Recently I have travelled down to London TWICE to see Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar Named Desire. She is my all time favourite actress and this is the first chance I got to meet her so it was a pretty big deal for me. (Think jumping around my bedroom going "Oh my god!" on a regular basis...Screaming at my computer when I found out she was doing theatre again etc.) Last time she did theatre four or five years ago I was living in Japan so I've been waiting a really, really long time for this. Tickets to see her in theatre are very much in demand, so much so I had to became a friend of The Young Vic 10 MONTHS AGO in order to buy two tickets to see the play before the theatre even knew what dates the show would be on! I sat in the car park at work for forty five minutes on the phone on the morning tickets went live to get front row seats. I've ended up doing an ridiculous amount of ridiculous things to make this happen, but I have NO regrets! My bank account does though...
It was all worth it. So, so worth it. The play was amazing. The cast was phenomenal.
Words cannot explain how great it was or do it justice.
I was worried it would bring back a lot of upsetting memories or trigger flashbacks, as this was the play I was studying at school when I found my mum after she hung herself. Also the play itself is about a tragic mental breakdown which ends in a trip to the mental asylum, a suggested lobotomy and features a suicide. Thankfully though admiring the acting combined with the excitement of meeting Gillian Anderson afterwards meant the experience was a really happy one for me. I feel like I've put my A-Level demons to bed now, and I was able to appreciate and study the text properly for the first time. I even decided to read other plays by the same playwright!
Meeting Gillian is definitely the best experience I've had of meeting a famous person after a performance. In the past I've encountered celebrities who weren't at all bothered about meeting fans, were rude or were so famous they were swamped and you couldn't get anywhere near them. That's fine, as I know actors don't owe their fans anything, but it is always so disappointing when you wait quietly and politely and don't hassle them, and they shove the program they signed back at you with disdain or don't stop to sign at all.
Gillian was the complete opposite. Genuinely happy to meet everyone. She took the time to sign for everyone who waited and listened to what people wanted to say to her. She understood that her fans admire and look up to her, and need to thank her for that and explain how she's touched their lives. She was patient. Smiley. Friendly. Modest. A little bit nervous when stepping out in front of the line of fans. All that added to her charm and appeal. All that even though she was exhausted after doing a three hour long performance where she was in nearly every scene! (Twice on some Wednesdays and Saturdays!)
The first time I met her I thanked her for something and talked about something that's too personal to share here, but she seemed genuinely touched by my story which was nice. She signed my program so quickly, and the moment was over so quickly I forgot to ask her to personalise it though. Whoops.
The second time I met her I got a personalised signature and asked her to sign my arm. (I was strongly considering getting it tattooed.) She didn't judge me for this at all or get freaked out (Phew!) and said some people have asked for the same. She was patient and wanted to get it exactly right for me, which I loved. Again, being a bit too excited to be 'with it', I didn't really manage to specify exactly where I wanted it and instead just pointed at my forearm. My bad skin also meant by the time I got back to the hostel it was already fading too much to get tattooed, plus I couldn't find any tattoo parlours open that late from Google. Oh well. I was thrilled to have it on my arm for a few days anyway. : D
Sadly you couldn't get your photo taken with her, but you could get someone to take photos of you from the side.
I love how happy I look in them. This has definitely been one of the best moments of my life. I love her!
As Mark was working the afternoon I arrived me and Yvette braved the freezing cold temperatures and took the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) to Greenwich which was just a few stops away. It was lovely to visit an area of London I've never been to before and ride the DLR for the first time. I'm still amazed that the trains can operate without any drivers! I was really impressed with Greenwich. It felt like a small, upmarket and creative family town. Even walking under dark skies in a bitterly cold wind the atmosphere was delightful. The buildings stunning. All shop windows beautifully dressed. I felt really inspired and re-energised by spending the afternoon there.
First up was a quick peek at the Cutty Sark which I would love to look round some day (along with all the other museums). I also saw the ferry terminal where Yvette informed me that people commute to work from there. The idea seemed so funny and surprising to me. I guess I associate London with double decker buses and The Tube so much it seems odd that there are other forms of transport. When you think of commuting by ferry you imagine living on an island off the coast of the UK before you think of central London.
After seeing the ship we walked on in the direction of Greenwich Arts and Crafts Market. It's indoor and has rows upon rows of stalls in the middle with two lines of funky little shops on either side. Even though everything for sale there was what I describe as "luxary tat" I still left with quite a few shopping bags, a small print that is now hanging on my bedroom wall and lots of ideas for crafts. In case you're wondering what I mean by "luxary tat" think overpriced stuff that looks pretty and you want it but you don't really need it and ultimately could have a go at making it yourself anyway.
To rest and warm up after walking around all afternoon we stopped at a cafe just next to one the entrances to the market. This also turned out to be a really creative and inspiring place to be as it was a ceramic cafe. I've never seen this kind of thing before but it's an absolutely smashing idea. You choose a blank ceramic when you go in which could be anything from an item of crockery to a small animal then you paint and decorate it at your table whilst you eat and drink. When you're done the staff fire it for you and you can collect it about a week later or have it delivered to you. We just consumed calories during our visit, but if I'm ever showing friends round Greenwich in the future I'd love to take them there. Especially if it's a friend from Japan as decorating something like a mini telephone box would make a great souvenir.
Once we got back to her place Yvette introduced me to the joys of a comedy called Modern Family and once Mark returned the three of us ate dinner and watched the film Starter for Ten. I have to say the scene in the restuarant where the main character talks about his dad's death is an absolutely cracking piece of acting from James McAvoy, and the most realistic moment I've ever seen in film of what it's like to be a young person whose suffered the loss of a parent. I also have to say that Yvette's cooking is well fit.
I managed to finish one of them yesterday which I very much recommend. It's called "Do Not Pass Go" and it's written by a chap called Tim Moore. As you may be able to guess from the title it's about Monopoly. It's kind of a history and guide to both London and the game. First Tim introduces us to his love of the game and how it is part of so many childhood memories. He describes things we are all familiar with, such as how you always say nothing when you land on someone else's property with a hotel, until they role the dice, when you smugly announce to them that they missed the rent. He also lists the origins of the game (it's American) and how the British version came to be (two people called Vic and Marge who weren't even from London went on a day trip and picked out the places). Next comes the main part of the story. With his Monopoly set he starts a game and visits all the places he lands on. He ends up exploring everywhere from Old Kent Road to Mayfair, tries to find some free parking and even goes to jail (don't worry, he was just visiting).
While his writing can be a bit of a dry effort to plough through sometimes it is overall a very interesting and enjoyable read. His Monopoly tour of London shows a lot of areas unfamiliar to the reader. Few people, even Londoners, can tell you where Vine Street is let alone say that they've been there. Why is it on the board? His careful research also shows us how London developed and changed over the decades into what we know today. It tells some interesting tales of what buildings used to be in the past, the people who were there and what kind of things they got up to. You learn not just about the streets but the transport too, along with the electricity and water works of the city. The book is filled with so many cool facts that should I ever be a contestant on the L or M series of QI I feel this book has prepared me well for it.
What I found most interesting is how Monopoly is very much a reflection of the era it was born and the people who selected the streets. Plus it was really good to find out how all those funny little oddities came to be. Why are Bow Street and Marlborough Street worth more than Pall Mall? Why is the policeman on the go to jail square American? What the hell is a community chest?!
It also sparks a lot of childhood board game filled nostalgia and with that, a sadness that people don't really play board games anymore. Who would sit down and get a Monopoly game going that could last for days? I haven't played Monopoly for years, but even I found myself wanting to go out and buy a set and question everyone about their Monopoly memories. What token did you play with? Which properties did you always try to buy? Did anyone else sing the song by Abba when instructed to "Take a Chance" or was that just me?
P.S - If you don't get to read the book, remember to buy orange. It's the most profitable set and the one most likely to be landed on!
I drag myself out of bed at 5am and start to get ready
6 hours to go
I stand in front of the mirror and curse my low self esteem. I feel like a frumpy idiot who can not pull of smart to save her life. I see that there are five minutes to go before the taxi arrives, do I have time for one last change? I run upstairs tearing my clothes off and am in the middle of pulling on a completely different outfit when my mobile rings. Shit. I run downstairs, button up my trousers, jump in my shoes, grab my bag and run out the door through the gardens and up the alleyway to reach the street. I can see the taxi pulling away, why do they always turn up early and never wait?! Realising that any pride I may have has to go for the sake of getting to the station on time I run down the road waving my arms. Thankfully the driver sees me and stops. I thank him. We drive away. I then notice that in my haste I had left my shirt undone. This is not a good start to the day! I pretend that I didn't just run out waving my arms like a lunatic with my bra on show and we talk about his job interview with JCB on Friday. To his credit, he managed to keep a straight face until the train station car park where announced that he'd never had a women running towards him in her underwear before. There was silence. We both burst out laughing. He added that he wasn't driving off when I came out the house, just up the road a bit to park and wait. We laughed harder. He then reduced the fare saying that I'm the best passenger he's ever had (*mental note, must try the "flash-to-save-cash" technique more often*) and expressed a keen interest in meeting again.
2 hours to go
I am sat in a Starbucks in Piccadilly Circus going through all my interview notes.
1 hour to go
I make my way into the embassy. After checking in I'm left to watch Japanese music videos on the TV screen in reception while I wait.
Isn't the embassy pretty? :)
30 mins to go
I take the grammar test and mess it up because I can't spell at the best of times let alone work out whether a, b, or c is the correct spelling of penicillin. I then talk to one of the JET Programme staff who is escorting me around the embassy. (For security reasons we can't be left alone, though I suspect they heard the taxi driver flasher was coming). We talk about his time as a teacher in Japan and I feel better as he got the job without knowing any Japanese or having any teaching qualifications.
Thankfully there are only two friendly people asking me questions rather than a panel of ten subjecting me to an interrogation. They start off with the obvious questions like "Why do you want to be on the JET Programme?" and whether my asthma prevents me from taking part in any sports. (No but my laziness does!) Some questions seemed to be a bit bizare...
Japanese interviewer: How will you cope if you are in spring in rural areas if you allergic to porn?
Lizzie thoughts: What? Good lord did he just ask about porn? How do I answer this? Time is ticking away...I should say something. Porn?! How can anyone be allergic to porn..? Am I in the right interview? Shit answer answer...porn... spring.. the 'l' sound...
Lizzie: Ohhh you mean pollen!
*Interviewers exchange puzzled looks. Lizzie tries to make a good recovery from her bad hearing.*
The interview didn't feel 20 minutes long at all. I felt like I'd only just got in when I was told that there would be no more questions. I was escorted out again, picked up my belongings and then siddled off up Piccadilly to find Oxford Street. I felt very relieved - it was over! I felt very worried - what if I don't get the job? I also felt very stupid - porn indeed. I think the adrenaline was getting to me as I couldn't stop laughing and giggling as I wondered slowly through the streets in a daze.
It's a shame that I have to wait until April to hear if I'm through, but on the whole I feel happy with my replies. I did the best I could and I can't ask more of myself than that. :)
30 mins after
I'm in Waterstones pawing at travel books I can't afford.
1 hour after
In the station I see front pages announcing Heath Ledger has died. I sit and wait for my train home.
2 hours after
On the train home. Am comforted by the fact that if I don't get the job, the taxi driver from this morning could take me in and drive me around East Anglia in a digger. (Assuming he got the job with JCB.)
10 hours after
I am sad that I spent a whole week looking forward to Torchwood only to find that it's the worst episode of the show I've ever seen (Sleeper). How does a show with so much potential fail to realise so much of it!? I hope next week's episode is better!
*On the train to London some person sat opposite me said their drink was "frightfully good" and this amused me much.
*Any thoughts I had about how silly it was to leave the country were soon dispelled when Jane, "the manager of your train!" would not leave the microphone alone and constantly kept reminding passengers to remember to take all their personal belongings "including laptops, mobile phones, children and grandparents"!?
*A man on the underground gave me his all zone/all day travel card and I was touched by his random act of kindness. I now do the same when I'm finished with my ticket.
*While running to hide from thunder, lightning and scarily large amounts of water falling from the sky I accidently walked into the middle of the Harry Potter 5 premiere! (I had no idea it was yesterday...and man do those fangirls scream loud! Sadly I couldn't see anything except for the cars celebrities had arrived in driving out of the square, there were just too many people.)
*I spent the night on the floor of the airport and found it fun, while learning that sitting on my backpack with my glasses case in the top pocket isn't a good idea - RIP my spare pair of specs! I also learnt that no matter how strong the desire to re-read Harry Potter 5 before the new book comes out, taking Order of the Phoenix backpacking just doesn't work. It's too big!
On the 4th...
*My aeroplane arrived 30 mins early (can pilots get done for speeding?)...but the airport was two hours on the coach from Oslo. *Note to self*: Sillycheap ticket prices always have a catch!
Oslo is lush and I'm looking forward to exploring it more tomorow. Happy Lizzie :)
love and chocolate
Some friends in London offered to have me down and look out for me over the weekend of the anniversary and to avoid a repeat of the above drunkeness I thought it would be a good idea to go. Hell maybe even push the boat out and have some fun (heaven forbid)!
Amy was waiting for me at the train station and she asked me if I liked suprises, I thought she had a bar of chocolate in her bag or something. As she was leading me to the tube station she stopped and said, "by the way, someone's here to see you". I looked over and Anna was there!! Anna!!! I wish I could have seen the look on my face. She had flown all the way over from Iceland for a weekend in London and to be with me on the anniversary! Wow that girl is amazing. Anna in London!! Everyone else knew about it but me lol, and as if she hadn't done enough already the star even brought Tim Tams.
Friday night was spent watching some great live music at the Regal Room in Hammersmith, then trying to get in a hostel dorm room which is smaller than my bathroom with two bunkbeds crammed in. Cue lots of comedy shuffling. The next day we took the tube to St Paul's Cathedral so I could light a candle for mum and say some prayers for her. It was amazing and beautiful to finally see it close up, and the symbolism of the place was really touching too. I remember being told in a history lesson at school once that after a night of bombing during the Blitz all the buildings surrounding St Paul's had been destroyed yet the cathedral stood untouched. I felt stronger just by being near the place.
I then took Anna for a wander along the Thames and later on we met up with Amy and Lollypop again for another night in the Regal Room... followed by more take out from the Kebab Kid and singing very loudly in the car!
^ My Anna Bear
An amazing Kebab Kid moment!
Overall it was a really good weekend. Normally I would have been really down but instead I had so much fun. I feel so lucky to have people like Anna who have taught me that it doesn't always have to be such a difficult time and that I'm allowed to have fun! I had a few moments of "fuck this time 3 years ago mum was hanging herself" type thoughts and a few moments where I had that horrible cycling of asking myself why she didn't call, how could she do this to us, why didn't I do more to stop her etc etc... but I've accepted that there will always be splinters like that in my mind now and most of the time I can brush them aside.
I'm missing mum terribly - and I'm really bothered by the fact that this year I'll turn 20. I'm growing up without her and to be honest I find the idea terrifying. I hate it. It's unbearable...but I am feeling so proud too. I am still here. I made another year. I've lasted 3 years. I'm doing really well for myself and I'm happy. I'm determined to learn from this and use all this shit to help me help others and bring some more light into the world.
Many thanks to Amy & Anna, you guys rock my socks off so much I've given up trying to find them.
Love and peace to sister.
Well to keep it brief, it was fantastic! It was strange at first, spending so much time with one person, but as me and Anna got to know each other better, and we settled into the travelling life it became the best. I was so happy out there. My friendship with Anna is something really amazing and I’ve felt like I known her for years, rather than less than 12 months! So many people gave me warnings about travelling with someone from another country that I’d never met before – and sure I’m not dismissing them here, or saying they were unreasonable or unjustified, but I never felt really concerned. It’s going to sound awfully cheesy but I just knew that I was going to have an great time with her.
I liked having someone to share the trip with, I don't have the feeling of being unable to make others understand how the journey was for me, as I can joke and remember events with the person I traveled with here. When we were walking around or seeing attractions, I could point things out to her and we could talk and have a giggle. I think that's one of the things I miss when I travel alone, there is no one to share the adventure with. I don't think I could travel with someone all the time, but I would love to do it again!
The most frequently asked question is; did we get on? Yes we did! A few grumpy moments on my behalf, but other than that we never argued or fell out. We still talk every day - and she's certainly a bestie. :)
When Anna flew back into London in August I made the trip down from Norwich to meet her and we spent the day together getting up to our usual very random fun. For example buying bubble guns from Hamley’s, then travelling all the way to Victoria just to buy a screwdriver so we could put the batteries in and use them! She made me laugh so much during lunch that I could hardly eat for giggling at one point. My favourite part of the day was climbing up onto the base of Nelson’s Column and sitting there for what felt like forever. (And sitting in chewing gum *sigh*. I still can't get it off my jeans.) That evening we met up with another friend Lollypop, who was part of the message board meet up in June, and went for a meal. We all talked for hours, had a mega photo sharing session and then walked back to the hostel where I cursed time for going too quickly again.
At the door of the hostel we had one of those truly awful moments where there is nothing left to do except say goodbye, and as we didn’t want to we just stood there not saying anything! I cried so much that night and on the way back to Norwich the next day. Mainly because the trip we'd been planning and looking forward to all year was over and also because I don't know when I will get to see Anna next. We both want to travel together again someday though. I feel so lucky to have found a great travel companion.
^ Here we are sat on Nelson's Column.
love & hugs
Months after they happened I've finally got round to writing up my adventures in London!
The first time I went there this year was way way back on 1st May for a little birthday present to myself. An actress I really admire was in the UK doing theater for a few weeks and I knew I'd give myself a hard time if I didn't go down to see the play. Had a great little trip on the bus - mostly because the fare was only £3 and finding a bargain travel price is sooo satisfying! I got in the city, managed to get on/off at the right places on the underground, had food in Leicester Square then went to see One Flew Over The Cookoo's Nest at the Garrick Theatre. The play was amazing! The lead roles, played by Christian Slater and Alex Kingston (the one I went to see the play for, she's in ER) were fascinating to watch and I've never seen such good acting, especially in the scene where Kingston gets thrown across the stage and strangled...wow. (and I met her and Slater after the show too, got their autographs, they rock! I was going to get their photos but I was too slow and got mobbed by screaming Slater groupies.)
Ended up rising at 6.00am the next day as I couldn't sleep so thought I might as well see more of London. I really enjoyed riding around on the tube so early in the morning when I was the only one there - a lot more fun than rush hour! I found that my coach station was really close to Buckingham Palace and went there for a little stroll. It was so beautiful to see the fountain, palace and tree lined streets so early in the morning, and because most tourists were still tucked up in bed I had the place all to myself. I was there for about half an hour I think - it was so nice, peaceful and such beautiful weather too. I wish I could have ditched my revision for a few days and seen more.
On the 23rd May I was back in London again to see an Australian band called The Waiting Room (which features the actor Alan Fletcher who plays Karl Kennedy in Neighbours.) I was met at the door of the venue by a friend who I met online and she managed to sneak me in past security and get me a VIP ticket. (I now love her forever - thank you Amy!) I was able to see the sound check and it was cool to see the band as they were, rather than dressed up and performing. The gig was great and while I was disappointed that they only played a few of their own songs, they did a lot of funky covers from bands like the Killers, Franz Ferdinand and Oasis. The guys were great on stage and their enthusiasm and passion were clear to see. The crowd were really lively, singing and dancing along and in some cases even throwing underwear at Fletcher! The funniest part of the gig for me was the song where the band had changed the lyrics to make it all about Karl and Susan as well as watching Fletcher living it up with various hops and comedy dances round the stage!
After the gig I met Fletch in the VIP area. As I've been watching him on Neighbours for something like 11 years it was great to be able to see him in person. All the members of the band signed my album and had their photo taken with me. Another highlight of the evening was when I was waiting downstairs for Amy and one of the band members was walking past me to leave, he put his hand on my shoulder and said it was a pleasure to meet me! (I thought he wouldn't remember me or give a damn - *lots of swooning*!)
^Me with Alan Fletcher
^Me with the other members of The Waiting Room, to my right Chris and Tommy to my left.
After we left the venue Amy and her friend very kindly let me share their hotel room but so we didn't have to pay any more, smuggled me in and out again the next day! Before gettting my coach home I decided to wonder round London again and saw Trafalgar Square, Downing Street, Westminster Abby, Parliament and the London Eye thingy - a very amazing and unforgettable trip in all!