Celebrate, and have a good time.

I'm a wee bit stoked* to announce (in case you missed it on Twitter earlier) that I'm the new Social Media Manager for UNICEF UK. I keep saying I work for the UN, which I do, but I work more specifically for the United Nations Children's Fund. Yes, that's what UNICEF stands for! Seriously though, how fabbity is this: "Who do you work for?" Answer: "Oh, the UN." It's going to be my new pick-up angle. ;)

Silly sense of humour aside, I am utterly pleased - not least because it's probably the first time the subjects I read at university are relevant to my job (International Relations and Social Anthropology), but because it truly is an honour to work for such an organisation. I've got an impressive large-scale community already to work with, and I'm excited to keep everything fresh for current supporters, as well as spreading UNICEF UK's messages and engaging with an even larger audience.

I can also tell you that I'm going to be writing for The Next Web, that utterly brilliant international website that deals with technology news, business and culture, and has a *mere* 4.5 million readers a month.*whistles* I know!

Treacles, life is good. To say I'm happy would be putting it lightly. I said back at the end of January:

To err is human, to forgive divine. We all make mistakes. But it's picking ourselves up from them, forgiving ourselves and moving on, that's what matters.

Two months on, I know now I made the right decision, I picked myself up, and I really can't wait to see what else 2011 has in store for me. {^_^} Does anyone else have any fabbity news to share?

* understatement

Hi, I'm a West Endaholic

Since moving to London last September, I have been to the West End nine times... six of those times were in the last three months alone. I think I have a problem...

What are your weaknesses? x

Walk the path.

"No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.

~ Buddha

How my love affair with London began

"Do you know, he calls me a tourist when I go down and visit him?" I confessed, knowing it would cause a reaction.

"You? A tourist? In London?" My best friend was incredulous. "London runs through your blood. You." She was indignant on my behalf. "You, of all people, are not a tourist."

There it was. That was the reaction I knew I'd get. Even now when I'm uncertain how much longer I can afford to stay in London, friends remark "but you love London" like that will somehow magically pay the rent. (I wish it would.) But they are right, I do.

Being away from London is refreshing, less tiring, but it's not living. Not for me, anyway. I like the chaos, I like that there's always something to do, and that every corner is steeped in history. I see it's beauty, I am calmed by the smell of an approaching tube, and I feel like me. 

But, it wasn't always like this. In fact, my first experience of London was as traumatic as they come. See, the first time I visited it was in December, many moons ago, and I was with my parents on Oxford Street. People were pushing through with their shopping bags, scores of busy people trying to buy their Christmas presents and winter woolies... and then we saw the blood trickling down the street drain and the sense of panic because a man, for whatever reason, had been stabbed. I was eleven. Welcome to London!

The parents bustled me into the nearest "restaurant" - a really dodgy fake McDonald's type that no longer exists - and insisted it was lunchtime.

"Would you like to go to Madame Tussauds?"

Did I! Well, it was considered pretty cool in 1996. Except when we got there, this was before you could pre-book tickets, there was a four hour queue to get in. Four!!

"How about a bus tour?"

Sold out.

We spent the rest of the afternoon aimlessly mooching around. I'd lost interest. If this was London, then it wasn't worth it. People getting stabbed, lousy food, everything busy and unavailable... and it was a bleak, freezing day. No, thank you.

Guess what happened on the way back home? We broke down. And it took forever for the breakdown people to come and fix things so we could get on our way. I arrived back in Yorkshire wishing I'd never even heard of London - it was a thoroughly rubbish first impression of Blighty's capital for me.

If London had been a boy, I don't think he would have snagged a second date. Though, maybe I *should* remember how London began for me and that a first impression doesn't have to be a lasting impression - look what I think of London now.

I know I won't stay in London forever, but I hope I get to stay here for now. My love affair with London has only just begun now I'm *finally* permanently living there, and I'm not ready to give it up. I don't want to go back to a long-distance relationship, snatched weekends and jaunts down for interviews. My four years in St Andrews shaped me, my few years back in Yorkshire ironed out the kinks, and London will define me. But, I'm not there yet. If I lose London now, if I leave London, I feel I will lose a part of me and that would be catastrophic. I'm not ready for my love affair to be over.

Do you feel this way about where you live? What does where you live mean to you? x

The world has changed

"When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful." 

~ Barbara Bloom

Today has been utterly devastating because of the natural disasters that have occurred in Japan, which have rippled across the Pacific and affected other countries, too. Like with Michael Jackson's death, the stakeout of gunman Raoul Moat, the uprising in Egypt and the recent quake in Christchurch, I also learnt of this quake and subsequent tsunami through Twitter before I heard it from a 'traditional' platform. 

Twitter have reported that more than 1,000 tweets per minute were made from Tokyo earlier, with people in Japan uploading YouTube videos to show the world what was happening, almost immediately it seemed. Times have changed.

Once upon a time, before 24-hour TV and the proliferation of the internet, we would have had to wait until the evening news, gaining more information in a newspaper the following day. We would have relied solely on foreign news agencies to supply footage, but we have become mobilised and because of that we know now, in the moment, as it happens, from the people it is happening to.

Once upon a time we would have had to wait until an appeal was set up to phone in our donations or go in person to our bank to make one; again, technology has made this immediate. We can help now. We are reliant no longer on bank opening hours and call centre times, but can donate even whilst the disaster is still taking place.

Once upon a time we would only have had our friends, family and colleagues to talk about these events with - mentioning it whilst making a cup of tea at work, commenting on it in a weekly phone call to a loved one - now we have the world at our fingertips. We can converse with people we don't know, have intelligent discussions, share our sorrows, or simply shout out a kind message of hope, a prayer, to those affected. 

The world has changed. There are some people who say that the internet damages "real-life" relationships, a recent study citing that 57% of us spend more time talking to people online than we do in real life. I don't think this change is a bad thing. Our world is shrinking as we become more connected to people, we now have a voice and we can stand by the people who suffer, offering our support. We've gained more insight, more perspective, and I'd say more humanity with these technological developments. No longer can we shut our eyes to what's happening in the world because it's physically thousands of miles away - out of sight, out of mind - or because those in power control what we see and read. We may not know the true horrors of today's heart-wrenching natural disasters but we have still, in a way, experienced them alongside those affected. No longer is it just our governments or our charities that can show support on our behalf, we can show it for ourselves as individuals.

Our increased shared humanity will, I feel, one day prove beneficial beyond what we ever could have thought possible a mere decade ago as this crazy world plays itself out - whether those are natural disasters or man-made incidents that make us come together even more so than we already are. The scenes of devastation today have shown the destructive side of nature, but equally the kindness of the human soul with the support that has been given. How can technology really be said to be destroying our humanity when it brings us together in this way?

My thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been affected today. x

Latest loves 09/03

First up, I searched and searched for a colourful picture to represent Love Never Dies to tie in with the other three images, but couldn't find one which is annoying as it ruins my image vibe!

Anyway, I'll start with Love Never Dies which I saw yesterday, making it my 5th trip to the theatre in 2011... so far. Oops. I saw it's prequel Phantom of the Opera way back in December 2002, which I loved - especially the set - Love Never Dies also has a fantastic one. It makes brilliant use of video to set the scene and has a score that is reminiscent of the original, but still unique. Some of the musical numbers are pure delightful, others quite contrite, and Act I is definitely stronger than Act II plot-wise. I had entered the Adelphi Theatre in a bit of a despondent mood, but as I tweeted at the end of the show: "Aaah, the restorative power of theatre to the soul. We'll ignore that Act II wasn't as glorious as Act I. I blame the lack of tea." I know I say this about everything I see on the West End, but it's worth seeing!

Speaking of lack of tea, it's not a latest love because it's a constant love, but I thought I'd show some love for tea in this week's latest loves. Big fan. Enough said. Milk and one sugar, ta.

Another love that's not a latest love, but one that deserves a shout-out, is South Park. Would I lose a lot of readers if I confess that Eric Cartman is my hero? Matt Stone and Trey Parker are utter geniuses who manage to lampoon popular culture, society and celebrities superbly, and this is one show I should probably always watch on my own because it has me in stitches. Really hideously embarrassing snigger-happy stitches. Now, all I need is someone to throw a fancy dress party so I can go as Cartman. No, really

Finally, it's a 'clever creative stuff' for my last love this week. It's not Snakes and Ladders in the traditional way, but how McCann Erikson in Israel roll it out. Brilliant use of a Facebook album!

What are your latest loves? x

Faulks on Fiction: The Villain

In the final episode of Faulks on Fiction, he looked at The Villain, an oddly alluring character in fictional form. As The Villain in fiction has no limits, they are enjoyable as a character because they are the catalyst who makes things happen and drive the plot forward as they control the plot.

  • Samuel Richardson - Clarissa (1748): The first great villain was Lovelace from Clarissa who made it his aim to seduce as many women as possible, and this included Clarissa. He has no self-doubt, seeing himself as God, and thinks he's heroic. Lovelace rapes Clarissa, which causes her undoing, but he was such a powerful villain that he was the character responsible for the book's success! 

  • Charles Dickens - Oliver Twist (1838): Fagin corrupted innocent children to do his dirty work with threat of death, and he's the one who engineers the death of Nancy. He's a villain through and through but because of screen ans stage adaptations, he's wrongly portrayed as a lovable one.

  • Wilkie Collins - A Woman in White (1859): When the first detective force was set up in London, this impacted literature as it raised the stakes for fictional villains, too. They now needed to be clever to escape detection and Count Fosco is. He relishes his power over people and uses science to hide behind.

  •  Mervyn Prake - Gormenghast (1950): Steerpike works as a kitchen boy but has the ability to manipulate, which he does, with no regret.

  • William Golding - Lord of the Flies (1954): Jack is depicted as "angelic" as he's a 12 year old choir boy, but his pride is hurt when Ralph is elected leader of the island. The book shows the growth of evil in the most innocent as the children descent into anarchy. 

  • Paul Scott - The Raj Quartet (1965): Merrick is an outsider, but he's still a villain we can engage with. The fictional villain almost always tends to come to a bloody end and he is no exception. 

  • Zoe Heller - Notes on a Scandal (2003): It's harder to spot the villain in modern times, as the villain could be "you" with how they are. Villains, like Barbara, can teach us about ourselves. 

Out of The Hero, The Lover, The Snob and The Villain, which is your favourite type of character in fiction? Mine has to be The Lover, I think! {^_^} x

We are never, ever the same.

"Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to a new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same."

~ Flavia Weedn

Photo: Simon Tong

O SPA review

I'm not really a spa sort of gal. I'm more DIY for things like facials, but I kept seeing offers on GroupOn and LivingSocial for dirt cheap spa packages, so I thought why not?

I booked onto the Relaxation Bliss pamper package at O SPA, through, which cost £39 for 90 minutes worth of treatments. You can then use the sauna, steam room, hydra pool and so on for another 90 minutes. That would have been all well and good, but my appointment ended at half 5 and the spa closed at 6... I didn't get to use those facilities at all.

I arrived late to my appointment, purely because I had a bit of a technology fail. Yes, it's usually brilliant when you type in a postcode to Maps and you use the GPS to get you to your destination, but Maps pointed me in the wrong direction. I'm sure this only ever happens in movies and TV shows set in London, but I did actually spot a policeman, equipped with a paper map, who sent me in the right direction.

The spa branch I went to - City Riverside - is located inside the Nuffield Fitness Centre and it's not at all obvious that it shares a building with this gym. Sold as "located in Grade 2 listed archways, the location is steeped in history", I soon found out that history means noisy when I entered the very small treatment room. Set in the archways, the archways have a train line on top of it... You try and relax completely when all you can hear the trains rattling overhead every five minutes. I was there on a Sunday - I dread to think what it's like when there is a peak timetable operating.

But, there's one thing I pride myself on and that's being able to escape into my own little world. I settled down on the massage table to enjoy my back, shoulder and neck massage, which was perfectly fine, though nothing to wax lyrical about. 

When it came to the facial I would have liked her to explain what she was putting on my face, but it smelt yummy, and she did my final treatment whilst the mask was working its magic. Now, the package had "hasta-abhyanga" as the final 30 minute treatment, but it was actually 10 minutes of that, 10 minutes of "shiroabhyanga" and 10 minutes of "pada-abhyanga". These are ancient ayurvedic Indian arm, head, and foot treatments respectively... Yes, foot treatments. Cue my panic as I'm not a fan of people touching my feet. Surprisingly though, that was the best one out of those treatments and I may just hate my feet a little less now. I didn't really rate the hand and arm massage, but the head massage was good.

After that, my mask was removed, and it was time to get dressed. I'd only had 75 minutes worth of treatment - fair enough, I was late - but there was no apology for me not getting to use the other facilities and no recommendation for me to keep drinking lots of water after my treatments. I was, at this point, happy to recommend the O SPA experience. For £39, even without using the facilities, it was great value.

This changed when I got on the Tube and my neck felt a bit itchy. Touching it, I felt some leftover mask still on my face from the facial. Fair enough, it was perhaps in a tricky place, an oversight, but on further inspection I noticed other parts of my face still had bits of mask on it. Apologies if you were on the Northern line with me, the girl who appeared to have a weird, flaky skin condition, but you can't catch anything from poor service I'm happy to reassure you.

Because of this, I wouldn't recommend them. Have you booked things though group offer sites? What do you think to them if you have? x

Hatch. Don't smash.

"The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it."

~ Arnold H Glasgow

Set sail.

"We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Faulks on Fiction: The Snob

After The Hero and The Lover, Faulks went on to look at The Snob. When the novel was invented, life was straightforward - there were those who owned land and those who worked the land. It was clear where a person stood in the world, but mobilisation changed all this: "If language didn't give you away, taste would." In novels, snobs can be of good value as they offer insight into themes of who we are and where we fit in.

  • Jane Austen - Emma (1815): Austen made Emma, as a snob, a heroine, even though she's a spoilt young woman whose faulty understanding of the world can ruin lives. She's a confident, charming and elegant character but she's also brutal and dismissive and it's having her snobbishness pointed out that eventually redeems her. 

  • Charles Dickens - Great Expectations (1861): Pip is a seed who grows into a snob, he doesn't start off as one. It is Estella who exposes him to snobbery; her contempt fuels his snobbery. But, to become a snob, Pip has to lose touch with his origins and turn his back on the people who love him. Pip shows that there is a social purpose to snobbery, that without it there would be no social mobility. 

  • George and Weedon Grossmith - Diary of a Nobody (1892): Pooter is driven by notions of how things ought to be, but loses sight of how things are, though we don't sneer at him. Instead, we lament how life is. Taste is key for Pooter, but he's blind to his own good fortune. 

  •  P. G. Wodehouse - Jeeves (1915): Jeeves is an unlikely snob as the valet - it would make sense that it was the aristocratic Bertie who Jeeves serves. But, he is the servant who knows what the "done thing" is and he is the snob in this way. 

  •  Muriel Sparks - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961): Brodie is a teacher who picks select girls and causes snobbery in the classroom. She deals in absolutes and sees herself as an inspirational, using her cultural snobbery to distract herself from her own loneliness and giving her an identity. 

  • Ian Fleming - James Bond (1953): After World War II technology advancement gave people the chance to express status with what they bought and James Bond embodies this. Fleming used brands to make Bond more believable and made him a snob by choosing the elegant brands. He borrowed their "awareness".

  • Monica Ali - Brick Lane (2003): Chanu is pompous, arrogant and lazy, but still lovable. He thinks of himself as educated, quoting great writers, but is frequently ignorant. He is snobbish as he distances himself from the people we, as readers, would think closer to him.

 Who is your favourite snobbish character? Out of these, I'm a massive fan of James Bond! x


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