Why I’ll Never Be A Music Journalist

I went to Primavera Sound festival all the way back in May, but every time I have tried to think of something to write about it, my thoughts turned hopelessly back to the man at Neil Young. He was Scottish, and very drunk – a big, lurching, beery bear, who announced his presence by letting out a jubilant roar the moment Neil Young took to the stage. Turned out he and his companion – who by contrast, had his eyes clamped shut in gig-ecstasy throughout – were men possessed. Scottish Bear appeared to be gripped by spasms of appreciation that were random and uncontrollable. Every few minutes he would wave and thrash and punch the air, emitting long gurgled shouts, as though he was a Loud Dad going down a very long and steep water slide. I don’t think he could hear the music through the racket, as he clapped and moshed away as though he was watching something else entirely. Once, when Neil left the stage to do something, he shrunk to normal size and had a coherent conversation with a neighbour, only to explode again once Neil had returned.

I am not trying to highlight my annoyed devotion to Neil Young, but how easily distracted I am at gigs. If it hadn’t been Scottish Bear, it would have been some other subject for my wandering gaze. Not that I want to keep parroting on about my ‘yoof’ and sounding like I am suffering an early onset mid-life crisis, but it wasn’t always like this. A (too) long phase of my early teens was spent getting trampled on at the Astoria, emerging from the ‘fight pit’ bruised and groped, and I can’t be certain, but I think I even used to crowd surf. Which is why I found Scottish Bear’s demonstration of joy all the more fascinating – now, even whilst watching my favourite musicians I am often, by about 30 minutes in, overcome with thoughts of the most trivial order, like how much the backs of my knees ache. Whilst not ready to give up altogether and start purchasing seating area tickets, rest assured that I will leave the gig reviews to the lucky ones with their concentration spans still in tact.

Poppy

Possessions, Loss, and the Record & Tape Exchange

Generic car boot saleLast weekend I rented a stall at Battersea car boot sale (loved by semi-famous people, like the main guy out of Metronomy and Susie Bubble) with my boyfriend, and attempted to sell all the crap I thought I no longer wanted. This was prompted in part by moving house. When one moves house, the sheer volume of accumulated stuff becomes unavoidably apparent, and if, like me, you are anti-stuff, it can be a little painful. So, of course, I thought, ‘why not sell all this shit and feel smug afterwards?’

So there we were, hawking our beloved belongings. I’d surrendered my entire CD collection, including all my Talking Heads, a load of wanky dance music I’d tried to ‘get into’ during a too-long phase of my life, and Ant and Dec’s Greatest Hits. Because I am very lazy, as evidenced by the rate of updates on this blog, I didn’t upload everything onto my computer beforehand, or do what several people recommended me to do and put it all on an external hard drive. That would have required considerable effort, and seemed antithetical to the ‘clean break’ I felt I wanted to make. Instead I just looked away as people bought for £1 CDs I paid full price for not that long ago. (I also sold DVDs and clothes, but the DVDs were mostly Hellraiser sequels, and I buy a couple of items of clothing a week from charity shops, so I didn’t mind selling them that much.)

I’m not sure why it turned out to be so hard, but it was only made harder by my experience the next day in Greenwich. I visited the CD exchange there to get rid of what failed to sell at the boot sale, and honestly, it was as bad as I thought it would be.

I hate the men who work in those shops. I think they referred to me as a ‘he’, for a start, which doesn’t make sense considering I am not remotely manly, but made me feel terrible anyway. And then the person serving me did of course do the signature flick of disdain through the CDs, all with that hugely attractive air of expert knowledge, while a couple of other record shop twats smirked at each other in the background and muttered about the massively rare record they were playing over the store’s sound system. I could barely control myself, really, in the face of all that expertise and power, not to faint with desire, but I did. At least long enough to accept their ‘£60 cash, £120 exchange’ non-negotiable offer. (That may sound a lot, but there were so many CDs, many of which he placed on the ‘sell for full price pile’, and five times as many on the ‘start at £4’ pile.)

I only really started to feel the loss on the bus to work the next day, when I realised that I wouldn’t again be able to just pop an old album on my ipod, subsequently realising a few plays later why I didn’t listen to it any more. And I wouldn’t be able to trace my silly teenage attempts to forge some kind of identity through the music I listened to. (Although I still remember! Discernable phases included when I was 14 and bought a Kiss FM compilation then a Damage album, when I was 16 and bought the Strokes, Moldy Peaches, and lots of the Smiths, and the years when I bought stuff like Fischerspooner and Bugged Out compilations because I was ‘cool’. My most recent buys were mostly Prince, in case you were wondering.) I know these albums weren’t an actual part of me, and any pain, mental or otherwise, is ridiculous, but I tried so very hard when I was younger, and I suppose part of me worries that I’m still not cool enough to get away with throwing out my carefully-selected CDs. In reality, though, I never played them, and I can still name all the most important albums because they were important. What with Spotify, and (don’t judge me for this, I am a terrible illegal downloader) buying downloads off Amazon, I don’t need lots of thin plastic boxes filling up a few shelves. I am still cool, anyway. I kept all my books.

Lotte

Top 5 School Dinner foods

school dinner

What has become of the school dinners of my youth? Spearheaded by food-fascist Jamie Oliver, the celebrity chef and his health-minister henchmen committed cultural genocide with their systematic destruction of the school dinner menu. Salads and “five-a-day” shenanigans now run rampant, unchecked, 12.30 to 1.30pm, Monday to Friday in schools across England. Children up and down the country now risk dangerously low levels of saturated fats and E-numbers in their diets. Healthy minds need hearty meals! Surely school results will suffer when children are faced with merely celery and humous to fuel them instead of chips and burgers?

In homage to the great lost school meal, here’s a rundown of the top five school dinner foods.

Starting off our list, in fifth place…

5) COD ROLLfishfingers

A school dinner stalwart that repeatedly trumps it’s home-cooked sister-food, the fish finger. Despite not being a big fish fan, the cod roll has a mysterious hold over my taste buds even to this day that only the evil geniuses behind its creation know the secret of. Almost caused my death on numerous occasions, with extra helpings that preceded swimming lessons regularly inducing cramp. I can only imagine it was the souls of the thousand processed fish the roll contained trying to escape my body back into the water.

4) TURKEY TWIZZLturkey twizzlersERS

 A freak among oddities, the Turkey Twizzler just shouldn’t be. How they fashion turkey into a springy coil is a question the answer to which is best left unsaid. What should be said however is that Turkey Twizzlers taste great in only the way that the innards and offcuts of a hundred of the world’s ugliest birds horrifically engineered into a comedy shape can. Far more appealing too than the disgusting, dog-muck like picture suggests.

3) CHOCOLATE CAKE AND CHOCOLATE CUSTARDchocolate cake

The only desert to make our shortlist, but not in the form served by dinner ladies. Preparation is simple, but of the up-most importance. It must be mashed and swirled together until the cake and custard merge into a paste-like texture. Hours of lunchtime fun can then be had with this meal by pretending to dribble poo.

2) SMILEsmiley facesY FACES

 Deep-fried, fake-potato goodness that was the inspiration for the Stranglers radio friendly unit shifter “Golden Brown”. A happy food when the faces were properly moulded, they however took on a frightful hair-lipped, Chernobyl like appearance if squashed. Also subliminally introduced a nation of school children to the joys of club-drug culture.

Which leads us onto our winner…

1) DINOSAUR SHAPESdinosaur shapes

Combining two of the worlds greatest wonders (dinosaurs and processed poultry), Bernard Matthew’s Turkey Dinosaur Shapes hold a special place in my heart. Not only were the lengthy Brontosaurus necks perfect bite-sized mouthfuls if carefully carved, but leaving them behind the radiator for a day or so also revealed them to be excellent toys.

Missed out any of your favourites? Do my taste buds need re-aligning? Is my nostalgic view of crap food symptomatic of a repressed deprived childhood? Let me know!

Gerald Lynch

is that a bandwagon? can I jump on it?

As I sat in my living room this evening, my face swollen from the dentist stealing all my wisdom and with only a can of coke for company, I couldn’t help but find myself embroiled in the all hysteria surrounding Take That’s appearance on Jonathan Ross. I was 6 when the Take That offensive began in 1993, I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, but I knew my sister thought they were cool and I watched with great intrigue their performance of “Why can’t I wake up with you?” on TOTP. I soon began to feel alittle lustful towards the one they called Robbie and when they started producing songs as ridiculously gooey as “A Million Love Songs” I’d definitely morphed into a fan.

Then some bad stuff happened; the pretty one got fat, he started wearing kangol hats and ran away with Oasis, he didn’t come back and lots of people cried. They tried their luck as a four-piece, but they knew their time was up. They went down with dignity, there was no ‘Holler’ for them.

I still remember, vividly, Newsround on that day. A forlorn Gary Barlow uttering the words “And from this day Take That are no more…” . Millions of teenage (and pre-teenage) hearts were broken and they even set up a helpline to aid those suffering. Robbie Williams had single-handedly destroyed these four men’s dreams and then went off to dominate the charts for a very long time. Rumours were rife that Jason Orange had retreated to Ibiza to work as a waiter, Gary Barlow set about writing songs for two-bit singers, Mark Owen got trapped in the Big Brother House and the other one probably had some kids. Take That were gone and very much forgotten. 

That is why I find it so bizarre that they are currently on a nationwide stadium tour, the fastest selling tour in British history. Bizarrely wonderful. You can have everything, lose it and then snatch it back again, whilst you wave to Robbie and his rudebox on the way past. Gary Barlow was mocked for years for being a big, fat loser now he’s having number ones left, right and centre and has left Williams searching for UFOs from his tinfoil-covered bedroom window. Which reminds me, Take That’s performance at this years Brit Awards was probably one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen…

I made everyone in my office watch this the following day, no one cared, but I just stood there pointing and saying “SPACESHIP!” “GLASSES!” “LASERS!!!!” “AMAZING!!!!!!!!”. 

And just for some lolz:

So, yeah, Take That; cementing Manchester’s title as the UK’s musical haven, defying the laws of success and fame, implying that maybe we aren’t as fickle as we first thought, and further proof that there may well be life after forty. May they live long and prosper.

Frances

‘Dear Diary, OHMIGOD, I am SO sorry I haven’t written for SO long’

meintheoldendaysLike many, many other girls in the history of the whole entire world, I religiously kept a diary from the ages of 11 to 19. The contents of these diaries are, as a rule, self-obsessed, ridiculous, and hyper-quotable. But what I wrote was in no way unique! I like to think that if you peeked into any young girl’s diary you’d find similar sentiments to the ones I’m about to recount here. Girls are at that age are all the same. I sincerely hope.

Keeping a diary is something we tend to grow out of, at least in its most typical form, emphasising as it does deep feelings over, you know, description. This is the sort of diary writing I favoured: the therapeutic kind. I sometimes foolishly imagine my diaries are going to prompt vivid memories of being 12, but they usually only end up offering such gems as this:

‘Hello! Well it’s Sunday today and I’m quite bored. Dad is putting swedes into our Sunday dinner which is sooo disgusting.’

Which really only reminds me that I don’t like root vegetables. So to kick off what will be a regular feature I’ll start with an introduction to my very first diary, a lovely notebook with a ribbon tie my mum bought for me from WHSmith’s. The whole thing can be summed up thus: I was obsessed with boys. My very first entry announces that ‘this is an appropriate time to start writing in my diary’ because ‘I think I’m in love with Josh*’. In love. Remember I’m 11. But don’t worry! I quickly backtrack:

‘OK so maybe I’m not “in love” with Josh but I blummin’ fancy him anyway. I was listening to Backstreet Boys “All I Have to Give” earlier and that’s why I was so romantic. Hope Ben doesn’t fancy me tomorrow.’

It’s okay! False alarm. I was feeling romantic because of the classic late-90s pop I was listening to, on a CD free with that fortnight’s Smash Hits! I wasn’t in love! Seriously though, my obsession with the opposite sex was worrying and all-consuming. In-between asides about my weekend activities, ‘Went to Woolwich on Saturday. I bought some clothes and a butterfly hair band from Claire’s Accessories’ and announcements regarding my favourite magazine, ‘BLISS CAME TODAY!!!!’ and TV programme, ‘Dawson’s Creek!!! omigod it was soooooo good! Jack admitted he was gay to his dad and Joey!’, I simply go on and on about boys:

‘[This probably needs to be read in your head in a very excitable voice.] Josh today said that he thought it was a bit weird that I didn’t really talk to him that much. He said (to Sophie) that if he fancied someone he would be around them all the time. [I think I had told Sophie to tell Josh that I liked him, to see if he liked me back. Classic method.] GOD I AM NOT HIM. I tried to explain this to Sophie and she also said that 1) she thought that it would have been better if I had said [that I fancied him] much earlier (“before Christmas?!?!”) 2) that she had fancied him before and when I said that I had known (I had!) she just said “oh oh oh! But you don’t know when and for how long!” in a feeble way. HA! I told her about my former boyfriend (why?) [former boyfriend! I was 11!] and she went on at me and asked me why I’d liked him for ages and then only gone out with him for four weeks (bitch) and also (I could tell) was ridiculing me when I said I hadn’t gone anywhere with him. [To be fair, this was a just accusation, since me and my 10-year-old primary school boyfriend never went for dinner and a movie. Mainly we hung out awkwardly in the playground, until one of us ran off to play football/make up dance routines to Spice Girls songs.]‘

The entry degenerates into even more of a rant after that. I had a lot of pent-up rage, I think. 

Next week: more boys. Plus! Exclamation marks, pre-teen angst, and all-round drama. Until next time,

Lotte

* Names have been changed! Of course.

Return Of The Mag

The news that The Face might be resurrected sparked a misty eyed mental trawl through all the other formative magazines of adolescence. Though by no means the industrious little hoarder I once was – long gone are the days of archiving magazines in chronological order under my bed – I still have to shake off a slight feeling of alarm every time I am forced to cull in large quantities. Which admittedly is not very often, due to disillusionment with today’s offerings. So either I am totally clueless or there is a dearth of magazines out there that are worthy of ardent teen-reader behaviour. Either one of these marks a sorry state of affairs when you have the vivid history of magazine-reading that I do.

Part 1 – Pre-teen prelimineries


The first magazine I ever owned was, along with legions of other girls my age, Girl Talk. It was bought for me as a treat when I was off school sick one day, and contained a recipe for a banana milkshake. Though I was quite fond of the pen pal section, I soon tired of feigning delight at the soft-focus pictures of horses in stables that my friends would rip from the back page (have never been much of an animal lover.) The seed was sown though, and I quickly moved onto the Smash Hits, Top Of The Pops and Live&Kicking trio (TV Hits also worth a mention.) Here was a heady sense that I was treading much darker territory. My first Smash Hits had Mark Morrison on the cover, and an aggressive interview with the Gallagher brothers about ‘livin’ it large.’ Didn’t understand a single word, but was introduced to the word ‘snog.’

Part 2 –

All of which was, of course, preparation for a steady ascent up the rungs of the Teen Mag. Once, when I was 11, to my utter elation, my misguided Dad bought me J17. But my Mum swooped in furiously before I had time to finish the “I was a vegetable for 3 months” real life story, so I had to make do with Mizz and Shout for a year or so. Mizz was kind of a rich-girls Girl Talk, but Shout was O.K. It was a bit rough around the edges, and the paper was really thin and chalky, but sometimes you got a free book of ghost stories. Sugar, Bliss, and then finally, I could rest – J17. In one instalment of Diary Of A Crush, Dylan pinned Edie up against a wall, and it was unquestionably the raciest thing I had ever read.

Phase 3 –


I regret that I stopped reading J17 long before I was actually seventeen. I deserted the pink and blue problem pages and the smiling gap-toothed models for Vogue, in a brief (and futile) bid for sophistication. Nowadays, magazines come and go. I read the newspaper (frankly an insult to my 13 year old self). So something really ought to be done to remedy this, (ie the bringing back of The Face.)

Poppy

Why is it so difficult to write a stupid stupid blog post.

I am not an incapable person. In fact, I just finished a degree (I know, impressive), I have had four whole jobs in my life (all in offices!), and I am somehow resisting the urge to give up on life in this jobless economic climate. But despite all these impressive achievements, I still can’t get a single post done for this blog, a project that is actually hugely important to me. So sorry everyone for being so painfully inadequate in this particular field.

It’s not like I don’t have ideas! Here are some of my notes from the past few months for what I thought were good post topics:

  • Why I could be a private eye. (This was my Veronica Mars post.)
  • Dave Eggers and the large numbers of young men who closely resemble him. (This was my A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius post.)
  • My holiday in Rome described only in terms of the food I consumed, because what’s Rome really about other than pizza and ice-cream.
  • Watching french films from the 60s solely for the clothes. (Only because I watched one Godard film and felt incapable of saying anything about it other than ‘I liked her blue trousers’.)
  • The rumour that one of my favourite magazines ever, The Face, might be relaunching. (This needs no further explanation really, it’s just exciting.)

And now I can’t write any of these up. What a waste.

What I was trying to do with this blog was set up something that would be much more fun to read than a blog written by one person, and also more wide-ranging in its subject matter. And despite the meagre amount of stuff currently up, it still achieves this, and I feel much of what we’ve done is really great writing. So there are going to be some changes to the site, if only to keep things moving and keep the contributors motivated. We’re going to begin to introduce regular features, starting with the astonishingly imaginative ‘NO-ONE UNDERSTANDS!!!!: Excerpts from Lotte’s Childhood Diaries’, just because I’ve always wanted to do something with the utterly ridiculous, embarrassing and badly written journals of my youth, and also because I want someone to offer to illustrate the graphic novel version that I’ve already started in my head. I hope you like it.

Here’s to proliferation!

Lotte