It’s not a ‘selfie’…

…it’s ‘doing a Liz’.

The other week’s heartfelt description of some of my amazing friends resulted in a trip down blog memory lane. [It also resulted in more shares than almost any other blogpost; two references to in wedding speeches; and making a record number of people cry. I aim to please…] In re-reading previous GWA (Girls’ Weekend Away) posts, I realised the point at which I began to be mocked for taking self-portraits and when the phrase “doing a Liz” came into common parlance amongst my circles of friends. (I love that Jenni also spotted this.)

Doing a Liz

This was in 2008. By 2010, my friends were borrowing my camera in order to their own “doing a Liz” at Greenbelt. When making new friends, this habit soon became known by the same name – only the other week a Matryoshka Haus friend shared a link to some extreme self-portraits with me, suggesting I needed to put some more work into my habit.

But alas, the term is not known globally. Instead, this practice has taken up a word first used on Flickr in 2004 and this year, its rise to attention has been meteoric – 2013 has been dubbed ‘the year of the selfie’.

Last year, #selfie wasn’t even in the top 100 hashtags on Instagram, since January, its use has grown 200%. When you put together all the top selfie-related hashtags on Instagram, there are over 40million photos. That’s a lot of faces. In the world of celebrity, Miley Cyrus has posted more than any other celebrity on Twitter. [Does this mean I’m comparing myself with Miley Cyrus, oh dear…] To top off the year, the word has also entered the OED – the demarcation that it is an official word.

This summer, I noticed that the selfie had become a negative mark of society, used by speakers at Christian conferences to decry the ‘me, me, me’ culture of today’s society. Are we more interested in ourselves than our relationship with God? With other people?

Last Sunday, The Observer featured a piece on Instagram and selfies, arguing that it’s a place where we think we’re showing how good our life is, when really, the cracks we’re trying to hide can be observed:

“We’re not fools, us humans. We can read a picture of you thumbs-upping with an elaborate cocktail as both a document of a glamorous night and a telegram to all acquaintances alerting us to how absolutely, completely fine you are and not thinking about your ex at all. Not at all. Fine.”

She may have had a point. However, it’s not going to change my own habit. It’s been a while since I last selfied in a public arena. I know for a fact that the last time I did a Liz on Twitter was in California – to show how hot, sweaty & proud I was after breaking my running PB on a gorgeous beach. My last Instagrammed one was the day I won tickets for The Book of Mormon. I think you’ll agree, my self-portrait habit is very much under control…

I wouldn’t say the selfie was the epitome of society’s destruction, but I’m terribly glad that ‘doing a Liz’ didn’t catch on with more than a handful of people!

Literally 2 minutes after I pressed publish, ‘selfies at funerals’ came to my attention. This madness MUST STOP! Can we cease all references to ‘doing a Liz’ in the context of selfies now, and instead leave it to its other uses (carrying things around in one’s bra and being an independent traveller, depending upon who you speak to)?

Friday Fun with photos, singing lessons & biscuits

There is a plethora of TfL fun this week. Obviously, you’ll already have seen the football themed underground map? But, have you ever wondered what the map might look like in German? No, neither had I, but thanks to Katie E for sharing a link with me, we all can!

The map is a large one – excluding the DLR and Overground, there are 270 stations. Such a vast number of locations can be tricky to memorise (though it’s got to be said, I’ve never tried). However, there’s now a song to help you! Fellow TfL nerd and comedian Jay Foreman has written a song that features all 270 stations. [You may remember Jay from his fabulous Unfinished London videos – one on the Northern Line, the other on a road building scheme. Both are fascinating.] So your challenge is to learn them:

But it’s not just the tube that’s had all the attention – this week has seen the launch of a website on which you can track the movement of buses across the capital. A transfixing and addictive occupation. Pick a route and voila! The current location of every bus currently moving along it. (For visual purposes, I’ve chosen the most scenic route in London – the RV1.)

Live RV1 Movement

Nicely segueing into my next discovery is this very early photograph of a Metropolitan Line train:

Metropolitan railway steam locomotiveMetropolitan Railway Train. (Credit.)

This is one of a set of photos from the National Media Museum collection, taken with the world’s first consumer-accessible camera – the Kodak No.1. It has to be said, I’d no idea that the first photos were circular! The set is fascinating, not least because the photographers had no form of view-finder, they simply pointed the box and hoped for the best. This was a favourite, as it looks like it was taken not too far away from my flat:

Hansom cabI’m disappointed that the caption’s been cut off – I’m nearly positive it’s Mecklenburgh Square.

Penultimately, we have a rather retro site – in that it doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2002 – that still has a great deal of charm. I have to thank Andy S for this find (I’d love to know what he was doing when he discovered it), as it’s a peculiarly compelling series of biscuit reviews (that link will take you to a page featuring the utterly awesome Tunnocks tea cake). Obviously, it’ll make you crave biscuits – so why not follow the direction of the website name and have a nice cup of tea and a sit down while you watch my final offering?

To round off this week, I highly recommend sitting down (with your tea and biscuits) and enjoying this for the phenomenal comedy that is Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Merchant & Joseph Gordon-Levitt having a lip-synching contest. SO many genuine laugh out loud moments – trust me! Anyone who can mime to Boom Shake the Room has my respect for an eternity…

One Fine Day in London

[Strictly speaking, by ‘day’ I mean 24 hours…]

Friday was the kind of day that London is made for. Blue skies, little wind and a sense that somewhere a rom-com was probably being filmed. I had the privilege of having to be in Westminster for a meeting, which meant plenty of photo-taking opportunities. I tried hard not to flood Instagram, but it was difficult.

St Stephen's Tower Obviously, this is not Big Ben…

Houses of Parliament An age-old view of Parliament.

IMG_4893Westminster Abbey, from its back garden (and the back-door of Church House Westminster). 

Eye b&wThe Eye – even impressive in black & white. 

View full of landmarks A plethora of landmarks in one photo.

Blackfriars Platform The morning after – included only because everyone should be aware of just how awesome the view from Blackfriars station is.

Friday fun for the start of the academic year

Forgive my absence for the last 10 days – there’s been the mother of all end of summer essay crisis (two essays due on the first day of term no less) plus a staff retreat in the middle of nowhere, so I feel I have a justifiable excuse. Fear not though, I have been keeping track of some fun tidbits to amuse you upon this autumnal Friday…

For starters, something that seems apt for the beginning of a new academic year – the 10 worst book covers in the history of literature. This was winning for me…

…until I saw this one:
I want that jumper on the left. That’ll make me cool, right?

Continuing the retro/educational theme, in the week that sees the arrival of iPhone5, it seems an appropriate moment for 20 misty memories of personal computing. Beginning with the dial-up noise (oh, how many memories that sound brings back!), continuing with the whirr of a floppy disc loading, and picking up the original Sim City and construction clip-art along the way, this is a great way to feel really old before your time. 
Retro and yet modern is the fantastic result of what happened when someone took a disposable camera to the Paralympics. In case you were wondering what London 2012 might have looked like in 1992, look no further than this delightful blogpost. [Incidentally, that entire blog is delightful – if you have a thing for quirky photography, you’ll love it.] 

Finally, two videos that are perfectly suited to Friday Fun – because where would Friday Fun be without cats on the internet and musical flashmobs? 
Firstly, Zadok the Priest spontaneously performed in a supermarket (in honour of Classic FM’s 20th birthday – did you realise that station was so young??). Make sure you look out for the reaction when the singing comes in, simply awesome. [Thanks Anne for the tip off!]
Secondly, from the sublime to the ridiculous – what happened when a cat had to have medicine and its owner felt guilty. (Aka, how to amuse a cat with 40+ boxes…)
May you now have all you need to face your Friday with glee.

If one photo can say a thousand words, how many words would replace the loss of 206 photos?

Through an unfortunate mishap I managed to lose all my photos from the first five days of holiday. Gutted is not strong enough a word to describe my reaction. There was swearing, kicking of hay bales, a strop to my favourite ‘I’m just going to sit here and contemplate the world’ spot [yes, I have one of these in St Denis des Murs], tears, general moping, more tears, an angry exchange of words and even more tears when it was clear that even a computer couldn’t rescue them. Most of all I was livid with myself for being so stupid.

However, one of the more helpful conversations I had after the event was about how we seem to be so obsessed with photographically recording every moment, as though if we didn’t, it could never have happened. Monday’s shots included the laying of the first roof beam and the removal of the final tiles – we know both these events took place. I may have lost some arty shots, but in all honesty, who needs a shot of a wine glass shadow or endless pictures of people in hard hats playing on scaffolding? [Incidentally, do you want to know the least helpful conversation? Someone who thought I’d respond positively to being told that I was I was acting childishly, should just get over it and improve my mood by burning stuff. That didn’t go down well.]

So what of the photos that went astray? This may be even more boring than sitting through a slideshow of 500 nearly identical photos of waves, but I feel a need to record them, just so my efforts weren’t in vain, and to ease the pain in my artistic heart…

Most guttingly, I lost photos from my afternoon in Paris, including my first trip to Shakespeare & Co, the Pantheon, Sorbonne and some general shots of what Paris looks like in Spring (answer: not that magical when the sun isn’t shining and it’s sporadically drizzling), oh, and the Sacre Coeur & streets of Montmartre at night. On the plus side there are no longer images of quite an entertaining (and mammoth) Parisian night out, including a shot of me with a waiter who was coerced to pose with me.

Shots of the neighbours’ petite chevals can be replicated, but what cannot are my daily progress shots of Chateu Duffy – what it looked like when we returned for the first time since August; the quantity of weeding and strimming conducted on Good Friday; the amount of hay shifted on Easter Saturday; or the dramatic developments on Easter Monday when half a roof of tiles vanished, along with many rafters, and began to be replaced with brand new wood. But perhaps it’s better to have lost the shots of dangerous feats? I suspect the wife of the man found swaying a roof-beam high above ground will be grateful not to actually see it with her own eyes.

It’s the fun that is most irreplaceable though. A photographic memory of a hilarious prank played during a game of Hearts in a thunderstorm. The antics of a group of adults Easter egg hunting – including an utterly fabulous shot of our 70 year old chef looking utterly delighted with the discovery of a teeny-tiny Lindt egg. Or the comedy moment when someone sat in a sun lounger only for it to collapse, sending their wine all over them. On the other hand, I’m kind of pleased to be without the countless shots of one particular friend who likes to use their finger inappropriately when they feel that the photo is not justified.

You know what though. There’s one photo I know you’ll be gutted to miss.
Did you know that it’s tricky to put a hoodie on while wearing a hard hat? Yes. I guess you probably thought that was obvious. I didn’t though…however, knowing my own stupidity, that feat will probably be repeated.