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As you’ve probably gathered, I have never been so happy to kiss goodbye to a year as I was as 2012 ticked into 2013. I know resolutions divide opinion and of the blogs I read, it seems to be pretty evenly split by haters and hopers. Personally, I never reflect and mull (get it!) more than I do over the festive December period. I think it’s a combination of being around loved-ones and family, the kind messages scribbled into Christmas cards, spending time back in the house and town I grew up in… oh and the fact I am drunk at some point most days. This means that when December 31st comes around, I couldn’t be in a better position to really give myself a shake and think about what I want from the year ahead.

They are probably of way more interest to me than anyone else, but I feel if I put them out for the world-wide-world to see, then perhaps I’m more likely to achieve them.

2013

2013 New Years Resolutions

01. Read 51 books: In typical fashion, after basking in my 50-book reading challenge victory for about ten minutes, I decided it had to be upped to 51 for this year. So far, so good, and I am on book number two. I’m currently reading Invisible by Paul Auster which from the description I was desperately hoping for something similar to one of my absolute favourite books The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It doesn’t really bear any similarities other than being based in an American university but it is a very captivating read. I am only a quarter through but the fact that whilst reading it I was stood in the kitchen cooking my dinner and let the the pasta boil over for about three minutes whilst I got through a particularly tense bit says quite a lot.

02. Learn to surf: In February I’m finally taking the holiday I was meant to have in October but my cyst Vs body take over hijacked. Nick & I are spending a week in the depths of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, and amongst many activities (hikes, a bird sanctuary, haggling at souks, star gazing… oh and a few massages and dips in the pool of course!) we are going to spend the day learning to surf in the bath-water warm sea. I’m so excited to try something so entirely new, although not too hopeful at my ability since I am clumsy enough walking on two feet in flat shoes.

03. Visit 3 countries (not including Europe) and 10 new cities: This sounds like a vast amount but with Africa already booked, then being fortunate enough to travel with my job (although it’s not like a holiday as I used to naively imagine work jet-setting would be. Oh no! Try 15 presentations in 14 days, with jet lag and a broad accent that not a single person understands thrown in) and a few other tricks up my sleeve… well lets just say I think I’ll be a different person come 2014 with a much broader view of the world and my place in it. I’m going to buy a big map and some coloured stickers and chart all the place I go. Note how I even manage to make something fun and spontaneous like travelling, organised and colour code-able.

04. Climb Snowdon: I’m also keen to make the most of the UK and see more of it this year. Part of this is a pact I have made with a good friend to join him on his conquering of Mount. Snowdon in Wales (his new years resolution is to climb a mountain in England, Scotland & Wales). I know it’s probably wrong that at the moment I’m most excited about what things I can bake for a picnic (!) but it will definitely feel like a real achievement.

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05. QUIT caffeine: Caffeine is pretty sinister. I highly recommend the you are not so smart blog on it. I never really thought I was addicted to caffeine, I just knew that I loved coffee in all it’s forms and also as a proud Yorkshire girl had an excuse to drink 20 cups of tea a day. I’m not kidding, I regularly had 2 or 3 cups on the go at my desk (the difference in shades of tea-brown was very aesthetically pleasing!) Then had my C-scare and all round month of medical misery, and I did everything I could afterwards to find out how to avoid a relapse. Part of this was seeing a nutritionist who believes that the key (in my case) is to keep everything in my body as balanced as possible, and part of this is avoiding spikes in blood sugar/adrenaline. And part of that? Quit caffeine. At the point I was given this I was having 3 coffees a day and yes, about 20-25 cups of tea.

Soooo… I didn’t go cold turkey obviously, but I started replacing tea for the wonder that is Rooibos (rank on it’s own, yet a taste sensation with milk). I also made the glorious discovery that my beloved Yorkshire Tea make a decaf version and are still are polite enough to use the lets make a proper brew tagline on it, even though I am from Yorkshire and definitely don’t think it’s a proper brew with non of the good (hmm, bad) stuff in it. 3 Months on and I now just have one coffee a week, as a treat on a Saturday! Cutting down was far more brutal and painful than I ever imagined. I got the absolute worst splitting headaches that no pain killer could touch. I swayed deliriously between napping on the bus and nights of sweaty insomnia. I know this is very un-PC but at one point I did say “If it’s this hard to come off coffee, how hard must it be to come off heroin?“. I just massively under-estimated that yes, I was addicted to coffee. In fact (and my bank balance could have told me this years ago) I was a heavy user. Anyway, this year I aim to cut out all caffeine entirely.

06. Finish knitting my scarf: For a decade my new years resolution was consistently to learn to knit. I have finally succeeded! So proud! I’m so nauseatingly twee that it was ridiculous that I couldn’t actually knit before. The other day I found myself knitting, drinking herbal tea, wearing a floral dress & listening to the Magnetic Fields. I actually out-tweed myself.  So I am well on the way with a neat maroon/navy striped scarf. I need to get a wriggle on and finish it in time to gift it next winter, and to finish the knit-your-own-owl (!) of dreams Craig bought me.

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07. Brush up my Spanish: I did Spanish GCSE and got a B. Nowadays I can still pronounce the funny j noise and I can say I’ve got a hangover. Then it all gets a bit fuzzy. In 2003 I backpacked in Spain and after a week of stuttering and stammering over my hola’s, me and my backpack buddy went to a Spanish rock club and drank aLOT of bodka and suddenly I was conversing with everyone in there about how many brothers/sisters they had and whether they preferred the beach or the forest. Important GCSE level questions  My friend couldn’t believe it and thought I had been lying the whole time about my level of Spanish ability… but it proves that with me it’s a confidence thing as much as a forgetful thing. So I signed up for a 10 week course (beginner level as I miserably failed the intermediate online test!) and am really looking forward to getting grips on another language again. And I got given a really beautiful handprinted notebook for Christmas that I can use for my homework. New stationary makes any project instantly exciting non?

 08. Write half of the secret-project: Well isn’t this annoying? It’s something I am sworn to secrecy until the future, so this is all I can say… for now!

09. Blog more than 2013: Given the fast and furious pace I am blogging at the moment I have probably already achieved this! You’re going to be sick of the sight of me. It feels really good to be writing for myself again, rather than just at work, and it seemed such a shame not to be using my little slice of the internet pie that actually costs me money every year. I’m not really hung-up on the fact it’s not a beauty blog, it’s not a fashion blog, it’s not a book blog etc etc. It’s a lifestyle blog. That covers all bases right!

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09. Alter my work/life balance: I graduated university, I moved to London and I became a rat race face and never looked up. I dread to actually think the hours I have worked in the last 5 years and getting ill made me realise that the body can only take a certain amount of burning the candle ferociously. So I have thrown myself back into my pilates, swimming and am being really strict not to book & doublebook every evening, night and weekend up with seeing people and going places and packing and unpacking and then tossing & turning all night having feverish work-dreams. Something definitely has to give, and I’m determined not to end up on the operating table again any time soon.

10. Be brave: I never associate myself with being brave, and it’s something I aspire to be and know I am really, but this year more than ever I will be putting myself in positions out of my comfort zone just to keep on growing into a big tough lion girl… woman.

11. Get back in music: I used to be surgically attached to my mix tapes, homemade CDs and always ahead of the curve with new bands. I am now SO sick of the same songs on my itunes and the fact that I ‘forgot’ to get the new Metric CD… who are one of my favourite bands?! Also that I didn’t even know about the Kings of Convenience side project? Poor show. Going to End of the Road festival  really whet my musical appetite again and since then I’ve enjoying some of the lesser-known acts I discovered. I’m currently listening to a lot of Alessi’s Ark, Tennis, Dead Man’s Bones, Foxes, Kimbra, Band of Skulls, Kurt Vile, First Aid Kit, John Grant, Django Django, Miracle Fortress and Tame Impala. It’s so nice not to be stuck on a permanent shuffle-shuffle-shuffle-same-old-stuff cycle.

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12. STOP saying “Oh my God”: Why do I say this? Why oh why. I have actually adapted it to Oh my gosh but that’s still very annoying. How do other people express surprise?? I hear myself saying Oh my godgosh in my shocked-voice and I must say it multiple times a day and I hate it. Can you please recommend other words? Or maybe I just need a shocked noise?

13. Daily Records (Thirteen resolutions for 2013!)Last year I took a photo every day and it was so useful for my sieve brain to remember events and orders of occurrences that usually drop out of my head as soon as they’ve happened. This year I am going to continue taking a photo a day as it’s a natural habit, but I’m also going to take a photo of my face everyday! I’m not really vain I promise, but as I head towards the big 3-0 (not til 2014, phew) I am really curious to track my outfits/hair style and well skin to see if I start to look older. I’m not going to put them anywhere public, just for my beady eyes. I’ve shared one below though, which perfectly illustrates my current no-make-up state and also the lions man hair that I couldn’t tame. The final record I am keeping is that I bought Lol & Craig this for Christmas. You get asked a question a day, and keep it for 5 years. Then another one arrived from Amazon randomly so I get to partake too. The questions are brilliant and go from the deep (Can people really change?) to the inane (What was the last restaurant you went to?) I never know what on earth to write in a diary, so the daily prompt is perfect.

& That’s it. Have you got a resolution? Have you seen any other good bloggers list theirs? I’ve seen a few but I’d love to see more. Roll on 2013, I have a really good feeling about you being sparkly and shiny and super.

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When I received an invite to attend the premier of House Party of the Dead 6, I wondered what the evening would consist of. A quick clatter of keys into google and the words zombie movie, zombie burlesque, zombie make up and zombie rock bands jumped out at me and it was an easy sell. Armed with my (very wholesome, non gorey) friend Ross we stomped through the frosty streets of Camden to the Purple Turtle not too sure what lay aheady. I did however wear my Braaains! necklace in preperation.

[Poster by Paul McGrath]

Purple Turtle is one of those loveable sticky floored, grungey, dark venues; and probably the only place in London you can buy a round for under a fiver! Upon arrival I couldn’t see many of the undead amongst us. I then turned round from my waiting spot at the bar to come face to face with this…

[Photo c/o Chris Nathans]

The top floor of the venue was dedicated to a very talented make-up team, armed with the skills to give all attendees gaping neck wounds, bleeding eyes and oozing bites. All the best zombie traits! There was some brilliant music, a hot zombified burlesque dancer and then of course, the highlight… the movie.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film from start to finish. It ticked EVERY box of a classic B movie zombie stunner – grizzly gore, guts, frights, hot girls in their underwear and amongst the horror, ALOT of laughs. All jampacked into 15 minutes, which is not easily done. The characters were well scripted and well executed; all the acting was fantastic and the studenty house gave a unique and original base for the reaction to a zombie apocolypse. I was left wanting more, which is always a good thing. The production value looked up there with any famous Zombie flick (if not glossier actually!) and I have to applaud Andy and all the cast/crew involved. What a treat! It got my non-zombie heart a flutter! You can check the Teaser Trailer Here!

To give you some background on the film and how it even came to exist, I interviewed the charming braaaains (geddit!) behind the project, Andy Edwards.

Tell me a bit about you please Andy…
I’m not particularly interesting really. I’m a filmmaker from Birmingham, who’s now living in London and attempting to make it in the world of films. Until recently I was making films as more of a hobby around my day job – but I was made redundant from my day job a year or so ago so now I’m trying to use the fact I have much more free time on my hands to good use and really go for it. Obviously it also means I don’t have any money, but the role of impoverished, struggling filmmaker kind of suits me.

What is the history of the movie?
Houseparty of the Dead started off 3 years ago, with a short film shot in my flat in Kentish Town. It featured a bunch of my mates, was shot in an afternoon, and the zombies were made up with red paint, glue and cornflakes by my mate Rob Leese-Jones, who has since gone on to be co-producer on most of the shorts, and even directed part 4. It was only intended to be a one-off, but everyone enjoyed it so much that a sequel was pretty much demanded, and its grown from there. With each one I’ve tried to up the production values, and with part 6 we had professional actors & make-up, and over 50 zombie extras.

[Photos c/o Adrienne Cooper]

How did you cast HPOTD6?
Glad you appreciated the acting, as that was one of the things I was making a conscious effort to improve for this one. Until part 6, all of the actors had been friends or friends of friends. Some of whom were actors, or had some experience, but the majority weren’t. Everybody who’s been in one of my films has done an amazing job, but for this one I wanted to try and work with all professional actors. A few of the actors I knew, but most were recruited through a casting website, and we borrowed the basement of a pub for 2 days and did auditions. We had such a good response that we even had to do call-back auditions for the lead female roles to decide between some very talented actresses. It’s when you’re asking two attractive actresses to practice a kissing scene in an audition that you know you’ve picked the right career! As the roles were unpaid we had a few last minute changes of actors, but I couldn’t be happier with the cast that we got, and the decision to cast professionals really paid off.

As for extras – we’ve never had a shortage of willing volunteers to be zombified and create a zombie army – helped by the fact that we actively encourage them to get drunk during the shoot. This not only keeps them happy during what could be a long period of waiting around, but also aids their performances as zombies

What’s next for the movie?
There’s a few tweaks that need to be made, and then the movie will be available online, and also sent out to as many film festivals as will show it. We were also filmed during the making of the film, by a TV crew from Sky One for a reality TV show which should be airing some time in the new year. Who knows what they’ll make of us in the edit, but it should get us plenty of publicity at least! As for the Houseparty of the Dead as a “franchise”, the next step is a feature film. I’m currently writing the script, and we’re looking for funding.

What’s your alltime favourite zombie movie, other than HOTD6 ;]?
I’m a big fan of the 2 recent British movies, which of course revived the zombie genre in very different ways, 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead. But for all-time favourites, it’s between Romero’s Dawn of the Dead or Zombie Flesh Eaters – mainly because a zombie fights a shark. And its a real shark.

Talk to me about your decision to make your zombies fast moving modern ones, over slow dumb lurchy Romero ones!
I’ve actually got both kinds in Houseparty of the Dead. Up until part 5, they were all the slow kind, but from part 5 onwards I’ve started introducing a few fast ones into the mix. Partly its for dramatic reasons – if you have a large number then its best to have them all slow, but singular zombies are scarier if they’re quicker. Also, to try and introduce some kind of logic to the zombie transformation process. In most zombie films, the time from bite to full infection is entirely arbitrary – it’s whatever has the most dramatic impact, whether that be an instant transformation or a slow 3 day process. In the HPOTD world, slow zombie bites infect you slowly, fast zombie bites can be much quicker.
Also, the two “breeds” hate each other – the final war will not be fought between humans and zombies, but fast zombies and slow zombies….

Thanks Andy for taking the time to answer my questions and all I can say is that I wish I was secretly sitting on wads of cash that I could hand over to help with the feature film, as I fully believe in the premise and production. Britain used to be a key player in the world of zombie movies in the wake of Plague Of The Zombies and we’ve seen a frutratingly slow return to this state in the last decade, but I think HPOTD could be just to ticket for a 2010’s zombie cinema invasion! Good luck guys!

To keep an eye on their progress and details on when the movie is online for viewing, join the Facebook Group and keep em peeled to the Official Website.

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I watched a great movie recently, so thought I’d share as it’s one that by DVD box alone you might pass over as a load of American teen angsty mush in which Michael Cera plays the exact same character he does in every movie ever! (Despite this massive flaw, I have to say he is still up there on my number one crushes list. Is that legal? Am I old enough to be anyone famous’ mum yet? Probably not, so probably ok…) 

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist takes place in the neon, bustling New York underground indie scene as Nick (recently dumped dorky bass player) meets Norah (insecure daughter of a mega music producer) and through a series of coincidences they end up spending a sleepless night hunting for their favourite obscure bands secret show.

If you like a lot of action in your movies… well, this is the anti-action movie. As in, well, NOTHING happens. But, don’t let that put you off! It’s quirky, it’s very sweet (without being saccharine Dear John nauseous) (I haven’t seen Dear John; but the movie poster was enough for me to make this judgement!) and it is so absolutely accurate in it’s portrayal of awkward blossoming teen romances. 

Nick and Norah bond over a love of epic mix tapes and we all know how much I support mixtapes! From there they have to battle a series of obstacles such as wailing drunk best friends, broken down vans, band mates’ practical jokes going wrong and bumping into evil exes. The acting and chemistry is spot-on because it will have you daydreaming about times when nothing mattered except what gig you were going to after college, whether the colour of nail varnish you were wearing was grungy enough and how to get your drunken friend home without arousing suspicious parents!

Also, at that age, dating is tough and I’m sure everyone has had one of those nights where you meet someone you think absolutely rocks your world and therefore do not want to leave, but run out of places to go and things to do as you still live with your parents, so end up wandering aimlessly just happy to be chatting and finding out 101 things you have in common. Ah! Young love, this movie will definitely warm your heart and make you gaze wistfully for a few days as you download your teen anthem tracks (hello Silverchair and Sublime for me!)

Oh and as the name alludes, the soundtrack is pretty A+ too!

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When it comes to this film, I was a complete idiot. I let my phobia of internet-order dolls (ew!) allow me to write it off as something that was probably, definitely,  not enjoy one bit. Add to this fact that until now Ryan Gosling had left me feeling a bit queasy (see: The Notebook) and it slid off the radar. Then my partner in Lovefilm crime added it to our list and it plopped onto my doormat and into the DVD player and WOW.

I think it is instantly in my top 10 films (don’t ask me for the other 9, or you will still be listening to me bleating on while your hair is slowly turning grey and skin wrinkling) so I just wanted to encourage you to get it on your amazon wishlist if you haven’t seen it yet.

The real miracle of this movie is how on earth do you make a film about a life-sized love doll, ordered from a shady internet sex site, into a life-affirming statement of promise and hope that all is good in the world?!  I think the answer is that the film is completely sincere, which is just so rare nowadays. The entire cast are incredibly believable and quickly you feel almost part of the community in the small mid-west American town – faced with the same questions and initial fears which slowly dissolve with the story as you get to know the character of Lars. It is definitely a film that haunts you long after the credits roll, pestering you to question your attitudes and judgements. Other amazing things about the movie are: Ryan Goslings wardobe! Hot! Ski jackets, cords, gaudy knitted jumpers and bad moustache are the best.

I don’t know if the director is perhaps a fan of this film, but the concept and scenario reminded me of Harvey the 1950s movie about an enchanting alcoholic Elwood, who believes he is accompanied though life by an invisible 6ft rabbit. I think Elwood is my idol, everyone could do with living life more like him (apart from the raging booze habit part…) This quote just about sums it up and always makes me smile.

Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

(This is probably also in my top 10 movies,  fyi!)

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When Zombieland was released at the cinema, it seemed to come from nowhere. I saw a few glossy billboard posters and turned up my nose. I ADORE zombie movies, but I don’t really adore zombie movies that have glitzy Hollywood budgets and are part of a cyclical fad for the genre. I want my blood gunky and ketchupy, the tape flickery and scratched and the acting wooden. It all just looked a bit too trendy and so I retreated to behind my sofa to rewatch Plague of the Zombie for the thousandth time and grumble to myself!

Then the recommendations started. At first it was a few texts, then a few phonecalls and then it literally felt like I couldn’t wade through my day without someone demanding that I go see it immediately. I stubbornly (ok geekily, as I didnt want audience reaction to distract me from indulging in potentially brilliant proper zombie movie action) waited for it to come out on DVD and on Sunday I finally watched it with baited breath. And…………………………… I LIKED it. I actually really liked it.

My partner in film-watching crime announced 0.5 seconds in (before the opening credits had even rolled!)  “this is totally shit isn’t it, and actually, aren’t zombie shit. They aren’t even funny! All they do is run at things”. Rather than batter him to death with my dissertation (“Are zombie movies a resource for social commentary?“) and tell him the million flaws in his statement (like duh, they totally stagger… even if it’s a quick stagger)  I gritted my teeth and he was promptly asleep before 20 minutes had passed (great help he’d be in an actual zombie invasion!)  This was a good thing though, because it meant I could wallow in geeky zombie glory with a dorky grin on my face AND do an air-punch Bill Murray cameo happened. If I hadn’t already decided I liked the movie, that definitely cineched it. I BM.

There are lots of things that aren’t great about the movie. It has some really cheesey text that appears on the screen all the time, nothing ever gets explained, nothing actually that massive really happen and the reason for the zombie invasion is the lamest I have ever, ever heard (mad cow disease turned into mad human disease?! ?!) BUT all these head-bashingly annoying things actually become charming and by the end I was completely engrossed and had that I never want this movie to end feeling.

The cinematography is beautiful, every shot feels like it could be a print or a postcard. Relative unknown lead Jesse Eisenberg plays the Adam-Brody-in-The-OC/Michael-Cena-in-Every-Role-Ever geek lead in a genuinelly funny and charming way.

So to repeat the sentiment of pretty much everyone I spoke to last October, SEE THIS MOVIE! It’s subtle (well as subtle as gore spluttering zombies can evr be) and it’s quietly brilliant and you are guarenteed to chuckle at least once and squeal in horror at least once. What more could you ask for, really?

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