Thursday, 29 October 2009

Livin' a 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' ( 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, ( 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.