Friday, 30 December 2016

Resolutions for a lifetime

We are bidding 2016 farewell very soon and I cannot help but feel relieved, given it has been one of the toughest years I've been through in my adult life (admittedly not the toughest but still one of). That said, it was not all bad and it could have been worse too so I will not dwell on it so much but instead look to the future and will it to be brighter.

Now I don't usually make resolutions as such, partly because I don't believe one should necessarily wait for a new year to fix any problem areas and also because I hate breaking promises I make to myself and truly, if something requires a resolution to get out of/break off from, then in all probability it is a promise doomed to fail from the first.

However this time I am going to make some resolutions that I have no intention of breaking and the only reason why I am making them now that the new year is coming is not due to any feelings of starting over but coincidentally due to that this has been a week of reflection for me totally unrelated to that we are ending the year.

One resolution I must make and keep is to lead a healthier life. Time and again I forget to take my vitamins, forego exercising my still recovering knee and neglect myself for lack of time, that four-lettered word that sounds so foul when it ruins your chances of ever catching up. I find my nails breaking from not putting on the nail thickener that's indispensable to my otherwise sharp and splitting nails and my face itching after being in the sun when I continually forget to put on moisturiser. The list is embarrassing and endless and I vow I will at least try to take better care of myself.

However, there is an even more important resolution I must make this year. Lately I have come to realise that as time goes by and I get older I am not only getting proverbially wiser but also coming face to face with situations I would never have thought of happening before. Unfortunately I am talking more about bad situations than good and each time something comes up my mind flashes back to a particular day in my first year at Sixth Form when a fellow student of English said his dad had warned him about something that would invariably happen in adult life. This something was that as an adult, this father had found himself looking around at negative situations that happened to those he'd once sat in class with as a teenager, causing him to reflect on how unfair and also unplanned our life as adults would become. That thought haunts me even sixteen years on.

It also makes me more determined to live the life I really would like and with the presence of those people I truly care about. I know I should find the time to sit and cuddle my son every day and hear him out, as every day that passes will never come back and on the morrow he is always a day older rather than the same age. I should also make time for my husband and the rest of my family, as well as dear friends.

That word 'friends' is to me charged with meaning. I was never the type to make a lot of friends and found it difficult to have any friends at all when I was young. Even as I got older, friendships that were born out of situations rather than an understanding of the soul never lasted through the years. I would think I found a special friend and then time and distance would separate us till in some instances there was nothing left but mere acquaintance as adults. This is why I mentioned 'dear friends' in the same line as my family. Life has taught me that the friends who never let you go, and who you never want to let go of, are the ones who are friends because they mean it. I know I can rely on those few people in the good times and the bad. I know they'll be the ones who share good news with me as soon as they can, and who show support by showing up when no one else will. They're the ones who feel confident enough in my presence to be themselves and let me be so too. I cannot make anyone have a friendly relationship with me unless they want to, but I know I can always be there for those of them who I feel are true.

So my most important resolution for the coming year is to make time and space, not for more things or plans or career or anything else, as much as for those splendid beings who deserve my love and care and support. So you see, for once I have a resolution I cannot give up on.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Happy Christmas

I am not one for traditions so I never tried making mince pies nor do I usually look forward to decorating the house. I also don't like Christmas films and don't go to any of the Christmas pantos that are available around the island. All in all, Christmas for me is more of a chance to be with family and look forward to an always hopefully better new year, which is sometimes the case and sometimes not. However, whatever I think that Christmas comes around for, other than the sacred reminder that we are celebrating the nativity of Jesus Chris (I am Catholic), I still somehow count down the days to the 25th of December. Now that it's here, I would like to wish all my readers a Joyful Christmas.


from http://www.animatedimages.org

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Life-Talk, Christmas Time and Refurbishing

It's time for another blog entry and whilst I am working on a review for Episode 3 of White Heat I do want to talk about other things too, especially for those readers who are not interested in the series. After all, I have to admit that whilst I'm in love with it, it is very clearly not a mainstream kind of show. So instead today I will turn to other things that are currently going on.

As always, I am sharing here the link to an article of mine that's just been published on EVE. As most of you know, I am a pro-lifer. In my years of campaigning in favour of life, I have found that most of the time pro-choicers give reasons as to why they would consider else condone abortion. So I don't only make my point of view known in this piece but have also used my chance of writing about the subject to provide answers to pro-choicers' ideas. It is not enough to say what side you are on, but to clearly point out that there is always a way out of having to make such a drastic choice. Why choose death when there can be life? Where there is a will, there is a way. http://www.eve.com.mt/2016/12/15/why-ill-never-be-pro-choice/

On to Christmas, as it is now only one week away. With its religious, cultural, traditional and plain commercial sides, I must say that this year I am both more into the spirit of things as well as further away from it than ever. For the first time in ages, we have not decorated our house for Christmas though we do have the odd snowman and other small details around the house that hint at the time of year. My son set up his Christmas tree, Baby Jesus and wreath in his room but with all the clutter that is all over his room there isn't much of a Christmas feel anyway. The reason I opted out of the usual sparkling Christmas feel for our home is mostly due to that we are still refurbishing and it doesn't seem worth my while to do up the house only to keep moving things away from wherever we are making a very dusty or sticky mess else have everything end up under a layer of very fine chalk and dust. Also, our Christmas tree is quite bulky for our small house and there doesn't seem to be any space to put it up without having to bump into it every time I pass by its side. Here's hoping that the Minimalist in me can figure out more sparse rooms by next year so it can regain its place in the entrance to the dining area. Anyways, the point I was going to make was that seeing shops as well as relatives' houses done up in pretty seasonal decor has quite made me wistful to achieve the same next year. Maybe my Grinch years are finally over and I'll start honestly loving the Christmas cheer at home. Who knows, maybe the fact that our house has truly started to feel like home since we started doing it up to our liking has had an effect on me.

Talking about refurbishing, I still currently have a lot of stuff packed up in boxes, frames leaning against the wall in the corridor as well as even stuff stored away in my wardrobe, all of it in the name of keeping it away from the work area. I can't say I am not missing some of the stored items and there are a few pieces of decor that I am in love with that I can't wait to put in their rightful place. That said, living without 'things' for a while has made me realise it's not that difficult to do and I'll probably do away with quite a bit in order to keep the home with the feel I want.

I could ramble on and on and move to other things that are currently happening but I have just been called off to mummy duties. So this is it for now but I'll be back with more in a few days. :-)

Friday, 9 December 2016

Reviewing: White Heat, Episode 2

Following my review of Episode 1, which you can find here: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com.mt/2016/12/review-white-heat-episode-1.html


White Heat has got me well and truly hooked and that is saying a lot coming from me. Rarely do I find a series engaging enough to see it through. For characters to be intriguing enough that I let them accompany me throughout my day in my head is a big feat but Claflin's Jack and the rest of the cast have me in their power, saddened by their situations, worrying about their fate, wanting them to see things through to a better time whenever they're in difficulty. Though this post deals with episode 2, I have up to now watched up to episode 5, which leaves me only with the ending episode still to see.

I think I can safely assume that if you are reading this you most probably have already read my review of the first instalment (http://vintagehew.blogspot.com.mt/2016/12/review-white-heat-episode-1.html) and hopefully watched the episode too. However if not, please note that this entry might contain spoilers for episode 1. I will try to keep info about what goes on in the second episode to a minimum in order to avoid giving away surprises.

image from http://www.english-subtitles.club
Starting off two years later, in 1967, episode 2 shows Charlotte campaigning to end female discrimination and degradation and the first flashback shows Lilly and Charlotte as friends. However as from the first episode, in 'present day' scenes, we see that eventually something must have gone wrong between the two roomies as Charlotte appears hostile towards Lilly, the latter submissive.

Charlotte is not the only one with a cause. Jack becomes more active in voicing his disgust at racism and war. Victor on his part also shows disgust, at Jack's treatment of others, especially Charlotte. She is still unable to resist her feelings towards a person who alternately pulls her close and then pushes her away, despite her beliefs against men who degrade females. I have to admit that in this episode Jack does seem to become more unlikeable. Jack’s is not teenage angst any more, but a deeper rebellious passion that is shaping who he is, or who he thinks he is.

The title of the second episode is very apt. 'Eve of Destruction' had me wondering at first was it a literal phrase or elusive to women’s ability to cause themselves harm. This came to mind as in the first episode Lilly and Charlotte discussed God’s punishment of Eve after she ate the apple.

In fact, the second episode does punish Charlotte’s mum as well as Lilly, presumably in both cases for being female in a not-so-far-off past still dominated by men. Both the women are a victim of circumstances up to a point.

On the other hand, the title could also be referring to the fact that this seems to be the first turning point in the story. With the scene set in episode 1, it is now time to turn to the actual destruction of the characters’ dreams and hopes and add to the drama.

When Lilly gets drunk, she is giving Jack the upper hand, letting him destroy her whole future, or so it seems to me now that I’ve seen further episodes. Charlotte’s mother cannot help being who she is and without her bit of crazy Charlotte would have no apparent responsibility always holding her back.

image of Victor from
http://tv-shows.prettyfamous.com/l/104516/White-Heat
Victor is undeservedly punished for his troubles in supporting Jack. However it seems to me that pride is his biggest downfall at the end of it. Jack, being Jack, can’t help himself from first abusing of his friendship and then trying to make up for it and Victor will have none of that.

Speaking of Jack, his relationship with his father is very much an important part of the story. This time round, it’s a meeting in a pub that goes less than well, with Jack verbalising what he thinks of his dad, Edward. Seeing this episode a second time around in order to refresh it in my mind before this review, I couldn’t help notice how Edward says, “I shan’t always be around”. Sounds like foreshadowing to me, though ironically for the time being he is very present and still bailing Victor out.

Alan and Orla as well as even Jay are only minor add-ons to the plot up to this point yet they too will eventually handle their roles well. In the meantime Orla serves to offset Charlotte in thought and action whilst Jay tags along wherever needed. His sexual orientation is known to the viewer but not yet his friends save for Orla. Alan’s story starts here with a minor incident. We get to know he likes Lilly when he admits how long he’s wanted to kiss her, but is Lilly’s reaction aimed at his kiss or was it just wrong timing? More circumstantial destruction in my opinion.

This second instalment ends with a revelation. Lilly explains something to Charlotte that could very well explain the latter’s hostility towards Lilly in the present day, but is it? Meanwhile, on the note of Lilly’s tragedy, Charlotte ends the final scene with an ironic twist that leads us to believe she might see the light about Jack after all. Then again, will she?


Jack and Charlotte
image from http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/tv/2012/03/white-heat-claire-foy.shtml


On to the review of the third episode: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com.mt/2017/01/reviewing-white-heat-episode-3_6.html

Friday, 2 December 2016

Reviewing: White Heat, Episode 1

As promised, I will be reviewing each episode of White Heat, BBC's 2012 6-part series that starts off in the 1960s and extends its story into the present. However, rather than in chronological order, each episode takes us back and forth in time, from the present situation that leads all the characters back into one place minus the one of them who has been found dead after two weeks, to the past that leads to that uncomfortable situation.

Slowly, the story explores the friends', if they can be so called, journey and relationships, starting off at the British University they all attend whilst sharing a flat. From the very first episode, script-writer Paula Milne explores women's lesser role in society, sex, homosexuality, the contraceptive pill and drugs as well as youngsters' rebellion against the status quo.


Picture source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/tv/2012/03/white-heat-claire-foy.shtml


The tale revolves around seven youngsters from totally different backgrounds, ethnicities, gender, physical appeal and education paths. In fact, the whole thing starts out as Jack's (played by Sam Claflin) social experiment that tries to defy the nuclear family norm. Jack is the landlord, the rebel, the one who after all has gotten all the characters together at the start. I have only as yet seen two episodes myself but up to now everything points towards Jack being the leader of the pack, despite his unconventional and often rude treatment of others and outlook on life. It is my guess that he is in fact the dead man from the current day story that the series leads up to.

Maybe it is for that reason that he stands out from the other members of the group, seeming from the first as someone that is both aloof and passionate, a tough personality to contend with. Maybe he also could be regarded as charismatic, as evident in how after all the others' initial dislike towards their possible landowner, all of the lucky 'chosen ones' accept their place in his home.

The appearance of Jack's dad from the first episode helps place his general anger at the way politics and wars are carried out and against whom. It seems to me he is fighting his MP father as much as the system, or maybe it is the other way round. In fact he seems to have turned down a place at a better University just because he refused to go along with his father's plans and preferred to follow his own path. I am not sure whether this information was readily available in the first episode or the second but it is no spoiler really and comes as no surprise. Meanwhile, however, I believe it is from the first episode that, despite disagreeing wholeheartedly with his dad, Jack nonetheless accepts to be bailed out from his money troubles by him. Maybe it is Jack's dad's compliance that has helped turn Jack into who he is after all.

I applaud the filmmakers' choice in casting Sam Claflin as Jack for his interpretation is, in my opinion, as brilliant as that of his bigger roles in more mainstream and big-budgeted films. In this role, he shows us that he could play up a mean and obsessive streak even before auditioning for his more vile role as Alistair Ryle in The Riot Club. Furthermore, Claflin is, in my opinion, one of those actors who best knows how to rely on facial expressions in presenting character feelings in any given situation. The impish grin of his real-life photoshoots here helps the passionate Jack pick up girls and the defined jawline is often set into a tight lock any time he is presenting the spirited and disagreeing Jack.

The other six characters seem to have less of an imposing presence and yet each of them serves the function of fulfilling a type. Meanwhile Milne uses their backgrounds and general outlook to criticise the injustices of the time. It would be difficult to go into any of the characters' role in the episode without giving away spoilers but one situation I cannot get myself to ignore and leave out. And so I will mention just this one.

Charlotte, the pretty red-head that is herself a rebel against norms imposed on females of the time, appears in the first episode to catch out her father having an affair. The cheek of it is, that before she knows of this development in her family's life, her father has just begged her to leave her new home and go back to living with them for her mother's sake, all in order to divert his wife's attention from his own doings. When Charlotte, having been told that her mother is getting 'empty nest syndrome', suggests that either of her brothers could also do that instead of herself, is told that her brothers have enough on their plate and should focus on their careers. This appears to me as a more than subtle hint at women's treatment and the general idea that they were not held as equals in pursuing education and a career.

I could go on and on raving about this series that has me hooked. I love anthropology so this drama is right up my alley and I am glad to have bought the DVDs despite the mixed reviews that I read about it. Definitely one to rewatch in time.


On to the review of the second episode: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com.mt/2016/12/review-white-heat-episode-2.html

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Some good and some bad this past week.

It's another weekend and things have totally shifted since last week. My knee is once again limiting me because of the extreme pain and that's making me more tired in general. Add to that, I am once again unable to get up on a step stool or look into lower cupboards as a result of the pain and what might be a new tear in the cartilage as well as general pain in both of my knees. Therefore I had to put a stop to the Minimalist Game, or rather whilst I still intend to eventually get to the end of it, it will not be in a timely manner! I am taking it more as a challenge to part with things that truly have no place in our home and that might already have been replaced by something better really. I managed today to find five more pairs of socks my son outgrew, but which still had a place in the crammed sock drawer.

Meanwhile, were it not so late and me so tired, I intended today to start a review about a BBC series from 2012 that I am watching. The name of the series is White Heat and having watched its first episode, I think I can guarantee enough to say about each instalment, given how detail-heavy it is. I will not however be tackling Episode One today, as truly each day is seeming more exhausting than the one before and I would rather write up my thoughts about this sixties-inspired drama in a better frame of mind. Thinking about it, that might even give some of my BBC-type-viewer readers time to look up the series for themselves and join me in my review by commenting their own thoughts (hint hint... I'd love that!)

That's all from me for today, as I still need to juggle some more housework and time for a meal before I crash into bed for what almost invariably ends up as a shorter rest till the morrow than intended. Hoping you have a lovely Sunday and new week ahead.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Another Friday Night - The Minimalist Game Continues

So it is yet another Friday night and once again I've not had time to think up a post. Not only that, but my son refuses to settle down to sleep so I cannot even concentrate for the constant whining and talking in the background. Seems like I'm going to have to settle for a short update to the Minimalist Game instead. If you haven't yet read last week's post about it, here it is: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com.mt/2016/11/lets-play-month-long-game.html

Today is the 18th of the month so as you can guess, I should have posted a pic of 18 items to give/throw away/sell in the private group on Facebook where I am playing the game. However since the number has started growing, so has my struggle with finding enough items to shoo out of the house. I have managed to keep it up till now, only once resorting to listing the items I gave away before the 1st of the month. It could be that I don't have that many extra or useless things in my life, which is very true if I compare myself to most people living in the First World and who are not living below the poverty line. Then again, I am sure that there are many things that I could easily give away and never miss but which I struggle with for one reason or another. I noticed that at times the reason is that I'd love to keep them for my 'ideal' self, the one I dream about, who does things I think would be interesting or fun or relaxing, but which truly will probably never really happen. It seems to me like that is my major issue with stuff. I don't mind giving things away that cost me money to start with if I know that they're obsolete in my life anyway. I also rarely have qualms about removing sentimental items from my life. But when it comes to the items belonging to my wanna-be self, boy do I struggle! So maybe I should remind myself more often to embrace the Me that I am, rather than the fantasy one that is not really Me at all at the end of it.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Let's Play A Month-Long Game

It's difficult to find like-minded people when you're a Minimalist living in a Western World that pins too much of its hopes, dreams, hard-earned cash and even time on material possessions. So where to turn to find a place to feel at home when you just need someone to understand you? A Minimalism group on Facebook of course. Facebook is home to all kinds of types of people and all types of things so it was the logical place to search for someplace to discuss the lifestyle as well as ask for tips (and give them too) and encourage each other on in our quest to find our 'Enough' point. Truth be told, however, even Facebook is lacking in this particular field! I eventually found just two Facebook groups about the subject that seemed worth a second look and joined both. They have a different outlook on Minimalism but I tend to be the type of person to find things out, experiment, then make up my own rules to any game. And speaking of games, today's entry is all about the game that helps to set you free. Yes, I did make up that phrase, but truthfully it does help make you feel just that little bit freer once you get (or rather if you get) to the end of the game without a hitch.

I'm talking about the Minimalist Game, as featured on The Minimalists. You may find the link here: http://www.theminimalists.com/game/

It's very simple really. You must find to discard or give away one item on the first day of the month, two on the second, three on the third, and so on and so forth till you get to day 30 or 31 which will be your last day of the game. It is not the aim to remove anything that you believe still fulfils a function or which you still would like to keep. Rather, the game aims to help push us in the right direction when it comes to those maybes.


Some of the discarded items.


I started out my entry with a mention of two Facebook groups that deal with Minimalism and I am currently playing this game with some other members from one of the groups. Through a private group chat on Facebook, we all of us daily post a list, photo or both, of what we have come up with that is leaving our home. Doing this in a group gives you the incentive not to skip days or give up, as it makes you feel accountable for your side of the story. In my case I find it helped rid me of the really old pop socks that I truly hated but kept not to reduce on my number of pairs, as well as some ancient woolen pairs of socks that make my toes itch. Why I'd not gotten rid of them before? Well, a mixture of 'what if I need them?' and reluctance to part with anything still in working order (even if just about!) But the game is making me look high and low, in cupboards that are hard to get to, and ridding me of those items that I hate on sight but never had enough reason to discard. Suddenly that pesky t-shirt that makes me feel like a grandma hit the 'to give away' pile because the guilt of parting with it was outweighed by the necessity of carrying on with the game. This said, it is never a bright choice to give up on stuff that you actually need or want but deep down, we all of us know there's also tonnes of stuff lurking in corners of our home that could do with moving on from our lives, whether to the landfill or else to another home.

I now must off to take a pic of today's rejects, bringing up my total items for now to 66. Maybe you should try it yourself come the first December? Isn't it the perfect time to rid yourself of the old to find space for the new? Or maybe try it in January, when a good life spring-clean is just what the doctor orders after the flashy Christmas season. Or maybe whenever else you are ready to face your things.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

The Fourth of November

Today’s is no article or review, no update to my current life either. Maybe I should keep what I’m about to say private, or maybe not. Because by keeping it to myself I cannot make my friend’s importance to me known and it is actually thanks to him that I ever started blogging at all, through finding his own blog. However that is only one tiny reason as to why I owe so much to my friend, one of the truest friends there ever was.

It’s four years since I lost my friend in a tragic car accident. Lost but not forgotten and in a way not lost at all. For I speak to my friend still in my mind, even imagine him reply back at times. I have to admit I speak to him more now that he’s gone than I ever did once we were not still in school together. I should have kept in touch more, told him more about what was going on in my life. I have many dear memories and yet I feel like I did not do my part as a friend in those final years. The thing is, I took him for granted. He’d always be there, I thought. Never in a million years would I have conjured up the scenario that still flashes in front of my eyes since four years ago.

Over a thousand days have passed since the phone calls (three of them, each caller thinking they were breaking the news to me) that made me stupidly tell the first caller, “Maybe it was another René Cilia and not him.” Sensationalism sells, so I can clearly remember a scene on TV showing a bloodied poem that was found in the front of his car. That poem was probably his last one, maybe unfinished too, but I clearly remember another one he’d written and which was to be read out during assembly. “Can you read it instead of me?” he’d asked me. “I love how you read poetry.” It makes me cry to remember this. He was probably the person who thought the best of me, the one who not only always respected my decisions but admired me for them. I never figured out why he was so caring, but now I think it’s because that is just the way he was.

Picture from René's old Facebook profile
The dull ache in my stomach comes back each time I think of it - of his death, of how young he was, of how I’ll never be able to see him smile again other than in my head. He smiled a lot, and laughed a lot, and generally was the life of the party. Yes, he was a priest in the last years, but one known to all as ‘The Priest with the Smile’. What a lovely way to remember someone. As the years roll on, his memorial page on Facebook is updated no more, and many have gone back to their lives unscathed if saddened by the loss. As for myself, however, I will never be the same person I was before our untimely parting.

Hopefully, his memory has changed me for the better and it’s what drives me not only to speak up for what I believe in but also maybe pushed me just that little bit more that I needed in my writing attempts too. René was a published author, so I will always be able to look proudly at him also in that he achieved that dream, much before myself, and truly at a time when the rollercoaster that is my life was at a low that discarded even passions I held dear such as writing. In fact I rather think that it was in remembering his achievements that I pushed myself to succeed, maybe many years later than I should have, and definitely many years later than if I’d kept in touch with him as much as I should. He would so have gently but surely pushed me towards writing and achieving my goals.

I would never have chosen to let him go. Truth be told, the enormity of just how much our friendship meant, or rather means, to me is a puzzle even to myself. But as he is gone from this earth and I cannot will him back, I choose to live my life with him as an intuitive presence by my side, keeping my family safe and inspiring me to be myself, create art and phrases with zest, and believe in myself. Because he was that person who always believed in me. I’m glad you got to meet my child at least that once, my precious friend. Now Rest in Peace, until we meet again.
Picture from René's old Facebook profile

I am sharing here a link to one of the articles that appeared in the newspaper after the accident. Most newspaper articles focus on horror and the nastier an accident the more prominence it will be given in the news, like bait to people hungry for disaster. This one time though, despite that countless articles appeared in all the newspapers in my country about the accident and funeral and anything else that reporters could get hold of, the articles presented Father René in a way that is fitting to his memory, focusing on his positivity and caring ways among other traits.



Friday, 28 October 2016

Why Downton Abbey survived Seasons and Time


picture from IMDB website
Downton Abbey, created by Julian Fellowes, made it with flying colours through six seasons with fans asking for more. Although there are no more new episodes to watch till the much-hyped sequel film makes it to the big screen, fans including myself won't tire of rewatching all the story over and over on DVD or Blu-ray. (If at all possible and you haven't got your own copy already, get the Blu-ray version. It costs little more than the DVD boxset and shows off the castle and costumes to fabulous perfection. There were times when I could actually see the individual stones that make up Highclere Castle!)



Now back to the point of today's entry, let us explore what makes Downton Abbey stand tall, proud and award-winning amid so many other hopeful series.
picture from IMDB website



As we all know, historical accuracy often takes a backseat in such drama-filled stories but in this case, the production team employed a historian to keep the background on track. Even minute details such as the medals on the soldiers' posh red uniforms were chosen with care, as well as their exact positions on the clothing items! Detail, as well as setting the story during important historical events such as the sinking of the Titanic and the First World War, intrigue viewers and make the characters more real for suffering through realistic if phenomenal periods in time. A cardinal rule of novel-writing is that fiction should be made believable and that it is truth that is stranger than fiction. We believe the tragic stories found in newspapers however odd and sensational they may be and yet would have trouble believing the same events in a novel. So Fellowes' idea of setting the drama in implausible situations that everyone believes in because of history books, gave him free reign in causing problems for his characters without the trouble of having to justify how possible the scenarios would be. These situations allowed him to start the tale with a grand opening - both heirs to the throne are tragically dead - leaving not only the Abbey but also the eldest 'princess' with an uncertain future.

At this point, enter Prince Charming in the guise of a doctor's son, giving the story its first twist. Not only is Matthew Crawley the unassuming heir to the estate, but also middle class enough to be shunned by most at Downton Abbey at the start, a classical example of the hero if you may. In this particular instance, the hero comes with a mother in tow, one with ideas of her own to add to the tale. The introduction of a sensible yet high-aiming mother-in-law for Mary ensured Fellowes could have a subplot or two to add.

http://downtonabbeyfreak.tumblr.com/
Downton Abbey was meant to focus on the future aristocratic Lord and Lady Grantham, with their will-they-won't-they romance that eventually gave way to the will-they-have-an-heir-or-won't-they question. However, as well-made and promising as that sounds, the plot went hay-wire when Dan Stevens, the prince charming himself, opted out of renewing his contract for a fourth season. With a looming possible end to the whole Dowton world, Fellowes opted to kill off the character Matthew on the happiest day of his life, giving audience a new baby and a death in the space of mere minutes not just on the screen but even in the Crawleys' life.

To end the Christmas season with a death scene is an improbable way to keep your audience coming back but Downton had by then gained such a trusted following that the fourth season, despite starting off with not only a lost Mary but also a lost-cause plot, managed to keep enough of its dedicated followers to pick up again whilst spinning the story off into new routes. With the maid Anna and husband Bates, Tom Branson, Daisy and Edith all getting their own bit of fame, as well as Lord Grantham's dramatic ulcer-rupturing scene and Lady Violet's love-from-the-past making an appearance, the show went on to more encores. However it was only fitting that Mary should take centre stage again once she'd recovered from her debilitating loss (which we quite understand, seeing as Matthew was the only one who loved her for who she was and saw the good in her). Failing over and over to find another true love, Mary once again becomes her seemingly cruel self, quick to help those in need but just as quick to ruin her sister's plans as she would have in the first season. Finally married off to a clueless Henry Talbot, it was only fair to plump out his character a fair bit once he became the chosen one and it was only fitting that he leave the racing world behind for a business venture in order to be fair to Matthew's memory.


The final instalments of the last season might have sent everyone off into the sunset they deserved, and yet despite showing two weddings in two episodes, they only served to remind the viewer of Mary and Matthew's previous magical union, cheered by all and destined to work. So truly, whilst all the characters were well-rounded enough to deserve a place in the heart of the Downton Abbey die-hard fan, none of them has left an imprint in fans' hearts as Matthew did, showing us that the tale, just as proposed in the beginning, was the tale of Matthew and Mary after all.


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Friday, 21 October 2016

Cities as Community Spaces - A Conference

Cities as Community Spaces is the third annual conference organised by the Valletta 2018 Foundation. The conference will take place between the 23rd and 25th November in different community spaces in Valletta.

The main aim of the conference is to focus and explore the role of community spaces in the cities and the interaction between different communities. Whilst it is being based in Malta’s capital city - soon to be the European Capital of Culture - the sessions are about issues of international interest and that could be applied to various cities throughout the Mediterranean and Europe as well as beyond.

The conference will be exploring the following six main themes:

Driving Seats - Community Driven Spaces
Moving Walls - Community Contested Spaces
Creative Revivors - Developing Creative Spaces
City Starters - City Space as an Empowerment Tool
#Community - Online Community Spaces
Policity - Policy for Active Community Spaces

Representatives of community organisations as well as researchers, cultural practitioners and policy makers will be participating and sharing their professional views. Nonetheless, the conference is also open to community members, members of community groups and non-governmental organisations as well as local councils who will have different opportunities to share their experience and network with their international counterparts. The Plenary Sessions will be held at the King’s Own Band Club in Republic Street whilst the Parallel Sessions will be divided also among San Gorg Preca Primary School, Spazju Kreattiv and Splendid which has now been reopened as an exhibition and performance space in Strait Street. The Crypt of the Church of St Augustine will be used for networking sessions including dinners.

There will be an accompanying social programme which includes an artistic installation and short film screenings. 

A full programme of events is available here: http://conference.valletta2018.org/programme

Registration for the conference closes on the 31st October 2016. If you would like to attend, you may confirm your registration by clicking the button at the top right hand of the Programme page.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Love, Rosie... A book turned into film

A pretty long while ago now, I had mentioned an idea that was brewing in my mind to write a comparison review between a book and film about the same story. The fictional account I will be tackling today is one of those rare cases where the film is actually better, if very different, to the book, despite that the book came first.

Please note that this entry contains SPOILERS.

Love, Rosie, originally published as Where Rainbows End, by author Cecelia Ahern, is the extremely long if original account of Rosie Dunne's chaotic years from childhood right up to her fifties. Her relationship with best friend Alex is explored mostly through letters going not only back and forth between the two of them but also a multitude of family correspondence in which the two unconciously reveal their feelings for each other, which seem to be obvious to all but themselves.

Letters work well in some novels but not, initially, in this one. To leave things out for the reader to find out is all well and good, but to purposely leave out information on which the whole story will hang is a no-no in my opinion. Truth be told, I doubt I'd have willed myself through the first tedious chapters of the book had I not already watched the film and fallen in love with the story. That said, so much was changed from book to film that at times the story goes off on a totally different route to the one on screen. This is understandable in that the book version is so long it would never work as a film.

Rosie's daughter's subplot about following her dream career is totally omitted, leaving the young Katie only the roles of catalyst and her parallel friendship-turns-to-love subplot. So are the two men Greg and Katie's father turned into one character fulfilling the role of both in the less-than-two-hour-long interpretation. These two changes leave no consequence on the main story but some other changes do, working to better Ahern's story as we are spared the long years of interminable side-tracking to get to the perfect ending. In the book Rosie suffers a long stint working in a rundown hotel that, whilst giving her the work experience she so needs for her eventual career, does nothing to help the book along other than to disgust Alex' wife. This prolonged work placement is not to be found in the less dragging script. Yet another significant change is caused by Alex getting married for a totally different reason in the book, which albeit responsible does torture the reader with eighteen years of a failing marriage. The film instead gives Alex every reason to leave his ailing relationships, pushing him into Rosie's arms faster.

As I mentioned already, Katie's father is not Greg in the book and yet Greg is probably Ahern's best bet at making the plot work. Though he is still the one to hide Alex's letter in the film, the book makes him into a sorrier excuse of a man as he goes about his cheating life without the charm of the handsome Christian Cooke's acted out Greg. Alex's cute teddybear scene that comes right after the funeral and before Greg shows up drunk, putting Alex and Greg in clear comparison on film, is missing from the book. Meanwhile Ahern's antagonist is pitted against Alex all through the book in obvious hints that only the confused Rosie could miss. Alex's perfect description of the holiday he guesses Rosie would prefer is in perfect contrast to Greg's choice and probably my favourite scene in the book.

Given that this has been about comparing and contrasting rather than the usual review, I afraid this entry may have given some details away. However, I have tried as well I can to keep the main surprises out of this text so that you may still enjoy their discoveries whether you choose to read the book, watch the film or do both.

Despite that I have often suggested during discussions with friends, that in this case I would think it makes better sense to watch the film before reading the text, this is always up to the individual's taste. The one thing I can say is that they are both a treat in a different way to each other and whichever you choose to do first won't spoil the other as they are so different, almost like two seperate stories at times if you will, further helped along by the fact that the author of P.S. I Love You has, even in this case, resorted to letters to make her point, whilst the film relies heavily on characterisation instead and presents us with a story that is being played out in real time instead of explained in letters. What works in a book does not always necessarily translate to film and vice versa. So, dear readers and film buffs, I leave you today with a task. If you do follow my advise and see what all the fuss around Love, Rosie is about, do take the time to comment on this post. I would really love to read new opinions about this story that is a favourite of mine.


Thursday, 6 October 2016

What I Learnt This Week

I know it has been ages since I wrote about books and films on here but it's been another hard week which left me with barely time to eat and sleep let alone catch up with freelance work so this will be another impromptu entry.

This week marks an achievement in my lacking culinary repertoire, since I managed to make veal stew (for the first time) and all three of us actually enjoyed eating it! I am a lousy cook (my husband would say that's an understatement!) and don't usually do much cooking myself. So to see my son, who I must emphasise has a distaste for meals in general, forcing himself to eat more because he liked it so, even when he was full, was a big win.

On the house front, our living area is currently packed up in boxes and cupboards due to the refurbishment, and I have found myself singling out my favourite decorative items much more easily, because they are those items that I miss having in plain view. In fact, I found it pretty easy to haul four heavy matching canvas prints to the charity shop yesterday. A clear sign that they should go was the fact that what I felt as soon as we got them off the walls was relief. I had made the colourful and now outdated purchase ages ago, when we first started living in our current home. In a bid to fill the walls of a still new and empty place, I would bring home cheap and affordable purchases or ones that matched our rooms' style, without really knowing where I would be putting them, at times miscalculating their proportions on our walls or, worse than that, without even liking the thing I purchase. These items lingered, became too familiar to part with, and had my husband repeatedly advising he would rather keep them till we found a replacement to avoid having bare walls and shelves. Now that we have removed most everything from the areas we are tackling in our home project, there were no qualms about letting go. Out of sight out of mind they say, though it doesn't really work that way for those of us who are Minimalists, as whatever is in storage still weighs on my mind. Therefore I can't wait for our home to be ready and be able to unpack it all again, not only to put back my faves and the DVD/BluRay collection I am missing so much, but also in order to see what can go. As I believe I mentioned last time, the rule for my current decluttering campaign is 'Anything that doesn't fit must go', which will see a multitude of frames and knick knacks leaving the house, added to those I have parted with already. As Marie Kondo states, it really is about 'feeling' whether something gives you joy. Some things very clearly didn't so I decided we should part ways.

That said, I do not live alone. It is tricky at times, when other family members have different tastes or wants to your own and you're 'stuck' with an item you dislike on a daily basis. However, I have found that once I know an  item is treasured by someone I love, it automatically gains my respect and as a result even becomes more bearable to live with. A Capodimonte statue of red roses has gained its rightful place already in the new surroundings because my husband likes or loves it enough to actually remember it from time to time and ask where it is. Meanwhile my son specifically asked me to keep a set of three matching frames that house pictures of the three of us together. As I am not too sure whether I would like these frames to hang around and don't really have a place to put them, I asked him to tell me was it the photos or the frames he wanted to keep. He said it was the photos, but also made it clear he wanted them put in frames he liked. Compromise is, in this case as with everything else, key.

Multi-tasking is not a forte of mine but I have been writing this entry whilst eating my dinner, which I have now finished. As my to-do list for today is still not all ticked, I am going to have to end this here. Keep tuned, for next time.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

It's Packing Time (and learning what it is I really love)

As I mentioned last time in another post, my every day off seems to be taken up by errands I can't get out of and I've been spending any free minutes on packing up much of the stuff in our open plan living and dining area as we've started refurbishing parts of our home.

As a result, this post is going to be very much about my packing/decorating agenda. To start with, only when I started packing one box after another did I realise just how far I am still from my target of having less things and more space. However packing it all up did help boost my want to minimise more for two reasons. Firstly, as Marie Kondo states in her first book about decluttering The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying it is true that unless you move things from their original position you fail to truly see how much there is and how not everything is really stuff you would want to keep once you've displaced it. Add to that, piling it up in boxes made me want to make an inventory of it all and that in turn helped me recognise what it is I truly love and what I don't want to put back on my shelves once we're all done with the painting and the rest of it. Marie Kondo advises to pick up each piece in turn to 'feel' whether it sparks joy, but with the decorative stuff that did not work for me as every time I thought of the person who'd gifted the item or why such things like frames might be useful though I don't like them or how I'd picked it out on a trip or a million other reasons why not to let it go. With the items packed out of sight and a list it turned out to be easier for me to decide. I knew offhand which items I loved so much that I immediately marked as 'to keep'. Truly, maybe I should let go of all the rest of it but maybe I'm not far enough into my journey into Minimalism to be truly comfortable with that so I am trying to at least divide it all into three sections - to keep, to give and the undecided things.

This last section will be dealt with once all the new/changed around furniture is in its final place and I can see exactly what fit and what doesn't. There is no use for decorative stuff squirrelled away behind closed cupboards so what doesn't fit must go. I have to admit that, knowing what I want our space to ultimately look like, I have already made two new purchases for the new living space and have something waiting for me in the Amazon wishlist which I am still undecided about. However these are not guilty purchases as I chose what I truly think is beautiful and as I said, other stuff is going to go. Still, the Minimalist in me keeps arguing with my heart about whether I really should have bought them. Then I look at the items, both a vintage cream colour and style and I feel like singing with the excitement of knowing they'll eventually be in my 'new' space so I know they are meant to be in my home.

Talking about purchases, Minimalism has been the culprit of many new buys for me, believe it or not, because its creed is that you should surround yourself by things that you love and to be honest, when it came to decorative stuff there wasn't too much of that, amid the mountain of things that I have packed up for now. So whilst many things, some of which (probably the majority) were gifts, that I totally don't want will be going out of the house pretty soon (to the charity shop not the landfill), I have been buying more. However, I now only buy stuff that makes my heart sing and not the things that are 'bargains' or cheap stuff to ensure I fill up the place. Actually, I don't want an overstuffed place and would rather have breathing space instead. That said, I totally love frame-filled walls.

My last point for today is, when I do buy things just because I like them rather than because I need them, I try to ensure to always let go of the similar/extra/related things that don't spark joy any more. It's not so much a one-in-one-out approach as I don't really do rules and numbers in my Minimalist choices but I do buy consciously, knowing that I would be replacing the new for the old, rather than adding to it. So for example I will be saying goodbye to all the chipped mugs that have served me well for so long when my new dining room furniture comes and I put in it the retro mugs I bought recently. Same goes for the old glassware that is pleading with me to finally let it retire in peace... they'll be out of the house (these ones to the recycling site) once I place my new multi-coloured selection in rows in the new furniture cupboard. However for now, I can only dream whilst keeping my stylish new purchases stacked inside wardrobes and on the floor all around the main bedroom whilst I slowly empty the front side of the house of all but our kitchen area and things.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Exhaustion

Not a very positive title today from a quite dejected Me. I am always striving towards being more Minimalist in both stuff and my calendar and also preach that we should always work less and take time to rest. However try as I might things just keep piling up and won't allow me a break.

For some reason, every time I see a blank day on my diary something just has to come up to fill it up, something beyond my control or else that I must do one day or the next so that I'd much rather brush it off my 'to do' list at the earliest (I am not a procrastinator and on the contrary, I panic when I see deadlines looming). I am currently trying to juggle all the following:

- a back-to-school list of things I must cross off (isn't it nauseating the way any time you order something or go shop for something there just has to be one item that turns out damaged and needs returning or that is currently out of stock or in a different outlet, so that you must make your way to the same shop or website twice?!) By the way, if you live in Malta and know which shop on the island stocks beige knee socks for boys then please please, I beg you, leave me a comment on here as I've run out of places to check out! (PS - someone other than the uniform provider as I've been and it turns out their smaller size is too small and the bigger size too big for my son's feet!)

- my hospital appointments are still not over. Why, just why, is my knee still playing up, tests all coming back ok or with more general problems like vitamin deficiencies, but nothing at all to indicate why after all the mornings I've spent in Outpatients and running around the hospital from MRI to Xray and bleeding room to Bone Density Scan and back to MRI, I still have no answer as to why my knee won't function normally and I'm still in pain, even after the long post-op recovery period is over?

- I've been buying things for our house! Now this one at least is worth the trouble (not that my son's education isn't, it's just the ridiculous amount of related errands that's getting on my nerves). Ok ok, I'm Minimalist and this is the last thing you expected to hear from me but there are purchases and there are purchases. What I meant to say was my husband and I've been shopping around for some big items that we still had not got round to getting for our house. Add to that some things were in need of a revamp if we want to do our beloved home justice by not leaving things half-done. And well, some things were also past their prime. This last makes me sound very old for my age, knowing I've been living in this house long enough to be already changing worn stuff when my friends are just getting married or still doing up their spare room!

So, I think the above put together give a good picture of just why I am totally knackered and they don't include my work days and multiple doctor and dentist visits that have been on the cards. Please someone, magic up a day off for me!