Metal Foot goes Ice Skating

Of all the things on my “Geek List”, strange that I would have an obsession with Ice Skating, maybe because I love Dancing on Ice and any film with Ice Skating as a theme.

The only part of the Winter Olympics I ever make a point of watching is the skating. It’s amazing how something so difficult can be made to look so graceful and elegant. Perhaps because I don’t remember Torvill and Dean doing the Bolero in 1984 because I was only four, but I grew up knowing who they were.

Never seen them, then just watch this.

When it came to booking my bright idea and recruiting my family to join me in this latest misadventure I was adamant It would be Hampton Court. Due to the beauty of the building and its history, however being the youngest I was overruled, and we booked Windsor instead.

Well, Hampton Court has elegance, But Windsor is pretty and any excuse to squeeze in a bit of shopping!

I was joined on this latest excursion since it was a Portugal family Christmas treat by (take a deep breath), Sister Anna, brother Ty, nieces Florence, Dawn, Summer and Mackenzie. Two teenagers, a preteen, and a seven-year-old, with no one expecting me to be the responsible adult, thankfully, though I did show them the virtues of an NUS card as an incentive to go to college.

If they actually see this, none of these names is real. I’m prohibited from using their real ones on any social media.

I can’t even explain my own logic about why it was important to me to Ice Skate. Four years of having to think about my metal filled foot, my permanent limp, the inability to wear high heels and the fact that this is for the rest of my life.


I’m sick of the things I can’t do, more than anything else. Because everybody tried to discourage me when I even suggested doing this. With the standard reaction “What about the foot?”

My mentality is, is that it’s already been shattered, so I think I’m done. Though journeying into Windsor that was playing on my mind. After all, the last thing anyone needed was a trip to A & E, and a Greek chorus of “I told you so”.

Then again, there is something surreal about Windsor. The Castle itself is from the 11th century, the gardens are spectacular, (our dad installed the lights).  Anna is a Queen Scout and was a flag bearer years ago, so I went to the parade and stood in the Quadrangle watching my elder sister being, as memory serves absolutely brilliant.

Several members of my family have met the Queen, and we all think she’s fantastic, but Windsor, like my university city Winchester, it is so tourist driven, it feels strange. It’s beautiful and the nightlife is incredible, but it’s one place I could never live…or even afford too.

So here we are at the rink, makeshift type of ramshackle, though full credit to them for being so well organised especially when we were trying to get our skates on, and I found my first problem.

I was wearing thick socks and a support bandage because I’m not an idiot when it comes to the foot.  It turned out courtesy of the metal changing the natural state of my appendage, but because of this, it’s now a size eight, instead of being a size seven.  Yeah, it was fun trying to explain the reason why.

Finally, with my skates on, Anna then turned to me and asked me the important question “Do you even know how to skate?”

I don’t know if Anna even remembers me being there, but we used to skate in Richmond when I was a child. We were in separate classes, and as memory serves, my parents took us on the weekend, we had a lesson than a free skate.

I remember falling on the ice more than anything else and the building being wooden and massive, and I used to try to get from one end of the other and not fall over or give up.

I was that young, and the place was massive. Perhaps courtesy of Torvill and Dean there was a resurgence in interest in Ice Skating, but it wasn’t enough to stop Richmond Rink from being demolished in 1992.


So here I was taking to the ice for the first time in forever, my nieces and siblings were on there straight away, like experts. Mackenzie attached to the skating aid shaped like a penguin, and me, immediately clutching the walls as if my life depended on it.

Mentally it was like I was back in physio being encouraged to put my foot on the floor for the first time, scared it would snap off.

But nope, I was okay, lack of confidence and awareness of falling onto the ice, but I was okay. It took a while to get around the first loop since it was full of people, and I had to be aware of the little ones to make sure they were ok, my foot also didn’t hurt as much as if thought it would.

Strange how this was important to me, but it was, I was doing something normal with my family, though I wasn’t doing bunny hops, or a triple axel, I was just doing something normal. My family were always in front of me, so I felt like I had to catch up with them, even though if I had quit after five minutes, they would have given me grief about it.

With the combination of the cheesy Christmas music, I wasn’t graceful, but I could put one leg after the other, and just have fun.

Perhaps because I had to keep focused on the younger ones, Mackenzie being only seven was having a harder time and hated falling over. But this was the best thing, I didn’t fall, not once.


This was my nieces, honest x

It’s strange to describe ice skating, and almost impossible, I wasn’t gliding like a swan, or as delicate as a snowflake, just a Londoner on the Ice having fun. Also, I was the last one off the ice, yeah I know, we were all on for about an hour, but I could have easily have stayed on for longer.

One off the Geek List

Ice Skating and I have no idea what the next one will be.

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My Undeniable Hatred for Rose in Titanic

It’s been 20 years next month since Titanic graced our screens, it’s been twenty years since I, who worked in a cinema had to sit through that film over forty times. I learned it by heart, learned the score by heart and noticed some glaring errors. The right-handed Billy Zane is suddenly left-handed in several scenes, including when he shoots at Jack and Rose. No wonder he’s a crap shot!

I even went to the exhibition in Greenwich, saw the objects salvaged from the ocean floor and touched a real piece of the ship. Part of the hull which was recovered from the seabed and feeling an actual part of Titanic was amazing.

Now Titanic, directed by James Cameron is a masterpiece of filmmaking with the sets, exquisite costumes, and a plot ripped from A Night to Remember.

I’ve watched every incarnation of Titanic, read most books, including the German one, I can watch any film about it and point out where they went wrong with the layout, (don’t get me started on the version starring Catherine Zeta Jones and Tim Curry).

I sat through Raise the Titanic and the animated version with the rapping dog and the other two animated films. Which I’m not going to explain further, to save you from ever finding out about them.

Most versions, have something about them, and most are accurate to their time period, and what people knew. The Titanic sinking intact was believed to be the case until 1985 when Robert Ballad discovered it.

The real history of the people has been told and told again, from the Straus family refusing to leave each other’s side to Bruce Ismay getting in a lifeboat, to the wireless operator refusing to go until the very end and managing by some fluke to survive.

Real people and real history, but by creating the story of the doomed romance between Jack and Rose, it did free James Cameron to do what he wanted and to pay respect to the real people in a way which wouldn’t insult their families. Because who out there wishes to see a character assignation, on the big screen.

Well apart from William Murdoch, the First Officer of Titanic who died a hero, and didn’t commit suicide, and then an apology had to be offered to his family and hometown where he is hailed as a hero.

There are so many fantastic characters in this film from real life, Thomas Andrews, the architect of the ship played by the always fabulous Victor Garber, to the fictional Caledon Hockley, played by Billy Zane.

This film isn’t subtle though which I’ll get too later since I have one issue with this film, one character who ruins it for me.

I have nothing against Kate Winslet, there are only a few actresses in the world who could pull off overdyed red hair in a film set in 1912.

However, Rose DeWitt-Bukater is a narcissistic spoiled brat, who treats the people in her life like crap, and gets rewarded for it.

From the moment you meet young Rose from her dismissal at the most stunning ocean liner in the entire world, because her fiance booked First Class staterooms on board, she doesn’t see what the big deal is.

She’s about to set sail on the Titanic, which she didn’t pay for and is bitching about it. Even the dialogue she uses.

Rose: I don’t see what all of the fuss is about. It doesn’t look any bigger than the Mauritania.

Then there’s this little gem.

Old Rose: [to Brock, Lizzy, and Brock’s staff] I saw my whole life as if I’d already lived it. An endless parade of parties and cotillions, yachts and polo matches. Always the same narrow people, the same mindless chatter. I felt like I was standing at a great precipice, with no one to pull me back, no one who cared… or even noticed…

Oh, my heart bleeds for you Rose, for having this life of luxury in 1912, and not having to work like Trudy. Trudy, your maid, said a few words and is last seen on the deck, about to die from impact or hypothermia. Remember her? Having to work for a living, and not living to 101 next month.  But Rose, poor Rose hates her life, and all its trappings.

Old Rose: It was the ship of dreams to everyone else. To me it was a slave ship, taking me back to America in chains. Outwardly, I was everything a well brought up girl should be. Inside, I was screaming.

We get it, you privileged but poor, Cal is a git but rich, it’s a marriage of convenience.

I still hate you, but let’s talk a little about Cal

Now Cal is an asshole, but it’s 1912, the film was done in 1997 and set in 1912, I’m not expecting Cal to go around discussing “The Emancipation of Women”. This film needed a villain, (aside from the Iceberg and that’s just nature doing its thing).

So it’s the card-carrying villain Cal, who treats Rose like crap, orders her food like a child, slaps her around the face, sets Jack up to be framed for the theft of The Heart of the Ocean, and shoots at them both. Then sent his Battle Butler Lovejoy after them because he can’t be bothered to finish the job. Tried to blackmail William Murdoch, but saves a little girl from certain death and later kills himself.

Cal is a cartoon character, but he’s so used to being in control since it’s 1912, he’s having a villainous breakdown, while the Titanic is sinking. Then losing the necklace, money and coat, and then by his own devious means survives the sinking.

I’m not giving Cal a pass for anything. He really is an asshole. Cal sees Rose as a possession more than anything, and is more pissed that Jack possibly puts his hands on “My fiancée”. He’s marrying Rose for status and basks in his own privilege.

Yet seems to be aware of Rose’s lack of feelings for him, knows she’s melancholy, doesn’t want them to deny each other, and wants her to open her heart for him and just give him a chance.

He is pissed at her actions, but then Rose parties with the guy Cal thought was trying to rape Rose the night before, and you wonder why he’s pissed! Cal tries to do what he can and gives her the Heart of the Ocean, which she then throws it back in his face, by screwing the commoner in Steerage and posing for him.

So Cal is a dick, but Rose isn’t exactly a saint is she?

Let’s just consider how Jack and Rose met. Rose depressed about her situation decides to throw herself off the back end of the ship, and after Rose bitching at Jack for a while changes her mind.

All well and good, then Rose acted insulted when Cal tried to offer Jack $20, even though today that’s worth about $500, and instead Jack gets invited to dinner. If I were Jack, I would have just taken the money since he’s a starving artist and all.

The next day Rose orders, Jack, to leave after he asked her a simple question if she loves Cal. Rose reacts to this question as if Jack had just picked up one of the Pomeranians being walked on the deck and snapped its neck in front of her, and calls him “rude and uncouth”.

Jack just asked a simple question, which should have required a simple answer.

But they all go to dinner thanks to Molly Brown who lends Jack a suit, but Rose then proceeds to insult all the dinner guests, including the five months pregnant Madeline Astor for her “delicate condition”.

Now the real-life Mrs Astor may have married for money, (or because she loved her husband and the age gap was meaningless) which is possible but so is Rose, so she’s a massive hypocrite. Rose openly flirts with Jack in front of her future husband, disappears unchaperoned to a party in the Third Class.

For some reason by going up on pointe to a bunch of hard Irishmen to the tunes of Gaelic Storm, and their impressed because Rose, telling the story suggest they are.

Have to appreciate that Jack, ah Jack, sweet romantic Jack calls out Rose’s attitude, but then praises her for being her. Right, just keep enabling her behaviour then, by talking about how Rose needs to save herself, which give her the impetus to pose like one of his French girls.

It really comes out of nowhere, that a sexual undertone is running through this film. From Cal’s dialogue, he seems to want Rose to sleep with him before marriage because he just does.

Which to me gives credence that she sought Jack to claim the first night. So that’s one thing she would have over Cal in the future before she decides not to marry him that is.

For an Edwardian woman, Rose really knows how to take control of the situation, doesn’t she? Even with her fancy education, so did staring at a sketch of a one-legged prostitute invoke her sexual awakening? However, full respect to Kate Winslet for not having a body double for that scene.

The thing is Rose is a modern woman, strong, intelligent, can hold her own in a conversation and knows what she wants and what she doesn’t want, but is rude, dismissive and entitled. It’s a strange combination of a character who acts like a passive victim, then behaves like a villain.

It’s stated through Old Rose’s dialogue that “Cal married and inherited his millions”, suggesting that Cal had to marry and that person was Rose due to her status, but the film never seems to explore if he’s happy with the arrangement?

He seems to show any affection by spending his money, but Rose never objects to the luxurious staterooms, the Heart of the Ocean or her nice things all funded by him.

So what does she want? Freedom or to be kept, because she whines about the latter unless it’s on her terms. She doesn’t even discuss with Jack about leaving together, she just tells him they’re going to be together. Rose has no experience of the real world, and running away with a penniless artist, even Jack knew she was crazy for thinking that.

Once again Jack is the voice of reason, with some dialogue which makes him come across as a teenager in a sitcom, being led into ruin by Rose Dewitt Bukater.

Skipping ahead, Jack framed, Cal goes mental, Titanic is sinking, shit gets real, and the full extent of Rose evilness comes into play. The moment Rose jumped off the lifeboat back onto the ship, robbing a place from a potential survivor, who would have just sat there and waited for the Carpathia to rescue them.

So already one person is destined to die because Rose had to jump off, and Ruth, who had previously lost her husband and fortune, will now spend the rest of her life thinking her only daughter is dead. Rose’s mother who was living in dire straits, watched her only child die on the Titanic, and Rose let her think that for the rest of her life.

Rose stood on the Carpathia, knowing her last words to Ruth were “Goodbye mother”, and let Ruth grieve for her lost child, and never reconciled with her. Ruth was no saint, but she didn’t deserve that.

Ok, Cal lives, Jack dies, and we all know that both of them could have fit on that door. Rose lives the rest of her life, but since Rose really is an unreliable narrator and mentions thing she would have no way of knowing, I always felt like she deliberately set Cal up to be a villain to detract from her odious behaviour, when Rose is just as bad. How would Rose know that Cal saved a little girl, tried to bribe Murdoch, even set Jack up? She wasn’t even there when any of that happened?

In an alternative universe, Cal really was a sweet guy whose life was wrecked by Rose, the same way Rose ruined Jack’s. Then there’s Cal’s last scene, in the theatrical cut at least, desperately looking for Rose, yet never seeing her.

But let’s go back to the very beginning

The motivation for all of this was that Brock Lovett was searching the wreck for The Heart of the Ocean. Brock had to convince investors to fund the expedition, all the scientist and salvaging rights this entails. Which would have made him rich, if he had found the diamond, instead of a sketch of a naked redhead.

Now let’s talk about The Heart of the Ocean, it was a gift for an Engagement Gala which never took place because Rose made the decision not to marry Cal. It wound up with Jack courtesy of Cal, then back with Cal and then ended with Rose, courtesy of Cal giving Rose his coat.

So between 1912, the moment Rose put her hand in her pocket and found it to 1997. Rose hung on to the diamond for almost 83 years, give or take a few days. Yet did nothing with it, including giving it back to its rightful owner. If Rose had a conscience, she could have done that, sent it anonymously back to Cal since as I’ve said it was for an Engagement which never took place, hence was never truly hers.

But instead, she goes full-on bitch mode and throws it into the sea. Let’s go to the deleted scenes to explore more why she did it.

This speech I copied from the blu ray, and it was also on the DVD. In fact, scenes they cut have been on various formats and documentaries for years, none of them are new or undiscovered. I’ve seen this more than once, so let me share the misery.

Old Rose: The hardest part of being so poor is being so rich, but every time I thought about selling it, I thought of Cal, and somehow I made it without his help

Brock: Look, Rose, I don’t know what to say to a woman who tries to jump off the Titanic when it’s not sinking and jumps back when it is. But think about logic for a second.

Old Rose: Oh I’ve thought about this for years, and I’ve come all the way here to put it back where it belongs.

Brock: Wait, just let me hold it in my hand, please. Just this once

Brock touches it, in shock and awe.

Old Rose: You look for treasure in the wrong place Mr Lovett, only life is priceless, and making each day count

Brock still holding it, but Rose is giving him this stern look like she’s cast a spell over him to do her bidding. Brock lets it go, and Rose throws it behind her and into the ocean, the rest of the crew freak out.

Rose is told “That really sucks lady”, instead of calling her a total bitch while Brook is coming out of his trance, laughs like a demented witch on crack and asks Lizzy to dance.

Back where it belongs?

What the hell is Rose talking about? She should have no sentimental attachment to that damn thing. Rose wore it twice, she should have given it back to Cal, since she desired her freedom so much.

Perhaps if Rose had done the decent thing Cal wouldn’t have killed himself post Stock Market Crash and would have lived a long and happy life, eventually coming to terms with Rose’s assumed death.

The fact that thousands of tons of his family’s steel were in the ship, which sank on its maiden voyage claiming over a thousand lives, while he managed to live. Bet he couldn’t hold his head up for a while after that, just like Bruce Ismay.

Whatever version you have, Rose is still a total bitch, and I for one think she did have help. I think she had financial assistance, and that came from Cal.

Cal was the type who threw money around like it was nothing, he tried to bribe Murdoch, he acted like money could do anything he desired. I always assumed in the other coat pocket were wads of damp notes just waiting to be dried out and spent.

Was I the only one who wondered how Rose survived with no identification, or skills to make a living? Other real passengers on the ship were deported back to their countries of origin, but she thrived. Became an actress, learned to fly, rode like a cowboy, is 100 years old and making pottery, with her granddaughter Lizzy taking care of her.

Poor Lizzy who spends her days helping an old grandmother when she could be living her own life, but she helps her granny out of the goodness of her heart. When granny has a necklace worth more than the Hope Diamond in her possession.

That money could have meant Rose could have an independent elderly life. Lizzy may or may not have had dreams of her own, and possibly had to sacrifice them to care for her grandmother.

Is her altruism rewarded by becoming the heir to a diamond? Or does Rose invest in struggling artists, and help them make their dreams come true through real altruistic means, or build hospitals, and support the poor?

No, because Rose, the selfish bint she is, decides to throw it overboard.

The best example of Rose was the very end when James Cameron asked Gloria Stewart to hold her breath when filming so the audience could decide if Rose passed away or not.

I say she passed away, after seeing the pan of her life post-Jack and all her adventures, all those photographs which she takes everywhere are of her, and only one of her husband and young family, and it’s blink, and you miss it.

Rose was married to this guy for decades, but who cares about seeing more of Rose’s life and family and the at least two children she gave birth too?

Then Rose passes away, after living a full and happy life, and returns back to Titanic, where she instead reunites with Jack. Because decades of love and marriage don’t matter in comparison to the guy she hooked up with for a few days in 1912.


Real classy Rose, real class. But I do love how beautiful this scene is, it’s just perfect

Overall Titanic has a lot to offer even after twenty years, every actor is doing a fantastic job. I give full respect to Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Billy Zane for fully committing to their roles and sometimes terrible dialogue.

The costumes are stunning, the sets fantastic, the score by the late James Horner is superb, and that ending is perfection.

When I watch Titanic, watching it set sail, to the moment the iceberg dashes across its starboard side, to the moment it splits and sinks beneath the ocean. That’s why I love this film, because Titanic happened, real people lost their lives, and laws were changed because of it.

The saga of Jack and Rose is nothing in comparison to the real story of Titanic.



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Do I go to Graduation?

So I passed my Master’s Degree, yes me. I

Jodie Portugal has a Master’s Degree, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with it before anyone asks.

The fact I have it is surreal, how I found out was also surreal.

Sitting with my sister Anna in Berlin, and filming my reaction while drinking vodka.

Now I have to decide if I want to attend my Graduation or not, even after making it through my Master’s Degree.

But that means going to Kingston, something which doesn’t exactly fill me with joy.

Being the one who deferred, I missed out on seeing the class of 2016. The class I was meant to be a graduate, and then had to meet and try to establish friendships with the class of 2017. That wasn’t easy, It’s amazing how different a year is because when I went back, I found an entirely different experience.

Perhaps it was the new political sphere, the fact that Democracy didn’t work the way they desired. Let’s blame Donald Trump because he’s such an easy target! But there was an undercurrent of tension amongst the students, which meant it was harder to relate to anyone. Additionally, for some reason, it was so easy for them to get offended by nothing.

Sometimes with the other students, and I will be writing more about this at a later date. Perhaps if I get a job far away in the Antarctic, where they can’t find me. When it came to the lectures, at times, it became a type of class warfare.

One of the best examples of this doesn’t relate to my own experience. A male working-class student who came to class straight from his job wrote a fantastic story on what it is to be a disenfranchised working class man in today’s society, written like a black comedy.

For all this hard work and efforts, the piece was sexist, and it was all about “Patriarchy”. Because he dared to be brutally honest, and do it brilliantly.

Instead of constructive criticism on a creative piece, sometimes it became a character assignation. Just because someone writes about a subject, doesn’t mean they, themselves believe in it. We were all on the course to become better writers, and that means going out of our comfort zone and exploring new ideas.

Looking around the University, there were so many things that never made sense to me,  and I still don’t understand how the university sphere has changed since I did my BA and it wasn’t that long ago. It’s like a small minority of the current students are taught to be victims, to the extent they believe it themselves.

This is what I didn’t sign up for, but something I had to endure. For years I’ve read about the outrage culture in USA Universities, and I never thought I would ever encounter it there.

But luckily that was only one of the classes, the other where we shared and critiqued poetry and stories were nice. At the time, all my work was based on my dad, and they were really supportive of me about it. So kudos to them.

Overall the thought of going back to my University for my Graduation gives me a sense of unease. There were many students I liked, and my Tutors were pretty cool, especially when I had to defer because my dad was dying of cancer.

Besides, I was there for an MA, for the Batchelor Students and the rest, the ones who made Kingston their home and enjoyed their time studying and working hard. Then this is their time and their Graduation, they’re the ones who’ve earned it.

Another reason not to go is that Winchester was my home for four years. Over my many misadventures, I partied in Bop (The Student Union), chilled out on the grass next to the Statue of King Alfred, and staggered up the really steep hill to West Downes. Even though I haven’t really gone back since 2004, it was my home.

With Kingston, I just got on a bus a couple of times a week.

Perhaps I’m really being too hard on the situation, but in comparison to my original University which admittedly even then I had a hard time settling in. I didn’t have the “University Experience”, I had to do my Degree and pretty much work full time, and that was the reality of my situation.

More importantly, when it comes to Graduations, Winchester do things with style.

The ceremony itself was in Winchester Cathedral, place of the grave of Jane Austen, Tomb of Cardinal Beaufort and it was way too long, but it was historic. Winchester is, of course, the original capital of England, and well, I had just passed my BA, so it was a moment of pride to be there with my parents, and my grandmothers.

In 2017, it’s just going to be my mum since I doubt my siblings will be able to take time off work. Unlike Winchester, for guests’ ticket’s you have to pay £23 per person, for the privilege. Winchester does them for free.

Throw in the cap and gown, and that’s another £51 for rental for something I’m going to wear for a few hours, along with the photographs and everything else. From a financial point of view, it feels like a waste of money. Besides, I can get a picture done at a studio in Kingston, with my family at a later date, which is more appealing.

Another thing which bothers me is that in Kingston, there are no Balls. Kingston University has no Balls, apart from the start of the year. So they have their Graduation Ball at the START of the year, celebrating something they haven’t even done yet?

Unlike Winchester, which was an event. We totally took over Winchester Guildhall, there were floors of music, it was a great atmosphere and a total celebration. I still don’t remember getting back to where I was staying.

Overall, I’m proud of myself for doing a Master’s Degree. I am trying to figure out what to do with it with returning after deferring, and all the issues I faced when my dad died.

I have to congratulate Kingston for all the help they did give me, I really wish the experience of being a Mature Student was a lot better the second time around.

So to go or not? Have to admit it will be nice to see some of the staff again and a few of the students. To be the Graduating Class of 2017, even though my time in Kingston could have been better.

However, I do want a Bear, yes, it has been pointed out to me that I’m not a child. But I want a Graduation Bear.

When I Graduated first time around, my parents got me a Bear from The Bear Factory (remember them), and I’ve still got it. And now I want another one, but from Build a Bear, since they took over The Bear Factory, years ago.


The one I earned for getting a BA


This is my MA Bear, hopefully

I’m graduating, I’ve earned that bear, with the sash and everything.

Aside from these small instances I mentioned, I did enjoy Kingston, it’s a beautiful place with great shops and a beautiful city.

The University was really supportive of my situation and gave me all the help I needed when I was struggling through the final weeks. I was published in a book, so it wasn’t all bad.

However, regarding Kingston, I do think it was undeserved of the current 102 ranking in the League Tables out of 129. I give it so much respect for it’s diversity, library, all the fantastic societies, the inclusivity and all the staff and students, especially the ones who have just graduated. But to go to the ceremony, yes I’m a little unclear.


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Verona Denied: Writing a Letter to Juliet

I love being a solo traveller, there are some advantages to travelling alone. I get to see and do what I want when I want, this year alone I’ve been to Poland, and the other week went back to Berlin.

It was four days of déjà vu seeing the city again. One of the few moments I was part adventurer and part tour guide with my sister Anna (previously referred to on this blog as “R”) and her seven-year-old daughter Mackenzie!

It was their first time in Germany, and of course, I had to join them. One holiday, where I wasn’t alone, but having survived Legoland Discovery Centre, there were moments I wished I was!

Sadly, when taking children on holiday, you have to do activities they want to do. That being said the Christmas shop in Käthe Wohlfahrt is fantastic, cynic that I am, it’s just amazing.

However, now I have to plan a new holiday, and having been to Naples and Pompeii, I was considering Italy again.


Yours truly in Pompeii, a few years ago

My gaze was looking to Lake Garda and Verona, the land of history, culture and Romeo and Juliet, and one that I, as a spinster should, never visit.

I’ve been informed as one of the romantically challenged if I ever set foot in Verona, even if I have the dream of standing on Juliet’s balcony and doing the opening. The “Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…” One opening I love, since it tells you the ending, and now we’re about to find out how this “…pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life”.

This is one place, someone like me should never ever set foot in. Because apparently Verona is full of love, and life and smiling happy couples, with proposals taking place every five seconds.

With so much love that winged cupids appear shooting their arrows into the air, destined to land on soulmates, who would then burst into song, so every moment is like a Disney Parade!

Then again Romeo and Juliet is one play where everyone ends up dead and or unhappy, perhaps I’m onto something.

However, I with my spinster status would be the subject of scorn and pity, with everyone wondering how I cope being alone waiting for me to interject that “I have my pets to keep me company”. This situation would call for a cat, I know of the stereotype, though I’m suspicious of cats, and most of my family are allergic to them.

So being a spinster, with no feline companion, I’m all alone in the world. If I had the desire to be entirely dramatic as one of the perpetually unloved. I would wear a full wedding dress, for the wedding I never got to attend, go to Lake Garda, and throw myself in.

My bloated corpse would be found, all dramatic in this wedding garb, like an aquatic Miss Havisham and have my Spirit haunt the Lakes. Tales would be written about me, of this strange apparition who could speak Shakespeare and glides around the Lakes doing whatever it is the Spirits do and being all dramatic about it.

Verona is banished, and all the world is to nothing, Verona, I shall not enter your city and stay away, alone and in shame.

However, this means I would never write my Letter to Juliet.

Strange that I would have a guilty pleasure film, and it’s that. Part romantic journey, and advert for the Tuscan Tourist Board. Here’s the gist of the plot, which was entirely spoiled by the trailer anyway.

Sophie is in Verona with her fiancée who is more focused on getting his restaurant sorted then give her any attention, and though he’s a nice guy, neither of them should be together.  But after meeting The Juliet Club, based on real women who do just that in the film, she finds a letter going back to 1957 from Claire and her lost love Lorenzo.

After writing back to her, and even though it’s been decades. Claire and her grandson Charlie come to Italy to meet Sophie and find Lorenzo. Hence the journey across Tuscany.

As films go, it’s cheesy, Charlie is a cynical Brit (We do that so well) but love, is love and any film with Vanessa Redgrave and her real-life husband Franco Nero, you cannot hate.

What the film doesn’t focus on, after the main plot starts, is The Juliet Club, and their words of solace and advice. Real women who answer all the letters, cards and emails.

Seriously an email, I wrote an email to Juliet. For once putting my cynicism aside and being honest with myself and my lack of romance. Writing is cleansing for the soul, and I bared all of mine.

You also have to love the sheer deliciousness of emails, since Romeo and Juliet died because of a letter went astray, delivered post-haste which could have saved them both. But then again, I just wrote an email to a fictional character who died in the 16th Century. This is where you have to just roll with it.

So my letter, to Juliet if I ever get a reply, which will be published on this blog along with what I wrote.

And if you wish to write a letter to Juliet, here are the details.




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The Silencing of Kermit the Frog

I love the Muppets

No, seriously I grew up watching them. Ever since I was a toddler, watching Sesame Street.  Though I developed a small fear of Big Bird, because someone decided to educate me that they weren’t real, and told me that “Inside Big Bird, is a person”.

To my four-year-old self who couldn’t see the rods, (because I wasn’t looking for them) to me that meant, “Big Bird ate that person”. Look I was four, what else was I meant to think!

From there it was Fraggle Rock, the Muppet films, The Dark Crystal. Which everyone let their children watch, because a film with puppets can’t be terrifying, can it?

I can’t be the only one out there who isn’t still freaked out by the Skeksis and of course I love Labyrinth, even after meeting Brian Froud, I had to tell him. “Sod the baby, I would be the Goblin Queen in a heartbeat”. He laughed because he gets told that a lot, I can even quote Labyrinth, if anyone cares.

Now I’m in my thirties, I know they’re not real, but they are an integral part of my childhood, and I love that each generation gets their “Muppet Moment”.

Be it Sesame Street or The Furchester Hotel, but let’s be honest here, Ryan Dillon is no Kevin Clash, and Elmo will never be the same again. For shame for shafting Kevin Clash, three years ago. I have to get that off my chest.

I see puppeteering as an art form, the same way a voice artist gives the soul to an animation. The puppeteer brings an inanimate object to life, they are the heart of the character, and I’m fascinated by the process.

Most of the Muppeteers start young, and I’m envious of that, to know what you want to be at such an early age. Since it’s a job that isn’t easy, but you’re joining a remarkable legacy which stretches back to Jim Henson.

So it’s a bit disturbing that Kermit the Frog, the mascot and leader of The Muppet’s has had his soul ripped out.

In 1992. Steve Whitmire had the hardest job for a Muppeteer, yes he had worked for the Henson Company for years. But now been asked to take on the iconic role in The Muppets Christmas Carol.

The retelling of the classic novella by Charles Dickens, with a more mature tone and a chance to prove the Muppets were still relevant. And they nailed it.

Even Michael Caine respected the absolute truth that the film was never about him, and he may have been the human lead, but he wasn’t the star. The same way that Tim Curry knew this in The Muppets Treasure Island, and was also having the time of his life in that film.

Steve Whitmire nailed Kermit the Frog, proving he could carry on Jim Henson’s legacy. I loved how his Kermit was slightly more jaded, more trying to be the peacekeeper and often the only sane voice in the room.

One of my favourite scenes in Muppets Most Wanted is when he goes berserk in the Gulag and tells everyone to shut up. I always knew he was repressing his anger.

In the chaotic world of the Muppets, Kermit had always been the only sane voice and had led to some heartbreaking scenes, it’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie is It’s a Wonderful Life, but brilliantly done.

Character wise his relationship with Miss Piggy has always been a little bit strange. She’s pretentious and a drama queen, and makes everything about her, but is actually hiding a jaded heart and longs for love and stability.

However, she’s in love with a guy who keeps her at a distance emotionally, and won’t commit to her. Their relationship gets violent, due to her quick temper, but they still get back together. Miss Piggy even gave up her career to be with him, though that was her choice to do so…and he still won’t commit.

Then again Piggy is an emotional abuser who stalks Kermit when he has any type of female friend, tries to trick him into marriage, and when he finally gets out of that relationship tries to be happy.

He then hooks up with his co-worker Denise, so they all have to try to work civilly together, so Kermit has to deal with his passive aggressive ex and forge a relationship with Denise.

Kermit really is life’s left handed bitch sometimes, isn’t he?

But whatever you feel about Kermit, Steve Whitmire nailed each performance. But now for reason’s unknown, he’s been shafted from the careers he’s been working in since 1978.

Almost forty years, doing his reason for being put on this planet, according to this article.

““He (Whitmire) said the Muppets were not “just a job, or a career, or even a passion” but “a calling, an urgent, undeniable, impossible to resist way of life”.

He told fans: “I am sorry if I have disappointed any of you at any point. I am devastated to have failed in my duty to my hero.””

No Steve, you never failed us. They failed you.

None of us is disappointed in Whitmire. We’re disappointed that Kermit’s second soul has been ripped out to be replaced by Matt Vogel.

I have nothing against Matt Vogel, he’s been with Sesame Street since 1987, he’s a veteran Muppeteer. I love Uncle Deadly, in The Muppets, and you have to admit it’s a bit twisted since he also performed Constantine in Muppets Most Wanted.

I am not doubting his abilities, but as a Muppet fan, I am disappointed at the circumstances that gave him the role of Kermit. Circumstances we don’t know about, and most likely never will know.

Whatever the reason, Steve Whitmire, is gone from the Muppets and from Disney and has been for several months. The reasons…speculation runs rife. But it’s possible he will never perform a Muppet character ever again.

But all I can say is thank you, Mr Whitmire, for continuing the legacy of Jim Henson, he chose his successor well. And Matt, Good luck, because the responsibility is on your shoulders.

Just good luck


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Exploring the Liban Quarry/Schindlers List Set


The Krakus Mound

I’m the type of person, who when I get an idea about something. I become fixated on it. I must do it, nothing will stop me. From Climbing the O2, to Abseiling off a building, and hopefully one day I will meet Michael Rooker!

One of the reasons I went to Poland was that I had to see the Liban Quarry, because that’ s where the abandoned set of Schindler’s List still stands, sort of, It’s abandoned and derelict after all. And most of it was stripped, and the rest left to rot.

Steven Spielberg decided to create Płaszów, in an abandoned Quarry in Krakow.

I was going to Poland, to explore the culture, eat Sernik, visit Auschwitz and find an abandoned quarry.

I worry about my sanity sometimes.


Right in the distance, that was my destination 

My own feelings of Oskar Schindler. A drinker, gambler and womaniser, who ultimately failed in his marriage, business and life. Turned on by his own people for saving the Jews, unable to get Visa’s because he was a Nazi. Yet, took a stand when the human race needed him to.

I admire people like that. The reason why he did it…perhaps his background, his idealism. Or just because he wore the banner didn’t believe in the ideology.

For every Herman Goth, Herman Goering and Joseph Mengele. There is a Schindler, a John Rabe, a Karl Plagge. And so much more.

Ever since I found out about the abandoned film set, I knew I had to see it. I saw Schindler’s List when I was sixteen, in school while doing my GSCE History. The film had an impact on me. Even though I had seen many films and documentaries about the atrocities on all sides about WW2.

My dad being a history enthusiast, and my family didn’t believe in censoring their children from the realities of War. One of the things I noticed at an early age was Nazi’s were usually played by upper-class Brits. It’s true that we can make reading a shopping list sound sinister!

The simple fact I got to my hotel, threw my suitcase to the floor and headed out to find it, shows how single-minded I really am.

Liban Quarry is by the Krakus Mound, which I caught a Tram, walked for ages to find said Krakus Mound, until a lovely woman who works as a tour guide put me out of my misery. The views from beneath the mound were spectacular. I didn’t climb it because I was saving my energy.

Unlike most abandoned places, the Quarry is open for everyone, but it’s now a nature reserve, you have to be careful, and there is no marked trail. I just found it by finding the most worn path, and the most challenging I later found out.

Seriously, two hours in Krakow and I was coming to the realisation, that no one knew where I was going. Where I was, and I had the image of my stricken body becoming lost in the marshland.



Abandoned train tracks 

Getting to the location was an exercise in stumbling after I slid to the bottom trying to get down a slope. My body now battered, cut and bruised and since it was marshland, my Anglo-Saxon skin was ripe for mosquitoes. I got to the damn place. Jubilation.



These are props, but they go on for so long 

It’s weird after seeing a place in black and white for so many years, now seeing it in glorious rusted technicolour, and even though I knew they were fake. Just props. It felt eerie.

There were people around me, in fact, some gardeners were doing some maintenance not far from me, but I felt so much solitude while I was exploring the place. Because this wasn’t just a film set. It was a combination of set, and the remains of a real forced labour camp for two years of the Nazi occupation.



Leftover electric fences props 

It’s a strange blurring of fiction and reality. Because real people died here, along with the actors recreating deaths for the camera. It’s an unusual type of silence I have only found in real Concentration Camps I have been too. Because real inmates from the real Płaszów were sent there and Spielberg made a film set in its shadow.

Even though I knew the gravestones were fake, it doesn’t lessen their impact.



I climbed this by hand…not a good idea

Climbing through the Quarry, seeing the sets and the remains of the real place, you can just see Steven Spielberg standing there directing the actors who worked on his masterpiece.



After about two hours exploring, getting out was easier than getting in, all I did was go past the car park and followed the sound of traffic until I came to a bridge!

Yes, that simple.


But seeing the set for myself on my first day in Krakow, even with the cuts and bruises I acquired, to stand there at the set of atrocity and magnificence

Worth it



If you want to go there, remember you enter at your own risk

here are the links which helped me,+30-543+Krak%C3%B3w,+Poland/Kamienio%C5%82om+Liban,+Armii+%22Krak%C3%B3w%22,+Krak%C3%B3w,+Poland/@50.0370468,19.955591,507m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x47165b5116eb7d0f:0x76735d35fb48c49b!2m2!1d19.9584675!2d50.0380686!1m5!1m1!1s0x47165b50d38461b9:0xed16f44846e01969!2m2!1d19.9564606!2d50.0365272

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On not having a Dad on Father’s Day.

When you lose a parent, everything becomes a series of first with absence. First Wedding Anniversary, first Birthday and first Father’s Day.

This is the first Father’s Day without ours, it’s been an interesting year without him too. It’s an adjustment, trying to get used to that empty space at the table.

However, with the build up to Father’s Day, it’s a constant reminder of celebrating the men in our lives, when the most important man in mine has gone.

When we lost Dad, we all deliberately put more focus on mum, since this was her first year as a widow. In combination, for her wedding anniversary, birthday and Mother’s Day. We took her for dinner at the Ritz (Courtesy of a Time Out offer), went to a relaxing caravan for a weekend, which had a hot tub. Then last week took her to see Les Miz.

Out of all the members of my family, I am the only one to have read the book, by Victor Hugo. Something I regret since I was a bit jaded after finishing it and then felt worse about it after seeing the film.  The musical, a million times better.

For my dad’s birthdays (also in June) and Father’s Day, we just gave him money for a season ticket for his beloved Harlequins Rugby and had a barbeque or Chinese.

He really hated frivolity and last year was difficult because we celebrated knowing full well it would be his last one.

We were all a little clueless at what to get him since due to his cancer he had to stop going to rugby and what do you get someone who’s only got a limited time left on this planet?


Taken only two years ago

The inevitability of knowing that it was his last made it all too real, and worse in some respect. He just made his birthday and Father’s Day and missed all of his children’s birthdays.

But this is the first, of a year which has gone too quick without him, and we’re all in the same stages of grieving. But now it’s Father’s Day.

I was looking online for tips on how to cope, most of them telling me to stay away from social media. Because it could be too painful to see friends with fathers to remind me that ours has gone.

Perhaps I could also tell friends that this is a painful time for me so could they please think twice before posting anything.

Right, so I’m really going to guilt trip my own friends for celebrating their wonderful dad’s because apparently, it’s all about me! I want pictures of my friends and their dads, I want to see the videos of parents opening their gifts and being happy. Why the hell would I want to deny anyone that?

But the thing is, what is worse? Never having a dad, never knowing a dad, or having a fantastic one who died last year?

Because I had an incredible dad, who was supportive, kind, funny and let’s be honest since no one’s a saint, had a quick temper and a filthy sense of humour.

Yet, I had a dad, who taught me wonderful things, self-confidence and self-worth and who I miss every day.

Him not being here in physical form is not going to change that.

We were blessed to have a dad who worked so hard, turning a house into a home, raising four well-adjusted children, was a fantastic grandfather and was proud of all their achievements.

I had a father, who worked extra hours to be able to take his family on two holidays a year, typically to Butlin’s, which was fine since I love Butlin’s.

This was a man who along with mum worked hard to provide for us and when I was eight, in 1988, worked hard to take his entire family to Spain.


Spain in 1988, Our Dad, my sister and I

For a working class family in the 1980’s getting a plane and going abroad even to Benidorm was a big deal.

I have memories of a fantastic man, who taught me so much in life, so I really don’t mind I am getting emails every day from companies telling me what to get him. Since I never brought him anything from them anyway.

I love the adverts, all of them and love the Moonpig card advert the most. I can’t get a chip on my shoulder about losing my dad because he wouldn’t want that.

There is so much I miss about my dad, even his stupid jokes and watching the Antiques Roadshow together, watching the rich ones finding out their family heirloom were a load of old tat was always a highlight.

I feel sad for the things he’s missed seeing, his third grandson being born, his other grandson winning a Gymnastics Gold Medal in Geneva. He’s missed trips abroad, and family moments and just stupid stuff that never seems important until there is a person unable to enjoy it.

So on Father’s Day and his birthday, I am going to honour our dad, I am going to go to his grave and tell him what’s been going on.

I’m going to tell him how I passed my second term at University, and how I’m planning a trip to Poland because it’s a place we were talking about going to before he got ill.

And then we’re getting a Chinese takeaway because our traditions have shifted but there always going to be there.

Doesn’t change the fact we miss him every day though


Happy Father’s Day Dad xx



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