Monday Motivation: Be positive

Woohoo! It’s November 30th, and that means I’ve officially completed the NaBloPoMo 30-day blogging challenge. I’ve posted something every day this month – with some days admittedly requiring a bit more effort than others – and it’s been a lot of fun. Partly this is because I’ve remembered why I love writing, but mostly it’s because it’s reminded me of the whole reason I started this blog in the first place, which was to focus on the little happy things that happen every single day, and spend less time dwelling on the bad stuff.

Happy orange

Some of you will have heard this story before, but the inspiration behind The Blog of Happy Things was one evening a couple of years ago, when I was due to meet my parents and sister at the theatre. Unfortunately, they got caught in horrible traffic and didn’t arrive at the theatre until the interval of what was already quite a short play. I think in the end they got to watch about forty minutes of slightly confusing action before heading home again.

In the car on the way home, I suddenly realised that I’d just spent the last twenty minutes complaining about what a terrible day I’d had, and I was so ashamed of myself that I promptly shut up altogether. Because whatever it was that had happened – and I can’t remember now, so it was obviously pretty insignificant – it didn’t really compare to my family’s experience of sitting in a traffic jam for two hours and missing half of a play that they’d paid to see.

I was reminded of this story whilst watching the following TED talk, by Alison Ledgerwood, which considers why all human beings have a tendency to focus on the negative side of life, and how we can turn that on its head to celebrate the positives instead. It certainly resonated with me, and I hope it’s helpful to you too.

Thank you for sticking with me over the past month; I hope to keep up the habit of blogging regularly (although I can’t promise it’ll be every day, what with Christmas and all that jazz) and sharing little happy things for a long time to come 🙂

Davis Cup: we are the champions!

Well. We only went and won the Davis Cup.

GB win Davis Cup final

Just to put this in perspective, six years ago Great Britain were in danger of being relegated to the very bottom group of the annual tennis world championship, after a humiliating defeat in Lithuania (and yes, it really was humiliating – I was one of the British fans who put their heads down and scurried out of the arena while the home fans celebrated).

But hey, things could only get better. And they have – ever since Leon Smith took over as captain, we’ve been steadily working our way back through the groups, largely because he seems to know exactly what to say and do to get the best out of his players. We were unlucky to miss out last year, after defeat in Italy (I was at that one too; I’m pretty sure I’m a jinx at away ties) and this year, we beat the USA, France and Australia on our way to reaching the final for the first time since 1978.

Obviously, a lot of our success is down to Andy Murray, who’s won all 11 of his Davis Cup matches this year, including three this weekend. But it’s a team event, and every member of the British team has played their part – James Ward, who shocked everyone by beating John Isner earlier this year; Jamie Murray, a staple of our doubles team alongside his brother; Kyle Edmund, who made his Davis Cup debut on Friday and came so close to beating David Goffin, a player ranked way above him. And though they weren’t members of the team this weekend (we’re only allowed to name four players for each tie), we mustn’t forget Dom Inglot, who played in the doubles against the USA, and Dan Evans, who was part of the team that beat Australia in the semis.

GB win Davis Cup final

This weekend, we went in as favourites – not surprising since we had the world number 2 in our team – but it wasn’t all plain sailing. The Belgians put up a great fight and gave us a few tense moments, particularly during yesterday’s doubles match. Unfortunately (or perhaps luckily given my record at away ties), I couldn’t go to Ghent, but I watched it all on TV, getting closer and closer to the edge of my seat and cheering like a crazy person when Andy won today’s match against Goffin to seal the tie.

Although I couldn’t be there this weekend, I’ve been to a lot of Davis Cup ties over the years, and there’s always an incredible atmosphere. Though it can often be tense, and occasionally depressing, at the end of the day, everyone’s there for one reason, to support their country. And there’s something pretty special about being part of such a united group, whether there’s just a handful of people, like in Lithuania, or it’s a home tie where the Brits form the majority.

It’s also an excuse to go a bit mad, make a lot of noise and jump up and down like an idiot, often whilst wearing ridiculous clothes. I’m a pretty quiet person, but have no problem screaming my head off at a Davis Cup tie – so make of that what you will.

In case you missed it, here’s the moment Great Britain became Davis Cup champions for the first time since 1936. I was hoping for a court invasion if Andy won, and I wasn’t disappointed. Also, how adorable are his grandparents?!

Congratulations Team GB, it was a long road but we made it 🙂 Let’s do it all again next year…

Wizardly wisdom: 20 Harry Potter quotes to live by

This post was inspired by one I read the other day on Flight and Scarlet, which listed three top quotes from the Harry Potter series.

Being something of a Potter geek myself, I’ve read the books many, many times (I don’t even know how many, if I’m honest – and there’s a good chance I’ll have to start them all over again in light of this post). And each time I do, I’m struck by the fact that J.K. Rowling’s creation is so much more than just a good story – although it is a fantastic story, obviously, and I still half wish it could all turn out to be true after all. Largely because I really want to know how to Apparate, so I can stop catching the train to work.

It took me a while to realise, because I was so caught up in the action of the story itself, but there are so many lessons in Harry Potter that are applicable to our Muggle world – even if our lives are a bit less exciting and dramatic. Stuff about good and evil, friendship, courage and justice. About accepting people for who they are and honouring the memory of those we’ve lost. And – perhaps most relevant of all – the importance of pulling together during dark and troubled times.

So if you’ve never read Harry Potter, maybe now’s the time to give the series a try (I know the first two books aren’t great, but trust me, from The Prisoner of Azkaban they get so good). And if you have, maybe give them another look. You may find words of wisdom you missed the first time around. And even if you don’t, at least you can enjoy looking for them.

Here are a few of my personal highlights. Did I miss any of your favourites?

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

“When in doubt, go to the library.”

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

“You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us?”

“The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed.”

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”

“I am what I am, an’ I’m not ashamed. ‘Never be ashamed,’ my ol’ dad used ter say, ‘there’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth botherin’ with.’”

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.”

“It is impossible to manufacture or imitate love.”

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

“People find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right.”

“It is important,” Dumbledore said, “to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then could evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated.’”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both influencing injury, and remedying it.”

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

“Perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it.”

“Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and above all those who live without love.”

“We are all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.”

Right. I’m off to start book 1 again…

Harry Potter quotes

Christmas at the Circus

A few months ago, my office entered into the usual painful process of deciding where and how to celebrate Christmas. There’s a pattern to this annual ordeal – whoever’s been tricked into organising it that year collects suggested venues and tries to find a date everyone can do… then we all forget about it for a while, until we’re left with very little choice of either. And so we’ve had some mixed results over the years: the James Bond party in 2012 was great, while the murder mystery in 2013 – not so much. Last year’s boat party was fun, but we’re all still a bit confused by the Prohibition party in 2011.

This year, the venue we eventually settled on was The Circus, a cocktail bar and cabaret restaurant in Covent Garden. And the date… was a Wednesday. Which seemed like a reasonable idea until Thursday morning, when we all had to get up and go to work. (One day we’ll learn that Friday is the only acceptable night for work parties.)

So what exactly is The Circus? Well, it’s a few things, really, so let’s break it down:

It’s a restaurant. Not your typical Christmas dinner fare – to a few people’s disappointment, there was no turkey on offer – but The Circus boasts a delicious Pan-Asian fusion menu. After a selection of tasty starters, which brought with them the added entertainment of watching us all attempt to use chopsticks, we moved on to our pre-selected main courses (fortunately we were given cutlery for these, or I’d probably still be there now). I’d picked the duck and tomatillo red curry, which was lovely, although I did find myself eyeing up the steak dish and wishing I’d chosen that instead – it looked incredible, and one of the guys later told me it was the best steak he’d ever eaten. But hey, at least I know for next time.

By the time the final course arrived – a box containing a trio of desserts – I was pretty much too full to eat anything, and it didn’t help that our sitting was coming to an end, so the staff were keen to clear the table as soon as possible. So I can’t really comment on dessert, although what I managed of the salted caramel and dark chocolate tart was amazing.

The Circus dessert box

It’s a bar. Quite an expensive one, so be prepared. (Also beware of the Free Cuba cocktail, which – despite its name – is definitely not free. Although it is rather yummy.) The bar area isn’t massive, but we had enough space after our meal for the important stuff, like taking drunken selfies and convincing one of the guys to try on a pair of stilettos. He seemed to quite enjoy it…

drinks at The Circus

It’s a cabaret. The entertainment is what really makes The Circus a unique venue. We’d been advised by a colleague who’d been before that we should try and get the stage table, and fortunately it was available. What we didn’t realise was that it’s called the stage table because the table actually is the stage. So in between each course, our plates were whisked away and we were asked to please hold on to our drinks.

This was to make way for the performers, who brought us a variety of incredible acts, from acrobatics to fire eating, all just above our heads. I can’t say how it would all look if you’re at a table in the back of the room, but when you’re sitting right at the heart of the action, it’s pretty amazing – so I’d definitely recommend trying to book the stage table if you have the chance to go.

entertainment at The Circus

It’s a club. Apparently at weekends, you can dance on the stage table. I’m not sure how I feel about this idea, but fortunately it wasn’t an issue for us, because – did I mention? – we went on a Wednesday.

If you’re looking for a fun night out, with good food, and entertainment that’s a bit different, The Circus is a great venue. It’s not cheap, but then it’s in central London, so that’s not surprising. It was also probably our least Christmassy Christmas party ever, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable. And we did indulge in a glass of mulled wine before we left the office – so I guess the festive season starts here…

Table at the Circus