Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Bologne- Not Quite a City of Dreams

Very little to report today- to which you may ask why I am bothering to write anything.
The answer is that I have an hour to kill before going for dinner and I am trying a new thing where I don't spend every free minute I have on Facebook.
Much of this morning was taken up by travelling to Bologne, after which it took comparitively little time to discover that their is absolutey nothing to do here; though the main sqaure is pretty, it is essentially just that- a square, and as such did not take very long to explore. Upon researching (ie: googling,) the various clubs within the immediate vicinity, we decided upon one called Black Shadow, which we would adorn our glad-rags in order to hit up this evening. Unfortunately, this recreational spot turned out to be a strip- club. Though I essentially had no problem with this, and Isabella was actually quite keen to go, as Sophie is yet to try the clubbing scene, we thought it might be a bit full-on.
As such, we have fully planned tomorrow's excursion to Venice, which will be an early start but definitely worth it, as I am assured it is an extremely interesting location- (as soon as I discovered that you had to take a water-taxi from the station to reach the city, I was sold.)
Tomorrow is my last full day in Itay before a brief stint back in Leeds, and so I will endeavour to spend a little time concluding my trip before I jet off for the glamourous life in NYC- concrete jungle that dreams are made of. Looking forward to seeing my parents but could not be less excited to be back home, however, I guess I cannot complain.
Hope all is well, Cal.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Actual Culture Minus Alcohol

Dear all, Italy is good, weather is great and somehow have tan. Last day in Sorrento today- Bologne tomorrow, home of bolognese, yum yum! Hope England is nice and the cat is ok, home soon. Love Cal xxxxxx *Is probably what a post-card home would say (if it had occurred to me to send one.) However, that would be a definite insult to the previous two days' brilliance, which I hope to recount now to the best of my ability. Yesterday was dedicated to exploring the Amalfi coast- a playground of the rich and the famous, like Dolce and Gabbana and Elton, the queen herself. Needless to say that we didn't run into anyone particularly influential, but my new claim to fame is that I saw Janet Develin sat in an Irish bar, (one can only assume that she enjoys the cliche- apologies that I can't find the acute on this iPhone.) Built into a sheer cliff-face, these higgledy-piggledy towns like Positano and Amalfi require a strong pair of calves to navigate, but if you have these at your disposal, you are rewarded by charming views as they are quite literally hidden gems absolutely full of character. It is probably unsurprising that we spent some time at the beach but the experience sounds quite cultured if you miss that bit out. The bus back to our hostel was an hour and a half long, in which I was stood with my face pressed into a variety of windows, armpits and bags for the entire journey, while constantly fearing that I would be catapulted through the door- a definite stand-out moment so far. However, today was incredibly exciting as I finally realised my dream of visiting Pompei, cultivated by hours dedicated to watching Mary Beard documentaries. It was an early start, and we arrived before the gates opened, which meant that we were able to experience this haunting place as it was supposed to be seen- a dead city, completely devoid of people, save for a few archeologists, before the hoardes of American tourists arrived from their cruises. It was absolutely amazing seeing the delapidated buildings which I have seen so much in picture, in the flesh, and the perfectly retained corpses which are so famous. Tomorrow we move on to my final stop in Italy before I come home, which is very sad, but hopefully a trip to Venice will be feasible. Regardless, I am sure that the next few days will be packed with activity. Home soon, hope everyone is enjoying their summer, Cal (xxxx)

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Saucy Sorrento

Things we have learnt so far in Sorrento: 1. If you need to do a number two, make sure to eat some plums. 2. If you choose not to eat at a restaurant, it is highly likely that the head waiter will give you intentionally misleading directions to your hostel. 3. Tequila is dangerous when consumed by Isabella. 4. Chessy gets very stroppy when she has to pay four euros to use a train when she has bought an interrailing ticket. 5. 3D 'cat cards' are an excellent way to pass time when you have missed an inter-city train. 6. Happy hour actually only saves you 88 pence despite buying approximately 12 drinks. 7. Typing on an iPhone when intoxicated is relatively difficult. 8. Sorrento is without doubt one of the most stunning places in the whole of Italy. 9. Pompeii is only a short train-ride away and as such, is on the agenda. 10. Volumising powder makes you 'powderful.'

Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Eternal City

'Grazi! Prego-' are the two Italian words that I can now fluently exclaim after hours of arduous practice. We are currently in Roma, having finished choir tour very drunkenly yesterday morning and picking up the last (and eagerly awaited) member of our group, Sophie from the airport. With relatively little time in the evening, we decided to visit the Vatican, and thankfully Chessy did not burst into flames despite her role as the minxy anti-Christ. We attempted to convince her to go to confession but she was having none of it.) Today has been very full-on, particularly as it is Sophie's 18th birthday, which provided some pressure. First on the agenda was the colosseum, which is just as impressive as everyone says and which I felt very smug about giving some background to due to my Classics A-level and love of the 'Roman Mysteries' novels. I would also like to publically thank the saint who handed in my wallet to lost and found despite the fact that it was full of loose euros- I put down my good karma to the spiritual encounter of visiting the Vatican yesterday. We have also seen the Roman forum, Trevi fountain, Spanish steps and Pantheon. in short, I felt like Lizzie McGuire/ one of the Olsen twins, it has been busy but amazing in such an exciting city. Tomorrow we move on to Sorrento, which should be slower paced and more relaxed after running around today, which is definitely needed. Ultimately, though I am sad to be leaving the eternal city, I threw a coin into the Trevi fountain and so know that I will definitely be back one day. Also, I have been informed that the weather in England is torrential, so will briefly point out that it is 37 degrees here. See you soon, Cal.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Tuscan Traveller: Take 1

Greetings from Italy!
It's been a busy few days here in Tuscany- lots of concerts and sightseeing; with less sleep. Montecatini (alternatively known as Montycatty by some of my less cultured friends,) is a beautiful place with some stunning views, but we have also visited Pisa and Florence which are equally gorgeous. Unfortunately, the beauty of Lucca (which has been described as the most exquisite place in Italy) was denied to us as we were in dire need of extra rehearsal. Last night we performed a set in an exclusive members-only dining and theatre club, which was both terrifying and amazing- though the sheer amount of food we were provided with was potentially the highlight so far, made by some famous-ish guy with a book and a dvd who looked a bit like a bad santa. Essentially it was this that made our many hours of 'practice' by the pool worthwhile. In fact, that was our fourth gig, others of which have included singing mass on a roasting hot evening- thankfully, no one hit the deck despite the heat, and outside the leaning tower of Pisa- I was denied entrance to the cathedral as my shoulders were out- a risqué move which apparently was not well received by the catholic church. Today we are hitting Florence again and painting the town red, as it were, while tomorrow is the beach, which is great as I am currently rocking the 'pale and interesting' look- culture is great but doesn't provide a good tan.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

My Threat to Write this Summer

Hi hi hi,
Basically, apologies for the prolonged absence (not that I can imagine anyone was too bothered,) but what with exams I have simply been too intrigued by medieval English and women’s rights to have much time to blog. Admittedly, during my post-exam binge (which incidentally left my pockets empty and my head even more so,) I wasn’t all that interested either- a travesty I’m sure you’ll agree. However, that is all about to change. This is not really a post in itself. Oh no; please instead regard it as a tantalising teaser of what is yet to come, what is in store for any lucky reader who has stumbled upon this blog. As of Saturday, I am basically lucky enough to be jet-setting around the globe for a good 5 weeks, and I see no better opportunity to write than this. I will be visiting Italy for two weeks- inhabiting such places as Rome, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast and Tuscany, before dashing off to the busy streets of New York for a week, and finishing in the idyllic paradise that is Bermuda.
Please do stay tuned to be regaled with amusing anecdotes, snippets of information about the places I go, and even hopefully some guest appearances from my fellow travellers- Francesca Whalen (if she’s not too stressed,) Isabella Buono (if she’s not too drunk,) and Sophie Stone (if she’s not ditched us in favour of her own private adventure.) I will try to be a Bill Bryson figure but otherwise think of this as Eat. Pray. Love. in a blog form and myself as your Julia Roberts- minus the mid-life crisis. I hope that those of you who are doing your own travelling will get a chance to check this out, and those who do unfortunately do not have the opportunity may experience some vicarious enjoyment from it. If no-one reads it except my Mum (who will only do so begrudgingly in order to confirm my safety, while tutting at any misuse of grammar and/or bad punctuation,) then that is also ok and I promise not to get too sulky.
Thanks, and see you in Italy!
PS: If you don’t get the Julia Roberts reference, you should get yo’self down to Blockbusta.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Proud Grandfather at 18 years of age

I have a recommendation for the day: Friday nights in.
I have come to the sad realisation that I am a premature Grandpa in disguise. Today I got home from school at 4.30. The first thing I did was take off my suit and get into my one-piece (this in itself is unacceptable and I know it makes me a dick but it’s so comfortable that I simply won’t hear a bad word said against it.) I proceeded to watch Masterchef, which I had taped from last night- (hope Tom wins,) have a bath (no candles, but bubbles did feature,) eat a Chinese (plus a few bags of crisps) and read a bit of my book (for about 5 minutes before tuning in to New Girl and other shit telly.) You may be a very liberal individual and believe that this behaviour is totally acceptable- I appreciate your tolerance. However, the upsetting thing about my routine is the fact that 16-year-old Callum would be turning in his grave (metaphorical obviously) if he could see my actions (metaphorically again, because he is me and- as such can see everything.. Sorry if that’s confusing.) From the very day I turned 16 I was simply waiting to be 18, when my real life would begin. During the two intervening years I was patient and stoic, as I knew in my heart of hearts that they were simply “transition years.” For me ‘18’ was synonymous with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll; it was a symbol of freedom and liberation from constraint as one entered the world of adulthood. Then I hit 18 and I realised that I’m not actually a sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll kind of guy. In actual fact, I’m the guy that is excited for the next series of Downton Abbey and finds it difficult to go out two nights in a row without a midday nap to keep me going. In short, I am a premature Grandfather.

What’s worse, I love it.

At 16, I longed to be a member of Skins, with “delirious highs and inevitable lows” (that’s the official tag-line of the show- how pretentious is that) characterising my lifestyle choices. Now, when I watch the programme, I am more concerned by how little revision they are doing for their exams and why they are seemingly oblivious to the fact that they clearly need a good bath. When I go out, I enjoy frequenting Halo, where the most hectic thing I have hitherto experienced was their free giveaway of santa-hats in a fit of festive good-will. The music isn’t dirty, grimy dubstep, but a mixture of whatever is in the top 40’s chart and a variety of 90’s hits. I dance like my Dad and at a recent party, I moved on to a cheeky Smirnoff Ice when I felt I’d had too much vodka.

The funny thing, is that all the time waiting to grow up so I could do all the grown-up things that looked so cool, provided me with the opportunity to actually grow up and realise that I’d rather actually have fun than just pretend to. Sure, it’s probably quite lame that I’ve spent tonight (a Friday night) with a cup of tea instead of a glass of jaeger, but at the same time, the occasional Friday-night is completely necessary, crucial even- to maintaining your sanity. The most dangerous situation I have put myself in is almost spilling a bottle of soy sauce all over my bed, and the closest I got to vomiting was unnecessarily finishing my prawn curry, having already wolfed down prawn toast, spring rolls and sweetcorn soup (man it was delicious.) Ultimately, being a Grandpa every now and again is good for your mind, body and soul, so there should be no stigma attached to it. It is nothing to be ashamed of, but something to celebrate!

I am an 18-year old Grandpa and proud (but then again, the chav at the bottom of the road can boast the same, though in a slightly different context.)

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Big Questions.

I am hungover. This seldom occurs, as I don’t drink, except occasionally at communion (you don’t know whether I’m being serious, do you?) However, when it does happen, the logical response seems to be to watch The Biggest Loser USA. What could make you feel better about your current condition than seeing the largest individuals known to man in various states of crying, vomiting or screaming in pain? There is certainly something therapeutic to it, it provides an inner peace (though not literally, I’m sat with a bucket and my innards don’t feel very peaceful.) In spite of this, today, as I stumbled out of bed and took up my place on the sofa (a spot which I endeavour not to move from until bedtime,) instead of fulfilling my heart-warming plan of watching “losers” turn their lives around, I stumbled upon something that made me feel a hell of a lot worse.

The Big Questions. Now, I am not a Sunday-morning-TV kind of guy (I am much more partial to Saturday Kitchen,) and thus I have foregone the experience of enjoying weekly philosophical debate live on the beeb. I really have missed a trick, because the programme was completely absorbing (enough so that I have delayed my fatties until I wrote this post, which speaks volumes.) The motion was “is fundamentalism undermining faith?”

Now, I love an argument, but never before have I found myself literally screaming at a television (discounting my verbal abuse of Keith Lemon to “get off the screen-” admittedly using a few more expletives. Seriously, he’s not even funny.) I’m going to restrain myself from getting a bit too deep for what should be a day of rest (praise be to Jesus,) but I don’t think fundamentalists quite grasp the paradox of their ignorance. Now, I am clearly an expert in this field because I won the “Hook Religious Studies Prize” in Lower Sixth, so you should all bow to my superior understanding (except Isabella because she’s Christian faith leader and she knows her shit.) I would consider myself a man of faith; I’m not a practising Christian but I like to think there’s something out there (I’m pretty sure in writing that, Alex Rankine’s heart has just stopped. Also, upon reading it back I sound like I’m referring to alien life-forms, which I’m not, though who wouldn’t like a nice Martian buddy?) Personally, I’m of the opinion that everyone should entitled to think whatever they want to think- hey, I was even invited to be a Scientologist when I went to New York and I definitely considered it, though I was 12.

Now, without wanting to sound like I think the world is one big gap advert, things seem to work best when cultures are tolerant of each others’ differences. Therefore, I am baffled by the fact that intelligent men and women can say that “God loves everyone” and then in the same breath “but if you’re not part of my religion, you’re going to hell, soz.” Surely, if God is the master player and we are merely the sims, he wouldn’t create us just to go to down in flames (literally.) At risk of quoting Mean Girls... Hell, I’m just going to do it: “I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school... I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy.”

Literally, if God made man in his image, then that applies to all races, genders, sexualities, ages and people generally. Nowhere in any of the sacred texts does it say “and so God forgave man for his sins. Except the gingers. He made a mistake with those.” Believe or don’t believe what you want and let everyone else do the same. It’s all chill that way and we can sing kumbayah around a massive campfire.

I’m sorry that I have just blogged about this because I know it’s a bit of a risky move to write about religion, but I haven’t done that- I’ve written about intolerance and a pretty great TV show. If ever you have a free Sunday-morning then have a gander and you might be made as impassioned as I have been.) However, next time, I promise to write about something less controversial like gardening or Glee, so you don’t think I’m some sort of nutcase- (honestly, I’m not.)  

Anyway, in the wise words of Danny Kenny, “it’s all bollocks anyway.” I’m off to watch my fatties now.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Let's get this show on the road!

I think it’s a shame that people don’t write. Today, reading a friend’s blog, I realised that in recent years I’ve been embarrassed about the very idea of writing things for people to read. I’m not necessarily talking about blogging- even during that pretentious phase when some of my friends thought that writing poetry reflected their deep and tortured soul, I cringed away from trying my hand.

Now, maybe that’s just because I’ve never been the sort of person who really goes to town on their teenage angst (although that’s unfairly denying some very melancholy GCSE drama performances: circa year 10.) However, I’ve got an inkling that it’s got something to do with the school system. If I think back to the days of primary school, I know for a fact that I was the sort of child who spent a lot of time with their nose in a book- it’s an occupational hazard of being an only child. It was my love of completely engaging myself in another world that propelled me (when most normal eleven year olds were playing football and discovering the delights of Grand Theft Auto on PS2,) to write my own stories. I loved writing. I loved people reading my writing, and so I did it (much to the horror of my year six teacher Mr. Bowlas who had the unimaginably excruciating job of providing me with feedback.)

Now, my point isn’t that I was any good. I wasn’t at all- the pinnacle of my “talent” was a series of short stories entitled The Dream Boy, co-authored by Holly Abel. (Before we go any further, I would like to clarify that it wasn’t, as it sounds, some sort of Jacqueline Wilson-esque number, but was actually a riveting mystery concerning a string of individuals trapped in their own dreams. Evidently we didn’t realise how gay the title sounded at the time.) My point is that, at eleven years old I had the confidence to do something that in the seven preceding years I have never managed to recreate.

(Be prepared for a huge generalisation alert- I am guilty of this quite often, but will try to dial it down;) I think that as soon as a child reaches high-school, their creative streak is somewhat stifled. Everything suddenly centred on “comprehension” and “evaluation.” Suddenly you are reading the great writers of the past, but worse, you’re discussing whether they’re any good. I think it’s at that point that people become incredibly self-conscious about writing. At what point are young people ever encouraged to write for themselves? All we write about is other people; we study their work and, at best, we admire them for it, at worst, we think that they weren’t all they’re cracked up to be. How gratifying is it to say: “well, T. S. Eliot, yeah he’s massively overrated in my opinion.” How unconventional do you feel to be bucking the trend?  At what point do we ever stop and consider having a go for ourselves?

I think there’s something about writing that makes you very vulnerable, and it’s that there is something definitive and concrete in front of a reader that they are able to criticise and pull apart. As something like a blog is a very personal extension of yourself, that’s a big risk to take- you really put your neck on the line, because people don’t really like to praise another person’s achievements. It’s very easy to read something and to think about how it could be improved- everyone does it, and in some ways it’s a very human defence mechanism. What people don’t acknowledge is the sheer amount of balls it takes to write something on a public forum like the internet, where you expose yourself and allow people to access your weaknesses.

Basically, that’s the point of this blog. I don’t mind if I don’t get a single reader. It’s me taking back my confidence and having a go at writing, something I love doing. One day I might like to write as a profession- who knows, but how am I ever going to develop unless I have a starting point?

However, I read a lot of blogs and I refuse to fall into some common traps. Therefore I have a number of pledges to make:

1)      I will try not to be pretentious. (I certainly won’t be emulating Tolstoy in this blog. I will write how I’d speak, and I’m not going to be using metaphors to convey deep, philosophical messages.)

2)      I will endeavour not to give people advice or try to “inspire them.” (Oh no, I’m not going to be giving an assembly or writing about the dangerous condition of the snow leopard. If you like the snow leopard that that’s very cool. If you don’t, that’s fine too- though they’re pretty cute so I don’t know why you wouldn’t.)

3)      I won’t write about things just because they’re cool or it will make me seem fashionably alternative. (I’ll write about what I find interesting. I’m not going to have a theme or suddenly spew forth about atheism just because I can.)

4)      I won’t pretend to be some sort of social reformer or make sweeping statements about society. (I’m not a politician and I don’t have an agenda. I have my opinions, and occasionally they might spill over- but I’m not going to urge you to vote labour; though you totally should!)

5)      I will proof-read my work. (I’m really bad at this and I’ll probably make loads of mistakes so sorry in advance.)

6)      If I break one or more of these rules, feel free to give me a slap.

Thanks for reading (though that’s going to be pretty awkward if no one does!) Peace and love.