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Meow Review: The Lobster Movie

December 28, 2015

I wasn’t going to blog for a week but I feel a bit naked NOT writing. I am driving The Ginger Hunk UP THE WALL as a result of having nothing to do and rain in Sydney. This morning I was personifying a cat, and he actually said to me, “Sasha, go away”,  (that is the level of cray cray it is at our house at the moment). So, a few nights ago, in exchange for just being really annoying, and making The Ginger Hunk watch “The Holiday”, I agreed to watch the movie “The Lobster.” I thought to myself that is some weird arse shit, hence the blog post.

The Lobster is set in the future (not to far away, by the way), where single people are sent to a hotel and given 45 days to find another mate, or else they get turned into an animal. David, (Colin Farrell) arrives at the hotel after his wife left him, with his brother, a dog, who didn’t meet a partner on a previous visit. Guests are expected to partake in all the social activities, dances, and demonstrations by the hotel staff about how good life is when you are in a pair. Guests also go ‘hunting’ in the woods at night for previous hotel escapees (the loners), that they shoot with a tranquilizer gun, receiving extra days to find a mate in exchange for their kill. David decides that he wants to be turned into a Lobster, should he not find a partner, because they can live for 100 years.

SPOILER ALERT , (but not really).

David’s friend, the ‘limping’ man, fakes a nosebleed and moves in with ‘nosebleed girl’, to the couple room, David realises that his time is running out. He tries to be something he is not to find a partner, then after a series of events he escapes and finds himself in the woods with the ‘loners’. Eventually (and unexpectedly), David finds love (with fellow loner Rachel Weisz). As it turns out, there are punishments among the loners for finding love too.

The Lobster is a take on relationships, “fitting in”, and having flaws. Even on arrival in the hotel, they announce that they do not do shoes in half sizes.

Laughable, dark and in equal elements shocking, is the extremities to which people reach to be ‘matched to someone else’ in or out of the hotel.

I laughed out loud when those having problems in “the couple room” were given a child on loan, to “sort out any relationship” issues quickly.

Overall, a good quirky watch, (but probably not your average Christmas flick).

Seen anything good lately? 

What else should I watch these holidays?

Ashleigh XXX

Image courtesy of Digital Times
Meow Reviews

Meow Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

October 18, 2015

I have a huge crush on Liz Gilbert. If you don’t know who Liz is then you are living under a rock. She wrote Eat Pray Love, Committed, The Signature of All things and now Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear.  I was counting down the weeks until Big Magic came out, ready to soak in all of her wisdom. Liz is one of my inspirations, not only because of her books. But because of her attitude to living an authentic life.

So. Here’s the main point of Big Magic, and after I tell you this, it is still worth a read. Liz argues that creativity is something we can all have. It is not some hidden chalice that only a few can drink from. It is available to anyone. Anytime. This is the essence of what Big Magic is. It is that feeling that time can go by for hours, you lose yourself in something. You forget all those things on the to do list. You will get up early to do it. You will stay up late to do it. That ‘thing’ is the thing that you should nurture. Say yes. You don’t have to be scared of it. And you don’t have to make a living from it. Phew.

“Write that novel. Yes….I hope with all my heart that good fortune finds you and showers you with abundance… but don’t count on the payoff, I beg of you, because such payoffs are exceedingly rare – and you might kill off your creativity by holding it to such a harsh ultimatum.” Big Magic, Page 155

I love this quote. I made a decision a while back that I do not want to quit my day job. I like writing. Yes. I am getting paid writing gigs. Yes. But more than anything I like the freedom of writing what I like. At the moment my tactic to pitch stories is probably not the best, nor what they teach you in the course.

But anyway, here it is.

I pick a story I want to write. I pick one that I am passionate about. I pitch it to editors, maybe to around five or six. If it does not sell. I write it anyway, if I really want to write it, then I move onto the next idea. Really, I don’t have time to plug ideas for too long. Because there are more ideas of mine waiting to be born. So if it is something I really want to write I post it here on my blog or submit it to a free magazine. I pitch a few times a month, write a few blog posts a week and end up writing about two articles a month. And I have my day  job, (which is also writing, by the way, in the public health sphere).

But for now, I love creative writing, so I continue to do it. I get lost in it. And this writing what I know and love is kind of working out for me. I am going to have another 10 pieces out in the next three months. Sounds like success? Yes. I could quit my job, to pursue a creative life. Pitch 100 more ideas to magazines. Get rejected, get some commissions. Make an income out of it, and be writing about everything from gadgets to gardening.

Do I want to do that? No. I want to write the stories I want to write because I want to. Because I enjoy it.

Now for a confession. I’ve been sitting on a brilliant idea for a picture book for over 12 months – Sashi cat and the fish truck. A fabulous tale about diversity and acceptance, through the eyes of a cat. I have done nothing about it. It is a wonderful idea that literally came to me in a flash that I have chosen to ignore.

Because of all the fear.

I’m not good enough. I know nothing about writing for kids. It is going to fail. I don’t have an illustrator. It is going to suck. Self publishing is too hard.  

Since reading Big Magic, I have scrawled a rough draft into my notebook, made contact with an illustrator, and booked into a course on writing picture books.

And you know what?

I am going to write Sashi cat and the fish truck.

Just for me. Just because.

Get your own piece of Big Magic here. 

Happy Sunday

Ashleigh XXXX

 

 

Daily Life, Meow Reviews

Meow review: my top 6 shows (and how to watch them)

August 9, 2015

After running on Saturday we were talking about TV shows (and how they have become so awesome). BUT also how confusing it is to a lay person about what to watch and where. Back in the olden days, we used to get the old TV guide and then circle our shows.

Not anymore.

Here is a list of what I am loving right now and where to watch it. I could go on (and on).

1. House of Cards (Netflix US + AUS)

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If you have not met Frank and Claire Underwood then your life incomplete. And who doesn’t LOVE Kevin Spacey? The man is a genius. This american political drama shows Frank’s ruthless rise to power in the White House and their (even more twisted) relationship. This awesome series is currently up to it’s third season. Take note of Claire Underwood’s (Robin Wright) amazing classic style. I love her clothes.

2. Breaking Bad (Netflix US)

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An oldie by now, but if you have not watched it then you should, just to see what all the fuss is about.  If you break a leg this is a great one to binge on as it has five seasons. Produced and written by Vince Gilligan this series documents the descent of Walter White (Brian Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul – my other husband) into the dark world of meth cooking. It has twists and turns, relationships, family, darkness and love. You will stay hooked to the very end (and cry when it is over.)

3. Orange is The New Black (Netflix US +AUS)

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Who doesn’t love a bunch of hot chicks in prison greens? Now up to series three, Orange is the New Black tells the tale of Piper Kerman, who ends up in Litchfield prison as the result of an old crime she thought she got away with. We watch the demise of her marriage and the drama of prison life unfold as she settles in to life on the inside. I absolutely love this series, not only for the story but for the awesome female actresses populating the screen with their talent. Special mention to Taryn Manning (Pennsatuckey), Uzo Abdula (Crazy Eyes) and Kate Mulgrew (Red).

4. The Fall (BBC First UK + Netflix US +AUS)

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Gillian Anderson from the X Files (still looking better than ever) and Jamie Doran (AKA Christian Grey – mmmmm) star in this dark detective series based in cold, dark Northern Ireland. As Paul Spector (played by Jamie Doran) pushes the boundaries further with his series of violent murders, his family and personal life begins to unravel. (The man is a social worker, might I add.) We watch as Stella Gibson (played by Anderson) struggles with her own issues as she is desperate to solve the crime. Now in it’s second season.

5. True Detective (HBO)

141013-true-detectiveKudos to HBO for bringing the big names onto the small screen for this series. This is like a movie broken up into five episodes. The first season has my other husband (besides The Ginger Hunk and Aaron Paul) Matthew Mcconaughey starring with Woodey Harrelson. The series starts in Louisisiana, where the pair of detectives solve the mystery of a 17 year serial killer in the area. Come season two, (which I have just started this weekend) and we have Vince Vaughn, Rachel Mcadams and Colin Farrell (BOOM) line up to solve a murder/business deal going wrong in California. (Stay tuned.)

6. Nurse Jackie (Netflix US)

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Rule of thumb, if Nurse Jackie (played by Edie Falco) can make a bad situation worse, she will. Over the seven seasons of this series, (rumour has it there is an 8th), we watch Jackie, a nurse battling with pain killer addiction go round the loop hole of recovery and demise. Jackie is supported by some fantastic characters (Dr Cooper, Dr’O’Hara and the wonderful Zoey Barkow – played by Merrit Cooper to name a few) who dish up the dirt in bite sized 30 minute chunks. It has it all, compassion, humor, family, love and despair.  (Zoey reminds me a little of me when I was bright eyed, bushy tailed and fresh out of university, sigh.)

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Notable other mentions that I waste my time on include; Law and Order (SVU), Game of Thrones, Homeland and Girls.

Any I have missed? 

What are you loving at the moment?

Ashleigh XXX

Images sourced from Wikipedia.
Meow Reviews, Philippines

On one breath – Freediving in El Nido

August 4, 2015

“You are getting good at this!” Florent Bevalot, my instructor declares as soon as I hit the surface. After two days instruction, I have descended to 18 meters under water without air, somewhere around the back of Entalula Island in Bacuit Bay. I am a long way from anywhere should something go wrong, yet I feel surprisingly safe in Florent’s hands. Freediving is gaining worldwide popularity among people from all walks. This form of diving relies on the person’s ability to hold their breath underwater instead of using air tanks. It’s also one of the least intrusive and most sustainable ways to explore marine life, which is much needed in Bacuit Bay.

Learning to chill at the bottom

Accessible from El Nido, Bacuit Bay is a UNESCO protected marine reserve at the northern point of Palawan Island in the Philippines. As tourism rapidly expands, the bay, an area of over 460 square kilometers, faces huge challenges to protect the 800 species of fish and hundreds of unique corals found beneath its waters. Palawan Divers have ignited local action to clean up the reef and recently added freediving to their suite of activities.

Florent Bevalot - Palawan Divers Freedive instructor

I’ll admit that this would not usually be my first choice of activity. I never felt at ease during my brief fling with scuba. I find the whole thing rather uncomfortable. I suck the air down and flail around like a drowning dugong trying to balance and swim. But if I were going to freedive anywhere in the world, it would be in Bacuit Bay. On a good day the visibility can be 30 meters down. You also have a high chance of running into a turtle. This all sounds appealing, and after a long conversation with Jerome Pesnel, Palawan Divers manager, I am convinced. We start day one by practicing pranayama breathing. This technique is used by freedivers to control their breath, by inhaling and exhaling in equal efforts. This brings the body and mind to a relaxed state. It’s no surprise that yoga and freediving are often taught hand in hand. I tell Florent I feel more like going to sleep at the end of this, rather than descending to the bottom of the sea. Florent assures me that this is the feeling I should experience before freediving, to slow my heart rate and relax.

Pre diving breathing on the deck

We practice ‘breathing up’ on the surface, to again relax once in the water and expel stale air from the lungs. After making a dive plan with Florent, I take one last breath and descend down the rope headfirst, with the assistance of weights around my hips. Immediately my ears hurt. I panic, and with large fins I kick quickly to the surface in a fluster. Florent calmly reminds me that I have to equalise.“Go down slowly” he advises, adding that I should “chill out for a bit” when my ears hurt. (I’m not convinced about ‘chilling’ under the sea with no air, but Florent asks me ever so nicely, that I am willing to give it a try.) My ears start to ease over the next two days and before I know it, I’ve made it to five then 10, then 18 meters, surprising myself with each dive. Once I shut my mind off I learn to enjoy the silence. The eeriness of descending into the cold dark water with nothing but a rope, feels (surprisingly) so natural.

Florent has me covered all the way to the top

I have a long way to go to reach the world record of 128 meters but one thing is certain – I am hooked.

On return from El Nido I find myself longing to return to the depths of the sea.

No air. No tanks. Just me.

Travel information

It takes a bit of planning to reach Bacuit Bay. Here are some things you should consider;

Air Asia X has flights from Manila to Puerto Princesa in Palawan

Palawan daytripper has daily transfers to El Nido town

Palawan Divers offers freediving, sailing and scuba courses in Bacuit Bay to suit all abilities, under qualified instructors

You don’t have to be a daredevil to learn to freedive, just bring an open mind and the willingness to learn!

(As with starting any new sport, check before travelling with your doctor if freediving is safe for you.)

Notes

* This is a repost of my article for The Australia Times August Travel Magazine 

*Images are by James Mills

*We travelled as guests of Palawan Divers 

 

Cat Lady, Meow Reviews

Meow review: Catmosphere Cat Cafe

July 26, 2015

I joined the cream of Sydney’s cat society on Friday night to attend the opening of Sydney’s first space cat themed cat cafe. (Lets face it, one was missing.)

Before you ask questions, let me answer a few;

  • No you do not take your own cats to the cafe
  • No, you do not take the cats home from the cafe
  • Yes food is served (in a separate section)
  • No, the food served is not fried cat.

Originating in Japan, cat cafe’s offer a nice chilled out environment where you can, as the name suggests, chill out in a cafe with some cats.

In a refurbished terrace in Surry Hills the space cats have arrived and Catmosphere Sydney is finally open to the public. Catmosphere Sydney is the cousin of Catmosphere Chiang Mai Thailand, and is the baby of Thomas Derricot and his partner Wenee Yap.  Thomas was inspired to open a cafe in Sydney after visiting Catmosphere in Chiang Mai. After an Indiegogo Campaign, and some private investment, Catmosphere was born.

The terrace, divided into an upstairs and downstairs section (serving food), is home to around 20 cats. There is a room where some more quiet felines are  currently ‘adjusting’, so to speak, and upstairs is the main room. The courtyard is a glorious place to chill out in, with a fantastic cat themed mural.

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Catmosphere has a high ginger cat to human ratio.

I was both devastated (that I didn’t open it myself) and excited like a virgin on prom night when Friday rolled around. Welcomed by Thomas and Wenee like old friends (us cat people stick together), we all had a bubbly and awaited the ribbon cutting for much-anticipated cat room. I will tell you at first I was skeptical, imagining a room of 20 cats hissing at humans to escape.  (I do not have the most sociable cat of the bunch, so my view is somewhat skewed.) But these cats were oh so friendly, and even though from out of space, used to human interaction.

Real men love cats. Yes they do!

Fact: real men love cats.

It had been a long day for some, and I caught some kitties hiding in a tree. (Who can take two hours of heavy petting anyway?) The cats will be on ‘rotation’ for cuddles so they can have some needed quiet time. There is also a limit to the human/cat ratio, so the cats do not get stressed and the humans are guaranteed lots of cuddles.

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A furriend hiding.

They all behaved so well seeing it was opening night after all. They had to deal with an excited bunch of cat people, cameras and the like! (A few of the cats were lucky enough to get intermewed for the next edition of Pussweek Magazine coming out in August!)

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Bexy getting the scoop for Pussweek.

I have no doubt that these former rescue kitties will be in the best of care. The room is set up beautifully with cat trees, lots of hiding holes, shelving, bedding and couches where you will be joined by a mate or two. (More highlights here because there were too many photos for the blog!)

At the end of the night, I fell madly in love with this little girl… and ended up asking if they offer yearly memberships!

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Overall a fabulous addition to Sydney’s cafe scene for visitors and locals alike.

Book a ticket right MEOW!

Happy Sunday!

Meow Reviews, Social Justice

“They loved me back to life” – Take a walk with Rob to see life on the streets

July 5, 2015

Last Friday, I took part in a new initiative by The Wayside Chapel to encourage compassion and understanding for people who are homelessness. I went on Rob’s tour. It was absolutely amazing and I want to share the experience. (Not too much though, because I think you should all do it!)

The welcome.

We turned up at The Wayside Chapel and were welcomed by Rob and Andrew as if we were old friends. My first impression was how different Wayside feels from other services. There was no desk. No security. No bars. No barriers. Everyone is welcome, and the dining hall gives the same vibe. We enjoyed some fabulous low-cost food before moving into the chapel to hear about Wayside and Rob and Andrew’s stories. I won’t share too much, because they are not my stories to share.

Both men had a history of homelessness, being in and out of services, losing touch with their families, and having problems with alcohol and drug use before turning their lives around. They have both moved from volunteer to staff at The Wayside Chapel and said they are now leading a “normal life.”

What the heck is normal anyway?

“A setting on a washing machine” Andrew says definitively.

Wouldn’t life be boring if we all were normal like the setting on the machine?

After looking at the facilities and beautiful roof garden, we then hit the streets starting with Kings Cross.

The walking. 

We walked down “kneecap” alley, a former dive of a street that used to be covered in syringes, where dealers and corrupt policeman alike would stand over people to get revenge on unmet deals. Then after moving onto the main hub of the cross, past the injecting room (which has had NO deaths since it opened by the way) we were told their tales of their survival on the streets. Stories of tactically saving cigarette butts, watching for drunk backpackers to rob and ways to make a quick buck. It was hard to imagine these big-hearted souls before me doing such things, but I know too well from my days of social work what the combination of anger and survival does to a person.

2015-07-03 20.19.00The sharing.

I asked Rob what we could do better, to help people in this situation. I’ve been so frustrated, burnt out and sometimes terrified about what would happen to a person that I was working with. His reply was simple ‘Nothing. The person has to want to change themselves.’

But the key is that services need to not give up, and keep offering a ‘hand up’. And that is what Wayside did. They waited. They didn’t give up. And when Rob was ready, so were they. (They even supported his crazy idea to buy a tent and detox himself in the bush – which he did!). We continued the night by walking to St Vincent’s, Potts Point and Wolloomooloo accompanied by stories of services, anecdotes and history.

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I learnt so much more about the city I lived and worked in for years.

The learning – what helps the homeless?

Being seen as a person, not as a problem, by everyone (even your average Joe on the street).

Being given a “hand up” not a “hand out”, in Rob’s words.

Being ‘met’ as a person and ‘not fixed’, in Rob’s words again (smart guy, he is!)

Have something to do, and have GOOD support when you get housing.

Being said hello to. Sounds basic, but being made to feel invisible makes you feel like shit.

I could have sat and talked with Rob for hours and felt so many things when the tour ended.

Sadness. Gratitude.Inspiration.

We all might have taken a different journey, but are all essentially the same inside.

Do take a walk with Rob and Andrew one evening yourselves, or at the very least head to Wayside for a meal.

Onward, Ashleigh

Ps. This is not a sponsored post. Just sharing the love.