Category Archives: Thoughts

2018 -A Film Odyssey

Entering 2018, I wanted to try to post something new, fresh, honest and thought-provoking.

A lot of what I wrote sounded pretentious though. As such, for as much my own personal record as much as the next man, I’m going to try to answer the age old question which regularly bugs me when people ask it, and which I kind of feel I should know.

So here, subject to future editing, is my own personal Top 10 Films of all time

 

 

 

 

 

Note – This is a purely subjective list. It is not based upon artistic quality (as will be evident), it is purely a list of 10 films which matter to me, and which if someone were to ask me, I would attempt to list. As such, and since I can’t put them in order of preference, here they are in alphabetical order.

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Annie Hall (1977)

Director: Woody Allen

Stars: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts

IMDB One-line synopsis: Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditzy Annie Hall.

Why do I love this movie?

Annie Hall is one of Woody Allen’s finest works. A witty, beautiful story of love, loss, aspiration and regret, it is Woody Allen at his prime. It teaches us to love, and it teaches us that none of us are perfect. To me, it helped bring me even further in to Woody’s works (my first & favourite Woody film features later), it helped me to develop a wider grasp of what it is to love. To me, it also captured beautifully the way that we never say/do what we think. That one scene on Annie’s balcony where the two are beating themselves up internally whilst trying to engage in idle chat, it’s such a wonderful reflection of human nature, our insecurities, our vulnerabilities, our… humanity.

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Casablanca (1942)

Director: Michael Curtiz

Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid

IMDB One-line synopsis: In Casablanca in December 1941, a cynical American expatriate encounters a former lover, with unforeseen complications.

Personal Review: https://thenorthernmonkee.com/2013/04/21/casablanca/ (Written 2003)

Why do I love this movie?

It’s Casablanca! Seriously. The film is now over 70 years old, but it remains a classic. It regularly features amongst Top Rated Movie lists (36th on IMDB feels a bit insulting), it regularly gets cited by Directors, Writers & Actors alike as an inspiration. It’s just a magnificent, magnificent movie. The love, the sacrifice, the redemption story. From start to finish, it is a movie which lasts forever. Simple.

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Fever Pitch (1997)

Director: David Evans

Stars: Colin Firth, Ruth Gemmell, Mark Strong

IMDB One-line synopsis: A sports fan’s romantic courtship clashes with his obsession with his favorite football team.

Why do I love this movie?

Appropriately’s The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” just rocked up on my stereo as I began to write this. Fever Pitch, with a truly, truly wonderful soundtrack (The Who, The La’s, Van Morrison and more) was a football fan’s dream. It captures the beauty behind sport. It captures why we fall in love with sports teams, it captures why we belong to that club, it captures why we “belong”. It’s just a shame that it’s about Arsenal… 😉

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Garden State (2004)

Director: Zach Braff

Stars: Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard

IMDB One-line synopsis: A quietly troubled young man returns home for his mother’s funeral after being estranged from his family for a decade.

Why do I love this movie?

Talking of soundtracks… If you’ve seen Scrubs, you know that if Zach Braff is good at one thing, it is how to come up with a phenomenal soundtrack. Garden State is the pinnacle of this. Nick Drake, Simon & Garfunkel, The Shins, again the list goes on. Braff has a perfect ear for music. He knows what works where, what works when. In what is effectively a sweet story where not a huge amount happens, he punctuates the mood with pristine musical accompaniment, and he seems to do it effortlessly. The moment that Braff’s character (like most of us) discovers the Shins for the first time, as Portman smiles at him adorably, you’re there, you’re in the movie, you’re falling for Portman. It is just a perfect, perfect moment.

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Gladiator (2000)

Director: Ridley Scott

Stars: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen

IMDB One-line synopsis: When a Roman General is betrayed, and his family murdered by an emperor’s corrupt son, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge.

Why do I love this movie?

It’s basically my generation’s Ben -Hur. It’s a historical epic with stunning fight scenes, intrigue, betrayal, murder and more. It’s possibly the easiest film to watch ever. I’ve seen it so many times, and I never get tired of it. Easy TV, on an empire sized scale.

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The Lion King (1994)

Directors: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff

Stars: Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones

IMDB One-line synopsis: Lion cub and future king Simba searches for his identity. His eagerness to please others and penchant for testing his boundaries sometimes gets him into trouble.

Why do I love this movie?

Everyone should have a favourite Disney movie. It’s just a necessity of life really. For me, the adventures of Simba are fun, exciting, heart-breaking, scary and ultimately redemptive in so many ways. It also has some of the best music of any Disney movie ever. The stage show is pretty epic too.

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Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Directors: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly

Stars: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds

IMDB One-line synopsis: A silent film production company and cast make a difficult transition to sound.

Why do I love this movie?

To me, Singin’ in the Rain is the closest that anyone has got to cinematic perfection. If not for the brief Gene Kelly ego-trip cut-away (“Gotta Dance”), we’re looking at 10/10 on all levels. The songs are memorable & intoxicating, the cast faultless, the little easter eggs (here’s one: Jean Hagen was actually a great singer & Debbie Reynolds was the mime artist) numerous. It’s a heart-warming story which drags you in and keeps you watching throughout. There’s also far, far, far too many in-jokes within my family about this film. No, no, no. Yes, yes, yes. A masterpiece.

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Sleeper (1973)

Director: Woody Allen

Stars: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck

IMDB One-line synopsis: A nerdish store owner is revived out of cryostasis into a future world to fight an oppressive government.

Why do I love this movie?

Well it certainly isn’t faultless. It’s not Woody’s greatest work, but it doesn’t have to be. This is the film that introduced me to the genius of Woody Allen. It is a wonderful tribute to Buster Keaton, cross-referenced with dystopian horrors and witty one-liners. Parts of it still make me chuckle to myself, even when I haven’t seen it for months. It is regularly one of the first films on this list when people ask me “that” question, and it has to be here now.

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When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Director: Woody Allen

Stars: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, the late, great Carrie Fisher

IMDB One-line synopsis: Harry and Sally have known each other for years, and are very good friends, but they fear sex would ruin the friendship.

Personal Review: https://thenorthernmonkee.com/2012/10/24/when-harry-met-sally/ (Written 2003)

Why do I love this movie?

I’m a romantic at heart. I’m a believer that out there is someone for each of us. I’m also a believer that in his day, Billy Crystal was actually funny…

Joking aside, When Harry Met Sally is that romance that hits a nerve every time. It’s just… yeah. Difficult to explain really…

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Young Frankenstein (1974)

Director: Mel Brooks

Stars: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman

IMDB One-line synopsis: A young neurosurgeon (Gene Wilder) inherits the castle of his grandfather, the famous Dr. Victor von Frankenstein.

Why do I love this movie?

Just like Woody Allen, Mel Brooks has been a part of my movie watching life for longer than I can remember. Whether Spaceballs, Blazing Saddles or this beauty of a movie, he has been in my life from a young age. I still remember this movie starting on New Years Eve many decades ago, watching five minutes in the living room, being scared when the coffin opens and putting in a VHS to record it. We still own said VHS tape… Anyway, Brooks is a comedy God. His satirical knowledge of genres is faultless. He just IS Mel Brooks. And despite being over 90, he still hasn’t lost it. The theatrical version of this masterpiece is now showing in London’s West End. It might even better than the movie, if that is possible. I love this film. Might watch it again tonight…

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Anyway, that’s the 10 done (until I no doubt change them in a few weeks.

Finally though, here’s a brief list of films I nearly included but had to miss out…

Blazing Saddles, Monty Python & the Holy Grail, The Producers, Reservoir Dogs, Shrek, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, The Third Man

Right then, now to do something meaningful with 2018. Might go to the pub.

 

 

 

 

 

A Poet & he knows it…

After a prolonged absence, I could talk about life, I could update the events of 2016, I could discuss the ever collapsing political world, however I won’t. Instead, here’s a poem about assholes.

A fistful of assholes, by Mark Waddell

She’d woken up that morning

To find 

she was 

the 

proud owner

Of a fistful of assholes.
She could not remember 

where she had found them

Nor could she open her hand

To have a proper look.
Assholes were not attractive to her

But she knew they were there

Inside her clenched fingers.
She could feel them against her skin

Slippery

Pouting

Throbbing
She estimated there to be three assholes

Puckered

And alive
She was a mess now

And badly needed rid of them

Knowing them to be no good.
Running towards the lake

She stopped

And tried to force her fingers open

But the assholes

Struggled

Squirmed

And started

Making grunting noises

As her fist refused to budge.
She took an axe left by the woodcutter

And chopped her hand off

In one neat movement

Throwing it

Like a twisted Excalibur

In to the blue depths.
Three centuries later

An expedition from the Federation

Stumbled across the lake

Where a fistful of assholes

Rose slowly to the surface of the water.
As legend had it

Whoever has the strength

To prise open the hand

Would rule the world

Along

With

All

The other assholes.

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Mark is a 50 year old poet who has lived in Hull, Glasgow & God knows where else over the years.

Now based in Kentish Town, he is my landlord, flatmate & friend. Like a poetic Buckowski, his gonzo attitude is both crazy and brilliant.

His debut book, “On the Cusp of Greatness” is available now in the Amazon Store and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Check it out today.

More to come from me soon. It’s good to be back.

Chat Show Charlie – A Tribute (of sorts)

_83439593_83439592“Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. The former principle is stressed in classical liberalism while the latter is more evident in social liberalism.”

Formed in 1988 as a merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the Liberal Democrats have been (for as long as I can remember) a key party in UK Politics focused primarily on the concept of personal freedoms and social equality and balance.

In my politically aware life, Lord Ashdown was the first leader, Nick Clegg the most recent. In the middle we’ve had Ming Campbell and Mr Charles “ChatShow Charlie” Kennedy. Charles Kennedy passed away on Tuesday, at the age of 55.

Charlie Kennedy was by all accounts an extra-ordinary man. Witty and charming, people felt drawn to him. Whether it was arguing about politics, or just simply spending time with him, he seems to have been well liked across the entire political mainstream.

As Liberal leader, he led us to our then greatest Parliamentary representation, bringing in more MPs to the House of Commons than ever before.

Always the way though, Charlie had his demons. Noticeable towards the end of his time as Leader, it became clear Charlie had problems with alcohol.

I discovered last night that in this country today, 1 in 10 men have problems with alcohol whilst 1 in 20 women suffer. This is a remarkable stat (and I’d be intrigued to know where the lady on QuestionTime got it), but it means Charlie was far from alone.

Despite being popular and claiming to be successfully treated for the addiction, Charlie would eventually lose his seat in May this year. After 32 years as an MP (having won his seat aged only 23), as well as losing his father earlier this year, it all seems to have got to him.

On Tuesday morning, Charlie was found by a close friend, slumped dead in a chair at his home (he lived alone after divorcing his wife in recent years, their 10 year old son living with her). After false rumours of suicide and all manner of explanation, we now know that he died of a haemorrhage linked to his alcoholism.

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Since his demise, there’s been a lot of talk about what Charlie’s legacy would be. A Liberal inspiration, further evidence that those with problems need a greater support network, much, much more.

Personally, a friend of mine, following the news today about the cause of death, even asked me if losing a hero to alcoholism has made me rethink my drinking habits.

On reflection, no I don’t think it will.

Charlie was a great, albeit apparently troubled, man, but if anything, his demise should teach us 4 key things.

Moderation – Slightly cancelling out my earlier statement, Charlie has taught us that when possible, everything should be enjoyed in moderation. Towards the end, he had little control over the alcohol, but if we aren’t hooked, we should learn to pace ourselves and learn to savour rather than engulf.

Achievements/Goals – Like Charlie, I think I’ve probably under-achieved in life. Charlie could’ve been a leader of the opposition, maybe even a Prime Minister. Sadly his career was blighted by the bottle. It could be argued that I’ve suffered similar, albeit lower scale, limitations in life. I’ve had opportunities in life to grow myself, to achieve greater than I have. More often than not, I’ve backed away. Whether confidence or alcohol based, I’ve not lived up to my potential so far. Today is the start of something new.

The Struggle – Charlie had his problems. In a modern, faster paced world, we all seem to have them. Whether it is an addiction or an illness, people need help. Charlie didn’t get that it seems, or at least he more likely rejected it. What we need to realise is that when we’re in trouble, people are there to help us. We should never be afraid to accept that.

Happy – Finally, I think Charlie also showed us the one simple truth. The fact that in life, it IS possible to be a nice and caring person, yet not finish last.

Whatever his legacy, it is safe to say that Charles “ChatShow Charlie” Kennedy will be missed.

Rest in Peace Charlie.

Answering a Key Question in Life…

Amusingly, this weekend proved enlightening when a celebrity from the past helped solve one of THE biggest questions in my life.

First though, a memory…

I can still remember 1987. Sitting in my Grandparents living room. The green sofa and chairs dotted around the room, the electric fire in the centre of the room, turned off as the sun’s rays beamed through the lace curtains.

I’d arrived with the parents for a visit. Talking, the subject had come up about the relaunch of a TV phenomenon. With a whole new cast, set in a whole new time, this show would become implanted in my brain, still sitting there 28 years later. This show was the latest incarnation of one of the greatest brands of all time. This brand was Star Trek, and the show was The Next Generation.

I remember lying on their carpet, flicking through the latest RadioTimes, reading about the cast and crew (well, mainly looking at the photos). I remember seeing Pat Stewart’s bald head for the first time, I remember seeing Klingon Officer Worf (a character without real role/purpose until becoming Head of Security later in season 1) and thinking “this show has aliens”. I remember much more.

Sitting on the floor, resting my back against my Gran’s chair, I settled in with the family as the show began. Stewart walking through the ship, his opening monologue, eventually ending up on bridge with Denise Crosby’s Tasha Yar (I also remember the episode where she died, but that’s another story). The story would progress, I’d hear the theme tune for the first time and fall instantly in love. I remember thinking Troi was a wet excuse for a character (still true), I remember hating Wesley Crusher (he’s grown on me a little over the years, but the series was still better without him), I remember the early friendship between Riker & La Forge, I remember it like it was yesterday.

I also remember Wesley Crusher’s mother. The magnificent Gates McFadden.

I was young at the time, and let’s be honest, none of us can remember when certain things kick in during our lives. All I know is that all these years later, I still can’t see a Redhead without her catching my attention. It’s weird, like a strange addiction.

Fast forward now to May 2015 and 4am in the morning. I’ve been for a few beers with friends. Sitting at home, I’d decided to continue working through a SkyBox filled with the adventures of the Crew of the USS Enterprise NCC1701-D, I found myself compelled to post a solitary tweet.

This would’ve been the end of it. I thought it jokey. Perhaps it was the good Doctor’s fault all along. The following day’s response was wonderful however…

 

Star Trek has had a massive effect on me over the years. Many life lessons, memories, you name it. Has it left a psychological imprint on my mind regarding women too? I honestly don’t know. What I do know though is that when Twitter works, it works so, so well.

Gates, whether you are at fault for this or not, I do not know. A legend you are though, and for that, thank you.

WordPress, their fancy little Reports and an Optimistic 2015.

Father TimeIt’s been a funny ol’ year. I don’t think there’s little point denying that one.

A year of transition with few high points and many low, 2014 can (to coin an East London phrase) “do one” now.

Actually, that’s a bit harsh.

2014 had some great times. In no particular order, these included:

  • Multiple Trophy winning team performances at One Day TagRugby competitions.
  • The Tag Christmas Party when “Tag Me Up and Down” walked away with the Most Improved Team award (and yours truly finished second in the Organiser of the Year award by 8 votes).
  • Watching the Dallas Cowboys win at Wembley
  • Joining a new 3rd TagRugby team & being the “newbie” again.
  • Multiple visits to the Twickenham Stoop
  • An amazing week in March, including two trips to Paris in quick succession (& a LOT of walking)
  • Leaving a company after almost 6 years, accutely aware that I’d made a difference. The minature rugby ball, heavily signed, remains in pride of place at home.
  • The days out with Autistic Students for a small charity, helping them to develop their interpersonal skills.
  • Convincing a friend to start her own food blog, and watching from a far (long story) as it has grown and developed and become Award Nominated. Meals with Mel is available here for those that’re interested.
  • Knocking out websites for family and friends.

There was more I’m sure, but those are the ones that remain in the mind.

By contrast to the highs, 2014 was also a year of stress, and a constant feeling of unworth and purposeless.

Unemployment, it turns out, is one of the most depressing experiences that I’ve personally known in the past 32 years of life on this planet. I don’t recommend it.

From redundancy to full time work, time lasted seven months. Out of those, four were spent feeling sorry for myself and feeling like life had no purpose.

In fact, it goes without saying that what kept me sane over the months was good ol’ Tag Rugby and managing 3 teams at a time. This regular organisation and focus on team news. It served a purpose nicely.

Having said all of this, as of 5pm on December 30th, there were no personal tragedies during the year. No close deaths, no major financial or physical issues. It was just one of “those” years.

Looking towards 2015, there’s renewed optimism. Back in work in an enjoyable job, Tag returns on January 5th after a month’s break. Purpose is restored. Harlequins are beginning to play well again, the Dallas Cowboys have made it to the Play-Offs in style. Hell, even Manchester United are playing well. Miracles DO happen after all.

So here’s to 2015, here’s to a better year. Here’s to more creativity (apologies if this rare post has been below usual standard. I’ve been somewhat out of practice). Here’s to more “Events” (already to mind there’s the big Duggen/Dennis wedding in March). Here’s to more sporting victories. Here’s to a prosperous New Year.

So to finish off, and since it probably needs mentioning since it was in the title, the WordPress.com stats team prepared a 2014 annual report for everyones’ WordPress sites. Here’s mine…

Happy New Year everyone!

Click here to see the complete report.

That 1st Ever Tweet – July 2009

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The Internet, Spreading The Word & An American Receipe

On the 25th anniversary of the birth of the internet in March this year, the Independent published an article explaining how the Web began in the mind of Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

In the article (link here), there is one quote which sums up what good ol’ Tim was trying to achieve.

The quote, from 1989, offered “the hope would be to allow a pool of information to develop which could grow and evolve with the organisation and the projects it describe.”

Over the years, the founding father of the arguably the greatest creation since the Printing Press in the 1450s, must be proud of what he has created.

The Internet allows us to share our collective brain power, solve the answers to the world’s greatest problems, make this a better place to live.

Admittedly it also features a huge amount of Porn and a lot of spam, but you can’t have everything.

Additionally, one thing I love about the internet is the way ideas, instructions and much more is shared amongst cultures.

I’ve mentioned previously about a friend of mine based in America, and her quite frankly magnificent food blog.

Meals with Mel seems to have taken off big time. With some wonderful dishes, brilliant tips and stunning looking food, it’s always great to read what next is on offer.

It is about time though that I actually tried a dish. With that in mind, I went for a rather basic roasted green beans with bacon.

Taking instructions from this receipe I thought I’d give a relatively simple receipe a try.

Considering my skills as a chef are somewhat lacking, it’ll be interesting to see how this turns out.

Pre-Oven, it looked okay…

American Dish

With 10 minutes left to go, it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out…

 

40 Minutes later…

It’s turned out all right in the end.

American Dish2

On reflection, Melody was right about the red pepper bits, they would’ve added to the mix. One idea from London might be to add a splash of white wine to the mix before baking. This would add a softer texture and a more fruity air to the meal.

Rather pleased though with the effort.

A receipe from one side of the world to the other. A sharing of ideas. I’m sure Berners-Lee would approve.

Teamwork?

It’s so easy to undermine that feeling of team bonding that sport provides.

That unique collective feeling amongst a group who all aim for the same goals.

Tag Rugby, in it’s purest form, it provides me with this feeling. It helps me to work with friends for a greater good.

Saturday May 31st was one of these. A great day out, the team worked together to see what could be achieved. We played together, threw a ball around and eventually finished 4th out of 14. Even then, we were a bit robbed in the Semi Finals by some questionable refereeing.

Still, these photos sort of sum up the bond felt on that day. There’s a reason it was such a success.

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The Survey and the Occasional Remarkable Time it Seems to Work

Surveys…

Who are you? What is your favourite colour? Where should you live? What era should you have been born in? Which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle were you? If you were a type of vegetable, which would you be?

Okay, the last one is fictional, but the point is that surveys are everywhere.

Used to help companies gather information, they are often irrelevant, inaccurate pieces of rubbish which tell you nothing, whilst telling the survey creator everything.

Yes, surveys are for the most part some of the most meaningless and insulting things created by the modern marketing executive.

Sometimes though, just sometimes, one crops up that seems eerily accurate. That happened tonight when I filled in one in preparation for an interview tomorrow.

At 12pm on Monday 2nd June, I’ll be meeting a few guys from Stopgap Recruitment.

Stopgap are a Marketing Recruitment Firm based in Richmond, London. With rolls going in a variety of industries, they go out of their way to search through roles to find the perfect job for you.

On this occasion, they also asked me to fill out a Survey to help identify my personality.

For once, amazingly, this one was eerily accurate. It actually, is slightly scary.

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Based on what you’ve told us, your character type is Confidant

The Confidant has two contrary characteristics, curiosity and shyness. They love to know what’s going on, feel excluded if not kept informed but do not like to be the centre of attention. The Confidant always wants to be invited to the party – even though the chances are they won’t show up!

There is a sensitive, caring side to the Confidant that means they will see the interconnections between people and pick up on the verbal and non-verbal cues. The Confidant prefers not to be constrained by rules and regulations and does not like only routine. Others will see the Confidant as totally flexible, gentle and difficult to understand. The Confidant likes to do things in their own way and just get on with it, uninhibited and not micromanaged.

The Confidant would not appreciate criticism or a hard task-master. Yet there is a crusading side to the Confidant which would surprise even those who knew the person well. When a personal value, or belief is trodden on, then the Confidant can become more outspoken and vocal. Their values are usually so well hidden that the other person may not realise, but the Confidant becomes like a champion of the cause and will become expressive, animated and direct.

The Confidant values most those who take the time, trouble and effort to really get to know them. Only those who are allowed through the Confidant ‘assault course’ will get genuinely close. To others the Confidant will seem like a gentle enigma. The Confidant will often display their reactions to their feelings, rather than their actual feelings, and may bottle things up which will only become apparent later.

A Confidant does not like to be categorised. They value their autonomy, and feel ‘different,’ and any system, (including this one), which tries to ‘define’ or ‘explain’ them would be denigrated. The Confidant would say, ‘You can’t put me in a box, I’m different,’ indeed they would all say this.

WHAT YOU WILL SEE

The Confidant is a special, sensitive individual who needs a role that is far more than a job. The Confidant needs to feel that everything they do in their lives is in accordance with their strongly-felt value systems, and is moving them and/or others in a positive, growth-oriented direction. They are driven to do something meaningful and purposeful with their lives. The Confidant will be happiest in roles which allow them to live their daily lives in accordance with their values, and which work towards a vision or the greater good.

  • A strong value system
  • A warm and genuine interest in people
  • Service-oriented, usually putting the needs of others above their own
  • Loyal and devoted to people and causes
  • Flexible and laid-back, unless a ruling principle is violated – then crusading
  • Sensitive and complex, they want to be seen and appreciated for who they are
  • A dislike of detail and routine work, unless it contributes to the common good
  • Original and individualistic – ‘out of the mainstream’

WHAT COMES EASY

Confidants are driven by values and loyalty – they must ‘buy-in.’ Then they will work long and hard for the cause, often quietly behind the scenes and offering more than just getting the tasks done – they are like glue and offer support, help and empathy way beyond their job ‘remit.’ Cautious in the beginning of a relationship, a Confidant will be fiercely loyal once they are committed. Confidants are adaptable and congenial, unless a principle has been violated, in which case they become uncharacteristically harsh and crusading defenders of their values.

  • A warm and genuine concern about others
  • A sensitivity and perceptiveness about what others are feeling
  • Loyalty and commitment
  • Striving for ‘win-win’ situations
  • Nurturing, supportive and encouraging
  • Flexible and caring
  • Quickly understanding different situations and grasping new concepts
  • Doing something that seems truly important to them

WHAT NEEDS DEVELOPING

The Confidant is extremely complex being deep and private yet needing to know and (more importantly to them) feel they belong. This sense of belonging brings out all their best qualities and they will offer long-term commitment and loyalty way beyond what we could reasonably expect. However they do not like work for work’s sake nor feeling undervalued or just one of the masses. The Confidant is special and s/he will need to feel connected up to the inner core of the organisation and feel certain that what they do (however mundane) has real meaning and value to them.

  • Being open and sharing feelings, thoughts and views
  • Being open to the involvement of others, welcoming others into the group
  • Confronting difficult situations/conflict head on rather than avoiding it
  • Needing to receive praise and approval
  • Focussing on logical/objective criteria during stressful situations
  • Taking time out to recognise their own value/contribution in a given situation
  • Being aware and allowing for how their own style impacts on others

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Despite a few minor spelling errors (pretty sure “Focusing” has one S), the report feels at times a bit eerie. It feels like a strange psychological evaluation of me really.

Parts are incorrect, like the idea of not being categorized for example. I’d actually suggest that deep down we all want to feel like we are cataloged into a specific genre/type/brand. Hence doing quizzes like this. I think it helps us to identify who we are and what we want to do with our lives. I think it is a fascinating update of the tribal situation. Just like how people can group themselves together as “Harlequins Fans” or “Geeks” or a variety of other selections. From a social purpose, it helps us to know who we are and what we want to be.

This need to belong is ingrained in all of us to some degree, so to not want to be “in a box” is not necessarily true.

Still, one minor inconsistency aside, the quiz makes for fascinating reading and on this one occasion, well worth giving a go.

Ideas & a Glowing Review

Light-Bulb-3It’s brilliant when an idea works, when someone tries something and it comes together so well.

For the sake of my ego, I’d like to label myself as an “Ideas Man”. Someone who thinks up fresh takes on products, tools, lifestyles and writing.

I’m also someone with a bad habit of not following these through. Ideas for iPhone apps, fictional writing, thoughts which had potential but never got worked on. It’s a sort of counter-action within myself. A need to think up solutions to issues, but never knowing how or trying to put them into action. An element of Sisyphus, permanently rolling the idea up the hill, only for it to fall back down that moment of productive action.

So, when an idea works. There is a joy to be held. A satisfaction. When it is an idea for someone else, when they pick up on it and turn it into something beautiful, it feels simply wonderful.

This happened recently.

One of my oldest and dearest friends is a food obsessive. The last time I saw her, I pushed and pushed for her to write her ideas down. I wanted her to write a blog and to tell the world about her adventures with food.

She wasn’t convinced, and she didn’t seem keen. Since that point though, things have changed. We no longer communicate due to forces outside our control. I miss her constantly, but I understand and approve of her reason for saying goodbye. There were reasons, and these were accepted for a greater good.

Since we stopped talking though, something magnificent has happened. That blog has developed, and in ways I never could’ve expected. She’s bought an actual web address, she’s set up a Facebook page, she’s written some wonderful receipes and stories which leave you drooling and desperate to try them yourself.

She’s written something she should be proud of, and I hope she continues to work on it.

When ideas pay off, they pay off big time.

Here then, is my favourite piece she’s created so far. I hope you enjoy Meals with Mel. I know I do.

As the French would say, Bon appetit!

 

 

 

 

Mel’s “Mean Green” Chicken Florentine Lasagna

 

This past week I have been on an adventure making homemade pasta dough. One of the first pasta dishes I made this week was my take on Northern Italian Lasagna. This is a béchamel base lasagna is packed full of sautéed spinach, chicken, pesto, and all topped off with a nice cheesy crust.

The lasagna filling is a beautiful pale green color because of the spinach and the pesto. Since my sister was coming over for dinner and she attended the University Of North Texas, “The Mean Green” I decided to name this lasagna for her. This lasagna was not complicated to make, but there are several steps and if you decided to make your own pasta noodles you can add 3 more steps to that, but the dried Barilla No Boil Lasagna noodles work great. This lasagna is also a great way to use up any leftover grilled chicken you might have from a previous meal, just add the grilled chicken in place of the rotisserie chicken, you will need about 3½ cups of chicken.

Making lasagna can be a process sometimes but at the end of the day the aroma that fills your house makes it worth every step. The best part about making lasagna is not only does it feed a crowd, but lasagna can be assembled 1-2 days in advance and sit in the refrigerator then baked right before people arrive. Hope you enjoy! Go Mean Green!

Mel’s “Mean Green” Chicken Florentine Lasagna

 Ingredients:

2 boxes Barilla no boil Lasagna noodles or fresh pasta noodles

1 rotisserie chicken shredded; or 3½ cups leftover grilled chicken chopped.

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

3 cups warm whole milk

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/3 cups fresh pesto** recipe follows

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 small red onion finely diced

2 cloves of garlic

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 cups baby spinach roughly chopped

1½ cups fresh grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

1 cups fresh grated mozzarella

Directions:

Step 1: Make the Pesto

3 cups fresh sweet Italian Basil leaves

1 cup fresh flat leaf Italian parsley

3 cloves of garlic

1 cup fresh grated parmigiano reggiano

½ cup toasted pine nuts

1 lemon (the zest and juice)

2 pinches of red pepper flakes

½ of good quality extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade add the garlic cloves and pulse 4 times. Then add in your basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, lemon zest and juice and pulse another 5 times. Next add in the parmigiano reggiano cheese and the toasted pine nuts and pulse another 5 times. Last with the machine running slowly stream in the olive oil until well incorporated. Salt and pepper to taste.

Put the pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Step 2: Make the Béchamel Sauce

Warm the 3 cups of milk in the microwave for 2 minutes.

In a large heavy bottom pot melt the 4 tablespoons of butter on medium heat. Add one whole clove of garlic (smashed with the back of your knife) to the melting butter. When the butter has completely melted take out the garlic clove and add the 4 tablespoons of flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the flour is lightly browned (about 2 minutes). Slowly add in the warmed milk, whisking constantly, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer on low.

Step 3: The Filling

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and add in the finely diced onion, red pepper flakes, one clove of chopped garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Once the onion has softened, about 5 minutes, add in the roughly chopped spinach and cook down for another 5 minutes. Then add the spinach and onion mixture to the béchamel sauce along with the shredded chickenand 1/3 cup of the fresh made pesto and give it a good stir to make sure everything is well combined. Take off the heat.

Step 4: Assembly

If you are going to bake this immediately then pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Butter a 9×13-baking pan. Add 2 large ladles full of the béchamel mixture to the bottom of the 9×13 pan then cover with the lasagna noodles. Add another layer of the béchamel mixture, a little of the grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, and cover with another layer of noodles. Repeat this step until you are out of noodles, ending the final layer with the béchamel sauce and the remaining parmigiano reggiano cheese. Then top with the fresh grated mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes until bubbly, then take the foil off and bake another 15 minutes, finally bake under the broiler for 5 minutes to get a nice crust on top. Let the lasagna rest for about 5 minutes after you take it out of the oven.

Serve with a Green salad, a nice crisp Pinot Grigio, and Good Friends.

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