Sunday, 27 October 2013

Guilty Gigs

At some unknown point in my adult life, films became a priority over music. So many albums and films are released constantly that keeping up with all of them is a daunting and virtually impossible task. I used to be a huge gig-goer and as a teen, I'm ashamed to admit I used to be a bit of an autograph collector, regularly frequenting Tunbridge Well's Forum where I saw bands like Feeder before they “made it”.

Through University, my annual aim was three festivals a year and plenty of gigs in between. It's very hard to pinpoint when all of this changed; these days I'm averaging a weekly trip to the cinema but rarely even listen to albums or music, even on the radio. I was encouraged to stop buying CDs some time ago as living in a flat, I have limited space and I'm a bit of a hoarder - my tape collection is still in storage tucked away in a hard-to-reach spot at my parents' house.

The arrival of Spotify virtually removed the need to ever purchase an album, leaving me to guiltily watch my first gig in some time this week. I've wanted to see My Vitriol for years – they're one of the few bands on my “must see” list that are still going – albeit, only just. They've only recorded two albums (although they're technically referred to as one re-packaged double album) and new material hasn't been released since 2002. They've toured since then and the timing of my world travels meant I missed them playing London by a few weeks.

Going to see them in Manchester, I was almost expecting a cancellation so was delighted to see them on stage. They rocked, despite the normal irritating sound troubles that result in vocals being far too faint. The support act Bleech had an appealing 90s' sound, tempting me to purchase their CD. Checking out the merchandise stall, I discovered it would set me back a crisp £10 note. Umming and ahhing, I was soon put straight by The Boy who instructed me to test them out on Youtube first.

Thinking back to days of old, I felt enormously guilty. Back in my youth, I'd think nothing of buying a CD of a random and would have been prancing around, sweating profusely and grinning inanely, like some of the marginally younger crowd members in Gorilla. I, instead, watched from afar, leaning against the side wall, clutching a weighty trench coat, sweating not from exertion but from the sheer weight of my coat and workload in my rucksack I'd had to complete on the train journey to Manchester. Oh, how times have changed!

Returning home, I felt all the more guilty to discover the album I'd contemplated buying was indeed on Spotify in its entirety. I wonder, if Spotify didn't exist, would I still be buying the odd CD? Is my new mentality to blame or is technology?

Monday, 21 October 2013

Returning To The Nineties

As I approach the terrifying age of 34, I've regressed twenty years and just had my second brace fitted. Back in 1992 I had train tracks glued onto the top and bottom of my exceedingly gappy enormous bolder-sized rabbit teeth. Two years later when my teeth were deemed corrected, I remember the strange sensation of running my tongue over smooth enamel, falsely believing I'd never have to wear a brace again.

Fast-forward eighteen years and my rather stubborn teeth suddenly decided to re-wonk themselves, despite the metal bar still glued behind them. Having already been through the delights of having a brace once before, I've always been over-protective about my teeth, even giving up smoking when I thought it was affecting my gums. Seeing my teeth re-goofying themselves really annoyed me and I've been contemplating re-arming them once again for some time.

Temporarily working in my last school, I came across two teachers preparing for their weddings by getting braces and one of my best friends has also since strapped up. Finally finding an orthodontist that was marginally more reasonably priced, I did the deed two weeks today and I'm already counting down the days until its removal: five and a half months remaining if all goes well....

Having it fitted was an odd sensation. Wearing science lab style perspex safety specs, my mouth was held open by something the orthodontist described as like a scuba mask, ensuring my teeth remained dry while the tracks were glued. My mouth was stretched open for so long, it felt numb like I'd been administered an anaesthetic.

Once the metal bar behind my teeth and the rubbery mouth jack were removed, all feeling instantly returned and I had the odd sensation of being able to feel the smooth surface of the back of my teeth for the first time in two decades. The brace itself was rather more discreet than the silver grey of the nineties, easier to clean and as I've already had four adult teeth removed and been through it all once before, the entire experience less traumatic.

The first few days after I'd armoured up, my gums were tender and eating exceedingly messy. In addition to my beloved chewing gum, I'd been advised to avoid curries or foods with tomato sauces and was really starting to feel rather sorry for myself. Without walking around with teeth caked in food, snacking was out. My morning routine included packing a toothbrush for work and toothpaste/mouthwash now have their own special place in my classroom. Water is a necessity with every meal in order to attempt to swill out trapped foods. Without being melodramatic, it is safe to safe my life has changed considerably. How much so, only time will tell over the coming weeks...

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Grand Wish List

Living with a Grand Designs fanatic, I feel well-acquainted with Kevin McCloud. As the show's exhibition recently came up on Groupon it seemed stupid not to make the most of the deal. I've never been to an Ideal Homes exhibition and was pleasantly surprised by the day, initially expecting very little.

On arriving, there was a ten minute walk between the car park and the show before we were pointlessly ushered in a loop back to the start where the entrance was situated. The show was split into four main areas: Garden, Interiors, Building and Kitchen/Bathroom with smaller food and design sections.

The Garden area and mini design/food sections were all personal favourites with some pretty innovative designs tempting my credit card. We made one preposterous purchase that I shall reveal in due course when funding permits its delivery. In the meantime here are some clever designs I rather like and have added to my lottery wish list:

An outdoor dining/sleeping pod, costing around five thousand.

A children's rocking horse made of recycled tyres.

Amazing walls clocks and furnishings made from plane parts.

A Dali style grandfather clock, costing well over ten thousand.

A six person outdoor sauna.

Another custom made Dali style clock, costing around thirty thousand this time!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Bus Belter

 “Is this a singing bus?” he optimistically asks our driver. I've already experienced the school gates being locked, prompting an annoying detour to get to the bus stop, Since arriving at my departure point I've just missed a bus and two scheduled have been “Out Of Service,” so at this point, I'm pretty keen to get home.

There are three of us on the bus and the driver. The rather eccentric elderly gentleman who's keen to sing his heart out, is having a chat with the driver as we await for our departure time:

“But is this a singing bus?” he continues to gauge. The driver unsurprisingly insists he's never known a bus purely dedicated to “singing”, despite our gents apparent certainty that the “Halton Moor” bus is indeed a “singing bus”. Stories of the old Headingley route and rare occasions of whole bus performances of “Bohemian Rhapsody” are regaled as the driver continues to politely humour said gentleman.

It is not long before he's turned to face us unsuspecting three. We're desperately trying to keep to ourselves while trying not to appear too interested. “Do you mind if I sing?” he asks. The girl at the back texts away pretending to be too busy to hear, the girl in front is deafened by headphones and I nod, dazed from a long day at work, attempting to keep the peace.

He very seriously belts our, “As Time Goes By” unaccompanied by any musical backing as if auditioning for X Factor's OAP series. He actually boasts a reasonable singing voice and unpainfully completes the entire song, finishing to silence and expectantly looking around as the last note leaves his mouth.

No-one says a word. I'm trying to focus on my paper, attempting to not make it obvious I'm fascinated and amused by the whole spectacle. For the next few minutes, there's an awkward silence while our performer proceeds to sing random verses from a selection of big name tunes. As the bus fills and gradually proceeds towards my destination, the whole incident fades and soon I'm the only one still inwardly chuckling at the musical interlude.

An annoying journey was quickly transformed to a memorable story and now I'm tempted to catch the “Halton Moor” bus, if only to discover whether sing-along buses still really exist or whether they are firmly a thing of the past as my bus driver confidently affirms. As random Yorkshire trips are a more recent weekend activity, old Halton may well be on the cards...