Tag Archives: music

Dear Future Spouses

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Dear reader, I won’t lie to you.  I have reached The Wedding Age.

TWA is not, thank modern life and all its socially advanced attitudes, a self-inflicted notion of when I should be tying the knot.  I really, really could not give a flying fudge about when “they” (who ARE “they”, anyway?) think that I should be committing my life to a relationship.  It’s actually something that most of us are probably pretty familiar with: the age at which we realise we are spending most of our weekends at idyllic country mansions watching our friends get hitched, whereas we used to spend our weekends watching football, drinking, playing video games or indeed all of the above.

I’m really enjoying TWA so far.  My friends are wonderful people who deserve to be happy, and their weddings are, almost without exception, extremely joyful occasions.  My only qualm with TWA right now is that I am also careering headfirst into the world of bridesmaid duties, travelling long distances in high heels and investing extortionate amounts of money in waterproof mascara.  I am also, heaven help us all, being asked for my opinion on wedding things.  For example, a very close friend of mine recently said that she would like this song to be part of her wedding ceremony:

Now, here is the worrying thing: one of my first thoughts was genuinely “isn’t this song a bit unrealistic?  I mean, isn’t it a bit much to ask men to be nice to us for, like, the rest of our lives?”

Shock, horror and other negative forms of surprise abounded as soon as this thought had formed.  What the hell kind of feminist am I to question what women deserve in their marriages?  What on earth did the Pankhursts fight so hard for, if not women’s essential self-worth?  And for heaven’s sake, why hasn’t someone made a mash up of this song with Olly Murs’ “Dance With Me Tonight”?!

Let’s be honest: no one can be nice the entire time.  It’s not a sustainable way to behave and, even if you could sustain permanent affability, your friends and loved ones would start to suspect that you were a robot sent to spy on them.  No one, male or female, can spend their whole lives being unfailingly kind, understanding and romantic.  Having said that, the message of Meghan Trainor’s jaunty tune is basically a good one: we need to have high standards for ourselves.

Relationships are hard, and being in love can be a very messy business.  But if we want to spend the rest of our lives with another human being, we should a) be honest with them about how we would like to be treated, b) give them realistic expectations of what we are like on bad as well as good days, and c) marry the person who wants to treat us well forever more.

Hey: remember that amazing rom-com about that girl who met a guy who flirted with her a bit, replied to her texts after a few days and was a bit stand-offish with her friends?  And then after some clumsy dates and a few awkward advances they got together, moved in because one of their leases was about to end and the guy proposed when the girl half-jokingly pressured him into it?  And then their marriage petered out into a cordial but essentially passionless co-existence?  No?  Of course you don’t.  That, my dearest and most gorgeous reader, is because really excellent relationships and marriages are formed by people who work as a team and make each other the best that they can be.  They are not formed by people who are desperately trying to navigate the complicated world of mixed messages, passive aggression and emotionally distant game-playing.  People who really want you won’t push you away, and even if your loved one falls short every once in a while, the important thing is that they want to be good enough for you.  Trying to love someone well is better than being eligible for a mortgage application.

I sincerely hope that, if you are planning or hoping to marry one day, your future spouse will treat you the way Meghan Trainor wants to be treated.  More importantly, I hope that they want to.

Have a cracking Sunday evening, team.  Don’t let the end-of-weekend blues get you down.

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10 Lessons Not to Learn from Twilight

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Hello, dear reader.  How’s the world been treating you recently?

We all have guilty pleasures, don’t we?  We watch television shows that we know will not enlighten us, and we listen to music that makes us feel uncool (anyone for a 90s pop binge?).  Among the most worrying of these little weaknesses is my generation’s tendency to watch unrealistic and emotionally demanding romantic films.  Sure, a decent rom-com can be uplifting and life-affirming, but most of these movies are designed to make us believe that if you don’t look like Katherine Heigl then no man will ever be able to look past your character flaws.  Even worse, they make us think that you can be as much of a prat as you like AS LONG as you are physically stunning.

The worst (and most dreadfully acted) of these culprits is the Twilight series.  I freely admit to owning the books and having watched the films, but I’m not proud of that.  In many ways, the series is the definitive guilty pleasure.  You might think that it’s a harmlessly gormless tale of supernatural pretty people, but it’s actually pretty offensive and worrying in the “lessons” that it tries to teach us.  Here are the most disturbing ones:

1) You can be UNBELIEVABLY annoying as a person, breathing in weird places, mumbling and not finishing sentences and boys will find you fascinating.

2) If a guy is pushing you away it is definitely because he loves you TOO much, and/or is trying to save your life.

3) You should always date the most dangerous guy you can find.  If no bloodsucking immortals are available, the nearest mythological beast will do.

4) Get married as soon as possible, without considering a career, travel or further education.  Why bother with anything self-fulfilling when a pretty boy wants you?

5) It is totally ok to string someone along as long as you don’t enjoy hurting them.

6) Everyone you know secretly fancies you.  You literally cannot step out of the front door without heartsick men swooning at your feet.

7) Your boyfriend’s family (and basically everyone else you know) should be regularly required to risk their lives for you, and fight other scary monsters just to save your skin.

8) Never, ever smile. You’ll get wrinkles and your boyfriend will be baffled by your sudden lack of brooding sulkiness.

9) The world revolves around you.

10) Vampires and shit like that are definitely real.

There is nothing wrong with having guilty pleasures as long as we know how to distance ourselves from them.  There is nothing wrong with watching/reading stupid stories like Twilight as long as we ignore pretty much everything they have to say, and pay attention instead to people who say awesome things, like Dave Grohl:

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Have a glorious day, lovely reader.  Maybe get yourself a fancy sandwich for lunch.

Gratitude Attitude

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Happy Friday, you lovely thing!  How’s your week been?

My friend Tamsin recently nominated me for that “list three things you’re grateful for” thingy on Facebook.  While I am whole-heartedly supportive of such a positive, life-affirming use of social media, I am going to cheat and do it my way.  This is for three reasons:

1) I post blogs and articles and silly statuses on Facebook all the time.  If I did this thing properly (i.e. once a day for ten days – thirty things to be grateful for, all told), the message of gratitude would get drowned out by the sound of everyone frantically removing me from their news feeds.
2) I can assimilate the point of this exercise in one bite-sized, easy to digest blog post, which is what I’m about to do.
3) I’m a contrary little so-and-so.

So, here is my take on the gratitude exercise: ten categories, three examples per category, thirty things to be grateful for.  (So yeah, I am cheating, but technically I’ve done the exercise.)

Friends

  • The ones who can always make you laugh
  • The ones who are still friends after being miles and/or months apart
  • The ones with whom you have excellent eyebrow semaphore.

Jokes

  • In-jokes whose origins are lost in the mists of time, but which still make you laugh
  • Christmas cracker jokes
  • A joke you tell that makes EVERYONE laugh – no better feeling in the world, is there?

Family

  • The ones who looked after you when you couldn’t look after yourself
  • The ones who remember your most embarrassing moments but don’t bring them up in front of people
  • The ones who become real friends.

Experiences

  • Life-changing, unforgettable ones
  • Horrendous, lesson-learned-please-God-don’t-ever-let-that-happen-again ones
  • Ones that make for rocking anecdotes.

Strangers

  • Ones who inspire/amuse you without ever knowing
  • The ones who show you compassion when you’re lost/stuck/in trouble
  • The ones who have taught their children how to behave in public.

Aspects of Nature

  • Landscape awesomeness, e.g. sunsets
  • Biology, which proves that deep down we’re all the same
  • Penguins.  Who does not love penguins?

Bands/Musicians

  • Ones that always make you feel good
  • Ones that remind you of happy times and/or good friends
  • Guilty pleasures (did somebody say Hanson?)

Technological Wonderments

  • Television
  • Skype
  • The animatronics behind Ann Robinson’s face

Gut Reactions

  • “This isn’t right.”
  • “This is amazing!”
  • “I love you.”

Cheese

  • Retro, cringy pop music
  • Mushy, sentimental conversations
  • ACTUAL CHEESE

Brighton Rocks

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Well, hello there!  You’re looking very well, if I may say so.  

This morning I am off on a road trip with two of my favourite friends, and in honour of this I would like to list a few reasons why road trips are an excellent way to spend your day. 

1) They can come from unlikely situations – I have to go to Brighton today for a meeting, which is exciting but a bit nerve-racking at the same time.  I absolutely love my friends for showing their support by accompanying me, and for turning this experience into something that is now definitely more exciting than scary.  

2) They are real eye-openers – the last time I went on a road trip (which was also to Brighton, now that I think about it), we decided to take the scenic route from Canterbury down to Sussex, which turned out to be a very good call.  We got to drive through some very cute little villages and see more of the countryside than we would have done on the boring old motorway.  We may have had to give my friend Mario a fashion magazine to keep him quiet for the trip, but it was worth it for the views.

3) They are a chance to reconnect – all of us have friends whom we adore but don’t get to see often enough, and a road trip is a brilliant way to get some quality friend time in.  This is particularly true when you’re going on the road trip to visit someone far away (which I guess happens more often when you’re at uni, but actually it turns out that not all of my friends ended up settling in London.  Weird, right?)  Whether they’re in the car with you or waiting at your destination, road trips are all about the people you spend them with.  

4) They are great escapes – I’m moving house right now, and I don’t like it.  I don’t like change, I detest goodbyes and I loathe having to put my books into storage.  I think this is the perfect time to forget about my London-based concerns and escape down to the seaside, even if it’s just for a day.  Whatever we’re worried about, a fun day out can be just the boost we need.  There’s no shame in escaping your own life for a day, especially when there are bumper cars and beaches involved.  

5) They make for the best anecdotes – in case the picture at the top of this post has confused you, those are two of the guys I went to Brighton with on our last road trip.  I’ll tell you the story behind that picture sometime (although to be honest it’s fairly self-explanatory)… Anyway, great days make for great stories, and everyone loves an anecdote.

6) They are a great excuse to make a mixed CD – that’s just common sense.  What’s a road trip without a rocking soundtrack?

Wherever you are, have a brilliant day.

The End of Summer Lovin’

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Hello and how on earth are you, dear reader?

Back in February I wrote this blog post about how to beat the winter blues, and it occurred to me the other day that the end of summer needs some similar attention.  Like Sandy and Danny at the beginning of Grease (excuse me, but even if they hadn’t seen each other, they would definitely have heard each other singing about their summer of love), we can all get a bit blue about the end of summer.  I don’t know whether it’s the weird weather or extracting ourselves from the Edinburgh Fringe bubble, but there’s a definite back-to-school, oh-God-do-we-have-to, I-hate-my-alarm-clock-why-is-it-such-a-bastard sort of mood going on in my social circle at the moment.

So, in the spirit of cheering you up at the end of what I hope has been a spectacular summer, here are a few little things we can all do to put ourselves back in a sunshiney mood:

1) Dance around your living room 
Stick on a song that makes you happy and just have a boogie.  Look like an idiot.  Throw your back out if you have to.  You ARE the dancing queen (or king).  My personal recommendations for feel-good tunes include Classic and When Can I See You Again.  And Dancing Queen, obviously.

2) Book something
Organise a coffee date with a friend, or a real date with someone you fancy.  Book that trip you and your mates keep talking about.  Splash out on theatre tickets.  Basically, pick something that would make you happy and make it happen soon.

3) Challenge yourself
Get cracking on something that’s been lingering on your “I could probably do that” list.  For example, my next challenge is going to be writing a radio play.  I have no idea how to do that, but I’m going to find out.  Whether it’s something a bit grown-up liking saving up for a house deposit, or something a bit crazy like climbing a mountain, use this time to rise to a challenge.

4) Find the funny
Look up silly jokes, or go and see a comedian you’ve never heard of.  Watch a classic comedy film.  Let your friends drag you to an open mic night.  As the late, great Charlie Chaplin once said, “a day without laughter is a day wasted”.

5) Spruce up
Look your best.  Not because you’re not perfect the way you are, but because it will make you feel more confident.  Dress up for your next night out.  Wear your favourite pair of shoes tomorrow.  The world deserves to see you looking happy and brim full of self-esteem because, after all, whose day would not be brightened by seeing you looking fabulous?

4 Things We Shouldn’t Photograph

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Good morning, lovely reader!  How was your weekend?

One of my favourite things about my generation is that in twenty (ish) years, we will be able to tell our children anything they want to know about what our lives were like when we were their age.  Social media has become a sort of personal encyclopaedia of each user’s life: all of our memories, friendships, photographs and Buzzfeed quiz results are mere clicks away.

I particularly love being able to share photographs on social media, but for some reason I cannot get on with apps like Instagram – I just want a photo.  Why must everything be square and made sepia?  Photography really propels people around social media sites, catching people’s attention and storing their significant moments.  This is a marvellous and brilliant thing (although if I see any more images of flipping meals, which are always captioned with something horrendous like “baked beans for dinner lol I well love this particular type of phaseolus vulgaris innit #bakedbeans #Heinz4lyf #yolo”, I will probably scream).  Having said that, I think that there are some moments in life which are better left unphotographed – amazing, beautiful moments, but moments which should be allowed to go unrecorded.

1) Gigs
Let’s get this one out of the way nice and early: why do people record videos and take photos all the way through concerts?  LISTEN TO THE FLIPPING MUSIC OR GO HOME AND PUT ON THE ALBUM.  Of course it’s nice to have something to remember the gig by, but the photographs never come out how you want them to, and the videos are always rubbish.  Put your smartphone away and just enjoy the experience.  Maybe have a bit of a boogie as well.

2) Pyrotechnics
I was at a friend’s birthday party this weekend, which was a mini camping trip in a beautiful woodland half an hour outside South London.  We had bunting, a barbecue and a flipping great time.  We also had a camp fire, which is one of my favourite things in the world.  Although when you look around a camp fire or a firework display the faces of your companions seem warmly lit, photos of these joyful communal experiences never show as much clarity or illumination as you remember from the moment itself.  Best just to sit back and join in with the “ooh”s and “aah”s, then.

3) Split Seconds
Don’t you just love it when something hilarious or ridiculous happens without any warning?  Moments of sheer joy between friends, loved ones and strangers can be lifelong fond memories.  It would be great if we could relive them over and over again in HD quality, but inevitably we find ourselves saying “Oh, I wish I had recorded that!” and being left with just our memory of the event.  It does seem a shame, but then if we went around recording everything all the time, just in case something funny happened, we wouldn’t be properly engaging with the world around us.  Bizarrely, we would end up looking so hard for these moments that we’d end up missing them completely.

4) Anticipation
You can photograph a moment of happiness, or love, or success.  But we all know that sometimes the anticipation is even better than the event we are waiting for, and you can’t capture anticipation in an image.  You can’t visually explain that second just before you kiss someone for the first time, or the moment just before your team scores a winning goal.  Anticipation is very visceral as an experience: we feel it in strange physiological (as well as cognitive) ways, and it’s something that we should definitely just experience without trying to catch forever.  By its nature, after all, anticipation is fleeting (and hopefully followed by awesomeness).

Have a genuinely stupendous Monday.

Home Alone 6: Lost in North London

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Good morning, fabulous reader!  Did you know that, according to Wikipedia, there have been five Home Alone films?  (I had to look it up in order to make sure that this post’s title was accurate.)  Crazy, isn’t it?  I know.  We should watch them all at some point.

This weekend my darling flat mate has (foolishly) left me home alone, and I would like to share some of the main reasons why, at the grand old age of twenty-five, I should probably have been left in the care of a babysitter, social worker or similar:

  • Memory issues: as discussed in previous blog posts, I have the memory of a senile goldfish who’s recently sustained a concussion.  When I left the house yesterday afternoon, I automatically left the living room light on in order to bamboozle potential burglars.  (That’s right: bamboozle.  That’s how I roll.)  When I got home later that evening, I saw the living room light on and thought “ooh, Ash is home!”  She was not.  Which leads me on to my next problem:
  • Intelligent conversation: when I thought that Ash was home, I wandered up the stairs calling out greetings, gossip about my day and general musings.  It took me – I kid you not – it took me at least five minutes to realise that no response was forthcoming, because I was alone in the house.  Did that stop me from talking?  Did it heck.  Talking to ourselves is one of the greatest joys in life, and if our own psyches start to get annoying, there’s always the furniture to chat with.
  • Misadventures: the guy who lives downstairs from us is a lovely old chap by day, but he is inordinately fond of playing loud music and drunkenly shouting at himself very late at night (or very, very early in the morning).  If Ash is not here to stop me (or at least calm me down slightly), there is a very strong chance that I will lose my temper and throw something through his living room window.
  • Sleepless in Southgate: I haven’t been sleeping very well for a couple of weeks.  My friends have had to become accustomed to me zoning out of conversations, being unable to think of words, having no spatial awareness etc.  Without Ash in the house this weekend I am basically helpless.  It sounds silly, but if you’d seen me try to work out how to change the channel on the television a few minutes ago, you would understand the need for caution.  (Seven attempts to hit the Sky button.  It’s just not cool.)

With a due sense of dread and fear, I’m going to go and try to make coffee.  Have a tremendous Saturday, you lovely person.

Wiggly Priorities

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Hello, and welcome to the weekend!  I hope you’ve had a nice lie-in.

If you’ve read yesterday’s post, you will already know that I decided to turn my phone off for 24 hours.  The main downside of this choice should have been communication issues, but luckily my flat mate tells me where I’m meant to be most of the time anyway, so that was fine.

The hardest part was actually the lack of sound.  I am always listening to music or a podcast, so wandering around without my earphones in felt very odd.  It was also pretty strange to go without the Notes feature on my iPhone for a day, because I use it all the time for blog ideas and so on.  The upshot of this was that I went to bed last night with a load of ideas scribbled down my arm.  These notes have now been partially transferred to my face and one of my pillows.

Embarrassing face-tattoos aside, today I would like to talk about priorities.  Yesterday I managed to work my way through a hefty amount of stuff on my to do list because I wasn’t distracted by my phone, so now my set of priorities has shifted.  Our priorities change all of the time: on a day-to-day basis they adapt to our immediate circumstances, but on a longer-term basis they shift depending on where life has taken us.  A university student’s priorities might be finishing an essay one day and applying for graduate jobs the next, for example.

People are always saying that we need to get our priorities straight, but it’s incredibly difficult to do.  How do you balance your daily duties with your lifelong endeavours?  How do we find a way to get our wiggly priorities aligned with one another?

We prioritise things for two reasons: their immediacy and their importance.  In contemporary life there is an enormous emphasis on immediacy from employers, friends and even the media.  We are constantly being told to believe that sooner is better, and I don’t think that that’s always true.  Good things come to those who wait, even in the simplest cases (like when you’re at a bus stop).

I was having a very deep and meaningful conversation about priorities with a friend the other day, and at one point he said “wouldn’t it be nice to be someone’s priority?”  Oof.  Right in the feelings.  Of course it would, but surely you are the person whose priority you ought to be?

What do you actually want today?  Do you want to feel like you’ve achieved something?  Do you want to spend time with some people who love you?  Do you want to go on an adventure?  Do you, in fact, want to build a snowman?  (Trickier to accomplish in this weather, but not impossible.)

I think that we have to trust that the day-to-day priorities (like work deadlines, essays and so on) will get us where we need to go in the bigger picture, but that paying attention to what we actually want will get us where we’d like to be.  I personally want to see Arsenal win the FA Cup, so my priority is to go to the pub with the boys and shout at a massive television screen.  To each their own.

Carlsberg don’t do Saturdays, but if they did, it’d probably be this one.  Have a cracker.

Judgement Call

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Good morning and happy Saturday to you!  D’you know, I only discovered yesterday that this is another bank holiday weekend.  Thank goodness those poor, tired bankers are having a well-earned rest from the arduous task of stealing our money.

As you can see, I’ve just made a mass-judgement about bankers based on the global financial crisis, and although that’s not exactly a controversial opinion, I’m sure that there are nice, compassionate people among the financiers of Canary Wharf.  (Don’t look at me like that.  It could happen.)

What makes you judge someone?  Do you assume that someone is trendy (and therefore a bad person) because they’re sporting a beard and skinny jeans?  Do you dub someone a saint in your mind because you witness them buying a Big Issue?  Do you lose respect for a friend when you discover that they enjoy the musical stylings of Justin Bieber?

I do, and if you’re honest I think you do, too.  Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a preachy post about how we need to be less judgemental (although I think we should probably give it a go, shouldn’t we?  Yeah, alright.  I will if you will).  Instead, I would like to identify a few things that we absolutely should judge people based on:

1) How they talk about their elders
Even if someone doesn’t have the best relationship in the world with their biological parents, everyone has parental figures in their lives from whom they have learned a great deal.  The way that someone talks about their mum, older sibling, grandparent, favourite teacher etc. tells you a lot about what made them who they are, and how big a part of their personality is informed by a sense of respect.

2) Sense of humour
Don’t be misled here: I don’t mean that you should judge people based on which sitcoms they like, or whether they’re fans of the Cornetto Trilogy.  By “sense of humour” I mean how they respond to day-to-day life: do they laugh when they fall over in public, or throw a hissy fit?  Do they snigger at others’ misfortune, or are they sympathetic?  A person’s sense of humour demonstrates very clearly what their priorities are and how much perspective they have.

3) Social standing
Again, don’t get the wrong idea: I’m not suggesting that we split the world into Breakfast Club characters.  What I mean is, you can tell a lot about someone by how their friends behave around them.  For example, my brother is the dad figure in his friendship group at uni.  This amuses me because I know him well enough (obviously) to know that how his friends see him accurately reflects his personality.

4) How (much) they feel about stuff
Obviously we can’t have an opinion about everything, but you can make fairly accurate assumptions about someone based on how much they care about their interests, ambitions and morals.  It doesn’t really matter what the interests are (within the limits of morality and the law, of course) as long as the person cares about them.  Apathy is the enemy of romance, art, the progress of science and half-decent conversation.

5) How they feel about you
For your own sake, you should definitely make judgements based on how someone treats you, and how they feel about you.  Someone who loves you (and acts like it) is clearly an excellent human being, and someone who does not is not worth your time.  Also, who wouldn’t love you?  You’re adorable!

Have a lovely, relaxing Saturday.  Maybe go for a long walk.

Stuff That Should Be a Thing

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Good morning dear reader!  How was your weekend?  Well, don’t be sad because it’s over, be glad because it happened. (Nothing like a trite piece of advice to kick off your Monday, is there?)

As you can probably tell from this blog’s ridiculous title, today I am in one of my “if I ruled the world” moods, and I have come up with a few small ways to improve our day-to-day lives.  Here is a list of stuff that should be a thing in modern society:

  • Flowers should not wilt.  (I realise that this is a biological issue rather than a social one, by the way, but I still think it sucks.)  It’s just so depressing to be given a beautiful bouquet of colour and fragrance that you know will gradually fade into brown, dead stalks.  What else can so clearly demonstrate society’s bleak view of the transient nature of romantic relationships?  “Here is something pretty to show how much I like you…for now.”  Far too ominous an undertone for my liking, frankly.  Stick to jewellery.
  • Upon entry to the UK, tourists should be given a brief but firm tutorial on how to use public transport in this country, because those “stand on the right” signs are clearly not having any effect.  I’ll do it myself if that’s what it takes.  Bring me a whiteboard and some fancy pens; I’ll be all over it.  There’ll be proper diagrams and everything, you just watch.
  • The tax system ought to work like karma does., i.e. higher taxes for bigger asshats.  I have no idea how practical or easy to monitor that would be, but I like the sound of it.  Domestic abusers, murderers and Nigel Farage should definitely be paying more tax than I do.  (Not you, obviously.  You’re lovely.)
  • The elderly should be allocated sections of cities (not so that we can get rid of them or anything – hear me out).  We have Chinatowns, Sohos and Little Italys, which is great, but why are we limiting ourselves to geographical divisions?  Elderly people sometimes feel out of touch with the modern world, (as do I, to be perfectly honest) and they should have their own place where stuff is exactly how they remember it from their youths: the same clothing shops, the same food places and the same movies showing in cinemas.  Let them have somewhere to go where they can be nostalgic (and get away from the tourists who stand on the left).
  • Speaking of nostalgia, I really, really wish that it was still the convention for people to wear hats all of the time.  I don’t even suit hats, but I think it would be awesome to bring that back.
  • No more ice-cream van music.  Those eerie tunes are the least child-friendly thing I’ve ever heard.

I hope you have the kind of Monday that makes you feel like this.