Thursday, 29 November 2012

Seen & heard November


1. Liberal Arts
I really wanted to love this film but found it problematic in its portrayal of women.  I felt that they all, but particularly Elizabeth Olsen's character, only existed insofar as they were useful to the main character - played by writer and director Josh Radnor.  It would definitely not pass the Bechdel Test.  That being said, there were a few very relatable and quotable lines (my favourite was, "I'm trying to stop using reading as an excuse to not particpate in life"), and I loved Zac Efron's recurring cameo.

2. Rust & Bone
Another one I didn't love as much as I wanted to.  Stunning performances and some incredibly memorable shots, but there were a lot of issues crammed into one 100 minute film.

3. Argo
Finally a film I liked uncomplicatedly!  Very funny, and with a fifteen minute sequence which left me literally jiggling in my seat with nerves.

As well as going to the cinema lots, I watched a stack of DVDs when I was off work sick.

1. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
As far from a generic teen romantic comedy as it's possible to get, this wise and witty film is as much a love letter to the joy of being a music fan; to New York; to the sheer thrill of being young and staying up all night.  I don't quite buy the stunningly gorgeous Kat Dennings (back when she was still good, before the exrecable Two Broke Girls) as a plain Jane, but that's a very minor quibble.  I adore this film.

2. Meet Me In St Louis
I forget how utterly cheesy this film is, and not always in a good way.  But worth it for the bliss of The Trolley Song and the wonderful Christmas sequence.

3. Singin' In The Rain
This is more like it!  It has only the merest hint of cheese, and when I felt utterly horrible and like death, it put a smile on my face.


1. After a blissful two week interlude of silence, the humming sound in my house is back, and worse than ever.  In a futile attempt to sleep better, I've taken to listening to music when I go to bed.  Sigur Ros make good bedtime listening, but getting the most play is J Tillman's Year In The Kingdom album.  Tillman was the original drummer in Fleet Foxes before leaving last year to concentrate on his solo stuff; a good move, because his lovely acoustic melodies have been lulling my to sleep very nicely.

2. I'd never heard of Sweet Billy Pilgrim until Saturday, when The Boy invited me along to see them in Leicester.  They were amazing live and although I don't like their recorded stuff quite as much, I've been listening to them a lot since the weekend.  I would suggest Kracklite and Truth Only Smiles as being good places to start.

3. It's that time of year again!  The moment when Sufjan Stevens' Songs For Christmas boxset comes out is always a sign that Christmas is well and truly on the way...

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Mag hag: The Simple Things

A magazine from the people behind Mollie Makes?  With cover taglines including 'Living in a thrifted home', 'Autumn bike rides' and 'Market shopping'?!  Sounds amazing, right?

Sadly, The Simple Things didn't quite live up to expectations.  I guess I was expecting someting similar to Oh Comely, and it is trying quite hard to be exactly that, which is part of the problem.  It's trying too hard.  The issue I read (number 2) felt like a bunch of marketing peeps had sat down and said, "well, this [baking bread, vintage shopping, living simply] is what everyone's into these days, let's put a magazine together."  And they went away and read a bunch of blogs and tried to replicate the contents, but without the knowledge or passion required to make it successful. 

All that being said, I did want to nom my way through these parsnip crisps...

...but I felt that too much of the magazine (which, at £4.99, is no bargain) was taken up with shopping spreads.  I stopped reading more mainstream magazines like Red because of not wanting to be constantly marketed to, and if The Simple Things genuinely wants to position itself as an alternative to those kind of mags then it would do well to have more editorial content and less of the, "buy this, it's pretty".  I will be giving it another try with their introductory offer of £5 for three issues (which runs until 30th November), and I'm hoping I start to like it more.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Film Q&A

I'm really struggling with a flu bug this week and have spent most of the last three days in bed.  I'd been feeling guilty about not blogging, but then Louise came to my rescue today by posting a Q&A I'd done for her.

You may remember Louise from her recent guest post here for Music Monday; well, I returned the favour and answered her film questions.  I had so much fun rifling through my DVD collection and reflecting on the ones I love.  Have a read of the interview over at Nekomentsu and let me know what your favourite poorly-day films are: I'm running out of ideas!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Local things to see, make and do this winter

There are tons of fun things to see, make and do in the East Midlands this festive season. My pick of activities (including a couple further south, in London) are the following...

I'm looking forward to taking a trip up the M1 to Nottingham next weekend for the Pretty Dandy Flea. Thanks to for Laura for bringing it to my attention: I'm looking forward to having a blogger meet-up with her for a cup of tea and some bargain hunting.

The Makers Mart comes to Curve in Leicester on Saturday 8th December, and will feature an array of interesting designers and artists selling their wares. I'm thinking an early Christmas present to myself of a Barry Bulsara print may be in order...

Leicester's Guildhall is a beautiful half-timbered building which plays host to some fantastic workshops and events.  Coming up soon are all sorts of Christmas craft sessions, including wood block printing on Saturday 15th December and, on the evening of 28th November, a wreath making workshop.  I love making my own wreaths, and doing it in the beautiful surroundings of the medieval hall would make for an extra-festive experience.

If buying rather than making is your bag, December 1st & 2nd is the Guildhall's annual craft fair, which is usually a cut above your average Christmas fair.  Past visits have seen me pick up gifts like handmade soap, African print purses, crochet brooches and handknitted gloves, for very few pennies.

I'm really looking forward to buying some last-minute gifts at the Bust Christmas Craftacular in London on December 16th. 

Also in London, I can vouch for the excellent workshops run by The Make Lounge (it's thanks to them I know how to make the super-duper-easy cushion covers I wrote about last week).  They have masses of great Christmassy events coming up, including hand-carved stamps and tags on December 1st or 13th, and a fun-sounding Christmas craft night on December 14th.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Music Monday: Q&A with Adam

Today's Q&A is brought to you by Adam of the Willoughby Book Club, a rather brilliant subscription service that I wrote about here.  Even better, they currently have a Christmas shopping discount: before 24th December, enter HOHOHO at the checkout to receive 10% off your order.  I'm fairly sure we must have danced next to each other at Mosh some time.

What’s the first record (single or album) that you bought?
The first record I remember buying was Avenging Angels by Space, on cassette in 1997. In hindsight, it seems unlikely I would have been allowed to by a single with a B-side entitled Bastard me Bastard you aged 12…but apparently so.

There have been some pretty disastrous purchases since that fateful day, but thankfully some pretty great ones too.

What was the first gig you went to?
The first gig I went to was The Stereophonics at Donington Park in 2001. They were supported by The Black Crowes, Ash and Proud Mary, and as we were camping, it was my first experience of ‘festival’ life…

The last gig I went to was with my wife Chloe to see Emmy The Great at The Soundhouse in Leicester earlier this year. She’s an unbelievably talented folk pop artist, and if they haven’t already, we’d urge your readers to look her up.

What song reminds you of being a teenager?
Dreaming of You by The Coral will always remind me of (fairly hazy) evenings at the newly opened Mosh nightclub in Leicester city centre. It was a regular haunt of ours for a few years, and could always be relied on for a great evening. This track was played without fail every Saturday, and probably still is today.

How would you sum up your music tastes, in terms of genre?  Have your tastes changed over the years?
I’d say I have fairly eclectic taste, but with a strong steer towards indie. I’m happy to explore any genre, and I’m a firm believer that there’s something to be gained from listening to most types of music. It’s sometimes really great to move out of your musical comfort zone and listen to some records that wouldn’t ordinarily have been on your radar.

Which songs will always get you on the dance floor?
It doesn’t take much to get me on the dancefloor…but I’d say that I throw my best shapes* to Going Underground by The Jam, New Life by Depeche Mode and Born To Run by The Boss.

* My ‘best’ shapes are undeniably awful.

What song makes you cry?
Cat Power’s cover of Sea of Love without doubt. It was the song that my beautiful wife decided to walk up the aisle to, at our wedding at New Walk museum a little earlier this year.

Following that, I’d say Goodnight by The Beatles. I sometimes wish Ringo was there to tuck me in at night…is that weird? It is isn’t it? Oh well.

What are your top five favourite albums or artists of all time?
My top 5 albums of all time (in no particular order) are…

1. Joanna Newsom - Ys

2. Arcade Fire - Funeral

3. The Smiths – Strangeways, Here We Come

4. Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home

5. The Beatles – White Album

Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to music?
Everyone loves Madonna, right? “Borderline…feels like I’m going to lose my mind” No? No? Oh…ok.

If you could sum yourself up in one song or lyric, what would it be?
“I want to live and I want to love. I want to catch something I might be ashamed of”
(The Smiths – Frankly Mr Shankly)

Friday, 16 November 2012

What my social media updates say about me

Recently, I've been aware that my Facebook and Twitter updates are somewhat limited in their range of topics.  If you're already my FB 'friend' or follow me on Twitter, you'll probably be sick of hearing about this stuff...

35% Read my blog
I know it's tiresome to constantly link from Facebook or Twitter to my posts here, but yet I still do it.  Sorry about that!

20% "The hum"
I've been plagued by a constant, low-frequency humming sound for the past couple of months.  But, before you shout, "tinnitus," I only hear it at home (oh, and at a B&B in Norfolk).  Not at work, not in my car, not at my mum's house and - crucially - not all the time even when I am at home.  The internet tells me that "the hum" is a genuine problem; an issue with malfuncioning electrical equipment or sensitivity to ambient noise that some people's ears can't pick up.  I don't know the source, but it has been driving. Me. Crazy.  I haven't been sleeping, I've had constant tension headaches from being unable to relax... not fun.  I've moaned on about it quite a lot on Facebook because, when "the hum" is humming, it's all I can think about.  Respite has come this week: four nights out of five with no noise.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this continues... if only for the sake of more interesting status updates.

15% Date stress
Twitter has got to hear all about my dating neuroses recently, as I - perhaps unwisely - dip my toe back into the world of OKCupid.

12% I have reader's block... help!
Facebook did not care when I complained about "the hum"; my sleep and comfort at home being of apparently little concern.  However, Facebook freaked out when I said I couldn't read and needed book recommendations.  That is why I am friends with these people.  Asking for reading ideas has led me to a number of amazing novels, especially Warm Bodies (recommended by Graham, who you will remember from his Nirvana guest post) and The Fault In Our Stars (recommended by Amy, who quite rightly warned me I might cry).

12% Robert Sheehan's eyebrows
And his cheekbones.  And eyes.  And lips.  Essentially, I am a bit obsessed with the lovely Robert at the moment (and with Me & Mrs Jones, the so-bad-it's-awesome comedy he's in on BBC1 at the moment, in which he plays a handsome and sensitive young man having an affair with a woman considerably older than himself: a concept with which I am totally on board).  More to the point, my step-mum is also a bit obsessed with him.  My lesbian step-mum.  When I tweeted recently that I think he's turned her (her exact words were, "I think it's his eyebrows that make him so beautiful."  Cue me falling off the sofa laughing), he retweeted me and I completely lost my shit and squealed!  Anyway, my social media is very Robert Sheehan-oriented at the moment.

6% iPhone photos as a cure for camera-phobia
I loathe having my photograph taken.  In fact, the only thing I detest more is having to look at photographs that people have sneakily taken of me.  Recently, though, I've been trying to be less camera-phobic by using my new phone to take and post photos of new outfits and hairstyles.  Could this be the first step in me becoming a fashion blogger?  Erm, no.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Image association week 10

I've been struck down with some sort of bug this week and am feeling rotten, but had already written my post and - luckily - chosen an idea that didn't require me leaving the house.

Last week Sarah posted the image below, with the comment: "what could be more unsettling than waving a metal implement about, millimetres away from your eyeballs?"  Her theme was scary and stereotypically female things...

I'm fascinated by the various tortures women inflict on their bodies, with instruments as bizarre and complex as the ones above.  The time and effort put into plucking, waxing, polishing, scrubbing... that's where Naomi Wolf's book The Beauty Myth comes in. 

It would be crass and simplistic to say, "it changed my life," but of all the feminist texts I've read, it's one of the ones that has most struck a chord with me.  Wolf looks at how popular culture - and especially magazines and the media - helps to perpetuate a damaging and narrow standard of beauty.  I've always enjoyed some elements of gender-typical female presentation: I wear make-up every day, I straighten and colour my hair, it's rare to seeing me wearing anything but a dress.  But on another level, I'm fairly crap at being a girl.  Plucking, waxing, scrubbing... sod that, I could be reading a good book. 

This is where Caitlin Moran's maxim comes in useful: are the men doing it?  Getting rid of facial hair?  Yep, most men.  Fair enough, then, I'll slap on a bit of Immac, and maybe tweeze my monobrow.  De-furring their pubic regions into ever-more-fantastical shapes?  Nope, not unless they're doing a photoshoot for Attitude, so get that wax away from me.  I'm in complete awe of Bethany of Arched Eyebrow who wrote very persuasively about her decision not to shave her armpits, but haven't yet applied Moran's maxim to this area of my grooming routine (except when I'm feeling lazy and will be wearing long sleeves; or winter, as it's popularly called).

Anyway, I think this might be my favourite photograph so far because - what can I say? - I like pictures, but I prefer words.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Getting organised for Christmas

I adore Christmas; a deep and passionate love which has endured all these years.  From the age of about 11 I was pretty much the driving force behind our family Christmases, and would demand money from my mother with which to buy decorations, craft supplies and gifts for the extended family.  My greatest desire was to be able to do the Christmas supermarket shop all on my own.  I would make lists, and hoard back copies of the December Family Circle magazine, and sing hymns with vigour at choir practice, and count the days down with an increasing fervour.  Yeah, I was kind of a loser as a kid.

Not much has changed.

I start getting organised for Christmas on the 27th December.  Yep, I'm one of those awful people who begins next year's shopping during the January sales.  From that point onward, I am constantly on the look-out for little bits and pieces that I think people will love.  For example, both my mum and Andrea, her partner (my step-mum) get stockings* (ostensibly from me and my brother, but in reality I do all the fun stuff like shopping and wrapping, while he just coughs up the cash.  Both of us are very pleased with this division of labour), which I shop for year-round so that I have a good stash of gifts by the time December rolls around.  In theory, shopping throughout the year should save me money, but I think what actually tends to happen is that I get all spending-happy nearer Christmas and so everyone gets more than they would if I just left it all to the last minute!

In September I start to put some thought and discussion into where to spend Christmas (although as a single girl, it's a pretty easy process).  It's also when I start to badger my close family for lists and begin to compile my own, and it's when the spreadsheet makes its debut. 

2010's spreadsheet.  To my great distress, 2011's has gone AWOL. 

What do you mean, you don't keep a Christmas spreadsheet?!  Mine forms the backbone of my Christmas planning, and includes information on gifts already bought (with a running total); gifts to buy (with price and location); Christmas card lists; food lists; craft planning... everything you could want to get organised in the run-up to Christmas.  Most importantly, I keep past spreadsheets so that I can be sure I'm not duplicating presents year-to-year.

November is when it gets serious though. By this time of year I generally have about half of my shopping done, with nieces, nephew, other assorted children of my acquaintance, and most of my friends bought for.  Mum and Andrea's stockings will be almost complete, and I will know exactly what I'm buying everyone else.

I'll also spend November checking my decorations and deciding what to use.  Starting early with this process helps, because I like to make something new each year and in 2011 I left it a little late and spent most of the first week in December hand-sewing gingham hearts.  If craft and making are your thing, check for local courses or workshops (the BBC 'What's On' page for your city or region is useful for this): last year I enjoyed a Christmas decoration session with Leicester artist Ruth Singer and a wreath-making class run by local park rangers.

This year I am already really excited for the festive season, and so my Christmas kit has come out.  Chistmassy magazines - which don't really date, so can be saved and used for inspiration next year - are a good source of inspiration for decorations and crafts.  The December issue of Red is still a must-buy for me, if only because of the annual discount voucher for Paperchase (who are unbeatable for craft supplies and funky charity Christmas cards).  The last item in my kit is the Sufjan Stevens Songs For Christmas boxset, which is the most beautiful collection of carols and original songs.  This year, I'm massively excited for the release of his new Christmas boxset (called Silver & Gold, my copy should be shipping from the USA right about now).

The end of the month is the time for making my Christmas cakes and other edible goodies to put in hampers (I only include things I can make ahead, so they need to keep - or freeze - well.  This year's are likely to include macaroons, gingerbread biscuits and chilli jam), and for writing my Christmas cards, which I know seems early, but a lot of mine have to travel a long way to friends and family overseas.

What all of this planning and organisation means is that, come December, I am relaxed and able to concentrate on the fun stuff: dressing the tree, wreathing the house in ivy, eating mince pies, and drinking spiced cider. 

What do you do to get ready for Christmas?  I am always keen to hear great organisational tips.  Or are you a 'leave it all till the 24th'- type?

* On a related note, when my mum suggested to me at some point in my twenties that maybe,  just maybe, I was getting a little old for stockings, she was not prepared for the reaction she got.  Suffice it to say that, at the age of 34, I still get a stocking.  It's the best bit of Christmas!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Music Monday: Joanna Newsom

"She sings too strangely, it just goes through me."  My response to first hearing Joanna Newsom.  In my defence, my introduction to her was in the form of Sadie and Inflammatory Wit (from her debut album, The Milk-Eyed Mender), and she does sing strangely in both songs, and the sound still goes through me.  I skip them as a matter of course.  But after taking the time to listen more carefully to her other albums, I started to understand why my brother raved about her.  And rather as I didn't ever 'get' Sigur Ros until I visited Iceland, I truly fell for Joanna Newsom when I went on holiday to the Highlands - and the Isle of Skye - a couple of summers ago.  Although she's a California girl, something about her music seemed to perfectly match and complement the bleakly beautiful vistas of northern Scotland.  Newsom is now my most-listened to artist on iTunes, and currently stands at number two in my 'best gigs ever' list (yes, I keep a list.  Yes, I am a complete geek).

However, I don't feel like anything I write can accurately describe Joanna Newsom.  I could throw adjectives like 'crystalline' and 'delicate' around; I could talk about the beautiful sound of the harp, or her stunning voice, but it wouldn't do justice to her music, which seems to defy description or pigeonholing.  So I will merely direct you to listen for yourself: my favourites are Cosmia, Only Skin and Sprout & The Bean.  Oh, and "En Gallop".  And Peach, Plum, Pear.

But for various reasons, On A Good Day is the track I've chosen to share.  Partly because - unusually for Joanna Newsom, it's super-short (only 1:50 on the album version, slightly longer in this video), which compared to Cosmia (13:23) or Have One On Me (11:03) is astonishingly brief.  Partly because it reminds me of driving along winding Skye roads in the mist and rain.  And partly because today is a good day.  And if you like it - and Fleet Foxes - then I am sure you will love this version by FF's Robin Pecknold.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Weekend shenanigans & £100 challenge update

I've had a busy but fab weekend.  I have...

... spent Friday evening watching Liberal Arts and then enjoying picking it apart over drinks.  Luckily I was out with a boy who doesn't seem to find my 'strident feminist' mode a turn-off;

... had two lovely, long lie-ins;

... been made endlessly happy by my new, sparkly-collared jumper.  I might have worn it every night since I got it...!;

... met Leanne for a yummy lunch (and if it looks familiar, that's because it is: the veggie chilli bowl and a pint of cider is what I always have for lunch in Firebug) and a traipse around the shops;

... laughed like a loon with Emma while drinking fizzy wine and watching Strictly and X Factor. Highlights of the evening included throwing abuse at Craig (he gave Louis a 6! Is he blind?!) and being perplexed by James Arthur's supposed 'dubstep' version of Hometown Glory (when I said I hadn't heard any dubstep, Emma's response was, "You must have blinked. With your ears.")

... tidied up my front and back gardens and planted out some forget-me-nots;

... visited the gorgeous Christmas room at one of my favourite shops, Narborough Hall, for a browse and some festive inspiration;

... gone for a sunny autumn stroll by the canal;

... made butternut squash and sweet potato soup - and broken my blender in the process :(

Sadly, all that fun and enjoyment comes at a price...

Monday: £4.99 book for my Kindle
Tuesday: nothing (well, kind of.  I paid £45 to have my chimney swept, but don't think that counts)
Wednesday: £6.06 goceries
Thursday: £10.00 assorted hair gubbins from Boots
                 £34.98 cardi and jumper from H&M
                 £2.75 birthday card
                 £14.99 dress (polka dots, natch)
Friday: £16.00 drinks and cinema ticket
Saturday: £13.00 dress
                £6 cardigan
               £6.44 lunch
Sunday: nothing
TOTAL: £115.21

I went a bit crazy buying clothes this week, I'm not sure why.  I think buying the new outfit for the party last week reminded me of how much I love pretty new clothes, but I've clearly taken it a bit too far because - after having a massive eBay clearout earlier in the year - I'm now struggling to close my multiple wardrobe doors again (that's multiple wardrobes, not one wardrobe with an unseemly amount of doors). 

My maths went a bit wrong this week too - I genuinely thought I had £30 left in the budget yesterday, so I carefully ensured I stayed within that... not realising I actually had only £15.  As of Monday I'm going back to the 'withdraw £100 and then leave all bank cards at home' technique, because otherwise it is all too easy to spend masses more than I realise.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

*Thrifty* Christmas gift exchange

Who doesn't love getting parcels?  Even better when they are parcels full of mysterious and surprising goodies.  I also love sending gifts, so last year I took part in The Curiosity Project's Christmas Box Swap.  I enjoyed planning what to send and eagerly awaited receiving my box in return.  And I waited... and waited... and waited.  Sadly, my box never made it to me (either one wasn't sent or it got lost in the post) and despite my best efforts I didn't find it easy to chase up, so in the end I just gave up.

But even thought I was disappointed, I absolutely love putting gifts together and I would have taken part again this year, had I not missed the deadline for registration.  So I thought, 'why not have a go at a smaller-scale gift exchange?'

My idea is this: if I get enough participants (even just three would be enough to run it!), I'll send you someone else's details and your task will then be to put together a box of goodies to send to them before Christmas.  If participants could also send me photos and feedback when they get their box, even better!

*UPDATE* Following Laura's comment about budget, I've been pondering whether a handmade/thrifted gift exchange might not be more fun.  I'm thinking mixtapes (well, mix CDs, who has a cassette player anymore?), foodie treats, sewn items, secondhand books... I really need the push to get making this autumn, I've been so lazy!  And it would (hopefully) be cheaper too.

This is what I included in my Curiosity Project box last year.
Interested?  If so, email me at, giving me the following information:
Your name & address (international participants welcome!);
A brief description of your likes, hobbies, etc;
Your blog address, if you have one, so that your sender can find out a bit more about you.

I'm already looking forward to putting my gift box together!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Made: cushion covers

It's been aaaaages since I did a crafty post, but I'm really proud of my most recent 'make'.  Cushion covers have to be the simplest but most satisfying things to stitch.  With an iron, a sewing machine and twenty spare minutes, you can whip up a fabulous (and, in my case, only slightly wonky) cover with the minimum of effort.  I brought this gorgeous batik fabric back from South Africa and, being a medium-heavy weight cotton, it was perfect for the project.

1. Measure and cut your fabric into three pieces:
Front panel - 42cm x 42cm square (one piece)
Back panels 42cm x 33cm (two pieces)

2. Turn one of the long edges of one back panel under 2cm, and iron.  Fold again an additional 2cm and iron once again so it lies flat.  Repeat with the second back panel.

3. Stitch along the folded edge using a 1cm seam allowance, to create a neat edge.

4. Lay the large square face up and place one of the back panels with right sides facing the front panel, lining up the three unsewn edges.  Pin down, then overlap the second back panel with the first (again, lining up the unsewn edges on the front panel) and pin into place.  You should now have a pinned, inside out cover with an opening in the middle that overlaps about 5 inches.

5. Using a straight stitch on your machine and beginning in a corner, sew the pieces together leaving a 1cm seam allowance.  Iron flat.

6. Trim the seam allowance from the corners, on the diagonal, to remove excess fabric. from your corners and turn the cover right side out. 

7. Turn right side out and poke out the corners and along the side seams.
8. Insert a cushion pad and, just like that, one bespoke cushion cover!  I managed to make three of these in a little over two hours (and I faff a lot when I sew), they really are that simple.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Music Monday: Q&A with Louise

Louise, whose fab blog, Nekomentsu, I discovered recently after she commented here, is my guest today.  I loved her teenage escapades as a King Adora fan, and her description of The Smashing Pumpkins sums up Billy Corgan's music better than anything else I've ever read!  Anyway, over to Louise...

What was the first gig you went to?
This is the second time I’m having to make this confession this month…it was Peter Andre…and my local ice arena…he was supported by Steps. My relatives bought me tickets for my 14th birthday after being reliably informed by their children that all young girls loved Peter Andre.  Except I didn’t. I loved Nirvana, and Guns n’ Roses. And Peter Andre was pretty much my worst nightmare.

So I spent the entire concert sulking and facing the back of the room, and not looking at Peter Andre even once.

What song reminds you of being a teenager?
King Adora songs remind me of being a late teenager. I was completely obsessed with the band, and followed them around constantly with my friend, we became really friendly with them and would always join them backstage where we would get up to all sorts of antics (not the sexy kind, more like fire extinguisher fights, smoking and drinking 20/20), although I did snog Robbie (which was massively disappointing, he was a horrible kisser) and was then deeply offended that I a) wouldn’t share my lambrini with him and b) go back to his van…

What song will always get you on the dance floor?
I love dancing to anything really. I’m a bit of a stupid dancer, which did lead to a bonding session during freshers week at uni as I met kindred spirits to chicken dance with. I think my favourite thing to dance to has to be The Cure – The Love Cats, which in the past has led to some comparisons to Angela’s dancing in Green Wing – “she dances like a wolf”.

What song makes you cry?
Beck’s cover of Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime from Eternal Sunshine leaves me wobbly-lipped every time. The Beautiful South’s Blackbird on the Wire has such personal connections for me that I can barely listen to it, because every time I do it leads to such uncontrollable floods of tears.

What are your top five favourite bands/artists of all time?
In no particular order...

1. The Smashing Pumpkins. I’ve been in love with their music since hearing Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness. I think the thing I love the most about them is just how juvenile their music is, it’s the equivalent of stomping up to your room in a huff and then hugging your knees for 4 hours wondering when you can go back downstairs. It’s self-indulgent, occasionally a bit whiney and magnificent.

2. PJ Harvey. I admire everything about this woman. I absolute abhore the term ‘girl crush’ because it’s so often used by straight women to describe a women that they admire, and I think it’s a shame that women feel the need to sexualise their feelings of admiration. So, when my friend told me she had a ‘girl crush’ on PJ Harvey I wanted to simultaneously high-five her, and slap her. I find it incredibly weird that such a frivolous term can be used alongside a women full of passion, and with the guts to sing freely about feminism, politics and the unpretty, fierce side of love. But, all the same I was pleased my boyband-loving friend had finally developed a better taste in music.

3. Goldfrapp.
I’ve been a fan of Goldfrapp since the day of Felt Mountain, and I’ve followed them ever since. I love the way that their music progresses, grows and changes with each album drifting from ethereal wailing to disco-pop. I think Alison Goldfrapp is the quintessential front woman, with strong vocals, a great sense of style (especially during the Black Cherry era) and a real enigmatic star quality. The Oompa Radar song still freaks me out though (weird phobia of fairground music….don’t ask).

4. Nina Simone. Nina Simone is an odd addition to my iTunes, and I often skip past her songs when using shuffle, because they just don’t fit in with any of the other music on there. But there’s something so,so magical about her. The gorgeous, creamy voice and the jazzy accompaniment. Sinnerman is a wonderful song, all 10 minutes of it. There’s something luxurious about putting her music on, lighting a cigarette and igniting your inner diva.

5. I’m cheating this one a little bit – sorry. It’s not so much a band or artist, but a collaboration. It has to be Sparklehorse, Danger Mouse, David Lynch and others’ work on Dark Night of the Soul. It’s just the perfect album, it has guest artists such as Gruff Rhys, Iggy Pop, Justin Lytle and Suzanne Vega, and is something of a concept album. Each song is wonderful by itself, but it’s such a powerful piece of work when you listen to the album in context. I honestly believe everyone should hear this.

Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to music?
I love JPop. I do, very much. It’s not my usual sort of thing at all. I haven’t listened to pop in many years, and the sugary sweetness of JPop would normally leave me cold. But, there’s just something so happy about it, you just can’t help but like it. I’m a particular fan of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, a singer-turned model who makes the barmiest videos I’ve ever seen and the rockier Anna Tsuchiya.

If you could sum yourself up in one song or lyric, what would it be?

It HAS to be The Smiths – Big Mouth Strikes Again.

“Bigmouth strikes again
And I've got no right to take my place
With the human race


Sunday, 4 November 2012

£100 challenge update

I'm on week eight now (week nine really, but I gave myself a week off for half term).  And things have gone a bit Pete Tong again, although I would argue that I've stayed completely within the spirit of the challenge.  It's just that I had another big even: one that I couldn't miss, and that required quite significant spending.

Monday: £4.99 magazine
               £4.40 drinks in pub
Tuesday: £10.57 groceries
                £3.25 drinks in pub (do you sense a theme developing...?  This was book group, so at least
                there was a cerebral reason for all this drinking!)
Wednesday: nothing
Thursday: £7.60 drinks (ahem) at theatre
Friday (this is where it all starts to go awry): £10.94 groceries
                                                                        £29.32 petrol
                                                                        £52.97 new outfit (top, jeans & shoes) for tomorrow
Saturday: £25 drinks & food
                £45 B&B
Sunday: £5 cinema ticket
              £11.51 groceries

Total without the celebratory weekend away: £102.23 - well done me!
Actual total, including petrol, B&B and night out: £201.55 - oh dear

I knew ages ago that this weekend would be a money pit: I'd arranged to drive to Norfolk to surprise my good friend, Hannah, for her 30th birthday party, which meant splashing out on petrol, a stay in a B&B, a new outfit (honest - my only pair of decent heels broke, so I had to replace them, and then...erm, I needed to get a top and some trousers to go with the new shoes?).  Not to mention the money spent on the actual night.  Like the weekend in London a few weeks ago, which wrecked my October budget, I don't begrudge spending the money because it's just what you do when your mate's having a special event.  But I need to stick to my £100 for the next few weeks, if only to ensure I have a financial cushion for this exact kind of thing in future.

And in other big news, I cut up my credit card!  It was just too tempting when it came to those skint days at the end of the month, so into the bin it went.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Seen, read & heard: October


1. Untouchable is a lovely film: funny, touching, meaningful, fascinating. I loved the funky disco soundtrack, too.

2. The world premiere of the new, multi-million pound stage show of Finding Neverland was - randomly - in Leicester.  The Curve theatre here is an amazing venue and was chosen by Harvey Weinstein as the best place to test out the musical prior to its transfer to the West End.  I'm a bit partial to the old jazz hands, and really enjoyed the show although various friends were slightly less impresses.

3. From the sublime to the ridiculous.  I think this might be one of the worst films I've ever seen.  My friends and I got the DVD out when I went down to London at the start of the month: we had an early start the next day for the wedding fair, so decided that a takeaway and a film was a better idea than a night on the town.  Major error.


1. I wrote about how much I love David Levithan's book Boy Meets Boy recently, and his novel with Rachel Cohn - Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist - was made into an amazing film, so I had high hopes for their second collaboration, Dash & Lily's Book of Dares.  I was not disappointed in the least: I adored this book, much of which made me laugh out loud and all of which put a big grin on my face.  Centering on an undeniably contrived 'meet-cute' (Lily leaves a notebook with clues to follow in the Salinger section of The Strand bookstore in Manhattan), this is a typically optimistic and lovely book.  Levithan's characters are often larger-than-life and rather too articulate and witty for 16 year olds (the drag queen quarterback in Boy Meets Boy or the Orthodox Jewish gay couple in Dash & Lily are but three examples), but they are so incredibly engaging and lovable that it doesn't matter if they're not, strictly speaking, the most realistic portrayal of teenagers.  I really can't recommend this book enough: it would be perfect to read for a festive treat this Christmas.

2. One of the daily 99p Kindle deals which took my fancy recently, The Hills Is Lonely was originally published in 1959 and is a fictionalised account of Beckwith's experiences of moving to the Isle of Skye in the 1940s.  An enjoyable and fascinating insight into life on the islands in the mid-20th century, when life was lived according to routines established centuries earlier.

3. I loved Dash & Lily... so much that I immediately fired up my Kindle (I know, I know!  I was travelling, is my excuse.  I still love actual books, never fear) and downloaded a couple of David Levithan's other books.  Love Is The Higher Law revolves around three teenagers living in New York on September 11th 2001 and, because of the subject matter, is an understandably more sombre read than a lot of his other work.  I found Levithan's perspective on the effects of 9/11 really interesting.


1. Nottingham band Dog Is Dead's glorious recent single, Do The Right Thing, is just the kind of anthemic indie pop I used to love as a teenager; all chiming guitars and Britpop vocals.

2. Getting in the festive spirit (what do you mean, it's too early?  It's never too early!) by listening to Midwinter Graces by Tori Amos.

3. I bought The People's Key, Bright Eyes' 2011 album, for a bargain price recently and am really enjoying it. 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Image association week eight

Last week Sarah posted the photograph above, of her dad's old teddy bear, Tod.  And, in a shocking turn of events, my image is more than tangentially related to it!  Most weeks I am left scratching my head, but this time I had a Eureka! moment pretty quickly.  Sadly, the idea I had imagined did not quite work out.  I had not thought through the whole 'carrying a camera around a toy shop' thing, and I had only just begun snapping away when a security guard took an overt interest in my activities and I had to scarper.  So it's not a great picture, but it serves the purpose and still 'says' what I wanted it to.  Frankly, I find the pink Barbie aisle terrifying...