Favourite Things

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Hotels are one of my favourite things, EVER. Growing up in a big family, hotels just did not feature on the radar of life. All holidays consisted of being crammed into log cabins or country cottages or youth hostels. I don’t think I stayed in a hotel for the first time until I was 15, on a school trip to London! To most people this is probably ridiculous but this period of denial means that hotels = Christmas to me. Growing up and seeing them in movies (Witches! Home Alone!) they seemed like this unobtainable dream that only really wealthy or proper grown up people got to experience.

Even first discovering Premier Inns was a joy, so cheap yet you still get a little kettle and sachets of hot chocolate and a TV and sheets you don’t have to wash yourself. Now I have stayed in a few hotels with work and weddings and other things like that, the excitement still doesn’t go away. However I have started getting more of a refined taste; understanding that paying just 10 or 20 pounds more to stay in a non-chain or more boutique hotel can bring joys like a ROBE! and a nice big bath, or being able to order chips at 3am if you want to.

I think I love the anonymity. The idea that thousands have people have stayed in your very room. Who were they? What were they doing? Were they happy? I guess the prospect of staying in a bed that has been slept (er and more maybe!) in by other people every night might gross alot of people out but it fascinates me and my over active imagination. There is something so peaceful and nicely lonely about hotel rooms. I have a collection of hotel photographs which I will save for another day, as they are part of a shh secret project… soon to be revealed.

Today I am in the Abode Hotel . This hotel is a double winner because my work are picking up the bill, as I’m here on business (love saying that, it still sounds ricidulous that someone would pay me to do any kind of business. Adulthood is mighty stealthy).

My room is beautiful. Green vintage tiled walls, pink button tiled bathroom, free BURTS crisps! and a ginormous bed that I don’t even take up 1/4 of.

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I have never been to Sonar before. I have actually never been to a music festival outside of Britain before, but after 10 years of soggy camping, over-priced van food and harrowing when-weather-goes-bad experiences I had enough of hearing myself inevitabley bleat with the amount I’ve spent at 3 days of festival going in the UK, I could have paid for a holiday abroad! and decided to put it to the test.

There were alot of things that appealed to me about Sonar 2010. The fact it was in Barcelona – a city I had only visited briefly when I was 14 and well below Sangria slurping age or the age to really appreciate anything other than the fact I was away from home for the first time with boys from the YEAR ABOVE shocker! Also the fact Sonar is a non-camping festival which means you hook yourself up with a nifty little appartment and have somewhere nice to wake up, BATHE and prance around in pretty dresses (speaking as someone whos favourite teadress got washed away in the Bestival 2008 monsoon, this is of upmost importance!) It also means you can buy the amazingly cheap local Cava (two euros fifty a bottle) and freeload it in your appartment before leaving to start partyng at night; thus avoiding buying the not-amazingly cheap beer at Sonar – 3 euros for HALF a pint. Oucho.

I went to Sonar with a gaggle of 3 girls and we rented an adorable appartment in the El Born region. The appartment had teacup tiles on the wall and a roof terrace that we could spy over Barcelona from and laze around in the sun, munching food from the local food market like jamon, queso and la sandía. We arrived a day before Sonar kicked off, so we could have a beach bum day and get cracking into some Estrella daytime drinking whilst getting our bearings.

 

 

Sonar is great because it runs Day and Night. Sonar by Day is held at MACBA which is an amazing venue, packed with exhibitons – the key one being all about robotsa! and two stages. My favourite was Sonar Village, which is covered in faux grass (think butchers windows) and had a constant flurry of DJs playing amazing tunes. One of the absolute highpoints was when Lemonade did a DJ set on the Friday afternoon at about 5pm. We danced, beers in hand, sun beating down as they played amazing reggae and summery tracks. We danced until our calves hurt and when they dropped in All That She Wants by Ace of Base we witnessed a stampede as everyone around us hurtled towards the stage to dance too. I’ve never seen so many happy smiley faces, I guess Ace of Base really are internationally adored and so uncool they are cool or something?

 

 

After a midnight rooftop party, we knew we had to get in some serious siesta in order to last a night of raging. We also had learnt that teeny tiny tapas is no stomach-lining material and this lead me to discovering Maoz for the first time. Or should I say MMmmaoz! Super cheap falafal pittas stuffed with salad and hummous with all-you-can-eat access to a buffet bar of extra toppings including giant sundried tomatoes, fried cauliflower and jalapenos. My pitta was actually bigger than my entire head and probably one of the nicest things I’ve ever eaten. Luckily I found out they have a chain in London, phew, who wants to go?

 

 

I can’t possibly list all the incredible things and reasons why this festival was the best five days of my year, possibly life! Sonar at Night is held at an old aircraft hanger type set up, sprawling and with plenty of space for dancing crowds. The stages are inside and outside and it’s so warm you don’t realise when you are walking between one and the other. Dancing to Hot Chip under twinkling stars, dancing to LCD Soundsysem as slices of sun start to crack through the night sky at 5am. Bare leg weather through the night. Branded plastic beer beakers. Ghost balloons. Even loving crazed Dizzee Rascal (I challenge anyone not to shake a leg to Bonkers!) Dodgems. Twirling around our kitchen eating crisp feasts and making lemon fanta shandies. Singing so loudly (ahem, badly) to A Little Respect in the that taxi the driver almost turned around and took us home. 7am trip to A&E after my festival buddy fell during a poorly executed flying-high-five and tore her ankle ligaments (true story!) Bocadillo vending machines.

Sunday was a sad day, and even the beautiful care bear clouds on the flight home and being treated like P Diddy on arrival at Gatwick because of Susies broken foot (private lift and mini bus arriving to the plane to whisk us off and through security in .5 seconds!) can’t shake my back to work blues.  I would recommend. Heck I would BEG anyone with a foreign festival itch to scratch it next year and head to Sonar next year. I’m already counting down the days.

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I’ve escaped London for the rest of the week to hide at home in Yorkshire. Being a ratrace-face is starting to give me burn out so there was only one option, hit the woods and walk and walk until I was hopelessly lost.

 

 

 

As well as a good fish & chips and a good cup o’ tea, I really miss WOODS. Where are the woods in London? I don’t understand. There are plenty of good parks, yes I can vouch for that. Granted; there’s lovely heaths, there’s a pretty awesome river and riverbank. There’s boating lakes, there’s urban farms and there’s some super hills (Primrose Hill is the place I run to the second the sun puts its hat on). All these things are fine and dandy but I want treeeeees. I want dense fairy tale forest with moss and gnarled roots reaching for your feet as you wander through. I googled London Woods and it produced quite a lowely list of 15, most of which on further inspection contain the words small, former or previous and so I guess don’t actually really exist anymore. I think the best option looks to be Queens Wood particularly appreciating this line in the review …the wood has no park or playing fields but does sport a children’s adventure playground built on top of the plague pit. (!) so I might venture out there when I’m back in the smokey city.

 

 

To satisfy my lack of woodland woe I ventured out to Hardcastle Craggs near Hebden Bridge. I arrived at about 11am and it had been raining all morning, that constant drizzle that makes your face and hair all dewy. Luckily I was really protected by the canopy of new leaves for most of my walk so could just enjoy the beautiful freshgreen rainy smell and use it as an excuse to don my wellies and jump around in the river. It also meant I could take some photos without the sky giving my camera a shower. The walk was about two miles and I only bumped into two other people and a giddy spaniel! I saw lots of unseasonal robins, a tree-creeper, a dipper, a beautiful yellow wagtail and a bunch of ants eating bilberries. My favourite spot of all was this little chap. He looked extremely happy mooching along the damp bark.

I love the eerie mist that hangs around deep inside woods and the mysterious way that everywhere you look can shift and sway and look the same as the place you’ve just come from. I think everything can be put in perspective by getting deep down into nature and listening to the peace and quiet

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Paper Aeroplanes

About five years ago now, a friend made me a mix CD. And somewhere lurking at the very end was a track called Linen by a band called Halflight. It was the most beautiful song I had heard for years, and it quickly became #1 on my itunes most played list. It carried me through lonely Leeds winters and was like a hidden gem, shared and whispered between friends and family that I made future mix CDs for and always put this track first. I never really investigated anymore about the haunting voice behind the song and it just existed like a single perfect entity. And then something happened. My prehistoric desktop computer died after five years of moving house more often than getting a hair cut and being dropped in puddles on numerous occasions in the process (!) and with it my entire itunes and my music folder vanished.

Now it is 2010 and I am a different girl in a different place, and when lurking in the ailes of Rough Trade my eyes glinted at the site of the record artwork above. The photography was so breath-taking that I just had to know more (& I know, I know… never judge a book by it’s cover etc). A few clicks of spotify later and Paper Aeroplanes were lilting out of my monster headphones. After a couple of tracks I began to get that hot itchy feeling of recognising something but not knowing where from. Cogs in my brain whirred and the frustration nagged at me until I had the ! moment when I finally dredged the information from the back of my brain. The voice was the same as the one I had been completely enchanted by on the track Linen. From the very little information I could surf on the net, I could confirm that Paper Aeroplanes are indeed Halflight, with a fantastic new name!

It just seemed so odd that this band have suddenly made a comeback into my life, and through such a random discovery of just completely adoring the artwork on a random sleeve. I think this band are my soulmate? Or something! Even down to the fact that spiffy singer Sarah Howells wearing a dress on the cover that I used to own in bottle green but ripped beyond repair on a deserted-building break in (in the name of photography, not robbery. Honest guv)

Paper Aeroplanes are the most exciting musical discovery I have made this year. It makes it even sweeter that they are UK based and therefore hopefully easily enough to track down and see live sharpish! They have quickly become the soundtrack to my summer, my age and everything that is happening right now. Anyway luckily for me, aside from some amazing EPs and bits and pieces floating around, they have just released a whole entire new album called The Day We Ran Into The Sea which I have been gorging on. My favourite tracks are Lifelight and Newport Beach. Coming from Wales means the themes in the music are beaches, and love, and they are relatable. It makes a change from the American and Australian domination in my playlists. And my ultimate favourite track is Dance All Night which I cannot imagine ever tiring of. Although it is an up-tempo, chirpy number that will have you swaying your hips, the lyrics so accurately describe that heartbreak of clashing and grating against someone you love and it’s just unbearable. Sarah’s voice is just so absolutely sincere and everytime I hear this track, my heart cracks a little bit.

But I’d go dancing every night, if it made everything alright

Do you think that we’d still fight? When we’re dancing, dancing.

Because everything’s not black and white, when we’re dancing every night.

Maybe we’d forget to fight,? When we’re dancing, dancing.

I can’t wait to own a physical copy of this CD as soon as I have some pennies in the bank. The lack of information about them on the internet makes me frown and worry they aren’t getting the hype or recognition they deserve? Which would be tragic.

You can listen here
You can buy here

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When it comes to this film, I was a complete idiot. I let my phobia of internet-order dolls (ew!) allow me to write it off as something that was probably, definitely,  not enjoy one bit. Add to this fact that until now Ryan Gosling had left me feeling a bit queasy (see: The Notebook) and it slid off the radar. Then my partner in Lovefilm crime added it to our list and it plopped onto my doormat and into the DVD player and WOW.

I think it is instantly in my top 10 films (don’t ask me for the other 9, or you will still be listening to me bleating on while your hair is slowly turning grey and skin wrinkling) so I just wanted to encourage you to get it on your amazon wishlist if you haven’t seen it yet.

The real miracle of this movie is how on earth do you make a film about a life-sized love doll, ordered from a shady internet sex site, into a life-affirming statement of promise and hope that all is good in the world?!  I think the answer is that the film is completely sincere, which is just so rare nowadays. The entire cast are incredibly believable and quickly you feel almost part of the community in the small mid-west American town – faced with the same questions and initial fears which slowly dissolve with the story as you get to know the character of Lars. It is definitely a film that haunts you long after the credits roll, pestering you to question your attitudes and judgements. Other amazing things about the movie are: Ryan Goslings wardobe! Hot! Ski jackets, cords, gaudy knitted jumpers and bad moustache are the best.

I don’t know if the director is perhaps a fan of this film, but the concept and scenario reminded me of Harvey the 1950s movie about an enchanting alcoholic Elwood, who believes he is accompanied though life by an invisible 6ft rabbit. I think Elwood is my idol, everyone could do with living life more like him (apart from the raging booze habit part…) This quote just about sums it up and always makes me smile.

Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

(This is probably also in my top 10 movies,  fyi!)

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