Archive for April, 2013

Emotionally Fragile

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

It appears I am becoming weaker and more emotionally responsive in my old age as I have now been brought to tears by two advertisements. Ads are making me blabber like a girl (ok, yes I am a girl but not a girly-girl), which is scary for me and good news for the marketing departments producing these things.

My first tear-jerking advertisement experience happened when I went to see a film at the Cornerhouse. Before the movie, one of the far-too-many ads was for the Volkswagen Polo where it follows the life of a girl from birth until she leaves home and watches her relationship with her father. The first time I saw it and started tearing up I was already feeling a little homesick and emotional so could accept my over reaction as the girl drove away from her house in her news Volkswagen and her father waved goodbye. But then a week later I went and saw another film, the same ad came on and more tears formed in my eyes. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?! Even watching it now on YouTube makes me sad.

My Dad sent me a link to this second advertisement and as I sat and ate my lunch today and watched it, tears formed in my eyes once more. This ad for Dove is very well done and most likely speaks to many women (and some men too.) So instead of hiding the fact that advertisements are working on me and that I now want to buy a Polo and wear Dove moisturiser, I thought I’d share them with you all.

Real Beauty Sketches from John X. Carey on Vimeo.

 

Scratching It Up

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

Every week at the Manchester Art Gallery there is an event called Thursday Late where the art gallery stays open until 9pm and there are activities, workshops, talks, tours, etc. This week the theme was “Walk the Line” and focused on printing and knitting and the role art and craft play in keeping humans happy and sane. This is a subject close to my heart, although my desire to get into craft has moved me away from sanity on occasion. But nothing will hold me away from FREE CRAFT!! So along I went.

I arrived at 5.30pm for Craft Bites – a short discussion session run by a member of the art gallery staff where visitors are encouraged to have their say about a piece of work within the gallery. At first I was the only person there, but soon another participant arrived and so the two of us went with the lovely events co-ordinator to look at and discuss dresses. We were eventually joined by some other people who heard our discussion and decided to join in. It was a fun, although slightly off-topic, discussion session that ended up being mostly a whinge about the lack of arts jobs in England. A positive spin was that I came away with a new friend, and she and I went and joined an etching session downstairs.

This was fantastic! We were given a piece of cardboard, one side of which was shiny silver, plus a sharp pencil. We were then told to draw a portrait of ourselves or someone we knew, creating an indent into the silver. We then applied a oil-based ink (although this was brilliant stuff as it also washed off with water and soap!) which we pushed deep into the grooves we had created, wiped off the excess ink and then placed our blocks into a press with a wet sheet of paper. The result was as follows:

Hello.

Hello.

Considering I started and completed this in around 15 minutes, I think it is fantastic and I am pleased to have been able to try an etching technique. It was much easier than I expected and I think that will some fiddling I could do more with it. I am currently trying to work out how I can recreate the bricks of Manchester. I am completely in love with the dark red bricks that have been used to build all of the industrial buildings. Perhaps etching is my answer… we shall wait and see.

World Book Night

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Yesterday was World Book Night – an event coinciding with the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death where throughout the US, UK and Ireland people hand out free books to be read and shared. I was sitting at the café at the Cornerhouse yesterday afternoon, attempting to write, when two girls came up and asked if I would like a book. But of course! The book was Jackie Kay’s Red Dust Road and I was instructed that I should read it and pass it on to someone else. There is a tracking code within the book so I can watch its movements.

Hooray for World Book Night!

Hooray for World Book Night!

It was a delightful surprise as I had heard murmurs of this event via various social media throughout the day but wasn’t really sure what it was. Being suddenly part of it was fantastic and I look forward to reading my book. I just have to get through Anna Karenina first.

Good Old George

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Today is apparently St George’s Day in England. As I don’t really know what that means, I have conducted a quick search where I have discovered:

  1. St George is Patron Saint of England
  2. For awhile St George’s day was a day of feasting and national holiday until England joined with Scotland and that stopped
  3. You’re supposed to fly the St George’s flag and wear a red rose.
  4. Since Shakespeare died on this day, it is now National Book Day.

Ok that is the strangest explanation for a ‘day’ that I have ever read on one webpage but that’s what I found on www.stgeorgesday.com

Manchester celebrated early with a weekend of ‘activities’. This was mostly the installation of a large drinking tent and three carnival rides outside the Town Hall. Sunday morning there was also the St George’s Day parade, which I decided I should attend so that I could learn more about the important national event.

It was the worst parade that I have ever seen. Ever. I waited for over an hour in the cold (the sun from the day before had disappeared) to eventually witness some belly dancers, a few trucks filled with children wearing red and white and waving flags, and two stretched hummers that are clearly normally used for hen’s nights and with slightly inappropriate words written on the side, go past down the street. It lasted approximately six minutes and I didn’t see one dragon.

The most relevant float in the entire parade.

The most relevant float in the entire parade.

I left feeling a little bit confused about what St George’s Day is actually about and it would appear that most British people are too. Poor George and his dragon. Hopefully one day I will find out the true meaning of his celebration and I will hold my own parade in his honour.

Rediscovering Shakespeare

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

During high school, I loathed reading Shakespeare. I didn’t understand it, there were long dramatic monologues that just annoyed me, and I was then forced to write essays that I generally failed. So as a result, my thoughts towards Will have never been particularly positive and I have avoided interacting with his work as much as possible. So imagine my current state of surprise that I have spent the last few days walking around talking to myself in ye-olde-Shakespearean. Yes, perhaps I am slowly going mad, or maybe I have experienced the momentous occasion in one’s life when suddenly Shakespeare makes sense.

While in Paris, I received an email from a Manchester-events-website, GoSeeThis, offering me discounted tickets to see an all-male production by the theatre group, Propeller, of Taming of the Shrew and/or The Twelfth Night at the Lowry Theatre. As a lover of bargains and discounts, I couldn’t look past it so bought tickets for myself and my cousin, Lesley, to see Taming of the Shrew.

It was wonderful – a contemporary version with music, singing, comedy, great costumes and very clever stage production. It was fast paced but moving – the main conflict of male/female roles was quite confronting for the audience and we were all made to feel quite uncomfortable about the concepts being portrayed. The actors were brilliant as they changed between roles and portrayed female characters with amazing skill.

Lesley and I enjoyed it so much that we decided to try and get tickets for the Twelfth Night the following evening. So Saturday we headed back to the Lowry to watch yet another wonderful production, again with a clever inclusion of song and music but a completely different feel to the piece we had seen the night before.

I came away from both of these shows with a sudden desire to read Shakespeare – that’s how good the productions were! I have become aware of the great stories in his works and that maybe I am missing out on some wonderful literature.

How Ugly is Ugly?

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Very ugly.

Wow.

Wow.

Just in case you wanted to see in detail the hideousness of the medal that I ran 42km for.

The Next Challenge

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Ok, I’ve done a marathon. Tick. Now I need to publish a book. That is significantly more daunting than running 42 kilometres and so today I came up with a genius idea which is either stupid and will just die out or brilliant and will actually work. I am hoping for the latter.

I am going to think of 108 ‘challenges’ or ‘tasks’ that I need to complete over the next 108 days, one of which is “Finish writing my book.” So on 31 July, I will have a final draft that will have been sent to publishers for their perusal. The other challenges will be smaller (although one is to go on holiday to somewhere sunny which is hardly small) and I am still working on the list. Currently it includes learning Dutch, working with an artist in their studio and reading Anna Karenina. I will write about each challenge as I complete it on my new website, 108 in 108, that I quickly threw together today using WordPress templates. The design isn’t mine but I love the balloons! So much fun.

So please follow along, support me and push me. I really struggle with the lack of motivation to finish so would appreciate all kicking up the butt. Go find those steel-capped boots! I am one stubborn mule.

Marathon Completed!

Monday, April 8th, 2013

I, Jessica Davies, writer of words, traveller of countries, blonde of hair, am now officially a runner of marathons. I DID IT! I am currently experiencing a sense of complete personal pride. In my mind, I am the fittest, most talented, most generally genius person in the world. It’ll pass, but for a few hours I am going to feel really bloody good about myself. And I think that’s fair enough – I just ran 42.195 kilometres in 4 hours, 42 minutes and 24 seconds.

The experience was extremely rewarding – as my group (we were separated into groups by expected completion times) set off from the starting line, I felt a huge surge of excitement and general “wow, this is happening!” as I joined thousands of feet hitting the pavements of Paris. The weather was PERFECT. Sunshine, clear skies and no wind. It was the wind I was concerned about – there was none of that today! It was cold at the start but by the time we got moving it got quite warm. We headed down the Champs Elysées, past the Louvre and through the centre of Paris before hitting the Bois de Vincennes, returning back through Paris, past the Eiffel Tower, through the Bois de Bologne and back to the Arc de Triomphe. Not a bad place to run. Thankfully, Paris is nice and flat so there were no major hills to climb.

While the weather was perfect and the scenery beautiful, the toilet situation wasn’t – there were portaloos set up at various points along the course, but by the time my slower group reached them they were all disgusting. Really not pleasant. I quickly ducked into a café along the route and smiled a “I’m running a marathon which is a really long way and you should DEFINITELY let me use your loo” smile and it worked. In and out like a flash, I was. Now I shall move on from discussing my ablutions.

I felt reasonably strong for most of the course and have potentially become addicted to sports-energy-goo-things. They’re DELICIOUS! I was eating chocolate flavoured goop whilst running through Paris in the sunshine! How great is that! The last five kilometres were a little bit extremely tough as my thighs were screaming at me, my feet were questioning my motives and my original plan on telling myself that five kilometres is the shortest distance I will ever let myself run in the mornings on my everyday jogs didn’t really work. Five kilometres became REALLY LONG and as I watched other runners dropping off, getting cramp and walking I doubted whether or not I would make it. This is starting to sound like a soap opera. Anyway, I didn’t stop, I popped another energy goo and as I hit the final kilometre the adrenaline kicked in as I realised that I was about to finish running a marathon. LET’S RUN FASTER! Without any consultation with my brain, my legs started working harder and I crossed the finish line in an impressive non-jogging pace. Hardly a sprint, but still. I was impressed.

Somewhat pathetically, I almost cried as I crossed the line, I was that glad it was over and that proud of my achievement. No tears were physically shed but they were in there somewhere. I collected my horribly green tshirt and my ridiculously hideous medal before walking very, very slowly to the metro. Walking down stairs in currently a challenge. Yes, the medal is awful – it is a huge rectangular thing with very poorly shaped text and images and some terrible colour choices. Whoever designed it needs to go back to design school. But still. I have a medal! WOO! It’s like winning the Olympics.

So I am now looking for another marathon to run! But if I do it I will have to take my amazing friends who met me before the marathon and positioned themselves at multiple points along the route waving flags and cheering for me as I passed. Knowing that they were waiting for me spurred me on and I feel so grateful for having such wonderful, supportive friends. Merci, mes amies! Vous êtes les BOMBS! A super huge thank you to Becky for your artistic sign-making skills and for being heavily pregnant yet willing to stand outside in the cold for hours waiting for me to run past. You’re either crazy or amazing.

And just to make this sound even more like an Oscar acceptance speech, I also would like to thank my friend Brett for making an unexpected, unrequested but ultimately generous and life changing gesture of sponsoring me so that I could afford to run in the marathon. Without him, I probably would have said “Bah, too expensive!” and never gone ahead with it. Then there were my fantastic parents who also helped me out and my friend Sonia who insisted on donating to the “Make Jess Run a Marathon” fund. And finally to my cousin, Sam for his kind shoe donation. I would like to recommend that everyone buys Mizuno shoes. They’ll get you across the line!

So my brain isn’t functioning properly, my legs are so, so, so stiff and I’m not sure I can stand up from this chair. But that was one of the best days of my life. Can I do it again?