Maybe Next Time

So.  Scotland has been a busy place recently.  The eyes of the world were on us as we became what I understand to be the first country in history to refuse independence.  No, really.  I’m not kidding.

It’s hard to explain to those from other countries.  A good portion of the rest of the world had no idea Scotland even was its own country, thinking instead of a quaint village in the North of England with deep-fried Mars bars and tiny haggis creatures running around.  Oh, and Hogwarts.

This is something that’s been immensely and inexplicably frustrating to me throughout my life.  Telling someone you’re Scottish, and being asked which part of England that’s in.  Hearing English accents referred to as “British”, or even worse, Scottish accents as English. Just a note, people – there is no such thing as a British accent.  How can there be?  Four separate countries, each with hundreds of different accents within.  There’s no single, generic accent.  But anyway. Tangent.

I’m truly astonished by more than half of this country’s reluctance to accept the gift it was offered.  To be a country standing on our own two legs, to be in charge of our own future.  Instead, we will stay in the shadows.  I can only hope that the UK Government live up to its promises of giving Scotland more of its own powers, but I won’t hold my breath.

I’m disappointed in Scotland.  But I’m not angry.  So many people are so angry right now, expressing their feelings in ways ranging from online rants to actual fighting in the streets.  I’m torn between hoping it blows over soon, and these people can return to some state of peace, and hoping that it doesn’t.  That what we’ve been through leaves a lasting impression on everyone, and as time moves forward, people come to realise what an opportunity they’ve missed.  And hope that we’re given another chance at it someday.

What’s In A Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”

Lolz. Don’t worry. I’m not getting all Shakespearian on you.  Could you imagine if I went from reviewing post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction to Shakespeare? Yikes.  Anyway.  Moving on. 

I’ve been thinking about names recently.  Character names are so important, in any piece of writing.  Sure, Romeo and Juliet would have the same plot, but would it have had the same impact if it had been about Steve and Jemima?  Who knows.  I’m currently reading City of Heavenly Fire, the last in the Mortal Instruments series (hah, Shakespeare.  You thought I had been reading Shakespeare.  Hilarious).  For all its flaws, the Mortal Instruments series houses my favourite character name ever – Sebastian Morgenstern.  Does that name scream “villain” to you, or what?  Don’t get me wrong, I have other fictional villains that are a thousand  times more terrifying, and I’d be much less happy to run into them in a dark alleyway, but gosh darn it, this one definitely has the best name. 

I think I pay particular attention to names because I hate my own.  “Clare” is an exceptionally dull name, and yet people are still unable to spell it correctly.  Although, apparently, my father was pretty keen on naming me “Gráinne”, Irish for Grace.  So I suppose I should count my blessings.  I tend to feel that, when it comes to fiction at least, character names shouldn’t be unpronounceable.  How can readers obsess and come up with fan theories if they can’t pronounce the character names?

Saying that however, I’ve just remembered how no one knew how to pronounce “Hermione” until the films started pre-production.  Even my high school English teacher got it wrong (a shock to my system at the time – teachers making mistakes?!).      But of course, come the early noughties (God, I hate that term), the popularity of the name Hermione skyrocketed

Would it have been as popular if Hermione had been named Megan?  Or Fiona?  Or God forbid, Clare?  I doubt it.  Would Sebastian Morgenstern have any appeal if his name was Bob Smith?  Who knows.  Names are pretty important, Shakespeare. Would your work be as acclaimed if your surname was… Poopface?  Okay, so I suck at making up names (see my Sims for details). Sue me.  Or don’t.  Whatever. 

Maybe I’ll change my name one day.  Hermione Morgenstern?  Perhaps, perhaps.

Little White Lies

Little white lies. You know, those innocent little remarks that people use to avoid a sticky situation. “Does my ass look big in this?” “Of course not!” “I’ve lost weight, can you tell?” “I was just thinking you looked really skinny!”

Why do these lies exist? Who, at what point in history, realised that it would be easier to just agree with a loved one (because certainly, these lies tend to be told in relationships) than to suffer the wrath of admitting that a corset could be doing with being pulled a good few notches tighter? It’s something that intrigues me. I’m honest. Painfully so. It’s landed me in trouble more times than I care to remember. So when I see people engaging in these innocent lies, I can’t help but watch for the consequences. Often, it’s just that – innocent. But sometimes, people get greedy. One person feigning awe at invisible weight loss isn’t enough. It has to come from everyone. But why?

More and more these days, people find their self-worth in what others think of them. We’re all guilty of it at some point or another. Buying a dress because a friend says it looks good. Having more than a few drinks at the end of the day because someone at work thinks you’re lousy at your job, regardless of what’s actually happened.
The point of this blog post? To tell you to knock it off. Your opinion is what matters. Buy the dress because you think it looks good. Do your best regardless of what someone else thinks you should be doing. And don’t constantly seek others’ approval. Your own approval is the only one you need.

Family

What is family?

When faced with a question, I did what everyone does these days. I Googled it. Oxford Dictionary and Wikipedia had the usual definitions – any group of persons related by blood.  Urban Dictionary had, again as usual, slightly odder definitions, but still relatively accurate ones – a bunch of people who hate each other but eat dinner together, usually annoying and invasive around the holidays, a word used to force you to do things you don’t want to do.

They’re all fairly relevant, aren’t they? Anyway, the reason I’ve been thinking on this lately. An event (hereafter referred to as The Incident) happened in my family last year that has had extremely serious repercussions.  I won’t go into it, but trusts were fractured into what must be at least a billion parts.  No apologies were made, and no attempts at reconciliation happened.   I think the person at the root of the problem might have convinced themselves that they did nothing wrong. Crimes were never proven, and time moved on.  Now that we’re over a year later, the person continues as always, and on the surface, everyone else has moved on.

But they haven’t moved on, and I was reminded of this today. It’s my father’s birthday in a couple of months; my incredibly strong and wise father.  He has been through so much in the last year, not least The Incident. Discussions regarding celebrations began tentatively, and were quashed extremely quickly when some family members stated they didn’t want to come – it was too awkward given the past.

It looks like we may have become one of those families that only ever get together now for funerals. Cheery, right? So, post Incident life seems to be plodding along on the surface, but underneath, the repercussions look to be permanent.  All I want is for my family to be whole again, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

So what is a family? Is it merely the people who are related to you, regardless of their actions?  Or is it about the relationships that you make yourself – whether people are related or not – that are cultivated and grown to the point that you can’t imagine being without them?

Clichés

It all started with a man.

I’ve had this stuck in my head for a couple of weeks. I’m toying with the idea of a short story that begins with this line.  I won’t go into it; mostly because I haven’t thought it through at all yet. But I’m currently fixated on this line.  I really want to start the story with this, but isn’t it a massive cliché?  There’s nothing worse than opening a book, reading the first line, and thinking “Oh dear… Is it all going to be like this?”

I notice things like this. I know, I know – I’m obsessive over stupid little things like this. But I wondered, what do other people think? Am I obsessing over nothing, or is there a blacklist of opening lines for works of fiction?

Alone

Alone is an interesting word. Just look at it up there. You immediately think “This is going to be a sad post” or “Uh oh, what’s happened in her life?” But it shouldn’t have to imply any of these things.

I was inspired to write this blog post last night. Friday night, alone in my house (not counting feline friends), watching The Following (fantastic by the way, you should catch it if you haven’t already). I thought of my friends, out at a party, or spending time with their significant others, and thought, gosh, I bet they think it’s a bit sad that I’m home alone on a Friday night.

But the weird thing was, I was happy about it. I’ve come to realise that inside, I’ve always been a bit of a loner. At high school, I tried to be friendly with everyone, but the truth was, when too many people were around, I just wanted to disappear. It’s only very recently that I’ve realised it’s okay not to be craving the company of others all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be alone 100%  of the time, but when I am alone, I’m okay with it.

People who are classed as “loners” usually get a bad rep. Movies and books always have the cliche serial killer profile “Oh he was always a loner, we knew there was something off about him”. Well, I can assure you, I’m not a serial killer. Nor do I have any plans to become one. I’m just a regular person who enjoys spending time on my own to read, write, draw… Lots of things.

So I guess this post is for all of you fellow loners out there (oxymoron?) Have a grand old time with the company of your good self, and own your loner status.

Obsessed…

So, as I write this, I’m sitting in a bar on a Monday afternoon – pretty good, right? I’m meeting a friend for dinner, and naturally, dinner is preceded by pre-dinner drinks. It just makes sense. Now, I’m not just bragging. There is a reason I tell you this. Said friend is running a tad late. This is no problem – a half hours peace with a glass of cider is never a problem. I order, I sit, and I instinctively hit the Kindle app icon on my phone. I’m in the middle of a book (Inhuman, by Kat Falls, since you ask) and half an hour free to read seems like a good thing.

However, I am seriously not enjoying this book. It’s a typical dystopia – this is how the world is, oh wait, it’s not, oh wow now I hate the government. I’m not knocking this – I love these books when they’re done well. This particular book though has thrown in the inevitable love triangle which I just have no interest in whatsoever. It started with Twilight (no, Harry, Ron and Hermione were never a love triangle, I don’t care what you say) and has been present in at least 83% of young adult books since (statistics are sourced from the Barney Stinson Institute). The plain girl being fought over by two very different but both very wonderful men has been done to death. Now, if this is what you’re into, fair play to you. You’ll enjoy this book. But it’s not for me.

There’s a simple solution – stop reading every dystopian book that crosses my path. But I have issues (one at a time, please). I am obsessed with this genre. I have no idea why. And the worst part is, even if I don’t like a book, I will finish it. I need to know what happens to the characters. Even if it’s characters I dislike or the outcome is obvious, I need to know. What does this say about me? Am I easily suckered in? Has every book I’ve read in the last couple of years had astounding character development? I have no idea. Is this a rather rambly blog post? Why yes, yes it is.

I suppose it could be seen as a good thing – I’m dedicated, and I have to see something through to the end, no matter what. Or I’m just pernickety about unfinished story lines. I’ll finish this book, and I’ll probably complain about how predictable it was. A glutton for punishment, you might say.

Is anyone else like this? Is there a solution? Answers on a postcard please…

Another Year Wiser

I recently celebrated yet another anniversary of my birth.  So much has happened over the last year.  I’ve met some amazing people, and some total assholes.  I’ve moved into a beautiful new home, adopted two gorgeous little kittens, and had what can only be described as a rollercoaster of a year at work.  I think, for the first time, I actually feel older.  Did anyone else wake up on their birthdays as a kid, rushing to see if they’d grown any since the day before, or try to work out how much maturity they’d gained overnight?  That was me.  Shockingly, I never noticed a huge difference.  But this year, something is different.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I feel like an adult (who does?) but I’m definitely not a little kid anymore.  At the very least, I have a pretty good idea of what I want from life.  And I’m ready for it :-)  Bring it on.

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The boys hanging out in one of their favourite spots

Birchbox UK – December

I was over the moon to receive my first Birchbox at the end of last month.  After years of watching YouTube beauty and fashion videos, and moping that I didn’t live in the US because they “got all the cool stuff”, it took approximately half a second for a Google search to reveal that in fact, Birchbox have been operating in the UK for years.  Whoops.  I signed up in about 60 seconds flat.

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Without wanting to sound like I’m the person who gets suckered into everything with a sales pitch, this is fantastic.  It’s like getting a completely random gift without having to go to the effort of having a birthday (why yes, I am justifying this by grasping at straws, how sweet of you to notice).  It’s quoted as costing only £10 per month, which is a wee bit of a fib, considering there’s £2.95 postage too.  But I’m pretty impressed with December’s contents (plus the first month is free postage!) so I’m not complaining.

My box included sample sizes of five products, as well as a full sized nail polish (photo above).  I’ve tested most of the products so far, and it’s fair to say I’m impressed. I would never have bought a full sized version of any of these products if I had randomly seen them in a shop.  I’ve always been sceptical of non-aerosol hair sprays, but this one has great hold, and definitely doesn’t leave the sticky feeling that regular hairspray does.  Ditto on the loose powder eyeshadow – no one needs anything that’s going to cause any extra fall out or mess.  But this is cute, and a gorgeous colour (Chai, according to the bottom of the pot).  The lip stain I haven’t tested on my lips yet.  I’m always wary about new lip products, as there’s “something” out there that I’m allergic to.  A slick of Nivea lip balm as a teenager taught me this – I had a swollen lip for weeks.  Not a good look.  I’ll try it over the weekend when I won’t have to walk into work looking like I’ve gotten into a fight.  Nice colour though.

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I’m really looking forward to trying out the Velvet Manicure polish that was included too. You can’t really tell from the photo at the top, but it’s a gorgeous purple colour.  That’ll be a job for the weekend.

Oh, and I forgot to say, all of the products came in the sweetest little Birchbox bag! It’ll be good for when I’m travelling and I want to keep my makeup brushes separate from the actual products (I have pretty bad luck when it comes to lids…)

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Can’t wait till next month!

The Return

Goodness gracious.  Four posts in 12 months does not a blog make!  2014 is the year of the blog though.  Maybe even the vlog.  Who knows!

In all seriousness, 2013 was some year.  It swung from low points to high points so quickly that recapping it would give both you and I whiplash, so let’s not.

Instead, let’s look forward.  It’s going to be a good year.