Friday 14 October 2016

Storytime with Sturge: the day I almost met River Man

A picture to set the scene. The pedants among you may be
aware that this is the wrong end of the river in relation to
where this story occurs, but hopefully it at least gives the gist...
Today's story might be slightly cheating, as it's actually a story I've told before. It's not a story that actually lands anywhere, but that's a lot of why I like it; and it was funny to write it the first time knowing that the building suspense without an outcome would be entertaining (or infuriating) for the two intended readers: two of my good friends, who were at the other end of this email. I've essentially lifted the email as it was written, edited it for over-excited mistakes, and presented it as it was to them for your entertainment.

But first, you may need a little context.

Over the last couple of years that I've been working at The King's Centre, I've gone for a walk almost every lunchtime. And as I often go out around the same time, I run into (or, more accurately, sedately meander past - I am not a woman who runs on her lunch break) a lot of the same people over and over again, and one person in particular. The name 'River Man' will be familiar to a lot of you - in fact, I wrote a blog about him just under a year ago, which you can revisit for context. My interactions (or lack thereof) with River Man (RM) have made for much story-telling and excitement over time, so I thought it only fair that you got some insight into the day-to-day RM:Emily interactions.

And, having been away from the office for work or holiday (or illness) much of the last three months, I haven't caught a glimpse in an awful long time. It only seemed right to revisit the awkwardness from some months ago to keep his memory alive until we see him again...

"I thought you’d both like the most recent RM news. Today I again accidentally went out at the same time as RM – really my walk was dictated by when there weren’t several hundred teenagers milling outside the building waiting to come in for a conference we’ve been hosting for the last couple of days. As the final wave of teenagers passed, the exact time was the least of my considerations. But as it happened, RM was just at the top of the path about to turn down the river as I joined it: he glances back, notices me, and when I reach the top I wander past him where he’s stopped to admire the swans. For once he’s not on the phone. I smile briefly as I walk towards him – in that British acknowledgement of presence way, not with any invitation. I look away before I can see if the smile is returned. As I pass him, I see my two friend-colleagues, S and A, further down the river and walking towards me having been on their own lunch-walk. We wave overly dramatically at each other, slow-mo run, do a bit of dancing, etc, as I momentarily forget that RM is behind me, quite likely aware of my public displays of mental.

Swans and Cygnets. Again, the swans are moving in the opposite direction to those in the story, so forgive me that detail
for the sake of an appropriate visual aid. They are, at least, at the appropriate place on the river.
These cygnets are not at all germane
to the story, but aren't they lovely?
We stop, chat, admire the swans (who have now moved down-river to where we are), and after a few minutes they go to carry on back to the office, so I decide to return with them – a mere whiff of fresh air is all I need for refreshment, after all. I contemplate telling my colleagues that we are approaching RM, but think better of it – S is notoriously extroverted, and much more up for ridiculous social interaction than I am. She would, without doubt, attract his attention and make me incredibly embarrassed. But, as I think this, he moves off, starting to walk back to his office. There’s no harm sharing the inside-track on my River People if he’ll be out of sight in a moment, right? These are my friends! So I quietly confide, ‘Guys, just FYI, THAT’S River Man.’ But as I say it he stops, in that ambling, non-purposeful way that he does, as if he’s decided he’s not had enough of the river yet. S turns impishly to me and grins, and begins as if to run towards him. I grab her arm quickly, probably attracting more attention towards our attention towards him than I would like, and reprimand her brusquely. “DO NOT INTERFERE!” I whisper with intent. A cackles, as RM turns to see what all the fuss is about, and then carries slowly on his way. S and A weedle out of me the fact that yes, I do know where he works, and yes, it is in the same building as M who used to work with us, and yes, that is the building next door.

The conclusion of this story is not that I have now met RM, but that I am now in a heightened state of alertness. My brief moment of letting my guard down and allowing two of my friends into River World means there is now an extra chance that they will interfere. I’m afraid to let S go for a walk on her own now in case she runs into him and doesn’t have me to stop her. If she had the chance she’d definitely show him the blog post I wrote. Thank goodness she didn't.

That is all the news I have for today, but I am already slightly regretting my actions. Naughty, impish S…


Thursday 13 October 2016

Storytime with Sturge: the Icelandic day of weather


For those wondering why I'm telling stories, see my last post. It's OK, I'll wait here while you skim through it. All good? Grand.

Once Upon a Time, really not that long ago - in June this year, in fact - I travelled to Iceland with five friends of mine. I say 'I travelled to Iceland with them', I mean, I did, but that gives me a much more active role in the trip than was actually the case. Five of my friends organised a holiday to Iceland and asked if I wanted to come along, which I did, so I joined them. Extra additional Sturge. Anyway, that's not the point. We essentially did a circuit trip of the island, taking trips into the middle here and there, but travelling around much of the perimeter of the country in our two week trip.

This is my whale-watching-wondersuit. I honestly wanted
to take it home with me. Essentially a waterproof onesie.

It is insane how much good weather we had. I mean, I don't want to brag about it, but it was Iceland in June, and while it was terrifically chilly overnight (we camped, so we definitely got to experience that at close-quarters), I did come back with a pretty enviable face tan. For me, anyway. It wasn't necessarily warm, but we did get a fair bit of calm, sunny weather. But we weren't really thinking about it - all of our plans were working out well and nothing was being disrupted. This worked particularly well in our favour for the boat trip out to go whale watching from Husavik (which was genuinely one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Why am I not telling that story?!), especially because I have a significant phobia of sick and was worried that going out on a choppy sea for three hours was going to be a vom-fest and I would have a panic attach just south of the arctic circle and have to swim back to harbour to escape it in my all-in-one zip-up wondersuit. But it wasn't like that, it was a mill pond, and we had an amazing time, because we were having an amazing run of Icelandic weather.
Loo-ooooook! Issa humpback whaaaale!! #RIPme #DeadWithExcitement

#millpond #dawntreader #novommingherethanks
Until the 24 hours where the weather turned, and the amazing run of Icelandic weather ceased.

We were coming down the east side of Iceland, down the fjords. The plan had always been that it would essentially be a whole afternoon of driving - but a really scenic one, where we could get out and admire the views, have a picnic, you know, enjoy the day. Instead, it rained. All afternoon. Instead of pretty views and photo-op stops, we hunkered in with the Prince Caspian audio-book (which had upgraded its lion's roar to an actual lion roar sound-effect rather than just making the man playing Aslan make a roar-y noise as per the previous story, which we all approved of but it wasn't as funny), ignored the homogeneous misty blur passing by our windows, only stopped at service stops to use the loo's, and powered on through.

Generally on this trip we were camping, and the previous night we'd wild-camped for the first time, so had just found a nice little clearing that was sort of in the direction that we wanted to be travelling and had settled our three little tents in that cosy nook for the night. Having braved the wild camp so successfully we had wondered whether this night we could do it again? But as the weather got bleaker we decided that while wild camping is free, not dying of hypothermia was a price we were all willing to pay for, so we found ourselves a campsite to stay at. For the first time, we donned all of our waterproofs and erected our little tents in the wind and rain, with slightly sad expressions pulling on what had previously been such a perky collection of faces. 

The relief came in the form of the facilities at the campsite, which was what seemed to be a converted school. There was an actual kitchen we could use (which was a God-send as cooking outside in that weather would have been all but impossible), warm showers, and a dining hall where we could eat our however-many'th meal of pasta with tomatoes, chopped veg and chorizo (but candle-lit), drink a little whisky, stay inside in the warm for the evening telling each other ridiculous stories, and only head to our tents when we were right ready for bed. A God-send, I tell you.
Look at all those warm, clean, happy people :) Perkiness restored.

For the full effect of the next morning I will quote you from my diary (which I rarely do in public, I'll have you know, as it so rarely documents a day-by-day account of life, but this is my exception):
We woke up very wet. It poured with rain and howled with wind all night, and was still going in the morning. Was very grim. A low point for us all, I think. We packed down wet and left early to get to the Ice Lagoon for our 9:30 boat trip...when we arrived (in the wind and rain) we discovered the trip had been cancelled due to the weather. Thankfully (?) we could re-book on another kind of boat at 11, so we sat in the little cafe for a bit. The first wifi access since Rejkjavik, was glorious - hello whatsapp, I will now send the family all of the photos. Equally glorious was a very strong coffee from the cafe.
To clarify the ramblings, the plan had been that we would travel early to the Ice Lagoon, a beautiful lagoon that has blue icebergs in it, where they've filmed some cool movies (?), to have a super-awesome tour around it on a RIB. Now, just in case you're not all as well-initiated as I in the world of oddly-named boats (ahem, yes, I just Googled this), a RIB is a Rigid-hubbed Inflatable Boat. I would have called it a RhIB, to be honest. Call me pedantic, but sure. Unfortunately the weather was just too choppy for us to go out on the RIB safely, but they told us there was space on the big fat amphibious boat an hour or so later, so we rebooked and sat in the cafe, all slightly damp already, hoping the weather would ease off.

The weather did not ease off, no. 

10:45 rolled around and the wind and rain were still lashing against the cafe windows, but we were ushered out to the shore, donned with life jackets and herded into the beast. Making like a waterproofed Clarkson, Hammond and May, we drove (or rather, were driven) round the shoreline to the access point, and then trundled our way into the lagoon, praying for more watery success than our small-screened amphibious counterparts. 

I think the only way I can describe the trip was 'hysterical'. Despite being a lagoon, and so not directly out on the sea, the water was still choppy. Not, like, 'out in the middle of the Atlantic' choppy, but still the regular yet random swell where you have to consciously stand, brace your knees and will yourself to 'have sea-legs'. The wind was such that would blow your hood down just as soon as you'd got it up so you gave in to the soggy hat in minutes. And every so often we'd hit a wave that would splash right up the side of the boat and get caught by the wind, and blow a tiny thousand frozen sea needles right into your face. 

Look at all the freezing wet fun we were having!
But the blue ice was genuinely very cool (pun intended) (photo courtesy of Rashwell)
It took about five minutes for me to realise that both my waterproof coat and my waterproof trousers were not actually entirely waterproof, but leaked at the seams. I'd already discovered that my walking boots weren't completely waterproof earlier in the trip, so the damp toes situation didn't surprise me, but as I felt my arms and pants gradually getting colder than all of the rest of me my suspicions about whether my 'waterproof' clothing would hold out were confirmed.

Literally, how?
(another amazing photo by Rashwell)
It was at this point that the hilarity of the situation struck me. I was sodden, as was everybody else, it was literally throwing it down, we were being kept watch over by a pair of RIB-cowboys, and we were 'those tourists' who were so keen to make the most of this one morning we had at this part of the country that we decided to come out in the most disgusting weather to gawp at some blue ice. We laughed a lot.

By the time we got back to shore, some 45 minutes later, the weather had calmed a little, but the wetness was irreversible. As we, and the other however many people were on our boat, tried to get dried and changed in the two or three loos the little cafe had, there was plenty of time for wringing out of gloves and hats in the sinks, patting of damp faces with still-wet hands, and trying to find one scrap of dry fabric to clear and dry glasses on. That is not an easy feat. You glasses wearers know what I mean.

(I realise that this is the type of story that could potentially never end, because we just kept moving on and doing more things, but...) After a short while to recover with hot coffee and big chocolate bars ("Here, eat this. It will help."), we hit the road on our way to Skaftafell - a site of a brilliant glacier and the Svartifoss waterfall (which, for language buffs among you, is a tautology, as 'foss' means waterfall, but I thought just calling it 'Svartifoss' wasn't fair enough context.) As we journeyed the weather cleared ever more, until it had stopped raining completely. But, at one point, I watched a gull try to take off, literally not move anywhere, stop flapping and then get blown in the opposite direction because the wind was so strong. It made me laugh so much it got its own extra diary entry when I remembered it later. 

Thankfully the day that rained, where we were thrown around a lagoon and soaked to our skins, provided us the biggest contrast we'd had on any day of our trip. Once we'd erected our tents at Skaftafell a small miracle occurred: the clouds parted and blew away, and then the wind died down, and it was...beautiful. Desperate to make the most of what might only be just a moment's sunshine we quickly unwound the laundry lines and found every available branch to strew all we owned that was damp (or outright sodden) out in the sunshine: sleeping bags, roll mats, coats, socks, hats, pants, the lot. We emptied our bags into the sunshine, and then sat there, basking, in the hottest weather we'd experienced on our entire trip. The boys got their shorts on (as did the girls who have legs) and we slathered on the sun-cream, and just sat, drying and thawing until we were inspired to move again. Bit by bit the warm, Icelandic sun warmed through to our bones.

It was the most unexpected end to one of the more ridiculous days I've experienced, but it meant that we got to enjoy, in full, glorious sunshine, an afternoon's walk round this rather wondrous place (but you must forgive the quality of the pictures as my camera had died and these were taken with emergency phone reserves...).
The crazy geology at Svartifoss
The waterfall in its scenery
The big, fat, wondrous glacier
and finally, the big fat beautiful mountain view from next to our tents.
So that was the day of Icelandic weather. 

I hope you enjoyed my rambling Icelandic next story will likely be much shorter, much less like I'm showing off with all the travelling I've done (don't worry, I haven't been further than the Co-op since Sunday, I'm making up for my jet-setting now), and will feature some familiar charaters much closer to home.

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Storytime with Sturge

Hello friends.

Here's a question: what do you find that you do when you're feeling under the weather? For me, the default is a lot of TV, and a lot of food - it's a very passive and sofa-heavy lifestyle, which isn't great in the long-run. But usually illness is pretty short-term, so the temporary pause in activity isn't too catastrophic. The last couple of weeks, coming up to a month, I've found myself again in a slightly longer period of not-being-that-well. (I've had post-viral fatigue before, and other things I've had to recover from, so this isn't a new experience; but this time it's post-viral labyrinthitis which is a new thing to cope with...*rolls eyes* *makes self feel dizzy* *closes eyes for a few moments*). And, having already spent enough time in front of the TV, I wanted to do something more productive with the time that I'm not spending out and about doing things. Not being able to drive or cycle myself places has been a real pain (and, actually, being 'out' isn't that nice of an experience if I don't have a proper place to sit!), but it does leave a few more evenings free, and definitely cuts down on commuting hours (although I am missing my cycles!)

A small amount of my 'continue watching' list...
I find that when I'm ill I get really frustrated - with the world, with myself, with the situation - and often the reason I'm watching the TV so much is because I can escape into a story. Story has such a wonderful way of transporting us to another world, or into someone else's world, and helping us, just for a while, to forget what it is we're trying not to dwell in. Too much of that isn't necessarily healthy, if we're using it to evade our reality completely, but it can be a balm. In fact, I wrote about something like this before, when I was coming up to aforementioned operation. Em, you're like a broken record.

Everyone needs something
warm to cradle as they
take in a good story, eh?
Anyway. So I decided that while, yes, there are a LOT of stories I can dwell in and escape to on Netflix (and I mean a lot. Honestly, it's not possible to watch it all, is it? Though I could definitely give it a try...) there are also lots of stories that I have to tell that won't require my escape, per se, but will bring me a lot of light relief in the retelling. There are so many things I've done, or situations I've been in, where I've thought 'oh, that would make such a fun blog!' but have never gotten around to telling it. So here we are. However many stories I find I've got to tell, for as long as I need to be sat here telling them, until the dizziness passes and I'm out among the trees and the orange-brown leaves and the sunshine again...if there's only one and I get up and about again soon, forgive me. If there's hundreds and it never ends, forgive me that too.

Why don't you pull up a pew, put on a warm cardigan (or turn up the heating - I can just see under my chipped nail varnish that my nail-beds are turning blue, and my nose has gone cold), grab a cup of tea (or a decadent hot chocolate), and I will tell you some stories...

Thursday 26 November 2015

An Open Letter to River Man

For those of you who have been following my FB/Twitter updates about River Man over the last several months, I thought I'd give you a fuller picture of the ongoing River Story. If I ever end up speaking to him, this might be some of what I'd say...

Dear River Man,

I'm not wanting to plagiarise Adele, but, hello - it's me. You know, the girl who also walks to the river at lunchtime and likes to stare at the ducks too? (And talk to them - though I've never seen you do that, more's the pity). While you do wear the exact same clothes every day - and are therefore very easy to recognise - I emphatically don't, but I know you know who I am. Well, I know you recognise me, at least. I see you spot that it's me and quickly avert your gaze back to your intent river-staring, don't deny it. 
The down-streamiest bit of my River Walk 
I really love my lunchtime walks, whether you're there or not; they give me a chance to stop and observe. I know a lot of people like to walk and think, but I like to walk and not-think. They're space to breathe in a day sat still in an office. I've usually come from a morning where I've answered five emails in a row about completely different elements of my job, then worked intermittently on another three, and my brain has been going at 5,000 miles per hour. My ten minute walk lets some of that settle while my brain isn't working, and I focus on anything (or everything) else. Listening and watching for birds is a favourite activity, as well as laughing at squirrels (they're never not funny), walking 'at goose-speed' (so you feel like you're going for a walk down-stream with the geese as they swim), trying to befriend the ducks (though they just don't seem to want to know if you don't have food for them), and, of course, observing the other River People. 
They don't want none unless you got bread, hun.

And that's where you come in.

The thing is, River Man, you are by no means the only person I see every day: a regular stranger presence in my life is nothing unique. There are a whole suite of River People who brighten my daily life. There's Professor Grey (you know, the slightly scruffy, eccentric-looking man who's out each lunchtime, with scraggly greying hair and fully grey-black attire?); and Red-Coat-Black-Hat-Lady who always walks towards me on the wrong side of the path when I'm cycling in each morning (and who gets her name wrong during the warmer months when her coat is blue and she doesn't wear a hat); and Lovely Libby the Librarian, who looks like she'd never hurt a fly, but also struggles with the 'keep to the left' aspect of the highway code. Heck, River Man, there's even a man I see walking his dog every morning just as I leave my house (not technically a River Person) who actually says good morning to me as I cycle past him. Says good morning. Crazy. But none of these people are so awkwardly in my life as you are. 

You are stand-out in your separateness, but I can't quite figure out why. You're an intriguing River Person to observe. Maybe it's because you genuinely do wear the same outfit every single day (don't those trousers ever get dirty? Do you have more than one pair that specific colour? I freaked out a few days ago because someone came into the office in your outfit while I was cleaning my glasses and in my blurriness I thought it was you...Would I even recognise you in different coloured trousers?) Or because you switch from staring intently into the river to aimlessly wandering so quickly and without reason. Or because instead of just acknowledging my presence like the other River People, you often so staunchly ignore me. Or because I so rarely see you smile, even when you're on the phone. Or because you always seem just a little bit sad. Or because you acknowledge my presence in your manner but not to my face.

But it's got a bit weird now, hasn't it? 

We have this almost-daily wandering past each other, or behind each other, or whatever. Never any eye contact, but often a bit of loitering (from you, not me - you know as well as I do that if I'm loitering it's because I'm looking for a bird in a tree). You definitely loitered this week, and it was a bit odd.

What were you doing? 

Wander with me...
Specifically, on the cold day, I started walking back to the office from downstream, all bundled up in my hat and gloves for the first time this season. And then you started walking as I approached you, meaning I had no choice but to dawdle behind you. You made me feel like a dawdly, bobble-hatted stalker: that's hardly fair. But then when you got to the corner you stopped. I hadn't noticed this as I'd already stopped, distracted by a robin. This happens. This really, really happens. But when I went to carry on you were still there. What do I do? For a moment I thought I was going to have to awkwardly shimmy on past you? Like a confused tourist in a big city you were looking at your phone and then looking up the path as if you didn't know quite which way to go. I mean, we both know that wasn't the case. You do that walk every day, dearest RM, you hardly need a sat nav. I approached again you hastened on your way, rather than making me shuffle past you, and allowed me to keep dawdling the stalky-walk behind you back to our neighbouring offices. 

There are SO many questions, RM. Why do you come out every day too - do you secretly love ducks as much as I do? Are you loitering deliberately so I'll catch you up? How long would you have loitered there if I'd ended up having a full-blown conversation with the robin, or realising the family of long-tailed tits had come back? Do you want me to talk to you? Because you know that I talk to people: you've seen me run into my co-workers out by the river and have conversations within your earshot. And you know that I smile - you saw me laugh at a sneezing duck only yesterday. Gosh, that was hysterical. A sneezing duck. Honestly. (OK, or maybe that's why you avoid me...)

I'm not asking for a Christmas Miracle, River Man. (Or a Thanksgiving Miracle, or a Mid-Autumn Miracle (that's a thing, right?)) I'm not expecting you to become my new best friend, or lunchtime buddy, or to persuade the ducks to be my friends with me. But, this holiday season, I'm going to hope for a couple of things. The first is that I'll catch you having a phone call where you're smiling, rather than fraught. That must be possible. The second is that you will allow me to look you in the eyes and smile, one time. Because we're all just River People, after all, it's OK to be in it together.

River Girl

Sunday 13 September 2015

37 Things You'll Understand if You're Emily Sturgess

So, a while ago, my good friend Claire and I were discussing how the list articles (on the feed of buzz, and so on) are getting somehow both more specific and more generic at the same time, meaning that almost every list you click on thinking 'oh yeah, I bet I'll get all of this!' (like, '20 things you'll understand if you have a sister') turn out to be completely irrelevant to your life. Where are the lists that relate to me? we started musing.

The pinnacle of this conversation arrived this week, when the article '24 problems literally only the Queen would understand' was posted online. Literally only the Queen?! Well then, if we're doing entirely personalised lists now...?

I wouldn't normally create something so narcissistic (I still haven't bought the domain...), but as I've been hauled up in my poorly bed this weekend I thought I'd at least do something creative with my time, and that hopefully will make Claire (who has heard me voice my passions and complaints on the below items), if not anyone else, chortle.

While I'm sure a fair few of these entries will be relatable for many, and I'm not even sure there's even one or two that are entirely mine... I'm fairly certain I'm the only one who will relate entirely to all of them? But I want to know if I'm wrong - let me know if you're actually my twin!!

OK, off we go: 37 Things You'll Understand if You're Emily Sturgess

1. When you're trying to stave off the midmorning sugar crash healthily, but your banana wants to be squashed everywhere in your bag rather than be eaten.


2. Giving yourself a pep talk to walk yourself through adulting well.


3. Being able to hear kissing while you're trying to read in your room.


4. The sad day when the kids go back to school and you have to negotiate cycling through Oxford traffic again, including past a primary school and all the crazy parents.


5. When you just need to pop into town to go to the bank, and 800,000 tourists have stopped just outside to look at something on the other side of the street.


6. Stopping and staring intently into a hedge because you've heard a bird, and passing people assuming you've lost something, or are mad.

7. Feeling the need to say hello to every duck you pass, because they could be your new best friend.


8. Popping into Tesco on the way home from work and there being one loaf of gluten free bread left, just for you. (But also, sorry other gluten intolerants: we're all in this together and no-one wins.)


9. Realising a few more of your closest friends are leaving Oxford.


10. Trying not to be a massive introvert but being absolutely done with everyone by Sunday lunchtime every week. #bringmemynetflix


11. Having trouble not quoting Miranda in every situation and conversation #barewith #suchfun #nooomummysaidthatdaddysaidwecanthaveanicesculptureofthetajmahalatthewedding


12. Not being able to not respond to someone saying "Question - " with "tell me what you think about me."
(which, while we're at it, is not a question, but that doesn't mean I don't say it anyway.)


13. The rising passion when anyone says anything remotely negative, or even ambivalent, about Harry Potter.


14. The bliss of clean sheet night.

15. Seeing the same people every day to and from work and never ever talking to them.

16. Being sent pictures of your friends and family's pets, when you don't have any of your own.


17. When someone rallies the end of their public prayer with, 'and all God's people said...?'
#iknowhowprayerswork #imnotatholidayclub


18. When someone plays Be Thou My Vision with the new Rend Collective arrangement but the old words.


19. Cycling through town on bin morning.

20. When someone in the office rings the tea bell.


21. Spotting something entertaining on the way home and wondering whether you can explain it wittily and concisely enough to post it on Twitter, but regretting you don't have a photo of it to post on instagram.


22. Trying to take photos of the river with your brain as you cycle over donnington bridge on bright, crisp mornings.


23. When people aren't quite sure why you'd do a whole masters in Species Identification.

24. Actually having food in the cupboards and clean laundry.


25. Freewheeling down the high street late at night when there aren't any buses, or annoying pedestrians


26. Knowing that the ways to your heart aren't entirely conventional



(This'd do it.)
27. Never having completed a to-do list, because the list never ends.


28. Having one of your favourite kids tell you they love you


29. Going to a restaurant that has a specific gluten free menu, rather than just making you guess.


30. Genuinely wanting to be a thin person, but also really loving food.


31. Having to wait an entire summer for new series of Once Upon a Time, New Girl and Brooklyn the knowledge that you've watched all the episodes of Community that will ever be made.
32. When you and the old uni gang get back together

33. Hearing that some more of your friends have gotten engaged.

34. When you spot a particularly glorious moss

35. Finding a time that you, your sister AND your cousin are all free to hang out

36. Discovering you've run out of porridge
37. When you're being particularly cheeky and you think you've probably just about gotten away with it

OK, I know that as I fall asleep tonight I'll think of even more, but I think that's exhaustive enough for now. What would be on your list? Do you relate to my obviously entirely relatable list? #iamtheplumbline 
Let me know!
Until next time, when I might post something more sensible (perhaps, perhaps not),
Em x

Thursday 14 May 2015

I, um...gosh, sorry. It's been a while.

I just checked the last time I posted a blog, and it was FIVE MONTHS ago. I couldn't be more sorry. Because of that, I thought I'd give you a few significant blog-related updates on my life since the last post, and then try to think about how I might blog a bit more regular-like, and that sort of thing. 


1. And we're starting with a biggun: I LOST MY CAMERA. 
I know, I know. The third crucial element to 'Love it, Laugh at it, Photograph it' is now sorely lacking. The story of how it was lost is a tale of intrepid adventure, a long wait at a train station just east of Barcelona, a stupid girl (that's me), and an accidental lack of travel insurance (closely linked to the penultimate item on the list). I won't tell it now, because you can pretty much guess what happened. It's really sad. I am thankful, though, that I still have almost all of my lenses, bar one, so will [eventually, when I've saved up] just need to replace the body. I'm also really glad that I still have my old bridge camera, so can still take some photos when out and about - they're just not so fancy. I do miss my old beastie though.

As a side note, the camera contained some AWESOME pictures of Betsy and I that were taken on the beach in Santa Susanna, that the world will now never get to enjoy. I know you're all incredibly disappointed by that. What's better than me in a raincoat on a rock looking windswept but joyful? Not much.

2. I've actually been blogging...somewhere else.
It's a little painful to admit this, but there has been another blog that's stolen my creative energies since New Year. The blog is not my own, it's a community blog for Christian 20's and 30's to explore what it is to be a Christian 20/30-something, called Threads. It's fun and interesting, and since New Year I have had the honour of being a regular contributor! However, it has a very different aim/tone/structure to Love-Laugh-Photograph, so I'll not let it replace this at all. I have to be a bit more sensible over there. You can't keep that up all the time.

3. I'm actually quite well.
It seems a weird thing to say, but I am quite well, and it does make a difference to life. You might remember about nine months ago I wrote a post about having been unwell with fatigue, and then having an operation that set that all back...yada, yada, yada. It turns out it takes a long time for bodies to get well. But, having discovered that I am gluten-intolerant (but not a coeliac), and also recently been confirmed that there's been no regrowth of the tumour (hooray!), I am actually in a relatively good bill of health now. ACTUALLY, I'm writing this on the tail end of a gross cold, which has knocked me out a bit in the last week, but other than that I am good, and with some extra energy than just to do my job. This bodes well for having creative energy to write and photograph, and the like.

It also means I have a new interest in food that I didn't have before (other than just eating it. That's not really new). Before we get ahead of ourselves, this is in NO WAY going to turn into a food blog. But. Now that I'm having to eat gluten free I'm that bit more aware of what's going in, cooking with good ingredients from scratch, eating well, and all that jazz; so I may allude to/link to some great things I come across, as and when I come across them. Just a tentative heads up. 

4. This might actually be most importantly: I have finally been to my first jousting tournament!
Now, this is all the doing of my dear friend Betsy. Bets is from Nashville, and has wonderfully romantic notions about how we Brits live. In her time here, it has been a passionate desire for her to come to a jousting tournament AS IF THAT'S SOMETHING WE STILL DO. (I jest, she lives in the real world really, but this was something wonderfully not-of-this-world that she really wanted to do that I told her didn't exist.) I scoffed affectionately at the notion when first she mentioned it, until it turned out that there was going to be a jousting tournament at Blenheim Palace (which is about seven miles away from us) on this Bank Holiday Monday just passed. My words had to be eaten, much like Paddy Ashdown's hat.

I was, while surprised, ridiculously excited to go. And I kid you not, I had the most fun I have had in an incredibly long time. I can totally see why they used to do it, and I don't know why we don't still? Well, I do, it was incredibly dangerous - so for us it was largely fun because it was so obviously staged and safe and funny. But, watching genuine hunks (plus a few old dudes - who I'm sure were plenty hunky in their day) on genuine horseback, galloping up and down an arena, showing off their prowess and jousting each other with lances...Well. It was QUITE something to behold! Lances were splintered and everything. We laughed a lot, and I now feel like I can tick something off the bucket list that I don't actually have. Maybe, like those to-do lists you write where you put something you've already done on it so you can cross it off and immediately feel productive, I should start a bucket list and put this on it?

Anyway, until I think up something a bit more inspired to blog about (if it genuinely ends up being my bucket list you have my permission to disown me), I'll leave you with some over-excited jousting pictures (taken on the old camera), and some glorious jousting from A Knight's Tale, whose tone, irreverence and musical accompaniment were not dissimilar to that of our day...
Just a quick Old Skool selfie before we begin (ps, hi, this is Betsy)

The Noble Blue Knights

Mm, valiant.

A full-on sword-fight

A short-lived moment of victory

If this is a life with jousting in it, I'm all for it.

A small example of some lance-splinter, on an actual human target. Poor sod.
Until next time... :) x

Saturday 13 December 2014

On meeting your idols - furry, or otherwise

This week has had an unusual theme running through it, almost like those contrived situations on Scrubs where all the characters experience their own version of the same scenario at once, allowing Zach Braff to give a rousing yet humorous summary that ties everything together over the closing credits.

To give you a leading example of this, this morning I read a post on Buzzfeed (classic Saturday chill-out), about a teenager who was SO EXCITED to meet Harry Styles at a book signing (one fifth of One Direction, in case any of you are living under rocks) that she had a full-blown panic attack. Then, being the angel that he is, he fought through the crowds to comfort her. What a sweetie! 
Pics from

While I might not see the appeal of 1D, nor understand the hysteria that teenage girls are able to work themselves into about them, to have your idol go out of their way to come and see you and make sure you're OK must be the most wonderful feeling, and it was really lovely that he bothered to.

There are not a huge number of people that I would fantasize about meeting - and only a few more that I would go out of my way to make sure I met. I could probably boil it down to five:
So close...but not yet BFFs

1. The cast of Harry Potter. TBF, that's a ridiculously large cohort (and does encompass a HECK of a lot of awesome British talent), but obviously I really mean Emma, Rupert and Dan. I love them all. (Shush, I know that's three-in-one)
2. David Tennant - I feel no explanation is required here
3. Chris Hemsworth - none here either. Although despite his gorgeosity, and being voted the sexiest man alive this year, he's still below David Tennant on the list because DT is the King of wondrousness
4. Zachary Levi - because I actually would quite like to marry him, if at all possible, cheers? (Is it OK to write that on the internet?)
5. Miranda Hart, OBVIOUSLY. I'm fairly sure we could be best friends.

At the end of last week we had a little frisson of excitement in the office. For context, my office is based in our church building, so is home to the church offices, but also runs as a conference centre during the week.

On the Friday, the centre received a call from a Casting Agency saying that they needed a room on Monday (as a rule, don't make your bookings that last minute, people) to do some extras casting for a Major Hollywood Blockbuster that would be filming near Oxford the following week. So, no Hollywood megastars in the building itself, but the opportunity to be an extra was open to all of us. We could be in a Hollywood film! Can you imagine?! 

Not-so-secretly, we all wondered if it would be the new Bond movie...

Monday came around, and the mood was...well, it was frankly hilarious. There was this mixture of excitement, mockery, enthusiasm and incredulity (in both good ways and bad). Some of the (part-time) staff went to get cast as extras, others of us (full-time) remembered that we actually already have jobs and couldn't just swan off to be in a film (shame), while others scoffed not-so-quietly in the corner.

As the day went on, we gathered bits of information about what the scene would be, and who might be there...and eventually found out what the film was... And, I don't think I'm allowed to say what it is. Sorry. BUT, yes, it is a Hollywood blockbuster; no, it wasn't what we thought; and yes, it was quite cool.

But none of the stars in this film were people on my list. And probably not in my top 10 either (which would extend to: 6. Emma Thompson, 7. Eddie Izzard, 8. Andy Samberg, 9. Stephen Mangan, and 10. James McAvoy - read into all of that what you will)

I realised at that point that any excitement I might have had about being an extra would not really have been about being in the film itself (although I know how long you can eat out on that one: 'Look, there's half of my left ear in Harry Potter!' - niche in-joke reference for you there) For me, it was much more about who I would have the potential to meet.

I've had a fairly practical week at work this week, doing mail-outs and such, and so have listened to a lot of radio in the form of Chain Reaction. Several people mentioned meeting their idols - I think one of them (Barry Cryer, perhaps?) told the story of calling his idol when he was drunk, then actually being invited over for a drink, getting to know him quite well, and it being an unusual example of when meeting your idol 'works' as you'd imagined. 

But while I joked about me and Miranda becoming best friends if we met (I've stood near her, as shown above, but never actually met her...), I can hardly imagine that it would actually be so - can you? It's a nice idea, but does it really happen to anyone?

Later on this week my sister and I went to see comedienne Sara Pascoe at an intimate gig at the Old Fire Station. I really like her - she's very real, clever and quirky. She told the story of a celebrity-stalk that went 'to plan', much like in Barry Cryer's interview: that of her mother camping out to meet her father, a 70s pop-star, who eventually fell for her. They soon got together, and had three daughters. It's just not what happens to real people, is it?

As it goes (and the theme continues), I actually did get to meet someone famous who I admire at this point - K and I decided to do our traditional gig-routine of hanging around the stage door after the gig to get an autograph and a picture (it's so far worked with Russell Howard, Milton Jones and Ed Byrne!) Surprisingly few people seem to do this, yet it's such a great way to meet them, and say thanks for the show! (Have I just given away a great secret...?) It's not as committed as camping out for several years to meet someone and then marrying them; but it has good short-term returns!

Sadly, Sara was in a rush to run for the train, so we literally just got a hug and a hi, before she ran away to the train station. However, we did get a lovely tweet afterwards :)

So, all in all, I had my opportunity to meet some (short, scientologist-y) Hollywood stars at the beginning of this week and decided not to bother; and did get to meet a comedian I really like, but only fleetingly and with little evidence. No new BFFs, no friends in high places, and no 'plans working out just how you imagined'.

But. I did get a very special meeting this week which made me more excited than is probably normal. On Tuesday, the centre hosted a Christmas party for a group of old people's homes. As part of that party they brought in two BEAUTIFUL reindeer that would welcome the guests as they arrived. I went to say hello before all the action kicked off, then admired them out of the office window until they went home.

Honestly, they were so gorgeous, and so calm and majestic and funny. And I fed them lichen (which is what they eat in winter, who knew?!) 

So, while I may not have made friends with any Hollywood superstars this week (and I think I'm ok with that, but if you see Rupert Grint anywhere do let me know), it's nice to know I'm actually pretty contented with the non-famous animals. They're more snuggly than famous people anyway. (And that's why I did ecology...)

That said, I'm guessing these guys know Santa, so perhaps my excitement to see them will mean they'll put a good word in for me this year ;)

ANYWAY. Eat your heart out, Zach Braff.
'Til next time, Happy Christmas!