossible to go through all the hundreds of songs that have really resonated with me, but these are the first few that came to mind.

Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana

I remember where I was when I first heard the opening riff to this song. I was in the park in a town near where I used to go to school. I was sat with my friend Alex on a bench in the park and she played the song to me through her First Generation iPod as we shared earphones. Never have I had a more druglike experience. I was hooked. I had to know more about this band, about the man who sings with such pain and passion. Thus began my teenage obsession with Nirvana.

You Know You're Right by Nirvana

So, whilst very obsessed with Nirvana, I later stumbled across this gem. When you're a teenager, dealing with the heaviness of your hormones as well as being very mentally ill, this song hits home. When my depression would get really bad, I'd turn this song on and drown everything out. When I hear this song, I still get this feeling in the pit of my stomach I can't quite explain.

Past The Point Of No Return from The Phantom of the Opera

For me, The Phantom of the Opera was a dark, sensual piece of art. Past The Point Of No Return leads us towards the thrilling climax of the tale. It's dark, it's sexy and I never was quite the same again. Whenever I watch The Phantom of the Opera (which I save and only watch every few years as it's so special) I feel like I'm revisiting my first love.

3 Libras by  A Perfect Circle

I'd been a fan of Tool for quite some time but I stumbled across A Perfect Circle when I was in a bad and emotionally abusive relationship. This song really spoke to me at that time. In a time when I felt so low, this song reminded me that I mattered. I could love and care as much as possible, but some people will never appreciate it, never see what you do, never care about you quite the same.

But I threw you the obvious just to see
If there's more behind the eyes of a fallen angel
eyes of a tragedy
Here I am expecting just a little bit too much
From the wounded but I see through it all and see you
Don't Stop Believing by Journey

This song has been popularised via many TV shows, noticeably by Glee in acapella format. To me, this song always reminds me of my father and always will. His favourite line is: Some will win, some will lose and some are born to sing the blues.

Gravity by Sara Bareilles

This is another song tied to a relationship. Another relationship with someone who was very mentally unwell. Boy, I sure do know how to pick 'em, don't I? I mean... just listen to this song. There's a good chance it will gut you right down to that memory, that period in time, when you felt so raw.

Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson

This song was one I came across about ten years ago at least. It was used in Grey's Anatomy. This song reminded me, a depressed teenager, to keep breathing. Things are bad at times but you just have to keep breathing, you have to keep growing.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Interview with writer Toby Whithouse regarding his new play: Executioner Number One

This is not your first play to open at the Soho Theatre - what's it like to be back?

Fantastic. My first play at Soho in 2000 changed everything for me. It was an amazing experience. I was still finding me feet as a writer and their generosity and support was invaluable. I’m working with Jonathan Lloyd, who directed both my previous plays there. He’s a fantastic, rigorous collaborator. Soho is a great space with an incredible atmosphere. The variety of work they have there is jaw-dropping, I’m delighted to be part of it.

Executioner Number One covers a rather dark subject area: the death penalty. What inspired you to explore this topic?

I’m very anti-death penalty but I find it a fascinating subject. I think the problem with the death penalty, aside from the huge risk of getting it wrong, is that it’s lazy. It’s a kneejerk, rage-filled response. It’s far harder, and politically braver, to address the issues that lead to crime. There’s no evidence that a death penalty does anything to reduce crime. It’s not prevention, it’s revenge, and a civilised society has to be better than that.

Many years ago I worked on a play about the Holocaust, and one of the aspects I found most fascinating was the ordinary men and women who kept the machinery of mass murder going. The administrators and accountants, the secretaries and train drivers. It struck me that they would be workplaces like any other. There’d be complaints about hours and pay, rivalries and people vying for promotion - while they added up columns of fatalities and organised train timetables. I’ve always wanted to explore that workplace, where the peevish tensions of an office are played against a backdrop of murder and horror.

At present, from a sociopolitical standpoint, we seem to be living in quite an interesting time. Has this at all inspired Executioner Number One? What impact do you feel the current political climate will have on different forms of contemporary art?

Executioner Number One is set in a parallel present, where - following a referendum after the Guildford and Birmingham pub bombings - capital punishment has been reinstated. This has prompted a massive shift to the right, politically. It has allowed successive governments to bring in more draconian policies regarding surveillance and the restriction of civil liberties. Not to mention a deepening of suspicion and prejudice.
I finished the first draft in April 2015, and at the time it was just a vaguely high-concept flight of fancy. Of course there were elements of this (in fact one of the inspirations for the play was a comment under an article in the Daily Mail saying that all lorries coming from the continent should be pumped full of gas to kill any illegal migrants hiding inside), but I never thought humanity would embrace naked fascism again. But as time went on, I would find myself looking at the play and then looking at the news and being staggered by how closely the two were aligning. I’ve been tempted to rewrite sections of the play to reflect the news… but what would I change? I’ve tweaked elements, but the play has become far more topical than I had anticipated or wanted.

You've historically written a lot of works for film and television. Do you prefer writing for traditional or new media?

To be honest it all depends on the story. I first came up with the idea for Executioner Number One when I was looking to write a short film I could direct. I pursued that for a while, but I couldn’t really get any traction. So then I tried it as a traditional stage play, with other characters. But again, I couldn’t get past the first couple of pages. So then, purely as an exercise to get the idea flowing, I tried writing Ian’s monologue. And instantly the idea had found its voice. Sometimes you have to allow the story to tell itself in the way it wants.

Executioner Number One has been written as a one man show. What challenges did you face when writing the dialogue?

I did stand up comedy for a few years, and one of the first things I realised was that as you perform your material, you start editing it down. Finessing it and streamlining it. I’m writing this mid-way through rehearsals ad it’s been surprising how many cuts we’ve made, losing any extraneous lines or even just words. The thing about Ian is that he has absolutely no self-awareness. He doesn’t realise how peevish and cruel he is, how buffoonish and ridiculous. Those are my favourite characters to write, especially from a comedic point of view. I’ve always loved straight forward gag-writing, but making a character funny without them knowing it is much more fun.

You're stepping out of the writer's chair and performing in this show yourself. Can you tell us what this experience has been like for you?

I was an actor for 10 years before I became a writer, so this isn’t a completely vainglorious Florence-Foster-Jenkins type exercise. But it’s been wonderful to get back into performing. Obviously I’ve been through a thousand different emotions, from excitement to terror, from exhilaration to wanting to fake my own death. The first thing I had to do was get my voice back into shape, so I started doing voice classes again. Rediscovering those skills and exercising those muscles again was amazing, and reconnected me to my time at drama school and as an actor, genuinely happy periods. So it’s been a really lovely experience so far.

Have you considered adapting Executioner Number One for film or television in the future?

The first thing my brilliant producer Judith asked me when we first sat down to discuss the play many many months ago was what my ambition for the play was. I said it was simply this. I just wanted to do it at Soho. I know as an actor and as a writer I’ve occasionally done jobs not because I necessarily wanted to do them, but because of what they might lead to. Invariably they’ve led to sod all and I’ve just had a miserable time. So for this, my priority is simply the production at Soho. It would be great if it had a further life, but what I really want is for this run to be a success and for people to enjoy it.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Read everything. Literally everything. Novels, screenplays, non-fiction, articles, comics, poetry, anything you can get your hands on. And write every day. What will make you successful is your voice, so that’s what you have to develop. And the only way you’ll do that is by writing all the time. Don’t imitate other writers. Be inspired by them, but don’t try to ape their voices. I say this as someone who has notebooks full of scenes written in the style of Miller or Mamet that are, frankly, dreadful. Writing is a muscle. Build it.

Friday, 24 March 2017

How Did You Get Here?: 2015 Edition

So every now and then, I like to look at my blog statistics to see what people typically Google to find my blog, and I often keep track of some of the weirdest searches. Here are some of the weird things people have Googled and somehow ended up at my blog. Altogether, it looks like a really bad slam poem.
  • bilbo film
  • pinterest birdcage tattoo
  • steve speros easy going
  • angelina adoption
  • lestat and jesse fanfiction
  • gabrielle leimon goth
  • elitism in the goth scene
  • gamer nerds female
  • only the face of akasha
  • IT crowd Jen wardrobe 
  • jerk off challenge
  • fake friends n sluts but love game of thrones
  • which is that famous actress in game of thrones?
and my personal favourite:
  • welcome to the nerd club