SUNDAY #95 – Mice On The Underground

This blog comes to you from a sofa in Essex, from a non-hungover human, who’s petting a miniature dachshund. It’s the first post since January of this year, and it’s about the tiny mice you see in the tunnels of London’s Underground stations.

No matter how bad the day has been, when I see the mice darting between the tracks and the platform, I feel better. It’s odd how something so small, brings me so much comfort. It’s also odd how I deem what’s technically “vermin” exceptionally cute, but I’m willing to live with that. If that little mouse can thrive down there, I can certainly survive whatever’s happened to me up here on the platform.

Part of it is nostalgia, as a kid I owned pet mice, and that desire came from watching (and reading) the Brambly Hedge series, written and illustrated by Jill Barklem. My brother and I named our mice after the characters – we had three pairs of mice over the space of a few years – Snowy & Primrose, Wilfred & Blackadder (the latter not a Brambly Hedge character, obviously), and Snowy II & Primrose II (imaginative, I know). The last pair even had a litter of babies, which absolutely made our childhood. We kept one, and I called her Bramble.

It’s the memory of Bramble’s fur colour that makes me smile when I see those little soot-covered mice skitting around on the train tracks. I love the way they brave the edge of the platform, pausing cautiously, before cruising past my Dr Martens to get to wherever they’re going. It all looks like a game. They look hassle free and oblivious to the tonne of metal that routinely flies above their heads. They’re content to exist in the darkness and chaos – filthy, feral, and free.

You could apply that to living above ground in London as well. Living here is hard. It’s expensive, overcrowded, and at times it’s unfriendly. I moved here less than two years ago, and at times I have doubts about whether I really fit in here. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some great friends, met my boyfriend here, and I have a great life in this city – but it often leaves me stressed and pent up. Sometimes I spend my weekends sitting in my room because I can’t be arsed to deal with the busy streets and lack of greenery. London often makes me feel anxious and occasionally, really bloody lonely. But strangely, whilst I was away in America for two weeks for my Brother’s wedding last month – I pined for London. I guess it takes something as big and brilliant as going to America to make me realise that I do love living in this city, and that something as small as a rogue mouse in a tube station is what I need to keep me going (among other things, of course).

So, next time you see a mouse on the tracks, I hope it makes you smile. I hope it helps you to realise you do fit in, and despite all of the stress and worry, it’s well worth living here. If the sight of the mouse makes you shriek however, fair play. Hopefully you have another form of distraction in this smoky, sublime city.

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SUNDAY #94 – Bowie

I was alone in my living room back in Essex when I first heard the news David Bowie had died. My Dad & Brother left early for work, so when  I switched on the TV and saw the headline on BBC news, I felt cold.

My head was lead-heavy all day. I couldn’t concentrate properly at work, so I listened to Lauren Laverne’s special broadcast on BBC Radio 6 about the icon and tried not to cry. I thought about my Mum, who has loved him most of her life. As a teenager, she ran off to Milton Keynes with her friend to see him live, then got stranded and had to sleep at the train station. There’s not many people who are worth that kind of effort.

I’d only just got in to Bowie (even though friends had been recommending him to me for years) and I felt like my efforts to finally understand and love him had blossomed too soon. For months after the news, I’d get tearful when I got pissed up and heard ‘Let’s Dance’ playing out in a club or a bar. I felt silly for having such a strong reaction to the death of someone I’d never met, and who’s music I’d only been listening to for two years.

When someone like Bowie has such life-affirming appeal, it’s hard not to attach yourself to his ideas and his art. He has a song for every occasion, every emotion, every moment; even those gin-soaked few seconds in night clubs when you lose yourself and realise you still miss him.

Fortunately, his diverse and extensive discography means there’s always plenty of tracks to listen to, dance to, and be comforted by. Here are my favourites…

Lady Grinning Soul
The opening piano gives me goosebumps every time. I still pirouette around my room regularly to this. Aladdin Sane is probably my favourite Bowie album.

I’m Afraid Of Americans
An apt title and a belting chorus. The video shows Bowie being pursued by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, who helped him remix the track.

Rebel Rebel
The red hair, the red trousers…got me (and my Mother) in a whirl.

Let’s Dance
Still makes me tremble like a flower.

Heroes
I defy anyone to not feel better after listening to this. I played it after I handed in my final Open University assignment and felt infinite.

Life On Mars
Still hooked on this piece of cinematic, sweeping, blue-eyeshadow wearing glory.

Personal Highlights of 2017 (aka more musical ones…)

You’re probably sick to death of these ‘Highlights’ blogs, but I love making lists and reminiscing…so get on board, or get over it.

I spend 99% of my time listening to, looking for, and writing lovely things about women in new music, but – contrary to popular belief – I love writing about men in new music too. WHAT?! A FEMINIST WHO LOVES MEN?! SHOCKING! *keels over from this unexpected revelation*

2017 was a turbulent and frightening year (and I’m not just talking about my Glandular Fever diagnosis), but it would’ve been far worse if I hadn’t discovered these bands/artists. So, if you want a quick distraction before you wave goodbye to 2017 soaked in gin and your own bitter tears, take a look at the musical offerings that made my 2017 so bleedin’ good…

Everything Twitcher Records released this year melted my mind.

The independent label based in Brighton has a penchant for all things strung-out and unsatisfied, and I smiled like the Grinch who stole Christmas each time an email holding precious musical cargo appeared at the top of my inbox.

If you’re in to scratchy guitars, delightfully droning vocals, and introspective lyrics, you need to check out the bands on their roster. It was hard for me to pick a favourite, but I listened to Collapse Of An Easy Sunday, the debut EP from the weird and wonderful Honey Creeper multiple times when I was hungover/bored at work. Check out Ezeikel Doo, Slabtoe., and Die Mauer too.

Wolf Alice’s ‘Yuk Foo’ was one of the first pieces of new music I heard after my 21-day-Glandular-Fever headache finally subsided.

I’ll never forget the sheer sense of simultaneous joy and relief I felt hearing Ellie Rowsell shout the words “you bore me to death!” the first time I heard this song. It’s since become a personal anthem.

Don’t think I’ve mentioned a band called Ho99o9 before? (LOL JK. seen them 5 times this year)

My anticipation for their album United States of Horror was palpable, and it sparked what most people would deem a borderline inappropriate obsession with the rap-punk duo. Their political, aggressive, racially charged lyrics align perfectly with the manic drums and thrashing guitar samples.

Each time I’ve seen them live I’ve emerged with all sorts of physical damage – a black eye, swollen knees, bruised hips, ripped fingernails – and I left their Sebright Arms gig topless. What can I say? They bring out the be(a)st in me.

(Ho99o9 also led me to find Bob Vylan, who is 10/10)

I listened to Bjork’s divine new album Utopia, thus keeping my 2016 New Years Resolution to “listen to more Bjork“.

NO, YOU’RE CRYING AT THE BEAUTY OF ‘The Gate’. PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER. FFS.

We launched the Get In Her Ears website alongside our radio show and live night, and it might just be the best thing we’ve ever done.

On the eve of the launch of the Get In Her Ears site, there was a part of me that felt genuinely concerned. What if people didn’t read the blog? What if no-one shared the link? Have we made a mistake branching out on our own? Fortunately, I’m glad to report all of these anxieties subsided within 24 hours. We’ve received so much interest, love, and support from bands and fellow journalists, that it’s wiped away all the doubts I ever had.

I hope 2018 is just as prosperous and proactive for us.

SUNDAY #92 – Truly

Hangover rating: 6.5/10

Can’t stop listening to: Nova Twins  ‘Mood Swings’ & Cigarettes After Sex’s ‘Truly’.

Gigs attended: Mac DeMarco @ Coronet Ballroom

I’ve just emerged pink and clean from a steaming hot bath, and I’m feeling sentimental about all the old faces I’ve seen in the last seven days.

I went back to Southend on Tuesday to throw myself around a mosh pit for Suspect‘s video shoot (fell flat on my arse – 250 quid forYou’ve Been Framed ) and I’ve just returned from Brighton after spending the weekend with my best friend John and his pals.

I’ve had about 4 hours sleep and 60+ cups of tea, so I imagine I’ll conk out after writing this.

Not really sure what I want to say, other than thanks, and sorry for taking about a century to write another boring blog. New (slightly less) boring blog coming next week…

SUNDAY #91 – Dreams

Yesterday, I got dolled up and spent the afternoon with the ultra cool Dream Wife girls at their fake prom video shoot. Today, I scrubbed away the mould growing in the grout between the bathroom tiles and didn’t put any make-up on.What an eclectic weekend.

I replied to their call out on Facebook for people to get involved in their shoot for upcoming track ‘Let’s Make Out’, and before I knew it, I was in Dalston, slightly pissed at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon, wearing a dress I wish I’d worn to my real school prom back in 2006.

Walking in to the venue was surreal; the Dream Wife girls greeted me in costume with flame eye make-up, and there were balloons and streamers all over the place. I took a seat and watched a group of very trendy young things dancing around and making out with each other, and it felt like the coolest hallucination.

I didn’t have a make out partner (much like at my real Prom lolz), but I had a sparkly dress and a few sparkling glasses of Prosecco, so I was 100% loving life on the sidelines. Sod going back to reality.

SUNDAY #86 – 6 Things I’ve Learned From Contracting Glandular Fever

I’m not the first person in the world to contract Glandular Fever and I won’t be the last, but I’m coming out the other side of the virus and I finally have the strength to make jokes(?) about it. 22 days ago, I woke up with a stabbing headache and a high temperature. “Oh it’s probably just a 48 hour thing” I jested to my parents, so I took it easy over the weekend and consoled myself with my own (massively incorrect) diagnosis.

A few days later, I almost blacked out in the shower. Like all responsible adults, I called my Mum and told her I couldn’t get registered in time at a new doctor’s surgery in London, but I was also too feeble to make the train journey back to Essex. BROTHER JOE AND HIS VAN TO THE RESCUE! Once I was back in Essex, my symptoms escalated and I ended up spending three nights in Hospital, even though my GP originally insisted I had a “water infection”. Turns out, I’m not the only one who’s good at giving massively incorrect diagnoses.

The good news is I’m finally feeling better, so I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned during my time as a pain riddled, frustrated, incredibly relieved survivor of this Godforsaken virus….

 

  1. Glandular Fever is fucking awful

Glandular Fever is commonly known as ‘The Kissing Disease’. It only takes one saucy bit of lip action to contract it, so I find it hilarious (and cruel) that I caught this adventurous and licentious disease when romantically, things have been very tame for me recently.

The virus struck me down like a bolt of lightning. I couldn’t sit up straight for more than five minutes. I had a constant headache for 17 consecutive days (which baffled all of my doctors) and I spent all of my time horizontal, sleeping, or counting down the hours until I could take more Paracetamol (which felt like placebos towards the end). There’s no cure; you simply have to rest, avoid alcohol, and not engage in contact sports for 2-4 weeks. GREAT.

  1. DON’T GET WORKED UP IF YOU HAVE A TEMPERATURE, OKAY!?

Despite my general sunny disposition and optimistic heart, like most formerly shy kids with a point to prove – I have a volcanic rage burning inside of me. I am an expert at channelling, concealing and controlling it, but when I’m in severe pain or I have to keep repeating the sentence “IT’S NOT A WATER INFECTION” to multiple people; naturally, the rage begins to flare up.

On my second day in hospital, I was told by the doctor that if my bloods were clear, I would be discharged later that day. After the worst night’s sleep of my life (see next point for full details) this news genuinely comforted me. Fast forward a few hours, my temperature had risen by 2 degrees, and (quite rightly) they decided to keep me in for observation for another 24 hours. Internally, I erupted. I couldn’t make eye contact with my Mum, the doctor, or any other patients on the ward. I. Was. Livid.

Little did I know, getting angry or upset whilst you have a temperature causes your temperature to spike. My internal emotional combustion made my second night in hospital even more uncomfortable, so I resolved to CALM. THE FUCK. DOWN. and do everything I could (aka lay still and count the ceiling tiles) to make my mind and body cool again.

  1. The NHS is great, but you’re a joker if you think Hospitals are a good place for rest/sleep

Obviously, I love the NHS. They’ve kept me alive and properly medicated since I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2002, and for that I can’t fault them. However…

Having a prolonged headache made me extremely sensitive to any kind of noise, so much so that I had to wear the ear plugs I would usually wear at gigs to gain any kind of relief from the unbearable sound of everyday life. After a lengthy amount of time in an exceptionally loud A&E assessment ward, I was transferred to a proper ward at around 22:00, and much to my relief, the patients were nice and quiet. Hello restful, rejuvenating night’s sleep….

ONLY JOKING! As soon as my head hit the pillow, the ward burst in to life. The woman in the bed opposite me decided to strike up a conversation with the woman to my right about how inadequate her husband’s cooking skills were (that dragged on for 50 minutes). At approximately 3am, another patient decided to rip out her tubes/cannulas because they were “uncomfortable” and then complain that she was in pain when the nurse had to put them back in TO KEEP HER ALIVE. There was also an unfortunate soul who insisted there was something wrong with her catheter as she (quite disturbingly) yelped in pain, only for nurses to tell her she’d tangled the bloody tubes around her leg which is why it wasn’t working properly.

Finally; there was the heathen who slept through the whole night SNORING LIKE A PIG WHILST I SUFFERED NON-STOP WITH MY MIND-NUMBING HEADACHE UNTIL 6AM THE NEXT DAY WHEN I HAD TO CONSTRICT MY SHITTY CORNFLAKES AND AVOID EYE CONTACT WITH EVERYONE ON THE WARD (INCLUDING STAFF) WHO’D KEPT ME AWAKE, JUST IN CASE I SNAPPED AND SMASHED THE ENTIRE WARD TO PIECES. I hope this offers some insight as to why my temperature spiked when they told me I couldn’t go home…

  1. Codeine is the devil

“Take codeine” they said. “It’s stronger and more effective than Paracetamol” they said. These statements are true, but my body had other ideas. Codeine made me drowsy, it made me vom vom vom vomit, and best of all; it didn’t get rid of my headache. Fuck you codeine. You betrayed me.

  1. Not being able to listen to music is torture

A music journalist who can’t listen to music? Classic.

A heightened sensitivity to noise coupled with a chronic headache robbed me of the ability to distract myself with my favourite albums, and stopped me from attending all of the gigs I had penned in my diary (I missed Ho99o9’s gig at Underworld last week, definitely cried about that).

When my headache miraculously disappeared a few days ago, I cautiously watched Placebo’s live DVD ‘We Come In Pieces’ and it healed my heart and ear drums. Chelou’s ‘Halfway To Nowhere’ has also been an exceptional tonic.

  1. I feel a bit broken

I’ve tried to avoid being too aggressive or melancholy whilst writing this (lolz), but truthfully; Glandular Fever has scared the living daylights out of me. I can see the funny side now the headache’s subsided and I’m able to walk up the stairs without feeling like my legs are going to give way, but I’m worried about going back to ‘normality’ in this weakened state.

I’m having trouble sleeping because I keep thinking I’m still in hospital with a cannula in my arm, and I know that not drinking alcohol for the next few weeks is going to be a struggle for me. I also keep getting emotional when I think about having to leave my family home and go back to looking after myself in London again. In terms of independence, I feel like I’ve regressed about 15 years.

I guess those fears will evaporate in time, so I’ll just have to hold on to the hope that I’ll be fit and healthy again next time Ho99o9 are back in town.

Up yours Glandular Fever! (and thanks Mum, I’m a husk without you).

SUNDAY #85 – Effort

It’s been two months since I posted on this blog.

I don’t know why I stopped writing. True, I’ve been busy with other things (and living without Wi-Fi wasn’t ideal), but I feel like I’ve been avoiding it because, well, whilst it can’t be denied I’m living my absolute best life in the big smoke now, there are still times when I sit and stare at walls and wonder what on earth I am doing.

I set up this blog almost three years ago as an attempt to distract myself from my usual Sunday hangover, and (although it pains me to admit it) as an effort to feel less alone. I’m not sure if the internet is the best place to avoid loneliness, but at the time it felt like a useful tool, and it definitely helped to counteract the sadness and rationalise what I was feeling.

Of course, I know I am not actually alone. I could call up any member of my family, or some of my close friends, and they’d obviously try to help me out. I’m just really bad at asking for help, and even worse at admitting that I’m not actually alright. That’s probably why I sporadically return to this blog now, because I’m getting better at distinguishing between genuine loneliness, and a minor lonely blip.

So, if anyone else out there occasionally stares at walls and feels weird, this one’s for you.