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).

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Scrapbooking Odd Business Cards

Here are some awesome business cards I picked up from my friends' stalls at the SE20 Craft Fair that happened in South London recently. 

1 - Gareth Morinan Comedian
2 - Susan Oliver Artist
3 - Giada Garofalo Photographer

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Mixtape Wednesday:- Storyteller Songs

Here's a playlist of songs that tell a story. It's that simple. 

1.) M83 - Raconte-Moi Une Histoire

A song that reminds me a little of Sesame Street at first, but it's simple and innocent and lovely, and it builds into a beautiful instrumental after the narration stops, one that needs a sunny day and perhaps a road trip to make it sound absolutely perfect. The story is about a frog and how the world can look like a giant cupcake.

2.) Suzanne Vega - Tom's Diner

When talking about making this playlist, the Suzanne Vega song that got suggested to me was Luka, which is a beautiful and sad song. But when it comes to storytelling, it has to be this track. I've been listening to this song for years and I can picture exactly what the diner looks like. It's in London, it's January and it's raining. In my head, it's near Butler's Wharf on the south bank. I don't know why.

3.) Ice Cube - It Was a Good Day

I like that Ice Cube's idea of a good day includes a cooked breakfast, none of his friends getting shot and lots of sex. But really, what more could you ask for? Awesome song but worth a listen just for the line 'even saw the lights of the Goodyear blimp/and it read Ice Cube's a pimp'

4.) Tracy Chapman - Fast Car

A song about escaping and making something different of your life. Something I'm sure everyone thinks about doing at some point. Oh yeah, also really sad and happy at the same time.

5.) Kate Nash - Birds

I have a huge girl-crush on Kate Nash and when her first album, Made of Bricks, came out in 2007, I thought it was the greatest thing ever, and listened to it in my car pretty much on repeat for several months. I still count it among my favourite ever albums. Kate Nash is a great storyteller and Birds (the first Kate Nash song I ever heard, on the radio in my car whilst driving alone at 80mph at midnight in the middle of winter) is a sweet little first-date love story.

6.) Frank Turner - Long Live the Queen

A sad story about a friend dying. But uplifting and happy at the same time.

7.) Harry Chapin - Cats in the Cradle

Another sad story about a guy not making enough time for his kid. This video has Harry explaining the story at the beginning. Which is nice.

8.) Incubus - Isadore

There's a lot of emo-kid style squabbling online about what this song is about, but Emmy, who suggested this song for the playlist says it's supposedly aboutIsadore S.Jachman's role in World War II. Which is a much better meaning than all of this.

9.) Team Sleep - Tomb of Liegia

An episodic, haunting story about a crime,a punishment and a ghost, told over several decades. It sends a chill up my spine. The title references Edgar Allan Poe. Who also sends a chill up my spine.

10.) Save Ferris - Under 21

A fun song with an awesome brass section, about being too young to get into a show, a gig or a club. And yeah, we've all been there. Wearing a tiny skirt was just one of many ways we used to blag our way into bars as 17 year olds. See also: copious amounts of make-up, pretending to have lost your ID, trying to sneak past the bouncers, bursting into tears...

So I went and got myself a plan that would work
And I went on home and got a real short skirt
And I flirt my way right through that goddamn door

11.) Tenacious D - Tribute

Because...come ON.

12.) Paul Simon - Graceland

A story about a road trip the narrator is taking with his son after the break up of his marriage. Or similar. A song that had such a profound effect on me that I did the road trip myself this year. It was AWESOME. And then saw Paul Simon performing it in London later this year. Basically, it's all about this song.

There is a girl in New York City
Who calls herself the human trampoline
And sometimes when I'm falling, flying
Or tumbling in turmoil I say
WHOA, so this is what she means
She means we're bouncing into Graceland

The Mixtape in Full:-

1 - M83 - Raconte-Moi Une Histoire
2 - Suzanne Vega - Tom's Diner
3 - Ice Cube - It Was a Good Day
4 - Tracy Chapman - Fast Car
5 - Kate Nash - Birds
6 - Frank Turner - Long Live the Queen
7 - Harry Chapin - Cats in the Cradle
8 - Incubus - Isadore
9 - Team Sleep - Tomb of Liegia
10 - Save Ferris - Under 21
11 - Tenacious D - Tribute
12 - Paul Simon - Graceland

Things We Learned: Whilst Buying Hamsters in 2005.

When I was 21 I bought a hamster. I should have known better. Here are the diary entries from that slightly bizarre, flour-baby inspired period in my too-young-to-have-children-too-old-for-small-rodent-like-pets life.

November 13 2005:

Spurred on in part by Karen and her fish buying adventures, I did something on Saturday I have been meaning to do since I moved back home - bought a hamster! Actually he was free as the shop forgot to charge me for him.
He is brown with white patches. His name is Gordon Ramsey and he is going to make me some fantastic culinary delights. As soon as he stops hoarding all his food in his little house and then weeing on it.
Aww he's so cute and fluffy and today he weed on my hand. He likes to wee.

November 15 2005:
Gordon Ramsey is doing okay. I want to buy some more tunnels to attach to his cage as I'm worried that he is bored. I thought that he slept too much until last night, when I had him in my room with me (I don't like leaving him alone). LOUDEST hamster known to man. He spent the WHOLE night climbing up the side of the cage, knawing the bars for ten minutes and then falling down splat in the sawdust, before repeating the process. This morning he was curled up again all innocent as if nothing had happened, but the nice new cage I bought him is all chewed up around the edges. You can see all the places where he's tried his hardest to get out in the night. Naughty hamster. I keep waiting for him to display some kind of culinary talent, but all he does is painstankingly transfer all his food from the bowl to his little house every time I feed him - making several journeys from one to the other - and then wees on it all once it's where he wants it. And then he goes to sleep on it. I've never seen the real Gordon Ramsey do that on TV, although really, who knows what he gets up to in private?

November 19 2005:
Gordon Ramsey is biting the bars of his cage. He wants to get out and cook some soup on the stove for me. 

November 28 2005:
-Gordon Ramsey is still okay. He likes to run in his wheel and the other day threw an enormous tantrum when I disconnected it so I could hear the TV. He kicked all the food out of his bowl onto the floor and then went and sat in the corner with his back to me. Teenagers eh?

December 15 2005:
Gordon Ramsey has grown up into an adult. Awwww. Maybe I should follow suit. 

December 28 2005:
Had a bit of a panic earlier when I realised that Gordon Ramsey had chewed up one of his toys and thought he had eaten one of the small bits and therefore was choking to death. Spent ages searching the cage for said piece whilst Gordon Ramsey climbed all over me in a state of high excitement, not looking much like he was choking. Then I found it hidden in his sawdust. Have decided to put him up for adoption because he scared the life out of me and also weed on me again. Gah.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Most Coveted Item of the Week: Penguins Falling Down Jumper

So here it is, a jumper that is awesome. It has penguins on it and one of them has fallen on it's face. What is not to love?

The jumper is by Run & Fly and it's existence in the world re-enforces my belief that all jumpers should have animals on, and some should be falling over if at all possible. 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

UNdane Photographs: Paris in Colour.

And so, a few weeks ago I went to Paris. I expected it to be grey (the forecast said it would rain and when is the forecast ever wrong?) and it wasn't. It was bright, and full of colour. It was unexpected. I remembered the pages I had ripped out of a magazine a few months previously, and stuck on my wall - photographs from the book Paris in Color by Nichole Robertson. You can read the story of that here.

Blue was first and now it's yellow's turn.

UNdane Monday:- Where's Wally: Geek Edition

For Where's Wally and general sci-fi geek fans everywhere...can you find him?

Friday, 2 November 2012

UNdane Postcards:- Romance, History and Blogging.

Here's a blog I've fallen in love with:- A Postmodern Pre-raphaelite . It's a romantic take on London, written by an awesome redheaded lady with a quirky sense of style and a unique way of looking at things. Check out her most recent post about the ghost of the Pink Lady.

Reading this blog has made me want to dig out the absolute quaintest, most retro and most theatrical of my postcards. So here they are:- 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

UNdane Event:- SE20 Craft Fair

If you are local to south London - this is happening in two days time!

The poster design is by artist Karen Wall.

The UNdane is about bringing together lots of awesome little things from lots of different people. All the artists coming to the fair have a skill or trade that they use to create things that make people happy. 

Come to the fair if you live in London! If you live in Russia and you found this blog because you were Googling 'guinea pigs in hats' then...come anyway!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

UNdane Postcards:- A Couple of Cities I Don't Live In

Here are some new post cards in my so-big-I-can't-get-the-lid-on-the-box postcard collection, picked up on recent visits to Lancaster and Paris. 

I need to start sending these out to people, as soon there won't be any room left in the entire house, due to postcard build-up. 

Mixtape Wednesday:- Looped Lyrics

You don't need a lot of lyrics to make a great song. Here is a playlist of GREAT songs chosen by me and my friends with lyrics that, in whole or part, loop over and over until fade out. 

1.) Tommy James & The Shondells - Crimson and Clover (1968)

Perfect, cute, simple little love song. 

And the music it inspired...

2.) Jimmy Eat World - A Praise Chorus (2002)

...with Crimson & Clover looping through the middle, the song also pays homage to several other songs, a list of which can be found here (click).

3.) Therapy? - Screamager (1994)

A perfect, short un-love song with a simple, looping chorus.

4.) Rage Against the Machine - Killing in the Name (1992)

For everyone who's ever jumped about to this at a rock club as a teenager (or an adult!). The chorus, especially the last one, lulls you into a sort of hypnotic state. 

5.) Cypress Hill - I Wanna Get High (1993)

A track about wanting to get stoned with a chorus that sounds alarmingly like it came out of your brain when you were already so mashed that you couldn't see straight. A pretty creepy song. See also: the film Shrooms. 

6.) LCD Soundsystem - Someone Great (2007)

A song about a ghost, in some sense anyway. 

The real goose-pimply bit comes at the end, with the repeat of the line 'When someone great is gone'. 

7.) Elbow - Grace Under Pressure (2003)

Beautiful, amazing song. Don't want to ruin it with words, so just watch this video. 

Tracklisting in full:- 

1.) Tommy James & The Shondells - Crimson & Clover
2.) Jimmy Eat World - A Praise Chorus
3.) Therapy? - Screamager
4.) Rage Against the Machine - Killing in the Name
5.) Cypress Hill - I Wanna Get High
6.) LCD Soundsystem - Someone Great
7.) Elbow - Grace Under Pressure

Non-Scary Post.

There is no Urban Dictionary entry for 'Non-Scary Post' and this is sad. There should be. I will now create my own, here, for you:-

Non-Scary Post [nuhn skair-ee pohst]
Adj. Noun? Erm...

1. Post you receive that is not a bill, statement or other post that when picked up off the doormat prompts the response 'argh!' because you know it's going to tell you that you owe money or have no money or are otherwise poor and rubbish. 

2. Correspondence that your friends and family send you, often a letter or postcard but sometimes picture or small gift

3. Post that makes you smile and say 'hooray'. 

4. Post that comes in bright, glittery packaging.

Yesterday I was feeling grey, because it was a grey day. I opened the front door and sitting on the mat was some very happy non-scary post.

A beautifully giftwrapped bespoke necklace I had ordered from handmade jewellery company Stars n Scars  accompanied by little sweets. 

The little, out of the ordinary things can put a big grin on your face. 

As I type this, I'm chewing on a raspberry flavoured Maoam that I didn't expect to receive. 

And the necklace is awesome too, proudly displaying the town where I grew up. 

Next time you send something through the post, bung a chewy sweet in there. You'll probably make someone's day. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

UNdane Photographs:- Paris in Colour

On a Ryanair flight to Stockholm in February this year, I got to reading the inflight magazine. I don't know why. It was there. I was probably looking for the drinks menu. Whatever. But it turned out, there were some really interesting features. Including one about a photographer who was releasing a book called Paris in Color. The idea was so simple and the pages so lovely that I had to tear them out and keep them:-

There was also a blue one, which my friend Tim has.

I went to Paris this week, armed with camera, Metrocard and feet, and decided to try my own Paris colour collage. Paris in the autumn turned out to be absolutely FULL of colour, and despite the weather forecast showing rain, rain rain, the sun came out.

I've started off with blue, seeing as that's the page I'm missing...