Saturday, May 31, 2014

London Returning, Summer 2014

PSYCH. Though you'd got rid of me, eh? EH? Well, THINK AGAIN.

Ignore the cheesy title. But, yes, I'm back.


Back in black.

Not really back in black, more like greys and muted tones.

Nothing having to do with happy, vibrant colours, because Britain just doesn't do that kind of thing.

Depressing sods.

To make a, frankly, short story even shorter (and I say this, taking into consideration the fact that I'm a rambler, and I can make even the shortest most boring story into a saga that could give The Odyssey a run for its money), I got a job this summer. Not an internship like last summer, but an actual pseudo-job that required contracts and employment forms. No visas, thanks to my nifty Irish passport - but yes, a job. With none other than the incredible, the indescribable and the fantastic DreamCareers. So, you know how they're an internship placement company based out of Washington D.C.? Well, last summer I was placed with Irresistible Films because of them. And, obviously, it was an incredible experience because I just ended up applying for a staff position for them, and I was - fantastically, freakishly - given an offer! So, pretty much, I'm going to spend this summer living in London, England, again. But this time, I'll be working with DreamCareers on marketing the program, assisting interns, creating awesome videos and slideshows for the interns, setting up cool events outside of their internships, and generally just doing my best to be a helping hand as they navigate their internships, London, and possibly the rest of their lives.

Additionally, in my free time, I'm going to be working with a bunch of cool, awesome people, meeting up (hopefully, if job / time permits) with my lovely British friends, and possibly seeing the one and the only Martin Freeman perform in Richard III on the West End this summer.

(Yes, that's right. I'm finally going to meet Martin Freeman. I'm serious this time, you guys. Like, for real.)

This summer is also a chance for me to get ready for the next big chapter of my life, which starts this upcoming September. I'm thrilled to say that I've been accepted into the M.F.A. in Acting at the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in New York City! It wasn't my first choice - the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art tragically (predictably) rejected me - but this is one of the best acting institutions in the entire world, and I'm thrilled and honoured to be able to attend such a prestigious institution with such a long history of integrity and artistic vigour - AND, I get to attend it with a group of incredibly talented and vivacious individuals.

And, I mean, if you think about it, spending last summer in London was the main reason why I decided to pursue further education in theatre and acting. So, in a way, you could say that London is the reason that I'm going to New York City in August.

Short story shorter - I'm one lucky bitch. A really lucky bitch.

I don't have a lot of time to get going with this blog post, to be honest - I'm currently sitting in my terminal, waiting to board my flight headed to London, Heathrow after an eight hour layover in Calgary, Canada. And I'm in Calgary, Canada because that was literally the cheapest way to get to London after I epically procrastinated on getting the tickets together. But, Canada's pretty awesome, so this entire experience has been pretty awesome so far. :)

I'll be throwing up a post about Canada soon, so no worries - and I'll be putting up the post about Edinburgh, Scotland from last summer, too! I never actually got around to finishing it up, due to many and varied reasons. But it'll be posted soon, I swear to you. I SWEAR TO YOU.

So... here it goes again. The great (second) adventure. Finding 221B again, perhaps - or perhaps something more... we'll see! Either way, I'm incredibly thrilled to be headed back to one of my favorite cities - if not my favorite city - in the entire world.

So, cheers, y'all. Let's cause some damage! :)

Katie Mac

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The End

There's not really a lot to say in regards to this final blog post, because beating around the bush at this point is useless.

The subtitle to this blog is, as you can see, "... or how I found 221B Baker Street." I expected this to be an incredible ordeal - wandering around London in search of the infamous flat of one Sherlock Holmes and a Dr. John Watson. However, what was so hilarious is that I found the literal 221B Baker Street on my first weekend here, and then the "other" one not but two weeks after that. What's even more hilarious, though, is the fact that those two locations are completely superfluous to what I really found. In every medium - from the original short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to the early films, to the Hollywood reboot, to the BBC-One series - there is one overarching theme, and that is London. Sherlock Holmes would not have been able to remain sane without this city, and Dr. John Watson couldn't imagine himself going anywhere else after he returned from the war... Just try and imagine it - Sherlock and John without London... impossible, right? London was the deciding factor in their story. It was the catalyst of their friendship, the parchment upon which their journey was catalogued from painstaking case to painstaking case... from the beginning to the bitter end and Sherlock's "Final Bow."

London is the book, and they were the story. And, like so many others before me, I leave a chapter of my life in this awesome city.

So, sure, I found 221B Baker Street - but I found much more than that here. I found London, and by finding London, I found myself... in a way. I still don't understand completely who I am, or why I'm here, or what I'm meant to do with my life but coming here has at least helped me go in the right direction, helped me figure out what I ultimately want and love in life.

I couldn't have found these things out without this once-in-a-lifetime experience in this incredible city, and for that I am eternally grateful. No words can describe these emotions that I'm feeling in my heart, and the love that I feel for this city and all that is has offered me - all that I have taken away from it. I will cherish every lesson learned, every adventure taken, every mistake made and every reward given. I guess that, really, all that matters is that... I know what I have gained from London. Verbalisation is unnecessary, as long as I keep it close to my heart. <3

I usually end every post with a song that has been on my mind that current week, and they've varied from Scottish punk-funk-rock-whateverthisis to wizardrock to pop to oldies tunes, to French songs and the like. But no song can appropriately commemorate the end of this journey. It was an incredible chapter, an awesome reboot - a really good book. And there are definitely going to be some sequels. Whether or not they're successful on the shelves or in theatres is really just irrelevant. Because life without the shit can't make the garden... this isn't the end, even if it feels like it.

So, with that, I leave you with one of the most important lessons that I've learned in my life - a lesson that I've only come to appreciate while here, as I revisited my childhood and looked towards the future. 

And that is that the things that we love the most never truly leave us.

"The stories we love best do live in us forever, so whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home." - J.K. Rowling

... not really.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

London Called...

... and I answered. And thank God I picked up the damn phone.

To start off this post, I'm not going to do the typical introduction (other than my Spotify playlist, which is now... obscenely long), but rather I'm going to post a list of some random things that I learned in London / things that I would tell people going to London for a short time or an extended stay. It's certainly not all that I learned in London, but there are some amusing tidbits here and there that I hope you'll enjoy.

Spotify, per usual. Enjoy, peoples.

  1. "Radioactive" - Pentatonix (feat. Lindsay Sterling)
  2. "Sabrina" - The Fake Carls (download their free EP here - my roommate's band!)
  3. "Theme from 'Hot Fuzz'" - David Arnold (from Hot Fuzz)
  4. "End of an Era" - Oliver Boyd and the Rememberalls
  5. "The Year Turns Round Again" - J. Tams Arr. A. Sutton & T. Van Eyken (from War Horse)
So, without further ado...

Advice I Would Give to People Going to London

  1. There is still a language barrier. Don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.
  2. Don't depend on the Tube to get you places when you're in a pinch. It's usually a liar or a quitter.
    1. But you'll still probably use it, even after you begin to hate it with every inch of your being. And you'll probably miss it when you leave.
      1. It's a love-hate relationship.
  3. Double decker bus drivers are either constantly drunk or adrenaline-junkies. Or they just hate the world and all of the hapless pedestrians that inhabit it.
  4. When milk expires in the United Kingdom... it freakin' expires. Throw it away. Don't ask questions. Don't test it out, unless you want to become acquainted with your toilet in ways that you never thought would be possible.
  5. Never eat on-the-go and expect to be able to throw things away. There are no public bins anywhere, and even when you think there are... they're not actually there. Spare yourself the trouble and just eat indoors. And they will never - never - be anywhere near public transportation, including tube stations, bus stations and train stations.
    1. So, if you want to eat on the go, fine, do it - just patiently cart around your rubbish and have everyone stare at you as they think, "She's obviously new here."
  6. No matter how hot it gets - and it does actually get hot in Britain - someone in the office will always want a nice, hot cuppa.
    1. That will probably include yourself.
  7. If pub alcohol was the same price as alcohol that you could get from the Tesco's down the street... you'd probably literally never leave. Alas, though, that's not the case.
    1. Buy yourself some drinks, put them in your fridge, and always pre-game.
    2. Then, you are allowed to go to the pub to get a drink or two.
      1. ... that will probably lead to more.
      2. Let's face it, you're going to blow all of your money on booze (England ftw).
    3. Also, if you go to a pub and order an "Irish car bomb," prepared to either be smacked, glared at or chewed out for insensitivity / traditional American ignorance.
  8. Trains are awesome. Take them when you can. And day trips are equally fascinating, relaxing and enjoyable. If America had public transportation systems like Britain did, life would be infinitely more exciting and navigable.
    1. If you decide to go on a day trip to Oxford, make sure that you go punting - but avoid dead deer carcasses. They explode if you accidentally go over them.
  9. If you can go to a world premiere of a film, just freakin' do it - not only will you meet awesome people (Fae, Kirsti, Alli, Shannon), but you just might be able to meet a famous person or two.
  10. Take as many pictures as you possibly can, and keep a blog if you'd like, as well - especially if you're doing an extended trip. It's really worth it, in the end.
  11. Never underestimate the power, danger and sheer agony of tea-making.
  12. Go to the park, pull out a book and read while eating cheese and drinking wine (or cider, your preference). Or do something of the like - don't forget to sit back and enjoy the view sometimes (and not the rubbish skyline they're trying to make).
  13. Go to museums. They're free and they have air conditioning.
  14. Go to the Harry Potter tours at Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden. It's worth the £5 train ride there, the £2 bus fare and the £30 ticket. Spend as much time as you can in all of the places that you can spend time in - and don't forget to try the butterbeer!
  15. Finding green food here is more difficult than you can imagine. If you want to eat healthy, you're going to have to make more of an effort / have more money. Prepare for the inevitable London diet of bread, meet and lager.
  16. Don't eat at Pizza Express unless you desire food poisoning.
    1. Do try the pub food, though, even if it's lacking in greens. One plate of fish and chips, and you're set for the rest of the day.
  17. Don't speak on the Tube. The Tube is meant for silent brooding, not loud American chatter. Just sit down (or stand up) and don't say anything unless absolutely necessary, otherwise the wrath of the almighty London working-class will rain down upon you with all of its might and terror.
  18. You will run out of money. Don't listen to anyone who says otherwise. You. Will. Run. Out. Of. Money. Don't buy anything expensive, ever. Even food that's decently priced. Don't listen to the menu, it's a liar. Just buy an appetiser and then drink a lot of water. It's better for your wallet and for your gut (water / booze is incredibly filling).
    1. When you literally don't have any money anymore - not even money to eat (this WILL happen, people) - then you can always scrounge together enough coins to go to a Sainsbury's or a Tesco's and get some artificial chicken or something equally disgusting... but it's still food (let's hope - I don't ask questions anymore).
    2. Or spend it all on booze. See No. 7 (above).
  19. See a show on the West End - preferably a British show (Billy Elliot, War Horse, Matilda, etc...), but see a damn show. There is nothing like a West End show - Broadway may be more spectacular, but something about the West End makes theatre more personal, an that's more precious than any multi-million dollar extravaganza.
  20. Spend time wandering around - don't have a plan some days. Just wake up early, get outside and walk around until you can't feel your feet anymore.
    1. London is the question, not the answer. And trying to plan around it is, most of the times, completely useless and superfluous and you won't get anything out of it.
    2. Get lost and enjoy the thrill of the unsolvable riddle.
    3. And don't just stick around the typical boroughs (Westminster, the City of London, Islington, Chinatown, Kensington etc...) Check out some random places, too, like Shoreditch or Banglatown or Hammersmith or Stratford or even Bermondsey (though trek there with caution).
  21. Do something completely stupid and ridiculous and reckless - something that you'll look back on later and go, "What the fuck was I thinking?" Playing it safe is boring, life is too short to be comfortable, and what happens in London stays in London.
  22. If you're working in London, call in sick one day and do something ridiculous and unprofessional - like sit in the hot sun for four hours (with a second degree burn) to meet Martin Freeman (flake) and Simon Pegg (awesome).
    1. If you're not... you lucky bastard. Just do stupid shit anyway.

My Last Few Days in London...

... have been so wonderful. Unlike many other adventures of mine in this incredible city, these last few days have been literally just... I don't know. Pubs? Talking? Clubs? Walking? Enjoying? Experiencing? Whatever verb you want to interject into this statement, it's been less of an adventure and more of a... reminiscing period. Time to reflect, relax and spend time with the awesome fellow Dreamers (and my lovely British friends!) that I've come to call my "London family"... it's been fantastic. It's almost good that I got this time to unwind and reflect, because if my last few days here were as hectic as the rest of this adventure has been, then I would be concerned not only for my sanity, but for the sanity of those around me!

Wednesday evening was sort of a parting of ways for all of us Dreamers. I went to the Bistro (this food place that DreamCareers has a deal with) before going on over to the final seminar at this hotel near the student accommodations. There, we saw a fun video called "Shit Dreamers Never Say," which was absolutely hilarious and completely true ("I always get a seat on the tube!" "This gym has so many options in regards to physical fitness!" "I have so much NIDO cash left!" "I never go on Facebook at work!" "I'm going to the Focus group tonight!" "I just don't like drinking!"), before we did a talent show. Julie (awesome roommate in band, remember?!) sang this incredible original song that made me literally cry. I'm not sure what it's called ("Moving On," maybe...?), but it was just awesome and everyone was just completely blown away by her performance. It was such a perfect song for the occasion, you know? I was such a wreck. After that, I went up and did a little song, which was fun!

Then, we saw a final slideshow with all of these photos from the trip, which was so fun to look back on everything that we go to do here - from our first day, to the focus group seminars with all of these incredible speakers, to Paris, to Oxford, to the London experience in general... it was just nostalgia everywhere. <3 So sad.

The best part of our final seminar as Dreamers, though, was the toast that we all shared at the end. We each got a little plastic cup of champagne, and we were told to go forwards and make a toast to something. People toasted to the Nido cafe (you meet cool people there), to the trip in general, to the staff for helping us out (I made sure to toast to Nemo for taking care of me when I got burned), to Stefan for hooking us up with these incredible internships... but there were overwhelming toasts to all of us, to the fellow Dreamer next to us who made us believe that we could go that extra mile and achieve our dreams, and that we belonged. That our dreams weren't as unachievable that we thought, and that there were a bunch of people around us who were just as ambitious, as hard working... and who wanted to reach their dreams just as badly as you want to reach yours. It was so motivating, but also humbling. I've always considered myself an overachiever... until I came here. I am far from an overachiever - there are so many more people out there who are working that much harder than I am - and that makes me that much further from reaching my dream than I thought. I have to work that much harder to do right by these awesome people.

To any Dreamers who might be reading this blog... thank you, for the trip of literally a life time. I'd like to say that I don't know if I've been changed for the better (just like Wicked), but I know that I have been, and it's all thanks to you. One life. <3

Obligatory Underground photograph.
After the seminar, we all had a singular goal in mind - to live it up while we could. And we're a bunch of 20-somethings in a city with a bustling night-life and a fantastic drinking age. That, combined with the fact that Ira (awesome sauce to the extreme) got all of us Dreamers an incredible deal at one of the top lounges in London, was a recipe for incredibleness. We all (20+ of us) went down to Piccadilly Circus together to get schmammered and have a blast! And while a lot of people ended up enjoying the Lounge that we went to... it just wasn't my cup of tea. My main girl, Lakin, and I looked at one another (after I finished up my £6 beer - day light robbery, I say), and pretty much just said, "... pub."

We didn't end up going to the pub. But, we did have an incredible time running through the streets of London and through the London Underground singing "Don't Rain on My Parade" from Funny Girl at the top of our lungs. Literally, the top of our lungs - through the King's Cross Underground, and at Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus. And there's no other way that I would've wanted to spend that evening - with one of my best friends here, acting like complete fools at midnight... in London. It was like weren't even living our own lives, everything was just too "movie perfect."

My Girls...

... and I had a wonderful time Thursday evening. After yet another wonderful but confusing day of work (as I was progressively beginning to realise that - oh shit - I only have two days of work left at Irresistible Films, what has my life come to?), I headed straight over to none other than The World's End pub in Camden Town to not only say goodbye to probably one of the coolest pubs around, but also to some incredible friends that I've met along the way here and back home... I saw Deej and Sarah again, which was fantastic, and also some of his friends from LAMDA, which was equally exciting. Not only that, but I got to see Alli and Shannon again - remember them? Those awesome chicks that I met at the world premiere of The World's End? And I went to the Cornetto trilogy thing with them at the VUE Theatre at Leicester Square? Yup, those awesome peoples. :) The icing on top of the cake, though, was getting to see Kelly again... and also, my lovely British friend Mike, who I got to know last semester when he studied abroad at the University of Colorado. Awkward, seeing as how I was his RA last semester, but he's definitely older than me and is quite more experienced in the realm of drinking (Lobster). We had a blast, sitting at this cramped little table while awesome, Celtic-folk music was being performed live literally two booths away... and we just talked. We talked politics, film, live, London, just... anything, really. I got to spend time with some awesome people in an awesome city, and that's that I could have ever asked for.

This Brit...
Even after Deej and his friends said a final farewell (though they're going to be in Edinburgh when I am - how awesome is that? Pub, maybe?) because they had class the next morning (lame), I got to spend some more quality time with Mike, Kelly, Alli and Shannon (quality time meaning that The World's End closed and we stood outside talking and making fools of ourselves for a good thirty minutes) before we finally - and sadly - parted ways. Mike and I said our final farewell in some tube station somewhere and shared some choice insults ("Bloody Yank!" "Shut up, you Lobster!") before I headed back home to spend some quality time with some fellow Dreamers - Ryan, Scott, Robby - and some of the girls that I've come to call my family here: Alison, Julie, Lizzie, Nicole and Morgan!

Okay, so a quick background story... during this entire trip, we have all come to understand that we are incredible random and bizarre people who just... say things sometimes that are just absolutely absurd. It began with "I thought that everything was going wrong, and then I realised that I just needed to poop," and slowly culminated into something rather disturbing but hilarious. About... 120 quotes in total were compiled over this incredible summer (if they appear on a blog post anytime soon, I'll share the link), and to celebrate (or commiserate) the end, we all sat down and played a drinking game - Who said what quote? What was the context? It was great fun! Some of the quotes were... well, straight up disgusting, but what can we say? No regrets. One life.

And Then Friday...

... came along, and I said goodbye to probably one of the coolest film companies around. Work was work, as always, and the fact that I only had 9 hours left at this company didn't deter any of the producers from throwing some work my way - from plane flights to cataloguing film from a shoot that they'd just done in Sweden, to social media, to running errands, I was kept pretty busy on my last day in our awesome, little office in Shoreditch. But when 2:00pm rolled around, Matt took me to The Golden Heart (pub, le duh), and bought me two pints of good, strong lager. Thoroughly tipsy, I returned and finished up the working day, only to return to the pub after 6:00pm rolled around to continue drinking and having a great time spending some quality time with my now-former-coworkers. Katy (love this girl) even gave me a parting gift before she had to bustle off to catch her train, and that was of chocolates. Literally the best gift that anyone could have ever given to me! I had so much fun taking the commute back from Shoreditch to King's Cross every day with you, and getting to know you in the office and out - and especially looking at fun kitten pictures together! <3 You made me feel like I belonged in the office, and I'm so grateful! I'll be keeping in touch!

I said some sad goodbyes to Kirk, Harry, Paul and Georgina, too, and I can only say... thank you for the awesome experience, for all of the laughs and the crazy adventures to Beckenham and Shoreditch High Street and Halliford and back again - I wouldn't have traded any day at work for something else, and my time learning from you and speaking with you all was invaluable. <3 Special shout out to Harry, who was my supervisor during this entire process. You rock, and thank you for giving me the chance to work for you guys!

After I said my final goodbyes, I headed on over back to NIDO to spend some quality with with, yet, another British friend that I made in Colorado. Kat studied at the University of Colorado's Theatre Department last semester, so I got to see her around the Theatre Building now and again... what's so strange is that, while we got along when we actually had the chance to speak, we never actually got to hang out and spend some quality time together. So, in honour of not only getting to meet up with a bod from the ol' U.S. of A, but trying to get rid of my Bistro free-meal cards (people gave me a ton at the end of the trip - which was greatly appreciated - but I actually ended up having more than I could handle), Kat and I sat down at the Bistro, got ourselves some (free) drinks, ate (free) burgers followed by (free) desserts... and talked about life and politics and theatre and the like and hot damn, this girl is incredible. It's so sad that we only got to spend one evening together before I left, but it was an evening well spent.

After that... I went back to the beginning. To O'Neill's! My girls and I sat down, drank a few pints... and definitely cried. But we also laughed too, and made fools of ourselves singing "Sweet Caroline" at the top of our voices (I like how people were placing bets on whether or not we were American). It was the best goodbye I could've thought of, to go back to the place where our friendships all began. <3 Love you girls so much.

My Last Day in London, England

I woke up to an empty flat and an empty Nido, which was... incredibly depressing. Half of the Dreamers had left the night before, and my girls had taken shuttles at 6:00am to Heathrow to catch their planes back to their respective American cities. I finished packing up my things, tidied up the toilet a little, did the dishes... and left Nido. I said my goodbyes to some people here and there, but I'm not very good with this kind of thing... saying goodbye to these people is not like saying goodbye to people at school, because at least at school you know that you'll see them again. With these guys... I'm not so sure.

I hitched the Piccadilly Line down to Kensington and Chelsea to Kelly's flat - out of the goodness of her heart, she let me sleep at her flat for the one night that I didn't have accommodations in this wonderful city. So, after buggering off down to the post part of town for a bit (and after a nice cuppa), we got out of the flat and headed out to see the city one last time.

It's a beautiful day to say goodbye.
I had a few things that I needed to do / I had promised to do, which included not only getting my Dad his "Mind the Gap" shirt (cliche, old man), but topping up my UK mobile so that my Mom could call me and make sure that I didn't die in Scotland. The first thing that we had to do, though, was go to Speedy's Cafe and say my goodbyes. IDK if you guys knew this, but I got pretty close to the staff at Speedy's, and they made me promise to come back and say a final farewell on my last day there. And, c'mon, I'm not going to say no to a Speedy's Full English Breakfast - beans and all. So, after saying my sad farewells to Speedy's Cafe, we headed on over and... well, explored the city.

We saw a lot of cool things in London that have become a bit like home to me. We paid a quick trip to Shoreditch and Banglatown so that I could show Kelly where I worked / show her a part of town that she wasn't familiar with. I got to see the Spitalfields Market again, and walk Brick Lane and go into the Golden Heart and get one last pint of lager... we went to Tower Hill and saw the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge (which was up! Awesome!). We walked through a WWI memorial, a few gift shops here and there... we walked Fleet Street and saw St. Paul's, stumbled upon a bike race, found the Millennium Bridge again, ate some seriously sugary cupcakes (I felt my heart palpitating just licking the icing off) and just... experienced the city in all of its glory.

On the Thames - FTW.
The best part, though, was getting up close and personal with the Thames River. We just decided to go to the beach for a little bit while we were walking along the South Bank, so... we did! I was planning on taking my shoes off, but that beach is covered in glass, so... decided against it. Still, we found a location that the BBC-One used for an episode of Sherlock, and got to take some awesome pictures of us... standing on the bank of the Thames. Awesome-sauce.

After that, we meandered on over to pick up Kib from Waterloo Station. It was awesome to see her again - we thought we'd get to spend more time together while I was here, but life seemed to get in the way a lot. She definitely tackled me this time 'round, which was appreciated, haha! We walked about the South Bank for a bit longer, sat on a wall and gazed off across the Thames towards Parliament and Big Ben... It was really, really sad to say goodbye to my good friend, Benny, but it was okay, in a way, because - again - I know I'll be back. After that, we went over to Wagamama, and Kib treated me to some awesome Japanese curry... and it was absolutely delicious. I think I'm in love.

Goodbye, my good friend Benny. <3
We wandered about the South Bank for a bit longer, saw some awesome busking (The McGowns are going places, I'm very serious), and then walked across the bridge towards Trafalgar Square, where I finally got to sit up on a pedestal with some Lions (illegal and dangerous, but we escaped unscathed!). We then meandered on over to Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, where I got to revisit some nice memories...

... and then it was done. I said goodbye to wandering the streets of London. I said goodbye to living in London. We went back to South Kensington, got some cheap cider from the Sainsbury's across the way, watched some funny videos online, and then finally went to bed. And that was the end of my time in London. Just like that.

And here I am, now, on a train to Edinburgh, Scotland, to have one last random adventure before I go back to Farnborough for a few days, and then jump back across the pond to America.

It was just like that. It just... ended.
Here are some pictures of my last day spend in London. I didn't take too many, but I was too busy trying to soak everything in that I didn't even really care.

To the Dreamers...

I guess, to start, I have to say a little bit about myself in that, despite my apparently confident facade, I'm an incredible self conscious person with chronic self doubt. This comes a shock to some people, though the people who know me the best understand that this is not the case at all. And though I think (or hope) that I make friends with relative ease, entering a new environment for me is an incredible taxing experience. Doubt plagues me, and I find it hard to truly trust people with who I really am. I find it incredibly difficult to be absolutely comfortable around people, as there's always a part of me that remains cautious and unsure.

I came to London expecting this to, again, be the case.

It was not.

Immediately, I met Lizzie as we were doing orientation with one another. And shortly afterwards, my roommate Julie joined the crew. Alison joined in shortly after after a random meeting in the middle of the Nido hallway, and after our first seminar, we all decided to head to the nearest pub and drink in celebration. And that, my friends, was the beginning of an incredible friendship with five girls that I think are pretty much my sisters who were separated from me at birth.

To all of you guys - Julie, Nicole, Lizzie, Alison, Morgan - ... I would go at length to tell you about all of the things that I love about each and everyone of you, but that would take up a blog post in it of ourselves. I feel like our tears and hugging and crying at O'Neill's this Friday was enough. I don't need to write about it to express to you guys how much I love every single one of you. We've already said all that we need to say to one another, and you guys know how much I love you. <3

But, it didn't end there.

I met Ashley, Sam and Lakin and got to spend some serious quality time with them in Paris, France. Ashley made me feel truly beautiful while we took pictures in the City of Love, Sam made me laugh and feel completely... fearless in being myself, with her awesome bedazzled skirt and epic flower crown (she and Ashley can literally rock any look ever). I couldn't have imagined spending a weekend with Paris with anyone else - they made it an unforgettable, pristine experience. And Lakin.... what can I say about Lakin McCarthy? That she's my Irish cousin? My Italian sister? The girl that made me realise how incredible life is and rediscover the meaning of true, inner strength? Someone who inspires me to do better, to make changes in the world and to keep the faith even when all seems lost? <3

Micha and Nelly... I didn't get to know these fabulous ladies as well as I would have liked, but our Bistro nights (when I'd just show up, sit down with you guys and Ashley and just talk) were awesome and I wouldn't have eaten creme brule with anyone else!

Scott, your mutual love for Sherlock and anythings sports related is greatly appreciated and not overlooked, and you always knew how to put a smile on my face with that sarcastic wit of yours. Keep in touch, and keep it classy. :)

Austin, you seriously make me smile, every time that I see you. I'm so sorry we can't go on epic European adventures together (like we had originally planned), but just know that you are the burst of sunshine that, sometimes, people just need!

Robby, you rock my socks - such a kind, caring dude who really takes the time to appreciate people ("You're so charming!"). The laughs and smiles will be remembered.

Sacha, my comrade from Moscow - you are a rockstar. Don't stop surprising the world with not only your kick ass sense of fashion, but your kick ass attitude towards life - and Russian vodka really is the best! :)

To Stefan, for giving me the incredible opportunity to gain work experience in one of the coolest cities in the world, and for ealing with my crazy passport nonsense and helping me land this awesome internship at Irresistible Films... you're seriously my summer hero. I wouldn't have been here without your support! Thank you for believing in me!

To Ryan - you're just the best, the first person that I really got to talk to when I got to Nido. And you never failed to put a smile on my face or make me laugh like an absurd idiot every time that I saw you. Don't stop being awesome.

Nemo - you're just absolutely wonderful. Not only did you take me to the A&E when I decided to turn my stomach into bacon, but you were always there with helpful advice and a big hug!

To Alex - you're just an inspiration-machine. I never fail to feel... well, inspired, when I'm around you, and you always know what to say and how to say it and have a good reason why it needs to be said... and it never fails to make me excited for the future.

To Cody - you are so easy to get along with, and so absolutely fun to get to hang out with. I'm sorry we didn't get to spend as much time together as we probably could have, but you rock. :)

There are so many people that I could thank for my awesome time at DreamCareers - so many other Dreamers that I didn't mention in this blog (I'm currently on a train to Scotland as I'm writing this, so I'm typing everything down as I think of it, so if I forget anyone, just know that I love you too!) - but so many other people who have made this summer literally unforgettable. <3 Love you guys, and keep in touch. It's only been two days... and I'm already ready for a reunion.

To Everyone In Between...

Not only did I get to meet some awesome coworkers and Dreamers, but I also randomly met some cool people on the epic adventures that I had in between work and DreamCareers. So, to quickly summarise...

To the dude at Chilango who made my burritos - you're awesome. And I can't believe that we saw each other on the Tube randomly the other day. Not only was that absurdly hilarious, and I don't even know your name, but you're just a cool dude. And you make a mean chicken enchilada.

To the staff at Speedy's Cafe... I went to Speedy's straight up fangirling over Sherlock, and that was it - and I first invested in a meal at Speedy's because it seemed unfair to overlook a small business just for its face value as a TV filming location. But what I didn't expect was to fall in with your food. Your English breakfasts were delicious and incredibly filling, and I'm going to seriously miss my £2 chicken sandwiches every morning. Not only that, but you guys are totally the coolest people that I know. You got to know my name, and we would talk over orders and I literally would be late for work some days just because we were having such incredible conversations. The fact that I had to say goodbye was made that much bittersweet by the fact that you guys didn't want to see me go, either! I'm so bummed that I had to leave early, but, like I said, I promise that I'll be back as soon as possible, with other awesome people who will soon become regular customers, just like I became. You helped make Speedy's into not only a cool Sherlock place, but one of my favourite London haunts. I'm going to miss every single one of you! <3 Don't forget me!

To Jimmy... you awesome Australian. We met once at the Big Chill, and we immediately clicked. You're just cool. But, still. You rock, and if I ever come to Australia, you best believe I'm going to hunt you down and we're going to grab a drink or two together!

To Alli and Shannon... seriously. You girls are like my spirit animals or something. Who knew meeting at a world premiere could lead to something so awesome. Not only do we fangirl over the same things, but we also had a blast at The World's End - both the pub and the film (how fitting and ironic, right?) - but I feel like we'll stay good friends, even if we're literally in different corners of the States. But, whatever, I have no doubt I'll see you guys again! :) Keep in touch, and keep it real!

To Fae and Kirsti... you guys are rad. I went to the world premiere and literally sat there by my lonesome for an hour before you guys showed up and we struck up random conversations about Iron Man and Captain America and the like. Fae, it was awesome to see you again at the London Eye the other day, and Kirsti, I'll keep your pen safe, I promise. Keep in touch, you guys!

I May Be Sad to Leave London, But...

... I'm not going to lie. I miss my family, I really do. This is a special shout out to you guys, the most, my lovely McManus clan. I would not be here without all of your incredible love, support, affection and care, and I owe this entire trip to you guys and all that you've done for me. I can only hope that I can repay you guys - all of you, including Chris and Libby, but especially Mom and Dad - back someday in full. <3 I know it's not possible, and I can't even imagine how much money you've funnelled into my life, but just know that I'm eternally grateful and that I love you with all of my heart and soul. I can't wait to see you guys in less than a week. It's been way too long.

And I know that a blog shout out is a really poor way of repaying you right now, but from this little hostel in Edinburgh, it's a bit hard to show you personally. <3 Just know that... I love you guys, I miss you and I can't wait to see you soon.

I may not have come back a wealthy person £ (or $) wise, but hopefully I'm going to come back a motivated, different person - and different in a good way. It's only thank to you guys that not only I have an incredible internship to put on my resume for future employment endeavours, but that I've come to learn a lot of valuable life lessons.

And here are just a few of them...

Some Things that I Learned in London

  1. Life is expensive.
    1. But life is also awesome, so the key is to find a good balance between the two.
  2. Still don't drink the milk, Katie. Just don't.
  3. Keep making tea, but make it with caution.
  4. Crack a joke at a famous person. They might just laugh.
  5. Pubs are magical places.
    1. It's never a bad idea to meet up with old friends...
    2.'s never a bad idea to make new ones...
    3. ...and it's always a great idea to introduce them to one another at The World's End.
  6. Work hard and play just as hard - in the end, life's all a big holiday - the work getting there is hard and painful, but once you reach your destination, you'll be glad you took the longer, harder way 'round and saw all the sights. It makes the destination just that much more grand.
  7. I could be comfortable working a 9-to-5 kind of job for my life - in fact, I could be satisfied and comfortable doing most things in life...
    1. ...but is it what I ultimately want? Hell no.
  8. There are cliffs out there, and you're not supposed to sit there, stare and go, "Wow, that's beautiful." Get up off your ass and go cliff diving.
  9. Who cares if you've been shit on in life? You know what shit is? Really good gardening material. And one day, all of that shit is going to make you a bouquet of flowers (for you, Nicole).
  10. If you don't try you'll never know. So, don't make your back up plan your plan-plan. In fact, screw the back up plan. Fucking go for it, and if you die trying, at least it was a good ride.
    1. Ambition is not a bad thing - take control. Make it happen.
    2. Life is a bull, but that's why there are cowboys out there - be a cowboy.
  11. There are people out there who care about you. And you may not want to think that they do, because of all that shit that you have piled up and all of the gardening that you still have yet to do (you damn procrastinator), but... at the end of the day (or the summer), you're going to look back on everything that you've done, and the most important thing that you'll remember are the times that you spent with the people that you learned to love and care about. After all... a home away from home is only complete if you have another family to share it with.
    1. God Save the Nugget - I love my girls. <3
  12. I've got one shot at this "life" thing... I'm going to take it.
My heart is broken today, as I leave this wonderful city and head towards Edinburgh, Scotland. But, I can't have anything but hope for the future, because I've never been so motivated and inspired in my entire life to pursue my dreams and grab my future by the horns. And I thank London for that.

So, until the next adventure...


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Last Week - Some Thoughts on Storytelling

And, so... here it begins. And here it's about to end (le cry).

The beginning of my last week here in London. I really didn't think that I would be holding out on this blog for as long as I have - of course, these last two weeks have been very abysmal in updates, but the blog post from before was, hopefully, a quick update. And, hopefully, it will be enough to remind of me all of the incredible things that I go to do over these last two weeks. But, now, it's time to begin winding down, and this will be one of the last blog posts that I ever write about my incredible London adventure. I had no idea that I would be writing this, to be completely honest... I mean, I did, but... it's kind of like, if you've been writing a book series for years and years and years, imagine beginning to write the last book, knowing that this is the beginning of the end. Imagine how J.K. Rowling must've felt beginning Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It must have been a horrible feeling, you know?

Of course, writing a blog is no where near that kind of feeling, but... I think I understand why people sometimes write more episodes than would be honourable for the series, or continue making sequels, or have such a hard time just ending a story... it's an extension of yourself, and having to write "The End" - the conclusive, final moment... those last six letters. It's an incredibly depressing feeling.

And you never see the end of something until you're close to it. It's not like, "Oh, I know it's going to happen!" It's kind of like life... you go through life, living, and you aren't constantly reminded of your mortality until it's staring you right in the face, you know?

... wow, that was some pretty deep, dark shit.

At any rate, this is going to be one of my last posts about London - hopefully, not the last, seeing as I still have... five days left, right? Five days. I can definitely crank out two blog posts in five days.
Per usual - le Spotify.
Something about the Spotify playlist that I have going... it's a little bit off from the actual playlist that I have on my iTunes because, again, Spotify is a combination of my own library and the library that's available through Spotify. So, here are a few tracks that are missing from the Spotify playlist that are actually on the real playlist (Spotify doesn't have these songs, awkwardly).
  1. "Sabrina" - The Fake Carls (download their free EP here - my roommate's band!)
  2. "Theme from 'Hot Fuzz'" - David Arnold (from Hot Fuzz)
  3. "End of an Era" - Oliver Boyd and the Rememberalls (song attached to this post)
  4. "The Year Turns Round Again" - J. Tams Arr. A. Sutton & T. Van Eyken (from War Horse)
So, yeah... here goes nothing!

My Casual Day at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

I always knew that I wasn't a Muggle.

When I was younger, I loved the Harry Potter books and films - even to this day, I still love them, despite the fact that they're still classified as children's books and the movies have now officially ended (le sad day). My Mom had tried to read the books aloud to me, but after many attempts (and many mispronunciations of Hermione's name), she settled for the first film, which had just been released... and I was immediately captivated. Within two days, I had convinced her to buy me the box set of books, and one week later, I'd eaten them up like a cake - it was my first book series that I willingly read, the first story that I had truly been captivated with. And I was in love.

Having such wild imagination as a child, it didn't take much to have me convinced that I was a witch, and that one day Hagrid was going to come bursting down my door telling me that he was "pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," and that I would be spending the next seven years of my life being educated in Herbology, Charms, Transfiguration, Divination, Potions and the like. I would play (loudly) the Harry Potter soundtracks up in my room, run around with Harry's glasses and a glow in the dark wand and, with my friends Denise and Ashleigh, would go on wild, dangerous adventures into the depths of my closet, my backyard and the "black top" at our elementary school. I knew that I was destined for great things - just like my friend, The Boy Who Lived. When my eleventh birthday rolled around, I went outside and actually sat by my post box for a few hours before resigning myself to the inevitable truth.

Hogwarts wasn't real, because if it was there was no way that I would be a Muggle. So, either I was a witch, or Hogwarts was actually a fictional place in some fictional book and I was just kidding myself.

It was a very sad day in the McManus household.

Despite my sadness in realising that Hogwarts was, in fact, not a real place, I kept up with the books and the movies. I knew practically every spell that there was to know, from the classical Wingardium Leviosa to Rictusempra to Crucio and even the dreaded Avada Kedavra. I avidly followed the book updates and fangirl-ed over every single production still from the set (you might say that these films - in combination with Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films (my Mom remembers taking me to The Two Towers for four weekends in a row...) - were the beginning of my love for motion pictures) and checked Mugglenet practically every day for updates. I have Harry's wand in my room somewhere, and definitely have some hand-made robes of my own somewhere as well. I also used yellow ribbon and a cheap tie from Target to make my own Gryffindor tie (I am a Gryffindor, by the way, Pottermore says so). To put it simply, I was a bit of a fanatic.

But, like all good things, the Harry Potter books had to come to an end, an ending that I did not take to very well (don't get me wrong, I loved the book - I was just sobbing everywhere) - and, likewise, The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 came around to mark the end of the motion picture phenomena that had struck the world (again - the sobbing). Harry Potter grew up and had a family and sent his own children off to Hogwarts, and "all was well." And, then, I went to college, and my childhood - with Harry Potter being somewhere around its centre - was left behind me.

Over the last few years, my "fandom" drive has been propelled towards other things, namely action or adventure films such as The Hobbit trilogy, The Avengers, Star Trek (<3) and some epic television shows, such as The Legend of Korra, Game of Thrones and - of course - Sherlock. I always told people that I loved Harry Potter, but the love of it seemed to... well, die a bit.

But, luck had it that I was able to buy a ticket for the Harry Potter tour off of a fellow Dreamer, and I got to leave work early to randomly go there on a random Monday.

And, as luck would have it... the second I walked into Leavesden Warner Bros. Studios, I realised, once again that I am no Muggle.

Walking into the actual Great Hall of Hogwarts.
Words can not literally describe what that tour was like - as a Harry Potter fan and as a fan of filmmaking in general. The second that you walk into the first room of the tour, you're reminded of every reason why you love Harry Potter and what it taught you as a little kid in elementary school - the books, the fandom, the phenomena as it struck the world... everything. Right after that, they sit you down in a cinema-esque room and go through the books and the movies together in another film, talking about the process that was taken to create such incredible motion pictures, and the movie magic that made the magical world of Harry Potter come, literally, to life.

And then a screen rises - and you're staring at the doors that lead into the Great Hall of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Yes, the actual doors. And once you step through them, you're standing in the actual Great Hall.

For some reason, I've been very partial to making lists of things that I've been doing on this trip, and while I would hate to cheapen this incredible experience with bullet-points, there is so much that I did and go to see that it's really, kind of... well, the only way that I can properly get everything out without turning into a rambling machine (as if that wasn't possible already).

  • I was the only one who showed up for the £29/ticket tour... so, they put me with the £70/ticket tour group and I got to get the Premium Experience for literally less than half of the price.
  • I stood in the actual Great Hall of Hogwarts, and sat down at the Slytherin table. There, I also stood on top of the actual duelling table from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, where one of the Warner Bros. staff members had a fake duel with me, and taught me how to cast spells as if I were in an actual battle with a Death Eater.
    • I would be an awesome member of the Order of the Phoenix.
  • I got to sit on the Firebolt and fly it around through London, Hogwarts, over the Black Lake, through the middle of a raging Quidditch match and even over the Hogwarts Express... okay, that was all on green screen, but I still felt like a proper wizard.
    • Don't know if I'd be good at flying - I would make a kick ass Chaser if I got over that "fear of heights" thing, though.
  • I walked through the actual Diagon Alley and some random staff member dressed up like a wizard gave me Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans (I got pepper, mango, pistachio, tart, and some other weird ones that I couldn't place) and a chocolate frog (without the card, sadly).
    • They had "U-No-Poo" at Weasley Wizard Wheezes. Life = Complete.
    • Gringotts was also there. It's incredibly imposing looking.
  • I stood on the Knight Bus - it's actually a triple decker, no joke. And the talking head definitely yelled at me when I walked by. I was freaked out.
  • I got to stand in front of the actual Privet Drive.
  • I finally got to meet Buckbeak - and yes, he actually moved (like a robot), and then actually open its mouth and screeched at me. It was probably the coolest thing of my life.
  • I took a tour of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, through sound stages J and K (that's not even a joke, that's what they actually are) and got to see some of the places - inside and outside of Hogwarts - that we Potterheads have come to know, love and cherish as if we'd been there ourselves (which I have... so, haha, in your faces). These include...
    • Hagrid's Hut, complete with a replica of Fang, and the giant tea cups.
    • The Gryffindor Common Room, in all of its cozy, lovely glory - Neville's plant-cactus thing was there, too. And Crookshanks... damn Crookshanks...
    • The Burrow, with floating knitting needles to boot.
    • The Ministry of Magic, including the fireplaces and the "Magic is Might" statue.
    • The Gryffindor Boys Dormitory - they even have Dean's West Ham posters!
    • Dumbledore's Office - I saw the Pensieve and the memory vials and Fawkes the phoenix.
      • This includes the entrance with the awesome statue.
    • The inside of the giant clock from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
    • Malfoy Manor - just as creepy as you'd imagine it to be.
    • The Potions Classroom in the dungeons - the lines were literally lined with disgusting things inside of vials, like eyeballs and tentacles... nasty...
      • Also, half of the cauldrons there actually had moving spoon in them, like someone had enchanted them to keep stirring.
      • I almost took the Felix Felicis from the table, but then thought better of it.
  • I found the Room of Requirement and was inducted into Dumbledore's Army (be jealous).
  • I also found the Mirror of Erised. It didn't tell me what my deepest desire was (sneaky bastard).
  • I also found the front gate to Hogwarts, topped off with the incredible, awesome flying boars.
  • I found the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets.
One last thing that I can tell you was... that the last thing that you see when you leave Hogwarts is, well... Hogwarts itself. A large replica. The actual castle, in its full - from every stone to every bridge, to every moss-covered rock and well-kept Quidditch Pitch and haphazard boat house, there it was - my second home for most of my childhood, taken from black and white ink on pages from my first copy of The Sorcerer's Stone and made into a reality.

Here are the incredible pictures of my tour of the Warner Bros. - Harry Potter Studios at Leavesden. If you ever are in England or in London, there is no excuse... just go and do it.

I could literally make this list... well, much longer than it is already, but it would just be superfluous and unnecessary. Because I finally got to see where the magic was made - where the story of Harry Potter came to life for millions of fans across the world, including myself. For three hours, I got to step back in time and take a waltz through my childhood. And, yes, it makes no sense and probably sounds a bit crazy, but as much as I grew up here in the "Muggle World," I grew up with Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger as they learned, loved and adventured together. I was 8 when I first picked up the Harry Potter books - young Daniel Radcliffe was 11. And when I was 18 years old, Harry was 17 in the films, battling it out one last time with Lord Voldemort. I pretty much grew up with these fictional characters who are as much a part of me as any other people that I got to know throughout my youth. I read their stories, went on adventures with them... and I learned so much. I learned what it meant to be brave, to do what's "right instead of what it easy," to truly cherish your friends with all of your heart, to fight back when no one else will fight alongside you. And, on some random Monday in July, with only a week left to spend in London England, I found myself - alone - at the Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden, staring at a place that looked like my second home. And I was blessed to have touched upon that childhood again.

I'm a storyteller - it's what I'm meant to do. I'm obsessed with fandoms, I love films, I love to act and I love to read and learn and experience and tell stories... and Harry Potter was the first. It will not be the last, but it was the first, and that's really what matters.

So, I found myself at the beginning again, there at Privet Drive. And I was, again, reminded of the magic in the world around me, and brought back to the very beginning of my adventure in life. I may be in the middle of it right now, but I took my first step into storytelling with these words: "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much..." I have read many books. I have seen many films. I have been taken on many adventures with many incredible characters... but, most of all, I grew up with an unassuming boy from the cupboard under the stairs who - chapter by chapter, page by page, word by word - dragged me along to his wonderful world of magic and taught me what it meant to be truly brave. 

And it is the journey with him that, ultimately, I will cherish the most.

War Horse at New London Theatre

As if my adventure at Hogwarts couldn't be the cherry on the cake of this entire adventure in London... I decided, "Fuck it, I'm going to see a show." And while my finances are completely kaput at the present moment (the fact that this internship is unpaid doesn't help matters much, let's be honest here), I would be pretty bummed if I didn't get to at least see some kind of theatre while I was here. I got to see three films in a row - all with Pegg, Frost and Wright's signature British sense of humour - so why not an incredible, quintessentially British show to finish it all off with a bang? So, we had several options laid out for us - we could see Billy Elliot or War Horse. Billy Elliot tickets were definitely £140+, so that was already out of the question. So, after asking permission from my parents, I bought myself a £60 ticket with my main bitty, Nicole, to see one of the best straight shows ever adapted from one of the most gripping war fictions ever fabricated on this earth... War Horse.

I've seen the film too, le duh - in fact, I saw it with Kib when she came to America to visit me two years ago. And it was good - it was rather good, in fact (though I could do without the melodrama at the end. C'mon, Spielberg, it's WWI not everything is sunshine and rainbows and slow motion silhouetting), and the fact that a) it's a war film, b) Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston are in it, and c) it's an incredibly moving novel just helped matters even more.

But I saw the stage show... and I was completely blown away.

And, guys, it's better than the film. It really is. I still like the film, but... Jesus, that was a good show.

Here's the trailer for War Horse at the Kennedy Centre, which Is can probably tell you... will not be / is not as good as the West End version. Again. Quintessentially British show.

As you probably know (or have heard), the horse is actually on stage, but it's not a horse - it's a metal contraption, controlled by three trained, very hard working and intense actors, who literally move the legs, the tail and the head to make this horse come to life. And it's not like it's a literal replica of a horse, with hair and the like. It's obviously metal and obviously controlled by three actors. But that didn't stop me from becoming connected to the horse - I felt actual emotions for it, it had an actual personality. An that, in combination with the incredible acting and the fantastic music (they sang folk songs... British-Celtic folk songs... my heart broke the second they started singing) and scenery, and just... God, you guys. Oh my God. It was just so incredible.

It's about WWI, obviously... which is a war that, in my opinion, is completely overlooked in many regards, being overshadowed by the monstrous destruction of WWII - especially by us Americans, who only got involved towards the end (thanks to the Lusitania and the Zimmerman letters). It was a horrible war that inflicted pain upon many people in so many different ways. And they portrayed that perfectly on stage. It was absolutely astounding. I was watching an actual war unfold before my very eyes, watching the trials and tribulations of so many proud, hard working and ordinary men and women. And the story of Albert and Joey was just so much more poignant when taken into account of the entire destruction of the war, and their unconditional love for one another. I think that... what I found so moving was the fact that Albert remained so innocent and loving and carding and hopeful, even in the midst of such unfathomable destruction and death... and all because of a horse.

I would be totally lying if I said that I wasn't crying by the end of this incredible show. I'd be telling you a flat out lie. Because not only is it beautiful and sad and inspiring and hopeful, but it's also an extremely personal show, and personal in the sense that it's a story that is... well, I would imagine it to very close to an Englishman's heart. I don't know how else to put it really...

All I can say is that I was blessed and honoured to have been able to watch that beautiful story unfold right before my very eyes, and seeing that show only reaffirmed my desire to be a part of the storytelling process - whether it be the creative mind behind the scenes, the director on stage, the clay that holds it all together, the characters that you fall in love with, or a mere cog in the machine. <3

St. Bartholemew's - Some Thoughts on Storytelling (WARNING - Contains *SPOILERS*)

In case you couldn't tell, I kind of love this show from the BBC-One. It's kind of incredible. It's called Sherlock, and it's a modern day interpretation of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who was such a good storyteller that he got knighted. Yeah. Knighted). I could repeat myself about how incredible every aspect of this show is, but the fact that every single person that I've introduced the show to has immediately fallen in love with it just as hard as I have is probably all the evidence that I need to support such claims. But something that I've failed to mention is how wide the fan base is - and why it is the way that it is.

(From this point on, there are Sherlock spoilers, so don't fucking read this post unless you've seen the series - and this specifically goes out to my Dad, Jim. Don't do it, Jim. DON'T. DO. IT.)

The outside of Speedy's Cafe the day that
filming for Series 3 began!
We've all been Sherlocked! :D
The last few times that I've gone on my little adventures to St. Bartholemew's Hospital, I've hinted at a cool little thing that's there that is sort of an... unofficial memorial for Sherlock. I even posted a picture on my previous blog post (and warned you about the spoilers, then, too, so don't say I didn't warn you, you sods). At the end of the last series (S02E03), Sherlock Holmes took an unfortunate plunge to his supposed death. He literally jumped off of the roof of St. Bart's to his death... right in front of John Watson. It was probably one of the most painful things that I've ever seen on the big (or Netflix) screen. Truly, the emotion was so tragic and just... I was horrified. I coudln't stop crying, it was just.. wow. Just wow. Pretty much, Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch simultaneously broke my heart. And Steven Moffat (the writer)... damn you Moffat...

The day after the episode aired, Sherlock fans got together... and left fliers and postcards and messages all along the side of St. Bartholemew's Hospital saying things like, "I believe in Sherlock Holmes," and "I believe in Sherlock Holmes and John Watson," and "Moriarty was real! Richard Brooke was a fake!" Hundreds of them - literally. And while they've all mostly been cleared away (St. Bart's is an actual hospital, dammit!), there are still some that remain... fans from around the world go to this little telephone booth right where Sherlock "died" (we all know that he's not actually dead, le duh) and leave messages for him. Not only that, but since filming for Series 3 has started, people have been leaving messages on the door next to Speedy's Cafe - the door that they use for 221B. People are excited, people are antsy - they want more, and they can't wait until they get it!

Check out these crazy letters and notes that fans leave all around prominent Sherlock-sites in London. It's absolutely fantastic.

*Note to Self: If you ever start your own blog (a possibility now - this blogging thing is fun, remember), this might be a good article to expand upon and perfect!

No one imagined that Sherlock would become what it has become - an international phenomena. Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have remarked that they were lucky that the BBC accepted their pilot in the first place, and that they were never sure if it would go past one season, the show having such a unique and strange format (each episode is as long as a motion picture, and is treated as such). Also, taking into consideration how long they take in between seasons, it's really not a far stretch to assume that people wouldn't be too keen on falling in love with the series... but they did. And now Sherlock-mania has hit the entire globe, from the UK to the United States, to Japan to Finland...
Ain't that the fucking truth.

And that's the same way with Harry Potter. Who could have guessed that a single Mom writing a children's book about a boy who lived in a cupboard under the stairs would have turned into a motion picture. And who would've guessed that what David Heyman presumed would be a "modest, British film" would become the most successful film franchise in history - a franchise that touched every corner of the globe.

And when J.R. Tolkien jotted down a random thought while grading papers one day - "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit" - could've caught hold across the globe, as well, inspiring countless more fantasy novels of the like.

I am definitely a proponent - or, rather, a definite minion - in the fan hype surrounding these various fandoms and stories. I can't help myself - I just love the story. I'm obsessed with the story, and the storytelling process, and the characters... every aspect of it, I'll gobble it up.

And I love every single bloody second of it.

It's the stories that get people excited about reading, about movies, about writing, about... art. About characters, about acting about life. Those are the kinds of stories that I want to tell, the kind of adventures that I want to be a part of. I want people to think, to get excited, to be motivated... to fall in love with characters and worlds beyond our wildest imaginations. And I'm not the only one. If I was, then Harry Potter wouldn't be where it is today, and Sherlock wouldn't be teed up for not one, but possibly two more seasons (not including Series 3, which is currently filming in Cardiff).

My little letter on the Telephone Box. :)
It's just... absolutely incredible and, frankly, astounding and mind-boggling that a story could do so much to the world, could inspire so much excitement and hope and emotion... and it's beautiful, it really is. This entire week was kind of reaffirmation in my love for storytelling - as if I didn't need any more reason. Again, this whole acting thing has kind of been my jive since I was a little girl, but if that doesn't work out... I just want to be a part of the story. I want to make stories known - I want to get people excited! Because stories are the bread and butter of humanity - from history books to adventure novels, to "Guess what I did today at work," to "Oh my God, she's such a bore," to text messages... communication inevitably leads to storytelling. We thrive off of it. And it's what I want to do. <3

So... yeah... the beginning of the end has really just been a return to the very beginning for me... from an 8-year old, bushy-haired Katie reading Harry Potter to the present day Katie leaving messages for Dr. John Watson on a random telephone box in London, I'm made of the stories that I love, and I can't wait to be able to experience, fall in love with and tell more of them. :)

So, until the next adventure...


Monday, July 29, 2013

Jumping Into Big Smoke

So... ehem... long time no blog.

... but seriously. Sorry about that. Things have been crazy, as usual, but nothing so incredibly pressing that I felt the need to constantly blog about it, like I've been doing in the past. But today I suddenly realised... whoa, shit, I only have a week left in London and then another random week going on a random adventure (completely by myself) to Edinburgh, Scotland, and then I get to spend time with Kib again which is going to be the best time evar, but seriously... only a week left in London with my wonderful women and all of these incredible DreamCareers peoples and... it just hurts my soul. It really does. Physical pain, guys.

Before I go any further, however... Spotify, per usual. Enjoy (60+ songs? Didn't expect that...!).
So, here's a quick post to update you on what my last two weeks in The Big Smoke have been like, as well as segueing into this last week of absolute insanity and fantastic-ness.

Speedy's Cafe

Confession time... you know how I found that place that they use for the exterior for Sherlock? Well, it's really not that much of a secret, apparently, because I constantly see people running up to it in complete fangirl mode screaming their heads off going, "Oh my GAAAWD, it's 221B Baker Streeeet! Like, take a picture with me in front of iiit!" I should've known that Tumblr would've made this location common knowledge by now. Damn you, Tumblr. And while this is amusing to me (remember my freak out post from before? Thank God Speedy's was closed when that happened or they probably would've put a restraining order on me), it's also annoying, because... well, another confession time.

Speedy's Cafe is my not-so-guilty pleasure.

The hospital that I have to go to for this tea burn madness (University College Hospital) is literally right across the street from Speedy's. I feel like a total badass, just casually being one tube stop away from the exterior location to literally one of the best shows on television. But not only that, it's probably my favourite cafe in London, and not because of the obvious. But because of the following reasons:

  1. It's only one tube stop away from my flat at King's Cross.
  2. They have milk for sale there called "Watson's Milk" (#winning).
  3. The staff is super nice and incredibly friendly, even if they don't necessarily speak English fluently (I'm pretty sure that there are Polish immigrants most times I'm there - I like me some Poles).
  4. It's got an incredibly awesome small-business kind of feel to it, the kind that I really enjoy (not the nice shops where you're afraid to sit down for running the fine polish or scuffing the paint, but the kind where everything's a bit worn and cramped, but well taken care of).
  5. It's incredibly cheap.
  6. It's incredibly delicious.
So, every day after I get out of the A&E after four hours of sitting next to coughing elderly people and wailing babies with stomach problems and not-so-slightly insane homeless people ("tramps" here in the UK), I go in one Underground exit (Euston Square), come out the other (Warren Street), walk to Speedy's and get myself some nice take away for the Tube ride east to Liverpool Street Station to begin my working day. And it's absolutely delicious. It's like a little sandwich shop in which you get to choose what kind of sandwich you want / throw your own toppings on top of. Not only that, but they have fruit (dear God, fruit?!), coffee drinks, breakfast things, and some nice sit down food for the person who's in not-so-much-of-a-hurry (that I haven't tried quite yet, but I'm going to, I swear!). Let me give you a breakdown of what I got yesterday after my last burn check up:
  1. 1 chicken sandwich, with lettuce (salad, they call it), cucumbers, tomatoes, mayonnaise and cheese (yummy), done up with some nice wheat bread.
  2. 1 cappuccino, no sugar, extra espresso shot (one of the best cappuccino's I've ever had).
  3. 1 banana (yum).
Another picture of Speedy's - what a great place, seriously.
And this totalled up to be: £3.40. Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? In Shoreditch (where I work), I bought a teeny ass mocha from this place called Nude Espresso (apparently a Keira Knightly haunt) and it was £2.50. But I got a sandwich, a banana and a cappuccino for £3.40? In Islington?! Pinch me, somebody, I'm in heaven. This is the cheapest food that I've been able to haggle whilst in London, not even a joke - even the Nido cafe was more expensive than this (I ran out of my £250 last week - time to start starving to save money). I'm very serious, from now on I'm going to be waking up early just to take the extra 20-30 minutes to take a Tube over to Speedy's cafe so that I can get myself a cheap ass lunch and a nice tea or coffee to start the morning. I'm literally obsessed with this place. It's the best possible place to start a morning in London. The one thing is that it's a breakfast-lunch kind of place. It opens incredibly early, but then closes around 14:30 (2:30pm) every day, and it's closed on Sundays (Poles = Catholic), and open for limited hours on Saturday. But, quite honestly, I don't care. Love this place, I go every time that I get the chance.

So, against my better judgement, here's the link to their website, which has their address, hours and also a Twitter page! So, I'm going to start following them on Twitter, casually, because I'm incredibly jealous of the fact that they get to be a location for a BAFTA-award winning television series with two of the best actors in the entire business (I think Benedict Cumberbatch is going to take over the world, and it'll be a better place for it), but also because I definitely want to stalk them and find out when they're filming so I can be a creep and head on over and try and hand off my CV to someone on set. Yup. So, there's that.

And if you're ever in London, please go - not just for the fangirling (I know that you will all do it), but because it's an incredible small business with great food, great service and great prices, and deserves just as much hype for that as anything else.

These Past Two Weeks...

... have been more relaxed than anything, which is odd, considering that we have literally one week left in this incredible city and all are kind of feeling, like, "We need to get everything done now - we need to do everything possible in our power to do everything and see everything in London!" Which is not realistic, but, hey, YOLO - You Only London Once.

But I don't like that - I don't want to YOLO. Again, I'm planning on coming back here. I want to see myself living in this city one day - if not for an extended period of time, at least doing something for a year or two. The ultimate goal would be to study acting here for two years, but... you know how that goes. :) We'll see when it happens.

At any rate, while these past two weeks have been flying by in an utter and complete blur for myself, and I haven't blogged about them at all (which is really unfortunate, but hey, can you blame me when I'm having the time of my life in the best city in Earth)? So, to kind of skim over everything, I'm going to bullet point what I've been up to, in no particular order! :)

Things That I Did During My Random Hiatus From the Rest of the World
( no particular order...)

  • My girls and I went to the London IceBar. We stood inside of a literal igloo in the middle of London, and drank mixed drinks (whiskey, kiwi and strawberry for this girl) out of glasses made literally of ice. It was freezing, but absolutely fantastic.
    • We're total eskimos - that bar was AWESOME.
    • I got hit on by a middle aged ginger man, which was gross but also hilarious in retrospect, especially when I told him that I was "American, 20 and unavailable" and ran away.
  • We started a pub crawl in Shoreditch before becoming so ill from something that I ate earlier that day that I had to cab it back to NIDO where I spent the rest of the night and early morning in complete and total misery.
    • Watching Star Trek was the only reason that I kept myself distracted. Thank you, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto.
  • Finally decided to brave my fears of talking to one of my acting idols, Martin Freeman, when - in the middle of the work day - I threw my hands up in the air in frustration an  shouted, "FUCK IT!" to a startled room of my coworkers, before grabbing a paper and pen and scribbling out a very thoughtful letter to the man.
    • I then proceeded to go and find the nearest post office, before I realised that the address for his fan mail is literally a ten minute walk from work.
    • I didn't eat lunch, but Dr. Watson's got some fan mail waiting for him in Shoreditch.
  • A fellow Dreamer was able to get all of us a free admittance to a hoppin' London club called The Church - which is a church that is now one of the craziest clubs in London. We had no idea what it would be like, so we just showed up. They give you bags of beer. Literally, a plastic bag with three beers. And it's absolutely insane.
    • We had the time of our lives getting drunk in the middle of the day at this club where literally everyone is dressed up like it's Halloween. No one grinds on you (thank God), and they play really good music (The Proclaimers! Coldplay! The Killers!). I danced my face off like a crazy fool (when I dance, I just jump up and down and do random punching motions. It's equally entertaining and dangerous).
    • Some very awkward things also happened. I'll spare you the equally awkward details (no worries, I was unsullied).
    • We pretended that we were Canadian so that we wouldn't be patronised by all of the British people who were there.
      • It worked.
  • Nicole and I went to The National Army Museum, which is strangely kid friendly, but also incredibly fascinating. There, we got to learn about the military history of the United Kingdom in its full - from medieval times to the Boer Wars to the World Wars, to Korea, etc...
    • We did an WWI interactive thingy where we had to be a Medic, a Captain or a Private, and we had to make decisions along the way that may or may not have ensured our survival or demise.
      • We would be awesome medics.
      • We would not be good Captains.
      • I'm pretty sure that we'd be dead if we were Privates.
    • We also walked through the Afghanistan exhibit, where we learned about IEDs, terrorism and their history throughout the United Kingdom (the IRA was incredibly prominent on the timeline, which made me very uncomfortable). After learning about IEDs and how to locate them, we then walked through a section of the exhibit that was a recreation of a section of an Afghani town, where we had to find where IEDs were planted based on certain clues (cigarette buts, moved soil, wires, discolouration in the wall, cell phones, etc...).
      • We would definitely be dead if that exhibit was real life (damn cell phone).
  • We went on an adventure to the South Bank, where - while my girls went on the London Eye - Stevie (Julie's friend from the States who was also randomly in London) and I ran around and explored that awesome part of town (I'm kind of in love with this place).
  • DreamCareers threw us an awesome end-of-your-adventure party this past weekend at the club, Bounce - complete with glow in the dark ping-ponging (at the place where ping pong was invented) and karaoke (we all rock that mic like no one's business).
    History... history everywhere...
    • "I Will Always Love You" DreamCareers people. <3 You guys are always going to be close to my heart, my fellow adventurers!
  • We had a wonderful picnic in Hyde Park that evening - I read The Hobbit while everyone else ate cheese and drank wine, and it was an absolutely pristine way to end the weekend.
  • My Irish cousin-twin-sister, Lakin, went to Speedy's Cafe (I'm tellin' ya, that place is awesome) so we could take pictures for her sister (who is also a huge Sherlock fan), where we met this awesome Italian girl named Ali.
    • We then proceeded to go to St. Bartholemew's Hospital, where we saw an awesome Telephone Box covered in letters to Sherlock and John (Why St. Bart's, you might ask? S02E03. Watch the damn show). I left a little letter there myself. :)
    • Then, we wandered around near Barbican and Farringdon stations for a while before heading back, after which we all had a wonderful evening of ping pong frivolities (see above, please)!
  • I finally went and explored the British Library, and it was absolutely fantastic - or it would have been if I had a reader's card to be able to explore the stacks. Still, it was rather lovely getting about again and seeing so much knowledge packed into one building.
    • I got mugged walking back. Again. Stole my bloody Oyster Card, the wanker...
    • Wait, did you know that I had gotten mugged the first time? Well, I did. Some guy stole my scarf in broad daylight... in the middle of a crowded Tesco's. I have no idea how that happened, but it did.
  • I went to a concert with my roommate, Julie, in East London near my work (not really, but kind of). It was at a random pub in the middle of nowhere called the Sebright Arms. Julie works at a music distribution company, and she got us free tickets! So, #beerandgoodmusic! We saw an American band called He's My Brother, She's My Sister - and they were absolutely fantastic! They stole the show, they were completely fantastic, and they played our favourite song - "How'm I Gonna Get Back Home" (which was really fitting, 'cause at this point we were fairly inebriated after a wonderful night of frivolities and men buying us drinks, and we had to actually figure out how to get back to our flat... which we did, thank you very much).
  • I went to the Cornetto Trilogy (also known as the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy) marathon and midnight premiere of The World's End with my lovely friends Alli and Shannon - and also got to hang out with DJ again (and his fellow actor friend who's also studying at LAMDA with him this summer). It was hilarious and incredible and I've never laughed that much in my entire life. I got free Cornetto ice cream and drank five pints of lager before watching Shaun of the Dead and was laughing so hard by the end of the evening that I was crying and I woke up the next day with an incredible sore stomach.
    • I love the people I got to hang out with.
    • I also love Simon Pegg.
    • Obviously, Martin Freeman is just awesome.
    • British humour makes the world go 'round in a happy, dry, absurd and sarcastic way. :)
  • My stomach is almost completely healed, which is absolutely fantastic - I really was not too keen on having an incredibly epic scar on my stomach for the rest of my life.
    • I'm still drinking my three cups of tea a day. I WILL NOT BE AFRAID OF YOU, DELICIOUS, BRITISH BEVERAGE!
  • I have not only been inspired to pursue this crazy acting career thing, but I also have been inspired to begin writing a script for a play that I've been musing over for the last two or three years. This means that I'm going to be a very busy camper this next year (but, then again, when is that a new development in my life?).

It's Suddenly Dawning...

... that I only have one week left in London, England. And I don't think that you guys fully realise how absolutely... depressing that is. I'm actually physically depressed. I have actually spent an entire day completely moping about the entire thing. Completely inconsolable. I'm torn between my Rocky Mountains and my loving family and my awesome friends and my dogs... and this incredibly city that has now not just become my second home, but a home in it of itself. I don't want to leave, not this soon - not after spending so little time here. Eight weeks has not nearly been enough time. I feel cheated, which is so selfish and whiney, but... I don't know. It's like, when I leave, I'm going to be leaving a part of myself behind, too, and it feels weird having to just... leave it here.

I'm being a very bitter, sad person. Which, again, is selfish and illogical. But I can't help it, I feel like my heart's breaking a little bit every time this August 9th deadline creeps closer and closer...

But, I have two weeks left in the UK, including an incredibly random and last-minute kind of trip by myself to the Scottish capital, which should be nothing but sunshine, rainbows and haggis. :) I'll, of course, keep you updated, 'cause, as always... I'm behind on this blog because I'm too busy trying to catch up with my own life! Everything happens so fast, and it's sure to stay that way until the end of this incredible journey.

So, until the next adventure...