30 Jan 2011

Guilty Pleasures - My Top 10 Things in London

Hey everyone, hope you've had great weekends - whether you've been in, out or shakin' it all about. It's been a busy one here in Stupid-Land. Spent 4 hours at the climbing wall yesterday (pics to come later in the week) then headed off to Waterstones for a spending spree with @AliaMcK and finished off with dinner with some lovely girlies. Today was mostly spent having a lovely long 4 hour lunch with husbando as a belated NYE celebration and emailing.

So, to this week's top 10 list - a compilation of my favourite places to go, see, do, eat, drink, shop and chill! I have tried hard to come up with some really original places so even if you're a Londoner, there might be a few places on here that you've not been to.

1) The Posh Restaurant/Boutique Hotel - The Bingham, Richmond
Tucked away on the edge of Richmond, this hotel + restaurant is in a converted town house that looks like nothing special outside but inside it's tastefully opulent with lovely romantic views over the Thames.  The food is to die for - and very reasonably priced with a Sunday set menu starting at £38 for 3 courses. I don't claim to be a foodie but this place has a Michelin star and my very hard to please husband agrees that this place is top quality. We celebrated our wedding anniversary here.
Food - 5/5
Wine - 5/5
Romance - 5/5
Service - 5/5
Ambiance - 5/5

2) The Hidden Treasure Museum # 1 - Leighton House, Kensington
If you're a fan of pre-raphaelite art, you've probably heard of Lord Frederic Leighton. If not, you still might have seen his most famous painting - Flaming June. Leighton was a C19th painter + sculptor + President of the Royal Academy. His house has been carefully preserved, full of his treasures as well as his own paintings + sculptures and is well worth a visit - handily tucked away behind Kensington High Street. My absolute favourite part of the house is the amazing Arab Hall, filled with his collection of Iznik tiles which are the most beautiful blue I have ever seen. Every room is like a little gem. Visiting this museum is little a gift to yourself - it's never very busy and doesn't take long but it is completely UNFORGETTABLE. Go now! (or next time you're in London)

3) The Spooky Place - Highgate Cemetery, Highgate
I'd never heard of this place until I read Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (author of The Time Traveller's Wife) - which is set in Highgate Cemetery. Although the East Cemetery is famous for the graves of Douglas  Adams, George Eliot, Christina Rossetti and er, Karl Marx, it's actually the West Cemetery that's worth the visit + cost of the guided tour. The views of the amazing Victorian grave sculptures and mausoleums have to be seen to be believed and the Egyptian Avenue is goosebumpily wonderful. It's a little bit of a trip outside of central London but if you like Pere Lachaise in Paris, you'll *love* Highgate for its spooky gothic romance.

4) The Bookshop - Waterstones, Piccadilly
Five whole floors of books, what more can I say?! Fantastic service, great variety, amazing bar on the 5th floor with lovely views (very romantic!!). Just be prepared to walk out with bags full of books! This is somewhere I love to go whenever I am in town and @AliaMcK and I can while away several hours here. It's also got a decent travel section including some very specific walking + hiking books (tip, best travel bookshop in London - Stanfords in Covent Garden)

5) The Hidden Treasure Museum #2 - John Soanes Museum, Holborn
A bit like Leighton House, this is another fully restored townhouse, this time in the heart of Lincoln's Inn Fields and belonging to the C18th architect, John Soane. What is interesting is that his house has been a museum since his death in 1837 when an act of parliament was passed to ensure that it was preserved for students of architecture. To be really honest, you don't just need to be a fan of architecture to love this place - it's a total treasure trove of antiquities and random pieces of art - from the sarcophagi of Seti I to Roman busts and ancient Greek pottery, all the way through to paintings from Hogarth + Canaletto. Enjoy!

6) The Cheap Restaurant - La Casita, Streatham
This is my local Portuguese restaurant but it does, hands down, the best steak in London for £14. Not kidding. Tried and tested by a lot of my friends and my husband orders it everytime we go there! Plus they do it properly rare - like, as in, moo-ing on the plate. It's amazing + well worth the trip to South London. Also have fabulous Portuguese specialities such as salt cod + rabbit stew + great tapas, plus a great value wine list.
PS This place is so titchy, it doesn't even have it's own website so the link will just help you find it!

7) The Green Space - Richmond Park
I used to have to do PE and cross country races in Richmond Park but weirdly enough this didn't make hate the park - it made me love it more. When you grow up in Central London, finding 2500 acres of green space is pretty rare but Richmond Park is amazing. It's not got hills or dramatic scenery in that respect but the lush meadows and wooded areas and stacks of natural wildlife including 650 free roaming deer make this a very special place. It's perfect for a lovely walk (2-4hours) or a kid friendly picnic - or even a romantic picnic. If you like to horse ride or have a dog (or love dogs) it's a great place to go.

8) The Walk - Southbank to Tower Bridge
Whenever I think of London and the buzz + excitement it holds for me, I think of the Southbank by Waterloo. It's the perfect place to meet for a drink, a snack, a lunch/brunch/dinner and then take a wander along the river, people watching, looking at the views of London (Big Ben, the London Eye, St Paul's Cathedral, Canary Wharf, the Tower of London ). On the way you can stop into little shops and pubs, wander into the amazing looking Tate Modern art museum, go wine tasting in Vinopolis or Wine Wharf at London Bridge and then finish up after dark eating dim sum in Ping Pong looking at Tower Bridge lit up in all it's glory. Perfect!

9) The Secret Bar - Skylon, Royal Festival Hall
A pricey restaurant with amazing views across the River Thames right in the heart of the Southbank, this is one of my favourite places to have special cocktails with the girls. It's pricey but worth it if you're celebrating! The food is also lovely - and Toptable often have special deals on, so be sure to check it out.

10) The Lingerie Shop - Rigby + Peller, Knightsbridge
Thought I'd better add in one more shop - that didn't sell books - and my next favourite thing to buy is lingerie! It's very rare I have enough spends to shop at R+P but if it's good enough for the queen (the royal corsetiers) then it's good enough for me. The service is impeccable, the range is lovely (they also stock La Perla), the shiny red shopping bags look fabulous - and the sales are amazing value. This place is a little different from your average Victoria's Secrets and much classier that Agent Provocateur (not that sometimes you don't want a little AP Sauce) but Rigby + Peller sell classic, elegant and sexy lingerie. Definitely a treat for any girl

I hope that you feel like visiting one of the places on my list - they are definitely tried and tested - I look forward to hearing your views and please feel free to recommend *your* favourites on the comments section! Thanks for all your views this week - and this month. Tune in on Wednesday for WoTW (Sex) and Interview Friday.

Thank you and goodnight

Stupidgirl has left the building

28 Jan 2011

This Much I Know Is True - An Interview with Jo

Well here we are - interview number two - and I am honoured to have on my virtual l-shaped navy sofa tonight, the very lovely @bobbinsandbeans aka Jo!

Jo/Bobbins is mum to 2 child shaped demons. She is technically a lone parent but receives so much support from her fiance that it renders the term "lone" invalid.  She has worked in fashion and education and both are totally fruitloop.

We are eating virtual cheesy pizza (her request, no calories either - bonus) and drinking rose wine. We're not listening to any music because Jo has synesthesia set off by music!* Apparently it can be a little distracting trying to talk through an auditory rainbow of sound/vision/emotion combined. Anyway, on with the interview.....

Me: What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

Jo: I'm not really one for nuggets of condensed wisdom, my mum used to have a saying for everything and used to invariably get them wrong or mix them up. One thing she did say often was that you cannot make people's mistakes for them nor can you expect them to learn from yours. 

Me: Describe yourself in a dating ad
Jo: Fat, fabulous and almost 40. Opinionated but excessively reasonable single mother seeks person to share demon wrangling responsibilities and to pour the wine. Height/weight/age unimportant, honesty and humour vital. Previous applicants should piss off.

Me: What is the nicest thing you have done?
Jo: I don't know, I don't know if I am a nice person. I do things because they are right or because it makes me feel good to do them. I don't do things totally altruistically. I know that I would rather do someone a good turn than a bad one though and I like to think that's nice.

Me: So lets talk about your 101 things in 1001 days project, what made you start it?
Jo: When I started the project I was in limbo to be honest. I started it just under a year after my husband left me. I was a single mother with two small children, one of whom is classed as profoundly disabled, I was unable to work so lost my career, my mother had died earlier in the year and I felt my life had no real direction. I had managed to lose me somewhere along the line. 

Me: What did you gain from the project - which by the way, I think is pretty inspiring - and did you like some challenges more than others?
Jo: The project gave me some direction, some focus and something to look forward to. I have changed some of the challenges as I've gone along. They are now more "me" because when I started I was not sure who "me" was anymore.

I don't like/dislike any challenges in particular. I am particularly proud of the ones that have meant me going out and initiating things and speaking to new people. I had very little self confidence when I started this project but now I have more. That above all else has made this project worthwhile. 

Me: As we can tell from your answers, you've got a great writing style - what keeps you writing?
Jo: I write because it keeps my brain working.  Before I became a stay at home mum, I was a teacher and loved the challenge of trying to force spreadsheets and databases into the reluctant minds of surly teenagers. I have also always been a bit of a performer! I love to make people laugh, I love to entertain. I used to act and sing and do all kinds of things but now I don't. So I try to do it in words. 

Me: Moving onto the boys (aka the demons, such a great name!) What do you love about being a mum?
Jo: Is this where I am supposed to say everything and tell you how they have made my life complete?

I hope not because that's a load of tosh quite frankly. I love the cuddles, I love watching them grow, I love how funny they are, I love seeing other people I love in their expressions and gestures, I love when they achieve, I love that they need me, I love that they love me, I love that they are individuals not just clones of me or their father. I love them, warts and all. I could live without the tantrums and the 5 a.m alarm calls. I could live without the worry that comes with being a parent. I could live without the fear that something will happen to them. I could not live without them.

Me: Let's finish up with some fun questions, first up, what would be your last meal?
Jo: Roast lamb dinner cooked by my mum. In reality I'd cook it myself and it would be the favourites of the people I love. I love cooking and really have the food-as-a-way-of-expressing-love thing in spades.

Me: What is your favourite song?
Jo: Not a song as such but I love the symphonic poem In the Steppes of Central Asia. by Borodin, it triggers my synesthesia in a way that nothing else ever has. I could not speak or stop shaking for an hour when I first heard it.

Me: What really annoys you?
Jo: Well lots of things really, but perhaps I'll just say that I hate parsnips!

Me: Tell us a secret about yourself 
Jo: I have in my time done some modelling for a fetish photographer that involved some BDSM props and poses. I have also had stories published on a specialist BDSM website

Me: And finally, what do you know to be true?
Jo: I know that the truth is subjective and can be bent, I prefer to deal in facts, the facts are not subject to emotion. I have been "accused" of being overly reasonable but what I really do is try and strip things back to the facts and make decisions based on that. After I have ranted and kicked the cushions around the room of course, I may be logical but I'm still human

Thank you very much for letting me interview you!

If you're interested in reading Jo's blog you can find it here and you can follow her on twitter @bobbinsandbeans

That's all from me for today, check back on Sunday for my Top 10 Favouritest Secret Things To Do/See/Eat in London. If you missed this week's photo essay, check it out here and watch out for some exciting stuff next week involving S.E.X + an interview with a great steampunk author.

Thank you + goodnight

Stupidgirl has left the building

*Little known fact, I have number synasthesia 

27 Jan 2011

Fun with buildings - A Photo Essay (aka Stuff Wot I Saw + Snapped)

Evening people (or morning, or afternoon, or just "hi" wherever you are). Been a busy week - met with lovely library people (here's some info on that) and an action packed weekend too.

Anyway, here are some snaps from my Blackberry of some nice buildings near my office plus a couple of snowy ones I forgot to post. Finally also a picture of my sheep slippers from the day I was off sick. PS In case you missed it, here's last week's photo essay on fireworks.

Hope you like - feel free to comment. Also to suggest some new photo essay topics. Thanks for all your support + visits to the blog. Is muchos appreciated. See you tomorrow for an interview with a VERY exciting lady and on sunday my Top 10 Secret Things to do in London (some top tips)

Thank you + goodnight.

Stupidgirl has left the building

25 Jan 2011

Kindness Is Not A Swear Word

(Kindness n The quality or state of being kind. Kind adj Humane, considerate, tolerant, generous, agreeable, warm-hearted,friendly, charitable, understanding. Ety: from O.E. gecynde "natural, native, innate," related to cynn "family"and pre-Germanic gakundiz)

I've been wanting to use Kindness as WoTW for a little while now, especially after last week's word; I've been blogging regularly for nearly a month now and one thing has really struck me in that time. In all the blogs I read and all the tweople I follow, in all the discussions about writing, writers and authors just seem to be *so* hard on themselves and their work. What happened to being kind to yourself? Just why are we so self-critical and lacking in confidence + self esteem when it comes to our projects and w-i-ps?

Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of the X-Factor style delusion either (you know, when the tone deaf idiots show up to audition thinking that they're the next Mariah Carey only for SyCo to set them straight). It's important to understand that for the most part your work on a day to day basis isn't going to be the next War and Peace but equally, it's no Snooki/Katie Price either. Why can't we give credit to ourselves for trying to follow our dreams and do something different and creative.

I think maybe some of it is attitude related - I think it's very British not to blow one's own trumpet - but some days I think we need to acknowledge what we've achieved; whether that's an amazing scene, a new plot twist, another 1k/5/10k of words or simply just finding the perfect word for what you're trying to say. Why *not* celebrate that? It is good to recognise when you're just that little bit closer to finishing your masterpiece. It sounds terribly cliched to say *think positive* but sometimes that helps. 

One of the reasons why Nanowrimo worked for me + why it was so great was because of the lack of pressure - all I had to do was work towards a word count. It didn't matter if those words were crap or not - and that was unbelievably liberating. I felt happy to just write and write - and yes there was tons of dross but I think you need to work through the crap to get to mine the gold underneath. This attitude of positivity and kindness is also something I have learned - and practised - at work when it comes to being creative. You genuinely can't get to the really good ideas without chucking around some seriously crazy ones too. In fact I've been told in one job that they paid me to come up with "daft ideas"!! 

So lesson number one, for me at least, about kindness: relax your attitude a little, ease up on the inner criticism and feel free to play around with the crazy ideas and tangents - you never know what amazing plot line or character you might discover.

The other part of kindness, is that it's not just attitudinal, its about how you actually act towards yourself in both giving and receiving kindness. Sometimes when someone is kind to you it's really frickin hard to trust that kindness. After all - as many people on twitter said - an act of kindness is often an act of selflessness, giving without expecting anything in return; in these cynical times of economic doom + gloom it can really be hard to believe that people will give something for nothing. I am particularly learning that with twitter and blogging - that people will RT me or follow me or recommend me or let me interview them - and for what personal gain - nothing. It is amazing to be able to accept that and see that they have faith in me and want to help me. The more I see that the more I want to be kind to other people too. Again another cliche but the whole idea of pay it forward I think makes a big difference. Doing good makes you feel good. 

So lesson number 2 that I have learned is just to accept when other people are kind and *trust* them. To just open up and allow people to be kind to me so that I can learn how to be kind to other people - but also how to be kind to me; which will have a knock on affect on my writing.

I know that this week's WoTW has been a little mushier than usual but I'm in a bit of a reflective mood today. As some of you know (and some of you may not), last year was a bit of a tough year and I had a melt down over Christmas. When I went to see the doctor, as well as giving me meds + an appointment with the counsellor, she also told me to be kinder to myself and to learn how to worry less. So this post is my first tiny step on that journey. I know it's a little self indulgent but I hope you'll forgive me this once.

Thank you and good night

Stupidgirl has left the building

PS Many thanks again to all the tweople who gave me their thoughts on kindness, you know who you are - couldn't have done this without you

23 Jan 2011

Does it offend you yeah - Top 10 Irritating Things List

Sorry, love that band name! So, evening everyone, hope you've had great weekends. I am in a rather excitable mood after being featured in the Independent (photo as well, eeep) talking about why I love my library. Read all about it here!

I know I've blogged + pimped out the blog a lot on Twitter recently, so thanks for all your continued support + hope you like what you're reading - it certainly seems like it. I've got an exciting couple of interviews coming up in the next week or so, plus a photo essay and the WoTW is going to be.......kindness.

So, on with the list - thanks to @AliaMcK for helping me compile it. (PS If you missed last week's top 10 funny websites, check it out here)

Top 10 Things That Irritate The Hell Out of Me

1) People who cannot use public transport properly
By this I mainly mean people who do not understand the concept of moving down inside the bus/tube/carriage/tram and just stand there, oblivious to everyone else needing to get on + get to work. This leads to someone (usually big mouth me) shouting in a very posh voice "Could you move down PLEASE!". The person blocking the way then usually pulls a `who, me?` type face, whilst everyone else looks at them in a `yes, you moron` way. Then they move. Also within this category, people waiting to get on the tube/train/bus blocking the exits when you want to get off (wtf is this all about) and people who don't understand the concept of paying for a ticket. It's not hard.
**this point excludes tourists, who can't necessarily be expected to know these things**

2) People who have no manners/lack of common courtesy
These are the people who do not even acknowledge, let alone respond to emails/texts/tweets/voicemails even after a reasonable amount of time has expired (I do appreciate that not everyone is quite as obsessive about being online as moi). Also in this, people who don't say please or thank you when you hold doors open for them. And at a slight tangent to the lack of emailing/texts, people who can't use the correct form of its/it's or they're/there/their or who's/whose. LOOK IT UP. We have spell check and online grammar tools. Check before sending! This particularly goes for people who are trying to sell me something. Why should I buy something from you when you can't even be bothered to use spell check?

3) Really slow computers
You know, those days when your laptop/PC/whatever just goes "You know what, no. Just, no. I am not going to open a single programme without taking at least half a century, freezing, crashing and losing all your work." And this leaves me in an impotent rage, on hold to my IT desk (husbando), shouting at an inanimate object, looking like a crazy bag lady. It's not elegant folks but I'm not alone on this one right?!

4) Have something stuck in your teeth....
That you just can't extract without maximum public embarrassment OR getting home and finding out you walked around all day with something HUGE in your teeth and no one telling you (ditto for open flies, skirt tucked in tights/knickers). Small on the scale of stuff on this list but oh so grrrrrrrr

5) People who don't understand the concept of supermarket checkouts
In this category I include:

  • the people who look surprised when it comes to pay + take about three decades to find their purse/wallet/nectar card. This is after queuing for around 30 minutes. Do these people never go out and purchase things? WTF is up with this behaviour?
  • the people who decide that the 10 items or less checkout queue rule does not apply to them and they can barge in there with their 25 tins of cat food and 9 bottles of sparkling water that then takes the cashier freakin ages to bag
  • inattentive checkout assistants/shop assistants. I am the customer, you serve me, I come to pay, you do not continue chatting away on your mobile phone whilst taking and then messing up my food order. You also do not look pissed off that I interrupted your very important gossip with the other shop assistants when I need something else in my size. I've worked in a shop, I know the pay is shit, I know that people are rude to you but FFS please just do your job at least. It's not my fault if you hate it!
6) That getting dressed for work laundry conundrum (kudos to Alia for help with this one!)
You know, it's monday morning, you go to get your favourite sweater/shirt/dress/trousers/skirt out of the cupboard because it's easy to wear and you don't need to think about matching items...... but the fucker is in the laundry basket because someone (you!) forgot to wash it. Fuckfuckfuck goes your poor tired monday morning head. The clock is ticking on, you've not had a morning beverage and it's pissing with rain. What do you do now? Do you smell it (we've all done that)? Do you just put it on + hope for the best? Do you try to cobble together another outfit whilst every braincell screams "Nooooo it's too early for fashion dilemmas". Whatever the outcome it is just so bloody annoying isn't it!

7) The disappearance of the yummy food
You've had a long day - lots of meetings maybe, or just lots of work. Alternatively you've been out late/up early/you've got a hangover and all you want is that nice glass of juice or....the last biscuit/piece of cake or.... the half a tub of Ben + Jerrys or.....the Chinese take out left overs. Mmmm, perfect you think, just the ticket to make you feel better. 
But no dagnabit! Someone has got there first and they've eaten/drunk the damn thing. There's not even any milk for tea or bread for toast. Arghhhhh if this doesn't give you the rage then you've the patience of a saint!

8) The Daily Fail
I don't think I need to say any more. Just the mere thought of this publication gets my blood pressure going. Along with that I'd like to add the people who read said publication and then think they have the  right to form a solid, intelligent political opinion based on this - and not being aware that they are coming across as ignorant bigots! 
Handy tip - here is a link to an add-on for firefox that when you click on the Fail's website, hides it with pictures of kittens and tea (thanks to Caroline for this one!) 

9) Reality TV Shows
Big Brother, I'm a Celebrity Get me Out of Here, X Factor, Pop Idol, Strictly Coming Dancing, Dancing on Ice, So You Think You Can Dance, Come Dine With Me. 
Just FUCK RIGHT OFF. If there is anything more likely to get me ranting away at my tellybox then it's a reality TV show. I do appreciate that some people like them, I do, and that's their opinion. But generally I flipping hate the shows. I don't give a toss about a bunch of weirdos in a house in North London, neither do I care about slebs fainting/eating spiders/peeing outside. I certainly don't want to watch a bunch of talentless wannabees have their dreams shredded by SyCo. It's so voyeuristic. And yet this week I watched at least 6 episodes of CDWM.

10) The government closing (or trying to) libraries/cutting their funding.
Need I say more? Add your support and stories about why your library is important to you here!

Feel differently about any of these? Want to add your own moments, please comment below - this one could run and run.

As ever thanks for reading and hope to see you again soon.

Thank you and good night.

Stupidgirl has left the building

Save Our Libraries - My 15 Mins of Fame

Just a quick one to say that if you're in the UK, today I am quoted in the Independent on Sunday about why I love libraries and why we must work to save them.

You can read the article here

To read my original story visit here

To read about how to support libraries in the UK visit here and also check out @UKpling on twitter

I'll be back tonight with my list of Top 10 Annoying Things (now that I am a celebrity.....!!)

Have a great sunday all of you - and why not visit your local library today?

Stupidgirl has now left the building

22 Jan 2011

Fun with Fireworks + Deafness - a photo essay/stuff about me!

Morning! Well, afternoon really. As per last week, here are some snaps from my Blackberry. This week's theme is `fireworks`. Only a few pics this week - fireworks are kind of hard to take decent pics of y'know - what with them moving around and all. The reason I have chosen fireworks is because I have had good news relating to my hearing loss/deafness....but you'll have to get to the end of this post to see what it is. Enjoy the pics:

 Next week's photo essay is "Stuff I saw on my lunch break", which seeing as I work in the City of London means I should get some good pics!

Right, the good news, here are the facts you *need* to know, in handy bullet points:

  • I wear hearing aids in both ears. This is cause my 'ossicles' (cool name huh), the 3 teeny tiny bones in my middle ear don't work. You can read more about this here
  • I have worn hearing aids since I can remember, so from around the age of 3.
  • My hearing loss is hereditary (god that's hard to spell) although only one of the bones in my mum's ears are messed up. We both have the hearing loss because...
  • My grandmother had rubella when she was pregnant with mum
  • My mum had an operation to 'fix' her hearing when she was 16. 
  • My operation wasn't possible because of all 3 bones not working :-(
  • I don't make a big deal about my hearing loss + most people don't know when they meet me until I tell them.
  • You can't tell I'm deaf from my speech
  • The consultant told me today that actually my hearing loss is moderate-to-severe. Which surprised me. So perhaps asking for stuff is no bad thing. 
  • I worry that I'm a pain, asking for stuff, like subtitles, louder volume, people to face me. Stupid huh!
So the good news is.....the consultant I saw today wants me to see the specialist doctor-y type people to see if things have changed re: operation. Wow. Crumbs. Yikes etc etc. Not getting hopes up but still. Amazing news no less! I can't imagine what it would be like to er, *hear* normally I guess. Exciting all the same. Just wanted to share with you all.

Happy afternoon!


PS Thanks to everyone who has been reading + commenting + RTing + generally supporting my blog. You are all lovely and I am sending you virtual champagne as I've had over 1000 views this month alone. 

21 Jan 2011

This Much I Know Is True - An interview with Alia

Well as I have been hinting for sometime both on here + Twitter, I have finally gone and interviewed someone for the blog. I'd been wanting to interview people after being inspired by the regular piece in the Observer Magazine called `This Much I Know`. I've got quite a list of people waiting to be interviewed - a steampunk author, a multimedia artist living in India, a single mum, a jewellery designer and.....a *mystery* man! Exciting right? Maybe it's just me.

Anyway the first interview is tonight with @AliaMcK who, I have to confess *is* one of my best buddies in real life. However, she is also multi-talented - being a writer, designer and (wedding) dress maker. She is a lover of trashy YA fiction and is Canadian but luckily for me, resides right here in London!

So, we are sitting on my navy l-shaped sofa in my sitting room and we have eaten muchos pizza! Ham + pineapple (her) and pepperoni (me). We are drinking coca-cola and presently we will have some ice cream. Rock and roll right! On with the interview - note, I sent Alia a list of possible questions earlier in the week so she could prepare a little!

Me: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Alia: Hmmm (looks thoughtful)...Drive like everyone else is crazy. My granddad gave me and my sister this advice when we were learning to drive. I think it applies to most things - shopping, eating etc. It's a maxim I try to live my life by! (laughs)

Me: If you wrote a personals ad, what would it say? (Alia is married)
Alia: Hah! Does your grout need cleaning? Then I'm your girl! (Alia loves cleaning grout) No, seriously, probably `Do you like the smell of bleach,visiting the recycling depo + rifling through the racks in 2nd hand stores? All of the above seeks same". (I tell her she'd probably end up with girl with that ad!)

Me: I know this is tough question but...what is your all time favourite book?
Alia: Easy, Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. It's a scifi/noir blend detective fiction novel and I've read it 11 times - and each time I discover something new. The story is so layered, it's like the best trifle!

Me: Okay, so you write a lot. What do you `know` about writing? And you can take that anyway you want it to.....
Alia: (thinks, pauses, lies back on sofa) I know that no two people write the same way. What works for me doesn't neccessarily work for you. You have to find your own way of doing things.

Me: I think that makes sense, and it's kind of reassuring, that it's okay to have your own style, so why do you write?
Alia: Um...I've always written I guess, since I was about 7 or 8 and my sister and I used to put on plays for my parents' friends when they came round for dinner. I write because something intrigues me, I get an idea for something and I want to know what happens. It's like pulling a thread on a sweater and watching how it unravels.

Me: Curiosity is a good trait for a writer! I think I'm just nosy so, in that case, what are you working on now?!
Alia: I'm not exactly sure how to define it but I've been working on a YA fantasy novel for the last couple of years. It's a real work in progress and requiring a lot of procrastinating research. Other than that I've had an essay on justice in detective fiction published online here!

Me: I remember, that was really exciting. Following on from that, what really inspires you?
Alia: Anything really, I know that sounds kind of strange but what I mean is looking at something out of context, not isolating it but separating it from its associations and creating new associations. I've had ideas for corsets from trees, dresses in the grocery store and the idea for my w-i-p came from finding out that there were other options when Canada was named. So wikipedia helped a lot!

Me: Let's move away from writing a little, tell me about your dress designing, how did that start?
Alia: Well, it's kind of a family tradition - all the women in my family can sew, they always have. My grandmother + great-grandmother taught me how when I was around six and it just spiralled from there. Being a theatre major helped too, I had to learn costume design and be able to make things. Now I design evening dresses and wedding dresses and get referrals for these from my friends (smiles at me) 

Me: Aww! Right, lets do some fun questions to finish up! What gets you really excited?
Alia: My vegetable garden! I know it sounds geeky but I love it, it's a really good fit for me, I love growing things and the vegetables I've grown taste so much better than the store bought kind. I don't even have a proper veggie garden, I just grow things in plastic tubs on my patio, I've grown peas, potatoes, lettuce and butter nut squash even. Yummy!

Me: What most irritates you?
Alia:(frowns, looks irritated!) People who are wilfully oblivious

Me: If you were Prime Minister for the day, what would you do?
Alia: Hah, I would create two new laws. One being that all trains have to have more carriages - being at a minimum 12 carriages long. I would also make a law that all engineering on public services (digging up roads) have to finish projects on time, on budget and within the hours of 8pm-4am. Otherwise they get fined (looks smug, I point out it might be noisy) Okay, noisy stuff 8pm-11pm, rest of stuff 11pm-4am.

Me: And finally, what do you know to be true?
Alia: I know that in six months, it's not going to matter. What I mean is, what ever matters now, chances are, it won't in six months. I wish I'd known this when I was a teenager, I would have spent a lot less time stressing!

Me: Thank you! Hope that was okay, let's go have some ice cream and wear face masks!

If you're interested in reading Alia's blog, find it http://howdidilivewithoutit.blogspot.com/ and follow her on twitter @AliaMck

So that's it. First interview over. It's a little rough around the edges but I hope you liked it. I'll be asking everyone slightly different questions depending on who they are + what they do, but the main question is, what do they *know*, what have they learned. And it's just to introduce you to different people who are just like you and me and see how they go about their lives!

Please do comment - good or bad - and also let me know if you'd like an interview! Watch out for a photo essay tomorrow and a top 10 list of things that irritate me on sunday.

Thank you and goodnight,

Stupidgirl has left the building

19 Jan 2011

Confession Time

(Honesty noun - The quality of being Honest adj. - telling the truth or able to be trusted and not likely to steal, cheat or lie Etym. - From the Latin `honestestas` meaning honor, honest or virtue.)

The aim of Word of The Week (WoTW) is to make me bring the focus of this blog back to writing at least once a week - as that was one of the main reasons I started blogging. The idea is that I'll talk about a word but show how I think it relates to the craft of writing, if that makes any sense. (Although last week's WoTW was not focused on writing, the previous week it was.) This week's WoTW is Honesty.

Weirdly the inspiration for this WoTW struck when I was in a seminar this morning - don't ask me how i get involved in these things - on the topic of coaching. One of the thoughts I had about coaching was that it seemed to me all about someone encouraging you to be honest with yourself about yourself and what you want. Bingo - WoTW found - tick off the list for today!

It made me think about how as I, as a writer (and yes, I am finally counting myself as one, being honest here) should be more honest with myself about my writing and what I want from it. Sometimes it feels like  the advice I've read about writing and writers and literature isn't all that honest; it can seem a little prescriptive and conformative (sorry, not sure if that's even a word). 

For example i think the general external perception of writing is that one must always be working towards the greatest work of literature ever produced, that to want to be published is wrongetty wrong wrong, that you should be a slave to your art etc etc. Clearly, for most published authors this is not the case, but even within writing circles I feel like there is a little bit of snobbery over what constitutes an acceptable attitude towards one's own writing.

I would guess that the majority of writers out there (published or not) are working away in spare rooms, coffee shops, squeezing time to write around day jobs that pay the bills and partners and kids and well, real life. Some of us write on the bus, on the tube and the train. I am guessing I am not alone in having inspiration strike at massively inopportune moments - mainly during my working day - yet I do not have the liberty to drop everything and bash out a few 1000 words. Neither, should I add, that if writers block strikes, can I wander amongst the daffodils. I have to write when i have time, regardless of whether the words are there or not. Else it doesn't happen at all. It does sometimes make me question why I bother to write.

So I would like to be honest here and say the biggest secret I have been keeping about my writing is............I dream of being published, I do, really, perhaps that's not a huge surprise but I am ashamed of admitting that in public. So often I have seen it said that you should not write to be published etc - and I'm not writing to be published but equally, it is one of the goals I am working towards with my writing.

Linking into this, if I'm honest, the possibility (tiny though it may be) of being published is something that helps motivate and focus me, otherwise what am I doing all this for? Clearly being published is only one of the reasons I write - I love my book and I am in love with my characters (wld like to point out I don't think my book is amazing, but I love it anyway, like old slippers). My book is comforting, it is non judgemental, it demands nothing of me save what I chose to give it. And at this stage of my life, I am finding it very rewarding to write - the creativity it demands is really helping me be more productive and creative at work - weird huh. I guess it would surprise you all to think that I don't really consider myself a creative person.

So this post is dedicated to all the writers and authors out there, for when it's really getting tough and it's hard not to lose hope and what WTF are we really doing here.  Well take time to think about yourself and consider what do you really want from your writing? More importantly, are you getting it? If not, why not? After all, as every Jewish Princess know (moi included) if you don't ask you don't get. I hope that this post inspires maybe someone out there to think about what you want from your writing and take the first step to getting there. Isn't that a little bit exciting + empowering?

I really welcome your comments and thoughts on this - good or bad (can't promise I won't cry!). It interests me.

Thank you and good night.

Stupidgirl has left the building

17 Jan 2011

Bed Surfing When You're Sick

So, brain is still full of fog + dust bunnies as well as my sinuses appearing to be full of quick set cement. I have the world's heaviest face.

I was too tired to even tweet this morning. I had a 3 hour nap which was full of disturbing dreams (note to self, do not take paracetamol on an empty stomach). Since then I have been reading random blogs on the interweb. Here are some that I liked:

Slating SATC2 - warning, this is brutal. It's therefore excellent. Don't get me wrong, I liked the SATC tv show but the movies SUCKED ASS. Big fat ass. Sorry ladies.
Slating Liz Jones'  er, as the link says really.
Daily Mash article spoofing said Liz Jones' article (other good Daily Mash stuff about sex here and on Sarah Palin here)

#savelibraries in top 5 worldwide trends on Twitter was picked up by the Grauniad
Toryboy is sick Lucy Mangan's hilarious article about her sick husband. Man-flu shman flu. "Get Better! Hurry Up!" (i do see the irony in posting this seeing as I am, myself, sick - but i do not require triangular sandwiches, I am merely an *angry* sick person)

Gah, that's enough ranty blogging. Hope you liked the amusing list from yesterday. If you missed it, it's here

Finally, when I was lying in bed with the duvet OVER my head, before dozing off, the following poem came into my head. At the time I thought it was a work of unmitigated genius. Now I see it is the clearly the ramblings of a person made slightly mental by a cold and (yet again) taking paracetamol on an empty stomach. Enjoy the nonsense:

Nonsense Pretentious Poem I Wrote When Sick
"Sometimes - the voices in my head
Go silent - when this happens
It is like a blanket of snow across
my unconscious. I'm not sure
if this is a gag or a
fresh start"

Thank you + good night

Stupidgirl has left the building

16 Jan 2011

Laughter Is The Best Medicine - Top 10 funny sites

I'm sick, in bed. I've made stupidboy sing "Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty" to me (NB If you don't know this song you need to check out The Big Bang Theory) My throat feels like it's lined with razor blades.

But, it's sunday - list day (check out previous lists here, here, here, and the original here.) Even though my brain is full of fog + dust bunnies, here is this week's list - the theme of which is my favouritest amusing websites. 

If you're anything like me, something silly + juvenile is just what you need on a sunday night or a monday morning (or in fact anytime) to pep you up! Equally it might be just the trick to keep you procrastinating away just a little longer! 

**warning: some of these sites contain very juvenile, silly humour, do not look if you think you might be offended - unlikely if you're reading this blog though!**

Amusing websites - in no particular order:

Catalogue Living this genius little site demonstrates neatly what the people in your home furnishing catalogues get up to when you're not looking. Very, very silly but very droll.
Hungover Owls er, like Lol Catz but funnier and with owls. Thanks for @AliaMck for originally showing this to me + for @Leopardprintlou for reminding me of it.....

Shit My Kids Ruined equally parts funny, terrifying and an effective contraceptive for those who don't have kids. Maybe less funny for those with kids - or not?

Failblog The first of 2-3 classic comedy sites on this list. I've tried to stay away from the most common sites but even if you're a regular visitor to this one, it's always got something funny on it!

If You Like It So Much Why Don't You Go Live There well, as well as winning the award for longest funny site title in this list, this is a good site for those of you who like reading funny complaints letters+completely irrational comments in the Daily Fail. It is a little more.....intellectual...than previous sites so you might need to switch your brain 'on' for this one.

Rude Food Names ahem, Jussi Pussi rolls anyone? Arson Fire sauce? No? What about a nice glass of Ass instead. All of these and other ridiculously named food + beverages from around the world can be found on this amusing little blog. Bon appetit!

Lamebook Another classic that most of you are probly familiar with but still worth cringe-makingly amusing look at some of the awful status updates out there. People - please always double check and remember that someone, somewhere, will have screen grabbed your embarrassing moment for posterity!

Overheard in New York a hysterical blog full of mind-bogglingly bizarre quotes overheard in New York.  If you want a plateful of craziness, this site has it. Love it!

Awkward Family Photos We've all been there - the crazy sweater your grandma knitted, the over-familiar uncle, the weird cousin in the corner - well now you can submit photographic evidence of these gatherings to the interweb, as indeed have many other people. Laugh at their mistakes - and then go home + burn the family photo albums.

DamnYouAutoCorrect "Penis Butter" "Glasses in your Orifice" For the true definition of PMSL and "Can't. Breathe.Laughing.Too.Hard", visit this site if you haven't already. Run, don't walk. 

Enjoy! I'll be back during the week with a Word of the Week, a post on Nostalgia and a *new* photo essay seeing as the snow one went down so well. Thanks for all the views + comments guys, hope this post pleases you.

Thank you + good night,

Stupidgirl has left the building

EDITED TO ADD....(Jan 2012)
I just wanted to add one more site that is currently making me giggle a lot..

15 Jan 2011

Fun In The Snow - a photo essay

I write a lot, so here are some pictures for you instead, taken when it snowed in London in December. It was so magical out, I couldn't resist snapping away with the little camera on my BlackBerry. Hope you like them!

14 Jan 2011

Fear - not just a river in North Carolina

Fear (noun) -  distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. (definition + etymology from here)
Etymology - bef. 900; ME fere,  OE fær  sudden attack or danger; c. OS fār  ambush, D gevaar,  G Gefahr  danger, ON fār  disaster

So yes, fear, it's not just a river in North Carolina. We're all afraid of something from snakes and spiders to death, failure and armageddon. Today's blog post is just a short essay-ette on what lurks in the wardrobe and under the bed. 1,2,3 it's coming to get you....

When i was a child I was scared of the dark. I slept with my bedroom door open and the hall light on for comfort. I've never grown out of this feat, I'm still terrified of the dark - it reduces me to a gibbering wreck. I'm not sure what it is that scares me exdactly - it's as if "The Dark" is an amorphous entity in itself - but the lack of all senses save touch (I'm deaf) doesn't help.

I magine wraiths reaching out to grab me with cold clammy hands, demons hiding in the dark waiting to eat my soul, serial killers chasing me down endless corridors with locked doors either side, whilst spiders and snakes writhe underfoot! (did I mention, I have a vivid, childlike imagination!)

I think it's really a fear of being trapped somewhere with no escape route too - as I'm mildly claustrophobic (no spelunkers on this blog!) and paradoxically, I also have a touch of agoraphobia (from the ancient greek for fear of the market place). I hate airports and huge shopping complexes and municipal buildings with no visible windows or exits and entrances. For some reason I need to know I can escape....

I'm not even sure what I need to escape from, maybe it's more a need to escape "to" something - something familiar and known, which leads me to believe this is linked to a fear of being alone and abandoned, which I think we can all relate to. Self imposed isolation is one thing, loneliness is quite another. One of the worst nightmares I ever had was populated with people with no faces, no matter what happened in the dream. The feeling of total ostracism and isolation was so overwhelming, I woke up crying.

As well as these fears linking to a desire for the familar, the ordinary, everyday and known, I have real problems adjusting to change and visiting new places - these can be very difficult and stressful for me, and I am beginning to realise I'm not alone in this. With the world becoming smaller almost everyday and an abililty to contact people all over the planet, it seems common place for people to travel to extreme far flung places - and the implication is that if you don't do this, come judgement day all these non-travelling luddites will be left behind. That's not to say I won't try new things or go to new places but it's hard, sometimes the adrenline starts running through my body weeks before a change to my routine or visit to somewhere new.

It's almost pleasurable, a mix of terror at the unpredictability and pleasure and excitement at something new. And yet there is no 'high' when I have survived whatever it is, only exhaustion. It is rarely ever as bad as i have feared but I can never celebrate this, there is always something new to anticipate. Perhaps I am addicted to fear and anxiety.

A short survey of my friends would indicate that my other fears - spiders, snakes, sharks, heights, deep water, failure are also incredibly common. Many of them mentioned fears linked to other people - but the opposite of abandonment - a  fear of talking to people face to face, of walking into parties and not knowing anyone. I think we've definitely all been there - a fear of judgement, of laughter and talking behind our backs, mockery and fingers pointing. Which then leads back to feeling alone and abandoned. Linking to this, something that really came out of my 'fear surveys' was not of a fear for one's own safety, but a fear for one's loved ones - in particular your children. It makes me wonder, are all my fears just really selfish and will I change when I have children? I don't know but I hope so.

Sometimes it seems like every minute of every day there is something to be afraid of and worry about. To my mind, on a bad day, just getting out of bed is an achievement. To some people this may seem like such a total over-reaction but remember that all this fear and worry is in my head; few people - til this blog - really know the extent of it, I think the outside world would never know - until my fear completely prevents me from doing something.

That's because my over-riding fear is one of missing out, of being left behind - of a life half lived and all that. Every day I face my fears and battle my demons so that I can wrestle my life into some semblance of happiness and live the life I feel I should be living.

Thank you and good night (don't forget to lock your doors now....)

Stupidgirl has left the building

PS Thanks to all the tweeple who took the time to tell me about their fears, really appreciate your honesty folks. Hope you like the blog x