Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Pickle Bag.

My friends and I did Christmas in January this year. Because there wasn't time at ACTUAL Christmas. We gave each other presents and we're all usually quite creative when it comes to gift-giving. This 'Christmas' was no different, and my friend Kate presented us all with our very own 'Pickle Bag'.

It's a concept I had never heard of but it makes SO MUCH SENSE, especially to someone like me, who is always losing everything at the bottom of giant handbags and can more often than not be found on the scrounge for someone else's lip gloss/chewing gum/bobby pins as a result. 

It's a cute little purse that contains one of everything you might need in a 'pickle' - think safety pins, nail files, hairbands, a pocket mirror, painkillers, tweezers and hand cream. I'm speculating wildly here that these are the things you, who is reading this right now, might most need. Of course, you can customise it to meet your own needs. USB cables, toothbrush, razor, camera memory card, drawing pencils, 20p for a phone box, the list is endless and completely depends on what the individual user of the Pickle Bag might need in an emergency. 

In compiling my Pickle Bag for me, Kate had got me down to a tee. I have short hair, so she had replaced hairbands with Kirby grips. I can never find lip balm, so there's a stick of that in there. And I work in first aid - safety pins and plasters are commodities that I take for granted, often need and seldom have to hand when I need them. Now I have them. I just have to remember to keep my Pickle Bag replenished, as, after owning it and carrying it about for a week, I've already used it more times than I can count. 

It's such a little thing that makes such a huge difference. Which is what it's all about.

More Pickle Bags.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Photo Project: 'Dear Heart' & 50mm Lens Practice

Hello and good afternoon. 

I recently bought a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens because it makes BEAUTIFUL pictures that are clear as crystal and glass. It's been a while since I used one of these lenses (I used to be married to my Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens) and I need some practise, but here are the first photographs I took with it last week, and also a photo project - which is about hearts (it's stupidly simple). 

Needs more practice!

And here is a photo I took outside Shoreditch High Street station (London) in September last year:-

You can click on all photos for bigger and to link back to Flickr.

Lots more photographs in 2013 I hope!

Monday, 31 December 2012

Mixtape Wednesday:- Begin Again

No matter how good your intentions, the truth is that the start of the new year is very seldom actually a new beginning.  It may seem like a good time to change your life and strive to be better, but you can do that any time.  And if changing was important, wouldn't you have done it by now? You can do anything, any time.

  But now it's 2 January, it's Wednesday and mixtapes are awesome. You've probably broken all your new year's resolutions - I definitely have - so here's some great, great music about starting over, making changes, new beginnings and all that utter nonsense, as recommended by me and my friends (who also love making mixtapes). Sing loud. 

1 - Deap Vally - End of the World

It's kinda like Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson except female and punk. It's a morality tale about making the world better. It's an awesome video. There's someone lighting a spliff on the toaster.  I wish I was in this band. 

2 -  Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry Be Happy

This is a laid back way of reminding yourself to chill out. And it's a HAPPY song, and such a simple song. And the video is funny. Maybe I'll just stop the list here. Do we even need anything else?

3 - Florence and the Machine - Dog Days are Over

This was the first Florence song I ever heard and I loved it. I didn't know what dog days were and maybe I still don't. But if 'dog' stands for 'black dog' then in my head it's a song about things changing for the better. And it's one of those buildy-uppy songs that I love so much (I should have been a music journalist, right?) 

4 - Maverick Sabre - A Change is Gonna Come

This Sam Cooke song has been covered a thousand different times, and it's been stuck in my head for weeks and weeks for some reason. I hadn't even heard this version until this week. My friend Tanya added it to the mixtape and it's amazing. Maverick Sabre's voice suits the song really well. Tanya's off to live in Australia this month, so her choice of track is fitting. 

5 - Foo Fighters - Times Like These

I really disliked this song until now. It's middle of the road radio friendly blurb. But my friend Helen suggested it for this mixtape and listening to the lyrics, maybe it's growing on me.

I am a new day rising
I'm a brand new sky
to hang the stars upon tonight
I am a little divided
do I stay or run away
and leave it all behind?

6 - Bon Jovi - It's My Life

Also suggested by Helen, though she admitted it's a little cheesy. Bon Jovi are my guilty pleasure band. Not even a guilty pleasure, I don't care who knows how much I like them. When this song came out I loved it, especially the reference to Tommy and Gina. And the video was on MTV all the time. I know it by heart now. 

'This is for the ones who stood their ground/
For Tommy and Gina who never backed down'

7 - Arcade Fire - Ready to Start

I find The Arcade Fire really haunting. I love their music, I saw them 2 years ago in Hyde Park which was a disastrous experience and for all these reasons they make my heart hurt. That's a very Emo thing to say but I think The Arcade Fire are maybe the last of the Great Emo bands I remember from growing up and my early twenties. This song is beautiful. 

'I guess I'll just begin again/you said can we still be friends?'

8 - Radical Face - We're on Our Way

I had never heard of this song until last week. My friend Guy added it to the mixtape. It's nice. The video has lens flare and I like that. 

9 - Stephanie Dosen - Only Getting Better

I first saw the video for this on MTV2 in the middle of the night in April 2008, and fell in love with the song. It's uplifting and joyful and wonderful. 

10 - Gratitude - Dream, Again

One of my favourite favourite favourite bands and albums of all time. Jonah Matranga has existed in many incarnations and I know that many fans cite Far as being the best of these. But I loved Gratitude and years later I cannot get enough of this album. Here's a song from it. The video isn't the best quality but I love it because I was at that gig and it was a lot of fun. It's also a lovely and upbeat note on which to end this list. 

Tracklisting in full:-

1 - Deap Vally - End of the World
2 - Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry Be Happy
3 - Florence and the Machine - Dog Days are Over
4 - Maverick Sabre - A Change is Gonna Come
5 - Foo Fighters - Times Like These
6 - Bon Jovi - It's My Life
7 - Arcade Fire - Ready to Start
8 - Radical Face - We're on Our Way
9 - Stephanie Dosen - Only Getting Better
10 - Gratitude - Dream, Again

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Tattoo Stories:My Tattoo.

I don't really tell people the stories behind my tattoos but here goes...

Originally I was going to have a beach landscape on my right arm and a cityscape on my left arm. But plans change. I had this done roughly a year after I came back from travelling round the USA and the picture reminds me of all the beaches I saw when driving down coastal route 1 in California. The Pacific Ocean looked like it stretched on forever. I liked looking out at it and realising how far away I was from home, and that I was staring out at the other side of the world. I'd never seen the Pacific before and I haven't seen it since. The ocean in the tattoo is the Pacific, there's no doubt about it. And when I think about that ocean I can't help but hear School by Supertramp in my head. I don't know why. It's not about oceans but it *sounds* like the ocean. And so, if this tattoo had a soundtrack, it would be that song. 

It's a cover up - the word 'Sayonara' is written in pink ink underneath the red sky. It's still partly visible. The word came from a Coheed and Cambria song. I still love the song but I didn't love the tattoo and it was getting in the way of...the bigger picture. In my head they are one and the same tattoo now. Sayonara is still in there. There's a seaside town along the coast somewhere between San Francisco and LA called Cambria. We stopped there just so I could say I'd been to Cambria. Music geek. 

It's by Valerie Vargus of Frith St Tattoo. September 2008, before she got famous and her waiting list became years long. Only just before. I count myself quite lucky. Having it done was a lovely experience. 

Top photograph by Iris Jones Photography 2008.
Bottom photograph by Giada Garofalo Photography 2009.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Penniless Nomad on the Run.

A blog about rain and wind and Wales and wanting to go running off into the hills with a backpack. Written in late November 2012. 

a Tuesday and I am in Cardiff. At this moment in time I am squatting in someone else's house with 3 cats, one of whom only has 3 legs, I am suddenly penniless (but I also suddenly own a terribly expensive and top of the range tablet which is only indirectly involved with the fact that I am penniless), the flood waters are rising and I may never get home. I am terrified but I kind of like it.

I had a week off work and I hadn't seen my good friend Jess in a while so I came here for a little holiday although essentially, given that Jess is mostly at work and I am exhausted, I came here for a rest. A rest from London, a rest from life - I don't know, but Jess and her boyfriend have gone to work without leaving me a key, so I can't go out and anyway, I don't want to - outside it's blowing a gale and it's only a matter of time before it begins to rain again. Jess's family in north Wales have had their garden and fields flooded. I have been watching BBC Wales with an open mouth. People have been driven out of their homes and are now floating down the street on rafts, wrapped in Red Cross blankets and the like. I am cosy and warm, writing at a three-screen computer whilst intermittently getting up to let a cat out, or in, or sometimes to let one in whilst another goes out. Occasionally one of them will wind itself round my leg and purr. All I can hear is silence, unless the back door is open, and then I can hear the mini hurricane that's currently happening. Earlier on, I walked the two-and-a-half-minute walk round the corner to the Co-Op (Jess had instructed me to leave the door on the latch, something that you could never do in London for fear of pillaging, murder and death) and I had crept out in the howling gale to buy something for lunch. Inside the Co-op, a very very Welsh woman was standing talking to the also very very Welsh cashier while a small, polite queue formed behind them. 'Well now, if you need someone to take it off your hands I can nip round after work and take a look at it.' 'Yes, I just don't know what I's going to do with it otherwise Betty' etc. The next person in the queue, a skinny teenage boy with acne and more tattoos than me, asked politely if they sold stamps. They didn't, but Betty and her companion broke off their conversation quite happily, to spend ten comprehensive minutes instructing the teenager on exactly where to go to buy stamps at the cheapest prices. Then I piled my goods on the counter, paid for them and carried them home in my arms, because in Wales, every shop charges 5p for a carrier bag and in absolute fairness, this system does make you think twice about whether or not you actually NEED a carrier bag. I contemplated whether I actually NEEDED a carrier bag as I clutched my armful of frozen packages and fought my way 'home' in what was now a freezing, howling gale. My hands had gone blue. That 5p apparently goes to charity but sometimes it's best just to stack it all up and tough it out. The environment thanked me with big fat blustery hugs. When I got in, my hair was sticking up and one of my hands had dropped off. But the flood had not yet reached our front door so all was well.

The truth is, I like the idea of being a penniless nomad. Sometimes all I want to do is take off with a wad of cash in my pocket and a bag full of only the things I really need and see how far I can get before the money runs out. I think secretly, a lot of us would like to do this. The reason I am suddenly penniless is such a first-world problem - I closed my bank account without properly ensuring my employers knew about it and my paycheck this month got deposited firmly into the Ether. This is not the same as being truly penniless, just the same as rocking up and staying in Cardiff on my friends couch with a terribly expensive and top of the range tablet and seven pairs of shoes is not the same as travelling around the world like a nomad. And at the end of the week, I will swim back to London and go back on shift. But, as I let the three-legged cat out for the sixteenth time and simultaneously check the back garden for a rising tide, I realise that nothing is certain and who knows, one of these days perhaps I really will take off for the sunset. The three legged cat changes his mind halfway out the door and turns tail and heads for the sofa. I wonder about the possibility of putting a peg leg on him and taking him with me. He could be my first mate. In fact, if the floods make it this far, we won't have long to wait...

Donate to the British Red Cross here.

Donate to the Fugitives on the Run from Cancer LAS Jailbreak team, who actually did do the penniless nomad thing, and for a good cause too.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

UNdane Photographs - MOvember in Pictures

So, unless you've been living underneath a hairless rock for the past month, you'll know that it's been Movember for nearly 30 days now. Have you grown a Mo of your own or shown some Mo Love yet? 

Here are some Movember facts for your delight, because learning stuff is fun:-

1.) Movember began in Melbourne, Australia and is now an official yearly campaign in 14 countries.
2.) In 2011, £79.3 million was raised across the globe for Movember
3.) A woman who admires the moustache and supports Movember is called a 'Mo Sister'
4.) There is research to show that up to half of male cancer cases could be prevented by making healthier diet and lifestyle choices.
5.) Parties to celebrate the end of Movember happen all over the world. At the end of Movember, obviously.

I've been on the lookout for some Mo's in the mundane this month and here is what I've discovered over the course of November. 

Me with Mo?


Dave and Drew Mo it up

Bunting Mo!

Frank Turner supports Movember and had a donation bucket at his gigs this month

Fruitcake with a Mo, of course.

Mo mug. 

Lego Owlie Mo

Happy Mo, everyone, and don't forget to donate to the cause for men's cancers and depression here (clickety click).