Happy New Year!! End of 2012 round-up

Before I move on to this wonderful new year, I thought you might like to know what I’ve been up to since my last post (the one about NaNoWriMo not the one about being hacked!). Well here’s part one of what I’ve been doing:

NOVEMBER: Failed NaNoWriMo, Read the Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare Instead

At the end of October, my wise sister told me that if I spent half the time I spend reading writing instead, I’d be able to bash out 10 novels before the end of the year (or words to that effect). She was right. I do spend a ridiculous amount of time reading and not doing anything else. Not just books either, I trawl the internet every day for hours reading articles and blogs. It’s getting out of hand. I am the master of procrastination, and reading allows me to tell myself I’m achieving something as I can pretend to myself that I’m doing some form of “research”. 2012 was the year I pushed the definition of research to its very limits.

Anyway, when Anna said this I did feel a little guilty and decided to attempt NaNoWriMo 2012. What better to get me to start writing? I even blogged about it to make sure I actually stuck to it (LOL). It was all going so well, in two days I’d written 2000 words and had a pretty fun love-at-the-end-of-the-world type plot planned.

After the first two days things began to unravel. I went to three different bonfire parties in four days which meant, naturally that I’d left my novel temporarily and promised to catch up in the week. I wrote a little more on my phone after a drunken night out (totally illegible drivel) but after that I had lost the drive to forge on. I told myself I was too busy, I’d catch up next week when I had more time.

The following week, I discovered the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I’d seen them before but The Mortal Instrumentsthought they looked a little too childish, even for me. However when I saw them recommended on another blog by a grown up man, I thought I’d give them a go. Plus they’ve made the first book into a film and I wanted to check out the books before the films release later this year. NaNoWriMo was a lost cause after that.

I’m not sure why I was worried about the Mortal Instruments series being too young, as they’re similar in feel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Divergent, The Hunger Games trilogy, and many other YA books I have read and enjoyed. I suppose I don’t want to be that person who only reads YA, so I try not to limit myself to it all the time. I enjoy reading all sorts and don’t want to be defined by one genre. Having said that, YA fantasy and Sci Fi is always what I feel like writing about when I sit down to blog. It is an exciting genre that’s getting better and better and I don’t feel as wary of writing critically about it as I do with classics and literary fiction.

Anyway, I read the first three books in the Mortal Instruments series in about a week and a half. The books are City of Bones, City of Ashes and City of Glass, and all follow Clary, a girl who has her world turned upside down after finding out she is a shadowhunter, a demon killer. Clary meets other shadowhunters her own age: Isabelle, Alec and the rather lovely Jace. When her mother goes missing in mysterious circumstances, Clary needs the shadowhunters’ help. Her search for her mother and missing childhood memories takes her all over New York, with her geeky and sarcastic but loveable friend Simon dragged along for the ride. As the books progress, Clary learns more about her past, her parents and the world of shadowhunters, downworlders and demons.

I liked these books because they were plot-driven, super exciting stories with a cracking forbidden love story

Image from imdb.com

Image from imdb.com

(although I did start shouting in frustration by the middle of the third book). What’s more, Simon, who should just be the annoying friend, turns out to be an excellent character. In fact, I’d say that Clare found the perfect balance between keeping the plot moving and exploring and developing the characters. All in all, I bloody loved these books! Even if I am indulging my inner teenager.

The Mortal Instruments series will eventually be made up of 6 books but only 5 have so far been released. Because the third book ended in such a wonderful place I told myself I would leave it there and resist the temptation to pick up the other two until the series had been completed (in 2014!!). Clare has also written another trilogy of books set within the same world but set in Victorian times, these are called The Infernal Devices. Only two of the three have so far been released, so I told myself I would wait until the third book came out before picking up the third. We’ll see how far I got with all this temptation-resisting when I recap on December!

So, that was my disastrous November. Failed NaNoWriMo, went to a lot of parties and read a few books. Any time I wasn’t reading/partying I spent helping my sister photograph a school and generally panicking over my lack of a serious job. But hey! It’s a new year now, so moping is strictly forbidden. Bring on 2013!


A day in the life of a professional photographer

In the spirit of broadening the subject matter of my blog, I thought I’d post about what I’ve been up to recently. I LOVE photography but am a bit of a clueless amateur when it comes to taking photos myself. Recently, however, I decided to change all that by buying myself a fancy DSLR camera and learning how to use it properly. My older sister Anna Clarke is an amazing photographer and asked if I wanted to come along to one of her engagement shoots in Oxford (she mostly shoots weddings). Obviously I jumped at the chance! A real shoot! And there was the added bonus of having lunch at the Eagle and Child, the pub where CS Lewis and Tolkein used to meet as members of The Inklings.

So, off I went with Anna to meet Charlotte and Mark, a friendly and enthusiastic couple from London. Seeing Anna in photographer mode was quite funny from my point of view, she was so professional and authoritative. It also became clear to me that I had my work cut out: Anna whizzed around at an impressive pace while I floundered desperately trying to adjust settings and get a good shot before Charlotte and Mark were whisked away to the next location.

Another thing that struck me was how as a photographer you have to build up an instant rapport with your clients. Anna is outgoing and confident; talking to strangers comes naturally to her and she can put people at ease instantly. She can direct people without sounding bossy and her enthusiasm is infectious. I’m not sure I’m the same, I’m a bit awkward with people I haven’t met before and prone to saying inappropriate/weird things. In a way it’s part of my charm(!), but I wouldn’t say putting people at ease is one of my strong points. I would like to think that this is something that I could work on though, and after this experience I have decided to try really hard at it.

Being a photographer is also exhausting! We had two hours before our car parking ticket ran out and we tramped all over the city. Anna was determined to get a good range of shots in different locations. By the end of it I was sweating, my feet hurt and I was gasping for a drink. Boy, was it fun though! If I wasn’t so obsessed with books and words I would definitely consider photography as a career path. I still might, if the writing thing doesn’t pan out! Although it is worth pointing out that I witnessed the most glamourous side of photography, I know Anna spends hours slogging away in front of her computer most days.

Enough of my rambling, this post is all about the photos! Below are some of the photos I took. It was fun getting Anna in them too, you can see how she gets her shots – be it by crouching in flower beds, getting dangerously close to cyclists or standing in the middle of the road. At the very bottom are three of Anna’s finished shots (I know, I know, you can hardly tell the difference between mine and hers!!! It’s uncanny!). I want to thank Anna for letting me tag along, it was an awesome afternoon! Also, thanks to Charlotte and Mark who let me gatecrash their engagement shoot. I hope they have a lovely wedding, they’re getting married in Central London and it sounds like the day is going to be ace!

And now for Anna’s shots…

I’m still stuck in 2011

I always go on about books books books, so I thought it would be nice to write about something else for a change!

I am all for 2012… bring on the exciting future! However, I always feel a bit sad when another year passes… how will I remember 2011? What will stick out in my mind when I look back on it? I have a sneaking suspicion that if I don’t make a point of remembering all the ace things I did I might be tempted to dwell on all the rubbish stuff, like having no money and going to bed at 10pm every night for pretty much a whole year.

What I particularly want to savour about 2011 is all the great places I went to with friends and family. I hope you don’t mind if I take a moment to bore y’all with my reminiscing…

May: South of France Road Trip

In May my mom and I flew to Toulouse, hired a car and set off to see some really old stuff and some really big scenery. After spending a couple of hours trying to get the boot of the hire car open in the dark in the airport car park we finally set off! We went first to the medieval walled city of Carcassonne for a couple of days and then we drove down to Argelès-Gazost which is a town nicely perched on the edge of the Pyrénées. It was an amazing few days, some of the best mountains I have ever seen and some of the scariest roads I have ever driven on! Carcassonne was beautiful and bursting with history and character and the Pyrénées were breathtaking. We saw plenty of mad people cycling the famous Tour de France routes (literally cycling up mountains), we passed them lazily in our little car, occasionally stopping for a photo opportunity. The people were amazingly friendly as well! They spoke less English than we were expecting, but it was nice to not have everyone immediately speaking English to us, and made asking for directions a hilarious show of nodding and gesticulating wildly (neither of us speak French very well).

The view of Carcassonne from our hotel window

On our last day we decided to hop over the border to Spain for a couple of hours before we had to drive back to Toulouse. We stopped for lunch in this bizarre place called Luz-Saint-Sauveur which was pretty but full of flies! They were everywhere: settling on our lunch as we tried to eat, clouding round us wherever we went, it was very strange and a bit gross. So, after an hour or so we decided to get the hell out of there! Sadly, my mother drove into a wall about a mile outside the town and shredded two of the car’s tyres. This meant we had to go back to hellish fly town and await our fate which turned out to be a 2 hour wait and a €300 taxi drive back to Toulouse. Apart from the last few hours the whole trip was brilliant! Here are some of my favourite pictures from the mountains:

Shredded tyre

June: Devon with “the gang”

Every year my sister and brother-in-law (Anna and Si) go to the same caravan park near Woolacombe with “the gang”. I’ve kind of become a “gang” member over the last couple of years and this was my second year going to Devon with them. It is pretty much the most relaxing, fun, chilled week of the year. We just sit on the beach, go to the pub, go for walks and generally bum around taking photos and filming silly videos for 7 days. Perfection! Here are some of the photos from this year…

Sunset on the caravan park

Anna and Si asleep on the beach!

A pretty groovy cave

Filming a music video at sunset

Sunset and sheep

July: Last-minute trip to Seville

In June I decided really last-minute to go to see a friend in Seville for a week. The flights and hotel were cheap, and Seville turned out to be a beautiful city. It was sooooo hot though! I have never been so hot in my life, it was 40 degrees or more every day and over 30 at night! Thankfully they have amazing air-conditioning everywhere, even outside! I was so hot and lazy I didn’t even take many photos while I was there. Most days were spent lounging by the hotel roof-top pool and wandering the streets in a sun-drunk haze, seeking refuse in cool department stores.

If I could sum up the week it would be like this: sun, tapas, el corte inglese, spanish omelette, book shops, red wine, sushi, giant tuna, cocktails in a can and very generous measures of vodka in bars. It was great! Here are three random photos I took whilst I was there…

Are all tunafish this big?!

The Torre Del Oro

A book with my name on it!

December: Goa

Around October-ish a friend asked if I wanted to go to Goa with her and some friends. I ummed and ahhhhhed about it for a while, but in the end thought I’d be mad not to go! It was an amazing holiday, full of fun times on the beach, amazingly tasty food and fenny – a disgusting strong local spirit which tastes a bit like distilled sick. There were nine of us in total, which was perfect in the end as we could split up and do separate things without feeling bad but there weren’t too many of us to all go out together. Half of the group went on a two-day jungle trip where they got to ride elephants while the rest of us went to visit this great beach called Palolem and a really fancy resort called the Leela Palace. On the last day we all went on a trip to see this massive waterfall – this involed a 45 minute jeep ride through rivers and forests, it was pretty cool, if a tad uncomfortable!

The temperature was perfect, it was hot but not too hot, in the evenings it was warm but not stifling, and the sea was the most amazing temperature ever. The sand on our local beach was so soft it crunched underfoot like snow. If you took away the biting ants, mosquitoes and the things that stung you in the sea it was like paradise! The only unfortunate thing about the holiday was that a few of the group got quite badly ill which was a real shame and the second half of the holiday was a bit more subdued than the first.

I could spend a whole separate post talking about Goa but I don’t want to bore everyone too much. Here’s some photos instead!

I bet my friends I could fit in my suitcase!

Let’s get this party started


I’m still struggling to sort out the layout and whatnot of the blog, and I currently haven’t told anyone that it exists, but I thought I might as well start blogging first and sort everything else out later! I’m sort of hoping that given some time, I will figure out what to do with the look of the blog, or I could get my amazing sister Anna Clarke (professional photographer/all round creative genius) to sort it out for me! Failing that, I could rope in her husband Simon Clarke, who is nifty at all things computery/technical (as well as also being enviably creative…ergh). But until that happens, I’m pretty much stuck with it like this!

Anyway, I though I could start everything off with a video I did for an anonymous person who needed a bit of a hand with some homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently). I thought a video was a bit more fun than a lecture, and it gave me an excuse to play around with my then-relatively-new macbook pro.

Here it is: my first grammar video on homophones! There will, undoubtedly, be more videos to follow shortly. Look out for a certain furry guest star!