All Killa No Filla Live- Brighton

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All Killa, No Filla- Rachel Fairburn and Kiri Pritchard-McLean (Barry Mellor)

I love a podcast and one of my absolute favourites is All Killa No Filla, which I discovered last summer. Hosted by Manchester-based comedians Rachel Fairburn and Kiri Pritchard McLean, it makes me feel like I’m listening to two of my mates- except they’re talking about serial killers as well as the other stuff you might discuss with your friends. And they’re damn funny too (I’ll never look at Gary Barlow/gear sticks/sausage rolls again in the same way.) Since I’d been into reading about serial killers since I was a kid- nice and normal- I was so pleased to find it. If you have yet to listen to it, I am very jealous because you have an ace back catalogue to enjoy. Although maybe don’t start with the Fred and Rose West triple hander. It’s a bit of a shocker for the uninitiated*. According to a lady I spoke to at the show- and Benn- Harold Shipman might be the entry level episode. Up to you though. Everyone has a favourite. I like HH Holmes and the female serial killers best. #feminism.

Even better is that the All Killa No Filla duo are taking it on tour. Brighton was the first date and what a doozy it was: a whole hour on the unsolved Bible John case (although a strong suspect was discussed. I won’t give it away in case it gets broadcast**.) The crimes are never treated gratuitously or as a joke, but the laughs come from the interweaving of Rachel and Kiri’s stories about their lives- Kiri’s mum is a badass, by the way- and their observations of the world. They also explore and unpick the reasons why whoever their subject is/was became a serial killer.

I had so. much. fun., even if I did end up going on my own because Benn had a pathetic hangover. I also made friends with a friend of a friend who was going, which was lovely. But I can also confirm that Rachel and Kiri are brilliant- engaging, funny and knowledgeable, as well as sarky and down-to-earth. The other fans were great too. For a crowd so interested in such a macabre topic, they were lovely- and gave gifts to our hosts of serial killer Guess Who (would buy) and taxidermied mice (relevant to my interests.) Overall a fun hour and a bit with lovely people who happen to share a slightly odd interest.

Finally, I came away with a lovely ‘colour a killer’ colouring book, which I am very much looking forward to tackling. Might have to put my D at GCSE Art to good use and badly draw glasses on Jeffrey Dahmer though.

All Killa, No Filla is touring. Find information here.

*Fun fact- as a result of listening to this podcast, I have asked Benn to clear my Google history in the case of my mysterious death/disappearance. I would like to say to any police investigating me for the future that I just wanted to see what these people looked like. Thanks.

**Second fun fact- I once got into a mild disagreement with Professor David Wilson on Twitter about the subject of French Fancies during an episode of The Great British Bake Off.

 

When I break up with my makeup…

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I had an epiphany today and it all started when I went to have my passport photo taken and I forgot to take some makeup with me. I had applied it before I left, but a biting wind and cold weather meant that my eyes watered really badly (which happens ALL THE TIME. So much fun.) All my concealer disappeared in a puff of smoke. On the plus side, at least I can see what my mugshot will look like when I’m arrested for murder in twenty years’ time= tired with massive under eye shadows. Delightful.

I’ve been wearing makeup fairly regularly since I was sixteen. Back then, it pretty much consisted of liquid eyeliner and mascara, with the odd bit of Rimmel Hide the Blemish when I needed it. My mum didn’t wear makeup and I was never really interested in it before I started college and going out. My basic makeup has evolved from this starting point, but boy has it got complex: I counted that, on a morning, I can use anything up to FOURTEEN different products on my face- and that’s only if I use one shade of eyeshadow (I sometimes use up to three.) That’s skincare and makeup, by the way: serum, moisturiser, primer, foundation, powder, eyeshadow, mascara, eyeliner, eyebrow gel, blusher, highlighter, lip balm, lipstick. Some mornings I even put a bit of oil on my face before a serum even touches it. This has been a gradual build up of stuff over the years that has only recently got to this size.

I’ve always loved playing with makeup and its ability to transform me at 5.30am from looking like a very tired builder called Graham to, well, a better version of me. But who’s to say that is a better version of me? And do I just look tired because I’m an insomniac who, at least three times a week, gets up at 5.30? Could I actually live without less makeup? Could I maybe get a bit more sleep if I didn’t wear as much makeup? And who exactly am I doing this for?

I got seriously into makeup around the time D was born; I think I was trying to re-establish my identity and not just be ‘mum’. My makeup was also armour at a time when, emotionally, I felt weird. I had the deadness of post-natal depression battling with the hormonal weirdness of new motherhood. Makeup helped me put a brave face on a difficult time and helped me to distinguish between home and the outside world.

Lately, though, makeup is a bit of a chore- and an expensive one at that, even though I don’t buy expensive makeup. I told a friend that I was looking forward to the summer because I knew I wouldn’t have to wear makeup and I’m finding myself desperate to get home at the end of the day and wipe everything off. In fact, after the passport photo, I did just that. I went out with a bit of moisturiser, concealer and mascara on and that was it. I can’t remember when I ever did that before. No one looked at me weirdly and my skin felt amazing for the first time in ages (because apparently stress and makeup are crap for your skin. WHO KNEW?)

So I think I’m adopting this for work. Skincare stuff, a good SPF- let me know if you recommend one, btw-plus very basic makeup and that’s it. Will it be weird? Probably. But in the long-term I think it will really pay off. And of course, I reserve the right to wear more makeup on days when I want to, I just don’t want feel like I have to.

 

Making Time

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My work/life balance is out of whack at the moment. The spring term is always intense, but a series of unusual things have meant that work is even more stressful than usual (and I’ll probably have to spend at least one of my mid-week days off working and hoping that D doesn’t notice too much…) I’m also kind of not eating as I should be and everything’s just… ugh. At least there’s my birthday in the middle of the madness.

The thing that frustrates me the most is that how everything goes by the wayside. I’m a worrier by nature and the way I deal with worry is by being REALLY PROACTIVE. And so, when I worry about work, I do MORE WORK. Which is great. For work. Not so much for me and my stress levels.

I’m setting myself a resolution- and, my reader, you are witness to it. I am going  to make sure that I make time for D (I am promising myself that I will take him to his favourite place for lunch soon and I will do every. single. Mister. Maker. Art. Set. If that’s what he wants.) I will make time for Benn- we’ve been going to comedy gigs lately and we have a couple lined up in the next few weeks.

Most importantly, though, I need to make sure I do stuff I’m interested in, too. I’m quite good at not doing stuff and then beating myself up about it. The problem will be.. I just have to find the time.

Writers’ HQ: Seven Ideas In Seven Days

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Remember my novel? I was working on it loads last summer and then I did (most of) NaNoWriMo in November, before the world decided it really wanted to bring me down with its ridiculous ideas. I also got bogged down in family stuff, D’s operation, Christmas and then the hell that is working in a school when a new curriculum is trying to be introduced. I lost my way and I lost my mojo. My characters were still in my brain, my story was still asking to be written, but I just struggled to get it down or find time to write.

This is where Writers’ HQ comes in; its founders Sarah and Jo are time-poor, cash-poor, sliiiiightly sweary writers (both Sarah and Jo are novelists) who also happen to be mothers and needed a way to find time to do their work. They offer a range of ways for others to write too- monthly writers’ retreats in Brighton and Worthing, as well as online courses which are reasonably priced (there are also free exercises for a lot of the courses, if you want to check them out before committing to buy one) and take into account the pressures of daily life. Now, disclosure time: Jo is a friend of mine and has been trying to get me to go to the Brighton retreat for AGES, but I either never have money/time/anything to work on. Instead, she offered me the chance to have a go at February’s Seven Ideas In Seven Days course. I jumped on it.

Seven Ideas In Seven Days costs £20 and you are given a lesson everyday that takes around an hour to complete. I loved the variety of different tasks and the ideas I came up with were often completely new to me and very intriguing- I have at least three new ideas for different stories in completely new-to-my-writing genres (including one about the popularity of succulent plants being part  of an alien invasion plot, which I may just write for the LOLZ), as well as two new perspectives on the novels that have lived in  my brain for a long time.

I also liked the forum- although I’m not sure everyone signed up for this month’s course was using it. However, I found two supportive course members and Sarah who were all brilliant for bouncing ideas off, discussing what we’d written and where our work could go next. It felt less scary than a class and more like a friendly chat in a coffee shop (except that I was drinking tea. And in my own house. You understand the imagery though.)

Would I recommend the course? Yes. It was a lot of fun and I’d like to do another course if I get enough money together- there are all sorts of things on offer, from how to plot your novel right through to actually writing/editing the beast and eventually sending it off to a publisher. It was more personal than just using a book or an anonymous blogpost to write and I think the structure and the range of tasks meant that I sat down every night to work. It also made me realise that I CAN carve some time out of the day to write, even if it’s not much. It’s better to write a bit than not at all. I look forward to reacquainting myself with my characters. And the Mutant Succulents From Space With Mind Bending Powers Of Persuasion, obv.

 

Not Today Satan: Bianca Del Rio at Brighton Dome

“Please, don’t take anything I say seriously,” Bianca Del Rio asked of her audience after arriving onstage. A couple of minutes before, a recording  invited any of us of an easily offended disposition to leave- but as if any of us would. We know what we’re in for- that’s why we’re here. After all, Wikipedia does describe Bianca as an ‘insult comic’.

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Source: RuPaul’s Drag Race wiki

I was lucky to be there at all, actually. I managed to snag a press ticket for me and my friend Jaqui in order to review the show for The Argus (at time of writing, it’s not online. I’ll link to it here when it is.) Later, as I tried and write the review with a little gin inside me, I found it hard to write everything down in 200 words. I gave the show 5/5.

Almost everyone in the theatre will have known Bianca from RuPaul’s Drag Race. The room was filled with a captive audience: gay, straight, married, single; all there for a good time and the excitement was infectious. Jaqui and I made friends with two girls outside the venue and we made more friends with some lads in the merch queue (we didn’t have enough money for t-shirts, so we ended up buying each other exactly the same signed photo.) The audience loved Bianca. I’d argue that she’s the most successful contestant from the show, her catchphrase ‘Not today, Satan!’ even making it on protest signs at the recent anti-Trump marches. Despite the acid tongue, Bianca (the stage name of Roy Haylock) is adored, this being her second tour after ‘Rolodex of Hate’ a couple of years ago. I think ultimately it’s because we’re included in the joke- even when, sometimes, it’s aimed squarely at us. But it’s OK. We can take it because ultimately, the joke is on Bianca too. This is what makes Bianca’s comedy work: yes, it’s a bit mean, but we like her. We’re all in this together, warts and all.

Her set deals gleefully with her participation on Drag Race, the biggest cheers (and biggest boos) being offered during gossipy snippets about fellow contestants. “But, after all, the are my sisters!” Bianca offered up every time she took a sip of wine, a knowing wink in the direction of the audience. I always compare Bianca’s comedy to that of Joan Rivers; it’s sharp and funny, but sometimes you will wince when it gets a bit close to the bone. Literally no one is safe- age, race, gender, sexuality, class is all up for grabs. The sketches deal with stuff you might expect- Donald Trump, for example, “I promised I wouldn’t get political!” and weird people on reality TV to the more surreal, such as being a drunk drag queen at an airport. I literally had face ache after the show, I’d been laughing so much. After the set, Bianca offered answers to pre-submitted questions about everything from advice for new drag queens to a key scene in Hurricane Bianca. And all this was done at the mercy of a malfunctioning wig and very high heels. Fantastic.

I loved every minute of the show; even though I know this type of humour is not everyone’s cup of tea, I can’t think of anyone-other than the late Joan Rivers- who does it better.

 

The day I learnt how to flip a sheep…

Well, the title got your attention, didn’t it?

One of the  things I do quite regularly is take myself off on long walks. I’m lucky that I live near the countryside and so it’s always pleasant to go off on a wander. A few months ago, I saw that the council was looking for volunteer shepherds- ‘lookerers’- who could help out by checking the sheep they put in certain areas of the city, checking the fences and so on. I figured that, as I go up there regularly anyway, I could probably help out a bit. After all, I’m a knitter. I like sheep. I applied. And on Sunday, I attended a course.

First of all, I had to follow a trail of little wooden sheep to get to the council rangers’ office. I felt like I was in a slightly surreal version of Hansel and Gretel.

I'm following a procession of little wooden sheep and for some reason this tickles me:

Once I got there, we went over the day- we were to spend the morning out in a local area called Sheepcote Valley, where the council is currently grazing sheep: a mixture of Cheviot, mules and, my absolute favourite, Herdwick sheep- which literally do not have time for any of your nonsense, thank you very much. They’re quite sassy and don’t really have the herd mentality of the other types of sheep.

Sam, the farmer, invited us to have a go at flipping sheep. He makes it look easy. It is not easy. First of all, even in a pen, it’s bloody hard to catch a sheep. They jump and then huddle together in a huge, fleecy puddle of ovine nervousness. Then, you’ve got to get their head just so on one side. If you manage that, they then relax. You can then tip them onto their bottoms, legs in the air, looking like some little Buddha statue; a picture of content. As long as their feet aren’t on the floor, they’re cool. Could I manage to achieve sheep nirvana?

No. I have no upper body strength. I have decided that, if on my rounds, I find a sheep that needs looking at, I will call somebody. I have also come to the conclusion that, if there was a life or death situation involving me and a sheep, we’d probably wing it instinctively.

Also: this sheep below watched the whole thing as my fellow lookerers-to-be made earnest prats of ourselves. I quite liked her. I thought she looked a bit like a rabbit- she had an amused face and seemed to be quite glad that she was on the other side of the fence.

SHEEP!:

I also saw a skylark and a buzzard whilst out on the Downs. I had no idea what they were until the ranger, Lindsay, told me. I am such a city girl. I mean, I had nail polish on, for God’s sake.

In the afternoon, we learnt about why Brighton and Hove use grazing animals to look after the chalk grassland surrounding the city (it’s an incredibly rare habitat for lots of flora and fauna.) We also learnt the basics of sheep anatomy and how the lookerer system works. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in in  the spring. I’ve even signed up to work out at the new site at 19 Acres that will have New Forest ponies. I am scared of horses. I am going to have to have pony training. This will be fine. Fine.

On a more personally interesting note, I learnt that fleece from a sheared sheep sells (often) for less than £1.50. This seems confusing- after all, yarn is expensive and, even after you consider processing, marketing and so on- it still doesn’t seem to tally. It seemed daft that, at a time when farmers are struggling, that it doesn’t seem to pay to keep sheep for their wool any more. I left determined to learn more about the wool process and how it can help local farmers- could I buy yarn from certain farms? It’s on my to-do list and I’d like to knit a jumper in yarn from a single source (a bit like fancy coffee or chocolate, I suppose.) I also left thinking about how I could use my garden more sympathetically to that unusual soil makeup and support the butterflies and insects that are being eradicated from Sussex.

But could I flip I sheep? Could I billy-o.

 

Stuff for kids: The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home*

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D loves reading. He has so many books- easily a couple of hundred, I should think, and that’s before we count any library books and comics he has lying around. He’s also beginning to learn his letters and is looking forward to starting school in September (where does the time go?!)  New books and stories, then, are always welcome in our house.

The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home (£19.99) is a story from the people who brought us the Lost My Name books, which D has a copy of. The concept is simple- personalised books that make stories fun for kids aged 3-10 and the adults who read to them.

The ordering process is incredibly simple: I chose a character to represent D, put his name and our address into the website, along with a personalised message from me and Benn et voila! A book arrived a few days later, much to the delight of D who loves getting post.

The story itself is fun and easy to read aloud (which is not something you think about until you start reading to your child!) The child and their lemonade obsessed robot go through a space journey, meeting fun characters before getting lost and having to find their way back to Earth. But this isn’t a generic town, or a generic street- the book has aerial photos of your town/city (in our case, a picture of the Brighton Pier) and of your street. Obviously, I am not putting my address on the internet, so here is the example photo from the Lost My Name site to show you what I mean:

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D found the concept of this AMAZING. We spent a good few minutes looking and working out where our house was in the photo. He couldn’t get over the fact that it was his street and his house in the book and that he was a character. I do know that he insisted on telling Benn all about it and that this has been the bedtime book of choice for the last few days- every night since it arrived, in fact. I think Benn is grateful for the break from endless re-readings of Peter Pan if I’m honest…! Overall, this is a fun book and would make a great gift.

The Lost My Name website also has loads of other interesting, personalised products too, and I’ve already spotted a few things that I might buy as gifts in the near future (including some cute ‘Fantastic Firsts‘ cards for babies that I wish had been available when I had D!)

 

*Sent for review