Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New year, new look, new blog...

I've been way too busy to blog lately, but I'm back (intermittedly) and starting a shiny new blog over here. It's more or less a continuation of this one, but with extra features like post categories, and (if i have time) regular "such-and-such of the week"-type features.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Blowing the cobwebs off my blog...

Just popping in to say that I am still alive and blogging, just very busy with other things, so it is a while since I last posted anything. Once i've got work out of the way, I will post a proper update, and I may even switch to that fancy new style Blogger account (if anyone reading this would like to tell me whether it is worth switching to it or not, please leave a comment!). In the meantime, here are a few songs that have been rocking my world lately... enjoy!
Patrick Wolf - "The Magic Position"
Ghosts - "Stay The Night"
Oasis - "Live Forever"
Morrissey - "Sing Your Life"
Switches - "Message From Yuz"
Kate Bush - "Wuthering Heights"
Die Toten Hosen - "Freunde"
Marillion - "Kayleigh"
Shed Seven - "Dolphin"
Jarvis Cocker - "Don't Let Him Waste Your Time"
30 Seconds To Mars - "Attack"
Muse - "Starlight"

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A fun evening in with an inflatable...


No, it's NOT what you think it is! Last week, Charlie got out her inflatable punchbag and we all tried to blow it up, resulting in a lot of double entendres (mostly about making it "hard" and "upright," as well as jokes about "blow jobs"). Most of it has to be inflated with air, but the base has to be filled with water, and soon after we'd done that, Charlie dropped it and it burst, soaking the carpet (so we made a lot of double-entendre jokes about that too). I wonder if the people in the flat below us overheard, and what they thought was going on?
Talking of playthings that could be interpreted to be adult: apparently Tesco is selling pole dancing kits, and the "Daily Wail" has wheeled out some bloke to whinge that this will lead small children into depravity. It seems that he is the one having "corrupted" thoughts, not the children. I imagine that if I was a little girl and I saw one of those poles, i would probably think it was one of those poles that firefighters go down. "Phallic symbol"? More like something you'd find at an adventure playground. All this moral outrage about sex coming from a newspaper that features, for example, photos of Prince Harry's girlfriend in a bikini on the front page.
And talking of bikinis, a couple of nights ago me, Charlie and Pete donned some beachwear, flowers, loud shirts and grass skirts and went to a Hawaii-themed club night. Only one other person bothered to dress up, and he just had a Hawaiian shirt on, the rest of his outfit was just normal - he hadn't bothered as much as we had. I think the torrential rain that night put a lot of people off. There were so few people there, it seemed that staff outnumbered customers for most of the night. They gave us free T-shirts for being the only ones that bothered to make an effort! I think i could have had the chance to pull, but i got way too drunk and made a complete tit of myself, which probably put everyone off. Alcoholic drinks were much, much cheaper than non-alcoholic drinks there, plus we just sat around drinking for ages as the dancefloor was empty and the other two didn't want to get stared at for dancing in the middle of an empty dancefloor (I didn't care, as the way i saw it was, there was hardly anybody there to stare at us!).
Funny thing i noticed that night: Pete blatantly didn't know where to look. Faced by the sight of two of his female flatmates almost topless and showing a lot of leg, he seemed to develop a habit of talking above our heads, to prove that he really, really wasn't looking at our bodies. What a gentleman. :0)
I've got a lot of work to do now and had better get back to it. Just before i go, i'll explain a few English terms to any foreigners who may be reading this:
Flat = apartment.
Flatmate = a person you live in a flat with.
Daily Wail = a nickname for the Daily Mail newspaper.

Bloke = man.
To pull = to attract or kiss another person.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bloody Nasty People, followed by some bloody nice people

News of a police raid on the houses of two men in North-west England has recently reached me via word-of-mouth on the internet. The police found "the largest amount of chemical explosives of its type ever found in the country," plus "rocket launchers" and "a nuclear biological suit." Were these potential bomb-makers your usual disaffected young Muslims, second-/third-generation Asians, planning on making jihad against the Western society they felt alienated from? Nope: they're both middle-aged white men, one of whom used to be a candidate for the BNP (British Nationalist Party - nicknamed the British Nazi Party and the Bloody Nasty People).
Considering the stuff they found in this raid, you'd think that it would be national front page news. Look at how many people talk about terrorism all the time, everyone is worried about bombs nowadays, aren't they? But no, hardly anyone has heard about this case. It made it into the area's local papers (the sources i am using - see links above), but has been only mentioned in small "Other news" columns near the back of a couple of national papers, and it doesn't seem to have been on national TV either. Strange, that.
Moving onto something completely different, although it could also have the acronym BNP (in this case a bloody nice party with some bloody nice people!) - I spent last Saturday night in at what you could describle as our "housewarming" party. We invited old friends and strange people from other flats in our block, so we could get to know each others' friends and our new neighbours. We laid on loads of cheap booze from Iceland (the shop, not the country) and snacks from Poundland, and flatmate Pete played videos on his computer and our makeshift cinema screen (my bedsheet + his projector), including various music videos, a SNL spoof of Harry Potter, the famously innuendo-filled episode of Rainbow (I used to love that show!), and a couple of videos that were edited versions of another two of my favourite early childhood TV programmes: Postman Pat and Fireman Sam. Postman Pat was dubbed to sound rude (he ended up as a some sort of drug dealer!) and Fireman Sam was reversed to become Arson Sam. Ruining some classic childhood memories, possibly, but bloody funny and got everyone in the room laughing out loud, so i guess it's okay then!
Met some other nice people on Wednesday this week too: I went to see the band Johnny Panic, and met a couple of old friends there too. The gig was really good and it is a shame that the crowd wasn't bigger or noisier, but i think it's because JP aren't very well known. Their typical style is uptempo rock with shades of pop and punk, like a combination of Alkaline Trio, Green Day and the Manics. Or The Clash meet Cheap Trick. With a touch of the Buzzcocks. Anyway... They're dead catchy, they're good live, and they're not bad-looking either... why aren't they big yet? They seemed like nice people too - me and my mates and lots of other people hung out with them at the bar after the show.
They played quite a few tracks from their excellent debut album The Violent Dazzling including the ballad "Coming Up Roses" (cigarette-lighter-waving stuff without being too OTT or soppy), pop-punk singalongs "Automatic Healer" and "Chemical Girlfriend" and the slightly heavier "Minority Of One," "Free Winona," "Warn You" and "Burn Your Youth" (the latter was particularly good, as the second half of the studio version isn't as good as the first half, but when they played it live i thought both halves sounded great), as well as their new, non-album single "I Live For" (another typical JP song: makes you want to sing along and bounce around). Good stuff, then.
Honourable mentions must also be made to the support band who had to cope with people mistaking them for Johnny Panic and asking them questions and stuff (I suppose that's what happens when neither the support act nor the main act are well-known) and to the people partying at the Cavern while dressed as pirates for some sports society's themed "social" (one of them looked exactly like Captain Jack Sparrow!).
Now trying to study and think up a solution to my current cash crisis...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

"My head feels like there is a Frenchman living in it!"

Well, we finally managed to find a care home for my gran, and it may sound harsh but i'm glad she's gone there - living with a really mentally ill person is nigh on impossible! That is one huge weight off my mind. Another unwelcome and unexpected souvenir from our holiday in Italy is a problem with walking that I developed (I think it may be due to an injury i got while wearing some insoles and shoes that my aunt gave me - she thought it would improve the way I walked (there was nothing wrong with me as far as i could tell, but she is always trying to find something wrong with me, like when i went a bit quieter than usual for a bit because i was worried about having to look after my gran, she said that i wasn't talking at all and that meant i was "abnormal") but it seems to have done the opposite) and at one point it was driving me absolutely crazy (staying at home with nothing to do and only my family for company probably didn't help the feeling either), but at the moment it isn't so bad and i hope it doesn't get that bad ever again.
I'm back at university now, and i feel much, much better. OK, so i seem to be developing a really bad head cold (Freshers' Flu perhaps?) and i think i've managed to give myself some mild food poisoning too (I have to cook for myself now), but my life is normal now. I'm in a self-catering flat with 5 other people, including my mate Harriet, and i get on well with all of them. We have had a few getting-to-know-each-other events, like video nights, a trip to our local, Monopoly games and a trip to a Village People themed fancy dress party at Arena. I don't think anyone in my flat is normally that keen on going to the temple to tackiness that is Arena (I know i'm not that keen on it myself!), but it was an opportunity to dress up for a laugh, and one of my flatmates, Pete (not to be confused with the other Pete that i lived next door to in halls last year), is always dressing up in fancy dress, so we made an exception for that one night. (I went as the cop). I thought it was better than usual - not as crowded as usual, plus people were very friendly (I think the costumes were a conversation starting point!). The DJs were giving away loads of free stuff (just chucking them into the crowd), i got loads of fake banknotes and a poster advertising Jack Daniel's whiskey, not to mention - most bizarrely - a penis weight! I've decorated my room with the banknotes and poster but i don't have a use for the willy weight so i think i might just give it away to any boy who wants it. The music at the club was incredibly loud though... my ears only stopped ringing today - it was on Wednesday and now it's Friday.
Last night me and Harriet also met up with two of our best friends, Chris and Dan, which was great even though it was only for a few minutes. They're always a good bunch for a laugh. Dan's hair was sticking up and formed a lovely quiff - normally he gels it but he hadn't had time to yesterday, but i thought it looked good ungelled (if that is a word!) too. Also his skin seems to have cleared up since i last saw him (way back in June!). I've had a crush on him for ages, and i thought he looked particularly cute last night. He's always been amazingly polite to me, but i'm never sure if it means he fancies me back, because he seems to be really polite to everyone (which is part of his appeal to me). Fingers crossed for luck...
Tomorrow night will be a getting-to-know-our-neighbours party: we've invited people from other flats in our block and the block next door. The only problem is it's the same night as The Cavern's ska/punk/reggae night and The Hub's punk/indie/rock/emo night, and i feel like i'm going to be torn between the three! Hmm...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

My new favourite music video

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Barbarism Begins At Home

At last I have got a few minutes to myself to blog! We have all been soooooo busy lately - it started when we went on a normal holiday in Italy, which then ended in disaster. My gran on my mum's side has been "a bit odd" for quite a few years, and has now been diagnosed with senile dementia (specifically vascular dementia), so for the last few years she has been living at my aunt's house in Italy. We often stay at my aunt's house when we go on holiday, otherwise we just wouldn't be able to afford a holiday. It's an absolutely massive (three floors) house compared with ours, and they have plenty of money (it seems), so they let people stay there for free all the time. During our most recent holiday about a month ago, my aunt suddenly told us to take our gran to England with us. Not "Would you like to take her home with you?" - just "She's going to live with you and that's that!" I understand that she has been driving my aunt crazy and she can't take any more, but even so she should have realised that sending her to live with us was a very bad idea.
For a start, my gran doesn't speak a word of English, and there is no hope of her learning any because her memory is completely screwed up. Secondly, it's a completely different house - she's used to having the entire top floor of my aunt's house to herself (as I said before it's a massive house), now she's got the spare room in our house and she hasn't been able to get used to it. Even though she's been driving my aunt and her family crazy (as if they weren't already crazy enough!), at least she has the entire top floor (all one huge room, like a studio flat, plus en-suite bathroom) to roam in, so they can avoid her. That floor must be about the size of both floors of our house combined! She also thinks that everything belongs to her, and has a habit of stealing, hiding and breaking things, as well as making "bundles" obsessively. These problems were bad enough in my aunt's house, and made even worse in ours because it's smaller and she thinks it's all hers. Thirdly, it's a completely different country, so if we get sick of her stamping around the house and decide to take her out or put her in respite care, there can be problems (different language, different way of life, etc.).
Senile dementia is not just "going a bit doddery in your old age," it's a full-on mental illness! In a way it is worse than a lot of other mental illnesses, because at least some of them are curable, but dementia can't get better, it can only get worse. In terms of symptoms, there is also some overlap with schizophrenia (e.g. psychosis, hallucinations, delusions, apathy, paranoia, language problems, problems with social situations, etc.). There are scare stories in the media all the time about schizophrenia and cannabis, and i wonder if the reason why they're more worried about schizophrenia is due to that possible link with cannabis. The Daily Mail is one paper that often pisses me off for various reasons, and a few weeks ago it had a news story titled HOW CANNABIS MADE MY SON SCHIZOPHRENIC on the front page. The next day, it had a news story about a "score card" system that has been developed to find out your chance of developing dementia and what you can do to lower it - like the cannabis story, it was buried deep inside the paper, but unlike the cannabis story it got no front page splash (suggesting that it is less important, perhaps). Half the page reporting on the dementia story was given over to an opinion piece titled "Sorry, but I don't want to know," and I skim-read it and it basically seemed to say what the title said - the writer just wasn't interested in finding out what her chance of dementia was and what she could do about it. That really, really pissed me off - they're saying that we have to worry about schizophrenia, but not about dementia! They're practically the same disease! Are they pushing for cannabis to be upgraded to Class B again, or trying not to scare their elderly readers? Whatever their agenda is, it still disgusts me that they act like dementia isn't serious - it is! You just don't know how serious it can be 'til you meet someone with it.
Anyway... she demands 24-hour attention (she's attention-seeking by nature anyway, and the disease just makes it worse), plus you have to watch her all the time as she steals things, breaks things, eats everything, doesn't know where the loo is, punches people, walks into the road, switches on the gas on the stove... that sort of thing. She is able-bodied, and her body clock is screwed (she hardly ever sleeps, especially at night, and she mixes up day and night), so it really is a 24-hour job. Even though it's split between the family, it is still knackering for all of us.
I had been planning on spending this summer doing the following: studying for next year (Yes, I passed the first year! I got a 2:2 overall, i now know where i went wrong in my exams and coursework and what i could have done better, so hopefully I'll get a 2:1 next year. The first year is just "pass or fail" and determines if you come back next year or get kicked out - it doesn't count towards your overall grade. I was hoping on getting a little headstart on next year's work so hopefully i get a 2:1...) and doing some other work (like learning to drive, doing voluntary work, maybe even getting a job)... as well as socialising! But alas most of these plans have been scuppered (I've done a little studying, although not as much as i could have; I've had 2 driving lessons, which both went well, but again i could have had more; and my social life is much less than it previously was). This is a job and a half!
The first couple of weeks of looking after my gran, i was so tired all the time - falling asleep in the middle of the day, that sort of thing. Even now i'm a bit more used to it, i'm still not always as energetic as i would normally be, and my mum is still really ill from stress. My mum has never got on incredibly well with her mum, and dementia has made their relationship even worse: my gran is even more stubborn than ever. My mum has cancer, so she is supposed to avoid stress, and my aunt knows this, so it was pretty dumb of her to put my mum in a stressful situation like this.
My gran is on loads of medications but she is in such a severe state that they don't seem to make any difference. Also, in dementia the brain is always degenerating, which means its structure changes, so you have to keep changing the medication because a drug that works in the early stages may not work later on, or you may have to use combinations of various drugs to get a result. She isn't improving, and is showing signs of the later stages of the disease: lately she's been thinking that images on TV are real (as in, happening in the room right in front of her) and does stuff like sitting right next to it, touching the screen and talking to it. Also she doesn't bother to control her, um, "functions"... there is no physical reason for it like incontinence or anything, it's just that sometimes she doesn't realise that there are right and wrong places for doing this sort of thing, and other times she hallucinates and doesn't know which room she is in, so you can't leave her alone for a moment otherwise you'll come back into the living room to find her squatting on a plant pot thinking she's sitting on the loo...
It is obvious that she cannot live a normal life or live in a normal house. I just can't believe that my aunt didn't do something earlier. Why did she pass the buck to us instead of giving her to professionals who know how to deal with this sort of thing? I wonder if it is some sort of pride or family honour thing - she doesn't want to be seen putting her in a mental asylum or a care home, all that "what would the neighbours say?" stuff. She talks about how she should be in an asylum (she is too crazy for an old people's home), but at the same time she makes us promise not to put her in one. Family honour is a big thing in Italy - honour killings were made illegal only 25 years ago! But living with someone like my gran is enough to make others go insane too - when she lived with my aunt, my uncle looked after her most of the time, and she drove him to alcoholism! If my aunt really cared about her family, she would have put her mum into care instead of inflicting her on her family - sod the family's honour, save the family's health!

Sorry that this is such a depressing post, but it is something i just had to say. I'll just try to improve the mood a little now with a few rather cool things i've recently noticed on the web:

And what blog of mine would be complete without some music?
I bought the new single by Morrissey (who else?) the other day, and the live version of it on his myspace and the live B-sides on CD2 confirm my suspicion that much of his latest album sounds better live. The production on Ringleader of the Tormentors is beautiful and delicate, but sometimes it sounds a bit like everyone is being restrained instead of being given some "oomph", like his backing band aren't rocking out as much as they could do, so a lot of the songs end up sounding too similar to each other and not quite lively enough.
I also bought the new single by The Fratellis, a fun and lively new band from Scotland, and I reckon they could be big - they're not incredibly melodic but they are getting a lot of attention and their songs sound like they could get people dancing. I predict they'll be hyped up in the NME in no time. Watch this space...

And on a completely different (but still, thankfully, on a positive note), I am rediscovering one of my favourite TV shows: Dragons' Den. Business entepreneurs have to present their ideas to the "dragons" (a panel of successful businesspeople) and convince them to invest in their idea. There are often people presenting really strange inventions and asking the dragons to invest in them (and they refuse, of course), like a bloke last week who had invented something to stop half-used cucumbers going soggy in the fridge (what's wrong with just chopping off the soggy bits?), so it's quite entertaining and funny. I also think the male dragons are kind of attractive (No, it's not because of the big wads of cash on their desks!) - they're well-dressed, smart, sharp, witty and obviously know their stuff, and they're not bad looking either. I sometimes wonder whether or not i'm alone in thinking this, or whether or not I should actually care whether or not i have normal taste in men...

"And on that bombshell, it's time to end," as Jeremy Clarkson says at the end of every episode of Top Gear (another of my TV faves). I've got a big post planned, and I will post it... er... some time in the future.