Tessellate Ukulele Cover

Here’s a ukulele cover of Tessellate by Alt-J. I really like Alt-J. Partly because they are local boys (big up Southampton) but partly because their music is layered and interesting. The lyrics are often wonderfully nonsensical and it makes a pleasant change from a lot of what gets put out.

I’ve been experimenting with some finger picking on this track. Not gonna lie, it was almost impossible for me to keep it up for the entirety of the song. I tried and tried and my fingers cramped and I got frustrated, so I recorded it in chunks and made the uke track that way. I stitched it all together, leaving in a beat of silence at the end of every fourth bar, which you can hear if you listen carefully. The vocals took me an hour or so to lay down, and I don’t think it’s half bad for something recorded in my kitchen. And to be honest, I’m not really sure what I’m doing. It’s just fun to make them. 

Anyway, here is the original.

 

What next? I’m thinking perhaps Toothbrush by DNCE. Hit me up with any suggestions and I’ll see what I can do. 

Wicked Game

wicked game ukulele cover

So this feels…. gratuitous, and I don’t know why. Probably because I am very self deprecating. To the point where I annoy myself. I’m not great at tooting my own horn. I tend to get in there first and put myself down a bit, so that no one else can. It’s by far the lamest thing about me. But then, why would I take the time and make the effort to record and (very roughly) produce these little covers and then post them up on the internet if I didn’t want people to hear them? 

I make ukulele covers and I put them up on Soundcloud. People tell me they’re good, so I’m going to try to start accepting that at face value. I like to do songs that you wouldn’t automatically assume would work on a ukulele. It’s got to the point where I hear a song on the radio or on Spotify and my first thought is, ‘Ohh, I wonder what the chord progression is?’

So here’s my cover of Wicked Game by everyone’s favourite one crooner, Chris Isaak. My friend Cory used the word ‘intense’ when he heard it.

And, over on the other side of the world, I snorted and went about my day, because it took me about 3 hours to do from start to finish and didn’t feel in the least bit intense. But now I’ve listened to it again, I really quite like it. And just maybe he’s a little bit right. 

That Time I Played Graze Festival with Toyah and The Beat

The Beat

Before I went on my blog hiatus – with good excuse *cough two novels cough* – I wrote about how I had picked up a new hobby. A sweet little four-stringed mini guitar type thing. Reader, I learnt how to play the ukulele. One of the most hipster instruments after washboards and mouth organs. I picked it up and I taught myself how to play that song by Metro Station. Then Junk of the Heart by The Kooks (which in hindsight was super ambitious for a novice). And then Every Other Freckle by Alt J. I picked up a ukulele and I loved it. 

Still do, as it happens. 

graze festival bunting

A little while later, I put on my big girl pants and joined Southampton Ukulele Jam. Which is a big deal for someone who gets anxious about trying new things. But it was a right laugh and the people were friendly so I carried on going. Fast forward a few months, and I’d got brave enough to start playing gigs, and last summer, I was picked to play at Larmer Tree Festival. How about that, then? Proof that good things happen when you put yourself out there. 

I didn’t get to do Larmer Tree again this year, because I took myself off to California instead, which is a story for another day, or maybe not. We’ll see. Depends.

graze festival forno pizza

But instead, I got to play Graze Festival, which was very small, charming, and in a field in Hampshire. We did a workshop in the afternoon, ate some jolly good pizza, and then got up on stage and played a set right before Toyah Willcox and The Beat.

 Just another casual Sunday, no?  

graze festival toyah willcox

graze festival the beat

I saw The Beat at Larmer Tree and loved them, and they were just as good this time around as well. Such a cool mix of reggae and ska and pop and soul. Honestly, they are a joy to watch. You can’t help but dance. Absolutely worth catching, if you can. 

It’s been a good bank holiday weekend. Yup. 

 

 

Ukulele

ukulele love

Here is something not a lot of people know about little me. 

I like to play the ukulele. And by like, I mean, I bloody love it. And by like, I mean, out of all the stringed instruments out there in all the world, I think I have found the one I like the best. This is a fairly new hobby, and I reckon my friends thought it would be a passing phase, as so many of my hobbies turn out to be. So I can’t really blame them for that.

I am flighty. I pick things up, and if I can’t do it easily I give up pretty quickly. Take, for instance, knitting. That was a pretty short-lived hobby. Hand me a crochet hook and I’ll crochet you up something pretty (in basic crochet stitches, natch, hard ones are too tricky) but hand me a pair of knitting needles, and I’ll maybe poke you with one of them. 

Or, here’s another example: a regular, six stringed guitar. I just couldn’t do it. God knows, I tried. I really tried, for a couple of weeks. I even managed to learn how to play that Metro Station song.  Badly. When I played it to my sister, whose guitar it is, she looked very confused. Maybe even baffled. 

“Megan” I said, “It’s Metro Station! It’s bloody Metro Station! Shake it! Can’t you hear it? Look, like this.” And I played it again. I’m playing fast and loose with the word ‘played’ here. 

In my head I looked like Courtney Love (complete with big hair and smudged eye makeup). My sister looked blank. I called it a day. As it turns out, even Metro Station can’t play Metro Station songs well, so I don’t feel so bad about that. It’s the extra two strings, they blew my mind. 

I did, once, try to play bass guitar. Just once. I went into a shop in Denmark Street in London and pretended I knew what I was doing because basses are cool aren’t they? They are such a “I don’t give a fuck” instrument with everything they have going on, and I was about fifteen. The staff straight up knew I was an impostor, my friend looked at her feet, and I haven’t picked one up since.

See? Flighty. It’s okay, I am aware of my faults.

So, I surprised myself when I picked up the ukulele. I only did it because there’s a ukulele in my novel, which I wrote in on a whim. There’s also a bass guitar (or two) and I wanted something pretty much opposite sounding to that. So I picked one up and had a go and haven’t really put it down since. It’s fun to play. It makes a nice sound. It’s not at all scary, and it really isn’t at all hard. I think I’m all right, in any case. I can play a few songs now without even having to look at tabs. Including Post Break Up Sex by the Vaccines. Oh yeah, and Shake It, by Metro Station, because I wasn’t going to be defeated by Miley Cyrus’ brother, no sir. Today I taught myself how to play a Maximo Park song, and now I feel badass.

Last night I went along to Southampton Ukulele Jam, which obviously means I am well serious about ukuleles, doesn’t it? It was great. Hilarious. A lot of fun, and we played some cool songs. Everyone was friendly, and I didn’t even get picked on for being new. I’ll go back, for sure. Plus there was beer. My friend Liv and I walked home in the rain, puffing away on fags and generally enjoying life. It was a good evening.

ukulele love

And look! They come in pretty colours! 

 

 

Mothers Day

streetfood steph

Last Sunday was Mothering Sunday, but in a break from tradition I did not spend the weekend with my children.  Instead I had a brilliant weekend in London.  

A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to score tickets to see The Cure live at the Royal Albert Hall.  By lucky, what I really mean is, really really organised.  I knew the tickets went on sale at 9am, so the night before had set up my laptop, and my debit card ready to go.  The Seetickets website was loaded and ready to go, and I legged it home from the school run that morning, leaving just enough time to make myself a swift cup of coffee and sit down, mouse poised over the refresh button at 8:58am.

Needless to say my dedication paid off, and I was one very happy camper.  I bloody LOVE The Cure.  You have no idea. 

So, Dee and I trundled off up to London on Saturday morning, had a mooch around, got my Ray Bans fixed, popped in to see my sister at work, drunk with an old friend in the sunshine, and then ate dinner at Cave à Fromage.  And before I get on to how utterly blinding The Cure are live, I am going to talk about Cave à Fromage. 

caveafromage2

Just behind South Kensington tube station is Cave à Fromage, the cheese shop of glory.  Inside, there are a few tables and stools and you turn up, get shown to a table, and you order either a cheese plate or a charcuterie plate, with a glass of wine.  Or if you are like me and Dee, you order both, and you have champagne instead of regular wine.  We are nothing if not decadent.  What turns up is a board with eight different types of beautiful cheese to try, a lovely pile of finely sliced meats, and a basket of delicious fresh bread.  Before you tuck in, they tell you all about the cheeses, where they come from, what they are like, etc, and then you just go to town.  The entire experience is completely delightful.  The staff are warm, friendly and really know their stuff.  The cheese is utterly delicious, and whilst it may not sound like a lot of food for two people, it really is plenty (And this is coming from someone who likes to eat.  A lot), and we left feeling satisfied and very very happy.  

A+ dinner. Would (and can’t wait to) visit again.

The next time you’re up in South Ken, do check out Cave à Fromage.  They also have branches in Hove and Notting Hill.

caveafromage1

This cheese had truffle honey drizzled over it. It was sublime. My shoddy photo does it no justice whatsoever.

So, on to The Cure.  I didn’t take my camera so you’ll have to make do with my shockingly bad iphone photography.  No support act, 4 hours of pure Cure bliss. They were on form.  Blinding, really.  I’ve wanted to see them for years and years, and it’s not a gig I’ll forget in a hurry.  The Royal Albert Hall is a stunning venue, with great acoustics, and it’s small enough so that wherever you are, you’ll be able to see and hear everything.  We were right up in the gallery, five floors up, at the side of the stage, and had an unobstructed view.  They saved Boys Don’t Cry (one of my very favourites) til the end, by which time it was getting on for 11:30, and I had to make my way over to Wapping to crash on my sister’s floor. 

A four hour set! Three encores! What a band! 

TheCureRAH1

Look at that! Robert Smith. With his mad hair and smudged makeup. EPIC.

The next day, Meg and I went for a run around her neighbourhood.  Before she moved there I’d never been to Wapping.  It’s lovely.  We jogged down towards St Katherine’s Dock, then back along the Thames.  Later on, we mooched on down to Brick Lane for street food feasts, pokes around vintage shops and general meandering.  Then it was time for me to come home. 

bricklanestreetfood

Streetfood Brick Lane

streetfood steph

So, thats how I spent my mother’s day.  Sometimes it’s good to have time off, and by the time I got home, I was desperate to see my little lovelies again, for sticky kisses, random and precise facts from Roo, homemade cards and lots of cuddles. 

Thank you London, you were beautiful. 

Run, Pretty Averagely Sized Girl, Run

563 run.jpg

I’ve just started running.  

I KNOW, I KNOW.  (People who know me will know that I’ve always detested running.  The beep tests they made us to in PE were torture.  They also made us run around a huge block at the beginning of each term, and as soon as I was out of Miss O’Driscoll’s sight, I’d stop and leisurely stroll around.  Because I hate running) 

In year 11, my friend Sarah F and I used to bunk PE, so we didn’t have to do any running.  Sorry, not sorry.  I hate running. 

It makes me feel like I am dying.  And I loathe that.

It hurts my knees.  That is never a good thing. 

It makes me sweat.  Yuck. 

It’s boring.  Dull, dull, dull.  

But about a month ago, I decided that I would start going to the gym again.  And I’ve been really good at actually going.  I’ve been going three times a week and I have a little routine: treadmill, bike or rowing machine, a weight machine or two, home.  The plan was that the whole thing would take at the most 45 minutes, and I’d be home in time for a nice hot shower and a cup of coffee before having to pick up Elliot from preschool.  I figured I’d get the treadmill out of the way first, because I hate running, you see.  HATE.  IT. 

Except that I’ve found myself really quite enjoying it.  Almost loving it, in fact.  I stick my headphones on, whack up the volume, and run to nowhere.  (I prefer running to nowhere on a treadmill than running outside, as the treadmill absorbs a lot of the impact, and my knees and shins don’t hurt). 

And it’s my running playlist that has really helped me learn to enjoy running.  It’s what has really spurred me on.  The first couple of times I went I didn’t take my headphones, and so had no choice but to listen to people panting away next to me.  Or groups of muscly beefcakes cheer each other on, or the music they play at the gym, which is less than inspiring. 

But making myself a fun playlist and setting it to shuffle has been brilliant.  I don’t get bored, because I don’t know what’s coming next.  It could be “We Are The People” by Empire of the Sun:

Or it could be “Shake It” by Metro Station,

Or it could be “Brazil (Second Edit)”, by Deadmau5 (A personal favourite)

And I end up pushing myself a little further by running the length of a song, then another will come on and I’ll think, ‘OH I LOVE THIS SONG! I’ll just run to that and then I’ll stop”, and then the same thing will happen again.  I have a pretty eclectic taste in music; generally if something has a good beat, is nice and upbeat, and/or nice lyrics, I’ll like it.  My running playlist is full of songs that make me smile. 

Two weeks ago, I could barely run for fifteen minutes before beginning to worry that my legs would fail and I’d fall off the back of a treadmill going at 8kms an hour.  But last night I ran consistently for just shy of 40 minutes, at 8.8km/h and I clocked up over 5kms.  I am pretty proud of myself, and it’s safe to say I no longer hate running. 

I totally deserve the curry and beer I’m indulging in tonight.  Bring on more runs next week! 

563 run.jpg