Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Z is for ...

... zut alors! I forgot I needed to write a z bloglet.

No, I don't know how I managed that after blogging almost every day this month. Perhaps the challenge has fried a few too many brain cells.

I promise I'll do a proper, more substantial bloglet when it's time to post our reflections on the challenge (I assume we're doing that again this year? I haven't actually checked) but right now I'm off for a nice, long sleep.


Congratuwelldones to anyone who took part in the A to Z - I've had a lovely time visiting your blogs. Many many thanks if you've read or commented on any of my humble offerings - it's always appreciated!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Y is for You

For anyone paying particularly close attention, yes I used 'you' as my 'y' topic last year.

In that bloglet I asked one question to anyone reading. This time round I've decided to ask you five. Feel free to answer some, none or all of them!

1. Assuming you're visiting from the A to Z, is this your first year of doing the challenge?
2. Will you be back next year?
3. What is your favourite blog you've found during the challenge?
4. Which letter did you find most difficult to blog about?
5. Why did the chicken cross the road?

(No end-of-bloglet question today because you've got plenty above!)

Saturday, 27 April 2013

X is for uneXpected and eXtraordinary

I hated X last year. Unsurprisingly, I've not found it any more enjoyable this time round.

I really don't like the idea of cheating by choosing a word that doesn't actually start with X. That being said, I genuinely don't know many words beginning with X (for about a minute I was tempted to write a short story about a xenophobic xylophone - count your lucky stars I decided against it).

So I'm cheating.

I'm quite a sucker for watching TV talent shows. Most years, before they start, I convince myself that I've had enough and that this year I won't watch any of them. Inevitably I get sucked in every time.

Most of the time, though, I genuinely don't mind who wins (usually because my favourite gets knocked out early in the competition and I sulk). What I look forward to, is that act that either does something utterly amazing ... or manages to produce an interesting reaction.

I think these two videos (both taken from this year's Britain's Got Talent) demonstrate what I'm trying to say.


Question: What's your X topic this year? (I'm sure it's better than mine!)

Friday, 26 April 2013

W is for Wombles

Remember back at 'c' I wrote about that documentary on mouse-like creatures who live on a different planet?

Got another one for you.

The Wombles (also somewhat mouse-like in appearance as it happens) are defined by wikipedia as 'pointy-nosed, furry creatures that live in burrows, where they aim to help the environment by collecting and recycling rubbish in creative ways.'

Obviously wombles live in many different countries, but the documentary, on TV back in the '70s, focused on those who live on Wimbledon Common.

This is a particularly fine episode. (Orinoco is my favourite.)

Thursday, 25 April 2013

V is for Videos

I'll come clean straight away by saying that this is yet another cop-out bloglet. It doesn't even have much for you to read; this is pretty much it.

I'd love one day to make my living from making videos for YouTube. In the meantime I'm very much enjoying watching the videos of others.

Here are some of my favourites.

Question: Do you have favourite videos or YouTubers? Feel free to leave links :)

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

U is for Ukulele

These pint sized instruments have been enjoying a major comeback in recent years. Part of the attraction, I think, is that the ukulele is fairly idiot-proof. With only four strings to deal with, learning and playing chords is pretty easy.

So why not buy one yourself? (They're also relatively cheap.) Find a few chord sheets on the internet, practise a little, and in no time at all you'll think you're the bees-knees. Maybe you'll even film yourself playing your ukulele. Like this wally.

Question: What instrument(s) do you play, and is there one you'd like to learn?

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

T is for Translations

As I write ... or type ... I've got about 2.5 hours left of today to get this 'T' bloglet written ... or typed ... and published. So please forgive this rather lazy effort.

I like doing translations, so much so that I spent three years at university translating Latin and Greek into English, and vice versa. What's brilliant about translations, or at least I think so, is that they don't always work. Or sometimes something, when translated, is completely different to what you had expected. 

Hank Green does a far better job at explaining/demonstrating this than I am. I'm tired. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

S is for Sounds

You know how you grow accustomed to the sounds going on in and around your house?
And that it's only when you visit friends or family, and notice that their houses sound different, that you re-hear the noises your house makes?
Yesterday afternoon I spent some time thinking about, and listening to, all the sounds I like in my house, and how they help to make it my home. Corny, I know.

- The thud of a car door just when I'm expecting my sister, Sarah, home from work.
- The whistle of the kettle, which Mum immediately strangles because she knows I hate it.
- The scratch of the curtains being opened in the hall which means that someone else is already up.
- The click of Sarah's bathroom light being switched on or off.
- The incomprehensible murmur of the Grand Prix on the radio as Dad does DIY.
- The creak of the floorboards on the landing, just to the left of the stairs.
- The rumble of Dad's Mid-Life-Crisis car when he gets home from work.
- The whirring of Sarah's sewing machine in the dining room.
- The rattle of the airers as Mum hangs up clothes.
- The sound of Dad talking to the fish as he feeds them.
- The squeak of a key turning in the door which means that someone's home.

Question: What are your favourite sounds to hear at home?

Saturday, 20 April 2013

R is for Reading

I like reading.

I'm not a particularly fast reader, nor am I particularly slow. I can quite happily whiz through several books in a few weeks, and then spend months trundling through just one (Anna Karenina was a six-month slog through Autumn/Winter, and I'm still not sure whether or not I enjoyed it).

What I can't do is read when there's noise around me. Doesn't matter whether it's a television, radio, music or just a couple of people having a conversation, as soon as there's some background noise I can't concentrate.

My dad has the same problem. He has to leave the room if someone starts talking while he's reading. My mum and sister, on the other hand, both possess the enviable ability to zone out everything else going on around them. It's as if, as soon as they open a book, an automatic Reading Bubble is activated, which blocks out any background noise.

My Reading Bubble is either faulty, or non-existent. Either way, for the time being at least, Dad and I will have to make do with the quiet room.

Question: Do you have a Reading Bubble? Or will you be joining us in the quiet room?

Friday, 19 April 2013

Q is for Qwertee

I'm in a sulk.

I found it very difficult to think of a topic for 'q' (hence why this bloglet wasn't published at the usual 9am). And I'm not very happy with the 'q' I've gone for, because it's kind of a cop out. So let's get it over and done with, shall we?

Qwertee is a website which sells a different T-Shirt every day. People vote for their favourite designs, and then the most popular one is sold for 24 hours.

You should take a look. Or not.

I'm sorry. Hopefully 'r' will be better.

Question: What's your 'q' topic?

Thursday, 18 April 2013

P is for Procrastination

Whether you're trying to avoid starting that important essay, doing the ironing, or just deciding on a 'Q' topic for the blog challenge you foolishly signed up to for the second year in a row, everyone procrastinates.

If, you're some kind of strange, super-human who never puts things off, you may want to leave now; this bloglet will only distress you.

What I'm interested in today, is how people procrastinate. Here are three of my personal favourites.

1. YouTube/Facebook/twitter
And any other black holes of the internet that just suck away hours of your life.

2. Emails.
I've been meaning to read through those 600+ emails about Facebook notifications, online purchases and links to funny cat videos. Yes, now would absolutely be the perfect time.

3. Tidying.
I could probably get a lot more done if I tidied my desk a bit. I'll just clear some space. Actually it's pretty dusty. And that shelf's a bit of a mess, how will I ever get anything done if I can see such a messy shelf? You know, while I'm tidying, the carpet could do with a hoover ...

Question: What do you do when procrastinating?

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

O is for Originality

Being original is something I aim for, but struggle to achieve, particularly online.

It doesn't matter whether I'm making a video to go on YouTube, writing a bloglet, or even just sending a tweet; I worry that somebody's already done it, probably in a far better/funnier/more succinct or clever way than I ever could. 

Having this attitude is both a blessing and a curse. Let's take this bloglet as an example.

Because I'm concerned that someone else may also choose this topic, I will have re-read, edited and tweaked this bloglet countless times before deciding it was as good as it could possibly be. There will be no, or hardly any, spelling/grammatical mistakes. 

But ...

Because I'm concerned that someone else may also choose this topic, it will have taken me a long time to decide that I definitely want to write about it. I will have deleted the whole thing and started again at least once, and if it weren't for the fact that the A to Z requires me to post a bloglet today, I may have decided that this one wasn't good enough, and it may never have been published.

I'm guessing that I'm not the only one who struggles with originality (I can't even come up with an original problem of my own). For any of you who also put added pressure on yourself to be original when blogging, vlogging, writing or tweeting, this video may be of use. In it, wheezywaiter (Craig) argues that nothing is original and that, once you accept this, you can be far more productive.

Question: Do you struggle with trying to be original? 

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

N is for Never

I'm going to come out and say it right away. I used this as my 'N' topic for the A to Z last year.

"CHEAT! CHEAT!" I hear you cry.

Well yes, maybe. But it was, and is, a good topic. Plus it's one that I think everyone can comment on (if they wish to!) Seeing as I'm recycling a topic, I may as well recycle my introduction from last year (can you tell I'm feeling lazy today?)

*Flashback to last April*

Did you ever see the BBC show called 'I've Never Seen Star Wars'?

No, neither did I, but I believe the idea was to have celebrities on the show who had never done/read/tried/seen something really popular, or at least that the majority of people have done/read/tried/seen. Hence the title.

Last year I listed 12 things I had never done, but since then I realised that there are plenty more things I could add to that list. So here we go.

I have never ...
- Seen Bambi
- Eaten at Nando's
- Read any of the Twilight books (or watched any of the films)
- Operated a left-hand drive car
- Seen Avatar
- Eaten rhubarb
- Done karaoke (unless Singstar in the comfort of my own home counts)
- Got a speeding/parking ticket
- Been stung by a wasp/bee
- Had a Big Mac

Right, your turn!
Question: What things haven't you done that would shock us all?

Monday, 15 April 2013

M is for Me

Hey, 'M' was for Mum last year, so it's totally fine to be completely self-centred this time round.

(If you'd rather read the mum bloglet, it's here)

For the rest of you Mum-Haters, let's crack on with the Me bloglet.
5 remarkably un-lifechanging things you may or may not like to know about me.

1. I like to ignore my toast.
When we used to stay at my grandparents' house, Grandpa would always make breakfast in bed for everyone. First for Grandma, then for my parents, and then for my sister and me. Because we were last, Sarah's and my toast was always cold, and I loved it. So now I like to leave my toast for several minutes to cool down before eating it.

2. I have a YouTube channel.
Yes, this is absolutely just a shameless way of telling more people about it. Here's the link. You can follow or ignore it. Moving on.

3. I studied Classics at university.
I don't really use my knowledge of Greek anymore (I do teach Latin though), but I still get a little rush of excitement at being able to work out a word's meaning because of its Greek (or Latin) origin.

4. I watch Adventure Time.
Yes, I'm a grown woman but in my defence I don't remember children's cartoons being anywhere near as funny when I was growing up.

5. I will never own an iPhone.
I can't really explain this one. I don't hate iPhones, I don't hate apple, I would just rather own a phone that not everyone else has, or knows how to operate.

Question: Is there anything about you that you'd like to share? The weirder the better!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

L is for Laughter

We're almost half way through the A to Z challenge!

I thought that maybe some of you, like me, are finding it tough. After all, the excitement of the first few days of the challenge has faded, and the end isn't quite in sight just yet.

So I think what we need is a few minutes of laughter today. And with that in mind I've included three video clips that make me laugh.

Question: Who/what makes you laugh?

Friday, 12 April 2013

K is for Knitting

I can't knit. I've tried to learn many times, and have failed many times.
One of my new year's resolutions last year was actually to learn how to knit. Again, I failed.

The problem may be that I want to knit because others in my family can do it. It's almost that I want to want to be able to knit more than I actually want to be able to knit. Does that make sense?

When I stop and think about it, I don't have any burning desire to make myself a jumper, or a blanket, or even a little knitted Finn and Jake from Adventure Time (they're actually crocheted but I'm rubbish at that too).

Okay, being able to make Finn and Jake would be brilliant.

Maybe I'm just not supposed to knit.
Maybe that whole 'you can do anything if you set your mind to it' doesn't apply to knitting.
Or maybe I just need to get these guys to teach me.

Question: Is there a skill you've tried to learn but just can't master it?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

J is for Jessica

My name is Rebecca. That's what my parents and work colleagues call me.
My sister and friends call me Becky, or Grover, or variations of the two.
But no one calls me Jessica. Because my name's not Jessica.

But it could have been.

Before I was born, my parents thought they were going to have a son. Not because they were told this by someone in the medical profession; just because that's what they thought. So they came up with a few boy names that they liked.

Then I came along - no Y chromosome in sight - and suddenly they had to think of girl names that they liked. This took a while.

Dad liked 'Michelle' but that got vetoed by Mum on account of it being the name of one of his ex girlfriends. Then Mum liked 'Jessica' but that was vetoed by Dad because of a television show. Yep.

Some Mothers Do Ave Em, which stopped airing a good ten years before I was born might I point out, had a character called Jessica. She was the daughter of Frank and Betty Spencer. As far as I'm aware, Jessica was a perfectly normal little girl and it was Frank with whom my dad took issue.

Frank, you see, was a walking disaster zone. He always managed to get himself into ridiculous situations and embarrass himself and his family. Everyone always ended up laughing at Frank, and I think this is why my dad didn't like the name Jessica. Because, according to his strange logic, people might remember this TV show and I may get teased (though this never happened to any of the Jessicas I went to school with.)

I don't really mind; I like the name I ended up with, but it's made me wonder whether anyone else has a similar story, and hence my question to you for today.

Question: Were you named after someone, or did your parents avoid certain names?

Also here's a clip if you've never been treated to the wonder that is Frank Spencer.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

I is for (Questionable) Ingenuity

One evening, a few years ago, one of the curtain rails in our lounge broke.

My parents had been planning to redecorate the room, so this wasn't a particularly big problem. Dad, however, decided that it would be a terrible inconvenience not to have curtains for a little while, and so he took it upon himself to come up with a temporary solution.

By 'temporary solution' I of course mean 'completely over-the-top and insane idea'.

So, some time later that evening, Dad returned to the lounge. With tools. And what he did next defied the laws of logic. His actions have gone down in family history. We delight in telling the story whenever we can. Dad's ingenious plan, you see, was to nail the curtains to the wooden pelmet which surrounded the (now broken) rail. That's right; he basically nailed the curtains shut.

Once we realised what he was doing, my mum, sister and I started to question just how 'temporary'   a solution this was. He assured us it would only be until the weekend.

I stopped counting when we got to four years.

You'll be glad to learn that Dad's 'temporary solution' has now been replaced by a new curtain rail and new curtains (that actually open AND close!)

Question: Do you know anyone with similarly questionable ingenuity?

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

H is for Hundred

This (I think) is my hundredth bloglet.

Because I'm a sucker for celebrating pointless milestones, I couldn't let the happy coincidence that my hundredth bloglet occurs on the 'H' day slip by unnoticed.

It's taken me a while to get to 100 (no one would describe my blogging style as 'regular') and of my 99 previous bloglets, there are probably only a handful that I really like. I'm not fishing for compliments here. If you've read and enjoyed by blog for a while - thank you. I'm grateful for your support. But I don't often read my earlier bloglets because I cringe. I think that I was trying too hard to be funny, or clever, or a combination of the two.

But I'm proud that I've got to 100, and I quite like the fact that I don't like my early bloglets. I think it's a good thing. Hopefully it means that I've improved since I started a few years ago, and that I can continue to do so. Who knows, maybe the next hundred bloglets will even take less than 3 years!

Question: Do you ever go back and read your early posts? What do you think of them?

Monday, 8 April 2013

G is for Goodreads

Goodreads was recommended to me by another blogger when I said back in January that one of my new year's resolutions was to read everyday.

I suspect many of you are already familiar with the website, but there may be a few who aren't, and to them I say, "Get your butt over there and sign up! Please. Maybe. I mean, if you want to."

The idea is that you tell the website what books you've read, and whether or not you've enjoyed them by rating them out of 5, and it then spews out a load of recommendations. Magic!

That's basically all I use it for at the moment; getting ideas for what to read next, but there's so much more that I could do if I wanted. There are creative writing groups, groups that discuss specific books, book reviews, quizzes, trivia, giveaways, ebooks - plenty to keep you busy for hours!

One thing that I particularly like is the control you get over how many emails you receive. I've opted for  just getting the monthly newsletter, but you can choose to receive emails pretty much daily if you like.

So yes, go get yourself signed up. And no, this bloglet, despite appearances, was not sponsored by Goodreads.

Question: Where do you like to get your book recommendations? Friends, family, online, book groups?

Saturday, 6 April 2013

F is for Fanfiction

I've never written fanfiction. It's only in the past year or so that I've read any.

Before I read any I assumed it was all poorly-written rubbish, but you know what they say when you assume things ... that you've supposed something to be true without any evidence (that's what they say, right?) Don't get me wrong, a lot of fanfiction is pretty awful; after all, liking a television show, film or book doesn't mean you'll be any good at writing about it.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that there's a lot of fanfiction out there that's actually really great. That there are people who can take characters whom they didn't create and write interesting, clever and compelling stories about them. So far I've stuck with what I know and have only read 'Stargate' and 'Sanctuary' fanfictions, but I'd be open to suggestions if you've found (or even written) some gems.

Question: What are your thoughts, good, bad or ugly about fanfiction?

(N.B. Fanfiction.net is an excellent place to start if you're interested in reading fanfics. They have pretty much everything there.)

Friday, 5 April 2013

E is for ... what is E for?

Having written about my two favourite 'e' topics (Eurovision and Etymology) in previous bloglets, I was struggling to think of another one. Desperate for some inspiration I typed 'e is for' into an internet address bar and the first two suggestions for how to complete the sentence were 'elephant' and 'estranged'.

Alright then. I like a challenge.

Originally I thought I could write a story about an estranged elephant, but remembering my aim to keep bloglets short, I opted for a limerick instead.

Estranged Elephants
There once was a pachyderm from Fife
Whose snoring offended his wife
He tried to atone
By sleeping alone
But she killed him that night with a knife

Question: Do you have a favourite limerick?

Thursday, 4 April 2013

D is for Did You Know?

I've tried to check that these are correct, but my apologies if there are mistakes.

Did you know ...

... that 'dreamt' is the only English word to end with 'mt'?
Knowing this once earned me much respect from my team mates in a pub quiz. Don't think we won though. We only managed that once in three years of university.

... that 'stewardesses' is the longest word you can type on a keyboard with only your left hand?
You're trying it out now, aren't you?

... that the small pocket in the larger pocket of your jeans was designed for pocket watches?
Speaking of watches, if anyone wants to buy me this one I would be eternally grateful. It's worth a shot, right?

... that there are 31,557,600 seconds in a year?
Is it just me, or does that not sound like enough? (It is; I checked.)

... that Stephen Hawking held a party for time travellers but no one turned up?
Read more here.

... that the average person falls asleep in 8 minutes?
Unfortunately for my parents, I knew this one. I once used it as an excuse for getting up early on Christmas Day: "But I did try to go back to sleep! On average it takes 8 minutes to fall asleep, so I waited 8 minutes and was still awake, so I got up. Can we open presents now?"

Question: Do you have a favourite 'did you know' fact you'd like to share with the class?

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

C is for Clangers

A clanger, according to google, is 'conspicuous mistake whose effects seem to reverberate.'

It's also a mouse-like creature that lives on a planet similar in appearance to the Earth's moon. No, honestly.

In the late '60s/early '70s a documentary was made about these Clangers. As far as I'm aware, the documentary wasn't broadcast in many countries, so I thought I'd share an episode today. In this particular episode Tiny Clanger learns an important lesson about money.

Question: What were your favourite 'documentaries' as a child?

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

B is for Brits

During last year's challenge I didn't manage to visit every single blog, but the majority of those that I did were written by Americans. No surprise really since a lot of the A to Z hosting team live in the States (I think). So, assuming that most of you reading this are from the other side of the pond, I've decided to take it upon myself to educate you on how to be the perfect Brit. Because that's something you've been dying to learn. Obviously.

(To any Brits who may be reading, feel free to add to this list in the comments. Remember - stereotyping is fine if you're doing it about yourself!)

1. You must like tea.
According to the UK tea council, as a nation we drink 165 million cups of the stuff every day. With only 62 million of us living here, that works out at almost 3 cups per person per day. (In case you're wondering, we drink a measly 70 million cups of coffee a day.)

2. You must complain about the weather.
British weather could never really be described as 'extreme'. We don't have very hot summers; we don't have very cold winters, but give us a little more sun/snow than we're used to and we'll gladly go on about it for days.

3. You must never actually complain.
If someone cuts in front of you in a queue (and believe me, we take our queues seriously), you tut and mutter, you loudly point out their mistake to people around you, but you never, ever actually complain to them. Because that would be rude.

4. You must love 'u'.
Why have just an 'o' when you can chuck in a 'u' as well? 'Flavour', 'neighbour', 'colour' and 'humour' will just look more right to you.

4a. You must hate 'z'.
You avoid using 'z' wherever possible because you just don't trust it. (Incidentally, you must pronounce it 'zed', not 'zee'.) You must ignore the fact that 'recognise', 'organise' and 'realise' definitely sound like they should contain a 'z', and instead you must use an 's'.

And finally...

5. You must drive on the left.
Seriously, you'll cause accidents if you don't.

Question: What do you think makes a typical Brit?

Monday, 1 April 2013

A is for Aims

With one A to Z challenge under my belt, I'm starting my second attempt with a somewhat smug sense of confidence... It's okay folks. The situation is under control. I've been here before and I know what I'm doing. Everything is fine.

Give it a few days and the smug look will be long gone; replaced by panic and the distinct feeling of things-are-getting-out-of-control... Why oh why oh why did I sign up for this again? What the bloody hell can I write about for 'q'? People won't want to read this rubbish! What was I thinking?

So, in the meantime, before those nasty little imps Doubt and Despair creep into the picture, allow me to share my aims for this year's challenge so that, if you do decide to come back, you'll know what to expect. (Please feel free to mock these aims if you are reading this in the future, when it will be clear that I haven't managed to stick to them.)

- My bloglets* will be published each day at 9am GMT
- My bloglets will be as un-rambly as possible (though bear in mind the name of this blog)
- During the month, I will read and comment on as many A to Z blogs as possible
- My bloglets will not follow a theme
- I will try to make you laugh at least once while reading my blog
- Language will not get any more colourful than 'bloody hell'
- I will ask a question at the end of each bloglet. Don't feel obliged to answer it, but it would be nice to hear your thoughts!

Question: What are your aims for this year's challenge?

*bloglets is what I like to call individual blog posts. I've been doing it for some time now but it still hasn't caught on. I'm a slow trendsetter.