February has been a lot more fun than January. Starting the year with a cold and miserable month has proved to be a good thing, as any vaguely enjoyable thing that happens in my life from that point onwards will be grabbed with both hands and clutched onto for dear life.
I think 2013 is going to be the year of film for me. I have been to the cinema not once, not twice, but three times. That’s a wow, in case you’re not sure how to react. I have never been very excited about films. I often wondered if it was an attention span thing – I love reading books, and the great thing about books is that you can read them in as many sittings as you want depending on how interesting you find them, and I also really like watching television programmes, which are rarely more than around 50 minutes long, all told. So the act of having to sit through a whole film, in a cinema no less, was kind of excruciating. I’ve enjoyed the whole experience every time I’ve been to the cinema this year, although there still comes a time, just past the midway point of the film, where I feel the need to shift in my seat about twelve times per minute, and I want to go to the toilet, and get some fresh air, and get a drink, and check my email, and my leg has gone to sleep and I have an itchy knee, and so on. That may never leave me, and maybe it is just part of the film-going experience.
I’ve been to see Flight, Lincoln and Hitchcock. In the past I have usually opted to go see chick flicks and rom coms, thinking that the more light-hearted a film is the easier it will be to sit through. Yet, given that I have yet to cultivate a money tree and cinema tickets cost £8+ at the Showcase and £6 at my local cinema, I have vowed to only see good films. The definition of good is a work in process, and doesn’t necessarily mean, as the films I have seen so far may suggest, ‘starring a successful male actor in the lead role’. It just means ‘not crap, worth the money’.
After much mental anguish, I toiled my way through With or Without You by Domenica Ruta. I do not enjoy speaking badly of anybody’s my-tragic-childhood memoir, as it seems disrespectful and strange, but I just had to review it, so click here if you want to read me slagging it off. I finished Les Enfants Terribles, which I’ve been on with for many months. It was… okay. I didn’t passionately love it, but it was okay. I wonder if the fact that I kept reading ten pages, losing the book, reading another ten pages, getting into another book, and so on, that stopped me from loving it. I might give it another chance one day in the future. I also read City of Women by David R. Gilham. Set in Berlin during WW2 and dealing with the lives of the women left in the city, it ticked a lot of boxes for me before I started it. Now, I am no prude but there really are some terrible sex scenes in novels. Am I putting too fine a point on it if I suggest that there is a very obvious difference between male-written sex and female-written sex? Well, if you ask me there is, and there was some truly bad male-written sex in this novel. (Thankfully not Beauty Story by Luke Jennings bad, in which a female character describes her own nipples by comparing them to Marmite jar lids.) I also read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, which was wonderful. I never expected to enjoy a graphic novel so much! Then, on the very last day of the month, I started Bright Young Things by Scarlett Thomas. The premise is great, but so far I just feel bogged down in unrealistic, pointless dialogue.
I like to have some non-fiction books on the go at all times, and this month they have been The History of the World in Small Chunks by Emma Marriott and The Horologicon by Mark Forsyth.
I am still truly, madly, deeply in love with Coursera. As well as Critical Thinking in Global Challenges, I’m also signed up to an Introduction to Philosophy course. I studied Philosophy and Ethics at A-Level, and I really enjoyed it. This course is covering some of the same stuff I learned back then (thankfully not all of it – due to the way the A-Level course was structured it was absolutely necessary to do what were essentially some Bible study modules) and some stuff I’ve never heard of. My philosophical thinking skills are slightly rusty and I find myself stuck at complete dead ends often when I’m doing the exercises, but hey, at least I’m giving it a go!
Rich had some time off work and I am still not leading the wildly important and productive professional life I dream of, so I cajoled him into coming away with me for a few days. We had actually never been on holiday together before (while I was living in Bratislava he flew out to Budapest and I met him there, but I maintain that was not really a holiday, though I will allow that it was more than just a date) so he was essentially powerless to refuse. My first idea was to go to Tallinn in Estonia, because eastern Europe and because cheap and because former Soviet country, but after checking all available flights and hotels at short notice Rich eventually managed to bring me back west to Amsterdam. I’m not complaining, really, even though we all know that beer for one euro is better than beer for five euros. Having resolved that he would buy all my beers, we set off for what had leapt from a super-short break to four nights away. Amsterdam is fantastic and I had a lovely time. Lots of beer, cake, wandering around, looking at nice things, many of the things I enjoy. I will possibly post some pictures soon because I took lots and Amsterdam is very pretty indeed.