32 Before 32 ~ Learn to Play Chess

My 32 Before 32 challenge has been an absolute disaster. I choose a long list of things I want to do between my birthdays every year, and I know that I’m never going to achieve them all, but I like to give them all a good go. I don’t know what happened this year, but things just haven’t happened, and I’ve crossed off very few.

But recently, when I was making plans with my friend Jen for her to pick me up to go out, she said “Do you want to come round a bit earlier and I’ll teach you chess?” I was really grateful, because I’ve had ‘Learn to play chess’ on my list for a number of years, and I’ve never bothered to do anything about it, despite the fact that so many of my friends know how to play. I know that I could have taught myself, but I really felt as though I needed someone to sit me down and explain it to me.

As you can see from this photo, Jen’s set is really nice. It’s big and chunky, made of wood, and I really like it. One of the pawns has lost his head, which confused me momentarily, but I really enjoyed playing with it. She went through each piece (calling the knight ‘horsey’ at one point), and told me how each one moved, and I made notes, like the nerd that I am. We didn’t get to finish a game, because we ran out of time, but I managed to retain all of the information, and we got in a couple of Harry Potter and The West Wing references, so I was a happy girl.

Having learnt the rules, I knew that the best thing to do was to play a lot, so that I can start playing properly, and actually trying to second guess the other player. I didn’t want to play against real life people (I didn’t want to be humiliated!), so I downloaded a game that I could play against a computer opponent, and one that I could set to a really easy level! It took a couple of tries, but in the end, I managed to win a game! As I said, it was against the computer on the easiest level, but I’m calling it a win and departing the field.

All of this means that I can actually cross off another 32 Before 32 item, because I can finally play chess! In the last two weeks, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to play that much, but I’m going to keep practicing, so when it comes to playing someone who actually knows what they are doing, I won’t embarrass myself!

8. Learn to play chess

My Thoughts On… Saving Mr Banks

Just a reminder that My Thoughts On… posts may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film in question, please skip down to Why Should I See This Film? which is spoiler-free!


Author P.L. Travers reflects on her childhood after reluctantly meeting with Walt Disney, who seeks to adapt her Mary Poppins books for the big screen. (via IMDb)

What I LIked

  • When I’m asked what my favourite film, I might um and ah a little bit, but I usually come down on the side of Mary Poppins. It holds a very special place in my heart, so I was so excited to see Saving Mr Banks when it was announced. I didn’t manage to get to the cinema to see it, but I finally watched it a couple of weeks ago, and I wasn’t disappointed at all. I loved it. For those of us who are fans of the 1961 film, it’s the perfect companion, watching how it all came about, hearing the fabulous songs, and getting an insight (albeit a slightly Disney-fied insight) into the life of the author who created the eponymous nanny.
  • Emma Thompson is amazing in everything she does, and she is so perfectly suited to this role. She manages to bring a huge amount of likeability to a character who is stubborn, rude and cantankerous. We need to feel sympathy for her at the same time as feeling exasperated by her, and it’s hard to imagine anyone as adept at playing this kind of role as Emma Thompson. She was robbed in last year’s Oscar nominations.
  • Similarly fabulous performances come from Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti and Colin Farrell. I particularly loved Giamatti’s performance as Travers’ chauffeur, Ralph. Their relationship really touched me; she trusted him as little as anyone else affiliated with the Disney corporation at first, but he won her over, and it was a beautiful moment when he spoke to her about his daughter’s disability. I also loved Bradley Whitford, BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman, playing the creative team working on Mary Poppins and trying their hardest not to lose their tempers with Mrs Travers.
  • Given that this is a Disney film about a Disney film, there was always the worry that Saving Mr Banks would end up mawkish and sentimental, but it avoids those traps almost entirely. It stirs the emotions, and it did make me cry, but it wasn’t soppy or over the top. It has received some criticism for seemingly showing P.L. Travers as having a change of heart about Mary Poppins in the end, and I think the scene where she ends up dancing to Let’s Go Fly a Kite is rather Disney-fied, and almost definitely never happened. But I think that it does a pretty good job at showing that she entered into the whole endeavour because she had to, and not because she wanted to. I think it’s the perfect mix of real life and dramatisation, and I just loved it.

What I Didn’t Like

  • I am the first person to appreciate a sideways glance at the audience from within a film, especially when it’s a reference to a film that I love. The flashbacks to P.L. Travers’ childhood provided lots of these, and to begin with, I was on board, but by the end of the film, I felt as though they were being shoehorned in just a little bit. By the time little Ginty’s Aunt Ellie was saying “spit spot!” I was just about done. I just wanted it all to be a bit more subtle than that.

Why Should I See This Film?

I feel as though this is one of those films that I am so late to the party with that most people will have seen it already! But if there’s a chance you haven’t, I would say that fans of Mary Poppins need to see it immediately. It evokes such a wonderful sense of time and place – 1960s Disney World – that it’s a joy to watch. And the performances, most notably of Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers herself, are just breath-taking.

Project: New Me

Well it’s been a while. (I’ve read various ‘How to blog’ posts that say I shouldn’t apologise for being absent on my blog, but I think I’m about to ignore that advice.) My last proper post was on the 13th October, which is over two weeks ago, and if it wasn’t for two wonderful guest posts, this here blog would have been quite the barren wasteland. My excuse for this is simply that I have had an extraordinary amount of work to do, and I haven’t had the wherewithal to organise myself and schedule some posts. Hopefully this is a thing of the past, as I work through my extensive to-do list and get some posts up!

The work of which I talk has been a huge show at Olympia in London. It’s what we work half the year towards, and then when show time actually arrives, it’s four days of the hardest work I have ever done. For the last couple of weeks, my friend Hannah and I have been talking about after the show as though it’s a mystical far off place, and we’ve been using it as the spring board to changing certain things. Now we are in that mystical far off place, and it’s time for post-show Jane to start taking shape. There are a few things I have planned:

    • I want to get a piercing. It was actually Hannah’s idea to get one, and I said “Yeah, I want one too!” I saw a girl recently with a scaffold piercing, and I decided that I want one. I think it looks pretty cool, and while I’m not sure that I can necessarily pull it off, I think if I just pretend I can, that’s half the battle.
    • I need a hair cut. Last year, when I had a bob cut in, I absolutely adored it, and I promised myself that I wouldn’t just let it grow out into a non-descript mess. And yet, here we are, fourteen months later, and my hair is a non-descript mess. So I am about to make a hair appointment, and have the whole lot cut off!
    • Losing some weight should have been a priority for a long time, and yet I’ve done nothing about it. I’m lazy, so I don’t do any exercise, and I eat far too much rubbish. This is going to have to stop, because looking in the mirror is becoming a real issue for me! ‘Be a healthy weight’ has been on my birthday list for years, and I’ve never achieved it. It will be going on to 33 Before 33 (eep) as well, and I really have to try and do something about it this time!
    • I need to get a lot more organised. With my blog, with my work, with my life in general, because at the moment I’m muddling through, and that’s not a pleasant feeling.


So that’s the long and short of it; I just want to feel a lot happier about myself and my life, and I know that making some of these changes will really make a difference. This seems like a really good time to start, because it’s a fresh start in terms of work, and I want to make it a fresh start in all areas of my life. I’ll keep you updated!

Guest Post ~ The Books of My Childhood

Louisa from Duck in a Dress is my partner in crime when it comes to Photo an Hour – she’s the super organised one who rallies the troops and I rely on her far more than is polite! I like to think she’s become a good blogging friend, she doesn’t know it yet but I’m tentatively thinking that a trip to Bristol is in my future, and I’m going to make her meet me for tea and cake! She’s currently laid up with a broken ankle, so have a read of her post and then go and say hi to her on Twitter!

Hello, I’m Louisa from over at Duck in a Dress and it’s lovely to be writing a guest post for one of my favourite bloggers (who’s also responsible for a large proportion of my ‘want to read’ book list).

I’m going to share with you some of my favourite childhood reads, see if you remember any of them…

The Frog and Toad series (part of the ‘I Can Read’ scheme) by Arnold Lobel (1970s)

This series is one of the earliest things I can remember reading and according to good old Wikipedia there were only ever 4 books, first published in 1970, 72, 76 and 79. I know they’ve been reprinted since though and I think we had the books at school. I really liked the tales of their friendship and seem to vaguely remember a TV programme as well. A couple of them I was given as birthday presents but the third one we found withdrawn in our local library – proof that I was a library user even back in 1986 at the grand old age of 3 and half!

Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley (1984)

This one was first published in 1984 but I think my mum bought it for me when my great granddad passed away in 1988. I remember being scared by the idea of infinity and what happens after death and this book was supposed to help with that whole idea. It’s a lovely storyline regardless of whether you’re religious or not; Badger knows he’s growing old and will die soon and so to help all the other woodland animals, he makes sure he’s left them all a gift. What you realise near the end of the tale is that the gifts aren’t necessarily physical or material things but skills, knowledge and experience passed on from one person to another – and that’s a beautiful concept.

Cobweb’s Sixth Birthday by Daphne Faunce-Brown (1985) and The Rabbits’ New Home by Geraldine McCaughrean (1989)

I seem to have had a bit of a thing for woodland-type stories as a kid; Cobweb’s Sixth Birthday was first published in 1985 and I think I was bought a copy for my sixth birthday in 1988. The story starts on a typical British July day (aka persistent rain) and a selection of birthday presents which initially seem useless but with a bit of trickery and craftiness, they turn out to be fabulous gifts. The other book, The Rabbits’ New Home is part of the Brambledown Tales series and was first published in 1989 telling the tale of a family of rabbits on the hunt for a larger place to live. Effectively it’s the story of a bunch of bunnies on the lookout for a new squatters house – quite political for the under 10s!

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson (1968) and Chimney Witch Chase by Victoria Whitehead (1987)

I loved these two stories; we read them at school and I liked them so much I wanted to buy them. I can’t remember how or where but somehow I ended up with some book tokens and those two were the first ones I bought. The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark was originally published in 1968 and is still a classic nowadays. Plop the owl doesn’t like the dark but that’s only because he doesn’t understand it so his mum packs him off to learn all about it from people who love the night time. I reckon that’s a pretty good lesson to live by even as an adult – if you don’t understand something, find something or someone who does and learn! Chimney Witch Chase is from 1987 and is actually the sequel to The Chimney Witches. It tells the story of Ellen’s friendship with Rufus, a witch boy who lives in her chimney and the adventures they get up to. I think it’s the illustrations I like the best; everything’s done in shadow and the detail is just perfect – right down to little leaves decorating the edge of Ellen’s nightgown on the front cover.

366 and more Nature Stories by Anne-Marie Dalmais (1991)

This sort of book was all the rage back in late 80s and early 90s; a mammoth book of mini stories on a theme with a different short tale for every day of the year. My great auntie gave me this one for Christmas in 1991 and I remember spending most of my Christmas holiday flicking through its pages. The book is quite a nifty idea, but I don’t know anyone who actually read any more than just their birthday and maybe half a dozen more dates!

The Classic Adventures series (1991)

It wasn’t the actual stories that captivated me with these books; it was the covers with their leather-look bright colours and fake gold edging. They came from one of those part-works series, you know, the ones which start out cheap then get more expensive before disappearing from the shelves completely. I only managed to collect the first two books but I felt such pride in filling in the ‘book belongs to’ section in the front of both of them.

Labyrinth by Louise Gikow (1986)

I loved the Labyrinth as a child; loved the Fire Gang, loved the ballroom sequence (was there anyone who wasn’t just a little bit in love with Jareth?), loved the music (dance magic, dance!) and especially loved the fact that I too, had a little brother who sometimes I just wished the goblins would come and take away. The film came out in 1986 and I think I was given the book a few years afterwards. The illustrations are just beautiful and really capture the magic of the film – and after flicking through the book, I’m off now to dig out my Labyrinth soundtrack CD…

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and I’d love to hear what your favourite childhood books were. If you fancy popping over to Duck in a Dress sometime, it’d be lovely to see you. Thanks Jane for having me!

Guest Post ~ Role Models

This is the third year that Daniela has guest posted for me. Up until recently, I would have said she’s not a blogger, but she’s just launched her website, Daniela Watches, where she watches films, and then tells you what she thinks about them. She’s basically best friends with Rick Moranis, she loves a sea otter, and she’s just pretty darn awesome.

I really struggled with a topic to write for this guest post. I’ve been quite stressed out recently with the demands of work and it got me thinking; who do I admire and look up to? As a big film fan, I thought I’d take a look at some of my favourite businesswomen from film.  I like to think I embody a small bit from each of these characters, (I’ll let you work out which ones…)

The Fake It Till You Make It

“You can bend the rules plenty once you get to the top, but not while you’re trying to get there. And if you’re someone like me, you can’t get there without bending the rules.”

You know you’ve got a head for figures and a bod for sin but until you get that foot up on the ladder what do you do? Put out to a coke snorting Kevin Spacey in a limo? I’ve been there and done that (not the limo bit). I worked my way up in an organisation from Admin Assistant to Seconded National Expert and it takes time, way more time that can be squeezed into a 90 minute film. So what do you do if you don’t have the time? Tess McGill bends the truth to get to a position where she can shine and use her ideas. She treats people fairly, is honest and admits to the everything she’s done when confronted by the evil Sigourney Weaver (booooo hisssssss).

Tess is down to earth and finds her ideas travelling on the Staten Island boat looking at both the gossip columns and business pages. I can often be found on the Thames Clipper with the wind blowing in my hair and the sounds of Carly Simon and the St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys of New York City blasting from my iPhone.

The Realist Dreamer

“I appreciate this whole seduction thing you’ve got going on here, but let me give you a tip: I’m a sure thing.”

She’s a hooker who ‘s a bum-magnet. Vivian is a realist, she knows how the world works, but she’s unwilling to compromise on her dreams. She wants the fairy tale. Yeah she wants to be rescued, but she’ll rescue him right back. Vivian embodies for me a woman who puts herself on the line. She’s a prostitute but she does things her way (with an impeccable dental regime) and as soon as she gets herself off the street she doesn’t intend to go back. That money is going towards an education. Richard Gere opens up a different world to her and she’s exposed to fine dining, opera, polo and shopping. Vivian wasn’t given the best start in life but she did the best with what she had. Who’s to say we wouldn’t do the same (or worse) in that situation?

The Have It All

“I can’t have a baby because I have a 12:30 lunch meeting.” 

You’re a high-powered Manhattan businesswoman.

You want the big account.

You inherit a baby.

You try to have it all.

The man in your life doesn’t want the baby.

You leave him.

The men in the firm make you feel guilty for spending time with the baby and demote you.

You leave them.

You create your own gourmet baby food business without compromising

You become a success.

Your old firm want you back.

You tell them where to stick it.

The Femme Fatal

“I’m not going to confess all my secrets just because I have an orgasm. You won’t learn anything I don’t want you to know.”

Ok, ok, so probably not the *best* role model, but Catherine Tramell has killer dress sense and a confidence that lets her get away with murder.  The woman exudes sexual confidence whether she’s flashing her fufu or manipulating Michael Douglas who ends up following her around like a love-sick puppy. I’m not saying you should turn into a psychopathic killer, but the woman is intelligent, knows her way around the law and is strong and independent.

The Girly Girl

“I don’t need back-ups. I’m going to Harvard.”

When Elle Woods gets dumped for being blonde she decides to go to Harvard to win back her boyfriend and prove that she’s got a brain. When everyone laughs at her it just spurs her on. She doesn’t change herself and her personality, but she does come to realise that she’s worth more than her loser unsupportive ex-boyfriend and ends up excelling for herself. Anyone who turns up to a party at university with her ass out has my sympathies; for me it was Caribbean night (I turned up in a bikini and grass skirt and no one else had dressed up).

So these are my movie businesswomen role models. Who are yours?

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