Sunday, 30 September 2012

Most Coveted Item of the Week: Irregular Choice Sunglasses

I'm aware that it is Sunday, and coveting stuff on a Sunday is even more wrong than coveting stuff the rest of the week. However, a special exception must be made for these retro style, baby pink Irregular Choice 'High Jinx' sunglasses. 

Retailing at £85 and with the alarming regularity with which I break or ruin sunglasses, perhaps this is one destined to stay on my wish list. 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Things We Learned:- During Freshers Week & University Postcards

Today marks 10 years since I began University. I know this because I have been tagged in a few posts on Facebook celebrating this anniversary. It makes me feel weird and old and incredibly happy and kinda sad. Has it really been 10 years? etc

(This blog post is really for anyone who has ever been to University, and specifically for anyone who went to Winchester and fell in love with it, like me.)

So, in the spirit of celebrating the little things, here is a list of the little things that I remember from my first 24 hours at University, 10 years ago today, aged 18 (and with scared bug eyes):-

- I wore my red Hiding With Girls band t-shirt
- The first time I met my female housemates, we had a conversation about potato peelers and Lambrini
- I tried to make beans on toast but my new pepper shaker exploded and pepper went all over it, thus ruining my first ever University meal
- I couldn't tune my television in
- My first ever trip to the student union bar resulted in us not getting in because by 7pm it was already one-in-one-out (1st lesson learned - always get there at 6!)

And still in the spirit of celebrating the little things, here are a lot of little quirks I remember about Winchester, my wonderful University city:-

- It was always raining. Af if Winchester existed in a parallel universe where all it did was rain
- You could never go anywhere without finding yourself at the bottom of a steep hill that needed to be climbed, usually with 10 shopping bags.
- Every spring, around April, the farmers would fertilise their fields and the entire city would smell of manure for a week.
- Living in a tiny city in the middle of a valley where it always rained in the pre-digital age meant that there was never any television signal. You could get BBC if you were lucky, on a Thursday, if you held your television aerial slightly above your head in a north-westerly direction. Channel 4 may as well not have existed. Channel 5 was a myth.
- Argos were permanently sold out of portable television aerials.
- It was perfectly possible to run into Frank Turner and various members of Razorlight down the pub.

Here are some postcards from my geeky postcard collection that I got during that first Freshers week, 10 years ago:-

If you're currently at University, word of advice:- you will never be this free again in your LIFE!


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Guest Post:- Of Swapping Albums & Everything Being All About the Music

An UNdane guest post, by Lucy Blakeley

"Mom and dad they quite don't understand it,
All the kids they laugh as if they planned it
Why do girls wanna pierce their nose,
And walk around in torn pantyhose, oh yeah

I like the ones who say they listen to the punk rock
I like the kids who fight against how they were brought up
They hate the trends and think it's f***ed to care,
It's cool when they p*** people off with what they wear, oh yeah"

- Blink 182, Give Me One Good Reason
 Pop Punk. I don't think it's a music genre that really exists anymore. Does it? I haven't got a clue. I worked in HMV last Christmas to scrape some money together and when a small girl asked me if I preferred The Wanted or One Direction, I had to admit I didn't know who either of them were, but would she like a JLS poster?  Considering I have a degree in Popular Music, my knowledge of what's popular now is pretty poor.
I'm probably officially old now, being closer to 30 than I am 20. That's okay though. I know I'm old because the music I loved as a teenager now sounds dated, in the same way your parents' old music would sound in the car on long road trips.

It sounds dated, but to me it still sounds as exciting and vibrant it did when I was 15 years old. I'm writing about pop punk because today, on a very grey September day, it's bringing me the golden Autumn sunlight that should be pouring into this room. My cousin and I have this tradition, where every Autumn we make a pop punk playlist and listen to it whilst texting each other memories of being 15 and our favourite lyrics. The biggest 'pop punk Autumn' song is Denial, Revisited by The Offspring. As soon as I hear the opening riff, I am transported to my 15 year old self. She's wearing huge baggy jeans that only cost £10 from a place called Raphael's, a tiny room above a dance shop where a haggard old woman with a permanent cigarette hanging from her lip would make jeans of any specification for £10. Because SoHo jeans were the ultimate baggies but also cost £40, all the moshers, goths, skaters and pop punk kids would go to Raph's for their baggies. It was like a secret club; everyone would meet outside the huge emporium we called Quiggins, full of shops selling alternative clothes, posters, patches and pretty much anything you could imagine. We'd all walk to Raph's, an army of excitable teens adorned with plastic bracelets and skate shoes and chains... and feel really exclusive.
Lucy fronting Elle S'appelle at the Camden Crawl in 2008

Those songs remind me of the meticulous mix tapes, and later MiniDisc playlists I would make. Crafted to reflect the mood of whatever I was doing, whether it was for journeys to and from school on the bus or a longer journey to Liverpool... or for waiting for a doctor's appointment. They remind me of the times where I was happy to sit on a bus for hours and not end up in a blind panic like I would now I'm so used to my car. They remind me of first falling in love with Autumn, the promise of a new year at school and the way the light would change from brash and white to soft and golden. My new school bag, tirelessly adorned with badges and patches and tippex. The song lyrics I would print out and plaster my folders with before applying layers and layers of Sellotape on top. Of swapping albums and everything being all about the music. Of parties with MTV on in the background, watching Sum 41 mess around in an empty swimming pool and wishing so badly my parents would get Sky so I could watch the music channels. It reminds me of later years spent walking the beautiful old Georgian grounds of my university, dressed in corduroy skirts and checked skirts and jumpers because that's how I thought I should dress as a student... not quite able to believe I was actually here, at uni, and I was somehow clever enough to get here to study the one thing I love above everything - music.
I still wear corduroy skirts and checked shirts and jumpers now.

Ever since those golden days, I have revisited these songs each Autumn. My cousin now lives in London and we don't speak as much as we used to, but we still have a bond over this stuff. We still instinctively text each other when the time feels right to dig out our old music. I think once you have loved a type of music, you never really stop loving it. Your tastes may grow and evolve, but you always have a place for it in your head.
It's an age old phenomenon that's often written about by pensive bloggers from their couches, like me, but music is the most potent reminder. Music can carry smells, warmth, skipped heartbeats and it can make you stop in your tracks when you remember something you’d forgotten had happened.

And so as I continue to fight through one of the worst years of my entire life, I am concentrating on the things that bring me back to golden Autumn days. They have always been my favourite. Pop punk is the tiny light poking through the mundane reality of grey days spent unemployed and recovering from an illness. Pop punk represents a time of being carefree, of having few worries and not having to do things like food shopping and de-mould the bathroom. Of living with my parents and secretly believing they were super heroes and could always make everything okay again. Of breathing in the crisp morning air knowing that I would have Halloween parties, bonfire night, fireworks and Christmas to look forward to. The excitement of a new pair of Vans skate shoes or a new colour of Converse knew no bounds.
 My favourite thing is the hangovers I'm left with from my time as a pop punk kid. I've always stuck with alternative music and always been drawn to anything with guitars. I've since loved Converse and always owned at least one pair. I suppose I have evolved into what a 26 year old version of a pop punk kid should be - not totally mainstream and still with a few fingers in the pies of crafts, photography and tattoos. Though I do totally rock a chintz obsession, which I didn't see coming when everything I wore was baggy and dark. I love the way music leaves its own tattoos on us; the way we dress, our future tastes and the hobbies we take up. I spent my whole degree writing about this stuff and I could easily do it for another 3 years - it fascinates me the way music shapes us and even the paths we choose.

 I would say pop punk is the type of music that brings me the most potent memories, of the most fun times and of when I was growing into who I am today. What's yours?

Lucy Blakeley is a washed up pop star already at the age of 26, and thinks she is one of the few people allowed to say the phrase 'music is my life'. She did her degree in Popular Music (yes, this is a real subject) and was in a band called Elle s'appelle. They had some moderate success with a single release, Radio 1 sessions and a set at Glastonbury 2008 but it all ended just after she turned 22. Since then she has played in other bands in her spare time (Hackney Carriages/The Winter Falls) and has recently been allowed to move her piano into her boyfriend's house. She is currently finding her place in the world now she's done the pop star thing, and in the meantime is filling the void with plenty of other people's music, tea, chintz, cooking, baking and thinking about trying to learn how to play the ukulele.

Photographs by Iris Jones Photography
Photograph of Lucy & tea courtesy of Lucy Blakeley

Sunday, 23 September 2012

UNdane Photograph of the Day:- Makeshift Cousin It

So, you buy a blonde wig off eBay to wear to a Lady Gaga concert, then it turns out you can't go. Your housemate brings you back a pair of bright yellow promotional Veuve Clicquot sunglasses from her sailing weekend. What do you do with these things?

Thursday, 20 September 2012

UNdane Postcards

I've been collecting picture postcards since the age of 15, when I would bring home the free postcards from the rack at the local Odeon and use them to decorate my room. Here are some old ones, including a post card from the London Olympic bid circa 2005.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

UNdane Photographs:- Colour It In (Red)

Some photos what I have took. Red ones. Because red is bright and bright is good.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Things We Learned: Before 3G was Invented.

Another old diary entry, written in February 2004, whilst I was still a student at university.

The thing I like most about this is that it was quite obviously the first time we'd had to deal with a broken modem, and things like helplines. Nowadays, being held in queues and passed between pillar and post is sort of the norm. Back then, as unassuming 20 year olds, it was pretty new to us. Reading back this account of us trying to negotiate our way through a maze of people who weren't ready to snap their fingers and solve things for us and trying to be adults whilst doing it makes me laugh.

I think we probably all remember a time like this, when the Internet wouldn't work and there was nothing for it but to rejoin the real world, talk to each other, and spend hours on the phone trying desperately to get someone to fix it and make everything okay again.

I’m resorting to writing in Microsoft Word as our Internet has been down for three days now. It’s getting to Kate, Tazz and I (aka the ones who don’t have much better to do than sit around shopping online, checking our e-mails a hundred times a day and chatting to people on MSN), me the most severely.  The first day was okay; we assumed that the network was just down for a bit, it does that occasionally. We reset the router (which lives in the cupboard under the stairs) a couple of times and actually unplugged and replugged it once or twice. The second day we all started to panic a bit. Cue the trying to log in ten thousand times every hour, and Kate taking up refuge on top of the freezer (also in the cupboard under the stairs) staring up at the modem hopelessly. I escaped to the library for a bit to check my emails there and ran into Dan…we ended up going to lunch and I forgot about it again. Today I have broken out into a sweat and started rocking back and forth.  And worse, I have become addicted to two-suit Spider Solitaire. Which is nigh on impossible, by the way. I took matters into my own hands while I was killing time before I had to leave for work this morning, and called the BT help line, got stuck in a queue for twenty minutes, during which time I memorised the automated ‘you are being held in a queue’ message and started repeating it back at the phone. When I got through, the woman told me to ring some other number. So I did that this evening and they told me to ring the makers of the modem. They then failed to come up with a telephone number for the makers of the modem so I got told to ring our landlord. Which we did yesterday, before I’d even rung BT. Bloody bastards. They just take you round in pointless circles. It’s like Kate said the other week after being stuck on the line to T-Mobile for half a century before being messed about totally by a stupid woman from Birmingham: they shouldn’t be called help lines. Just lines.

In the meantime, I am being left here to go quietly insane. I didn’t realise how much of a hold the Internet has over my life. Well, I did, but you tend to take it for granted, after it’s become habit to get up in the morning, connect and stay connected for most of the day during the last year and a half. And because it’s just been sitting there welcoming me into its open arms for ages, you just incorporate it into your life. Half my friends I keep in regular contact with over the net. Mainly because they too have Broadband in their rooms, so it’s just easier to keep tabs on each other that way rather than ringing or texting. We Uni people use it to make plans because having MSN conversations that are linked to here, St Swithuns, Erasmus Park and West Downs all at once is easier than making six separate phone calls. People from back home like Leon, Alex and Stuart I keep in touch with over the Internet. In fact, I’m kind of insulted that I haven’t had worried phone calls checking I’m still breathing. When Leon’s broadband broke the other week I rang him up to check he was alive. Honestly!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Fun with Pinterest

Pinterest appeals to my scrapbooking nature. My pinboards are full of colour and prettiness, and all the things I wish I was surrounded by all the time.

Below are some of my favourite 'pins':-

See more at my Pinterest page

Or click the Pinterest button on the side of this page.

Start your own Pinterest board, sometimes there's nothing greater than collecting together pictures of all the things you like or would like ot be.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

UNdane Postcards

More new postcards for my now really blimmin' big postcard collection.

The first was sent to me by Steph who runs The Little London Observationist blog (click the link!)

Others this week I picked up at The Globe, St Pauls Cathedral and a couple I found in a box of old University stuff.

1 - Stephanie Sadler at Little London Observationist
2 - Henry VIII 2010, Photograph by Pete Le May, Shakespeares Globe
3 - Gautam Narang, Boomerang Media
4 - St Pauls Cathedral in the Blitz, 1940
5 - The Beatles Yellow Submarine 'Printed in the EC'

Sunday, 2 September 2012

UNdane Sunday - A Good Question to Discuss In The Pub

Yesterday, my friend David asked me this question:

If you could go back to being 4 years old, knowing what you know now, and do it all again from there, would you? 

It was an interesting question. 

I said no, although I haven't yet worked out why. Perhaps because, despite life having it's ups and downs, I don't feel the need to change anything. Or because knowing how things will turn out won't stop me worrying about it. Or maybe because I like surprises too much to want to know the future. 

 I'll keep thinking. 

David said he would. I asked him 'wouldn't it alienate you from other people your age, having all that knowledge about the future and what you'll be like as an adult?' He laughed and said he was already alienated from the other kids, so it wouldn't make much difference. 

Would you go back and do it all again, knowing everything you now know about what it's like to be an adult?

My friend David, asker of a thousand intelligent questions.

Photograph by Iris Jones.