Sunday, 28 April 2013

Within touching distance...

I was at a party last night and spoke with someone who will soon be on the silver screen, appearing in a movie with Brad Pitt.  The real Brad Pitt!  Gosh, was I excited.  I'm delighted to report that he is as nice a guy as he appears to be, a fine actor in the raw and just as beautiful as he looks on screen.  We'll soon be able to see the movie for ourselves.

Ofcourse I spent some time last night and this morning reflecting on what it must be like to speak to someone so impressive.  And then I realised - I have.  
The party was being thrown for a family member who is about to move hundreds of miles away to set up home with a man whom she has slowly but surely fallen in love with over the last three years.  He is older, has two children of his own and travels the country with work.  I've always found her a quiet, mature, independent young woman who smiled as she told me last night -  I can't wait to start my new life.  But, if it doesn't work, I'll come back and start again.  I knew, as I've always known - She will be just fine.  How I admire her sense of self and her willingness to take the giant leap of faith to grab her happiness.
Whilst watching BBC Breakfast yesterday morning, another young woman stopped me in my tracks.  With just £6 in her purse and a toddler on her arm, she made her way to her local supermarket, knowing she would have to do her most creative shop yet if she were to feed them both for a week.  The rest is history.  Now a journalist on her local newspaper, I'm pretty sure this incredible young woman, Jack Monroe,  is about to become very famous indeed.  Her blog is an interesting read. 

I've been a young, struggling, single parent.  It wasn't easy.  But it wasn't the end.   Just like Jack - for me, it was the beginning.  
Life is full of inspirational, courageous, people.  I find taking the time to listen to them has a wonderful effect.  If just some of that rubs off on me,  my life will be much richer for it.
But this one's for Brad... 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Would one like to swap places?

I've lived like royalty this week.  I spent two days at a destination spa hotel in Peebles, which was a functioning castle in its former life.  Sleeping in a sumptuous bed; being waited on hand and foot; having beautiful meals served to me by charming, attentive staff and lounging beside an infinity pool with a spectacular view of the magnificent Peebles countryside - it made me wonder what it must be like to live as one of the truly privileged.  This life is something I could get used to.  Or could I?
It's the Queen's birthday today.  Her actual birthday.  She is 87 years old.  As I watched her and Prince Philip arrive at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher earlier this week, a thought came to my mind.  Just how privileged does our Queen feel on a daily basis?  I wonder how often in her 60 year reign she's not gone into work because she had a terrible headache.  How often has she been able to take her children for a pizza and a movie on the spur of the moment?  How often has she had to entertain people she finds really rather disagreeable?
Infact, the Telegraph reports today that, since 1984, the Queen has performed some 15000 official engagements.

One of my favourite movies, the Prince and the Pauper, tells the story of a poor boy swapping places with the Prince by mistake and what happens to them both as a result.  Oliver Reed is swashbuckling as ever, Raquel Welch is heartstoppingly beautiful and the evil brother is beyond wicked.  But, as with many of my favourite movies, what I find myself reflecting on the most, is the moral of the story.  I won't give it away - it's a magnificent tale that I would highly recommend.

I wonder if the Queen would envy my life more than I envy hers.  I value my freedom - freedom that is, to do pretty much what I want, with whom I want, when I want.   That is something I value very much.  I enjoyed sampling a life of privilege and I would swap places with the Queen.  But only for a few days.  Happy birthday your majesty and thank you for doing such a wonderful job.
StoboCastle outof10? - 9.25
The Prince and the Pauper outof10? - 8.7
The Queen outof10? - 10..

As always, a great piece of music with a tenuous link....

Sunday, 14 April 2013

A View From....

I think I have a bit of a reputation as a fencesitter.  And I am rather happy with this as an assessment of where I and my head are at, on many important matters.  
I know I'm at least a week too late to say anything that hasn't already been said about the death of Margaret Thatcher, but I am alright with that too. 
I was born in the 60s and grew up on a council estate, with an older brother and a working mum and dad.  I guess we represented a typical working class family.  Apart from knowing, but not understanding, my dad's support of the unions, I had no clue about how our country was organised and governed.  My political consciousness wasn't formed until I saw, heard and felt the vitriol with which Margaret Thatcher's rise to power was played out amongst my teenage peers and others around me.
Carried along with the widely accepted view, I too hated Margaret Thatcher and everything she and the Tories stood for.  Yes, everything. 
Now that I am older, there is something I am absolutely clear on.  There are always two sides to every story.  I believe it's pretty much impossible for one ideaology or viewpoint to be completely right and another completely wrong.  Since having the confidence to climb onto the fence, I believe I've become more tolerant, more accepting and more open to the views of others.  Opening my eyes, my ears, my heart and my brain to the possibility that there is merit in much that I dismissed in my youth, has been one of the best things I have ever done.  I now have more questions than answers, but I find questioning what I instinctively believed as a result of my upbringing to be liberating. 

I admire some of what makes people believe passionately in one cause over another.  But what if some of what the other side is saying is actually quite sensible? 
I knew there was a reason I felt nothing but sadness at the passing of an elderly, frail woman who had stood for what she believed in and defended her beliefs admirably - whether I agreed with her or not. 
To quote the wonderful Louis from Admiral Fallow - "the courage to turn your back on the way you were raised."
I'm glad I'm a fencesitter - you can see everything from up here.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

When I grow up............

Last night I saw the Sensational David Bowie Tribute Band live.  They fulfilled their brief to the letter.  What the frontman lacked in Bowie looks, he more than made up for when he started singing.  With just enough humour to poke fun at himself in costume,  he paid charming tribute to the evening's collective hero whilst nailing every single song.   With my eyes closed, I could swear I was listening to Aladdin Sane himself and from the reaction of the four hundred strong crowd, I think they felt the same.
Afterwards in the bar, "Bowie" emerged, dressed as himself. He looked much more impressive and had a real star presence.  I wanted to ask him "Did you want to be David Bowie when you grew up?" but I didn't want to interrupt him engaging with his fans.
Earlier on in the day I'd chatted to a guy in the gym I'd never met before.  He couldn't wait to tell me he'd lost three stones in three months and share his simple strategy.  Eat less, drink less alcohol and exercise more.  He couldn't keep the smile off his face.  And rightly so.  Perhaps his happiness had something to do with him becoming closer to who he wanted to be. 
I've heard this often and I wonder if it's even true but I choose to believe it happened...
A primary teacher tasks her seven year old pupils with writing on their paper - When I grow up I want to be............  She asks them to complete the sentence and draw a picture too.  On walking round the class to see the children's work, she stops at Johnny's desk.  His sentence says - When I grow up I want to be happy - and he has drawn a picture of a man with a huge smile on his face.    The teacher says "Johnny, I don't think you understood the question."  Johnny replied "Miss, I don't think you understood the answer."
I've had a great week at work; I saw David Bowie live; the sun shone all weekend; the horse I picked in the Grand National led valiantly from the first to the fourth last fence and my football team won 5-1.
The emergence of Spring and the sun in the sky often makes me reflect on my life. I'm pretty sure I'm pretty close to who I wanted to be when I grew up.  I hope you are too.