A Kaleidoscope of Christmas

| Posted by Lou | The time is 6.00pm here in London UK |

I had a wonderful Christmas and hope you did too! Here is a chronology of my highlights. There were also plenty of dvds, games, laughs, and oh so much booze.

Eggnog - so gross!! Don't do it!

The performance of Di's life - giving a rendition of Fairytale of New York in order to win a mystery gift (a Corrie apron):

The HUGE Christmas Tree (at Cara and Chris'), bursting with gifts:

Best Thing Ever - a musical cake server with Christmas, Birthday, Wedding and Congratulations songs (from Chris):

Di's lovely new t-shirt (from Chris), my awesome cat hat (from Cara), and Chris' new tatts (from Ruthie):

Chris with his new nerd literature (from me) and tatts (from Ruthie):

The succulent chicken that died in order to make our Christmas Day a gluttonous one:

So much food! So much yumminess!:

Five very full, very satisfied people:

The pavlova, which had slumped in the middle and thus had cream, coulis and choccies applied to try and disguise the horror:

Does this count as White Christmas?? Random patches of leftover frozen snow??:

Ducks and swans enjoying their Christmas dinner:

Greenland Dock's frozen head as it tries to reach the strangely silent Thames:

The ladies posing in front of Canary Wharf:

That elusive Christmassy feeling

| Posted by Lou | The time is 9.50pm here in London UK |

I'm trying really, really hard to be Christmassy.

I psyched myself up from a long way out, planned my "12 Days of Christmas" feature... and... it's just not working.

I started with an advent calendar - though made the mistake of buying it to be a prop for my Beatles birthday party, so getting a thoroughly unthematic Thomas the Tank Engine one.

It has made me feel nostalgic for back when I was little and we would get a glittery nativity picture that had cute little depictions of Christmas and the story of Jeebus' birth behind every window.

Previously I'd just remembered the excitement of when advent calendars evolved to have chocolate behind each door, but alas not even that is getting my enthused with many of the chocolates remaining unopened and uneaten.

I have of course also tried the obvious route towards Christmas excitement by buying and wrapping gifts. I've gone for quantity over value or quality, and they have sort of worked a little bit.

At the very least they make my barely-decorated £3 tree look a lot more festive than it otherwise would!

And in broadening my Christmas horizons, I have done a weekender to German Christmas markets.

Unfortunately of course the Christmas markets occur at Christmas time, which is peak wintertime, which means that the cold and snow makes the temptation to go inside and drink German beer and eat German stodge far too great to resist.

However I did do a markets round and picked up a couple of gifts, and got myself this little traditional decoration to try and bling up my tree.

There have also been drunken Christmas parties and the boozy Christmas lunch... but I think the problem is that I'm missing the one key element to that Christmassy feeling: a week off work to look forward to. When one is unemployed, holidays just don't have the same irresistible appeal.

But there are things on their way to help: it looks like being a White Christmas (it will be white with a thick layer of snow and ice on the ground, but may also be actually snowing); I have charades and egg-nog planned; and tomorrow I'm going to go out and try and get me the world's most hideous Christmas jumper.

Watch this space.

5 Rules of Redundancy

| Posted by Lou | The time is 9.30pm here in London UK |

1. Where previously 6 hours of sleep was perfectly sufficient, you will now need 10 hours at least. And probably want to have a nap as well.

2. You will develop a sudden and strange interest in antique and property television programmes. A format combining both will feel like a work of genius and become your new favourite show.

3. Activities which would take one minute to do in the middle of a busy work day - such as calling the power company - will now require a whole afternoon to be planned around them.

4. A trip to Tesco to buy a few groceries counts as a busy afternoon.

5. You will look back and wonder how you managed to work at your former company for so long and think that being made redundant was the best thing that could have happened.

A really tactical person

| Posted by Bel | The time is 4.09pm here in Wellington NZ |

Him: Yeah, so then, like, I applied for the Peace Corps.

Her: Oh wow, I thought you had to be American to serve in the --

Him: Except you have to be American to get in there, so I'm kinda scouting around now.

Her: Right, seeing what to do next?

Him: Totally. I got put in touch with the UN, but I just don't think that's my thing.

Her: No, of course not. Um. Why not?

Him: Awh, man, I would just hate that, you know. Working for the UN is an office job, man! You're in New York, you're tied to a desk, that's just not me. It's all strategising and I'm a really tactical person, you know? I need to be on the ground, making the plans, making it happen.

Her: Yeah, wow, of course. So what will you do next then?

Him: What? Um, I dunno aye.

A true story, overheard by Bel in Satay Kingdom today.

12 Days of Christmas

| Posted by Lou | The time is 7.20pm here in London UK |

I had really thought my status as a redundasaurus would leave me posting away like a maniac, but instead I have been beyond useless due to the combined effects of the flu sapping all shreds of motivation and increased laptop usage triggering my RSI.

But perhaps if I write this introductory post it will prompt me to start posting some Christmassy things?

As I have time on my hands and am in London for it this year, I thought I'd go all out for Christmas and try to do a bunch of traditionally Christmassy things. This will include eggnog, carol singing (maybe), German Christmas markets, crafts (perhaps), and lots of food.

Upfront I'd just like to acknowledge upfront that yes, I know that the 12 Days of Christmas are the 12 days after Christmas. This is quite convenient actually as it allows me to procrastinate and spread it out a bit longer...

As ever, suggestions and/or requests welcome!

Book review: The Adderall Diaries by Steven Elliott

| Posted by Bel | The time is 11.37am here in Wellington NZ |

I'm going to blog soon with an update about The List and my abandonment of it and what my new reading project has been (for most of the year), honest. But in the meantime, here's a teeny-tiny review.

Lou and I are both fans of James Franco. If you actually went and watched that NY Times slideshow of actors acting I blogged about earlier, you would have seen the weirdly erotic film of him seducing himself. Being as well as being hot sauce, Franco is a talented actor who chooses interesting projects. Bit of installation art here, some Broadway rumours there, signed to host the Oscars over there - and his films vary from challenging and critically credible, to, um, dumb.

The Adderall Diaries came to my attention after I read that Franco had optioned the book to direct, also planning to write the script and potentially star. The author of this memoir, Steven Elliott, runs the website The Rumpus where you can read his short story, Where I Slept. (Seriously, go read this, it's pretty amazing.)

Intrigued and on a year-long bender of memoirs and autobiographies, I grabbed the book from my beloved Wellington Central Library. It was the exact same cover as pictured here! Should have got a real life pic, especially as I am rocking some glitter nail polish. Yes, I succumbed.

The writing is raw and confessional but still poetic, in the vein of Dave Eggers but without the distraction of his memoir's structural quirks and linguistic acrobatics. Chuck Palahniuk also comes to mind, though there is a relatable aspect to Elliott's writing which I've always found lacking even in books such as his Stranger Than Fiction.

The storyline weaves together what is a relatively simple murder case complicated by an unsolicited confession of guilt to other murders by a connected party, with Steven's own knowledge that his father may have killed someone when he was younger. The themes of deception and self-deception become entwined with his attempts to overcome writer's block and his self-imposed drifting in life.

A confronting aspect of The Adderall Diaries is the way Steven's sexual relationships and encounters are presented. His involvement in the S&M world means that sexual pleasure is interwoven with violence, a concept which can be hard to reconcile. There are graphic descriptions, not just of the surroundings of bondage dungeons that he visits, but of the way he feels during the experience. This can actually be revelatory, especially later in the book when he talks about the joy of feeling pain in this context as being a refuge from the terrors of his younger years.

(PS yes there were moments when I went "Oh lordy, Franco, really?!" at the thought of how sequences of the book would play out on the big screen.)

Summary: The Adderall Diaries by Steven Elliott gets a THUMBS UP and a recommendation if you are into reading about kinky stuff or true crime.

Actors acting for the NY Times

| Posted by Bel | The time is 9.36am here in Wellington NZ |

Oscar buzz already? Oh yes, folks. The NY Times has cranked up a notch with a 'Hollywood Issue' which includes an online album The Scene Makers which translates to their endorsements for Oscar acting nominations.

The accompanying video gallery called Fourteen Actors Acting  [NSFW if you count Natalie Portman taking off a dress to reveal underwear as NSFW, but you could just skip that one] is a big scale production, featuring minute-long performances from each in stunning black and white with an orchestral soundtrack, recorded in Prague. Classy!

Some thoughts:
  • Michael Douglas looks like a character from a David Lynch film. I mean that in the very best way.
  • The word 'rapture' came to my mind when watching Tilda Swinton's performance. Interesting to read that it was an interpretation of Joan of Arc.
  • Javier Bardem can smash my crockery any day!! Mmm-hmmm! *snaps fingers*
  • I cannot waaaaaait to see Black Swan!! It's showing at The Embassy. Yuhessss.

This project made me think of Sam Taylor-Wood's photographic collection Crying Men. I was unimpressed when I saw this at Wellington's City Gallery a few years back (loved her other work), as none of the emotion supposedly being expressed in the images had any integrity. You knew it was all actors, so of course all the crying was just... actor crying.

Whereas these 'short films' or whatever they are, embrace the medium and the art, as the title evokes. It is reminescent of Andy Warhol's Screen Tests, which was recently developed into 13 Most Beautiful, a stage show with live music.

Book review: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

| Posted by Bel | The time is 10.15am here in Wellington NZ |

Yesterday I promised you lazy. How lazy? How about a blog post copy and pasted from an email I wrote to Lou earlier this week??

If you haven't read Zeitoun, please taihoa because we are chock full of SPOILERS below. Oh and rampant hating on the administration of at-the-time-US president George W Bush.

From: Lou
To: Bel
Subject: Zeitoun
Date: Sat, Nov 27, 2010 at 9:18 AM

Thoughts please!

Did you know about the parking lot prison when you read it? I didn't and literally felt like a cartoon when I got to it - like my bottom jaw literally fell to the floor and my tongue rolled out and I made the Scooby-Doo "huh" noise. It has been in the media a couple of times in the past year but I was hoping you wouldn't have seen so as to get the full impact!

FYI: did you see that George W recently said in his memoirs that his lowest moment was being accused of being racist during the Katrina aftermath. Not the aftermath itself... I saw this on the TV in Vegas and was shouting at the television.

From: Bel
To: Lou
Date: Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 10:16 AM

I had my usual cultural context/current affairs amnesia take over me as I read the book and was so caught up in the narrative that everything came as a surprise.

Like, to the extent that when the storm passes and it's bad, but not that bad in terms of their experiences of hurricanes, I was like "aawh... yay..." and totally FORGOT about the whole FLOODING thing. Shame.

Okay. So.  Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.
  2. And then at the end, it mentions that the other three guys all spent, like, 6 months longer in the maximum security prison than him!! Fuuuuck!!
  3. But assumedly not in solitary confinement. Did I tell you (or link to) this article I read about solitary confinement?? It was about this guy who was wrongly imprisoned for like 35 years and spent most of it in solitary (yes, in the USA, of course). There's all the psychiatric studies now about how the worst prison treatment is not being beaten or starved, but solitary. It's pretty much actually guaranteed to send you mental and make you incapable of returning to a normal life elsewhere in the prison, let alone 'outside'. [ETA: this isn't the article I originally read, but there is a great series here on NPR if you want to bone up on this subject.]
  4. Nope, no idea about the Guatanomo style prison. (I think I just thought he'd been locked up for ages bc of the paranoia that terrorists were 'around' post-Katrina. No actual idea of the content of the book, thanks to some effective paranoid skimming of articles in the past hehhee.)
  5. That bit where he does the construction-business-man style calculations in his head, and figures out how it must have taken them literally days to build it all, with supplies trucked in, while people were literally drowning in the neighbouring suburbs, is so gut-wrenching.
  6. I thought it was very restrained the way the book doesn't actually point any fingers. (See George W Bush rant below.) It mentions that all of the funding and administration of FEMA (that's their equivalant of our Civil Defence, right?) had been sucked up into the new formly Dept of Homeland Security (gaaawd that name is sooo ridiculous), but doesn't actually say "Worst. Idea. Ever." and instead just let's you see how that plays out.
  7. Same with the military forces in the book. Whenever they appear, they're always these cyphers, nameless, featureless, adbrupt and brutal. They have been trained into machines and they have no humanity.
  8. Complete contrast to Zeitoun, who seems to be pretty much the best person in the world.
  9. I cried when he got out of prison. I also found it really affecting how Kathy removed her hijab that time and realised chunks of her hair had turned white. (Perhaps bc of my recent hair-related traumas?)
  10. I loved the way the book presented spirituality in general. How it strived to show why being religious was an important, integral part of these people's lives. How it was just normalcy for them. I think that for some who views Muslim as 'other' it would have been a good way of bridging that difference, and seeing it as another facet of the same kinds of beliefs for conventional Christianity. I.e. not actually part and parcel of being an evil bloodythirsty terrorist.
  11. I thought at first they weren't going to tell the story of how Kathy converted, but rather sort of leave it as just an implict background thing, that that was just part of their normal lives, that this Southern white woman is a Muslim, yeah what of it. So when her conversion story did get told, I was like oooOOOOOoooh. (Crack up that it was her and her Japanese-American friend. Are there ANY proper Muslims in America??)
  12. Weird how the book talks a lot about the three daughters, but not much about the older son (from a previous marriage) Zachary. I assume this was intentional....? Like how in AHWOSG he downplayed his older sister (bc she was battling w depression) (the one who was then acrimonious about being left out of the book, who he then made up with, who then killed herself) (sob!).

Re George W. He said that the lowest moment in his whole presidential career was being called racist after Katrina. My god. I have SO MANY issues with this:
  1. I am conflicted, bc it was Kayne West who called him out on this, and Kanye West is pretty much cuckoo for cocopops....
  2. ....and yet when he made this statement [ETA: man, I love watching that, the best jump cut since Goddard was at his peak], it was bang on the money. Hence, why it got censored and hence why it actually did hurt GWB's feelings. THE TRUTH HURTS, BUDDY, IT HURTS.
  3. Bush's comment in his memoir seems to be one of those "I'm sorry if you took that the wrong way and you decided to feel hurt by what I said" apologies, you know? When someone weasels their way out of actually acknowledging being in the wrong at all?? (Fuck I hate when people do that.)
  4. Not to downplay Katrina and its aftermath at all, but really, George, really?? Of all the shit that went down, that is what you think back upon?!
    1. Not that bullshit with the fictional WMDs;
    2. or the thousands of civilians who died in various countries bc of your and Condelezza's constant hawking;
    3. or the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout Africa bc of your refusal to fund health programmes which supply condoms;
    4. or the recession brought on through your administrations mismanagement of the economy;
  5. He has now actually done some really good work in Haiti (with Bill Clinton) and one part of me is like "yay!" and the other part is like "are... you... fucken... kidding... me?? do... you... want... a... medal...??"
  6. Last 2 paras of this are HILARIOUS in illustrating the differences btwn the two presidents and why Bush suuuuuccckkksss:

From: Lou
To: Bel
Date: Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 11:52 AM

Yep. To everything.

I would like to see an earlier draft - I would imagine that Dave probably literally sat down with the manuscript and went through it purely to remove any statements that could be seen to be political against GWB (or military) specifically so as to remove any ammunition for people to disregard the story as being "liberal propaganda". The story so speaks for itself that it doesn't need anything more anyway.

And yep, re: GWB. But he'd have to admit that any of those other things were wrong to name anything associated with that... And I think within the American cultural framework of being "WOO AMERICA YEAH US AGAINST EVERYONE" the way he completely fucked over Americans during Katrina and its aftermath is actually probably the most damaging and telling thing against him from the perspective of Americans (who are obviously the only people he cares about).

FYI: you should now get your hands on the doc Trouble the Water:

It has the documentary footage/ firsthand accounts of the abandoned people to accompany the book and provide the sort of "every(wo)man" experience of the situation.

From: Bel
To: Lou
Date: Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 12:20 PM

The draft version where the footer on each page was PS fuck Bush!!!!!!

You are right about how the story speaks for itself. It didn't need any (leftist/liberal) trimmings - in fact, it was almost infuriating how Zeitoun is still so pro-America at the end and has all this belief and hope and crap and you're like 'but whhhyyyyyyyy?????'.

Trouble The Water! Yes. I was trying to think of that, but could only remember the name of the Spike Lee one. (I nearly wrote Spike Jonze just then. I don't imagine his take on Katrina would be quite the same.)

From: Bel
To: Lou
Date: Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 12:29 PM

Just watched the trailer. EMOTIONAL.

December = microblogging AKA Bel is lazy

| Posted by Bel | The time is 11.40am here in Wellington NZ |

It sounds like Lou might have a bit of time on her hands over the next month, living in the lap of... redundancy, but I'm going to be caught up in that hideous feverish end-of-year time warp.

Remember that work project I was berating myself about when caught up in the ultimate self-absorbed procastination of 30 Days of Me?? It's still dragging out. We're due to go live next week, but Monday has already been bumped to Wednesday and with the buttload of tasks I have to complete before that is even possible, I'm still here, preambling my ramble.


My decision is that I shall have the indulgence of blogging this month. But in teeny tiny doses. See you (a little bit) soon!


Here is a very old photo of me on my front lawn with a teeny-tiny horse and teeny-tiny house.


| Posted by Lou | The time is 8.45pm here in London UK |

Back in the early days Bel became a crocodile redundee, so I've decided I get to be a redundasaurus.

This is actually a creature called a redondasaurus, apparently.
I am not sure whether or not it was gainfully employed in the Jurassic Economy.

I'm not a Victim of the Recession, but rather someone who has been made redundant after getting caught in the political cross-fire of the UK media.

I secretly find this quite flattering - I got a compromise agreement and a real proper Solicitor and was able to negotiate (a tiny bit) and in general it was like Making It in the corporate world to be more than just a Cost Cut.

And as I like to look at it, I'm being paid to leave a job I didn't particularly like and certainly wasn't happy in.

So I'm going to have lots of time on my hands. I'll be able to do my upcoming 12 Days of Christmas feature properly with researched and thought-out activities and posts; I'll be able to finally learn to play that effing ukulele; I'll be able to finish that short-film script; I'll be able to see those films I've missed.

And - most importantly - I'll be able to fuck off to the Southern Hemisphere for several weeks :D

So, really, overall, I'm quite happy about it all, if not a little miffed at the way my boss and I have been treated. But thems the breaks and I knew it could happen.

Harry Potter 7 Part 2: Lou's review

| Posted by Lou | The time is 4.30pm here in London UK |

Let me get the most important thing out of the way upfront:

OhmygodHermione'sreddressarghgetmeoneimmediately! SeriouslywherecanIgetoneIwanttoweariteveryday!

Okay, please assume that I agree with Bel that their acting had improved, the tardis handbag was AWESOME, and that I appreciate that the films have grown with the audience.


I just didn't dig it.

I thought the director made some really odd choices - like Ron's vision of Harry and Hermione that looked like it was inspired by an interweb search of scary fan art from the erotic realm.

I wasn't quite game to google "erotic harry potter fan art" at work

Or the dance sequence - sorry but I just found it weird and uncomfortable in the context of the film, the characters, and the audience. (Even Ruth, who loved the movie, was nervously giggling like "is this meant to be funny, or moving, or...?")

Or the deathly hallows sequence which, while beautiful, didn't seem like it belonged in a Harry Potter film. I guess these complaints add up to a general dissatisfaction with the lack of a really cohesive and distinctive style to this film - Lord of the Rings it is not.

Most of all though, I didn't feel a sense of urgency or suspense, even within the individual action sequences. I know it is extremely difficult to make a film that is essentially just foreplay... but foreplay should be better than this.

I thought the action passed by too quickly without having been woven for full clarity and effect (which made me think they had run out of time in post-production). And - crucially - I didn't get a sense of the looming menace of Voldemort.

But I'm still really excited about the last film...

Harry Potter 7 Part I: Bel's review

| Posted by Bel | The time is 12.33pm here in Wellington NZ |

First up, has anyone else been saying "Deadly" Hallows this whole time, or was it just me? How embarrassment.

Second up, preemptive SPOILER ALERT. If you haven't finishing reading all of the last book yet, then what are you doing wasting your time here??

Me and three other adults excitedly went along with our token 10 year old to Wellington's best cinema (yes, The Embassy) on a sunny Saturday afternoon to see Harry Potter and the Deadly Deathly Hallows.

The films have definitely gotten bigger and better as they've gone along. Just as the storylines have darkened and the characters grown older, the films have managed to balance keeping pace with the fact that their audience is predominantly children who need to be able to actually view the content. However I do think this film was a bit much for the 7 year old sitting next to me, who was more interested in distracting herself by swinging her feet during the scary bits than being careful about not kicking the nice lady in the chair right by her.

The biggest joy is that the lead trio seem to actually be able to act this time round. Hermione was so painful in those early films, and Ron only enjoyable because you assume he is supposed to be a complete ham. But the kids have all grown up and so has their talent. The dialogue of the script lets them down frequently, but the chemistry is natural and perhaps what we're seeing is their real friendships shining through.

Freed from the confines of Hogwarts, this installment is much more action-packed. The chapters which dragged in the book, where our intrepid heroes do some camping, some bickering, some more camping and then a bit more annoying teenaged bickering, are dealt with in a decidedly better way in the film. I.e. Nick Cave dance sequence.

Though it does suffer from a touch of the LOTRs (jewellery that gives you the grumps? ummm deja vu, anyone?), it's the wonderful magic tricks that makes us love the Harry Potter franchise that makes up for it. People disapperate at a rapid rate, everything and anything is accio-ed, potions are flung over wounds for instant healing. Oh and my favourite, the TARDIS-like tent. I could actually get into camping if that thing was real.

My big disappointment was in not seeing enough of the characters that we've grown to love thanks to the film adaptations. Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood has been gold, and we barely got a glimpse of her and her perfectly on-trend jumpsuit, while the stunt casting of Rhys Ifans as her father seemed to be on the screen for hours. (Does anyone else recall the book stating that Xenophilius Lovegood was known for being weirdly over tanned? No? Me neither. Harrrumphf.)

The biggest scandal even than Neville Longbottom turning out pretty hot in real life or Emma Watson's post-shoot cropping of her previously contractually protected locks has been the ripping off of an Alexander McQueen design for the wedding scene.

Perhaps Fleur Delacour (or rather, costume designer Jany Temime) couldn't magic up herself any originality?

And scandalous also was the deviation from the sacred tome itself, which states that Hermione wore lilac to Fleur and Bill's wedding. Instead in the film she shows up in this number:

Shocking hot red colour? Gorgeous detailing? A-line skirt? Flattering length? Sexy neckline? Sensible shoulder straps? Yep, Lou and I will have one each, thanks. Plus that nifty clutch purse with the Undectable Extension Charm wouldn't go amiss either. Hand it over and all is forgiven for not following the book letter and line!!

How to throw a really awesome Beatles themed 30th Birthday Party

| Posted by Lou | The time is 12.05pm here in London UK |

My 30th Birthday Party turned out to be the best party I've ever had, so thought I'd share some of the best tips!

Generally I find hosting a party to be extremely stressful so had done a lot of googling for ideas, but in the end it came down to mac'n'cheese, Abbey Road, and good ol' punch.

1. Macaroni Cheese Canapés

Surprisingly this was the hit of the night. I had whipped up a massive batch earlier in the day which was sitting in the oven. At the mad-hungas time of the party (10? 10.30?) I cooked it (making sure someone more responsible than myself was standing chatting in the kitchen and found themself on timing duty) then wrangled myself a helper whose job was to hold an old vinyl record. I bunged big spoonfuls into muffin cases (double them up as it'll be hot), stuck in a plastic fork, and sent her into the room... She was back in about 10 seconds shouting "more! more! faster!" as the room made an audible shift towards the kitchen.

This is totally not what mine looked like at all, it just looks yummy.
Hopefully someone has a photo of mine I can insert here later...

My macaroni cheese is based on a recipe that exists only in my head - I believe it comes from the Edmonds Cookbook white sauce with lots of medium chedder cheese put in. Normally I would put a crunchy topping on of teensy bits of toast (like not quite a crumb but much smaller than croutons) mixed with grated cheese, which creates a nice crunchy texture - but for the party I couldn't be fucked and nobody noticed! Best part? Clean up is minimal, and it took about 15 mins to prepare earlier in the day and about 10 mins to serve during the party.

2. Abbey Road

I had organised very few decorations for the Beatles theme, leaving me somewhat reliant on costumes. I made my bedroom (which opens onto the living room with double doors) reminiscent of the "bed in for peace" and plastered the doors with these Yoko Ono "War is Over" posters. Other than that was the occasional Beatles decoration that I already owned, and the use of Thomas the Tank Engine paper cups for my instant pudding/ angel delight canapés.

So luckily for me two wonderful guests turned up with suits and Beatles wigs and brought along the Abbey Road crossing. It was the best thing possible for emphasising the theme and giving a focus point for the costumes and photos. Luckily they were quite early to arrive too so probably everyone else thought I'd come up with it...

Louise in the Sky with Diamonds and Ringo
Please note alcohol stains all down my dress...

3. Magical Mystery Punch

Ah, punch - the lowest of the low, easiest of the easy. But such a classic...

I was trying to be somewhat more sophisticated than the 21st birthday party version of punch (cheap vodka, juice, lemonade) and at least bought proper vodka and variety of juices. I believe it started out as vodka, orange juice, lemonade, fiery ginger beer, and cranberry & raspberry cordial. It became more potent and mixed as the night progressed, with the requirement for speedy refreshment of the bowl's supply leading me at one point to throw in half a bottle of bubbly, some gin...

But it did the trick, it actually seemed to keep somewhat of a modicum of sobriety at the party (I guess even if it seems strong it isn't as strong as drinking bubbly for 6 hours non-stop (and by "sobriety" I mean "not quite rollicking drunkenness")), and was an easy space-saver due to the limited ingredients; without seeming like total cheap student piss.

Err... mine was more pyrex-baking-bowl-with-plastic-tumblers

On the day of my party I was stressed and thinking "I'm never hosting a party again!!", but focussing on the simple touches I think I just might possibly... next time I have an excuse... (my 40th?)

Well that's that then.

| Posted by Lou | The time is 3.10pm here in London UK |

If someone had told me I'd start my 30s by being right, proper fucked I wouldn't have been so against the idea - unfortunately though this one wasn't of the carnal kind.

Before I even had a chance to put my best intentions and proactive self-pep-talks into action I found out that in my absence last week wider workplace situations came to a head and my boss "quit"*.

I did not find this out through him giving me the courtesy of telling me, but rather from innocently coming across an email from the HR Director drafting the announcement.

After more than 2 years of going above and beyond the call of duty, and of displaying super-human loyalty towards him, I've been totally and utterly fucked.

In this situation all I can do is try my best to turn the situation into a positive, so watch this space.

(First of all though I'm going to watch depressing movies and cry, then try and get more than a jet-lagged 4 hours sleep in a night.)

*in our company's speak "quit" does not refer to a necessarily voluntary act

1 Day Till 30

| Posted by Lou | The time is 4.50pm here in London UK |

Well, here I am in the extra 12 hours of my 20s given to me by Greenwich Meantime, and I have to confess that the 30 Days of 30 didn't exactly go as planned... I didn't really think through the fact that I was going to Vegas for 5 days of it, and that the busiest period of the working year falls in late-October.

A couple of my primary topics remain unarticulated as I just never had the time or mental space to put my thoughts down. An attack on the inability of culture to accept singlehood as a legitimate lifestyle choice for many women is the main one - but that can wait.

Though in a way I think this is personally very good - it emphasises totally that tomorrow is just another birthday. I'm not waiting for the Y2K bug to hit at midnight as something drastic happens to underscore moving into a new numeral bracket.

Having said that, I did have a bit of time to think in Vegas and came up with a few things that I realised I really want to do.

One is finding a pastry course where I can learn to make more aesthetically appealing baked delights and learn more about ingredients and method. Not for any other reason than that I want to.

Another is to use the call function of my phone more instead of just texting or emailing. I can't think of the number of times I've had a protracted text conversation that could have been sorted by phone in 20 seconds. Plus London life means sometimes going weeks without speaking to people.

Also the work situation became crystal clear [last week's big moment was a fizzle due to getting a middling answer - the next day I very strongly expressed that the answer wasn't good enough, then went on holiday after checking that he would come back to me on Monday with a more concrete plan], and I now feel like I've reduced it to a clearer and thus much more easily resolvable scenario. (This will most likely lead to me quitting once and for all.)

Oh, and I realised I'm not a complete sell-out (yet) - the dazzling array of consumer products and money holes contained in the Vegas Strip provided no pangs of temptation. (Well, excpet for that red vinyl handbag in the Bettie Page shop... but I resisted!) So I guess the pull of greater fulfilment will snag me again soon...

Anyway, that's that. Farewell 20s.

Lock me in the attic, it's a new Jane Eyre!

| Posted by Bel | The time is 10.22am here in Wellington NZ |

This looks meeeeean!

I am a fan of Jane Eyre, the book by Charlotte Bronte, and Jane Eyre, the character, having Lou compell me to read it. I'd read Wuthering Heights (written by Emily Bronte, Charlotte's sister) and filed it under "L" for lame and assumed Jane Eyre was more of the same. This was around the same time I made failed attempts to get into Austen, causing a near unrecoverable rift in our friendship.

The book is written in the first person and Jane becomes a friend that you rally alongside, even as you are aware of the fate that lies ahead. (Because SPOILER: a lot of this book's plot is already out there in popular culture and in people's blog headlines and so on.) It's a great story of being caught deciding between the nice guy and the bad boy and about kicking your way up from the bottom, even when no one is expecting that of you.

The film has a great team behind it (Sin Nombre meets Tamara Drewe? Um, yes please!) and, from the trailer, appears to be going with the angle that Jane is a smart wee upstart, rather than a swooning love interest.

So now we just have to wait til MARCH 2011 to see it! Man, and you thought that week until Harry Potter 7 was out was going to be bad!

3 Days Till 30: What makes you notice someone?

Posted by Lou The time is 9.00am here in London UK

Another of the prompts:

What makes you notice someone?

Well, assuming they mean in terms of men, I am as predictable as the Big Ben in that I have one very specific physical type that I will always - ALWAYS - notice:

curly brown hair

(preferably a little bit too long, scraggly, and with no hair product)


Despite the recent years, Joaquin remains my ultimate model for scraggly haired goodness

4 Days Till 30: Riches

Posted by Lou The time is 9.00am here in London UK

I am actually in Vegas, of course, having set these to post before leaving. So part of me is hoping that by the time you read this I have made my millions on the pokey machines and tables...

Which led to another piece of Advice For Life:

Never pick lotto numbers. Always do lucky dip. (Or nothing.)

Once you have selected numbers you'll spend the rest of your life buying lotto tickets because you'll be too scared they'll come up on the very week you stop.

(Thankfully this one is not based on personal experience!)

5 Days Till 30: 10 years ago today...

Posted by Lou The time is 9.00am here in London UK

Where were you and what were you doing ten years ago?

Coincidentally I started to write this post to go live on 7th November 2010, and then realised that this is actually ten years to the day from probably my most infamous drinking event ever.

I was living in Hamilton and it was the end of my second year of uni. We had just moved into our third flat of the year (one got foreclosed, the next was a short-term lease, then this one lasted us a year), and Cara and I had finished our exams.

We drank vodka and sodastream (I suspect the other flatmate who had moved in was still mid-exams so we were doing this on the sly), and got completely waaaaaasted.

And so - as you do - we decided to go onto campus with Cara's giant poster of Pat Rafter. Dressed in our pyjamas. And matching blue hoodies. As you do. And took photos of us with it, all over campus.

Did I mention that it was the night of the US Election, Gore vs Bush? It was. And this filtered into my alcohol addled mind, and I became determined to find the hidden campus US Election voting booth and cast the deciding vote for Gore.

Then we took photos of ourselves doing brown-eyes in the IT department toilets. Then took a photo outside our soon-to-be flatmate's bedroom. Then lost the film. Then went home.

And that was what I was doing 10 years ago today.

Ask Aunty Bel: Say something nasty or turn the other cheek?

| Posted by Bel | The time is 8.42pm here in Wellington NZ |

The first in our  previously non-existent series "Ask Aunty Bel [or Lou, whomever is not in Las Vegas at the time]".

A reader says that they are currently brewing with bilious nastiness to be directed at a particular person, and don't know whether it's best to be up front or drown it all in the chardonnay sea.

I once had someone say something really nasty to me. This person had thought about at length and discussed it with other people, mutual friends even. They thought they understood the situation and that they were very much in the right. Objectively and subjectively, they felt justified. Not only did they need to say what they were saying, but I actually needed to hear it for my own benefit, too.

Of course what this person was actually doing was incredibly judgemental, vindictive, and hurtful for the sake of being hurtful. I don't think they will ever fully realise this - for them it will always be a moment that they look back on as when they said what was on their heart so that I could be set straight. "Real talk" I believe the kids are calling it these days.

I wish I was referring to my first year of high school, but this happened only a few years ago. I had nightmares about afterwards. I'm not AT ALL suggesting that you are like this person (these people, The Forgotten, as I like to refer to them as) - because oh sweet Jesus you are so not - but I just want to set the scene for why I am wary of getting on a soap box and letting rip on personal matters.

There are actually some times when you ARE right to do it. And when you will actually get personal benefit from the experience of it. The verbal equivalent of Monday's 5.15pm BoxFit.

But personally, I am an advocate of the "silent but deadly" (see also: Farts, Effective) in that I will just cut you out and will not even miss you. You will realise you haven't heard from me in a very long time and eventually your son will tell you that actually your granddaughter is throwing all of the mail from you unread straight into the rubbish because she doesn't want any more opportunities in her life for you to hurt her, or maybe he won't, you know, because he's never been able to stand up to them and protect his own child from their hurtfulness because he's still too desperate for their affection, at any cost WAIT TOO MUCH INFORMATION.

I think this all comes down to pain. And the most important thing, really, is what is going to cause you the least pain? In the long term, as well as the short.

I've seen situations where empassioned outbursts of angry emotions have lead to, well, pretty much just shitstorms. It doesn't necessarily make it any easier on you and that thing you had to get off your chest in the first place can become an even heavier weight on your shoulders.

Now give us a cuddle and try one of my passionfruit yo-yos with blue icing!

Aunty Bel