Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Hello, Goodbye

It's New Year's Eve. In some parts of the world it's already New Year's Day. And where am I? Relaxing at home with the family? Off out at a house party or getting cold and wet at a city centre New Year celebration? Nope. I'm working. And found out that I would be working less than a week before Christmas. This pretty much sums up 2012. It's been like that.

Last year, as the last whisps of 2011 melted away and 2012 arrived, I remember feeling quite melancholy. It was a feeling that clung to me for weeks. And not without good reason. When I look back now, as I'm about to close the door on 2012 forever, I can see it's been a year dogged with ongoing issues, few resolutions and lots of goals left unachieved.

The first half of the year, Granny was very poorly. We were all very concerned for her and to that I added the weight of concern for my Dad and cousins. Steve and I made two very long trips to Canterbury to visit as her health deteriorated and finally my last surviving grandparent passed away.

The second half of the year has been plagued with work issues, as my previous employer's contract came to an end and a new (incompetent) contractor came in to take over. There has been much anxiety in the build up to the transfer, which has manifested in people generally being unkind to each other. I've had to say goodbye to some great colleagues (and one very good friend who is bringing in the New Year in Australia). The final culmination of this has been mass redundancies and some really inappropriate and unfair actions by the new employer. This has been the single most stressful thing I have been through with any employer and I hope I never have to repeat anything similar in the future.

Our house is still on the market. It still hasn't sold. It's still causing a disproportionate amount of stress with dickish estate agents and a kitchen roof that continues to leak. We've missed out on a number of opportunities, the worst of which was a house with a turret. Even with the front of the house sinking, it was a bargain and it would have been a beautiful home. I fear I might always regret that as 'the one that got away'.

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However, 2012 has a few things worth remembering it for. I have waited for most of my life to see The Phantom of the Opera and I was not disappointed when Mum and I went to see it in May. It was spectacular and if I had been able to afford to see it again, I would have. I also saw Starlight Express this year. I've wanted to see it since I was about twelve so it's been a long wait.

May was a great month this year; as well as Phantom of the Opera at the Palace Theatre, Mum and I had a trip down to the Big Smoke so I could sing at the Royal Albert Hall with Sing Live and the Night of 1000 Voices. I love the choir. I love singing. And combining that with the trip and having Mum there was a real treat.

Mum, Steve and I holidayed in Cyprus in May as well. We lounged around the hotel pool and the hotel bar and the hotel restaurant and our room and didn't leave the hotel all week. It was almost perfect. But I really must stop eating milky and creamy things: My stomach can't take it!

In August Ann and I went into Manchester for one of those makeover days where they take photos. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it and came away with a bunch of photos that I'm really pleased with. They actually make me look quite normal, and not strange or hideous. Although they do show I have a dent in my forehead. Investigations into the cause of the dent are ongoing. (I suspect Dad might've dropped me on my head as a child.)

One final highlight of the year has been Pinterest. Ah, what joy. And what agony. Pinterest inspired me to make some of my Christmas presents this year. Claire got a handmade bracelet that I was quite pleased with. My Dad received an iPad case made out of a recycled suit jacket. I gave my Mum a scrapbook of our wedding photos - it wasn't quite finished but I think she was really pleased to finally have a wedding album. Ann got a Memory Jar. And my in-laws... I made them a patchwork quilt, which I finished at 2.30am on Christmas Day. It turned out really well and I have a queue of people asking for me to make them one. So Pinterest has been a success in that it has lead me to achievements myself.

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Looking forward to 2013, I'll be graduating from the Open University, achieving my Literature degree. I'll also be going to see Wicked when it tours (another one of my favourite musicals ticked off the list) and I'm hoping to get to see a few more theatre productions this year too. I would love to see Avenue Q, although I'd be surprised if that opportunity rolls around this year. I'm really looking forward to the Les Miserables movie, and Sing Live's first concert of 2013 on the 3rd of Feb at the Bridgewater Hall.

I'm renewing my 2012 New Year's Resolution to read 12 books (I only managed 6, with 2 still on the go) but I think I might have to aim for 13 books as it's 2013.2013 will also see the first draft of the novel that I've started at least three times, and I'm determined to keep a diary. Writing has to be a focus of the year, if for no other reason than it's necessary for my degree, so I'm relaunching my writing blog tomorrow. I'm not setting a goal of blogging every day, but I want to make sure there is regular content, and if I'm writing everyday that should be easy... Should... Be... Easy. Famous last words.

I really want to spend a bit more time with friends this year; I feel like I've hardly seen Ann or Claire and I'd really like to meet up with some old friends that I haven't seen for a while. I'm already dreaming up a visit to Ally and Rich in Londonium, and maybe lunch or dinner out with Jo Jo from First Choice. And who knows what else I might manage to do.

So I'm making 2013 a year of friendship and achievement! 13 might be unlucky for some, but it's never steered me wrong. Hello 2013. Goodbye 2012.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


I have been inspired; not in an arty way, in a guts and glory way. This isn't a matter of The Muse knocking on the door and calling me out to play, it's inspiration in the way a person can be inspired by an Olympic Athlete to become more active, or by an X-Factor contestant inspiring a singer to think 'I can do that.'

My 'I can do that' moment has originated from an interesting source. A long-time friend, Ally, is a talented artist and I recently found her Sketchbook on Conceptart. I looked through her art work, starting last August, right up to this year and saw a remarkable improvement and this improvement has happened because she took a critical look at herself and asked 'what do I want to achieve?' She set herself goals, decided what she needed to work on and then worked on it. Tirelessly. Well, I can do that.

For years I've wanted to write: Novels, screenplays, drama, stage plays... anything really (except poetry, which I officially SUCK at!) I've been writing stories since I was in primary school and even ran a fan-fiction writing group between 1998 and 2008. I know there are characters and stories inside my head trying to claw their way to freedom, but life always gets in the way. There's always work, the house, the husband, the dog, singing, politics and god-knows-what-else to do. Well, Ally has inspired me to apply the same dedication to my writing that she's applied to her art.

This isn't the first hint that I should be more dedicated in the application of the writer's craft. Hubby has been saying for months that if I want to be a writer I need to write, and the internet is littered with advice from bloggers and writers saying that the first step to writing is to write everyday. Add to that the fact that I have seen significant improvement in my singing just purely from setting goals and applying regular practice. Ally's success on Conceptart isn't so much another hint, as a slap in the face with a wet kipper: It seems like the whole world is telling me I should write.... lots.... everyday.

So... I've started another blog... The Writer Inside. Writer and blogger, Jeff Goins says that a writer shouldn't just practice, they should practice in public. And so I shall. I still intend to use The Soup Spoon for general posting, but my intention is to post as often as I can on The Writer Inside and to post lots of snippets, short stories and character word-sketches. I'd love to get some feedback about what works and what doesn't, so come on over and have a look around.

I only hope that I can enjoy a similar improvement in my writing that Ally has in her artwork. Who knows, maybe I will actually manage to finish the novel, screenplay and TV pilot episode that I've been chewing on forever.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

An Open Letter to Twitter #KeepTwitterAdFree

Dear Sir or Madam,

I mostly access Twitter using the iPhone mobile app. A while ago I noticed that Promoted Tweets started to appear in my timeline. I had noticed Promoted Trends and Promoted Accounts before, but this was the first time advertising had actually appeared directly in my timeline.

I strongly object to the use of Promoted Tweets in my timeline. It is like a company walking up to me in the street and interrupting in the middle of a conversation to market their product to me. I find it rude and offensive and have, until recently, been blocking all accounts that use Promoted Tweets, including products that I have an interest in; I really do find it THAT intrusive. However, I notice now that I am seeing Promoted Tweets from accounts that I have already blocked. This is particularly unacceptable to me; I should be able to block whomever I choose.

I understand that advertising revenue funds Twitter and allows you to continue to develop the site and mobile apps. I am content for other forms of advertising to continue (Promoted Trends, and promotions that appear outside my timeline are much less intrusive) but I personally feel that ads in my timeline is a step too far. I acknowledge that others will not feel as strongly about this as I do. All I ask is that you respect my wish to not have Promoted Tweets appear in my timeline; it would be nice if you stopping offering Promoted Tweets altogether but I realise that this is unlikely. It would be acceptable if I was able to block any account that uses Promoted Tweets.