High School Reunion 3 #indielove indierock

This post has absolutely nothing to do with my high school reunion at the end of this month. It’s not about me, it’s you, my lovely friend (you know who you are) who took me to her ‘school reunion’ when Scouting for Girls came to Birmingham on tour.

Yes, my friend went to school with the lead singer Roy and the bassist Greg and she was on the guest list when they came to play the O2 Birmingham last night. With four tickets she invited me along with my husband Phil and our our son.

Now he’s going to hate me for this but not only was it the first ever gig my son has been to, it turns out the first album he bought was Scouting for Girls. I didn’t know that until last night. And now Roy (see first name terms now) knows it too as my friend told him.

And get this, we had these wrist bands. DSCF6241 My friend, for whom this is not a first time experience was like ‘well it is not that much you just get to meet the band’, and I am like OMG I have a wrist band. I didn’t say that of course, I am a fifty something sensible wife and mother but actually I was very excited about it.  Usually on a week day I am half watching a cookery programme while updating my Facebook status. We were going to the back stage party! Well not exactly but we did get to meet her mates later. And it was all very civilised.

Before the gig we met at Cherry Reds in John Bright Street. It was a freezing night and, even at 6pm, very few people were lingering for shopping eating or drinking in the German Market. Everyone was rushing to get home it was so cold.

Cherry Reds however was quite busy. It  is strategically placed for when Grand Central opens in 2015. The long needed overhaul of New Street Station will include a new retail development with a flagship John Lewis store. Over a few drinks, we decided that when it was finished  this quarter of Birmingham would be the retail destination of choice, as John Bright Street will be the. Gateway from Grand Central to the Mailbox where Harvey Nics is, leaving the Bullring to the cashed up Bogans and Wags.

Cherry Reds is directly opposite Brew Dog, a bar providing a range of craft beers and food in, according to their website, a temple of non conformity.  It was empty on this bitter Tuesday evening. Cleary all the non conformists were elsewhere.

Cherry Reds is a licensed cafe, with an eclectic mix of vintage sofas and formica tables it sells all day food, smoothly moving from hipster central for Saturday  brunch to a place to take mom for Sunday lunch. Its close proximity to the station, the Mailbox, The Electric Cinema and theatres including the Hippodrome, the Alex and The Rep makes it a good choice for pre theatre coffee, supper and drinks. It is also close to the O2 where we were off to later. Did I say I went to see Scouting for Girls there?

The food is hearty British, between us we had a pork burger with chorizo, gammon, eggs and chips, fish pie and bangers and mash, and there are lots of veggie options.  We were downstairs and it was a bit cold when people opened the door, but every table was full, enjoying laid back post work drinks or supper with friends. Upstairs was quieter and would be my choice for later drinks on the sofa. People watching. Definitely better than freezing in the German market.

We filled up on good food, good beer and good milk shakes and ventured to the sub zero temperatures to the O2. The support band were, Loveable Rogues who were on stage when we arrived. I am no muso journo and I make no claims of knowing half the bands my friends  like, or even what genre of music they are but I thought they were they were good. I had no idea what genre they are but Wikipedia tells me they are indie pop and that they were hand picked to be on Britain’s Got Talent.

For the main act we decided to go on the balcony for what was a better view of the stage without having to stand with the young people who jump up and down at concerts. Phil and I were not (surprisingly) the oldest at the gig. Some parents had brought quite young children (under 11) and there were 20 to 50 something couples as well as teeny boppers or whatever they are called now with bored chaperones.

The band were good. They put on an entertaining show, engaged the audience and nearly everyone in the room knew most of the lyrics. And for those of you who turned down free tickets as they are not a ‘cool band’, well thank you because I loved it.

The highlight for me was the acoustic set. Bringing the instruments to front of stage they played a brilliant set. It was very intimate (as much as the O2 could be) almost like being at pub gig with just mates in the room. Brilliant.

Of course the night is not complete IMHO without the Michaela Strachan number and She’s So Lovely.

At one point Roy came up to the balcony to sing, and brilliantly had to pass our and his friend so to the chagrin of the teeny boppers standing next to us, gives her a bear hug and greets her by name. Their faces we’re a picture, imagine envy mixed with bewilderment aka ‘why has he chosen her she’s really old why her and not us lithe teenage fans?’ Just as most 12 years old think that anyone over 20 is over the hill. Here’s the news guys, Roy’s the same age as my friend.  And she’s not old, just older than you 13 year old teeny bopper and one day you will be that age. I guess one can be grateful that they were at his gig and not at One Direction. Not that there is any connection between the two bands. Of course not. None at all. Nada. None whatsoever. Nothing to see here.

Finally it came to meeting the band. And after just chatting to family, with the fan club girlies with double lip gloss waiting patiently, and me wanting my bed, my friend drags Roy over to introduce him to us. Clearly as we are not friends of her age, but a family consisting of 50 something’s and a 20 something, the ‘how do  you know each other’ question arises. ‘Mary Portas introduced us’. Well that would have been the clever, and true if somewhat embellished answer, instead is was more ‘eh um, we all live in Bearwood, and um xxxx stayed with us during house renovations’ sounds less interesting when talking to the lead sing of Scouting for Girls. Ho hum.

He chatted to us about record deals and reveals that he also does a lot of writing for other bands. ‘She’s So Lovely’ may be his pension but hey he has to make a living, so writing for boys with floppy hair pays the bills. ‘ They’re just kids’, he says genuinely kindly, to me who today discovered said boys on a toothpaste tube and was less kind about them. He is the bigger person for that then. And richer. But he is genuinely an ok guy without ego, he keeps that for the stage. Not that I would expect any less from a friend of my friend. And anyway she knows too much about him for him to be anything other than just who he is.

Then Greg comes over and shows us a picture of his dog a Cocker doodle doo pug something cross that looks like a lab puppy, always.  In my day they were called mongrels, now cross breeds have designer status.  Equal rights for dogs.  He gets told off for doing the rock star hand gesture, teased that he’s in a pop band and cannot get away with it.  He then lists his rock credentials and is grudgingly acknowledged  by his old school friend that they are indie rock. Not pop. Chats about old school mates and who is married and who has 5 kids. Just like any other high school reunion then? Again she’s known him too long for him to act anything more than an old school friend and egos have been packed away by the roadies with the guitars.

We are tired, it’s a school night and they need to schmooze and smile at the lip glossed girls so off into the cold night and despite trying to be really nonchalant about meeting Scouting for Girls, we are all a bit star struck. Well I am. And I think my friend, despite saying its hard to find people to come when she gets comps, is too.

All I can say don’t be a music snob. Because you may miss out on a good night out.

Thank you for taking us, mate.

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Zumba with Buble and on being judgemental.

I have never been to a Zumba class before and noticed there was one in my local church hall. I have put off going because I was worried that I’d be the oldest and fattest and least fit, that it would be full of yummy mummy types fitting in a class while the children were at school and I would feel old. The real reason of course was I was too lazy and full of self-pity to get off my fat arse to go.

Yet I needed to inject something into my routine.  I either seem to cook, clean or post on Facebook, and occasionally blog. Also, it is cold and I can’t afford to heat the house with just me in it, so off to Zumba; ‘Wi’ Kay’ I went. Yes that is what her banner said. Which nearly put me off.

Anyway Kay is a diminutive, slim, fit Scottish lady with loads of energy and the average age of the people in the class is about 65. I was possibly the youngest there. My heart sank, then, I thought, well even I may be able to keep up with this bunch. How wrong I was.

Some of them were in their beige period, with sensible shoes. All very friendly, everyone came up to me to introduce themselves. Yet, I still thought, what have I done? I used to dance at the Pineapple Studio in Convent Garden. Has my life been reduced to dancing with grannies in a dusty church hall? I could barely give my name, yet alone maintain eye contact, I didn’t want to engage with old people. Not today.

Then they got out these.

bell 2I felt under dressed in jogging bottoms and trainers.

As we started dancing I thankfully recognised some of the steps from my ballroom dancing lessons when I was 8. I can still Cha Cha Cha you know. And some of the other moves from aerobic classes in my 30’s. And boy, my hips did ache. I couldn’t co-ordinate the arms and feet though, so I did a bit of a Michael Flatley impression with feet moving madly and arms stiff by my side. And I started counting the steps. I was used to an aerobic instructor shouting out directions, but Kay just danced and we were to follow. Everyone knew the steps and it was all rather erotic flirtatious, with hips a swaying and come zither looks. All I could think was, do they dance for their husband on a Saturday, and does he notice? Or would he rather watch Match of the Day? These grannies mean business.

Once I relaxed, it did get better. No one was watching me or judging me, I could see that the class was structured well, with a warm up, and mixed tempo like interval training, if you like. The Tango was interesting as it is a very ‘sensual’ dance and my did those ladies like a bit of sensual.

The music was an mix of upbeat flamenco, pop and Bhangra. And Micheal Buble, Save the Last Dance for Me.  I just could not equate all this with the average age of the room. Then it occurred to me, these were children of the sixties, they invented the twist and rock and roll. They were the same age as Paul McCartney and Rod Stewart.

To be honest my feelings were very mixed, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in a class with older people. Yet if it had been all young fitness freaks I would have felt worse, I know. My self-esteem and confidence has taken quite a bit of a bashing and I know that by being Active and Connecting as per the Five Ways to Wellbeing may will help improve my mental health. Being with young skinny girls in leotards may not be what I need to feel better about my body image. Who am I kidding anyway, I meet all the criteria to go on a Saga Holiday!

And you know those grannies rocked with their belly dancing scarves. They were connecting, being active, taking notice, learning and were giving. They were smiling and laughing, it was me with the long face and slumping shoulders. I was grumppy old women who would not engage.

During a break the only other young person (like my age) came up to me and asked if I had been to a Zumba class before today. She was genuinely surprised when I told her it was my first time. ‘But you have danced before?’ she asked. ‘You know all the steps and everything’. And that was all I needed to start letting go of my inner crap and start enjoying myself.

At the end the grannies  took off the scarves and wrapped up in their beige coats and went back to being a woman that maybe you would not notice in the supermarket queue. Yet for that hour they had been an exotic dancer and loving every minute of it.

I was ashamed of myself and my negative attitude and age stereotyping. Who am I to dismiss anyone, make judgement on any person? I hate it when young people only see the old woman in me and here was I, guilty as charged.

Later on that day I happened upon a conversation on twitter commenting on a discussion at #commscamp13.  I was able to contribute to that conversation and I hope,  that to an extent made amends for all the judgemental, depersonalisation I had been guilty of earlier that day.

  1. @dosticen Customers, consumers, service users, stakeholders are all terms being bandied about. Not heard citizen once

  2. @siwhitehouse @dosticen I hate ‘service user’ as used by someone talking about people living with dementia recently #commscamp13

  3. @travellingcoral I’m not surprised. It’s horrible and de-personalising (that’s a word, yeah?) #commscamp13 @dosticen

  4. @GeorgeJulian I assume you meant “What’s wrong with using the word people” & not just “what’s wrong with people” @travellingcoral@dosticen

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  1. @dosticen @siwhitehouse @travellingcoral Oops, this cld be why I’m not in comms 😉 I meant what’s wrong w the term ppl, but similarly… 😉

  2. @dosticen @siwhitehouse @GeorgeJulian people that’s the word, whether we are old, young, ill, well, why other words used?

  3. @travellingcoral @dosticen @siwhitehouse Language is chosen for a reason, is powerful stuff. Depends on level of passivity want to encourage

Three go to the Flea and other adventures

Last weekend I went to Malvern with Phil, my husband and Jo-ann, a friend I met on Facebook. The trip had been planned before my recent bereavement and for a while I thought it may not happen. I didn’t want to do anything except mope. However, I knew that getting away from the routine of home would be the therapy I needed. After weeks of horrible cold weather that kept us huddled inside for fear of going arse over tit on the ice and all the emotional crap a change of scene is what was needed. DSCF0016

We were so lucky with the weather. For days it had been snowing which would have meant cancelling because the British cannot deal with a few centimetres of snow. The country comes to a standstill and motorways get blocked and no trash is collected. I was checking the weather forecast which promised rain, to wash away the snow and clear blue skies all weekend. I looked out of the window and there was a blizzard blowing. But for once the forecasters got it right and to Malvern in the sun we went.

The main reason for going was for the massive flea market that is held at the Three Counties Showground. Both Jo-ann and I love old china and vintage stuff and Phil also likes a rummage for a bargain. Plus a bonus was a visit to Carnival Records for a serious vinyl fix.Benidorm

With so much to see and do we decided to make a weekend of it and booked into a B&B. This would give us time to trawl the shops in Ledbury and Malvern, have lunch at an indie cafe and we would not have to get up at stupid o’clock for the flea market.DSCN3830

We stayed at Marl Cottage, run by a friendly, helpful if talkative couple who are mad about wildlife. So much so, they have installed a camera to film the badgers in the garden at night and live stream this to the guest bedrooms. I say garden, it is more of a mini country estate with its own lake, bee hives and so many birds encouraged by the numerous feeders. To say it is peaceful is an understatement. Somewhere that is spotlessly clean with a good breakfast is all you need from a B&B. Badger cam is the bonus for insomniacs like me.DSCN3862

We were spoilt for choice for our evening meal, with a number of good pubs within a mile or so and a Thai restaurant in the village.  We chose The Chase as it had good reviews and sold proper beer, aka Real Ale. We tucked into slow cooked blade of beef and while Jo-ann and Phil supped Bathams I, as the designated driver, had a sip of beer, then soft drinks, which always seems a shame in a proper pub. But there you go, I had a bottle of Italian chardonnay, bought earlier in Ledbury, stashed in the fridge, for a tipple during Badger Watch.

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Ledbury is very county and people were shopping having just come back from a hack, or maybe they always wore jodpurs and riding boots to shop. Lots of lovely shops with clothes I can neither afford nor need and lots of quirky independents, who were so welcoming. All greeted you when you entered with a friendly hello and no trace of the false Have a Nice Day/what can I sell you and if you aren’t buying go away now attitude I experience all too frequently. There were no bored sales assistants picking their fingers or worse their nose. No, these people were genuinely happy to have you in their shop. And the place was buzzing.DSCN3836

Carnival Records was also very busy, one guy was filming there and if you look carefully you will spot us all browsing the music. He was just so thrilled that the shop is so busy he goes into help for the love not for money. And was truly getting very excited about Record Store Day. The enthusiasm and the knowledge of the people who are there just make you want to go back and spend your money.DSCN3846

The flea market was heaving and there were hundreds of stalls. Too much Poole Pottery and too expensive for my liking and I got fed up of ‘the best price’ when asking how much stuff was, yet it was interesting to see what people will buy. I will reassess all my now apparently vintage Tupperware and the dinner service I use every day. As someone who wants to downsize, declutter and  travel more, my house is full of mostly what was on sale at the market, which means I am either right on trend or I have the crap no one else wants…. DSCF2027

As they say, one man’s trash is another mans treasure. This basket however, will be treasured for a long while. Wish it was mine….

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On the way home we broke the journey to have tea at a Barnett Hill Garden Centre. Again this place was heaving. The cafe was busy with families tucking into giant portions of ham ploughmans, chips, ice cream and cake.  There was a childrens entertainer and facepainter and the store sold everything from Joseph to Joules. I never even got to see any plants!

And I pondered about the so-called death of the high street and how online shopping was killing traditional retail and why some traders seem to thrive like this place was and others are not faring so well. The phrases ‘Broke Britain’ or ‘austerity cuts’ is not one I could use to describe any of the places we had visited. I accept that the Shire counties are more affluent than Sandwell, yet it was not just locals shopping in Ledbury and Malvern. People will travel to enjoy a positive retail experience and to get things they can’t get where they live.

The garden centre was a day out with granny and the kids. It had something for all ages and income. It was the first sunny Sunday in a month of Sundays, spring seemed tangible and thoughts of gardens and planting and BBQ’s may have had something to do with it, but Barnett Hill have got it right. They are not just a garden centre. They offer a day out for the whole family.

So what can struggling retailers learn from Ledbury and Barnett Hill? why is Carnival Records buzzing yet HMV are in administration? What do they do that is different? My local high street doesn’t even have a proper green grocer yet the council are delighted that 35 jobs will be created by Iceland moving into a local shopping centre. A shop that sells poor quality food to families living below the line. That puts profit before people. If just some of  the empty shops on my high street were independent bakers and green grocers, selling local goods made by local people, more than 35 jobs could be created and the money would stay in the local economy. And that makes me sad. Because I really think, my high street is dead.

Talking St Kilda Blues

I have tried, not always successfully to link the names of my posts with music references. Mainly because I am travelling with a man who reads album covers for a hobby. And as vinyl is now apparently fashionable in a retro kind of way, even you young people should know what I’m talking about.

Anyway I managed to find songs about St Kilda which was a bit of a surprise. This was not the only one. The next one I’m saving for another post, when we get to Sydney. You will see why when I post!

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We went to St Kilda today, and one of our first ports of call was a music shop that has a bar! Enough said.

Pure Pop

That was after ogling at the cake shops.

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Then there were shoe shops. Lots of lovely shops everywhere.

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And a barber, that also provides a beer while you have your locks trimmed.

Even the fishmonger has flair.

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I loved St Kilda, it has a fabulous community garden, a theme park, a beach a pier and a cafe Lentils As Everything where there are no prices, you pay what you think it’s worth or what you can afford. I’m not sure how it sustains itself on this business model. But as I’ve just volunteered there, I may find out.

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