I’ve gone and done another playlist. This time it’s for chilled out summer days, where all you want to do is drink Pimms, eat Cornettos and soak up all the Vitamin D whilst it lasts. So slap on the SPF, spark up your BBQ and play these lovely summery tunes.
Expect lots of old school soul, Neo-soul, and a bit of 60s pop, rap, reggae, jazz, indie and The Fresh Prince. You’re welcome.
Which one is your favourite? Mine’s probably the Mamas & the Papas (though I love every single song).
So, if like me you have unruly, curly, frizzy hair there are problems that you have to deal with that only us Curly Girls can truly understand. Here’s just a handful of them.
When you’re watching Brave and Merida wakes up in the morning and you think “Mate, I feel your pain” (and you have to have been with your partner for at LEAST several decades before you let them see your morning hair).
When having your hair rained on means your hair ends up resembling Phil Spectar’s. On a good day.
When the weather is hot, your spirit animal becomes Monica Geller in Barbados.
When your straight haired friend complains of their hair getting a bit frizzy in the rain.
When you have red, curly hair and you hilariously get compared to either Merida, Rebekah Brooks or worse Spuggy from Byker Grove. No actually, the worst is Mick Hucknall.
When you look back at photos of yourself from the 80s and/or 90s and you’re just grateful that social media didn’t exist back then.
When your straight haired friend tries to give you advice on how to control your curls “Have you tried just using a bit of Frizz Ease?”.
“Genius idea, it’s not like I’ve already tried using every single product available for curly hair in a pathetically vain attempt to control my hair already. Good one. I suppose you’re going to suggest I try brushing my hair too”
Do you remember that time you had a good hair day? Yeah, you remember, it was back in 2003. In June. On a Tuesday.
When you’ve just styled your hair and you’ve done it all wrong and the only way to fix it, is to jump in the shower and wash your hair all over again.
When your hairdresser suggests cutting you a fringe (and you never go to that hairdresser again as they clearly know nothing about curly hair. Also, do they not remember Spuggy?!).
When you see all the wonderful, different hairstyles your straight haired friends can get and your choices are short or long and side parting or centre parting.
When your straight haired friends say they can use any old shampoo and conditioner off the shelf.
Even worse, when they announce they don’t even use conditioner.
When it’s been windy outside.
But when you’re pretty sure that having curly hair somehow gives you super powers.
So curly girls (and boys), is there anything that I’ve missed out? Do you love your curls or hate them?
The stress of having curly hair (it’s ok, I like my curls really)
A quick, little Friday afternoon post for you. In homage to a fantastic and uniquely creative city, I compiled a playlist of all the best music that has come out of Manchester for you. From the “Madchester” scene to 90s rave, from punk to perfect pop and yes even to Herman’s Hermits, it’s hard to argue with the fact that Manchester is one of the most culturally rich cities in Europe.
Light up your BBQs, pour some Pimms and kick back and listen to the sound of Manchester.
P.S. They are still trying to raise money for all the families affected by Monday night’s Manchester Arena attack. You can still donate here
Don’t forget to let me know which are your favourite tracks.
Hands up who likes a good cry? Come on, I know you do. I certainly do. For me, it’s a cleansing release and wholly therapeutic. Ever since I used to sob at the Emmerdale theme tune as a toddler (my parents used to fetch me and sit me in front of the TV when it came on as some kind of party trick for their friends. And yes, my therapist has said that I’m making good progress with this of late), TV, film, music, books and art have always moved me with ease. So, for me to try and list my favourite films that have left me dangerously dehydrated is not an easy task at all as there is a plethora to choose from. So here goes, a list of 15 of them in descending order of the amount of tears shed. Please feel free to tell me which films have left you snivelling and sobbing in the cinema aisle too.
15. Once Were Warriors
New Zealand may not be immediately known for its film industry, but considering The Piano, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Heavenly Creatures, The Whale Rider, and the grotesquely brilliant Bad Taste, New Zealand really has made it’s mark in the movie world. But it is was when I went to see Once Were Warriors in the cinema in Australia that I was first introduced to New Zealand films and what an introduction it was. Once Were Warriors tells the story of an urban Maori family set in Aukland. It portrays the reality of domestic violence, alcoholism and sexual abuse, so as you can imagine, it’s not an easy film to watch.
The bit that really sets you off: the death of daughter Grace, is one of the hardest scenes I’ve ever watched in the cinema and I would defy anyone to watch it without shedding a tear.
14. Blue Valentine
Eurgh. I can’t even…. Never has there been a sadder film that depicts the breakdown of a relationship and ultimately a family. This film is so perfect in so many ways. The way it shows them falling in love, the way it shows the cracks starting to appear, how they try to fix their relationship and finally the inevitable break-up. The film is brilliant for two other reasons though: 1) Ryan -yes please thank you very much- Gosling, who also happens to be very, very good in this 2) Michelle Williams, who I think is one of the best female actors in America at the moment. I mean just look at her heartbreaking scene in Manchester by the Sea for gawd’s sake. She does emotional very well. The two of them were outstanding in this film.
The bit that really sets you off: as Bobby (Gosling) walks away, his young daughter runs after him and begs him to come back. Honestly, this film will literally break your heart.
13. 12 Years a Slave
As I settled down for my favourite night of the year, the Eurovision Song Contest, I noticed that on another channel showing at the same time was 12 Years a Slave. Well, what a juxtaposition of choice TV channels had thrown up for us all that night. As one cannot get further way from the wonderfully camp and colourful world of Eurovision as you can with this film. Based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a New York born African American who was kidnapped and and sold into slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance as the film’s protagonist was exceptional and quite rightly earned him an Oscar nod (personally I would have given it to him, but the Academy never bloody asks me what I think. Idiots). It did win him the BAFTA though and Lupita Nyong’o also won the Oscar for Best Supporting Female Actor.
The bit that really sets you off: When Solomon is forced to whip his friend and fellow slave Patsey (Nyong’o) by the bastard plantation owner. It’s nothing short of horrific.
12. Schindler’s List
I remember leaving the cinema in Reading with my friend Stephen after seeing this film in stunned silence. We struggled to talk to each other about it. It seemed pointless to try and put into words how this film made us feel. It’s inconceivable to think that the events that took place in this film, actually did happen. This wasn’t some kind of fabricated, elaborate story and this makes the narrative of the film very hard to grapple with. Schindler’s List won 7 Oscars and & 7 BAFTAS. Filmed in black and white (apart from the famous red coat), it is one of Steven Spielberg’s greatest achievements in film (there’s a good chance that his greatest ever film also features further down this list).
The bit that really sets you off: generally the whole film will have you in bits, but it’s between when Schindler realises the girl in the red coat that he saw earlier has been killed and when he breaks down claiming that he could have saved so many more lives. Devastating.
11. Inside Out
Nothing makes me cry more than a Pixar film. So here we are, with the genius that is Inside Out. What a beautiful way to try and explain emotions and what they do to us, for children and young people to understand. Believe it or not, along with Joy- Anger, Disgust, Worry, Fear and Sadness are all in fact, our buddies. Yes, that’s right. We should make friends with them and be at peace with them. I think I learnt more watching this film than I did doing my Psychology A-level.
The bit that really sets you off: Do I really need to explain? It’s the bit when Riley’s imaginary friend Bing-Bong is lost forever as he sacrifices himself to allow her to grow as a human. “Take her to the moon for me” WHAAAAAAA.
10. The Impossible
For some reason, I stupidly didn’t think that watching a film that was a true story about a family who were separated during the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in Thailand and then (SPOILER ALERT) eventually get reunited, would be a tear jerker. What a colossal twat I was. It floored me. I mean, Ewan Mcgregor was swirled around in the devastating tsunami along with two of his sons whilst his wife was whisked off in another direction with his other son. They each thought, each other were dead. There was desolation EVERYWHERE. It would have been THE most stressful and heartbreaking day of their life. AND it was based on true events. Why would that have had me balling my eyes out and wailing?
The bit that really sets you off: There’s no contest. When Ewan McGregor is reunited with his other son and realises his wife has also survived. His little face. Mate, I barely recovered.
Well of course Up is in this list. I’m not a monster.
How Pixar likes to start a charming children’s film for all the family to enjoy:
Portray the beautiful, flourishing love between two people
Watch them marry. Aah that’s lovely.
Watch them start a new family. Just perfect.
WATCH HER LOSE THE BABY.
WATCH THEM GET OLD
WATCH HER GET ILL
And that’s the first ten minutes of the film done. And now you are broken. Forever.
The bit that really sets you off: Obviously the beginning bit, but I also cried like a fool at the end when we see that their home is settled in the place that they always wanted to visit together. Beautiful.
8. Girls’ Night
It feels like me and me bestie arebthe only ones to have watched this film. In case you missed this gem of a film, what happens is that national treasures Julie Walters and Brenda Blethyn, are the best of friends and work together in a factory. Then Blethyn gets a brain tumour, so they pop to Vegas with Blethyn’s bingo win and when they return she dies. It affected my friend in the same way as it affected me. In that, we both literally cried for days just thinking of it.
The bit that really sets you off: predictably the end when Brenda Blethyn’s character dies. It’s like Pringles, once you pop you can’t stop. I mean cry. Once you start crying.
7. Toy Story 3
Damn you Pixar *shakes fist*. Why are your films so hard wired to make me a complete and utter snivelling mess? Toy Story 3 is no exception. It won the Oscar for best animation feature and unusually for an animation film, was also nominated for best film (it lost to TheKing’s Speech). I would have been quite happy if it did win best film though. It’s a beautiful film that illustrates friendship and that horrific moment that a person almost instantaneously grows from a child into an adult.
The bit that really sets you off: even though I started crying when all the toys held hands as they thought they were about to meet their demise in an incinerator, we all know the most emotional moment is when the toys watch Andy’s departure before they start their new life with Bonnie. Only adults will ever get why this is so gut-wrenchingly moving and incredibly poignant.
The hardest thing to swallow about this film, is that everything that happened in it, didn’t happen that long ago. My parents were alive during these times and it was only 11 years before I was born. For me, that is staggering. From the look on Oprah Winfrey’s character’s face at the beginning of the film when she isn’t allowed to vote, you know that you’re in for an emotional and disturbing ride. The peaceful defiance of Martin Luther King will have you both in awe yet reeling at the injustice of it’s necessity in the first place. Whilst I’m slagging off the Academy, how Ava DuVernay wasn’t at least nominated for a best director Oscar will be one of the poorest judgement errors the Academy has ever made (especially when the abhorrent Birdman picked up all the awards that Selma should have won).
The bit that really sets you off: the ending when King makes his speech about the equality of black and white citizens. We see clips of the real life marches along with text telling us what happened to each of the film’s main characters. It is then followed by the song Glory by John Legend & Common. The effect is profound. I cried all the way home from the cinema.
5. I, Daniel Blake.
Good ole Ken Loach, he’s not one to put a silver lining on things, is he? But hey, there really aren’t many silver linings to be found within poverty and within this film (apart from the loveliness of the film’s hero Daniel). This is a film designed to make you angry. Angry at the government and it’s unjust systems. A widower willing to work, but is deemed unfit to work by his doctor after suffering a heart attack, is in turn denied any financial support from the government. His friendship (and his moving generosity) with a single Mother who is equally suffering, demonstrates human nature at it’s best in adverse contrast with the harrowing depiction of the benefits system.
The bit that really sets you off: Whilst the horrific and almost inevitable ending will completely ruin you for the rest of the day. It was the scene where single Mum Katie, almost collapses in the food bank (in order to allow her children to eat, she had had to starve herself for days), whilst desperately trying to eat cold bake beans out of a can and apologising profusely to everyone whilst sobbing, will stay in my mind forever. Heartbreaking.
I told you Spielberg’s greatest ever film was in this list. As an 80’s child, it would be near impossible for me not to be a fan of this film, but here’s what is especially wonderful about it. It has managed to transcend over 30 years of cinema. Now my 6 year old daughter is also a big fan and every time I watch it with her, I still blub like it’s the first time I’ve watched it. I love this film in its entirety. I love how wonderfully 80s it is, I love it’s sentimentality, the cuteness of Drew Barrymore, the film’s score, Henry Thomas’s emotional performance and of course, I love E.T. himself. Even though the special effects are now outdated, if there was even just a sniff of a threat to remake this film, I would plan my boycott of its release immediately. E.T. makes me feel cosily nostalgic and it will fill me with joy forever.
The bit that really sets you off: Difficult to choose, so it’s between when Elliot screams after a dying E.T. and when they finally have to say goodbye before he boards his spaceship (even the pet dog didn’t want E.T. to leave ffs) “I’ll be right here”. *cue heart rendering music* *cue me losing my shit*
3. Watership Down
During the last week of school before Christmas, my Primary school headmaster would fetch a film from the local video store for us to watch on the VHS player in the school hall. I remember watching fun films like the Karate Kid or family films like The Muppets. However, one year my headmaster, for reasons that will always be lost on me, came back with Watership Down. What followed next was several children crying during the film, but I cried so much and so hard, I was the only child that had to be removed from the school hall. It traumatised me so much, I haven’t been able to watch it since, I certainly can’t listen to “Bright Eyes” and I have no intention of letting my daughter see it until she is at LEAST 18. In fact, why doesn’t this film have an 18 certificate? Richard Adams who wrote Watership Down, did reflect in later years that perhaps he had made it a tad too dark. Yeah, I’d say so Richard.
The bit that really sets you off: It’s either the distressing fighting or when Hazel dies and her spirit floats off into the afterlife. Anyway, shut up, I can’t really talk about it.
Whilst everyone else was banging on about either Moonlight or La La Land winning the Oscar for best film, I was in a completely different corner chanting “please, please, please let it be Lion“. However, yet again the Academy failed to take any notice of me and gave the Oscar to Moonlight (or was it La La Land? Boom!). I cried from beginning to end watching this film about an Indian child who becomes separated from his family, who then gets adopted by an Australian couple and then later in life tries to find his Indian family. At the end, when the lights went up in the cinema, there was a gentleman in his 70s crying loudly one side of me and a gentleman in his 40s in a similar state the other side. So it has to be said that if a film can make men of variable ages cry out load in public, it’s a hardcore tear jerker for sure. Also, and completely unnecessarily, can we talk about how hot Dev Patel is? Thanking you.
The bit that really sets you off: there isn’t just one bit. You will cry from the beginning of the film, throughout the middle of the film and just as the film ends and you don’t think you can cry anymore, they will show you some real life footage that will tip you over the edge. Good luck with that.
So here we go…..
Here’s the film that made me cry like no other….
The film that left me like a pathetic puddle on the floor…..
1. Marley & Me
Yep whilst most of the films in this list cover important topics such as slavery, the Holocaust, domestic violence, poverty, terminal illness and racism, the film that has made me cry like nothing else, is a a film about….a dog. A fairly stupid dog at that. It was released in 2008 and was based on the memoir journalist John Grogan wrote about his dog, Marley. We see Marley grow up alongside his owners as they get married, move, get promoted and become parents. I cried a lot at this film. And when I say “a lot”, I mean a gargantuan amount, a dangerous amount, a “is she ok, shall we call her family/a doctor/a priest” amount. I cried the next day when I thought about it and when I started describing it to a friend a week later, I cried some more. In fact, just thinking of the ending has made tears spring into my eyes right now as I type. Anyone that has or has ever owned a pet will be moved by this film that beautifully depicts the special relationship humans have with their pets.
The bit that really sets you off: I start wailing as Jennifer Anniston says goodbye to Marley as he’s placed in the boot of the car before he is taken to the vets, BUT that is nothing compared to what is to come. It’s the moment when Owen Wilson says goodbye to Marley at the vets, letting him know much he was loved and telling him he was the greatest dog. We see Marley look into his owner’s eyes as if he understands everything that’s being said to him. It destroyed me.
The one that almost, but not quite made the list: Mask
The bit that really sets you off: Rocky passes away and after discovering him in his bedroom, his Mum puts pins in the map of the world that’s on his bedroom wall, telling him that he can go anywhere in the world now.
It’s Deaf Awareness Week, so as yours truly has cloth ears, I thought I’d do my bit to help with that awareness. I lost my hearing after having a baby and have to rely on hearing aids to hear. There’s more on that in this post here. However, even with hearing aids it’s a day to day struggle trying to hear sounds and conversations. What would help people like me, is if people were aware of the ways that would help us with our hearing issues (and in turn help you).
So, here’s my tips for when you’re with a deaf person:
– ensure you’ve got your deaf friend’s attention before talking to them
– make sure you’re talking in their direction and don’t turn away in the middle of talking to them either. If you suddenly need to grab something that’s in a different direction to your friend- stop talking & start again once you’re facing them again. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting your breath.
– don’t cover your mouth. I can’t lip read, but this still makes a difference for me. I guess we all must subconsciously lip read slightly.
– speak clearly and not too fast, but not so slowly your friend might want to slap you for patronising them.
– if your friend has asked you to repeat yourself, please make a concerted effort to speak louder. It’s surprising the amount of people who don’t do this. You’ve been asked to repeat yourself because you’re not speaking loud enough for them. Repeating what you have to say in the same volume is pointless.
– as hard as this can be sometimes, when with a group of friends, try not to speak over each other/at the same time. It’s so hard for someone with hearing problems to keep up with everything that’s being said. Our brains have to work twice as hard to differentiate sounds.
– background noise is also a nightmare for people with hearing loss. It’s hard enough trying to understand what’s being said to you, but when your brain is picking up on other noises, it makes it so much harder.
– when out in a pub or restaurant with your deaf buddy, try to pick tables that have a wall behind some of the seats and ensure your friend gets one of these. Sitting with a wall behind you rather than the whole pub/restaurant limits the amount of “external” noise going in your deaf friend’s direction. Therefore, it will be easier for them to hear.
– try to ensure your deaf friend is included in the conversation when out with a group. It’s incredibly isolating being deaf sometimes and if they’re being quiet in a group situation, it’s probably because they’re struggling to hear.
– it’s worth remembering that the bigger a room, the taller the ceiling and the “emptier” it is (for example has a lack of carpets, curtains, big objects) the harder it is for people with hearing problems to hear. Small, cosy rooms are winners for us cloth ears.
– assistant dogs for the deaf & hard of hearing wear burgundy coats (just thought I’d add that as is worth knowing).
– NHS hearing aids are amazing. Without mine, I wouldn’t easily be able to work, socialise, hear music or hear my daughter laugh. They have given me my hearing back for free. Long live the NHS.
– most of us hate using phones. Contact us using any other method if possible.
– feedback on our hearing aids are a nightmare and incredibly unpleasant. Bear this is mind if you get too close to them (hugs are fine for example, just not with your head resting on our ears). Shouting and any sudden loud noise can also cause feedback.
– we can’t get our hearing aids wet. There’s amazing (and expensive) little computers inside them. Computers don’t like getting wet. That’s why you might see us swiftly getting our umbrellas out at the first sign of rain. So no spontaneously chucking us into the pool on holiday, OK?
-deafness seems to be the last remaining disability some people think it’s ok to make fun of. Maybe rethink mocking your hard of hearing friend for their disability.
– please don’t equate deafness with stupidity. You’d be surprised how often this happens. We’re not stupid, we just didn’t catch what you said.
– please don’t get frustrated if we ask you to repeat what you said. I know it’s not fun having to repeat yourself, but it’s a lot less fun being deaf. We haven’t chosen to have bad hearing, we promise we’re not mishearing you on purpose. It would make our lives a lot easier if we didn’t have to ask people to repeat themselves. Thanking you.
-never EVER say “it doesn’t matter”. What a deaf person gets from that is “you’re not important enough to repeat myself for”
– don’t be afraid to ask us anything about our hearing issues. The more people are aware of deafness issues, the better it is for everyone.
Please feel free to share this post, to help raise awareness.
Right at this moment, I have the most glorious smell wafting through the air near me. I’m burning a Hello Calm Moroccan Rose candle by SevenSevenSeventeen and the smell is devine. However, I’m not just here today to bang on about lovely smelly candles and nasal pleasure (which I do have a weakness for). These scented candles have a conscience, as £1 from every candle sold goes to the PANDAS charity. PANDAS is a charity that provides advice and support for people affected by pre/antenatal and post natal depression. PANDAS relies heavily on volunteers, so any support they receive is essential for their continuing service.
Perinatal depression (depression that can occur either during pregnancy or in the first year following birth) affects 1 in 7 women and 1 in 10 men. That’s right, it’s not just women that it affects. Perinatal depression is different form the baby blues. It is more serious and is long term.
feeling tearful or low
lack of energy
extreme changes in appetite
feeling worthlessness, guilty or emotionally numb.
lack of or too much sleep
lack of interest in sex
lack of interest in the baby
PANDAS provides a helpline, email support team and local support groups across the UK. They also have separate Facebook groups for both Mums and Dads. All volunteers that work with PANDAS have lived in experience of perinatal mental health illness.
SevenSevenSeventeen have joined up with PANDAS and have produced these lovely candles to help raise money for the cause. Their candles are made from natural ingredients (if that’s a concern of yours) and hand-poured in England. They’re an affordable luxury range of candles and with a starting price of £14, I’d agree this isn’t a bad price at all for these lovely candles that definitely have a luxury feel (most luxury candles are about £30+). They have seven different fragrances each with a different purpose or “mantra”.
The delivery of them was very quick and come in a nice box. The candle is in brown glass and comes with a screw on lid. They would make a lovely gift for someone or just as a treat for yourself.
Last week, it was Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week , which helps raise awareness of “the most common complication of childbirth”. The campaign encourages people to ask women who are pregnant/have just given birth, how they are feeling. Thus encouraging women and giving them a chance to open up and talk. In my previous post here, I talked about the importance of opening up and talking to someone (anyone) if you have PND.
SevenSevenSeventeen candles are a great way to support a fantastic cause at the same time as giving yourself a little treat. The link for their website it here.
As my friend looked down at her perfect little 5 year old daughter, she noticed she was squeezing her thighs. She looked up with concern in her eyes. “Mummy” she said “I’m worried that I’m going to get fat. I don’t want my thighs to get any bigger and I think my tummy is a bit fat too”. So just to remind you, when my friend’s daughter said this, she was 5 years old. 5.
My friend recalled the sick feeling she felt and how suddenly her heart started to beat hard. Whilst, this may have just been a flippant, passing comment, it filled her and me in turn, with dread and sadness. My three biggest fears I have for my daughter? Her safety, being bullied and eating disorders.
Why at 5 years old should a girl’s body shape be of concern to her? Why is she already thinking negatively about her body? And where has she got this attitude from?
In 2011, a report showed that out of 2,000 children treated for eating disorders, 98 were aged between 5-7 years (99 were aged between 8-9 years, 400 aged between 10-12 years and 1,500 aged between 13-15 years). There is as could be predicted, a larger number of girls affected than boys. Nine times as many girls were admitted than boys. The increase of children admitted to hospital with eating disorders from 2003 to 2013 was 172%. More than 90% of them were young girls. This isn’t reflective of what is truly going on as most people with eating disorders are treated in outpatient or private clinics and of course, some people aren’t treated at all. Therefore, the number of children with eating disorders is greater than what we see in reports.
So, this begs the question, what has caused this and what can we do about the disturbing increase of eating disorders in young women and children?
This article in the Guardian, suggests it is children’s exposure to the body images of celebrities. Dr Colin Michie, the chairman of the nutrition committee at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, blamed the constant availability of these images to children has increased eating disorders in them.
Social media can also be blamed. Young people are frequently posting images of themselves on social media for people to “like”. This constant need for the approval of their physical self can create an obsession with their body image, that in some cases could lead to eating disorders.
In 2015, the BBC reported that there was a sharp increase of schoolgirls at risk of emotional problems (where as boys’ risk remained stable). The Scientists behind the study reported that one of the reasons behind this is “a drive to achieve unrealistic body images perpetuated by social media and an increasing sexualisation of young women.”
The only positive aspect to the increase in cases reported is that maybe either more people are seeking help for their disorder or doctors are quicker or better at diagnosing it.
As a child, I never thought about my body shape. I was never concerned with the size of my stomach or shape of my legs. As a teenager, whilst I was obviously more conscious of my body and it’s never-ending changes (and now in my 40s, it’s still changing!), I never gave much thought to my body shape and certainly nothing ever came between me and my love for food (and here I am 20 odd years later and still food is seemingly my top priority. After my daughter of course. Maybe).
So, what was the key factor in my attitude towards my own body as child and teenager? The obvious answer could be, as mentioned above, that there was no social media in my youth and less obsession with celebrities’ bodies. Whilst there was some discourse surrounding famous women’s bodies, it was never at the disturbing levels we see today. I don’t ever remember articles in my Mum’s magazines shaming women about their bodies.
However, I firmly believe the main reason I had a healthy body image was because of my own Mother. I don’t ever remember her complaining about her body or putting herself down. The word “diet’ was never uttered by her. I only remember her once mentioning wanting to exercise more. I also never remember her comparing her body to other women’s bodies or even complimenting other women’s bodies. In fact, once on holiday I remember my brother and I teasing my Mum about her ‘spare tyre’ and my Mum just shrugging and laughing it off. I know, we sounded like such lovely & charming children. The point is my Mum was so outwardly comfortable in her own skin and at ease with her body shape, we could crack these kind of jokes around her. It’s worth noting that my Mother equally encouraged me to clear my dinner plate as much as my brother was and I was congratulated when I did so.
Also, I remember my Mum telling me that she loved her stretch marks on her stomach as they were a reminder of her children and what her marvellous had body achieved.
This is a solid point. Women’s bodies should be celebrated and not shamed. Why are people more willing to do the latter than the former? Whether it’s with regards to other people’s bodies or their own? Why don’t we hear of more New Year’s resolutions about accepting and loving our bodies rather than depriving or punishing them?
From reading and researching various articles on eating disorders in young children and through my own personal experiences, I’ve compiled a list of possible ways to prevent eating disorders in young children.
1. Avoid talking about your own weight and dieting. As mentioned above. It’s a non-brainer. What we vocalise in the home has a huge impact on young ears. Also, when we treat ourselves to a slice of cake, can we stop saying “ooh I know it’s naughty”. Cake is not naughty, it’s bloody delicious. Life is hard, eat the cake. Guilt free.
2. Don’t tease a girl about their body and/or weight. Up to 40% of girls are teased and this can double their risk of being overweight and causing eating disorders.
3. Have plenty of sit down family meals. This one is not always possible everyday, but it’s worth bearing in mind that as parents we are role models and our eating habits can influence our children’s. Personally, I fail doing this in the week, but Friday-Sunday, we always make this obligatory.
4. Explain that images of women in media are unrealistic. We should protect our children from society’s emphasis on body shape and weight. I adore the women on social media who portray their bodies realistically. The model Charli Howard who is the founder of the All Woman Project is a fantastic role model for young women. She describes herself as a body positive activist and her Instagram account features numerous realistic and untouched photos of her showing off her lumps, bumps and cellulite. She actively encourages women to learn to love all of their ‘squishy bits’ and how normal the imperfect body is. She openly talks about the misery that starving her body to be a size 6 brought her in the past and her All Woman Project works with schools running events and workshops for young girls. Another great role model for younger girls is the radio DJ Lilah Parson, who has a refreshing and healthy attitude towards her body and food. When asked recently if she was content with her body, she answered “Yes, I’m very content. I know what clothes work for my body and I’m happy and healthy. We don’t all have to look like Victoria’s Secret models. We put far too much pressure on ourselves” When she was asked what she liked about her body, she was easily able to list a few things. When she was asked to list what she didn’t like, she just answered that she tries not to be negative about her body. How wonderful to hear a young woman talk confidently about her body and with absolutely no shame. This is how it should be. In fact, women like Charli and Lilah aren’t just role models for young women, they’re role models for all women.
5. Never mention if you think a celebrity or person has a good body. This can encourage a child or young woman to compare their body with the so-called ideal body shape and it also compounds the idea that a woman’s body shape or weight is imperative to their self worth.
Recently, a documentary film has been made about women’s body called Embrace (more information about this film can be found here). This is the word I have always used in association with becoming happy with one’s body. We should all embrace our bodies for what they are. Whatever their shape, size, colour, abilities or disabilities are.
For all of us to try and achieve the homogenised “ideal” body shape is utterly ridiculous, a waste of time and energy and downright dangerous.
I know too many women that have suffered from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. I guarantee that if a woman hasn’t suffered from an eating disorder they will know more than one woman that has. And now, we are witnessing an increase in eating disorders in children, this madness, this attitude towards are own bodies HAS to stop.
Love your body, it’s the only one you’ll ever get. Love your bumps, your lumps, its imperfections. Embrace your body, not just for yourself, but for our all the little girls who will grow up to be beautiful women, whatever their shape.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Charli Howard:
“This can be the year that you choose to kick old habits; this can be the year you embrace your true shape, stop giving a shit about dieting and calories and choose to be happy. Eat what you want, love your squishy bits, step away from the scales (and bad boys) and don’t let anyone or anything make you feel you’re less than perfect. I’m off to cook a hearty roast dinner with my family because I don’t give a fuck about my weight anymore and neither should you bad bitches”.
Despite its many faults (and I ain’t just talking about the rain), Britain has many strengths and I’ve always considered our humour to be its best (along with fish ‘n’ chips, how charitable we are, our Paralympics team and David Attenborough. Obvs). We are hilarious and nobody finds us as funny as we find ourselves. It’s not often us Brits can have a conversation without subtly (or even obviously) throwing a bit of humour in. In fact, if a conversation has continued for more than 5 minutes without anything humorous having been uttered then we start to break out in a cold sweat and somebody had better mutter something self-deprecating or joke about tits and willies before all hell breaks loose and British society implodes (this isn’t an exaggeration. Trust me).
The British Sitcom is an almost poetic portrayal of our unique humour. Yes, we love our irony and how can I put this- ‘piss-taking’, but our humour is often steeped in humanity and good old fashioned silliness. So, here is my list of my all time favourite British sitcoms. I’ve provided clips or a compilation of clips for each entry too for you to enjoy. Our favourite sitcoms are a very personal thing, so much so, I fully expect people to exclaim that they can’t believe I haven’t included this sitcom or that sitcom in my list or that I put a certain sitcom above another one, but it’s MY list and you know, you’ll just have to find a way of coping (Seriously though I would love to hear which are your favourites too). Deciding which of the plethora of excellent British sitcoms make my top ten has not been easy and I could have easily have done a top twenty.
Please be assured there is NO Mrs Brown’s Boys in this top 10.
(It is my no.11 though)*
10. Toast of London (2012-?)
There was an article written about Toast of London, entitled ‘The Funniest Sitcom That Nobody is Watching” and it is indeed strangely an undiscovered gem, so many have yet to unearth. If you want a wonderfully silly British sitcom, then here is a perfect example of one. Steven Toast is an old-fashioned, failing, middle-aged actor. It features an abundance of guest stars (John Hamm, Michael Ball, an alcoholic Peter Davison and not to mention a dodgy John Nettles) and is my most recent sitcom to feature on this list. So, if you haven’t watched it, I thoroughly recommend you correct this unfortunate error. The highlight of this show is when Toast’s world clashes with the world of the hipsters that he does his voice recordings with, so I’ve selected a clip which illustrates this nicely, with the great Clem Fandango for you.
9. The Young Ones (1982-1984)
My Mum wouldn’t let me watch The Young Ones when it was first on TV (I guess I was only 6-8 years old, but I do remember begging her to no avail once). However, she did my brother and I the Comic Relief single that they did with Cliff Richard (which is, incidentally, the best Comic Relief single to date). At 15, when I became obsessed with Bottom (the TV show starring Rik Mayall & Adrian Edmondson, not people’s posteriors) and maybe in some kind of defiance, I bought and absolutely loved the Young Ones double VHS. I loved its maniacal style and post-punk insanity that rarely made much sense. It all ended perfectly with them driving themselves off of a “Cliff”. Please excuse my Rik Mayall (I loved him) indulgence with the following clip.
8. The Royale Family (1998-2012)
Here is a sitcom that one minute will have you crying with laughter and then sobbing your heart out the next. We all remember the beautiful scene where Barbara brushes her ailing Mum’s Hair or the scene when Jim sits on the bathroom floor with Denise mid-labour, don’t we? Caroline Aherne was an extraordinary talent. She seemed to know how to make us all both laugh and cry in equal measure. The key to the Royale Family is its ordinariness and its familial charm. Here’s a clip of the perfect marital argument over the TV remote control.
7. Fawlty Towers (1975-1979)
Basil Fawlty was the perfect role for John Cleese. Nobody could’ve played the permanently disgruntled hotel manager on the brink of a breakdown as well as him. Not to mention his perfect physical comedy skills. His on-screen partnership with Prunella Scales as his wife, Sybil was outstanding. The pair seemed so utterly wrong for each other, it was a wonder what they saw in each other in the first place. This wonderfully farcical (and I usually hate farces) sitcom, always seemed very theatrical to me and it is of no surprise that it has now been turned into a stage show. Please enjoy this clip of Basil reaching the end of his tether yet again and Sybil not caring (yet again). A fine example of why Sybil Fawlty will always be my hero.
6. Blackadder (1982-1989)
This historical sitcom written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, was hugely popular and featured a magnificent cast of some of our best comedy actors. An observation of Blackadder that I’ve only noticed in reason years, is how bloody sexy Blackadder was. Who could resist the ruff-clad Blackadder or the would-be-deserter Captain Blackadder? Not I now, clearly. We all remember the devastatingly poignant final moments of the final episode. They’re etched in my mind from when I first watched it with my family at 13 years old. I can still hear the whistles and Baldrick’s last claim that he has a cunning plan. I also remember Blackadder warning Hugh Laurie not to forget his stick just before they go over the top (“No, I wouldn’t want to face a machine gun without my stick” he replied). However, I wanted to show you a pure comedy clip from Blackadder and I’m sorry (completely not sorry), but my love for Rik Mayal prevails, so here’s another clip with him in for you.
5. Father Ted (1995-1998)
“Oh, but it’s an Irish sitcom”, I hear you cry. Well, I do see your point as it stars an Irish cast, was written by two Irish writers and was filmed in Ireland, BUT it is technically a British sitcom as it was made by a British television company for a British TV channel, so it’s in my top 10, so there. The genius of this show lies in Dermot Morgan playing the straight man in his role of Father Ted Crilly. The frustrations endured by his character only highlight the daftness of all the characters that surround him; the childlike and dim (but strangely sexy) Father Dougal, the perpetually inebriated Father Jack (DRINK) and the slightly unhinged Mrs Doyle (ah g’wan Father).
4. Black Books (2000-2004)
So bookshop owner, Bernard Black spends his days drinking wine, reading books and trying to ignore people. In conclusion, he’s essentially living the life I want to live. He also has a pet Manny running around doing chores for him, which is also a life goal of mine. C’mon, we could all do with a pet Manny in our lives. Black Books is set in Bloomsbury, London and considering Black’s lack of desire for customers it is a wonder how it ever managed to stay in business. Black Books won the BAFTA for best sitcom twice and features cameos from lots of the UK’s brightest sitcom stars of the time (Simon Pegg, Jessica Hynes, Nick Frost, Peter Serafinowicz, Omid Djalili, Lucy Davis, Olivia Coleman and so on). Oh and did anyone else fancy Bernard Black? Just me? And what is it with me and male sitcom actors?
3. The Office (2001-2003)
What an absolute joy watching copious amounts of funny clips from the Office was. Choosing just one one was very difficult, but an excellent reminder of how funny it was. Whatever your feelings are of Ricky Gervais, I still stand by the opinion that he and Stephen Merchant were comedy writing geniuses. I’m a fan of both the British and American versions of this sitcom, but the British version is less sentimental and essentially more difficult to watch. The cringe-factor is far higher and I think it is better for it. David Brent is also a less likeable character than Michael Scott. Here illustrates the genius of Gervais and Merchant, they even manage to make an unlikeable character such as Brent likeable (it’s ok I do realise how much I’ve contradicted myself here, but bear with). You feel so much affection for this absolute dickhead. He’s literally my favourite dickhead. I would’ve even liked him as a boss. Just think of the fun you’d have had with your colleagues, mocking him behind his back. Of course I’m not one to condone such behaviour. Ahem. So here’s Brent being an absolute twat. As per. Bless him.
2. I’m Alan Partridge (1997-2002)
Talking about loveable twats, here’s another one for you. Oh Alan with your monotone voice, late night radio show, v-neck jumpers, dated hair do, questionable TV show ideas, who’s best friend is a roadside hotel barman and with your dire social skills- I love you. Partridge’s life is so empty yet full of unfortunate events and badly handled circumstances. Much like The Office, it makes you cringe at the way Partridge tries to endure life. We need characters like Partridge to remind ourselves that we’re not doing so badly ourselves and that at the very least we would have dealt with life’s blows better than Alan would have. I thank you for this Alan. At least I’m not you. At least I don’t have “Cook Pass Babtridge” written in spray paint on the side of my car.
So here it is, my all time favourite British sitcom. Much like others on my list (Fawlty Towers, The Office, The Young Ones and I’m Alan Partridge), Spaced only ran for two seasons. Two faultless seasons. Spaced was written about two people and their friends in their twenties. It was on TV at a time when myself and my friends were also in our twenties. It very much felt like Simon Pegg & Jessica Stevenson (now Hynes) had watched my friends and I, and decided to write a sitcom about us. All of the characters in this sitcom are so strong, but my favourite will always be Marsha- my spirit animal. The cinematic style, heavy cultural referencing and hilarious script cemented its popularity and left diehard fans wanting more after it ended after two seasons. I still miss it.
The one that almost made it:The Day Today (1994)
A spoof of British news broadcasting, I think now more than ever, we need the return of the Day Today. Please Chris Morris. Please. If you loved this program, here’s a rather obvious pick, but perpetually brilliant scene with Steve Coogan.
Before we get into this, let me just clarify a few things.
I am a parent.
My child has a scooter.
My child loves scootering.
I let her scooter frequently.
This is not an altogether anti-scooter piece.
I fucking HATE scooters.
In particular when scooters are allowed on busy pavements or on the school-run. Stay with me parents-who-let-their-children-scoot-on-the-school-run. I have no beef with it if they have to walk a long way and scootering is the only way some parents can get their little darling to go the distance. It’s especially fine, if they’re considerate enough to make said child/children get off their scooters once they get near the busy pavements by the school gate. I’m totally here for considerate scootering. However, it is not fine when children on scooters are weaving between hordes of people at potentially 25mph on the pavement. It is also not fine when children are so far ahead of their parents on scooters, the parents can’t really see if they’re knocking into people.
Here is the Oxford dictionary definition of the word pavement: A raised paved or asphalted path for pedestrians at the side of a road.
Here is the Oxford dictionary definition of the word pedestrian: A person walking.
Now I’m not about to suggest that children should be scootering in the road.
(Or am I?)
No…maybe…NO, I’m definitely not, BUT if a child knocks into me at speed whilst I’m WALKING on the PAVEMENT one more time, then well, I’ll probably just mumble under my breath or say something passive aggressive, but you get my point.
There is also, the danger aspect. I have seen children speed into roads on their scooters without really looking or if they have been taught to stop and wait for Mummy before crossing (kudos for this at least) then they stop so suddenly that if you’re unlucky enough to be behind them, you almost fall over them.
Also (nope I ain’t finished yet), if one lets one’s child scooter everywhere a) have they got one leg weaker than the other? b) if they’re not regularly walking to places on their own two feet, is this not detrimental to the development of both their muscles and mental approach to walking?
I have veritably seen a parent park their car, get their child out of the car, pass the child a scooter and let the child scoot no more than 20 steps to the entrance of a building. Is it an actuality that the child couldn’t have coped walking those few steps to the entrance of the building? This was also on a busy street plus the child fell off the scooter in front of me and almost knocked me over (relax, the child was fine, but that isn’t important right now).
Worst of all, are the (albeit minority of) parents who allow their children to freely scoot through the school gates and around the school playground with no regards to anyone else. It’s the attitude being perpetuated that WALKING PEDESTRIANS had better move out of the way as a child on a scooter is coming through. For me, a busy school playground is not the place to do this. It’s crowded, lots of people are walking in all different directions, toddlers are toddling about and playgrounds contain adults and children alike with different mobility issues.
Arguments I’ve heard in favour of letting your child scoot everywhere include:
“It’s healthy exercise”. Yes it is, but do you know what else is healthy exercise for your kids? FUCKING WALKING.
“It’s fun”. Correct, but do you know what else is fun? Space hoppers. Shall we let out children space-hop into school too?
“It’s helps get them to school on time”. Tough one. I don’t know, maybe…try…GETTING UP 5 MINUTES EARLIER.
Other reasons to hate scooters; I hate the way they swing round and whack you in the shins when you try to pick them up.
Also, thank God I don’t live in London anymore as some actual grown up actual adulting adults are choosing scooters as a form of transport to get to work on. I mean ACTUAL adult human beings. Scootering. To work. KILL THEM WITH FIRE.
There’s a time and a place for scooters and it’s not on busy streets, it’s not in school playgrounds and it’s not on the way to bloody work (you gigantic, inconsiderate adult-babies). People walking on the pavement should always have priority.
Right, now I’ve clearly turned into Mary Whitehouse, I’m off to complain to the council about people parking badly (I’m not even vaguely joking, readers).
See I’m not all bad, I even let my own child scooter sometimes. (NB: This is an old picture, she’s about 900yrs old now).
I’m not exaggerating when I say that music was the most important thing in my life when I was a teenager. More important than school, more important than my fast-developing body and yes even more important than my Mum’s macaroni cheese (mate, that is really saying something). Every week I had the NME, Melody Maker and Smash Hits delivered, as well as going out and buying Select, Vox and Record Mirror magazines (yeah I got a discount at the newsagents I worked at thankfully). Whilst my brother was eating, sleeping and breathing football, I was doing the same with music. It’s safe to say that music plays an important role in the socialisation of adolescents. When you think of your teenage years, you will most likely have a soundtrack that accompanies it. After seeing a friend list her favourite albums from her teenage years on Facebook, I started to consider which would be mine. Every time I thought of an album, I realised sometimes its influence on me was possibly far more important than it’s musical credibility. Therefore, these albums aren’t necessarily the best albums of my teenage years or even my favourites, but they are the albums that influenced me the most and helped shape me. Some were released before I was a teenager, but were albums that I discovered and listened to a lot in my teen years. I’ve included a Spotify playlist at the end of the best songs from each album.
Raw Like Sushi by Neneh Cherry (1989)
Neneh (remember, it rhymes with henna) was the first act to get me into hip hop music (ok I was rather partial to Walk this Way by Run DMC before then) from there I embraced the sounds of De La Soul (technically the hippies of hip-hop because they had some flowers on their album cover), Monie Love and Queen Latifah. Yes, the creme de la creme of late-80’s/early 90’s hip hop. Is this the right time to mention, that I loved Betty Boo too? Moving on…
So, I was beyond excited when on Christmas day I was presented with the Raw Like Sushi LP by my parents. I spent the rest of the day locked in my room, ignoring my family and playing the album over and over again.
A common theme with some of these albums that soundtracked my teenage years, is that both myself and my friends were equally obsessed with them. Raw Like Sushi is one of them. We would sit in each other’s bedrooms listening to it whilst “rapping” along (have you ever heard a group of 13/14 year old girls from Oxfordshire rapping? We sounded goooood). So, altogether now:
“who’s that gigolo on the street, with his hands in his pocket and his crocodile feet, hanging off the curb, looking all disturbed, at the boys from home, they all come running….”
“Chocolates, bananas, doughnuts and salami, ain’t gonna fit cos you’re full of bologna”.
Ooh nice burn, Neneh.
I remember reading an interview with Neneh in Smash Hits magazine (greatest magazine of all time) and talking about her hatred for Margaret Thatcher. Whilst, it probably wasn’t a radical point of view, it felt radical to me at that age, to hear one of my idols talk about our country leader in that way. Also, remember the storm that erupted when Neneh performed on Top of the Pops heavily pregnant? One newspaper denounced her and claimed performing whilst pregnant was bad for the unborn child. This was less than 30 years ago. I don’t believe she was trying to make a big political statement. Rather, she was just a woman who happened to be pregnant and was just “getting on with things” and I absolutely loved her for it.
I still love Neneh and have bought every album she’s produced since, but nothing will top the glorious Raw Like Sushi.
Favourite song: Buffalo Stance
Everything by Bangles
Many of you will probably remember slow dancing to Eternal Flame at the school disco with Aaron Taylor who later on that evening gifted you with the chewing gum from his mouth as you snogged by the bins*. But for me the Bangles and this album meant so much more than a slushy song one would exchange saliva to.
Imagine it’s 1989 and you’re a teenage girl that wants to be in a band with your girlfriends and you want to play your own instruments and write your own songs. Imagine that you look at the charts and your only female role models available are mainly female pop singers that have songs written for them. Then you see the Bangles on Top of the Pops doing exactly what you want to do. Here began my love/obsession with them.
I loved everything about them. Their music (I remember telling my Mum that I thought Eternal Flame was the most beautiful song I had ever heard. I was 13 okay! Leave me alone. God), their clothes ( you have no idea how many charity and vintage clothes shops I trawled trying to imitate their style), their harmonies and yes even the hair (I dreamed of having pillar box red hair a la bassist, Michael Steele). I did go on to form my own band with my girlfriends. We used to sit in each other’s bedrooms writing teen angst poetry and trying to put the words to music along with very bad guitar playing. We were awful. Then I went on to join a Bowie covers band. We were also awful and that was the end of my band member career. However, the dream of being in a band all started with my love for the Bangles. I still love them today, but I’m not sure if that’s just with nostalgic affection for the 13/14 year old me or whether I actually think they’re any good.
Favourite song: Something to Believe in
The Cole Porter Songbook by Ella Fitzgerald
Perusing my best friend’s parents’ CD collection (being the nosey cow that I am, I always did/still do this when I spot a music collection in someone’s home), I came across a couple of Ella Fitzgerald CDs of her singing Cole Porter. After much begging, my friend agreed to put these albums on for me (at the time she would have much rather listened to Carter USM). I already had one Ella album, but was desperate to hear her sing Porter. I wasn’t disappointed. This album started my infatuation with all the greatest American Jazz singers (Billie, Dinah et al), but it was Ella’s voice that captured me the most. Her effortless, natural vocal style (or as my Gran would say “she can sing lying down that one”) had a huge impact on my own vocal style. I would spend hours in my bedroom trying to emulate Ella’s voice. Needless to say it was a futile effort, as no one would ever be able to get anywhere near her talent and perfect sound, but her style would influence my singing forever.
Favourite song: Too Darn Hot
Screamadelica by Primal Scream
By 1992, my love of all things Indie was in full flow. I spent the whole summer with my best mate Ange discussing Blur in great lengths (she was in love with Damon, I was in love with Alex), accidentally starting fires in the local park and debating who would die first if we tried to strangle each other at the same time (no, we weren’t very bright teenagers). We also spent most evenings in the pub hanging out with a group of ‘boys who loved music’. The band that united them the most as a group of friends was Primal Scream. It was these friends that “introduced” me to Primal Scream. I say “introduced’ lightly as it was more like “barked-at-me-until-I-relented”. However, I was very pleased that they did. I’ve never been a fan of people telling what I should or shouldn’t be listening to, but this time these friends were right. This was one of the first albums, that I would just lie on my bed and listen to without moving or having to do anything else, other than enjoy it. I found it (and still do) an almost meditative album. I went to see Primal Scream live at Glastonbury. Myself and my tiny friends (we were all 5’4″ and under) practically got crushed and had to leave after the first song. I had scratches down my legs, one friend lost her watch that her parents gave her for her Birthday and another friend had a panic attack. For years after, the words “Primal Scream” were muttered with contempt (because it was obviously, completely their fault we thought standing in the middle of the crowd would be a good idea for us) by all of us, but secretly I would still listen to my Screamadelica album alone, my love for it resilient to our traumatic experience of trying to see it live.
Favourite song: Higher Than the Sun
Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos
As I got ready for school, cleansing my face with Anne French cleanser, spraying myself with a suffocating amount of Exclamation! perfume and listening to Simon Mayo do the breakfast show on Radio 1, I remember stopping everything that I was doing when he put a record on by Tori Amos called “Silent All These Years”. I quickly decided it was the best song that I had ever heard (yes even better than Eternal Flame) and bought the Little Earthquake album as soon my savings from my part-time job would allow. Then there was very little else that I did with my time other than listen to it and wish that one day I would be as good as a songwriter as Tori. This album imbues rawness and bravery, from the eeriness of Me & a Gun (written about Tori’s traumatic ordeal of being raped) to the sexually overt Leather to the many songs that reflected her childhood (Mother, Winter, Tear in Your Hand). This was an album that an abundance of teenage girls in the 90’s (and beyond) turned to as their anthem. It is one of a handful of albums from my teen years that I still listen to and genuinely enjoy today (and obviously sing along to at the top of my voice as I still know all of the lyrics).
Favourite song: Winter
Help! by the Beatles (1965)
I’ve documented my love for the Beatles in this blog here, but it was the Help! album that first made me fall love with the Beatles. I bought this album after watching the insane Help! film with my friends (yes it was this same film that made me fall in love with Ringo. I’ve always loved an underdog me). Whilst, this may not be my favourite Beatles album, it has some of my favourite Beatles tracks on it (Help!, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, Ticket to Ride and I’ve Just Seen a Face). I still absolutely love the Beatles to this day and it all started with this album. Do read my above blog on the Beatles if you’re a fan or want to read more.
Favourite song: Help!
Dry by PJ Harvey (1992)
“Let’s listen to this John Peel session then”, I said to myself at almost 16 years old, which basically meant “let’s change my life forever”. The moment I heard Water, I sat up alarmed, like my brain and ears had heard music that I’d been waiting for all my life. The very next day I ran to my local, independent music shop (which closed down in the 90s, but last year, a truly wonderful thing happened and it opened back up again in exactly the same spot) and bought the Dry album. Then started my life-long love of PJ Harvey that has not waned in the slightest. Every PJ Harvey gig that I went to in my teens, made me love her even more. From the nervous girl from Yeovil on stage at Glastonbury with her one earring, to the woman clad in a red dress and leopard print fur coat and shades at the Forum, to the absolutely awesome Polly in her pink jump suit, black bra and blue eye shadow completely owning the Pyramid stage, she continued to entertain, enthral and bring me joy throughout my teenage years and beyond.
It’s hard for me to articulate what PJ Harvey means to me, but know this, she is very special to me and this album will be part of me forever.
Favourite song: Dress
Like a Prayer by Madonna (1989)
Raw Like Sushi was not the only LP that I played in my bedroom over and over again on Christmas Day, 1989. Yes, not only did my parents present me with one LP, but they laid two in my palm. Double excitement!
Now before this album was released, I was already a Madonna fan. I had already learnt the lyrics to Like a Virgin off by heart, singing the song over and over without really knowing what I was singing about. My best mate & I were already obsessed with the True Blue album, drawing the conclusion that Papa Don’t Preach, La Isla Bonita and Live to Tell were some of the best pop songs every written (on reflection we were probably right) and I had of course as any self respecting girl of my age, tried to dress like her in Desperately Seeking Susan, but it was with Like a Prayer that I become a Madonna fan 4life.
I remember the excitement and buzz that surrounded the release of the Like a Prayer single and its accompanying video (I also remember staying up late one night and watching the Word where it showed a clip of the video reversed, that proved in actual FACT Madonna is singing “hear us, save us Satan”. I mean there’s absolutely no way that’s bollocks, right?). So, like Raw Like Sushi by the end of Christmas day, I had pretty much learned all of the lyrics. I also felt, I had established a deep understanding of Madonna’s inner psyche. I mean, Till Death do us Part is totally about her and Sean Penn and Promise to Try is totally about her Mum dying and that. I had her sussed and I actually thought I was probably the only person who had ever made these connections (despite the fact she went on to deny there were any autobiographical grounds to Like a Prayer. Does she think we’re stupid? Answer: probably).
It’s not unusual for a woman my age to have long-lasting love for Madonna. I’ve stuck by her through thick and thin. However, our relationship has been tested at times (see Hard Candy and Swept Away– fuck it- most of her films).
Many people don’t get her and some seem to hate her with an inexplicable passion. I don’t think I’m sticking my neck out (though I am generalising) when I say most of the time it’s straight men that don’t like her (and don’t they just love to tell you about it. That and the fact they don’t find her sexually attractive. It’s ok, I’ll make sure she gets the memo, guys. I mean, how dare a hugely successful woman show her face within the public sphere when you don’t fancy her). However, it cannot be denied that her cultural impact has been monumental. Some claim she is the greatest gay icon of all time. She has undeniably helped liberate female sexuality and the amount she has raised for AIDS charities is nothing short of admirable.
Favourite song: Like a Prayer
Rhythm Nation 1814 by Janet Jackson (1989)
When Janet Jackson released this album she said that through her music, she wanted to capture the attention of a younger audience who may have been unaware of what it meant to be socially conscious. This is exactly what she achieved with me with this concept album released in 1989, covering subjects such as racism, poverty, and education. At 13yrs old, I had to look up in the dictionary the meaning for some of the words that Jackson introduced me to, such as ‘prejudice’ and ‘bigotry’. Yes, that is how naive and ignorant I must’ve been, not forgetting privileged. Listening to this album on repeat made me quickly realise this.
Whilst, some of the songs have dated and don’t sound as great as they did when I was a teenager, there are still many fantastic songs (Rhythm Nation, Miss You Much, Black Cat, Escapade). The amount of time I spent in my bedroom trying to copy and perfect all of Janet’s dance moves to this album, I think we can all agree, were in no way wasted. I even created a stage show using the music and dance routines from this album. In my head.
Then there was the accompanying film that featured three songs from the album and told the story of two boys who pursued their dream of a musical career which was then destroyed by substance abuse and addiction (it was a fun film). I remember making my Dad sit down and watch it with me to which his response was probably along the lines of “yes very good, I better get on wth planting the runner beans now”. Still, it all added to my light bulb moment that “gosh not everyone has had the same chances as me. How thoroughly unfair”.
Janet Jackson was the first woman ever to be nominated for a Grammy for best producer, with Rhythm Nation 1814 and the album received much critical acclaim. She expected the social consciousness of the album to have a negative effect on album sales, but the album has sold over 12 million copies worldwide and was the biggest selling album in 1990 in America. Sadly, the issues that Jackson wrote about on Rhythm Nation 1814 makes the album still very relevant today.
Favourite Song: Rhythm Nation
Please enjoy this photo of my school art folder from 1990, that I recently recovered from my parents’ attic. On it, I have scribbled lyrics from Rhythm Nation 1814 and other great “artist’s” names on it. Hold on -wtf- when did I ever like U2?! I’m not even slightly embarrassed by my love for Wilson Philips though. That just makes perfect sense.
Modern Life is Rubbish by Blur (1993)
I’d played my Leisure LP to death, I was already in love with Alex James (don’t judge me), I was even one of three people who bought the Popscene single. When I went to my first Blur gig (not at a festival) at Fulham Gardens, we somehow gatecrashed their aftershow party at the Maison Rouge recording studios down the road. After drinking the free bar dry, I accosted Damon and told him how the song ‘Sing‘ from the Leisure album was my all time favourite song. He seemed disappointed in this. “Fine’ he said “but it’s our new music you should be interested in. You need to get on board with it. We’re going in a different direction and it’s going to be massive”. So, when I stumbled out of the recording studies at midnight like (actually not even vaguely like) an indie-Cinderella giddy with excitement, my mind was reeling with the prospect of Blur’s new album. Then, THEN the announcement came that they were to release a new single and album. I remember in the hour long lunch break I had at my college in Henley where I was doing my A-levels, I ran to the train station and got the train to Reading. I then ran from the train station in Reading to HMV, picked up my reserved copy of For Tomorrow, ran back to the station, got the train back to Henley, ran back to college and spent the afternoon not being able to concentrate in class knowing that I had the new Blur single in my bag. I then sat on the bus home at the end of the day, clutching and staring at the single with much anticipation and excitement. When I got home, I no doubt ignored my Mother, ran upstairs and played the single over and over again. I went from being a Blur fan to an obsessed Blur fan. A Blur loyalist if you will. A week later the album was released and I was forever in love with Blur. I bought ‘Modern Life is Rubbish‘ t-shirts and wore them with pride as I served in my local newsagent to the mirth of men who had clearly lived through the second world war and thought it was hilarious that I thought modern life was in fact rubbish. When they asked me why I thought it was rubbish, I thought it was wise not to just say “because Damon Albarn said so & he’s so pretty”, so I just mumbled something about computers.
Then, as luck would have it, posters appeared all over my college announcing that Blur were doing a warm-up gig for their Sugary Tea tour, in of all places- the night club Washington Heights in Reading (or as we liked to cleverly call it- Washington Shites). Queue more running and train journeys to Reading and back to buy tickets for the most hotly anticipated gig of my life (there was a lot of running involved for me when it came to music). Me and my three other Blur loyalist friends went to the gig and again forced ourselves into their aftershow party where (and I cringe as I write this, but it’s almost cathartic for me and maybe it will encourage other people to confess their embarrassing 90’s indie stories) I presented Alex with a poem I had written for him about stars. Oh yes. Yes, I actually did that. Now, I know I’m no Patti Boyd, but on Blur’s following album Alex did write a song for it about…stars. I know, the coincidence is too much, but I’ll happily take credit for Alex’s creative input into Parklike. You’re welcome.
We then followed them for most of the Sugary Tea tour, always standing at the front (but to one side to avoid being totally crushed. We’d learnt that valuable lesson since Primal Scream) at every gig. I even won a Melody Maker competition to interview them before their gig in Brighton (I asked them how much sugar they took in their tea. Just call me Kate Adie). This album out of all of the above albums was the most influential for me as a teenager. It made me love the country I lived in, it made me ask questions (and not just about sugary tea), it widened my music taste, and I’d even go as far to say that it made me want more out of my life. I guess you could say in many ways, it made my life definitely less rubbish, which kind of contradicted the whole album theme, I suppose.
Favourite song: For Tomorrow
The Albums That Almost Made It:
Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1. by George Michael (1990). Best song: The Stevie Wonder cover, They Won’t Go When I Go (There is not one bad song on this record. Also, ohmyGod George’s voice on this record)
Germfree Adolescents by X-Ray Spex (1978). Favourite song: Identity (Poly Styrene was a hero)
Bostin’ Steve Austin by We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna to Use it (1986). Favourite song: What’s the Point? (I wanted to be in punk days-Fuzzbox so badly. They always looked like they were having so much fun. Also, hair.)
So, that’s my most influential albums as a teenager. What were yours and why?
Some of the original LPs that I used to play in my bedroom as a teenager.