Tuesday 31 January 2012

Still Feverish?

My body having ejected everything I'd tried to put in it for the past three days, I was yesterday resigned to a weird twilight world of tripped-out low blood sugar braindeath. It would almost have been nice, if I hadn't felt like I'd swallowed a cactus.

In a stupor, I spent the whole day wondering if I should dye my hair lilac.

Am I too old for this shit? Am I still delirious?

A little better today, and half a stone lighter.*waves slightly pathetic consolation prize*

Monday 30 January 2012


(recite wearing beret, to a bongo beat):

Someone stop
Ominous rumbling,

Horrible disease leads to
Feeble acrostics.



Bad Penny accepts no responsibility for awful blank verse composed during delirium. Please refer all complaints to the National Gastric Flu Epidemic.

Friday 27 January 2012

First Dance Friday: The Rainbow Connection

I vividly remember watching Debbie Harry on the Muppet Show. Not because she was a style and music icon whose footsteps I longed to follow in, but because she stood in a barnyard and sang One Way Or Another as Muppets popped in and out of stable doors, endlessly startling her. My 3 year old self must have loved it, as it remains embedded in my brain as a sequence of untouchable comic genius.

A fascination with Jim Henson and his creations was born, and continued throughout my childhood. By day I would churn out reams of cock-eyed drawings I hoped would eventually lead to me being declared a creative prodigy and shipped toute-suite to the Creature Workshop to bring my monsters to life. By night (when this, predictably, hadn't happened) I would huddle beneath my Fraggle Rock duvet cover and recite the script for the Labyrinth word for word until I fell asleep (normally just after the bit with the tiny blue worm, which I think we can all agree is the best bit).


When we were in New York for our honeymoon last year, we took a trip out to Astoria to the stunning Museum Of The Moving Image specifically to see the temporary Jim Henson exhibition. It was amazing - loads of original puppets and sketches for characters, all the stories behind how everything came to be, and tons about Henson himself, his life and philosophies.

I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that Jim Henson was a bit of a hippy, although I never realised how much. Did you know that the Fraggles were created  in order to demonstrate a number of different races living together in harmony, and to encourage respect for the environment? I just thought they were about the crazy hair and brilliant songs.

Watching back a lot of Henson's work as an adult, the message now seems obvious. There's a lot of love-thy-neighbour and appreciation of life and nature, but also an earthy realism about life, the tough bits and how to handle them.It's what we should be teaching kids really, and he did it so seamlessly that it never felt preachy. His message was always love, hope and tolerance. Ladles and jellyspoons, what better way to start a marriage?

And so, to the First Dance.

Henson didn't actually write this one (composers Kenneth Ascher and Paul Williams did), but he performed it endlessly as Kermit, and it's one of the most well known and respected - receiving an Oscar nomination in 1980. There have been countless covers - the Carpenters, Willie Nelson and most recently Weezer and Paramore's Hayley Williams recorded a version in anticipation of the imminent Muppets Movie. But here's the one that I remember:

If you ask me, she still looks a bit shaken from that whole stable-door business.

OK so it might be a little saccharine for a British wedding, and there's no hope of this song ever being tongue in cheek- it's far too sincere. But maybe, just maybe, somewhere in the world two Henson fans are having their first dance to this. I'd like to think so. That or Dance Magic Dance, anyway.

If you're as much of a fan of Henson's tree hugging as I am, you might be interested in this little book that I found in the museum gift shop. It a cornucopia of Hensonisms.

"Life's like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending."

Ain't that the truth.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Decluttering The Brain

Where did all the 2012 oomph and positivity go? First my running schedule stagnated, and now my pep has apparently gone the same way.

Partly this is because the Employed-By-Somebody-Else part of my life has now completely sucked my will to live, leaving a dessicated husk of a human being who can only stagger around the gym, hollow eyed, with a hoover in one hand and a dumb-bell in the other, idly wondering which would be the best instrument with which to stove in the evil cyborg head of my employer.

When HOMFS (Husk Of My Former Self) is not doing this (which is more often than I would like, as I'm yet again covering for employees who, quite understandably, can't be bothered to come and work their bones to stumps in exchange for passive-aggressive stand-offs from their superiors, shit-talk from the odd cretinous member of the public and barely enough money to keep a chimp in saver packs of bananas) or working for myself, I am worrying myself into the floor about the self-employed part of my life, which is better than it was in December, but still not earning me enough to really qualify me as an independent grown-up, and definitely not enough to do it full time.

 My shining life raft would be, clearly, another job. One that didn't make me want to weep on a minute-to-minute basis.

Having applied for all manner of things since November, however, I am yet to get an interview. Which is quite preposterous really, as I'm capable of doing most things very well (apart from cartwheels, maths and door-to-door sales, and I could probably do the last two to at least B grade GCSE standard, they would just make me very unhapppy). I'm also a very lovely and loyal team member, who is very good at making tea. Tea-making, as you office workers will know, is an extremely important skill. One needs capability and a willingness to get up and do it. I have both in spades.

Anyway, with this option out- for now at least- I have to resign myself to  somehow dealing with my work situation without having a melt-down. Melt-downs are all well and good, but they don't get the cats fed or the laundry done.

Not helping on my campaign to stay sane is this: I seem to spend my free time fretfully ping-ponging around the internet, talking about a lot of very insignificant things as if they were world-changing. When actually, what I should be doing is making proper use of my rest time to, you know, rest. Maybe talk to people who are, I don't know, actually there. The cumulation of this inane chatter in my head, mixed up with a lot of other anxious dithering, is making some sort of unholy vortex of stress between my ears, and I suspect my whole body may be about to sucked into it at any moment.

So I'm taking a break from social media. So far this week it has involved keeping a low profile. But I think what it probably requires is a total blackout. Opening the windows and letting some light in. So if you don't see me anywhere but on here for a bit, you'll know why. It's definitely not because I don't love you. Text me, phone me, email me if you want me. I am here - I'm just popping out for a bit of fresh air.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Christmas Crafts #2

I told you there would be marmalade, didn't I? It's only four weeks late!

Even if you can take or leave the stuff, I'm telling you NOW my Christmas marmalade will transform you. It will leave you dribbling in the gutter outside my house, pleading for your next hit.

Or you could just make your own.

My secret, after all, is quite simple. Take a cheat's jar of Ma Made (available in most big supermarkets), and then replace the water content with the following: 2:1:1 amaretto:brandy:water.


It's the FIT.

This is all that's left at our house. The batch should fill roughly five normal sized jars (or three normal sized jars and a beast, as above).

Sam has been mainlining marmalade sandwiches at a rate previously unseen in a non-duffel-coat-wearing-non-bear.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Read It Swap It

So many people I know are die-hard readers, and so many people I know are skint, so I am surprised that not more of you use Read It Swap It. I have decided that you  probably just don't know about it, and so I am going to (oh benevolent one that I am!) tell you about it in the hope that you will save so much money you'll feel a similarly altruistic urge to buy me a pint in the pub next time you see me.


It's quite a simple premise: you sign up, list books you want shot of (there's a helpful thing where you just type in the ISBN) and off you go. You can search for a book you'd like to read, and if somebody has it, you can request it from them. They can then have a look at your list, and if there's something they fancy they select it. Once the swap is confirmed you then exchange addresses and off you go.

Not everybody will swap with you, as it obviously depends if you've listed a book they want to read. So the more books you list, the better. There's also a star rating system, like eBay, so slack posters beware. But basically, if you can get to a post office, it's a genius premise. A lot of the hardcore members use it like a library, so all the hot new fiction is always up for grabs.

I've used the site for a couple of years now and I've never had any problems with it. Most users are lovely -I left an old birthday card from my Grandma in a book I swapped once (had been using as a bookmark at some point years ago) and the chap I sent it to very kindly sent it back to me. You get cute little thanks-for-swapping cards sometimes too. Not from me though, because I'm a miserable cow.

I like the idea of my books going off on adventures, and sometimes wonder where they end up....maybe they're in a big home library with loads of buddies, maybe they got read on a beach in Thailand and are now reclining on hostel bookshelf, happily greasy with suncream. It's also quite the geek-buzz when somebody requests one of your cult reads, then you get to check out their swap list and it's AWESOME. And then you sort of want to be friends. But you don't do anything about it, because that would be stalking.

Anyway, maybe you've got a Kindle now, maybe you're happier with charity shop rummaging and libraries or, er, actually giving the publishers and bookshops your business and keeping the whole industry afloat (I do enjoy this as well, I promise). But now you have another potential weapon in your book-gathering armoury. You're most welcome.

Happy swapping, nerdlings!

Monday 23 January 2012

Girl Crushes

A few things:

-M83 were amazing on Friday night

-the best thing about them was Morgan Kibby.

-I've got that disease now where I want to BE her.

I notice how the phrase "girl crush" has snuck into language, making a tag for something that existed before but was never fully explained or acknowledged. Women are sods for comparing ourselves to every female we've ever seen or met, so when we find somebody a bit cool or aspirational we have this bizarre tendency to go a bit gooey-eyed and silly over them. WHAT IS THAT ABOUT?

It must be born of the age of celebrity, because I never feel that way about girls I actually know in real life (you can love your friends but you can't really idolise them - that would be creepy). There's something that grows in that gap between the stage and the real world, where we just fill in all the blanks with a load of awesomeness and make these people into our ideal selves.

So I suppose that means our girl crushes say a lot about who we are, and who we'd like to be. Mine are nearly always musicians so wrapped up in what they're doing that they appear completely unaware of gender politics, or wanting to seem pretty, or basically anything apart from rocking out. They seem like normal people as well, unaffected, fallible (it was Kibby ballsing up a huge vocal part on Friday night and then laughing about it that did it for me - that and the frizzy-haired headbanging). They're funny and clever, and they're more bothered about being those things than whether their hair looks nice or what anyone thinks of them.


I am wondering slightly about whether I should get a blunt fringe now.

And a dress with floaty sleeves.

Must work on that leader-not-follower thing.

Friday 20 January 2012

First Dance Friday: The Vitamin String Quartet

Sometimes you want music at your wedding that just isn't appropriate. It's too metal, too sweary, too ravetastic, whatever - you just know your Aunty Pat is going to hate it.

Sometimes you will say "balls to it!" and have it anyway.

But maybe other times you won't.

When Sam and I were arguing about discussing what music to have during our ceremony as people came in, we nearly came to blows. He thinks the nice music I like (Yo La Tengo) is fey, I think the nice music he likes (Tom Waits) is bloody depressing. Having established that we can only agree on unsuitable punch-the-air party music, we were forced to come up with more civilised ear fodder.

In the magical land of Dream Wedding (where I forward-roll down the aisle on a giant rainbow) we would have had an enchanting string quartet playing a Vivaldi-esque interpretation of Decadence Dance by Extreme. In the real world, where money is scarce, we were helpless.

That is, until we stumbled across the Vitamin String Quartet:

Oh go on. I know you think it's tacky. Here's that memo you missed: I am tacky. Tacky is cool.

The Vitamin String Quartet are a group of LA-based musicians who arrange and perform rock n roll and pop hits in a classical style. If anybody remembers Hooked On Classics, I would ask you to kindly hold that thought.  Hooked On Classics never performed the hits of Iron Maiden, that's all I can say.

These guys have so many songs, there really is something for everyone, from Duran Duran to Dragonforce, Prince to the Pixies, it's all there. I think there's something pretty cool in choosing a song pretty much nobody but you and your husband will recognise, just sneaking it in there, like a rock wolf in classical clothing.

And for that reason, we didn't have AC/DC in the end. We chose this -

- another daft pop song we like to sing along to in the car, a favourite off one of my ten mix CDs.

And nobody at our ceremony (correct me if you were there)  noticed that it wasn't a beautiful piece of original classical music, perfectly suited to the occasion.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Burt Wonderstone

My sister-in-law dated a magician once. She met him at a party, he correctly guessed her chosen card, then when he gave it back to her it had his phone number on it. How smooth is that? Better yet - when she said she wanted a Tiffany necklace for her birthday, he made her a necklace with a picture of Tiffany off Eastenders on it. AND he had a cat called Harrison Ford. He was ace. She dumped him in the end because he was too much like her brother.

Anyway. I love magicians. Paul Daniels, Siegfried & Roy, Gob from Arrested Development, David bloody Copperfield. ALL OF THEM. Brilliant.

Burt Wonderstone isn't out until next year, but I'm still allowed to get excited about it. It's got Steve Buscemi in it and Jim Carrey (who I've recently decided to like, after years of being irritated by him), and it's about rival Vegas magicians. And luscious flowing manes! What more do you need??

Better yet the main screenwriter is John Francis Daley, a name that may mean nothing to you, but take a look at him in his youth and it may jog your memory....

It's Sam from Freaks and Geeks!! Which not only happens to be my favourite EVER TV programme (yes, even better than the Sopranos, actually, now I think about it, fairweather WHAT), but also appears to be an endless springboard for talent. Jason "his royal hotness" Segel, Seth Rogen, James De-lovely-Franco and my secret weird crush Martin Starr.... it's like it was some kind of training camp for cult actors and comedy writers, and, ummm,  also celebrities who I fancy. This is quite the compliment as I don't fancy anyone else famous AT ALL. Apart from John Cusack circa Grosse Point Blank. And Sam from Dugong.

I'll say it again, if you have never seen this programme, get the box set and settle in for the weekend. It's set in 1981 in an American high school, the soundtrack is amazing (first episode kicks off with John Bonham dying and resultant student mourning), and I promise you will love every single character, even the bully Alan, who is quite repellent.

Anyway. Magicians! Yeah. Roll on 2013.

Wednesday 18 January 2012


What is it about those "The Measure" and "Hot Or Not" things you get in magazines? They're complete crap but I always read them. Then I get irate about them, because I don't see why anybody should get to say what's hot or not, and isn't that a bit pompous of them, and why should I bloody well listen anyway? Then I start to question my whole existence for ten seconds, before turning the page to read Hoop Of Horror.

Anyway, I'm doing one. Primarily so you can read it and think "why should I care about what's hot or not?" and "what the bleeding hell does she know, anyway?" and then go off and read something that will expand your brain. Go on. Leave now, before it gets ugly.

 top cats!

The Sopranos: I can't believe it has taken me until now to start watching this bloody marvellous programme. And now we are only five episodes from the end of the last season (no spoilers!). I don't want it to stop. Is it the best thing that has ever been on television? I can't think of a more consistently excellent drama series. Even the slightly cringey dream sequences have this kind of Lynchian quality that lets me convince myself it's all arty (the big angry dog is his anger....ahhhh). Even when, in the last episode I watched, one character asks the other "what are you thinking?" which is lazy and a cardinal sin of scriptwriting, I shrugged my shoulders and believed it was what the character actually felt. In all honesty, the Sopranos could borrow my best dress and spill red wine on it and I wouldn't care. What on earth will I watch next? It can't be followed. It can't it can't it can't.

m83: Finally going to see them on Friday night. It will be full of hipsters and students. I DON'T EVEN CARE. If you've never heard them before listen to this. It's flimsy and tries very hard to be euphoric and 80s. Yeahhh, lovely stuff.

@thepeopleofleeds: awesome community project based on the @sweden Twitter account, where a different local takes the reins each week to provide a snapshot of life in the city. Excitement- I am taking part in this later in the year. Am going to try very hard not to swear.

Extremely Good Parties: It is now a mere 38 days until the Pen Do! 38 DAYS!!! What are we singing, ladies?

must try harder

Golden Globes Fashion: the only thing that would have cut through the poofy haired, fish-tailed tedium would have been a sharp-suited lady with a slicked back crop. And it didn't happen. Even Tilda Swinton looked frumpy. More effort required.

De-icing things: Locks, windows, cats, toes. It takes ages and I'd rather have an extra 15 minutes in bed. I have taken to draping my car in skanky, paint spattered rags in an attempt to protect it from the elements (everyone else on the street has one of those nice silver covers from Halfords - oh how the other half live). Bring back global warming.

January Fitness: I've hobbled myself. And it's only 8 weeks til the Harewood 10k. SEND HELP! I have been forced into a position where the only thing I can do with any real gusto is swimming. Which would be fine if I could do anything other than breast-stroke, and badly. I'm also a contact lense wearer so I end up craning my head out of the water so my lenses don't get flipped out by my own pathetic splashing. I tried taking my lenses out on Monday to see if I would swim more effectively, but ended up inadvertently peering at everybody around me. Imagine a mole cast into a pond peering helplessly at the perfectly capable fish swimming past it, as it flounders and eventually drowns. I then got out after five minutes, under the impression I had been swimming for thirty, because I couldn't read the (frankly enormous) clock.

What about you, spuds? Enjoy swimming? Think m83 are overrated tosh?Any idea what I should watch after the Sopranos? Tips on car de-icing? Thanks!

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Ooh Matron!

I have long bemoaned the fact that I have never been a bridesmaid.

Is it bad that I think these outfits are sort of cute? In ride-down-the-aisle-on-a-unicorn kinda way?

Having been a profoundly geeky and unattractive child I was always left on the shelf when younger (I would have ruined the formal pictures) and having no sisters or close girl mates on the verge of getting married I suppose I thought I'd just twiddle my thumbs for the next few years until my best mate got around to getting hitched.

She got engaged last weekend.


Now there's no date set (not even a ring bought yet) but it doesn't change the fact that she is getting MARRIED and she has always maintained that I would be not only her bridesmaid, but the boss of all the bridesmaids: the Maid Of Honour.

Well, Matron of Honour. Although that makes me think I should look like this:

I hope this isn't an outfit I'm expected to wear as part of my duties.

Being a bridesmaid (particularly a chief one) means you have quite a few  responsibilities. Unless you're a very lucky duck indeed it's not just about turning up and looking pretty on the day. The centre is about to drop out of your best friend's world approximately twice a week (this may rise to twice an hour in  the run-up to the big day) due to a number of contributing factors: uncompromising friends and relatives, not finding the right shoes/napkins/caterer/centrepieces, uncontrollable factors such as weather/spots/illness/boyfriend behaving in a way that makes her not want to turn him into a husband anymore, and on and on and on. As a bridesmaid it is your duty to be there to put the centre back in, or at least give her some gentle perspective. Or a punch on the nose.

she'll definitely get a punch on the nose if I'm wearing anything like this

You're also required (in most cases) to co-operate as she dresses you in an outfit of her choosing, possibly do a speech (BF did a  speech at mine, although she did sign up for it before I asked her) and ....organise the hen.

It's the last one that is giving me the fear. Anybody who has ever met my BF, or was at my hen (organised by BF) will know that she is FORMIDABLE at this sort of task, and having to organise a party for the ultimate party organiser is actually making me quake in my matronial boots. She also has roughly a million girl mates (none of whom will want to miss out on a hen of the funnest, most party girl evaaa) so I've got a one-way ticket to logistical hell.

Anway, I'm not under starter's orders yet, so I'm still basking in her reflected happiness without feeling any trepidation. However, I WILL call on you all for your best hen games at an undisclosed date in the future....

All images from here

Monday 16 January 2012

Posi January

So today is supposedly the most depressing day of the year. They love that stuff, don't they, the media? It can't have been the hardest equation to work out either. Pick the month of the year everyone dislikes, then stick a pin in the middle of it. Blue Monday.

Whatevs. I am slowly learning to love January. And here's how.

(not by eating celery, that's for sure)

January splits people into camps. We've got the fervoured resolutionists, bright-eyed with their fresh starts and brand new gym kit. Then there are the cynics- the grumblers who stick two fingers up to the lot of it and bury their faces in booze and fine cheese. There are the Christmas widows, still grieving for tinsel and lie-ins (often spotted in supermarket checkout queues, clutching armfuls of discounted chocolate coins and softly weeping), and finally there are those who breeze through life treating one month much the same as the next, and are blissfully unaware that any of the above is happening to anyone (my husband).

Every year I fall  into the first category. Despite the fact that I can't get a place on a Spin class for the next six weeks because of all the gym freshers, I'm still hooked on the idea of a fresh page, new projects, achieving different things. And now I work in the fitness industry, I have discovered I love January even more.

The pre-Christmas months in the fitness industry are GRIM. If November is bad then December is a catastrophe. The Christmas holiday itself is a feeble compensation tacked on the end of two months of poverty and soul-searching. Am I in the right business? I am a terrible entrepeneur? Am I (fear above all fears) wrong for believing in myself and trying to make a living from something I enjoy? WHERE DID EVERYBODY GO???

But then January happens, and classes are bursting at the seams, and (better yet) everyone is so enthusiastic and ready to come back. New members come into our gym like meek little bunnies. Then they learn what they can potentially achieve, and they become full of hope and resolve. They suddenly realise that the power to change is all theirs, if they want to take it. I'm no fool, I know not everyone will stay the distance. But some of them will, and at this stage it's anyone's game. That's exciting (I think, I'm clearly a geek over my job). They become category 1 January Junkies like me.

Whichever camp you fall into, January is undeniably hard bloody work. It's long and cold and it requires willpower just to get to the end without crawling under your duvet to hibernate until Spring. But hard work is really the only thing that gets results. And regardless of what you're aiming for, regardless of what drives you, if it takes a bit of January to give you that extra kick up the bum, then that's what it takes.

Now get out there and DO IT!

Friday 13 January 2012

First Dance Friday: Gets Physical (Part Two)

Everything is good here on Penny's Planet Of Sound this week! I have actually made some music. I won't do an Andrew Stone and bore on about my microscopic achievements, but I will show you the lovely instrument I have dug out to write on....

It's a Casiotone 202, manufactured in 1981, and bugger me if everything on it doesn't sound like the soundtrack to a John Carpenter film. Mint! I've also been asked to sing on another electro-poppy project of a friend's, which will probably be ace because he's irritatingly talented. So at least one new year's resolution is going swimmingly - the making music one. Still no closer to reading Anna Karenina, however.

Anyway, enough drivel. Onwards with your workout soundtrack part two! If you missed the first part, you can find it here

7. Currently we're cruising in the middle of the workout and the endorphins are still (just about) hanging on in there. Ladles and jellyspoons, I give you the Damned:

How amazing is this song? It's just fucking great. It's got that feeling of relentless forward motion which works brilliantly for running. Punk rock with a good, driving bassline actually works well for most cardio-vascular exercise. It propels you onwards.

8. It's around about 2/3rds of the way through anything gruelling that you may find you start to hit a wall. At this point you'll need music with a powerful chorus to give you a little kick up the bum. As far a quiet/shouty/quiet/shouty stuff goes, this song is hard to beat (unsurprising, given the Pixies DNA of this band). Overplayed? Nah - it's a rock club classic:

9. I couldn't let this list go without sneaking in one of my favourite bands, and what I consider to be their most awesome song. You might think this sounds like a drunk man with a sore throat shouting over a load of noisy nonsense, but I still think it's one of the most exciting things my ears have ever heard:

10. When you're flagging it's useful to have a box of psychological tricks to draw upon to push you over the hump. Some people have mantras to gee themselves up, but music can work just as well, if not better. If a song makes you feel angry or excited, then you'll automatically release adrenalin, which can give you that much-needed boost. This song makes me feel defiant, whenever I hear it. I bloody love Joan Jett.

11. In the spirit of the rock club, I'm going to play something a bit fun and cheesy at the end. I'm currently trying to work on my running ready for the Harewood 10k in March, and a run playlist is not complete without this on. Honestly, run to it. Listen to the words. It's so obvious, but obvious and feelgood is what you need at this stage. It's THE BEST running song, possibly EVER. And please, please watch the video. There are moustaches, leotards, shiny gold trousers and some excellent lessons in layering from the main man Matthew Wilder himself:

That's it from me for this week. Have lovely weekends all! May your moustaches always be full and bushy.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Fancy That!

How rad is this?? Best dad ever makes icecream truck fancy dress costume for his handicapped son! Go Buster!

I bloody love fancy dress, me. We're a bit of a fancy dress family over here to be honest, hence the annual pilgrimage to the Secret Garden Party and endless themed house parties. I have no idea why I find it so appealing - is it the challenge of drawing on my imagination and craft resources to make something ingenious, the getting to be somebody completely different for the night, or just the opportunity to wear something thoroughly ridiculous that wouldn't otherwise be socially acceptable? Like a homemade orang-utan costume?


I promise you it looked better with the mask and the furry arms....

I've never understood people who don't "get" fancy dress. Is it laziness or the fear of ridicule? Isn't being ridiculed part of the fun of life? And you don't have to be stickler for the unspoken fancy dress rules (buying the whole thing online is a cheat, home-made and bizarre is the ultimate, strictly NOTHING allowed that actually tries to be sexy or retains any sense of self-respect).* You can just wear a silly hat or put a bedsheet over your head and pretend to be a ghost. Nobody will mind.

Generally speaking, of course, there is a theme to be adhered to: tarts and vicars, pirates and ninjas or (I missed this one and regretted it) come-as-your-favourite-old-person. But the best fancy dress of all is when you get total free reign. Those opportunities are rare, but finally we have one coming up next month - our friend Claire's 30th -  where the only limitation is our microscopic budget. Wheeee! What are we going to be? You'll have to wait and find out....

In the meantime I need ideas in case our first choice doesn't work out. What has been your most triumphant fancy dress costume? Seen any ideas I can steal? Think fancy dress is a pile of shit and a 31-year old should know better?

*the Fancy Dress Commandments may just exist in my own head, but I still reserve the right to drunkenly berate anybody who does not adhere to them. Especially if they're wearing a Kigu.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Spooky The Destroyer

It really is nature over nurture with cats, isn't it?

We have our little angel boy Granville, who just wants cuddles and lies around all day like an old hippy.

Hatha yoga cat

And then we have Spooky-kitten, who seems to be getting crazier by the day. Her best hobby is to climb up on any surface (coffee table, cabinets, dining table and more) and bat at everything until it falls onto the floor, whereupon she loses interest and wanders off. We can no longer have ornaments unless they are nailed down, and I'm permanently sweeping up. Cards on the mantlepiece this Christmas? Not a chance - every time we put any up she just marched up and down until they were all on the floor. She finds bits of STUFF everywhere - even when the house is immaculate, she'll dig out a bottle top or button from somewhere and prance around with it, or better yet, clatter around with it on the floor. And then abandon it on the stairs, and watch while we trip over it. Health and safety, Spooks!


And although she's a very happy, purring cat who seems to enjoy the company of humans (we feed her after all), she won't sit on laps, and any attempt to pick her up is met with fraught struggles and squeaking. We thought she'd get used to it, but after 4 months of living with us, she's just not into snuggles. She'd much rather be causing chaos.

Heading straight for the tights
Being allowed out of the house (a new development) is not calming her down either. Her frankly gung-ho attitude in the house vanishes once she's taken outside - she turns into a quivering wreck, hiding under a bit of wood in the yard until she plucks up the courage to scuttle back indoors. Left unattended it's as much as she can do to stand with her head out of the catflap and her body safely inside, scanning the yard for a few minutes before she decides it's all a terrible idea and that she'd much rather be inside knocking things off the coffee table again.

 Christmas tree while there was one decoration left up - not for long...

She's still only 7 months old, but will our little force of nature ever actually calm down? Poor Granville keeps looking at us like "I KNEW this was a stupid idea! Look what she's done!". Poor lad - she's always pushing him away from his food bowl to eat his biscuits.

Look how CUTE she is though.

I swear she knows she can get away with it.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Radio P-Face

Ladies and gents, fame is imminent! Tomorrow morning I am (ERK) going to be on BBC Radio Leeds Breakfast show talking about Aerockbics. This is extremely exciting. I am something of a blabbermouth (you may have noticed this) and I’m dying to get the word out about Aerockbics in the hope of potentially going back to two classes a week, and  then, ideally, taking over the world.

My last experience of radio was doing the Degenerations Records show on LSRFM (university radio station) with my friend Rayne. We must have spouted a load of drivel -most of it I was probably responsible for- and played a lot of punk rock. It was mint. I don’t think anyone listened to it. Apart from my then-boyfriend who would drop me off at the station with a load of CDs and then rush back to his halls to press his ear up against the stereo and listen to us through hissing static. Maybe. He said he did anyway. He might have been joking.
I’ve always thought of radio as a very professional medium. I think this is what happens when you work in television for seven years- telly programmes all start to look like a load of people messing around who don‘t really know what they‘re doing. But radio? Radio is PROPER. One day I was in the hairdressers and screamed and jumped out of my seat when I heard my friend Katie reading the local news bulletin (which is what she does for a living, so I don’t know why I was so surprised). "How did Katie get into the radio?" thought my tiny brain. "it’s like she’s in the room with us - BUT SHE ISN’T!"


 I also had quite a traumatic experience with radio when I landed a work experience placement interview at Radio 4 for  uber-clever-clogs investigative journalism report File On Four. I can’t remember who swung me this, but needless to say I totally blew it, in spite of diligently reading the newspapers for at least two days beforehand.  The interviewer was a highly intimidating individual who clearly had  no truck with media-related degrees, work experience placements and certainly not scruffy students who got their daily news fix from Fracture Fanzine. He tore me to bits and I cried all the way home.

Anyway, I am hoping tomorrow morning is a succes in that A. people listen to it and B. Nobody makes me cry. You can help me out with both of these aims by listening (if you’d like) on 92.4 FM, or if you don’t live in Leeds you can catch it on DAB, or online here . I'm going to be on air at 8:45am.

You can then avoid making me cry by not telling me how stupid I sound. Thanks!

Monday 9 January 2012

There's No Place Like...


How strange that we’re all growing up and drifting off to make our own little corners of the universe.

This weekend Sam and I finally went to visit my cousin in the small village near Milton Keynes she moved to a couple of years ago. Toria’s only a year younger than me, and got married a year before, so we’re very much proceeding through life at a similar pace. But -unlike me- her cute, tidy little home is miles away from the nearest big city, surrounded by parks and woodland. The small town high street is lined with cosy pubs and shops where the staff smile at you and say good afternoon.

 We fell in love with it all a bit, to be honest, probably helped along by Toria and Adam’s immense hospitality. It will be quite different when we return the favour and they come to stay with us, in our house full of amps, guitars (currently a PA system and half a drum kit too), two mental cats, Sam’s expansive collection of geeky toys and the 28739400282 books that I can’t bear to part with. We have a high street, but ours is run down and not even Sam is brave enough to go into any of the pubs on it. However we’re also 10 minutes out of a big city, full of amazing nightlife, cool shops and bars, and 12 years worth of friends.

Would we ever move away? Go a little bit further up the road to somewhere greener, where our car insurance renewal quotes don’t make us want to spontaneously vomit every year? Will we ever get to the point where we actually want to take our fingers off the pulse and go into hermitude away from everyone and everything? Move to somewhere crazy like, say, Ilkley?? 

I spent the first ten years of my life on the outskirts of Nottingham city centre, and my Dad has always lived walking distance from the market square. When I moved out of home (save for a miserable year in halls near Adel) I’ve always been throwing distance from the centre of Leeds. I like that. I like that if the weather’s nice, I can take a long walk in along the canal and just mooch, with no real purpose, stick my nose up against the shops windows and look at all the people coming and going. When I think about moving away from the city, I get a tight, panicky feeling in my chest. That fear-of-missing-out-on-something feeling. What on earth do I think I’ll miss?

The baby boomer‘s golden era is over now - if you want to own a home near a city with a good standard of living these days, you need to be earning some serious money. You can certainly live here on a modest income, but then you need to make compromises on the area you live in. Compromises on personal safety, on choice of schools for your children, on having a sense of local community. Compromises on the amenities you have on your doorstep, on home insurance premiums, on having a garden or a garage. As I get older I think these are compromises I’m less prepared to make.

I do love my house though, filled with its clutter and music and tat. Its deceptive little seaside-cottage exterior, and the tardis-like inside that goes back forever. The big south facing windows, the feeling of space and light.  I wish I was a tortoise so I could strap it to my back and waddle off up the road with it to somewhere green and pleasant.

Do you love where you live?

Friday 6 January 2012

First Dance Friday: Gets Physical (Part One)

How did I cope before First Dance Friday? How did I manage before I created this small corner of the world where I can BORE ON about music? It's so horribly self-indulgent, I almost feel guilty writing it. Especially as my good intentions of helping engaged couples find their first dance song have evaporated like a dawn mist, blown across the fields by my infinite capacity to talk about MYSELF and MY OPINIONS. Oh, go on, you love it.

On the bright side, my ability to prattle on at infinite length about tuneage is starting to see me pop up elsewhere on the web (where people are yet to be bored of me). This week you can find my latest round-up of new album releases over at the super-stylish Florence Finds  and also live music highlights for the coming weeks at My Life In Leeds, both of which are compulsory reading if you care the MEREST IOTA about what's top of the pops. I feel almost in demand. Very, nearly, almost.

Anyway, my motivation for this week's post is YOUR motivation (always thinking of others, that's me). You can't have missed the fact that it's January -step outside and wonder at the wheelie bins whizzing past your head- and as it's a new year the world is once again full of good fitness intentions. Now, personally I CANNOT abide exercising without something loud and excellent in my ears. So I'm bringing you...(fanfare)....

Bad Penny's Baddest Rock Workout.

I'm doing this in two parts - two! - so if you put it all together you should have enough noisy ear-candy to get you through a suitably gruelling workout. Come on now, no slacking!

1. We're warming up to start, so we want something that's going to get you through those first few minutes when you're still wondering whether you wouldn't be happier on the sofa with a bag of jelly babies watching Nature's Greatest Events. You're going to need something driving, mean and moody. Ladies and gents, you're going to need Mr Billy Idol.

2. Getting over the "10 minute hump" is the first hurdle of cardio-vascular exercise. So the next song is fast, furious and will make you want to move. Standing still is not possible with the Detroit Cobras - every song they've done makes me wish I could jive. If you've never heard this band, listen, and then go forth and discover their back catalogue - Mink, Rat Or Rabbit and Life, Love & Leaving are both A-MAZING records.

3. If you don't like shouty bands, you aren't going to like this next one, I'm afraid. It's probably my favourite workout track of all time. BOOM!

4. Now we're really motoring, so it's time for the best song the Donnas will probably ever do (what a pinnacle though) and here speaks a girl who has followed their career closely and still has their first split 7" with the Toilet Boys - where are they now, eh? If this doesn't get the endorphins going, nothing will.

5. OK so now we're really rolling. If you're running and you've made it this far, chances are you'll be off your bonce on happy feel-good. It's time to rummage through the attic and pull out a blinder. I can't listen to this without thinking of Jack Black's character in School Of Rock now. But never mind.

6. I'm going to hold you at the halfway point with some real air-punching AOR rock. If you love the Loggins, you'll love this beauty. It will make you feel like you're actually in a montage, in a film, in the 80s, training for some sort of important physical challenge. Stay strong my friend, you shall overcome!

That's it for this week, class! Let me know what songs get your adrenalin pumping and don't forget to come back next week for part 2....

Thursday 5 January 2012

Feeling Mardy

I'm in a bad mood. And do you know what's annoying me?


They are everywhere at the moment. Has everybody eaten too much Chocolate Orange over Christmas and they're all now in some sort of terminal sugar slump? What is WRONG with people? Are you all half asleep? HELLO?

-Dozy buggers in front of me at the traffic lights: WAKE UP

-Dozy buggers leaving their trolley in the middle of the aisle at peak time: SELFISH

-Dozy buggers driving at 29mph in a 40 zone because they can see a speed camera but apparently not the speed limit sign: CAN YOU ONLY SEE IT IF IT'S YELLOW, FOOLS?

-Dozy buggers too stupid to use Google: ALWAYS GOOGLE BEFORE YOU ASK. Yes, pedants, I mean everything, "are you sure that's the correct spelling?" "does anyone on Twitter know *insert easily google-able thing here*?" "is anyone sitting in that seat?" JUST F**KING** GOOGLE IT! God gave us technology for a reason, and that reason is that you don't waste everyone else's time.

 -And last of all (grrrrrraaaargggh) dozy buggers dawdling everywhere, just EVERYWHERE, half asleep and USELESS. Go back home and sit on your sofa where you belong and leave the world clear for people who have THINGS TO GET DONE BEFORE 2013***

And the weather can piss right off too.

*Dozy Bugger is a trademarked insult, all rights belong to my stepdad who is from the North East and knows a Dozy Bugger when he sees one, especially if they're driving slowly in front of him or generally "fannying about".

**Sorry for swearing Mum.

***This does not count when I can't find my shoes/keys/an appropriate outfit so everybody has to wait for me before we can leave the house.

Wednesday 4 January 2012


Really, it's quite simple. It's an aerobics class set to rock music.

12 months ago I devised and launched Aerockbics in Leeds, in a bid to bring together my two loves in life: fitness and awesome music.

Why is it that most aerobics classes have such excruciating soundtracks? I have worked in the industry for a few years now, and the only answer I can find is this: I'm the only instructor who loves rock music. It's the only rational explanation. As such, I felt it was my duty to bring exercise to other music lovers. Aerockbics was born.

Great music obviously includes spandex, so there's Def Leppard and Motley Crue as well as the Pixies and the Ramones. We do a mixture of choreographed tracks and toning floorwork, but even when you're working hard, your ears will be happy. There's a reason people want to bang their heads and mosh to this music without it ever getting boring or chore-like - IT IS EXCITING. It is aggressive. You will punch SO much harder to Slayer than you would if you were listening to "Club House Lite" (which is the mp3 CD that goes on every day at the gym I work at - *screams and bangs head against wall*).

Aerockbics has won many fans in the last 12 months we've been windmilling and floorpunching, but I'm aiming for 2012 being our best year yet.

 Wakefield roller derby practice taken over by Aerockbics last year

So, if you know anyone in Leeds who might be up for air-guitaring their way to fitness, please, please, send them our way....:

Wrangthorne Hall, Wednesdays 7pm. 
Still ONLY £3.50 in 
(I defy you to find a cheaper exercise class in Leeds!)

First class back tonight - ROCK!

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Kindle In The Wind

Look at it, it's a beautiful thing!

I didn't "believe" in Kindles at first. I was enormously suspicious of them. I imagined a nation reading literature on something rather like a large Gameboy, all cross-eyed and twitching from staring at flickering screens for hours on end. I envisioned scenes from Russell T Davies' terrifying 1991 children's TV series Dark Season, with tall men in shades coming to take over our brains with their mysterious computers. SYMBIOSIS, I thought, I must remember that the password is SYMBIOSIS.

But ladies and gentlemen, it's OKAY! The screen is totally non-computery, it looks like somebody has just stuck some words on a piece of plastic. I know that you already know this, but I didn't. The first time I saw a Kindle was on the subway in New York, and I stared and stared over the man's shoulder until he became uncomfortable and moved away. IT DOESN'T HURT YOUR EYES! And you can turn the page with one hand, which means you can eat and read at the same time, and also read in the bath (DANGER) much more easily.

Sam's Mum very kindl(e)y bought me one of the new ones for a Christmas/Birthday combo, and I have bravely downloaded TWO books so far - Room by Emma Donoghue (which is just ACE) and Catwatching by Desmond Morris just because I could. Did you know that cats bring their owners birds and mice because they think we're useless hunters and they're trying to help us learn?  You do now.

Since becoming Kindoctrinated, I am now looking at my shelf full of unread books with dread, as I realise I ought to plough through them before I can really justify downloading any more. Hence I am back onto an unwieldy Jo Nesbo paperback, large and heavy enough to kill a small rodent, and lacking a bar across the bottom of the screen telling me how much % I have read of it (this is possibly the most triumphant Kindlism of all). First world problems indeed.

In the meantime I may dream. So. Tips for good cheap/free books please!

Monday 2 January 2012


I resolve to: run a road race, write music, go on holiday at least once, get a new job, write (even) more, see friends, learn where all the countries in Europe are on a map, swim more, watch a classic film every month and finally read Anna Karenina.

Hope you've all had lovely celebrations, wherever you are....