Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My war on commentary

Unless you have been living under a rock, or you are a member of Hermits United, you will know that the Olympics are currently on, right here in my northern hemispherean home of London.

Despite endless complaining leading up to the event, everyone seems to have embraced it wholeheartedly. My house mates and I got together to watch the opening ceremony. I found the whole affair a bit dull, best bit being the Mr Bean scene, but it was nevertheless fun. I was the only one to push through right until the very end so I feel I deserve some kudos for that (come on, you kind of have to, the whole point is the cauldron being lit.) The expected transport-apocalypse hasn't hit either, with trains being way emptier than they normally are. Either it's going to go absolutely nuts next week or the British are just psychotic scaremongers. I'm leaning towards the latter.

I've been enjoying all the sport. Having grown up in a house that's very sport-friendly, I'm used to watching pretty much all of the Olympic events. The tv was always on in our house during times like these, so it's a bit weird for me having to set up my laptop and then choose what I want to watch... but you know, such is life. I had a lovely day at Abbi and Paul's on Sunday, just camped out on the couch watching all sorts of random things - from table tennis and badminton to judo, gymnastics, beach volleyball and water polo. Fun times! 

Somehow, in all the madness, I have turned intensely patriotic. This is worrying. I have always been rather against all kinds of overt patriotism and nationalism, mainly because I think it's vulgar and just causes trouble. In the past, I've always been pretty apathetic about all this support-woo-my-country-is-awesome business. But apparently moving to the other side of the world completely negates all my arguments. Suddenly, I care. A lot. I even get defensive when people start knocking the team. I am completely baffled by this change of heart. 

I keep an eye on twitter for most of the event news, but the only thing I've been following religiously is the swimming. I feel like I have been culturally brainwashed into caring about it. Thing is though, I was introduced to Australian Olympic swimming madness during the golden era of Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett, so now I just expect that all the time. All of the medals! I want them! Sadly, we don't really have sure-fire winners like that on the team anymore, but somehow I keep hoping anyway.

Unfortunately, swimming appears to have been assigned the world's worst commentating duo. It's a miracle Tweedledum and Tweedledee manage to find their way to the commentating box each night, they're so incompetent. They are constantly getting mixed up by what's happening in the pool, retell the same tired anecdotes a thousand times and fawn over Michael Phelps to an embarrassing degree. When the US team won the 200m freestyle relay, I though for sure they'd be heading down the the podium to propose to the guy. Just take a look at my twitter stream between 7.30pm and 9.30pm and you'll see just how much they annoy me. They frustrate me so much, the only thing that ends up running through my head is that scene from the Simpsons where Ned is bugging Apu about the octuplets. Shut up! SHUT UP!

So, on that note...

Music: Shut me up - Mindless Self Indulgence

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The ground below is crumbling

I am so stupidly in love with this country, it defies common sense. Arrowtown, New Zealand.

Music: The last day on earth - Kate Miller-Heidke

Friday, July 20, 2012

Walls securely insulate my heart

I finished reading The Great Gatsby today and, surprisingly, did not hate it. I fully expected to, what with my dislike of pretty much all 'classics'. I suppose the fact that it was written this side of the 1900s helped. The characters are generally unlikeable, but it is just so beautifully written. Gorgeous imagery and lovely turns of phrase. Want.

Through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality, I was reminded of something - an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard somewhere long ago. For a moment a phrase tried to take shape in my mouth and my lips parted like a dumb man's, as though there was more struggling upon them than a wisp of startled air. But they made no sound, and what I had almost remembered was uncommunicable for ever. 

That's just... that's not even fair.

And then there's stuff like,

When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air. We drew in deep breaths of it as we walked back from dinner through the cold vestibules, unutterably aware of our identity with this country for one strange hour, before we melted indistinguishably into it again.


Although curiously, while reading it I kept imagining Tom Hiddleston's Fitzgerald sitting somewhere writing it (he was not, after all, the most humble of writers) and congratulating himself. And that reminds me of a quote from Midnight in Paris' Hemingway that's quite fitting in these situations -

If it's bad, I'll hate it. If it's good, then I'll be envious and hate it even more. You don't want the opinion of another writer.

Hemingway and Fitzgerald doing what writers do best - drinking wine.

Music: I am a heart a heart, Watson. The rest of me is mere appendix - Forgive Durden

Sunsets over the beaches from now on

I have a new travel blog. Well, no, it's not a blog. It's more of a travel site...or at least I hope it'll take the form of something decent along those lines as I add more to it.

It's called Savannah Sunset. I've actually had it for a while, originally getting the domain for it in June 2011. I was inspired after my trip to New Zealand to try my hand at travel writing again, but then I never actually did anything with the site because I wanted to write everything first before I told anyone about it. Yes. Cause that's practical. I am an idiot.

Anyway. I've now decided to rather just put it out there and start posting to it regularly. Like I said, it's not going to be a blog really. There won't be any chronological rhyme or reason to what I do. I'm just going to write posts about places and then put them out there. See, the problem with travel journalism is that everyone wants to do it. It pays even worse than normal journalism and I figure I might as well just create my own platform if I'm going to do it for free anyway.

I hope to post about all sorts of travel related things on there. I'm making playlists, and writing about books that somehow relate to travel and I'll talk about films as well. I'm also going to do a bunch of fangirl guides to places because hey, why not? It's the sort of thing I do. And there are times it'll probably get a bit academic as I lose myself in the theory of place and travel and all that stuff for el PhD research purposes. But that's why I wanted to start my own site, so I can talk about these sorts of things, the things that interest me about travel.

I chose the name purely because I was suffering from acute nostalgia at the time. It's almost pathetic how much I miss the wildlife in Africa. Sometimes, I'll even get misty-eyed watching the Lion King, that's how pathetic it is. So when it came to choosing a title, sentimentality won out. I think it's quite appropriate for a travel site though. The header image was taken in the Kruger National Park the last time we were there... must be almost five years ago now *sob*

I don't know if anyone who actually reads this blog will be interested in reading Savannah Sunset - I know travel writing can be a bit dull if you're not planning a trip or interested in that side of things. But I do hope to add enough other elements in there, and update regularly, that it's not completely a case of eyes-glazing-over-please-stop.

Do me a favour and check it out when you have a chance though, and let me know what you think. I think I might change the layout in the near future. I just don't have the patience for it at the moment. Also, I'll post more photos to brighten the place up a bit just as soon as my mum sets me up with access to our server again (yes, we have a family server, my mum works in IT, what can I say?)

Music: Not Sunsets by Powderfinger, although I am thinking about it now.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Adventures with Henna

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been contemplating dyeing my hair again. Don’t get me wrong, I like my natural hair colour (especially in summer - proper summer – when it gets decent golden highlights) but I miss my red layer. It was a statement of sorts, and it’s sad when everything is plain and boring again.

So, whenever I’m in a shop, I’ll pour over the hair dyes, particularly the Schwarzkopf Live range as it has the ultra violet colour I liked so much last year, and that I hoped to copy before my hairdresser wanted to bleach my whole head. Um. No. But that’s the problem with hair dye, it’s not really good for your hair. Even without the bleach, it’s still quite harsh. And frankly, my hair is in too much of a state. It’s the first thing to go to hell if I’m under any sort of pressure or in a state of emotional instability. I don’t really want to put more stress on it.

The solution appeared to be henna. So off I went to Lush to acquire some. They do a variety, including one that’s supposed to go properly red, but I chose the Marron – promising chestnut tones, nice reddish highlights in the sun (haha, sun. What is this thing.) Now when you hop on google to look up Lush henna, you’ll find all sorts of people moaning. This is because people suck. But we'll get to that.

I’m not going to lie to you – it’s a hellishly messy process. First there’s the issue of quantity, as Lush henna comes in a slab of 6 smaller blocks. The girl at the shop told me to use the whole lot but in the end I just went for three and a half blocks – it was more than enough (for those of you playing at home, my hair is halfway down my back.) To prepare it, you have to melt and mix it. The henna is a lot tougher than it looks, so I chopped it up into smaller pieces first. Then it went into a heatproof bowl over a pot of water (bring it to the boil, then turn it down) and then I gradually added boiling water to the henna, mixing it until it was a smooth paste. This didn't take nearly as long as I expcted it to.
That was the easy part.

Now it was time for application. It pays to be prepared for the worst. Seriously. Most importantly, gloves are a must. This shit stains like crazy. If it gets on your skin, get it off straight away (if it’s dried a bit, I recommend eye make up remover pads). I placed a towel over the surface I was going to place the bowl on, as well as on the floor. This was good foresight on my part. I also sectioned out my hair before the paste was ready as you need to apply it as hot as possible. So, starting from the back of your head, you pretty much just grab some paste and work it into a section of hair. The thing is, as the henna starts drying, it starts flaking, so you get little bits of it everywhere. Apparently if you add enough water, it won’t do this…but, you know. It’s going to flake at some point. It’s pretty much exactly what I’d imagine coating your head in mud must be like. Fun times.

I actually wouldn’t recommend doing this if you haven’t had your hair professionally dyed. Not because of colour issues (in fact, henna can react really badly with hair dye so it’s best not to do it if you have any chemicals in your hair) but just for the process. I’ve watched my hairdresser section and dye my hair many, many times, so I felt prepared to do this and deal with the mess. If this was your first introduction to hair dye, I think you’d be absolutely horrified by this whole process.

Anyway. Once I’d managed to coat my hair, and thankfully not my ears and face, in the stuff, I then wrapped my head with cling film. I have trouble with cling film at the best of times, so this was quite the adventure. Next time I am definitely getting a shower cap to put on too. The girl in the shop had advised that it was best to do this in a hot environment for best results. Where she expected me to find this in London, I do not know. So I just wrapped a towel around my head as well.

The packaging says to leave it on for 1-4 hours, and I’d read online that the longer you left it on the more vivid the tones. Because I’d only started the whole process around 5pm, I didn’t go for the 6 hours I’d originally planned but rather left it for 4. This is about of time it takes to clean up anyway so… No, no, I exaggerate. It wasn’t that bad. I had been careful. So I made dinner and read etc etc.

Now for the worst bit – getting it out. Actually, before I washed it out, I first used my hairdryer on it. I don’t think this is the recommended thing to do, but I know from experience colour always lasts longer if it’s been stuck under a dryer for a bit first *shrug* But yes, it was absolutely awful washing this stuff out of my hair. Foul. Plus I kept panicking about staining the shower, so I’d spent just as much time hosing down the walls as trying to wash my hair. It looks absolutely vile. If you're doing this, I recommend just closing your eyes and hoping for the best. Shampoo, condition, it’s not too much of a hassle to get out – it just gets everywhere.

In this whole arduous process, I didn’t stain a single thing. I am so proud of myself.

The difference it has made to my hair colour is negligible. My hair is dark brown so I can’t really say I’m surprised, most things in my hair are negligible, like the purple I put in it last year. I notice the difference, because I know it’s there. Simply, where I had golden brown bits before, it’s now red brown. I can see the red pigment when I look at it in the light. If I do this a couple more time, it’ll get more vibrant, until I have a red halo if the sun hits me just right. It’s nothing remarkable, nothing to write home about.

But! My hair feels amazing. I can’t remember the last time my hair felt this good. It’s so incredibly soft. And shiny. Sleek, even. And yeah ok, I never had frizzy hair, but still. It feels so healthy. And I even think I’m having less hair fall than I normally do, and it’s not getting greasy as quickly. For these reasons alone, despite the effort, I’d keep using Lush henna.

Which brings me back to the point about people sucking… nearly everyone online complains about the mess and effort involved in this, and often about the colour not being vivid enough. It’s a natural product, what did you expect? It’s about building up pigment, not dyeing really. So if you’re after some instant, noticeable-oh-you-dyed-your-hair results, this probably isn’t the product for you. But if something subtle will do, especially if it makes your hair feel awesome, then don’t let the effort involved put you off. Yes, it’s a lot of work, and it’s kind of gross and smells funny, but hey. Think of it as a mud mask for your hair, with a nice pigment-y payoff at the end.

I think I may actually try the Rouge variety when I finish the Marron henna. See how red that goes. Plus I think this will be a much less painful process when I get back home – someone on a forum somewhere suggested hosing it off in the garden and that sounds like a brilliant idea to me. I'm sure my dad will love assisting with that…

Music: Sweet Tangerine - The Hush Sound

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I'm in love with every actor

It doesn't matter if you want it back
You've given it away, you've given it away
It doesn't matter if you want it back
You've given it away, you've given it away
It doesn't matter if you want it back
You've given it away, you've given it away
It doesn't matter if you want it back
You've given it away, away, away, away, away
By AliceXZ
He's already on the outskirts,
I'm still pulling at his sweatshirt
He says "Fate is not a factor"
I will let you go if you would let some
I will let you go if you would let somebody
I will let you go if you would let somebody love you
I will let you go if you would let somebody love you like
I will let you go if you would let somebody love you like I do.
Like I do, like I do.

Music: Want it back - Amanda Plamer & The Grand Theft Orchestra
(The motioncap vid for this is pretty cool btw.)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A complicated lifestyle

Cue long exhale. Busy week was epically busy.

Everything has gone by in a mad rush. In fact, this evening was the first time I've actually been home to cook dinner all week! My emails have mounted up to a scary number, heaps of research I need to start and laundry I need to do. But I can't be bothered to do any of it (and starting on my emails seems to daunting) so here we are.

First off, this week was SO LONG. It was painful. I thought it was Friday on Wednesday already, which left a whole two days to suffer through. Do not want. This was mostly due to work drinks on Tuesday evening. One should never have a night out so early in the work week, it just snowballs terribly. But yay, free cocktails!

The whole delightful experienced was marred slightly by my usual incompetence as I lost my oyster card somewhere along the way. Fail. Luckily, they won't sell you a monthly travel card without you registering it first so I could simply ring up and have it transferred to a new card. Took a couple of days, but it's better than losing heaps of money for my stupidity. You have got to love this oyster card system - paper tickets are for the weak! I even accidentally put mine in the wash once and nothing horrible happened to it. If it had been a paper ticket, I'd have been crying over soggy mush. Not ideal.

Other than that, I headed out to dinner with a friend from Twitter on Thursday (all hail the powers of social networking) and last night, after a day of drinking with work mates, I decided in my infinite wisdom to trek out to Sheperds Bush to watch some Super rugby - specifically the Crusaders game. Of course, I would be seated at the same table as a bunch of Chiefs fans (even though the game happened earlier in the day, none of us knew the result so we could pretend we were watching it live) so there were a number of lively disagreements. And my boys won, so all arguments are invalid as far as I'm concerned. It's really weird, but I miss kiwi boys. And when I say kiwi boys, I mean Maori boys, and islander boys. There is a distinct lack of them here and they always make things much more fun. Moan.

Anywhoodle, have been busy hunting more BT Artboxes in the rest of my free time. From Heathrow to Stratford, we're canvassing London. The great thing about this is I get to see parts of town I wouldn't generally wander into. I think I'll do a post on the travel blog about the whole experience once we're done. In the meantime, hop over to Abbi's blog as she's recapping it all in wonderful fashion whereas I'm too lazy to get myself organised at the moment. Today we started in Hyde Park, crossed the London Pride Parade and headed up Baker Street in our noble quest (and also stopped for some shopping, as you do.) Tomorrow, it's another day of hunting around Shoreditch and South Bank. We're going to pass through Old Spitalfields market, so no doubt there will be more shopping. All hail the first weekend after pay-day. Such a joy.

Tiredness has now descended with a vengeance. After all the box hunting (and Oxford street crowd dodging), I cleaned my room, went to the gym, did some grocery shopping and cooked a proper meal for a change (schnitzel with my mum's signature cheese sauce - which again, was not as good as when she makes it, but fine all the same.) I think it may be time to head to bed with some tea and A Feast For Crows. Oh, the horrors that await.

Music: Chop Chop - The Academy Is...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

We're going fast

Right, let's round this up, what have I been up to? Well, good question, cause I have absolutely no idea. Apparently not having a routine is good for your memory (very organised people with set habits supposedly don't need to remember things as much as people who have no idea what they're doing one day to the next) so I suppose that counts for something, right?

Made lasagne last night which was infinitely disappointing... it's just not as good as my mum's. Sad. My mum's lasagne is pretty much my favourite thing ever so I while I was eating mine, I just kept thinking how woefully subpar it was. But it was nice to eat something baked for a change. While I was slaving away trying to put this all together, I watched In The Loop and since I was at it, I followed it up with the first season of The Thick Of It. It's such a random show but oh, so many good insults.

I sort of want to start a list of movies I've watched, it's growing rather rapidly. Ah, what not having a television does to you. Thing is, I already can't remember what I've seen...I mean, yeah, I remember when I see their names but off the top of my head, it's not something I can really recall. But not the end of the world, as I see most of my films with Abbi and she already catalogues them in her excellent Film Friday write up (check it out if you get a chance, t'is always entertaining.) I do however know that we watched Attack The Block this week... and I thought it was very good. Well worth all the buzz it had. So yeah. There's one thing I did this week.

I got paid on Friday from ze old job, huzzah! Had a moment of panic when I thought they hadn't actually paid me but no, crisis averted. I have spent most of it already. Oops. But not all frivolously! Some has gone into my savings, and I also bought some groceries and my monthly train ticket. So you know. Responsibility. I have it. Sort of. Sometimes.

Anyway. Definitely didn't have responsibility Thursday evening when I was up until 3am writing a travel article that I've known about for oh, three months? Longer? Fail. Epic fail. And then I accidentally switched off my alarm Friday morning instead of snoozing it, meaning I woke up at 8.30. Eek. Miraculously somehow made it to work on time. I have no idea how that works. Sometimes I catch a train 10 minutes later than normal and arrive at practically the same time. What witchcraft is this? I held up pretty well too, wasn't too useless at work and went for drinks afterwards, so yeah. Not bad.

I just remembered what else I did this week - book club! Thursday in the St James's Park, so lovely. As I mentioned before, we read 50 Shades of Oh God Someone Edit This Please and A Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. It's such a good discussion group with everyone really getting into talking about the books, so that's lovely. I've ordered my next lot of books, can't wait for them to arrive. I'm so thrilled to be reading again. It feels like it's been ages for some reason. Yay!

OH! I almost forgot what was arguably the most exciting part of the week! We got free money! I know, I know, sounds insane, but it happened. A promotional team had set up shop near work and after pandering along to their marketing scheme, you'd get a code that generated a random sum of money between £3 to £100 for you. I got £20, absolutely thrilled. I love working in the West End, there's so much happening and you're always getting free stuff. Sure the crowds of tourists are frustrating, but I think it's worth it.

Anyway, to celebrate my new found disposable income (this was pre-pay day, so things were pretty dire), I recruited Abbi for a trip to M&M world...where I got completely carried away, but it's okay since this was also when we found our first BT Phone Boxes. New project alert! I've always followed Ab's previous  < insert appropriate painted object > hunting, sad that I couldn't join in cause it seems like such a fun way to get out and about town, discovering new places. And now I get to do it too! Two days of official hunting and 26 boxes down.

Colour me your colour, darling

The upcoming week is looking pretty busy - plans for practically every evening. But now if you'll excuse me, I have to go ummm and aaaah over a t-shirt buying opportunity for a bit.

You can sit beside me when the world comes down 
If it doesn't matter then just turn around 
We don't need our bags and we can just leave town 
You can sit beside me when the world comes down 

We say, we do 
The lies, the truth 
And all I need is next to me

Music: Mona Lisa - The All American Rejects