Improve your reality or lower your expectations…

‘Habits like blogging often and regularly, writing down the way you think, being clear about what you think are effective tactics, ignoring the burbling crowd and not eating bacon. All of these are useful habits’ – Seth Godin

I’m not normally a fan of reflective summary posts. Actually, I’ll rephrase that, I love reading other people’s (Chloe from New Girl in Toon does a regular round up of her adventures which I eagerly await every month). That’s mostly because other people have way more exciting lives than I do and your average monthly round up for me would be; pub, pub, running, x-factor, pub, running, pub, which would get very tedious very quickly.

Recently however has been a little different in the crazy world of Newman and I wanted to take a moment to talk about some of the life changing events that have cropped up over the last couple of months. And before I go on I want to make clear that this isn’t a ‘look at how amazing and successful my life is kind of post’ most of the things that have happened have been a product of a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and literal tears. This is more of a reminder that it’s really easy to get bogged down in the negative and the mundane but actually, cool things do happen from time to time if you keep your head down and keep plugging away. And they should be celebrated; even by an eternal pessimist like me.

New Job

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In the back end of August I was interviewed and offered my dream job. Still within the NHS bur moving away from PA work, which I’ve done since  I left school at 18, and into a more engagement role which will also involve lots of report writing and content creation.  As someone who has found their passion in writing and creating this blog only a few years ago, being offered this opportunity to get paid for what I love to do is an absolute dream come true. It’s a total career change and it will be a challenge stepping out from the support staff role I’ve grown so used to (expect a post on my imposter syndrome coming very soon) but it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down and I’m so excited about a brand new challenge.

Great North Run

You can read a more detailed review of my GNR experience here, but needless to say this is something I never thought I’d be able to achieve. Running does not come naturally to me and the constant training, particularly towards the end, really started to get me down.  I was really pleased with the time I completed it in and all the support I got on the day and through sponsorship was absolutely overwhelming. Now that it’s over though I have a massive sense of achievement and I’m even considering doing it again next year with my bestie Angela.

Fitness

If the post so far hasn’t ventured unto the self-indulgent then strap in because it’s about to! One of the happy side effects of training for the Great North Run is that I’ve managed to lose quite a nice amount of weight and toned up where I’ve never been toned before; namely, my legs.  Thankfully running 25 miles a week has gotten them into a shape and for the first time in my life I’ve been able to wear skinny jeans and jeggings without looking like an overstuffed sausage. And that’s a massive victory for me. On a slightly more serious note it also means I’ve managed to build up a level of fitness I never had before and I’m determined not to lose that now GNR is over.

Meeting my hero

To top off my 6 weeks of life changing events, in the middle of September me and my friend Emma won a competition on Instagram to meet Jaret Reddick the lead songer of one of my favourite bands; Bowling for Soup. Despite some slight ‘rock n roll admin’ issues which meant we almost missed him for the meet & greet, we were able to get some pictures, get some stuff signed and have a quick 5 minute chat with him and he was a really lovely guy. He probably the most famous (in fact the only famous) person i’ve ever met and it was really great that he was so normal! I never win anything either so the whole thing was so surreal, especially with all the other mad stuff that seems to have been happening recently!

So suffice to say 2017 has turned out to be a year when loads of stuff has changed, can’t wait to see what happens next!

Soundtrack of My Life

Music is as integral to me as my own DNA. My life has become a continual soundtrack, with music underscoring the most powerful and even the most banal moments of my life’ – Danielle de Niese

If I had my way I would have my Beats earbuds in my ears for 90% of my waking life. I have 3562 songs programmed into my phone as I write this and the majority of the time I put all 3562 songs on shuffle. I love the element of surprise and that the next song could be almost anything (including but not limited to Star Trekkin by the Firm, Turtle Power by Partners in Kryme or the Ghostbusters Theme Tune).

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It’s fair to say that music plays a big part of my life and it’s only with partial embarrassment that I admit I’m very much one of those people who pretends they’re in a film, wistfully looking out the metro window when it’s raining or that I’m so kind of badass blonde Lara Croft when I’m out running. Mainly though it drowns out the crazy anxious thoughts that plague my mind almost every minute of the day.

For years now NME have published a Soundtrack of my Life feature where they ask celebs to talk about the music that means so much to them so I thought seeing as I reckon I’ll be waiting a long time before NME comes knocking at my door, I’d just do it myself here!

The first song I fell in love with

Music was always on in our house growing up so it’s hard to think of what the first song I really feel in love with was but I do remember my brother having the vinyl single of Gimme Hope Jo’anna by Eddy Grant and that was played over and over again for weeks. It wasn’t until much, much later on that I realised Joanna wasn’t the name of his wife, understandable though, I was only 6 and apartheid wasn’t quite on my radar yet.

The first album I bought

My memory may be hazy but I seem to think that most of the albums I owned were usually bought for my for birthdays or christmas as my meager 90s pocket money usually only stretched to be able to afford singles. The first album I can remember physically buying with my own money was actually the Soundtrack to Space Jam. Scoff you may, but I stand by the fact that its actually has some brilliant songs on; The Spin Doctors cover version of That’s The Way (I Like It) is particularly good!

 

The first gig I went to

The first gig I went to was in June 1995 and was Bon Jovi at Gateshead Stadium with my Mum, Dad and Brother. We’d always been massive fans as a family from a really early age so I was so unbelievably excited to be able to see them live, and with Van Halen supporting as well! Rather uncharacteristically for the North East of England, it actually wasn’t raining that night, the sun was out, the crowd was in great voice (they were touring on the These Days album – arguably their last decent effort) and thanks to the fact I didn’t hit puberty until I was around 27, I was still teeny enough to be hoisted on my dads shoulders for the majority of the gig. Pretty cool for my first time!

The album that changed my life

It’s really cliche but it has to be Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette. She was the meat in a Take That/Backstreet Boys sandwich when it came to my 90s musical journey. Of course, being only 13 I didn’t really understand what it felt like to be jilted by a much older lover or being young and underpaid (although I certainly got loads of experience in the latter later in life). What I did understand though was the need  for music to jump around to and scream hateful lyrics at the world. In a world of babydoll dresses and bellybutton rings, she was the doc marten wearing greasy haired role model I needed.

The song that makes me want to dance

An easier question would be a song that doesn’t make me want to dance. I dance all the time, although I really shouldn’t. My my head I look like Beyonce and that;s good enough for me. Pretty much any early 00’s r’n’b would be hard pushed to keep me off any dance floor but one track that sticks in my mind is Family Affair by Mary J Blige. It’s instantly recognisable from the first couple of bars and many a night was spent dancing the night away to it in Blu Bambu in Newcastle’s Bigg Market with Ang!

The song I do at karaoke

Karaoke is much like dancing and even thought I love it I probably ought not to do it. I’m pretty much up for anything when it comes to karaoke, I’ve been know to do anything from Tinie Tempah to the Grease megamix but time and time again I seem to come back to Poison by Alice Cooper. Dramatic 80s air grabs and all!

The song that gets me out of bed

This is a toughie because there’s actually very little that gets me out of bed in the morning. You could look at this question two ways; if it’s a song that motivates me and makes me want to bounce out of bed, throw my hair into a topknot and take on the world then it would be Sunrise my Childish Gambino, if it’s a song that makes me want to get out of bed so I can rip the alarm radio from the wall to flush it down the toilet then it would be Wake Up Boo by the Boo Radleys because Chris Evans plays it after the 7am news every single morning and it makes me want to self harm.

The song I wish I’d written

It would be easy to sit here and say Like a Rolling Stone or Wonderwall and yes they’re all great songs that I’m sure I’d be really rich if i’d written but I can’t really have a music based list without mentioning my unwavering love for Bowling for Soup. They do a good ballad and the song of theirs I really wish I’d written is Where to Begin. They’ve always had a great knack of writing painfully honest lyrics and this song sums up perfectly what it feels like to be so desperate to hold on to a relationship despite the fact that it’s your self destructive behaviour contributing to its demise. Deep eh?

The song I want played at my funeral

Easy. Some Fantastic Place by Squeeze. beautiful heartbreaking lyrics but set to a really happy gospel . Sensitive yet upbeat, kind of like me 😉

If you want the world to know the soundtrack to your life drop me a line via the contacts page with your answers to these questions and your twitter handle and I’ll publish it for you!

Gig Review: Bowling for Soup

The emotional aspect is more important in live music’ – Brian Eno

Who: Bowling for Soup – How About Another Round tour
When: Tuesday 2nd February 2016
Where: O2 Academy, Newcastle

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Bowling for Soup are my absolute favourite band*. I was obsessed with Girl All the Bad Guys Want when it was released in 2002 and the subsequent album it came from Drunk Enough to Dance. They’ve had mediocre success in the UK since then, some of you may remember the 2006 single High School Never Ends, but other than that they haven’t worried the UK charts too much.

The punk pop wave they were part of didn’t last very long and interest in them and similar bands like Sum 41, Good Charlotte, Less Than Jake etc didn’t seem to fit in the more polished landscape of the mid 00’s that Razorlight and The Killers were holding up. But those in the know knew that BFS were still releasing albums, and great albums at that.

This marked the 4th time I’ve seen them live, having previously been to the Get Happy (2008), Annual Acoustic (2010) and The Farewell UK (2013) tours so I already knew they were fantastic live. We didn’t catch the support acts unfortunately (Lacey & The Dollyrots) because, well we were too busy trying out the toon’s latest Micro Pub The Split Chimp round the corner, which was so good time ran away with us a little bit.

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But we did catch a few songs of MC Lars, who I thought was really good – very 80’s in his rapping style, and his references to my favourite poem in the world (The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe) was inspired.

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The couple that gigs together, stays together

When the boys hit the stage they hit the stage with a bang. The fact there were still tickets available on the door worried me but as usual the venue was packed and from the first note of the first song the crowd were bouncing. Despite the fact that lead singer Jaret Reddick has put on a bit on timber (something he references himself in the show) his voice still sounds amazing – the best I’ve personally heard it to be honest. The banter between the band and the crowd was on form, they’ve always had a great rapport with the audience and it really makes it feel like a much more intimate gig than it is, just me and 2000 of my closest friends!

They had the crowd eating out the palm of their hands pretty much all night. The best moment of the night or me came when they sang ballad Turbulence. It’s a favourite of mine anyway as the lyrics have helped me a lot with my recent bout of anxiety, but it also made me think of 15 year old me. I would go to gigs and see girls there with their boyfriends or husbands and they would always have a cuddle during the slowies. Here I was seeing my favourite band, singing one of my favourite songs, and hubby puts his arms around me and we have a little bit of a sway. That couple of minutes right there were just perfect, I must admit I shed a little tear. 15 year old me would have been so happy for me.

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They truly went all out punkpop in this show. They thrashed out hit after hit, the way they were supposed to be played. Fast and loud rather than the slower, watered down, radio friendly versions you hear on the CD. Plenty of opportunity for the crowd, which was a good mix of young EMO kids and late 20s/early 30 year olds, to pogo around, or indeed nod appreciatively at the side. Can you guess which ones we were?! They managed to keep this energy from start to finish, which was impressive, and shows the infectiousness of both their on stage personas and their music

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My only criticism of the night was the set list. They played a lot of their earlier punkier stuff and fan favouites, which, considering they don’t have an album out at the moment to promote is understandable. But lots of my personal favouites; A Really Cool Dance Song, Life After Lisa, Love Sick Stomach AcheAnd I Think You Like Me Too were all absent. They also played an homage to their punk-pop mates with a medley of Blink182/Green Day/Good Charlotte/Less Than Jake in the middle. The crowd went crazy, they loved it. I could have done without it. They have such an amazing back catalogue, they could have used that time to sing something of their own, that’s just my personal opinion though.

I’m splitting hairs here of course, with a discography as extensive as theirs you’re probably never going to hear your personal dream setlist. I’m sure of all the people in the room, it will have been someones dream setlist. I’ll just have to make sure I keep going to see them until they get it right ;-). Here’s to the next tour!

Set list:

The Bitch Song
Ohio (Come Back to Texas)
Emily
The Last Rock Show
Punk Rock 101
1985
Turbulence
Friends o’ Mine
Play Video
All The Small Things / Basket Case / Girls and Boys / My Friends Over You / The Middle
Stacy’s Mom
Cody
Love Ya, Love Ya, Love Ya
Since We Broke Up
Almost
High School Never Ends
Shut-Up and Smile
Girl All the Bad Guys Want

Thanks to Michael for letting my use his brilliant picture from the show!

*After the Backstreet Boys

 

10 of the Best: Bitter Song Lyrics

‘Hurt leads to bitterness, bitterness to anger, travel too far that road and the way is lost’ – Terry Brooks

Any regular follower of my twitter feed will know I LOVE  good song lyric, as much as an avid reader will tell you they can read a book and it feels like the author has captured all their thoughts and feelings and articulated them in a way they never could, I feel the exact same about song lyrics.

I have a particular passion for bitter lyrics, which is funny as I wouldn’t consider myself a particularly bitter person, but hearing a lyric that makes you think ‘damn that’s harsh!’ sends tingles down my spine!

Below are 10 of my favourite vinegary lyrics, allow yourself to bask in their acidity!

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1. ‘When we were growing up you always looked like you were having such fun you always were and you always will be the taller and the prettier one’ Back to the Start (Lily Allen)

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2. ‘Tell the devil I said hey when you get back to where you’re from’ Grenade (Bruno Mars)

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3. ‘ You could have come over to my side, you could have let me know, you could have tried to see the distance between us but it seemed to far for you to go’ Do You Remember (Phil Collins)

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4. ‘Everytime I scratch my nails down someone else’s back i hope you feel it’ You Oughta Know (Alanis Morissette)

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5. ‘I don’t ask for your forgiveness I don’t care much for your actress. That’s just you though shallow and selfish’ Bitter (Nine Days)

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6. ‘She’s waiting on the call from me to tell her that I’m sorry I can come back if I crawl But I got bad knees and I can’t say that I’m sorry ‘cept I’m sorry that I met you’ Down for the Count (Bowling for Soup)

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7. ‘That I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive, carved my name into his leather seats I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights, slashed a hole in all 4 tires’ Before He Cheats (Carrie Underwood)

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8. ‘Hate is  strong word but I really, really, really don’t like you’ Hate (Plain White T’s)

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9. I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife’ Take Me To Church (Hozier)

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10. ‘Your face makes me want to be sick, ah yeah it’s a physical reaction’ Better Do Better (Hard-Fi)

 

 

I’m So Glad I Got the Fuck Out Of My Hometown

‘Ah, beware of snobbery; it is the unwelcome recognition of one’s own past failings’ Cary Grant

Last week, my husband and I went to go and see Bowling for Soup in concert, as part of their farewell tour, and i happened to comment that during a particular song of their, called ‘My Hometown’ i was annoyed  by a group of Gosforth High School students (an affluent area of Newcastle) who were singing along to the song like they understood what the lyrics meant. Like they’d grown up in a backwater, prejudiced ghetto. I personally, don’t understand how anyone who grew up in Gosforth could relate to that song.

I grew up abroad. In an idyllic bubble of army life, where there were only 10 people per class and everyone was friends, which was amazing, until i moved back to England. Moving back to England was like going to Grange Hill in my eyes, There were 30 people to a class, In my first week of going to school in the UK i was called a ‘posh bitch’, ‘Rupert the Bear’ and an Alien, a lot to take as a 10 year old. If anyone knows about small town mentalities and not fitting in it’s a military kid, believe me, i was just dumb enough to believe it was banter and playful ribbing

I’m not a music snob, at least, i try not to be, but when i think about the small town i grew up in, and how horribly i was treated as an ‘outsider’, (other than my amazing friend Janine who took me under her wing from day 1 and is still one of my best friends to date) it’s hard to listen to songs like My Hometown and not think they’re singing directly to me.  I’ll admit it was arrogant of my to assume that these kids had an idyllic upbringing, I’m sure people look at me and think the same, and to be honest, it was a bit of a throw away comment, I didn’t expect to get the backlash I did.

It’s amazing that you can grow up in the same place as hundreds of other kids and go to the same high school yet you all had completely different experiences. Because army life was so sheltered, and kids behaved themselves (your dad got in trouble if kids were misbehaving at school), I’d never really seen any real bullying, not emotional and certainly not physical! So moving to England and seeing how aggressive a lot of the kids were, and how nasty and chatty the girls were, it’s no wonder I had a tough time fitting in.!

There are people who were born and raised in my hometown, their parents went to our high school and no doubt their kids will go there too. Which is fine as long as they’re happy, some people like the comfort of routine and the familiar. Perhaps they were one of the kids who had a positive experience at high school so naturally they’ll want the same for their kids too. Personally though, I’m just so unbelievably pleased I moved away, not too far away, but far enough away to I don’t worry about bumping into people who were horrible to me in the supermarket.