WHAT IF

BROKEN HEART

 

 

What if I hadn’t gone to that wedding, and humoured the best man, who I found repulsive and stepped on my toes. He had been ‘recovering from something’ and I had to dance with him, being the maid of honour.  I kept my face away from him, and dropped his hands like a stone once the song was over. He found solace in the sister in law and I was saved from his advances. Sometimes when you find someone so unappealing it’s like a foul odour you want to waft away. All at once we can find people either repellent or intoxicating.

 

What If when I got back home from that trip, I hadn’t contracted swine flu; the flu that meant I was unable to keep anything down, or move my limbs much, or keep my eyes open, or do anything but sleep in a weak and delirious stupor.

What if I hadn’t been shivering to the point where I felt like my body was made of ice and all the heat in the world wouldn’t thaw me out.

As a consequence I crawled with my blanket to be by the fire to warm my chilled flesh on the hot coals emitting a soothing heat, pinching the duvet under my chin to comfort myself, switching the television on in that moment, to pass the time.

I could have crawled back to bed, but I didn’t. I could have laid down but I didn’t. I could have continued to watch the flames lick the logs but instead I chose to watch that particular channel. And at that very moment, that show flickered across the monitor.

Within the first 30 seconds, you appeared.

What if I had never  laid eyes on you?

You filling up my screen with your presence, being so witty and attractive. Me being utterly mesmerized and not being able to take my eyes off you.  I wanted you the moment I saw you. Without for a second contemplating that it would or could ever happen. But I did meet you. And I did touch your face and I did witness your stormy eyes firsthand.

The sound of you messaging, like cocaine for the soul. Any mention of you. Seeing your name emblazoned on my phone screen.

Maybe if I  was stronger I could handle the pain. The kind of pain that feels like splinters in your stomach, waking you up with a kick in the early morning hours. Once again  the realization that you are not next to me.

What if I could stop sobbing over the thing that I never had in the first place? Because I never had you. The deep throaty sobs that catch in my windpipe and leave me exhausted, my eyes burning.

What would be different?

Would I have had another heartache? Would there be nobody crushing my paper heart in their palm?

Would there be someone else enveloping me in their arms and telling me it’s going to be okay? Or would I have been alone, none the wiser, sitting by the fire and watching something else entirely.

I wonder; what if I hadn’t fallen for you?

 

I feel crushed.

Spin yourself Thin

SPIN BIKE

 

So in an effort to drop the pounds (new year, new me! Hashtag, emoji etc!) I have taken a few measures, one of which is joining the bandwagon of doing spinning. Spinning used to be something frequented by over 40 mums who needed an outlet and a place to spin out their frustrations – and let’s be fair – they were ripped.

Now millions of us do it and it’s proving to be quite the fun class to do, whilst also burning a shed load of calories – no mean feat. At first, I was afraid (I was petrified) thinking I could never survive, spinning on my hide, but survive I did. And it definitely gets easier. My first class was agony for my bum. (Cue sniggering for the dirty minded out there,) the seat is basically a slender slab of METAL, and you spend your time pummelling your cheeks against it as you spin enough to take off. This made me enjoy the time that my arse was off the seat and I was cycling whilst supporting my body weight in the air. Some find this very difficult. I actually do not. This is because I have a lot of strength in my legs. I grew up on a farm lifting hay bales, mostly using the thighs. I can’t lift for shit with my arms though – I don’t have much upper body strength. Maybe this is why this works for me.

Having had 3 different teachers in as many classes, I have found out that there are many different ways to teach this class (and experience it). Not all of which are that pleasant, but effective no less. I will say that as a woman, I do not enjoy the battering my groin takes. Women will concur, men will wonder what we are on about. Apparently you get used to this, but to get round it I just spend as much time as possible, out of the seat.

One teacher we had was utterly bonkers; she kept inviting passing customers to join in (there is a ceiling to floor window wall)  and then at certain intervals she would actually dismount her bike and walk around the room to check whether you were working hard enough, and bear down on you if you weren’t. Wasn’t a massive fan of this to be honest, neither was the rest of the class if the feedback I heard was anything to go by. The rest of her class was tough, with her telling you to yam up the resistance, but  a good workout no less. Another teacher spent the whole time telling us about the pasta and chips she had before the class (what were  you thinking woman??) and how she might puke, NICE. She also kept saying ‘I know that this next bit will REALLY hurt’ – which isn’t motivating at all. Her music was also shit. Amazing how much difference music makes to a work out. It can really push you when you have that rising crescendo and you feel yourself being geared up until the chorus -when you go NUTS spinning for your life.  The third woman told us we were fat, and that’s why we were in her class. I can see what she was *trying* to do, offensive no less. I didn’t like her class as it concentrated on alternating between on the seat, off the seat with too much emphasis on leaning forward which put a great deal of strain on the knee – not good.

The good news is that it DOES get easier. The more you go the more you can cope – even if you have to push though that first 15 minutes where your body is in shock going this again? Really??

And at 45 minutes it’s not *too* unbearable an amount of time.

More good news? I’ve shifted 11 pounds since Christmas. So let’s all torture ourselves together, and come to Spin class! Wahoo. Just don’t tell Spinning that I sometimes cheat on it with Circuits. Hey, variety is the spice of life.

Making the Jump.

Leap-of-Faith-Quote-by-Margaret-Shepard

Someone once said that ‘success is right outside your comfort zone’ and I reckon they are probably right. The problem is doing those things that take balls. I find it hard to do things that scare me as I came from such a sheltered upbringing. I wasn’t allowed near water till I was older (my mum was terrified about us drowning) and consequently I was terrified of pools and didn’t learn to swim till I was 16. This did not help me, obviously. It only hindered me.

If we suggested back packing our father warned of ‘murderers abroad’  and I wasn’t even allowed to go to my school overnight party at 13 in case the teachers ‘weren’t responsible.’ It all added up to me feeling anxious and on edge a lot of the time.

So is it any wonder, these neuroses?

 

The battle ever since has been doing things that are scary, but could be amazing. And for the most part, I have tried to take a leap, but it’s definitely not always easy.

There are so many things to consider, so many scenarios,  balls to juggle,  people’s expectations to manage.

And then recently (but not soon enough) I realised that I only had to manage my own expectations. That as much as I feel like I’m being selfish (because we grew up with a truck load of guilt poured on us, about EVERYTHING) that life is short. You may be wondering how this has only just occurred to me. Well, of course I have always known life is short. But we spend a lot of time thinking about how stuff *might* turn out, and how other people *might* be affected. We play things out in our heads a million different ways. But guess what? You can’t make everyone happy, in fact you won’t no matter what you do.  And however much you picture things in your head, if you don’t do them, you’ll never know.

I am guessing we all spend way too much time hypothesizing about the ifs and buts. But I really don’t want to be thinking about that when I’m 80 and wondering ‘what if’ instead of ‘wow that was good. So glad I wasn’t chicken shit and just did it.’

So this is the year I have decided to get scary! I mean we all know I’m a bit scary but I mean I am going to try and do stuff that I normally wouldn’t. No I don’t mean drugs, (that would probably result in a mild case of death knowing me.) No I mean just taking a leap of faith now and then.

I’ve actually applied for some competitions, instead of having the mind-set ‘I’ll never win’ and I actually have won some as a consequence – one of which was to appear on 4music – which I have done a few times now, on video crush. This mostly serves as a bit of exposure, some fun and the chance to do something a bit different and I’ve really enjoyed doing it.

It sounds so cliché but the saying you have to be in it to win It’ is kinda true. What did Michael Jordan say? ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’

My friend recently told me that I needed to change my outlook, and that I was being too negative. Even though I went mad at him at the time, he has a point. I need to stop being afraid.

So I have decided that 2015 is going to be fucking awesome. And I’m going to be brave.

All Tied Up

reaching

How do you unfurl somebody?

 

Somebody that you care for so much, yet they don’t allow themselves to care that much for you.

Somebody tied so tight in a knot. And then you come along, tugging at that knot, threatening to undo it.

They might even secretly feel good about it. It might spark some long dormant emotions. It might awaken a fire long thought of as extinguished. A desire not sated but quietened.

But you don’t want that. Your knot is so tight it makes you numb, but it’s all you’ve ever known. You take comfort in that knot.

If only you would loosen your grip of the situation. To embrace the warmth and light:

me.

But you won’t ever do that..

Am I strangling myself with the loose tethers you allow me?  Probably.

Every now and then I give some slack and I feel you slipping away. That’s when something brings us back together. We never truly let go. But you hold onto the peripheral of me. Not the whole of me.

I  just want to embrace the part of you that you conceal from me. Not these frayed ends that you reluctantly allow me to perceive.

But you have anchored yourself to a rotten post. One you’ve been attached to for a long time. One that once bore you fruit but now you are mounted to this wizened tree stump, striking you with its dagger-ous limbs. Every lance to the face only serving to convince you that you earned it. You enjoy the punishment. You think you deserve it.

My palm is constantly open to you. My finger tips stretching towards you, reaching desperately for you in the darkness. Hoping you’ll receive me, but you never do.

Maybe I should close my hand.

You are sinking, you and your post. Not voraciously; you won’t be gorged by a rapid quicksand. Yours is a slow and insidious journey. The steady envelopment of your soul until one day you realise you can’t breathe.

One day your hand may finally reach out to mine, when you are just about to suffocate.

But the question is, will I still be there to take it?

 

ROPE ON A WIRE

 

A Life Less Ordinary

BIRDS 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I look out the window longing and dreaming.

Imagining a life less dust and more ‘gleaming.’

This life isn’t bad, this desk is not coarse.

But this day is mediocre and I’m feeling so lost

And this becomes the next, drinking all my time

I wish I could tell you I was feeling just fine.

The birds migrate, they have somewhere to go.

But I’m still here and I’m feeling so low.

I watch them pulse in a crowd, and get so small

As they eclipse the horizon; I can’t see them at all.

A plane in the clouds, this comforts me so.

I want to go lasso it, and see where it goes.

This life isn’t bad, this tea isn’t cold

But I want to do something, before I get old.

I watch the skyline, golden with trees

Each finger of turquoise piercing the breeze.

I think of the magic, I try every day

A new door closes; a new hope frays.

I’ll plant some fresh seeds, drown out the doubt

Wait for the buds, or wait for the drought.

I look out the window and wonder what will be.

But this life isn’t bad

It just isn’t for me.

 

The Perils Of Social Media

 

 TWEETING BIRDS ON WIRE BLOG

 

It’s true what they say. You really are what you tweet.

 

Literally once you put something out there, you are fair game for ridicule, agreement, praise, embarrassment, encouragement, a meeting of minds.. the list goes on.

We are definitely a generation of tweeters. Companies tweet to promote their goods,  customer service is increasingly dealt with on social media.  I get all my news fixes in 140 characters – condensed and without the doomsday presenters – the way I like it. We tweet because we love the sound of our own voices, but also we hope that someone in the ether is listening.

It’s no secret that I love tweeting.

 

I met a previous love interest on twitter. It broke my heart at times.

YOUR HEART IS OVER CAPACITY IMAGE TWITTER

 

It started with a tweet commenting on something he did. He started following me. I followed back (almost immediately, I have never been good at playing it cool.) We started chatting, we met, we got on, and the rest is history as they say. And we are still close now, (ish) so it’s all good.

DATING CHRIS TWITTER IMAGE

 

This is an example of when social media can be magical. The whole thing was thrilling. Will he tweet me, won’t he? Listening out for that glorious sparkling xylophone jingle pinging out of your phone to signal the fact you have a new social media message.

 

But there are times when it is not so glorious.

If you tweet about someone, they can literally find you, at least on cyber space.

I read an article, in the Daily mail no less, about a ch4 show documenting the life of ‘an overweight woman, on benefits’  (I know, I’m trying not to judge – and failing miserably ) who made her boyfriend ‘take a lie detector test every time he left the house’  because she was jealous and paranoid. I commented on twitter that it was ridiculous (which it is) and that she was obviously insecure and maybe focusing on doing something for herself would maybe distract her.

Now, even though I didn’t use this woman’s full name, or hashtag her, or the article -  somehow she found my tweet. Which is just even sadder because she was obviously having a little troll and combing the internet for any comments about her.  I didn’t even tweet during the program – I saw an advert briefly whizz by on the TV.

She started this barrage about what a bitch I was and how I shouldn’t comment about people  I didn’t know and what a terrible person I was etc.

Hadn’t this just come full circle? Weren’t her comments just as (if not more) offensive? I didn’t actually tweet it with the intention of her seeing it, or being hurt by it. But somehow her vitriol towards me – she deemed it justified.

My gran hates Facebook with a passion. ‘Why are people airing their dirty laundry in public? It’s so crass.’ She has a point. How many times do we see the ‘oh my life sucks, and my boyfriend left me and then took my car and stole my pet dog’ statuses – those people are almost like a culture of their own. They are prime attention seekers and they are boring. When my mum was in hospital last year I didn’t post it anywhere because it was private, and I was worried.

Married couples who argue on social media make me cringe – argue in person you weirdos – stop making everyone else live through it. It’s the online equivalent of being subjected to your parents arguing when you can’t leave the house.

Recently someone I saw on Facebook revealed themselves to be an absolute loony.

FACEBOOK EYE IMAGE BLOG

They were complaining about the NHS and how the hospital had ‘TRIED TO KILL ME!’ (one of her choice statuses), meanwhile the posts were accompanied with selfies of her in the hospital in her robe looking doe eyed into the camera. It was very bizarre. People tried to gently venture that maybe she was over-reacting – to which she blocked every single one. Anyone who even slightly disagreed with her was greeted by a torrent of abuse  – ‘HOW CAN YOU SAY THIS. I’M BLOCKING YOU NOW.’ Then she wrote ‘DAVE HAS BEEN BLOCKED.’

I’m guessing she didn’t like what they had to say. It has made her extremely unpopular and pretty sure it’s  halved her Facebook ‘friends’ count.

Social media *can* be amazing – look at the ALS bucket challenge – it spread like wildfire amongst the public (and celebrities)  and raised a shedload of cash for a good cause. Lots of charities have gained attention and sponsorship through this method.

Social media also allows for keeping in touch with people abroad without it feeling forced (such as an e-mail might.) I certainly use it to keep in touch with all my American friends. When I see their parties, haircuts, boyfriends etc  I feel like I’m sort of experiencing it with them. I miss them so when I see them online, it reminds me of the times we partied together, and I feel like I’m not so far away.

me n girls in vegas (2)

(me with my US beauties.)

But with great social media –  comes great responsibility.  It has to be used wisely.

A recent case in point. One of my friends is chums with Steve Jones (I KNOW) and I had kept asking her to set me up – she never did. According to her ‘I can’t take the broken heart – and I’m not talking about yours.’  Liar.

Anyway, a picture recently popped up in my newsfeed of Steve holding my friend’s baby. He looked gorgeous and swarthy as per usual. I wrote underneath.

‘Any chance this time?’

My friend wrote back.

‘Sorry he’s taken babe.’

Pffssh. She’s useless I thought. I decided to go on Google to see who he was with, wine glass in one hand, and curiosity in the other. Sure enough a cocoa skinned goddess popped up holding his hand in the pics. ‘American’ and ‘model’ were the two words that kept jumping out of the page.

I decided to write back. (What a poor decision.)

‘Yeh, just seen, ‘some’ American chic. SIGH!’

A Few moments later a notification popped up.

I read the comment. I didn’t recognise the name or the woman… at first.

‘Yes, I’M that American woman. He’s with me.’

EEK!

FOOT. IN. MOUTH.

To say that I was mortified is probably an understatement. Thank GOD I didn’t say anything else. Can you imagine? ‘yeh she looks like a real ugger’ or ‘she’s punching above her weight.’ Thankfully, I didn’t.

But that certainly taught me folks. If you put it out there – it’s probably going to come back like a boomerang and bite you in the ass.

So tweet responsibly guys, and like driving, definitely best to avoid alcohol!

THE ONE WITH ALL THE TALK ABOUT FRIENDS

FRIENDS POSTER 2014 

The magic ingredients – just how did they do it?

 

There are so many things that make Friends the delicious success that it is and continues to be. How can it be 20 years since this first lit up our screens and our hearts? Unless you have been living under a rock, you will know that this TV juggernaut has surpassed generations and made the six actors global superstars. One of my friends is ten years younger and yet we quote this show all day long at each other. There seems to be a friends-ism for literally every situation.

 

It does seem to be permanently on.  And even though I own every single episode on DVD boxset, when Friends is on, I can’t seem to switch channel. Like a moth to the flame, I select it, and watch it, for the umpteenth time, it all its TV glory – such is the gravitas it possesses. And Friends just keeps on giving. Something you found funny  the first time, you will keep finding funny. And that’s no mean feat.

 

The creators have recently said that ‘Friends is about that time in your life when your family are your friends’ – this was Marta Kauffman talking about why she wouldn’t revitalise the show for a comeback movie (which is desperately wanted by the fans)  because ‘that time has passed for the sixsome.’

Friends is literally the dream. I lived it at university. I embodied it when living abroad.  When I lived in New York – I would come home, open my dorm room and my two cool neighbours  (and who became my best friends) would gravitate to my room like magnets finding metal.

Whit would go on my laptop as hers was broken and Lis would watch my TV as it was big. We would slouch together on my bed.  And we would all chat. And I loved it. There was something so cool, comforting and awesome about it all.

Living with the people you choose to surround yourself with, really is a joy to behold. At uni, my bloke neighbours really would come and help themselves to the food in my fridge. There really were heartbreaks, and inter group relationships and falling outs and meeting family,  but mostly it was fun, carefree,  golden years.

This scenario alone though, could not have ensured the show’s staying power.

So just what is the secret to its everlasting success?

 

The Writing

I literally cannot stress this enough. I know they had copious writers – and it shows. Your actors are only as good as the writing – and in this case it is pure gold. Funny, witty, biting, snappy and well considered.  Bravo guys, seriously.

Relatability

I may have just made up this word. Oh well. Friends has such a broad spectrum. It really does appeal to anyone – mostly because we have all lived through those situations which are familiar to most of us.  Also, it is about one of our most satisfying human activities – hanging with your friends.

Likeability

This would not have worked if the characters were all douchebags.

The fact is they are all flawed, but they have ridiculously warm hearts (pre possessing aortic pumps, anyone?)  and would do anything for each other. Awww.

Rooting for the underdog

Let’s be honest – they all have their issues. Chandler is damaged goods but witty and sarcastic. Could he BE any more endearing? (sorry)

Joey is pretty but dumb. Sorry I mean pretty dumb..

Ross is Geek central and was in the friend zone for a long time. Bam – 9 years later he had Rachel.

Rachel was the spoilt princess who didn’t have a clue about the real world. She had to go get one of those ‘job things.’

Monica is the OCD personified that lives in all of us – but she really is the glue that holds the group together.

And Phobe? Well she’s off her rocker. Proving that patience is a virtue and maybe we’ll find her at Flimbys..

 

Thanks for the music Bright, Kauffman, Crane.. thank you for the words.

 

Friends is the equivalent of a hot chocolate or a Sunday roast. Comforting, satisfying and so enjoyable you want to repeat it every week.

 

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary,  Warner brothers, has released a  236 second clip of the all the episodes smooshed together. Enjoy :)

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty treatments are in the eye of the beholder

carrie wax

 

So this weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Ruby Salon in Carswell in Oxfordshire. It got me thinking about beauty treatments and what we consider our essential go-to treatments.

I have been getting my feet done more and more regularly at this salon as what you receive is so good.

 

I used to be a very infrequent visitor. I used to just get my feet done now and again – getting a pedicure isn’t really a priority for me. When it comes to beauty treatments my top two essentials and self-allowed luxuries are getting my eyebrows threaded and having my bikini waxed. I get waxed religiously every month – sorry if that’s TMI but it’s the truth. It is amazing what you will prioritize. I know people that only do this on special occasions, and even then it’s reluctant. I do it for myself. I like feeling clean and smooth.

 

When I lived in New York, I lived above a really kooky nail salon. A sign on the door said ‘manicure 15 dollars.’ Considering the pound was extremely strong at the time, this would have made the treatment under a tenner. Dirt cheap. My friends got theirs done there and were extremely pleased. Every morning I would leave my apartment building and as I passed it, I would think ‘ I must get go there and get that done.’ By the time I got to the subway the idea had wafted out of my mind and got carried away with the humid Manhattan breeze. The amount of times I eventually managed to visit that salon in my 3 months living in New York? ZERO. I guess it just wasn’t on my radar.

 

The mani-pedi may not have been at the top of my list,  however,  I made sure I visited a waxing salon. I had originally Googled a place that was Portuguese run and it was on my way here that I stumbled across another one – run by a very formidable Chinese lady.

 

I was just having a look in the window and she ushered me in. ‘What you want girlie?’ she asked, determinedly. ‘Er.. well I was thinking of getting a Brazilian.. I was just looking really..’

‘Ok, great. come with me.’ She was very authoritative for a woman under 5 ft.  I slowly followed her thinking what have I got myself into? EEK.

 

I lay down on the bed and she commanded I take my knickers off. The last time I heard those words it was on some stairs.. and he had at least bought me lunch beforehand.

 

Almost terrified I froze and went very bumbly and English ‘er, I don’t usually take my erm well my lady normally lets me keep them on.. I erm ‘

‘OH we have a shy one here hum’ she said in a very drawn out Chinese accent. ’Come on, i’m like a DOCTOR.’

I reluctantly peeled them off. I guess I did want the wax.

 

‘Wait’ I said, as if I suddenly remembered something.  ’how long have you been doing this for?’

To which she leaned close to me and said ’25 years, longer than you been BORN!;

Yikes.

 

So she proceeded to wax –  zip, zip, rip rip. Like lightning.

 

In all honesty, despite the terror, it’s the best wax I’ve had to this day. The precision, the smoothness,the lack of pain. It was amazing really. It set me back $75 (ouch) but definitely worth it and it lasted a long time.

These days, as I’m living in the slightly less glamorous Oxfordshire – not so much big apple as tiny pip – I like to visit my trusty salon in Didcot that has been doing my waxes since I was 18.

 

I guess having my feet done has become my third luxury. The appointment is an hour. You get a foot soak, dry skin taken off, foot scrub, another soak, moisturiser and then glorious foot massage. After that you get a full and proper pedicure  with nail cutting, cuticle clipping, cuticle oil, and nail polish of 4 coats added. You also get a cuppa and magazines and that’s all just for £20. Bloody bargainous if you ask me.

 

If you want a great pedi with foot massage visit Ruby salon carswell –  http://www.rubyhairandbeauty.co.uk/

For a great brazilian visit premier beauty http://www.premierbeauty.co.uk/

Happy preening ladies. (Or men – if that’s your thing)

 

 

Cutting the deck – A House of Cards Review

HOUSE OF C

 

So I know I’m late to the game, but I have recently started watching House of Cards.

My brother raved about this show after watching it when he lived in the states and so I requested the boxset for my birthday. I was looking for something new to sink my teeth into after devouring 5 seasons of the Good Wife and chomping my way through Damages – which I ingested much like a drug addict getting their next cocaine fix. My god that show was good.  Is there anything more delicious than getting completely and utterly hooked on a show that you actually think in the morning, ‘Ok I’m going to work now, but later, I’ll be watching *insert favourite show here*- yippee’  When the credits roll at the end of an episode and you think ‘NOOOO. Must. Watch. One. More.’ Even if it is 1am and you have to be up in 5 hours…

 

I tried Breaking Bad.  I was thoroughly bored for the first season. The arid scenery did not help its cause. Is it just me that feels like a city/setting should be another character that adds to the show? I also found it repetitive and formulaic. Guy has cancer, guy coughs his guts up. Guy kills a guy and takes like 3 episodes to dispose of the body. Guy gets horny and shags wife. And repeat.

I heard that it gets better, that you have to persevere  before it really kicks off – but I don’t want to ‘persevere ’ – this isn’t hard graft or a job I’m trying to get through – it’s meant to be escapism.

I tried three episodes of Game Of Thrones, but in truth I hate fantasy – there is only so much you can do and I find the genre very limiting: battle, death, shagging, dragons – and again .  It’s so intangible and unrelatable – for me anyway. My sister is absolutely addicted – along with the rest of the population.

 

So to the political drama that is House of Cards which exploded onto Netflix, taking a hearty chunk of the viewer base along with it for the ride. In a nutshell, and according to Wiki:

 Washington, D.C., HOC is the story of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a Democrat from South Carolina’s 5th congressional district and House majority whip who, after being passed over for appointment as Secretary of State, initiates an elaborate plan to get himself into a position of power.

 

Ooh.. Sounds juicy right? It certainly is, if a slow but steady burner. You get a hint of the characters’ intentions right away. It’s all very softly- softly; I would almost say that the approach is somewhat insidious, with each episode slowly burning on your psyche.

It definitely has a lot of appeal right off the bat. Sumptuous shots of Washington DC; a stellar cast lead by the ubiquitous Kevin Spacey, and supported by Robin wright who I thought was sublime in Forrest Gump and whose performance made me weep during that film. Set in the White house, with an array of guest stars -It was definitely an exciting prospect.

 

The pilot has lots of setting up to do. The dynamic of Frank and Claire is the driving force behind the show and the powerhouse combination of Spacey and Wright propels the drama where it needs to go. Their relationship is extremely complex, and as is revealed, far from perfect. For the first couple of episodes you feel almost voyeuristic as you try to decipher their unconventional and sometimes very stifled pairing. What is the true subtext here?  Before long you realise they are linked like chain metal – although not without any chinks in the armour.

Stuff happens for no apparent reason, although I am sure there is plenty of symbolism at play. This perturbed me a bit to start with – I guess I search for (and like) meaning in everything. Little moments that the music seems to give weight to – I’m still wondering the significance of the rowing machine (anyone?!)  seem to plant the seed of doubt, and yet you are not entirely sure why; it’s more of an uneasy feeling. All designed to make you slightly on edge, which is something that permeates the drama – who can you trust? Will they die? Was that a double bluff? I certainly love to be kept guessing.

Together they are utterly compelling to watch – I love their scenes together. I love their devotion to one another, despite the fact we still don’t 100% trust their motivations

There are so many layers to these characters; it’s like peeling an onion. Just when you think you have figured them out for the vindictive schemers that they are, another layer is revealed which makes them seem much more human, almost as if their spiteful behaviour were justified, a tiny but. The show is very good at this. Too much vitriol and we would hate these characters – but we find ourselves sort of rooting for them – and sometimes sort of not.

It’s a kind of ambivalence that is almost risky to play with – shouldn’t the audience always love the protagonist?  Sometimes I find myself hoping Frank will fall on his face – because I think he deserves it. The key is in Spacey’s gravitas of course. At first I wasn’t so convinced about his dodgy southern accent that kept slipping in and out (I have learnt to accept this now – a bit like the fact that no matter who Sean Connery plays – he will always be Scottish and I don’t even notice any more.) And the fact that he breaks the fourth wall and talks to camera I wasn’t so sure about either, but now it has been weaved into the very fabric of the show,  I can usually tell when he’s about to do it, and it doesn’t actually detract from the show itself. I quite enjoy him confiding in us.

 

There is of course the issue of the political jargon. I have no idea about American Politics. A lot of it goes right over my head, which is a shame – perhaps I’m missing out there – but I would have to sit on Google whilst watching the episodes to decipher the political machinations that they are hashing out – and I think that would make it less fun to watch. To be fair though, despite my political ignorance, my rudimentary understanding allows most of it to make enough sense that I am not scrabbling for answers to the inner workings of white house etiquette. I’m too busy trying to work out who is screwing who – metaphorically and in actuality.

 

Although the show is definitely not one that relies on a twist or a shock at the end of every episode, I think that by not doing that it packs more punch when something gasp -worthy happens. There are certainly some ‘Did that just happen?’ moments. All I will say is that if you want someone bumped off, don’t look to the mafia, just call a politician. Does this stuff really happen? Probably more than we think.

House of Cards is definitely worth a watch for Wright alone. She is stand out for me. She’s so intriguing and multi-faceted, giving humanity and genuine credence to a character who could so easily be reduced to a Cruella De Vil type.

Don’t be fooled though –  House of Cards is definitely a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Start watching it today, and don’t trust anyone.

An Evening with music composer George Fenton

So last year I had the pleasure of being invited to an exclusive evening with the music composer George Fenton.

I have always been fascinated by and in awe of music composers. What would Jaws have been without those few spine chilling bass notes? When we think of powerhouse films like Star Wars or Indiana Jones we immediately think of the epic rousing score. Films that make us emote – Forrest Gump when he is at Jenny’s graveside – it’s the score that gets the lump in our throats.

I was invited to this prestigious event by a director that I worked with on the short film, Etiquette, Andrew Carslaw.  Carslaw is an upcoming filmmaker from Oxford who has close ties with Oxford University and their creative sectors, having worked at the university for quite some time.

You could say that George’s music is eclectic. He has scored a diverse selection of films from Ghandi to You’ve Got Mail. His style of music is versatile and refreshing. He doesn’t have the universal recognisability of a John Williams or a James Horner, however I think this definitely works for him.

I always lament the fact that I didn’t learn to play a musical instrument. I told George about this. He gave some wonderfully encouraging advice. ‘It’s never too late to learn to play an instrument. Truly. Learn to play something – you won’t regret it.’ I have been thinking about taking up the piano. I genuinely thought this was something you had to start when you were 5. After all, hadn’t Beethoven scored his first symphony at 5? (This blows my mind by the way.)

 

Advice from George for film composers in the making;

Learn to play an usual musical instrument. This makes you indispensible. If they want someone to play the Aeolian Wind Harp and you are the only one that can – they’ll hire you.  George was a relative unknown when they hired him for Ghandi – however he was one of only a handful of people who knew how to play the Persian Setar. This essentially got him the job.

Never take rejection personally. It is nearly always politics at play. George told us that he had composed two thirds of the film ‘Interview with a Vampire’ starring Tom Cruise. Some of the producers felt edged out of the project so to assert their authority they fired George and hired someone else. He was collateral damage.  I asked George how that made him feel.  ‘Not very good, but it wasn’t about me. It happens in the business more than you think.’ We urged him to tell us on what other films but he remained discreet, if revelling in the mystery.

I asked George if he ever watched a movie and listened to the score and thought ‘I could do a better job than that.’ George laughed and commented that this was a very good question.

‘Not ever actually. The thing is I know how much work, sweat and tears has gone into that score. Above all else, I feel huge admiration.’  What an amazing guy.

To join in on the events, check out Film oxford http://www.filmoxford.org.