A much-needed bank holiday

I slept in by about three hours this morning. I clearly needed a sleep catch-up! As such, I postponed my planned run and spent today getting on with admin, cleaning the house, listening to synthwave, and making lists of ’80s films I’ve not seen due to Geth being unimpressed with my lack of film knowledge.

Back to work tomorrow.

OOTD 6th May 2019
OOTD: I’m looking forward to being able to wear eye makeup again. Dress unknown brand (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2018), shoes Office (2018).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Meduza – Piece Of Your Heart
Duran Duran – Planet Earth
T’Pau – China In Your Hand
The Midnight – Gloria

Music Video Monday: Gunship: Tech Noir

I was going to do my fortnightly ‘recent chart catchup’ today, but due to most of the artists responsible for recent hits being nice and timely with their videos, there are none to catch up with!

Instead, as Geth and I have been enjoying lots of synthwave YouTube playlists in the house recently, enjoy this fun claymation video by synthwave act Gunship. Spoiler: the bad guys are defeated by the power of VHS tapes!

Geth is not happy about my lack of knowledge when it comes to ’80s movies (my specialist subject is the music and fashion of the decade – I’m a bit behind on the films because it was only the slasher horror ones that I used to obsess over in my younger days!). As such, we are going to try and rectify this gap by watching lots and lots of ’80s films this year.

However, when it comes to the films and TV on the seven VHS tapes featured in this video, I’ve seen four out of seven, which is not bad going!

VHS tapes
Our VHS tapes. Most of these are music releases that you can’t get on DVD.

(Our own VHS collection is not what it used to be – I chucked most of it when we moved from Southampton, although we still have a good few that can’t be replaced on DVD at the moment. We also have a working VHS player, although it’s not attached to any of our TVs at the moment. It’s there if we need it!)

Anyway, I digress. I really appreciate this video because not only does it remind me of the claymation in classic ’80s videos like Jackie Wilson’s Reet Petite and Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, but there has also been much more work put into it than for most synthwave videos, which are usually just clips of ’80s films and TV shows. Not that I don’t love them, but it’s nice to see something totally original!

More music videos next week.

Booze Alternative: Square Root Ginger Beer

Ginger beer is the new cider. It’s official.

I had this Square Root offering in a service station on the way home from Lancashire the other week.

Square Root Ginger Beer
Square Root Ginger Beer.

The above picture also includes a bonus sighting of Dad in his Faroese jumper. I still miss my matching toddler version, which stubbornly refused to grow with me:

Matching Faroese jumpers
1987. I’ll never have another ’80s jumper like it, no matter how many vintage fairs I sift through.

Anyway, the Square Root ginger beer is better than the Fentimans version in some ways (it’s not spicy enough to make me cough!) but worse in others (it’s not sweet enough for my liking). Still on the hunt for a perfect ginger beer.

Vintage fair haul: Newcastle Vintage & Street Food Market

First vintage fair of the year! I’m restricting myself to no more than two items per fair in 2019, as I bought lots of clothes last year. This meant that today I only bought the things that really caught my eye.

Vintage fair haul
L-R: black and gold jumper, black top.

I bought another jumper, ’cause I’m wearing my ’80s jumpers a lot at the moment and I feel like I’m cycling through the same three or four all the time. I also bought this pretty black top with flower embellishments on the shoulders and chain detailing on the neck. It’ll be lovely to wear with a black skirt for a special occasion! Or just round the house if I get bored of jumpers.

The Street Food Market is a fairly regular event put on by Judy’s Vintage Fairs. I didn’t have any of the food, because (a) all the food vans were outside in the cold and rain, and (b) they were all selling savoury stuff like pizza, and while I could have done with a cupcake or something similar, I’d already had my lunch so couldn’t justify pizza. I’ll maybe venture out next time they do one in the summer.

Book Review: The Complete Beauty Book

I bought this impressively heavy tome on Amazon Marketplace a couple of years ago. I’d been browsing YouTube tutorials for ’80s makeup looks, none of which were quite 100% period accurate, and a commenter recommended this book – it came out in 1985, and was apparently considered one of the ultimate hair and makeup guides of the era.

The Complete Beauty Book

Like everything else in life, I like my hair and makeup to look vaguely ’80s – not full on backcombing and Boy George blusher (unless I’m going clubbing!), but using the correct techniques for day makeup that were popular at the time. This book provides a really good immersive experience in that sense. There are also a lot of very pretty pictures of ’80s bathrooms and dressing tables with lots of plants everywhere!

It also gives a really interesting insight into the mindset of beauty specialists at the time. This is a little tangential, but when I studied history at university, the realisation that made the most sense of the passing of time to me was that you don’t know you are living in a particular period of history while the world is still going through it. Since the mid-’90s, society has had this very particular cultural view of the ’80s that it was the decade of excess – in fashion terms, that means big hair, big shoulders, excessive makeup, everything over-exaggerated. But reading the words of the authors in 1985 paints a very different picture. From their perspective at that time, it was the ’60s that were stark and over-exaggerated in makeup trends – white panstick, black eyes, no nuance – whereas ‘nowadays’ the trend was a lot softer and ‘more natural’. Given that we’ve been told for more than twenty years that ’80s makeup looked anything but natural, I found this standpoint absolutely fascinating!

I’m not the greatest at makeup, so I haven’t really perfected all the eyeshadow patterns yet, but the book does give a lot of tips to try out. It’ll be staying in my collection!

Thirty-four

It’s my birthday today, but I didn’t go out tonight. I’m thirty-four years old now – I have far better things to do. Things I did do today:

  • Got up early and went to Slimming World, because it’s important to keep an eye on things over Christmas even when it is your birthday.
  • Opened presents and cards under Mum and Dad’s Christmas tree, just as I do every year. It’s the tenth day of Christmas and that Christmas tree is still important! Nobody’s ever got me any lords a-leaping for my birthday though.
  • Listened to my birthday number one – Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? – more than once. Was inordinately pleased that the current chart rules mean that it is currently yet again sitting in the Top Ten a whole thirty-four years later.
  • Drank prosecco and blew out candles on my birthday cake – it was a New York style cheesecake as usual, made by the world’s best dad as usual!
  • Packed up and left Edinburgh to go back to Newcastle after ten lovely days spent at Mum and Dad’s for Christmas.
  • Got on a train. Geth was worried about travel stress spoiling my birthday, but it was actually a really relaxed journey.
  • Got home and put on the heating and both fires to warm up our ice block of a house!
  • Ordered takeaway pizza and drank more prosecco. It’s my last non-sober birthday, and it’s been a double-prosecco day. I am okay with this.
  • Spent a perfect birthday evening watching ’80s episodes of Top of the Pops recorded off BBC4. I’m very nearly at the point in the marathon where I’ll get to watch the episode from Thursday 3rd January 1985! So glad I was born on a Thursday. That one’s going to be staying on the digibox and constituting my birthday viewing for many years to come.

It’s been a good day.

OOTD 3rd January 2019
OOTD: favourite day, favourite jumper. Glasses Emporio Armani (2017), jumper Carlo Colucci (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2017), leggings Primark (2018).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Alison Moyet – This House
Duran Duran – Hungry Like The Wolf

And a bonus track that Geth was humming earlier:

Kraftwerk – The Model

Plus my awesome birthday playlist that I made on Spotify earlier:

will.i.am and Cody Wise – It’s My Birthday
50 Cent – In Da Club
Lesley Gore – It’s My Party
Bowling For Soup – 1985
The Birthday Massacre – The Birthday Massacre
The Crüxshadows – Winter Born (This Sacrifice)
Altered Images – Happy Birthday
Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Stuff I like about my parents’ house #7: this awesome new plant of my dad’s

Inspired by my sister-in-law Steff, who’s been filling her Toronto home with plants over the last couple of years, Dad has recently started collecting houseplants again.  For reference, back in the ’80s, our family home looked like this:

Family home in 1984
Trailing plants and wooden furniture and a brand new 1984 Grundig TV, oh my!  That table the TV is sitting on has been living with me and Geth for over a decade now, although it’s a bit worse for wear these days.

…as you may remember from my Now! #2 review.  Anyway, this is the way I always visualise the house from when I was growing up, with plants trailing down from every bookshelf.  Most of them were spider plants, and I loved the shape of the leaves.  Unfortunately, they all eventually died (Dad says this is because Mum was always over-watering them!) and so the house was plant-less for quite some time.

This last year, however, Dad has been breeding spider plants again (and I don’t think Mum’s allowed to water them anymore).  They’re growing and multiplying very rapidly, and so I’ve been promised one for my own house.  I’m a bit nervous about taking one, because I’m probably as bad as Mum at killing plants (I’m still in mourning for Basil the basil plant, who did not survive our time at our last house), but Dad says spider plants are quite easy to maintain, so we’ll see.

Anyway, Dad also got this gorgeous new plant, which is the subject of the post!

Houseplants
I’m not sure what it’s called, but it’s beautifully spiky.

It goes really nicely with the spider plants.  It’s so nice to see the house full of plants again – just like it was back in the ’80s!

Being a Band Aid baby, or: one hell of a bucket list

If you’re lucky, there’s something special about the song that was number one when you were born.  Maybe it symbolises something about your life, or your interests, or the person that you ended up growing up to be.  Maybe it’s just a really awesome song.

If you’re unlucky, you end up like Geth and get Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless) (UK number one from 25th May 1980 to 14th June 1980, fact fans!) as your birthday number one.  It’s not bad as TV theme tunes go, but it’s not special to Geth – he didn’t grow up to be a soldier, or an expert on the Korean War, or even much of a M*A*S*H fan, really.

I was lucky, and my birthday number one is special to me.  I love it as a Christmas baby, as an ’80s throwback, as a chart geek, and as a lover of music in general.  It’s an extremely well-known Christmas song – one of those tracks you hear constantly from the middle of November until early January.  It held the record for the best-selling single in UK chart history for more than twelve years, only ever being overtaken by Elton John’s Candle In The Wind ’97 after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in September 1997.

My birthday number one is Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, one of the most famous recordings in music history.

Do They Know It's Christmas?

I was born on 3rd January 1985, the twenty-sixth day of the thirty-five day period (9th December 1984 to 12th January 1985) that Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? spent at number one in the UK.  From the 1984-1985 UK birthrates available online, I estimate that I share my birthday number one with approximately 71,000 other Band Aid babies, including Georgia Moffett, Lewis Hamilton, and Newton Faulkner.  (I would love to be able to work out the exact number, but the internet is not forthcoming at the moment!)

Due to the ubiquity of the song, I grew up with it, and it became my favourite Christmas song long before I realised that it was my birthday number one.  I pored over the upside-down answers to Smash Hits quizzes that challenged readers to name all the artists involved in the song, and memorised names that were unfamiliar to me in the context of the early ’90s pop music landscape.  I dutifully learnt to sing the song with my primary school class in preparation for our Christmas performance at the local old folks’ community centre.  I waited excitedly for it to come on as soon as my brother and I were allowed to play the family’s Christmas compilation CD (That’s Christmas) on the 1st of December every year.  It’s one of those songs that you hear hundreds of times every year, and so it never really goes out of your mind.  That’s not something you can say about Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless).

The finer points of Bob Geldof’s project to put together a charity supergroup and the song’s recording on 25th November 1984 are well known, detailed in a hundred different BBC4 documentaries and summarised fairly well on Wikipedia (though I highly recommend the Smash Hits coverage of the recording day included in the collection book The Best Of Smash Hits: The ’80s for a bit of period flavour – it has a great group photo of all the artists involved except for Boy George, who infamously didn’t show up till six o’clock in the evening due to oversleeping in New York and having to get on a Concorde back to London).

I’ve been to a lot of concerts in my life, including a lot of concerts by artists who were big in the ’80s due to it being my favourite music era and favourite era in general.  But the other day, it occurred to me that I had never gone to see a single one of the thirty-seven artists who performed on my birthday number one.  I had never even seen any of the additional seven artists who couldn’t make it to the recording and so sent recorded Christmas messages to be used on the B-side of the single.

This is the part of the post where I get to the point.

I will never get to see every single one of the artists involved in my birthday number one.  Sadly, two of the musicians who contributed to the song (George Michael and Rick Parfitt) and two who recorded B-side messages (Stuart Adamson and David Bowie) have since passed away.  But I have decided that I will make a concerted effort to see as many of the rest of them as possible.  After all, I have more opportunity than some.  My brother’s birthday number one is Ben E King’s Stand By Me (a re-entry at UK number one between 15th February 1987 and 7th March 1987), which means that since King’s death in 2015 he has no longer had the possibility of seeing his birthday number one artist.  People who were born between 14th December 1980 and 20th December 1980, when (Just Like) Starting Over was number one following John Lennon’s assassination, have never had the chance to see their birthday number one artist.

Enter the Band Aid bucket list!

For most of my bucket lists, I reckon that if I’m lucky enough, I’ve got another fifty or sixty years left to get them completed.  Time is not so much on my side for this particular list, given that all the artists on it are now in their fifties and sixties and won’t be performing or alive forever.  As such, rather similarly to the huge hoard of ’80s vintage clothing I’m collecting while it’s still cheap and plentiful, I aim to get the bulk of this project achieved while I’m still in my thirties, and so I’m targeting >50% list completion by my fortieth birthday on 3rd January 2025.  That gives me six years, one month and fourteen days as of this post to see as many of the following artists as possible.  I’d better get a wiggle on.

The artists who sang on the track:

The extra artists who recorded messages for the B-side:

Current progress: song artists 4/37 (10.8%); message artists 2/7 (28.6%); total artists 6/44 (13.6%).

I have arranged to find out about future performances by all of these artists using the extremely lazy 21st century method of following them all on Twitter!

I’ll keep updating this post as I see more artists.  I’m looking forward to this project!

Vintage fair haul: Newcastle Vintage & Street Food Market

Vintage fairs are back for the autumn/winter!  There’s another one I’m planning to go to next month, by which point I may no longer be strong/warm enough to resist the lure of vintage ’80s jumpers.  I have plenty.  I still want more.

I was sensible today, though, and didn’t buy any jumpers for now.  Instead, I picked up two things I’d actually been visualising: a red blouse to go with one of this year’s Christmas outfits, and a jersey dress that will be nice and comfortable for ’round the house’ days, which, for a work-from-home type like me, is most days.

Vintage fair haul
The red material looks shiny here but it’s actually more kind of sheer.

It’s very satisfying to be able to add a piece here and there to my vintage collection.  Looking forward to wearing both of these!

Day out at South Shields

Due to my all-encompassing work project, Geth and I didn’t get to enjoy the bank holiday last Monday, so we arranged to take a day in lieu and go for a day trip today instead.

South Shields seafront
The weather has been a bit strange over the last month – rather than having a spring, we’ve basically gone straight from winter to summer, but I’m not complaining.

We had a lovely walk along the seafront and climbed right up to the replica self-sinking gun on the cliff.

Replica of late 19th century gun
1987 replica of 1887 gun. You know me and 1980s stuff!

According to the plaque, the original gun was tested in 1887, and did work in terms of being able to sink back into its foundation after being fired, but because it took far too long (eight hours) to prep, it was never actually used.  This replica was installed in 1987 for the 100th anniversary.

South Shields beach
On the beach at South Shields. After such a long winter, it was so nice to feel the sand under my feet!

We then walked back to the seafront and had lunch and a couple of pints in the Sanddancer, which is the best place to go in South Shields when it’s not Great North Run day (on GNR day, because it’s the first pub you get to after collecting your goodie bag, it’s absolutely rammed, so you’re better off going to another pub a bit further down the seafront).

After that, we went back to Newcastle, did a bit of shopping in town and went for another couple of pints.  A perfect ‘bank holiday’!