Tag Archives: funny

Darkest Hour at The Odyssey

Last night, K and I went to watch Darkest Hour at The Odyssey cinema.

I love The Odyssey. When I was a child and then a teenager, and even into my early twenties, The Odyssey was an Odeon cinema and the only cinema in the local vicinity. It was where we always went when we wanted to see a film. It wasn’t a regular event as a family (E.T., Crocodile Dundee are ones I remember seeing with M&D and P) but when I was a bit older I used to go regularly with friends. It wasn’t a brilliant cinema in today’s standards: it had 3 screens in it’s heyday, a small pick and mix shop next door and (more appreciated as I got older) a pub just a few doors away. But it was accessible; the bus was reliable and it was a good place to meet friends.

Incomprehensibly to my children, we had to wait for the local paper to be published on a Thursday to see what films would be showing during the coming week and we either had to wing it and hope that they had tickets when we showed up, or in later years, if we had kind parents with a credit card we could book over the phone. The films didn’t change all that regularly so when a new release arrived it was very exciting.  Equally, if we missed seeing something while it was showing, it was game over – wait until the video came into the local rental shop some excruciating months later. This would, without doubt, seem like torture to our youngsters now in the world they inhabit with instant entertainment at their fingertips: streaming services, downloads, multiplex cinemas with 10 plus screens, online booking, pre-booking, etc.

The Odeon shut down in 1995 when out-of-town complexes became the norm. I was sorry to see it go and there was a lot of opposition locally. But, going to the multiplex soon became the norm and now with 4 in a 15 mile radius to choose from we are not exactly short of options.

The Odeon reopened in 2014 under a new name, The Odyssey (in homage to local director Stanley Kubrick’s film A Space Odyssey) and it is beautiful. It has one screen – the original Main Screen of the old days – and has downstairs seating, with tables and chairs or sofa options, in addition to the normal, upstairs seating. You can buy a glass of wine, a gin and tonic, borrow a blanket or a cushion, the seats are generous and comfy and there is plenty of legroom. But, what makes it so special is the feeling it gives me when I walk into the auditorium: I feel 15 again and it evokes such strong memories of my childhood that it makes me very, very happy. There is no booming noise, no brighter than bright lights. There is a curtain across the screen, there is subtle, subdued lighting, art-deco finishes and the film is introduced by a real person who walks on and talks about upcoming films and the film you are about to see. They talk with passion about films and they clearly love working there. It’s fab.

We saw trailers for Darkest Hour when we went to see Murder on the Orient Express as a family late last year. K and I both said how good it looked and were astonished to find that it was Gary Oldman playing Churchill. I’m a big fan and it looked gripping, so it seemed a no-brainer to try and see it. Unfortunately, we didn’t get around to it, but I was chuffed when I saw it was being shown at The Odyssey. Just like in the old days, you have to either book in person, by phone or, a day later, online. I didn’t want to risk not getting seats so phoned on the day of general release and bagged two seats on the front row of the upstairs seating (an aisle seat for me, obviously). The front row has so much leg room, even I can stretch my legs out. Fab.

The film itself was very, very good. I deliberately hadn’t read much about it. I’m familiar with the facts of Churchill’s rise to power and knew it focused on the start of the second world war. The trailers we’d seen showed the epic “on the beaches” speech in Parliament so I knew it would have some standout moments. I knew Oldman had won the Best Actor BAFTA recently and there was no question it would be a stellar performance. He was phenomenal and so were the supporting cast. It was funny, emotional, clever and enlightening. It wasn’t epic but it was very good. I am glad I have seen it, but, in hindsight, I would have been equally happy if we had waited until it was available to stream at home. The problem with The Odyssey is that it is a little bit too comfortable: the temperature is just right, the seats are soft, you can stretch your legs. In addition to this, I had my woolly scarf keeping me nice and warm. Sadly, all of this meant that my eyes shut for a little bit too long on a couple of occasions. Only for a matter of seconds, I didn’t miss any of the film and I didn’t make any unfortunate snoring noises. But, it did make me wonder how much I was enjoying the film. I have this issue at home – I love Silent Witness and Shetland but they always seem to lull me into a sleepy state and I miss bits. It was on a par with that. Very good, but not enough to keep my eyes open the entire time.

So, full marks for The Odyssey; 8 out of 10 for the film itself. Not that I’m a critic. But the eyes don’t lie. Odyssey-42

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Review Relief

The Work Review took place this morning. I was in the office incredibly early thanks to very little school traffic, and I found myself getting increasingly nervous. I don’t know why – I have known D, my boss, since secondary school and we get on really well as employer/employee. He’s a very relaxed person and we have a good laugh. But, there was something about the formality of having a Review that was making me a bit sweaty-palmed. And for someone with perpetually cold hands that’s quite some achievement.

He arrived in the office about half an hour after me and we chatted about Christmas, family, etc.  I made a cuppa; he did some paperwork; I answered some emails. I knew he was due to leave at 10 a.m. for a meeting and I started to wonder if he had forgotten about The Review. But no, with plenty of time to spare, he said “shall we have this review then?” and laughed. I laughed (a tad more hysterically than necessary) and he came and sat down at the desk next to mine. With his notebook. Palms sweating even more, I wondered if I should get my notebook in case I was expected to take notes. I looked across my desk and noticed my screen was still on my Gmail. Gah! not a great impression to give. I managed to flick it on to a work screen and by then I forgot all about getting my notebook.

I didn’t need it. As formal as it felt, and sounded, to start off with – ” we (the other boss was away, thankfully, so this was the Royal “we”) want to talk about your role, make sure everything is going as it should from both our perspectives, talk about how we can measure your performance and then look at new ideas we have for how to expand your role, does that sound OK?” it soon emerged that they are very happy with what I am doing; they think I am hardworking, conscientious; they are happy that I put in the hours; they have lots of ideas for things I can get involved in; and so long as I keep the required performance levels up on the accounts then they are happy. I squeaked out lots of “OK”s and “oh good”s and “thank you”s steeling myself for when it was my turn – what on earth was I going to say? Why was I being such a dribbler? The best part was that the other boss (the grumpy one) had allegedly said a short while ago that he wished they had come across me ten or fifteen years ago when they were first starting the business, as I am a superstar. I don’t think he said superstar, but I like to think that was what he meant.

My turn.

“Er, I’m happy with the work, most of the time. I like the flexibility and I like coming into the office a couple of times a week to break the week up”.

So lame. Think, think.

“I sometimes find some of it a bit mundane”

OK, I didn’t know I was going to go that route but I’ve started so I’ll finish….

“so some new stuff to get involved in would be great”…..

He’s already said that….THINK!

“I know it can’t all be interesting all the time”…..

“…..had lots of jobs so know it can’t all be fun, fun, fun”…..

“…..really like working here”…..”….happy to do anything really”…..

SHUT UP  – NOW!

I stopped. He smiled, “Great, so that’s all good. We’re going to give you a pay-rise starting this month.” I don’t kiss and tell, but suffice to say it’s not enough for us to start eating caviar every night (why would anyone want to?) and it’s probably going be hard to spot it on my payslip, but it’s the thought that counts and I didn’t take the job expecting to earn megabucks.

I have to admit to being on a little bit of a high after that. It was nice to hear nice things – it’s nice to know they know I am conscientious, and that I am capable of doing more. And, of course, that I am a superstar.

 

Limbo time

I always find these few days in the run up to Christmas a bit hard-going. I’m generally sorted gift-wise; the cards (those that I still send) are written and I don’t have much else to think about, EXCEPT:-

  1. The Food Shopping. I hate food shopping. The rest of the year I order our weekly food shop online – unless we are being even more careful money-wise and then we alternate with an Aldi shop fortnightly – because I hate supermarkets. I hate pushing a trolley around, not knowing how much it is all going to come to, having to unload it all, pack it all, unpack it all. I still have to unpack the delivered shopping but not having had the trauma of actually going to the supermarket makes this slightly less arduous. However, ever since the year when we had snow right before Christmas and my online shop couldn’t be delivered, leaving me massively in the lurch, I have erred on the side of caution and taken the decision to GO TO THE SUPERMARKET. I order a turkey from our local Sainsbury’s and as I have to go and pick that up I get the rest of the stuff, that couldn’t be bought in advance, at the same time. And, because I always tell myself it will be hell on earth, it is sometimes almost bearable.
  2. Keeping everyone safe. In the run up to Christmas, much like before any other big event (birthdays, holidays), I worry about people even more than normal. I worry that they will be ill and not be able to enjoy the event. I worry that someone will be hurt. I don’t like anyone going anywhere too far away and won’t really relax until everyone has finished work/school, are safely home. I particularly dislike anyone having to go anywhere on Christmas Eve. School finished last Friday. This is good, except of course I can’t keep the kids locked up in the house until Christmas Day. In fact, T is up in London today. Bloody London. I know, I know, we MUST NOT let threats of terrorism stop us living our lives and London is probably one of the safest places to be, with the increased police presence, etc, etc. He is visiting the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street and New Scotland Yard with his cadets group so it’s an amazing experience and opportunity for him. But, I will not really be happy until he is home later. I love the Find Friends app as I can check in at points during the day and know where he is. Not in a paranoid, stalker-ish way, just interested to see where he is. A has gone over to her bestie’s house for a few hours and a mooch around the shops. I do the same with her – I like to know she is where she is supposed to be. Not every minute, just every now and then. It makes me feel reassured.
  3. Baking. A likes to make Christmas Biscuits, and last year we bought a mould that you can bake a series of increasingly bigger sponge cakes in to make a tree so she wants to make that again this year, and then there is the Christmas Cake itself to decorate. I have to make sure we have all the correct ingredients – see Food Shopping.
  4. Wishing I wasn’t working. As soon as the kids have finished school, even if Christmas Day is a matter of days later, I always wish I wasn’t working. There is so much I would like to do. I would like to go to the cinema, visit my Nan, go for a walk. I can only do these things when I have finished work and because I generally use all my holiday entitlement during the rest of the year, I rarely keep any for Christmas. Because I can (and do) work from home, it seems a waste of days to take them as holiday between Christmas and New Year. But I always forget about the run up to Christmas, these few limbo days when it would be nice to be able to do stuff. But, I am working and so they will have to be squeezed into my Friday and snatched hours that will need to be made up later. I really need to get to grips with this in the New Year. No, I’m not suggesting a resolution, just something to sort out.
  5. Hoping that it doesn’t snow. This pretty much goes hand in hand with number 2. If we get snow it will stop people visiting, make life harder, make things unsettled and plans will go awry. I don’t like plans going awry, but I especially don’t like it at Christmas.
  6. Hoping I haven’t forgotten anything. See Food Shopping, Baking.
  7. Wishing it was Christmas Eve tomorrow. I love Christmas Eve, probably more than the day itself. I love getting the presents out and putting them under the tree, filling stockings – yes we still have stockings hung on bedroom door handles to be filled overnight ready to open on our bed on Christmas morning. I love being at home, all cosy and safe and thinking about Christmas Day. We normally try and go out for a walk and a drink at the pub, sometimes with my brother and his family. As much as I would love to go to Midnight Mass (I don’t go to church unless for weddings or funerals but I love the idea of Midnight Mass) like every other year I will get home from our walk and not want to leave the house again. Maybe this year. But I doubt it.
  8. Watching Christmas Films. When the kids were small I loved watching Christmas Films with them. The Polar Express is my absolute favourite. I have to confess to not having seen many of the old classics. I have never seen Miracle on 34th(?) Street (I don’t even know for sure which street it is!) and last year was the first time that I watched It’s A Wonderful Life. But, I love Polar Express and Elf and Nativity. I love Love, Actually but that’s not one for small kids (or even teenagers really – Martin Freeman in the porn film bit – awkward). Unfortunately, as the kids have got older their tolerance of Christmas Films has waned and I find myself longing for the days when they were small again just so I can watch without feeling a bit daft.

Hopefully, the next few days will fly by – if today is anything to go by, they won’t – and it will soon be the magical time. And then in a blink of an eye it will all be over! So much planning, thought and effort for such a short time. But it’s worth it.

Patient/ce

A has got a bad cough and cold. When she was really little she suffered from coughs A LOT. She wasn’t unwell apart from the cough, but it would keep her (and consequently us) awake all night and leave her feeling really poorly. Luckily, as she got a bit older the frequency went from every few months to a couple of times a year to almost never. My kids are rarely unwell (amazing really, as I was told so often by various ‘helpful’ people that I was harming their immune systems by bottle feeding them) so when they are it is a bit of a strange time.

I’m not a great nurse. I used to dread when they were small and there was talk in the playground of this bug or that doing the rounds. I used to brace myself. I’m not unsympathetic – I can do good hugs and wiping of brows. I can provide hot drinks and hot water bottles and chicken soup. I can do this for a day or two. It was worse when they were really small as I had that logistical nightmare of ‘the school run with a poorly child’ where the non-poorly one didn’t want to go with a neighbour and the poorly one didn’t want to be left in the car for a few seconds while the non-poorly one was whizzed into the playground. And they always seemed to be ill when something was planned. A bit like snowfall, an ill child is always, well, ill-timed. My 40th birthday is a case in point. Unusually, it was during school time – all 39 previous birthdays had always fallen during half term, but someone decided her Diamond Jubilee was more important than my birthday and half term got moved to a week later in the year of my 40th – so both kids were due to be in school. A developed one of her bad coughs the day before, so my planned indulgent day with K went a bit awry. Thanks to kind and helpful G&G we still managed breakfast out and she was well enough for a meal out in the evening, but it’s still one of those occasions that will be marked with a “Poor A was poorly that day” memory. Like when we had snow the day we’d planned to go to Ikea to get a new wardrobe and we had to wait another month to get chance to go again. I don’t hold grudges against poorly children but I really detest the white cold stuff.

I think as both the kids and I have got older I have, maybe, become a bit more patient. Whether the ‘big break’ last year has any bearing on this, I don’t know, but I think it did teach me that you can’t plan for illnesses/accidents and that you have to take each day at a time.

A is a great patient. She’s not very demanding. She’s happy to lay in bed and read and watch YouTube or, as she said yesterday, “just lay in bed and watch CBeebies because when you’re ill you feel little again”. She did have a mini-meltdown yesterday evening thinking she would never feel well ever again and her sides hurt from coughing and she was just so tired from not sleeping. Last night she slept so well that when I had my usual 4am awake time, I lay worrying, convinced that she had taken too many paracetamol.

What I worry about a lot when the kids are poorly is that K will catch it. I don’t really mind if I get it, I’m a bit of a soldier really and like to pride myself on not wallowing in it. But unlike the kids, he is NOT a good patient. He will be well enough to go to work – of course! – but the minute he gets home he will take himself off to bed and wallow. Am I being harsh? Probably a bit, but he does epitomise the cliche of the man with ‘man-flu’. He was brought up to take Lemsips and Hot Toddies when he was ill and it’s a hard habit to break. I am of the school of thought that you should take a couple of paracetamol and stays at home in the warm and ride it out. And don’t get me started on people that say they have flu when they have a head cold. If you’re not laying in bed sweating and shivering with achy limbs and a high fever that lasts for days/a week then you have a head cold.  A head cold is not flu. Consequently, K is ‘encouraged’ to get his annual flu jab as early as possible. At least that’s one thing ruled out.

A is feeling a bit better today. I can tell this because she is starting to be irritating and her eyes are starting to get their sparkle back. My dad always used to say to my brother and I that he could tell we were feeling better after a bout of being poorly when we started arguing or winding each other up. Arguing over the remote control? “Oh, I can see you’re feeling better.” My kids are no different. And this is when my patience will start to waver.

She’s just asked when am I getting her lunch, and do I have any cake in the cupboard? I reckon she could be headed back to school tomorrow……

thermometer

 

 

Family history

What a Friday I’ve had! Fridays are generally always brilliant but this one was super special. I have spent the day with my lovely cousin S. She’s really my second cousin – our dads are cousins; her grandma and my grandad were siblings. She lives down in Surrey and before this summer I’d only seen her a handful of times in the last two decades – at her wedding, at funerals and a couple of family gatherings. It’s one of those situations where because we’ve only ever met up via Family Events we’ve never thought of meeting up alone. This summer she got on a train and came up to St Albans and we spent the day together. Her dad is ten years older than my dad but he spent most of his childhood, up to his teens, living in St Albans so they share a history of more than just being cousins and consequently the city means something to both of us.

The visit in the summer was more about us catching up and getting to know each other a bit better – we are related and we send each other Christmas cards and think the world of each other but we needed to spend some time reconnecting. And it was lovely and I felt like we’d seen each other only a week before. She’s funny and kind and caring and lovely. We’ve got lots in common and we laughed a lot – a family trait – her grandad was always laughing and made everyone around him laugh too. He used to tease my dad, even when my dad was well into middle age, that the milkman was his real father!

Today she came up again (I’d offered to head down her way but she insisted that St Albans is far nicer than anywhere near her, so could she please come up again?) and we’ve had a magical family history mystery tour.

We’d both grilled our dads for the lowdown on places of significance and I came up with a plan. I picked her up from the station just before 11am and we headed off. Our first stop (well, drive-by as there was nowhere to stop) was the building that used to be the school where her grandma went as a young girl, in Catherine Street, now the Jubilee Centre. My grandma used to go there in later years for company – a sort of day centre for elderly people. Then we drove on to the school that her dad and my aunt attended, now Garden Fields school but formerly Townsend.

Next stop, and we did stop, was the house in Marshalswick that her Dad lived in as a boy before the family moved to Surrey when he was a teenager. My dad just about remembers them living there but he was only 5 when they moved away so it’s only a very vague memory.

From there we drove to my dads childhood home in Marshall Avenue where he was born. S’s Dad and grandparents lived there with my grandparents and Auntie for a while during WW2 and my dad was born during this time. Her dad remembers the midwife coming to help deliver my dad and thinking that he must be in the big black bag that the midwife had with her! She chucked the bag down on the floor and he was worried that the baby would be hurt. My dad was a tiddler, weighing just over two pounds, which in those days (with no incubators or special care baby units) would have been a big cause for concern, could easily have fit in the bag so he could be forgiven for his mistake!

We got parked up at the Verulamium museum car park and headed off for a coffee at the Inn on the Park. The place was packed with mums and toddlers so not a great choice for a chat but the coffee was hot and we didn’t plan to be there long – we had more places to visit!

Now on foot we headed round St Michael’s to Portland Street where our grandparents lived as children. I’ve never been up there (as far as I know) and S definitely hadn’t so we were quite excited to see the house- until we realised we weren’t quite sure which number it was! A quick call to my mum confirmed we were outside the right house. The houses can’t have changed much since the early 1900’s and our house (as I now think of it!) still had an old boot scraper outside and we gave the handrail a little stroke in the hope it was the original (you never know). We were both amazed at how such a big family had managed to all fit in such a small – two up two down – house. And we complain about not having enough room. Lightweights.

By this time the pub was calling us so we stopped for lunch. As the Verulam Arms (where S’s grandad liked to drink) is now a Forager food pub we opted for a more traditional lunch in The Six Bells, as recommended by my parents. And very nice it was too.

Properly refuelled and after much more chat and laughter we set off again on foot to the Gorhambury Estate where S’s grandad worked as an apprentice gardener when he first come up to St Albans in his late teens. It was during this time that he met my great aunt, S’s grandma, and the rest, as they say, is history.

S and I both feel so strongly that our family history mustn’t be forgotten. Her dad didn’t have siblings and she is an only child. I am lucky to have my brother and our cousin P, and we need to all make sure we keep the family bond going strong. We’ve got shared history passed down from our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles and we’ll make our own history going forward. A truly special day, with many more to come.

Our grandparents’ home in Portland Street.

Christmas, poppies and fireworks – in that order

I’ve had a busy day today but because it’s Friday it’s been a good busy.

I’ve been out to the shops with Mrs F and I’ve added to my stash of Christmas presents for the children’s stockings (and one for K’s). I LOVE buying stocking presents almost more than the other presents. Stocking presents are small and fun and lovely to buy – harder for T, dead easy for A and not too bad for K. I like squirrelling them away (after I’ve written them in my Xmas book – anyone who knows me should not be in any way surprised at this) and imagining peoples faces when they open them. A good mornings work.

This evening I’ve accompanied Mrs Lovely to the kids old school in our village to man the Poppy stall at the annual firework night. Mrs Lovely did it singlehanded last year as no one was able to assist but this year I had the pleasure of joining her. And it was a pleasure. Seeing young children, older children, parents and grandparents donating for poppies, wristbands and other merchandise was brilliant. And as an added bonus I got to spend the two hours with Mrs Lovely. She’s great company and we always laugh a lot. We even had chance to see the firework display. I love fireworks but really only at organised displays – they scare me when done in back gardens! The display was brilliant! For a small village school it’s always a great show and this year was the best yet.

I’m knackered now, sitting with a G&T. A happy day.

“That’s very nearly an armful”

I gave blood last week. I try and go as often as I can and it makes me feel good about myself for a few minutes. I don’t mind the process – I’m not bothered by needles and I’m a “quick bleeder”* so it doesn’t take long and then I’m off back to my day to day life. I don’t really give it much more thought other than the fleeting feeling of doing a good deed. But I received a text yesterday telling me thanks and that my donation had been sent to the Queen Hospital in Romford. I had a similar text last time I donated and I sceptically thought it would be just randomly sent, that they couldn’t possibly track my donation and then tell me about it. It seems I was wrong and I should not be such a doubter. What a great feeling.

* I also have very shy veins so although it can take ages for them to get me started, I don’t take long once it’s underway. Not sure how helpful being a “quick bleeder” or having “shy veins” would be in the event of an injury to myself but let’s focus on the positives.

Title courtesy of the brilliant Tony Hancock in The Blood Donor. If you’ve never seen this classic sketch you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEUvyaNu0uw