The Despairing Veggie

It was probably only a matter of time before I got onto this subject.

Two questions I am asked most frequently are: “How long have you been vegetarian?” and “Why are you a vegetarian?”

Ok, the first question is simple enough to answer; I’ve been vegetarian since Christmas 2014 which is when I had my last meat based meal.

The second question, for me, is also easy to answer. I became veggie because I no longer, could, in all good conscience, continue to eat meat in the knowledge of the suffering that goes hand in hand with the modern meat industry.

But why are people so bothered about me being a vegetarian? That baffles me.

I came late to the veggie party but better late than never, as the saying goes. I’ve been aware for some time now, that the modern-day methods of factory farming are not conducive to treating animals in a fair, ethical, moral and humane way. I chose to educate myself on where my food was coming from. The more I found out, the more I became eager to make changes to my diet.

I moved in with my boyfriend in 2012, he has been vegetarian since he was 18 and I adopted a veggie diet at home simply because it was easier and more economical than having to cook and prepare two different types of meals. Eating out socially would be my “time off” from being veggie.

As someone who is always keen to learn about things and educate herself however, I made the choice to learn more about modern-day factory farming. The things I have learned, are not for the faint of heart.

“But, humans have eaten meat for thousands of years!” I hear you cry.

True, but, thousands of years ago, factory farming did not exist. Our cave dwelling ancestors killed only what they needed to survive, they lived in equilibrium with the land and what it offered them. They also relied on what they could grow.

In my opinion, it is simply not right, that animals are crammed into tiny cages and crates with no room to move. That they are kept in warehouses on concrete floors with no sunlight, no grass under their feet, no freedom to roam. This is prison of the worst kind.

My boyfriend is going down the more vegan route. I admit, I find this more of a challenge but there are some changes I have made to my diet which have been very easy.

Milk – humans are the only animals on the planet that consume milk from another animal. We don’t need cows’ milk, it’s meant for cows, not humans. I made the change to soya a couple of years ago and have since moved onto oat milk which is lovely. The flavour is soft and nowhere near as strong as cows’ milk.

Cheese – a bit harder this one, cheese is really quite delicious and the vegan versions are a long way behind replicating that but, to be honest, I only ever have cheese when eating Italian food and apparently, the vegan parmesans are very good so I guess I will get used to not having my usual cheddar.

Eggs – I used to eat a lot of these, poached is my favourite way to do eggs and in baking, they are a binding ingredient. However, the dairy industry is incredibly cruel so I’ve simply stopped buying them. My diet includes Quorn products though and egg is used in a lot of their food so I’m not quite there yet.

I no longer wear animal skins. My old leather shoes and boots are from a time when I was less informed about the choices I was making so now, I make do with the fake versions (I have always been anti-fur). I haven’t worn wool or silk for years.

You could call me a hypocrite and perhaps you’re right. I grew up on the traditional diet of meat, potatoes and veg. I never really gave much thought to where my food came from until I was much older and it still took me some time to make the changes I wanted to make. Make them I did, however and I feel within myself, much better for doing so.

Aside from the health benefits of going to a plant based diet there are benefits for the planet and our environment, something which every single one of us should be concerned with.

On a simpler level however, vegetarianism challenges me to create and cook meals that are varied, healthy and full of flavour. I don’t go hungry and I don’t get bored either. I have a shelf full of veggie cookbooks and I’m always keen to try something different.

I am not telling you to go veggie, I am not telling you to change your lifestyle overnight. What I am doing is asking you to perhaps have a little more thought about where your food comes from. You might want to continue eating meat, if so, perhaps go to your local butcher instead of the supermarket, buy direct from source where there is a chain of traceability. Support your local community instead. Still want to eat eggs? Buy organic, better yet, get yourself a couple of hens and have fresh eggs every day. Lots of people have their own hens, what better way to have ethically produced eggs?

I love animals. They are sentient creatures, just like humans. They have brains, nervous systems, they breathe oxygen, they feel fear, pain and joy. We keep cats, dogs, rabbits etc as family pets but think nothing of eating a cow, lamb or pig – why are they any different to the rest?

Hopefully, I have given you food for thought (pun intended) with this post and if even one person reading this blog decides to make changes or educate themselves further on the meat and dairy industries or replaces a couple of meals a week with a veggie option then my efforts will have not been in vain.

http://www.quorn.co.uk/

http://www.oatly.com

https://www.vegansociety.com/

https://www.vegsoc.org/

 

 

 

On Hiatus…

For too many reasons I won’t go into but as it’s been a while since I blogged or wrote a short piece I think it’s better to take a proper break from this element of my writing.

My focus now is finishing my book; chapter 28 is underway which means there are two chapters to go to completion of the first draft.

One thing I can say is that I absolutely love my story and my characters. The sequel is in the planning stage so that’s a good thing to be excited about as I can properly envision the story arc.

Keep in touch, I will be back soon 🙂

EDIT 22/01/17: Whilst I may not have had the inclination to blog recently, I have written part 3 of my short story, “The Silent Ways” which is up and published. You can reach it from the main menu or link to it here: The Silent Ways – Part Three I hope you enjoy this latest and somewhat overdue instalment.

Progress on Horizon Skies (and things I’ve learnt)

Back in May, I was really pleased to have reached a milestone in my writing which you can read about here.

Five months later and yet another milestone has been reached!

Using the luxury of a well needed week away from the day job, I have been able to fit in some pretty decent writing time. My aim was to complete two chapters and possibly a short story.

As I am quite lazy by nature, the short story went out the window and the second chapter I wanted to write hasn’t yet made it to the notebook but I have completed chapter 24, which means I am now six chapters from the end.

I scheduled myself to write 500 words a day, a quantity which is more than achievable and considering I spent the first few days slobbing around, playing Red Dead Redemption on my PS3 and not much else, I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get anything written.

Wise words from my boyfriend, advising me not to “moan about wasting time off”, as I have done in the past, spurred me into action and by this morning I had finished chapter 24 with a total word count of 3,362 which equates to almost 700 words per day (based on a working week). I more than beat my target and it gave me a huge sense of satisfaction to know that I am now three-quarters of the way through; a point I never dreamed of reaching.

If I wasn’t doing the #SoberOctober challenge, I would be looking forward to a glass of wine or three tonight by way of celebration!

However, this now brings me to what I have learnt during this process and I share this with you now.

Read, a lot.

I know a lot of writers say this but it’s so, so true and should be a Golden Rule for any aspiring writer. Reading helps you develop as a writer; by learning how other writers create their work you learn what works for you. Don’t limit your genre either. I’m a huge Fantasy fan but I do have Sci-Fi, Horror, Chick Lit and General Fiction in my collection.

Write, whenever you can.

Another obvious one but if you’ve never written before, how do you start? There are simple ways to hone and develop your skills, before diving into writing your masterpiece. Write a blog, short stories, flash fiction, anything that will help you find your voice and build your audience. The more you write, the less daunting it will seem to get started on your opus.

Plan.

Planning a book involves not just the book itself but the time you can spend on it. For many of us, this means fitting in our writing with full-time jobs, studying, families and social lives. My writing time tends to be in the evenings after dinner when TV is generally quite poor and I have nothing social on that night or at the weekends, as I’m an early riser and it’s nice and quiet. Even ten minutes writing is better than none at all. If it helps, draw up a timetable and stick to it. If you can block book time off, do it.

My Process

I play the chapter I want to write as a movie in my head. Sometimes it plays out very fluid and natural, other times it’s a bit slower. I let this part of the idea germinate for a few days, making sure I jot down any pieces I feel are worth remembering such as pithy dialogue or the environment in which the chapter is set.

Chapters are split into scenes which I have planned out in a spreadsheet. Writing in scenes is a great way to place the action into blocks as I am able to focus on a specific scene within that chapter before moving on to the next.

I write, longhand in a notebook. Even if I’m not happy with what I’ve written, I keep at it, reminding myself that this is simply the first draft and not the finished version. Edits and rewrites can be done later.

Once the chapter is finished, I transcribe into my writing programme. For this, I use New Novelist but there are others out there (check out these Reviews for other programmes). It’s important to find one that works for you. I usually find during the transcribing process that I make little edits along the way or add/remove sections, dialogue etc. that don’t seem to work.

From New Novelist, I copy and paste into a Word document which is formatted to the recommended style of Times New Roman size 12 font.

I keep a spreadsheet of my progress.

I back up my work to a USB flash drive – this is  VERY important!

I am, by no means, a professional writer and I’m sure anyone reading this will have their own methods and opinions. I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way of writing but I do believe that unless you find a method that works, you won’t progress beyond those first few pages before frustration sets in and you give up.

Writing is an incredibly rewarding process but it can be lonely and frustrating especially at those times when the words simply won’t come. My notebooks are full of crossings out and half-finished passages and there have been times when I’ve been so stuck on a chapter that I’ve almost given up but I keep my end goal in mind and it keeps me going.

What is the world coming to?

How often have we heard or even uttered that expression? I know I grew up hearing it from my parents and other adults and now, as an adult myself, I find myself saying it more often than not.

Today, I heard the news that Sajid Javid overturned Lancashire Council’s decision to stop the fracking company Cuadrilla from exploratory fracking in the local area.

In the face of overwhelming opposition from his constituents, scientific evidence from anti-fracking organisations, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth etc. this politician has shown his true Tory colours. Profits before people. As long as his palm is being greased by some shady corporation he is certainly not going to put the interests of the area he is supposed to be serving first.

Apparently, even our UNELECTED PM Theresa May has said that the government needs to listen to its electorate. So, has Sajid Javid suddenly gone deaf or did he miss that part?

As long as big businesses and corporations continue to live in the pockets of our politicians and vice-versa, things like this will never, ever change. The back room deals, broken promises and reversed decisions have been hidden by a propaganda that pulled the wool over a lot of voters’ eyes. Should I feel an ounce of pity for a Tory voter who now regrets ticking that box during the General Election?

No, I shouldn’t and I won’t. The Tories have always been about the spin and the propaganda. They are the wolves in sheep’s clothing and if people don’t wake up to that fact then Britain will continue to be the country that persecutes those who need the most help, condemning more and more people to poverty as the gap between rich and poor widens even further.

Why our government couldn’t follow the example of Iceland and jail it’s bankers who contributed to the huge 2008 crash is beyond me. The wealthiest people in this country are those who benefit the most from the elitist organisation occupying Westminster.

The Three Stooges (Cameron, Osborne and Smith) have blood on their hands for the persecution they meted out on the vulnerable and disabled in our society. People committed suicide as a direct result of the benefits cuts waged by those men. Jeremy Hunt is single handedly destroying the NHS and we are losing medical professionals in their droves as they head off to places like Australia where their prospects are a hundred times better.And now, he wants to fine doctors who leave the country! What will that achieve? We’ll still lose them and you can bet that money won’t go back into the NHS where it’s needed most.

This isn’t a government of the people, by the people, for the people. This is a government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.

The Dream Is Over

If you haven’t heard the news, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are no more. Finito. Kaput. The End.

I think the inevitable demise of their relationship has come as no real surprise to those who have followed their story from meeting on the set of Mr & Mrs Smith to their eventual marriage and now, pending divorce. It’s really not a very noteworthy news story considering the tumultuous state of the world we presently live in.

It’s not very surprising, either, that suddenly, everyone wants to know, “What does Jennifer Aniston think?” followed by an explosion of GIFs and Memes on Twitter that have probably flooded every Twitter users timeline from here to eternity.

This is sad though. Somehow, the paparazzi, popular press, columnists etc have put out the word that the demise of Brad Pitt’s marriage has somehow led to visions of Jennifer Aniston rubbing her hands together in glee and cackling knowingly. That, due to his treatment of her 12 years ago, karma has caught up with him quite spectacularly in this life already.

Never mind the fact that Jennifer Aniston moved on with a quiet dignity after she was, quite frankly, humiliated by the one person whom she should have been able to rely on. After Brad Pitt, Jennifer dated a few guys before meeting Justin Theroux, she didn’t constantly lament her single status or complain about men being douches. She continued on with life and ended up meeting the man who became her new husband. (I refuse to say second because it indicates a possibility of a third etc and this isn’t Elizabeth Taylor territory).

So, why is it that, 12 years after they split, the subject of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s marriage is still speculated on? She got over it, why can’t everyone else? Are we really supposed to believe that Jennifer Aniston is so bitter after more than a decade? Come on, if that was the case, it would severely undermine her relationship with her husband so it’s an insult not only to her but him as well.

Of course, certain behaviours can’t be forgiven or forgotten. In this case, it would seem that Angelina Jolie was less than discrete when talking about how she and Brad got together. It was rather insensitive. After all, women are supposed to be united in sisterhood.

Which brings me to my point. Why, in a world where so many women are still treated as lesser beings, where the gender pay gap is still so wide, where girls are forced into early marriage, denied education and basic rights; why then do so many women undermine the basic fabric of sisterhood and solidarity? Sure, competition is healthy, but not when it comes at the expense of our fellow sisters.

Lots of men (not all) bandy the notion about that they’re biologically programmed to sow as many oats as they can and this has been used as an excuse for affairs for decades. It gets rather tiresome. Free will and free choice can overcome biological programming any day of the week so it’s a pretty poor excuse in my opinion. The man who chooses loyalty is a man to be trusted.

Women too, who in his day and age, have more sexual freedom than ever, can also choose not to screw over one of their own.

It’s all about choice but it’s also about showing consideration for a fellow human being. Angelina Jolie has shown what a great humanitarian she is through her work with Unicef and childrens’ charities so I hope that over the last 12 years or so she has perhaps looked back and at least felt some apology for her part in breaking up her soon to be ex-husband’s first marriage.

 

A Mixed Up Kid

I am in a bad place at the moment. In fact, I’ve been in a bad place for most of my life. Sometimes, (like now) it overwhelms me and other times, it’s more manageable.

I was diagnosed with depression in my mid to late teens, I’ve been in therapy, I’ve taken Prozac and Fluoxetine so I can say, “been there, worn the t-shirt” and it doesn’t phase me anymore. I’ve been living with the condition for years.

What has prompted me to write about it, however, is that in the last few months, I’ve been at a stage whereby the darkness is overwhelming me and it’s horrible. I really hate it. Aside from the sheer exhaustion I’m currently experiencing, I’m running on auto-pilot. I’ve got to a point again where I’ve had to stop and say, “I can’t cope anymore, I need help.” I’d be driving to work with a perpetual feeling that I was heading towards a nervous breakdown. My mind is a massive tangled mess of worry and anxiety. It doesn’t matter how trivial the problem is, you can guarantee, I will worry about it.

I was a very unhappy child. I was bullied throughout my entire school years so that amounts to twelve years of near constant abuse. In secondary school, my attendance record was terrible, I would play truant, fake illnesses; anything to get out of going to that hell hole which I shall name and shame as Regents Park School for Girls in Southampton. I was utterly failed by the system and those who ran it. My tormentors got away with giving me hell and that is something I have never been able to forgive.

I would very much like to forget that it ever happened but I have also fallen victim to workplace bullying over the years and there’s only so much one person can take!

I went to work at the age of 16 as a travel agent. There was no way on Earth I was willing to continue with formal education and be faced with the prospect of ending up in the same college as those who had treated me so badly. I was a mixed up kid, suddenly I was in an adult environment with no idea of how to behave around adults. I went to college on day release, found it hard to make friends and ended up being the loner of the group. A girl with quite a nasty character came to work in one of my branches for about a year, instantly singling me out and proceeding to turn my colleagues against me. Again, I was let down by my colleagues, bosses and peers. Imagine my surprise when, years later, she sent me a friend request on Facebook!

Fast forward to now. I’m 43, I’m stronger than I ever was but I’m still fragile. My sense of self-worth, self-esteem and confidence are low. I make up for it by being outwardly gregarious whilst inside I’m shaking like a leaf. I constantly worry about what others think of me, I still find it hard to make friends and I have a terrible tendency to put others first instead of thinking of myself. When I do try and be a bit selfish, I feel guilty. But why should I? Surely, looking after oneself should come above all else? For, if you can’t look after yourself, how can you help others?

I don’t believe I’m a bad person. I’ve always gone out of my way to help others. I love animals, I care about the environment, I support various charities, I’ve helped create friendships, given food to homeless people etc. People have called me a “lovely girl” and apart from the usual teenage rebellion and questionable past relationships I believe I’ve created some good karma.

One thing that does sadden me is that I have no idea the kind of person I could have been were it not for all I’ve been through. Like Nietzsche once said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Whilst my past hasn’t beaten me, for I am still here, it has made me choose different paths and make different decisions, my life could’ve gone in a very different direction had I been able to choose differently.

I feel sad for kids being bullied today, with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat etc. bullies have better access to their victims. I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like if those things existed when I was at school. I’m sure the outcome for me would have been very different.

All I can do now is make up for lost time, learn to put myself first, succeed at my goals and not get dragged down.

 

 

 

 

Integration, not Segregation!

So, on Twitter today, I was branded an anti-Semite, purely because I had a difference of opinion with a Jewish man. The difference of opinion wasn’t even about religion, it was about the nasty, hateful tweets people have been posting about Kadiza Sultana.

For anyone not familiar with the story, Kadiza was a British Muslim schoolgirl, who travelled to Syria with two other school friends, early last year, to join IS. At the time, there was a lot of vitriol directed towards the girls and their families; generally along a theme of “good riddance.”

At the time, I thought it was an absolute tragedy that these young, impressionable girls had not been fully protected from the effects of radicalisation. It’s easy for people to judge from behind their screens and keyboards; they lack empathy and as much as they believe the girls deserved what they got, they themselves have been exploited by the negative portrayal of Muslims in mainstream media. By dissociating themselves from the results of such a tragedy, they feel empowered to continue their rhetoric.

What is needed, now more than ever, is education. Education on how social media has become such a pervasive force in our lives that it also serves as a tool for the worst kinds of humanity. Better programmes need to be put in place to protect the young and vulnerable from those who would seek to exploit them, purely for their own ends.

These girls, like so many others, were lied to, manipulated and exploited. Like any other type of child abuser, the perpetrators worked steadily and methodically, invading their minds, twisting their beliefs and turning them against their families and those who could have protected them.

Why so many people think it’s ok to celebrate the death of a 15-year-old; who should have finished her GCSE’s and perhaps gone on to further education, baffles me. It’s a sad reflection of the divisiveness in our society that has turned people against each other.

For the record (not that I need to justify myself to anyone!) I am an atheist. I do not believe in any god. Being an atheist does not make me anti-Semite, anti-christian, anti-muslim etc etc. I reject religious teachings because I believe they are based on fables and fairy stories with no solid proof of the subject matter.

I believe in the Big Bang, Evolution, Science and Nature. I believe that every single living thing on this planet comes from star dust. We are all connected through billions of years of evolution. I don’t care what colour your skin is, what language you speak or where you  come from. I believe in equal rights and the right for people to be free from oppressive regimes.

What counts is living a good life, being kind in all things you do to people and animals. Treating others with courtesy and respect.

Above all, don’t vilify people for their choices unless you are willing to be judged on the things you do and say.

Kadiza Sultana is dead, she cannot stand up for herself anymore and she was failed by a system that should have protected her.

 

 

Thoughts on Feminism

I’ve felt compelled to write this latest blog post as a result of the #IAmAFeministBecause on Twitter.

Rather than join the hashtag itself and get subjected to the trolling and hate Twitter has become a useful platform for, I have decided to use my blog as a platform for my own thoughts on Feminism.

What surprises me, still, in this day and age is that a number of men are still so full of hatred towards women. They still see us as inferior, weak and not worthy. The every day misogyny and sexism that continues to prevail is something I have to fight against on an almost daily basis. In its most casual form, it is part of office banter, a good laugh with colleagues that can be forgotten about and doesn’t really mean anything. Or does it? Casual sexism and misogyny might be seen as a bit of harmless fun but it’s rooted deep in the origins of hatred towards women.

In its most severe, hateful and brutal form we have the violence perpetrated against women of all ages, races, colours and beliefs the world over. Young girls on the African Continent subjected to the horrific ritual of Female Genital Mutilation, in India, girls as young as 5 forced into arranged marriages, sometimes with boys/men more than three times their age, war torn countries where “soldiers” and guerrillas use rape as a weapon, in some cases, purposefully infecting the victim with HIV and “honour killings” in Pakistan where the girl has been perceived to bring shame upon her family. In the UK, particularly in run down, rough areas where gangs are rife, girls are passed around groups of boys as little more than a sexual play thing to be abused and disposed of on a whim. Many of these girls experience grooming, sexual abuse and rape at an alarming frequency from a young age.

I could go on, and as I said, these are the most severe examples.

So, bra burning and “I hate men” slogans aside I think it’s time that those men who are anti-feminist should better educate themselves on why the feminist movement exists in the first place. Why, in the 21st century, it is unacceptable for human beings to be treated in such a derogatory way purely on the basis of our gender. If women hadn’t been constantly subjugated, abused, oppressed and maligned throughout the centuries we wouldn’t need to campaign for equal rights. I agree that some feminists are perhaps too militant which doesn’t do much for the rest of us but it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a valid point and how about understanding what it is that drives their passion?

All of these mysogynistic men should remember one thing; they wouldn’t have been born were it not for the mother who carried them.Jimmy Carter

Progress on Horizon Skies

The other day, I reached something of a milestone in the progress of my novel Horizon Skies.

Chapter 20.

Ok, I realise some of you will be thinking, “how is that a milestone?”

For anyone who has known me throughout my life, they will know that as I’ve been writing on and off for decades with nothing to show for it this is indeed, a momentous achievement. It means that for the first time in realising one of my ambitions I am actually sticking to the plan and getting it done.

My problem in the past has always been developing the story beyond its initial beginning. The ideas are always there, I can picture it in my mind’s eye but developing it on paper had always been difficult. I would find the story unravelling, like watching a thread pulled loose in a piece of fabric. My characters would meander, I could never work out how to weave elements together and this would always lead to me abandoning the manuscript and forgetting about it until I felt inspiration strike again.

This time, however, I have noticed a definite trend in a lot of books I have read which I believe has really helped me with my writing.

The dedication of a chapter per character is a brilliant writing skill. Not only does that character develop entirely within their own universe but there’s room for their back story and room for them to breathe within the pages. I’ve noticed it with a lot of writers (Morgan Rhodes and Trudi Canavan for example) and I find it provides a definitive line between each character’s story until such time as their destinies bring them together.

This is the approach I’ve taken with my story. I have five central characters, two of whom are thrown together fairly early on but it’s not until I’ve reached this final part of the story that I’m now at the stage of being able to bring them together which will move the story towards its finale and set the scene for the sequel.

I’m very excited about this; I look back through my scribblings and notes, little doodles in my notebook and feel I’ve done myself proud. When the book is finished I can get to editing and fine tuning and then take the next step on my journey as a writer 🙂

Music Makes the World Go Round

I’ve been thinking a lot about music recently and how it can be a huge source of inspiration for writers. Not least myself as songs always have a tendency to conjure up images and scenes in my head; which leads to a lightbulb moment and thoughts of “Ooh, I could write that!”

I guess, like everyone else, my musical influences come from my childhood. My dad has always been an avid collector of music and I grew up amongst an impressive collection of vinyl ranging from The Beatles to Waylon Jennings. My dad would also have what I call his “fad” stages whereby he would listen obsessively to a particular artist or genre. We went through weeks of Dusty Springfield, Frank Sinatra and lots of classical. It got to a point where some of the enjoyment went out of it.

As a child of the 70’s I was into ABBA and Blondie. I loved putting on a record and dancing round the living room singing, pretending to be Agnetha or Debbie. Two very different bands with very different sounds, I still love them both today.

In the 80’s as I headed towards puberty (such a horrible word) and with the hormones starting to do their thing I fell in love with Wham!. I used to imagine George Michael coming to whisk me away to a life of decadence and parties aboard posh yachts and stylish apartments in Kensington. Oh, how naïve! (I was only about 8 or 9 however)

After Wham! along came Madonna. My uncle bought me the Like A Virgin album when I was about 11 or 12 and I listened to it obsessively. She was someone I wholly admired and looked up to. Madonna represented what it meant to be a truly independent woman, totally in charge of her own destiny and she didn’t seem to care what the haters thought or said. If anything, I think it drove her ever onward. My love affair with her music however, ended on 11/09/08 at Wembley Stadium on her Sticky and Sweet Tour. I had waited 23 years to see her live and it was a massive disappointment. There was no atmosphere, she didn’t engage with the audience very well and relied far too much on backing track to support her vocals. I never bought another Madonna album again after that. By comparison, Belinda Carlisle who I’ve followed since the mid-80’s is excellent live; I’ve seen her twice. She doesn’t need to put on a theatrical extravaganza, she’s a great singer, engages with the audience and I love her music. The only downside is that she relies heavily on other songwriters.

In 1985 I watched what was then a ground breaking music video for a song entitled “Take On Me” by an unknown band from Norway called A-Ha. That was it, raging hormones channelled themselves into full obsession mode and for the next three years I covered my bedroom wall in posters, played their albums incessantly and travelled to Bournemouth and Brighton to see them twice on the Stay On These Roads tour. The sight of Morten Harket’s beautiful face was enough to send me into a lather and there was nothing more the 15-year-old me wanted than to marry a man almost twice my age. Thankfully, the passage of time have lifted the rose-tinted glasses from my eyes and from what I know about him now I doubt we’d be very compatible!

The early 90’s brought me into contact with the Rave scene. It was still very much an underground movement then, lots of raves were organised through word of mouth and flyers that were only available in specialist music shops. For two years I frequented Sterns in Worthing, worshipped DJ’s instead of musicians and dressed like an idiot. I say that now because I loved the music but baggy jeans, big trainers and baggy tops with “Joe Bloggs” emblazoned across them marked me out as anything but stylish.

The commercialism of Rave is what put me off it; it no longer felt like our secret. Rave was getting into the charts and being played in chain nightclubs. Beered up lads were more interested in causing fights and hitting on girls instead of getting onto the dance floor. The commercialism killed off the movement so I’m glad I was a part of it when it meant something.

After that my musical tastes meandered somewhat throughout the 90’s. I was into Alanis Morisette for a while, revisited Madonna and then discovered Oasis who I had always resisted until Wonderwall changed my mind. I never went to see them live but I did love their music and I credit Oasis as being the band that took me on the road to rock music. In the late 90’s I discovered Garbage who are still one of my favourite bands today and after about 20 years I’m finally going to see them in the summer which I am excited about.

2003 was a seminal year for my musical journey as it was the year I discovered Muse. Absolution was the album at the time (it’s my favourite Muse album of all time) Hysteria was on the radio and their popularity was growing. The unfair comparisons to Radiohead were still prevalent but not being very familiar with the latter I didn’t really care. Here was a band  whose music got me through a very dark stage of my life.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m blinkered to other talents. I love bands and I love music. In the last few years I’ve discovered Anathema, Interpol, Nothing But Thieves, The Pretty Reckless, Evanescence and The Nearly Deads. One of my favourite albums is Violator by Depeche Mode. I have Elle King, Pink Floyd, Ella Fitzgerald and Queen in my collection. My boyfriend is a musician and I get to see his own progress with the bands he is in; Threshold, Nightmare World and his own band My Soliloquy.

I recently submitted a short story to a writing competition. The scenario for it popped into my head when I was listening to the Interpol self-titled album. Two tracks, Lights and Always Malaise were my inspiration for that story and I feel it’s the best one I’ve written so far.

So, other than sharing my love of music I would also say to anyone who maybe struggling to write or suffering from a little writer’s block: turn on the stereo, put on one of your favourite CDs, settle into a comfortable space, let the music wash over you and your mind will do the rest.

Grace

x

PS – I say CD because I am a strong supporter of musicians and do not agree with piracy in any form. I purchase my music, musicians have earned that right and they should not be expected to work for free.

Muse

Nothing But Thieves

Interpol

Garbage

The Pretty Reckless

Threshold

Anathema

Evanescence

My Soliloquy

Nightmare World

The Nearly Deads