On Britain’s discovery of its backbone

Britain has a history of sticking its nose into other peoples’ business. We really just can’t help ourselves. We see trouble; we decide that it is our moral obligation to help out those poor innocents, regardless of whether they would actually like our help in the first place. Jolly good show old chaps, you really have pulled one out of the bag this time, really gone the extra mile, and lady justice is pleased.

Yet it seems that perhaps we have come to our senses. We have left Syria alone. What madness is this?! We, a nation constituted of moral righteousness and vanity have decided that perhaps we are not wanted. We are not needed. Have the Commons finally accepted that we are no longer the mother of the world? We are no longer the keeper of peace?

In recent years the British public have sat back and watched as the US puppeteer us. We are no longer that Great nation that once ruled half the World. We live in shadow of the US; we bend to their every whim and fancy. Dave can often be seen making tea for Obama at the UN conferences, just to make it 100% clear which side he is on. But Britain has had enough it would seem. Despite Dave putting up a good fight in the Commons, bless him he really wanted his own Prime Minister’s war to mark him in the history books, but the people said no. He graciously admitted that “it is clear that the British parliament…does not want to see British military action” which must have really grated his non-existent backbone.

Perhaps Dave’s gallant retreat had ulterior motives. Perhaps he has realised that our best hope now lies to the East, amongst the new rising tyrants China and Russia. Has his allegiance switched or has he finally come to his senses and realised that Britain has little interest in the outside world. The majority of us have bigger fish to fry than what is happening across the deep blue. We have £9000 a year tuition fees to eventually pay for, we have an economy that is just about holding on as it gradually climbs the steep slope of recovery. We have a government that is as close to shambolic as you can possibly get and what’s more the X-factor has returned to plague our screens.

Of course I am not saying that we should ignore Syria. The destruction and devastation that is occurring within that country is truly horrific and it is a disgrace to the name of humanity (which really is saying something, because most of the time I would rather not classify myself as a human if possible). I am merely suggesting that perhaps Dave and his chums in power should perhaps grow a pair and decide that we are better off alone.

On makeover time

So my little blog has finally had its makeover. I have been meaning to get around to doing this for quite some time now, the colours and the layout of the previous theme didn’t seem to work as well as I had hoped for. It is not until your blog has been up and running for a period of time and you have had a chance to scope out other layouts that work well for other people that you really know what you want it to look like.

This one however I like very much. I think the colour scheme is much more pleasing to the eye and having the side bar down the right hand side is very handy, as opposed to scrolling down to the bottom of the blog to look for those items. Quite pretty, even if I do say so myself.

I hope you like it too! Feedback is always welcome fellow bloggers.

On Austen’s Emma and why I just couldn’t warm to it

My summer reading list for my English course starting next Thursday has finally been completed. I successfully managed to read the list in time, whilst simultaneously enjoying my holiday and reading the other books that I wanted to get through. I don’t want to make the reading task sound like a chore, because it wasn’t, it really wasn’t. In fact a lot of the texts that I read I really enjoyed and were already on my ‘To read’ list anyway; so two birds were hit with one stone.

Emma by Jane Austen was the last one to be crossed off, and I am really unsure what I quite make of it. I love Austen, I really do and I find it quite shocking that I have only just read Emma. But there is something about the book that has really perplexed me; and it really is starting to become a nuisance. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the plot I will summarise. Emma is a beautiful and rich girl who adores arranging marriages for her friends, but never seems to be very good at it, to the extent where she causes much more harm than good.

Cover of "Emma"

Cover of Emma

Now, the main problem I had with the novel was that seemed to be it. There was hardly any plot or real storyline. We sit back idle as we watch Emma make blunder after blunder not only for herself, but particularly for Harriet (her friend) who does not possess the same qualities or birth right as Emma and as a result is fairly helpless. But it happened time and time and time again and I couldn’t work out why Austen would have not altered the plot. The conclusion seemed to me, to have been apparent from the beginning of the novel. The marriages that end the novel, were fairly obvious at the outset, it just took them a long and drawn out road to get there.

What also really shocked me about this book was that I simultaneously loved and despised the protagonist Emma. She meant no harm through her little match-making schemes and yet she didn’t stop once they started inflicting pain on her nearest and dearest. At times she acts very much like the spoilt brat that she probably would have been, but then at others she was very genuine and lovable. There seemed to be a lack of continuity in the characterisation. The other characters however, seemed to stay put. They were either hero or villain, never the twain shall meet. So yet another confusion added to the mix.

I even went as far as watching a film adaptation of the novel to see if it improved my opinion. It didn’t. I watched the Kate Beckinsale ITV film version which seemed to only further my opinion on the matter. Emma is both fickle to her friends and family as she is to herself. Her opinions and ideas change and swing back and forth so rapidly it is often like watching a tennis match. She manipulates her father and her friend Harriet, abuses her power of authority in society as a role model for young ladies and ultimately has a few too many unattractive qualities.

I cannot entirely criticise the novel because there are a few things which I found very agreeable indeed. Firstly, the relationships between the families and the differing social situations was very interesting to look at through fiction if one was gathering information on that historical time period. There was a great that could be taken from that novel in relation to social norms and societal expectations, which were very interesting. The balls and the dinner parties offered a great insight into what ladies and gentleman did both for leisure and as a means for courtship. The language and the prose is up to the standard expected of Austen and so it is an enjoyable read on that front. However I personally could not get over the vanity of Emma to really warm to her as a character and therefore the book on the whole. Of course I would recommend this book, however I feel it is just not one of the best.

On Strictly and it’s “razzamatazz”

So it is that time of the year, strictly fever has hit the nation. We all tuned in on Saturday night to watch the partnering of the 15 celebrities participating in the 11th series. The beginners to the professionals. The infamous group dance at the end of the show is what most of us held out for. The endless videos and biographies from each of the celebrities, not to mention the new professionals that have joined does become fairly tedious after a while. I was quite thankful that I had recorded the program, as there were some moments when I really did have to fast-forward.

Yes, I know! Slightly sacrilegious. For a humongous dance fan to want to miss out on all the minor details seems so entirely wrong. Well on some level I agree with you. BUT it is a dancing show after all. I watch it for the dance. The performance. The glitz and glamour. They are strictly the reasons why I watch the show.

The line up.

The line up.

Despite some of the criticism the show received, one articular review on the daily mail website by Jim Shelley, I believe that the red carpet opening was totally in-keeping with the show. It was an elaborate performance, decorative, mesmerising, chaotic: all the things that performance and musical theatre are known for. Criticising that the show was just too “razzamatazz” seems completely idiotic in my opinion and almost as if Shelley has completely missed the point of the show.

I think the partnering of the contestants works fairly well. There are many couples that definitely have brilliant potential just from what was apparent in the group dance. Also considering that Natalie Gumede trained as a dancer until she received an injury at 19, seems like there will be some good performances in store for us. The 10th series was the best to date (another cliché that is mentioned each year, that the talent is the best they have seen, that time it really was) and so there is a lot riding on the celebrities. Can they beat the brilliance that was broadcasted every Saturday across the nation? I hope so.

Plus, the competition was only made more apparent when last years champions Louis and Flavia performed their brilliant Charleston “Dr. Wanna do.” No pressure guys, but that is really is awesome. Yes he has his flashy gymnastic tricks thrown into the choreography to add a little bit of that “razzmatazz” but the dancing too is fantastic.

Reining Champs.

Reining Champs.

I am so excited, and I really can’t hide it. Strictly fever has well and truly set in for me and my household. Saturday nights have a new priority and with it probably goes my social life as I start University again. Well worth the sacrifice. I know that many people are not attracted by the dancing, the glitz and the razzle dazzle of showbiz. But this really is all rolled up into a neat little ball. Yes I have danced all my life. Yes I can probably sing most of the lyrics to A West Side Story. Yes I dance instead of walking down the street. But I have no way of waiting another 3 weeks calmly until the show really gets under way.

For those new to the show, take Bruce and his presenting with a pinch of salt (or fast-forward like I do). Take the sequins and spray tanned waxed chests as what they are and embrace your inner goddess; because strictly speaking, we are all diva’s deep down.

On fantasy and my love of it

I have yet to post about one of my favourite genres of book: fantasy. Yes I did recently write about Game Of Thrones but it is surprising that it has taken me such a long time to get around to this hugely incorporating genre. I read the Riftwar saga by Raymond E. Feist a few years ago now, but I have been thinking about it a lot recently and so here it belongs.

For those of you that are not into the dragons and chivalry, swordsmen and ogres, dwarves and elves then honestly I don’t know what to say. In my opinion reading is a method of escapism, whether you read a book set in Afghanistan or one set in an invented world full of mythical creatures they both fulfil their purpose: to escape. Fantasy is a realm of fiction that really grabs escapism by the reins and throws them out the window. I hear many people justify their dislike of fantasy with “there is too much unnecessary description, to the point where it is just no longer believable.” But can this not also be said for any classic? The older you get, the more descriptive you get; and in a round about way, fantasy is often set in a world comparable to the middle ages.

magician

This particular saga really is brilliant. The first in the opening trilogy is Magician and although a lengthy volume, is thoroughly enjoyable and fled by in no time at all. I remember feeling almost cheated by Feist after I saw that the second and third books were a third of the size. It can be incredibly difficult to create a setting for your story, let alone a whole world. It is very easy to write too much, use too many of those things we call adjectives and really force those sceptics to jump for joy at yet another failure. Or go the other way and fail at any description of any sort, no character depth or believability. But Feist got the balance perfect I felt. The various cities in Midkemia (the main invented world) in the novel felt so real that I wanted to dive into the page and join the fight. What I liked most was that because it was the Riftwar saga, it not only held one world but to joined by this rift. It really was a brilliant twist to a fantasy novel – a little bit of sci-fi to get everything going.

Yes there is a very heavy male presence throughout the books, but that is expected of these novels. I am not condemning them, or even agreeing that this is right, just that it was what was thought necessary for the book to be successful. There are some brilliant female characters in the novel, very powerful and fiery young women who are determined to get their own way. The male characters are just as excptional, and they range from all different walks of life. They don’t just focus on a poor orphan boy who raises to power like the majority of novels, but we also discover plot from those of wealth, nobility, power and the humble. Martin Longbow particularly tugged at my heart strings, he was such a believable character and I really felt myself spurring him on and happy when he finally found happiness.

But the best character has to be Jimmy the Hand. He is so brilliant in fact, that Raymond E. Feist even wrote a separate book just about him to accompany the saga. He is nothing more than flea-ridden gutter rat, scuttering along and stealing where he can to get by. But he becomes so much more than that as the story develops.

The stories are written through the eyes of various characters and so as the plot progresses the characters change and alter depending on the circumstances. So for those of you who are new to fantasy, a bit reluctant after watching Lord of the Rings and not particularly enjoying it, in my opinion you cannot make a judgement about fantasy as a whole until you have read one of the books. Give it a go. The dragons aren’t real so there is nothing to fear!

On arranging a dinner party with my favourite characters

Have you ever had that feeling where you see something so exciting, so interesting, so fascinating that you cannot physically make yourself think about anything else? Your brain is trapped, unable to remain focused on anything else for long before it wanders back off to this new wonder. Yet you can’t work out the entire reason why you have become so transfixed on this object. It is just another image or thing, there are probably another million of them available. Other people have seen it too, it is not like you have a premium and have been granted sole access to this magnificent creation.

This happened to me yesterday. I was sifting through my facebook newsfeed, with no major expectations. I wasn’t on the search for a new blog topic, I was just wasting a bit of time. Then I saw it. Wham bam thank you m’am.

It changed my thought process.

It changed my thought process.

You see, the thing is, I know it is just an imagine of a round table. I know that it is a pretty badly taken image. I get that. But I just can’t shake the endless possibilities and the worlds of characters and people who I have grown to love and that have grown up with me all sat around one table. One of the other reasons why this image has changed my life is because I cannot, for the life of me, make a final decision on who the 7 characters would be. More importantly, sorting out the seating arrangement would most definitely be a nightmare.

So I decided to have a look at the comments. That was an even worse mistake. There were already some truly brilliant seating arrangements out there that it made my task even more daunting. The subscribers to the Nerds do it better site really had made great choices. But then I realised that I am at the cross over point. I have so many favourite tv and film characters that it would be difficult for me to choose only 7 of them just from the fantasy and science fiction genre; but I have so many other characters outside these genres that I love that the weight of the task seems to be increasing exponentially.

So I began the task. “The task has been appointed to you, and if you do not find a way, no one will” Galadriel kept whispering at the back of my mind. So I started with the women, the most inspirational, important, fabulous, sassy, beautiful, intelligent, passionate, wise and just damn-right-ass-kickingly-awesome women I could think of. Once I had them in mind it was just a simple matter of deciding where they would sit at the table. I mean they would need to be able to hold a conversation with the people I placed beside them – much easier said than done I have to admit.

I knew that there were some people who would be definite. The other guests would have to be arranged around them. Yes that is favouritism, but this is my fantasy dinner party after all. So here it is. My dream dinner party.

1. 10th Doctor  2. Gandalf the Grey 3. Danaerys Targarean 4. Lara Croft (from the game, not Angelina Jolie) 5. Colin Morgan as Merlin 6. Jane Eyre  7. Mr Darcy

1. 10th Doctor played by David Tennant
2. Gandalf the White
3. Daenerys Targaryen
4. Lara Croft (from the game, not Angelina Jolie)
5. Merlin played by Colin Morgan
6. Jane Eyre
7. Mr Darcy

 

I don’t really feel like I need to justify myself in my choice of guests because they are truly awesome in their own way. However I will explain why I have positioned them where I have. David Tennant is to my right because I love him as the Doctor. He is my favourite Doctor and it would just be amazing to have him sit next to me and tell me stories of all the places in the universe he has visited, if he does run out of topics he is pretty dreamy. Gandalf and the Doctor would get on like a house on fire as they would both wish to learn what the other has to say. They are both wise men with long pasts, but more importantly, they can both regenerate! Dani would feel at home with a wizard like Gandalf and they could converse about her dragons and the magic that they possess. I believe that both Lara and Dani are the same woman just living in different worlds. Lara is an adventurer/explorer who like Dani has her own mission. They are also extremely powerful women and I have no doubt that they would not enjoy each other’s company. Merlin as a historical fictional character would be able to reveal all the mysteries of old England to Lara and help her with her research. Finally Jane Eyre and Mr Darcy are both characters from two of my favourite books, but more importantly the same era, written by women and I believe they would get on well. Having Mr Darcy on my left could potentially divert some of my attention from David Tennant long enough for him to speak with Gandalf.

The more I look at my seating arrangement, the more I wonder if I have made the right decision. I have so many favourite characters that have been axed from the dream team and I only wish that I could have more up there. But I guess I will need reserves, because they might not all accept my invitation! Who would you choose?