Thursday, 26 February 2015

If you want something doing right... | The Small Desk

There's a phrase that goes: 'If you want something doing right, do it yourself'. In this blog post I want to look at that phrase, deconstruct it a bit, and explain why I think it doesn't always ring true.

For smaller more personal tasks, such as buying yourself the right chocolate bar, this phrase might work, but the importance of collaboration and partnership should never be forgotten.

It can be frustrating working in a team; waiting on other people in order for you to get your work done, however it can also make life a lot easier; it can lessen your workload, it can offer emotional support and it can help you to thrash out difficult problems.

Issues arise when people live by this phrase. To be able to admit that you are wrong or that you have reassessed your initial thoughts is so productive and helps you learn. Often no one person gets it all right, and by debating between people you can come to a conclusion that neither of you would have reached if it had not been for the communication with one another.

One person taking a more managerial role, whether it is simply in a situation or in a work environment is important in order to 'get shit done' as they say, but the 'manager' must be aware of everyone's strengths and weaknesses. Concerns or problems should not be ignored if they appear important to the individual expressing them. Also, if you are unable for some reason to do that thing that only you are good at, what will everyone do if you are not there, is there someone who can do it at least 95% right? It will make your life easier in the end.

Being the only person able to do something gives added pressure, unnecessary responsibility and can prevent you from doing tasks or activities that you enjoy. Collaboration is key.

Of course, now that I've decided most of the time this phrase doesn't always ring true, I thought I'd get some help on this blog post and asked twitter what they thought about this phrase...

These examples show how this phrase can prompt mixed reactions – everyone knows they can be guilty of feeling this, but equally know that they have to delegate sometimes. I'm not saying that what I have written is right either and would love your comments on what you think about the phrase!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Theory of Everything Review | The Small Desk

I know what you're thinking: I'm late to the party with this one, or you've already decided you don't want to watch it. I was that person; I didn't want to watch it because I thought it looked far too sad and there was too much hype. Luckily my sister persuaded me to go, and I'm so glad she did.

The film begins with Hawking at Cambridge, living a fun and frivolous student life; drinking with friends, getting a girl's number and lying in after a hangover. It quickly moves to his initial struggle with motor neurone disease and the beginnings of his PhD thesis on Time.

Based on the book by Jane Hawking (his first wife), it portrays not only what it was like for Hawking to suffer with the disease but also what it was like for his wife; caring for him and raising their three children. It is literally fireworks at the beginning but she soon finds out that Hawking is of a difficult temperament and does not allow anyone to easily look after him. He is resistant to help, and when they do get help everything changes forever.

Eddie Redmayne is absolutely incredible; he plays Hawking in a way that makes you feel as though you are watching a documentary; that you are watching Hawking himself. The movements are a world away from what someone without the disease would experience, they are starkly different, yet it works because Redmayne has concentrated on every tiny movement, each subtlety, the emotion that goes with every movement, even down to the speech that goes with the change of muscle control.

This role could easily look forced, or look like you were making fun of Hawking. Redmayne has been unbelievably careful and sympathetic about taking on this role. I have no idea how he managed to pull it off.

It is absolutely phenomenal acting. You are watching a film about a science genius, medical marvel, a woman who risks it all, but also an Oscar-worthy performance, Redmayne's performance is something that will never be forgotten in the world of acting and film.

And if you're wondering why the brilliant Mr Cumberbatch didn't play the role, well he did... perhaps not quite as convincingly! Poor Benedict, he probably wants to forget about that now!

Friday, 20 February 2015

Purpose | The Small Desk

Some days fly past and you don't even have the time to reflect; to think about what your purpose was that day. Other days you fall upon time to think, space to breathe, the relaxation you’ve been craving, and it isn’t all you’ve been hoping for. You remember you’re a busy person because you like purpose, you thrive off energy, speed, and achievements.

When you are in a situation where you have the choice as to what to do with your day; no time pressures, no deadlines; you struggle, you start to think about who you are, what your purpose in life is, what your future holds, how you can shape it and what you want out of life. This can all get a bit depressing if your desired purpose is unobtainable or it seems so far away that you cannot even begin to grasp it.

Therefore I think it is best to take these ‘non-days’, as days where you can do things you enjoy, and leave the busy days to think about purpose. They say if you want something done quickly, give it to a busy person, and it’s true, you are often most constructive at your busiest. This is when you are experiencing good stress, not bad stress. Bad stress causes people to forget things, even who they are.

Whatever you are doing in life you have purpose, you are achieving, be kind to yourself and think how far you’ve come from being a ten year old. I’m pretty sure every one of you reading has achieved something since you were ten. The older you get the more you remember and the more critical you can become of yourself and your purpose. I can fully remember ten years ago when I was 16, and the years in between, yet when I was 16, the period between then and the age of six was a lot harder to remember. The more you can remember the more you will worry that you haven’t achieved enough or had enough purpose or direction. This may sound obvious, but I think it helps to think about it this way.

Perhaps this post is rambling on too much and is reflecting my own concerns about lack of purpose, but I hope it strikes a chord with some of you and through it you realise that having a purpose is something everyone struggles with and achievements are obtained over time, experience and are all relative.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Kristin Baybars' Dolls House Shop | The Small Desk

On Valentine's Day most people want to go to a fancy restaurant or be given a beautiful bouquet of velvet red roses, not I. This Valentine's Day I requested we go to the dolls house shop in Gospel Oak, London. A while ago I was having a conversation with a work colleague about our childhoods, reminiscing about what we were like and what toys we liked to play with. We found out that we both used to love playing with our dolls houses, and she immediately suggested I go and visit Kristin Baybars' shop.

I am referring to it as a shop, but when you step inside it is like no shop you have ever been in. It is like walking into the house of a hoarder! When you get out of Gospel Oak train station you will immediately see a bright pink house with a turquoise band across the middle of it. This is the legendary dolls house shop; the last remaining specialist store in London. Despite the friendly pink exterior the rest of the shop front is slightly intimidating. With the grate across the window and numerous hand-written notes on the window explaining that this is not a toy shop, one feels a bit nervous to press the doorbell. I put on my happiest, friendliest face and to my relief was warmly welcomed in. 

Kristin Baybar herself was not working that day, which was a bit disappointing as I would liked to have met the legend herself. She has run this store for 40 years! The Guardian has run two articles on her, one is a 'This much I know' from 2007 and the other is a longer article about dolls' houses but the last few paragraphs are very insightful. Kristin makes some of the pieces herself, and I was lucky enough to get a very tiny cactus she had made for a few pounds. Apparently it is part of a real cactus! 

There is everything you can imagine in this cavern of miniatures; from Dairy Milk chocolate bars less than an inch long to entire bathroom suites, paintings and wheelbarrows. The front of the store has the cheaper items, the glass cabinet area (you can see the reflection on the glass in the photo below) is where more expensive items are kept and the back of the store displays precious handmade pieces. I was about to purchase a gorgeous miniature cat that looked just like my cat, but as the assistant was about to get it out of the cabinet she said: 'Just to warn you this piece is around £80, I'm happy to get it out of the cabinet if you are looking to spend this sort of money today'. After a moment of looking horrified, she informed me that the fur on the cat was real and had been put on hair by hair. I kindly asked that she leave the cat in the cabinet for today and that perhaps I would think about it. I thought about it for about a second and snapped out of it! 

It is the most wonderful display of passion and obsession I have ever seen, it is like no shop you will ever go in. For me this is the definition of an Aladdin's cave.

Some of my other purchases! So tiny they are difficult to photograph!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Miniaturist: Book Review | The Small Desk

The name Petronella Oortman conjures up a character with a cold personality, a wealthy and distant member of the aristocracy, even the evil stepsister, yet she is anything but. The Miniaturist sees Nella transform from a shy, inquisitive girl, married to one of Amsterdam's richest merchants to a woman in charge of a household, in charge of her own life.

As a wedding present from her husband Nella receives a direct replica of her marital home and employs the talents of a miniaturist to furnish it, hence the title of the book. However despite creating some of the pieces Nella requests, the miniaturist also surprises her with prophetic creations. The way Burton describes these pieces makes you visualise them instantly, even the way they feel when held in the palm of your hand.

Despite the title of this book, its core direction is about Nella's transition from girl to woman through a series of exceptionally extraordinary events. I would go into more detail but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

The text is written so beautifully; it flows and is easy to read. The words are so effortlessly sewn together in perfect syntaxes that feel as if you are reading the prose of a literary great.

I know it is cliché to say but this book is a page-turner, with each event you are peeking around the next page scared of what is to come, but staggered by the incredible descriptions of some pretty morbid events.

Initially I purchased this book to see what all the hype was about. The book was titled ‘Waterstones Book of the Year’ and ‘Specsavers Book of the Year’ in 2014. I must confess, I didn't even know what it was about when I bought it! I read the blurb and was a bit concerned; I'm not normally a fan of reading novels set pre 1900, let alone the 1680s. In order for people to read this without any knowledge of 1680s Amsterdam, Burton has cleverly crafted the main character, Nella, to be so naïve about so many things that certain words or references can be explained through Nella’s dialogue with the other characters.

At first I was worried that I wouldn’t remember the names of all the characters. There are eight main characters and I found this a little daunting at first but I quickly remembered all the names, even if I did have to check the blurb a couple of times!

When I finished this book I was completely satisfied with the ending, but sad to say goodbye to Nella. I sat and reflected upon the book for a while, thinking how lucky I was to have been able to enjoy this text over the past few weeks.

I’ve heard Burton’s next book is about an artist… put it this way, I’ll be pre-ordering it as soon as it is written.


Sunday, 8 February 2015

Why I love the ballet | The Small Desk

The cast of Onegin

Yesterday I went to see a ballet called Onegin at the Royal Opera House. It is my favourite ballet of all time. Most famous ballets like the Nutcracker and Swan Lake all finish with a fairy tale ending, but not Onegin. It is the most emotional, heart wrenching, spine tingling ballet you will ever see. It shows almost every aspect of relationships; love, loss, passion, heartbreak, impossible decisions and conflicting emotions. The way they express themselves purely through movement with music is incredible. 

Professional dancers and professional musicians have been on long and incredibly arduous journeys to get to where they are. Whenever I watch the ballet I think about how these dancers have been training since they were young children, and the same for the musicians. It is a display of incredible talent, a gruelling test of what the body can do, and a phenomenal struggle of mind over matter. Yet they make it look so easy, elegant, and enjoyable. I'm sure it is enjoyable for some, but for others it is agony. 

I love to watch the ballet live. It's just not the same on TV or on film. These dancers are actors too and you can really feel the passion through going to watch it in the theatre. Sometimes I can't put my finger on why I like ballet so much. I know it is the dancers and the music, but it is also the costumes and the set design. It is all so sumptuous, rich, and aesthetically beautiful.

I've been obsessed with ballet and ballet music since I was a little girl. I used to watch ballet videos in my front room and dance around with either my sister, friends or my Sally doll! This is also why I love ballet, it brings back my childhood, and despite changing a lot over my lifetime, I like to hold onto this one pleasure that I've enjoyed ever since I can remember. I stopped having ballet lessons when I was 13, when I realised I was definitely not showing a flare for it!! However it is a very short lived profession and I do not have enough self-discipline! Watching the ballet makes me go into another world, I forget about everything and am totally absorbed in the performance. It is as close to magic as it gets for me. As I try to be anonymous as possible on this blog and do not share photos of myself, I thought it might be nice to share some photos of me from the past... practising my ballet!

 Royal Opera House


Tuesday, 3 February 2015

A cry for depictions of a messy life | The Small Desk

At the moment there seems to be a flurry of bloggers showing off their spectacularly pristine white houses and perfectly placed objects on Instagram. I can't scroll through my feed without seeing a collage of neatly placed items on whitewashed floor boards or marble trays. They present this image of tidiness and beauty that in reality no one can ever reach. It does not enable readers to relate to the content producer, only to aspire and lust after.

I wanted to write a post pointing out that it is ok to have a messy life! In fact it's more normal, far more practical and exciting. When I put my makeup on in the morning I'm in a panic about being late for work and there is no way it is left in a neat set up easy for me to Instagram and share, plus I wouldn't even have the time to set it up! I realise it is the sole occupation of some of these beauty bloggers but I don't think it's helpful or relatable for young women.

I probably tidy my flat once a week and obviously do a bit of tidying throughout the week but there is no way I'm going to spend all my time cleaning and tidying. I'm not saying I've got more important things to do and it would be fair to say that I do feel stressed out if everything is too messy, but I wouldn't want to be remembered as the girl who kept everything neat and tidy. Sometimes it does help to tidy up in order to make your mind feel less 'messy', but I think it is far more important to have time for yourself to relax and explore the possibilities of travel, education, and self-improvement.

You could argue all I need to do is to unfollow these bloggers with unrealistic ideals of beauty and lifestyle, but their followings are so large I feel the need to follow to understand the product of other bloggers' outputs. I wish that these bigger bloggers and vloggers would start to post more exciting and creative content… maybe I’m just not finding the right ones for me, suggestions welcome!

The main argument of this post is don’t think too much about trying to be like other bloggers, by arranging your lipsticks in a artsy way on a copper tray it does not mean you are living your life to the full. I want to read well-written content about things I care about, things I can realistically achieve and not ten ways I can fold the end of my toilet paper. This is a bit of a messy post itself, but messy is good, and I want to see more of it! 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

January Favourites 2015 | The Small Desk

Christmas has passed, everyone is skint, plus it is freezing! January is not my favourite month, however there have been some good things about this month and I thought I would share some of my favourites with you. In no particular order, let’s get started…

1. Pizza Pilgrims
On Friday night I went out with a couple of my old school friends to Pizza Pilgrims in Soho. I have previously done a review of this place on The Small Desk, but I completely forgot and thought we were going some place I’d never been before! This is not a favourite because of the pizza (although it was good), it is a favourite because I had such good giggles and chat with my friends and also found out one of them still reads my blog! Hey Sara!

2. Boyf’s birthday
Every time someone says January is the worst month I always feel sorry for the boyf whose birthday is in January. Each year we try to get as many people together as possible, but sometimes when there are more than ten people you just don’t get the time to talk to everyone or the group naturally splits. This year we decided to keep it smaller and only invite his home friends. We went to Wahaca for lunch and afterwards to a pub. Lunch and a pub are my ideal combination for hanging out with bigger groups of people. There were nine of us in total, which meant I just about got to catch up with everyone.

3. Walks in the park and tea at Ham House
One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to ‘get fit’. I have been swimming a couple of times this month, but the chlorine makes my skin so dry I find it hard to motivate myself to go. It’s been too cold to run, although I have done one run this month, but the easiest way I find to exercise is to go for a walk with my parents where there is guaranteed cake at the end! My favourite place to have cake at the moment is Ham House. It is a National Trust property with a hell of a cake selection. It is also by the River Thames, which makes it an equally satisfying walk.
4. New Year’s Day
I spent New Year’s in Cheltenham and on New Year’s Day we went for lunch with our friends who live there. It was a really nice day of browsing Cheltenham and chatting away the hours. We stayed over at my friend’s house along with her boyfriend. We’ve been dating our boyf’s almost the same amount of time and met through them as well, so it’s a really nice relaxed little group to hang out in, as we know each other so well.

5. Dishoom
I wrote a post about Dishoom, the experience and the food, but I went with two of my old school friends and again, had such a laugh. When I was at school I had a core group of friends and amazingly we have all managed to remain friends since we left school nearly NINE years ago! What?!?!?! It doesn’t feel like that long ago!

6. Sister over for pizza and Saturday night TV
I’ve seen my sister a fair bit this month, I’d like to see her more as we were so close when we were little and I’d find it really really sad if we ever grew apart. Although it is nice to go out for dinner and to the cinema, sometimes there is nothing better than spending time watching Saturday night TV and eating pizza, especially as it is something we would have done when we were both living at home.

7. Lunch with Mum at Côte
Often I will meet my Dad for lunch during the week as he only works around the corner from me, but this month I had the pleasure of going for lunch with my Mum instead. I love spending time with my Mum one-on-one, as she gives the best advice and listens to me rant on about things that aren’t really important!

8. Elizabeth is Missing
This was my first book review on The Small Desk! Go check it out! I love, love, love this book and it helped improve my mood on numerous occasions throughout January.

9. Booked flights for Scandinavia trip
Another of my New Year’s Resolutions was to go on a Scandinavian holiday, and we booked our flights to Copenhagen last week! We’ve decided to not include the Norwegian fjords, as the price would sky rocket. Also, we have seen the fjords in New Zealand, which don’t have cruise ships sailing through them like the Norwegian ones. I’m so excited!

10. Interviewing people
My final favourite I say with caution. I have found this fun but also really tough and emotionally draining. I’ve been interviewing people for a new position at my work and whilst it has been interesting meeting new people, the deciding process has really stressed me out. It can be life changing for someone to offer them a job and I haven’t taken the decision lightly. However I’m glad I’ve had the experience and this is why it’s gone in the favourites list.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through my January Favourites! Despite having lots of fun this month I am really hoping for warmer weather in February. Let me know what your favourites have been this month! 
P.S. One last favourite is that my Mum wrote a blog post for The Small Desk! Click here to read it!
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