Friday, 16 December 2011

And the Award Goes To...

A popular question in interviews is “what is your greatest achievement?” If you are a parent then that it is all too easy to answer. Even if you are trying to get this job so you don’t have to spend as much time with the annoying little shits, replying with “my children” will always be one of those acceptable, politically correct, collect-£200-as-you-pass-go answers.

For the rest of us singletons, low-flyers, hobby-less people out there this achievement question is a tough one to deal with.

Thinking back over my life achievements, or lack thereof, it brought me back to a school memory that I had stashed away, alongside the embarrassments, foot in mouth moments and that time I heckled a Morris Dancer. The unlocked, dark memory was The Tale Of The Swimming Certificate. Are you ready? Then I'll begin.

Back in primary school we endured half a term of weekly swimming lessons at the local pool. The class was sectioned off into “sink like a stone”, “can manage the doggie paddle” and a select group of “the next Michael Phelps”. Guess which group I was in?

I started off in the main group of kids who could manage and just needed to learn a technique, but was quickly cast out to the group ran by someone’s mum who used to try and alleviate my fear of water by saying “look, I’ll have a lot of paperwork to fill out if you drown”. Fears and the longing looks to the uber-swimmers splashing around in the deep end aside, I splashed, kicked and floated on.  My main aim being to complete a width of the pool and receive that coveted swimming certificate.

At the end of term we all gathered in assembly, the buzz of the certificate presentations milling around the class. We sat cross-legged and watched the teacher in anticipation of hearing our names read out. 

The first certificate was for “confidence”. Basically the absolute bog-standard, pee-poor excuse for an award. Looking down the line of my friends I rolled my eyes and shot a pitiful look for the poor saddos who would be forced to accept this.  My patronising looks were soon cut short when my name was read out. WHAT?! I stood up and collected my rubbish ‘award’ half-dazed and half absolutely gutted. I was still in disbelief as I watched my friends pick up their ‘width’ and ‘length’ certificates. Bastards!

Ironically this award for gaining confidence totally knocked my confidence and whilst I still visited the pool frequently at weekends in my teens, I still to this day have no real technique other than ‘flail and don’t drown’.

The moral of the story? Don't write acceptance speeches unless you are a sure-fire winner.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Album Review: Mat Kearney - Young Love

Unusual name-spellings aside (Kearney apparently adopted the one 'T' version of his name after finding an error on his birth certificate which had him down as "Mathew"), Young Love is the fourth studio album from the American singer/songwriter.

The first thing that strikes you as you listen to this album is how much his voice sounds like Coldplay's Chris Martin. Scarily similar. I mean so alike in sound that mid-way through the album I was still checking that the album cover wasn't in fact Mr. Martin in a stripey top and flat cap. It wasn't. Proceed.

The comparison is a huge compliment. Kearney's voice is rich, textured and has a vast range - even managing to pull off some mild vanilla rap. No really. In Ships In The Night and Chasing The Light he delivers a folk-sounding rap which keeps pace with the hand clap beats and synthy drums which are so prevalent throughout the album.

Songs like Down and Young, Dumb and In Love showcase Kearney's story-teller lyrics and conversational style of delivery (when he's not faux-rapping of course) which is reminiscent of his hero Paul Simon.

Hey Mama and She Got The Honey are pretty little ditties which are the perfect soundtracks for summer days and cold beer consumption. In contrast to these cheery melodies are the more mellow acoustic guitar tracks like Learning To Love Again and the album closer, Rochester. The latter song telling the story of his father who is trying to "rip that boy from Rochester right out my chest".

As a whole the album is a bit too repetitive and samey. Perfect for lazy days and summer festivals but not one you'd have on repeat at home. Coldplay fans will heart him.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Album Review: PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

With her eight studio album, PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake, not only marks her fourth Mercury Music Prize nomination, and second win, but also puts her alongside Radiohead as the most nominated artist in the history of the awards. No mean feat.

Released in February 2011, the album is the follow-up to 2007’s ethereal, piano-led album White Chalk. Using Iraq, Afghanistan and Gallipoli as reference points, Harvey reportedly spent years researching these different conflicts to construct the lyrical content of the album.

References to war and England’s destruction are integral to every song on this album. ‘Let England Shake’ opens with Polly’s echo-ey vocals declaring, rather depressingly, “England’s dancing days are done”. The rambling xylophone adds to the eerie, quiet tones and delivers a muffled punch to the chorus.

Harvey began the construction of the album using an autoharp and its lush string sound can be heard emanating throughout, particularly in ‘Let England Shake’ and ‘The Colour of the Earth’. The album also uses a lot of layered guitar sounds which add richness in contrast to the stark, often gruesome, lyrics. Not content with punctuating the gorgeous sound with war-torn lyrics, Harvey uses other means to prick the listener out of the dreamy sound. In ‘The Glorious Land’ a building intro is matched with bursts of the army’s ‘regimental march’ bugle call.

Her vocals teeter between soft and eerily girlish on some tracks, to a slight desperate, quiet hysteria in songs like ‘The Words that Maketh Murder’.  Compared to the rock-banshee, and rich deep tone she has used in previous albums (White Chalk excluded) it seems she has taken on a softer voice to let the words do the damage. In, ‘Hanging in the Wire’ her soft vocals trill “there are no birds singing on the white cliffs of Dover”. Vera Lynn for a new generation she is not.

Some obscure samples are put into the mix, with a distorted vocal from Said El Kurdi (yep, never heard of him either) in ‘England’ and an almost reggae-sounding chant of “let it burn, let it burn” in ‘Written on the Forehead’.

Let England Shake is altogether a more subdued, less-in-your-face affair than her previous creations, yet the tapestry of the lyrics are closer knit and woven into rich layers of sound, only to be singled out again against stark guitar or brass section solo’s. Rather than a punch in the nuts, these songs creep into the subconscious, luring you in, and then silently attacking with words, evoking gut-wrenching imagery, “seen soldiers fall like lumps of meat. Arms and legs were in the trees”. 

The endless layers in this album, and not to mention the timeless theme of war, are what will keep me coming back for more time and time again. 

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

Let me start by saying that this year has been shit. I'm not blaming you in anyway for the undelivered promise of 2011 so far, however, maybe if you showed your face around town more often instead of popping up for a couple of weeks per year it would have helped. A little gift whilst stood in the freezing cold waiting for the train last month would have gone down a treat. Just saying. Anyhoo, I digress...

Here is my wishlist for this year:

  • Make all the rain and wind and cold in England stop.
  • Make the summer actually happen in summer - not in October.
  • Remove all two-faced, annoying, stupid, stuck up, and generally horrendous people. I embody all the aforementioned traits but as this is my wish list I am exempt from the banishment.
  • Stop Adam Sandler and that guy from King of Queens making any more films together. Nobody needs to see that again.
  • Spread some rumours around about me. Need to improve the street cred.
  • Do you perchance have hairdressing qualifications? If so, if you could spare four hours every morning to sort my barnet out it would be much appreciated.
  • Cause some kind of 'accident' that effects half of the England football team (I like to refer to them simply as the Arseholes). Nothing serious, maybe just some kind of freak attack that puts them out of action for a few years until they learn a lesson. I dunno, you can come up with the specifics but maybe the elves could be involved?
So as you can see from my list I'm not asking for anything insane. It's not like I've asked for the boxset of Glee. That would be mad.

Peace and joy to you and the Mrs.

Love you lots.


Friday, 22 July 2011

My First Single

Buying your first single is a watershed moment in anyone’s life. It joins the ranks of those memorable events that are ingrained so deeply into your memory that useless information like your pin number have to step out of the way.

Two words for you: Take That. Two more words: Everything Changes.

I remember the day so clearly. The weather was blindingly hot and my mum, being the thrifty (some may say ‘tight’) person she is, decided to take me to a car boot sale on a stretch of wasteland behind the local pub.
I think it is safe to say I wasn’t thrilled to be spending the day looking into the boot of cars. That was until I saw five familiar faces emblazoned on a plastic case poking about in a shoe box. I picked it up, examining the cover and imaging what it would be like to be able to take this home and call it mine. All mine! The couple of pounds I had been given to keep me sweet jingled in the pocket of my Bermuda shorts (blame the 90s) and I looked over to my mum to check that it really was OK for me to hand over the readies. I got the nod and my £1 was whipped out of my hand in exchange for my first ever single.

I clutched my new possession all the way home and ran up the stairs to put the disc into our boombox, listening to the song on repeat and practicing my smooth moves for youth club.

We all know the amazing comeback story of Take That. Almost 20 years later they are celebrating being at the peak of their success and popularity. I saw them live last month and had to smile when they all sat around Captain Barlow’s piano to sing a few lines of the old favorites, Robbie breaking out a few lines of Everything Changes.  It’s still a fan favorite and there was almost a sense of disappointment that they didn’t belt out the entire track.

Everything Changes is still regularly played on the radio today, a testament of what a truly brilliant pop song it is, and my love for this song has only grown over time.  Whenever I hear the bouncy piano-chords and young Robbie’s spoken intro I turn up the volume and sing along “forever mooooore…”

This article was initially published on Electric-City. For further 'first single' stories, music reviews, news and general all round goodness please click visit

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Oh, Hi V! *Waves*

Sooo I'm posting something I wrote over two years ago about my first festival experience. No reason why. Just carry on with your business people. Nothing to see here! But before you go can I please have a show of hands of how many people would describe my love of music as epic? *looks at you all with your hands up* OK. Cheers. Off you pop.

On week before: Panic buying/loaning of hoodies, rain macs, tops and the elusive "perfect bag" (doesn't exist).

Two days before: weather reports look grim for Sunday, thank god I bought those pac a macs and wellies

The night before: more ill-advised manic packing - packing for all weathers bar a snow blizzard.

And so the day arrived.....

Drove down with fellow festival buddy, listening to the sounds our homemade CD of V performers, so full of excitement that the motorway sign for junction 12 had us squealing...and even drove us so far as to take a photo of it *ahem* We laughed in the faces of people who had told us about huge queues. "What queues?!" we laughed, as we sailed down the country road, little did we know the weekend would not go queue-less.

We parked up and debated whether it was sandals or wellies? The weather said sandals but this is England, which means give the weather half an hour and it could so easily say snow boots. I kept the faith with my sandals while my friend wrestled her (not optimistic-at-all) bright red Hunter's on. We walked down to the grounds, marvelling at how huge it was, and nosing at the campsites safe in the knowledge we would be sleeping in a hotel that night (YES I KNOW! SCANDALOUS! NOT REAL A REAL FESTIVAL UNLESS YOU SLEEP IN SOMEONES SHIT! Lemme just throw up a big "whatevs" hand gesture).

After looking at the stalls and attempting to get in to a wristband only entrance (YES I KNOW! WE DIDN'T HAVE A WRISTBAND! WE COULDN'T WEAR IT WHEN WE GOT HOME TO SHOW EVERYONE WE'D BEEN TO A FESTIVAL) we entered the grounds to be met head on with the huge main stage, a carnival to our left and stalls for every food imaginable - literally all I need in life right there.

We sat on the boundary line for the main stage and enjoyed the sunshine. When the barrier was finally moved we walked down to the front while everyone else legged it. Do you know who they were running for? Abba tribute act Bjorn Again. Some brummies behind me decided they needed to put toilet paper around their heads (coz that's just what the kids do these days - recession meant no money for umbrellas) while another group of guys insisted they would be really annoyed if Will Young came on stage (who, until I actually saw him live would have thought the same).

And so the first act appeared - all knee high boots and beards - in the form of Bjorn Again. They got the crowd warmed up at least - like a calf stretch before a good run - no one wants to endure it but it's kinda necessary. After they had finished their set we trundled off for some lunch and like the bargain hunters we are we found the baked potato stand, with a drink thrown in (£3 if I remember rightly, check them out. Right in the corner on the left with the fit young guy serving with a smile). We devoured our lunch listening to Ocean Colour Scene and commenting on the songs we actually knew (reckon there was two at least..)

From there we made our way back to the main stage, and back to the front, to watch James Morrison. We managed to hear "Broken strings" before walking over to the 4music stage. Navigating our way to the front we danced and sang along to The Proclaimers final song (have a guess what that was....) We marvelled at Alesha Dixon and her dance moves but an important moment was to occur that would dominate the weekend...the meeting of 2938. Ah yes, the fit looking Glaswegian security guard that worked like a Trojan passing out water to us all. He took some flack of the guys behind us but it was all friendly. They even made up a song about him entitled "The pencil song" which  after it being insulting, ended with the plea to "...get me on the stage..." This genius song writer then had a water fight with 2938, peed into a cup and then left the festival feeling like a man.

The pink flamingos and blow up strawberry's marked the entrance of  a very kitsch Katy Perry performance.

We watched the beginning of Paolo Nutini before hobbling off for a sit down - but not before we got some free sweets, one of us sneaking back for a second packet, shock horror! We chilled out on the grass listening to the end of Paolo's set I was asked by a Welsh guy whether he had a mark on his eye - it took a few times to persuade him before he finally shook our hands and bogged off. He didn't have a mark but a few more times asking and he'd would have had a shiner. Ooh I'm well 'ard me!

It was then over to the Arena for The Gaga herself. I had a mild panic attack while we weaved through the scallies listening to the end of the The Streets set - smashed up against people we finally found a spot near to the stage. As time ticked on and she hadn't appeared the crowd started to boo. She finally came on but with the smoke, lights and the annoying tall men in cowboy hats in front of us we didn't manage to see very much. Gaga was in loopy, annoying form, making up a song about "bloody bloody England" and talking about eating pies. Get on with the songs we shouted! Finally we had enough and decamped to watch Oasis, from far far away! This turned out to be there last gig EVER so I now like to band that around as my "I was there" moment. It's not quite the Sex Pistols first gig or even Billie Pipers first TOTP appearance, but it is something.

After a few potato wedges we couldn't hold on for a wee anymore (urine talk alert) so made our way back to the car. 45 minutes later we finally found the car. After asking three security guards and going the wrong way twice we managed to navigate through the pitch black field to find the C3. Note for next time, take a torch.

We managed checked into our luxurious hotel (and by luxurious I mean more than bog standard - there was no duvet, that's all I'm saying) rested our feet and recharged for the next day...

The second day arrived (far too early). I grappled to find my watch on the bedside table but before I could reach it my friend informed me we had five lousy minutes before we had to get up. Groan! We stumbled out of our beds and put our carefully planned "Day 2" outfits on. We re-packed our bags with the essentials again (bacteria killing bottles, wipes...anything) and after nearly leaving my ticket behind, set off for another day in the field.

We parked up in a nearer car park - wellies were the footwear of choice for both of us today which was the sensible option as the fields were covered in a whole host of shit. We walked down to the main stage arena and sought out some freshly made pancakes and fended off an attack of wasps while eating them in the field.

First act of the day were Mcfly who were very entertaining - although the stupid girls at the front with their Tu-Tu's did get slightly annoying. We trudged over to the big tent to see Pixie Lott - but who did we see the end of? NDubz, wohooo! We danced our way to the front singing No. 1 while all the scallies filed out of the tent. I'm being a tad judgmental here but seriously, half these kids were tagged (JOKE) They were deffo ASBO cases though (TRUFAX).

Pixie entertained while Will Young had us in stitches with his chatter. Helpfully informing us what a "riser" was and pondering what his fan-made sash said. It didn't say "wanker" as he first thought. All good in the tent hood.

After some lunch we were back over to the main stage to catch the end of the now infamous (thanks to Kanye West) Taylor Swift. Feet report at this point: sore. The Script blasted on stage and all the girls went starry-eyed for Danny (well he is fit like!)

The Saturdays lit up the tent with their multi-coloured outfits and we learnt a new dance routine for "Last Chance" an embarrassingly easy arm movement. Seriously girls, show your fans some respect, at least throw in a two-step next time.

After a short sit down, some food, and a couple of ice creams (in the presence of people peeing behind a shack we were sat next to) we readied ourselves for the last few hour hours standing up. Feet report: Throbbing intensely.

We made our way to near the front of the main stage - which now smelt like strong wee (none of the weak stuff now) - and positioned ourselves for Razorlight. Johnny Borell came on with his rock star shades and swaggered around the stage. He is a total cliche but it kinda works live. Agreed? Good. Our feet got increasingly more painful and I was shamefully wishing time away whilst waiting for The Killers came on stage.

The hour in between the acts seemed to last an absolute age. The shifting of weight from foot to foot no longer kept the pain away. Finnnnnnnnnnally The Killers took to the stage and all pain was forgotten. We sang along to "I got soul....." while jumping up and down to  "Somebody told me" Brandon's voice soared across the park, completing the night with "When we were young." Then they were gone. The perfect end to our festival.

We trudged back round the field - well up, down and round as we seemed to go the wrong way. We made the slow way back to the car - at this point our feet were in so much pain we became hysterical, laughing our way through the pitch black forest desperate to sit down. After a few false alarms, and the road seeming to be longer than the longest road in eternity, there it was, the light blue Citroen C3, THERE! We walked over, slowly (obviously) and ceremoniously removed our wellies in favour of more comfortable footwear. We sat down on the car seats, dumped our bags and....our feet felt just a fecking painful as when we were stood up, if anything they actually hurt worse when we sat down.

The queue to get off the car park was monumentally horrendous. We sat in the car for an hour waiting for the queue to die down and not one car had moved! Eventually we made a move to join the queue and sat there - singing along to The Script "we're not movvvvvvvvvvvvvvving, ohhhh" and coming up with made up terms - such as moveage - which we shouted very loudly every time we moved an inch. We watched the car in front intently - "MOVEAGE!" we yelled as we moved that important few centimetres. Finally, after around two and a half hours we waved goodbye to Weston Park...our adventure was over....or so we thought.

Back to the hotel we thought, wohoo. Only, the satnav decided she was going to be an awkward biatch and sacked us off for most of the journey, refusing to switch on. After a bit of guess work we made it back to the glorious hotel and stumbled our way into the lobby, and finally our room, ahhhh peace at last....or, again, so we thought....

We sat and enjoyed the rest when my friend suddenly noticed the biggest, ugliest looking spider on the wall of our room. For Fucks Sake!! Wasn't the weekend a test enough without creatures adding to it? After some feeble attempts to squash the git I made my way down to the lobby to ask for someone to remove it. On my way I encountered a smashed-off-his-tits bloke who happily peed into a beer glass on the stairs, nice. After a nice man came and got rid of the spider my friend had an ingenious idea of what could relieve our tired feet - a Sprite bottle. Ridiculous! I thought but then the knobbly bottom of the bottle started to relieve the tension and I thought it was the most brilliant invention in the history of the world, EVER!

Finally we thought, 3am and peace at last. We started to faff around getting ready for bed when we heard a knock at the door - after ignoring the first tap I answered the door only to be met by the smacked-off-his-tits man who asked me to keep the noise down. After agreeing and asking him to go back to his room I quickly bolted the door and wondering what the frig would be thrown at us next - the earth had just decided we were not going to get any rest tonight.

Finally, finally, finally, we were allowed to sleep.....zzzzzzzz.

The next morning we awoke and slowly got ready and packed up our things for the journey home. We waved goodbye to Staffordshire while the satnav decided to take us the scenic, and long, way home. I  recuperated for work the next day while planning for V Festival 2010. Rock. On!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

You May Not Pass Go

Something just hit me tonight as I innocently tried to make a bank transfer from my account to another account - my memory is shit. On a good day I can remember how old I am, and on an excellent day I remember to subtract a couple of years whenever I am asked how old I am. Trying to complete what should be a simple task of moving a bit of cash about threw up a whole lot of memory-busting barriers.

Sort code?! Account number?! Security number?! Digital banking security number?! I panicked as all these empty fields screamed at me "You must remember me?! You created me last year!"

On my first go I typed what I thought was the right codes. Access denied. My second go I tried to think hard, then just typed the EXACT same code (thinking this time the complex security system would just let me through for showing sheer persistence). Access denied. Then I tried to be clever. "I shall hover my fingers over the keyboard and my fingers will find the right letter/numbers. My fingers are wise". Access Denied. Shit.

After admitting defeat and deciding I really did have to trawl through my endless pieces of paper that looked too important to bin (<--that or I just couldn't be arsed shredding my details a trillion times over) I found the oh-so-important codes and was set to continue my task.

Access granted. Yes! Online banking is my bitch!

Oh...but wait. Now a new box awaited me - memorable name. Memorable name?! Think, think, think. It must be really memorable to me because, well, it says so. At this point I was ready to fly into a Tony Montana-style rage, the kind of rage that would scare Tyson. I was mainly mad at myself for not being able to remember a code I had purposely set up to remember at times like these.

I did eventually remember the code and manages to complete what should have taken 5 minutes. The moral of this story (rant) is...throwing important bits of paper around your room really does not help you remember anything other than what an arse it is to have to clear up your own destruction.

Monday, 28 March 2011

The Story of My Life...Sort Of

If my life was made into a Hollywood blockbuster (and let's face it, it's on the verge) who would play me? What events would be dramatised? What would be my soundtrack? What would be changed to make me look less of a tool and just like a born winner? These are the kind of thoughts your average, blue-collar, person has every day. Am I right or am I right?!

Here are some solid gold notes I have prepared for those producers in LA (calm down peeps, you will get the full version soon enough. Jeez!):

  • Suri Cruise would play the child version of me - but she will need to stop being so miserable. Child genius' SMILE, it's how we tell them apart from the stupid ones.
  • My birthplace will resemble Balmory and neighbours will look like Brad and Angelina.
  • Brad and Angelina will play my parents. Brad must be clean shaven. Angelina must revert to insanity years - pre-adopting babies phase.
  • Edited episodes of Sweet Valley High can be dropped in to fill for my high school days.  
  • A dance sequence will show the transition to womanhood, involving such moves as the 'drinking Jack Daniels and Coke shimmy' and the 'leaving every item of clothing all round the house whilst trying to crawl into bed drunk swing"
  • There will be a 15 min intermission (I will file this under the 'career' section of my life).
  • Billie's "Because we want to" will blare out to a scene of an adult me strutting down the street. Close up of my face. I wink. Black and White. Subtitles: "Winning since 1984". Fin.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Plain Jane

Nothing stumps an indecisive person more than being faced with any question that starts with "What is your all-time favorite..." Doesn't matter if it is a film, album, colour, I always struggle to come up with a definitive answer. However, when it comes to my all-time favorite book I respond with the same affirmative declaration as Charlie Sheen's "bi-winning" statement. Jane Eyre.

I have read this book more times than any other and each time I get lost in the story of one young woman's struggle to be loved and respected in equal measures. She is the original plain Jane who escaped  her cruel family, survived a children's home and tolerated the snobbery of the upper classes and in the end she gets her man. She is like a modern day Kerry Katona (except for the fairytale ending).

Jane would wipe the floor with Austen's Elizabeth Bennet and Emma - who are far too partial to go weak at the knees at the sight of a big mansion or wet britches. Pah! Jane deals with a mad woman in an attic burning a house to the ground without so much as a skewed bonnet. Heathcliff's Cathy might be a worthy advisory (the little madam!) yet she will always be Heathcliff's Cathy, whereas Jane proudly states that "Reader, I married him" Step off bitches! She chose her man, not out of money or desperation but purely because she wanted to. If this was still 1996 I might be inclined to shout GIRL POWER!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Luck Out

Sometimes I just have to look to the skies and say "Can I please catch a break?" I am not a surfer (don't have the balance, fitness, thighs or wild hair for it) but merely an unlucky person, born into an unlucky family.

The legend goes that my Great Grandad was once cursed by a Gypsy when he refused him water (he wasn't being tight - he had bent over backwards for him but this guy was basically leeching as much as he could) and that bad luck has remained with our family ever since. I wholeheartedly believe this to be true.

We are so unlucky that Dirty Harry wouldn't even bother asking. He'd simply lower his Magnum...which would probably miraculously go off, the bullet would ricochet off a nearby tin bath and clank into the back of my head. No Harry, I certainly do not feel lucky.

Is luck simply the act of reward? As with karma - whatever you put out in this world, comes back to you? I find the theory of karma irksome, nay, lets go for a stronger feeling...infuriating. Celebrities are often quoted in magazines as believing in karma, mainly as a justification as to why they are so stonkingly rich - because in a former life they cleared pheasant juice out of Henry VIII's sizable beard. What about me? What about that time I found a card in a cash machine and instead of rinsing it of his savings I went running after the dozy git to return his card. Where was my karma-kash for that amazing, selfless deed huh? I was granted with nada.

So as I sit here pondering all the magical ways of this unfair world I am going to put out THE MOST positive vibes that I can muster (like Robin Williams did in Hook "HAPPY thoughts Peter!!") and will await the good times to roll in. I may also google "breaking gypsy curses" just as a back up plan.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Gaggle

The Boss sat still, quietly eyeing up his surroundings. His two minions waddled around nervously, hopping from one foot to the other, heads flicking in all directions, not knowing which way was safe to focus their gaze to. One thing was sure, they would never look directly at the Boss. Instead, they would continue to employ their searching gazes and wait for the sign.

Dark clouds huddled overhead, as if they were watching and waiting for the sign too. A stream of eager rain beat down on the two nervous, and one solemn, figures below.

Through the grey atmosphere a two lights became visible. Steadily the lights got closer and closer to the Boss and his minions, until they could make out the shape of a car.

The minions ceased their nervous activity and froze into position, mimicking the granite-like demeanour of their Boss. The car pulled up close and the driver's side window wound down. The Boss didn't flicker, and without saying a word the minions positioned themselves behind the Boss, backing him on either side.

They couldn't see who was in the car but a familiar object was thrust out of the window and then it began. "Ooh look at these geese! Let me just take a picture." said the driver. A succession of flashing lights startled the minions. The driver spoke again, "now what do you call a group of geese? It's a gaggle isn't it?" Just as the 'G' word was uttered the Boss let out a hiss, and the minions reacted accordingly to the planned sign. They charged the wheels of the car and hissed and quacked. The startled driver put down his camera and drove off. The Boss looked on triumphantly and said, "we ain't no gaggle mate. We are a gang!"

Sunday, 6 February 2011

I don't want to worry you but...

A random thought hit me as I lay in bed last night - does my old bedside dresser contain asbestos? Random. Irrational. Most likely completely unfounded (hopefully). This led me to think more about my habit of worrying.

If worrying was an Olympic sport - Lord Coe, work your magic - my family would have gold medals coming out of our ears (surely a medical condition? Make note to Google later). The anxiety gene has been passed down through many generations and I haven't disappointed the family tradition, in fact one of my early primary school reports stated that I "tend to worry over silly little things". I beg to differ. Not having the right shade of green for my tree painting isn't what I'd call a silly little thing!

Prime time for The Worries to commence is at bedtime. The irrational thoughts start to swirl around my mind like a vortex of the bizarre and hellish under the cover of darkness. Many a time I have had to jump up out of bed to try and block the crushing tide of negativity - what will happen to people when the World is finally sucked into that black hole in the Solar System? Will Lindsay Lohan ever get off the crack? Things of that nature.

The Earth suddenly falling out of the sky (yes I know technically it is the sky - this is panic speaking), snakes loitering in my toilet (the day I don't check is the day it gets me) and Perfect Storm-like super tsunami's (in a residential area) are an example of my recurring fears.

A few years ago I was discussing the Saw films with my colleagues when one guy piped up that his absolute worst fear was being thrown into a pit of used needles. Ha! The freak! I laughed at the pure unlikeliness. Then I remembered that, whilst stood at a bus stop, I was convinced that a rather blustery day was in fact the beginning of a hurricane. I kept one eye on lookout for the arrival of my bus, and used the other to scout out the friendliest looking houses that I would run to for shelter.

According to studies, people who worry are far less effective than those who don't, they get less work done and are less happy. Well I could have told them that for free.

Now I think it is time for bed...once I've checked under it first.

Saturday, 5 February 2011


Everyone has one of them. There are a great variety of them. Loud, annoying and those that take you by surprise. Comics spend a great deal of time and effort trying to drag them out of their audiences. And through the powers of an acronym, we can now do it without even opening our mouths. I am talking about laughing. Laughs. Laughter and LOLing.

I am an avid collector of unusual laughs, storing any anomalies in my vast library of the weird and wonderful, and irritating.

Within that dark chasm of stored laughs are the airy-fairy sniggers (that suggest a certain snidey nature from it's bearer), the one-second blasters, the say it don't spray its, the work-fakes (which range from the brown-nosers and simple people-pleasers), the curious ones that make no noise at all, the squeaks, the squawks and the down right primal.

I was unfortunate to be cursed with an undesirable laugh. It is loud. Very loud. Too loud in fact. It teeters between an amateur dramatic member's attempt at a witches cackle and Sybil from Fawlty Towers [insert snort here].

Mine is not the sort of laugh that would be described of as lilting, or girlish. In an interview with Vanity Fair magazine (it so could happen) my impressive wit would be overcast with the horrendous sound and the interviewer would punctuate sentences with "...she a pregnant whale". In time I hope to send my laugh to bootcamp and be presented with a delightful giggle, or a Jane Austen-esque titter. Teeheehee, oh Mr. Darcy how you make me politely and in a very lady like manner, err...split my sides? Hmm, some further work needed there. Until then, LOL SNORT HAHAHA LOLOL *BREATHE* HA!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Do A U-Turn!

Although I am not old enough to be wise or full of stories that begin with "well when I was in Qatar..." I do know some things. The kind of things I see myself sitting my grandchildren down by the fire and imparting to them. Then, when they are adults this kernel of knowledge will pop into their minds and they will say "Ah yes, Grandma was wise".

So brace yourself for this rocket revelation...Sat Navs are shit.

Sat Navs will abandon you the minute you creep into new territory where you have no clue where the one way system begins. It will bark orders like "DO A U-TURN NOW!" and "TAKE THE THIRD EXIT" when the third exit clearly bares a "NO ENTRANCE" sign. Is Sat Nav trying to send me to a certain death? Was my Sat Nav created in a factory infiltrated by terrorists who chose one single console to reprogramme to give clear kamikaze directions to the owner?

I will my Sat Nav to be kind. Take pity on me! I really don't know where I'm going. Help! I try the quivering bottom lip and as the tears start to prick at my eyes I look longingly at her, hoping the sacred flag will magically appear. She continues to ignore me and requests that I "TURN LEFT" only for me to "TURN LEFT" again - taking me in a circle. What. A. Bitch.

Finally the red mist descends and the expletives spill out quicker than D-list celebrity's boobs at a photo op. Maybe this is part of the kamikaze programming and if operation 'do a U-Turn on a dual carrigeway' fails then plan B is to enrage the driver so much they actually self-combust from pure fury.

No, don't thank me. Please stop with the praise! I know, I know, Woman Writes is wise.

Saturday, 22 January 2011


I want to come clean. I am an addict. My vice? Horoscopes. It started off as just casual fun then one thing led to another and now I can't start the day without them. Sometimes three or four times a day.

Every morning I feed the habit by checking my online horoscope to find out whether it was worth me getting out of bed this morning or not.

Today, a very reliable source (MSN) told me that I would be very lucky in the property field and therefore should invest. Damn. I only have a few hours left of today to fulfil this prophecy. I mean how many more times is the moon going to be properly aligned with Venus in my income sector?

Choose your horoscope guru wisely. MSN seems quite friendly to Capricorns this year, which is nice after years of growing up with Bliss and Sugar magazine who showed their blatant HATE for Capricorns by the fact the celebrity they would use to represent all us fellow goats was Gary Barlow - post Take That - when he was eating a lot of pies and a national joke.

Geminis take note, the unusually short-armed Russell Grant is not a fan. Best to stick with MSN who today predict that "joining forces with a group of activists gives you courage." Right on brothers and sisters, or rather twins.

A word of warning, Yahoo horoscopes hate everyone. This is their wisdom for me today "Negativity and a critical tone will only serve to alienate you from potential allies." Shut up! What do they know?

If MSN is crack then Michele Knight is Heroin. Although she is a complete life-tease, correctly identifying that you are pre-occupied with a certain issue (bah! Michele would be more specific than that) Let me try again so, your thoughts are pre occupied with those blue shoes you spotted on Wednesday, should you buy them or not? Well Michele? Should we buy them or not? Michele? She's gone. Shoe dilemma guidance can be accessed through a premium rate telephone number. The Knight is wise, and obviously minted.

In the Morning

Another grim morning crept up and over the warm duvet of the sleeping figure in the bed. The morning's cold fingers reached out and tapped the nose of it's unknowing victim. The figure stirred slightly and turned her head to face the wall, in hopes that somehow the morning would retract it's advances and wait until she was good and ready. There was silence. Both the morning and the girl in a state of stasis, wondering which would crack first. The battle of wills was abruptly shattered with the intrusion of the alarm. Three beeps in quick succession rang out, followed by another, and then another. It was too much to bear. The girl flung out one arm and wrestled the alarm off the dresser and fumbled to find the off switch. Success, and again silence. Sweet, sweet silence.

The girl pulled the covers up around her, making sure to cover her face. Her eyes peeping over staring blankly at the ceiling. A million thoughts ran through her mind, but one shouted louder than the rest. Can I get away with another few minutes lay here, she pondered. She looked to the clock for reassurance. The clock wasn't having it, time to get up.

She kicked one leg out from under the covers as if in hopes the cold air would jolt her into action. It didn't work. She retracted her leg and pulled it back under the duvet, hugging it more tightly around her. Another hopeful look at the clock. Nope, she really did have to get up this time. She swung her leg out again but this time she followed it with the other leg and planted both feet on the carpet. She sat there momentarily before standing to switch the light on and quickly running into the bathroom before the bedroom light could catch her and burn itself into her sleepy eyes.

The routine began. She wrestled her long mane of hair, quick slap of make up. Trundling downstairs she hunted for some snacks. The fruit bowl looked uninviting but she thumbed her way through several possible apples before selecting the least bruised  one and popped it in her bag.

A quick check for her keys and she was out the door on the way to her car. The air was cool and nipped at her face. She yanked the car door open and hurried to close the door behind her. She turned the key in the ignition and was greeted with the familiar sound of the morning radio DJ blasting out of her stereo, a rare comfort she received on her way to work. Like an old friend she picked up from where they had left off and laughed along with the DJ as she made her way into work. The day had begun.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Little Dark Cloud

The Little Dark Cloud is unhappy. He sits alone, above his creator's head waiting patiently for the day the sweeping winds of change move in to push the Little Dark Cloud out to sea, where he will disperse into a light-filled atmosphere. The mood would brighten. The Cloud would be happy.

Millions of droplets of anxiety would evaporate into the sun. The Little Dark Cloud would be dark no more and he could sit amongst the gleeful Fluffy-Whites set in a pastel blue sky looking down upon the glorious glow of the Earth's happiness below.

Until that day arrives the Little Black Cloud must wait in the gloom of the day and the unwelcoming sheet of a star-less night.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

We have a Code Red Situation Folks

In some professions a Code Red usually means danger. CODE RED! Fire spreading to level 20! CODE RED! The bird has flown into the engine! CODE RED! We can't find the snake!

Code Red's are usually an exceptional circumstance, of a rare occurrence. In the case of my professional arena a Code Red situation can strike more times than a professional ten-pin bowler. There is no warning. No Code Amber. We go from dead calm to certain-death blind panic in the same space of time it takes me to email "Oh for fucks sake".

A CRS (Code Red Situation) can erupt over deeply important matters such as:

CODE RED! There is only ONE pint of milk left. I repeat. ONE pint of milk left.
Reaction: Oh SHIT! Strong teas all day? [panic ensues]

Another example?

CODE RED! I need to find the appropriate cultural etiquette for China.

This seems a reasonable request you think? Surely if one is to do business with a foreign land then one must know the appropriate behavioural standards and differences of their culture mustn't one? Not hacking up phlegm after lunch could be deemed a great slight on the host and therefore a lucrative deal goes unsigned. Yes, BUT, what if one's company who one works for doesn't do any sodding business in China? It may make you feel differently towards the reaction to aforementioned CSR:

Reaction: Spend all day Googling and printing off results for useful phrases when in China. Possibly send friend request to random Chinese person on Facebook.

Finally, sometimes (completely out of a dirge of a day) a CSR can create a stellar piece of unintentional comedy:

CODE RED! My trousers have split!
Reaction: Much laughter from myself. The person in question walks around asking every member of the department if they had any sellotape. Ten minutes later witness the unfortunate walk into toilets with huge sellotape dispenser. Much more laughter from myself. A few hours later Calamity Pants requests a stapler. Repeat previous steps substituting 'sellotape' for 'staples'. I have complete hysterical breakdown.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

TV Lied To Me

As a child I watched copious amounts of television. I did read books but tales of lame child gangs spending hours in a tree just didn't entice me like the glossy American TV shows used to. Nobody drank Ginger Beer in California. Nobody had an annoying dog. Nobody was called George and Titty.

They sold an eager pre-pubescent girl a golden dream of the possibilities available to me. Getting older was going to be brilliant, I had it all planned out. I was going to run rings around my headmaster with ridiculous scams. Spend all night out in the woods with my mates telling each other far too creepy stories. Start a band and date a stereotypical bad boy. I was going to find my long lost adopted-twin sister living the life of Riley and I would move into her plush home. I was going to be given a magical 50 pence coin that would let me do anything I wished. I'd be the only female member of an all-male basketball team. My best friend would climb into my always-open bedroom window with ladders just as I skillfully built a computer software programme to do my homework for me.

I would walk into a forest with exploding mushrooms. Join a sports excellence centre and deal with my 'issues'. Play boardgames like "Don't whizz on the electric fence". Fall in love with a can of tuna so much I may want to marry it. Spend ages with my talking cat and try to solve the family mystery, possibly taking trips to Limbo through a closet door.

Any thought of a normal life would be turned on its head when I would be subjected to a toxic waste spill, leaving me with the ability to transform into water and try and infiltrate the secret Government organisation that were responsible.

My drawings would come to life. I would whisper a secret word and become a superhero. I would try and become the next Spielberg whilst having deep and meaningful conversations with my fellow teen.

Putting the tips of my fingers together would stop time.

I would pop balloons full of shaving foam whilst riding a go-kart and be egged on by a long haired-pillock in an arran jumper.

Ah yes, this getting older lark was going to be a breeze. I had it ALL planned out.

TV may have lied to me but I forgive long as I get to be a contestant on Knightmare.

*A List of the favourite TV shows from my youth, for those too young/old to follow my above ramblings. It does have a point, it wasn't me just be a deranged child...well maybe a little bit of that too.
  • Saved by the Bell - Kelly Kapowski was thy mortal enemy.
  • Clarissa Explains it all - Wanted to BE her. Cool bedroom. Mad Parents.
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark? - I declare this meeting of the midnight society closed.
  • Round the Twist - Cabbage patch babies that hold their breath? Incessant stream of bird shit? It had it all. Trippiest kids show ever.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch - Did she ever solve the family mystery? I stopped watching it when she went to college, I'll never know...
  • California Dreams - Actually knew the words to the songs the "band" had *shame*.
  • Keenan and Kel - Who loves orange soda?
  • Sister Sister - One was brainy, the other dumb...genius writing.
  • Sweet Valley High- One was brainy, the other dumb...(what is it with twins?!)
  • Ren and Stimpy - I killlllllllllllll you man!
  • Rocco's Modern Life - Slightly disconcerting toad/frog family. May you all go to Heck.
  • Rugrats - Phil and Lil - rock stars of the cartoon baby world.
  • The Adventures of Pete and Pete - Does ANYONE else remember this?! Two brothers with the same name, their mum had a metal plate in her head and their dad was obsessed with the lawn? Pretty sure Sam Rockwell once had a part in it. Gingers? Brain Freeze? Ringing any bells?
  • The Secret Life of Alex Mack - Toxicity suited her. Never effected her shiny hair.
  • Hang Time - Positively Shakespeare-esque.
  • Dawson's Creek - The one major fault being it's title. PACEY'S creek to the friends. Dawson's Crack to the foes.
  • Gravedale high - Twilight before it's time.
  • Super Ted - I reckon the secret word was "flange".
  • Attack of the Killer Tomatoes - The great tomato war? Get out of town!
  • Penny Crayon - Found the magic crayons in Paperchase but they cost £14.99 so sacked it. Rip off.
  • Maid Marion and her Merry Men - Yep, wanted to be her as well.
  • Moomins - Psychedelic vibe ruined by that annoying little shouty girl.
  • Knightmare - Hardest kids game show ever. Still awaiting response to my application.
  • Incredible Games - Weird level where you dived into a big cereal bowl with magnetic letters.
  • Dungeons and Dragons - Did they ever get home?
  • Jem - Shocking myself with the sheer awesomeness of this list.
  • Rude Dog and The Dweebs - I wasn't even as cool as the Dweebs.
  • Pee-Wee's Playhouse - Sketchy guy being sketchy in a bow-tie.
  • Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? - You tell me.
  • The Queens Nose - Made many futile attempts trying to make a 50p magical by sheer force yielded unsatisfactory results. 50p then used to buy sweets.
  • Bodger and Badger - MASH POTATOESSSSSSSSSSS.
  • Doug - The thicket of solitude. Had blue-faced friend Skeeter (this was never explained).
  • Fun House - Pat Sharpe. Woolly, long-haired, talentless moron. In other words - Legend.
  • Fraggle Rock - The Dozers should be contracted out by the Council.
  • Grange Hill - Just say no, then get on your knees and beg for it to be reinstated.
  • The Biz - Stage school drama with Paul Nicholls when he was young and beautiful and had it all before him. Joe Wicks, lest we forget.
  • Children's Ward - Bit like casualty with....well, children.
  • Teen Angel - Awe, how sweet! His DEAD friend came back to help/haunt him, nice...
  • The Mysterious Cities of Gold - Officially the best TV theme tune ever. Don't believe me? Clickity Click!
  • Greenclaws - Woo,wooo, wooowooowowooooooo.
  • Itsa Bitsa - Cried actual tears when I had to learn my spellings instead of watch this. Can never look at a pipe cleaner again.
  • Wackaday - Possible the most ingenious show ever. Bleuuugh. Even as I child I thought Timmy Mallett was a div.
  • The Broom cupboard - Not technically a show but I miss it. All kids TV presenters should be shoved in a cupboard with a duck or gopher.
  • Going Live - Oh how I wanted to speak to the stars with those big-arse mobile phones.
  • The Girl From Tomorrow - Amaze headband. WANT.
  • Out of This World - Her dad was in a crystal. Different.
  • The Odyssey - Boy in a coma and living in his fantasy world. Mum would often pop in, adopt "ow still in coma" face and pop out.
  • Heartbreak High - Australian Grange Hill.
  • Sweat - Heath Ledger. Gay cyclist. Say no more.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Life and Times of Clomp

She is doing it again. The daily ritual of her clomping up the corridor with a permanent look of confusion on her face, shoulders hunched over and an air of desperation entombing her like a hot dog in a stale bun. Her whole demeanour screams a compendium of conflicting messages, "I'm unhappy!", "Please love me!", "I'm better than you, check out my shoes!" Let me explain. She is unhappy as her only friend is canine, she seems to own only three items of clothing and she smells of meat. She is desperate for love as she is lonely and latches on to any spark of conversation, or in a tactical move, bring up a topic six months out of date to use it as a way in to let her social skills shine, and she smells of meat. The only pride she seems to take is in her job role, frequently looking down on the other teams who she will openly call "the working class". This is from a woman who smells of meat.

The heavy footed clomping sound sparks immediate annoyance in me. Knowing that three seconds later she will appear. It is the knowing that is the killer. She will saunter into the kitchen for the first of many trips for water, surveying the options for conversation as she tries to catch someone (anyone's) eye. Slowly she will make the trip back to her desk where I will then wait patiently, furiously punching the buttons on my keyboard, while the clomping starts again. Yes she is making the same journey up the same corridor to visit the toilet. My mind works overtime as I plan out the way I would have been able to make the toilet and water break in one fail swoop.

Efficient toilet break/water gatherings aside the slow corridor mooching is all an attention seeking ploy. Many have been victim to her corridor attacks, they yielded numerous results such as being hailed her inspiration, but each 'attack' leaves me with an inherent sense of cringe. It is a well known fact that several doses of cringe a day are harmful to that part of your brain that controls the muscles to create a palmface. Very soon I will lose control of that instinctive post-cringe action and will have to resort to smashing my forehead on the keyboard.

I must make you aware of one short term side effect, the post-cringe-post-bitch guilt. It gets everyone. Well, everyone who notices her irritating habits and imparts their annoyance to like-minded people. After offloading the rage the guilt will pour itself all over you like a pint of lumpy sour milk, making you feel worse than Lady Macbeth, except you don't have the madness to blame it on. Yet.

Fear not, the maddening ritual will begin again, washing away the stench of guilt and possibly inspiring some irritant-inspired poetry...

Woman Begins...

Like every story we must start at the beginning. My story begins with a rather garish pink headline.Woman Writes is basically a tool for me (i.e Woman) to get back into the habit of creative writing after too-long an absence.

The non-specific title reflects my unwillingness to be tied down to one subject area, because I'm a total freebird, badass! That last statement was a lie, if you hadn't already twigged. My real reason for not locking it down to one subject area is because I haven't written anything that hasn't been work-related, a non-work-related-whilst-in-work email or a rather uninspiring Facebook status update, so do not want to deny any spark of creativity that may hit me one day, be it a new book, song, an overheard conversation or ridiculous celebrity news.

The creative flame that had dwindled since leaving university has now been sparked with fresh ideas and possibilities. Whatever the inspiration I must make sure that I stop being "Woman Who Thinks About Writing" and become "Woman Writes!"