Cineworld, you’re doing it wrong

I went to the cinema at the weekend, partially to indulge the old lady inside me and partially because I thought it might help me stave off the isolation and loneliness of a Saturday with no plans.

Sure, I had plenty to do this weekend but most of the things on the list weren’t all that inspiring and many of them involved staying in the flat, alone, staring at a computer and because that’s what I do every day for work I thought it was probably best to make a change.

So I went and sat in a dark room and stared at a screen I wasn’t in control of instead. The film was alright – The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, since you asked – although it lacked a plot, it was nice to check in on the old gals Judi and Maggie, and once again the film managed to convince me that I really do want to visit India again.

If you saw the first Best Exotic film and enjoyed it then you should almost certainly pop by for the second instalment because, although it is disappointing, you probably won’t leave feeling disappointed. Evyln’s (Judi Dench) indecision over a new job and her potential proposal and marriage to Douglas goes to show the immaturity of even the most mature adults, while Muriel (Maggie Smith) provides the reassuring guiding advice that we’ve all come to expect (or miss) from our grandparents.

It’s all just rather lovely, and rather than Popcorn it should most definitely be served with a homemade cornflake cake and a cup of tea from a proper china cup – but it’s not. I don’t know whether you’ve been to the cinema lately, but if my experience of a few of my locals is anything to go by then if you haven’t been for a while you may be in for a surprise.

Cinemas seem to have a rather odd feeling about them; a feeling not dissimilar to how Blockbuster felt towards the end and not perhaps unlike that cafe just down the road: the carpet isn’t quite as clean as it should be and there’s signs of what used to be just left; mothballed perhaps with the intention of future use, or perhaps because it would just be too expensive to do anything else.

In the past, a visit to the cinema was much like a visit to your own little bit of Hollywood. Just as films are renowned  for their glamour and glitz so was the local cinema – to a fashion, anyway. Right back to the wars and beyond, there was a special attraction about the houses of escapism but it seems as though in the age of the Internet, the downloadable film and the insatiable search for a profit from the ever-tightening wallets of fewer and fewer people.

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It’s tickets from the sweet counter and just one of the two ways you can get in to the cinema screens open today, I’m afraid. The carpet’s seen much, much better days and even the popcorn comes pre-made in bags now.  It’s not surprising really, since 2014 saw cinema box office sales drop by almost 3% – not much you might think, but this is an industry with high fixed costs and very low margins where a couple of percent can be the difference between an individual cinema being in the red or in the black.

So I was really shocked to see, when I booked my tickets using the Cineworld iPhone app, the rather backward experience of being charged to do all the booking myself. OK, it was only fifty pence but it worries me that the concept of charging for ‘remote booking’ is just the tip of a very big iceberg which, when you look closer, is actually quite easy to see.

A trip to the cinema is all about the experience, and it worries me that aside from the rundown buildings the closed-but-still-there ticket purchase point in the foyer and the abolition of the special card cinema tickets in favour of standard receipt roll ‘the special’ is getting lost.

There’s the charging extra for 3D films, then extra again for the glasses when you get there; the expensive food which suddenly becomes such a lot cheaper per item if you buy more of it and the extra-special seats that make up the 1st class cinema at the very back.

It seems to me that these guys are playing a short term game of profits now, but is it also a game of survival later?

I miss writing for just someone

Writing for an audience is one of the most important things you must do to make your blog (or book, or twitter post or anything) successful, but I really do miss when readers were just a concept and not real people with real names, real faces and real criticism.

I was reading Girl Lost in the city’s post I miss writing for no one a couple of days ago, and it reminded me of just how good it was when I wrote for someone I thought just probably existed, not ‘someone’ that I know does.

Now, that’s all changed. Knowing who my readers (might be) are, I’ve become super-critical of absolutely everything I produce and a negative comment can genuinely make me consider whether or not I want to keep going.

I distinctly remember that writing for that someone was easy; in the past I could easily bang out five blogs in a single sitting and for more than eight months I managed to post something every single day. I didn’t really care if anyone was reading, although I knew that at least a few were.

Now I couldn’t possibly post every single day because one post now takes a good couple of days to incubate in my mind before there’s a good couple of hour of writing to turn it into something I don’t mind other people seeing.

My writing process now, after years of very harsh self-critique, takes inspiration from Stephen King’s drawer method: posts sit for at least a day before I re-read them to check that my argument makes sense, and that there aren’t any silly typos left.

I’d say I was a massive failure at both.  

I regularly publish posts with multiple ‘silly’ mistakes in them and my arguments regularly don’t make sense either, but it’s the former that really gets at me.

The way our brains are wired makes self-editing really tough, but I do have to wonder why I’ve not managed to improve over the years and why I still manage to type completely different words to what I think I’ve typed, and fail to notice that I’ve said the same thing in two different ways in two adjacent paragraphs. I just do, and it’s really frustrating.

In his book On Writing, King describes the methods by which he creates fiction novels.  A manuscript should take a season to write, he says. Then he will put a physical copy of it in a drawer and forget about it for at least six weeks. Stacey Roberts

I’d say that ‘silly’ mistakes are the worst kind you can make and that’s not just because they’re the ones I can hear my mother shouting at me for making.

Think about it: what do you think when you spot someone has typed ‘their’ instead of ‘they’re’, or when you read something with an ‘an’ where there should be an ‘and’?  Well, you probably think the person is one of two things: stupid, or slapdash.

A silly mistake is the easiest kind to make, the hardest to spot when you’re self-editing and yet universally they’re the most damaging. That’s why I find it tough knowing that I’m writing for someone, not ‘someone’.

Then again, according to some people typos and mistakes are just part of what makes a blog a blog. It’s a tough one.

What do you think? Tweet me: @picnarkes.

Obligatory new year post

It’s customary, cringey and actually, I think, quite natural at New Year to think about how the past year has gone and that leads itself quite irritatingly nicely into thoughts on how one might want to feel in 12 months’ time. Who am I to buck a trend that has its roots in the many failings of our forefathers and has the nice side effect of causing those irritatingly healthy gym-regulars a bit of mild irritation for a few weeks? No one, that’s who.

Sticking with predictable cliches, I want to brand 2014 as a year of change but just the process of writing this down here has convinced me that I’m wrong, at least partially. I think it’s more accurate to brand 2014 as a year of reversion and upgrades. Both are types of changes, yes, but they’re significantly different to sitting down in January and plotting out the five things I hate about me  with a mission to try something new instead.

Let me explain briefly.

In the last 12 months I’ve moved in with my partner (upgrade), and moved to a small rural town with a population of about 16,000 (reversion) and I’ve started a job I really enjoy that pays me enough that I can live, not just survive (upgrade) managing digital communications and content (reversion). Do you see where I’m going with this? It’s a theme that’s present in most of the things I’ve done in 2014.

So I think that coming out of 2014 I’m just a tiny bit better than I was in 2013, and that’s a good thing. But it wasn’t, as you might say, by purpose.

I’m quite excited for 2015, and here’s why: After 364 days doing a job I’ve loved, I’m starting a new one on 5th January – and at the moment, I love what I’m going to be doing just a little bit more because it means I can start doing some proper learning again. I’ve missed that. I’m also pleased that I’m getting back on top of my finances: I should have paid off  my student overdraft by May this year – a small value, but a massive impact on the way my mind reacts when it sees my bank balance – and there’s a timeline to getting other debt paid off too, which is great.

In 2015, I’m going to try and try out wild camping, driven by my belief that I’ve just not seen enough of the UK yet and I’m going to try and make it through the year with my job title intact: an interesting and varied CV is one thing but I’d like to try and make sure I can still fit five years of job history on one sheet of paper.

So, onward I go to 2015 – properly starting on Monday of course – and the year I become 25. I’ve long thought it sounded a nice kind of age (and by proxy year) and I’m going to keep doing more of the same to make sure it is.

For my blog here – well, it’s more of the same but with probably more focus on the more. This post probably doesn’t fit in well, but thanks for reading all the same. I hope you’re excited for the next 12 months too.

Nic x