It’s not just you!

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!

Is It Just Me? is available from Amazon and all good bookshops. For more information about Miranda Hart, please visit: mirandahart.com.

Miranda

(Image: Amazon)

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My 2012 in review

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

Mr Brainwash

2. An interview with graffiti artist Paul “DON” Smith (April 2012) – 766 views

Street Art & Graffiti in Shoreditch - Don

3. Sex & the City? Do it yourself! (February 2012) – 312 views

Bleeker St

4. The locks of love…  (January 2012) – 233 views

Locks on the Brooklyn Bridge

5. Rave Art: Mr Brainwash & David Guetta know how to party (August 2012) – 213 views

David Guetta, The Queen, Prince Philip & Mr Brainwash!

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!


NaNoWriMo 2012 – Winner!

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!

NaNoWriMo 2012 certificate

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.

NaNoWriMo Winner 2012


NaNoWriMo 2012

In November 2010 I participated in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Now, two years later, I’ve decided to have another go. My 2010 novel hasn’t seen the light of day since I finished it, but finishing it was actually the main achievement. If I read it back now I would probably cringe at how badly written it is, but that doesn’t matter, because NaNoWriMo is all about putting that inner editor to one side and bashing out 50,000 words. Yes, 50,000 words – that’s about 1,667 a day for 30 days.

This time round though, I’m intending to write something that could actually be commercial. I have an idea forming which may not make me the next Elizabeth Gilbert/Helen Fielding/Candace Bushnell/[insert name of favourite chick-lit author here], but it might actually be something that people want to read.

So, from November 1st until November 30th I shall be tapping out my story which is provisionally titled ‘The Shizuka Tea Shop‘. Keep an eye on the counter to the right of this blog to see my word count progress… and wish me luck! 😉


Freshly Pressed!

Fantastic news – I’ve been Freshly Pressed!

My recent post, Brainwashed in London, about visiting Mr Brainwash‘s new exhibition has been selected to appear on Freshly Pressed on the WordPress home page. Posts are selected by hand, so it’s a real honour to have been picked.

I was lucky enough to be Freshly Pressed once before over at Haikugirl’s Japan, and it sent my page hits through the roof, which resulted in some new subscribers and more comments. Everything I write and post online I do for myself, but it makes me so happy to receive feedback and to know that people are interested in what I’m doing and enjoying my writing and photos.

AliMuskett.com started as “a place for everything else” because I sometimes wanted to write about things that weren’t Japan-related and didn’t fit into Haikugirl’s Japan. After I came back from Japan, I figured I would end up forming other interests that were not connected to Japan, and I was right. Now, a lot of my posts are about art and street art, but I do also stray into other random topics from time to time. AliMuskett.com also acts as a central hub to all of my online activity, with links to my social networking sites, blogs, and freelance writing.

So, thank you WordPress for selecting a post from AliMuskett.com to appear on Freshly Pressed, and thank you readers for reading! Don’t forget, if you want to keep up with my posts, you can always subscribe by email at the top of the page, or follow me on Twitter. I always appreciate comments and suggestions, so do feel free to leave a message below or get in touch.

If you’re a fellow blogger and fancy the idea of being Freshly Pressed, here are some tips on how to get noticed: Five Ways to Get Featured on Freshly Pressed, and a recent article about What Makes a Post Freshly-Pressable.

Thanks for reading! (*^_^)v


Legacies

I’ve been thinking a lot about legacies recently. Without wanting to sound morbid, I’ve been thinking about what is left behind when we die.

Last weekend I visited one of my best friends, who has just had her first baby. Something she said made me realise that, in having a baby and starting a family of her own, she had created her legacy.

Not wanting to have children of my own, I started thinking about how, when I died, there would be nothing left of my name… unless I found some other way to leave my legacy.

Tonight I went to a special Time Out event at The Museum of Everything in Selfridges. All of the artwork featured was by people with some kind of disability. The featured artist of Exhibition #4.1, Judith Scott, had down syndrome and no verbal way of communication because she was deaf and dumb. However, she found a way of communicating through art. She told stories with intricately hand-woven bundles of yarn and found objects. And, once she started, nothing and no one could stop her. Only death. Now her work is hung in a gallery for people to discuss as they swig from free bottles if beer and munch on pop corn from red and white striped bags.

The Museum of Everything Exhibition #4.1 Judith Scott - © (Image from Time Out.)

The museum’s founder, James Brett, commented that “we’re here to make stuff“. He added, “perhaps if we don’t make anything, we weren’t here at all“.

This comment stuck with me and my thoughts about legacies. My friend made a family. Judith Scott made objects we can now call art. I have always said that I write because I have to, because I can’t not write. I’m here to make stuff with words, otherwise there’ll be nothing of me left behind.

The Museum of Everything - Window displays at Selfridges

The Museum of Everything - One of the window displays at Selfridges

The Museum of Everything is at Selfridges until 25th October. If you need inspiring, it’s the place to be. Exhibition #4 is on the Lower Ground floor of Selfridges and Exhibition #4.1 (Judith Scott) is upstairs in the old Selfridges Hotel. Both spaces are incredibly designed and worth visiting for their utter uniqueness.

***UPDATE: Exhibition #4.1 at the old Selfridges Hotel has been extended until November 6th, so please check it out!***


Being Ali

In my usual style, I have got myself all caught up in playing with websites only to discover it’s now gone midnight and I’ve turned into a pumpkin. Well, I haven’t actually turned into a large, orange vegetable – yet – but I really had better go to bed soon because I have work tomorrow.

The reason for this brief post is just to introduce you to AliMuskett.com (if you haven’t been here before), and to let you know that the blog on this site, Being Ali, is going to be replacing my old personal blog, Only Me…. All the old posts have been imported, so nothing has been lost. I just figured I had one too many websites, and one had to go.

So, if you were follwing Only Me…, now’s the time to subscribe to Being Ali! 😀 The topics I’ll write on here will be varied, but will probably end up being daily life stuff, writing experiments, and general musings.

If you’re in interested in Japan-related content, Haikugirl’s Japan is still going strong. If you like travel in general, Haikugirl’s World is your place. And if all that reading gets a bit much, pop over to Picturing England, where you can see a daily photo with hardly any words at all.

Oh, and if you’re hungry, you can always have a break over at KitKats!

Now, seriously, bedtime before I turn into a pumpkin…