Friday Fun for sports fans in mourning

Disclaimer: this week’s fun isn’t necessarily sport related, it’s just that I’m aware that fans of both football & tennis could do with some cheering up this week…

First up, a rather niche piece of TfL fun – that will make sense only to devotees of the BBC’s flagship film review radio programme. (Aka Wittertainment.)  A couple of weeks ago, there was a conversation about film-related names that sound like tube stations, so someone made a map. Genius.

Wittertainment tubeCredit.

You’ll note that some station names aren’t ‘names’, rather random phrases like ‘Totes Emosh’, ‘Dead Amaze’ and ‘Clergy Corner’. These are Wittertainment in-jokes and at this point, I’d like to publicly congratulate Revd Phil Hoyle for making his debut in the aforementioned Clergy Corner the week after he was priested. An inspiration to all of us clergy/nearly clergy types who aspire to such heights.

Continuing the London theme, there’s a trend of visualising various bits of data over maps – and this one of photos taken in London is particularly pretty. Yellow dots are outdoor photos, purple at night/indoor. It’s a great way of spotting tourists’ favourite spots, as well as other concentrations of photographers – like gigs at the O2 in Greenwich.

London Photography Map by Alex Kachkaev and Jo Wood, giCentre, City University London

In other map news, the history geek within me was very taken with this animation of the changing borders in Europe over the last 1000 years. You need to watch rather closely, and potentially several times, in order to take it all in, but it’s a brilliant piece of work. Fun and educational!

Finally, just to keep things incredibly diverse, some text-based fun. Thanks to Twitter, I’ve been alerted to the existence of a blogger who has been chronicling her responses to the movies that defined her coming-of-age years, when watched in the present day. It helps that she’s a similar age to me, so the films are ones that are favourites of mine too. These are LONG blog posts, that’s the whole point of the exercise. Take her most recent one on While You Were Sleeping, published last month: ‘While You Were Sleeping: 19 Years and 6,000 Words’. But they are fun to read, especially if you’re a contemporary of hers. Trust me! Other films featured so far are 10 Things I Hate About You and She’s All That. You won’t look at either in the same way again.

Friday Fun for the festive season

It’s the final Friday before Christmas and most people are celebrating the end of work before the festivities. So hopefully the following will get you through the last hours, or may be of some comfort on long journeys to far-flung families…

Firstly, an advent gem that will provide a lot of joy if you haven’t come across it as yet. Dave Walker (of Church Times and my trip to Uganda fame) has put his energy into a highly entertaining advent calendar of cartoons – so there’s still a few to go. The Christmas Newsletter was a particular favourite amongst family and friends. (I cannot wait to get my hands on the basket of missives the Clutterbuck family has received when I get to Belfast on Monday! Nor can I wait to read my parents’ screed, just in case they’ve written about me…)


They aren’t all hilarity-filled, some have a great deal of pathos and should make you stop and think – like this Foodbank themed one. It certainly feels apt as I look ahead to my shift at our Foodbank tomorrow morning, and continue to seethe at the way in which the government treated the debate on Foodbanks the other day.


In preparation for the holiday season, I’m gathering together some festive films to watch en route to Ireland (hello four hour train journey & two hour ferry crossing). The Muppet Christmas Carol is a favourite and was actually shown the last time I caught a ferry for Christmas, but how many of these 14 facts about the film did you already know? Most fascinating for me was the way in which the Ghost of Christmas Past was created, via a submerged Muppet and a green screen. Oh, and it includes the video of the scene that was excluded from the theatrical release on the basis that it was too sad for children (phooey) – a move that caused consternation on the release of the DVD version as its VHS predecessor had included it. Those of us who made the technological transition mourn its loss on every viewing. Oh, and the list is correct, It Feels Like Christmas *is* one of the best Christmas songs ever. Get that soundtrack added to your Christmas playlist asap!

The other holiday classic (though rather more controversial, as it’s essentially the Marmite of Christmas films) is the 10 year old Love, Actually. This isn’t ideal public transportation viewing on account of the naked stand-ins scenes (fellow travellers may think you’re watching something dodgy), but it does make you feel warm and fuzzy. Some bright spark at Buzzfeed has definitively ranked all the turtlenecks that feature in the movie. It’s a surprisingly high number of a fashion item that I don’t recall being particularly popular in 2003, but that makes it all the more hilarious. Number 10 is a particularly good one:

Love Actually turtle-necks

Of course, it’s important to remember the reason for the season too! At our family carol service last Sunday (in which I gave my first-ever all-age sermon, because that wasn’t a high-pressure occasion on which to do it…) we shared this beauty from St Paul’s Auckland. Since 2010, the New Zealand church (planted by my former church) has gained a reputation of producing utterly fabulous Christmas videos for their carol service – which takes place in an arena, with glow-sticks. Their 2012 offering was downright glorious and gave me an excellent theme for my sermon:

I cannot get over the joy of hearing “They won’t be expecting that!” in a Kiwi accent! The morning of our service was the evening of their carol service, at which their 2013 video debuted. It’s a little different from previous ones, but worth a watch nonetheless.

Finally, a piece of ridiculous seasonal music which manages to combine Christmas and musical theatre – Wicked, specifically. I give you Defying Gravity, as sung by Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It’s a little niche, but it is possibly the best use I’ve seen of the Wicked Backing Tracks (I only my copy for moments when I like to prance around pretending that I am actually a West End star).

Ten years? Actually?

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the release of the now classic Love, Actually. Yes, I’ll give you a minute to get over the shock of that news. Ten years. Ten. Whole. Years.


We know it’s 2013, and that therefore 2003 was a decade ago, but am I alone in disbelieving this fact? This time 10 years ago I was coming to the end of my first term studying a MA at King’s, back in London after a year’s exile working in a bookshop in Gloucester. My internet was still dial-up; MSN Messenger was my primary form of communication between friends; Tony Blair was still PM; there were still new episodes of Friends, SATC & Dawson’s Creek to be watched… Can it really be a whole ten years ago??

I remember the release of Love, Actually vividly and for good reason. On the night of its world premiere (in London), I was babysitting a toddler in a flat in Muswell Hill, while her whole family (grandmother – my landlady; parents; aunt & uncle) attended the premiere, thanks to a fortuitous social connection. I still remember receiving a phone call that began “Elizabeth, remember I mentioned we might have tickets for the premiere of that new Richard Curtis film?” and wondering if I was about to be offered one of them – but no, I instead landed a lucrative babysitting job. [Angela, my landlady, always called me Elizabeth. I wasn’t in trouble, she just preferred it.]

56 year old Angela and I had a mutual love of one of the film’s stars. Not Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy or even Colin Firth – Alan Rickman. [I have explained before that love of the Rickman crosses several generations.] That night, Angela had her photo taken with the lovely Alan. When she showed it to me there were girly squeals from both of us!

Ten years later, my memories of Love, Actually‘s arrival into the world are bittersweet. Less than five years after I moved out of Angela’s house, she lost her battle with lung cancer. Every year, when I have my annual present wrapping while watching Love, Actually evening, I think of her.

I’m not the only person to have realised that the film is celebrating its entry into double figures – the lovely people at The Hairpin spotted it too, and marked the occasion with a series of stories imagining where the lead characters are now, accompanied by fabulous gifs of pivotal moments in the film.

10YearsSarahTell me this isn’t one of the best scenes? And who hasn’t one of those moments themselves?? 

And where is Sarah? 

“That Valentine’s Day she dined alone. A bottle of wine and five courses to herself. It wasn’t until the second that she realized a man two tables away had the same idea. By the third, she decided she would ask him to join her. By the fourth, she did. By the fifth, she was certain. By dessert, so was he.”

In France the other week, someone shared a story in their sermon about their son who’d insisted on being a dinosaur in his primary school’s nativity plays. Obviously, the line “Eight is a lot of legs, David.” sprung to mind immediately. So, in his honour – and in honour of all parents who are discovering what part their little darlings will be playing this year (is it just me, or has this been all over Facebook in the last week?), here’s the scene that changed our nativity play imaginations forever:

And actually, one last thing. You know what’s fun? Listening to the film’s soundtrack (by which I mean the score, as opposed to the songs – although both All You Need is Love and All I want For Christmas are fabulous) while wondering around the Christmassy streets of London, imagining that I’m living the plot of a Richard Curtis movie. Let me say again, Richard Curtis gave me unrealistic expectations about life! 

My suspension of disbelief does not extend to geography…

I was slightly dubious of whether Richard Curtis’ latest offering would captivate me in the way that Love, Actually or Four Weddings continues to do so. It had received some negative reviews and appeared to be more of a ‘male’ film than a chick-flick rom-com. Oh, and Curtis had done himself no favours by revealing in an interview that 500 Days of Summer was one of his favourite films. [See here for reasons why I strongly disagree with such an opinion.] But, following a positive Kermodian review, I was keen to see it.

The stars aligned last Friday, when, with time to kill on my day off, and intention to visit Stratfield (Stratford Westfield, for the uninitiated) later that day, a showing was timed perfectly. It was meant to be.

About-Time-UK-Quad-Poster-585x443A friend of mine has apparently been put off seeing the film by the use (or non-use) of capitalisation on the poster…

About Time has a plot that revolves around time-travel, which was another reason for my hesitation. I’m still of the mindset that The Time Traveller’s Wife is the most perfect example of such a plot. (So much so that I still can’t bear to watch the film lest the book be ruined forever.) Would it get silly? Would it go all sci-fi? Would I be able to suspend my disbelief for long enough that I could become absorbed in a tale that realistically could never happen?

I can confirm that no, it did not get silly. No, it did not go all sci-fi. And yes, I was able to suspend my disbelief around time travel, and Curtis’ associated rules about it, for long enough to become both totally absorbed and virtually unconsolable at the plot’s end.

Rules? Everyone who writes about time-travel has to have rules. In the TTW the time traveller always sheds his clothes when travelling through time; he arrives in the precise state he was in in the future; and he can’t control when or how the travelling takes place. Back to the Future has its own set – I’d explain them, but I’m not that much of a geek. For one to be able to suspend their disbelief, one needs a set of rules that outline the parameters within which this works – time travel doesn’t exist, but at least if there are rules, one can pretend it does. So, in About Time, the male line of one family find themselves able to travel back in time by standing in a dark place and clenching their fists. Once they start having children, they can’t go back to before the child was born otherwise it’s a different sense. Totally logical – and, in the case of the latter rule, it emerges to be totally heart-wrenching.

So, last Friday, I blissfully ignored the rules of physics and wholeheartedly submerged myself in a world in which men travel through time in order to pursue the loves of their lives. However, I snapped out of my other-world-ness when time-travel was required to return to a party taking place in Collingham Gardens, South Kensington…

London is the main character in most Curtis films and About Time is no exception. I love seeing places I recognise, and visit frequently – heck, I even wonder if I might appear completely by chance. (One major plot point in the film involves the unusual restaurant in which a friend had their birthday meal a couple of years ago – I feel like she was way ahead of the game.) You may have no idea where Collingham Gardens is – it’s a fairly typical Kensington terraced street, full of delightful and large white houses with balconies – but I do, because I go there at least once a week. In the middle of Collingham Gardens is a church, the very church into which my theological college moved this time last year. As soon as the name was uttered I gasped in surprise – much to my neighbours’ confusion. (A pair of teenage girls who were irritating throughout, I’m glad I startled them.) In case you think I’m a weirdo, I discovered on Monday that a friend from college did the exact same thing when she saw it the following day – we spent part of our lunch break trying to work out which building they’d used.

Here’s the thing, following their attendance at a party in the aforementioned street, the couple central to the plot then walk all the way to Maida Vale. I may walk huge distances in London, but all of a sudden my mind was pondering whether it was actually within the realms of reality to walk from Collingham Gardens to Maida Vale tube station. The main character had just travelled from the Tate Modern three weeks in the future in order to be at this party, but what did I have an issue with? A possibly unrealistic use of London geography!

It bothered me so much that after the film (and after the obligatory check for mascara that may have run down my cheeks while sobbing), I looked it up on Google maps. According to Google, the walk would take 1 hour 6 minutes, which in a romantic post-dinner, first date scenario is pretty believable.

Collingham Gardens to Maida Vale The beauty of this map is that you can also see the route I take home from Collingham Gardens. My 5 mile walk takes me along the A4 (Brompton Road & Piccadilly) and the A401 (Shaftesbury Ave) and takes me around 1 hour 30mins. It’s a joy.

Richard Curtis, I apologise. You know London (and probably Kensington) well enough not to include spurious or incorrect geographical references in your work. Thank you for making such a lovely, yet emotionally wrangling film. Next time, could you consider providing post-film counselling? It would be much appreciated.

Friday Fun behind the scenes

I trust that we all watched last week’s required viewing? The 150th anniversary special episode of The Tube – telling the story of the history of London Underground. (It’s vanished from iPlayer now, but I’m sure it’ll be repeated at some point.) If  you missed it, and regret your actions, you may find solace in another LT anniversary tribute: 150 great things about the Underground. (It is exactly what it says it is.)

It’s possible that I featured this site a few months ago, but criminally, then forgot about it! Fortunately, a tweet returned it to my attention and I’ve now ensured I see its updates regularly – although it’s now on 101, so we’re two thirds through. As I perused the site, I discovered something I’d never known before…

Finsbury Park was a station I used fairly regularly when I lived in Muswell Hill. (The hill of the mossy well has no tube station, instead it’s a tube to Highgate, Bounds Green or Finsbury Park and then a bus. It’s how they kept the undesirables away…) Despite spending a not inordinate amount of time on its platforms, I had never fully appreciated its artwork. Yes, the hot air balloons are beautiful mosaics, but did you know that each balloon is part of a bigger design that runs the length of the platform? No, me either!

Finsbury BalloonsLooking down the platform. (Credit.)

The site is a mine of LT factoids. If you’re at a loss with where to start, I recommend the author’s reverie on the wonders of West Finchley station. It’s a lovely example of how strong the feelings are that the tube evokes.

Something else you could spend your Friday afternoon working your way through is this delightful collection of photos from behind the scenes of classic films. A lot of the really are classics, but true to my nature, my favourite ones are less classic, more childish…

Home AloneJoe Pesci gets to grips with Macaulay Culkin (Home Alone)

HP DH 2Ralph Fiennes transforms into Voldemort. (All together now: “Haaaaaryyyyy Pottttterrrrrr”.)

Dark KnightAnd, just because the world still misses him, here’s Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.

Finally, a few literary fun things. Firstly, something a tad niche only suitable for Chalet School fans: “imagine how many Health & Safety forms Miss Annersley would have had to complete” – a Mumsnet discussion, of all things! Secondly, The Guardian has a feature in which you can explore annotated copies of authors’ first editions. I rather enjoyed perusing Bridget Jones’ Diary, though Harry Potter would be a close second. Thirdly, something interesting for all those who read novels and something potentially useful for all who aspire to write one at some point. A gallery of author’s plans, drafts and spreadsheets

Order Phoenix SpreadsheetJ.K. Rowling’s plan for The Order of the Phoenix. That’s both my kind of book and my kind of organisation. 

May this rather dismal looking ‘Spring’ bank holiday be one full of good literature, great films or at the very least, stress free London Transport.