They’re writing words of wisdom…but not for me

24 Oct

Maybe I have taken too many new beginnings with this blog to actually define this as yet again another “new beginning” but here is yet another because over the past fee months I have simply been too scared to put pen to paper, fingers to board and thumbs to scary fragile glass screen.

I won’t go into the matter that brought me to that feeling because its too difficult, painful and personal to detail. But from that event I just couldn’t write anything that involved an iota of creative thinking. However after a few pep talks and words of encouragement I will try and bring you something of worth.

First off an admission. I love Modern Family. The TV program currently winning countless viewing figures for the rumour that one of the may or may not be dating Charleze Theron. This seems to have “shocked” people because he a) plays a gay man on the show and b) because he is more portly than muscly. I’m not here to go on about the medias’ expectations of the human body. It’s not why I watch the show. I watch it because it is funny. Surprisingly funny at first because I thought nothing from America could be funny after Monica and Chandler moved out of Greenwich Village and Carrie trotted off (in another pair of unattainable shoes) with Mr Big. I even ribbed my sister for watching it, giving it the cynical view that all the scenarios were too ridiculous and mad-cap to actually be laughed at. But then curiosity got the better of me and whilst no one was in I sat down to watch. Fully expecting it to be the most stupid show I had ever seen. And it was . But in a good way. Because for all the ridiculous situations that this family get themselves into and for all the bizarre characters, the actors are more than just the a-typical beautiful Americans that have frequented the screens of other sitcoms. They actually seem to like one another for a start. And secondly the writers seem to respect their audience. Something that with the rise of tv programmes such as ‘Top Dog Model’ and the multiple ‘lets poke fun at everyone outside of London’ pantomimes seem to have forgotten.*

But why do I write about this show?

I’m writing about it because in the last episode amongst all of the hi-jinks and farce he story revolved around one if the children starting at university. For all the soppiness at the end it made me think of when I was starting uni. What my expectations were and how were I am now fits in with those. Don’t take this in the wrong way I am not writing this nostalgically because I finished my postgraduate degree a year ago and only started uni in 2007. Moreover my working life hasn’t really begun yet because I have only really just started full time big-girl work and can look forward to carrying on so till (by the looks of things) until I am at least 102. Even if I do pass over the veil I’m sure some sci-fi, post-post apocalyptic movie loving “genius” will find a way of making sure I am crippled by all of the things we are crippled by in modern society long after I am gone.

Anyway, back to reality.

It got me thinking about work and the big ‘what do I want to do with my life’ question. So many people I know, not just my age are in a horrid predicament of not having work and being unable to find it. One of my closest (ironic as she lives in Italy) friends is having to move to Bruges for work! But it set me thinking. At the moment I am on a cliff edge because I know that I will not do what I am doing forever. Moreover, despite feeling that those I work with may view me as a catastrophic moron, I quite like them and the office is a jolly place to work. It’s a cliff edge because I know that many others have and will get drawn in to this. I realise I must not, but how can I defend myself? My answer came from many after I tweeted something the other night about feeling that although working full pelt, there is a feeling that you are not getting anywhere. Despite the response this 140 letter sentence was not wholly about myself. In truth I was fed up of hearing bad news about those i love and wanted the tweet to be a wish for them. But as countless law suits have detailed twitter isn’t really one for great detail. However the amazing words of wisdom I got made me think of my barmy friend/extra Nanna Elaine who always says “what’s meant for you won’t pass you by” so I decided I take the words on board and have a ponder.

What I took from the feedback was that on the whole it called for me to look at things from a different perspective. Which I found hard because all I could see was bleak, bleak, bleak. However staring out into the dense grey mist and fog that is currently making Essex and London look like a Hitchcock thriller something has come to me.

I have always placed the elusive word ‘career’ alongside words such as ‘lawyer’,’nurse’, ‘teacher’ and all thought these roles are creative to a certain degree and should certainly not be sniffed at. I realised that the jobs which I wish to attain I had never placed that word to before because I didn’t believe I could do it. I still completely don’t but what is key is that I have started to think that these words could go together as tastily as chocolate and cherries.

Which brings me back to Modern Family because in the last episode ‘Phil’ the father of the new college goer wrote a philosophy or rather “Phil-osophy” book for his daughter so that she could have his words of wisdom everyday. Smushy yes… But it was for comic purposes so I was definitely reading to deeply into it when I found a semblance of some philosophic worth through my chortling
when he said.

“When life gives you lemonade…make lemons. Life will be all like WHAAAT?”

In the style of the Spencer Davies Group….

3 Sep

A few years ago I would have never have thought that I would be able to run a half marathon…not even a half marathon, if I had made a mile I would have patted myself on the back with such glee that an onlooker may have thought I was giving myself the Heimlich manoeuvre. I made a lot of excuses as to why I couldn’t exercise but the long and short of it was that I was a teenager and I was lazy.

Long story short, it all got a bit too much and after a spell with weight watchers I got on the healthy train (because really I had never been on it in the first place) and I am now happy to say that fitness is my absolute obsession and I hate going a day without the gym. Make your own assumptions about my mental state now.

Anyway this general joie de vivre has lead me to sign up for a half marathon this October in London. Run to the Beat takes place on the 28th of October and was set up by Nike a few years ago. Starting and finishing at the O2, at every mile a stage is set up with bands and musicians to will you on… If the music is good I guess it will make you happy and so you’ll run faster…if its awful…well you’ll just want to get it over and done with so I suppose its a win win situation whichever way you look at it!

I will be running this race along with Sully for the fantastic charity Nordoff Robbins, who provide music therapy and training for anyone in need. They are truly fantastic and well respected within the world of music and charity work alike. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that music is restorative for our souls. We all have favourite songs, songs that make us angry, songs were a mere sounding of the first few chords will have us in a gibbering mess (if you’re asking mine is ‘Especially for You’ by the incredible Kylie and Jason of Scott and Charlene fame). It stirs our emotions and soothes are souls and that is completely what Nordoff Robbins are about. They want to open up the emotions of those individuals who are experiencing difficulties with life. You can read all about some of their fantastic work here.

Now its over to you because of course to support this fantastic cause I need to raise money so I really think it would be grand for you all to visit my justgiving page and donate what you can I may even regale you with a song if you do!

www.justgiving.com/elisarunstothebeat

 

A new addition to the family

30 Aug

Recently I have been reading Alain de Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy partly because I have always loved his name and thought he would be a nice chap to have a cup of tea with, also because it is one book I have seen Sully get really enthused about over the recent months.

Split into six chapters De Botton takes six of the greatest philosophers and uses their theories to tackle the everyday conundrums of human existence. Never believing myself to be intelligent enough to handle philosophy it is not so much that I have actively shunned or ran away from philosophy (if one could do such a thing). Rather I have never felt myself worthy of reading such work, which brings into line many personal questions of my feeling of inadequacy and self-esteem issues that I don’t wish to bore you with, but that I assure you are discussed within this book.

However this morning on the daily commute I finished the chapter on ‘Consolation for Inadequacy’ and it set me to thinking about recent events or rather realisations that have happened within my life.

Last year I gained my Masters in Theatre and Writing, throughout the entire year that I studied like many other students I cried constantly because I felt I lacked the necessary intelligence to actually succeed on the course, and despite gaining a Merit for my final grade and a Distinction for my dissertation I still consider that my being on the course was some massive joke played by the University at my expense.

After every class, on every train ride to and from campus I would sit there and weep sometimes uncontrollably at my feeling of  ineptitude which is, I am aware, completely pitiful and completely devoid of intelligence, so I do not wish for any sympathy about it! Then sitting in my lecturer’s office one day having a catch up, or on my part a break down he just looked me dead in the eye and said ‘Elisa, I bet you have never had that many friends.’ I was dumbstruck. Not because I felt it was cruel or unjust, rather because it was completely honest. Now to those who have know me a long time I wish to say I am in no way de-voiding the relationships I have formed but I cannot deny that up until only really a few years ago I didn’t really feel that well connected to anyone or anything. This was purely because I felt that the friendships may have had different motives and at the end of the day would have turned into a ceremonial wedgie in the school playground. My lecturer put this down to the fact that ‘[I] think in a different way to everyone else…whilst others were thinking of the answers [I] was thinking of the symbolic nature of things.’ Going on he said ‘As such I can only deduce that you were a bit of a loner because when you tried to have conversations with your peers both parties felt the other was talking in a foreign language’ Now saying this to you I realise this makes me a pompous bum but it does hold a candle to current events.

I am more than aware that my friends (because thankfully in the past few years I have finally made some!) are ridiculously more intelligent than I could ever hope to be. They are wonderful, beautiful women whose grace, charm and confidence I can only hope one day to achieve. Going back to De Botton and his chapter on inadequacy, De Botton uses Montaigne’s friendship with the writer and MP Etienne de La Boetie as an example of consolation for inadequacy. That friendship is a consolation for loneliness is not profound, its obvious but I was drawn to a quote from Montaigne about La Boetie which marries the level-headedness of rational thinking with the feeling that friendships and relationships are somehow fateful.

We were seeking each other before we set eyes on each other…we embraced each other by our names. And at our first meeting,… we found ourselves so taken with one another…so bound together, that from that time on nothing was so close to us as each other.

And later

In the friendship which I am talking about, souls are mingled and confounded in so universal a blending that they efface the seam which joins them together so it cannot be found.

For the past month and a bit my friend Alice has been staying with me whilst she works here for the “summer”. Like all of the other girlfriends I have I truly believe that like Montaigne ‘we were seeking each other’ before we had met but what’s so strange about Alice is that seemingly many aspects of our lives were drawn with the same pen. I find it doubly strange because she’s from Italy perhaps making  the probability of our meeting all the more unusual. Yet we did find one another and knowing that she is going back to the sunny streets of Turin next Wednesday is heartbreaking because I feel as though I have a another sister that I have to say goodbye to.

So this post is dedicated to Alice because she’s just swell and I don’t want her to leave. Any employers out there should snap her up as quickly as possible! It also goes to all the other beautiful ladies (who know who they are!) that I have in my life because in the last few years you have made me realise what friendship is about. I love you all and only hope I can be like you one day!

 

Torre Del Falco – The place of my dreams

3 Aug

As said in my last post I couldn’t just write about where I have just returned from in a single paragraph. It wouldn’t be right because it was too beautiful. Around a year and a half ago my Mum and Dad returned from their holiday in Portugal, already having made up their mind as to where they wanted to go next. It was Italy and I wasn’t going to argue with that as it was somewhere I had always wanted to go.

So the usual process that my father takes to find accommodation commenced. List were drawn of regions, cities, towns and then down to apartments and villas. Sat down with Dad I took a look at what he had found to help whittle down the list to the finalists. It was the Olympics for Italian housing. And then we found it. The Torre del Falco . It looked beautiful on the holiday rental website. Outside a bright, vibrant garden in full bloom, a crystal blue salt water pool, cast iron benches with plump cushions and resplendent sun loungers perfect for taking a break from the world with a incredible view to boot.

Inside the rooms were full of antique furniture, ornate tiles, plush bedrooms with beautiful bedspreads and pretty pictures on the wall. If I wasn’t sold enough I then read a previous guests review and found a bit of information that concreted the fact that this is where I would be spending summer 2012.

Dad looked at me.

“Oh gosh” and hung his head in a way which suggested there was no turning back now. Not that he minded at all of course.

“Twelve cats and a miniature pony Dad. TWELVE CATS AND A MINIATURE PONY!” The next day the holiday was booked and Dad’s more in depth research of Spoleto began.

What gems it bought back to us as it turned out whilst we were there the towns annual cultural festival was taking place with performances from Mikhail Barishnikov, Lou Reed, the Wiener Straatsballet and the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Gosh it was just too exciting. By the time the holiday was just two weeks away I don’t think I slept for more than four hours a night!

On the night we left England’s drizzly shores I woke up from snoozing and turned on the TV as I prepared a pre-travelling midnight snack. The Gods must have been looking down on me because Wayne’s World was on and thus the holiday began with a “Schwing”! Sorry I just couldn’t resist.

Gatwick went like a breeze, the flight was wonderful, Rome airport is a memory I wish to forget and we were on our way, once we had figured out which way we were going. Two hours later we arrived in Spoleto and drove up the extremely large steep hill to our place of residence.

Standing at the top of the driveway and looking over the garden and property was breathtaking. All that could be heard was the rattling cicadas and the gentle shuffling and neighing of horses. Absolute bliss.

Torre del Falco as a residence consists of three beautiful adjoining properties that promise a relaxing time for all. The Tower with six bedrooms and two kitchens sleeps twelve and is the oldest and original part of the property. The Falconer is a the apartment to the left of the tower, it sleeps four and has its own private garden area with sun loungers and a BBQ. Lastly there is The Nest, a romantic hideaway for two with a canopied bed and little jasmine scented cordoned off area outside, perfect for an aperitif before heading down to the town. For our stay we were in The Falconer.

All four of us were over awed with how beautiful it all was, inside everything was decorated to the most beautiful of taste and with the greatest care that I have never seen anywhere else before. In my room, painted a beautiful pale blue, the walls were filled with delicate paintings of birds, a theme which ran throughout the rest of the property. We were informed by Beatrice the owner that it was really very secure, so that we shouldn’t worry about locking the doors and windows at night. The shutters can be left open and we should feel perfectly safe. Perhaps our British scepticism came in here but after one night of sleeping with the doors shut we of course realised she was right and slept peacefully for the whole two weeks, doors wide open waking up to the most wonderful of views.

Soon after we arrived we were introduced to one of the house’s most important residents Lalla the cat. Who loved to sleep outside our door under the grape vines (until she met Sully, then wherever he was, she was too!) Over the course of the two weeks came Remolo & Romolo, Signora Leena (or Flumpflump as I like to call her) Mafalia & Maffina, Popoff, Scappo, Ettore, Assutina, Ercole and a little kitten Angelino, who unfortunately passed away whilst we were there because of an illness he had caught. He was a beautiful, caring little darling thing and we had fallen in love with him that everyone was devastated when he was lost. But for the short space of time we all knew him he was very much loved.

Of course there was also the beautiful pony Matilde with her luscious black and white locks she looked like an equestrian rock goddess as she cantered about her paddock. In the time between our booking the holiday and our arrival she had been joined by the truly gorgeous Marguerite, who we found out was pregnant whilst we were there!

The town of Spoleto itself again is incredible, but I think I will assign this to my next post because I really want to devote this to Torre Del Falco. So stay tuned!

But perhaps the best part of all about this place is Beatrice because meeting her was like meeting someone we had known our whole life. She truly is a beautiful person inside and out and I would urge you to go here just to meet her. Mum and I were truly devastated at the prospect of leaving and I cried like Penelope nearly all the way to the airport. Perhaps pathetic, but I can assure you that if you go, you’ll be crying at the prospect of England as well!

And to top it all off….we’re all going again next year!

A Tale of Two Towns

3 Aug

I had always assumed that if I were a stick of rock my core would be emblazoned with Great Britain. At university I was proud to talk about my unwillingness to spend a year travelling around Thailand and Australia. (I’m aware of how beautiful they are but quite frankly if I’m paying for it I don’t want to slum it!) Moreover, I was quite frank in my expectations that I would never, EVER want to live anywhere other than our luscious albeit damp green pastures.

Then came Italy.

Now I realise you may chuckle to yourselves about this because anyone who has ever been to Italy will of course see the benefits of living in such a country. Berlusconi aside, it’s hot, the food and wine is incredible, the people are wonderful and the history is pretty fascinating.  But before you think that this is simply another ‘Oh you’ve been on holiday, goody for you’ post I wish to say that in the two times I have been lucky enough to go to Italy this year something more profound has happened that I can’t really ignore.

Call it pathetic and hippy nonsense but in the brief time that I have spent there this year I have felt truly at peace. It is certainly hard to explain. I have one way which will surely make me sound certifiably mad, but I will give it ago anyway.

My Alexander Technique teacher has the most wonderfully bizarre way of explaining bodily states that even more bizarrely make sense. So I will try and relay what she said to you but before I will give you a really very basic run down of what the technique is.  Essentially it is about recognising how you use your body, focusing on the bad habits one has and moving forward to relieve harmful tension from your life. I really do advocate it for everyone as it improves posture, breathing, state of mind, injuries…I could go on. Anyway back to my wonderful teacher. She once said to me that if the correct alignment of the body’s posture is found in a state of movement coupled with a calm, rational state of mind then one’s legs should not feel like legs but wheels.

Yes, completely mad I know. But I will explain because I actually managed to experience such a feeling in Turin earlier this year. Having spent a blissful few days with a friend taking in the sights of the wonderful city, meeting inspiring new people my head was unequivocally clear. Having just left the Palazzo Reale we were walking to get some lunch when suddenly my legs felt new and I couldn’t help but concentrate on how they felt as though they were moving because just as Mrs A had said it was though they were wheels. Every single part of my body was free and the only way to truly explain it was as though I was a child again, running so fast that you feel you are never going to stop because your legs and not your mind are in control. Incidentally the AT often uses children as an example, particularly those of an age when they are beginning to crawl and walk as it is then that the necessary movements, techniques and muscles are strengthened to allow for adult development.

Returning to the UK after this brief spell I put that happening down to being away from the turmoil of work and simply occurring because I was on holiday. When going back to Italy this July, I certainly didn’t expect it to happen again but once I was there (and out of Rome airport, perhaps the only place in Italy where you will find me truly angry as I do believe it could be the 8th circle of hell!) I felt as though I had come home in a sense.

Spending the following two weeks there at the Torre Del Falco in Spoleto (I will give this its own post because it is simply too incredible to put into one paragraph), with some of the people I love the most my boyfriend and I came to a decision to get the relevant qualifications and give living and teaching in Italy a go. Sounds like a big plan full of flaws but this time I am leading with my heart and not my head and I truly cannot wait to see where it takes me!

Eine Kleine Jazzmusik

15 Jun

Unlike any genre of music I have come to realise that without a doubt Jazz is most likely my favourite. In that past few months I have become a heck of a lot more determined to follow my pursuits in singing. Before now I had been a stroppy teenager about the whole business. When told I should “use my voice” (a line that still makes me shudder with anxiety and nausea) I would turn into a bear with a sore head and come up with a million excuses as to why I couldn’t, and wouldn’t do it.

So why the change?

Part of the reason why I didn’t want to do it stemmed from the fact that really I didn’t like performing that much…strike that…AT ALL. There are times in everyone’s lives when we want to be looked at, I don’t think anyone can deny that. But the thought of standing there in front of a room full of people and singing filled me with dread…it still does, but something has changed.

Lured by the promise of fish and chips and wonderful music I started attending a jazz club in my hometown. Each week I attended and saw some incredible musicians playing and what struck me as the most wonderful thing was that there was seemingly no hierarchy between the musicians, young or old, experienced or fledgeling anyone was welcome to play…and then I was asked to sing…Oh gosh!

Now the first time was horrendous, I shook uncontrollably, I stuttered through the verses, the middle eight was completely lost to mumbling and afterwards I burst into tears…Not a great start but after this trauma I was certain that I would overcome this set back.

I needed to address the fears I had of being looked at by people. Even as a child singing with the Southend Girls Choir, where all the others faced the front I would stand at a right angle so as to not look the audience in the eye. I wanted to find the root of the problem and I think I have traced it back to the precise moment when I started being scared of a sea of faces expectantly waiting for a performance.

I must have been eight, I was in the Brownies and we were doing our annual talent show for the parents. I was I think playing a short piece on my flute, my sister was doing a dance to The Corr’s ballad Runaway. I remember watching her float across the stage in a beautiful white skirt and top, she looked like a princess and I only wished that I could have that grace that she has. There is a school photo that sums this dynamic up perfectly, its one of my dad’s keyrings so if you see it I’m sure you’ll agree. As Lauren sits behind me her hair is expertly french plaited, her uniform is impeccable, she smiles and honestly she should be wearing a halo and some wings. That day I seemed to be chanelling the  Dickensian urchin look. My plaits are two knotted and wild, my shirt is askew and I have two teeth missing. I’m sure they would have been better off getting a stunt child to sit in for me because I look pretty terrifying. But back to the Brownies…

After Lauren finished it was my turn. Flute under one arm, music under the other I took to the stage confident that I would do well.

The music stand fell over and the first titter from the audience came. It was picked up and a reassuring glace from Brown Owl let me know I was going to be OK.

My score fell off the stand, this time the laughter was a bit louder. I think they thought I was performing a Chaplin-esque routine.

Each time I picked up a sheet another would fall off the stand increasing the hilarity and tragedy with every moment. Until I finally managed to get it all together and perform a shaky tune after which everyone smiled and applauded politely and I thought I cracked it. Until all the music fell of the stand again and thus laughter ensued.

I’m sure that all of this only took place in just a few minutes of my life, but it feels as though it lasted for hours and I’m sure the laughter probably wasn’t that loud but it feels as though it could have been fog horns. Having the disposition of a nervy, over sensitive child this situation had a lasting effect.

That’s where I pin the fear too at the moment because that is the one most clear to me. And from then on singing by myself was a fear and soemthing I dreaded. The thought of singing in front of those who not only loved jazz but knew a lot about it was terrifying. But as soon as I stepped up to the bet I felt that in that room no one was wishing my music would fall off the stand again. The band who were used to playing solo wanted a singer for those few songs and that each and every person roots for one another.

This feeling of unity is one that I am sorry to say I have not truly witnessed with other genres. People have tended to be a bit more guarded about who they play with and having someone just turn up in the middle of a set to sing a song. So I wish to say thank you to all those who have helped me thus far and to those who I will meet in the future.

After a respite I am back

15 Jun

I told you I was useless at keeping things up! However, after a respite from blogging for some two and a half months I am back with a fresher insight into what I would like to use this place for. Which you will see in due course.

But for now

Enjoy!

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