Sunday, 27 December 2009

"GIVE US TINA TURNER": festive dj-ing for the over fifties.

Christmas away from the Shire. Not really ever happened before. Let alone combined with winter sports. Still, no anticipatory thoughts could have geared me up for the Christmas day spectacle that, had it happened over 2000 years ago, might have taken the shine off Baby Jesus for a bit.

So, after a six course dinner and several glasses of Gluhwein, people had begun to get a little tired of shouting out "YOU SCUMBAG YOU MAGGOT", all in the name of festive Pogue spirit, natch. The Christmas CD was getting onto it's seventh rotation and it was clearly the best time for Mum to crack out 'party CD 2' playlist on her iPod. After a few civilised nods to efforts from The Kinks, the best of the Beatles' back catalogue over games of Jenga, I, for some inexplicable reason, started demanding Mud's 'Tiger Feet'.

So, over to the sound system armed with Mum and two new friends of a similar generation to entertain/embarrass teenagers with what Dad refers to as 'bopping'. Once 'Tiger Feet' had finished, however, Sting and The Police's 'Roxanne' popped up on shuffle - that's one hell of a playlist there.

One thing led to another and I was nearly dying from exhaustion keeping up with the dancing queens (thankfully Abba was, in this case, excluded). They, meanwhile, were owning the length of the bar with some side-stepping, air-guitaring, pointy-handing synchronicity. There's a reason clubs used to be called Dance Halls.

It had got to the point where only a bit of sloppy Carole King action would calm them down. However, the opening bars of 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow' went down like a lead balloon, to the mixed cries of 'you're a crap DJ' from my brother and 'GIVE US TINA' from the three-strong crowd. I left them with some Tina, which sounded surprisingly like Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 'Date With The Night' and wheezed up the stairs to bed.

Just as I was drifting off I heard the catcalling of 'In The Bleak Midwinter' down below. Well, it was a White Christmas.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Bowlface Poleface

The sport gene, because obviously such a thing totally exists, has always been absent in the Bowlface pool. My greatest achievement was making it into the top group for hockey at school, and that was solely because my violent wielding of the sticks could only be dealt with by the sporty girls. This alone has had me marked as 'the sporty one' in the family - pretty much representative of our sporting prowess.
Therefore, the notion of a mass family venture to the Dolomites for skiing purposes needed to be seen to be believed. Whilst other chalet guests were arriving with reflective visor helmets, all-in-one jumpsuits (actually, never advisable on a skier of any skill) and their own, foot-moulded boots; we happily got on with wobbling around in the hire shop.
First morning, kitted up and almost looking convincing, we headed down to the ski school to join a load of tiny children and Daniella, our Italian instructor. Considering he had probably once been a 'bucket baby', mewing happily by snow ramps from infancy and parallel-turning down the slopes from the age of two and a half, his patience with us was remarkable. Not least as I sped backwards down the slope, arse out, and landed head first in a pile of snow, a la Bridget Jones, instantly after clicking into my skis.
As the morning went on I almost recovered my dignity as Daniella taught us the 'bars-ick position' and how to turn towards the 'vall-ay'.
By the afternoon Bro and I had made our way up to the blue run, down which my arse also had a large amount of contact with the snow. In between avoiding poles to the face, wrestling with ski lifts, skis flying down slopes of their own accord and counting leg bruises, like a seven year old in the bath, we'd managed to tackle the slopes with a kind of graceless ability by midweek.
Bombardino (hot alcoholic custard with cream on top)-induced or otherwise, I'm hooked. Skiing, 1, Bowlface anti-sport gene, nil.

Friday, 18 December 2009

ShireSnow

They don't know how lucky they are.


Yadda Yadda, I'm bored of the snow already. In a Shire context, it means slow roads, not enough of it to warrant any fun snow activity and being really cold. As for being in a Dolomite context...well we'll both find out next week.

The white stuff has pretty much summed up a totally Shire week. With the exception of nice parent-provided food and love and a bit of social activity as only these parts know best (watching David Attenborough and amazing kids' movies over 'chav deserts' - more on that later), it's been one long slog at Bicester Village and some guilt-ridden attempts to make a dissertation.

Bicester Village, as Bowlface regulars may know, provides an unwelcome second home to returning students and 'cheap' shopping for upper middle class types and tourists with dubious money. My top customers of the week were the Russians who paid for £700's worth of fur items in cash and the Iranian who fanned herself with sterling whilst propping a fur-clad thigh on the counter.

Back to the amazing kids' movies. Actually, Where The Wild Things Are is far more of a kids' film for adults - take a child along and it'll probably be confused throughout and thoroughly miserable by the end. I'm not going to stress this point too much; once Dazed and Confused have based an entire issue on Spike Jonze and Maurice Sendak's collaborative efforts Bowlface isn't really one to go there.

What the film did inspire, however, was a furthering of a onesie longing that has grown on me over the last few weeks. A onesie, in layman's terms, is essentially a babygro for adults. An all-in-one, jumpsuit, bodystocking kind of thing. I think the obsession started when I was hunting around for Baby Jesus outfits, and has subsequently grown through ebay hunting, onesie conversations with fellow fans, looking at the American Apparel website too much and, of late, the severe cold and my Mum emailing me onesie-related Womens' Hour news.

Max's wolf/wild thing suit in the film has taken this a whole step further. The onesie of dreams now has ears, fingerless gloves, monster feet, and, preferably, a tail attached. Oh, and it's got to be made out of snuggly snuggly fluff. It's all I want for Christmas.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Obligatory Festive Post

Technically, it's Boxing Day today in the Shirehome of Bowlface activity. This is because yesterday was fake Christmas, happening a good fortnight or so early due to festive travelling on Baby Jesus' actual birth. Double Christmas = good times.
Actually, it's more like triple or even quadruple Christmas, as I've been milking most Christmas-related excuses dry over the last couple weeks. Not least being the Christmas party, which we later discovered the best theme of a party ever. It's totally easy to do, I got to wear a nappy, like, comfiest thing, and we watched a hell of a lot of George Michael and weird Bowie festive videos.
Second Christmas activity came in the form of a carol service, usually one of my favourite parts of the season. However, outside of the Shire it would seem that students don't really sing and the festive spirit isn't quite right - even if there is an abundance of Greggs' mince pies. You live and learn. On the plus side, my mate was playing in the wind band, which was led by a seriously socially awkward conductor, which always makes for smiles.
The 'real' deal, however, was Fake Christmas. Essentially a cramming together of the normal two weeks of Christmas paraphernalia into a day. We went and got a tree in the morning, had decorated it to Band Aid by lunchtime and, after a walk, a load of rare beef and some slightly Cava-induced present opening, we could have created a music video. If Bowlface was of the sentimental blogging type, there would probably be something about the real message of Christmas and family love inserted here.

Friday, 11 December 2009

"Aye! We've cracked it!": Pretending to be in 'The Italian Job' with a taxi driver.

You'd be amazed how much studenty crap you can fit in the back of that thing.

Granted, this is a continuation on the ‘fun things that happen during transportation’ theme of recent posts. Possibly a reflection on the sad state of my life / sense of humour, but such are the affairs of bowlface.
So I had to get a cab, sober, in the middle of the day. A fairly rare experience as it goes, as Newcastle is a tiny place and I’m in a serious relationship with my bike. However, this was made practically into a memory for life due to the driver.
Didn’t quite catch his name, but he’d been in service 38 years, had a light gold Merc. with cream leather interior and was a king of taxicab travel. Today he too was presented with a lifelong experience, I’d like to think, in the form of a military parade.
Horses, police, tanks, soldiers and nationalists a go-go were occupying and lining the streets of Newcastle, with buses, cabs and cars getting progressively slower and closer together. It was gridlock, and I had a bus to catch in ten minutes. It was also the closest thing I’ve come to a real-life car chase. Yes.
Mr Taxi Man was also the Geordiest person I’ve ever come across, with the exception of the weird locksmith who merely grunted, chuckled and probably made inappropriate jokes about keyholes – all I could identify was “stairs”. When he saw the gridlock he treated it as a mission of mega proportions. I’ve never heard the word “gan” more often whilst he provided me with a brilliant running commentary of his Police-avoiding and bus-deceiving plans. As the fifteen minute journey continued he got increasing more animated, called a policeman ‘son’ and swore repeatedly at the poor souls who had tried to take a shortcut and got even more backed up. There were a few evil chuckles too.
By the time we were nearing the bus station he was totally, utterly triumphant because we had ‘cracked it!’. “Over The Moon”, apparently, which was certified by a happy little whistle. I reckon he was temporarily the taxi driver equivalent of Knight Rider in his mind.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Metro: transcending generations in beautiful ways

I rarely take Newcastle's inner-city public transport train system, a.k.a., The Metro, wunder-invention of the eighties; so when I do, I invariably witness pretty special things.
Whether it's 15 year-old Geordies oranged-up to the bleached hairline on a Friday night or old women eating Greggs out the bag, surrounded by Fenwick shoppers or commenting on my shoes, it's a pretty good opportunity to people watch.
Today I saw possibly the greatest thing I've ever seen on those funny little trains. The focus of attention was a small happy baby, and the two competing forces for it's laughter were old men. Neither of these varieties are in any way rare on the metro, but the combo today was incredible.
I was stood opposite the first old man who was taking pleasure in entertaining the baby. Whilst casually trying to hide the typically obscene American Apparel advert on the back of my Vice magazine, it appeared that he wasn't remotely interested with the latex-covered crotch of the model but with bending his forefinger at the baby.
He also happened to be wearing a bobble hathat with ears which were tied under his chin, a suit, shirt and tie and some quite incredible loafers. I probably could have flipped to the fashion shoot of the magazine to show him just how cool he was. Anyway, the baby and the man were in this beautifully symbiotic relationship of joy, when old man number two comes on the scene.
I didn't get quite such a good look at this chap, he was about four metres away from me and his elderly rival, and two from the baby. His act was not finger waggling but a series of whimsical rhetorical questions, like "ooh, what was that?" when my phone bleeped. A weaker technique, I think you'll agree. Old man number one OWNED that baby's love.
Unfortunately, I had to get off just as this was getting interesting, and as old man number two was getting into his stride. By God, imagine what might've happened by the time the train had reached Monkseaton, eh?

Friday, 20 November 2009

Oh, to be the plaything of werewolves and vampires

Meeting the inlaws - they want to suck your blood, yeah!
November's been a quiet month for blogging. Mainly because I've been stupidly busy, and so very little of blogworthy action has really occurred.
Sure, I discovered a few new food shops, and was reverted to a child-like state of not knowing what a lot of jungle-like looking produce was, but until something really major happens (bigger than a butcher chopping a neck off a sheep for my tea with a ban-saw), bowlface stays pretty quiet.
However, last night broke this drought as I went to the 12.05 am screening of the latest effort from The Twilight Saga. It was called New Moon, there was a cloudy sky, but that wasn't stopping any Robert Pattinson fans or otherwise - myself being in the latter category - turning up in practically PJs to watch this new blockbuster before anyone else. Seriously - we booked our tickets back in October and there were only a few left - it's a big deal.
Gotta say, was a little disappointed by the lack of small goth turn out. Instead, the massive corporate cinema was full to brim with university students, with more JWUKFABDAHLING teeshirts and other odd slogans on jersey tracksuit bottoms than you could shake a stick at.
Granted, it was bedtime o' clock. It's also Newcastle. The Geordies were in tiny waistcoats and bodycon dresses and heels. God knows why - the only men in the cinema were reluctant boyfriends, consoling themselves bitterly with nachos.
So, after several hours of queuing we arrived at the screen entrance where a terrified man was desperately trying to keep control, shouting things like "YOU'RE IN L6, TAKE THE FIRST STAIRCASE" to hundreds of hyper women. I bet he'd worked the Sex and The City launch and thought he'd nailed it. But no, my friend, teen sci-fi lovers are a very different bunch.
Watching the film amongst such a crowd was quite, quite hilarious. Think canned laughter and then some. When the supposedly 16-year old Jacob whipped off his shirt to reveal every muscle known and otherwise to man, (to stop the bleeding of the heroine's head, natch - he's a werewolf so, unlike vampire Edward, he didn't immediately want to eat her in a sexual-tension-y kinda way) I was suddenly back, being six, and watching Man O Man! as a massive pervy "PHWOAR" went up.
When creepy vampire boy surprise-proposes to the same heroine, the screaming was even louder. Every joke and amusingly cringe shot in the film received a bucket load of chuckles. Best film-watching crowd, ever.
As it stands, I'm still very much in the Jacob camp. Fans will appreciate this reference. After all, why would you want a weird skinny bloke with sparkly skin and constant anxiety when you could have a love able, buff. fuzzy giant werewolf, huh? It's hardly surprising Robert Pattinson's grown a puberty beard in real life.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Bog off Gok, I've got a style adviser with much better facial hair.

My mystery stylist wouldn't call me "curvalicious", he'd tell me to put down the Greggs.

I'm a thoroughly independent shopper. This is due to a few good reasons. One, I normally pick stuff out that looks a lot better on, adapted or with a particular outfit. It's all about seeing potential where most people see dead people's hand-me-downs. Amongst the wrong crowd, this normally encourages such looks of disgust or terror that shopping becomes hugely destructive of any self-confidence. I'm better off checking the size of my arse in a mirror, sneaking the contents of the bag into the wardrobe without being seen and then whipping them out on a suitable occasion to applause.

Coming back to impress my lovable, but mainstream, fresher flatmates a couple years back with some early 90s stonewashed jeans, a pair of loafers and some jazz shoes after a successful charity shop raid, their looks of sheer horror deflated my retail buzz quicker than a chilled out puffer fish.

Number Two, such choices in attire invariably originate from stinky, messy jumbleholes. You need a certain stamina to put up with that. Any laggers get left behind.
Number Three, on the other hand, I get very sweaty in busy high street stores and waiting around for people in changing rooms nearly always ends in dehydration.
This is a shortened version of the list. Ultimately, I rarely rely on others to aid in style choices. Which probably explains a lot, but it's a risk I'm willing to take.

However, something funny happened the other night which really changed my mind on the whole affair. Chatting in the pub to a friend regarding my current indecision as to whether I should get my hair coloured in an extreme fashion or not, a small, but vital, interruption occurred.

An elderly Geordie chap - whose existence I wasn't even aware of prior to his contribution - cut me off halfway, announcing "ee leave yer hair alone, like." He went on to explain how I had a very "natral" look about me, and that my current mousy brown shouldn't be messed about with.
I've taken his advice.
Because really, maybe small old men are the way forward in the style stakes. Not understanding current trends, but the vital essentials of fashion - as in, what looks nice - makes for a pretty useful guide. I feel like hiring him to sit in my living room as I proceed to show him every item in my wardrobe to a show of cards judging wearability. A bit like Come Dine With Me.
He wouldn't do a Gok and shove me in a maxi dress, whilst rubbing his head in my boobs and giving me an over sized handbag.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Livin' a lie...my attempts to be part of the AU

Every Wednesday the majority of active young Newcastle university students don ludicrous fancy dress, imbibe an equally ludicrous amount of cheap alcohol and have a jolly nice time demonstrating their athletic prowess in a series of basic mating rituals.
Although this was something I took part in on a fairly regular basis in first year, with age comes wisdom and the downsides of going out with a fiver (two £2 trebles and £1 club entry) have far outweighed the economic benefits.
However, last night I was dragged out. The sporty flatmate has a smaller sibling up to stay and it was pretty much obligatory that we showed him a good time, AU (Athletic Union)style. So, abandoning hosiery for the first time in six weeks, putting as much makeup on as the average drag queen and trying to flex some muscle I embarked upon the AU experience.
A pint or two later, some army camouflage paint in dubious places and and I was almost in the swing of it. Getting caught up in Newcastle's Women's Rugby parade - dressed as babies, mums and grans - during some obligatory chanting: "he stuck his c*** into my q*** and I said get in, get out, stop f****** about you're playing for Newcastle now" and the ever popular, somewhat socio-politically dubious anti-"poly" ditties - and any kind of acceptance I'd begun to feel was rapidly vanishing away.
My pariah state once within the official AU club did have some brilliant comedy advantages, however. My favourite being the following conversation:
Rugby Boy: "Hey, what bar crawl are you on?"
Me: "errm scuba?"
R.B: "cool. I play rugby"
Me: "I see"
R.B: "So, scuba, huh?"
Me: "Yes. I don't actually dive, my flatmate's just the social sec. I don't do any sport of any kind"
R.B: "I'd go diving any time with you"
Me: "I don't dive."
Flatmate rescued me just before the inevitable lunge.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Radio One: encouraging my literary snobbery.

My Dad's been saying that Radio One has been dumbed down ever since I can remember. Sure, sometimes I am made to cringe a little by the tacky features and feigned ignorance of the ludicrously overpaid "DJs".
However, I 'tuned in' this morning to hear the ultimate in brilliantly unaware comedy. The conversation went as such:
Scott Mills: "I've been trying to read a bit more lately, and I've been told I ought to read Nineteen Eighty Four because it's a really intelligent book. Do you know if it's hard?"
Producer Becky: "Well, it's quite difficult to get into, but once you are, you're hooked."
Scott Mills: "What, like, Big Brother?"
Producer Becky: "Yeah!"

Comedy GOLD.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

"Err, with HONEY in?": Looking for Gerhard in Middlesbrough

Caught unaware at the moment of embarrassing Southern misunderstanding.



Despite claiming to love the North East, I've actually only really snooped around Newcastle and a bit of Northumberland. Went to the centre of Gateshead once, don't intend to go again, never been to Sunderland, etc etc. It's because up here Newcastle is like the center of everything, which is really saying something, and as a result I've really no need to go elsewhere.

However, when I discovered that Gerhard Richter, German realist artist extraordinaire, was showing in Middlesbrough, I figured it was bound to be a fun day out. All I knew of the place is that its inhabitants go by the name of 'Smoggies' and it had been unfortunately dubbed the worst town in the UK a couple of years back. I had a craving for greasy food and German artwork and I wanted to be satisfied.

The train took literally about a million years to get there. Not least because the line provides a nice sight-seeing tour of all the abandoned industrial sights of the North East along the way. Really should have taken a camera, but we're talking trailer parks and the kind of decaying industrial infrastructure you normally see around the made-up Hicksville-meets-dystopian-vision bit of theme parks. There was seaside too, which was nice. But essentially big disused towers, cranes, and the coincidence of grey clouds in the distance.

Once I'd arrived I saw a nuclear family set up ahead of me, except the father figure was smoking a joint. On the high street. My companion revealed that this was probably the best introduction to the place I was going to get and that we should be careful as my joke of an outfit may get us killed.

Anyway, we soon found the cultural oasis that is MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) with pleasant weird ambient music and a view over the totally mushed up Middlesbrough skyline. Oh, and some nice German artwork too.

But it's when we left that things got really interesting. It was getting to about 3.30pm, we were peckish to say the least and wandering around an unknown town ended up in a few places which looked dangerously like housing estates run by drug barons. After establishing that we were scared and even contemplated Maccy D's for a grease break (totally not greasy enough), we stumbled out of a tunnel to find the best street ever.

Four greasy spoon cafes, all claiming to do a weirder variety of international food than the last, and a few amazing charity shops. Going with the instinct that one eatery was completely rammed and the others as empty, we got involved with it and entered literally the hottest place in Middlesbrough. A film of grease smacked me in the face upon passing through the ribboned curtains, mmm.

After standing around getting in everybody's way for about forty seconds whilst trying to take off as many clothes as possible, two old ladies offered us up their seats whilst jabbering away to my smiley face. Then it was a matter of checking out the menu - when you can get a massive plate of full English for £1.80, the world really is your oyster. Opting for a couple of burgers, chips and a coke, all for under six pounds, I attempted to order without being totally conscious that I'd never felt more out of place. This was confirmed when I misheard the proprietor ask if I wanted onions for 'honey in'. Embarrassing to say the least.

We were joined at our table by a massive plate of gammon and a man accompanying it. Who munched, completely in silence, totally unaware of our presence. We wanted to stay for a £1.30 helping of jam roly-poly and custard, but the heat was getting near unbearable and we had to leave. I'll never go to a better cafe in my life.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

GIRLS ARROUD! : The Ladyboys come to Newcastle and I suffer a girlcrisis.

She's every woman, for sure, but is it all in her?


Since I was a teenager I've stared a Ladyboys of Bangkok flyer that's pinned up opposite my bed. Last night I finally satisfied all curiosity and desire and scuttled in, late, and round a lot of tightly packed-in tables full of large Geordie women as the Mile High tour - the latest in the ten year tradition of Ladyboy international performance - was taking off.

Although the tour is loosely based around a different theme each year, in this case, a papier-mache plane nose, I gather the premise of the show remains the same, as does the audience lure: Thai men, dressed as ladies, of questionable genitalia, miming badly to western pop hits in spangly outfits.

Hell yeah. It was like a combination of Strictly Come Dancing, America's Next Top Model and that new reality program on E4 about drag queens. Although welcomed in by what was obviously a man in an air hostess outfit, the first song which clearly marked the Ladyboys out as the mean, lean, all-woman machine they are was "Don'tCha" of Pussycat Doll fame. Never mind my non-existent girlfriend, I wish I was hot like them.

It was confusing beyond belief. Glossy, tumbling locks which were clearly attached at the follicle, judging by the amount of head-flicking, breasts that clearly weren't made out of chicken fillet and in some cases, hips that put mine well to shame.

Just as you were beginning to wonder where they tucked all their manbits, out comes a Kylie tribute in leotards cut so small that it wasn't just a Mollywood that was going on down there -something else must have been waxed off in the process. By the time the Dolly Parton 9-5 strip-tease number, in which suits are whipped off to reveal skimpy bikinis, was through, I was seriously considering abandoning all pretty clothes and make-up. If I have no hope of looking as good as a man in a bikini, what point is there in even trying?

But for every convincing mangina, there were a series of comedy drag acts and woman-to-man activity to confuse you even further. Namely, the "Robert/Roberta" situation in which one person performs a duet in a seriously technical costume, and the Frank Sinatra cover in which an arguably questionable woman turns into a man by the end. Impressive stuff.

However, the perk of the night was the Ladyboy's dedication to their 'ferverent city'. Several incomprehensible Geordie tunes - the aforementioned clan hanging next to us were shouting out the lyrics, I think "lads and lassies" and "brown" was mentioned - and a hell of a lot of stripey shirts later and it was evident that those on stage weren't the weird ones anymore. Maybe I should just go the whole hog - become a man, start drinking Newcastle Brown Ale and learn some local songs, they seemed less confused than I did.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

You Lose, X-Factor!

Like Fame, but so much cuter.


So, I did a recent interview with amazing pop band of 2009, Passion Pit, and they enlightened me on so much more than what goes down on the tour bus.

There's this children's choir in Staten Island who are totally incredible. And really addictive. (And appear on Passion Pit's latest album, Manners) I've got about a million things to do right now and yet I'm just sat here, listening to the PS22 chorus on YouTube and blogging about them, enraptured. It's crazy.

Basically, they're all about ten, epitomise just how fun it is to be a kid and cover incredibly brilliant songs.

But they're totally loving it. Lady Gaga's 'Just Dance' (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0FPZolbYns&feature=related) is completely eradicated of rubber leotard smut and the fact it's about getting thoroughly inebriated because of the cute dance moves by the two soloists and the slightly chubby kid at the back going mental with pure pleasure.

Then they switch to Bjork, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKPC-T3jjRg) and are clearly as touched by the music to the extent they're squishing their little faces up with joy. It's so unpretentious, there's no X-Factor snob stories, a few handmade matching tee shirts and I really want to be part of it. Hell, they even made Tori Amos's botoxed face shed tears. Now that's power.

Seriously, PS22 are my new favourite band. Regina Spektor, Beyonce, Coldplay, The Cure, even a Christmas version of Destiny's Child's 'Independent Women' - "Throw those presents at me!" They're the aural equivalent of Prozac.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Pretending to be Heathcliff


Yes, I am back in studentdom and, according to all cliche, should be rolling around in a cesspit of a bed, groaning, with my mobile phone stuck to my cheek as it sends off its seventh snooze alarm.


However, despite the previous post demonstrating just how much of a college movie life I lead, I am awake, dressed, and full of the joys of bleak late September and blogging.


This is because I went for a run at 8.49 this morning. Perfectly timed so as to avoid anyone making their way to lectures, and early enough to stop me procrastinating, my feeble excuse for a jog furthered my love of Newcastle; not least because of a Geordie wonderland known as the Town Moor.


Yes, just out of the centre of the city is a massive patch of land, (bigger indeed than Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath put together - suck on that one, Romantics) which is frequented by joggers, cyclists, dog walkers and most brilliantly, cows.


Therefore, starting my jogging circuit through the angry gridlock of yummy mummy Jesmond traffic - a wonderful freedom to pant deliriously past Chelsea Tractors - across the Great North Road and into the freedom of big skies, morning sunrise and long grasses by the six minute mark is my preferred wake-up call.


The cows are incredibly tame, and for a Shire bird there's something very comforting about the possibility of patting a curly-haired forehead with the landscape of St James' Park, tower blocks and Gateshead in the background. Added to the fact that any sweat is immediately combated by a bracing North-East wind, and it's practically perfect.


A bypass through the alleys behind the redbrick terraces of my humble abode, and I've basically turned into Billy Elliot. The previously gym-only trainers have now been marred with khaki cow poo, sure, as have my socks and lower calf (bud-um-bum-ching), but I think that's a fair price to pay.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

My life is like a Geordie college movie.

Ha, ok, so the college-movie state was ironically referenced in that title. But there's nothing like a bit of Freshers' Week action in a very small city as an unwilling student Unionist to make you feel that there should be a punk-pop whiny soundtrack to all those little red bricks.

Essentially, what with one thing and another, I've spent the last four days in Newcastle not actually ticking off anything on my to-do list because I keep bumping into people. Which is really nice, but after spending half an hour trying to get from the Union building to where Joan, my bike, was locked up 200 yards away I'm starting to worry about doing any kind of academic work at all...

On the plus side, the other thing I'd forgotten about Newcastle was quite how brilliantly Geordie it is. Sounds stupid, I know, but three months in the south clearly has some impact. I had to slowly wheel Joan down Northumberland Street it was so blimmin' busy. Mainly because there were a group of "cheerleaders" grinding, quite ironically I thought, to dance music containing the lyrics 'I don't mean to be disrespectful'. When you'd got past those there were the Greggs queues, the old lady trolleys and buggies and Primark bags and buskers and the rest. How I'd underestimated the lunch rush I've no idea.

Anyway, onto the market and even before I'd got in a guy came out of his white van to tell me I'd locked Joan up wrongly, as "you'd just have to loop it o'er tha seat, pet, and you'd be haway, like". He was, of course, quite right. However it was most disconcerting to find my independence vanishing before my eyes as he watched me chain her up, only to give his approval from the van afterwards. See, things like that just don't happen in the south. Not in cities, anyway.

This was followed by people taking great interest in my bike basket as a shopping receptacle - the grocery guy packing it for me, whilst saying 'whey aye', a lady half my size apologising as I strode around the market with it, and a few comments on how pretty it was. Joan was touched.

Thus, I cycled home, sweaty after a three month cycling break, in the September sunshine, full of that yummy feeling of Geordie acceptance. Everyone should be as nice.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Oh, and it just got better...

The aforementioned teacher just made this comment on Facebook with reply to a former student/colleague's engagement news:

"oh my word! Can I make the dress?"

You just can't make that stuff up.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

My home-tech teacher was in a film I watched last night.


So, it's my last morning in the Shire and who knows what's to become of my blogging habits upon returning to the North East. Without the company of the middle-aged, the inebriated elderly and even the slightly inbred, I'm worried these posts may take an even more pedestrian turn.

Therefore, making the most of it, I'm blogging in the last twenty minutes before my departure for a five hour coach. On a Sunday morning. Yesss.

Last night I was taken out to the cinema and for dinner by the parents, which was very nice. The film choices were 500 Days of Summer, The September Issue and Julie and Julia. However, I don't think that even the Vampire Weekend inclusion on the 500 soundtrack would convince the parents and I'd clearly be the only person in the whole of Milton Keynes enjoying The September Issue, we settled with Julie and Julia, because my Dad loves Meryl Streep.

I was somewhat dubious - going only on an overheard critique of it as "two women just cooking their way through their lives", I figured I'd come out hungry and riddled with feminist angst.

Instead, I came out with a warm fuzzy glow from having laughed out loud in the cinema (and sneezed, but that's not entirely film-related). It turns out that Julia Child, posh American cook of 50s Francophile proportions (Meryl Streep) IS the same person as my textiles and food tech teacher, Mrs Sloss. The high-pitched squeaking, the fuzz of brown, tweaked hair, even down to the erratic whole-body movements over food - something I came into contact with twice a week during my teens.

Mrs Sloss was one of those iconic teachers that everyone pretends to dislike and yet finds themselves talking fondly of in their spare time. Classics like balancing everything on her bust during demonstrations, to the time she discussed her breast reduction operation (no more balancing), when she compared her daughter's afro hair to that of lambswool, telling me constantly that I needed to grow boobs, making up facts about silk worms, chastising my friend who is now a Central St Martins' womenswear student, announcing loudly at how tight/short/ugly the garment you'd lovingly made was, along with telling me off for taking my mum to see her on parents evening, "oh, she's only sitting here for praise" - mean that a big screen version is totally, totally brilliant. Especially when you'd be as equally shocked, and yet understanding, when they announced a tube of pasta was "as hot as a hard cock".

Julia Childs was apparently a far gentler beast, but she was channeling the Slossy all the way.

The film was also pretty good because of Julie's blogging obsession, and the fact her Mum was somewhat sceptical about it but yet is the only person to comment on it. Rings true... Clearly, all these similarities mean that I also will come home one day to 65 voice mails offering me a TV contract. Obv.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Bowl Spawns Miniballad.

Well, whatdyaknow, everyone likes a bit of self-proclamation in a blog post. Actually, no, nobody likes that.

Anyway, there's this really boss quarterly magazine called Ballad Of and despite only just being into its second issue you can buy it at Selfridges and all sorts.

I managed to take over their minds for a couple hours and they hired me as a style columnist. If you like reading about ugly things that amazing people wear, then you can check out September's offering at: http://balladof.blogspot.com/.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Latest Discovery: old cars drive old people wild.

Mr. Nash, clearly not in his natural environment.


The other night in the pub I remember explaining to someone who was propping up the bar that, no, despite my middle-England-middle-class accent and Shire come-from, I have never been skiing in my life and I certainly am not enamored with horses in any way, shape or form. Stinky, foot-treading, constantly-aroused creatures.


Instead of taking up reigns as a pony person, I spent my youth struggling with musical instruments, going to Brownies, eating cake mixture (as previously discussed), drawing incessantly and, as I said to this bloke, "playing with my Dad's cars".


This isn't as rebellious as it sounds. Daddy Bowlface has always had a vintage car in the garage. My siblings and I have always been driven about in them, had naps in the back of them, burnt the back of our thighs on hot leather seats during the summer and distracted DB when he's working on them. Indeed, with one particular model it became more of a game of "how many children can we chuck in the back of this thing?"


The garage has always had that inexplicable smell of car. Which is an amalgamation of oil, leather, hot metal and man-in-overall and is always lovely.


Anyway, since becoming only a temporary Shire resident, there have been fewer vintage car rides, what with one thing and another. I had forgotten quite what an impact a 1936 Frazer Nash would have in our local town.


So, donning several large cardigans and scarves, I squidged into the car and off we went. Getting the odd look from a white van man at a roundabout is pretty much obligatory with these things, so I didn't take much notice.


However, once we'd got into the 'historic centre' of town - i.e, where Woolworths used to be, and general hang out of the elderly - a whole new experience happened. Suddenly, an old man with a flat cap raised his walking stick at us and said "good morning". We didn't know who he was, but clearly the car was a justification for happy greetings.


Then, a herd of trolley-pushers paused, as if struggling to comprehend what the hell was going on when my Dad was parking the beast. It was as if they'd literally never seen something as old as them still working before.


Thus, looks and stares continued, along with cries of "what a lovely old car!" which is quite nice, I suppose. Clearly we brought something into their day, and, on a more sinister note, stunned them to the extent that I could have technically mugged them all by the time the handbrake was up.


I mentioned this to DB when we got home. He seemed most blase about it, "oh yes," he said, "most of them think it's an MG".

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Last week's papers

Alongside the England Women's football team defeat at the final of the European Championships, the announcement that South African runner Caster Semenya was indeed a hermaphrodite - both of which acted as a justification for a load of sexist drivelling, e.g. 'I can't comfortably watch [the final] knowing there are 22 hungry men out there' - there were a couple of pictoral delights which should've gone up on here a good few days ago.

First is the fun game of 'Spot the Politician'. Grandpa Bowlface and I had a good chuckle over this during the sacred meal that is the hour-long, three-course breakfast in his house. I put on at least the equivalent weight of an average pack of lard during my stay with him last week, but found myself easily adapting to sheets, blankets, and 1950s cuisine; hello, boiled onions.

Anyway, here's the fun part: Spot the Politician!


I think Kila Kela may even take him on as his percussionist, chaknow?


'Oh, the grand old Duke of York...'

Best photojournalism I've seen in a long time...

The other little beaut I saw won the Cutest Discovery award amongst all those wierd looking and frankly quite dull new species they found in Papua New Guinnea. Best kind of ring, ever. I WANT ONE.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Mugging Cake Ladies

There's the glorified Shire dream.
My sister and I have always had this vision for when we're old and spinstery. Instead of going slowly round-the-bend alone, we'll live in a little house, have a couple of lapdogs to coo over and make and eat an incredible amount of cake. From that point on, we will decline slowly and happily into obese insanity and scare the local children. Kind of like the Gingerbread lady of Hansel and Gretl fame, but without paedophilia and cannibalism, natch.
The stimulus behind this quite possibly lies in Mary Berry. 50's celebrity cook supreme, and writer of the best baking Bibles on which the Bowlface home is founded on. I swear I was weaned the day I discovered there was a bowl to lick.
Much to my hysterical delight, local Shire town Winslow decided to open its newly debuted Farmers' Market with the cake goddess herself. Upon hearing this news in the Shire rag, the date was firmly marked on the Bowlface calendar and we were going to meet our cakey idol, goddammit.
It seemed few other people shared my excitement. In fact, I had to explain to practically everyone just WHO Mary Berry was. However, come Sunday morning, the gathering crowds implied just one thing: the Shire was hot for celebrity, and it came elderly-shaped.

That's some serious ribbon-cutting action right there.


There were about 300 people there, at 10.30am on a Sunday, which pretty much sums up the priorities of Shire folk. People hadn't come so much to buy overpriced offal as to gawp at all the other locals, have a gossip, take numerous increasingly-trodden-on dogs out and, the wee 5% that were left, to get some celebrity chef action.


She was literally one of the cutest things I've ever seen. My mum liked her jacket, but a tiny 5'1'' vision in pink was only slightly disappointing in comparisons to my hoping she would have baked her own clothes. After holding a clearly nerve wracking speech about EC funding (to great cheers of 'hear hear' - I can't believe that even happens outside of costume dramas) and pigs etc, we got down to the nitty gritty and pounced on that cake lady.


I'm not that kid with the eyepatch, by the way. She was my competition.

It was amazing. She congratulated my mum on covering her cookbooks in plastic, signed them with 'best wishes' (although not 'love', which someone else got...we'll gloss over that), and left a whole lot of joy in my heart that even cake can't reach.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Umbrella Inventor: Bet he never got a spoke in his eye.

You can practically hear the violins.
I have a fairly relaxed attitude to umbrellas. For a start, I never buy them. I reckon they're the kind of transient, non-purchasable item that just gets passed on from stranger to stranger because they're nearly always left somewhere.


I used to feel sad for all the umbrellas I'd see abandoned in various doorways, coat racks and under seats on public transport. Until I realised that it's actually their destiny, and that being the most popular object in the world when the heavens decide to open must be pretty nice.


Thus, I have given in to the slightly amoral habit of stealing abandoned umbrellas. Only because I know that I'll abandon it somewhere and it will be picked up by another ethical thief. It's like a physical karma.


However, despite this habit of accumulating rain-protectors, I rarely use them. Normally it's because I don't like to carry a giant handbag containing objects for every eventuality, or because I cycle everywhere. Or so I thought until yesterday, when I realised EXACTLY why I don't carry umbrellas.


It's because they become near-lethal objects when any slight amount of wind power is involved. Holding umbrellas sideways, like a shield, completely defeats the point of them as your bonce gets increasingly soggy. Even such a compromising position, however, cannot prevent you from the Ultimate Umbrella Catastrophe: the turning inside out.


Wandering down Southwark Street at rush hour, U.U.C happened to my recently-claimed pink number. It was the saddest thing that happened all day. What had been so proud and shiny had turned into a mangled wire lump. I felt like I was working at the inanimate object version of the RSPB.


Pinkie stayed at home today. It's recovering, and I probably will continue to use it, albeit in a wonky state, once this violent memory has been repressed. It's just a little too much to deal with right now.
On the plus side, I have been cheered up by Andersen Ben-Hilliens Aarhus and his blog. I bet Jordan wouldn't tell him that she'd 'cut him up aswell'.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

My Inner 16-year old is SO IMPRESSED right now.

Ok, so it's been heavily tweaked by the real journalists, but this is my first venture into NME's hugely informative news site, and I'm shamelessly posting it on here. Yessss.

Hell, it's on Twitter, Facebook and everything else.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows: The day I became a sweet shop lady

She looks miserable in comparison to the glee on my face yesterday


Most people don't like to work on Bank Holidays. In fact, working on Bank Holidays normally comes within those lists of things people hate. Granted, if you work in some large corporate company selling disposable fashion items work in some large corporate company selling disposable fashion items you normally get double pay or something to ease the pain of serving everyone enjoying one massive paid day off. However, it's still pretty painful.

That is, unless, you've not yet reached the gruelling schedule of a nine to fiver, Dolly Parton's epic workplace tune presents a distant, quaint-sounding situation and you don't live for the weekends. For those people, like me, Bank Holidays are just when every road, service and public transport facility is at breaking point in desperate attempt to aid people's optimistic plans for the day.

Therefore, when I was offered to make some cash by working in a sweet shop on the Bank Holiday, I was pretty keen. In fact, that's an understatement. I made sure I'd picked exactly the right kind of vintage floral dress for the occasion, to make the living of the sweet lady dream even, well, sweeter.

Things got even better when it became apparent that, as temporary staff, I had no boring responsibilities such as restocking, cleaning, visual merchandising etc and was literally told to 'make myself sick' on as many free sweets as possible. That, and the nice wad of cash I got shoved before being told to 'close when it gets quiet'. Best negligent boss ever.

So, the afternoon passed fairly quickly, dishing out a few hundred grams of fizzy strawberries here, some white mice there, trying to persuade a small spaniel that flying saucers are much better than they smell, and other such sweet lady duties, all in an increasingly dizzy haze brought on by incessantly inhaling sugar.

Thus, at a slightly premature end to the day - it did get quiet - I headed home with a fairly bad case of post-kid's-party syndrome, caused solely by the combination of too many edible chemicals, and that slightly furry metallic taste which is what your mouth makes when it craves salt. Both were a small price to pay for basically being Mr. Ben for the day. It doesn't stop there, I'm living the dream at NME's offices this week - my inner sixteen year old is LOVING IT.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Things I hear in the pub: #2, Arguments about Feminism

I bet they'd just say the tits are better on the bird behind the KP peanuts.


Saturday night, and the second of my twice-weekly shifts behind the bar in my local. Again, the German men were in, trying out every type of ever-changing local ale, which prompted yet another discussion of their origin. At risk of repeating the last post, I'll keep it to a quotation, 'well, I suppose they can't be Dutch, their shoes aren't made of wood'.

Eventually the group of slightly entertaining middle-aged men dwindles to one increasingly drunk old man who repeated everything he's already said in the past four hours. I would have thought little about his incomprehensible ranting had I not come home to an email with the subject heading 'a woman is worth half of a man'. This was clearly some kind of begging charity email that I guiltily discarded to my junk mail, attempting to lure in money with a shocker of a subject. However, it chimed in with Mr. Drunky's last rant before popping round to the rival Shire pub for Karaoke.

Claiming himself the epitome of chivalric behaviour - which is obviously why he was staring at my chest on a Saturday evening rather than spending quality time with his wife and son - he was bemoaning the lack of gentlemen in my generation. Although I agreed with him that holding doors open and being polite were admirable qualities in a man, there was a point of contention when he said he refused to accept drinks from women. Clearly plenty offer to buy him them ALL the time.

In short, I found myself getting onto a metaphorical feminist soapbox, arguing that if he deems women equal why are they not worthy to buy a man, and especially such a questionable specimen as himself, a pint with their career-woman money?

I'm no raving feminist. Indeed, having sat through half an hour of a woman shouting 'I AM A WOMAN. I HAVE A VAGINA, I MENSTRUATE, AND HELL, I EVEN MASTURBATE SOMETIMES' in between Simone De Beauvoir quotations during a first year Feminist Literary Theory lecture, I'm yet to work out my view on this broad and quite frankly, dangerous, territory. I'm quite scared of feminists and I'm a girl. Yet, I found myself embodying that same lecturer on Saturday night, banging my fist on the bar with the same ferocity she hit the lectern.

I'm clearly never going to be cut out to be the giggly, bosomy bar maid, but there just aren't many girl-friendly pubs round here. Maybe I'll leave a copy of The Female Eunuch hidden amongst The Daily Mail next time I'm working.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Things I hear in the pub: #1, Casual Racism

Ebony and Ivory...


Somehow, casual racism has worked its way into the family sense of humour. That sounds bad, I know. We're not actually racists. We don't even read the Daily Mail or anything.

However, a small, unbelievably Caucasian village in middle England is the type that breeds, 'I'm not a racist, but...' friendly xenophobia.

It's the kind of ignorant friendly xenophobia that arises when there are so few non-white, English people that they become a kind of weird novelty when they do arrive. Although, in the 'Shire a new dog or increased villager body mass becomes a major talking point. Over the last three shifts I've worked in my local I've spent approximately thirty-four minutes discussing how many wasps there are this year, and another twelve minutes regarding the different spray deterrents available and their comparative benefits.

So, earlier on, in reference to the news headline of a population increase, Daddy Bowlface made the hilarious (it did eek a snort out of me, actually) joke of, 'I bet they're all forin' [sic]. Yes, this is obviously hugely politically incorrect, but funny because it's not from an origin of real racism, and because most funny jokes are politically incorrect. I clearly don't laugh when Geordie taxi drivers have a go at Polish 'spring rolls' - where that slang came from I've no idea - or decide to generate a National Front rally in the middle of the city.

Returning to the novelty of non-Shire folk, and pub conversations, we had a couple of guys drinking outside who, OMG, weren't English. Thus ensued a hushed narrative from the landlady:
'Now, there's a couple of...gentlemen sitting outside, and they want to eat, and I had to tell them that we don't start serving until six thirty. But they're not English, you see, I think they're German, or maybe Dutch. So I don't think they understand.'

They understood perfectly well. They were also Norwegian, despite another hushed, heavily accented conversation regarding the differences and similarities between Dutch and German accents. I don't think any of the over-sixties taking part had ever really met a Dutchman or a German before, however, I'm sure this conversation was repeated to everyone they met for the next two days, a la wasp.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Student Life: something a broadsheet guide can never prepare you for

Oh god, I know, I know, all my posts these days seem entirely initiated by what I've previously read in the paper. Thing is, at this current moment in time, occupation and location, the broadsheet is my only source of intellectual wisdom. Sad, but true.

Anyway, A level results come out today. Right now teenagers will be rushing up to school gates, trying not to look like they care that this is what they've been built up for the entirety of their non-compulsory educational lives and they're on the brink of filling their pants.

The mere two years ago that I went through a similar experience seems like an age ago. Mainly because two years in university teaches you a hell of a lot more than the normal eight seasons. I'm not pretending I'm all wise and philosophically rounded now - how bloody boring - but I know enough that the Times' student supplement clearly hasn't been written by anybody who's graduated in the last three years.

Yeah, yeah, so they've got a whole page on Twitter and all that, but seriously, when do people drink 'half pints' on Freshers' Bar Crawls? Half pints? Half pints are pathetic, almost cute little things that I serve to the elderly in my village local. They even come in patronisingly miniature pint glasses to demonstrate the lack of intoxication. All good students know that Freshers' Bar Crawls are done once, and very rarely again, because they are the most restless and expensive way of having organised fun, and because the hangover you get from incessant shots of sugary forms of some kind of fermented animal is truly ungodly. Especially to those who've spent the whole summer choosing what kind of laptop to buy.

The feature on the £230 day-long pre-university cookery course also took me aback. Not least when one of the attendees thought of the potential to 'start up a supper club' was a brilliant idea, with menu inclusions being a salad of figs, goats' cheese and walnuts and homemade lamb-burgers. Apparently, it'll make 'everyone want to share', which translates to 'people robbing your food'. An average £15 per week student food budget goes on Shreddies, 3 kilo bags of penne and tinned tomatoes et al. Creative cooking comes in the form of mustard mash. Even if you do fancy trying some culinary talent, Fresher kitchens are invariably so disgusting that dinner becomes whatever you can create fastest and get the hell out of there. Never mind, they'll soon realise the delights of cheese on toast and angel delight, and Jamie O will get stashed to the back of the cupboard, or maybe used in an inventive drinking game.

However, the icing on the cake was found in a little column called 'The Knowledge' - apparently the Bible to getting though Freshers'. Some, very true: 'Girls who wear pink pashminas study history of art' - although in Newcastle that's practically everyone, and even up there I think the Pash may have died out by next year. 'You will be showered with freebies, all of which will be worthless' - again, very true. I think it was only the flatmate with the smallest chance of getting laid that used the Players Bar, 'Do Not Disturb - got lucky at Players' door sign. But then, again with the cringe, 'Retro is cool in clothes, children's television programmes and gadgets such as SodaStream'. Firstly, wrong. Anyone who likes 'Retro' also likes Flares, the 70s nightclub. Secondly, my almost-entirely vintage wardrobe is only admired by my flatmates for fancy dress purposes, my vintage record player marked me as a pretentious loser and anyone who still wears teeshirts with Zippy or other Rainbow characters on is clearly a mature student having a midlife crisis.

Enough rant. No doubt my 3rd year self will be just as sceptical of my 2nd year self should I get round to graduating. My advice? Never forget the trackies. I may not leave the house in mine, but they get nearly every student through hangovers/overeating/all-nighters.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Banana Guards: one of the more unusual teenage embarassments


I shuddered when I opened the paper on the culture pull-out today. In fact, I stared, shuddered, and then swiftly turned over the brightly coloured image of a Lakeland Plastics Banana Guard, below, so the builder wouldn't see me looking at it.

Thing is, in yellow, and as someone happily beyond adolescence, Banana Guards, "designed to accommodate virtually every shape and size", almost make sense. They also only look slightly obscene, in the kind of way that people desperate to make weak phallic jokes may pick up on.
However, when I whipped out a pink Banana Guard, aged 14, at school during morning break, I was the victim of much dildo-related accusation for a week; which feels very long when acne is the closest thing you've got to boobs, and you're still not entirely sure what a dildo is.

After such an incident, my stocking filler got thrown to the back of the Tupperware cupboard where I believe it still gathers dust. By this morning's reaction, I don't think I'll be taking it out any time soon.
However, the following double-page spread regarding Lakeland Plastics was something that brought a far greater warmth to the heart. I am the grateful spawn of a Lakeland Plastics fan. In fact, I swear our kitchen and the amazing foody treats that come out of it are in part built by Lakeland Plastics.

Whenever Mummy Bowlface comes home wielding a new Lakeland item, I am invariably hugely sceptical. Take, for example, the banana bag. It's pictured in its natural habitat - our fridge - below. Known affectionately as the 'banana sleeping bag', one of Family Bowlface's staple foods, the banana, is kept to perfect conditions in this contraption, and doesn't send off any bad banana fumes to the other fruit. Apparently.



That's pie it's squishing, by the way. Not meat, as it may appear to be.




Initially I accused the purchaser of wasting money on ridiculous novelty kitchen items, but, if used in the proper way, rather than being forgotten about - I won't eat stuff if I can't see it - it is quite good.

Clearly, had I not experienced such aversion to it so young in life, I would be one of the thousands of Banana Guard fans. Or even taken it as far as, G Harper, who commented online, "wish I had invented the banana guard!"

Having just caught myself getting all interested over silicone cupcake moulds I think the Lakeland-lover gene will inevitably out. Just think what they will have invented in ten years' time...!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Abercrombie and Itch

It's a bit wrong how nine of her would weigh the same as two of them.

Waah.


As shopping goes, I'm pretty tolerant of stressful situations. I can tackle a stinky charity shop without shame, delve into dubious boxes at car boot sale with delight, and even rummage through sale rails with relish. Arguably, working in a vintage shop prepares you pretty well for most gross selling situations, but even so, I'm no retail wuss.


Or so I thought. Abercrombie and Fitch, for the blissfully unaware, is a hugely overpriced preppy American brand which exploits rich parents of demanding prepubescents by selling 70 different colours of four identical garments: the hoodie, the polo, the vest, and the jogger. Every now and then they might go a little crazy and chuck a skinny jean in there, or, as my recent visit demonstrated, a plaid shirt, but essentially that is what they create.


As the above image would suggest, the target market is not really for those who wear many clothes, or indeed, are prepubescent. However, judging by the size of the female sales assistants and the fact my size 6-8 sister snugly wears an Abercrombie M (medium), the waist of an 11 year old is a prerequisite. Unless you are male, in which case I imagine the sizing is similar, as despite a six pack, every polo must be worn nipple-protruding tight. For an early noughties cultural reference, see LFO's 'Summer Girls' video here.


The irony of the seemingly wholesome image Abercrombie likes to throw out there is that the shop itself is a LIVING HELL HOLE. They've taken a beautiful, rococo ceiling-ed mansion hidden away off Regent Street, painted the entire interior black, pumped it full of seriously cheesy yet unrecognisable dance music and A&F scent and waited for the hoards of people with more money than sense to flock on in.


I nearly asphyxiated upon entry. Initially I was gagged by the choking scent of 'youth' - intriguingly not cigarettes, cider, 'So Kiss Me' body spray and the hamster smell of teenage boy, but something with far more patchouli - then matters were made worse by a flabbergasted reaction to the naked, hairless bodybuilder in the doorway, with whom I'm supposed to want a Polaroid photograph taken; the final nail in the coffin being my uncontrollable laughter at the sales assistants who are made to dance on a balcony, just, you know, 'cos it's so fly in there.


Once I'd regained the ability to respire, I was able to reflect on the most awkward dancing I've seen outside of school discos. Not that it was inexplicable - the music was the type that's only played in bad Majorcan cocktail bars, the 'dancers' were presumably sober, and wearing plaid. You can't dance to cheese in plaid. Especially not on a balcony, for no apparent reason, when you are, by contract, a sales assistant.


After being led around the labyrinthine set-up of rooms and corridors, all the while being constantly greeted by smugly attractive identikit teenagers, the dancing made a little sense. It was, after all, strongly reminiscent of a Berlin club, minus the graffiti, what with the constant shoving and pushing of shoppers eager to get their hands on overpriced jersey.


Upon discovering that every dingy room was essentially full of the same thing, failing to find a changing room and then establishing that a lot more could be done with fifty quid than buy a polo shirt, I was happy to leave the most stressful shopping experience I've ever encountered and take a big breath of polluted central London air. It tasted a damn sight more realistic.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Notes my Mum leaves me.

Evidence I'm getting old too young, added to by Mummy Bowlface.
Just in case, cha know?

Kirsty Golightly and I MUST have identical brains. Just as I notice her recent post is about her turning into her Dad, I'm posting photographic evidence of my Mum's cuteness whilst simultaneously realising I am turning into her, as I leave near-identical notes for flatmates, friends, and, indeed, myself.
Hello 2053, Kirsty Old Geordie Man Golightly and Super Organised To Cover Every Eventuality Bowlface, living together, and constantly bemused by the activities of youth.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Charter Fair Times

There are but two days in the year when the small village of my upbringing experiences regular screaming, noise pollution and 90s dance hits on repeat.

Those two days being the second Monday and Tuesday of August, when the Charter Fair/Fayre/Fay-er (depending on who writes the ever-entertaining signage) comes to Great Horwood in accordance to a 400ish year-old contract.

It's one of the few traditions the village actually maintains, as such Ambridge-esque activities as Produce Shows and beating a puffed up pig bladder no longer remain. As a result, it always warms my cockles a little bit. You can imagine the excitement it causes by watching this, especially when the comment beneath is taken into consideration.

Our house is placed nicely within view of the goings-on, which essentially include a dodgems circuit, an increasingly decrepit hammer ride, which somebody claims to 'nearly fall out' of every year, a mini-carousel and a few games. Year in, year out, and always the same attractions. Needless to say, should there be some dramatic change in ride set-up serious angry mumblings would rumble around the village for at least three weeks.

I did try to photograph the aforementioned setup, but I really just couldn't capture the magic, and I was scared the chavs may attack after drunkenly awakening to the incessant camera flash. In short, it's a lot of flashing lights, a few similarly-luminous white tracksuits and a lot of villagers sat about surrounded by red brick and thatched houses dating back to, on average, 1742. No wonder my workmate said her American friend was bemused.

To the townies of local Buckingham, the notion of Great Horwood fair is a joke. Yet, it still drags in punters from the surrounding towns and villages, despite their ever-failing attempts to get served in the pub. Even if they were of drinking age, the onslaught of cleavage both front and rear and demands for WKDs in a place normally full of tweed and real ale requests is always going to cause suspicion.

Unlike in my younger years, from when I'd go home chuffed to bits with my fake Spice Girls poster, to when I'd stand around with my teenage mates eating candyfloss, (note the relative lack of difference in activities - it's a village, remember, everyone knows who your Mum is) I didn't try my luck on the dodgems tonight. It's a bit cringe worthy to start trying to beat the people you once babysat.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Bicester Village: giant creche for the unnannied middle classes

The perfect Bicester family: beautiful when frozen in time, horrendous
when simultaneously throwing lattes at you and feeding organic carrots to the offspring.



So I stumbled across this in the paper last week...Bicester Village being the place I slave my summer away in serving the aforementioned rich tourists and middle class folk.
What the article fails to mention, however, is the huge abundance of small children that people decide to bring shopping in designer boutiques.


Because, you know, and I've always thought this too, that people who love sticky fingers, screaming, and running in and out of changing rooms are totally the best kind to appreciate cashmere and labels that say £300.


I've developed a very low intolerance to small human beings in places where I can't be bothered to have fun with them since they decided to plague our means of transport in Eastern Europe. Although pretty much every sticky, hot, bumpy and seemingly never ending train ride had noisy things on it, being woken up on a night train by a fang-toothed, whooping, large pupil-ed mini-person really did convince me temporarily that self-sterilisation was a good idea.


Thankfully, as the toilets in Serbian trains don't even have a flush, let alone any kind of surgical equipment, it wasn't the time nor the place.


However, the sentiment still returns when placed in similarly stressful situations. For example, when a three year old thought it immensely amusing to tip over her buggy, again, and again, taking most of the display I'd lovingly created with it. This is a pretty common occurrence, which makes me wonder why, when the brats are large enough to destroy their own personal transport, are they still being accompanied by it?

Similar rhetorical questions arise when designer toddler, complete with mini designer carrier bag, is cooed at by her designer parents for trampling on the designer stock. Are those Gucci sunglasses just completely black inside, or is love really that blind?


When these giant, grand-and-a-half buggies aren't being knocked over, they're taking up shitloads of room in Pret a Manger, which in Bicester Village may as well be a creche. The idea of having a quiet coffee over a pretentious novel is certainly not part of that branch's marketing strategy.


I'm sure once I've spawned my own tiny humans I'll be just as crap at disciplining them, but in the meantime, I'm allowed to be bitter to the point of my Father questioning the whereabouts of my maternal instinct. My secret love of the abundance of Pret Kids cheese baguettes is entirely unrelated...

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Gammy Eyes and Gannies

Making, waiting for, and attending a doctor's appointment is one of my most hated things. Sometimes it gets so bad that I sit there, thinking I'd rather lose the hour of my life lost in the surgery waiting room to the illness I'm developing instead of in there.

However, there is one slight perk of visiting the 'Shire surgery and that comes in the form of O.A.Ps To Aspire To.

There was once two consequetive visits when an O.A.P.T.A.T and her headscarf kept me entertained throughout that interminable waiting. The accessory in question was cream silk, with a fetching red golf tee pattern on - fit. First time, worn around the neck, second, she pulls out the big guns and does what I like to call "The Queenie". A full on, under the chin affair adored by Burberry et al last A/W.

This kind of experience has formed itself into massive expectation everytime I'm to visit the place. Therefore, I was not disappointed when, twenty minutes into yet another hour of my life I will never get back, the CYCLING GRANDAD OF BUCKINGHAMSHIRE rocks on up.
This man is a living legend. In fact, I'm ashamed he doesn't have his very own label on Bowlface...

In short, he is an octogenarian, long-bearded Dumbledore-like creature who I drive past regularly on country roads as he is cycling buy in full-on 80s fluro exercise garb. Like Mr. Motivator, but more wrinkly, and less of a terrifying sexual predator. I'm yet to speak to him, but one day, there will be an interview, Bowlfans.

Anyway, contrary to expectation, this visage in green and pink (Wednesday's choice, natch) did not pain my equally "florid" - cheers Dr. Fairfield - conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis being easily the most disgusting of minor optical illnesses. As my dear friend tactfully put it, "ew, you look horrible."

It's a shame I'm not an 11 year old boy, for whom eyes representative of those in Dawn of the Dead would be immensely cool. As it is, I'm a 20 year old girl who, with the current hair-growth situation, feels rough enough as it is, thanks. Alas, the NHS Granny Specials glasses have been tucked away in favour of professional wire-framed, for gym and boutique wearing purposes. The Shire is not Shoreditch, and middle class countryfolk just do not understand the ironic ugly look.

To add insult to injury, I got emailed this link today. I was seriously tempted to invest until it was revealed that they don't even offer a prescription service. Do people honestly spend £205 on glasses they don't even need? Really? If you are one of these people, then shame on you. Spend your £205 on actual myopic people who need to look pretty in obligatory face-bottle-ends.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Discovering British Humour's Secret Serbian Twin

Ah, c'est la vie. It's been yet another month and I've been a negligent blogger.
Reasons why include:
- the lazy procrastination of June has been replaced with holding down three jobs.
- I went to explore Eastern Europe for a little while.
Ok, so only two reasons, but fairly good ones, I think.
Myself and fellow vintage shop assistant and blogger, Kirsty Golightly, went to Serbia for EXIT, possibly the best, if most unheard-of-by-chavvy-British-punters, festival on the continent. We stayed away from the 18-30 hub that was the campsite - plus we're small old women inside and couldn't face trying to get our 5 hours a night in a tent next to the dance arena - and shacked up instead in the University Halls of Novi Sad.


The tiniest stove known to man. Like we used it.


Along with our smack-smoking temporary flatmate, highlights of the misleadingly titled 'Hostel Bajic' (where they got that name from I've no idea) included a Jesse Metcalfe poster, circa 2001, a tiny miniature stove, and a hole in my mattress that was horribly reminiscent of a Vice article about masturbation. Oh, and that shower which used a translucent curtain to separate your naked body from the boys next door. The more I think about it, actually, the more it sounds like they just holed us up in a really bad porn set for the week...

Speaking of porn, one of our favourite Serbians described his style as '80s porn'. Always a good note to start off on after claiming not to speak English. After blagging press passes for the festival, we wandered around 'interviewing' cool looking people to get them to explain why Brits should come to Serbia for another project I'm working on. In reality, we were always quite pissed on cheap Serbian beer and the transcription's been atrocious.



Nicole. He came all the way from Belgrade ("only slightly less
shit that Novi Sad") for the Arctic Monkeys. That was probably a pisstake.

Anyway, Nicole, "as in Nicole Kidman", was an actual godsend. However, his anti nationalist stance somewhat ruined his use for Serbian propaganda, which means he makes it on here. After describing EXIT as "the shittest thing ever, which was made for Serbian students" and which British kids are "idiots" for attending, we got into the nitty gritty. Nicole told me to "fuck off" when I asked if he combed his moustache, as apparently the glean and neatness of it is due solely to "pussy juice". Reading this back, he sounds like a pompous twat - but just look at that face. Rather, he was the kind of guy that inexplicably gets a lot of girls because he charms them through abuse. Good work, Nicole!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Kids: much smaller than I remembered.

I wish all my food looked like foliage.


When I was in Berlin back in April, my friend and I spent a couple of hours sitting on a bench opposite a park full of children. Not in a paedophile way, just a coincidence. Anyway, one thing we were really, really taken aback by was quite how small they are.


Sounds logical, I know, but they really are very very small. We had a giggling fit over it (although that may also have something to do with the fact that one of them had a poo under a tree and tried to cover it up with bark a bit like a cat).


Anyway, I'd forgotten about the size of kids, not unsurprisingly as I normally see only students and real adults in my day to day life. However, ever since my aforementioned worthy procrastination led me into my Primary School Teacher Mum's habitat to use my A-Level art skills to create props for the school play, I haven't been able to stop thinking about how small kids are. Again, in a disbelieving curious way, rather than a paedophile way.


Saying that, there is evidence to suggest that my head is smaller than that of a child's. I know this because in an attempt to create a piece of head-gear that would turn a child into a bear, my mum shoved the ankle-end of an age 11 velour brown legging on my head.


(This is something I've got used to after living with a PSTM for a while. The other day I had to put on one of my old bras - which had been stuffed - backwards, to ascertain whether it would be suitable for a 10 year old in drag.)


I got kind of used to the legging. It was quite cosy. I can see why bank robbers etc don't mind putting hosiery over their heads, and the swishing about of the rest of the leg made me feel like a real girl with proper hair.


Anyway, despite its many merits, the legging had to be tried on bear-children. It didn't fit. Now, either the kids have freakishly large heads for their tiny bodies, or I've just got a small head. Didn't really want to investigate either situation - all sounds a bit Victorian-Racist to me.

In other news: look at that mushroom. Isn't that the prettiest mushroom you've ever seen? I cooked it today, but only after stroking it for a little while.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Desert. Dessert.

Well somebody got a lot of egg.


Bowlface takes on fashion blogging. Well, almost. My coolkid friends were 'doing the 90s' a little while back, and, like an old, sceptical woman, I shunned the notion. Although a slavish fan of vintage, I always maintain that you should never return to the fashions you've worn once already.

This is possibly why I struggled with leggings so much. Having spent my 90s childhood in varying patterns of the garment - pocohontas-pattern, Minnie Mouse pattern, butterflies etc etc- I have little desire to return to them. The same applies to denim jackets and crop tops. The former I've decided I've come round to but after weeks of seeing them splashed all over every colour supplement and weekly rag I really just can't go there, such is my innate antipathy to knowingly following a trend. The crop tops I've been digging for over a year, albeit with everything highwaisted. However, after spotting over 17 lace Topshop ones at a recent festival I fear they too may have to bite the dust.

So, here comes the new 90s-esque beast. Judging by Radio 0ne style broadcasts and this month's Vogue, Alexa Chung - long time underground style icon - has been unleashed to the hungry hungry hoards of women desperate for more skinny birds to idolise. I'm one of them, and feebly attempted to imitate her style last summer for about a week until I realised the circumference of each of my thighs was equal to that of her waist and that I couldn't nick that nicely beaten-up breton top off my ex.

The result of this Chunglove is that "battered ankle boots" are the de rigeur footwear for practically everyone, as the extortionate prices of them on ebay demonstrate, especially when 'Alexa' is quoted in the listing. Thus, my clever planning to buy some before autumn descends is quite futile.

However, I have been intrigued by desert boots. As seen on male Shoreditch scenesters etc over the last couple years, I predict a female appreciation fairly soon. There's one small problem: I just can't get over the fact they look like elf boots. I'm not that cutesy kind of girl who can pull that thing off. I just look like an oversized toddler, or Ann off Little Britain.

But then, on ebay, up pops possibly the greatest solution. Canvas desert boots. V 90s, not too elfy, not too converse. Could be perfect, and indeed a repetition of the jazz shoe moment of yonderyear - I wish I stockpiled pairs ever since. Alternatively, it could be horribly wrong. However, for 50p I'm willing to find out.

In other news, my wholesome procrastination has resulted in these little puppies : lemon cupcakes. They're fruit-orientated, not chocolate-orientated, so that means they're well healthy, innit. As a good friend of mine would say, "Lemon zest: one of your five a day".