Ambitious Friday Fun (Updated)

There are various things I’d like to achieve in my life – some are admirable, others are just plain foolish…

For example, at some point in my life, I’d really like to try that Diet Coke + Mentos thing – I quite like big explosion type things, I love Diet Coke and I’m not averse to mints, so what could go wrong? Well, given my accident prone nature, a lot could go wrong – as the video below shows. I think I watched this four times in a row last night and it made me laugh every single time. Fabulous Friday fun, courtesy of Dave Gorman:

Incidentally, is it just me, or does anyone else worry about the dangers of drinking Diet Coke while also munching on a packet of mints? And, do Softmints produce the same effects as Mentos? (Diet Coke & Softmints are a semi-regular office afternoon snack, I’d hate for it to end in disaster…)

I’d also really like to learn the cello, except it’s quite a heavy instrument to lug around. (Possibly why, when offered a second instrument aged 12, I opted for the clarinet. Actually, if you include the two recorders I can play, it’s my fourth instrument, or fifth including voice…tangents). Basically, all I want to be able to do is play Elgar’s Cello Concerto (I play the clarinet solely because of Rhapsody in Blue) – this may happen, one day. My sister’s second instrument was the violin, she wasn’t bad – certainly not screechingly awful – but never anywhere near as good as this:

Apologies, that whole paragraph was an exceedingly tenuous tangent. But the world definitely needs more pop songs played fabulously on stringed instruments. (If you share this opinion, there are a heck of a lot on YouTube.)

Finally, I’d love to be intelligent & funny enough to appear on Just a Minute. True, I did get to watch the recording of two episodes last summer (and, according certain sources my laugh was very visible in one of them), but participating would be awesome. Paul Merton is currently King of Just a Minute, a title he’s attained since the world bade farewell to Clement Freud. In a recent interview with the Guardian, he revealed that he had tapes of shows that he listened to over and over in order to learn the art and eventually got on the show after writing to the producers when they were looking for someone to replace Kenneth Williams. [I was also pleased to discover that I’m not the only person who’s been playing the game since they were a child – Merton played along from the age of 8.]

The show has regular series on Radio 4 (a new one started last week in fact), but what’s particularly fun are the repeats played on sister station Radio 4 extra – archive programmes from decades past featuring the now departed greats. One I listened to while baking earlier in the week was from 1998, included Julian Clary in only his third ever appearance and a Paul Merton who was gradually stealing Clement Freud’s thunder. This week’s classic episode includes my former neighbour, Maureen Lipman (ok, so she lived round the corner, but still – same neighbourhood) as well as Merton and Freud, so promises to be half an hour of quality Friday Fun…

Late addition:
How I wish I’d read Lesley’s post sharing this beauty yesterday! As it is, I’m adding this in as a late addition. You can decide for yourself how this relates to my life’s ambitions, suffice to say I’ve always loved wearing purple…

A Clergyman’s Daughter

Having gorged on books during my week off last week, I’ve decided to make this week Book Week. I’ve got quite a few recommendations up my sleeve and it means that I have an entire week of blog fodder ready to go – which means I can use my creative brain power on other things, like important presentations…

First up is part of my ongoing quest to read my way through Orwell’s bibliography. I’d put a couple of his books on my wishlist in the run-up to Christmas and this duly arrived – my mother giving it to me with the words “I thought this would be particularly apt…” She was right of course, A Clergyman’s Daughter was the perfect gift for a daughter of a clergyman (and clergywoman).

I’d been looking forward to getting stuck into it, but felt a sense of foreboding upon reading the introduction, where I discovered that Orwell hated the novel and insisted that it not be reprinted in his lifetime. However, as he’d said the same thing about Keep the Aspidistra Flying (the only other Orwell novel I’d read) I figured I’d probably be ok – my standards clearly aren’t quite so high as his. The modern edition has also been re-edited to include sections that had been removed originally, largely through fear of libel and therefore what you read today is closer to what Orwell had wanted.

The plot covers just under a year of Dorothy Hare’s life and begins with several chapters that make her life seem nothing but a drudgery – battling her demanding Rector father; a perennial lack of money; a disappearing congregation; and village gossips. To be honest, I found the first few chapters a little dull and depressing, but it was worth persevering into the main theme of the book – what happens after Dorothy discovers herself on the Old Kent Road, with no recollection of how she got there.

This was the point at which I got really interested, as Dorothy had stumbled into my local neighbourhood. In fact, she bathed at the Bermondsey Central Baths, which just a few weeks ago I noticed was featured in a new project to show old neighbourhood photos on the shutters of the shops and library on The Blue – our local market square. She rented a room just off The Cut in Waterloo for a week and wandered around streets whose names were very familiar to me.

Perhaps the most innovative part of the book (where Orwell himself said he was experimenting) is a chapter set in Trafalgar Square, written entirely in dialogue. It captures a long night amongst those sleeping rough in the square and manages to capture the hopelessness of those with no alternative but to sleep there. A lot of the novel is based upon Orwell’s own experiences – Dorothy at various points picks hops in Kent and teaches at a third-rate private school as he had done in the years immediately prior to writing the book – but I suspect he hadn’t endured a night in Trafalgar Square.

It’s difficult to say much about the plot for fear of spoilers, but suffice to say that Dorothy does not have an easy time of it. I suspect that much of the book is a vehicle for Orwell to rant about particular social causes that he was passionate about – like education and poverty. In fact, the chapters in which Dorothy is a teacher at a particularly revolting and corrupt school, include a couple of pages that are effectively Orwell’s feelings about the education system. (This was one of the sections that was heavily cut in case of libel.)

I can’t say I was particularly satisfied with the story’s end, but I think in some ways I over-identified with Dorothy (clergy offspring, ‘on the shelf’ at 28…) and wanted better for her than what she got, or what she settled for. It probably isn’t the best that Orwell produced, but it is a worthwhile read. Plus, I gave myself brownie points for taking such an intellectual looking book into the gym with me…

Nightmares

Generally, I’m not given to nightmares. Nor do I possess my family’s (well, my mother and sister’s) trait of emitting blood-curdling screams in the middle of the night.

When I dream, it’s usually rather random. For example, my recurring anxiety dream revolves around packing. Sometimes I’m on holiday and about to miss a flight; in more intense times there’s Gestapo at the door and I’m trying to choose my most treasured possessions… I’m a special person.
What I love is when reality clashes with dreams in a rather peculiar fashion. The other night, I dreamt I was in Southampton with friends (already weird, not been to that city in years) and needed to drive back to London. Some friends (my wise friend and her husband specifically) needed a lift to Winchester, so the idea was that I’d drive them there and drive on to London. Then reality kicked in – I realised that I’m still only a learner driver and therefore:
(i) I can’t drive without another driver in the car.
(ii) I can’t drive on motorways.
So, in my dream I’m panicking about how to get to London without breaking the law while also remembering that in my last lesson I still wasn’t that good at stopping properly… I re-told this dream to my driving instructor on Monday and he visibly shifted away from me in his seat, probably yet again wondering why he took me on as a pupil!

Then last night I had a dream that left me in a cold sweat and a heightened state of anxiety about a meeting I’ve got tomorrow (which incidentally, I wasn’t particularly concerned about). It involved a ferocious Bishop and an evil Archdeacon – eerily reminiscent of the Archdeacon in controversial comedy Rev. Oh, and my mother turned up too – very bizarre. I honestly couldn’t tell you what actually happened, but whatever it was it wasn’t pleasant. Who knew I’d ever end up having nightmares about members of the clergy? Clearly it’s what happens when you work for the church.

Who knows what will fill my dreams tonight, but please, no more nightmares, my nerves just can’t hack it.