Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Challenge #16: Sarah vs Pumpkin Carving

It's only taken 29 years, but I've finally got round to carving my first Halloween pumpkin. This challenge wasn't on my original list, but with Halloween just around the corner, it seemed like an ideal addition.

Pumpkins at the ready

I went for a Nightmare Before Christmas theme
I drew the design freehand by the way

Dan went for a Super Mario theme with a Boo Buddy

Scooping the brains out
Mine smelt funny cos it had a rotting bum

Poking the eyes out


Feeling very proud of myself

Dan's turn


I ain't afraid of no ghost

Candles in, fire brigade on standby

Pretty damn awesome, even if I do say so myself

Thanks to my parents for letting us destroy their kitchen with flying bits of pumpkin, rather than our own.

Verdict: WIN!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Music-related Adventures in the Nation's Capital

I love gigs, I love record shops and I love music-related exhibitions, so cramming all three into one weekend is my idea of heaven...

Someday All The Adults Will Die!

First stop was the Southbank Centre's Hayward Gallery, for a gawp at its punk graphics exhibition. 'Someday All The Adults Will Die!' celebrates the raw and unique feel of punk design during the '70s and '80s, and how bands, artists and DIY-ers adopted its style for posters, flyers, t-shirts, fanzines and record sleeves. Partly curated by Jon Savage, the knowledge on all things punk, this exhibition has some absolute gems from the early years of punk.

Like a hand grenade thrown at popular music, fashion and art, it's hard to imagine now just how shocking punk must have been in during its infancy, how different it must have sounded and looked to everything else that was going on. The story behind the exhibition and the punk graphics in general is displayed as you enter, complete with a great quote from Jon Savage, which I think really sums up punk's impact and legacy: "A few years later, people wake up and wonder what happened. They're still wondering."

Some notable items that got me all excited included posters and artwork from Jamie Reid, the artist behind the Sex Pistols' iconic, cut 'n' paste style 'Nevermind the Bollocks...' album sleeve.

Work by Jamie Reid

There was also an original copy of the front page of the Daily Mirror from 2nd December 1979, the edition that ran the famous 'Filth and the Fury' headline after the Pistols' notorious appearance on the Today show.
It also includes the story of the guy who kicked in his TV because he was so angry. Twat.

Daily Mirror from 2nd December 2012

What I'm thinking: Umm, this lot would look
lovely on my walls at home...

DIY Crass poster. They like their stencils.

Original t-shirts, mainly designs from Vivienne Westwood

Unfortunately, this was the last shot I was able to get, because Mr Security Man came and told me off for taking pictures. It means that I don't have a photo of one of my favourite pieces from the exhibition, a copy of the press release that accompanied promo copies of The Ramones' debut album, released in 1976. I also would have loved to get some shots of cut 'n' paste posters and flyers, and the whole wall of fanzines from '71 to '84, including an issue of Sniffin' Glue! Alongside the 'zines were two walls of 7" singles, all self-released by the bands themselves. Here's a little fact for you, the very first self-released 7" was 'Spiral Scratch' by The Buzzcocks.

The 7" allowed bands to record and release their own music for the first time because it was such a cheap format, which is why so many emerged during the punk years, as bands desperate to be part of that DIY culture recorded and issued their own music. Those records would make a lovely addition to my own collection.

After picking out sleeves, songs and bands I knew, I started thinking about all of those I didn't recognise, who those people were and how life turned out for them. There was a music room tagged onto the exhibition that offered an opportunity to listen to some of the bands/songs I was unfamiliar with, which was pretty cool. I heard some tracks from a scary Norwegian punk band whose name escapes me now and a Japanese trio called Mirrors.

Someday All The Adults Will Die! is on until the 4th November. Go! Now! It's free!

Kerbdog at The Garage

It's been 15 years since their last album, 'On The Turn', was released. It's been 14 years since they split up. Aside from the occasional reunion gig, mainly in Ireland, Kerbdog have remained off-radar for a fucking long time. So, when rumours on Twitter began surfacing about a one-off London date I just about pissed my pants. In the year that I've witnessed reformations from Refused, Ugly Kid Joe, Black Sabbath and Soundgarden (I missed out on At The Drive-In, but that's an open wound I can't talk about too much), adding Kerbdog to the list was an opportunity not to be missed. And that's how this whole weekend came about.

A lot of people had travelled a long way for the gig, outside in the queue we got chatting to two lads from Stafford about '90s music and waiting forever to see Kerbdog. It seemed to be a common theme. It also made me laugh how specific the age range was, everyone was in their late 20s or early 30s. There was certainly no need for the '14s and over' comment on the ticket, it's highly unlikely anyone under the age of 25 would know who they were.

It was also very funny how excited a bunch of grown-up girls and boys can get when they finally get to see something they never thought would happen. The atmosphere in The Garage was like Christmas. A group of about eight dudes were so excited they came dressed in matching Scooby Doo costumes, one even stage dived.

It was an awesome set mainly made up of 'On The Turn' tracks, with a few from their debut thrown in too, and I enjoyed a great barrier view down the front. When they played 'Sally' the crowd went absolutely mental, in fact, it's been a long time since I've seen so many people crowd surfing at the same time. There were a couple of fuck ups, of course, and the band looked pretty worn out afterwards - then again so did the crowd - but you wouldn't think it had been so long since they were touring band.

View from the front

Kerbdog's Cormac Battle and Dan

Rough Trade

Independent record shops are awesome, but are sadly dying off. I always try and seek one out when I'm visiting a city - cos they're the only places that have them these days - and I always buy something. I can't help myself, it's like crack to me.

Before I get into how awesome Rough Trade is, let me do my preachy thing about why you should buy independent. They have a wider and better selection of music than you will find in HMV, because they stock more than just that pile of bilge played by Radio 1. They sell more than just major label releases. They have proper genre sections. They stock vinyl. The staff are actually interested in and know stuff about music. You can buy something you can look at and hold in your hand! Oh and they don't tell their staff to cover up their tattoos.

As record shops go, Rough Trade is one of the sweetest experiences I've had in recent years - second only to Amoeba Music. They have a punk/hardcore section, American/Canadian section, they've got some cool music documentaries, a decent book section and 7" and 12" racks. Impressively, they even have a tape section, all independent releases, with some beautifully packaged. I love just trawling through the racks, looking at album covers, letting band names jump out at me. I came away with '119' by Trash Talk, 'Couple Tracks' by Fucked Up and a stunning Sex Pistols re-issue with foldout sleeve. I could've bought much, much more.

Other little touches that make Rough Trade special are the old school photo booth, and its black and white pics that adorn the walls, and hand prints,signatures from Billy Bragg and Nick Cave. Apparently Sonic Youth have also signed the ceiling somewhere, so spotting those squiggles is a game I'm planning for my next visit.

Looking suitably rough outside Rough Trade East.
I'd just washed my hair with tea tree shower gel.
I wouldn't recommend it.
I would recommend a trip here though, you can find it just off Brick Lane.

Awesome haul of goodies picked up over the weekend.
Items of note include Sex Pistols 'God Save the Queen'
 re-issue 7" - well it is Jubilee year -
 and '119' from Trash Talk.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Challenge #15: Sarah vs Snowboarding

Way before this blog and my list of things to do before 30 came along, learning how to snowboard was the one and only thing I really wanted to do before my milestone birthday. It's always looked like such a cool and fun sport, for years I've been saying I'll get around to learning at some point, but I've never actually done anything about it. Luckily, this list gave me the push I needed and so I booked myself onto a course that would teach me how to snowboard in a day at Tamworth SnowDome.

Up at 5.45am to be in Tamworth for 8am.
Someone get me caffeine. Now.

My previous snowboarding experience consisted of a one-hour taster session at Swadlincote Ski Slope a couple of years back, so there were two things I knew for certain about the course I was going to take: it would be awesome fun and it would hurt.

After collecting boots, helmet and a board, I stomped my way clumsily upstairs to meet my instructor, AT, and the other people on the course. There were only five of us, so it was a nice little group, although I was the only one who wasn't a dude. Later I noticed there were only two other women snowboarding that day, which I think is a real shame.

These are my snowboarding moon boots.
You have to do them up really tight to protect your
ankles, but it means you have no choice
but to walk like a robot. I added my own sound
effects as I walked along, but I think that's optional.

Boards at the ready. The floating head
you can see to the right belongs to a guy called Simon.
He smashed his knee into the wall during the
morning session, so he didn't get to finish the course.

Before we got onto the slope, we ran through the basic techniques. It turns out snowboarding is all about your toes, heels and head, so it helps if you can forget you have arms. Obviously that's easier said than done, especially when you fall over and you're natural reaction is to put your arms out to stop yourself. AT referred to this as something your stupid monkey body does that your brain struggles to override.

Toes and heels are basically the different ways you balance on the edges of the board and act as the brake, while all of the steering is done just by moving your head. Sounds weird, is weird, but it works. I found it easier to get the balance right on my toes to begin with and picked that up a lot quicker than the heels technique, where you have to stick your arse out at a completely unnatural angle.

My little board.
You have to put them down the wrong way
when you're on the snow so they don't slide away.

On the slopes.
You can tell I've been working hard as my
board's covered in snow. You would think 
it'd just slide off, but it sticks to it.
You have to slam it on the ground to get it off.

This is Dan having a rest

Here I am working on my heels with help from AT

Look, no hands!
This is me snowboarding on my own!

The key to balancing on your heels is down to how you stick your bum out. I struggled with it at first, partly because you can see you're going down a steep hill and partly because I couldn't get my posture right. AT's professional trick to assist people with the posture problem is to give them a wedgie. Yes, he gave me a wedgie. But it worked!

Just before lunch I was struggling to piece the different techniques together, but after a food and caffeine refuel I came back out and completely nailed it. I did a run of the middle and bottom sections of the slope, switching from heels to toes and back again and made it down to the bottom without ending up on my arse. It was a proud moment that I marked with a celebratory 'FUCK YEAH!!!!'

Then it was time to tackle the slope from the very top. It was pretty terrifying when I got up there and noticed it has a steep curve to the left, we'll refer to it as the death zone. AT came up with me to show me how to negotiate the curve of the slope without killing myself - the tactic is pretty simple really, keep to the right! I think this was the only time out of the whole day that I actually felt nervous, but once I pushed off I felt more confident about what I was doing and before I knew it I'd heeled and toed (that's how you do turns, but you're not allowed to call them turns) it all the way to the bottom of the slope on my own. I couldn't believe I'd actually done it.

It's a shame this picture's really dark because I'm
doing an awesome bit of snowboarding here
completely unaided. You can see AT following me
to make sure I don't kill myself on the way down.

This is how you celebrate when you've gone from the very
top of the slope to bottom without falling over.
The award for awesomeness goes to me.

Look at the dirty skiers behind. Urgh.

After my triumphant run we had a quick coffee break before we did our last runs. By this time I was completely knackered, but determined to keep going until the end. Unfortunately, on one of my last goes from the top of the slope, I got up a little too much speed and found myself straying into the death zone.

Even though I've learnt how to slow myself down and how to change direction, I panicked, started flapping my arms about and inevitably fell on my arse. My right cheek took the full force of the impact and at the time of writing - two days after the incident - is still killing me. It knocked my confidence a little, but I know exactly what I did wrong. So, I got back up and did another run, despite the pain, because I wanted to end the day on a good note.


Snowboarding for an entire day is absolutely exhausting and I'm now aching all over, but it's one of the best days out I've ever had and I wish I'd got round to doing it sooner. The course covered the three different levels that take you to a recreational standard and I passed all three, so I am really pleased with myself. It's been a really worthwhile challenge, as I now have a skill I can use whenever I want and am already plotting when I can get back to Tamworth. I should also say that the staff at SnowDome, particularly AT, were lovely and really encouraging.

We both passed the course and are now recreational
snowboarders, which means we're allowed on
the slopes unsupervised!

My snowboarding experience in numbers:

3,000 - number of calories I burned by taking the day course
3 - times I went down the slope from the very top!
1 - run from the very top without falling over
50 - guestimated number times I fell over in total
50 - number of times I put my arms out as I fell when I shouldn't have done
50 - probable number of times I said 'fuck'
1 - can of Red Bull to give me wings
2 - massive coffees to keep me going
2 - the surprisingly low number of bruises I ended up with, one on my knee and one on my arse
3 - number of levels I passed to get to recreational standard

Verdict: probably the best WIN yet!