Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2 Years Of The DP? Already?

Happy new year! As usual, irresponsible me has forgotten to do either a Happy 2014 post or any more Christmas posts as promised, but I happen to have other things on my mind. It's been two whole years since 11-year-old me wrote about some footprints in the snow, i.e. The Dramatis Persona began! In contrast to last year's lengthy blogaversary post, I don't really have too much time today, because I have to put up some awesome new shelves in my bedroom (and they are way more exciting than they sound, and I will post them soon :D) so I just want to take this short paragraph's chance to say a massive THANK YOU to everyone who has ever read, followed or complimented this blog. To all of you who've still commented despite my long breaks from posting, to all of my real-life friends for always bugging me about when I'm going to post, and basically everyone who's ever said anything nice about my little corner of cyberspace. You all make my day and my entire two years, and while recently I have been thinking of giving up this blog, due to busyness and other interests creeping in, but I intend to post more often than I have been doing, and I hope you all support me in that. Once again, thank you.
-DP :)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Very Festive Tag!

Merry Christmas everyone! And for everybody who's sitting there saying, "You can't say that because it's three days after Christmas Day", Christmas lasts until the 6TH JANUARY. I repeat, the 6TH JANUARY. Sorry about that rant, it's just that I've had a lot of people telling me this year that Christmas ends after Boxing Day/the New Year (someone even said that the twelve days of Christmas in the song are from the 1st to the 12th of December. Eep.). In fact, the days between Christmas Day and Twelfth Night are my favourite parts of Christmas (and possibly the whole year), because no one's stressed any more after the Christmas parties and the shopping, but everything's still festive when the decorations are still up and Christmas songs are on the radio. And then there's the New Year right in the middle, which jazzes things up a bit.

Anyway, so earlier this month, on my return to the blogosphere, I was catching up with Helena's blog In A Few Nutshells (awesome, go follow it!), when I saw her Christmas Tag. And I thought it would be a nice, festive idea to have a go myself. But enough stalling, IT'S CHRISTMAS NOSTALGIA TIME!

(Oh yeah, and that's me and my mum when I was eight in front of the New York Christmas lights.)

Do you like to stay in your PJ’s, or dress up for Christmas?

I like to stay in my big, warm, furry onesie for a bit longer than usual, just because I wouldn't want to interrupt the present opening and excitement and general joy by having to go upstairs to get changed. But later I do like dressing up a bit, especially if I get new clothes for Christmas (this year I got an unbelievably warm mohair jumper).

Do you open your presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

 I think Christmas Eve is about anticipation, leaving sherry out for Santa and losing sleep waiting for him to arrive, and Christmas morning is about joy, celebrating, giving and receiving gifts and waking up to the sight of a full stocking, so definitely the latter (by the way, I've never actually heard of someone opening presents on Christmas Eve, so please comment below if you do. Is it more of a thing in another country?).

What do you like to do on your Christmas break?

Well, I hate to say this, but in the week leading up to Christmas it's mostly either doing my Christmas shopping or helping my mum with hers. But I do manage to relax as well, occasionally going out with or inviting over friends and just generally chilling at home. And then of course there's get togethers with family and all that jazz, and after that for Christmas until after the New Year my family and I go and have a relaxing week or so in Suffolk. Except for last year when we went to Sri Lanka, but that's a whole other story...

What's your favourite Christmas meal or treat?

I love mince pies, and fancy chocolates shaped like penguins and bells, and all the other ubiquitous Christmas sweet stuffies, but my favourite Christmas food item has to be pigs-in-blankets. For those of you who don't know, these are mini sausages wrapped in bacon, and they sound pretty simple, but they are SO addictive. As long as I can remember, I've always been the person who will scoff all the PIBs while everyone's out of the room...

What's your favourite holiday movie?

You know, I'm not really that into holiday movies. I don't really see why we have this obligation to ONLY watch holiday movies at Christmas. At least the radio plays a nice equal mix of holiday and regular music. Also I've had a childhood filled with more old-fashioned Christmas traditions, and things like movies and jumpers weren't really part of that.  I prefer to watch the movies I love during Christmas, or new ones, or DVDs I got for Christmas (this year I received and watched Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, and also watched 500 Days Of Summer). But if you really want my choice, I like Elf, and the Home Alone movies.

Candy Canes or Gingerbread Men?

Mince pies! Candy Canes look too pretty to eat, and when you do they taste like toothpaste, and I've never really liked ginger. Sorry if this question and the one before sound a bit Scroogey!

Have you ever made a snowman?

The snow here only really comes in January, and there's always either not enough or it's too wet to pack. I've tried, but even once when I made an elaborate plan for seaweed eyes and a pencil nose, I've never got beyond the base sphere. But maybe that's just as well, considering immature-9-year-old me's plans for an anatomically correct snowman. Urgh.

Which do you like better, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?

Christmas Eve, for all the anticipation I was talking about earlier, and the weeks before Christmas in general. Decorating the house, lights appearing on the streets, Christmas TV ads (my friend and I were the Bear and the Hare for our school's fancy dress day this year), Christmas music creeping onto the radio...all that EXCITEMENT. Although Christmas Day is less stressful, which is also good.

White lights or coloured lights?

The town near our house in Suffolk has a wealth of houses whose owners choose to adorn their home with tasteless and eye-damaging blue and green lights and neon Santas, so I will forever prefer the more elegant white lights.

Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?

Dasher, Donner, Blitzen, Vixen, Rudolf (is it a ph or an f?), Dancer, Prancer, Glancer, Trancer, Enhancer – he who enhances the quality of your presents on Christmas Eve? – Jeff, Chris, Daniel...

Real or fake tree?

Real. There's an epic Christmas tree farm near our house in Suffolk, which each year I wander around singing carols to myself, fingering the trees. We also have an artificial light-up one, and a traditional wooden one with its own wooden baubles.

What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season?

I think that there truly is no place like home for the festive season, but it would be nice to have a proper white Christmas in some mountains somewhere, or maybe go to the Southern Hemisphere, and have Christmas on the beach.

I hope you enjoyed The DP: Christmas Special, and if you decide to do this tag, make sure to let me know so I can have a look. I hope to make more Christmas posts, perhaps to finally continue the 10 Day Photo Challenge, and post my Christmas jewellery and winter drinks...hang in there!
-DP :)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Welcome Back Foyles Book Haul

Soooooo…since I lasted posted in August about my sailing course, a number of things have happened: I went to Scotland and avoided spontaneously combusting (read the last post if you don't get that), started school again, realised that despite the hype Year 8 is really not that different to Year 7, turned thirteen and went up the Shard (for all you non-Londoners, this is a skyscraper and one of the tallest buildings in Europe) to celebrate, also went to India in October (and unfortunately had to do holiday homework there so couldn't blog) to revel in tuk-tuks and ancient forts, and also spent a lot of potential blogging time on either Instagram or writing/practising songs for my YouTube channel (I don't mean to be a billboard in disguise of a blog but do take the time to look at that.). Sorry about that, I'll try to divide time more equally in the future. But anyway, those are all tales I'll probably fondly recap in the future because they'll bear an inch or two of relevance to the post I'll be writing. Now though, I'll celebrate my return with a post theme we all love in the blogging circles: a book haul.

My mum and I were Christmas shopping in the Covent Garden/Tottenham Court Road area today, a place which automatically drags me to the Foyles book store. Handy, especially when you have nearly £50 worth of book tokens like me. And no, I'm not a book hoarder who actually buys book tokens FOR THEIR OWN USE. I actually acquired that many as prizes for being in the winning team of the UK National Final of the Kids' Lit Quiz. Those of you who've followed my blog for a long time will also know that my school and I did this international quiz on childrens' books last year, were North London champions but failed at the national hurdle. 

But enough rambling, onto the books I bought…

More Than This by Patrick Ness

Yay, I got a signed first edition! When and if this book becomes famous in fifty years time, I can show off that I have a first edition! But about the actual book, Ness's award-winning last book A Monster Calls about a boy haunted by a monster while his mother dies of cancer, was both haunting and moving without being overloaded on either, not to mention the equally amazing, roughly sketched illustrations, so I don't need to spell out why I wanted to read this one. Also, this book is based around a recently dead boy exploring life after death, and seems as I enjoy similarly themed books such as White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick, this appealed.

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

As with Patrick Ness, I'd previously been slightly obsessed by Rebecca Stead's previous book When You Reach Me, so much that just the author's name now jumps out to me as an essential buy. And with the unique premise of a spy organisation made up of two twelve-year-olds, and if it weren't for my school's Christmas reading challenge of five dull books of the school's choosing, this would be high on my holiday reading list.

A World Between Us by Lydia Syson

They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but this vintage-style cover is beautiful and will draw any book store browser immediately in. Aside from that, while I haven't heardof this book or author before, and while the love-in-wartime theme seems clichéd, the Spanish Civil War is a period relatively undocumented in YA literature, so I'd be willing to give this a go.

Ink by Amanda Sun

Another beautiful cover here. As the style of the cover might suggest, this book is set in Japan, more specifically about a girl moving there and befriending a tough and aloof artist. All sounds fairly unoriginal, until his drawings come to life. A premise which I think could make a very visually attractive film, but I suppose all those thoughts depend on whether I like the book…

Dash & Lily's Book Of Dares by Rachael Cohn & David Levithan

I know what you're thinking. More than one author = trashy. And quite possibly this book is, but again I was hopelessly intrigued by a premise. Girl leaves notebook full of dares in a book store, boy finds it and participates in the dares, each time he does one the girl refreshes the notebook with a new one, they fall in love in this bizarre, old-fashioned form of communication. The kind of flukey situation everyone dreams of, and I'm sure I'll soon be looking in every book store for a dare notebook.

Every Day by David Levithan

Another book by one half of the above writing duo, and I bet you also assume this book will be trashy too. But I still think looks can be deceiving, and this in fact seems to have quite a unique premise: a boy wakes up as a different person every morning, an arrangement he is fine with, until he falls in love with a girl he will never see again from the next morning on. One of those bizarre ideas us normal people would never think up, but I'm interested to see how the author writes this without it seeming fantastical.

Once I read these (which probably won't be for a while thanks to that irritating reading challenge), I'll review them as soon as I can. It should be interesting comparing what I think when I read them to what I thought when I wrote this post. But for now, sorry for the long posting break, and thanks to all of you for not giving up on me returning! 
-DP :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Hidden Gem Of London Sailing Courses

When I announced to a family friend that I was attending a two-day sailing course in Pimlico, his response was sceptical. 

"But what body of water would that be in? It can't be the Thames, that would be too busy and you'd probably catch Weil's Disease!"

Well, this was it, the Westminster Boating Base.

*this image isn't mine
Well, to be precise, we didn't sail right next to the Houses of Parliament; we were closer to Battersea Power Station and Grosvenor Bridge. But that's not really my point. My point is that we were sailing on the Thames! I, a beginner who'd only ever sailed in a shoebox on a dreary reservoir in Essex, sailed on a major thoroughfare yesterday and lived to tell the tale! Yup, no Weil's Disease (the Thames is apparently the cleanest metropolitan river in the world, according to our instructors) or being run over by ferries (almost all the larger boats we spotted were moored). I survived.

In many ways, it's strange that this place 1) has such minimal advertising and 2) is so unheard of! Why am I probably the first blogger in the world ever to rave about it on the World Wide Web? Don't other people see that there's nowhere else like it in London, or maybe even all the riverside cities in the world (correct me if I'm wrong; I haven't researched this "fact")? But I guess there is a good side to this in the lack of crowds (our group had only eight people, with two or three on each boat). To further prove this point, I also tried a popular kayaking centre in the Docklands, which had all the fancy websites and gushing admirers, but realistically, it's just packed with about seventy kids waiting around, half of whom end up without their desired place on the course. So maybe a small centre like WBB could do fine without any publicity. But I still think the location deserves it.

Anyway, enough of the publicity debate. Now onto what we actually did when we got out onto the water. Well, the format was actually a lot better and more educational than my previous sailing course, with everyone on the boat given about half an hour each to sail independently and get individual pointers from the instructor (who was on the boat, a fact which, although technically for safety reasons, I think was an improvement on the shoebox sailing course, where we were all thrust out onto a lake alone without a clue what to do). And the instruction itself was actually some of the most friendly and helpful I've ever received from these activity centre-type places, and that's probably a result of the lack of crowds meaning these often-long-suffering people aren't tormented by difficult kids day-in-day-out. Or maybe that's just me being cynical, and they're all actually genuinely nice people. We shall never know.

So I can now proudly say I achieved my RYA Stage 1 just downstream from Battersea Power Station. And I can cleat a halyard. The latter which, to my layman level of expertise, sounds a lot more impressive than the former.
-DP :)

PS We're going up to Scotland for a week in a couple of days, and the presence or absence of Wi-Fi is so far unconfirmed. But I haven't spontaneously combusted if I don't post for a week or so :).

Monday, August 12, 2013

Innocent Slow Worm Is Gruesomely Murdered

Above: The murdered slow worm, with a single gaping wound near its head

BREAKING NEWS! You heard it from us first, that an innocent slow worm has been found dead on an otherwise peaceful country road. The theory of murder was first suspected after a single stab wound was spotted near the creature's head, a coroner specialising in reptiles stated today.

The worm was found dead ("probably for hours", said the coroner) by a local family cycling on the Suffolk road yesterday afternoon. A spokesperson for the family stated, "they were obviously shocked, and were quick to call the slow worm police force, but not before their daughter had used images of the casualty for her Instagram page and blog.". He continued, "It seemed too good an opportunity for her to miss. I mean, it's not every day a 12-year-old gets to see a murdered slow worm!"

The circumstances of the murder are a matter of dispute. Locals were very much aware of the ongoing feud between the slow worm's family and local grass snakes, who subjected the worms to threats and abuse after discovering that the slow worm species bore more resemblance to lizards than to snakes. Another argument had also commenced a few weeks prior to the death between the slow worms and nearby field mice, over ownership of local fields. However, the coroner has ruled that the stab wound was far too deep to have been made by either species. At the time of writing, both the grass snakes and the field mice have yet to make a statement.

Above: A chalk line drawn by police around the victim's body.

Tributes have been flooding in on ReptileConnect.com for the legless victim, led by the slow worm's own family. The unnamed victim's grandmother, a resident of the area for the past fifty years, posted on the site: "What a devastating piece I read in Slow Worm Today earlier. A loss of an active youngster, a slow worm who liked the fast things in life."

A police search is underway.

Thanks for reading. I've just realised that that's the first fantasy/story post I've done without an introduction at the start! Welcome to the new Dramatis Persona story-post format! And if you're wondering, yes, we found a slow worm while out cycling, yes, I am the mentioned daughter, and, no, I cannot guarantee that this riveting murder story is true.
-DP :)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Some Random Updates About My Life That You May Be Interested In...

The title says it all. Here comes the list of radical, new-fangled happenings!

Yī 一  The reason why today I am counting my list in Chinese is not because I felt like being exotic, but because guess what? I was in Shanghai for the last two weeks! And also I finally have a good excuse for not blogging: I've read that all the popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked in China, and it would make sense that Blogger is too; it kept telling me that the connection was lost, and only on blogs. Therefore, this long overdue post is dedicated to updates about my two weeks in a foreign land. Enjoy!

Liǎng  But what exactly was I doing in Shanghai? Well, not the usual city break, as you were all probably presuming. Instead, I was at *drum roll please* the That's Mandarin Shanghai summer camp! Basically, it consists of language study in the morning, and then either field trips (ours was to an art museum which, despite my mum's best efforts, we've not been able to discover the name of), art activities (I am pretty proud of my Beijing opera mask and my Chinese ink painting of Taylor Swift) and cultural activities (a pretentious term for learning Chinese songs, playing Chinese games and the like). I make it sound way less exciting than it is, but it's a nice change from the week-long PGL-type adventure camps that are so common in England, and there was a huge diversity of people from all around the world, who I surely would have never met otherwise. And I guess I'll be super prepared for school Chinese class in September ;).

Sān My summer camp was a day camp, so like regular school back at home, it finished at four, which gave ample opportunity for independent sightseeing during the afternoon. This is when we saw the major sights in the city, as the two weekends we had we reserved for longer day trips. It was hard to choose a favourite of them, but I thought that simply because they are the most famous sights in Shanghai, I'd show you my pictures of the Bund, a riverside road of colonial era architecture, and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower.

This is the most famous building on the Bund, the Fairmont Peace Hotel. A popular hotel in the 30s, then called the Cathay Hotel, now the building has finally been renovated by the Fairmont group back into a hotel, giving the hotel and the whole Bund the same 30s glamour, once again.

My heavily Instagram-filtered view across the river to the instantly recognisable Oriental Pearl TV Tower. We climbed this on the very last afternoon in Shanghai and let me tell you, it was thronged. Crowds of people on the lift, crowds of people on the viewing platforms, crowds of people at the dumpling-filled revolving restaurant...basically crowds everywhere! It's a good thing to do just to say that you've climbed the Oriental Pearl, but don't expect it to be the highlight of your trip. There's also a handy scam that makes you pay twice to visit the same museum, and prevents you going to the top viewing platform unless you do :/. On the whole, a bit of a disappointment.

四  Fun as some of them were (my favourite, looking around a traditional Chinese house, unfortunately didn't allow photography), the evening trips we took ultimately only lasted a few hours, so it was the day trips on the weekends that we got the most value out of. These trips included a visit to the pretty canal town of Suzhou, where we  had the joyful experiences of taking a gondola-like boat along the canals and a "motorbike taxi" back to the station...

The view from our canal boat
However, the prize for the weirdest place we visited in Shanghai has to go to the Shanghai Sculpture Park. It advertised itself as having a lake to swim in, but said lake turned out to be this...

Yes, an inviting beach, but the only people willing to swim were the sculptures :/

The park did make up for the bleak lake in other fun stuffies, including this bizarre hilly trampoline. And also a lot of fountains and paddling pools, fortunately not as dreary-looking as the lake.

 However, the sculptures were obviously the main attraction here, and the unique, varying works seemed effortlessly fitted to their surroundings. For example, the poles above are positioned on a pier, creating reflections of all the brilliant hilly scenery around them (you can't tell in the picture, but they are spinning too, creating more distorted reflections). The hunched cat is less suited to its surroundings, but it's an interesting idea to portray a cat in a similar posture as an elderly human. 

Overall, good art here, but please, next time, advertise the lake as what it is (pretty but unswimmable)! 

A non-Shanghai related update now, I just wanted to say that it may look like I was reading Code Name Verity for a very long time, but I read two other books during my trip to Shanghai (but wasn't able to upload the progress on the blog, because of the blockage), Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I'll probably review either or both of them soon, if I don't have much to blog about. So there's that to look forward to :).

And that is what has been going on for me in the last couple of weeks!
-DP :)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Invisible Bespectacled Girl: Live On The Dramatis Persona Vlog Edition!

This is SHAMEFUL, my lack of posting over the last couple of months or so. It's a long saga of Physics essays having to be due in in a week, lost Internet for a WHOLE WEEKEND and a scorching hot trip to Devon, filled with speedboat rides and abseiling down a cliff face to wonderfully rocky beaches. Ah, in the words of Lady Antebellum, there's nothing sweeter than summertime. Anyway, it's the summer holidays now, so time to get back to posting. But where exactly was I?
Ah, yes, I was doing a very scary thing. I was vlogging. A very random and unconventional vlog, which basically takes the format of a talk show. A talk show that went very wrong. A talk show with a very unusual guest, who is not what she seems... 

-DP :)