Wednesday, 30 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Z is For...

And here were are, the end at last. I’ve found this year’s A to Z Challenge somewhat easier than last year’s, though there have been some letter’s which I’ve had limited choices for songs. Z was one of them!

Zero to Hero – Disney

I knew from the very beginning that this was going to be my final song for the month. I’ve only actually seen the Disney film Hercules twice and I’m still yet to get it on DVD or blu-ray. I used to love watching the animated TV series on the Disney Channel when I was younger and when I got a Disney compilation CD I was thrilled to discover there was a Hercules song on it. I love the style of the music and the way they have the chorus on the Greek vase, I remember drawing vases like that in art at primary school.

Plus I think the title sums up the end of the A to Z Challenge quite well. I’ve gone from no posts to one for every letter of the alphabet. That’s something to celebrate.

Wordless Wednesday: Rhododendron

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Y is For...

I can’t believe it’s nearly over. I’ve really enjoyed writing these posts and I’ll be kind of sad to stop spending my Sundays looking up videos on YouTube that I can use for my posts. I’m definitely going to have to do more music posts in my weekly blogging routine.

You Picked Me – A Fine Frenzy

I started the month with an A Fine Frenzy song and I feel like I need to end the month with one too. This is from the same album as Almost Lover, the only A Fine Frenzy album that I own. It kind of reminds me of Birds and Boats by Gregory and the Hawk because it’s about the same sort of feeling. I like the idea of being the one chosen by somebody, they could’ve gone for anyone else, but they chose you, for whatever reason. It’s romantic and I’m like that.

Yo Ho A Pirate’s Life For Me – Disney

I have a massive collection of Disney music and it has taken a great deal of restraint not to turn this month into an A to Z of Disney Music (though maybe that’s an idea for next year, X might be a sticking point). Not only do I have numerous Disney soundtracks, I’ve also got some collections (Disney’s Greatest Hits complete with sing along CD or Disney Princesses Christmas songs anyone?) one of which is a collection of Disney Pirate Music. Bet you didn’t know there were that many pirate songs, let alone enough to fill a whole Disney CD!

Rather than posting every song from this CD, as I was tempted to, I went with this one, since I had it on a Disney sing-along video when I was little. It showed the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland and I used to watch it pretending that I was really there (you can actually see this on YouTube but it won't let me embed it). I still know all the words to this song!

Your Song – Ellie Goulding

They used this song on an advert a few years ago and I always used to stop and listen to it when it was on. I got her album that Christmas but there aren’t really many songs that stand out like this one does. I’d been familiar with this song thanks to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack but I like how this song is a lot softer and gentler than other versions. There's something sort of raw and honest about it which is sort of beautiful.

Book 62 of 2013: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

I never used to reread The Hobbit as regularly as I reread The Lord of the Rings but with the films coming out I felt like I couldn’t go to see them without rereading the book again. Normally this would be a quick reread, but this year, due to the edition that I’d selected, it took me right from the very beginning of December to the middle.

The Hobbit is the tale of Bilbo Baggins, a quiet unassuming Hobbit who ends up joining a band of Dwarves and a Wizard on a trek to their ancestral home, The Lonely Mountain. This mountain is now the home of a dragon who was lured there by the wealth that the Dwarves hoarded. Along the way they run into goblins underground (where Bilbo finds the now infamous ring), get lost in some woods and run into giant spiders and Elves, and meet a whole town full of people who live in the middle of a lake beneath the mountain inhabited by the dragon, Smaug. The story follows the change that Bilbo goes through as he becomes an entirely different Hobbit to the one he was before he left.

This time around I decided to go for my illustrated edition of the book. I’ve had it for years but normally it sits on my bookcase looking pretty. I’d ended up with a bit of time off in the run up to Christmas so it seemed like a good time to crack out the illustrated version. It’s not the most portable version of the book being a big hardback copy with pretty pictures and thick pages, so I was only really able to read it in bed at night and first thing in the morning.

This led to a slight disaster right at the outset of reading it when I had an accident with a cup of tea. A few sheets of paper towel and all was right. Luckily the pages are fairly thick and don’t absorb liquids very well.

In the past few years I’ve read a couple of old paperbacks (one of which is quite a bit older than me, that’s the edition I reviewed last year) and I’m planning on getting a Kindle version for my next reread, but I forgot what a joy to look at this book could be. The illustrations are beautiful and looking at them now, having watched the first film (and reading it in preparation for seeing the second) I can see what an influence they obviously were.

I don’t think that this is an edition of the book that I’m likely to revisit again particularly soon. The last time I read it was almost ten years ago and I imagine it’ll probably be that long again until I look at it again. That’s partly because it’s just not convenient to read, being unable to carry it around in my bag, but also because I worry about damaging it (which was why the tea incident kind of gave me pause about the wisdom of reading it while I ate my breakfast).

Monday, 28 April 2014

#atozchallenge: X is For...

Just the one song for today. Funnily enough I’ve known that this song would be my letter X since I decided to go with this theme way back in September last year.

XXXs and OOOs – Trisha Yearwood

Another song which I discovered through a fanmix on YouTube. I don’t even remember now which fandom it was actually aimed at, I just know that I really love the song. I think part of the reason why it stood out to me was because from an early age I signed my letters XOXOXO for hugs and kisses, so I had a connection to it straight away. It’s got a nice poppy sort of beat to it and I like the words. I’m not sure what it’s actually about, but for me it’s sort showing how times have changed between different generations in America. It’s about growing up and taking on your parents’ world.

And I still do sign my letters with XXXs and OOOs.

Acquired in Oban

As I mentioned yesterday, on Saturday we went to Oban. It's becoming a bit of a tradition to head North for my birthday and this year there wasn't really any question about where we would spend the day. It was always going to be Oban.

This year we've got the luxury of a local kennel who can take Tara when we're off the island. By checking her in the night before we were able to get away really early on Saturday morning... in fact, what we're talking about doing next time is driving up the night before and stopping over to give us the chance to get out and have a nice meal.

The alarm went off at 5:30am and we were on the ferry by 7:10am. I'd made up three good mix CDs for the trip and it passed really well. We went in an out of rain a few times but on the whole the weather stayed good for us the whole day.

I'd planned the trip like a military operation. Mr Click was under strict instructions to look for clothes while I looked at books in the charity shops. He came up trumps and by the end of the trip I'd got a new jacket, a new hoodie, a new everyday top and a new shirt for work.

I also found four DVDs: Kate and Leopold, Billy Connolly's World Tour of New Zealand, Wimbledon and a Brass Bands ones (the last two are mainly for Mr Click, the latter because he's into brass bands and the former because Kirsten Dunst is pretty much naked in it).

There was a lot of book shopping as well.

The top one of these three is a book which caught my eye because of the name on the cover, Henry Irving. He was born John Henry Brodribb, Brodribb being my paternal grandmother's maiden name and I'm distantly related to him. It's a book about the influence Irving and an actress named Ellen Terry had on the theatre. It looks really interested so I'm excited to read it at some point.

The other two books came from a shop which doesn't normally yield anything exciting. It's full of glass and crockery and ornaments with just a couple of bookshelves of books out the back. Saturday we struck gold though, with two of the four DVDs that we bought and two books for me. One caught my eye because of the reference to knitting (from the blurb on the back it looks a little like a Debbie Macomber book I read a while back), the other for Neil Gaiman, though I'm going to have to stick a Post-It note over the spider on the cover. *shudders*

With my Chapter-by-Chapter reviews in planning I decided to look out for a certain series of books that I've been avoiding for quite a while. The Twilight ones. I didn't have much luck to start out with though, there were copies of most of the books in most of the shops but they were usually wanting between £2 and £3 for them (and I knew I could get Kindle editions for about that which would take up less room on my shelves).

Until we came to the final charity shop of the trip where they sold paperbacks for just 50p each. I picked up Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner for just £2 total (even though the last book is a hardback). Bargain! I then had to powerwalk back to Oxfam where I'd seen Breaking Dawn for £2.99. So I've got the full set for less than £5... I'm actually quite looking forward to subjecting myself to them and recording my responses Chapter-by-Chapter.

Something I don't have a photo of is the pretty wool that I picked up in the wool shop there. I wasn't sure if the shop was even still there, it was great to go in and actually squish the wool. As is my habit at the moment I went for some variegated stuff, this time in lovely greens and blues. I'm thinking of making handwarmers out of them although it's wool which'll probably make me itch so I might have to find a more suitable owner when I'm done.

I do have a photo of Tara's gift that I took home for her:

It's a giant tennis ball. I didn't really have anything immediately to hand to give a sense of scale when I took this photo but that's my bookcase in the background. The blue and red books are The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, there's also The Book Thief there as well so you can get an idea of just how big it is. About football sized, I'd say.

Tara loves it! As soon as she spotted it she leaped on it. I'm not sure how long it's going to last because she's already stuck a tooth through it once but I'd like to get a video of her with it soon; she just looks so happy. Definitely worth the money I spent on it for the entertainment value.

Tara's also getting fed for free this month as Tesco overcharged us on the dog food we bought and they gave us double the difference back. Luckily we noticed before we left and didn't have to plan a return trip to Oban for the refund!

It was a really long and tiring day, but we finished it off with chips from Mr Pia's on the way home. Easily the best chips in Scotland. Can't wait to do it all again... maybe next year. ;-)

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Weekly Rundown: The Birthday Edition

Today is my 28th birthday and this whole week has been a bit of a birthday celebration. That's just the way we roll in the Click household.

Easter weekend last week meant that my week had already been shortened by one day and I'd booked the Friday off as well for an appointment that got cancelled. Rather than switching it back to a working day, I thought what the hey! and decided to stay home then as well. It made for a lovely relaxing day right before our trip to Oban yesterday (which called for a ridiculously early start to cram in all the things we wanted to get done) - more on that tomorrow!

This week saw a return to our regular activities which meant a little more online time. It also meant getting Tara back to dog training (she started well but rapidly went downhill as the night progressed mainly because the first half of the night was about walking to heel and the second half was about staying put where she was told... she wasn't so keen on the second one).

I have also started work on my EMA for my course. Well, I made a list of all the books I might use and how they could link to the question I was being asked. I've got to put together a bit of a proposal about what I'm going to write about and send it over to my tutor for approval so I'll get stuck into that this week and hopefully start it for real over the bank holiday weekend.

I've done less writing this week but more knitting. The two crafts aren't mutually compatible seeing as I use both hands for both so I can't do them at the same time. After our trip to Oban we sat up (like we hadn't been awake for long enough already) watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and I finally finished the monster I'd been knitting since I went to Manchester for Sport Relief. It was just the final push to get it finished and I'm pleased I did, though I'm torn about what to work on next.

Speaking of films, and viewing in general, I'm well provided for over the next few months. From Tara (why yes, our dog buys us presents, doesn't yours?) I got a Dixie Chicks Blu-ray (it would appear that Mr Click has been reading my blog to figure out my favourite musics).

I knew a little of what to expect from Mr Click as I'd shown him precisely the Kindle keyboard I wanted and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug came out just in time to be a birthday present (I'll get the Extended Edition for Christmas). Everything else was a surprise. I've received The Mentalist Series 1-5 (which was actually on my list for Mr Click's Christmas this year, back to the drawing board) as well as the BBC's Ripper Street on Blu-ray.

My colleagues also completely surprised me on Thursday with a card, a cake and an Amazon gift voucher with a note to put it towards the new camera I'm getting when I graduate. That was a massive surprise and I honestly nearly burst into tears right then and there at work!

Now we're having a special birthday lunch and I'm planning on relaxing with my new toys this afternoon.

In non-birthday news my poll will draw to a close tomorrow. Thus far the results are:

This is to decide which series of books I will do Chapter-by-Chapter reviews on and at the moment it's going to be a toss-up between A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Chronicles of Narnia. I almost managed to get the complete set of Narnia books in Oban yesterday but there was one missing so I left them there. I did manage to get another set of books from the list so at least I'm ready for when I get around to that one.

If someone would like to cast a deciding vote one way or the other I'd be grateful. Or if you'd like to raise the stakes and throw in another vote or two for one of the others, go ahead. This is quite a fun way to pick my reading material, I might do it again in the future.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

#atozchallenge: W is For...

I did some major cutting in the list of songs for the letter W. I actually had twelve in the list of songs I wanted to talk about but managed to lose over half of them!

Wide Open Spaces – Dixie Chicks

This became one of my theme songs when we were up in Appin. Once again it was on the mix of albums that we were listening to pretty much constantly and it sort of summed up my feeling about the whole experience. Although I’d spent nine months living in Halls of Residence, I’d been going home every weekend, in Appin I was away for a full six weeks (with occasional visits home at weekends). I was also being a proper grown up, living with my fiancĂ© for the first time (which we survived and now we’re married and live together all the time).

Wherever You Go – Francis Rossi

I remember coming home from holiday in Cornwall one year and stopped at Cirencester to visit a museum for a friend. As we pulled into the car park this song was playing and as I waited in the car I listened to the words and found myself planning a fanvid for CSI couple Grissom and Sara… as you do. I love the gentle pace of the music as well as the words, they're almost like marriage vows.

Way Back Into Love (Demo Version) – Music & Lyrics

I mentioned earlier in the month, way back at the beginning in fact, about how much I like the film Music and Lyrics. I especially like the soundtrack, particularly the songs that the two main characters come up with over the course of the film. Way Back Into Love is the song which they manage to produce and the performance of which is the culmination of the whole film. I especially like this version because it just feels like two people having a bit of fun. I always wonder, when I listen to songs, where did the words come from, which I suppose is why I like this film so much, because it’s a film about the creation of a song. I like that when I listen to this I can picture bits of the film where the characters are trying to come up various lines.

Stat Happy!

I got a pleasant surprise when I logged onto my Blogger Dashboard on Sunday. Click's Clan hit 40,000 pageviews! In fact, I was well over 40,000 posts but not having been online sooner I hadn't noticed.

Blog Overview 20/04/14

I had kind of suspected that this was coming, having been somewhere in the region of 39,000-something the previous week, but I wasn't sure whether I would make it to the big four-oh-oh-oh-oh before Sunday. It's always a nice surprise when you hit a big milestone. In fact, it's nice to see those milestones at all because it shows people are actually visiting your little home on the Internetz and that you're not just shouting into the ether.

Would you believe that the last time I did one of these posts was way back in September last year, then it was to celebrate 20,000 pageviews. I don't think 30,000 pageviews went entirely unmentioned but it was buried amongst a bigger post and didn't have the individual stats on it.

Here's the shape of things this time around:

As of 20/04/14
Pageviews for today and yesterday are a little higher at the moment because of the A to Z Challenge. I noticed this last year, I got a nice big boost during the month which tapered off towards the end of April/beginning of May when things went back to more normal figures.

Still the month pageviews show that I'm seeing a wee bit more traffic compared to last year, 3,329 last month compared to 1,865 when I screencapped it last year.

My all time most popular blog post still remains my book review of George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones. As I type this it's sitting at approximately, 1850 pageviews (1300 more than the next most popular, three blog posts about various Christmas films). All of my all time most popular blog posts date from 2012 or 2013 and I suspect that it is largely Google Image Searches that are bringing people to them as my top search terms are mostly combinations of 'Game of Thrones book cover' and 'der Grinch'.

I've had a few really weird search terms bringing people to my blog in the past few months. No screencaps of those because several of them involve the word 'porn'. I'm not entirely sure why they're bringing people to my blog, but I'm sure the people who find me through that search are very disappointed. Oh, and I've had a fair few looking for 'Knitted Chickens' as well, hopefully their needs are being satisfied by this post.

Other milestones that I've passed recently include writing my 666th blog post, and later the 700th as well. I'm not sure exactly which posts these are as it happened while I was scheduling my A to Z Challenge posts last week and since then I'd added my regular posts in between them. Suffice to say I've written them and they're here on my blog. I'll try and keep an eye out for my 800th when that comes up.

I wonder which blog achievement will be my next to celebrate. It won't be long before I hit 50,000 pageviews so maybe I'll skip that one in favour of posting a Stats post about my 60,000th pageview. All being well I'll be getting there somewhere around November!

Friday, 25 April 2014

#atozchallenge: V is For...

I can’t believe how close to the end I am now! And how many songs I came up with for the letter V, I was sure that this would be a much smaller selection, in fact the one thing that prevented it from being longer was not being able to find YouTube versions of some of the songs!

Vincent (Starry Starry Night) – Don McLean

I’m not sure when exactly it was that I first heard this song, but I do remember I’d always known it only as Starry Starry Night and it came as quite a jolt when I suddenly realised it was actually about Vincent van Gogh. I think the lyrics are really clever, literally painting a picture of his troubled life. Back when Matt Smith took over the role of the Doctor in Doctor Who and paid a visit to Vincent van Gogh I found myself listening to this song over and over again because a couple of fanvideos cropped up. I ended up looking up more of his artwork and about his life as well. I love it when a song can trigger me to look into something in greater detail.

Voices – Triniti

No video sadly but I like it enough to include it anyway.
Here's a link to the lyrics.

I remember listening to some songs of this album but not really paying attention to them that much until one day when I was at university and I had my mp3 player on random play all. It’s funny how vividly I can remember certain things, like where I was when I first heard a song. This one was when I’d gone to the toilets to wash my hands. It came on and something about it made me feel really happy. I couldn’t help but smile as I listened to it. Listening to it again and again I realised it’s a song about music, there are loads of little references to things like melody and keys whilst the actual song is about going on a journey. It’s quite clever.

The Vicar and the Frog – Fred Wedlock

I was really torn about including this one here, because it’s kind of inappropriate but it’s also quite clever in the way that it starts off like a fairy tale but then changes abruptly at the very last minute. And also because the other Fred Wedlock song I was going to use for the letter V, the Village Production of Hamlet, isn’t available on YouTube.

Random Acts of Kindness

I’ve been really lucky recently. Each month I take part in activities through the Random Acts of Kindness group on Ravelry; this involves posting a wishlist and then looking through other people’s wishlists to see what I can gift to others.

Our post here has been somewhat unreliable recently and I don’t really have any spare wool that I could send on to others at the moment… well, I’ve got some but it’s well buried at the moment and I’m planning on digging it out at some point and sending it on to someone who’ll get some use from it.

I generally send postcards to people who are looking for those with a personalised message. I’ve got a selection of postcards from the island where I live but I’m hoping in the future to get a whole bunch of photos printed that I’ve taken around the place. It’d give me a bit more choice about the pictures I can send on to people and what I can say about the things in the pictures.

I also like to gift patterns on Ravelry. It’s nice and simple, you just select the pattern, say who you want it to go to, and then write a little message. It means you can give patterns to people who you might not otherwise have been able to send things to because of postal costs.

Each month I pick different way to decide who to gift patterns to. I’ve used a random number generator to select a random post and gifted a pattern from there, I’ve looked for someone who wants to make a particular item (like a cardigan) and gifted a pattern for that, I’ve also gifted a pattern for a particular craft; since I don’t crochet I like to gift crochet patterns for things I’d never be able to make myself.

I also like to gift the equivalent of what I’ve received. So I’ve got lots of gifts to pass on this month. I’m trying to select them from the wishlists of fellow April babies like myself this month.

I’ve recently received two boxes of yarn, both of which have travelled to me all the way from America. One contains Red Heart wool (among others) which I’ve heard a lot of people talking about online; it’s a red and black variegated mix and it’ll make a lovely monster, I’m sure. The other box which I received just last week is a selection of leftovers including Malabrigo wool, again it’s something I’ve heard a lot about but never dreamed of buying myself. It’s slightly variegated and there’s various different quantities as they’re leftovers from a beautiful blanket the previous owner made. They’re going to make some lovely hexipuffs.

I love that this group exists to give people a chance to pass on things that might otherwise have gone to waste.

I’ve also received a gift of a pattern as well; Scrat the Squirrel from Ice Age. I’m really excited to make him because it’s a pattern by a designer called Phoeny who is a bit of an artist. I’ve admired her patterns for ages but never gotten round to getting any for myself. I’m going to make him soon, though there are a couple of shades I want to pick up before I start to make sure he’s all the right colours.

I’m looking forward to ‘paying it forward’ and passing on some more interesting little gifts in the coming months, and cautiously excited about what might come my way in turn.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

#atozchallenge: U is For...

I was surprised by just how many songs beginning with the letter U there are which I class are favourites. I was expecting it to be a bit of slim list for this letter.

Ugly Bug Ball – Disney

When I was very little I had two favourite tapes. One was the Tom Paxton tape that I’ve referred to numerous times this month, the other was a Disney tape which had been copied from a record (which I think belonged to my cousins). The Disney tape had songs from The Jungle Book, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and a whole host of others. Ugly Bug Ball was one of them and later I had it on a Disney Sing-along video as well. It wasn’t until some time later (roughly twenty years in fact) that I watched the actual film that the song had come from; Summer Magic starring Hayley Mills, with the song sung by Burl Ives. I literally squealed with delight when I realised what it was.

Up On The Roof – Robson & Jerome

My mum was a big fan of Robson and Jerome when I was about nine or ten and I wound up with a couple of their CDs. I remember picking one out in Asda one day (there were a couple to choose from and I went with the one with the most tracks on it, clearly wanting value for money). Up On The Roof was one of those. Even now when I listen to their songs it reminds me of being a pre-teen, allowed to stay home by myself and listening to my favourite songs whilst dancing around the house. Speaking of dancing, check out those moves!

Nowadays this song kind of makes me think of ER, because whenever anyone had anything big to discuss they used to climb up onto the roof of the hospital to work things out, unwind, or propose whilst arguing. For years I’ve wanted to make a fanvid with this song and clips of all those moments.

Up! – Shania Twain

As a teenager I really got into Shania Twain’s music, something I kind of forgot about until I started doing this A to Z Challenge and looking at all the music I liked and how my opinions have changed over the years. This song came on a double album with the same songs repeated but done in slightly different styles; the red version was sort of poppy, the blue version had a sort of ethnic mix to it and then there was supposed to be a green version you could get online which was country but I never figured out how to get my hands on it.

This is one of those songs I like to play full blast, particularly when I’m having a bad day or I’m in a bit of a bad mood. It’s a great mood lifter.

Under The Influence – Status Quo

There were so many songs from this album that I could’ve picked because it is easily my favourite album, way back under the letter B I had Blessed Are The Meek which I ended up cutting in favour of a couple of others. I decided to include this song as representative of the whole Under the Influence album because I also cut Twenty Wild Horses from yesterday's post.

When it came out I was about twelve and on crutches with a damaged Achilles tendon. The band did a pub tour for over-18s only which my brother and I were too young to go along to, but when they did a signing at an HMV in Bristol we all went along with my best friend. There my brother, who was only about five at the time, asked if Status Quo could come and play at his birthday party because he was too young to go to the show. Words were had with various people present and it was arranged that we could go to the soundcheck. For the next few years, every time we went to a concert we got to go backstage and almost ten years later they actually played a show on my brother’s birthday, and he got a signed card from them.

Day Zero Project: Reorganise cupboards

These are actually two separate tasks on my Day Zero Project list, but I’m lumped them together here for the purpose of talking about them. After all, there’s only so much you can say about a cupboard.

Our cottage is a little bit like a TARDIS. From the outside it looks quite small, like a traditional children’s picture of a cottage, there’s a door with a window on either side and a grey sloping roof. From the side you can see that it goes back a bit further than might be expected, but it still doesn’t look quite as big from the outside as it feels from the inside.

We’ve got a living room, kitchen and bedroom downstairs as well as a front and back lobby. Upstairs is a small bathroom and another bedroom. The upstairs rooms feel a wee bit smaller than they actually are owing to the sloped ceilings up there. The upstairs bedroom is the same size as our living room but at either end of the room the walls are only a foot high! We also have a walk-in cupboard downstairs and a crouch-in (due to the sloped ceiling) cupboard upstairs.

What surprised me about the house when we moved in was the cupboard space. Where we’d lived before we basically had two rooms, with no storage space to speak of, so having two whole cupboards as well as a spare bedroom was a luxury. We started off using the spare bedroom as a general dumping ground and then gradually sorted things out into the cupboards both upstairs and downstairs.

Unfortunately there wasn’t much reason to this sorting and things didn’t always end up in the most logical of places. Sure, it made sense to have all my Lord of the Rings figurines right at the very back upstairs since I’m not likely to need them very often. What made less sense was having all my knitting stuff upstairs when I do all of my knitting downstairs. We also had loads of boxes of CDs in the downstairs cupboards which meant that when we wanted to get one out you had to lift all of the boxes out to find the one you wanted. It just wasn’t practical.

What I hadn’t realised when I made the Day Zero Project list was just how much reorganising of other rooms would need to be done in order to reorganise the cupboards. We couldn’t move the CD boxes out of the downstairs cupboard until we got rid of our old bed and had one we could store boxes under. I couldn’t move my boxes of books neatly into the cupboard upstairs until I had moved my knitting stuff downstairs, which in turn couldn’t be done until we’d found a better way to store the empty rat cage.

So after playing a lot of musical cupboards and, my other personal favourite, cupboard Tetris, everything got stowed away and organised. It’s an ongoing challenge though, only two months ago I bought a new suitcase which needs to be homed in the cupboard upstairs. It fits and in fact it makes things even neater because we can keep other stuff inside it.

It’s a little bit sad but I do quite enjoy playing with my cupboards. Nothing makes me happier than looking at what needs to go where and reorganising things in the most practical way. It’s a little bit sad, but I think it’s a grown up thing.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

#atozchallenge: T is For...

It’s like I got to the end of the alphabet and suddenly found a whole bunch of songs that I loved. Picking which ones to write about for these last few posts is proving to be a bit challenging because there are some that I’m including which I just love for no particular reason, and others I feel like I’m cutting but could actually say something about, they’re just not as favourite as some others. I could probably do a list like this every month and still not list all my favourite songs!

Tell Him – Celine Dion & Barbra Streisand

I have to include this one purely because it makes me smile at the memory of a very bad karaoke rendition I once did with a friend at another friend’s birthday party. Thank goodness mobile phones at the time didn’t have video recorders, that’s all I can say, because otherwise that would be haunting me to the grave! I believe at one point we were pretending a glass was a microphone… there wasn’t even alcohol involved!

Travelin’ Soldier – Dixie Chicks

I have so much love for this song. I’ve got it on the Top of the World album which is all songs recorded live and I fell in love with it the first time I heard it. Within about two weeks of having it on my mp3 player I created the Songs With Stories playlist and this was one of the first ones on it. It’s a story about a girl meeting a boy in a small town in America, he’s going off to join the army and they agree to write to one another. The letters pass back and forth and eventually he tells her he’s going to Vietnam, then one night she hears his name read on the list of local Vietnam deaths.

I’ve actually planned a whole story surrounding this song. The only thing stopping me from writing it is the sheer amount of research I have to do into life in America in the Sixties, into the Vietnam War and a whole host of other little bits and pieces that get me hung up on it every time I try to put pen to paper. It inspired me to research The Wall in Washington, I spent hours just scrolling through the lists of names, as well as looking into other significant events leading up to and during the Vietnam War. In my head the girl is called Christine and the boy Russell and maybe someday I’ll actually turn my thoughts into something coherent.

Top of the World – Dixie Chicks

This is yet another song from the Dixie Chicks album that we listened to pretty much constantly during our time spent in Appin. It’s also another one from my Songs With Stories playlist. On the live album version they explain that it’s a song from the perspective of a man who has died and is looking back on his time with his wife, wishing things had been different. It’s a song about regret and missed opportunities.

To Sir, With Love – Lulu

My dad was a massive Sidney Poitier fan and we had To Sir, With Love on VHS tape (until the VCR ate it), later we got a copy on DVD (along with the sequel). The film is set in the Sixties and Sidney Poitier plays an engineer who gets a job teaching in an inner city secondary school, where the children are disruptive and disrespectful. After things reach a head he decides to change his approach with them and gradually they come to respect one another.

The film also features a young Lulu, who sings the title song at an end of year dance. The version of the song in the film actually has an extra verse to all the versions you get on CDs these days. I’ve heard a couple of different versions, including one on an Ally McBeal soundtrack that I picked up in Oban (mainly because of this song, I’ve never actually watch Ally McBeal) and a version Lulu did with Samantha Mumba on her Together album. But it’s the original that I like the best and I love the way it captures the essence of growing up.

Also, random fact, Lulu used to come to the island where I live on holiday as a youngster. In her autobiography there's a photo of her standing across the road from the shop where I used to work. Virtually everyone in my family looked at it and couldn't pinpoint exactly where in the town it is, but the minute I showed it to my Nan she knew where it was straight away.

Wordless Wednesday: Gnarled

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Don't Forget

Quick unscheduled post today to just remind you to let me which books you think I should read and review for my series of Chapter-by-Chapter book review blog posts.

The poll is to the right, though you can also cast your vote in the comments, especially if there's something you think I should read that's not in the list. For more information on the options see yesterday's post.

Right now A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Chronicles of Narnia are leading the way with The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Twilight have a vote each.

Not the real poll, vote to the right or in the comments
There's five days left to vote and its a project I'm quite excited to start. At the moment I'm due to finish my reread of The Lord of the Rings at the weekend so hopefully I'll be able to jump right in to this.

#atozchallenge: S is For...

S was another letter that prompted a whole host of songs. I’ve tried to narrow things down as much as possible, but there were about the same number again that I could’ve listed here.

Something in Red – Lorrie Morgan

Mr Click and I bought a Claire Sweeney CD in a charity shop when we were on holiday in Cornwall and this is easily my favourite song on the whole thing, I couldn't find that exact version on YouTube but is the original so it'll do. I love the words to it; it’s like little snapshots in one woman’s life. I also wrote a little story about it, expanding on the narrator’s thoughts in each verse.

Samwise the Brave – Howard Shore

I could have included all of the songs on the Lord of the Rings (and Hobbit) soundtracks, but I think I showed great restraint in just picking a few. Each time I read The Lord of the Rings I find myself drawn more and more to Samwise Gamgee, I love seeing how he grows and changes as a character. It was something that was done really well in the films as well; the change from him standing in a field stating that in one more step it’ll be the furthest he’s ever been outside the Shire, to preparing to follow Frodo into Mordor and right up to Mount Doom is done so well. I love the way the music swells here for him with the little nod back to the Shire and the danger to come; it's amazing how one piece of music can capture all that growth!

Spider’s Web – Katie Melua

Yet another song that I love for the words. I remember listening to this album whilst travelling to University, particularly as I was walking up the road to the campus from the train station. Some songs I love for the music, and some I love for the words, this one I love for both; the music and the lyrics go together beautifully. Plus it’s one of those songs that’ll make you think as well.

Seven Years – Norah Jones

I wrote a story about this one too, in fact I rediscovered it when I was emptying the last box from when we moved in. The song is about a little girl playing in a garden all alone. It made me wonder why the little girl was all alone and so one night when I couldn’t sleep I listened to it on repeat about ten times and in the course of about an hour I churned out a little story about why she might be alone. It’s not actually that bad so I might post it on here some day.

Superman – Lazlo Bane

I only know of this song through the opening credits for Scrubs, although I’ve heard a couple of other Lazlo Bane songs through other TV series and YouTube. Apparently it was Zach Braff, who plays JD in Scrubs, who suggested this as the theme song because he felt it summed up the show. I think it does capture the tone of the show. I also think it’s one of those songs that kind of sum up life sometimes; sometimes you’re just having one of those days and this is the song to blast out when you are.

Stay Stay Stay – Taylor Swift

This is a fairly recent addition to my list of my favourite songs. I’ve had both the most recent Taylor Swift albums on my phone for about a year now as well as in the car, but once I’ve discovered my favourites on an album, those tend to be the ones I listen to most often which unfortunately means that I might miss out on some others. This was one of the ones that I’d overlooked until one day about a month ago. Sometimes I stick an album on on my phone while I’m in the shower and it just happened that this song played and I finally listened to the words.

I’ve mentioned about how there’s something in many of the Taylor Swift songs that just speaks to me. Well this one made me laugh, particularly the bit about throwing the phone across the room… I may have done that several years ago.

Speak Now – Taylor Swift

And yeah, another Taylor Swift one that I like. I should add here that I’ve not been to many weddings and I’ve never felt compelled to stand up and suggest the guy should marry me instead. This one doesn’t speak to me personally so much as just makes me smile. I like the way that it paints a picture in my mind of the events, it’s like I can picture the way the music video would look, even though there isn't one.

Song of the Lonely Mountain – Neil Flynn

We went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in the cinema January last year. I’d been anxious about getting to see it in 3D and it seemed like every day we considered going there was bad weather, flooding affecting trains, and all sorts of other issues that prevented us from going. To be fair, it was much the same this year when we were going to see The Desolation of Smaug, but it seemed like a bigger deal last year because it was a film I’d been waiting such a long time to see.

I remember getting towards the end of it and feeling like I was utterly bursting for the loo, and then the end credits started to roll and I heard this song and I had to stay a little while longer. As soon as we got home I ordered the soundtrack on Amazon and was thrilled to be able to download it straight to my Kindle to listen to again. I just love everything about it, the words, the rhythm, the chanting, it’s perfect.

Book 61 of 2013: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I’m only a little bit behind on typing up my book reviews… just a tad. I suppose the fact that I’m reviewing a book that I read way back at the beginning of December kind of shows that. I’m slowly getting caught up though, it won’t be much longer before I’m reviewing books that I actually read this year!

I’ve mentioned A Christmas Carol before, but in short it’s a story about a man who is a bit of a miser. Ebenezer Scrooge is extremely wealthy but very mean with his money, that is until he receives a visit from the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley. Marley’s arranged a little Christmas gift for his old friend, three ghostly visitors who come to show him his Christmases past, present and future in order to encourage him to change his ways.

It’s a bit of a tradition for me to read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens each year right before Christmas. There have been a couple of occasions when I’ve read it right on Christmas Eve but now I’m older and I have more to do around Christmas Eve (like celebrate my anniversary) I don’t have quite the same time to read as I used to. Now I like to read it towards the beginning of the month to make sure I don’t miss out on it. It’s definitely become one of my favourite Christmas traditions.

Something else that’s becoming a bit of tradition on each reread is reading a different edition of the book. In the last few years I’ve read a paperback edition that I no longer have, the version online at Project Gutenberg, the DSi book version, a Kindle edition and most this time a Kindle app version. For my next reread I’m going to have to invest in a nice book-book version because as you can see it’s been several years since I’ve read it in actual printed format; I welcome recommendations, I’d really like a pretty illustrated version.

The ‘app’ version I read was a free download on the Amazon Appstore. I downloaded it because it popped up when I was looking for free Christmas apps and after playing around with it a bit I decided to go right ahead and actually use it for my annual reread.

It was good fun and I think it would really appeal to children or younger readers. Basically as well as the text there were also pictures which were often interactive. For example there was a picture of the Scrooge and Marley sign and you could swing it from side to side, you could also play with Scrooge’s money and turn a light on and off. It was all fairly simple, but it was always interesting to see what the next picture would be and what you could do with it.

That’s not to say it wasn’t without some problems. There were some errors in the text; odd bits where sentences or paragraphs repeated themselves mainly, once or twice there were notes from the apps designers as well which obviously weren’t meant to be seen. There was no way to place a bookmark, so each time I started reading it again after a break I had to scroll all the way through the text to find my place. There was a bit that sort of allowed you to scroll through thumbnails of the pages and as the pictures used on each page were quite memorable it was easy to see where you’d got to. It’s also a relatively short book so I didn’t have to put it down too often and I got through it in just two days. It just would’ve been easier if it had incorporated page numbers or a bookmark feature to make it easier to find where you were.

On the whole I really enjoyed reading this book. I don’t think that every book would benefit from having an interactive option, but I think that it is something with potential, especially books for younger readers. I think it would be lots of fun for a book like those of the Harry Potter series to have bits you could play with, cast spells, fantastic beast to interact with. It’d be interesting to see if other people develop these in the future.

Monday, 21 April 2014

#atozchallenge: R is For...

R was another letter that I had quite a few songs for... I did narrow it down somewhat.

Restless - Alison Krauss & Union Station

This is another song from the album which features Borderline, which I used way back at the letter B. It makes me think of my time at University because it was a song that I often used to listen to on the journey to and from the campus. There's something about the chorus which I just love, I suppose it's that feeling that everyone can relate to at one time or another (apart from the whole getting arrested bit, never done that). I like that I can recognise this song right from the very first notes, it's very distinctive.
Rumbly in my Tumbly - Winnie the Pooh

The video above is taken from a Disney sing-along video that I had when I was little which is why I chose this version over the cartoon version. I used to sing this song when I was about three when I was hungry... to let my parents know I suppose. Therefore I think it warrants a mention... especially as I'm still inclined to do it now to let Mr Click know that I might want feeding.
Re: Your Brains - Jonathan Coulton

I first found this video through a blog I used to follow. Mr Click isn't really a fan, but that doesn't stop me from playing it to him whenever I get an opportunity. I love songs with clever lyrics and this one is a perfect example, I particularly like the way that it translates business jargon into a zombie epidemic setting. It's very funny. It was kind of my theme song last Halloween when I dressed up as a zombie for work.
Return of the King - Tom Smith

Another song I found through the same blog I used to follow through which I found Re: Your Brains. I can't for the life of me remember which one it was now. I particularly like the use of the clips from the Return of the King film. This one is partially included because it appeals to the Lord of the Rings fan in me; if you're going to make a parody song like this you've got to have a pretty good knowledge of the source material. I suspect Tom Smith might be a bit of a fan.
Roly Poly - The Little Willies & Norah Jones

This one was another of the songs that we ended up listening to frequently during our stay in Appin. It's about a little boy who likes to eat a lot. We used to say that it was about one of our old rats who was a little bit tubby around the middle and definitely liked his food. It's probably not a politically correct sort of song to sing to one's children, but it's good to sing along to in the car on long journeys. I could've quite easily used all of the songs on this album for my favourites actually.

Chapter-by-Chapter Book Review Poll

I've recently become enamoured with the idea of doing some Chapter-by-Chapter book reviews preferably on a series of books. I'm almost up to date with my book review posts from last year and I'm thinking that some of the books I read would work well as Chapter-by-Chapter reviews, if thought about doing it last year but my Children's Literature reading material kind of kept me too occupied to do anything about it.

I'm trying to work out which books I'd like to read like this but it's proving a bit difficult to decide which one to go with. So I thought I'd put out a little poll to see if anyone else wants to make the choice for me. Vote in the poll to the right, you can make multiple selections, so go wild. I'm leaving it open for a week for now.

The options...

The Twilight Series
I've not actually read these yet, despite being well aware of most of their tropes and storylines. I kind of feel like I can't be too critical of them because I've not read them and I'm a bit curious to actually peek inside. I don't own these books either, which puts this series in the con column, but they're easy enough to acquire.

The Fifty Shades Series
Another series I neither own not have read, but I can borrow a copy. Morbid curiosity makes me want to read them, but considering they started life as fanfiction of the above perhaps I should try that first.

The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings
I've just recently written up my review of last year's reread of The Hobbit and at the time of writing this post was reading The Lord of the Rings but I'm familiar enough with them that I would find plenty to say in a Chapter-by-Chapter review. I kind of lump them both together because having recently read The Lord of the Rings I feel like next I should read The Hobbit. If I went this way I'd probably follow it up with The Silmarillion.

The Harry Potter Series
I had to read the first one for my course and have slowly been working my way through the series since plus I've recently seen all the films and that's kind of inspired me. I'd be able to back track a wee bit and go through them all bit by bit. Plus there's a good website that does something similar that I could link to.

The Edge Chronicles Series
I have most of the books in this set which is comprised of a trilogy of trilogies, I'm just missing two from the last trilogy and one from the first. It's a series my brother loved when he was younger and I've never read it. It's a children's series of books which would mean it'd be a slightly less taxing read them some other choices, plus it'd be fun to share the experience of reading something for the first time.

A Series of Unfortunate Events
I'm working my way through the books on my Children's bookcase at the moment, this follows on from the above two sets. I've read these multiple times before but the last time was a couple of years ago. The chapters of these books are quite short so I could probably double up in blog posts to get through them quicker.

The Hunger Games Trilogy
I've read these one before but that's the next best thing to never reading them before. I've been wanting to re-read them for a while as well. I enjoyed (if that's the right word) my first read of them but I wonder if I might pick up on more on a second read. Speaking of which...

A Song of Ice and Fire
Reading Lord of the Rings and the latest series of A Game of Thrones airing on TV has got me thinking about having a reread of these books. I felt that at moments I wasn't quite sure what was going on and that I should have maybe kept a notebook to help keep track of things, a second read would help make things a lot clearer.

Narnia Series
I have a beautiful copy of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe which I've had since I was small but I've never read any of the other books as far as I'm aware. I've held off buying paperback copies because I wanted to get Kindle copies. And now it seems you can get them as a set so I'm thinking of treating myself.

Discworld Series
Either in its entirety (if I'm feeling crazy) or, more practically, individual sets of stories within the main series, i.e. just the Rincewind stories or the Witches ones. This would be slightly tricky because it's rare for these books to have chapters which would make the whole Chapter-by-Chapter aspect of the reviews difficult.

Earth's Children Series
I've been planning to re-read these books for quite a while but somehow it didn't seem right to read what in many cases accounts to little more than prehistoric porn in between children's books during my course. Now I'm free of that I feel like I'm finally ready to go back to them. I'm still needing to get the final one, which I've not done yet because I want to get it in hardback to match all the others.

Something else
Any other suggestions? I've got some other book series like the Sherlock Holmes ones, Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan ones, and basically if I've reviewed them here on the blog I've got easy access to them.

Alternatively maybe there's a single book you'd be interested in seeing me review, providing it's not too obscure and is available either as an ebook or a paperback that I'll go along with that. Leave suggestions in the comments.

The plan for reading these books would be to write a blog post for each chapter (or couple if they're very short) and then do a little summary, as opposed to a full review, at the end. I'm planning on finishing up my Day Zero Project posts very soon so these would be posted about two or three times a week. It'd be cool if other people wanted to join in the read along for discussions in the comments.

I'm not really a poll, I'm just a picture.
The real poll is over there ===>

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Weekly Rundown

Hope everyone’s having a nice Easter weekend.

For me it’s the start of three long weekends in a row, first Easter, then my birthday, then a bank holiday. After getting my assignment finished and submitted last week I’ve given myself the weekend off before starting to plan my EMA. It’s been kind of weird this week coming home from work and not getting my coursework out or sitting down to work on an essay. Nice, but weird.

The weather has been lovely so despite our plans to watch all of the Harry Potter films over the Easter weekend, we’ve also been getting out and enjoying the weather. The weather recently hasn’t been great so when we’ve gone for walks I’ve not been able to take my camera with me. On Friday we walked all the way to the front gate and I took dozens of photos along the way.

I also got a lot of knitting done as well. The monster that I started to take down south with me for Sport Relief is almost complete. It had taken me about a week on and off to get one arm knitting and in the space of a day I not only finished that arm but also got the other one done and a leg. I might have gotten a bit more done if I hadn’t been distracted by my latest issue of Simply Knitting arriving with lots and lots of patterns to contemplate.

I’ve not had much time for knitting recently so I’ve not really planned what I might like to work on next. I’m wanting some instant gratification so probably something without too much sewing up afterwards. Suggestions on a postcard, please.

A couple of Easters ago Mr Click and I marathoned all of the Harry Potter films, having got the blu-ray box set a couple of months beforehand. We hadn’t watched them since then so it seemed like a good choice of viewing for this weekend. We watched three on Friday and three yesterday so we’ve just got the last two for tomorrow.

I was going to say a bit about what I thought of them here today, but then I realised that 1) I’ve not finished watching all of them yet and 2) I think it’d be kind of cool to do individual posts on each of the films (at some point). In the meantime you can look back on my old posts about them here and here.

I’m also planning to reread Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban next as well so it’s nice to revisit the films though it has worked to make me want to read the books more. There’s so much extra in the books.

Speaking of books, I’m getting along well with The Lord of the Rings. I always seem to find The Fellowship of the Ring slow going for some reason and then speed through the first book of The Two Towers. It’s a pattern I’ve noticed more and more on recent rereads. I think it’s because of the two story threads of The Two Towers I prefer the stories of Merry and Pippin and the Three Hunters compared to the slow drudgery of Sam and Frodo with Gollum.

I’m quite glad I’m reading the Kindle version at the moment because I like to see my progress through the book as well as long it’s likely to take me to finish reading. When I got past the 24 hour left in book mark it seemed to spur me on. I’m also reading a few blogs which do chapter by chapter reviews and it’s interesting to see what they pick up on that I’ve overlooked or forgotten about. Two of the blogs in particular are from first-time readers and their excitement and confusion is fun to see because it’s been a while since I felt that way; although I like how familiar it all is now, I do miss the fact that it’s never going to be new to me again.

The coming week is going to be nice and short for me and I’ve got a trip off the island to look forward to as well. I do also have to get stuck into planning and preparing for my final assignment. I mustn’t let myself rest from that for too long otherwise it’s going to be really really hard to actually get moving on it when I need to!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Q is For...

Would you believe that this was one of the only letters that I actually struggled to fill? Pretty much every letter had one song that came to me instantly, but this one took a little bit more thinking about.

Quinn the Eskimo – Manfred Mann

Now technically this is known as The Mighty Quinn, but I've always known it as Quinn the Eskimo so that's why I'm including it as my Q letter!
When I was much younger we had this old car, inherited from my Great Uncle. It was about as old as I was and didn’t even have a tape player in it; it had a radio which used to cut out whenever we passed under a bridge, which made travelling up the motorway fun. One of the radio stations we used to listen to only seemed to have one CD which they just constantly played on repeat. It was a bizarre mix including Meredith Brooks’s Bitch and a couple of Supertramp songs, and Quinn the Eskimo by Manfred Mann. I always quite liked the latter. Then a few years ago they were the support act when we went to see Status Quo, and now we’ve got one of their CDs in the car. It’s like I’ve come full circle… except the radio in our car isn’t very good even when we’re not driving under the bridge, so we have to make do with the CDs.
Queenie - Status Quo

And now for a song that officially starts with Q.
As I've mentioned numerous times, I was raised on Status Quo... I used to dance around the coffee table to Burning Bridges. So this was my first thought when I was looking for a song beginning with Q. It reminds me of seeing them live and being way down the front with all the crush of bodies, jumping up and down and dancing. For full effect, turn the volume WAY up.

Writerly Ramblings

I’ve been quite pleased with myself for managing to do a bit of writing, even if it’s only a teeny tiny bit each day since the 30th of March. I’m still working on Behind the Scenes and although not all of what I’m writing is good the fact that I’m actually putting pen to paper is a big achievement for me.

Right now I’m trying to take a NaNoWriMo approach to getting it written. For years I’ve been saying I want to rewrite the story and get it updated; when I started writing it not everyone had mobile phones, mobile internet access was virtually non-existent and lots of places were still on dial-up. I had two choices, to either set it definitely in a time in the past, or bring it a little more up to date. I’m kind of doing a bit of both. There wasn’t really any reason not to give the characters mobile phones or internet access, so I’m letting them have those creature comforts, especially since it’s helping to close up some plot holes.

I’m trying to just churn out as many words as possible. Or rather, I’m getting as much of the story onto paper as possible. I’m not giving myself a deadline and I’m not giving myself a set word count per day. If I write five pages I’m happy, if I write five lines I’m equally happy.

The sticky points come when I’m deviating from the original version because then I panic about coming up against things later on that I’ve changed and not knowing how to fix it. But I’m trying to take each page as it comes and trusting that one way or another things will work themselves out.

I’m also trying to challenge myself a wee bit. The original story began as a challenge to myself to write a car crash without describing what was happening. The whole thing was told almost entirely in third-person limited POV of the main character, Abby, occasionally switching to follow a minor character or two. Now I’m switching between four people’s third-person limited POVs and it’s kind of fun to work out which POV I should use for a particular section or pushing myself to go with something different.

The bit I’ve been working on this week has been the big reveal. Jack has been concealing something from Abby about the family and their relationship… it’s all a bit soap opera but I’m loathe to change it as it’s such a huge part of the plot. In the original I just followed Jack and Abby as they had the conversation and she left.

This time I did Jack revealing the truth to Anna first of all, from Anna’s point of view, before going to tell Abby. Then the next chapter is from Alex’s perspective when Abby arrives on his doorstep. Originally the whole arrival thing was told from Alex’s point of view but it was pretty much just a paragraph. This way it’s a challenge to get all the information across about how everyone’s feeling when you don’t actually see the two main players in the conversation through either of their eyes.

I might get to the end of this draft and decide that it doesn’t work at all, but right now it’s a fun thing to play around with while I’m working out exactly what I’m doing.

I’m also kind of psyching myself up to share a little snippet. It’ll be under the proviso that it’s still very much a draft of the story and I’m still working out all kinds of kinks, but I think it would be really cool to see what other people think of it.

Friday, 18 April 2014

#atozchallenge: P is For...

The end is almost in sight now! I’m quite pleased that I’ve managed to make it this far.

Pokarekare Ana – Hayley Westenra

This was one of the first songs I heard by Hayley Westenra and I think it’s one of the things that really drew me into the rest of the album. It was at the time that I was loving all things Lord of the Rings, and as the films were made in New Zealand then that was of great interest to me as well. I’d been interested in New Zealand from the age of about nine but it wasn’t until Lord of the Rings that I really learned anything about the Maori history and culture. When I heard this song I wanted to know what it was all about and that drew me in to learning more. I also always remember listening to the end credits music at the end of Billy Connolly’s World Tour of New Zealand and finding I could sing along to it but didn’t know how I knew the words… then discovering it was a different version of Pokarekare Ana.

The Prettiest Thing – Norah Jones

Yet another Norah Jones song from the album I listened to whilst I was originally writing Behind the Scenes. This is another song that conjures up images of journeys and days spend enjoying the sun. The gentle music and soft lyrics mean that it’s the perfect thing to listen to while you’re doing other things (like writing).

Perfect 10 – Beautiful South

I like most of the stuff done by the Beautiful South but this is among my favourite. I just like the message it conveys, especially as I first heard it around the time I was starting to get teen magazines and be bombarded by images of these ideal women, none of whom looked like me. It makes me smile now, because I tend to go up a size in clothes because I like my jeans to be a bit loose, and I still don’t look anything like those women in those magazines.

Picture – Kid Rock & Sheryl Crow

I don’t remember what prompted me to get a Sheryl Crow album but I know I had at least one by the time I was on my teaching placement in the Highlands and I know that this was one of the songs on it. I wasn’t really familiar with Kid Rock at the time but I fell in love with the song and promptly added it to my Songs With Stories playlist. It’s about a couple who have split up but who are struggling to get over each other, and although I’ve not seen it on any fan mixes there are certain TV couples who make me think of this song. In just over a week’s time we’ll be heading back up that way and I’ve made sure that this song has made it onto the mix we’ll be travelling with.

TMA 06

I’ve been preparing for writing my final TMA for a couple of weeks before the actual due date, which was yesterday. Once I’d finished the final chapter I was able to start focusing all my attention on getting it written. Unfortunately I find I work best with a little bit of pressure to get things finished and so starting so soon before it was due meant I had little incentive to actually sit down and work.

Luckily having a day off last Friday gave me a chance to sit and pour some words out onto paper. It took a little while before I felt like I was actually writing about the right thing. I actually felt like I was struggling to hit my word count and despite making a massive list of essays from the Readers that I could reference, I also felt like I was struggling to find ways to make reference to them.

I think that’s because a lot of what I’m saying is my own interpretation of the texts so there’s only so much you can reference when it’s coming from yourself.

On the whole I think this word cloud shows a good summary of what I wrote about. I would've expected bildungsroman to be a little larger, but then again I think I spent more time talking about examples of it and what it did to the texts rather than using the term itself. Issues is obviously quite big because that was pretty much what I was talking about, as well as the way readers react to those issues.

The large 'Truth' is a little misleading as I was not only talking about characters learning the truth about things or telling the truth, but also one of the titles of the books was The Other Side of Truth. So it looks like I used it more than should've counted really.

I’m just wanting to get this one passed and I’m glad I managed to get it wrapped up eventually. I’ll be giving myself a little bit of a break to enjoy Easter and the long weekend over my birthday then I’ll get stuck into the ECA. It’s to be a bit longer and I’m going to need more time to get it done so after giving myself a slight break I’ll crack on with it.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

#atozchallenge: O is For...

Oo-De-Lally – Disney’s Robin Hood

I could have so easily have included twenty Disney films in my favourites list but I very carefully cut many of them out in favour of songs which have more significant meaning to me, rather than just really liking that bit of the film. This was one which I had to include though because it was my very favourite film as a small child. This is the opening of the film and I love how it sets the scene for what is to follow. Plus it’s fun to sing along to as well!

Only Time – Enya

This will always be the song which plays when Bobby died in Third Watch. I had it on one of the Enya CDs I had when I was in Halls of Residence at University and it always seemed familiar but it wasn’t until about a year later when I caught that episode and it reminded me why I always felt like there was something sad about the song. Maybe it’s because I’m used to living near the CD and something about it reminded me of home when I was living in the middle of Glasgow, but the rhythm of it makes me think of the water lapping on the shores of the beach.

One Way Ticket (Because I Can) – LeAnn Rimes

When I was in my last year of school we decided to take an Easter holiday driving around the bits of Scotland we had never really seen before. We just hopped in the car and drove, not making any real plans about where we were going to sleep at night or which places we wanted to visit. We got lucky and always managed to find a hotel or B&B somewhere, as well as seeing lots of interesting sights – I’ve always thought that that trip was the reason I managed to get an A in Geography that year because it helped to cement lots of landscape features in my mind. The LeAnn Rimes Greatest Hits CD was one of our soundtracks for the journey and the travelling theme of this one helps to remind me of that Easter.

Our Song – Taylor Swift

Yet another Taylor Swift one. Once again it reminds me of the summer we went to North Yorkshire. It conjures up memories of hot sunny days, driving along beside Mr Click, singing along to the CD. And that’s kind of how this song starts, so that makes it really fitting.

Day Zero Project: Get an umbrella. Use it.

I’m not the sort of person to use an umbrella. Scotland really isn’t the sort of place to use one either. Unless you’ve got a really sturdy one chances are you’re either going to end up with it blowing inside out or if it is a sturdy one you’ll be able to do a really good impression of Mary Poppins.

I bought an umbrella when I went to Russia back when I was eighteen. This was because I got off the Metro to find that there was a torrential downpour going on outside the station. Three or four of us trooped back onto the platform where there was a little stall selling books, sweets and umbrellas. I picked up a purple tartan one for 350 roubles and by the time I got outside the rain had stopped.

I used that umbrella for years when I got home, even though half of it didn’t always go up, mainly because it was a souvenir of my trip away. Eventually I had to accept that it was past it and consigned it to the bin.

For a while I had one which a friend gave to me. Umbrellas lasted a little bit longer in Glasgow than they did on the island but it went the same way as the Russian one.

And I never bothered replacing it, because what’s the point of having something I would rarely use. But all the same, there have been times, particularly in the summer when it’s been rainy and I’ve thought it would be handy to have an umbrella, especially now we’ve got Tara. I’ve never bothered looking for one though because half the time they seem really expensive for something I won’t get to use very often.

Then when I went down to Manchester for Sport Relief I was given a lovely big umbrella. It’s like a golf umbrella, in fact you can see how big it is in this picture:

That’s from a photo of the four of us who went down sound (which is why I seem to have a hand growing out of my shoulder) and I’m the shortest. We had the thing resting on the floor in the train station when this was taken and it’s almost as wide as I am tall!

It’s a nifty one too. It’s got a button which press and the whole thing just pops out, though I’ve only done that once, bad luck and all. I’ve not had a chance to put the second part of this target into play yet. It’s such a big sturdy umbrella that there’s a strong chance if I went out when the weather’s bad I might just end up in Largs. But at least I’m prepared for a rainy day in the summer.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

#atozchallenge: N is For...

Never Ever – All Saints

Ironically enough, after making my list of songs I was going to write about for the A to Z Challenge this song actually came up in conversation amongst some of my word colleagues who are of a similar age to myself. I remember it being on the music channels all the time when I was about eleven and twelve. It was a time when I was just deciding what sort of music I liked myself. When my cousins came to stay we used to put this on the jukebox at the local pub all the time. It’s not really the sort of thing I would listen to now, but hearing it still takes me right back to being twelve years old and reminds me of all the things that interested me back then.

Not Ready To Make Nice – Dixie Chicks

If nothing else, this challenge is certainly showing who my favourite singers are. I keep on noticing the same names coming up over and over again. I was interested in this song from the start because it is obviously about the aftermath of the whole controversy surrounding comments made about George W. Bush. It wouldn’t have been one I’d classed as a favourite back then, but the more I’ve listened to it the more it’s grown on me. The lyrics are very powerful, particularly in the fourth verse when you realise that they’re hitting out against the death threats they received.

Never Saw Blue – Hayley Westenra

This one always reminds me of when I was first going out with Mr Click. We often went out for walks and picnics and usually had a Hayley Westenra CD in the car (because it was one that we both shared). Listening to this song makes me think of the days spent sitting in the sun at the beach, or out on a rock by the sea, enjoying whatever nice food Mr Click had packed up for us, and sunning ourselves in the nice weather. It was on one of those trips that we got ourselves matching sunburned noses and everyone at our drama group knew we were going out… even if we didn’t actually know that ourselves quite then!

Wordless Wednesday: Snuggled

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

#atozchallenge: M is For...

Mean – Taylor Swift

This has become one of my theme songs in the last few years (well, since I first heard it, but I associate it with past events). I only got around to looking it up about a year ago and finally saw the video. It’s a song about not letting people get you down and recognising that you can be better than them. The video is perfect as well and this is without a doubt one of my very favourite favourite songs.

Market Day in Guernica – Katie Melua

I keep on talking about the words of songs and it is usually the main part of the song that I focus on. I don’t like it when a song’s music doesn’t match what the song is actually saying; I like it when they inspire me in some way or make me think about things I might not have considered before. This song is about the 26th of April, 1937, when the town of Guernica was bombed during the Spanish Civil War; it was a Monday which was usually the town’s Market Day and there has always been dispute about the exact number of casualties. It wasn’t something I’d ever heard about until this song and it prompted me to look it up to learn more. At first listening this was a sad song, but once you know about the history it becomes heartbreaking.

Mary Pickford – Katie Melua

Another Katie Melua song, this time a little more light-hearted. This CD was a gift and this song stood out to me from the start. At the time I got it Mr Click and I were watching the Gilbert and Sullivan adaptations that he’d bought me, they’re introduced by Douglas Fairbanks, Jnr. so the mention of Douglas Fairbanks in the lyrics caught my attention. I like to pick out all the references to actors, actresses and film studios in the song.

The Marvellous Toy – Tom Paxton

Oh yes, another Tom Paxton song. Yet another one from the Goin’ To The Zoo album I had as a small child and one of the ones that I had remembered for all those years, finding I still knew all the words to it when I finally got it on CD. This is one of those songs that is just fun to sing along to (possibly because of the sound effects). In more recent years I come to the conclusion the the Marvellous Toy is almost certainly a Bop-It with wheels on, all of the sounds match quite well.