Long weekend in Prague

Beauty. Chaos. Intrigue. Delicacy. Strength. Prague embodies all of these things, and more. As part of my 30th birthday present from my boyfriend, I got the chance to visit this magical city, and it has left a lasting impression on my mind, my body and my senses.

Staying in an apartment about five minutes away from the castle, we had a beautiful view of Petrin Hill and a monastery from our balcony. Each day we wandered down the hill into the main part of the city, crossing the infamous Charles Bridge. The guide books all tell you to avoid the bridge during the middle of the day, and with good reason – the crowds make it nigh impossible to get from one end to the other at anything above a slow plod.

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Charles Bridge

There’s far too much to write about to fit in one blog post, which is partly why this post is so overdue – I’ve started and stopped about five times over the past few weeks, struggling to decide what to mention and what to leave out. The architecture was one of the main delights, but I’ll leave it to the many photos I’ve posted to give you a flavour of that. Needless to say, it’s beautiful. The food was perhaps our least favourite aspect, with one exception, as the traditional dishes were quite heavy on our stomachs. (The wine, however, went down much better!) The exception was the trdelník, a pastry made from rolled dough grilled on a long metal stick, with sugar and walnut mix sprinkled all over. We saw them being made in little shop fronts all over the city, and my god they were delicious.

On the Saturday night we saw a play in Czech at the Estates Theatre, where Mozart conducted the world premiere of his opera Don Giovanni. I was thrilled to be experiencing theatre in a different language, but I think my boyfriend was a little less so – ah the joys of dating an actor! He sat through it though and did enjoy most of it, though the finer details were rather lost on us, due to the language barrier. The play was Mikveh by Hadar Galron, so we saw an Israeli play performed in Czech!

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Sadly we didn’t get to see a performance at the National Marionette Theatre as all the weekend shows were booked up. BUT I did buy my first marionette (see right). Handmade in Prague, she wasn’t cheap, but it was some of my birthday money well spent!

I had a wonderful few days in this city, and highly recommend it to anyone who loves beautiful architecture, a buzzing atmosphere and a good dose of ‘culture’. I can’t wait to go back and explore some more!

 

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New Year’s Resolutions 2016

Well, better late than never: Happy New Year everyone! Over the past week I’ve been reading some fantastic New Year’s Resolutions posts from bloggers all over the world. I normally only tell close friends and family what my personal goals for the year are, but there is one ‘resolution’ that I wanted to share.

Rather than drawing up a long list of goals and aims I would struggle to follow past January, I decided to focus on three main areas: writing, acting and personal (about trying to be a better person and all that). Midway through last week I added one more, which is perhaps the most important of all:

Be proactive

There are several ‘p’s that are important in the acting industry, and could just as well apply to life itself: be personable, persistent, punctual, polite… but at this early stage of my career, I think ‘be proactive’ is the best advice.

As an actor, this means building and keeping my contacts book up to date, knowing what’s going on in my industry, following directors and other artists whose work I admire, going to see plays on a regular basis, being active (and positive!) on social media, constantly looking for opportunities and networking the hell outta this year.

As a writer, much of the above also applies – contacts book, networking, keeping up to date with the work and careers of writers I admire, and also putting my writing out there: applying to competitions, submitting work to magazines and other publications, perhaps posting my creative writing here on my blog.

I can also be proactive in my personal life – remembering friends’ birthdays (something I’m sadly bad at), making the effort to see people in person rather than always texting or Facebook messaging, and looking for ways to help people out.

So if anyone’s stuck for a mantra for 2016, you’re very welcome to give mine a go!

 

 

London: a love-hate relationship

London. Some love it, some hate it. I’m currently feeling a bit of both.

Having moved to Putney a few months ago, I am still feeling my way around this city. When I first arrived I hated the place – the grey, the swarms of people, the lack of space, lack of air. Bit by bit, the colour has gradually been working its way in, and I now have a love-hate relationship with my new home.

The first thing that struck me when I moved here was the lack of sky. I miss walking along the beach in Portsmouth, sea blending into sky, stretching overhead in a vast sheet of blue. Because of this it feels like there’s no air. Some days I feel so suffocated I want to run and run until I find a green field and can breathe again.

There’s a particular pace to London life, and joining the millions of people pouring out of trains and onto pavements and in and out of the underground, I feel like a worker ant in a vast colony, a tiny dot amongst the masses. This churning and rippling, and everyone having something to do and somewhere to go, makes the city feel like a great machine. There’s a clunkiness to it but also a rhythmic power – a great steam engine rather than a high-speed train.

Gradually splashes of colour splattered here and there on my view. A stroll by the river, a wander round the Natural History Museum, an afternoon spent sitting in the National Theatre typing a blog post with a large slice of cake for company. I can get on a train from Putney and be at the South Bank within half an hour. That’s pretty cool.

I’ve come to realise that as much as I often want to escape from London, I also find it fascinating. There’s a strange pull to the chaos, like a moth to a deadly flame. I miss the space, I miss the sea, I miss the forest, but perhaps I can one day learn to love this place too.

 

Mud, mud, glorious mud!

One of my notes last term was to ‘get more mud’ in my life. Now, as a child I was never really into mud. I don’t remember making mud pies, though I’m sure at some point I must have, and I certainly don’t remember ever finding mud fun. In fact, my most vivid memory of encountering mud was during a school trip to a farm, when I got my welly stuck in the mud. I remember panicking as everyone wandered off, unaware of my predicament. The more I struggled to free myself, the more the mud sucked and slurped at the sides of my welly, until all I could do was call out for help and hope the others heard me or at least noticed I was no longer with them.

Mud

Naturally, then, when I got the note about mud I didn’t jump at the prospect. However, I have embraced this new direction, albeit tentatively at first, and the other day on a walk with my coursemates I well and truly went for it when I slipped and ended up lying on my back in the mud! Admittedly, this isn’t something I plan on repeating any time soon, but it was strangely liberating at the time, after I’d brushed the inch of gloopy sludge off my backside and peeled off my sodden gloves.

Every time I go for a walk now, either out in Epping Forest or back home across the rugged hills of Yorkshire, I make a point of heading straight through the muddy patches rather than skirting around them as I would have done before. It still doesn’t come to me naturally. I was never a mucky child, in fact I did everything I could to avoid dirt. When out walking in my shiny red wellies with mum and dad, on encountering even the smallest of puddles I would deftly step around the muddy water so as not to get any muck on my prized footwear. My sister was the opposite – she seemed to seek out muck. Perhaps more time spent traipsing after her across the muddy fields back home as she marches ahead in her typical no-nonsense Yorkshirewoman way is needed.

Sadly, we’re currently miles apart, so until my next trip up north I’ll be stomping around Loughton looking for the nearest patch of mud to squelch through. Hmm, I wonder if a trip to Lush to buy one of their mud face masks also counts….

 

 

Facing my fear of fallen trees in the forest

Some of my fears are fairly rational, others less so, but out of all of them – water (en masse, not a tinkle from the shower), spiders (including pictures of them), small enclosed spaces – my fear of fallen trees is perhaps the weirdest.

Now, give me a standing tree and I’m happy as Larry. In fact, I love trees. I think they’re beautiful, majestic beings, like other-worldly sentries standing guard over our little earth, protecting us little humans from the monsters and ghoulies of beyond. Ok, I’m getting carried away, but you get the point – I love trees. However, a fallen tree is quite a different beast.

I’m not sure exactly what it is about a fallen tree that creeps me out; it could be a number of things. The violence of being ripped out of the earth when downed by a ferocious wind – that scares me. There seems to be something so wrong and unnatural when I see those roots clawing at the air, exposed and naked of the earth that they once lived in. There’s also the many branches, once climbing skyward, now spread out across the ground like spindly fingers. Again, the word ‘clawing’ comes to mind (with a shudder). Perhaps it’s the disturbing sight of something so grand and powerful now lying lifeless, like when you see an elephant on TV that has been killed for its tusks and is lying there with two meaty flaps, this once majestic creature never to get to its feet ever again.

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I know, I’m getting poetical, but it’s a feeling that I can’t quite describe accurately enough with words alone. I want you to see the pictures I see, the images. Then maybe you will understand. Of course, you may not at all, and find it rather amusing that I could find a dead tree threatening when there are plenty of real threats out there in the world.

The other day I went for a walk in Epping Forest, which is about 15 minutes’ walk from my house, and after a lovely little wander through the scattered leaves I came across a fallen tree. Normally I would skirt such a spectacle, taking the long way round, but on this occasion I was feeling brave and oddly serene, so I inched closer for a better look. It had either fallen recently, or else some of the roots were still bringing in nutrients from the ground, as its leaves were still green. There may be another explanation for this, but I don’t know enough about dendrology to say.

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The photos here are from my exploration of the tree. I spent about half an hour with the tree, at first daring myself to get that bit nearer, stepping closer and closer, getting to know my new forest companion. Yes, it all sounds a bit hippy, but I expect you actors out there will understand. If all we have as an actor is a body in time and space, I guess I was exploring both here – space, with my body in relation to the tree’s (I would normally purposefully create a large space between us, but here I was exploring what happened and how I felt if I reduced that space to the point of being in contact with the tree), and time, as I encountered the tree as it was dying.

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One of the pictures shows the tag which the tree bore. Looking around in the forest, I saw that many of the trees bore these (possibly all, but I hadn’t investigated further to check). Seeing the tag of that fallen tree lying there amidst its companions, a sudden saddening image flashed into my head of a prisoner in a concentration camp having died, with nothing but a number to identify them. Prisoner no.18495 has fallen! I felt the other trees standing nearby look on and mourn their fallen comrade. If this all sounds a bit like the wacky backy, I make no apologies for a vivid and active imagination, and warn you that there will be many more posts of this nature to come. Drama school is opening up my heart, my mind and my body, and awakening my senses and my spirit to the intricacies of the world around me – an absolutely crucial process for any actor.

 

Beautiful Bath

As far as beautiful cities go, Bath is pretty high up on the list. My first time visiting the city was only last weekend, but I instantly fell in love with the elegant Georgian architecture and sweeping terraces.

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I live in Portsmouth, where the bombing during the Blitz damaged a lot of the original buildings, so we’ve got a real hotch potch of different architectural styles in some areas. I’m lucky enough to live in a beautiful building that dates back to 1790, but wander a few roads down and you’ll find eighteenth century stonework alongside twentieth century council flats.

Further into the part of Portsmouth known as Southsea there’s more regularity, but the two-up, two-down terraced houses here are a world apart from the four storey grandeur in Bath. There are plenty of larger houses in Portsmouth, but I noticed a certain uniformity about Bath which charmed me and my OCD tendencies in the same way that Southsea charms my creative, more messy side.

Rehearsing Pride and Prejudice for our performance in March, I’ve become aware of how fashionable a place Bath was in Jane Austen’s time. Wandering down the grand streets I could just picture the Georgian ladies with their dainty slippers and pretty bonnets, gossiping to one another and blushing at the gentlemen.

It still seems a pretty fashionable place now, or at least one of wealth – young couples link arms in their designer gear, well-heeled ladies balance shopping bags (not the plastic kind but the oversized cardboard kind with the string handles) on cashmere-clad arms, and there’s a lot of dark wool coats. The latter may not be a particularly solid indication of wealth but I’ve always found a long dark wool coat to give off a certain air of sophistication.

I was sad to say goodbye to this elegant city as we drove back down to Portsmouth. We’d been on a tour of the Roman baths, sampled the famous mineral water in the pump room (warm and tasted unnervingly like blood – must be all the iron), and had a peek inside the cathedral before meandering along the lanes for a spot of window-shopping.

That said, there was something comforting about returning home, to its disordered architecture and familiar charm.

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