Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Snow, black lipstick, student protests

Black Lipstick Challenge: day 2

Ended up with mild panda eyes (maybe a baby panda?) after a major rush this morning, but I think they went with the black lipstick quite well.

In the lecture room, post-shorthand 
I also didn't have time to dry my hair, and grabbed clothes without really considering their suitability, warmth- or outfit-wise. Of course, this would happen on the first Snow Day this winter. Woking was under a light dusting when I left, by the time I got off the train there was at least an inch, enough to make that satisfying scrunching sound when you walk through it. That is about the only good thing I have to say about the snow, however. I was fairly well-coated by the time I arrived at the station this morning, having been walking into a light but determined blizzard. It was cold. My knees, in particular, suffered. Thankfully, London (at least the parts I was in) declined to let it settle, so there was a thin slush on the pavements, nothing more. As a Commuter, I have to worry about these things. 

On the lighter side, today was very good fun. In the morning, I pressganged Fireman (this one is pretty easy to work out) into coming out to do the first Style Off with me, as he was the only member of our sports desk then present and I didn't fancy a morning of fiddling around on Quark (I never do, but it seemed particularly cruel straight after a Mundane Monday). We went to Debenhams, and picked outfits for each other. Fireman is not a decisive person when it comes to choosing women's clothes (although I think I'd be a bit worried if he was very good at it), but we got there in the end. This is what he picked for me:

Picture courtesy of the changing room lady with the ginormous nails. Pose courtesy of Girl Elbow and my shoes being attached by elastic.
 I actually really liked the boots he chose (sadly you can't really see them here), and I never would have noticed them myself, so well done Fireman! He also had to ask two shop assistants to find the jumper, examined and dismissed about every pair of shoes in stock, and remembered to match the bag to the shoes, so I think it was a good effort, all round. I'm pretty sure I would never have thought to wear this outfit, but the jumper was really soft, the jeans would have been nice if they had fit (jeans never fit me, though, so this is not Fireman's fault), and I rather like the cream colour. It's quite... luxe. I'm pretty sure I've never been luxe before.

I tried to sweep round the menswear section (in the basement, as usual) and find him an outfit in record time (I never realised you could be competitive about shopping), but it's actually a difficult exercise. In the end I think I copped out a little bit, and he ended up in an outfit quire a lot like his usual clothes (except the hat. I have since had to agree that he does not do hats), but oh well. I liked it.

I think it's safe to post a picture of Fireman without his permission, as  he would never normally be wearing this hat.

I quite like the outdoors-y look, especially in winter, and the purples and navys looked pretty together, although you can't really tell from this picture. 

I noticed that there is a massive difference between the service and facilities in menswear and womenswear (although maybe it's just Debenhams) - in menswear, the staff are significantly more chilled-out, the dressing rooms were locked up and had to be opened for us, and looked a bit like a large cupboard, and there's a cafe in the middle of everything. The dressing rooms in womenswear were run like a very efficient prison (the woman actually said 'Just wait a moment while I exit this lady', meaning let her out of the cordon they'd set up), with electronic room numbers, buzzers and Rules (such as No Shoes In The Dressing Room, and No Men Anywhere Nearby, hence the attendant having to take the picture herself). The concession staff also turned out to be rather territorial. There's probably a feature in this somewhere. 

We were just on our way back to the underground (in good time for shorthand, too), when we saw three big police vans go past full of coppers, sirens blaring. Then we heard the drums. We turned a corner to see a protest underway. Apparently today the protesters had the very sensible idea of declining to be kettled by running around a lot. This lot had made it to the Hallowed Shopping District, apparently from Parliament square. I'm pretty sure I saw someone throw a tea urn at the police, but Fireman thinks it was a drum. It was definitely steaming, though.

We managed to get very close (pretty much into the protest, at times), and took lots of pictures like good journalists. 

Police kettling shoppers and students alike
Slightly different police, just before it started snowing again.
Proportionate response: hit them with a bus!
The front line
I was so caught up in taking pictures that I didn't notice the police line closing in. Thankfully Fireman was paying attention and whisked us back to the ranks of curious bystanders just in time. Although I'm sure being kettled is all the rage, and a good experience to have (or to have had, rather), I would quite like to actually be demonstrating first. 

I don't think we saw any violence, just a few scuffles here and there The most alarming thing to happen was a gang of Youths standing by watching picking up an abandoned length of wood and poking each other in the head with it, for no apparent reason. 

The whole experience is relevant to Black Lipstick Week because it made me cheat a little bit. Standing on the pavement watching hundreds of student types being hemmed in by police, I suddenly felt a bit uneasy about wearing unorthodox makeup. I was ever so slightly worried that if I was herded in with the protesters, my face would fit too well, and I wouldn't be able to get out. I quickly scrubbed my mouth clean with a tissue, and suddenly felt much safer, much more able to assume the unthreatening middle-class persona that makes life so much smoother, and that this experiment is distancing me from. Strange, isn't it? 

(I should add that I probably would want to be out there showing solidarity and what have you, if I didn't have the pursuit of a career to be getting on with (one middle aged woman standing near us in the crowd muttered 'Don't they have anything better to do?', but as she was laden with designer shopping bags, I'm going to discount her view entirely) and that none of the police spoke to or in any way interacted with me, so I was probably just being paranoid. I do think it was all about comfort zones, though - they're much easier to step out of when you feel in control.) 

We were back for shorthand a bit late. We did lots of dictations and a mock exam. I passed the mock at 60 with only one mistake. Very pleased. Pleased, that is, until we tried another dictation at the same speed which I missed out a huge chunk of the middle of. I really hope we get a nice dictation on Friday! The subject matter can make a huge difference. Star (our lovely shorthand tutor, if you remember - might need to come up with a better name for him) stayed late to do another couple of dictations for us die-hards. My brain is now wrung out. 

To aid general mental recovery, Lady Zorro and I nipped into the Crown Tavern for a drink. (I think she knows my weakness - I am very unlikely to turn down a drink if it's going to help  me avoid travelling in rush-hour.) We sat at a table reserved for 'Lumos' at 7, which turned out not to be a Harry Potter Fan Society, as we'd hoped, but an Eastern European family with no sense of humour. 

When I returned to Woking, I found winter:

This was relatively light, but snow, like a protest, always seems to thin out when you decide to take a picture.
On the plus side, the house was warm and brightly lit, and W. had a pasta bake in the oven. I could get used to this!

That was very long. I hope you're not as exhausted from reading it as I am from typing it! Bedtime. More adventures tomorrow, hopefully!

Monday, 29 November 2010

I wear black on the outside 'cause black is how I feel on the inside

Subbing today. Went through the mock exam all morning, then worked on our double page spreads in the afternoon. Mine is starting to look very much like a real magazine page, although subman wouldn't stop trying to mess with it. I explained I wasn't doing the header yet, but did he listen? No, he took up 10 minutes of my time messing around with it because he liked the typeface I had chosen, and got in the way of all the actual work I had to do. We're supposed to get these signed off as all our own work, but he keeps interfering! Rant over.

So, today was day one of my mysterious challenge for the magazine...
I swear my nose doesn't usually look like that...
I'm wearing black lipstick for a week. Granted, that doesn't actually sound too bad, but having undergone a day of it, I have to say it's a big change. I'm going to be writing about it for the magazine, and other people will be doing other challenges (trying out fake tans (postponed due to excessive aroma of biscuits, last I heard), cutting out caffeine, trying weird diets, switching forms of transport, that sort of thing) and writing pieces about them, and hopefully it should all come together beautifully. Possibly we should tie in something about blogging, I'm not sure. In my laziness, I plan to lift pretty much whatever I blog this week for my article, so you get to read the first draft! Aren't you lucky?

Today has been very new and exciting, so I'll try to break it all down into manageable chunks.

People's reactions:

These have varied. My score for today is about 20 funny looks, 2 wolf-whistles and a compliment. 

People who know me have been aware that I'm doing some sort of vaguely secretive something, and weren't too surprised. Lady Zorro had lent me some nice black nail polishes to match, so I'm a little bit goth (also helped by the fact I overslept and the first available clothing was pretty much all black. I wear a lot of black anyway, but I admit I was feeling a touch Morticia today) but my magazine course buddies took it in their stride. 

Strangers were different. I got a decent round of odd looks (starting with a man on the train who watched me put it on, whose mystified fascination grew as it got darker and darker (did I mention I'm using a very cheap lipstick? It's from Miss Sporty, and cost less than £3. I would advise anyone planning on trying it out to go for something a little more expensive and less like food colouring)) and I might just be being paranoid, but the train guard on my journey home actually took my ticket out of my hand to examine it, whereas they usually just glance at them. It seems I am unnerving authority figures. The lovely Indian men who run the local CostCutter or what have you were also a bit confused, and much less chatty. Men definitely reacted more than women, who barely glanced at me with a seen-it-all expression, for the most part. 

Actual experience:

I would have to give this 5/10. It's been a reasonably fun experience so far, but... I think my problem is less with the black than the lipstick. I'm just not used to wearing it (or at least, wearing such a dark colour, which can smudge, rub off and affix itself to my teeth so readily), and my lips are feeling pretty dehydrated already. The constant re-application necessary to keep to the challenge (and ensure that I have black rather than greyish-red lipstick on) was a bit tiring, and the tendency of the lipstick to get everywhere left me with rather a scary-looking fork at lunchtime. 

I forgot about it towards the end of this afternoon, and gave myself a bit of a fright in the bathroom mirror. 

Fashion potential:

Well, they do say black goes with everything... Black lipstick is also apparently quite High Fashion at the moment, which is nice. I'm not sure if it's very fashionable the way I was wearing it, though. Perhaps one day this week I will Goth It Up and see what happens. 

From a Beauty perspective, I'm not sure black is really me. I'm pale enough as it is (see picture above (although some of that has got to be the flash, right?)) and I tend to gravitate towards nice pinks and pretty colours to make me look alive. Black lipstick is not about looking alive. It is about looking like a statue, a zombie, or (in extreme cases) a frostbite victim. But in a good way. (I think...) 

It does make my teeth look very white, though. 

Personal reaction:

I can't say I've changed much. I was a bit grumpy on the way home, but commuting usually does that to me, and I perked up for the actual walk from the station. I'd say I've been slightly more self-conscious than usual, but that's understandable and for Science. I'm just me with a terrifying smile. 

In conclusion: 

Actually, I'm nowhere near reaching a conclusion on this yet. I haven't really decided why I'm doing this yet. Ostensibly, it's because Angelface (yeah, try and work that one out) told me to (she wants to see my wicked side, apparently - didn't realise I'd been hiding it that well), but I'm also trying to justify it with all sorts of claptrap about fashion/beauty and social and psychological experiments... We'll just have to see. I guess a very SATC way of putting it would be: can a lipstick change my life? Answer: no, but it might just stain my teeth. 

Right, off to make supper. Any suggestions for how to make this week successful/more interesting/profitable most welcome.

P.S.: Thanks to Superchef for taking the picture! And keeping me entertained for yet another bus journey. 

Sunday, 28 November 2010


I'm joining my mother's delicious crusade
I'm very, very full of duck, roast potatoes, butternut and bean salad at the moment, so please forgive any lethargy that manages to creep in. The Godmother and I had a very fancy dinner, considering it was just the two of us. She did the duck (which I haven't eaten very often, but am now resolved to try to) in red wine with sour dried cherries and cherry jam. Delicious! My roast potatoes weren't quite as good as my mother's, but nearly! I continue to strive. The net result of all of this, however, is that I am now extremely full and sleepy.

Today was surprisingly productive - I explored Woking, and its shopping potential for the first time, despite having been here more than two months. There are two sort-of-shopping-centres, and various little sidestreets, which were pretty much deserted, thanks to the cold. Did I mention the cold? Today was lovely and sunny, which meant no protective cloud cover, which meant biting cold. And we're the lucky ones - no snow yet. If a nuclear winter hit, I'm not sure anyone would notice.

I bought a cheap tube of lipstick, some things for The Godmother and W, and three new books (an extravagance allowed by my aunt and uncle's birthday present of a book voucher - thank you!), The Year Of The Flood by Margaret Atwood, Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami, and My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk. Looking forward to reading them when I've finished number9dream (almost there - I'm still restricting myself to reading it on trains and buses (not too much on buses, though, or I'm liable to miss my stop)).

Right, off to do all the things I should have managed to breeze through with all my free time this weekend!


P.S.: Yes, you read that right. My mother has a long-term and bitter vendetta against ducks, and will eat them whenever she can. When we went canoeing as a family, she used to make us race them. It's rather strange, as she's as lovely and friendly as they come, but I can assure you she has a very good reason for it.

A mexican to distract you from my laziness

Hey, it's one of those trailers for films too awesome to make!

And then they made it.

(With Lindsay Lohan, for some reason.)

Official trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/user/SonyPicsUK?v=fUUMA6DbTKM&feature=pyv&ad=7753107574&kw=grindhouse for comparison.

I hope this trend continues, there are lots of other most awesome trailers that need to be made into films!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Un-snowed under

Things I should be doing: shorthand practice, work on features, sending emails

Things I am doing: vegetating, watching Misfits. May also make a cup of tea at some point.

The prophesied snow has failed to arrive. I'm pretty pleased about this, because knowing my luck, it'd only be the wrong sort. Still very cold. I am currently most appreciative of my investment in fingerless gloves - I can type without risking frostbite!

Today was yet another good day at Journalism School (I know! I'm going to lose the hang of complaining!) - lots and lots of video journalism. I learned a lot! Video editing is very fiddly, but it's extremely cool when you get it right. My group worked on 'Pubs!', the video piece we're cobbling together from the rather random footage we took last week. Lots of cables everywhere, but I think we got the hang of it.

I stayed out a bit late with the pub crowd (well, the people who were going to the pub), mostly to postpone my commute until after rush hour, but also to hang out. Didn't drink anything, though - I felt like I was coming down with something all day, and I still can't tell whether this is the case or it was the weather coupled with the heat inside. Got very sleepy towards the end of today!

Today wasn't a Crazy Train Day, it was a Crazy Lady On The Bus Day. She kept humming and making loud observations about the other passengers. I was quite glad to get off before she got round to me.

Right, signing off now, let's pretend it's to do something useful.

Possibly the oddest trailer I have seen this year

'No Problem' is a Bollywood comedy, apparently. I saw a version with subtitles on the Apple trailers site, but to be honest, it didn't make any more sense. Where did the gorilla come from?

Thursday, 25 November 2010


The best thing about babies is their tiny, tiny shoes!
I spent today thinking about shoes, searching the internet for shoes, talking about shoes and writing about shoes. It was quite productive, but I'm glad tomorrow will be a break from shoes - I'm starting to see ankle boots when I close my eyes, and it's a little bit depressing to go through all these lovely shoes while unable to buy any. Oh well, it'll just make the emotion in my article more real!

Not many people came to Journalism School this morning. I blame a combination of freezing weather and the prior knowledge that today would be a magazine day. I would probably be more tempted to work from home if I had any illusions about just how much work I would actually end up doing. It was a fun day, though - I almost prefer it when there are fewer of us, because it means you get to have proper conversations with the people who are there.

As Moonbeam and Monopoly hit the streets today in search of Street Style victims (I mean, subjects), I thought back wistfully to the free haircut I was offered more than a month ago. I know there would have been strings attached, but still... At the time, I was too startled and in-the-middle-of-Primark (a condition of no little psychological strain, I can tell you) to say anything but an automatic 'No, thank you,' but I still remember it as one of my first London Experiences. Good to know that two of my course-mates were out spreading London Experiences of their own!

I'm feeling quite virtuous, as I've already made my lunch for tomorrow - pasta with soup stirred in in lieu of sauce (I really felt like egg fried rice again today, and I don't think it keeps well, so I had to have a back-up plan. Thanks to Jolene (my worst nickname yet? Quite probably! As you'll have no idea who this is even if you know her, the names are similar and she's a mini Topshop mannequin, but more fun!) for mentioning peas today - I got to sneak in another vegetable!) which should be good. The tupperware in this house works hard!

Going to have another early night (they just aren't having the desired effect yet! Maybe I need to combine one with a late morning?), so I'll sign off. I'd just like to say, thank you everyone who's told me they read this blog! I was fielding compliments from a rather surprising person today (I'll leave you with the suspense) and was reminded of just how nice everyone's been about it. So, thank you! I do it for fun, but it's awesome that other people derive enjoyment from it too. (And perhaps vital clues to my true identity...!)

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Clocking up the wpm

Words per minute, that is! We had another shorthand session this afternoon, which was a massive improvement on yesterday's, probably mostly because we moved from the computer room to the lecture room so we could all see the board and it wasn't so stuffy. I was still pretty sleepy, though! Our lovely shorthand teacher, the Star (yep, still bad at nicknames), is getting stricter, but I'm definitely seeing the results. I'm starting to think I might actually pass this exam!

I spent the morning looking at pictures of shoes. This was valid research for my shoe feature, and I've saved lots of pictures to use later. I kept getting distracted and showing people particularly exciting pairs I'd found. My eventual purpose is to introduce people to lots of lovely shoes, though, so I was really just pre-empting myself. Even Superchef admired a particular pair of boots, although he was a little despairing about it afterwards.

Today was a Crazy Train Day. I spent my journey into London this morning in the luggage rack again (I fit, and it's somewhere to sit and read my book), and the underground was excitingly packed. I love the grim determination in commuters' eyes as a packed train pulls up, as if willpower alone is going to create them a space. At such times, an expression of cheerful indifference is about as offensive as an extremely accurate Your Mum joke.

Still need a haircut. Very tempted to break out the bandannas (yes, I have two! One stolen from the boyf during one of his many moves, admittedly. You try doing your makeup when your fringe reaches the tip of your nose! (Is this how emo starts? I'd always thought it was voluntary...)) but I don't want to be mistaken for a pirate, particularly. I imagine the jokes would get old very fast.

Right, bedtime. More excitement tomorrow!

P.S.: Get well soon, Jumanji!

Important information

Superchef mentioned this today, and I'm glad he did, because it made me go back and re-watch it!

I'm not sure I can explain the premise in any way that would inform you more than just watching the video... Japan, just... Japan.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Perchance to dream

Very boringly, I'm absolutely knackered again. Today was pretty exhausting, actually. The morning was good fun - we were planning our in-house publication (no decision on the name yet - I think that's been our most heated discussion yet!) and got to chat and lounge about. The afternoon was comprised of lots and lots of shorthand. I've been put in charge of the Life & Style section of our magazine, (rather undemocratically, but oh well) which is all girls and is in danger of being all fashion, apart from the middle class drug dealers. We had a very productive discussion (we had the most ideas of all the four sections!) and have come up with some pretty exciting stuff. I may also have committed myself to an exciting week-long challenge that will put me quite far out of my comfort zone, but that'll be entertaining for you, at least! More on that tomorrow, hopefully.

Shorthand was utterly draining. I think it had something to do with how hot and stuffy the room was, but that extra hour I stayed up finishing the practice exam last night (which Mr Hack didn't even take in - he says we've got until Thursday! Quite miffed) came back to haunt me. My brain just slowly shut down, which is not a good thing when you're trying to do dictations, I can tell you. I wasn't the only person suffering, either.

Started number9dream on the train this morning (which distracted me nicely from my lack of seat and the fact that the carriage doors kept trying to shut themselves on me) and I'm already hooked! I'm being good and not reading it at bedtime, though, as I really need to catch up on sleep. (Yes, there it is again.)

Caught up on upcoming movie trailers this evening. Cowboys & Aliens looks amazing, Green Lantern looks very... green, and there's a Red Riding Hood movie by the creators of Twilight which looks very pretty but likely to be rage-enducing. The Tourist (with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, can't believe they haven't teamed up before) looks like it will at the very least have lust-worthy costumes, I have seen the trailer for Sucker Punch before, but it warrants mentioning because so many minds will be blown, and The Eagle, which seems to be a very loose adaptation of The Eagle of the Ninth, one of my favourite books when I was longer, already makes me want to throw things. Trotting out Roman soldiers with American accents is just wrong.

Right, I'm going to bed now. Sorry for the sparsity of pictures, they're just going to be a special treat I suspect. If there's anything you particularly want photographed, just ask! (Within reason...)


Monday, 22 November 2010

Now in Glorious Technicolor!

So, I may have mentioned pictures....

Journalism School - the computer room

A different angle, with Superchef and Lady Zorro
The common room, featuring the ever-popular vending machines
The portal to the world of student journalism...
Me, in a corridor

I really hope these all work, now, as it's quite late and I'm busy with my practice newswriting exam. Which is why I'm blogging, of course!

Today was a Mundane Monday, so there was lots and lots of subbing. And lots and lots of cracked.com. Also a fair few Chuck Norris facts. We had a very lovely visitor, a charming Italian man who is one of the most professional people I have ever met. And I didn't even see him at work! He taught us a trick or two (on Quark, of course!) and told us about the importance of typefaces. 

We also did a mock exam. I finished on time, despite the exciting Printer Challenge section. 

I decided on the train this morning that my subbing coursework double page spread is going to be all about shoes. No one was surprised...

Right, back to writing a story about an escaped snake called Bertie. Goodnight!

Not-so-lazy Sunday

Apart from oversleeping this morning (oversleeping! On a Sunday! I'm really through the looking-glass here) I've had quite a busy day!

Managed to drag myself into Leicester Square (despite the effects of families on public transport (it's not all bad, though - two little boys on a train recently taught me a new word: gayzor)) to see my lovely Career Advisor. He helped me with an application for an internship, which is exciting! We'll have to wait and see.

When I got back I baked cupcakes for the lovely folks who looked after me on my work experience week - they're really due a thank-you! Evening baking is more challenging than its afternoon counterpart, because you're hungry and have to concentrate on not eating too much batter! Afterwards, I made Noodle Doodle (old family recipe, sorry I can't reveal more) for supper for me and The Godmother, and iced the cupcakes while I waited for it to cook. That's Domestic Goddess-ery!

That doesn't look like a lot written down, but really it is! Also I realised that I was wearing jeans for the first time this week today, even though it's been so cold.

Off to bed now, or I will snore through subbing tomorrow!

P.S.: hopefully pictures soon, as requested by a biscuit-lover!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

A smidgeon

A smidgeon of a post tonight because I am so tired I can barely keep my head upright. This is dedication!

Had an exciting day of video journalism, filming pubs and being filmed by tele france (don't get too excited, it was a guy with purple pompoms on his hat and a camera phone he had taped a hand-drawn French flag onto) and capped it off with a trip to the pub with the cool kids from Journalism School. We sat outside for far longer than was sensible, and have decided we need to procure a Father Christmas costume (minus padding) and a tutu for next month. More on this anon (possibly).

Going to bed now, very tired and rather chilly.

I finished the last Millennium book on the train!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Kate Middleton ate my hamster!

No, not really. But she's all over the news with a sparkly great ring on her finger, and people are grumbling about a Royal Wedding in a Time of Austerity, so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon. I must admit, I have no opinion whatsoever on Kate Middleton. I know a lot of girls like her, and I will probably know even more before my number's up.

Today was another good day at Journalism School. We finished our interviews, so Lady Zorro and I returned to what is now 'our' table in Starbucks and had another chat, then wrote up our interviews. I have to admit, I was a little bit emotional, reading her interview of me. She said such lovely things! Also, she is a very good writer, and even managed to make my ramblings sound intelligent. I tried to take a celebrity interview approach to writing hers up, with random observations thrown in to try to establish some sort of flow. Luckily, Lady Zorro said enough interesting things that no-one is likely to notice. Also she's lent me a copy of number9dream, by David Mitchell (the guy who wrote Cloud Atlas, not the comedian), which I've wanted to read for a while. That's next on my list after I finish the Millennium trilogy, and if you're very lucky, I might even review it.

After we'd written our interviews up, Mr Hack read out our Dark Secrets, which he'd collected yesterday, anonymously, and made us guess whose was whose. Mine seemed incredibly tame compared to everyone else's - I think I'm just not as honest as them, I didn't want to put anything really bad (not that I have any truly awful secrets!). I can't believe Blondie (I'm still sticking to the rule of not thinking for more than 5 seconds about these aliases) ran over her cheating ex-boyfriend's new surfboard! Good work that woman.

We also chose the editorial team for the class publication we'll be making. I didn't volunteer for any of the big roles - I want my contribution to be lots of content, not lots of nagging, which is going to be required at some point, I'm sure. Superchef is the editor! Rather him than me.

I'm excited about the new episode of Misfits (I love Nathan - I know I shouldn't, but I do), but not excited enough to stay up to watch it. I have a grand plan to get a proper night's sleep tonight, whether Stieg Larsson lets me or not!

Right, time to go and do something useful.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Yet another disappearing act

I drop off the radar for a short while, reappear to explain where I've been, then disappear again. Oops. This terrible neglect of my blog is due to exhaustion, which is due to Steig Larsson. No salacious secrets here, I'm afraid (he's dead, after all), I've been reading his Millennium trilogy (lent to me by W, although possibly without his knowledge) and am enjoying it to the extent that Reading Time is cutting into Sleeping Time. This has happened very regularly over the course of my life (I am an unapologetic bookworm), but never in conjunction with a Commute, and as a result I have been dragging myself upstairs to bed to read and sleep instead of to blog. Apologies. You will however be pleased to hear that I am halfway through the final book, so it won't be going on for too long. Anyone unkind enough to drop spoilers will be kneecapped.

My exciting news today is that I now have A Proper CV (professionally approved), for the first time ever. I really, really hate self-evaluation (my section 20, or whatever it was, for UCAS was like pulling teeth - I should know, I've had six of mine out) but this time round was impressively painless. I can heartily recommend the guy who helped me, so ask me if you're interested, he's very good!

Today was a good day at Journalism School. For one thing, I was on time for the third day in a row (due largely to The Godmother giving me lifts to the station in the mornings, which means I appreciate her being on holiday almost as much as she does!) and thus able to pick a computer that had not that day caused anyone to shout at it. We learned about Interviewing Techniques, which seems to be mostly Being Sneaky by another name - ask people about their childhood to calm them down, ask odd questions to surprise honest answers out of them. I could have added another point to our list of Top Tips - laugh at your interviewee's jokes. When I was off meeting the athletes (who I will not be more specific about, just in case) on Friday, I sat in on an interview that the lovely woman I was shadowing conducted (actually, she's more of an Amazon, but in a good way. I think her legs are longer than I am) with a very nice girl who has broken an awful lot of records. The interviewee told an amusing story, but the lady journalist was trying to make sure her dictaphone was working and missed it. I laughed, and suddenly the girl was talking to me. (I know! Get me!)

As part of the lesson, we were randomly paired off to go and interview each other. I was fabulously lucky in getting Lady Zorro, and we traipsed off to Starbucks for a natter. How I wish I was better at shorthand! We interviewed each other and descended into general conversation quite quickly because it is just so laborious writing everything down! I did learn some interesting things about Lady Zorro, though. I suspect we may end up reading out our finished interviews in class, but here is a sneak peek:

1. Lady Zorro actually owns some Vivienne Westwood clothes and shoes! I suppose she has lived in the real world, where people pay you, but still... I'm quite jealous. At least it proves she has excellent taste!

2. This feisty lady enjoys scuba diving and ultimate frisbee, and thinks whale sharks are cute!

3. Never go to Madrid.

That's all for now, no stealing my scoop!

Also excitingly, we had our first mock exam in shorthand today. I got 100% at 40 words/min, which is progress! I've only got to crank it up another 20 words/min in two weeks! Easy! Also I learned about bicycle theft.

It turns out that the vending machine at Journalism School is a Londoner at heart. We accidentally turned it off while attempting to liberate Superchef's crisps, and its first word as it switched back on was 'init'. I know, it can't spell either!

Still no progress on the haircut front, and I need to get my watch fixed. Such is life!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

In which I explain where I've been

I've been offline. There, that was quick! Uh, yeah, so I've been staying in The Godmother's flat since Thursday, which doesn't have internet, but is in the centre of town. Would have mentioned it last post, but extreme tiredness tends to curtail my natural verbosity. (See what I did there?)

I had a really good work experience week! I can't wait to go back in December. Very fancy offices, very lovely people, lots of learning opportunities! Makes me even more reluctant to drag myself in for subbing tomorrow. I'm only really going so I can hear about people's weeks!

In other news, Jumanji has spent the evening texting me for answers to her pub quiz. (See, I seem nice and helpful, then I SHAME YOU ON THE INTERNET)

I was going to try to get my hair cut this weekend, but it completely failed to happen (due mostly to the fact that England tends to be a bit silly about Sundays - closing your establishment on one of the two days most people have off seems like rather a failure of business sense to me! Secularisation is progressive and good for the economy!), which is a Bad Thing, because I am starting get decidedly shaggy, and I quite like being able to see.

The Godmother and W were kind enough to arrange for me to see a professional to pimp my CV. We met him yesterday, for coffee and then lunch (The Godmother and I had already been for breakfast) and he was really, really helpful. And also a lovely guy. Actually, if you're trying to break into the job market, I couldn't recommend getting professional help enough - I've already learned so many things I've been getting wrong! I'll have to work on my now-overhauled CV for a few evenings (squeezed in around subbing practice - the first exam looms alarmingly close!)) and really oversell myself. Hopefully the conscious effort to do so will balance out my pathological hatred for any form of formal self-evaluation.

Right, off to skype mes parents!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Just a quick one

... while I wait for the internet to get on with selling me train tickets. Very tired, as I stayed in after work experience to get even more experience, watching the production of the paper. I even got to help! (Though it was mostly running around showing things to people.) Very tired now, and trying to do things late at night, which never works.

I'm not that political, but I'm pleased all those students turned out, even if they did set fire to things. I hope this isn't the last protest they hold - raising tuition fees is ridiculous. Sure, you can go on about charging the people who directly benefit, but this country needs an educated workforce, thanks to the decline of manufacturing et al. Oh well, if it gets and worse, I'm emigrating.

Night night!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Day 2 behind the paywall

... and I'm still enjoying myself. Kept busy today, plenty of archiving and also made a (very rushed) list of Upcoming Law Events from the internet, and transcribed an interview. It's amazing how fast time passes when you're not in subbing!

I wore my boots again, and my crochet-front checked dress (most successful internet buy yet), which even garnered a compliment! I counted four Breton-striped shirts in the office today, which may tell you something about the interpretations of Smart Casual when it comes to journalists. If I had one, I would be tempted to join the sisterhood, but I'll be sticking to my outfit plan for this week (less a plan, really, more a collection of the only leg-coverings I have that aren't jeans and things that look respectable with them). I may, however, grow more adventurous in the eyeshadow department. You have been warned!

I had lunch with The Godmother and two of her friends in the rather swanky canteen, and later W brought me some sort of pastry thing (apparently Portuguese) at my desk (yes, I have a desk. And a phone. I know!) which was lovely. I never thought the main issue on Work Experience Week would be overeating!

Excitingly, I may also (fingers crossed) be going on an expedition on Friday with one of the very kind people from the section I'm working at to do some interviews out beyond the boundaries of London (do such places exist? My life before here seems as if a dream...), but I won't say who or where in case a Competitor reads this and steals the idea (you have to be constantly on your guard in Journalism).

In other news, I need a haircut. To a somewhat distracting degree. I think I am finally going to have to cheat on my hairdresser, and find somewhere cheap here. It's not an easy decision, but I have needs! (Londoners! Is there anywhere cheap here?)

Today was Bloody Cold (that is the official term, ask any weatherman). I may need to go back to Uniqlo in search of Japan Technology to keep my knees warm.

Time for bed, as I am still a commuter even though my destination is different this week!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Good Times!

I know, horrible, horrible pun. But I did have a really good first day of work experience! Everyone I met was lovely (apart from the guy I heard a few rows over, who suddenly erupted at his colleagues for 'wittering', although I didn't technically meet him (lucky for him! I am the Witter Queen) so he doesn't count) and W came over to chat when he came in for his shift. Sadly, I didn't manage to see Moonbeam (one of the lovely ladies on my course, who is doing her week a few floors up from me, at a certain dazzling red-top) at lunch, mostly due to my attempts to appear professional, which made checking my phone an infrequent and surreptitious occurrence. Oh well, there's always tomorrow!

I did a lot of archive-y stuff, learned how to use the system and watched the BBC news channel on silent while waiting for pages to load. There was one story which kept coming round, which just had a slow close-up of the face of Big Ben, then a cut to some fancily-uniformed guys firing a cannon. Were they firing at Big Ben? Did Big Ben orchestrate it? Has some unforeseen time travel crisis occurred, leaving us up to our eyeballs in militant Hussars? I may never know.

I wore (because you were desperate to know!) my trusty black kneehigh boots (I've said it before and I'll say it again: Best. Birthday present. Ever.), my warm but pretty Apricot dress (also a birthday present (and a close contender for the boots' accolade)), very wooly tights and a slightly anxious smile.

Did anyone else feel a strange urge to build an ark today?

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Am I a real student?

I was clicking around on Cosmo on Campus (http://www.cosmopolitan.co.uk/your-life/cosmo-on-campus/special) this afternoon, and while I could relate to a lot of what I read, I realised most of it was in retrospect - I remember living through a lot of what they describe, but my current situation is quite different. This makes me a bit sad (university was an amazing three years of my life (cliche, maybe, but also true)), but out of nostalgia, blogging! Therefore, I bring you the interesting specifics of my current, sort-of-student existence, compared to the hedonistic life I was enjoying up until July (officially, anyway - I still had an excellent summer).

1. Socialising & Friendships.
Probably the most important part of student life, eclipsing even academia (because while you are there to study, the people around you and your relationships with you colour every aspect of your life). At university, I had a large group of friends (mostly people who were in my extremely close-knit society (which had a few drawbacks - especially as it made picking and choosing the people you wanted to spend time with rather more challenging)), none of whom were in lectures with me. There were people I got on with and chatted to in my various seminar groups, but I don't think I ever spent time with them outside of that. At Journalism School, however, everyone spends almost every day together (with the exception of Mind-numbing Mondays, which breed a special kind of camaraderie in the face of adversity) and we are quite frequently divided into groups to work. As a result, I know all the full-timers by name, at least, and I think we all have at least a vague idea of each other's personalities The massive reduction in free time since my university days (I think I feel another bout of nostalgia coming on) means I tend to want to spend my weekends with friends who I can't see in the week, somewhat reducing the possibilities for proper socialising time with course-mates (although there have been more than enough opportunities to head to the pub with them in the evenings for some serious gossiping). It's a different kind of friendship, I suppose. I've never been in any of these people's living rooms, for instance.

2. Campus.
Journalism School is tiny. During a recent conversation with Jumanji, when she told me about two freshers being caught doing something very naughty in a rehearsal room at her university, I realised that there is absolutely nowhere entirely private in the whole of our little corridor. The toilets are not completely soundproof, and wherever you wander, you will pass someone. The best venue for cloak-and-dagger dealings would probably be the Secret Kitchen, but that's locked and right next to the very popular vending machines. The UEA campus (where I spent three glorious years... Ok, I'll stop) had all sorts of secluded nooks and crannies, inside and outside, and that's without taking into account all the flats and residences.
Secrecy aside, it's strange to go from having a huge campus, with restaurants (well, sort of), shops and a giant central square to hanging out in either the common room or the computer lab. Or the doorstep, I suppose, if you smoke.

3. Contact Hours.
6 hours a week to more than 6 hours a day. 'nuff said.

4. Accommodation.
I'm typing this in a giant bedroom, still quite full of an excellent mushroom risotto that I did not make for myself. This is the lap of luxury, by student standards. I'm still not too sure if I like living by myself yet, though - I don't really spend enough time here during the week to work it out.

5. Commuting.
At UEA, I walked to campus, or caught the sometimes reliable bus (in my last two years - in first year I just had to wander out of my residence five minutes before things started). These days I am transformed into one of the zombies of London lore, spending three hours a day in transit. At least I get a brisk walk, I suppose. (Actually, I have a dark secret - I quite enjoy commuting. There are lots of interesting people and I get to run down escalators.)

6. Work.
Got there eventually. The work I do at Journalism School is quite different to what I used to do at university. I actually tend to do it, for one thing. There's quite a fast turnaround - 20 minutes after you're told to write something, you're reading it out to the class. I enjoy this significantly more than essay writing - all that extended effort and manic rush to the deadline was much more stressful. I wouldn't mind more constructive feedback sometimes, though.

7. Money.
Nope, still watching myself like a hawk on this one. London is expensive.

That'll do for now. In other news, I'm very excited about starting my work experience week tomorrow! Hopefully I'll have lots of stories to tell you.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

In which I am exhausted and full of stirfry

I've decided to make it quick tonight as I am having trouble keeping my eyes open.

St Bride's was cool, and I learned a lot of Fun Facts, like where the shape of wedding cakes comes from, and just how small a cardboard box a skeleton fits into. To be honest, the visit to the crypt is probably what most of us will remember most vividly. The charnel house (basically an orange-lit pit with lots of bones stacked in it) was like something you'd see pictures of in history textbooks or museums, so it was really weird to have nothing between it and me but somewhat dusty air. There were also boxes and boxes of skeletons (and smaller boxes for the skulls (some of which still had hair, according to their labels, which was the thing that came closest to making me squeamish)) and a ring binder with all their details in it. Burial really isn't for ever, it turns out.

Afterwards, we went to a Fleet Street pub for lunch (I had fish and chips, which was good, but came with more batter than you could shake several sticks at, and other people had to finish for me) and ended up staying all afternoon (well, a few diehards did, which I think proves our commitment to the journalistic lifestyle better than anything).

I got home quite late, but with excellent timing, as there was a large quantity of stirfry (masterfully prepared by W (The Godmother's husband - I feel a single initial adds to the drama)) for me to help consume. I repaid him in minor computering services (sadly I'm not quite such good tech support as Superchef, but I managed to work it out). I have since managed to slump into bed with my laptop, but I did receive one excellent piece of news: my work experience for next week is all sorted. I'm very excited about it, and I can't believe it's only next week!


'I wouldn't advise putting obese children on skateboards'

Our visit today was a fun-filled trip to City Hall. The Hall itself was, I have to say, a bit of a disappointment - part of the reason I had trouble finding it was because I couldn't believe the rather drably modern jelly mould of a building was really what I was looking for. Luckily, I did get to see London Bridge, which was much more exciting. I felt like quite the tourist!

Another disappointment was the complete non-appearance of Boris, although Jonesy (my Welsh classmate - can't actually remember if Jones is his surname or not, but I'm lazy with these aliases, as you may have noticed) did manage to get some semi-bigwig to slag him off, which was entertaining. Apparently, he doesn't have 'vision', which may explain the somewhat screwed-up expression usually gracing his overbred face.

We sat through a briefing on child obesity, which was mostly pointless - the only new thing I learned was that one in four British Households doesn't have a dining table. I'm not sure the figures were adjusted for student houses, though, which may explain quite a lot. Mostly I sat there thinking Is this really news to you? And Why won't the American bimbo shut up about New York? She even set Monopoly (his name sounds like a popular boardgame (well, popular with rather sad people over a certain age, just like him) and it wasn't a leap) off, although I suspect we would have heard from him anyway (but complaining about someone's hard-earned skyline is just going too far).

There was a talk about what exactly whoever these people were do, but I'm afraid I was distracted by hunger (exacerbated by the earlier presence of a Dominoes man, who could not shut up about that fresh, fresh pizza (although he did make me snort audibly when he said (somewhat proudly) that children don't buy Dominoes because they can't afford it - apparently everyone's fourth choice of pizza provider has in fact been aware that their prices are extortionate for some time (he also mentioned that their average customer tends to order pizza once a month - I bet if they checked their figures they'd find it was quite close to the beginning of the month) and cheerfully cite it as a business strategy. If I ever needed another reason to turn my back on their overpriced flim-flammery, he gave me one (I must also add that all these chicken strippers and cookies and so forth that people keep telling me are excellent reasons to keep paying through the nose are not even that good. Our favourite place in Norwich kept giving us free drinks and desserts, but apparently it only counts if it's coming from an enormous franchise)) and a swivel chair at that point, so I can't enlighten you.

Afterwards (and much to Superchef's disgust, as he wanted to catch his train and is less than fond of heights) we were taken up to the 9th floor balcony to look at the illuminated skyline. It was bloody cold, but also really gorgeous, and something we'd never ordinarily be able to do, so thanks to Mr Public Affairs Teacher for that (although I wish he'd just accept the baldness and get a haircut).

I come home via a pastry counter and WHSmuh (as I like to call it), and have thus eaten far too much and need to go on an urgent diet (preferably one that involves eating whatever I like and sleeping lots, as this is the only sort of lifestyle I have ever been able to stick to) lest I balloon like an 8-year-old.

I would like to take this opportunity to say to those poor, semi-enfranchised underground workers: suck it up and get back to work. I managed to organise a journey across town and I wasn't even being paid for it. The more you strike, the more people will realise they can manage without you, and then you'll be stuck in the ring with the Boris-bull and no red hanky. So there.

P.S.: Forgot to say, the title is something one of the people in the meeting actually said, which just about made the whole thing worth getting out of bed for. (Well, that and the fact that the rather tasty young man who said it (although Superchef may well argue that the policeman giving evidence yesterday was better-looking) was the child health advisor for Jamie's School Dinners, which makes him practically a celebrity.) (Although he is soundly trumped by Jonesy's story about playing football with the lead singer from The Arctic Monkeys (I was so impressed, I didn't even tell him about that evening the boyf and I so thoroughly confused Ed Byrne))

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

A Review! (Zola Jesus)

Spent the day at the Old Bailey. Sat in on a trial in the morning (which proved very popular, as most of the class filed into the public gallery while we watched) and listened to witnesses, statements and legal mumbo jumbo. I won't tell you what it was about, because if you start reporting a case, you have to finish (when it does - it's The Rules) and I'm much too lazy. Some of us snuck off early after the nice court reporter man's talk in the afternoon, so I was home by 4 (walked back from the station in broad daylight, which was very strange) and able to get down to some serious loafing about.

It's been too long since my last review (you must be musically bereft, unsure of what exciting new artist to listen to!), so here's one:

Zola Jesus - Stridulum

 Video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2ELsTsqvyk

I'm not exactly sure what this song is about (but it's ok, I get the feeling I'm not supposed to be), but it's very atmospheric. That's really the only word I can think of to describe it. It's got lots of good crescendoes, percussion is used for effect rather than as most of the music, as was the case for Torn Apart by Horses, and there are all sorts of exciting harmonies to put you on the edge of your seat. Do you ever listen to music when you're out and about and imagine yourself in a film? Well, I do sometimes (mostly when I've got lots of walking or staring out the train window to do) and if I was listening to this song on the way home, I would half-expect every streetlamp I walked under to go out. And possibly a cloud of screaming phantasms to give chase, with plenty of black and white flashbacks to me lounging in a crypt, or crockery breaking in slow motion or some such. In fact, I suspect that this is the song whoever made those music videos for Evanescence was secretly hoping for. 

This song is so atmospherically overpowering, it would instantly change the nature of any video clip you played it over. Actually, I've just tried it, watching a video called 'i are cute kitten' (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZSbC09qgLI if you really care), which I would normally consider fatuous nonsense, even if it does have a cat in it. With Stridulum playing over it, however, it became incredibly sinister, even the cuts to grammatically cringe-inducing text of rather feeble jokes (not least because the cat kept appearing out of things (the bit where it pops out of the bed is genuinely chilling, in this context, and Tarantino himself would be proud of the end part with the net... disconcerting without ever being explicit)), the tension mounting even though I was reasonably sure nothing of note was likely to happen. 

Zola Jesus (probably not her real name, but I'll leave it to a semi-professional reviewer to expand on that) is lucky enough to have a veritable choir of ghostly friends to help out with the singing (everyone needs an edge in the music industry, I'm told), and while she's good enough not to really need their help, they certainly add character to the song. I wouldn't be unkind enough to suggest this is cheating, as if you look at the first picture on the video, she is covered in some sort of crude oil (reminiscent of a surprised seagull on the news after the latest tanker crash) so she clearly has some issues in her life and could do with a break. 

All in all, I enjoyed the song, but I'm nervous that prolonged exposure will lead to my investing in either a pair of cut-off black lace gloves or some serious kerb-stomping, ghost-kicking boots and I'm not sure either would suit me. Worth a listen, though, for whenever you're feeling eldritch or you want some Atmosphere in your life. 

Real Review here: http://www.tinymixtapes.com/music-review/Zola-Jesus-Stridulum-EP (it's of the album rather than the song agin, but I'm sure you can deal with that)

I'm off to have supper now. Hope I don't cross myself too much, or I'll make an awful mess.