Beauty and the Beast

Last night I went to see Disney’s new take on Beauty on the Beast. I laughed (a little), I cried (a lot) and I single-handedly demolished a bag of Veggie Percys before the ads tailored to the film had begun (impressive). The film is (for sensitive souls like me) an emotional rollercoaster best experienced first hand – but if instead of that you’d like my scene-by-scene take on it, you’ve come to the right place.

Shhh! Opening credits, isn’t the Disney castle breath-taking? Reminds me of recent trip to Disneyland Paris with sis. Spend first few scenes fondly reminiscing.

Ah ha! Belle has arrived. Nods to her feminist traits take an overt turn as she tucks one side of dress into her bloomers for easy roaming about the provincial town. Must remember that trick next time I’m in Aylesbury.

Gaston has made an entrance and is suitably self-absorbed and stereotypical – she’s never going to go for you, you muppet! Personal highlight for me is his right hand man whispering ‘It’s never gona happen ladies’ to Gaston’s equally vacuous admirers. But wait, I’m sure I’ve seen Gaston in something else… racks brain for all movies ever watched to find link.

Villagers do not take kindly to a girl with a brain – Belle runs for the hills in anguish. Hang on, is this Beauty and the Beast or The Sound of Music? As Emma Watson serenades the hills about her yearning for adventure, the distinction is momentarily blurred.

We’re firmly back on dry land with the castle. Talking teacups and candlesticks aren’t quite as endearing when made to look realistic, but Ian Mckellen as Cogsworth wins me over every time (this being the first).

 

This Gaston thing is really bugging me…

 

Another moment of heroism from Belle as she tricks her father into leaving the dungeon and taking his place. What a gal.

Is it just me or is the Beast quite attractive? Nothing gets me going like a troubled soul who is actually hilarious when you get to know him. Perhaps in an attempt not to frighten away the kiddies, Disney haven’t done a great job of making him particularly scary.

Can’t help but notice that Emma Watson doesn’t have many lines in this. Thank goodness for her expressive face.

The Beast lets Belle go of her own free will because he loves her and sings a rousing song about it. I’m right there with him emotionally as he watches the yellow-dressed figure flee into the night. I am balling my eyes out within seconds. Somehow the Beast keeps it together.

 

He’s Bard! He’s Bard in the Hobbit! Relief washes over me.

 

You know the rest – Gaston has his wicked way and locks up Belle and Papa B, villagers decide to storm the castle (Belle’s friend the librarian looks perturbed about the direction things are taking, but you don’t speak up do you, wuss?? Men these days.) After a heart-warming father-daughter moment, the two prisoners manage to escape and Belle sets off to save her man.

And there we have it – Belle admits her undying love and the Beast turns back into Matthew from Downton Abbey. While I’m thrilled for Cogsworth, Lumière and assorted cast as they rediscover their old lives, I have to agree with Emma Watson – the Beast was better before.

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Transportation

This morning I had the pleasure of commuting out of London. I write this with a seat, my sanity and (dear God I hope this isn’t going to become a theme) a sense of smug satisfaction.

My mood could only be enhanced if I looked the part (I am wont to forget that, no matter how early one gets up, it will at some point be lunch time and I will still look like it’s 5am) and if my train were carting me somewhere more exciting than work, for example Cadbury world.

“If only every journey could be this pleasant!” I chuckle to myself light-heartedly, rousing the suspicion of nearby passengers. Some journeys just are infinitely superior to others. Here I offer you the definitive list of the best and worst ways to get around. You’re welcome.

  1. The M6 Toll

Even if you have no business in the North, I would advise you to experience this gem of a road. If Freedom were to take a concrete form, it would look and feel like this.

  1. The DLR

My idea of a great roller coaster ride is a gentle tickling of one’s adrenal glands as opposed to an all-out attack. Think the Peter Pan ride in Disneyland Paris. The DLR is not dissimilar to this.

  1. Walking

Invest in a pair of Sketchers Walkits (other trainers are available) and be on your way. It’s free, it’s fresh and – if you walk at my pace – faster than most buses.

  1. The A41

The M6 toll’s loveable younger cousin, when the A41 first came into the world my mother would take my sister and I out for rock and roll drives in her convertible, where we’d cruise down the highway with the Osmonds playing full blast. Forget Crazy Horses – this dreamy stretch of tarmac is now the fastest route back to my childhood home.

  1. Any service run by Virgin

Can we all just agree that Virgin is superior in every way? I have been fortunate enough to travel with them three times in my life (for which my bank account is still paying the price) and the journey has often exceeded the destination. Richard – I salute you.

  1. The District Line

At this point we begin to tip into the less favourable modes of transport. The district line, crap as it is, makes it to sixth place for the novelty of being able to see down the whole train.

  1. The Wally Bus

After recovering from the betrayal of my Dad telling me he’d invented mash (and me telling all my friends’ parents), I tend to assume that anything my family say is their own invention is actually common knowledge. Turns out that with the Wally Bus they were actually telling the truth. Any bus operating in fun, out of the norm circumstances – think the airport to car park shuttle or those tour buses that for some reason are designed to look like trains – is worthy of the title. Safe to say, if you’re on it – you’re a wally.

  1. Replacement Bus Service

Trailing behind even the Wally Bus is this sorry excuse for a train. If you’re on it, something has already clearly gone wrong for you that day – and everyone knows it.

  1. The Bakerloo Line

You know what would be a great colour scheme for a train? Brown. And you know what our passengers need? Four-seater booths so snug that you can brush knees with the stranger opposite. Sort yourselves out, TFL.

  1. Running

Until a few weeks ago I would have taken it as a given that no one would actually subject themselves to running as a form of transport (what are we, cave men?) However, having met two people that legitimately do this, it seems necessary to add it to the list. Don’t let yourself be among them.

So there we have it, the best and worst of the British Transport System. Make today an M6 toll kinda day. You deserve it.

5am

Ah, Sunday night. Time to catch some z’s before another action-packed week. Hang on a minute, I hear you say, since when was 6pm night? It’s even light at that time now!

Alas, dear reader, the evening comes round mighty quickly when you get up at 5am.

Now before you reach for the tissues and start weeping over the sorry state that is my sleep routine, I have to admit that I get up at 5am by choice. Teachers are famously early risers, and to get into work for 7 (and yes, somehow I do have enough work to make that seem necessary) I need to be up around 6. The extra hour is my choice. I like to think of it as a buffer with which I acclimatise to the day ahead, indulge in a little gentle exercise and spend some time staring at the ceiling pondering life’s big questions (if the exercise is yoga, which it usually is, I sometimes manage all three simultaneously).

But that’s not all. There’s a sadistic pleasure to setting an alarm for 5am. A sense of prestige that comes with denying yourself what others enjoy freely. I wake. It’s dark. It’s cold. My world is blurry (can I get an ‘amen’ glasses wearers?). The rest of the house is fast asleep (assuming they manage to sleep through me bumbling round in the shower – it’s too early for hand-eye coordination which means 9 times out of 10 the shower gel goes crashing to the bathroom floor at some point). People think rising at this time is madness, but it hasn’t always been this way.

At some point in life, probably around the age 16 mark, everything you thought you knew about life turns on its head. Not wanting to wear a coat outside because it’s uncool (seriously what was that about?) becomes a desperation to own the woolliest coat in the village; pretending not to know your parents in public is swapped for counting the days to come home for the holidays and be back home ballers; feeling inexplicably awkward when asked to call someone up becomes – nope, hang on, that one’s, er, still in tact.

Anyway, with reference to today’s post, getting up at 6am to watch cartoons/play Sims/have a private disco in the living room is exchanged for a deep yearning for an extra minute in bed while Mum and Dad do their best to drive you from your duvet with the lethal combination of hair-drying and vacuuming. And you know what? It’s just not worth it. The amount I achieve between 8 and 10 on a Saturday morning is equivalent to what I get done in the rest of the weekend put together. It’s much harder to carpe diem if you don’t even get started til lunchtime.

All this I try to remember smugly as I begin to nod off at my friend’s birthday party this weekend. Merrily drinking cocktails made with a gin mixer (an unfortunate misunderstanding brought to our awareness the next morning) had done away with the last few alert cells in my body and my brain was having none of it. By midnight I was tucked up in bed well before the rest of the party-goers. I write this sitting on a cool seven and a half hours sleep, comfortably within sleep experts’* recommendations. I feel rested, contented, replenished. But do I feel smug? No. 5am it is then.

*Google’s

Gaming

Gaming. We all do it. We all love it. We all pretend that we love our real friends better than the ones we made for ourselves on The Sims, but we also all know that’s total bull.

If I were to plot a graph of my big PlayStation and PC loves, it would look something like this:

gamin.png

Holla to anyone who recognises Majesty and Curse of Monkey Island in there – you wana come round and play? (If, on the other hand, your eye is immediately drawn to the Sims 2 baby, I am afraid you are probably a saddo like me who has taken family planning to its inevitable uncomfortable end).

These are the games that made me, where I learned that if your child misses the school bus because their toaster pastry took too long to cook they will most likely be abducted by social services, where you can get by for several days with no doors or windows as long as you have a bookcase to send those fun points rocketing, and where King Syndrome is a real thing that can be treated with one intense session of psychotherapy.

I am capable of holding off the goblin hordes, of being a world-class painter while holding down a full time job in the army and of riding my Barbie horse wherever the heck I like, all from the comfort of my chair, usually whilst eating a hamburger.

My Sims family may have been blossoming, but my real life relationships suffered. Saturday lie ins were traded in for an intense battle of wills with my sister, where whoever woke first would be stationed in front of the computer for the rest of the day. Passive aggressively manipulating the oven timer to extend your go and diminish your opponent’s was all part of the fun. And don’t even get me started on the outside world: if it wasn’t a realm I could conquer in Majesty, I wasn’t interested.

These days I probably have a more healthy relationship with gaming, in that I don’t really do it (except that one time where I lost a whole Summer holiday to Diner Dash…) If you ask me, the computing industry has done itself a disservice by improving the quality of its graphics. Whoever said the more realistic the game the better has clearly never played Simon the Sorcerer in all its pixelated glory or made a highly realistic version of themselves on Sims 3. The whole reason I play Sims is to live my dream life, and in that life my face is much less realistic.

But seriously, how is the fake life I make for myself on Sims that different from the one we project on Facebook? If anything, Sim me throws a far more realistic amount of tantrums. It could be that I’m on the verge of a highly philosophical point there, but I don’t quite have time to explore it – my Barbie horse won’t groom herself, you know.

Adulting

How did I end up in the midst of this thing called Adulthood? It seems like only yesterday that I was round a friend’s house, raising a glass of champagne to the start of adult life (the poignant sophistication marred only slightly by said bottle exploding all over the kitchen before I’d had a chance to pour it). There I am, clear as day in my mind’s eye, eagerly toasting my bright and prosperous future.

Fast forward a few months and I was crawling back through the door clutching a family size [possibly not the right term] bottle of vodka.

It used to all be so easy. ‘Adult’ was a title automatically granted to anyone plucky enough to have survived past their 18th or 21st birthday. If you turned up still breathing on the day, you’d be welcomed into the adult community with open arms.

But now ‘adult’ is no longer a guaranteed noun to be taped to your forehead forever more. It has shifted into verb territory. ‘Adulting’: something that can be done well or otherwise [I adult, you adult, he/she/it adults; Yesterday I adulted like a pro but today I can’t really be bothered.’]

Things that count as successful adulting in my house include remembering to put the bins out, getting up early enough to shower before work and making a balanced meal from scratch. You can only imagine how giddy I felt when I opened a Help to Buy ISA.

Indeed, when initially embarking upon this post I had intended for it to be a list of handy hints to smooth the transition between life’s two great hoods: child and adult. But, frankly, as I was sifting through the crevices of a hungover mind to find a golden nugget or two worth sharing, I realised how unqualified I am to start doling out life lessons. If you stock up on Lemsip before getting a cold and wash all your clothes together at 30, I’ve taught you everything I know.

Back to me and the vodka. I guess you could say that adult life hasn’t been quite what I thought it would be. There’s been a heftier slice of failure and me generally looking like a bumbling fool than I’d originally bargained for (something my friends and colleagues assure me I will be grateful for further down the line – I’ll keep you posted). But let’s be honest now: despite the odd daily setback, it’s also been a period of unparalleled excitement and freedom. It’s the little things that stack up to make you feel on top: choosing when and what to eat for dinner, filling my calendar with time with friends and family (by choice!) and, ultimately, only being answerable to myself – and where I’m concerned, I’m inclined to be very, very lenient.

So yes, sometimes the only way to conclude the day is by lying on the carpet and yelling ‘Why?!’ to anyone who will listen. But at the end of the day I rent that portion of carpet with my own hard graft, and I’m pretty sure that makes me an adult.

Veganissimo

You may be aware that I have taken the some might say heroic  (but most say OTT and antisocial) decision to go vegan for lent. But why? I hear you ask through a mouthful of cheese. Initially because I was just interested to see what would happen. Would I lose weight? Be filled with energy? Turn into a carrot? However, after divulging my intentions to a few people, it became more directly about proving that I could do it. It’s amazing what you can achieve when someone doesn’t believe in you (contrary to what Disney might tell you). I’m a bit like Ted from HIMYM that episode he dyed his hair blonde in that respect.

Nevertheless, as I chomp my way through a three bean salad with a sparse lemon dressing, I can’t help but mentally shop for a few things I’d rather be eating. Here is a snippet of the list:

Mozzarella, feta cheese, Pilgrim’s cheddar cheese, own brand mature cheddar, own brand mild cheddar, parmesan, marscapone, blue cheese, ricotta, boursin, philadelphia, philadelphia limited edition chocolate, baby bell, cheese string.

Yet despite these cravings, I have to say that so far I have found the going fairly easy. Although, the niggling feeling that I was finding it too easy to be true turned out to be all too correct when I suddenly had a flashback to when I’d completely absent-mindedly eaten some chocolate on the first day of Lent.

My new fear (I always like to have one on the go) is that I might starve to death while I’m away this weekend – a seemingly appropriate measure to reduce this likelihood has been to pack an emergency jar of almond butter in my rucksack – just add carbs.

Do feel free to wish me luck on my literal foray into dense vegetation and to send any winning recipes my way. But seriously, in a world where chips and baked beans are still on the menu, how bad can it be?

*UPDATE*

I did not starve to death at the weekend but I was subjected to salad and chips at ill-equipped restaurants twice in two days. Would recommend to anyone who wants to feel healthy but also to find some pleasure in life.

The Stare

I think it’s fair to say that teaching didn’t (doesn’t?) come naturally to me. We all have those friends who have known they wanted to be teachers since they were at primary school themselves, whose parents are most likely teachers and who slot into the role like a 2p coin at the penny falls. If you are friends with me, I am 99% sure that the person you are thinking of right now is someone else (you traitor).

And you know what? Good for them. Regrettably, for some of us, the first year of teaching is more like an uphill sprint on a slippery path. Only the path is on fire, a boulder is rolling towards you and you’re about to get eaten by wolves.

All this I thought, rather self-pityingly it has to be said, until I came across a photo of me, taken no less than a year before I embarked on my teaching career, where I happen to be exhibiting one of the fundamental pillars of the profession.

The Stare.

In my early, woefully naïve days, I used to think The Stare was a simple matter of looking at a child until they did what you wanted.

Oh-ho-ho! Let me tell you how wrong I was.

The Stare is not something you can acquire overnight. It takes months of blood, sweat and tears (the blood, sweat and most of the tears being the teacher’s – the odd outburst from the children) to perfect it. It’s a look that says ‘whilst I respect you as your teacher and demand your respect as my pupil, the behaviour you are exhibiting right now disgusts me and if it does not cease this instant I will be forced to embark upon several steps of disciplinary action, which may or may not terminate in your expulsion from the school.’

Here is a by no means exhaustive list of the things you might try in my classroom that would warrant The Stare:

  1. Incessantly tapping the table with a ruler.
  2. Calling out the correct answer while the rest of the class is deep in thought.
  3. Looking in any direction that is not me or the whiteboard.
  4. Giggling.
  5. Having fun.
  6. Breathing.

In my early days, when a child exhibited one of these behaviours, I would look at them in what I determined to be a superior manner, which quickly dwindled to bewilderment as it had absolutely no effect on them whatsoever. But now my stare is to teaching what Blue Steel is to Zoolander – a total game changer.

For some reason, discovering that I had the knack to create The Stare somewhere about my person well before I began consciously trying to create it has soothed me, buoying me up with a sense of being on the right path. I suppose there’s really only one question left to ask:

Who the f**k was tapping a ruler on the other side of the camera?