Very Friendly

Here’s some photographs I took of my friends’ band Very Friendly (an EP and hopefully album coming later this year) For a while we had intended to take some promo shots with a miserable day at the beach theme, and then the beach was suddenly covered in thick snow, so this happened over a lunch break. Harry eventually got warm again. Eventually.

Editing the photos was actually quite tricky. I took around a hundred, but with the snow flying around there were a lot with closed eyes or grimaces, and colour correction took a light hand. You have snow, water and skin, and you have to balance atmosphere with realistic skin tones.

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Domestic Abuse Support All-dayer fundraising gig

(Tuli from Gang)

I recently went to a local gig put on by Art’s Cool raising money for the local domestic abuse support charity. It was an all-dayer, with half the lineup being local Kent bands, and the other half being from Leeds. The next day they did it all again, but in Leeds, and raising money for an education charity there. I missed the first band, but they were kind of a supergroup made up of members from the different Leeds bands. The promoter also handily made this Spotify playlist of all the bands.


The lighting was a bit difficult, being mostly magenta and strongly focused on one side of the stage. How easy it was to photograph the band members depended strongly on how much they moved and where they happened to be standing, and varied dramatically from act to act. When I take gig photos I like to try to have at least one photo of each band member (which can be hard with drummers positioned far back), and as flattering as possible, especially when it’s smaller bands who may not have many nice live photos of themselves. So I took, and deleted a lot of photos (and didn’t get as many usable photos of some of the bands such as Chest Pains as I would have liked). Here they are, in order of running on the day. There are links to each band’s facebook fan page in each title.

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(((O Boards of Sunnada O)))

So I have still had very little spare time since I finished teaching in Cambridge last month. I visited my mum in France for a week, and picked up three weeks more teaching in three different small towns in Germany. (Hello from Schleswig-Holstein today). So the backlog of entries and photos about my travels keeps growing, but I don’t have the time right now to actually address it.

Anyway, in July Sunn O))) toured the UK, and I couldn’t go because I was committed to working long hours on this residential course I was teaching, and I felt pretty sad about it. So I used It Took The Night to Believe as the prompt for that week’s creative writing activity for my students. The previous week I’d used the video for Reach for the Dead by Boards of Canada (both pieces of music gave good results in the student’s writing) . While setting up the activity I accidentally set off both songs at once, and discovered they actually sound amazing together. So enjoy. For best results, start the Boards of Canada song first.

Japan Roundup

So I’ve finally put up all the photos I took in Japan. Below is a summary and links to each post. I have also created some designs for gifts and homewares over on Society 6 with my photographs from Japan. You can find them here.

I also wrote a zine about the trip, but it isn’t available until I return from teaching summer school in August/September. If you’re interested in ordering one, you can sign up here to be emailed once it’s back in stock.

Japan Playlist– A selection of songs by Japanese artists and others I listened to on the trip



All Neon Like– instagram photos of Tokyo

Miyazaki’s Reading List- a visit to the Studio Ghibli museum and bookshop

Kyoto I

Kyoto II

Kyoto Shrines & Temples

Ema– Japanese good fortune plaques

Moss is Slow Life– the Zen gardens of Kyoto

Naoshima– Japan’s Art Island

The Benesse Modern Art Museum

Okunoshima– Bunny Island

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Deer– Nara’s tame temple deer

Nara’s Gardens


Some Japanese books


Should a word have two meanings?


  1. Academy Fight SongMission of Burma
  2. You’re My Only HomeMagnetic Fields

  3. Love is Not LoveCate le Bon
    My three top new albums this year have all been by female solo artists, two of whom are Welsh, Cate le Bon’s Crab Day, Gwenno’s Y Dydd Olaf (the Last Day) and Artangels by Grimes. Crab Day is well worth checking out, combining influences from spooky 70s folk, Fleetwood Mac and Devo.
  4. Come on Let’s GoBroadcast
  5. Man on the MoonR.E.M.
  6. Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Truth? Minutemen
    The Minutemen have always come across as genuinely good people who genuinely loved playing together and actually lived according to their ethics and treated other people well. The We Jam Econo documentary is now free on Youtube.

  7. The Red Telephone Love
  8. Interstate 5Wedding Present

  9. Dawns Y Blaned DirionGwenno (Dance of the Kindly Planet)
  10. Golau ArallGwenno (Other Light)
    A Welsh-language electronica album based on a dystopian Welsh book.The lyrics and translations are available on the website.
  11. New SeedsBoards of Canada
  12. Come to DustBoards of Canada
    The finest soundtrack to post nuclear apocalypse there is.
  13. MetroBerlin
    I was reading an article on Stereogum from the Weird 90s series (well worth reading), where the writer was recalling a strange period of the late 90s where swing-revival stuff like the Cherry Popping Daddies was preferable to this song.
  14. Invisible SunPolice
    I don’t like the Police at all. So when I was listening to a radio show playing a retrospective of George Martin’s work and this came on, I was pleasantly surprised. A good story I read once about the Police was that at some point in the 80s at a Rolling Stones concert someone announced to Keith Richards that the police were here to see him. So he frantically got rid of all his drugs, and then in walked Sting.
  15. Who Be Lovin Me Santigold feat ILoveMakonnen
    The song could really do with more of Santigold herself, but I think the fact that ILoveMakonnen really can’t sing definitely adds something to the woozy sound.

15 fun ways to learn languages better

international harry potter

(Spanish and French editions of Harry Potter)

British people are really, really bad at learning foreign languages, because we can arrogantly rely on English being an international language, and it can be quite an insular culture. People whose native language is spoken by fewer people have to learn another language, unless they want to spend their whole life in their home country only exposed to local things or whatever someone has translated. I don’t think our school system helps at all either. Everything is focused on exams and box-ticking, and learning and regurgitating vocab lists and grammar points gets you better grades than genuine communication. Most of my lessons at school were in English, with endless exercises from the textbooks and little opportunity to have real conversations or make mistakes.

With my own history with languages, I learnt French as a child, and have no formal qualifications in it. My spelling is still appalling, like a dyslexic French person, but I understand pretty much everything, and happily read books in French without a dictionary. I don’t speak it often though through not having many opportunities to do so, so I struggle for words sometimes talking on the fly, and don’t feel like I express myself in the way I’d like to. I know the words, but I can’t quite summon them to mind fast enough these days.

I learnt German the “proper” way, via school lessons and a year at university. I took 6 years of classes at school, resulting in an A-level, and took a C1 level class at university. That was thirteen years ago though, so I’m not sure where to officially put myself on the level system now. I used to visit Germany and Austria a lot for work, and spoke it a lot more then. My A-level classes weren’t that great, and what we were doing in class didn’t reach the level that was expected from the exam, so I had to find ways to study on my own. University was another step up again, we were reading Kafka stories and historical texts, and watching Expressionist films and having debates. Quite a few of the other students hated it, because it strayed outside the safe confines of the school textbook material, but I loved it, and would have continued it throughout my entire degree if that had been an option. I also took a year’s accelerated class in Italian for speakers of French or Spanish, and a year’s course in Modern Greek.

Once I left university, I started teaching EFL. I had a lot of students who had studied English at home under much the same conditions as me at school and who hadn’t really got anywhere, and had come to the UK to try to improve matters. They found it frustrating not being able to communicate with people in real life, and wanted as many tips as they could to help themselves. I also used to teach a lot of teenagers both in the UK and abroad, and the tips worked for them as well. It’s a common New Year’s Resolution to study another language. A lot of people buy a cd set, and play a bit of Duolingo, do some grammar drills, maybe even pack an evening class into their tiring schedule and then give up because they’re not getting anywhere. Here’s some tips to help you get somewhere, and hopefully enjoy the process

(Whenever I write “the language” here obviously I mean the language you’re studying).

1) Don’t be afraid of looking stupid by making mistakes

At school in a lot of countries it’s often better for your grades if you just stick to the material taught and try to replicate it as accurately as possible, and you’re often penalised for trying to say something more ambitious and getting it a bit wrong. Unfortunately in real life you can’t stick to discussing how you played tennis with Jean-Baptiste and Rachida last Wednesday and asking people how many brothers and sisters they have. In real life you’re going to have your own ideas and opinions and things happen to you, and have real conversations with other people who say things that weren’t in the textbook. Try to have proper conversations with people and piece together what you’re trying to say with words you already know and ideas you have about how sentences work. You might not get it 100% correct, but hopefully people will understand. If you don’t know the word, try paraphrasing. If you don’t know the word for coat hanger, try saying “the thing you put clothes on in the wardrobe” and the person you’re talking to will probably provide the word. A lot of people will be thrilled you’re trying to learn their language especially if it’s not one that’s often studied abroad, and will be keen to help you. No one is deducting marks or failing you on some eternal marksheet of life. That time you got the irregular past tense of that verb wrong doesn’t go on your permanent record.

No matter how long you’ve been studying, you’re going to make mistakes, and sometimes they’re very weird or funny mistakes. I once cheerfully told my landlady in Austria that when I’d been for a stroll in the mountains I’d nearly fallen in some open graves full of slurry. She looked at me in horror, until we both realised that I’d got the words for graves (das Grab, plural die Gräber) mixed up with ditches (der Graben, plural die Gräben), and I remembered that the German word for mud Schlamm can also mean slime or slurry. “Ich bin fast in zwei Gräber voll mit Schlamm gefallen” turns out to be quite different to “Ich bin fast in zwei Gräben voll mit Schlamm gefallen”.

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Frimaire, Nivose & Pluviose

I haven’t updated here in a while. I worked long hours throughout January and also moved house. I’ve also now officially deferred my course until next year. I missed too much of the school year when I was ill. I’ll have a little while off, and then look for some work to tide me over. In between all that I turned 31. Ancient, really. I’ll have a bit more time on my hands over the next couple of weeks, so I’d better make use of it. Here’s some links of interesting bits and bobs to tide you over.

    • Here’s a great BBC documentary about 80s synthpop, now available in its entirety on YouTube. There’s a full playlist of all the songs used in the show here.
    • Laura from Behind the Hedgerow blog makes some beautiful clothes for her children.
    • Atlas Obscura is one of my favourite websites both for finding interesting places to visit, and just for casual browsing. It’s full of photos and descriptions of unusual places like this town in Alaska that’s one giant building, or closer to home, the Embassy of the Republic of Texas in London.
    • The BFI presents their selection of top Icelandic films. For a country with such a small population (around 250,000- about the same as my not so exciting hometown), Iceland certainly punches above its weight in the creative fields. Noí Albinoí is one of my favourite films. I haven’t seen all of the others, so I should check them out.
    • The Salvage Project discusses sexual violence in activist communities in the UK. Communities which need fewer of these guys.
    • Links to watch a large selection of films by Andrei Tarkovsky, my favourite director for free online.
    • My favourite Wednesday treat- Rhik Samadder writing about kitchen gadgets. Start with the shivering horrors of the Egg Master.
    • My friend Alex Wrekk has made her zine about being in an abusive relationship and getting out of it free to read online. I’ve got the paper edition from when she officially released it, and it’s well worth the read. In her own words “What if your private life in your relationship is vastly different than what other people see? When do you know you are in an emotionally abusive relationship? How to you gain the strength to get out of it? What do you do when you know you can’t handle the burden alone? What do you do when you feel so alone and terrified of the consequences of leaving, when if it means losing friends, a home, a job and a way life that you love? These are just some of the ideas explored in this zine through a three year personal narrative that also challenges you to examine your relationships with power, to identify how you express the power you have, and also how you relate to the power that of others possess”

  • Angelyne is a pop-culture fixture in Hollywood, known for the huge billboards she hires with just her photo and name and for driving her pink sports car around town. I never realised she made a try at a pop music career in the 80s. It’s pretty good, as a trashy new wave song with slightly disturbing lyrics goes. I found it because there were two articles recently about what an all-round unpleasant person she is to spend time with, and I wondered what the irritating Barbie speaking voice the writers described sounded like, so I went hunting on YouTube.
  • Mallory Ortberg on the poetry of the Beaufort Scale.