Monday, 27 April 2020

Novel Openings

What makes a great opening line of a book?

Many have pondered this question. I haven't, really, and I don't know the answer, but what I can do is a do a little blog post dedicated to opening lines--or openings in general--of books I have read. That's really it.

If it had not rained on a certain May morning Valancy Stirling's whole life would have been entirely different.

~LM Montgomery, The Blue Castle

As much as I love Anne of Green Gables series and its protagonist, it's The Blue Castle that is my most favourite LMM book. It's the only truly adult one, it's heroine being 29 years old at the beginning of the book. Valancy is unmarried and lives with abusive family; a theme that is well known to LMM's readers (those that believe Anne With An E is too dark have not been paying attention) and to top that off, she gets some devastating news. The Blue Castle gives me some serious feels, more than any other work by this Canadian author.

It was a dark and stormy night.

~Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle In Time

I love this! Dark, stormy and night, can it get any better?

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

~George Orwell, 1984

You may have heard of this one even if you've not read the book. At first it seems quite insignificant, until you get to that last word. But even if the last word was not what it is, I still like the structure of the sentence, it's the type that always works for me.

His name was Gaal Dornick and he was just a country boy who had never seen Trantor before.

~Isaac Asimov, Foundation

 Another one that works for me. A name and a place, tell me more about this Gaal guy and what is this place called Trantor?

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York.

~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

This one immediately made me feel hot. It's interesting that she mentions electrocution--Sylvia Plath suffered from depression all her life and was treated with electroconvulsive therapy.

Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

~JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

It's funny now that Harry Potter actually starts with the Dursleys, yet how else could it have started? It would never have been as good if we had started in the wizarding world, instead of our normal, muggle world.

~JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit

A variation of "once upon a time". Nothing more needs to be added.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

~Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

A classic! At first you're like, what the hell, then you're like, is she joking? Perfection!

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

~Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Simple and clear, takes us straight to the character, time and place.

Dear friend,
I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have.

~Stephen Chbosky, Perks of Being a Wallflower

I have always liked diary entries and letters in fiction and this sounds like it was written by someone who might be socially awkward--instant like!

All this happened, more or less.

~Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

This is pure perfection. I wish I could form sentences like that.

There is one mirror in my house.

~Veronica Roth, Divergent

My favourite YA dystopian series. Out of two I have read. And it's an unpopular opinion too. What can you do. Characters looking into mirrors and describing their appearance is very cliche, but we soon find out why it is this way. Btw, the other YA dystopian series begins with the character waking up in the morning and that's overdone too.

When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.

~Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird

One of the best known and most beloved books in the world. And with good reason. This book starts and ends with the same thing, Jem's broken arm, as the main character, Scout, reflects on the events. The opening line also mentions a brother and good siblings are one of my favourite things in fiction.

~Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

This is the one I normally cite as my favourite opening line--that is, if I ever do cite a book's opening line, because who actually does that... I don't know what it is about that line. But of course, Rebecca belongs to my all time favourite books. Gothic romance, but also a thriller. 

And finally...

"You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?"

~Agatha Christie, Appointment With Death

Of course I couldn't end this post without mentioning my all time favourite author. Most likely everyone knows what to expect from an Agatha Christie book and one can't say her opening lines are very remarkable. That is, until you pick Appointment With Death. The line of dialogue is overheard by Hercule Poirot while he's staying at a hotel in Jerusalem. He thinks he's going crazy--too much work as a detective--but of course, turns out that he isn't and the "she" of the opening line does get killed. Not one of the most famous cases by the Queen of Crime, but definitely worth checking out if you haven't done so! (Just please, for the love of all things holy, ignore that awful adaptation with David Suchet...) 

So that's it, those are some cool opening lines of books I like. What are yours? Tell me in the comments!

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Stay Home, Save Lives

And so everything that was written before the pandemic just becomes obsolete...

Coronavirus has made everything else irrelevant. What matters now is: Stay at home. Only go out to buy groceries. Wash your hands. Keep social distance.

Never has there been an easier way to save the world. Stay at home and watch Netflix. That's literally it.

All that criticism of "kids these days" that "spend all their time inside playing video games" is out of the window (where it belongs).

Streaming services, books and games will be our saviours now. Disney Plus launches in UK at just the right time!

There is a meme going around about Shakespeare writing King Lear when he was quarantined, I don't know how far it's true or whatever, obviously nobody should be expected to write King Lear-like masterpiece but you never know, you might discover you have some hidden talents. Drawing, writing, music. Or you can always start a pointless blog.

Now you see my point about eBooks? Downloaded to your device within seconds, not a step outside required. If you don't have an eReader, you can still read on your computer or phone. Don't forget there are loads of free books in public domain!

I practically live as a hermit so this new order means little change for me. Staying indoors all weekend only for a trip to supermarket or launderette has basically been my lifestyle this winter. Even my cat is an indoor cat! It's the spring that usually gets me out with my camera--but not this year.

This post is all over the place because I don't know what to say and I had to address this somehow.

I leave you with another convo with my brother on Facebook messenger.

Brother: I've just eaten a kiwi and found out it was half-rotten. What will happen to me?

Me: FFS we're literally living through an apocalypse. One piece of rotten fruit won't make any difference.

Thursday, 20 February 2020


Recently there has been a poll going around showing results for how bothered people in UK are when they hear a foreign language and how it related to the Brexit vote. I'm too lazy to look for it but it's something that has been on my mind for a very, very long time.

I was quite dumbstruck--which I so often am because human behaviour confuses me--when I first found out that there are people who have a problem with other people speaking another language somewhere out in public. You know, like when they're on a bus and there's two people talking in Polish on the same bus or someone out in public is talking on the phone in Punjabi or whatever. In my first ever office temping job, I was part of a small team and on some other team there were two Spanish women and apparently once one said something to the other in Spanish. A woman on my team told another woman on my team about it and-- She was so bothered, guys, like fucking hell. "HOW DO YOU KNOW THEY'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT YOU?!?!?!?!?!?!"

I still remember how I sat there at my desk, I can picture the place clearly in my mind, because it was one of those moments you just remember. I thought, bloody hell, you really think you're that important? 

I just...

Okay, let's imagine a scenario. You have three people, person A, person B and person C in an English speaking country. Let's say A and B are native French speakers and English is their second language. So A says something to B in French and C immediately thinks it was about them. It's possible, I grant you that. But, now imagine B walks away somewhere, e.g. to the toilet. And A says to C in English "B is a bitch." C says it's true, B is a bitch and they discuss more on how B is a bitch until B comes back, when they stop.

You see what I mean? You don't need another language to gossip or bitch about someone. You can easily do it in the same language behind their back, because it's... literally talking behind their back. Anyone can at this moment be talking trash about you and they don't need to do it in a foreign language.

So, this is my my message to the people that have the type of thinking described above:

Nobody cares about you. Not a single foreign-speaking soul cares enough about you to even mention your name. Your mundane life is of no interest to us. You are nothing. Our minds are preoccupied with things much more interesting than you and it is those things we talk about when we speak "in foreign". Not you. Because you're no one to us. You never were anyone to us and you never will be anyone to us. We don't give a fuck about you or your boring life. Trust me. So no, we're not talking about you. We're not interested in you. But if you think yourself so important that you believe others are talking about you, then you might have a problem. So, don't worry about us. Worry more about that fake co-worker there who is nice to your face but will stab you in the back at any opportunity. Go home and cry into your stupid cereals, okay? And maybe learn a bit of "foreign". It may just help broaden your mind a bit and who knows, even stop you from being such a pathetic loser.

End of message.

Once I was on a tram and saw a group of people communicating in sign language and I thought, I wonder if that would get the same reaction from those losers. "OH MY GOD THEY'RE SIGNING ABOUT ME!" Sure they are.

Anyway, if there are any nerds reading this, who happen to be fluent in a fictional language, like Klingon or Elvish--go and have fun with it!

Monday, 27 January 2020

Brexit 50p Coin

So, you have finally got it, Brexit supporters. The thing you have been desiring for so long. The fruit of so much labour, already taken from you twice. At last, you will be getting it. Your Brexit 50 pence coin.

No more meltdowns. This is the real deal. And it will be in circulation soon. On Brexit Day, 31st January.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, unveiled the design on Twitter.

The engraving says: Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations.

Because so far, you've not had those three things. The mean EU was taking them from you. But you will have those three things now! You will have peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations! Presumably this excludes the 27 member states of the EU and your nearest neighbours, who you've been shitting on for the past four years, but who cares, right? Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations except EU27 would have been too long to engrave on a coin anyway. It would be an absolute aesthetic disaster and we can't have that. And the date wouldn't fit there, which would be unacceptable. The date is crucial.

In my own opinion--because this is my blog--Sajid Javid looks a little like Gollum from Lord of the Rings on that picture. All he's missing is my precioussssss. So naturally, being the nice person that I am, I fixed it for him.


As a side note, does anyone else thinks Javid looks a bit like an alien? I always think of Roger from American Dad when I see him. He also reminds me of the aliens from that 90s movie, Coneheads (which I've not seen but I've seen its poster and some pics.) I don't support making fun of people's looks, but--it's curious, is all I'm saying. Gollum, aliens... normally you don't compare people to such creatures. You might know a guy that looks like, idk, to pick someone generic, Chandler from Friends for example. A human, you know? If Javid wasn't in the government I wouldn't find it curious. Well, if he wasn't in the government, I would have no idea the dude existed, but you know what I mean. He is in the government. Curious.

Decidedly curious.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Fuck The King

So who is your favourite Game of Thrones character? 
For a long time I could never answer that question because I have always liked all the characters. (I think the only one I didn't care about was Stannis, but he has a place in the story and I don't hate him). There were some that I liked straight from the start, others I grew to like. I was glad I could make sense of who was who in the first place, with cast of that size. Then I read the books and there were even more characters but that's not what I'm talking about today. What I was saying was that I could never pick one character and say, this is my fave. But now that the show is over I have a definite answer--it's Cersei Lannister. It's likely to make people's jaws drop which is always entertaining. Bad women in fiction are just fascinating. But even this changes sometimes.

Sometimes, depending on... not my mood but on external circumstances, my favourite changes. When I feel passionately about voting rights, it becomes Samwell Tarly. (Who's a good choice overall anyway.) And then at other times, when the news gets obsessed with certain high standing family, the spot gets taken over by this guy.

Sandor "The Hound" Clegane

Such a beautiful, simple, well put quote. 

Whatever the universe has in store for me, I hope the next country I live in will be a republic.

Come to us, Sandor. We have chickens!

PS: Shout out to the all the Wildlings, of course. The Freefolk don't kneel.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Christmas Thoughts

So, the festive season is here--and it got me thinking about... Christmas.

I'm not a believer so the religious side of the holiday never meant anything to me. I have to make a confession here that I didn't know Christmas Day was the day of birth of Jesus... at first. I grew up in Communism so religion was off limits (also nobody in my family was religious, at least not much) so I had to wait till after the Revolution to find that fact out. When I first watched the midnight mass on TV, I was like, why are they saying that son of God was born today? *shrug* Make of it what you will.

Last year I went to the midnight mass, mostly because I wanted to experience it. I liked the whole calmness of it, the singing choir, the incense.

some decorations, idk
In my childhood, my favourite thing, apart from the presents, was the Christmas tree. My mum used to a get a real one and we would decorate it together. I remember this set of lights we had. Twelve of them, shaped like big bells, in six colours: red, orange, yellow, pink, blue and green. It was a different style from the lights we have now. It wasn't that long ago that my mum still had them, but she eventually had to throw them away as they stopped working completely and there was no way of repairing them.

I loved the Christmas tree so much, I would spent the entire holiday season sitting by it and once attempted to go lie underneath it as if I was a present. I said to my mum: "look, I'm a Christmas present!" and the next thing I know, the tree fell. Nothing got broken or damaged and I wasn't injured, my mum put the tree back up but the funniest thing was that one of the baubles somehow got stuck on the net curtain--our tree was always next to the window. You know that glittery stuff that's on the baubles? Or at least used to be, back then? That's what made it stick to the net curtain. It was the 80s...

Because I liked drawing, during the Christmas season I would draw Christmas pictures, which just meant a giant Christmas tree with presents underneath it. Then I started a Christmas Book. I took one sketch book (I used to have loads of those), and wrote on Christmas Book on the cover and that's how it started. That particular book didn't last, I replaced it with another one, which I have to this day.

the back cover of Christmas Book
The oldest drawing in it is from 1989. A few pages I tore out as I was embarrassed about some of my art and I haven't been contributing into it for the last 7-8 years. So this year I decided to give it a makeover and these pics here show the front and back covers of the book.

front cover of the Christmas Book
My younger siblings contributed some of their own art too. We also share another Christmas memory together--in the late 90s we crafted a big Christmas poster. The idea was mine but that's not bragging, I was the oldest (there is a big age gap between me and them) so it's not surprising. We took sheets of blank paper and sellotaped them into a big poster and then drew on it. The drawing was of a Christmas tree near a window and Santa and some angels looking at it in awe from the outside at the beauty of the tree. (We live in block of flats, no chimney for Santas to slide through for us.) This all makes me sound like an artist but I'm not. I just liked drawing things... and sometimes still do. Though it is photography for me these days.

In Slovakia the custom is to eat Christmas dinner and give out the presents on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. Christmas Eve, which we call Generous Day, is also a public holiday, so people get three days off instead of two. I can't really answer if you ask me what we do on Christmas Day. Nothing I guess? Sit at home and watch TV mostly. What else? I live in UK now so I do it the local way, with turkey etc on Christmas Day ("immigrants don't integrate"). Christmas Eve I usually work, if it falls on a weekday; depending on how not-lazy I am, I prepare the closest thing I can to a Slovakian traditional Christmas meal. It's all about the food once you grow up. I like the traditional British Christmas dinner--pigs in blankets being my special favourites--and I like pince pies and Christmas pudding. I mentioned here already that I don't drink alcohol but at Christmas, I like me some Baileys.

Every year I look at how stressed people get themselves over Christmas and I find it so sad. Humans invented Christmas (or Yuletide if you like) to cheer themselves up during the bleak winter months. I'm sure it wasn't supposed to be like this. I wish it wasn't like this. I celebrate Christmas on my own terms, because I'm lucky enough to be able to do so. But not everyone is. For some it's a difficult time of year because of many issues... Hugs to you, you are valid. Some have to work, like the emergency services--we are grateful to you for watching over us.

Let's just be good to each other.
red things
And don't beat yourself up if there was something lacking. Embrace the not-perfection of your Christmas!

Samaritans are available round the clock on 116 123 (UK) if you need to talk to someone.

Look after yourselves.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Ah well...

This is a reproduction of a real conversation I had with my brother on Facebook Messenger. (That's how we usually talk, you know, as we are in different countries.)

Brother: You may have heard of it; Google has bought FitBit.

Me: Yeah, I've heard. But I don't really know what it means for me?

Brother: We don't know that yet.

Me: On top of everything else they have on me, Google will also know how many steps I do every day.

Brother: They know that already anyway.

Both of us:

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

The Right To Vote

I came home from work to find poll cards in the mail. I picked them up and looked through them, checking them one by one. (I live in a house converted to flats with a shared letterbox.) I don’t know what I was hoping for. Perhaps there was a glitch somewhere and they sent me one by mistake. Perhaps they changed the rules and EU citizens could vote in general elections. Fool. Of course there was no poll card for me, of course I would have known if the law changed, because it would have been major news. Of course they didn’t make a mistake, The System never makes a mistake that benefits you. Welcome to my world of being disenfranchised.
I’ve lived in the UK for 16 years, I’ve worked and paid tax, yadda yadda yadda... you know all those things we EU citizens say to justify our very existence on these islands. This will be the fifth general election I will experience here, the second snap one. Experience it without participating in it. Citizens of EU living in UK (other than citizens of Ireland, Malta and Cyprus) cannot vote in general elections. We can vote in the local ones, which is great, but not in the general ones, which is not so great. (I wrote about voting in EU Parliament elections on my main blog.) Neither can we vote in referendums. Yeah, those things. Regardless of how long we’ve lived here. 

“You should have got the citizenship.”

Yes, I’ve heard that before. But Commonwealth citizens can vote in all elections without having to apply for UK citizenship and regardless of how long they’ve lived here (or if they even intend to live here long term or forever). So, you see, that’s not an argument. 
Alexandra Phillips, the Brexit Party MEP, tried this on me on Twitter not long ago. 

One local election in which I voted took place in 2015, alongside the general one. So I walked into the polling station to cast my vote. There were three poll clerks. The first one was crossing out the names of voters from the list. The third one was giving out ballot papers. I don’t remember what task exactly the one in the middle did but I do remember something else.
In the queue in front of me was a Commonwealth citizen. I know this because this is the person I was with and we went to the polling station together. Behind me was another voter, I can’t recall if there were any more people. 
So when it was my turn, the middle clerk pointed at me and said to the ballot-giving clerk: “she only gets the local election ballot”. 
Just slap me in the face while you’re at it.

You're not allowed here
I attempted to joke. “Yeah, I’m the poor relation,” I said. I watched that woman’s face but not a muscle on it moved. She didn’t respond. I took my ballot paper, did the voting and went home. I felt kinda hurt but I forgot it soon. I didn’t think about that woman again until sometime after the Brexit referendum. And this time I got angry. 
At that time in 2015 I was still trying to reclaim the “poor relation” label. I thought it would help me cope. But it didn’t, of course, because it’s a shit label in the first place. I reject it now. I threw it in the fire. And I’m angry. Yes I understand that the poll clerk was doing her job. Yes I know that voter fraud is a serious thing. But the thing is, she didn’t have to be such a bitch about it. There was no need to point at me and refer to me to her colleague in third person. I know I don’t have the right to vote for an MP. I know.
And it never occurred to me to question it. It’s just how it is, I used to believe. But not anymore. Not after the referendum. It’s unfair and I will say it.
Look, I live in such a safe Labour constituency that it’s not even worth getting out to bed to vote. But that’s not the point. There is a difference between choosing not to do something and being denied the right to do that something. Besides, other EU citizens live in more marginal constituencies and I may not live in the same place forever. 
Suffrage is not a thing that is set in stone. In the past, only men who owned property could vote. Prior to the Peterloo Massacre, cities like Manchester and Leeds had no representatives in Parliament, despite being large industrial places. First women were able to vote in 1918--those over the age of 30 with properties. Finally in 1928 the suffrage was extended to everyone over 21 and then in 1969 to everyone over 18. 
In the final episode of Game of Thrones, during a gathering of lords of the noble houses of Westeros, in which they were to choose their next ruler, Samwell Tarly proposed that everyone should have a right to vote. The lords exploded with laughter. “Maybe I should get my horse to vote,” said Lord Royce (paraphrasing). Nobody took his side, not one single person. Not even one of the (precious) Starks. They just sat there, letting Sam be mocked, so he sat down and shut up. But I like to think that he didn’t get tired and continued campaigning and who knows, even achieved some change. We need you, Sam.
As for me, come the election day, I will once again be watching others as they enter the polling stations, invisible door barring my way, locked with no key in sight.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Christmas Time Now?

This year, Christmas markets opened on Friday 8th November here in Manchester. Early, you think?

Normally I would say it's early. But then I thought about it and realised--it doesn't matter. Let them be there. 

A bit of cheer in grey and wet November won't do any harm. On this picture I captured stalls with decorations only but plenty of them (majority I think) sell food and snacks, from--and that's what I like most--continental Europe. 

So enjoy the pre-Christmas period, or not if you don't want to.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Happy No Brexit Halloween 2019!

So, it's Halloween. The (delayed) Brexit day that (again) never happened.

As stated in this blog's description, my main blog is I usually make seasonal posts there and in last year's Halloween entry I posted four smartphone pics of Halloween displays from Exchange Square here in Manchester, all skeletons in funny positions. I captioned each picture with a line of dialogue I imagined the skeletons would use in those situations. Link to post here.

This was the last pic:

"And then he said there was going to be a new 50p coin to commemorate Brexit."

So it must have been about that time when they first announced there will be a new 50 pence coin to celebrate Brexit. I still thought it was a joke then. I should have known better.

They were totally serious.

At that time, Theresa May was the Prime Minister, Philip Hammond was the Chancellor of the Exchequer (aka the guy in charge of the Treasury) and Brexit day was set for 29th March 2019. As you know, that didn't happen and in the meantime, we got a new Government. The Prime Minister now is... well, Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid is the Chancellor. New Brexit date was to be 31st October 2019--Halloween. 

Guys, they were totally serious about those 50p coins. 

They were to have "peace, prosperity and and friendship with all nations" inscribed on them (friendship with all but the 27 member states of the EU was too long, I guess), with the date, 31 October 2019. 

So far so good, you think (I mean, not good but it's a figure of speech), except--there was no Brexit on 31st October. Like the last time, they couldn't get a deal through he Parliament. Another extension was granted till the end of January 2020. But by then, the coins had already been minted. With the day 31 October on them. So what do they do now? 

The narrator: They had the coins melted down.

And that wasn't the only wasted expense. We also had the "Get Ready For Brexit" adverts. Like the below one, for example. With me not missing an opportunity to express my opinion on them in a form of a gesture known all around the world:

(Note, it was one of those digital changing billboards--or whatever they're called, not as big as billboards but you know those ones you see around the city centres--and as I snapped it, the advert seemed to be changing to a McDonalds one, so just to be clear I am showing my middle finger to Brexit not to McDonalds, I have nothing against McDonalds.)

And now we have another election coming (in which I can't vote because I'm not allowed because I don't have the right) but that's for another time.

Happy Halloween!