Saturday, 13 December 2014

On meeting your idols - furry, or otherwise

This week has had an unusual theme running through it, almost like those contrived situations on Scrubs where all the characters experience their own version of the same scenario at once, allowing Zach Braff to give a rousing yet humorous summary that ties everything together over the closing credits.

To give you a leading example of this, this morning I read a post on Buzzfeed (classic Saturday chill-out), about a teenager who was SO EXCITED to meet Harry Styles at a book signing (one fifth of One Direction, in case any of you are living under rocks) that she had a full-blown panic attack. Then, being the angel that he is, he fought through the crowds to comfort her. What a sweetie! 
Pics from

While I might not see the appeal of 1D, nor understand the hysteria that teenage girls are able to work themselves into about them, to have your idol go out of their way to come and see you and make sure you're OK must be the most wonderful feeling, and it was really lovely that he bothered to.

There are not a huge number of people that I would fantasize about meeting - and only a few more that I would go out of my way to make sure I met. I could probably boil it down to five:
So close...but not yet BFFs

1. The cast of Harry Potter. TBF, that's a ridiculously large cohort (and does encompass a HECK of a lot of awesome British talent), but obviously I really mean Emma, Rupert and Dan. I love them all. (Shush, I know that's three-in-one)
2. David Tennant - I feel no explanation is required here
3. Chris Hemsworth - none here either. Although despite his gorgeosity, and being voted the sexiest man alive this year, he's still below David Tennant on the list because DT is the King of wondrousness
4. Zachary Levi - because I actually would quite like to marry him, if at all possible, cheers? (Is it OK to write that on the internet?)
5. Miranda Hart, OBVIOUSLY. I'm fairly sure we could be best friends.

At the end of last week we had a little frisson of excitement in the office. For context, my office is based in our church building, so is home to the church offices, but also runs as a conference centre during the week.

On the Friday, the centre received a call from a Casting Agency saying that they needed a room on Monday (as a rule, don't make your bookings that last minute, people) to do some extras casting for a Major Hollywood Blockbuster that would be filming near Oxford the following week. So, no Hollywood megastars in the building itself, but the opportunity to be an extra was open to all of us. We could be in a Hollywood film! Can you imagine?! 

Not-so-secretly, we all wondered if it would be the new Bond movie...

Monday came around, and the mood was...well, it was frankly hilarious. There was this mixture of excitement, mockery, enthusiasm and incredulity (in both good ways and bad). Some of the (part-time) staff went to get cast as extras, others of us (full-time) remembered that we actually already have jobs and couldn't just swan off to be in a film (shame), while others scoffed not-so-quietly in the corner.

As the day went on, we gathered bits of information about what the scene would be, and who might be there...and eventually found out what the film was... And, I don't think I'm allowed to say what it is. Sorry. BUT, yes, it is a Hollywood blockbuster; no, it wasn't what we thought; and yes, it was quite cool.

But none of the stars in this film were people on my list. And probably not in my top 10 either (which would extend to: 6. Emma Thompson, 7. Eddie Izzard, 8. Andy Samberg, 9. Stephen Mangan, and 10. James McAvoy - read into all of that what you will)

I realised at that point that any excitement I might have had about being an extra would not really have been about being in the film itself (although I know how long you can eat out on that one: 'Look, there's half of my left ear in Harry Potter!' - niche in-joke reference for you there) For me, it was much more about who I would have the potential to meet.

I've had a fairly practical week at work this week, doing mail-outs and such, and so have listened to a lot of radio in the form of Chain Reaction. Several people mentioned meeting their idols - I think one of them (Barry Cryer, perhaps?) told the story of calling his idol when he was drunk, then actually being invited over for a drink, getting to know him quite well, and it being an unusual example of when meeting your idol 'works' as you'd imagined. 

But while I joked about me and Miranda becoming best friends if we met (I've stood near her, as shown above, but never actually met her...), I can hardly imagine that it would actually be so - can you? It's a nice idea, but does it really happen to anyone?

Later on this week my sister and I went to see comedienne Sara Pascoe at an intimate gig at the Old Fire Station. I really like her - she's very real, clever and quirky. She told the story of a celebrity-stalk that went 'to plan', much like in Barry Cryer's interview: that of her mother camping out to meet her father, a 70s pop-star, who eventually fell for her. They soon got together, and had three daughters. It's just not what happens to real people, is it?

As it goes (and the theme continues), I actually did get to meet someone famous who I admire at this point - K and I decided to do our traditional gig-routine of hanging around the stage door after the gig to get an autograph and a picture (it's so far worked with Russell Howard, Milton Jones and Ed Byrne!) Surprisingly few people seem to do this, yet it's such a great way to meet them, and say thanks for the show! (Have I just given away a great secret...?) It's not as committed as camping out for several years to meet someone and then marrying them; but it has good short-term returns!

Sadly, Sara was in a rush to run for the train, so we literally just got a hug and a hi, before she ran away to the train station. However, we did get a lovely tweet afterwards :)

So, all in all, I had my opportunity to meet some (short, scientologist-y) Hollywood stars at the beginning of this week and decided not to bother; and did get to meet a comedian I really like, but only fleetingly and with little evidence. No new BFFs, no friends in high places, and no 'plans working out just how you imagined'.

But. I did get a very special meeting this week which made me more excited than is probably normal. On Tuesday, the centre hosted a Christmas party for a group of old people's homes. As part of that party they brought in two BEAUTIFUL reindeer that would welcome the guests as they arrived. I went to say hello before all the action kicked off, then admired them out of the office window until they went home.

Honestly, they were so gorgeous, and so calm and majestic and funny. And I fed them lichen (which is what they eat in winter, who knew?!) 

So, while I may not have made friends with any Hollywood superstars this week (and I think I'm ok with that, but if you see Rupert Grint anywhere do let me know), it's nice to know I'm actually pretty contented with the non-famous animals. They're more snuggly than famous people anyway. (And that's why I did ecology...)

That said, I'm guessing these guys know Santa, so perhaps my excitement to see them will mean they'll put a good word in for me this year ;)

ANYWAY. Eat your heart out, Zach Braff.
'Til next time, Happy Christmas!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Throwback Thursday: Happy, happy birthdays

Now, I have a confession:

FIRSTLY - I was meant to finish this post yesterday, hence why it was a Throwback Thursday.

SECONDLY - Today is only a 'Throwback Thursday' because I took these photos earlier in the summer, loaded them onto my computer and then forgot to do anything with them. Bad Emily. This is made even worse by the fact that I was *asked* to take some photos at this party, specifically. Even worse Emily.

Better sort that out, quick. 

So - I have two excellent friends called Dave and Claire, who happen to be married, and are both excellent. Until September Claire and I worked in the same office, and as Dave's 30th birthday was approaching I was let in on plans for a surprise birthday party! I would never describe Claire as devious, and I think how stressful she found keeping things from Dave is testament to the openness and good communication of their marriage - but the day finally arrived without anyone having told Dave that the party was happening, and Claire and I pottered down to the lovely Isis Farmhouse down by the river to set up...

This was entertaining because it was Claire's party. It wasn't Claire's party, it was Dave's party, but Claire was the star ;)

It was a reaaaally breezy day and the banners and balloons
did not co-operate well, despite Claire's sterling efforts

Birthday Barbeque :D

The men congregate around the grill for tea and meat.

Dave has arrived!! I was too excited in the big reveal moment that I forgot to take any photos of him arriving.
Bad Em.


The Lovely Ladies :)

Team effort in the Extreme Breeze

Deep Breath!
(There's a lot of candles...ahem...)

Good to acknowledge that there were the tallest and the smallest of friends in attendance

C'mon, dish it out.

I worry about Simon's commitment to this friendship...

Ah no, wait, there we go :D

Lovely Joash does some exploring

I think he was just checking the spelling on the card.

The bubbles!!

Good work Na'amah!

Lots of love at the party
(and a slight clue that maybe I can't take the credit for all of these pictures...)
That's all folks! There'll be more fun coming your way soon - hopefully not at a three month delay like this one was...

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Old Pine fell.

If I remember rightly, I first went to the Oxford Botanic Gardens almost exactly six years ago, as part of my Biology induction as a fresher. It was one of those times where you're like 'compulsory attendance? Can we stay here ALL DAY, thankyouplease?' 

We were shown around by the brilliant director, Timothy Walker, who sadly-sadly relinquished that role this summer. He was one of my favourite tutors, actually - in the first tutorial I had with him we spent the first five minutes in hysterics over an Armstrong and Miller sketch we'd both watched the previous day, while he ate his lunch. It was certainly a good way to break the ice before we delved into the scintillating world of the alternation of generations. (Yeah, I can even remember what the tute was about, six years later. Boom.)

I can only imagine all the things he did for that garden over the years - and it didn't take much of his story-telling and insight to make me fall in love with it. For example, did you know that the yew tree at the bottom of the first section of the garden (the oldest tree in the gardens, for that matter, planted in 1645!) used to be one of a pair - one of each sex - but when one was blown down in a gale in the '70s the remaining tree became hermaphroditic so it could self-pollinate? Genius.

(bee-tee-dubs, I tried to fact check this last nugget of information but found it nowhere, so you'll have to trust me that I think it's right...maybe.)

J.R.R. Tolkein and his beloved Black Pine
He also introduced us to Tolkein's Tree, the Black Pine (Pinus nigra). Understandably, this beautiful old tree was Tolkein's favourite, inspiring the tree-characters of his famous stories. Apparently he would sit and write beneath its branches. This picture was the last ever taken of Tolkein, and it was beside his beloved tree.

In my first year, the Botanic Gardens (or Bot Gards, as they affectionately became known) were my retreat. I lived in college, right in the centre of town, and the walk down the High Street to the gardens felt like leaving town completely. You can step inside the walls of the garden and forget the hubbub of the city entirely. It was (and sometimes still is) my complete escape. It's the place I go when I don't know where else to go; and the place I take people when they want to see My Oxford. And the best place to sit? Just to contemplate life? To journal and pray? To drink tea in a takeaway cup and discuss the twists and turns of life and love with a friend? Under the black pine, of course.

I can't really explain how you can get so emotionally attached to a tree. Honestly, it sounds bizarre. But I can't count the number of times I've sat underneath it and admired it's huge, curving boughs, run my fingers over the rough bark, and marveled at the way it looks utterly beautiful, regardless of the season or weather. It dominates the landscape of the garden. I have taken more pictures of this tree than I care to divulge, at every time of year, and in every mood. 

Just over a year ago, I took this photo, which I captioned, 'May I ever return to this spot. In the words of Sheldon, this is my 0,0,0.' I just loved the idea that no matter how much had changed, I could have a spot under a historic, yet living, landmark that I could always come back to.

However. Earlier this year the Black Pine suffered significant storm damage, and two of the boughs came down. After seeking the advice of professionals, the only option the gardens had was to fell the tree completely. This week, they released this video, of this beautiful, historic, landmark tree coming down...


I can't pretend I didn't cry the first time I watched that.

But, the Black Pine was my favourite photographic subject. So, in honour of one of my favourite things, here's a collection of shots I've taken over six years, in varying seasons, on different devices, with some of my favourite people. 

My lovely, lovely, tree; the gardens will never be the same without you.

18th January, 2009

David, not wanting to ruin his nice coat on the bark, but showing affection nonetheless
18th January, 2009

You can never get it all in one shot...
18th January, 2009

Straight up
10th December, 2009

Heth and Mike
10th December, 2009

3rd September, 2011

With Philibean
1st March, 2009

Tree love with Heather
13th March, 2009

Basking in sunshine
22nd May, 2010

24th March, 2010

Self-timed love
25th October, 2008 (When we'd only just met!)

Dad, joining our big family picnic under the boughs. That bench you see in the background? That's where you sit and contemplate life.
13th June, 2011

17th October, 2008

1st September, 2013

My joyful place to be!
2nd March, 2009 (the date on the picture is wrong!)
To leave, what song could be more fitting than the glorious classic, Old Pine, from Ben Howard? "As the Old Pine fell we sang, just to bless the morning."

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Time to Step Outside

I thought I'd do you a nice, simple, Love-Laugh-Photograph post today, as the last few posts have been a bit more intentional than I had originally intended this blog to be. So, today I shall be documenting the joy of being on holiday - an art I am not well practiced at of recent years. Having not actually been on holiday since a brilliant escapade to Switzerland in Summer 2012, I felt well-overdue a bit of downtime and R&R - so that is what we did. I had a few days off last/this week, so went away to Cromer (which is not a Greek island) with my friend Rhoda for a long-weekend (or a 'weeeekeeeeend'. ie. it was five days. That's pretty long for a weekend, I reckon). 
Oops. Poppytastic.

We stayed in Rhodes' sisters' parents-in-law's's less convoluted than it sounds...right by the beach, which was delightfully adorned with poppies (everywhere). I asked Rho approximately twelve times what the significance of the poppies was locally, and we never really found an answer, apart from that they are significant locally (answers on a postcard please), and they meant that one day I could accidentally dress to match the house. 

We essentially spent our time plodding along the beach (some times more purposefully than others), eating our way through the local wares, seeing the town from every angle possible (including almost too-high above), painting pottery, pottering around shops, watching Harry Potter and not stressing too hard about whether there were other 'potter'-y things we should be doing.

Anyway, first film of the holiday wasn't actually a Potter, but The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It's great, you should watch and enjoy if you haven't already, especially if you like exploring and grabbing life by the horns...and it has a cracking soundtrack which I've been listening to almost non-stop since we got back ('Ooh, who sings this one, Rho, do you know?' 'It's Jose Gonzales, Em: exactly the same as last time we were in the car.' Whoops.) 

Soundtrack to adventures outside? Sounds good to me. So, click the video below, then scroll and enjoy 'Stepping Out' to lots of lovely seasidey times...(ps, sorry they're all below each other and can't sit side-by-side. Silly old Blogger. I think we might need to consider a redesign for photos, etc. especially as I can't show really large ones without it being out of line... Any suggestions on more postcards, please...)

Day One: An evening stroll before dinner, with birds, beach, pier et al.

The epitome of beach

Classic, had to be done, etc.etc.

Gotta take pictures of friends and sea, but seaweed takes centre-stage

Looking North, toward Sherringham

Huts on the pier
Day Two: A lovely long walk along the beach and back along the cliffs, climbing the church tower, infamous millionaire's shortbread from Huckleberry's, and chasing sunsets.
The landmark, Cromer Pier

Cutie-pie, straight out of Bob the Builder, tractor

LOOK at all that beach

Up on the cliffs

The lighthouse, that thing that's meant to be totally visible at all times, that took us most of the walk to locate

Cromer, from afar, and above-ish

Because cliff-high wasn't high enough

This is a THING in Cromer. Me and Rhoda don't really do sea-food. Sorry, Cromer.

The beautiful church, whose tower we then climbed. Highest tower in the East, that is. See if from absolutely everywhere around, you can. Mmm, local knowledge.

OKAY, IT'S REALLY QUITE HIGH. My legs were jelly at this point. I couldn't tell if it was the height, the five mile walk we'd already done that morning, or the 150-odd insanely steep and narrow tower-stairs we'd just climbed...maybe all of the above.

Again, 'pretty high up' just isn't high enough for this one. #thrillseeker

This is a genuine highlight of the trip. Millionaire's shortbread from Huckleberry's. This is half a slice, being eaten on the pier. This is perhaps the best millionaire's shortbread you will ever sample. I implore you to try it if you can. It may also be why my jeans are a little tight...
Then we spotted this brewing in the distance, and went and chased the sunset over the hill...

Because who doesn't love a sunset over a caravan park?

Floral things. Will identify later. Pretty.

...aaaand, close.
I just wanted to finish today by showing you, no, NOT the stairs we climbed up that old church tower to the top o' the town, but the stairs TO MY ROOM in the attic. There are genuine hand-rails just out of shot. I loved it. Such adventure, just to get to bed!
Day Three: Wandering around Cromer, visiting book shops, vegging in coffee-shops, not carrying my camera because I was shopping so doing all of my photography via Instagram...

Tea and crispy cakes in Huckleberry's


LOVE these colourful houses!

Don't worry, we popped to the beach too
Day Four: SUNDAY - painting pottery, toddling on the beach, feet in the sea, #fin
Much deliberation. Honestly, it's harder than it looks.

It's not finished yet! It'll look better, I promise! (I hope)

Such joy

As ever, a pre-dinner beach stroll. Shiny. Look at all that shiny beach.

I finally bared all (of my lower legs), removed the leggings and paddled. If your feet aren't in, you're not doing the seaside properly.

The sky starts being coloured in with a pink highlighter...

...aaaaaand, down she goes again.
Day Five: NORWICH. Now, you'll forgive me for not taking many photos on this day. I took my big camera, but it was raining, and apart from visiting the castle, we largely shopped. But. We did go on the train, and see the castle, and it was joyful (until I ran out of energy then demanded a coffee shop immediately, but apart from that it was all amicable...)
Just to prove I was actually there. This is what happens when you go to take a picture of a sign and realise your camera is on 'selfie' mode. Well, a selfie must occur! This is Cromer train station: two noticeboards and two platforms. Not even a ticket office. I've never enjoyed trains more! :D

Here Be Dragons

Inside Norwich Castle. This is a bad photo, apologies for that. Bad lighting. On phone. Excited shakes. #excusesexcuses 
PHWOAR, what a hunk, knight in shining armour, etc.

Having fun with catapults!
And then, dear friends, I stopped taking photos. Not because of anything drastic, just because pottering around gifty-shops in the rain isn't very photogenic. And then we came home, made carbonara, and watched The Goblet of FIRE.

All in all, a good bit of adventuring. This is the most photogenic life has been in a good little while, so I hope you've enjoyed. I've just renewed my membership to the botanic gardens and arboretum, just in time for some autumnal hues, so who knows, maybe there'll be some more photogenic moments coming your way again soon?

'Til next time, love as ever, x