Tag Archives: #history

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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Hunting for happiness (a work in progress)

“Everyone you meet always asks you if you have a career, are married or own a house, as if life was some kind of grocery list. But nobody ever asks if you are happy”.

I saw this quote this morning and it made me think. The person who said it (the late actor, Heath Ledger) was maybe feeling a bit jaded by being asked the same things by journalists all the time. But I see his point. We meet someone new and one of the first things they ask is “What do you do?” – meaning what job/career. I used to dread this question when the kids were small as I always found myself making excuses for being a ‘stay-at-home mum’ (awful expression, but infinitely better than ‘full-time mum’ – as if being a mum is something you take off, like a cloak, when you leave the house to go to do a paid job). I wasn’t embarrassed to not be working (it’s not like it’s something to be ashamed of) but quite often I was made to feel that I had to justify it “but what do you DO all day?” was the most common question. I gave up answering and became very adept at deflecting conversation away from myself, a habit which I have found hard to shake off.

But I am getting away from the point. It does seem that we are more interested in peoples jobs, marital status, number of kids, where they live. Of course, it’s far easier to ask someone about these things when you are meeting for the first time, or if you don’t know them well. It’s not the norm to ask someone about their state of mind. “Are you happy?” would be a bit of a weird conversation starter, but I’m not sure why. When we were kids, my parents always used to dread running into a certain neighbour because they would inevitably ask them how they were, and then be there all day listening to the never-ending list of ailments they were suffering from. Not really what you want when you are in a rush to get somewhere. When I bump into someone I know or meet up with a friend, the most natural thing in the world is to ask “How are you?”. Very rarely do I hear (or, in fact, give when asked myself) any response other than “OK thanks”. People rarely launch into a lengthy monologue of all that is not right in their world. If it’s a close friend that I know well, it’s generally easy to pick up on tone of voice and a follow up of “Are you sure?” is sometimes required to get the true answer.

Is asking someone how they are the same as asking if they are happy? It’s not, but in our reserved, British, stiff-upper-lip way it’s probably as close as we’re going to get. There’s a world of difference between being OK and being happy. Being OK takes a little work, but not much. It’s just ticking over, getting on with it, being OK. Being happy takes more effort. As my blog name suggests, I am still working on it, hunting out the happy moments. Day to day I am OK: I have bursts of happiness, flashes of “ah, that’s lovely”, life-is-good moments. But, it’s hard in the day to day –  school runs, work, washing, food shopping, cleaning, cooking – cycle of life to be happy all the time and to find the happy moments in the mundane.

How would it feel to be asked if you are happy? Would you feel awkward saying yes, as though it’s admitting that you live in some sort of utopia – I know I would – and that you are being a bit smug. Perhaps that’s just me. Or is the opposite that stops us asking? How would you deal with someone saying that, no, not really, they’re pretty unhappy actually. Again, I suspect it depends how well you know someone, but if it’s a good friend you would surely have an inkling that all was not well, through just chatting and being part of their world. But, we all keep parts of ourselves hidden; we all keep some things to ourselves. I have a friend who is a big over-sharer but even she has stuff going on that she doesn’t like to talk about.

My lovely girl starts sentences very often with “I’m so happy, because x has happened”. She’s not being smug or showing off, she’s sharing a happy moment and expressing that happiness. Quite often it’s something small like finding out that the book she is reading has a sequel. But to her it’s a happy thing and she wants to tell me. I love it. If I asked her if she was happy she would probably say “yes”. I hope that she doesn’t grow out of seeing happiness in small things and maybe I can learn a bit from her.

I don’t think I will suddenly begin asking everyone I meet if they are happy. But it has certainly made me think about my own response when asked how I am and about looking for those small moments. Keep hunting the happiness.

 

 

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.

 

Decisions, Decisions

Just before the end of term I received an email from school, entitled Year 11 Prom and Yearbook. T started in Year 11 in September. It was December when the email came through. It was asking him to decide before the 17th January whether he wants to attend the Year 11 Prom, which is held towards the end of…….June!

June! A whole six months away. Six months is a long time when you’re fifteen. I asked him when the email arrived and his answer was “er, no thanks, why would I want to go to Prom?!” How do I know that he won’t change his mind in a month, 3 months, 6 months from now? We have to pay a £25 deposit, which is non-refundable. Do I risk writing off £25 if he still decides it’s a no? A lot can change in six months – he may have a girlfriend by then and she may be a tad annoyed if he’s not put his name down for prom. He may become a total party animal that wants to go and strut his stuff (OK that won’t happen – he is the offspring of two perennial wallflowers). I’ve asked him if any of his mates are going to pay the deposit (something I hate doing, as it really bats against the “I don’t care what your friends are allowed to do” mantra that I have used over the years when he insisted that Insert Name Here had been bought a new phone or had been allowed to go to London for the day alone at the age of 13) he mutters that they don’t talk about stuff like that. Sometimes, and only sometimes, girls are easier in this regard. I’m pretty sure when A is in Year 11 it will be ALL she and her friends will talk about for the whole six months after the email arrives.

I’ve stopped asking, but the email is still in my inbox. I can’t file it away under ‘School – T’ until the date has passed and the decision is made – either by default because we haven’t done anything about it, or because by some miracle he has a conversation about it with his mates and he decides one way or another. (I hate emails sitting in my inbox; it’s so untidy.) I really want him to make the right decision. If he decides that he is going to go to college and not Sixth Form it may be the last school event with his friends that he has made over the years. If he doesn’t go will he spend the entire evening wishing he had? He’s not really one for FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and I am probably hugely overthinking this (Who? Me? Never.) But it seems like a big deal. I have seen photos from previous years – girls all lined up in their pretty dresses, hair and make up all done especially for the occasion; the boys in new suits looking uncomfortable (apart from one, there’s always one) – that’s the other thing, if he goes to college he won’t need a suit apart from for Prom; but they all look excited and happy and their exams are all finished and they are going to PARTY.

Decisions, decisions. I think I might just pay the £25. Then I can file the email, stop thinking about it and IF he changes his mind then I can say “well, good job I paid it then” and I will be a HERO. Again.

 

Christmas

Christmas has gone by in a matter of minutes. It feels like a day at the most has gone by since my last blog, but here I am back at work and it’s all over (bar the leftovers).

Christmas Eve: we popped to see G&G for a quick cuppa to see them before Christmas and then my brother and his family were over to ours in the afternoon for a walk to the pub followed by cake and presents. We did this last year and it worked really well, so we decided to do the same this year. It’s getting increasingly hard for us both to fit everyone in at Christmas, especially if we are working in between. So this works well for all of us and I’m hoping it may become a bit of a tradition. The kids all got on well and we enjoyed the walk. It’s always easier to get them to walk without moaning if there is the promise of a drink at the end of it and on the way back the incentive of a slab of cake and a present!

The day itself was lovely: waking up at 7.50am and waiting for the kids to come in with their stockings; downstairs for a bacon sandwich (cold sliced gammon for A and I as per my childhood) and presents with the tree lights on as it was such a dark day; K’s parents arriving safely and in good spirits; a lovely meal cooked relatively stress free; A’s amazing cheesecake for dessert; a round of our new board game which the Silver Squad won. The only blot on the landscape was the discovery (by K) that one of the passenger windows on my car had been left open for 24 hours and the backseat was soaked. Not a great thing to happen at any time but infinitely worse for it to be discovered on Christmas morning just as K’s parents were pulling up outside the house. I’m not going to lie and say it didn’t leave a slightly ominous cloud over proceedings but it didn’t ruin the day. Thankfully, as he works for a flood restoration company K has the odd bit of equipment in the garage that can sort this sort of thing out so all is well. But, it wasn’t without a lot of grumbling and huffiness.

Boxing day was like my Christmas Day as G&G came to ours. It was a lovely day with K’s parents here on Christmas Day but I love Boxing Day and it’s always a bit more relaxed with G&G. Cold meat, new potatoes, salad, cheese. What’s not to love about Boxing Day?

There have been differences this year. T & A still came in to our room for stockings, we still had the same day we normally have but Christmas Day evening saw just K & I sitting watching a film while T was in his room chatting online with his friend and A in her room watching YouTube tutorials for the new make up she had. Boxing Day saw T going out round to see a friend in the early evening as G&G left (they dropped him off en route) and K, A and me watching Snow Bears (the most joyful programme to watch when you are feeling even slightly under par – which I wasn’t but I am keeping it on the planner should the need arise).

And here we are, 2 days of work before 4 more days off and then it will be back to reality again.

Neighbours

Posting for yesterday.

We’re lucky to have really lovely next door neighbours. They’re good people. We get along really well. We’re not in and out of each other’s houses all the time – we borrow the odd onion or splash of soy sauce now and again; we get together for dinner every few months or so; we used to do reciprocal babysitting when our kids were younger; we chat over the garden fence now and again in the summer. There’s no pressure to be socialising all the time, but we know we’re there for each other in an emergency or to borrow a screwdriver. It’s perfect.

Yesterday we were invited to go round for a family afternoon/evening of playing games and a bite to eat. It was lovely. We played some new games, learnt some great mind tricks, and had a really tasty meal – all 8 of us, kids and adults around the table, chatting. Then we watched a film before walking the 4 steps back home.

A really happy start to the Christmas weekend.

Simple things….

…..that have made me happy today:-

A starting her Christmas baking. It feels like a tradition now and I love that she wants to do it, that we schedule it into the run up to Christmas. It feels like Christmas is really close, which it is.

Getting a quick coffee with my lovely friend, Mrs F: she always makes me smile.

Receiving a message from my niece, E.

The robin that’s been visiting my feeder for the last few days, sitting on the fence outside the window for 5 minutes, rather than just flitting on and off again.

A quick “whatsapp” chat with a lovely friend.

Simple things but, sometimes, they are the best.