Thursday, 27 January 2011

My Diary of India: Eighteenth Extract

I think it's about time that I resume my India diaries. In my last post from my travels, I was about to fly South to Cochin from Udaipur. We resume now on the 8th July 2009:

To my relief I had a brilliant night's sleep last night! I was up at 6am to shower and get ready for our 7am transfer to the airport. It was really sad saying goodbye to Alison, she's become like my tour-mother. Arriving in Cochin was weird. As we drove the 45km to the hotel, we saw the big, industrialised part of the city with malls and complexes popping up along and amid the lush green skyline, punctuating what was clearly once just forest. As we drove on, into the area of Fort Cochin, it became more like Varanasi but greener. The trees and the nature here are beautiful and the contrast to the North of India is stunning. I'm not so appreciative of the mosquitoes though!

I'm really liking the South so far. Once we reached the hotel, we had a group meeting and met the rest of the team who were joining us for the Southern tour. I'm the only Brit but my roomate, Katie, is really nice. This evening, we had the most amazing meal I've ever had. The food is so good at this end of the country, it's all coconut and seafood based. Pru, Kath and I shared a prawn curry, a Keralan fish curry and coconut prawns. It was easily the most delicious, needed meal I've ever tasted. Now for bed...

Monday, 24 January 2011

Wouldn’t it be great if… we did away with Horoscopes?

Now that the Christmas decorations are back in the attic and the champagne hangover is a hazy memory, writers of all publications are singing the dawn of a new year, forecasting absolute rubbish for all those whose daily lives are guided by none other than the media’s interpretation of the star sign under which they were born. How on earth horoscopes merit pages in national newspapers and magazines is beyond me. Graduates from the Politician’s School of Fraudulent Activity, horoscope writers can’t seriously believe in the twaddle that they write. Have you ever noticed that you’re experiencing the same financial woes as every twelfth person you know? Nope, thought not. Call me a cynic (who isn’t these days?) but I, for the sake of human intellectual development, hope to god that there’s not a single soul on earth who reads their horoscope with any illusions of grandeur any more.

January is a perilous time for reading horoscopes. Not only are they everywhere but they also purport to tell you what’s in store for the next twelve months (‘What’s in the stars for your zodiac sign this year’). Not content with giving you monthly or weekly updates, you get a nice little rundown of your life for the next year in about 100 words. Comprehensively well-informed by the movements of Venus, this year I can expect to be mischievous in August under my Taurean star sign. Never one to doubt, and in the name of research, I read on. Big mistake. Apparently, due to my love of good food, 2011 will be the year that I contract throat inflammation and laryngitis. I inform my boyfriend, who reminds me that he is also Taurus, and we foresee a period during which our throats are both so swollen that communication becomes impossible. This would be fine by me, if it wasn’t for that burning ball of perennial optimism, otherwise known as the Sun, expanding my ‘professional options’ at around the same time. Goodness knows the calamity that might ensue.

Thankfully, most sane people are aware that this is, of course, complete nonsense. I don’t dispute that star signs are derived from the zodiac, which is fundamentally an elliptic coordinate system. What I resent is that the popularised personality guessing-games that have become associated with the signs of the zodiac and perpetrated by the media distort the scientific basis of this branch of astrology. I wish some of the things that are written would come true, but there is no factual support for the accuracy of horoscopes and therefore no good reason why you should waste valuable minutes of your life reading them. There is no element of truth involved in horoscopes and I know this for certain, given that the star sign I fall under actually varies from publication to publication. I call myself a Taurus, but in actual fact, my May 21st birthday is on the cusp, so I could really be Gemini. In the past this has led to sad and fairly deranged attempts to assimilate the best parts of each horoscope in order to fashion a perfect life for myself. This practice proved to be as pathetically futile as it sounds, but it does demonstrate the ridiculousness of the horoscope as a medium of pseudo-ontology.

I have often wondered how upstanding publications get away with publishing such psycho-babble. The best answer I have come up with so far is that horoscopes are written for the period ahead, and nobody I know actually goes back and reviews their week/month/year to check for horoscope correlation and anomalous results. Thus the miraculously incorrect prediction goes unnoticed, forgotten and unaccountable. Can you imagine the shock of your personality functioning in a way that the stars didn’t dictate? There is a pervading sense that horoscopes are just a bit of fun, but I can’t help but see their presence as a sign that they are still in demand, as if people would rather read a fictitious story about a life that they will probably never lead, written by someone who they will probably never meet.

We should do away with horoscopes because they are a fallacy. My career prospects don’t look good because Mystic Meg decided that Mars is in conflict with Jupiter, if anything, they look good because I’m writing this column. Luck isn’t pre-destined, we have to fight for it, and horoscopes are symbolic of the pervading complacency that plagues our society. I’d probably be willing to bet money on ending this year free from laryngitis and if my ‘professional options’ (sounds ominous) expand, then it’ll be because I went to an interview of some description. If you do still read and believe in horoscopes, then I hope the stars spell out a nice narrative for you. If you happen to be Libra, you have the pleasure of looking forward to some ‘weird health complaints’ and any Sagittarians should watch out for their ubiquitous ‘expanding waistlines’. Happy New Year!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

A taste of Spring/Summer 2011

So I'm finally back in Exeter after a long drive from Oxford in the middle of the night (don't ask) and I'm jubilant at the arrival of my magazine subscriptions which have resided on the doormat for a fortnight.

Looking at the runway reviews in print has resoundingly confirmed what I gauged from squinting at's catwalk slideshows. Beautiful colours, mesmerising prints and a deep plunge into the sartorial fruit bowl (not to mention some seriously lustworthy dresses) all hark back to the seventies and make for a bright, bold season ahead. Below are some of my favourites (which may betray my inner minimalist!):

Prada's Stripes:

Chloe Pleats and Nudes:

Bright White at Calvin Klein:

Stella McCartney's Fruit Fiesta:

Derek Lam's Denim Minimalist:

Clashing Neons at Christopher Kane:

The continuation of Alexander McQueen's decadent heritage:

And... my ultimate favourite, Jil Sander:

Monday, 10 January 2011

Review: The King's Speech

We British love a tale of human struggle and perseverance, and Colin Firth’s portrayal of King George VI in the Oscar-tipped The King’s Speech taps into our Great British psyche with perfection.

Director Tom Hooper has woven a filmic masterpiece, incorporating royalty, an underdog and biting satire to tell the most beautifully English story hitherto left untold. The film traces Bertie’s journey towards a surprise kingship, after his infamous brother, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne so that he could marry his twice-divorced lover, the American Wallis Simpson. Impeded by younger sibling syndrome and a stammer, King George VI never believed that he was going to be king. His deeply introverted ways and seemingly unshakeable inferiority complex are painted with empathy and accuracy, leading us with nervous anticipation towards his assumption of the throne. After the indulgent ways of his elder brother lead with spiraling inevitability into royal ruin, the now king is forced to press on with a heart-wrenching character rectification.

Much of the film’s magic is in the friendship that blossoms between the king and his speech therapist, Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush. Intertwining the frustration of an unwilling king with the temperamental tantrums of a little boy, Hooper’s direction of Logue is responsible for much of the film’s humour and humility. He draws a performance from Firth which is nothing short of magical; even through mouthfuls of marbles and whisky, Firth gives the performance of a lifetime. His satirical comments on the nature of the monarchy and high society are what give the film its bite, whilst Logue’s acute tactics bring the king out of the duke utterly believably.

Palpable tenderness is also injected through the relationship that George shares with his wife Elizabeth, shrewdly played by Helena Bonham Carter. Her irreverent poise and infallible care for her husband underpin the partnership that Logue and Bertie forge, whilst also sustaining the relationship that the king has with his daughters.

As the new king is forced into a landmark speech to pronounce the beginning of World War II at the end of the play, there is a growing sense of national suspense and expectation amongst the cinema audience. We desperately hope that King George is able to fulfill the duties of his role and finally dismiss the stammer that has plagued him throughout his life. As Logue stands by, he cajoles a captivating and authoritative performance from the king and, in doing so, incites the relief of a nation and a tantilising pride in audiences across the world. I never thought Colin Firth would teach me what patriotism feels like. Turns out I was wrong.