Bravery in music & blogging

In life, there are many things about which I am insecure. One area in which I’m trying to be a lot more confident is my taste in music…
I love musicals. Fact.
I’m not averse to quite a lot of classical music. (Except opera – I feel that this is as unlikely to change as my attitude to seafood is.)
Christian soft rock gets played at church, I like singing it, thus I own quite a lot of it.
90’s Indie music will always have a special place in my heart and so will the music of my parents (well, my Dad mostly) – especially Simon & Garfunkel, Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell and the Beatles.
Sometimes, all you want from life is a Celine Dion singalong.

Despite my attempts at confidence, it makes me a little nervous when I let people into my world of music. Attempts to keep my Spotify account ‘respectable’ failed quickly – though I do keep a lot of my playlists hidden from general view, publicly listing only those into which considerable effort has gone. With my CD cases now in boxes, it’s difficult for people to see my ‘real’ music collection as it mostly only exists in my iTunes library – something that generally, isn’t accessible to anyone but me.

So, it was with a sense of trepidation that I recently handed over my iPod, containing my entire iTunes library, to a friend who had been iPod-less for quite some time. It was just a short term loan, prior to them acquiring an iPhone, but I was very conscious that my music taste was about to become very exposed. Thanks to my own iPhone and Spotify account, little by way of music has been added to it in the last year, but I’d kept it purely for the fact that, unlike my phone, it holds my whole collection. I needn’t have worried though – the next time I saw this friend it emerged that they’d been quite impressed with my taste. To quote: “Well, you did have four Blur albums.” (No similar comment was made about the four S Club 7 albums, for example.) [Btw, I used ‘quite’ as a qualifier in the sense that they weren’t that impressed, but somewhat surprised at the number of pleasant discoveries they made.]

Phew. However, there were other issues that I hadn’t fully considered…

Firstly, exposing your library of albums is one thing, but playlists are another. I know for a fact that I am not the only person in the world to create playlists for specific situations – I’m not talking car journeys or parties, I’m talking emotional turmoil moments. [How do I know I’m not alone? Because I was once given a copy of a mix-tape a friend had made as a tribute to some random guy she was mad about – I can but assume that other people do likewise.] It was only after handing over my iPod that I ran through the list of playlists in my head and, sure enough, there was one such item. If I share that it included Breaking Free (of High School Musical fame), Will Young’s Leave Right Now and the Destiny’s Child classic Survivor, you’ll appreciate just how high calibre it was. [Incidentally, I’m not sure what it is about me, Beyoncé and emotional moments – my current motivational song is Best Thing I Never Had.] *Cringe*

Within minutes of relinquishing the iPod, I had a terrifying realisation. (Yes, more terrifying than possible judgement on musical tastes.) There was a strong possibility that the pod contained tracks with me singing on it. In fact, I already knew that it definitely did – the three albums I’ve recorded were on there. [Just dropping that in there – did you know I’d recorded three albums? Obviously they’re not just me, and you can’t actually hear me on any of it – bar one track on the third album – but I’m on them all the same.] There was also the live concert recording that includes one of my most embarrassing moments. But none of these things were what had terrified me, it was the fear that some of my iPhone ‘voice memos’ were on there.

I’m not sure what most iPhone users use this function for, but in my world it comes in particularly useful at gospel choir rehearsals when you need to record parts for between rehearsals practising. Occasionally, one might want to use it to record an exciting moment at a gig, or an amusing bit of conversation. But the other primary use in my little world is for recording karaoke.

Shameful confession: Sometimes, when I’m all alone in the flat, I play karaoke tracks/YouTube videos and sing along – ok, that in itself is not shameful. What is shameful is that I record myself (on my phone) in order to monitor my progress and analyse my performance. How sad is that?! So, you can imagine my concern that an entire playlist of that dross might have ended up in the wrong hands! Fortunately, those particular tracks hadn’t made it onto the iPod – when I checked there was a recording from the Matthew Morrison gig and assorted bits from summer gospel choir rehearsals – all fairly uncringeworthy.

So that’s got an awful lot out into the open:
I’m not so ashamed of my taste in music, and I’ve divulged two potentially shameful habits that I won’t be ending any time soon. Who needs therapy when you have a blog?

Oscar winners, fathers and a train to Eastbourne

Congratulations Colin Firth! Finally an Oscar winner.

[I wrote this post on Sunday and typed that line in complete faith but with a slight fear that it would jinx him.]
I’ve just spend the weekend away with church people in Eastbourne – aka retired people central – and my primary purpose of being there was to help lead the student group. This role meant that on Friday evening, me and another leader had the job of ensuring that four students safely made it from London to the coast. He sorted out the things like where we’d meet (helpfully deciding on ‘under a departure board’, when there are two at Victoria…) and what time train we’d get, but once on the move, he stuck his headphones in and I was left to the endless banter of excited youth. (One of whom was super hyper thanks to having consumed three coffees. Hmph.) 
To be honest, I’d be just the same with a group of my friends, but in the midst of a dreary Friday evening commuter train, it was quite hilarious. I’m pretty sure that the man wearing a purple crotched tie heard someone’s stage whispers of “Look! That man’s wearing a crotched purple tie!”, but luckily he didn’t show any sign of it. What did attract the attention of our fellow passengers was a conversation on the topic of the newly crowned Best Actor… 
I was telling how a guy had asked me earlier in the week if I found Colin Firth hot – I’d replied saying that I didn’t think he was the hottest actor in The King’s Speech (Guy Pearce, playing the abdicating monarch, would have to take that credit), nor did I generally find him that attractive, but I did love him in Bridget Jones. [Also, and this may shock readers, but I’ve never got the Pride & Prejudice thing, probably because I’ve never actually watched the series. I know, I know. Yell at me when you see me.] In my defence, I have what has been referred to as ‘unconventional’ taste in men…
The student girls disagreed vigorously with my views, and one went on to say “I used to really like Colin Firth, but then he started to remind me of my Dad, so that was weird.”  At which point the total stranger sat next to me piped up with “Can I meet your Dad? Sorry to interrupt, but I love Colin Firth and I couldn’t help hearing what you were talking about!” [For those interested, the father in question isn’t single and apparently doesn’t actually look much like Firth, it’s more of a subtle similarity.] We went on to bond with this lady to the extent that she was even included in our Percy Pig sharing circle.

To all other passengers in carriage 11 on the 18.06 train from Victoria on Friday night, I apologise profusely for the noise, raucous laughter and general inappropriateness that disturbed your journey home. 

As an aside, Eastbourne was lovely when the sun shone – less lovely when being battered by torrential rain. Plus, the beach was closed for maintenance (they needed to re-arrange the pebbles) – what’s that about? 

The things cupcakes do to people…

When it comes to things I get nerdy about, I generally have little control over when such nerdiness appears. (It’s how I find myself telling stories about disused tube stations at parties.) This is often embarrassing, especially if it manifests itself by me grabbing a plate out of someone’s hands so that I can photograph its contents…

…well, who wouldn’t, when the plate bore beautiful cupcakes? 
Photo courtesy of the Corker & Mills’ blog
Corker & Mills are a fabulous catering duo, one half of which is a lovely friend of mine and goes to my church. Last Sunday they catered the post-church evening meal and made colourful cupcakes. I was in a high state of anticipation having spotted a tweet from them earlier in the day mentioning the cupcakes, not to mention the fact that I’ve seen plenty of photographic evidence but never sampled them. I was not disappointed. 
Thing was, while I took photos of my cupcake, there was such a diverse range of designs that I couldn’t help wanting to document as many as possible. Having a friend serving behind the counter meant I was able to sneak some shots of the cake stand, but otherwise I sidled up to friends and borrowed their plates before consumption had begun. This inevitably meant explaining what I was doing and it has to be said that several people (male students in particular) did not fully appreciate the art of cupcake photography. 
There are rules when it comes to taking photos of cupcakes (well, in my world there are) – once looking down from above, once from the side and occasionally one minus the cupcake case: 

That top one (which was mine) was a gorgeous cake, by the way – divine chocolate sponge and not excessively frosted. Later in the evening I sampled a similarly lovely lemon sponge (with yellow icing) which had luckily stayed intact during the cupcake stampede. Yes, ‘cupcake stampede’. When it was announced that the leftover cakes would be free, there was a mad dash to the table (I did not participate in this – it was mostly men) which sent the cake stand and cakes flying. Mills said she wished I’d filmed it – so do I. 
Also, Sunday saw the creation of an interesting bit of cupcake sign-language. Friend, regular blog reader and server in the church cafe came to find me at the start of the service to let me know that cupcakes were being served (he also wanted to point out that the first song was the song I mentioned loathing last week). The music was loud (because the band were rocking out to Jesus Saves) and he felt gesturing would help get his message across. Thing is, I can’t help feeling that cupping both his hands in front of his chest was the most appropriate way to do this… 
My only regret about the cupcake extravaganza is that the lighting wasn’t great and the location not super exciting, meaning the photos I took weren’t the best. My latest hobby is taking excellent cupcakes to interesting locations: 
A Hummingbird Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcake visits the Natural History Museum and the V&A

Do not pass this Friday Fun by

Firstly, it’s Friday, take a deep breath and repeat to yourself “the weekend is nearly here, the weekend is nearly here”. If that doesn’t calm you down, watch this – repeatedly – and all will be serene:

If your week’s been rather stressful (for example, last night saw me actually yelling at an e-mail), or you have a tendency to make an idiot of yourself on a night out, just remind yourself that there chances are it won’t be as embarrassing an experience as Dominc Cooper & Rosamund Pike had at the BAFTA’s on Sunday…

Thanks to church, I missed the entire BAFTA experience, which is sad – I just wish I knew someone with Sky who’d be up for watching the Oscars next weekend. Yes, it means staying up on a Sunday night which isn’t particular sensible and yes, they’re not really all they’re cracked up to be, but I do love a good awards ceremony. My sister and I share a rather morbid affection for the ‘people who died this year’ segment, without fail surprised that someone’s death had passed us by and that someone we thought long-dead had only actually passed away in the last year.

As it’s Friday, you’ll also be in need of a musical gem (which does not, for once, refer to a ‘musical’) that has rhythm, gospel harmonies and rap. Oh, and God – he’s important, right? This was played – quite out of the blue and to my immense delight – by Chris Moyles on Radio 1 this Tuesday. I danced around my room like a mad thing and was gleefully happy for a good hour or so afterwards:

You might be surprised to hear that I know all the words to this – including the rap – plus harmonies and appropriate choreography (or inappropriate at moments). All thanks to my years in a Christian youth choir with a diverse repertoire for which I’m immensely thankful. In fact, this song was particularly special as our version segued into Amy Grant’s That’s What Love is For – goodness only knows why, but it was widely regarded as a favourite.

With all these gems (and I use the term loosely), you may be interested in thanking me. If that’s the case, don’t leave me a comment – send me a card, this card to be precise:

Oh, and don’t forget Tom Hanks is a Lot of Animals

The Double F (Friday Fun – what else could it mean?)

This week’s fun is entirely derived from one, recently discovered, website – a website that caters more for women than for men. The Hairpin is a similar format to Gizmodo (though not quite so nerdy and sadly lacks a reporter called Jesus), pulling together articles from all over the place, as well as their own. It should be mentioned that some of the articles are NFW (Not For Work) – I inadvertently ended up at a rather risqué Marie Claire article that would be fine in a magazine being read on a train, but not so good on my screen at work while eating soup. Just exercise some caution and you’ll be fine. (Oh, and just because an article begins by mentioning Barbies, doesn’t mean it’s going to be sweet and innocent…)

Comedy gems discovered so far include:
The spotting of a ‘catpack’ – a backpack for cats (i.e. you put them in one, not on them) in the wild. [No, I’m not including the photo, you’re going to have to click through…]
Graphs illustrating the similarity of ex-boyfriends to our fathers and how much women want to be told they’re like their mothers. I love a good graph. [Is this a good time to mention that in the last couple of years I’ve noticed that I’m increasingly drawn to beardy men? Those that know my father will understand why this bothers me.]
An article outlining where the characters of The Babysitters’ Club are, now that they’re 37. (This is rather niche, even I didn’t read the books that avidly, but I was intrigued and I somehow suspect that at least one reader of this was a big fan.)
An explanation of how putting a bag on your head can aid the deep conditioning of your hair.

However, what has most intrigued me has been a series of articles on bras – oh yes, we’re entering that territory again. For the first time I’ve realised that there is quite a difference between the US and UK lingerie markets. We even have different sizes – stateside, they go A, B, C, D, DD and then DDD, DDDD, DDDDD…how ridiculous is that? Counting the number of D’s on a label? No thank-you ma’am.

The differences first came to light in an article where the prevalence of t-shirt bras was bemoaned. (For the uninitiated – male readers – t-shirt bras include foam padding so that nothing sticks out, if you get my drift.) Such items are fine for those at the lower end of the cup spectrum, but beyond a D it’s quite unlikely that many ladies would want an extra layer of padding. Reading through the comments it emerged that the more blessed of American women were far worse off than their British counterparts, seemingly struggling to acquire decent underwear, especially foam-free bras.

Yesterday saw a follow-up article, advising well-endowed Americans on where to buy the best underwear and strategies with which to deal with what God had blessed them with. Honestly, until I read this woman raving about M&S and Bravissimo, I had no idea just how lucky we were. When describing particular brands available, she compares Fantasie with Freya as follows, in what I feel is a beautiful piece of prose:

Not only do they have a perfectly feminine, sexy, and lacy regular line (with a few beige-foam concessions for those who hate joy), they also have a junior line, named Freya, which is totally the morally compromised Skipper to Fantasie’s proper-but-smokin’ Barbie.

At this moment I wonder if it’s appropriate to mention that I own a couple of Freya bras? Actually, if we’re talking about appropriate, you know what isn’t? A friend looking at you, asking if your cleavage has shrunk, cupping your assets to check and then demanding to know your bra size – all while stood at the bar in a pub! [True story – last Sunday – it ended with me indignantly exclaiming “I’m a 34xx!” and then realising just how many men were stood within earshot.] Some people – well this person – really have no qualms regarding such behaviour, as several people reading this will be able to testify to.

So, in conclusion The Hairpin is a wonderful find and could keep you occupied all afternoon if you’re in need of displacement. Additionally, if you’re above a D cup and British – don’t move to America (or, if you do, stock up on underwear before you go); if you’re American, come to London and spend a day at Oxford Circus Bravissimo – you will never regret it. Finally, stay away from friends who think grabbing bits of your body in public (or actually, anywhere) is acceptable.