Facing Thirty: Only Eleven Years To Go.

When I first moved to university, alongside all the dilemmas of meeting new people and starting a new course, one of the main worries I had was how I intended on surviving. You know, how to put the washing machine on, how to change a socket, how to cook. These things seemed pretty key to general existence, and I’m ashamed to say that prior to my first day on campus, I’d never successfully completed any of them.

That’s not to say I was completely unprepared. I’d made my fair share of supernoodles in the past, and on occasion done a spot of ironing. But I was under no illusion- these core skills weren’t going to be enough to get me through the next three years (and also the rest of my life…). My mum used to have to threaten throwing everything in my room away before I’d actually consider cleaning it, so “reluctant” kinda covers my general attitude towards domesticity.

A year and a half (more than that, really) into living independently and I’m only marginally wiser. My dirty pots get washed sporadically (sorry, housemates) and my room is like treading through a minefield- but replace explosives with bags of hula hoops or plugs. In all honesty, whenever I say I’m going to tidy my room, in all reality I’ve usually found something cool I’d forgotten about and begun a four hour playing session with it. It doesn’t even have to be especially entertaining- my old Gameboy provides me with as much distraction as a pink paperclip. I’ll lounge on top of a pile worn clothes, toying with the back to an earring I lost months ago, whilst reading my guide to pick-up lines in Mandarin (best birthday present ever), letting time slip away around me. Then, three and a half hours later- I’ve achieved nothing. You know, other than learning how to say “Are you still wearing underwear? Well, then my my watch must be 15 minutes fast.” in Chinese. And as much as that’s vital to every day life, I really needed to find my lecture notes from underneath a fortnight’s worth of books, clothes and discarded food packaging

Barricaded into my room, mid-tidy up session

I have this image in my head of adulthood- the far off future when I’ll understand tax codes and own sensible shoes and know how to make gnocchi. Where I’ll go into Marks and Spencer’s to buy birthday presents, and I’ll know the numbers of a few decent plumbers and understand the difference between Shiraz and Rioja. It’s going to happen eventually, and I’d quite confidently tell you that I’ll have accomplished these feats by the time I’m thirty.That seems like a reasonable age to be discussing mortgages. I may have even gotten around to some other life-achievements by then, you know, if I’m not too busy thinking about my pending hip replacement.

This pretty idyllic view of my life in eleven years time is kind of bewildering for me. It’s my own deadline, and it doesn’t seem quite far away enough any more. If I’ve only got just over a decade to start understanding the difference in kitchen cleaning products and how much is appropriate to drink at a networking event, then I should probably have some grounding in the basics right now.

As it stands I’m currently about as much use as lecture in syntactic theory. I’ve never successfully manned a washing machine without supervision, and I don’t have even the loosest idea how to go about making a Sunday Roast. I could probably figure out how to change a fuse, but I’d have to be emotionally prepared for a few electric shocks along the way.

And I’m by no means the least competent person I know. I imagine very few of my similarly-aged friends would feel ready equipped to be a proper, independent, taking-out-the-bins type adult. I think I speak for at least most of us when I say we’re all quite happy to continue in this bizarre student world of adulthood; where the fruit content in cider counts toward your five a day and doing the food shop means skidding round Tesco on a trolley.

Thinking about these things sends me into a downward spiral of panic. What if I’m the only person I know by the time I’m forty who hasn’t hosted a dinner party? What if everyone else is comparing notes on home insurance and I’m still trying to make a portion of pasta stretch to three meals because I can’t be arsed to get some food in?

While calmly deteriorating into a recycling-collection-date frenzy, dwelling on these great life mysteries, I had an epiphany. Eleven years ago, I was eight years old. I didn’t know my left from right properly, nor how to read a clock that used Roman numerals. I couldn’t be trusted to run a bath without fear of a mini-flood, and I wasn’t even tall enough to turn the central heating on, never mind know what to do if it wasn’t working. Now, a fully functioning nineteen year old, and I’m more than capable of all these things. They seemed impossible and far off when I was still strutting around in jelly shoes, but then so did graduating from primary school. If I’ve overcome eleven years of growing up without any major mishaps once before, I think I’m going to be able to do it again. And if I place learning how to calculate my electricity bill in the same boat as learning how to write joined-up, then I’m counting on it coming naturally after a period of trial and error, and only one or two situations where my lack of ability embarrasses me enough to motivate actually learning how to do it properly.


Happy International Women’s Day! British Women.

Today is the official day of recognition for women’s achievements, rights and challenges globally. To celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best individual and groups of female minds in Britain that we believe deserve recognition for their work and successes over the last year.

Her book “How To Be A Woman” shot this Times columnist into the book charts, and into the hearts of feminists everywhere. The book describes itself as a re-writing of “The Female Eunuch”, and is possibly the wittiest ever rant on women’s rightS and women themselves; Moran brought admitting to being a feminist out of the gutter and into the totally acceptable for women everywhere.

Though not technically a cause originating from the UK, The London SlutWalk saw thousands of women join with hundreds of thousands others from around the world to protest attitudes towards rape last year. A global event, it raised the awareness of sexual abuse victim’s rights, and firmly shouted that victims of abuse aren’t to blame for their treatment.

Turn on any radio station and chances are you’re going to end up listening to the ballad-powerhouse that is Miss Adele Adkins. With topping charts and picking up more awards than she can carry becoming an average every-day task for the songstress, there doesn’t seem to be much Adele can’t do. By breaking the mould of high-polished high-energy pop music, she’s stunned the world with her breath-taking vocals, and given the media something to think about when it comes to what your typical talented female should look like, too.

One of the unsung heroes of British feminism this year- most likely because she isn’t too keen on doling out interviews- is the highest ranking female in the British army. With an incredible career spanning 26 years, Moffat is tackling any inequality in the military from within, and encourages women to sign up to the British army, saying there’s never been a better time for women to join.

The girl guides have been steadily rising in numbers and influence over the past year. Promoting women’s rights campaigns has seemingly become another badge they can stitch onto their sashes, having been invited to advise at the UN Commission on Status of Women this month. Two British serving members of Guides will help develop international policies on gender equality at the global conference held in New York- a far cry from baking cookies and earning your washing-up badge.

That’s just five British female stand out achievements- there are hundreds more influential and incredible women that have gained so much this year. From your grandmothers, to the head teacher of the primary school down the road, and from the female chairperson of the big company to the women Olympians. Happy International Women’s Day!


Rapping Lyrical

Mark Grist, one half of the Dead Poet’s, recently shot to fame thanks to an astounding performance in a rap poetry slam battle.  The video went viral, and if you’ve been hiding under a rock that doesn’t have a wifi connection, you can find it here. The novelty was in seeing an teacher in a battle with a student; old v young, suit and tie v baseball cap and trousers that hung below the arse. 

For me, the novelty wasn’t the only reason to stick around. The lyrics were impeccable- both MC Blizzard and Grist delivered masterfully crafted lines, never stumbling or losing rhythm, inventive insults which dripped with wit and intelligence. It’s high time spoken word poetry was appreciated as an art form, an entertainment form. This unlikely duo have done the trick.

Grist’s performance was brilliant. Witty and cutting, the only thing that made it taste sweeter was that it was directed at a cocky pupil- everyone has always kind of hoped to hear what their teachers thought of them, and here it is. In a much purer and honest form than your school report ever could have been. 

On a side note, I want to praise Blizzard. “The honest truth is Bradley, I’ve been served better whilst in Costa”, while the lyric is perfectly put together, and I think Grist would agree with me on this, it’s not entirely honest.  In all the excitement to congratulate Mark Grist on his (well-deserved) win, many have wrongly demoted Blizzard’s skill as sub-par. His extraordinary ability to properly produce amazing lyrics at a speed most professional rappers can only try to emulate, not only demonstrates his quick-tongue and skill, but also his forward thinking imagination. Lines such as “But hold up Mixy, I’m taking the mick, see, you could mix E in my drink and still could never lick me”, while remain a tongue twister for anyone else (genuinely struggled even typing it out…) are simply fluid for the young battler. Three dimensional insults (personal favourite, “then you’ll know what it’s like to be on the wrong side of a glass ceiling“), and intelligent (“I’m gonna get rid of Mark like when Germany brought the euro in“) against almost any other performance poet would bring them crashing down. 

But not against Grist. With words as sharp as his suit, he effortlessly tore into his opponent, stumping the audiences and causing thousands of YouTube viewers to burst out in laughter; “This blizzard lizard’s got no fire it’s just hot air he’s breathing, when all’s said and done, as the years drag on, you’ll look even more like Deborah Meaden”. Not needing to resort to tired lines, he brings creativity and originality to traditional jokes- the standard “your mum” joke reaches new levels of profanity and hilarity, and is a highlight of the entire slam. The Pokemon line (around 8 minutes into the video) is simply put, genius.

Using Blizzard’s real name, playing on his previous occupation, yet still slipping in youth culture references, ultimately, this was a battle Grist couldn’t lose. His skill and cool were at a level that almost guaranteed winning- and a perfect triumph that the video has well over 1.7 million views. It’s a war of attrition Blizzard didn’t really stand much chance against. I’m not claiming Grist is the best rap battle poet in the world, (his next Don’t Flop, though as lyrically engaging, just doesn’t have the excitement this battle does), I’m asserting that a better platform for a poet such as himself couldn’t have been scripted. You know, unless he’d written it.

Upon the video going viral, Grist’s fame meant his other videos have also seen a surge in popularity. “Really Really Good at Bored Games”  is an admission of how uncool he is, yet comes across as incredibly smooth.

“Girls Who Read” is my personal favourite. A little soppier than the others, it still contains the dry humour and hints of boyishness underneath the more tender feel- and certainly appeals to any romantics who had been so far unconvinced by Grist.

His newfound popularity is doing wonders for spoken word poetry. He has started a little fashion on twitter- #SpokenWordSunday. I’m proud to admit that I was the first to jump on this bandwagon (poetry-wagon?)- and was the first follower he retweeted with my suggestion of Taylor Mali. Mali is also a teacher turned poet, and is definitely worth checking out. Each week, I spend hours scrolling through the suggestions this new twitter trend, fuelled by Grist, offers up. I’m finding poets I never would have reached otherwise, and am now actively searching out live poetry events in my area.

He’s making T.V. appearances, both with and without his Dead Poets Partner “Mixy”, and is being namedropped by national press. Hopefully, for the spoken poetry field, and the rap battle scene, his unlikely fame will increase interest in these art forms. I’d love for this to be the beginning of a new trend of spoken word- and at the moment, Grist is pioneering this new phase of popularity. 

(Originally published in my sister blog)

Sound of Spotify

As a prerequisite to reading this article, go out and immediately listen to Emeli Sande’s album; “Our Version of Events”. What you are about to read can only be understood having heard it, as the only words I can think to do it justice are your standard music review adjectives (“stunning, gorgeous”, so on and so forth…), and these adjectives, however apt, don’t really give you an insight into the mood I am in whilst writing this article.

Basically, I’m outraged. Not because the album offended me in any way, but because I simply don’t have access to it. You see, when I find an artist I like, I fall in love with them. I form a proper attachment to them- an attachment that Spotify Free just doesn’t seem to comprehend. It’s a love that is forbidden by their “five listens per song” limit. And it cuts me deep.

When I was first introduced to the Arctic Monkeys, I played them on loop for about three months straight. Rihanna, One Night Only, Black Kids and Jamie T all suffered similar fates. Two Door Cinema Club have only just been relieved of their duties, and currently in charge of my iPod are Friendly Fires. It’s just how I go about listening to music. A phase of a band here, fifteen consecutives listens of an album there. I blame this peculiar way of enjoying music for my very stunted knowledge of what’s popular at any given moment. I’m anti-hipster, essentially. I hear of an artist when they start to gain popularity, and I’m still singing along long after they’ve fallen out of the charts.
(c) Emeli Sande

Sometimes, the choices are acceptable; the general consensus on the Arctic Monkeys is that it’s OKAY to be able to recall any lyric from any of their (first three) albums (I gave up post Last Shadow Puppets…). However, some are less acceptable, and some are just all out embarrassing. My entire A-Level period was spent revising alongside Pixie Lott’s cheery meaningless pop- which has since become so ingrained into my studying patterns now, that whenever I am in desperate need to concentrate on revision notes, I just whack her on my iPod and I’m good to go.

My music habits aren’t obsessive; I don’t particularly care much about the celebrity behind the music. The only music poster I have still is one I pinched of Azealia Banks giving me the finger (less than delightful to wake up to, but I really have grown to love it). I very rarely venture out to live music gigs that don’t involve my own friends rocking out on stage. I just want to listen to what I like. Again and again and again. And again. Consecutively. As though I’m trying to commit it to memory.

For those of you who aren’t Spotify Savvy, it’s a free music service- essentially an on-demand radio. I love it. It allows you to siphon off what doesn’t appeal to you, and leaves you with what does. I’ve recently discovered Ben Howard and Passion Pit through their “similar artists” function, for which I’m very grateful. It’s also cracking for having a good nosy at what your friends are listening to, though I’m not sure I want all my friends to know that I actively listen to Alanis Morisette (I’m slowly turning into my mother, I may as well embrace the soundtrack).

Spotify- spoiling the customers?
One massive bugbear I have with it, however, is that it just so happens to limit the amount of times you can listen to any given song to five times. Which, for my habits, is very frustrating. When Our Verison of Events cut off at the beginning of the week, I was furious. This frustration, I recognise, is completely unjustified. I’m very aware that this reeks of a First World Problem. You’re only allowed a certain amount of free stuff? Poor you. Must be taxing. Fancy that big bad company not spoiling you completely, those bastards.

Which got me thinking. Why do people resent paying for music so much? Any entertainment, in fact? No one seems to buy music anymore, or go to the cinema, or buy DVDs. Everything is downloaded, and I’m willing to bet a massive deal of that is illegal. Personally, I’m so terrified of The Internet Police knocking on my door and suing me for copyright infringement because I’ve downloaded the Mulan soundtrack, that I never, and I mean NEVER, illegally download things. If I really want to listen to something, I’ll use Spotify, or grooveshark.com, or youtube. Or, as an ultimate last resort, I’ll download it on iTunes. But paying for my entertainment really is considered a last resort, and I have to have some sort of guarantee in my head that is going to be worth the £5.99.

Why is there a sense of entitlement with entertainment? Artists do not OWE us their music/films. The amount of money it costs to make a blockbuster, or for a band to produce and distribute albums, is highly disproportional to how the general population values its worth. What results is this stand-off between consumers and the producers of entertainment; we don’t want to have to give money away for something so easily accessible; they don’t want to give everything for free.

It’s a boundary that’s becoming harder and harder to define. The lack of a willingness to pay for music has surprisingly benefitted many in the music industry. Lily Allen and the Arctic Monkeys famously rose to power through the online music host MySpace, and have both made a lot of money packing out stadiums as a result. Software such as Spotify allows music to be recommended solely through social media, creating up to date and vital information on what is popular, and allowing artists to gain much more attention than was necessarily previously possible.

Perhaps this begrudging does benefit both sides of the battle. Customers are being pickier about what they’re willing to pay for, and therefore we’re sorting the wheat from the chaff ourselves, rather than allowing some media buffs to do it for us. Increasing the difficulty of competition can only increase the quality of the winners, right? Or does it damage smaller artist’s chances of any acknowledgement? Personally, I think not. Ed Sheeran’s success speaks volumes, for instance.

Either way, the industry has won this time. Our Version Of Events must mean a lot to me, because instead of sitting in my Spotify account, it now lives in my iTunes account- the true sign that an album is worth it. A song know’s it has made it when people transfer from Spotify to iTunes. You’ve won this one, Emeli. Better luck next time, bank account.