Saturday, 29 November 2014

We've Come Full Circle

It's hard to believe that we're entering the last month of the year and this Christmas is now a matter of weeks away and it's time to put up your decorations, put on your favourite christmas songs, do your present shopping and drink plenty of mulled drinks.

I'm from the camp where you don't get excited about Christmas until December, so from Monday I can start my advent calendar and get all christmassy without feeling weird. Surprisingly, I'm pretty efficient this year and only have four more people to buy for - so there isn't that sheer panic about getting it all done and working out how I will afford it all.

I've been trying to get more responsible about money, as you may know I'm trying to save up to go to New York for my 25th which is going to of course require discipline. This has been attempted the past few months, but I've had to take the money back out again, but from this month on I'm refusing. Even if I do have to live off pasta.

Black Friday was not easy on me and I did buy a few things, but I think I remained somewhat restrained. Maybe…possibly…kinda. My best purchase was my Dolche Gusto coffee machine which I'm a little bit in love with. I'm the type of person who can't function without caffeine in the morning - so it's just about perfect to get me started before work.

November was a long and boring month, but December is working out to be a busy month and I can't wait to see friends and family and enjoy delicious food and drink. Believe me, as a person on limited funds living alone - I am SO READY for that Christmas dinner and being sent home with leftovers.

This week I'm off to Winter Wonderland, which is sure to get me throughly into the Christmas mood. The best thing will be seeing my niece and nephews taking in the magic of it all and of course all the food and shopping stalls as well as our cheeky trip to Harrods.

It's hard to believe another year is coming to an end, it's been quite an eventful one. I lost weight and got into exercise (which is kind of failing at the moment :/) and made a huge change to my body and confidence. Prompted by family loss and my new found fitness, I completed the Half Moonwalk which was such an amazing experience.

I think it was important for me to make positive change this year following a difficult year in 2013 and my health problems. This year hasn't entirely been smooth sailing, but I think I'm getting a slightly more positive head on my shoulders.

Next year is going to be so exciting, my best friend is having a baby in January which just gets it off to the best start and I can't wait for baby cuddles. I'm also of course working towards New York, which is exciting and I couldn't think of anywhere better to celebrate/mourn turning 25.

So with another year over - bring it all on I say. Bring on Christmas. Now I have to work out how to decorate my shoebox studio flat and make it somehow festive when I can't fit a tree in anywhere. How are you celebrating Christmas this year?

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Day My McBusted Fangirl Dreams Came True

So about a month ago I spent nine hours on a McBusted video shoot for their first single 'Air Guitar', but was sworn to secrecy until it aired and finally it aired this week and I spotted myself jumping like a maniac.

When James and Matt from Busted and McFly decided to join forces to create a supergroup, there were mixed opinions among the fan community and there still is, but I for one, was ecstatic. I was at that Albert Hall show, recovering from surgery but determined not to miss out, to see them perform together for the first time as part of McFly's tenth anniversary shows and I was as happy as a fan could be when that happened. Nuala, my best friend, even asked if I was going to cry.

A year and a bit later, I found myself on the set of McBusted's first video shoot, not quite able to believe my eyes. I'd responded to a post on their Facebook page with the educated guess it would be a video shoot and got chosen. At 24, I was worried about being the oldest one there and I was, but all the fans I met on the day were lovely and I'm just sorry we never managed to swap details. There was no competition or in-fighting - we all shared a love for a band and it was as simple as that.

Now I've been following Busted and McFly since the beginning, developing a love for Busted at 12 and then McFly followed. Despite it being 12 years later, approaching my mid-twenties and a lot of growing and of course the devastating Busted split, my love for the band has not diminished - much to the amusement of my peers. Although I'd like to say now I'm an adult - my fandom is somewhat more controlled except for persistently going to each tour and following their progress. I think the tour next year could be my 18th show.

The video shoot wasn't my first, I've previously been part of the crowd for the Stargirl video when I was 16, but you couldn't see me at all and involved a lot of waiting along a residential street until we were needed two hours after they said. It was fun, but short and I didn't get to meet any of the band. Thankfully, I did get to meet the band later that year, when my friend Hannah won a Meet and Greet and kindly offered to take me.

But back to this event in my long and prosperous fandom career, there I found myself on a sound stage at Warner Bros Studios (as a film fan this was insane) and there were the boys - no more than a few feet away from me for the majority of a nine hour day. I'm happy to say that despite the long day they'd probably had, the band was kind, friendly and gave plenty of time to us fans across the day. I got a chance to talk to all of them and thankfully not fangirl. The thing is, despite my love for these guys, both times I've met them I've actually been calm and collected - possibly because I feel so familiar with them and also because they are just so down to earth and friendly.

They often say don't meet your idols, but with the men of McBusted I've never had to worry about that because they've always been so friendly and appreciative of their fans. They really are the lovely guys they seem with a cheeky sense of humour.

As expected, I was part of a crowd scene but unlike generic crowd scenes, we were actually spread around a circle, which gave us more of a chance to be seen. Now maybe I'm unfit (I am), but jumping up and down like you mean it for 3 minutes at a time under stage lights is actually incredibly tiring. We were told to give it our all and we really did - but bloody hell I'm getting too old for that shit.

It was interesting to see how a video comes together across a day and the amount of work it takes to create a three minute music video which is cut incredibly fast. It's also interesting to see which scenes make the cut and which don't.

I wondered if I would make the video, I joked because I had been in so many scenes and quite central that I better be - and I am. I can spy myself at multiple points the more I watch it - which is pretty cool because how many people can say they're in a music video, much less one of their idols and that's something I can always look back on.

Sure I cringe a tad at my jumping, air drumming (wtf?) and quite frankly scary face pulling but I can say that the day was worth it and I'm happy to have met a band I adore and admire and got to spend so much time with them. Now watch the video and see if you can spot me:

Sunday, 2 November 2014

REVIEW: Not That Kind of Girl - A Young Woman Tells You What She's 'Learned'

I have finished Lena Dunham's 265 page book in under two days, gripped by its honesty, humour and hurt. Since receiving my book on Friday evening when I saw Lena talk, I have barely shut up about her online and I'm fairly certain everybody is sick of me praising her. But I wanted to review the book when it was fresh in my mind and when my Lena hype was still at its maximum.

Ever since it was announced that Lena was writing a book, I have been excited to read it. As a fan of all her work, I was interested to see what she would write about and see another side of her writing. Not That Kind of Girl is a book of autobiographical essays, charting experiences in her life. The book isn't chronological and skips through different parts of her life through the different sections - Love and Sex, Body, Friendship, Work and Big Picture.

Although Lena has led somewhat of a more privileged life, raised by two artists in New York and has had her own set of psychological problems - I relate to so much of what she said. It doesn't matter what lot you have in life, we can all experience the same anxieties and insecurities.

I found myself nodding and agreeing to her admissions of feelings towards sex, love, health, parental relationships, friendships and work ethic. I had always related to her work and I related to her real life thoughts and experiences just as much.

Me and Lena have had a similar penchant for falling for jerks, making terrible ill-thought out mistakes and being somewhat self-obsessed but also hugely self-conscious. It's a relief not to have to read about someones perfect life and experiences and instead find out you're not alone and somebody completely inspiring can have their own flaws, imperfections and deep anxieties. It gives me the inspiration to achieve my own dreams and write the truth no matter how flawed because the world needs to hear it, it needs to understand you don't have to be perfect to achieve and be worthwhile.

There are quotes within this book that I will keep with me and will look back on and repeat and quote to others. Lena is an inspiring woman and I admire her more than ever following this past weekend. I implore you all to read this book.

I understand people have their own reservations about Lena, be it her unapologetic honesty, her so-called 'privilege' or the idiotic comments and views of republicans who retweeted my last blog - but do you research, read the truth, understand her true beliefs and intentions and educate yourselves rather than jumping to conclusions.

I will treasure this book forever and look forward to seeing what Lena's incredible writing and creativity brings out next.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Lena Dunham - Girl Hero

It is no secret how much I love Lena Dunham. She is a woman I have related to more than anyone else in my life and it means so much to have an idol that represents so much that I have experienced and believe in.

It can be quite frustrating airing my admiration for Lena to others, because despite her award winning show and worldwide presence, I still get blank looks when I say her name. She still manages to be unknown by some and I just want to sit them down and show them all her work and make them see her genius.

Last night, I was lucky enough to see Lena Dunham talk at the Southbank Centre on her book tour. When the tickets went on sale a few months back, it was essential that I got my hands on the tickets and lord have mercy if I didn't. Luckily I did, and my ticket included a signed copy of Lena's book 'Not That Kind of Girl'.

Since I first found out about Lena Dunham, shortly after Tiny Furniture and slightly before Girls premiered in the UK, I have admired her. She was a young woman, not much older than me, and she was finally airing what it was to be a twenty-something right now. Not the privileged life of the upper east side, not the unrealistic life of a new york writer who can still afford designer shoes but real brutal twenty-something women who were making mistakes, still yet to find out who they were and what they were doing with their life and had obvious flaws and all the while it was funny!

When I sat down to watch Girls when it premiered on UK TV, I was excited and curious to see if it was really as great as everyone had said and I wasn't disappointed. As that first episode premiered and before even the first ad break, I was a convert. I was Hannah Horvath, that was me, Lena Dunham had explained me in a way I never thought possible. I was in love with this show.

As the seasons have continued and Lena has become higher profile, that love and admiration has not diminished and every episode makes me fall in love with her a little bit more. I am on tenterhooks for the forth season.

Last night, seeing her in real life and being in the presence of her genius just highlighted how much I admire her and what a genuine, funny and intelligent woman she is. Interviewed by Caitlin Moran (another hero of mine) - she had the crowd in the palm of her hand as she made them laugh, clap in admiration and think about important issues.

The reason Lena became so celebrated is for her unapologetic brand of feminism. She was producing films and TV that featured strong leading female characters who had strong views, strong minds and made mistakes like the rest of us. They didn't have perfect jobs, they had trouble achieving their dream job paths, they lusted over inappropriate men and they had messy sex. Her work is a breath of fresh air when sex and female leads have always been made to seem to perfect and flawless.

As she talked last night, I felt myself relate to her even more, as she talked about having more pyjamas than clothes me and my best friend Zoe smirked as we knew that was me.

Lena, like me, believes in the equality of everyone - be that race, sexuality and sex. She highlighted how women in the industry are judged for how much they make and what they are doing with it, while men are not. The same with how they look, when was the last time you heard about how a male actor looked when a whole industry is made from judging how women do. Lena's red carpet style is fun and represents her, she is not afraid to take risks and wears what she wants - not what will get her on the 'best dressed' list.

Near the end of the event, they invited questions from the audience and I got up without hesitation to approach the microphone. As I stood at that microphone that was taller than me and waited as Caitlin asked Lena some quick fire questions, my mouth went dry and my heart beat fast. Was I really going to ask Lena a question in front of over 2000 people?

As it happened, I did, in fact I was the first one to ask a question. I asked what we could expect from the forth season of a Girls and Lena and Caitlin both said it was a great question and told me how Hannah will be going to grad school and how it was important for the character to take that step. She also hinted earlier in the evening about a birth in the show.

Even now, 24 hours after the event, it is kind of sinking in what I did. I asked Lena Dunham a question in front of a full auditorium of people. To think that Lena Dunham and Caitlin Moran directly addressed and looked at me is insane and I love that I can kind of say I interviewed Lena Dunham. As someone that hates public speaking and dreads even speaking up in a small meeting, let alone 2000 people, I'm proud of myself for just going for it before I could over think and berate myself for missing a chance. Yay for bravery.

Last night I came away proud to be a woman and inspired - with my love for Lena more than ever. I've started reading her book and hope to finish it before the weekend is up. Her honesty is overwhelming and her experiences interesting and relatable at times. Some of the things she says directly mirror my own deepest thoughts. I'll let you know my full thoughts and views once I finish the book, but I already encourage you to read it.

As a writer, I want to be able to put my thoughts, feelings and experiences down in such a poetic way and have even an iota of the success Lena has had. A writer, director and actress - she truly is an amazing woman and I don't know how she does it.