Stranger Than Fiction

“Little did he know…”

You don’t often get a movie that is truly original, yet at the same time very familiar. In many ways that’s the perfect balance that you strive for as a writer, to write something that no one has ever seen or thought of before, but that no one sits there watching scratching their head wondering what the hell is going on. So it is with Stranger Than Fiction.

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is an average man. An auditor for the tax office, he leads a very dull, very organised life. His is an efficient world – one of numbers, time keeping, routine and unending loneliness – until one day one simple incident sets in motion a chain of events that will ultimately culminate in his death.

We know this, as does Harold Crick, because we and he can hear the writer narrating in his head.

I can’t really explain this film (nor would I if I could). Instead let me just mention one scene that really struck me when I first watched the movie. Harold is having dinner with a friend. He knows, thanks to the narrator, that he is going to die, but he doesn’t know how. He asks his friend, “If you knew you were going to die, what would you do?” His friend tells him, “Go to Space Camp.”

What struck me was, even though Harold is referring to his own imminent death, the question remains valid for each and every one of us. We are all going to die. Without exception. I guarantee it. So why don’t we act accordingly? Why don’t we chase our dreams every day with the same vigor as we would if we knew we only had six months to live? Why does it take a near death experience to shake us out of our apathy?

I watched this film tonight because the woman he becomes involved with in the movie – the gorgeous and incredibly sexy Maggie Gyllenhaal – is a baker, and the thought of jacking in the day job and opening up a bakery somewhere is very enticing to me at the moment. But so is becoming a writer, and teaching yoga. So which should I choose? Or do I have to choose?

Can I do it all? Maybe. Will I do it all? Maybe not. Will I kick myself up the arse enough to get out there and at least do some of it? God I hope so. I’m 37. In some lives, I’d be over half way by now. In others I would have died years ago. What’s the point of living if you don’t enjoy your life? And if you don’t change it now, then when?

This is a brilliant movie. Simple, clever, thought provoking, and very, very moving. I don’t mind admitting I cried a little at the end (and this is about the fourth time I’ve seen it too). It’s given me a great deal to think about before I go to bed tonight, and I think it will you too. Give it a try, you won’t regret it.

Stripey Sarnie Batman!

How to amuse yourself in the kitchen.

stripey sarnie

Nuff said really.

Had a weird thing when I was meditating today. I was doing the usual thing, trying to focus on my breathing, and the usual things were going through my head – mentally constructing a stripey sandwich, wondering why it’s always my left leg that goes numb, scenes from Scott Pilgrim – when all of a sudden I was just breathing, and nothing else. My thoughts were only on the sensation of breath at the rim of my nostril.

Of course that lasted only a few seconds – about as long as it took me to think “Wow, that’s weird!” – but still it was very interesting and highly unexpected. I look forward to next time a sit. I wonder what’ll happen next. 🙂

Aches and Growing Pains

I tell you what, being holed up for 4 days with the flu really gives you a new perspective on things.

For one thing I’m sick to death of being stuck indoors all the time. And that includes work as well as at home. I’ve had the last 2 days off work as they were night shifts and I just couldn’t face them, but even so the thought of going back to sitting in a dark room for 12 hours a day just fills me with dread.

This is in contrast to my writing, which I would like to do for a living. But that would be during the day, regular, with a window, and only from about 10am ’til 3pm (if I’m disciplined enough) leaving me ample time to do/teach yoga, or run a retreat centre, or something like that.

I feel more energised today than I have all week, partly due to some physical recovery, and partly due to recent inspirational communications with the very lovely Rikki Cupcake, who has just set up her own vegan cupcake business after her own work situation became a little ‘intolerable’ (NB: if you live in Arizona and want some cupcakes you should definitely give her a call!). It’s time to move on with things. I’ve stagnated for too long.

So I’ve finished typing up the re-writes for my script (103 pages, thank you very much) and I’m going to print them out today once I get a new ink cartridge. Then once my muscles stop complaining I’m going to get back on the yoga bus and ride it all the way to Teacher Town, lol. Come the summer I should be ready to make some serious moves into a new life. A real new life. One worth getting up for in the morning. 🙂

Om shanti, y’awl.

Cough and Drop

There’s nothing highlights your singledom like being ill. As you lie there coughing and sneezing you realise there’s no one there to help you out, provide sympathy, pop to the shops for more lemon and ginger. It’s just you, the TV, and a big pile of snotty tissues.

Couldn’t sleep at all last night. I was so unbelievably hot. Yet every time I moved I got cold chills. A bit better today but not 100%. Not sure if I’m going to go to work tomorrow. Guess I’ll just see how I feel in the morning.

What really annoys me the most is the stuff I’d planned to do. Go to the cinema, go to the park, type up my script re-writes. Can’t do any of those because I’m stuck indoors, and staring at a computer screen hurts my eyes. And I feel too crappy to do any yoga today, which ends my do-some-every-day-since-the-start-of-November streak. Then again there’s no point punishing yourself to keep a streak going. It’s just yoga after all.

But it’s the not having anyone there thing that really stands out. It’s bad enough always having to find people to go to gigs with, but this is when being single really sucks. I need to do something about that (once I’m feeling better that is).

The Social Network

Just finished watching The Social Network and, rather ironically, I had to blog something about it.

First off, if you haven’t seen it, check it out. The direction by David Fincher is excellent, the music by Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) really works well, and the writing by Aaron Sorkin is very crisp and beautifully put together. And it’s the writing that has really got me thinking.

I just finished the second round of re-writes tonight on the script I finished just after Christmas. I know, 6 weeks, what can I say? I’m a lazy arse. Anyway, watching the film tonight I can’t help but wonder if what I’ve written is any good or not.

Now no one can say as no one has seen it yet, but you see I have this aversion to emotional trickery. You know, having characters say and do unrealistic things in order to get a rise out of the audience. The intellectual equivalent of going *BANG!* just to scare people. My script has none of that. But without it will an audience be able to relate?

My good guys think they’re doing the right thing, but so do my bad guys. Will people be able to understand that, or will they just not give a damn about either of them. And that’s what matters in the end, for me as an audience member anyway, whether there’s an emotional connection with the characters or not. That’s why films like Inception don’t work for me. ‘Clever’ though they are, I just don’t give a damn about any of the characters.

Really there’s only one way to find out. Once I’ve finished up this draft I’ll give it to someone to read. If at any point they say “I’m half way through,” I’ll know it’s boring enough to put down and I should just move on.

Actually, moving on is what I’m doing anyway. I’ve got another idea ready to go, as well as a book I want to continue with. Which I tackle next I guess I’ll find out in a little bit.

NB: One thing watching Social Network made me realise (actually two things) is (a) if you’re going to blog about stuff blog about real stuff that matters, to you at least; and (b) get on with it! No one ever won a race by thinking about going for a jog. Or as my yoga swami would say (yes, I have a yoga swami now) “Good intentions are not enough, you need to do some work.”

With that in mind, I have some work to do.

Cooking, stretching and kicking ass!!

I’m a little bit spacey at the moment as I’ve just got back from my yoga class and I’m a little ‘stretched out’ if you know what I mean, so you’ll have to bear with me.

spinach, tomato and pepper pizza

Made this pizza the other day and it came out real nice. I used my basic pizza recipe but with a few tweaks which I think make it better. As follows…

1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp sugar
a pinch of salt
a splash of olive oil
1/4 pint warm water
200g+ plain flour

Hand whisk yeast and sugar into water until dissolved. Add salt and olive oil. Whisk again. Add flour until it makes a sticky dough (figure out how much for yourself, but go easy, do it in increments; remember, it’s easier to add more flour than it is to take it away), cover with cling film, then put it somewhere warm – next to a radiator for example – for 30 mins ’til it rises.

Punch down, knead a bit, cover and let rise again for another 10-15 mins. Spread by hand onto an oiled baking tray, dock (prick) with fork, then top and put in hottest oven (pre-heated to about 230C) for approximately 10 mins.

I’m well pleased with the crust on this. It came out nice and golden. There was a bit of liquid in the middle from the cherry tomatoes on top, but it wasn’t a deal breaker so not to worry. I scoffed the whole thing in about 5 minutes, which says it all really. Yummers!

NB: “Yummers” is my new word of the month. I’m trying to get it in the collective psyche / lexicon. Any and all help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. 😉

the warlock of firetop mountain

Well, I’ve almost completed The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. I did it once without cheating, got to the end, but didn’t have the correct keys to open the chest (which was always the problem before). Then I kind of did it again, using the map I’d made to go places I hadn’t gone before, but this pretty quickly degenerated into fingers in pages, notes of numbers, and instant victories in battle (ie: cheating on an epic scale!). I still plan on doing it again (properly) soon, but for now I’ve had enough. The Warlock has defeated my once more. Curses! 🙂

Yoga Update: I’m getting very comfy with touching my toes whilst sitting with my legs straight out in front of me, which is a big thing for me. I couldn’t get near them when I first started. And tonight we did the half head-stand for the first time, which I could do but I couldn’t hold for long. Hopefully by next week’s lesson I’ll be much better. Going to incorporate leg raises into my daily routine which will help me with the head-stand for sure. Got five days off now, so plenty of time to practice. Still loving it too! Yoga is brilliant.

Finally, not gonna bang on about work as I intended. Quite simply, if I’m still doing the same job by the end of the year something has gone terribly wrong. I am pursuing alternative revenue streams with a dogged tenacity at the moment. Life’s too short to be spent in a dark room watching TV all day. Kiki needs his sunshine. C’mon the summer!!

Kiki’s Birthday Battenberg

Been wanting to do one of these for ages. There’s not many cakes I miss, but the Battenberg is one of my favourites, and ripe for a bit of veganisation. And since it’s my birthday I thought why the hell not!

birthday battenberg

It was fairly easy to do in the end. I just made a batch of the vanilla cupcake mix from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, split it into two batches, mixed some pink food colouring in one of them, then put them in two lined cake tins and baked as directed.

battenberg, slice

Once they’re done all you’ve got to do is roll out some marzipan into a thin sheet, give it a light coating of apricot jam, slice the two sponges into square ended oblongs, and construct them in a checker-board pattern on the marzipan, using apricot jam between the layers to hold it together.


Finally wrap the marzipan around the sponge, slice off the excess, dust with icing sugar to combat the general stickiness, et voila! one battenberg. Then all you’ve got to do is make a wish and eat it quick. Tastes just like Mr Kipling used to make. 🙂

Got a pretty decent haul of pressies this year too.

birthday haul

From left to right: a t-shirt from my twin brother, a book, some mini silicon bun-cases from Sabera, a punky mug from Regine, some vegan fudge from Mrs Mu and Bean, and a meditation CD from Carolina. The book is my present to myself. It’s The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the first Fighting Fantasy book I ever bought when I was a kid, and the only one I never managed to complete. But now, 20-odd years later, perhaps I’ve got the nounce to finally beat it. I’ll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck!

Happy Birthday To Me, Happy Birthday To Me…

Ok, a wee bit early with this one, as it’s not really my birthday ’til tomorrow, but I just got back from my birthday treat and I wanted to blog about it. So…

I was up the west end to see a show. First we went for some food at what used to be Vita Organic, but is now Vitao (apparently). Unfortunately the change of name also came with a change of idea that is not an improvement. The food is still decent enough, but no more the 2 scoop/ 3 scoop/ 4 scoop plates, no more the graded pricing system, in fact no more the ceramic kitchenware and metal forks either, it’s now just another buffet joint. £8:90 all you can eat (in an hour!). Well that’s all well and good, but how much do you expect me to cram down my neck to get my money’s worth? There’s cheaper buffets out there y’know! And don’t get me started on the £4:60 smoothie, or the £3:00 wafer thin slice of heavy carrot cake. Oh Vita Organic, what did you do? Ah well…

The show we went to see was Stomp, the one show I always though I’d go and see when I first came to London but somehow never did. I have to say I really enjoyed it! There was a lot of what you’d expect – brooms, banging on bins, hitting big drums – but also quite a bit of subtler, more nuanced moments – with lighters, paper bags, claps, etc. – and even some audience participation which was fun. And it was funny too. The whole show is full of mini gags that give you a good chuckle in between being amazed by the players performances. I have to say, if you’re looking for something to check out, it’s well worth going to see. You won’t be disappointed.

So that was my birthday night out. I’m going down the pub tomorrow night with some friends, but this was the ‘event’ for this year. I ain’t doing nuffink strenuous tomorrow. Giving myself a day off. Maybe a bit of baking. I have an ambitious plan to commemorate the start of my 37th year in cake. Actually, that already sounds more impressive than it is, lol. It’s just a little something I’ve been wanting to try. Check back tomorrow to see what I’m on about.