No, not some spiritual journey...I haven't found myself or the answer to world peace. Sadly.
Nope, I have pootled (or bimbled, if you like...I have just introduced my friend Katy to this word) up and down the country like a loon, visiting various peeps and spending an awful lot of money (that I don't have) on petrol.
Ok, so it's been more than a week now since I got back, but I've admitted previously that I am lazy, so no further apologies.
Friday I headed down to my parents' house, in order that I was in that neck of the woods for my pals' wedding on the Saturday. The journey down took eons. It took me two and a half hours to travel about 26 miles...it being the Friday of a bank holiday weekend, the A1(M) was closed in both directions due to accidents. Of course I didn't realise this until it was too late.
Still, I have a super-cool new gadget for my car. It's a cassette tape that you plug into your iPod so that it plays through the car stereo. I already have an iTrip; however I have come to realise that this is rubbish for long journeys as you go in and out of radio reception areas and various local stations; it is also rubbish for short journeys as it is too much of a clart on. Only really useful when you're going round a friend's house and they have a crap taste in music and an alarm clock radio then!
Anyway, moving on...so, I was armed with this new-fangled cassette tape. Tee hee. Oxymoron? Therefore, although the traffic was a pain in the arse (it was one of those traffic jams where people were actually getting out of their cars), I was really quite enjoying singing along. I had on a playlist I made a couple of years ago (sufficiently long ago for me to have forgotten what was on it) and was having a good old wail and keeping chipper. Have a look at what I was listening to if you like:
I haven't even edited it for the sake of my pride (and I'm not sure, when it's generally in alphabetical order by song, why some songs seem to be in the wrong place!)...there were some corkers in there (and also some terribly saddo moments, for some reason a plenitude of Tori Amos, and stuff that I was sticking in there because it was newish to me and I was trying it out/familiarising myself...like Anthony and the Johnsons etc. Lots of omissions, as I haven't really got around to putting my whole music collection on my iPod, especially newer (to me) stuff. But it holds about 7,500 tracks and there's already 6,151 on there...I just checked; what a loser...and I haven't updated at all in over a year. Cripes...I really am going to have to be very brutal in my editing)...very eclectic and something for everyone...I'm sure the rest of the traffic jam appreciated it! I even got two separate cheers from the other side of the road for my singing efforts!
I decided that Willie Nelson's version of 'Across the Borderline' is now on my list of funeral songs...no, I wasn't getting that desperate being cooped up in my car, but every time I hear it, I always think what a beautiful, sad song it is. My dad reckons I'm morbid for deciding what songs I want playing at my funeral, but I don't see why. I don't have to think about that all important 'first dance' song do I?? FYI, I want a trio of songs, the first being 'Across the Borderline', the third being Stevie Wonder's 'A Place in the Sun'...I'm not yet sure what the middle one will be...I did think about 'Across the Universe', but maybe that's just because they were next to each other in my playlist and I was getting a little too much into the theme! My mate Ben's funeral song is to be the dancey reworking of Womack and Womack's 'Teardrops'...Love Station or some such like. Well, it's upbeat eh? But I want deep and meaningful shit, man! I thought, when I first heard that song as a kid (the original one), that the lyrics were “eardrops in my eyes”...painful!
It just happened to be the hottest day in recorded British history. Ok, so I exaggerate, but suffice to say that I have arms that don't match...I look like a one woman Benetton ad!
I eventually got to the 'rents' house and was immediately handed a beer as soon as I got in...now that's what I'm talking about! It was a Landlord as well...good call Dad. We had a good old bond over music and I finally traipsed off to bed.
The next morning I met my pals at Alton Station and we travelled in convoy (can two cars be called a convoy?) down to Southampton, to a Travel Inn where we would get ready for the aforementioned wedding. Rather disgustingly, my single room cost exactly the same as the doubles my friends were in, i.e. I paid twice as much just for not being shacked up (and, as Johnny Nash put it, and the sensible amongst us know, “Love ain't nothin' but a monkey on your back”. Ok, so I'm not really sure what this means, but I like it nevertheless). I also lost the money I had paid for the hen 'do', which I couldn't afford to go to. I shall, however, curtail my rant on that one, as I have much more to say.
And so, to the wedding itself...
It was lovely...as much as I am hating the whole marriage shebang. I have known both bride and groom since I was 16 (yup, they have been together that long!), and they were married in a country pub garden on a beautifully sunny day (thank goodness I got to experience one without being caged up in a small tin box, i.e. my car!), by a friend of theirs, whom I also know (they'd done the whole registry office thing a few days earlier, so Dave was on full vicar duties at this one!). The groom arrived in a Ferrari...we all just thought it was some twat showing off and revving past until we realised it was him. The bride looked fab...her hair was rock solid and completely immovable with lashings of hairspray. Following the vows, as they walked back down the 'aisle' (there wasn't really one, as it was a pub garden, like I said), there was a piece of music played. You could see a ripple of recognition throughout the crowd...yes, indeed it was the Baywatch theme tune. Inspired!
And so, that's now two of the group of four of us married off. The third (erm, not me) is engaged. And then there's me as token (uber-single) lezzie! This was the first time I had met my pal's fiance. And jolly nice he was. He had a touch of the Louis Theroux about him (a good thing) and could converse endlessly about music...tick.
Then it was to Velvet (the furthest away bar, in order to try and avoid the crowds post-gig...so we could actually get a drink). Somehow I managed to find a vein in the bar queue and was served almost straight away...superb! It was a great evening. Not really for any explicable reason...it was just lots of hanging round outside, drinking, chatting and people-watching. Totally laid-back and very much my sort of evening. I also met a redeeming lesbian...the one that got away! Her name was Sally, and she seemed, on first meeting, not to have any major mental health complaints, and was actually rather attractive. Shock horror! She was a friend of a friend we bumped into. So, I was chatting to her for a bit...then we went into Via Fossa and I was talking to her pals...a really canny lesbian couple (maybe there are some ok ones out there?). Suddenly, it was 3.00am! I honestly don't know how that happened. But a few of us went outside for a cigarette and then they wouldn't let us back in because it was closing time. I had no idea it was that late, and was planning on chatting to Sally some more. Alas, I didn't even say goodbye.
The next day, all Pride-d out, my pals headed across to a safari park for the day. As I had just arrived the previous evening and wasn't all Pride jaded like them, I decided to head into Canal Street on my own to check out the stalls and generally people-watch (a favourite activity of mine...particularly at events like Pride festivals...some right characters!). Half a pint in, I bumped into my friends Steph and Jo, so ended up tagging along with them for the rest of the day. Steph, who was straight when I met her (putting people into boxes...me?) in uni halls, is now out-lezzying me...she and Jo have been together for about 5 years now!
The next day, after a sedate evening at an Italian restaurant, it was back in my car (which is surviving rather well, despite still making funny noises and losing speed on any sort of incline!) and heading down to Folkstone. Yes, I know it doesn't make any sense to be going Gateshead-Farnham-Southampton-Manchester-Folkstone-Gateshead...but Manchester Pride is something of a ritual and I had planned to go there before I realised that it was the same weekend as my pals' wedding. And I wanted to see Gossip again too.
Folkstone...to visit another friend I've known since I was 16. So Katy has been living in Folkstone almost as long as I have been in Newcastle, but I have never yet visited her there (nor has she visited me, I hasten to add, although she does have a child to consider). In fact, I have only seen her once in those nine-ish years...although we have kept sporadically in touch via e-mail, MySpace, etc.
And it was very nice to see her. From initially being known as 'Katy the scary goth girl' (who, upon first meeting told me her plans to get her clitoral hood pierced), she really has grown. As, I suppose, is to be expected in over a decade!
There are no great stories to tell about my time at Katy's. She was even more skint than I (although today I have checked my bank balance...I have been avoiding doing so...and I am over my overdraft, with 11 days to go until pay day...which will then only just about take me back up to zero! Then when my mortgage payment etc. goes out, I'll be in the same boat again. Aargh! Any rich sugar mummies out there?), therefore most of the time was spent in the house...chatting etc. (she is one of the very few people who can probably out-talk me...this is some feat!).
I met her son, who is now five, for the first time...I have officially been introduced to the wonders of Ben 10! My favourite toy he had was called Upchuck...nice. Reminiscent of the Garbage Pail kids? Anyone remember them? I used to collect the stickers.
Obviously highly appropriate for an infant school-aged child...it may explain a lot!
So we did lots and lots of talking; about all sorts of things really. Like her current weight loss programme. As far as I can tell, this essentially means not eating. Sure, she has lost weight, but what a way to live your life. As long as you are not seriously endangering your health (I mean in terms of being overweight), then why not live it, and enjoy it, while you can? So I questioned her quite a bit about why being thin was so important to her. I still don't really understand. Thankfully it is not something I personally obsess over...in fact, I find it wearying that everyone at work (when I'm there!) always seems to be on a diet. And it simply annoys me when people constantly 'compliment' me when I have lost weight. My weight goes up and down...just because I don't monitor it. I go through phases where I can't possibly eat enough, and others where food just does not interest me. And often, when they are telling me I look great, it is because I have been ill!
Why does society prize sticky out, pointy, boniness? It doesn't make sense to me. Look at art...the most beautiful paintings have always been of curvaceous, rubenesque women (the clue is in the word, I guess...coined after the voluptuous women in Peter Paul Rubens' paintings):
This, in my opinion, is how women should look. Curves are sexy goddamnit! Shock horror, we see some cellulite...really, ask yourself what makes that unattractive? Society has conditioned us to believe it to be totally abhorrent...but why so? Some flesh on those bones is the very epitome of fecundity, if we are thinking in evolutionary terms...it means a woman is capable of nourishing and sustaining life within her. And since we're all only, basically, here to reproduce...
Last word on the whole topic of body image...did you know (I'm sure you did, as it's a pretty well-known fact I think) that if Barbie, with her proportions, was a real human being, she would not be physically capable of conceiving, or even menstruating? In fact, she'd probably fall over! Ha! Just in case you never saw this great advert:
On with the show...
Katy, whilst I was at hers, introduced me to http://pandora.com/. Which I LOVE! It's based on something called the Music Genome Project, in which, basically, a load of songs, from a load of different genres of music, were taken and analysed for their musical properties...you know, like folk roots, acoustic guitars, strong female vocal, minor key tonality, electronica influences...whatever. There are squillions of these 'factors'. So, you put in a song, or artist, you like, and it plays you stuff that it thinks is similar or that you might also like. I have (typically) put in a long and varied list, ranging from country to rock to trip-hop, and lots of things in between. And it does play some duds...but mostly it's pretty good. It plays like a radio station (but attuned to your personal tastes), and you can say 'yay' or 'nay' to each song as is plays, which further informs the music they will play you. Great idea methinks.
The things I have bookmarked (to check out further at some later date...when I get around to it) so far include:
Glitter Mini 9; Supreme Beings of Leisure; 100 Watt Smile; Hazard County Girls; Giant Drag...oh, tonnes more, I can't be bothered listing them all! (I would link to my bookmarks page for y'all to see, but it has my e-mail address on, and I'm not that foolish in a place where anyone can read this!). The song it is playing at the moment, hilariously, is by Dean Ford and the Gaylords!
Oh, and it has some great artist bios and album reviews too...what more could you want? I think the only artist I've tried to put in so far that they didn't have was The Need...so there really is a copious amount of stuff on there; although it does seem to play some 'thumbs upped' songs more often than other stuff.
The only snag is that you have to be a US citizen to use it. Pah! Just stick in a US zip code and you're away. Easy peasy. Katy disclosed that she just put in 90210...this amused me. I, however, have decided that Austin is where it's at, so have gone for a Texas post code. But you could be from the OC, or even Alaska, if you like.
The other music-related thing for this'un is my discovery that you can get Limewire Pro for free (if you use Limewire, anyway)...all you have to do is type 'Limewire Pro' into the search box on Limewire itself! And bingo...faster downloads (without forking out)...yay! Yes, I do download music...but this is not something I feel too guilty about, as I am also one of the music industry's most prolific cd buyers! I mostly use Limewire to check stuff out and try before I buy, or for if I only want one song by a particular artist, that kind of thing. That's my justification.