Sunday, March 29, 2009

Never judge a film by it's poster

There have been many films that have surprised me lately. I just love it when you settle down to watch a film and it exceeds all your expectations and you are left entertained and above all have enjoyed the experience of watching it, no matter what the type of film is. Recently 'Body of Lies' was just such a film. It appeared to be just another action movie but it was so much more. Conversely I feel cheated to my very core when I want so very much to enjoy a film, when it's pedigree, it's trailer and everything else lead me to expect it to be good and then the film falls far short of anything resembling what it promised.

I find this most often with so-called 'Blockbuster' films. The ones with the huge budgets, the 'A' list stars and all the CGI wizardry. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull left me cold as the film lurched from improbable event to improbable event, ending in a bizarre alien tornado that barely seemed to be credible and taking in angry jungle animals along the way. It wasn't just the over reliance on CGI effects at the expense of plot, but rather that each turn of the plot relied on something that seemd merely a lazy plot device to progress things. And we were being asked to not just suspend disbelief but to swallow it wholesale. Needless to say I choked.

I'm not just getting at poor old Indy here either. Other films that have had a similar effect on me are, the last two Pirates of the Caribbean films, and Quantum of Solace. As a sequel to the wonderful Casino Royale (IMHO) this was just a total let down. The baddie was weak, as was the Bond girl, the plot barely hung together, the characters were two dimensional and the action sequences were impossible to follow. Eugh. I could just imagine the Producers meeting, akin to the ones on the adverts for a well known mobile phone company:

"Bond is back and this time he has to be bigger and badder"
"I have the perfect idea. Let's have chases on land, sea and in the air! And this time we'll have all that close up shaky camera action too".
"But what about the plot? We don't seem to have much of one here."
"We'll throw in a few huge explosions, some pretty girls and lots of CGI. No-one will notice"

The Producers high five and 'do lunch' while for me at least, the new Bond is completely ruined.

I like films with a well written script and a well thought out plot that hangs together, even if it involves aliens, monsters or heroes. I like real stunts done by talented stunt men. I don't mind CGI when it is used as part of the film, and not almost as an actor itself. Most of all, I do not like to be decieved about what I am going to watch. I do not like to come away from having spent my £7.20 on a ticket feeling like the film makers think their audience are very stupid indeed. I do not appreciate it at all.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tie One

It is customary in the UK for troops returning from conflict to parade through the town where they are based. I was recently appalled by *this story*.

This week, from 24 to 31 March, is 'Yellow Ribbon for the Forces Week' which encourages people to support the British Armed Forces by wearing a yellow ribbon.

It's run by the Yellow Ribbon Foundation, which is an independent, non-political community support organisation for anyone with a British Armed Forces connection and aims to boost the morale of both the serving personnel and their families. Funds are raised from the selling of yellow ribbons which supports charities that have a connection with the Armed Forces. Support is also shown by people in many other ways such as turning a street yellow with ribbons on their front doors or by having a 'Dress Yellow Day' at work or school.

Politics aside, these people serve their country, sometimes in very dangerous and unpleasant conditions. The least we can do is show support as a Nation.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Round Up

Great song eh? But more on that later...

It's been a
loooooong week. There is much change at work with the team I am in being broken up and various sections being reorganised with sections from other teams. Apparently nothing else much will change which begs the question: then why do it? I believe there are two reasons: the first being that if handled properly there could be advantages in closer working with some other sections and the second that senior management need to earn their keep so occupy themselves with tasks akin to arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. At least that is how it seems sometimes from my lowly position.

It has been an eventful week though and a complete mixed bag the highlights of which I shall list for your amusement and edification and the reason for posting the video will become evident:
  • All week I have been hounded by someone at work who believes their crisis should also be mine. It got to the point where I was being bombarded with emails and calls and had to put my phone through to voicemail to get some peace (I was not ignoring them and had replied but they wanted a different answer). Ever felt hunted?
  • The sun has been shining for most of the week and it feels like Spring has sprung with a vengeance! I took my bearded dragons outside to see the sun and they loved it. It really was quite funny to see them as it was the first time they had actually seen the sky!
  • One of my fish is digging big holes in the aquarium sand and clogging the filter. Yesterday it overflowed and poured all over my sideboard and down over some hardback books. I was not impressed.
  • The chatterbox at work has held me hostage several times this week. It is my considered opinion that they do not breathe air as they certainly don't stop for it! Today they kept me in conversation for 15 minutes and then announced to me that they were bored! Really?!!!!!
  • It's Mothers Day this Sunday and I have mine and M's mothers' gifts all sorted and gift wrapped. We have been asked to dinner but...
  • My parents continue their hamfisted attempts at reconciling myself and my brother. This week they tried emotional blackmail again enquiring which one of us would be attending their funerals. My brother basically will not be in the same place as me and storms out of their house if I so much as ring them while he is there. I love my parents very much but it can be hard to bite my tongue sometimes.
  • I have been so tired still. I have actually fallen asleep in the afternoons.
  • I was reminded of the power of smiling. It's something I always try to do anyway, whenever I am dealing with someone but it was so nice to have a smile bestowed on me.
  • I booked a city break in Barcelona. I go in two weeks and I cannot wait to see this wonderful city. I am also looking forward to meeting up with a fellow blogger who I have long admired.
  • All I have to do is find someone to look after my lizards. It appears that most people don't like them. It is very ill deserved as they are the sweetest tempered creatures, more harmless than the average hamster.
I cannot begin to tell you how much I am looking forward to this break. I am only going away for 4 days but I have taken a whole two weeks off work to take me over Easter. This way I can truly relax and catch up with some chores around the house and garden without feeling pressure to fit them in around everything else all the time. I so need this time to relax. Other than Christmas it has been well over 18 months since I took more than a week off work. I cannot wait.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


As I entered work today the security guard gave me a big smile, the sort that goes from ear to ear and I returned it. It felt Goooooood! I walked into the offiice and smiled at my boss and colleagues who also smiled. I had a crappy day later on, and just as I was leaving, the same guard was on the gate again and seeing me, he smiled broadly and waved. It instantly made me feel so much better despite the heavy traffic.

It's a simple concept - we all know this, it's not new information but sometimes we need reminding; smile and the whole world smiles with you. My doctor told me that smiling actually lowers your blood pressure too. And what's more it can be proven.

When I was studying for my psychology degree we did a simple experiment linked to body language. We were let loose on the unsuspecting public with one simple order: smile at passers by and record how many smile back. The overwhelming majority smiled back. The second part of the experiment I seem to remember involved following up the smile with a question for directions or asking for direction without smiling first. Of course, more people helped when the apparently hapless lost soul smiled, in fact I got personally escorted across town to the railway station as the person 'was going that way anyway' and had to keep up the pretence by going into the station until the coast was clear.

We also will all have seen those emails that go around telling us it takes less muscles to smile than it does to frown. seems odd that if you look around, almost everyone is almost constantly frowning. Driving, shopping, walking along the street, in the supermarket, at work... almost everywhere are people who seem weighed down by their own existence and the trials and tribulations of life.

So smile, even if you don't feel like it. You will feel better and once someone returns that smile, you'll feel better still, and so will they. I did :)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

To market, to market...

Market Wares ~ All Photos Courtesy of the TORM Website

The weekend came at last after the longest week. It has been very subdued in the office since the death of 'C'. On Friday I signed the book of condolence which will be given to his parents. I hope it brings them some comfort in time to know how much his friends at work truly liked and appreciated him.

Nevertheless, I was glad when the weekend arrived and I could take some time away from the office. I was very much in need of some R&R and so we headed to a market. Not just any old market but The Original Re-enators Market or TORM.

TORM is a twice yearly event where traders from all over the UK and parts of Europe gather to sell their items to historical re-enactors and other interested people, like me. Myself, M and his brother went as there are usually armourers there and it's a handy place to see, handle and perhaps purchase new weapons and armour for our Historical European Martial Arts Club.

The market is quite a time travel experience. as you meander from stall to stall you pass Vikings, WWI memorabilia and all periods in between. All the items for sale are made traditionally. There is glassware, pottery, leather goods, jewellery, armour and weapons, woodwork, furs, musical instruments and even food! I treated myself to some very nice fudge.

We bought a couple of bucklers (small shields) for the club and I also bought a gorgeous pendant made from silver with a green and orange tear drop stone set in it. We also bumped into a few people we know from other clubs and from our own and whiled away a few hours before heading home. All in all, it was a good day. Just what the doctor ordered.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bad news, bad day, bad luck

When you go to work on a Monday morning you do not expect to be met with bad news. Even so I found myself listening as a colleague explained that another colleague 'C' had been involved in a serious car accident and was in hospital with head injuries and multiple fractures. Apparently his car came off the road and hit a tree in foul weather. He was sedated after a 4 hour operation so we all rallied around and sent a card, thinking it would be nice for it to be there when he woke up.

When you go to work on a Tuesday morning you do not expect to be met with bad news. Even so I found myself listening as a colleague explained that C had been pronounced brain dead and taken off the ventilator. It is thought that it is only a matter of time before he stops breathing. It took me right back to when my niece was hit by a car and died of head injuries. I remember waiting at the hospital...

I first met C when I joined the present team at work. He was friendly, approachable and was happy to show me the ropes. He put up with my endless stupid questions with good humour, enjoyed a good joke, was witty and clever and was a genuinely nice guy. We weren't close but I counted him as a work friend. The news has been a shock.

A new member of the team asked if C had children. When told that he did not, he answered 'Oh, that's not so bad then'. I was angry though I held my tongue. I take the point that there are no children involved who will grow up without their dad but there are his parents, family and friends who will miss him terribly. A person is far more than their ability to be a parent and their worth to this world should not be confined to one such aspect.

C is just 36 years old. My thoughts are with his family.

Update: C has passed away in hospital. The police are appealing for witnesses to the accident.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Things that make me go 'Argh!'

Orangutan ~ Vienna Zoo (Sept. 2007)

It's been a very hard week. Attending a 3 day course meant that my working week was effectively compressed into 2 days. Add into the mix the fact that we have 2 new people in the team, both of which need help and guidance (understandably) and one of which could get gold in the Olympics for 'talking', then available time is compressed even further. Sure, there are some things that didn't get done and are on the list to do next week, but some things had to be done and being talked at for what seems like hours didn't help much.

It's okay though, as the other party in the Olympic talking competition, all you have to do is stand there; you are not required to take part but '
uming' and resisting the urge to either nod off or gnaw your right foot off in desperation are appreciated it seems. I tried to extricate myself several times with hints at my work load, pointed looks at my watch and then phrases such as "I must get on' to little avail. I think I'm just a trifle irritable because I'm tired, but honestly, I am going to have to work out how to escape this person lest I throttle them. Like I said, I'm a tad irritable...

Have you noticed how things can really irritate you when you're tired? Well, I find they always have the potential to irritate me but that I am less able to shrug them off when tired. We all have silly things that can drive us a bit loopy. The ones I have noticed this week are:

  • Crooked pictures
  • People pronouncing the letter 'h' as 'haitch' and not 'aitch'
  • Jane Horrocks' voice on the Tesco adverts
  • People who stop at the top of escalators and in shop doorways
  • Being held hostage in conversations and not being able to get a word in edge ways
  • Not being able to find things
  • Motorists not using their indicators
  • Motorists not using lanes properly
  • Feeling tired
I am feeling pretty tired quite a bit lately. I think some of it can be attributed to work but not all. I have to go back for a blood test soon to check my thyroxine levels after my thyroid surgery in January (I am on no medication for this at the moment as it is expected that remaining bit of thyroid will compensate). I think they may be down a little as the tiredness is not a good tired from being productive but rather an inner exhaustion or lethargy. It does not feel good. Here's hoping a restful weekend will restore my equilibrium a bit before next weeks onslaught and the big presentation for our new Team Leader that I have to help prepare and give. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Einstein a go go

I thought I would share something I rediscovered this week. Something that is guaranteed to reduce stress and it's so easy to do.

I was not best pleased last week when I found that major road works were starting just outside my work place. They are unavoidable and will take about 6 months to complete. I mostly work flexi hours so not too much trouble most of the time as I can miss most of the worst commuter traffic and hence my involvement in en masse queuing is minimised. Except that this week I am on a Systems Engineering course which is forcing me to join the other commuter lemmings due to it's start and finish times. Lovely. Life is far too short to spend in traffic jams. Even with your new CD playing and sending out happy vibes that make you sing along and experience quizzical looks from other drivers.

Anyway, like a good project manager I planned ahead and allowed more time for my journey. A lot more time which was just as well as it took me 3 times the amount of time for my journey. But here's the thing. I did not freak out. I did not get anxious. I did not rant at the other traffic. I just sang along to my CD making a complete arse of myself and I didn't care because I had time. Voila! Just like that I had rediscovered something I already knew. Allow enough time to do the task and then a little bit on top.

It's amazing how less stressed I felt! By allowing myself time I took the pressure off. By taking the pressure off, I was less stressed. As I was less stressed I relaxed and even enjoyed my journey into work. Because I was relaxed I didn't get all ranty when the other drivers wouldn't let me over, I didn't get ranty when someone cut me up and didn't indicate, I could afford to let other people out of junctions because I didn't feel time was against me and I gave some people a good laugh watching me sing. Simple.

I think it can be easy to put undue pressure on ourselves in this fast paced high pressure environment most of us live in. There is always lots to do and never enough time to do it. The thing is though, that by taking the pressure off myself at the start of the day I arrive at work in a better frame of mind, the rest of the day just flows better and somehow I have more time. Einstein was right, time is relative after all! I know this is overly simplistic and it's not always possible to build in more time. Sometimes things work against us. But the nice thing is that I expected this week to be a nightmare seeing as I had to navigate the roadworks at the worse possible time, and I have been pleasantly surprised. Now, how often does that happen?