Goodbye summer, hello autumn

So we’ve hit September, and for some reason this year it feels like a time to stop and take stock. Normally it just potters on as another month on the way to Christmas.

Thrifty Gal (or, as she shall henceforth be known, Geek Goddess – it being her main blog for now) has written about celebrating September in the past – I suspect this was driven more by it being her birthday month than anything else but she’s right, it’s a time of new starts – be it school or college. The weather sorts itself out: hot and humid (ha ha) August gives way to brisk, fresh, sunny days; the mornings are still light, the evenings cooler.

Things are clearer in September.

I think I’m having this moment because, after a summer packed to the rafters with events, gigs, fun with friends and trips both in this country and further afield, October actually contains an empty weekend. (I know. I’ll have to get that sorted). But maybe, just maybe, I’ve actually got some time to stop and think.

Travel and that

My summer began in May when I set off on a holiday that took me to Niagara Falls, Washington DC and New York. Kudos to my travel companion zUmbereen who didn’t balk at my suggestion to go see a band in Brooklyn…even though she hadn’t heard of them and we ended up in dodgy bar showing a porn movie beforehand. She is now a fellow worshipper of the Silver Fox (aka Keith Murray from We are Scientists (WAS)).

I’m a firm believer in saying ‘yes’ to things most of the time thanks to Richard Wiseman…er obviously within reason…which is partly why I never have time to stop and think. So because of this I ended up returning to the UK for one day before jetting off to Cyprus for a villa-based holiday with friends. Actually that doesn’t do it justice, it was like some sort of foodie heaven holiday as my friend’s other half thinks nothing of rustling up a three course meal with about a thousand side dishes. Delicious.

I’ve been to York three times this summer mainly for gigs (see below) but I also managed to fit in some real ale drinking and a few visits to the TK Maxx* there. My last visit was possibly the most successful as I managed to purchase some delightful cowboy boots!

I’ve also visited the somewhat disappointing TK Maxx** in Southend on Sea (I think it didn’t deliver as I didn’t have a specific ‘wish’ logged with the TK Maxx fairy, yes, I realise this makes me sound mad). Among other things while in Sarfend, I journeyed to the end of the longest pleasure pier in the world (though sadly I just missed the Southend Pier Festival that featured the wonderful Lucky Strikes playing at the end of it) and visited the fishing festival in quaint and pretty Leigh on Sea.

Gigs galore

Not only did I see WAS in New York, I saw them in Old York too at The Duchess. The gig was the sweatiest I have ever attended; a particular highlight was watching the Silver Fox crowd surf perilously close to bringing down the lights with his feet. Earlier in the summer I’d seen Paul Smith of Maximo Park knock down a ceiling tile in the same venue. It’s a weird place for gigs, the low stage and low ceilings do nothing for view (particularly if you aren’t very tall) and I wouldn’t recommend it on that basis alone. The Duchess worked well this weekend though, cabaret-style seating for an intimate gig with Simone Felice. Support came from Boss Caine and Matt Boulter (of The Lucky Strikes and aka The Whispering Pines) – if you don’t know these names already – check them out.

I’m becoming more accepting of my love of folky-Americana music and other highlights this summer included the Sage Gateshead Americana Festival (though the sun stroke wasn’t welcomed) and an amazing a capella and acoustic Futureheads gig at Durham Cathedral. Support came from local acts Natasha Haws and The Lake Poets, both of whom had stunning voices.  The setting in the Cathedral was simply magical.

Oh and also, Bruce Springsteen. Born to Run. Waitin’ on a Sunny Day. The River. Top gig. That is all.

And so it ends

And so it ends with another holiday, this time to Pefkos, Rhodes. Following that, I’ll be drawing a line under the summer of 2012 and starting afresh. A week in the sunshine will, I hope, be the perfect ‘taking stock’ break. That’s if I can set aside some time that isn’t already taken up with drinking, feta-cheese eating, reading, swimming, a party and the ice catching championships…

* I am a tad obsessed with TK Maxx.
**Told you.


From South Shields to Southend

Oops, nearly the end of February already and my blogging is flagging. I have been busy though, that’s my excuse.

Not only have actually been reading (another resolution you’ll recall) – I’ve proofread a friend’s book and read The Woman in Black (more on that in a later post), I’ve been out to see two comedians and a band this week!

From South Shields…

South Shields it seems is a hotbed of comedy at the moment – two comedians in one week from that neck of the woods!

 I started the week with Chris Ramsey, an enjoyable comedian (I was one of those who’d ‘been dragged along while not having a clue who he was’ – though I wasn’t going to raise my hand to admit this unlike someone further along our row). He did a bit of picking on the audience which I don’t really like, but thankfully swiftly moved on to his main act ‘Offermation’ which was brilliantly observed and very funny.

Next up was Sarah Millican – she seems to have been riding the crest of a wave of popularity this last year or so. It’s well-deserved, her show is a bit smutty, very funny and delightfully delivered. She describes herself as a ‘bit more sweary’ on stage – and she certainly is. I thought it was great how she managed to make you feel like it was an intimate show even when we were seated way up in the upper circle: so far away that there were actual binoculars up there.

…to Southend

Nowt like a good stomping hoedown in a great venue – here’s looking at you, Cluny 2 – and you The Lucky Strikes. (The Strikes are from Southend)

I saw The Lucky Strikes at the Sage Gateshead Americana festival last year and thought they were superb. I then discovered that the lead singer, Matt Boulter knew my favourite singer-songwriter Simone Felice and had toured with him. It was all shaping up well.

Some Facebook chat, a free Christmas CD and I’m convinced The Lucky Strikes are worth a looksee, worth buying their albums, worth going  to see. Last night at the Cluny2 was such good fun: I couldn’t believe the manic dancing (from the audience) at  the end. I could have been in Nashville: I was happy.

End of January – the results are in…

Okay, so the resolutions are underway, but how am I doing?

Resolution 1 – Get fitter: I will do at least two exercise sessions a week

Absolutely cracked this. Just gotta keep it up. Week is pretty much made up of Monday lunchtime – swimming (40 lengths in about 30 minutes), Monday evening – Zumba, Tuesday lunchtime – spinning, Wednesday lunchtime – spinning, Thursday lunchtime – Abs, Thursday evening – Zumba, Friday lunchtime – spinning, Sunday – walk.

I’m not beating myself up too much if I miss one or two of these as I think I’ve got a lot going on. I would like to swap out a Zumba or a spin for a combat-type class but have yet to find one.

I’ve lost 2 inches off my waist and 1 inch from my bust. Need to do more in this area as I bought a dress for a hen night that’s about two dress sizes smaller than I am. I have until March 24th.

Resolution revisited: Get fitter: I will do at least four exercise sessions a week.

Resolution 2 – Lose weight: I will lose three stone by the end of June 2012 *edit by the end of September

So I revisited this resolution within 24 hours of setting it! I think 5lbs a month as an average is very sensible – so aiming for September (and a likely trip to Greece) seemed like a good idea. Though this month I’ve lost:  10.5lbs. 

I can already fit into smaller clothes 🙂

Resolution 3 – Blog more: I resolve to blog at least eight times a month

In the words of Glee’s version of Don’t Stop Believin’….. “Ta-Da”!!!

I have to admit to not being great at sourcing blog entries or having them ready to go: I’m sure I could achieve more than eight per month.

Resolution 4 – Read more: I will read at least one book every two months

Examining John Taylor under the table was an eighties hobby of mine.

I actually finished a book of short stories called End of the Line edited by Jonathan Oliver. The book was free with a horror/haunted magazine. The stories are a mixed bag, but there’s a Christopher Fowler in there which is always good value. They are all set around underground/subway systems. Siding 13 by James Lovegrove was particularly creepy.

I have also finished another book: Talking to Girls about Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield.

Thrifty Gal picked this up when we were last in New York and pressed it into my hand as she finished it telling me I’d love it. And I did. Each chapter has an eighties song as its title which acts as a great device for Sheffield introducing a memory. I particularly enjoyed the Morrissey chapter where Rob uses lines from songs to provide an ongoing discussion with his idol.

Of course, the fact that the book is peppered with eighties references means that you’ll find yourself veering alarmingly from New Kids on the Block to Paul McCartney. Yes, I did post ‘No More Lonely Nights’ on Facebook the other night. It’s all Rob Sheffield’s fault.

When travelling home from a gig the other night (the remarkable Cornshed Sisters) I ended up eavesdropping on the conversation happening beside me. A man was having a conversation with a woman about the relative merits of Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf. Talking to girls about Duran Duran is the past, present, and undoubtedly, the future. Buy it now 🙂

So that’s like two books in one month – go me!!

Glee, Pride, Americana and Satsumas

Apologies wordsmiths, life has been getting in the way of blogging of late. I have no excuses. I have blog posts ready to go. I have no reason for not pressing ‘publish’. I’m just lazy.

So what’s been clogging up my blogging?

Well, since my holiday in June I’ve had a busy time…

The end of the month saw a trip to ‘that London’ to enjoy the delights of Glee Live. Thrifty Gal provided a timely and super synopsis so I don’t have to.

And proof that my musical taste is varied to say the least; this was swiftly followed by a trip to the Sage Gateshead to see Ron Sexsmith. I love Ron. He has a voice and face that belie his age. I spent much of the first album I listened to of his thinking he was about 24. Some googling later and I was astounded to discover he was actually in his late 40s. I feel a little bit sorry for him as success (as he sees it) seems intent on eluding him. In a recent documentary about him: Love Shines, he spent much of the time lamenting his failings instead of accepting the critical acclaim which he so deserves. At the concert someone shouted out “you’ve got real talent Ron” to which he mumbled a response about his only talent being able to wear frilly shirts. The man needs to accept he’s a great lyricist and songwriter and get on with it!

No such self-doubt at the Bright Eyes gig (12 July) also at the Sage. Conor Oberst filled the stage with a presence and energy completely unexpected from his small and wiry frame. At times loud, beefy and rockier in sound, Oberst peppered this elegantly with glimpses of his softer side (particularly songs from his folk-inspired album: I’m Wide Awake it’s Morning).

Next up: Northern Pride. A weekend of drinking and a coating of glitter. There was some music – a Lady Gaga act springs to mind. Mostly though, there was rain and pink wine.

This weekend saw yet another trip to the Sage: you’d think I lived there. This was for the Americana festival – a weekend celebration of folk, country, and obviously Americana music. Most of it free (take a hint Sunderland’s Folk Festival – £45 – eek!!) and all of it great fun. We kicked back on the Saturday with some wine, some dips and smattering of sunlight (I have some sunburn to show for it). I particularly enjoyed The Lucky Strikes – stomping tunes and some great lyrics – was on the lookout for them as they’d been likened to The Felice Brothers.

The Saturday headliner Justin Townes Earle was quirky and his set was made even more enjoyable by the crazy commentary coming from behind us. “Six satsumas, you’d think the headliner would get better lighting than that… ” (A comment on the six orange lights lined up behind him). And, “if I’d drawn him in art class at school I’d have failed” (Earle’s trousers were a little short making his thighs look overly long and spindly, while his shins looked very short).

Things are settling down (a bit) so hopefully I’ll dedicate some more time to blogging.