Monday, 27 July 2015

WTF of the Week: Shit Welsh Expats Have To Do

1) Remember that, in other countries, the word 'lush' is not a catch-all adjective for everything beautiful, tasty or aesthetically pleasing. Time to crack out the thesaurus.

2) Explaining to someone that you're from Wales goes something like this:
YOU: I moved here from Wales.
THEM: Ah yes,, where?
YOU: Small country, next to England, many sheep.
THEM: I see. So near London, then?
YOU: No no, NEXT to England. Not in. London is a good two and a half hours away.
THEM: Ok, next to Ireland?
THEM: Do you need your passport to cross the border?
YOU: *sob*

3) Edit your conversation when you remember that the word 'fausty' doesn't actually exist, and that people who aren't also from Wales tend to judge you as a simpleton when you use it. Who knew?!

4) Explaining the difference between cheese on toast and Welsh rarebit. Then going on to explain that, actually, it's not our national dish. Fuck you, Bill Bailey.

5) Fielding questions of varying legitimacy regarding a potential bid for Welsh independence. "Oh, let me see. Well, we're a nation of 3.5 million people whose industry was all but decimated by Thatcher, we're vastly outnumbered by sheep and we still rely on subsidies from the English government for everything from prescription medications to student grants. WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK?"

6) Feeling the need to follow up the statement "I'm from Wales" with "we're not all like the people on The Valleys. Honest."

7) Pretend they can sing the entire Welsh national anthem when drunk. Even if they're just making up a few extra words along the way. Or is that just me?

8) In fact, just shame-facedly explaining to people that after 11 years of intensive tuition, the only Welsh phrase you're able to parrot is 'rydw i'n hoffi coffi'. But at least you can then make them giggle by telling them that the colloquial term for a jellyfish is 'pysgod wibbly-wobbly'.

9) Explaining why the Welsh can't stand the English. Unless you want to launch into a three hour lecture that encompasses colonisation, the Welsh Not, the Rebecca Riots, and the constant accusations of in-breeding that have been thrown at Welsh people over the centuries, they're not going to get it.

10) Remind everyone that Wales, or maybe just Cardiff, really is the new pop culture hub of the UK. Doctor Who? Sherlock? Torchwood? The new Pinewood Studios? We got 'em all. WE HAVE BEEN VALIDATED. WE ARE RELEVANT. BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH HANGS OUT BY THE MUSEUM. This should be closely followed by a chortle-worthy, faux-peeved tale of when one of these smash hit TV shows interrupted your day, like the time I was trying to get home and found my entire street blocked off by the Doctor Who massive and their giant rain machine.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

BANGIN' CHOONS: Ballet School

   All pictures shamelessly lifted from Ballet School's Facebook page.

It's safe to say that, like many former nerdy teen emo children, I'm big on music. My CD collection back home consists of well over 400 albums. I lost count of how many gigs I've attended, oh, say, three years ago, and can wax lyrical for literally days about the benefits of an eclectic taste that encompasses all the recognised greats as well as scowled-upon genres like metalcore, nu-rave (LOL) and Italo-Euro disco.

However, in this Spotify-saturated era, it's now kind of rare for a band to smack me full force in the chops and scream "LISTEN TO MY ALBUM. MY ALBUM. NOW. TODAY. EVERY DAY. FOREVEEER" in my face. (I'm talking metaphorically, of course. If a band actually stormed up to me and threatened to mash my mush in if I didn't listen to their demo, I'd call the Polizei, and their agent, post-haste. But I digress).These days, I tend to float by on a song-to-song basis, relying on old faithfuls to get me through the good times and the bad, discovering new 'hmm, that ain't bad' tracks and lamenting the sad fact that British indie all went a bit downhill after Joe Lean And The Jing Jang Sodding Jong regularly started making NME headlines. That was a fair while ago now. It still hurts.

But then, Ballet School came along, and their hazy, new-wave pop stylings just made sense to me. As someone who still firmly believes that Madonna's self-titled debut is still one of the best albums of all time, Ballet School's 80's beats and frontwoman Rosie Blair's urgently belted vocals were everything I'd been looking for in my official New Favourite Band, and more. I interviewed them last September (and almost cacked myself with glee when I was given the assignment) and discovered that, along with being one of the best new bands to come out of Berlin this century, they're also a proper laugh riot. Plus, Rosie and I share a predisposition to overuse profanity and deep-seated appreciation of Queen Madge's early body of work. That alone would have been enough to secure their place in my heart forevermore.

Rosie, guitarist Michel, and drummer Louis come from Ireland, Brazil and England respectively, but  joined forces in Berlin and sallied forth with the good ship Ballet School based on little more than dedication to their craft and a mutual appreciation of the Cocteau Twins. 

"We had a proper Berlin period," said Rosie. "The band started here, most of our material was written here, and our records were produced here. Everything was here. And so many bands and artists I look up to were here, Iggy, Bowie, Lou Reed, Eric Clapton, U2. We didn’t come here to get a fresh perspective, we came here because we knew that you could immerse yourself in your art. Michel and I lived together, I was working in a bar, and he was committed to being a full time artist, just playing and getting better and better at guitar, busking in U-Bahn stations until his amp ran out of power. You can do that here."

They busked, they wrote, they scrimped and saved and gigged, until their now-manager Jonas Verwijnen attended one of their gigs and immediately signed them up to his Kaiku roster. From there on, they started working on their debut album, The Dew Lasts An Hour, not an easy task considering they already had about two and a half albums worth of material to choose from before deciding on the final track listing.

"We did the record on a shoestring budget," laughed Rosie. "People told us ‘this is a pop record, it’s so polished’ and we were like ‘do you have any idea what a polished record is?’ This is not a polished record, like, this record tracked in three days, live, this is cracked plug-ins. It sounds polished because the fucking writing is good, because it has a good chorus, because it’s pop music."

Damn fine pop music at that. When it dropped last September, critics were divided between pure joy and utter confusion. How could something that lifted inspiration so heavily from the 1980's - the decade that taste forgot - sound so sweet? Listeners, however, lapped it up. In just under a year, the band have stormed the U.S, trekked around Europe, and released a blurry, deconstructed cover of Madonna's Justify My Love, complete with a video featuring a curvy chain-smoking goth. In music industry lingo, Ballet School are the Next Big Thing, but Rosie doesn't see it that way.

"I still feel like no one fucking knows who we are! I feel like we’re the tiniest band on the planet." she said. This should not be the case. Go listen to Ballet School right the hell now. You won't regret it.

Friday, 24 July 2015


So after much umm-ing and ahh-ing and telling my friends that "I'm 100% going to start blogging again", I've decided to stop blowing hot air and actually get on with it. However, though the URL may still be the same, things are gonna start looking a little different around here.

Why? Well, for the past few months I've been languishing in a twenty-something head funk that I'm sure many of you will recognise. Moving to Berlin, kicking off my freelancing "career" (ahaha!) and finally figuring out exactly what fabric conditioner is for has pushed me a little further into the Realm of the Grown-Up than I anticipated, and as a result my expectations regarding what the fuck I'm doing with my life have been a little higher.

So, I did what any average chump my age does - I looked to social media for my cues. Hours have been lost to Instagram, lusting over artfully chic Scandi lifestyles, endless pictures of cute mid-century dressers, people with really great hair, great jobs, great homes. Most of these people are younger than me, for Chrissakes! Let's see how my life measures up.

I'm 27 years old. Despite what advises, I don't have a carefully designed work space for my freelance activities - for me, 'going to the office' means moving from bed to sofa and not bothering to put trousers on. On really bad days, I take my work to my other job, and hammer out product descriptions behind the counter when I'm not serving up cappuccinos. My breakfast rarely (read; NEVER) consists of homemade granola and seasonal fruit. Ten Oreos and a mug of coffee? Now we're talking. My weekends aren't spent browsing art galleries - they're spent in the Kneipe with a few glasses of Kolsch, or, if things are getting really wild, at Monster Ronson's Ichiban Karaoke with a carafe of wine and a booth full of drunk German men. Clearly, I'm not all that good at adulting.

The point is that, no matter how much I aspire to be a minimalist goddess in a well-designed apartment with a perfectly curated wardrobe and a solid grasp on what I intend on doing with the rest of my life, my basic instinct just keeps on kickin' in and shouting 'REJECT! ABORT! HELL NO!' It just ain't me.

So, rather than try to cram myself uncomfortably into this cookie-cutter 'authentic lifestyle' mold that is being sold to millenial females, I'm going to do the exact opposite. Don't get me wrong, I will never get bored of browsing boho-minimal interiors and polka dot dresses on Pinterest, and there will be an element of smug self-improvement along the way as I try to adopt a more vegan, more ethical lifestyle. But at it's core, I want to write a blog for all the other technically grown women who really feel like they should have it all sorted now, but can't quite let go of that knobby inner 19 year old telling them to go out and spend their food budget on vino tinto and club entry.

Because there's nothing wrong with having a half-decorated apartment, or a wardrobe that consists mainly of shit you found on the street, or preferring a beer at the beach bar to bikram sodding yoga.

Now, in the words of the Immortal God Mike Skinner, let's push things forward.