Posts Tagged ‘sunshine’

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summer kick.

July 5, 2012

When I was little, summer was my least favourite season of the year – and this is despite 8-week long summer holidays! There were two main reasons for this – 1) I had a major phobia of wasps. Nowadays I still don’t like them, but I have learned to control my fear; back then however, I used to go crazy if they even came near me. It got to the point where I would never open my bedroom window, even in summer; I was afraid that if I did, the wasps would come in. I went through a phase of sleeping with a can of bug spray within arm’s reach. At about the age of 11, one of my worst nightmares came true – I would wake up every morning to find a handful of dead / dying wasps on my floor and even lying on my clothes (which I would hang up on the rocking chair in the corner). It was traumatic (eventually the summer ended and the wasp deluge with it), but in a way it helped me, because it forced me to deal with my fear.

2) The heat, and the sweating. In the winter, you can always wrap up warm, and there are few things that are more lovely than snuggling up in front of the fire with a blanket. However, in the summer, when it’s stifling, it feels like there’s nothing you can do to combat the oppressive heat.  As I’ve grown older, I have learned how to deal with sweating (mostly – see my post on how to dress for a British summer) and I have grown out of the really bad phases I used to have. During the year that I lived in Spain, I realised that it wasn’t the heat that I hated, but the humidity that comes with it (or even comes alone) in England. Living in Spain, I developed a healthy, natural tan, and although the temperatures would rise up to 30 degrees and beyond, it was a dry heat so it was totally comfortable.

Just as I learned to conquer my fear of wasps, I learned to love the summer. I love the sunshine and the way that it can kickstart a day and give one an optimistic outlook on life. I love the freedom that a nice day gives you – it opens up your opportunities to go out and about, wherever you please. I love that there’s less traffic on the roads, and so getting out and about is easier and more pleasant. My musical tastes become bouncier, more exuberant and more worldly in the summer. I love going out for a leisurely walk through the park – even simple, unplanned or mundane trips can become pleasant experiences. The fact that I can do this while getting a tan is icing on the cake!

Just as our clothing gets lighter and often less restrictive, so does my taste in fragrance. In the winter I like to wear fragrances that give me a sense of comfort, sophistication and warmth – they tend to be heavier, a little spicier and more opaque. However, although I may still wear this kind of fragrance on a summer evening, generally my summer perfume choices involve something a bit more exuberant – bold fruity combinations, floral bouquets with a splash of green freshness, and sweet scents. Although I am a believer that fragrance has no gender, I tend to wear more women’s fragrances in summer as they are genuinely fresher, sweeter and freer than decent men’s fragrances (obviously this is a massive generalisation and I also own exceptions to this rule; but I’m not a fan of men’s “fresh”/”cool”/”sport” fragrances, and ozonic perfumes bore me). Just as in fragrance, I change what I drink to reflect more fruits – I always love orange juice all day every day, but in summer I mix it up more with pineapple juice, mixed fruits and my new favourite: coconut water. Although it was initially an acquired taste, the freshness and hint of Caribbean sensuality makes me feel healthy, happy and sunny. This is my summer kick – I just wanted to share a little bit of my seasonal happiness and feelings of freedom with you all 🙂

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Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (album review.)

April 6, 2012

It’s time to accept that the Nicki Minaj that we heard on her mixtape (and best album to date) Beam Me Up Scotty is gone. The Nicki Minaj that we heard stealing the show on Kanye West’s “Monster” is a distant memory. Now, the Nicki Minaj who pleasantly surprised us with her bubblegum rap confection “Super Bass” is asserting herself throughout Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. Nicki Minaj may not have concretely realised her Roman Zolanski alter-ego (who shows up at the start of the album, but his fangs have been sanded down after his explosive showing on “Roman’s Revenge”), but throughout her career we have seen her evolve and shift through persona after persona. The hard female rapper we heard on Playtime Is Over gave way to the exciting cyberspace femme fatale with the ridiculous flow and heart of gold on Beam Me Up Scotty, who tarted herself up with colourful outfits, wigs and softened edges for Pink Friday. Although her rap credentials have become less indisputable, mainstream success has opened Minaj to a new audience: pop. Teenagers, little girls dancing and rapping along to her songs on youtube, people across the world now want to hear what Nicki Minaj has to say. Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded finds Minaj trying to please everyone whom she has courted throughout her career. Does she succeed?

Well, the album is certainly diverse and there is something for everybody. After the insane and yet exciting “Roman Holiday”, the album is stacked with urban tracks designed to prove that Nicki is still in touch with her musical roots. “Come On A Cone” is a fascinating listen, and the genuinely unexpected “dick in your face” interlude about two thirds of the way through the song is a refreshing thrill – but Minaj can no longer get through an entire rap song without resorting to her trademark ridiculous vocal tics. This is a gimmick that initially served to set Minaj apart from other female rappers, but now it sounds like a party piece that is trotted out to fulfil the listener’s expectations. The song succeeds, but it could have been more. The tracks which follow are chock full of features, which is nothing unusual for a rap album, but here they serve to mute Nicki’s own impact on the material. “Beez In The Trap” is catchy but incredibly basic while “HOV Lane” is single-entendre bragging that may pay tribute to Jay-Z and to Minaj’s potential to be a supernova rather than just a star, but compared to the more insightful work Minaj has done on the past (for example on Beam Me Up Scotty‘s “Can Anybody Hear Me” or Pink Friday‘s “Moment 4 Life”) it rings a little hollow. “Stupid Hoe” is an ill-advised tirade against Lil’ Kim that is so ridiculously silly that the bite in Minaj’s lyrics is muzzled by the repetitive hook and uninteresting beat. The buzz single for this project, “Roman In Moscow”, was so much more than all of the rap tracks that actually made it onto the album because the production was exciting and the flow and rhymes were unbridled and interesting. It showed that the ‘old Nicki’ is still alive, but there is no longer a place for her among any of Minaj’s current, more successful incarnations, which is a shame. As oddly structured and jarring as they may be, “Roman Holiday”, “Come On A Cone” and “Roman Reloaded” are the most successful songs in the first half of the album because although they are not amazing, they grab the listener’s ear and don’t let go.

After some tepid R&B slow jams which are so rote that they barely deserve mentioning, let alone a place on this album (“Right Thru Me” and “Your Love” from Pink Friday were miles better than these), we get to ‘pop Nicki’. This abrupt about-face in the album really should have been split into two discs on the physical version, but it’s not the disaster that other reviews have reported. “Starships” is at once derivative of LMFAO’s and Rihanna’s latest smashes, and yet also entirely the mutant spawn of “Super Bass” (without which ‘pop Nicki’ would never have come to triumph over ‘old Nicki’ or ‘Roman Zolanski’ or ‘Harajuku Barbie’ etc.), but my god is it fun. This song absolutely deserved to be a single and to be successful – I feel conflicted because Nicki Minaj shouldn’t have had to so deliberately manufacture such a hit, but its hit status is undeniable. “Pound The Alarm” goes one better and is an absolute gem that Britney Spears probably wishes she had recorded. “Whip It”, “Automatic” and “Beautiful Sinner” repeat this formula ad infinitum (or ad the next 15 minutes), and although the songs are great fun, they expose Minaj’s crossover aims as so calculated that a little bit of this fun is taken out of them.

The album winds down with some mid-tempo, more thoughtful songs such as “Marilyn Monroe” and “Young Forever”. Strong hooks and mainstream production make these songs perfectly enjoyable, and although the lyrics show more insight from Minaj than the preceding half hour or so, they’re still calculated. “Fire Burns” and “Gun Shot” close the album (before the jarring “Stupid Hoe”) and they are the most genuine tracks of the second half. “Fire Burns” is this album’s “Save Me” (one of the highlights from Pink Friday), and the regret and sadness in Minaj’s delivery rings true. “Gun Shot” features Beenie Man and brings a little Caribbean flavour that Minaj hasn’t explored since Pink Friday‘s bonus tracks, or Beam Me Up Scotty‘s “Keys Under Palm Trees” or title track (her shout-out to Trinidad at the beginning of “Beautiful Sinner” certainly doesn’t count). While so many of the second half’s tracks are deliberately and irresistibly exhilarating to a head-spinning extent, “Gun Shot” is a less manufactured but, if anything, more uplifting ray of sunshine.

Do I like this album? Absolutely. Do I feel that it squanders Minaj’s potential? Yes, and no. This has been a hard review to write, because there’s so much here to deal with. The mainstream-aimed songs are good, but many of them are so deliberately manufactured to be hits that the genuine feeling is often ironed out. The rap songs are acceptable to good (barring the mediocre slow-jam section in the middle), but the featured artists rarely measure up to Minaj’s own potential, while simultaneously limiting her own space to shine. The weird songs are absolutely interesting, but Minaj doesn’t need to rely on inconsistent alter-egos and silly voices to be compelling. Beam Me Up Scotty proved this, and I find it sad that Minaj isn’t encouraged to exhibit her rap skills and singing in a more genuine way. “Roman In Moscow” and “Fire Burns” are remnants of the Minaj we have previously experienced. And while I genuinely am happy for the existence of songs like “Starships” and “Pound The Alarm”, their aggressively insane exuberance is something that Minaj may risk exhausting herself trying to outdo on Pink Friday: Roman’s Resurrection (or whatever comes next).

I believe that Minaj genuinely enjoys catering to a range of audiences, but as Beam Me Up Scotty and even Pink Friday demonstrated amply, she can do this in a more integrated and less scattershot way. Everyone was wowed by Minaj’s feature on “Monster”, but there’s nothing approaching that venom or spark here; her album-closing declaration that “I am the female Weezy” is reductive. Minaj is not a female Lil Wayne, female Jay-Z, new Lil’ Kim or resurrected Lauryn Hill. Nor is she Roman Zolanski, a cockney grandmother, a Harajuku Barbie or anything else – she is more than the ‘mere’ summation of these characters or costumes. She’s a savvy businesswoman and a genuine talent who is producing good music but coming dangerously close to losing the edge that set her apart so definitively in the first place. I fear that the more mainstream success that Minaj garners (and it will likely be deserved), the less heartfelt and genuine her music will become. There’s a difference between creating art that is deliberate in its purpose and achieves its goals, and art that is so focus-group tested and aiming to please that the quality is filtered down to a semblance of what it originally could have been. And while we can respect and admire an artist’s potential, we can’t praise them for what they have the talent to create if they don’t actually create it, or realise their potential consistently. And so Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded is a blast to listen to, but it also warns that unless Minaj takes stock and finds away to hone all of her personalities, she may ultimately spread herself too thinly and become nothing to anyone, rather than something to everyone.

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Tube update: Holland Park.

December 13, 2011

Ok, this is starting to get a little bit more difficult. I went to Westfield on my lunch break yesterday to do a spot of Christmas shopping, and I finally walked past Holland Park in daylight (I had previously taken a picture, but it was dark and didn’t turn out well).

It turns out that it’s not really a very attractive tube station anyway. The side of the building is nicer as its unspoilt by bins and the big HELLO! news stand. But nothing to write home about. Still, that’s another one ticked off the very long list!

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seasons change.

October 16, 2011

Here in London, over the last few weeks it has been unseasonably mild and humid, but now we are in the middle of October we are finally having some wintry days. The sky is cloudy (but backlit by sunshine, so it looks pleasant as opposed to overcast and dull), and there is a decided chill in the air. And rather than complaining about the onslaught of shorter days, it is actually quite pleasant and refreshing to be able to wrap up warm against the elements and brave the outdoors on the way to work.

When I was younger, I used to prefer the colder months because I didn’t cope very well with the heat. On top of that, summertime = wasps, which are my only phobia, and they used to drive me crazy as a child (I like to think I cope better these days). But honestly, nowadays I like all of the seasons for different reasons. Spring is lush because it feels romantic (not just because of, but including Valentine’s day), and the days are getting longer and the evenings are getting lighter. The trees and flowers are coming to life and everything looks really pretty. Summer is nice because it means holidays, late evenings outside (or out!) in the sunshine, beautiful late-night sunsets and other cliché-but-true attributes. Plus, when we actually get some warm weather it is lovely to wear light clothes, although all of the sweating is quite unpleasant and makes me want to pass out in surrender to the humidity. Autumn is pretty with all of the changing colours of the leaves (parks are amazing at this time of year), and the aforementioned chill in the air helps to wake me up in the mornings as I step outside the house. And I love winter – although after a while it gets impractical and annoying, the snow is very pretty, and I think that my winter wardrobe contains my favourite and most fashionable clothes. I love snuggling up to Toby underneath lots of blankets on a winter weekend morning, and one of my favourite winter memories is from just last year, when Toby and I trekked through the London slush to go to Somerset House and the ice-rink in their Skate park. Plus, I really enjoy Christmas – it means Mariah Carey’s Christmas albums (both of which I adore), lots of shopping, and lots of love shared between friends. It really warms my heart.

I guess that despite the fact that I like all of the seasons, and that the early twilights can be quite dreary and depressing, winter is actually still my favourite of all of the seasons after all. Or to be more precise, the period in October/November on the cusp between autumn and winter. The sky is still clear and the sunshine can still shine brightly, but it’s cold enough to put on my long black French Connection coat, my fingerless gloves and my boots, and go for a walk through the Kensington streets, leaves crunching crisply underfoot. Mmm. 🙂

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valentine.

February 14, 2010

I am sat in Starbucks in Cabot Circus, working on my School Placement essay when Toby turns up.  I wave him over to come and sit with me (Sunday afternoon and this place gets rammed). We embrace, he looks good in his black cable-knit zip-up cardigan and the purple Diesel Only The Brave scarf I bought him for Valentine’s Day but then got impatient so regaled him with that and a DVD of Series 3 of the IT Crowd on Friday night.  He presents me with a card with the sweetest message inside, emblazoned with “You’re Tweet”, and a book of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  On the book, attached by a white ribbon, is a card which says “For the guy with the gun tattoo…” I am so touched, and with the sun streaming in through Starbucks and my essay goal accomplished for today, this is hands down the best Valentine’s Day ever.

I don’t know what is going to happen in the future, and we’ve only been together for 6 weeks, but this guy is something else.  He accepts my blonde moments, my vanity, and my predilection for cigarettes.  Most importantly, he’s the second man in a matter of months to be confronted by my secret and not run away, but instead embrace me and see my sincerity inside.  The issue with concealing this blog on twitter is no longer an issue, and he can read the innermost parts of me without seeming to be scared, intimidated or annoyed about it, which is a blessing because I don’t want to compromise this blog – it’s an important form of self-expression. I’m not very good at letting someone in past a certain point – I don’t actively hide anything, but I don’t actively reveal everything about me to all and sundry.  And now I know that I can tell him personal things, and I hope he knows that he can do the same.

This therefore constitutes the first Valentine’s Day that I’ve actually had a valentine, by which I mean more than just someone I’ve vaguely fancied, or to whom I’ve scribbled an anonymous note and then stressed about it the whole day.  I’m not used to feeling secure or safe in a relationship, I’m not used to having a boyfriend, I’m not used to any of this.  But after getting over the initial jitters of letting someone in, I’m really settling into my stride and it feels really good.  And I hope that it continues, maybe for a long time…  Wishing you all a very Happy Valentine’s Day – whether you’re with somebody or you’re single, the bottom line is never forget to love yourself.

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I wanted to just post a little song at the bottom, taken from LeToya Luckett’s fantastic sophomore album Lady Love, which I reviewed last year.  The song is called “Good To Me”, and although in the song LeToya is searching for that someone, I feel it’s so apt because I might have found the first person in my life whom “I could take home to my Daddy” one day.  The lyrics are so true and heartfelt, and LeToya’s vocal delivery is better on this song than on any other. If you live in the USA, hit up iTunes and support her by buying a copy of the single!  To all of you, please listen, appreciate and enjoy 🙂

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what christmas means to me.

December 20, 2009

I remember when I was little I would count down the days to Christmas Day so eagerly.  About the 22nd December, I would be so excited I couldn’t sleep.  And then on the day itself, I’d be up ridiculously early, eager to open my presents and be spoiled for the day before we would go to my nan’s for a big Christmas lunch, relax in front of the television watching one film or another while my mum and my nan chatted, my grandfather slept and my dad made a nuisance of himself in one way or another.  Eventually we would go home to wait for the inevitable boredom that was Boxing Day. But overall, it’d be a lovely day and hold the type of memories I’ll always cherish.

I guess it’s called growing up, but I don’t feel at all the same now.  Part of it is that those memories are irreplaceable – my grandfather is now dead, my grandmother is in Australia this year, and the year before last spent the day in hospital with my granddad, and my father is the one who cooks now (nowhere near as well, though it’s ok) and we eat here at home.  There’s no eagerness to open my presents, and since my parents don’t seem bothered by what I get them, they wait until 11am or something ridiculous like that just so that I can see their faces and suss out whether they really like their gifts.  In other words, the childhood traditions of Christmas are completely broken and gone; we do things differently now, and sometimes I wonder if I was the only one who ever enjoyed Christmas.

Nowadays, I dread the day itself.  There’s nothing to watch on TV, there’s nowhere to go that isn’t parent-sponsored (my friends are all busy with their families, obviously; there aren’t any buses and as I don’t yet have a car – something which I’m looking to change in the very near future – I am essentially home-bound), the sanity of my nan’s conversation and the scrumptiousness of her cooking is poorly imitated by my father.  And I feel bad for saying that, because it’s not that his cooking is bad; it’s not. It’s perfectly edible, but it’s not the same.  I have a lot of my own issues with food, eating food and generally feeling guilty for it. (Another down side to Christmas – every cigarette I have is under surveillance, so I am currently eating more and smoking less.  Not good for my figure, nor my state of mind!) But nevertheless I am always eager to taste my nan’s cooking – it is that good (I like to call it the Italian influence) that even though I exercise restraint in size of portions, I eat more than I otherwise would.  Her food has a certain feeling of safety to it that is comforting and yet vibrant and actively tangible; my father’s food just feels fake and bland in comparison.  That’s just Christmas Day – this year I plan to be talking to Mike (who is a real Scrooge!  I’m certainly not as bad as he is – he actively hates it) and complaining in unison, and quite possibly working on my essay.  Hell, there’s nothing else to do.

Nowadays, my favourite part of Christmas is buying everyone’s presents.  I couldn’t really care less what people get me, as I appreciate anyone thinking about me enough to get me a present, and I don’t tell people what to get me as everything I actively want is invariably too expensive, and I wouldn’t be happy with people (not even my parents) spending that much money on me.  I prefer to buy jewellery and expensive items with my own money, because then it’s my own decision and I’m not bound to being grateful to anyone.  The thing I enjoy about buying people’s presents is the rush and buzz in the shops, the feeling that Christmas is here (maybe it’s left over from my days working in retail – which I am still so glad are over) and most of all, choosing the right gift for somebody so that it will genuinely make them happy and let them know I have not only put thought into what I’ve chosen for them, but that I value them as a friend.  This year I have spent a bit more money than usual and than I intended, but since I have my bursary from university, I can afford it 😉 Hell, if I can afford my Gucci earrings and bracelet (which FINALLY came on Wednesday after a 3-month wait!), I can afford splashing out an extra few £ for my friends.  I take pleasure and pride in that, and I believe that as much as I deserve to be treated, so do they.  We all should allow ourselves to feel good, and allow our friends to shine a little sunshine our way every now and then.

But the meaning of Christmas has changed.  This year at university has been something I’ve enjoyed so much, I plan to go into the library over the holiday just to see Mike and do some work – it fills the time! I can barely stand to be at home anymore unless I have the house to myself, because I feel like I’m in a cage that isn’t allowed to co-exist comfortably in the same room as my parents.  I go to Starbucks most days when I have free time just to work on my essay – it has the double bonus of allowing me to escape the house & have some cigarettes, and I actually seem to get a fair amount of work done there.  (The unfortunate drawback is that I consume a beverage that contains calories – though I always go for skinny, so I guess it’s not too bad.) I like being around people, I like being close to my friends, and the fact that I have this essay to work on means that I have something to focus my energy on.  I don’t know if it’s that my attention span is getting shorter as I grow older, but I cannot stand to simply sit in front of the television and vacate my brain.  I need my laptop near me at the same time as I am watching anything just so that I can talk to friends and surf the internet – my nan jokes that I am constantly multitasking, but it is true!  I don’t know if it’s that I don’t know how to relax, but most of the time I don’t really feel the need to relax, because I’d rather be on the go.  And I guess that that’s at the heart of the problem – at Christmas, there’s just not enough to do that keeps me entertained!  I don’t dislike Christmas, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realised that the soft-focus memories of my childhood aren’t enough to hold my attention anymore, even if they were still able to be replicated (which they’re beyond not).  I don’t need gifts anymore, and I don’t need to watch a silly film on the TV while eating x, y and z.  That’s not me. Fundamentally, what I want from Christmas more than anything is to spend time with my friends, get out of the house and go somewhere and talk, be silly and have fun.

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ready for the good times.

August 7, 2009

I always have a fear that when I start writing so much about my personal life, or even about things which aren’t necessarily personal to me but involve my own thoughts or opinions on a particular matter, I might become a little bit negative or depressed. It’s happened before; I remember when I was 17 and my mother and I had a tempestuous relationship particularly during that time, she found my diary and read all the thoughts about how I felt trapped, how I was upset at her emotional games, and also how I had a massive crush on my teacher and we were quite close… (but not like that, which I had to make clear to far too many people!) It was hard, but it made me see that the more I fixate on certain matters or certain themes, the more I get caught up in a negative cycle.  Perhaps I’ve broken out of it now, I’m 6 years older and in a healthier and happier place (though still not satisfied 😉 ), but I don’t want to tempt fate.  I’m like anyone, sometimes I’m down, and I write about it.  I fall in love and get my heart broken, and I write about it.  I don’t really hide anything on this blog, you read it and you’re reading a little part of who I am.  So as well as the downs, I just want to be thankful and appreciative of the ups.

After talking to Davina and Karina about my heart and R (and already knowing what they would say about it), we went to watch The Hangover.  I knew I would hate it, and I did, though there were a couple of parts which got me to chuckle nevertheless.  I was unimpressed by the film and my mind began to wander.  Me and R had been texting during the day (work was boring yesterday) and then my phone ran out of battery so I couldn’t text him back… I was wearing the Opium again and I’d had a boring day at work, which wasn’t proving to be what I expected.  So I was down.

Today has been a totally different story.  I got a cheap lunch at Subway thanks to a great radio promotion on Heart Radio (£1.20 for a 6″ sub & medium drink, bargain!), I had a great day at work as my boss was working from home, I got computer access and I didn’t have to do so much lifting.  The sun was shining all day, I looked nice in my Prada sunglasses and maroon tshirt, and when I got home, I found that my hopes had come true and I have secured funding for university and my Careers Guidance course.  I am so happy and so relieved, because although I would have gotten a loan from the bank had I not received funding, obviously I prefer not to have to pay the money back!!!  I am hoping to use the extra money to finally get my driving licence and get on the road!!!  So things are looking up, and I want to just make a record that I am grateful and I try to absorb the positivity to counter the negativity that I encounter and sometimes can’t help but take in.