Things On My Mind ---- B's

Bill Cunningham

I watched Bill Cunningham New York on Netflix a few nights ago and can't stop thinking about this adorable, talented man. The documentary captures his frenetic lifestyle perfectly, zooming about NYC after a bicycle-bound Bill. It follows him rubbing shoulders with fashion's elite, to Paris where he accepts an award and gives a humble speech rejecting paparazzi culture, and into his home - a studio in Carnegie Hall - as he prepares to be dislocated in favour of offices. 

I'm writing one of my essays on Ellis' mock-memoir Lunar Park. I've liked his work for a long time, having read Less Than Zero pre-university. I think it pretty much spawned my love for American contemporary literature, which I was lucky enough to take a course on this semester. Despite his faults and inherent narcissism, I love the way Ellis toys with form and works with narrative voice. Lunar Park follows on from American Psycho with its unreliable narrator, but this time it is the author himself, removed from New York City into the post-9/11 numbness of suburbia with his (fictional) wife, son, and stepdaughter. It's nice to actually be writing an essay on something that engages me. 

So, last week one of my best friends from Texas stopped over in England before flying to Qatar to spend Christmas with her parents. It was so, so good to see her. She's currently living in Edmonton, Alberta, but is dead-set on moving to Victoria, B.C. Moreover, her grandma has a two bedroom flat on the island and she invited me to come and live there with her (!!!). I'm trying not to get my hopes up but it would be absolutely amazing to go work in Canada for a year or so and then descend down the West Coast on our USA roadtrip. Dah!!! So yes, fingers crossed things work out. I've been gazing at photos of Victoria with longing. The nature there looks incredible, and get this... it's an hour from Vancouver by ferry (on which I could potentially peek at some whales) or two/three hours from Seattle, Washington. I wanna go drink at the flagship Starbucks and listen to Grunge in its homeland! 

Chance would be a very fine thing. 

The Virgin Suicides

I have 7000 words due in a matter of weeks.

Spotify has been my saving grace, aiding my concentration by providing me with Nick Drake when I'm feeling mellow, Nicolas Jaar when I need to be calmed down, and Nina Simone when I need some sass. It's also been the vehicle for me to listen to The Virgin Suicides soundtrack, which last night prompted me to FINALLY take a trip back in time by watching the 1999 film. I've been meaning too for a very, very long while. Like thousands of others I'm a big Sofia Coppola fan.

The beginning sets the tone of the whole film. We see the arresting beauty Cecilia, 13 years old and doe-like, wrestling with the inner demons that seek to eclipse her ethereal innocence. We do not know what has caused the inner turmoil and we never get a definitive answer. All we know is that the pain she feels eventually leads to her death, impaled on the fence that separates the five Lisbon sisters from the rest of the world. Even with the removal of the fence, the barrier remains, intensifying as their religiously devout Mother and Father clamp down on their daughters, systematically removing their every freedom. It is a dark, melancholic plot.

But the cinematography and Coppola's direction create a dream-like aura. The boys across the road, each besotted with the Aryan-like clan, send notes to them and pictures of exotic locations from catalogues so they can imagine themselves basking in the sunlight of paradise together. Though the action is bound by the sombre suburbs of Michigan, we feel like we're marauding through a fairytale. 

Josh Hartnett, in his role as schoolboy stud, Trip Fontaine, resembles a mixture of Jackie O and Karen O with his shiny bowlcut. He deserves the dig on his 'do, too, because his character is a douchebag.

Highlights of the soundtrack, put together by French band Air, include Al Green's "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" and Todd Rungren's "A Dream Goes On Forever." I've been listening to a lot of Motown, Northern Soul and more folk-y stuff recently so I very much enjoyed these songs's cameos on the score, alongside the more 70s vibes of Heart and 10cc, respectively. 

I haven't wanted to give too much away plot-wise, so I'll leave you with the above grainy representations of the beauty of the film, and this:

Through her cinematic adaptation of The Virgin Suicides, Coppola puts rose-tinted glasses on Jeffery Eugenides' 1993 novel. We are taken through a Midwest fantasy world, with a backdrop of poetic narration and funky songs, seeing the monotony of smalltown, U.S.A. through a haze of fairy-dust, and the result is awe-inspiring. 

Now, enjoy yourself some Al.


Christmas in Yorkshire

Has anyone else ever noticed how impeccably dressed Macaulay Culkin is in Home Alone 2? A little bit different from this picture of him emerging from the Haunt in Brighton earlier this year. Mac, what went wrong dude?

This Christmas has been pretty decent. I returned from a spell in London/ Brighton (which I'll write about at some point) on the 22nd, just in time to recover somewhat for the big day. Saying that, I arrived home to find my stepbrother who I hadn't seen in months had come round, which naturally called for a trip to the pub next door for copious amounts of food and wine. A sore head ensued.

 On Christmas Eve I met Naomi to venture into Bedale. Usually it's a sleepy North Yorkshire town but on that evening it was the epitome of claustrophobia. Who knew the dinky Black Swan could hold so many patrons? I've never seen so many Christmas jumpers in my life. 

Despite my raised levels of anxiety, it was a lovely night, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces. Naomi and I also turned up, unknowingly, in matching jumpers which caused us great amusement but must've made us look like a pair of overzealous bats in the corner, especially as we managed to bag ourselves a huge table at which just the two of us sat for a couple of hours before our other friends showed up. 

Christmas Day was met with another sore head, mended sort of by the lovely presents I received from the fam and the lunchtime cider I consumed at the pub. I bought my little brother a ukulele for Christmas so we had a little play on that until dinner. And what a dinner it was. A roast expertly cooked by Mum with all the trimmings. Oh, Yorkshire puddings, I'll never tire of you.

That night I slept delightfully, with a stomach full of wine and turkey. 

Boxing day I spent mostly with my twin brother who was jetting off the next day to Valencia to see his girlfriend. We took a walk around Richmond, an old market town not far from Bedale. It was cold, muddy, and insanely busy but it did us good to leave the cocoon of the house. 

And we got to take awkward family photos.

 In the evening I ventured to my friend Lucy's house to partake in a Christmas do with all of her kin. We gobbled down the amazing spread her Mum had prepared, played party games, before heading to Northallerton in an overpriced taxi to get a taste of the less-than-wild nightlife.

The (sole) club in Northallerton is like a vacuum. No matter how strongly you insist you shall not be going, you can't help but be dragged in. This may be because everywhere else closes at midnight, or because maybe you love paying an extortionate amount of money to get in and then for drinks, or because standing in a cage of a smoking area really gets you going ... who knows. All I know is after a summer of going most weekends and vowing I would never return, I was sucked back. And it was... well, how I imagined it would be. Although through the throngs of 17 year olds and sambuca shots I did happily get to see some old faces.

It's nicknamed the 'Bongo' and is also the place Boy George got punched in the face. Take from that what you will.

It also mildly resembles a prison. (Please don't bar me for these statements, Bongo, I'll probably be back sooner than I hope). 

Thus, Christmas wrapped itself into a nice, red bow, in somewhat of a blur. See you next year Santa.

Happy holidays everyone!


My America (1)

With the end of university fast approaching, I've been thinking a lot about what I want to do once I'm finished. More and more I find myself drawn to the idea of a roadtrip across America, navigating the wide open roads of the "Land of the Free".

My romance with the States started when I moved to Texas at age 16. My stepdad's an engineer and after years working in Kuwait, coming back to Yorkshire on holidays, he took up a job in Houston, a place where we could all be together. It seemed the better option to the Middle East.

I remember touching down on U.S. soil, glancing at the concrete highways and feeling the red-hot sun on my skin. We clambered into a taxi and set sail for the suburbs with heads out the window, absorbing this alien land of neon fast food signs, trucks and sprawling mansions.

My two years flew by. Two years of yellow school buses, drinking cheap, cheap alcohol out of styrofoam cups from fast food restaurants, high school proms with ice sculptures and graduations with flying hats, weekend trips to Lake Conroe north of Houston where we'd while away the hours on the boat and eat ribs by the water, sitting outside Starbucks smoking shisha with no place to go, and house parties with beer pong and getting black-out drunk. I know it sounds like cliche, but it felt like a dream. A dream with longhorns.

I returned to Brighton, my hometown, to study American Studies (it seems the bug had bitten me) and English Literature, and to settle. Not for long though. I spent my third year in Western Massachusetts, studying abroad at UMASS Amherst. I got to see what college-town life was like, and stroll the same streets as Emily Dickinson and Elliott Smith, granted centuries/decades apart. My year in Amherst passed like lightning with frat parties (one at an agricultural frat - who knew there was such a thing), dining halls, not to mention visits to New York, Boston, Thanksgiving in Texas, and Miami.

Here's a few photos from along the way:


Now all I can think about is where to next...

birthdays in brighton

So, a lot has happened in the last couple of weeks...

 I finished uni for the Christmas holidays, and in so doing completed my penultimate term, ever. E V E R. It's starting to sink in that formal education doesn't continue forever.

Hardraw Falls, Osmotherley, Druid's Temple

I've been thinking a lot about the North recently. Probably because this term has zipped by and my Christmas in Yorkshire is only three weeks away(!!!) Also, because I'm highly contemplating moving to Leeds when I finish my degree. My Mum lives in a tiny village just outside a tiny town so unlike the droves of Brightonians returning from university to the comfort of London being close by for internships, I face a place that isn't even on a bus route. My family are all from Yorkshire, too, so I feel very at home there, which is odd considering I only ever lived there properly for two years of my life. Apparently I have a penchant for northern life (and a slight bit of a Yorkshire twang)...

This is a photo of Hardraw Falls, near Hawes, North Yorkshire. You pay a few quid and you can mosey up to the waterfall; it's kind of all there is there. Although, if you're feeling adventurous it's easy to forge your own path up the rocks to bridges that stand regally above streams - the perfect place for a game of pooh sticks. There's also luscious green fields for miles around which are easily visible if you peek over one of the surrounding dry-stone walls.

This is a photo of a view obtained at Druid's Temple, near Masham. I spent many an afternoon wandering through the forests, only to find myself submerged in fields, or gazing at derelict stone houses. Pretty rad. Also, nearby Bivouac, a cafe-cum-glamping hotspot, is a perfect place for a post-stroll cup of tea. 

And this is the reservoir at Osmotherley. Again, a beautiful piece of Yorkshire countryside that was idyllic during the warmer months. Couples hand-in-hand nestled on the banks while lively pooches threw themselves into the clear water. 

See you soon, my Northern friend. I'm excited.