SOUNDS

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An intimate gig in a random location.

Sounds like another Hoxton-inspired event idea which has appeared out of a hipster-haze, right?

Wrong.

After a couple of years of not being able to get tickets, not being able to make it when I eventually did get tickets and then sometimes forgetting it was even a thing, I finally managed to make time for Sofar last night. Having been to these types of events before, I sort of knew what to expect and I was looking forward to popping my Sofar cherry. So after a short bus ride after filling my belly with pasta, I found myself in a tiny meeting room in an office block, with a view of Tower Bridge, listening to three live performances with a few tins of gin bought from the nearby Tesco. We had no chairs, no covers, no frills or spills, just great music, precious alcohol and good company.

I don’t want to say too much about the night because it seems to me that these events are best enjoyed when taken at face value. But what I will say is that Sofar seems to attract nice people. From the volunteers who run the events, to the tentative audience members with real-life manners, my evening was made complete just by being surrounded by like-minded individuals who didn’t settle for Netflix and a chinese on a Wednesday night. Instead, they went on a hunt for something a little more interesting. And boy did they find it. I was lucky enough to enjoy 3 acts who were so fucking talented it hurt. We had a soloist who described his music as ‘soul inspired pop’, a synthy trio from Suffolk with a penchant for blue hair and a four man band who played ALL the instruments.

You can see past performances here if you like, just to get a taster of what Sofar is all about, but I would recommend not clicking and just applying for tickets without knowing too much about what’s in store for you. Just don’t expect to find your normal gig experience.

Sofar is not for the socially awkward, it is not for those who require comfy seating and it is especially not for those of you who don’t appreciate excellent music and good company.

Buy your tickets here. It’s the world’s best kept secret. For now, anyway.

THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL

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Completely unnerving and overwhelmingly awkward is how I would describe it, which pretty much sums up my teenage years, so I guess they’ve nailed it with this one.

When you’re faced with a title like this, you’re likely to assume that it’ll be filled with ungainly, first-time sexual encounters, one too many references made to ‘puberty’ and a bucket-load of angst. Although you would, in fact, be correct in assuming this, I can assure you that this film is actually so much worse than that.

Having not seen the trailer, the plot line was a little unexpected, if not a little shocking. But it was also really great. And confusing. Because it was sort of funny in an ‘I definitely shouldn’t be laughing at this’ sort of way, but I definitely laughed out loud a lot. As did my two companions. 

Kristen Wiig is amazing, as always, and it’s great to see her taking on a more serious role. Bel Powley, who takes on the role of protagonist Minnie, plays the part of a teenage girl in a way that no man ever could, which sounds completely ridiculous and nonsensical, but if you’re a woman, you’ll know what I mean. And as for Alexander Skarsgard, he couldn’t have been any less attractive in it if he tried. You’ll see why when you watch it.

In short, I loved it. But at a BBQ on our recent ‘am I in Spain or am I in South London?’ scorcher of a Saturday, a friend drew my attention to something I don’t love: the fact that the film has been rated as an 18. How can a film that is centred around our awkward teenage years be accessible only to the adults who have already survived them? The truth is, I don’t know, but apparently Powley is campaigning – or at least was campaigning – to have the rating lowered so that actual teenagers could watch it and feel a little less weird about their obsession with sex, not having sex and feeling older than their years. Yes, the film touches on what it’s like to have not grown into your face yet, but it also addresses some heavier issues from teenagehood. And that’s important.

Despite my minor gripe with the certification of the movie, I would still recommend that you take your girlfriends, along with a large bag of popcorn to go and see it. You’ll squirm from the comfort of your cushioned seat throughout whilst laughing uncontrollably, hoping that the people behind you aren’t judging. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions but well worth the ride.

I must warn you, however: do not, under any circumstances, take a parent. Or someone you wouldn’t want to watch a sex scene with, such as your nan. Or a work colleague.

No, seriously, trust me on that last one.

VINYASA IN THE SKY

Of course we would book something fun to do smack bang in the middle of London, at 6am, on the day of the godforsaken tube strike. But despite the long delays and overpacked bus stops, the journey was absolutely worth it for a whole hour of stretching beneath the clouds.

Now, I do appreciate that you might be questioning the logic behind waking up at 5am to do a bit of yoga when you can just pop down to your local gym or even watch a video on YouTube, but I promise you that it really is worth it. Challenging enough, but not too difficult, I really enjoyed the practise. The instructor threw in some poses I’d never tried and I appreciated her guidance too. And, believe it or not, there is no more peaceful place to practise yoga than above the rooftops of London, whatever Mary Poppins might’ve told you.

I obviously didn’t take any snaps whilst I was busy downward-dogging and forward-folding, but here are some shots of the beautiful – and often berated – Sky Garden in all its glory.

I would say it’s definitely worth a visit. And no, I’m not being paid to say that.

Namaste.

The West End

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For the duration of sixth form, I was trying to get into any sort of club based in either Leicester Square or Soho. Post-university, I do my best to avoid such establishments. If you live anywhere near these parts or have dared to venture into central London on a Saturday evening, for even half an hour, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about: tourist town (aka The West End).

The night starts with that sinking feeling when you hand over a tenner to get into somewhere that you just know is going to be a disappointment. You’re here for a friend’s birthday or have merely stumbled upon the last place open after a drunken dinner. Then comes the stamp, the obligatory nine-foot-tall-bouncers who haven’t smiled in a decade (probably because they work here) and the demand of a pound or two to hang your coat on a sweaty hanger with only a raffle ticket for evidence of your exchange. After this, you (obviously) head to the bar. On your stroll you’ll trot past tables brimming with belvedere, bucket loads of grey goose and A LOT of polyester suits. You’ll then hand over fourteen pounds for a double gin and tonic to decide almost immediately that this evening will therefore be ‘a quiet one’.

After your over-priced cocktail, you’ll need to top up your tan in the toilet to keep up with your neon companions. God forbid one of those super qualified photographers’ catch you off guard without a chance to side step, bend your head and crouch in an effortless bid to look natural. In the bathroom, you’ll grow increasingly aware of the feint sound of Usher from the main room, cubicle doors will swing open ‘mid-flow’ and girls will frantically be taking photographs of their friends with the sink, or you, eyes half-open, as the backdrop.

Once settled in the bar, you’ll notice that people in this underbelly don’t dance to music in the same way you do. It isn’t something to be enjoyed, demonstrated by glossy pouts and lingering stares from men in v neck shirts lining the dance floor. People don’t throw their arms in the air, covered in cider. Instead, they ‘court’ each other. Or rather, grind on each other’s arses and play “hard to get” whilst riding someone in a booth.

Basically, in these clubs, a table is a ticket to getting laid and if you’re in the VIP area, you’re pretty much Justin Beiber. While I’m not one to judge and am well aware that these polished people would despise the dives I frequent, I really would exchange the diamantes and expensive vodka for a plastic cup and smiling faces any day.

Don’t just consider zone one for fun places to go in London Town, you’ll find some absolute gems for the price of a bit of rock, elsewhere. And if all this isn’t enough to persuade you? The night bus home is an effing nightmare.

Take me back to Notting Hill at once.

The Gap Yah

When I was in sixth form, I wanted my year at school to be “The Year That Didn’t”… go to university. It obviously didn’t happen and my inner rebel was disappointed. However, I ended up not going myself that year and began an amazing journey with one of my best friends exploring the wonders of colourful Mexico and, well, the redbull of Thailand. It was wild, silly, but most importantly, an experience that taught me there is more to life than my pleasant inner city school and silly boy worries.

As we met various fellow travellers, I began to realise that not everyone takes the same path in life and perhaps the ‘right’ path is actually not so perfect. Everyone seems to think that we should do our A levels, go to university, get a job and build a career. However, my gap year opened my eyes to other options. Some people were travelling post-divorce, others post university, others having lost their jobs and some had always travelled and never even contemplated a 9 to 5. At the time, I didn’t think much about it, but as I embark on my own voyage post graduation, whether that be back to London from Exeter or across the world to the middle east, I cannot help but get a thrill from the freedom that ensues and the importance of having fun. Why waste my time on a job in teaching that I will probably get bored of in five years time? Why get lost in a successful career in publishing that will end up in me working long hours in a stuffy office, for not very much money?  Instead, I want to live life to the full and enjoy myself for a while!

I hate to sound like a gap year tragedy (i.e someone who wears an anklet three years after they’ve arrived home) but I really would urge everyone to take a year out… or three. At the moment, we are all being forced to panic about spending cuts, crime rates and the future. For those of us who have a family who depend on us then perhaps it’s not the best time to up and leave. But for us students, I think we’ve been given a great opportunity to start something positive elsewhere and perhaps we should start thinking about clawing our way through the economy at a later date?

So, with two of my friends globetrotting post graduation and another two of my friends spending their third year of university abroad, I’ve started to think about getting out of London myself. I’m also hoping for there to be an influx in bronzed backpackers to join me with the forthcoming rise in tuition fees.

Put one finger up to the system, save some money and bugger off to India for the year where you can really decide whether a degree is worth £9000 or not, away from the pressures of society. Sound good to you?

… Right, I’ll dig out my back pack and join you.