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giovedì 31 maggio 2018

Thailand On My Own Day 1: Bangkok

I’d like to skip the whole bit where I get told at the airport there is a 50% chance I’ll get sent back home and won’t pass Thai immigration borders because of the conditions of my passport. I’d like to also skip the fact that I watched Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Breathe, Your Name, Thank You For Your Service, The Killing of a Secret Deer, and started Coco all in one trip. 
Let’s get to Bangkok straight away, shall we?

I manage - you guessed it - to pass the border and enter the Country. It is hot, like proper hot. That hot that sticks to your skin and clothes and breath. Actually no, breathing is difficult because the air is still and very warm. It feels like trying to inhale a soup. I don’t realise any of this until I am on the Subway, but as soon as I get out I realise how strong the Air Conditioning must have been in the carriage. I am a silly idiot, therefore I am still wearing long jeans and a rather tight t-shirt, which translate to death via sweat. 

Finding the hostel is a quest. All the roads are packed in traffic jams, motorbikes and tuk-tuks trying to smuggle their way around cars. Crossing the roads is more of a conscious walk towards death every time than a well-thought act. I still don’t get how to cross. I feel like you have to impose your crossing and hope people will stop (or worst case scenario just honk).  
The smell in the air is continuously different and very strong.  Food, sweat, people, flowers, sewage, fruit and cement all keep coming at you in a matter of meters from each other. 

I manage to get to the hostel - where the AC is indeed blasting at max power - and get told I can check-in in an hour. I drop my luggage in a not-very-secured “Staff (not really) only” room and head out again to check out Lumpini Park. 

Bangkok is… really something. At first sight it seemed - from the airport train - like a mixture of modern and expensive with old and poor, but when you are actually walking in it it feels even odder. I cannot begin to express how it feels to be walking around. In the main roads and  market everywhere feels packed, people are talking and shouting and the heat is unbearable. I am that kind of person who will always carry her backpack with her but with this heat it means all my back and shoulders get drenched in sweat. Along with the rest of my chest and face, let’s be honest. Very Attractive. 
Lumpini Park is rather peaceful when I go, but the heat of noon makes it a rather treacherous experience. I am sweating, people stare and the lens of my camera has condensation on it for the warmth. I learn straight away to always have water with me. TIP: Unfortunately, in Thailand tap water is not advisable especially for Western stomachs, therefore you always have to buy a bottle. At 7/11 you can get some for 7 Bahts which is  basically 20p, so it’s not too expensive. Even for brushing your teeth and washing food it’s not advisable. I learnt to be careful with choosing ice and fruit and check at stall markets and fruit stalls that they use gloves and the health and safety conditions are at least bearable. The last think I want to do is get sick on a holiday by myself, I’ll be honest. 

I check in at the hostel, settle down in my bed, get changed from my soaked clothes and I decide to head out. I’m wearing a floaty t-shirt and a very floaty maxi skirt this time, I learnt from my mistakes. And I am hungry. Oh, boy, I am hungry. 

I have to quickly learn Vegan culture is not really a  culture at all in Thailand. Most food - I am literally talking almost all of it - somehow includes fish or meat. The vegetarian options are few, not in many places, and use eggs. I managed so far to find places suitable, but being Vegan is proving to be hard sometimes. Especially, I haven’t found a street food stall yet that can fit my needs (or that looks like it). So far I managed to eat Pad Thais, Noodles with vegetables, Vegetable stir-fry, I even managed to go to a Veganerie place where I got a Peanut Sauce and Tofu salady-thingy that was bloody great. I will probably be back to get a slice of Carrot Cake as I haven’t had one in years…

I decide as of my first day I should probably go and visit the
Grand Palace and start from there to see where I can go. You know usually on my holidays I mainly walk around, it’s my favourite thing to do to actually live and explore the place and feel part of it. Also, let’s say it, I like saving money. I like that a lot. 

Get to The Grand Palace via public transport would take an hour - plus understanding bus stops written in Thai would be… interesting - so I try to get a Taxi. I think I still quite don’t get how to call them, I guess you might have to find a waiting one. So I get approached by a Tuk-Tuk driver which, I’ll be honest, I am not that interested in. I know Tuk-Tuks are more expensive than taxis and also being in the middle of the traffic jam breathing the smoke coming out from the car is not really on my wish list. We fight on the price and eventually I manage to get a pretty good deal seen the distance, and I hop on with the promise to stop once to one of his “sponsors” and pretend to be interested in their products while browsing around. I agree and we get there. It’s a tailor. I get in and while I am browsing a very rude employee asks me to tell me specifically what I want as there is no browsing since everything is tailor-made. So I get out.

My journey is full of honking, speeding, breathing horrible gases, but we eventually get to interesting areas of town and speeding around backstreets we drive through a busy and hectic Chinatown scattered with markets, watchmakers and signs of all sorts. Passed that we get close to the Grand Palace where I get down. I manage to find the entrance and I am tempted to buy some floaty trousers for 100 Baht for the next days but I restrain myself. Once inside, the atmosphere is unbelievable. The architecture is like nothing I have experienced in the West before, and I cannot stop looking at the walls and colours and shapes. It’s incredibly beautiful. (Aside from the bunch of  tourists shouting to get a picture in front of it. Tourism in this city is insane.) 

I decide to walk (you don’t say) somewhere with the intent to get closer to my hostel and then get a Taxi as the distance is pretty… big. I end up walking in in random temples. 
TIP: leave your shoes outside with everyone else’s, walk inside and try not to give your back to the Buddha. A monk will be there and there will be people burning flower garlands and incense actually worshipping. Don’t get in the way. Photos are okay, selfies are not (use common sense). Also, don’t steal someone else’s shoes, that’s not nice. I know you thought of that.

Walking and walking, the streets I’m going through are absolutely invaded by Buddha shops. All sorts of Buddhas, all sizes, all colours. Repeated. For miles. I keep walking and reach Chinatown - how did I walk all the way there without being run over I have no idea - where people are everywhere and shops of every kind occupy the sidewalks. I avoided buying fruit from the stalls, scared as I am of germs - I know, I’m sorry - but I am really fancying a mango by that time. At some point, on a side street, I find a hidden market street. Stalls are crowding it both sides and I get in to see what I can find. It turns out to be long. So long. And with so so so many stalls! Food, fruit, crafts, jewellery, clothes, nuts, berries, rows and rows of typical products, beans, spices, tea… It feels never-ending and I absolutely loved it. 

Somehow, from there, I walk all the way home. With 30,000 steps in a day. I never stop. I know. I manage to find a nice place where to eat a mixture of stir fried vegetables and    noodles. I really need it. 

To stop my mango craving I get one from a supermarket - yes you heard me a SUPERMARKET - I find. There I can get some mixed nuts, cereal and milk for the morning as Thailand doesn’t really have a specific breakfast. Normally they eat as any other meal. 

After that I have a bit of a night walk - I say night walk, it’s like 7.30pm but I am absolutely shattered and it is dark so leave it. There are way more people at night in the streets - and there were many already during the day. People come out as the heat is ever so slightly more bearable. I wouldn’t understand why there were so many night markets to see, I wondered why having all of those at night. The lights? The atmosphere? No, it’s genuinely the heat. 

Walking I end up in Patpong Night Market where it is famous for the nightlife and being the red light district. I mean, I wanted to avoid that area but my hostel was literally behind it so I might as well give it a look. The market is lovely and it’s interesting to see something like 10 bars in a row all advertising female lap dancers. It’s not hard to see inside either as the doors are wide open. Most dancers - perhaps as it was early - were barely dancing on the tables. I don’t know how I feel, passing by. It’s always a grey area. I would want to go inside and see. See what it is and how it works. I often wonder about the ethics of that sort of entertainment in a country like Thailand. 

I go home, at last. I was planning on reading on being on my phone a bit but after basically 3 days without sleep I collapse for 13 hours.

See you tomorrow for the second day of the adventure!


domenica 29 aprile 2018

Twirling Snowflakes (short pointless story while walking in London)

The night descends first slowly and then all of a sudden on the small London park. It’s not even really a park, but more of a slice of green, trees and benches in the middle of the crowded City. But it is peaceful. You can look up and among the annoying streetlights count a handful of stars in the never-pitch-black sky. I sit down on the bench and the sudden feel of the cold wood on my skin makes me shudder. I put my hands in my pockets and bury my head in my scarf while a cloud of  condensation forms outside my mouth like crystallised air. It’s oddly silent for being a random London night. Sometimes the muffled sound of cars rushing by to bring their owners home breaks through the air, but between my hat and the hood I can barely hear it. 

I am not entirely sure why I made it all the way to that bit of green. I am not even sure I am dressed warm enough to be outside there. I look around me and the only living thing in the ray of a-hundred meters is a dog, quietly peeing on a tree and looking at me, tilting his head with curiosity. I smile subconsciously and look up at the polluted sky. I am so used to not being able to properly see the stars, but still in the middle of my chest there is the echo of a pain that springs from the core of it and expands to all my limbs. Just under the spot I am looking at a window lights up at the top of a victorian building. The light is tungsten looking and it allows me to see what’s happening from my corner of darkness. Two kids are running around in the room while their parents try playfully to catch them. It looks nice. They disappear from my sight inside the room and then come back, laughing and happy. It’s the kind of feeling that warms you up in a Winter night. I can’t help but imagining how it would be for me to be there with them and having as much fun as they have. Why am I even thinking that? 

The younger kid gets into the arms of what I want to think is his dad and he lifts him up to look outside of the window where - I slowly come to realise - it has started to snow. They look at the snowflakes cascading from the sky, dancing and twirling in the cold British wind. The kid screams in delight and his dad quickly gestures him not to do that, as it’s late and their neighbours might be asleep. The other kid comes to the window too, just about tall enough to be able to see out of the window. His head pokes out of the bottom of the glass and he seems to be silenced by a deep feeling of wonder, as if the snow is the most beautiful things he has ever seen. Sometimes I miss feeling the spark of wonder and marvel that comes from new things. Easy things. Random events that just happen in your everyday life but that for some reason feel wonderful. 

The kid asks a question to his father and for a split second I wonder why I haven’t actually seen their mother yet. Maybe she’s at work as he took a late shift, or maybe she’s sleeping and that’s the reason why the father was miming the kid not to scream. Or maybe, just maybe and the thought quickly crosses my mind, she’s dead or they divorced and the kids stayed with their dad. 

I look down at my hands. Even though they were in my pockets they are still incredibly red and dry from the cold. The snow is starting to cover the ground, but I know it will be gone in the morning if not before. Snow doesn’t really stick in London, which is just as sad as stars not being able to be seen from down here. Sometimes I feel prisoner of somewhere where people come because they want to feel free instead. Why do I feel like that? I feel like I lost the spark along the way and I am still trying to find it like a blind man who tries to see again. 

I look up again and I realise the two kids and the dad are actually looking at me now, maybe they noticed the lonely guy under their window randomly sitting in the snow. I wonder what they might think of me. I decide it’s time to get up and go for a walk. At least I can try and look a bit less like a freak. 

London late at night never feels like it’s late at night, because people are awake, doing things and going somewhere pretty much at any time. Not as much as in day time, but you almost never get time for yourself while walking around. 

I can’t seem to find a way to warm my hands up so I give up. The snow is still slowly twirling around me, falling from the sky like a weird slowed down white rain. It feels weird, it’s like time slowed down. Snow doesn’t fall in London, so it must just be rain playing at a slowed down speed. The internal part of my scarf is wet with condensation which is sticking to my stubble. I look around and I realise I am not too far off from the walk along the river. Nobody is around that particular part of the path, so I - not very athletically - climb the fences that prevents you to walk on the shore when it’s cold and wet. The stairs are slippery and feel frozen and dangerous. I am not wearing the best of shoes, but for someone who’s grown up in the countryside I should be able to climb down without injuring myself. Somehow, I think maybe I got comfortable with all this commodities, living this lifestyle that made me softer and less driven. Yes, maybe I can blame my environment for my own doubts and questions. I don’t know. I sit down at the bottom of the stairs and look at the water being barely shaken by the snowflakes falling. I don’t even care anymore if my bum gets wet. The creases in the water reflect the white and red lights from the tall buildings which are not even that close to the Thames. Everything looks so slow, then why do I feel so late to the rush?  Maybe my perception of time is off, or maybe I am just so scared that everything just feels hyper-speed. I look at my wrist almost expecting to see a watch there. 

What’s wrong with me? That I need to go out in the cold and freeze my face to death to get a clear picture of what’s happening. I take my phone out of the pocket and there is just a message from Mary. She wants to know if everything’s okay as I haven’t replied for the whole day and normally that means my head is too loud for me to do anything else. I should probably get back to her, I don’t know why I haven’t done it. I just want to be by myself with my head for a bit. I think back to those kids at the window and wonder what I dreamed of when I was that young. What did I want to do? Who did I want to be? What did I see my life being once I would be my age? I remember limitless dreams, not being a knight or an astronaut, but mainly reaching the stars and doing something that made me happy and feel like I was successful. I wanted to change people’s life somehow, but I got bored along the way. Or maybe the constant thought that maybe it wasn’t really possible to do that and that I wasn’t good enough by myself got repeated so many times inside my brain that I started really believing in it. It felt - and feels - so true sometimes that just the thought of trying becomes unbearable. I think I spent so much time thinking about who I wanted to be that I lost who I actually was. 

A siren goes out in the night and my heart skips a bit, I am so lost in my own thoughts I lost track of my surroundings. I have to say that the wet inside my scarf is really starting to itch. I poke my mouth out so that I can breathe out of it and a storm of snowflakes settles down on my damp skin while clouds surrounds my face. It all looks so peaceful when I don’t have to think about tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow I will wake up and I will be one of those kids at the window. Maybe I’ll be ten or eight again and my dad will run after me in the kitchen, playfully pretending I’m too fast for him. Maybe I will scream and screech and fight against his strong arms and he will lift me off the ground. I’ll be in the air, relying only on his strength because I know he won’t let me fall. Maybe my brother will then complain because he’ll want to fly too. Flying has always fascinated me, how can you be in the middle of the empty air and not fall? The air must be really strong to be able to keep you suspended, I used to think as a kid. I remember I used to always choose flying when I had to pick a superpower. I always pictured myself as a bird, defeating gravity and making a fool of the law of physics. Well, not exactly, but that was definitely what I thought as a kid. 

I wish my brain had stayed the same. I feel like realising how pointless things are until you don’t give them a meaning yourself was a defeating discovery for me. I wish I could have stayed in that status of complete ignorance and simple bliss that made me think I could be anything I wanted. In my head I keep spinning in the arms of my dad and screaming in joy and excitement, light as a bird and free. I sink into that deep feeling and I try to rewind my mind back to then. Rewinding that happiness and absorbing the lost youth. For a split second I am not in London anymore and all I can smell is my dad’s cologne. I remember how big his arms felt and how I dreamt to be like him one day. I take a deep breath and soak my brain into that memory in a way I just made up, looking for that lost kid I might quite possibly never find. 

The snow is still falling. I could fall asleep there. 

venerdì 22 dicembre 2017

Wrapping Up 2017

It's pretty impossible at this time of the year to browse the internet and not see posts about wrapping up 2017 everywhere. In a way I guess it's healthy to look back at all that happened. It gives me a sense of achievement and failure and it's easier to weight things up. I can have more of an objective view. 

I feel like this 2017 has been a full year. In good and bad ways. I don't remember on the top of my head most of the things I actually did, so I'm not going to lie, I have to rely on socials like Instagram and the photo gallery on my phone to bring me back to the memories of all that I assumed was important to mark or collect from this year. 

At the same time, do you take photos or post that much about the negative things that strike you during the year? They are a bit more difficult to retrieve, but I will try. 

In January, with its cold weather that jumpstarts you like a cold shower, I kept working on my career as an Assistant Camera but also I got contacted by a production company who was interested in my Directing. I worked on some potential projects with them for a few months and the result was Relief, later on (which came up from a pitch with them). The fact that the company reached out in the first place felt like a little step in the right direction, and I remember I was really excited. 

At the time I was seeing someone that brought excitement and warmth to what was still being a rather grey time. He definitely gave me a boost in terms of will to do things and being productive and alive, but eventually turned out in a bitter, very sour blur that made me realise how it was not about me at all.

On the other hand I got to visit Italy, Austria and Germany in a day and be on a frozen lake surrounded by what looked like being on a set for Game of Thrones. I swear. We walked on the ice praying for it not to crack while chuckling like idiots and jumping because... why not challenging life while you are at it?

I was feeling very down at this time of the year. From September to half-February I was in a very dark place in terms of knowing what to do, what I needed, what I wanted, self-esteem, relationships and understanding what I wanted as well. At some point in January I spontaneously bought tickets to go to California in April for two weeks with one of my best friend, as I usually do, to give me something to look forward to in the following months.

In February I tried to work as much as I could taking headshots for many actors. The film industry, in case you didn't know, dies at this time of the year, which meant I had to experience the side of chasing clients, having them cancel last minute because of no money while I budgeted with that in my virtual pockets already.
It taught me there are things to state in advance and leaving it to case definitely doesn't work. 

On another note, I worked on a music video where there was a shot of a motorbike from the back of a van which, I'm not going to lie, was good fun. And exciting! Man, filming can be so fun

Still, I found myself at the bottom of the pit with my mental health. Stress and all that jazz. I needed to find my balance again, I was completely off and sliding towards total black. So I did something crazy for someone who was really struggling badly with money: for the first time in my life I bought a last minute next-day ticket to go home.

While all of this was happening - and according to Instagram I bought a pink jumper - my nan was in the hospital not doing that well at all. She periodically ends up there because of pain/depression/pneumonia/cancer complications so it's never so new. But it still sounded pretty bad. 

I also don't know if I said this before but I don't have a great relationship with hospitals. I would love to volunteer in one though. I tried before, a bit to overcome this feeling, and a bit because I remember my sister when she was in hospital when we were stupidly young. She loved the clowns and entertainers, they made her day and I think I would love to do that. And eventually, if you can do something nice for someone else and it's only going to cost you some spare time, why not? As soon as I have that spare time I actually want to do it. 

Seems like March was full on days of work, which was amazing. I normally love being busy, I love being tired because of working on good sets, feeling like I'm growing as a person in my own career and that I am actually moving towards somewhere. And then of course I enjoy it. 

Alongside this I was also working on RELIEF, producing another film for my friend Will - therefore trying to balance university and full on work as usual - without freaking out over trying to start production for my own short. 

So I was very tired at this time. I was barely seeing my friends. I reached the point that I decided to make some drastic choices and start turning down some work to focus on people, what I realised really matters in life. I keep reminding this to myself and I still mentally tell myself off for when I don't give them priority. I know how much they mean to me, and as much as I am very work and career driven, I know I can't function without them. 

I coincidentally went to the Victoria and Albert museum with a friend of mine from Brighton. We had a lovely day and that reminded me of how much I had to keep that kind of things in my life.

April... was the month. We shot RELIEF, which was a rush but reminded me of how much I love directing. It was also the month work kicked in properly and I got hired for a year to work on a show for NBC Universal, which meant less financial worries for me. Also, production houses started heavily producing again so it literally meant I was on set non-stop before RELIEF and then I left for California just in time. 

Filming RELIEF was a financial and creative stress. It's so easy to doubt yourself when you are doing anything that involves your responsibility in a creative area. I always take everything very personally and I was really struggling with one of my best friends at the time. That made the shoot difficult because of the way our relationship felt like it was falling apart on set and I was working hard to keep it together while making smart and good creative decisions. 

It was incredible to see it unravel under my eyes, though. It was so satisfying to see something of mine actually happening. I was so excited and even getting back into the swing of it made me happy. Everyone did such a great job and I was so impressed with the actors. I couldn't have done it without the incredible crew that worked on it. Sometimes, I almost felt like I was the smallest part of the whole chain, for how hard everyone was working. Will, Amir and Ana put their heart and soul into helping me with it.

It was still mad and I was so worried about everything that I could sense would be a problem in post-production (and we were really tight with time as well) but we did it

I remember April from this year as the time things started working out again. It was like finally the engine started again and my brain, that had turned to mush for months in the meantime, finally woke up from the fog it wrapped itself into. 

California deserves a paragraph for itself. It was such a wonderful adventure. I really needed a trip like that: the excitement, the joy, the adrenaline. I needed to walk infinitely and explore and take photos and hide in hostels, drink American IPAs, cook bad food and film everything. I needed to be away and take a break. The States always leave me with a bittersweet feeling, and they did again. San Francisco was wonderful, and Los Angeles had spectacular bits but...

It was also... extreme. The violence you can witness is extreme, as roads are, houses too, people's voices as well, food portions, prices, the amount of homeless people and crackheads on the street, the contrast between poor and rich and black and white and all that. I needed to see it, but I can't help but feeling like here in Europe we are living a lie about the "wonderful" US. 

Still, exploring the gay boroughs, tripping on someone's ashes in a Buddhist temple, eating more udon that I could stomach, falling asleep on the beach, being followed by a "photographer"... all things I needed to experience (well, maybe not the ashes bit). Together with the sunburn and being stuck in that ranch for 6 hours while waiting to be rescued on the bus. 

(If you are wondering what happened there is a video on the channel waiting for you.) 

May started like a fury. One of the craziest things that happened was that I started working for La Repubblica. After having seen my work online they contacted me to create a web-series about Italians abroad together with the incredible journalist and writer Enrico Franceschini. 

It was such an honour to be introduced to him. I remember being really worried about what kind of man he would be, and he turned out to be one of the most wonderful people you will ever meet. He always almost behaved like a father to me, and I have incredible respect for him nowadays. 

Anyway, that took a lot of time of filming and interviewing and sending briefs back and forth but it was an incredible project that I am extremely proud to be part of. La Repubblica, really? I would have never expected that. And there they were, on an email, asking to collaborate. 

From May - I realise now going back and scrolling all my old photos - the TV show started taking over my whole life. It seems like that's most of what I've been doing. I am not sure how I feel about it. 

Sometimes, when I think of it, it almost feels like someone else's life. Someone who can't have done all those things too. And do YouTube. And write books. And make films herself. It feels... off. In a positive way, mainly, but also in a 'who am I?' sort of way. 

I started going back to therapy, taking the antidepressants and meditating. I was fully ready to go back into being myself, and for a good reason. I saw that unhappy-anxious-me didn't have to necessarily be me, but I was allowing it to. I was determined to get back into being the person I had started to doubt I was. So I took everything in my own hands and worked on it with every mean I could. 

But most importantly, I fixed things with one of my closest friends that were broken before. We had a painful chat where I started crying at some point. I never cry in front of people. I just seem to cannot. But it needed to, and eventually me and him managed to fix it. 

MCM Comic-Con happened and went in a flash, as usual. Grading sessions for RELIEF were happening too. The excitement to see the film all cut together, working on the colours and giving feedback on sound design and composing was making me feel nervous as a teenage boy before his first kiss. Excited and terrified. Disappointed and in awe. 

June meant university was over, and I could focus all my energy into work. The weather got better and the sun peaked. It was actually nice. I spent most of my time - you guessed it - getting back into reading and on that damn TV show. Literally. Working with frogs, crows, stinky dogs, spoilt cats, mainly in the tiniest rooms with multiple huge lights on so that all I could perceive was sweat. But I was better. I was definitely a lot better. 

I think it's around this time I allowed myself to started seeing someone else. It felt weirdly good
and I thought I was been treated nicely. Turns out I am a bad judge of things and it turned out very different pretty much out of the blue. 

But it was fine. It's that kind of thing that you are very glad, now, it went that way because it was not what you wanted. I also ended up on one of my favourite music videos I worked on, and one of my favourite film projects. 

I was slowly apologising to everyone I had been retreating from, trying to get back into seeing friends after neglecting them for so long. They knew I was busy, they knew I was not in a good place and never pressed. The only one who felt pressed was me. And I knew they were being wonderful. They deserved the real version of me and that was the one I was planning to give them. 

Also, I got introduced to Hot Fuzz and Edgar Wright's work. Better late than never, they said. 

Summer felt like I was reborn, since April I had witnessed getting my life back. And I was the only one who could do it, so I did everything I could and I did. Nothing happened casually, certainly there was a sprinkle of luck, but I also want to acknowledge for myself that I did a lot of work to make that happened. And I should be aware of it. 

July was another intense month. Other days of infinite work and burning sun and black set clothes and hot lights and pools of sweat, but also a roadtrip with my family. It was my parent's 25th Wedding Anniversary and my Birthday (yay me, I'm 23), so we decided to celebrate the whole thing together on a roadtrip around Austria, Germany and France in our good old camper van as a proper family (and not one that's scattered around the world). But before that... I stopped seeing the person I was seeing exactly on the day of my birthday. What can I say, at the end of the day it's just another day. 

Also, before leaving, I worked on Dodie's music video for 6/10 with friends, which always makes it a lot more pleasant (a part from one of the locations being on the 4th floor without any lift). 

And for my birthday my flatmate got me a spiralizer for vegetables. Which is probably the most vegan present ever and also the reason why I loved it so much and only cooked with that for a good two weeks. 

It was good. Summer was being good. I had a big chat with my usual close friend and he really made me think about who I was and who I was relating myself to and the expectations I was putting on myself. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you the right thing to snap out of a loop like a spring. 

But yes, France. It was a weird experience. Overall, it was an incredible trip. We went all the way to Strasbourg, then headed Calais, Dunkirk, Lyon, Boulogne, Paris and the whole of the Loire Valley. 

The only problem was being so close to my family. I truly love them, and I think they are incredible humans, but at the same time I don't think I fit with them anymore. Not sure I ever properly fit. I'm more of an independent person. I tend to need my own space, my own things and my own thoughts. Being so close to them again reminded me of the things that weren't okay when I left the country for the first time 5 years ago. 

Like, the issues were still there, just hidden by time. Nothing to do with anyone, I just need to be from afar, sometimes. Especially being so close to my mum, who's always been one of my best friends, was tedious. 

She and I are very similar. In many aspects. So we understand each other very well. But I also see things in her I really dislike and instead of being understanding - since I know I am the same - I start getting angry at her and - because I want to be compassionate and kind and I project what I see in her in me - I start hating myself too. 

It's a vicious cycle that I want to break, and I try to every time I'm home, but it's a loop that has been trained for years, and it's not that easy. It was difficult and nice to play being a whole family again, though. It was a nice trip and I think they are all incredible humans. We are just meant to be together in smaller doses. One day, still, I hope to meet someone who looks at me the way my dad looks at my mum because I won't lie.... it's pretty disgustingly adorable.

The best thing was that I took a break, even though I couldn't wait to be back in London. I managed, as usual, to catch up with my best friends and I felt like, even though I had a bit of a tough time, that holiday taught me loads about me. From then on, once you know something you can only work on improving it. 

(On a side note I wore a bikini for the first time in 4 years without feeling uncomfortable, and that was a huge achievement for me. )

August came - as it does - right on time for me to fly back to the UK and go straight to Summer in
the City! I was a guest talking at the Travel panel there and also the official photographer for the event (look at me), which I spent mainly running around between bits and bobs I needed to snap (I totally wrote boobs there). 

It was tiring, VERY tiring and being socially active all that time is always exhausting for an introvert like me. It's also the best way to see some of my friends I don't get to see that often and especially for meeting new people. Sometimes you end up getting along way better than you would ever expect with new people at events like that. 

SitC was good, it was a nice rush of energy and tiredness and party and feet-ache and many SD cards filled. But simply I had a good time and it made me realise and accept the fact that I am just a quiet human. I get silent in big group situations and that's absolutely totally goddamn fine

I still got to meet incredible and unexpected people this year. You always go with the idea that at such an event there is just loads of small talk - and oh, there was - but it's always pleasantly surprising when you find those people you can actually talk to in a real way. Like, a conversation that's worth it. SitC gave me that, this year. People I will get to keep seeing even after the events is over. 
On a side note, I got a new tattoo. A big one. And I love it. 

I worked at a wedding sparked from Tinder too! Who would have ever guessed I, the most skeptical person in the world about it, would have to somehow recheck my thoughts about it after listening to their speeches and seeing the kind of families they united. 

Plus, I got even more back into reading and listening to audiobooks. And studying. Getting to know things and being curious about the world. This started earlier in the year, luckily.

August also meant finishing working on RELIEF, finally. What a journey that film has been. We had a final cut but wanted to tweak some shots, edit the grade, sound design was an absolute nightmare and everyone seemed to be at the busiest time of their year. So it was a rush against time to have it completed for Buffer Festival and we submitted just on the edge of the deadline. I was really excited about it and even more when in September...

RELIEF won and got selected to be screened at Buffer Festival in Toronto, where they were going to fly me and make me take part to the festival as a guest! It was incredibly exciting and I couldn't believe I was being flown to Toronto. I had never been to Canada and I somehow saw the chance of going there as a recognition of my work. It's not easy in this industry to feel like you've done something good. Or maybe I'm just not that good at that. 

I left at the end of the month and was there for 5 days. Toronto was insanely beautiful, but I wasn't staying in the snazzy hotel everyone else was staying at. They run out of rooms so I had to get an Airbnb in Chinatown. From one side, that allowed me to see the best parts of town. The walk from my room to the hotel let me go through the whole of Chinatown, the Red Light District or Soho how you want to call it, and the Financial District. 

It was a weird experience for me. The whole festival itself was great, but I somehow hardly felt like I fit in. It was difficult to be around people who were so used to that kind of stuff, and especially it was very difficult not to compare myself (I seem to never learn). 

Anyway, I screened the film - which I hated to see on the big screen as I had seen it so many times I could only notice the negative bits - but the response (both from friends and audience) was really good. That made me happy.

I spent a lot of time walking around, as I always do. There were so many spots where to eat vegan food and especially I loved just spending time exploring the foreign food shops. I have a thing for that kind of markets, and it was great. I spent a lot of time with Connie, who was wonderful all along, and also bonded with new friends. I can't totally lie, though, I felt a bit lonely. 

But September was also the months of some other new things happening. One of them was that I took part to a Blade Runner 2049 event and for the first time I went to an IMAX cinema to watch Blade Runner, which I had never seen. I fell in love with the film at the first scenes. It was so much my genre I could barely believe I had not seen it before. Nonetheless, I misjudged the amount of free whiskey cocktails I could drink before the film started....

Most importantly, though - aside for the first month of uni starting again - I was happy with the people I was surrounding myself with. 
October came in a rush, as if it was almost never September. This whole year just seems to have flown by. I went to an Erdinger Beer Fest that was supposed to be a sort of Oktoberfest in London and ended up eating all the pickles and radishes from the meat dishes plus drinking from those litre pint I had never used before. And there was probably a reason for that. Especially if there is very little food for me there! But it was fun. It was a fun time. 

Autumn it always a fun time, it means more colours and somehow it gives me peace. And, to be fair, this autumn has been quite good. On set we worked with beetles, especially one called Beatrice who was as big as my ear. Terrifying, but definitely interesting and unusual. 

I also filmed the first video of the series with Gerard. I'm so glad I started it, because we both have a lot of fun filming it and it got back my enthusiasm about YouTube and making content for it. I feel like I found my own path, in a way, in a topic I really love. I've just been putting effort into everything a bit more. Trying everything. Being spontaneous and attempting to learn new things about myself. 

I read a lot this month too. And some of the books I read were just some of the most interesting I ever read. I especially suggest Modern Romance which made me reflect deeply on the concept of relationship and how we perceive it and what we look for in it nowadays. I never quite stopped thinking of it since. 

One day we went to shoot in Brighton and that's how I went to Saltdean for the first time. It was a beautiful place with white high cliffs and huge terrifying waves. The wind blows incredibly strong there and, if you get too close to the cliffs, it can be dangerous. I couldn't explore it enough on the day of the shoot, so I decided to go back again, the next time with some other friends.
It was a beautiful day, even though we planned to go to the forest and it turned out to be too expensive. 

I think I was kind of trying to find my feet within myself at the time. One thing I will always struggle is feeling like what I am doing is enough. I don't need to speak or to make too much effort to please other people as it's completely pointless. I learnt for the 1,286th time that what I do is enough and people will tag along if they want to. Big lesson, even though it sounds incredibly obvious and childish.

On another note, like, completely unrelated, we had the orange sky day. It was like Blade Runner became 3D all around for free. Not going to lie, it was hella spooky. It felt like we were in a videogame, surrounded by a weird orange-ish area that was not supposed to be there. Surreal and a bit scary. 

MCM came around again and I fell ill straight afterwards because of the long hours and chatting to everyone. This time, thought, I was helping out Tom's stall and somehow I felt more relaxed and okay about myself. 

If I think of how much I've grown as a person just this year - and it obviously happens every year - I can't believe all the things I learnt, applied, changed, understood, realised and that improved me in terms of knowing who I am and how to relate myself to everything and everyone around me. I worry less and less about certain things - sure, some others pop up along the way to make up for it - but still I feel like there is an improvement on some sides or just a better awareness of myself. 

Listen to me, I almost sound like an adult. Or maybe not. Don't listen to me, I don't know what I'm doing. 
(photo courtesy of the Kingsman II premiere I somehow got invited to.)

November was a weird month. I focused a lot on work but also on seeing the people I cared about. I worked a lot more on YouTube and - weirdly enough - I ended up being the subject of many photoshoots. I never know how to feel about it. I think in a way sometimes it makes me doubt my skills as a photographer too, but that's silly, I suppose. 

The best thing I probably did in November, though, was buying a ticket home to surprise my mum for her 50th birthday. I wanted to come back as a surprise, and it worked perfectly. I stayed at my best friend's on the previous day and in the morning I just rang the bell at the door of my house. I can remember it clearly. She looked really confused and asked me: 
"What are you doing here?" 
and I replied: 
"Selling the Bible." 
And then I went in, wished her happy birthday and she started crying (or laughing, I couldn't tell). 

I was so happy about that. I felt like I truly made her happy. Sometimes I worry for how much they always helped me and I never quite feel like I've given back enough, so it was amazing to see her so full of joy and knowing the source of that happiness was my gesture. And my surprise. And my presence.
The whole week was incredible. We managed to start it on a positive note and keep it throughout the whole time. It was nice. It showed me that when both me and my mum keep a positive attitude we can manage not to hurt each other. I love her, she's incredible. And going down made me so happy. The hard bit was leaving. Leaving them and especially my best friend. The long-distance friendship with her sometimes gets painful, because we cannot be closer. 

It was around this time I also started working on my new book as well. The idea is very exciting, a bit complicated and requires a lot of research and I have been very busy with work and admin and filming and seeing people. But still, it's progressing. 

November was really good as well in terms of people. I'm surrounding myself with humans that make me happy, empower me and make me laugh and just genuinely keep me smiling. Even with doubts and ups and downs I would be a fool to complain. 

I watched many films I had never seen, I'd say I finally get back to dedicating certain nights to watch films, sometimes not alone, to get back into the things I love. 

Problem was, as usual, I was not actually going to university because of being too busy. This sometimes stressed me out incredibly because it meant I wasn't really aware of what was going on and what the tutors wanted. So I felt behind and therefore nervous. 

It was also the time you had to apply for a Scholarship which would have made making my next film a lot more affordable. Unfortunately, my application wasn't curated enough, so I did not get it. And it's okay. It just means I will have to come to terms with doing another Kickstarter. But it will be fine. I just hate asking people for money. 

We jump straight into December.  It was a crazy intense month (I feel like I've said this for every month). I was working all days at the beginning, and they were freezing days. Like, proper freezing. This meant shooting outside was a nightmare, and guess where were we? Of course. So I got very ill afterwards, with a super heavy cold. 

My parents were coming up with my younger sister to visit me and, because I was stressed about university deadlines and also ill I ended up being quite snappy and sarcastic, which didn't necessarily lead to the nicest atmosphere.
Incidentally, though, snow fell in London! Like, proper one. Thick one. Not like in the mountains, but it almost never snows in London and I love it. Obviously walking for two hours under a snowstorm with a massive cold probably wasn't the best idea but you know...

I even managed to bring my sister to Gerard's birthday, which was one of the best parties I had been at. I left my parents in a tapas bar close to the house and went to Gerard's house. 

I felt so comfortable, surrounded by people I love and who love me. We played games, sang, danced, laughed and I never felt like not belonging or simply having to make stupid conversation. I was genuinely one of the happiest I have ever been. That's when you know those are the people for you. 

I feel like I realised this more and more recently. All the people I met this year are becoming more and more important in my life. 

Oh, almost forgot about the incredibly Summer in the City Christmas Party who had a ball pit. Like, I don't think I have every looked happier in a photo. After that it was my University graduation party which was, weirdly enough, just around the corner from there and we ended up dancing to Jazz music all together. That was a great night.

Would you believe I actually did the cinematography for a short for once? I don't. I was nervous as
hell the days before and on the day. But it turned out alright, surprisingly. Every member of the crew was very helpful and it was nice to see the tutor's sexism slowly disappear appreciating some of my suggestions and realising I somehow had a clue about what I was doing. It's the little things, they say, that make you happy. 

December meant a lot of partying, with all the Christmas themed ones. The one that highlighted my month was definitely Tom's one. We had a lovely day out in Winter Wonderland - that I joined as soon as I submitted all my university deadlines (Ellie was a free elf!) - and then a party at the office. We played Twister - when talking about bad ideas - and Squidge the dog started going crazy and running around and under our legs. It was hilarious. 

Charlie and Tom have been truly a blessing this year. 

The more I go on the more I realise I am writing more and also that there are less cameras on the photos, as my attention shifted. 

One thing I absolutely need to highlight of this December is this stack of vegan blueberry pancakes. I thought I had pancakes before, but I actually realised that was the first time I ever had pancakes in my life. And they were great. I am so happy the person I was with brought me to have breakfast there. They tasted incredible and even though I couldn't finish them all they kickstarted a very nice day. 

Not going to lie, I'm now going through I mild existential crisis in terms of my direction for the future, but I feel like my year improved massively. I am struggling up and down with different things but I am much more creative, productive, interested, happy, active and I feel better within myself. 

I am always going to be questioning myself and other people. I am always going to be impulsive and intense. I am always going to be as I am but I am learning patience and to seek for help when you feel like you need it. I am going on, you know? And with all the things I have done this year - even just looking back at all this! - I feel like I should be proud of myself. Of my success and my failures and stop looking at things with a questioning eye. Sometimes you just need to let things be. 

I hope your year as been fantastic or, if it hasn't, that the next one will be. But, if it will be, it won't be because things fell from the sky. Work for them. From a small things can come a big one, but from nothing comes nothing. 

This is how I'm leaving this massive post about 2017 and 2017 itself. If you got to the end, well, good on your perseverance!