Welcome Pop Pickers - here's my top ten

February 20, 2014  •  3 Comments

Music has always formed such a huge part of my life. It's always been there. Growing up as a child with Radio One in the background. Top of the Pops every Thursday. Listening to Radio Luxembourg under the covers when I was supposed to be asleep (sorry Mum & Dad). Watching Dad perform with his band. Grandads 'Sunday lunch music'.  The Tube during my college days. MTV & VH1 in my early 20's and when Daisy and Jack were small. Gigs and the odd festival here and there.  Songs that you break your heart to, or make you dance, or just be glad to be alive. So I figured I would attempt to write my top ten favourite songs.  I hadn't realised just how hard it would be narrowing it down to just 10. I made a short list of 20 and I'm sure if I wrote this next week the mix would change.  But here we are, I've settled on these ten.....in no particular order! Maybe I'll share the other 10 another time!  Click on the song name to listen to the tracks, if you've not heard of them before!

Into my arms - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. In the early days of our relationship, Mr B made me a cd of songs. This was on it. I hadn't heard anything of Nick Caves before, but was told I should listen to the words. I did, and they are beautiful, and we went on to have this playing when we signed our wedding register. This will always be 'our song'.
I beg your pardon - Lynn Anderson. I had a hero growing up, and that hero was my Grandad. I have so many happy memories of playing with him when I was a child, and he would always be singing to me.  I would follow him around as he tended to his rose garden.  Stopping to smell their wonderful fragrance, and cutting some for my Nan to have in the house. Of course, he always sang this song to me. After he passed away, each time it came on the radio I would burst into tears, but now, once again, I can listen to it and almost smell those fabulous blooms!
Keep me hanging on - The Supremes.  I went through a Motown stage while I was at college. A certain time, a certain place, a certain boy.....I was sure this song was written for me. Turns out it wasn't. But what did i know at 17? I thought i knew everything. Turns out I didn't. My college days really changed me from being a timid school girl to being able to cope with the adult world. I've learnt some hard lessons since, but those two years shaped me more than at any other period in my life. Friendships, relationships, heartache, tears, and always lots of laughter. That was 30 years ago now, but those times are still very dear to me, and I always remember them with much fondness. 
Rabbit Heart - Florence and the Machine. I first saw Florence and the machine briefly whilst watching Glastonbury coverage on the television and being a fan of strong female singers I decided to download the Lungs album to give it a try. I didn't get round to listening to it, until we went to Skye for a holiday. One particular day we decided to cross the Island on the B885, which will no doubt mean nothing to most of you, but for us, being used to city driving, the road was bendy and narrow, the scenery stunning and dramatic. Our soundtrack to this journey was Lungs, and it seemed to fit the drive perfectly. Not only had I found a new favourite artist and album, but this track in particular became my favourite song to sing at the top of my voice whenever I get the chance - usually in the car!
Only want to be with you - Dusty Springfield. Just the most perfect pop song. It always makes me smile, it always makes me sing. It doesn't matter if it's Dustys version, the Tourists or even the Bay City Rollers, it's just perfect!
Fake Plastic Trees - Radiohead. "he used to do surgery, on the girls in the 80's, but gravity always wins" just the best lyric ever written. 
You've got the love - The Source ft Candi Staton. Another song Mr B put on a cd for me. We heard it playing on one of our first dates. It sums up exactly how I feel about my wonderful, long suffering husband!
Safe and sound - Sheryl Crow. I'm a huge fan of Sheryl Crow. I want to be Sheryl Crow. (Although she has a dodgy choice of men!) This song is just so beautiful and tender. Guaranteed to make me cry every time.
Fishermans Blues - Waterboys. Mr B, Daisy, Jack and I went to Glastonbury in 2007. It rained pretty much none stop. It was cold, windy and wet and my sense of humour grew thinner by the hour. Arriving back from the toilets, which in itself was a challenge, I found Mr B using my umbrella to keep a girl totally inappropriately dressed dry, leaving the only dry patch to sit on now soaking wet. That's when we both discovered my sense of humour had, in fact, totally left me.  We had a massive row and I stormed off back to the tent. Eventually Mr B won me round with his smooth ways, and we had a fantastic evening dancing in the mud and rain to The Arctic Monkeys. On our way back to our tent, we popped into one of the other music tents to find the Waterboys performing.  And what a fabulous version of this they played.
Woman - John Lennon. This always gives me little butterflies in my tummy every time I hear it. Isn't this just the love poem every girl wishes a boy would write for her?  I know he would have won me over if it was written for me!
Now you've read mine, how about adding some of your favourites in the comments box below? :)

There Once Was An Ugly Duckling....

February 14, 2014  •  4 Comments

Do you ever look back and wonder what you would tell your younger self? Is there any advice you would give?

There was a date I used to dread as a child. A date that as soon as the school calendar was released I would check to see how it fell. A date far more scary to me than Halloween. A date I longed to be on a weekend or school holiday. But it never seemed to be so. Could I pull a sickie and stay off school? Nope, my parents/Grand parents would see straight through me there. So there it was. I would just have to face the humiliation of it. This was a day of much giggling and excitement for everyone else. A day when lots of notes got passed between the girls and boys, and whispers behind hands took place. It was of course Valentines day.

As a child I was very timid. Painfully shy. Plainer than plain Jane, who ever she may have been, and frequently confused as a boy, probably down to the Tupperware haircut that seemed so common in those days. I suffered dreadfully with my skin. The humiliating spots I suffered with as a teenager still haunt me today.  So all in all I was a great target for kids more confident than me. And the more I was mocked and teased, the further I went into my shell. Very few people got to know who I really was and what made me tick. I'm sure people thought I was rude, or boring, or uninterest ed/ing. And every year this date came round to remind me that I wasn't part of the gorgeous and beautiful set. Is there anything more humiliating than all the girls in your class getting cards, all of them except for you? And some girls seemed to have a sack full! In hindsight, I wonder if all of them were genuine and how many had been sent to themselves. I wasn't that sharp! Of course no one would have expected me to have received one and they would have seen right through me if I had faked one. I longed for a card of my own. Just one. It didn't need to be a big one, or a boxed padded one, or a musical one. A home-made-on-a-scrap-of-paper-torn-out-the-back-of-a-maths-book would have been just fine.

Then finally! At 15 I met a lovely boy who became my first boyfriend. To receive my first Valentine card was such a magical thing. At last I felt like I belonged. I became like the other girls. The first few years of receiving cards was such a massive thrill. I don't think any of the lads involved knew quite how much those tokens meant to me. I received 7 cards one year. All from the same person. What girl could resist such charm?! I've had red roses, yellow roses, chocolates, fizz, teddy bears, a poem, as well as romantic meals out or nights away. But I still think about those cruel school years. And that's why, rightly or wrongly, my children have always received a card and present on that day. Something to let them know they are special and loved, even if that's by their mum, and not someone from school.

So what would I tell my younger self? Maybe something along the lines that you are fine just the way you are, and you don't need to win any popularity completions to find true happiness in later life. And would I have listened? Of course not!

Happy Valentines day everyone. 

No Mistletoe But Definitely Wine

February 06, 2014  •  2 Comments

Seasons greetings!

No, despite what you probably suspect, I haven't gone completely bonkers. Last week we celebrated Christmas with a party for staff and partners of QSInsurance. Rich, (aka Mr B, my better, ever suffering other half) the director of QS Insurance, decided the company should celebrate its first Christmas in business in style, so he would take all his staff and their +1 to Langar Hall for dinner and an over night stay.  Described on its own Twitter profile as "quietly eccentric" we knew this was the perfect venue for us.  As ever, the run up to Christmas was full of school plays, and various social engagements, not to mention planning for the big day itself and the arrival of the big fat guy with a beard. Throw in a house move, and you can see that finding a date suitable for everyone was proving to be rather tricky.  It was therefore agreed that the 'do' would be postponed until January, which I've always thought to be a far more sensible time to throw a party anyway.  A party frock was chosen, (for me, not Mr B) and we discussed drawing up a seating plan. You know how awkward these do's can be if you are sat in the wrong place. It was felt though, that on balance, that as Mr B was the only member of staff, and I was the only +1, we would throw caution to the wind, and work out the best place to sit when we arrived.  Daisy, our eldest daughter was drafted back from Uni for the night with the promise of a decent meal, a warm bed, chocolate and wine (she is my daughter after all!!) but most importantly to babysit our youngest son Alfie, and spoil our Border Terrier, Miss Dolly.  Everyone was excited and Mr B even allowed the staff to go home early in preparation ;)

We arrived at Langar Hall on a bleak, cold and wild evening, but the door was opened for a warm welcome. We were taken to our room, via a mini tour of the bar and restaurant areas. Mr B had decided that as it was Christmas, he would book the grandest of all the grand rooms.  Now I'm usually a 'no fussy patterns, clean lines, modern and minimalist' kind of gal. I hate anything that confuses my eyes, could potentially collect dust, or could possibly be older than me. You must ask my parents sometime about my thoughts of being dragged around an archaeological dig as a child, or Mr B of my reaction to seeing the Colosseum for the first time on my 40th. I just don't do old and fussy. But even I couldn't help but be impressed by the beautiful four poster bed, which reminded me of one of my favourite childhood stories, The Princess and the Pea.  Thankfully the bed was more comfortable than the one in the story.....or maybe I'm not really a princess? Or maybe they just forgot the pea that night. Either way, the room was quite spectacular. Stairs leading from the room, needed investigating. A room that I could explore?  Very exciting. Here I found the bathroom, complete with an old roll top bath. I was looking forward to filling that with plenty of bubbles and trying it out!

Once scrubbed up and ready, we went down for dinner. Drinks in the lounge, and a menu to chose from. This certainly beat previous Christmas do menus I had chosen from over the years.  Why would you want to decide one morning in October what you may fancy eating one night in December? Usually you have the imaginative turkey dinner, fish of some description and a nut roast for the veggies amongst us. Totally uninspiring what ever month of the year it is.  Not this time however.  I could have happily chosen any of the options, but settled for cheese soufflé, partridge (well it was Christmas!) and orange mouse.  I enjoy cooking at home, and generally I'm not bad at it, so I love any meal that I feel I couldn't create myself at home, and this was certainly the case here. It was all totally delicious, and perfectly washed down with a bottle of red. No flashing lights, no having to shout at the top of my voice over Hi Ho Silver lining or anyone slightly embarrassing themselves with too much festive fizz, but instead we gently retired  to the lounge, in front of a roaring fire for a night cap. The following morning we discovered the beautiful Vale of Belvior countryside as we opened the curtains. So close to the hustle and bustle of Nottingham, and yet a million miles away.  Just peace and beautiful surroundings. I can only imagine the view is even more glorious during the summer months.  

After a good hearty breakfast, we were saying our goodbyes all too soon.  As we time travelled back to January 2014, we had an impromptu meeting, to discuss future Christmas events. It was decided that both staff and his +1 enjoyed the occasion immensely, and this would now become an annual event. Now, how should we celebrate Easter.......

#100happydays - My Challenge To You

February 04, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Hands up if you are fed up of all the rain? Keep them up if you are also fed up of the cold and dark and February in general?  Ok, so if you are reading in hotter, drier climates than the UK, you probably have your hands down still and the rest of us are very envious.  However, if you are in the UK, I suspect many of you will still have your hands up (baby hands up...so now I have the 80's song by Ottawan going through my head - urgh!!). My daughter, feeling generally stressed during her exam season, challenged me to do  #100happydays with her. It seemed a perfect time to join in.  The web page states "We live in times when super-busy schedules have become something to boast about.  While the speed of life increases, there is less and less time to enjoy the moment that you are in.  The ability to appreciate the moment, the environment and yourself in it, is the base for the bridge towards long term happiness of any human being".  The challenge?  Take a photo every day for 100 days of something that makes you happy and then share that happiness with others.  However small that thing might be, try and find it in each day, take a photo and post it somewhere in the social media world with the hashtag 100happydays.  They don't have to be top quality photos.  I take all of mine on my phone and post my image every day on instagram and then share it to my personal Facebook page.  I've found a couple of the England Cricket players are also joining in.  Oh boy, they must have had to dig deep recently to find something to smile about!  So, who else is up for the challenge? Who else will join Daisy and me?  Leave a link below to where I can find your photos.  It will be great to see what makes you happy too!

Here are my photos so far.....you'll see a couple of recurring themes!

January, and the first of my new starts....

January 29, 2014  •  1 Comment

Have you made any resolutions for the new year?  Have you stuck to them?  I realise I follow the same pattern every year.  I start with all good intentions on 2nd January, and I give up wine, chocolate, sugary foods, fatty foods, bread, those big family sized bags of hand cooked Balsamic Vinegar and Sea Salt crisps from M&S etc. I become very righteous for a few days.  Ha!  Its so easy being healthy.  Why haven't I realised this before?  But then I start getting grumpy and irritable, and I know that if I don't have some chocolate sometime soon, my husband and family will probably all divorce me.  So I'm back to eating all the usual stuff, and some to make up for what I've missed over the few days I gave up, and then berate myself for being a massive failure. Giving things up that I love, during the month that I find the most miserable really doesn't make any sense at all. So this year I have a cunning plan.  This year I'm not going to give up a thing.  This year I'm going to add things to my life instead.  This year I'm going to try lots of new things. Eat new foods, visit new places, join new groups, take up new hobbies. This year I might step out of my comfort zone, this year......oh dear, does it sound like a Mid Life Crisis??!!

So the first new thing I tried was Rock Choir. (sorry, I've read recently that starting sentences with 'so' is really annoying, but like I said, I'm not giving anything up this year).  Three weeks ago I joined a small group of ladies, and Howard at the sports pavilion in West Bridgford, so that I could release my inner Adele.  At different stages in my life I've battled it out with different female lead vocalists.  Barbara Strisand, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Claire Grogan, Toyha, Sheryl Crow, Andrea Corr, Stevie Nicks, and more recently Florence Welsh and Adele.  All great female singers, but really, they are nothing on me.  Well, ok, thats maybe in my head.  I did have to audition for the school choir once and I was picked straight away.  That was maybe because there were only 5 of us that auditioned.  Either way, I can actually hold a tune, but its probably fair I'm not in the league of any of the afore mentioned.  So back to the ladies and Howard.  I was greeted by the very bubbly Jennie.  She asked me if I knew if I was a bass, alto or soprano.  I didn't, but I can sing loudly?  She suggested I tried in the bass to start with, as they were struggling with only Howard and another lady who started with me.  We started with some stretches, and mouth exercises.  Oh the glamour of opening my mouth as wide as possible, and then pouting as small as I can.  We did some deep breathing, and then we were ready to sing.  A little warm up song of 'what shall we do with the drunken sailor' gave me a taste of what was to come.  Each section had a different part to sing.  Easy!  That is until all three parts sing at the same time! I'm not sure who's part I ended up signing. Moving on we started the new song for the term.  And this is where any thread of street credability I may still have had went out of the window.  Yes I'm a teeny weeny bit of a music snob. I've been to Glastonbury.  Twice.  I watch the X factor with the boys under protest and have never ever been caught buying or singing to any contestants songs.  That was all about to change.  I was handed my lyric sheet.  I read the title.  'Dance with me tonight'.  Hmmm, I don't recognise that.  I read the first line of the song.  "My name is Olly nice to meet you can I tell you baby?".  Olly?  oh no!  Not that irritating Essex boy from the X Factor a few years ago?  I read further down the sheet.  'Carolines tips:  1.  "Baby" is pronounced "ba beh" ' ba beh?  Now I spent all of my childhood being told by my Mum and Nan to talk properly.  I morn the passing of the 'BBC voice'.  I spend all of my time telling my children that butter is spelt with two t's for a reason.  And that reason isn't to miss them out.  Oh dear.  Maybe I had made a mistake.  I looked around in panic.  I couldn't leave.  I was sat in the front row, furthest away from the door.  I had visions of being heckled if I left, just like anyone who gets up to go to the loo during a comedy performance.  No, I would just have to grin and bear it.  I could last the hour that was left, and then run away, and change my phone number and email address and move so that no one could ever trace me again. We would never mention this again.  Ever. The music started.  It was a bouncy little beat.  Jennie taught us three in the bass what we needed to sing, and eventually we all managed to put the first verse together, along with the chorus.  Before I knew it that hour had flown by, and a couple of really strange things happened.  I found I was smiling.  Not just a little bit, but enough to almost turn into a laugh.  I found I felt really chilled and relaxed.  I found I was enthusiastically talking to Jennie about becoming a member and telling her how much I was looking forward to coming again next week, although I thought maybe bass was a little too low for me, and I was sorry to leave Howard on our first meeting, but I was probably better suited with the altos.  And then, I found I was singing an Olly Murs song in my car on the way home.  Me?  Singing something that was probably played on radio 1.  I've returned twice since that first visit.  I've downloaded the practice track, and been learning my part.  Today we even started learning a dance routine.  I have zero co-ordination, so I did feel a little sorry for the lady stood next to me.  I apologised for the punch.  I really didn't mean it. I think she forgave me. Who knew I would get to do a mini workout as well as sing?  So if you see a mad woman walking her dog around the streets of West Bridgford, wearing earphones and singing along to a song by an old x factor contestant, it might just be me......ba beh!