Category Archives: Music

Songs for a New World

The future is global, regardless of the whims of the BNP or Donald Trump, or Katie Hopkins (a woman who should genuinely be shot into outer space and left to shrivel up alone). And so, to celebrate this fact, I’ve decided to compile a list of songs I love in languages other than English.

This post may also be fueled by Boyfriend’s obsession with the first track.

Despacito – Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee
This is everyone’s favourite tune at the minute, and I have to say, it’s pretty catchy. Particularly without unnecessary Justin Bieber.

Aicha – Khaled Sahra
My mum used to listen to this when I was younger, and get me to translate the lyrics for her. I have no idea how I did.

Ai Se Eu Te Pego – Michel Teló
Catchy AF (here AF standing for “and forgettable” because I can never remember the name of it and then end up just searching for vowel sounds until I hit the right few)

Adiemus – Karl Jenkins
I’m not sure if this counts, because it isn’t actually in a language – it’s been designed to just sound calming but structured.

Ya Banat – Nancy Ajram
This was played to us in one of my Uni classes, and I don’t know how you can’t love this song, even if just for the video.

Que me quedes tu – Shakira
She had to make an entry on the list somewhere, right? Because she’s the queen of my entire life.

Bonustrack – La Oreja de Van Gogh
Spanish language songs were always likely to dominate this list, because I am biased towards my own language base, and there is something about this song which has always just made me smile.

Major Tom – Peter Schilling
I am historically not a fan of German, because it has too many genders and cases, and LOTS of syllables. But Deutschland 83 and its amazing soundtrack definitely won me over.

Volare – Domenico Modugno
It would be wrong not to recognise Eurovision as the home of all the best music, and Volare just feels like the right choice for peak Eurovision.

Songs to Sing To

I’ve spent all afternoon singing, and I’ve no idea where the song choice came from. I do love a good sing though, so I thought today’s update could be the songs I most like to sing.

*Disclaimer. These are not songs I sing for other people. I will not sing for you. I am not a good singer. Yes, I know I did opera. Still not a singer, still not singing for you.

  1. Fly me to the Moon – Frank Sinatra.
    Who doesn’t love singing swing?
  2. Transatlanticism – Death Cab for Cutie.
    (Who was guessing how long I’d manage before a DCfC song?)
  3. Life in Letters – Lucy Scwartz
    To be honest, this is just a lovely tune.
  4. Angels – All Angels
    I love this version, and I definitely always try to sing all the parts. Also All Angels were just great and I definitely wanted to be them.
  5. Chained to the Rhythm – Katy Perry.
    Because how can you not really?
  6. Don’t Stop Believing – Journey
    HOLD ON TO THAT FEEEEEEEEEEELLINNNN
  7. Ferry Cross the Mersey – Gerry and the Pacemakers
    Or really anything from my mum’s 60s album. But mostly this.
  8. Eliza’s Aria – Elena Katz-Chernin
    The most fun piece of bank advert music ever.
  9. Swing Life Away – Rise Against
    I can’t help my age, ok.
  10. Don’t Cry for Me Argentina – Evita
    One of these at least was going to be a musical, and if we’re talking about a slow build and fantastic finale (which we are, obviously) then nothing comes close to this.

Geek/Nerd

Boyfriend and I had a discussion about this the other day, essentially along the following lines. What is the difference between a geek and a nerd, and are we one or the other or both?

The answer is, I’m definitely both, and he’s probably only a geek. This is using my personal definition, and also the definition provided by the internet which states;

There is a difference between geeks and nerds.

Nerds are smart, people who lack much of a social life. They often have very few friends. Nerds don’t talk much, and don’t expect others to talk much to them. They are usually nice people, but don’t have the social skills to go out and meet new friends.

Geeks are different from nerds in the fact that they have social lives. However, these social lives are often spent pursuing some passion that the geek is obsessed with (i.e. Yu-Gi-Oh!). They spend all their time thinking about their one obsession, and play it in all of their free time. Geeks are usually only friends with other geeks, and attempts to converse with geeks is futile, unless, of course, you want to talk about Star Trek or whatever the certain geek is obsessed with.*

My definition is more that nerds are analogue, and geeks are digital. But I’ll take both.

Today, I met up with a friend from many many years ago (pre-blog era, so I mean, AGES AGO) and decided that I am well and truly both a geek and a nerd.

Evidence for this. My friend is internet famous and I think that’s really cool. Apparently, I’m the only person who has said this to him, though I’m presuming he means in real life and out-loud (because the whole point of being internet famous is really not to be real life).

I think it’s cool, because I’m a geek, by my own definition. I love digital, and people who digital well, and understand technology and make it do cool things. The furthest I might go is a blog, but guys, at least that’s something. I also like games, which seems to lead to automatic geek status (unless those games are football games, which don’t count).

Boyfriend is a geek because this is our crossover. We play games together, and watch videos of people playing games, and he tells me about coding and I’m genuinely interested. He’s also a geek by the internet definition, because he has friends who are also interested in games, as well as friends who are interested in Astrophysics (his other geek subject of choice)

Here’s where my nerd thing comes in. My interests are very diverse, and I can practically see Boyfriend’s brain switching off once the topic moves away from geekery and into nerdery. And because I’m a bit of a nerd, I don’t talk to as many people because of my lacking social skills (see internet definition above).

I’m nerdy about all kinds of things. I’m a language nerd, a governance nerd, a theatre nerd, a fantasy nerd. In terms of fulfilling the stereotype, I’m there, with bells on. I’m also initially shy on any of those topics, until it becomes clear that I should share absolutely everything I know about Celtic mythology, or whatever the topic is. Once that happens, I imagine I light up like some kind of insane ball of energy, and unleash fact after fact until someone calms me down or I tire myself out. Being a nerd is a definite lifestyle choice.

All of my conversations with my friend today were geeky or nerdy, and it was pretty wonderful to remember there are people out there who are as far down those roads (maybe) as I am. We ended the day sitting in a park, and it was really as if the 9 years since we last really saw each other just hadn’t happened. Here’s to more geekery and nerdery and friends.


*Side note: When did Urban Dictionary stop being full of offensive definitions of my name and become all about actually useful definitions? I don’t like this new modern world.


**Second side note, not referenced at all in the text above (I’m bad at this). I’ve spent all day with this in my head, which I think was popular when me and my friend were friends previously (shut up, I know what I’m saying).

You’re welcome.

Opera and other drugs

This season at Opera North is a season of fantastic fairy tales. So far I’ve seen the Snow Maiden and Hansel and Gretel, and I have Cinderella to go, next Tuesday.

Let’s be clear though. Opera can be a bit insane. It’s innate to the art form, because everything is repeated a hundred times for clarity (but ever so slightly different musical inflection), and there has to be awkward exposition all over the place and eventually it just gets a bit clunky all round.

Also, fairy tales are insane. Have you ever read an original version of a fairy tale? I totally encourage it. They are full of gristle and cruelty and really terrible lessons for young children. You can imagine that combining them with opera is spectacular at the best of times.

Spectacular is not, however, what I’d call this season at Opera North. The music is stunning, as is the singing, and the costume. And the set. And the clever uses of different effects. It’s all great really, except for one thing. The direction. Because the direction is totally barmy, and no-one needs that when the combination of opera and fairy tale is on the edge as it is. Watching the shows is what I imagine being on drugs feels like – plot-lines which suddenly unwind themselves because they are trying to be too clever, while the rest of the show assaults your senses.

In other news I’m ill (again). So more drugs for me, mostly in the form of Benylin.

Cheese and Musicals

Today I made ricotta, and I’m very proud. It looks horrible, but I have great hopes for once it has sat for a while in its little basket.

I have been in a bit of a slump over the summer, creatively. I had that weekend where I made a blanket and two cushions and a collage of Leeds (ish), and I optimistically resolved myself to doing more creative things. Naturally I then followed this up with very little.

The last couple of weeks have changed that somewhat, with the return of our work Baking League and a spontaneous candle-making session a few weekends ago. Here are some of my recent achievements:

breakfast cake candles cheese cupcake cupcakes

As ever, my achievements are largely food-based.

I call this post cheese and musicals, because as I write I’m catching up on Elaine Paige on Sunday, and it feels like the time of year to remind everyone that musicals exist. Going into a new term means new student theatre (a continued high-point of my life), a new season at Opera North, and generally lots of musical fun. To capitalise on this I bought some “light up fountain speakers” yesterday, which are already a fantastic purchase. Very little can improve on Elaine Paige’s laugh, but watching a fountain chuckle is an improvement.

Blast from the Past

I can’t believe I’ve not named a post this before, but hey ho. I’ve been meaning to share this for a while, but haven’t found the ideal moment, and I decided that a sleepy Saturday would be about right.

A few months ago while I was visiting my parents,  my Mum asked me to clear some stuff out. I found lots of weird things from when I was a kid, but two of the great things I found, were these –

CDs

I present two CDs which I think I probably paid actual money for at the time. The top one is a combination of tracks recorded in the upstairs room of the youth club where I used to volunteer and generally spend my life.

The bottom one is by one of the many incarnations of my friends all being in a band. I never made it into the band (mostly because I can’t play any instruments properly, and can only sing like a mildly tone-deaf choirgirl) and therefore was the biggest fangirl that they had. I remember spending hours listening to what I now recognise were some of the most teen-angst filled songs EVER, and helping move amps and set up drumkits. There was definitely a while where I even knew how to mic up a drumkit, though that skill now eludes me (and I’m probably glad).

Isn’t teenagedom weird and amazing?

Sewing for the Soul

I love sewing. I like to think I’m ok at it, but I’m certainly not good. The thing I like most about sewing though is that I don’t really need to be any good, because I’m either making costumes, which only need to look good from a distance, and need to fit a wide variety of people, and probably need to be sewn together in the box office on opening night. Or, I’m making nick-nacky crafty things for round my house, which don’t need to be “good” per se.

For months now I’ve been working on a huge project to convert my various show hoodies, collected over 7 years at university, into a warm enormous patchwork blanket. I’ve meticulously sliced them all up, arranged them with the most important ones in the middle, edged it with silk ribbon, and backed the whole thing with purple fleece (purple being the brand colour of the Union, me being tacky).

I was lucky enough to be gifted a couple of huge cushion pads as well, by a friend who had no real use for them, which was fantastic because it’s allowed me to use the fronts of the hoodies as well, in another patchwork design (this one primarily of my name, how egocentric). The second I  covered in a lovely piece of aubergine cotton, and finished with some wooden buttons which I bought today.

It’s been a lovely project, and I’m super-pleased with the results, because things like this are so much nicer  when they are full of meaning and sentiment.

crafts

Plans

The first thing I noticed when I started this post is that I’ve already written something called “Plans”, so I went back and looked at that. It’s funny, and tiny, and completely different to what I’m about to write, so hold onto your hats, kids.

I’m a Death Cab for Cutie obsessive, and my favourite album is “Plans”. It is made up of some of the most heartfelt, horrible, inspirational music I’ve ever listened to. The song below isn’t one of my favourites, but it does have two really valuable sentiments. Fair warning: don’t listen to it if you’re sad. It’s a very sad song.

Let’s start at the beginning, with this line:

“It came to me then, that every plan..
..is a tiny prayer to Father Time”

I need plans. I have been an anxious person my whole life, and I struggle to cope with uncertainty in any form. My life revolves around structure, organisation, and a knowledge of what is coming tomorrow. When I don’t have that (and I don’t, more and more regularly) I find myself stressed, confused, and at odds with my own emotions (which mostly suggest that if I hide somewhere for a while and don’t talk to anyone, the world will eventually begin to make sense again. Spoiler alert: that totally doesn’t work).

Something that helps me with that is writing this blog. It’s a nice, controlled space, and a way to process thoughts, feelings, and reactions to my life and make sense of them. But I’m also coming to realise that uncertainty is a part of everything, and that just because you make plans, doesn’t mean that forces beyond your control won’t change them…see the above quote. All of my plans are just tiny prayers, and seeing them like that makes them feel a lot less important, which I think is a good thing. It means it’s ok if they don’t quite pan out.

This all in mind, here are a few plans which I’m praying might happen (but which I’m not going to beat myself up for if other bits of life get in the way)

  • I plan to finish my hoodie blanket, and post about it here
  • I plan to create myself some new desk art
  • I plan to bake more often, and I plan that the baking will be good
  • I plan to finally make myself a dress out of the word fabric I’ve been hoarding since Into The Woods
  • I plan to smile at least once every single day
  • I plan to go to the theatre as often as possible, and watch things I’ve never seen before

I said before that “What Sarah Said” has two sentiments I really value. A first listen to Plans can feel quite disheartening, if you’re in that mood, but so much of what they sing can have a positive spin, just like the quote above. The second one comes at the end of the song, and it’s where the title is pulled from:

“I’m thinking of what Sarah said..
..love is watching someone die”

For a lot of the people who commented on the video, this is the line which tugged at their heartstrings. I can’t even begin to imagine what it feels like to watch a loved one die.

But.

As an anxious person, one of the things which often happens is that I nervously convince myself that everyone hates me, and that I’m a horrible burden. But what I know to be true is that I’m not at all, and that I have people in my life who love me enough that no matter how terrible everything gets (and I’m lucky, because it’s really never even been close to terrible) they’ll always be right there. So..

  • I plan to fully appreciate all of the wonderful people in my life, and spend lots of time with them and show them how much I value them all.

 

(PS. I know this seems like it’s coming from a super sad place, but it’s really not. I have the CD of Plans in my car, and I listen to it non-stop. I’m constantly finding silver linings and consoling messages in the lyrics and I absolutely urge literally everyone to listen to it, because it’s just great)

Regression Therapy and Contemporary Music

I realised I’ve not done a “what I’m listening to” post in a while, and it turns out that my musical remedy to being 25 and having finished my Masters is to go back to listening to all the stuff I listened to when I was 15 (which was 10 entire years ago. 10. TEN).

So, stuff I’m listening to now I’m a grown up:

Like Toy Soldiers – Eminem

Coin-Operated Boy – The Dresden Dolls

Swing Life Away – Rise Against

Praise You In This Storm – Casting Crowns

Make You Smile – +44

Glory Box – Portishead

She Looks To Me – Red Hot Chilli Peppers

Que me quedes tu – Shakira

Better – Regina Spektor

Starlight – Muse

Swing Swing – The All American Rejects

Wires – Athlete

Someday You Will Be Loved – Death Cab for Cutie

Before the Dawn – Evanescence

How To Save A Life –  The Fray

(Having actually searched for the links to each of these, I’m amazed by how accurate I was in guessing they came out when I was around 15. With one notable exception)

For Geoff

This post is for Geoff. He is my grandfather, and today he is the magnificent age of 94.

Geoff is my grandfather, but I’ve never really called him Grandad, or Grandpa or anything like that. When I was younger he and my grandmother Jeannine told me they didn’t like being called that because it made them feel old. Now I’m a bit older myself I understand what they meant. These are two of the people with the youngest souls I know. I feel privileged that for 24 of my grandfather’s 94 years on Earth, I’ve been able to be part of his fantastic life.

When I was little I remember hiding behind the back of his chair in the sitting room of their house. He always kept a bowl of sweets on the table between him and my grandmother, with squares of dark chocolate, Rowtrees Fruit Pastels and liquorice allsorts. At the time I didn’t like dark chocolate, and I still don’t have a taste for liquorice, but Iove Fruit Pastels, and I used to steal them and then run giggling to behind the settee and eat them there. For years afterwards I bought him them as presents.

I also remember sitting at my grandparents house and eating tutti frutti ice cream. I don’t even know if it exists any more, but I used to go with Geoff to Somerfield whenever we visited and that was one of the staple things we’d buy. Half the time he’d completely forget his wallet and then I’d end up running to the car to fetch it for him as we were at the checkout. I remember one of the members of staff there eyeballing me oddly as I wandered out, aged about 8 with a set of car keys and a determined face.

The best thing about seeing Geoff is always his stories. He has had a tremendous life, and the way he paints a picture of his memories is something I’m sure all of my cousins look forward to as much as I do. He grew up in Cambridge, fought in the Second World War, married a wonderful French woman, got his degree from Cambridge University (by way of various scrapes and running tours of the city), and then travelled the whole world, with my Dad growing up in Borneo and the whole family remembering ridiculous car trips across practically the entire Asian continent.

His stories about Borneo are always the best stories. Just like any story, they morph slightly every time I hear them, and I’m not sure if I’m misremembering the last time or if Geoff is telling them differently. Regardless they are always full of detail and colour, and usually something silly or embarrassing that my Dad or Aunties did once upon a time when they were kids. I’m sure his infectious enthusiasm for the time he has spent abroad is part of the reason I have always been so fascinated with the wider world and it’s cultures. He’s certainly had a bit part to play in my love of languages – he was a teacher at my upper school years before I started there, teaching French and Spanish, and his degree was in Classics.

Another thing I think I’ve taken from Geoff is my love of singing. His father was a top amateur opera singer and performed some of the shows I’ve recently been involved in about 100 years ago. Geoff caught that musical gene and passed it on to all his children and grandchildren (and probably great-grandchildren, though I’m not sure we really know about that yet). I remember him and my Dad singing loudly at each other around the dining table, funny folk songs and whimsical little rhymes. He’s always been keenly interested in what I’m doing theatrically, and on my last visit, despite his ill health, sang me some of the lines he remembers from HMS Pinafore, which he performed when he was younger.

Finally, he is absolutely the driving force behind my desire to achieve academically. When I applied to Cambridge I applied because it was where he had studied. Every time I visit without fail he asks me what I am doing, tells me some new interesting word or fact which he has picked up, and we have meaningful discussions about politics, economics, and language. At times discussions with him become rowdy and he has absolutely never been one to shy from an argument (particularly at large family gatherings, and particularly with my Dad and his sisters). But every discussion is intelligent and provocative.

Essentially what I am trying to say is that my grandfather is one of the most fantastic of people. His energy and passion for life is something I’m sure my entire family would say is a key part of how we’ve all grown up.

Happy Birthday Geoff.

famalam