Unlike all of the major newspapers, radio stations and news programmes I didn’t have an obituary ready for the day my favourite musician David Bowie passed away. I didn’t want to think such a thing would happen – surely if anyone could defy time and live forever it would be David Bowie – but that saddest of days has come. David Bowie, just turned 69, “died peacefully, surrounded by his family after an 18-month battle with cancer”, the BBC reported today.
I’ve always been a massive David Bowie fan. Like millions of people around the world, from multiple generations, Bowie’s music has been with me my whole life, influencing me in so many ways. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know who he was. I suppose I just grew up listening to his music with my mum, who is also a big fan. We both shed a tear or two this morning when the news was announced on the radio and we texted each other.
I won’t waffle on too much today, but I wanted to share some of my earliest memories of Bowie with you, dear reader. The Labyrinth (1986) has always been one of my favourite films, and I could watch it over and over again. For anyone who has been living under a rock their whole lives and hasn’t seen it. David Bowie stars in The Labyrinth alongside Jennifer Connelly (Sarah) as the beautiful goblin king Jareth who has stolen Sarah’s annoying baby brother. Sarah has to face the labyrinth, and the intimidating, ball spinning, tight trouser wearing goblin king in order to get the baby back. The entire soundtrack is also by Bowie, and I’m not ashamed to say I still know every word to every song.
Don’t even get me started on all of the things I love about The Labyrinth, but I will say that I grew up with the above image firmly planted in my mind. I wanted to be Sarah, wearing that dress and dancing with the goblin king. And hell, he could have kept the baby for all I would have cared!
I remember learning word for word the lines Sarah has to say to Jareth at the end of the movie, and I used to say it to myself all the time when I was having a bad time at school or feeling unhappy about something.
“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me!”
There are so many amazing moments in The Labyrinth, but I’ll leave you with just two more…
Rest in peace David Bowie, you beautiful, brilliant man. You’ll never be forgotten.
I haven’t posted here on AliMuskett.com since August 2013. I’ve often thought of things I could post, but when I’ve had time to write I’ve always focussed my attention on Haikugirl’s Japan, which is after all my main blog. Since 2013 a lot has happened. I moved to Bristol in May 2013 and started my job as a Japan specialist Travel Consultant, which I adore. It’s hard work, but it’s without a doubt the most fulfilling and rewarding job I’ve ever had. It does take up a lot of time though, and after a few months of working my arse off in 2015 I realised all I was doing was working. I’d try to get out on the weekends and take some pictures for Picturing England, and of course I found time for Zumba once a week, but it wasn’t enough.
Some girls at work were talking about a salsa class they went to one night a week, and that really appealed to me. I used to dance a little bit, back when I did musicals as a kid, and I’ve always liked music-related exercise a lot more than anything else, so it seemed like the perfect thing to try. I knew my Zumba teacher did salsa, and I loved the Latin-flavoured songs in our Zumba classes. In fact, a salsa version of ‘Ain’t Nobody’ was one of my favourites (the version below is different to the Zumba Fitness one, but equally good!).
I went along to my first salsa class on 2nd June with one of my colleagues, and I have to admit I was nervous. I wasn’t really sure which of these it would be like:
It was like the ‘what I really do’ picture, but in my mind it was definitely more like the ‘what I think I do’ picture and it felt fantastic! The most terrifying part for me was the social interaction. I don’t really like people all that much, and I don’t have that many occasions where I have to interact face-to-face with people in my daily life, let alone touch them (I know, it sounds weird, but I live alone, I’m an only child, and I just prefer my own company). All of a sudden I found myself talking to a guy I’d never met before, then holding hands with him, and then in close hold! I do have issues with this kind of contact, but doing salsa is definitely helping me get over this! It helps that it’s just dancing. The way the class works is really good – you move around all the time so you don’t have to bring a partner, and you don’t get stuck with one guy for the whole night. It feels a bit like speed dating at times, but it’s always just dancing. It’s a nice way to meet lots of new people, and I’ve already made some good friends.
I loved that first class. The music ran through me, and by the time I got home my feet were still tapping (1, 2, 3… 5, 6, 7…). Before long I began sharing all the new music I was discovering on my Facebook page, and I make no apologies for the amount of songs I have shared over the last six months! Here’s one of my favourites:
And here’s another one:
I go to salsa every Tuesday night now, sometimes on Wednesdays and Fridays too. Three times a month on Fridays my salsa club (Salsa Souls) has parties, which start with lessons and then go into free social dancing until the early hours. It took a few months before I had the courage to go to a party, and I had to bring a friend along with me. I wasn’t sure how different the parties would be to the classes, and I had visions of it being like this:
I thought maybe I would just stay for a little while after the lessons finished, but I think it was at least 1am when we stumbled out of the club with painful feet but happy hearts. The social dancing was SO much fun, and dancing with more experienced guys made me really feel like I could dance!
Salsa is like a good addiction. I spend all day looking forward to class, then afterwards it’s all I can think about. The music gets inside me, and I just want to dance. I think salsa is good for me on so many levels. Of course, it’s exercise. I don’t know how the pros do it on TV, but I sweat when I dance. And I don’t care, because most other people are sweating too. Also, it gets me out of the office. I have a tendency to stay at work and do overtime, but nothing would make me miss salsa. Salsa makes me happy. It makes me smile, laugh and sing – all good things filling me with happiness.
As well as all of the above, salsa teaches me. I’m learning a new skill (hell it’s not just salsa, I’ve tried a bit of bachata, cha-cha-cha and merengue too), but I’m also learning something else. I’m learning how to follow, and that’s not something I’m naturally good at. I’m usually the one in charge, making the decisions and calling the shots but for once, when I’m on the dance floor, I just have to follow. It’s hard, especially when the guy is learning to lead, but when you get a strong lead it’s actually remarkably easy to just follow, and I like it.
Most importantly, I’ve learnt that you’re never too old (busy, fat, unfit, or anything else) to try something new, and if there’s something you want to try you should just go for it. It might change your life.
So this has been the year I danced, and I danced like nobody was watching. And I will continue in 2016 – starting with the first ever Bristol Salsa Congress which is on from 9th – 10th January. A whole weekend of dancing – I can’t wait! ❤
I knew it was going to be much harder to find new things to do on work days, and the pouring rain today didn’t help, but I still managed to find something! Today’s new thing was:
Smiling while commuting
Everyone hates commuting, right? Especially if you’re stuck on a crowded train with your face in someone’s armpit, an elbow in your ribs, and someone else’s free newspaper grazing your boob. Commuting really gets me down, and I feel like I have this big black cloud over me all day because I know I have to get back on the damned train again after work to go home.
But I have no choice. I can’t afford to live in Zone 1, therefore I must commute, and I must use public transport because I can’t ride a bike and wouldn’t cycle that far anyway! So, today I decided to try to find a way to smile while commuting.
Generally it’s the other people on the commute that get my goat, so I figured I would have to form a bubble around myself and fill it with things that made me happy. The easiest way I know to do this is with music. I often listen to a bit of Lady Gaga on the way to work, but I decided to try something new today… something which was guaranteed to make me smile…
Comedy. Or, more specifically, comedy music. 😀
Here’s an example of something that made me smile inappropriately on the Tube today:
Please note: If you try smiling while commuting your fellow commuters may glance at you suspiciously and think you rather strange, but it shouldn’t matter because you will be in your own little comedy bubble, oblivious to their grumpy moods. The only people I am allowing into my bubble with me at the moment are the gorgeous Tim Minchin, the hilarious Victoria Wood, the ridiculous Bill Bailey and perhaps a little Monty Python.
My friend Gwynnie over at Make Life Magic has started a challenge today, and I couldn’t possibly not take part – it’s the ‘Something New Every Day Challenge‘. Gwynnie says:
Do you ever feel just bored of life? When every day is the same, nothing really surprises you, you drag yourself out of bed to face another predictable day?
What about those things that you’d like to do? Some of us are ashamed of our dreams. You might want to start your own business, quit your job and travel around the world for a year, change your image so drastically that it terrifies you. But something in your head tells you “You can’t… not you. You’re too young/old/poor/dull”. Perhaps you secretly believe that excitement and success are for other people, but not you.
If you’re happy living in an unhappy, limited world, then don’t read any further. Go back to denying yourself the things that you deserve, and feeling bitter when you see people who aren’t afraid to go and get them. But if you want to feel more confident in everything you do, more excited about waking up every day, then read on. Those big changes won’t seem so scary when you’ve been making little changes every day for the last few months.
One of my oldest pieces of advice to friends who feel stuck in a rut, unsure about their own abilities or about what they want to do in life, is this – try something new every day.
Life is so full of possibilities. Why limit yourself to doing the same things forever?
I’m not talking about massive, world-shaking things every day, unless that’s your thing. You don’t have to climb Everest, join a new class every day, cut off all your hair or go sky-diving, although you might enjoy those things. I’m talking about even tiny new things – trying a flavour of tea that you’ve never had before, painting your nails a new colour, sitting in a different seat in your usual restaurant or classroom.
Gwynnie will be posting her own new somethings over on her blog, and I decided to accept the challenge and post mine here.
So, Day #1…
I actually did a couple of new things today, so I’m off to a good start!
First, I went to the British Music Experience at the O2, which was really fab! I probably wouldn’t have gone there if I had had to buy a ticket, but because I went to see Jesus Christ Superstar last night at the O2 I was given a free ticket to the exhibition. Bonus! (Jesus Christ Superstar was A-MAZING, by the way.)
Whilst at the British Music Experience my mum and I had a go at dancing in this dance booth thing, and I think it was probably the first time I ever ‘rave danced’ and ‘ska danced’ with my mum! We also sung Bohemian Rhapsody together – but that wasn’t a first! 😉
Later in the day we went to Wagamama, where I tend to order the same thing off the menu (yasai yaki soba), but today, for the first time, I ordered saien soba – and it was delicious!
Let’s see what I can think of tomorrow, and how long I can keep this challenge going! Wish me luck…
This week’s Music in Pictures Contest is on the theme of one of my favourite songs: Better Days by Eddie Vedder. Whenever I think of the song Better Days, I think of this:
I first heard Better Days in the film Eat, Pray, Love, and so I will always associate the song with that movie. In the movie, and the book it’s based on, the main female character decides she likes the Italian word “attraversiamo”, meaning “let’s cross over”. That phrase could also be applied to this picture of a bridge connecting mainland Honshu and Kamakura to Enoshima, in Japan.
Here’s to Better Days…
I feel part of the universe open up to meet me
My emotion so submerged, broken down to kneel in
Once listening, the voices they came
Had to somehow greet myself, read myself
Heard vibrations within my cells, in my cells
Singing, “Ah-la-ah-ah, ah-la-ah-ah”
My love is safe for the universe
See me now, I’m bursting
On one planet, so many turns
Singing, “Ah-la-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah-ah, ah”
Fill my heart with discipline
Put there for the teaching
In my head see clouds of stairs
Help me as I’m reaching
The future’s paved with better days
Not running from something
I’m running towards the day
A whisper once quiet
Now rising to a scream
Right in me
I’m falling, free falling
Words calling me
Up off my knees
I’m soaring and, darling,
You’ll be the one that I can need
Still be free
Our future’s paved with better days
I’m in the mood for responding to blog themes today, so I’ve decided to participate in Autumn in Bruges‘s Music in Pictures Contest. Each week, Autumn in Bruges sets a theme based on a song, and this week’s song is “What a wonderful world”, originally recorded by Louis Armstrong. I also quite like Joey Ramone’s version:
So, with that in mind, here are my pictures on the theme of “What a wonderful world”:
I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shakin’ hands, sayin’ How do you do?
They’re really saying I love you
I hear babies cryin’, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world
If Andy Warhol is the king of pop art, I’d like to declare Mr Brainwash the king of ‘rave art’. I know this will be an unpopular opinion, but I really like what Mr Brainwash is doing, and his new exhibition at the Old Sorting Office in London is unmissable.
I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the opening night of the show – a collaborative event by Mr Brainwash and musician David Guetta. I had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be an exhibition and a simple private view with a bit of music in the background as I wandered around with a free glass of wine? Or was it going to be a full-on rave in a warehouse?
I’m still not sure what it was but, whatever it was, it was incredible (and my ears took a whole day to recover).
The entire ground floor was filled with huge Mr Brainwash artworks, ranging from “life-size” Star Wars figures made out of tyres to huge spray cans that looked like Campbell’s soup.
As I entered the exhibition when the doors opened at 8pm, the first striking piece was a massive set of Olympic rings, made out of paint cans and stuck on the wall. Standing by the rings were men dressed up as members of the Queen’s Guard, and further along were more people dressed as Stormtroopers. Everyone was clutching Burn energy drinks, and judging by the dancing I saw from one of the soldiers later on, I expect they had quite a few! (The event was supported by Burn.)
Club music was playing, and before long the DJ switched and Nicky Romero came on. People started to pay attention to the stage, but everyone was clearly waiting for Mr Brainwash’s co-star for the night, David Guetta, to take his place.
It was after 9pm when David Guetta came on – I lost track of time a bit actually, and it might have even been closer to 10pm – but he played right through until after midnight, when the event was supposed to end, playing just one more, and just one more – the crowd was relentless, and even I (not used to clubbing or staying out past 11pm) could have kept going.
Having been born at the beginning of the 1980s I was too young to appreciate ’80s pop and still slightly too young for the early ’90s rave scene. Instead I got stuck with the late ’90s and early 2000s – not the best period of music history. If I could choose to be 18 at a different time, I would almost definitely go for 1992 – the heart of the rave scene. On Wednesday night I felt I had come the closest to attending a real rave that I probably ever would. Even though the event was all aboveboard and commercially sponsored, I couldn’t help getting a rush of excitement and imaging I was doing something really underground. Not everyone got in – I heard there were around 1,700 people waiting to get in around 9pm and they were operating a one-in-one-out door policy – and I felt like I had been chosen to take part in something really special.
The whole event was filmed for David Guetta’s latest music video which I’ll be keeping an eye out for. I’m not sure when it will be released, but I do hope I might catch a glimpse of myself and my friends (we were at the front all night). Mr Brainwash was, of course, also filming and taking a lot of photographs. I actually saw him on the street before the event and took my picture with him.
I get irritated when people so easily dismiss Mr Brainwash’s work and say it’s rubbish. Often, the reasoning is based on the fact that he doesn’t produce a lot of the work himself (he has an army of people who do all the actual design and making – he’s just the ideas man), but I could name a lot of other artists who have teams working with them in the exact same way he does – Andy Warhol certainly did. The other thing people always say is that his work shows no originality, and that his ideas are clichéd, but that doesn’t bother me. His work is a bit clichéd I guess, but I like his messages – “life is beautiful”, “follow your dreams” and “you’re never too young to dream big”.
For me, right now, this art is relevant. Mr Brainwash is telling us not to take our lives so seriously and to have a bit of fun while pursuing our dreams – what’s wrong with that? As for his images of famous people, such as the massive Kate Moss picture on the side of the Old Sorting Office , what’s not to like:
Or a bit of David Bowie:
Or Obama dressed as Superman:
Mr Brainwash’s work may not be the most original or groundbreaking art of all time, but it certainly gets your attention, if only due to the enormous scale of many of the pieces.
This Artlyst review is worth a read, calling Mr Brainwash’s work “so bad it’s good” and “kitsch multiplied by twenty”. Whatever you think of Mr Brainwash and his art, I think you’d be a fool to miss this much-hyped exhibition, open from 5th – 31st August at the Old Sorting Office, 21-31 New Oxford Street, London WC1 (you can’t miss it – the whole outside of the building is covered in his work!)
And, when you’re feeling cynical and judgemental about what Mr Brainwash is doing, just try to keep one phrase in mind: life is beautiful…
London is absolutely buzzing with culture at the moment because the Olympics are in town and all eyes are focussed this way. I don’t really care for sport, but I’m happy to see so many cultural events going on at the moment. In fact, there’s so much going on that I’ve been getting a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) again, but I’m trying to remember to breathe, keep calm, and carry on. 😉
As usual, I’m totally skint. You would think that this might bring a downer on things – no money = nothing to do – but that’s never the case in London. Last weekend, I managed to have an absolutely fantastic time without spending hardly any money at all. In fact, all the good stuff I did was absolutely free.
I started my Saturday at Waterloo Station, waiting to meet my mum who was coming up for the day. A hug from my mum is always free, and priceless. We headed down to the river, and eventually along to Arigato in London – a festival of Japanese culture. You can read more about that on my blog Haikugirl’s Japan.
The whole event was free, and included taiko drumming from the fabulous Joji Hirota and his taiko ensemble.
Along by the river there is always a lot going on, and plenty of entertainment for free…
As we were walking along, we ran into some people wearing costumes. They gave us flyers for a Korean music concert which was part of the All Eyes on Korea event at the Southbank Centre. They said that we could exchange the flyer for a free ticket, even though the tickets originally cost £10. I guess they couldn’t sell enough tickets, which is a shame for them, but great news for us!
We had originally planned to do something else, but quickly decided to change our plans and attended GongMyong present ‘Walkabout’ in the Purcell Room at the Royal Festival Hall instead.
I don’t know much at all about Korean culture or music, but I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and it made me interested in getting to know Korean culture better. It was the kind of music that makes you want to dance, and it didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand the bits of Korean spoken between the songs because the music was in a universal language that everyone could understand. The musicians were very talented and creative, and used a variety of percussion instruments as well as random objects to make a carnivalesque sound. It was Korea meets Brazil, with a little bit of didgeridoo thrown in for good measure!
On Sunday, despite the very changeable weather, I found myself standing in line at BoxPark in Shoreditch waiting to get some free art. I had registered with the Graffiti Life event during the week, but didn’t really expect to be there early enough to be one of the first 100 people lucky enough to get a free box painted by a graffiti artist.
Well, it turns out I was third in the line! I made some new friends in the line while waiting in the rain, concluding that we must all be a bit mad to spend our Sunday in such a way.
But it was totally worth it to get this fabulous box painted by Adam Brazier, one of the founders of Graffiti Life.
When I got home on Sunday night there was just one more free thing to act as the cherry on my already very delicious cake… I got a free ticket to the opening night of Mr Brainwash‘s show in London!
The opening night was a collaboration between Mr Brainwash and the musician David Guetta. I had no idea what to expect, but was very, very excited! The opening party was last night… but more about that in another post! 😉
London really is a fantastic place to live, and you can have an incredible amount of fun without spending any money at all! To paraphrase the Mastercard advert: London rent? More than £700 a month. London experiences? Priceless!
I admit that for the last 7 weeks or so Britain’s Got Talent has been my guilty pleasure. I’ve cheered on the good acts, laughed at the terrible acts, and cried at the ones that tugged on my heart strings). It’s amazing to see how much talent there is in this country (and how many nutters there are too).
Tonight was the final and, if you haven’t seen it yet, I warn you now that this post does contain spoilers.
The show tonight contained 11 thoroughly entertaining acts. In my opinion, some deserved to win more than others, but they did all deserved a place in the final. The finalists were:
- Only Boys Aloud (Welsh male choir)
- Ashleigh and Pudsey (dancing dog act)
- Jonathan and Charlotte (17 and 16 year-old operatic duo)
- Kai and Natalia (teenage ballroom and Latin dancers)
- Loveable Rogues (quirky Madness meets The Streets band singing their own tunes)
- Molly Rainford (11 year-old singer)
- Sam Kelly (singer/guitarist)
- Nu Sxool (street dance group)
- Ryan O’Shaughnessy (singer/guitarist)
- Aquabatique (synchronised swimming group)
- The Mend (boy band)
When the results were announced, the top three were Only Boys Aloud, Ashleigh and Pudsey, and Jonathan and Charlotte. I thought it was a real shame the Loveable Rogues didn’t make it into the top three, as I really enjoyed their music and thought it was great that they were brave enough to play something original. I would go out and buy their album tomorrow. Here’s their song “Lovesick”:
Only Boys Aloud were probably the finalists who would have made the best use of the £500,000 prize money, as their choir master clearly had ideas for the future. Sadly it was announced that they were in third place.
This meant that the top two acts were Ashleigh and Pudsey:
And Jonathan and Charlotte:
The winner was voted by the viewing public, and I knew that the chosen act would reflect the interests of the nation. Both acts were entertaining, but for me the clear winners were Jonathan and Charlotte. I mean, just listen to those voices!
Unfortunately, the great British public is a nation of animal lovers… and the dog won. Yes, Great Britain voted for Ashleigh and Pudsey, and now this is one rich pooch.
Don’t get me wrong, the act was very entertaining and that is one talented dog, but was it really the best act in all of Britain? No. It’s hard to choose one winner because there was so much variety in the show. It’s not just a singing contest, or a dance contest. But, clearly, Britain has gone a bit soft in the head to choose a dancing dog as the winning act.
I feel cheated, but at least Jonathan and Charlotte will hopefully have gained some confidence by coming second, and I’m sure they will go on to great things! You see, Britain’s certainly got talent, even though the voting public seem to enjoy “lighter” entertainment.
It was with this in mind that I allowed myself to be persuaded to attend the Saint George’s Day celebrations in Trafalgar Square today.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy myself. When I had gone down to Trafalgar Square for Chinese New Year it had been very crowded and uncomfortable, and I basically ran away (well, shuffled – it was impossible to run anywhere). However, what I found today was very different. The Saint George’s Day celebrations weren’t very well advertised, and so it wasn’t hugely crowded down at Trafalgar Square. The space did fill it, but it never became impossible to move, and I always felt like I had enough space.
My friend and I were met with a very quaint, English country garden atmosphere, complete with temporary flowers, fake grass, and plastic ducks and swans swimming in the fountains.
The event consisted of music…
Pearly Kings and Queens…
And, of course, tea and scones…
I almost forgot I was in central London while I was in the tea tent, as it felt very Sussex-y, like I was in some country park somewhere.
I really enjoyed the music, especially ZeTrio:
And the Robbie Boyd Band:
The music hall performances from the Brick Lane Music Hall were fun, too.
The whole event got me thinking about how patriotic (or not) we Brit’s are. There was a smattering of red and white flag-clad, Stella-swilling football fans, and a few people dressed in red and white getting pretty into it, like these sweet ladies who let me take their picture:
But overall it wasn’t too nationalistic. However, whenever there’s a chance to be proud to be British, there is always this slight feeling that “British pride = not open to other cultures”, which simply shouldn’t be the case. As a Londoner, I feel privileged to be able to enjoy the St George’s Day celebrations just as much as the Chinese New Year, Japanese Matsuri, or any other festival.
I’m no royalist or nationalist, but I did really enjoy indulging in a little British culture today. It’s so easy to forget where you come from when you live in such a multicultural city. I spend so much of my time submerged in Japanese culture, even though I live in England, that I sometimes forget to enjoy my own country’s culture.
I think the Londoners and Brits at the event enjoyed it, and I do hope the tourists and people from other countries also enjoyed the taste of British culture displayed in London today. I’ve realised that British culture is perhaps not as sophisticated or mystical as some other cultures, but we certainly do know how to have a good knees up! 😉