Review: Sway – Verses from the Vault 1&2

‘Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness’ – Maya Angelou

Music is undeniably one of my biggest passions which I don’t get chance to wrote about nearly enough. That’s my own fault really because I don’t listen to as much new stuff as I used to. I’m in my mid 30s now whilst I still listen to radio 1 to keep up with what the kids are into these days I pretty much know what I like and stick with it. I’m nothing if not loyal

Every now and then an artist comes along who changes the way you listen to music. For me, UK rapper Sway is one of those people. I’d been of fan of the track Saturday Night Hustle he did with Lemar in 2008 and then the song Level Up released in 2012 which still remains on my running playlist to this day.

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His 2015 Album Deliverance very quickly earned a spot on my top ten albums of all time so needless to say I’ve been itching to hear some new material.

Praise be to the rap gods that Sway released Verses from the Vault volumes 1 and 2 and as the name suggests; whilst not strictly an album of new material,  it’s actually 2 albums of previously unreleased material. So, new to me, and that’s all that counts.

 

One of the things I love most about Sway, and artists like him (namely Childish Gambino) is that their content isn’t your stereotypical ‘money cash hoes’ that you might expect from someone from a rap/grime artist from North London. It’s much, much deeper than that. In fact, the only thing Sway really boasts about, is his work ethic. And in a country of zero hours contracts and ‘discouraged workers’ being at an all time high, is that something we should really be criticizing someone for?

Had I not known (and it not being glaringly obvious from the title) that this was a collection of previously unreleased songs of yore, I would have firmly and happily believed that Verses from the Vaults was a brand new album as it stands up valiantly next to Deliverance. The albums are split between Sway’s two heritages; volume 1 a tribute to his Ghanaian roots and volume 2 a nod to his London upbringing.

Stand out tracks for me are King, a beautifully articulated dedication to Michael Jackson,  Mirror, a dedication to his daughter (I’m guessing) which in these times of misogynistic american presidents and clubs of elitist British aristocrats perving over waitresses, is refreshing to hear and Topboy, partly because it’s mostly clever lyrics against a very simple beat but mostly because he references Rugrats. Which is my all time favourite cartoon. Ever.

If you haven’t heard Sway before it’s hard to describe his style because he’s not really anyone who can be pigeonholed. Some tracks like Still Speedin from Deliverance and Prince from Verses from the Vault 2 wouldn’t be out of place in Chase & Status set (or on the A list on Radio 1 in my opinion) yet there are songs like Never Enough (from Verses from the Vault 1) which are so lyrically intricate that you have to stop everything you’re doing to take it all in. For me Sway has always been the perfect gym or sun lounger album. And by that I don’t by any means that it’s throwaway music. What I mean is it’s music you want to listen to when you can really devote your time to the poetry with no distractions

Honorable mention has to go to instrumental track Letter which, even as one of life’s lyrics girls, even I can see that this piece of music should be on a film soundtrack without delay.

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If this is the quality of stuff that Sway just has in his back pocket that he was saving for a rainy day then it makes me so excited to hear brand new material. Perhaps he might even be inspired to write a song about the palest and blondest girl in England being his biggest fan? Or at the very least let me to sing the hook to Level Up when does the live shows he’s promised me later this year…..

You can download Verses from the Vault from Apple Music and Spotify now – do it!

 

Pelaw

I’ve said this week in, week out for the last 3 months that South of the river is uncharted territory for this Newcastle lass. We really should have done these pubs first but it’s always easier to visit your locals without much extra effort and hands held up I know very little about Pelaw other than it’s where the rice is from (ho ho!)

Pelaw station is the last southern station that can be accessed by both yellow and green lines before the tracks go their separate ways and was completely rebuilt in 2006 with a new ticket concourse and indoor waiting area serving those who may be using it as a transfer station.

If you’re coming from Sunderland exit the platform and cross over the tracks towards Croxdale Terrace. When you hit Croxdale turn left towards the Aldi Supermarket and you will soon see the aptly named Pelaw Inn on the right hand side of the road.

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From the outside it reminded me  a lot of the pubs on around the Benton area. Pubs that look like they’ve been there for an absolute lifetime where the jukebox may well stop as you swing the saloon doors open. I was pleasantly surprised as we ventured inside as the inside was warm, friendly and well decorated. The bar is directly in front of you as you walk in with a bar/pool table area on the right and a lounge area on the right. Oh and did I mention the dance floor? It has a dance floor. A DANCE FLOOR! Amazing.

 

It might have been thr friendly barmaid, it might have been the wide selection of gin on offer, it might have been the fact they serve roast beef Monster Munch or it could have been that I was already 4 glasses of wine into a day long session but I really, REALLY liked the Pelaw Inn. And it’s not really something I can put my finger on but it gave me the same feeling I felt when I visited the Carriage in Jesmond for the first time.

 

Of course we were these on a quiet Thursday afternoon so I’ve no idea what it’s like at weekends there they have bands and karaoke (putting that dance floor to good use!) but it had a really good community pub feel but based on our experience there was just something about it that felt welcoming, somewhere I could spend a good session in as long as there was gin and monster munch a plenty!

Find out where else we’ve been on our metro pubbing adventure here

Finding the perfect jeggings

‘I have jeggings to wear and worlds to conquer’ – Rachel Sklar

Back in the 90s when the Top of the Pops was on a Thursday night, my bedroom wall was covered ceiling to floor in Backstreet Boys and we did our weekly shopping in Safeway I distinctly remember getting my first pair of boot cut trousers for school (or ‘bootleggers’ as we called them). It was a life changing moment. It was like someone had actually considered teenagers who were bigger than a size 8 with bums significantly larger than their boobs. Trouser and jean wise, position was now filled, no further applicants needed, I had found my lobster.

efac9748d9151860fa23dd5e2023b0a8--pear-body-apple-pearFast forward to the 2010 and all of a sudden there’s a new trouser kid on the block and it was not geared towards apple bottomed girls. When I tried on my very first pair of skinny jeans I was told I looked like an overstuffed sausage. The second time I tried on a pair of red skinny jeans I was told my legs looked like a carrot. So I quickly accepted that skinny jeans, leggings or jeggings and I would never be mates and I let it lie.

 

Then I turned 35 in July which proved somewhat of a mid 30s crisis. I no longer gave as much of a crap what people thought anymore; I jumped both feet first into the pool of jeggings. Late to the party? Yes. Late but worth the wait.

Now I’m obsessed with them and I’ll be the first to admit that I have absolutely no personal style of my own, I just adopt different bits of style from people I know or things I’ve seen in magazines. My new found love for jeggings is definitely something I’ve picked up from my friend Carrie – she rocks a pair like no one else I know.  They go with everything and whilst I started out only wearing them casually at weekends, I wear them most days to work too now.

So thus begin the arduous task of finding the perfect style. I started out with a couple of pairs of the cult classic Edens from Dorothy Perkins which were what all my friends wore and seemed fairly reasonably priced at £20 a pair. Problem was, despite getting a dark navy pair and a black pair at the exact same time, in the exact same size and length but the both fit completely differently. The navy pair are spot on but the black are way too loose around the waist band and I have to roll it over when I wear them. After a handful of washed the black has started to fade – not so bargainous anymore.

I then got a black pair from F&F @ Tesco for a tenner. Much more purse friendly and have a seem running down the front which elongates my little chubby carrot legs, however they’re that stretchy shiny material that cheap school trousers used to be made out of and feel cheap to wear.

My favourite brand so far have been Matalan’s ‘Rosie’ jeggings which are a very reasonable £12 and come in your standard denim and black shades as well as maroon from autumn. They’re the perfect length and waist for me, soft enough to be comfortable but still look liked there’s a reasonable amount of ‘jean’ to them. They’re the most flattering on me too making me wonder whether they’re made from actual spanx material!

I can also be a bit of a fad queen so will be interesting to see how long this one lasts, I may well be writing again in a few months’ time about the ‘unfortunate jeggings season of 17/18’ which will never to be spoken of again or perhaps I’ve found my new leg lobster?

Brockley Whins

I’ll make no secret of the fact the Brockley Whins may as well be on the moon as far as I’m concerned and has always been one of those stations that I’m always just passing through on my way to somewhere else so I was fully prepared for there not to be anywhere to grab a drink in this urban wilderness.

The original station was part of the Brandling Junction Railway and only had one platform (incidentally on the way to Newcastle – how did people ever get back?!) Turns out you had to cross the line to a different track for return journeys. This health and safety nightmare resulted in 5 deaths in 1870 so they built a second platform. These days it’s purely a commuter station for people travelling to Newcastle or Sunderland respectively and although some coal freight trains pass through the station, they don’t stop.

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If you’re coming from Newcastle you need to cross the track and walk the length of Brisbane Avenue you until you bear round to the left onto Australia Grove. Turn right onto Perth Avenue (I am LOVING this naming convention!) the right again on to Tasmania Road and you will see The Jester at the end of the road on the left.

I’ll also make no secret of the fact that from the outside it didn’t look overly inviting; in fact we were unsure as to whether it was even open. We laughed in the face of any potential danger though and hauled ass inside. Having done some research (a quick Google search) turns out the Jester has recently been taken over and given a new lease of life from its previous incarnation which saw regular visits from the local boys (and girls) in blue and had a rowdy reputation with locals.

There was certainly no indication of any rowdiness when we visited during that lovely Crimbo Limbo period where you don’t know what day it is, whether you’re full or starving and wonder whether the grapes in Prosecco can count as your 5 a day. In fact it’s was really, really quiet with just a few locals propping up the bar chatting and listening to music.

We were greeted to a warm welcome as we tucked into our IPA (on tap) and glass of wine wine (which comes in its own miniature bottles so it’s a large glass or nothing – how terrible). It’s a really large, spacious pub with the bar in the middle; bar area and pool table to the right and large cosy tables and booths to the left for food. The bar area was tidy and modern and had plenty of drinks on offer to choose from.

They started a carvery on a Sunday which was so popular they’ve started offering it 7 days a week and even do home deliveries – how cool is that?!

Like many places we’ve found on our WBMT adventures it just goes to show you should never judge a pub by it’s outer shell. It looks like the new owner has really worked hard to restore the Jester to a family friendly establishment and here’s hoping their success continues.

Find out where else we’ve been on out metro pubbing adventure here

Aspire Lounge, Manchester terminal 1

‘Everything has changed. The flying has changed. The airports have changed’ – Eydie Gorme

My mum always said that holidays start at the airport and were as most of the time I would tend to agree, I’ve never been a massive fan of hanging around in busy departure lounges and paying twice the price for a whopper at Burger King.

Checking in to an airport lounge has become a relatively new thing for us since we treated ourself to the Aspire lounge in Newcastle when going on our honeymoon in 2013. Since then it’s something we do almost every time we fly. In fact I’m amazed more people don’t do it as well as it makes so much economical sense!

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The last lounge we stayed in was No1 at Edinburgh Airport and I should have known better than to veer away from the trusted Aspire brand but the promise of hot food and the higher price tag swayed us into thinking it might be better. You can read the full review here but needless to say we were underwhelmed. Aspire in Manchester’s Terminal 1 is far superior in almost every way and certainly got our recently holiday to Thailand off to a flying start (see what I did there?)

The Food

Flying at 7pm meant were were almost certainly going to be in need of some nourishment before our 16 hour journey and there was plenty of food on offer. There are always 2 hot dishes available which changes on a monthly basis. We had the option of pasta carbonara or vegetable curry which were both tasty. I mean it’s not Michelin Star or anything but certainly decent enough. The showstopper for me is all the other snacks on offer; olive, nuts, cheese and crackers, a salad bar, crisps, scones and cakes all available to help yourself to as much as your little heart desires. The vanilla sponge cake was particularly delicious!

The Drinks

The Aspire Lounge in Newcastle always used to be self serve which suited us better as we could just help ourselves to beer wine and spirits without feeling judged however it was a staffed bar at Manchester. Not that we felt judged in the slightest of course as staff were happy to keep us topped up with gin & tonics beer and wine, all completely free, well, included in the price. There’s also tea, coffee, juice and soft drinks available which are self serve.

Other Facilities

The Aspire lounge is part of an executive lounge complex within the terminal so the toilets are just outside the main door. In terms of other non food & drink related services there’s free high speed wifi and plenty of sofas, booths or bar style table and chairs to sit at with charging points to keep all your precious electronics juiced up before your flight. If you happen to be visiting on the one day a year it’s not raining you’ll be treated to some nice air side views too.

The Staff

A special mention should go to the staff who really made our stay enjoyable. The lounge was kept spotlessly clean with tables being cleared away almost as soon as someone left and the bar staff were really friendly, asking where we were going and giving tips on what to expect. They even remembered our order by the end of the stay – a sign of a true professional!

I would say the only thing to be marginally conscious of is that because they want to maintain a quiet, chilled out atmosphere, you can’t her announcements in the lounges so be sure to keep an eye on the boarding screens; it would be easy to get carried away and miss your flight!

I get that some people may look at the £21.99 price tag and think that the best part of £50 for two people on top of what you’ve probably forked our for on top of your holiday is a little excessive. And if you’re the kind of people who are happy with a meal deal and a bottle of water from Boots in the departure lounge then you’re probably right. However if you’re like my mum and think your holiday really does start at the airport; and regularly shell out for a few pints and an over priced Burger then chances are you end up spending more than that already. See, economical sense.

And don’t get to have any vanilla cake. Sadface.

Our stay in the Aspire Lounge was complimentary but all views are my own.

 

 

Jarrow

The metro station in Jarrow was originally on the network’s green line before the South Shields and Sunderland lines were swapped over and first opened in 1984. Like many stations on the network it is home to some local art and a statue dedicated to the famous Jarrow March is displayed inside the station.

Town centre stations are a dream in terms of the WBMT as you don’t have to stumble far to find your first pub. If you’re coming from platform 2 you need to cross the tracks towards the taxi office. Turn left onto Sheldon Street then right onto Station Street. When you get to the end of the road turn left onto Ellison Street and you’ll see the Ben Lomond pub right in front of you.

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On first impression walking through the doors you would be forgiven for thinking it was a Wetherspoons and anyone who knows me will know that that’s not a criticism in the slightest. There’s a big bar in the middle and seating areas circling arouns so I get them impression whatever time of day you visit you’ll rarely struggle for somewhere to sit.

 

We got a warm welcome from the barmaid who, when we ordered two glasses of wine, informed us it would be more economical to just guy the bottle. There’s not much more impresses me than a woman who understands the importance of good wine economics. Was it the best tasting wine in the world? No. Was it only £8 a bottle? Hell yes! And that’s the important thing to remember here.

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We were there at around tea time mid-week between xmas and new year and it was buy enough to assume it was a Friday or Saturday late afternoon. Other than the barmaid, wor  Ang and I were probably the only lasses in there and the lads watching the sport were getting on the rowdy side but were no bother really. What I guess I’m trying to say is if you’re out for a night with the lasses and want to be sitting prosecco and cocktails, this probably isn’t the place to do it.

However if you want a pint and a cheap bottle of wine  whilst painting the town red in Jarra then there are worse places you can end up!

Find out where else we’ve been on out metro pubbing adventure here

Pick of the Year: 2009

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  1. 50 Cent – Get Up
  2. Kanye West – Heartless
  3. Lady Gaga – Just Dance
  4. Kevin Rudolf – Let It Rock
  5. Lily Allen – The Fear
  6. All American Rejects – Gives You Hell
  7. Flo Rida – Right Round
  8. Katy Perry – Thinking of You
  9. Noisettes – Don’t Upset The Rhythm
  10. Eminem – We Made You
  11. Black Eyed Peas – Boom Boom Pow
  12. Veronicas – Untouched
  13. Little Boots – New In Town
  14. Kasabian – Fire
  15. Jordin Sparks – Battlefield
  16. Take That – Said it All
  17. Paloma Faith – Stone Cold Sober
  18. Chipmunk – Diamond Rings
  19. JLS – Beat Again
  20. Pink – Funhouse
  21. Just Jack – The Day I Died
  22. Lady Gaga – Love Game
  23. Dizzee Rascal – Holiday
  24. Jay-z – Run This Town
  25. Taio Cruz – Break Your Heart
  26. Jay-Z & Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind
  27. Robbie Williams – Bodies
  28. Cheryl Cole – Fight For This Love
  29. Cobra Starship – Good Girls Go Bad
  30. Florence & the Machine – You Got the Love
  31. Kesha – Tik Tok
  32. Leona Lewis – Happy
  33. Lady Gaga & Beyonce – Telephone
  34. Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name