Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A dreaded sunny day

It will shock precisely no-one to find out that I was the kind of black-wearing, Smiths-listening teenager who liked to hang out in graveyards.  Even the name of this blog is an homage to The Smiths' song Cemetery Gates.  And when you have a day off during the week, and it's sunny, and all your friends are hard at work, what's a girl to do but wander around a cemetery? 

"So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
all those people all those lives
where are they now?
with the loves and hates
and passions just like mine
they were born
and then they lived and then they died..."



Monday, 29 October 2012

Music Monday: Beck

For the past few months, "I'm fine!" has been a common refrain.  Whenever people - friends, family, work colleagues - asked me how I was feeling about my year-long exchange to America falling through, "I'm fine, it's fine," was my response, usually accompanied by a too-bright smile and brittle tone.  When I heard Beck's Guess I'm Doing Fine at the weekend, the lack of conviction behind the word 'fine' - the blatant not-fine-ness of the song - struck a chord.

The thing is, it's not the fact I didn't go to America that's a problem.  It's the fact that I have been so desperately hoping to make a change in my life for a long time.  The actual moving, the leaving of family and friends and making umpteen practical arrangements... well, it's a relief to not have to have done any of that.  I'm not sad I didn't go to America, I'm just sad I'm still here.  I feel ungrateful saying that.  I have a lovely house, a job that I variously enjoy, tolerate, or love (which is more than most people can say, I know), family I adore, and fantastic friends.  The issue with 'here' is not so much with the city I'm in; 'here' is more a state of mind than a place.  Stasis when I want action, the same old same old when I crave change.

But you know what I realised in Amsterdam?  Going to America would have solved absolutely nothing.  Becuase the problem is me and my inexplicable misery, and my painful shyness, and that would have come to Colorado with me, and probably been magnified.  What's the old saying?  Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. 

And although I don't kid on that I've fooled anyone with my "I'm fine!" schtick, a lot of people close to me will be surprised I'm writing this, because I don't talk about how I feel.  Ever.  In fact, I had an interesting conversation with my friend Leanne recently about this exact issue.  Whereas I used to see myself as a bit of an open book, it turns out I am something of an enigma to my friends.  I find talking about my feelings very difficult and have always been reluctant to admit to any sign of what I perceive to be weakness: by which I mean normal, healthy, human emotions like sadness or disappointment.  I can't bear the thought of people feeling sorry for me, and so I just don't tell anyone when I'm feeling bad, and then it gets harder to talk about anything 'real'... and here we are.  One friendship was irrevocably damaged by what my friend thought of as my reluctance to share things with her, when in fact I was just incapable of sharing things with anyone.  My poor mother - who I am closer to than anyone else - regularly begs me to share (she used to be a counsellor, so she's a nightmare for the "and how does that make you feel...?" method) but I'm massively uncomfortable with it.

Next time someone asks me how I am, I will really try not to answer with "guess I'm doing fine," and instead take a leaf from Beck's book.  He wrote the Sea Change album (from which this track comes) after his marriage ended, and although beautiful it's a painfully melancholic and maudlin record.  But at least he's being honest about his feelings and putting it out there, y'know?

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Autumn in pictures

I love autumn.  Like spring, autumn is all about anticipation of pleasures to come.  Let's face it, a British summer never lives up to expectations and Christmas as an adult isn't ever as magical as you hope it will be.  But the seasons that lead up to summer and Christmas are amazing, and I think autumn is my absolute favourite.  Where others see dark mornings and damp weather, I see good snuggling-under-the-duvet opportunities.  It's a season for long walks, cosy scarves, making the most of sunny days, baking when it rains, lighting the fire... basically, all of my favourite things.  And that's without even mentioning autumn fashions: opaque tights, cardigans, trench coats and mittens are just a few of the things that I would wear all the time if I could, and which come into their own at this time of year. 

Of course autumn also means half term - yay! - and I've had a busy week, taking in everything from a solo trip to Amsterdam, to a few days in Yorkshire (which were mostly spent hiking, buying books and eating cake), to a bizarre but fun night out with the girls yesterday.

1. Woodland on Whitwell Moor, Sheffield, on a walk yesterday;
2. Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds;
3. & 4. Making efforts to be less camera-phobic (and showcasing a rare up-do - I have a weird but strongly-held conviction that wearing my hair up emphasises the fact that my boobs are basically the same size as my head, so I always leave it down.  But I quite liked the messy bun/topknot that I contrived to get myself through the last few days before a haircut);
5. Wall of graffitti in central Amsterdam;
6. Cheese-tasting class at Reypenaer in Amsterdam.  Amazing way to spend my last afternoon there!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Music Monday: Q&A with Helen

This week's Music Monday post comes courtesy of the lovely Helen, who blogs at Using My Loaf.  We worked out a while ago that we have very similar music taste - her memories of The Bends are exactly the same as mine!
What’s the first record (single or album) that you bought?
I cannot remember the first record I bought. I can kind of remember asking my parents to buy me a Boy George single when I was little. It was The War Song from 1984 (thanks Wikipiedia!) In the early nineties I spent most of my pocket money on tapes, some good, some bad. What I can remember is the first ever CD I bought – Portishead’s Glorybox single in 1995.
What was the first gig you went to?
I am going to come clean and admit it was Take That at Wembley Arena. Janet's answer made me laugh, mine is practically the same!
What song reminds you of being a teenager?
Pretty much any Britpop era song. Radiohead's The Bends album takes me right back to the awkward/shy/DM wearing/raiding my parents booze/piercing my own ears/hours of listening to music in my bedroom years.
How would you sum up your music tastes, in terms of genre? Have your tastes changed over the years?
I would like to think I have a pretty open mind when it comes to music. When I was younger (see above) I announced boldly to my uninterested classmates that I only listen to music that has guitars in it, anything else is inferior. But I opened my mind to dance music in my late teens and never looked back. I like most genres of music now including some D'n'B, dubstep, and hiphop. What I don't like is most mainstream pop chart stuff like that X Factor rubbish. And Coldplay. I hate Coldplay.
Which songs will always get you on the dance floor?
Pretty much anything if I am drunk enough. I do not go clubbing anymore nor have I done so since my mid-twenties. My friends and I have had many a discussion in the pub in recent years about how we have bowed out gracefully and dancing in public is a young persons’ game. Now that we are all getting a little older, fatter and slower when we dance it just does not look right. We are in danger of entering the "embarrassing dad dancing" territory! While I agree whole heartedly with my pals’ wisdom, all this goes out the window after a few drinks! After not dancing in public for a good 6 odd years, this year I have danced on my own like a loon at weddings, made a twat of myself dancing in wellies to 90's tracks at indie tracks festival and danced to the birdy song drunk in a field in broad daylight. Yup, I have no shame, I am that drunk person I’m afraid to say. Hey at least I am enjoying myself I suppose!
What song makes you cry?
Hoppipolla by Sigur Rós. It came out in 2005 when I lost my grandad and takes me back to those sad times.
What are your top five favourite albums or artists of all time?
Hard question, I have so many to chose from! In no particular order
1. Leftfield - Leftism
2. Nirvana - Nevermind
3. Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream
4. Now I cannot think of anymore timeless (to me) albums - Lets switch to artists, I have loved the Chemical Brothers and Orbital for years
5. Erm recent faves are Friendly Fires and Foals.
Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to music?
I love Robyn, Roisin Murphy and St Etienne. But I don't feel guilty about it. I also like Gangnam Style!
If you could sum yourself up in one song or lyric, what would it be?
In reference to an earlier question....Maybe Murder on the Dance Floor - by Sophie Ellis Bexter!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

£100 challenge: week seven

Are you bored of reading the precise details of my weekly spending?  Tough!  I'm finding it really useful to know that I have to post exactly what I've spent: it keeps my from cheating, which I would definitely be tempted to do if I wasn't publishing weekly updates. 

Monday: £17.49 groceries
Tuesday: nothing
Wednesday: nothing
Thursday: £3 book
                 99p card
                 £3 new front door key cut (after I'd locked myself out for the third time in just over a
                 month, I decided the more spare keys I had stashed with friends and at work, the better)
                 £4.36 numbers for the front door
                 £9.90 cocktail voucher via Wowcher (urgh, I hate that name!)
Friday: nothing thanks to my lovely dad, who treated me to a meal out
Saturday: £11.97 groceries
                £4.99 Mollie Makes magazine
                £2.59 paint sample
                £19.99 dress from New Look
                £3.27 travel sized toiletries for my trip
                £1.00 pasty from Greggs
Sunday: £2.75 bay plant for my kitchen
              £9.99 scarf
              £2.49 fairy lights
Total:    £96.78

I feel like I bought loads this week, including some lovely treats for myself, so I'm surprised to come in under budget.  That being said, I am so skint at the moment and should probably have tried to stay well below £100: October is seeming like a loooooooong month, and there's still almost two weeks until payday. 

Tomorrow I jet off to Amsterdam for a few days before going to Yorkshire on Thursday, and although I'm going to try to be as thrifty as possible when I'm away, I won't be keeping such a close track of my spending and am going to ignore the £100 limit for one week only.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Image association week six

I am quite concerned that my brain works in strange ways.  I do genuinely consider all my images to be linked to Sarah's previous ones but I also realise that the connections are pretty tenuous - and possibly only exist in my own mind - whereas Sarah's photographs always actually connect to mine.  I post a sign; she posts ghost signs.  I post a bench; she posts a seat.  Far neater and more logical than my random mental jumps.  Anyway, that's my explanation for the huge leap between the images today, from this...

to this...

Let me explain! 

What I noticed first about Sarah's image was the texture of the bench: shiny and smooth where thousands of bums had sat, and rougher and more worn on the backrest.  So I had that word, 'texture', rolling around in my mind for a few days.  When my walk to the pub on Saturday took me through Welford Road Cemetery (cos that is how I roll at weekends; it's all graveyards and cider, like a 15 year old goth), my attention was caught by this little image.  I love the juxtaposition of the smooth stone of the memorial with the wild, overgrown grass and the splash of colour from unseasonal daisies.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Amazing gifts for the bibliophile in your life

I am very much hoping that my mum doesn't suddenly start reading this blog, because these ideas have basically sorted my gift-buying for her for the next year.  All of them are fairly pricey, but if you have a bookworm in your life who you love very much, they'd make great Christmas presents.

I don't take kindly to being told what to read (my poor friends Caroline and Jen have been trying to get me to read To Kill A Mockingbird and A Thousand Splendid Suns, respectively, for the last year.  So far I have stubbornly resisted, because I am a pain in the arse), but any normal reader would adore receiving Mr B's Reading Year.  Run by beautiful Bath bookshop Mr B's, the gift consists of an introductory consultation in which to discuss reading preferences, after which the recipient will be sent a book a month, tailored to their tastes.  At £135 for the paperback version or an eye-watering £220 for the hardback, it doesn't come cheap, but as an extra-special gift I think it would be hard to beat.  With my mum's 65th birthday - and, more importantly, her retirement - coming up early in 2013, I think I have the perfect excuse to splash out.

Erm, just look at that Hogwarts-ian library interior!  This is Gladstone's Library, in Flintshire, and I would very very much like to visit.  Amazingly enough, they charge just £87 for an en suite double room, including dinner & breakfast (and that's for the room, not per person).  If you're not fussy about en suite, it comes down to £69 per room.  The Library is, according to their website, "one of a kind - a residential library and meeting place dedicated to dialogue, debate and learning for open-minded individuals and groups who are looking to explore pressing questions and to pursue study and research in an age of distraction and easy solutions."  They run workshops and courses, or you can just visit to read, write, think... or walk in the glorious surrounding countryside.  A trip to Gladstone's Library would make the perfect gift for a busy bookworm who needs a few days to unwind (*cough* me *cough*).

If you can't quite stretch to the full yearly subscription from Mr B's but like the concept, then the Willoughby Book Club might be the answer.  The difference here is that you can get subscriptions for as little as three months - and there are choices for children, lovers of cookery or gardening books, and cult fiction fans amongst others - so it makes a more affordable gift.  However, unlike Mr B's Reading Year, if your gift recipient already has the book sent they can't return it, which makes it a risky choice for someone who has masses of books.  The WBC is a local company (based in South Leicestershire village Willoughby Waterleys) so I want to support them just for that reason: plus I love the idea of opening up a new surprise package every month.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Bookworm interview

Hannah very kindly let me do her bookworm interview a few weeks ago, and it's up on her blog today!  Isn't it always the way though; now I'm reading it back, I keep thinking, "oh, why didn't I mention that".  Ah well, it is what it is, and I - of course - loved writing about books!  Do go on over and check it out.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Music Monday: Smells like middle-age reminiscence

My first guest post in the Music Monday slot is from Graham.  This is his first foray into blogging but as soon as Leanne had the idea for inviting other people to write for Music Monday, I thought of him.  Graham was the DJ at the indie/rock club I worked in from 1997 to 1999 and his choice of music was always impeccable; moving seamlessly from Soul Coughing to Britney to Nine Inch Nails.  We've actually not seen each other for years (although I keep trying to make it to some of the gigs his workplace - Leicester Central Library - put on, something always comes up), but the wonder of Facebook means that we have many a dialogue about music and books.  He very kindly agreed to write something, and has chosen Smells Like Teen Spirit.

It was the first anniversary of my Mam’s death when I heard that Kurt Cobain had died. We’d put the news on to find out the result of the Grand National (my brother-in-law had put bets on for us, even though I didn’t really approve of the race). Not everyone that afternoon at my house even knew who Kurt Cobain was; I did. I’d also been following the grim events & media circus of the previous months every Wednesday in the NME.  I wasn’t a massive fan. I didn’t have any T-shirts or posters, and never saw them live, though I did once see an Australian tribute band called Teen Spirit.

In 1991 I went to the Reading Festival on the Saturday/Sunday, mainly to see James, Carter USM, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, & the Sisters of Mercy. I didn’t even consider going on the Friday, but looking back at the line-up I really should have. Plus, there’s a chance I would’ve watched this new band from Seattle, on in the afternoon sandwiched between Chapterhouse and Silverfish.
I might not have been a massive fan, but I liked them a hell of a lot. I remember first seeing them on ‘The Word’, blowing me away with my first hearing of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, but at the same time being convinced that it was a Pixies cover.
The news item didn’t send shockwaves that far among my family; they looked at me slightly oddly, not really getting why it had had an impact on me. After all, we were there feeling real grief for someone that we’d all known and loved; not some rock star junkie joining the sad and infamous ‘27 Club’.
Twenty years on, it still amazes me. It’s been over-played, over-analysed, ripped off and covered. But, just stop for a moment, put the boredom or familiarity aside, and listen to it; just listen to it.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Weekend in pictures & £100 challenge update

This weekend I have mostly been...
... going for lots of long autumn walks;
... enjoying the warmth from my log burner while I snuggled on the sofa watching Strictly & X Factor: my favourite way to spend a chilly Saturday evening;
... catching up on my reading for book group in the only civilised way: with a cup of tea and a homemade apple & cinnamon cupcake;
... finally beginning the task of stripping and painting my front door.
Also sleeping a lot, booking gig tickets, drinking cider in Firebug Bar, making plans for Christmas (and starting my Christmas shopping in earnest, which I haven't counted in my £100 challenge), having iTunes-related tantrums, and feeling nervous about my upcoming trip to Amsterdam, which is weird cos I usually love travelling alone.
And this week I have mostly been spending my money on...
Monday: £28.05 groceries
Tuesday: £3.70 goodies in farm shop, because I felt bad for the man behind the counter
               £13.98 gloss paint
Wednesday: Nothing
Thursday: £15 petrol (I was so excited to get the price exactly £15 - I'm such a loser!)
Friday: £5.49 assorted decorating bits and pieces from Wilkinsons
             £10.37 groceries
Saturday: £5.95 lunch
Sunday: £12.05 groceries
TOTAL: £94.50
After two weeks of over-spending, I feel much happier with this week's total (although I still seem to spending ridiculous sums of money on groceries - over £50 this week, and that was all at Aldi so I can't blame expensive supermarkets).  It was possible the most boring week of spending ever though: gloss paint and petrol?  Be still my beating heart.  Although I did pick up some lovely Christmas decorations and a few gifts, which are definitely more interesting, I didn't count these in my total because I'm using my meagre savings for any Christmassy bits.  Is that cheating?

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Why blog?

Sarah's recent post about counting followers and this video on Rosalilium about why she got into blogging started me thinking about it, and in fact it's a question I ask myself fairly often.  When a post gets almost no readers, or it's the beginning of the week and I can't think of a song to use for Music Monday, or I write something I'm really pleased with and no-one comments... "why blog?" I wonder to myself.  Sometimes I find it a real chore, and sometimes I'm brimming with ideas.  Sometimes it feels as if only three people in the world ever read what I write *waves to Sarah, Laura and Leanne*, and sometimes a post attracts so many nice comments - both on the blog and in 'real' life - that I feel uplifted and excited. 

The urge to put my fairly mundane thoughts on screen and press 'Publish' so that anyone, anywhere can read them is an odd one.  I came to blogging late, having enjoyed reading various music, lifestyle and fatshion blogs for a good few years before I plunged into the world myself.  I was a fanzine writer and editor in my late teens and the thrill of seeing my own words, hastily typed and cheaply photocopied, has never left me, and over the years I had vaguely wondered if I should start writing again.  I can't remember the precise moment when I decided to start blogging; I know that in the summer of 2010 I put a plea out on Facebook for a good blog name (an ex who answered my plea is to blame for the unwieldy and hard-to-type-into-a-browser name which I eventually settled on).  And then, one chilly March day last year, I came home from work, sat down at my laptop, and started writing

Originally I intended the blog to be a fatshion/lifestyle blog.  It didn't exactly work out that way.  My genuine phobia of having my photo taken scuppered the fatshion idea, and my utter failure to lead a life interesting enough to write about did for the lifestyle part.  Over the past year, as I've become more interested and involved in crafting, that has begun to get a mention; my natural curiosity about other people's houses leads me to post about my own home; and my obsession with reading and music was always going to be reflected on here.  But even now, I'm hard pressed to explain to people what exactly it is I blog about: the "lovely stuff" bit of the tagline at the top of the page is the nearest I can come to a definition.

The thing is, what I most enjoy writing about isn't always what people seem to enjoy reading.  I regularly get the most readers for posts I'm kind of 'meh' about, while posts I really like putting together (Music Monday, photo posts about my weekend adventures) garner almost no comments and fewer readers.  Should I amend my writing so it fits into what my audience, evidently, wants?  Or should blogging be about self-expression, and damn the stats?  It's something I often question, but have never quite come up with a satisfactory answer.

One thing I've started doing more of is reflective, "this is what's inside my head" posts.  I don't really want this blog to become a (less razor- and Richey Manic-obsessed) version of the queer/perzine I used to write, but I do enjoy writing about stuff that matters instead of just posting pretty pictures of things I've bought.  I always get amazing responses from my most confessional writing, but publishing those posts is quite a risk to take as a blogger.  For one, there can be something uncomfortably solipsistic about them (although what else is blogging but endless solipsism?!), for another, they involve me putting quite a big part of my self 'out there', and I sometimes wonder if I'm making the right choice by writing about such personal topics.

There's a kind of blogging rule that says you should put out new content regularly: at least every three days, ideally more often. But life gets in the way and sometimes, especially recently, I just don't feel like writing. I find blogging easiest when I'm in a happy and contented place, and for various reasons, I've not always felt like that over the past few months. I still try and post at least three times a week, but I do wonder if perhaps less could be more? Fewer posts, but of higher quality, about stuff I actually care about rather than have written in a panic, thinking, "oh crap, I really need to post today... erm, this'll do".

I've become somewhat rambly now, but I suppose my point is that I don't know the answer: I don't know why I blog.  If you're a blogger, what keeps you writing?  And why did you start?  I'd love to hear about other people's experiences.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Music Monday: Q&A with Janet (me!)

I thought I'd start the ball rolling with these music interviews.  Over the next few months I have a range of guest writers lined up to tell me about their musical memories and share some tracks, but I'm always looking for people contribute so let me know if you'd like to be involved.

What was the first gig you went to?
When asked, I tell people it was Elastica at Leeds Met Uni, in about 1994 or 1995.  But actually, that was my second gig.  The first was Take That at Bradford St Georges Hall, where I screamed so loudly I couldn't talk for days.  The Elastica gig began an obsession with live music: I went to so many gigs during my A Levels that I basically failed half of my subjects.  It turns out that spending my nights in dingy, beer-soaked venues in Leeds or Manchester, rather than completing coursework, was not conducive to success in Geography or Design Tech courses; who'd have thought?  By my mid-twenties I'd started slacking off somewhat, but the last five years I've been going to more gigs again, and seen some incredible shows.  My hallway is lined with ticket collages in frames, a nice reminder of the bands I've seen and loved.

What song reminds you of being a teenager?
Anything from the Manic Street Preachers’ first three albums.  Also Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name Of: how much was that, “fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” refrain designed for sulky teens?!  My mum never tried to tell me what to do (apart from the very reasonable, “wash up” or “do your homework” requests) and yet I’d put it on full volume and rail against the oppression I was suffering!  My poor mother.

What song will always get you on the dance floor?

Test Icicles’ Circle Square Triangle, anything by Late Of The Pier, Mens Needs by The Cribs, and Boogie Wonderland by Earth, Wind & Fire (that bit that slows down and goes, “All the love in the world can’t be wrong…”?  Musical perfection).

What song makes you cry?

The whole of Beck’s Sea Change album, it’s just such a sad and depressing – but beautiful – record.
Last Goodbye by Jeff Buckley and, slightly less cool, Changes by Will Young, both for the reasons outlined here.
What are your top five favourite bands/artists of all time?
 In no particular order...

1. The Smashing Pumpkins.  Their lyrics are hopelessly juvenile and their music bloated and often ridiculous, but I adore them.  I even like Billy Corgan's side project, Zwan.  Their Siamese Dream record is my favourite album of all time.  I’ve gone through three copies over the last twenty years, all worn out and scratched to bits (remember when CDs came out and they said you could use them as Frisbees and spread jam on them, and they’d still work?  They lied!).  My music tastes, and the bands I’ve been obsessed with, have fluctuated over the years – one year it was all about De La Soul, another it was Dusty Springfield – but the Smashing Pumpkins have always endured.

2. Joanna Newsom who, my brother Richard will take great delight in telling you (probably in the comments section) I used to dismiss as unlistenable.  Her voice is undoubtably an acquired taste, but I love her now.  My favourite tracks are Cosmia and Only Skin - both from the Ys album - and Sprout & The Bean from The Milk-Eyed Mender.

3. Sufjan Stevens.  I have been to literally thousands of gigs over the past twenty years, and I have never seen anything quite as extraordinary, accomplished and moving as Stevens' show at Manchester Apollo last May.  I still can't quite get my head round his BQE project (a concept album about an expressway in Brooklyn), but I'll listen to pretty much anything else he commits to tape.  Impossible Soul, from the  2010 album The Age Of Adz, is a 25 minute opus that takes in R&B, acoustic folk, funk and more - and is as ludicrous as it sounds - but it makes me happier and more joyful than almost anything else in my music collection.

4. Fleet Foxes.  Only two albums released, and they're both perfection.

5. A really difficult one, this.  The last three artists are all quite recent obsessions, in the context of twenty years of music fandom.  Over the years my 'favourite' bands have included Nirvana, the Manic Street Preachers, Radiohead, Ash (one year I saw them nine times), Gene (how I loved them), The Smiths... but I think my final choice is Ben Folds Five.  I am so excited about seeing the reformed line-up in December!

Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to music?
I make no secret of loving me some really cheesy pop.  My latest guilty pleasure is Euphoria by Loreen, which won Eurovision for Sweden earlier this year.  It's just a lovely slice of uplifting dance-pop, and it makes me happy.

If you could sum yourself up in one song or lyric, what would it be?
A Smashing Pumpkins lyric, from Muzzle: "I fear that I am ordinary, just like everyone."

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Weekend in Yorkshire

After an ill-advised drinking session with work colleagues on Friday night, I ventured up the M1 in an extremely hungover and tender-of-head state on Saturday morning.  But it was lovely to see my niece performing in a show at Bradford Alhambra, visit my brother (busy revising for a quantum physics exam in two weeks time), curl up on the sofa watching trashy Saturday night TV, and drop in at Horsforth book fair.  Most of all, it was nice to just spend time with my mum, exploring some lovely corners of urban West Yorkshire in the autumn sunshine.

1. Children playing in the fountain in Bradford's Centenary Square, Saturday afternoon;
2. Wakefield marina and Victorian factory building, taken facing north from the bridge to the Hepworth Gallery;
3. The view facing south from the bridge, of the exterior of the gallery: I loved the juxtaposition of industrial heritage with contemporary architecture;
4. Quotation on the wall of the Barbara Hepworth Studio room.
And for those following my £100 challenge, my jaunt up to Yorkshire made a bit of a dint in my budget.  Which is a nice way of saying I've gone way over my limit again.
Monday - £16.36 groceries
                  £29.82 petrol
                  £7.00 bag (to replace one that broke in London last weekend)
                  £4.00 tights
                  £3.85 this month's Diva
Tuesday - £10.27 groceries
Wednesday - £11.35 groceries
                         £19.80 dress
Thursday - £5.65 cinema ticket
                     £4.50 drinks at cinema
Friday - £15 drinks and taxi home
Saturday - £1.80 hardcore painkillers to get rid of my headache

                    £20 ticket for Gracie's show

Sunday - £9 parking at the Hepworth Gallery for two cars
Total -  £158.40
Oh dear.  My big mistake this week was going to Tesco not once, but three times.  If I'd only done a big Aldi shop at the start of the week, I could have cut the spend on groceries significantly.  And as always, petrol took a big chunk of my budget.  But really, there's no excuse.  I took my eye off the ball again and need to be really strict in the next two weeks (although, didn't I say that last Sunday?!).

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Image association week four

Last week Sarah posted her response to my first photograph, which you can see below (her post, with explanation, is here). 

Her image of 'ghost' signs initially baffled me: my first plan was to go with the ghost theme and take my camera to a local cemetery I've been wanting to photograph, but then Sarah posted this, and I felt a bit like I'd be copying.  Back to the drawing board... and suddenly it was Thursday afternoon and I still didn't have an image.  But not to panic, I was heading into Leicester after school to go to the cinema, and I had a new idea: to take the 'old' image of Sarah's and answer it with something 'new': perhaps the modern glass architecture of the Curve theatre or some of the light installations in the Cultural Quarter.  Chatting to my friend Leanne before the film (Untouchable, by the way, and it was wonderful) started, she came to the rescue with the most wonderful idea.

This bench sits outside the Phoenix independent cinema, and I think it's wonderful.  It links to Sarah's previous image in all sorts of ways, but I'm choosing the meaning of 'things past' for this image.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

LGBT YA fiction

I have a great fondness for Young Adult (YA) fiction, and my job gives me a great excuse to read a lot of it, without feeling I should be reading something more lengthy and, well, adult.  At its best, YA fiction is everything 'proper' adult fiction is, and more.  Dealing with the period of confusion and flux that is the teenage years, YA novels are well placed to tackle a huge variety of issues, and they generally do so without the preachy 'this book is about something very important' overtones of adult fiction.  They often make quick, easy, but not unchallenging reading for those times you can't quite cope with Bleak House or the latest Pat Barker, but want something that will entertain and provoke discussion in equal measure.  YA fiction can also be something of an escape for adult readers: when you're struggling with the mortgage or fretting about your shrivelling ovaries (ahem, not that I do this), it's comforting to be taken back to the days when the biggest things to worry about was a biology test and whether that cute girl/boy smiled at you in tutor time.

But of course, it's easy to get rose-tinted about your teenage years, when the reality is that growing up is hard to do, and growing up queer is immeasurably harder.  So thank goodness there are some really fantastic YA novels that speak to the LGBT experience (but don't necessarily have to just be for an LGBT audience).  Bitch magazine's blogs have recently started a fascinating series about LGBT YA books, called Beyond Judy Blume, which prompted me to think about my three favourite recent(ish) LGBT teen novels are...
1. The Shell House by Linda Newberry
Greg is beginning his A-Levels in contemporary Essex.  Edmund, heir to the imposing Graveney Hall, is an officer fighting in the trenches during World War 1, and in love with fellow soldier Alex.  As Greg becomes more confused about his developing friendship with his classmate, Jordan, it becomes clear that he might have more in common with Edmund than first seemed.  This is such a wonderful, magical novel about faith, self-discovery, grief, friendship, history... there's so much to enjoy.  I was in equal parts frustrated and intrigued by the ambiguous ending, which forced me to conclude Greg's story to my own satisfaction.

2. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
Paul lives in a town where there isn't a gay scene or a straight scene, "they all got mixed up a while back".  The school quarterback is also the homecoming queen and being gay is no big deal.  Criticised for presenting a falsely optimistic picture of young gay life, I think this book is an important acting out of a fantasy world in which homophobia doesn't exist (or at least, not until you meet Tony's Christian parents).  Funny, uplifting and moving, I never tire of re-reading it.

3. Centre Of My World by Andreas Steinhofel
Gorgeous literary novel about seventeen year old Phil, living in a big house on the outskirts of a small German town where he and his family are outcasts.  He's waiting for the right guy to come along: might Nicholas be the one?  I read this doorstep of a novel in one sitting, in a bar in the rather fitting setting of Cologne.  It's lovely, and a bit heartbreaking.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Music Monday is dead: long live Music Monday

My proposal last week - that I might stop doing Music Monday posts - prompted an outpouring of feeling (well, nine people had something to say about it, which round here counts as an 'outpouring'!). People had really interesting ideas, from the sensible - asking guest posters to get involved (thanks Leanne!) - to the sarcastic - my brother's suggestion for "a feature in which, each week, you write about a different band that your amazing brother Richard has introduced you to, despite your previous insistence that they are rubbish, thus proving that his music taste is far superior to yours?”.  Yeah, cheers Richard[1].

The consensus seemed to be that Music Monday should stay in some form or another, but that I shouldn't feel obligated to post every single week.  So I will be keeping the feature going, but only posting about songs when I feel I have something to say, as opposed to because I feel I should. 

I would also really love it if people wanted to volunteer to write some guest posts: either in my usual Music Monday format (find a Youtube video and write about the song and the memories it prompts for you), or as a music memories interview.  If you fancy writing a post, either holler in the comments below or email me at jbistheinitial@gmail.com.

[1] Sadly, this idea is untenable because at least 50% of Music Monday posts to date already fall into this category.  Bands and artists that Richard has introduced me to and that I – sometimes vociferously – dismissed prior to falling in love with them include Animal Collective, Jeffrey Lewis, Sufjan Stevens, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Joanna Newsom and The Beach Boys.  Yes, I am ashamed.