British is Best!

One of the most notable things about backpacking is how little time you dedicate to things you’d normally spend hours doing each week at home. For me these things included baking, running/exercising, internet shopping and browsing any medium necessary for new music. Before I left for Australia I would spend hours on my laptop poring over various webpages, reading about music, listening to music and ever-increasing the diversity and volume of songs in my iTunes catalogue. You could find me on my days off poorly attempting to tidy my tiny walk-in-cupboard (bedroom), speakers blasting, continually clicking the ‘related artists’ link on Spotify whilst sipping a nice hot brew. Or, in the kitchen staring lovingly into a framed picture of Mary Berry whilst baking up a storm and rockin’ out to Pirate fm and Radio 1 in the form of rhythmic whisking. Normally I’m all over YouTube and Spotify like a rash, and don’t even get me started on what happens during and after Later Jools comes on; outright demands for absolute silence in the house followed by the immediate ‘Googling’ of favourable new artists, or more often than not a quick trip to the BBC Jools site to find out what the actual names are because that little overlay at the bottom of the page isn’t on anywhere near long enough!

(Talking of #Later it just so happens that the latest series -no 44! – has just started. Bang tidy!)

When you have no laptop, no television and no way of easily streaming or purchasing da tunes however, music is suddenly much less accessible. You go back to the pre-technology days where radio is your only friend. I vividly remember sitting in my Australian friend’s car – not long before I was due to fly home – hearing them announce the new Coldplay song. I wasn’t massively keen on their previous stuff (though I’m starting to rethink that having listened to Mylo Xyloto in full since – how did I not grasp how brilliance of Every Teardrop before?!) so I didn’t pay too much attention, but then this song came on and I thought, hold up.. this is something special; dare I say it, magical?? (…sorry) After my friend parked up I made him wait in his car so I could listen to the whole thing!

Six weeks later and they popped into Radio 1 for a surprise Live Lounge performance which you can listen to here 🙂

Having the radio was a life-saver in Oz. When I got back home and looked up the current Top 40 there wasn’t much in there I didn’t recognise. I say that – I still didn’t recognise a lot of the artists but as soon as I saw some of the song titles I immediately heard the melody/chorus in my head and realised I did know them. A lot of the music I listen to doesn’t get much, if any, radio play though. Think Warpaint, think dead and gone bands like GoodBooks, The Hours (oh how I love The Hours). I can stream or purchase their stuff any time I like – I can even get 7″ vinyl off eBay or Amazon (most of which I’d never find in a record store). It was the lesser known bands and my indie Kings and Queens that I was deprived of; this is where the purpose of my blog post comes in. I must have seen Franz Ferdinand advertised on Vevo at some point whilst enjoying a rare YouTube moment in Australia, or maybe their song played on Triple J (Australia’s equivalent to Radio 1) because somehow I found out about their new single – or new at the time – Right Action. I am a bit of a Franz fan; they’re one of the bands that hasn’t been ticked off my bucket list yet. I watched the vid for their new single on YouTube and got excited because it meant a new album was on the way, however not for a while and consequently I forgot all about it.  They somehow cropped up again today though and I’ve since been listening to their new old stuff and am loving it! I found Tonight to be a little disappointing, especially after You Could Have It So Much Better which sounds as fabulous to my ears now as it did almost a decade ago when it was first released. That was back in the heydays of my Sony Walkman. My prized possession.

After remembering Franz and revelling in Right Action I noticed they’d released other songs off the album and as most of you well know, once you start watching one video on YouTube you have to watch another.In fact you can pretty much write off the next two hours. Amongst the ‘Official Videos’ – by the way how cool and non-parent-friendly is the Evil Eye video? – were some live performance videos.

And that’s how I found this little gem.

I’m sorry but if you don’t think this is absolutely fabulous then there is something undeniably wrong with you.

urge you to listen to it through a good pair of headphones or speakers, otherwise those spectacular drums will be lost on you and you’ll have no idea what I’m raving on about.

Despite loathing being back in chilly England, I have missed the enjoyment one gets from listening to a new album or great song for the first time and then whacking it on repeat until you’ve overplayed it so much you’ve almost ruined it for yourself.

It’s great being able to get excited about music again and it’s great to be back in my homeland, surrounded by the best music!

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student loans = moans

It’s that time again, rant o’clock.

Among the pile of letters and packages I returned home to after being away for 12 months in Australia was one from the Student Loans Company checking up on me because I’ve been unemployed (or so they believe) for the last year. Aside from various death threats and warnings about tax avoidance they included a statement of how much I owe. I thought it had to be wrong when I first looked at it – the amount of interest was so high – but after a quick look on the internet I discovered with horror that I am indeed being charged a whopping 1.5% APR; a LOT for someone who owes as much as I do. 1.5% doesn’t sound so bad, but every year I will be charged more and more interest as my debt builds, until I start earning just under 17,000 when I’ll start paying off enough to keep the debt the same, but no less because the interest will always offset any amount I pay off. This is happening to thousands of graduates all over the country and the government is making a mint out of it.

It sparked a major discussion in my household and instigated some less than benevolent feelings on my part.

I realise that politics is a cruel sport and the economy is in a mess and we need money coming in from somewhere – but from the poor and unemployed? Really? All the way through college young people are pressured into going to university because they are told, and I don’t mean given the impression, I mean explicitly told that it will better their life, career, future and well-being. You leave school at 16 and are expected to make all your future life choices after just one year and decide what you want to do, where you want to do it and who you want to be. For the majority this is impossible because we lack the knowledge and experience.. and maturity. So we make wild guesses, hope for the best and see where it leads. Currently it leads into mass unemployment or menial jobs and debt.

English Literature, that’s academic, that’ll benefit me in some way.

The way this country goes about educating young people on their futures is all wrong. Having a degree isn’t everything – I learnt that the hard way. You don’t need a degree to do every single job in the world. I can tell you that you don’t need a degree to go into television for example, or to go into radio. All you need is passion, drive and determination. I’m not saying I regret doing my degree or Masters because it helped shape who I am and although I jumped on the bandwagon like everyone else, at least I decided to study something that I enjoy and am reasonably good at. Hopefully it might even benefit me one day. But how many people did I meet on my English course who didn’t enjoy English? Who didn’t even like reading? And the university still let them in..? Far too many. At the time I thought these people must be pretty stupid, and as far as life choices go I suppose they were in that regard, but if they didn’t enjoy the subject why were they there? What possessed them to think it was a good idea? Well it’s obvious isn’t it. Because that’s what everyone else is doing and that’s what their lecturers and college or sixth form told them to do, so you better pick something, fast. You forget how much pressure is put on people at that age; how little time you have to make a decision. English Literature, that’s academic, that’ll benefit me in some way. In fact drop the ‘Literature’ just English will suffice. That word alone ticks some imaginary boxes somewhere.

One of my best, best friends at uni, bless her heart, shocked me in the second term of our third and last year when she told me she didn’t know how to use the self-scan machine in the library to take out books. I mean… just incredible. What can I say about that really?

What would I have done if university wasn’t the only option given to me though? What would I be doing now? No wonder the government is so supportive of higher education – because after all the jager bombs and lengthy library sessions are over they start making a shit ton of money out of you. You’re a major source of income. So is the insurance on your mortgage as my dad pointed out, but at least that’s a debt worth paying. That debt helps you buy a house. It’s not really the same as an A4 certificate with your name on it is it?

You owe us another 300 quid interest. Oh and make sure you buy a stamp for that envelope eh love?

To top it all off were the forms they sent me to fill out. The forms that, if they are neglected to be sent back within 28 days result in me being issued a penalty and included a self-addressed envelope which I have to go out and buy a bloody stamp for.

I don’t care how the system works, I am outraged. And to think, they don’t have to deal with any of this crap in Scotland, which leads nicely onto my next point;  just to add insult to injury guess where the Student Loans office is based? (check out the lovely letter head below.) Bet you just love that don’t you Scotland? Reminding us English folk how much we owe the government when you all pay diddly squat.

Not even back a fortnight in the UK and already I’m loving it.

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If you want to find out more information about your student loan check out the Income Contingent Loans page and if you’re feeling a bit rough about it perhaps take a little look at the url and smile at the accidental significance of one of the surprise words you’ll see in there. If anyone is going to pay off their children’s debts, it’ll be them!

Take care comrades, until the next rant o’clock..

42 Things All Noughties Teenagers Will Remember

I forgot about soo many of these! My bubblegum smelly gel pen… a girl’s best friend *wistful sigh*

Hannah Gale

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1. Smirnoff Ice, WKD and Archers. Tiny bottles of sugary alcohol that made you talk to boys, throw up and get told off by your parents. Goody.

2. Spending an entire week waiting for the next episode of The O.C. Fancying Seth Cohen, wanting to be Summer Roberts, and feeling awkwardly not sad when Marisa died. Oh.

3. Stripy highlights. Big blonde chunky strips through your over-straightened hair that made you look like the fourth member of Atomic Kitten, the somewhat cooler version of Kerry Katona.

4. Denim everything. Denim jackets, the perfect denim mini skirt, denim pedal pushers, denim handbags. Firmly believing Bewitched were on to something.

5. Teaming said denim mini skirt with (faux) UGG boots, dolly shoes or bright pink Converse and feeling like you’d finally nailed looking cool on non-school uniform day. Well done you, high five. All the boys will fancy you now.

6…

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