Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Thoughts on Eeenglund

The start of Spamalot opens with the song 'Finland, Finland, Finland, thats the country for me'! with very colofully dressed people, cute little house, fur pines, etc. The narrator cuts the song to a quick close when he yells 'I said ENGLAND, not FINLAND'. The set dissapears into a depressing foggy gloom with faint lighting and rain clouds hovering. A few characters walk solemnly by in manky robes with depressing music. As far as reality goes its pretty accurate.

I realise I write more about what I do and whats happening, and maybe people like to know more about the daily life and what living here is actually like. So I thought id share my thoughts.

Coming into winter its funny to see that londoners almost have a dress code. Fair enough theres only so many coat styles on the market but still. Lace up high heel leather shoes are in fashion. Flat equestrian style boots are the staple foot diet. Tights are selling in the hundreds of thousands. All sorts of patterns. I havnt worn woolen tights since boarding school and here I am now expected to wear them daily as part of a funky (and warm) work wardrobe. so far I have resisted. The other thing i notice is most people here wear wooly hats. Baggy, knitted, wooly hats. Men all carry man bags or laptop bags, umbrella, sometimes hat, nice leather shoes.
You step down a peg into the casual wear domain and this is what you see - boys in english geezer shiny adidas tracksuits, white pull on sneakers and a ciggarette. Or Jeans, white sneakers and denim jacket and a ciggarette. Girls - jeans, puffer jacket or fitted short jacket with hard square handbag, trowled on makeup, blonde hair in pony tail, big hoop earrings, and a ciggarette. Or a kid.

One thing I've noticed, is that in such a busy densely populated city where we are queing and squeezing like sardines at every possible opportunity, is that everyone reserves a mininum of 1-2cm of personal space around them. Yes, this is even on the tube when there is no space to leave space. Your elbow to elbow, nose to nose and everyone must have there little perimeter of space. Do we go out of our way to have this by way of saving our sanity? Do we put extra effort into ignoring everyone because we are face to face with hundreds of people every day? Its the law of town vs country foke personified. The country foke are so far away from each other they grab every chance to be friendly and chat. The towny may ignore his neighbour, or may say hi once a week at the letterbox. Living in the city, woah ignoring and not touching is the top priority! (Disclaimer - this does not apply on oxford street. here, your aim is to bang into, and barge past, as many civilions as possible. go!)

But for all that, it still gives me a little buzz everytime i say to myself 'I'm in London'. And everytime you see the words Christchurch. Or Auckland. Or Albany, or Birkenhead. All these New Zealand places are english names. you just dont realise how much of an english colony we are until you realise this fact. Of course I know we are part of the commonwealth and all our english citizens came from england, ra ra ra, I'm saying its neat when your away from home to see the address 'Birkenhead, Albany, London, SW4 6PY. You think 'thats a place in Auckland! yay!' Yeah me and my little thrills. Gotta get em where you can.

The other day, I spoke to a kiwi guy on the phone. I answer the phone for my department and speak to a lot of english and welsh people. But this was the first maori sounding kiwi I've spoken too. He said something like 'orright, yeah, cheers eh, cheers, by' I smiled and felt a bit patriotic at hearing my homeland slang. see, 'cheers bro' never goes out of fashion.

The other thing about living in London is that after a few months of exploring the town and going out and seeing all the attractions, you soon turn to the reality of having a job, eating sleeping and doing housework. (If you do housework). All my friends here I speak to when you ask 'what have you been up too? just say 'working'. You think, woah, your in London! Life must be more exciting than that surely. No. Maybe for some people with good jobs yes. But for most of us its about working to pay your rent and your oyster card bill. And then eating, sleeping and drinking. Then, if a cheap deal comes in the TNT ( then you grab it and go on a sloshy weekend away with friends or some random place in Russia or Latvia or wherever and then you save for flights home.

The last thing that strikes me and actually strikes all the english people here too, is SAD and the darkness of winter. It starts getting dark at 4pm. By 4:30 its well dark and as good as night time. I left work early last friday, (4:30) and it was dark and the street lights were on. I thought, whats this, Im leaving work early, going out, and it feels like night time. Every day at work we all look out our grey blinds at the grey sky and watch it turning dark just after we have our afternoon coffee. We all get a bit more depressed. Which is the other major issue, is that everyone gets SAD (Seasonal affective disorder) over here. Everyone looks and acts gloomy and depressed. Everyone really looks forward to those sunny holidays with a ferocity never felt by kiwis. It puts new emphasis on 'going to work in the dark, and going home in the dark.' well, now it really is.
On the plus side, at least I can accesorise with at least 6 layers of cute knits, coats, scarves, gloves, hats, boots, tights, skirts......
Wow my english friends are really going to like me after this post. Cheers Bro? :)

Nanowrimo week 2/3

Hey folks :) thought i'd drop in and tell you about my snails pace progress for nanowrimo in the last couple of weeks.

After the first weekend of reaching 8000 words in the first weekend and increasing my word count by leaps all week, I got 6000 words in weekend two. At about 15, 000 words I noticed progress slow down. The main characters had been seperatly introduced. Backstories told. then you need to ramp it up a bit. you need to actually make your characters start coming of the page and doing something. You know, books usually have that exciting plot line where lots of things happen and at the end you cant remember everything that happened, but you know it was exciting? yeah. The writer has to write all that exciting stuff. And sometimes that involves late nights, coffee, sore butt, stiff back, RSS (the injury, not the content feed) and eyes popping out of your head. Isnt this fun!? *you tell yourself smiling*

anyway over the course of these 2 weeks I have managed to sprint, rest and sprint my way to 32, 100 words as of day 18. Not bad. I was two days ahead of schedule as determined by the head coach/leader of the whole thing. So Im pretty pleased.

But after racing from 17,000-31,000 words I am now stalling and the rabbit within has emerged. I need to dream up some dramatic scenes, plot twists, character revelations, lions tigers and bears, oh my!! But im only getting the tin man.

They call the 30-50,000 words there home stretch. Ill be saying that when Im at 40,000+. For now i am plodding on, keeping the competition going with my fellow wrimo's on twitter ( and submitting myself to 'Write or die'!!!! which is a website that pits you against a certain number of words in a certain time- if you fail it plays awful music or eats your words!! NOO!

Lots of procrastination and diversion tactics are employed at this stage of the game. People are starting to look for a way out. housework? love to! party? yeah! twitter updates (what novel?) you get the idea.

But to tell you the truth im really enjoying this, I like my plot (maybe more the idea of it rather than the actual quality of the content) but its a competition and getting to the end is far more satisfying than faking a sprain and quitting half way.

Now ive just written a blog post about 800 words long. How much further ahead would that have gotten me in my novel. Instead im submitting thesis to my blog. What'd I say about diversion tactics?

Thursday, 6 November 2008

NaNoWriMo Week #1

Well for some reason (maybe the bad weather) I have chosen to compete in a competition of friendly writing sport called National Novel Writing Month. It was started by a guy in america a few years ago with some friends and has now grown into a world wide event with 150,000 odd participants. Through their website, and following peoples twittering about their progress the whole way through, it feels like a close worldwide community of writers all churning out words albeit just for 1 month of the year.

The aim is to write like a mad man with frenzied fingers and get 50, 000 words of fiction down before the month end. It is meant to be a novel but some entrants are non fiction works or documentarys etc.

It has been a great first week so far. The first 10,000 words have been the easiest... then when I got to 12-20k the going was slightly more involved but still manageable. As everyone has been saying it gets harder when you've got to actually make your characters do something in the land called 'plot'. And reading everyones posts on the competition website everyone is slowing down at about the same point.

Day one i sat bum on couch from 12-12 and got 8700 words down. By Monday evening, day 3, I had 11,something k. Tuesday night got up to 14 and a half k. Weds night got to 15, k. Note sleep cut back by 2-3hours each night so I can fit this typing in. Starting to feel the drag of a half awake person and a heavy head. But must. keep. typing. By Friday night im at 15,700K. Sat I spent another 8 hours writing and half of sunday, total 6000 something words. So now at the end of week one I have got to 22,750 words. I was aiming for 25K... but ohwell I'm really pleased with what writing I have done so I'm giving myself sunday evening off (to write more and update my blog of course).

To write this many words in 30 days, you need to do a mininum/average of 1700 words a day. So I need to retain my word count lead and carry on the word count one upmanship because I will need some time in week 4 to relax and edit my unmasterpiece.

So here's to week 2. Cheers to all my fellow NanoWrimo participants :D