Friday, October 11, 2013

Interviews and Unschooling

Image by popturfdotcom here

Yesterday, Mum and I made a movie together. We settled down in the living room and set up out tripod, a dining room chair with a pile of out-of-date encyclopedias sitting on. I sat in one of the big armchairs. Mum set up the camera on the 'tripod'. Today Mum would be interviewing me about being unschooled and about studying at university.

I glanced at the list of questions I had sitting in my lap. We discussed what I was going to say. Was this a good idea? It felt a lot like public speaking, which scares me. I'd much rather sing to a crowd than speak to them. Taking a deep breath, I waited for Mum to start filming. The little red light appeared on the camera. I smiled at my non-existent audience and began to speak.

Once I got going, it wasn't too scary after all. Every so often we stopped the camera, discussed what I was going to say in the next segment. Mum took a rest from holding onto the camera.And then we carried on. I talked for what seemed to be ages before we finally got through all the questions and finished filming.

Then Mum took the video to her room, downloaded it onto her computer and started editing it into something acceptable for other people to see. As I passed her room occasionally, I caught snatches of my own voice, babbling on about one thing or another, and winced. There is nothing so humbling as hearing your own voice. It didn't take long for Mum to have the movie finished though.

"Do you want to see it?" Mum asked me.

I shook my head at once. "No thanks. I don't like listening to myself talk."

But even though I didn't watch it, other family members told me that it was good. It seemed that me sitting in front of a camera and attempting to talk about my experiences unschooling and now studying at university had ended up with a fairly good video. Already we're thinking about the next movie. Now that I've been interviewed once, I wouldn't mind too much doing it again. My brothers and sisters might have a turn too. Who knows what we might come up with next?

If you're interested in hearing what it was like to be unschooled, and what it's like to study university over the internet, then please check out my interview. You can find it here: Imogen Talks about Unschooling and University

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Feeling Like a Jane Austen Heroine

Photo by Ben Sutherland on Flickr

Right now I feel like one of Jane Austen's heroines. Except not quite so witty and elegant. Or maybe Cinderella, except I have both my shoes and I don't go around covered in ashes. Why? Because one of my kind friends has invited me to go to a ball. I've never been to one of those before, but I've read enough Jane Austen to know I'm in for a good time.

Finding accommodation, shoes and jewellery is the easy part of getting ready for the ball. I exchange a few emails with the college holding the ball and hey presto, I have a room reserved for me. No, the real challenge is trying to find a dress for a five foot something girl who's rather interested in having at the very least, thick straps on her dress.

We search for a dress. Many hours hunting on internet shops and walking round real shops tells me two things. Ball gowns with sleeves or thick straps are hard to find. How on earth would one ever be able to keep a dress with no straps on? And finding a ball gown that fits a short person like me perfectly? That's impossible. By the time we find a dress, I felt about three feet tall. Surely I am not that small. It is only thanks to my amazing mum that we find a dress at all.

The dress arrives less than a week later, and I try it on. It's a pretty silver blue, with three layers of shiny, slippery fabric and jewels around the neckline. And it's long. Very long. To even walk I have to hold up huge handfuls away from my feet. Just one look at the dress and we can all see, it's going to need some serious altering to make it short enough for me to wear. We measure it, fold the hem, measure it again. Finally, after hours of work, we reach a decision. I have to have exactly half a foot lopped off the end of the dress. And with such a complicated dress to turn up, we have to get a professional tailor to do it for us.

But the hard parts are done, and the ball is looming closer and closer. Soon my beautiful ball gown will come back from the tailor. Soon I'll be able to try everything on properly and see exactly what it all looks like. Soon I'll be off to a ball with my friends, dancing, having a good time, and feeling rather like a Jane Austen heroine.

My mum has also written a post about me going to a ball: Wanted: One Prince Charming. Please pop over and share her humorous post about finding a Prince Charming.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Family, Fun, and a Bush Run

My family loves to run. During the winter we take turns pounding out a few kilometers on the treadmill every morning. During the spring and summer we get up early and go for a run along the bush track before breakfast. We also love to spend time together as a family. So what would be better than to go out on a run together as a family outing?

Shoes tied and water bottles in hand we headed out to try one of the local bush tracks. Together we walked from the car to the path. Together we set off. And together we hit the first hill. My muscles were already burning as we scrambled to the top and plunged down the other side. At the bottom we hit another steep hill. Up and down. Up and down. And up and down again. I puffed and panted, sweat rolling down my face as I worked hard not to fall behind. Somehow I kept up almost all the way to the end of the track.

At the end of the track it was time for triumphant photos, inspection of wounds where various family members had fallen over on the loose rocks, and a quick rest to catch our breaths. But then, we had to run all the way back. The track had led us deep into the bush, and our water bottles and picnic were 2.5km away, back at the car. I looked at the hills. I'd never make it all that way. 2.5km back, all up and down those hills again.

We split into two groups as we headed back. There was the slow but steady group, led by me, the tired, out of practice runner. And then there was the fast group, rapidly disappearing into the green of the bush way ahead of us. I looked round at my little group. 2.5km. We could do that together. I'd make sure of it. We set off after the quicker group, our tired feet carrying us steadily up and down the steep hills, heading ever closer towards the car, our drinks, and lunch.

"You can do it."

"Just a little bit further."

"You can make it to the top of the next rise."

"Careful, it's a bit slippery here. I'll help you."

My little team and I pushed each other up the hills, encouraging each other. I was tired, and my feet and legs hurt. But this was actually really fun. I had my team, and we were doing well. I looked around at my little group and had to grin. Even us really tired people were working hard and still going. No one said that they couldn't possibly run another step. And there was the end of the bush track and the concrete path back to the car. Why, we were almost there already.


My team and I looked at each other. We grinned and nodded, then picked up the pace, sprinting past little old ladies, dogs, and children on bikes. Feet pounding, arms pumping, we flew towards the car, pulling up, puffing and panting. We collapsed on the grass, red faced, but triumphant. It might have been a long run, it might have been hard. I might have been a little out of practice. But we'd made it the whole way. I'd made it the whole way. And it was picnic time.

Looking around the picnic table not long after, I was very thankful. I had my family. I was fairly fit. And I'd had a whole day of fun. It might have been a tough run for me. But it was worth it to spend time with my family like this. Yes, I was very thankful indeed.

Friday, August 23, 2013

How to Make a Colour Splash Photo

I have always admired other people's photos. How do they manage to compose the photo so perfectly? How do they get the lighting just right? And how on earth do they manage to edit those pictures so spectacularly, like that great effect where just one thing in a black and white photo is coloured? Obviously they must use some extra special editing programs that are incredibly difficult to use. Normal people couldn't do it. Or could they?

The other day my clever mother found out how to make these colour splash photos, and she taught me how to do it too. You only need a photo and some simple, free, online photo editing software. It's so easy that even I can do it! I'm going to show you how you can make these fantastic your photos, even if you know nothing about photo editing.

Step one is to find a photo to use. You can use one of your own, or, if you're like me and aren't any good at actually taking photos, you can use a free one. Most of my photos come from Morguefile, a creative commons photo resource website. I find that using a photo with a strong subject in a strong colour makes the photo more striking. This is the photo I've chosen.

Now go to Picmonkey. It's a free online photo editing program, and it has all the tools that you're going to need for this. If you need to play with the colours and brightness in your photo, now's the time to do it. Make sure that the part of the picture that's going to be coloured is just how you want it to look. Once you've started the next step it's difficult to go back and fix colouring. My picture already looks ok, so I'm ready to move on to the next step.

This next step is where the magic happens. Go to the 'Effects'. It's in the left sidebar, and looks like a bubbling flask. Scroll down and click on the black and white effect. Now your whole picture should be black and white. Do not click on apply. You should see a floating window with slider bars sitting near your picture. This is the paintbox, and it's going to help you make your amazing photo.

Make sure that the 'original' button is clicked on the paintbox. Hover your mouse over the picture. It should be a little round circle. Click and drag across the part of the picture that you want to colour. The black and white effect will disappear. Use your paintbrush to colour the subject of your picture. This might take a while, and can be a little fiddly. If you make a mistake, just click 'Effect' on the paintbox and rub over the mistake and it'll go away.

Once you're sure that you've got the picture right, click on 'apply'. And there you have it, your black and white picture with a splash of colour. Isn't it awesome looking? And you didn't need anything special to make this effect.

If you're feeling like the black and white is too harsh, you can use the slider bar in the left sidebar, where you clicked on the black and white effect, to fade the black and white, like I've done in this picture. This lets a little colour into the picture, but keeps everything except the painted area very muted.

Isn't my mum clever to know how to do this? And now you can do it too. Why not give it a try? Then leave me a link in the comments so I can go and see your masterpiece. I'd love to see what you come up with.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Critiquing Fear

It’s the first day of a new study period for university. I click eagerly through the university website, glancing through the course outline. For my introduction, I have to introduce myself as a character. Well, that’s  different. And then…

I have to critique someone else’s introduction.

At once the panic starts to rise. Help! Critique someone’s work? But I’m not very good at writing myself. I don’t know how to give a good critique. I don’t want the other students to hate me for pointing out faults in their work. I’m having a panic attack and I haven’t so much as clicked the mouse yet.

It’s a funny thing, but no one seems to like giving critiques. My course is a creative writing course, and yet everyone is saying ‘Oh your work is wonderful. I love such-and-such about it’, and nothing else. Which is all very nice to hear. I can’t help smiling and feeling just a little bit clever. But at the same time, comments like these aren’t going to make me into a better writer. They’re just going to give me a big head.

So, if I realise that this is not the way to help people, why do I feel bad when I post a critique that both praises and criticizes a piece of writing? I might not have a piece of paper that tells me I’m qualified to help other people with their writing, but I can tell them what didn’t work for me. It’s an opinion, nothing more.

I think that this fear of critiquing someone’s writing comes from fear that I’m going to hurt the other person’s feelings. Even when I’ve spent an hour writing and rewriting the same hundred and fifty words over and over trying to phrase the critique in a way that I hope won’t offend, I’m still worried that I’m going to be making them feel like their work is terrible. I’ve had enough bad days of my own where I think that my writing is terrible to want to give anyone else a day like that.

But saying that everything is perfect, that’s not the way to help anyone improve. If we were all perfect already, why would we be taking this course? So I write and rewrite that critique over and over again, trying to word it just right, trying to gently show the other people where they might improve their writing and make it stronger. Not to say that I’m any good at this. It’s true, I’ve never done this before. But if I truly want to help the other person, I need to show them the good and the bad, in the nicest way possible. Critiques, they don’t seem to be easy things to write, but they are necessary if we're to grow as writers.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

April Adventures Successes

Before April started, I wrote a post about all the adventurous things I was taking on in April. And honestly, there were a lot. I looked at my list and couldn't believe how many things I was doing. What was I thinking? Well, to tell the truth, I wasn't thinking. Not until it was too late.

Still, I had signed up for all those things, and I wasn't about to give up now. So I went to it with a will, determined not to fall behind in anything. Surely I could manage that? Well, maybe...

April Camp NaNo was the easiest of the challenges. Even aiming for a higher goal than the usual 50 thousand words I found it fairly easy to keep up with the required minimum of words. Writing first drafts of novels is the best part of novel writing to me.

The A-Z challenge was harder. Being me, I wasn't prepared at all. I didn't even sign up until a few days before. I had no idea of what to write. Every evening I sat at my desk and tried to come up with something interesting to say, with varying amounts of success.

And then there were university assignments that had to be written and submitted on time. Music practices to be done. Family to attempt to see more than just at meal times. So many things to do in a day.

And did I manage it? Yes I did. I didn't miss a day with the A-Z challenge. I completed my April Camp NaNo word count. I did my music practices, submitted my assignments, and even managed to remember I had a family every once in a while. April was a huge success.

After all that hard work in April, I took a blogging break for the first two weeks of May to recharge. Which means I'm terribly behind with the lovely comments that people have left me. My apologise, and thank you to everyone who has left a comment. I'm working moderating and answering them all as fast as I can.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Zippers and Homemade, Hand-Me-Down Skirts

It was beautiful fabric. Thick, blue denim, with a pink pattern on it. I could just see it as my newest skirt. Oh, I could't wait for Mum to make it for me, to work her magic with the sewing machine and turn it into a skirt. It would swish around my ankles, long and elegant. It would be amazing.

The sewing machine whirred and hummed. I stood outside the door, listening to the buzzing of the machine, and the puff of the steam iron as Mum worked to turn that fabric into my skirt. Not long now.

"It's all done. Why don't you try it on?"

I flew to my room, skirt clutched to my chest. Done at last! Now I would ear it. I slid it on, and reached for the zipper. And then stopped. Where was the zipper tab for me to pull it up by? I groped around. Where was it? The zipper was there, but the tab wasn't

No, wait. There it was. On the inside of the skirt! The zipper was inside out. It was a perfect zipper, the best zipper in a homemade skirt I'd ever had, but it was inside out. Whoops!

Not that it mattered to me. I didn't mind sliding my fingers down the inside of my skirt to undo the zip. It was one of my favourite skirts, and I loved wearing it, inside out zipper and all. It was a sad day when I handed it down the line to the next sister to wear.

A few weeks ago, the time came to sort out the winter clothes. Large storage boxes sat in the hallway and clothing strewed the house. And then, out of the piles of clothes, came the skirt with the inside out zipper.

My second youngest sister, Sophie, pounced on it with a cry of delight. "I remember this skirt. Do you think I'd fit it this year?" Much to her delight, it did fit. She put it on, and danced around the room in her new, hand-me-down skirt with the inside out zipper. It didn't matter to her about the mistake. She just loved the skirt.

So really, it doesn't matter about little mistakes like those. Because a skirt with an inside zipper can be just as well loved as any other skirt, especially when it's made by your mother with love.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Yes I Can

I drag myself out of bed and down to the park with my sisters. I’m so tired. Maybe I could just do a little run. There’s no way I’m running 6km today. I can’t do that. Not when I’ve got a headache and I’m tired and everyone else seems to be running so much better than me. I’m not good enough> I can’t do this today.

Yes I can. Those words are magic. My feet feel lighter already. Yes, I can do this. The third kilometre is gone, and I’m heading up the fourth.  Yes, I am good enough to do this. The fifth kilometre is a memory in the past. Yes, I can make it to the end. I’m strong, I’m fast, I’m a runner. And there I am, six kilometres run.

Where is that headache now? Where’s that tiredness? Wasn’t I supposed to be heaving my leaden feet around the track, bewailing every moment I had to spend out here? Wasn’t I supposed to be the bad runner, who wasn’t as fit as everyone else? Where did all that go? Was it all in my imagination?

I grin at my family as we stride home, our heads held high. Yes, I did it. I can be proud now. Just thinking those three little words, ‘Yes I can’, what a change it makes. I know what to do next time I go running. Can I run as far as everyone else? Yes I can.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X-Rays, Thumbs, and Writer’s Wrist

About two years ago, I dislocated my left thumb. It was really silly actually. Just a friendly game of soccer where the ball hit me on the base of the thumb and popped it out of joint. Admittedly, the recovery wasn’t very fun, and it was more than a month later when I finally had full use of my hand again. The doctor who x-rayed my hand to make sure I hadn’t broken anything thought I was pretty silly to have done that, and probably I was.

But it healed, and that was the end of it. Or so I thought.

Almost a year later, I took part in my first ever NaNoWriMo. Halfway through the month, my left wrist suddenly became a little painful. It’s nothing too bad. Nothing I can’t handle. And it goes away pretty quickly too.

But it comes back. Over and over again it comes back, normally right when I need a good wrist the most. Which is generally around the time I’m working on a novel. It’s annoying, and painful, but, until a certain point, not too bad.

And then NaNoWriMo last year came around and silly me wrote too much too fast. Hundreds of thousands of words later and my wrist hurt like I redislocated the thumb. Though I knew I haven’t done that at least.

A doctors trip later, and I head for an x-ray again, as well as an ultrasound. The x-ray is easy. Move my hand around into three painful positions and that’s it. Done. However the ultrasound took forever. The doctor watched the images on a screen, making notes and taking pictures. I stared up at them, anxious. Was there something badly wrong? What was she looking at? If only I knew how to translate the black and white pictures.

“You have writer’s wrist,” one doctor told me. “Lots of typing brings it one, though having it in the left hand is unusual for a right handed person. A shot of steroids will fix you up though.”

Writer’s wrist. I never heard of that one before. Does getting writer’s wrist make you into a proper writer? Does getting a steroid shot in your wrist make it big and strong and muscular? I wonder.

Well, the steroid shot didn’t give me a massively muscular wrist. But it did fix it. No longer plagued by writer’s wrist, I’m back to typing, just a little more carefully than before. Maybe writing so much in a month isn’t the best thing for me. So for all your writers, be careful. Or you might end up with writer’s wrist like me!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Welcoming the Wonderful Piano

A new piano sits in our house. It’s shiny black, with beautiful, white keys. It sits there, inviting fingers to press those keys and hear the notes ringing out, one by one, making music. It is by far the most beautiful piano that has ever been in our house.

This is my new piano. Many people get presents. Soap. Body wash. Books. Me, I was given a piano. I’m still not able to believe that someone would be so kind as to give me a whole piano. But there it is, sitting in my house, and I have to start believing it.

I sit down to play the piano. My scruffy black music folder sits on the music stand. It doesn’t look good enough for this wonderful piano. There should be something smarter sitting there. I put my fingers to the keys, take a deep breath, and start to play.

Is that my music? Is that really me playing those notes that boom out and fill the whole house? I’ve never heard my pieces sound as amazing as this at home before. Can this be me playing, on my piano? Is that my music ringing out? It must be, but it doesn’t sound like me. It sounds way, way better.

My new piano sits in the corner, gleaming in the light. I run my hand over its smooth surface, thankful for the wonderful person who was so kind as to give it to me. Piano practice will never be the same again. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Villains: Becoming the Good Guys

The best villains, in my opinion, are the ones who are smart and witty and not easily beaten by the good guys. They’re the ones who use their brains, and come very close to beating the hero, and who you can have respect for. They’re not your common or garden criminals. They’re artists, taking villainy to the next level.

But what’s better than a villain who’s amazing at being bad? Why, a villain that’s amazing at being good. I’ve noticed that a few of my favourite movies and books have this aspect to them.

My most favourite movie of all time is Megamind, about a villain with a giant blue head, who ends up fighting evil and becoming the hero. It’s all about turning the typical superhero story on its head. Megamind is smart, and funny, and at the same time, so clueless about being the hero of the story.

In books, I recently read a series of books about a boy in a villainous academy, where he was being taught how to be a villain. The name of the academy was amazing. It was called HIVE: Higher Institute of Villainous Education. And this boy, he might have been learning how to be a villain, but he was leaning to be a gentlemanly villain, fighting off the real bad characters. Again, it took the idea of a villain, and turned it on its head.

A villain’s a great character. And it’s even better when they can be turned into the good guys. Do you have any other examples of this?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

University and Following the Right Dream

At the beginning of this year, I started my dream university course. I’d love to be able to say that it was what I had always wanted to study for, but sadly, no. You see, I used to have this mistaken idea that I wanted to be a doctor.

For years and years I kept up the idea that I was going to be a doctor. Ok, so I couldn’t name you a single thing about being a doctor that really drew me in, and I couldn’t think of a single area that I would work in, but that was a small matter really. Obviously I was meant to be a doctor.

Until I got to thinking. Did I really want to be a doctor? I spent my last school years studying chemistry (which I was very bad at), biology (that was ok), and advanced maths (which I found boring sadly, though I did ok). And I was pretty sure that I was ready to jump into this doctor’s degree.

Only, I suddenly realised that that wasn’t the right thing to do. Did I really want to be a doctor? I couldn’t be a surgeon. Even thinking about cutting people up made me feel sick. And looking after a person for more than a day was never my thing either. No, I was pretty sure that I didn’t want to be a doctor after all.

And that’s when I realised, if I didn’t have to be a doctor, I could be something else. Something exciting. Like, a writer, or an editor. Yes, for someone like me, who’s always working on some piece of writing, that sounded just perfect. Imogen Elvis, author and editor. That sounded pretty good to me.

So now I’m studying writing and publishing. I might not enjoy the sociology side of things, but I know that somewhere in the future, the writing lurks. And I’m working towards the degree that I want. And what could be better than working towards the right dream?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tricycles, Four Girls, and a Steep Hill

We used to live in a house which had a steep hill down one side. The hill swooped down, down, down, before curving round the back of the house, and round a tree. It was a perfect hill for a billy-cart, or other sort of cart.

Not that we had a billy-cart. But what we did have was a tricycle. It was yellow and green and had two seats. And it was the perfect vehicle for flying down the hill on. Two girls would sit on the seats, the smallest girls of course, because they were the safest. And we two older girls hung one on each side.

Up to the top of that very steep hill we pushed that tricycle. At the very top we’d stop, and arrange ourselves. Then, ‘One. Two. Three!’ We pushed ourselves off the top of the hill and went flying down the side.

Faster and faster the tricycle went. Faster and faster, and all the time we shrieked and shouted with glee. And faster and faster the tree at the bottom of the hill came closer. Would we make it this time? Would we get round the curve without spilling over, or hitting the tree? Most often not. But sometimes, just sometimes, we’d go swooping round that corner and sail on down the garden.

Finally we’d coast to a stop, unclench white knuckled fingers, and push the tricycle back up to the top. Over and over again we flew down that hill. Until at last, one day, four girls was just too many, and the front half parted ways with the back half, ending our fun on the hill. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Shopping Trolleys and School Pick-Ups

Do you ever wonder what happened to shopping trolleys that went missing. Sometimes I've see them abandoned at the side of the road, or down a small street. Some even get dumped in water filled ditches. But I've never seen as many trolleys as are reported missing. But I might have found where these trolleys go. They go to school.

Once, of my dad’s school students was late in getting picked up from school. His brother was supposed to come and get him, but at the right time, no one turned up to get this kid. Which meant that my dad had to stay at school until someone came to get him and take him home.

A lot of time passed. This brother was very late. Finally however, he arrived at the school in a novel form of transportation. Other pupils came on foot, on a push bike, or even on a skateboard. Not this boy. He a shopping trolley. And furthermore, he took his brother home in the same way.

Is this what happens to the shopping trolleys when they go missing from the shops? Is it normal for school kids to go wandering around the streets, riding in a school trolley? Does it make for a comfortable ride? I wonder...Do you know?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

'R' Words and Rotten Sisters

I sat down to write my post today. What ‘R’ word would I write about today? There were sure to be lots of ‘R’ words that would make great blog posts.

“You could write about Wabbits,” my sister Charlotte said with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “Or Winos, or Widiculous Sisters.”

“Or I could Wite about how you’re a Wotter,” I said. “I can’t think straight any more.

“Well I Wouldn’t Worry about that,” Charlotte said. “I’ve lots more ideas for you. Wice Pudding. Or Weading. Or even the Wotten Womans. How about Wunning Away?”

I shook my head. “None of those will do. I’ll have to come up with an idea of my own.”

Only, I can’t. My Wotten sister has filled my head with Wabbits and Wunning, and I can’t come up with anything sensible to say. So I’m afraid this has become a post of ‘W’ words. Whoops. I Weally am a Wubbish Witer tonight. I'll get back to you with the 'R' words when I've Wun away from this Widiculous speech impediment I'm afflicted with.

This really should have been my W post I'm sure. But my ridiculous sister interfered, so R has become W. My apologies. Charlotte is still unwepentant.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Quests and Saving the World

There are lots of things that I like about fantasy novels, both reading them and writing them. Characters can go to amazing places. There can be magic. Elves, dwarves and dragons are all commonplace. But one of my favourite things about fantasy novels is the quests.

Quests. Those epic adventures to find the solution to all their problems. Whether it’s a quest to kill a dragon, to find a magic gem, or, as in my novel, a magic tree made of living crystal. When a small group of people band together to go on a quest to save the world from a fate worse than death, how can we not cheer for them?

Frodo Baggins went on a big quest to throw the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom. He and his small band of friends went across Middle Earth to save it from the powers of Sauron. One small band of friends to save the world. It seems impossible, but that just makes the end all the better when the small band defeats the mighty armies of the bad guys.

Quests, the perfect Q word for a fantasy lover like me. No wonder I write quests and read them. What are your favourite quests?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Perishing Pigeons

I knelt in church. The Blessed Sacrament stood on the altar, enclosed in the golden monstrance. All around me people knelt, their heads bowed in prayer. One hour of silent adoration of Our Lord. Everything was peaceful. Outside it was noisy, busy, and hot. But in here it was cool, silent and restful.

Maybe that’s what brought the pigeon inside the church, the coolness. Or maybe it wanted to come and see Our Lord too. At any rate, there it was, swooping through the church, heading towards the front. It shot upwards suddenly, and landed on one of the exposed crossbeams of the roof. Hardly anyone noticed the bird anyway.

Everything stayed nice and peaceful, just right for pray and adoration. I forgot about the pigeon in the room. Until it fell out of the air and landed on its back on the floor, near the altar, stone dead.

What made the pigeon die like that? Why did fly into a church, sit there, and then just perish? I still haven’t managed to work that bit out yet. Maybe it was overcome by the presence of God as it sat there in the roof. Or maybe it was something else. But, whatever the reason for its death, it couldn’t have chosen a better time, or a better place to die, in a church, before Our Lord exposed.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Outside, Inside, and Playing as a Kid

Even though I’m only eighteen, I always feel old when I think back to when I was a child, in those days before double figures. In those days, there were four of us, all running round, playing our imaginative games together. In those days, we all had fun together.

When I was younger, I led all the games, mainly because I was the eldest, and so, in my sister’s eyes, must obviously be able to think up the best games. So my games involved civil wars, pirates (there were some lovely trees on our driveway, just right for sailing the high seas on), American Indians, sword fighting, and travelling the prairies in covered wagons. Sometimes we rowed ourselves around the garden in a baby bath…er, rowboat. Every day was outside, playing with leaves, sticks, and lashing of imagination.

But one couldn’t play outside all the time. So we had our games inside too. My dad used to bring home lots of paper from work. It was printed on one side, but the other was blank and white. Just right for drawing on. But I wasn’t ever content just to draw. No, my pictures told a story, and always, for some reason, involved bunk beds stacked six beds high. Maybe they were just easy to draw.

Then there were libraries, with catalogues written in my sprawling handwriting and tape covered library cards. Or massive games with Barbie dolls that lasted weeks at a time. It was a convenient excuse not to clean my room. We simply couldn’t, or we’d mess up the game.

I compare what we did then with how things are now. Now there is only one little girl running around, imagining she's a pirate. Now there's only one little girl sitting on the floor, surrounded by piles of toys and having a wonderful game. We've grown up and left her behind to play on her own. It's such a pity. Maybe I might forget that I'm so old and join on the floor with her toys and games and pretend I'm only nine again too.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

NaNoWriMo, the Big Writing Challenge

A year and a half ago, I discovered an exciting sounding challenge called National Novel Writing Month, where writers from around the world set out to write a fifty thousand word novel in the month of November. It sounded very exciting. And so, with only a few days to go before the start of the month, and with not a single idea for a novel between us, my three sisters, my mum and I all signed up for the big challenge, the younger two girls setting their own goals through the Young Writer’s Program.

November first, and we sat down to write. What would my novel be about? Would I be able to make it to the end of the word count before the month was over? I hoped so, and worked hard to make sure that it happened. My novel was a mess. Everyone talked over their ideas and gave each other suggestions as to how to keep on with their novels.

And by the end of the month, every single one of us had crossed the finish line with time to spare, from my nine year old sister to my mum. On the last day, we celebrated our victories, laughed at the awful quality of our novels, and made plans to come back and do it all again the next year. After working on fixing these novels of course.

The next year rolled round, 2012, and five people turned up for NaNoWriMo once again. This time we had out novels a little more planned, had a better idea of what was required of us, and brought with us even more determination to win than before. And did we win? We sure did. Another five winners celebrated on the last day, just as before.

And this year? Are we planning on going for our third NaNoWriMo wins in a row? You bet we are. We’re a family of writers. Writing novels is what we do.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Music, Music Teachers, and Amazing Gifts

My piano teacher has the most amazing house. It is really more of a tiny house tacked onto a massive music room, which contains two full sized grand pianos and a massive organ. How she got them through the normal sized door I haven’t yet worked out. Maybe they built the room around the instruments? And added to that, she also owns two upright pianos, one in her shed, and one in her study. You can tell, just by looking at it, that a music teacher lives there.

Recently she announced that she was going to sell one of her upright pianos. After all, what use does one person have for four pianos, even when she is a piano teacher? After her husband, my former piano teacher, died last year, there just weren’t enough people to use them enough. It was perfectly understandable that she would sell one, though it was a pity. In my house we play on an electric piano, so her pianos are a real treat to play on every week at our lessons.

One day, she said, suddenly and unexpectedly, that she was going to give us the piano she had been planning to sell. My mouth dropped open. Give us a piano? Give us a PIANO? A piano is not something that you give away like that, not to my mind.

“You need a proper piano to play,” she said. “And Ian would have wanted you to have it too.”

I think about that, and I have to admit, it’s the sort of generous thing that both my teacher and her husband, Ian, would do. They’ve given us so much over the past few years, such as free piano lessons that we could never have afforded. To give us a piano is a big thing, and something I still can’t wrap my head around properly.

Soon the piano removalists are going to move the piano from my teacher’s house to ours. Soon the big, shiny, black piano will be sitting in our family room, it’s smooth white keys inviting me to sit down and press them, making beautiful music. I can still hardly believe how generous my teachers, both of them, have been. How could I deserve such a generous and unexpected gift?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Letters and Letter Writing

I have a box of letters under my bed. They’re folded neatly in creased envelopes, colourful stamps still attached, the product of months of letter writing between myself and a friend. They sit there, waiting for me to pick them up, read them through and remember when we wrote letters.

It’s been a long time since I wrote a real letter. I write messages to people over Facebook messenger. I write emails. Occasionally I talk over the phone to people. But I don’t write or receive letters, real letters written on paper and sealed in an envelope.

My sisters write letters sometimes. They write them on special paper and stick them all over with colourful stickers. It’s a big event, writing and sending a letter. They run out to the post box to check if the main man has brought them anything, and there are squeals of excitement when there are letters.

But letter writing seems to be so rare now. Most people seem to write emails, or text messages. Letter writing doesn’t happen very much any more. To me, that’s a great pity. It was a big job to write a letter and get a stamp and send it, and it took a few days to get a letter back, but there was always something so special about getting a physical letter. Having an email pop into my inbox doesn’t have the same thrill as ripping open the back of an envelope.

There’s something special about writing a letter. There’s something special about receiving a letter. Letter writing is special art. I hope it doesn’t die out completely.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Krypton, Kryptonite, and Chemistry Lessons

My sister Charlotte loves chemistry. She reads books about the elements, watches chemistry videos involving crème Easter eggs, and has a random, but interesting fact about most, if not all of the elements.

In contrast, I was never very good at chemistry, despite once wanting to be a doctor. I liked the videos, but the theory was very much beyond me. It was as much as I could do to remember the names of the first six elements on the periodic table. Biology was fun. Chemistry…not so much.

One Christmas, Charlotte received a puzzle as one of her gifts. And, being the chemist of the family, it was a full colour puzzle of the periodic table of elements, complete with illustrations. One thousand pieces big, it was the perfect puzzle for a brainy girl like herself.

I wasn’t the brainy chemist, but I was the puzzle champion. Who else had the patience to put together a one thousand piece puzzle consisting of nearly identical sweets? So the moment the chemistry puzzle came out, I was there to help. True, I didn’t know the first thing about most of those elements, but I was good at puzzles. And that had to count for something, right?

“Which is this element?” I asked Charlotte, holding up a puzzle piece. It was a silver coloured element, not that that helped. Over half of them seemed to be silver.

She squinted at it and then said with complete certainty, “Tungsten.”

“But the symbol is W,” I protested. Tungsten didn’t begin with that letter. Even I knew that much.

“It’s the first letter of its name in German,” she said, before placing the piece in the right area of the periodic table.

Finding the right place on the periodic table was a problem for me too. Ok, so I knew where some of the elements went, like Carbon and Helium, but where did Gallium go? Or Manganese? With unfailing patience, Charlotte directed me to the right places. Doing this puzzle was harder than I thought it would be. But at least I was learning something. Working on the puzzle with Charlotte was like having a chemistry lesson, only better.

Hang on, here was an element I knew. I pulled the piece out and cried, “Hey, I found Kryptonite.”

Charlotte rolled her eyes. “Silly. Kryptonite isn’t an element. It’s made up. That’s Krypton and it’s a noble gas. Goes on the right side of the periodic table.”

Oops. Silly me. I should have known that Superman's greatest weakness wasn't a real element. I guess I still have a lot to learn about chemistry.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jars of Failed Jam

A friend of ours gave us a huge bag of crabapples one day. These were little fruits, the size of a cherry, but much tarter, and not so nice to eat raw. It was very nice of her to give these to us, but the question was, what were we to do with them?

There appeared, after long and careful thought, to be only one thing to do with these crabapples, and that was to turn them into crabapple jelly, which is basically jam. No matter that we hadn’t made jam before in our lives. Armed with a recipe off the internet, a bag full of crabapples and one of sugar, we set out on our big jam making adventure.

We boiled the crabapples and added copious amount of sugar. We stirred, and tried not to burn anything. We burnt ourselves, strained things, melted plastic jar lids by mistake, and generally turned the kitchen into a big, sticky mess. But, at the end of our labours, four jars of crabapple jelly sat cooling on our countertop. And we were quite proud of that. Very soon they were be cool and would have jelled and we would have crabapple jelly to eat. Mmm. We licked our lips in anticipation.

Obviously not my jam. But it does make me wonder, what is frog jam? It sounds suspicious...

Only, they didn’t jell. No matter how long they cooled, no matter how anxiously we tested those jars of jam, they wouldn’t turn into that beautiful jelly we had imagined. Still, we could always use it as ice cream topping or something of that sort. With a sigh, we pushed the jars into the back of the fridge. And there they stayed. Nasty, oversweet, yet somehow still slightly bitter, they were everything that jam should not be. For a long time they sat there until at last we threw those four jars away, hardly touched, and soon to be thankfully forgotten.

It seems that jam making is quite an art. Maybe it needs special skills. Or maybe it’s a thing that only certain people have the good fortune to be able to make. I don’t know. But if there’s one thing that I learnt from this it’s that jam making is hard work. Maybe I’ll just stick to buying my jam rather than making it. At least then it is certain to be jam and not a sticky, gloopy mess.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Infant Incident

When I was a baby, I was abandoned soon after birth. Oh, not out on the streets, or on the doorstep of some nameless orphanage somewhere in the slums. Nothing quite so fairy tale as all that. No, I was abandoned in a hospital.

In my hospital, the nurses took babies away to have their photos taken. Mine hangs in pride of place on the wall, with my little squished baby face peering into the camera, a blanket wrapped tightly around me and my tiny hands pinned near my face by the blanket. My nurse took me away to have this photo take while my mum stayed in bed. The nurse promised to bring me back later.

Time passed. I didn’t come back. Mum got worried. Where was the nurse with her baby? Like all good mothers do, she hopped out of bed and went in search of her little lost baby, hunting through the hospital. What had the nurse done with me?

A terrible quality photo of me. the very same taken on that fateful day

After an anxious hunt, there I was, lying in my hospital baby bed, abandoned by the nurse. I don’t know where in the hospital I was. I don’t know where the nurse went after my photo was taken. Maybe she left me somewhere safe. Maybe she needed to run off and do something before she brought me back. Maybe she simply forgot that I needed to be taken back. But, whatever the reason, I was the little abandoned baby in the hospital, who mother came to find her.

Looking at my sisters, my mother and I, you can tell we’re related. We’re far too much alike to be anything else. There’s no chance that we’re not from the same family. But sometimes, with a mischievous grin, I tell people, “I was abandoned as a baby,” and tell my tale.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How Homeschooling Helped Prepare Me for University

I was a homeschooler. Every day of my school life, right from day one, I was taught at home with my brothers and sisters. We read Shakespeare’s plays together for fun, we read books and we studied paintings together. And honestly, I wouldn’t have gone to school if you’d given me the choice. Homeschooling was amazing fun. I couldn’t imagine anything better.

But as I got close to the end of my high school homeschooling days I started to wonder, was I going to be ready for university? Did I have the skills that I would need when I started formal learning with a set curriculum? My form of homeschooling didn’t involve textbooks and writing essays on every imaginable, boring subject under the sun. How was I going to cope? Would I be better prepared if I’d been to school?

Well, I don’t know if I’d have been better prepared if I’d been to school, but I was certainly prepared enough through homeschooling. The course I wanted to do is all online, which meant no travelling to tutorials, sitting in long lectures, and travelling on the train every day, which in my mind was great. And because it is a university course, there is no one looking over my shoulder and telling me what to do each day for my work, like a teacher would in a lesson at school.

Homeschooling is so flexible that it allows you the space to learn a lot of skills, both formal and informal. There’s time to work on writing, which is good preparation for essays, even if you’re not writing essays for your school work. For my very first NaNoWriMo I spent most of my school time just writing, because I could. I was homeschooled.

And homeschooling allowed me the space to learn how to work on my own. With so many people of different abilities, you have to go and work on your own at some point while Mum’s attention is with another sibling. And you had to work with people of different ages for some things, just like in university.

Of course, there were difficult things, like submitting assignments to a due date. In our homeschooling there had never been a need for that. And maybe I’d have been more used to that if I went to school. But, thanks to being able to work on my own, I adjusted quickly, and didn’t miss anything. And maybe not being used to submitting on a date was good for me because it meant that I knew I had to be careful not to miss the date and made me work hard so that I hit it early.

I don’t know if I’d have been better prepared for university had I gone to school, but I do know that homeschooling definitely gave me a good start. And when you’re working towards a degree you really want, like I’m working towards a degree in writing and publishing, then you’re willing to work hard to get there.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Guest Posts: Beg, Borrow and Steal

We’re sitting round the table, talking about the Blogging Challenge. “What are you going to write about for the letter ‘G’?” Mum asks.

“No idea.” I haven’t got a clue as to what my G post is going to be about yet.

“You should get a Guest Post for today’s letter. You could always ‘borrow’ one. ‘Guest’ begins with a ‘G’ after all,” Mum jokes.

“You could make a theme out of that,” Callum said. “’Borrowed Post’ for B. ‘Pilfered Post’ for P.”

“’Stolen Post’ for ‘S’. “Thefted Post’ for ‘T’. Hmm, maybe a bit clunky. Still, a theme like that would make things so easy.” I grin at the thought

"'Taken Post' maybe?" Charlotte suggests. "And how about 'Filched' for F?"

We laugh. If only things were that easy. But no, stealing posts won’t work sadly. Somehow I don’t think that that would be an acceptable theme. I think I’ll have to stick to writing my own posts instead of stealing from other people, which would be bad. Still, I wonder, is it possible to make an A-Z out of words for Begging, Borrowing and Stealing blog posts? That would be something interesting to try.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Facebook: How Do I Use It?

A few years ago I set up a Facebook account. I faithfully filled in the ‘About Me’ section, and even took a special (but terrible) photo of myself for a profile picture. I requested my friends and my family to be my Facebook friends.

And then I got stuck.

What did one do with Facebook? Did one just post strange but cryptic things on their walls that might have a small chance of sparking an interesting conversation? Or was it about liking things and reposting pictures? Maybe it was about number. Maybe I needed to have the most friends. Or maybe it was about playing all those games that I saw in my news feed.

In the end I did nothing, and ignored Facebook for months.

And then I went away for a couple of weeks and made a heap of new friends. But the only problem was that none of them lived anywhere near me. How to keep in contact? The answer appeared to be Facebook. And so, I signed into my account, found my friends, and decided to give Facebook another try.

But I still don’t have it. I like reading about what happens with my friends. I like some of the pictures they post or share. But what am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to say? I’m still very much learning how to use Facebook properly. So tell me, what am I supposed to do?

And to all those lovely people who have come and commented and who comment on this post, I will answer your comments and visit your blogs. I just haven't had time this week, thanks to a uni assignment. And, in a random note, this is my 200 blog post. Go me!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Easter without the Easter Bunny

The other day, our hairdresser asked us if we celebrated Easter with the Easter Bunny. On hearing that we didn’t, she then asked, “Is your Easter boring then?”

I had to stop and think about that. Is it boring? Would it be more exciting if we believed that the Easter Bunny brought the eggs that we hunt each year? Are we missing out on something that would have made life so much better?

I was reminded of this while I was standing in mass on Good Friday, singing about the death of Jesus, feeling the sorrow of the day, and watching as some of the congregation wept silently. I remembered it at the Easter Vigil when we were singing with joy at his resurrection. I don’t know anything much about the Easter Bunny, but can he beat this?

My dad tells a story about a woman he used to know. She wasn’t a Catholic, but she always went to a Catholic mass for every Christmas and Easter. She liked to say that no one celebrated like the Catholics do.

The Easter Bunny. I don’t think we’re missing out on much really. Our Easter might not contain a bunny, but we do have the death and resurrection of Jesus. I think that our Easter is complete without it.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dragons, Deadly and Delightful

Of the things I like most about writing and reading fantasy is the fact that there are dragons. Big, powerful dragons, and small, cute dragons. Wise, or childish. With a sense of humour or without. Dragons are amazing creatures.

One green dragons breathing green fire, drawn by my talented sister

If I had any sort of artistic talent besides drawing doodles, I think that I would use it to draw dragons. Big, beautiful dragons, with scaly bodies. They’d be colourful and fierce. They’d be perfect. Only, I don’t have enough drawing talent to draw them. So I’ll have to stick to reading about them and imagining them.

One red dragon breathing red fire. Again, drawn by my talented sister and not me.

And looking at the pictures that my talented sister draws of dragons. Even though my photos aren’t that good (I don’t seem to have any photography skills either), you can see that these definitely are dragons. Dragons, just how I imagine them. Don’t they look just like they’ve stepped out of a book, fire and all?

Dragons, big, brave and strong. Out of all the fantasy creatures, they are my favourites. What are yours?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


I sit down at my computer and open a new document. Today I’m going to write a blog post that is completely clever. It’s going to be cunningly composed. It’s going to be able…what? I’m clueless. I don’t have a subject to write about.

Is there a comic conversation I can create a post about? Was there a clever cat moment? Maybe I have a photo on my camera that could spark a creative thought. Can I remember a catastrophe to recount? If all else fails, I could eat some chocolate. It may not spark a post, but it would be delicious anyway, and very comforting.

A clever thought pops into my head. I shall ask my sister Charlotte to come up with a topic for me. Her creative mind teams with ideas that will surely provide me with a catchy title and a great post.  Or maybe I should close the post and think of other things, like characters and chases. Maybe then my mind will catch an amazing idea.

I might be clueless now, but I have my ways of chasing down a subject. My blank post can’t stay contentless forever. It would be a calamity!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Big Brother

My big brother Callum and I go shopping together. We’re going to buy a birthday present for his girlfriend. She wants a ring, not an engagement ring, but a pretty silver ring with little diamonds on it. We go into the shop together to pick it up. The assistant asks, “Is this for your girlfriend?” as she hands it to Callum. He nods.

We leave the shop together. I can’t help giggling at what the shop assistant must have thought. “I bet she thought that I was your girlfriend.” As I’m carrying the ring now, it’s very possible. We laugh together at the thought.

“Come and have a look at what I’ve done to my ute,” Callum calls. I drop everything and hurry out to see what he’s done the battered old ute he’s slowly restoring. It’s not my idea of a dream car, but somewhere inside the rusty, dented, broken-down vehicle, he sees something worth fixing it for. “Look, I’ve worked out how to get the steering wheel off. Do you want to help?” And for the next half hour we heat the steering wheel with a lethal looking heat gun until finally it give up and pops off.

Callum sticks his head round my bedroom door. “Hey Imogen, I’m going to the beach with my girlfriend. Do you want to come with us?” Do I want to come? I haven’t been to the beach in ages. I grin and race to get ready to go. He doesn’t mind me tagging along with him sometimes.

Most big brothers might not bother to take me shopping, or to include me in what they’re doing, or to take me somewhere fun when they’re already taking their girlfriend. Most brothers are not my brother. My brother is special.

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Adventures

“What are you doing in April?” Mum asks me. “Are you going to do that Blogging from A to Z challenge that you were telling me about?”

“Of course!”  I say. It sounds like a great idea. How could I miss out on it? Even though it’s the day before the challenge starts and I don’t have any subjects, no theme, and no clue if I’d be able to write 26 blog posts in a month, not to mention the fact that I haven’t even signed up yet, it sounds like a great adventure. There’s no way I’m not going to give it a try.

“But I thought you were doing Camp NaNoWriMo with me in April,” my younger sister Charlotte says. “Are you still going to do that if you do this blogging challenge?”

“Yes, I’m definitely still going to do Camp NaNoWriMo,” I say. I suppose I will be doing them both. There’s no way I’m going to miss out on Camp NaNoWriMo. I have a fantastic science fiction novel actually planned out, and I’m itching to get started.

“But how will you have time?” Mum asks. “You have your uni work, your music to practice. You have to keep up your running. How are you going to fit all of these things into your day?”

And that’s when I stop and think about this. What have I done? I’ve gotten myself mixed up in a whole bunch of challenges. Camp NaNoWriMo with its daily word count. A-Z Blogging challenge, with its daily post. Uni work with its daily work load. Daily music practice. Such a lot of challenges and adventures. How will I ever manage to keep up with them all?

Whoops. April wasn’t meant to be this busy. I suppose at this point I should be feeling overwhelmed, or sorry that I’ve gotten myself into such a lot of work. Maybe half way through the month, when I can’t think of what next to write in my novel, when I’ve run out of ideas for blog posts, and when the work is piling up, maybe then I’ll feel that I’ve got too much on my plate. But for now, I just feel excited.

April is the Month of Adventures it seems. So many exciting things to do this month. And I can’t wait.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Top Ten Movie Blogfest

Alex J Cavenaugh  is hosting a Top Ten Movies Blogfest, and the rules are simple. Post your top ten favourite movies. One rule. I broke it… Only a little. I only added three mini-series and one four movie series. It’s not so bad… Anyway, cheating aside, here are my top ten favourite movies in ascending order.

At place number ten we have Alice in Wonderland, the Tim Burton version. I wasn’t so sure I’d like this movie when I first heard of it. But after I actually saw it, I loved it. Cats that can turn into smoke? Shrinking and growing? The Mad Hatter? What more could I want from a movie?

In ninth place is Little Dorrit. Yes, I know this is a mini-series and therefore technically doesn’t count, but I never was very good with sticking to the rules. Little Dorrit is one of the only Charles Dickens I’ve seen so far, and it’s fantastic. Rags to riches to rags again. Old houses and cranky old ladies. It’s got some of everything.

Eighth is North and South, the mini-series adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s book. True the heroine has an annoying hat, but the other characters more than make up for that. The supporting cast is great. Some of my favourite characters are just the side ones.

Seventh place comes yet another mini-series, the last, I promise you. Pride and Prejudice. I’m an Austen girl at heart, and this has my sort of witty banter and the right touch of romance that isn’t too much. Sadly romance and I don’t get on very well unless it’s Jane Austen’s kind.

Sixth is The Avengers. Apart from loving period dramas, I’m also a big fan of superhero movies. There’s something about a bunch of people having a bunch of amazing powers that is just awesome. There’s some great lines and lots of action. My only bone to pick with this one is the way they did Thor and Loki, but apart from that, it was a great movie and one I don’t mind watching over and over again.

Fifth is the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Which again is technically a cheat, but it is the last time I cheat in this list. It has pirates, and a mad captain. Who could fail to like Captain Jack Sparrows, who’s plans always seem to be made up on the spot and always end up working in the strangest of ways?

Fourth is Tangled. I never much liked the actual fairy tale of Rapunzel. A girl named after a radish wasn’t my sort of thing. But a girl with a hundred feet of hair going to see lanterns and having crazy adventures is much better. Not to mention a small green reptile who happens to be one of the best characters…

At place number three is Thor. This is how a Norse god should be done. Hammers, hitting Thor with a bus, and Loki’s evil schemes. Frost giants, the rainbow bridge and Asgard just make things even better. Amazing movie.

Number two is How to Train Your Dragon. Dragons. Need I say more? Toothless is so cute. In fact he reminds me of my cat… And the rest of the dragon cast is amazing to. Wait, there were people in this movie I was supposed to like? I must have gotten distracted by the dragons.

And at last, at place number one is Megamind. A criminal genius with a giant blue head who thinks he’s the villain but is actually the hero? Way to turn the superhero cliché on its head. A hero who’s the bad guy? Plus all the awesomely quotable lines? It’s no wonder I’ve watched it so many times I can quote half the movie.

Hmm, I’m seeing a pattern here. Superheros, regency dramas, and animated movies. What are your top ten favourite movies?