25 January, 2014

Before Midnight

I recently wrote a blog post about two of my favourite films -- "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset", starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. I mentioned there that I was looking forward to the next film in the 'series' --"Before Midnight", which I had put on my LoveFilm list.

Luckily for me, it turned out that I didn't have to wait for "Before Midnight" to appear on LoveFilm, because my lovely husband bought me the DVD for Christmas. We've now found time to watch the film, and here are my thoughts.

True to formula, "Before Midnight" takes place (both in the film and in reality) roughly ten years after the previous film, "Before Sunset". "Before Sunset" closed on a cliffhanger with Delpy and Hawke having just met for the first time after their initial encounter ten years previously. They are still strongly attracted to one another, but Hawke is now trapped in a loveless marriage and has a son. At the end of "Before Sunset" it was entirely unclear whether Hawke would return to his unhappy life in the US or remain with Delpy in Paris.

In "Before Midnight", we learn that Hawke did indeed remain with Delpy in Paris--we catch up with them at the end of a summer spent in Greece with their twin girls, aged six, and Hawke's son, now about to start high school. Seeing his son off at the airport, Hawke begins to question the life that he is now living. He may be living with the woman he loves, but he is missing out on his son's youth entirely.

Hawke and Delpy spend their last evening in Greece together without their children--courtesy of the friends with whom they are staying, who have booked a hotel room for them and are providing babysitting. Instead of being a romantic getaway, though, the evening turns into a full-scale row, with Hawke's fears about his son coming to the fore, and the couple's dissatisfaction with their lives and with one another emerging.

The themes that this film covers will be familiar to any long-term couple with kids--loss of romance over the years, how to combine career and family, how difficult it is for both partners to be fulfilled career-wise, the division of domestic labour, loss of identity, ageing, the 'rational' partner versus the 'emotional' partner...

Needless to say, the tone of "Before Midnight" is quite different from the first two films, which are romantic, focussing on the hopes and aspirations of a couple meeting for the first (and second!) time. In "Before Midnight" the romance is gone and reality has set in. It is not a feelgood film, but it does accurately reflect reality--the reality of an established relationship with children.

And that's exactly what I enjoyed about this film--the reality, something with which we can all identify. It's what I enjoyed about the other two films, as well--I could identify with them since they reflected my own experience and thoughts in my twenties, and then my thirties.

If you're looking for something interesting, provocative and conversation-worthy, the "Before..." trilogy comes highly recommended.

18 January, 2014

Giving up seats on buses

I travel into work and back on the bus three days a week, so am very used to observing people’s behaviour when travelling on public transport.

As a girl I was brought up to believe that, on a crowded bus, it was the right thing to give my seat up to those less able to stand than myself, i.e. elderly people, pregnant women, people coping with young children, etc., etc. And I still adhere to that belief, even though I am now middle aged (although still, of course, perfectly able to stand on a bus).

It appears, however, that the majority of young people nowadays have not been brought up that way. I have often observed someone elderly and frail board the bus, and not a single young  person has offered their seat, even though they are often taking up spaces at the front of the bus that are expressly labelled as being for the less able or infirm. Usually it falls to someone older (like me) to accommodate.

This morning, a lady made her way to the back of the bus, announcing that she was pregnant and asking whether anyone would like to give up their seat. Someone immediately did.

When I was pregnant with my two children, I travelled to and from work every day on the bus. On the occasions when there were no free seats, I don’t recall anyone offering theirs to me. I certainly  wouldn’t have asked, and, to be honest, I was perfectly fit during both my pregnancies and able to stand fine, even at full term.

It seems a shame, though, that things have changed so much since my childhood and that these kinds of small courtesies have disappeared amongst the young. People are so absorbed in their ipods and themselves that they are apparently oblivious to the world around them. Or perhaps that’s just a convenient excuse...

11 January, 2014

Family frustrations

Although I love my kids to bits and love my family life, I sometimes feel frustrated by these things. Trapped, even.

One good example of this is when it comes to jobs. I work part time and I want to do this so that I can reserve some time for my family. So that I can be around when the kids come home from school, so that I can be there when they want a lift to an activity or an event. So that they are not always in after school care rather than at home.

However, I want to continue developing my career as well as offering support to my family. I don't just want to abandon my career, only to find that once the kids are sufficiently grown up, I'm too old and it's too late.

If you are working part time, career development is difficult, as so few roles come up that are both senior and part time. I sometimes feel envious of people who don't have my family ties. People who can move anywhere in the country (or beyond) to take up an opportunity, and who can work full time without feeling that they are short changing another area of their lives.

I have briefly considered working full time again. Focusing on my career rather than my family. But I quickly realise that this is not really what I want. Consider, for example, the recent news article about the woman who juggled a top job in the City with raising a large family. One of her children ended up as a young teenager running amok, mixing with a bad crowd and taking recreational drugs. The woman had to resort to sending her daughter to a US 'boot camp' in order to get her back on the straight and narrow.

That is emphatically not the outcome I want for my children. I want to provide them with time and attention and a steady home life so that, when they leave home, they are equipped to cope in the world and to succeed. I don't want to devolve that responsibility to someone else. And so I continue to work part time and to develop my career as far as I can within those parameters.

Having it all is not about quantity -- having everything, but in fact only focusing on one thing to the detriment of all the others. Having it all (in my opinion) should rather be about quality. About finding the right balance so that you can succeed in all of the areas that you have taken on. After all, what's the point of having it all if half of what you have is, in effect, broken?

04 January, 2014

Wendy and Peter Pan

On New Year's Eve, my family and I followed our time-honoured tradition of going out to the theatre.

This year we opted to go and see "Wendy and Peter Pan" at the RSC in Stratford. My husband and I used to go to the RSC regularly before the kids were born and we fancied a repeat visit, not least to see the newly-built theatre. We also fancied a change from the samey pantomimes that our home town has to offer.

The RSC didn't disappoint us. "Wendy and Peter Pan" was a truly fantastic experience. The acting was superb and the staging amazing. And the stage adaptation of J. M. Barrie's classic was given a really interesting feminist twist by writer Ella Hickson. Wendy and her mother were depicted as the ones taking responsibility for everyone and everything all the time, while Pan and 'the boys' constantly played and took no responsibility for anything whatsoever. The question of why the women never had time to have fun and relax with the boys arose throughout, and issues of women's suffrage and women in the workplace were touched upon.

The play comes highly recommended.

Of course, Stratford is not only about the theatre. The town itself is wonderful to wander round too. There are so many timber-framed buildings in such a small space and history abounds. We also managed to fit in lunch at a lovely independent cafe--No.37 Cafe on Sheep Street. The food was freshly made and delicious and the service personal and extremely friendly. A great find to augment our theatre trip!