Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Resolutions... Sleep Glorious Sleep

As we near the end of 2015, which has had its ups and downs including a fab trip to Cheshire county and Wales as well as the unanticipated passing of my gran (may God bless her soul), it is time to make some resolutions.

Now I am not one to make resolutions as a rule. The thing is, I believe both that a) there is no need to wait for a new year to commit to bettering something and b) making resolutions is usually about things you find extremely difficult to do and being a perfectionist I hate setting goals that I might fail from achieving.

This year however I am going to try taking this seriously. One of the reasons why I turned Minimalist (oh yes at this point I can safely call myself that though I am in no way an extremist like Leo Babauta from is that I want to have more time for things and people that really matter. And so, making resolutions is actually in line with my current frame of mind and the goals I am willing to achieve in both the near and far future.

As with everything else, some resolutions are personal - promises to myself or to loved ones to be better in some areas that cause myself or them discontent - but others can be safely categorised as sane promises to want to commit to. My first one that comes to mind is Sleep. Yep, you read right - Sleep is elusive in my household... my son who has a bedtime and requires all of his 9-10 hours of nightly sleep is the one who always wrestles sleep-time whilst I am the hypocrite who constantly berates him for so doing and then finding every excuse under the sun (or moon!) to prolong the day before I have to get into bed to sleep. I say 'have to' because it does sound to me like sleep is a waste of time. Ok, let me rephrase that. I think sleep is overrated and a time-waster every evening but then I regret thinking so every following morning (does that even make sense?!) So for the nth time (but probably the first time as a New Year's Resolution), I am listing sleep enough as a priority. Which means, erm, that I should be off now, precisely, to sleep! :-)

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Back to Basics... more reading about and practice of the Minimalist Lifestyle

It's going to be a short entry today and it has nothing to do with that we're on Christmas Eve. As I've been saying lately on here, I am turning once again to a Minimalist life and I must say I am very pleased with the progress I've been making. After going through The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying which I mentioned last time, more than once, I have finally received the parcel with my latest book purchase, which is Francine Jay's The Joy of Less which is nothing short of brilliant. I am not yet halfway through it but even from the introductory page, Francine can not only be persuasive but also very good at selling her idea. In fact what fascinated me most about her style of writing is the way she presents her arguments (despite reading this from a Minimalist point of view I am a writer and so notice these things out of habit!)

I will not be going in depth into this book's teachings, or at least not at this point. The one thing I am going to say though is, it really makes Minimalism an addictive lifestyle and even just two days after starting the book I have already seen a further change in my attitude towards stuff, clutter, and what it is I truly want versus what is just sitting there 'just in case' which usually means never to be used again. I thought before that through the years of minimising and my knowledge and practice of the KonMari method (check this entry for how it works: I had got to my limit but Francine Jay proved there was still further I was ready to go on my Minimalist journey. And with every item purged, I feel lighter, happier and generally freer.

So I must be off now, to continue on what I can only describe as my journey to freedom.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Back to Basics... a Minimalist Attempt Part 1 - time to say goodbye to a particular book

I am so fed up of clutter... be it physical, spiritual or mental. I have resolved once and for all that I want to live the way I want to (obviously with my family in mind as the centre for my choices) regardless of how weird it seems to others, as long as I am happy. That word happy proves elusive most of the time mostly due to a mountain-load of commitments that I can't simply get rid of (no extras here... just basic housework, mummy work, work-work and the rest of the whole list of things that I unfortunately can't reduce any further and still remains like this huge monster that takes up all my time).

A few months ago I bought a book that promised to provide the trick to a massive declutter that lasts a lifetime. Though I was skeptical, reviews were good and I bought The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo. Whilst I do not believe that Kondo mentioned anywhere in her book anything about being a minimalist, her tips proved better than any others I've ever read anywhere, including sites by famous minimalists, at making space in life for all that one loves whilst clearing out all that one does not.

Marie Kondo's first and most important tip is simple and yet it encompasses so much in that one phrase... it asks you to pick up each item and think of whether it 'sparks joy' in your life. Now with other methods and during other massive clean-outs, I have learnt to deal also with my library of books and they have dwindled down to only those that I love or plan on reading. After my first attempt at a book clear-out using the KonMari method (as the author herself calls it) I thought that as she said, I would never have to declutter my library again. However my first attempt at dealing with all in my life by her book's rules and standards fell short when I gave up for a lot of reasons put together. However it did work miracles on my wardrobe I must say. As a result, this time round I do not need to start once again from my wardrobe as I once again brace myself to declutter using this method. As she'd promised - my wardrobe has always since remained perfectly functional and loveable. The reason is that now I automatically know when it's time to let something go out of it and onto the charity pile (or the garbage bag at times!)

So as per Marie Kondo's order of tackling stuff... next after clothes came 'books' and I challenged myself to go through my shelves once more. It's funny how one book that I bought ages ago and always held a place in my heart, one which I've read many times and even listed in an article as a fantastic fiction work, does not any longer bring me any joy. I held it in my hands (the KonMari method asks that you empty shelves onto the floor and then pick up your personal items one by one and 'feeling' whether it sparks any joy). As I looked at my copy of a book I've referred to others time and again, I saw only the brown spots of age on the edges of the papers, its spine looked too thick to be allowed space on my limited furniture space any longer and I realised that I would never again read through it with the anticipation it once held. I had exhausted my use for it. It does not mean I will ever forget the story but that is one reason why I have now let it go... in my mind and in my heart is the tale of Maddie Godard, her horror-filled story and how she finds peace and ultimately love in the least likely of places. Rereading gave me not only the pleasure of looking for the hints strewn around of what is to come later in the book but also helped me as a writer of fiction to examine how a well-made story might be put together as well as how and why the chosen words worked best. I do not any longer require the physical book in order to appreciate all that the story taught me, even as far as life lessons go. So I knew it was time to let it go.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Love, Rosie - A film worth watching

A couple of weeks ago I watched this really sweet film called Love, Rosie (2014). I first stumbled on this title through a trailer that had me curious about the story from the first. The film is based on a novel by Cecelia Ahern (author of P.S. I Love You), which is called Where Rainbows End.

Love, Rosie is a typical and yet unique take on love and what happens when it's too close to home. Rosie and Alex have been best friends since always. Ever since they were young, Rosie is the person who listened to Alex relating his weird nighttime dreams whilst Alex is that guy who is always there for Rosie. Rosie is the friend who he excitedly tells when he has had sex for the first time and Alex is the guy Rosie calls when her own sexual encounter goes very wrong. They are intimate in everything, except for their real feelings about each other. Rosie encourages Alex to go out with a girl who obviously has a crush on him because he couldn't possibly want to go out with Rosie herself, could he? Meanwhile Alex drives Rosie to the prom, which she too is attending with someone else, which he can't really tell her not to right?

This is a story that accompanies the characters through important life milestones, most of which the two best friends share. In fact, there is only one secret Rosie is not prepared to tell. It is that one experience that will shape her whole life, for good or ill, and for a while it leads her away from her dreams. But then the person Rosie relies on most of all unexpectedly dies and what happens when she finds his last letter full of advice? Just as she's taken Alex's weird dreams in her stride, she must now confront her own.

Even simply by watching the trailer I knew this was going to be a love story and a love story always ends with a happily ever after. It is expected though maybe unoriginal, and originality is my best friend. Through the first half of the film, with its build-up and unfolding facts, I was convinced this would also be one that would find resolution in the friends' acceptance of the truth of love. But as the fictional years rolled by and both the partners' lifes got more and more complicated, my certainty of the outcome was gone. I started to think this was going more the way of Prime (2005) and Closer (2004)

On the other hand, it reminded me also of Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), where like Carrie and Charles, Rosie and Alex too keep meeting and exchanging intimate moments and yet always have to go away from each other again. Would they, like Charles and Carrie, eventually give in to what they really feel? This I won't be telling you as I do not want to spoil the ending to a perfectly mishapful narrative but I am glad to say, it had me crying by the end.

Alex is played by Sam Claflin, in an 'Oh my gosh could he be any more perfect?!!' role, not just looks-wise but even when it comes to character. No wonder Rosie (played by Lily Collins) can't find a partner to match that perfect dream boy. Between them, Claflin and Collins create the heart of the film, as they face life with facial expressions and farcical scenes that will have you wanting more.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

I'm Not Just Pro-Life... I have answers to your excuses

I'm sure this post is going to make me some enemies but as I've said before - I am a writer and that means I am duty-bound to speak out the truth and make the world a better place for it.

I have never been much of a patriot but there was one thing about my country I was proud of. That was, and hopefully still is, the general pro-life stance of the country. Unfortunately it seems like now this is being very much challenged by both the government in the bid to introduce embryo freezing ( which is not necessary to IVF, in case you were going to say that and IVF cases can still happen without this bill passing in Parliament) as well as all the pro-choice people that seem to be popping up everywhere of late making themselves heard and saying women should have a 'right' to choose whether to end a pregnancy, to 'safe' health measures (please don't try to fool me into thinking abortion is mostly used for health reasons for the mother!) and much more blablabla as long as they find any and all excuses to list in favour of abortion. Well this is my letter to you today, and as I said I don't really mind making enemies in the process of standing up for life:

I have noticed that as the Pro-life rally nears, some people are going out of their way to point out that Abortion is a right and making up all kinds of excuses in favour of it. Can anyone please tell me why on earth anyone would even waste time saying they're pro-abortion, especially when:

a) some of them are men so it definitely should never be up to them to decide what to do with the mother's baby

b) they themselves are parents and therefore know that when they were pregnant they felt life move inside them (not simply tissue for sure?) and now hold a child in their arms and tell that child they love him/her (so how can they say they agree with killing someone like their own child?)

c) bringing up the excuse that even contraception can fail. Of course it can, what are you doing sleeping around? And if you do have one partner, then it is safe to say if you do get pregnant he should be supportive if this is any kind of good relationship at all and between the both of you you will find that life, even if with more expenses or less time for a career, will always be better with a child in tow rather than with the knowledge that you killed that child.

d) those mothers who can't have their own children through normal means, which you keep citing as the reason why embryo freezing should go ahead, maybe you could have the child and then let them adopt him/her?

You can come up with a thousand excuses as to why you either agree to abortion or else say it's not for you to speak pro-life but ultimately it is always about whether to kill an innocent life or not.

As my conclusion: I dare you who was about to comment on my post still defending abortion - google 'abortion instruments' or 'how abortion is carried out', go to YouTube and find videos, look up pics of aborted foetuses and then, after you throw up at the images you find yourself looking at, then and only then give your reply on here. If you still say you are pro abortion or choice than I am sorry for you that not even that can sway your humanity.

It's Love, Actually for me!

It's time to re-link an old article of mine because as we near Christmas, how can we not think once more of Love Actually??

Friday, 27 November 2015

The downside to following Minimalist rules

I spoke last time of how I intend to practice Minimalism once again but unfortunately it's been a very hectic time of trying to catch up with a lot of things and I'm running behind on deadlines without adding a new concept to my life right now! Meanwhile however, I have still been giving it some thought and I must say some Minimalist practices can cause nuisances at times!

Take, for example, the fact that a Minimalist will only keep what they feel they need or love. Using these two key words I went through my bookcase more than once, removing anything that I did not have a special liking to or intended to read/reread. Among these books was a classic that I'd studied for my English 'A' level and which was a paperback issue with a badly creased spine and dogged pages full of notes in pencil, the result of countless hours of reading and studying. At the time, I felt compelled by the Minimalist rules to get rid of the book as I had no intention of ever rereading it, given just how thoroughly I'd been through it over and over. Alas, I now found myself needing a reread as I intend to write a piece related to it and would rather ensure that I have every minute detail accurate! Not only did it mean a trip to the library, but one that only served to send me on to another library as the one in my village doesn't carry the title after all. Getting to the library in the next town is proving quite difficult, in between their weird and short opening hours coupled with my work hours as well as that this particular library can be found at the top of a staircase, which I currently cannot easily go up due to a knee cartilage problem that is proving to limit me in whatever I am trying to do!

Another Minimalist practice I embraced back when I tried the simple life before was that of reducing my Facebook friends list to only those people who I still somehow interact with in real life. Now that I am a writer and use Facebook to promote my writing, my image as well as the magazine I work for, I chid myself every day for having simplified my friends list!

On the other hand, there are perks to being a Minimalist too. But that is something I'll have to go into another time, as I really need to get the proof reading of an upcoming article done tonight.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Giving Minimalism another try

As I've mentioned on this blog at other times, I gave Minimalism a try a few years ago when I hit a very bad time in my life. You know how at times you need that drastic change to feel like you're trying to get out of whatever bad spot (or at times unfortunately much worse than a bad spot) you might find yourself in. Minimalism offered me just that and decluttering my life from physical clutter gave me an energy I needed in my soul, if that makes any sense at all.

Now although I am not going through another crisis I am still quite tempted at giving Minimalism a second chance because truth be told, I did slacken off quite a bit and opted for a Simple life instead for the couple of years since.

So as from now, I'll be adding a new label to my blog where I will be recounting what works for me and what doesn't when it comes to Minimalism. I'm sure to struggle in some areas, whilst excelling at some others. I have already tried the KonMari method on my clothing items with success though I did fail to control the other areas of my life with this method which is quite extreme and requires the right mindset which I didn't (and maybe still don't) have.

I am off for now as my life is currently cluttered not only in the literal sense but also commitment-wise. I cannot ever slacken on certain duties and most of my life is set around duties related to family and work that I could not shake off. However I do hope that Minimalism might give me a freer and less busy life through other things it will make me change.

Monday, 9 November 2015

More upcoming films worth a mention

Following my link last time to the Part 1 of an article about upcoming films to watch at the cinema, here is the second part, published last week:

Friday, 6 November 2015

Remembering one of the best of friends

Today marks three years since the funeral of a very dear friend of mine. It is not only tragic to die young, but also quite unfair on my dear friend too, who I am sure had much left to live for and, knowing him, plans for each day of what he must have thought was a much longer life ahead. He died at just 27 years of age. Here is an old entry I had written about facing what was one of the biggest shocks of my life.

Monday, 2 November 2015

2nd November 2009 - The MP who saved us both

I have to admit that after writing this post I was torn about whether to actually publish it or not, the reason being that this is personal and you know how I don't like doing personal. However I then reasoned that as I am a writer, and pride myself on the fact that through being a writer I can voice my opinion about matters of importance that should be tackled so that more people become aware of them, I couldn't leave this entry unpublished.

On the 23rd October of six years ago, which was also as this year a Friday, I was taken ill. I was then 14 weeks pregnant. Throughout the whole of ten days, most of which I spent in the hospital, my fever never let up and I could keep neither food nor water down. Meanwhile I was coughing so bad, night and day, that I could never lie down and sleep. And all this while, despite almost daily blood tests being carried out with no conclusive diagnosis and penicillin being pumped into my body intravenously, my health started deteriorating. Breathing became a struggle and I was scared to look in the mirror for the face that looked back was almost skeletal.

On the 2nd of November 2009, thankfully, a very talented doctor took me under his care. I am not being overly dramatic when I say he saved both my life and that of my unborn son. Slowly, now in a different hospital under one dedicated doctor and with a staff truly worthy of praise, I was given the right meds for what had originally been a mere chest infection left undiagnosed and untreated. My fever went down and I started keeping food down again. I started the long road to full recovery and soon my son was kicking away again, assuring me he was feeling much his old self.

I was a long time getting better and even once I got back to work, I spent the rest of my pregnancy practically locked inside the house outside of work hours, fearing that another encounter with someone who was coughing or sneezing might send me back into the hospital whilst my immune system was still down.

Why am I going on about this? Unfortunately one of my bad traits is that I do not find it simple to let things go. I wouldn't say I'm someone who remembers everything, far from it! And yet when I do remember something, it's so accurately embedded in my brain that I can actually go back in time and relive emotions, meet my own previous self, look at it all over again in detail, just as though I was seeing it all in my mind's eye.

And one thing I will never stop saying about this whole episode in my life, is that it was that one caring and brilliant doctor who saved me and my son. I will not be mentioning any names, even though this is praise towards a doctor worthy of it, but I doubt it is ethical to mention someone who is not aware of the reference. However one thing I must say, and it's what I've been trying to get at all throughout this descriptive post, is that this doctor is also a local well-known political figure. Much like anyone else in the public eye, his name is mentioned often in both good things and bad, but one thing that pains me always is to hear of him being dissed for putting his patients before his political career.

I am not actually even bothered with politics, in fact I am a floater who thinks with her mind and not her heart when it comes to the polls. So being safely out of reach of politics' tight grip on most Maltese hearts, I am at liberty to say that regardless of what party I vote for from one time to the next, this doctor will always be a hero to me. It is a real pity that people will shame political figures who actually have a more important part to play in their lives than to just sit in on parliament. A doctor is a doctor first and foremost and I can from experience say, this one was of much more value saving a patient than sitting in on yet another inconclusive dispute. Thank you dear doctor, you know who you are.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Food and Film-Time

Over the weekend I wrote a blog entry which I will be publishing next week, as I would like it to coincide with a particular date. As a result I've been left with no time to write up this week's post and so I'll play it by ear.

I'd promised myself, and even mentioned on here, that come Autumn when routine picks up for my family again, I would find the time to start eating more healthy. And so I am doing! I have not totally omitted fattening or unhealthy foods but taking them sparingly is to my mind no hindrance on the healthy diet. Unfortunately however, what is proving to be tricky is breakfast time. Now that's ironic considering it was the one healthy meal I never forgo, whatever the day or season. However it has now become the most complicated choice to make! I am just a bit lactose intolerant (I can take tiny amounts of milk or condensed milk) and so not able to take cereals with milk, therefore ending up with very dry options!! I also found out the hard way that the negligible amount of nuts in Minibix fruit and nut (I don't like the chocolate variety) is affecting my frequency of getting mouth ulcers. Meanwhile I read lately that as someone with blood type B positive I should be avoiding wheat and chicken as they tend to cause lethargy. Although a little sceptical of this news, I did try to find alternatives to Weetabix, which is one of the few cereals I can actually enjoy eating (with a small amount of condensed milk diluted with hot water) and I was surprised to find that I do feel better on mornings when I avoid wheat and take muesli instead (quite a parching option I'm afraid).

But enough about foods, and on to TV series, which I don't talk about on here as often as I do about feature films. The thing is, few series grab my attention so that I am willing to go back for more the following week (or following day or hour if it is an old one that I am not watching on a first airing but on DVD). I can probably count the number of series I've watched in a lifetime on my fingers. With Downton Abbey back on air for its final season, I'm savouring each episode willing it not to end after the forty-five minutes are up. (Here's my article with what I expect out of the sixth season, which was written before any of the episodes aired:

Meanwhile, for the first time in my life, I am watching three other series at the same time. You might be wondering how I find the time, considering I'm always whining about not getting enough rest and not catching up even. That is exactly why mealtimes come in useful. I watch the weekly Downton episode whilst taking a mid-morning snack on a day I'm not at the office, then continuing to watch it as I hang up the washing on a clotheshorse and then sit down for the remainder of the episode sorting through the clean laundry. At times I even manage the ironing at this time! And back to more food (for someone who dreads mealtimes I'm talking quite a bit about my eating habits today!) I watch Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with my hubby whilst we have our evening meal, sans kid, who would be asleep already by that time.
Some series and mini-series

The fourth and last series that I'm currently watching is the very old A Very Peculiar Practice, a BBC series from the eighties (I so love watching old stuff, just as I love owning replicas of stuff from previous decades and dream of living in a house right out of the fifties). I usually watch this series on days when I'm not at the office but when I've already watched the weekly Downton episode on another day. As with Downton, I find I can follow what's on screen whilst not stopping my chores (after all I always have enough laundry in the house to occupy me in this way.)

I am now off, having eaten my lunch hour sandwiches whilst writing finishing off this entry (see how useful mealtimes can turn out!).

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Time for a review - The Bengali Night or La Nuit Bengali (1988)

It's a film I have seen twice, and the second time I was no less shocked than the first at the fate of the protagonist and more so his erstwhile fiancée.

This is supposedly based on an autobiography that was named Bengali Nights. I say 'supposedly' because not only have some details been changed (like the nationality of the main character Alain as well as the name of his promised Gayatri) but also because it is debatable whether the autobiography is really correct at all.

You see, the biographical novel by the Frenchman Mircea Eliade (rather than British as the film implies) tries to recount the love story of a young Alain (Mircea himself) and Maitreyi Devi (in the film renamed Gayatri to avoid further problems in a nightmare legal battle that ensued when the filming started in Calcutta). Mircea suggests in the book that a passionate love affair happened between himself and his Indian employer's daughter. Meanwhile Maitreyi retaliates in her answering novel It Does Not Die, which gives her own version of what she believes has been turned into a fantastical and semi-fictional story in Eliade's book.

The film's outline, in concise form but with SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH, would be something of this sort: British engineer Alain (played by Hugh Grant) moves to India on a voyage of self-discovery and falls for his boss's daughter Gayatri (Supriya Pathak), who returns his affections. Whilst she knows that her family would never approve of the match, she falls hard for Alain and slowly gives in to his courtship. Their intents are honourable, wanting to get married, and yet it is not easy to tell this to Gayatri's parents. With her father taken ill and her younger sister giving her away to their mother, the young couple's secret love is so no longer. In a scene pretty difficult to understand but which seemed to me to have much to do with the Hindu religion, Gayatri's mother seems to be punishing the young woman for what she believes are indiscretions. The news of the match reaches also the father's ears (probably through the mother) and he who had previously treated Alain with much affection and as though he were his own son, turns against the young lad, throwing him out of his house, where Alain has been living for a while. In an ending that I would class as worse than that of Romeo and Juliet (for after all they did both die in the end and so avoided the pain of not being together anymore), Alain is heartbroken at having been made to move away and never contact his beloved Gayatri again. He also receives that final twist of a dagger in his already wounded heart by Gayatri's cousin, who looks him up purposely to divulge that after Alain moved away, Gayatri got nothing but physical abuse from her family and that her already troubled little sister, having witnessed the cruelties of her family towards Gayatri, killed herself.

Whether a passionate affair took place or not and regardless of what nationality Alain should have been, the truth at the core of this story remains very simply the same - the interracial romance could never have gone on as long as the lovers lived in India. Harsh as it sounds, it is Gayatri/Maitreyi's family that not only pulls the two apart but is also responsible for the young people's ruin, if the film is correct in its ending.

I must confess I have not read either of the two corresponding books, which were ultimately released by the University of Chicago Press as companion volumes in 1994a few years after The Bengali Night was filmed. The reason it took so long for the books to be thus published was Maitreyi's request to Mircea that he do not publish an English version of his book (originally in Romanian) till after her death. In fact this very promise is what caused such trouble for the French production team when they started filming in India. With Mircea dead and his wife giving her consent for the film to happen, Maitreyi felt this was in breach of his promise to her, seeing as the film was going to be translated to English, just like the book she'd pleaded should not appear before her death. But this was not all, Maitreyi took the production team to court for 'insulting Hinduism' and 'being pornographic'. Not only so, producer Philippe Diaz promised the film would not get released in India unless he had the government's blessing and ultimately The Bengali Night was only shown in India once - at the Indian Film Festival of 1989.

NB - whilst most of this feature is in my own wording, I did read through and even copy a couple of phrases off the following article:

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Review of book 'The Best of Me' by author Nicholas Sparks

As I am still not done with the film review I intended to post here this weekend (I have to admit I only managed the intro as yet!!), I will be linking you instead to a very recent book review of mine that's been published on EVE:

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Too much packaging!!

I am very often writing blog posts on the spur of the moment lately, but I realised something just last week that I knew I'd have to eventually expand into a post on here. You see, today I'm going to talk about packaging.

Yes, you read right - I'm going away from films and books and Hugh Grant mentions and even away from 'life' itself which has been a frequent topic of late - and delving into a more-serious issue. Because you see, I believe in recycling and I always have a recycling garbage bag ready on hand in the house for all those junk items that quickly find themselves in the bin. You are probably thinking of junk mail and well, I do get quite a bit of that (no, I did not put a sticker on my letterbox saying 'no junk mail please' because I do look through all the magazines I get sent and tear out adverts of stuff that I know I am going to eventually get round to buying/getting quotations for as well as checking any supermarket offers that are on). But added to all the paper items that make their way from letterbox to our dining table (which is their 'station' where I go through them before discarding) to that grey bag, I also find myself almost daily throwing plastic and carton packaging into the mix. Just to give you an idea, I took this photo of just two days' worth of packaging that I was about to throw into the bin (in fact that was the day I had my 'eureka' moment).

You might argue that it's not our fault that factories are 'using' so much packaging on their products and that you do your bit by recycling rather than throwing it all away. I can very clearly hear the marketing gurus advising me that it's all about selling your product and that presentation is key. Students of design will also put their two cents' worth in by advising that colour is key and different kinds of stuff is more easily saleable when it's packaged in certain colours (I was once a design student myself so I know exactly what they mean). However the point remains that in a world that is constantly harping about taking care of the earth, we should be striving to use up less resources and throwing away less things that take even hundreds of years at times to decompose totally.

What upsets me even more is that some decisions taken in recent years in our country only serve to make the situation worse. A few years ago saw the introduction of a penalty tax on plastic bags given out by shops to customers. The idea was to dissuade people from using the disposable bags at all, instead turning to reusable cloth bags. However, as people tend to, they found this a hard habit to crack and were complaining about it at first. As obviously always happens, the shopkeepers tried to appease their clients and so they found the loophole. The law referred to plastic bags with handles and so they started giving out plastic bags without!! As a result, customers kept getting their free bag, which now was of no use to anyone after the trip as the handle-less bags are not comfortable to carry (and easily break as I realized when I tried punching handles in them myself.) So guess where that leads us? Back to the recycling bin rather than storing them for reuse, which people did used to do.

Another example relates to soft drink bottles. Whereas soft drinks used to be bottled in glass containers that could be returned, washed and reused, it is now illegal to be found with a glass bottle outside of the house. As a result, factories have turned to bottling up anything in plastic containers or metal cans... both of which are thrown away rather than returned for reusing.

The same idea of reusing used to hold true of plastic egg packaging. For a while after these
small plastic egg holders came into being, they could be returned to the seller for a small refund and, I assume, get reused. After only a little while this policy changed and now you cannot return these hard-wearing containers for reuse. So what to do with them? I started looking at them with a sorry expression on my face and then throwing them into the recycling bin. That's till I noticed that the greengrocer shop selling eggs that's closest to me would get the eggs in big cartons and then give out the smaller orders in paper bags (which is quite a risky business given the contents we're discussing). After I found myself going home from the shop always with one broken egg due to this new system, I figured I should keep the plastic holders from when I buy them at the supermarkets and take them with me to the greengrocer for refilling. I started noticing, too, that the greengrocer would try to get hold of such containers. So in the end, I decided it was worth my keeping all egg plastic containers, even if I'd been multiple times to buy them from the supermarket, and I would take them all to the greengrocer's (who of course understands that I might be buying my food elsewhere when I go to a big store to get everything from one place). So every time I'm buying eggs from the shop around the corner, I take all my 'saved' containers to him, telling him to fill up one or two of the smaller ones with my own order and to "keep the rest" for others. Imagine if everyone were to do that, just how many less 'new' containers would have to make their way out of the plastic factory and onto the garbage heap.

Meanwhile my son reuses quite a few carton boxes and trays such as the ones from cereal packets and Kinder snacks for his crafty creations so at least those too get to give a little more service in our home before going anyway into the recycling bag.

Have you any other ideas yourself as to how we could reduce through reuse before recycling in the end?

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Upcoming films worth a mention

There's a whole bunch of films coming out between now and next summer that are worth a mention. So here is my Part 1 of 2 of films coming out between now and January:

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

I was about to get organised...

Written on Tuesday 29th: I was about to get organised... then life happened! As followers of this blog know, I've been very much looking forward to the restart of routine come end of September. Yesterday was meant to be my son's first day back at school and I was hoping to get on top of the housework and errands between yesterday and tomorrow, the two days I am not at my office job. However my son is ill and though I luckily managed the trips around the shops over the weekend, I did not really get any time to start properly on getting our home in tip top shape. Instead I ended up picking my son from school only two hours into his first day and then spending the rest of the day at the doctor's and then overseeing a sick child. At least he was in a co-operative mood and I managed to cross one item off my 'to-do' list - clean and clear up his room as well I can given the huge amount of things he owns as well as all the bits and pieces that make up his creations (he's a very imaginative and creative boy who enjoys coming up with crafting ideas which he then wants to keep... ALL of them!)

Continued on Wednesday 30th: So here we are, third day into my son's tummy infection and I have to say he's been a very good boy so I'm not as off my plans as I'd intended though obviously giving him time and attention means I did still fall a bit behind, not just on the chores but even with work I had planned - both the writing and in my small crafty 'business', if I could still call it that after officially closing shop. The thing is, I could never really stop creating. So whilst I am no longer bothered with providing my designer unique creations to shops I still do quite a few of them over a year to give as gifts so I still do try to schedule time to get them done. But now I'm sidetracking. Point is, despite that these extra few days of 'holidays' that my son got which has moved routine further back, I realised that however panicky I am about falling behind at things, and however many things are on my list of big changes yet to come in life in the coming couple of years (which I can't discuss as yet), as long as I have my family with me and healthy, including a darling little boy who hugs me at will and insists he loves me more than I love him, then all's well in my life, however hard it may sometimes appear to be.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Somewhat Happy

You might remember my rant from a few weeks ago where I said I would be more mindful about doing what makes me happy, even at the expense of other things (

Well, I did start sleeping enough at first, though lately I've noticed myself slipping back into the old ways. Thing is, I fell and ended up with my wrist in a cast for a while so lots of things remained undone for a few days and then it all heaped up so in the end I couldn't leave things as they were any longer, once again at the expense of sleep-time. I must admit also to there having been another, personal reason too, which I won't go into. But I plan on recuperating back my habit of sleeping enough as soon as I can.

Meanwhile I have been reevaluating whether I am truly happier than before (am starting now to sound very much like Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness books!!). Truth be told, I am not sure. I do feel happier, though I can't exactly pinpoint whether that's totally from the fact that I've once again started dreaming of all the things I want to eventually do up else change in our home and that always gives me a thrill, even when I think of stuff that costs thousands and will only get changed years from now.

One clear indicator that I must be at least somewhat happier is that my OCD has gotten better. Here I must explain - the type of OCD I have is the kind where I keep checking and rechecking things. Every evening as part of my bedtime routine, I check that everything is switched off and locked and the same counts for when I'm going out of the house. Part of it stems from realistic problems that could happen that I worry about, another (ensuring that the cooker knobs are all turned off) comes from a previous gas accident I've been in and that will haunt me to my dying day. Anyways, back to the present, the more stressed out I am the worse my OCD becomes. So whereas on a happy day I will tell my mind not to go through the nightly switching off routine over and over because I do know everything's been switched off, on more iffy days I find myself going back to the same locations to see with my own eyes again, even ten times in a row, that everything is switched to the off position and that windows and doors are safely locked.

So all in all I can assume that my happiness project is working, despite maybe in weird ways. But then again, who's normal?

Monday, 14 September 2015

Meeting the Industry - Sixteen Limited

Sixteen Ltd is relatively new in the hectic business market and yet it can boast quite a number of achievements since it first started operating a year ago today. A few weeks ago I met Mr David Seisun, managing director of the company, at a lunch. Talk turned to what his latest business venture was all about and he kindly allowed me the opportunity of an interview on the occasion of the company’s first anniversary.

Together with his team, Mr Seisun works from Sixteen’s inviting offices which are situated at 29, Triq is-Sliem, Marsa. From behind his white oak no-nonsense desk, he explains that the company is a Cloud Systems Integrator with the motto Analyse/Design/Implement. I admit I am not a very technical person so he explains, “We implement software from different cloud software vendors worldwide into our clients' business to make it run more efficiently and most importantly gather valuable data and convert it into instant information for the business owner to understand and take action based on realistic information and not just on gut feeling or unfounded prediction.”

He makes a joke about how in the past ‘being in the clouds’ led students into detention and now, rather, “The cloud is the future, as the industry shifts more and more to shared resources.” One very obvious positive attribute to this type of software integration is how  it allows even the small and medium-sized businesses to afford this “wide variety of processing power”. In fact, David elaborates, Sixteen Ltd also offers IT consultancy services. The main aim of the company here is to work ‘with’ the businesses and offering them what is really needed.

This is not Mr Seisun’s first business venture and he’s heard “numerous stories of companies investing hundreds of thousands of euro in ‘State-of-the-Art’ systems that are no longer relevant to today’s world. These companies,” he elaborates, “are not willing to change the system even though it is strangling their businesses.” The reason is that the Capital Expenditure made makes it difficult for these companies to step away from their past mistake and start anew. Having a system where they pay-as-they-go, so to speak, provides them with a cost effective solution. This, David admits, is how the idea for his latest business came about.

I ask whether Sixteen Ltd is the only provider of such a service locally. It is not, and yet the company strives to distinguish itself through the quality of service and a personal touch. The key, he advises, is 24/7 support following the implementation of the system.

So what, exactly, does Mr Seisun’s team provide the client? During the preliminary meetings the team Analyses the client’s current work processes. This is followed by the Design phase, during which the new system is mapped out so that it can be Implemented. It is here that David points out just how important it is for the new system and processes to be implemented properly. The company sees the Implementation process through from beginning to end, and even provides training for employees. He explains all this to me using examples, mentioning scenarios that would require various software applications. I come to know of the existence of cloud applications such as Timely (an appointment manager), Vend (retail POS) and Xero ( a user-friendly accounting package). All of these and more come at the low cost of a monthly subscription fee, rather than a major one-time fee or the need for expensive hardware to accommodate it.

So how possible is it to provide a customer with the service if that customer is based in a
different country? This poses no problem as Sixteen Ltd has partners in Austria, Albania, Macedonia, Dubai and Estonia. Whilst the design and implementation still happens through the Malta branch, the partners take care of the initial data collection and the training. With all the systems being on the cloud, there is no need for any hardware installation, therefore making the procedure simpler, requiring only a simple web browser in order to set up the systems.

It is time to end our interview and I can’t help asking, “Who or what inspires you and are there any noteworthy entrepreneurs that you aspire to emulate?” His biggest influence seems to be the phrase ‘Impossible is nothing’ and he is very adamant about the fact that he’d rather find challenging business opportunities to handle successfully than follow what everyone else is doing. People he aspires to include Steve Jobs (founder of Apple Inc) and Jeff Bezos (founder and CEO of as well as Sergey Brin and Larry Page, co-founders of Google Inc.

I walk out of the Sixteen Ltd offices accompanied by its founder and director who cannot help but proudly add “we are changing the way companies in Malta and abroad are doing business, our goal for 2016 is to increase that number as much as we possibly can.”

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Fifty Five... a Happy Birthday Collage of Words and Pics of Hugh Grant

It's the 9th of September again and so it's yet another birthday for the lovely Hugh Grant, who once said of his name during an interview, "It was going to be Lucy." Contrary to his mother's wishes, her second child turned out to be a boy so he got Hugh John Mungo instead! This is not yet another long biographical entry about the West London boy but rather a compilation of links to film reviews, articles about him and also a collage I made especially for him and the fans. Happy Birthday dear Hugh!

A short feature about Hugh:

A long article about Hugh:

The Hugh Grant label on my blog, which includes but is not limited to reviews of films he's been in:

And here is the collage I prepared especially for today's birthday boy:

Sunday, 30 August 2015

On Dieting Tomorrow and Being Happy Today

Some people say tomorrow never comes. Instead I say my tomorrow will finally appear at the end of September. "Why?" you may be asking.

As from October each year, our household resumes a routine that is quite lost during the summer, when I keep the same working hours whilst my son is off school and my husband's seasonal work picks up. So technically, the summer is to me the very definition of chaos as a rule.

Now I am not sure but I think I have previously pointed out, it is my husband who does the cooking at home. He took over the role of chef when I had a baby (over five years ago!) and we never looked back at my mediocre cooking! So with summer being such a busy time for him and with his work hours being so erratic over the June-September period, I often find myself having to cook for myself and my son (two different dishes please note as my son still insists he likes practically no ingredients in the world and I would get pretty fed up and remain quite hungry if I were to cook the same things for myself.)

So as a rule what happens is I ensure to give my son his meals in a timely manner, and forget all about my own till after he is asleep as with a zillion things to do and a very needy demanding clingy little boy this is the way to choose the easier dinner time - no interruptions and preferably something not messy so that I can easily eat it at my desk whilst working). As a result, I usually pop some very unhealthy food (think pizza being among the healthiest options right now!) into the oven to cook on its own whilst I shower and maybe tidy up our home a little. Add to that, dieting includes taking some type of salad to work (I mean pasta salad, rice salad etc... the filling kind!!) rather than buying a take out baguette, seeing as my body seems to object to bread and stores it all into added kgs and a bigger circumference for my body. But getting a salad ready requires yet more time that I currently don't have.

Hence why I give up on trying to diet today and plan instead of starting a serious diet come October. That said, there are some things that can't wait till October. Whilst this list includes rushing around trying to get all of my son's school stuff ready (uniform, shoes, stationery, a satchel and the list goes on) as well as planning to book a pre-school haircut for same little boy, there are also numerous other things I have got to be doing, like housework (I'll pretend I didn't hear myself mention that one!!) But over and above all the to-dos and to-nots, I have decided I should be taking up The Happiness Project. I know I have said this before, more than once, and never stick to it, but there are some things going seriously awry. To start off, I am going to try to keep to a self-imposed rule that I must get enough sleep. I am getting less than 6 hours of sleep most nights (thank you very much to a person who upset me on another social media account when I said I'll love having my son back in school so I can get things done during the day rather than instead of sleeping!). In fact last night, due to a pact I made with myself that I'd sleep enough, I got up in the morning much more refreshed and able to tackle the day, rather than looking around me as if I were still in a daze.

So from now on, everything around me can just go to hell (excuse my wording but it's the way I'm feeling) if it is past a certain hour - I am going to get myself enough sleep come what may. Not only so, but I am going to draft up for myself a list of all those little things that affect me so much for doing/not doing them and ensuring that my happiness comes before other things as long as I am not causing anyone harm. That means that I will find some free time for myself (yes dear person who once again lashed out at me on yet another post I wrote elsewhere) because it is a poor world to live in if we're acting more like zombies from being overloaded and it's not fun for anyone, most especially our own kids, when the mother is not feeling well from that overload.

I am now off to live life, away from a computer screen (checking my FB account less times a day is on my list of things to do!) other than when I am either working else to finally maybe get a chance (given my imposed free time schedule) to properly see what The Sims 4 can do.

Friday, 21 August 2015

A Case of Being Charitable

I don't usually do any advertising on here, nor am I going to start now. Only I stumbled onto this charity and couldn't not share. If we all did our part, then the world would be a kinder place, and what better way to start than to help a children's hospital? May the little boy in the story rest in peace.

Friday, 14 August 2015

The Breakfast Eaters

This title was kindly provided to me by my five-year-old son and seemed just the thing to talk about for some humour.
There are two kinds of people - those that let disposables/food finish and then go back to buy more, and those that stock things so that they never run out. I'm the kind that panics if I so much as see the level of a particular something dwindling. Which is why I have a cupboard full of different cereals. Or well, truth be told, I had!!
Now for those followers who are not from my country, I must first explain that I live in a hot climate, or so they say. I usually beg to differ when we have a harsh winter. Point is, heat makes everyone and everything go nuts - people get nervous, dogs lie around with their tongues out and no desire to run after balls, and food goes bad.
This last is the topic on my mind today. I plan on recounting a small mishap that happened to me a few days ago.
I went into the kitchen to put the kettle on and saw something that looked very similar to a tiny moth (I'm sorry but I am not very literate about insect kinds). It was on the wall and I was quick to grab it in a tissue before it flew away. I managed and threw it in the bin. So when I went back to the same area later and found another at exactly the same spot, I thought I was seeing things. Once again I repeated the movement - tissue, moth, bin - and forgot all about it. Till it happened again, then again and again!!! Surely, this wasn't normal.
Now remember the cereal cupboard I mentioned earlier? Turns out these insects were coming out of that cupboard, in which they were having a feast. So at 10pm my plans of a writing session went out the window and I tackled the cupboard instead. Out came all the cereal packets, which I checked one by one (unfortunately most ended up in the bin for having been touched already by the moth-like insects) and then I cleaned up the interior. Now my cupboard looks very bare with its pitiful remaining stock until I can go to restock (very wary now as it seems that I must have bought a pack that had insects inside it already). And so we come to my son's complaint - he is quite pissed off that the Breakfast Eaters, as he so named them, are the cause of the loss of most of his cereal packets.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

On NOT Catching Up

As the time taken for this new entry to appear on the blog clearly shows, I am not catching up!

As soon as I switched on my Macbook and logged in this morning, a sign flashed onto the screen. My calendar program was reminding me it was time to see to the washing machine’s filter again. So was it time to wash the dishwasher (yes, you can actually clean your dishwasher - give it a nice long hot bath with its favourite lemon-scented soap to coax it into working efficiently and also in order to help it stay feeling well). A third sign, this time to change the water filter on the Brita jug, also popped up.

Now many people are quick to tell me not to mind, that it doesn't matter, that I shouldn't worry about the house being upside down, that the washing up can wait and that so can the laundry, as well as the various filters and other things that all appliances, big and small, seem to need changed or seen to every so often.

How wrong they are! There is a limit to how much you can actually leave till tomorrow. Because tomorrow you'll wake up to a brand new day, use up more plates, pots and glasses as well as more items of clothing and underwear. Multiply this by however many people live in the house! What's the point of saying you can afford to leave things undone when it's not true? With that kind of reasoning I could easily leave all the plates etc in the sink for a month! Because really, how will tomorrow prove less stressful and give me more time? How about the fact that with summer in Malta being what it is, it is proving extremely difficult to have any clean towels in the bathrooms, or facecloths for that matter, even when I do care and mind and stretch myself to get on top of the laundry!

The same reasoning goes also for chores that do not occur every day. I can easily leave the washing machine filter a couple days more without a cleaning but if I don't MAKE the time then this task is never going to magically fit itself into my schedule. Talking about such things, my tumble drier has a way of ensuring you DO give its filter a good clean whenever it requires it - it automatically stops working whilst switching on a red warning light after every certain number of cycles - a sure way to get me to not miss out on the dreaded (and important) task. Same goes for the dishwasher when it's time to feed it some more salt. Even before the signal lights up, I can see that it is leaving residue over some items after a thorough program, clearly indicating that I'm better off stopping from whatever else I am trying to do and fixing the issue then having to continually rewash things in the sink. And at this point, for those wondering why on earth I mentioned earlier that I actually do the washing up in the sink, it's because I was a) speaking in general about a household problem and b) because of the zillion plastic containers and plastic children's glasses, plates etc that appear to pile up in my sink, as well as that we often find ourselves needing to reuse a pot or pan before I've actually filled and started a load in the dishwasher.

Now why am I saying all this? Mostly because it gets on my nerves how people expect me to just laugh and be merry whilst my mind is continually cluttered up with thoughts such as that my son's got no clean glasses to drink from or that I might actually have to wear the same bra on a following day if I didn't make it a point to keep up to date with the laundry! And the two examples I have exhausted in this entry are only two common household problems and by no means the only things I should be catching up on in a more timely way.

Having had my rant for today, I can at least cross off one item from my never-ending list of 'to dos' - 'update your blog at least once a week' - which it is obvious from the date at the top of this post is something that I did not manage to keep!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

It's really about time

It's really about time that I linked my EVE review of About Time (2013) on here. For those that might remember, back in September of last year I did a long appreciation/critical post about said film here:

Meanwhile I later reviewed the same film for EVE from a more generic viewpoint for the general reader who might not exactly be interested in all the little filming details. Here it is and, despite that we are now in July and not January as stated in the piece, I would still suggest the particular film to many a type of people. Here it is for your reading pleasure:

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Rounding up the week

I am writing this to the sound of the microwave cooking my fish - note: healthy meal - at ten pm on a Sunday evening. Not the ideal time to be doing any kind of updating at all, especially when I am once again lacking enough good nights of sleep in a row.

On the other hand a Sunday night is a good time to reflect on the previous week with all its ups and downs and curiosities so I will today be doing just that - giving an overview (in random train of thought mode) of this past week.

I mentioned in the very first sentence how I am cooking a healthy meal. I doubt the pizza I had at midday would also count as such but then again that was an emergency plan amid housework, a child in an inventive (and therefore potentially disastrous) mood and no one else around to do the cooking. Please do note I mean I ate pizza, not my son... I am very diligent in cooking healthy food for him but given that he doesn't eat the same things we do (think he still loves boiled veggies, plain rice or pasta, bovril or egg topping on the pasta, and practically nothing else but more veggies and chicken) I think it would be a very boring diet for myself to just always make more of the same for myself.

Anyways, food is not one of the topics in question. But Bridget Jones is! I am still reading Bridget Jones: Mad about The Boy. I don't usually take this long on a book. I do confess I read two more books in between - one being a very useful book about decluttering and the other being a memoir that was important for me to read for one of my upcoming articles. However the fact that I needed to share my reading-time between different books is unfortunately not the only reason why I am still slowly flipping through the pages of Fielding's third BJ instalment. When BJ is funny, it is hilariously funny, and I must say might even top the first two books. BUT, and it's a very big BUT, I think this plot is too much like more of the same to be really considered a masterpiece like the first two (most notably Bridget Jones' Diary). It is true that given we are still reading about the same character there can't be much changed about the character aspect, but I have to confess I am quite disappointed in this book anyway. To put it bluntly - the one thing keeping me on edge is who, if anyone, is Bridget going to end up with by the end of the book. I'd love it to be Daniel, have a feeling it's not Roxter, and would bet my money on the PE teacher. Do not worry, this was not a spoiler alert - I am still reading the book myself and this is just my speculation, not based on any info at all that I could really pinpoint other than maybe experience with plots. I have been proven wrong before though, more than once, so there - rest assured you will still have an enjoyable 'will they, will they not?' till the end of it if you do still intend to read the book following my disappointment.

And I've gone on too long about the book so here's moving on to other stuff that's happening:

1) I got my driver's license! At a pretty old age you might be thinking. Unfortunately there were quite a few bumps (and a swollen knee ligament) and being-too-broke issues as well as babysitting problems involved in my actually getting to the test, following the one I did back in 2006 (yes that long ago!) which I'd failed miserably. Oh don't worry, I haven't been taking lessons from 2006 to now or I'd have given up long ago if I were so bad!!

2) Although I can't reveal any of my current projects (other than that the Part 3 of my Film Location: London series will be out on EVE in the near future for those that are awaiting said article), I do have quite a few tricks (or interesting articles really) up my sleeve. I am one of those crazy people who have their own method of working things out and that, despite probably being mind-boggling to anyone else, it works for me splendidly. As a result, I have to admit I am working on multiple articles and doing research about various things, and reading different books, all at one go (I got exhausted just thinking that right now!!)

3) It's been an overall good week (and one with multiple early wake up calls as well as sleepless nights worrying over the car exam) with a zillion little points to how it was made up so excuse me if I'm feeling a little lost as to how to present it to you people.

4) A last point I will make today is about my novel-in-the-works, which is unfortunately sitting at the sideline waiting for the future when a forty-eight-hour day might actually provide me with enough time to get on with it. I often do get discouraged thinking just how much there is left to the writing of the first draft (let alone a rewrite!) but I was just thinking this week how good the plot is, how detailed and therefore reader-friendly and interesting, and mostly just how, well, how real the characters have become to me. They might have started out as a hotchpotch of ideas taken from characters I love well that would suit the plot, they might wear the argyle sweater I saw in a pic and have their hair type depend on whether I class them as fave characters or ones I would want nothing to do with (yes I do have a thing about hair!) but after all the moulding and imagining (I imagine out every scene, thinking 'What would Jeanne/Darren/Michael do?') these 'people' have become so real to me, so much like someone whose life has intertwined with mine at times, who have ideas and dreams and disappointments that I would like to brush away but can't unless I want to be useless as an author, that I will eventually finish the story and get it published - if for no other reason, then to give my characters their epilogue.

I am off now to eat the fish that is starting to cool down a little too much for my liking (I guess I got carried away on this post and it's on the long side!) So I leave you to your thoughts about whether BJ3 should really have sold two million copies (yes it did!!), whether you think the roads are still as safe (or unsafe here in Malta!) now that I'm going to be a driver and not a passenger, and just how worth it it is going to be to buy my novel once it's out ;-)