Try- Dry- Veg-

In the style of Only Connect (which I’ve recently begun catching up on, and Victoria Coren-Mitchell is just ever so fabulous), my post title today is a guess-the-connection challenge.

A fairly poor challenge, given I’m about to explain, but let’s ignore that for a second.

The context is -anuary. Or, January. As in, first month of the year (according to the Gregorian calendar), everyone is sad, everything is cold, and we all have to do work we’d forgotten existed for a brief time over the festive period.

How do we solve the January Blues you ask?

We create ridiculous challenges for ourselves, and give them silly nicknames, that’s what. Following on the heels of Steptember, Stoptober, and Movember, welcome to a whole series of bizarre things you can do in January. To caveat this post, I’m not doing any of these things – not for the entire month at least.

  1. Veganuary
    Ok, so I’ve gotten a bit involved in this already, accidentally. By having vegan friends. And by wanting to annoy the anti-vegan-sausage-roll-brigade because honestly, that just feels like fun. So far I’ve had vegan chili chips, and vegan mac n cheese, and I’ve not hated either
  2. Dry January
    I have donated to other people doing this. I have had a number of days where I haven’t had an alcoholic drink. But honestly, it’s just not that huge of a challenge for me since I don’t drink that much anyway, and why do a challenge that’s not a challenge?
  3. Tryanuary
    In an unexpected reversal of fortunes, I’ve started to see things around about ‘tryanuary’ which is where you spend this month trying new beer. Which honestly is probably more my speed, if only because the pub is probably warmer than my freezing house
  4. RED January
    Wear red in January for mental health. Not a terrible idea. Except that I don’t want to wear aggressive colours right now. I want to wear black, and possibly occasionally grey. I am all about improving mental health, but I honestly think people wearing red around me would be negative at this point
  5. Manuary
    In what I consider to be a slightly poor PR exercise, Manuary encourages you to grow a beard to raise funds for head and neck cancer. In Canada. In 2017. Which probably shows that I was surprised at how few January-themed “punths” there actually are.
  6. Janu-hairy
    Listen, you’re being silly now

So, I’m not subscribed to any of the above. It’s all a bit much for me, and I feel like launching Elevensanuary, which is where you’re only expected to be places by 11am, because the world hasn’t woken up before then. I think it’ll catch on.

525,948.766 Minutes

In 2011 I posted a different story with the title 525,600 minutes – in which I found that the song is incorrect in suggesting that is how one should measure a year.

This year, I have decided to measure my year in shows I have seen or participated in, because I figured it was probably a lot. But honestly, I feel like I’ve been writing for hours now, which I think shows that I potentially spend too much money on this stuff.

January
Aladdin – my first LIDOS experience, trying to shift book flats 3 times my height
February
Hello Dolly – supporting the MD, at the Alhambra
Rent – honestly, I only stayed for half
Marriage of Figaro – OperaSoc (who nailed it)
Madame Butterfly – Opera North
Un Ballo In Maschera – Also Opera North
March
Don Giovanni – I really like Opera North (also I got the keys to my house on this day, and my wonderful friend Lorna was the lead, it was amazing)
All Shook Up – Probably the best student show I saw this year
The Mikado – I helped build the set for this Leeds G&S production
The Pirates – Northern Opera Group resurrected this little-known show with a wonderful community cast
April
Salome – Dramatic and in the town hall
The Rileys – (it counts)
May
Orpheus in the Underworld – Another fab outing from OperaSoc, reminding us that #rushtonmustplaybass
My Favorite Murder live – My fave American story ladies told stories about murders and it was great
Hamilton – I HAVE NO WORDS
June
The Wedding Singer – high points of being in this show included being a hideous bridesmaid and “dancing in a club”
Guys and Dolls – more supporting of friends in their excellent ventures
July
Leeds Haydn Players – more friends, awesome music
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – watched this live-streamed to the cinema. Didn’t love the plot, but the set was AMAZING
August
Macbeth – visited good friends in York for an adventure to Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre
The Original Chinese Conjurer – part of the Left Bank Opera Festival, and I was lucky enough to host one of the cast
La Princesse Jaune – another Left Bank Opera show
Calcutta – the final Left Bank Opera show, by the fabulous ensemble Tempus Fugit
September
Joel Dommett – he made jokes about the theatre I built, but I liked him anyway
Sister Act – more talented friends, this time more than one in the same show
October
The Merry Widow – back to Opera North
Light Night – Leeds’ annual festival of light installations (worse in the rain)
Tosca – Opera North, but with the most insane set on Earth
Matilda – horribly talented children
The Dresden Dolls – one of the best gigs I have ever been to, or will ever go to
November
Left Bank Choir Festival – singing pretty music with a number of choirs from the city
Chicago – more talented friends (it’s actually quite sickening how many talented people I know)
Urinetown – comedy from LUUMT
West Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra – more talented friends (plus fun locations and great music)
December
In The Heights – I only saw the tech run of this, and it was still incredible
Six – History meets Little Mix. I bought the album
Ross Noble – He says a lot of words, and most of them are funny, and many of them are chihuahua
LVM Winter Concert – The best thing I’ve done this year. Watch the video below. For serious.
Shrek the Musical – Birthday theatre to top off the year

I don’t “do” new years’ resolutions, but if I can continue the trend above next year, I think I’ll be pretty happy. I already have my eye on a number of upcoming community shows as usual, and I’m starting my year with another panto (Snow White & the 7 Dwarfs, come!)

Also next year I’ll try and write more. Maybe. Probably.

See you in 2019!

The Heart of Art

The two things I love the most in the world are the arts, and community arts.

The arts I love because they are the thing which makes us humans so unique. We create beautiful, thought-provoking, subversive things and then we share them with other people and that makes them happy, or widens their perspective, or teaches them something. And we do it out of sheer brainpower diverted into a huge range of creative pursuits.

I firmly believe art is one of the most significant things we contribute to the universe, and the fact that our government continues to devalue it, as does the world in general, is so painful to watch.

But that’s where my second favourite thing comes in, which is community arts. Because what is more pure than taking the arts, and making them for everyone. I worry that we will never reach a place where artists and their skill are truly valued (we still constantly offer people “exposure” or “experience” instead of “money” in the arts) but the beauty of community arts is that those of us who know the arts will never be our profession can still get involved. Singing, dancing, pottery or poetry, there are more and more community-led opportunities springing up than ever before.

Community arts, and community in general, is really important to me, because as our world declines into political chaos, there is less and less hope of the government ensuring that arts are any kind of priority (or welfare provision, or equality and inclusion, or really anything we care about and actually value, but whatever. Y’all wanna go spend our money on missiles, FINE. We’ll sort out our own stuff). So we have to do it ourselves. We have to create space and opportunities which allow everyone to get involved and access creativity which broadens their horizons.

There’s only one way it works though, and that’s if everyone gets on board. So, here’s the deal. If you have a concert, a show, a display or a workshop, let me know, and I will do my best to come. If you run a raffle or a fundraiser, I’ll buy tickets or buy in. And in return, you have to do the same with every opportunity you see.

Community arts is thriving, but it needs the community to be fully behind it if that is going to continue. We need an audience, we need participants, and we need supporters.

No room in frame (a #metoo story)

I’ve been listening to a great podcast called Invisibilia. It’s all about the things which inherently connect us, but we never really think about or see, and it’s totally fascinating (aside from being well researched and produced, which is always a plus).

The episode I listened to on my walk to work today was about individual frame of reference, and how important it is to how we see and process the world around us, and after a couple of other conversations today, it has really struck a chord. The first section focused on a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, and their realisations about their perceptions of the world vs the perceptions of those around them.

It got me thinking, because while I don’t have Asperger’s, I know I process the world differently from other people. I really struggle to find commonality with my peers, and regularly catch myself thinking of myself as outside of the conversation. These things don’t belong to me, I don’t understand these experiences, they are not for me to engage in, enjoy, bear witness to. It’s not active, or purposeful, it’s just part of my psyche.

And it’s not that I think my experiences are different necessarily, not in a way that is more valuable than someone else’s. It’s the opposite in fact – I feel like I have not had any experiences to the level whereby I can use them to help define myself.

My personal frame of reference is quite broad. I have experienced a range of different socio-economic environments, a range of political viewpoints, an international family and upbringing, and diverse lived experiences. But maybe because of that diversity, I feel like my experience is very shallow. Without meaning to be offensive to any readers, I’d say my life has been consistently mediocre and unremarkable.

So, what are you rambling on about then?

Part of what I realised today, is that due to my own perception of the mediocrity of my existence, and my tendency to other myself, I diminish many of my experiences simply because they are diminished within my own frame of reference.

Here’s my example. A number of times in my life, I have been sexually harassed. It’s never been extreme, I’ve never felt fundamentally unsafe, and I’ve never lost control of the situation. I’ve told my harassers what I thought of them, or ignored them, and I’ve moved on with my life. It has not massively bothered me.

I don’t know why it hasn’t bothered me. But there’s something about my personal frame of reference which means that I haven’t reacted to it, other than to say that it wasn’t a big deal, plenty of people have it much worse, I was probably perfectly safe.

And then today I listened to my podcast, and realised that just because I don’t think it’s a big deal, doesn’t mean that someone else will feel the same way. Which is not to say that if you have an experience you are in any way required to disclose that. But if it makes no difference to you, but might make a difference to someone else, then maybe it’s a thing worth considering.

I do not feel like I have a place in the #metoo movement, and writing this post hasn’t changed that. I still feel like my experiences are vastly diminished in comparison with those of many people. But we live in a world where we perpetuate negative activities by pretending they are a one-off, or that they are unimportant, simply because they don’t feature in our personal frame of reference. And our inability to stand in another person’s place and have empathy with them is allowing people like Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh and hundreds of others to get away with unspeakable things.

So you know what, #metoo.

Things I learnt on my holidays

I’ve spent the last week in Northern Ireland, and it has been AMAZING. Other than the Giant’s Causeway I really didn’t know what I wanted to see, but I’m lucky enough to have a best friend with all the right knowledge, and a welcoming family to boot. So I couldn’t have been in better hands.

Here are the things I learnt:

  1. The Giant’s Causeway is totally worth it, but definitely go in a storm so that you can combine fear of being blown into the ocean with actually getting to be the only people on the Causeway.
  2. Northern Ireland is excellently provisioned with public toilets.
  3. If you want my money, just make a fridge magnet of your attraction (I came home with 3)
  4. Potato bread is king of the breakfast potato products.
  5. I can withstand gale-force winds.
  6. Rope bridges are fun.
  7. Safely make it across a rope bridge suspended above the tumultuous waters of the Irish Sea? Easy. Just walk along a promenade without throwing my own face at the floor? Can’t do it mate.
  8. I still know all of the words to “Unsinkable Dream” from the Titanic musical I was in when I was about 12.
  9. All of Northern Ireland is in fact Game of Thrones.

NI

Credit to the lovely Mr Gordon for photos containing me (because we all know I can’t take photos of myself on account of my tiny arms)

Little Wanderer

Bear with me today. I have a cold and my brain feels SO HEAVY rattling around in my skull. I’m not sure if any of my thoughts are going to make any sense, but it’s a while since I shared any regardless, so here goes.

I’ve been listening to Kintsugi (by Death Cab for Cutie, for the uninitiated) on loop for about the last month. And it’s amazing how when you go back to music you hear lyrics differently, or in a new way. I didn’t love their previous album, Codes and Keys, and I think I gave Kintsugi a cursory listen before setting it aside and deciding that I’d only listen to Plans for the rest of my life.

Then I got tickets to see them again in January, and I felt I should catch myself back up. Boy am I glad I did. Your mindset is everything about how you appreciate music, and I appreciate Kintsugi now because I think I have a “kintsugi” mindset. For those who have not yet run to google, let me explain:

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise

And I mean, how great is that. To recognise that everything about our journey is worth displaying, and that patched-up things can still be beautiful, maybe more beautiful than the original version.

The track I’m particularly fixated on is ‘Little Wanderer’, which I maybe didn’t ever make it to on my first listen, or allowed to blend into the background. I have no idea how, because now that I have given it time I’m falling in love. I think that Death Cab construct their tracks perfectly (I’ve always adored ‘Summer Skin’ just for the structure of the piece instrumentally) and Little Wanderer is rapidly climbing to those dizzy heights.

I also love it because it reminds me of travelling, and that’s something which I’ve not done for so long, I’d slightly forgotten the joy of it all. Today I went and watched Mamma Mia 2 (singalong, of course) and that also reminded me of travelling, and seeing the world in technicolour, and finding the things you love, and leaving the things you love behind, and knowing that they’ll still exist even if you’re miles away.

I apologised at the start, because I knew this post would run away with itself, but here’s what I think I’m trying to capture – I’m so proud of all of my experiences, even the ones which left me a little broken and in need of some repair, and I love having cause to look back on all of the things I’ve seen and all the places I’ve seen them. Here’s to making memories and mistakes, and finding the things you love and knowing that you can go back to them.

Secret Boudoir, Ultimate Man Cave, Apocalypse Bunker

If you haven’t watched “Amazing Interiors” on Netflix then I thoroughly recommend it. It has been a long day, but now I get to relax and watch a mad American transform a field of bunkers into luxury survival palaces, while a little Italian man expounds his love of faux-baroque design in totally comical French.

It does remind me, however, that I really need to do something with my house. Not that I haven’t done *things* since I moved in, it’s just I haven’t really got round to many of the fun things. I’ve repaired the roof (or rather a fully qualified team of people repaired my roof), I’ve had wiring checked and amended, and I’ve had meters installed. But that’s not fun.

The next plan is to sort out the kitchen. It needs a couple of coats at least of magnolia or cream, to brighten it up and to cover the greasy hand-marks left by my predecessor’s kids. I’m looking forward to getting my Cinderella poster up on the wall, though the fact that it is 5 and a half years since the show is a bit of a sore point.

Next, I’ll move onto the office, which is currently a very fetching shade of yellow. I haven’t decided yet what to do with it, so all suggestions are welcomed – it just needs to continue to house all of my many things, so I’ll probably be avoiding busy wallpaper and things (though there is one wall which is a contender for Marvel wallpaper – depending on quite how young I’m feeling on the day).

In the meantime though, I’ll keep watching Amazing Interiors and making plans for the madness I can inject into my tiny piece of land – maybe by hiding exciting graffiti behind every door, or painting all of the ceilings gold. The possibilities are endless.

Craft Corner

This week I have been *tired*. I mean it. Today I was basically a zombie at work all day. I can’t tell you a single thing I did (but I can tell you that I definitely did lots of work – hi there any colleagues reading this).

I’ve been that kind of tired where your body just feels a bit too old for your skin. Everything aches, my eyes can’t focus properly, getting off the sofa every evening to go to bed has felt like a trial.

And then, I got home this evening and suddenly had all the energy.

So, I made a pinafore dress out of all the jeans I’ve recently ruined. I ruin jeans fairly often because I have Thighs For Days. I think if I were body-confident and also 10 years younger I’d potentially describe them as thicc. Instead, I’ll just go ahead and describe them as “fairly stocky”. For a tiny little lady, I have quite a lot of thigh, and my cheap high-street jeans just cannot cope.

The big issue with women’s clothing (as we know) is lack of pockets, so I decided I’d make a dress out of all the bits of the jeans which include pockets. I chopped out a number of panels before deciding that really the only pockets I wanted to keep were the back pockets (sensible patch pockets without additional faff, basically). I saved the waistbands to make the straps, because they are already the right shape, and the buttons make for handy fastenings.

Ultimately, it’s not exactly the height of fashion, but it has pockets pockets pockets, and it’s dead comfy.  And having had absolutely no energy all week, I’ll take whatever results I can get.

(Not a professional model, or photographer, just to clarify)

This Sceptred Isle

I am hugely lucky that in my life so far I have traveled a lot, and lived in 3 other countries than the UK. I’m not the most adventurous person, and I do sometimes wish that I’d done more when I was a bit younger (a gap year to Asia, for stereotypical example), but nevertheless I’ve been to about 20 countries so far, across 4 continents.

And yet, as I’m reminded every time I have a break from work, there’s nowhere I love more than the British Isles. I’m currently in Cornwall, for the first time in my life, and I’m totally in love. The thing I’ve realised though is that this isn’t a new feeling – wherever I go in the British Isles (specifically selected language because Ireland is AMAZING) I fall head over heels within seconds.

We’ve been favoured by the weather in the last few days which of course makes a difference, but I can imagine that in the wind and rain it would be equally as beautiful, if  a bit more aggressive. The north Cornish coast is quite stark in many ways, lots of brushland covering the deceptively mobile sand dunes, which until a few years ago routinely buried St Enodoc church, nearby.

The house we are staying in is a modern mansion, not quite the Agatha Christie 30s murder-house I had in mind. Still, you can imagine taking tea with the vicar on the veranda, while Miss* Marple examines the body in the study. It’s honestly like being in a novel.

Yesterday we visited Tintagel castle – those of you who know me will know that I have a massive soft-spot for a castle – and it was absolutely glorious. If I were King Arthur, I’d have picked there for a castle as well, with astonishing views over the rolling ocean, easily defensible from the mainland, and with a cave underneath for the wizard to live in. What more do you need in a castle?

I’m looking forward to a couple more days here, but already resolved that I need to go out in the next few months and see more of Leeds again. Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck into the daily grind, and to forget how wonderful the world is, even just 15 minutes from your front door.

See you for some more #hometowntourism soon basically. You’re welcome.

*had to retrospectively edit this because I initially put Mrs Marple, and I’m so horribly offended by my own errors. I love Christie and I’ve read them all, and it’s definitely Miss Marple, or Jane Marple, or Aunt Jane, and I’m so sorry

Starter Pack

Straight out of 2014 (because I absolutely do not conform to trends/am always quite late to everything because of who I am as a person) I decided it might be fun to create a ‘Sally’ starter pack.

I honestly don’t know why, but it’s Sunday and I’m not really that interested in the football, so you’re welcome.

So now you know how you can get my life in just a few simple steps (which I know is what you’ve all been waiting for, you’re [doubly] welcome)