Saturday Matinee in Muswell Hill


Going to the movies has always been a guilty pleasure of mine.  I don’t know if its the giant screen, the smell of popcorn, or the make-you-go-deaf sound system, but I love going to the theater.  It doesn’t help that my local theater offers $5 deals for any show before noon, (even new releases!).  I’m not picky either . . . I’ll go to see anything from big budget blockbusters to indie films that had to beg to be distributed.

So naturally, I went to the movies or the cinema, (if I may practice Brit lingo),  during my stay in London this summer.  The experience itself ended up being more entertaining than the movie!  As mentioned in previous posts, I stayed in the small borough of Muswell Hill in North London. It has a very small town village feel, even though it’s part of much larger city, and is steeped in history.  This atmosphere is beautifully reflected in Muswell Hill’s Odeon Theater on Fortis Green Road.  It was built in 1936 during a major theater building boon, just as motion pictures were becoming more and more popular.

Upon approach, I wondered why a brick wall obscured the front part of the theater. I did some research and found out the church across the street was concerned about the “glowing sin” that emanated from neon signs and movie posters, so a partial wall and side street were built to make the theater more discreet.   My, how times have changed!

There are three screens in the Odeon, one large screen with 400 hundred seats and two smaller screens with 167 and 169 seats.  The large screen is decked out in major art deco architectural style, but I didn’t get to marvel in its beauty.  Unfortunately, the movie I wanted to see was playing in Theater 2 (a smaller screen on the lower level).

When I went into the lobby of the Odeon to buy my ticket, I was so excited to get my first overseas ticket stub.  Just like I save stones and seashells, I also hang onto my movie ticket stubs.  I have stubs dating all the way back to 1994 and I keep them all posted on a large bulletin board, (but that’s another post for another day).  Sadly, I was let down a little bit because they don’t give out actual tickets, but rather a flimsy receipt that shows payment.  Rats!  After a few years, that thin piece of paper will fade away to nothing, but I’m certain my memories of this place will outlive the ink.

Theater 2 turned out to be smaller than the theaters that end up in the back corner of the multiplexes back home,  (you know, the auditoriums that play older releases and smaller films), but it’s actually pretty cozy.  There are no middle seats because the hallway runs down the center of the theater.  Instead, two equal sections of seats run along each side of the screen.  Stadium seating does not exist, but there is a slight incline from the front of the theater to the back.  Too bad it’s not steep enough to help a short person such as myself.  The only way to avoid the poofy hair and tall heads in the front rows was to sit at the far left side in the back.

Once in my seat, I got a chance to assess the screen I’d be watching for the next two hours. It was at this point that I realized I may be a bit of a spoiled American when it comes to the movie-going experience.  My first thought after beholding the Odeon’s screen was, “My TV is bigger than that.”   Even still, I had to chuckle because that cute little screen is quite befitting of a theater with so much personality.

What lacked in screen-size was more than made up for with the sound system.   As soon as the lights dimmed, the sides of the screen slid out a few more inches (I’ve honestly never been so excited over a few inches in all my life) and a little click snapped in the speakers.  A commercial for a video game lit up the screen and the sound almost blew me right out of my seat.   The surround sound alone was worth the £9.50 I paid for my “ticket.”

The spectacle of X-Men: First Class made for a fun movie that was perfect for whittling away a Saturday afternoon. However, what made this typical summer blockbuster so enjoyable wasn’t the special effects or the gorgeous lead actors, but rather the Odeon itself.  Even though I was far away from home, this little theater made me feel like I was sitting on my couch watching a movie on a big screen TV with a killer sound system.  Never once has a 30 screen multiplex given me such a warm embrace.

c.b. 2011

Wreck This Journal: Keep Reaching


Sometimes the simplest things can lead to the biggest realizations.  About halfway through Wreck This Journal, there’s page that says: Trace your hand.  I was instantly reminded of the “hand turkeys” I drew while in grade school and I thought it would be fun to make another one . . . or two.  I couldn’t resist tracing both hands!

What I didn’t expect was to see so much hiding in the silhouette I had created. The stark black outline made my hands seem so meek and insignificant, even though I knew better. They aren’t just flesh and bone, but rather a symbol of the fact that big things can come out of tiny packages.  All I need to do is believe.

A realization like this calls for something much more significant than a turkey.  So, I pulled out a box of crayons, my quote journal, and a set of stamps.  I was on a mission to make my hands look exactly how they feel to me as a writer and an (always trying) artist.  Before I knew it, the page exploded with color:

The background is supposed to be the sun on the horizon (either at sunset or sunrise, which happen to be my two favorite times of the day).  To switch things up I drew the sky onto my hands as a way to remind myself the sky’s the limit and I can put it wherever I like in my imagination.   The quotes I chose for my palms come from Langston Hughes and Vincent Van Gogh, both of whom I greatly admire. They are an amazing source of motivation to pick up that pen and keep writing, even when the inner critic is whispering in my ear.

Writing and creativity are all about reaching beyond what is possible. Giving up is not an option, even when faced with boundaries and people saying “you can’t.”  The human spirit is a powerful force . . . as long as we keep reaching.

– – –

Previous Wreck This Journal:

Letting Go

c.b. 2011

Freshly Pressed Shock Syndrome


This week I was afflicted by an ailment I hope every blogger will get to experience at some point.  It all began on Thursday¹ morning when I logged into WordPress and saw something very familiar on the homepage.  I blinked to make sure I wasn’t imagining it, I read the title three times just to be sure, and then my eyes bugged out of my head.  Oh. my. goodness.  I pointed at the screen and shouted, “Hey, that’s my blog on Freshly Pressed!”  That’s when I knew I had Freshly Pressed Shock Syndrome or FPSS.

The nerd in me couldn’t resist taking a screenshot to celebrate!  Congratulations to all the other Freshly Pressed bloggers who probably have FPSS as well!

Symptoms of FPSS include:

  • failure to blink
  • the inability to close a gaping mouth
  • a constant shaking of the head in disbelief
  • uncontrollable squealing
  • rapid heartbeat
  • hyperventilating
  • involuntary jumping up and down
  • immense gratitude

What followed the initial onset of FPSS was an incredible and exciting influx of traffic on my blog.  I honestly never expected or believed numbers could go that high.  Just two days before, I was ecstatic with a higher than usual double digit hit count.  My new bar graph obliterated that previous victory into a teeny tiny sliver.  The funny thing is I was a little sad to see all my previous achievements blasted into oblivion, but then I looked at the total hit count again and got excited all over again.  Hmmmm . . . . perhaps I should add emotional confusion to the list of FPSS symptoms.

Adding to the chaos of rapid traffic was e-mail overload.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many e-mail alerts in all my life!  Having everything funneled through your e-mail is fine when there’s 7 or 8 comments on a post and a couple likes, but several hundred stuffed my mailbox faster than I could process them!  It was insane, yet so much fun!

When I got around to checking out the post that caused all the commotion, (The Best Souvenirs Are Free), it was amazing to see a virtual patchwork quilt of gravatars situated under the “Like” button. Thank you to everyone who took the time to give that extra click.  It made this whole process that much more meaningful.

My sincere thanks goes to everyone who left comments.  I am in awe of how many of you shared your beautiful stories and souvenirs, (keep them coming!).  It’s such an honor to have those memories on my blog.  We may never meet, but the creation of a common thread between everyone who joined in the discussion will never be forgotten².  At the moment I’m a little overwhelmed, but in the coming days I will respond to every comment.

One of the side effects I wasn’t expecting was the massive jump in subscribers. I really appreciate that extra show of support and find it so inspiring.  I hope future posts will keep you all coming back again and again.  My blog can be a little random, but I do strive to make it as interesting and fun as possible.  Thank you so much for adding me to your reading list!

I wish I could say “The Best Souvenirs Are Free” was totally my idea, but I have to give credit to my muse.³  My incredibly fickle and random muse put the idea in my head ten minutes before I was planning to leave the house for a writing session.  My day shifted an entire hour so I could snap the picture, but I guess the rest is history.  I owe her a big one, (Greeaaat).  Extra muse juice, perhaps?

Last but certainly not least, thank you to the WordPress gods and readers for giving me the chance to feel like a real writer.  May every blogger know the thrill of FPSS.

– – –

¹Actually, the hubbub started on Wednesday when Muse Juice was selected for The Daily Post.  Naturally, I broke out into a raging case of DPSS (Daily Post Shock Syndrome).

²Goosebumps are yet another symptom of FPSS.

³ FPSS also leads to unexpected groveling to your muse.

c.b. 2011

Wreck This Journal: Letting Go


A little over a year ago, I bought a book that challenged me in ways I never expected.  While a creative free spirit, I am also a highly organized neat-nick that likes to have things in perfect order. This is a great trait for my day job and keeping a well-ordered home, but for writing it can be the kiss of death.  Creativity needs spark and inspiration, not a color-coded filing system (at least not all the time!).  I realized I needed to break out of my box and go nuts with imagination.  It was time to let go and make a mess.

Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal  dared me to break my own rules with page after page of unique activities.  In fact, there were no rules and I was free to do whatever came to mind!  The process of wrecking my journal turned out to be a truly liberating experience.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite pages with the hope that they will inspire some more messy creativity.  As always, click on images for a full-size view.

The cover of my journal.  I’ll explain the rip in the binding soon enough, (it involves yarn and centripetal force). At one point, the cover will be decorated with doodles as per instructions I have not yet completed.  I’m thinking metallic gel pens and glitter glue will get the job done!

The overall “instructions” for the journal.  What I love about them is the blatant ambiguity – there is no right or wrong way to wreck your journal.  These two pages are covered in doodles and color because I felt like using my crayons and markers.

My muse juice is splattered all over this page along with some musings and lame attempts at drawing. This page turned out to be an amazing source of motivation during the arduous process of revising/editing the third draft of my novel.  It was a great way to vent my frustration in a constructive way that left me with hope and the gumption to keep going.  Who would have thought some splattered coffee could inspire so much?


c.b. 2011