Saturday, 29 December 2012

Happy new year folks

Sarah wrote something on her blog the other day that really chimed for me: "I'm ending the year in the same job, same flat, same relationship, same group of friends as I started it in."

With the exception of relationship (started the year without one, ending the year in the 'it's complicated' section of Facebook relationship options), this is all true for me... yet 2012 has been a year of immense changes.  It's just that those changes have mostly been internal, rather than external.

For years I have been itching for change, which I always imagined needed to be visible, physical change: preferably a change of job or location.  I felt frustrated with the life I was leading and every new year felt depressing, because nothing had changed.

This year I feel, finally, ok about ending the year in the same place I started it in.  Because actually, I'm not in the same place.  Yes, I still live in the same house, do the same job, have the same group of friends.  But I feel irrevocably altered by the things that have happened this year, and it turns out there is nothing to make you appreciate what you have than thinking you are going to lose it all.

2012 has not been an easy year.  I have felt worried about my friends, and exhausted by school.  I've had to accept that all the planning in the world cannot make things work out perfectly.  I have felt, at times, lonely and depressed and 'not fine'.  But this year has been a really valuable learning curve for me.  I have made some amazing blogging friends (even if I have never met any of them).  I have figured out some pretty big stuff about myself and what I want.  And I think I might even *whisper it* be finally starting to grow up.

So I end the year pretty much where I started it, but yet so very far away from there.  And I will actually be far away on New Year's Eve, because Janet-the-planner, Janet-who-never-acts-on-impulse, Janet-the-least-romantic-person-in-the-world has booked last minute flights to visit The Boy in The Netherlands.  I can't wait.

Have an amazing new year everyone, and I'll see you in 2013.

Look what I got!

I think I'm pretty easy to buy gifts for, but my friends and family really outdid themselves this Christmas.

I love anything with twee flowers, or anything to help me with my baking and making hobbies, so this little haul was very pleasing.

Does it have my name or my initials on it?  Brilliant.

And look: volume 6 of Handclapping Music!

Friday, 28 December 2012

2012 in pictures

One of my resolutions earlier in the year was to take more photographs.  I haven't always managed to stick to it, but I have done my best - since the summer - to snap away.  So although this post is titled '2012 in pictures', it would more accurately be called 'the second half of 2012 in pictures'.

July: Sunset over Table Mountain, Cape Town

August: The Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg

September: discovering the hidden beauty of my city

October: graffiti in Amsterdam

October: A walk in the woods in South Yorkshire

November: hanging out in the cemetery on my day off

December: Christmas wreath on my freshly-painted front door (the incessant rain has, sadly, caused the dye in the ribbon to run, so now my lovely door looks like someone has been brutally murdered against it) 

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Posts of 2012

Well 2012 turned out to be a funny old year.  I spent the first five months figuring out how to leave my life behind and move to America, and the final seven months figuring out how to stay in Leicester and reconciling myself to a life here in the UK.  I have, all things considered, had a good year though.

In January I spent the cold and dark evenings sewing.  I discovered craftivism and began pondering the politics of craft: namely, how I can reconcile my feminism with my crafty leanings.  This question was ably answered by something I saw on Twitter recently, which said, "craft is only anti-feminist if you believe traditionally feminine pastimes are less worthy than any other". 

February was a busy month: I visited Hay-On-Wye and fretted about the death of the bookshop, listened to Veruca Salt and Weezer, and obsessed about polka dots, but my favourite February post was "You're not fat: you're curvy". 

Remember how I was completely obsessed with the early 90s in March?  For ages, my listening, viewing and reading was entirely focused on living in the past.

 It was Record Store Day in April, and I learnt 7 things about life.

In May I started packing my bags and I wrote about books.  A lot. 

In June I was writing about the fanzine years, getting bad news and dealing with it (with the help of an amazing friend), and had a whole heap of guest posts when I went on a school residential.

July found me in South Africa  - with family and on my own -  thinking about how my heritage defines me, and falling in love with Cape Town.

I came home from South Africa in August, went to Summer Sundae festival, wrote about my friends, and thought about what I would save if my house was on fire.

In September the £100 challenge was underway and I introduced you to my parents.  But this post, On Being A Spinster, is one of my favourite things I've ever written.  I declared myself to be permanently single for very good reasons.  Three months later and, erm, I'm not single anymore...  Although this line from the post, "the best way to get me interested has been to live 200 miles away or be about to leave the country for a year" has turned out to be oh-so-very true :( 

Come October, The Music Monday guest posts started with some fab Q&A's (still looking for people to take part in future!), I went to Amsterdam, and I hung out in a cemetery on my day off, as you do.

In November I got sick, went to the cinema a lot, met The Boy, and pondered what my social media updates say about me (answer: I whinge a lot and I'm not very good at dating).

And finally, December the thrifty gift swap parcels started arriving and it was just one Christmas post after another.  I'm a bit obsessed...

Monday, 24 December 2012

Music Monday: it's (nearly) Christmas!

Christmas music, to me, means playing Sufjan Stevens on repeat for the whole month of December.  With ten (yes, ten!) CDs of Christmas music released across two box sets, Stevens has a Christmas song for every occassion.  From traditional carols - his versions of Oh Holy Night and Joy To The World are stunning - to Christmas standards - Sleigh Ride, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - to original songs such as Sister Winter and Christmas Unicorn, his collected festive songs are equal parts melancholy and joy: just like Christmas itself.  I've chosen the video for one of his original songs, Christmas In The Room; a soulful paean to spending a less commerical Christmas with the one you love.

I've also been listening to a lot of Andy Williams this year (I might have made the boy sit through not only the Strictly Come Dancing final on Saturday, but also the whole Andy Williams At Christmas album, poor guy) and love this version of Carol Of The Bells.

And finally, a bit of Ella Fitzgerald singing The Christmas Song: just about the most perfect festive tune of all time.

Have a fabulous Christmas everyone, and I'll see you the other side!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Thrifty gift swap: box # 6

Sarah is the latest recipient of a box full of goodies... and when I say "full", I mean really, really full! 

Wow, what a haul! Kristian and his cat, Brian May, sent me ginger biscuits, dark chocolate coated ginger, Christmas chocolates and a Kinder Surprise, hot chocolate sachets, cracker prizes and a wad of bad jokes, a cracker with a hand painted jigsaw inside, a flower to drop in the bath, wine(!), a cool picture frame, a hand warmer which looks like a cupcake, a pirate eye patch, some compilations which came with newspapers, a mix CD of old favourite songs, a Xmas tree bauble with my name on it, badges of my blog header and a CD of the band he plays with (which I'm looking forward to listening to later!). My stocking this year has a lot to live up to...!

Thank you so much to Kristian and Brian May for their thoughtful and generous gifts, and also to you for arranging the swap - it's been a lot of fun taking part!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Festive five

I was starting to feel like I should just STFU with my Christmassy ramblings, when I read Louise's blog and she mentioned how much she was enjoying my festive posts.  She had sought out a Christmas blog tag and so I decided to 'borrow' her questions (with a few amendments) for one of my last posts before the 25th.

1. When do you start getting excited about Christmas?
I start thinking about and planning for Christmas in September (you can read all about my -admittedly anally retentive - festive planning here), but I start getting properly excited towards the end of November and generally peak in the first weeks of December.  Then I hit the wall of end-of-term exhaustion for a week or so, before getting excited and energised all over again when school finishes.  We have a lovely tradition at my school on the last day of term: we all walk to the local church for a carol service featuring our wonderfully talented musicians and choir.  It's a brilliant way to get back into the festive spirit after a knackering week of hyper kids.

2. Do you still have an advent calendar?
Every year I say I am going to buy one, and every year I fail.  The thing is, I want a traditional, non-chocolate advent calendar, and they are so hard to find.  Maybe next year...

3. What are your favourite Christmas films?
I wrote about some of my favourites here last Friday, but I forgot to mention one that I have become obsessed with in recent years: The Family Stone.  It's about a family of grown-up children all converging on the parental home for Christmas; eldest son Everett brings his uptight girlfriend Meredith (played perfectly by Sarah Jessica Parker) with him, and high-jinks ensue.  The central romantic plot is terribly contrived, but it's very funny, very festive and very, very moving.  The peerless Diane Keaton plays the Stone family matriarch, who is battling breast cancer, and in amongst the slapstick and political humour are a number of scenes which absolutely destroy me emotionally.  When I watched it with my own mother, we sobbed and sobbed (while my step-mum looked on in peturbation, which just made us laugh).  Definitely a good Christmas film if you enjoy a good cry; for those of you who like less sentimentality (although it is Christmas: when else can you indulge in pure sentiment if not now?), A Muppet Christmas Carol is the film that signals the beginning of Christmas for me. 

4. Talk us through your typical Christmas day.
We almost always spend Christmas at my mum's house; a lie-in is followed by gathering for breakfast (usually bacon butties or smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, plus bucks fizz) and opening stockings in our pyjamas.  Then we get dressed and start on dinner (it's my turn to make it this year) before going out for a walk.  We are generally pretty traditional in what we eat: meat of some kind (roast beef and roast chicken this year), spuds, sprouts... the whole shebang.  For years after they divorced my dad used to come over for dinner as well (yep, even after my mum had moved in with my step-mum), but now it tends to be just my mum, Andrea (step-mum), me and my brother, Richard.  This year youngest brother Jonathan will also be coming over for dinner.  And then finally, sometime around half past 3, we get to opening the presents, before changing back into our pyjamas, snuggling in front of the TV and eating cheese.  By this point, we have been drinking steadily since 10am, but it doesn't stop us from cracking open the Baileys before we retire to bed: sated, a little sozzled, but very happy.

5. What is the best Christmas present you have ever received?
Two things spring to mind.  Firstly, the year when I was about five or six and we spent Christmas at my grandparents house, my gift from them was a HUGE dolls house.  Bought and lovingly restored by my grandpa, it had carpet (and lino) sample squares on the floors, hand-sewn curtains at the window (my granny and mum had been up until about 2am that morning, finishing them off), sliding glass patio doors and - best of all - a photograph of my and my brothers in a 'gilt' frame above the fireplace.  It is a work of art; now sadly gathering mould and dust in my mum's garage.

The second gift is something I wrote about it for Laura's blog not too long ago.  I'd casually mentioned to Richard that songs with handclaps in them were always awesome, and on Christmas afternoon I opened up a parcel containing a mixtape called Handclapping Songs, which he had painstakingly put together over the course of about six months.  It's still one of my favourite listens.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Thrifty gift swap: box # 5

My friend, Ellen, has just had a horrible eye operation and spent most of December signed off work, and I know she was looking forward to the gift swap to provide some light relief.  So I was pleased to get this email from her today:

Hi Janet! My box came today!

The door knocked and I was pretty excited when I realised what it was. Firstly I thought oooh what a pretty box with a lovely note from Laura and everything was so nicely wrapped.... The first things I'd noticed were the zines . I'd never heard of these, but they were extracts of Laura and her boyfriend's travel scrapbook and journal which were really fun to read and look at, and I'm in awe of the artwork !

Second was a really cute penguin hair grip and a pocket mirror. Both very much needed and appreciated.

A vintage card game called Jumbles: countries of the world. You have to unmix the letters to find the country name. This is super cool. It smells so old. In a good way. It's like the smell of the past and that you've been let into a secret somewhere.

Some labels for homemade items. I can see these being used when I get round to making chutney again.

A family of gingerbread men cutters and some Christmas coloured sprinkles. Excellent!

Lastly my favourite, a homemade cd of Christmas songs. I LOVE IT! As well as it being in the prettiest case, I had no idea the Eels or RunDMC had songs about Christmas. I love the mix its completey different and is on it's second play now. There is not one track on there I don't like. And no sign of Slade either.

Thankyou so much Laura, I'm still grinning about it now 2 hours on !

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Thrifty gift swap: box # 4

I think I am getting almost as much pleasure from reading the other swap participants' reactions as I did from getting my own box.  Today's recipient is Kristian, the only bloke taking part in the swap:
Well I have finally taken delivery of my Xmas Gift Swap parcel and I'm really pleased! I received a book about a man who plays guitar and who's best friend is his cat (just like me..!), a Queen plectrum/keyring (Queen are my FAVOURITE band!), a 70s disco badge (I LOVE disco!), some homemade Biscotti (biscuits are my favourite food!), two homemade xmas decorations (I LOVE Christmas!) and an Angry Birds pen (I love my iPhone and I love writing!) not to mention a lovely letter and homemade card. AND an inflatable guitar!?
I am really flattered that my gift-giver put so much effort in to my parcel, especially considering the very limited amount of info she had on me and my interests. So thank you, Ellen! Your thoughtfulness, creativity and generosity have made an old man very happy! Well....I'm not really an old man, but I AM very happy. So, cheers!
And thank you Janet for organizing such a cool gift swap. I'm looking forward to next year's already...

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Thrifty gift swap: box # 3

And the next one has arrived!  Helen - who sent me my box of goodies - received her parcel from Sarah.  Helen says, "I received choccy’s, 2 small handy notepads, hand warmers, mini shampoo and conditioner, a cute vintage bird book and a collection of Scottish recipes. I love it!" 


Monday, 17 December 2012

Christmas gift swap

The thrifty gift swap boxes have started arriving, how exciting!  And even better, the one I sent and the one for me were the first to arrive!

Laura was my recipient, and I spent quite a while pondering what to fill her box with.  A combination of thrifted books, a mixtape print tea towel, vintage tea cup, chai tea bags, handmade lavender heart, mix CD and vinyl bookend were a hit, I'm glad to say.  I was trying to remain anonymous, but as she's a long-time reader of this blog and no doubt saw my post about making hearts and vinyl record bookends last Christmas, I figured she'd work it out pretty quickly.  In the end, though, it was the presence of Sufjan Stevens on the mix CD which gave me away!  Read about what she thought of the gift swap here.

My 'giver' was Helen, and I was super-excited when the postie rang my bell on Saturday morning to present me with a parcel.  These are terrible photographs because I took them in bad light at dusk; sorry about that.

The box contained all manner of goodies, plus a Christmas card and note from Helen (such a thoughtful touch).  I loved everything - the hip hop mix CD (with the Jungle Brothers!  I love the Jungle Brothers because they too are obsessed with the initials JB), polka dot cupcake cases, homemade marshmallow extract vodka (which I haven't tried yet but am fascinated by; how about a 'how-to' on your blog Helen?), an amazing handmade polka dot bookmark and matching polka dot 'to-do list' book - but my favourite thing is definitely these adorable, Christmassy gingerbread oven mitts.  Thank you so much Helen!

Friday, 14 December 2012

My favourite Christmas films

My name is Janet and I'm a Christmas-aholic. 

I love the festive season, and come December I favour the 'full sensory immersion' technique to get me in the spirit (as if I needed any help).  So the halls are decked, the fairy lights are atwinkle, the Sufjan Stevens Christmas albums are on heavy rotation on my iPod, and my DVD player gets a lot of use as I watch one festive film after another.  These are just a few of my favourites...

1. My absolute top, number one, favourite Christmas film is A Muppet Christmas Carol.  It has great songs, silly jokes, Animal playing the drums, and is surprisingly faithful to the source material.  What's not to like?!

2. I developed a bit of a crush on adult, pre-being dumped by Mila Kunis and going a bit heroin addict Macauly Culkin, which makes watching and enjoying Home Alone feel a bit wrong.  Nevertheless, a great festive watch; if you can keep your eyes dry when his mum turns up at the end, you have a harder heart than I.

3.  The Muppets too much for you?  Never fear, this recent motion capture animation of A Christmas Carol is a bit less silly but still bags of fun and oh-so-festive. 

4. I love musicals and I love a bit of cheese (some would say the two are synonymous), so White Christmas is always a good watch.

5. I have a confession to make: I'd never seen Elf until it was on TV this Sunday.  How could I have survived the last nine Christmas's without it?!  I loved this movie, with Will Ferrell as a human raised by elves at the North Pole, setting off to New York to find his real father and having all sorts of Christmassy misadventures before (of course) saving the day.

6. I know I'm supposed to prefer the original 1947 version, but I'm a sucker for this remake of Miracle On 34th Street

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Image association week 12

Many weeks ago (three, to be precise), Sarah posted this image;

Then I got sick, and all photograph-taking was off while I languished in bed and, later, tried to catch up on work, house and friend stuff which had gone by the way-side while I was ill.  But finally, here I am with the next image association post.

When I thought of 'integrity', I thought of one of my favourite buildings in Leicester; and specifically of these timbers, which have maintained their integrity - and that of the fabric of the whole building - for over 500 years. 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Perfect prints

I went to the Leicester Makers Mart on Saturday, and the highlight was meeting artist Barry D Bulsara and buying one of his prints.  I've long been a fan of his work, after seeing the Dr Who and 30 Rock prints on the walls of various local bars, so I am thrilled to finally have one of my very own.  I did go a bit embarrassing fan-girl when I met him, though, gushing. "I love your work," like a total loser.

The amazing Dr Who screenprint, which I am dying to buy for someone; fancy it on your walls Richard?!

In the end, I didn't opt for the print I thought I wanted (the Liz Lemon quote that I featured here back in March), instead falling head-over-heels for this new High Fidelity "The music or the misery?" screenprint.  I remember reading the novel for the first time and exclaiming, "yes!" when I came across this passage.  As a teenager who tended to wallow in her unhappiness while listening to the Manic Street Preachers and The Smiths, it chimed with me.  I'm so pleased to have such a lovely piece of art featuring some of my favourite things - music, vinyl records, typography, books - all in one.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Music Monday: Sum 41

“I'm sick of always hearing act your age…”

Many many years ago I worked in a rock club, Alcatraz.  We used to be aghast on a Friday night when ‘the old people’ arrived; as 19- and 20-year olds, my friends and I could not understand why anyone over the age of 29 could possibly show their face in public.  Didn’t they know that clubs were for young people?  The over-30s should be at home, holding dinner parties, or listening to opera , or setting up savings accounts, or whatever old people do.

Now, on the rare ocassions my friends and I go out, I am generally the oldest person in the club by almost a decade. Luckily I don’t look my age, but I’m nevertheless aware that some sneering, know-it-all 19 year old is probably judging me the way I judged people back then. When I got asked for ID (I was so happy!) on the way into Mosh on Friday, I was genuinely worried I’d be turned away for being so ancient. But I wasn’t, and it meant I was able to bounce around the dancefloor to my favourite pop-punk tune, Fat Lip by Sum 41.

There’s so much I love about this song, but most of all I adore the lyrics of the chorus. Sometimes I look around me and blink, wondering how the idealistic dreamer who spent years immersed in counter-culture politics, who had multiple piercings and tattoos and strangely coloured hair, could become “another casualty of society”; wondering how I ended up a teacher, fer chrissakes, with a mortgage and all the other trappings of conformity. My best mate, Cara, loves this song as much as I do. We quite often sing along at the top of our voices and then catch each other’s eyes and laugh.  She's a lawyer, I'm a teacher.  We can't deny that we have ended up "fall[ing] in line".  Just... I never feel like I'm old, or conforming, or backing down.  I feel exactly the same as I did at 19, just with more supportive bras and less drama.

Although I wouldn’t argue for Logan's Run-style door rules any more, I am inarguably too old to be spending my weekends in clubs.  But that feeling I got when I walked into Alcatraz all those years ago: that thrill of thinking, “here is where I belong”?  I still get that feeling now; I still love dancing like a fool to crazy music; I still enjoy getting dressed up in my finest indie girl threads and putting on too much eyeliner.  I intend to keep on doing it until I stop enjoying it or they stop letting me in, whichever comes first.

"I don't want to waste my time
become another casualty of society.
I'll never fall in line
Become another victim of your conformity
And back down."

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Festive fun this weekend


You guys, I have had such a good weekend!  And it's only Sunday afternoon, so there's more fun to come.  I have...

... felt like a teenager again by leaving the house to go clubbing at 11pm (and yes, I did want to go to bed instead, but I'm pleased I resisted) and staying out until the early hours throwing some, ahem, 'interesting' shapes at the local indie disco;
... been amazed that, after only 4 hours sleep, I still felt ok enough to meet Hannah for a coffee and wander around the Leicester Makers Mart;
... had a girlie lunch with one heavily pregnant and two heavily hungover buddies; an amazing spa facial with said buddies.  I wish I could afford to treat myself (and my face) more often);
... relished getting into my pyjamas at 6pm to sit and drink Prosecco, eat stew, and watch Strictly Come Dancing (I'm team Dani, FYI);
... laughed and wept my way through A Muppet Christmas Carol and The Family Stone.  Still to come later today - Elf.
... made a dried orange and pine cone wreath;
... written all my Christmas cards (except the ones that are urgent because they have to be sent overseas.  Those are still waiting to be finished.  Logic fail);
... made soup and baked gingerbread biscuits;
... wrapped and packaged my gifts for both The Curiosity Project box swap and my own Thrifty gift swap, to be posted tomorrow.

It really does feel like Christmas now!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Christmas wishlist

How is it less than three weeks to go until Christmas?!  I feel like I blinked and missed November.  I'm madly disorganised suddenly; three weeks of being unwell combined with a couple of gift ideas falling through have led to me scrabbling around trying to get things done at the  - for me, anyway - last minute.  I have barely had a chance to think about what I would like to find under the tree or in my stocking, but these little beauties have caught my eye...

1. A polka dot iPhone case?  From Cath Kidston?  Why, yes please.
2. I think the scratch-off world map is meant for kids, but why should they get all the best stuff?
3. Sufjan Stevens' new Christmas album, Silver & Gold, is a must-have.
4. These Broste birch candles would look amazing in my living room.
5. I love words.  I love necklaces.  Ergo I adore this speech bubble necklace from Sugar & Vice, which can be personalised with my own choice of quotation.  The difficult decision to make would be what to have written on it; perhaps "There's more to life than books, you know.  But not much more".  Or maybe a favourite Smashing Pumpkins lyric, or a Jane Austen quotation...
6. Little Birdie dress from White Stuff.
7. And finally, in the 'never gonna happen' category, I am still lusting after a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer.  Maybe one day...

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

November reads

I have spent half of November out and about, and the other half ill in bed.  The two facts are possibly not unrelated.  Seriously, in the past four weeks I have gone out sixteen times! Sometimes just to craft or book group, sometimes to the cinema, often to the pub; nevertheless, that's a lot of leaving the house for a self-confessed homebody.  No wonder I caught the lurgy and spent the better part of the last three weeks feeling like death.  Anyway, all of this gallivanting has led to very little time to read, so my book list this month is fairly sparse (and four days late...).

1. The Fault In Our Stars
I put a plea out on Facebook asking for ideas to break through my readers block, and Amy responded with this recommendation.   I loved it.  The narrative voice is what swung it for me; main character (and narrator) Hazel just leapt off the page and hooked me in.

2. Warm Bodies
This was another recommendation on Facebook.  It's esssentially a romance about the transcendental power of love.  Only, the romantic lead is a zombie: R.  He has one of the most engaging narrative voices I've come across in a while; his description of devouring people is strangely beautiful.  I really enjoyed it, and am very excited to learn that a film is due out next year with the lovely Nicholas Hoult playing R.

3. Will Grayson, Will Grayson
I love David Levithan, so when I saw that he'd written a novel with John Green (author of The Fault In Our Stars), of course I had to download it.  Following two teenagers - both called Will Grayson - on their quest for love and friendship, it kept me up till late.  Funny and warm.

4. The Pursuit Of Love
I correctly deduced that this would be a good 'cuddle up under the duvet and read in one sitting' novel when I was poorly.  I really enjoyed this period romp, loosely based on Mitford's own aristocratic family life.

5. The Song Of Achilles
 Re-read for my book group - and even on the fourth read I found it no less affecting and moving.

6. Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List
Written by the people behind Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (one of whom is - him again - David Levithan), I found this an interesting read, as the two titular characters are singularly unlikeable.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed it thanks in large part to the supporting characters (all of whom get their own chapter or chapters) and the unstinting warmth and humour of Cohn and Levithan's writing.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Weekend in pictures

For the past couple of weeks I have not been at all good about blogging, sorry about that.  Nor have I been keeping track of my spending for the £100 challenge.  Although, as all I have been doing is lying in bed and all I've bought is paracetamol and soup, I'm confident I've stayed within my limit!  It's a shame to end the project without the last two weeks' records, though.

I am finally starting to feel a bit more human again, thanks in large part to a relaxing weekend at my mum's house. I'm surely not the only person out there who, as soon as they get sick, just wants their mother's company and care.

We went on an outing to East Yorkshire yesterday, a part of the country I know very little about.  And it's gorgeous!  Or at least, the bits we saw were.  Howden is a lovely Georgian market town with a delightful Minster, and I enjoyed taking photographs of the ruined Chapter House .  Then on to Beverly, where we had lunch and shopped for books (total haul between three of us: 14 books!).  Last night I went to see Ben Folds Five; the first time I've seen them play together as a band since 1996.  The audience was a lot older and a lot more sedate than when I saw them that first time.

And then back to Leicester today to decorate the house.  I wouldn't usually do it so early in December, but decided that I needed some festive cheer after weeks of feeling rubbish.  I am slightly obsessed with my newly painted front door, which I worked hard on sanding and decorating earlier this autumn, and am so pleased with how it looks with the addition of a wreath.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Seen & heard November


1. Liberal Arts
I really wanted to love this film but found it problematic in its portrayal of women.  I felt that they all, but particularly Elizabeth Olsen's character, only existed insofar as they were useful to the main character - played by writer and director Josh Radnor.  It would definitely not pass the Bechdel Test.  That being said, there were a few very relatable and quotable lines (my favourite was, "I'm trying to stop using reading as an excuse to not particpate in life"), and I loved Zac Efron's recurring cameo.

2. Rust & Bone
Another one I didn't love as much as I wanted to.  Stunning performances and some incredibly memorable shots, but there were a lot of issues crammed into one 100 minute film.

3. Argo
Finally a film I liked uncomplicatedly!  Very funny, and with a fifteen minute sequence which left me literally jiggling in my seat with nerves.

As well as going to the cinema lots, I watched a stack of DVDs when I was off work sick.

1. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
As far from a generic teen romantic comedy as it's possible to get, this wise and witty film is as much a love letter to the joy of being a music fan; to New York; to the sheer thrill of being young and staying up all night.  I don't quite buy the stunningly gorgeous Kat Dennings (back when she was still good, before the exrecable Two Broke Girls) as a plain Jane, but that's a very minor quibble.  I adore this film.

2. Meet Me In St Louis
I forget how utterly cheesy this film is, and not always in a good way.  But worth it for the bliss of The Trolley Song and the wonderful Christmas sequence.

3. Singin' In The Rain
This is more like it!  It has only the merest hint of cheese, and when I felt utterly horrible and like death, it put a smile on my face.


1. After a blissful two week interlude of silence, the humming sound in my house is back, and worse than ever.  In a futile attempt to sleep better, I've taken to listening to music when I go to bed.  Sigur Ros make good bedtime listening, but getting the most play is J Tillman's Year In The Kingdom album.  Tillman was the original drummer in Fleet Foxes before leaving last year to concentrate on his solo stuff; a good move, because his lovely acoustic melodies have been lulling my to sleep very nicely.

2. I'd never heard of Sweet Billy Pilgrim until Saturday, when The Boy invited me along to see them in Leicester.  They were amazing live and although I don't like their recorded stuff quite as much, I've been listening to them a lot since the weekend.  I would suggest Kracklite and Truth Only Smiles as being good places to start.

3. It's that time of year again!  The moment when Sufjan Stevens' Songs For Christmas boxset comes out is always a sign that Christmas is well and truly on the way...