Making Friday Fun of me

This is self-indulgent, but it is Christmas, and I am tired. In lieu of genuine Friday Fun, I will instead be making fun of myself (and perhaps poking a little fun at my family too). Trips to Belfast and time with the family often involve a little digging through the archives and prompt some introspection – boxes of old school stuff resides there, as do a lot of photo albums.

It was the re-shelving of my baby photo album that began a last minute retrospection on Wednesday evening. I discovered a couple of albums of photos that I hadn’t seen in years, both containing photographic evidence of at least two memorable holidays and assorted other curious photos. (Each album ended with a random assortment of pictures that bore no relation to each other – much time was spent trying to date them, with my father frequently insisting my sister must have been 7 in photos where I knew she was at least 10.)

I ended up having to get copies (poor quality photos of photos, sadly) of some of the classics, which at least amused us briefly. Knowing that other people’s photos are rarely that interesting, this post may only interest three people, but never mind. At the very least it should make all of us very grateful not to be living in the early 1990’s…

Flicking through these albums, I made a few discoveries. Firstly – and this wasn’t so much a discovery as a resurrection of a memory I’d tried to suppress – fashion in the 90’s was very, very bad.
Exhibit A: Matching mother-daughter floral all in ones. And I thought jumpsuits were a recent phenomenon?!

We were in Boston, eating Deli sandwiches. The caption said we were eating pastrami & rye, but there’s no way my ten year old self would’ve chosen that as a sandwich filling.

Exhibit B: Dungarees (and paint splattered jeans) were never a good look. [I was also disturbed at how often that neon bumbag featured in photos…]
Another Boston photo. We were there for a couple of months – my outfit is entirely American.

Exhibit C: Mismatched clothing. Oh dear…
Secondly, a discovery that my sister – without fail – did amusing poses in all photos. Or, would try to get into photos that had nothing to do with her. Look closely at the three above and you’ll spot comedy faces or arm gestures, typical of the family clown. However, this is my favourite:

Me and my parents studied this picture for a long time and none of us could work out why we stopped in front of a branch of C&A for a photo. It’s possible the feature is actually the canal and it’s also possible that it’s from a trip to the Netherlands in 1994 (this deduction made solely from the fact that I’m wearing a green coat, thus meaning I was definitely at secondary school). Anyway, note the ridiculous facial expression in the foreground. [Edit: a Facebook friend recognised it as Lincoln. Not quite as exotic, but perfectly plausible.]

Thirdly, it seems that I was actually known as ‘Lizzy’ in public and with people other than my immediate family. I have something of a multiple personality when it comes to versions of my name, which I think I’ve mentioned before, but I’d been fairly sure that only a very small group of people called me Lizzy. However, two photos from the summer I turned 10 would seem to dispute this:

My 10th birthday cake, clearly iced with ‘Lizzy’.

Peculiar, possibly Native American in aim, face-painting with ‘Lizzy’ across my forehead. 
[It was a Vacation Bible School with a pioneer theme. I couldn’t possibly explain…]

Fourthly, one word: beard…

I have a friend who’s come close to emulating this feat in recent months, but I think even they are beaten by my Dad’s 1982 effort. Really quite impressive. [Sobering thought. My Dad was the age I am now in that photo.] 
Fifthly, I had always been under the impression that I’d been excited about visiting Mozart’s birthplace when we went to Salzburg. It seems I was wrong:
Not a great advert for Mozart, but a potentially great one for Clothkits – that’s a matching outfit, right there! 

Because I’m a generous individual, if you do find this stuff vaguely interesting, there’s a whole album of it.

Take That – and party

Last weekend marked the arrival of a date keenly anticipated for over 7 months – if not 15 years. It was an event of such importance that embargoes were placed upon those getting to experience this phenomenon earlier than us. [In fact, even if I hadn’t spent the last 5 days sequestered in Southport, I would have delayed this post until Annabelle had been.] It had required an encounter with a total stranger outside Goodge Street station for a co-ordinated handover of small, yellow pieces of paper. It even necessitated an e-mail many months ago entitled “TAKE THAT EMERGENCY!!!”…

Yes, on Saturday night, I was amongst 89,000 people watching the mighty Take That (newly reunited with Robbie Williams) at Wembley. Two 2011 Firsts right there. Being a Take That live virgin (and a total newbie to an arena that huge – I’d only ever gone to Wembley to demo before), I learnt many lessons:

Firstly, watching Take That is a surprisingly rigorous physical experience. There’s the queuing (to get in); the standing (to keep your spot); the crush (as the crowd was brought forward); the heat (as people got even closer); the dancing (when TT finally appeared); the screaming (when they got close); the queuing (to get back to the station); the standing (on the tube home)… In fact, I got up from a seat on a bench outside the tube station at 3pm and sat back down again at 11.25pm when the tube reached Baker Street. Exhausting doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Secondly, don’t enter into such a situation if one is easily angered or hormonal. People get very territorial at these events. One woman sat on my feet multiple times in order to extend the area her group had. I hadn’t moved an inch, so I definitely wasn’t encroaching upon her space – I resisted conflict, but it was a close-run thing. When I’m hot, I can’t bare touching other people’s bare skin or hair – often an issue on the tube. For several hours on Saturday, I was touching three strangers’ bare skin and had one girl’s ponytail flicked into my face incessantly. It was all I could to keep my sanity and cool while rage was rising inside me! Actually, I nearly (or possibly did) lose it with a woman who deliberately obstructed my view of Robbie by waving her arms and deliberately pushing mine out of the way every time I tried to take a photo – it resulted in my having a long scratch from her watch down my arm. I got this photo though, so it was worth it!

Thirdly, going to see boybands live in concert will cause you to regress in behaviour to that expected of a 13 year old. Yes, I mocked my friends for their matching I ♥ Gary t-shirts (see above) and when they totally crumbled when the aforementioned Gary [Barlow] appeared less than 2 metres from us [the words “Oh my God, I never thought I’d be this close to him!!” were uttered by one of them…]. But later, when Robbie appeared in the same spot, all sense and sensibilities of someone turning 30 in 3 weeks time departed, and I screamed like an adolescent.

Fi and Ange are SO excited to be SO close to Gary Barlow…

The good man himself
Despite the fact that I wasn’t a big Thatter in my youth – I didn’t cry when Robbie left and I never considered watching them live – they are an indelible part of my teenage years. I can vividly recall the scene in my form room the morning after Never Forget was performed on TOTP for the first time. It was full of 13 and 14 year old girls raising their hands in the air and screaming – in much the same way that rather older women did during the finale on Saturday night, with the added excitement of the now returned Robbie. It goes without saying that my favourite part of the gig was the really old stuff, performed as a five-piece again after so many years. Oh, and finally getting to see Robbie live – I know he’s an arrogant twit, but he’s an awesome performer. Take That put on a show and their 2 hour set was well worth both the money and the physical exertion. And I will forgive them for including masks not once, but twice, in their dancers’ costumes – being close to the stage was great for viewing the boys, but less great for not being able to hide from the masks. 
Masked dancers acting as Thurifers – possibly a first for a boyband arena tour?
It wouldn’t be right not to link to some highlights, so here are a few:
Alice in Wonderland – Mark singing Shine while sat upon a large, pink caterpillar.
The Flood – there was water, abseiling and a breath-taking jump. Awesome. 
The retro TT medley – beautiful.

The gig got me thinking about a couple of other things that may turn into blogposts at a later date, but I think one Take That themed post in a week is quite sufficient! 

Acceptable in the 90s

Over the last few days I’ve spent an unusual amount of time bonding with my sofa (so much time that I’m very aware of how many springs are now defunct and am currently pondering whether the purchasing of a new one is viable) and throwing myself into a time-warp – a 1990’s time-warp to be precise.

The DVD boxset is a beautiful addition to life. No longer do we need to reminisce about long-lost TV series – a few minutes online and they can be winging their way towards us. However, it can be a dangerous territory to enter, as it may lead to the shattering of our rose-tinted nostalgic memories with the realisation that more than a decade on, these fondly remembered shows really aren’t quite what we thought they were.

Last week I acquired the first seasons of two classic 90s series: Party of Five (1994-2000) and Ally McBeal (1997-2002) [the latter was a total bargain – £5 in Oxfam]. Whilst I was excited to be reunited with two old friends, there was a niggling concern in the back of my mind that perhaps I was about to be deeply disappointed…

The biggest risk was the post-feminist legal shenanigans of McBeal & Co. Despite controversy over its short skirts and uber-thin cast, it was still a favourite show of me and my friends while in Sixth Form and into university. [I cried so much the night Billy was killed off that my photography student flatmate used me as a model for a series she was creating on addiction – I played an alcoholic.] My theme song on our post-school mix-CD was Ally’s theme song [the still apt Tell Him], and our “we watch far too much TV song” was the Barry White tune the staff of Cage & Fish danced to in their unisex toilets (follow that link, it’s near perfection).

Not only was there the chance that I might not like it so much on second viewing, there was also the issue of its rather surreal moments – the inflating heads, gigantic tongues and dancing baby – amongst others. Any child of the 1980s who’s watched the classic BBC Chronicles of Narnia as an adult knows the pain of magical special effects looking tired and amateur in the cold-light of 21st century progression. Fortunately, they still work – at least I think they do, I’ve not got to the dancing baby yet.

Even better, it’s all still watchable. The jokes are funny – Elaine the crazy secretary is still hilarious (especially when wearing her face bra) and the legal cases bizarre. My only issue is that then, I aspired to be Ally – well, not exactly Ally, I fancied myself as a glamorous lawyer in Boston, not a desperate singleton. Now I actually am Ally – well the desperate (ish) singleton of a similar age; less so the short skirts, skeletal thin-ness and lawyer skills. Scary stuff.

And on to the rather less surreal and ever so much more gritty Party of Five. It’s lovely – sad, rather angsty and a tad unrealistic – but lovely. Or is it simply that I could watch Matthew Fox and his early 90s curtained hair for hour upon hour? Sure the fashions have aged (though I believe flannel shirts are making a comeback and I honestly think I’d do anything for a slightly needy, longish-haired man in a flannel shirt…) and music’s moved on, but this is good drama in a similar vein to early ER. It must be good as I watched eight episodes in the space of 24 hours.

Plus, I finally realised that the moment in the opening titles that I’d always thought showed Bailey and Charlie (the aforementioned Matthew Fox) washing a car is in fact them sanding some wood – even more manly [watching this again I see that it’s quite obvious what they’re doing – I was a fool, clearly]. For your viewing pleasure:

In conclusion, I’m happy to say that both pass muster in the new century – just as My So Called Life proved last year. (Honestly, it’s actually fabulously written and compelling.) Sadly, what really doesn’t is my old favourite of Dawson’s Creek – I’m not sure it’ll ever be a classic, but it will comfort me from time to time in my old age…

As a final tip, if you’re searching for some classic boxsets, check out the Guardian’s weekly recommendations. It’s a highly diverse list and contains plenty of gems you’ll have completely forgotten about.

Retro reincarnation

Another fabulous birthday gift (by the way, this isn’t me trying to rub in the fact that I’ve just had a birthday, it’s more taking pleasure in what I was blessed with last week!) was from Flatmate, who happened to remember one of the many conversations we’ve had recently about great TV shows.
I may finally have found something to lift me out of the Gilmore Girls rut I’ve been stuck in all year (only one and a half seasons left to go!), though sadly there is only a single season’s fix of this gem: My So Called Life.
Watching it 15 years after it first appeared is quite a surreal experience. For one, I wonder how I got away with watching it (especially as my Dad occasionally had campaigns to stop us watching Grange Hill and EastEnders!)
It also brings back memories of fashions long forgotten – leggings as trousers (not simply under something else); flannel shirts; DM boots; weird red hair dye; Laura Ashley style dresses worn as fashion statements…bizarre stuff. Plus, I’ve realised I now seem to empathise with Angela’s parents! It’s a sad moment when you discover you have a parent mentality, not a child’s one! Very worrying.
Then there’s the classic 90’s soundtrack, which would have me hunting for my NOW 29 cassettes, were it not for the fact that I know they got chucked out during a house move. It means that half the time I ignore the dialogue, finding myself singing along to song lyrics buried deep within the recesses of my brain.
Not to mention the discovery (or remembrance – I was one after all!) of what teenagers did pre mobile phones and internet. They simply sat in their room listening to moody music, writing in journals, gazing into space and obsessing about their latest crush. Weird how quickly we forget!
A little regression is good for everyone, as long as you’re able to cope with how much time’s past since you were actually a teenager and how you may well now officially be ‘old’.

Overheard in the church toilets:

[I’m in a cubicle, listening to a conversation between a girl in another cubicle and one washing her hands.]

Girl 1: “Are you going to this 80’s night then?”

Girl 2: “Yeah, but I’m not really sure what to go as. You’re the 80’s baby, what do you think?”

Girl 1: “I don’t know, I was born in 1987, so I don’t really remember any of it. When were you born?”

Girl 2: “1990…”

Me: “You’ve both just made me feel very, very old.”

Here’s the thing, church is having an 80’s themed social, presumably chosen as a theme because it’s a decade most of us relate to. Did anyone else realise our latest intake of students are actually 90’s babies?

Anyone else feeling incredibly old?