Monday, 20 August 2012

The Edinburgh Diaries: Part 1-Oxford

Huzzah! Finally finally packed! I have a ridiculous number of bags- 1 large suitcase, 1 holdall, 1 bag with bedding in it and 1 small rucksack. It's not like I have to carry them for miles or anything...oh wait. Going away for 2 weeks should not be this difficult!
On the train with a friend who has a similar number of bags-so that's alright then! We're on our way!
Train finally arrived in Oxford...late. Now to find where I am staying for the next couple of days. Decided to be brave and fearless and forego the taxi so I can prove to myself that I am not as pants as I think I am at following directions. Yeah, take that Pessimistic Me!

Well I found it OK, but WHY THE HELL DID I NOT TAKE A TAXI?? Past Me, you're an idiot. All of me is aching and sweaty. Why the hell have I brought so much shit? Anyway, I'm here, I'm all "checked in" and I have a bed to collapse into-it's such a relief to know that I don't have to sleep on the floor tonight. Mmm bed.
On that note, I think it's goodnight from me, the hard work starts tomorrow.

And what a long day it was. Only just got back in after leaving the flat at 9.30am! Spent most of the day learning dance routines for the show...I didn't even know there was going to be dance routines but there you go. It was good fun, although incredibly tiring after 5 hours of it! Ow my legs!
Sorted lots of props out too, and started making some of the ones that are missing. Having not left the flat where we ate dinner until gone 11pm, it's been something of an exhausting day! Must be bedtime now!!

Well that's it! No more rehearsals now! Tomorrow we journey up to Edinburgh and then it's on with the show-hurrah! In these last 3 days we've learned 3 different dance routines, done our first (disastrous!) prop run through, changed the songs, got our costumes and run through the show enough times to almost make us sick of the finale song. Almost. We still have a few kinks that need ironing out, but we're very nearly almost there. And it's excellent.
Tonight was our preview night, which meant we got to see how the other half perform and see one of our sister shows (Sherlock Holmes and the Sound of the Baskervilles) for the first time. (The other one is still a mystery to the majority of us, for now.) It was pretty flabbergasting to be honest, everyone was just absolutely brilliant, it's completely hilarious and very very well done! It did make some of us in the Back to the Future:The Panto cast worry ever so slightly that we couldn't match them in terms of brilliance, but we needn't have fretted! While BTTF:TP is a little more rough and ready in places than Baskervilles, it's still a fantastic watch (I reckon) and SO MUCH FUN to be in. We're an explosion of neon and noise to contrast with the Baskerville's Victorian costumes and brilliantly worded songs. We bounce up and down like an excited puppy while they are much less raucous but not less fun. Plus they have a truly epic sword fight whereas we go for the pie-to-the-face comedy fist fight.
I really really enjoyed myself tonight, both laughing myself silly at Baskervilles and also frolicking around on stage too.
SO. Here's the plug, but I truly now can say you will be missing out if you don't get to see at least one of these shows (plus Quantum, which I know will be just as brilliant even though I haven't seen it yet!) So yeah...if you're around Edinburgh this week, come and see why I am having SUCH a brilliant time with this fantastic bunch of people: I can guarantee you'll leave with a smile on your face!!!

Back to the Future: The Pantomime, Paradise in Augustine's-Venue 152, 18.50
Sherlock Holmes and the Sound of the Baskervilles, Paradise in Augustine's-Venue 152, 14.20
Quantum Battlestar Deep-Space Voyager Tardis Wars: The Million Dollar Space Epic, Paradise in Augustine's-Venue 152, 22.25

Monday, 13 August 2012

Hello, and Welcome To This Blog...

I was re reading a few blog posts of a friend of mine's the other day and she mentioned how cringy it was to read blogger's first posts because they had invariably not found their blogging style yet and they were very awkward to read: "I hate reading bloggers' first posts on their sites. They're always so embarrassing and make me cringe a little, because, mostly, they're their first ever blog posts." (Hoping she won't mind too much me quoting her there!). It occurred to me that this blog never really had a first post, because it was born off the back of another one that I was using at the time which has now since been abandoned. My first post on this blog (discounting the ones that I imported over) just sort of began, with no real preamble, and at the time I hadn't even worked out where I wanted to go with this blogging malarky. So I thought I should probably give it a proper introduction at some point, because this is now my official proper blog like, and I do really enjoy blurting out my stuff to the internet for people to read.
So then. This blog: The Life and Times of an Ordinary Girl/My Every Day Adventure/OrdinaryExtraordinaryLife. Basically, I write about stuff that happens in my life. I range from writing about my every day activities to ranting about all the things that annoy me in life/are wrong with the world in what I hope is a slightly humorous and enjoyable way. It's all true and honest, and mostly there to serve as a record for my life. I'm glad that it gets read though, makes it all the more worth while. I aim to keep my labels user friendly so that all the similar blogs get grouped together in one place; my favourite blogs (to write) usually fall into the 'Musings' category or the 'Love Yourself' category, and occasionally (Let's be honest, frequently!) fall into the 'A Little Bit Ranty' one too. If you want to know more about who I am as a person then read some of those, because they're very good indicators to how I think about the world.
So yeah, that's it really. I'm just filling these blog posts up with life, and am grateful to everyone who takes the chance to give them a read too. If you like what you see then follow me somehow, I try and post quite regularly and wouldn't want you to miss out! =p

Hi, my name's Jenni. Welcome to my blog.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Edinburgh Rehearsal II

Last weekend the entire cast of Back To The Future: The Pantomime assembled in Harrow for rehearsal number 3 (Technically my 2nd as I didn't get to the first one).  It was really good to finally meet everyone and get a full rehearsal under way, and more so because since the previous weekend one of my closest USLES friends has joined the cast. We basically spent the weekend bouncing off each other (literally, in some of the fight scenes) and making everyone else think we were a little bit odd, which is saying a lot considering the cast is made of mostly Light Entertainers. Oh but I had fun, I always enjoy the rehearsal process of a show, almost as much as I enjoy being on the stage itself. To say that I am in the chorus, I've got a lot of stuff to do which is excellent-there's nothing worse than spending the majority of a performance stuck in the dressing room just because you're not an important character.

Homework from last time:
  • Learn lines/songs Check!
  • Perfect an American accent that doesn't sound Australian Passably, for the 10 lines that I have. As long as there are no real Americans listening. (Sorry G-man...)
  • Learn to fall over without injuring myself or overbalancing Mostly. I only have to do it once and it seems to pass inspection, and I didn't hurt myself. I call that a success.  
Things that I still have left to do:
  • Learn my cue lines. Knowing what to say isn't much help if I don't know when to say it. Doh.
  • Practice the fight scenes so that it feels more natural to be fighting people rather than going through the motions.
  • Find costume bits and bobs so that I don't have to be naked on stage (ooer!)
  • Pack for rehearsal week!
We've now done our first show run through (albeit without songs) and it's starting to come together and feel like a show! Always an exciting moment in any rehearsal process. And now rehearsal week proper starts in about 5 days-we have 3 days of intense rehearsing and then a preview performance in Oxford. Then it's up to Edinburgh and the show opens on the 21st August. 
You should definitely all come along if you're around the Fringe in the last week: details for all three Two Shades shows are here and they're all promising to be corkers. I shall hopefully be keeping the blog updated whilst I am up there as I will be taking my laptop. I'm also hoping to get to see as many shows as I possibly can, because, after all, it is the biggest arts festival in the world-and you'd be a bit mad to pass up on an opportunity to experience it properly.
Basically, I'm just really looking forward to getting up there and getting involved with everything and just having a whale of a time. Not so looking forward to having to share a house with lots of people again, but I will just have to cope with that. I'm taking lots of books and I'm just hoping that my ridiculous brain will let me sleep more than it did over the rehearsal weekend. I'm sure it'll all come good. Most of all I am looking forward to treading those boards and doing the show for 7 straight nights with some wonderful people.

Here's to that then!


Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Sex Education; is it really working?

Found in lots of places but I got it from here
(No-one references the source any more!)
For a long time I have wondered why, if the sex education system in the UK is relatively good (compared to some) we have so many  teenage pregnancies. I've always assumed that these kids just haven't bothered to use any form of protection, in a fit of stupidity, rather than simply not knowing enough about it to help. 
Personally, I've never felt inadequately prepared for sex after sex education. Perhaps this is because I was a bit of a geek and liked to actually listen to authority figures when they spoke, perhaps it's because I had to start thinking about it from a youngish age (when you get your first serious boyfriend at 15 you sit up and take notice of these things) or perhaps it's because I had the helpful insights of a book named 'The Period Book'-I can't remember if it mentioned contraception or not and now I can't find it to confirm this.* Vivid memories of my sex-ed experience include when we got to chapter 7 (Reproduction!) in the Spotlight on Science textbooks we were allowed to move from our boy-girl seating plan and sit where-ever we liked(!) which I'm sure was more interesting than seeing how many of the sperms had faces drawn on at the time. I remember the school nurse telling us about how the 'clinic in town did some lovely passion fruit flavoured condoms' and the whole group of girls mentally going "EWEWEWEWEW!" at the thought of our slightly overweight middle aged nurse STILL HAVING SEX. (Sorry Nurse. I'm sure you were lovely and perfectly entitled to a full and active sex life. I was only about 14!) I also have a horribly accurate memory of being in college studying reproduction and fertility (more from a biology perspective than an sex ed one, mind) and having to watch that video. That video where someone thought it would be a good idea to put a camera on some poor woman's cervix and film her being ejaculated into by, what was at the time, a giant wide-screen penis. Even for someone who was sexually active by this point, it was still far too much information. Especially when it also went on to show (presumably) the same woman giving birth in graphic detail too. Bler. I feel sorry for that kid: teenagers across the country have watched them being conceived, and pushed out of a vagina and subsequently been scarred for life. Or is that just me?
However, I digress. The sex-ed I got at school certainly gave me enough information to begin to choose what I would like to happen to my own body when I got around to contraception myself. I knew the different choices and that some suited other people better than others and, possibly more importantly, that I would never feel safe having sex with only a condom between me and an unwanted pregnancy. Now, of course, I am a lot more clued up, but I think I was pretty all right back then too.

Having talked to some friends and read a couple of wonderful blogs on the subject (over at the Vagenda) it seems that this is not the case with everyone. Friends who went to more religious schools than mine (Mine was C/E but still taught helpful things like Evolution and Sex Ed!) were basically taught not to have sex rather than how to protect themselves. (And of course, being teenagers, if you tell them not to do something they want to do the exact opposite!) Another friend said "If you hadn't got pregnant by year 8/9 in my school you were in the minority." This is clearly a MASSIVE FAILING. (And more worryingly is still a massive failing-1 in 4 pupils apparently still receive little to no sex ed at all.) The way people view it also needs to do a turn around-it's not stripping kids of their innocence and it's not more likely to make them go out and start having sex with everything. And even if it does, they would do so armed with greater knowledge about contraception and keeping themselves safe, how can this be a bad thing?
Kids need to have an open and frank discussion about sex because they're so curious and there's not a lot of places they can get their answers from that aren't going to skew their mindset a little.
Kids need to be taught more than just the ins and outs (pun completely intended) of sex too. They need to be taught that straight, gay, bisexual and transgendered people are all normal and natural, plus all the other inbetweens. They need to know that there is a whole spectrum of relationships they can have and that not all of them just boil down to which part goes in who and where. They need to be encouraged to explore the emotions surrounding sex-they need to be told that sex and love often get tangled up in messy, complicated ways (and that's fine!) but that sex doesn't necessarily equal love. They need to be shown that it's not about gaining notches in the bedpost but a shared experience between two consenting people that they should only enter into when their emotions are ready as well as their bodies. They need to be told that wanking won't make you go blind and yes, girls can get in on the action too. It should be impressed upon them that they shouldn't have a baby without being emotionally, financially and physically ready for it, and that if they're not any of those things they should be given advice on abortion and why it doesn't make you a murderer or any less of a person if that's your decision. They should be told that if you choose to sleep with lots of people it doesn't make you a "slag" or a "stud" and that everyone's sexual experiences are different and that is definitely OK. And they should be given details on all types of contraception, regardless of religious belief or not-it should be a mandatory thing. These kids can be in charge of their own futures but only if they're given all the right information to begin with. 

And, to be honest, I'm not really sure what to do with this. It's obvious kids need more information to get a proper handle on the big issues of SEX AND RELATIONSHIPS and it's obvious that not many people who are in charge seem to know (or indeed care) about this. Television shows like Channel 4's The Sex Education Show have been trying to make people more aware about these issues and it's a start, albeit a slow one. I've also signed this petition because I think every little bit helps. 
Let's encourage our kids to grow up to enjoy sex, but enjoy it responsibly with a full grasp of all the things they need to know about it first.
It's time to stand up for Sex Education, who's with me?


P.S This says it all really

*I do remember it leaving me with a sense of foreboding about my 18th birthday where I expected to receive a letter summoning me to a cervical smear in enormous 6-ft high letters and the whole thing would be horrendous. Never happened, thankfully. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Rome Adventures II

Day 3 dawned bright and early. We had already decided that we were going to get breakfast from a little cafĂ©/bar we had found the previous evening, which was definitely a good choice. For only €1.60, we both got a couple of croissants which had melty chocolatey goo in the middle of them and were absolutely delicious! Far superior to the disappointing €10 hotel breakfast we had had the day before.
We then headed on another €1.50 bus trip to get us to the Colosseum which is just magnificent.
I've always loved coming face to face with history, even as a small child so to get to walk around something  and run my fingers along the stones that have stood in the same place for so long was a pretty incredible experience. It's almost impossible to imagine what it would have been like full of 50,000 people cheering on their favourite gladiator: loud and smelly and chaotic and wonderful. 
After the Colosseum, we took a dawdle up to the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II because we had been past it a couple of times and wanted to see it close up. It stands out rather well because it's MASSIVE and also made of white marble, against the bricks/stones of most of the other buildings around Rome. 
Pretty impressive, no?
We didn't go in and look at the Italian Military museum but we did climb up inside to the viewing terrace (on the back of the building) because it gave us a particularly good view over Rome and the Vatican City and it was nice to stop and just look for a while.
Italians love a good dome!
After lunch in the park (at the bottom of the photo there) we carried on our foot-tour of the city with thanks to the handy map we'd picked up at our hotel on the first day. Our next stop was the Trevi Fountain which is the famous fountain in Rome that according to legend guarantees your return to Rome if you throw a coin into it. The nice thing is that nowadays the money generated from this old tradition is collected and donated to the Red Cross and other local charities, rather than it just sitting in the bottom of the fountain forever or getting stolen. 
Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the whole thing
so this is the best I can do.
After the Trevi Fountain, we trekked onwards (with a gelato, of course) to find the Spanish Steps which are a popular meeting point for locals, and a rather impressive way of traversing between two of Rome's Piazzas. 

We didn't walk up all 138 of them as by this point we were flagging from the heat and the walking around all day, but I did take a moment to dangle my feet in the deliciously cold Fontana della Barcaccia at the base of the steps-wonderfully refreshing after a long day's walk. 
After another long walk back to the hotel, the evening progressed much as before. I had to have a McDonalds for dinner, due to the fact that I was running out of money unfortunately, but Rara had another lovely pizza from the place we went to on the first night. After a few games of cards back at the hotel, we settled down for our last night in Italy.

Day 4  
After a late morning morning start and checking out of our lovely hotel, we ate lunch sat on the wall by the Termini station. Then we went to find the Pantheon-the last of the touristy bits we had wanted to see. It's a big old church with an oculus (big hole!) in the roof to let in the light. (and, I would imagine, the rain!) Of course, this being a church in Italy, it was really beautiful inside, decorated in marble with lots of gold detailing and was definitely worth seeing for ourselves.
One section of the inside-lit rather nicely by the sun through the roof
After the Pantheon, we went on to do some souvenir shopping from a lovely little shop selling bits and pieces, as well as some Italian foodstuffs which Rara indulged in. I, sadly, had too little money and no space in my bag to put them otherwise I would have got some too.
Back to Termini Station then, for an iced coffee for Rara and a NUTELLA McFLURRY for myself. It was terribly exciting.
Then it was a bus, a plane and a car journey back to home. I really had enjoyed Rome (in spite of the Relentless heat/having to shower twice a day!) and do hope to go back someday and catch up on all the bits I had missed, but no matter where I go I always love coming back home again. I don't think anywhere could steal Britain's place in my heart, I just adore this rainy little isle. 
So that was my holiday this year...already planning where to go next!


Monday, 6 August 2012

Rome Adventures I

Day 1
At 8.30 AM we left rainy England behind for the cloudless skies of Rome. We landed sometime around midday, but by the time we had travelled from Fiumicino Airport to the city itself, wandered a long way the wrong way down the street looking for our hotel, wandered back, finally found it and checked in and unpacked it was already close to half 3. Our hotel was the lovely little Hotel Termini, which is about a minute away from the main Termini train station in Rome and wonderfully close to lots of good eateries and gelato parlours-always important when in Italy. It was in an old apartment building and there was about 8 rooms in our section of it-it was subdivided into many many small hotels. The rooms were fairly small but very comfortable and a steal at only  €30 each per night-plenty of storage space, en suite bathroom, a safe for valuables and air conditioning*. Lovely.
Lovely little room!
By the time we had both showered and regrouped, it was pushing 5pm so we headed out for a quick bus tour of the city to highlight all the things we wanted to see. It was a little expensive at €21 but it was a 24 hour ticket allowing us to hop on and off whenever we wanted and it was really nice to just sit and enjoy the sunshine and listen to the audio commentary without having to do anything except taking photos. Plus Rome is a really gorgeous city, and there is so much to see that a bus tour makes sense so that you can start to drink it all in. An hour and a half later we arrived back at Termini station and sought out some food, and we even found a pizza parlour that would make me a pizza without any cheese, then followed it up with our first gelato of the week as we headed back to the hotel to sleep away our exhaustions.

Day 2
We'd already booked tickets to go around the Vatican museums for this day, so after a really disappointing breakfast (the only bad thing about our hotel, I think) we caught a bus for the bargain price of  €1.50 to just outside the walls to the Vatican City. A 5 minute walk from the bus stop brought us to the entrance of the museums, and because we already had tickets we got in rather quickly, side stepping the lines inside too.
The entranceway, which was taken as we came out
and was a lot more queuey when we went in, honest.
We spent a long time in the museums because there is so much to see, and it's all really really beautiful. It gets to the point where by the end of the day you're almost becoming immune to the amazing things around you because you've seen so many of them. It's definitely worth the money though, because it's such a collection of brilliant art work/sculptures/frescos that you will never see in one place any where else. And of course, the tour ends in the Sistine Chapel which is stunning-the ceiling tells so many stories and has the famous painting "The Creation of Adam" right in the centre. Even as a non-religious person it's a pretty awe inspiring sight.
The Creation of Adam (from here)-you're not allowed to take pictures
After we left the museums at around 4.30, we made our way back around to St Peter's Square where St Peter's Basilica sits, dreading the sight of the queue still curling around the courtyard like it had been earlier. To our surprise, there were much fewer people there than had been when we'd originally arrived and we didn't queue for more than 15 minutes. Inside (and out!) is another stunning piece of Italian architecture and they really do make some truly spectacular churches so it's well worth a visit, even if you don't go to the museums-it's free! 
Probably the best photo I got of the interior with my dodgy camera
After leaving St Peter's (with a large expensive gelato in our hands) we headed back to the hotel for a shower and change before dinner, where we were entertained by an exuberant Italian waiter trying to persuade us to have the lobster because it was romantic. Another gelato and a few games of cards (Rome designed, of course) later and we were ready for another good night's sleep. 

I'll leave this here as it's already quite a long post, and will do the rest in another one tomorrow.
Until then, then

*Believe me, it's a wonderful wonderful thing when you've been out sweating all day.