Wednesday 29 February 2012

Magical Disappearing Day

Historically, I always think of the 29th of February as being a bit of a bonus, magical day. A day at the top of the Faraway Tree, where tea and cake is free, and we all wear spangly jumpsuits and ride unicorns through a forest made of rainbows. IT'S A DAY THAT IS NOT NORMALLY HERE. And then it is, and we are in it. I can't get my head around it.

On that note, I'd like to think if I was going to propose today, it would look a little bit like this:

 via The Guardian

Seriously though, I dare you to watch it all the way to the end without squirming.

Of course today is magical for another reason too - my friend Ellie was born on the 29th of February approximately twelvety-two years ago. Magic baby. HAPPY BIRTHDAY EL xxxx You get an extra special one this year!

Also, if you missed the Pen Do write-up on Any Other Wedding yesterday, check it here. Anna is just too lovely for words, I couldn't have described you all better. The wickedly funny Laura has also very accurately described the fear, joy and Blind-Date-ness of it all here, and the brilliant Bex is doing a two-parter (of course!) which starts today. Read all about it indeed - this makes me wish all my friends blogged. If you missed this one, you HAVE to come next time.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Get Cape, Wear Cape, FLY!

That would be a purely figurative form of flight. A flight of style. Gwynnie has taken off from the dull, drippy, macrobiotic tarmac and blasted into the fashionista stratosphere.

I am hereby withdrawing my previous stance on Goopy Gwyneth (have you seen her lifestyle brand? Simper, simper, vomit) This is no frothy pink confection like the one she wore to the Oscars, that other time when she boo-hooed about winning, like a blubbing Sindy doll (albeit one styled by Ralph Lauren). This is a strong style statement, like the tough-girl leathery stuff she was prancing round in a few years ago. Every now and again El Paltrow just knocks it out of the park. And she's on it again, back in the game. She's cool. Whatever next?

Maybe she doesn't even like Coldplay. CAN YOU IMAGINE?

Anyway, I need a cape. Stat. What should I get?

Monday 27 February 2012

What Does A Pen Do?

This is what it does:

Hair bows, unicorn ears, leopard-print blazers, pipe-cleaner spectacles, Illamasqua worship, apple scrumping, cherry bakewell cake, every shade of green, hair bows again because I still can't believe Gemma managed to build a BOW out of Amy's HAIR, talking talking talking, coffee coffee coffee, Sweet Child Of Mine, intimate pink, animal offices and simply eight brilliant, talented, hilarious women who I didn't want to leave.

Let's do it again.

How are you all fixed for tomorrow?


Friday 24 February 2012

First Dance Friday: Strikes A Pose

My best friend and her betrothed love house music, and that's all there is to it.

In case you hadn't noticed, there are no slow songs in house. There is no techno Everlong. It's all above 118 bpm (mostly way above), and it doesn't let up. So what do you do for your first dance?

Baby, you vogue.

Vogue is not just a Madonna song. In fact, forget that shit RIGHT NOW. Voguing is a form of dance that came out of Harlem and the drag-tastic LGBT ballroom scene. Balls are a sort of fantasy contest, organised by close-knit 'families' known as Houses (eg. The House Of Ebony, The House Of LeBeija, The House Of Extravaganza) where members get to parade as part of a runway competition.  Voguing is a form of display that sets each pose to a strong house beat in a kind of face-off between competitors who wish to out-style each other. Most of the moves come from glamming up (putting on gloves, applying makeup etc) but cut it sharp, make it into dance, and the effect is devastating.

That famous Madonna video really is just the commercial tip of a very fabulous iceberg. If you're still in any doubt, check out the award-winning documentary Paris Is Burning, the film that brought this art to the mainstream in 1990.

There are still voguing competitions now, although the "new way" seems to owe a bigger debt to street-dance and (I think) is not as jaw-dropping as the starkly precise and symmetrical "old way". Whatever, I think this would be a VERY impressive first dance, gay or straight. Whether we can persuade Catie's fiance of this is a different matter....

Anyway, onwards and upwards to a very fabulous weekend. The House Of Penny is open to all applicants who wish to out-vogue the competition, so strike a pose, girls...

Thursday 23 February 2012

The Who's Who Of Pen Do


Before I start to come over like a total weirdo about all this, I'd like to point out that I am actually quite nervous, as is Laura - also a Northern blogger who hasn't really met anybody yet and requested this post so she can work out where she knows everybody from. BUT everyone else has met everyone else. At least once. So we are assuming the likelihood of them all being psychopaths is fairly small (based on the assumption that if one of them was a psychopath, the others would have tactically walked away by now, and also that it's not the 90s anymore and meeting people off the internet is, you know, okay).

This weekend we have (drum roll)....

Anna K and Aisling from Any Other Wedding. It's kind of their fault that this is happening at all, in many ways. Their brilliant blog is almost bigger than God by now, and fosters a lovely community of very smart women (and is also barely about weddings anymore - rebrand upcoming). I also lay sole responsibility of the "Pen Do" tag at Anna's feet. I don't normally go around naming occasions after myself, really. Honourable mention to the third in their holy trinity Clare who is currently living in Kuala Lumpur with her beautiful 2 month old daughter Emmi. Very much with us in spirit, and a great reason to do it all again next time she's back in the UK.

Rebecca from Florence Finds. That's the immaculate website I spout my music drivel on once a month. I met Rebecca last weekend, and she's even more stylish than I imagined - I'm not quite sure how that's possible, but she is.

Gemma who is the editor and behind the scenes whizzkid for Florence Finds and also sole proprietor of The Prettiest Hobo (which she hardly ever updates, more's the pity, as she is an excellent writer). There are many reasons why Gemma rocks, some of which include wanting to open a cafe/record shop called Shoegazers, having an indie crush on Ryan Adams and generally being as much of a music geek as me (always gets brownie points).

Lucy of Lucy Stendall Photography. A ridiculously talented lady who has made the beautifully poetic transition from divorce lawyer to wedding photographer. Please go and look at her website -she's quite amazing. I have briefly met Lucy before, and I can now confirm Anna's theory that Lucy lives her life with a perpetual Sunday afternoon flare (wouldn't that be nice?)

Kirsty of A Safe Mooring. Kirsty is a blogging inspiration, basically. She is a super-styling, hilariously funny Scot who writes about everything from fake ponytails to knitting with cat hair, all astoundingly well. I could read her all day long.

Amy of Field and Fallow. Our resident mad hatter, Amy's big ambition is to be chief milliner to Lady Gaga. She is hilarious and brilliant, and -people- she can weld. I think it's Amy I'm going to have to fight for the karaoke mic on Saturday - she already has a list of must-sings.

Rach aka Rachbakes. Rach's reputation as a creator of mouth-watering cakes precedes her. I might have to kidnap her and put her in my kitchen to bake for us this weekend, as I'm not sure they will have a suitable oven in their hotel room. Rach is not only a brilliant baker, she also has a penchant for dressing up as a Rubik's Cube. And we all know how much kudos I give people who make an effort with fancy dress.

Bex of Olive Dragonfly. Lovely chatty Bex! I think Bex might blog even more than I do, which is quite an achievement. She's also extremely good at crafting awesome stuff, so I may have to bring Sam out to take notes.

and last but definitely not least

Laura of A Parliament Of Owls. Fellow Leeds resident and bookworm, I cannot believe it has taken us this long to meet.... (that isn't meant to sound ominous, but it sort of does, so sorry about that).

Even if I'm not seeing you this weekend, hopefully you'll find some awesome reading material in the links. Only 36 hours to go....

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Running Scared

OK. Scared might be a little bit strong.

Running worried?

This has come in the post. Look at it! It looks all proper and racey. It's what people who run have. People who love competing with their fellow man in a sporting capacity.

I love fitness and I love exercise and I LOVE LOVE LOVE to run.

The only reason I have never entered a race before is because I hate competition.

No, you don't understand.


You should see me playing Monopoly. If you could, which you can't, because you will NEVER see me playing Monopoly. Because I can't stand any sort of competition which turns people into a nasty bastard. And let's face it- that's anything that involves deciding a winner and a loser.

I don't like measuring myself against other people, full stop. You're better than me? I feel rubbish and cross with myself. I'm better than you? I feel a bit embarrassed, and quite positive there must be some sort of mistake. Can we recheck those scores please? Oh I'm so sorry. I promise not to try as hard next time.

Now I have to run with a large group of people, who are all interested in where they finish. I am not interested in where I finish, just that I finish with my dignity intact.

So no, I am not telling you my time. It will be my little secret. And when you ask me how long it took me to complete the Harewood 10k on the 18th March 2012 I will say I ran it in twelvety seconds, which was (coincidentally!) exactly the same as everybody else.

Problem solved.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Out With The Old...

.... in with the new.

I feel like I'm in a right transitional phase at the moment. There are so many new things happening that even when bits of my life feel grumbly and horrid there's always something lovely and new around the corner.

First off, a brand new human.

Two of our best friends now have a daughter. She is amazing. Although, if you want to hear a horror story about growing a monster truck in your tummy, just ask Suz. Her monster truck made her throw up every day for nine months.


Next off, a new job. Not for me (booooo) but for Sam, which is lucky, as he's being made redundant at the end of the month. Sam has worked from home for as long as I've known him, so for him to be in a real office with other people, doing real work, is going to be nuts. The cats and I are going to throw a party the minute he's out of the door.

New job also means.... new shoes! Because my husband understands that the best way to celebrate your own achievements is to buy your wife a present:

Finally there have been new grown-up people. I think you get to a certain age where you settle somewhere and sort of just stop meeting new faces, which I always think is a shame. I'm determined not to fall into this trap. At the weekend in Manchester I finally met the super-stylish Rebecca of Florence Finds, and at the Back To Basics exhibition viewing on Friday night I met the lovely Wendy who runs the Leeds Playlist. If you need some background music while you work, hop on over and see what it's all about -if you live in Leeds you can even contribute your own mix.  Already plotting my next one.

10 more new people to come in 4 short days....eeeee....

Monday 20 February 2012

Popping Out Babies

I spent all day Friday and Saturday learning about how to do Pilates on ladies who are growing a baby. Then I learned about how to put them back together again, after they have popped the baby out.


If they told you this shit at school, the human race would be EXTINCT.

Most shocking of all, for me, is how much lecturing pregnant ladies get about harming their baby, when in most cases the baby is just dandy (and if it isn't, it's rarely the mother's fault). The vessel containing the child, on the other hand, is getting stretched and bent  in all sorts of manners that made my eyes water SIMPLY HEARING ABOUT THEM. When women who have given birth get that LOOK in their eyes when you talk about a labour or complications following labour, or a difficult pregnancy.... you don't want to know what that look is about. I mean, I knew it before, but now I actually understand the anatomy of it, now I appreciate pelvic stability and core strength and the need for good posture... ARGH. It's like, "here's your lovely body that you've spent years looking after! Now let's build a monster truck inside it, then drive it through your womb and out of your fandango! TOOT TOOT!"

If you are reading this, and you are a lady who has grown a baby, and popped that baby out. WELL. I don't know what to say. Keep your Ussein Bolts. You're my athletic hero.

And as for those of you -like a few girls on the course- who currently building your own monster truck inside your tummy - pretend you didn't read this. Close your eyes. Continue the human race.

And I will be here (at a very reasonable rate) to put you back together again.

Friday 17 February 2012

First Dance Friday: Like Someone In Love

This summer I am finally getting to see Bjork.

I wouldn't call myself a die-hard fan, and yet I'm disproportionately excited. I realised today I don't actually own any of her solo records, and yet I can't believe it's taken me this long to see her live. I think she's great.


 Bjork is basically an inspiration. A woman in music who doesn't give a fig about anything apart from expressing herself creatively? That's a rare and brilliant thing these days, but it was even more rare and briliant 20 years ago. I'd like to think that she's at least paved the way for us to wear a swan to an awards ceremony, if we choose to.

Or make a batshit brilliant record that's about nothing but art in its purest form.

Yeah, maybe that.

 I remember hearing Debut for the first time in my big step-sister's flat, thinking I would never be sophisticated or adult enough to have my own place with hanging crystals and tie-dye throws (no sniggering at the back). I remember listening to Play Dead for the first time and being taken aback that something so dark and emotionally raw could pop out at me from a Now! That's What I Call Music compilation. I remember screaming along to It's Oh So Quiet in the corridors at school. I remember sitting up until the sunrise with a music obsessed friend and geeking out over Volta.

Bjork has taken me from my childish cluelessness into somebody who is in love with music in all its forms. For people of my generation, she has simply always been there, like a tiny Icelandic pixie-shepherd, guiding us through life in hi-fi.

As far as first dances go, there's a load of Youtube videos of people doing choreographed dances to It's Oh So Quiet. You can google that, if you like. But I'm not sure it's in the spirit of today's post.

So I give you this.

Beautiful. I am purchasing Debut as we speak.

Now tell me - who is your musical inspiration?

Thursday 16 February 2012

The Goldfish & The Television

I'm sure having the attention span of a gnat has some sort of positive repercussions, but I don't know what they are.

These are just a few of the TV series I have written off because I got bored of them:

The Wire
To be fair, I watched the whole of the first season, which is positively tenacious for me. I was still like "EH?" I can't understand a word they're saying, and there doesn't appear to be a plot. Even though I know there MUST be, seeing as everyone else in the world thinks it's the best TV drama ever made. Can you hear that whistle? That's the air moving as The Wire sails 1,839 miles over my head.

It has all the hallmarks of being something I would love - bad-ass maverick lead character, crime, violence, intrigue etc. Was expecting the next The Shield (which is uh-mazing). Brain failed to engage, and I dumped it after the third episode. Sam is still avidly watching it, and says it's great.

The Walking Dead
This was great for the first series. Sadly it waned for exactly the same reason as the comics - because the characters are wooden and indistinguishable from each other. You might as well have a set of clothes pegs sitting around feeling sad about the end of the world. There aren't even that many zombie killings to make it fun anymore. Boo.

True Blood
You're WRONG. I concede that the first two series were brilliant, but then it went all daft and Games Workshop. Even sexy Eric couldn't save it for me. Next!

Breaking Bad
NOW. This one has forced me to question my impatience. We watched Breaking Bad before I'd heard anything about it, and I (again) got bored after three episodes and canned it. Sam watched the rest and loved it, and I've since had endless recommendations, with Briony finally persuading me to give it another chance. I picked it up again at episode 4, and it's been relentlessly brilliant ever since. The premise is admittedly great: terminally ill chemistry teacher uses his skills to pay the medical bills, cooks up some meth, and so begins a horrifying downward spiral into tragedy of Shakespearian proportions. There are some great performances, gut-wrenching storylines and some deft comedic touches - it was just a slow burn to start. I'm still only at the start of series three too, so there's plenty more to come.

I can't believe I nearly walked away from this one. It's made me wonder -what else have I been missing? I also didn't last the full series of Boardwalk Empire, Rubicon confused me, and PLEASE don't get me started on Lost....

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Outdoors Exercises

Oh, outdoors exercise. We haven't been civil with each other since you ruined my self-esteem sometime during a PE lesson in 1993. I think it was netball.

You can't say I haven't tried. There have been those months where I've actually strapped on my backpack and run for miles, but it always ends in disaster. Do you remember that time I didn't fasten the top on my bottle correctly, and  you leaked an entire litre of water down my arse, just outside Kirkstall Morrisons? That wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for you, outdoors exercise. You're out to get me.

All this talk of peace and communing with nature. All those lunatics that say you don't even need an iPod when you're outside, because it's so liberating. It's not liberating when you live on top of a massive hill in Armley. It's actually quite limiting. Unless you enjoy the feeling of not being able to breathe as you sprint up an infinite vertical incline.

Outdoors exercise, I don't see why we should be friends. You're so useless at telling me how far I've gone, and how long it's taken me. You don't offer me a handy shelf to put my glasses on when my nose gets slippy and they want to fall off. You're cold and wet and windy and icy. You have cars and push-chairs and scary men walking along the canal with cans of cider. Most of all, you're not making the most of my expensive gym membership.

But it is four weeks until the VERY outdoors 10k. So we are going to have to be friends, just for a little while. 

Don't bite me, okay?

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Monday 13 February 2012

Pen Do: The Countdown Is On

Less than a fortnight to go! I have gone from maximal excitement to now hovering over 70% giddy and 30% pant-soiling as the date moves nerve-shreddingly close.


Having booked dinner and caterwauling singing, the next big question is quite obviously what to wear, and in typical girly style, the burning desire to know what everyone else is wearing before I can possibly make any sort of informed decision. I'm not sure what primal drive I have that makes me demand an inventory of every item other females plan to wear to social occasions before I can contemplate leaving the house. What do I think is going to happen? Do I think I might mistakenly turn up to a wedding dressed as a gorilla?

Or Garth Elgar?

That would never happen

So many of you have manned up and met with people from blogs and twitter IRL (sound the cringey acronym klaxon) but hardly any of you have met me yet. Ha ha! I'm sure you won't run away screaming when you see I've actually got two heads and a penchant for knitting items from cat hair.

Butterflies be gone!

The countdown is on....

Friday 10 February 2012

First Dance Friday: Likes U Crazy

I wish I'd kept a record of every gig I've ever been to. I always find myself forgetting which bands I've actually seen live, mis-remembering the venue or who I was there with. I don't think it's old age either, it's just Penny Brain not being able to contain the best part of two decades of incessant band-watching.

Some gigs, however, are truly lodged in my consciousness. Being alone in the crowd for Mogwai at Reading '98, watching Tim Harrington climb the sweaty walls when Les Savy Fav played the Packhorse on a scorching night in 2000, then falling in love with heavy metal whilst working the bar during Slayer's gig at Rock City the very same summer. More recently I've marvelled at the showmanship of Chromeo at the Manchester Academy and bounced around with sheer joy to Phoenix at the Secret Garden Party. Some gigs stay memorable because of the fame the bands go on to achieve, some because I loved the band so much and bellowed out every word of every song, some performances changed the way I thought about music, sometimes the gig was a soundtrack to a significant moment in my life.

Other gigs I remember because I just do.

Tatako rocking out at the Castle Hotel

One of those gigs was Mates Of State, a indie pop husband and wife duo who I saw in the top room of the Cardigan Arms in 2003. The room was packed, and the band got most of us to sit down on the floor so everyone could actually see. It was a real hippy vibe with everyone cross-legged and singing along, the songs were so happy and Kori was pregnant at the time, which seemed to add to the fluffiness of the whole experience. I can honestly say I've never experienced anything like it before or since. Which is a shame, as it was very nice to park my bum and not have to stare at the back of a tall man's head for two hours.

What could be better for a first dance than a song written by a husband and wife? The tone and sentiment of this song is spot on:

However I much prefer this one, from their first album. It might not be first dance material, but it's my favourite. Listen to it, go on, it will make you go silly and happy inside:

Mates Of State are still going strong, and released their seventh studio album "Mountaintops" last year. They've now got two daughters, and Kori writes about her exploits as a rock star mom on her blog "Band On The Diaper Run". Gives me hope that you can have a family and still be in a rocking band. One day, one day.

On that note I must say a big welcome to the first Sausage baby (henceforth known as Chipolatas), Francesca Marie Wolfe, who entered the world on Wednesday afternoon. We could do with a percussionist, so we're hoping she's a fast learner.

What are your most memorable gigs?

Thursday 9 February 2012

Things That Go Bump In The Night

That silly Potter boy is going to be in the new film adaptation of Susan Hill's wonderful novella The Woman In Black soon. It's going to be crap (the 1989 BBC TV adaptation is amazing if you can get it instead) but I have very much enjoyed all the ghost story stuff that's been in the press lately as a result of it coming out.
image from the original BBC version....eeek


Not just scary films actually - also books, plays and especially that super-weird brand of British TV drama that was kicking around in the 70s and 80s. This is not about gore or horror, I'm talking about the stuff that turns your stomach purely by being weird and unsettling. The sequences that slink around your subconscious, taunting you and making you scared to turn out the light. Movie guru and my personal hero Mark Kermode blogged about this sort of thing this week, and I have had great fun reading the comments and remembering some old favourites.

Here are my big hitters:

Whistle & I'll Come To You

This old M. R James story was adapted the Christmas before last by the Beeb, and tried way too hard to copy the over-the-top aesthetic of Japanese horror films from the '00s. A shame, because the original 1968 version starring Michael Hordern is absolutely nightmarish in its subtlety.  I am completely fascinated as to why we get so terrified of certain things, and when I was reading up about it (yes, I am a nerd, what of it) I learned that setting out the normal and mundane in the first half of a ghost story is critical, so that when it is up-ended, it feels all the more weird and unnatural. This is a great example of the theory in practice.

David Lynch

Lynch has this ability to jangle on your nerve endings with the most bizarre sequences. More or less every film he makes gives me the willies in one way or another. The worst/best one for me was during his three hour opus Inland Empire - there were several moments where Laura Dern was moving and looking very unnatural indeed, and at one point (I will own up to this) I was so terrified I actually started crying. In the cinema. Because I was really, really scared.

The Water Babies

I guess it will always be the stuff that stays with us from childhood that chills us the most - one person in the Kermode comments recalled the opening scene to Octopussy with the clown running through the woods, which I remember scared me half to death as a kid too. The biggest one for me was the Water Babies though - and funnily enough, it's a woman in black again. She sat on the riverbank and was glimpsed every time the boy changes into a water baby (I think, although I was too scared to watch it more than twice - the second time being enforced at a friend's house and I hid every time she came on screen). I found out recently that the creepy woman was played by Billie Whitelaw, who is obviously also utterly, horribly terrifying in the Omen.

Other honourable mentions go to both Ring films and the Blair Witch Project (both seen early enough during cinema release to ensure the substantial hype didn't wither my heebie-jeebies), Don't Look Now, The Wicker Man (scary masks! naked Britt Ekland shaking her bum!) and Rosemary's Baby.

What are your creepiest films? Has Laura Dern ever made you cry in public with her funny face?

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Jump In The Pool

I had a right old time with my new waterproof mp3 player in the pool  yesterday. Not only did it take three and a half months to arrive (thanks a bunch, Groupon), but it's pretty much useless. It seems you need to swim with your ears permanently submerged in order to hear any bass. 

This lead to a very strange scene in the gym pool, with me coughing,spluttering and trying not to snort water up my nose as I attempted to keep my ears filled with water in order to hear the full sonic spectrum offered by Bitch Magnet. All of this and (as usual) I had forgotten to put my contact lenses in, so was blind, deaf and flailing. It's a miracle I didn't drown/get removed and returned to the funny farm.

Looking on the bright side, I have very much enjoyed making my swimming playlist. It seems that songs about swimming are mostly very dreamy and woozy - not what I would listen to during a workout normally, so it made a pleasant change. There are some lovely, reflective moments from Sleater-Kinney and the Smashing Pumpkins, as well as dreamy twinkles from Eels and 'Allo Darlin' who are a new (to me) band who are miles away from being my normal "thing", but a change is as good as a rest I suppose. Couldn't help sticking Nirvana on the end there though, just in case I fell asleep and drifted into the next lane. And the Jaws theme music is obviously intended to make me go a bit faster.

I'm viewing it all as musical cross-training. Would be nice if I could actually listen to it anywhere but on dry land though, as I fear my flashy mp3 player is nowt but a very expensive memory stick. 

You can listen to my playlist at the top of this entry - just click play on the friendly swimming polar bear. On another music tip, it's time for my Florence Finds round-up - that 2 Bears album is massive. And hairy.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

All Mouth, No Trousers

It's February, so I'm damn well going to do an update on that silly list of resolutions I made at the start of the year. I have this habit of saying I'm going to do ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY things, and then doing none of them, so this year I resolve to hold myself accountable and check in regularly. I don't want to be all talk and no trousers.

Here are my trousers so far....

 image source - less trousers, more WOWZERS

Run a road race. I'm being whingey about this one. I've lost nearly a month of training time to shin-splints, and then gastroenteritis. Then I realised that the course I've chosen is the hilliest bastard imaginable. Plus, it's full of trees, so there are roots to leap over, and probably lurking orcs to slay. How am I supposed to get a non-shameful time in amongst all that? I am pulling my socks up as we speak and getting two 10ks and a 5k in per week, although I am still running on the sappy treadmill because it's too cold to go outside.

Write music. This is actually happening. Slowly but definitely, I nearly have enough decent songs for an EP. I've also been doing some vocals for the awesome Protectors, which has been very good fun so far. Penny & The Sausages are on baby hiatus so it's good to have something to keep my musical muscles occupied.

Go on holiday at least once. Tickets booked for Porto Primavera. I am extremely excited about getting to see Bjork at last, and the Afghan BLOODY Whigs, not to mention going to Portugal which is a whole new country I have never visited before! I will not be going anywhere unless I renew my passport though. I wonder if I concentrate hard, it might happen magically? Maybe if I look pathetic enough, someone will do it for me. I HATE PAPERWORK.

Get a new job, write (even) more. These two are connected as I am starting to do more copy work in the hope that eventually everything I do will be lovely and freelance. And I won't have to put up with my horrible boss any more. I LOVE WRITING (but not on passport renewal forms, see above).

See friends. Trying! We only managed half our house guests this weekend because of the snow, but the thought was there.

Learn where all the countries in Europe are on a map. No.

Swim more. Shin splints have forced this resolution upon me. I have a waterproof mp3 player now and everything. I plan to fill it with water-themed songs. I need your suggestions in the comments, please.

Watch a classic film every month. Some of my friends (and friends of friends) have started hosting film nights at each others houses, so this should be easy peasy now. We watched Wings Of Desire last month, and this month we're watching Some Like It Hot, which is one of my all-time favourites. Film Club is also going to be a great way to meet a lot of new people's cats, which I am very excited about.

....and finally read Anna Karenina. NO. Come on, it's only January

How are your new year's resolutions going so far?

Monday 6 February 2012

Creatives Anonymous

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about creativity. Where the need comes from, and what we do about it. What happens when it is repressed, and what is possible when it is encouraged.


I used to have a very creative job within the television industry. This was in a bygone era when you only needed to give your left arm to work in the media, so all it took was a bit of tenacity and a willingness to forfeit dental flossing for the rest of your life. Ah, halcyon days.

After I got made redundant, I had to learn to cope in a profession that was a bit more, well, normal. Most other people I know manage it, I thought, and they're creative too. I can do this without popping.

Well, after three years, maybe I'm popping.

Just a little bit.

Are there other people out there like me, managing a bit less every day? Where does that creative energy go, that fizzes away inside you every waking hour, and you can only expel it in tiny bursts - an hour here, a minute there, when you're away from work and have a second to yourself, if you are lucky enough to even have that?

This article is a great read, and completely inspiring. It views the creative process as like a muscle that needs to be repeatedly used in order to become powerful. It makes me feel better about myself, the fact that I constantly need to play music, write a silly and enormously self-indulgent blog, make pointless things, write mediocre songs... all of this endlessly and with a relentless fervour (truly - my only real strength is in how prolific I am). I will openly admit that I am a bit embarrassed about the fact that I spend my time doing all these things, at the age of 31. It feels like a refusal to grow up. But as I get older, I realise that I have a compulsion to do this stuff, and if I don't then I quickly become very low and unhappy.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this - I suppose I'm interested in what other people think, as so many of you are creative, artsy types. Do you have an outlet? Is your outlet enough for you? Do you find ways to be creative in your day job, and is that enough?

Topic to be continued.....

All images by Salvador Dali

Friday 3 February 2012

First Dance Friday: Foo Fighters

What IS it about Dave Grohl? Women want him, men want to be him.

Look at that affable, beardy face, don't you want to kiss it? You hear him in interviews and you want to steal him and take him to the pub and just BRO OUT with him and hear all those super cool stories about his rock 'n roll life. "Mine's a packet of salt 'n vinegar, Dave!" you shout as he goes to the bar. "No problemo, buddy!" Dave Grohl replies.

Dave Grohl, he's just like you and me. But better.

Ahhhh, who are you KIDDING? This man is basically a musical polymath who plays every instrument ever invented (citation needed) and is a terrifying perfectionist who is famous for demanding exacting standards from band members. In fact, he normally fires them and does it all himself. You're going to be taken in by a smile? This man is a MACHINE. He is one of the greatest drummers of our time, and I am suspicious of anybody who can drum really well, because it requires a disgusting amount of self-discipline which must come at the expense of something. That something is probably SOCIAL SKILLS or LIKING KITTENS. 

Do not trust Dave Grohl. He is too good to trust. Dave Grohl does not want to be your friend, Dave Grohl does not want to go down the pub with you and shoot the shit. If Dave Grohl DID go to the pub with you, it would only be so he could pummel you at darts and make you take his pint back to the bar because the head wasn't right, over and over again, until you cried into the packet of salt 'n vinegar crisps that you had to buy for yourself in the end, even though he made you beg for them. And then he would fire you from your OWN LIFE for not being perfect enough.

Do not trust Dave Grohl.

Do have this as your first dance though. It's fucking great:

Thursday 2 February 2012

The Reading Corner

Just to say: I am reading this and I think it might be the best book I have ever read. I have cried endlessly and I'm still 150 pages from the end, so there is still time to cry some more. It's bloody brilliant.

The only rubbish thing about reading a book that I'm really enjoying, is that I start over-analysing my own pleasure. I agonise over how long I'm taking to read it. Am I going to fast, should I slow down and savour it? But if I leave it for too long, what if I break the flow, and it's not as good when I come back? I worry about how much I'll miss the characters when they're not there anymore. I torment myself about the fact that this is the only time I'll ever read this book for the first time. Utterly ridiculous and a bit sad, really. I should go out more and speak to real human beings, start worrying about something that actually matters.

Anyway, if you haven't read this book, and you like books, then you should read it. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and everything. I think Michael Chabon has possibly my favourite ever prose style - it's bursting with imagery, without ever really being heavy or wordy. It's quite astounding, I have no idea how he does it. He's quite the magician.

In other news, I am feeling better (woo!) but my job interview-thing yesterday wasn't quite as bountiful as I'd hoped (boo). Head down, and keep on. Surely my persistence has to pay off eventually.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Feather Love

Hey, super-hip bridal boutique BHLDN! Who's riffing on my wedding mojo?

OK, I know it's probably a coincidence/me riding in on the crest of a zeitgeist, but there was NO wedding attire like this in existence when I got married, baby. How similar is it to my Whistles dress?? Crazy.

Thanks to Kirsty for the heads up!