Friday, 30 April 2010

Home

I don't write poetry very often, but I think I'll try to write one a month to remedy that. Here's my most recent:

Home is both place and feeling.

It’s warm cwtches and a full belly.
Inviting fire and fluffy snug rug.
Storytelling photographs, mugs of tea.
Breathless muddy path with a birdsong soundtrack.

It’s a festive drink on familiar seats.
Intimate laughs and pooled memories.
Childhood books and cherry blossom tree.
Memorised damp roads on a hilly green backdrop.

It’s easy smiles and empathy.
Serenity with the landscape in sight.
An intuitive sense of rightness and roots.
Hiraeth’s robust thrust back to where I belong.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Rock and Roll

This is another cheat-y sort of post, in a Blue Peter style 'here's one I made earlier' kind of way, but the words are mine and hopefully not stale despite their age. Below is a review of a particularly memorable gig involving damage to my shoes. The perpetrator had a lucky escape considering this crime.

Swn Festival
Friday 23rd October 2009

Swn Festival – heaps of bands to see, my only complaint, not enough time. Oh yeah, and Tom the ‘shouter’ and guitarist of Pulled Apart by Horses spat beer in my eye and was sick on my feet. More about that later. I had a wristband granting me access to all Swn venues and a few hours of time on the rainy Friday 23rd October. First stop, Clwb Ifor Bach for You Animals (8.00pm-8.30pm). All skinny jeans and big hair this band were a mix of teenage looks and punky riffy pop rock and what they lacked in banter they more than made up for in an enthusiastic performance. My gig mate and I planned strategically, choosing acts within a few hundred yard radius to fit in as much music as we could manage. Next up, Elephant and Solider in Dempseys from 8.30pm to 9pm. Sam Goudie’s dreamy vocals and acoustic guitar accompanied by Olivia Smith on cello truly are a goose bump inducing combination, having only heard the EP previously (available as a FREE digital download) their live performance didn’t disappoint. I was sorry such beautiful music had to end, but the show(s) had to go on and so did I. Just a few puddles down Womanby Street, was Geraint Williams in The Toucan Club from 9.30pm to 10pm. This sixteen year old singer songwriter has been compulsively creating songs since the age of twelve so says his myspace, and as such the sincerity and innocence of his music was certainly conveyed in this heartfelt live set. Seemingly shy, in time I think Geraint’s bashfulness will dissipate and his confidence will grow to match his song writing abilities. There was just time to finish my beer before returning to Clwb for Pulled Apart by Horses (10.00pm-10.45pm). Characteristically chaotic, the Leeds band were in full flow when we arrived, delivering their screamy thrashy hyper energied disco rock. Undeniably engaging, I squeezed through the throng for a closer look and listen of the frenzied foursome to assume an unfortunately intimate position. Tom broke away from the main stage into the crowd, projecting an arching liquid missile of beer straight into my eyes, then threw up all over the floor, including all over my boots. A sticky end to Swn for me, but very rock and roll!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Two things that happened at the gym tonight

1. I got in a semi-competitive swimming race with a random guy, although I'm not sure he knew he'd entered. He kicked my ass, damn him.

2. I was hit on by the notorious gym sex pest*, who goes by the name 'nipper'. I think that's because he has a smooth head and looks like a baby.  We simultaneously sat in the steam room, but one word responses to his lines fortunately acted as dissuasion, and he left to look for a fresh bikini.

* Has a membership to facilitate looking at girls through baby-like eyes, mostly from the jacuzzi vantage point.

Make stuff, you'll enjoy it

I'm not crafty in a devious/machiavelian/steals smarties from small children kind of way. I'm crafty in an I like to make things kind of way. Especially at times of birthdays or Christmas when I become (to be honest) a little frenzied and urgent in my creativity. Sequins must be applied immediately. Beads have to be strung until 3a.m. Cards are constructed with assembly line speed and precision. The effort comes easily as  the end products make me smile a lot. I think everyone should find a creative outlet which suits them. Making things is simple and satisfying, and leads to unique gifts. My most glow inducing results include a best friend wearing jewellery I made for her wedding day, and family members still wearing things I made them years later.

My crafty likes: recycled jewellery making, using old items or random household objects to make new. Curtain rings and nuts and bolts make great necklaces. Ribbon. Shiny things. Teaching people how to make jewellery for the first time; it's easy once you know how, and usually provokes delight. Sequinned baubles. Bespoke cards. Origami flowers.

My crafty wants: A glue gun. So much fun to be had sticking one thing to another. A wheeled and handled device to transport my crafty things around in. Jewellery making workshops often lead to chiropractic appointments.

Some examples of my makes:


Saturday

Claire and I had an awesome picnic in Roath Park this weekend. A wonderful day of sunshine, scrabble, sisters, and strawberries. An opportunity for some post picnic alliteration too, bonus. Discovery of the trip: these randomly named Aldi crisps. What's 'satin-y' about something that crunches? Word of the game: 'pong'. Credit for this to the victor, Claire.




Thursday, 22 April 2010

When life gets wavy


I've ordered a copy of 'Walden and Other Writings' by Henry David Thoreau. The most inspiring quote I've heard is one of his: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you've imagined." It reminds me of what's important and what I'd like to achieve when life gets wavy.
 
I'm looking forward to learning more about the man described as a philosopher, naturalist and abolitionist, particularly the period when he decided to remove himself from every day Massachusetts life, and live alone in a forest cabin. He embarked upon a spritual quest, living simply, to avoid the materialistic lifestyle he did not desire, and to gain quietude in which he could write.

Thoreau's pursuit reminds me of Christopher McCandless' story. The subject of  film 'Into the Wild', he journied into the Alaskan wilderness to escape the oppression of his status driven parents and a grasping society. McCandless donated the last $24,000 of his college fund to Oxfam before travelling under the self-adopted name Alexander Supertramp. (There's a link to Welsh author W.H. Davies here fact fans, who wrote the 1908 book Autobiography of a Supertramp. Yep, I found that on Wikipedia.) Coupled with a totally fantastic soundtrack, I find the film another huge source of inspiration, and 'aide memoire' to keep things simple.

Simplicity can be hard to achieve in a society of careers, tooth whitening treatments, executive barratt homes, and breast implants. But if the should-wants could be rejected for the truly-wants I think a lot of people would be happier. I've no plans to follow Thoreau and McCandless into the wild just yet but I do embrace regular refreshers of their philosophies on life and try to apply them in my own, less cold, with food other than berries kind of way. I just hope the word spreads before all girls turn orange and barratt homes take over the world.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

First Class Journalism


I'm obviously not a trained journalist, but I can still say with confidence I'd do a better job than those at The Daily Star who presumably are.*
A scaremongering story on today's front page based on 28 year old events has seen the papers banned from airport shelves. Tidy.

* Don't bet your life on it

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

I heart Mumford & Sons

This post is a cheat, I'll admit, as I wrote the review in 2008. No fresh thoughts here. But I'm going to let myself off as I'm tired. And 20th May was the day I fell a little bit in love with Mumford and Sons. Worth celebrating I feel, as a life puncuated by their brand of bluegrass is a brighter one, and this night was one of musical magic.


Johnny Flynn and The Sussex Wit
Mumford and Sons
Sweet Baboo
Clwb Ifor Bach
20th May 2008

The main thrust of the crowd hadn’t arrived at Clwb Ifor when Sweet Baboo (real name Steve), the first support act to Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit, took to a wooden chair on the stage. A compact audience suited this quietly spoken Cardiff solo singer/songwriter as he strummed his way through a quirky set of songs on topics such as aliens and fights with talking wolves. He admitted to forgetting his lyrics on more than one occasion but I couldn’t help wondering whether this was accidental or staged as it just seemed to add more charm to the kooky country inspired performance.

If Sweet Baboo’s set evoked a warm glow amongst the Clwb contingent, the next act Londoners Mumford & Sons set them aflame with their enrapturing blend of bluegrass/folk punctuated with the rumbling beat of a kickdrum. Usually a quartet, the boys were one member down this evening which was hard to believe with their sound already perfect, enveloping me totally in their uplifting, catchy, sometimes ethereal sound. I can’t wait to see these guys in the Folky Dolky Tent at Greenman!

Headliners Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit were enthusiastically received from the very start of their set, particularly so when Flynn boosted his ‘honorary Welshman’ status by commiserating the recent Cardiff City loss with fans. Flynn partly grew up in the little fishing village of Porthgain, near Pembrokeshire, where his parents moved when he was 15, and this band is very much a family affair with sister Lillie on backing vocals and the 3 other members interchanging a variety of instruments between songs. Peppered with banjos and fiddles, Flynn’s tracks veer between the light-hearted and solemn, but all have an effervescent beat in common which provokes a jig in even the most resistant of listeners, and certainly had the crowd at Clwb Ifor making like at a barn dance.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Gaps in the Market

I don't exactly know what 'the market' I'm referring to is, but it's what people seem to say when they come up with an idea to earn themselves money and satiate an abyss in the consumer world.

The 'Betterware' catalogue showcases examples of how some spaces should just be left empty: http://www.betterware.co.uk/ Do people buy 'onion keepers' and '5 blade security shredding scissors'? The fact Betterware still keep posting their hideous style-free catalogues through my door suggests some people do. Those people likely watch shopping channels, listen to the music of Paul Mcartney and have never had sex.

Anyway, I have decided to be watchful for aforementioned gaps. My first suggestion is a chocolate takeaway. I rarely order fast food, but I know that had I been able to dial for a bar of Galaxy Bubbles* to go with my lonely cup of tea this evening I would have. It's a money spinner entrepreneurs. Plus I'd get chocolate delivered-to-my-door if you developed this. Very exciting. I would write nice things about you forever and maybe we'd appear on Dragon's Den.

* Terrible name but tastes like creamy rainbows

Cafe of Doom


I was clearing pictures from my phone today and came across this one I took at Christmas time. It's supposedly a place of eating and drinking which I pass most working days, and have decided is the Cafe of Doom*. Surely consuming food in a place which has an entrance this scary, you have to scale stairs into blackness to reach**, has no window and advertises a key ingredient of the Christmas dinner as roats pot cannot end well.

* Capital letters needed to magnify sense of doom.
** Looks darker in 'real life'

Sunday, 18 April 2010

I'm not being funny but...


I will write a book eventually, on the South Wales Valleys and the people who live therein (which has included me). I have collected thoughts and happenings in a book for a short time, and in my head for a long time. One includes a horse living in a tenth floor flat. True story. Until they are assembled to form the pages of a novel I thought I would share some ideas here. *

I do not like generalisations, so what I'll describe about Valley people (whom I love and of which I am one) certainly does not apply to everyone who lives there. It does apply to a lot though.

There is a tendency to extraneously embellish each spoken sentence. By which I do not mean the vague floweriness of a poet who writes at length about seagulls and wind, but use of a stock set of punctuating phrases, some possibly indigenous to the valleys. These idioms tend to kick start a sentence, and also round it off. In extra special examples, a whole set may form a sort of superfluous saying pick and mix.

List of Phrases:
To be honest
I'm not being funny but...
At the end of the day
Fair play
To be fair
But there we are see

Example: Dai is telling Gareth about his work problem and how it was resolved.

"To be honest I thought about fucking quitting. I'm not being funny but no-one should have to work those hours for no extra pay. At the end of the day there are laws against these things. Fair play, I had a word with the boss and he said he hadn't realised how I felt. To be fair I'd never told him. But there we are see, it shows honesty is the best policy."

Have fun by creating your own concoction of extraneous embellishments, and say far more words than necessary. And if you find yourself in a South Wales Valley, eager to ingratiate yourself with the locals, sprinkle liberally into your sentences. You'll do fine.

* I'm not suggesting my novel will be good enough to get to print. I realised this might sound a little arrogant without a disclaimer. Completion and self-satisfaction my initial goal, then I'll start bribing some publishers.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Running = happiness


I was asked to write about one thing that makes me happy in creative writing class this week, and came up with the following.


Running for me, is like a hit of red bull and chocolate without the ingested stimulants of caffiene and calories. I don't profess to be good. What does being good at running mean? I guess being fast. Not stopping to walk or attempt breath. Having a technique of some sort. Owning bespoke trainers approved by a retail outlet which requires running amongst shoppers for a stride assessment. None of these things apply to me. My main aim when I run is to put one foot infront of the other and keep going. Music blasts from my iPod, overwhelming the voice in my head which tells me I'm weary or bored and can't go any further.

I have an out of body experience at first, my limbs seemingly at odds with the order my brain is giving them. The actual motion recognised as running does not come easily. My legs are leaden, my lungs lack space. I stop and walk. I change the track I'm listening to for a louder, more drumm-y, bass-y one. I start running again. It gets easier. I stop and stretch. I look at my surroundings, and realise my disposition has brightened. I am able to run continuously, more easily, albeit slowly. I turn the iPod up to thunderous proportions which spurs me on. I am euphoric. My body is capable of running, itself a physical achievement (to me). The act of running also has a chemical consequence which I can't explain or show in a hold-out-in-my-hand kind of way, but I know I am happier now that I've done it.

The Beginning

I studied an English degree at University, and whilst already in love with the written word, this course triggered a passion for being a writer of the word. I like to explore the caverns and corridors of my brain to concoct exactly the right phrase to convey my thoughts. The problem being, I've been storing these phrases in said (cobwebby) caverns and corridors. Until now. I started a creative writing evening class at Cardiff University this week. I've a red leather bound book of collected ideas and observations (my theory = if the book is pretty I'll want to write in it even more!). And here lies my blog, where I'm hoping the classes and ideas will join to form lots of juicy, satisfyingly composed wordiness.