Monday 31 October 2011

Spooky Day

Happy Halloween!

I thought a spooky day would be perfect for a Spooky cat update.
 Spooks is 20 weeks old now and seems to grow overnight, like a mushroom.

She's still seven shades of kitten mental though, and enjoys climbing onto the highest possible precipe and flinging herself onto her poor, weary big brother Granville. G remains resolutely unimpressed with the new addition, he still stares at her across the room as if permanently horrified that she exists. He's becoming gradually more tolerant though. He lets her sleep by him now, and occasionally she'll rest her chin on his tail or put her paws around his neck and he actually doesn't seem to mind (or maybe just can't be bothered to get up and move away).

Kitty hangtime

Pookie is getting much better at being cuddled too, and over a weekend of birthday guests and hungover people wanting kitten snuggles I've noticed she's getting better at not wiggling and scratching. She'll happily be carried around now, chirupping away like a frog.

The night after the night before: X Factor, rose, best friends and kitten - heaven.

And although she's still not keen on sitting on knees (too knobbly) we've worked out we can put her on a cushion and pass her around the room so everyone gets to hang out with her. Needless to say (like all the best princesses) she's got legions of fans and is always in demand.

Friday 28 October 2011

First Dance Friday: Penny's GaGa Edition

"But everything about her is fake!" cried my hairdresser this week, as I professed my love for Lady GaGa, "nothing about her is real!"

And that is why I love Lady GaGa.

She is a constantly shifting cipher, refusing to be pegged or pigeon-holed. She does nothing to please society's conventions, and everything to please her audience. She is the ultimate entertainer, creating a world for us to step inside, wide-eyed and wowed. And yet she does not alienate us by being high, exclusive art... she reaches us through pop culture in its most accessible (and hence most powerful) form. She sings about sex, but is not defined by it. The fact that she is a prodigiously talented singer and songwriter almost seems by the by. She is a force of nature.

GaGa defies the media. "LOOK, CHERYL COLE WITH NO MAKEUP GOING TO THE SHOPS!" scream our tabloid front pages. Does GaGa care? No, she's too busy climbing out of a giant egg. She rises so far above the pedestrian constraints of modern female celebrity culture that even a libellous campaign suggesting she was a hermaphrodite couldn't dint her popularity. If anything, it made her even more intriguing.

GaGa, you are a timeless icon, and you are my hero. You make me want to think without limits. You inspire performers, and you inspire women. Long may you reign in our collective pop heart.

Thursday 27 October 2011

A Little Bit Older, A Little Less Wise...

Today is a day for things that make me happy. These are some...

Baby animals, fuzzy lo-fi guitars, Father Ted, reading the last few pages of a really good book as slowly as possible because I don't want it to end, orang-utans, playing with the band, buckets of old vinyl at car-boot sales, milkshakes, tiger-stripes, licking the bowl, gold lurex, dark red nails, a pint of Blue Moon in a comfy pub, impulse buys that end up being treasured for years, Trans Ams....
...spiderwebs in the frost, truly brilliant pop songs, food fights, never sitting on a chair properly, lazy Sundays, grumpy cats, listening to other people's conversations on the train, 1980s Tokais, the smell of melting chocolate, spontaneously brilliant nights out, statement hats, unconditional love, ghost stories, good manners and the satisfaction of doing something really, really well.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Too Old For Jelly & Icecream?

This time last year it was my 30th. I took the day off and had a grand old time - went to the cinema, had a nice tea and some cocktails. It felt self-indulgent and marvellous - a landmark birthday is the best excuse to make a fuss of yourself.

This year I am going to be a decidedly unglamorous 31. I can't really afford to take any more leave, so I am working my normal Thursday shift in a job I hate. I then have most of the afternoon off due to it being half term (YESS) but everyone is at work (BOOO) so I'm at a bit of a loose end, with no plans for the evening, and no real plans to make any. Should I just get over it? Is it a girl thing to want to do something nice on your actual birthday?

I suspect I been spoilt by five years working in a production office where every birthday boy and girl got crazily over-the-top special treatment. Birthdays in the script department were the BOMB. You wouldn't be allowed to come in until 10am at the earliest, thereby giving everyone else the chance to decorate the office in your honour. There would then be a stream of gift givers laying various (impossibly thoughtful) presents on your desk, so that when you came in your desk would be heaving with the things, balloons would be tacked onto your monitor, streamers over your assistant was a huge comic geek, so when he came in we were all wearing Batman masks. There would then be a ceremonial hour or so of opening everything and cooing over who had bought what, eating cake and getting no work done at all. Then you would be whisked out for a very boozy lunch which generally took most of the afternoon. Finally you got sent home early for a nap and to play with your shiny new toys.

 I mean REALLY? Did I dream this? This used to be my life. No wonder the thought of a grey October Thursday of gym inductions and mopping treadmills is pushing me over the edge.

Still, I have Friday cordoned off for lunch with my best friend, and an evening of drinks with the lovelies of Leeds. I think I will just get over it and pretend my birthday is on the 28th this year.

What do you lot do? Celebrate on your actual birthday, or just shrug your shoulders and treat it like any other day?

Tuesday 25 October 2011


Hen parties! All those women from different areas of your life, joining together to do a load of ludicrous activities and probably get quite drunk. What a bizarre rite of passage. And all that plastic willy-related paraphenalia! Why don't stags have vagina-related paraphenalia? Doesn't seem quite fair.

My name is Penny and I will bring really nasty Morrison's ready-made Bucks Fizz on your hen do. Yes I will.

Hen nights have a bad rep, but this weekend I went on a very civilised weekend in honour of my friend Ellie's forthcoming nuptials. She had gone on a fair bit about not wanting any hen tack, but I was pleased to see her furnished with a beautiful sash anyway (which she paraded around in with pride) and a deluge of glow-in-the-dark willy straws (which her sister thought were chopsticks). There is immense satisfaction in seeing your friend looking a bit ridiculous, and I was delighted to find not even the ever-stylish Ellie could get away without a bit of henning up.

We trained down to London, where we had afternoon tea at Drink, Shop, Do in King's Cross. It's a very cute, kitsch little cafe with amazing cakes, tea and cocktails. Their selling point is a menu of craft activities, to give you something to do as you while away the afternoon. It's a clever concept, and it's clearly a popular place. I'd love to see somewhere like it in the North (is there anywhere like this that I'm unaware of?)
Me with co-hens Claire "Supercrafts!" Smith and Rachel "Sod that, where's the wine list!" Carlton

Ellie had chosen for us to make pearl bracelets. Pleasant! Unless you, hilariously, make the nylon quite thick, and the holes in the pearls quite small. It was impossible. I had managed to sit next to Claire (a fellow Little Miss Competitive) and we were so stubbornly going to DO THIS COME HELL OR HIGH WATER that we both ended up with bracelets too big for our wrists as we raced to get the most BLOODY AWAWKARD pearls on. It was like being back in Home Ec - everyone reverted to their 14 year old selves. Only with tea, and then wine. I suspect I would have enjoyed most school lessons a bit more if I'd had a bottle of pinot grigio on hand. After four hours, 16 frazzled girls with knotted back muscles and squinty eyes held up their wonky bracelets in triumph. And all swore we would never make a pearl bracelet again.
 This is somebody else's much neater bracelet.

A bucket of booze and some (more) food and we rolled on to Proud Cabaret. I've always been a bit squeamish about burlesque, but this place is AMAZING. It was like walking into a 1920s gangster film, with smoky, low lights and red velvet drapes. The performances were slick and professional, there were girls AND boys performing, and the most amazingly charismatic singing compere I have ever seen. I think we need to create a similar role for the Leeds burlesque - I'm ever so good at wearing a nice frock and getting a bit gobby with the punters.

Sunday was the V&A (however I was far too sleepy and hungover to fully absorb any culture), the Hummingbird bakery (wanted to put my whole head in all of the cakes) and home.

How's about that for a hen?

The best bit was getting to meet all of Ellie's old school friends and everyone being so bloody lovely. I remember that fuzzy, happy feeling from my own hen - looking round and mates from all areas of your life just getting on and having a laugh. Sort of reaffirms your awesomeness as a person - having such good taste in friends.
 Ellie M - she has good taste in friends, who have good taste in willy-related paraphenalia

Only four weeks to the wedding now... and I'm already looking forward to seeing everyone again. And their pearl bracelets (mine will be around my thigh).

Monday 24 October 2011

Teenage Kicks

My Mum was up a few weeks ago (hello Mum!) and we were out shopping for an appropriate birthday present for her friend's 13 year old daughter. I really had to wring out my poor brain to be honest. Teenager? What do they even look like these days? They probably have all these amazing new catch-phrases like "vom" and "blarty"and own gadgets I don't understand like i-Things and NanoSpongs. They probably say things to each other like "have you vommed the new NanoSpong? It's totally blarty". It was a strain to even think about it to be honest. I could feel myself getting less cool by the second.

Anyway. It did get me thinking about what kind of amazing present my teenage self would have loved to have been given by somebody older and wiser. Back in the stone age when grunge wasn't even retro, it just Was. And it would almost definitely, at that age, have been a CD.

I discovered these albums when I was 16 years old.

And they changed my life.

But just IMAGINE the heights of coolness I could have scaled if somebody had given them to me when I was 13. I would have been streets ahead of my peers. I would have discovered Black Flag and Fugazi much sooner. I wouldn't have even bothered playing (shhh) Menswear covers and bad self-penned pop punk in my school band, we would already have been onto thrash metal and mathy post rock. I would definitely have then moved to Olympia and joined Sleater-Kinney at 16, which would have given me just about enough time to get involved in the writing of Dig Me Out. Then the drummer Janet and I would have formed a splinter two-piece called Fozzie, and we would have toured with Huggy Bear and Mr Bungle in a sort of cuddly teddy themed tour, during which Mike Patton would fall in love with me, and obviously I would break his heart, move back to the UK and marry Sam from Dugong.

The power of a classic album.

Sadly, teenagers don't even know what CDs are anymore, and if you gave them an LP they'd probably think it was a trendy new hat. Somehow an iSpong voucher doesn't have quite the same ring.

Pity the teenagers of today! It's all gone to blarty vom.

Friday 21 October 2011

First Dance Friday:The Popular One

He seems to pop up everywhere. Housewives choice: Michael Bubbles. I can understand the appeal of his smooth grooves and contemporary crooning, perfect MOR first dance fodder, but just look at him!

This man is supposed to be an idol. A Sex God.

But he looks just like somebody you went to school with whose name you can't remember. Richard....Bland? James.... Beige? You know, the anonymous one, second left on the third row on the school picture. Oh, he changed his hair in Year 10 and grew a bit, and everybody wondered where he'd come from. Hung around with the popular jock boys for a term, and then didn't. He was in science with Sarah P. No? NO. I don't remember him either. He just tried to add me on Facebook. I'll ignore it.

Seriously though, a pin-up? His features look like they've been randomly selected from a photofit and pasted together onto a uniformly round, pasty face. Probably by scientists in Simon Cowell's pop laboratory. Oh whatever, you're all going to buy his CD next Mother's Day. Even if it's secretly for you. Because you love him. You want to kiss him.

Anyway. This is one of the most popular UK first dance choices at the moment.I can't be snobby about his popularity, as we chose an EVEN MORE famous Michael, with an even weirder face.

Thursday 20 October 2011


Before I got made redundant from my TV job (nearly 2 and a half years ago) I was writing a fitness/lifestyle blog with a quietly impressive readership and an enthusiastic community. And I junked it all when I got the news about losing my job.


Because I couldn't mange to be upbeat all the time anymore. Couldn't do the 5-days-a-week posting without at least some of it being a tiny moan. Or a big, blank depressive nothing. It was a difficult point in my life, a time to start from scratch. I didn't want to inflict that on these lovely people who tuned in every day, and wrote reams of nice comments. I wanted to be funny and pithy and entertaining, not make people switch off their laptops and go and stick their heads in an oven.

Well, WHAT do you know.

The second career I was just managing to get underway has just about collapsed underneath me. There is no money left in the pot, and I am not managing financially anymore. I am in, effectively, the same position. Starting over. Considerably poorer than last time, and with even less of a clue what to do.

And the worst part of it is, I NEVER LEARNED TO READ.....

OK, OK, come back!

I'm not going to dump on you, lovely, cherished reader. And I'm not giving up writing on here. There may not be the same hundreds of people tuning in to this place every day, but there ARE people reading this thing. And maybe, just maybe, if I can write about my situation this time, I can learn to  laugh at it. Because, really, it IS ridiculous. I am a hard worker and a compulsive, success-fixated tryer. If I can't work this thing out, we're all fucked.

So, you know, I'm going to let you know how it goes. This stupid career situation. In all its preposterous glory.

And I'm not going anywhere this time. Let's get that clear.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Christmas Crafts

I know it's rude to say the C word at this time of year. But you have to help me out here.

You see, last year, mostly through financial necessity, but also through love of a challenge, I decided to make virtually all of my Christmas presents. It was time consuming, and forced me to confront some personal fears (insert flashback to textiles classes at school), but overall the reactions I got to my gifts made my heart feel all warm and cozy. Or maybe that was just the mulled wine.

Anyway, I'm at it again! But I'm short on ideas.

Last year (among other things) I made cushions....

Santa clauses....

Made my Mum a very Russian teddy bear (prizes if anybody knows who he is).....

and hand-made about a zillion boxes of chocolates for the 190,383,293 members of Sam's family.

What do you think I should make this year? Have you ever done a Christmas craft? Ever wanted to?

PS I can do most things, but I can't knit, and yes I have tried. Things get thrown across the room. That's people AND knitting.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

For The Love of the Sausages

Introducing the Hippy....
The Poser...
The Mathlete....

and the self-proclaimed Awesome Motherfucker.

These are the Sausages.

It doesn't matter how much of a shitty a day I've had,  how eye-pullingly tired I am, or how much I just want to sit in front of the TV and vegitate to Britain's Next Top Model. Going to Penny & The Sausages practice is always a total joy.

For me, being in a covers band is essentially living the singing into a hairbrush dream. After 15 years of plodding along in bands that played original material, it's the ultimate guilty pleasure. No more do I need to stand in pubs playing noodly, noisy bobbins while the assembled crowd of twelve people (mostly the members of the other bands) stand and earnestly nod their heads.

No longer. Now get to I play at weddings, village fetes, firemen's retirements parties, Aunty's birthdays, in Chinese restaurants and at foreign student parties where the support act sings the months of the year in German.

Gigs where people actually DANCE, sing along, and drunkenly fall at our feet screaming about how much fun they're having. Turns out you don't need to be in Take That for this to happen.

If ten years ago, somebody had asked me "where do you see yourself in ten years time?" I would never have thought to reply "soundtracking the welly-wanging at a family fun day in north Leeds". It's amazing. We honestly don't know where the Sausages will take us next, but I bloody hope, wherever it is, there's a decent tombola and a broad range of fairy cakes for 35p.

Thankyou Sausages, for spending your formative years toiling in "proper" bands in order to hone your skills in ludicrous on-stage banter, extensive rock posturing and bashing the bollocks out of your instruments. Without you, my life would be much less sparkly and amazing.

Monday 17 October 2011

Third Wheel

I consider myself quite lucky when it comes to my husband's TV viewing habits. Because, even more than me, Sam has absolutely no interest in sport.


He doesn't support a football team, or even follow one. He has been known to refer to footballers as "kicky men" and goalies as "catchy men". Cricket is beyond him, and he gets bored and fidgety whenever I put athletics on. I've caught him watching darts, but I know it's only because it involves mental arithmetic.

This means that our TV schedule is free from the seemingly endless parade of sporting fixtures my friends seem to be bound by. The only time MoTD goes on is if I'm up early and fancy reminding myself what it all looks like (they seem to fall over and complain a lot more than they did when I was  little).

However. This is not to say Sam doesn't have another irritating televisual habit that somehow creeps into my viewing time. And he never asks to put it on, because he knows I hate it, so he'll wait until I'm not looking. The minute I go to make a cup of tea, close my eyes or pick up a paper, I'll look up again and THIS will be on:

Wheeler Dealers.

Discovery Realtime's finest second hand car renovation programme.

It appears to be on ALL THE TIME. God knows how, but Sam always manages to find it in the schedule. I'll come back into the room and beaming from the TV will be the familiar faces of  wideboy dealer Mike Brewer (he sells the cars) and lanky silver fox Edd China (the mechanic who fixes everything, and cheerfully tells you how. Step. By. Step).

"One day, when I need to change a piston on a Renault 5/reupholster a Mark 1 Golf/replace the cam belt on a TVR I'll know how to do it" he says "you just never know when that kind of thing will come in handy."

You really never do.

The programme started broadcasting in 2003 and has since racked up an impressive 9 series, with no end in sight. Plus, the repeated episodes seem to delight him even more.

"Haven't you seen the Ford Capri episode before?"

"Yeah, a few times, it's a really good one!"

There really is no way around it, I am going to have to make room in my life for Wheeler Dealers. To distract myself with Twitter while Sam makes goo-goo eyes at Edd (with a brain that must read like an encyclopedia of every Haynes Manual ever written, coupled with an affable approachability, China is man-crush gold).

Still, I wouldn't swap it for football. A lifetime watching overpaid boys running around, pulling each others tops and gobbing on the floor is NOT going to get the radiator in my Mazda changed. And for this I am grateful.

Long live the "fixy men".

Friday 14 October 2011

First Dance Friday: What's Wrong With Being Sexy?

Pop, indie, punk, folk, metal....these days first dance tracks are often chosen to reflect a couples' personal style more than anything else. It's getting less common to hear any that make a broader statement about love, let alone the 15 certificate urges that play a part in any courtship. So truly passionate, intense songs are often sidelined. Exposing the smouldering heart of your desire when everyone's already had too much sticky toffee pudding - well, the results might not be pretty. Ask yourself this: Do you really want your assembled cousins, nieces, nephews and colleagues to be gawping at you while you lock eyes with your lover, press your bodies close, and play a song about fancying the arse off each other?

Well, you shouldn't give a rosy shit. It's your wedding day. If you want to play Color Me Bad, then you damn well should.

This isn't Color Me Bad (for shame). The lyrics aren't even that raunchy. And it's by a doo-wop group from the 1950s. But it's seductive and hypnotic in a subtle way, and you could definitely use it without your Nanna's friend Mabel choking on her champers in a fit of the prudes. It's not just about love, it's about infatuation - that first loss of control.

It's a terrific first dance song. I'm dying for somebody to request it in the band, because I have always, always wanted to sing this one.

Failing that, anything by Prince.

Thursday 13 October 2011


I've had nearly a full year of being 30. In a mere two weeks I will be officially a thirty-something.

As in. 30 and a bit.

As in. Just that bit closer to being (shhh) 40.

I didn't have the best time in the last decade, all told. It was mostly a hair-tearing nightmare. But turning 30 has been a triumph. In spite of the last 12 months still being something of a bumpy road (the last few weeks worse than most - I nearly didn't post this after last night's latest disaster) I think I'm getting more confident in my ability to deal with the relentless shit-slinging. I think this is what growing up actually is.

It's a cliche to say turning 30 changes you, but it has been true for me.

Aside from getting married, the last year has been a tough one. But it's helped me realise that I can cope. If you can lose your career once and survive, then why not twice?  It's stopped me taking anything for granted - if my health is not good, there is always somebody having a much harder time. It's given me confidence to be brave, live more in the moment, to try things. I'm learning that real success is nearly always hard won, and much sweeter for it.

All this is definitely easier when I'm lucky enough to have amazing family, and friends, when my life is still interesting, I have not lost everything (yet) and getting married has made me feel more confident than ever in my support network.

Still, it is hard not to compare myself to my peers. To realise that I'm not where I thought I'd be at 31. To feel I have taken my early straight-A student promise and squandered it on two unpredictable and badly paid careers, one failed and the other floundering.

After Steve Jobs died, I read this for the first time:
I wouldn't be so crass as to call myself a maverick, and I'm certainly no genius. But I keep reading this and it gives me hope.

Hope that conventional paths are not always the most successful. That as long as I don't give up, I'm still getting somewhere. That as long as I do not lose my self belief, I have not lost everything.

And I really need to cling on to that last bit of self belief.

It ain't over til it's over.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

When Does Calling Your Boyfriend "Husband" Get Normal?

It's been four months and it still feels weird to me. I still say it in a slightly silly tone of voice. I'm playing at it. When will it stop feeling like I'm calling him a joke name?

When we're old and eating picnics in lay-bys like this one? With scotch eggs and weak lemon barley? Will it feel normal then?

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Bad Penny Goes To Rave School

Had my first afternoon of DJ Skills 101 yesterday.

I suspect that rather than becoming the next Tiesto, I will probably go away and write a sitcom about a group of people on a WEA course. The last time you will have seen a bunch of misfits like it (myself included) was in the Over-25s category on this year's X-Factor.

Goldie wasn't there, she's doing An Introduction To Sound Engineering this term.

So far I have learned that:

-Bashing guitars and amps around for years means I have zero respect for delicate, expensive equipment. People visibly flinched as I repeatedly swiped the needle across the record "just getting the feel for it"

-You can generally tell by looking at somebody if they listen to jungle and/or psytrance
Dead giveaway

-Girls really do refer to leads as "wires" quite a lot, and often without irony.

-Nobody who is serious about music admits to liking house anymore (apart from me, which means I am so far past it, I can't even see what "it" is anymore. Does "it" have an uplifting piano breakdown? What? NO?)

Oh yeah, and the technical stuff....

-You've nailed beat-matching (holy grail of Basic DJ Skills) if you can play two tracks at the same time and it doesn't give you a headache. It really does appear to be that simple. Apart from it takes me ten minutes to get to that point, by which time I have already developed a headache of monstrous proportions (especially if I'm playing jungle, psytrance or basically anything without an uplifting piano breakdown), then I get bored and just pull the fader across really quickly and hope nobody notices.

(NB. they always notice.)

World = My Oyster.

However, I shall not give up on Rave School. I shall doggedly attempt to conquer my tendency to flop at the first hurdle and  lie on the ground complaining "well, clearly I can't do this - it sounds terrible! Can't I just retake my English SAT instead? I was excellent at that!" And I shall continue on my quest to find the beat, and drop it in - approximately- the right place.

Monday 10 October 2011

The Colour Burple

You know it. It's somewhere between brown and purple. It's burple.

When I first bought my house, it was on every carpet downstairs. We got rid of it in the front room, which is now all lovely shiny wood floors...and then the recession hit, I lost my job, and DIY projects ground to a halt. The dining room (which I now have to run through to avoid looking at) is still burple-floored, with textured, yellowing wallpaper, and a set of pinky-beige curtains roughly three inches too short for the window they're supposed to cover.  It is not my favourite room in the house. Sometimes I wish it wasn't there at all.

Bloody burple. It's good for nothing but hiding dirt (especially if you habitually puke on the floor after mainlining Bourbons and Ribena). So when Sam suggested redecorating the dining room I jumped for joy. We agreed we wanted to repaint the walls a warm, rich red - so we would be FORCED to de-burple, in order to avoid killing our eyes with the violent colour juxtaposition.

Thing is, Sam likes bright primary colours, and I don't. Not on walls. So it was probably a (lazy) mistake on my part to let him buy the paint. "We'll see how it looks!" he said cheerfully. And then we did. It looked like a beautifully painted wall. A wall that just happened to be the colour of Mickey Mouse's pants. I got so grumpy about this, I went out and bought a much more muted, dark, classy shade. Slapped it on the wall.


...I accidentally painted my OWN WALL burple.

Burple with Mickey Mouse's pants showing through from the underneath.

Why are colour samples nothing like how they look on the wall, why did B&Q call this Rich Red when it is clearly aubergine, and why is DIY such a tedious pile of pointless?

Friday 7 October 2011

First Dance Friday: Boy Meets Girl

Sam and I have a love of 80s pop music that goes beyond conventional revivalism. A synth hook and bubblegum vocals, and we're all over it like wet-look gel on a Smash Hits cover star. We met in a band that played songs I mostly wrote, which mostly ripped off Kim Wilde, and now we're in our very own (very amazing) 80s party covers band. Penny and the Sausages play fist-punching, wayfarer-wearing, Emilio-Estevez-movie-soundtracking kind of music, and are unquestionably the most fun band I have ever been in. It's the perfect joint hobby for a married couple who still chuckle (yes, chuckle) together about the number of Cyndi Lauper and Duran Duran albums we double up on.

Our romance actually started because he was buying my vinly copy of the Weird Science soundtrack. Reader, not only did I marry him, I consequently retained my Oingo Boingo LP.

When I asked Sam to do his First Dance Friday last month, he nearly retracted it and replaced it with Five Star's The Slightest Touch. Which is awesome. It made me wonder why he hadn't actually suggested it for the real wedding. Probably for the same reason I didn't suggest this....

Because, regardless of how much we love these feelgood anthems, we have too many of them. And we love them all. And in the same breath as we contemplated them as a first dance, we were wondering if we could cover them in the band. I didn't want my memory of our first dance as a married couple being tarnished by the fact that I spent the next however many years fudging the saxophone solo.

Still, if we do it all again, we have a sturdy stock of flexi-discs that we would actually agree on, regardless of how appropriate they are for a slow dance...

Thursday 6 October 2011

For Your Eyes Only

Eye makeup! How I love thee. How I love turning up to the work Christmas party wearing corn-on-the-cob yellow MAC pigment.... discovering I can cover my whole lid with turquoise glitter liner... or experimenting with red eyeshadow whilst everyone else screams and runs away (from me)... ahhhh, memories. Smoky greys, chocolate browns, mossy greens, I love them all. Soft and natural or strong and punchy, I am naked without a wash of colour, a slick of liner and enough mascara to sink a cruise ship.

But for the last month my eyes have been dry and itchy. I spent my honeymoon in my specs, unable to wear contact lenses, largely free of makeup and feeling like a hideous four eyed monster from the deep. Not exactly the confidence boost you need on what is supposed to be the romantic holiday of a lifetime.

Anti-bacterial drops have done nothing, and nearly a month later I am no better. This weekend I am packaging myself off to weep on the shoulder of our family optometrist down in Nottingham. Unfortunately, I suspect it will not be good news.

Blepheritis is a eye condition that hails from the same joyful family as eczema. If you get it once, you might be safe. If you have it twice, you're probably stuck with it for life. This is my second bout, and it means business. You can't wear contacts or makeup until it sods off (anything from 2-4 weeks) and unfortunately this irritating little condition does not have the consideration to take into account honeymoons, birthdays and other special occasions I might not want to spend avoiding mirrors and cameras.

Now I appreciate vanity is considered a mortal sin (it sent you back a fair few spaces if you landed on it in my edition of Snakes & Ladders), but I genuinely hadn't prepared myself for a life largely free of makeup. Without it, I want to shrink into the wall. I suppose we all have things that make us feel confident - superficial or otherwise - and having this particular crutch taken away is, for me, frankly terrifying. I say I feel naked without make-up. In fact, I would rather be naked than completely bare of face. Honestly. Stark bollock naked.

Maybe I should invest in one of these.....
It's made me think hard about how much our ideas of being a "proper" woman are connected to being well groomed. I have tried very hard to distance myself from it, but the sad fact is that people at work(I deal with the public, and work in the health and fitness industry) do react to me differently now. The members who know me already don't - they just see Penny. But new people are wary of me. I can't say I blame them - I am trying to impress upon them that I hold the secrets to a healthier lifestyle. And yet, hilariously, I only ever look pale, exhausted and squinty eyed.

I am not sure what the answer is. I would love to say I don't give a shit, and power on regardless, but it's just not the case. For now, I am concentrating on buying the most enormous pair of spectacles, in a bid to cover as much of my face as possible.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Last Night A DJ Saved My Life

I hated dance music for nearly an entire decade. Once the childish infatuation with Technotronic had waned and I started listening to the Evening Session, that was it. From 1994 until 2003, if it didn't have a guitar in it, it could fuck off. Perhaps it was my schooling in "proper" instruments that lead me to be incredibly snobby anything machine-made. Or maybe it was the state of dance in the late 90s that put me off. It was the era of the superclubs - house was superpolished, and the people who listened to it were superpolished too. The trendy, popular people. That wasn't me, and I didn't want any part of it.

I was the ripe old age of 22 when I first went to Sankey's Soap in Manchester, saw Erick Morillo, heard him play Michael Jackson's Billy Jean at the climax of his set and started to change my mind. I saw that making music with turntables and software wasn't a limitation. It actually opened up a world of possibilities. Not all of those possibilities had to be bleepy-bloopy ones.

I got on the decks for the first time that year later, drunk, at a friends' house party. Mixed Basement Jaxx into the middle of Duran Duran without any clue what I was doing (other than picking the records). Somehow one song morphed into the other seamlessly without me doing a great deal at all. THEN a bit of fluff got stuck on the needle and made it sound like I was scratching. It all sounded unintentionally awesome.  I got so much praise heaped on me ("we knew you'd be amazing! you're just so musical!"), I was too embarrassed to admit it was all an almighty fluke, and never got back up for fear that everybody would see how rubbish I really was. That was it for me and turntables. I brushed it all under the carpet of shame.

 I am better at this than Penny. And I don't have opposable thumbs.

Since then my interest in electronic music has grown with the trends (unlike contemporary rock or indie music, which I don't have a clue about), but I still haven't properly DJed. I'm nearly always in charge of playlists at parties, but I wouldn't have the foggiest what to do with two turntables, even though I know in my head how I'd make it all sound. I've been on a music production course, using Logic, but find the endless possibilities of starting with a blank screen and a bank of a squillion noises somewhat overwhelming. I prefer the idea of playing to a crowd, reading what people want, being the one who hunts down the coolest old edits and then launches them at the perfect moment. I want to loop a familiar hook round and round, tormenting people with it. That sounds like fun to me.

Mwahaha, you must all wait for me to drop the bass!

Anyway, in the spirit of yesterday's Let's Get Creative post, I've signed up on a part time course to learn (at last!) the basics of DJing. No fluff on the needle this time. Who knows, maybe one day I'll be the cool wedding DJ guaranteed to fill the floor....

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Let's Get Creative!

I absolutely love this. I think my Mum in particular should watch it now she's stumbled across my blog -hello Mum!- because it reminds me of the way some of my own creative endeavours seemed to pan out as an older child/teenager (to her endless mortification).

Anyway. We all know that blogging is a pretty handy, albeit slightly self-indulgent way to keep our creative muscles flexed while our day jobs slowly eat away at our will to live.

...Just me? Oh. OK.

I often think my ability to come up with new material -sometimes I wish I could stop, because I am almost definitely annoying everybody- is directly proportional to the tedium of my daily existence. I spend a lot of my day (when I'm not teaching, and sometimes when I am) making small talk with middle aged ladies, cleaning gym equipment and telling everybody to have a nice day. It's very Nice. And also extremely Dull. But the bonus is that my brain gets fidgety, and I have all this pent up creative energy that needs to be expelled elsewhere. So I get to dot about all over the place doing other interesting things, like bands, and blogs, and a bit of script work. I'm sure if I was in a brainy job where I actually earned enough to pay my mortgage every month, I wouldn't be able to muster the energy to do half of what I do. So, although I get fed up about my work situation sometimes, there are significant up sides.

This leads me to wonder about the place creativity holds in adult life. It always strikes me as a real pity that we don't get more chance to be creative when we're grown-ups. To play. All those school days we spent scribbling out stories and poems, paintings and drawings, and what do we do now? Unless we're lucky enough to work in a creative industry, not a great deal. We just don't have time, and if we do, we don't have the energy. Whenever an adult friend turns out to be good at drawing, or rhyming, or making up silly games, I always think: what a shame to have that skill and not be able to use it every day. We ought to.

So I challenge you. Do it. Do something creative this week. It doesn't have to be amazing. Just something you enjoyed and had time to do when you were little, that you never have the time to do now. You might just find yourself a new hobby, and who knows where that may lead?

Monday 3 October 2011

How To Make Teacup Candles

This weekend we made teacup candles for our friend's wedding. Now I'm going to show you how to do it too. It's so stupidly easy we are now trying to think of other receptacles to make candles out of using our left over wax (shoes? beer cans?). Try it! Go on, Christmas is near and your Aunty Pat would love one.

You'll need a candle making kit or two, or more, depending on how many candles you want to make.

1. We filled a (clean) tin full of wax pieces.

 Baked beans form 80% of Sam's diet.Parp!

2. We cut a piece of wick just a wee bit longer than our teacup was tall.

3. Then we threaded one end of the wick through the little metal doohickey (comes with the kit, not technical term), and scrunched the end of the metal doohickey with some pliers so the wick wouldn't slip out.

4. Then we took some adhesive (comes with the kit) and splodged it on the bottom of the metal doohickey, where we had just scrunched it. Then we stuck the lot in the bottom of the teacup, and fixed the wick to a teeny weeny metal bar (also came with the kit) with some bluetack (did not come with the kit) to keep it upright.

Hope you are following this....
Dingly dangly
5. Next we put the tin of wax into a pan of boiling water, and stirred it til it was completely melted.

Probably should have cleaned the hob before getting the camera out
6. Then all we had to do was pour the wax into the teacup.....

7. ....wait for about 24 hours.....and presto!


What item would you endeavour to make a candle out of? Go on, we're feeling creative....