Monday, 26 July 2010

Mark after hours - Do I know you? (yes, I do!)

After Mark's show at the Riverside Studios on Saturday evening, a group of five of us (me, Emma, Aislinn, her sister and Simone) waited in the hope of saying hello to Mark. As Aislinn has already mentioned in her blog, a helpful theatre chap showed us the correct door, because we were waiting in the wrong place. When Mark came out, he saw me first (cos I was standing nearest the door) and immediately asked 'Are you Heather?' He had seen my photo in my ipod challenge blogs, hence he recognised me - and Aislinn and I had both tweeted him that we would be there, and were hoping to meet him afterwards, so he knew to look out for us. He also recognised Aislinn.

I'm not quite sure, but I think Aislinn & I mentioned having seen him at the Rhod Gilbert recording the previous week at this point(he hadn't been able to stay to say hello at the end that time) I must have mentioned my 20 year old son - because he was with me that night and had also loved Mark's set (I had previously tweeted this to Mark) cos it led to Mark saying (and I know it sounds cheesy, but it was really lovely and a real boost for me!) 'You don't look old enough to have a 20 year old son - no, seriously, you don't!'

I think, as Aislinn has mentioned, that Mark must have been the first to mention us all going to the bar for a drink, but I hadn't heard him say that, so I tentatively asked if he had time to have a drink with us, and was delighted when he said yes. When we got to the bar, I asked if I could get him a drink. He said 'Are you sure that's alright?' I assured him that it was (I was very pleased indeed to be able to buy him a drink) and even before I asked what he'd like, I could've guessed it would be a glass of red wine - and indeed it was.

I really enjoyed the chat, although I was sorry that we ended up talking about Tim Minchin for a while early on - I honestly don't know how that happened - I certainly didn't introduce the subject: probably Mark did, cos he knows I am a TIm fan, cos I'd included Tim in the ipod challenge. Much that I love Tim, I didn't want to talk about him then: I wanted the focus to be fully on Mark, not his Arena-filling flamboyant friend. It also led to a sticky-wicket bit in the conversation when Mark (possibly forgetting that, with a 20 year old son, I am one of those older ladies who is only 3 years away from turning 50) characterised some of the slightly sad older - in their late 40s/50s - obsessive (& oddly dressed) Tim fans/stalkers, not meaning to include me, but it was borderline....

Anyway, the conversation moved on, and we chatted about many things - touring, Kit, his novels, the possibility of including some singing in future shows, his earliest TV appearances (and strange clothes!), Tom Basden, the Watsonian picnic, the ipod challenge, TYSIC - and its pronunciation, etc, etc (I became a bit self-conscious that I was hogging most of the chatting for a period, which wasn't intentional - maybe just cos I was fairly relaxed around him, and just the geography of where we were each standing)

As the level of wine left in Mark's glass diminished, we moved from conversation to conventional fan requests for book signings and photographs. Emma had brought Crap at the Environment, I had brought A Lighthearted Look at Murder (my favourite of his 3 books, all of which I have). Aislinn, ofcourse, had her lovely sketch signed.

We all got lovely photos with Mark, although he looks a bit self-conscious in all of them, bless him. I was glad to be able to remove the red-eye from my photo, which improved it greatly!

After the photos, we were all standing in different places, which made it easier for Mark and Aislinn to have a good chat. They talked about her long sponsored walk, to raise money for MND, and Patrick Joyce, the inspiration for that. Also the odd coincidence at the Rhod Gilbert show, where she hadn't know Mark was performing when she wrote about wanting to befriend him on her audience participation sheet.

Several other people came up to Mark while we were in the bar, to congratulate him or to ask for an autograph. I liked seeing him get this validation from others.

Just before he left, I gave him a small box of Belgian chocolates to share with Emily - he said she loved belgian chocs, so I was glad I'd brought them.

I really wanted to give him a hug, but couldn't quite break the inhibition to do so. Ah well, maybe next time.

When Mark left, we hung back for a while, even though we would be needing to head in the same direction - cos we didn't want to look like we were following him!

As several of us have said, we all felt it was particularly nice of Mark to stay for such a long time that evening, despite being so tired, and with a poorly baby at home.

His mini-blog on the way home revealed his uncertainty about how the show had gone that night. Looking back on his reactions in the bar any time one of us said something complimentary about the show, it's clear in retrospect that he was unconvinced.

Poor tired, overly-perfectionist, loveable boy! To know him is to love him.

PS Aislinn's blog about meeting Mark can be found at

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Mark Watson makes a difference to me!

I jotted down some notes last night after seeing Mark Watson’s Edinburgh preview show at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, and meeting him for a chat in the bar afterwards. But I’m starting fresh with this blog, just referring to yesterday's notes to jog my memory. I may, in fact, do two separate blogs – one about the show and then a separate one about the after-show bit.

So, first, here are my jottings about the Show. The problem is, I don’t want to include anything too revealing about the material in the show, as that would constitute ‘spoilers’ for anyone likely to be seeing the show in Edinburgh or on tour (or even on DVD as I believe it’s due to be filmed at some point!)

So more of an overall impression, then, plus the one-time-only unique bits, due to certain audience members.

The show takes its inspiration from Mark’s difficult year last year, and stops short of the TYSIC initiative. He does, however, incorporate some stuff from Kit’s earliest days, so it does include some stuff about being a Dad – and harks back to experience of his own Dad fathering him. There is a lot of self-deprecation, some quite dark stuff, plenty of silliness and feel-good stuff too.

I am always baffled by the feat of memory that a stand-up show is. Does he always do the various segments in the same order? How does he remember them all? Does the ‘thread’ work the same way each night?

The biggest surprise, for me, was how dark some of the dark bits were! The section on flirting with the idea of suicide in the face of life’s meaninglessness was somewhat resonant for me: like a very, very dark, bitter piece of chocolate which is enjoyable but almost too strong. Similarly dark was the bit about being very VERY careful to keep the baby safe (ie alive!), with a wryly dark reference to wanting to make sure that nothing went wrong ‘on my watch’ – not least because the consequences would make it the end of everything, including the marriage. The bit about the hurtful comment with bad swear word was also slightly on the darker side, where the grist to the comedy mill is genuine psychological hurt and pain.

Before the show started Mark was sitting typing stuff on his laptop which was projected up onto the screen – it was very effective and very funny. Then, at the start of the show ‘proper’ Mark had a bit about playing a prank on latecomers, which nearly worked – and was possibly all the funnier for its slight foxing by one audience member (or was it all a double-bluff set-up?) It certainly seemed like a freshly improvised bit, but it may be a standard element, for all I know. Mind you, it did make it hard for him to get the show going, hankering for a latecomer to come along.

The oddest thing was about 10 minutes in, when an audience member (among a group of about 5, who had arrived just ‘under the wire’ but slightly late for all that. Mark reacted with a split-second decision when the guy got up and left. He put down his mike (with an echoing ‘donk’) and legged it out the door to catch the guy and make him come back. He then politely but pointedly interrogated him to find out what the heck was going on. It was very funny. Turned out this guy was supposed to be at a BBQ in Streattham – under pain of wifely displeasure, so why the heck had he even come in for the first bit? Who had bought the tickets? Etc etc. In the end, Mark let the chap go, or rather indicated that he didn’t actually want him to stay (and there was a little bit of sotte voce booing as he left (which reminded me of similarly instigated audience noise in MWMTWSB).

This episode did side-track the show for quite a while, and also seemed to throw Mark a little, although he got back into his stride after a while (later on, he asked an audience member what the time was and was surprised that it was already 8.50pm, with a third of the material still to go. But it was fine (as with most things, he talked it through aloud and came to this conclusion)
At the start Mark did some preamble about what the show would be like and that he was too psychologically fragile to risk doing a bad show (even as a preview/ work in progress). He mentioned that there would be jokes and then also some anecdotes where the laugh-rate might dip, but not to worry, cos it was all heading somewhere. (Later he mentioned how fast he talks and the good value of words per show he offered.) He talked about himself as a shy person, oddly choosing to do stand-up, and yet not regarding it as ‘brave’ or any big deal to talk to lots of strangers like this. One key line, which I’ve heard get a big laugh in the past, fell strangely flat this time – somehow the mood or the timing had been put off, by the preceding nonsense with BBQ man I think. And of course Mark commented on this. At one point there was also a line that got a much BIGGER reaction than usual, but I can’t recall now which one it was: again Mark commented on this. It all gets a bit post-modernist at times – ‘look what we’re doing here’ – which becomes part of the fun.

There were also 2 men who (at the same time) decided their bladders just couldn’t make it through – one was unfortunately seated in the middle of the front row and was wearing a bright pink T shirt. Mark had fun with the ridiculous ‘don’t mind me’ hunched over funny walk that he and other such people tend to use when going out. He got the guy’s name from his girlfriend, so he could go ‘Right, Robbie?’ as the guy came back in and sat down. (and he referred to Rob several times during the rest of the show)

Mark assured us that such unexpected bits were all good practise for dealing with audience happenstances in Edinburgh (he didn’t use the word happenstance, mind you, that’s just me)

Another improvised bit (well, I think it was off the cuff) was about the show Cats – can’t for the life of me recall how it fitted in, but it may have been around the time of the Dog’s life stuff (also one of my top favourite bits), or part of him dealing with the ‘going out for a wee men’. Mark revealed he’d never seen Cats, but postulated a show where lots of cats would just sit around ignoring the audience for 3 hours and then, just as they were leaving, would come and rub up against the audience’s legs. Loved that!

Oh, and I loved the bit about being taught not to get into cars with strangers (must remember to take some of a certain type of biscuit next time I get the chance to meet him!)

And the bit about the fat man getting into the lift.

And other instances of reacting to annoying people by saying things aloud

And the bad Bank Holiday in Aberystwyth

And the miserable, jilted man on the train

And the sausage roll

And the re-appropriation of genital swear words.

(Am trying to avoid spoilers, but I can’t help mentioning these little hints, cos I want to remember my favourite bits)

I felt that the tension in the thread of the show went a bit floppy just towards the end, and I wasn’t quite sure the final wrapping up, referring back to an earlier bit, quite worked as a suitable summing up. The logic didn’t quite do it for me – may just be a matter of wording rather than anything being wrong with the conceit. But although it’s a show with an overall ‘arc’ it’s got many off-shoots from that central thrust, and I lost the shape a bit along the way.

He talks about making a difference and being important to people - that HE wants to do this/be this, but his final example is not of him being important to someone else/ making a difference to someone else (or, for comic effect, failing to do so?),but rather of someone’s importance TO him in achieving a - presumably deliberately – bathetic goal (ie his work being known and liked by someone he admires, a somewhat more famous performer whom he has been to see many times and whose show he eventually managed to be in)

I risked saying something about this slight unease about the ending of the show in a comment on his blog – and quickly regretted doing so. I was really worried that I might've upset or offended Mark, or just made myself look presumptuous, and I tweeted him about my concern. He was lovely about it, and tweeted back to reassure me that it had been a useful comment.

In the midst of all this, I realised why I had posted the comment - and was ryely amused: obviously I just wanted to be important to him - just wanted to make a difference!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Change the world while Mark is in Portugal

Ok, as part of my changing the world for the better challenge this week, I want to invite as many people as possible to have a quick look at this lovely little youtube video, animated by the South Park boys (playing nice for once).

It's a short bit of a lecture by a British philosopher I've never heard of - Alan Watts - and it's about the importance of experiencing the beauty of life as you go along. Inspirational!

If you watch it, please post a comment here or in the forum, or on my TYSIC posting, or in the comments to Mark's blog launching the challenge) to let me know (cos otherwise I won't know if I've managed to change the world at all)

Monday, 5 July 2010

The (not-so-missing) ipod link

Mark Watson's ipod has been champing at the bit recently, having been languishing in Ealing with me for a boring couple of weeks. But today the ipod's joy knew no bounds! Off again for another jaunt, to meet another new person. Having no legs of its own, the ipod resigned itself to letting me come along for the ride.
The ipod and I caught the tube from Ealing to South Kensington and made our way through the sub-way to the beautiful, fossil-filled Natural History Museum: the agreed location for our rendez-vous with Stephanie and her 'riding shot-gun' friend, Ridhi (benign I may be, but I'm still a stranger off the internet).

We met inside, as arranged, in the little cafe just behind the main staircase (is it them?.... yes it is). We all shook hands (you can't really go up to complete strangers and hug them, can you? - well, not unless they're celebrities) and then, thanks to the talisman of friendship, the Watson-ipod, we quickly broke the ice and found plenty to chat about - including Mark himself (of course) and how we had each discovered him/ his work/his comedy/his novels/his blogging, etc.
It was very hot in the Museum, so I compromised and instead of a hot coffee opted for a chilled latte - not sure it was quite my 'cup of tea' though (I had to push from my mind its similarlity to drinking the dregs of a mug of coffee that has gone cold) While I drank my iffy latte, the three of us chatted and laughed (meanwhile the ipod had gone all shy, and just smiled in silence as Stephanie admired both it and its accompanying team-mates: the booklet and memory 'key')
Eventually, after a nice long chat and, in my case, a not-so-nice latte, we decided to move to a more suitably photogenic location for the actual hand-over. Steph's friend kindly offered to do the honours with the cameras (both mine and Steph's).

To the puzzlement of several tourists, a certain Mr Charles Darwin became the not-so-missing link between myself and Steph for the passing of the ipod. (I wonder what piece of music Charles himself would've chosen to add, if he hadn't been so.... 'stoned'!)

And so, dear friends, the ipod is now basking in the attentions of its new guardian, Steph, who has until Saturday (and the Watsonian picnic in Hyde Park) to decide exactly which music track she is going to add. I look forward to hearing all about it!

We parted with hugs rather than hand-shakes (that's the friendly power of the Watsonian ipod challenge)
Farewell, sweet little ipod, I wish you well as you travel ever onward towards your final destination - never complaining, never tiring, never ceasing in your quest to better yourself and to inspire friendship between all who meet on your account.
PS: For more on the hand-over experience, and the rest of that day from Stephanie's angle, scoot over and have a look at her blog:

Monday, 21 June 2010

The Mark Watson ipod Challenge - Northern Irish leg

The Northern Irish leg of the TYSIC ipod challenge had been a long time a-brewing, with flurries of emails for weeks and weeks. The window of opportunity was narrow but in the end we rose to the challenge, synchronised our watches and all managed to gather at the same place (the café in the Ulster Museum) at the same time (4.30pm on Sunday 20th June) and pass around an ipod, memory stick and booklet while posing for photos.

As Simon has previously reported, I had taken custody of the ipod from his fair hands (and Kate’s and Hannah’s) on Monday 7th June, becoming Link 7 of the ongoing chain. That same evening, I went straight from the ipod Hand-over to a comedy gig in aid of the charity
‘Reprieve’. The headline act was Tim Minchin and after the show I was fortunate enough to meet him at the stage door. I was therefore able to include Tim in the challenge, in a small way, by trying to explain what his friend Watson had set in motion and asking him to autograph the ipod’s accompanying booklet. Here I am with Tim - in the rain (sorry, but the ipod isn’t in the pic).

The choice of music for my addition to the memory stick was simple – obviously it had to be some Minchin-music, but which track? In the end I picked ‘If I didn’t have you’ …and also ‘Not Perfect’ (yes, cheekily I added two tracks – if I need an excuse, I’ll just say that one choice is for me and one is for Tim himself….even though he wasn’t ‘officially’ a link in the chain).

The next official link-up takes us across the Irish Sea. . I travelled over from London to Belfast on Friday evening to spend the week-end with my family - in honour of my father’s 80th birthday – so the ipod simply hitched a ride on an existing travel arrangement. I spent a lovely couple of days in Portaferry enjoying the glorious weather and beautiful scenery with my parents, one of my sons, my brother , his wife and their 3 children. My Dad thoroughly enjoyed our special week-end together and then very kindly brought me back from Portaferry an hour or so early on Sunday - just to let me carry out my TYSIC duties (he and the rest of my family found it all somewhat bemusing to be honest!)

As the ‘custodian’ linking person for this leg, I was keen not to be late for our get-together. Thanks to my Dad, I managed to get there a few minutes early and was the first to arrive. I stationed myself in the Museum café within clear sight of the front entrance.

Tara was the next to arrive, having only a short way to come, as luck would have it. We exchanged texts like radar signals ('I’m here – where are you?') and then finally we ‘locked-on’ and bingo! Link 8 successful made! Greetings, friendly chat and ipod business all underway within minutes.

Only a short while later Kathryn and her friend arrived, adding our 9th and final Northern Irish Link to the ipod chain. Kathryn had driven to Belfast from her home-town of Bangor specially for the link-up (with a friend to protect her from meeting strange, unknown people off the internet – wise girl!). Kathryn had had a very busy week-end already and had only just time to zoom up to Belfast for our meeting before heading straight back to Bangor again for a further commitment that evening! She had also kindly brought along her laptop (in the funkiest, shiniest, purplest laptop bag I have ever seen – I want one!) so music copying was soon underway. As the laptop fired up I was delighted to see Kathryn’s desktop pic – a very fine photo of herself with Mr Tim Minchin after his Belfast gig last year.

Tara had picked Arcade Fire’s Black Waves/Bad Vibrations and soon added her explanatory message to the notebook. Kathryn had several possible tracks in mind and only made her final decision once she’d had a glance at the choices already in the book, in conjunction with weighing up the importance of having a Northern Irish musician (or two) included as part of the TYSIC NI-leg choices. I’m delighted that her final decision was in favour of Duke Special and Neil Hammon’s rendition of ‘Our Love Goes Deeper’

And here we all are – the 3 Northern Irish ones.

By the way, Mark, you just HAVE TO add Belfast to your tour now! Tara is counting on you! (Meanwhile Kathryn is waiting for results to see where she will be at University before booking, whereas I am trying to decide which show I can travel to, since I can’t manage the one and only London date - grrr).

We only had about 30 minutes before the Museum closed and Kathryn had to get away. We all said our farewells, and I headed back to my parents house, just up the road, for a bite to eat before flying back to London later that evening. So, Mission Accomplished! The ipod now restlessly awaits its next adventure, and I await my instructions – who will be the next link, I wonder?

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Following the trail

A thought popped into my mind the other day and it amused me: it was the idea of Tim Minchin being the Hansel character in the famous fairy tale 'Hansel and Gretel', in the sense of him laying a trail of breadcrumbs (or pebbles) for me to follow. In the early part of the story, the trail of pebbles leads the children from attempted abandonment in the wood to safety whereas the trail of breadcrumbs subsequently fails because it is eaten by birds (and it's after that, while lost in the woods, that they become trapped by the witch in the gingerbread house). Granted, the analogy isn't all that great, but 'following a trail of breadcrumbs' has become a well-enough known image in its own right, denoting the attractiveness of some kind of a treat leading you from one morsel to the next, and so on. Certainly the Tim Minchin trail I've been following has led to many wonderful and magical things, some of them away from home and some of them initially scarey.

. . . . . .First and foremost along the trail I discovered the wonderful Duke Special. I found my countryman Duke while trawling through all the Minchin clips I could find on Youtube. The clip in question features a duet by Duke and Tim of the fabulous Duke song 'Our Love goes deeper than this'. Since making this discovery I have bought lots of Duke's music on itunes and have managed to see him playing live at the Shaw Theatre, performing his 'Silent world of Hector Mann' and 'Mother Courage' material. It was fab!. . . . .

. . . . . Further along the path, I made some lovely new friends - Jooles, Emma & Vikki (I first met all 3 of these, and other friendly 'Angry Feeters', at the Australian film festival - attended because Tim was introducing the 2 films that evening). . . . . .

. . . . . And, just round the corner, that same day at the Barbican, I found the beguiling and enchanting art installation in the Curve, featuring free-flying finches plucking electric guitars. . . . .

. . . . . . . On we go, and next I found Mark Watson (discovered because Tim had been involved in 'Mark Watson Makes the World Substantially Better' in the 1st series (made for radio 4) - so I bought the audiobook of that series online, to listen to Tim's bits, and then started following Mark himself on twitter, reading his blog and finally - very significantly - became drawn in to the whole TYSIC thing!) This has in turn influenced the routes I've been exploring, leading me into even more interesting territories . . . . .

. . . . . . Tim next led me to the Big Libel Gig and there I discovered just how good Marcus Brigstock is as a stand-up (I definitely hope to see him do a full-length gig someday and (although less of a surprise) I also re-confirmed that Dara O'Briain is one of my favourite stand-ups (I've now booked to see him in September). In fact, the Big Libel Gig was a big turning point in many ways, showing me that going to live stand-up comedy shows - something I hadn't done for years, if ever, was something I really enjoyed and wanted to do more . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . Along the road, some considerable distance away, I discovered 'The Hay Festival'. As with all the stops along this trail, Tim was the 'draw', but once more the side-benefits were terrific. Not only did it involve my lovely new friends Emma and Vikki, the event itself was a revelation! Having seen the pleasures to be had, I'm definitely planning to go back next year - hopefully with my husband this time - and to stay longer so that we can go to lots of the talks and events, and explore the town and surrounding area a bit more. . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . Continuing down the Timmy-trail, the next 'find' was at the Reprieve gig when Tim was headlining. My favourite side-benefit that night was getting to see Phil Jupitus doing stand-up (and singing!): I'd only previously seen his TV panel-game work. He was terrific - another I'd like to see do a full-length show. His accompanying group of acapella singers called (I think) 'The La de Das' were also fantastic!. . . . .

. . . . .And so we reach the current 'trail-head', a spot to which Tim's tweeted plugs, and my new friends' encouragement took me - reached after travelling way down south, alone by tube and through the streets of Stockwell, to find a bit of back-room comedy and small-venue music in a pub: 'The Junior Ministers' . . . . . . and Jukebox Collective. . . . . . Excellent stuff - made all the more enjoyable by further friendly mingling with new friends, many of them now twitter-mates. . . . . . .

. . . . . . .No idea where I'm heading next - looking forward to spotting the next bread-crumb, whenever and where-ever it may appear.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

TYSIC UPDATE - a month later...

A quick update on everything (To coin a familiar sounding phrase: 'it's been a month since my last 'confession')

1. Emotional well-being: good, although half-term 'chill out' took me into a state of lethargy which wasn't actually that great by the end. Still haven't quite got back into gear, although the thrills of my fangirl exploits have been delightful - in a brittle, 'high' sort of a way. Am currently reading 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman and it's excellent on practical ways to enhance happiness. Definitely going to put some of the ideas into action!

2. Be less lazy & more productive & stop procrastinating. - Big dip on the graph, I'm afraid. The effect of half-term week, as mentioned above. Laundry is piling up again, although I did manage a few other chores this morning. Oh, and I did get around to going to the dentist on Monday, which I'd been putting off for AGES! Oh, and twice recently I've met up for a drink with old friends I hadn't seen for ages (arranged before the half-term dip drained me of all 'getting on with things' gusto) On the other hand, I am writing this when I really ought to be getting on with at least two other fairly urgent tasks!)

3. Relationship with my Sons. Good stuff generally. Older son (aged 20) came over to me earlier today, just before going out to claim his 'daily hug'. I am very lucky. And the younger boy (now 18), with whom I have a somewhat stormier relationship at times, was able to share some of his favourite 'Dub step' & other music with me via my iphone link to Youtube, as I drove him a very long way - and back again - to collect his ebay-purchased new DJ 'decks'. Even though the traffic jams were horrendous, the sat nav a bit unreliable at times, and my son didn't like the Tim Minchin stuff I played him - despite all that, overall we got on pretty well. At one point, he found my video footage (on the iphone) of our dog playfighting with a friend's younger dog, and loved it, so linked to it on his facebook page.

4. Stay open to opportunities/ take risks etc. My recent outings to gigs will come up under separate category, but also relevant here. Similarly going to Junior Ministers this Friday (a complete departure for me - not sure what I'll make of it). But probably my recent (and ongoing) participation in the TYSIC ipod challenge is my highest scoring thing under this category! Met up with Simon, Kate, Hannah on Monday - I just went up to these complete strangers in the pub....and it was lovely!

5. Enjoy time with my parents. Have mostly been keeping up my new resolution to ring my mum more frequently - seems to be fortnightly rather than weekly, but that's still much better than it used to be (having said which, I think I owe a call this week...)

6. Nurture relationship with husband. Despite my dalliances in Hay and Lyceum, getting all fangirlish over Tim Minchin, things are good with the REAL man in my life. Nice bits of 'quality time' most week-ends. (Relieved that he didn't give me a hard time yesterday about my late night on Monday. He was so tired from lack of a good night's sleep he didn't even have the engergy to be grumpy, poor dear.)

7. Go out to live entertainment more. Well that's such an easy one now! At some point I may have to set myself a compensatory TYSIC - 'to go out to live entertainment LESS'!! Have now booked Dara O'Briain for September (am going with older son in fact), but nothing booked for July or Aug yet (no Edinburgh for me, sadly)

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Meeting Tim Minchin at the Stage Door – Lyceum, 07-06-2010

(How I overcame tongue-tied nerves and gained a new nick-name)

After my experience in Hay, I was determined not to be tongue-tied this time. I had actual things I was hoping to say.

Delighted that Vikki appeared just as I found the stage door! (She’d just finished work, so seemed silly not to come along) Nice to be able to chat during the long wait in the rain - we both became very bedraggled, having no umbrellas. (to be honest, Vikki was also a delightful sight for my sore eyes for another reason - since she was bearing a working camera: my camera battery was stupidly dead so I’d only got my iphone camera– which has no flash). Others I recall being at the stage door - and whose forum names I know - were Aims - plus her v patient dad - and Jellybean (not sure of others’ names ).

So, there I was - I had a (Hay Festival) canvas bag – but no sharpie; I had a Watsonian notebook; I had a bag of jellybags. I had no umbrella, no proper camera & was sporting the ugliest anorak in the entire universe. I had, however, remembered to put on some eyeliner.

Ok, so eventually Tim came out, all lovely and saying ‘Aww, you guys’ cos there we were, standing in the rain. There were quite a few of us, but not toooo many. Aims’ dad was so indulgent and lovely. (although when the moment came to take the photo, he had real trouble with the camera – I think the flash hadn’t had time to recharge or something. I do hope the photos came out ok, Aims?)

As he joined us, Tim ducked under various umbrellas, one after the other, all held by much shorter female people, so they kept forgetting to hold the umbrella high enough for him, and Tim’s long mane-like hair kept getting caught in umbrella spokes, which he jokingly complained about ( Vikki’s hair also got tangled in a spoke at one point – while having her photo taken with Tim I think). I managed – this time – to operate Vikki’s camera correctly, I think, and (hopefully) got a photo for her ok. (hope you can reassure me on that point, Vikki?)

I can’t really quite remember the order of my attempted banter to engage Tim in something like a normal conversation (determined not to be tongue-tied this time, after Hay embarrassment), but here goes, although not necessarily quite in this order:

I borrowed someone else’s sharpie (huge thank you for that!) and got Tim to sign my Hay Festival canvas bag (although I didn’t get/take the chance to mention that I’d seen him in Hay – he probably didn’t even notice it was a Hay bag – nor did I mention that I had also been a ‘Hi…Bye’ tongue-tied idiot then – but why would I want to remind him of that!)

I did, however, remind him that it had been me, @Joneshs, who had recently tweeted him the link to the ‘mr whippy fallacy’ 21st floor blog featuring a critique of Peter Hichens’ bizarre observations on anti-depressants and serial killers. Thankfully, he remembered it. I then tried to reference the latin name for that causal correlation fallacy (which he quoted in the Hay show, but which I can never remember), mentioning along the way that my son had studied Philosophy A level, but that the latin name ‘was all greek to me’ – and then, catching his eye, did the old ‘did you see what I did there?’ comment. He laughed and made some quip in reply, which (sadly) I can’t recall (but I do recall that I could see the cogs of his mind whirring at that point, which was fun)

I then offered him a Jellybaby (‘don’t know if you like these, but would you like a jellybaby?’. He initially responded 'I love jelly babies' but then went on to ask me, slightly suspiciously, 'you haven't poisoned them, have you?' (I hadn’t, and fortunately he was trusting enough to believe me) He took a couple – and later came back and grabbed quite a few more, saying he was really hungry.

Ok, so what else? Oh yes, I asked him, as a favour, to sign the booklet accompanying the ipod for the Mark Watson TYSIC ipod challenge. (I’d only just met up with some other Watsonians earlier that evening and received the ipod & booklet for my leg of its journey around the country) It was hard to explain this to him when I didn’t want to monopolise his time too much –I just mentioned his friend Mark Watson and gave the briefest gist of what was going on, although I’m pretty sure he didn’t really get it. ‘Ok, so what do I need to do? ‘ he asked ‘ Just sign the booklet, really’; - so he did – a nice wee autograph, which is great – I do hope the eventual recipient appreciates this addition! (In hindsight, I suppose I should have asked him for a recommendation of a music track really - something he likes to listen to. Oh well – will just stick with my original plan to include a Minchin track as my addition to the ipod – not sure which song yet)

At one point, a bloke who was a drummer put a note of his contact details into Tim’s hand, offering his services, any services– if he should ever happen to need a drummer …(at which point Vikki pipes up, offering to do Tim’s lighting – go girl!: between us all we could probably source and service every aspect of his forthcoming tour, I’m sure – although I couldn’t think, at the time, of a single thing I could offer to do..) ‘So, are you a good drummer? An ace drummer…?’ asks Tim – but bless him the bloke wasn’t arrogant or self-confident enough to say an up-front ‘Yes’ to that .

Oh, just remembered, at one point, seeing other people getting hugs (including the drummer), I was brazen enough to outright ask ‘Can I have a hug?’ And of course I got one, bless him (probably not too pleasant for him, cos my anorak was soaking wet; and, to be honest, lovely as it was, I didn’t get quite as much of a thrill from it myself, as I had from my hand-round-waist cuddle at Hay, cos there were just so many layers of wet-weather gear this time!)

Also, a bit later, after other people had had lots of photos, I suddenly realised I hadn’t had my photo taken with him at all this time. SO, again I was brazen – but polite of course – and asked if I could also have a photo too. ‘Aw, Jonesy’ he said (YAY for getting a nickname from Tim!)

As he put his arm round me for the photo (taken by Vikki on her camera – what a star she is!), I expanded on the reason for my request for a photo: ‘I haven’t had my wet photo yet’
‘A Woto’ he quipped.

SO, that was about it. I did ask if he’d like to keep the whole bag of jelly babies and he was obviously tempted, but In the end he said ‘No, I’d only eat them all’ So now I’m eating them. Ah well, I’ll be the fat one and he can stay skinny, I don’t mind.

So there you have it: lots of happy memories.BUT do you know the one important thing I forgot to do: I bloody well forgot to tell him how fantastic his performance had been that night (I guess we all assume he knows that we love what he does - and that it’s been amazing - hence the standing in the rain - but it wouldn't hurt to tell the fella!) Am kicking myself.

It was so hard to leave while he was still there, with a few other patient people at last getting their turn, but Vikki and I pulled ourselves away and off we went in the rain, in search of a way home (so glad I made the last tube and didn’t have to resort to night buses!)

But as we walked away, glancing back at Tim with the others still around him, I couldn’t help wish I could just linger till the very last moment when he himself would have to say goodbye and head for home…

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Tim Minchin in Hay

Well, this is my first time trying to include pics in my blog - fingers crossed. Live entertainment TYSIC - and then some!

Here he is, in all his lushious quizzicalness - the very lovely Mr Minchin. 'If I didn't have you, someone else would do' perhaps? Well, no harm in wishful thinking.

Here's another favourite shot - note the hand resting on thigh of what were very skinny black jeans (sadly I didn't get any shots of his bum, with monkey-skeleton hand prints on each pert cheek)

The next one captures the moment when Tim, during Rock and Roll Nerd, broke off momentarily, saying 'Oh fuck, I forgot the words' - much to the great delight of the crowd. Even better, once back into the song - without losing a single beat, I might add - he riffed on the usual 'You've either got it or you don't', in the next section changing it to 'You either forget the lyrics or you don't'. It was a real treat - the real 'you had to be there' moment of the night, our very own unique version of RARN.
Of course, the bare-chested flamboy-ance of Canvas Bags, with its 'having your cake and eating' it approach to the spoofing of rock-God posturing, was a particular highlight. So first here's a bit of Tim's self-deprecation.....

.....and then the Messianic posturing (a bit blurry and psychedelic, but it's the best shot I have, and I love the - ahem - belt area....)

Then, finally, giving a good excuse for an arty shot, the Black-out moment... Fuck Yeah!

So, there you go: a few glimpses of Tim on stage at Hay. But ofcourse this blog wouldn't be complete without recording the thrill of getting to put my arm around the man himself for a photo....(I was all jangly - and hence I look a tad crazy in the pic. Ah well, His Minchinness looks fab, doesn't he....
.....Fuck, yeah!
PS For a full review of Tim's performance, follow this link to the Angry Feet forum's review section:
and this one
PPS And for a great blog on the whole experience of going to Hay to see Tim, visit my good friend Noodle's blog at the address below

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

TYSIC - Update (Tues 4th May)


1. A good week for emotional well-being generally. (except last Tuesday, which was a difficult, moody day) As a result of a recent museum trip, I am now pondering ways to be become more creative – drawing? Painting? Writing?

2. Some productivity this week - quite positive generally, especially booking part of our summer holiday and getting on with a few chores I’d been putting off (in particular, buying a cheap vacuum cleaner, keeping up with the laundry and banking cheques ) On the other hand, yesterday was a very lazy day, and today I took a ‘siesta’. I do love afternoon naps, but they’re a bit of an indulgence.

3. Sons - nothing of note to report (neutral: nothing bad but nothing good either).

4. Trying new things/being proactive. Yes, a good week: went to Oxford on Sunday for example. I also tried a new idea to help a particular child at work last week and have been encouraged by the results so far.

5. My parents – up until today = a big fat fail BUT I just rang and had longish chat with my mum this evening (mind you, I must acknowledge that I had left it rather too long since our last chat: must get into the habit of ringing them more frequently - once a week or so)

6. Husband - a very VERY good week! Lots of quality time and cuddles, especially Saturday and Sunday, what with our theatre trip (to see Moby Dick) and our day-outing to Oxford.

7. Live entertainment - yes: went to Spymonkey’s version of Moby Dick on Saturday. Very enjoyable indeed.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

A Review of ‘Jesus Hopped the A Train’

(a play by Stephen Adly Guirgis*, performed by Synergy** at the Trafalgar Studios, London, on Thursday 22nd April 2010)

I want to write a review of the wonderful play I saw last Thursday – ‘Jesus Hopped the A Train’ by Stephen Adly Guirgis . The tricky thing is how to do so without giving away the story completely. I just want to talk about the whole thing without worrying about spoilers. It makes me realise how tricky it is for reviewers in ‘Time Out’ and the like: a review which mustn’t spoil the experience for someone who will be going to see the play or film for themselves. I am (or was) more used to writing essays for English Literature exams ( over 25 years ago, mind you) – and that’s quite a different approach.

‘Jesus Hopped the A Train’ is an extraordinary play. I laughed a lot, I gasped, I winced, I pondered and, at the end, I almost cried. The language is vigorous and full of expletives, but at the same time subtle and multi-layered, with a great deal of sub-text going on below the words. The play’s critique of religion, of moral absolutes and of the justice system is searing and thought-provokingly complex.

The play is set in Riker’s Island, New York in the protective custody wing. There are 5 characters: Lucius, a convicted serial killer who has found the Lord and is hoping to avoid extradition to Florida for execution. The other prisoner, Angel, is on remand, having shot a cult leader. He explains to his lawyer, Mary Jane, that the self-proclaimed ‘son of God’, Rev Kim, had brainwashed his best friend, and , having failed to rescue his friend, Angel - in a frustrated gesture of protest - had shot the Rev Kim ‘in the ass’. The initial charge of attempted murder is changed to 1st degree felony murder when Rev Kim later dies of unexpected complications. It is Mary Jane who tells us that Angel has been transferred to the protective custody wing following his brutal beating and rape, at the hands of other prisoners, and his subsequent suicide attempt. She becomes determined to find some way to ‘save’ Angel, even if that means risking her career by suborning perjury, since the only way for him to be acquitted is to lie.

The two remaining characters are a friendly prison warden, D’Amico, who has a soft spot for Lucius – and loses his job as a result, but who reappears towards the end of the play to describe Lucius’ fate, and a loathsome, bullying warden, Valdez, who treats Lucius with contempt, but seems to pity Angel.

The name of the central characters, Lucius and Angel, indicate that the story, while very particular and concrete, can also be taken as an everyman parable of good versus evil (‘a modern morality play’ as the programme puts it) – but with myriad shades of grey rather than black and white moral absolutes. As the review in ‘Time Out’ put it: “The extraordinary script has you switching allegiance from character to character as the story evolves. Lucius, the serial killer, who has found God, is so charismatic that you can’t help liking him in the early stages, despite the horrific nature of his crimes.”

So, Lucius is likeable yet (surely?) evil – a serial killer who smugly spouts about God, forgiveness and taking responsibility for one’s crimes. There’s a well known cliché that cynical convicts claim conversion to enhance their prospects and (like Valdez) we cannot help but wonder about this other possibility, even though Lucius seems convincing. He claims that he pleaded guilty because he was/is willing to take responsibility for his crimes: he would just rather serve a life sentence in New York than be executed in Florida.

In one heated exchange, Angel challenges Lucius and eventually seems to hit home: surely, as punishment for his horrendous crimes, he (Lucius) will go to hell. No, Lucius counters, he is confident that he is ‘right with God’ and will be going to heaven. Angel then asks why, in that case, Lucius is trying to avoid extradition to Florida – why avoid execution if he’s so sure he’ll be going to heaven? Lucius falls silent and seems angry. Later, possibly as revenge (although played disingenuously so it’s hard to know if there is malice afoot or just wrong-headed self-righteousness) Lucius infects Angel’s thinking, with disastrous results. I find it a poignant and significant inversion – that traditional morality and Bible-bashing are used by Lucius to ‘tempt’ Angel and lead to his undoing. I am left questioning the moral framework of traditional Christianity, particularly the value it places on truth.

Another fascinating sequence hints at Lucius’ damaged past – did he really have free choice when he started to kill? Is he a product of his abused childhood? Do white wealthy people get more sympathy when they explain the reasons behind their crimes than a poor black man ever does? And yet, and yet….one short phrase late on in the play brings us up short as we discover just how appalling and sadistic Lucius’ murders had been.

The title of the play is explained when Angel recounts a childhood game of ‘chicken’ with his friend down on the railway tracks. When they both find themselves stuck with a train bearing down on them, and then are mysteriously thrown out of the way at the last minute, his friend suggests they were saved because ‘Jesus must’ve hopped the A train that night’. Poignantly, this is the same friend who later becomes ensnared by pseudo-son-of-god Rev Kim.

The play begins and ends with Angel attempting to pray. At the start, Angel stumbles fearfully yet comically through the Lord’s Prayer, unable to remember the correct words (‘Howard is thy name’), with mocking voices coming at him from unseen fellow prisoners offstage. At the end of the play, Angel’s final prayer almost broke my heart. Angel is in pieces, crying and rocking backwards and forwards on his knees as he prays obsessively and pathetically for forgiveness - not for killing Rev Kim, but instead for a trivial childhood wrongdoing. Such regression into an infantilised and guilt-ridden version of faith speaks volumes about Angel’s psychological fragility and the fatal naivety that has been his undoing.

Mary Jane’s career lies in tatters; Lucius has long since gone – without undue drama (to meet his maker? Or not.) and the play closes with a convicted yet relatively (but not absolutely) 'innocent’ tied up in knots of guilt, babbling in his fear that God’s judgement on him may be as harsh as the secular ‘justice’ system has been.

And what an even sicker joke it all is if that (or any) God doesn’t even exist.

* Stephen Adly Guirgis is a New Yorker of Egyptian and Irish American parents. He started as an actor and founder member of LAByrinth but ended up writing and directing as well. So far he has written three full-length plays: ‘In Arabia We’d All Be Kings’, ‘Jesus Hopped the A Train’, and ‘The Last Days of Judas Iscariot ‘(the last of which I saw two years ago and loved)

From the programme (extract from an interview by Philip Fisher):

‘The story behind ‘Jesus’ is interesting. Guirgis had a close friend who “joined a cult and together with his brother and father we tried to kidnap and deprogramme him. He’s still in the cult today. I had to let go of this, and start facing beginning my own adult life. I had anger!” It was this anger, together with a reconsideration of his attitude to God as a lapsed Catholic that led him to write ‘Jesus’. He added to this his experiences as a violence prevention specialist and HIV officer working in a prison.’

** From the programme:’ Synergy Theatre Project, established in 1999, works with prisoners and ex-prisoners through theatre towards resettlement and rehabilitation, whilst placing the wider issues surrounding imprisonment in the public arena.’ The team assembled for this production included ex-offenders, professional actors, an ex-prison officer and a serving lifer on licence.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

TYSIC Update - A week-and-a-half

Didn't do an end of week TYSIC review last Wednesday evening. Not many highlights in the week ending Wednesday 21st April, so I am rolling it forward into a week-and-a-half summary to date. (Thursday 15th-Saturday 24th)

1: Improvement in my emotional wellbeing. A pretty good week-and-a-half, all in all.
I enjoyed spending most of the final few days of my holiday (Fri 16th-Sun 18th) relaxing and reading a couple of novels. On Friday 16th I also met up with an old friend for a final coffee and chat before she moves away to Cornwall. Being back at work from Monday onwards has been positive too - the kids are great and I felt much fresher and able to enjoy my work with them after having had a good break; there's also been a more relaxed atmosphere in the school than usual because some senior staff have been away all week, marooned by grounded flights.

2: Be less lazy & more productive daily and STOP PROCRASTINATING

Not a good start to the week,(I knew I was putting off things till the last minute) but it improved. Getting back into my normal work-routine seemed to co-incide with more productivity outside work hours as well. A big achievement was to accept a quote for some major work on the house exterior and roof - sofits and guttering etc. So I've been dealing with workmen for the last 4 days. On Thursday 22nd I was really pleased with myself for finally getting on with a sewing job I had been putting off for AGES. It took a long time, but it was very satisfying when I finished it.

3: Sons & their future happiness The usual ups and downs. Just a couple of points which were out of the ordinary. My older son surprised me by cleaning up the 'den' without me nagging him. My younger son was pleased when I helped him to sort out his phone upgrade earlier this week. Unfortunately, today - just a few days after getting him the new phone he wanted - I also had to help him report the theft (at knife-point) of that same phone. We had to speak to both the phone company and the police (who came round in person). Thankfully neither he nor his girlfriend were hurt.

4: Stay open to opportunities & take risks/ try new things, AND Be more proactive Well, I'd certainly count the house-project mentioned above. I also booked a Geodome tent to share with 3 others at the Hay Festival (we're going to see Tim Minchin on Monday 31st May)

5: Enjoy time with my parents - Nothing this week. Must ring them soon!!!

6: Nurture relationship with my husband We went to see Rufus Wainwright's opera Prima Donna together on Friday 16th. Although the opera was enjoyable, the evening as a whole wasn't an unalloyed success as we had a somewhat discordant time on the journey there (when we got a bit lost when trying to walk from Kings Cross to Angel).

7: Go out to live entertainment more
See above - Prima Donna on Friday 16th. Then, on Thurs 22nd, I went (on my own this time) to see 'Jesus Hopped the A Train'. It was an excellent production of a very powerful play. I plan to write a longer review of it at some point. I have also now booked a ticket for Matilda in December

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Going to Live Entertainment more

This is just a mini-blog to keep track of all the shows n stuff I've been to/ have booked as a direct result of the TYSIC since it started. It's been a bit crazy - like a dam bursting. Will have to start thinking a bit more about the cost and being slightly more selective I think - but it's been a real joy over the last few weeks!

1. 14th March - LIVE SHOW - The Big Libel Gig (lots of great stand-up sets) - with my son.

2. 25th March - 2 films as part of the Australian Film Festival at the Barbican (cinema doesn't usually count, but the 2 films were introduced by Tim Minchin 'live') Also met Tim himself and some friendly Minchin fans, AND went to an excellent Art installation with birds twanging guitars in the Curve

3.1st April - Went to Digital Art exhibition at V&A

4. 10th April - Went to Art galleries & more at Ulster Museum (but would have done this anyway without TYSIC, to be honest)

5. 12th April - LIVE SHOW - 'Rock Doves' at Waterfront Hall in Belfast - with parents & husband

6. 16th April - LIVE SHOW - Prima Donna (Opera by Rufus Wainwright at Sadlers Wells) - with husband

7. 22nd April - LIVE SHOW - 'Jesus Hopped the A Train' at Trafalgar Studios - review posted on blog (on my own)

8. 1st May - LIVE SHOW - Spymonkey's Moby Dick at Lyric Hammersmith (with husband)

9. 13th May - LIVE SHOW - Duke Special gig at Shaw Theatre (on my own)

10. 31st May - LIVE SHOW Hay Festival - Tim Minchin (with other AngryFeeters)

11. Monday 7th June - LIVE SHOW - Laughter/Pain: A Comedy Night for Reprieve at Lyceum Theatre (on my own)

12. Friday 11th June - LIVE SHOW - Junior Ministers et al, at Cavendish Arms (with AFs)

Went to other stuff in June, July, Aug and early Sept, but haven't got all the info to hand

Rhod Gilbert radio recordings x 2 with Wynn

Mark Watson at Hammersmith Riverside - late June
Gutted at Hammersmith Riverside - July
(trips to Cinema)

13. Monday 20th September - LIVE SHOW - Dara O'Briain (with my son)

Radio recordings - Jason Byrne x 2, Infinite Monkey Cage x 2

Various Minchin preview shows - Union Chapel, 100 Club, Lyric Hammersmith

14. Saturday 11th December - LIVE SHOW - Matilda, RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon (with AFs)

15. Tim Minchin - at O2, 14th Dec

16. Tim Minchin - in Nottingham, 18th Dec

(Into Jan 2011 - Matilda again, with Bob)

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

TYSIC - Weekly Review

This is just a direct copy of what I've just pasted in the TYSIC forum. So for anyone following both, apologies. I normally do a full version here and then a summary for the forum page and a link to here, but this time I just did one version.

This is supposed to be a summary for Mark but it's turned out longer than it should be - sorry Mark. Can't face editing it down now, so I am just going to post it in full(and tick the summary box) as it is. If pushed for time, just read point 5 as that's the main focus of this last week. But please also read the initial preface immediately below.

(This introductory preface is a slightly modified version of an earlier blog posting)
I can't tell you how amazingly helpful this whole project has been/continues to be to me (I have outlined some background to my intermittent problems with depression over recent years in an earlier blog). The approach of spring is always a good time for me anyway, but this year I feel so much more motivated and on top of things, due to the TYSIC kick up the bum. It really has been transformative! The most positive thing (linked with my overarching TYSIC of 'Improving my emotional wellbeing' has been writing a mini diary every day (just for me - a dull series of bullet points listing every single little achievement/ ways I've spent my waking hours, including the most banal and boring things, like 'went & filled the car with diesel' I can now prove to myself that I do manage to do (some) stuff and bizarrely that really helps to ward off my guilt and self-loathing. The process of looking back each week and reviewing things has also been very therapeutic. So thank you Mark: thank you for launching the TYSIC project and associated blogs and forum. It's great!

1. Improve my emotional well-being Going well. When I told my husband about all my TYSICs (shared this project with him for the first time - part of challenge 6: even told him about challenge 6!), he identified this number 1 challenge as THE challenge. I agree, but it's the one I can't really work on directly - it happens as a consequence of progress on the others - oh, and the spring weather helps hugely too!

2. Be less lazy/more productive/procrastinate less. Hmmm. This is the hardest one. It's mainly to do with chores - the boring minutiae of life - which I am supremely good at putting off. Last Friday (having put everything off on Thursday), I did manage to do quite a lot of the household tasks I needed to do (but mainly because I had an non-negotiable deadline) Even so, I didn't do any 'deep cleaning' or real sorting out - just stuffing things into corners again. **Sigh**

3. My sons. A good week since they came to visit my parents with me and we all had a really lovely time together. (no real opportunities to be nice to their respective girlfriends, apart from tolerating the boys' incessant texting & facebooking & phoning of/to them while in Belfast!)

4. Try new things & be proactive. I was a lot more positive in my approach to planning stuff to do while visiting my parents in Belfast. The anxiety that (as a result) any of our family outings or activities which proved unpopular would be all my fault was considerable - but fortunately that didn't really happen. A few sticky moments, but overall everything was enjoyed by everyone - phew!

5. Enjoy time with my parents. Well obviously that was the main success this week, since I was staying with them for 4 days. My Dad is nearly 80 so (without wanting to seem morbid) I am conscious of wanting to really make the most of all the time I have left with them. Maybe they'll both still be around in 10 years or more (after all, both my grandmothers lived until their early 90s) - and if so I want to enjoy ALL of those 10+ years. But I'm also conscious it could be less. My parents are amazing - so vigorous and living life to the full. My mum and I could talk the hind leg off a donkey when we get together (phone calls often last upwards of 2 hours!). My Dad is 'the quiet man' and we seldom talk on the phone. It was therefore particularly nice to have time to chat with him in person - just him and me, when no-one else was around.

6. Nurture my relationship with my husband. A couple of hiccups (inevitably) but generally a good week, particularly as we had more time together due to our family trip to Belfast. And (as mentioned above) I shared my TYSIC project with him for the first time. This 6th TYSIC remains a very important one for ongoing attention - doesn't mean we don't fall out or row from time to time. And we don't like all the same things either, so we continue to plough our own furrows - and that's fine, as long as I/we can keep a happy balance so we don't drift too far apart. I know I take him for granted sometimes - not least the financial security that his income gives us (he's not v happy in his job, so needs a lot of support and appreciation to be able to tolerate it until he can make a change OR retire)

7. Go out to live entertainment more. Yes - I went to see a new play - 'Rock Doves' - while in Belfast. Took my parents as a treat, hoping they would enjoy it... and fortunately they did - very much indeed! It turned out to be a very good play, in fact, with excellent actors - even my husband was positive about the fine acting (inevitably the play itself was less accessible to him since it was about Northern Irish issues). My sons were treated to seeing Derren Brown instead of the play (in the main auditorium of the same venue) and greatly enjoyed this alternative.

Well, that it then: another week of TYSIC reviewed. Good therapy!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

TYSIC Progress - end of Week 5 (Thurs 1st - Wed 7th April)

Too tired to do a proper blog, so will just summarise briefly.

Most of the good bits of this week were to do with spending quality time with my husband and/or nurturing our relationship.

On Friday we rented a DVD and greatly enjoyed watching it together - 'Bunny and the Bull'. We also booked tickets to go to see Rufus Wainwright's new Opera in a couple of weeks: at last I'd managed to find something we BOTH want to go to!

On Saturday we watched the new Doctor Who episode together (this and the above DVD watching may sound like a fairly low-level kind of 'achievement', but it really was a step up from the norm, which has recently often consisted of him watching football in one room while I mess around on my laptop in the other all evening)

On Saturday, I curried further favour by sorting out my husband's new annual season ticket online and by ordering a book he wanted on amazon.

On Sunday afternoon we went for a lovely long walk with the dog in Denham Country Park.

On Monday we enjoyed a day-trip to the South coast and discovered beaches we'd never known were there. We got a bit lost on the way down, (and got a bit shirty with each other for a short while) but it all worked out for the best since we passed through some much more interesting places as a result.

The other highlights this week were successfully obtaining my new passport last Thursday, and (to make use of the 4 hours while waiting for the passport to be processed) discovering an interesting little exhibition of digital art at the V&A. I've already posted a review of the exhibition in my previous blog.

In a similar vein, I met up with some new friends this afternoon (and extending on into the early evening) - and had a very enjoyable time chatting and chomping and drinking and laughing together.

SOME chores were done this week - in particular a first assault on the laundry mountain yesterday. Mind you, I can't really pretend I was all that industrious: I did use my newly acquired chest infection as an excuse for a fairly hefty amount of procrastination.

That's about the shape of week 5 then.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Decode:Digital Design Sensation at the V&A

Unexpectedly I had a few hours to kill today while up in central London (thanks to the much appreciated upgrade of my passport processing from 1 week to four hours - a great relief after all my worrying!). I didn't really know what to do with this lump of 4 hours, so I sneakily went into WHSmith's in Victoria Station and browsed a Time Out to suss out some options. I leafed through various sections and finally hit upon an interesting sounding exhibiton at the V&A which finishes on 11th April - so it was/is very much a 'now or never' opportunity.

I'm very glad I plumped for this odd little gem (which only cost £5 to see). I very much like quirky and amusing interactive art - and judging by how crowded the place was, there are plenty of others who share this preference (the throng included lots of children, a number of teenagers and, less expectedly, a large group of traditionally dressed hasidic jews).

The exhibition is divided into three themes: Code, Network and Interactivity.

The Network pieces turned recorded data (from blogs, aircraft flights, motion-sensors etc) into visualisations - with spidery threads and twirling mulit-coloured lines dancing across the screens. The speeded-up criss-crossing animation of flight-paths across America over a 24 hour period on a specific date in 2008 was mesmerising- and very wriggly!

Among the Code pieces, my favourite was a randomly generated series of arcs, starting as a series of single lines on the brightly lit white screen, which then repeatedly replicated and intensified in dark blood-red, until reminiscent of some cross between a biology text-book and an abstract painting. The intensification would reach maximum after a few minutes and then 'reset' with another blank white screen and a new sent of single arc-lines... Many people were photographing these transcient images, to capture them before they vanished forever. If I'd had a camera with me, I would have done just the same I'm sure - although the movement and transformation from one second to the next was a vital part of it, rather than any one frozen image.

Among the many Interactive pieces, I particularly liked the giant slow-developing photo-sensitive screen. When you sat on the stool, or stood next to it, your portrait would slowly appear as a giant black and white image on the wall in front, with huge jagged-shaped mirror-fragments surrounding it. You had to stay very still for quite a while to achieve a clear image, or you could move and create a blurred image instead. I also discovered that I could 'fix' a first image of myself, sitting on the stool, then move and stand beside the stool to create a second image. My first 'self' still remained visible as the second image emerged from the misty grey background. It was quite a spooky effect - like haunting myself!

The motion-sensitive 'body paint' piece was particularly popular with children: waving an arm across the screen created a huge splatter of virtual paint, and it was great fun to over-lay splat upon splat of randomly generated colours. Next to it was a virtual dandelion with a real (infared) 'hairdryer' to blow away the feathery individual seeds by directing it at different parts of the image on the screen (fun but superficial I felt: it was just a bit too video-game-ish for me). Elsewhere, on another screen, virtual raindrops appeared to bounce off my shadow-head or arm. More intriguing - and vaguely sinister - were the semi-transparent digital creaures seeming to swim and swarm like real living organisms in a stark white world under a glass table-top covered with (real) black sand.

I ended up with sore feet and an aching back - but it was very much worth it. And I still had time to explore some other parts of the V&A, which is not a museum I had expected to like so much! In particular I was in awe as I passed through the 'Cast Courts' - it was like walking through a giant's horde of holiday souvenirs, plucked from the whole of antiquity. There were so many huge pieces, all crowded together higgledy-piggledly, with two towers (one called the Trajan tower) which stretched right up through two floors to the curved glazing of the gallery's roof. And it was jaw-droppingly wonderful to gaze up at the plaster-cast of Michaelangelo's beautiful marble statue of David: I hadn't realised quite how ENORMOUS the work is, in all its (ahem) rude splendour.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

My Ten Year Self-Improvement Challenges - End of Week 4

So, where are we now?

TYSIC highlights this week (Thursday 25th - Wednesday 31st March) include:
At the risk of being repetitive, the biggest highlight for me over the last week has been within my 'going to more live entertainment' challenge. Last Thursday I went to the Barbican to see 2 films as part of the Australian film festival. I got to meet a number of other very lovely Tim Minchin fans, saw 2 interesting (and very different) films, both of which I enjoyed, got to listen to Tim's interesting and funny introductions to both films AND also got to chat with Tim himself during the interval between the two films. I am a very happy (albeit lightly 'sad', middle-aged) fan-girl!

While at the Barbican I also had time to have a look at the current installation in the Curve - the amusing and quirky free-flying birds one, which I'd seen featured on the TV recently. The space (shared by humans and birda alike) has a flock of pretty little finches flitting around and hoppiong here and there, twanging electric guitars as they perch on them and peck at them. I really loved this exhibit - it made me laugh out loud several times as the birds squabbled or snuggled, gathered nesting material or took a bath in the cymbal. (I hasten to add that the birds seemed to be very well looked after and not in the least mistreated - they seemed, rather, to be having a very happy time).

As a result of the above, I hereby decree that going to art exhibitions shall henceforth be deemed part of my 'going to live entertainment TYSIC', although I may need to rename the challenge slightly - maybe just 'Go out more' Or I could perhaps expand it to read 'Go out more - see more stuff, especially live theatre/stand-up, plus art exhibitions. Oh, and meeting people, going out for meals, seeing old friends more often, etc' Concise eh?

Another highlight this week was sorting out aspects of my forthcoming visit to Belfast to see my parents PLUS sorting out a further visit in June for my father's 80th birthday. I had a lovely long phonecall with my mum one evening this week, plus a number of other short calls to and from her, sorting out this and that about the trips. All in all a nice big 'tick' for my TYSIC about enjoying time with my parents. Oh, and included in the plan for the forthcoming trip to see my parents is a theatre outing I've planned for all 6 of us (more live entertainment - hooray!). I rang and booked the tickets today.

Moving on to my challenge about productivity, combatting laziness and getting on with things rather than putting them off, I'm afraid I procrastinated on something important last week, and lived to rue it. I knew last Wednesday that I couldn't find my passport and that my driving licence was (and remains) mislaid somewhere in the house as well. I realised I would need photographic id for the flight to Belfast (despite it just being a domestic flight) and had decided I would need to ring and get an appointment at the passport office for a fast track passport replacement, but I didn't ring right away. In fact I didn't ring until Saturday and the earliest appointment I could then get was this coming Thursday. I can't help thinking that if I'd rung earlier I would have got an appointment earlier this week. It is now nip and tuck whether I will get the new passport in time for the trip to Belfast, and I'm really not sure WHAT I will do if I don't have any photo id by the date of the flight. But, without being ostrich-like, I am trying to be optimistic. I have explored various back-up plans, and I also rang the passport advice-line again today to see if I could go back next week to collect the passport in person rather than them posting it to me (which, if posted, would reach me just one day too late!) Seems this may well be an option - which would solve the problem. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, I will continue exploring the nooks and crannies of my house in the vain hope that one or other of the missing documents will miraculously emerge from their hiding places. I have decided to use this as a way of motivating a thorough bout of spring-cleaning, to really set the house to rights and purge the many tucked away piles of paperwork and unsorted dross of various kinds. I aim to start as soon as term finishes this Thursday and spent good chunks of time on it evey day for a whole week.

My challenge to enhance my relationship with my husband hasn't been a great success this week. I spent far too long on Saturday planning a children's activity session I was due to run on Sunday, which meant we didn't go out together or even spend any quality time together, as I had originally intended. Sunday and the rest of the week have been no better, although we have now made a definite plan to enjoy some kind of special outing together this coming Saturday. Oh, and if I do make good progress with my spring-cleaning plans next week, I know that this will make my fastidiously tidy husband very much happier (I don't know how he copes with being married to as untidy and chaotic a person as me!)

My challenge concerning my relationship with my two sons hasn't gone too well this week. A particular low point was on Friday evening when I got very very cross, having been woken up in the wee small hours by my 17 year old's noisy friends. I vented my anger by shouting at him (within earshot of his friends - the big taboo) - when I should have dealt with the situation calmly. My older son also had a big (verbal) conflict with his dad on Saturday about several things, and I was caught in the middle since they were both being rather unreasonable and stubborn.

I feel that I ought to clarify that this challenge is not supposed to be about how my sons behave or act either in general, or towards me or my husband (I don't want to seem to be criticising them - they are both lovely young men in the making) Instead, the focus is supposed to be on me doing more to find practical and communication-orientated ways to improve my parenting towards them, always keeping in mind the long-range perspective of their future well-being and happiness. My God, it's a tricky one!

Well, barring anything major happening over the course of this afternoon or this evening, that's my progress report for TYSIC week 4. Signing off.

Let's get real

Ok, here's the rub. I'm a good little swot - always was, still am (even though I'm now 47 years 'young' and haven't had to hand in an essay or sit an exam for 20 or more years!)

I realised this when pondering my last two TYSIC progress report blogs (end of week 2, end of week 3). I tend to approach writing such progress reports like some kind of job application, to show how well I'm doing - 'look at me, aren't I clever'. Not very appealing.

Mind you, this approach does help me to look on the positive side and emphasis what I've achieved rather than what I've failed to do. The danger is that I find myself wanting to twist and shoe-horn anything I'm doing into the TYSIC categories. It probably goes without saying, but a great deal of what I do in any given week doesn't contribute towards any of my TYSICs, but that doesn't mean I should skew my priorities and stop doing the other stuff. Presumably this mismatch is because the areas of my life that are going ok don't need a challenge attached to them. I'm sure I'll need to review and update my Challenges as time goes on, but for now they feel like the right ones.

I am at risk of sounding swotty again, but I can't tell you how amazingly helpful this whole project has been to me. I have outlined some background to my problems with depression over recent years in a separate blog 'Erin's other bits'. The approach of spring is always a good time for me anyway, but this year I feel so much more motivated and on top of things, due to the TYSIC kick up the bum. It really has been transformative! The most postive thing (linked with my overarching TYSIC of 'Improving my emotional wellbeing' has been writing a mini diary every day (just for me - a dull series of bullet points listing every single little achievement/ ways I've spent my waking hours, including the most banal and boring things, like 'went & filled the car with diesel' I can now prove to myself that I do manage to do (some) stuff

Bullet points are functional but rather a boring way to structure a blog, I now realise. Now that the TYSIC part of markwatsonfans forum is up and running, I think that this blog may become more random and discursive - maybe it will even include mention of some other aspects of my life, interests and views without need of a shoehorn.

Monday, 22 March 2010

TYSIC - Week 3: The tale of the little lost puppy, the husband and the humdrum

Time to review things as I approach the end of week 3 of my own Mark Watson inspired 'Ten Year Self Improvement Challenge' (TYSIC).

1. Improvement in my emotional wellbeing.
Generally up this week, particularly yesterday when I saw an old friend for lunch, and today when I got quite a lot done and felt happy and pleased with myself as a result. I think the spring-like weather is helping to lift my mood and energy-level overall. On the other hand I experienced some odd hints of paranoia while among scouting colleagues 0ver the week-end, and also with colleagues at work. I don't feel that I fit in, and I'm not sure how to get on better with the other people.... Hmmmm.

2. Sons & their future happiness (my role in their lives & helping towards their happy futures)
(a) Mother/Sons relationship
Nothing much to report. Managed (twice) to avoid shouting match with 'grumpy-in-the-morning boy' when giving him a lift to the station for college (takes quite a bit of self-restraint on my part as very little sets him off!) Also managed not to remonstrate with older son who had left extended essay to very last minute. No point in saying anything, frustrating as it is.
(b) Positive approach to Girls in their lives
Spoke a bit more to younger son's girlfriend (easier just to chat about my own stuff rather than ask her things - don't want to seem to be grilling her)


3. & 4 (Combined) Staying open to opportunities & taking risks/ trying new things, AND to be more proactive generally.
Not sure if this fits under 3 or 4, so I'm combining the two together.

I'm feeling quite pleased with myself because I rescued a puppy who was roaming around out on the street with no collar. He came over to say hello to my dog and there was no sign of an owner. I then saw him nearly get knocked down by a passing car, so I decided I couldn't just leave him there (especially since our previous dog was killed in similar circumstances - and I wouldn't have been able to bear it if I'd walked away and then this puppy had been killed!) In the end - due to lack of collar - I picked him up and carried him back to my house, which fortunately wasn't too far (quite difficult and awkward though, because my own dog was pulling on her lead at the same time!) Once home, I swapped my dog's collar and lead onto the puppy and went out again to see if I could find which house he'd come from. Luckily, just as I was starting to knock on each door in the street, I heard someone calling and saw two boys (about 10 or 12 years old I'd guess) coming out from the side-street. I shouted across to ask if they were looking for their dog, and it turned out that the puppy was indeed theirs. I walked back to their house with them before removing the collar and lead. They were sheepish and very relieved. (I'm assuming the pup - whose name I never discovered - had managed to sneak out of the house somehow)

5.Enjoy time with my parents. No progress this week - I meant to ring my mum but haven't done so yet.

6.Go out to live entertainment more.
Well, I'm repeating myself a bit here, cos I've mentioned this before, but I am very excited to be going to see 2 Aussie films at the Barbican tomorrow, particularly as they are both due to be introduced by Tim Minchin - so although I've said that cinema doesn't count for this TYSIC, I'm thinking this is live and special enough to count!

Looking ahead, I haven't booked anything for April yet, nor while we'll be in Belfast (husband had been quite down on the idea of going to a play in Belfast, due to the poor choice on offer: need to give it further thought.)


7. Relationship with husband put a bit more effort in & nurture this
A bit of a mixed bag this week.

I was away all week-end helping to run a Beaver Scout Sleepover, so that's on the negative side in a sense, because it prevented us from doing anything together (sadly he doesn't share or participate in my scouting voluntary stuff, unlike my parents who are both involved in scouting together).

On the positive side, I knew it would please him if I did a couple of chores that he'd been nagging me about, so I made a deliberate start today by sorting out a locksmith to fix our back-door lock. We also had a really nice evening together yesterday when we decided to watch 'Invention of Lying' on Sky Box Office (this may not sound like much, but usually he watches tv programmes I'm not interested in while I'm on my laptop the whole evening, so it was much nicer to watch something together, even if the film was a bit of a parson's egg...)

Big Negative - earlier today I was asking my husband if he'd be interested in us going to Camp Bestival together this summer- he was initially quite positve about the idea, but eventually he discovered that Tim Minchin was appearing and he then got very cross and immediately vetoed the notion of going as he thinks I'm being too obsessive. Obviously it was initally because of Tim that I got the idea for going to this Festival, but I also thought it would be a fun thing to do overall (I'm not mad enough to spend £155 just to see Tim, believe me!)- ie go to a festival together for the very first time ever. Hey ho.


8. & 9. Be less lazy & more productive daily (establish a sustainable level, not frenetic, but more than now!!!) AND Stop Procrastinating
Thurs last week was quite good in this regard - At long last I tried to take the vacuum cleaner somewhere to get its cable fixed (dog chewed through it ages ago). I was unsuccessful (grrr), but at least I tried, and I've now left it in the boot of my car to be ready to try somewhere else in due course. That day I also went and got refilled ink cartridges for the printer - another thing I'd been meaning to do for ages.

Intensely busy Fri-Sun due to Beaver Scout sleep-over. Productive in a different way ofcourse(and fun - although intensely tiring) , but that is not exactly the kind of productivity I'm trying to improve upon for this challenge - My focus for TYSIC is more the humdrum stuff and tedious chores of life which I need to stop endlessly putting off. (I don't plan to stop doing those other more appealing things, but not use them as an excuse to keep putting off the chores. I DO have time to do the chores, I just need to motivate myself - hence this TYSIC and blog)

Although it may seem strange to focus on the need to do tedious, humdrum stuff, the problem is that when I don't keep up with such things, I continually feel them hanging over me, and I feel really bad about myself. When depressed, I can become overwhelmed by how much I'm shoving under the metaphorical carpet (it's a vicious cycle - depression making it harder to act, and failure to act in turn feeding the depression).

It's all very well to ignore a semi-blocked drain in favour of the more interesting and rewarding aspects of life - but it won't go away on its own, and will just get worse and worse (this is both a metaphor and a literal example!) But it's only now that I'm beginning to feel the black clouds of winter lifting that I can even contemplate such matters rationally, without self-loathing and overwhelming panic.

I was incredibly tired after the Sleepover, so not a surprise that Monday was pretty much a wash-out - but I needed to recover first. Tuesday was reasonably productive, however (and seeing my friend for lunch counts as a blow against procrastination as we'd been meaning to meet up for ages! But today was probably my best day this week for TYSIC 8&9, what with locksmith, chasing up delivery of car tax disc, cleaning & tidying, etc.

Mind you, my backlog of chaos-creation is revealing further problems -ones I didn't even know about and therefore hadn't even put on my Things to Do list. Today's major example: I spent ages hunting high and low for both my passport and my driving licence. I know they must both be in the house somewhere, but I can't find either anywhere, because the house is in a terrible mess with stashes o unsorted 'stuff' shoved into corners left right and cenre. I will need a form of photo i.d. for my (domestic) flight to Belfast in a few weeks time - so now I'm going to have to make a fast-track passport application (I will spend one more day hunting but I can't afford to wait much longer ).

Looking at the situation positively, my passport was due to run out in a few months anyway, so not such a bad thing to get it sorted now. (but I'll probably have to get a replacement driving licence too - sigh)
Oh goodness! What a long posting! I may need to do a summary version for Mark (the TYSIC bit of the markwatsonfans website looks like it will be fully functional quite soon)

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

End of Week 2

My TYSIC Progress report (at end of Week 2) – Have I made any progress THIS week?
(I didn't do anything 'above and beyond' so am not entering Mark's challenge as such)

1. Improvement in my emotional wellbeing. Progress? Yes, apart from the odd wobble. I've started to record each day's series of tiny achievements as a way of bolstering this (including all the humdrum things like 'went to work', 'walked the dog' ) and it has helped quite a bit. Mind you, they are very boring lists!

2. Sons & their future happiness (my role in their lives & helping towards their happy futures)
(a) Mother/Sons relationship: Progress: BIG Yes (Actual!!) Lovely lunch out with both sons & husband on Saturday (I described this in a bit more detail in a previous blog posting). I've also enjoyed several days of less grumpy interaction with my younger son, particularly on Monday when his girlfriend was round - he was polite and helpful to me in front of her.

1. Big Libel Gig - went with eldest son on Sunday evening (see 6 below) - we both really enjoyed the gig and had a great long chat all the way there and back again on the tube.

2. A very special poem Not something I did, rather something I received = My Mother's Day present from eldest son. It was a poem he'd written about my role in his life over the years, using the extended metaphor of 'Mrs Greenfingers' I feel very fortunate to have such a great relationship with my 19 year old - I'll certainly miss him next year when moves into student digs. (My 17 year old is also great, but he's in the middle of the 'rebel-without-a-cause' phase and all I can do is enjoy the odd glimpse from time to time, and just wait it out....)

(b) Positive approach to Girls in their lives: Progress: Yes (but tiny) – Spoke to younger son's girlfriend v briefly on Monday - offered her food cos we were about to eat our evening meal (she declined).

3. Staying open to opportunities & taking risks/ trying new things:
Progress: Planned well, I suppose offering to take part in the chain to transport the mp3 player to Anna may count?
Planned: Although I'm a bit nervous about it, I'm going to go to Barbican a bit earlier on 25th March so I can meet up with some other Angry Feeters (= name for Tim Minchin fans)

4. Be more proactive generally. What? You mean actually make something happen - yeah, right! Move along, move along - nothing to see here.

Oddly, my nearest relevant progress on this score was to decide NOT to do something! A job advert at my current workplace seemed like something I OUGHT to apply for. I am currently on a temporary contract of 18 hours per week, so in theory I don't know for sure that I will still have a job there next September. But although this advertised job was a permanent one, with a bit of extra money cos more hours per week, out of the 25 hours per week, all 7 of the extra hours would be doing stuff I don't particularly like. And to be honest I don't think I have enough experience for what they're wanting. SO, after considerable agonising, I've decided to risk the uncertainty and NOT apply!

5.Enjoy time with my parents. Progress:
YES (ACTUAL) Sent my mum an interflora growing basket of spring flowers for Mother's Day and she loved it (got it delivered on Saturday). We had a lovely long long chat on the phone on Saturday pm....and I sent her a card which arrived on Monday, and I emailed her today about our forthcoming trip in April.

PLANNING I am also trying to plan an outing to go to some live entertainment with my parents while in Belfast in April, (all 6 of us, sons included, despite husband's curled lip at the idea) - So I spent a few hours on the internet this afternoon researching possibilities for the dates in question.

I am also looking at whether I will be able to get back over to Belfast in June cos it's my Dad's 80th birthday then - but it's hard cos I can't take days off during termtime: would have to fly late Fri eve/early Sat a.m. and return Sunday eve (his actual birthday doesn't fall at the w/e, but my brother & family will be going up to Belfast for that week-end so best time to celebrate it)

6.Go out to live entertainment more. Progress:
Yes(ACTUAL)– The Big Libel Gig was absolutely great! Particularly loved Tim Minchin, Dara O'Briain and Marcus Brigstocke - plus (among the scientists) Ben Goldacre.

Yes PLANNING - Have been looking at listings for possible comedy gigs or plays to go to next month and beyond. This includes possible theatre outing with my parents (and sons and husband when in Belfast (10-13 April). Not sure if it will work out - cos options are a bit limited - we may end up just going out for a meal instead, but we will see. Towards end of April there's 'The Rover' on at Questor's Theatre in Ealing. I'm also thinking of maybe trying to get to a Dara O'Briain gig in April or May (within travelling distance) rather than waiting till his London gig in the autumn. Thanks to a tweet by Mark, I've also found a play on at end of June & in July that I definitely want to go to (= at Comedy Theatre: La Bete)

7. Relationship with husband – put a bit more effort in & nurture this
Progress: Errr.... Well he was really nice to me (made me breakfast in bed for Mother's Day, and I...errr.....let him watch all the rugby he wanted to watch at the w/e. (Note to self: must try harder next week)

8. Be less lazy & more productive daily (establish a sustainable level, not frenetic, but more than now!!!) Progress.
A bit: Have restarted a new 'Things to Do' list on Computer with short-term and longer-term items on it - and I've been trying to do a bit more...but it's still pretty pathetic to be honest (see Item 1 above -imminent end of winter & its associated blues will hopefully enable me to make more progress on such things)

9. STOP PROCRASTINATING – Progress: Only a teeny tiny bit (see 8 above) Unfortunately my time spent blogging and on forums could be viewed as part of my procrastination habit, and it is in danger of turning into an addiction - it eats up the hours in a frightening way! Need to work out what to do about this!