Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Going To Gigs & Anxiety

Although life with anxiety is never plain sailing, and there is still a long way to go to get my life where I want it to be, one of the things I am most proud of is my gig going adventures. They are and have been just local, and are not without their challenges, but to have pushed myself to do as much as I have done, is something that I always come back to for motivation.

I think part of it is that music is a powerful motivation. I've always been a huge fan of music, it makes me feel alive! I enjoy music and dance based films, sometimes write lyrics, and more recently I have written about it as a freelance writer. So that has pushed me where other things haven't, and perhaps the other thing is I have done all this on my own. I'm not always the best with any kind of planning and social expectations, and don't really have a close social circle locally for support on these outings. I have tried and succeeded, tried and failed, tried and found things got a lot easier. It's an entirely different experience going on my own, but in some ways it works. I can come and go as I want, don't have to think about anybody else, and have got to know quite a few people, to varying degrees, that I might not have done otherwise; people in bands, music fans, people that promote and run events locally, and people that have been very supportive of my writing.

I've been there and done it as far as tension, anxiety, and unsettled feelings go. I've been beating myself up a bit if I have gone home or missed a specific performance, fidgeted through a whole theatre show and struggled to relax, then equally done other things and felt absolutely fine. Sometimes I've also seen a band that I know for the first time in ages, and quite happily and confidently chatted to them, feeling better about doing it, than I have done all the other times I have seen them before.

But there are things I make sure I do every time I am planning to go out, so I thought I'd share a few with this post, in case they help anyone else who might need some coping mechanisms.

- Aisle Seats - if it's a theatre show these are always a must-have with me, even if I was with someone, I wouldn't want to be in the middle of a crowd, I just think it would be a bit claustrophobic. I also try and book in the sides of the theatre, sometimes the back, or maybe even the balcony, so I am a bit away from it all, and it's easier to relax.

- Try a 'practice visit' to a venue - this only really works for local venues, but I found going to something I wasn't that fussed about helped me to scope out different places, their vibe, and decide whether I would feel comfortable going to gigs there. It didn't 'matter' how long I was there for.

- Be prepared - I always make sure I have certain things with me, even if I never use them for weeks or months on end, I always feel better if I have a supply of mints, rescue remedy, tissues, water. It may seem like a simple thing, but it all counts for me.

- Don't be too early or too late - I always check timings before I go to an event, especially if I really want to see a specific act or band above all others. If it's a festival, I try and work out the time I most want to be there to get the best experience, but so I'm not trying to amuse myself hanging around too much waiting, or with nothing to do. I try and give a decent time to get ready, travel, and deal with any unsettled feelings, then go and enjoy as much as I can.

Anxiety and the way you deal with it always has it's critics, but equally people I know have said to me that I am doing things they wouldn't ever do on their own. I hope your gig going experiences are successful ones, and if you suffer with any kind of anxiety, you've found lots of ways of dealing with whatever comes your way. I have my first gig ticket booked for 2019, and can't wait to buy more and see what happens.




Monday, 24 December 2018

'Let's Decorate' - Daring Cardmakers Christmas Decoration Challenge

Happy Christmas Everybody!

As I type this it is Christmas Eve and I'm just enjoying some quiet creative time to myself, before all the Christmas fuss and mayhem kicks in. I noticed the Daring Cardmakers Challenge Blog had one more crafty challenge for this year, and couldn't resist showing one of my favourite decorative crafts this year.

I first tried out these origami star decorations last year, making a few to give to friends and presents. I really enjoyed making them up and decorating them, so thought I'd do a few sets this year. Unfortunately I can't find the source tutorial for them at the moment, but they are really easy to make, and there are so many options for paper/card combinations, and decorating the central circles that complete the star.

While easy to make, it was tricky sometimes getting exactly the same fold and finish on both sides of the star when making them up, and I did pick the wrong type of card once, which wasn't really meant for folding and scoring and looked a little bit scruffy/creased.

The only really difficult bit for me was when it came to punching the holes in the points of the stars for hanging; it just seemed impossible to position the hole punch exactly where I wanted it, to get a hole right in the middle. Then I thought I'd mastered it and did some perfect ones, then they went a bit wonky again. Luckily when the ribbon is threaded through and each star is decorated and finished you don't notice that at all.

I've inserted a few pictures of the different designs I made this year, I also decorated them on both sides, as I thought it would be nice if you could switch between a sentiment and a picture if you wanted to. I am planning some non-Christmas themed stars for next year, so I'll do a full project with one of those, or post on my Instagram feed, in the meantime thank you all for reading and supporting my blog in anyway this year, and see you all again in 2019!

All the best for Christmas and the New Year. http://www.instagram.com/thesecitydays

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Claudio Desideri - The Strangest - Music Review

I was looking for a work sample the other week and came across some of the music reviews I have had published in the past. So many different artists, and music ranging from indie rock to pure pop music. Ambient, ethereal music is not something I've come across much as a reviewer though, so I decided to challenge myself and review Claudio Desideri's first solo release 'The Strangest'.
Claudio has a background that includes tribute bands, and the new wave punk of Zephiro (worth checking out their very creatively shot music videos), and currently does beautiful things with his voice singing in a Queen tribute. That's quite a mixing pot of styles, and indicates a varied ability and musical taste, but no clues as to what a solo release would be like.

'The Strangest' is ambient and ethereal at it's core, with various effects employed to add to the atmosphere, tension running through the lyrics, and visuals in the music video. There's a quite quirky disco instrumental part, which on first listen didn't seem to quite fit with the song, but makes much more sense when you watch the video.


The repeated lyrics of "oooh ahhh, and if you wanna sing" have been stuck in my head since first listen, and overall the song is growing on me nicely.

The effort is clear in the accompanying music video (I wouldn't know where to start with something like that) with some well chosen shots, sharp movements to convey the message in the lyrics. There's enough to grab your attention early on, and keep it until the end. Sometimes it seemed to move a tiny bit too quick between shots, and the gestures could have been more relaxed, but these are tiny things that I'm sure I won't even notice in the next video.

Sometimes you come across singers, songwriters, and musicians that capture your interest, give you ideas of things you could imagine them writing, singing, and being great at, and Claudio is definitely one of those. While this song was more of a grower, and lacked some of the energy and emotion I've heard in his cover versions, the potential is there, and I look forward to hearing what comes next.

Download 'The Strangest' on all the usual download platforms now.
Check out future song teasers and more on Instagram.

Friday, 16 November 2018

A Gift From Woolworths Book Tour - Q&A with Elaine Everest

Something old, and something new for this blog post - thank you to everyone who has been reading my previous reviews of Elaine Everest's novels. I have really enjoyed reading them, and am currently making my way through the pages of the latest book in the Woolworth's Girls series, A Gift From Woolworths. So Elaine is not a new author to These City Days, but her blog tour is! It's an absolute pleasure to join in the fun, so a big thank you to Elaine and Faye Rogers, along with ED PR for organising this, and here is the Q&A I did as part of the tour.


1)Did you always see the Woolworth's books as a series, or did it evolve into one? How far do you feel you can take the theme?

The Woolworths Girls was originally meant to be a stand-alone book. I had a two-book contract with my publisher, Pan Macmillan, the second book being The Butlins Girls. However, readers took the characters and Woolies to their hearts and it became a series. At the time I did worry as I’d tied up all the plot lines and had to think what else I could throw at my girls. 

Woolworths closed its doors for the final time in 2008 and I do joke that I could write a book to cover every year from 1945… However, my publisher does have a very nice outline for a Woolies story set in 1947 when there is a wedding…

2) Any interesting tales to tell of where you found inspiration this time round, or when it struck?

This book takes us to the end of the war and beyond. I had to decide what would happen to my girls and their families. Would there be more babies or a death - perhaps a romance or two? I was tying up all lose ends for the time being while I focused on my new series of books. Along the way I started to think about Freda and her life and recalled how once, as a shy fifteen year old, I went on a date straight after a Girl Guide meeting trying unsuccessfully not to look as though I was wearing a uniform covered in badges with my hat stuffed in my handbag. It was perfect for poor Freda who also had to endure Scottish country dancing and her experiences with this was very much my own experience.



3) What were your earliest ideas for this book? 

I wrote an earlier saga (Gracie’s War – still available in libraries) set in the same area as the Woolworths books. I enjoyed writing the story so much I started to think about another. I knew it would be set in Erith in the war years, and I decided the house where I once lived would be a good base for my main character, who had moved to the town to live with her nan. I knew she would need a job, so in my head I imagined walking up the High Street and into Pier Road where I spotted good old Woolies. Straight away I recalled my first Saturday job in a nearby Woolworths store in the late sixties/early seventies and the memories came flooding back. It would be the perfect place for Sarah to work and have her romance. I’d not written any words when I was invited to meet my soon to be agent, Caroline Sheldon. Caroline liked the idea and the rest is history…

4) What gifts did you love to buy from Woolworths?

I would visit Erith Woolworths as a child with my pocket money to buy stationery for school as well as presents for my parents at Christmas. Calendars were a favourite purchase for gifts. My first bra came from Woolies, and as a teenager I would purchase Rimmel make up, long playing records from ‘sound alike’ singers, and trendy pale coloured tights. I’ve chatted often with my readers about Woolies memories and so many people can recall their first purchases and how much they miss the iconic store.

5) What are your essentials that you have to hand for a writing session?

Coffee! I need a mug to hand regardless of whether it has turned cold. My notes containing the names of my characters - I’d forget my own name if it wasn’t written down. I have to have noise around me, as I cannot write in silence. However, it cannot be music as I then I have to stop writing to search for the right tunes. My favourite white noise is daytime TV. It is meaningless but fills the room. However, I have to change channel when Jeremy Kyle comes on, or I find myself shouting at him!

6) Apart from Woolworths and Butlins, what other British icons would make a good setting for a novel?

I’ve just written a new series set in the iconic Lyons Teashops. My stories will be set in Kent like my other books, and I really hope my readers enjoy meeting Rose, Lily, Katie and their friends. We revisit WW2 where Ramsgate suffered greatly during air raids and also played a prominent part in the evacuation of Dunkirk. Ramsgate too played s big part in my childhood where I have pleasant memories of childhood holidays. 

7) How do you find social media as a promotional tool to promote your novels and interact with readers, and other authors?

Social media plays a big part in an author’s life. Fortunately my books can also be found in supermarkets and bookshops, but with online suppliers being so popular I can use my online presence to chat about and link to my books. I do join in with book promotions like the Tuesday campaign by the Romantic Novelist Association, The Saturday Saga campaign by friends in a private group of saga authors and also a Friday campaign on a saga readers group on Facebook. This is where I can chat with readers about everything saga. I also have a Facebook page for my books. ‘Elaine Everest Author’ is where I run competitions and give out news to my followers and readers. Authors also have a healthy relationship with book reviewers and bloggers where we can again chat about books and share news.

8) How did you transition from writing short stories to a full novel?

It is two different hats. I’ve written in excess of eighty short stories, as it was a big part of my working life as a jobbing author before I concentrated more on novels. I find I can switch easily from short to long fiction and also non-fiction as I’ve been doing this for over twenty-one years. However, both forms of fiction need to have conflict and a good ending to keep readers interested. I’ve recently written a short story for My Weekly magazine called The Last Saturday Girl which is set in Woolworths just as they closed in 2008. It will run at the end of November and include a competition to win copies of  A Gift From Woolworths. 

9) If the Woolworths Girls were on Twitter, how would they describe their lives? 

That would be interesting!

Sarah: Loving mother and devoted wife, who dreams of roses round the door and her husband home safe from war.
Freda: Fun loving single girl looking for the right guy!
Maisie: Earth mother who can turn a rag into a couture gown and loves a good laugh.

Thank you for your most interesting questions

Elaine
xx



Thanks again to Elaine for her insight, and do check out the other lovely blogs taking part in the tour, there's some great interviews and reviews out there! 

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