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Bear’s Den: The Cluny, Newcastle 12th February 2015

Tucked away on the outskirts of Newcastle is one of the city’s best bars with space upstairs as a music venue. The Cluny offers an intimate room for performers with a basic square stage and narrow audience standing area. Only last month (15th February) did I have the pleasure to hear live music from Bear’s Den. This review is a little ‘better later than never’, as the band deserve recognition for their ear pleasing melodies coupled with catchy lyrics.

Bear's Den, The Cluny

This is the fourth time I have seen them live and they always have the crowd hypnotised with their sound. I remember seeing them last year at Somersault festival and they managed to instantly win over and capture the audience’s attention despite a 45-minute long sound check. This shows both their professionalism as well as natural stage presence. The thing I like about the lead, Andrew Davie, is his humour and audience conversation is not in any way forced.

Bear's Den live gig at The Cluny, Newcastle

Year on year they have grown as a band and I can definitely say they offer a tight-knit set with little hesitation. Similar bands such as Iron and Wine and Mumford and Sons started just like this; raw sound, energy and emotion and I hope Bear’s Den follow in their (paw)prints and go on to gain further fans and opportunities. Though obviously keeping ticket prices reasonable for all those loyal fans, right?

Their hour and a quarter long set (approx) did not disappoint and they performed some, if not all, of their carefully crafted songs that provoke such emotion and energy. ‘When You Break, ‘Elysium’, ‘Agape’ and ‘Sophie’ were the most memorable of the night.

The beauty of their music is that it is raw and does not rely on being heavily produced or manipulated. It is very simply, a handful of guys and instruments with little production, married with the distinctive vocals from lead, Andrew Davie.

I have noticed recently they’ve been updating their songs ever so slightly. For instance, early fans may recognise that their latest YouTube video of the powerful hit Agape, has been sped up and features different harmonies. It is
filmed in the beautiful beach setting of the South West, Devon (where I consider my second home).

I for one prefer the original but can see the benefit in the recently-produced, smoother version. However the cutting edge, raw sound is forever embedded in the first recording of this song.

The Bear’s Den epidemic will reach a venue near you, in the not too distant future hopefully…

Bear’s Den can be found here, they’re also on Facebook and tweet over at @bearsdenmusic. If you haven’t come across this band yet, be sure to lend them your ear to Spotify one evening this week!

How I failed last year and how I want to fail again

I am all for New Year resolutions. I think this “idea” provides a safety blanket, a bravado, a ‘fake motivation’ that somehow spurs us to really fulfil our year like no other. Cliché as they may seem, paper filled with endless lists and top tens, how useful are they to us?

I for one like the belief and drive they instil in some people (myself included), and though some may mock people’s unachievable goals I think it is important to remember that having aims in life, or for the foreseeable months is never a bad thing.

Last year I over ambitiously set out to read 52 books in 52 weeks. I may have failed to read that number (due to some books being 700 pages) yet I still left 2014 with a sense of real accomplishment. It was not tainted by one of my friends continuously emphasising how I had totally failed this goal of mine.

However that should not have mattered to them and nor to me as I did succeed: I attempted my goal and reshaped it as I went through 2014 realising my page heavy books would slow me down and mean missing my ’52 target’.

This feeling of self-accomplishment isn’t necessarily one found at work or shared with others; it is an emotion felt at a very personal level.

A similar thinking blog caught my eye the other day as the author mentioned how she is focusing on one word to take her through 2015. This isn’t a new idea by any stretch of the imagination but it is another way to concentrate on your mental attitude. A way to feel ‘refreshed’ in your body, mind and attitude.

It can also be very therapeutic to list your dreams or aims no matter how farfetched and in turn, you can then plan how to meet these. I think the biggest obstacle in making changes, whether that is changing your diet or exercising more, is rewiring your mental state. Blocking out negative hurdles before the race starts.

Stop and think – how do you really feel about this goal? Is it one you really want to do – is your heart, mind and way of thinking in this one hundred per cent? It goes hand in hand with the saying, if you think it you can do it. It is without a doubt, our biggest strength and power is our mind. It goes further than even we know and is always two steps.

Do you have your own resolutions? How do you find they help you?

Book review: The Bees, Laline Paull

The Bees by Laline Paull

The Bees is centred around Flora, an ordinary sanitation worker in the hive. Her role is one of little hope with her ‘kind’ looked down upon and treated as the lowest of the low. However, she is unlike other workers, going against the grain and speaking out – showing her courage and resistance to conformity, whilst the others remain mute.

The reader is taken on a thrilling journey through her eyes, understanding what it means to be in a hierarchy, the beliefs of the holy hive (including devout worshipping to the Queen Bee and priestesses) and what happens when you break away from the rules.

There is a slight ‘1984 feel to the story with the ever-present fear of torn about by the fertility police and constant reinforcement of hive values. At times you really do sympathise with Flora and as the plot thickens so does the terror and scenarios she faces. The book brings together an array of ideas and history well, for example; the dangers facing bee populations (pesticides and weather), the foragers compared to WW1 pilots and different ranks.

Hope is restored as she is allowed to forage as a reward for her brave acts. We see her develop a fiercer attitude though this comes with conflict with her heart, conscience and loyalty. The real turn comes when she breaks the most sacred law of all – challenging the Queen’s fertility, falling pregnant. As you find out, this is not the first time either. Does she survive?

There are some horrific and memorable scenes of slaughter and gender bias which inevitably leave you to contemplate the lives of these poor bees.

This is a very well-written narrative that thrusts you into an imaginative insect world that soon becomes very real. Drama, tension and conflict, this book has it all.

Thanks 4th Estate for sending me this to review. I have added it to my 52 books in 52 weeks challenge!

There is a real buzz around this book and for good reason too!

Interview with Illustrator, nick’s fault.

Art has no limit or boundaries and I am always to intrigued to get inside artist’s heads to find out what makes them tick. I actually came across freelance illustrator, Nick Willis of nick’s fault, as he entered my herbal tea competition on my other blog. Working in a funeral directors during the day and freelancing at night, I ask Nick more about his creative skill and dreamy, hypnotic drawings.

nick's fault illustrator

Where did your love of art come from?

My love of art is an old and deep-set feature of my childhood; my brothers and I would sit backwards on the pews in church as kids and spend the whole service drawing batman and cars – My dad used to pitch in (presumably if he wasn’t all that taken with the message!) and always managed to create really brilliant pictures in an incredibly short period of time, usually of steam trains and the like. I think I always just wanted to emulate him – What young boy doesn’t want the approval of their father? I also had a very immersive experience of picture books as a youngster; a story was never as good if it wasn’t filled with full colour, lucid illustrations. From then on, I always described the world to everyone around me through pictures.

Is illustrating your full-time job?

Sadly, illustrating isn’t my full-time job yet – I try to get as much freelance work as possible and am always working on my own projects but that isn’t paying the rent just yet, so I work full-time as an in-house desktop publisher for a funeral directors, of all places!

What or where do you draw inspiration from?

I try to escape reality in my work and always have. It’s not that there isn’t plenty of interesting stuff to draw from on earth, it’s just that I prefer to study it, learn to draw it and then take it apart, using various elements from everything that I’ve ever seen to create worlds of my own. I look at new and exciting science articles, hand drawn maps, old writings of explorers and biologists anatomical drawings – All of it end up influencing my work one way or another, albeit indirectly.

What materials do you use for your illustrations? And what computer programs?

I try to mix up my working methods but always have a safety net of ink pens and Photoshop – I’m always playing around with printing inks and lino cutting, as well as good old colouring pencils, but when I need to produce a professional final piece of work it tends to be rendered on paper and then coloured on the computer; it just means that I know I can make it print ready for my clients!

If you had to pick one of your illustrations, which has been your favourite to date?

Choosing one of my own illustrations as a favourite is really tough! I think I can pinpoint one which signifies a point at which I started to really raise my game in a technical sense and that’s an image called “Flying Inventions” – It’s just a bit of fun but it reflects my style and desire to create new things, as well as tapping to some more detailed colouring skills. I think I’ve probably created more detailed work since then but, for me, this image reflects my style and captures the fun I have while drawing.
Flying-Inventions

What advice would you give someone trying to get into illustration?

It’s hard to give advice to would-be illustrators because I really still class myself as one too! For what it’s worth, I think it’s important to find your own style and go for it, unrelentingly. Anyone can follow tutorials of how to perfectly render a million photorealistic images online but it’s the people who create their own style from scratch and find a voice through it that have always made the biggest impact. Also, don’t give up if you haven’t made it in a year, 3 years or even 10! If you love it, keep doing it – Make ends meet however you need to but never let go of that small part of your soul that wants to draw something.

Sum up your design style in 10 words.

Escapist, skeletal-free whimsy in a world that’s too serious.

Blogging with a new pair of specs!

I work at a computer all day long so by the evening the contacts have to be taken out and the glasses come into play. The joys of the digital era of journalism and marketing?

I don’t know if any other fellow specs wearers have noticed but glasses are so expensive these days. Whenever I have popped into Specsavers they are at least ninety nine pounds and this is advertised as a ‘special offer‘. With this in mind I am very grateful to have been sent a pair of prescriptive glasses from GlassesNow to review; so thank you to the lovely team there! They obviously know how hard I work with all my blogging! On a serious note, I can definitely say these have come at a good time.

So what did I make of the glasses?

Karen Millen glasses review

This stylish metallic brown frame is designed by Karen Millen and sits comfortably and lightly on my nose. I mention this first of all as I have had many difficulties with the bridge of frames rubbing and causing irritation and markings. This is probably why I wear my contact lenses 5 days out of 7.

Thin glasses frame

For £69.90 these offer good value for money and adding your prescriptive lenses is completely free. I always tend to scrutinise websites however I like how the product descriptions provide the exact measurements and design aspects of the glasses you select. This means you can do a quick check to make sure they fit before committing to ordering online. If your like me you will simply hold a measuring tape up to your face in the mirror and um and arh…

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of GlassesNow is that all orders placed before 4pm for UK delivery and 3pm for mainland Europe delivery have a next day guarantee. This efficient customer service is good news for us workers. Rather than having to take a morning off work to pick up your glasses and pop back the next day for collection, you can simply order online and expect to receive them the following day. Easy eh?

Karen Millen frames

I love the subtlety of these and will be wearing them on a regular basis. What do you think?

I would like to say a big thanks to GlassesNow who have helped taking the expense out of a new pair of glasses. And to the followers of my blog; you can all picture me with my new specs on, ready and raring to bring you plenty more content in 2014. Hold on tight.

5 Things Not To Include in your ‘About Me’ section

February 25, 2014 1 comment

Tips on what not to include in your biography page

So I constantly come across blogs that feature these ‘about me’ sections that like to prove that they really are the most interesting person since sliced bread AND online. I will hold my hands up and admit that my ‘about me’ pages are probably cringe-worthy and make me wince every time I read over them; as well as those biography pages that float around the internet.

I tend to edit them every couple of months and always stop and think; what on earth was I thinking when I wrote this? 9 out of 10 times it sounded good in my head but on paper or on the dub dub dub it doesn’t sound as impressive. In answer to this I am sharing my top tips on what not to include on your about me page.

What to avoid on your About Me or Bio Page

  1. Top 10 facts you didn’t know about me. These lists come in various numbers; top ten, twenty and sometimes even fifty. Yes it may be great learning new things about people online and secretly we all like a good nose, though it is important to remember everyone can see these lists. Most importantly, future or prospective employers can cast their eyes over this list so make sure it is either professional or extremely interesting. Interesting and relevant enough to get you hired.
    I think these lists also can be a moment of narcissism for some people and it sure does come across that way in their writing. If you want to be taken seriously don’t be too driven by your online persona.
    Some points that make the list just aren’t worth reading. “Billy you’re a contradiction; shy but happy, quiet but loud in private. Hates office jobs but loves the routine of 9-5.” Interesting stuff, huh?
  2. Videos. I won’t dwell on this point too long but badly filmed videos with cheap effects and not much to go on are so cringe-worthy. It is like You’ve Been Framed meets Take Me Out and trust me it really is “no likey, no lighty” with this one.
  3. Choose your photos carefully. Okay I am very hypocritical on this point as some of the photos featured on my other blogs and sites are not strictly what may be deemed professional. I think your online personality has to complement any photos you post. In this retrospect I know ‘glammed up’ photos of myself are not taken too seriously.
    As a general rule of thumb, keep any harmful photographs of yourself under lock and key. They are not for the internet (or the world) to see. I don’t think you have to always feature clean-cut photographs but be wary of who can see these and what impression you want to make.
  4. Timelines. I think timelines are meaningless unless you are a real figure in history and have lived long enough to have a story behind you. I am talking about memorable people such as Mandela or Rosa Parks. Please don’t spend your time telling us just how long you have studied that photography course for and been an online blogger sensation for x number of years.
  5. Be you. I couldn’t finish on another negative so I thought it only appropriate to end with my best piece of advice which is be yourself. Make sure you inject your personality into your website and don’t try to be like anybody else.

If you have any other ‘no-no’s’ to add to this list then leave them below!

Categories: Blog, Opinion Tags: ,

5 Blog Post Ideas for Your Website

January 26, 2014 1 comment

Bang. It’s time to make your content explosive and engaging; the big event that everyone wants to read. So how do you do it? After being on the ‘blogging scene’ a little while, I thought I would share what I find interesting on blogs or sites; the pieces that really work. Here are my top blog post ideas:

1. A picture paints a thousand words. Photographs can be just as, if not more effective (sorry writers), than words. They stand alone and do not need to be supported by any lengthy explanations or superfluous information. Some of the best food and fashion blogs I read are those with high-quality images and nothing else. This prompts readers to interact with the site and leave comments. You leave them wanting to know more.

2. Interview other bloggers or experts. As with any industry you have to know your field, therefore it only makes sense to collaborate with people in the same circle. I love teaming up with other bloggers or companies when possible. For example on my beauty blog I am taking part in the Valentine’s Day blogger swap. This is the perfect opportunity to meet like-minded bloggers (in beauty and fashion) whilst exchanging gifts!

3. Create a weekly, fortnightly or monthly post. I am starting that this year with my beauty blog, by creating a fashion wishlist every month (this coincides with the date of payday, forever imprinted in my mind. A welcome distraction.). This structure lets readers know exactly what to expect from your blog on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis.

4. Run a competition. This can be a great way to reward readers of your blog. The prize does have to be of value to the readers (not necessarily in monetary terms) and has to be worth the engagement; answering a question, going on social media etc.

5. Write a ‘How to’ post. These instructional and often informative articles will never become old in my eyes. People are always searching for help and as long as your site provides a new angle then your content is worthy of a read (or a skim read at least!) For as long as the internet is around, bloggers and writers will continue to provide answers as best they can.

One tip that I haven’t mentioned but have often read is be controversial. I think this can often be misleading to the extent that writers think they have to be extremely opinionated to strike up a conversation or to gain new readers, however this is not the case. I would say it is important to use a blog or site to offer your opinion or value but not just to gain attention; be you. You also have to take into consideration who is reading your blog i.e. employers can see what you say online.
I hope my five blog post ideas can provide you with some form of inspiration for the year ahead. If you have anymore ideas that I haven’t covered then feel free to add your suggestion(s) below. I know I will certainly be referring to this in the coming months.

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