Pushed for time…

November 28, 2007 at 10:28 pm (Life gets in the way...) (, , , )

Clock face

It’s  that time of year again when, once again, I feel constantly pushed for time. All the rushing around involved with seasonal shopping just heightens the sense of frenzy that takes hold of me as December inches ever closer…

Is it just me, or has this year apparently whizzed past faster than a whizzy thing on speed? It seems like it was New Year just five minutes ago and now, all of a sudden, we’re hurtling towards another New Year. Of course, before that we have to survive various winter festivals.

Personally, I’m not all that bothered about Christmas. Nowadays it’s turned into a commercial holiday rather than a religious one. Now, before I go any further, I’d like to remind folks that I am not, in any way, shape or form, a Christian, nor any denomination of the Christian faith – I am, in fact, a Pagan, and have been for more than half my life. My preference would be to have a quiet celebration of the Winter Solstice (Yule), which falls a few days before Christmas on the shortest day of the light. My family, however, although the majority of them are not religious, go  for Christmas with a vengeance! My Mam, in particular, turns into an overgrown five-year-old and as the days on the chocolate advent calendar are opened, she becomes more wide-eyed and excited till she’s almost squealing come Christmas Eve!

Dale has this year turned into a bit of a Humbug and was all for cancelling Christmas, till I pointed out just how impossible that would be, seeing as how we’re related to my mother, so he’s relented and has, at last, requested we get in a turkey crown for the Big Day (as last year’s one turned out smashing!).

This will be only our second Christmas by ourselves (last year was the first) and we’re looking forward to being able to doss around in our dressing gowns till we feel like getting dressed (if at all!) and eating when we feel hungry, rather than running on someone else’s schedule.

Anyway, Christmas itself isn’t the only thing that’s looming – it’s all the preparation and the associate gatherings, as well as the numerous occasions on which one is expected to stuff one’s self with festive feasts that mount up! This is how my own countdown month is looking at the moment:

All gifts for family members and friends not living in Aberdeen must be bought and wrapped by the evening of 13 December, as my sister and I are doing the Santa Run on the morning of 14 December. But it’s not as simple as that – where is the time to actually get those gifts?

Friday 30 November – Driving to Braemar to have lunch with Dad and Stepsie.
Saturday 1 December – One day of shopping for Christmas gifts.
Sunday 2 December – Presence required at filming of VT segment, as I am the reserve for a team going on a TV quiz show.
Monday 3 December – Getting hair cut and dyed. Small amount of shopping time.
Tuesday 4 December – Work at office all day, followed by evening class.
Wednesday 5 December – Work all day in office. Dale starts working night shift.*
Thursday 6 December – Work all day in office, followed by Posh Club Christmas Meal. Dale working night shift.*
Friday 7 December – Work all day in office. Dale working night shift.*
Saturday 8 December – Coffee with the girls. Small amount of shopping time.
Sunday 9 December – Only day Dale and I are off work together – spend much needed time with hubby!
Monday 10 December – Work all day in office.
Tuesday 11 December – Work all day in office, followed by evening class.
Wedneday 12 December – Work all day in office. Team Christmas Lunch. Dale working night shift.*
Thursday 13 December – Work all day in office. Boss taking us out for dinner. Dale working night shift.*
Friday 14 December – Travel to Edinburgh to visit Rod and Doogie. Possibly see a show. Dale working night shift.*
Saturday 15 December – Travel to Northumberland. Stay with Mam and Pappy. Meet Daddy and Uncle Caz in evening.
Sunday 16 December – Small amount of shopping time for presents required for Aberdeen friends and family.
Monday 17 December – Travel back to Aberdeen.
Tuesday 18 December – Work all day in office, followed by evening class.
Wednesday 19 December – Work all day in office. Dale working night shift.*
Thursday 20 December – Work all day in office. Dale working night shift.*
Friday 21 December – Work all day in office. Dale working night shift.*
Saturday 22 December – Last minute shopping for groceries and gifts.
Sunday 23 December – Last minute last minute shopping for things I forgot to get on Saturday.
Monday 24 December – Day off work to make sure I really do have everything.
Tuesday 25 December – Open gifts. Cook big dinner. Collapse on sofa with jeans unbuttoned. Clean up mess.
Wednesday 26 December – Have nervous breakdown.
Thursday 27 December – Work all day in the office.
Friday 28 December – Work all day in the office.
Saturday 29 December – Go to bed and refuse to come out till January 3!

And then there’s no more time! That’s it! That’s my lot! Not only that, but at some point between Tuesday 18 and Monday 24, I will have to squeeze in a time to see my sister and her hubby, and also my Dad and Stepsie, to exchange gifts and just generally spend time together, as we won’t see each other on Christmas Day. Add to that the fact that I haven’t yet written my cards and I will have to find time to wrap all the gifts I still need to buy, and also the fact that I actually get lots of homework from my evening class, I don’t seem to have a second to  myself!

* Note: While Dale is on night shift, I will be all by myself. I cannot sleep when I am all by myself, as I’m used to having another person there (i.e. Dale), and so I can expect to get maybe 2 or 3 hours per night if I’m lucky. Oh, what fun! 

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Cirque de Celebrité II – Quarter Final

November 25, 2007 at 10:35 pm (Music, Film and Television) (, )

Cirque de Celebrité II

Here’s my round-up of the live performance this evening, which was the Quarter Final, with only 5 contestants remaining!

As there were are 5 contenders left, each contestant had to make two performances – one on a new discipline, the other an advanced routine on a discipline shown earlier in the series, although not necessarily one they’d already performed in the past. The new disciplines were the High Wire (20 feet off the ground) and the Russian Bar (a narrow, flexible bar used to bounce and perform gymnsatic moves). The old disciplines were the Fire Poi and Aerial Hoop.

The new disciplines
Antonia opened the show on the High Wire. During training, she actually suffered a panic attack and it was obvious she was very nervous as she made her way unsteadily across the wire. However, se DID get across and on the return crossing she tried jumping over a professional highwire walker (who was crouched on the wire half-ay across) and almost pulled it off. She stayed onthe wire, but only because of the safety lunge, which was pulled taut at the last moment to save her coming off completely.
Score – 21

Stacey then gave her performance on the Russian Bar. Her floor work was nicely choreographed, but she faltered after the first backwards somersault and didn’t land steadily. She was then returned to the ground and remounted, starting from a sitting position and bouncing into standing, which was competently done. She then stumbled on her landing from a double backwards somersault and almost came off the bar. She then returned for a third trick – blindfolded, she attempted a double backwards somersault and her landing was somewhat better this time, although she was kept on by the lunge.
Score – 17

Kyal scored a perfect 30 last week, so all eyes were on him to see how he would fare this time round. On his first crossing on the High Wire, he didn’t just walk it, he performed a one-leg balance and a couple of two-step jumps. Then, coming back, he wowed the audience and judges alike by tackling the wire on a unicycle!
Score – 29

Luke had been disappointed by his performance last week, which was hampered due to injury, and so was hoping to imrpove this week. Unfortunately, he wasn’t very happy on the Russian Bar. His first backwards somersault wasn’t too bad and he landed quite well, but came off the bar after his forward somersault. He then performed a blindfolded backwards somersault, but again, fumbled the landing and looked like he’d hurt himself a bit in a very delicate place!
Score – 18

Isabella managed tomake her way shakily across the High Wire, but her usual radiant smile was absent – usually fearless, she looked terrified. Her return journey wasn’t easy – she came out part way, then climbed onto the shoulders of a professional wire walker, but with her legs bent, she looked like she was being held up by the safety lunge. She then attempted to jump fromhis shoulders onto the wire, but she wasn’t confident and was only kept on by the lunge. A brave performance, but nowhere near her usual standard.
Score – 16

The old disciplines
Antonia returned to the ring and gave a dazzling performance with the Fire Poi. This was her discipline the very first week, but it was very obvious just how much she’d improved, giving a wide range of tricks including a buzz saw, a butterfly and an advanced neck wrap. She was fluid, precise and confident.
Score – 22

Stacey returned to the air once more in the Aerial Hoop and managed to squeeze in no fewer than 5 moves hanging upside down from the hoop while it was being raised in the air! Several impressive poses including a candlestick, a layout and a front balance, all with smooth transitions, led to a final 1-leg hock from the top of the hoop moving into a back balance. She showed superb control and agility.
Score – 28

Luke returned to give a great performance with the Fire Poi, moving from one trick to the next with great applomb, showing excellent interaction with the audience and using all the available space and all at a very rapid pace.
Score – 24

Golden-boy Kyal wasn’t happy about having to perform on the Aerial Hoop, which is predominently a female discipline, but he gave a very powerful and masculine performance including a move he’d invented himself and named Charlotte’s Web (after his girlfriend, aww!), a stand-out and a daring tow hang. He then finished with a swinging inverted move.
Score – 28

Isabella finished the show with a discipline she’d been dreading – the Fire Poi. This was her first floor discipline and her lack of co-ordination made for a poor performance, and the disappointment showed in her face.
Score – 12

Total Scores:
Kyal – 57
Stacey – 45
Antonia – 43
Luke – 42
Isabella – 28

The bottom two and elimination:
Luke and Isabella had the lowest scores after the public had finished their phone vote, but it was Isabella who was sent packing after two lacklustre performances this evening and Luke returned to his fellow contestants to perform aother week.

My prediction for the last two weeks:
I think Antonia will be voted out in the Semi Final and I think she will be relieved too – the Wheel of Death (the apparatus for the Final) is pretty scary and it will take nerves of steel to get up there. Kyal, Luke and Stacey all have what it takes,, but I think Antonia’s fear of heights, which has been dogging her throughout the show, would get the better of her if she had to face it.

In the end, I think it will come down to Kyal and Stacey on the big night, and Kyal will walk away with the title.

Of course, it could all turn out very differently, but that’s how I suspect it will go…

 

~***~

HOW THE SHOW HAS GONE SO FAR

Viewing Times:
Sunday @ 7:30pm on Sky One (LIVE!)
Saturday @ 4:30pm on Sky One (repeat)

The Host:
Jenni Falconer

The Judges:

Louie Spence
Phillip Gandey
Gabby Roslin

The Contestants:
Dwain Chambers
Hannah Waterman
Princess Tamara
Emily Scott
Ritchie Neville
Shane Lynch
Dean Holdsworth
Luke Bailey
Antonia Okonma
Stacey Cadman
Kyal Marsh
Lady Isabella Hervey
Liam McGough
Rebecca Loos

Week 1 – Fire Poi, Corde Lisse and Static Trapese

Bottom two: Dean Holdsworth and Princess Taqmara
Eliminated: Dean Holdsworth was eliminated, but there was a problem with the phone voting, so he was brought back – nobody had to leave the first week.

Week 2 – Bunjee, Double Trapese and Roller Roller
Bottom two: Dwain Chambers and Lady Isabella Hervey
Eliminated: Dwain Chambers was eliminated.

Week 3 – Bunjee, Unicycle, Aerial Hoop and Floor Cube
Bottom two: Luke Bailey and Hannah Waterman
Eliminated:Hannah Waterman
Injuries: Ritchie Neville was unable to perform this week and was therefore exempt from voting and safe from elimination

Week 4 – Foot Juggling, Cloud Swing and Floor / Aerial Perch
Bottom three: Lady Isabella, Princess Tamara and Emily Scott
Eliminated: Princess Tamara and Emily Scott
Surprises: A double elimination was announced, much to the shock of the contenders!

Week 5 – Swinging Trapeze and Silks
Bottom two: Antonia Okonma and Ritchie Neville
Eliminated: Ritchie Neville
Injuries: Shane Lynch was unable to perform this week and was therefore exempt from voting and safe from elimination

Week 6 – Russian Swing and Aerial Cube
Bottom two: Dean Holdsworth and and Kyal Marsh
Eliminated: Dean Holdsworth
Injuries: Shane Lynch also left the show due to injury (2 consecutive weeks off due to injury means automatic disqualification)
Surprises: Liam McGough, an ex-Big Brother housemate, and Rebecca Loos joined the show (performing on the Corde Lisse) due to Shane Lynch quitting . The public will vote to see if they want Liam or Rebecca back in week 7. This was the first week that the judges scored the performances.
Scores given by judges:
Luke – 27
Isabella – 26
Antonia – 21
Stacey – 19
Kyal – 18
Dean – 16

Week 7 – Advanced Corde Lisse and Aerial Straps
Bottom two: Liam McGough and Lady Isabella
Eliminated:Liam
Injuries:Luke injured his hand and leg, but performed anyway.
Surprises: Liam beat Rebecca in the public vote to join the circus.
Scores given by judges:
Kyal – 30
Stacey – 25
Antonia – 23
Isabella – 20
Luke – 19
Liam – 16

QUARTER FINAL
Week 8 – High Wire, Russian Bar, Fire Poi and Aerial Hoop
Bottom two:Luke Bailey and Lady Isabella Hervey
Eliminated:Isabella
Surprises: Each contestant had to perform two disciplines – one new (High Wire or Russian Bar) and one an advanced routine on a formerly shown discipline (Fire Poi and Aerial Hoop), although not necessarily one they’d already performed.
Scores given by judges:
Kyal – 29 + 28 = 57
Stacey – 17 + 28 = 45
Antonia – 21 + 22 = 43
Luke – 18 + 24 = 42
Isabella – 16 + 12 = 28

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Now and Then (or How Things Have Changed!)

November 23, 2007 at 6:17 pm (Memes) (, , , )

Change

Every now and then, it’s good to have a good think about things and clear out all the clutter – many people do this early each year and call it Spring Cleaning. Occasionally it’s good to do that to your head too, taking a good look at how things used to be and how they’ve changed – how I’ve changed over the years. In order to make this exercise productive, I tend to focus mainly on positive things, rather than negative, although I’m a great believer that negatives can be turned into positives, depending on how you look at them!

Anyway, there are some of the things that are different about me, and my life, since I’ve grown up. Well, maybe not grown up as such, but since I became an adult… and if you decide to take a look at your past and present, let me know – I’d be interested in reading the results!

My three best friends as a child:
1. Louise Wilson
2. Julie Merryweather
3. Claire Hagleburg

My three best friends as an adult:
1. Dale (hubby)
2. Leni (sister)
3. Rod (gay best friend – every girl should have one!)

My three favourite books as a child:
1. The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter (a gift from my Dad when I was two years old)
2. Wizwam and Kelley Under the Sea (one of those books where you’re the star in the story)
3. The Magician’s Nephew by C S Lewis (the first in The Chronicles of Narnia)

My three favourite books as an adult:
1. The Princess Bride by William Goldman (I still love fairytales!)
2. The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis (with the exception of The Horse and His Boy)
3. The Stand by Stephen King (post-apocalyptic perfection)

My three favourite films as a child:
1. The Neverending Story (I read the book and loved it too)
2. The Goonies (The first film I saw in the cinema without adults supervising us!)
3. Dracula (All the Hammer House of Horror Dracula films – I adored them!)

My three favourite films as an adult:
1. His Girl Friday (There’s nothing like a great screwball comedy)
2. Arsenic and Old Lace (I just adore Carey Grant)
3. Harvey (I love James Stewart too)

My three favourite TV shows as a child:
1. The Adventure Game (space adventure game show with a “talking” plant)
2. Doctor Who (Tom Baker is still “my” Doctor)
3. Bagpuss (I loved him much more than Emily did!)

My three favourite TV shows as an adult:
1. Desperate Housewives (what’s not to like about the women of Wisteria Lane?)
2. Firefly (cowboy-pirates in space – why do my favourites always get cancelled?)
3. Farscape (another epic space adventure that sadly got cancelled)

My three favourite pastimes as a child:
1. Reading
2. Dancing
3. Writing

My three favourite pastimes as an adult:
1. Reading
2. Writing
3. Watching old films

Three jobs I “wanted to do when I grew up” as a child:
1. Ballet Dancer
2. Actor
3. RAF Fighter Pilot

Three jobs I have had as an adult:
1. Actor
2. Bouncer
3. Cinema Manager

Three habits I had as a child:
1. Correcting peoples’ grammar
2. Asking “why?” all the time
3. Chewing my fingernails down to the quick – till my fingers bled!

Three habits I have as an adult:
1. Correcting peoples’ grammar, spelling and punctuation
2. Asking “why?” all the time (I have to have the reasons behind things – I can’t just blindly do them!)
3. Being “blonde” if I think it’ll get me out of bother or get someone to do something for me that I’d rather not do myself

Three people I admired (and why) as a child:
1. Wayne Sleep – I adored ballet and would have loved to have had the chance to dance with him!
2. Adam Ant – My first proper crush! He was handsome and famous and he dressed as a Dandy Highwayman – he could have been my Prince Charming any day!
3. Christopher Lee – Arguably a bit of an odd hero for a small child, but I really did love those Hammer Horror films!

Three people I admire (and why) as an adult:
1. Eddie Izzard – He’s so clever and witty with a mind that seems to take the simplest of things and make them completely absurd.
2. J. K. Rowling – She’s written a very successful series of books and has reached thousands of children who never really read for enjoyment before they read the Harry Potter books. She’s also been very savvy and made a mint!
3. My Dad – He’s a hero in a very quiet and unassuming way and is always there for me, no matter what. Yes, I’m a bit of a Daddy’s Girl, but that’s beside the point.

Three things people said about me as a child:
1. That I was very, very good (which was true).
2. That I was very clever (which was also true).
3. That I was very outgoing and sociable (which was kind of true – I sought approval from everybody and so would entertain on demand).

Three things people say about me as an adult:
1. That a read a LOT of books and seem to get through them very quickly.
2. That I’m generally a happy, smiling, friendly person.
3. That I crack on with things, even if I don’t enjoy the task – I like to get things done!

Three accomplishments of which I was proud as a child:
1. My collection of medals and certificates from various dance competitions (ballet, tap and national dance) was a major source of pride.
2. Getting good marks in my classes, especially in English and Drama.
3. My ability to calm a situation down quickly between my friends when they were quarrelling

Three accomplishments of which I am proud as an adult:
1. Living alone – I only did it for a short while, but if I ever needed to do it again, I know I can.
2. Learning to commit – I danced around and avoided commitment until I met the right person. It took a while for me to be comfortable with committing to one person for the rest of my life, but I can honestly say I’ve never been happier.
3. Being able to admit when I’m wrong and apologise as soon afterwards as possible.

Three things I’ve learned that I would tell my young self if I could go back in time:
1. That it doesn’t matter how many friends you have – only that the ones you have are good ones.
2. That sometimes the things you think you desperately want aren’t what you want when you get them, but not to be disappointed – learn from it and move on.

3. That it’s OK to not be perfect all the time – cut yourself some slack occasionally – people won’t like you any less for it and your family will still love you.

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Hard Luck for Hardbacks!

November 21, 2007 at 10:25 pm (Books and Authors, News) (, , )

Pile of books

I tend to avoid the news as much as possible because, inevitably, I get angry or upset – one or the other, it doesn’t matter, both are negative emotions and I prefer not to inflict them on myself if I can possibly help it. Today, however, I followed a link to an article at The Sydney Morning Herald and read, to my dismay, that Picador have made the monumentous decision not to produce hardbacks for book launches any more!

As the eighth-largest publisher in the UK market, this sets a terrible precedence for other big publishers to follow suit and this is something that makes me very sad. Yes, hardbacks can be clunky, unwieldy, difficult to handle and expensive, but they are durable and look beautiful on the shelf. I’ll freely admit that I love a good paperback as much as the next person – they’re light, cheap and they fit into my handbag to cart around with me when I’m on the go, but paperbacks have always seemed so much more, well, disposable. I do sell on many of my books (if I didn’t, I’d have no room to move in my small flat and my husband would divorce me for filling every nook and cranny with nothing but novels!), but most of the ones that pass on to new owners are paperbacks – I tend to keep my hardbacks. One of the main reasons I do that is because when I buy a book by an author I know I love and that I’ll want to read again, I get it in hardback. Paperbacks are my cheap, try-out-someone / something-new-without-too-much-risk option and they’re usually second-hand (albeit copies that are in excellent condition).

If hardbacks do die out, it will be a very sad day for bibliophiles around the world. We’d have to find a modern-day Don McLean to write a song about The Day The Hardback Died, and we’d weep every time someone sang the full-length version at a karaoke bar. We would tell tales to our grandchildren of days gone by when books (yes, dear, those words that you download onto your little screen gizmo) would come in hard covers (no, dear, not a machine) that bound the pages together (yes, dear, with glue, or stitching in the more expensive ones – some of them were bound in leather you know! No, I’m not making it up!) and we’d sit in front of the fire (that was when we had a fire in the house, darlings, not everyone had radiators then) and feel the comforting heft of a hardback in our hands.

Ah! Those were the golden days!

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The future of books?

November 20, 2007 at 7:01 am (Books and Authors, Life gets in the way..., Shameless Plugs) (, )

Amazon Kindle

I heard, just today, about the brand new e-reader available from Amazon – the Kindle. From all accounts, this slimline, wireless, hand-held device can hold up to 200 books and has up to a week of battery time before you need to recharge (if you switch it off between uses and, I’m guessing, don’t read quite as much as I do). Now, I’ve had a look at it at Amazon’s own website and here are the few observations I’ve made right off the bat:

 

  1. It looks a little tacky to me – like some retro version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The white and grey plastic cover just looks slightly cheap. Now, if it were a smooth, sleek, brushed metal cover, it would look FAR more attractive and modern! This is supposed to be a revolutionary new device, but it looks like it was designed in the 80s.

  2. It costs $400. To me, this seems a little much for initial outlay, especially when there are other perfectly good e-readers out there for less than half the price. I even found a much nicer-looking one made by Sony for $299 and it has changeable covers available.

  3. It holds up to 200 books. What size of books? Are we talking thin novels of around 250 to 350 pages? If so, I read a LOT of books that are way heftier than that – anything from slimline volumes of 250 pages to hefty tomes that have a page count close to 1000 – that’s got to seriously change the amount of books it can carry, so I’m estimating that I’d probably be able to load between 75 and 100 onto mine, which is a big difference. Also, what do you do when you’ve read them all and want to download more? You have to pay for each book, so I don’t know about you, but I like to keep many of my books and re-read them. Where do I keep them when I’m done, so that I don’t lose them and have to pay a second time if I decide I want to read it again?

  4. It’s currently only available with a 2-pronged plug, so if I were to get one, I’d have to pay extra and get an adapter so that I could use it in the UK.

All that said, I’d still be interested in one. However, I’ll be waiting till the price comes down a bit and the plug is UK-friendly. It would certainly be great for sticking in my bag and reading on the go. At present I carry maybe one or two books in my bag, or, if I’m travelling long-distance, up to half a dozen, and that takes up a lot of space in my luggage. This would be a welcome way to have wider chioce when I can’t physically acces my own library, especially as the downloads are wireless, so I could get another at the drop of a hat – and the larger screen would mean my eyes wouldn’t boggle while I’m trying to read.

And hopefully, by the time the device becomes readily available in the UK, perhaps they’ll have updated the case a bit…

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Cirque de Celebrité II

November 18, 2007 at 11:01 pm (Music, Film and Television) (, )

Cirque de Celebrité II

I don’t watch much TV, especially reality-type shows that involve celebrities, but this one has me hooked! I watched Cirque de Celebrite last year but this second season is proving even better!

Wow! What a stunning show tonight! Here’s mmy quick rundown for those who missed it:

Liam won the public vote and stayed to perform (Rebecca didn’t get to perform her routine, which made me perversely glad, because I don’t like her at all!).

The Performances
Isabella opened the show with an advanced routine on the Corde Lisse, starting by climbing up to the performance height of 8 metres above the ground. Her transitions were a little clunky at times, but her lines for the bow and arrow were beautiful and her drop was scary!
Score – 20

Stacey followed, again on the Corde Lisse and climed up part way before the rope was elevated. Her transitions were fluid and her inverted spinning drop was jaw-dropping, but she got tangled in the rope at the end and didn’t complete the move as a consequence.
Score – 25

Luke performed on the Corde Lisse despite having two injuries to the leg and hand (both essential for the Codre, as there are no harnesses and no safety net!). As a result, he had to change his routine yesterday, so it wasn’t so dynamic as it might have been (and would have been judging from his performance last week on the Russian Swing!). He put in a solid performance, however, and was quite graceful.
Score – 19

Antonia was the first to perform on the Aerial Straps and performed a partnered routine with a professional circus performer, with whom she had wonderful eye contact and chemistry. The performace, which ended in a dramatic pose with Antonia hanging upside-down from his foot, was elegant from start to finish.
Score – 23

Liam, who stepped in to fill the vacant slot left by Shane’s departure last week due to injury, put in a solid performance on the Aerial Straps, pointing his toes for some lovely lines, and smiling hs heart out. His spinning crucifix was great, but it was obvious he hadn’t had the hard weeks of training the other contestants had. Still, for only 63 hours of training, hedid very well indeed.
Score – 16

Kyal has been a big contender for the title from the start, but put in a disappointing performance last week. This week, however, he came back with a vengeance on the Aerial Straps, appearing bare-chested (phwaor!) and giving a daring performance that showed skill and strength throughout, including somersaulting UP the straps and then back down again, and ending with a spectacular one-armed handstand whilst flying round the main ring! he was nothing short of stunning!
Score – a perfect 30!

The bottom two and elimination:
After the public cast their phone votes, Liam and, surprisingly, Isabella, were the bottom two and stood before the judges for the final cut. For the first timeever, all three judges were in agreement – Isabella was saved by unanimous decision, and Liam left after just one week in the circus.

So, next week will be the quarter final and should prove to be an exciting show!

 

~***~

HOW THE SHOW HAS GONE SO FAR

Viewing Times:
Sunday @ 7:30pm on Sky One (LIVE!)
Saturday @ 4:30pm on Sky One (repeat)

The Host:
Jenni Falconer

The Judges:

Louie Spence
Phillip Gandey
Gabby Roslin

The Contestants:
Dwain Chambers
Hannah Waterman
Princess Tamara
Emily Scott
Ritchie Neville
Shane Lynch
Dean Holdsworth
Luke Bailey
Antonia Okonma
Stacey Cadman
Kyal Marsh
Lady Isabella Hervey
Liam McGough
Rebecca Loos

Week 1 – Fire Poi, Corde Lisse and Static Trapese

Bottom two: Dean Holdsworth and Princess Taqmara
Eliminated: Dean Holdsworth was eliminated, but there was a problem with the phone voting, so he was brought back – nobody had to leave the first week.

Week 2 – Bunjee, Double Trapese and Roller Roller
Bottom two: Dwain Chambers and Lady Isabella Hervey
Eliminated: Dwain Chambers was eliminated.

Week 3 – Bunjee, Unicycle, Aerial Hoop and Floor Cube
Bottom two: Luke Bailey and Hannah Waterman
Eliminated:Hannah Waterman
Injuries: Ritchie Neville was unable to perform this week and was therefore exempt from voting and safe from elimination

Week 4 – Foot Juggling, Cloud Swing and Floor / Aerial Perch
Bottom three: Lady Isabella, Princess Tamara and Emily Scott
Eliminated: Princess Tamara and Emily Scott
Surprises: A double elimination was announced, much to the shock of the contenders!

Week 5 – Swinging Trapeze and Silks
Bottom two: Antonia Okonma and Ritchie Neville
Eliminated: Ritchie Neville
Injuries: Shane Lynch was unable to perform this week and was therefore exempt from voting and safe from elimination

Week 6 – Russian Swing and Aerial Cube
Bottom two: Dean Holdsworth and and Kyal Marsh
Eliminated: Dean Holdsworth
Injuries: Shane Lynch also left the show due to injury (2 consecutive weeks off due to injury means automatic disqualification)
Surprises: Liam McGough, an ex-Big Brother housemate, and Rebecca Loos joined the show (performing on the Corde Lisse) due to Shane Lynch quitting . The public will vote to see if they want Liam or Rebecca back in week 7. This was the first week that the judges scored the performances.
Scores given by judges:
Luke – 27
Isabella – 26
Antonia – 21
Stacey – 19
Kyal – 18
Dean – 16

Week 7 – Advanced Corde Lisse and Aerial Straps
Bottom two: Liam McGough and Lady Isabella
Eliminated:Liam
Injuries:Luke injured his hand and leg, but performed anyway.
Surprises: Liam beat Rebecca in the public vote to join the circus.
Scores given by judges:
Kyal – 30
Stacey – 25
Antonia – 23
Isabella – 20
Luke – 19
Liam – 16

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Dime Store Magick

November 18, 2007 at 3:27 pm (Paganism / Witchcraft) (, )

Pentacle

Part of keeping things simple, to me, is keeping things inexpensive. My outlay is relatively small as I don’t really use many tools, but others do and it can cost a lot of money as you build your collection of wands, chalices, athames et al. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can take advantage of the many cheaper alternatives with spectacular results, as I will demonstrate here. It’s what I call Dime Store Magick!

Wands
What is a wand, essentially, but a stick? The thing that makes it wand is YOU, not how extravagant or ornate it is, nor how much it cost, but what YOU put into it. Therefore, surely, the most effective wand you can use is one you’ve made yourself. Don’t listen to the nonsense you here about only using “live” wood, asking the tree for permission to take it and lopping off a length of branch. Whether the tree agrees or not, it’s going to cause some damage. There is no less magick in a fallen branch than there is in the tree – it came from there, after all, and it is still a part of nature.

Choose a length of wood from a tree you associate with, whether it is willow, oak or chestnut, it will work just as well as long as you are comfortable with it. Traditionally, it should be the length of your forearm from your inner elbow to the tip of your middle finger, but really, it’s unimportant if it’s slightly longer or shorter. Make sure the wood isn’t too dry, or it will just break and be useless – you should go for wood that is still quite fresh. After that, what you do is up to you. You might strip it of its bark, decorate it with gems, feathers and leather thongs, and oil or wax the finished product. Alternatively, you might like to leave it in its rustic, natural form. Imbue it with your own, personal energy and it will be more powerful than any wand you can buy in a shop.

Chalices
I have several different drinking receptacles as chalices when I have need of one, but the one I use most often was a gift from my friend, Esk. It’s a beautiful wine glass with ornate metalwork around the stem and base of the glass. I use it simply because I love it so much. You can often pick up a silver chalice or pretty wine glass from a charity shop or a car boot sale – you just have to keep your eyes open for a bargain. So what if it isn’t engraved with a pentagram? Who’s to say you can’t do that yourself with glass paints, or take up a class in etching and try that?

Athames
As I said in the last article, use whatever’s handy – I use a good old kitchen knife whenever I need to cut anything – it sits comfortably in my hand and is good and sharp. Why should you pay top dollar for what is essentially only a knife? Again, try charity shops, car boot sales, or even the kitchenware department of a local shop. Choose one that isn’t too big (or you risk doing yourself an injury when it gets spun off your altar!) and you can decorate it if that takes your fancy, especially if it has a wooden handle. Paint, engraving, whatever you please – just make it personal.

Candles
Just about every beginners guide to the Craft will tell you that you need such-and-such a colour for this, that or the other. This is absolute ROT! If you’re using candles, they can be any colour you will them to be. I keep a supply of white tea-lights handy (and believe me, they DO come in handy) for every eventuality. If a spell calls for a red candle, I tell the candle it is red, and so it is. I also love to use beeswax candles, as I love the smell, but these can be expensive. The alternative? Make your own! You can buy candle-making kits from craft shops at a very reasonable price (if they’re in the sales, I buy bulk) and they’ll keep you going for quite a while, topping up with refill kits when you need to.

Altar
What is an altar? It’s a table on which you place your ceremonial tool. That’s it. It’s a table. Or a shelf, or a deep windowsill, or a bed-side cabinet. Even a large box will do. Decorate it to suit your style or leave it bare and cover it with a cloth, it’s up to you – after all, it’s YOUR altar, nobody can tell you it’s not right or proper.

Book of Shadows or Grimoire
Yes, you can buy the most beautiful hand-crafted books to keep all your Craft secrets, but it’s just a book! Some people have £90 to spend on one, I don’t and I’m guessing many other people don’t either. Why go to extremes when you can buy beautiful notebooks of all sizes for under £10? If you want something fancy to fill with beautiful calligraphy, try one of those photo albums with tissue between the pages (they often have the added bonus of having removable pages). Even a ring binder is fine, especially if you want to use an ornamental font to print out all your pages and fill them with corresponding pictures – it can look stunning! Or, again, you can put your crafty talents to good use and make your own. Whether you use wood, metal, leather, cloth, or just plain cardboard for your cover, you can decorate it in any style and perhaps even make the paper for the pages yourself. It can be as big or small a project as you like, just make sure it’s durable because chances are you’ll be using it for a long time. Barring all that, keep it on a floppy disk or CD-ROM – I know many who do and I keep back-ups that way myself.

These are just a few of the simple ways to keep expenses from spiralling out of control when you start out on your Path, or even when you’ve been strolling along for decades. There are so many cost-cutting methods I can only go into a few here, but if you use your imagination, you can do anything. Happy bargain-hunting!

Kell Smurthwaite ©
1st Published in the Samhain/Yule 2004 issue of Dragonswood Magazine

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Pass the dunce cap, please!

November 12, 2007 at 9:23 am (Life gets in the way...) (, , )

Dunce

Under normal circumstances, I pride myself on having quite a decent level of intelligence – a sentiment that is seemingly echoed in what other people tend to think of me. I’ve lived my life striving to learn more and to put my little grey cells to the test on a regular basis – after all, if you don’t use it, you lose it! However, today I fully deserve the title of Grand High Twit of the Idiot Squad and should be made to sit in the corner with a pointy dunce’s cap firmly on my noggin.

And here’s why…

After having last week off work as annual leave, I woke this morning thinking to myself that i could really do with another day off, as I had only about four hours sleep last night and felt dreadfully tired when my alarm clock rand at 5:45am. I even hit the snooze button a couple of times and refused to budge from under the duvet till 6-o-clock.  I dragged my semi-conscious carcass out from the warm cocoon and forced myself to shuffle into the kitchen to pour coffee down my throat in an attempt to get basic brain functions started up.

After a breakfast of toast and another cup of coffee, I did my hair, put on my make-up and shrugged on some clothes fit for the office – still peering through the haze of sleepiness. Then I remembered to check that I had my ID badge (without which I’d have to spend the whole day asking other people to open doors for me) and my house keys  (without which I’d have to wake Dale on my return home in order to gain access to the flat), wrapped myself up in my winter coat, put on my hat and gloves, removed the gloves in order to work y iPod, put the gloves back on, and left home.

There is no direct bus route between home and work and I am not able to  drive, so I walk to work every day – a journey that takes around 25 minutes at a steady pace. On the way, I listened to a chapter of A Room With a View by E. M. Forster on my iPod and readied myself for a day catching up with everything that had piled up in my absence.

On arrival, I swiped my card to clock in and rounded to corner, aiming a cheerful “Good morning!” at my colleagues.

At this point, I realised something was wrong.  Everyone was looking at me very strangely. Wendy then asked the question that was obviously on everyone’s lips, “Kell, what are you doing here? Don’t you have a flexi day today?”

Yes, you’ve guessed it. I had forgotten that I had booked an extra day off as I had hours of flexi time available and thought I’d better use some of it up.

Not only that, but almost half of my colleagues were already in the office and had witnessed my act of idiocy. What was I to do?

I did the only thing I could! I wished them all a good morning and announced that I was going back home to read my book!

So, now I am home again. Pass the dunce cap, please – I shall go and sit quietly in the corner.

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Cornering the market?

November 8, 2007 at 6:09 pm (Books and Authors) (, )

Book Case

As you probably already know, I’m an avid reader, but even with my own diverse taste in reading material, I find there are certain genres I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole – not for a million pounds! The thing is, the books that turn me off seem to be some of the biggest sellers  at the moment and have been for several very frustrating years now.

No, I’m not going to complain about sci-fi or fantasy or even romance (all of whom seem to get avoided by swathes of readers for one reason or another, mostly down to perception of the genres) – it’s two very specific types of books that send me storming away from the book shelves as fast as my size fives* can carry me.

The first section of books that I avoid like the plague are the swathes of child abuse stories that seem to be taking over entire areas in every book shop I visit.  I don’t even have to get close enough to see the title to know what they’re about, because they all have identical covers – a pale background, a small child (often tearful) and a title that looks like it’s been handwritten. A few months back I was in an airport book shop and counted no less than twenty identi-kit child abuse stories without even having to look very hard. I’m sure there were more, as those were just the ones that were face-on to me, rather than with their spines to the edge of the shelf. I swear I have the deepest sympathy for anyone who has gone through a troubled  or abusive childhood, but there seem to be hundreds of cases hitting the best-seller lists at the moment and I can’t help thinking that theremay be some of them (just some) who maybe didn’t have such a terrible childhood at all, but are jumping on the bandwagon and cashing in on this growing genre.

The second set of books I cannot stand are all the “I’m a celebrity and here’s my life story” autobiographies by the people who were also-rans on Big Brother (and other reality TV programmes). These people are NOT celebrities – they are just wannabes who are desperately clinging to the limelight in an attempt to put off the inevitable return to their jobs slinging burgers at McDonalds or sweeping up hair at their local crappy salon. Not only that, but they’re all in their early-to-mid twenties – they haven’t lived enough to have interesting stories to tell! All they manage to come out with is how being “famous” has caused them to go into rehab six times due to the pressures forcing them into drink and drug problems. Oh, boo-hoo! All I can say to these people is “Grow up, get a life and SHUT UP!”

The books of both these types follow the same formulae every time and it amazes me that they’re getting away with flooding the market with utter trash. I know everyone has different tastes (it’d be a boring world if we all liked the same things), but it seems like these books are taking over the stores and I’d love to just be able to browse the bookshelves and find something actually worth reading, instead of having to wade through shelf after shelf of drivel before getting to the tiny section that houses the rest of the books…

* I’m actually a four-and-a-half, but I can never get shoes in that size, so I always end up with the next size up.

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Sushi for beginners

November 7, 2007 at 3:06 pm (Life gets in the way...) (, , , )

Sushi for beginners

I can be quite fussy when it comes to food, but over the last ten years or so, I’ve become increasingly adventurous about the foodstuffs I’ll try (as part of my 50 things to do before I’m 50 I even tried kangaroo, ostrich and crocodile) and every now and then I’ll suddenly get a hankering to try something new and a little bit interesting.

Today was such a day.

I had nipped to our local Co-op to pick up a few things and was drawn to the refrigerated cabinet while looking  for something to tempt me for lunch. And there it was. Sushi.

Now, I’ve considered trying sushi before, but have never got round to it in the past, as the thought of putting raw fish in my mouth makes me feel physically sick, but I was in luck on this occasion – I’d happened upon  a pack of vegetarian sushi!

It was only a small, snack-sized pack,  so I thought I’d give it a try…

Within the nicely-presented clear plastic pack were seven individual pieces –  2 thin sushi rice rolls filled with cucumber and wrapped in noni (seaweed); two with red pepper; and two with yellow pepper. The seventh piece was something called tamago (Japanese omelette on a finger-shaped portion of rice) wrapped with noni. There was also a small, fish-shaped container of soy sauce, which I squirted onto my lunch.

I started with the cucumber-filled pieces, followed by the red pepper, then the yellow pepper, and was pleasantly surprised – these were quite tasty! The texture of the rice was slightly sticky and stodgy, but it tasted  light and fresh – this was something I could see myself getting used to! I finished with the tamago, which to my surprise, really did taste quite sweet, but in a strangely savoury way – it was nothing short of delicious!

I think I shall be having sushi again in the very near future and can see it becoming a regular part of my diet – I shall have to learn to make some of the more popular vegetarian sushi pieces for myself.

And of course, me being me,  I ate the whole lot with chopsticks. Well, if you’re going to try something new, you might as well do  it in style!

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