Gatsby? What Gatsby?

The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby

Sometime in the second half of 2012 I saw the trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby for the first time, and I felt giddy with excitement. Not only is the book my favourite book of all time, but the trailer was amazing (and that’s not something I’ve ever said about a trailer before!). In fact the trailer was so good, I actively sought it out on YouTube and watched it time and time again. Here it is for your viewing pleasure: The Great Gatsby – Trailer #1

I decided I was probably going to LOVE this movie.

I eagerly awaited Christmas 2012, even wondering how I could wangle a ticket to the premiere. But then a friend mentioned that the release was being pushed back a few months because the studio bosses (or whoever) had come to realise that it wasn’t going to be a contender for any big awards – corroborated by The Huffington Post – and my heart sank. How could this happen to my favourite book? The trailer was so good!

In the end the film was released in the UK on 16 May. I purposefully avoided all reviews before Alex and I saw it the following day (at a special Gatsby-themed screening at Clapham Picturehouse). In true prohibition style, Alex had a mint julep and I had a glass of champagne, and I found that my excitement and optimism were back!

Gatsby and Daisy
Gatsby and Daisy

Given how many times I’ve read and studied the book, it was always going to be hard for the movie to live up to my idealised vision of it. But the party scenes were just as they should have been – over the top, glamorous and fantastic. And even though the music from JAY-Z, Lana Del Rey and Florence + The Machine (to name but a few) was anachronistic, I thought most of it worked really well. Plus we’ve already had an adaptation that stayed very close to the original text (Jack Clayton’s 1974 film starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow), so this was Baz’s chance to put his own stamp on it.

Some elements of the film were pretty incredible, especially the cinematography, 1920s costumes and some of the acting – Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan in particular. I didn’t even hate Tobey Maguire’s Nick as much as most people!

The main problem I had with the film was how the book had been ‘dumbed-down’. I remember studying it for A Level English with my brilliant teacher, Mr Sheehan (and again at uni with my brilliant lecturer, Dr Bob Lawson-Peebles), loving the chance to discover and decipher the intricacies and symbolism of the prose. But with the film you don’t get this chance. Instead you get slapped across the face with it. In the scene where Gatsby and Daisy meet for the first time in five years (at Nick’s house for tea), Gatsby is uncharacteristically awkward and nervous. The book tells us:

the clock took this moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head, whereupon he turned and caught it with trembling fingers and set it back in place

But in the film this concept lacks any delicacy; instead Baz makes the clock scene loud and obvious, practically yelling from the rooftops ‘THIS BIT IS ALL ABOUT TIME! DING DING DING!’

So in the end, as much as I wanted to, I didn’t love the film after all. There were even a couple of moments when I worried I was hating it. In a way, my hopes and expectations about the film were similar to Gatsby’s hope about his reunion with Daisy:

…his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it.

Having said all this, I’ll probably ask for the DVD for Christmas –  just to make extra sure I don’t love it!


Adventure Running

Marathon (Wo)Man

Sunday 14 April was a momentous day for me. It was the day I ran a real life actual marathon. All 26.2 miles of it!

I was lucky enough to be running with my very own personal trainer, nutritionist and cheer-squad – in the form of Alex! Although he hadn’t done much running training (whereas I had done LOTS) he had decided to run too and would be there by my side the whole time. Phew! (And bless!)

Royal Pavilion
Elite runners at the Royal Pavilion

Alex and I had stayed in Brighton the night before, so on the big day we got up, ate some porridge, put on our charity running vests (Fight for Sight for me; Prostate Cancer UK for Alex),  and walked over to Preston Park for the start of the race. Almost as soon as we got there we bumped into my sister’s friend Jon who was also running – a massive coincidence when you consider there were 10,000 runners milling around!

We managed to time everything to perfection so that even after Alex checked our bag and I had a final toilet stop, we still got to the front of our corral. This meant we started right behind the 4:30 pacers, which was to prove critical for the rest of the run!

At 9.10am on the dot the moment I had been waiting for with a mixture of dread and excitement for months on end was finally here – we were crossing the start line and I was running a marathon!

For ages we stayed really close to the 4:30 pacers. It felt like I was running much faster than usual (which is a scary feeling when you have so many miles to cover!), but I went with it, spurred on by the thought that a finish time under my initial goal of 4:45 might actually be possible…

Sheila and Clive
Sheila and Clive running in 2011

We looped around the centre of Brighton for a bit, before heading down to the seafront and running east towards Ovingdean – up hill most of the way! At this point some of the elite athletes were passing us going in the opposite direction. Frustrating though it was knowing that they were so much further ahead, it was also very inspiring.

Around mile 9 we finally turned around and starting heading back west along the seafront. I don’t remember much about miles 9 to 12, except that we saw the oldest pair running together, Clive and Sheila Harburn, who were 70 and 74 years old! And we also saw some fire fighters who were running together carrying a ridiculously heavy ladder. Amazing stuff.

Mile 13 was a special one for many reasons. Not only did it mark the half way point of the run, but it was also the place where I saw (and heard!) my friends Kelly, Sian, Emily and Lucy, who had come down to cheer me on! And I also saw the Fight for Sight cheering station, which provided a helpful reminder as to why I was running at all. Unfortunately I didn’t see my parents, who were cheering me on somewhere near the Hilton, but knowing they were nearby still had a very positive effect on me! And amazingly, it was also around this time that the elite men were passing us on their way to the finish line (already!)

Me at mile 13
Me at mile 13

Next we left the seafront and veered inland a bit. It felt very bustly here, and even though we lost the 4:30 pacers, I was helped along by the sound of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 blasting from some speakers! There were loads of people lining the streets here, with little children handing out jelly babies and high fives to every passing runner. But next we were entering the part of the race we’d been warned to dread – the Portslade industrial estate section around mile 20, also known as the Saucony Road to Hell! Everyone had said this was the worst part of the race, because it’s out on a limb so there aren’t many spectators, plus it’s around this point that many runners start to hit The Wall…

But miraculously it wasn’t too bad! The organisers had made a real effort to get some crowds there, plus there were loads of Scope supporters cheering everyone on, and a steel band! In no time at all we were leaving industrial zone for the seafront again (sounds a bit like the Crystal Maze!). The sun was out, the end was almost in sight, and this time I did see my parents, which was brilliant!

Emma in Brighton
Emma – Brighton Marathon finisher!

The final couple of miles went by in a blur. I remember having a realisation as we passed some brightly coloured beach huts that I had run over 23 miles and hadn’t actually hit The Wall! This had to be down to Alex, who had kept me hydrated, energized and motivated the whole time. Without him, it would have been a very different experience!

By now the finish line was visible and the crowds were going wild! I attempted a little sprint for the last few hundred metres, but in reality I don’t think I actually moved any faster at all! Crossing the finish line was one of the best moments of my whole life. I felt so happy and emotional, and so grateful to Alex for keeping me going and helping me reach a time I never thought I’d achieve – 4 hours and 35 minutes.

Now I can sit back and relax knowing I’ve achieved a massive ambition – I ran a marathon before my 30th birthday in a time I feel proud of. And I actually enjoyed the experience!

(Never again though!)

Running Travel/holiday

Why this isn’t a running blog

Finish certificate
Half marathon finish certificate

Last October I ran my first half marathon, which was amazing enough on its own given how much I dislike running! But about a week before the race I did something even more crazy – I signed up to run the Brighton Marathon in April 2013.

I had thought about writing a marathon training blog, as it’s something I’ve seen lots of other runners do so their friends can follow their progress. But it soon became apparent that every single blog post would say something along the lines of this:

Went for a run. Hated every minute of it. Legs were sore.

And who would want to read that 4 or 5 times a week for the duration of a 16 week marathon training schedule? The answer is no one!

But I did do something fairly interesting during my marathon training – I went to Portugal on a marathon training camp! And handily they also had a duathlon training camp, so Alex could come with me and cycle to his heart’s content!

A rare moment of sunshine
A rare moment of sunshine

So on 21 March we headed off to Faro with one bike and one suitcase full of lycra! It turned out that the Algarve was experiencing more rain than ever before, but at least it was warmer than the unseasonably cold London we had left behind.

On our first afternoon we met our coaches for the week: Mike Gratton, who won the London Marathon in 1983 and since founded his own running company, 2:09 Events; and Phoebe and Nick from RunningWithUs, who I’d already come across a couple of times at Brighton Marathon training events. Without further ado we went for a 5 mile run down a dirt track towards the beach, passing countless other runners along the way (some of whom seemed pretty good!)

Saturday was the day for our long run, and unfortunately it poured with rain the whole time. Luckily I was running with a new friend called Kathy who was training for London, and we found a good pace and kept each other’s spirits up! I was aiming for 20 miles which would have been my furthest ever run, but in the end I called it a day at 18 miles – soaked through and aching all over!

A tired Alex from cycling
A tired Alex from cycling

Alex was also having a pretty exhausting time of it. He was cycling miles and miles every day, often up some seriously steep hills. He’d be gone for hours, whereas my running training tended to only last an hour in the morning and a couple of hours in the afternoon. So I kept myself entertained by sunbathing (during the brief times when it wasn’t raining!) and doing sessions like pilates, yoga and core work. While Alex was cycling I also went on some day trips with the other runners. One of them was to a Nike factory store, where I treated myself to a new head band! And on another trip with Kathy I discovered something that I probably should have already known, or at least been able to guess – that Port comes from Portugal!

Most of the runs passed without event, except for the climax of the week – the cross country competition. Everyone on the training camp got involved in this ‘handicap race’, with the slowest runners starting first and the fastest runners starting last, with the aim that somehow everything would end up balancing out. The slowest runner was 79 (but he looked more like 90, bless him), so he started off a good half an hour before everyone else. Needless to say I was one of the next slowest runners! Everything was fine at first, until my leg cramped going up a steep hill half way through the first lap. I’ve never really run cross country before so it’s probably not surprising that my body objected to the experience, but the leg cramp was so painful that I was in tears! At that moment Alex came by (having already caught me up despite starting much later!), and he stopped to see how I was. He then ran with me for the rest of the course, meaning he ended up finishing last – much to the surprise of the 79 year old who was expecting to be the slowest even with his 30 minute head-start!

I returned home from the training camp feeling exhausted but pleased that I had met so many other runners and learnt some new skills to help me during my marathon – which was now just over 2 weeks away…


A trip to the Palace

The Palace
The Palace

Yesterday saw a very exciting event for the Hypher family – we went to Buckingham Palace for my dad’s OBE investiture!

It was an amazing day – we all got dressed up (my dad was in tails and my mum wore a hat!) and we got to walk through the front gates of the Palace with tourists taking our picture (we think they thought or hoped we were royalty!). We then walked through this big courtyard, and walked up the same red-carpeted steps that Kate and William did after their wedding. Once inside we had to check-in our bags and cameras, and then I used a very posh loo (as captured on camera and posted to Twitter by judo silver medallist Gemma Gibbons).

By this time my dad had been whisked away with the other recipients for a briefing. In the meantime my mum, sister and I walked through a beautiful gallery towards our seats, where a string quartet were playing all sorts of lovely tunes. While we were waiting we read our investiture programmes from cover to cover. This was more interesting than you might think, as it included lots of info and history, plus someone on the knighthood list was called Robert Williams and we got excited that he might be none other than the Robbie Williams.

At 11am on the dot the ceremony began – Prince Charles came in surrounded by lots of helpers, and before long the first people were being called up to receive their honours. We soon discovered that it was not the Robbie Williams after all, but a different Robert Williams (who was wearing cowboy boots!).

It was much like a school prize-giving, except it was Prince Charles giving out the prizes. When it was dad’s turn we were on the edge of our seats, wishing we could hear what Prince Charles was saying to him! They seemed to be having a long conversation, and towards the end dad did a little swooping motion in the air with his hand, which made the three of us burst into laughter (quietly of course, because we were in the presence of royalty). We had no idea what the swooping was about, and must have baffled the entire room too!

The courtyard
The courtyard

I’ll never forget meeting up with dad again at the end of the ceremony. He said to my mum (on the brink of tears): ‘Thank you for getting me here. I wouldn’t be here without you’. 

We then waited around for quite a while for the official photography. It was freezing cold in the courtyard, but we did see a real-life celebrity – Armando Iannucci OBE (plus the cowboy-booted Sir Robert Williams again)!

After the photos had been snapped we hopped in a cab. The friendly cabbie asked what we’d been doing at the Palace, and congratulated my dad when we revealed he’d just got an OBE for services to charity. Some people have asked my dad if he wished it had been the Queen conducting the investiture instead of Prince Charles, but I think this way was perfect – an OBE awarded by one loving father to another 🙂


Adventure London

Night at the Museum

Night at the Museum
Night at the Museum

As much as I love the movie Night at the Museum – starring Ben Stiller, Robin Williams and none other than the wonderful Dick Van Dyke – this blog post is actually about something else. It’s about an actual night that Alex and I spent at an actual museum! The Natural History Museum in London to be precise. The experience was aptly named Dino Snores for Grown-Ups (presumably to avoid a copyright lawsuit from 20th Century Fox, but a great name anyway I thought)!

The night in question was 19 January 2013 and we arrived at the museum at 7.30pm – long after the regular museum punters had been kicked out. The short walk from the tube to the museum had left a dusting of snow on our rucksacks, and I was feeling slightly apprehensive that the promise of adventure and excitement would soon fizzle out, replaced by a miserable night of shivering on the cold floor of a drafty museum.

Museum campsite
Our campsite

Luckily we arrived to a warm welcome from the Dino Snores team, and while Alex set up camp in the incredible Central Hall (behind a pillar by the ticket desk – the spots around Dippy the Diplodocus had already been taken!), I headed to the bar to grab us a couple of glasses of champagne, which we drank listening to angelic harp music from the Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra’s Cecilia Sultana de Maria.

Before long it was time for dinner – a tasty three course meal with our fellow campers. Then it was time for a quiz about the museum and all things natural and historic. Alas our table didn’t win, but it was fun nonetheless!

And then the real fun began. We saw a brilliant and hilarious presentation about insect sex (which included slides of a fly that has a giant penis in relation to its size), and then to continue the bug theme, we took part in a midnight feast with edible-insect tasting (conclusion – they taste yuck). Next we checked out Treasures, showcasing 22 special exhibits chosen from 70 million specimens and artefacts. My favourite was Audubon’s book The Birds of America – definitely something I would buy if I ever have a spare £7million! After that we took a look at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition – the perfect place to walk around feeling overwhelmed at the talent of the world’s finest wildlife photographers (some of whom are children!). And then it was time for the pièce de résistance – a turn around the Dinosaurs gallery! At 2am!!! With a glass of wine!! And (no offence to children) no children! This was something people normally just don’t get to do, so it was awesome!

Central Hall
Happy campers

By now the all-night natural horror movie marathon was underway, so we started to watch a movie about piranhas (I think it was called Piranha). But before long we were starting to feel pretty sleepy (it’s not often we’re awake at such a late hour after all!), so we headed back to our ticket desk campsite and curled up for some sleep. 

Five minutes later (or so it felt!) we were woken by the sunlight streaming through the roof, the muffled sounds of hundreds of happy campers, and the mouth-watering smells of bacon and coffee. After we’d scoffed down our tasty breakfast it was time to head out into the real world again. And so at 9.30am we walked down the steps of the Waterhouse Building into a peaceful, snow-covered London. There were a few people walking along Cromwell Road as we left, all somewhat confused to see a bunch of bleary-eyed twenty-somethings, with rucksacks and sleeping bags, emerging from a museum that wasn’t supposed to open for another half an hour…


Hello there!

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog!

I’m a big fan of writing and editing. And not to toot my own horn, but I’m also excellent at punctuation, spelling and grammar, and I have a qualification in proofreading. So writing is something I feel confident that I can really, actually do. On the other hand, I definitely cannot: cook; catch a ball; throw a ball; remember any good jokes; speak another language (apart from dusty A Level French); make decisions; or ride a bike!

Anyway, this blog is a place for me to write and the reasons for doing so are three-fold:

  1. To capture the whimsical and interesting things that happen in life so I don’t forget ’em.
  2. To spend my spare time doing something creative that I enjoy.
  3. To showcase some examples of my writing because my dream is to make a living out of it one day!

I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve of things to write about, but most of the time I’ll probably just be inspired by life events! So watch this space for some (hopefully) interesting – but I promise always grammatically correct – blog posts about the life of Emma Hypher…