Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Marrakech Part One: Chaos Vs. Tranquility

So here we go, finally something a little more interesting for you to read and not me making fairly useless ramblings about daily life. Last week I finally had my last day at work and embarked upon a little trip to Marrakech with a friend of mine, her family, and two other couples who were friends of her parents. Needless to say I was on top of the world at the thought of heading out to a new destination, particularly Morocco as it’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go.

A gem of Marrakech; some
bloody good leather.
After having been there a couple of days, I started to think about my first impressions of Marrakech, and also asked a few of the people I was with of theirs. It was safe to say we all had the same picture; busy and chaotic. Due to Marrakech being such a tourist spot with markets and stalls around every corner, during trade hours there was never a quiet moment without a shopkeeper trying to get your attention and encouraging you to spend.

A few of the people I was with had never experienced anything quite like this before, and I myself was very happy I’d been to India and had therefore anticipated the same kind of vibe. Even the bartering shopkeepers aside, there was never a moment where a moped beeping its horn, a shabby looking donkey shuffling along or a tradesman shouting ‘Attention!!’ wasn’t trying to get past you.

It struck me however that nothing seemed too rushed or hurried, other than the incomprehensible Arabic language. These people seem to thrive and feed off the chaotic energy flying around the place, and it only seemed overwhelming to us because there’s just so much packed into these tiny streets. The cramped little shops, deeper than they are wider with more trinkets and treasures in than you can imagine, are certainly not built for gentle perusal.

Even though the hustle and bustle is what first hits you about this city, there are several little hotspots of tranquillity that can ease your addled mind and your probably tired feet.

The Palace el Bahia offers a labyrinth of regal chambers and greenery springing from its courtyards, and some quiet away from the busy roads, only a few metres away from its walls. A second palace, The Palace el Badii, presents more sparse and desolate surroundings as it dates back to the 16th century. If you use your imagination hard enough you could attempt to build a picture of what it may have looked like. If not, go on the terrace and soak up the view, along with some mammoth and gravity-defying stork nests.

A crunchy looking tree
in the Majorelle Gardens.
The Majorelle Gardens also boasts a spot of heaven, owned by Yves Saint-Laurent and also the place where his ashes were scattered, and I certainly don’t blame him! As you stroll through the towering foliage, the bedlam of inner Marrakech seems like a lifetime away.

One final place I would recommend is the Mederssa Ben Youssel, a religious school which has not been used since the 1960’s but is available to the general public to look around and is located right next the Marrakech’s busiest scene, the souks. To say the carvings and architecture are beautiful is an understatement; the intricacy of it all is mind-blowing. It once housed over 800 students, and there are only around 130 rooms. Regardless of how cramped it may have been, you really get a sense of the solitude and basic lifestyle these people lived.
One drawback to all these little safe havens amongst the uproar of the markets is that they are tourist spots, and therefore, full of tourists. I myself am not one too keen on falling into those traps, but sometimes there are things you just can’t afford to miss.

Some tiles my father would
appreciate in the Mederssa
Due to this however, it has to be said that the essence of Marrakech must be that chaos that you either love or hate. The city delights each and every one of your senses. Smells of spices, metal, leather, chocolate and oils creep into your nostrils at any given moment, along with sewage, which nips in from time to time. The vivid and bright colours make it hard for the eyes to focus on any one thing at a time. Shouts, beeps, hoots and clucks flood your ears.

Two things stand out for me when writing this piece. We saw around 50 live chickens strapped to a motorbike speeding past us in the main square, all bobbing their heads at the same time. On another occasion, a man in a wheelchair very bravely took one look at a huge roundabout (forget the highway code, the cars just do what they want!) and decided to just wheel his way right into the traffic and eventually made it over to the other side. This madness is the real Marrakech. 

Thursday, 14 October 2010

High Culture/Low Culture Part Two: Trash

Life without at TV for me really isn’t much of a struggle. Don’t most of you make out that there’s never anything on TV anyway?! When doing it my way, I watch the programmes I want, when I want to watch them, and don’t waste my time putting any old thing on which I know is what I would do, and I also don’t have to pay for a TV license, hooray!

I will be completely honest at this point though, and admit that when I do get my hands on a TV, I watch and are addicted to some complete and utter rubbish. I love The Hills. I love America’s Next Top Model. I love Girls of the Playboy Mansion. I continually damn myself whilst sitting back and enjoying the hilarity that is each and every one of these programmes. But that’s all I see them as, examples of how other people lives are just downright ridiculous. What is it in me that still loves a bit of trash?! In fact, what is it in all of us?

I scorned a co-worker the other day for buying a copy of The Daily Star, a newspaper dedicated to printing useless information. When I buy the paper, I buy it to learn something. Granted, finding out who got off their tits last weekend and fell out of a taxi with their hoohaa on show is learning something, but I’m hardly going to use that information anywhere else (perhaps the odd pub quiz in the following weeks, an answer that could win you vital points!).

But once again I will admit that I flicked through the damn thing and enjoyed it! Is it just because you can completely judge someone in the spotlight through their own merit (debatable) and we love to see people fall from the world of fame? Can gossip to our hearts content with no repercussions whatsoever? I think so. Most of these people put themselves in the spotlight though, what do they expect? And I’m sure once upon a time before their rise to fame they enjoyed such past times as well.

Maybe it’s just that you can watch something like The Hills and completely switch off your brain and not have to think about what you’re viewing. Now I’ve said it like that, I feel like it’s a complete waste of my life. And so is me re-watching all the box sets I own. But I genuinely love being about to just switch off after work and go home to a familiar TV programme that I know I’ve enjoyed countless times before.

There are some truly informative programmes on TV however and I won’t discredit it completely. But I will say that it’s never the informative programmes I hear about. No one ever says ‘Oooohhh did you watch that Panorama last night? Dispatches? No?’. It’s usually, ‘It reminds me of that advert…you know…that one with the monkey’. Or, ‘Did you watch Big Brother?!’ in a desperate and impatient tone. Something tells me I’m not missing out too much?! 

Saturday, 9 October 2010

High Culture/Low Culture Part One: The Book Worm

The subject for my next post sprung into my mind from several conversations we’ve had at work recently about how I don’t have a TV in my flat. Yes, that’s right. But what does all my furniture point at? (I don’t have room for furniture.) But, doesn’t you flat look empty?! (Never. I have too much crap for it to look empty regardless of a lack of TV.) But…but…What do you do all day?! (When I’m not at work? I watch endless box sets on my computer. And I read books.)

Back to my lack of TV later, this is an ongoing post. What I want to talk about first is books, a fading hobby in my generation. It reminds me of a line out of Sex and the City (a staple programme in my box set viewing, it’s lame I know) when someone questions at Carrie’s book launch; ‘Does anybody read books anymore?’

I know so many people my age or in their twenties that haven’t read a single book since school, and even back then they didn’t read a whole one. Truth be told I was never such a book advocate until second year of Uni, even though I had picked to do English back in sixth form. I liked the idea of books I think, but was thoroughly lazy and felt like it took up too much time when you could just watch a film in two hours.

But that’s the thing surely, people just feel like they don’t have the time. People who say they don’t have time to read are idiots. You don’t have time to read but you have time to watch TV for hours on end in the evenings? Even someone who works 24/7 can afford to slip in a chapter every morning on the train or on a lunch break. I think our modern culture’s conception of time and how vital it is can often ruin something like just simply kicking back and reading a book; enjoying something over an extended period of time instead of getting it over and done with as soon as possible.

Of course one could argue you could relax by watching the tele. For me, reading just seems like a much more private activity, something that is going on in my head, with my imagination. I’m putting my picture of the scenario into place and making my own reflections upon it. Perhaps that stems from my enjoyment of being hermit sometimes and revelling in my own company, but so what? That’s the joy of reading I say.

Some people call me a ponse for thinking this kind of thing. I don’t think that I’m better than other people because I read more, and believe me, I still enjoy switching my mind off to watch things I’ve seen a million times before just because it’s easy. I just think it’s a shame that an activity enjoyed by almost the entire world over for thousands of years seems to be dwindling and if supporting reading makes me a ponse to try and encourage it, then so be it.

But in a way, perhaps reading isn’t fading as much as you would first think. It’s still something fundamental that we are taught at school. Simply reading something off a bit of paper or a blackboard is how we learn from primary school age after all. I also don’t know many kids who don’t enjoy having stories read to them at bedtime. It just scares me that with more and more media and technology being provided and introduced into schools, the idea that you’d learn from a book could die out one day. If it’s something you’re not brought up with at school, why would you then go on to read in your adult life?

One of the greatest things I like about reading is the idea that you can carry a book anywhere with you. I don’t know what I would do on trains if I didn’t have a book, and perhaps my iPod.  Once you’ve finished, you can then turn to someone else and say ‘I’ve just read this amazing book, you have to read it’, and give them the exact copy you yourself have enjoyed. Yeah you can do that with a DVD but it’s not quite the same as knowing that you’ve turned each and every page like the person before you. I also love the way that you can have completely different perceptions of what the characters or settings look like even though you have read exactly the same words.

People, keep reading or start reading. Even if it just means I can continue to enjoy, for a very long time, the new books smell I get whenever I walk into Waterstones. 

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Full? What is Full?

Those avid followers of my writing out there will now know that my general goal in life is to live it to the full. This has come into my mind even more so in the past week in light of very unexpectedly losing a friend of mine. His thanksgiving service was yesterday, and amidst the tears and atmosphere of tragedy in that packed out church, the stories told about Matt repeatedly emphasised his love of life, and his ability to make the most of every second.

The sense of untiy in that church yesterday was overwhelming. We were all there remembering and taking joy in the person Matt was. To say what happened to him was an incredible shame seems a little short, and nothing can describe the pain I saw in the faces of the people closest to him. However, as I’ve said in previous posts, one thing you can take away from it is the live for every moment, who knows when it will end?

Then I got to thinking, what exactly do we mean by living life to the full? It’s not the most practical of ideas. The way I would feel like I was living life to most full would be to be continuously on the road, seeing the world. But let’s be honest, that’s just not possible is it?! I stand at work and think ‘Am I really living life to the full? Right now?’ No. Of course I’m bloody not. But I’m working to live life as much as I can, and head out on my travels later in the year. Whoever said to live each day as if it were your last must have had a pretty cushdy life; it is a completely impractical philosophy.

The way I then started to think about it was that it is possible to make the most of each day as it comes, in whatever situation you may be in, and as much as time/space/money allows. I woke up this morning feeling pretty blue, a little puffy-eyed, and generally quite fuzzy. After a couple of hours of that and two cups of tea later, I didn’t feel any better, stuck at work and just wanting to be in bed. But I just thought: is this really getting me anywhere?

I have my bad days at work, but I really hate the idea that I’m spreading negative vibes by being in a bad mood. This affects people even more so when you’re standing around with nothing to do and the only other person there is freakin’ miserable.

In Matt’s service it was mentioned how much he loved film, music and being with friends, and that in itself was how he lived life to it’s extreme. Most of us think that doesn’t seem like enough to be living life to it’s best potential, but is it not? If you have goals to achieve in other ways to really live, can’t you in the mean time enjoy life by just relishing in these simple pleasures?

I think it’s all about experience. If every day you read a bit more of a book you’re enjoying, watch a film you’ve never seen before, learn something more about a co-worker you’ve been forced to stand around with and chat to all day, that’s got to be some kind of progress right?

Living life to the full doesn’t mean you have to jump on a plane somewhere or continuously be spontaneous. Although I will try this on any occasion possible, whilst I muster up the money to do so I’m trying to live every day to the full by learning and exploring. Some days I fail, and I mope around at work. On these occasions I regret having achieved nothing and feel sad at the thought that I haven’t made anyone’s day a bit brighter.

Today, I popped in to see an old friend who works round the corner from me five days a week, and I never make the effort to see him. This meeting cheered me up no end, and it reminded me to never take that kind of friendship for granted. You never know when it might be gone. This is how I have lived today. 

Monday, 4 October 2010

Selling Yourself

Since handing in my notice, along with just about everyone else at my place of work due to most of our weekenders going to University, we have been inundated with CV’s. In my last job I gained the power of reading these CV’s and having an input into eliminating the job prospects of complete strangers. I’m not going to lie; I took great pleasure in it. Who wouldn’t? You get to completely judge a member of the public you will most likely never meet again. You know how well they did at school, college or University. You know their hobbies and interests, and you can generally gain a picture of this applicant from the layout and presentation of the resume itself.

I know that makes me seem like a bit of an arse but come on, I know you all secretly agree. To be fair, it is incredibly hard to manage to successfully sell yourself on a piece of paper. It is also pretty tricky to work out how to phrase it without knowing that the person reading it would have heard it all before. With CV’s applying for job’s in retail in particular, it seems that everyone is hard-working, can work in a team as well as on their own, and everyone likes a challenge.

I’m pretty brutal when sifting through a big pile of applications, and very quick to dismiss people. That sounds bad but you’ve gotta get through them somehow! I go straight for the grades first, but the true shining moment I find the greatest to read on a CV is the hobbies and interests. What human beings decide to reveal to potential employers in order to make themselves sound like the best candidate for the job should surely be part of some kind of scientific study. Here are a few of my favourites, and keep in mind the job these people are going for is a sales assistant in a clothing store…

  • ‘I can complete a rubix cube in less than six seconds.’
  • ‘I have no formal training and no driving license’
  • ‘I often spend evenings writing letters, so I can keep in touch’ (Quite blatantly a lie but I just imagined some insane eccentric character sitting at home surrounded by paper frantically writing and licking stamps)
  • ‘I have a pet bearded dragon which I care for on a daily basis and am responsible for’ (Know where you were going with this one, but really?!)
  • One applicant decided to refer to themselves entirely in the third person. Emma was very humoured by this.
  • ‘I have slight retail experience. I also have slight forklift experience’
  • In a short list of hobbies, a young man simply put ‘Go town’ as one of his interests.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, a good CV shines out like a beacon of hope. We had one guy apply who mentioned that he took part in charity event against 40 other people and the winner was the person who could get the furthest away from London in three days without spending any money. This guy came third in the competition and got to Warsaw. Now, I had his details. I’ll be honest, I wanted to ring him. Purely to pick his brains about how he did it and where the winner made it to!

My own CV is pretty standard. Having said all these things about bad ones from other people, I myself put the wrong phone number, an old address and no date of birth on mine when I handed about fifteen out last year. Nice one Emma.