Tips for walking to work

Hola! So, as I wrote last time, I’m now in a new job! Most days, I walk to work and very often walk back too (childcare pick up allowing…) This is fine, except it’s just short of 3 miles each way. I like to walk- I like to see the seasons changing and stomp out any tension. Plus, I had to decide whether I was willing to pay gym fees or after school club fees and, as it’s generally frowned upon to to send your kid to the pub for a few hours after school, my money goes on having him looked after.

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(5)

I am very much dressed for the weather here, although I look miserable.

I’ve been walking to work since I was temping in September and I do really love it- but there are a few things that have made my life easier and more comfortable, which is super important when you’re walking so much everyday.

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(2)

  • Breakfast- I will usually have a cup of tea and a smoothie made of Adagio’s Chocolate Matcha, banana and oat milk. This is good, because a) it means I have a banana before I’ve even woken up properly and b) I like to think that the matcha does me *some* good. It doesn’t have an overly chocolatey taste, but gives it a nice sweetness- just enough for the morning. I might also try and have something like toast or I’ll take something like oatcakes to eat at work, especially as the walk can make me really hungry. I also like using oat milk because it gives the smoothie a bit of a porridgey flavour and a bit of a fibre hit, which is obviously good (I think.)

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(1)

  • What I wear on my feet is very important, especially on a long walk. I will wear Doc Martens if the weather is bad, but they’re heavy. My go-to boots and shoes are Sketchers- they have memory foam and are lightweight, meaning I feel lighter on my feet and my legs don’t ache at the end of the day. (Benn bought me some Sketchers slippers for Christmas too. My feet feel permanently heavenly- and my posture is good as a result, too.)
  • I’d also recommend a good backpack- I hate my arms being restricted! I currently use one I picked up ages ago from the Ollie and Nic sale, but I’m on the hunt for something bigger- along the the lines of the Jansport bag I coveted at school but never got.

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(3) The biggest things that have made the most difference to my walking commute though, are the following:

  • A good antiperspirant- no-one wants to be stinky! I experimented with different brands and found that this one is the best. Also, there’s no point wearing fancy perfume when you’re walking. I’ve resorted to bodysprays and lament the fact that Impuse no longer make Zen and/or O2 scents. Considering a Twitter campaign.
  • Keep Cup– I bought mine in November and I use it mostly on cold days, when I need warming up. With Pret and Costa offering money off hot drinks, and concern about the environment, this is just a bit of a no-brainer for me. Fun fact: as a result of taking this into work, I have caused six other people to buy one. Am awaiting my commission.
  • Bluetooth headphones and Spotify- I used to have rubbish headphones and a rubbish phone. It took ages to listen to anything and I spent a long time trying to get anything to work. My in-laws bought me a great pair of headphones and I treated myself to Spotify Premium and it has honestly improved my commute no end. I have podcasts and playlists and I can honestly say that I look forward to my walk to work every day. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before.

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(4)

*All of these products are here because I love them- there are no affiliate links on this post. I was sent the matcha to review, but will be purchasing this once my sample runs out!

 

 

 

Postnatal depression, music and me

A weird thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago and because we haven’t had any wi-fi, I haven’t been able to write about it (even though I really, really wanted to.)

Back in July, I was listening to Lauren Laverne on BBC6 Music; as part of the show, she has a weekly feature called ‘Memory Tapes’. I’d been listening to a girl talking about her life and listening to Sigur Ros as she flew over Iceland and I thought maybe I could email in my own memory tape. So I did- and promptly forgot all about it. Except about two weeks later, I got an email back asking if I would be free to be on the show on August 10th. OBVIOUSLY, I said yes.

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Source: BBC6Music

My memory tape had been built around Benn and D, specifically songs that reminded me of key moments in my life with both- and I mentioned in my email (it’s on this page here) that I had struggled with PND. Although I’d never been explicit about my struggle with it online, I have been vocal about it away from social media and the blog. I knew that this element interested the producers of the show and I was determined to talk about it openly. So I did. (Despite the aforementioned lack of wi-fi making it bloody hard work to organise the whole thing.)

Now, I’m a massive fan of Lauren and have been for years, so I was dead nervous. Turns out, she’s absolutely lovely and encouraging. It was a bit weird hearing her do radio stuff before my call was cued in, but I tried hard to focus on what was being asked. I talked about how music was the anchor that threaded together my memories of D’s early months-I have huge swathes of stuff that’s forgotten or unknown to me and I can piece them together through a few songs. I spoke about how I knew I was lucky that I had had an excellent health visitor and GP, but that I knew not everyone was so fortunate. I guess I wanted people to know that you can get through it, but that we need to be more open and less dismissive when someone asks for help with their mental health. It took me months to admit that there was something wrong; when I was pregnant, I’d been assessed by a team as to how likely I was to get PND. They had been happy with my prognosis and I felt a bit of a failure when I realised something was up. In fact, I’d gone to the doctor about something else when it all came out. I am so, so grateful that she picked me up so quickly. It meant that it was nipped in the bud relatively early, although I would continue to be on medication until D was nearly three.

The aftermath of the call was slightly surreal; people sent lovely messages to the show which were read out on air and I had loads of supportive tweets. It felt good to talk about something that has been so important and shaped my life not so long ago. I’m fine now, but I know how it felt to not be fine. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Keep asking until you get it. Don’t be fobbed off.

After the call had gone out, I received an email asking if I minded if it went on the website- they’d had a huge response. Of course, I said it was fine. If you want to listen to it, it’s here. (Weirdly, I sound so much like my sister, it’s *creepy*.) I don’t know if it helped anyone, but hopefully it showed that PND is something that can be overcome with the right support. We need to talk about it more openly and make it less taboo to discuss it; to listen when someone asks for help and to notice maybe when they are unable to.

What I’m listening to RIGHT NOW

As I’ve got older, I’ve found that my musical tastes have grown into a very broad spectrum (I could probably name you a song I like from most genres, except maybe prog rock and experimental jazz- I’ll leave those for Benn) and I always, always have an earworm on the go. The first song I hear most mornings, because it’s both my alarm and my ringtone, is Oliver’s Army by Elvis Costello.

This morning, this was replaced in my brain by Mellow Yellow by Donovan, which is the last song on the Minions soundtrack- I’ll let you guess why that might be. No matter that the film itself is a bit daft, the songs on it are pretty good (the action takes place in London in 1968, so it’s got some great Swinging Sixties classics.) I did drive myself quite mad with this one.

I started the weekend thinking-sadly- about music, as I watched Amy on Channel 4 on Friday night. I’d never seen it before, but I remember how profoundly sad I felt when she died; I’d always been rooting for her and it was just so tragic that she could never fulfill her potential. Although everyone always goes for the classics- Rehab, Back to Black- I’ll always have a soft spot for heartbroken but upbeat Tears Dry On Their Own.

I got a few albums for Christmas, which is unusual. My current favourite is Leon Bridge’s album Coming Home. It has a really old-school, Sam Cooke/gospel feel to it which I love. It’s replaced 1989 as my current most-played album.

Speaking of Taylor Swift, I also got Red for Christmas- so 22 is never far away from being hummed at some point in the day.

And, of course, a certain Mr Bowie is there, too. If my weekend started on a sad musical note, it ended on one too. It was slightly surreal to see the news start filter through on Twitter as I was starting to get ready for work. The denials, the hoping of a hoax and then the confirmation- it was a news story developing before my eyes. I didn’t grow up listening to Bowie, as my parents were never really into him; my interest came much later and his music was pretty much my main soundtrack during my pregnancy and afterwards (I have no idea why it was that moment that made his music important to me.) I remember being surprised at just how much of his stuff I knew without realising it. Anyway, it’s hard to choose one Bowie song, so I’ll choose the one that I played a lot when D was a baby- he always settled when it played (and he is a pretty thing, but he does drive me insane sometimes!)

What are you listening to right now?

Strictly Come Dancing: Week 12- Semi Finals

Wowzers! We got here fast, didn’t we? As usual, we’ve lost the ‘comedy’ celebs, as well as a couple of early favourites (Peter, Helen) and the final five has a couple of surprises (Katie? Anita? I’m not complaining though, as I like both.) Each couple tonight will dance two dances, which is nice. At least one of the dances tonight is a rumba. I’m going to let Eli Gold tell you how I feel about this:

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Shall we get started, then?

Katie and Anton- Charleston (It’s Too Darn Hot)

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I love this song! It’s a good match with the Charleston and I always expect Katie to approach each dance with gusto, even if she’s not consistent in terms of quality. (Also, I would literally KILL for legs like Katie’s, although they would look odd on my potato-esque body. Que serra, serra.) Katie definitely Gave Good Face, but there were points where she kind of lost it a bit and seemed to hesitate. It’s definitely hard to be a ballroom specialist in a year when the Charleston is king.

Ouch, a low score for a semi-final dance AND a Charleston.

Scores: Craig-4 Darcey-7 Len-7 Bruno-7 TOTAL:25

Jay and Aliona- Viennese Waltz (Have You Ever Loved A Woman)

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Ack, would you want to be the first Viennese Waltz after last week’s East End gin palace barnstormer? It is Jay though, so whatevs. I’m not ashamed to admit that Bryan Adams is a guilty pleasure of mine, but I’m not a massive fan of this schmaltzy song (mind you, it could have been Everything I Do, so let’s not cut our noses off to spite our faces here.) This was OK. I’m not a huge fan of the Viennese, if I’m honest. I loved Aliona’s dress though. I’m not going to lie- I didn’t hear a lot of the critique because D was being a bit annoying.

Scores: Craig-8 Darcey-9 Len-8 Bruno-9 TOTAL:34

Georgia and Giovanni- Cha Cha (I Will Survive)

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Not so subtle message after last week’s (quite frankly unjust) stint in the dance-off. Georgia will probably garner sympathy this week with the audience though, what with the shock that she was in the bottom two AND a complicated sounding sore throat. However, for me, this felt like it took a long time to get going into the actual dance. Once it got going though, it was fun. Everyone knows how hard it is to party when you just want to be home in your pjs, right?

Scores: Craig-8 Darcey-8 Len-8 Bruno-9 TOTAL:33

Anita and Gleb- Foxtrot (New York, New York)

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I do LOVE a proper glitzy foxtrot, none of these slower ones that seem to have been en vogue this series. I loved this- there’s a lot to be said for sticking to the classics, even if your (gorgeous) dress looks like a cross between flamingo roadkill and Animal from the Muppets. I’d like to own that dress, please. I thought the marks were a tad harsh, but then what do I know?

Scores: Craig-7 Darcey-8 Len-8 Bruno-9 TOTAL:32

Kellie and Kevin- Rumba (Songbird)

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Oh, God. I find both the rumba AND this kind of dreary song so bloody boring. So I just KNEW how much I’d love this dance.

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Also, who has Kellie cheesed off in wardrobe? Anyway. Rumba. Yeah. Fast bits, twirly bits. OK. Some bits seemed quite fast. It wasn’t too raunchy, which was good AND they didn’t use any props! Hurrah!

Scores: Craig-9 Darcey-8 Len-9 Bruno-8 TOTAL:34

Katie and Anton- Waltz (O Mio Babbino Caro)

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You always know that Katie and Anton in a classic ballroom dance will be (or at least, should be!) lovely to look at. I had high hopes after earlier’s shakier Charleston; if Katie can’t do a waltz well, I don’t think I can believe in anything any more. Including Christmas. I could tell that this was going to be A Serious Dance, as Strictly had got the smoke machine out. As predicted, Katie did well, but I thought there were a few little stumbles (as mentioned by Len.) I’m not sure Katie will be in the competition next week.

Scores: Craig-8 Darcey-9 Len-7 Bruno-7 TOTAL: 31  

COMBINED SCORE:56

Jay and Aliona-Charleston (Doctor Jazz)

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Jay has a lot to live up to since that amazing jive a few weeks ago- but I wondered if he would be able to do ‘the face’ better than Peter Andre could. That being said, there’s a sort of innocence about Jay which never makes him look like he’s trying so hard; he doesn’t appear to have that same sort of hard-bitten professionalism that some of the other contestants have had this year. This dance just SEEMS made for me- my favourite dance with a Doctor Who theme. This just made me grin from ear to ear- it was so much fun and slightly messy. LOVED IT. Also, I want some glittery Converse.

Scores: Craig- 9 Darcey-9 Len-9 Bruno-10 TOTAL:37

COMBINED SCORE: 71

Georgia and Giovanni- Viennese Waltz (Runaway)

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Both waltzes this week appear at first glance to be pretty traditional. But there’s no denying that Georgia does do princess-y ballroom and the judges love it. (Although between you and me, I think two Viennese Waltzes this week has been a bit of an overkill.) This was pretty, in spite of the band’s weird take on the song. I like to think the guitar-y bits were a tribute to Jim Corr, AKA The Forgotten Corr.

Scores: Craig-9 Darcey-10 Len-9 Bruno-10 TOTAL: 38

COMBINED SCORE: 71

Anita and Gleb- Salsa (Feel This Moment)

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Why do people keep encouraging Pitbull (known in my house as ‘that odious little man’) by using his music for stuff like this? Before tonight’s show, I reckoned on this being the weaker of Anita’s two dances. I liked the futuristic cheerleader routine, even if Benn did ask why Gleb was dressed like Freddie Mercury for a Pitbull track. It did seem quite a complex routine though, blimey.

Scores: Craig-8 Darcey-8 Len-8 Bruno-8 TOTAL:32

COMBINED SCORE: 64

Kellie and Kevin- American Smooth (Let’s Face The Music And Dance)

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Ooh, this is quite Anton-esque in terms of dance and song choice, innit?  The dance itself was such a lovely end to the show (especially after that futuristic-cheerleaders-on-speed routine) and I will always, ALWAYS have time for old fashioned glamour in dance. All the little Fred and Ginger touches and the Art Deco set design just made this so beautiful.

Scores: Craig-9 Darcey-10 Len-10 Bruno-10 TOTAL:39

COMBINED SCORE: 73

So, at the top of the leaderboard we have KELLIE and KATIE is at the bottom; I predict Katie and Anita will be in the bottom two tomorrow, with Katie leaving. But then, what do I know? I’ve got it wrong every sodding week.

Let me know your thoughts!

Strictly Come Dancing: Week #8

Morning all. I’m blogging this the morning after the night before, as I was at a fancy dress party last night, drinking gin and lemonade. It’s quite weird writing this the day after, as I’ve sort of seen bits about last night, but I’m going to approach this the way I do if I’m watching live. Except I can fast forward those annoying VTs. We’re over halfway through! Next week is Blackpool! (Never, ever play a shot based game in the week before Blackpool, in which you drink every time its mentioned. You will have a stinking hangover the next day. Ask me how I know. AHA- TESS AND CLAUDIA MENTIONED IT LATER ON! I write my intro before watching, so you can imagine my delight when I saw this skit.) I’m also OBVIOUSLY gutted that The Nicest Man In The World, Pasha, is now longer in the competition.

Enjoy! Or not. I’m not the boss of you.

Anita and Gleb- Quickstep (Don’t Get Me Wrong)

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This is a good song for the quickstep- light and bouncy (and I have a feeling it’s been used before?) I continue to love Anita and feel ambivalent towards Gleb… is it because, in the words of Derek Zoolander, he’s ‘really, really ridiculously good looking’ and he knows it? Perhaps. I mean, what must it be like to go through life with that face? (See also: Aljaz, Artem.) This was pretty, accomplished and lovely to watch- a bit like Anita herself!

Scores: Craig-8 Darcey-8 Len-8 Bruno-8 Total: 32 Mentions of Blackpool: 3

Jay and Aliona- Foxtrot (Lay Me Down)

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Obviously there are high expectations here, as usual. Jay is a good, technical dancer- although I was a bit disappointed by the Argentine Tango last week (not flicky enough for me.) But then, I’m often the only person who thinks this and who cares what I think? Anyway, the choice of song was a bit rumba-y for me- I like a cheery foxtrot, personally- but you could tell Jay was really trying to incorporate the judges’ advice from last week. Benn noticed the trip, but at least Jay was able to recover quickly. His little face though after the dance had finished 😦 Still my favourite though. Also side note: I LOVE IT WHEN DARCEY GETS ALL ANGRY.

Scores: Craig-6 Darcey-8 Len-8 Bruno-8 Total:31  Mentions of Blackpool: 0

Jamelia and Tristan- Samba (A Little Respect)

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I love this song. (Fun fact: after showing my media students the Scrubs episode where the song ‘infects’ everyone and they can’t stop singing it, the same thing happened around the school where I work. I heard snippets of it in the staffroom for WEEKS.) Anyway, Samba doesn’t have a good track record and I was expecting that Tristan would be holding on to Jamelia for dear life. Also, why is she dressed as a three-year-old at a princess party? Do wardrobe hate her? I like that this dance basically told the story of the Wheatus version of the song’s video (geeky lad pulls popular girl.) Not bad for Jamelia, either- a few clunky bits, but overall good- even if, according to Craig, some of the grinding was ‘unnecessary’…!

Scores: Craig-5 Darcey-7 Len-7 Bruno-7 Total:26  Mentions of Blackpool: 1

Helen and Aljaz- Tango (Hold Back The River)

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OK, before watching this, I was expecting high drama and lots Serious Tango Face. This week, Helen is giving serious Jean Harlow vibes (I think it’s the hair.) But why was Aljaz dressed like a room designed by Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen? As expected, a competent tango, although a weird song choice (but then, hey Georgia danced a tango to Ghostbusters, so what do I know?)

Scores: Craig-8 Darcey-9 Len-8 Bruno-9 Total:34  Mentions of Blackpool: 1

Katie and Anton- Rumba (Never, Never, Never)

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Firstly, I’d like to point out I’m not a fan of the picture above. But hey, you get what you’re given. Also, at this stage in the game, I am tolerating the rumba and hoping it dies out quite quickly as everyone ends up having danced it. I just then have to hope that no one chooses it as their choice in the final (unlikely?) However, this is the highest scoring rumba of the series, which shows how annoyingly difficult it seems to be. Anyway, Katie had a definite sexy Audrey Hepburn thing going on and this almost had a bit of a tango feeling (or am I going mad?) I didn’t actually mind this too much, as it wasn’t raunchy and in your face; as Katie and Anton said, it was a grown up rumba. God, I’m such a prude.

Scores: Craig-7 Darcey-8 Len-8 Bruno-8 Total:31  Mentions of Blackpool:1

Kellie and Kevin- Samba (Boom Shake The Room)

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So when I was putting this together, I made sure I didn’t see the scores, but just grabbed pictures from the Strictly feed- I’d guessed that, by this comment it wasn’t Kellie’s best. After her shocking place in the bottom two last week, I wondered whether her confidence was low (and I’ve talked about the awkwardness of having a samba/salsa- the dances of death- the week after a dance off before.) I’m not ashamed to admit that I got it wrong! I love the relationship between these two and their sense of humour was a lot fun to watch, I even found the mauling of the song by the singers funny. I’m pretty sure I had a Barbie dressed like Kellie was last night.

Scores: Craig-9 Darcey-8 Len-7 Bruno-9 Total:33  Mentions of Blackpool:0

Peter and Janette- Viennese Waltz (You’re My World)

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Ooh, I do love an abundance of tuille. After last week’s fun Charleston, these two must have been riding high- has Peter put himself back in the game, I wonder? Based on this dance: quite possibly, but I’m not convinced. We’ll see, eh? This felt a bit ‘modern’ for a Viennese waltz, so I did wonder what the judges would say about it… and yep, more hold seemed to be the main feedback.

Scores: Craig-8 Darcey-9 Len-8 Bruno-9 Total:34  Mentions of Blackpool:3

Georgia and Giovanni- Charleston (Hot Honey Rag)

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OK, I already know that this is the highest scoring dance of the series, beating Peter’s Charleston last week- this year really does feel like year of the Charleston and I love it. This fizzed with flapper-ish energy and pizazz; they made it look easy. LOVED IT.

Scores: Craig-9 Darcey-10 Len-10 Bruno-10 Total:39  Mentions of Blackpool:4

Jeremy and Karen- Quickstep (Going Underground)

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I predicted a couple of weeks ago that Jeremy will probably make it to Blackpool and then leave at that stage; the ‘comedy’ acts usually do as well as that and then afterwards, it gets properly serious as we move towards the final. Karen is basically having fun coming up with more and more outlandish storylines each week, so God knows what she’ll come up with next week if they do make it. I’m not sure how much of this was dance steps and how much was just Jeremy walking/running. Bless him. I liked the ‘Wheels On The Bus’ section especially.

Scores: Craig-4 Darcey-6 Len-6 Bruno-5 Total:21  Mentions of Blackpool:6

So we have GEORGIA at the top of leaderboard and JEREMY at the bottom. Jamelia, Katie and Jay (boo!) are all at risk. If you’d been taking shots, your liver would be shot and you’d be pretty much dead…

Britpop playlist

Benn and I have been listening to BBC6 Music’s History of Britpop stuff this week and we had a discussion about it last night; I loved Britpop, Benn was more into dance music (he was a strange child.) It was a funny time for me, the mid-90s. I was a bit too young for grunge (I discovered that later) and I distinctly remember loving Pulp before The Spice Girls even arrived. Anyway, I thought I’d put together a playlist of Britpop classics for a sunny afternoon!

By the way, in the comments, can you tell me which band was the best of the genre? Benn and I disagree.

 

The Bluetones- Slight Return

I’ve had discussions with my friend Alex about how The Bluetones are one of the more underrated Britpop bands. I love this song and never get bored of it.

Elastica- Connection

Elastica are one of those bands I’ve learnt to like more as I got older; they didn’t really register on my radar at the time of Britpop.

Sleeper- What Do I Do Now?

I love this song. I loved it when I was a kid and I always wanted Louise Wener’s haircut. Alas, my hair did not want that haircut.

Pulp- Common People

For me, Pulp are the band of Britpop; I can’t quite explain it, but I think they didn’t have the boorishness of Oasis or the faux-matey-ness of Blur. They just got on with it. Plus, Jarvis Cocker can do no wrong in my eyes. (Fun fact: we had this played at our wedding, video and all.)

Oasis- Live Forever

Despite what I said about Oasis, Definitely Maybe is one of my all time favourite albums. I just liked them before they got a bit messy.

Blur- The Universal

Unlike with Oasis, I prefer Blur’s later stuff (as this was released at the end of 1995, I reckon it still counts as Britpop). It’s a shame British Gas ruined what is essentially a lovely song with quite a scary message though.

Dodgy- Good Enough

Remember when one of Dodgy was engaged to Denise Van Outen? No? I do. Anyway, as a kid, I loved Dodgy’s exuberance and joie de vivre… another underrated band.

Echobelly- King of The Kerb

I remember singing this at school and not having any idea what the lyrics were about. I may have also had this on a Smash Hits tape…

Autumn Playlist

I haven’t done a playlist for a while, so thought I’d stick something together that screams AUTUMN to me for various reasons. It seems that all my choices are quite reflective and quiet. I suppose autumn is a bit like that for me- and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Kate Bush- Wuthering Heights

Fun fact- in my old staffroom, there was a weird mould/damp patch that looked a bit like Kate Bush. Anyway, to me Wuthering Heights is the book to read in the autumn, all bleak moors and so on. Plus there’s something about Kate that is super autumn-y, but I can’t put my finger on it.

Echo and the Bunnymen- The Killing Moon

I think the feel of this one is perfect for the time of year; a bit eerie and reflective as well as slightly haunting. One of my favourite songs ever.

Antony and the Johnsons- Twilight

The first time I heard this, Antony Hegarty’s voice terrified me. Now I love it. It’s sad, melancholic and utterly beautiful. I like to put this album on when I’m in the house alone and it’s dark outside.

Tori Amos- Winter

This is my all-time favourite Tori song (and Tori is one of my all-time favourites herself.) I genuinely want this played at my funeral, it is so beautiful.