Those of you who know me in ‘real life’ or follow any of my blogs might know that I have something of an addictive personality. I also like a challenge. Whilst living in London I took part in the Big Egg Hunt 2012 and Big Egg Hunt 2013, and also BT ArtBox; three similar events where fibreglass objects are painted by artists to raise money for charities, and members of the public are encouraged to hunt around to find them all. In the 2012 Big Egg Hunt I found 209 of the 210 eggs (one was never actually on display) and in 2013 I found all 102 eggs. I didn’t do as well with the phone boxes, and only found 69 out of 83 or 84.
Naturally, I was very excited to hear that a similar event was being held in Bristol this year, just after I moved to this fabulous city. These events are a great way to explore a place, and I learnt a lot about London whilst taking part in the previous events, so I was very keen to have a go at the Gromit Unleashed trail.
Gromit Unleashed runs from 1st July – 8th September, and sees 80 Gromit (the dog from popular animation Wallace and Gromit) statues scattered around Bristol and the surrounding area (with one in London Paddington). When I saw the map I thought there would be no way I could collect them all, even though I did have plans to go to London, because some of the ones on the outskirts of Bristol were just too far away. Distant locations included Cheddar Gorge and Westonbirt Arboretum, which would be very difficult to get to using public transport alone. Luckily, my Mum is as crazy as I am and was up for a spot of Gromiting by car! (‘Gromiting’, by the way, is the new word that has been coined because of this event. I hope it makes it into the dictionary!)
I spotted my first Gromit before the trail had officially begun, when the statues were still being painted in May, and today (with a LOT of help from my mum and her car) I found my 80th Gromit!
I’ve seen so much of Bristol and the surrounding area now and have got a real feel for the place. It’s been lovely to drive through the countryside, walk around different parts of town, and discover new things. All throughout the trail I’ve been glued to the official Gromit Unleashed app, which I have to say is absolutely smashing! It’s very playfully made, with great Gromiting music and little snippets from Wallace whenever you ‘find’ a Gromit. The whole event has brought out the child in me, and it’s been crackin’ fun, Gromit!
Of course, there’s a serious side to this, and one mustn’t forget that this wonderful event is all in aid of Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal, the Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity. The statues will be auctioned off in October to raise money for the charity.
If all of this sounds like jolly good fun to you, there’s still two weeks left to see the Gromits (until 8th September). Then, from 18th – 22nd September all 80 Gromits will form a public exhibition titled ‘The Greatest Dog Show on Earth’ at the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) in Clifton, Bristol. For more information, visit: www.gromitunleashed.org.uk.
Here are the 80 Gromits, and for more pictures please visit my Flickr set.
I had another cycling lesson tonight, and it was great. I spent the week dreaming that perhaps one lesson would be enough and that today I would just cycle off into the sunset, but I know it will take more work than that. Already I’ve learnt that good things are worth working for, and have certainly reinforced the old saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. I did well today, and still no injuries, but I do have a long way to go.
My cycling teacher said something tonight which really rang true, and I don’t know if she realised how deep and meaningful it was when she said it, or if she was simply offering me cycling advice. To paraphrase, she said, “It’s no good looking in one direction forever as you’ll only go that way. You have to remember to look where you want to go.”
Those are the words I’m going to take with me this week as I ride in to the second half of the year. I have a very different perspective on life now than I did when the year began, simply because I started looking in a different direction, towards where I wanted to go. I’m quite happy going the way I’m going at the moment, but I mustn’t forget to look around me too, and to keep my eyes open for all opportunities that come my way, whatever the direction.
If you follow my other blogs, Haikugirl’s Japan or Picturing England, you might already know that I’m moving to Bristol at the end of the month for a new job. London is a brilliant city, but it can get tiring, and I’m ready for a new adventure. I’m actually really excited about having a whole new city at my doorstep to explore, and have found myself exploring already even though I haven’t moved yet. I was in Bristol on Friday flat hunting, and managed to cover rather a lot of ground (on foot) while looking for a place to live. On Saturday morning I was too tired to walk far, but had a little wander around the harbour.
I found a curious bridge called ‘Pero’s Bridge‘, dedicated to the memory of Pero, an enslaved African man who was brought to Bristol in 1783 as a servant.
On the bridge, I was delighted to find some love locks. As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader of this often neglected blog, I have a bit of a thing for ‘love locks’. Love locks, as I call them, are the padlocks that people leave on bridges, declaring their undying love for one another. I guess I am a romantic at heart.
I’m glad to know there’s a little bit of love in Bristol…
You might remember from previous posts that I’ve got a little bit of a thing for the modern tradition of love locks; that is, people declaring their love for each other on a padlock, and locking it to (usually) a bridge in a public place. You can read more about love locks I’ve found before in these posts: part #1 (Brooklyn Bridge, New York), part #2 (Hungerford bridge & Tower Bridge in London), and part #3 (Shoreditch, London).
Now I’m back with part #4, because this weekend I visited the British Heart Foundation Love Installation at Covent Garden.
For a suggested donation of £3, Joe Public and his adoring girlfriend/wife/lover have been able to declare their undying love for each other on a red padlock this week, and lock it to a giant installation reading ‘LOVE’. Actually, looking at the love locks, it hasn’t just been romantic love that has been declared – there have also been friendships, family love, love for places, and memorials to loved ones.
I visited the installation on Friday night, but it was too dark to get good pictures. I went back on Saturday, but it was too crowded. So, not wanting to miss out, I decided to go into town again this morning before the shops opened and get some more photos. I was really moved by some of the declarations I read, and even left one of my own (see if you can spot it).
The installation (and a similar one at Camden Lock) were in aid of National Heart Month (February).
Last year I enjoyed taking part in the Big Egg Hunt and finding 209 eggs hidden all over London (see 2012’s post), so I was delighted to hear that the Big Egg Hunt was back this year. On a slightly smaller scale, this year there are only 101 eggs to find (plus the mascot, Eggbert), and this time the eggs are only scattered around Covent Garden, not the whole of London. Most of the eggs are really easy to find, and it only took me last night and an hour or so today to snap them all.
All of the eggs in The Big Egg Hunt are decorated and designed by different artists, painters, sculptors and ceramicists, and some of them are really creative and original. The headline artists are Sam Taylor-Johnson (formerly Taylor-Wood), Billy Childish, Alexis Harding and Michael Petry.
One of the best things about the Big Egg Hunt is the great atmosphere it produces. Suddenly everyone is on the same mission, and complete strangers happily chat to each other in the streets. I met this lovely chap today who made the effort to call out to me when he saw me again later and offer me helping in finding Eggbert, who was hiding. Usually in London people don’t look at each other, let along speak to each other, so it make a really nice change to discover that there are in fact some friendly people out there. The Eggsperts hovering around Covent Garden selling books and giving out chocolate were also lovely!
The Big Egg Hunt is sponsored by Lindt chocolate and in support of Action for Children, a charity committed to helping the most vulnerable and neglected children in the UK. The Big Egg Hunt will be in London until Sunday 17th February, before it moves off to Birmingham (19th – 25th February), Liverpool (27th February – 5th March), Manchester (7th – 13th March), Glasgow (15th – 20th March) and then finally back to London for Easter (22nd March – 1st April).
Find out more at thebigegghunk.co.uk.
I don’t think I would ever have enough time to respond to all of WordPress’s ‘daily prompts’, but this year I hope to do some of them when the mood takes me. Today I feel the urge, so here I am responding to the challenge of sharing my favourite quote and explaining why it moves me.
Here’s the one quote I always return to:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. (Mark Twain)
I think it’s fairly obvious why I like this quote – it’s all about following your dreams, throwing caution to the wind, and not being afraid to have a go. Although that’s not a philosophy I’ve always stuck to in my life, it is something that is generally in the back of my mind when I’m making big decisions (like when I quit a well paid job in publishing to go and live in Japan).
This quote usually comes to mind whenever I see the sea. The sea calms me, but also excites me, because it makes me think of adventures and travel. I love the idea of literally throwing off my bowlines and sailing away from the safe harbour, off into the distance, in search of adventure. We’ve got it all too easy these days, what with hoping on planes and being able to communicate so easily with people on the other side of the world. Sometimes I long for the days when people had to go on epic journeys because there was no other way to get from A to B, and when the journey was all part of the adventure. Now everything seems to be about how fast we can get from A to B, and how much we can distract ourselves with technology along the way. When we get to our destination, we already know what we’re going to find, because we’ve seen it all online already.
We must never forget to explore, dream, and discover, wherever we are.
Have you read Miranda Hart‘s book, Is It Just Me?, yet? No? Why on earth not?
I finished reading it yesterday and feel the need to share now. I laughed (out loud, sometimes, while in public places), I almost cried, and I nodded my head in agreement quite a lot (on pretty much every page actually – must have looked like some kind of nodding dog). Throughout most of the book a knowing smile was spread across my face, and people around me on the train or in Starbucks must have wondered what it was that I knew that they didn’t. It was simple – I knew I was reading a gem of a book!
Just before I read the final chapter of the book I had been wandering along a quiet street in south-west London when I suddenly imagined myself bumping into Miranda Hart (probably literally, since we both seem prone to bumping into things). I often imagine such scenarios, and now I know that it’s not just me who does this, which is reassuring. After bumping into Miranda, I imagined apologising profusely, laughing it off together, and then explaining to her that I was just about to finish reading her book and that I loved it. In the past when I’ve met famous people I’ve become a jabbering sweaty fool (sorry Jonathan Ross!), but on this occasion I would exude confidence and wit and Miranda would instantly see that I was her kind of people (that’s how the fantasy went, anyway).
Because I am, dear reader, I am her kind of people. The book asks “is it just me?”, and I can say with total confidence that it most certainly is not just you, Miranda. Never have I read a book I related to more. It was hilarious because life is hilarious, isn’t it? And if you don’t laugh, you’ll probably just cry. Or sit around frowning, which I admit I am prone to doing sometimes.
Right from the first page I knew I was going to love Is It Just Me?. Miranda talks about where you might be reading the book (I was stood in Sainsbury’s having not actually bought said book yet, trying to kill some time because the tills weren’t open – bloomin’ Sunday trading laws). On that first page Miranda makes a reference to commuting, which perfectly describes why I hate it with such a passion: “Maybe you’re standing on a commuter train, using this book as a filter between you and a repellent armpit. If so, I’m terribly sorry. That’s no way to start the day, is it? Face in a pit.“. I knew I was going to love every word that followed.
Is It Just Me? is an amusing romp through life’s trials and tribulations (good word, ‘tribulations’), in which Miranda talks to her 18-year-old self, who attends and all-female boarding school. As she covers each topic, from music and hobbies to office life, to diets, dating and dreams, Miranda gives advice, tells anecdotes and asks “is it just me?”. If you’ve ever seen her wonderful BBC comedy (currently showing series 3 on Mondays at 9pm), you’ll have an idea what kind of stories you’re in for. These are stories of ordinary stuff, like how to balance a drink and plate at a buffet and actually eat the foot on your plate (you can’t, it’s impossible), making small talk with super intelligent people (just don’t get me started on that!), and carrying watermelons (we’ve all seen Dirty Dancing, right?).
But it’s the last chapter on ‘dreams’ which I really adored, and which actually brought a tear to my eye. I won’t ruin it for you, because I do insist you buy and read this book yourself, but Miranda talks about the importance of following one’s dreams, just as she has done. She reminds us all that life is silly and difficult at times, but that we must hold on to our dreams, even the little ones. We must also be honest with ourselves about what those dreams are, and not attempt to make our dreams fit in with what we think we should be doing or what the rest of the world thinks we should be doing. If it’s been your dream since childhood, and it’s still your dream now, then it probably is what you ought to be doing. I’ll give you a small quote:
I think it’s sad when people stop dreaming, or start losing hope. Because holding onto the bonkers dream might just turn out to be the most marvellous thing you ever did…. Allow me to sit back, fold my arms, hoist my trousers northwards and say, ‘YOU. YOU are the person this industry has been waiting for.
So it was with this thought about dreams that I finished Is It Just Me?, while riding on a slightly sweaty Piccadilly Line tube, face not quite in a pit. Ever since I can remember I have been writing stories. When I was a kid I wrote stories about killer piranha fish and Sylvanian Families. Now I write stories about Japan. Although it’s always been my dream to be a writer, I guess I struggle with the idea that I actually could. I find it hard to imagine walking into a bookshop and seeing my book on the shelf (I’d better hurry up or bookshops might cease to exist, what with all this technology), or being invited to a bookshop to give a reading, but why shouldn’t I achieve my dream?
When I heard Miranda had a book out, I just thought it would be a jolly good laugh to read – such fun – and it was, but I didn’t expect to get a real life lesson too.
Thank you, Miranda Hart, for what I call I really fabulous book!
2012 has been a busy year for me. I started a new job in August, which has kept me out of trouble, and I’ve been working hard outside of the day-job too, trying to get more freelance writing work and make more connections in the UK-Japan community in London and also with street artists in the UK. I haven’t written on AliMuskett.com as much as I would have liked to, but have been busy with Haikugirl’s Japan and Picturing England, my two main blogs.
Still, I’ve managed to post 54 times on AliMuskett.com and have received 15,487 views in total this year, which is wonderful! My top 5 posts in terms of views this year were:
1. Brainwashed in London (August 2012) – 932 views
2. An interview with graffiti artist Paul “DON” Smith (April 2012) – 766 views
3. Sex & the City? Do it yourself! (February 2012) – 312 views
4. The locks of love… (January 2012) – 233 views
5. Rave Art: Mr Brainwash & David Guetta know how to party (August 2012) – 213 views
As you can see, it’s been quite a year! I’ve really got into the street art scene in the UK, and hope to be able to meet up with some more artists next year and conduct a few more interviews. I’d also like to write more about London, because it really is an amazing place to live and there’s an awful lot going on here.
I’ve been looking at the handy annual report WordPress.com has produced for me, and was very interested to see that most of my readers this year have been from the UK, but that the US and Mexico (?!) are in second and third places, closely followed by Japan in fourth place and Spain and Canada in joint fifth place. It seems my blog is more international that I imagined, and I’m delighted to know that people all over the world are stopping by.
Wondering how people are finding my blog, I looked at the popular search terms which lead people to AliMuskett.com. The top five this year were all to do with the Big Egg Hunt, and yet my Big Egg Hunt post featuring photos of the 209 eggs I found hidden around London earlier this year didn’t quite make it into the top five posts (it was sixth, actually, with 178 views).
Anyway, enough of these statistics! Anyone who is following me on Twitter is probably wondering what’s got into this girl who used to hate stats so much at school, as this will be my third ‘2012 review’ post this afternoon! Thank you all for reading, whoever you are, and please do keep reading in 2013! Leave me some comments, introduce yourselves, suggest things you’d like to read about, and do get in touch if you’d like to discuss a review or interview, or some freelance writing work.
Happy New Year! See you in 2013!
Christmas can be really depressing. Don’t get me wrong – I love all the decorations and the food and everything, but it’s so damn expensive. Even if you don’t have a lot of people to buy presents for, those you do have to get can really add up. On top of the expense, there’s always the feeling that most of the things you buy are unnecessary and perhaps even unwanted, too. How many of us can honestly say we’ve never received a Christmas present we didn’t want? Come on, be honest. We all have. Each and every one of us has, at some time or other in our lives, received something hideous and groaned at its inappropriateness. But did we stop to think that the present had cost someone money? That perhaps the giver had agonised over whether or not it was the right gift?
Choosing gifts for people can be a minefield, and even more so when you’re on a budget. That’s why last year my Mum and I started ‘Freebie Christmas’. Throughout the year we collect as much free stuff as we can for each other, and save it all up for Christmas. The aim is to spend nothing at all (although I did pay a few pounds postage on a couple of items this year, which I suppose is technically cheating), and we’re allowed to get things through any legal means (that means, using your Boots points is ok, buy one get one free is ok, stealing is not ok – except in the case of tea bags in hotel rooms, which we all know is not really stealing). 😉
If you missed it, here’s last year’s post. This year I think my Mum outdid herself:
Not only did we both have a lot of fun collecting things and rising to the challenge, all of the usual pressure was off. There was no concern over one person having spent more than the other, just a fight to see who could collect the most. There was some thought (some of my presents are really cool!), but there was also some silliness (but really, who doesn’t love free tissues?). I didn’t receive a single thing I didn’t like or couldn’t use, and even found joy in the surprise of opening things.
I’ve mentioned Freebie Christmas to a few people and everyone I’ve spoken to seems to think it’s a good idea. It’s amazing how much good stuff you can get for free (just see above!), and think of how much stress and money you could save yourself if you agree to a Freebie Christmas next year.
Well folks, November has been quite a month! I’ve battled a lingering cold, fought with the pavement (the pavement won, temporarily causing me to have to limp everywhere, but I’m ok now), worked full time (plus the occasional late night), worked as a reporter for three days on top of my usual job, drunk a LOT of coffee, taken a gajillion photos (none of which I’ve uploaded yet), written 2 blog posts on AliMuskett.com and 10 blog posts over on Haikugirl’s Japan, attended a few workshops and exhibitions, and somehow… somehow… managed to write a 50,000 word novel for NaNoWriMo!
Yes, The Shizuka Tea Shop which I promised to write way back at the end of October is finally in first draft, sitting comfortably at 50,106 words.
The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to get the words out and to lay the inner editor to one side for a month. That part has been hard – my novel is riddled with spelling mistakes, typos, things I could have worded better, facts that need checking, but all of that can come later – early next year when I start the editing process. I do absolutely intend to come back to this manuscript and edit the hell out of it to turn it into something publishable. The idea is there, and I think it’s a good one, so just watch this space.
I can’t say too much about The Shizuka Tea Shop at this point except to say that I’m calling it ‘travel chick-lit’, which is a title I would apply to books such as Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s set in Japan and England, and is pure fiction, although I have drawn on some of my own experiences to set scenes. The Shizuka Tea Shop is a book I hope people will simply enjoy for what it is – a sweet, funny, story about people everyone can relate to. Oh, and it would probably make a pretty good film, too. Just saying… 😉
Thank you everyone who has supported me during this month of madness. It’s been an interesting experiment to see if I really do have time in my overly busy life to write – and I’m happy to have found that I do (although it has been hard to force myself to actually do it, and I’ve been writing right up until the bitter end). It’s worth noting that I wrote more than half of this book using Pages on my iPad. When I bought my iPad I originally told myself it was so I could get some writing done on the Tube, but really that was just a lie to myself because I wanted a new toy. Well, my iPad is finally being put to good use! I’m no longer just playing Scrabble and Kumo Lumo on it, or watching catch-up TV in bed, I’m actually using my commuting time to write, and that’s a habit I hope to continue.
November is nearly over, and December will be upon us tomorrow. Before we know it, it will be Christmas and then 2013. It’s a little early for a New Year’s resolution, but I hereby promise to keep the spirit of NaNoWriMo with me throughout 2013, although I don’t intend to write 50,000 every month.