Monday, 30 April 2012

Earn Your Stripes

It was the clothes swap again this weekend! I only came away with one item this time (far too distracted by gossip about an exciting Aerockbics-related development), but it will be no surprise to anyone that it was something stripey.

I love stripes. I'm drawn to them like other people are drawn to sparkles or designer labels. I've tried to get into spots, but they're much too quirky for me. I've dabbled with leopard print, but I can tell it's just a passing fancy. I've tried flowers, paisley, bird motifs....all too sweet and cutesy. I'm just not a girlie girl. I'm a stripes girl, and that's that.


Stripes don't try hard. They're are a little bit new-wave, a little bit punk, a little bit nostalgic for what you got dressed in as a toddler in the early 80s. Stripes can be anything you want them to be. Monochrome and on a Breton top, they are chic and simple. Multicoloured on a pair of long socks they are a little bit nuts. It's a fine line (literally) between a executive's pinstripe and a Harajuku girl's candystripe. Stripes are railway lines, but they are also rainbows.

In the current print-happy fashion climate, I am merrily dabbling in an explosion of pattern and colour. But my stripes are for life.

Do you also have a slightly compulsive desire to buy clothes that all look a bit the same?

Friday, 27 April 2012

First Dance Friday: Looks Just Like Buddy Holly

Weezer are like salt and vinegar crisps. If you hate them, then frankly you're weird.

Who doesn't like Weezer? No, come on, show yourselves.

I don't mean fanatics... nobody is fanatical about Weezer anymore. That ship sailed the day the (underrated but still very MOR) Green Album came out. But you like them, don't you? If you don't like them, that's probably because you've never really listened to them. And maybe you should.

I'm convinced that everybody of my generation who gives a monkey's about guitar music will own a copy of either the Blue Album or Pinkerton. Far more likely that than an Oasis album, or a Beatles album, or a Captain Beefheart album. Go on, name me an album more likely to appear in a CD rack when you go round to somebody's house and sneakily look at their music collection. First you see their dubious CDs. "Toploader!" you cry, "can I get on with somebody who owns a Toploader album?". But then you see the familiar spine of a Weezer album peeking out at you, and magically you forgive this person all their musical sins. They are redeemed.

When reading my daily 29304 wedding blogs pre our wedding last year, I noticed there was a whole lot of Weezer at hipster weddings, which is weird because I'm not entirely sure they're that much of a cool band. I think it boils down to the fact that they're classic. Everybody likes them. They're accesible and a little bit fun. They have silly songs about surfing and D&D, yet Rivers Cuomo is still viewed as a VERY serious musician (although this is possibly because he takes himself so seriously). They are an introverted band that plays extroverted music.

They are salt & vinegar crisps.

What's your favourite Weezer album?

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Hidden Talents

I'm sure half of Leeds is relieved to see that the celebrity death rumour concerning Richard Bacon (started by a drunk man from Wakefield in the early hours of April 1st)  was proven unfounded by the new C4 series Hidden Talent which started on Tuesday night. Bacon's alive!

This programme is appealing to me on many levels. I like feelgood TV, and I like the idea that there are superhero-level powers lying dormant in nurses and bridal boutique owners (etc) across the nation. I also like the fact that you can take the all the talent tests yourself on the Channel 4 website, although having watched the TV programme and failed to spot the thief in the FBI-monitored line-up, and being fairly confident I would faint if you even said the words "cliff edge" to me, I didn't bother taking this week's lie detecting/rock climbing aptitude tests.

I like the idea that I might be good at something else later on in the series though. Let's hope Incessant And Pointless Blogging is coming up soon.

I am now racking my brains to think of something amazing that I'm secretly good at, but there really isn't anything much that I don't already test everybody's patience with. I suppose my handwriting is quite nice, but only when I can be bothered. I bet you've got a hidden talent though, go on, what is it? Origami, unicycling, that funny cup stacking game I keep seeing everywhere?


Side note: Celebrity Death Rumour is a great name for a band. Anybody want in?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

In Which East 17 Make A Soft Rock Comeback

I don't know what else to say really, but I thought you all needed this bringing to your attention.

Brian Harvey fans take note - the original East 17 singer will categorically NOT be joining the band in their latest reprisal. As if having Tony Mortimer punch him in the face wasn't enough - those horrible U2 chord progressions must have been the final nail in the coffin.

Picture yourself in 1994... Stay Another Day is playing in the school hall, the lights are dimmed and the boy you fancy hasn't asked you to dance at the Christmas disco even though you spent all last night threading hippy beads onto the laces of your bottle green docs and plaiting two bizarre rat-tails into the front of your hair. You weep into a cloud of Soft & Gentle (the purple one) and wonder if your life will always be this rubbish.

I'm here to tell you, Memory Girl, that it DOES get better. It gets better for all of us. But for East 17, I'm afraid the only way is down.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Made In Chelsea: Traces Of Tolstoy

Anna Karenina update: 
Ladies and gents, I am officially 250 pages in!

Do you know what, it's not even slightly hard work. It's actually fun, and I'm now deliberately taking my time and properly enjoying the characters and Tolstoy's very clever prose. I think this definitely makes up for all those Susan Lewis books.

OK, so now I've got you thinking I'm all high-brow, I'm going to go and ruin it by telling you that this book is the perfect complement to the new series of Made In Chelsea. REALLY.

I can't tell you how much I love this programme, it's actually embarrassing. I've never really got into any of the other drama/reality shows like The Hills, and I've lost interest in TOWIE, but MIC has me totally suckered. Sam won't let me watch it when it's on (because it makes him throw things at the telly) so I have to wait for it to come on catch-up TV, and then watch it the second he leaves the house on Tuesday morning. Last week it didn't pop up for ages and I was BESIDE MYSELF. This must be how other people are with gambling/drugs/Emmerdale. I am completely obsessed.

And I love Anna Karenina for all the same reasons I love MIC.  Posh people wafting about without a care in the world other than their own ego, their fabulous lives, and bitching and gossiping about everybody else. Causing scandal for the sake of scandal. It's flimsy and superficial on the surface, but it all boils down to characters and people, which is something I find endlessly fascinating (probably because I'm quite nosey).

Even though I'm still quite early on in the book, I can't help drawing parallels between the characters. Kitty and Cheska have both been let down by men who lead them on. Spencer and Vronsky are similarly foppish socialites who only ever think about their own needs. Loveable, ditzy people-pleaser? Oblonsky/Jamie. And Anna Karenina HAS to be Caggy. I almost wish I'd done my dissertation on this.

And by the way, I don't care if it's real. Any of it. Because it gives me JOY.

Incidentally, my favourite MIC character is Fredrik, who is sadly lacking this series. Do you think if we got a pet eagle it would eat the cats? Just wondering...

Monday, 23 April 2012

Minging Mingling?

There are many things I miss about working in the media, but networking isn't one of them. I hated going to industry events where I would inevitably end up standing on my own and smiling blandly, eking out my one free drink and watching all these horrible excuses for people oozing all over each other. These vile sycophants would use nobodies like me as a warm-up lap, prattling on about absolutely nothing while they frantically scanned the room over my shoulder for somebody more important. Eventually (thankfully) they would spot somebody who they thought could get them somewhere, whereupon they would make their excuses and rush off to hover like wasps around a particularly fondant-heavy birthday cake. Ick. The sad thing is that these people are all still working in the industry, while judgemental crones like me are left curdling in our own bitterness.

Thinking about it, it maybe wasn't the networking I hated so much as the networkers.

Anyway, what you may or may not know about me, is that I do still script edit short films, very occasionally. And a couple of times I've been invited to the premieres of theses films. But I haven't gone, because I would only really be there to network, wouldn't I? And because I'm a people-hating curmudgeon, and also because I'm a little bit shy. This was OK for the five minutes that I was a WRITER of these sorts of films, because writers are expected to be introverted and quirky. But not script editors. Script editors are supposed to try to be everybody's best friend at all times. This is not a skill I have in spades.

However, I have been invited to a premiere in Manchester in a couple of weeks. For a film I worked on, ages ago. This time, I sort of feel like I should go. Mainly because I'm starting to think that's it's a shame not to, but also because I'm not really sure I have anything to prove with the media anymore. And because I'm old, and because I don't care.

Do you think I should go?How will I cope in a room full of people I don't know? Should I see the film, neck my free drink and run?

How do you cope in social situations where you don't know anybody?

Friday, 20 April 2012

First Dance Friday: Samantha Crain

I fully reserve the right to hijack First Dance Friday from time to time to tell you what I've been listening to. At the moment it's Samantha Crain, a singer/songwriter from Shawnee, Oklahoma (how cool does that sound! Really!) who I caught the last few songs of when she supported First Aid Kit in February.

I never normally buy CDs at gigs, so it's testament to her heart-stopping vocals and gorgeously intricate songs that I actually did. I'll be honest though, I gave the album about 10 spins in the next few weeks and then I put it away. Why?

Many reasons really. Most of all because I seem to be getting more impatient with music as I get older. If it doesn't have an instant chorus or make me dance about like an idiot then I tune out pretty quickly. Also because on record it's THAT kind of music that people who are five years younger than me listen to. People with beards who like the National. I'm not one of THOSE PEOPLE. People who like records with banjos on, but only found out who Earl Scruggs was after he died. IS THAT YOU? Then don't speak to me, ever.

I don't mean it, I'm only trying to be funny.

This song is so amazing, but on the record the dude singing on it reminds me of the guy out of Bright Eyes, and that just made me cross and I have no idea why. I have nothing against Bright Eyes per se. It's just that Bright Eyes is the tip of an Americana-loving bedwetting iceberg. Can you imagine how much of the bed an iceberg would wet? A LOT. Especially in a warm room.

Anyway, I put it away for about six weeks, only mildly annoyed that I'd broken my no-buying-CDs-at-gigs rule for something that hadn't changed my life.

Then I put it on again.

The hooks had subconsciously lodged in my stupid, thick head in that intervening period. And it's a bloody great album. It really is. I actually love it now.

Lesson learned. I'm going to dedicate the rest of my life to collecting mandolins as penance for being so bloody judgmental.

What are you listening to at the moment?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Mother Hen

Right, people.

This bridesmaid needs YOU.

My best friend is getting married next year. For a myriad of reasons (not least of which that she is a teacher and will need a week off to recover) she is thinking of having her hen THIS SUMMER. So my Hen Hat is firmly on head.

It is a tastefully sparkly hat, and has NO willies on it.


Not just games, but general inspiration that goes beyond the standard Mr & Mrs/L-Plate wearing stuff. Unusual things, quirky stuff and nice thoughtful things too. Things that will embarrass her a bit, but not too much. Things that will let her know how much her girl friends love her. And some totally ridiculous, off-the-wall competitive tasks.

I reckon across the span of my readers (and I can see you all, HELLO) we must have been to at least a zillion stag and hen parties.

What are the best things you've found? The most fun to take part in? The stuff that made the bride cry because it was so lovely?

Help me, beloved readers!

PS. To a certain someone in NZ who may be reading - how can we get you involved in this from a distance? We must think of something!!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Who Am I?

I really enjoyed Rebecca's recent post on Florence Finds about star-signs, even though I hardly ever read my horoscope and I don't think I'm particularly superstitious. I think it's more the idea of holding a mirror up to yourself that's appealing. "Oh SCORPIO that's SO me it's spooky! I'm so darkly dramatic and sexy!" Does that sound horribly self-indulgent? That's because it is. Oh go on though, I bet you've done it too.

I blame being a female for being so prone to forming my sense of self via external influences. That's what makes us ladies more empathetic and lovely when our best friend has just been dumped. It's what makes us look at a picture of Elle MacPherson and want to cry. It's what makes us feel that the purchase of an expensive leather biker jacket is a compulsory step towards self-expression.


Boy or girl, there is something very appealing about getting a better handle on who you are, even if it is all tosh. When you're at a slightly vague point in your life and trying lots of things, it's almost comforting to have somebody put you in a little box and tell you what you're like. It focuses the mind. Why is it so difficult to tell what we are like all by ourselves? Do you know what you're like? It's so hard to tell from inside our own brains.

I've gone through my life thinking I'm a grumpy old introvert, but actually a lot of the time I'm extremely sociable. I'm highly organised and driven when it comes to some stuff, and terribly lazy and messy in other ways. I can be very precise and calculated in my thinking, but scratch the surface and I'm a big hippy who believes in love and feelings above all. It's confusing. It's exhausting. It's starting to sound like an Alanis Morissette song.

That's why the first time I did the Myers-Briggs Indicator (a similar one here) I LOVED it. The Myers-Briggs test is a Jung-devised personality profiling test, which divides into 16 distinct personality types. It just seemed to get me down to a tee (I'm an INFP: an introverted people person above all to understand themselves and others). It's genuinely predictive and useful - I first did the test before I changed career, and I can see now I work with the general public how all the stuff about caring, listening and working with other people -which I would have scoffed at 10 years ago- are the areas I've flourished in and really enjoy.

Sam had to do one for work once too, and he is an ENFP, which basically means he is totally bonkers and lovely. And doesn't like washing up. Yet again, no surprises there.

I don't know why this makes me feel better, but it does. 

Have you ever done a personality profiling test? Did they get you right?

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Abbey Inn Beer Festival

This weekend (pre- Thumb War), Sam and I pottered down the canal to the Abbey Inn in Newlay for one of their regular beer festivals.

Ever since our mini-moon in Masham, land of brewery tours, I have been something of a wannabe beer geek. I like the idea of using Jilly Goulden-style elaborate descriptions too, so getting ickle tasting trays like these and writing tasting notes on each beer made me feel very important.

The Abbey festivals vary in size, and this was one of the smaller ones, but the pub was still rammed. There were a good selection of guest beers on tap for the event, and a load more exciting and unusual looking bottles and cans, like this Hawaiian coconut beer.... (it didn't taste of coconuts, sadly, but it was very nice).


The dinky tasting trays made it possible for us to sample nearly all of the draft beers between us without ending up in A&E, and with the notes given on the tasting sheets I thought I might actually begin to work out if there's anything in common with the beers I enjoy drinking.

Finally I understood what "hoppy" meant in terms of taste, and at first thought that hop-heavy beers might be my favourite.Turns out you can't drink a lot of the stuff without it getting overbearing though, so after one round I had changed my mind again.

In the end I discovered that the only thing the beers I like have in common is that they are all VERY STRONG.

These were my two favourites:


....a bottle each of this last one (at a rather naughty 7%), Sam and I were singing in the taxi home at 6pm.

Beer festivals then. Starting early and mixing a lot of strong ales WILL turn you into an embarrassment, and almost certainly give you a headache on Sunday.

Now tell me some good beers that you like!

Monday, 16 April 2012

One, Two, Three, Four....


(This is why my friends are awesome. Because they send me stuff like this in the post)

Everybody knows somebody who is a bit cocky about thumb wars, and believes themselves to be unbeatable. You'll be pleased to hear that I'm not like that at all, but it was completely unsurprising that I won 3 rounds out of 3 on Saturday night, and that Sam won't play with me in our amazing Thumb War Arena any more, as it is dull to keep losing. So if you think you're a contender, let me know. It's on!

I'd also like to develop Thumb Wars now I have an arena to play in. Possibly the thumbs could have costumes, theme tunes and pre-match call-outs to get everybody into the mood.

No sooner had this crossed my mind than I discovered there's already somebody out there doing this on Youtube. Ah the internet! I wonder that my brain can even be bothered coming up with ideas these days.

What did you do this weekend?

Friday, 13 April 2012

First Dance Friday: Lovecats

Penny & The Sausages are a party band first and foremost. We all cut our chops in the Leeds punk scene, so we play everything a bit fast, as if we are still under threat of the plug being pulled by the bar manager at the Packhorse. This sort of warp speed serves well to demonstrate what excellent, nimble-fingered musicians the Sausages are -and they really are- and also to cover up my passable vocals (no false modesty here - you all know female wedding singers are normally ASTOUNDING). It's also an incitement for our audience to DANCE, and dance they always do, which is a lovely and refreshing feeling after 15 or more years of The Head Nod, AKA the Scenester Dance.

Actually, does anyone say "scenester" anymore? Do I sound like a Grandma?.

A crowd throwing shapes is brilliant at a wedding, but it's not the same as First-Dance dancing. My Sausages and I have tried to do a slow song before (Against All Odds, if you were wondering) and it sounded so strange and empty we haven't really tried again since. But I still harbour elaborate Wedding Singer fantasies of hitting the perfect high note as the newly weds swoosh across the marquee under the fairylights, and Aunty Pat sheds a tear at the beauty and romance (mentally noting to book the P & Sausages for her 60th next year).

Realistically speaking I'm not sure if that will ever happen. UNLESS the couple get us to play an upbeat song. You know, the sort with choreography. I didn't think the Sausages could do swing until we tried this (for a very important upcoming 30th birthday party):

What a great first dance this would be! A few dance lessons and a stylish couple to execute them - it would be painfully cool. I only wish Sam and I had been co-ordinated enough to have practiced steps for our own - but the Lindy Hop lessons we took for the best part of a year only resulted in stubbed toes and impassioned arguments over what bit came next.

Have you been to a wedding with a choreographed first dance? Have you been to a wedding with ....a FLASHMOB?

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Cinematic Degrees Of Separation

The problem with the era of Lovefilm, Netflix et al, is that it opens up a universe of film possibilities, resulting in users suffering from "option paralysis". You can watch anything in the world, now what will it be?

Many an agonising (usually hungover) hour on a Sunday afternoon is spent with me and Sam making our heads ache even more by trying to decide which might be the optimal film to watch at that precise second. You know the drill, "what do you want to watch?" "NO NO NO, what do YOU want to watch?" Repeat until skull implodes.

So the weekend before last, we came up with a game. You have to link the last film you watched to the next with a common actor. A mild diversion which has now turned into something of an obsession.

It got us from:

(which is possibly THE perfect hangover film) via M. Emmett Walsh - bit-part actor because I was being wilfully obscure, as usual - to:

Then via John Goodman to:

Although being a Coen brothers film, we could have gone round and round with the same actors all day. So I opted out using Philip Seymour Hoffman (a trump card in this game - gives you a passport to many places) and on to:

I had forgotten how amazing this film is. Anyway, by this time it started to get really interesting/nerdy, as we decided we wanted to go and see the new Joss Whedon film The Cabin In The Woods this weekend, and that to make it more interesting we should make a path there with our connections, in the fewest possible moves, before we could go. Tough, as TCITW has loads of TV actors and very few big stars. I managed it in three hops though. Kate Hudson got us here:

Yeah so now we see the down-side to this game, you do have to watch some shite. But that makes the end point all the more rewarding, right? It gives me an excuse to rewatch this too (via Luke Wilson): I was on a flight to Kuala Lumpur and doped up on valium last time I saw it. Natalie Portman will then take us to a film I've wanted to see for ages:

And from there, Chris Hemsworth brings us neatly to our destination:

And hopefully we'll get there before plot spoilers RUIN the whole thing for us (apparently there are lots doing the round in reviews - be warned if you're interested in seeing it).

So. Is this the saddest thing you've ever heard? Doesn't it sort of make you want to join in a bit though? OH GO ON....

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

A Leather Love Affair

I BOUGHT HER! The Topshop classic biker, with a niftily negotiated 10% off.

I have named her Charlene.

So here are the rules.

*deep breath*

No new clothes for 6 months.

Swaps, charity shops, modifying my own clothes and borrowing other people's clothes only.


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

My Susan Lewis Shame

I like to think of myself as a bookworm.

No, let's go one better, an English geek. A literature NERD.

My Mum was a head of English, and she brought me into a world of the written word where I have happily dwelled ever since. A land where Lizzie Bennet, Captain Wentworth and -heaven forfend!- Mrs Norris become shorthand for the real people we come across in life. If you love the same books I do, I automatically think you must be a good person, and that we are bound to get along.

I am worse than a geek though, really I am a show-off about books.

I like good books. Books with substance. And I like to be seen reading them.

I spent my early 20s posing in the park with Russian literature and announcing to the fit sales assistant at Waterstones that I was purchasing Don DeLillo's Underworld as a light read after completing my finals.

I am a book snob,  un poseur des livres. I don't even know if that's the right French, but I'm going to say it anyway, because it sounds impressive.

This is a light that is a book, OH YES, and you can buy it, probs for a billion £, right HERE

So imagine my horror when one day, one of my favourite ladies at the gym (who must have clocked that I'm always furtively reading under the reception desk) brought me this....

ARGH! I thought. WHAT IS THIS MONSTROSITY? It's a soft-focus airport novel, the likes of which I had never seen before. This is because I am always rushing past those vile carousels of whimsy in WH Smith as I bound, open-armed towards the Thomas Pynchon section. Now I'll admit I've got a small, ironic soft spot for Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper (just ask my book club about the time I made them read JC - I'm surprised Katie and I remained friends after Ridersgate), but THIS! It doesn't even have a proper cover! Just a low-res chunk of a woman's face!

I politely thanked the nice lady and put tucked it away on my bookshelf, never to see the light of day.

Then, months later on the Pen Do (AKA the great coming together of the supreme Lady-nerds) I heard this name whispered on the breeze: "Susan Lewis, Susan Lewis...."  and on day in the not-so-distant-last-week, I plucked the horrid tome down from the shelf to see if it was the same author. It was.

I had just finished reading Tender Is The Night, and was about to start (finally) reading Anna Karenina. "I'll just read a page of this first" I thought, "it'll be rubbish, but I owe it to the kind lady at the gym to try."

Oh my God.

I did not speak to a soul until it was finished.

"This is not a book you should be reading," I kept thinking, "this is not a proper book. There is too much sex and too many adjectives. There's too much information about how attractive and tortured the female characters are, and they spend too much time mooning over men, and it is not sitting well with your feminist principles. And where is the Po-Mo  man-against-the-system stuff? Even the Hunger Games was dystopian! This is just TRASH!"

Relieved to finish on Thursday, I lined up Anna Karenina in plain sight, ready to leap for it the minute the last page was done. Of course, I couldn't resist thanking my nice gym lady for being so thoughtful. "You can't put them down, can you?" she said. "No," I said, weakly, "I couldn't stop." "I'll just pop home and get you another," she said.

Tolstoy remains unbothered. I am now reading this, at light-speed, and not talking to anybody:

There's no hope for me.

Friday, 6 April 2012

First Dance Friday: Sparklehorse

All the Buddhist stuff about living in the moment is totally beyond me. Why enjoy the present when you can worry yourself to death about what's around the corner?

So although I can honestly say I'm not a girl who had my wedding planned out, I would be lying if I said I'd never thought about mine and Sam's first dance before we got engaged. I thought about it all the time, and worried about the fact that we didn't have a song. You know, an Our Song. Apart from Pump Up The Jam, by Technotronic.

My answer to this was to drip-feed Sam mix CDs with amazing slow, cute songs tucked in with the party tunes, in the hope that he would love one of them and it would magically become Our Song. Of course, my plan failed. He would always skip forward to something like "On Our Own" by Bobby Brown (the theme from Ghostbusters 2) and then we would do the rap together (too hot to handle/too cold to hold/ they're called the Ghostbusters/ and they're in control) and yet again we would have another Our Song that was wildly inappropriate for a first dance.

I wrote a post about the Todd Rundgren song I snuck on.  Here is another:

I like it because of the "You are a car/ you are a hospital" nonsense lyrics, which is sort of what Sam talks like. Sometimes he says that sort of thing to the cats "hello little horsies, galloping through the forest!" and it's vaguely ridiculous and also contagious to the point where we no longer refer to anything by its proper name any more. I also like this song, because it is completely beautiful. And it's also very short (which is the number one thing to look for in a first dance song - you will only feel an idiot dancing to the extended version of Free Bird while everyone gawps at you wondering when the flashmob starts).

I had thought Sam didn't really like it when I put it on the CD.  Then it came up on shuffle the other day and he got all excited and said "oooh, what's this, I know this, I LIKE THIS SONG!"

Never mind. At least we didn't go with Ghostbusters.

Thursday, 5 April 2012


On Tuesday night I went to the pub quiz with Laura, Sam and Bedders.

I still have a Pavlovian reaction to general knowledge tests. I get excited. This is because I think I'm good at them, because I was a know-it-all at school. Truth is, I DID know it all at school. I vividly remember, at the age of 5 years old, correcting my primary school teacher's spelling of Tyrannosaurus Rex. It only got worse from there on in. I was a horrible, precocious nightmare, and if you knew me as a child, I'm very sorry. I can only assure you that my brain has rotted since, and at the ripe old age of 31, my IQ is now comparable to a tin of mushy peas.

When it comes to the nitty gritty of a pub quiz, and the glittering prize of a £20 beer voucher (redeemable in the next 7 days only), I flounder in the face of trivia.

Albert Einstein: probably rubbish at pub quizzes too

I don't know what it is - I just don't seem to be able to retain useless information anymore. Maybe my mind is on higher things, maybe I'm stressed, maybe I don't care enough about sport or current affairs to be much use on the broad spectrum of topics that comprise most pub quizzes.

My only saving grace is the music round, which disappointingly is also the forte of pretty much everybody else I go to the pub with, so there's little glory to be had there. I was very pleased with my identification of Fleetwood Mac's Tusk from a verbal description of the album cover, but I know for a fact that I only got there first because Sam was in the loo.  And I'm only ever really covering music from 1975-2012 (n.i Emma Bunton's cover of Sunshine On A Rainy Day, apparently. Did anyone else blink and miss that?).

The last few times I've been to the quiz at the West End, we have been whipped to within an inch of our lives - last night we only got just over half marks,  and I think that's still an improvement on recent visits. There were long faces when the winners were announced, with their impossibly high scores.

But then - almost in slow motion - the quizmaster declared "The Brussel Sprouts" the winners of the guess-the-year tie-break and a £5 beer voucher (also redeemable within 7 days).

Now we can say we won the pub quiz, and it's only a little bit of a lie.

Do you like pub quizzes? Know of any in Leeds that are easier than this one?

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Pilates Vs Yoga

I am not going to bitch about Yoga teachers here (BORING). Oh go on then, they're a pack of hippies. Happy now?

They're not really hippies. Just a bit, you know, spiritual.

BACK TO THE POINT. Pilates and Yoga are very different. It's easy to mix them up if you've no experience of either, as on the surface they're very similar -  they are both mind/body classes. You might well expect a teacher of one to at least dabble in the other. But we don't. We raise our eyebrows at each other. Pilates teachers suspect Yoga teachers are lentil-eating sandal-wearers with no business being in fitness. Yoga teachers think Pilates teachers are wannabe physiotherapists/sadists with no soul (nb. this last one is largely accurate - we are).

As forms of exercise, Pilates and Yoga are totally different. I could bore on about why all day, but in a nutshell - Yoga is largely stretching, Pilates is largely strength - more specifically, core strength.

See here, last night's Easter Challenge:

A class of Yoga students would knock those plates of Mini-Eggs right on the floor, because they'd be stretching as far as they could. But my students engage their core muscles, move their arms and legs slowly and keep their middles still like ninjas:

This is because I have taught them well - and also because they are motivated by chocolate:

Yoga (particularly gentle forms like Hatha) can be terrific for de-stressing or easing a troubled mind. I honestly can't claim the same for my Pilates class - we work extremely hard. Even though every movement is small and controlled, each is challenging. Pilates is designed to tweak all your muscles so your body goes back into what we call "neutral alignment" - the way we're born, before a lifetime of bad posture and desk work gave us tight necks, bad backs, headaches, weak glutes and poor joint stability. This is why physios LOVE Pilates teachers so much - we fix you. We make sure you get injured less, make sure you walk taller, help you manage that niggly back/knee/shoulder.

Whereas Yoga seems to care less about your aches and pains. Don't do Yoga if you're injured - I've had doctors recommend it to me, then gone to an Asthanga class and made myself worse. I still have a panic attack every time I walk past the Yoga class at my gym, where there are so many newbies every week twisting themselves into pretzel shapes with little or no correction from the teacher.

 Actually, either discipline is scary when badly taught, or taught en masse. Always opt for a small class if you can, as a beginner or if you've been referred by a physio or doctor.

Fewer people means you get more Mini Eggs.

Have you tried Yoga or Pilates? Love one and hate the other? Think both are a waste of time?