18 November, 2012

Officially off the Fence: My First Football Match

For someone with an opinion on Justin Bieber's fringe (a tad too thick to be affective), I've always been surprisingly indifferent where football is concerned. I'm certainly not what one would call a fan, but I'm happy to give it a turn every now and then. To me, football is that jumper that you're not really bothered about but sometimes it's the only one that will go with what you're wearing and so you put it on and you don't mind wearing it, hell you may even find it cosy, but really you know its a never going to get promoted into the 'regular jumper draw' and it's outings are probably no more than bi-annual. That's my relationship with football.

When it suits me I am more than happy to get involved in some good old-fashioned hooliganism, chanting with the best of them, hiding behind my hat when the opposition scores, squealing with delight during triumphant moments and panicking when cauliflower-eared strikers miss a penalty for the nth time. Usually you will find me partaking in all of the above activities when: it is the World Cup post-1996, I am watching out of support of my fella and his keen interest, or on very rare occasions my competitive side happens to be facing the right way to glimpse a random 2nd league game and decides it cannot stop watching until we know for sure that Aldershot have lost and Barnsley will not be relegated. On those occasions I am THERE. And I like to think I make a damn good supporter. All it takes to be a ‘good supporter’ is a loud voice, the ability to jump up and down on queue and a low to medium level of interest in what's happening on the field (even if that interest is just in, say, the wonderfully straight lines that have been mowed).

This Saturday however, my career as a person-who-is-mildly-interested-in-football-but-isnt-that-fussed took a massive dive. UPWARDS. If gravity did not exist and diving UPWARDS were possible, thats what happened to me this weekend. Right into the deep end of football. My chap took me to my very first ever Real Live in a Stadium Surrounded by Yobs Freezing our Tits off Football game AND I LOVED IT! Holy haribo it was good. Not a crackle of frost could cool my spirits as the day progressed into a bit of an adventure to one of the most memorable Saturdays of my LIFE. It's not often I can endure 2 hours of freezing cold without complaining but you have it on good merit I did not complain once. Certainly not twice anyway.

The day began with a walk to the train station and as we got closer my little feet gained haste until I was borderline galloping onto the platform, train picnic back bashing against my knees as we excitedly skipped along.  'pon the train we chowed down on pre-game snacks - sympathy snacks for those playing and also because I didn't know what level of edibility to expect from the quality of half-time pie I’d been promised. We were going to watch Rotherham play Cheltenham ('starting at the top' as my Dad put it) so off we went to the rather classy and new-fangled Rotherham football stadium. Also known as New York stadium. There is something awesome about the fact Rotherham’s football stadium is posing as New York’s and it is getting away with it. This in itself was enough for me.

En route to and inside the stadium, it was everything I hoped it would be. Police warily lining the streets, bald headed men in striped scarves staggering along to take their pew after a few too many pre-match beers, 3 generations from one family hurrying to watch as Grandad and Grandson chanted in unison, freezing cold seats that iced your buns on impact and a mob of lads sat behind us saying things like 'If you were the LAST PEOPLE in the world, like the LAST people though, would you sleep with your Mum?' (True quote. The answer being 'I know my Mum is fit, but I wouldn't'). I felt like a 10 year old boy featuring in a book by Nick Hornby.

Freezing in our seats but having the BEST TIME!
I grabbed a hot drink and Gareth's hand, settled in for the game and squealed with delight the second the 'real live footballers' came jogging onto the pitch to cheering and started girding their loins. Knee-ups and star-jumps filled the field, while a team of 8 or so Rotherham girls cheered on the sidelines, Red and White pom poms bouncing up and down. A surreal moment ensued when what appeared to be a mini wrestling match took place in the far corner of the pitch - not an audience kerfuffle as one might presume, but an actual weird 2 minute wrestling match complete with commentator and an introduction of each opponent via megaphone (each of which was met with the most bemused silence across the whole stadium, a bit awkward to say the least). The wrestling involved about 3 punches thrown, one man launched onto his back followed by the launcher sitting on the launchee. Wiith that oddity over it was time for the REAL battle to commence.

Once the game started I was captivated. It was 1-1 within the first 3 minutes and I was enlightened to just how entertaining live football could be. Who'd have thought this multi billion pound industry was so worthwhile. I yelled at CTFC to 'come on chaps!', I jumped up off my seat, jeering at Rotherham when we scored, jeering at Rotherham when they scored, I sighed and roared and yodled my way through the game like a one-woman jungle. Competitive sincerity combined with childlike excitement, I was the definition of supportive. I ate my Pukka Pie, I stamped my feet to stay warm, I told the lads just 'sort it out fellas' when their defense proved poor. I may have been OTT and clapped my hands like a seal whenever the ball flew up 'into the audience', but I was having so much fun. At a football match! I was a LAD!

Home time came all too quickly, and I felt a little sad as we traipsed out of the stadium, forlorn at our 4-2 loss but rosy cheeked and sparkly eyed nonetheless. I didn’t want to leave. I even hung about in the ladies lavs waiting for everyone else to leave first, huddling under the hand dryer for warmth. Needless to say I had a fantastic time and I definitely want to go again. My stance has changed to 'a person-who-is-mildly-interested-in-football-but-really-interested-in-going-to-see-it-live-and-might-pick-a-team-next-season', and I am happy about it. I have moved off the fence into firm 'football is pretty cool' territory. Oooh risque. This could be a threat to the rest of my character, but ultimately sits better with me - I don't generally enjoy perching on fences.

However, do I have the staying power to be a fully-fledged FAN? To dedicate hours of my life to a team of 11 shortly-shorted men running within a grassy grid on a cold winters day, chasing a ball to the soundtrack of derogatory chants and the view of a fat, suited man chewing gum at the speed of light while gesturing wildly to his team to 'GET THE BALL! GET THE BALL!' (years of training and a 50 grand pay scale just to reach this level of specialist advise)? Actually, I do. And this is why I CANNOT continue down this road.

I wish I could, because football fan-ism appears to be a slippery and wonderful slope. It's the big kids flume at any local swimming pool. Give me a few goes and like the 16 year old who accepts that 'one puff' from their friend in the park and swiftly becomes that 40 year old chain-smoker, I'd be hooked.  I would never be a good football fan, because I just can't do things by half. It would take over my whole existence.

Gone would be my Saturday afternoons in the warmth of my kitchen in my Cath Kidston, sacrificed for hour upon hour in cold football stands in a fleece, clutching a flask in a hope the feeling would stay in my toes until at least half-time. Banished would be my pretty dresses  in place of endless club t-shirts, organised by year and worn by none. Nonchalant trips to town would be something of the past as my neck strained for a screen in every pub, comet and ELC.  My bank balance would be murdered red by the much sought after season ticket. My friends would be replaced with miniature footballer dolls and in place of my real life boyfriend I'd have Theo Walcott, Jermaine Defoe and the Neville family at the table for dinner. My photo frames would be swiftly replaced with football memorabilia and i'd sell everything I owned to hoard merchandise. Worst of all, I'd have to find a new conversation-starter beyond 'so, can you explain the off-side rule/' which currently works as a fantastic filler in any given tumbleweed moment.

This is what would happen if I became a football fan because it is JUST TOO MUCH! So while I will continue to support England (both in football and in life) and if another casual trip to the footy comes up i'll be the first on the train (i’d even buy my own ticket), for now I am leaving the real fan-ism to the likes of my Dad and boyfriend and people who can handle the sheer excitement, to support their teams in an orderly fashion, and I’ll stick to more calming tasks like organising my spice rack.

09 November, 2012

Final Word of Self-defense: Don't like social media? Don't be on it.

"A social network service is an online service, platform, or site that focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, e.g., who share interests and/or activities."

SHARE being the operative word. Social networking sites were designed for sharing. There are no limits within that provided no-one else is getting hurt/you aren't breaking any laws. #hashtags, tagging, comments and Likes are all a part of how social media has evolved, and people should be able to use them ON THESE SITES freely and without judgement.

If you don't like people sharing their lives, don't be on a SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE. Instead of criticising people who do use them so actively, maybe think about why they use them.
I personally use them a lot for two big reasons.

# 1. Loneliness. I don't have many friends around me. Nearly all my good friends have left the city I live in and at times I spend a lot of time on my own. Being a very sharing, interactive person by nature, I use Facebook and Twitter a lot to communicate (with those people and others) and share things I might normally share with someone if they were stood right next to me. YES, I get lonely, actually. And I am not ashamed to admit that. Just because actually I DON'T publicly tell everyone when I am going through a hard time, doesn't mean I am not. 

Maybe if if you see someone like me sharing a lot online, maybe they are lonely too? I have always found social networking hugely beneficial to me for keeping in touch with my friends who are in London, Manchester,  Leeds, Australia  France, Bahrain...I miss them, and I want to share my life with them and they are not here. So sorry, but I might just choose to update my Facebook instead. Sometimes I want someone to tell me that my new hair that I am unsure of looks nice or to show them something amazing I have seen - why shouldn't I use Twitter and Facebook to do that? Still feel the need to crisitise? Oddly, I have found my Twitter followers to be THE most supportive people when I share my trials and tribulations and so I will not shy away from speaking to them just because you have an issue with it.

# 2. IT IS MY CAREER. It may not be the most meaningful of jobs, but digital marketing is something I fell into and enjoy and generally if people work in a certain industry, elements of it will fall into their personal lives. For me that is 24/7 use of social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram). I actually first set up a Twitter account in 2009 because it was the first thing my manager at the digital marketing agency told me to do. I hated it for 6 months, then one day I fell in love with it. I love the POSITIVITY it brings, people sharing the positives of their lives, and the funny stories you wouldn't otherwise hear, hearing the news as it happens, seeing amazing things happen thousands of miles away all because someone has uploaded a photo onto Twitter. I HAVE to use twitter and Facebook 24/7 for my work and so of course I am in the habit of using it a hell of  alot and goddamit I enjoy it. For the reasons just outlined. So shoot me.

I woke up in the best mood in the world this morning and that is a mood I worked hard all week for. No screw that, I have worked hard for YEARS for. I spent years working in tough jobs for crap pay before I fell into one that makes me happy, sorry would you rather I didn't share that info? I have busted a gut running like crazy at various times of day to gain body confidence after years of low-self esteem and eating disorders. So I am SORRY if you don't like my Nike Plus app telling you I just ran some miles - it motivates me to share my achievements and makes me work harder. If you don't want to see my achievements, don't look at my page.

I have worked my ass off to become a good, happy person and I am proud of my life and of the person I have grown into. And I DO want to share that with the world. If you woke up in a bad mood today, and felt the need to judge or criticise people like me for over-sharing or using Faebook and Twitter in the 'wrong' way, then maybe (just maybe) you didn't work hard for those things I so actively share now and THAT'S why you cant bear to see them. Maybe?

I don't usually react to critisicm and many many times in this situation I have taken the high road of silence - knowing I am a good and happy person, and those who criticise me probably are not. But you know what? I am human. And today I snapped.

Don't criticise someone before you know their story, be accepting and kind because everyone is fighting their own battle. 


04 November, 2012

Fireworks: When Inspiration Becomes Imitation

Last night was Fireworks night and I was watching X Factor. Its not often I do so these days, but for old times sake I pulled up a sofa-sized pew, barricaded myself in the living room and hid within a fort of high-carbohyrdate snacks watching the most debatable show on our Saturday night screens. X Factor is an awful crime against real music, it’s manufactured and it's hideously transparent but I do enjoy watching Nicole Scherzinger scanfor rhubarb yoghurt in Asda, fleece and all. Who doesn’t want to see that! (See 2010 post for more on this argument).

As always I was tweeting away like India Knight on speed for much of the 2 hours and I had plenty to say. Isn’t Ella fantastic, what has Louis done to yet another poor ‘boy band’ and doesn’t everyone wish Kye Sones was their chimney sweep mate? I averaged a tweet a minute and didn’t even bother with the #xfactor tag. MENTAL. Going back to Kye Sones though, it was a tweet (aka ‘thought’) about him that stuck. Yes there was one real, intelligent notion formed in my head during the X Factor marathon, one that reigned supreme through all the crap and subconsciously burned on through the night, with such strength that my first waking reflection today was: “It really annoyed me that Kye Sones was imitating Robbie Williams during his performance last night”.

It really annoyed me that Kye Sones was imitating Robbie Williams during his performance last night. And I wasn’t the only one to think it – Nicole Scherzinger’s slightly embarrassed sounding ‘so you were quite inspired by Robbie last week weren’t you, Kye?’ said it all. As Kye stood there looking a bit sort of like maybe he’d just been rumbled.

But Why Did Kye's Innocent Robbie Imitation Annoy Me So Much? 

I have a bit of an issue with the art of imitation, but until now I’ve never really thought about why. UNTIL NOW.

My first answer to the above question is that it is just sad to see. We are all unique and wonderful, especially Kye Sones who used to be a chimney sweep. Can Robbie say that he spent his former years covered in soot? No. I’d be happier if Kye had decided to mimic Dick Van Dyke with a sweep of his brush and a click of his heels alongside Julie Andrews – at least that would have some relevance, some bearing on who he is and how he’s got there. There on that X Factor stage covered in eyeliner.

It makes me sad to see people behaving in ways that are detrimental to their own self, and this includes ignoring who you are to sort of try and be a bit like someone else who you think is a bit cool and loveable. Perhaps because it reminds me of times when I have been a little lost and maybe done it myself and it just makes me sad. It just shouldn’t happen. Everyone should be supremely confident and individual at ALL times!

Kye Sones Looking and Acting Like Robbie

Beyond the sort of sad aspects of imitation, it does just plain annoy me too. Excuse the cliched expression, but ‘finding yourself’ is bloody hard work. Many of us who are sure of who we are and confident of it, had a hell of time getting there. We weren’t actually born that way, Lady Gaga. We possibly went through hell and/or high water to establish a self who not only are we happy with, but who we think the world might be sort of okay with too. It takes a lot of painful trials and errors before we hit the ‘self’ jackpot. So, if someone younger or less secure or just a bit lost comes along and starts wearing your dresses and speaking your language and doing your mannerisms and adopting your hobbies because they think that they’d quite like to be like that too, it’s a tad annoying. We spend so long finding ourselves, damn anyone who just takes a shortcut and plagarises our identity onto their own 411.

I don’t mean 11 year old girls dying their hair pink to look like...Pink. Finding your ‘self’ is something that comes with age and maturity, and of course while we’re young we’re going to try things we’ve seen elsewhere, that’s how the whole concept of ‘you’ starts, but a 30 year old man trying to win Britain’s largest talent show by imitating someone who has already been done over and over again? No, no, NO.

Beyond that, imitation doesn't work. To be someone, it takes substance. First of all you have to actually be that person for it to be believable (like, we aren’t just going to start thinking Kye is Robbie and therefore love him with the same Robbie love we have built up over 20 years) and second of all, identity has to come from somewhere real. Only Robbie knows how he wakes up everyday and finds the inspiration to be a loveable yet arrogant little sod who woos women and angers men nationwide. I am sorry Kye, but that just isn’t you and if it is then find your own way of doing it – you don’t need to superciliously stare-out the camera and wobble your head whilst grabbing your crotch. Kye may be able to walk the Robbie walk and talk the Robbie talk, but he doesn’t have the Robbie-ness inside him to do it forever. 

'Envy is Ignorance, Imitation is Suicide' - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Legend has it that imitation is flattering and I can see how this is true, but that doesn’t stop it from being annoying to see. One of my favourite ever tweets on my timeline read “They say imitation is flattering. I say it’s fucking annoying and you should just be yourself” and I couldn’t have agreed more. That bad boy got a RT.

The former all said, people cannot be blamed for wanting to be like someone else. At the end of the day, we just want to be loved, don’t we? And if we see someone who is loveable or who the world loves, or who is loved by someone we love, then we are going to want to be like that person. It’s not just people who do it either. Brands do it. Anything that is trying to sell itself to the rest of the world does it. When Starbucks started writing their customers names on cups and consumers fell for it, independent coffee shops starting doing it too, to be like this multi-billion dollar coffee chain so globally adored. But Cups-with-Names will never be so good anywhere as it is at Starbucks because it was a Starbucks concept and it has Starbucks written all over it.

The problem is, as individuals, if one person goes around being you; no-one else is necessarily going to know that’s what they are doing. Unless you are a famous person (like Robbie). This makes it harder to bear for the common imitatee. It is fine to imitate someone if you actively give them all the credit (‘oh thanks I am so glad you love my idea, I actually stole it straight from so and so, and so please send all adoration and/or appreciation directly to them’) but you’re not going to.

Every Firework is Unique

Poor old Kye, I have really given his innocent imitation of Robbie a grilling here, but really I am just making an example of him. There is a fine line between inspiration quarters into imitation territory and I don't think it should be crossed. Inspiration is seeing someone else do something and feeling encouraged to go and do something too. Imitation is doing the exact same thing in the same way and probably not doing it so well. Inspiration is seeing someone in a bar who is a little like a more confident version yourself and thinking ‘I want to be like that’, then going out and finding who you are and being confident about that person, not suddenly dressing like the person you saw in the bar. Inspiration is taking elements of something that has been done before you and making it your own, which is exactly what Ella did with Katy Perry’s Firework if we’re looking for a direct comparison (albiet whilst looking a bit too Adele).

Be inspired. Don’t feel you need to imitate because you don’t. Find who you are and make them go 'oh, oh, oh'. It’s not easy but it’s worth it. A lifetime of confidence and brilliance and happiness follows and it doesn’t depend on anyone else.