Monday, 13 October 2014

A very idle entry...

I know I said I'd write every two weeks and I know I said my next post would be about Bruges but I've been busy ok! I do have a life you know...

In place of a well thought out and perfectly sculpted post, I thought I'd share with you something I came across earlier today. 

It's the one and only thing I ever wrote for my student newspaper:

REVIEW: 'Martin Creed Band' at the Belfast Barge

Let me begin by saying that conceptual art and minimalist music are not my idea of a good time. Old-fashioned as it sounds I find it difficult to think of ‘a sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball’ as art; it is just a screwed up piece of paper. So I was set to attend the 'Martin Creed Band' gig with a less than open mind, my expectation was that Creed’s music was to be much the same as his art.

The venue was an unimposing barge docked in the River Lagan. Greeted at the door with a complimentary glass of wine, audience members were then ushered through the doors into a rather cosy room of about six tables. There was a somewhat quaint vibe about the whole thing.

Kicking off the evening was local band ‘The Continuous Battle of Order,’ consisting of indie musicians Hornby (who seems to be without a forename) and Craig Kearney. Their songs can only be described as 'epic explosions of sound'. 

The band members' timing was immaculate and their set varied from surreal wailing to sudden outbursts of experimental jazz. Every so often the music would stop and a line of speech would continuously repeated by the two 'out-there' music makers. However, after forty minutes of this ear-splitting entertainment, ears were beginning to bleed and watches were attracting a larger audience than the stage.

During the changeover, the barge began to fill up and the audience increased by almost a third. Martin Creed entered the room and a hush of anticipation fell over the crowd as he took to the stage to warn people of the strobe-lighting. There was something about the way he told jokes in his deadpan Glaswegian accent that made him instantly likable.

Creed's band performed a series of short experimental pieces and managed to keep the majority of the audience entertained. The level of nudity was certainly higher than expected and the highlight of the concert was, without a doubt, Creed’s best known song 'Fuck Off'. It is exactly what you'd expect from the title. An unmemorable riff with the words 'fuck off' continuously repeated over the top.

The evening ended, the lights turned down and there came from the audience a few half-hearted cries of 'encore'. The band obliged, finishing in much the same vein as they had begun - by counting from one hundred to two hundred in song. 

A few keen audience members began to get up and dance, trying in desperation to make others do the same, but being met with blank looks. The evening was, if nothing else, memorable. Creed’s intention is to be out-there and different, and out-there and different is the certainly best way to describe his concert.

So there you go, not too bad for a first-year. Perhaps I've missed my calling as a music critic...

Anyway, this was originally supposed to be a travel blog so next time I really will write about Bruges. The piece is coming, it's just a bit dull thus far...

Toodles xox

(Oh, no. I don't like that ending at all...)

Here's what I looked like back then
(the photo is almost sepia, so you know it's old)

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Please allow me to introduce myself

I realise that all I’ve posted prior to this is essentially a big fat boast about my trip across the pond last year.

I must admit I wasn’t sure about this whole blogging malarkey. My lack of ‘stickability’ (I’m not even sure that’s a real word, but I like it), coupled with the fact that trolls scare me and I’m not sure I want strangers reading what I write, suggest that my attempts to join the blogosphere are doomed to fail.

I’ve found, from joining several social networking sites, that it’s incredibly difficult to encapsulate one’s entire personality in a few short sentences, that is unless that someone has the personality of a brick. Here’s hoping I don’t…

Let me begin with an extract from a very long piece I wrote at university and inaccurately called my ‘memoirs’. I think it pretty much sums up my entire university existence.

“So I wonder if 2am the morning of the exam is an appropriate hour to begin my revision. Probably not the best idea but my sleeping pattern has recently become very peculiar. I have been going to bed at 4pm and waking up at 1am fully conscious and ready to work. The only logical thing to do, then, is work when I feel like it. The problem is that I then feel like going to bed at ridiculous times in the morning such as 8am.

After having not slept all night Sunday, I took my English exam on Monday morning running on large amounts of very strong black coffee, before collapsing in a state of near comatose at about 1pm. Anyway, enough about my warped sleeping pattern and back to work I go…”

At university I was very much a ‘clock-watcher,’ hence all of the times written in that excerpt and the fact that I couldn’t sleep was, of course, no excuse for starting my revision that morning. How on earth I managed to get the grade I did (which wasn’t a first… but it wasn’t a 2:2 either) is beyond me. But I did and that’s that. Here's a little about me...
  • I’m taller than some and shorter than most.
  • I favour films over television and books over magazines.
  • I’ve been described by many as ‘formidable’ and I’m still not sure how to take it.
  • My favourite word is ‘lucrative’ – for phonetic and connotative reasons.
  • My favourite film is ‘Django Unchained,’ band is Queen, song is ‘Hotel California’ and book is ‘The Silver Brumby.’
  • My favourite animal is a horse, although if I had to be an animal I’d be a wolf.
  • I have a very eclectic music taste (isn’t that what most people say to try and sound exciting and different?)
  • The bane of my life is text speak… I also hate the fact that ‘text’ has become a verb, I’m not entirely sure why.
  • I suppose I should include the fact that I love travel, although I wouldn't exactly say I'm a seasoned traveller.
Anyway I think I'll stop there for now as it turns out I do have the personality of a brick and I could have just put all of that in the 'about me' section. If you’ve reached the end of this ramble then I commend you, if not, well then I can write anything I like about you and you won't see it.

I shall resume at a later date to talk about Bruges. So there’s that to look forward to. I suppose I'll try and post once every two weeks or just when I have anything to say that I think might interest you people. Just to warn y'all, I'll probably refer to California, a lot.

I have also yet to think of a witty sign off, so for now I shall end by saying: ‘spk l8r xx’

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Remembering Northern California

View of Sugarloaf Ridge through a Sonoma Valley vineyard

Trail riding in the Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

City of Sonoma

(Pretending) to drive the Bluebird at B.R. Cohn Winery

Wine tasting at the Roche Winery tasting room

An Anna's hummingbird just outside my bedroom window

A very American stop sign

San Francisco

The Napa Valley from the Castello di Amorosa Winery, Calistoga

Living the high life across the pond

I arrived at San Francisco airport a disheveled wreck after a 14-hour flight and stumbled through Arrivals, dragging a rather cumbersome suitcase. I met a friend of my hosts who had been dispatched to pick me up.

Having had no sleep and watched five in-flight films in a row, I was so wired that I’ve no idea of half the things I said to the poor man on our hour-long drive to Sonoma County. He seemed amused at my frightfully English outbursts, ‘we’re on the wrong side of the road,’ and ‘look at that school bus, it’s just like in the films!’ ‘Movies,’ he corrected.

The invitation to California had been last minute so I hadn’t had time to tell my friends of my travel plans. As we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge I had my iPad out trying to get an Instagram shot, ready to scoff, ‘look where I am.’

I remained in awe of how American America is for at least a week after I arrived, taking photos of every huge pick-up truck, mail box and white picket fence I came across, much to the amusement of my hosts. They took me wine tasting in Napa Valley where I pretended to know the difference between the nose and legs of each exquisite wine.

I experienced a delicious Italian-American Thanksgiving dinner with the neighbours, one of whom, before he knew my name, said to me, in his Pesci accent, ‘you gotta come spend Thanksgiving with us.’ Upon my arrival I was introduced to the neighbours’ daughter who treated me like an old friend. The feast was Christmas x100, centred on a gargantuan turkey big enough to feed all 30 guests for the next three days.

I’ve always loved horse riding and, on the trail ride kindly arranged for me by my hosts, I imagined I looked much like Steve McQueen in The Magnificent Seven. This perception was quickly dispelled after I saw the photos of what I actually looked like, in my very English-looking riding boots and skullcap. The sun beat down that autumn (or should I say Fall?) morning and I couldn’t believe the heat. This was November, a month I am used to spending under five layers, and we were out in nothing but jeans and t-shirts.

I was deeply impressed by the contrast between the burnt orange trees and the cerulean sky. Later, looking at one of the many landscapes I had the privilege of photographing, a friend of mine remarked that, ‘the sky looks so much bigger over there,’ and I agree. Everything is bigger over there – big hospitality, big cars, big landscapes. I had a taste of the Californian lifestyle and wine and it has left me wanting to go back for more.