I’ve been catching up with all the television shows I should have been watching when they came out, but was too young and devil-may-care to do it the first time round. I’m glad I did because 10 year old Carmen would never have gotten the brilliance of State of Play.
Picture the opening sequence – a young thief is chased down the street by an unknown assailant who shoots and kills him; in Parliament an MP is told his young researcher has died. A team of journalists follow both stories, but find out that the two are connected. What follows in this 6 episode series is an unravelling of lies, truths and sentiments.
It touts a stellar ensemble cast: John Simm, Bill Nighy, Polly Walker, David Morrissey, Kelly MacDonald, Pete Wong, James McAvoy (brilliantly introduced as Bill Nighy’s son). Morrissey and Simm are like beacons, you can’t look away. Nighy’s terrific as ever, humour and drama rolled into a lanky, beautiful man. Kelly MacDonald’s completely understated in a role that demands from her the antithesis of reason and ambition.
London is major character herself. Maybe I’m being sentimental because I won’t be back until next August, but seeing London from different points and classes of society makes me really happy. For others, London is at her best near the Thames, faced out from a Westminster balcony so you can see her famous landmarks up close and personal. For me, London shines most on a high rise, a great big concrete tower block, and all her wondrous skyscape is outlined like a drawing. These are the settings of State of Play, as well as a residential area reminiscent of Clapham.
I haven’t been so intrigued, or captivated, by a program like this in such a long time. It’s just so typical of a truly great British show – fantastic acting; a quiet subtlety that turns into menacing intensity; a musical score that doesn’t tell you how to feel, it just reiterates what you already do; a plot that isn’t drawn out, doesn’t patronise you.
It’s a thriller at its finest. I can see why America would pick it up, and apparently the film was as good, which speaks a lot for the show itself. Also, State of Play has rehashed journalistic feelings within me. Some of the best scenes involve the atmos of the news team, including one particular scene with (favourite character) Sid, who recounts his romantic encounter with another character, to the shock and enthralled pleasure of the rest. I rooted for them immensely and wished that I could be an amalgamation of John Simm/James McAvoy/Kelly MacDonald.
Being sick means two things for me - lying in bed, feeling sorry for myself while the rest of the world carries on its miserable life, and secondly, thinking of all the wonderful things that would make the sick Carmen feel like a happy, better Carmen.
This is my list of things that makes being sick a little bit more tolerable.
Hot chocolate, with marshmallows
Anyone can do hot chocolate. Heck, I can just boil the kettle right now and pour it into my instant hot choc. But it’s not the same as waiting patiently by the saucepan, boiling milk and dropping those little soldiers of marshmallows in. Oh how they plump. I didn’t realise how much I missed that until a picture crossed me tumblr, and I think I cried a bit.
Homemade congee (or juk to all who know Cantonese)
I’m from an incredibly Chinese (and Vietnamese, but we don’t talk much about that) family. My mum’s homemade juk is beautiful, and nothing I’ve had in China or Hong Kong or Korea has even come close to it. For those not in the know, it’s essentially rice that has been boiled for so long that it has a thick viscosity, like porridge, but usually eaten with meat/fish/veg. My mum does a great ginger and chicken one. I really want it right now.
Watching an infinite number of romcoms
It’s my right as a human being to be able to watch the most pretentious romantic comedies, my weapons of choice being Annie Hall, When Harry Met Sally and True Romance. And for all those of you who say they’re not pretentious, get your head out of your arses, you and I both know they are. But there’s a special beauty in these films that I see far more when I’m sick than when I’m not…but when I get better I forget what.
This blog is a wonder on the Smithsonian site. It focuses on all things retro-futuristic, my main true love of the pre-1960s universe (perhaps second only to the rise of tower blocks). It’s a lovely read, especially on a rainy day when all you want is to go to a different time…which ironically is looking to my present.
Sleeping in a cave of blankets and pillows
I’ve realised I’ve taken warmth for granted. Even in Sheffield I had a heater that was a marvel for the cold Northern winter. Here in China, the weather’s taken a turn for the worse – well, it’s just about English weather and it’s getting colder. We don’t have central heating here, just an air conditioner and electricity bills to pay. So we’re sleeping in thermals and jumpers and socks and double the amount of blankets. It’s still cold, but we’re not moaning, we get it. It sucks a lot more when you’re ill and you just don’t want to faff about with putting clothes on again and again.
Of course, if I was back home or even back in Sheffield, I wouldn’t be complaining so much. There’s something about being somewhere you’re all too familiar with it. It makes having a cold more endearing and sincere. When you’re in China and ill, where attendance and homework actually counts towards your grade, well then, you just feel like shit.
But I don’t really know what I’m talking about. I’m delirious. I just want my mug of hot chocolate and a massive blanket, and perhaps a rabbit to hug forever. Being ill sucks.
Getting ready to go out is always fun when you can play two albums of Flight of the Conchords and sing every line seriously
These year abroad posts are coming up at least a week later than I mean them too. I haven’t said, but I’m currently in Nanjing, China for my year abroad (studying Chinese and whatnot). It’s all a bit topsy turvy in a good way mostly. But before I get onto that, you might as well hear about A and my adventure to Hong Konggers.
We weren’t expecting shit to get real.
I’ll skip the boring weather-too-hot and wandering around bits, skip straight to the best part. As well as mountains and sightseeing and Symphony of Lights-ing, we decided to have a couple of drinks at the Lan Kwai Fong (Hong Kong’s street of clubs and bars). A couple of drinks….turned into something cray.
The first bar delivered beers and then a free tequila shot, which we shouldn’t have but did. Filipino guys came up to us. We weren’t to the bassment to listen to the band and yes, we sang, danced and mineswept bad bad drinks. (alcohol content = fine)
The second bar was your basic whiskey and coke bevs, we bought two rounds. It was that part of the night where we were both more talkative and laughing a little too much at glasses with penis noses. Ya know. (alcohol content = happy times)
The third bar had a dancing pole on it. We used it after our second drink there. It was a mix of vodka and coke and whiskey and coke - high times of Sheffield being brought to Hong Kong. Then the man gave us a free tequila shot, by the next evening we’d never openly mention the t-word again. (alcohol content = after this things get hazy…very quickly)
Now, here’s where life gets a little strange. The following are a series of events that we’ve collectively remembered but probably not in the right order. Firstly, there’s the drunk girl. I’m screaming at her in Cantonese, asking her where her friends are, A is pouring water into her mouth, there are two police officers trying to keep her conscious - by this time we’re pretty drunk ourselves, in hindsight we probably needed police officers too. Secondly, the Nigerian men who tried to get us back to their hotel. Sort of weird but mainly fun fun funny. Thirdly, the dragon’s head and the pitcher of water.
When we woke up at 12pm the next day, we were still drunk, and discovered a dragon mask and a pitcher of water with no recollection of how they got there. Could we really be awake and alive for all those hours and not remember it? Well yes apparently.
After much more sleep we woke 3 hours later with the worst hangover and the wish to never drink again. Suffice to say that didn’t last - but Hong Kong, you were great. You were entertaining. You were beautiful. The last time I went to Konggers, I went with my brothers and I was 15. It was good but it was not this.
The past couple of weeks of summer has been spent wandering. It’s as if a light hit and said, hey, you deserve to see the world through your own eyes, at this point, at this age. Along with Paris, I hit Hereford then Worcester and finally, in the beautiful European threshold, Amsterdam.
A lot of this time was spent with a guy we’ll pseudo J. Although if anyone I knew came across this blog, it’s pretty obvious who when and what I’m talking about.
Amsterdam is as beautiful and friendly and casual as everyone says. It’s a bit like talking to someone who knows they’re gorgeous but thinks everyone is pretty. That doesn’t make sense, I’m hungover/still drunk as I write this.
J and I caught the megabus. It was surprisingly cool and not awkward and natural - considering that we’d only known each other for about 8 days before this. Our rented room was lovely but hot hot hot. The weather was a beast. A flaming beast.
For the week we did annoying couple things - made out in parks, laughed too much, enjoyed each other’s presence - all the while telling anyone who asked (5 in total) that we weren’t a couple and that it was complicated. Hey, I kept thinking, I’m moving to China for a year in a week and a bit. It’s not complicated at all.
But something in the back of my mind told me that I sort of maybe perhaps liked this guy. Really liked him. Annoying as that was. What are you even supposed to do? I’m away for a year - I’m not stupid enough to think I’m so special that he’d not want to be with someone else. Anyway, this is beginning to ramble.
Things to do in Amsterdam / things I did and think everyone else should do:
1) Pedalo while on mushrooms. Worry about getting lost, talk about absolute crap, get angry that the sun is attacking your face, enjoy Amsterdam from the water.
2) Get high.
3) Get high and go to the Sex Museum, get lost in it for two hours.
4) Get high and go to the Red Light District, get paranoid that people think you’re a prostitute.
5) Visit the Van Gogh museum, stare at the shop for ages.
6) Sit in Vondelpark just as the sun is dying down, bring ciders/beers and sit and drink and be merry.
7) Visit the Anne Frank House. Definitely.
8) Mill around Waterlooplein markt. Buy dream catchers.
I’m in two states at the moment. Leaving J was hard and more complicated than I thought it’d be. We haven’t really said what we wanted to say, but honestly, I don’t know what I want to say.
Do you ever feel like you were born in the wrong decade?
Well you’re wrong. You were born exactly when you were meant to, and even though history makes you think you’re living in a time of mundane, exhausted living, you really aren’t. I used to wish that I lived in 1920s America, but then I realised that someone of my descent wouldn’t have had an easy life. I used to wish I lived in 1950s London, but then I realised that I wouldn’t have the Pill, or the right to choose important decisions for my own body.
I think I take this time and city for granted quite a lot. We’re living in a time of such beauty and the outcome of decades and decades of fashion and music and films. We can freely take the best of each of those and display it to the world. We might not live in that era but we’re always digging it back up and making something better. And I bet in a 100 years time kids our age will wish they’re from our decade.
A and I took to Paris for the weekend (4 days, 3 nights). Since university started A and I have been pretty damn good friends - in fact, a lot of the time I can’t believe how much I lucked out on meeting someone so like me and yet so well defined and challenging (in the best way). We’ve travelled quite a bit - not just around Sheffield, but her home city of Belgium and even a bit of Germany (Cologne). We’ll be heading out to China together this August as well.
It was my first time in Paris (and France actually) and my first time couchsurfing. Such an experience. Paris was just as beautiful as the movies. The difference between Paris and London is so conspicuous as soon as ride into the city - the Huassmann buildings, the lack of skyscrapers, the fact that everyone drives on the right (okay, that one’s London vs. everyone else).
Paris was honestly like a city stuck in time, in that classic way. It’s like Paris saw the rest of the world putting metal on metal and decided, no thanks. You know, if you forget all the cars, and tourists, and construction work. There’s something quite contradictory about the city - as if it’s both trying to be 18th century but knowing that it belongs in the 19th. I don’t know whether anyone gets what I mean.
I think the history of the Eiffel Tower is probably what best defines Paris in both look and nature. It was built for a World Fair in 1889. It was supposed to demonstrate France and Paris’ might in the industrial world - a an iron clad entrace point, a signal - here we are, here we are, here we are, regarde, regarde. It was supposed to be demolished twenty years afterwards, the Parisian locals hated the structure, it clashed so fervently with the tranquility of the Haussmann houses, the Tuilleries…this imposing iron mess. But then they figured it was great for communication purposes, jamming radios, getting their own signals across.
To this day it remains one of, if not the, most remarkable, recognisable icons of Paris. That’s sort of how I feel about Paris right now.
We did all the touristy things - Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Monmatre, Marais, the River Seine, Sacre Couer, etc. At night we stalked the street in true British / Belge / first year uni student fashion, with whiskey and cokes and wine drank from plastic cups. Our attempts to find a festival (we went on national France day) failed miserably so we went to a club called Planet Paris and danced until 5am. A and I walked around until 10am trying to find a cafe to sit in and drink something warm. We were very hungover and restless from being awake for so so long.
Paris was such a lovely place, a beautiful city for a proper first holiday with friends (we met up with two other university friends on our second night, it was a laugh).
Mini guide now - for food: our couch host took us to a delicious place called Monte Carlo, which is filled with Spanish tourists, you can get a main course, a drink and a dessert for 10.50 euro. For vintage clothes go to Free “P” Star in Marais - walk around the streets around it too, there’s some great shops with clothes for 5 euro that I can’t remember the name of now. For a night out we headed to Planet Paris and ordered loads of drinks for fairly cheap. We didn’t stay for long enough to get to know the best places, but I wish we had.