Portugal. The Man at the O2 Kentish Town

This review is late coming because life gets in the way, but last week I saw Portugal. The Man, at the O2 Kentish Town on the 24th July.

I was joined in this little misadventure, but my niece Summer who just celebrated her 13th birthday, and this was her present from me, because I knew she loved the band, and I and wanted a partner in crime.

I have loved PTM for years but didn’t get her into it. I found out she was a fan when we were in a restaurant, and “Feel it Still” came on over the airways, and we both started to sing it.

This sadly meant I had to be a responsible adult, and couldn’t go on the floor, which I hoped to do, and since seats were non-allocation, I was determined to get there early and get good ones. Your first rock gig, I wanted it to be special for her.

Incidentally, Summer doesn’t appear in any of these pictures, due to her parent’s refusal to let her appear in any type of media which does include her aunt’s own blog!

My Londoner niece is being brought up in Hemal Hempstead, so while I see London as just a place where I live, she’s a bit more of a tourist about it. I was taking her to Camden for the first time, yes, I showed her all the proper places, like the Markets, and Camden Lock, just to see the artisans, diversity and street food. She loved it, great place to go. Before we headed down to Kentish Town.

Now I’m a dork, self-admitting all the way dork. But it is telling that we got there early to miss rush hour and get good seats, but we wound up being first in the queue.

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This is what being first looks like!

Due to my somewhat unique name, that is dorkish, bordering on cliché. I didn’t go out of my way to be first in the queue, and Summer didn’t want to go for a wander, so we just waited

But we were first in line, and it was nice, I was talking to a nice guy called Arron, it was all well and good when he pointed out that Zoe Manville, the backup singer and wife of John Gourley was standing twenty feet away.

Ok. Here’s a quagmire, so do I go up to Zoe and tell her I love her vocals on “Noise Pollution”, or do I just play it cool. I go for the latter, besides if I went up to her for an autograph, there was always the possibility of her asking me my whole name…it could happen!

My last name is the name of the band she was in, which is not common in Portugal, Brazil or the UK. She could have thought I was lying or just taking the piss! Even though I’ve explained to people more than once that my last name is not the reason I love the band, it’s just the reason I found the band!

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Best seats ever

Finally, we were in, we got the seats we wanted, front row balcony, on the aisle because of my foot, and an hour later the supporting act came on.

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Benin City, they were really good

 

It was the Benin City Band, admittedly I’ve never heard of them, but they would good, a combination of rock and soul and one thing I loved was they seemed chilled about being there. They were able to get the crowd in the right mood since by this time it was “sold out” as they claimed.

Looking down on the crowd of people, I was struck by how far they’ve come since I first saw them at the Lexington several years back. Since they existed for years as hovering just below the mainstream, now they really have broken through.

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SOLD OUT

And finally, Portugal. The Man was on. Opening with Beavis and Butthead, dissecting the band as only they could and full respect to Mike Judge for doing this, and once again a reminder of the genius of Beavis And Butthead.

But it takes some serious balls to drop this line “They are better than the Beatles, better than the Rolling Stones, better than Silverchair, and almost as good as Pantera” for someone with parents from Liverpool and London, that’s some fighting words right there!

It opened with a Metallica/ Pink Floyd medley intro moving effortlessly to Purple Yellow Red and Blue, and from there it was a mixture of their own songs, and a combination of classic rock.

From my vantage point, I never saw John on stage, he was forward in comparison to the rest of the band and looked like he was a dark figure on the stage.

I guess I could be a pretentious wanker and say “It could be symbolic of the idea of Portugal. The Man, being a darker aspect of John’s own personality, hence is surrounded in shadow”. Not saying I was disappointed by that, I wasn’t, it was something I noticed.

With less forces on the band, apart from Zoe since she was dead centre, and always drew the gaze, along with the brilliant visuals behind her, once again her vocals are astounding, and though she sang backup on every song, I still love “Noise Pollution” the most. It was more of a visual assault in the background, with fantastic CGI.

As bands go, they didn’t interact with the crowd, instead let the words on the screen do the talking, and I give full respect to any band who can take the piss out of themselves and their mainstream success.

The thing is, is that they were considerate enough to give us a show we would never forget, it was a CGI spectacle, but it wasn’t ostentatious, proving that they really are the same guys from Portland/Alaska.

What I loved about the most, was that they didn’t get involved with banter with the crowd, it could be to John’s stage fright, (link below discussing this) and one of the reasons he’s in total darkness for most of the evening, but they didn’t need to talk to us. We love them, we know why we’re there, that said watching “All Your Light” further on, by a guy standing in darkness, the irony wasn’t lost on me.

Since “Feel it Still” is their biggest hit, so many bands would have whored it out and played it every few songs, but these guys didn’t, it was almost unassuming. Placing it between “Number One”, and a glorious mash up of “Creep in a T-Shirt” and “Children of the Revolution”. Pretty much making it clear, that this song, even though it is fantastic will not be their defining hit, and there is more to come.

With the visuals and the music what PTM was giving us, was “Woodstock” for those who never experienced it. John has said in an interview that the latest album was inspired by a ticket from Woodstock in 1969, which his father attended.

With the combination of music and vocals, it was a psychedelic trip of music stretching back 50 Years, finishing the night, with a blinding rendition of “Sleep Forever” and “Hey Jude”. Acknowledging the music of the past, and the path it took over fifteen years for these guys to get mainstream success. And their still self-depreciating about it, since they still use their own instruments and everything is real.

But overall it was a fantastic night, PTM, grabbed the crowd, who sang along, enjoyed the experience and walked out of the O2 feeling elated by this.

Sadly, this is the kicker, I was at a concert with a teenager, it was as hot as the fires of hell in there, even with the water the Forum was providing, and she was starting to flag. Once again being a responsible adult time, which truly sucks sometimes.

Yes, we had to leave, even though she’s only two inches shorter than me, I could have blagged to get her on the standing floor, but I’m surprised that no one fainted from the heat.

I was disappointed that I missed “People Say” since it is my favourite song and the first song I ever heard from the band. Consoled myself, by remembering that I saw them at the Lexington years back.

I found the ticket in a box a few days ago, the poster they just gave me.

But even with the mainstream success, they are the same guys I saw back then, just there to entertain, and bring us fantastic music. 15 years and 8 albums later. Portugal. The Man is still the same and we love them for it.

Merch wise, I finally got a band shirt but was miffed that they didn’t have the “I liked Portugal. The Man. Before They Sold Out”. Always liked that T-Shirt because it’s true. But Summer my 13-year-old niece loved her first rock gig, so I did my job as a responsible aunt.

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Finally got a tour t-shirt

Incidentally, shameless plug time, but I live in the hope the band will see this, and grant me a miracle. When I had to learn to walk again, I created a list of things I wanted to do.

PTM if you see this, can you make number 2 on the impossible part happen, please. https://jvoportugal.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/the-geek-list-amended/

https://thetruthdontstop.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/seven-takeaways-from-john-gourleys-reddit-ama/comment-page-1/

This was the setlist for the night from https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/portugal-the-man/2018/o2-forum-kentish-town-london-england-73eb2efd.html
For Whom the Bell Tolls
(Metallica cover)
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 / Purple Yellow Red and Blue
Number One
Live in the Moment
Feel It Still
Creep in a T-Shirt / Children Of The Revolution
(T. Rex cover)
Atomic Man / Gimme Shelter
Modern Jesus
All Your Light (Times Like These) / A Kilo / The Home / I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Play Video
So Young
Noise Pollution
Hip Hop Kids
Holy Roller (Hallelujah)
Sleep Forever / Smile / Hey Jude
Encore:
Evil Friends / Day Man
So American
People Say

 

 

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Is the Budapest Card Worth It?

The Solo Traveller in me has just come back from Budapest, Hungary. For a holiday, I really couldn’t afford but really needed. No really needed, and since my firm was kind enough to give me the time off. I picked Budapest because it contains history, culture and cheap cigarettes. All the things I love.

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So, when It came to saving money, I found the Budapest card, which gave me free museums, free transport, and discounts on many things. I had already decided that I wouldn’t be doing any of the spas, even if one came free with the card.

As a Solo Traveller, there are some experiences I want to do with people. Hence the reason I haven’t visited Austria yet because I can’t do the Salzburg trip aka ‘The Sound of Music Tour’ without my sisters Kay and Anna. When it came to the spa’s, it would have been a wonderful experience, but it’s an experience I wanted to share. And because I’m so short-sighted, both my sisters have perfected the art of grabbing me, so I don’t walk into anything over the years.

My mentality is when it comes to discount cards if I do at least five on the list. Then it’s paid for itself, and it’s all good. I did a little bit more than that, however.

So, no spa’s so what was left.

The Budapest Card for 72 hours cost me £38.30 and once brought online can be picked up easily at the Airport, and I got 10% off because I Googled and found a discount code, for 10% off, which sadly has expired. So, costing me £35.00 and links to all locations will be at the end of this blog, and all prices will be translated into Sterling because I am British.  Also depending on the season, all prices were correct in May 2018. And on most, there are discounts for students with ISIC. Also, this blog is in three parts, due to word length.

But was it worth it?

I brought it for 72 hours, starting on Monday 14th May, even though I didn’t realise that the museums I wanted to see were closed on the day. Ok that’s typical

However, on Sunday, I did go to St Stephens Basilica which saves 10% off the concert fees, which as of writing this is performing Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” According to their website, the total cost is £33.66 or 12111 Forint.  Hungarian currency takes a while to get your head around.

Entry, however, is 500 HUF and so worth it, there are 364 steps to the tower, but I got halfway up and got the lift the rest of the way. The views are incredible from the top, and this is so recommended.  It’s a stunning view in a stunning location.

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St. Stephen’s Basilica

Day One of the Budapest Card.

On the Budapest Card, the first official thing I did was check, the direction for Memento Park-Statue Park which is about half an hour by bus, however out of the centre going from urban to the more rural aspect of Budapest is interesting, it’s more of a sharp transition.

Since most of them got destroyed, after the fall of Communism to make a point. I do give the full respect that they kept them and made something out of them, just as a visual reminder of the history of Hungary.

These statues are a reminder of the human suffering of the people, which should never be forgotten. In the museum, there were displays which tried to explain it to me, and wiki filled in the rest.  After WWII, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin agreed to give Hungary to the Soviets, like a demented Christmas present.

When I was growing up, I understood the basics of communism and learned more about Hungary’s Communist period of 1949 to 1989.

I remember when the Berlin Wall Fell and Chernobyl had its meltdown, and soon the world was drastically different.  But I admire anyone who stands up to oppression, and the people of the Revolutions did in droves.

Overall the museum is a bit dry, but the fact that these statues exist is important, and that the past is not forgotten is commendable. Since the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 led to thousands dead, but it is the statues which could do with a bit more context.

However, it does raise the question of at what point does the oppressive history of your Country become a tourist attraction? In the well-stocked gift shop, you can buy replica medals given to Generals and novelty passports. The things that once oppressed your people can be brought for fun. Hypocrite I may be, but I also brought postcards written in the 1980’s, written by real people in a language I can’t speak. Now I’m curious about these people, so if anyone can translate them for me, I really would be grateful.

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After this I went back to the Danube and took a river cruise with Duna Corso Sightseeing Boat with the Card, you can only go with one company, it is 40% off, and overall it was about an hour long.

Sadly, I tried to time the trip so I could get the sun setting and the lights of Budapest coming to life. Yes, of course, I got my timings wrong! But the Danube itself is just stunning. However, wine in a plastic cup does spoil the ambiance of the trip, but it was good wine, just more of it would have been nice.

Overall, seeing the Parliament and the Castle, and how it was built up over time was interesting. But a bit more of it would have been nice, but for the price I paid, you can’t go wrong. It was a good discount and an excellent way to end the day.

 

Day Two of the Budapest Card

Palvolgyi Caves

Getting there was a bit of a nightmare since at this point I wasn’t used to Budapest’s Transport system, but the trip was worth it. Even though it was still in the city, it felt like I was in a more remote location.

Of course I was the only British person there, with a group of about thirty school children, so I stood at the back, since being metal footed I didn’t want to slow anyone down. Since the tour was in Hungarian, they were considerate enough to give me a print out in English and I had a lovely latte and petted the cave site cat while I waited for the tour to start.

The area was well lit, though there was an amusing moment when the lights cut out, but everything here was just incredible. Just for the stunning stalactite and fossils and to a place of tranquil beauty in a busy city like Budapest, this is recommended.

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There is something about immersing yourself underground that brings the Jules Verne out in everyone, and even though there was a translation barrier the school kids in the vicinity were impressed into silence. There was also Sea urchin fossils, showing that the caves date back to 40 million years, which was one of the highlights of the trip.

This place is not recommended by those with claustrophobia and a fear of heights, there is a few massive ladders you have to climb, and narrow paths to get through. Even though we didn’t go far into the caves, I was told it was only about 500 metres, it felt like we walked a greater distance.

After this I headed to the Castle District, which was just a simple bus away, and everything here is within walking distance of each other.

Budaatower. The Mary Magdelene Tower.

Because I was the only one in the building at the time the views are standout, and once again even with Budapest’s turbulent history this building had been standing for 600 years. Please to say, since I bailed on St Stephen’s total steps. I made it up right here. All 172 steps and the view was worth it.

Additionally I was the only one there at the time, so it was nice as a tourist to enjoy something in solitude. Also, which made it more poignant is that so much has happened to Budapest not too far where I was standing, but this building even though it’s lesser than what it once was. Is still standing, and that’s important. Even if it is a victim of cultural genocide.

Hungarian National Gallery.

Here’s a confession. I love art, not pretentious modern art, but the classics and even after the National Gallery in London, the art of Hungary is a sight to behold. The building itself gives it a timeless feel since being built into a castle will do that for you. The paintings inside are just extraordinary.

33522933_10155245042331906_1494019608162598912_nToo many to count, but I fell in love with the sculptures of Miklós Izsó and the paintings of Pál Szinyei Merse, just for the ‘Lady in Violet’.   But once again too many to count, this isn’t a Gallery, it’s a moment of cultural enrichment. Well maintained, organised and the staff I spoke to, the pride in Hungarian art is beyond compare.

33524361_10155245041146906_2981941406441930752_nI had a lovely conversation with the staff about the comparisons and difference between the French Masters and the Hungarians. The views out of the windows over looking the River, are amazing. Get a chance to see this, please.20180801_235021

Hungarian History 3D Show inside 700 year old Chapel.

This one has no disabled access, but it was a hot day and this is a cold place so a welcome respite from the heat. Overall, it’s pretty basic, just a row of chairs and supplied 3D glasses, with headphones in several languages. The film is about 15 minutes so it’s not an in-depth look into Hungarian history, covering over a 1000’s years but provides some nice bullet points, and I really had no idea that Hungary had such a bloody history. Also having the show inside an underground chapel gives it a certain atmosphere, which you don’t often get in shows like this. Once again, the Hungarian tenacity to make things come alive again.

Next one up was Budapest History Museum, this one located within the castle, is a bit of an oddity and felt more like organised chaos, which concentrated more on the medieval objects, and an original chapel from the time, up to the fall of Communism.

It was a bit disorganised, and not really disabled friendly, but a pleasing diversion, and it’s interesting to see how the three cities become Budapest and how the castle was restored, but the layout is confusing and I just breezed through it.

 

So, a day full of cultural enrichment, so close together. And it really was worth it.

But here are some random pictures of the day so you can all see how stunning Budapest is.

 

Day Three  and Four of the Budapest Card

The Dohány Street Synagogue

This is one thing which isn’t free, but it is heavily discounted as is listed below.

This was the one thing I couldn’t miss on my trip, the famous Synagogue, the largest in Europe, and sadly not too far from the shoes on the river Danube, where thousands were killed during the occupation.

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The sad thing is that due to the WWII and then the Iron Curtain, the building wasn’t restored until the 1980’s. But what a restoration from the moment I walked in, the sheer detail was extraordinary.

Incidentally, modest dress for women and men, no shorts, shoulders covered up, you know you’re in a place of reverence and respect.  This is a moment where the world stops, and you are captivated by the history.

There is a tour guide, in every language, sectioned off into pews which was very informative, as we were taken through the Synagogue, and saw the famous tree, created by Imre Vargas, where each leaf contains the name of a Jewish victim. In all 40’000 Hungarians died during the occupation. Budapest may be a city of peace, but its tragic history is more than evident on these walls.

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Pictures do not do this place justice, from the organ to the ark. It also has its own graveyard in the courtyard sealed off from the public since it’s not the norm for Synagogues, but this location was a place for the Budapest Jewish Ghetto during the war, and this was a necessity.

The Hungarian Jewish Museum which is in the same building, as the Synagogue on the top floors, and has disabled access which is much appreciated. It contains crucial items from Jewish history past and present. Very well maintained and a beautiful companion piece to the Synagogue since it explains the nuances and history of the Jewish people. Including a third century tombstone.

In Budapest over the millennia, Jews had always had the struggle to survive even before WWII, yet this building exists. Only a small percentage of the population who identify as Jewish live in the country, but they are determined not to let their history be forgotten.

Urban Betyár restaurant & visitor centre

According to the website and my tour guidebook, it states.

“Our mission is to become one of the highlights for locals and travellers in the Hungarian capital city, near the St. Stephen’s Basilica and to offer an extraordinary gastronomic and ethnographical experience that is one of a kind in Hungary.”

I only went to it, because it’s opposite St Stephen’s, it’s located in the lower ground of a restaurant, those dining in on restaurant get in free. So, while your dinner cooks, it’s an interesting thing to explore.

It’s well designed, with some lovely artefact’s and information on Budapest history, but overall, I got no new information from it, which I hadn’t already learned from other free museums in Budapest.  However, it is one of a kind, and I’ll give it that.

Hungarian National Museum was next, and it had such beautiful architecture, and the Roman Lapidary section on the ground floor was a treat since I love Roman history, it gives off the impression of a church, mainly since it was a quiet time of day.

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Comparand to the other museums on the list, it’s more of a nice connection to the rest. Budapest has such a rich history, but I enjoyed the focus on the medieval society and loved that they carried actual clothing from that time. Also, you have to pay 500 HUF to take pictures in most exhibitions, I found that out afterwards, they didn’t tell me that when I got my ticket. Sorry.

 

Day Four of the Budapest Card overall 72 hours starting at Midday.

Budapest Cog-wheel Railway and Zugliget Chairlift

I decided to spend the day in Buda Hills and get back to nature and got the chairlift up. Incidentally, it never states that that is free with the Budapest Card in the book and I paid for it, but it was only a few HUF, so it was ok.

However, the Zugliget Chairlift was amazing, since I am not scared of heights, and it was a particular type of wonder leaving the city behind me and getting back to nature for a while. After exploring the area, I caught the Children’s Train, A train staffed by teenagers, and then went and caught the Cog-wheel Railway also known as Tram line number 60 and caught it back down. I was the only person in my carriage, and it was nice to see Budapest in another way. Much recommended.

Overall Public Transport.

With the Budapest card, you get unlimited travel, which covers everything, even though Budapest is a city which can be discovered on foot, it’s good to have. And Budapest’s Transport is well organised and well maintained, even if the Trams had a certain air of organised chaos about them and the bus drivers, maybe it’s just me, but each one could have been a bit more helpful. According to the BKK website, https://bkk.hu/en/budapest-72-hour-travel-card/

Budapest 72-hour travelcard is HUF 4,150 or £11.53, so getting the Budapest card is worth it.

So, it is worth it.

Total

The Budapest Card. https://citypasses.eu/en/budapest-cards/budapest-card/

St. Stephen’s Basilica https://concert-vienna.com/collections/st-stephens-cathedral-vienna-concerts/products/vivaldi-concerts-in-st-stephens-cathedral.

Memento Park – Statue Park
http://www.mementopark.hu/?lang=en
Price 4,900 HUF
Sterling £4.17

Buda tower. The Mary Magdelene Tower
http://www.budatower.hu/en/info-en/#tickets
Price 4,900 HUF
Sterling £4.17

Hungarian National Gallery
http://visitbudapest.travel/arts-entertainment/budapest-museums/hungarian-national-gallery/
Price. 1,000 HUF
Sterling: 2.78

Palvolgyi Caves
http://www.dunaipoly.hu/hu/helyek/bemutatohelyek/pal-volgyi-barlang
Price. 1,400 HUF
Sterling. £3.89

Hungarian National Museum
https://mnm.hu/
Price. 1,600 HUF
Sterling. £4.45

Urban Betyár Restaurant & visitor centre
https://www.urbanbetyar.com/en/
Price not listed on the website. Museum free if dining, also free with Budapest Card.

Public Transport
https://bkk.hu/en/budapest-72-hour-travel-card/
Budapest 72-hour travelcard is HUF 4,150 or £11.53

Budapest History Museum.
http://www.btm.hu/
Price. 2000 HUF
Sterling. £5.56

Dohány Street Synagogue.
http://www.greatsynagogue.hu/gallery_syn.html
Full price: 4 000 HUF or £11.11
Budapest Card Price. 10% off Costing 3600 HUF total £10.00
Saving: £1.11

Hungarian 3D History Show.
http://www.3dpast.com/index.php?lang=gb&bg=1&site=default
Price. 1500 HUF
Sterling. £4.17

Duna Corso Budapest Sightseeing Boat
http://www.mahartpassnave.hu/en/timetable/budapest-sightseeing-cruises/duna-corso-1-hour-sightseeing-cruise/
Price. 2’990 or £8.34 HUF Budapest Card Price. 40% off. 1’794 HUF
Sterling: £4.99

 

Cost of Budapest Card £35.00

Events cost in total overall. £42.93 or 48.18 Euro

So, after a week of exploring, I saved the grand total of, under a tenner. Wow, am surprised by this, but then again Budapest is a cheap country in comparison to others in the European Union.  Overall, I didn’t need to get the Budapest card, but I’m glad I did it. Would I have gone to the caves or the art gallery? Unlikely, so in retrospect, I’m happy I did it and had the opportunity to explore Budapest. It really is a one of a kind city.

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I Hate this Heatwave

“Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” So said Noel Coward in The Third Little Show, which came out in 1931. Noel Coward was on to something as you have to be a goddamn lunatic to go out in this weather.

In 2003, there was a heatwave, I remember this well, it was hellish, it was hot and my shoes melted to the pavement. However, I was told this “If you think this is hot you should have been around for 1976”.

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I really hate you right now, it’s not personal. But i do

I came around three years later, sorry I missed that!

Ah 1976, the benchmark for measuring heat, this I know about because my mum was heavily pregnant with my sister Anna and had a one and six year old to contend with. My sister in law is currently pregnant too, due next month, and at least she has a benchmark of her own from now on. I know she’s not pleased about that, because she’s suffering, we’re all suffering from this.

Though so far, we haven’t had a hosepipe ban in London, but this is hellish, because I’m British. We’re not suited to long hot strong weather, and I hate heat, I even avoid going abroad at any time when it’s hot.

I even took a holiday with sister Anna two years ago to, Benidorm, Spain.  Very classy I know! Sitting by the pool with no breeze and the eternal sunshine thinking that Hell might be my eventual destination, but I got there early.

Since then, never again, no more hot climates but here it is. That blazing ball of fire in the sky, tormenting me for the past month.

As of writing this, I haven’t slept properly in weeks, and today is ‘Furnace Friday’, the predicted hottest day ever, and it’s only going to get hotter. Last week I felt a few drops of rain and got excited, almost giddy with the thought of water cascading from the sky as if Indra the Hindu God of the Heavens got his act in gear and gave us rain.  However, I saw it, it was almost like a mirage, the other week around King’s Cross, a little mini downpour which didn’t spread to West London, so it lied to me, the weather is a pack of lies!

Another kicker is, even though all the walking I’ve been doing has been beneficial to my health and waistline since I got my Fitbit, also I’m determined to do my 10’000 steps a day, but it’s excruciating.

I know hotter places like Australia and Brazil are just laughing at us right now, the same way Canadians do when it snows in the UK. Trust me on this, I have family in Toronto, and they get ten feet of snow, and we get six inches. They mock us accordingly when the Country shuts down.

But I’m British, I’m not designed for heat. I got nothing from my day’s Brazilian side of the family, I’m a pale English rose who runs from the Sun’s rays.

Then again, I’ve always hated Summer, back when I was at Primary School I learnt about the Greek Myths, and I was incensed that Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds, so she had to stay with Hades in the Underworld for half the year, I remember thinking “Bitch, could have eaten the whole thing”.

Yes, the Sun is essential for plant growth, crops, our well-being, but too much of it is not a good thing. But we Brits love to moan about the weather, the longer a conversation goes, someone mentions the weather. It’s a universally think that brings us all together. A commoner to a King can at least find that in common.

What makes it worse being a Londoner is now the tourists arrive, not against the tourists. I love these guys, they’re here to see what I see all the damn time, London in July and August belongs to the Tourists, consider it a gift.

However, the Tube (London Underground) is a hellish inferno, and we are advised to carry a bottle of water. Sod that, I want a block of ice and a ton of deep freeze which I keep putting on my wrists like it was perfume to trick my body into cooling down.

“London’s Burning” is a Song, either the one about the Great Fire of London or the awesome song by The Clash, it was never meant to be that literal…aside from the Fire in 1666 of course. I’m not going to be insensitive about that.

What makes this more of a kick in the face, is this year for the first time ever I have developed Hay fever, never had it before even though I suspect it’s bad karma for mocking Anna for enduring it for years.

I always thought Hay fever or Allergic rhinitis was like a cold, just a bad cold, take a pill and it’s over. Yeah, genuinely believed that. No, hay fever makes you feel like life’s bitch, nothing works to cure it, so it’s like a science experiment with your own body to find something that does.

But at night, it’s either, I keep the windows closed and sweat like a sinner in church or keep them open and can’t sleep because it hurts to breathe. I know on the karmic level I am paying for this.

This summer I feel like life’s bitch, I’m wearing factor 50 sun cream instead of moisturizer which is blocking my pores and ruining my skin, since makeup just slides off me, and anything I put on my skin doesn’t absorb, so trying to keep it in a decent condition is a nightmare.

Also trying to keep my garden alive is a struggle, I’ve already given up on the scorched earth, but I’m trying to keep my roses alive. However the plants are dying, but the weeds are fine, bastards that they are!

So, this is it, it feels like the end of days, the scorched earth getting hotter and hotter for all the years we abused her, and she now gets her revenge. When I was at school there was all the talk about banning CFC’s.

I learned that my can of hairspray was leaving a massive hole in the Ozone Layer and the Earth would heat up with greenhouse gases, and we would all burn. They were right all along, it seems.

Once again, I reserve my right to bitch about the weather, this is the United Kingdom, and the fact of the matter is we’re not designed for heat. Our homes lack air conditioning, in fact, they’re designed to keep us warm, not the other way around.

Though I’m fortunate where I work does, but every time I leave the building, it’s like stepping from the coldness into Dante Fifth Circle of Hell, so no wonder I feel lousy. And so far, I’ve managed to go into London but avoid the Tube, I can’t do that to myself.

In the Mediterranean, this would be lovely, and I would be curled up on a tiled floor instead of insulated carpets. But instead, I am suffering and just wishing for the most significant torrential downpour of rain that ever existed.

But until here I am stricken with hay fever and suffering from the heat. Now I have my own “1976” to talk about in the future, which I will never be looking back with nostalgia no matter what.

 

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Thoughts on the #Walkaway Movement

In the grand scheme of things, walking away from something can either be a burden or release, be it a relationship, a job. Or a political party.

Even though it’s not trending on twitter as much as it should be (funny that), Americans previously loyal to the Democratic Party, are walking away, now thoroughly sick of their antics.

I for one don’t blame them, because I can understand why this is happening

#walkaway is the brainchild of gay hairstylist Brandon Straka and has been gaining traction over the past month. From a simple YouTube video, it’s sprung into a grassroots movement, and watching the videos over the past few weeks give an excellent insight into the world of American Politics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51UGcghHZsk

From the outside looking in, American Politics is something very twisted, and a war between the Democrats and the Republicans, had been brewing for a very long time. There appeared to be no middle ground and the simmering resentment came to fruition in November of 2016, when a Businessman beat Hillary Clinton to the Presidency of the United States.

I tried to find out the reason why this happened, and more about the GOP, the nickname for the Republicans which stands for “Good Old Party”.

But to be honest, when it came out who would be in the running for the 2016 USA Elections, I thought it was a joke. I initially thought it would be between Bernie Saunders and Ted Cruz. Instead it was between Former First Lady, Secretary of State US Senator Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump the Business Mogul who gave Kevin directions in Home Alone 2!

It sounds like a plot for a Hollywood film doesn’t it? A party so desperate for a woman to be President, and let’s be honest, after Obama there was so much talk in the mainstream media.

After electing the first Black President, twice, it would have been a crown topper to elect the first female POTUS. A lot of us believed there was something going on behind the scenes, to make this happen.

And then she lost, and it all went wrong. Cue the scrambling to understand the reason why.

I even read Clinton’s book “What Happened” to try to find out the reason why she lost, see how future generations could learn from her failures. In the beginning, she seems to take responsibility for the outcome, so kudos.

Then, blamed women, James Comey (FBI Director). Trump, Russia, Putin, women, Trump, and everyone under the sun too! Yes, you can tell I wasn’t impressed with the book, I must be in retrospect one the “Deplorables” she was talking about. Since 53% of white women voted for Tump instead of her.

It is really telling that this so-called book, instead of exploring what went wrong in the campaign and all the events that transpired leading up to the Election. Finishing with breaking it down into detail State by State as the polls came in on Election night.

Instead, Clinton took a nap, and when she woke up everyone was upset and sent out for ice cream and booze, and perhaps singing “kum ba yah”. Which gets a mention several times throughout “What Happened” Though it is a catchy song in all honesty, but a real riveting read is this book.

In hindsight America deserved better than both of them, watching it all from the UK. American Politics have always had an air of theatrics about them. But it deteriorated into a screwed-up pantomime with all the mudslinging, and bile from all sides.

Sometimes I wished that America would have turned their backs on both of them and voted for a third option, just to shake things up.  It happens in the UK on occasion, we’ve even had a coalition government between two Parties. But it’s always a two-Party race, which gets a bit monotonous after a while.

There is so much I’ve heard about Donald J. Trump, but I’m normally indifferent since I don’t know the guy, but the Anti-Trump rhetoric is what I hate.

Last week in London, Trump came to town, and of course, there were protests. There was even, involving a blimp shaped like Donald Trump depicting him as a baby!

I didn’t protest because it took place on a Friday, but it really came across as petty and pointless. This may explain why, interesting interview, really interesting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPG-BKLZkKE

I think after becoming President and being a businessman for decades, Donald J Trump didn’t give a damn about a baby blimp balloon of him.

You would think after decades of the same old thing, and dynastic rules of USA Politics, they would have jumped at the chance to shake things up. But no, Trump is the enemy and Republicans are evil, and everyone who supports them must be punished for it.

But overall, the issue is.

If the Republicans are so bad, if wearing “Make America Great Again” merchandise, can give rise to the possibility of being attacked in the street.

Then why are American’s abandoning the Democrats to come over the Republicans or the Independents? Why did #walkaway become so popular?

Above all, looking at these testimonials and stories, the main thing I feel is sadness. So many people have lost their friends because they switched parties. And it’s easy to say “It means they were never your real friends to start with”.

In the twenty-first century, even with social media, making friends and keeping them is hard, and it’s hard to lose them. No matter the circumstances, it feels like your mourning for someone who’s still alive.

This is the #walkaway channel on youtube, please check it out

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDb4InP9mRZR9oogD1b2dOQ/videos

and the Facebook channel, which I joined to gain insight. https://www.facebook.com/groups/OFFICIALWalkAwayCampaign

Before the Elections, Trump was just another businessman who became so successful he hosted his own show The Apprentice for years, had loads of cameo’s in tv shows and films, had charisma and was too the point. Yet now is the most hated man in America according to the mainstream news, and hell and damnation to you, if you voted for him.

People shouldn’t be attacked for their political beliefs. One of my best friends is a Tory (Conservative). When we catch up, all we do is knock back vodka, laugh and have a great time because we’re not assholes about politics.

One thing that does strike me is people initially voted Democrat because they wanted change, it felt like it was the safest party, since it was easy to demonise the Republicans. The Democrats sold themselves as the party for the people, in the 21st Century.  Hoping that everyone would forget their very troubled origins.

However, in the end, the people they historically oppressed, probably got sick of being told that they were victims of oppression, raised up and revolted. Viva la Resistance!

At least this is what I got from their own testimonials on Facebook and YouTube.

They were sick of the toxic attitude of the Democrats, and the supporters were sick of being told they were oppressed. These videos tell such horrible experiences, a young woman was given hell by the “Liberal” members of her family because she made the decision to keep her child who was born from rape.

Another was told to divorce her husband to collect welfare!  It was evidence of a larger sickness that had been perpetrating the Democratic Party for a very long time and are all apparently Russian Bots!

As a woman, I was disgusted when Hillary Clinton claimed she lost the Election because women were forced by the men in their lives be it there husbands, fathers or son to not vote for her. I was also appalled when then First Lady Michelle Obama stated that ““Any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice,””

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/its-a-vote-against-their-own-voice-michelle-obama-launches-attack-on-women-who-voted-for-donald-a3645486.html

http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/378259-dems-are-angry-over-hillary-clintons-latest-comments

Pretty insulting and sexist that these two high powered women in a Political Sphere, apparently think that women cannot think for themselves and all of us are part of a collective hivemind, obeying the rules of the Queen Bee!

It annoyed me that actors who are Republicans or people who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton were slammed in the media. Including Susan Sarandon who also voted for a woman, but it was Jill Stein and the Green Party.

So, Sarandon voted for a woman, but it was the wrong woman! This is insane logic, but then again, I learned from a very early age, that just because a Candidate, is from the same background as you, the same gender as you, doesn’t mean they will have your best interests at heart or will do you any favours.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/nov/26/susan-sarandon-i-thought-hillary-was-very-dangerous-if-shed-won-wed-be-at-war

In the 1970’s female Politicians backed Margaret Thatcher to get her in Downing Street, thinking she would propel them into high-level positions within her Cabinet. In eleven years, she promoted only one woman and surrounded herself with men. To this day Thatcher is a conflicting character and definitely earned the moniker “The Iron Lady”.

I didn’t vote Conservative to help put Theresa May, our current UK Prime Minster into power, and it wasn’t because of her gender. Out of the six Prime Ministers in my lifetime, two have been women, one was Thatcher, the other one May, both figureheads of Parties, I would never vote for. But both of them won legitimately, so even though I was disappointed that May won, I still respect the majority vote. Because that is what being in a Democracy is.

Since November of 2016 I’ve seen dozens of video and clips of debates between the Republican and the Democrats, cumulating in facts versus feelings, once again tying into the victim narrative. There are so many articles calling for violence against Republicans from Democrats, as this article explains more eloquently than I ever could.

http://dailycaller.com/2018/06/28/anti-trump-hysteria-has-led-democratic-party-to-violence/

Thus, exposing their hypocrisy, right there. A Political Party who claims to be Progressive, yet calls for violence in a public sphere, potentially putting lives at risk.

That is not Progressive.

My own personal feeling about Donald Trump, sometimes he just comes across like a bit of an asshole, he lacks the political expertise that most politicians have. He’s a Businessman, not a “Yes man”. He says what he thinks, be it right or wrong.

Trump at times shows zero diplomacy skills, forgets protocol when visiting heads of states and Royalty, and seems to love the attention more than being the man elected to run a country.  However, people love him, they’re leaving the Dems to flock to his banner. He appeals to them, and they believe he can provide the change that the Dems never could.

So, they’re walking away, and if that can promote change in the Democratic Party, that is a good thing. Because these individuals who are “walking away”, are just ordinary people, of different nationalities, genders, religions. They are the people the Dems swore to represent, and these are the people who have been failed.

Obviously, I’m British, so I’m an outsider looking in, we have Theresa May as our Prime Minister, who I didn’t vote for, but she won. I didn’t cry, scream or take to the streets to protest. I just shrugged my shoulders, remembered that I voted according to my own political beliefs and thought. “Oh well let’s see what the next few years bring”.

And everyone who is walking away, or thinking about it, just good luck, just wanted to give you my support. And I wish you all the luck in the world.

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Saying Goodbye to the Discworld

In my bookcase, there is a copy of Raising Steam with ten pages left, which I put down three years ago and refused to continue, even though I know how the book ends. Because once those ten pages are read, then it’s done.

No more Discworld novels, aside from the Tiffany Aching finale, but I’ve no interest in reading them because, once again, there the last vestiges of the Discworld Universe, and I am not ready to let go.

Three years after complications from the “embuggerance” as Sir Terry Pratchett, eloquently put it. Mentally I’m still waiting for another Discworld novel, which is never going to come.

Some of my Discworld books.

Strange that the Discworld, a flat world resting on the backs of four elephants which are standing on the back of an enormous turtle, called Great A’Tuin, has been a part of my life ever since I was a teenager.

The first Discworld novel I read was Witches Abroad, found at the tender age of fourteen in my school library. I think it was down to the cover art by Josh Kirby, as I started reading with no clue what was going on. Including when Gollum was hit over the head by an oar because I hadn’t read Lord of the Rings up to this point.

My original idea was to read until the end of the chapter, but a third into the book realised there weren’t any. I wonder how many others this happened too?

I was intrigued enough to find the rest and didn’t read any order for a really long time, but what I liked, even though I had no grasp of fantasy books I enjoyed it. I think it was the moment Death walked in, SPEAKING IN CAPITAL LETTERS, that I was hooked.

There was something about this deconstruction of fantasy and its tropes, of Dwarves exploring their gender, of Witches being conflicted with the maiden, mother and crone archetypes. Along with the transition from a Medieval society into the Industrial age, yet managed to play around with words and situations, and let’s be honest who didn’t smile when they read about the City of Quirm and realised how it’s pronounced?

The Discworld, was something special, even with its two prototypes, Strata and The Dark Side of the Sun. But let’s be honest, the early ones were bizarre.

For someone who had never read them in order, The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic and Equal Rights, were just weird, and I always wondered what the point of Eskarina Smith was. The first female Wizard on the Discworld, who disappears into the margins and never gets a mention for twenty-three years. A great character who never got the development she deserved.

She apparently has a son, if that was something that was going to be explored and sadly never had the chance to be, then it’s a shame.  But then again the first character was Rincewind, and everyone was better than him since he was too much of life’s bitch to identify with.

It was Mort, where I think the Discworld, fell into place, Death takes a holiday to explore humanity and leaves a human in his position without explaining the details. Then shows himself to be a massive hypocrite when the titular Mort screws it up. That’s the Discworld in a nutshell, trying to find order in organised chaos.

Favourite stories, however, have to be the Ankh Morpork City Watch, I read this article years ago where Pterry intended in Guards! Guards! for Captain Carrot to be the lead. Please, he’s the decoy protagonist, the moment Samuel Vimes walked on, that was pretty much it. I love Carrot as a character, but in comparison to Vimes, Carrot stood no chance.

Prince Valiant is standing opposite an alcoholic, jaded nihilist who loved and hates the city of Ankh Morpork and everyone in equal measures. Now that’s my type of character and the real audience surrogate. The fact that he ended the series the happiest henpecked husband, married to the wealthiest woman in the city, settled and a proud and contented father to young Sam. Perfect ending right there.

However, with the City Watch, Pterry wrote himself into a corner, because after these colourful fleshed out characters, you couldn’t have a story set in Ankh Morpork without them. Hence the only reason for Moist von Lipwig, the protagonist for the final line of the books, and I liked them aside from Making Money, even on the Disc banking is never interesting no matter where you are.

The reality of the embuggerance was that beautiful original brain would fade, and sadly his later books showed this.

No disrespect to Pterry and his situation, but that’s the way I feel. But then again, you can see the cut potential with the introduction of Mr Nutt in Unseen Academicals, which was meant to go somewhere, and where that is, we will never know.

The moment he pretty much stated what Nobby Nobbs was. I knew it was over, and the rest of the series was just him saying goodbye, which is the only reason for all the cameos appearing in Raising Steam, so each and every one of them could have their curtain call, as well as the Discworld, moving forward into modernity.

Incidentally my favourite part of Snuff is Vimes telling the Discworld equivalent of the Bennet sisters from Pride and Prejudice to get off their asses and get jobs (one of them already works in timber and is an embarrassment to the family) one of them is also Jane Austen (don’t ask), is worthy of a spin-off of its own.

I also hoped that one would be turned into a show, because translating a medium like the Discworld is difficult, but the output was a bit so-so. The Cosgrove Hall animations, excellent. The live actions on Sky, sort of miscast and not even impressive cameos by Pratchett could solve the issues.

David Jason may be a national treasure, but Albert perfect casting. Rincewind…what the hell were they thinking?

Like any fan, I met Pratchett. Waited hours in the queue in all weathers, I have several books, CD’s and video’s signed by him. And he was just marvellous, his events took hours because he spoke to every fan and treated everyone like an equal, and let’s face it. He was just phenomenal.

In its own unique way, Pratchett has been a part of my life for so long, in between and after University, I even joined The Purple Theatre Company in West London, which specialised in Pratchett Plays.

I was Perdita/Elf in Lords and Ladies, Mrs Enid/wounded soldier in Monstrous Regiment. A little bit of everything in Wyrd Sisters, including the guard that gives baby Tomjon to the Witches before dying on stage. And I loved it, something about immersing yourself in your favourite series can do wonders for your confidence.

Agnes aka Perdita in Lords and Ladies in 2002

After all of this, I’m just not ready to say goodbye to the Discworld, and even though the unfinished novels apparently nine of them were crushed by a steamroller last year. Because overkill is underrated according to the will of Terry Pratchett.

I admire the badassery, but can’t help think but “What if?”

What if Mr Nutt found the rest of his kind and what happened after that? Bloody civil war, or peaceful resolution?

What if Nobby and his girlfriend settled down and wanted to marry. But Goblins still struggle to be accepted, and a lot of people are not happy about it.

Or my two favourite stories which I always wanted to see, just to see what would happen.

Susan Sto Helit aka Susan Death, for whatever reason, joins the Assassins Guild and is very good at it. So good, that it gets the attention of Death, and due to it being against the rules, he has to stop her. But it means going up against her own grandfather and every bit of restraint, Susan has ever shown is gone. Ok, always harboured a desire for Susan to go wild.

Sybil and Young Sam get kidnapped, and (deep breath) His Grace, The Duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes. Ambassador for Ankh-Morpork, as well as Blackboard Monitor, goes full-on mental. Using the Summoning Dark and everything and everyone at his disposal, he’s prepared to rip apart the foundation of the Disc and kick Death in the face if any harm comes to his family. All the while teetering on the edge of his alcoholism.

Stories that would be fantastic to see, but we never will.  But Terry Pratchett, the genius he was, invited us into this beautiful, confusing, conflicting world. And I just can’t let go.

 

So overall, it’s hard, it’s hard to let the Discworld go and say goodbye, but those last few pages of Raising Steam.

I’ll read them one day.

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Juliet Wrote Back

Juliet wrote back to me, very surreal that happened. I actually got the reply back in November but thought I’d save it for this day. Valentine’s Day, the Day of Love.

All I’ve done today is work, no that’s pretty much it for the romance in my life. But as I promised you the reply, well here it is, courtesy of the Juliet’s Sectaries in Verona, where I bet right now is full of loved-up couples and proposals.

 

Dear Jodie,

I was really glad to receive your letter and thank you for your faith in me. At first I want to congratulate you on your graduation with a Master in Creative Writing. This is a great success and differentiates you from other people. It shows that you are a sensitive and thoughtful person with fantasy and dreams and with the potential to successfully complete things. Not so many with such a talent are able to be targeted.

So I understand the more that you feel “trapped” in a way when you realize that things don`t come out the way you wish them to. It`s such a nice plan to go and live in Japan and that makes you special as well. At first I love to give you the advice that you should never forget how wonderful you are.

As a creative person you will know deep in your heart that it`s almost your own mind and the way you think about things or yourself that make you feel “trapped”. Of course there maybe restrictions but who if not you will find a “creative” way of going on the way you want to.

So the most important thing in life and love as well is – even if it sounds commonplace – to love and respect yourself. The others already respect and love you. Don`t let things from the outside stop your plans. The first thing you should do is to go forward and follow you inner “star”. After that and when you feel safe inside again, love will follow – I promise.

It seems that you are ready for a change or for departure, wherever it may lead you. And of course it scares you because it`s not clear yet where it will end. You always can start with little steps and accept the little obstacles.

Japan is not possible anymore? So ask yourself if there are alternatives. Maybe you can start and search a job or an employment which leads you closer to Japan and let you travel there for short times. Or organize some trips there – just to see what may happen and for inspiration. Without the aim of living there immediately. Or transfer your love of Japan in the place where you live. Maybe that`s a unique style which makes you be desired on the labour market.

Or go to another country which may fulfill your needs and where you will be the special one. Maybe there are already too many people with the same attitude as yours in Japan and it`s kind of destiny, that you should not go there right now?

And please don`t be afraid. You have already managed so many things. Trust yourself and go for it. If you think about living in Japan, you will be able to do things or travel for short times on your own as well. And love will find you at some place when you feel “home” with yourself.

I don`t know in which country you live, but I hope that this freedom is possible for you.

 

Dear Jodie, this is my advice and I keep my fingers crossed for a wonderful start in a new and exciting decade of yours with success and love.

 

Yours

Juliet

 

Wow, I’m talented, really? Never thought of it like that!

Powerful words for little old me. The thing is though is that Juliet right, I need to change my thinking about Japan. Sage words, of trying to fulfil dreams. But she’s right about so much. I’m cynical about love the same way I’m pessimistic about Romeo and Juliet.

But she’s right. Juliet is right about me. A volunteer wrote me this beautiful, empathetic letter about love, how can I keep denying myself any of this. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but nothing as beautiful as detailed as this astonishing letter.

So to love, and changing my path.

This is going to be a fascinating year.

http://www.julietclub.com/en/

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My Letter to Juilet Capulet

Ok, because, last year I wrote about that I was writing a Letter to Juliet, the teenager from Romeo and Juliet, who committed suicide even though her death along with her husband Romeo, “buried their parent’s strife” and she got a golden statue out of it. So it wasn’t a pointless death.

Look, as much as I love Romeo and Juliet, both of them really were idiots wern’t they? Even if you see their deaths as a necessary sacrifice to stop the body count rising in Verona.

I’ve always been a cynic about Valentine’s Day anyway, even though I’m a sucker for romance. It just seems pointless and such a cliché.  Which doesn’t stop me checking out the Hallmark channel though?

Strange in hindsight that I wrote my Letter to Juliet seeking wisdom from a teenager who committed suicide over four hundred years ago and who never existed, to begin with.

Doing some research, there are so many who wrote to Juliet but even they only seem to post the reply online, few it seemed that have the guts to post their original letter. Why not?

Besides I was desperate enough to write to her in the first place, what have I got to hide?

I’m a geeky solo travelling Singleton with education, experience and no idea what I’m doing with my life.

munich

Solo travelling to the German Alps

And at least I’m honest, but like hell do I want a pity party about it.

So beneath is my original unedited, unblemished heart on the line “Letter to Juliet” answered by one of the volunteers of the Juliet Club.

 

Dear Juliet

This is the moment I thought I’d have my life sorted out, just graduated with a Masters in Creative Writing and I’m trying to sort my life and love out, but now I feel trapped.

My dream was to work and live in Japan, but circumstances meant it’s now too late for me. More than qualified, but too old to get a visa!

By this point in my life, I should have seen the world and had more love in my life. I’ve only ever really loved one person, and it ended sadly. However, at the same time, it was gratifying that someone wanted me at all.

In my area, there is no one I feel I can connect with, and I am sick of being set up with someone because “We have so much in common”. Being a brunette is not really the basis of a lasting relationship, but it hasn’t stopped people from trying to do it.

For them, I’m a project that needs fixing, nothing more wonderful than your friends using you as a source of amusement since being in a relationship elevates you amidst the singletons of the world.

At times, love feels like a cult, “Come join us, so you can be as selfish as us”.

I spend half my life not wanting to be in a relationship because I’m too scared to be tied down, and the rest concerned that I will always be alone.

Circumstances stopped me from travelling the world, and now I feel trapped, between what I want and where I should be. I know I won’t find love where I am but have to remain where I am.

One of the reasons I was told not to come to Verona and write this in person, was because of my single status. I’m about to hit thirty-eight, and this cannot be my life.

So Juliet, do you have any advice to pursue my goals and to find love?

 

Love Jodie

 

 

And the reply, please this is such a cliché, it’s coming out on Valentine’s Day

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