Got milk?

I’ve been meaning to post for ages but instead I sat and watched the days pass me by; valentines day, pancake day etc. I’m going to sum it all in this one post. Last year I wrote a post for Shrove Tuesday in which I discussed what I was giving up for lent. I’m reviewing the post and of course it all largely the same things that I intend to give up this year. Yay for consistency. Nay for never following through.

Anyway, apart from mopping and brooding over my life what else I have been up to? Nothing much, I’ve just been chilling, trying to form new habits and desist from bad ones. For Valentine’s Day, I did nothing but stay in bed and eat a grande bowl of pasta and slow cooked brisket ragu. I was happy and eagerly looking forward to Tuesday, this day being pancake day which really is my own Valentine’s Day. Last year I decided at the last minute to have some pancakes and I got some from the store on my way home. This year however, I was prepared and I got my supplies ahead of time. For breakfast I had fluffy American pancakes and eggs, and orange juice; and for dinner I had French crepes with chocolate, fruit, and ice cream. I was happy and bloated.

That was my last meal splurge and my last experience with dairy for a while. This is one of the main changes I have made in my life, and pretty much the last resort in resolving my skin issues. Even before Lent I had stopped consuming dairy and limited my sugar to help with my acne, and I found that my breakouts reduced drastically. The dark spots are still there of course but my face was not a pimple battlefield as it was before. I did relapse a few times-once when I bought a packet of Rich Tea, and then the next day when I bought a cake. What I realised is what I’ve always known: I have no self control when it comes to food. The biscuits were nice, but the cake was dry as hell yet I devoured it all in one go. The breakouts came back in full force, and they came back as well after my valentines day-pancake day binge fest. I accepted these pimples because all that food was an au revoir to my old life. I’m glad I did it because now I know for sure that diary is the devil’s liquid. It was actually interesting to see my skin change after consuming dairy; the angry pimples and angry red spots. It was a mess. The last of my pimples from the pancake fest are just clearing up. I do hope one day I can go back to consuming dairy in moderation but to be honest if I ever clear my skin I would never risk it by going near dairy again. Plus the dairy free life is alright, and all the dairy free alternatives are pretty good. Of course sugar is also another thing to give up but dairy seems to be the worst.

Without further ado, here are the things I am giving up for lent. I have copied out the things I tried to give up last year for Lent (in italics below) and added my current thoughts.

Reduce my screen-time: I aim to achieve this by reading a book instead, and avoiding mindless gossip. I’m taking this seriously this year. I’m trying to do this by putting my phone down more. The thing with living alone is that I have filled the void with sugar, television, and technology (my phone). I knew I was obsessed with my phone but it wasn’t until I spent Christmas with my friend that I realised just how bad it was. I am literally always holding my phone, even when I dash off to the toilet or downstairs to get my food. She called me out once for always holding my phone and while that ticked me off a bit I knew she was right. I spend so much time staring mindlessly at my phone, even as I am tired and my eyes are burning. There are times when it was past midnight and my brain was fried but I would continue scrolling through Instagram even though there was nothing to see. It was crazy. Anyway I deleted Instagram and I am now trying to wean myself off my phone. I also need to wean myself off of mindless gossip because I really don’t care about any of these things and they do not concern me.

Plan my meals and replace junk with fruits. I must understand that dinner is enough; there is no need to always have a snack. It’s also okay to say no thank you when offered a snack; it really is okay sweetie. Haha I have done a reasonably good job with this lately. Apart from the biscuit, cake and pancakes I have actually been pretty good. I went to the shop recently and there was a sale on Oreos biscuits so I instinctively picked it up. After completing my shopping I had a change of mind and put it back and got some carrots instead.

Fuck milk! I believe this is self explanatory.

Read more: I aim to read three books in this forty days. Back in the day I would have considered this to be rookie number. I will try to read but I’m too lazy and would rather watch television. That being said, three books this Lent seems doable. Let’s go!

Write for an hour everyday-Whew my restlessness is going to make this one hard! Not going to happen. Unless we count the writing I do for work. I will try to write more on the weekends. I actually need to because this is all I want to do. Every time I am doing something else I just want to be in bed writing. Yet when I get the time to write I watch television instead.

Talk to someone (family/friends) at least twice a week-I snuck this one in at the very last minute. I was going to write everyday but I chickened out. I do need to talk to people-other than myself. It cannot be healthy to go a whole week without any meaningful conversation. Hmmmmmmn I don’t know about this. I would rather text.

In short, this Lent I will cut out diary, reduce my reliance on my phone, and seek to be healthy in body and in mind. So help me God.

Sad girl.

I was in a bad mood yesterday. Sunday evenings are always a bit depressing, as I try to savour the last few minutes of the weekend while utterly dreading the looming Monday. Yesterday was especially bad as I was in all of my feelings and missing home. Home is a continent away; I am in a different continent from every single member of my family. It has been over a year since I saw them last; two years for some; and before then it was over a year since I had seen them and so on. This is the price one pays for working abroad. Years away from home has made me independent and self sufficient, but also incredibly lonely and dammit sometimes I just want to be at home. I’ve been away from home for ages; first hours away at boarding school, then a continent away at University, a brief return home before jetting off again to another continent for another degree and now career. I have missed so many family functions; weddings, births, funerals, general drama.

The older one gets the more you start to wonder what it is one’s life is for. I’m so over my job; I always say things could be worse because they truly could. As far as jobs go, mine is fine; I have enough independence and flexibility, and the pay is alright. But still, I am not settled and my spirit is not happy. Sometimes I’m fine, and sometimes I am so depressed by the thought that I have to log in to work every single week with only two days off a week, and I have to do this for decades! I get so much anxiety thinking about work. Most of the anxiety is in my head though, and I always try to tell myself it’s not a big deal, you don’t even have to leave your bed. I guess it’s just the fact that the day is not mine, and I can be called on at anytime. It’s tough. I can’t do this for much longer but then I am the one who has to make the decision on what to do next. Even if I get a new job, what’s the assurance that it won’t be the same or worse? Even being self employed has its cons. But wow this job does not feed my spirit at all. I need to be doing something more creative perhaps, but you know what they say about the grass on the other side. Then add to this the fact that I live with a revolving door of strangers that I can never get truly comfortable with, in a space that is not fully mine and you can see how over it all I am.

Today like yesterday
Tomorrow like today;
The drip, drip, drip,
Of monotony
Is wearing my life awa
(Langston Hughes)

Yesterday was hard. All of these feelings flooded in and overwhelmed me. All at once I was hit with the strong nauseating feeling of dissatisfaction; I am terribly dissatisfied with my life. I don’t have any friends or family near me. I just want to go home and sit on the couch watching poorly made television with my family, and eating dinner someone else made. I want to see my nieces and nephews grow up in real life, rather than through pictures. It is not natural to be alone. We are not built this way, regardless of how much I have come to crave solitude. I was not happy yesterday.

I feel much better now, and I felt better before going to sleep. I was deep in my self pity when a group call came in from all of my family. Now I absolutely despise people calling me, and the ringing of my phone is enough to drive me into a rage (or something not quite as dramatic). So even though I was missing home, I was not in the mood to speak to anyone so I ignored the call. But they called back again and again and eventually I picked up. It’s rare to have a call with all members of my immediate family, and what are the odds that it came in just as I was feeling so low. Though the call was raggedy with people’s connections coming in and out, it lifted my spirits tremendously to talk to my family. I just want to go home-not a physical place, but home as in the warm embrace of my loved ones.

What is my life for and what am I going to do with it? I don’t know and I’m afraid.

Malcolm and Marie.

Sometime last year the news filtered in that Zendaya and John D Washington had made a film during the pandemic, and to this I thought so what?  Then the trailer came out, and though I avoided it like I always do, I heard that there are only two characters in the film and that piqued my interest. Plus it was to be released on Netflix so of course I had to watch it, and I did watch it the first chance I got.

The film is about a film-maker Malcolm, and his girlfriend Marie; and it opens up as the couple return home from the premiere of Malcolm’s movie. Marie is obviously in an unpleasant mood while Malcolm is on a high from his night and he eagerly anticipates the forthcoming reviews. Though she is not happy, Marie takes the time to make him some Kraft’s mac and cheese which he devours like a maniac. Eventually the reason for Marie’s foul mood is revealed- Malcolm did not thank or even acknowledge her in his speech at the premiere, and this is the focal point of the whole film, a thorn that keeps popping up despite all the efforts to push it down.

The film is one long exhausting argument, in which the couple go back and forth throwing barbs at each other. Marie believes the film is based on her life-an ex drug addict, while Malcolm dismisses her claims in an infamous bathroom scene during which he disparages her as he lists all the women he has been with and who collectively inspired the character in his film. Throughout this spiel, Marie remains emotionless in the tub, and this is perhaps Zendaya’s best acting of the whole film.

Another thing that happens is a spectacular rant by Malcolm over a review from the “White female critic at the LA Times”. Even before the review was in, he already had his misgivings about the critic and how she was going to politicise the film simply because he is black, and so are the characters in the film. The review comes in and it is positive, but that does not stop Mr. Malcolm from ranting about it for minutes on end, while a weary Marie lay on the couch in her underwear.  It is glaring that the screenwriter/director, Sam Levinson, used the Malcolm character to express his personal feelings about critics and race. I could be wrong.

Just when the viewer thinks the issues are settled and the couple have made up, the fight starts again. This time Marie wants to know when Malcolm did not cast her in his film, given that she is/was an actress. This opens up another long winded argument in which Marie picks up a knife and…. you can find that out yourself. That particular scene got my attention but it could have been executed better- Zendaya tried her best but it was not enough.

The couple go to sleep, no doubt exhausted from all the fighting (I was exhausted just watching), and the film ends the next morning with no clue as to the status of their relationship.

This film has generated mixed reviews; there are those who think it is the best thing since the invention of film, and there are others who couldn’t get past the first twenty minutes. Both opinions are valid and I can see why each side would feel that way. For me personally what I distinctly remember was constantly checking how much time was left, and sighing in exasperation when I found out there was still a bit left. The Vulture called the film a failure on every level and I don’t agree with that. To paraphrase Ms. Aretha Franklin-there were beautiful gowns. The film was visually stunning, and the concept was interesting, but it could have been better done. I liked the architecture of the couple’s house, although I am way too paranoid to live in the woods. I didn’t really have a problem with the acting, though I felt at times that Zendaya was struggling to capture the required emotions.

Not to rag on Zendaya, but another thing that made the film uncomfortable was how young and juvenile she looked, and this posed a sharp contrast to Malcolm’s older mature character. Perhaps this was the intention; to show that Malcolm, an older man, took advantage of the young drug addicted woman. Marie seemed mentally exhausted and this could be because she was a young naive woman trying to keep up with the wily antics of a more mature man (Malcolm is only in his thirties but the contrast is a lot).  I also did not like how she was in a state of undress at certain points of the film while Malcom remained fully clothed. It is common in Hollywood for women to be naked next to fully clothed men and I always find it weird.

A few people have compared this film (quite unfavourably, I might add) to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, a 1966 film featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. I had heard of this film in passing but finally sought it out after watching Malcolm and Marie. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? follows Martha and George, an angry bored couple who constantly belittle and antagonise each other.  They invite another couple over and proceed to make them super uncomfortable the whole time. There are four characters in this film, to M&M’s two, but the concept is similar. I agree with those who say that the Taylor-Burton version was far better; I enjoyed the acting and the screenplay better, and  Sandy Dennis gave a great performance in the film.

Malcolm and Marie is not a theatrical breakthrough, but it is not a failure either. It really boils down to taste, and individual willingness to watch people argue for nearly two hours. A part of me wants to rewatch it during the day to see if perhaps I was too sleepy the first time. A part of me thinks I have seen enough.

To conclude, it may interest you to know that Netflix paid $30m for this film. Now you know why they keep increasing their prices.

Elizabeth is Missing

“My reflection always gives me a shock. I never really believed I would age, and certainly not like this.”

Hello cool cats and kittens. I finished my first book of February (fourth overall in 2021), and it was a book that was not even on my to-read list. I randomly came across this book on eBay while ordering another book- the seller was doing a buy one get one 20% which I couldn’t skip, and this was the cheapest option so here we are.

Elizabeth is Missing is the debut novel by Emma Healey, and what a fine debut this is. The book follows the protagonist Maud, an elderly grandmother who is dealing with dementia and the gradual loss of her memory. Maud can barely remember where she is sometimes, but she knows for a fact that her best friend Elizabeth is Missing. She tries to communicate this fact to those around her- her dutiful daughter Helen, her carers, the police, and even Elizabeth’s son- but no one will listen and they think she’s just a dotty woman rambling about nonsense. Elizabeth is not the first person in Maud’s life to disappear with no explanation; in 1946, nearly seventy years prior, her older sister Sukey vanishes without a trace, leaving the family bereft. The book switches seamlessly from present to past, as the parallels in the cases come to light. In her increasingly befuddled and erratic state, Maud presses on in her search for the truth even as she looses her hold on reality. 

First off, wow. The author, Emma Healey, does an amazing job depicting dementia and capturing life from the lens of a person dealing with this condition. I could feel the fear and confusion that Maud felt, and also the shared frustration of Maud and those around her. This for me was the true sadness and terror of the book- the thought that one day I might lose my faculties due to old age, I am already quite forgetful as it is. Just now I was watching a YouTube video on my phone and I paused it, got up and went around my room looking for my phone. Such a Maud thing to do. It is so scary and I pray I don’t get dementia (or Alzheimer’s which apparently is a form of dementia. I was always confused about the two).  The book reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in which the main character was a 15 year old with some sort of autism spectrum disorder.  I felt it gave a good insight into the life of a person on the autism spectrum and was surprised to see that the author said this was not his intention. He probably just didn’t want to get cancelled. 

The book is well written and easy to read. The transition from present to past was done really well; I particularly liked how the writer segued into the past by linking something Maud has just done in the present. Quite a few of her idiosyncrasies are actually events from her past which her muddled mind has sprouted up much to her confusion and everyone’s annoyance.  There were a few times when I did not know if we were in the present or past, but that was quickly resolved when I read a bit further. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I’m glad I came across it. While reading the book, I kept trying to imagine how it would be depicted in a movie (I do this quite often when I read). The emotions, thoughts, anxiety are so vivid in print that I always struggle to see how these could possibly be adequately captured in film.  I googled the book and it has already been made into a TV film. I’m waiting for it to be free on Amazon Prime so I can watch it, and I hope they do the book justice. 

On to the next book! This one might take me the rest of the month to get through. Now that I don’t have a daily commute I have to carve out the time to read. Between work and Netflix/Youtube I barely have any time left.

The Invitation.

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for, and if you
dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love,
for your dreams,
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow,
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed from fear of future pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain,
mine or your own,
without moving to hide it,
or fade it,
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy,
mine or your own,
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us to be careful,
to be realistic,
to remember
the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling
me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself;
if you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul;
if you can be faithless and therefore

I want to know if you can see beauty
even when it’s not pretty,
every day,
and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure,
yours or mine,
and still stand on the
edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon, “yes!”

It doesn’t interest me who you know,
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the center of the fire with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you,
from the inside,
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

― Oriah Mountain Dreamer

The Go-Between

The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.

“Do you remember that book in which this boy saw two people having sex and then lost his memory?” This is how my friend introduced me to this book during a conversation. After wrongly guessing Lady Chatterly’s Lover, google provided the name of the book: The Go-Between.

Published in 1953, The Go-Between is a book by British writer L.P Hartley and it is set in 1900. The book opens with the iconic opening line quoted above, and we are introduced to the protagonist; sixty-something year old Leo Colston as he comes across a diary from his childhood, which brings back memories of a traumatic incident that he has repressed for decades.

The memories are from fifty years prior in 1900, when as an almost 13 year old he is invited by the family of his schoolmate, Marcus Maudsley, to spend the summer at their country estate. At Brandham Hall, Leo is transported from his middle class life with his widowed mother, to the grand upper class life of the Maudsleys. Even his clothing is out of place, and for the first time he is aware of social inferiority.

Hitherto I had always taken my appearance for granted; now I saw how inelegant it was, compared with theirs; and at the same time, for I was acutely aware of social inferiority. I felt utterly out of place among these smart rich people, and a misfit everywhere.

Leo becomes completely infatuated with Marcus’ older sister Marian, who he sees as his first encounter with beauty, a pure goddess in human form. Marian is to be engaged to the Viscount of Trimingham; a disfigured war veteran named Hugh (this sparks numerous Hugh-You misunderstandings throughout the book).

So that is what it is to be beautiful, I thought, and for a time my idea of her as a person was confused and even eclipsed by the abstract idea of beauty that she represented.

She was not of our clay, she was a goddess, and we must not think that by worshipping her we could lower her to our level.

Leo comes into contact with Ted Burgess-a tenant farmer-and he soon starts passing messages between Ted and Marian. It is (or should be) immediately clear that there is a clandestine relationship between Ted and Marian, but sweet naive Leo is completely clueless. He assumes there must be some business between the two, and his imagination even goes as far as to contemplate the possibility of them being involved in a murder legal case. Upon realising the true nature of the correspondence, Leo becomes quite uncomfortable with his role as a go-between, and he worries about how the illicit affair will affect Hugh. Though Leo is aware that Ted is from a lower social class, he does not understand why Marian and Ted cannot be married.

“Not Adam and Eve, after eating the apple, could have been more upset than I was.”

Leo seems to slowly break down from the weight of the secrecy and deception. His experience at Brandham Hall which had been relatively pleasant and even incredible in some parts, is now tainted by all this pressure and he just wants to go home and leave all of this behind. He makes up his mind to stop passing the messages but his resolve is shot down and he is persuaded to continue. Childishly, he thinks that if he stops passing the messages then they will have to quit their relationship and Marian can focus on her engagement to Hugh. Of course this does not happen, and in reality the lovers are caught. This leads to disastrous consequences and Leo’s full nervous breakdown and repression of memories of the summer.

In the epilogue, the older Leo reflects on how that summer altered the course of his life, and shaped the man he is now. He decides to go back to Brandham Hall which has changed in the time since he was there. Marian is still there, much older and estranged from her grandson who finds it difficult to come to terms with the events of half a century ago. Marian once again asks Leo to act as a go-between and talk to her grandson.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. First off, it was really easy and pleasant to read, and I only skipped past a few descriptions (which is a big deal for me because I have little patience and always skip right past long flowery descriptions). Because it was set in 1900 I assumed it would be full of a language of another time but while there were references to that age, the language itself was fine. The writing is gorgeous and the story is interesting so every time I picked up the book I was completely enraptured by the story.

Thanks to my friend I knew that Leo was going to see some people having sex and I spent the whole time eagerly anticipating this climax. Every time he went on a walk I thought oh boy this is it! It came right at the end. I wanted more! I wanted to see in detail the full fallout and scandal rather than just references to it in the epilogue. But I guess that would have been another book.

I very much enjoyed entering Leo Colston’s little world, watching his little idiosyncrasies and moral dilemmas. It was interesting to see the inner workings of the mind of a 12 year old Victoria schoolboy and I was amused by his constant references and adherence to the schoolboy code. I also liked the glimpse into upper class Victorian life; the general fuss and flair of that time. One of the things that fascinates me about that age is their dedication to dressing up and how much of a ceremony it was. Nowadays you see people just wearing whatever-tracksuits to dinner, biker shorts to funerals-which makes it funny to see Leo agonise so much over his wardrobe and being teased over packing the wrong outfits. The existence of distinct social classes and resulting prejudice is the crux of the story. The class prejudice still exists today of course, but it was much more enforced back then and I got Bridgerton vibes.

I was sitting with mama pretending to be a villager-poor dear, she didn’t want them on both sides of her-and she was convulsed, and so was I… (This line had me laughing so loud at 6am)

I did feel sorry for Leo at some points. Poor boy was so naïve and this was preyed upon by the adults around him. He internalised so much and sadly took more blame than he should have, which is why the experiences of one summer when he was barely 13 years old was enough to alter his life. This is the real age of innocence (no shade to Ms. Wharton). Leo is so blissfully naive that he did not even know what spooning was or how a horse comes to be pregnant with a foal. Thirteen years olds of today are definitely more aware.

With the completion of The Go-Between, I am pleased to announce that I read three books in January 2021! I am quite proud of myself and I am already on my fourth book of the year. Though I said I wouldn’t buy anymore books until I have read every book in my collection, I did go ahead and buy two books. I was looking through some quotes from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine which reminded me how much I related to the protagonist. My sister had lent me her copy to read and I decided I needed to have my own copy. Of course the eBay bookstore was doing a sale so I got another book as well.

I will end this with another quote from The Go-Between, one that so perfectly encapsulates the book.

“Was there a telephone here in your day?”
“No,” I replied. “It might have made a great difference if there had been.”