Monthly Archives: December 2014

2014: My Best Year So Far.

I think that it’s fair to say that both globally and nationally, 2014 has been an absolute boil on the arse of existence. Granted, there have been worse years when you consider history as a whole, but 2014 has been astonishing in its array of awfulness.

It almost makes me feel bad for having had such an awesome year.

…almost.

The holiday year at work runs from the 1st of April, and this year I bought myself an extra 5 days of leave…which I had subsequently beasted by the end of November. I have gone all guns blazing into life and done many wonderful things.

Rise Against - probably the best gig of the year.

Rise Against – probably the best gig of the year.

I have been to 19 gigs this years (that I can remember), including 3 all day music events; Barclaycard BST, Strawberry Fields and Ouch! My Generator. It would have been more but I bowed out of three due to, in no particular order;

  • Being unable to face taking the train into London
  • Being utterly exhausted
  • Realising that I no longer have easy access to the amphetamines that would have been required to stay the distance

I have seen at least 50 live bands, including Killswitch Engage, Soulfly, Korn, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Arnocorps, Scumface, Catharsis, Soil, American Head Charge, Alestorm, Rise Against, Seether, Machine Head, and bands I never ever thought I would get see like Faith No More, Soundgarden and Inspiral Carpets. On top of this, I managed to see my beloved TrollfesT three times, and also joined their Street Team which has perhaps been one of my proudest achievements.

I spent the week of my 36th birthday trying to pretend I wasn’t whining and complaining at Brother’s Bootcamp.

They made me a cake and everythin'!

They made me a cake an’ everythin’!

I started writing this blog, and sharing the whirlwind of Ridiculous that is my life these days.

Blog Eyes

I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed sharing in my daft exploits.

I drank many times my own body weight in beer, and even had a go at brewing my own.

10556528_780312128687593_1752933870593561266_n

…can’t say it tasted much better than it smelled.

I learned how to drive a tank.

DSC02313

Fuck. Yes.

I learned how to not die as quickly in the event of being stranded outdoors in an emergency situation.

DSCF2629

Forests are slug-harbouring dens of evil.

I went Segway riding again, and discovered all sorts of wonderful new body armor that I need to get, because reasons.

10338602_760168197368653_7716614312260350946_o

Need.

I bought my first weapon, in preparation for any impending apocalypses, zombie or otherwise.

Gordon

Say hello to Gordon.

I have travelled a lot – significantly to Bergen, Copenhagen, Oslo and Minneapolis – my first venture across the pond.

Can’t even joke, I yearn to go back to Bergen.

I have made my skin that little bit more awesome.

leg (2)

You’ll have to use your imagination over what the ones under my arse look like.

DSCF2696DSCF2695

 

I have finally decided on a plan for what I actually want to do with my life.

75cl. Yes, yes I think so.

For once I have a strategy that involves more than beer.

I have laughed. A lot. On more than one occasion, I laughed so much that beer came out of my nose.

Not actually joking.

Not actually joking.

I met many new people, and reconnected with friends who through my own stupid choices I had lost touch with.

10580902_10152660882992265_5857142681496194543_o

I learned a harsh lesson about disconnecting from your people.

I created my first cosplay/halloween costume from scratch.

10644823_10153473640170752_6863807988965477332_n

I can’t lie, I even impressed myself.

At Christmas, I did a Good Thing, and knitted a load of scarves for a local homeless charity, proving that I am not entirely self-absorbed.

Felt like a decent human being.

Felt like a decent human being.

Regardless of where I have been and what I have done, above all else in 2014 I have been joyfully, gleefully, unapologetically ME and I have loved it.

Here’s to seeing what 2015 has in store for me! Cheers everyone!DSCF2715[1]

Twisted Image Tattoo & Body Piercing, Cambridge, Minnesota

Back in August, I visited Vikingskipshuset, a Viking burial ship museum in Oslo, and I was utterly enchanted. I was captivated by the wood carvings that I saw there and I knew immediately that I needed to make them part of me, somehow.

I approached Jak at Twisted Image about drawing a couple of new tattoos for me, based on the carvings that I had seen. I knew that it was Jak I wanted to design them for me; from her art and previous work, to her experience and intuitive understanding of what will work in ink, to her passion about tattooing and piercing, to her professionalism and care about doing everything right.

I sent her a couple of photos that I had taken while I was in the museum, explained roughly where I wanted them, and left her to what she does best.

When I arrived at the studio itself, I was impressed on a number of levels. It was warm and clean, as you would expect, but it was also inviting and comfortable. It completely lacked the ‘dentist’s waiting room’ feel, the clinical and impersonal veneer that a lot of the places I have been to before seem to deliberately aim for. Also, Twisted Image is purely a custom tattoo shop, so there were no soulless catalogues of cheeky red devils, Crayola coloured dolphins, and generic tribal bicep bands. There was a very personal and friendly feel to the place and I immediately felt at home.

Each of the artists that works there has their own station which has been personalised to give a clear snapshot of their own diverse styles. It was really nice to be in an environment where everyone clearly brings so much of themselves to work.

Something that I hadn’t seen before, and was impressed by, was a big flat-screen TV and DVD player. Another touch that shows a gearing towards the customer experience – you’re likely to be there for a long time, probably in a reasonable amount of discomfort, and what better way to pass that time than being distracted by a film? (I personally managed to get through Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, Tropic Thunder and Shaun of the Dead during my session and it really did help).

There was one significant thing to note from my perspective which speaks volumes about Jak’s skill and experience. I have an exaggerated physiological response to needles and other medical procedures which causes me to pass out. I have had a doctor explain it to me once while it was happening; basically, my body detects an attack and diverts my blood to my legs so that I can run away, to the extent that you can no longer detect a pulse in my wrist. Unless I am lying down, not enough blood can get to my brain and I black out.

I explained this to her in advance (partly because it’s only fair to warn someone, and partly to explain that I’m really not a wuss, honest!) and absolute credit to her light touch and management, I didn’t even feel light-headed. That has never happened before and testament to her as a professional artist.

Jak’s bandaging technique and aftercare guidance were also superior to anything that I have ever experienced before.

As for the tattoos themselves, here are the two pictures that I sent to her;

20140831_15490020140831_155608

and here is what she created for me;

DSCF2695DSCF2696

I am absolutely delighted with my new tattoos, and spent a humorous amount of time flipping in a 180 in front of the mirror trying to see them both at the same time.

In summary, I cannot recommend Twisted Image enough, and my eternal thanks go to Jak for doing such an amazing job and providing me with such a good experience.

Jak

Gig Etiquette For The Over-40’s

Tonight I went to a gig at a local venue called The Roadmender, to see band called the Inspiral Carpets. They were originally formed in 1983, but I didn’t become familiar with them until 1990. I noticed about 3 months ago that they were touring, and I have never seen them live before – as I am sure you can imagine, after being a fan for 24 years, I was quite excited.

While it was amazing to finally see the Inspirals live, and I really enjoyed the gig, it was actually spoiled by a significant number of other people in the room, on an ongoing basis throughout the evening. As much as I was getting annoyed, I started to realise that there might be very good reasons for what was happening, and I decided that it would be a good idea for me to try and enlighten gig-goers.

For those of you that don’t get out to gigs very often, for one reason or another, please find below a few points to bear in mind when you are out at a music concert.

1) Turn Up On Time

If it says ‘Doors at 7pm.‘ on your ticket, that does not mean ‘Turn up at 8:45.‘ I understand that you have probably all had the misfortune of reproducing in the intervening 20 odd years and have probably had to pay babysitters, but there are support bands playing who are likely to be either young or local, and could really do with you showing your face since you’ve already bought the ticket. Also, stop clogging up the fucking bar just before the main show, you pricks.

2) Stop talking

This is not an episode of fucking Coronation Street. Shut the fuck up. Even if this wasn’t a band that have been around 30 years and rarely tour, this is no different to talking on your phone in the cinema; it’s just as ignorant, but more likely to get you a surreptitious elbow to the back of the head.

3) Mosh pits

I do not wish to treat you like you are completely ignorant, but I do appreciate that mosh pits may not have been A Thing back in your day. Therefore, please allow me to direct your attention to them, since they are quite relevant on a number of levels. There is an area at the front of the stage where more exuberant fans will jump around, swing their arms erratically, and generally act like boisterous teenagers. A few key points to note;

a) if you stand in, or at the edge of, a mosh pit with a pint (or frankly any beverage without a lid) you will lose it and you have no right to complain.
b) If you stand in a mosh pit, you are likely to get caught by a flying limb. Any limb, potentially. Deal with it.
c) If you wish to flail your arms around and bounce off of people, go and stand in the fucking mosh pit.

4) Beer runs

Just DON’T. The band are playing for 90 minutes, tops. This is quite possibly the first time that a lot of people in the audience have seen them (do a mental calculation – in the case of the Inspirals as an example, this could be anything up to 31 years). Stand the fuck still and enjoy the music. You can get another beer in less than two hours. What’s wrong with you?

5) Toilet runs

Seriously? How old are you? Take a piss before the set starts. If you have bladder issues, put a fucking Tena Lady pad in your pants.

P.S. as an aside to the beer and toilet run points, there are a fair amount of shorter-than-average people at gigs. While we know that it can’t be helped, if you tall bastards would stand the fuck still, it helps the rest of us to position ourselves behind you so that we can actually see the gig that we have paid the same money as you to see. We’ll also hate you a little bit less. Jus’ sayin’.

6) Shoes

A large number of mostly empty [plastic] glasses will get dropped on the floor. Beside this deliberate discarding of containers, someone will always drop their drink; if it’s not you this time, it will be you next time, so don’t judge. Don’t wear nice shoes, and if you do, don’t complain when they get messed up.

7) Throwing beer

Throwing pint containers with beer and/or piss in the bottom was maybe considered cool at a warm sunny all-day Monsters of Rock festival in 1987. It is however totally NOT cool on a shitty December evening at the Roadmender Northampton, in 2014, an 850 person capacity venue where we can all see you. Twat. Stop it.

8) Starting Fights

What the fuck is wrong with you? Yes, the mosh pit is a place to take out aggression, but we look after each other while we are in there. If someone goes down, you help them get up. If they need help to get out, you go in and get them out if you are in a position to do so. If you accidentally belt someone, you apologise with a hearty slap to the shoulder or a shake of the hand, and then carry on about your business. If you want to fight, do us all a favour and fuck off to the town centre where the idiots have been on shots all night.

9) Encore

Everyone does an encore these days, it’s just a given thing. They WILL come back out. Unless they’re Mötley Crüe, that is. While it is appropriate for the audience to cheer and hoot and chant the name of the band in expectation and encouragement of their return to the stage, it is NOT appropriate to boo when they don’t come back quick enough for your liking. Nor is it appropriate to say, and I quote, “Let’s have it! Let’s have some more! You ain’t so cool! Don’t be shy!”

I hope this helps all of you 40/50/60-somethings to better understand how you are supposed to behave at a music concert, and enables you to conduct yourselves in a more appropriate fashion… Or at least one that stops the rest of us wanting to kill you.

TL:DR version – shut the fuck up, stand in the same spot, sing along, bounce up and down, applaud enthusiastically, go home. The End.

Happy Fun Travel Times

Or, The Cluster-fuck That Has Been My Public Transport Experience Recently.

During the last year, I have traveled quite extensively. Over the Summer, I had three separate trips to Scandinavia, and spread quite evenly over the last 12 months has been a series of gigs, largely in and around London. This has meant regular use of the network of public transport services in the Midlands and South-East of England. While buses and trains tend to be a little bit shabby as a rule, it’s nothing especially awful, and the odd delay here and there is nothing more than a bit of a nuisance.

Consistently full of shitty pre-teens in heavy accents, throwing drinks around, shouting and scaring young mothers and the elderly.

Consistently full of shitty pre-teens with heavy accents, throwing drinks around, shouting and scaring young mothers and the elderly. I don’t know why I don’t work in advertising.

Recently however, my experience of public transport has escalated rapidly from being ‘a bit of a nuisance’ to being ‘fucking shocking’ laced with a healthy dose of ‘complete incompetence and failure to give a shit that this is a service that people are paying for’.

While the local buses come with their own very special, smelly and noisy set of problems, I am pointing my finger very firmly in the direction of London Midland trains. Since the end of September, I have been traveling on a weekly basis into London for Norwegian language lessons, since there are no classroom based lessons more local to me. Adding this into the       existing schedule of gigs and other activities, it has meant that I have been traveling into the capital on average twice a week for the last 3 months. I have had my eyes well and truly opened to the problems that exist within public transport.

...and fuck you if you think you're going to get what you paid for.

…and fuck you if you think you’re going to get what you paid for.

I would like to state for the record that I bloody love the London Tube system. I have found over the years that underground trains and metros really appeal to me in a way that I don’t quite      understand; I find them really comfortable environments, and I especially love the hot mechanical smell of the air…don’t judge me. The London Underground system is fast, efficient, reliable, and will get you wherever you need to be. Once you are in London, traveling is no kind of hardship. It’s getting TO London in the first place that is the issue.

Makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

Makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

It is really difficult for me to understand why traveling has been such a problem recently. London is one direct train journey from Northampton, between 57 and 87 minutes away, depending on your level of planning and/or blind luck. Simple, non? Actually, non. For the first 5 weeks of my evening course, every single train that I took to get home was delayed, and frequently the train going in was also subject to problems. After that initial period, on the infrequent occasions that my train wasn’t delayed, the ones before it were, so I ended out being stood nose to nose with the great unwashed for the majority of the journey home.

Sitting on the floor in a packed train does bring the occasional positive moment.

…although, sitting on the floor in a packed train does bring the occasional entertaining moment.

There is nothing more confusing and frustrating, when you have somewhere that you need to be, than standing on the train platform, looking back along the tracks at the train you need to be on, which is sat stationary, just looking at you blankly and scratching itself. Or the week after, when you get on the train and it simply doesn’t move for 25 minutes. Granted, they have gotten much better recently at keeping the commuter informed, but somehow knowing that they have cancelled your train because someone didn’t turn up for work isn’t a great comfort. Presumably, the only person without whom the train cannot operate would be the driver, and I would like to think they had a fucking contingency plan in place for something happening to the person who makes the train move.

Nah, too much enthusiasm.

Nah, too much enthusiasm.

All of these things are irritating, but being British we just accept that our public transport systems are shit in the same way that we accept it’s likely to rain at some point on any given day of the year. However, on the 10th November 2014 something happened that tipped me over the edge from British Disappointment, into a pit of abject, howling fury.

It was a Monday, and I had headed into London to go and see Rise Against at Brixton Academy (or the 02 Academy Brixton, whatever the kids are calling it these days). It was an absolutely blinding gig [literally, in fact; the lighting guy there has a serious hard-on for bursts of white spotlights aimed right into the crowd], and genuinely one of the best concerts I have ever been to. Afterwards, I skipped happily back to the tube station, and jumped on the Victoria line back up to Euston. As you come out of the tube station into the Euston overground rail station proper, you come up the escalator and turn to the right, where you are met with the warm, loving glow of the departure boards…

Euston Departure Boards

This is the usual reassuring sight you are met with.

…which on this occasion were mostly black. To say that was unsettling is an understatement. I panicked and double checked the time in case somehow I had screwed up and it was much later than I had thought. It wasn’t, but there were only a couple of boards lit up on the left-hand side, and none of the trains went back to Northampton. There should have been at least three more trains due that evening. Shit. How the fuck am I supposed to get home? Why the hell are there no trains back to Northampton?? What’s happened?

Well, that was a question I continued to ask myself for quite a while because there were no announcements. I went over the the Virgin trains desk (since I couldn’t see where the London Midland desk even was, and the main information booth was closed). I figured if something had happened then someone would have mentioned it to the other train operator, since Virgin trains go through Northampton too…but he had no idea what was happening either. In a bit of a frenzy, I ended out getting on the first train to Milton Keynes, since that’s as close as I could get to home.

i-dunno-lol_1_

So, why can’t I get home?

While I was on the train, there were no announcements explaining what had happened. I put a somewhat miffed post on Facebook, and my friends kindly did some research on my behalf. Apparently the London Midland website stated that there were planned works taking place that meant no trains would be traveling past Milton Keynes after 20:30 that evening…

So, when I bought my SAME DAY RETURN ticket from NORTHAMPTON at 18:30 that evening, would it not have been fucking pertinent to mention I couldn’t ACTUALLY return to Northampton? How long would it have taken to get someone to even write on a bit of sodding paper and stick it to the ticket machine? Would it not have also been a good idea to perhaps use one of the departure boards in Euston maybe to explain? I know they’re really pleased with themselves over all of the ongoing line upgrades and how wonderful the service will be in the future, but how about thinking just a little bit about the people who are actually traveling right now?

London Midland Communication s Team: "What's that you say? I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the self-congratulatory fapping noises."

London Midland Communications Team: “What’s that you say? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the self-congratulatory fapping noises I am making.”

Apparently, the website also stated there was a replacement bus service from Milton Keynes to Northampton, although there was no mention of this at Euston… or on the train… or in Milton Keynes station itself when I eventually got there. I went outside the front of the station and there was no sign of a bus. I ended out getting a taxi home, and while £25 is pretty reasonable in terms of a fare of that distance, it was £25 I really shouldn’t have had to pay.

Think of all the beer I could buy with £25... Well, in Northampton at least.

Think of all the beer I could buy with £25… Well, in Northampton at least.

If I had been given the information that I couldn’t get back past Milton Keynes, I could have driven there and parked where the train finished instead of leaving my car in Northampton. Or I could have gone to Wellingborough and got the train into St Pancras station. Or I could have decided simply not go to to London in the first place. I would have had options. Yes, not having a train home is a ballache, but the very worst thing was the lack of information and the utter disregard for passengers, a.k.a. their paying customers.

Worse customer service than on a TV show taking the piss.

Worse service than a TV show taking the piss about awful service.

I am generally a calm and rational person but I was absolutely livid. I was the most annoyed I had been in a very long time, so much so that I was being totally obnoxious in the hope that someone on the train would start a fight with me. I have a sneaking suspicion that I may have been more worried about getting home than I cared to admit to. And that was me, good at dealing with stressful situations. What if I had been a less confident person? What if I had suffered from some anxiety disorder? What if I didn’t have the money to get a taxi home? Regardless of how capable I am of dealing with stressful situations, leaving a lone female passenger with no way to get home at night is a bit fucking shitty to say the least.

Last Train Home

Not that I see myself as a damsel, but that’s kinda not the point.

The next day, I had to go into London again for language lessons. I checked the website before I left, and I had to dig about to even find where the notifications about changes to service were. When I was at the station, I discovered that there was one board that displayed the notifications, on the platform (…after the point that you have already bought your ticket…), tucked away up in the corner behind your left shoulder where you wouldn’t even see it unless you were specifically looking for it, or were taking an intense interest in the courtship activities of the pigeons in the roofspace. Even then, it was mostly scrolling notifications where London Midland was sucking itself off over how wonderful the improvements it was making to the infrastructure were.

Fuck you, London Midland. Fuck you for all the hours of my life I will never get back. Fuck you for the years that your stress has taken off of my lifespan. Fuck you most of all for being my only option.

Fuck You