Thursday, October 31, 2013

If Only I had A Hermione Bag....Packing Strategies and Sleepless Nights

Firstly I'd like to say thank DST for the clocks going back, it really has just made me wake up an hour earlier and therefore not benefit from it at all. I'm so pleased to see 5.45 most days, it's such a lovely time of day.
(By the way if you don't get sarcasm....this is it!) I do not want to see this time. I do not have to get up for work. I do not have to get up for kids and whilst I struggle to sleep past 7.00am anyway, I like 7.00am so much more than pre-6.00am.

It doesn't help that I've been waking up several times in the night - I know I'm worse than a frickin' new born -  and I've been having ridiculous dreams possibly due to the high volume of seriously messed up horror films we've been watching. I do love horror and gore and being scared but sometimes when you cram in a lot in a short period of time and always just before bed, it can play on the old subconscious. Plus some of them are really gross.

We have been conducting our very own in-house Halloween-style Film Fest over the past few days with such gems as:
  • V/H/S (Collection of slightly harrowing videos: A Fright Fest rolled into one film. Good stuff.)
  • The Collection (Sequel to The Collector....Nasty! With a much bigger budget than its predecessor.)
  • Nightmare Before Christmas (Genius!)
  • Warm Bodies (Cute. Not a concrete plot but I'd like to read the book.)
  • Livid (Weird and creepy French film.)

And annoyingly our copy of Hocus Pocus wouldn't work. Damn. It's a Halloween classic.
I have also been reading the Russian Horror novels, Night Watch and Day Watch by Sergei Lukanenko. I had already seen and own both films which I was hoping to be able to re-watch though I think I will run out of time, but it was great to finally read the books. I'll have to save the films for a post holiday film night. 

So despite this being the first year I haven't dressed up (except for bat/spider web earrings) I have made a good effort carving pumpkins, decorating the house and baking yummy treats. I love Halloween. And now I have to pack for the holiday, which is in fact tomorrow and an Asian Adventure in China.

Now there seem to be two types of packers: The ones who spread it out over a week, collecting things as they go along, piling it in when they remember and the ones who leave it till the last minute and pack the night before.

I am definitely the latter. I just can't bring myself to pack the bag until the day before. I feel like I would convince myself everything was packed and then forget the most important things. Also, most of the time I'm waiting for other clothes to be washed and dried before I put them in. But a huge part of it is also that feeling of almost running out of time. That feeling of putting yourself under stress. It's sort of fun and it heightens the senses and you get these pings of, 'Oh I need that' and 'Oh, I mustn't forget that.'

Also, waiting till the night before eliminates possibilities. You can't spend a week pondering which shoes to wear and which tights go better with your dress....blah, blah, blah. You have to make snap decisions otherwise you won't be ready in time. And from someone who hates making decisions, believe me this is the best way.

Does anybody else have an imaginary wardrobe? No I don't mean a wardrobe that isn't really there but you imagine it to be. What I mean is, when you're packing for a trip do you realise that you don't have as many clothes as you thought, or that you don't have as many nice clothes as you thought? That's exactly what happens to me. I'm thinking, don't I have a nice blue top with this on and whatnot and the answer is, yes in my head, no in reality. Imaginary wardrobe. So as I'm packing I'm getting more and more disappointed at my rather shit collection of clothes. It's almost as bad as when you realise your reflection is so much worse than the image of yourself in your head. That's always a rude awakening. Damn mirrors.

Anyhoo, I have a system when packing. Over the years I've created the optimum way of cramming as much stuff in my suitcase as possible. It probably seems quite anal but it works for me: Knickers and socks rolled up as small as possible along the bottom as they have those three natural grooves made by the handle. (If you don't know what I mean you clearly haven't travelled with a wheels/pull up handle suitcase.) Then Jeans or trousers on top of that with t-shirts, vest tops and dresses piled on top or at the sides. Then cardigans and jumpers, then toiletries, books that you don't need in your hand luggage, additional shoes, hair straighteners (not that I can ever be bothered to use them) and battery chargers for computer, phone and camera. Ta-da!

That just leaves hand luggage which consists of a book to read, a notepad to write in, money, phone, camera and computer. Maybe a snack or two and if on a long haul, change of underwear and some small toiletries to freshen up. Done.

There is an organisation here that is definitely mirrored in my writing. You have a starting point. You expand on that and you layer and develop ideas, having very specific ways of making them fit together. (Imagine every item you pack as a different element of your narrative. Where it is placed is essential for the story arc and the reader's understanding and enjoyment.) Then you find a way to end the narrative perhaps leaving some questions unanswered. (Space for souvenirs.) Then it's time to edit. Yes even a suitcase can be edited. If I put the tops there instead of there then I have enough room for my trainers. (In writing speak, if I put a semi colon there instead of a comma then I've made one long sentence instead of two shorter sentences, giving fluidity and variation.) It's a shame really that editing writing isn't quite as straight forward as editing a suitcase. Take this blog for instance. I've re-read and edited it about six times already, though I blame part of that on exhaustion and indecision. 

I'm not sure that last paragraph made sense at all, though it did in my head.

Anyway, what I really want is a Hermione bag, you know the one from The Deathly Hallows, that lovely beaded bag that contains everything they need to go find the Horcruxes. All you need is an Engorgement Charm and a magic wand with which to perform said charm. 

That would be a major slap in the face for Ryan Air and other low cost airlines that are super annoying and almost downright cruel about hand luggage. You could walk on with cute little beaded bag, a smug look and then never need cabin baggage or a suitcase ever. Oh my god, I need one now!

Plus you could really take advantage of duty free. Oh yes I'll have three massive bottles of vodka, thanks. Because I can put it in my teeny bag and it would weigh next to nothing and I could make and drink a lot of cocktails back home. Whoop!

I wonder what else she used the engorgement charm on.........Hmmmmmm Ron?????????

So things are likely to go radio silent at Rants HQ as I may be unable to access certain social media for the next couple of weeks. But I promise I will return with a whole host of ranting issues and nonsense and possibly more knowledge of Mandarin than Nihao, though I can't guarantee anything.  

Until then keep smiling, check out my website in which the tag line actually says: I write stuff, I'm pretty.....
when viewed on my Ipod. The whole tag line is: I write stuff, I'm pretty random. I think I may have to change that, though it did make me giggle.

Well 10:4. This is Rants saying goodbye for now: Over and out!

*static noise*

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Unlimited Champagne, Partying With The Mayoress And The Uselessness Of The 214.

Well, what a fantastic couple of weeks writing. The blogs have been going down a storm; I had an article published online and the chapters that were eluding me have been well and truly kicked in the face and battered into submission.  

You will not defeat me you fookin' chapters from hell. Yes, I know I wrote them but it doesn't make them any less hellish. But I think now that chapter 12 has been reshaped and the chapters preceding and following it are amended in order to flow successfully, I think the rest of the edit will come much quicker.

My dream is to have it all edited again (for the 12th time) before we go on holiday next Friday. Pipe dream?
Maybe so. But I don't usually have deadlines, so maybe this will give me the push I need. *Giddy at the prospect*

And so to a week of actual bizarreness. After last week's shenanigans at Farmaggedon: (thanks to everyone who read the blog, making it one of my top 5 best viewed blogs. I was thrilled with this but also thrilled to acknowledge such a great, Northern attraction.) This week included an Unlimited Champagne Afternoon Tea; hanging out with the Mayoress of Camden; discovering an awesome band from Leigh, Lancashire and the uselessness of the 214 bus.

I will begin with the wonder of Afternoon Tea, especially when Unlimited Champagne is put in front of it. Another birthday gift from another amazing friend - I'm really drawing out this thirty melarchy - and what a great afternoon to do it.

A grey miserable day, interspersed with drizzle, then harder rain and unfortunately a mega traffic jam that almost made me late. But I arrived in my vans and nice dress, quickly changing into my Irregular Choice Panda/Polka dot heels as I entered the ridiculously posh: Intercontinental, Westminster. Can you say, oo-la-la.

Yes I was worried there would be instant lock out as soon as they heard my accent, but come on I'd poshed up for this. No jeans, but an actual dress and tights and heels. Now being a self-confessed weirdo and non caffeine drinker, I have never been for an Afternoon Tea for obvious reasons - I don't drink tea. But! L my remarkable friend found the joy of all joys which consisted of unlimited champagne.

Oh my. It's lovely. I had a whole couch to myself and they were true to their word on the constant refilling of the champagne. We were brought finger sandwiches with various rather luxuriant fillings; multitudes of tiny cakes and desserts; and of course plain and fruit scones with clotted cream (fuck yeah!) and jam.

We had a very attentive waiter who brought us additional sandwiches as well as more champagne. You gotta love the bubbles. And then I even tried an earl grey tea with lemon. Argh! Does that mean I'm a grown up now? No? Oh good. That would have been terrible.

Just to add to the incredibleness there was a harpist playing and singing in the lobby. Absolutely beautiful voice and a dark blue harp. *Jealous* And the toilets were hilarious. Every time I went in - which I realise makes me sound like I have bladder issues -  there were maids refilling the towels, yes individual towels to dry your hands on. And we met an equally giddy/champagne drunk who was also enjoying the afternoon tea extravaganza.

Honestly, you should do it. It's fun to see how the posh people live and the food is incredible and the champagne flows really well and I can't thank L enough. Truly fantastic day and highly recommended.

Moving on to Sunday night and partying with the Mayoress of Camden. Now with Camden being a super cool place, we of course have a super cool Mayor who in turn chose a freakin' awesome Mayoress: Marcella Puppini, who amongst her many talents is the founding member of The Puppini Sisters. (If you don't know who they are then check them out because they are incredible. We're talking shit hot harmonies, amazing costumes, wonderfully talented musicians and three beautiful ladies bringing the 30's and 40's to your ears.)

And so Proud Gallery at Camden Market is the venue for Marcella's latest endeavour: The Mayoress Presents. It's a showcase for up and coming talent in the music world, as well as DJ's and dancing troupes and the first one was Sunday. She also has a radio show (which incidentally A is being interviewed on as I blog) and a TV show on YouTube.

Weirdly A was already in contact with her through work things and so we were on the guest list. *Wearing small chufty badge* And the night didn't disappoint. Beginning with a fabulously fun, wonderfully melodious pop/Indie band from Leigh, Lancashire named: The Lottery Winners, the night held all sorts of unexpected randomness.

The Lottery Winners with all their northern wit and strong Lancashire accents proved not only great musicians with fun songs and catchy hooks, but bloody hilarious to boot. Front man Thomas (singer and guitarist) seemed unable to stop talking but that just added to the whole act. And for me, a Lassie from Lancashire, it was beltin' to hear some familiar expressions.

Rob (guitar and backing vocals) and Katie (Bass guitar and backing vocals) proved there were three ridiculously competent singers in the group with beautiful harmonies adding greatly to their sound. Drummer Joe was tight and talented and lots of other thing beginning with T. I'm so sorry Joe, I don't know what to write about drummers but you were excellent! They enjoyed every moment of the gig, despite their rather lengthy trip down and you could tell they were thrilled to be playing in the capital. 

They describe themselves as 'smiley pop music, ' which is true but also in that it makes you smile too. The banter and crowd pleasing sing-alongs really bring the audience in and who can resist that Lancashire charm?

When I screamed at the announcement they were from Salford - the only one in the audience of course - I got some strange looks, but when I screamed again at them being from Leigh, I felt I had to explain myself.

"I'm from Wigan." I yelled. Luckily they knew where it was because no one else in the room did.

I strongly urge you to check them out. Great, great fun. A really tight band and really shit hot musicians. Those voices, especially in their song, Emerald City, were mesmerising. And if they come to your local area, go and support them, it would be impossible not to enjoy yourself.

We were also treated to a 60's dance troupe called The Actionettes. They were really fun, all in colourful shift dresses with matching tights. Each had a different colour on giving a rainbow effect and they were having such a lovely time, as were we, watching them. A great bunch and mix of ladies of all ages, shapes and sizes just really enjoying themselves. Fabulous to watch and I imagine fabulous to partake. I could definitely get on board with that. And check out their website to see what else they've been up to.

The final act was not my cup of tea musically but was fantastic in so many ways: Viktoria Modesta. Not only was Adamski DJing for her but she was a model, a bionic woman, had a great singing voice and a cool rapper friend who joined her for one track. Check out her facebook site especially if you're into 3 step and pretty ladies.

It was a bizarre mix of acts but in a way that just sums Camden up in one foul swoop. Anything goes. No limitations. No judgement. No prejudice. And it was great to be a part of it. The Mayoress Presents nights at Proud are a monthly event, the next one on Sunday November 17th. Check out the website, get a ticket and come and schmooze with the coolest Mayoress ever! Oh and beware of the hideously drunk girl in the pink jumper who wouldn't leave us alone. I'm not sure if she'll be there but watch out for her anyway. Harmless and quite fun but rat arsed and not always able to remain standing.

Okay this is becoming a waffle not a rant. Sorry. I've used all my brevity cells on the edits and my article that was published yesterday. Singing your way to Speech and Confidence is based on my Early Years Music Classes. Just had to mention it. *Slightly giddy*  Might as well link it here too, why not?
It's for a great online magazine called Education for Everyone, mainly focusing on SEN matters and inclusion within schools and things but if you have kids or know any children, you may be interested.

So the final thing really is a rant! 214 bus. Fuck You!

I was on you for an hour and 5 minutes today for a journey that TFL says lasts for 36 minutes. Now there's accounting for delays and then there's just doubling the fucking journey time. Honestly, I'm that wound up I'm close to using an acronym. No I won't do it. No. I'll just keep f'in' and Geoffin' instead.

I wouldn't mind if I was just late for a friend or a meeting or something. Well I would because I hate being late but that is acceptable and I would text to say I'm late and it would all be fine. But when you're picking up a child from school and you realise you're likely to be 15 minutes late, this is now taking the ultimate piss.

Luckily A was at home and he found me the number of the school. (I know I should have already had it saved in my phone but we're ranting about the bus here, not my lack of preparation.) So I called and they said it was fine, but then the bus was diverted and I don't have a smart phone and I also didn't have my AtoZ, so I had no idea where I was. Fucking brilliant.

Anyhoo, I knew at some point we would have to emerge at Old Street and when we did I pegged it, with bags falling off my shoulders and my legs saying, "Erm what is this fast movement you expect me to do? I'm tired. I've been sat on a bus for 65 minutes."

65 minutes. Well I can tell you one thing. Next time I'll be taking the tube and I'll be arriving 20 minutes early and going into Oliver Bonas and drooling over all the things I can't afford. I will not be running through the streets in my Bat t-shirt wheezing on people.

214 fuck you! Rant over now and so is the blog.

Thank you for reading and seriously, check out the band and the Mayor Presents thing and drink champagne if you can, preferably unlimited, with a good friend.


Monday, October 14, 2013

If You Go Down To The Farm Tonight............BEWARE!

If you go down to the farm tonight, you'd better expect a fright.
If you go down to the farm tonight, you'd better go in a pack.
If you're not careful, you won't make it back,
You might experience a panic attack.
If you go down to the farm tonight....Beware.

(To the tune of The Teddy Bears' Picnic...New Lyrics by Helen Richards of Rants)

Today's blog is brought to you from The No1 scare attraction in the UK. It's Farmaggedon. (Well not quite from there as I went Saturday night, but you know what I mean.) And do you know what's even more fabulous about it? It's up north in Lancashire - best county ever.....slightly biased.

So a few months back when I turned the dreaded 30, my delightful friend and her husband (J+T) bought me tickets for this wondrous attraction in Ormskirk and tickets to travel back home to the land of Lancashire. I'd heard great things about it, but when I say great things I mean people throwing up because they were so scared and people walking out and not completing it. Basically people being shit scared. Of course, this only made me more excited! What a present.

I was with a self-confessed 'Super Wuss'. I was tempted to make her a cape. And two boys who of course weren't bothered because they are boys and when are they scared of anything. Hmmmmm. I was merrily somewhere in between with occasional pangs of, "Oh it's gonna be really scary." Coupled with pangs of, "He he. I'm well giddy. Bring it on."

We did stop in the nice pub around a half mile from it, called The Scarisbrick Arms. It was well posh though. And in kept walking pre and post Farmaggedon-ites. You could tell by things like wellies and big coats and that slight hint of trauma in the eyes. Still, after a couple of glasses of wine, I was feeling a bit more relaxed. N.B Please make sure you're not drunk before you go, as they won't let you in. Besides drunk and in a barn with some crazy zombies......not the best idea.

The fantastic thing about Farmaggedon, is that by day it is Farmer Teds petting farm. So nice and friendly for the kids. But by night, in the pitch of the countryside, with nothing but fields surrounding you, the ghoulies come out to play. And out here, no one will hear you scream......

Your ticket gives you a time of admission. Stick to that or they won't let you in. Anyone with kids under 15, or anyone going who is under 18 needs ID and preferably an adult present. They are quite strict about it.

Don't worry I won't be revealing any spoilers, as much as I can avoid it. I want people to get the full experience from it, but there are videos on YouTube, if anyone really wants to know what they're in for.

The way you have to queue before you go in feels like a festival. But in the background all you can hear is a range of pitched screams and those blasted chainsaws. Honestly, when a tree needs trimming, it needs trimming. I half expected there to be zombies in the car park as you were getting out your car, but maybe that wouldn't have been the best from a health and safety point of view. Good old fun allowed.

Expect it to be cold when you go. After all it's October and the North but you also have to account for the fear sweats. I had a woolly cardigan, a smaller cardigan and a dress over my jeans and I was dying of heat before we even went in the first barn. Then I had to carry it round all night. So you want to be warm but not too warm as once that adrenaline gets pumping and the fear takes over, you'll be wishing you had less on.

There are three barns and when you enter you get a wristband with three tokens on it. They rip off a token after each barn so they know how many you've been in and you are only allowed to enter each one once, not that most people would want to go back in anyway. I couldn't figure out how to put the band on, like a mong, so the bouncer/security guy did it for me.
"I don't get it."
"You're not the only one."

On the way we tried to devise ways of keeping control of our fear. And one of those ideas was singing. We thought if something jumps out at us, we could just start singing Ghostbusters, or Wuthering Heights or Favourite Things (From the Sound of Music). We also thought we'd try a simple, "Hello." If you talk to them maybe they become less scary?

And so to the first barn. We entered Insanity first. There's a queue system at each barn but even this time is quite fun, for watching other people shit themselves, as some of the zombies/monsters etc wander around in the crowds. So if you don't happen to notice them, it can make for good viewing for the rest of us. Also people banging on doors/doors opening is enough to set off the scream Mexican wave. As we were queuing I noticed one thing that I knew I would never be able to adhere to: No swearing. And I'm sure it was right next to the No drugs sign. No drugs is fine but you want to scare the bejeezers out of me and I'm not allowed to swear. What? Needless to say everyone broke that rule at one point or another.

And so we survived the first barn (I told you, no spoilers) and my 'Super Wuss' friend says, "It's emotionally draining." But I have to say she has lost all 'Super Wuss' status as she has already survived one barn. Well done J. Lots of screaming and giggling and chainsaws and sniffers. These zombies are all about the smell. Sniff sniff. She also says, "That's not the way to treat mental patients." Ha ha. She knows from experience.

You can tell you're getting old when you think things like, oh that floor is uneven and they didn't even warn us about that ramp, whilst walking briskly to get away from the sniffing zombies. Terror and sensibility.

So to barn two and everyone is a little hyper. The screams and laughter are people reliving the first barn, as well as preparing themselves for this next one: Psychosis. Now this for me was definitely the scariest and as I rightly announced, "No. Not clowns. Why does there always have to be pissin' clowns." I freakin' hate clowns but then so do a vast majority of people, thus why they stick 'em in these scary things for us. Thanks.

We queued for a while for this one and a few zombies joined us in the queue. I tried the 'Hello' approach. Worked quite well. I also decided to keep J in high spirits by pretending we were at a cattle market and doing my best auctioneers voice. Yeah, me and brother used to watch them on the TV as kids and pretend to do an auction. "Anyone wanna buy a cow?"

Psychosis bombards you from the moment you step in. If it's not people jumping out, it's people waiting to jump out which is almost worse. I admitted quite readily that, 'I don't like it,' though it didn't stop me scream-giggling my way through. There were tunnels and illusions and it was definitely a mind fuck this one. At one point we sang Ghostbusters and went the wrong way. A helpful zombie had to show us the way out.

Survived number two and J is slowly being handed a bravery award. Two down, one to go. On the way to the third barn, we found a photo-op place where some of the zombies were available for photographs. It's a great souvenir. You can even get in a cage with a clown. Er, no thanks.

And so, follow the tremendously loud metal music and you'll find: Terror on the Farm. It felt like I was in a rock club. Man they needed a dance floor, though they did have some sexy zombies, strutting their stuff. A bit 'a' blue. The music was awesome and after Psychosis we were pretty sure we could cope with anything.

Before we entered, we resumed the position of  T then J then Me then A. Our little snake or conga of safety. I think we all really enjoyed this one, I know I did. In fact I was throwing out witty comments, between scares and making conversation with the sniffers.

One of our favourite moments was when a girl zombie, in her incredible scouse accent said: "You're never leavin'. Ever." The giggle factor was never so high.

What a great night. J has decided she can deal with peril as long as her peril buddies are there. I've decided that I still really hate clowns but that the odd sarcastic comment can make it all better. And all that is left to be said, is GO. Go now! Get a ticket! Experience the craziness of Farmaggedon and one of the top 25 scare attractions in the World, which considering how many must be in America, is pretty fookin' impressive.

Thank you Farmer Ted, you psycho, for an amazing night out.
I leave you with another song, the lyrics specially written by me, for the occasion, for the tune of Old Macdonald, but you won't want to sing this with your kids..........

Farmer Ted he had a farm,
Rife with some psychotic clowns
With a scream giggle here and a scream giggle there
Here a scream, there a giggle
Everywhere a scream giggle
Farmer Ted he had a farm
Filled with all your worst nightmares
With a sniff snarl here and a sniff snarl there
Here a sniff, there a snarl
Everywhere a sniff snarl
Farmer Ted he had a farm
Infested with zombie crowds
with a dribble growl here and a dribble growl there
Here a dribble, there a growl
Everywhere a dribble growl
Farmer Ted he had a farm
Farmaggedon was it's name!

Go there if you dare!


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Disappearing Bins

So we've been without recycling bins in our block of flats for the best part of two months, which of course sucks, as we were given no warning. One day the bins were there; another day they had moved them out of the bin store and put them by the front door; then there were back inside and then they did their little disappearing act. *sarcastic applause*

So we've been hoarding bags of recycling up on our balcony until it gets unbearable and then dumping them inside the bin store, with a pile of bags that everyone else has left. Not ideal but at least they are still separate from the normal rubbish and not left outside the building.

Then yesterday we get a call from our housing company who basically tell us we're going to be fined for fly tipping because they found something with our name on.

Er.....what? Are you fuckin' kidding me? They take our bins away; don't replace them for months and then we get penalised for trying to continue to do the right thing and recycle........I don't think so.

A shouted at them on the phone, of course, although I think even me with my hatred of the confrontation, might have thrown a whopper of a hissy fit. It's ridiculous! And their excuse is that they're waiting for Camden to deliver us new ones. Well, Hello, you're the fuckin' housing agency, if you can't sort us out temporary ones in the meantime, then you aren't doing a very good job. Those bins are in use by a large amount of people and a lot of families. Don't blame Camden, blame yourself for not getting off your ass and reminding them.

Anyhoo, they then say that we can't leave bags there and have to put the recycling in the normal bins otherwise we are just fly tipping criminals. Well screw you!

And it's not like we have the space to store the recycling - in our wonderful yet tiny flats - until they get their finger out their ass and do something about it. So instead we have to put it all to landfill. Come on there is something seriously wrong here. Or we have a lengthy walk to the nearest recycling point and not everyone has a car.

I hate the idea of all those milk bottles that could be made into something else; or the cardboard that could be made into more paper. And to try and charge people for wanting to recycle their waste and look after the planet is such a slap in the face.

Seriously, sort it out. There are some unhappy residents.

End of Rant.....