working-class-skeletons said: Thank you for making that post about how to survive freshers. I'm moving to uni on Saturday and I'm terrified of meeting new people and clubbing and all that as I'm very shy, but your post has made me feel a bit better about things. So yes, thank you for showing me that shy people can survive at uni :) x
It’s no problem! Glad it’s helped someone :) x
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Aka my guide to getting through the most mental and chaotic part of your time at university for the quiet and shy.
So you’ve got your place at university, and you can’t wait to start! You’ve been waiting for this day for a long, long time and it’s finally here.
But at the same time, you’re so, so nervous about it - you have to meet lots of new people, and make new friends and it’s all so unfamiliar. You had friends at school, but it took a long time for you to make them, and you haven’t had to start from scratch with regard to friendships for a long time. It is all very daunting, especially if you’re not into clubbing and drinking, which unfortunately are the centre of the university experience for so many students.
So as a shy and quiet person, and someone who was definitely not interested in drinking and clubbing, here is my (hopefully helpful) guide to surviving Freshers’, and first year in general.
If you can, try to find your flatmates on Facebook beforehand. Not that it’s going to mean that you’ll be bosom buddies for the year (more on that later), but it helps to know who you’ll be living with so you have an idea what kind of environment it’ll be.
The friends that you make during Freshers’ will not, or are highly unlikely to, be your friends for the whole of university. You’ll have heard this many times already, but it is true. When I started university it took a few days but suddenly I had this massive group of “friends” and I was determined not to let it be the truth that you tend to drift apart afterwards, but it happened. It took longer with some people than with others, but you eventually realize that you actually didn’t have that much in common with a lot of those people - you just happened to be thrown together in halls or whatever and as everyone just wants to make friends at that point, everyone talks to anyone but it is not a good basis for a long term friendship. It will take you longer to find people you really get on well with and can sustain friendships with. Out of all the people I felt like I was good friends with during Freshers’, I can say I’m only still close to 2 or 3 of them now. And there were a lot of people I made “friends” with. It’s nothing personal; it’s just something that happens. My closest friends are now the friends I made on my course and although it took longer to make friends with them I’m so glad I did because I get on better with them than I did with most of the people I was “friends” with before.
If you don’t get on with the people you’re living with, don’t take that personally either. A lot of people found it weird that I didn’t get on well at all with my flatmates because they all got on so well with theirs. Really though, when you think about it, you are allocated your room at random - yes, you put down that you have certain preferences, but you don’t choose who you end up living with, the university computer system does that, so really it’s odd that people often end up getting on so well with who they’re put with and not the other way round. My flatmates were quite a mixed bunch and a weird combination of people to put together - I knew, for instance, that I wouldn’t get on with Mark* when he posted in our group conversation on Facebook “so who’s up for drinking then??”. I knew I wouldn’t get on with Penny* when she didn’t really try to make conversation with me even when I tried to make conversation with her. Rebecca* reminded me of the kind of people who would have laughed and made fun of me at high school and I found her intimidating, plus she played her music ridiculously loud whilst I was trying to work. On a few occasions she arrived back from nights out at 3am and didn’t exactly try not to wake others up. Alex* seemed very nice at first but became clingy and developed a crush on me and after that declaration of love two weeks in we didn’t really speak for the rest of the year. Remember that you only have to live with them for a year, and you can get out and meet other people through your course or through societies & sports teams.
As you have to share communal areas with these people, make sure you do communicate with each other about cleaning and things like that though, because otherwise you end up living in horrible conditions. We didn’t and I regret not sorting that out straight away with them and it caused many a dispute over the course of the year and made living in the flat quite miserable at times for me.
Of course, the likelihood is that you’ll get on with at least one of the people you’re living with, in which case good for you and all of this advice is unnecessary.
Don’t get worried if you haven’t found someone to live with straight away. I thought I had, and then it all fell through in spectacular style - the people I was going to be living with had been looking at houses behind my back and had decided that, as they put it, ”you would be better off living with other people who you have more in common with”. I was really, really hurt and upset by it all, because up until that point everything had been going swimmingly at university, but eventually realized that they were right - they were fans of drinking and clubbing, and I was not. I wouldn’t have appreciated being woken up at ridiculous hours of the night by them coming back in from nights out. We were running out of things to talk about because we just didn’t share that many interests. I will be living with one of them next year but we do have very similar taste in music, books, films etc. and our courses are very similar so we get on really well. You will find someone to live with, and if you don’t find people to live with in a house, you can apply to live in private halls’ with other people who were in a similar situation to you. If you’re worried about not finding a house, relax - there are always more houses than there are students to fill them wherever you’re living. (London may be a bit different but I have no experience of that)
Get stuck in with the studying as soon as you can. Yes, it’s only first year; yes, you’ve got everything to do with Freshers’ and it is a completely weird and mad time, but if you start as soon as possible, it’ll take the pressure off for later on. I wish I had done but I didn’t and then ended up getting ridiculously stressed during exam time (as well as having some other crap things going on mentally) and struggled. In the end I came out with good results but could have saved myself a lot of stress and anxiety by starting earlier. Remember that even though everything else is going on you are at university to study, and you’re spending a lot of money on your degree course, so to not work as hard as possible is a bit pointless and makes it a waste of your time and money. You don’t want to come out with a rubbish degree classification because you didn’t work hard enough. Having said that in first year at least it’s easy enough to pass things as long as you do a bit of work, and for most courses first year doesn’t count towards the final degree mark, but still, it’s good practice for 2nd year and afterwards when things actually do count to work as hard as you can in 1st year. It also means you know how well you can do if you put in the effort.
Don’t feel under any pressure to do things that you don’t want to. People may make you feel like a complete bore for not wanting to get drunk and go out all of the time, like some have made me feel at times - don’t listen to them. An annoying thing about university is that most people like clubbing and drinking which is fair enough but these people can’t seem to respect that not everybody does like them which pisses me off no end. If your friends tell you that they think you’re being boring or sad for not going out with them or not drinking, ditch them and find some other friends. I tried the whole drinking and clubbing thing in the first term to stay “in” with the group of friends I had and realized afterwards that I actually didn’t like it and could save a lot of money by staying in, and I’d enjoy myself a lot more if I did that. So instead of going out on Friday nights like everyone else, my boyfriend and I would stay in and watch a film or something.
Again, fair enough if you do end up liking it. But don’t make others feel like there’s something wrong with them because they don’t.
If you feel like you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to get help. I began to feel a bit like anxious and paranoid thoughts were taking over my brain sometime after Christmas and registered for the university counselling service. No-one needed to know unless I told them. I had two appointments and alright, I didn’t get on with the counsellor I was assigned to, but I’m thinking of going back in September and will ask to see someone else. The service is there because you’re not the only person who’s ever felt like that at university or indeed at all and it’s there to help you.
I think that’s all I can think of for now. I hope this is of use to someone. Feel free to ask me stuff about it if you want.
*names changed in case either of them read this, not that they would care that much I suppose as I no longer live with them
I’m talking about romantic love here. Can it be described accurately? I don’t think so. I don’t think you can know what love is until you experience it yourself. How contradictory is that? No-one can describe this feeling, yet when you feel it, you know. My God, do you know.
In my experience, it’s wanting to be with that person for as much of your time as possible. You miss them when they’re not there, even if you saw them the previous day and will be seeing them later that day. They become your closest friend and the person you want to share everything good in your life with, and everything bad so that they can help you through it. You never feel happier than when you’re with them.
Falling in love - I think there’s a reason why the verb “falling” is used to describe it. To me, it felt like I was freefalling and unable to stop or see the ground. It started to happen slowly. There’s always a point in a relationship when you know that you like someone an awful lot, but you wouldn’t be able to say that you loved them. I couldn’t tell you when the shift happened, but I know that at some point between Christmas and mid-February, it did. We hadn’t seen each other for a month and yet after a whole week of spending as much time as possible together, I didn’t see him for a few hours and I missed him more than I’d ever missed him before. I suppose at first I didn’t realize that that was what the start of falling in love was.
You begin to realize that your life would be pretty empty without them. If things finished, you’d be absolutely devastated. You weren’t thinking these things before, so why now? What’s different? Why are you so worried about losing them all of a sudden despite there being no indication that you will anytime soon?
And then one day when you’re just sat talking, not really doing anything, or lying in bed, or whatever, you look at them and suddenly the thought pops into your head: “I think I might love this person”. But you’re not entirely sure, and you don’t want to say it because…well, what if they aren’t thinking it? How upset would you be then? Answer: very. Don’t ruin things yet. Keep it to yourself.
Slowly, slowly that thought runs through your head more and more often but still you can’t find the courage to say it. And realizing that you might love them and how much is at stake if things go wrong…it’s utterly terrifying. It messes with your head. Some cope better with it than others. Regardless of who you are, it’s always a massive, massive thing.
And all the while you’re just there thinking “oh my God I can’t believe this is actually happening” and trying to process everything. It makes you feel vulnerable and frightened.
One day, something bad might happen. Something like, them feeling a bit ill and saying they don’t want to see you later on like they normally would, and then not giving you a goodbye kiss. And then all of a sudden it hits you that you need this person in your life, and everything may be ruined. You want to just blurt out all of these things about how you love them and how much they mean to you more than ever before, but you don’t think there’d be any point, because what if that’s it? And how would they respond to it?
Thankfully everything ends up being OK. And soon enough, you’re once again not really doing anything, just lying in bed, and love ends up being the subject of conversation. “Do you think it’s love then?” “Yes. Yes I do. I love you.” And they’ve said it before you did. You feel such relief that they feel the same way that all of that anxiety about everything melts away and is replaced by this indescribably brilliant feeling.
Does love always last? No. That doesn’t mean it isn’t love. People change and feelings do too, and no-one knows what will happen in the future, but once again, when you have felt love for another human being, you just know. And looking back over this post, I don’t feel like I have described it adequately enough. The full magnitude of the feeling cannot be expressed in words. It’s too big; too powerful for it.
Maybe that is why love is the thing that we all seek to find, sooner or later in our lives.
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Or rather, about 4 months of them. Seeing as I didn’t see any live music until the first weekend of September, which was when Bingley Music Live happened.
2nd-4th September - Bingley Music Live
Alright. I’m not going to lie, I bought a ticket for this purely because Maximo Park headlined the Saturday night. They were one of my favourite bands a couple of years ago, and I’d always wanted to see them live. They didn’t disappoint - it was my barrier induction, and they were the best band of the weekend by a long way for me. Paul Smith is a fabulous frontman, and we were all a little bit in love with him for a while after that night. I still knew all of the words despite not having listened to the band properly for a while, and left the barrier that night on a massive high. No other band really compared that weekend, although I did buy Mystery Jets’ album afterwards and quite enjoyed their performance.
17th September - The Bluetones, O2 Academy, Leeds
I entered this gig a casual fan and left with another band to add to my list of favourite bands, and a new frontman to add to my list of favourite frontmen. I think I place a lot of emotional significance on this night because it was my last night at home before moving to uni the next day, and I actually put off moving to uni because I had tickets for this gig. They were much better than I expected them to be, and I even found myself singing along to the songs I’d never heard before. It was the first time I’d come out of a gig with my ears ringing, and I felt proud when my friend Josie, whose first gig it was, said that she hadn’t realised it would be that good and she could understand why I like going to gigs so much. The best part of the night? Mark Morriss waving at me (I like to think he was, please don’t shatter my illusions if you were there) during Unpainted Arizona!
22nd September - The Bluetones, O2 Academy, Birmingham
I bought a ticket for this on a whim the day before as I knew it was the band’s farewell tour and couldn’t bear the thought of never seeing them live again. After a bit of a panic about getting there which ended with me dropping my change everywhere when I collected my ticket and collapsing onto the barrier and being asked if I was alright by a couple stood nearby, I had a good night. The gig wasn’t as emotionally intense as the Leeds gig, but I don’t regret going at all.
25th September - Echo & the Bunnymen, Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Bit of a weird one this - it was my first seated gig and the first time I’d been to a gig with my dad, who was an Echo fan in the 80s and saw them live then. He hadn’t originally been coming with me - I would have gone on my own, but my mum insisted on him travelling down to Birmingham to come with me because going to a gig on your own is “sad”, apparently. It was a bit surprising to get a text from him the next day saying “thank you for coming to the gig with me!” But that’s testament to how good they were live - Ocean Rain accompanied by strings sounded wonderful in a proper concert hall,and Ian McCulloch was hilarious (when we could actually tell what he was saying). It was marred a bit by me being convinced that I’d lost my purse only to find it on my desk back in my room at university, but a good evening nonetheless.
13th October - The Joy Formidable, HMV Institute, Birmingham
This was the cheapest of the gigs, and the first time I’d met up with people I’d conversed with online to go to a gig. TJF and their support bands were really LOUD and my ears were somewhat fragile for a few days afterwards (not helped by ending up near the speakers at Gatecrasher the next night, admittedly). They sounded good, the venue was good, and the company was also good. I’d see them live again.
4th November - Arctic Monkeys, LG Arena, Birmingham
My first arena gig, and although I enjoyed it, there was something lacking. Arctic Monkeys were my first ever favourite band, way back when I was about 14 and Whatever People Say I Am… and Favourite Worst Nightmare were the only albums I listened to for a while. I’m glad I finally got to see them live (or rather hear them from behind some rather tall people). We tried and failed to start a Yorkshire chant. I enjoyed the songs from the first two albums more than the ones from Humbug & Suck It and See. I dread to think what was in my hair afterwards, but it did not feel good. While I still like the band, I just didn’t feel like it had been a fantastic gig.
18th November - Death Cab For Cutie, Ballroom, Birmingham
I’d bought a ticket for this after meeting someone and informing him about the gig, only for us to become a couple not long afterwards. It was his first gig and I couldn’t let him go on his own. I’d listened to Death Cab and liked what I’d heard, and I normally enjoy gigs regardless, so I went along. They were much better than I expected - very big sounding: I Will Possess Your Heart sounded massive. I found myself welling up during I Will Follow You Into the Dark, something that’s never happened before at a gig, or happened since, for that matter. It was definitely one of the better gigs I’ve been to this year, and again I felt proud for having taken someone to their first gig and seen how much they’d enjoyed it. Would I see them again? Definitely. I don’t normally enjoy seeing bands live when I don’t know the songs well but that night was an exception.
24th November - Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls, O2 Academy, Birmingham
Out of all the gigs I had tickets to these past few months, this was the one I’d been looking forward to most and I was definitely not disappointed. Frank Turner is one amazing live performer - the way he got the whole crowd to sing along during closing song Photosynthesis was wonderful. The only niggle I had was during acoustic song Nights Become Days, one of my favourites on latest album England Keep My Bones, when the amount of muttering in the background began to really annoy me. Apart from that, it was perfect, and meeting the man himself after the gig made it even better. I was still on a massive high the day before and made it to lectures in half the amount of time it usually takes me. I can’t wait until he does another small venues tour and I can see him live again. I think I might even drag my parents along next time.
6th December - Kasabian, National Indoor Arena, Birmingham
Don’t get me wrong, Kasabian sounded fantastic, and Tom Meighan and Serge Pizzorno are very entertaining live performers, but there was something lacking. I just hadn’t been up for it really to be fair - I had a bit of hassle with the ticket delivery and thought I might not end up going, and I hadn’t listened to the new album before the gig at all. I was right on the barrier but found the experience a bit unpleasant because I wasn’t getting into it properly. While waiting for a taxi outside the venue afterwards I started shaking because it was cold and I was very scared (but I got a nice taxi driver who directed me to where he was by phone). It just wasn’t a night I particularly enjoyed, but I would see Kasabian again, if someone would come with me. I wouldn’t normally mind being on my own but for some reason (possibly because it was in an arena) I did that night.
17/12/2011 - Manic Street Preachers, O2 Arena, London
Here was the big one. The Manics have been my favourite band for about the past 18 months or so, and last time I’d seen them live, I’d felt miserable for weeks afterwards because nothing compared to how good that night had been. In the few months before the gig, my obsession had begun to fade a little bit, and I was a bit sceptical about how good the gig would be because I’d decided I didn’t like arenas that much at all, plus I knew it would cost a lot for the whole weekend (transport to London, accommodation, tube fares etc.). Would it be worth it?
The answer is: yes. Every single penny.
I love the Manics even more now than I did during my most obsessed phase, if that is even possible. The whole night was just perfect - I sang along to every song and came out hoarse; Nicky Wire - my hero - was only a few metres in front of me (and he got his legs out in the second half when he changed into a dress!!); Nina Persson, another musician I admire greatly, joined them onstage and sounded brilliant live…it was the best night of my life so far (I’ve noticed a recurring theme - most of the best nights of my life involve live music in some way). The only things that could have made it better were a certain someone being there with me, or meeting the band afterwards. They pulled it off; I needn’t have worried.
Of course, it wasn’t just the band that made it such an amazing night - I met and/or spent time with some truly wonderful and fantastic people that weekend who I wouldn’t know if I hadn’t become a fan of the Manics. I have so much to thank that band for.
So, my top 10 (well, only 10) gigs of 2011 rank as follows:
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Wow, I haven’t made a post on this blog in a while. I kind of ran out of ideas for what to post about, and almost forgot that this blog existed entirely.
Over the past month, some rather post-worthy things have happened to me. One was moving to university and everything that’s happened as a result. The other was…a band. The band in the picture. The Bluetones.
Before you say anything here, the Manics are still my favourite band, ever. They occupy a very large space in my heart. They were the first band I ever fell completely and utterly head over heels in love with, and I’ll probably never fall quite as hard for a band again. And I could never stop loving the Manics. Once they get under your skin it’s extremely difficult to dislodge them again.
But recently, the Manics have had to make a little bit of room in my heart for The Bluetones. How long this is going to last, I don’t know, but I think it’ll be quite a while. It’s not quite a Manics-esque obsession but it’s a rather sizeable one nonetheless.
First, a brief history. The Bluetones formed in 1993. Brothers Mark (vocals and sometimes guitar) and Scott Morriss (bass); Adam Devlin (guitar) and Eds Chesters (drums) make up the band. They also had a keyboardist, Richard Payne (who also played keyboards for Dodgy) for a few years (1998-2002) until he moved to Australia. They released two singles on a label called Fierce Panda Records before being signed to A&M Records, who put out their debut album, Expecting To Fly, on the band’s own sub-label, Superior Quality Recordings, which reached number one in the UK charts. Their biggest song was Slight Return (you’ll probably have heard it before, without knowing who it was) which narrowly missed out on the number one spot. A second album, Return to the Last Chance Saloon, was released in 1998, with a stand-alone single, Marblehead Johnson, released in between albums. This album was nowhere near as successful as their debut, but still reached the top 10, as did their third effort, Science & Nature, released in 2000. Following this, the band parted company with A&M Records and released their music through their own label.
A fourth album, Luxembourg, was released in 2002, entering the chart at 49. Subsequent album The Bluetones reached 100. By the time 6th album A New Athens was released, The Bluetones had been forgotten about by the general public and the album failed to chart, although it did reach 21 in the UK Indie chart. After this, the band decided to call it a day and announced a farewell tour for September 2011. This is where my involvement with the band starts.
I was having a browse through my recommended events on last.fm and one suggested event was the date on their farewell tour at the Cockpit in Leeds. I thought, I’ve never really listened to them, but they’re splitting up - what if I get into them later and love them and it’s too late? I listened to a few songs (including Slight Return) and thought, ah, they’re alright, it’ll be a decent night out. I persuaded a friend to come with me to see them, and we bought tickets.
I purchased their first three albums over the next few months but apart from Sleazy Bed Track and Slight Return, nothing really grabbed me as such, and as a result I didn’t really set out to listen to them properly. By the time of the gig I still hadn’t, really. We turned up at the O2 Academy (a venue upgrade was required due to popular demand) an hour early to maximise our chances of getting a place on the barrier, only to find no-one else queueing up. 30 minutes and a couple of drinks in O’Neill’s down the road later, and we went back to find about 10 other people outside the venue. In we went. Plenty of space on the barrier.
I won’t say anything about the support act - they’re irrelevant really, although they were nice to listen to. As it got nearer to the band’s onstage time of 8:45, I was still unsure as to whether the night would be worth it or not. I had, after all, put off moving to university for a day because of this gig. Would it be worth what I missed out on?
The band came on to the Walker Brothers’ Make It Easy on Yourself, and they just looked like normal blokes in normal clothes. Nothing like the Manics gig; no glitter or leopard print or sailor hats or sunglasses. And then the music started - things kicked off rather brilliantly with Unpainted Arizona which was a fantastic choice for an opener (it’s the second track on Return to the Last Chance Saloon, after the Tone Blooze intro). I instantly fell in love with Mark Morriss, just after he waved at me (I like to think he was waving at me because he was looking directly at me) during this first song. He didn’t stay still for the whole gig, not even when he played acoustic guitar in a few songs. He was such an entertaining frontman, and seemed like a real sweetheart. And his voice sounded brilliant live. I’ve seen it described as “twee” before and yes, he does sing in a high pitch for a man (and a man who smokes), but in the right context, his is one of the best live voices I’ve heard. The night got better and better as it went on and I don’t think there was a duff song in the setlist. I even really enjoyed the songs that I didn’t know (of which there were quite a few as I didn’t own the last three albums at the time). I got to hear Sleazy Bed Track live, which is one of my favourite songs ever.
During the first encore, the gig reached its euphoric peak with the glorious climax of If…. Once the band had gone off (although we all knew they’d be back again for another couple of songs), the whole crowd was just there singing “na, na na na na, na na na na na, na na na na na, na na na na, na na na na, na na na na” (listen to the song and you’ll understand) and there was just something about that moment that made me think “I don’t want this to end”. They came back in dressing gowns, and Mark quipped that they should have been in a jacuzzi bath at that moment, but they’d come out to give us some more songs. The night ended fittingly with an emotional rendition of A Parting Gesture. And then they were off - the lights came back on.
Me and Josie, who’d come with me, left the barrier once the bulk of the crowd had dispersed, and found some sofas and just collapsed into them. Our ears were ringing, we ached from standing up for so long, but we were both too happy to care. Both of us were just sat there going “I’M IN LOVE WITH MARK!!!!!” and it appears I may have converted someone to gig-going - she hadn’t realised how good it was going to be. But to be honest, neither had I. Which made it even better. It was the most intense gig experience I’ve ever had. To be fair I haven’t been to that many gigs yet, but it might even have been more intense than my first Manics gig, and that was REALLY intense. And at the same time I felt really sad because I thought that this would be the last time I’d ever see them live.
The next day, I moved to Birmingham for university. Coincidentally, The Bluetones were performing their penultimate UK gig at the O2 Academy the following Thursday. It would have been their last ever UK gig but “popular demand” lead them to announce a second date at Shepherd’s Bush Empire the week after. After much deliberating as to whether I should go or not, I purchased a ticket for the gig the day before before I could change my mind again. It was terrifying trying to get across Birmingham city centre to the O2 and I ended up running most of the way. By the time I got to the venue I was shaking and breathless, and dropped my change everywhere when I collected my ticket from the box office. There was still plenty of space on the barrier so I went and grabbed my place, and leaned there while trying to get my breath back. A couple nearby asked if I was alright and I got talking to them. It was their fourth time seeing the band and they seemed impressed that I’d heard of them.
The gig in Birmingham wasn’t as intense as the gig in Leeds. I didn’t come out with my ears ringing and I didn’t feel quite as euphoric at the end (Mark incorporating Love Train into the coda of If… was a stroke of genius though) and rather than singing the coda of If… the crowd were shouting “Bluuueee-tones” which didn’t sound as good. Still, I did have a brilliant time and am glad I went. After how good Leeds was, I wouldn’t have missed it for anything (well, if I hadn’t been able to afford it maybe I would have done, but you know what I mean).
Something Mark Morriss said during the gig stuck with me. It was during the final encore - “I tell you one thing I won’t miss. I won’t miss people asking me “didn’t you used to be in The Bluetones?” and having to explain everything. Actually, we still exist and yeah, we’re doing alright…now I can just say yes.” After what I’d seen and heard at the two gigs, I realised just how sad that was. Here were this band - more than competent lyrically and musically, a fantastic live band and lovely people to boot - who, apart from one song (and there were jokes about how some people had probably come to the gig just to hear Slight Return), didn’t really achieve that much recognition for their work. They should have been so much bigger than they were.
They were classed as “Britpop” when they first arrived on the scene, and while that’s true in the sense that they were a British band making pop music, they didn’t sound like the classic “Britpop” bands (Blur, Suede, Oasis, Elastica et al). They were forever associated with “Britpop” however and after its demise it seems that it became rather unfashionable to like The Bluetones.
Look, I admit that I find some of their music slightly cheesy. But it’s good cheesy. And actually, within the well-written guitar pop melodies, are hidden some pretty dark and witty lyrics. Solomon Bites the Worm is a clever re-imagining of the classic poem Solomon Grundy. Never Going Nowhere contains the line “I don’t love you anymore” but is still stupidly bouncy and upbeat. Keep the Home Fires Burning should be a sad song given the lyrics, but it isn’t. Mark Morriss is an incredibly underrated lyricist.
After seeing this band live, I have a new found respect and admiration for them, and appreciate their music so much more. The way they continued to churn out music - and good music at that - for a very small dedicated following for years before calling it a day is pretty admirable, don’t you think? Most bands would have given up long before this lot did. Obviously some are better than others, but none of their albums are bad (I haven’t got A New Athens yet, but I’m going to assume that it’s not).
Give this band a chance. I don’t think you’ll regret it. It’s too late to see them live now, but Mark does tour on his own quite a bit and performs Bluetones’ material at his solo gigs.
My recommended Bluetones playlist:
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As I sit here writing this, I have on the Forever Delayed DVD. I got that for Christmas this year. It was around this time last year that I heard Motorcycle Emptiness for the first time, and it stuck in my head for ages afterwards. I’ve never loved a band quite like I love the Manics, and it’s hard to believe that I’ve only been a fully-fledged fan for almost a year - it feels like I’ve known them my whole life. Actually, I kind of have. Let me track my journey to becoming a Manic Street Preachers fan here.
Sometime between 1996 and 1999
I’m sat in the back of my dad’s car, probably aged about 4 or 5. A Design For Life is playing on the radio. I remember hearing it vividly, particularly the line “I wish I had a bottle”. What did it mean?? This was a grown man singing about wanting a bottle.
Various times in between 2000 and 2005
I’m in HMV/a supermarket/somewhere selling CDs. I glance over the CDs on the rack. The name “Manic Street Preachers” is in there somewhere.
The 2006/07 football season
I become a real football fanatic, and supporter of Newcastle United. Living miles away from St James’ Park and not being able to afford a season ticket anyway, let alone transport to the matches, I watch the highlights from each of Newcastle’s matches on Match of the Day. I hear the music played over the Goal of the Month competition and like it. I look up who it is - the song is That’s No Way to Tell a Lie, by someone called James Dean Bradfield. Note to self - get hold of that song for my iPod.
2008 - on the way to a football tournament, receiving a lift from a friend
A song comes on. The song is Your Love Alone Is Not Enough. Catchy is this one; I like it.
Friend’s dad: “Who’s this?”
Friend: “Manic Street Preachers.”
Me (thinking): “Hmm. Had no idea this was them.”
No further thought on the matter on my part.
I sign up for a last.fm account. Remembering the song That’s No Way to Tell a Lie, I add James Dean Bradfield to my library. I play the song to a family member - my uncle’s partner. He says “that sounds like Manic Street Preachers”. I do a bit of research - he’s right; James Dean Bradfield is their lead singer! I’d never made that connection in my head. Yet still I don’t think of listening to the Manics. I’m listening to That’s No Way to Tell a Lie on repeat though.
I go to Warhammer World as part of a Young People’s Service project. Me and a few friends who have no real interest in Warhammer and have been coerced into doing it (well, we don’t have to pay for it) spend most of the time there in the cafe. As we walk out of the cafe, I for some reason begin to really hear the music playing for the first time since we’ve been there. The song is A Design For Life. I turn to my friend Sophie, and say “This is the Manic Street Preachers isn’t it??” and she smiles back, and Ed, our youth leader, says “Yeah, Warhammer geeks do listen to good music y’know.”
On the way down to Bath for the university open day. There’s just me and my dad in the car. We’re listening to a compilation called Music of the Millennium. One of the songs on it is If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next. While it’s on I’m singing to every word.
From then on, I start listening to If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next more and more often.
I’m in Frankie & Benny’s for a celebratory meal - it’s the end of year 12 at last! We’re talking about various things, and get onto the subject of music and gigs. My friend Jess says the Manics are touring later this year and she’d like to see them but doesn’t know if she’ll be able to afford it. My friend Sophie’s boyfriend, Ben, is involved in this conversation, and when I turn round to listen to him speak, I realise he’s wearing a Manics t-shirt.
I go home and for the next few weeks keep looking up things about the Manics, primarily about Richey Edwards & James Dean Bradfield. The Richey Edwards story fascinates me.
I realise that the Manics might have songs other than A Design For Life, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next and Your Love Alone is Not Enough. I listen to Motorcycle Emptiness on YouTube and it stays in my head for days afterwards. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever heard. I watch the video for If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next and decide that I find JDB attractive.
19th August 2010 - my 17th birthday. I use this as an excuse to order Forever Delayed on Amazon. It comes the day before we’re travelling down to Birmingham for my cousin’s wedding.
The Manics completely take over my iPod while I’m down there, and Forever Delayed is practically all I listen to.
I go to the cinema to see Toy Story 3 with two friends and afterwards we go shopping in Huddersfield. One of them asks me what I want as a belated birthday present. I tell her I want The Great Western by James Dean Bradfield. I buy a compilation album called Just Great Songs Two for £2 purely because it has Your Love Alone Is Not Enough on it.
I watch the video for Your Love Alone Is Not Enough on YouTube. I hear Nicky Wire’s lines, and see him in the video, and I’m smitten (sorry JDB).
I go on a Geography field trip and have to force myself to listen to bands and artists other than the Manics - I’m aware that I’m beginning to become obsessed.
At school, all I’ll listen to is Forever Delayed, although every so often I’ll listen to a bit of Blur, as I’d got into them around the same time (although not in as big a way).
I realise that I still don’t own any of the Manics’ albums and Jess (mentioned earlier) asks if I’d like to borrow Journal For Plague Lovers and Everything Must Go, the two she owns, and later Postcards From a Young Man after it’s been released. JFPL is an instant hit; EMG takes a little longer, as does PFAYM.
I decide that I have to see the Manics live at some point and resolve to ask if I can go to the Leeds gig but when I get on the venue’s website I find that the tickets have sold out, and it’s on the week when I’ll be going on a Biology field trip and the year’s been split so I have no idea which end of the week I’ll be going.
19th September 2010 - my nanna’s birthday. A family gathering at my nanna’s house, with me providing the music on my iPod speakers. I keep playing songs by the Manics. My uncle’s partner starts a conversation with me about them. He’s not a massive fan but he does own Forever Delayed. He says that if I ever want to see them live he’ll happily go with me. I mention that actually, they’re doing a gig in Blackburn, near where he lives, in October. Before I have time to let it sink in, the tickets are ordered and I’m unable to contain myself - I’m going to see the Manics in a few weeks’ time! I’ve only really been listening to them for a month but I’ve crossed a boundary with them that I haven’t crossed with any other band.
I only own three of their albums, so Dad tries to find some of the others at the library for me. He comes back with The Holy Bible, Lifeblood and Send Away the Tigers. I resolve to listen to them all before I go to that gig.
I find out that our tickets have arrived whilst at school and start jumping around the common room excitedly, getting a few weird looks.
9th October 2010 - the day I see the Manics live for the first time and the only time thus far. I feel sick with anticipation as I stand waiting for the band to come on stage, and before I have chance to register that fact that THEY ARE STOOD ON STAGE A FEW METRES IN FRONT OF ME I almost get swallowed up in a moshpit but am rescued. What’s probably been the best night of my life so far follows. I get lost completely in the gig, and forget about almost everything except the Manics and their music. The gig’s told me what I already knew - this is my favourite band; and I love them more than most other things in my life. Nicky Wire is as gorgeous in the flesh as he is in photos. We wait around a bit afterwards but the tour bus is behind locked gates, so we figure there isn’t much chance of them coming out to meet people and go. There’s always next time (fingers crossed).
So that’s the chronology of my becoming a Manics fan. Maybe I was subsconsciously a fan before I ever consciously was. It probably doesn’t matter though - whatever the reason for my becoming properly obsessed with this band, they’ve had such an impact on my life this past year (as you can probably tell from the number of Manics-related posts on this blog). I struggle to remember what life was like before I discovered the Manics. I appreciated literature anyway but they’ve introduced me to so many authors and books that I’d never have thought of reading before, and they’ve helped me to appreciate the album as an art form - I now tend to listen to my music library as albums rather than individual songs.
Here’s to one remarkable band, and let’s hope they carry on for many years to come - I certainly haven’t had enough of them yet.
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When I was on holiday last week, I was sat eating in the dining room of the hotel. At a table nearby, a little girl who can’t have been older than 3 or 4, was sat waiting for her parents to come back to the table with food. She had a teddy bear on the table and one of the waitresses came up and started playing with the teddy bear to try and make her laugh. Watching this made me feel quite sad.
I wish I could return to that age, where you don’t really think about things. You don’t know how horrible and complex the world can be. It’s acceptable to carry a cuddly toy around with you and to cling to people in times of fear and upset, because you’re only little. You depend on your parents and life is easy. You don’t get overly worried about your health; there are no exams to prepare for; you don’t understand what death and disease really are so you’re spared the most intense feelings of grief. You’re fearless and will snatch almost any opportunity placed in front of you without thinking. You can sit in your own little world and be as eccentric as you like and have a vivid imagination without people thinking you’re weird. You love unconditionally. No-one’s telling you to become more independent, learn to cook, find a partner, get a job, go to university, whatever - life is simple.
God, I wish I was 3 years old again.
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I still remember quite clearly going into my interview for 6th form and my interviewer, the head of 6th form, asking me if I had an idea of what I wanted to study at university and at which university I wanted to study it. Something possessed me to come out with “Well, I was thinking of Oxford or Cambridge…”, to which he replied “well, with your grades, we’d definitely consider you to be a potential Oxford candidate”. I was taken aback but completely flattered. Up until that point, I hadn’t really been bothered about that. My grandad would say every now and then “I want to live to see you get into Oxford or Cambridge” but I always thought he was having a laugh, there was no way that would happen. Yet there I was, being told I had the potential to get in to either university.
I remember going back to my grandparents’ house after my interview and telling them what was said. It was about a month before my grandad died from lung cancer and he was sat in his chair on oxygen; he wasn’t well at all. Hearing about what I’d been told made his face light up, and from that moment on I told myself that I had to try; I had to do it for him. A month later, he died and I started looking up what I needed to do to get in to Oxford to study Biochemistry.
If truth be told, I became a bit fixated with the idea of studying at Oxford. I talked about it all of the time and annoyed my friends, I was always looking things up about it on the internet, I think at one point I even said “when I’m at Oxford” which surprised even myself. I think I genuinely expected to get in because everyone I told about this Oxford dream told me they thought I was “so intelligent, of course you’ll get in!”, so much so that I started to believe it.
Then on GCSE results day, I got my results - 11 A*s and 2.5 As. Well. I thought I was almost a dead cert, and that I’d be in with a brilliant chance.
This carried on into year 12, except I didn’t tell everyone because just after we’d finished year 11 a few of my friends fell out with me, for a number of reasons including that I’m “arrogant”, or so I was told. I took my first lot of modular exams and got the results back - 3 A grades. The Oxford dream was definitely still alive. It was thriving, in fact.
I ordered a load of university prospectuses (prospecti?) and on receving the Oxford one, noticed that the success rate for Biochemistry applicants over the previous three years was 38%. Compared to Medicine, which was about 9%, this was high. “Surely I’ll be in that 38% with my results?” I thought. I eagerly booked a place on the open day for Trinity College and to have a look around the Biochemistry department in Oxford. I printed off the recommended reading list and searched out the books from the library. I did actually enjoy reading them.
Then it came to my second lot of AS exams. Things started quite badly with a Geography exam that I didn’t revise everything for and got really panicky about and thought had gone really badly (even though it hadn’t). I had four before half term and four after. I thought I had ages to revise, and so after my pre-half term exams had finished I didn’t do any revision for a few days. Looking back, that’s where my motivational problems that have plagued me this year began. Nevertheless, I worked hard all half term and then the week after had four exams on four consecutive days. By the afternoon before the last exam (History - Russia 1924-1941) I lost all will to work. But I went in there and got through the exam and sighed with relief that my exams were over (incidentally this was when I created a Tumblr account).
We went back to school the next week to do…nothing. It was the most pointless week ever, we were starting the work for A2 but knew that we’d be doing it all again in September, so no-one really paid attention. We had a HE week, Challenge of Management and various other things like that. Again, this probably didn’t help my slowly growing motivational problems and made them slightly worse. In those few weeks I went to look around about 8 universities. One of them I fell in love with almost completely - the University of Birmingham. After visiting there, I was indifferent to everywhere else - apart from Oxford.
It was a sunny day, and I’d worn very impractical footwear (my feet were killing me by the end of the day) so that I could look smart at the same time. I remember going into Trinity College’s grounds and thinking “this is another world”. It really was; all of the old architecture, pretty gardens, courtyards, a proper great hall for dining in. I liked the place. Then I went in to meet the main subject tutor for Biochemistry with a few other people. He answered a few of our questions and then told us what the studying experience would be like. One thing he said in particular stuck by me: “If you end up getting in here, during the first term, your feet will not touch the ground”. Alarm bells were ringing - could I really deal with that? At GCSE I worked like a maniac, but at AS I’d faltered somewhat near the end. It had felt like all work and no play while I was doing the exams and it was nice to have them over and done with. Would I be able to cope with that at university, when everyone’d told me things would get easier in terms of workload there?
Oxford was wonderful, but all the time I was there that day I couldn’t help but think that it might not be for me. What the Biochemistry tutor had said stuck in my head. But it was nice, and it would be great to study there right? So I stuck by my decision to apply there. At the same time my attitude towards it had changed - I knew that there were other universities at which I’d be very happy to study if I didn’t get in.
So then it was the summer holidays, and I pretty much sat around doing nothing. Which further worsened the motivational problems. I got my AS results on my birthday - 5 As. “Perfect”, I thought. Surely I’ve still got a brilliant chance of getting in.
And then I got home from school on the first day back and suddenly realised I had a whole year of really hard work in front of me and I cried about it that night. Things got worse, really. I just wanted to spend all of my time listening to music (guess which band I’d just got into) and doing things that I enjoyed and tried to do anything to avoid doing work. The week after I’d seen the Manics I started crying about how rubbish my day to day life at school felt after the brilliance of that night. I kept going. I kept falling out with my parents over how unmotivated I was and how I wasn’t working hard enough. I had my last ever parents evening that term and afterwards I was confused when my parents told me they were proud of me for working hard - that’s not what they’d been saying up to that point.
Over the next few weekends I spent a lot of time preparing for the interview, should I get one. I was seeing the head of 6th form who’d first given any indication that I might want to apply to Oxford in my 6th form interview to discuss Biochemistry matters so that I’d know what an interview situation would be like. The last week in November, I got a text at lunchtime - I’d got through to interview. I was happy but I realise now not quite as happy as when my offer from Birmingham came through - I was abjectly terrified by the news that I had an Oxford interview.
The night before I had to report, we set off down to Oxford. My parents left me at Trinity College with the few other students who’d come down early. I’d been told by a friend who’d had an interview the previous week that everyone was friendly and that I’d love the experience…I couldn’t start a conversation with anyone. I was jumpy and nervous. I ended up back in the room I’d been allocated with my laptop, which made me feel better.
The next day all of the other interviewees started to arrive, plenty of them Biochemistry applicants like myself. We had a briefing from the subject tutor who I’d spoken to on the open day, and another thing he said stuck in my head - “We don’t just give out offers based on interview, we do look at your personal statement and academic record and reference as well”. I had an interview that afternoon and my nerves weren’t helped by the fact that when I got up there the person before me hadn’t gone in for his interview yet. But eventually I got in there, and although I made a couple of minor mistakes, it all went smoothly. I was surprised by just how smoothly it had gone.
Talking to a few people who’d been interviewed by the other interviewers, the other interview wouldn’t go as smoothly. Mine was the next morning. Slowly the nerves began to mount until I was outside the interview room waiting and was even more nervous than I had been before the previous interview. I got in and there was the interviewer, the main subject tutor, and one of his PhD students who was sat taking notes throughout the whole interview. One of the first things I was asked threw me out - the tutor asked me which football team I played for. I hadn’t wanted to include this on my personal statement because I’d stopped playing football over a year earlier, but my dad insisted because it was something to say about myself (I was struggling on that count with my personal statement) and I suddenly started thinking “he’s going to look this up and find out” which made me even jumpier. He began to ask me questions and made some errors that I really shouldn’t have made and the interview got worse as it went on. I came out and went back to my room and sat there feeling like I was going to cry.
But I couldn’t just do that, I had another interview at another college that afternoon, so I sat there trying to read the article I’d been given to read beforehand and couldn’t understand a word. I looked it up on the internet. I probably shouldn’t have told the interviewer that. My last interview didn’t go quite as badly as the second one had done, but it went nowhere near as smoothly as the first one. I was so relieved that they were over but part of me knew that I’d really hurt my chances of getting in based on my interview performance. I still clung on to the hope that they’d look at my academic record (near perfect), my personal statement (which was alright) and my reference (seeing as my form tutor liked me I assumed he’d written a glowing one).
That night we had a “Biochemistry tea” in someone’s room and got to talk to current students. I sat through the whole thing feeling sad that I probably wasn’t going to get in, because they all seemed so close and it seemed like a lovely little community there at Oxford.
The next day I was finally allowed to leave at 2pm. Looking back on the whole thing, it makes me want to cry. I had the chance to study in this beautiful city (and it really is) at one of the world’s top universities, and I’d probably blown it. Just…the whole atmosphere. I’d hardly talked to any of the other interviewees because I’m naturally shy and reticent, but it was so pretty and I associate it with that nice feeling you get in winter when it’s really cold (if you know what I mean). I’ll also always associate it with the album Dog Man Star by Suede, because I listened to that to help myself drop off to sleep when I knew I’d blown it and it was really comforting, just lying there in the dark listening to it. I spent the whole time wishing I could be at home and not realising that I could have really made something out of those few days until it was too late. A bit like I’ve been with this year at school really - I didn’t realise how much time I’d spent wanting to leave until the time to leave was upon me, and I suddenly didn’t want to.
Then I got home. I felt exposed and vulnerable and I had done the whole time I was in Oxford. I definitely wasn’t myself, but I hadn’t really been for all of the school year so far. I hadn’t been happy enough. I waited in vain for the letter, still hoping that there was a small chance that I’d got an offer.
The letter came the first week of the Christmas holidays, the day before Christmas Eve. I made my mum open it because I was too scared to do it myself. The news wasn’t good - they’d decided not to give me an offer. The rest of that day was a write off - I just felt wretched about it. I felt like I’d let Grandad down. I felt like I’d let my family down. I felt like I’d let school down and all of the people who’d said they thought I’d get in. But most of all…I was annoyed. I’d spent the best part of two years working towards it and thinking about it (I don’t think there was a day when I didn’t), being nervous about it, and the “Oxford dream” had been snatched from me on a piece of paper.
So I carried on with school. A friend got an offer from Cambridge. I cried about it and got angry because I’d wanted to get into Oxford for longer than she’d wanted to get into Cambridge. I was still really unmotivated and had more and more arguments with my parents about that. I managed to get through my exams, just about.
Throughout the whole time after my rejection (and probably before my interview) I was slowly beginning to realise that Oxford wasn’t for me. If I was struggling with the A-Level workload and that was making me unhappy, how would I have been at Oxford? I dread to think what would have happened. They’d probably have specified an A grade in Physics if they’d given me an offer as well, something which isn’t likely to happen and would have made me feel really really stressed.
I visited the University of Birmingham again in February and everything there just felt right. I realised it was the place for me and had been all along. The department was brilliant, the course was fantastic and there was even the opportunity to spend a year in Spain or France, the campus was lovely, the city was just the right size and distance away from home. Providing I get the grades, I’ll be studying there from September this year. It was with this realisation that I was finally able to regretfully let go of my bitterness about not getting an offer from Oxford.
Why have I written this? Well, because I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently, and I just want to get this off my chest. And I think if I’d been Oxford material, the interviewers would have seen something in me regardless of how badly my interview went, and they didn’t. I’ll probably have a much more relaxed university experience and enjoy myself a lot more at Birmingham than I would have done at Oxford. I’m glad I applied, despite everything - I’d never have known if I’d have got in if I hadn’t, and I’d never have read the books I’ve read and found out some of the things I did. Sometimes you just have to take that chance and if you don’t get what you want, let go and move on eventually. I think I have done now after writing about it like this.
lizziehibbert said: I just read your post about how you've changed since year 7 and I swear it was like reading my own writing. I think it's easy to romanticise the High School Experience when, in actual fact, it can be a stressful and demoralising time. I thought it woukd be wonderful; it isn't. Just wanted to let you know that you really struck a chord with me :) x
Thank you for this message :)
Yeah, I think High School is the time in your life when you go through the most changes, physically and mentally, and there are so many ups and downs. You grow up there really, yet you don’t notice that until you actually think about it! And it’s such a strange time really because by the end of it no matter how much you hated it you feel sad saying goodbye to it.
I think that anyone who says that your High School years are the best of your life is completely wrong. I don’t think many people would say they’d go back and repeat them. x
m0drnmoonlight said: You articulated why I love Nicky so much. He's so incredibly adorable, you can't not love him!
Thank you! :) Once again I just kind of wrote it off the top of my head without a real plan, and I was worried it’d be a bit rubbish.
Awww I know, I seriously don’t understand the people who think I’m odd for loving Nicky Wire so much!
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