Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Don't you dare use the word "party" as a verb in this shop!

...or, Things People Really Need To Not Say.

Before I get my (admittedly very tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted) rant on, I must say, the last few days have been very pleasant indeed. Well, apart from the 24 hours spent in university halls last week - which, in the middle of the summer, was pretty eerie. I had to get a friend to ring me to take my mind off the nagging fear that if I was caught up in, say, the Talybont Massacre, no-one would know, since there was no-one about. Still, I was grateful to have a free place to crash so I could see my dissertation supervisor and pick up my deposit from my landlady. Oh, the rock & roll life I lead...

But then things did get a bit more rock & roll. Because this weekend, at the grand old age of 22, I finally lost my festival virginity*. To Truck Festival. (Nothing to do with heavy goods vehicles, I can assure you.) Held on a farm in a beautiful village close to Oxford, it was a great couple of days and one I can highly recommend if you want a weekend of awesome music that won't break the bank. Says the girl who still hasn't paid back her ticket-buyer. Eek. It's family-friendly too - I lost count of the number of little ones being carried around on their dads' shoulders, and then felt sorry for the all parents during Tim Minchin's excellent but rather sweary set. I could only imagine the awkward questions later: "Mum, who's the motherfucking Pope?"

*V in 2007 doesn't really count; we only had a day ticket.

 I'm not what you'd call a natural camper - as much as I like to think I am quite outdoorsy, it's been a while since I spent every weekend working on a farm, and I think the last time I camped properly, I was a Guide. The idea of not showering for a couple of days didn't exactly fill me with joy - I think I'm borderline-OCD when it comes to shaving my legs; I have a zero-tolerance attitude to stubble. But feeling pretty rank was a small price to pay for so much good music in one place, and when my mother's opening line to me when she picked me up from the station on Sunday was "No offence darling, but you look skanky, you need a shower", I laughed. Mainly at the fact that she thought I needed telling.

Anyhoo. The weekend was rounded off nicely with a quiet drink with a handful of friends, some of whom I hadn't seen for bloody ages, and then it was up at 5.45am on Monday and Tuesday for work. Or, two days of "spot the difference: water bill edition", bookended by lots of train rage. I was relieved when I was told I wasn't needed today, and planned on a serious lie-in and a very relaxed, unstressy day. I must have been mistaken as to who I am for a minute there, because of course, my day began at 7am with excruciating pain (I'll spare you the details) and I've spent most of the time since then thinking, "Oh God, I don't have enough to do". I don't think I'm going to learn how to relax until I'm about 55.

So I thought it was time for another ranty list - because hey, if there's one thing I'm good at, it's making ranty lists.

I don't actually know what triggered this particular list, but the other day I did find myself wondering why people say certain things - things that are either  a) pointless, b) never going to get an answer, or c) just plain annoying. Here are a few things I really can't help but scoff at when I hear people say them; you probably have your own.

1) "What are you thinking?"

Oh, this old chestnut. Blatant and sweeping gender stereotyping - and Ed Byrne - would have you believe that this question is very much a Woman Thing: 

 Apparently, it's a seemingly-innocuous bomb we drop on guys to make them panic and scramble in vain for something more romantic than, "I was just wondering whether it would be worse to be raped by a pirate or a ninja".

Personally, I've been asked this question many more times - by guys who should really know better than to put me on the spot like that - than I've asked it. It's a stupid question because a) generally, people don't have one thought at a time. I, for one, can be planning what I'm going to wear tomorrow, thinking of exciting and improbable careers for myself and doing the day's "calorie maths" all at once (sad but true). All while having the "OhmyGodI'm22andhavenoideawhatI'mdoingwithmylife" breakdown. So, for your own peace of mind, don't ask me what I'm thinking. It'll only freak us both out.

2) "Come on, what's the worst that could happen?"

To this, my answer is succinct: can I write you a fucking list?

3) "I'm not being funny, but..."

No, you're not being anything in the same time zone as funny. You're being petty and nitpicky, I can pretty much guarantee it. (And I can't have anyone infringing on my "petty and nitpicky" copyright.)

4) "Oh, I was going say something but now I've forgotten what it was."

Oh God, don't tease me like that. Now I'm not going to listen to at least the next six minutes of this conversation because I'm trying to guess what you were going to say. Hurry up and remember, damn it.

5) "So why were you at the doctors'?"

Does anyone ever expect a genuine answer to this question? It's the kind of information that you should know not to ask for if it hasn't been volunteered. I'm aware that asking this does come from genuine concern, but relax - I'd have told you if it was serious/contagious/your fault, honest.

6) The following words: condiment, throb, naughty, pulsate.

Throb and pulsate are self-explanatory, I feel. They're just far too onomatopoeic.
"Condiment" is just an unnecessary word. I don't know what we could replace it with, but there's got to be something shorter that means "stuff you put on food to make it better".
"Naughty" is either applied to misbehaving children, or to most of Lovehoney's products. I don't need to make the point that nothing should apply both of these things.

Dara O'Briain agrees with me:

7) "Get over yourself."

No. Sorry. Like every other human being, I am the central protagonist in my life. So I reserve the right not to get over myself, thank you very much.

8) "I didn't think it would be your kind of thing..."

This one seems fairly harmless, and I'm never going to call anyone out on it when they say it - I'm not a total nutjob. But the first problem with this is that you can't say much in response: "Oh. Well, it is." Cue awkward silence.

And then - me being ever the linguist (read: pedant) - there are underlying assumptions contained within the statement that need unpicking. Assumptions being the operative word, really; the speaker is assuming they know what your kind of thing is - which admittedly isn't a crime. But it's the assuming part that makes me get a little prickly - I don't care how well you think you know me, please don't assume you know everything. I'm a woman of many tastes and talents (well, two talents mainly, and you only find out the second if I really like you) - you can't pigeon-hole me, man! And other such pretentious-wanker nonsense. I think this all just comes from my perma-teenage tendency to retreat into a thought-cycle of "I'm so misunderstood" whenever I'm feeling vaguely out of sorts.

So now you know what to say if you want to annoy me. (I can guarantee that some of the wind-up merchants I like to call friends are making mental notes to drop as many of these as possible into conversations with me. I'm onto you, kids.)

Musically speaking, you really need to check out a band called Brontide if you know what's good for you.

And it's not summer til Santana happens: 

Sunday, 15 July 2012

New favourite rock star...

So there I was, complaining to Facebook that I was running low on things to write about. Do I weigh in on the Fifty Shades of Grey madness, despite having only read the first fifth of the first book? (I still might; it's like the Da Vinci Code of BDSM - badly written, but good grief, everyone's got an opinion). Do I do a vague and generic "Relationships: even when they're simple, they're not" post? Which, rest assured, arises out of being agony aunt for a couple of friends recently, rather than my own issues (which, indeed, would fill a book, so perhaps here isn't the place). A friend suggested a post on superpowers, which would be very brief (I have a lot of geeky friends so we've got this particular conversation down to a fine art). The superpower I'd most like to have would be mood control - so being able to rouse a crowd of apathetic people, or calm down an angry mob. Or just defuse awkwardness. The Boy suggested a rant about people who make massive generalisations -we were having a conversation in the pub about the Daily-Mail-reader kind of attitude that can be truly horrifying in its pervasiveness. We all have friends/relatives who are prone to making big, sweeping statements about entire groups of people based on one tiny, barely-significant experience. But, knowing the upshot of that soapbox session would be "God, aren't people just crap?" there would be some irony there.

But then. As I was sitting in bed on Saturday feeling rather queasy and sorry for myself (am on drugs for a week, and constant nausea seems to be the side-effect. Cheers, biology), my uncle called. "What are you up to today?"

"Oh, kind of busy," I lied, thinking he was going to rope me into doing something helpful - which, ordinarily, I hasten to add, I wouldn't mind - just not when the contents of my stomach are churning like a washing machine.

"Well, I have a spare ticket to Bruce Springsteen in Hyde Park..."

That changed things. Radically.

"I'm sure whatever I'm doing isn't that urgent. What time are we leaving?"

Now, I wouldn't call myself a die-hard Bruce fan. There's a good handful of his songs that I do really love - more recent ones like The Rising, Radio Nowhere, Lonesome Day, and the classics like Born to Run and Dancing in the Dark - but I'm not a go-out-and-get-new-album-on-date-of-release kind of fan. (Actually, it's more sit-in-and-download-standout-tracks these days, but the point stands.) However, my uncle has been a devoted fan for as long as I can remember, and as I was partly brought up by my grandmother and him, Bruce's music featured heavily in my early childhood. As a kid, I loved the "Born in the USA" album, and I remember being rather perplexed by the album cover for "The Ghost of Tom Joad" (hey, I was only five or so).

But only a fool would turn down an opportunity to see the Boss live, so I shovelled some dry toast into my face, stuffed a rucksack with lunch and a waterproof, and off we toddled to Hyde Park.

I probably don't need to tell you it was an amazing show. That for a man of 62, the energy and sheer joy he exudes while onstage puts 85% of other performers to shame. That - and don't worry, I'm wincing at the phrasing I'm about to employ - the gig was a journey from the harder, angrier, political songs of recent years to the anthems Springsteen is best known for. The turning point came - for me at least - at the twelfth song of the evening, "Because the Night". You have not lived until you have shouted along to that song as the stage lights turn the rain gold and silver. I also hope never to forget that performance of the afore-mentioned "The Ghost of Tom Joad", which included a positively orgasmic guitar solo from Tom Morello. The encore included Born in the USA, Glory Days, Born To Run, and Dancing in the Dark - and true to form, Bruce plucked one super-lucky lady from the crowd to dance with him, and then personally lifted her up and put her back where he'd found her. Oh, to be Bruce's Dancing in the Dark girl...

It wasn't over yet though, because who should stride onstage but Paul McCartney? And unfortunately this is where my tale (I say tale, it's more an extended "Ha, I saw Bruce and you didn't!") turns a little sour. As has been reported all over the internet today, the plug was pulled at 10.40pm, as Bruce, his band and Sir Paul were storming the hell out of Twist and Shout. They'd passed their curfew by 10 minutes - not half an hour, as most papers/sites are claiming - and so were silenced.  It's not a big deal, and of course it didn't ruin the evening, nice as it would have been to have heard the band's goodbyes. But what dawned on me today was that these days, a live music event is one of the last places where you can get thousands of people together who have no intention of causing trouble, are there to just see their act of choice and have a good time, so to pull the plug on that seems to be erring on the side of buzzkill. I know whoever took that decision was merely doing their job and following orders, but it's just a shame such a spectacular night had to end like that.

Whatever though, I got to sing along to Born To Run as if my life depended on it, so I'm not complaining. 

So that was yesterday, and today I've been at a family gathering - and all anyone asked me about was my dissertation/Masters course/career ideas. Someone genuinely uttered the words, "So what are your job prospects like?"

I had to stuff an entire egg sandwich into my mouth to stifle the yelp of anguish.

I'm going to leave you with this (it's a personal favourite and he didn't play it), and go and feel guilty about the stone I've gained in cake today.

Ciao for now.

 P.S. That's Bruce crossed off the to-see-live list. Now, who wants to get me tickets for the Stones?