Sunday, 21 December 2014

Manic Street Preachers - Live at Camden Roundhouse 16/12/2014

HMS Manics is ready to set sail...

Back in September, I wrote a blog about why The Holy Bible by the Manic Street Preachers is, in my opinion, the greatest album of all time.  You can read it here if you haven't already (and you really should, purely to marvel at how many times I describe the album as "smacking me in the face").  On Tuesday 16th December, I squeezed into my sailor dress and headed to Camden Roundhouse to hear my beloved Manics play the album live in full.  To say I was excited is an understatement.  To say I was ridiculously emotional would be perfectly true.  To say I was dressed like a wally... Well, the picture speaks for itself.  And yes, I was wearing copious amounts of eyeliner and glitter.  I'm a Manics fan.

A Manics fan whose bad hair day meant I required a wig.

First things first, I have two things to say about the pre-gig experience.

1) Never drive to Camden and expect to be able to park.  Seriously, it's not worth the detrimental effect it's going to have on your blood pressure.  After hours of driving around side streets with "maximum stay 2 hours" signs dotted along them, I was ready to drive into the Roundhouse itself, smashing through the walls and landing in a crumpled heap in front of the stage.  I was in Urban Hell.  I wanted to destroy rock and roll venues.

2) Manics fans... Oh guys, time and again, you surprise me with just how awesome you are capable of being.  Many a frustrated word is written about fan elitism and how Manics fans don't talk to each other in the queue, because they're too focused on getting to the barrier at all costs.  Yes, there is fan elitism.  No, the people at the very front of the queue didn't have a single word to say to any of us.  But just a few places down, we found ourselves amongst the nicest people you could wish to meet.  People who brought newspapers for everyone to sit on, so our bums didn't freeze on the cold London streets.  People who shared chocolates and crisps with hungry fans who'd been standing around for hours.  People who rushed to get a copy of Time Out for everyone, because the Manics were featured in it (thank you Claudia!).  People who played Manics songs on their phones and encouraged everyone to sing along.  People who held our place in said queue for an hour whilst I had a breakdown trying to find somewhere to bloody park (still not over that, Camden Town Council...).  I've had some bad experiences with Manics fans, I'm not going to lie.  But Tuesday was a great one and right now, I'm bloody proud to be a part of such a warm, welcoming community.  Stay beautiful, guys and girls.

Okay, onto the gig...

Having fast-walked through the arena and crash-landed against the barrier in a joyous display of relief (I always panic that I won't make the barrier and my stupid asthma will mean I have to stand at the side so I don't stop breathing in the crowd), I was able to finally take in my surroundings.  In a nod to their original 1994 Holy Bible tour, the band had decked the stage with dark green, military netting.  It was instantly urgent and yet nostalgic.  Now and then.  Music was piped into the venue courtesy of a DJ.  The night we were there, it was the same guy who DJ'd for the band at the legendary Astoria gigs (the band's final performances with Richey Edwards) almost 20 years ago to the day.  Although that fact provided a nice sense of symmetry and added to the emotional weight of the evening, I can't say having a DJ play a set was that much preferable (if at all) to having a support band, although I can see why the band chose to do things that way.  Kirstie (my gorgeous gig buddy) and I were hoping the DJ would further invoke a sense of nostalgia by playing the kind of stuff he might have done back in '94.  We were hoping for some Suede, maybe The Smiths or The Clash...  Instead, I can't really explain what we got, but it was loud and long.  It didn't really set the pulse racing.

What did set my pulse racing was when the lights finally dimmed, the stage was illuminated with a ferocious red light and we heard the Chemical Brothers' remix of Faster.  The band were on their way.  We were about to witness something spectacular...

And I don't *just* mean the sight of Bradders dressed as a sailor...

As mentioned at the top of this blog, one thing I passionately love about The Holy Bible as an album is that it's not something you can passively listen to.  It grabs you.  It smacks you around the head a few times until you give in to it.  So it was fitting that the Manics seemed to literally tear into Yes at the start of this anniversary showcase.  The soundbite quote from the beginning of the song was played loud over the PA system and James Dean Bradfield's twangy guitar riff had never sounded more urgent.

There was little time to catch your breath afterwards before the band launched into IfWhiteAmericaToldTheTruthForOneDayItsWorldWouldFallApart - a song whose lyrics JDB spat with an intensity that belied the "Christmas bug" he announced he'd been suffering from the night before.

There was little communication from the band during the Holy Bible set, besides a few quips from Wire and a little background info to one or two songs.  It was more important to let the music do the talking, however much of a cliche that may sound.  Here was a band playing their lost lyricist's masterpiece in full for an audience who knew every word and rejoiced in shrieking them back at the stage.

For an album recorded twenty years ago and considered by some to be bleak and inaccessible, The Holy Bible, played in full from start to finish, sounded fresh, vital and as relevant today as it ever has been.  The band played the set as a three-piece, with no additional musicians on stage, which felt right.  The space Richey once occupied remained empty, save for the few times when James wandered over during some of the incredible guitar solos he's famous for.  When the singer told the audience that it was "more important than ever" to remember Richey during these gigs, the crowd went wild.  The cheering that ensued for the band's missing mouthpiece lasted for several minutes, with James encouraging everyone: "Come on!  Fucking MORE!"  

It's hard to say what it meant to me, hearing the album that changed my life played live in full.  Yes, it smacked me in around the head just as much as The Holy Bible always does, but it felt exhilarating, angry and deeply, deeply poignant.

During This Is Yesterday - the song that always makes me cry when played live - it was hard not to focus on that empty part of the stage and wonder what became of the beautiful,ferociously intelligent, but troubled man who once occupied it.  After all, this album will forever be entwined with Richey Edwards and it was largely his words we were passionately singing along to.

And yet the evening never descended into doom and gloom.  Here were a band who had experienced huge triumph alongside enormous loss and it showed.  The set - dark, angry and poignant though it was - was played with such a burning enthusiasm that even a song like Die In The Summertime, with lyrics that nobody in their right mind could call "chirpy," sounded fiery and passionate, rather than depressing or morbid.

For me, a highlight was The Intense Humming of Evil.  A song that sounds so industrial and stark, I sometimes used to skip it when listening to The Holy Bible at night, when it was dark.  The song was eerie, it was frightening and played live, it was bloody fantastic.  That guitar solo at the end was worth the ticket price alone.

As was the close proximity of the guy playing it...  

I often joke to myself that if I'm going to listen to The Holy Bible, I can't listen to anything else afterwards, because nothing can top it (besides going straight from that to Everything Must Go for the sheer poignancy of it).  So it was understandable that the band had a bit of a breather between the final throes of PCP and the beginning of the second half of the show.

On their return, James looked rather dashing in a suit and he treated the crowd to an acoustic rendition of Anthem For A Lost Cause, from the band's Rewind The Film album.

Michael Buble eat your heart out...

What followed was the inevitable Greatest Hits style set, with tracks like You Stole The Sun From My Heart and Motorcycle Emptiness being thrown out for not only the fans, but any casual listeners who might have been dragged along for the night.  But it didn't really matter what the band played (although playing 1993 B-side Donkeys was amazing!).  We'd already had our minds blown with The Holy Bible.  Or, to rephrase:  We came for The Holy Bible.  We stayed for Design For Life.

That's not to say I didn't love the second set.  They played amazingly, Nicky looked glamorous, I sang my heart out and, as with all Manics gigs, I didn't want it to end.  But for me - and I suspect for most fans - this tour was never about the second set, however good it was.  It was about those first thirteen songs, played one after the other in a blissful orgy of rage and triumphalism.

By showcasing an album that's twenty years old, some bands could be said to be too busy looking back and not thinking about the future.  But the Manics proved this year, with their incredible album Futurology, that they are continually moving forward and finding new ground.  This wasn't about a band stuck in the past.  This was about giving the past the respect it deserves.  This was a band proving that twenty years later, they can still be as energised, raw and exciting as ever.

This was a band cementing themselves in my heart forever.  To James, Nicky, Sean and of course Richey... Thank you.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

This Week's Sunday Challenge is a Real Nail-Biter!

I think we can all agree, this isn't my best look...

A couple of weeks ago, when I blogged about my lousy lungs, I mentioned a habit of mine that I've struggled to break.  In the words of the song: "uh-oh, it's biting my nails."

Yes, I am a seasoned nail-biter.  I'm practically a pro.  I don't know why I find the habit so irresistible either, because I genuinely hate the appearance of the chewed-down stumps that currently pass for fingernails at the end of each one of my stumpy digits.

When I was about eleven years old, my Nan made me a promise.  I was always admiring her lovely nails and the peachy-pink nail polish she used to paint them with.  She told me that if I could stop biting my nails, she'd buy me my own bottle, so that I could paint my nails just like hers.  I was absolutely determined to get my hands on a bottle of that lovely varnish, so I did everything I could think of.  

I tried buying some Stop'n'Grow nail biting solution.  But I just became accustomed to the foul taste of it and carried on biting.

I tried reminding myself of how gross nail biting actually is.  I mean, think of all that trapped dirt I'm probably ingesting!  I have a little bit of OCD about germs, so you'd think that knowing what might be lurking beneath my nails would put me well and truly off, but for some reason... Nope.

I even tried sitting on my hands when I was bored and most prone to nail-nibbling.  But it was just uncomfortable and after a while, I'd change position and next thing you know, I was gnawing away...

Eventually, when my Nan sadly died less than a year later, I decided to buy my own pretty nail varnishes, in the hope that if I painted my stubby little nails, I'd be less likely to bite them.  To be honest, that's still the method that works best for me.  But I couldn't wear nail varnish to school, plus I was being horribly bullied there, so I was stressed out of my tiny mind and... Yep, I chewed away on my nails to relieve some of that tension.

Now, as an adult, I work at a place where we're not allowed to wear nail varnish (aside from the clear stuff, which I've run out of and can't afford to buy more this side of Christmas), so I have the same problem.  I'm fine at the weekends, when my nails can be plastered with various glittery varnishes, but come Monday, the temptation to nibble is ridiculous.

So this week's Sunday Challenge isn't one I can sum up at the end of this blog and let you know how I got on.  It's more of a work-in-progress.  But I am going to try very, very hard to quit my incessant nail-gnawing.  It looks ugly as sin and it's pretty vile in general.  And I really, really don't want my nails to look like this anymore:

Because... Yuck.

So if anyone has any handy hints (pun absolutely intended) that could help me in this quest, please do share them with me!  Next Sunday, I'll be catching up with my girlies and I may well write a bit of a Christmassy blog in the absence of a challenge (unless eating as much as I can at the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet is something I fancy writing about...), but I'll be keeping you updated as to how my talons are progressing.  Because my nail-growth is just that fascinating.

Wish me luck...

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sunday Challenge 23rd November 2014: Food Review!

The view from our table at The Mariners in Rock.

Okay everyone, try not to expire from shock, but... IT'S THE RETURN OF THE SUNDAY CHALLENGE!

I know, I know.  I don't even remember what my last Sunday Challenge was, let alone how long it has been since I did one, but this week I'm actually back on track for a change.  I wondered for a while as to what my first challenge in forever should actually be, but since I'm a foodie and since my dad had booked a table for lunch at The Mariners Public House in Rock today, I thought: "Why not try being a food critic?!"  So here goes...

Newly opened in July, The Mariners sits overlooking the Camel Estuary in Rock.  It's one of many dining establishments owned by Michelin starred chef Nathan Outlaw, so my expectations were high from the outset.  Throughout the week, the pub offers a menu ranging from standard bar snacks (fish finger sandwiches and pork pies etc) to more substantial meals, such as pork schnitzel with fried duck egg.  On a Sunday, the pub boasts a traditional lunch menu at a very reasonable price (especially for an area such as Rock, where prices can be high): £12.50 for one course, £17.50 for two courses and £22.50 if you can squeeze in all three courses.  Lunch is served from 12 until 4:30 and we arrived at 12:30pm, having skipped breakfast in readiness...

We were offered a choice of tables by a very friendly waitress and opted to sit by the window to make the most of the beautiful views around Rock.  I actually work not far down the road, but I rarely get a chance to admire the scenery, so it was lovely to take it all in.

We all decided to go for a starter, given that the menu was so appealing - it was almost impossible not to!

Soused herring with white cabbage, mustard and salad cream.

One thing you can rely on in Cornwall is an abundance of beautiful seafood, so it was no surprise that my dad went for the soused herring.  It came with a delicate mustard-flavoured salad cream and white cabbage.  The herring was so fresh and not overly pickled in any way that dad had no trouble polishing it off!  Even mum, who's not usually a fan of herring, tried some and said it was delicious.

Mariners' Scotch egg.

Mum chose the Mariners' Scotch egg and actually gasped when it arrived at the table, because it just looked so good.  The egg was perfectly cooked, with the yolks still soft.  The sausage meat surrounding the egg was spiced beautifully, giving the whole thing a really deep, delicious flavour when you bit into it.  And yes, I did demand a bite...  The chutney served with it complimented the dish really well and mum was very happy with her choice.

Cauliflower soup with goat's cheese and crusty bread.

Meanwhile, I went for the cauliflower soup, served with crumbled goat's cheese.  The soup itself was beautifully thick and creamy, with the simple, yet delicious taste of cauliflower shining through.  The addition of goat's cheese was something of a master stroke; it's not a flavour combination I'd necessarily have thought of, but oh my goodness, does it work!  The tang of the cheese perfectly complimented the delicate cauliflower, adding to the taste and yet not overshadowing it.  It was all I could do to stop myself from licking the bowl...

Sunday roast!

Mum and I had both chosen roast beef for our main, whereas dad had gone for pork.  The beef came with a lovely horseradish cream and a huge, fluffy Yorkshire pudding.  Dad's pork was served with an apple and whiskey compote and of course, it came complete with some deliciously crispy crackling.

There were an array of vegetables on offer to accompany our roasts and they weren't your bog-standard limp carrots or overdone sprouts (and I say that as someone partial to an overdone sprout...).  Instead, we had honey-glazed parsnips, which I'm told were beautiful (I'm not a parsnip fan, but I did sample the glaze!), as well as calabrese, carrots (cooked whole, with a stunning glaze on them), creamed leaks and cabbage with bacon and roast chestnuts.  There was so much food on offer, we couldn't quite believe how generous the portions were!

The meat itself was beautiful; my beef absolutely melted in my mouth and dad was practically in raptures about how perfectly moist his pork was.  

And then there were the potatoes...  I don't know what magic they sprinkled on them, but they were so crispy on the outside, yet fluffy and light on the inside.  Just perfect.

Being a Sharp's Brewery pub, there were plenty of local beers to choose from to wash your lunch down with and dad enjoyed a very refreshing pint.  Mum and I stuck to soft drinks, but we were kept just as refreshed and offered top-ups by the attentive staff.

Having gorged ourselves on the mother of all Sunday roasts, we knew we couldn't manage puddings, which was a shame as the menu looked delicious!  Maybe next time I'll skip a starter in the hope of saving room...

All in all, I was hugely impressed with The Mariners.  The food was absolutely lovely and the staff were all very friendly, knowledgeable and conscientious.  In fact, we enjoyed our lunch there so much, we've already booked our next visit!

If you're in the area and you'd like to check it out, you can call The Mariners to book a table on 01208 863679, or drop them an email at  There's lots more info, plus sample menus available at their website.  

Monday, 17 November 2014

Let's Take A Deep Breath... And Talk About My Crappy Lungs!

Pictured: How NOT to take an inhaler.

I've not blogged for almost a fortnight and I'm a bit cross with myself about it.  One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to blog every week and well... Like most New Year's resolutions, this has gone the same way as my promise to stop biting my nails.  Which I will totally do.  In 2015...

The thing is, I do have something of an excuse.  Last weekend (not the one just gone, but the one before that), I wasn't well.  Granted, I've already blogged about having not been 100% for quite some time, but on Saturday November 8th, I was really not very well.  I have asthma and, following a trip to Trago Mills to get a few bits and bobs, I started to find myself coughing and struggling for air.  Being an entirely sensible human, I refused to go to hospital and instead sat in the back of the car on the way home, chugging on my Ventolin, expecting it to kick in and everything to go back to normal.

It didn't.

Anyone with asthma will know that that little blue inhaler is pretty much your go-to weapon of choice when things get bad.  You have a cough?  Ventolin.  You need to do some exercise and you're worried your lungs won't cope?  Ventolin.  You're a bit breathless... Well, you get the idea.  Ventolin.  So when your go-to inhaler doesn't work, it's pretty damn scary.  Because the simple act of breathing in and out is something we just don't think about until we can't do it.  And believe me, when you can't, it's literally all you can think about.

So there I was, arriving home after a successful shopping trip, hacking away like I smoke 90-a-day (which is hilarious, because I couldn't so much as touch a cigarette even if I wanted to; cigarette smoke is one of my major triggers).  By this point, I'd taken my Ventolin three times (so six puffs) and it wasn't doing anything.  My chest felt like an elephant had taken up residence on it and actually trying to get any air into my unwilling lungs was so painful that I was starting to regret my earlier insistence that I was "fine."  

Yes.  I am.

Eventually, my mum (I knew there were bonuses to living with your parents at my age!) insisted on taking me to hospital,  During the journey, I was so breathless and in such pain with my chest, that I was actually trying to physically remove something non-existent from my chest; convinced that there had to be something actually on me that was causing such pressure.  Of course, there wasn't.  Just my lungs bashing against my ribcage in a painful spasm.  Thankfully, we only live 20 minutes away from a minor injuries unit, where upon arrival, I was immediately put on a nebuliser.  And where I immediately burst into tears, because not being able to breath is terrifying.  Seriously.  Think of the scariest thing you can imagine and double it.  And then double it again, because of the whole "I'm going to die" thing, associated with not being able to breathe.

Now, if you've just been diagnosed with asthma, or if you're a sufferer who's lucky enough to have never had a major attack, I'm honestly not trying to scare you.  Because what happened next is testament to our fantastic NHS and proof that we have fabulous, life-saving treatments available to us and that as long as we're sensible about our condition, we can live totally normal lives.

Like I said, I was put on a nebuliser straight away.  After 40 minutes or so, my breathing was much easier.  My peak flow had gone up, my heart rate was returning to normal (upon arrival, it was so all over the place that the nurses put me on a silent heart monitor machine so as not to frighten my mum with the erratic beeping) and my oxygen level was healthy.  I was treated with kindness, respect and absolute care.  I was given treatment that I desperately needed, along with a course of steroids to take home to stave off any future attacks.  And I didn't pay a penny for any it.  Our NHS is free at the point of use and we should cherish that.

Yes, I have a pretty major beef with the out of hours doctors service who, after being contacted by a nurse at 3:30pm, didn't get back to the hospital until well past 5:30pm and that was to tell the nursing staff that they weren't sending a doctor to see me until gone 7pm.  That was pretty crappy.  Thankfully, a passing doctor visiting the hospital agreed to come and see me and prescribe the steroids I needed, allowing me to leave shortly before 6pm instead.  I was incredibly grateful to him, because once the attack had passed, all I wanted was to go home, crash in front of Strictly Come Dancing and have something to eat.  Of course that week, Judy Murray stayed in and my annoyance at that almost gave me another asthma attack...

And I say that in the nicest possible way...

Anyway, since then I've been on steroids.  And if you want me to be a pedant, I'd been on them for a fortnight prior to the attack, too.  So that's four weeks.  FOUR WEEKS.

Again, if you've recently been diagnosed, or you're an asthma sufferer who's never been put on steroids, I'm honestly not trying to freak you out.  But guys, someone has gotta spell this out:  Steroids?  NOT FUN.  I'm now - finally - in the process of gradually reducing my daily dosage.  By Sunday, I'll be off them and I could quite happily jump for joy at the thought.  Or at least I would, but I'd probably need my Ventolin first...

So why do steroids suck?  Weeeeeeell...

Firstly, there's the weight gain.  Steroids make you hungry.  But not like: "ooh, I fancy a sandwich."  I mean, like: "Ooh, I fancy EVERY sandwich EVER.  Two of each!  No, three!"  And you eat.  And you're full.  And then half an hour later, you fancy a snack.  It comes to something when the actual list of side-effects printed on the leaflet you get with a packet of steroids is "moon face."  Cheers for that, pharmacists.  I'm half expecting people to ask me if my face is made of cheese.  

And of course, steroids not only make you starving hungry, but they give you acid indigestion as a lovely little extra bonus.  Pro-tip to anyone reading this who's recently been prescribed steroids?  Take those pills in the morning, after breakfast with a pro-biotic yoghurt drink.  It'll protect your tummy.  Plus those drinks are really quite nice...

Then there's the lucid dreams.  And I don't mean dreams that are a little bit vivid.  I mean crazy lucid dreams.  One morning last week, I woke up from such a realistic dream that I was utterly convinced I was in Blackpool.  Why Blackpool?  I have literally no idea.  But I was totally shocked to find myself in my own bed and I had to stop myself from contacting one of my friends to ask how I'd gotten home from "her place" in Blackpool.  The only thing that stopped me from doing that was remembering that said friend lives in Canada and I'm not sure she's even been to Blackpool in her entire life.  Such is the craziness of the steroid-induced dream.

The worst thing, though, without a shadow of a doubt?  The way steroids play with your emotions.  "'Roid Rage" is a thing, people.  As is, apparently, "'Roid Snotty Crying At Nothing In Particular."

Yes, over the last four weeks, I've been a bitch queen from Hell or an oversensitive wreck.  Case in point?  On Saturday I went Christmas shopping.  My mum asked me to text my sister's girlfriend a photo of a gift she was thinking of getting for my sister.  A harmless little request and one I obviously granted.  But then my mum and I separated so we could buy presents for each other and I spent most of the time we were apart messaging my sister's girlfriend in response to the original text.  I love my sister's girlfriend - she rocks and I think of her as an extra sister - but my brain went: "OH MY GOD, WHY IS MY PHONE BEEPING?  I KEEP HAVING TO GET IT OUT OF MY BAG!  WHHHHYYYY?!"  Even though I was happy to send messages back and forth, the sound of my phone going off and interrupting my shopping was so irritating to me that I started wanting to throw it.  Preferably at someone.  Of course, I hated myself for feeling that way and I was equally confused about feeling that way, because I was texting someone I think the world of.  By the time I arrived at one particular shop, only to discover they'd sold out of the very thing I'd gone there to buy for my mum, I literally had to gulp "okay, thanks" at the poor shop assistant and then leg it out of there before I burst into tears.  On my way out of the store, some hapless woman stopped dead in front of me, blocking the exit and I yelled: "MOVE!" and barged past like some ignorant bitch.  If I could go back in time and politely say "excuse me," I would do, ten times over (although that would be a bit excessive).  Upon making it out into the street, I could literally feel adrenaline coursing through my veins and I wasn't sure whether I was going to scream at the world in general or have a massive breakdown and weep right there in the street,  My poor mum was amazingly patient with me and didn't flinch when we met up again and I announced that I hated literally everyone on the planet.  I knew what was causing my erratic moods, but I could do precisely nothing to control them, other than keep taking deep breaths and apologise.  And apologise.  And apologise again...

Literally nothing and nobody was safe from my ire.  I arrived home from our shopping trip and tried to fit presents for my friends into gift bags I'd bought.  One bag was too small for all the presents I wanted to fit into it and I actually yelled at it: "WHY DO YOU HATE ME SO MUCH?  YOU'RE RUINING CHRISTMAS!"  And then I cried, because STEROIDS.

Thankfully, I've gone from 8 per day, to six and now down to 4.  My moods are bordering on normal as I decrease the dosage (I say "bordering," because I've never been quite normal :P), much to not only my relief, but probably everyone who has ever met me.

But you know what?  As my very sensible friend Richey pointed out last night; these drugs might be incredibly annoying to be on, long-term and I might hate the side-effects.  But thanks to them, I've not had another attack in the past fortnight and I've become able to do my morning exercises again without collapsing in a breathless heap.  They might be irritating, but they do the job.

And at the end of the day, that's all we can ever ask for.  That when we're poorly, we get the right treatment and we get well again, whatever it takes.  I'm on the mend now and I promise to update this blog more regularly and to crack on with my Sunday Challenges again - I've missed those!

So if you're asthmatic and you've read this and are thinking "OMG, I never want steroids..."  Well, I don't blame you.  But the alternative is way scarier than the side-effects.  Like... Way scarier.  My advice?  Take whatever they give you.  Just ensure your loved ones are a safe distance away from the blast zone when the moods kick in...

I promise to keep this blog updated more regularly.  And who knows, I might even keep to another New Year's resolution and stop biting my nails too...  In the meantime: here's to getting well again, here's to our fantastic NHS and here's to this weekend's Sunday Challenge, whatever it turns out to be! 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Sometimes I wonder... Am I creative or just mad?!

I've always been weird.  I've even blogged about it.  But sometimes I wonder why my brain chooses to work in such ridculously silly ways.

Take last week for example.  Last week, I went to one of my favourite places to just hang out and be silly with my friend Lizzie for a week - sunny Butlin's in Minehead.  There was a point where Lizzie and I had no immediate plans for the day and it was at this point that my mind took a random stroll down Insanity Avenue.  

Most people might have thought: "Hmm, maybe we'll go into town and get lunch somewhere."  Or perhaps: "Let's see what local tourist attractions there are that we could visit?"  Not me.  Oh no.  My mind immediately went: "WE SHOULD MAKE A FILM."

It kind of just got weirder from there, too.  For reasons even I can't explain, Lizzie and I reached the decision that said film should somehow merge Titanic and Donnie Darko into one movie.  And lo, Donna Titanico was born.

I admit, the Donnie Darko bit was probably due to there being a redcoat in Minehead who looks like Jake Gyllenhaal.  And maybe the Titanic bit came from Lizzie's "Heart of The Ocean" style necklace.  But one way or another, I found myself hastily scripting a plot involving a girl called Donna, who has serious psychological issues, who finds herself on board the Titanic, befriending a skeleton called Jank Dawson (SEE WHAT I DID THERE? FRANK, HAHAHAAAA LOL), who persuades her to sink the ship.  She then masters time travel (off screen, because I wasn't clever enough to work out how to film that bit...) and dies as "a young man, warm in your bed, when a jet engine crashes through your bedroom ceiling."

Frankly, I'm a weirdo.  I know this to be true.  But you know what?  I'm totally making another film when we go back for New Year.  Until then...  It's a cinematic masterpiece, guys.

I won't go on to say just how much I urge you all to embrace your own personal weirdness, because... Well, I've blogged about it already and the link is right there at the top of this post.  But I'm glad I'm odd.  It's taken me a few years to embrace my utter lack of cool and my general oddities, but now?  Yeah.  Weird is good.  Weird is fun.  And weirdos make the best films.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Sunday Challenge - 2nd November 2014

Rocking the deckchair.

Greetings, Earthlings!  

Now, last Sunday I had to duck out of my weekly Challenge blog, due to illness and general woe.  This week, despite the fact that I'm still breathing so heavily I sound as though I'm about to make a dirty phone call, I'm back and ready to rise to the challenge!  And what is this week's challenge?  VLOGGING!

Currently, my YouTube channel is made up of bizarre self-made episodes of Doctor Who and a previous attempt at vlogging, which was... Well, rubbish.  Oh and the odd bit of footage from a gig etc.  So, I decided that for this week's challenge, I'd attempt to film an actual vlog, i.e. me talking to the camera.  Seeing as I've spent the last week at Butlin's, I opted to film said vlog there and my challenge this Sunday would be to edit and upload it.  It was a great plan.  And like all great plans it was DOOMED.

I'd forgotten that I had little to no memory left on my phone and that my digital camera recently died a tragic death.  So basically, I was trying to film something with, er, nothing to film it on.  Consequently, my vlog is pretty short, but in fairness, nobody needs to spend a long time staring at my face or listening to my uniquely irritating voice, so it probably worked out for the best.

Lack of memory space meant I didn't film anywhere near as much stuff as I'd hoped to, so there's a lot of stuff that's not on the vlog that might have otherwise made it.  That shot of me doing the ironing, Oscar-worthy though it was, didn't make the cut...

In spite of cringing at the constant sight of my own face, I actually enjoyed filming this little vlog and cutting it together.  In fact, I decided that filming the Sunday Challenge rather than just writing about it might be something I come back to in the future.  So here's to much more of my nasal voice and close-ups of my eye-bags... YOU KNOW YOU LOVE IT.

Anyway, I'm keeping this blog entry short, because a) I'm still not feeling 100% and my eyes are hurting and more importantly b) I'm so hungry, I could eat a small child.  It's unlikely anything I write is going to make sense right now, because my brain is busy listing all the food I would like to eat.  And believe me, it's doing a thorough job; I've mentally gorged myself on everything from steak and chips to baked Alaska since I started writing this...

So, without further ado, here is the link to this week's Sunday Challenge: A vlog filmed on location at Butlin's in Minehead.  Enjoy!  

*Disappears to find food*

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Lack of Sunday Challenge due to WOE.

Today is supposed to be Sunday Challenge Day.  Instead, it...well, isn't.  Or at least, if I have issued a challenge to myself it is simply to try not to feel like crap.  Because this is me, right now, with added Eeyore-esque rain cloud floating above my head...

I know.  Sexy.

I am suffering from what I have decided to call "(wo)man flu."  It's basically a bad cold, but combined with my asthma, I currently feel as though a small elephant has decided to take up residence on my chest and my breathing is so heavy that I sound as though I'm making a dirty phone call.  I'm feeling pretty sorry for myself and so this week's Sunday Challenge has disappeared into the same mysterious place my sense of wellness has gone.  I'm hoping it'll be back next Sunday, because I've actually planned next week's challenge in advance and it's gonna be gooooood.  Yes, every single one of those Os were necessary,  In fact, I may go back and add a few more...

Unfortunately, coming down with a cold has not been the only crappy thing that has happened this week.  As you can see from the above photo, I no longer have a fringe.  Considering I have a forehead that could rival Ant McPartlin's, this is not something that occurred by choice.  

Those readers who know me in "real life" (I'm told such a place exists...) or who've been reading this blog for a long time (in which case, your long service medal is in the post) will know that when left to grow naturally, my hair is pretty much an Afro.  Yes, I am a weedy white girl with hair like Mel B.  Because when Mother Nature created me, she wanted to be sure there was nothing that couldn't be mocked, clearly.  In the interest of fairness, I'm going to post a photo of my hair looking au natural.  Shield your eyes if you're of as nervous disposition...

Yes I'm hugging a mannequin.  It was a phase I was going through...

And yes, in case you're wondering, my blog title - The Rambling Curl - is a reference to my untamed tresses.  Often, well-meaning people tell me how lucky I am to have such natural curls.  But believe me, when you walk into a hair salon and have stylists refuse to cut your hair because they don't "do" that type, you don't feel lucky.  When you have to spend a fortune on anti-frizz products, you don't feel lucky.  When you can't get your hair into any of the same, pretty styles your friends can, you don't feel lucky.  Eventually, I started relaxing it at home with a chemical straightener meant for black women with Afro hair.  My hair never went straight, but the curls got much looser and I was much happier.  Then, two years or so ago, I had it chemically straightened in a salon for the first time ever.  I was thrilled with the poker straight results and I've had it like that ever since.  Which is great.  Except it burns one heck of a hole in your wallet.

So, recently, noticing that my hair was curling at the roots and in need of a touch-up at the salon, but also noticing my lack of money to pay for a straighten, I ordered the product I used to use all those years ago (like, three, but ssshh, I like to sound dramatic).  Knowing that home-straightening kits can be all kinds of bad news for your hair, I opted to only leave it on for half the recommended processing time.  Thank goodness I did, because just 12 minutes later, when I came to wash the product off, I had no fringe.  It literally snapped off.  GOOD TIMES.  Not only that, but the ends of my hair were brittle and split.  I looked bloody awful.  So awful I could have cried.  And so I totally did.

Now, in case you're wondering why I'm not naming and shaming the product I used, it's because, in its defence, I think I may have used the wrong strength for my hair type.  My hair is very fine and I usually use the children's version, which I never had a single problem with.  This time, I used a super strength adult version, so the blame here is entirely on me, not the product.  And no, I didn't do a strand test, because I am an idiot from the planet NOBRAINS.

That was on Tuesday, so I was hoping my week would pick up.  Wrong.

I went to bed on Thursday night feeling pretty much okay, although a tad confused that I felt so stuffed, considering I hadn't really eaten much more than usual.  I woke up at ten to one in the morning, feeling really uncomfortable.  By ten past two, I was hunched over the toilet, wondering if literally my entire lower intestine was about to launch itself into the bowl.

Again, anyone who knows me in "real life" will tell you that I am majorly phobic about sickness.  If someone is sick around me, I panic and run away.  If I think I am going to be sick, I've been known to literally pace the floor, breathing like I'm in labour, mentally chanting "I CAN DO THIS.  I CAN BEAT THIS.  I WILL NOT BE SICK."  This usually happens moments before I throw my guts up.  It's a rather unfortunate and deeply unsuccessful ritual.

I was awake for the rest of the night, either sitting up in bed, groaning to myself (and mentally planning my funeral, because clearly I was dying) or rushing to the bathroom.  Not my favourite way to spend a night, it has to be said and one I don't fancy repeating any time soon.

I had already come down with this cold prior to the sickness bug, so it was a double whammy of infinite suckiness.  Although, once the sickness had subsided, I was at least able to enjoy the perks of being ill.  Namely, being in my pyjamas ALL THE TIME and lazing around in bed watching awesome DVDs:

"Roads?!  Where we're going, we don't need roads!"

Anyway, now I'm non-sicky, but very much, um, cold-y.  I'm going on holiday to Butlin's tomorrow for the week, so I'm stopping off at the doctors en route to be checked over in case I need steroids for my asthma.  And yes, I promise to try very hard not to breathe on any redcoats.  I don't want to ruin the end of their season, after all...

All that remains to be said is I am very, very sorry for the lack of a Sunday challenge this week, but this week has, in fairness, been pretty craptastic.

BUT...  Butlin's will provide me with two challenges to blog about over the next two Sundays.  I won't spoil the surprise (because I know you're on tenterhooks, right?  RIGHT?!), but I promise the Sunday Challenge will be reinstated next weekend.  

Unless I come down with anything else...  Ebola hasn't hit Cornwall yet, has it?!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Sunday Challenge - 19th October 2014

Yes, it's that time of week again!  It's time for another "Sunday Challenge."  This is going to catch on, guys, I swear...

After missing a week last week (due to the rare occurrence of having a social life), I started thinking about what this week's challenge could be.  Eventually, it was my dad - a rather good poet (but don't tell him I said that) - who came up with the idea of challenging myself to write a poem in a short space of time.  He said an hour.  I decided that was too easy and gave myself 30 minutes, because clearly, I live life right on the edge.

Naturally, given that I'm a writer of sorts, I figured this challenge would be easy.  So, to make it harder on myself, I asked friends on Twitter and Facebook to come up with subjects for me to create my masterpiece of poetry about.  I had various suggestions, including "bollards."  Frankly, the world is not yet ready for a poem about that.  I settled on a suggestion from my friend Mary: "Dresses."

She suggested it because yesterday I saw this:

...And I basically went into raptures.  I love 50s style fashion and music.  I love dresses.  And I love purple.  This dress was a siren, calling out to me: "BUY ME.  YOU DON'T NEED PETROL, YOUR CAR WILL RUN ON AWESOMENESS IF YOU OWN ME!  LOOK WHAT A BARGAIN I AM!  YOU DON'T JUST WANT ME, EMMA.  YOU NEEEEEEED MEEEEEEE."

I caved.  The dress was ordered and it's currently winging its way to me.  And yes, of course I already own a 50s petticoat to go underneath and make it extra... Um... Swishy.

SO.  I had my subject matter.  I knew what I had to do.  I set the timer...

Aaaaand nothing happened.  I stared at a blank screen for the first few precious minutes of my allotted thirty, wondering whether I had any right to call myself a writer at all, considering I was failing so completely to write anything.  My mind was crowded with ridiculous questions: "What rhyme scheme should I use?"  "Will it matter if it doesn't rhyme at all?"  "Does anything rhyme with petticoat, apart from Alan Dedicoat?!"

In the end, I just started thinking of silly things and how hilarious it is when my love of dresses gets... Well, a trifle obsessive.  And I came up with this bit of ridiculousness, written in under 17 minutes:

A Letter of Love

I knew the day I found you,
That you must be "The One."
There is beauty all around you,
I was utterly undone. 
We two became one and suddenly,
There was even more to love!
I adore you utterly,
You fit me like a glove.
You make me feel so beautiful,
In every single way.
If only it were suitable,
I'd wear you every day...

Like Internet dating, I found you online,
And added you to my cart.
And now you are completely mine,
With a special place in my heart.

Am I crazy?  Maybe.
I guess the answer's "yes."
But I've written this poem to say...
I bloody LOVE my new dress!

It isn't brilliant, but hey,,, I did it in under 30 minutes and I wrote on a subject I allowed someone else to choose, so... It's not that bad!

Here's to next Sunday and another challenge!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Dear, please shove your misogynistic opinions up your arse.

I had never heard of before this morning.  Frankly, it was a happier, simpler time.  After all, why would I want to have heard of a website that promotes articles with titles such as "Never Fully Give A Woman Your Loyalty" or which features this charming description of the female sex: "the majority of them are leeches, with only a vagina to offer you."  The articles on the website sound as though they were written by bitter, sad guys who've not yet come to terms with the fact that Page 3 models are airbrushed (let alone the fact that a growing number of people are sick of seeing women reduced to a pair of tits in the nation's biggest-selling family newspaper) and who wrote their backwards, misogynistic tirades in between furious masturbation sessions, whilst shrieking: "I AM A MAN!  A MAN!  HEAR ME ROAR, BITCHES!" There's even a caveat on the site that women and homosexuals are "forbidden" from commenting on articles and will be immediately banned.  It's truly sad.  

Sad, but frightening.  Because these are people who almost certainly do hold these vile opinions.  There's nothing on the RoK website that makes me think it's supposed to be satirical.  There's nothing that convinces me that it's just a joke.  Not that that would make it any better.  We already live in a world in which a woman can be raped and all the press are concerned with is whether her rapist will be allowed to play football again.  A world in which a TV presenter can casually state that that rape "didn't cause bodily harm," implying that it was therefore not that bad.  Um, note to Judy Finnegan?  Rape is the non-consensual forcing of a penis (or fingers etc) into a person.  FORCING.  Against their will.  Please do take the time to explain to me how forcing something into a person isn't going to cause them any harm, physically or emotionally, because I'm ever so intrigued.

The "article" that brought this website to my attention this morning was something a friend posted on Facebook: 5 Reasons Why Girls With Piercings And Tattoos Are Broken. My friend has piercings and tattoos.  I have tattoos.  I read this steaming pile of unadulterated bullshit and despite the vast array of woman-hating and ridiculous that pervades the entire site, it was this piece I decided to respond to.  Well, I've spent a good portion of the last few months plotting a cover-up tattoo, so it seemed appropriate.  Now, before I go any further, I realise that I'm bringing attention to this sad excuse for a human and that's what he, like all pathetic bullies, wants.  But I'm not a subscriber to the "don't feed the trolls" school of thinking.  I'm a subscriber to the "let's shine a light on these idiots and explain why what they're saying is wrong and not in the least bit funny."  It's a less catchy name, granted...

So... Let's go through the original blog bit by bit, shall we?  Buckle in and steady yourself; this isn't going to be pleasant...

So, girls with tattoos and piercings (besides having their ears pierced, because ooh, that's allowed) are "slags who fall in and out of guys' beds at a moment's notice."  Apparently women with tattoos will definitely cheat on you, too.

Okay, let's get personal, shall we?  I have four tattoos.  I've also never cheated on anyone in my life (and abhor cheating full stop) and I can count the number of sexual partners I've had on one hand.  Not that that even matters.  Are we really so utterly backwards as a society that we think it's okay to judge people on their physical appearance in this manner?  Is "she has tattoos, therefore she's a whore" an acceptable thing to write, even if it was in a satirical manner?  My mum had a tattoo done on her 60th birthday.  She's been faithfully married to my dad for over thirty years.  Is she a whore?  Of course she isn't.  Judging someone's sexual morals on appearance alone is a fairly pathetic thing to be doing and it's an utterly hypocritical thing to be writing about on a site that actively encourages men to shag around.  Because you know, men are allowed.  But we women have to shut up and do as we're told, because reasons.

Also, women are sluts because we're willing to be tattooed on our naked skin?  Has the ape that wrote this not heard of men having tattoos done by female artists?  Because... That's a thing that some guys who aren't misogynistic bastards actually do.  Those slags.

Oh noes!  We have no foresight!  We haven't ever given a moment's consideration as to what our tattoos might look like in twenty or thirty years time!  Of course we haven't; we were probably too busy shagging guys in alleyways, whilst planning to marry someone rich and obliterate his bank account, like the worthless, manipulative little sluts that we are...

Except... Why is this only applicable to women?  I mean, the obvious answer is that this site is run by and written for by men who view women as nothing but vessels for their tiny penises and it's obviously abhorrent to them to consider that men and women might make similar choices and go through similar thought-processes.  I can tell you that I've considered how my tattoos will age and I've taken care of them in the correct manner to ensure I limit any damage to them over time.  Shocking, I know, but I managed to take time out from shoe-shopping with daddy's credit card to do such a thing as look after my own body art.  Try to pick your jaws up from the floor, RoK.

Oh and the end of that particular argument is that women who have tattoos are too dumb to be the mother of your children.  I WEEP for the sexist father my future babies will never have.  I mean really, this might mean I have to breed with someone who respects people of my gender.  HEAVEN FORBID!

Soooo...  We're now into total and utter lunacy.  This is no longer an article written by anyone who can call themselves a writer, but an impotent wail against cognitive reasoning.  If a girl has tattoos, she's inherently selfish and won't look after you when you're ill and will deny you sex for no reason.  That's like shrieking: "Oh my GOD, that man is wearing a hat!  I BET HE ALSO DROWNS KITTENS, THE SELFISH BASTARD!"  There's literally no link whatsoever.  The argument is meant to be that a woman choosing to have a tattoo is a selfish act, because she's only thinking of herself, which is just ludicrous in the extreme.  I never went into a tattoo parlour, crying: "HAHAHAHAAAA, INK ME SO THAT I MAY IGNORE THE SUFFERING OF THOSE I LOVE FOREVER!"

And is the author of this piece actually suggesting that women shouldn't be able to make the decision to have a tattoo, because it's selfish to do so?  That's the impression I got and frankly, if a man ever told me that I was undateable because I have a few (small, tasteful) tattoos and that I was selfish to have them, I'd waste no time in closing the door on his sorry backside.  I've been in an abusive relationship, thanks.  I'm controlled by nobody these days.  It's my body, not yours.  And if you're reading this as a man who genuinely believes that if I have a tattoo, I will no longer conform to your standard of beauty and I am therefore a selfish, "moody, unlikeable c*nt," then I wish you lots of future happiness with the sweaty sock you'll be wanking into for the rest of your life.  

Okay, time for a trigger warning with regards to rape/sexual assault...

...So, women with tattoos are boring.  Again, there is nothing like generalising an entire community of people, is there?  Why is it okay to do that with tattooed women?  We shouldn't accept an entire race being generalised against, so why an entire gender?  I don't believe that my tattoos make me any more interesting than I was before I had them.  My tattoos are representative of times in my life or things I'm passionate about.  If they become a talking point, great, because I have had some very interesting conversations, for example with Manics fans who've recognised the lyrics in the tattoo I have on my back.  But that's not why I had them done.  And they aren't what makes me an interesting person.  What makes me interesting is that I have passions beyond dissing an entire sex online (because I know that for all the half-brained dimwits reading RoK and grunting in agreement, there are a hundred decent guys, wondering why such loudmouthed losers are letting the side down).  Sure, there'll be people I meet in life who think I'm boring, but it has bugger all to do with my tattoos and probably much more to do with a personality clash.  Because whilst I disagree with people who think I'm dull, I usually don't actually think much of them, either.  And that normally comes from having not made a snap judgement based on whether or not they have body art.

Before we move on to the final part of the RoK blog and therefore the final part of mine, does anyone else think the last line captured in the above image sounds like sexual assault?  "I derived incredible pleasure from shoving my cock in her mouth to shut her up."  

"Shoving."  That sounds consensual, right?!  Except... No, not really.  And I'll be brutally honest here and reference my own experience of an abusive relationship - I know firsthand about being "shut up" that way.  My ex wasn't usually rough about it, but he was misgynistic enough to tell me I needed something in my mouth to stop me talking.  This was the line that made me determined to write something about this despicable article and the vile site it came from.  If that's meant to be a joke, it's not funny.  If it's serious...  I am so glad for the writer's ex that she is no longer with this disgusting excuse for a human.  I hope she got the same level of support that I did.

Yeah, so...  Ablism is a great thing to end on, right?  As it happens, I've suffered depression.  I'm not "mental" though and I've never "cut (anyone) with a knife."  I sincerely doubt there are more tattooed people with mental illnesses than there are non-tattooed people.  

The blog ends with suggesting that if a man is looking for a girl to "wife-up" (lucky us!), he should choose someone who hasn't "mangled their body beyond repair."

Well, to that, I say: "THANK GOD."  I have literally no desire to be desirable to the likes of this man.  Although to call him that is an insult to every decent man I've ever known.  If this is parody, it isn't funny.  If this is serious...  We have a bigger problem in society than I thought.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Air Guitar

Seemed appropriate...

There are very few bands I love enough to stay up until midnight to pre-order their new single, despite having to get up at stupid o'clock in the morning for work the next day, but I discovered recently that McBusted are one of them.

Ever since Lydia and I went to see them in Weston-Super-Mare, we've been desperately hoping that they'd release a single - and better still, an album - together.  A couple of nights ago, we got our wish when the first ever McBusted single - Air Guitar - was premiered via a lyric video on YouTube.  

You know that feeling you get when a band you absolutely adore release something new?  That bizarre combination of nerves and excitement ("Please be good, please be good, please be good...")?  Well, I had that in spades, although the "nervous" bit was never all that strong - this is a band made up of bloody brilliant songwriters after all.  It was bound to be great, wasn't it?

Well, of course it was.  And is.

The first few seconds remind me of playing classic arcade computer games (which made the Guitar Hero-esque lyric video all the more impressive) and the first lines "I never was a cool kid and no one ever gave a damn about what I did, I liked to party but I never got invited..." were like a siren call to my nerdy little soul.  I was that kid, in my early teens, singing in my room, writing bad poetry and playing air guitar to songs on the radio.  So immediately, this song felt like my anthem.

It builds and builds until the massive chorus comes as an explosion of guitars and voices that just makes you want to punch the air and jump up and down.  Add a twiddly bit of guitar that's made for playing air guitar to and you've got a smash.

The best bit is that this sounds like a fully-fledged band.  Not McFly with two guys added on.  Not Busted with McFly joining in.  It's a combination of what made both of those bands great and put together, it's ridiculously good.  The way the vocals switch from Matt, to Tom, to James, to Danny just works.  It doesn't feel in the slightest bit forced.  It's as though the most natural and obvious thing in the world is for these six people to be in a band, making music together.  Because when they do, the results are fantastic.

If I had to sum up the song in one word, I'd use "jubilant."  Because that's what it feels, to me.  Utterly joyous - the sound of six mates going: "can you believe we do this for a living?!"  The essence of fun and excitement that made their tour such an incredible success is somehow woven musically into every second of Air Guitar, making it a song that simply couldn't have been written by anyone else.  And it's joyous not only because it's the sound of a band genuinely loving what they're doing, but because the subtext of the song screams "SOD what anyone else thinks."  So you're maybe a bit of a geeky kid, not part of the cool elite at school?  Who cares - just keep doing your thing.  

And as long as these six guys keep doing their thing, they're making this nerdy girl very happy indeed.