Why Nobody Wants To Be Called Middle-Aged

 

Has anyone ever sat down and wondered at their old photos? It’s my lovely little sister’s sixteenth birthday today, and so we’re sat around, looking at photos from when we were both just tiny tots. And it’s hilarious. I was a victim of the perpetual bad hair day, and my sister just looked like a thug, with the biggest baby head I have ever seen. She also had an adorable little top-knot. It made her look a little bit like a teletubby. Does anyone remember tellytubbies? I used to quite like them.

I also quite enjoy looking at what your parents used to look like, twenty years ago before your teenager strops and tantrums turned them grey, or bald, or thin, or fat. It’s even more strange to look at them in long-forgotten holiday photos, before you were born, when your Mum was still blonde, and your Dad carried a slightly more svelte figure than you’ve ever seen. It’s really, really weird when you realise your mother was the dead spit of you, and therefore you catch something of a glimpse at what you will look like in middle-age.

I always think the phrase ‘middle age’ has slightly negative connotations. The Middle Ages, in Britain at least, were dark, and smelly, on the whole. Technology hadn’t begun to advance, and people had come to something of an intellectual standstill. Illness was rife, death was more common than a bucket of sewage on the head, and to add to this predicament, religious order was still a serious issue. As in, well, there wasn’t one. I think I’ve found the reason why nobody likes to be referred to as middle-aged.

And then there’s the problem of after middle-age. Old. Elderly. An older person. Nobody would ever want to be referred to as old, and I can imagine being unbelievably irritated if somebody had referred to me as old, even if I was about ninety-six years old. Anyway, I have to go, and carry on my excursion down memory lane. I apologise for my collection of thoughts on age; I’ve never known what it’s like to be old, but I suppose one day, it’ll creep right up on me.

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On the Action Novel

Now, Robert Ludlum is one of my favourite authors. He is not highbrow, or snooty, but he is wonderfully engaging, creates a watertight story line  and writes about it in an addictive manner. I love the way he communicates, and I like the pacing of his novel. Pacing in an action novel is very, very important; otherwise the ‘action’ is lost, and there is a stilted novel, without much progression, which quickly becomes a boring novel; you know, the kind that you use to prop open doors, hold your laptop up when the fan breaks, etc.

And no author wants to write that book. Not a book that exists purely to support other objects.

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Action novels are not just Mr Ludlum’s domain, however. Frederick Forsyth, John Grisham, and more recently Lee Child, have all broken into the action novel genre. Mr Child has done especially well for himself, and from his amazon.co.uk pages, seems to be churning out novels at an alarming rate of one every forty-two seconds. Now, I’m not convinced that a novel, or that number of novels, can be written well and so quickly, but then again the man might just be a superhuman writer. Since I haven’t experienced a novel of his yet (although my Dad has, and he seems to be devouring them), I am in no position to judge.

I like these novels because they are designed to be easy, and uncomplicated, at least not in the intellectual sense. They contain interesting plots, many of which I think are echoed throughout international history, and there are many ideas that come from real life events; things that really happened. I think because our access to MI6 records, and FBI records, etc, is so limited, we never really know what happened, and the novels open up a kind of phantom door, to a world that the common person isn’t allowed to inhabit.

When I was younger, I really wanted to be a spy. Like James Bond. But female, and I’d do it in some crazy ball gowns, and slinky slit-up-the-side dresses. I’d also be wearing red stilettos, and be really slinky. I know now that this is kind of a long dream away, but the principle is there. Action novels give you ideas, and they make you feel like anybody could defuse a bomb, or that anyone could be a part of an underground resistance movement, or go undercover in a dictatorship.

It’s all about escaping somewhere that isn’t your everyday, boring world; it’s not about shopping in supermarkets, and arguing with a boyfriend. It’s about fighting for things, and pretending that you are something incredible, life-changing, unstoppable. That’s why on the beach, holding a Martini, you feel like you can do anything. You see, it’s a heady concoction, alcohol and action novels.

(:

(1) http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRbxJ4G4FpZ-5DQ2oGHb8_CRTdKj9BHoIlxqR1zqyqzfOTqBOOpSQ&t=1

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I’m Late, Again, But I’m Not Sure What For…

So today I’ve been in a completely excellent, and wonderful mood. I’ve been a shiny happy person, bouncing about, making milkshakes for people, taking puppies for walks, going above and beyond for guests at work… All is well with the world. I like that; especially when you feel so good about yourself that you want to be nice to people. I like making people happy, if I can.

I’ve even managed to not eat rubbish, and I’ve been to the gym. I feel like a little superhero. I bought myself a preposterously extravagant new mid-year diary too. I love it, because it is just completely beautiful. The cover feels precious, and I’m one of those people who adores pretty stationary, and filling in the information in the front is quite possibly the most exciting thing, well, ever.

Everyone knows what I mean. The excitement of fresh paper can’t ever be rivaled by digital takeovers, and sometimes you must have a piece of equipment that doesn’t rely on a battery pack, or need an extra charger. Holding onto a physical object is quite comforting, and scribbling things down is satisfying. Ticking things off on a Blackberry simply isn’t as extravagant as scribbling it off with a pretty pen, in a pretty book. There’s a sense of romance surrounding the concept of the diary, and the ability to write in it. It is personal in a way that software is not.

This is of course, the trouble with all this eco-friendly work. There’s no romance in electricity, and there’s no personality in a Microsoft software package. Paper gave us a sense of age, and of character, because we used handwriting, and tucked our favourite photos inside them, and made them ours. OneNote is a fantastic academic program, and there’s no doubt that it has made my filing system much, much more efficient. But a pretty diary is special; it might be materialistic, and I’m sure that the environment objects to my using of a diary. But I cannot ignore such a prominent sense of nostalgia that I associate with beautiful paper, and colourful patterns. It’s a permanent record of a period of your life, and the fact we haven’t got time to write down our trivialities anymore is quite shocking.

Everything is to-go. I am always running about, thinking where I have to be next. We don’t really sit down, and just, well, be there. At least not without thinking about something else. There are a million to do lists tucked away inside my head. And I’m always planning a new project and most of the time I haven’t quite finished the first, which is why I have half a room dedicated to ‘graveyard of projects past’. There’s so much to do, and it seems like there’s so little time.

And I realise it’s terribly trivial, and that diaries do not create time. But seeing those pages spread out before you provides you with a sense of perspective; there is a physicality to when things will be done, and when you will be able to do things. I think that perspective is worth all the money in the world.

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

– Oscar Wilde

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Fifty Shades of Frustration

I’ve come to the conclusion that if I am to hear the end of this Fifty Shades of Grey business, I will have to just read it. Bite the bullet; rip off the plaster. That kind of thing. Some of our fellow bloggers have condemned the latest literary craze, for being critically appalling, overusing colloquialisms, and following a theme that borders on the sexually deranged. So today I went to the supermarket and bought it.

And God help us, there’s two more…(1)

It’s sat upstairs in my bedroom like a ticking time-bomb. It’s staring up at me, on my bed. And I can’t quite bring myself to open the first page. I did randomly open the novel, to read only two words. “Holy crap.” This sentence, I must say, has not filled me with much hope. Neither has the description of ‘Mommy porn’. And neither has the theme of domination and submission. Sex scenes are rarely well written, and I have to hope that the critics have been wildly inaccurate about E.L James’s multi-million dollar novel.

That’s another problem, in itself. The fact that the novel was made for a multi-million dollar industry. Novelists in the nineteenth century never really concerned themselves with making millions through literature; they wrote in magazine supplements and were published in installments. There was no such thing as a one-hit wonder. If the first installment was unsuccessful then they wouldn’t be commissioned again. E.L. James wrote to shock, supposedly. But she didn’t write for love. This was almost certainly a case of love over money.

If anything, that’s what kind of offends me about modern novelists. There are two categories, really. The ‘people-pleasers’, and the people who write because they have something real and important to say. People do not tend to read the classics. They read purely for pleasure as opposed to education, and there is nothing wrong than that. It’s just that they’re missing out. And whilst I’m pleased that Mrs. James need never work again, I have a feeling that I’m going to be rather disappointed in her.

But time will tell; I’ll let you know how the project goes.

(:

(1) http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02251/shades-of-grey_2251523b.jpg

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Writers Are Always Naked

A woman who built a whole sub-culture underneath a dress (1)

Today I’m feeling completely awful, because I’ve got yet another cold. Probably an airport souvenir. But there we go. I got my September issue of Vogue yesterday, so at least there’s some consolation. I’ve decided that instead of actually moving this morning, I can carry on writing. My head doesn’t hurt as long as I keep looking forwards, and not to the side. I was enjoying reading the catwalk show stuff, and reading about upcoming winter trends. Winter gives everybody an excuse to buy leather boots. I went through a two-year phase of wearing heeled boots every single day, with jeans. As a result, I have calves of steel, and six pairs of boots. Some people (especially my dad), would six is too many. However, you can never have too many pairs of shoes.

Clothes are people’s way of hiding things that they don’t like, and creating personas of their choosing. Wearing a sharp suit makes somebody more confident. A track suit is comfortable, but jeans can be as sloppy or as sensible as one would like. It’s all up to you, like wearing a shield. Even cashmere is like a protective layer, and it stops people seeing the soft and squishy bits.

Anyway, back to the task in hand. My novel. It’s going fairly well. I have ten chapters. I even have a rough idea of what might happen next. Not many people can say that. I wish I had somebody whom I could rely on for critical reading and suggestions, but allowing my friends to read it seems somehow like walking down the street naked. Letting people read your work is like letting them see you naked. That’s why I don’t very often publish poetry online, and it is why I tend to be less open about my novel to the people who actually know me. Do you beautiful writers understand what I mean?

There is something distinctly intimate about literature, and about writing as a whole. Literature can be a window into somebody’s innermost thoughts, but it can also be deceptively shallow. The depth of meaning can only be known to the author, and the meaning of a text is not something that he will ever have to reveal to an audience. Postmodernism toys with the idea of depth and surfaces, and becomes very much like cubism, or impressionism. What is there, and what is there not? There is no way of telling. You could get into a huge debate about the author function, and whether a novel exists because of it’s author or vice-versa. But in this [articular arena, where almost all of us are aspiring to be writers, screen writers, poets, everything, it seems unfair. Saying an author only exists as a story seems to almost void our own ideas of ourselves.

But there we have it. I am enjoying my own metaphorical nakedness. I might even consider letting other people see it, one day.

(:

(1) http://www.wildsound-filmmaking-feedback-events.com/images/marilyn_monroe_white_dress.jpg

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White Noise Is Rather Tough To Take…

 

White Noise by Don DeLillo was a novel I was expecting to dislike. For some reason, the front cover was repelling me, and I thought it was going to something similar to a postmodern ghost story. I was right, to a certain extent, because Don DeLillo does write a prelude to a ghost story. He maps the mentality of death, and an abject fear of what is to come, and what comes afterwards. His protagonists, Jack Gladney, and his wife, Babette, represent a kind of paralysis of mentality; their fear of death overrides their sense of everything else.

This, I think, can be considered both an advantage and a disadvantage. A disadvantage, because they live, believing that they can and will be dead at any moment; their marriage is overshadowed by a fear of the other dying, and so their petty rows, and Babette’s ‘arrangement’ with Mr Gray is insignificant, in comparison to her fear of losing the physical and emotional entity that is Jack. Therefore in many ways, the sanctity of marriage and union itself is questioned.

The cover that so unnerved me… (1)

Their sense of death however is an advantage because it allows them to explore the parameters of marriage in terms of a whole existence. Instead of a focus on small events, the couple manage to look at everything as a whole. The ‘airborne toxic event’ is not an individual disaster, and instead, the protagonist seems to focus on the impact it has on his entire life; the fact that it is shortened by this unknown threat. In some ways then, the fear of death provides a mechanism so that both protagonists can stay united by the unresolved fear.

The novel places a very heavy emphasis on the importance of technology to modern-day life. Throughout the text, phrases such as “the radio said” are used. This reminds the reader of George Orwell’s 1984, because there is an outside force that influences the character’s movement. The instantaneous information that is available through the television and radio influences the fear of death that Jack and Babette experience; unreliable information seems to only emphasize the unreliable nature of life, and the unpredictability of death. The relative power of the medical industry is also highlighted by Jack’s “brackets and stars” status. His doctor represents an omen, and therefore towards the end of the novel, Jack refuses to visit him, to find out more details of his impending death. This refusal shows a monumental step in his life, because he refuses to indulge the fear itself.

By far my favourite scene however, is when Jack shoots Mr. Gray, the man who has allegedly created the drug that removes a person’s fear of death. The shooting can be seen as an irony, because Mr. Gray represents being fearless. Therefore by causing him serious injury and plotting to kill him, he metaphorically attacks the idea of being unafraid of death. Gunshot wounds are an unnatural way to die, in the same way that it is unnatural to be unafraid of one’s own passing.

The novel itself is an interesting comment on 1980s society, especially because of the novelty value of technology at the time. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I should.

(:

(1) http://theasylum.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/whitenoise.jpg?w=470

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It’s A Vogue Life

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Vogue has long been a large part of my life. Since 2008, I’ve had a renewing subscription, and every month I eagerly await the thump on the mat. A grey, matt plastic package with the glossy fashion magazine lands on the doorstep, and I feel content. I usually, at this point, go to eat my dinner, and read my magazine. I keep every single issue, and for a while, I went through a phase of cutting up front covers and all the ad campaigns from the major fashion houses, sticking all the cuttings onto about sixteen feet worth of old wallpaper backing. It took hours, and they all look fabulous, and I will keep them forever.

To a less discerning reader, Vogue could be seen as just a showcase for the rich and famous; a showcase of wealth and high fashion, something that is unavailable to the general public, especially at this point of recession. But to me, it represents a want to do better; I want to wear Gautier and Stella McCartney, and I want to write about all of these sumptuous, fabulous clothes. I would love to be in the fashion business, but I’m not really sure what I’d like to do; I’m not masochistic enough to be a runway model, and I’m not insane enough to design the clothes. But I do think that I’d be able to do some really cool catwalk shows; I’d love to be the person who coordinates everything, you know; the one with the microphone and clipboard. And being this person means you get some cool freebies, and hopefully, Christian Louboutin shoes.

Another element to Vogue is the rather inspiring journalism; there’s a lot of focus on fashion and it’s relationship with current events, however there are always stories about women who have been, or will be inspiring. This represents an empowerment that isn’t a part of the fundamentalist feminist perception. Instead it is about being able to be a woman, and being able to look beautiful, and being able to indulge yourself with things that are almost beyond dreamlike. In the meantime though, the women of the magazine work, start companies, run charities. They all contribute to the world in some way, and that is what makes them incredibly inspiring.

Last month, an initiative was launched across the franchise to tackle the problems of anorexia, eating disorders, and promoting unrealistic expectations of body image. The major Vogue branches across the world have agreed that no model who appears to have an eating disorder will be used, and alongside this, models will not be allowed to work ridiculous hours, and they will be better protected on photo shoots, and castings. This initiative continues the idea of the empowered woman; they will be obligated to treat models better. Many models study whilst they work and use modelling as a financial bumper, and in the future, especially when their modelling careers are over, they fall back on the education they acquired whilst they were modelling to continue along different career paths.

And as I’m sat here writing this, I’m craving my next ‘hit’. It should be falling onto the doormat any day now.

(:

(1) http://www.designscene.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Lana-Del-Rey-Vogue-UK-March-2012-01.jpg

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Prom Pandemonium

Today is my little sister’s prom, and it’s fantastic. She’s absolutely terrified. However, we’re one step closer to being ready; our nails have been done, at two the hair will be done, and then it’ll be make up, and time to get dressed. I’ve been given the job of being a lady in waiting for the day; on hand to do things such as doing up dresses.

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It’s strange to watch because I remember my prom, and it seems like a million years ago. Really, it was three years ago. And the prom that’s taking place today is far more sophisticated, taking place in a hotel instead of the school hall, but on the downside, the food sounds an awful lot worse. I think the decor will be pretty and we’ve had to have a ‘getting out the car’ rehearsal. The music will be lovely and there will be wholesome, school disco dancing.

I think I might be more excited than she is though, because at the moment she’s just paralysed with fear. She can’t button up her shirt because her hands are shaking so much, and she keeps saying she’s not hungry. Her poor date is going to have a meltdown on his hands in the car on the way in. It’s just because she wants it to be perfect, and everything has to go off without a hitch. It’s all in the detail.

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She wants her hair tied up in a loose bun, with curled strands around her head. Her nails are so long that they’re scaring me a little bit. She’s going to look like a little princess, who has just finished school. She’s all grown up, and she’s going to the after party with her friends, and it’s just so exciting. The icing on top of the cake is that the sun has come out, and since she’s going in a convertible Mercedes, that’s something of a benefit.

Listening to all the prom related conversations is something of a bizarre experience, because I’ve spent all day talking about chiffon, acrylic nails, hair styles, cleanser, Clinique foundation, eye shadow, the make up she’d like to wear… and so on. I am girly and I like doing all this girly pampering stuff, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a long conversation about the benefits of a kitten heel. (Personally I’m not a fan; an all or nothing kind of girl, you might say).

Anyway, I have to go and sort out an exfoliation on my little sister’s back now, so that her skin will be shiny and fresh for tonight… I’ll let you know how it goes!

(:

(1) http://us.123rf.com/400wm/400/400/hamsterman/hamsterman1105/hamsterman110500142/9567877-composition-with-makeup-brushes-and-broken-multicolor-eye-shadows.jpg

(2) http://www.carreviews2012.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/mercedes-clk-coupe-300×225.jpg

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Mixtape

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I’m going to put this out there, because it was incredible. I honestly cannot believe how lucky I am. Yesterday, I was at work, and I was fairly fed up. My cold was annoying me, and my shift had been dragging on for far too long. But then, I met Voldemort. Yes. Lord Voldemort. Or Ralph Fiennes really. So anyway, I run back into the kitchen, kind of hopping and bouncing around a bit. And after I finished doing that, I went home and watched Harry Potter films all night. It was amazingly cool. And, having just read back that paragraph, I realise that I sound a tiny bit as though I don’t get out enough, but there we go. I thought it was awesome.

On a completely unrelated note, I’m starting to get very excited about my impending trip to Washington D.C. I’m especially excited about going to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I like looking at all the mechanics and engineering behind space travel, and space exploration, and the shuttle, Discovery is living at the museum for the moment. I’m going to go and see that! I particularly like looking at  the scale of these things. They make me feel like a very tiny blip in the world, when you compare yourself to the machinery that means we can actually walk on the moon!

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There’s a cupcake shop in Washington, called Georgetown Cupcakes, that my little sister is just desperate to go and visit. She really can’t wait, because she watches their television series. She’s also an excellent baker, and makes the most adorable and delicious cupcakes. I’m a very big fan of her red velvet ones; they’re somehow creamy and moist all at once. Her face lights up whenever I mention cupcakes. It’s so lovely. And because she finishes school, ready to go to college this week, I bought her two brand new cupcake books, so she’s got something to do over the summer. She’s fifteen, and will be until the end of August, which means that by law, she can’t work this summer, even if she wanted to. I think she should just start a business plan for opening a bakery, and I could help her do the promotions.

At this point, I must bid this post farewell, because I have to go to work soon, and I have some ironing to do. The joys of work, but maybe Voldemort will still be there…

(:

(1) http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/images/content/107094main_discovery-launch.jpg

(2) https://sarahalicewaterhouse.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/cupcakes.jpg?w=300

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Falling In Love: The Writer’s Life

Now, writing a novel has always been a dream of mine. In fact, it’s on my bucket list. I have a plan. And a very detailed character list. And a blow-by-blow plan of every twist and every element in the novel. There is nothing in the novel that isn’t in the plan, and I have begun, this summer to write the chapters. Y’know, the fundamental basis of the novel; the text. And I find it something that it is very hard to do part-time.

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I’m working at the moment, however when I’m not working, at three o’clock in the morning for instance, I find myself perusing the ten thousand words I’ve already written, scratching my head, and wondering how I can improve the novel, the characters, and the flow of the novel. It’s a job I’ve always dreamed of having. Writing, is the only job I can really imagine doing; and thus this very blog, which is almost a year old now, was born.

I can imagine myself, in five years or so, in a house which has an office stuffed full of books, a comfortable desk chair, and my laptop. I could contentedly work there, for ten hours or so a day, writing down all the stuff my rather expansive imagination comes up with. I would blog, at the same time, and perhaps write commissioned pieces, editorials, and do some editing work too. I could travel; laptops are rather portable, as are ideas. Travel produces ideas, and creates different perspectives. One of my biggest ambitions is to spend six months or so, travelling around South America, and writing about it. Combining two of my favourite pastimes, it would be one of the best years of my entire life.

But anyway, I’m working on the novel. It’s gonna be interesting, and has a historical aspect that I like, because I am intensely interested in both of the World Wars, and the impact it had on families and their dynamics. I hope it’ll be something I look back on in a few years, and call it my first good thing; my first successful venture into the world of publishing. I hope that comes true, and I can imagine spending all my free time writing, because that’s all I’ve ever really wanted to be, or do.

There are some problems, with the writer’s life though; the first is that you have no externally imposed structure, and so you have to be well-disciplined, and able to commit yourself to work, even when there are a variety of distractions around you. The second is writer’s block. I’ve had a few weeks recently, where there was nothing I could say. I couldn’t write anything worth a dime. But then I caught a cold, and spent a week at home, watching old episodes of Friends, and all of a sudden, I remembered why I wanted to be an author. And when my new laptop came, and I did the thing, you know, where you sort out all the old files on your computer,I found the drafts and plans I made for a novel, about a year ago. And with nothing else to do with my time, I decided to start writing it again.

And frankly, it’s been the best four days of the summer, so far. Despite the raging cold, and an ability to talk like Darth Vader.

(:

(1) http://cjwriter.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/fountain_pen.jpg?w=600

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