Music Monday: Gin Wigmore

It’s Music Monday again, and I wanted to share a post I wrote for Writing.com’s Soundtrackers activity in early February.

As I write this, I’m sitting on a blanket on a grassy hill north west of Auckland listening to Tami Neilson. I hadn’t heard her music before today, and I’m really enjoying it. Quite catchy and with good rhythm. Makes you want to wiggle your ass.

I’m glad the music is good, because I haven’t been impressed with the wine and food here at the North West Wine and Food Festival. We’re at the Hunting Lodge, where Steve took me for our wedding anniversary last month. We had a beautiful Hunting Lodge pinot noir and I’d looked forward to having it again. But although there are four or five wineries represented today, each only has two wines available, and both the Hunting Lodge ones are white. There’s no one to talk to about the wines, the only way to try one is to buy a glass at $10. And the food isn’t anything to write home about. Somehow the Hunting Lodge, who charge $38 a main, are selling fries, hot dogs and pizza. What the actual fuck?

But in less than an hour, Gin Wigmore is taking the stage. I’ve been wanting to see her live for ages, but last time she did a tour, I couldn’t afford tickets.

I have three Gin Wigmore songs on my playlist, and I’m hoping I’ll have more after tonight. I’m definitely going to be adding some Tami Neilson!

So here’s some kiwi music for you. I know she’s been living in the US for a while, but she’s a Kiwi.

Music Monday: Run to the Hills by Iron Maiden

As I mentioned in my last Music Monday post (this is where I was going with that one, but I got distracted talking about music apps), I have several playlists.

Christmas music – this is because I have music I like to listen to at Christmas, but I don’t want to be hearing it all year!

Classical music – This is what I listen to if I’m tired or need to zone out, or maybe I just wanna concentrate on my book. It’s also what I listen to when I write fiction. It’s mostly heavier classical music – Tchaikovsky’s 1812, Edgar’s Pomp & Circumstance, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, etc. Robust classical music, not quiet elevator music. There are some film scores in there too – Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, Die Hard… And a few choral pieces I like, mostly by Pavarotti.

Housework – This is upbeat music designed to impart energy. *Laugh* When it comes to housework, I need all the help I can get! We play this one loud.

Party music – This is a playlist designed to be played loud when we’re drinking, preferably with guests over. It devolves into Steve’s old clubbing music at the end, for some reason. *Rolleyes*

Soundtrack of my life – Yeah, this is a playlist I put together after the first time I did Writing.com’s Soundtrackers activity. It’s super weird to listen to, because it goes from the songs I remember from my childhood (mostly older music that my parents listened to), then music from the 90s when I was a teenager and some Christian stuff, then songs influenced by my husband which are much heavier and cruder than anything I listened to, then random songs my kids liked when they were little, including such things as Thomas the Tank Engine which I used to play for them in the car, and then finally, more recent stuff. It makes for an interesting playlist. *Crazy*

I made a general playlist which is imaginatively titled Elle’s playlist but YouTube also automatically puts all my ‘liked’ music into a playlist, so there’s a lot of double-up there. When I was listening to YouTube Music, I just used to like the new songs I liked, rather than adding them to a playlist, mostly because I was often driving, so the automatically generated ‘liked’ playlist is more comprehensive than Elle’s playlist.

I was going somewhere with this ramble.  *Facepalm*

Okay, no, I was definitely going somewhere with this. So, I recently got a hankering just to listen to some good old classic rock without listening to all the other ones. So I made a Classic rock playlist. It was inspired by mine and Steve’s recent wedding anniversary. Here’s what happened.

So, it was our wedding anniversary on 18 January. 16 years. Which means that this month we’ve been together 19 years. And I was 19 when we started dating. So we’ve literally been together half my life. *Crazy* Woah.

Steve sent me a gorgeous bouquet of roses to the office. The roses were all in different colours, including some gorgeous pink and yellow variegated ones. I gave his dad one of them to see if he could propagate it for me. So pretty.

Then he picked me up from work at 5pm and said he was taking me out to dinner. We went home and called an Uber so that we could both drink. Steve wouldn’t tell me where we going and that it was a surprise, but the moment we got in the Uber, the GPS said ‘Directions to the Hunting Lodge’. *Laugh* Fail.

I hadn’t been to the Hunting Lodge before, but I’d heard a lot about it. Steve’s dad used to be the head chef there in the ‘80s. It had been known as a very expensive, exclusive restaurant. It’s way out in the middle of nowhere (although as Auckland continues sprawling, it doesn’t seem so way out anymore) and people would helicopter from Auckland to the Hunting Lodge for dinner. When Steve’s parents got married, they were able to use the Hunting Lodge grounds for free, which was a massive coup at the time. A decade or so later, long after Steve’s dad had moved on to other jobs, the Hunting Lodge closed. It remained closed for about 15 years, during which time I heard about it over and over again from Steve’s family. It re-opened in 2016 and Steve’s parents went there for their wedding anniversary. And now we were going there.

I don’t know why, but somehow I expected a restaurant called ‘The Hunting Lodge’ to be…well, a lodge. A longish building. And maybe to have dark wood panelling and some semblance of a rustic theme. Steve told me that when he was a kid, it had animal heads on the walls. I’m okay without the animal heads, especially while I’m eating, but it had nothing of the hunting OR the lodge about it. It was instead a small house (that’s the impression I got from the rooms I went in), that made me think the word ‘homestead’ rather than ‘lodge’. The interior walls were painted in pastel shades that made me think ‘cottage’. It was quite open, as if they’d knocked down some walls to turn three small rooms into one large dining area with three sort of areas within it. For a fine dining restaurant, I felt that the whole set up was very ordinary. The tables and chairs, the place settings, all very ordinary. The glasses were all engraved with the Hunting Lodge name and symbol.

I started with the heirloom tomato salad ($16). It was delicious. Beautifully seasoned with herbs and what I assume was balsamic vinegar. Very nice. Steve had the buttermilk fried chicken ($20), which he said was delicious.

I tried the rosé, but it wasn’t for me. I am starting to wonder if that one rosé I liked was just a fluke, or maybe I was extra thirsty and it was a hot day or something. Anyway, we went for the Hunting Lodge pinot noir 2017 from Central Otago. It was superb. Absolutely delicious. We want to buy a couple of bottles for home, but of course it was too late for their cellar door purchases that evening. We’d come back. It’d be worth it! It’s only $39 a bottle in the shop whereas it’s $85 in the restaurant. Which is ludicrous actually, because the shop is literally next door to the restaurant, you could walk between them in about 30 seconds. *Rolleyes*

As we were sitting there, in this supposedly fancy restaurant, eating delicious food and drinking fabulous wine, Steve said “Oh my god. They’re playing Iron Maiden.”

Firstly, it’s astonishing that Steve could even hear what music was playing. He has noise-induced hearing loss, and struggles to isolate sounds in a noisy environment. It makes it incredibly difficult for him to follow conversations in noisy restaurants or pubs. And this music was playing so quietly in the background that few people would even be aware of it.

But sure enough, as we concentrated, we heard Iron Maiden’s Run To The Hills playing. *Rolling* So funny. We joked that you’d only get that in a fine dining restaurant in West Auckland (West Auckland being known as the place where people wear black jeans and Metallica t shirts and drive Holden station wagons listening to Deep Purple). Technically we were in Waimauku, which is north west of Auckland, but clearly still Westie enough to play Iron Maiden in a fine dining restaurant. So funny.

After that, we also heard Guns N Roses, AC/DC, Aerosmith and others. There was a guy at the table next to us who was humming along too. And then there were some nattily dressed older people who didn’t even seem to notice that they were being serenaded with classic rock. *Laugh*

For mains, I had the beef sirloin with pinot noir butter, shoestring fries, shallots and parsley salad ($36). It was okay, but I’ve definitely had better. Hell, I’ve cooked better. It desperately needed seasoning, even if it was just with some cracked pepper. The fries were delicious though. Steve had caramelised duck breast with boudin noir, beetroot, anise and cherries ($38). It was beautifully presented, and he quite enjoyed it, especially the beetroot.

For dessert we shared the stracciatella and chocolate ice cream bar ($17) which was nice, but not really $17 nice, if you know what I mean. It was a bit like an ice cream bar you might buy at the dairy or supermarket. And also the vanilla creme brulee which came with strawberry sorbet and freeze dried strawberries ($16). Steve thought the creme brulee was amazing, and kept raving about the texture of it. I particularly enjoyed the sorbet.

I had a wee port to finish, only it came in a dessert wine glass and so ended up being a massive port. *Laugh* It was nice, but I couldn’t finish it after having had wine as well.

Overall, the food was good albeit a bit hi and miss. The wine was excellent. Service was good, decor was disappointing and the music was hilarious. I leave you with Iron Maiden’s Run To The Hills which has since made it on to my playlist. *Pthb*

School strike for climate (New Zealand)

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Today, while I sat in my air conditioned office, a chant slowly grew in volume outside the window.  I’d been hearing it off and on all day, but now it was really noticeable.  I go to the window and see a procession of young protesters walking down Queen Street (the main street in Auckland).  They hold up their signs (some clever, some not-so-much) and chant “Hey hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go!”  They’re loud and they’re passionate.  For the first time today I realise that these kids are serious.

They spill over from the footpath and halt traffic, determined to be heard.  These are not kids who just want a cruisy day off school.  This is old-school type protesting, the kind we used to see.  You’ve got teens waving their arms and shouting in the faces of policemen, and you’ve got teens thrusting their signs at truck drivers, insisting they stop and take notice.  These kids are passionate.  They are sincere.  They are determined to make a difference.

At my last job, I was the second-oldest person in the office, and I had a number of co-workers who were in their very early twenties.  They were very passionate about climate change among other things.  They’d nag the rest of us about coming back from the supermarket with single-use plastic bags, or for not using reusable drink bottles at our desks.  It wasn’t inspired by anything other than a passion to save the planet.

I’ve never been passionate about recycling or any of the other myriad things I could be doing to help the planet.  I only started separating my recycling out recently.  By which I mean, in the last three years.  And I could still do better on that front.  I have only just stopped using single-use plastic bags , and it’s mostly because the supermarkets have stopped offering them.  I only started using public transport in December.  Yeah, it wasn’t an option for me the last two years, but it was for the seven years before that and I chose to use my car instead which was more expensive so there were no wins there.  I love nature (I’m a country girl who was brought up on a farm) and I love how beautiful our country is, but I’ve never put any effort into helping to maintain it.  I suck.

My friend Kat said it so eloquently in Sour Grapes and Humble Pie when she wrote ‘Maybe just maybe they are fighting for their life today. The life you got to enjoy already. With clean air, oceans to swim in and gardens to watch your kids play in.’  My kids are city kids, and sometimes I wonder at the difference between the childhood I had on the farm and the childhood they had in the city.  And it’s remarks like that which make me stop and think.  I’m going camping in April, and it’ll be fresh air, peace and quiet, hopefully enjoying nature.  I need to do my part to ensure that others have a chance to enjoy what I have already enjoyed and will continue to enjoy.

It’s easy to say that these kids just want a day off school, but the truth is, the generation after mine, the post-millenials, they ARE passionate about the environment.  They really are.  And they’ve got so many people today talking about climate change, the environment, and our personal responsibilities, so the truth is, they have achieved what they wanted to achieve.  They have been heard and they are making a difference.  That’s bloody inspiring.

A shrine

Prompt: Runaway

Note: This is a ‘drabble’ – microfiction of less than 100 words.

 

I don’t know why I left his room preserved. A shrine to a life that once was.  Posters of rock bands adhered to the wall with blu tack, small participation trophies on top of a bookshelf overflowing with comics and science fiction novels.  I dusted weekly, but otherwise the only thing to change since he left was the removal of the note he left me. Silly, really.  If he’d liked things the way they were, he would never have run away in the first place.

Music Monday: Miranda Lambert

It’s Music Monday, and this week’s theme at Writing.com’s Soundtrackers activity is ‘current playlist’. I have several playlists. I don’t have Spotify, and my Apple Music subscription has lapsed, so I’m only using Youtube at the moment. Which sucks actually, because you can’t have music playing in the background while you’re reading a book or whatever. Eventually, when I’ve sorted out our finances again (must get on to that) I’ll get a subscription to one of them again. People rave about Spotify, and that’s what Steve uses, but so far I’ve found the best to be Youtube Music. I like it because I can put all my favourites into one big ‘liked music’ list and then it not only plays songs I like, it also offers me new songs to listen to, based on those I like already. I’ve found a bunch of new songs that way. So that’s probably what I’ll go back to.

Before YouTube Music, I’d never heard of Miranda Lambert. I quite like her stuff. Although I’m terrible at putting music into categories (and forget sub-categories like ‘alternative rock’ or whatever), for me I feel like she’s a bit country, but not so country that it’s cringe-worthy. Anyway, YouTube Music introduced me to some of her songs. I’m not sure what in my playlist made it think I’d like her. I didn’t have a lot of country in there. The Eagles, who straddle that line between country and classic rock… Mumford and Sons are probably country in some sense. Hmm, Wikipedia says they’re ‘folk rock’ and ‘alternative rock’. Apparently the Eagles are ‘folk rock’ too as well as ‘country rock’, ‘soft rock’ and just plain ‘rock’. *Rolleyes*

Anyway, I like Miranda Lambert, even if Wikipedia says she’s just pure country. I’ve always liked country, because when I was a kid my dad used to belong to the local country music club, and my sisters and I used to sing out of his country music songbook and sometimes we were allowed to go along to the club nights. Years later I found out that Dad didn’t actually like country music, it was just one of the few places he could play music with other musicians. *Laugh* Anyway, it reminds me of my childhood on the farm. But I don’t listen to it as a matter of course. If I hear it, I’ll be humming away and tapping my feet, but it’s not something I listen to in the car or at home. Does that make sense? It’s nice to hear every now and then, not all the time.

So these are my favourite two Miranda Lambert songs. I like the music, the beat and the music video of the first one, and the lyrics of the second one.

Book review of Globejotting by Dave Fox

Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals (and still have time to enjoy your trip!)

Interestingly, I read half of this book before my big UK trip last year, and half of it afterwards.  My thoughts on travel journalling changed significantly after my trip.

Here are my thoughts from before my trip:

This is less of a book review, and more a practice at speed journalling.  I am familiar with this concept. I actually find it fairly easy to turn off my brain and just write.  We call it a brain-dump, although that sounds weird now that I’ve written it out. It’s also a technique used when doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  With NaNoWriMo, you’re trying to write 50,000 words in a month, and in order to do that, you have to turn off your inner editor. You can’t be constantly deleting and re-writing paragraphs or pages, because if you do, you’ll never write 50,000 words in a month.  While I find it easy to just blurt out the words in my head onto the page, turning off my inner editor is crazy hard. I really struggle with it. I can definitely see that it would speed up my journalling and allow me to get more of my day down on the page, thus allowing me to a) enjoy more of the day ‘in the moment’ and b) encourage me to keep up with my journalling and not fall behind.

He recommends that instead of writing about your day from start to finish, just choose 1-4 highlights from the day and write about those.  I actually love being able to see the teeny tiny details like what I ate on the plane, as it makes the experience seem more real to me, but I get what he’s saying.  When you write down the chronological facts, you do sometimes tend to leave out the emotions, thoughts and impressions. I know I do this. In my everyday journalling, if I write about something as it happens or immediately after, my writing is far more emotive.  I might write about how my husband being in the hospital with possible appendicitis makes me feel scared and lost, even while I understand that it’s a routine procedure and everything is going to be fine. I am reminded of how much he means to me, and how absolutely broken I’d be if anything happened to him.  I think about how much my happiness depends on him, and I worry about what kind of person I’d be if I lost him. I start thinking about the way relationships can work and whether co-dependency is a good thing or a bad thing. I start creating wild fantasies about how I’d react to grief and what we’d need to do to sell the house and how long I’d have to be off work.  And I’d write about how quiet the house is, and how I miss listen to his breathing as I fall asleep, and how tempting it is to find his aftershave and just smell it, like some creepy stalker person. But if I write about it after the fact, several days later or maybe weeks or months, I’m more factual. He went into the hospital at this time. I went and saw him, we chatted.  The op kept getting pushed back and he was hungry and sore. He nearly passed out in the bathroom at one point. The op went well, and I took him home the next day. Boring. And so different. I need those little details to make it seem real.

I’ve kind of gone off track here.  See, Dave isn’t recommending the latter version, the mere basic facts.  He actually wants something more like the former emotional rambling. Yet, my babble above kind of indicates the opposite.  I suppose I was doing that whole brain-dump thing, and not clarifying what I was writing as I was writing it.

So I guess I’m saying that if I catch those little details, like an actual quote from the day (maybe something he said when he was groggy on anaesthetic) or the crappy meal he got when they finally decided he wasn’t having the op that day but he’d already missed the proper meal, then it feels more real.  Like, those are the tiny details that you forget when you leave the journalling for a while and try to capture the experience at a later date. I remember the big things, like that he went for an op and I was scared. In a travel journalling context, I remember going to the Tower of London and the awe I felt at being surrounded by history. It’s the little details that fade, and so those are what I feel like I need to capture immediately.

I do see Dave’s point about capturing the highlights though.  It’s a good suggestion. I think it’s particularly important if you’re short on time.  I tend to do my journalling in the evening, before bed, when I travel. But if I was tired and wanting to get to sleep, I’d definitely consider just touching on the highlights instead of recapping the whole day.

Dave reminds us to take the advice that works for us, and leave what doesn’t, which is frankly the best advice ever.  I give the same advice to new parents. Take what works, discard what doesn’t. It’s different for everyone. So yep, must remember to practice what I preach.

He talks about choosing one interesting person each day of your trip and jotting down a character description.  I love this idea. Not sure if I’d be able to do it every day, but it sounds like such a fun thing to read back over.  He says to capture a quote they said that shows the way they talk, share their physical description, their mannerisms, their attitude and expressions.  I’m not very good at including this kind of detail in my journalling, so I like this. I actually have a terrible memory for faces. Like, I’d be a terrible witness.  I bet I couldn’t even describe my own or my husband’s face in sufficient detail for a police artist to draw them. I’d struggle to tell you what needed changing on the picture to make it more correct.  I just…I have a terrible visual memory. I think this is why I love photography. Words are fine, and I think I’d be fine with remembering a quote to write down at the end of the day (especially if I was actually aware of the need to note it), but physical descriptions are hard for me.  If you’ve read my short stories, you’ll know this too. One of the most common remarks that reviewers on Writing.com make when reading my stories is that I don’t describe characters or surroundings. Sometimes I’ll write a short story about a guy and a reviewer will comment on ‘her’ and I’ll realise I’ve put in so little description that the reader doesn’t even know if they’re male or female.  Actually, I have multiple stories like that, where the character is gender-neutral. It’s not deliberate though, it’s just a lack of description. Sometimes I use a name that gives it away, and that’s the only clue my reader has. Anyway, back to this book. I love this idea. It’s certainly not my strong point, and I’m going to find this a really tough challenge, but I’d like to give it a go. I think my husband and kids would have fun with it too. Like, I could choose a character from the day that we came across and ask them to give me details over dinner or while we’re on the train or in the car.  Could be a fun family exercise!

Another thing was the idea of a theme to tie multiple places or multiple days together.  Like, one day you could just write about foods you’ve tried on your travels. Or even more specifically, just desserts you’ve tried.  Or whatever. Like when I go back to Scotland I could do a journal entry about haggis, and the various ways we’ve tried it (including in a Cornish pasty!) and how the kids liked it (they’re fully expecting to, even though all they’ve tried to date is the canned stuff) and how I liked it (I did, but I really wasn’t expecting to), etc.  That could be a journal entry on its own, not specific to a particular day. I think these kinds of posts (or journal pages) are in addition to daily writing. For me, at least. But fun to do.

And here are my thoughts after my trip:

I did everything Dave told me not to do.

If you travel intending from the start to share your journals with others, you’re likely to hold back certain details.

I started off trying to write a recap of the day either that evening or the following day, and posting it to my blog.  It meant I didn’t turn off my inner editor and just write.  In fact, the opposite.  I was trying to create perfect blog posts on the go.  Ugh.  So stupid.

So guess what happened.  Go on, guess.  Right, I fell behind.  Then I gave up.

You know all those trips you’ve taken in the past where you wish you had kept a better journal? Well, it’s not too late. People assume if they don’t write their journals while they’re traveling, they can’t do it later. But journaling has no deadlines. There are no late fees, no penalties if you forget to file for an extension. You can write about a trip years after it’s finished.

So here I am with this major family holiday (first overseas trip for the kids, my sister got married, etc.) and I only have journal entries (or blog posts, call them what you will) for the first couple of days.  Dave says you can blog about a trip retrospectively, but that leaves me with one major issue – I don’t remember what we did every day.

Mediocre writing is better than no writing.

See, this is where Dave’s ‘highlights’ technique would be invaluable.  I should have jotted down a couple of bullet points from each day, and then I’d at least have those memory joggers.

What’s the biggest challenge in journaling about a trip that happened long ago? Remembering. Many people think post-journaling about a long-ago journey is impossible because so many details have left them. Speed journaling can bring those details back. Often there’s a snowball effect. One tiny memory triggers a bigger memory, and so on, until suddenly, your mind is fully immersed in your long-ago-and-far-away journey.

I think I can start by going back and looking at the photos and the tickets, etc., what we did on most days.  Perhaps even check the bank statements to see where we spent money.  That would give me a rough timeline.  The days we just spent at my sister’s house playing with her kids, those are probably lost.  But I think Dave’s right, if I start writing based on the photos and a brief timeline, I’ll get a good proportion of the trip written down.

So ultimately, bullet pointing a couple of highlights from each trip is my biggest takeaway from this book.  It’s so fucking obvious, I know, but I didn’t do it, and now some of the days on that trip are gone forever.  And that sucks.

Beyond that one tip though, I was constantly inspired by Dave as I read this book.  He made me realise that I have a unique view to share, even if I’m blogging about a place that has been often blogged about.

Each of us has a set of personal cultures, based on a wide array of factors:
• Where we live
• Where we have lived before
• Language(s)
• Accents or dialects
• Race
• Religion
• Gender
• Sexual orientation
• Education
• Career
• Body size
• Family size and structure
• Marital or relationship status
• Whether or not we have or want children
• Age
• Income level
• Political views or affiliations
• Medical conditions
• Clubs, hobbies, sports, or other activities we participate in

These are just a few of them. What are your subcultures? Using the preceding list of defining elements as a guide, make a list of your different subcultures. After you make your list, ask yourself the following questions:
• How many of your subcultures are cultures you were born into?
• How many are cultures you have adopted or stumbled upon later in life?
• Which ones are your core cultures – those you feel fully connected with – and which ones are cultures you understand to an extent, but are not fully immersed in?

Now, make a list of at least ten subcultures that do not make up a part of who you are. Among your list of subcultures that you don’t feel you belong in or understand, are there any you would like to experience? What could you do to make that happen? Are there others you choose to avoid? If so, why?

This was just one of many exercises Dave urged the reader to try, and I found this one particularly fascinating.  It gives you a greater awareness of the uniqueness of yourself, because your history, background and experiences are different to those of your spouse, your parents, your siblings and your children.. Not to mention all the other people visiting the same place as you.  And then it expands on that and urges you to consider subcultures that you don’t relate to, which can only lead to greater tolerance while travelling and that’s awesome.

So, here’s what I’m going to do now.  I’m going to make a timeline of my trip (bullet points!) based on the photos, tickets, etc.  Then I’m going to turn off my inner editor and just brain-dump as much as I can about each day.  I’m not going to forbid myself from overviews or themes (I usually do because I blog chronologically), and in fact I’m going to challenge myself to make theme headings and write as much as I can for each.  Then I’m going to see how much I can write about as many ‘characters’ from the trip as I can.  I know there was the guy from Struy Inn who did falconry with us, and also the falconer at Dunrobin Castle, both distinct (and different) characters.  There was the guide at Tomatin Distillery too.

I loved this book.  I found it inspiring and educational.  It’s definitely going to change how I journal on my next trip.  Bullet points for the win!  And bonus bullet points under characters.  Ha ha!  But seriously, there was so much in this book that I can’t capture it in a simple blog post.  Definitely read it for yourself.