Posts Tagged ‘budget’

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reboot.

May 8, 2011

When I started this blog, I just envisioned it as a fun space to talk about my life and loves, where I could be honest and frank without fear of repercussion. I branched out into talking about music and doing reviews, which I have since reined in because while these posts were popular, I just haven’t felt inspired to write any new reviews lately. Toby suggested that I could create a separate blog for music, culture and fashion in the future, but as I’m writing less posts I didn’t think I could devote enough time to two separate blogs – I feel like I am neglecting this one as it is! (A new layout is long overdue 😉 ) The idea is good and one day I would love to, but right now I am focusing on my job, trying to find a new job in London, and my family and friends, visiting Toby in London (he came down to Bristol this weekend and we had such a lovely time 🙂 ) – I just haven’t got the time.

Since I got my new laptop in December, I transferred all of my content across to it from the old one, but I haven’t used Photo Booth in a long time. Yesterday, I opened the programme and started flicking through the old photos from last year. I haven’t realised, but I used to look better (not that I look drastically awful now, but I feel that I looked slightly slimmer, slightly fresher, slightly more fashionable) a year ago when I was doing the QCG at UWE. That year was such a good one for me – I made some lovely friends, I began to make inroads into the vocational sector I wanted to pursue, and I met two people who are instrumental to my evolution into the person I have become today – Mike, who is like a big brother to me and has given me so much confidence in myself, and Toby, whom at this point I can confidently say is the love of my life who loves me back.

I found my first proper full-time salaried job doing something I wanted to do, I finally passed my driving test and bought my first car, I got my first four (!) tattoos which more than declaring my inner edginess and free spirit, declare my new-found confidence in the person I am. And now that all these big events have passed, I’m just trying to keep everything going. I feel like I am on a treadmill paying for my car, trying and so far failing to pay off my debts, growing my professional experience and my CV whilst trying to find that elusive job in London, growing my relationship with Toby. And I seem to have barely any time for myself. I have put on a little bit of weight – not a drastic amount, but a few pounds that I would like to shift. I don’t like my hair (which has always been the case, but I feel that it’s fine but not pleasing) and I would like to do something interesting with it – I may well do in the summer, as I’m thinking of dyeing it black again and cutting the sides really short, and letting the top be longer and straighter. Straightening my hair is something I’m out of practice with, but the other night I decided to use my GHDs before I went to pick up Toby from Parkway station, and it felt refreshing and cleansing just to do something different with myself.

But it’s more than that. It is about devoting time to myself – not through comfort eating (which I recognise I have been doing in the evenings over the last few months), nor through my new budgeting spreadsheet (which is something I have to do, but not what I particularly want to do!). It’s about actively taking care of myself. After an initial run at an Abs Workout iPhone app, I decided I didn’t like the exercise schemes on it, so I have found a youtube abs workout by Laura London which I am doing 4-5 times a week. In this way, I can maintain my slim figure and hopefully drop those pesky few pounds. Which in turn, makes me feel good on the inside. I aim to straighten my hair more, and do more interesting things with my appearance once the summer holidays approach (so that I don’t make any faux pas in front of the 2000 odd teenagers at college – not the most forgiving audience!) – because doing this makes me feel good and is a symbol of me taking time for myself and being prepared to value myself and say “I am important”. It’s vanity, but it’s also so much more than vanity.

Through Toby’s love, and through the close friendships I enjoy, I have nurtured others and in turn nurtured myself. One reason I have slowed down on the reviews, which I hadn’t really thought about until very recently, is that I am tired of criticism. Both receiving unwarranted criticism (which I shall talk about in a forthcoming post), but also being expected to give criticism. I don’t like the fact that so much of society seems to thrive on putting others down in order to build ourselves up. Why do we feel that in order to give an opinion on an album, a film, an outfit, a friend, we have to find something negative? It’s one thing if the negative naturally occurs to us, but to me it seems crazy to actively search it out. So until I feel ready, I am going to leave the reviews. For now, I am working on myself.

Hence the title of this post, “reboot”. Something I have always done on this blog is write about my emotions truthfully, and connect them to what I’ve been going through. While these posts may not garner as many hits, it’s been cathartic for me to be able to reflect and grow, and the responses I do receive to those posts are the most gratifying. I am reading Janet Jackson’s new book True You, and while it may not be the most eloquent piece of literary writing, it is something I enjoy because to read someone else’s struggles, triumphs and insecurities allows me to connect with that person, and to reflect on my own. I am 25 years old, and for over half of my life I have been getting to know myself and trying to understand who I am. So in turn, by sharing my own thoughts and my own insecurities, I can start to embrace them and move past – and hopefully help you all not only to feel closer to me but to feel closer to who you are. I’m just like you, a human being – this is me, take it or leave it. But I hope that my own struggles and successes inspire you, and I also hope that you will also share yours with me because I would like to be inspired in kind! 🙂

I am rebooting my life a little bit – remembering that among the many other commitments in my life, I am important and valuable, and deserve some time and dedication. I am rebooting this blog a little bit, making sure that I find the strength and bravery to share the good and the bad with you, so that we know that we are not, that we are never alone, and that we can all grow and get past our insecurities, capitalise on our triumphs and find and nurture our happiness and our joy. I know that I sound a little bit bizarre right now, but it’s mainly because we’re not supposed to talk like this in society – it exposes our vulnerability and risks us getting hurt. Well, what I have found makes me feel better is knowing that I’m not alone – we need to be honest with one another and talk about all of these things! Otherwise we all just suffer in silence and alone. I have a good life, and I want it to be better; I want to nurture my own happiness and the happiness of those around me. I want to be able to look back on my life when I am old and say “I made mistakes and I had successes, but I always tried to do the right thing and I had a rich and full life.” If I can look back and say that, then I will be happy. That journey starts here and now. And in such a way, I am rebooting myself.

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important.

April 11, 2011

First of all, a gift / apology for not having written in such a long time! This is a new (well, new to you guys!) song called “Important”, which I did nearly a year and a half ago now – just after I finished and released Quiet Storm, so it was too late to put it onto that album. I was inspired (as is probably evident) by Beyoncé’s “Broken-Hearted Girl” musically, while the lyrics were part of my attempt to delve a little bit deeper with my lyrics. One of my aims for my new album is to talk more eloquently and honestly about love and relationships, because over the past 18 months I have experienced love, experienced relationships and friendships in such a new way. In that respect, this song precedes the timeline for my inspiration, but still fits the brief 😉 It’s just a demo version and still needs a little polishing up (and of course there is no guarantee it’ll make the final tracklist) but I like it and I hope you do too 🙂

One of the things that the song talks about is knowing your priorities and having them straight, in a relationship and in friendships. I have lately had to reprioritise my own life – financially, my car has pretty much taken over and if I am going to London to see Toby, running my car, paying rent and affording all my unavoidable expenses, I have had to accept cutting back on luxuries. I go out for coffee / dinner / cinema less, which is a shame because that means I see less of my friends. I spend less money on clothes and entertainment, and although my lust for them is undiminished, I can’t entertain getting a pretty designer thingummy any time in the near future because I just need to spend the money on other things. Once I move to London, even though my salary will increase, the need to budget intelligently is only going to intensify. I was saying to Toby yesterday that perhaps although I was rationalising at the time (with a grin on my face as I never thought I’d have to go through with it), I am glad I got my fancy jewellery and phone and sunglasses and all my designer things over the last couple of years, because they are things I treasure and now I have to make them last – now that I have them, I don’t need to get any more! My iPod (which I have had for 2 and a half years – the longest surviving iPod yet!) recently started playing up, which greatly irritated me – especially as I got a brand new car stereo so I can plug my iPod into it and play whatever music takes me mood – and I have had to spend quite a few hours over the past few days fixing it, because I can’t survive without music and I simply can’t afford another one right now.

Beyond material things, I need to treasure my friendships and my relationship. The inconveniences I have listed above are just that – inconvenient but not life-threatening! A couple of years ago, I could literally not survive without my iPod. But now, I think I could do it. I wouldn’t like it, but I could do it – other material things such as my phone, my laptop, my car have taken precedence. But my priorities have changed also. What’s important to me is keeping my relationship with Toby happy (which it seems to be up to now, and I realise that this is something to truly cherish), being a good friend and keeping a good circle of friends around me (which I feel I now have), and moving to London and building a career and a life for myself. All of a sudden, having a nice place to live in the city, having a good job and financial stability are important considerations. When did I become a grown-up?

I watched For Colored Girls today, which I had been desperate to do – and now I am desperate to read Ntozake Shange’s original choreopoem, which I shall probably purchase tonight or tomorrow. It reminded me that all of us have our own issues, our own baggage and our own insecurities which we need to conquer, but too often we struggle alone with these burdens rather than shouldering them with our friends and family to both help us cope and draw us closer together. I saw my friend Sarah yesterday whom I hadn’t seen since November, and while it was really good to see her, I found that I didn’t really know what to say to her to connect and recapture the friendship we had at university. Hopefully this is just a blip and next time we get together we can have a more effective catch-up; after 45 minutes, she had to go, but before she left she told me “not to leave it so long next time!” My life has become busy to the extent that try as I might, I can’t see all of my friends as much as I would like. And this is a shame, because when I’m at home in Bristol I can easily get lonely and no matter how much music, how many possessions I have, how many films I watch or PS3 games I play, I still feel bored and cabin-feverish. So I cherish my friendships, I cherish my relationship and how lovely it is, I cherish the things that I have, I cherish my emotions and both my ups and downs. And the real priority is making sure that I remain grateful and don’t become complacent about everything that I have. I may not be satisfied, because I have so much more in my life that I want to accomplish – but I am somewhat happy with my life and that is a really Good Thing.

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The King’s Speech – review.

January 23, 2011

I went to see The King’s Speech with Toby last night, and thinking about the experience, the main sensation that I feel is guilt. Guilt that midway through the film’s second third, I surrendered to sleep; guilt that I could not concur with the film’s largely glowing reviews from critics and friends alike; guilt that despite the actors’ invariably fine performances, there was just something lacking. It didn’t take me long to put my finger on what the main missing ingredient was, but first, allow me to expand.

The King’s Speech is a smug, self-satisfied film that surrounds itself with a certain air that says to its audience, that proclaims  to those who see its advertisements, “You are watching this because you are intelligent, because you are interested in History. Feel congratulated, feel superior to the hoi polloi.” This air of self-importance is perhaps fitting with the film’s focus on early 20th century royalty, but is certainly at odds with the flat cinematography. In Lionel’s basement, this cheapness, this absence of depth between the background, the foreground and the actors can perhaps be forgiven as it is evocative of the speech therapist’s relative poverty – all the more pointing out with a wry smile that the future King of England has had to go there, to such a lowly place (after all, it is in a basement that can only be accessed through a cramped lift) in order to find his redemption. But when in more royal quarters, how can you really feel a sense of majesty when the decor, the scenery does not evoke this? The film’s rather small budget of $15 million reveals itself early on. And yet, Firth’s previous film, the sumptuous A Single Man, was made on half that budget and both looks and, more importantly, feels like a million dollars. Go figure.

Nevertheless, the actors all provide stellar showings – none more so than Colin Firth, whose stammer never feels affected or artificial; whose frustration, anger, silence, tenderness towards his family, fear of and eagerness for being the country’s king ring true at every turn. Geoffrey Rush plays Lionel Logue with sincerity and humility, and while I much prefer Helena Bonham Carter as a sexy temptress à la Fight Club or a ridiculously pompous Red Queen in Alice In Wonderland, she more than does her part as Queen Elizabeth here. The King’s Speech is certainly not lacking in fine performances.

But unfortunately, the crux of the problem is this – characters cannot do anything without a story. The plot of The King’s Speech is as follows: the King has a stammer, so he gets some speech therapy to fix it so he can deliver speeches (thus the title’s double reference to the king’s ability to speak, and the film’s final speech – his ultimate test). That’s it. This plot is less than linear – it’s a dot. It goes nowhere, it does nothing unexpected or even notable. As mentioned earlier, I fell asleep for 20 minutes in the film’s second half, woke up and events were more or less where I had left them. And even worse, 99% of the film’s audience know the entirety of the plot before even entering the cinema! Even if you are not au fait with 20th century British history, the British monarchy nor the stories of wartime Britain, you will know how the film ends – for the pure fact that nobody under the age of 15 is going to see this film of their own accord, and the vast majority of those over 15 know that there has never been a king who died moments after being crowned during a World War, nor has there ever been a king whose stammer prevented him from delivering speeches. If either of these things had happened, they would be etched in our history in such a way that everyone would know about them, just as they know of the death of Princess Diana, of her wedding to Prince Charles, of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, of the Queen’s two birthdays. It would be another elementary fact. Thus, this means that it is inevitable that the King gets his stammer cured, or at least is able to manage it in order to perform his duties.

There is nothing approaching a subplot in the film to maintain interest. Edward abdicates in order to pursue love, and the audience is expected to just accept this because that’s how it happened in history – there is no attempt to probe beneath the façade of pompous dignity to question whether Edward is actually doing the right thing, the brave thing, pursuing truth over the pretences inherent in being a monarch (according to King George V himself). The film has only room for one triumphant victim, and that is Firth’s character – even when he is acting like a snobbish, spoilt moron, the viewer is not invited to feel repulsed or even more than mildly annoyed at his presumptuous pride, because he is the film’s Hero, the country’s King, and thus must not be questioned. If you are choosing to question him and other aspects of the film, then good for you – but you’re going above and beyond what the film requires you to do in order to get to the final triumph and achieve your gold star. Any attempts to psychologise the King’s speech impediment are completely reductionist – is it the absence of Daddy’s affections? The taunting of the mean big brother? Peer pressure? The King’s Speech expects its audience to overlook this simplicity because it is British, it is Royal, it is Historical – but if these explanations were transposed to an American rom-com or a Channel 5 drama, they would be seen and derided for the facile clichés they are.

Ultimately, The King’s Speech is a simple film that contains faultless performances, and whose stars should be amply rewarded for their acting. But nevertheless, it is a film that is a plotless puddle, all the while proclaiming itself a majestic ocean.

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shopaholic.

February 13, 2010

“She got a Fendi fetish / She got a shopping problem
That girl’s a shopaholic / She only mess with ballers
She got a Gucci fetish / She got a Louis problem
She got a shopping problem / That girl’s a shopaholic”

— “Shopaholic”, Nicki Minaj f/ Gucci Mane.

Listening to the above song from Nicki Minaj’s stellar Beam Me Up Scotty mixtape, I can’t help but relate.  I have never been very good at resisting shops, but today I went into Guess with Toby and promptly dropped £136 on a bag (it matches my wallet! And I’ve been keeping an eye out for a new bag) and a hoodie (it was in the sale, the last one and my size.  Therefore, it was destiny and there was nothing I could do but fulfil it).  Note that I have my excuses rationale ready 😉 I felt a little guilty because Toby has a little bit of cashflow difficulty, and I didn’t work last week when I went to get my new tattoo done (which cost £100 in itself!).  I think I might have to take on some extra shifts at the hospital.  I am not one to flash cash, especially when that cash comes largely from funding to do my course, and I am also spending a significant amount of money on getting my driving licence (wish me luck for my theory test on Tuesday morning!), which is a pretty necessary measure.  I’ve never been rich.  But sometimes the allure of beautiful designer things is just too much to resist.

I spoke in a recent entry about the fact that I wasn’t always like this.  Designer names used to be something out of reach, irrelevant.  I was younger, those were things that would come in time.  Well, I’m not younger anymore; that time is now. Life is too short to be wanting forever; I don’t spend crazy amounts on irrelevant things, so why shouldn’t I treat myself?  Generally, I am a shopaholic because I love spending money, be it on myself or on other people, and I’m just as happy to buy other people things because I find the look on their faces when they open a well-chosen gift something to treasure; that’s my favourite part of holidays like Christmas.  But sometimes I feel a little guilty because perhaps I should be a little more responsible with money – you never know what is going to happen tomorrow.  I should appreciate more the plight of people who might never be able to have even one beautiful thing in their life.

I think about my grandmother when I have crises of confidence like this.  She’s actually quite wealthy, but she’s never been one to treat herself; she would much rather give everything she has to other people.  She will be  77 years old next month, and in April it will be 2 years since my grandfather died.  I love her to pieces, but it’s hard to get through to her the philosophy that she’s earned the right to spend a little on herself and treat herself to a nice little something every now and then.  Hell, I’m 24 and I’m feeling that life is too short! But since she’s never bought herself designer things, precious jewellery, something special, preferring instead to shop at pound stores and discounters (even though their wares often fall apart in a matter of weeks, necessitating a repeat purchase and costing you more in the long run – I’m a believer that generally you get what you pay for, and if you don’t then you take it back and you take your money elsewhere).  I wish that she would recognise that she is worth a little bit of luxury.  I think that she is a good person; I think that I am at the heart of it a good person, and a good person doesn’t declare themselves all the time.  But nor should a good person go totally unsung or unrecognised.  That’s why I love to treat my friends, my family, those close to me – they are good people and they deserve a little luxury.  The same goes for myself.  And I wouldn’t spend it if I really couldn’t afford it, so why should I feel bad about it?  The only thing I hate is to be spending like this around people who honestly can’t afford it, because the last thing I am is a snob.  After all, this ability to buy something nice is fairly new to me – I wasn’t always like this, and I’ll never forget that there was a time (and there might be a time again soon – who knows?) when I couldn’t afford it myself.  I know what it’s like to have to really budget, and I truly hope that nobody close to me thinks that I’m buying things just for the name.  Shopping is about achieving the person I always aimed to be, about externally realising the man I am inside.  I hope that nobody close to me ever thinks that I don’t appreciate what I have, or that I take for granted my current finances.  Because I do, and I don’t (respectively).  And as for what the rest of the world thinks, I couldn’t give a fuck.

I have found my own sense of style, and a look in which I feel comfortable.  Unfortunately, that look is expensive 😛 (What do you expect? I have Italian blood 😉 ) Sometimes I have to ask Toby / Hannah / Nick / Davina / Deena / Karina to drag or steer me away from certain shops, because I know that I shouldn’t spend the money – it’s not necessary.  But from time to time, I give in to the devil on my right shoulder and buy myself something nice because I want it, I need it, I earned it.  Maybe I’m a little bit devilish, maybe I’m a shopaholic.  But if so, that’s who I am and on the whole, I like it 😉