I’m willing to bet that most people have a definitive list of songs they consider to be extra special to them – their Desert Island Discs, if you like. Mum certainly does, only hers is an ever-changing beast. The Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr Blue Sky” and Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” seem to be permanent fixtures, but otherwise her self-proclaimed list of her top twenty songs of all time is never quite the same, sometimes from day to day. On occasion, it numbers more than twenty, and although I have challenged Mum on this, it seems I may never get a proper answer regarding what the actual fixed selection is. The questions, however, did lead to me considering what my own list would have on it. I’m not sure I could think of as many as Mum, but I’m confident that I can aim for eight.
On Desert Island Discs (which I only listen to when someone interesting is a guest – Murray Walker and Noel Gallagher featured on the last two occasions), the participant is asked to choose eight songs they would take away with them if they were to be marooned on a hypothetical island. They discuss their reasoning behind each choice before a snippet is played, and at the end of the programme they must also select one luxury (limited only by the imagination as pretty much anything goes), and one book (which they are granted alongside the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare). Following Mum’s indecisiveness, and an extensive pondering period, I have now concluded that they are as follows (in this post you can have the first four, with YouTube links – I’ll get back to you on the rest).
- “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai. You need only read this to find out why the Space Cowboys make this list. And I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this song played live!
- “Your Love Alone is Not Enough” by Manic Street Preachers and Nina Persson. Whilst this isn’t a very heartfelt song, it gets the blood pumping and has all the hallmarks of a great anthem and crowd-pleaser. On my tenth birthday in 2007, I was given a CD copy of Now 67, on which it features. Along with Paolo Nutini’s “New Shoes”, it was one of the hits on the album that really stood out as I listened to it on my cheap imitation iPod. I knew nothing of the Manics, their reputation or their success when I first heard this, but it paved the way to me becoming a fan, and I now eagerly soak up their music. I’m happy to report that their new single “International Blue” is another winner! Above all of this, however, it brings back memories of a simpler time of life in Year 5 at school. A time of fish and chips on Friday lunchtimes, green ties, house points and two pieces of homework a week. Next to no adult responsibilities whatsoever. Bliss.
- “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane. I’ve always felt drawn to this band, and their use of the piano as a lead instrument on a lot of their material. Perhaps it adds an extra sense of depth, grandiosity or profoundness to their music – I’m not an expert, so I don’t know. But what I am certain of is that I have always been awed by that special something, and it must be at least partially responsible for my decision to take up the piano nearly five years ago. This particular song is one of my favourites because, rather aptly, it always reminds of somewhere – or, more importantly, someone – particularly meaningful to me. It gained added significance in Year 12, when the appearance of the 2013 John Lewis Christmas advert in our Media lessons meant that I got to hear the equally sublime Lily Allen version of the song on a weekly basis for a while. It was a selection that suited the advert perfectly (maybe I’m biased, but I personally believe that John Lewis haven’t managed to top it since), and its use in sixth form made it even more special, since it would be forever connected with a great period in my life.
- Any one of four Muse songs (either “Supermassive Black Hole”, “Knights of Cydonia”, “Plug In Baby” or “Defector”). Yes, I know this is technically cheating because I’m supposed to choose a definitive eight, and I know that’s exactly what I promised would result at the beginning of this post. But as soon as I knew that Muse could not be left off of this list, I also knew that I would find it incredibly difficult to single out one of their many absolute bangers for inclusion on it. You know how some musicians talk in interviews about their formative moments, often from their youth? Whilst I will never claim to be a musician, hearing Matt Bellamy’s voice for the first time in Year 12 did – as I have often related since – send a shiver down my spine as the hairs on the back of my neck stood. It sounds clichéd, but it’s absolutely true. I believe his voice can be placed alongside the greatest in music, and its power is a perfect match for the two bandmates who drive the group’s monstrous sound, bassist Chris Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard. The three form an unbeatable combination that I am desperate to see live – and, with new music arriving on the scene almost as I write, I might get that chance sooner than I’m expecting. I had hoped that by the time I’d finished typing Muse’s section, I might have decided which of those four songs to take to my desert island, but it seems that as with the next four (and my book and luxury, you’re just going to have to wait). Watch this space for the tunes to come!
My line of work, like many people’s, involves answering the telephone on an hourly basis. As I’ve explained before, this is something fairly nerve-wracking for me, but there’s also a substantial amount of curiosity to be found in the task. Recently, at one of my two workplaces, we’ve been receiving a steady and noticeable stream of wrong number calls from various people. When you answer the phone to them, some pre-empt what you are going to say, admit their mistake and immediately hang up on you. Others are ensnared in a moment of confusion; I will open with my usual professional greeting, and they will question why they aren’t speaking to their mate Derek before the penny quickly drops and they leave me be. In my particular experience, there have even been elderly people who – mistaking my workplace for the local hospital – have proceeded to describe gruesome ailments in considerable detail before my awkward admission that I am not medically qualified to deal with their complaint. They can put you off your lunch at times, as it happens.
Whatever their reasons for calling (albeit unintentionally), these people do all have one thing in common, at least in my view. Because they’re totally anonymous – the calls generally don’t last long enough for me to establish their identities – I always do wonder who they are, and what their stories are. Why might a phone call to the aforementioned Derek be so important? Was it intended as a simple catch-up between friends, or was he being sought out as part of the resolution to a life or death situation? When I am mistakenly contacted by confused hospital-goers, how worried are they about the problems they face? Are they looking for an answer to a simple question, or are they frantically searching for a second opinion on something that could potentially change life forever? All I can do is ponder, as any writer might. Whatever the truth may be, that’s what this is good for – imagination and inspiration. As annoying, inconvenient and brief as some wrong number calls may be, they do make me think – so maybe the people on the end, whom I generally speak to for no more than a split second each time, do have a much bigger impact on my day than I could ever have anticipated.
Last night, Mum, Dad and I had a drink in the kitchen – a glass of pink gin and tonic, no less – whilst dinner was cooking. I eagerly accepted this, even though I don’t tend to drink very often, and the glass felt cold and refreshing as I held it in my hand. Mum told me not to neck the gin too quickly, so I made sure to raise it to my parched lips sporadically, giving me the opportunity to savour it for as long as possible. Each time I swigged from the glass, I would look down into the bottom, where the ice cubes were floating, and whenever I did so I felt a twinge – a distinct stiffness – in the back of my neck.
I had been feeling this all day, and can attribute it largely to the fact that I spent most of it looking down at my laptop screen. Like many people, I probably do far too much of this, but on this particular occasion my body gave me a reminder that was both subtle and consistently noticeable. It had been there for several hours, and yet I never paid it much attention until I came away from the computer. If anything could tell me my priorities weren’t right, that was probably the most effective thing (I say, writing about it on a blog). When I received my current laptop in July 2016, I intended to use it primarily for reading and creative projects such as Third Time Enabled, but social media and video games had other ideas. I’ll have to try my best to consume both in moderation if I can – although those could turn out to be famous last words! I am helped at the moment by the fact that I have university plans to focus on. These have left me happier and more optimistic overall than I have been in some time, and I am filled with joy at the prospect of continuing my journey to September and beyond – such happiness is more than capable of making any stiff neck bearable. It’s the perfect cure.
I often look through some of my past notebooks on a hunt for blog inspiration, and it was on the very last page of one particular book that I found the scribblings I wanted you all to read about here. They came from the last year of sixth form – 19 November 2014, to be precise – and an A2 Media lesson that saw us focus on “citizen journalism”, something defined by a quick Google search as “the collection, dissemination, and analysis of news and information by the general public, especially by means of the Internet.” I remember that it was a concept I found intriguing at the time, and something I definitely wanted to know more about. I liked the idea of these news vigilantes getting their hands dirty and plucking things the world needs to know about from under the noses of the big media corporations. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in something like that? Whatever we were saying about it in the lesson, we were obviously writing down some of the pros and cons associated with it, because these are what I found in my book in all of their black Biro glory.
The first pro I wrote is the one that caught my eye the most – it quite simply says that citizen journalism “allows normal people to create and collaborate”, and that this has the potential to “educate them in the process”. I like the fact that this is the first note on my list, because it immediately establishes that citizen journalism is a concept open to everyone, no matter who they may be. Furthermore, the “collaborative creativity” aspect of the whole thing is something I wanted this blog to aspire to when Will, Emily and Tamara all came on board, and I hope it can continue to do so as more people get involved in the future. Citizen journalism is already setting a few good examples for us, and we’re still only on the first bullet point on the page. The second says that it “reverses long-standing media hierarchies”. There’s a lot of very interesting stuff in the news, but we all know that there’s also a lot of bullshit which can heavily influence the unsuspecting victims reading it through widespread hegemony. With that in mind, it’s good to know that those who partake in citizen journalism can challenge this by taking it upon themselves to go solo and find out the truth. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing that my notes end after this point and there are no cons in my book – because, unless everything goes catastrophically wrong, how many downsides to citizen journalism are there?
Recently, I was asked to name one or more of my pet hates by a friend. Aside from the obvious things we all hate – racism, sexism, homophobia, snobbery and the like – every single one of my peeves escaped from my mind at that very moment. I definitely have them, but I couldn’t think of them when they were needed. I was, however, reminded of a particularly elusive pet hate through a chance remark someone made in front of the TV soon afterwards. As a Mastermind contestant sat down in the show’s famous black leather chair, they revealed their chosen specialist subject to the host, and it was to this that my companion uttered two highly infuriating words: “That’s sad”.
Upon hearing this, I felt an instant hot flush of anger. Sad? How dare you! To suggest such a thing is to fail miserably at looking big or clever, and to ruthlessly belittle someone else’s passion. Yes, there are plenty of differences between us, and we might struggle to understand what other people see in their respective areas of interest, but it is immature and needlessly disrespectful to criticise them for enjoying what they do. The mentality that leads someone to do this must be of the “glass half-empty” variety, and incredibly cynical. I pity those who are like this. Wouldn’t it be much better for them to listen and learn about what they don’t know rather than dismiss it immediately? Let’s not forget that this would have an added bonus, in that you’d be indulging their enthusiasm whilst doing so. What’s not to like? Above all, make sure you remember that the people who are unlucky enough to be ridiculed as “sad” are actually – and very ironically – the exact opposite. They will engage with whatever they love the most regardless of where they are or who might be watching, and it’s all because they’re not sad in the slightest. They’re drunk on pure, undiluted passion, the best possible natural high. There can never be enough of those in life, so if you don’t have anything nice to say when you witness them, don’t say anything at all. Especially nothing so childish!
Nearly two weeks after receiving my first offer, I am thrilled to reveal that today, a second university place was offered to me for Creative Writing. Upon seeing it in black and white on my Kindle screen in my bedroom, I shot down the stairs to relay the good news to Dad. As I did so, I was beaming from ear to ear, and Dad said that I looked like I’d just won the lottery. It certainly felt like that – the first offer felt unreal enough, but the latest one has escalated that feeling to truly indescribable levels. When I spoke to Mum on the phone to give her the news, I mentioned that now we have reached the proper decision-making part of the process, it feels as though we are on the home straight – and in response, she said it is as though I can almost touch it. University was closer than ever before a fortnight ago, but now I have one hand on the trophy. I hope that I will soon be grasping it with both.
As aforementioned, both of my options must now be placed under the microscope so that I can decide once and for all where I will be going. I am aware that it may be a trickier process than I expect, since both universities would be excellent destinations, but with the support of my family and friends, I am confident that I can reach the best possible outcome – and you will know by now that I can’t wait. Onwards!
The annual Doctor Who festive special on Christmas Day finally saw Jodie Whittaker make her long-awaited debut as the Doctor, replacing the outgoing Peter Capaldi in a burst of orange light. It was a fantastic send-off for Peter, who has been a brilliant Doctor and ambassador for the show, but its closing moments – depicting an explosive regeneration and Jodie plummeting to Earth from a fiery TARDIS – were an introduction to an even more exciting era to come (previously discussed here).
Finally seeing the Thirteenth Doctor take over as the star of the show actually gave me goosebumps as I sat slumped on the sofa. We may have to wait until the Autumn, but that fresh new Doctor Who dawn will be the very next thing to greet us. The corresponding feelings of eager anticipation have only really come to me once before; whilst I obviously look forward to the start of every new series, I haven’t been this excited since 2010, when Matt Smith took over as the Eleventh Doctor for Series 5. If you ask Will, he’ll tell you I hold that particular run of episodes in very high regard. At that point, everyone in and around Doctor Who also found themselves looking at a changed animal of sorts. Much like now, there were plenty of new faces in the cast and production team, and what came from them was a series that I believe is yet to be topped.
Any of its thirteen episodes could easily have stood out as a favourite, and all were memorable – although, in my opinion, the modern classic “Vincent and the Doctor” (written by Richard Curtis) is a particular highlight. I remember watching the series on first broadcast very clearly. It felt – and still does feel – like Doctor Who was a new programme, closer to five years old than fifty. I’m not criticising how it’s been before or since, because I owe an awful lot to its complete 55-year history. I just think that Series 5 had an especially vibrant quality that may not have been the same had there been more continuity from Series 4, David Tennant’s swansong. Change is a good thing, more often than not, and with it there was increased vitality. Eight years on, Series 11 has a golden opportunity to bring even more, with new crews in the TARDIS and behind the camera. I may have said all this before, but I reckon that conveys just how excited I really am. When the Doctor comes down to Earth with a bump, I can’t wait to see what adventures will await her. Blessed are the writers who get to find out first.