To the Captain, From Flubber

The world has been mourning a great man these past few days. Great in the characters he played, in the energy he brought to the stage and screen, in the dedication he showed to each new role.

He did not die the death he deserved.

* * *

He deserved to go out in firework spectacular of multi-coloured fizzes and bangs. He deserved dancers and silk scarves waving in the air, and a party that shook the ground with the stomping of excited feet.

Every Disney character from Aladdin should have risen from the ink and flown around his head on magic carpets, or swung from the sky in an ape-like frenzy, singing to the Heavens.

As he moved through the crowds of people reaching out for his hand and holding him close, he should have had boys saluting to their captain, Matt Damon nodding his head in appreciation as he grasps chalk in front of a blackboard, and fat suits stacked high against the walls in the garb of Mrs Doubtfire.

Closer to the end now, and more movement than before as the party swells behind him. He is in a museum and instead of ancient tribal figures and cowboys on horses, there is an array of fans and awards. Roses fall from the ceiling, thanking him for the encore. Spotlights swirl around the room and catch the glistening tears of thanks on his cheeks. He bows to the crowd, waves a goodbye, and hurls a blob of green into the audience, which immediately begins zipping between walls and bouncing off of precarious hats on heads.

He passes with the sound of cheers ringing in his ears, the sound of laughter from children across the globe, and the touch of his daughters’ hand squeezing his goodbye.

That is the death a great man deserves.

Genie, you’re free.

* * *

Whatever mistakes he made, whatever demons he struggled with, he deserved to feel the same joy he gave to so many. No one deserves to die alone with heaviness in their heart and with hopelessness as all they know.

If you ever find yourself struggling, know there are people to turn to. Contact www.supportline.org.uk for someone to talk to. Don’t ever suffer alone.

Stumble Upon Magic

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We all have a place where we find magic. It might not always be in a place that makes sense, it may creep up on you, it may only reveal itself to you in its absence – but we’ve all found it.

I’ve found magic on my travels this summer. In the people I have fallen in love with, the places I have discovered, and the challenges I have overcome, something everlasting and pure and fizzy has bubbled under the surface of the everyday. I felt it in the air last night: in the brightness of fairy lights as they hung from trees, and in the furry skins of stuffed toy animals. I piled my bags into the taxi on my way to finding home, and I met a man who held a very different kind of magic.

The driver had a thick tongue that caught on the roof of his mouth as he spoke, and a lawn of midnight black hair wrapped around his lower skull. He gripped the steering wheel with an attentive hold, and would anxiously glance back to make sure I was comfortable, pointing out bottles of water and offering me gum.

Soon he began telling me stories about his past as a musician, his qualifications from Trinity College in England, his passion for the drums.

‘But I don’t play for the world anymore. I play for Jesus. I play for him.’

I am not a religious person. I don’t know if my faith would have a label, but if it did, it wouldn’t be Christian. I wouldn’t name a being called Jesus. I wouldn’t clasp my hands over rosary beads and mutter to the heavens.

But I am in awe of the faith that resides in those that do all of those things.

I asked this man why he stopped playing for the world, asked him why the world doesn’t deserve his music any more.

‘Ten years ago, my life did a 180. I was a bad man, doing bad things. I drank too much alcohol, and I smoked – oh I smoked 80 cigarettes a day. Soon, everyone hated me. My wife, my children… they only stayed because I had money.

Then one day, during a rehearsal, I fell down with a heart-attack. For two days I lay in a coma, and while I was unconscious I had a vision. It was Jesus. He came to me and said ‘I want you. Come to me.’ When I woke up, I told my doctors and my family. My wife was always religious and she cried on my face. They ran tests and found no nicotine in my blood, no alcohol. I don’t care what scientists call it, I call that a miracle. Jesus brought me back and gave me new blood.

‘Every day since, I play in the Church. I serve. I don’t play for the world any more, but I do serve it. I make sure people like you get home safe at night, and I play them my music, and I tell them about God.’

So it was at midnight last night that I found a new blossom of magic on the freeway to home. I saw this man and I felt that buzzing feeling when he spoke. Something extraordinary was thrumming behind his words; that something that I had felt earlier in the lights hanging in the air. Like me, that man knew magic existed.

And like me, he was going to hang on to it as hard as he could. 

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Life in a New York Minute: Part Two

It has been a long time since I wrote a blog. And a VERY long time since I wrote the previous installment to my tales of The Big Apple, which means that many of you most likely don’t even remember what this whole series is about. So for those who want a reminder, you can head on over to Life in a New York Minute: Prologue and work your way back to the present (and I promise, apologetic and explanatory blogs are on their way).

However, for those of you with the memory capacity of an elephant, let’s begin.

Source: blogs.reuters.com/environment/files/2008/08/elephant.jpg

Source: blogs.reuters.com

* * *

That following morning we would be found trying (and failing) to navigate our way through the metro system, in search of the Statue of Liberty. I was eager to get there, not so much for the statue itself, but because, quite simply, this didn’t feel real yet. I needed to be slapped around the face with something so undeniably ‘New York’ that I would finally get it and stop feeling like I was in some kind of helter-skelter dream.

It was a cloudy day, fog choking the New York skyline, the waters of the East River and the Hudson a metallic, surging green. But over there, in the distance, you could just about see the proud figure of Liberty, one arm lifted to the skies, holding light to guide the way.

‘Eeek, there she is,’ trilled Ma, reaching for the camera.

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We boarded the ferry and stood on the top deck, letting the wind whip our hair back from our faces. The closer we got, the more photos we took, the bigger she got, the more real this whole place became. Behind us was the beautiful, iconic skyline of New York; in front was the Lady Liberty herself.

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We spent HOURS on that Island. We circled the statue, climbed half way to the top, wandered around the museum, and ate lunch in it’s shadow, our necks cricked the whole time, straining to see her face. I loved the aura of the place, the atmosphere of grandeur and of expectations met. The sun came out in full force around noon and the brilliance of the green of the statue reached all the surrounding shores.

With reluctance, we crossed back to the mainland, donning our Liberty headbands and acting every inch the tourist, as was our duty.

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That afternoon we ventured back into the heart of the city and found ourselves in Grand Central Station. It’s not a place that immediately comes to mind when you think of New York, but it’s one you HAVE to see. It has witnessed the birth of so many memorable film scenes (my favourite of which has to be the scene between Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney in ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding), and the whole place is just dripping with elegance and beauty.

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We went in search of ice cream – any kind, any where, as long as we got it now. The food court in the basement is incredible: noodles, soups, meals, pizzas, desserts towering high in chilled counters…and a gelato bar. Yes please.

Words cannot describe how incredible that double scoop of chocolate and vanilla was. No words. Just…oh my.

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There wasn’t long to sit around however, as we had tickets for that night. Tickets to go and watch THE LION KING on BROADWAY. So us girls hurried on back to the hotel, chucked on our fabulous outfits, whipped on a bit o’ lippy  – and paused for a second to take a shameless photograph – before rushing out the door to go and watch Simba rise to the challenge of becoming King.

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Well. There’s not much point in me telling you it was a fantastic show. You already know that. The whole world knows that, without even having seen it. The thing that sets it apart from everything else I’ve ever seen is the intricate, masterful, mind-blowing and tribal puppetry. It’s a Disney classic, a timeless story, but it is MADE into a world famous show because of the skills of those working backstage. Just incredible.

Out of the theatre and back onto the streets of Times Square for a meal at Applebees. The place had the same rush and thrill of the day before with an added intensity. It was such a dazzling place, lights blinding and eye catching, and throngs of people surging in and out of shops at midnight, with no thought of sleep. I wasn’t so much intimidated by it that night as enthralled by it. I weaved through the crowds easily, moving with that determined pace that seems ingrained on all New Yorkers.

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And as I lay in bed that night, with the ‘Circle of Life’ playing over and over in my head, I smiled. It had crept over me, and I hadn’t even noticed. I felt it.

I was here.

LONDON BOUND! The Adventures of Sam ‘n’ Ella (Pt. 2)

Here we were. In the sprawling, enchanting, enthralling capital of England. A city full of packed out markets, starry-eyed theatrical productions, world famous buildings, renowned museums…

…and it was raining.

Bucket-fulls.

‘We’re getting the genuine London experience!’ Sam kept smiling at me from under a soaking wet hood. ‘We can’t ask for more than that!’

‘Yes, we could,’ I snapped. ‘We could ask for some sunshine. sunny London experience.’

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It was midday and we had tried the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Aquarium, AND the London Dungeons, but everywhere we tried had capped queues. We couldn’t get in anywhere, each place having been sought out by excited families on half term trying to escape from the rain.

While we were huddled underneath the shelter provided by some public toilets.

I consider that one of the low points of the trip.

bridgearchIt took some convincing a disheartened and thoroughly moody Ellie to get up the energy to tackle Oxford Street instead, but luckily, Sam prevailed. We trudged across the Jubilee Bridge and began our dripping journey on the underground to the Marble Arch.

I’ve always loved Oxford Street growing up. I love all the shops and the jostle of giant double decker buses nudging past each other in the street. I love the people you see there – such a wide range, from the super fashionable and pristine to the excitable child splashing through the rain, running for Hamleys. But most of all, I love the Disney Store.

For anyone, of any age, I believe the Disney store can bring a smile. The particular store on this street is my favourite however, with a walk through coral reef packed full of Finding Nemo merchandise, and countless shelves stuffed with cuddly toys, characters you couldn’t find anywhere else.

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I have an embarrassingly intense obsession with Beauty and the Beast, as I may have mentioned before. (Ahem…here maybe?) But just LOOK AT WHAT I FOUND!

beastNeedless to say, the shopping eventually cheered me up somewhat. We dipped in and out of shops and coffee houses, and bought a fluorescent pink umbrella for some protection. Of course, we had a peek around Hamleys, (but quite frankly were scared off by all the tiny humans) and then continued down to Leicester Square for M&M World, which friends of ours insisted we simply HAD to go in to.

mmDespite the weather, it had been a good day. We laughed together more than we had in a long time, and cuddled up as we walked along the street for warmth. It doesn’t sound like the smoothest of days, or the most pleasant, but I loved it. Our plans had fallen through and we were left to simply explore, buoying each other up and gripping on to each others’ hand, a silent message that none of this mattered.

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That evening we left the hotel (taking yet more pictures of Tower Bridge as we passed) and went for a whizz around the London Eye. Sam loved this. He was taking picture after picture, scurrying from one end of the pod to the other, mouth open as I pointed out Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square; delighted at the perfect snaps of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

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Afterwards we walked back over the Jubilee Bridge, having come full circle for the day. We ambled towards Trafalgar Square and enjoyed a nice meal at Garfunkel’s…

Steak Burger from Heaven.

Steak Burger from Heaven!

…before finishing the night in a giggly rush, running around Trafalgar Square, posing in front of statues of lions and scaring the occasional tourist as we whipped past the National Gallery.

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Sam was right. It wasn’t the day we had expected; not a single plan had gone right; our toes would never de-prune from the rain.

But that day was the true London experience. And I couldn’t have asked for more

aww

A Human Transformation

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I am a planner. I plan what I do, when I’m going to do it, and what that will achieve. I plan until I feel secure that that plan will lead to happiness.

So, in a way, I always know the end before I am even halfway towards it.

The past year has been one Hell of a ride for my partner and I, but I got us through it by planning our way out. I made lists and timetabled talks and implemented activities to pull us through the hard times. I re-established a bond through planning, and so have faith in it when I feel lost.

But now I have a problem. I feel lost and I cannot find my plan out of it.

I mean that literally. I know I sound like an incredibly strict person but I’m not. I don’t sit up in the dark hours of the night scribbling a schedule for the next day, working it out to the minute. I simply know myself and know the man I love well enough to know what we need and when we need to do it. The plans sort of appear out of thin air, dangling tantalisingly in front of me until I calm down enough to see it and grab hold, waiting patiently for it to haul me out of the current crisis. I find my plans because they find me.

Right now though? Nothing.

This terrifies me. Like in an outright, freaking out, crawl-into-a-shell-and-never-come-out-I’ve-decided-I’m-a-snail kind of way.

Which got me wondering…why? Why is it that having no solution scares me so completely? Do I believe that my relationship will fall apart because for the first time in two years, I don’t have a fix?

No. I have more faith than that. I have more faith in love. I have more faith in him. He wouldn’t let me go. I wouldn’t let him let me go.

And that’s the strange, hypnotic thing about love. Over time, it changes you, there is no denying that. You have to decide whether those changes are healthy ones, ones that make you a better person…but once you make that choice, you have no real control. Love is the control. Love is the deciding factor when lost.

Love is the plan.

So, for now, I’m just going to close my eyes, sit back and hope for the best. And let love plan the way out for once.

goodbye hello

…I’m such a romantic.

A tale as old as time…

It is the question asked on first dates; the debate between friends; and (occasionally) the source of mockery for those who disagree:

What is your favourite film?

And who can blame us? With so many genres, an abundance of special effects and intriguing plot lines that leave us on the edge of our seats, cinematography has become one of the main fields of entertainment.

I am no expert by any means, but there are iconic movies in the life of every person, ones that burn into our memories and stay with us as we grow old. For me, there is no film that brings a smile to my face quite like that of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

As no doubt you know, it tells the tale of a Prince, cursed due to his foolishness and arrogance, who must find love and be loved in return before his twenty first birthday. Just when all hope seems lost, he meets his Beauty and, over time, he learns the error of his ways and they fall in love. (A happy ending is, after all, one of the defining characteristics of a Disney film.)

I fully accept the ridicule thrown my way when I announce this preference. It is, after all, a children’s film. But at the same time, it speaks of truths that are eternal and essential.

On the one hand, Belle teaches girls not to settle for a life that bores them, or to succumb to the wishes of a man who desires you only for your beauty and not for love. She values her family over everything else, sacrificing her freedom for her fathers’ sake. And, above all, she falls in love with the personality of a man, and not his outer shell.

And standing opposite her is the Beast. He’s a living reminder of the consequences of greed and disregard for others: a lonely life full of disdain and anger. He may have the form of something ugly and terrifying, but as his soul brightens with the love of another, he becomes gentler and vulnerable. He teaches us that it is not what is on the outside, but what reigns within, that defines who we are. It is our personality that makes us beautiful.

Not only does the film whisper truths at you from a young age, it is also wonderfully drawn (although my attempt above is nothing in comparison). The characters seem larger than life and yet as human as you or I. The balance between magic and heartbreak is tentative but successful and brings a smile to even the most miserable of faces.

Because the tale of love conquering all odds…well, it’s a tale as old as time.