Thursday, 29 July 2010

The Shop-Hating Girls Survival Guide To Shopping

It is a foregone conclusion isn't it? If you are a girl, chances are you like being pampered, love having your hair and nails done, enjoy browsing mac counters and spending your day endlessly picking through sale racks filled with clothes made for a 6"2 size 22 lady with 32AA breasts, wondering why they don't look right. Funnily enough, not every female knows their Matalan from their Moschino, so here are a few survival tips for those who just have to find their feminine side, even if they don't really want to.

Bullet-proof vests at the ready

You know the ones before you enter. Jeremy Kyle cast-offs standing at the door, sharing fags with their herd of children as they discuss the GUM clinic. Inside, it matters not what time of day you choose to peruse, the outcome will be the same. Hours will be spent considering whether £1.50 cashmere will make you itch, rubber shoes make your feet sweat and how long it will take for the 'gold' necklaces to help you resemble the Grinch, and you will unashamedly try things on on the shop floor regardless of how many people are there. Armfuls of bargains and hundreds of conflicting thoughts later, you will make your way to the counter, pleased with your savings, knowing you have clothes to fill three wardrobes for less than a tenner, to find that the queue gently snakes around three floors of screaming children, couples fighting and elderly people wondering if that parallel universe stuff is true.

Think happy thoughts... just keep your eyes open

Cheapo Shops Survival Tips:

1. Take your ipod, it creates an almost inner peace, like meditating with your eyes open. You can pretend you are in a happy place and ignore the riots breaking out around you.

2. Don't go at peak times. Find out when the next delivery is, arrive first thing if possible, the clothes are less likely to have spent the past week sleeping on the floor and sizes that fit will actually be available.

3. If there is a childs floor, or mens floor, the queues for the counter are usually shorter.

4. Avoid hot days, people are more likely to be grumpy and therefore start fights in the queue, fight you for that dress etc.

5. If you get claustrophobic, are impatient with teenagers, toddlers, and casual shoplifters, try and limit the visit to once a year for essentials, IF ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.

oooh exciting

'Nooo, not again' I groan as I gingerly step into the make-up section of a department store. My mother insists on using her hand as a pallette for an array of overpriced, unnecessary and, well, pretty boring little tubs of powder. It's not that I don't agree with make-up, or that I don't like wearing it, I'm just not interested.
'You should like this, it's like painting,' she reassures me flicking through the brochures of endless diagrams of how to paint oneself. Then the girl comes over.

She always manages to look like she's getting ready to go out, architectural rules of her face are carefully shaded in specific ways to encourage her eyelids to be wider, eyelashes darker, mouth poutier, cheeks higher etc. She's always so smiley too, like she wants to be your friend really as she eyes up your make up free skin, which she secretly views as a bit androgenous.

Emily Haines doesn't need make-up!

'I don't like too much make up' I insisted, 'it makes my eyes itch. That's a nice colour though.' I spot a dark green glittery eyeshadow on passing. Nice because it's shiny, and I quite like Emerald green, not because I really wanted my eyeballs smothered in it. Before I could get out of it, I was perched on a stool in the middle of this rather white and brightly lit department as a group of shiny haired women peered over my face oohing and aahing about the length of my eyelashes and how I should get them professionally curled, how make up should be ruled by season and that this particular brand couldn't be more natural if it was an organic carrot. A short makeover and some nice chit chat later and a mirror is thrust in front of me for my opinion of my newly glittered face. 'Oh it's lovely,' I tell the nice girl as I consider that I look the same, except my eyelids are green. 'I'll have a little think.'

Make-Up Counter Survival Tips:

1. Ask for a sample, if you don't like the whole 'lets put it on you right here' type of approach. You can always ask later whether it's meant for your cheeks or your lips.

2. Ask friends and family for opinions. What makes do they like? What would suit you? Can they come with you and can you leave as soon as possible?

3. Avoid admiring the pretty colours distractedly as you walk past, or soon you too will have the joy of spending an afternoon on a stool, chatting about combination skin.


A friend recently regaled 'the most embarrassing moment of her life,' so like all good friends I'm sharing it over the internet. What could be that embarrassing? Mistaking your boyfriends bed for his parents? Realising that someones watching as you unhinge a wedgie? Finding youtube footage of your tequila-driven self proposing to the waiter in front of your baffled and sober colleagues at the Christmas do?

But no, this disasterous moment was the second that she, having spent all month at the gym, all day at the hairdressers, tanning, nail painting and earring planning to come face to face, with someone more tanned, more toned, and (impossibly) more coiffed than she, wearing the same dress. 'It was such a cringe!' she exclaimed, blushing at the thought. 'Why don't you try vintage shops for clothes?' I said, my high street lover friend was unconvinced. 'Second hand clothes?' she replied, horrified. Of course it might help to have a prior interest in alternative clothes or times gone by, but on taking a rare trip away from Per Una, even my ma found some nice things, and for a hater of the high street and a lover of recycling, I'm always in my element.

Vintage Shops Survival Tips:

1. Don't know where to start? Google is your mate.

2. Look for vintage fairs in your area or going to your uni. Quite often they will be open to haggling and have interesting stories about the items.

3. If the shop is large, or a warehouse, don't hesitate to harangue an employee for what it is you are looking for specifically. It is what they are paid for, and will speed up your seach and make the sifting process less painful.

4. Custom designs. Ask within the shop if the customise items on site (or know anyone who does.) In my opinion the best vintage shops are the ones that have employees who turn that rank floor length 60's dress that makes you look like your grannies granny into a one of a kind shift with a bit of chop and change.

5. Ebay. Ebay. Ebay. Sit at home, grab a chai, type in a keyword and buy. My favourite.

I should have more tips, I'm still learning on this one...


Monday, 26 July 2010


So Friday took me for the first time in my life down to Oxford! Oxford, the land of dreams, of charming old buildings enlightened tourists and anxious students on the verge of nervous breakdowns, I felt cleverer just being there. But alas no, I was not there to sample the delights of the colleges or indulge in a little splurge at the covered market, which I must admit I thought was called the cupboard market, a whole market for cupboards? I thought, those crazy clever Oxfordians, whatever next?! I had travelled down to this lovely part of the south to make my way to Hill Farm for the annual Truck festival. For England it was rather roastie toastie on the Saturday and much of the day was spent lolling around in the sunshine getting glitter tattoos and picking grass. This was a particularly lovely past-time in front of the main stage. Unlike the larger festivals, there was no oppressive need to get to know your fellow fans underarms or spend an entire set being nudged in the head by adolescent moshers (aren't you glad you aren't 5"3). Many festival goers were happy to lie on the grass and let the music come to them. Power to you hippies.

As with any festival, I didn't get to see every musically talented soul on this verge of grass, but I will pick out some of the highlights and regale you with tales from my whimsical weekend, in no particular order.

Borderville (boredomville is a bit harsh..)

I was pretty excited to see Borderville, had heard only good things about them and their self styled cabaret theatricality. Gracing the main stage is the perfect place to showcase this flamboyance. My anticipation was heightened by the fact that the four piece were joined by 'Glamour' a string quartet. Dulled by a false start, blamed by vocals, Joe Swarbrick on a hangover, they went on to deliver a rather tame performance, and in fact my companions had begun twiddling their thumbs and looking bored by the third song. To add insult to injury, Mr Swarbrick went on to shamelessly plug and encourage listeners to make their way to the front to purchase their piece of quirky heaven. I still think there is potential, perhaps a smaller stage would have been a better place for them to shine, but their slightly predictable pop riffs and lyrics didn't go down a storm on such a large space that they sadly just couldn't fill.

Good Shoes

Good shoes seem to be a vocalisation for indie teen generation dreaming, no matter how dark 'No Hope, No Future' (name says it all) is pitched. Besides 'Everything I do' which I consider to be just a bit strange, these London lads lived up to what they are meant to be, to fifteen year olds that is. Their small army of fans could be seen strutting in Good Shoes merchandise up and down the grassy fields, gulping down their underage beer and insisting on declaring love for Rhys Jones (or a strong steady handshake) whenever he chanced a quiet moment with people of his own age. Not my cuppa chai, but made a lot of young people happy.

La Shark, pretty insane if you ask me...

With zilch prior knowedge of La Shark, I didn't know what to expect. If I'm honest I only stumbled into their set as they were playing between two other bands I wanted to see. My first thoughts were, 'oh no, not another one...' by that I mean bands that take their so-cool-it-hurts level to the point of being plain ridiculous. Each wearing boiler suits, or playing half a set with your long hair (not on the undercut side) covering your face, wearing masks, that sort of thing, generally turns me off. But these guys were so watchable, particularly lead vocals, Samuel Geronimo Deschamps (surely not?) who informed the crowd that despite his erm... otherworldly behaviour and profuse sweating, this was the first gig he had played 'sober.' Before ploughing off the stage in a frenzy and leaping without forewarning into a backflip. Luckily for him, there seemed to be an intuitive crowd decision that this copacabana style shirt wearing man was going to do something unexpected and the best thing was to steer clear to avoid a nasty yet no doubt colourful accident. They all looked mightily pleased at their unwillingness to be ordinary, and I was pleased for them. Yet for all their exuberance and energy, on being advised to jump on the ground when Geronimo did on numerous occasions, he was left on his own to stand carpet burns as his trendy counterparts looked on. Better luck next time lads. 

Is Tropical

As aforementioned, I just don't really get group masking techniques. Watching these chaps set up, my time was spent wondering just how they get their hair quite so peculiar. But a short soundcheck later the faces that everyone had seen were covered up by a slightly pretentious Michael Jackson style masking device. Apparently this is to eliminate the idea of a front man within the band. I can see how that worked, because behind a mask they were all non-entities, completely... Singing through a mask lost any words, or meaning or connection with the audience, which was unfortunate, because having listened to their recorded stuff, they aren't all that bad, strange hair or not. It also kind of grossed me out to see them drinking through the mask, imagine the smell! I didn't really feel any the wiser for having seen them, but their stuff is good, check it out.

Egyptian Hip Hop (awww)

My first thoughts when I saw these foursome setting up, were surely not?! They look so young! But that should definetly not be a reason not to take them seriously, even if they aren't egyptian, or playing hip hop. Behind those nervous wrinkle free fresh faces are clearly tick tocking thoughts of complicated and intricate melodies. The rabbit in the headlights look that continued throughout their set was understandable for their instrument swapping, mac touching ways. The sound in the 'Village Pub' stage did them no favours. As with other bands I had seen in there, the vocals were not as clear as they could have been, but this was not the fault of the band. Recently produced by Sam Eastgate from 'Late of The Pier' fame. With a string of festival dates up and down the country this summer, I see bigger and better things for these seventeen year old darlings.

Ms Dynami-teeehee

My only criticism of Truck, was that before the Barn stage, the crowd control was useless, for want of a better word, despite about 15 'Crowd Safety Officers.' It was not their fault that there was a crush getting in, but it wouldn't have taken much for an event organiser to arrange a better queuing sysem for their ever inflating ticket price. There didnt seem to be much sense in a squashed single file queue where people were jumping the barriers, just to get in to find there was still a lot of space left. Once through the squish (holding onto my chums hands so as not to get swallowed in the bodies), 'The Barn' was rather civilised, despite the ever present smell of cow manure. Well, civilised until the douche in front of me peed on the floor and a rather intoxicated 80's throwback 'skinhead girl' decided to dance in it in a slightly strange slidey movement. The crowd chanted 'Dynamite' and I didn't know what to expect. Having not released an album since 2004, and my most recent recollection being her 2002 album 'A Little Deeper,' I was surprised about her popularity, especially since she made it to the stage nearly an hour late. This aside, when she did arrive, along with DJ Free and sincere apologies, my hesitations and pre judgements were entirely unfounded. She is a true performer and even the stoniest of trendy indie kids couldn't help but jump around. My favourite part was her drum and bass finale with DJ Zinc, and I can honestly say I would see her again.

DJ Zinc

I was most looking forward to DJ Zinc, and was not dissapointed. Happy memories of driving too fast to Arena albums came flooding back and his fill for Ms Dynamite's lateness was greatly received. Legend.


Already a fan of Stornoway and their infectious mix of Belle and Sebastianesque vocals and catchy easy listening set up, my review of them could be a little biased. I read recently that drummer Rob is on his gap year between school and university, but he's thinking about deferring his place at Birmingham University for another year. I think I can say quite safely, that lovely as Birmingham is, he can take that 'risk.' Having played the 'BBC Introducing...' stage just last year, the step up to the main stage in their home town is a great achievement. Onwards and upwards, I am a little bit in love...

Overall Truck was great fun and value for money, the food and drinks were not overpriced like so many festivals, and served by the local Rotary club. On top of that, all profits go to charity, which can't be a bad thing! Sadly I lost my watch there, but I am hoping event organisers may find it before a cow does. It can't be good for cow intestines. I was pleased to see families, although underagers could be irritating at times. If you prefer your festivals chilled out and chatty to hardcore drug infested raves, this ones for you. See you next year Truck.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Catacombs and the Coach Journey

Cass McCombs, can he do no wrong? He has that seductive 'I can mix unusual chords with super sad words' effect. 'You Saved My Life,' is a totally haunting have-to-listen-to-over-and-over-again type of song and I thought the true highlight of the album was 'One Way To Go,' a real toe tapping tune...
Why is she reviewing this album? I hear you ask. His heartfelt lyrics and swinging melodies have been doing the rounds since 2009 kid! Well, an album like this firmly belongs on a summer playlist and on ANY coach journey, I'm just forewarning you in case such needs should arise whilst using public transport, particularly if it's anything like the London Birmingham journey I endured recently.

Not naming names...

One could argue that I brought this situation on myself, when making my way onto the tube platform on the hottest day of the year, any kind of oxygen seemed to dissipate leaving instead the stench of unnecessary delays and tourists armpits. Deciding that fresh air was good for my young lungs (and it might be nice to wave to Queen Lizzy as I passed the palace) I  insisted on walking to Victoria coach station.
I caught her at an off moment, she wasn't expecting me

 Admittedly I didn't know the way, but hey I had half an hour, there was no way I was going to be late. Famous last thoughts as I ran through the coach station. Hurrah! I saw my coach waiting for me like a giant hug to take me home, until I boarded those fateful steps. Through the matted throng of unhappy looking people wafting make shift fans and swearing at eachother in different languages I spied one seat left. One sad lonely seat at the back of the coach, wedged between a 25 stone man and the toilet that had a broken door, meaning that around every corner it would swing open bouncing against my legs and waking me up from my 100 degree slumber.

The nice fat man told the world 'it stinks of piss in here' every five minutes

Not only was I swimming in someone elses sweat and drowning in the scent of urines-gone-by, the air con didn't work... and there was a heater under my seat, meaning that if I didn't die from the coach that broke down 5 times on the motorway, heat exhaustion would do it. What do you do in such a predicament? I advise, should you find yourself in such a state, to take 'Catacombs' by the lovely Cass McCombs and drown yourself in that instead. Needless to say, I made it home in one piece, I had neither melted from the heat, nor been squashed by my rather large companion, I was not beaten by the swinging poo stained door, or killed in a horrific traffic accident. Does this mean that Cass McCombs saved my life? Does this mean that whoever saved his life, in the track 'You Saved My Life' saved me too? Should I send them a letter to thank them?

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


So, it seems this is what the kids are about these days, I must be getting old... Apparently passing around a spliff at a party or alternately shooting up on the odd occasion is not what the adolescents do to get their kicks anymore, it is all about I-Dosing. Forgive me if I am a bit behind, it seems Americans are seasoned pros, but for those of you not familiar with this concept, (this was myself before yesterday) I-Dosing consists of putting your headphones on and subjecting yourself to a track of hypnotic, spacey drone like music. The effect of this on the listener mimics that of drugs, sending the listener into a crazy junkie world where nothing quite makes sense. The boffin sciencey types out there came up with a theory called 'Binaural Beats.' This is when two different frequencies are played into the ears and has been used successfully to combat sleep problems and anxiety. Despite reassurances that actually this drug like effect is actually a load of old twaddle, there appear to be endless videos of young people with not much to do simulating crack induced fits and kids across the pond in Oklahoma are being warned categorically not to visit these sites. After listening to a few beats of this well thought out and tuneful piece of ear juice, I decided I must be missing something, can't say I'm convinced...

What do you think?

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse: Dark Night of The Soul

This certain piece of collaboration history did not arrive in my ears without a fair bit of drama. There is of course a long and established friendship between musicians and suicide, but the most, well, ironic part of this sad tale is that Mark Linkous of the Sparklehorse half of this musical meeting wanted to join forces with like minded creative folk to make new music and combat the depression which he had suffered with throughout his adult life. After a tour with Radiohead in 1996 Linkous was confined to a wheelchair for 6 months after overdosing on a less than pleasant mix of valium, heroin and alcohol, and then in March of this year he ended a remarkable journey as other tortured souls before him have. But what he did leave with us was not only a near finished Sparklehorse album, but also 'Dark Night of the Soul' an album written along with Dangermouse with guest singers from a number of bands. Worth checking out, if only for the surprising appearance of Suzanne Vega (who is consequently making her own comeback) and a surprisingly tame Iggy Pop.

Online Marketing