Sunday, 25 March 2012

Challenge #2: Sarah vs. Museum/Art Gallery


I am stood in a room full of stuff belonging to Mick Jones. 'My guitar hero' of The Clash fame, Mick Jones. Words fail me right now as to how awestruck I am.

Tucked beneath the Marylebone Flyover in Joe Strummer Subway, found just round the corner from Edgeware Road tube station in the nation's capital, I am standing gawping at a treasure trove of goodies collected by a punk legend.

A former key cutting shop in this underground passage has been commandeered and transformed into something much more exciting. The Subway Gallery, as it is now known, provides a quiet and wonderful escape from the chaos of the flyover and the chance to lose yourself for a while - it's another world hidden away from the bustle of they city's Saturday shoppers and fun seekers.

Subway Gallery hosts a different exhibition every month

The Rock 'n' Roll Public Library

Until 31st March, the Subway Gallery is showing an eclectic exhibition of items collected by Mick Jones during his youth and early punk days, meaning the chance to get close to this stuff is a must for any Clash fan. The collection includes a mass of comics, fanzines, toys, Clash-related coolness and just a heap of stuff I would love to fill my bag with right now, all belonging to the man himself. Books and paraphernalia that influenced the music and opinions of the band also line the shelves, along with many cans of London fog.

By far my favourite items were the surviving copies of Sniffin' Glue and Ripped & Torn all lining one wall (sadly, I wasn't allowed to paw them). These '70s fanzines come from a now unimaginable pre-internet age, when music fans spent hours locked away in their bedrooms lovingly handcrafting these cut 'n' paste beauties to share their love of punk with the world.

Fanzine collection

Avid Commando comic collector


Shirts from The Clash wardrobe

Punk wellies

I wonder how many non-related books there are titled 'The Clash'?

Keeping my hands in my pockets to ensure the urge to steal this awesome stuff doesn't overwhelme me.
(The dude with the hair is my mate Steve)

As the preferred busking spot of the late Clash frontman, the subway under Marylebone Flyover was aptly christened Joe Strummer Subway on the anniversary of his death, 22nd December 2009.

The sign was designed by artist Robert Gordon McHarg III, also the man responsible for the Subway Gallery.

(postcode: W2 1DX)

Verdict: a very over-excited WIN!

A Rock 'n' Roll Library of My Own

On the journey home - completed by a soundtrack of The Clash debut, naturally - I got to thinking about what I'd put in my own Rock 'n' Roll Library were I to create one.

As previously mentioned, I am the proud owner of a pretty awesome ticket stub collection, which would have to be included, along with a mountain of band t-shirts, a million and one itens relating to the Manic Street Preachers, my battered Doc Martens (bought 1997, now cracked, mouldy and in a very sad and sorry state of decay, but ultimately impossible) and a stack of magazines I've accumulated over the years.

There's also an adorable pile of fanzines that would offer an interesting snapshot of music from 1996 to 2001 and mentions of bands now long forgotten, plus a shoebox or two full of mixtapes.

Oh, and the DIY clothes I spraypainted The Clash/Manic Street Preachers-style and wore so proudly back in my youth, set lists and parts of set lists, and photos of bands and signed stuff from over the years would also get chucked in there. 

All in all, it'd be a pretty awesome record of the music that's accompanied me over the last 29 years and, come to think of it, would probably look exactly like my flat. Feel free to come round and take a look...

Sunday, 18 March 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge

Why I'm Taking Part

Previously, I have started two unsuccessful blogs and this time around I want things to be different. It's not that I struggle for things to write - as you may have noticed from previous posts I know how to go on – and it's not that I don't want to do it, it's just that when it comes down to it I'm pretty lazy. Given the choice between scoffing an entire packet of biscuits while watching Corrie and getting off my arse and actually doing something, the biscuits will always come first. But this time round things are going to be different... well, for now at least.

So, by signing up for something that asks me to blog every day (except Sundays) during the month of April, I'm hoping it will get me in the habit of blogging regularly and not get too distracted looking for things to 'lol' at on the internet.

I'm also keen to see what other blogs are out there and look at how other people are tackling the challenge, whether they've gone for a theme or are going random, have planned ahead or are winging it. So far I've come across some that look like they're going to be gems.

Here are a few to check out:
Dina's amazing illustrations will be moulded into a sayings and phrases theme for the A to Z Blogging Challenge and after being treated to a special behind the scenes look at her ideas – while not puking over sushi – I can say it's going to be awesome.

On the Road with U2
While U2 are not my favourite band in the world, I'm loving the ambition and theme going on here. Basically, Deena has vowed to write an entire A to Z of U2 songs, which I think is a pretty amazing idea and has me intrigued as to whether U2 have a back catalogue that stretches the entire alphabet... Clearly they must have, but I'm looking forward to finding out what songs cover the hard letters (QVXZ) and glad to see another music obsessive has signed up for teh challenge.

With the kind of self-deprecating humour I just love, Nifer at Completely Unoriginal Thoughts is just my kinda girl. She's also signed up for the challenge for similar reasons as me, so I'm really looking forward to reading more of her stuff and seeing what topics she decides to tackle throughout April. I fully recommend stopping by.

A gorgeous blog with some really cute and inspiring craft ideas, including everything from cards and scrap books to t-shirts and homeware. Intrigued to know whether Kristy is planning on crafting her way from A to Z... I hope so!

Writing Prompts Everyday
A great idea to get the creative juices flowing, this one does exactly what it says on the tin and gives you a topic to write on everyday. I think this is a great idea to try when writing block kicks in or just as a warm up, so will be visiting in April to see what prompts are on offer and joining in.

Describing himself as a guy who likes to rant and 'fucking swear', Grumpy IT Guy's blog looks like it's shaping up to be a funny one. He offers his observations on things that really piss him off and likes to use the f-word - a lot - so pay him a visit if you want to learn how to use it in new and interesting ways.

My A to Z Plan

I came across the A to Z Blogging Challenge while trawling Blogger looking for inspiration and knew instantly that I'd be signing up and what my theme would be – music. Music is my lifeblood, my first love and my lifelong companion, so having the opportunity to write about it and share it with others is one not to be missed.

Initially I thought I'd go for a band a letter, but after some consideration I think it will be more interesting to mix it up a bit, to look at my life in music and take influence from there. From the bands and artists I love to the essential ingredients that helped me discover them in the first place, because while music is always at the heart of the story, sometimes it takes other people to help you find the best of it.

Hopefully it might make for some interesting posts and if I can just get one person to check out a new band then it'll all be worthwhile.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Challenge #1: Sarah vs. Sushi

I'm not the biggest fan of fish or eating dead things that aren't cooked, so I wasn't really looking forward to the task ahead. Shoving the thought that I may end up spending the next 24 hours curled in the foetal position on my bathroom floor, following a violent bout of sickness, to the back of my mind, I headed to Leicester's Yo Sushi with my good friend Dina Thanki. I had selected a close friend to accompany me on this challenge safe in the knowledge that if it came down to it she would happily (well, begrudgingly maybe) volunteer for hair holding back and chin wiping duties in the event of a hurl situation.

 I believe this is what's called putting on a brave face

 Sushi spaceships go whizzing by...

Being a newcomer to the sushi way of things I was grateful when Dina took charge of the situation. "You wanna make some notes woman" she commanded, before thrusting a menu I couldn't not understand beneath my nose.

While it was a perfect opportunity to trick me into eating something profoundly minging, it is a testament to our friendship that my illustrator pal carefully handpicked every dish so as to minimise my torture discomfort. She could have easily tricked me into eating a squid's testicle (yes, they do, I Googled it) for all I knew, but instead chose a selection that included back-up dishes to take away any nasty taste. Good plan. The only strategy I was bringing to the table was to chew fast and swallow faster. My whole game plan was based around eating as fast as possible and getting out safely.

The menu we went with: 
  • Vegetable gyoza – deep fried veg – sounds safe, looks appetising
  • Spicy pepper squid – looks really good, sounds dangerous
  • Hairy prawns – basically battered prawns – sounds bad, but looks good
  • Assorted nigiri – raw salmon and tuna – very risky, those lumps of dead fish are actually pretty big
  • Assorted fish maki – raw salmon, tuna and prawn medley wrapped in seaweed – not so risky, dead bits are smaller
  • Crunchy tofu salad – with mustard, vinegar and miso sauce – very safe, confident about this one
  • Tamago – a mix of sweet omelette and rice – cold and therefore possibly weird


Assorted fish maki 

Left: Looking for an escape route 
to avoid trying the assorted nigiri

Right: Chomping on the salmon,
disguised with a large dose of soy sauce
Note the use of child chopsticks to ensure
some food made it to my mouth

Not a fan

Please don't make me do this again


OK, so the experience wasn't as traumatic as I feared - despite the look on my face - and some of it was actually pretty good. Although I'm referring to the cooked stuff when I say that.

We kicked off with the assorted nigiri, aiming to get the worst over and done with, and Dina kindly held my hand throughout by going halves on everything. I'm surprised to admit that the taste wasn't all that bad, thanks to the soy sauce and rice disguise, and it didn't really taste very fishy. It was the texture that was the worst part, coupled with the thought of what I was eating.

The assorted fish maki, on the other hand, was not good. I thought the whole seaweed thing would act as a good distraction from the fish and as there was less fish to it, I thought it would be plain sailing - so wrong. Not only did it taste bad, but it was ridiculously chewy. As if to prolong my discomfort, the sushi gods had created something that just didn't want to go down; as I contemplated spitting or swallowing, I thought it would be failure to bail out, so I swallowed. Luckily it didn't come back up.

On a positive note, the hairy prawns, vegetable gyoza and crunchy tofu were all good and I would definitely have again. As for the squid, although it was very chewy, it wasn't as dangerous as I feared and the batter was really nice.

Some yummy stuff: vegetable gyoza, spicy pepper squid and hairy prawns

Verdict: Win

I'm proud to have ticked my first challenge successfully off my list of things to do before I'm 30 and that I managed to behave so well despite the circumstances. And my reward for completing the sushi challenge? I had a Choc Dip on the way home.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Additions to the List

It may be a little ambitious to extend a list I haven't even started to tackle yet, but having discussed the existing list with friends and family, some awesome ideas for additions have been suggested:

Play hide and seek in a museum
Walk across the zebra crossing on Abbey Road
Sign my name on the wall of Abbey Road Studios
Go ice skating in Hyde Park
Pee in the one-way mirror toilet

A discussion about the list prompted Metal Dan to challenge me to pee in this...

Basically, it's a public toilet outside the Tate in London featuring one-way mirrors, so while you're having a little tinkle - or birthing a tapeworm, your choice - you can see everything that's going on outside. More info on it can be found HERE.

Sadly, after contacting the Tate I've discovered the toilet is no longer there, so I'm now on the hunt for a similar one. If you happen to stumble on one while emptying your bladder, please let me know!

Friday, 2 March 2012

Web Stuff I Love

Lose Yourself

It's easy to lose hours when you get drawn into searching for random crap on the internet. Like most people, I love a good fail video and odd crazes involving putting bread round a cat's face, but I also like things that are a little more creative.

Here are my faves at the mo:

Sleeve Face
This one has been going for a few years now, but whenever I take a look it always gives me a few giggles. The basic premise is to use a record sleeve with a face on and recreate the rest of the scene. My favourite ones are where people have really gone to town to make the background and outfits match those on the actual album cover. Check out A Festive Christmas by Carl Morris, now that's what I call effort.

Dear Photograph
The idea is to take a picture of the past and put it in the present, using the original setting as a frame around a photograph. I love the contrast of colours and focus, and how time seems to stand still in some of the pictures - THIS is one of my favourites. I really need to dig out my childhood photos so I can do one of these.

1000 Journals
This is such I clever idea I feel that it really should have been mine. A thousand journals are being passed from artist to artist around the world, in what must be one of the biggest and most inclusive art projects going. Drawings, stories and photographs can be used to fill a couple of pages before the journal is passed onto the next person. Images are added to the website as the books get filled and it's really interesting to see what different ideas people come up with.

The Burning House
We've all thought about this. John Peel even prepared for it with a pre-packed box of vinyl he said he would save were his house to burn down. A box that allegedly contained several copies of the 'Teenage Kicks' 7" by The Undertones. While my CD/record collection is one of my life's companions, as well as being one of my most treasured possessions, I feel that most of them could probably be replaced if needs be. I think higher up the list of must-rescue items would be my ticket stubs - a grubby catalogue of paperwork dating the majority of my musical movements over the last 16 years. I would be devastated if I lost this record of my youth as there is no other way to trace my gig movements and as I can't remember most of them without using the stub as a little reminder, all of those wonderful moments would be lost forever.

Last year I went to the Home of Metal exhibition in Birmingham. A beautifully compiled display of all things Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Napalm Death-related cool stuff. Old posters from gigs that took place before I was born, old ticket stubs for amazing gigs in grubby sweatboxes that changed the lives of those that witnessed them for the small price of about two quid and some fantastic black and white photographs. One of the items that caught my eye was an obsessive Judas Priest fan, who had travelled across the globe and documented every gig he had been to in an A4 book - the venue, the city, the country, the date, the support acts, all the details were their for him to pour over and look back to in old age. I can't tell you how jealous I was of that guy and his book. If only I'd logged all this stuff I'd have a complete record of every band I've seen live. Damn it.

Keri Smith
My amazingly talented friend Dina Thanki drew my attention to this crazy lady, who creates activity books that help you feel like a kid again. Forget traditional journalling and sketch books, Keri Smith encourages you to break all the rules with her series of books. From chucking coffee over the pages to wiping your feet on them, paper disguises to random doodles, these books let you let go of being an adult for a while.

Louder Than War
For the best in new and old music, this one can't be beaten. There's loads of interviews and reviews, but I find articles like the top anti-Thatcher songs and what if only 30 bands could exist really get me thinking and unleash the music-list loving beast within. I see a list coming on...

Sabotage Times
For daily laughs and much-needed pick-me-ups this is the website I turn to. It's really well written in a lad mag kinda style and has a sense of humour that just kills me. I love people who don't take themselves too seriously, so this really is my kind of thing. As well as its stupid side, there's really interesting articles on music, such as this interview with Clash legend Mick - you're my guitar hero - Jones

Want to see the world's tallest giraffe, a burger that looks like Chewbacca or find out how having a hard on gets you priority seating on Japanese public transport? Sabotage Times has got it all covered.

Cassette From My Ex
A must for anyone who remembers dedicating hours of their life to perfecting the art of the mixtape in the name of love and who still has shoe boxes full of the things hidden in the wardrobe.

In the wise words of High Fidelity's Rob Gordon: "The making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. There are many dos and don'ts. First of all you are using someone else's poetry to express how you feel - this is a delicate thing..."

Ahh yes, a 'subtle' combination of songs whose lyrics would reveal to the recipient in no uncertain terms that you wanted a shag. About as subtle as filling an entire tape with this sexy little Nine Inch Nails number.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

364 Days to Go - Let the List Begin

Bad Blogger
Ok, I'm really going to have to try hard at this stuff as I'm notoriously shit at keeping up with blog and social networking type things, and I really struggle to take them seriously. I know it's fashionable to vent your spleen for all the world to see or to blog and Tweet work-related stuff, but I have to confess I love posting photos of dogs that look like cocks. What can I say, it brightens my day. But I promise, I will at least try to behave.

The List So Far...
With the help of my buddies I've started putting a few ideas together for ways to torture myself over the next year, which you can find below. I have to say that I'm really excited about most of them, but I feel my fear of heights and spiders may induce an anxiety attack on a couple of them.

  •  Eat sushi
  • Go fishing
  • Abseil
  • Win a pub quiz
  • Crowd surf (last enjoyed circa '99)
  • Get a feature published in a national magazine or newspaper
  • Rollerskating (not done since around 1990)
  • Tandem bike ride
  • Hold a tarantula
  • Paintballing
  • Sphereing
  • Speed dating
  • Snowboarding (only had one lesson)
  • Horse riding*
  • Smoke a cigar
  • Give blood
  • Urban exploration
  • Make a mixtape of my favourite 20 tracks of my 20s - yeah, that's right, a TAPE
  • Do a Dear Photograph
  • Do a Sleeve Face
  • Planking
  • Headless Horse Manning*
  • Play a round of golf
  • Complete Zelda (this project has been on and off since I was 10-years-old, but never completed)
  • Learn new slang the kids are using these days and use it in everyday speech (lookout for 'peng' and 'sket' coming your way soon)
  • Read a Charles Dickens (it's his centenary after all)
  • Go ten pin bowling (again, not done since around 1990)
  • Watch the original three Star Wars films in one sitting
  • Do some night time photography
  • Visit a museum or art gallery I've never been to
  • Visit a town or city I've never been to
  • Cook something new
  • Eat an entire meal with chop sticks (anyone who's seen me eat spag bol with a knife and fork over the course of about two hours will know this one is going to be tough)
  • Use my limited sewing skills to make something new out of old clothes I no longer wear
  • Go vegan for a week
  • Seven day cheese nightmare challenge
  • Fly a kite
  • Take part in the A to Z Blogging Challenge
  • Get a new tattoo
* Is it possible to combine these into a headless horse riding task?

All thoughts and suggestions on other stuff I can do are very welcome. Also, I may need my hand holding for some of these so please volunteer your services! Think of it like helping an old lady cross the road.

364 Days to Go - Fear of Turning 30

One of the biggest fears people have about turning 30 is the thought they'll be old. I'm no different. The thought of watching my face sag towards my chest and my arse start slapping against the back of my knees fills me with dread. But it's not just the vanity of getting old that I fear, it's also the thought of becoming a dull fucker.

Watching my 20s slip away has made me all too aware that I've become stuck in the rut of day-to-day monotony. Being a creature of habit maybe safe, but it's also incredibly boring. I feel the need to shake it up a bit and I don't just mean with gin.

My working day, including the commute and the hanging around, clocks up around 11 hours, leaving me with little time to myself. You would think this would motivate me to get off my arse and use my time wisely, but no, I come home with just food and sleep on my mind, while the thought of doing it all again tomorrow lurks in the background. And come the weekend? Yep, food and sleep are probably the most important parts of that too - as well as a huge helping of music obviously.

Of course, there's another big fear that shakes you to your core as you approach 30 - have I achieved enough? Have I done everything on the list? It's pretty silly really as turning 30 doesn't equal death, but still, there's often a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I haven't achieved enough in the last three decades...

It took me until I was 27 to bother with the business of graduating, I don't own my own home (and have resigned myself to the fact I will never earn enough to do so), I have left Europe only once, I haven't learnt to snowboard yet, I don't have a dog or enough tattoos and I still haven't got into the habit of having my hair cut regularly enough to not spend half of every year looking like a hobo. I've never seen Rocket From The Crypt live, been on a tandem bike ride, smoked a cigar or eaten sushi - although to be honest the last one really doesn't bother me, I just feel it's something I probably have at least had a go at before now.

So, in order to cross a few of these things off the list and prevent myself becoming a sad act before my time, I'm aiming to recapture the fearlessness of my youth. The 365 days I have left before the dreaded 30 arrives are my key to eternal youth (well, almost), a last chance to be bold, be brave and misbehave. I'm making a list, mainly of silly things, that needs to be completed by 1st March 2013 - wish me luck!

Oh, and suggestions (that don't involve nakedness) are always welcome.