Friday 30 March 2012

First Dance Friday: Tatako!

"Shiawase nara te wo tatako! Shiawase nara te wo tatako!"

That's "if you're happy and you know it, clap your hands" in Japanese. About eight years ago the wacky individual who played bass in my band stood in the middle of our practice room and sang that, and clapped his hands. And then we named our band after it. Tatako - clap your hands.

Five years ago TO THE DAY I started going out with that silly, silly man. And now we are married.

It's a shame that after you get married, your "anniversary" shifts back to year zero, and you lose that old, significant date. March the 30th isn't our anniversary anymore, it's June the 4th. We'll probably forget March 30th soon enough. So it seemed fitting to mark it this year, and to do it on a First Dance Friday with the band that brought us together.

Here are some happy memories, and a very cheesy, uplifting pop-punk song for a sunny day:

Thursday 29 March 2012

The Internet Is Full Of Cats

Cats! Everywhere! Doing stupid things!

On Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, on Youtube, even on otherwise reputable news sites (possibly the only thing the Guardian and the Daily Mail have in common). In fact, if you open your fridge right now there is probably an internet cat bore sitting in there desperate to share with you their OMG SOOOO CUTE video of a kitten yawning and falling into a teapot.

What is it about cats and internet users? What IS it? Fair enough, there are also a few pugs, sloths and baby panda GIFs kicking about, but  you can't deny that cats are the bread and butter of online existence. Cats falling asleep, cats on treadmills, cats who say no, cats vs. printers, cats in space, the list goes on.

NB. The cat really says "NO!". I can't watch this without feeling mildly hysterical.

Why is the internet full of cats?

The thing is this. If you have enough patience you can teach a dog to do pretty much anything. Watching a dog doing something wacky is only really as funny as watching a blatantly staged You've Been Framed Clip of somebody running into the side of one of those inflatable swimming pools and spilling all of the water and occupants into their back yard.

But a cat? A cat is a proud beast, who thinks of itself as quite superior to a human. A cat only does what it wants to do. A cat looking ridiculous? IS FUNNY. It's a bit like the school bully forgetting his PE kit and having to wear something frilly out of lost property. We chuckle to ourselves - haha, we say, not so smug now, eh Felix? Whilst deep down we suspect that in a parallel universe it is we who are popping in and out of a toilet roll, and all the cats are laughing at us.

When we see cats looking preposterous, it makes us feel better about ourselves. It's the only explanation.

Now. Next question, class.

If we took the cats out of the internet, would there be an internet left?

Oh, get back to work. All of you!

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Get On Yer Biker!

For the longest time I have wanted a proper biker jacket. It's one of those items that you can't really get cheap, so I'd consigned it to the "when we get some decent income" pile, along with replacing the burple carpet in the dining room and getting our wedding pictures put into proper albums.

However, as time marches on, the idea of prosperous employment evaporates like a distant dream I might have once had at university, for five seconds, before the country fell to bits . And every time I go out, I look at myself in the mirror and scowl because I know that my outfit could be improved 200% with THAT JACKET. The jacket that everybody thinks I own already, and the only explanation for this is that I must have imagined myself in it so many times that I walk around projecting a psychic image of myself wearing it.


The answer can only be a serious rethink of my clothing budget. I spend about £50 every couple of months on clothes at the moment, which tends to go on one item. This is generally something boring that I actually need. If I forfeited that for about six months, I could afford my jacket. Maybe I could get the stuff I need from somewhere else - charity shops, or a clothes swap like the one I went to this weekend. Maybe even making things myself. Is this crazy? I have wanted this jacket for more than six months - more like a couple of years actually - so I'm pretty sure going round in a few holey jumpers until September will be fine. Sam does it all the time.

Anyway, boring realities aside, I would then need to find the perfect biker. And it would REALLY need to be perfect. The ASOS jacket above is less expensive than most, and I like the quilting, but it doesn't have the zippers that make the biker jacket iconic.
This Bench jacket, on the other hand, has the right detailing but without the classic assymetrical zip, so is it more bomber than biker?

This Barney's Vintage number, on the other hand, is getting towards the traditional, and looks worn in enough to be comfortable. It's been featured in quite a few fashion magazines though, which always makes me worry it's too stereotypical and will be yesterday's news in 12 months.

Finally, of course, there is Topshop. We can always rely on good old Toppers to get the trends in, and do them in the way you've pictured them in your head. But is it really value for money? I'm never sure. Safe bet? Bit boring?

Of course there are many more bikers lurking out there on the high street, which is giving me cold feet at spending so far out of my usual shopping range, on an item that may not have much longevity. Should I appease the vegan husband, save the cows and opt for another cheap pleather monstrosity until this trend sinks at last?

Tips please!

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Remade In Leeds: Swapaholics!

I often think the nicest thing about doing Aerockbics is the fantastic people I get to meet. I really think you need to be certifiably lovely to come to my class- I'm always amazed by how friendly and positive everyone is. Not only that, but they seem to be very clued-up, and I'm constantly finding out about other amazing events and small businesses in Leeds from them.

This weekend I experienced my best find yet in the Remade Clothes Swap. Lizzie from Remade and her motley crew of ladies are Aerockbics regulars, and I'd been meaning to toddle along to the shop for ages, so this was the perfect opportunity.  I scooped up a couple of willing accomplices and off we went, with arms laden full of nice clothes that didn't fit/weren't quite right/ we were bored of:

The swap runs every month on a Saturday from 1pm-4pm at Remade in Hyde Park. It's £2 in, and you get a card with a membership number to log your donations and the number of items you take away. This way if you leave with less than you brought, you can always take more items at the next event.
Inside the shop was full with items already sorted into rails and piles, with baskets of scarves, belts and a table of shoes. Items were constantly being put out, so it was worth loitering and being on the ball ready to grab stuff as it appeared. We took our first load, then went to the Brudenell for a pint in the beer garden before trekking back for a second attack, which seemed to work well as there was lots of new stuff the second time. Both Katie and I took nine items each and came away with five or six things each in total. Sam fared less well as the menswear rail was much smaller, but he still came away with a t-shirt and only reluctantly abandoned a pink Hungry Hippos top because it was a girl's XS. He also got vegan chocolate cake, which he was quite delighted by.

The jeans I got were actually completely free and not even swapped - due to an avalanche of trews, the girls had put a pile of them out the front for people to take whatever they wanted. I also got a stripy Jaeger tank top, a couple of sports tops (not pictured as boring and for work!) some flat ankle boots that are an absolute perfect fit, and a gold and black boob tube that's too small for me (turns out it was 12 YEARS, not a size 12) but would probably fit Catie - either that or I can take it back next month.

The swap was great fun - if you're a rummager with an afternoon to spare, you'll love it. The studio itself is so cute inside -although I didn't take any pictures as was overcome with the pure STUFF flying in and out. Remade also run regular sewing and upcycling workshops there where you can learn to salvage your clothes and give them a new lease of life.

The next clothes swap is on April, find out more at Reform's Facebook page. Reform is also home to the Antiform fashion line, which is sold at the studio, and also at Mad Elizabeth Vintage on the top level of the Corn Exchange (one of my favourite Leeds shops!).

If anyone's interested, I'm also organising a one-off sewing project group in the next few months at Remade, where we can take in individual projects and Lizzie will help us be excellent. This is for every level from the savvy (Sam) to the useless (me) and can cover everything from altering clothes to getting to grips with your sewing machine. Let me know if you want in and I'll let you know the date when we get it sorted!

Monday 26 March 2012

My Humps

My humps my humps my humps

My lovely HOLIDAY lumps

- check it out!

No dear reader, I am not speaking of my lady-jellies. I'm talking about HUMPS OF TIME. Happy little summits where we emerge from the grey, drab clouds of work and have a jolly laugh, for just a bit, before descending back into the shite.


Not necessarily holidays requiring suncream and passports. Just time off work. Or weekends with extra-fun stuff in them. THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO. I need these little bits of fun dotted about through the year, otherwise my brain will actually break. Last week I had the joy of some very long working days (one was 15 hours long! that shouldn't happen!) and a six day week, with only one day off yesterday before getting back to the grindstone. OH NO HANG ON, it wasn't even a whole day was it? It was 23 hours. Thanks a bunch, British Summertime.

BUT IT'S OK.You can stop that Pity Party right there, turn it around, send it home to watch Countryfile and get itself an early night.

Because after Friday I am having a WHOLE 3 days off for my weekend, and that almost makes it worthwhile. Maybe even three and a half days if I don't have any work incoming. EEK! Not only that, but three of my favourite friends are coming to stay and play out at some bizarre sounding new club in Leeds where there's a DJ booth made out of a car.

I never thought I would be the sort of person who lives completely for the weekends. In my 20s (when I probably should have been knobbing about in a temp job) I had a career I loved and was almost happier at work than I was at home. Oh well, maybe I'm making up for lost time. Maybe I'm one of the people now - I can turn around and say "FUCK THE MAN!" and really mean it. I should get some good art out of it at least - a protest song. That's it, maybe I'll write a protest song.

Or maybe not.

Other fun things coming up over the next few months - Penny & The Sausages playing in 1930s themed fancy-dress upstairs at the Adelphi, more running of muddy races, wedding dress shopping as Maid Of Honour, and Primavera -like a shining beacon of glory- in June.

Oh yeah, and OUR FIRST WEDDING ANNIVERSARY. So nice of the Queen to give us a day off for it.

What are your upcoming humps?

Friday 23 March 2012

First Dance Friday: You're So Gangsta

Chromeo. Two men- one has a vocoder, the other one thinks he's Prince. What's not to love?

We used this song as our recessional:

But this is the one that's "our song". The lyrics say it all:

You're so g-g-g-g-g-gangsta
You're so g-g-g-g-g-gangsta
You're so gangsta


You're so g-g-g-g-gangsta
You're so g-g-g-g-gangsta
You're so gangsta


Bear with me.

There are many ingredients to a great relationship - trust, love, patience, the ability to pick up your partner's discarded snot-rags off the sofa without wanting to murder them. However, I really believe the key to a successful marriage is a mutual appreciation of awesomeness, and that is what this song is all about. I'm cool, you're cool, we're cool. Obviously Sam and I aren't cool to anybody apart from ourselves, and this is the best bit of all. Because every now and again  (when we realise we've spent the last three weeks relentlessly practising the Troy and Abed rap from Community* as if this is normal husband/wife leisure time behaviour) it hits me that we're still on our own little planet, away from the rest of the world. Being silly. Being awesome.

I hope Sam and I are still singing "you're so gangsta" to each other when we're 75.

Super-duper special First Dance Friday next week..... stay tuned....

*I'm Troy, he's Abed. OBVIOUSLY.

Thursday 22 March 2012

The Kids Are Alright

This week I had my first guest post up on the arts blog Culture Vulture. In it, I talk mostly about the truly ace micro-scene that exists in Wakefield at the moment, in which there are loads of cracking bands feeding off a great label (Philophobia Music), fanzine (Rhubarb Bomb) and venue (the Hop). One of my personal favourites in the current scene are a band called The Spills, who are brilliant and sound pretty much exactly like Pavement. This is OK though, because these CHILDREN were not even a twinkle in their father's eyes when Slanted & Enchanted came out.

Are you feeling old yet? I am. Let me spell it out for you. Lo-fi indie rock is RETRO to the bands of today.

Don't believe me?

Slade released their album Nobody's Fools in 1976
Oasis released their cover of Cum On Feel The Noize in 1996

Time difference? 20 years.

Pavement released Slanted & Enchanted in 1992
The Spills are out there being a homage to Pavement RIGHT NOW in 2012.

Time difference? 20 years.

The way we thought about glam rock during Brit-pop is how these young 'uns (rumour has it they have a combined age of 10) think about lo-fi indie rock. And the Pixies to them? Are like the Beatles were to us. HOLY SHIT! What next? Vintage Urusei Yatsura t-shirts selling for ££££ on eBay? Sebadoh tribute bands?

It's just another thing this week that has also made me feel old (see also: sunglasses that look like pineapples)

Woah, have also just realised that Pavement isn't even a word to Americans. Not sure how that happened then.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Fringe Benefits

HURRAH! Four weeks and two days after my last haircut, the fringe I asked for has finally grown into something approximating the correct length.

For the past month  (when my hair has been let loose from the Clip Of Shame) I have looked like this:

Let my story be a cautionary tale. If you spontaneously decide you want a fringe whilst "in the chair", do make sure your hairdresser is listening. Check also that she hasn't been out clubbing 24 hours straight before she picks up the shears. Finally, check she actually looks at the picture you're pointing to. Straight on. No cross-eyes.

 I was pointing to this:

Vicky B's snazzy new look. Before you make a joke - no I don't want to prance around in a swimming costume or attain the body of a13 year old. I JUST WANTED HER FRINGE. Was it too much to ask?

Dear reader, it probably was.
Anyway, now that it has grown a bit, I am contemplating letting it all hang out at last. I am very nearly almost pleased with it.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Hooray For Harewood

I did it!

I did my first ever race this Sunday at Harewood House. It was MINT.

The sun was shining but it was still lovely and cold, which are ideal running conditions when your internal thermostat is constantly set to boil (I am an "easy perspirer").

I'm not going to lie, I was nervous. My shin-splints have been nagging me for months, which put the stoppers on my training programme and I nearly didn't run at all, worried that even if I got round the course I would be too injured to teach classes the following week. In the end, I just said BOLLOCKS TO IT.

I ran with my friend Karen (a recently converted race junkie), and panicked when two minutes before the starter's gun she suggested we run together. What if I puked trying to keep up with her? What I slowed her down and ruined her time? She assured me it was a slow, hilly and very muddy course, and nobody runs Harewood trying to get a personal best, so we should just enjoy it and encourage each other. I'm really glad we did, it took the pressure off completely.

The headband is not a "look", it is a necessity.... 

The first 2km were the worst, mostly because I was worried that everyone was passing us (we were late to the starting line due to a last-minute wee situation and ended up squished in quite far up the pack with the superfitties) and because I was being deafened by the sound of everybody heavy breathing - why does nobody tell you about that? However! To my joy, on the first hill I was skipping past people and had to slow down a bit to let Karen catch up. Seems the misery of training up Armley Ridge Road has finally started paying dividends- hurrah!

After that, we sailed. The mud was a bit Bambi-on-ice at times and there was a hideous hill at 7.5km that went on going up, up, up until just after the 8km marker, but Karen made sure I paced myself and didn't get carried away and burn out - and she said I made her push a little bit more than she would have done on her own. So it worked beautifully. We sprint-finished and were both pretty chuffed with our time in the end.

Running Like Phoebe from Friends all the way, naturally
So having been a moaning minnie at how useless I am, it turned out I had nothing to worry about. Makes me wonder what else I could achieve if I just said bollocks to it and got over my fear of failing.

Am now signing up for the following: Meanwood Trail 12k next month, Manchester 10k in May (funds permitting) and the Leeds Run For All 10k in July.

Officially bitten by the bug - and now dying to see what my time would be on a flat road course.

However.... those shin splints....

Monday 19 March 2012

A Local Playlist, For Local People

I feel the time has come to draw your attention to an excellent online project. The Leeds Playlist is an open invitation to all Loiners (for this is what we are) to bring forth their finest mixtapes and share them with the internet, in a bid to broaden musical horizons and bring us all together under a billowing flag of musical serendipity.

The rules are simple: pick ten songs, either on the monthly theme or a freestyle theme of your choice. Put them in a playlist using Spotify, Soundcloud, Youtube, 8tracks, or blah blah blah. Add a track-listing, a brief explanation and accompanying picture, then send to Leeds Playlist HQ, where LP mastermind Wendy Denman sits stroking a white cat as she plots to take over the world, one playlist at a time. More than likely it will then appear on the blog for everyone to hear, and you will henceforth be proper made up.

I have been following the blog since it started earlier this year, and the range of tastes and styles is really impressive. Perfect for if you're stuck in a music rut, or just in the mood for something a bit different. Or perhaps you're having that panic all Radio 2 listeners have at midday when you SIMPLY MUST find something else to listen to IMMEDIATELY before Jeremy Vine comes on.

You may be also interested to know that my playlist is now up there too. Have a listen, and maybe get out your leotard and have a dance. Yes?

Friday 16 March 2012

First Dance Friday: A Confession

Are you ready?

I don't get the Beatles.

I just don't get them.

Sweep away for a second the White Album and a few songs on Revolver, and you might say I actually dislike them. They're so boring. Yellow Submarine? Please. It's nursery rhyme music, and I don't understand it. And it's SO ANNOYING because there are so many Beatles songs that are appropriate for a wedding: Here, There & Everywhere, In My Life, 221e82djhq0e8128rh9823&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Sorry, I dozed off for a minute there.

I fully acknowledge the debt that modern music owes to them (would Take That have existed without them? No!) And I appreciate the consistency of their output over the years. But I ...ahhhhh.... no, I just can't do it. If we really have to do 60s twee, I'll take the Carpenters any day.

Have you ever noticed how the covers of Beatles songs are often better than the orginals? That's because they're all well made, but a bit passionless. Like a Volvo. Give them to a great artist however, and the music becomes magical. If, like me, you enjoy the sentiment of their songs but find the originals a bit bland, there are some tasty tributes out there you could use on your wedding day. Here are just a few.

 This may make you cry, and makes the original sound pointless in comparison:

 And this will fill your heart joy. Completely:

But if we're going on a non-wedding tip, I think this is still my favourite:

 What are your favourite Beatles covers?

Thursday 15 March 2012

Not A One-Trick Pony....

....but a field full of ponies, galloping through the television and into your hearts.

image:Jim Marks/BBC/PA via The Guardian

Hurrah the Apprentice is back next Wednesday night!

Love it or loathe it, the annual parade of jumped up arseholes is always compelling telly and this year's crop of suited gonks is no exception. Previews have already thrown up excellent soundbites like "I am the reflection of perfection" and "by day I'm a business superstar and by night I'm a professional wrestler". Oh yes. You would be forgiven for thinking that the show is teetering on the edge of caricature, but really? The Apprentice has always been a mockery of itself, and people like this do exist, so suck it up and enjoy.

I adore the Apprentice, and Sam hates it. I can never work out why this is. He is a lover of crap TV, and embraces Celebrity Big Brother et al, but for some reason the average business wanker just makes him wrathful and liable to throw items at the telly. I, on  the other hand, am fascinated by the arrogance of others. Look at them all! So young, and so full of shit! It makes me feel better about being an underachiever. So what if my sole achievement in life is to NOT be a ruthless harridan liable to skewer you through the shoulderblades the moment you turn your back. That's not bad. That could be worse.

Will you be tuning in? Will you be dribbling with the anticipation of finding a Stuart Baggs v.2.0?

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Lame Claims To Fame

I wasted yesterday afternoon on this site. It is brilliant. Oh come on, how many of you have sat politely listening as for the 282930th time your friend drunkenly wheels out the story about when they met some bloke off Hollyoaks? And when I say "met", I mean "saw from a distance".

Or maybe you are that friend. For the record, I am that friend.

Here are some of my personal tedious claims to fame. Hope you are sitting comfortably....

- When I was 6 I sent some of my drawings to Marcel Marceau, the late, great mime artist. He sent me a personal message back saying how much he liked them.

-My step-dad taught the Jam P.E. Apparently Bruce Foxton was good at football and Paul Weller was a pain in the arse - some things never change.

-My Uncle Nick used to play tennis with Virginia Wade. I think she tended to beat him.

-I wrote quips for Donal McIntyre on the morally dubious Big Sting programme.

-Brian Blessed was doing some voiceover work for a company I was interning for, and I had to phone him up once. He did a big, boomy laugh right at the end of the conversation - it was amazing. Sadly I did not have the courage to ask him if he would say "Gordon's Alive!"

-I had a cup of tea at my next-door neighbour's kitchen table with hardcore legend Ian McKaye

-Peanut from the Kaiser Chiefs helped me make honey and lemon for my sore throat before a gig once. It was my gig and he was working behind the bar. How times change..*

-I went to a party at Geoffrey Hughes' house (Onslo from Keeping Up Appearances/ Eddie Yeats from Corrie/ Twiggy from the Royle Family) and he tried to spread a rumour about me being in a French S&M band. No I don't know what that is either. To this day, one of the nicest famous people I have ever met.

Overcome with my lameness, I even submitted my most exciting claim to fame ever. If you were alternative in the 90s you'll like it.... (especially the ladies)... if it gets posted I'll let you know.

What are your lamest claims to fame?

*You'll find 90% of Leeds dwellers have a Kaisers story - I have at least ten even more boring ones.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

The Stop-Gap That Stuck

This is not a glib and happy post.

I'm sorry. I'll put some a cat at the end or something.

Two years ago I first qualified as a level 3 PT. I was sure I was going to be able to work as a completely freelance fitness instructor eventually, but when I was offered a part-time job in a small gym, it seemed like a sensible stop-gap.

I expected to be there 6 months tops. The hourly pay is terrible. I get no financial support from them for my fitness qualifications, and get paid barely anything for the classes I teach. We've had our hours trimmed back and our pay cheque hacked to the point where it's barely worth my petrol money to come in anymore.

And yet, I am still working there.

The management are a joke. I've had sick days taken out of my holiday allowance without being asked. I've had my personality raked over the coals at a staff review, in front of other members of staff. The day before Christmas Eve I had my pay cheque temporarily withheld because I missed a staff meeting. Last year I was expected to teach a trademarked class that I do not have a qualification in and  have no experience of teaching, purely to get more members into the gym. Needless to say, this is pretty dangerous and both myself and the gym could be in a lot of trouble if we got caught (I ended up contacting the fitness body in question for advice, and consequently refused to teach the class - I wasn't popular). I know there are other instructors who teach very advanced forms of rehabilitation exercise without a relevant qualification, with no thought to the long-term consequences.  I've watched as my boss does devious and unethical things to keep members in contract. When I've spoken up about it, I've had my concerns dismissed.

Frustrated is not the word. I've spent the last two years getting on with it but it has got to the point where I feel sick every morning I have to go in, and most weeks I have at least one shift where I go home in tears. I feel beaten by it. I'm not sure I have anything left to give.

My freelance work is tootling along, but not bringing in a lot of money, and the market is still pretty dismal. I'm building up my portfolio of content work and have been doing bits and bobs of freelance copywriting, but it's not enough to make up the shortfall yet either. I'm hoping it will be eventually, but I have no idea how long that will take. Another six months? A year? I'm not sure.

I'm not sure either why I've written about this today. I feel angry that I've let it get this bad, angry that I've let it affect my life, frustrated that I could still be here in another year's time.  I feel ashamed, too, that I've chased a dream and failed. That there are so many people who have been made redundant, taken a career change, and made it work. But I'm not one of them.

I just needed to say it, I think. I feel better now.

Thankyou for listening.

Here is a kitten in a teacup:

Monday 12 March 2012


Yesterday was an unusually lazy day. It would almost have been quite lovely if I hadn't felt so bloody awful due to self-inflicted tequila nonsense on Saturday night. In a puddle of self-pity I idled all daylight hours lolling on our new corner sofa and playing the latest app fad, Draw Something. It's basically social Pictionary, and is completely addictive. I am terrible at drawing everything apart from animals. I'm lucky that my friends don't seem to mind.

Whilst lolling and doodling badly, I also (multitasker) managed to watch the Sabrina The Teenage Witch film, Take Me Out AND Take Me Out: The Gossip, 3 episodes of New Girl, 2 episodes of Breaking Bad and Steel Magnolias (in which I blubbed quite melodramtically all the way through the last half hour). I am unused to such indolence. I am certain my eyes are squarer than they were last week. My arse is definitely more numb.

I am hoping to be capable of intelligent thought again soon. My body might actually start to move around again too, although the prospect of leaving the comfort of my squishy sofa nest (embellished with blankets, duvets and a packet of chocolate Hobnobs) is giving me cold sweats.

Off to draw a walrus on a touchscreen. See you tomorrow.

Friday 9 March 2012

First Dance Friday: Throwing Muses

 Kristen Hersh and Tanya Donnelly were a natural extension of the Sylvia Plath/Carol-Ann Duffy fest that was my teenage life. Not only did these women make incredible music as Throwing Muses, they also wrote lyrics with stark, weird imagery that grabbed you by the hair and dragged you right inside their crazy world. I still can't decide if Throwing Muses are pop music, or the antithesis of it. My favourite albums are the post-Donnelly Limbo (smooth college rock) and the Fat Skier/House Tornado CD (tits-out bonkers), so maybe the answer is both. And why not?

This song though, is simply beautiful. One of those songs where you can't believe that somebody actually sat down and wrote it. More likely it has always existed somewhere, sealed in amber, waiting to be discovered.

After their initial split, both Hersh and Donnelly (step-sisters) went on to have moderately successful solo careers. I still think a lot of that output is patchy, bar Tanya Donnelly's Love Songs For Underdogs which is one of my all-time favourite albums, and one of the few old CDs that I still listen to on a regular basis. Pure and simple loved-up pop bliss, smart lyrics and seriously catchy tunes. Lots of potential first dances on that one.

Happy Friday one and all, may your weekends be merry and bright. Having had one of those gut-punchers of a week I'm really looking forward to seeing some of my favourite people over the next couple of days. And relax....

Thursday 8 March 2012

I'm Not A Riot Girl, I'm Just A Riot

I recently re-read a fanzine article I wrote ten whole bloody years ago *leans on zimmer frame/wheezes for breath* where I was all indignant and righteous about some poor lass who'd put up a poster for a womens' support workshop on how to start a band.

I KNOW, right?

Still. I thought a decade on I might be able to look back on that article and chuckle at my fiery, youthful ways. Maybe reflect on what I have learned since about tolerance to my fellow ladies and their wet blanketness. Possibly I might even admit how nice it would be to gather at such a workshop and pontificate on which way up to hold a bass guitar.

But no, that girl is still a stupid cow, and I would still rather stick plectrums (plectra?) under my eyelids and wrench my own eyeballs from their sockets like tiddlywinks than do such a thing. Just thinking about that poster still makes me want to spit bile.

My only real regret is that I aimed my cut & paste vitriol at a specific group of women within the music scene, when really I should have been gunning for Stupid People in general. There are so many of them about, and there always will be. Sigh. Lesson learned.

Anyway, what I DID realise, reading all this back, was how utterly redundant the debate was now, because there are SO many women in music at the moment. There really are. In the last ten years, we've popped up like awesome lady mushrooms. We've gone from being tokenistic to simply being, well, normal. And we don't just sing, and we don't just play bass. We hit drums and we mix, and we play wailing lead guitar, and we create synthesiser soundscapes to blow your tiny mind into the next galaxy. No fanfare to announce our arrival, we simply arrived. Clearly, it just took a few of us to get up off our arses and point out that we'd been doing it all along.


(nb. the first person to suggest that maybe everybody went to that FUCKING workshop gets a fat bunch of fives)

Happy International Women's Day!


Wednesday 7 March 2012

Get The Net!

I love this film. Is it weird that I've seen it approximately 50 times, and only seen the (equally brilliant) sequel twice? What does that mean?

Here is another sequence I can quote word for word, and I would like it if we paid particular attention to Wayne's parting shot "get the net!", because that is what I'm encouraging you all to do today. I keep writing things everywhere online, higgeldy piggeldy, and I know my mum is reading this, and she would like to know where they are. If you can bear any more of my prattling, you might be interested too.

First off we have a round up of gigs in March and April for My Life In Leeds. Any notable omissions will be due to having to hold back on Brudenell gigs because there are TOO MANY GOOD ONES and, quite frankly, they're showing up every other venue in the city. For shame.

Next we have the usual round-up of music releases for Florence Finds. In a nutshell, I get a bit bored by Emeli Sande and then bang on about some other records possibly three other people will be interested in, thereby destroying any interest FF readers may have had in my column. That Sharon Van Etten album really is good though, I'm telling you. Just try it. I promise to be a bit more accessible next month.

There is also now online evidence of the interview I did with house music legend Dave Beer over at No Title magazine , in which I try to translate the 1990s dance music scene into something applicable to all musicians who want to start some kind of crazy revolution. Proof positive that DIY is not just a punk vision.

And this last one isn't by me, which means you should definitely go and read it. Hilarious article about Aerockbics by the lovely @nicochapo over on the Culture Vulture. All that talk about PE lessons makes me break out in a cold sweat too.

I think I might watch Wayne's World 2 this weekend....

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Psychic Dinners

Sam started his new job yesterday -well done Sam!

For the first time in five years, he is working in an office, and not from our spare room. This means his normal getting-up time of 9:15am (which is just enough time to crawl across the landing in his pants and only be 15 minutes and 20 seconds late) has now been replaced with a rather more grown-up 7:30am.

Gone are the days where we can shop for our food on the day, every day. Sometimes twice a day, because we always forget things. Forward planning is now required.

So, on Sunday, for the first time in our relationship, we did an entire week's worth of food shopping in one trip. It caused unprecedented stress. I had to make lists of lists. What did we think we might want to eat on Thursday? How did we know that it was definitely what we were going to want to eat? What if the vegetables went floppy? What does a vegan put in his packed lunch anyway? How are you supposed to get a heavy item out of the bottom of one of those large shopping trolleys without hurting yourself? They are, frankly, a health hazard. Elderly people shouldn't be allowed to use them. NOBODY should be allowed to use them without first having a 12 week core training programme.

We got to the supermarket and I realised I had left both the lists on the coffee table.

I started to panic.

I worried we would buy extra things off-list (we did). I worried that we wouldn't use everything and some of the fresh food might get thrown away. I worried that we might get home and realise we didn't have enough to feed ourselves until Thursday. I worried that we might lose Grown-Up Points for running out of bread and having to go to Tesco Metro for an over-priced Finest Farmhouse loaf.

We ran out of bags for life and had to use one normal carrier! ENVIRONMENTAL ARGH

Then it looked like an awful lot of food on the conveyor belt, so I worried a bit about that too.

I generally worried about everything.

However, when we got home I realised I'd remembered each and every one of the 26 items on our list. And then I was too busy being pleased with my anxious but highly functional brain to worry anymore.

Today is Tuesday, day of Stew. I'm not sure if I fancy it yet, but happy Stewsday anyway.

What are you having for tea tonight?

Monday 5 March 2012

That's What Little Girls Are Made Of

On Saturday night, over tea and a bottle of very nice wine, my friend and I got to talking about our long-standing female friends.

Women are complicated, I think we know that much. But I always assumed that as we got older, we would mellow out. That the gut-wrenching, screaming rows we had with our BFFs when we were teenagers would simmer down and make way for a new, mature style of relationship with no jealousy over who was hanging out with who, no guilt over letting somebody down or leaving them out.

For some reason though, our oldest friends still have a way of tapping into those old Just 17 feelings, and the smallest misunderstandings still make us feel like the world is ending. It's almost as if the point at which somebody came into your life is the age which you seem to revert to when you argue with them.

Is that too neat an explanation?

More likely the longer we've known somebody the more we care.... or the longer we've known somebody, the more they know how to push our buttons. Possibly the hurt actually says more about our own insecurities than it does the other person's behaviour.

Whether we actually sit down and solve these arguments depends on how badly we need to. At our age so many of our good friends are in different parts of the country, or in another country altogether. Some are married and have families. Some have incredible, all-consuming careers, some are completely changing the way they live their lives. Any of these things can take you away from people you used to be close to, so why bother to work on fixing things?

My best friend and I have known each other for over twenty years, and we used to have horrible fallings out when we were younger - real claws-out screaming matches that left us both red-eyed and shaking with tears.  They're few and far between now, but in times of crisis they rise up again, like forces of nature. About two years ago, after a particularly horrible row, we finally we decided we just needed to sit down and work out what we were both doing to piss the other one off, because we were pretty sure it was the same pattern every time, and it was getting frustrating.

It was gut-wrenching to do it. The hardest part was the realisation that all the things you fear about your character flaws are generally true, and holding your hands up and admitting to them is almost painful. The best part was not being judged for any of it by the other person. That requires total trust.

I'm aware  that it sounds a bit hippy dippy self-help book, and it definitely wouldn't work for everyone, but since then every miscommunication has been quietly defused before any of the old habits have kicked in.

Whether we'll keep this up over the next 8 months of planning her wedding remains to be seen...

Do you still fall out with friends? Does it bother you?

Friday 2 March 2012

First Dance Friday: First Aid Kit

Why would you marry somebody obsessed with new music? You wouldn't - ask Sam, it's a royal pain in the arse. Just imagine having an excitable wife bouncing around about the fact that Terry's Mystic Bunnies are touring, and how you simply MUST leave the house and pay ridiculous ticket surcharges and exorbitant bar prices to stand arse-to-crotch with a load of people younger and cooler than either of you, ON A WEEKDAY, when you'd much rather be at home in your comfy clothes listening to the Doobie Brothers.

On Tuesday night I went to see First Aid Kit. Their second album The Lion's Roar is truly great, and I tried to get Sam to listen to it, in the vain hope that he might come with me. "Listen to this band!" I said. "They're called First Aid Kit and they're sort of folky... but in a really good way!" I could see the cogs turning... shit name, folk music, no mention of speed-metal, J-Pop or fancy dress. Sam-brain powered down instantly. Before I even got to the " a really good way!" bit.

So I put on a brave face and trekked out to the Wardrobe alone.

Oh my God, it was amazing.

The sisters (who are about 8 and 9 years old respectively - at least it looked that way from where I was standing) sing with these unbelievably powerful harmonies that make your blood turn to ice.

I phoned my best friend.

"I'm watching this band, and their voices are so unbelievable that I think I might actually cry. In the middle of a crowd. On my own."

"I say cry," she said. "It will make you look mysterious. You'll be standing on your own, with mascara running down your face. People will think 'she looks interesting. What's her story?'"

Then First Aid Kit unplugged their instruments and played this song Ghost Town without microphones or anything, and got everyone to sing along. And it was so incredible that I couldn't breathe. And my eyes welled up, just as the man in front of me turned around to put his pint down and stared at me, in that rabbit-in-the-headlights way that men do when they sense that the woman standing behind them is a ticking bomb of emotion. I could see him panicking as he searched around for somebody who might be responsible for me. But of course there wasn't anyone.

In the end I felt so sorry for the frightened man that I snapped my tears back into my eyes, stopped being a baby and just enjoyed the rest of the set.

It was excellent.

How good would this song be for a first dance?? Flipping ACE.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Spring Is Sprung!

It's March, and that means it's not technically the Winter anymore.

See how happy the lambs are!

That's because they're being born. And then possibly eaten, but we'll skip over that.

Look, it's March! The bears are waving to you.

That's because it's time for them to get out of their beds and go to work again. And we all know what bears do for a living: steal picnic baskets. That's right, while this one is politely waving to you, his friend is snaffling your cheese and pickle sandwiches. Naughty spring bear! We'll let him off this time, he's probably hungry after all that sleeping.

Like the lambs and the bears, I am very happy about Spring's arrival. I actually get to go to work in the almost-light now, which is making me feel more like a functioning member of society, and less like a burglar. Spring also means jackets not coats (much more stylish), a glut of public holidays that I fully intend to take advantage of, and the possibility of weather fair enough to coerce Sam into tramping round the countryside with me, breathing in great lungfuls of Spring air.

Unfortunately, not everybody is quite as happy as we are about the impending change of season.

Don't worry puppy, it will soon be Christmas again.

What do you like best about Spring?