Friday, February 27, 2009

The Reader

How far would you go to protect a secret?

Today I went to the cinema to watch The Reader, knowing nothing about the film other than that Kate Winslett won a BAFTA, Golden Globe and Oscar for her performance. The Reader was released in the UK in early January, more or less at the same time as Slumdog Millionaire, which understandably did a lot better (not least because it's a British film with a happy ending) effectively overshadowing every other film that hit the big screen at the same time. My local cinema had long given up on The Reader, but possibly due to Kate Winslett's successive wins, it re-introduced early afternoon screenings this week, so I thought I'd go watch it and see what all the fuss is about.

My verdict? I loved it. Dare I say it, I thought it was better, more moving and more poignant than Slumdog Millionaire - and that says a lot, because I liked Slumdog Millionaire very much indeed. Slumdog Millionaire was entertaining, it was a feast for the senses (great cinematography and a fab score by A.R. Rahman contributed to this) and it left me feeling warm and fuzzy. The Reader, on the other hand, made me think, it made me cry and the story stayed with me for hours after I left the cinema. I was so captivated by it, that I walked straight into a bookshop and bought the book. I don't think I've enjoyed a film as much since The Kite Runner this time last year.

I watched The Reader without knowing what it was about, and found it very easy to get into. Therefore I won't talk about the storyline, or the performances, but if you'd like to know more about it, this is the best review I've found on the internet.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Byzantium comes to London

One of the advantages of not working is that you have the opportunity to do things that you'd normally not have time for, like go to exhibitions, museums and matinees. I've not made it to a matinee yet, but last Friday my friend Lucy and I went to our first exhibition.

The Byzantium exhibition is organised by the Royal Academy of Arts in collaboration with the Benaki Museum in Athens, and showcases important Byzantium treasures. It is the first major exhibition on Byzantine art in the UK for 50 years and has become so popular since it opened in October 2008 that weekend tickets sell out weeks in advance. Lucky we could visit during the week then ;-)

Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts, London

The exhibition is held in Burlington House, a magnificent listed building on Piccadilly, in the centre of London, opposite Fortnum & Mason. It was originally a private Palladian mansion, and was expanded in the mid 19th century after being purchased by the British government. I'd been past Burlington House several times and had even made it into the courtyard once or twice, but never actually seen the inside of the building, which I have to say is just as impressive as the outside.

Considering it was 10 AM on a Friday morning, the place was pretty packed. I hate to think what it'd be like on a Saturday or Sunday!

The exhibition begins with the foundation of Constantinople in 330 AD by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great and concludes with the capture of the city by the Ottoman forces of Sultan Mehmed II in 1453. It explores the origins of Byzantium; the rise of Constantinople; the threat of iconoclasm when emperors banned Christian figurative art; the post-iconoclast revival; the remarkable crescendo in the Middle Ages and the close connections between Byzantine and early Renaissance art in Italy in the 13th and early 14th centuries. The first item you see as you enter the exhibition is a large copper chandelier from the 13th or 14th century, which is decorated with sphinxes and double-headed eagles. You can just about make it out through the double doors in the previous photo. You can also see a close up below - it's the only photograph I took, before Lucy saw the "no photography" sign.

It was a shame that photography wasn't allowed, because there were lots of interesting objects that I'd have loved to take pictures of, and hardly any of them were available as postcards in the museum shop. As you would expect there were a lot of icons, but also wall paintings, micro-mosaics, ivories, enamels, jewellery and metalwork, some of which have never been displayed in public before. One of the most impressive exhibits was the silver perfume brazier in the form of a domed building that appears on all the exhibition banners. All the icons were beautiful too.

We spent a good two hours at the exhibition which felt more like twenty minutes. That's a huge compliment coming from me, as I'm not really a museum person and tend to get bored easily when I'm in semi-darkness, esp. when there's nothing to take pictures of. However, in this case, the two hours went past in a flash.

British Museum, London

By the time we left Burlington House the sun had come out, so we wandered round Soho and ended up at the British Museum - but that's a topic for another post.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Slaving away?

Last month I found out I was being made redundant. You know, due to the credit crunch and all that. I have to say, it wasn't a total surprise. It came after months of unbelievably high workload, increasing budget cuts and general doom and gloom, so the signs were all there. Nor was it the first time it's happened to me, and no doubt it won't be the last either. All in all, I'm quite philosophical about it, and if truth be told, the timing's rather good too, as our financial situation is quite stable at the moment. With a bit of luck and good planning, I might manage to stay out of the rat race till at least the end of summer, giving me some time to chill out and catch up with life.

The best thing about being made redundant in my line of work is that the moment you're told the news you're immediately put on garden leave. That's when you don't have to work your notice, but you are required to stay at home (in the garden, so to speak) while you're paid as usual. So for the last few weeks I have been relaxing in the comfort of my own home (too wet to sit in the garden at the moment) compliments of my employer. Other advantages include being able to stay up as long as I like without worrying about getting up the next day, having lie-ins whenever I feel like it, going to the shops during the day, having home cooked meals every lunch time and no commuting whatsoever.

The first thing I've noticed about my jobless state is how much more relaxed I am. I don't mind if the shop assistant takes a bit longer to pass me my change, or if the bus is a little late, or the postman delivers in the afternoon. The second thing is how stressed everyone else appears to be. It'd never struck me before, probably because I too was rushing about, fretting about work, worrying about being on top of things, and trying to fit life into tiny amounts of "me" time. And all that for a job that was just that - a moderately interesting, reasonably well-paid job, but nothing exceptional and nothing that I won't come by again in future. In fact, in the last year or so, the worries were so big and the hours so long, it had felt almost like slavery. On second thought, I hope my next job is nothing like this one, and if it is, I hope I have the sense to leave before it gets too much.

Yesterday I had to go into the office at the end of the day to have a meeting with my boss. I was going in just as most people were going home and as soon as I got out of the tube station, I found myself walking against a sea of anxious, rushed faces heading in the opposite direction. For a moment, I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn't one of them - even if it means there's no way I'll be able to afford new clothes or shoes (sniff) in the foreseeable future.

Not surprisingly, I chuckled to myself when I saw this cartoon in the paper, because I've been there.

I showed it to hubby when I got home. He said, "not funny". He's still there.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Happy thought of the day

The days are getting longer. I realised earlier this evening when I went to post some letters for the final collection at 5:30 PM, and for the first time I could read the addresses on the envelopes *without squinting* as I put them in the box. Yey!!!!

Soon it will be summer :-)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Σ' έχω ερωτευτεί

Sakis Rouvas sings "I'm in love with you" and my heart's melting.

Hope you all had a good day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Love is all around...

How exciting! I've just heard that hubby's nephew proposed to his girlfriend of two years tonight, on their anniversary, and she said yes :-)

Someone's going to celebrate an extra-special Valentine's Day tomorrow then (it won't be us - hubby got home 5 minutes ago and the first thing he said on spotting a red envelope on the hall table was: "damn! I forgot to buy you a card").

Caroline & Richard
and Happy Valentine's Day too!

Almost V-Day

I had this photo in mind for the Wordless Wednesday before Valentine's Day, but I got my weeks mixed up and missed the opportunity to post it last Wednesday (probably too busy worrying about the effects of a packet of Cadbury Fingers ho hum). Never mind, it works just as well as a reminder that it's V-Day tomorrow, which is lucky as I've not made any preps whatsoever.

Off to buy a card now.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thought of the day

Today is so gloomy, cold and wet I feel like hiding under the duvet with a box of Cadbury Fingers.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Wordless Wednesday 47

Photo by Pamsie, taken on 2 February 2009
Can you see the dog?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Turning into Shirley Temple - not

My hair has what you'd describe as a bit of a kink. As it's also quite heavy, you only notice that it's not properly straight when it's layered, which it never was while I was growing up. In fact, the first time I had layers put in I was well into my 30's and my hairdresser stood there and went "your hair's actually wavy" to my "OMG my hair's wavy".

It was an awesome moment, like a dream come true. I never thought straight hair was terribly interesting, unless you actually used straightening irons and special lotions to make it that way. But kinky hair's good. OK, it's not the curls I dreamed of when I was a child, but at least it's not boring (no offence to people with naturally straight hair - we all want what we don't have, don't we, otherwise hairdressers wouldn't be able to make much of a living).

The other day I went to buy some shampoo. I don't tend to stick to a particular brand, so I wandered up and down the shampoo aisle trying to make up my mind. That's when I noticed a shampoo "for curly or wavy hair" which promised to give me amaziong curls, if only I put it in my basket and took it home. Which I did. The promise of turning into Shirley Temple was too good to resist.

Well, what can I say. I washed my hair as per the instructions on the bottle, scrunch dried it (usually guaranteed to bring out the waves big time) ...and ended up with the straightest hair ever. It was so not-curly that at least three people commented on how straight my hair looked and one even asked what type of brush I used to achieve the effect. At the moment, my hair looks just like my current avatar - long, layered and dead straight.

So much for Shirley Temple. Bah!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Sunday baking

Today I made choc chip muffins. They turned out really nice and were polished off in no time alongside a nice cuppa.

Now I'm thinking apple and walnut muffins for afteroon tea tomorrow. Mmmmm!