Thursday, 24 May 2018

The Girl Before - The Best-Written Book Ever IMO

Here's the link to the review I wrote for eve.com.mt about what I now consider to be the best-written book ever from a technical side. As always, a thank you to my sponsor Agenda Bookshop.



Saturday, 19 May 2018

The Dave Bruno 100 Thing Challenge (Part 1) - Should I take the challenge?

When I first came across a mention of the book The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno, I thought he must be one of those extreme minimalists who had put me off Minimalism in the first place. Then I stumbled across another mention of the book when I was well into my journey into Minimalism and was looking for inspiration to downsize more in a bid to clear more of my life and mind of all the accumulated stuff and commitments that were still bogging me down. This time round, I was interested in buying the book but solely as motivation to living with even less and definitely never with the idea that I would try the challenge myself.

However, with book in hand and around the fifth chapter, I started thinking it might be an interesting challenge to try out and learn from after all. Still skeptical that a 100 personal items might not cover all that I considered to be ‘needs’, I finally had an eureka moment this morning and thought I might still benefit from the challenge even without trying it out myself.
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My idea is a simple one and involves no personal sacrifice unless I decide at the end that I do want to go for it after all. I decided to put to good use one of the many pretty but still empty journals that I can’t get myself to part with. I would start listing from memory the personal items I would definitely not want to part with and see to what number that would get me, even before I start going through my things one by one in a bid to not only remove the excess but also get an idea of how many personal items I actually do own.

Waste of time? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I know myself enough to feel that this exercise would actually help me not just literally quantify my belongings but also make me more mindful of what possessions I do consider indispensable. Most probably most of these will be in the first list I mentioned - the one I can list from memory - which might help push me into reducing more of what isn’t, after all, something I consider a need.

I am not expecting to become the next Leo Babauta after this challenge. I am not sure I will even get to the point where I am willing to take on the challenge myself. Whatever difference this exercise will make, however, I am sure that it will help me learn something more about myself and my interaction and relationship with ‘things’.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Seven Bags Full

I live in Marsaskala, which used to be a fishing village but has now grown into a town that gets inundated with outsiders every Sunday in the winters and all through the week in the summer.

As a result, the restaurants in my town are always full of business. This translates into massive amounts of garbage for the truck to pick up, daily in our case, as the schedule in Marsaskala is for 'normal' garbage pick-up to occur on every day of the week including Sundays and most feasts. By 'normal' I mean non-recyclable here.

In some towns and villages a pilot program started quite a while ago asking residents to separate not only recyclables from the rest of the garbage but also to put compostable material in a third bag that would be picked up on allotted days. Unfortunately this new program is yet to reach my town. Which makes me wonder why wouldn't a town that generates so much in compostable garbage through restaurants and take-aways not be considered for the pilot program, if only to avoid more years of throwing the material away rather than try to minimise waste.

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I decided to write this article only tonight when, out for a walk with my family, we passed by one of the restaurants close to the beach and I noticed seven huge garbage bags on the pavement just outside it, waiting to be picked up by the truck tomorrow morning. I can definitely understand that such a business would generate an amount of garbage and also the fact that Sundays are busy days for the restaurant. What I cannot fathom is how come there were SEVEN mountainous bags of garbage.

I can only gather that the restaurant might not even separate the recyclable stuff from the rest of it, especially since I did glimpse a white plate through one of the semi-transparent bags that was most definitely a paper or plastic one.

This kind of thing worries me for two reasons. Firstly, are people still so uneducated about the repercussions of not taking care of our environment? And secondly, recyclable or not, why are businesses even still using disposable items to such an extent?

I can understand the limitations of the venue in providing certain items in reusable materials. It is definitely unhygienic to provide non-disposable straws to customers and dangerous to give little children metal forks and glass or ceramic plates and glasses. I am also a fan of the doggie bag over throwing leftovers away so I excuse a certain amount of disposable packaging items if they help reduce on food waste. However I am sure there are some items that could easily be replaced by restaurants with more environment-friendly options. Add to this, I am sure that the patrons themselves could easily help the effort in small ways such as by carrying their own stainless steel straw and refusing to take a plastic one provided by the venue. In the same way, one can easily carry a warmth-retaining lidded cup and ask that it be filled up at the coffee shop rather than accepting a polystyrene one. The list of ways in which we can not only recycle, but preferably even reduce the amount of recyclable material we use up, is next to endless. So whilst I will stop my post here for today, I will definitely be back with more about how to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

The 'I love' Series - Poetry

I am a writer. I guess I could say I've always been. The very first story I wrote was called The Dance; I must have been somewhere between nine and eleven years old at the time.

The poetry came later; I only discovered my love for it after the tedious years of studying The Dragon Book of Verse with its multiple themes and the nauseating hours spent trying to figure out why I was meant to study it at all.
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I was sixteen years old when I feel in love with Wilfred Owen's poetry. Somehow it spoke to me. Images of blown-up bodies and mental cases do not connote much with long-haired girls wearing pretty skirts and in love with nail polish. Yet those pararhymes - half-rhymes if you will - spoke to the realist in me as nothing else ever had, awakening a sense of beauty in the mundane and sensible that finally could be expressed in accurate terms.

Prose can say a lot of things we wouldn't dare to speak. Yet it is limited in its ability to tackle any subject as accurately as poetry does. Moreover, poetry allows for playing around with words to help clear the mind of the jumble of thoughts and imagery that freely roam the otherwise restricted and rigid confines of the brain. Maybe that's why we are told we should lead with the heart but follow with the mind. For sensibility does need to somehow prevail even in the life of an artist, but only once the heart and so the poetry has first had its say.

I should admit, I don't just write whole poems. At times, I write a few simple lines to describe just about anything, real and surreal, especially that which will torture the mind if left unsaid. Because that's what poetry is really there for now, isn't it?

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Would You Like To Join... A Case of Cabaret?

For the past couple of years, I have had the pleasure of liasing with the team behind theatre company DLS Productions in order to give my readers information about some of their upcoming plays.

Theirs is an assortment of productions that border on the experimental at times and on the superb always. This time, six actors take to the stage or rather, the café, to present an immersive show that will no doubt live up to the theatre company’s record of fabulous interpretations.

For ladies and gentlemen, The Undercroft Cafe in Old Theatre Street, Valletta (Malta) has been turned into the seedy nightclub The Black Alley, where amid the wine, song and dance, the characters go through a series of events, including one death, as the seated audience try to guess whodunnit.

A live music show filled with popular classics awaits the audience of A Case of Cabaret. Starring an all-professional cast of actors/singers/dancers that have in the past brought us the likes of Carmen: The Rock Musical and Belliegha Rockin’ The Underworld, this musical murder mystery is an interactive show for audiences aged fourteen and over.



Starring
Sean Borg; Nikki Vella; Stefania Grech Vella; James Camilleri; Yandrick Agius; Rachel Vella

Script and Artistic Direction
Lucienne Camilleri; Edited by Maria Agius

Music Direction
Norbert Borg


At: The Undercroft Cafe, St Paul’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral, Old Theatre Street, Valletta
Time: Doors open at 19:00; Show starts at 20:00
Tickets from: ticketline.com.mt

Further info:

Audience will be seated at tables for 4 people. Multiple ticket sales within the same booking will be automatically grouped together. Tables may be shared with third parties.


Access to the venue is through a staircase (around 10 steps) on Old Theatre Street, Valletta


                     

Friday, 20 April 2018

The Perfect Selfie

I started out writing about selfies a couple weeks ago, sharing with my readers an assortment of badly taken photos and ranting about how I can never get it right. You may read about it here if you missed it: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com.mt/2018/04/selfies-galore-but-any-good-ones.html

Fast forward one week and two helpful comments from a reader, I wrote an unplanned follow-up post about the subject in which I shared some better if still unprofessional pics together with some observations I made. Here's a link to this second post: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com.mt/2018/04/selfies-galore-continued.html

Once again my reader commented on my updated pics and musings. I must thank him for after reading through that third comment I finally managed one single, in my opinion 'perfect' photo so here I am sharing it:



Sunday, 15 April 2018

Selfies Galore... Continued

Following my rant last time about never getting selfies quite right, as well as the lovely informative comments from one of my readers, I am now back with some selfies that are much better than the previous ones, if I may say it myself.

For those who missed last week's post, here it is again: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com.mt/2018/04/selfies-galore-but-any-good-ones.html

As my reader advised, it does seem like it is mostly about getting the right angle as well as being confident in front of the camera. I have not yet exactly mastered smiling in self-taken photos but I think I've come a long way, again because of said confidence. Once I decided that my face was looking good in the selfies, however, I started noting all the other mistakes I make in taking the photos, this time a problem with background, particular items or even the lighting.

So after posing for the perfect photo wearing a new top and on the way to an important meeting, I found myself looking at a snapshot that had one minor flaw, a clothes hanger left in the background! Try as I might, I couldn't reproduce that shot after I removed said offending hanger. Same type of issue appeared when I wore my photochromic specs in a pic. They were dark enough not to let my eyes show properly, yet not dark enough to conceal them, leaving me with a picture that attracted attention to that very fact more than anything else in the composition. Another frustrating thing I've noticed is that sometimes, the background is too similar to my hair colour or that of my clothes and seems to cause an anti-climatic effect. Again, trust my camera skills to fall short once I move a few steps to take the same picture on a different background.

I noted other small details like how it is difficult to make my blowdried hair appear perfect in pics whilst with curly locks I am able to get decent pics every time. The reason is probably that curls are in themselves unruly, imperfect, asymmetrical, whilst straight hair can very easily look out of place.

However, I still find that the most important detail in a selfie seems to be the lips and therefore the smile. I am smiling in most of the best pictures whilst those pictures that seem otherwise perfect always fall short of perfection when I am not smiling in them.


Sunday, 8 April 2018

Selfies Galore... But Any Good Ones?!

I have a friend who takes amazing selfies. Yeah I actually did ask once or twice would he please tell me how can a selfie turn out that good.

There is something called being photogenic apparently. Ok I knew that existed but never before did I know that being photogenic is totally unrelated to being pretty or handsome. You read that right. The most beautiful girl in the world might actually not be photogenic at all!! It is all about the contours of the face and how they will 'flatten' out in a 2D pic. Maybe that is why I always think about another friend's pics that they don't do him justice whilst his videos make him look totally different to the pics.

I have a roundish face and most of my selfies look pudgy to me. Erm, I think my version is actually better than 'nerdy', which I got told as well. People comment I look nothing like my pics and I never could figure that one out as to me I look just like, well, me!

Given I have a round face, that I always seem to choose the wrong angle (or so I get told!) and that I tend to look too serious when I am taking my own pic (I'm trying to concentrate on that angle, right?!) I do look quite not up to scratch in pics. To be fair, the back camera of a phone seems to magnify facial blemishes too, have you ever noticed that?! On the other hand I have also noticed that when I am not the only one in the pic, I tend to look better. You could argue that I might be standing next to someone who looks worse than me in the pics but given most of the time that other person is my dear gorgeous son, I rather think it's a matter of holding the camera far enough to fit both of us in the photo that does the trick.

I won't be sharing any pics of myself with my son as I have some self-made privacy rules on here but I am going to share a few of my selfies. Maybe you can judge for yourself how badly I can take them. Feel free to post your comments below.


Top Left - pudgy face (taken face up on bed)
Bottom Left - actual smile (taken with Photo Booth which makes it easier to take good selfies)
PS - No, I am NOT naked in the bottom left pic, my hair is covering the straps of my top!!



Saturday, 31 March 2018

Love and Hate - Makeup

I once wrote a blog post about some fave makeup items and mentioned budget-friendly brand essence as one of my go-to brands. However today my post is more particular and is a bad review I guess you could say. Sometimes, even good brands get it wrong. So here are two items I suggest you leave out of your shopping cart and what to replace them with.


1 - the get BIG! LASHES volume-boost waterproof mascara by essence.

When my 'normal' waterproof mascara finished, also from essence, I decided to go bolder and try this one. Bigger lashes? More like clumpy ones and ruined my own lovely long ones in the process!!

My solution: back to basics, bought my trusty essence 'all eyes on me' waterproof version once again.

2 - heart-shaped essence lipstick.

It was a special edition, a truly delectable colour and suited me so so well, especially as it is in a violet tint that matches a lot of summer clothes I love as well as looks good on me, unlike some other hues. So truly, there was nothing wrong with this lipstick except for one very important detail... heart-shaped might look cute but truly, it is a nightmare to paint my lips the right shape with it!

My solution: In the end I gave up, stopped using it and now bought the closest colour I could to it in a not-special-edition with 'normal' tip-shape.


Sunday, 25 March 2018

Reviewing '36 Questions that changed my mind about You.

They say love comes along when you least expect it to and it may well be true. However just like there have been experiments about a zillion other emotions and conditions, there have been studies conducted about love too and it seems that given the right scenario, any two people are more likely to fall in love when they answer the '36 Questions'. Vicki Grant used these experimental questions as the basis for her novel and has us wondering up to the last, will they cause her subjects to truly fall in love?

Read my review, now on EVE:

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Any Human Heart - The Film Series (2010)

It could be any human heart. That's what comes to mind whenever I rewatch the series
based on William Boyd's novel Any Human Heart, although the title is apparently taken from a quote by Henry James.

I have searched high and low for a second hand copy of the film tie-in edition of the book and have only just this week been lucky in my search. Therefore whilst I have watched the series three times, I am still to read the novel. It received mixed reviews but that never bothers me because any artistic rather than mainstream writing will get that reaction. Rather, I look forward to reading what has been described as an erratic narrative, in keeping with the idea that the story is seen not only through the eyes of the protagonist Logan Mountstuart as he goes about his life, but also in journal format so that the present is always that which matters, sometimes totally disjointed from the past and with a changing agenda. Unlike a memoir, a journal also allows the narrator to focus on the now without knowing the future yet, whilst the memoir would be reminiscing and comparing and contrasting or looking at things with a view to what will come next.

As always, I tried to do some research prior to writing this piece and it was interesting what info came up in my search. It seems like the writer Boyd and myself have one fascination in common, both of us being intrigued and enamoured of the idea of the life of any human and how it can be explored in writing. Boyd uses the journal style to give the writing the immediacy of present happenings, therefore bringing us closer to the protagonist.

The well-known phrase 'we are all human' implies that we all make mistakes. Humans are flawed by nature. Maybe the real appeal of this series is that we get to see Logan blunder through life from the safety of our own seat. We are privy to his disasters and achievements, lust and love and sadness, without being affected ourselves by the multiple decisions he takes along the way.

SPOILER ALERT FOR THIS PARA! The plot, if you can so name it, spans the lifetime of a person whose legacy, ironically, is only sealed after his death. He is a writer, one that toyed with writer's block more than actually wrote books it seems, and yet at the end of it his life proved to be his biggest masterpiece.

However even as I state that the series is about a man's life first and foremost, I can't but comment that Logan's life was full of 'love' if we could call it that. There seems to be a recurring theme in films and books that once yo've found your one true love, no one else will ever come close and this mirrors reality in my opinion. SPOILER ALERT THIS PARA! So Logan loses his virginity to his best friend's girlfriend then beds Land, marries Lottie before finding his one true love in Freya and eventually must deal with the tragic end to his very dear marriage to this second wife. He goes into a disastrous third marriage with a cold American woman, one that is short-lived in part due to the ongoing effects on his mind from losing his treasured Freya and their daughter Stella whilst he was a prisoner of war. It is at this point he lets go of looking for love and instead turns to Monday and eventually Gloria for something that is passionate and glorious in its irresponsability and finds peace in not looking for a replacement but embracing instead the fact that he'd lived his one big love story already.

I am sure that once I read the book I will find that there are variations in the film series to the original text. Having viewed before reading this extraordinary tale, I am free to give my opinion on the script and screen interpretation without being hindered by the comparisons and contrasts that will surely cloud my opinion once I have also read Boyd's novel. Therefore I will allow myself to say that, as a stand-alone series not reliant on any previous written version, Any Human Heart strikes me as a well-thought-out and gripping tale that any fan of artsy films will surely enjoy, especially those of us who love to examine the average human life.

                      

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

On The Death of Stephen Hawking

On days such as this many articles and comments appear all over the internet about the deceased. Some are intelligent observations, others merely thoughts that people post because after all, media is about freedom of speech. I will personally not be writing a eulogy as I don't believe in writing about people, things or situations I am not familiar enough with.

However I am very familiar with the film The Theory of Everything (2014) that strives to present the story of the man and the genius and spans decades of the scientist's life. Based on Jane Hawking's Travelling to Infinity, it deals not only with the professional achievements but also the personal life of Professor Hawking. About this film I have written two articles so here are the links to a) a review about the film and b) a clarification of deviations from the original facts to the ones in the film.

Review of The Theory of Everything:

Inaccurate facts in the film The Theory of Everything:

Monday, 5 March 2018

Update to my February Cash-Only Experiment

So February has ended and with it my experiment for a cash-only month. I have to admit I cheated a little bit but learnt a lot too.

I did manage to keep myself from buying anything online and therefore with a credit card. Except for one little thing. My son asks for many things and I often refuse to give him what he wants unless it is an actual need. However as a treat for respecting my decision to say no to most of his requests, I finally allowed him one purchase I knew would mean a lot to him. It was close enough to the end of the moth that the item arrived in March and so in a way I did stick to the no credit-card February as I actually paid it in March. Add to that, I do keep a small budget for treats so as such I did not go out of line of the budget.

Meanwhile, I did say last time that I intended to avoid using even a debit card at cash points for the month of February, excluding for biggish purchases. Well I stepped into a JB Stores to get thick coat hangers and voila' I was out of there with a bagful of stuff. Meaningful stuff mind you, that I would definitely be using in my new home, and yet stuff that I didn't have enough cash in my purse to pay for and so out came the debit card. As you might remember, I had said that I never carry much cash on my person and so it is only obvious that I do use my debit card here and there but still my purchases were not budgeted for in this case.

Other than for these two 'mishaps' if they may so be called, I have to proudly advise I used cash extensively through the month. Yet I don't think I can really report having bettered my savings in so doing. If anything, it is more of a headache to need to keep cash on hand at all times as I am not often aware from the morning as to when I am actually going to stop for groceries or need to buy a lunch or even when I will need a trip to the pharmacy.

On the other hand, I did find it easier to not have to continually update my spreadsheet with money taken through using the debit card and needing to keep track of the bank's updates since they don't post such transactions on the same day they are made, therefore leaving me with a bigger balance showing than the one on my spreadsheet and unable to reconcile properly.

Now that we started March, I have decided to pay cash whenever I can in order to avoid this problem with the bank balance updates and yet won't be going out of my way to pay cash at all times.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Watching A Classic - Forrest Gump (1994)

It created a lot of hype when released and went on to gain Tom Hanks his back-to-back Oscars in 1995, a feat no other actor has managed since. The film itself beat Four Weddings and a Funeral to the Best Picture Oscar and gained 45 awards in all, from Golden Globes to a BAFTA, a Screen Actors Guild Award to an Amanda Award from Norway.

Despite being a classic and one that outdid my fave of the year Four Weddings and a Funeral to the Best Picture Academy Award, I had none the less got through my years since without so much as a peak at this positively-reviewed drama (if you may call it that?)

It all changed this week when, on someone's recommendation, I watched it for a first time. I started out expectant, lost interest at its long-winded narrative and then ended in buckets of tears as Forrest and Jenny's star-crossed lovers plot reminded me very much of my biggest love story. Which is to say, at the end of it, the film was a success in my books.

It has been defined as satire, suggested to be a story through the eyes of innocence in the form of a simple man and even described as a walk through of the USA's historical events and fads of Gump's and Jenny's lifetime. I believe that above everything else, I would call it a character study that incorporates life's possibilities, probabilities and hinderances in an experiment to see what Hank's Forrest would do with them all.

SPOILERS ALERT - I mentioned earlier Forrest and Jenny's romance, if it could be so called as long as it was one-sided. From their initial bonding over being different to their prayer in the field as they hide from Jenny's dad, from Forrest's protectiveness towards his sweetheart to his naming the whole fleet of shrimping boats 'Jenny', this was one love affair that was sure to succeed at the end. Even as Jenny sank further and further into a life she felt made her unworthy of her childhood friend's unconditional love, an invisible string seemed to keep them coming back to each other to cross paths again, at times coincidentally and at others out of their own sheer will. Even from the beginning, as Hanks sat on the outdoor bench relating his character's story through the eyes of one with an IQ of 75, that box of chocolates sitting in his lap attracted my attention time and again, not for his borrowed phrase that life is much like a chocolate box, with a surprise taste with each choice you make, but rather because it had to signify something.

True enough, he was on the way to Jenny's even as he related the tale. I never expected Gump to be her son's dad, especially since the film only hinted at and never revealed did Jenny and Forrest sleep together on that last night before she disappeared from his life again. Which leads me to what was for me one of the most moving moments in the film. When Forrest finds himself alone again after that special night with Jenny in his arms, he is unable to take the normality of his life any more and so he runs; maybe not runs away exactly, but runs without direction nonetheless. Truly, any of us who have lost the love of someone that meant much to them would know how directionless and haphazard our life becomes after that.

I mentioned that this is satire, a story about innocence, a character study, and a historical walk of events. Above all else, in my opinion, I would class it as a love story that will remain relevant through the years. Gump might serve in Vietnam, win at ping-pong and run across multiple States of the USA, but it is all done through his love of Jenny and for his love of Jenny; the one meaning in the chaos of life. Could that be why he bulldozes Jenny's father's house at the end? More than to destroy that place which had caused Jenny not only pain but a life of regret, maybe he destroyed it to remove that one thing that had led her astray from his arms for so long.

I would above all else, call this the eternal romance of innocence and experience intertwined. After all, that is why it probably resonates with viewers to the point of being still remembered twenty-three and a half years later as soon as I mention it by name. Forrest Gump will never die in film-goers' hearts.


Tuesday, 20 February 2018

More Tips to a Confident You

A few weeks ago I posted a link to my article 'A Resolution to Look and Feel Better Every Day' and today I will be linking another article that also talks about simple tips that will make a huge difference to a girl's confidence. So here it is, my Part 2:

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Alone on Valentine’s Day

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It’s a day for chocolates and roses, cards and gifts. Or for those of us who are Minimalists at least a romantic day set up beforehand to make more time and give more attention to our better half - a reminder really - of something we should strive for daily anyway.

All the above however count only for the couples, and not me for the first time since 1999. So this is going to be one dedicated to singletons rather.

I used to be a smug married, as Bridget Jones would say. Jokes apart, I have to admit, I really was! Somehow, for good or bad, being married meant having another half with whom to share it all. Now I am on the other side of the table and the phrase that comes to mind is from The Wedding Singer (1998) where Adam Sandler’s character, newly dumped at the altar, sings ‘Love Stinks’. Oh how it does!

When it goes wrong, it stinks worse than cigarettes and onion breath rolled into one and dumped on a Maltese bus seat amid the sweat and stink of socks. Because it leaves you all alone, regretting or craving it, maybe even both all at once.

Yes I am single but I am here writing on behalf of all those going through the five stages of grief following a breakup (or even two!)

All the happy photos of couples that I scroll through on my Facebook make me want to make a mental note to avoid mindlessly hitting the app icon for the day. Probably even Google will have to be avoided if their illustrator comes up with something soppy enough for the main page of the search engine.

Bitter? I ain’t, not really. I am trying hard to get comfortable in my own skin after almost two decades of sharing it with someone and wearing their own skin on mine. I am also trying to be objective about the most irrationally subjective topic in life:

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LOVE. Is it only a four-letter word? Or is there more to it? As they say in my language, the dog that’s already been scalded will think all water is boiling hot. Or a more apt way to put it would be to use the English equivalent of ‘Once bitten, twice shy’.


Will I find love again? After all, what is love really at the end of it? Some think of it as companionship, stability, trust. I am more passionate than that and I mean this character-wise, for passion is not always about sex. I need something more than to just settle. I need to look into someone’s eyes and ‘know’ it will work, or at least can work, if we both want it to.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Books Worth Your Money

For the first ever time on my blog, I am actually selling something. I currently have quite a few books to sell as I slowly pack up all my stuff from our current matrimonial home and start my new life as a single mum, temporarily at mum's with very little space to put my things. However, as some of you who follow me might know by now, it is very usual for me to part with books once I am done with them, simply for the reason that I always live lightly and have no need for books that will sit on my shelves unless I plan on reading or re-reading them. I have to admit sometimes I part with books before even finishing them because one of my rules is to never waste time on anything that I do not believe to be useful or interesting. Unfortunately sometimes it is also the case that despite actually being interested in the book, I might anyway not have time to go through it as I struggle to get caught up with other books that I might need to read to a deadline or that I need to re-read as research before writing some article. You might wonder why I don't keep such books to the side to read some day and my answer to that is very simple. I very much agree with Marie Kondo's remark that unless you read a book soon after it reaches your home, you likely never will. Unread books tend to blend in the background yet still constantly send us warning signs that we are yet to give them the attention they deserve, causing unnecessary clutter in our minds despite not being important enough for us to have given them more attention.

That is not to say that I am only selling unread books right now, as I tend to read most books only once and rarely do I feel any of them deserve a place in my Hall of Fame, ie a shelf/cupboard space in my home. As I said, I feel better when I live lightly and in order to do that, I must let things go. It also helps that the less books are on the shelves the less tiring it is to dust both the shelving and my book collection. So here are a few of the books I am currently looking to part with. I am not in a position to ship abroad due to ridiculously high postage costs so this offer is only for people living in Malta, pick-up only. Here goes:

goodbye, things (Fumio Sasaki)
I have read this one through and would suggest it to a budding Minimalist though as I once mentioned in another post, this is not one for those who've been on the journey to living with less for a long time already.
Selling for EUR5

The Productivity Project (Chris Bailey)
I looked up and bought this book after being inspired by the author's TEDx Talk. However, a TEDx Talk is only 17 minutes whilst his book is one long read with a heavy subject so I unfortunately had to leave it on the back burner for so long it lost its allure. I can confirm however that what little I read of it was quite interesting and never left my mind.
Selling for EUR5

Bridget Jones's Baby - The Diaries (Helen Fielding)
I reviewed this one on EVE a while ago, giving it a positive review (which you may read here: http://www.eve.com.mt/2017/03/10/bridget-jones-baby-a-book-review/). I may be selling this one, but not exactly parting with it! The one reason this is on my to-sell list is because the copy I own does not match the other three books I have in the series so I would like to sell this hardbound copy to replace it with the paperback version.
Selling for EUR9


Send me an email on giseles84@gmail.com if you would like me to reserve any of the above-mentioned books. However pick-up needs to happen by end of February latest.

Meanwhile, since we are on the topic of books, here is a link to my ever-growing page on Facebook about totally anything book-related: https://www.facebook.com/TheBookRetreat/

Thursday, 1 February 2018

A Cash-Only Month

One tip I have read about over and over that helps save money is to ‘pay by cash not card’.

I live in a country where the use of debit rather than credit cards is still widespread and so it must seem that this tip might not exactly apply to Malta. After all, credit allowance in Malta is very limited as I learnt just by trying to get another credit card from a different bank, whereupon I was asked for proof that I lowered my limit on another bank’s card just to be allowed to apply to get a credit equivalent only to that amount!

https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/
black-credit-card_1014950.htm
Truly, I don’t even use my credit card for its intended purpose much, preferring to own one solely for ease of online buying. However, there are always pitfalls to buying by card, be it debit or credit, should you be trying to save rather than spend.

To start with, a credit card WILL let you use more money than you have, whether you’d like it or not. And with that in mind, it is easy to buy something ‘this month’ rather than the next, knowing you can pay it later,  even at no interest if you are diligent with paying on time. Which leaves only the problem of having already spent some of NEXT month’s pay, right?!

When it comes to using a debit card, there is less danger of overspending as you are required to actually have money in the account to make a transaction. Still, this method of payment does not hold us accountable like good old cash does, simply because signing on the dotted line else putting in that password is much easier than counting out the money.

I have to admit that when the cashier asks me for the money, I barely register the amount he is asking for when I am paying by card. When I do pay in cash, however, I need to count out the money and even check do I have enough in my purse! Using a debit card will easily allow me access to money put aside for something other than the purchase I am making, as the purpose of the bank account is actually to keep our money safe and put aside.

I am not one to carry much cash and I would not prefer to withdraw more instead of using my debit card at EPOS for bigger purchases. Meanwhile it is not always possible to use a debit instead of a credit card online either.

Even with these limits in mind, I decided to give this ‘buy cash only’ idea a try, making allowances for cards in two instances only:
https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/colorful-financial-icons_784960.htm

I will still pay by card at the supermarket when the bill is big, ensuring to reduce my groceries budget from my spreadsheet workings as soon as I am home on the same day. This will ensure that I do not overspend anyway in the one given area, for the month.

My second concession will be to allow myself the use of a credit card should I finally find to buy online a copy (new or second-hand) of the film tie-in edition of the book Any Human Heart. This because I have been on the lookout for it for long months now and it is very difficult to come by.

With these two exceptions in mind, I hope to try this experiment for a whole month, starting today. I am skeptical as to the extent of a difference it will make and will keep notes too, giving my feedback on here once the month is over. So keep tuned, till next time.


Friday, 26 January 2018

Their Finest (2016) - A Film Review

Due to circumstances, I was unable to go watch Their Finest at the cinema when it first came out which was already a tantalising few months after it first previewed at festivals in 2016! Then I had to wait patiently for the DVD to be released for my first glimpse of Lone Scherfig’s war comedy/drama.

I approached my first viewing with mixed feelings, because despite that the film stars three actors whose other works I love, this was undermined by my questioning whether Scherfig’s latest would be a masterpiece else a dragged out unimpressive feature, given I had seen one of each by this same director.

The intro to main character Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) is unnecessarily drawn out and it took two viewings of those first minutes for me to really get into the story. However the film gains points for putting the audience in the correct historical scenario from the outset. Meanwhile, whilst I do know that this film is based on the book Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans and therefore most of the production was based on this same, it is nonetheless worth praising the production effort involved in juxtapositioning the ‘real’ world against that of the propaganda film in such a way that the stories blend together to offer the viewer not one but two stories to follow. For even as the characters write the script and film the story of the twin girls who help with the evacuation at Dunkirk, they are themselves living out another drama called ‘life’. For war and work aside, they all have feelings and dreams, some of which must get put aside.

For ageing Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy) acting jobs are scarce and he is less than pleased with playing the part of Uncle Frank, which in his opinion is ‘a corpse role’. Catrin needs a job and is up for a challenge, yet just for being a woman she is being paid less and told so at the outset. It doesn’t help that when she finally warms to the work and her senior Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) her partner tries to pull her away from it all. As for Buckley himself, who is very much at ease being in charge, he is too much of a loner and also grouchy, till Cole bursts his protection bubble with her soft ways.

War stories are usually sad dramas and comedies have happy endings as a rule. In this film, the norms are twisted to present to us a comedy with war for a backdrop, whilst adding an unexpected love story to the mix. So we see here a subdued colour scheme that corresponds with the air of depression that accompanies war-torn London, that is further enhanced by a blast that Catrin finds herself in the middle of, looking around at a nightmare of bodies scattered everywhere just seconds after they were alive.

Despite the constant fear of bombing, Catrin refuses to leave when her artist partner wants her out of London and in a safer place. Maybe like Buckley, who believes in his work and does so with a passion, she too feels she’d found her purpose in the job of script-writer, which seems to give her new life. After all, as Buckley points out, “The work is good Mrs Cole, you’re doing a good job.” Tom Buckley, surly though he is, becomes quite likeable in the company of Catrin and that is where the behind-the-scenes of the film gets more interesting.

However, this is a war film we are talking about and one directed by Scherfig, which in itself hints at a more intricate ending than simply a happy one. Unfortunately for me, studying writing has stripped away from me the joy of being surprised whilst reading books and watching films most of the time. Throughout the last quarter of the film, I started sensing an air of finality in the love story that would not allow me to believe in a positive end. So whilst probably most viewers would be rooting for Tom’s character and spurring Catrin on, I sat back in my seat and waited for the inevitable; I felt that something would go wrong. I won’t say whether it did, or whether the film surprised me by proving me wrong, as that would spoil the ending for those readers still to watch the film or read the book. What I can definitely say, is that Lissa Evans’ love story provides a twist that will shock even thought of us who already felt the foreboding finality to Tom’s and Catrin’s ever-after.