Monday, 16 December 2013

Eighteen...

So this is it.

In less than two hours, I shall be 18 years old.

How about that? I'm going to be an 'adult'.
This is me, probably about aged 5. Mr. Men pyjamas, gameboy in hand, and I think I'm playing Pokemon Red. Wow. How time flies, eh?

I've been trying to get my head around this for some time. This, 'being 18' lark. What does it actually mean?

When I was a little boy, to be 18 sounded so strange. You were all grown up. That was it. A grown up now. Childhood and teenage years, behind you - off into the 'real world'.

And yet as I got older it seemed that most of the eighteen year-olds I knew were remarkably un-adult like. Yes, they could be responsible and mature when the situation demanded it - but they still liked Pokemon, and PlayStation, and Spider-Man, and Buzz Lightyear, and the Gameboy, and all that kind of thing.

So is being 18 that big a leap?
What does being 18 actually entail?
Well, a quick search says I can vote now - that's pretty cool, and believe me, I shall use that power wisely (because with great power, come great respons-...you know the rest :P )

You can serve on a jury. Be tried in court (Touch wood, that won't be happening any time soon...) buy cigarettes, get tattoos, piercings...

Erm, no thank you?

Even being able to buy alcohol is no great privilege. I've been being mistaken for being a twenty-something for at least 2 years anyway, if I'd wanted to get served it sounds as if I probably could have a while ago...yes, there's being able to buy for others, I suppose, but I myself? I don't seem to have developed much of a taste for alchohol (and let's be honest, with uni around the corner, that's probably a good thing.)

Ah, uni. Something else associated with adulthood. Yet I'm going to be 18 long before I've begun university - at least 9 months, in fact. I'll be approaching 19 by the time that part of life's started!

I'm not trying to dismiss being eighteen as insignificant. Not remotely. I suppose I'm trying to make it seem a little bit less scary to myself.

Yep, that's right. I'm a bit scared.

I know that in reality, when I wake up tomorrow morning I'm not going to really feel that dramatically different to when I woke up today. But it's that thought that, at the very least legally speaking, childhood is more or less behind you.

I've been on this Earth for approaching two decades. How weird is that? It really doesn't seem that long ago that I was going to bed surrounded by my Kiwi birds...
Yes, I had teddy bears too. But those Kiwis were so lovely!
I still have some of them :')



I've got to say, it's been a pretty fantastic 18 years. So many things have happened. Meeting and getting to know my massive extended family, as well as life-long friends. There's even family that I know about who I'm still yet to meet yet!

I think attempting to sum up this just-short-of two decades in many words would be far too difficult, so I'll let these pictures speak for me:






























Well, there you are. 18 years or so, summed up in a few pictures. Appropriately enough, added with the first two, there's 18 of these across the whole blog post.

So finally, back to the point. I don't expect to be that different when I'm 18. People have been telling me for years that I'm sometimes like a middle-aged man in a young body. :P

But I still have enjoyed a bit of fun. So, to basically sum up my 'childhood'?

Amazing. And I don't think it's over yet. I've still got some some childish behaviour in me ;).

As a wise man once said:

"There's no point in being grown-up if you can't be childish, sometimes."
;)

xxx

Monday, 22 July 2013

Cory Monteith





















Cory Monteith, known to most as Finn Hudson of the hit television series, Glee, died just over a week ago, on 13th July 2013. He was 31.

I can't deny it. When I first heard this news, I was genuinely shocked. More than that - I was gobsmacked. It was Finn! It was one of the main stars of Glee! He was so young...he couldn't have died?

I'm not going to bother denying it - I've been a fan of Glee - a self-confessed 'gleek' - since the show first graced our screens in 2009. One of the things that really drew me to the show (beyond it being a musical with pop songs to musical numbers every week) was the story of the central characters. You can argue that Glee is very much about an ensemble cast, but let's face it - the real stars of that show are Finn, Rachel, Kurt, Mr Schue, Sue Sylvester, and Emma Pilsbury. The other characters, however much we might love them, simply aren't as big a part of the ongoing story as the rest. They come and go.

Those few are the ones that the story follows most. You always tune in because you want to know what's happening next in their lives, because theirs are the constant, ongoing storylines.

There was also something in particular that drew me to Finn. I don't know why - I'm really not the sporty type - at all.
Maybe it was the fact that he was always trying to get it right. He didn't always - and when he got it wrong he would often get it very wrong.
There'd be occasions where he'd really flip out. But he'd pick himself back up and learn from that. He'd inspire other people, and at times where he'd messed up, he'd do his very best to fix it. And he'd do it well. The guy knew how to makes amends, that's for sure.

I don't know if that's me finding elements of Finn inspiring, or seeing elements of myself in him, or what, but there's certainly a degree of identification - maybe not in social status or general outlook, but with certain things, I really felt I could identify with Finn.

A lot of that, of course, was down to Monteith's performance. It's one thing to write a character audiences identify and sympathise with (kudos, Ryan Murphy). It's another to embody that character and make it believable. Monteith really achieved that.

As with most gleeks, I should think, one of the moments we'll always remember is the beautiful closing moments of that first ever episode, with Monteith, and his future girlfriend (and fiancé) Lea Michelle as Rachel:


 

Yes, it's bloody cheesy, but it's great. In fact, comparing it to the times that they've redone the song since, this is actually wonderfully understated. Monteith really shines here, as does Michelle. They're both amazing across the series as a whole, but this truly is a great moment.

Glee was never really 'cool' as such. In the UK, it's probably not even really considered 'popular' anymore - not by the standards it once was, at least. When it first arrived, it was massive, but particularly after it was moved from Channel 4/E4 to Sky One, it's popularity, and indeed audience, dwindled a bit, I think.

I stayed with the series a lot longer than some other people probably did, and continued to love it. Glee remained a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine.

Except, sod it - it's not actually that guilty. I call it a 'guilty pleasure' because it's not perceived as being popular or cool at all, but at the end of the day, I love it, and it's as simple as that.




It's always emotional when a fictional character dies within the confines of a show.

But when the actor dies, it's very different - especially if they're still technically in the show when they do pass on.

I feel a bit of an emotional attachment to Cory Monteith, because I love his character, and I'm now never going to see him playing that character - or any character, in any show, for that matter - ever again. That's dreadfully sad.

Also, though, from what I can gather from interviews etc., then he just seemed like a genuinely nice guy. 

I wasn't aware of his drug problems. I suppose when you live in the UK and the show is nowhere near as big as it was, it's not unreasonable that you'd be a bit out of the loop when it comes to gossip regarding the stars...

But I do think it's tragic what happened to him, not least because it sounded like he was on the road - and had a genuine desire - to get better. He had an addiction, and was aware of it. He spoke very openly about it all, apparently, and did seem to have a genuine desire to sort himself out.

But just think - if we're (I mean, me and my fellow gleeks) mourning the fact that we won't see Finn again, just think what his poor castmates - especially Lea Michelle - are feeling.

Those two were a couple in real life. They were meant to be getting married in about a weeks' time. I'm not sure I can even imagine what that would be like - planning your wedding with your partner one minute, then planning their funeral the next...
It must be awful. The poor, poor girl.

My heart goes out to Lea Michelle, and to Cory Monteith's family and friends, who must be going through such a tough time of it right now.

Thank you, Cory Monteith - you gave us an amazing, important character that was part of what held together this show that we love so much, and you were absolutely brilliant. Never forgotten.

Goodbye, Finn Hudson. Rest In Peace, Cory Monteith. 

Monday, 15 July 2013

Doctor Who: 50 Years of Humanism

Art by Andy Lambert. All credit for this picture goes to him :)
 I thought I'd do a little update of the blog just to share this video: 


Now, just a little comment with regard to the video - I'm not a 100% humanist. I consider myself more of an agnostic, for reasons that actually one could argue via some of the quotes used in this video - you just don't know. There is no 100% certainty. Plus, doing A Level Religious Studies has opened my mind to all sorts of philosophies and religious belief systems beyond the basic label of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, you name it. (But that's another story.)
But regardless of my actual beliefs, this video is truly beautiful, and uses my favourite show to show off the best of humanity. 


I don't know if I would consider myself a fully-blown humanist because I wouldn't say categorically that I don't believe there's a God. 

However, what I do most definitely believe in, which is I think rather a large part of humanism, is the brilliance, in all of our intricacies and curiosities and kindness and imperfections, that there is in humanity.

And that, dear reader, is what I feel is brilliantly represented by this video. It shows off how good Doctor Who as a programme is at representing it, too. 

Hope you enjoy/have enjoyed the video. Look out for some more posts soon! :)

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Back to the start...

I am quite a nostalgic person.

Where other people may choose not to look back, because it's painful, or because they don't like to think about the fact that it's over.

I'm not like that. I'm a great believer in not just being sad because it's over, (which you are perfectly entitled to be) but also happy that it happened.

Last night, on the 14th June, 2013, I went back to a place where it had all started for me - Sellincourt Primary School.

I attach a lot of sentimentality to Sellincourt. It was where I spent 8 years of my life. It was my second home. It was my second family. I can most definitely say that it was rare, if ever, that I felt going to school was a chore.

I clung on to those memories so fiercely. I didn't want to let go. My life was Sellincourt in many, many ways. When I was leaving, in the summer of 2007, I was tearful and upset, not wanting to say goodbye to all the amazing friends I'd made over the years - not wanting to say goodbye to this school that had taught me so much, and not just in lessons.
I even came back - as often as I could - in my first couple of years of Secondary School. I visited often, having a look at how things were.

But as you get older, and you grow attached to other things, your old attachments begin to take a back seat. Especially as some of the old teachers who I loved so dearly from my time at that school left, and with my exams beginning to get in the way, my motivation to go back to the school for grew less and less.

Looking back is one thing. But it's hard to take a literal trip down memory lane if many of the remnants of those memories are no longer tangible.

Last night, though, was a special night. It was the retirement party of Florence, a teacher who had looked after me and many other children in Reception, who was there before I even began at the school, and was there until long after I'd gone.

I'd always got along very well with Florence. Like many of the people - children and teachers alike - who came into contact with her, I felt I had a very special friendship with her. She was always very warm and welcoming, and everyone adored her.

My mum had suggested I go along to this retirement do with her, especially as Florence would probably really appreciate seeing another old friendly face. I happily obliged.

But, as is inevitable with a woman as loved as Florence, I was not the only old face to be there last night.
Many of the teachers who had long left, or had just been gone a short time, were there, as well as the few from my time at Sellincourt who are still there now. I saw Mrs Harding (the former Deputy Head), Mr Daley (the former Headteacher), Mrs Singh (my Year 1 teacher) Mrs Johnson (my Year 2 teacher) Mrs Murrel (my Year 4 teacher), as well as Ophelia, Ms Allen, Mrs Barrett, Anne, Mrs Black, Debbie...so many teachers and staff who had been a huge part of my life for so long, and it was an absolute pleasure.

Without having originally planned to, when the floor was left open for such purposes, I got up and made a speech about Florence and my memories of her. Her kind nature, her amusement at the fact that I was always last in the lunch queue, her little song, "Hard work is good for you, la-la-la..." (which she still sings to this day - as testified by the current students!). I got a round of applause for singing that song, in the middle of my speech - something I certainly wasn't expecting(!)

For that brief, shining moment though, not only was I sharing in everyone else's love of a very special lady...
I was back on stage in that school hall. In assembly, in the Christmas show, in the Leavers Play, whatever - being stood on that stage and being applauded for a little performance. It took me back to some of the very happy memories that I had at that school, and to one of the reasons why I love performing so much. This notion of entertaining and being appreciated of course, but also the fact that I had put a smile on people's faces.

And for those couple of hours, not only was I 17 year-old Henry Mendoza who's just finished his first year of A Levels...

I was also little 11 year-old Henry Mendoza. Full of hopes and dreams, and love for his fellow classmates - and teachers.

x

Florence and some of her 'children' - former students.
Florence is stood on the right :)

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Charlotte Campbell


It's finally here!

I've been following Charlotte Campbell for a while now. I met her last summer when she was taking part in the Mayor Of London Gigs competition, and since then she seems to have gone from strength to strength. After winning a scholarship at the institute of contemporary music through the competition, she released her brilliant EP, Stay, on iTunes, and performed at various different events, from Busking Before The BRITS at the O2 to the recent St George's Day weekend celebrations.

Charlotte's style is essentially a beautiful folk/pop/acoustic sound that's very pleasing on the ear. It's always wonderful to watch her perform, as it's plain to see just how much she enjoys it; as a fellow performer, this is something I can very much identify with. Rather than just attempt to describe her to you though, I think it's best I show you - here's the video for Charlotte's song "Quiet Nights".

 
She's even in the running to support Gabrielle Aplin on the London date of her tour! 


A few months back, Charlotte decided to make her debut album, completely independently. As you can imagine, she's built up quite a dedicated fanbase by now, and it was this fanbase that has helped make this album, Blue Eyed Soul, a reality. She set up a Pledge campaign with PledgeMusic, a site that helps artists make and release their material, with help from their fans. So for example, in Charlotte's case, you could pre-order the album through the site, either as a download, or a hard copy, and the money from that would help fund what was needed for the release.

Obviously, pre-orders alone are unlikely to fund all the equipment required to properly record an album, even doing so at home, so she also offered various different extra things that you could get if you pledged a bit more money towards the release - from behind the scenes extras, hard copies of Stay, hard copies of the album itself, signed copies, t-shirts, house shows, songwriting sessions - the the list goes on...!

And this is all before the album actually gets released on iTunes! All these exclusives - just for pledgers!

Charlotte's pledge campaign took off in a way she never could have expected. In the run up to the album's release through PledgeMusic, she received 127 various different pledges, and reached 772% of her original target, in terms of how much she'd need to make the album. This has meant she's been able to afford to not only complete the album to an even better standard, but also offer some of the other extras through her pledge campaign, and who knows what else? A little tour, perhaps? ;)

Charlotte's story so far is a brilliant one, and hopefully we'll hear even more from her as time goes on.

I highly recommend you check her out on the various sites available (which I have listed below), and if you ever happen to pass by her on the Southbank, say hello - I'm sure she'll appreciate it :) 

 ________________________________________________________

Here are some relevant links to do with Charlotte:

"Like" her on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/charlottecampbellmusic

Follow Charlotte on twitter: https://twitter.com/Ccampbellmusic

Her website: charlottecampbell.co.uk

Check out Charlotte's YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/CCampbellMusic

Buy her EP, Stay, on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/stay-ep/id567557677
Or bandcamp: http://charlottecampbell.bandcamp.com/

Vote for Charlotte to support Gabrielle Aplin on the London date of her tour!:
http://t.co/O5VGwfAnxB

^ NOTE: When clicking this link it will take you to the site and a video of Charlotte's will open. All you'd need do is click "Like" and that counts as one vote. If you click "tweet" as well, I believe this also counts as a vote.


 

Monday, 8 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher

Okay, so Margaret Thatcher's died.

How do I feel?
Honestly?
.....
I'm not quite sure.

Now look, I consider myself a bit of a lefty. Not a full-blown socialist, but a lefty nonetheless. So already, a former Conservative Prime Minister is not going to be high up on my list of people to mourn the loss of. I know from a lot of people that lived under her (my parents generation and beyond) that she's not exactly well-liked.

Yes, she privatised a lot of industries that were nationalised before. Yes, she stole children's free diet of milk at school. Yes, she introduced poll tax and destroyed much of Britain's manufacturing industry.

That's just to name a few of the things she did. There are many more that people who actually lived under her could probably name. But it's undeniable that yes, Thatcher was, and still is, an inspiration, at the very least for the achievement of becoming leader of the Conservative Party and British Prime Minister, fighting against the adversity she faced simply because of her gender.

Now, obviously, as someone of my generation, who didn't have to live under her, I'm not going to pretend I can talk about Thatcher with much authority. There are many who hate her - many who are rejoicing today in her death.

But we must remember that she was still a person. She still had a family. A family that will be mourning her loss. A following who will also be mourning her.


For anyone who's seen The Iron Lady then they will also have a degree of respect for her. Because despite that debate about whether it was a good idea to be releasing a film about someone with dementia when they were (at that point) still alive, it paints a very sympathetic view of her.


Now I admit, it is very easy for our generation, that didn't have to live under her, to be more sympathetic...
But I suppose what I'm trying to get across is, regardless of what you think of her policies, and the bad things she did while in power, is it right necessarily that we rejoice in her death? That was still a human being. As a friend of mine put it, 'Slightly evil or not, she was still a person.'

I compare it to the death of Osama Bin Laden (and come on, let's face it, say what you like about Thatcher - no really, say whatever else you like about Thatcher - but she was not as bad as Bin Laden.)
Of course no-one was going to be mourning his loss. But did that make it right that people were rejoicing in the death of another human being? Is rejoicing in the death of another ever morally right, however much you may have hated them when they were alive, and are not going to be wishing they were still with us?

Now, it's not something that's going to play on my conscience enough that the jokes that are already spreading about her passing aren't going to make me laugh.

As far as I can see, there's not much problem with laughing about jokes made about Thatcher, particularly given the horrible things she did do to the country, etc.

But actively rejoicing in the death of another human being, however much you hate them?

I'm not so sure...

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Christmas and New Year

Lordy!

I've not done a blog post since last year! (Okay, in just over a month really, but the year separation is a bit more dramatic).

I've had a blog post like this in my head for a little while now, and didn't actually get around to starting it earlier in the year, so while it feels a little bit overdue, then it being my first blog post of the year I'm gonna indulge a bit ;)

Christmas. A time for presents, gifts, late night, last minute shopping, the playing of Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody" aggressively in every bloody shop and on every bloody radio station up and down the country...of Christmas films on telly and in cinemas, Christmas Specials, and more...

Christmas sort of snuck up on us this time around, didn't it? I thought it was just me (I'd been away in Kenya during October/November and had consequently missed Halloween, which I suppose is the holiday in between that takes you through to Christmas), but it didn't really feel like Christmas as early as normal.

Here's a little picture I took on the Southbank back in December :)
I dislike the idea that gets batted around this time of year that Christmas has 'lost it's meaning'. That we've become too obsessed with presents and gifts and all that stuff that we don't think with regard to what Christmas is all about (whether religious or not).
My personal belief is that at it's core, Christmas is about spending time with the people you love and cherish, and beyond that  the decorations, the trees, the music, the shopping, the snow (if we're bloody lucky), and actually, though people complain about the whole thing being commercialised, I think that it does become part of the charm.

What worried me though, regardless of the fact that most people seemed to be feeling the same, was that this lack of anticipation and excitement as the day drew ever closer was that I had become disillusioned with Christmas - not through any particular reasoning, but I just wasn't feeling it the way I normally do.

But as a matter of fact, in the end, this Christmas just gone was in some ways one of the most Christmassy of Christmasses I've ever experienced. (You can tell it was from the amount of times and variations of the word 'Christmas' I used in that last sentence...)

I had an absolutely amazing birthday (8 days before Christmas), culminating in a meal with some of my best-loved school mates:


For a birthday, a day spent like that is ideal. For a time so close to Christmas, it fits perfectly :')

On the family front, we spent Christmas Eve together with my Granny, Christmas Day having a lovely lunch in West Sussex with all manner of relatives, later that week we had drinks with the cousins, and finally spent New Year's Eve with my Aunt, Uncle, and other Grannie :)

I also experienced something on Christmas Day that I hadn't really before. On Christmas Eve, Example tweeted something about receiving hundreds of texts from people who don't otherwise text you on Christmas Day. Sure enough, on Christmas Day, I had dozens of texts and messages from people who I hadn't heard from in a while, or don't hear from very often, wishing me a Merry Christmas. I too, decided to get in on doing the same. It's a bit of a generational thing I guess, but it gave a great feeling of togetherness and being around people you love in spirit, even if you're not with them on the day.

Finally though, I did something a bit new on New Year's Day.
In the very early hours of the morning, I began sending messages out to people to wish them a Happy New Year - I've occasionally done this if I'm already in online conversation with someone as the clock strikes twelve, but just before going to bed, with some people who I saw in the little side bar on facebook, I decided to wish them a Happy New Year, and to thank them for the year I'd had.

2012 was a pretty great year for me. It was a time of a fair few things coming to an end, of course - a lot of 'end of an era' sort of stuff to do with school, but it was also the beginning of new things. I forged new friendships, and strengthened existing ones that had been there for years, or simply a short time.

So, at about 2:00 in the morning, I thanked some of these friends for all they do and have done for me. It just felt good.
I'm a sentimental and loving person in general, and so I like an excuse to express how I feel about people, but conflicting with that is a feeling of needing an occasion so that it's not just out of the blue, and I have to say, if you want to be thankful to people, Christmas and New Year is as good a time as any.

Really, it's a lovely thing to do at any time, but my advice to you would be this: when New Year comes around again, let some people know how much you appreciate them. Tell them how much you care and love them.

Despite the fact that some people say 'humbug' to Christmas being centered around presents in some peoples eyes, I'm not sure that's such a bad thing.

Because the pleasure I have felt from giving out presents this year - physical, or just in my thanks, is all worth it just for the reaction and the smiles on peoples faces, that make you feel amazing.

Happy New Year

x