Quelle cliché : life’s a marathon.

VLM2015Today the annual London Marathon is held and thousands of runners are lining up as I type. The publicity, the PR set off in me a sense of excitement: only a year ago, I was prepping to run marathon in Edinburgh and the runners vibe brings back the adrenaline. Not that I would be able to run one now, mind: yesterday, I struggled through my first 5K in a long while. The first run, after six weeks if not two months, when I pushed myself to run a hilly 10K just under an hour… by 12 seconds. Haha, it doesn’t matter. Like writing, running is something I enjoy going back to. (Yet perhaps like running, I would get better or more practised at writing if I made time for it more often. Now there is a thought for Sunday morning.)

Source: Twitter - hard to track, sorry.
Source: Twitter – hard to track, sorry.

Despite the buzz and despite a very tempting offer to accompany the boy on his job photographing charity runners this morning at 8am, I have decided to join the crowds later for the very last bit and cheer them on to the finish line. That moment is magic. I have already considered going back on my ‘once and never again’ but the awful amounts of training, the Chris Hoy thighs (ok, perhaps not quite) and the unsexy moments half-dressed in an ice-cold bath eating a protein bar, do flash back and dissolve that nostalgia once more. For now. (What is wrong with 10Ks? Half marathons?)

The marathon was an amazing experience, a transcending one almost; I now tackle all life’s challenges as a metaphorical run. The discomfort, and there is discomfort when you are schlepping across 26.2 mile, proves to be only temporary and the euphoria of the finish line is worth every effort. I have felt the physical equivalent of  ‘this too shall pass’ and as I am wading once again through a foggy patch, at 3-0 I know it will all work out ok. Good luck to each runner: enjoy the ride, I’ll be cheering each and every one of you!

It’s a Good Friday…

For nearly a month, my friends and I have started our own take on #100happydays in a little Whatsapp group. The initial concept has its own website here but in a nutshell: find something that brings you happiness every day for 100 days. As we share our happy moment with the group every day, we become more aware of the little things in life. Even when the day heads to be disastrous, we find or create something that can turn the moment around.

Lots has happened since the last time I wrote, so here a handful of happy moments:

  1. A few weeks ago, I went home to the mothership and as I ran my miles via cycling lanes, it reminded me of the routes I used to cycle while still in secondary school. It made me realise how weird and wonderful my life actually is: an ambition to write in a second language and a marathon goal, when you are clearly not born to run (the guy with asthma used to overtake me in PE). Yet every draft and every mile is a mini-victory.
  2. Last Tuesday, I went to see The Weir at the Wyndham’s Theatre, on my own – just because I could. FxCam_1397585508763It was an event 10 years in the making: I once took an Irish Playwright module during my BA in Devon, where the lecturer tried to liven up the class with recording of the radio version. For an hour I sat there, in near tears, listening but not understanding a word of the Irish accents. This week watching and understanding the full performance in a London theatre was a delight.
  3. I have started to cycle to work, which also feels like a triumph. Not just because of the London traffic but I feared mostly my dire navigational skills. Same routes do stick though and guess what: if you do ride the wrong way, you can just turn back.
  4. Ah yes, so I am office based once more: the lack of paid-job shifts that scared me last month, freed me up for new opportunities and I am now learning a new skill with the same company. It so happens that there is still time left to pursue my other projects.
  5. The workshops I co-facilitated made me sign up to a showcase and present a scene of my own work. It was exciting to see my words performed on stage by a gorgeous bunch of actors, in front of an industry audience. I say ‘exciting’ but in truth, words cannot describe my emotions as I watched from the back. Another step made.

Bonus: by the time you read this, I will be on my way to Wales. Roadtripping.

Happy days, kids. Have an amazing weekend.

The Universe Calling. (Well, Ryan Gosling. Sort of.)

In the never-ending undulation of life, riding the wave upwards has been amazing but suddenly I find myself slowly losing momentum: the wonderful workshops are coming to an end, a side blog project finishes soon and the paid-job shifts seem to be becoming suspiciously quiet at the moment. Thus I find myself in the seemingly contradictory position of bathing in glorious Spring sunshine while staring at A Big Black Hole that is thundering towards me with the speed of a Pamplona bull in July.

It’s that moment, when you’re making yourself some tea in the kitchen, you tilt your head to the Universe and shout in Jeremiah-ic despair: “What do you want from me?! Send me a sign!” For your housemate to walk in, grab some cereal and enlighten you: “Listen, this is what the Universe is saying…”

This is what I imagine the Universe looks like.
Note: Not my housemate. This is what I imagine the Universe looks like.

Money to mouth, time to step up

Monday, let’s start the new week by putting money where ones mouth is…

put your money where your mouth is
informal
› to show by your actions and not just your words that you support or believe in something

source: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/

Last week, I had the pleasure to attend two Open Forum discussions on inclusion in theatre: the first one was the D&D by Improbable on the inclusion of race and diversity and the second discussion was held by Tamasha, after their scratch night to address the gender-imbalance on stage: and dealt with the question how to create more permanent change in the theatre to include women.

Dear Reader, I can feel half of you switching off here: please don’t. I promise you this won’t be a political feminist rant. In fact, this is exactly what this blog is about, that feeling of “Yeah, yeah I know but do we have to make such a song and dance about it? Do we have to talk about it, can’t we just do it?” Last week, I met people who would answer/scream: “No, we can’t because they won’t let us!”  We being defined here by the minority discussed and They by the powers-that-be.

I am still not sure where I stand on this: I have only relatively recently joined the theatre forces and so I am not convinced yet that my current lack of published plays is an oppression issue –  I would like to think that I just need more time to hone the craft. Also, I had a very happy childhood, thank you very much mum and dad, and I don’t feel the passion/anger that comes from feeling wronged.

However, I am also a woman of ethnic minority trying to craft in Western theatre and I cannot deny that I do not see a lot of us working in ‘the industry’. This is just a cold, hard fact. One can argue that the minorities are just not available but here is another fact: I am here and though not many, others are with me. Even if not all of us have had the experiences that let us fight with the conviction, volume and the vigour as some can; when asked, we have to – at the very least – silence the thrice-crowing cockerel, and step up.

papergang_logo_100pxWFor that reason (and this is the point of this whole essay – thanks for bearing with me), when I was asked by Banana Writers to contribute a piece about our company Papergang Theatre, a new writing platform for British East Asians, I couldn’t say no. It is very daunting to share this with you, as I feel that there are more eloquent voices out there and for whom I have a lot of admiration. Yet if I am to scared to do it, how can I even dare to suggest others have a valid voice that deserves to be heard?

So if you are interested, please read the article “Writers wake up!”

The Act of Baking a Cake

There is an ongoing joke among some of my friends: ‘the cake without passion’. Years ago, mere second year students in a picturesque seaside town, my friends and I had decided to spend the day baking a cake. Yet after a day of hanging out and shopping, no one really felt like it and so to my horror, the act that should have been enjoyable was rushed as a chore. Noticing my upset, my friends enquired what the problem was and I cried out: “The cake has no passion in it!” Cue bemused faces and years of teasing reminders.

I wish I had these - by Danbo Brothers via madlyinlovewithlife @Flickr
I wish I had these – by Danbo Brothers via madlyinlovewithlife @Flickr

Last Tuesday, whilst preparing for our first writing workshop, I had to think of this. The couple of days before had been stressful and though by Tuesday morning, the feeling of physical nausea had shrunk to mere nervousness: I still had to fill the hours until the start of the workshop. I decided to make a cake and picked a recipe that was easy but hopefully liked by the majority: lemon drizzle cake.

I shopped for the ingredients and was even given a discount on the lemons by my local greengrocer. Washing the lemons and grating the rind, I wished that everyone would turn up. While I was beating the butter and sugar together, I wished that our workshop would fit their objectives. Cracking the eggs, whisking them in one by one, I wished that everyone would be open-minded and kind to us and each other. Sifting the flour into the mixture, I wished that my friend and I would work well together as facilitators.  Stirring in the zest and lemon juice, I wished that everyone would enjoy the experience. Pouring the batter into the tin, I wished that this first workshop would be the start of something exciting.

I put the cake into the oven and packed my stuff. 45-50min later, as was described in the recipe, the cake was still liquid in the middle. Panicked I looked at the recipe again and the comments below the line mentioned the exact same problem. I had to be patient and wait, I turned the oven a bit lower as the top was done and texted my friend that our pre-workshop talk was delayed. Then I realised there wouldn’t be time for the lemon syrup to drizzle on top…

Leaving it to the very last minute, I pulled the cake out of the oven again: skewer came out dry – just. Wrapping the cake in a clean cloth and a plastic bag, I ran for the bus. Once on my way, I looked out of the window and watched the never-ending bustle of London; holding the warm cake in my lap, I knew that it might not be perfect but it would be alright.

Musical chairs

Over the weekend, someone shared a metaphor with me:

“Turning 30 is a bit like musical chairs… At 29, the music is playing and everyone is dancing; at 30, the music stops and everyone sits down. Not even on the most comfortable or prettiest chair but on the most convenient one – everyone sits down and holds on for dear life. And there is always one person left, standing in the middle of the room, looking at all the others clinging to their chairs, thinking: “WTF just happened?””

Don't settle! (Pic by Daveynin Flickr)
Don’t settle! (Pic by Daveynin Flickr)

2014 has just started but in my circle of lovely friends, two babies are (to be) born this year and the e-invite for the now near annual hennight has just come through, in preparation for a near annual wedding later this year. Less cynical than the metaphor though, I do like to think that my friends have made their moves as conscious choices; smoothly moonwalking to that 2-person Chesterfield sofa as the music enters the final chorus…

Not even on the most comfortable or prettiest chair but on the most convenient one; at 30, everyone sits down and holds on for dear life.

Yes, as we enter month two of year 30, it’s possible that the one person still dancing in the room might well be me. I’m not sure what happened to my track but I seem to be playing the Baz Luhrmann extended version. Still bopping away, while my friends happily wave their baby’s hand to me (hand still attached to the child, of course!) from their comfy seats. Those moments are still unreal to me, the idea of a third person where there first were two.

At times I get tired of dancing and I envy my friends happily stretched out on the faux-leather sofa but you can’t stop until the music stops – those are the rules! As for settling for the wonky old kitchen stool for one: never. Though tempting at times, even I can see in my weariness that it will only be a temporary comfort until it breaks.

Dancing among the toddlers is not really how I imagined my life to be but then again, I never saw much further than 21 and that was overrated. So as I am slowly being pushed one generation along, I like to think I am embodying the spirit of this crazily American but still kind of cute video for all the new additions on their first days here: “There’s plenty of reasons to dance, you just got to look for ‘m.”

Starting to write. Again.

After having recovered from last week’s challenges, it was time for a change. So here in new format, the same blog: same-same but different. I got annoyed with the ads, so I decided to buy my domain name and add my portfolio – for those who wonder if I do anything else but whine about wanting write for a living. (“Like, ohmygawd, why doesn’t she like, like, write for other people?” Ohmygawd, she so does…)

While updating this blog, I found a forgotten draft from 2011. I can’t remember why I started it or why didn’t finish it but here it is: it’s short, it’s contradictory but it made me smile!

2011

1. The strong must look after the weak.

2. Just because bad things happen – a lot, doesn’t mean they are acceptable.

3. Be generous, share what you have.

4. If you need to fight, don’t kick a man when he’s down – but kick him hard enough so he doesn’t get up for a while.

5. Don’t be afraid to love.