Monday, 26 September 2011

Happy First Twitter Birthday

It has been a year since I joined Twitter. A year. My daughter had signed up, soon became tired of me peeping over her shoulder and suggested I got my own account. "Why on earth would I want to do that, I'm not interested in what strangers had for their lunch", was my response I recall. Well, here I am twelve months on and seven and a half thousand tweets later. So, what do I know?

1. I should have chosen a different name. I have had to wear a badge emblazoned with UNCOOLMUM to a theatre production of Edward II. Embarrassing does not begin to describe it.

2. I will not blindly follow celebrities, many are boring in the extreme, constantly self-promoting and re-tweeting sychophancy However, the thrill of getting a reply off someone even vaguely famous is undeniabley thrilling.

3.I cannot watch television now without slipping onto twitter. I HAVE to see comments made by people like @TheMichaelMoran or @gracedent or @mrchrisaddison who can encapsulate the absurdity of t.v. programmes like the X Factor,in just a few pithy words.

4. Twitter has revolutionised my music listening. Recommendations abound and @WhisperingBob's choices now fill up my CD shelf.

5. I now read a number of excellent blogs, indeed, I have started one myself ( a blog, not an excellent one obviously ). I have discovered great web sites and I find out the latest news instantaneously. This annoys my husband, who says it is like living with a Sky News presenter. Hopefully, not Kay Burley.

6. Through Twitter, I heard about Vintage Village, a monthly market of all things vintage-y and craft-y in Stockport. I really enjoy visiting the market and have met up with many fellow tweeters there. This leads me to...

7. Most pleasingly, I have met some genuinely lovely people through twitter. I never foresaw this and, indeed, I would have thought it a bit of a strange thing to happen. However, I initially met @wifenotlodger at the Vintage Village and we share so many interests such as music, books and theatre. None of my "real-life" friends likes the same music as me ( "weirdy folk" as my daughter sweetly puts it) so I now have a gig-buddy. We have been to see Fleet Foxes and Gillian Welch and The Pierces are coming up.
The Royal Exchange theatre recently held a twitter critic evening where tweeters were invited to see Edward II, then tweet a review. I met up with some really interesting people and it was good to go along and leave my "comfort-zone" for a while. I have also been to a couple of tea parties for charity organised by the nicest ladies it has been my pleasure to meet.

8. When I was looking after my dying father I spent many days and nights alone with him and I will never forget those people who took the time to communicate with me and send their good wishes. No matter what time of night it was, there was always someone out there. When he did pass away, just a few words sent by strangers, did provide real comfort. This may sound odd as I will never "know" the majority of the people who tweet me. I think this is the concept most non-twitters find hard to understand. However, being able to communicate succintly into the ether, is tremendously liberating. If no one replies, that's okay, but usually someone does, and that's okay too.

It has been great to find those who share the same sense of humour, or can introduce you to something new. So, no, twitter isn't all about what people ate for their lunch and yes, some tweets can leave you a little discombobulated, but I can honestly say my year on Twitter has been a great thing. Happy Twitter Birthday to me!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Vintage Fun in Stockport

On Sunday, Isobel and I went on our monthly jaunt to the Vintage Village in Stockport. Held in the Market Hall, it is home to dozens of stalls, all groaning with delights, old and new.I could easily spend all day there but the teen starts getting angsty and has to be plied with tea and cupcakes.
I bought these beautiful tea plates a couple of months ago from Parrot in the Pantry and I have used them for lucious sweet treats ever since.
Bathing Beauty's stall is simply gorgeous. George Jones is a micro-producer of beautiful skin products. Isobel was lucky enough to win the monthly prize draw of bath delights, and I must admit to pinching a few. Each contain a rose bud, which caused Bel to yell out after a bath recently as she thought a creepy crawly was stuck in the plug hole.This month I bought some divine body oil, which helps soothe sun-burn.George is lovely to chat to ( you can follow her on twitter @bathingbeauty1 ), as are the other stall holders. All are super-friendly and take time to chat about their wares.
I also bought this little picture from Parrot in the Pantry as it reminds me of my youth and some lovely cake forks for my Saturday tea parties. Stuart Thornley Cake Designs ( follow them on twitter @STCakeDesign )are usually there, tempting everyone with their delicious cakes and cake pops.
So, if you get the chance, do pay Vintage Village ( @Vintage_Village )a visit. Only a pound admission and a cornucopia of delights awaits.......

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Prom Tiddley Prom Prom

I have only vague memories of our Leaver's Disco in the Upper Sixth. I remember thinking how hard it was to dance to "Two Tribes" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood and fervently wishing I hadn't worn a WHITE dress. I had been heavily influenced by the Evelyn Waugh novels I had been reading and was aiming for the 1920's look, I had the bob and I had the drop-waisted dress. I started the evening looking like a Wimbledon finalist from 1928 and thanks to several drunken 18 year olds, ended up looking like I was wearing a Jackson Pollock canvas.
These days, instead of a Leaver's Disco we have the PROM. I have read, with only a passing interest, about this phenomena imported from America and how vast amounts of time, energy and hard cash are invested in the "Prom Experience."I am guilty of sneering at the idea and have been known to chuckle at photographs in the local paper of orange-coloured girls, caked in make-up, looking like extras from a John Water's film, squeezing into stretch limousines.
Then it all lands on your doorstep, doesn't it? My daughter is fifteen and there have been rumblings about "the prom" for a couple of years now. This year, my niece, who is the school year above her, had her prom. It is fair to say that we have had months of stress as she chose her dress, her shoes, her make-up and so on. Prom day arrived and I was prepared to be cynical and ready to stifle my giggles. However, things don't always turn out the way you think.
The day began with a Leaver's Mass at the school. I only know my niece and a handful of others there, but the Mass was such an emotional experience. Scores of youngsters sang "Do Not Be Afraid" as they set out into the grown up world of college and employment. I was instantly transported back to my school days and I saw the same tribes; the pretty ones, the plain ones, the serious ones, the cocky ones..all on the cusp of adulthood, not knowing how their future would unfold but all hoping for the best. The service ended with photographs of the children throughout their school lives beamed onto a huge screen with "Never Forget" playing in the background. It is safe to say, there was not a dry eye in the place.
In the evening, my daughter and I went to my niece's house where her grandmother, mum, brother and great aunt were all buzzing with anticipation. Ilaria descended the stairs and it was impossible not to become dewy eyed at this excited sixteen (almost) year old, head girl of the school and looking so beautiful and nervously looking forward to the night ahead.
We all went to the school where hundreds of people had turned out to see their children off. Girls were preening like beautiful peacocks, chattering with the cold and nervous energy and be-suited boys hung around in packs, hands in pockets, looking bashful.

It was a timeless scene, played out over the ages, across all cultures. Girls and boys turning into men and women, a huge pre-courtship ritual as the elder players gracefully bow out. The prom goers jostled onto the coaches, and those who were left behind stood and waved. We waved them off into the night and into their post- school lives, all carrying their own hopes and dreams. Life will probably not turn out the way they plan, but on this night, anything was imaginable. I defy any cynic not to have been as tearful as me as the coaches pulled away.
So, yes, Prom nights are a commercialised con, yet another way of extracting cash from children and their long-suffering parents. However, on a cold May evening in Swinton, I saw the bigger picture and I was enchanted.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Salford, Mon Amour

Ever since the BBC announced plans to move some of their services from London to the new Media City in Salford, I have noticed a number of snide attacks on the city I am proud to call home. I am not going to claim that it's the most picturesque place in the world, nor am I going to peddle the cliche about its inhabitants being the "salt of the earth". However, I am beginning to tire of the increasingly vitriolic articles, it is lazy, ignorant journalism.
A few weeks ago, I was watching Newsnight and it concluded with Jeremy Paxman sneering that of all the English cities in the new Lonely Planet guide, only Newcastle and Manchester got the thumbs up. He said, "The Smiths got it right" and yes, of course, "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" was played over footage of 1950's slums. Hilarious. About as topical as playing Flanagan and Allen over scenes of the bombed-out East End to illustrate London today.
We've had journalists such as AA Gill touring around Salford Quays with predictable results and Rowan Moore in the Observer saying Salford contained the "worst buildings in Britain". It was gleefully reported yesterday that Salford was the worst place to study in the country. This assertion was based on a poll of some students that awarded the winners a rating of 64%, Cambridge received 56% whilst Salford got 48%, hardly a disaster.
Now the Ryan Giggs story has unfolded. In an article on the Beehivecity website ( unbiased news, apparantly) the opening paragraph of a report on the attack on photographers outside Giggs' house in Worsley, contained remarks such as, "Worsley, where the rust-coloured water of the ..canal stagnate..through an almost picturesque village green". You can imagine the laughter as they call the place "the posh bit of Salford"
I can sense in these articles, an air of assumed superiority, that this place, Salford, has being getting ideas above it's station. Salford Quays, the area that has re-generated and will soon be home to parts of the BBC and Granada, isn't to everyone's taste. However, considering the vast swathes of post-industrial wasteland that it has replaced, the transformation is remarkable. The architecture is modern and brash but exhillarating too. The Lowry Theatre and Imperial War Museum have become stunning assets to the city.
You can almost feel the palpable horror of those in the BBC who have been told they are re-locating north. Fair enough, if your views have been shaped by novels written in the 1930's and Coronation Street. However, those are fiction. Salford is a vibrant place with plenty to recommend it.When I visit London, I enjoy the capital immensely, I would not dream of sneering at its flaws. We can't all live there, nor do we want to. This country is made up of many great places, all with their own unique character and charm. Those in the media who like to make cheap shots about my home city are mean-spirited in the extreme.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

My Love Of The Glossies

I love the beginning of a new month. The calender flips over and there is nothing but new possibilities on the horizon. There are shows waiting to be seen, gigs waiting to be attended, birthdays, parties, holidays, all to look forward to. However, I also love the start of the month because it is new magazine time.
Yes, I know, it is my guilty secret but I adore magazines, the glossier the better. Just ready to be dipped into, accompanied by a cup of tea and, possibly, cake.
My love affair goes back to deepest childhood. My Grandad would buy me a magazine called Bimbo (wouldn't get away with that these days!), then I graduated to Twinkle, Judy and Bunty. It was the thrill of the letterbox opening and depositing the treasure onto the mat that awoke my monthly excitement.I started my first Saturday job in a sweet shop and would go straight next door to the newsagents with my wages and buy Smash Hits.
Music publications then began to appeal to me, I really liked Smash Hits, I recall the writer Mark Ellen would make me laugh, he is still around today writing for The Word. I used to ponder that if we got married I'd be Ellen Ellen. These were the sort of things I worried about at sixteen. I also used to buy Chart Songwords and spend hours singing along to records on my Amstrad with the PROPER WORDS, I was a pedant even then.
As I grew older, I would buy the NME and the Record Mirror, before slacking off as my interest in contemporary music waned. However, my love of the glossies never waned. My first "grown up" magazine was Cosmopolitan and in buying that, my future habit was set in stone.
I think what appeals to me about magazines, is that I can "dip" into them when I've got a spare ten minutes. Sometimes, I don't want to concentrate on a book, so out comes a magazine. I like the gloss, the glamour, clothes I could never afford, people I will never meet, places I will never visit. I like articles that inform, move or inspire. I know many people dislike the fact that magazines can perpetuate the poor self-image some women have, and I can appreciate those views. However, like an addict, I am hooked. If I decide not to buy them, they call out to me from the stands and I simply cannot resist.
The music publications I now buy, like The Word, Q or Uncut are extremely informative. One of my all time favourite CDs came free with Q and introduced me to the Avett Brothers, Midlake and the Fleet Foxes.
I'm afraid my daughter is well down the path of magazine mania too. She started off on the usual toddler fayre,then loved the Horrible Histories series but now she craves the monthly delivery of the holy grail of teen fashionistas, Teen Vogue. She reads it with a cup of tea, and possibly, cake.
So the years ahead for me will probably bring Good Housekeeping or Women & Home ( or any other publication with Fern Britton on the bloody cover), I will know I'm in my twilight days when I find The People's Friend in my basket. I do know that I cannot give this frippery up, nor do I want to.
So, if you sigh when you pass the magazine stands and think, "who buys this rubbish?", dear reader, it is me.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Race For Life? No Thanks.

Well, this may be a provocative piece and I am sorry if I offend anyone....but here goes.
It's that time of year when we are bombarded with adverts, posters and leaflets asking women to join the "Race For Life"- several running events that raise money for cancer research.
Good luck to all those taking part. I've read accounts of women undergoing cancer treatment who make it a goal to finish the race. Many run in memory of loved ones who have died or who have got the disease.
Now, five years ago, a cancerous polyp was found in my lower bowel. It was taken out and I underwent surgery to remove the affected part, "a simple plumbing job" was how my lovely surgeon put it. I then had to have further surgery to repair a collapsed lung.
At no time during my treatment, did I feel the need to take part in a sponsored run at the end. I felt the need to get home to my family then go and buy nice things. My husband likes to say that during my months of enforced "rest", John Lewis nearly went into administration. What I wanted was to return to my normality. I was profoundly grateful to all who looked after me, and I immediately set up a regular payment to Cancer Research, amongst others.
Not long after my illness my two lovely sisters-in-law ran the Race For Life, my daughter and niece went too. My daughter wanted to write my name on her back. I asked her not too, it just seemed mawkish somehow and felt like I was already dead! Then I had to bloody well sponsor everyone. So now here was I, who had had cancer, paying people to run for cancer research, who I was already contributing to.
If people feel the need to run with others and gain some sort of fulfillment, then who am I to judge? However,I am just not into mass public displays of emotion. For me, just "getting back to normal" was enough. I do not feel the need to go and hug everyone and cry for those who did or didn't make it. I give thanks and remember in my own way.
So, good luck ladies. Just please don't ask me to join in. Bah and humbug!
P.S I do like the Macmillan Coffee Morning Event. I willingly donate money on a non-mawkish day, to eat cake and drink tea and not have to wear pink, a stetson or a feather boa.
P.P.S Seriously, good luck if you are running, hope I didn't offend.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Rediscovering My Music Mojo

I dropped my daughter off outside the Manchester Apollo last week and watched her, and her giddy friends, go on their way to see Katy Perry. It brought back memories, I wasn't much older than her when I went to see my first ever concert, The Teardrop Explodes, at the same venue.Up until then I was an avid watcher of Top of the Pops and looked forward to Sunday nights when my brother and I would listen to the Top Twenty Show on the radio and wait with increasing excitement to see what was number one. I made dozens of tapes, complete with sudden song endings to cut out the DJ's chat. Seeing a band live for the first time was utterly brilliant, I recall what I was wearing with clarity and how I thought Julien Cope was a genius ( forgive me, I was a child).
Not too long afterwards I heard the first few chords of "This Charming Man" by The Smiths and I fell in love instantly. I was almost incandescent with joy that this wonderful band were from my home town. I wrote "Meat Is Murder" on my bag and became a vegetarian. This lasted about two days. My friends and I travelled the country to see bands like REM and U2 and proudly spoke Mancunian with exaggerated accents. We made Liam Gallagher sound posh.
I saw The Smiths in Manchester in the mid 1980s and it was one of the best gigs ever. Entering my twenties, the Madchester scene was in full swing; New Order, the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays then Oasis, it was a great time to live in the city. I never really liked the Hacienda though, it was full of people trying too hard to be cool. We went next door, to The Venue, or usually The Continental. When the DJ played James, we sat down en masse, usually into puddles of cider.
And then...and then. The wilderness years. I settled down, got a job, bought a house, got married, had a child. Music wasn't the important force it once was. I still went to gigs occasionally, but to bands I would have once written off as hopelessly uncool.I listened mostly to singer songwriters like Joni Mitchell (or St Joni as she is known in this house), James Taylor and Nick Drake. I liked women artists such as Natalie Merchant, Alison Krauss and Stevie Nicks. I tended not to listen to much modern stuff anymore, nothing excited me.
Then, a couple of years ago, I was watching Jools Holland and a band came on. They were from Tennesse and had bad hair and bad beards. They played a song, I think it was "Fans" and call it a mid-life crisis if you like, but Kings of Leon awoke me from my musical torpor. I bought their albums and played them non-stop. I dragged my poor daughter to see them twice ( my husband had lost interest in music the day Hall and Oates split up).
Since then I have fallen in love with music all over again. Laura Marling, The Avett Brothers, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, The Decemberists and the list is growing.

My daughter shakes her head and calls it my "freaky music" but I don't care. What is great about getting older, is that you can like or dislike anything without worrying if it's cool or not.
To prove life always comes full circle, I now make compilations again. Not terribly edited tapes, but cds for the car. I have finally got my music mojo back.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

To Be Or Not To Be...

I love going to the theatre,ever since school trips to Stratford or the Royal Exchange, I have been enthusiastically transported to the worlds of tragedy, comedy, music and poetry. When my daughter came along, I was determined to take her and, hopefully, she would share my passion. We started out with productions aimed at toddlers and graduated to plays such as "Tom's Midnight Garden" (which I sobbed my heart out to, much to her bewilderment) and fantastic Roald Dahl adaptations. The Lowry Theatre opened in Salford and Bel's introduction to Shakespeare began with the wonderful Shakespeare For Kidz series. In the last year, I thought she was ready for Shakespeare-proper and started with the comedies, including "The Comedy Of Errors".
Bel is fifteen now and appears to have a permanent air of disdain regarding anything I enthuse about. My fashion sense is "tragic", my taste in music, "lame".Several times we have been to the theatre recently and she starts tutting, asking when the interval is, hoping she doesn't see anyone she knows.Eventually she settles and actually enjoys the play in most cases.
When I heard "King Lear" was coming to The Lowry starring Derek Jacobi, I immediately booked two tickets and excitedly told Bel. "Is he famous?" she asked. "Very" I replied."Is he in Harry Potter?" she retorted. Now I think Derek Jacobi is the only British thespian not to have appeared in Harry Potter."I don't think so". Oh dear.
As the day of the play grew closer, I attempted to explain the plot to Bel. After listening she said, "so they all die in the end?", I admitted most of them did."So I take it it's not one of his comedies", she deadpanned.This morning one of my friends text to say she wished she was going, Bel mumbled that she could have her ticket. We set off for The Lowry, she asked how long the play was, I made this mistake of saying three hours.She asked me to drop her off at the tram stop. On arrival, I let her loose in the sweet shop as a sweetener (literally) and tried not to blanch as the pick and mix cost more than a good bottle of wine.
We took our seats and I waited for the sighing, the soft tutting, the dramatic time watching. I waited and waited. However, she was entranced. There was no scenery to speak of, just acting of such a high calibre and the timeless poetry of a genius. When it was over, she said "that was AMAZING". All the way home she chattered about eyes being gouged out, the mesmirising acting of Derek Jacobi, the standing ovation.For a brief time, on a Saturday afternoon, we shared a passion for something timeless.
We got home, and she turned on the television to watch "You've Been Framed".

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Is blogging "..the last resort of the loser?"

Last week I decided what the world really needed right now was a blog written by me, a middle-aged housewife with no writing experience and a life that could hardly be described as exciting. So what prompted this decision? As I said in my last post, I have read some excellent blogs of a few people I follow on twitter and felt the need to jump in. I have kept diaries in the past, I have a record of so many of my Januarys, but time issues and inertia kick in around February and the acres of blank space stare out accusingly. I now keep a sort of scrapbook , where I keep theatre tickets, quotes from poems, newspaper articles I have liked and the such. But why? Is it the desire to put something down in black and white that I think will be read by my grandchildren?A desire to say " hey I exist, listen to me"?
When I read the blogs of others its like being party to their worlds, like little pieces of people's lives, small personal novellas. I find myself smiling, agreeing, sympathising. I want to be part of that too.
When some people are diagnosed with terminal illnesses, they feel the need to write letters, to create "memory boxes". Its to ensure they do not feel they will be forgotten, to express feelings for loved ones they want to echo down the years. I admit when I was diagnosed with a serious illness five years ago, I wrote letters to my husband and daughter. Then I re-read them and frankly, they were terrible, I ripped them up. My wonderful father-in-law had a very long illness, he never wrote a word, yet we all talk of him constantly four years after his death. He is remembered in so many ways, but I think of him every time I hear an Italian voice, hear an aria, cook one of his recipes or see his expressions on the face of my husband.
I guess what I am trying to say in a convoluted manner ( bear with me, it's my first proper post!) is that I am not in this for immortality, just to fill a need for self-expression I didn't know I had, until it was awoken by the power of Twitter!
I am reading "A Week In December" by Sebastian Faulks at the moment and the title of this post comes from a quote of one of the characters. I don't know if it is the view of Mr Faulks himself, but I don't care. He has his considerable skills as an author to express himself. For me, it appears to be blogging, and for the moment, it feels good!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Is There Anyone Out There?

Confession time, I am a virgin blogger. I came to twitter as I come to everything, late. However, as well as communicating with a wide circle of lovely people ( you KNOW who you are!), I have also been reading some excellent blogs. So I am joining in. Prepare to be underwhelmed and disinterested.