Dos and Don’ts of Online Dating

Dos and Don’ts of Online Dating

My apologies to those of you who really couldn’t give a damn about dating websites for writing another post on this, but honestly, it’s an absolute goldmine. This stuff just writes itself.

Don’t send someone a message that’s impossible for them to respond to. It’s all well and good being a bit cheeky and flirty, but I just couldn’t think of a response to: “I could teach you Portuguese J” other than ‘Oh haha… I’d really rather you didn’t though.’

Do put in enough quirky or interesting details on your profile so people will have something to write to you about. Everyone loves travelling and going to the pub. Put up something that will be an easy hook for someone to start a conversation with.

Don’t send someone a message saying: ‘I didn’t like X film you’ve put on your profile. Why did you like it?’ It feels instantly judgemental and puts me on the back foot. I don’t have a problem with you not liking it (although if you didn’t like The Lives of Others, I don’t know how to talk to you) but at least tell me why you weren’t sure about it so we can have a discussion, without me immediately feeling defensive.

Do reply quickly to people that you like. Obviously it doesn’t have to be within 30 seconds, but don’t leave them hanging, especially if they’ve asked you if you want to meet up. To leave it four days, then say ‘Oh sorry I was busy, I’d love to meet you’ doesn’t really make someone feel wanted.

Don’t wait a few days to respond to someone, and then use your batch of new rodents as the excuse for why you haven’t had time to write a message. By all means mention your new cute rodents if you really want to, but don’t say you couldn’t write because you were “spending time with them,” give a detailed description of their cage, toys, what they like and don’t like in said cage, and then round it off by asking where the other person lives and what is their favourite animal. STAY AWAY, RODENT MAN.

Do give another person space if they stop replying to you. It’s a fairly clear message, even if you’ve already had a date and you thought it went well. I’m in one awkward situation, because the reason I’ve stopped replying to one particular person is because this person made a subtle-as-a-brick attempt to get me back to theirs on the second date. So after giving it some thought I decided we weren’t well-matched, because he seemed like a bit of a twat. But I don’t want to tell him I’ve stopped replying because I thought his message was selfish, presumptuous and more than a little offensive, because I can be fairly certain of getting the: “Oh calm down dear, I didn’t mean it like that, obviously you wouldn’t have had to come back to mine if you didn’t want to, in fact it’s a bit arrogant of you to think that’s what I was saying, I just know a lovely reasonably-priced bistro there” kind of bullshit that makes me feel like it’s my fault that I felt disappointed and pissed off, not theirs. And I can’t be bothered with it. I’ve had it before and it sucks. I hate that this is the world we live in, where I’m the one that has to appear rude by no longer replying, but I don’t want to lie and I don’t want to get talked down to. So, if someone stops replying, respect their space even if it doesn’t make absolute sense to you.

Don’t be afraid of being a bit more specific about what you’re looking for. It’s very difficult because of course you don’t want to put people off, like one person did for me when their sole criteria for what they wanted was ‘someone with a bike.’ I mean, technically, I do have a bike, but I am the world’s worst cyclist. The last time I tried to ride a bike I rode into a tree, in my back garden, and the tree is well out of the way, behind a fence. He might be my perfect person but we’ll never know. On the other hand, maybe there’s someone who would also be great for him, but who also knows how to ride a bike properly. On balance, that person is probably the better match. There isn’t going to be only one person who’s a good fit. Don’t worry about being a little bit prescriptive.

Do double check what you’ve put on your profile. I looked back at mine and realised I’d put bowling as one of my favourite interests. I’ve been bowling once and it was about ten years ago. Thank goodness I haven’t had a bowling enthusiast try and talk to me thinking they’d found their dream partner.

Don’t use words so long in your profile that people have to reach for a dictionary. Don’t start by talking about beginners art classes, focal points, verisimilitude, and ‘coaxing out a portrait in the mental periphery.’ Eh? It’s profiles like this that have started making me use the website as a fun ‘spot the pretentious crap’ game where I just click on the most ridiculous profile names and see what nonsense is on their pages. This is probably not going to find me love.

Do get enthusiastic about the people who seem like they could be your new best friend. I have a habit of getting massively over-excited about people too quickly, and I think it makes people worry for me because the crash is difficult if things go wrong. But I don’t want to be turned into a cynical old stick by people. If I didn’t get stupidly keen over the people who seem nice, then I would be changing my own personality, and I might miss out on all the fun when things do go right. I’m sure I’ll get better at picking myself up when people disappoint me even if I carry on the way I am – and anyway, my Mum has developed a habit of sending me a little pair of earrings in the post to cheer me up whenever a guy turns out to be a waste of space. It makes it almost worth it.

What I’ve Learnt… About Online Dating

In a mood of boredom and boldness I joined a dating website the other week. Here are a few things I’ve noticed:

People don’t always know how to react when you tell them you’ve joined one of these things, even if they were telling you before to go for it. It seems that they don’t want to offend by saying: ‘Oh good idea!!’ but instead want to reassure you that you’re fine on your own and don’t need to bother. Make your mind up, people.

Very few people have a decent picture of themselves to hand when they’re setting up their profile. An awful lot of selfies going on.

It’s damn near impossible to write a profile that doesn’t make you sound a) like a pretentious arsehole, b) like a braindead moron who only watches TV box sets, or c) like the most boring person alive. I’ve rewritten mine four or five times and I’m still not happy with it.

People come up with absolutely atrocious usernames. I’d take the slightly dull firstname_yearofbirth any day over gems like ‘MrAlwaysRight’ (true story). It’s amazing how just the profile name can make you write people off.

Most of the people who you have conversations with that seem nice and normal will fade away without you knowing why.

Some men (and maybe women too, I don’t know) think it’s okay to take you out on a first date and seem like a normal person, and then when planning the second date try and get you to go to a place that is in the middle of nowhere, but is right by their flat. And because you know there’s nothing else there, it’s just a horribly blatant move to take you for a drink and then be able to say: ‘my flat’s just round the corner, and otherwise you’re looking at an hour to hour and a half journey home.’ Smooth. Slick like oil. People, this is not cool. It’s a) fundamentally selfish, b) extremely presumptuous, and c) borderline coercive. And only on the second date? Really? Come on, guys. It’s a shame that it would look a little crazy if you put on your profile: ‘If you’re lying on here to try and bed a woman, à la Barney on How I Met Your Mother, you can sod right off.’ Tempting, though.

It’s very difficult when a throwaway comment someone says on their profile reminds you of some complete tool you went out with, even though the comment on its own may not be irretrievable evidence of dickishness. I’m struggling to overcome my gag reflex for people saying they ‘never want to stop learning.’

It’s never appropriate to send someone a picture of yourself in swimwear after one date, even if they’ve JOKINGLY mentioned one in the middle of an already bewildering exchange about what other pictures they should put up on the website (um, I don’t care?). It doesn’t make any sense and sets you up for extremely rude comments to take down what is clearly an ego the size of a house. I was so confused by this happening that, as his brother was also in the picture, I just said: ‘well I wouldn’t put that up on the website, you might get more requests for your brother!’ Oh yes. I’m a real catch.

Some people really know how to offend women in ten syllables or less. Some particular favourites are: ‘I have a vacancy (!!!!!!!!) for someone marvellous.’ Well, good for you. Do I apply with a CV and covering letter, or do you have one of those interminable online application forms? ‘I’m looking for a woman who isn’t overly influenced by her vagina’ – WOW – this one got so ridiculous it MUST be a joke, set up by someone who is willing to spend £25-odd a month to persuade women the end of the world has arrived, because someone this consciously offensive must not be able to exist in ordinary circumstances. One that wasn’t offensive but was RIDICULOUS started with: ‘To whom this may concern’ and in the ‘who I’m looking for’ said they’d be ‘strangely attracted’ to a woman who ‘wears flowers in her hair.’ It’s extremely difficult to wear flowers in your hair, actually. I’ve only ever tried tucking a daisy behind my ear when I was very small but the bastards fall out surprisingly easily. Or the wind blows and they either blow away or your hair tangles round them so you’re left with petals sitting about for days. Anyway, he sounds like an idiot.

You will be tempted to overlook some of this nonsense because they look beautiful in their profile picture. If this happens, get a good friend to read out their profile to you. Sometimes hearing it aloud will make you realise that you’ve skimmed the worst bits, and you really can’t let yourself go on a date with someone who says that they ‘think thinky thoughts.’

People can look totally different in different photographs. Some profiles have five or six pictures, and it genuinely looks like a different person in each picture. It’s extremely confusing.

Most of the people who ‘like’ you will be at least five to ten years above your specified age range. And/or illiterate.

On good days, it’s fun, an ego boost, and a brilliant procrastination tool. But on bad days, it can make you feel like giving up trying to find someone entirely. Especially when people who seem nice turn out to utter tools, or just disappear as soon as you tentatively suggest meeting up. It is, as a friend said, ‘a total minefield’ with a ‘lack of respect and humility. There must be some decent people out there but they seem few and far between.’ I will keep looking as I have two weeks left that I’ve already paid for – but the jury is out on whether I’ll keep dodging bullets after that or whether I’ll have given up hope of ever finding anyone normal, bright, and with an ounce of respect for women.

Little-known facts about me

I had a fun moment this week when someone I know a little but not a lot told me they’d been reading my blog (always the highpoint of the day), but he found it a little strange bringing it up with me as we don’t know each other much. I realised that at the moment ‘I’ve been reading your blog’ is shorthand for ‘All I know about you is that you’ve been feeling depressed, which is one very personal thing which I don’t feel entirely comfortable talking to you about.’ This made me think I should do a post that’s full of little factoids about me which aren’t in any way awkward to mention in the middle of a social situation. Plus, after seeing a facebook post which did the rounds of ‘ten little-known facts about me,’ it’s a fun post to think up and fun to read too (hopefully).

I currently refuse to own a black coat. This is because of four years commuting on the Northern Line and being faced by a sea of black fabric every morning. I don’t know when people stopped wearing colour, but I get tired whenever I take the tube and the brightest colour is dark denim. This does, however, make it awkward when I have to go to a funeral and my coat colour choices are bright blue, red, or nearly fluorescent pink.

My Dad looks like a cross between Hugh Laurie and Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins. He’s extremely clever, completes Times cryptic crosswords with ease and is much better with numbers than I am. From him I have inherited my sense of humour, my introverted side, and a crooked front tooth.

My Mum is remarkably clever, completes Times cryptic crosswords with ease and remembers more from her degree some forty years ago than I do from the one I did six years ago. From her I have inherited a nervous stomach when travelling, a good sense of colour (I picked out a thread to match fabric I hadn’t seen for six months and it was spot on), and a passionate love of reading.

My eldest brother is an excellent cook, an adorable-to-watch father and dreadful at buying people presents on time. He punched me in the face when we were playing ‘fake rugby’ as children (with my Mum shouting ’YOU DON’T PLAY BALL IN HERE’ which is the soundtrack to my childhood) but I was only grateful because he knocked out a tooth that had been almost falling out but not quite for some weeks.

My elder but not eldest brother reminds me (personality-wise, not looks-wise) of a combination of Rowan Atkinson as Blackadder and Thom Yorke, Radiohead frontman. We are both given to the same unnecessary outbursts of rage which frighten those around us but aren’t as serious as they sound. These outbursts are particularly common when driving or walking behind people going very slowly for no obvious reason.

My last baby tooth fell out when I was 18. I am probably one of very few people who was waiting for a visit from the tooth fairy while living in a halls of residence.

My top three Desert Island Discs would be: 1) Street Spirit (Fade Out) by Radiohead. I think it’s a perfect song. 2) When I Get Low, I Get High by Gordon Webster. Since I started blues dancing I think I’ve listened to it an average of at least once a day. 3) St James’ Infirmary by Man Overboard Quintet. I’ve heard a lot of versions of this song but this is my favourite. 2) and 3) are favourites partly because of their beautiful clarinet playing.

My favourite chocolate as a child was Smarties. I’m still sad that they changed the tubes to those ridiculous hexagonal affairs. One of the great joys in life was popping the plastic lids out of Smarties tubes.

I can move both my eyebrows up and down independently of each other, and both ears backwards and forwards. I remember discovering the ear thing in a physics class in high school.

I have slight pyromaniac tendencies. I once set fire to a plastic pen in a bar.

So there you are: ten entirely useless and impersonal pieces of information you can use if you ever see me and want to talk about the blog, but don’t want to say: ‘Hi, how’s the depression?’ Although if you want to talk about that, I probably won’t mind. As long as you don’t open with: ‘I think depression is an invention of pharmaceutical companies and doesn’t really exist.’ Then I might not be too happy. But feel free to come up and say: ‘I didn’t understand the ear and eyebrow thing – kindly demonstrate’ or ‘Now you come to mention it, you’re the absolute spitting image of Dick van Dyke’ (although I might not be too happy with that last one). By the way, I don’t know why there are so many references to teeth in this list. It’s just a coincidence.

Andreas Lubitz and reporting on depression

Written March 2015

I’ve just spent a frightening hour reading reports on Andreas Lubitz and the Germanwings crash, particularly on the news that he had been or was still suffering from depression. Some “newspapers,” including the Daily Mail, are asking why he was allowed to fly. Comments on various websites are suggesting that people with depression should not be allowed to fly planes, or drive trains, or sail boats.

There has been an instant and gratifying backlash to this round of jumping on the bandwagon to stigmatise mental illness. Some people have gone too far- one tweet I read said that the author was saddened to hear that the co-pilot was suffering from mental illness, but that no doubt some would still rush to judge and demonise him. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to judge a man who appears to have caused the death of so many innocent people. But it’s also unreasonable to suggest that depression was the sole cause for his actions, and to tar everyone who has mental health problems with the same brush. Especially before all the reports are in – articles I’ve read are being careful not to say that the sick note on the day was for depression, but they’re putting the two facts so close together it’s automatic to assume that that was the problem. The hospital he was being treated at has said he was not being treated for depression at that time. I don’t know if he was on any medication for depression – I can’t tell if anyone does because these reports are so confusing – but various people are being quick to say it was anti-depressants which caused him to crash the plane, as they can, ironically, cause suicidal notions sometimes. I love the irony of those types of medication: it’s as good as some hayfever eye drops I had which ‘may cause irritation to eyes’ or birth control medication which can decrease your inclination to have sex.

These reports, particularly one stream of complete bullshit from that prize twat, Piers Morgan, make me so angry and unhappy I don’t know whether to hit something or cry. The airline have now said that Andreas Lubitz should not have been allowed to fly – well, obviously. But how were they supposed to know? How was anyone supposed to know? Being on medication for depression does not mean you are going to fly a plane into a mountain. Being suicidal does not equal being a mass murderer. Having experienced depression at some point does mean you are unequal to flying a plane. From the sounds of it, flying a plane was this man’s dream job. If anything, he should have been at his happiest and least depressed when he was flying. There was something else wrong, something else that made him crash the plane, and we may never know what that was. Breaking up with a girlfriend does not make most people that unhinged, and some bizarre tweets I’ve seen saying he was gay and didn’t want to be (has anyone actually read that in an article? I couldn’t find it so this idiot may well be making it up) are also missing the point, that people confused about their sexuality do not generally go around killing people. Not knowing why he did what he did is very scary and I can understand people wanting to have something to blame, so they blame depression.

But where and when will this end? Because I have a history of mental health problems, does that mean I can’t do certain jobs that put me in charge of other people? Doctors are more likely to suffer from mental health issues than people in other professions. Are they all suddenly going to get laid off if they admit to suffering from stress, anxiety, or depression? It takes some serious strength to NOT get low when you’re surrounded by illness and death every day. It doesn’t mean those people are weak, and it doesn’t mean they’re suddenly going to decide to stop doing what they can to save lives, and start ending them instead. Mindless, turgid nonsense like the utter manure Morgan decided to spew into the world just makes people look at people like me and think that I’m not just someone who needs more pyjama days than most people, or who spends more time beating myself up about things I’ve done “wrong” than your Average Joe. It makes them think of people like me as potentially unsafe to the community at large, and that’s bollocks. Will people now not want to get in a car I’m driving, in case I suddenly think FUCK THIS SHIT and drive into a wall? It’s ridiculous. Being depressive doesn’t equal being suicidal. There are many types of depression and the difference between less and more severe versions of some illnesses is whether people think about death, in a general way, or whether they plan ways they could end their own lives. In a whole different arena, there is a whole different type of illness for people who plan not only their own lives, but the deaths of many others. I don’t know what you call it – psychopathic? I wish people would also stop calling it terrorism. As far as we all know, there were no political motives for his actions. If it’s not political, it’s not terrorism (according to a definition of terrorism I just looked up because I was getting so confused at the word being thrown around on twitter).

This crash is truly terrifying. I can’t stop thinking about the poor pilot, trying desperately to get back into the cockpit and not being able to. Obviously everyone is looking for ways to make sure this never happens again, but the truth is, you’re never going to be able to eliminate all risk. I read something on this for an anthropology course last year, on today’s ‘risk society.’ The general premise is that more and more, in this technological, everything-must-be-accountable age, people don’t expect to have to deal with risk anymore. If something goes wrong, someone must be to blame and that person must be punished. If an epidemic breaks out, it shouldn’t have broken out. Whose fault was it? The rise of social media seems to be making it all a thousand times worse. Someone writes an ill-considered tweet, they’re fired and unemployable. Clearly the case of Andreas Lubitz is completely different: he should be blamed for what happened, and there probably are ways the airlines can increase their security. But there will always be risk. You can’t eliminate everyone who’s ever suffered from any mental illness from doing anything more responsible than working in a café or an office (what if they went on the rampage with hot coffee, or a stapler? Maybe best not to let them leave the house at all). And if you did, you’d be depriving many professions of people who would do those jobs extremely well. And of course, if people don’t want to talk about their depression – which is hardly surprising, especially if people are now going to assume you want to drive lorry loads of people off cliffs – then you won’t be able to cut them out at all. Some idiots are saying that they blame family, or the airline, or whoever, for not spotting that he was mentally unstable, and that even if people try to hide it ‘there are always signs.’ Maybe, if you follow them around 24 hours a day and can hear their thoughts. But otherwise, no. People need to think about what they’re saying, and the media needs to be a bloody sight more responsible in their reporting. And Piers Morgan should never be allowed to express his opinions in public. How on earth does that man still have a job?

Why the Oscars are ludicrous – and my own completely pointless opinions on the best films of the year

Any of you who have been on this blog in the last couple of months or have spoken to me during that time will know I’ve been going to the cinema a lot lately. A LOT. The only Best Picture nominated film I haven’t seen yet is Boyhood- and that’s because I’m annoyed with them for making it just about boys, when as far as I’m aware, the story follows a girl too. Because nothing happens to girls as they grow up. It’s all plain sailing.

I love this time of year when so many good films come out, and I like to see as many of them as I can. Then I enjoy hearing who won and deciding whether I agree – and usually getting annoyed when the one film I haven’t got round to seeing is the one I haven’t seen yet so I can’t really have an opinion. I’m glad Birdman won at the Oscars last night partly because at least I’ve seen it and can say, yeah, I liked it.

But I was also very annoyed with the nominations this year, like so many people, because they ignored David Oyelowo’s performance in Selma. And the more I thought about that, and about other aspects of the awards, the more I decided that they really mean very little. I’ll explain myself more as I go along, but the first thing I want to point out is who exactly is voting for these Academy Awards. (I’m going to stick mainly with the Oscars, partly because that’s the one I’ve got the statistic for, but you can probably extrapolate the points out to other award ceremonies.)

According to a recent survey conducted by The Los Angeles Times, Oscar voters are on average 63 years old. 76% of them are men, and 94% of them are white.

I don’t suppose that’s really a surprise to anyone. But it’s still ridiculous. It’s a shame we don’t have a statistic on how many are straight and how many are gay. That might be illuminating too.

So based on the fact that these awards are really pretty arbitrary, and decided by a bunch of old white men sitting around probably smoking cigars, I’m going to give you my own utterly pointless opinions on what the best films and best performances were. I don’t know much about films, although my brothers have been telling me I’m a film buff for years so perhaps I know more than I think I do. Either way, it might be an amusing read at least. Feel free to offer your own opinions and comments below!

Best Picture – Comedy

I’m notoriously indecisive so I’ll be picking my top three of everything, and I like the Golden Globes’ idea of having separate categories for drama and comedy – because how can you really compare a film that’s trying to make you laugh and one that’s trying to make you think? I believe Birdman falls into both of those categories, but I’ll judge it under this one.

Well, really, I think a special “wooden spoon” mention here has to go to Fifty Shades of Grey. Anyone who’s read my book review will know I was not impressed by this franchise, and I hear the filmmakers were forced to use the dialogue from the book, which would explain why it is laughably bad. And I mean literally, laughably. I have never laughed so much at a film that wasn’t supposed to be funny. It made me laugh more than any film has in ages. Just the way her mouth kept falling open every time he came near her, and the deadpan: ‘I want to fuck you into the middle of next week’ and the tearing apart of condom wrappers all the time: very, very funny. Good work, guys.

I really enjoyed Birdman, and thought it was a great comedy: particularly Edward Norton, who is just brilliant. I know a lot of people thought it was self-indulgent nonsense, but really, I enjoyed it. I don’t know that it took itself too seriously. I think it had a lot of honest points in there about what it’s like to grow older and not feel like you’ve achieved what you want to achieve.

One of the best films of the year for me was Pride. I’m surprised it didn’t get nominated for much – assuming it was in the right time frame, I can’t remember when they’re supposed to be out to qualify. But I thought this was a very funny, but also very touching film and I enjoyed it very much. I am waiting impatiently for it to be released on DVD (yes, I am not “down with the kids” and I still buy DVDs). I think it should have been out by now, there seems to have been a hold-up with it.

Top comedy for me was The Grand Budapest Hotel. Ralph Fiennes is so bloody funny in it, mostly because of his swearing, which comes out of nowhere in this beautiful, pastel-shaded world, and knocks you over the head. If you ever want a masterclass in how to swear effectively, watch this film.

Best Picture – Drama

Everyone who’s stood still long enough near me in the last couple of months will know how much I loved Whiplash. I’ve heard that people in the music industry are not happy with it, that it doesn’t portray what it’s really like and so on. I’m sure that must be annoying for those people, just as I sometimes find it difficult watching adaptations of books I’ve read where something isn’t how I think it should be. I don’t know a lot about being a professional musician, so no inaccuracies were going to bother me, and I think, in the film’s defence, it wasn’t trying to show a typical career: this is about one very specific relationship between a student and his teacher, and how much someone will try and chase a dream. I thought it was very affecting, with brilliant performances, and, of course, fabulous jazz music.

I feel sorry for the makers of The Imitation Game. I think that in many other years it would have swept the board. I thought it was fantastic and I don’t think I’ve met anyone else who didn’t like it. It’s a fascinating but completely heartbreaking story: I came out feeling quietly devastated, and I don’t think I spoke to anyone for the rest of the day. That’s got to mean it’s good.

I’m going to cheat, because these are my awards, and stick another two in here before I go for my number one. My number three is Love is Strange. While I think sometimes the emotion in the film was kept a little too flat, there were many deeply moving moments and it was a very honest look at love and family relationships. The scene when Alfred Molina comes round unannounced to see John Lithgow is just lovely.

My number two for best drama is Ida, a Polish film about a girl who believes she’s an orphan and is about to become a nun when she finds out she has an aunt, and that she’s Jewish. I think it’s won all the Best Foreign Film awards this year. I was thinking about that, and I wondered: why isn’t it just one of the best films? Why does there have to be a special category? Do people think a film can’t possibly be as good if it’s not in English? Is it because the budgets are smaller? The actors aren’t well-known? I don’t understand. I loved Ida. It’s quiet, deeply sad, and a story about a girl working out who she is when her world is turned upside down. I think a lot of people could relate to it.

My top film is Selma. This may partly because it’s the one I’ve seen most recently (apart from 50 Shades) but I don’t think I’ll change my mind. I have been thinking about it constantly since I walked out of the cinema and that’s always the best sign. I was shocked to find out that it’s the first film about Martin Luther King where he is the protagonist, the centre of the film’s story, without, as David Oyelowo has put it, a white man to hold his hand. I will never forget the scene when the protestors are chased back across the bridge by the police. The cinema audience was audibly distressed, and I was sobbing uncontrollably. If you haven’t seen it, please do so – if you can find a showing. I’m afraid it seems to have been given a remarkably limited run here.

Wow this is really long. I’ll just do best actors and actresses or we’ll be here all night. I have no idea how you judge Best Directors anyway.

Best Actor

I think Eddie Redmayne’s performance in The Theory of Everything is astonishing. Even before we know he is ill, I was looking at him thinking: ‘That’s Stephen Hawking’ not ‘oh there’s Eddie Redmayne.’ He is completely convincing throughout and I can completely see why he’s been given so many awards. But I think there are two performances this year I preferred.

One is Benedict Cumberbatch. I think in a year without Eddie Redmayne, he would have gone home with more. As my mum always says, it’s a lot easier to act a role which is loud, or eccentric, or requires some big change to your character and your physicality, than it is to play an ordinary person. Alan Turing was not an ordinary person, but obviously it’s a totally different role to Stephen Hawking. In many ways, it’s utterly ridiculous to compare them at all. I found Cumberbatch utterly heartbreaking as Turing, and although the story is sad enough by itself, I think it was his performance that made it quite so moving.

So my best actor, as you may have guessed, is David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King. You might think, oh, well that’s another easy role to play because he was such a charming man, such a good orator – it must be easy to play that well. And he is excellent in those bits, but he’s even better in the quiet moments, the doubting moments, and the painful moments. I am very sad and annoyed that he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. It is difficult not to think that race played a part in it. His own opinion on it is that black actors are recognised more easily for roles in which they are subservient, and that people still have trouble recognising black people in roles where they are shaping their own futures. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s a compelling argument. You can see the interview where he argues this here.

Best Actress

I’ve struggled with this category, because although I’ve seen nearly all the big Hollywood films that have been nominated for lots of awards, only The Theory of Everything and Wild have leading actress roles. And you could argue that Wild has been largely ignored too, so really it’s just one. There are so few. I wanted to find a statistic on how many films there are with lead actress roles but the internet is not being helpful. Of the Lead Actress nominations, I’ve only seen The Theory of Everything and Wild – Still Alice isn’t out yet, and I missed Two Days, One Night and Gone Girl – the former because by the time I realised it was out, it wasn’t showing anywhere, and the latter because I tried to read the book and got too annoyed with the characters to continue. So this is rather an arbitrary “award.” I’m trying to think of what else has been out in the last year with a lead actress in it, but I can only think of The Hunger Games, and I didn’t see that either (because they had the effrontery to split it into two films when there isn’t enough plot).

Continuing my theme of putting foreign language films in with the English films, my first best actress is Agata Trzebuchowska for Ida. She doesn’t speak much, but conveys a lot of emotion and feeling with her looks and her body language. Somehow, even though she does so little, you know exactly what she’s thinking. These are my favourite pieces of acting: I’m still annoyed that Gary Oldman didn’t get the Best Actor Oscar for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The man just turned his head slightly and you knew what he was thinking. But no, give it to that French chap in The Artist. Tsk.

I loved Felicity Jones’s performance in The Theory of Everything. She has this burning, fierce anger that carries her through most of the film, through all the tough moments and the horrible dilemmas. I thought she was completely believable.

My best actress is Reese Witherspoon in Wild. She takes a fairly unsympathetic character, and makes you root for her and understand what she’s been going through. Carrying so much of the film alone, as I doubt anyone else has enough time to even be a supporting role, she does an incredible job and it’s a film that has stayed with me in the weeks since I saw it. She avoids being cheesy or melodramatic, which would have been very easy. I thought it was a wonderful performance.

I’m disappointed not to be able to ‘mix it up’ more from the films and awards that have been picked out by all the award ceremonies already. I just had a look at what else I’ve seen in the last year, and most of them weren’t really in the same field: while X-Men: Days of Future Past is clearly a classic, I’m not sure it beats any of these. It’s a shame there aren’t more award ceremonies which can see anything and everyone on an equal footing: I’m still irritated by the ratios of sex, colour and age in the people deciding these awards: it’s silly that they’re so highly regarded when the decision is so arbitrary. What were your favourite films? What have I forgotten?

NB: This post is subject to editing when I remember a film I loved and forgot to put in, or I see a new film and it changes my mind about everything.

Regrets // Wild

“What’s your biggest regret?” It’s always one of those million-dollar questions in interviews, or in magazines, or on the Humans of New York facebook page (if you don’t follow that, you should – it’s amazing). If any of you are anything like me, you get caught up sometimes thinking about what might have been, or whether things would be different if you’d just, or feeling bad about the time you wasted when. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that things that seem bad when we look back at them were total mistakes, or that something we’re enjoying now we should have started earlier.I sometimes regret staying in publishing for four years, and not starting my Masters sooner. I wonder if I regret staying in a relationship for three years when I was younger, when the guy was clearly an idiot and no good for me. I wish I’d started dancing when I first came to London, because by now I’d be really really good.

I went to see the film Wild recently, which is about a woman who has made mistakes and done lots of things that she thinks she regrets. But in the end, she says to herself: If I could go back, I wouldn’t do a single thing differently. Because everything I did brought me to this place. What if I forgive myself? This sounds cheesy and like something out of Psychologies magazine. But really, it’s true. If I hadn’t done those jobs in publishing, I wouldn’t have met some great people who I still see regularly several years later. I might not yet have discovered the author Patrick Rothfuss, or indeed have EVER discovered Patrick Rothfuss (and that is terrifying). I started my Masters at the time when I felt ready to do it – I needed time out from university after my degree, and if I’d started it at any other time, I wouldn’t have met the people I did meet, and am meeting, and that would be a loss. If I’d tried to go dancing when I first came to London, I might have been too intimidated after one or two classes (considering that walking down the street in London was frightening for me at the time) and I might have got put off and never gone back.

That early relationship is a more difficult thing not to regret, because it’s harder to pinpoint what I gained from it. Often the one thing I can palpably take away from relationships is new music, which sounds trite but actually often has a big influence on me. I wouldn’t have got heavily into Pink Floyd without this boyfriend. I might never have listened to King Crimson. I wouldn’t have applied for, and won, Live 8 tickets. A recent abortive non-relationship may look from the outside like a total waste of time, but I found a couple of new bands through it, and was introduced to a film I liked so much I bought it for my Dad for his birthday.

In a way, I think it’s impossible to regret anything because so many things are hinged on the tiniest movements of fate, or chance, or whatever you want to call it. My favourite story to illustrate this is: I would not be sitting here if I hadn’t watched The Pianist in the summer between GCSEs and A Levels. The sixth form college I was going to had three history programs, Medieval, Tudor, and Modern, and for some reason I was down to do Tudor. But I watched The Pianist, and it changed my mind. Somehow I’d got to the age of 16 in the British education system without ever being taught about the Nazis, so although I knew the basic facts (I still remember in year 2, aged about 6, in a game about numbers, the number on the wall ‘6 million’ as the number of Jews killed by the Nazis, and not getting my head around it at all – I still haven’t) I’d never been taught why they hated the Jews so much. The particular scene which struck me like a hammer was when the Nazis go into a Jewish house, and order everyone around the table to stand. But there’s an old man in a wheelchair that physically can’t. So they tip him out of the window. All I could think was “WHY?”. So I switched my course to Modern history, which was about the Nazis and then the Russians. I had a teacher who showed me what learning history is supposed to be like: not dry and dull and difficult, but invigorating and intriguing and endlessly, endlessly interesting. I was down to do English Literature at university but after I got a decent AS level in history I switched. Without watching that film I probably wouldn’t have known how bottomless-ly fascinating I find history, studied it at university, and gone on to study it at Masters level. It’s very odd to think how much of my life twists on the decision to rent The Pianist from the local library (don’t close the libraries!!).

So really, how can I regret any of the things that, in retrospect, seem like mistakes? Something tiny that happened because of one of those people, times or places might have triggered something else which is now something I enjoy, or led me to meet somebody who is now very important to me. Like Cheryl Strayed in Wild, I wouldn’t do anything differently – because who knows where I would be if I had? Of course, if I had done English at university, maybe I would have met the love of my life by now, and maybe I’d have worked out what career I’m supposed to be doing and be cracking on with it. But it’s pointless to speculate, because it’s all a fiction. And, quite likely, I wouldn’t. Possibly I’d have dropped out of university because literary criticism makes me want to kill people, and I’d still be living with my parents to the point where even they get tired of the sight of me, and I would have no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but be in a much worse place to view it from.

I haven’t the slightest idea what I’m going to be doing or where I’m going to be a year from today. I had hoped that doing this Masters for two years would have given me time to work out what I want to be doing with myself. Apparently it’s not long enough. To some people that makes it seem like a waste of time – people are always asking me what I’ll do afterwards and are shocked that I don’t know, that I’ve spent two years and too much money on this course without a plan for what to do with it. But I can’t regret doing the Masters (and it ain’t over yet) because of the people I’ve met, and the job I’m doing now, and the place I’m living, and that I’m going dancing, and that I’m writing this blog – because it’s very likely that none of those things would have happened if I hadn’t done the Masters. So although I’m terrified that I only have five weeks of classes left, and then just the dissertation, and that the time out I bought myself from life is nearly over, I can’t regret it. And I refuse to think that I’ve wasted it. As one very wise person said, ‘time you have enjoyed is never time wasted.’ As long as whatever you’ve done is what, at the time, you wanted to do, you shouldn’t regret a moment of it.

January in Review

Unlike most of my posts which have some point to make or idea I want to work through, this one is designed just for giggles. Mainly because I feel like writing and I’m waiting for the oven to COOK MY PIZZA YOU PIECE OF SHIT.

So we’re already a month in to 2015, and January had its ups and downs for me as I’m sure it did for most of you. Here are a few things I noticed in the last month:

1. I have truly atrocious taste in men. I had cause to reflect on my dating history recently, and realised that in the last year the people I’ve been interested in or had brief, fleeting, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it “relationships” with have included:

  • A gay man. I didn’t know he was gay, obviously, although when I found out it made a lot of sense. That would explain why he was so easy to talk to, sweet, funny, and happy to talk about women’s rights
  • A man who said “call me Daddy” when we were in bed together. This was actually 100% worth it because it’s many, many months later and I am still laughing
  • Someone who thought a good idea for a first date was ‘hip hop karaoke.’ After I went back to him saying “Wow. Absolutely not” he pestered me about it for so long and irritated me so much that in the end I told him to just forget the whole thing
  • A guy who had been ‘involved’ in a ‘community’ that was ‘flexible’ about exclusivity for the past year and only chose to broach the subject after we’d been going out for six weeks, when he was on holiday for a fortnight, in an email. And then had the nerve to tell me when we saw each other again (after I’d told him he could take a long walk off a short cliff) that I should have known about it because he once mumbled something about ‘the kink scene.’ WTF.

2. Right now, I have the best circle of friends I have ever had. Honestly. Never Had It So Good.

3. I am generally in a very good state, head-wise. Despite the past month having several shit fireworks exploding in it (as in, fireworks of shit, not rather mediocre fireworks displays) I have remained mostly cheerful and upbeat. I have also felt genuinely happy for no real reason at several points. I have had bad days – I had one this week which scared me because I hadn’t had a day when I just wanted to cry all the time for a while, and once you’ve had depression for a period, when you have days like that you always fear that it’s the beginning of another episode, and not just a shitty day that can be remedied with wine and a takeaway. As it turned out, it was just a bad day that was solved with blues dancing and a decent night’s sleep. I think it’s easy to forget sometimes how much a few not brilliant nights of sleep can build up to make you overtired without you noticing, and I’d been waking up at 5am and not getting back to sleep for a few nights in a row. So it shouldn’t have surprised me really. But I am very happy with how I keep bouncing back.

I have no idea how long the pizza has been in the oven. Oh well. It’s not burnt yet, so I’ll carry on.

4. I am not good at time management. I am currently trying to juggle working two days a week, being at university for my Masters three days a week, dancing two or three nights a week, swimming two mornings a week, writing as much as I can, watching episodes of Friends to relax (you absolutely cannot beat it, it’s so comforting), reading lots and lots, and seeing friends, eating, sleeping etc. It’s the work and uni balance which I’m struggling with most. I tend to get into work and take a few minutes to remember what I do there, and the same when I try to do stuff for uni. This means that I am a week and a half away from an essay deadline and I don’t yet have a title for the bloody thing. It will get done, one way or another.

Making time for reading is particularly important. It’s not just uni reading, which I obviously have to do, but fun reading too. I’ve read some crackers this month. Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams, a re-read of The Blindfold by Siri Hustvedt, which is astonishing, and then her The Summer without Men too – which was excellent and not ‘women’s fiction’ portraying women as moronic idiots who spend all their time thinking about men and shoes as the title implies. Ignore the title, and also the dreadful cover, especially the title font and the fact they chose a quote from the Daily Mail. It is quite light, particularly compared to her other stuff which has more psychological depth, but it has a lot more to it than it looks like it will. I’m now reading Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, and it’s everything I hoped it would be already. But really, I do need to start organising my time better. Little things like my Masters degree result and The Future depend on it, a bit.

My pizza is done and only slightly burnt, so that counts as a success. I hope 2015 is working out for you too so far.

(I now have a greasy keyboard as I’ve been writing, editing and eating at the same time. Please see note on poor time management, above.)