Monday, April 22, 2013

In the Meantime

Please bear with me while I finish my dissertation and tie up some loose ends. This weekend I went to my friend Rose's 'Carnival of the Animals' themed party dressed as Bjork's Swan dress and ate lots and lots of fantastic homemade falafel. The next day we miraculously managed to get some Glastonbury tickets in the resale and then celebrated my best friend's birthday with a champagne breakfast in our pyjamas.

But now the slog continues and this blog will remain a little empty until my May Day deadline. In the meantime, why don't you listen to this fantastic song by Pete Dunaway from the 'Black Rio 2: Original Samba Soul 1968-1981' album? Reading wise I recommend 'Faster or Greener.' It's a new blog written by my friend Joanna. Often when I read a new blog I find that I can tell it's new and needs a bit of time for improvement. But Joanna's is fantastic and not at all like that. She's been a big blog reader for years (as well as being generally one of the most well-read people I know) so she knows how it's done and Faster or Greener is already packed with well-written and thoughtful posts. From beautiful photographs from around Montpelier (where she is currently living) to helpful documentary compilation lists. Anyway, I like it and I think you will too. We had a fantastic time couchsurfing across the United States a few years ago and for the sake of nostalgia and friendship I will post some photographs of our adventures here. It is also worth a shout out to Lily, my childhood best-friend who introduced us in the first place and Patrice who we shared fun, a comfortable room and Denny's breakfasts with at Coachella (and who took most of these photographs)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hobbies of the Flimby New Balance Men

This morning I found myself on the 'Visit Flimby' website which is the love child of New Balance and the West Cumbria tourist board.  Flimby is a town on the border of the Lake District and home to the UK's New Balance factory, and indeed you can 'visit Flimby' and have a tour around the factory which is exactly why I found myself on the site in the first place on a rainy Thursday morning when a day trip elsewhere is an attractive prospect. The site is a great read with some beautiful photographs and videos (by North West photographer Percy Dean) documenting the community and some of the men who work in the factory.

I'm always interested in people who are dedicated to a particular hobby- I wrote about hobbies here last year- and these videos focus on the curiosities of the New Balance factory employees. Bill climbs the local peaks when he's not working, Wayne races pigeons, Mark plays in a band and Roy who is a leather cutter during the day, is a fan of Northern Soul and still has the recordings he used to make from the balcony of the Wigan Casino in 1973. You can watch the other videos here but naturally the irresistible pairing of New Balance and Northern Soul was too good an opportunity to miss for posting Roy's video:

Monday, April 01, 2013

No, really. What's In Your Handbag?

If I was a magazine editor I would run the show with an iron fist. I'd keep the iron fist in the top drawer of my desk and bring it out on one occasion, to enforce one very special rule. The only rule. I'd send a memo around to all staff on a Friday night, just as they're leaving the office and thinking about all of the fun ways they're going to spend the weekend. They'd quickly scan my email, informing them about the meeting being scheduled for 9am on Monday which will be held in response to one of the features being run in the April issue. I will tell them that it has come to my attention that a feature is being run which violates The Rule. Every experienced member of staff will know word-for-word how this meeting will go, even before it happens. They will think about it as they're putting on their coat to leave the office that night and again while they're browsing flowers on Columbia Road on Saturday morning and again when they're handwashing their tights over the bathroom sink on Sunday evening.

The meeting will be tense but short and to the point. And everybody who attends the meeting will never forget the words of The Rule. The assistant who wrote the feature will absolutely never forget the rule and for 6 months will carry her belongings to work in her pockets in order to avoid the associations with The Rule as provoked by her handbag.

The rule goes like this:

"In the event of a 'What's In Your Handbag?' feature, please ask yourself these questions and only proceed with the article is the answer to either is yes. 1. Is the subject Mary Poppins? 2. Does the bag belong to a traveling salesman specialising in now-defunct magical sweeties only available on the black market (which are still, miraculously still within their expiry date)?"

My point and my question really is this: "Why are handbag features a thing?" Like all brilliant imaginary magazine editors, (or the Carrie Bradshaw of 2013) I voiced this question aloud on Twitter. These features are really, really not very interesting. I would much rather see the contents of a fridge or a wardrobe or a personal photo album because these things are actually revealing of a person. (Well, the fridge doesn't really, in the food department I'm just nosey) But anyone can carry around keys and a phone and some lipbalm. And what makes these features boring is the fact that they are usually completely unbelievable, comically so! If you look into one of these bags, on a blog or in a magazine, they contain 2 heavyweight SLR cameras, a dog-eared copy of Camus's The Plague, a Stila blusher, a small shell-shaped compact mirror, an iphone and a moleskine. Come on! Where are your tampax? Look into your best friend's bag and it will contain a bus pass, some loose filters, a snotty tissue and a McDonalds straw wrapper. (I know this because she faithfully replied to my tweet listing the exact contents.)

For research purposes, please allow me to reveal the mediocre contents of my bag for your delectation:

You will find: Wallet (in dire need of a sort-out in light of fact that fat receipt situation will not allow the clasp to close), 2 separate sets of keys, a bike light, headphones, a make-up brush (yet notable absence of blusher) Railcard, Make-up bag, 2 pens, an orange, deodorant, chewing gum, lots of tissues- grabbed from the dispenser of the toilet on the train I travelled on this weekend.

I very much enjoyed some of the contents of bags on Twitter which did indeed reveal something about the owners and lack any of the glamour of the unbelievable magazine features. See Anna's rotten apple and selection of whiteboard pens which show in very real terms her progress as a teacher-in-training. Teachers in cartoons have shiny apples on their desks! They must end up buried forgotten in handbags, slowly rotting.. Kat, who describes herself on her Twitter bio as 'A lover, not a fighter' carries Pom Bears in her bag. Naturally, the ultimate sharing, caring, extended olive-branch of animal shaped potato snacks. Fiona's bag pays tribute to her Easter bank holiday, containing confetti and eggs shells from a 'drunken Easter egg hunt'. Brilliant. Evidently a lot of what these features are missing is the crucial back story behind our bag crap. As the famous saying goes, "On the shoulder of every Great Woman, hangs a mediocre handbag."