Ben Folds Live – Birmingham Symphony Hall

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‘What are you wearing to the gig?’ I asked my friend Jess. ‘Ummm…’ was the reply.
‘Are you dressing up?’ I asked.
‘Ummmm’ said Jess again. ‘I don’t know. What are you wearing?’
‘I don’t know’ I said. ‘Should we dress up?’
‘Oh God’ said Jess. ‘I don’t know. Maybe?’

This conversation went on in a circular fashion for about another half an hour. You see, we were both used to going to gigs in pubs. Gigs in clubs. Gigs in fields. Dirty gigs in the back room of a bar where we would have to move furniture out of the way to dance, or where we would have to wade through raw sewage if we wanted to use the toilets. But never a gig with an orchestra that had actual proper seating in a Symphony Hall. It felt like we should be wearing heels (why not? We’d be sitting down).

Going to this gig made me feel like a grown up.

Birmingham Symphony Hall is a beautiful concert space. It has great acoustics and is clearly built to provide maximum impact for classical/orchestral music. It is grand and plush and imposing. It has clean toilets. It was not designed to showcase one girl and her bassist playing intimate, dreamy folk rock. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we got.

Poor, poor Lera Lynn. As a support act I could see why she was chosen to go on the Ben Folds tour – her music was in a similar vein to some of his work so I can understand why the organisers thought that the audience might like her. Unfortunately, this was completely the wrong tour to be on. Her music got swallowed up by the space. What could have been hauntingly beautiful became, quite frankly, boring. It didn’t help that we had such comfortable seats. Quiet, dreamy music + velour chair + audience over 30 on a Monday night = sleepy time. Luckily, we had Ben Folds and yMusic to wake us up.

THIS is what the space was built for.

I am a huge fan of Ben Folds. He is creative and clever and funny and engaging and he isn’t afraid to be utterly geeky about the music that he loves. By re-working his songs to include the orchestra he added a totally new dimension which was such an incredible thing to witness live. At one point Ben started freestyling with things that the audience were shouting out (like ‘rock this bitch’) and he somehow composed an entire song around it. Live. Including all 7 members of the orchestra. How does he do it? It sounded incredible. Proof that Ben Folds is a genius.

I had a great time at the gig. It was like nothing that I had ever experienced before. It was weird to be siting down (but nice cause, you know, heels) and to be able to see the band was novel (I’m 5ft1). If anyone gets the opportunity to see this tour then I would urge them to do so.

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Conquering the Mountain

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Today, I achieved a milestone. I refer to it as Everest but it is in fact a very small hill. Let me explain.

My running route looks like a rectangle, with steep inclines on the shorter sides and a more gentle gradient along the long sides. This makes the initial jog easy (downhill), turn the corner, carry the momentum then… Everest. what starts as a gentle gradient becomes a small hill, and for weeks I’ve made it only halfway up before feeling like my lungs were going to collapse. But today – FANFARE – I DID IT!

I not only got over the hill, I plodded on and got all the way to the end of the long-bit-of-the-rectangle! Then I had to walk up the short rectangle bit (massive hill) but I kept up a good pace and did some lunges while I got my breath back. Then i jogged-ran-jogged across the home straight and repeated. Didn’t manage to get up the hill without stopping for a second time but once was enough. Yay me!

Interestingly, this took me a minute longer than usual. This could be because today is ridiculously hot, or because my ankle hurts from wearing supid sandals at the weekend, or (more likely) because I’m slower plodding round at a slow jog than I am jog-walk-jogging. I assume it’s better for me to keep jogging for as long as I can?

Anyway, I’m off to enjoy the sunshine 🙂

Keep on running!

Traditional Sexism

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I’ve just read a great article in the Guardian regarding sexism in the brewing industry. I thought it was a well written piece with some ultimately positive news about women collaborating, forming alliances and making progress in what was one a very male dominated industry. (Well done to them).

Unfortunately, when I saw that someone had posted the article on Facebook, I was horrified to read some of the 80 or so comments that went with it. They ranged from the ridiculous to downright hatred. How can people be so nasty to each other? Instead of picking up on the women’s collaborative, they’ve focused on the fact that the author of the piece talked about the sexist marketing images used by other breweries and the fact that the female brewers agreed, saying that ‘laddish’ marketing was hackneyed and tired. This seems to have sparked a flurry of sexist comments from both men and women.

In my opinion, the women in the article were dead right. I enjoy drinking beer and I don’t see that marketing exclusively to men is in any way a good idea, let alone the damage it can do to a brand by offending a significant proportion of the client base. I can see that it would alienate a woman who was looking to brew her own beer. I can understand why other women are offended by the imagery and names that some breweries use.

I’ve included my thoughts on the Facebook comments below:

This isn’t an important issue/feminists should concentrate their efforts on bigger issues.

This is an important issue. This is everyday sexism – it’s not overtly excluding women, it’s using language and imagery to suggest that this product is for men – for no real reason. (As an added bonus, the imagery objectifies women.Thanks!) By doing so, women automatically exclude themselves as customers, often without realising it. The subtlety of this approach can help to normalise sexism as anyone who complains about such a seemingly minor issue is seen as whining, overreacting or being a killjoy. A society where sexism is the norm contributes to all of the problems that women face today (earning less, being overlooked for promotion, being objectified etc.) as it promotes the idea that women should shut up and get on with it. After all, militant feminists aren’t sexy, are they? And god forbid a woman should be unsexy…

Don’t buy it if you don’t like it.

I won’t, thanks. But I suspect a lot of people will (possibly without thinking about it) because, as in my earlier point, we live in a society where casual sexism is the norm – and I want to make people think about that.

Women don’t complain they aren’t binmen etc.

Yes we do – but I don’t think that’s particularly relevant to the issue in hand.

There’s beer that could be offensive to men.

That’s not ok either and it doesn’t detract from this issue.

These women are using sexism to promote their own crap beer.

No they’re not. These women are joining together to support each other’s business endeavours, make contacts, promote brewing for women and to encourage a community where women can help each other. If that generates media interest then great. That isn’t sexism, that’s business accumen.

Also, I love the way this comment assumes that the beer created is crap. I’m going to guess that the contributor hasn’t tried all of the different beers the women in the article had made – thus proving that sexism in the beer drinking community is alive and well and that women probably need to stick together if they’re going to get anywhere.

If the industry was that sexist those women wouldn’t be able to brew at all.

Sexism isn’t a black and white issue. Just because women are ‘allowed’ to make beer (wow, thanks!) doesn’t mean there isn’t a long way to go.

Feminazis! Puritans! PC brigade! You can call beer what you want!

Can you really? So, no matter how offensive, sweary, inappropriate, racist, homophobic etc. a name is, you can still use it? Well, I suppose you can, but why would you want to? No landlord/landlady in their right mind would put it on a pump, plus you’d have the added benefit of knowing that you’d upset a load of people. Well done you.

The Guardin is run by a fat ginger bitch so it’s bound to be biased! The brewer looks like a man! Lesbians!

I’m not even going to dignify those comments with a response. Please crawl back into the primordial soup and talk to me when you’ve evolved.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Get in touch below!

Seeds of Change

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I’m very excited to see that my garden is really starting to get going now. My redcurrant (grown in a pot) has lots of berries on it. The blueberry – not so much. The courgette (also grown in a pot) is starting to flower and the tomatoes are also getting bigger. We could do with some more sunshine as it’s been a bit miserable this week.

The hanging baskets are starting to fill out too. I can’t begin to explain how happy they make me. I think it’s just seeing something that you’ve nurtured from a tiny seedling grow into something amazing.

My new gardening experiment is my sweet pea wall that I’ve recently planted up. I’m hopefull that this will work – basically I’ve grown some old fashioned sweet peas from seed and planted them against my fence. I’ve run some training wires across the fence for support and the idea is that I’ll end up with a kind of ‘wall of sweet peas’. I’ve used string as an initial support – this is how it currently looks:

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My other DIY project is our new raised planter. I’ve bought an old Singer sewing machine frame and put a Belfast sink on top of it. I think this would be great for anyone who struggles to bend down or who is in a wheelchair. Originally the sewing machine would have looked something like this (when I bought it it was just the wrought iron frame):

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This is quite a bad picture but I’ve upcycled it into this:

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Obviously not in the above picture, but in real life you can see the Singer name and the treadle mechanism. I’m really pleased with the result.

I’ll update this blog again once everything starts to flower!

 

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Running Scared

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As you may know, I’ve started jogging round my local park a few times a week. As it’s nice weather, that tends to mean a fair bit of people and dog dodging as the path is quite narrow. Today, I was grabbed by a child and befrended by a German Shepherd (I literally looked down to see him padding along next to me like some kind of spirit animal). Whilst I don’t mind a minimal amount of interruption I’ve found that it does distract me and slows me down. It also makes me very aware that I’m a young woman on my own running through some secluded areas where anything could happen. I know that this sounds paranoid but I have become suspicious of anyone without an obvious ‘purpose’ to be there (running, dog walking, with children etc.) I’m not sure what I can do to protect myself or make myself less vunerable? I do go to boxing classes so could probably defend myself to a certain extent but I don’t know what I can do to prevent anything happening in the first place. Perhaps I need to borrow someone’s dog.

The other problem that I’ve encountered is focusing on pushing myself. I’ve found that if I think ‘I’ll run to that tree’ I can get there but no further – it’s like my brain holds back the exhaution until I reach my goal then heaps it on so I can’t go on. I’ve been trying to look at the concrete in front of my feet to stop this but it’s a difficult habit to break. I’m still not entirely sure what I should be doing wth my breathing either which doesn’t help. I’m just trying to keep it steady but the path I run on is quite hilly so that often doesn’t work.

In other news, I’ve started properly timing my runs and I knocked a whole two minutes off my PB so I’m pleased that I’m improving. Yay me!

Magical Thinking

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Whilst I was doing my every-other-day-run/walk I took some time to appreciate my surroundings. I’m so lucky to live in the UK and to have a beautiful park close by that I can jog round at my own pace in relative safety. Such a first world privilege.

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Above is the dovecote (with dove!) that’s part of one of the original buildings on the site. So pretty. Theres also a walled garden which is tended to by the local residents (I need to volunteer to do that).

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However, what caught my eye today was someone’s tree decorations for the fairies. I thought these were so beautiful:

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How did they get there? They were quite high up. They obviously took a bit of skill and forethought. Who put them there? Why?

Perhaps I’ll use them as inspiration for a short story. Watch this space!

So I guess today’s run was a more of a walk but I’m ok with that. Took me 33 minutes to do 2.2 miles which is rubbish but then I did get distracted. Bit of gentle yoga tomorrow in preparation for the bank holiday weekend.

Peace and love people!