Do You Hear What I Hear?

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Christmas music is a joyous experience.

It’s pretty much the only time of year which comes with it’s own soundtrack. Oh sure, tracks like the Fresh Prince hit us and get us equipped for the summertime, but that’s a fairly long period (meteorological speaking – in Britain the actual summer lasts approximately three days, all while you’re at work).

But Christmas music, because you can’t listen to it all year round, does retain some of the magic of childhood. The excitement of putting the tree up, writing the list and general wonder that the season brings are all brought back with the songs of childhood Christmases past.

Although this idealised sense of wonder and nostalgia is starting to be crushed by the horrible underbelly of reality. Now That’s What I Call Christmas is starting to look very different in a post-Yewtree world. And that’s after the fact that this is the time of year where it’s widely accepted and encouraged to share the story of a member of the clergy breaking into children’s rooms to leave them gifts.

We’re no longer having Another Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas as Gary Glitter remains otherwise engaged. Baby It’s Cold Outside feels a bit too sinister – “say what’s in this drink?”. All we need now is for Great Uncle Bulgaria to have fondled Orinoco to get himself a Wombling Merry Christmas, and our childhood is over.

I can’t remember the last time we had a decent Christmassy number 1. Now all we get at Christmas is a warbly rendition of an older song on the John Lewis ad, or this year’s X Factor winner, with their tearful claims that “It’s always been my dream and when my aunt’s neighbours chiropodists cat died I swore I’d make it happen. So this is for you, Tibbles”.

Except Rage Against the Machine. Rage Against the Machine fucking rock.

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The Joy of Fest

Festival Time
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It’s recently been floated as an idea that some friends and I should go to a festival next year. I’m am for this in principle, but I’m not the kind of person who fits in well at a festival. I try. God do I try. But it’s only getting worse as I get older.

So here’s my top reasons my peak festival-going days may be behind me.

1) Alcohol

Many people consider drinking to be a fundamental part of the festival experience. But I’m not a massive drinker. Plus I’ve paid a lot of money to come and see music, I want to hear the bands play the songs, not be leaving every 4th track to pee in a giant plastic cube while standing in the urine of a thousand other men.

I’ve genuinely seen people falling down drunk at 10:00am, and one guy at a day festival apparently passed out around 14:00 and missed all the bands he went to see. If you want to pass out in a field listening to “also appearing” acts, go to a battle of the bands and save yourself a lot of money. They’re closer too.

2) Back pain

I’m just getting to the age where office life is starting to break me. Oh sure, talk all you want about regular breaks and ergonomics, but being sat in an office for 8 hours a day is always going to leave a lasting impression. Generally my arse on the seat.

So if you’re going to have me in a field clapping all day, with the occasional raising of my hands into the air to adequately demonstrate my apathy, this is going to add up to a sore back. And that’s the kind of shit that a weekly pilates class is powerless to prevent.

3) Logistics of being over-prepared

Some happy-go-lucky types just wander in with nothing but shirt on the back. Some don’t even manage that.

Not me.

Sun cream? Check. Lots of bottled water to stay adequately hydrated in the summer sun? Check (at least 6, just to be safe). Waterproof rain jacket. Hoodie in case it gets chilly. Healthy snacks? Unhealthy snacks? Wet wipes? Hand sanitizer? Sun glasses? Phone, wallet, keys and other valuables?

I look less like a care-free festival-goer and more backpacker-who-just-saw-a-crowd-and-followed-it.

4) Food

Festivals are like my heaven – it’s all pizza, burgers, burritos, noodles and other delicious food stands. Proper food stands. None of these hipster veg-infused bollocks. Processed meats, American Cheeses and saturated fats all the way. But when you get to the stage when pie and mash is the healthy option, and you’re choosing burgers because you can add fried onions, which totally count as one of your 5-a-day, something may be going wrong. Like most of my internal organs.

The older I get, the more aware I am that I should eat healthier. An indulgent day used to make me worry I’ll get fat eventually. Now it makes me know that I’ll get heartburn and probably wake up with a food hangover thanks to all the salt and MSG and crap.

5) Hygiene

Hygiene is a major concern. I’m not so worried that I’m going to smell. I can’t smell me, what do I care?

No, my concern is more that I’ll die of dysentery by eating without scouring my hands for twenty minutes first, or I’ll catch chlamydia from the toilets. Again.

In these situations hand sanitizer is your friend. Although the first festival I went to was on at the same time as an England football match. I went to order some food as everyone was walking towards the screens, put some hand sanitizer on while I waited. As the woman went to hand me my burger she paused, looked at me doing this, and simply said “I’m guessing you’re not going to the football, are you…?” How. Rude. I mean, I wasn’t, but still, assumption much?

This article topic was suggested by a reader for Over-To-Uesday. If you fancy suggesting an article for next week’s blog, message me on Twitter or drop me an email.

Radio – Someone Still Loathes You

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RadioI’m not entirely sure where people hear about the latest music. I get judged on regular basis for mistakes like confusing Iggy Azalea with Azealia Banks, or commenting that Lorde sound completely different since their Eurovision hit Hard Rock Hallelujah. But if I do actually listen to the radio, I never seem to hear these newer songs.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never felt young enough to listen to Radio 1 (in fact I got a Cease & Desist letter from Nick Grimshaw when he took over just to make sure I didn’t accidentally tune in one morning). But even when I have no say on which radio station is playing, they all seem to play old songs. Songs which make people nostalgic for an non-specified “better time” somewhere between the late 80’s and early 00’s.

Then again this may come from being forced to endure the radio at work every day. As far as I’m concerned radio in the office is the worst. To paraphrase Sartre, hell is other people’s radio stations.

I’m not sure there’s a single radio station I can tolerate at work every day. Even the ones I like start to grate. But if you put on Heart and force me to listen to the same bloody playlist, ask me every 15 minutes “Who’s on Heart?” and cause the same pissing conversations in my office “Oh I love this song, it’s from Dirty Dancing” “Oh I love that film! The bit where he’s all “I’m not letting anyone put baby in the corner any more!” – so good!”. And no one else notices. No one. Listening to Heart is like a Mobius loop of dispair. You’re much better off buying the latest Now That’s What I Call Music CD and pausing it every 15 minutes to take a claw-hammer to the back of your own hand while looking up adverts for windscreen repairs and car insurance deals.

I’m not against music at work. I think that as a group bonding experience there’s not much better than music (except possibly putting the kettle on and/or supplying office biscuits). But nowadays radio is so outdated. Why not replace the electric lights with candles and send the intern down the well for water while you’re at it?

With modern technology like Spotify we have the almost magical ability to hear nearly any song from any time period (mostly the last 50 years admittedly). This is not without it’s problems as I still tend to listen to the same 20 or so songs, but with the collected taste and wisdom of a whole office, you get an eclectic mix and share recommendations, or you can put entire albums on and listen from start to finish – what a novel idea!

Video killed the radio star, but I think we should class it as euthanasia.

photo credit: DARC Funkertag 2004 via photopin (license)