Archive for the ‘Life’ Category
I won’t name the person in question as she’s far too modest and wrinkles her nose up at praise. Pay her a compliment and she accepts gracefully but always adds “funny how people see you isn’t it?”. I’ll leave it up to her if she wants to share this post. Today is her birthday and well, she’s truly been a bloody brilliant friend to me the past year.
She’s helped me move house on a Monday night straight from work, carrying boxes and boxes of books to the top floor of my building. Shared many a glass of wine and gin. Shared some special gigs. Reminded me I’m well loved during tough times. I remember a particularly low day last July she sat opposite me in a pub in Marylebone. Her expressions a complete mirror of my own, she was genuinely as upset as I was. To me that’s a dear friend, someone whose very expressions show they’re going through it with you. She’s an amazing person.
Happy Birthday and I’ll see you later so you can blow out the candles on your Eton Mess. ♥
- Bonobo Feat. Andreya Triana – Stay The Same
- The Knife – Heartbeats
- Zulu Winter – You Deserve Better
- Jessie Ware – Taking In Water
- Polica – Lay Your Cards Out
- How To Dress Well – & It Was U
- Daft Punk – Get Lucky
- Kindness – Swingin’ Party
- Chromatics – Kill For Love
- SBTRKT – Pharaohs
As I was about to leave the house the other day Fleetwood Mac’s Man of the World came on the radio just as my hand hovered to turn my DAB off. It’s one of those songs that will always stop me in my tracks, the regret croaking out of Peter Green in an act of a heartfelt confession.
I have the added built-in feature of the crackle and static of listening to it as if it was on Vinyl, or an old wireless radio not quite tuned in, because I have Tinnitus. I don’t mean to romanticise it, making it sounds as if a medical condition that strikes 1 in 10 gives a vintage sound to your world because it doesn’t. It’s funny, typing out the words ‘medical condition’ because I think of it as more of an annoyance, something to suffer and endure. Ultimately something I have been learning to live with since November 2011.
Since contracting Tinnitus I’ve had frustrating experiences from GP’s. When I finally got to see an ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat) Doctor I patiently tried different forms of medication. From tipping my head back to administer a salt spray twice a day to getting down on all fours like a dog and pouring a solution that was uncomfortable and felt like it was eroding the skin inside my nose. The gentle, but firm, smack of a tuning fork over my head is a stark reminder that I should have known better. Actually I had never given much thought to looking after my hearing in the same way I’d floss regularly or go to the opticians.
I dread the quiet of night. Working and living in London I have the constant distraction of noise to help drown out the ever changing noises in my brain. The rattle of the tube carriages and the building site currently outside my office window mean I can sometimes tune out of it during the day. It’s hard to describe how the sounds I hear shifts sides, changes tone and pitch. That I’m convinced alcohol heightens it but can’t know for certain, that some days are better than others. On the terrible and unbearable nights I sleep little, in the morning I am bleary eyed, exhausted and prone to make mistakes (from grammatical errors to not paying enough attention when crossing the road). When the sound suddenly changes I have to ask others around me if they can hear a strange buzzing, I’m sometimes thrown by what’s in my brain and what’s reality. This inability to communicate something only I can hear is frustrating and, how I wish I meant this literally, I sometimes end up suffering in silence.
Next time that song comes on the radio, the one that stops you in your tracks because it brings a long-lost lover to memory, reminds you of a cherished friend long gone, makes you sigh, skip, cry or smile with every facial muscle, pause for a moment. Think what life would be like with that melody, specific lyric, cowbell or the plink of piano keys ruined by a constant sound cutting across it. Or how the lack of sleep or stress will affect your life, and perhaps your relationships. If I’ve scared you then that was my intention. If you are in a band, DJ, just love standing by the speakers in venues or you’re one of those annoying types on public transport that listens to your music so everyone else can hear please think about your ears for a moment. It’s my one life regret.
NB: I started writing this post last year. A recent article by Eddy Temple-Morris for Huffington Post and the fact that it’s Tinnitus Awareness Week made me revisit this with a determination to tell it like it is. You can read his article here
When I was a child I somehow managed to persuade the kind-hearted souls surrounding me to ferry my ass around. Back home in Devon it was our neighbour Kate Loram who would offer to take me on the back of her bike when we all headed out (not my own sisters I hasten to add). I also convinced my cousin, another Kate, to tie an old pram seat to the back of her bike with a ton of old roof rack straps and pedal me around as if I was Cleopatra propelled by mans invention of the wheel. It was named the Crazy Contraption and it lasted well into our late teens. I enjoyed the view while others done the hard work. As this got me to the sweet shop and back I never learnt how to ride a bike.
I can count the amount of attempts on one hand. On two of those occasions I have been extremely tipsy and therefore had that misplaced confidence that goes hand in hand with alcohol. On another I was concerned my sister had got lost on a family holiday to Ireland and as the sun set I decided this was the quickest way to find her (I managed about 10 metres before falling off). On the last of these occasions the friendly constabulary of Kentish Town told me perhaps I shouldn’t be trying to cycle drunk and sing songs from the Jungle Book at four in the morning. That was six years ago.
I quite frequently think it’s something I should learn, that I am secretly an amazing cyclist and will probably progress to the Keirin within a week. So when someone told me that I could have a free bike providing I collect it from Brixton this week I jumped on the Victoria Line without giving much thought as to how I’d get it back to Willesden Green. Despite a bit of rust and flat tyres I instantly adore this bike. The cousin who done so much pedalling for me in our childhood said it’s exactly how you’d want a bike to look. I now understand the excitement children felt at their first bicycle and understand why my friend Steve was able to send me photos of every bike he’s ever had, each with a life history.
To say my journey felt epic yesterday is an understatement. Pushing it from Brixton to Clapham Junction, so I could take it on the overground train, took over an hour. I was genuinely perplexed that Emeli Sande wasn’t following behind me soundtracking it. When I realised Clapham’s Long Road is a literal naming, a steely and naive determination kicked in and I cycled/wobbled my way across Clapham Common flat tyres and all. I arrived just after the curfew for bikes started but I’d come that far and wasn’t about to be turned away at the gates of Mordor (even if discovering Clapham had a retro Wimpy made me want to spend more time there). Knowing I had yet another walk at the other end and the fact it was getting dark made me rather defiant. By the time I got home I needed a nap and nurofen.
Now of course I have the job of cleaning it up and making it road worthy but what are YouTube videos and friends for. Then there’s the small matter of riding the damn thing competently. Watch this space (or watch your ankles if you live near Gladstone park). ♥
I do not have a decisive enough personality to make definitive lists so just off the top of my head this year…
Has been soundtracked by albums from Crybaby, The Maccabees, Friends, Wild Nothing, Mystery Jets, Mary Epworth, Beach House, Zulu Winter, Kindness, How To Dress Well, Hot Chip, Sharon Van Etten, Sleigh Bells, Polica, Toy, The Futureheads, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Grimes, Grizzly Bear, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Jessie Ware, Bat for Lashes and Perfume Genius. I wasn’t blown away by Alt-J (someone had to not be).
I can count the amount of times I went to the cinema on one hand but adored all the films. The Hobbit, Avengers Assemble, Moonrise Kingdom. Most of all I loved Beasts of the Southern Wild and Searching for Sugar Man.
It seems to be a year where I’ve mainly read David Sedaris. However, Anna Richardson’s Little Gods would be my book of the year. Stunning debut novel. After reading Virginia Woolf, A Room Of Ones Own I am determined to work my way through the rest of her books next year.
It’s been a year where I finally got to see Mystery Jets live, and at the Royal Festival Hall with someone who’s support has been unwavering this year. There’s been Gigs where I’ve been with my parents and created cherished memories, gigs of sitting in Hoxton basements and leaning over Heaven’s balcony. Drunk gigs, sober gigs, gigs that have moved me to tears or where I’ve come away with aching feet from dancing so much.
Above all these things it’s mainly been all about London 2012 for me. I hope I am forever changed by the Olympics and Paralympics. It made me kinder, motivated, deliriously happy and proud to be British. Actually, proud to just be a human being. This Public Enemy song will forever serve as a reminder.
It’s been a year of pesky Tinnitus, goodbyes and job changes. It’s been a year where friendships have sprang out of the unlikeliest of places and where I will never underestimate the kindness of strangers. At times you have overwhelmed me with your support and general brilliance (I know some of you read this blog, most of you will never even know you made a difference).
Of course there’s plenty of things I didn’t get round to in 2012. Like swimming round all of London Lido’s, having tea with Ian Hislop, learning how to ride a bike or shaking Robert Jay QC by the hand.
It’s been a year where I’ve decided bravery is one of the most important qualities you can possess. A year of remembering I can breathe underwater.
2012. In equal measures I’m glad to see it gone and reluctant to let it go.
Here’s to 2013. Happy New Year. ♥
NB: Huge thanks to Pete at Flush The Fashion for putting up with my contributions for another year. To Pub Diaries for letting me waffle on in a Q&A. The ever energetic and tireless Dan Thompson for printing my pop up shop piece. To Darren Hayman for letting me talk about my love of swimming and to The Guardian for printing my ‘Six Songs Of Me‘. To Tim for having me on Resonance Radio. And to everyone who reads this. Cheers.
I recently started a new job and yesterday was asked to write a bio about myself and provide a photo to send out to the company. I wish I could have just sent…
“I have recently arrived from a company where I spent nearly all my time alone in an office listening to 6 Music. I know already it will be a shock to the system sitting in such a large open plan office again. For example the bloke that constantly crunches mints is already making me tense and I had to restrain myself from launching a stapler at the head of the man who types as if he’s trying to break through boulders (typing that loudly doesn’t make anyone think you’re working hard by the way, you’re probably playing Track and Field). Don’t chew loudly or speak with your mouth full and we will get on fine and dandy (and I’m looking directly at you bumper bag of Ready Salted as I type this, you’re treading a thin line).
If you see a full fat coke on my desk in all likelihood I am hungover. Do not approach me until midday.
I can be bribed with sweets.
I will go above and beyond the call of duty if asked politely. Manners are a virtue dear colleagues, and they cost nothing.
I may have exaggerated my excel skills during the interview process so perhaps steer clear of that.
Oh for the love of God… STOP banging the keyboard like that. I can’t concentrate on this blog.”
The other week I had a self-indulgent moan and posted Music for Melancholy. In my own way I guess I was exorcising the demons of a frustrating run of bad luck over the past twelve months. Since being slapped in the face with redundancy I have spent the past few weeks putting our families tried and tested work ethic to the test and it’s eventually paid off (that ethic being you work, you pay your taxes, you get on with it… you hear me Starbucks?).
Recently I pushed myself through three tough interviews at one firm to lose out literally by the toss of a coin between myself and one other candidate. On route to my final interview Ken Livingston was sat next to me on the tube and I considered it to be a bad omen. A prophecy fulfilled. Last Thursday, as I trekked my way to another interview I stumbled over a Ferret in Holborn outside the office I was going to, a thought that still makes me smile while feeling puzzled. It was the job I have been offered.
Conclusion; Bitey Ferrets are luckier than politicians. Like I even needed to point that out.
I have to say a huge thanks to my friend Lucy who sat with me during my melancholy weekend and reminded me ”You may be having the worst of times but you’re surrounded by the best of people”. Friends and family have nudged me along as well as the music I’ve been listening to. I owe them a million karma points.
This week I banish the melancholy to the bottom of the recycling bin along with the half price bottles of Oyster Bay. This Mixtape is brought to you by relief and a tiny bit of fight (trust me, it’s taken it). The tracks below are some of what I’ve been plugged into during moments of stress and exhaustion, a truly random and diverse selection. I’m sharing it with you in case anyone needs a kick up the bum.
- Doris Day – Keep Smilin’, Keep Laughin’, Be Happy
- Talking Heads – This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)
- Aaliyah – Try Again
- Basement Jaxx – Where’s Your Head At
- Sleigh Bells – Comeback Kid
- Public Enemy – Harder Than You Think
- Ben Howard – Keep Your Head Up
- The Joy Formidable – Whirring
- Mystery Jets – Someone Purer
- The Rolling Stones – You Can’t Always Get What You Want
I’ve not been swimming for a couple of weeks and I’ve hugely missed it. It’s as much about that moment when you’re changed and plodding along the pavement and realise every muscle feels stretched as it is about being in the water again. But when I’m in the pool it helps clear any cobwebs in my head, almost like a factory reset.
London Fields was the Lido I have been most looking forward to. My mecca of Lido’s as my Dad would have spent much of his wayward youth in this area. It’s London’s only Olympic sized heated outdoor pool and a hefty refurbishment means it’s spick and span (apart from the smell of feet at the shallow end, dozens of damp flip-flops not making for a pleasant pong). The beauty of this being that I can daydream about swimming in the snow or fog as it’s open all year round. It was like swimming in rush hour this morning but it was fascinating to see the different sorts in the pool. Someone teaching his girlfriend to swim, kids club, a woman breaststroking with head action like a woodpecker and a ton of skillful swimmers. London Fields Lido is now my favourite pool by a country mile.
This swim is dedicated to those that didn’t make it to the water today. The crustaceans outside Hackney Central station. RIP.
|People doing serious swimming:||Lost count. A ton|
|Men grabbing their danglebobbins a lot:||2|
|Women swimming in sunglasses:||Just a lifeguard posing in a pair|
|Kids doing classic “bombing”:||0|
|People dipping their toes with iPhones in hand:||0|
Allow me to have a bad day. I am sat nursing one of the many bottles of wine leftover from the M&S dine in for £10 offers that have been collecting in the kitchen reminiscing on the past 12 months.
I got made redundant last August, found a job I was excited about only to discover on my second day that the office was closing down by Christmas. So the panic of finding regular employment started all over again just as soon as it had stopped. After a lot of energy sitting in my uncomfortable interview clobber I found another job by November. I jetted off to Istanbul for an exciting work trip within two weeks of joining them and contracted Tinnitus on the return flight to London.
12 months later I am being made redundant yet again as the office I work for closes. My lovely ENT Doctor who (not Doctor Who, that’s a very different Doctor) has worked so very hard and dealt with all my frustrations patiently and kindly, threw his hands up today and told me he’s exhausted every avenue he can think of to cure it. All of which have failed (regular readers of this blog will know that music is the centre of my universe and therefore my hearing is precious). Add to this the break up of a long-term relationship earlier in the year, which despite the fact I am happier out of that relationship I miss my sidekick and it was a tough thing to go through. Most days I laugh at all this shambolic rotten luck, because of all the wonderful amazing things landing on my doorstep (London 2012 especially inspiring, friends and families support even more so).
The point to all this? None really. I am by nature a glass half full sort. In fact I’m more glass half full, favourite crisps in the cupboard and a bottle of rum under the kitchen sink. I’m not typing this to offer any wisdom other than to say I think it’s OK to have a shit day every now and again, and it’s more than OK to admit it. This post isn’t intended to cause worry. It’s just about that one message, that it’s fine to have a melancholic evening. Drink wine, feel a bit peeved about the hand you’ve been dealt and listen to lyrics. Then wake up in the morning ready to kick the world in its chops and run round the park listening to Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer (I do that).
It’s good to have a soundtrack to wallow in, and beautifully sad music has a magical way of lifting me out of a sulk. Here’s what I’ve been listening to, just in case anyone out there is feeling a bit naff. Music offers a million things to me, that it can be cathartic is just one little element.
- Bat for Lashes – Laura
- Florence + The Machine – Never Let Me Go
- Fleetwood Mac – Landslide
- The Middle East – Blood
- LCD Soundsystem – Someone Great
- How To Dress Well – World I Need You, Won’t Be Without You
- Perfume Genius – Hood
- Anthony & The Johnsons – Hope There’s Someone
- Bon Iver – Holocene
- Kindness – House
I alluded briefly on my blog this Sunday to two teenage girls we met at the Hot Chip iTunes festival. They were in front of us in the queue and immediately started chatting away. At first we just talked about their love of Madness, how much they liked the tattoo behind my ear, cars (of which I am brilliantly ignorant, that’s Lucy’s department) and make-up. The usual topics I’d expect to cover with two sixteen year-old’s (apart from Madness, that threw me). They also couldn’t get over how old I was. I told them I was 33 (it turns out I am not 33 at all. I am in fact 34 and at some point over the past couple of years I have accidentally been lying about my age. That’s another story I’m still trying to get my head around).
This may also go some way to explaining why at one point I found myself screaming “I don’t even know if you kids think high-fives are cool any more but I’m giving you one anyway”. They humoured me with part pity and part bemusement.
Conversation soon moved on to truancy, let down dads and getting into fights. That’s when, in my drunken state, I imagined a cape falling from the skies and wrapping round my shoulders. I must be a responsible and inspirational person in a queue for a very brilliant band. They had to endure lectures about why they shouldn’t fancy Chris Brown, that if they keep on getting into fights how they need to join a boxing club like Nicola Adams, drugs, careers, school. I covered it all in a breathless whirlwind before the band started, each time something they said gave me cause for concern. We just danced non-stop after that, pausing only for me to give them horrendously middle-aged nods and winks every time boys their age walked past.
I was so determined to make some small impression on these girls, some little dent that come Monday morning they’ll decide not to bunk off school after all that I didn’t really take into consideration some of the things they were saying to me. When I told them I had a date soon they grabbed me by the shoulders and told me not to sleep with boys on the first night with furrowed brows and a stern pout, it was the most serious I’d seen them all night. When one of them said she had an audition for a talent show she turned to me and said ”It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t work out, life carries on doesn’t it? You just keep putting one foot in front of the other”. Wise words from one so young.
Followed by the other one grinning at me, pointing at Hot Chip and saying “I like the beats”, North Face jacket pulled up over her head, Nike Blazers keeping perfect time. I am in love with that simple sentence. All my music reviews now will have that ode to her, even folk music. I like the beats.
You know, I told someone about these girls and they told me they’re probably already a lost cause. I’m not so sure. After all they burst into song during Hot Chip covering Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere and with huge grins said “We love Stevie Nicks”.
Nestled amongst a ton of concrete is a Lido in the centre of London. I’m as surprised as you are. Oasis Sports Centre is situated on Endell Street near Shaftesbury Avenue and sits alongside their indoor pool. Both 27.5 metres long, both heated so the outdoor pool is open all year round.
I have to say swimming in this pool was much like trying to walk through central London on the last day of Christmas shopping. While I don’t mind a busy pool (in fact relish it) this was a bit too shambolic.
Lifeguards were trying and failing to get people swimming clockwise and in the right lanes. The effect was a six-year-old in the fast lane being overtaken by experienced swimmers, someone zigzagging in vague directions while backstroking, a man with the oddest physique I’ve ever seen just doing stretches wherever he felt like it and a woman doing doggy paddle in her actual glasses. I had to hop between lanes based solely on how quiet they were.
On the plus side I was able to race the strong swimmers without their knowledge of course. Quite nice to get secretly competitive.
It’s great for a central location but fairly frustrating to swim in if busy.
|People doing serious swimming:||10|
|Men grabbing their danglebobbins a lot:||2|
|Women swimming in sunglasses:||0, just actual glasses|
|Kids doing classic “bombing”:||0|
|People dipping their toes with iPhones in hand:||0|