Tuesday, 25 January 2011

What kind ice-cream flavour are you?

Ice-cream flavours are like perfumes, they come in types. You have your Sorbets and your Creams. Sorbets come in citrus (eg lemon, pear, melon) and other (chocolate, strawberry)... There are 2 types of Creams as far as I can tell: primary (eg vanilla, chocolate, coffee, strawberry) and exotic (eg rhum and raisin, pistachio, ultra dark chocolate, chocolate and mint, cinnamon). And then there's Complex (eg rocky road, cookies and cream, Tiramisu...).

Before Ben & Jerry's, before Baskin Robbins, ice-cream came in individual flavours, served in scoops. You could order one, two, or three scoops and it would be served either in a cone or in a little metal cup. Most people stuck to traditional combinations: vanilla and chocolate, or vanilla and strawberry. Some people didn't at their own peril. As a child, my dad would order things like lemon, strawberry and coffee but rarely got what he'd ordered.

Ice-cream flavours are a bit like physical types. Some combinations are rarely found in nature. Before the advent of diy hair colour, spray tan, coloured contact lenses, and plastic surgery, people tended to look... well, one way or the other: blonde and pale, brunette and dark, red headed and freckly, black or asian with brown eyes.

But that's all changed now: you can be blonde and tan, with yellow eyes, a 5ft frame and 34DDD breasts or black and blue eyed or asian and a freckly redhead. It's not all artificial either. Some of the best combinations are natural... gone are the days when people tended to marry someone local, now people fall in love with others who grew up on the other side of the world and make beautiful babies together. So there are less Sorbets and Simple or Exotic Creams and more Complex flavours.

I am coffee and pistachio but secretly, I yearn to be banana with blue bumble gum and candied fruit (the ice-cream equivalent of Pamela Anderson in Bay Watch). The thing is, blue bumble gum and candied fruit and banana is all well and good but not always appropriate. Like a big tattoo, it rules out things like state funerals and grown-up job interviews. Mind you, coffee and pistachio is a bit intellectual and lacks spontaneity... more business suit than bathing suit.

So I'm waiting for the next generation of dyi beauty: gene therapy. Imagine waking up in the morning, and wanting to be a statuesque blonde with an enormous chest and a nice tan: pop your pill, and wham! There you are: 1 foot taller, natural blonde, natural tan, real boobs. Then the next day you want to be a petite brunette ex-ballerina type. Pop a different pill and wham! There you are: size 0 and lustrous black locks and alabaster skin and look! no bra. And there would be a pill for everything in between. Like being a cartoon.

I would like that very much. In the meantime, I would like to be blonde, either Finnish or Ukrainian, and speak fluent Mandarin (with a Beijing accent, even though I find the Shanghai accent rather charming). I would also like to be a bit taller (especially in the leg department) and a little more streamlined. And I would like nice straight and thick hair. And skin that tans. And 20/20 eyesight. And disconcertingly pale blue eyes. In other words I would like to be a two scoop combo of dragon fruit sorbet and gianduja with a hint of pepper.

In the meantime, there's always ice-cream.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Step out away from your knickers...

There's an English expression "Don't get your knickers in a twist." which sounds hilarious and somewhat obscure to foreigners but is actually rather sexist and patronising. It means "don't get upset" or "don't get hysterical". It is most often used by men and addressed to women (presumably because men don't wear knickers - at least not their own - and I can't picture David Beckham acting hysterical... can you?).

And anyway, how do you get your knickers in a twist? I've put them on back to front before (or if it's a thong you can end up putting your foot through the waistband bit and end up slightly off kilter...) but that's easily fixed. I've also strangled my nether regions by wearing the wrong type of knickers to yoga (avoid lace, avoid thongs, avoid anything that rises... stick to boy pants... or stick to Pilates) but I've never ended up with a twist.

What kind of weird lingerie game of twister does it involve? Do you put them on with the proverbial twist already there or does the twist mysteriously happen after you put them on? And if so - how? And how does the twist trigger the hysterics?

You see, once you started digging under the surface, it stops making any kind of sense. You can't actually get your knickers in a twist. And knickers and hysterics are in no way related. So what does that leave you with? A sexist remark that reinforces the notion put forward by Freud and his accolytes that women are hysterical creatures.

I'm not one of them. Don't smirk! I may be high strung. I may have a quick temper. I may not suffer fools gladly. I can speak very loudly... I can get cranky... but these I attribute to my cultural background and Meditarrenean upbringing (combined with being a sixteenth Irish). Are you still smirking?

Define hysterical. I said, define hysterical! If by hysterical you mean: passionate and excitable, then count me in. Because life without passion or excitement is like... your local post office (minus the occasional "postal" employee). And who wants that?

So next time you hear someone using that expression, or you find yourself on the cusp of using it yourself (especially - horror of horrors- if you are a woman) stop and think: what am I commenting on? Is it something positive or something negative? And why is it bothering me?

The truth is, if someone is truly being hysterical - the best cure is a good slap. Or two.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Are you an inny or an outty?

Most people fall into one or the other: introverts or extroverts. If you're an extrovert, you need excitement and stimulation and are usually seen as the life of the party. You find introverts shy and recessive. If you're an introvert, you're happiest on your own curled up with your favourite book or napping (if you're a cat), happily existing in the intricate tapistry of your inner world. You find extroverts bossy and loud and obnoxious, and well, frankly - immature.

In case you didn't pick up on the bias... I'm an introvert. I am happy as a clam on my own. When I'm around other people I put on an act. It's still me, but louder and more engaged. Let me tell you: it's exhausting. I've tried just being "myself" but then get plagued with questions: "Are you ok?" "Are you feeling peeky?" "Are you bored?" or the worst one: "Are you angry?" No! I'm not angry! I can't help it if my face takes on a rather stern set at rest. I was disciplined a lot in childhood - it's made me rather serious minded.

So I try and make an effort, meet people half way: relax my jaw, take my glasses off, relax the permanent coil, try to be... more chilled. Like a nice Italian white whine on a Summer's day. "Are you sleepy or something?" No! I'm half blind and you all look like a blur to me!

This is probably why - as a rule - actors tend to be extroverts and writers tend to be introverts, with musicians nicely divided between the two. (I have made this up but it seems right, doesn't it?) And here I am, an introvert, trying to be an actor. Why go through all the trouble?

Because as an actor you are rarely yourself. Oh sure, you build the character on familiar ground, it's you but it's not you. A bit like channelling. You become a conduit. Something else takes over. Are you still with me?

I'm not saying you become possessed, I'm just saying that something in you relaxes, let's go of the steering wheel and trusts the navigating to someone else. It takes some trust, but then, if you like your character, it's like a best friend, you share everything. Or if you prefer it's like being hypnotised: you're fully conscious but not in charge.

But there is a catch to this reasoning, because acting is 10% well - acting - and 90% business. And when it comes to networking introverts don't stand a chance. Imagine a room full of people and not only do you want to talk to no one, you don't even want to be in the same room as them, every molecule in your body is screaming at you to run away, and thanks to the great training you received at drama school, you couldn't hide your feelings if your life depended on it and everyone can read what you're thinking as clearly as if it were printed out on your forehead. And even if you slap on a hat, they'll be able to read it in your eyes...

Not only that but I am Pisces. Do you know how few A-list stars are Pisces? They're all Leo or Libra... or something starting with an L, but definitely not Pisces. Too recessessive, too dreamy, too nice...

Did you notice? I made a big leap there from "actor" to "A-list". I'm not sure there is a bridge between the two. Except my own Ego.

So maybe anyone can be an actor, a few of can be very good actors, and some will become A-list. A bit like life really. Some of us make good human beings, some of us become saints, and others win the jackpot.

It's a kind of lottery. But be honest, if you could choose for yourself, would you rather be an innie or an outtie?

Monday, 3 January 2011

To do or not to do...

This is an odd time of the year, it's not the run up to Christmas, it's not Christmas Eve (which is a bigger deal in France because that's when French people have their big meal - fresh oysters taste best with the anticipation of opening presents),  it's not even Christmas Day, or even Boxing Day (which is a newish one on me and as yet doesn't feel like a proper holiday - what's Boxing Day anyway?), it's not that lovely limbo of a week between Christmas and New Year's, it's not New Year's Eve (thank goodness, this year's was off to a slightly dramatic start which thankfully peetered out to an anti-climax before fading into oblivion - we were so grateful to have a really quiet one), it's not even the weekend following New Year's Eve...

...What it is is the end of a sad little Bank Holiday of a Monday redolent with foreign students catching the last Eurostar home in time for classes tomorrow and the last of the holiday makers making their way home: Liverpool Street station is a happening place. As was the canal tow path (I prefer toe path) that runs between Islington and Canary Wharf: bikes, families on bikes, joggers, fit joggers, joggers in tee-shirts and shorts, new year resolution joggers, couples jogging together, canal boat owners returning after a visit to Cornwall, and the odd cat or cormorant looking for their next meal.

I'm not depressed. Oh really? I've simply run out of Haigh's chocolate puddings (which our dear friend Melissa sends us without fail every year from Sydney where Haigh's has finally opened a branch. It used to be that you could only buy them is South Australia's Adelaide and they still won't ship outside of Australia...) and it's time I went back to taking my vitamins and going to yoga class.

Then there's the death of Pete Postlewaite and the thought - as when any artist dies - that a light has gone out of the sky, never to be lit again.

The thing is, the days are still so short, the sun is still so timid, and there's nothing to look forward to until the end of the month when my sister turns a year older! Then there's Valentine's Day, our anniversary, then there's my birthday in early March, and then more family birthdays and before you know it it's Spring and all is right with the world. But in the meantime?

So come on, New Year resolution number 310!!!  To weave a little magic into the world and lessen, even for a moment, winter's bitter but necessary hold.