Sunday, 6 May 2012

Return of the blog?

So, you probably noticed, I've been a bit slack on the blog front since getting legally married in October of last year.  I've worried that this silence would feed misconceptions that life after marriage can be encapsulated in the sentence "happily ever after" when the truth is closer to this:  the continuous striving for happiness and self-fulfilment simply enters a new cycle when you marry.  There is so much I have wanted to tell you!  And what has changed, indeed the ONLY thing that has changed since marriage, is that I have had much less free time to blog....

So, reader, what do you say?  Should I revive this blog?  Is there still somewhere to go now that my visa status is resolved?  What will I complain about?

Ok first of all, you NEED to see this.  With the campaign for Mayor Of London hotting up back in the city hosting 2012's Olympics, you'll come to recognise the part-buffoon, part-bigot Mayor of the most diverse city in the world, Boris Johnson.  So try not to actually soil your undergarments laughing when you see this

And reader, frankly, I have missed sharing with you this level of trivial entertainment. If you want to see this blog back in action, send me your comments - frank and honest, abusive... You know me well ....  Come as you are ...  

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Reader: I married him

Hank and I finally got hitched this weekend in a park in Maryland on a beautiful autumnal day. Absent friends notwithstanding, it was perfect and we washed down the wedding port with a few slices of pizza back at our house.

So this explains - I hear you cry! - why your favourite blogger has been silent for two weeks.  Yes, the visa arrived quickly, when it finally arrived, and then my brilliant boss released me early from the London office and allowed me to work for him from the DC office, but on a UK contract.  Since I'm not yet permitted to work for any company on a US contract, all in all, things could not have worked out better.  I still get paid, I make work contacts in DC, am not breaking the law and ... I am here in my real home with Hank.

By complete coincidence, at the London team meeting today our Director played a short video to remind us that sometimes life throws us a bitter pill to swallow - a lesson which ultimately proves that we are more resilient and creative than we ever knew possible.  Never have I heard a clearer message that I must follow my heart wherever it takes me ... and finally my heart has taken me to my wonderful Hank, our lovely home and a great, new professional network.

It wouldn't be fair to leave you hanging there, would it?  So here it is, the 2005 Stanford commencement speech by the late Steve Jobs - and I encourage you all to heed his words about how to deal with life's painful detours:

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect the dots looking back.   So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.... 
Believing that the dots will connect somewhere down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart and that will make all the difference."  


Monday, 19 September 2011

One rat, to go?


There's been a problem with rats on our street in Capitol Hill.  Hank was approached by a neighbour asking him to pick up the pears which fall daily from the tree in our front garden.  She claimed to have seen a few fallen pears with bite marks and was worried the rats were feasting on them.  He was surprised by this but told her he would see what he could do.


Once the neighbour was gone, Hank began searching the garden for pears and to his surprise discovered a small rat under a bush. The rat appeared to be injured and did not run away.  Donning a pair of gardening gloves, Hank reached under the bush and picked the rat up by its tail.  It was bleeding from the head and appeared dazed.

Standing in the middle of our front garden, holding the rat by the tail, Hank wondered what he should do with the animal.  He looked around for inspiration.  Should he kill it?  How?

Just at that moment a lady walking past on the street called out to him:  "Excuse me?"

Embarrassed, Hank looked up, still holding the rat by its tail.  "Yes?"

"Can I have that?" she said.

Hank was caught off guard. "Erm .... Why?"

"Because I'm not sure what you're planning to do with it.  I want to make sure Animal Control are made aware of it and can help it get better."

At this point it was probably all Hank could do not to burst out laughing.  Stifling his belief that Animal Control were not interested in rehabilitating rats, he offered to put the rat in a box and hand it over to the nice lady.

And she agreed.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

I caught this new Tomas Alfredson film on its opening night in the UK.  Receiving rave reviews for Gary Oldman's role as John Le Carre's much-loved spy, George Smiley, this one was indeed well worth watching.

Now, for a book which took the BBC some seven hours to serialise back in 1979 when Sir Alec Guinness was Smiley, one wonders how Alfredson managed to cram so much into just two hours for the big screen.  Moreover, having chosen to cut so much out of the cold war thriller, some of Alfredson's "additions" do seem quite odd.  Was it really necessary to reinvent Peter Guillam as gay?  For any reason other than to shock and suck up to the reader, whose clever "reading between the lines" deduced his sexual orientation where presumably many a thick viewer would have failed?   And why, then, downplay the sexual ambiguity in Bill Haydon and Jim Prideaux's relationship?  Was it necessary to make it so obvious who shot Haydon, when the book remains unclear? And why was Irina shot dead in front of Prideaux during his interrogation?  A slightly gratuitous concession to the modern viewer, at a point when the film was a little low on action, perhaps...?

I am NOT, let me be clear, knocking this film; you must see it.  The acting is great - and there's an all star cast including King George V - yes Mr D'Arcy from Pride & Prejudice (and indeed Bridget Jones), plus Mr Knightley from Emma and both Ollivander & Sirius Black from Harry Potter.  Oh and let's not forget that weird paedophile chap from Atonement.  Everyone's a winner.

Go out and see it before your friends spoil it by yelling out the name of the Russian mole.  And if you can get your hands on it, I thoroughly recommend the BBC Radio 4 version of the Complete Smiley. It is even better - and you can listen to it on your iPod on your way to work!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

A male single friend

Me: So tell me, are there any attractive young ladies on the horizon?

Single friend: Oh yes, definitely on the horizon.  But the restraining order prevents me from getting any closer.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

New Jane Eyre movie. Reader; fill in the gaps

Jane Eyre is a long book. Which is why it easily fails in the 120-minute format of the big screen.  Cary Fukunaga's recent adaptation of the Bronte novel - which I saw this weekend - is astonishingly brief and bits of the story are, frankly, missing.

I happen to have a bit of insider gossip on this film and was relieved to hear from a close friend that Cary Fukunaga had intended to include some of the following conspicuously absent scenes:

1.  The relationship between Jane and Miss Temple, the kindly Lowood teacher.  Even in the movie, this teacher was clearly meant to befriend our Jane because otherwise why would Miss Temple have been so good-looking in a sea of ugly school ma'ams?  Cutting Miss Temple completely from the story makes no sense.  At all.

2. Grace Poole, the booze-loving guardian of Rochester's deranged wife Bertha, only appears once: during Bertha's big reveal.  So much for the gin-swilling scape goat Jane should have blamed for Bertha's bumps in the night.

3. Big, bad Bertha.  Rochester's first, secret wife, the madwoman in the attic has often been a magnet for feminist critics of Bronte's novel, asking quite rightly why the poor loon doesn't get a more sympathetic write-up in the novel.  In Fukunaga's rendering, Bertha  - and indeed her entire family and the critical events in Jamaica - get just a few minutes screen coverage.  Poor form, indeed.

4. And if you thought Jamaica was downplayed .... how about events in Madeira, the source of the fortune Jane inherits from from her wealthy, childless uncle?  This is a crucial part of the story - enabling Jane to return to Rochester as his financial equal, overcoming a major social obstacle to the love they already share as intellectual equals - but all we see is Jane running from St John's marriage proposal in a school teacher's clothes one minute, then she's in a carriage wearing a posh frock the next.  Reader; fill in the gaps.

It wasn't a dire film, though and is well worth watching if you're a fan of period dramas. Mia Wasikowka (of Alice in Wonderland) makes a suitably doe-eyed yet impertinent Jane. Michael Fassbender does well as Rochester but Judi Dench (the housekeeper Mrs Fairfax) steals the show with just two lines when she greets Jane in the burnt-out ruins of Thornfield Hall.  The cinematography is a nod to Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice (the Keira Knightley version) complete with will-they-won't-they sexual tension, framed by the long, slanting rays of Derbyshire evening sunshine.  The script is well-balanced with enough comedy to lighten the darkest corners of Bronte's Yorkshire.  And how nice to have some local accents...

One to watch on DVD, I'd say. 

Friday, 9 September 2011

The spider drops a sprog

Ok ... Take a deep breath, fellow arachnophobes.

I made an error.

A serious error.

After mum put the tropical spider outside (see an illegal immigrant from Sri Lanka) I moved upstairs to my bedroom the bag which it had stowed away in.  Today I came home from work to find that my mum's cleaner had tidied up my room (embarrassing at my age - I wish mum'd warn me when the cleaner's coming so I could pretend to be a normal, tidy adult)....  I got changed into my pajamas and threw myself onto the beautifully-smoothed covers.  Then I froze.

A tiny bundle of grey cotton appeared to be curled up on the bed next to me, about the size of a nail head.   The voice of Reason (read: desperation) said this is a ball of grey, stripy cotton, from a grey, stripy item of clothing.  I have no grey, stripy clothing, but let's ignore that for now, Reason says.  My instinct said: this is a small, stripy tropical spider.  

And so (trusting what I have been learning about empathy) I blew gently on the small ball of grey stripes, and it opened out into the unmistakeable form of a baby spider.  The spider appeared to be emerging from some kind of grey blob.  

I used the trap technique learned from my mother, humanely putting the baby outside to die of exposure.  But I can't help but think this intruder won't be the last of his bloodline. 

I think I'm in trouble.

Maybe it is just a coincidence. Surely some British spiders are grey and stripy?  And who says all Sri Lankan spiders are dangerous just because they aren't from round here?  I mean, that's RACIST!

Ok, look, does anyone have any advice?

And does anyone else's "voice of Reason" turn into a self-preservational sense of delusion at the first sign of danger? 

(Just me, then.)

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