Thursday, 13 June 2013

Ten Songs: A Guest Post by Lewis

Back when I started this little blog I wanted to do a little feature every two weeks called Ten Songs. It would be a mix of tunes and songs I had heard in the week that inspired me or that I had discovered or rediscovered, whatever took my fancy really. I also wanted it to be a platform for guest bloggers to share their musical gems and for us to all discover some new tunes together. 

I managed to get the first list up in the first post here but I am a slow starter with this blogging thing and it's taken me a while to get this great post from Lewis up on the blog. He very kindly wrote it ages ago and has very patiently been waiting for me to unleash it. So many thanks and over to you Lewis.

Hello there. I’m rather flattered to have been asked to write a guest post over here. Mine will be the first in a series of #10songs posts in this little portion of internet.

So, ten songs which mean something to me, with a line to explain why. Easy, right? No. Not really. I’ve been thinking about which songs I want to include for days now, and I’m no closer to feeling like I’m going to choose the right ones.

Well, I can’t procrastinate forever (well, I could, I’m actually VERY good at procrastinating) so I’m going to go for the songs which are right today, even though many of them may not make the list if I wrote it tomorrow.

The songs:

1. The Stranglers – Peaches 
You probably remember a time when car stereos only had tape decks, right? When I was growing up, my dad’s car had a bad combination: a tape deck AND a tiny glove box. Which meant listening to the same tape over and over and over again on long journeys. At least my dad had some taste. Peaches is a great tune, marred a little bit by one of the worst “oh fuck, we’ve run out of rhymes” lines ever recorded. If you know the song, you’ll know the one I mean.

2. The Specials – A Message to You, Rudy
My mum likes ska. I’m glad, because it rubbed off on me, and ska is ace. This particular song reminds me of being in the house where I grew up, singing along in the living room, with my mum. Happy childhood memories, with a fantastic trigger.

3. The Offspring – Smash 
When you’re young, but you’ve reached the age where you think you already know everything, somewhere around thirteen I guess, music suddenly becomes more than just music, doesn’t it? It becomes a way to identify yourself as part of something, or not part of something. When most people at my school were practically orgasming over whatever yawnsome dirge Oasis had just released I was quite pleased to be introduced to a bit of American punk-pop. Smash was fucking brilliant, precisely because it wasn’t being played all day on Radio 1, and because most people in my town hadn’t heard of The Offspring yet (that would come later – Pretty Fly for a White Guy anybody?) Yes, I was one of those people who only liked the bands other people didn’t know about. I’m less of a prick now, honest.

4. Nirvana – Something in the Way 
More teenage angst here. A friend from America who I knew I wouldn’t see for a decade, a skinful of White Lightning, a school playing field, and an acoustic guitar rendition of this Nirvana song.

5. Incubus – Summer Romance 
Nu (ack) Metal for people who didn’t really want to like Nu Metal, in my opinion; Incubus were my favourite band for years. A love song in the middle of a riff-filled album appealed to me enormously. But, more than anything, Incubus made me realise I loved singing. I’ll never be Brandon Boyd (pity), but I’ll always love belting out his lyrics.

6. The Mars Volta – Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt 
It could almost be any of their songs, at least from this album. Irresistible, audible, energy. Coincided with me going to university, and therefore a new period of wanting to define myself as “other”. Yep, still a twat…

7. Buck 65 – Roses and Bluejays 
Played at the best gig I’ve ever been to, an audience of about twenty in a room designed for over two hundred. Me and one of my longest standing friends. High as a kite. Brilliant.

8. Flight of the Conchords – Robots
Most “funny” songs aren’t. This one is. All of the FotC songs remind me of that nice, settled, but still largely free of responsibility, period before shit gets serious. It’s an important time to be able to remember.

9. Cat Empire – Two Shoes
The song me and my wife walked out of our wedding ceremony
to. Relentlessly optimistic and uplifting, I listen to this song every time I need to remind myself that despite all the shit things that can happen in life, I’ve got it pretty good.

10. The Moldau
A little out of place this one? Yep. When Cam was born, some friends of ours gave us a CD of lullabies. This piece of classical music is one of the tracks on the CD, which became a firm part of our bedtime routine. Also our re-settling him in the night routine. I think it’s beautiful. If I’d heard it before Cam was born I’d have liked it, but it is now completely interwoven with my early memories of my son. I get a lump in my throat whenever I hear it, because I think of the tiny, fragile version of Cam I was holding when I first heard it. This is currently a bit awkward, as it’s being used in a TV advert for Guinness, which is not a beverage which moves me to tears.

Well then. There we go. I was asked for a line about each song and I’ve accidentally written a short essay. Still, that’s what music does for you, isn’t it? It’s more than just a collection of notes, it’s a carrier of thoughts, memories and emotions. It’s who we think we are, and who we’d like to be, at the same time.

Thanks to Sharmila for inviting me over, hope I haven’t outstayed my welcome, I look forward to reading other people’s #10song lists in the future :-)

*toddles off to Spotify*

Thanks so much to Lewis for giving us a little insight into his life's musical adventures. You can follow his excellent and very funny blog here and find him on Twitter under @babberblog. He is a pretty ace chap, you'll like him. 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

A new addition to the family

Yes that's right. We are expecting another new addition to our family.

And I am not talking about Baby Number 2.

We are getting an au pair. WHAT??? Yes that's right an au pair. Pass the Guardian and that bowl of Quinoa salad please.

Now I don't know about you but I always imagined that people with au pairs are the kind of people that drive gas guzzling 4x4s (that never see even a speck of mud let alone cow shit, unless they are off to their second home in Cornwall), wear matching deck shoes, chinos and popped collars and are friends with David Cameron. In other words posh, rich people.

Look very carefully. We are NOT in this picture.

Well we don't own our own house or even a car and neither of us have ever worn chinos. I am certainly no friend of David Cameron, I vote Green. And we definitely aren't financially rich. That's not to say that we aren't doing okay. After years of the usual mix of crap and good jobs we have got to a place were we are comfortably off and happy with our lot.

So how did this all come about? How did we, of all people, decide that an au pair was the right thing for our family, or at least something we wanted to try.

It all started with the painful search for affordable, flexible childcare.

We currently have a lovely childminder but she's moving far far away at the end of June so we had to start the search all over again. I looked at nurseries and childminders but here in Bristol it seems that you have to sign your baby up when it's still in utero to get in to a good place!

Another important factor in our decision was my work as holistic massage therapist, which I love. I have been struggling to build my client base as I have to turn people away if they can't come on a Thursday (when L is at the childminder) or a Saturday morning (when Ingo looks after her). This isn't good for business or family life at the weekends. I decided that we had to find something more flexible so that I could accept clients on any day at any time.

My parents live and work in France running a B&B and Ingo's Mum lives in Germany so there's no quick fix there. I don't think you can babysit via Skype...

Back in March I went out for my birthday to the wonderful Bishopston Supper Club (could I sound any more middle class - might as well embrace it right?) and remembered meeting a couple who were treating their German au pair to a lovely meal and night out to say thanks before she left. I remember thinking "they don't seem like the sort of people who would have an au pair." I managed to get in touch with them as they live round the corner from us and we met up and had a long, honest chat about what it was like to have an au pair and how they went about finding one. I was reassured to see that they were a family very similar to us and that they didn't live in a mansion. There was however a 4x4 parked out the front. I didn't ask if it was theirs.

Well I was converted. We are lucky enough to live in a big house with a big spare room that our parents contribute a little to so that they can stay for a couple of weeks at a time a few times a year without us all driving each other mad. The room is empty most of the time and it make sense to use it properly as it seems a bit of a waste at the moment.

And what about having to be rich, surely it costs loads? Well here's the thing. An au pair works out far cheaper than any nursery or childminder. Most people I know pay anywhere between £45-£80 per day for a childminder or nursery place. We currently pay £55 for 8 hours of childcare on a Thursday and of course it means that I can only work on that day... it appears that not many people want a massage on a Thursday. We are offering our au pair £65 per week pocket money, board and lodgings in return for help with looking after L when we need it, babysitting occasionally and here's the best bit... help with the cleaning and sometimes cooking.

I hate cleaning so much I get my toddler to do it for me
So that's about 25 hours per week of childcare and help, giving me the flexibility I need to pursue a career I love and to finally bring to fruition some creative, work projects that have been ripening nicely in my many notebooks and sketchbooks.

It's not just about childcare. L is half German and we really wanted to bring her up bilingually (that's a whole post waiting to happen) so that she can speak to her Oma who doesn't speak any English. It's also a pretty awesome thing to be able to speak other languages and according to studies it's easier for people to learn languages if they already speak more than one from birth. The reality of that isn't as easy as you would think as Ingo only spends about 2 hours a day with her and the rest of the time she is with me babbling away in English.

L and her lovely German Oma
I couldn't speak my Granny's language and I regret it to this day
An au pair becomes part of your family, they aren't just someone you palm your baby off on to (although there are people that do this) so it is a really big step for us and if we didn't have this house I don't think we could do it. It's not for everyone as you are opening up your home and your lives to a relative stranger. We have a track record of doing this on a very small scale as we are veteran couch surfers (both hosts and surfers) so in some ways this is an extreme version with mutual benefits all round. I am really excited about it, for us it just seems to be the perfect solution.

What do you think? Could you welcome a stranger into your family. What do you think about effectively buying in a 'member of the family'? Does this mean I have to wear chinos and buy a 4x4?

Welcome to our family