Friday, 13 February 2015

Don't worry, be happy


I read another column. And this time, Elizabeth Gilbert told me not to stress. Too many women are stressing about not doing enough with their lives, even though they're doing plenty.

"By all rights, every one of these clever, inventive women should be radiant with self-satisfaction. Instead, they twitch with near-constant doubt, somehow worrying that they are failing at life."

I guess it resonated with me because I can be a bit of a worrier. There are the practical everyday things, and then the more philosophical conundrums that all seem to double in size at 2am. Am I doing enough? Have I come far enough? What about all the bits that are still "missing"? What if I wake up one day and realise, like properly realise, that I'm not very good at the things I love? Why didn't I admit this to myself sooner and make "smarter" choices? Would I be any happier?

"Can we draft a joint resolution to drop the crazy-making expectation that we must all be perfect friends and perfect mothers and perfect workers and perfect lovers with perfect bodies who dedicate ourselves to charity and grow our own organic vegetables ..."

We all have our existential doubts now and then. It can't be helped. Creative slumps come and (hopefully) go. Sometimes worrying can lead to good things, but often it just drains you of much needed energy. What if we (or I) actually learnt to live the "Gilbert way":

"Let's just anticipate that we (all of us) will disappoint ourselves somehow. Go ahead and let it happen. Let somebody else be a better mother than you for one afternoon. Let somebody else go to art school. Let somebody else have a happy marriage, while you foolishly pick the wrong guy. (Hell, I've done it; it's survivable.) ... by taking wrong turns that lead to surprising passageways that open into spectacularly unexpected new worlds. So just march on. Future generations will thank you -- trust me -- for showing the way, for beating brave new footpaths out of wonky old mistakes."

Elizabeth Gilbert confesses that she stresses as much as the next person but is still hoping there can be change, if we would all just "lighten up a little". So that's what I'm going to try this weekend, some uplightened living. What's the worst that can happen?

Have a great weekend!


Sunday, 8 February 2015

War & Pestilence & a Chicken's Bottom

London's a city of history and culture, so what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than visit the Museum of London? (Hey, it only took me two years to go there so don't judge ...) At the museum you get to follow the development of London from the ice age to present day. For the free entry (donations are encouraged) you get Neanderthals, Romans, the occasional Viking and plenty of death and destruction.

Not a happy century?
It wasn't all bad though. There were some rather crappy drawings of owls and dromedaries ...
And it was the merry time of Shakespeare and theatres like The Rose. Although it was shut down when the plague dropped by, riding on the back of some rather nasty rats.
I'm glad medicine has developed at least a little since the 16th century ... "Doctors tried weird treatments such as placing the bottom of a live chicken onto the buboes (swellings) or placing a toad sewn up in a bag on the stomach."

No anesthetic? You're not coming near me with that! No Sir. I don't care if my leg got mangled by a bolting horse and it's riddled with gangrene.
If the healthcare was a bit iffy back in the day, fashion was definitely at a high. I have a new appreciation for period clothing since I began working as an extra. So far I've done 18th, 19th, 20th (and 21st) century, sporting plenty of corsets and uncomfortable shoes. It might be pretty, but comfortable it ain't!
My work on the film Suffragette, which is out later this year starring actors like Helena Bonham Carter, Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep, also made the Suffragette display extra poignant. It was fascinating to see all the real items that had been replicated for us in the film, and listen to the words of women who had actually been there, sometimes risking their lives so that women would have the right to vote.

And that's all from Mad's travel agency. After my stroll through history, I popped next door to the Barbican Centre for a coffee and and a spot of writing, and now I'm gearing up for the BAFTAs! Oh, and did I mention it's been sunny all day? I can't complain!

I hope you've had a lovely weekend!


Thursday, 5 February 2015

If you can't buy it, make it


On February 5th, Finland celebrates Johan Ludvig Runeberg, our national poet. In honour of Runeberg we eat something called a RunebergstÃ¥rta/Runebergintorttu, which I've always been a fan of.  Knowing I wouldn't find one close to home, I decided to make some myself even though I've never done it before and many of my baking experiments (yes, they are experiments) end up less than desirable.  The store bought tortes often look like this:

If you don't have the right equipment, which I didn't, they might end up looking like this: 
A nice little treat for the afternoon tea break.
Despite the slight difference in grandeur, I must say I'm quite happy with my first try. They're not nearly as moist as the "real" ones, there definitely shouldn't be a crunch ... But they still taste nice and the generous portion of jam and icing makes up for any shortcomings. 
Before they got "decorated" with jam and icing.
I now have to deal with a rather luxurious dilemma. I usually eat one per year. I ended up making twelve. I might need some help ...

I hope you're all good!


Wednesday, 4 February 2015

An ideal couple of days


Last week my full time office job ended. The project I spent 15 months working on had come to an end and it was time to say goodbye, at least for now. Having graduated and become jobless in the same week, I found myself dealing with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I felt that little niggle of fear, sooner or later I will run out of money, but on the other hand I was also flooded with excitement. Who knows what will happen next? New opportunities might hide just around the corner. What if I suddenly found the ideal balance between paying rent and writing!
Madicken was here. 
For a couple of days now I've had a taster of what my life could be like as a full time writer. Wake up. Work for a few hours. Go for a jog. Write some more while the pasta cooks. Lunch. Work. Go for an afternoon stroll. Work. Go off to see a play and do a spot of networking. If this was a basic day for me, with a few exceptions now and then, I would be very happy. But I'm not delusional. As long as my writing doesn't pay big bucks, I'll have to do other things as well and those other things will nibble on both my time and energy to write.
This wishing well in Bath could come in handy right now ...
On Sunday I read a blog which led me to this very apt column. It talks about the difficulties of being a writer (or any kind of creative) when you need one or two or maybe three other jobs to support yourself (and maybe a family). It also wishes that writers who do have financial support from maybe a spouse or come from an affluent family, were more open about it so that new writers would better understand why some writers seem to have all the time in the world while they themselves scribble on paper napkins during lunch breaks or sit up late at night. The columnist herself is a "sponsored" writer and attributes a lot of her success to the financial support she's received.
I'd love to find myself in this stack. (But how did Lord of the Flies get in there?)
There are of course plenty of creatives who produce great work while also holding down day job. One doesn't exclude the other. But finding the balance between making money and following your dream seems to be the holy grail for many. Including myself. Having so far spent three days as a full time writer, I can't say I've found the perfect solution yet, but I'm holding on to the excitement and I've given myself a little bit of time to think about it before all my writing energy goes on covering letters and CVs.

I hope you've also had a pleasant and productive week so far!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015



I have to say, graduation is much more fun when you get to wear a hat and gown! (Although the hat is rather hard to pull off.) I guess I'm now officially a Master of Arts, but don't ask me to draw anything, it's not that kind of art.
The Barbican was full of graduates, families and friends and everyone was in a good mood. My main aim was not to trip when going up to shake hands and accept my diploma, and hurrah! I didn't. I've now attended three graduations and managed to stay on my feet at each one, so that's it, no more. Next time I would definitely fall with a booming crash.
Focus. Focus. 
Lovely Lotta attended as a guest and was kind enough to take a few photos. The weather had become quite wet and windy by the time we resurfaced from the Hall, but hey, the career of a writer can be quite blustery so it's best to practice!
It is against the law for the shoulder bits to actually stay straight on your shoulders. 
A moment of existential crisis ...
Naah, we're good!
And that was it! The end of two years of MA studies in London. It is now "real" life begins, and it begins with me hurrying off to a meeting.

I hope you're good!

Saturday, 24 January 2015


I love my brain's unfettered imagination. Its eagerness to make up situations and conversations. Give it a seed and it will grow you a tree with a hundred branches. It's what makes me a writer.  However, my brain doesn't always know the difference between fiction and real life. It takes a real situation or a real conversation just as eagerly and begins to play around. It changes things. It adds things. Parallel universes expand and explode. A positive scenario is followed by a negative scenario which makes me angry and sad, at something that actually never happened. Most of us do this, I think. We revisit the past and consider the ifs and the buts, or pretend that we can see into the future. But sometimes, I feel like my brain just makes that little bit of an extra effort to never shut down. And it can be tiring and distracting. If I'm not required to focus 100% on the here and now, part of me will soon be somewhere else.
Give it some time and I can reach Redwood proportions.
And this is why I sometimes think I should give mindfulness a go. Basically you just practice being in the present, right? You learn how to focus on one thing at a time, pay attention to your actual surroundings and learn to appreciate the moment.
Focus on the raisin, only the raisin. (It's a slightly odd looking raising, isn't it?)
I started thinking about this again yesterday when talking to someone who was taking mindfulness classes. It sounded great, and at the same time a little bit ridiculous (he thought so too). One exercise required him to place a raisin in the palm of his hand and then stare at the raisin for five minutes. Then touch the raisin. Another exercise had the class walking slowly around the room for 20 minutes, tuning into themselves.  As silly as this might sound, maybe it is something that would help? Give me an off-button. Give me more control so when I do let my brain go haywire and create new worlds, it would focus on the fiction and not the energy draining fictionalisation of reality. I want to be able to say stop, enough.
We all do this, right?
As I said before, I think we all have racing minds sometimes, we're all human, but some of us just seem better at shutting it off or keeping it focused on certain things. Mindfulness has been a fad-word for a few years now, and as we know, fads are not always the way to go, but sometimes they do arise from a kernel of truth. What would it be like if my head suddenly went quiet?

If you have any mindfulness tips, do please share! And I hope you've had a great weekend so far!


Monday, 19 January 2015

A Race for Life


How are you?

Today I received my Race for Life package in the post. In July I'll be running around Hampstead Heath to help raise money for Cancer Research UK. It's a 5k "race", which you can do as fast or as slow as you like. I decided 5k would be a good distance to start with since I haven't done anything similar before, and my very short track and field career ended at the age of maybe 9. (That's over 20 years ago!) If this goes well though, I'll be doing the 10k next!
I'm runner number 19!
At the end of the day it's not about where you finish. Cancer Research UK encourages all participants to raise money by asking people to sponsor their run, and this money goes towards more cancer research. I know sponsoring these kinds of events isn't everybody's cup of tea, for one reason or another, and not everyone has money to spare, but if you do feel like helping out with a pound/euro/dollar or two, I'll be posting the link to my fundraising page a bit closer to the actual event. (And thank you!)
They sent us temporary tattoos! I loved those when I was little. 
I know, July feels like ages away, but it's good to get started. I want to stand at the starting line with confidence. I'm not a doctor or a scientist, there is a limit to what I can do to work against cancer, but this is at least something, and if it keeps me healthy and on the move at the same time, all the better!

If you're in the UK and feel like doing something similar (Race for Life is women only), you can check out more events here: 

I hope your week has started off well!