A Christmas Wish

To everyone who passes by here over the next few days, I wish you all a wonderful, happy and healthy Christmas with your loved ones, be they human or fur baby. I’ll leave you with a gift of a song, the beautifully haunting Bridie Jackson & the Arbour singing All That You Love Is All That You Are. This song  always moves me to tears when we see her singing it live, but the title basically sums up how I feel about life right now, contemplating Christmas with my loved ones.  There’s one of them missing, but never forgotten.

With love, Jane.


A little beauty, on a crisp cold winter’s day.

I think reading The Sandman has brought Tori Amos back to my mind, given she’s the template (of sorts) for Delirium.

“When you gonna make up your mind? When you gonna love you as much as I do? When you gonna make up your mind? Cause things are going to change so fast…”

Bellini Bliss

This time last week we were checking into the gorgeous Hotel Du Vin in Newcastle, sitting on a private outdoor terrace drinking wine and contemplating much cake-age and gig fun to come. I don’t think I’ve recovered from that one night of excess yet. Afternoon tea at Du Vin was as always lovely – some reviews I’ve read complain about the ‘sparseness’ of the portions. Really? We had sandwiches, a scone each and 3 cakes, tea and a complimentary cocktail.

Bellini Bliss & chocolate eclair heaven

Bellini Bliss & chocolate eclair heaven

For us the portion sizes were perfect; indeed we couldn’t finish our 3rd cake each.  This was my first ever Bellini cocktail, and boy was it delightful?! I don’t generally drink cocktails but this was bliss. Him Underfoot meanwhile had something called a ‘Stormy Weather’…hmmmm!

There were photos taken of me, but I had basically been eaten by the corner of a squishy leather settee and look like a munchkin woman so I am preserving my dignity by deleting the evidence for all eternity!  We stayed overnight at the hotel, and I had to be pried out of bed for breakfast – it was like sleeping on a cloud.

Cloud Bed

Cloud Bed

We trundled off to the gig at 6ish – doors opened at 6pm, so they told us. They lied. Doors opened after 7. I have to say, goths form a generally very orderly and non whiney queue. There was a little bit of glitter throwing at one another but it was all very civilised. On entering the bar / venue / low ceiling’d hovel the barkeep fastened ‘age verified’ bracelets to us – the place had just been raided for underaged drinking, Turns out parents are taking their kids to gigs and plying them with beer so we were also not allowed to buy more than one beer at at time. Given it’s horrifically inflated price this was not an issue.

So. On stage trundles Acoustic Boy (I’m sorry, can’t remember the poor lad’s name). Played like Ed Sheeran with his balls in a vice. Then got progressively shriller. Think he’d been electrocuted, again in the gonadal area.  Hats off to him for the entertainment though.

Then the lovely Bad Pollyanna. Sigh. If you read this blog you’ll already know I love them. Well, they were better than ever and I got a great big girl hug off Olivia. So now I can die happy. Well, perhaps after Whitby where I get to see them again.

Followed by AshestoAngels. Bloody hell! On record they sound a bit like Green Day. In person they are quite extraordinary. The lead singer Crilly appears to be on a rocket powered pogo stick. Except it’s just his legs. So much fun and energy – I so want to see them again. And again and again. I laughed and smiled through the entire set. And found my own bit of pogo power.

So, William Control. I had no real expectations for his set. I noticed there were many teenage girls getting rather excited at his presence. Then he came suaving up on stage and they all started screaming….dear gods! I’d forgotten how shrill adulation could get. There was this rather beautiful man singing like the bastard child of Depeche Mode and New Order….if I’d been 15 years younger I suspect I’d have been screamaging along with the youth. I confess myself both a little shaken AND stirred. And that doesn’t happen to these crusty old bones very often these days (well, unless I’m watching Gannicus in Spartacus…IGNITION!).

William Con - uh, ok gratuitous Gannicus picture

William Con – uh, ok gratuitous Gannicus picture

I was utterly foot sore and just a little bit merry as we walked back to the hotel (feather bed…aaahhhhh!). Him Underfoot proposed a pint in the bar where I ordered possibly the most expensive glass of Pinot Noir I’ve ever drank. Who cares? It was awesome. And the sofa ate me again. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….

The Professor’s Monthly Homework Assignment: Vintage Heavy Metal Music

So this is the first of these assignments I’ve carried out, and a great place to start because I can’t imagine my life without it being filled with music.  Beware the nostalgia wallow to follow…! My father loved Neil Diamond, my mum Cliff Richard (this apple fell quite far from that particular tree!). Before they split they ran a pub in which there was a solitary turntable that cranked out late 70s singles, including the phenomenal Gordon is a Moron by Jilted John, and Ian Drury’s Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick.

Aged 17, post Jesus & Mary Chain gig

Aged 17, post Jesus & Mary Chain gig

At the same time my big brother was falling in love with metal. AC/DC, Led Zep, Iron Maiden, Rainbow, Slayer, Black Sabbath, The Scorpions – the first posters on my otherwise pink bedroom walls were his discarded Rainbow pics (‘it’s been only an hour, since they locked her in the TOWER!’ – 20th Century Greensleeves). I was designated his personal slave at this point of our relationship and every Saturday after the night before he’d lie stinking in bed and I would have to change his records for him (he cringes when I remind him of this now!). He also loved the theatrical – Meatloaf, ELO and Queen. Through him I had a solid metal education which stood me in good stead with the long haired boys of my clubbing years – whilst my personal tastes were decidedly goth, I could talk Ozzy with the best of them.

House Party Era: Oh Dear!

House Party Era: Oh Dear!

As I am the only person left in the family with a turntable I have now inherited his entire vinyl collection. At Christmas last year Big Bro turned up with several boxes, and his lovely wife also gifted me her alternative 80’s (including most of the Smiths back catalogue). Christmas Day 2013 then became an epic sing off in the dining room, much to my mum’s horror. All was going well until my brother and I decided to have a duel to ‘Whole Lotta Rosie‘…

During the late 1980s and early 1990s I spent time in my bedroom wearing black, fingerless gloves indoors in summer and listening to the Cure, All About Eve, Jesus and the Mary Chain, The Mission etc etc like a proper baby bat. These years didn’t have a great deal to offer for the local goth in Newcastle, so we all mushed in with the metallers in Trillians rock bar and then the Mayfair nightclub. My best friend Heather was – and still is – an uber-rock babe. I’d be swathed in black cotton or velvet, she’d be strutting about on podiums in faux leather hot pants and bustier. All the boys in sixth form were into Guns and Roses, Anthrax, WASP and the Kings of Hair Metal – Motley Crue. It was as if the 1990’s grunge era bypassed Newcastle – like me it was stuck firmly in the 80s though I did an impressively bad dance floor stomp to Smells Like Teen Spirit.

I still love this music. It reminds me of a time when life wasn’t so complicated.  It was light in world that was otherwise swathed in shades of black. It was my openly guilty pleasure. It brings my family and friends together, bonded under a common thread of nostalgia.

Pre-clubbing photo: several ozone layers were damaged in the taking of this picture

Pre-clubbing photo: several ozone layers were damaged in the taking of this picture

This music has also wound it’s way into my writing. Each book I’ve written, or story I’m plotting, has a playlist. The metal era informs my 1980’s coming of age novel, Poison Prince, where every chapter heading is a song from the 1980s. I have I-Pod playlists set up accordingly – for novels each one has a total of 31 tracks for no reason that I have yet fathomed. I’m currently researching music of the Great War which is taking me into completely uncharted territory – hymns, classical music, war ballads etc. The playlist isn’t complete yet but it begins with Vaughan Williams Lark Ascending, which was written on the eve of war.

Tonight I’m off to an alt / goth gig. Right now I’m off to crank up my old turntable again, and shake my ass to a Queen crescendo. Have a great weekend, people.

Within Temptation – Angels

Sooooo excited to see Within Temptation tomorrow night, even if it has rather unexpectedly become a school night (curse you Comic Relief grants panel!). Working Tuesdays shouldn’t be allowed – I will have to remain sober and keep reminding myself this is a 5 hour long crucial meeting. The good news is that I’m only in 2 days next week and the weekend starts Thursday…tapas is on the menu, folks.

Pique-y fit over, not been a bad week. Reading on Monday went very well, despite the low turn out (or perhaps because of). Mum & Bill well impressed with the Lit & Phil. My cheerful band of reprobates (Derry, Dave & Sue) were present and waving at me from the back row. And Pauly, well, he bought me tea. I only mangled one sentence exceptionally badly. There are no photos that I can find, but I do know the whole thing was video’d…

Started writing in my lunch breaks again, trying out some exercises in voice (a mermaid monologue and a second person pen portrait of a transvestite, thank you oh Mslexia for the prod). Becoming such a regular in Nero that the nice gents working there carry my coffee upstairs for me (they’ve seen the catastrophe waiting to happen with my shaking hands). I need to lay off the bacon muffins and lemon and poppy seed muffins though. I’m definitely sprouting my very own muffin top.

If I survive the Comic Relief marathon (33,000 word fund report, written in 10 working days – why can’t I translate this output to my own writing?), I’ll have earned that damn muffin. ‘Til later.