Silence and modesty

The phantom blogger returns!  Yes, I have again done the fade on my own blog and completely failed to post anything for several months.  But this time, I have an actual legitimate excuse – I was actually bound by a confidentiality clause from talking about the main thing going on in my life which was the main thing I wanted to write about.  Now I can talk a bit about it though not everything. Confused? Awesome!

So last year  it was announced that TVNZ was going to relaunch the TV quiz show Mastermind which ran in NZ from the 1970’s to the early 1990’s and which runs in the UK.  They were making a few tweaks to it – such as adding a New Zealand round but it was the same basic premise – you get quizzed on a specialist subject and general knowledge while sitting under a spotlight in a chair you’ll get to keep if you win the final.  It was apparently invented by someone who had been interrogated during WWII ana d thought it was a nifty idea to base a quiz show around.  Still confused?  Here’s a Mini Celebrity Version with David Tennant to give you an idea, and because, well David Tennant.

Because my general knowledge is pretty good and I know everything there is to know about Harry Potter I decided to apply. They gave me a call and had a chat to me (obviously checking that I’m not a raving loony) and then they invited me along to an audition.  At the audition, they asked me progressively more difficult questions which they didn’t tell if I’d got the right answers or not (queue some intense googling when I got home).  A couple of weeks later I was invited to another audition – this one via skype, where again I answered another lot of random questions. After a few weeks, I was told I had a place in the heats!

So I spent a lot of the next few months studying my Harry Potter (such a hardship!) and watching A LOT of the quiz show The Chase, and basically trying to cram my head full of as many random facts as I could.

At Easter instead of looking forward to a relaxing four day weekend, I found myself driving into town at 8am on a Saturday feeling so nervous I actually felt sick, wondering what on earth made me think this was in any way a good idea.

In true television form it was hours before filming began – we were the first heat recorded so they were still getting everything sorted.  I was the first contender (we’re contenders in Mastermind, not contestants) and the first round was our specialist subject, I answered 12 questions in 90 seconds on Harry Potter and mispronounced the Latin on one answer meaning I had a total score of 11 for the round. An hour or so of filming later, I’d won my heat and was through to the semi-final.

For the next month, I barely watched anything that wasn’t either Doctor Who (Specialist subject for my semi) or The Chase.  And in early May I found myself back at Auckland University feeling nervous, wondering what on earth I was thinking with three other contenders.  I still did pretty well in the Semi’s, I got answered 8 questions correctly about Doctor Who, gave two ludicrously bad wrong answers and passed on one. In the end, I scored 20 to the winner’s 23.

So what can I learn from all of this?

Firstly, I do in fact speak Potter as a second language.  There was only one answer that I really had to think about for any length of time, and the only answer I got wrong was more of mispronunciation than not knowing the answer. I’d always said that I knew everything there was to know about Harry Potter – I wasn’t exaggerating.

Secondly , winning by a large margin is quite difficult in some ways.  As a kiwi, we’re hard-wired to be modest, but it’s very hard to be modest when you’ve won the heat of a very difficult quiz show by 8 points (still the biggest winning margin of the series with 2 shows to go). Being modest when people are making comments like ‘you absolutely crushed them!’ sounds insincere but there’s no real guidebook for winning really convincingly without sounding like a show-off.  I’m still figuring that out.

Thirdly, some facts I will never forget these include:

  1. The name of John Lumex’s company is Cybus Industries (I’m REALLY kicking myself over that one).
  2. Rose and the newly-regenerated 10th doctor arrived on Christmas Eve not Christmas day (what would have happened if I’d just said Christmas) It’s Martha ReeveS and the Vandella’s not Martha Reeve (no seriously).
  3. The Earl of Cumberland fought the Scots at Culloden not the Earl of Cumbria.

Fourth, it’s odd how some answers come out the answer to one of my questions was Hitler. I could easily said Hitler and been right and saved myself time, but for reasons unknown, I felt the need to say Adolf Hitler – you know as opposed to his cousin Bob Hitler.

And finally Trivial Pursuit Harry Potter and Doctor Who both have incorrect answers  – you know you’ve chosen the right specialist subject when you argue with Trivial Pursuit.

So that’s been the excitement of my year so far, I was on the front page of the local paper, my parents were inundated with phone calls from people they know and fielded a lot of questions on where my brains came from (my Dad has taken to saying he’s not sure who the milkman was).

I had hoped that having proven myself as the country’s Harry Potter expert that someone would send me to London to see the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child or at least give me a free copy of the script which is being published this month but I guess you can’t have everything.

How quickly things change

I don’t know about anyone else but there’s a weird trend in my life of things coming out of the blue and changing things really quickly.  This has happened in both small  and large ways.  When I look at the things that have really made a big impact on my life a lot of them have come out of no where or come from snap decisions.

As I’ve said before I work in HR, which I often say I’m only in because I knew how to use mail merge.  I’d never planned to have a career in HR, mainly because I didn’t really know  what HR was  (I’m sure there’s people reading this thinking ‘I still don’t’).   I sort of happened upon HR while I was working in London and when I was already working as an HR Administrator realised it was the thing I wanted to do and that the idea that you can enjoy work wasn’t a myth sold to you by corporates who want you to keep working. I’ve made split second decisions to move into flats which have thankfully worked out, had two major life changing events happen out of no where in a matter of weeks – the list goes on.

The latest is my change in status from an unemployed bum to gainfully employed.  Yesterday morning just before 8.30 my phone rang, and I (hopefully) managed to sound vaguely professional and not at all like I’d just woken up, and I answered a call from a recruitment agent asking if I was interested in Temping and was I available immediately (yes and yes) by 2.3o yesterday I’d been for an interview and I was all set to start, today.  Today I had a handover with the current person who’s leaving and Monday I start properly.  Next week will also be the first time I’ve worked a full week since August so that should be interesting.

It’s kind of like the line from the John Lennon song ‘Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.’  Which is why I don’t really long term plan – just see what turns up at my door next, it’s much easier that way.

It’s either an abject failure or a wild success

So yes, it’s been a while since I wrote in this blog. This was made obvious by the ‘year in  review’ function on this site, which sent me a link that said I have made a grand total of one post this year.

Now there are two ways to look at this.  Sure from the point of view of being a blogger, increasing my presence on line and generally doing writer like things it’s been an abject failure, but it does live up to the blog title extremely well, so in a way it’s a win.  I promised to be a procrastinator and that I have definitely achieved! Yay me! If you set the bar low enough you can truly achieve anything!

It’s not that this year hasn’t been without achievements – I finally learned how to use liquid eyeliner so that it actually looks nice rather than looking like I’m Alice Cooper’s long lost daughter, passed more uni papers, I bought a new (to me) car and entered the NZ version of Mastermind – I’ve had two auditions and don’t know if I’ve made the final cut.  I’ve also worked in a few places some great, some not so much, but all of them have taught me some useful things.  The most surprising is the eye liner – I seriously never thought I’d master that.

And now it’s New Year’s Eve and we’re about to launch into 2016.  I’ve got a few plans up my sleeve – I’d like to travel somewhere next year as I’ve not made it out of the North Island this year, I have writing plans to put into action – including a new blog which I think will be fun – and most importantly I need to get a job!

But perhaps I should keep the goals manageable – like I vow to watch every episode of Doctor Who released in 2016 or to take more photos of my cat.   Realistic and achievable goals, maybe that’s the key to stress free living.

Happy New Year everyone! I promise to be around more regularly in 2016.

Criticism of your country

Hello or Ola if you’re from Brazil (seriously I seem to be getting a lot of site traffic from Brazil)

There’s been a bit of hoopla in the last few days in New Zealand because the author Eleanor Catton said a bunch of negative stuff about New Zealand in general and the government in particular, and some people think that you apparently don’t say negative stuff about your home country if you’re internationally successful.

Some of the criticism I get, other parts are just ridiculous, mind you some of what she said in the first place I think is true others less so.  All of who said what is here. For the record I agree with her about the politians, not so much about the tall poppy thing and can see her point about how we do try and own individual success collectively (yep all 4.4 million of us helped make Lord of the Rings).  The tall poppy thing I think is in New Zealand we have a particular mould that we want our successes to fit – the quiet, humble achiever who takes success in their stride and doesn’t make a big deal of themselves, basically if you’re successful in New Zealand we want to act like Sir Edmund Hilary. I’ve often thought that if Mohammed Ali came from New Zealand he’d be remembered as ‘that great boxer who nobody liked’ or ‘The great boxer who moved to another country’ because anyone who went around saying they were the greatest in New Zealand just wouldn’t get any support.

But this whole thing got me thinking about the whole idea criticising your country.  Clearly no country is perfect, no country has absolutely everything figured out and also people like different things – even just for a visit, I mean an online friend of mine loved Turin in Italy, I thought it felt like walking into someone else’s hangover (I really do need to post about my travels last year don’t I?)

Effectively your home country is an accident of birth, so in some ways being proud of your home country is a bit like being proud of your hair colour or the socio economic bracket of your parents – it has nothing to do with you or your accomplishments and if you don’t like it you can change it.

I can’t really speak about how other countries feel about criticism but  I think the real issue with people criticising New Zealand is that we’re very aware that we are a tiny little island at the bottom of the world with less people than Sydney.  It happens any time something negative happens to tourists in New Zealand, we start wringing our hands and saying ‘what will people think of us’. So a back packer has their car with all their stuff stolen we freak out and think ‘oh no! They’ll go away thinking New Zealand is awful’ and people give them money and free accommodation and back packs and all sorts and while admittedly this is partly because kiwi’s are generous, it’s also partly so they’ll go away saying how wonderful we all are.

But this situation isn’t a foreigner who had bad experience it’s a kiwi making a comment about the people who are running the country at the moment, people who aren’t very supportive of the arts, people who do like to cosy up to big business and even if it was just her opinion (which of course many will argue it is) well so what? Since when was criticising the government anything other than a right, New Zealand is a democracy after all.  I think if she’d been talking to a New Zealand audience her comments would barely made a blip, but as it was to an international everyone loses perspective.  She was talking about her experience as a man-booker prize winning author from New Zealand, something that exactly one other person (who has agreed with some comments and disagreed with others)

Some criticism I’ve heard of New Zealand (it’s expensive, it’s hard to get around, people are outwardly friendly and welcoming but a little hard to get to know) I think are valid, some of the criticism (mostly that we’re parochial and behind the rest of the world) I think are unfair.  Sure everyone hates it when people move to a country and do nothing but complain, I know when I lived in London I was very careful only to complain about the rubbish banking system (which was the only thing that I really didn’t like about living there.)

Perhaps she could have been a bit more diplomatic, mixed some of the good in with bad, I don’t know.  I’ll get back to you when I’ve won a major literary prize. I would be interested in how other countries  view their high profile citizens criticising the country – does your country go nuts in this situation or just shrug and say ‘ah well, they’re entitled to their opinion’?

And so this is Christmas, And what have you done?

Yes, it’s been a while, practically a whole year in fact, so clearly I have lived up to the title of the is blog and done an amazing job at procrastinating – well done me! I feel I have in many way exceeded even my own expectations. So a successful year then.

Believe it or not I have actually done stuff this year, you know life outside of my house and away from my laptop type stuff.

I joined a choir, worked in the same job all year (a new thing for me!) and it was mostly good and I passed another uni paper.

The highlight from this year has to be travelling.  For a number of reasons I haven’t really traveled much in the last few years but this year I spent a month travelling (sure she blogs about dumb things her cat does but not about the 4 star hotel by the river in Florence). I went to Singapore, London, France Italy and Hong Kong, I got go to places I’ve wanted to go to for ages  and I got to catch up with friends. (including Carolyn who asked what happened to my blog).

I’ve also become an honourary aunty and found out that I’m going to be one again next year as well (different friends!), I also had long weekends in Wellington and Melbourne and managed to use a friend’s wedding as an excuse to go to Hobbiton (Thanks Amy!).

So what’s on the cards for 2015? Well I’m going to finish my damn uni studies.  I’ve got three papers left so I’m doing one paper in semester one and two in semester two, way more writing, hopefully a new car (well new to me), work is a ‘watch this space’ type of arrangement as I’ve got a contract until March but the job market is really strong at the moment so I’m not worried about that.  So who know’s where I’ll be this time next year?  In the words of John Lennon – Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans, so it could be anything. One thing is for certain – I must blog more!

Also a special mention to Caroline who I caught up with

So Happy New Year’s everyone! If 2014 has been a good one, then long may it continue, if you’ve had a year you’d rather forget then it can only go up from here. Let’s see what how this 2015 thing works out.

Motivate me

In a truly heroic effort I have managed to drag myself to the gym three times this week in an effort get this routine thing that people keep talking about. Since I last went to the gym there’s been a change of ownership and as part of taking over the new owners  have painted/stenciled ‘motivational’ phrases which includes ‘you’re just one workout away from a better mood’.  

Now I know I’m a cynic and ‘motivational’ sayings usually bring out my inner snark (as noted by choice of punctuation around the world motivational) but I don’t know who these actually help, especially as actually dragging yourself to the damn gym in the first place rather than going home to sit on the couch and drink wine like any sane person is the main achievement – it’s not like you’re going to sit in the corner with your book once you’ve got there now is it?  So I think they should be more realistic with their motivation, maybe ‘exercise – it’s like cleaning the house except you can’t take turns with your flatmate’  or ‘exercise – no you can’t pay someone to do it for you’, ‘exercise – stop whining about it you still have to do it.’

Of course it doesn’t help that the making endorphins part of my has faulty wiring and isn’t connected to the recognise that I’ve just done exercise part of my brain.

All this got me thinking about Demotivational posters (which if you haven’t seen you should look at – it’ll kill a decent amount of time if you’re trying to procrastinate) and how I should really write posters for them – maybe I’ll get around to it… one day.

Welcome to 2014

Hello and welcome to 2014!  I hope everyone has had a good Christmas/New Years and enjoyed your holidays if you’ve had one.

As it’s the first day of the new year it’s time to figure out what to change going into the new year – what to throw out and what to keep.

So I’m doing the usual things – starting a diet (5pm on day 1 and I’ve succeeded so far), and looking at where I’m at.  I can safely say that 2013 was a great year professionally, a great year academically, an average year personally and a rubbish year in writing.  I let myself get thrown way too much by disappointments and didn’t make enough time for writing.  I was a busy year – I did complete two papers and have a busy job but I still should have found more time for writing.

So what am I going to do about it?  Well I’ve joined a writing forum on goodreads which has weekly short story contests which will encourage me to write, I’m going to have my re writes of my novel done by the end of January, and I’m going to plot out the rest of the series so I do know exactly where it’s going rather than the vague fuzziness of a rough direction I have now.

If I am not actively trying to get my book published by Easter then I deserve to a bollacking.

And of course I will blog more – I know I’ve said it before but I will commit to at the very least one post a week.  I do have an idea for a fictional blog that has been kicking around in my head for a while so I will try and work out the details of that and get it up and running. Who knows – I may even get around to starting on the King Arthur book I’ve been thinking about for a while.

What it comes down to is writing more and reading more – I’ve read that you need to write everyday and that’s what I’m going to endeavour to do.  If I’m not back here within a week someone send in the heavies to give me a talking to.