Photo Sunday: Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day!

Usually, I’m not a fan of this particular holiday, because as a singleton I always end up feeling either that I should be depressed because I’m not in a relationship, or that I should make some kind of anti-Valentines stand to show how okay I am about it all.

Well, not this year. This year I decided that I was going to enjoy Valentines Day, and rather than sulk because my friends had written on Facebook about what an amazing day they were having, I decided to plan an equally awesome day for myself that I’d be equally happy to brag about. Who knows, maybe some of them will end up being jealous of me 😉

The fun actually started yesterday, when I went to a friend’s house for dinner and games night. She’s an amazing hostess, artist and cook, as evidenced by these beautiful appetisers. (Notice the Ladybird book of dating on the table; we thought it might have some good tips. It didn’t.) It was a lovely evening with good food, good friends and a rather delicious cocktail involving amaretto and apple and elderflower juice.

Appetisers

Then, this morning I took myself for a walk by the river, although not a very long one, because even though it was a sunny day, the wind was icy.

Greenhithe riverside walk

Ingress Abbey, Greenhithe

So I headed home, via the shop, where I picked up some flowers and a red berry candle, which smells amazing. And then I spent most of the afternoon and evening drinking tea and enjoying a Poldark marathon.

Valentines Day

(Because seriously, who needs a boyfriend when you can spend a few hours with this guy?)

Poldark

Oh, and I also made myself a roast dinner, but I don’t have a photo of that, because I was too busy eating it. But it was yummy.

I should also mention that this is day 1 of 28 Days of Love, a free, 28-day (obviously) course run by the ladies at Project Love, who were recently featured in Psychologies magazine. Basically the idea is every day for 28 days, you do something nice for yourself, whether it’s buying yourself flowers, having a lie-in, watching your favourite film or singing in the shower. It sounds awesome, I can’t wait 🙂

There’s still time to sign up for 28 Days of Love; who else fancies spoiling themselves a bit?

Happy Valentines Day! I (genuinely, for once) hope everyone – single or not – had a fantastic day.

Review: And Then There Were None

10 strangers on a remote island get murdered one by one, in a variety of horrible ways. Merry Christmas!

It’s true that a BBC adaptation of Agatha Christie’s best-selling thriller might not be particularly festive, but And Then There Were None was still far and away the best thing on TV this Christmas. And not only because of Aidan Turner’s towel. Although that was a big part of it.

Considering And Then There Were None is not only Agatha Christie’s most popular book but the best-selling mystery novel in the world ever, I’m a bit surprised I’ve never read it. But I did see a stage version earlier this year, and figured I’d got all the tension out of my system during those two nail-biting hours. So when I heard it was going to be on TV this Christmas, I assumed that without the stress of worrying about what was going to happen next, I’d be able to sit back, relax and look for clues, safe and smug in the knowledge of whodunnit.

And Then There Were None

Unfortunately, there’s literally nothing relaxing about this chilling murder mystery. Even the opening credits are dark and super creepy. And once you get a look at that island, in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a forbidding, lonely mansion on it, there’s no going back. Bad things are going to happen, and just because you know they’re coming, it doesn’t make them any easier to watch – particularly because they’re all accompanied by scary music and lingering silences, during which the characters all eye each other suspiciously in the semi-darkness (because of course there’s a three-day thunderstorm and everything has to be done by candlelight). Oh, and did I mention the poem, which predicts – sometimes rather cryptically – the method of each murder, and the ten figurines that disappear one by one as the characters meet their end? Nothing freaky about that…

As in the stage version, all the actual murdering has to take place off camera, so we don’t learn the identity of the culprit before the final big reveal. But that doesn’t make it any less tense – sure, it’s not ‘is the killer about to jump out of that wardrobe’ scary, but somehow ‘when will we trip over the next dead body, and who will it be’ is just as bad. And while some of the characters manage only a handful of lines before being bumped off, it’s hard not to get a bit attached to some of the others, even while knowing that the whole reason they’re on the island is because they’re bad people – and if they do survive, chances are it’s because they dunnit. (Not to mention the fact that the longer they last, the more unhinged they all become.)

While Poldark star Aidan Turner may be getting most of the attention in the press, because of that totally unnecessary but nonetheless very enjoyable scene, he’s just one member of a truly stellar cast that includes Charles Dance (a legend long before he was Tywin Lannister), Miranda Richardson, Sam Neill, Anna Maxwell Martin and Toby Stephens. And it’s not just about the big names; relative unknown Maeve Dermody was cast just two days before the first read through of the script, but you’d never know it from her haunting performance as Vera Claythorne. The adaptation is very much an ensemble effort, with each of the actors getting their turn in the spotlight as, one by one, the characters’ secrets are revealed through dialogue and flashbacks.

Each episode carries a warning of upsetting scenes, which is a message I’ve learnt to take very seriously since that infamous episode of Downton Abbey left us all scarred for life. And although there’s not a lot of gore in And Then There Were None, there is plenty to disturb and mess with your head. It’s a classic murder mystery of the best kind, which keeps you guessing throughout with its twists and turns and surprises.

Also, Aidan Turner in a towel. Thank you, BBC.

Aidan Turner in And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None is available on BBC iPlayer if you missed it. But I don’t recommend watching it late at night. Particularly if you’re home alone during a thunderstorm, and the power’s gone out. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Which Hogwarts house are you, and other important questions

The other day, during some training at work, a colleague and I were given a quick task to do. I think it was a simple version of a test originally devised by Carl Jung, which sorts you into four different personality types – in this case based on two criteria: how introverted/extroverted you are, and whether you make decisions based on logic or emotion.

To nobody’s surprise, I came out as ‘green’ (emotional introvert), which is the group that wants everyone to get along, even if it means not much gets done as a result. Interestingly, after the training, when we challenged the rest of the office to take the same test, it turned out I was the only one who fell in that category. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not… but hey, at least someone’s keeping it friendly.

Here’s a brief summary of the four categories – which one are you?

Yellow – sunny personality, outgoing, easily distracted, wants recognition, needs other people

Red – wants to win, dominant personality, loves a challenge, doesn’t let emotion get in the way

Green – wants harmony, calm in a crisis, indecisive, not good at confrontation

Blue – rational, analytical, likes to plan, can seem negative but just considering all angles

Read more about these categories

Anyway, this was all very interesting, and got me thinking about a few other personality tests we could have taken. And then obviously I had to take all the tests to see if I’d correctly predicted the results. Some of them were quite surprising…

Personality tests

Which Hogwarts house do you belong to?

My prediction: Hufflepuff

Result: Hufflepuff

Everyone wants to be Gryffindor, obviously – but we can’t all be, or the whole Hogwarts system would fall apart. Hufflepuff values hard work, dedication and loyalty above all else. We don’t get the glory very often, but then we don’t really want it, so that’s okay. I’m actually pretty happy with this result, because it seems there’s less chance of dying horribly (let’s not mention Cedric). And at least I didn’t get Slytherin.

Test taken: http://www.playbuzz.com/emilyz14/the-hogwarts-sorting-quiz-pottermore-version

Which Strictly Come Dancing judge are you?

Prediction: Darcey

Result: Len

Interesting – I’d assumed that I’d be Darcey, who always has something nice to say, even to the worst dancers. I know from my theatre reviewing that I always look for the positives first and foremost, and feel mean if I say anything horrible. But I can live with being Len, who’s very fair – as long as you stay on his good side and don’t totally mess up. I probably don’t talk about pickled walnuts enough… but that’s okay, I think.

Test taken: http://www.whatsontv.co.uk/node/226616/take

Which Bennet sister are you?

Prediction: Jane

Result: Elizabeth

I was so sure I’d be Jane – the nice one, who just wants everyone to be happy – that I took two different tests, and got Elizabeth both times. But I’m pretty happy with that, as she’s one of my favourite literary heroines. So if anyone needs me, I’ll be taking a turn around the room and waiting for Mr Darcy to turn up on my doorstep to declare his love. That’s how it works, right?

Tests taken: http://www.allthetests.com/quiz09/quiz/1088032658/Pride-and-Prejudice-Which-Bennet-sister-are-you and http://www.ew.com/article/2015/09/23/quiz-which-bennet-sister-are-you

Which Doctor Who are you?

Prediction: er, don’t know… David Tennant?

Result: William Hartnell (the first Doctor)

I really don’t know enough about Doctor Who to accurately predict this one, but it was on TV tonight, so I thought I’d include it. Also I have a bit of a thing for David Tennant, so I was hoping I’d get him, but no such luck. I’m not sure how I feel about my result; apparently the first doctor was difficult to get close to because he seemed kind of rude – but I like the fact that deep down he seems to have had everyone’s best interests at heart. Any Doctor Who fans able to tell me if this is a good result or not?!

Test taken: http://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2013/11/personality-quiz-doctor/

Which Friend are you?

Prediction: Chandler

Result: Phoebe

This result makes no sense at all, as Phoebe’s probably the character I identify with the least. As much as I love a bit of randomness, I’m nowhere near as impulsive or whacky as she is. And I hate singing in public. So I’m sticking to my original pick of Chandler, who’s famously risk-averse and uses humour to get out of awkward situations, which is much more my style. And hopefully it means I’ll (eventually) meet my perfect partner living right next door, fall in love and live happily ever after…

Test taken: http://www.playbuzz.com/ainhoaa10/which-friends-main-character-are-you

There’s nothing particularly scientific about any of these tests, admittedly, but they’re still fun to do, and interesting for the occasional insight 🙂 How did you do – any surprises?

 

Christmas is here!

Well okay, no it’s not. Not really. But the lights are on along Oxford Street, Starbucks have got their red cups out again, and Elf the Musical’s just opened in the West End.

And in case there was any doubt left, today John Lewis released their Christmas ad.

For readers not in the UK, let me explain. John Lewis is a department store, known – more so than anything else these days – for its festive ad campaign. (Well, that and the poor guy called John Lewis who keeps getting their tweets.) The ad release is always a much-hyped occasion, and this year was no exception; it’s been the top trending topic on Twitter all day, and I even saw an article earlier about ‘celebrity reactions to the John Lewis ad’. Apparently Tom from McFly is very excited that they’ve combined Christmas and space. So that’s good to know.

And so, in honour of this great day, I spent my lunch break watching the back catalogue of John Lewis Christmas ads, in order to bring you my top 5. I’m now emotionally spent. You’re welcome.

Here goes:

Sweet Child of Mine (2009)

This probably isn’t one many people remember (I know I didn’t) because it came all the way back in 2009, before John Lewis discovered the magic formula of telling a story and making people cry. But it makes me smile – mostly because I have a tendency to turn into a bit of a child myself at Christmas. And I quite like the folky version of Guns N’ Roses too…

The Journey (2012)

In which a snowman embarks on a perilous adventure into the city to buy a scarf for his girlfriend. Never mind that she’s made of snow, and therefore buying her something that’s going to warm her up is probably a bad idea – it’s a cute story, with romance, danger and a bit of humour, and it does give you a warm, fuzzy feeling.

The Long Wait (2011)

This is the first John Lewis ad I remember, because it was the first one that really caused a sensation. In it, a cute little boy can’t wait for Christmas to come… but only because he’s excited about giving his parents their gift. A bit sugary sweet, maybe, but it’s a nice twist that makes the ad memorable and tugs on the heartstrings.

Man on the Moon (2015)

I have many questions about this year’s offering. Who is the man on the moon? How did he get there? How amazing is that little girl’s telescope that she can so easily spot him? And how did she afford that expensive gift?

But all these puzzlements aside, I really like this year’s ad, and it might possibly have brought a tear to my eye. Just a little one. (And the people making jokes about Jimmy Savile make me sad.)

Monty the Penguin (2014)

I’m fairly sure that unless next year’s ad features Gleb from Strictly (don’t watch Strictly? Google him, and thank me later) holding a baby panda and a tiger cub*, the 2014 ad is going to remain my favourite for the foreseeable future. Because it has a penguin, and penguins are adorable.

* By the way, John Lewis, if you’re reading – I’m totally on board with this idea.

If you’re wondering what happened to The Bear and the Hare, they didn’t make the cut. As a big fan of sleep, I can’t agree with the idea that a good friend is someone who drags you out of your cosy bed and into the cold, even for a special occasion; doing that to me is a good way to get struck off the Christmas card list.

What’s your favourite John Lewis ad? Did you cry watching The Man on the Moon? Or do you think it’s all a load of unnecessary fuss?

Either way – it looks like Christmas is definitely upon us, so we might as well just go with it.

20 signs you’re definitely getting old

Last Sunday, something AMAZING happened. Like, it was possibly the greatest day of my life. I’m not even exaggerating, because last Sunday, I was followed on Twitter by one of my childhood heroes.

Yep, that’s right. Gordon the Gopher, who’s all set for a comeback after over 20 years out of the public eye, is now following me on Twitter.

I KNOW, right?!

If – like many of my colleagues – you read that and said ‘Who?’ then this may not be the post for you. This post is for the people like me, who remember Gordon the Gopher, and the Broom Cupboard, and the days before Phillip Schofield had grey hair. Yes, there was such a time. See?

Phillip Schofield in the CBBC Broom Cupboard

But Schofe’s hair isn’t the only thing that’s changed since I was a yoof. So, just to make us all feel like old folk, here are 20 signs we’re not as young as we used to be. I’ve probably forgotten loads, so please share your suggestions too, and let’s all be ancient together…

20 signs you’re definitely getting old

You remember when this was a shock twist.

You reminisce about the Great Storm of 1987, even though you were only five when it happened and you don’t really remember it at all.

You used to actually talk to your best friend on the phone, while sitting in the kitchen or your parents’ bedroom, because that’s where the landline was. And you knew her phone number off by heart, whereas these days you have trouble remembering your own.

You remember when Robbie left Take That, the first time.

When you said ‘I’ll just read to the end of this chapter,’ you had no idea how long that would be, unless you physically flicked forward (which all readers know you should never do).

Especially if you were reading Point Horror – which obviously you were, because everyone was.

You had to plan how to get to places before leaving home, using an atlas.

Getting your photos back from Boots after a three-day wait was literally the most exciting thing ever – until you realised that half of them were rubbish.

Photos from Boots

You remember when phone boxes were used to call people, instead of just for tourist selfies.

You used to buy a TV guide every week, set the video to record things, and you had to actually watch the adverts.

Oh, and you remember Ceefax.

Compiling a playlist meant hours of going through your tape collection, then figuring out how to use your parents’ stereo system to record the tracks.

You remember when Ant and Dec were PJ and Duncan. And not just the pop band; you actually remember when they played PJ and Duncan in Byker Grove.

Speaking of which, Byker Grove and Grange Hill were your compulsory after-school viewing.

All your favourite movies have by now been either re-made (seriously, why?) or re-released in 3D, at which point all your younger friends get super excited because they weren’t even born the first time around.

You used to eat meals without photographing them from every angle first.

You watched Popstars, and actually cared who won.

Going on holiday used to mean cutting off all communication with anyone back home for a week, except for a postcard. Which always arrived after you got home, and so was essentially pointless.

You researched all your school work using books. At a library.

And finally…

No matter how many may follow in his footsteps, you know that Colin Firth is the only true Mr Darcy.

What makes you feel old? Let me know in the comments!