If it is Inspiration you Seek, it is Classical you Must Find

I was in a London bar the other night, relaxing with a book and a medium sized glass of sparkling cranberry juice. There was a nice flurry of activity occurring around me, date night couples, arguing couples, groups of friends, a solo American businessman trying to engage with conversation (bless), all the standard things you’d expect to see in a alcoholic establishment of its sort and location.

I was sat in a booth to myself and taking in the lively scene of human activity mid page (the joy of a gentle anthology) when something caught my eye. At first I thought I was mistaken by what I’d seen but then the dart happened again and again, until my brain finally came to terms with what it was witnessing less than two meters away.


The little pests were so quick and spontaneous with their movements I could barely get my phone out, let alone take a photo, before they dashed back into the shadows or across the tiles into a new crevice. I saw one dash towards the American businessman but he seemed too preoccupied with asking the bartender to hit him with yet another whiskey so I held my tongue.

I’d only just arrived at the pub and settled down, so felt very reluctant to leave. I’d been to the establishment before and saw no sense in hurrying back to the cramped little flat I call home alongside four others. Besides, I’d paid £2.70 for my sparkling cranberry juice.

I knew exactly what to do. I put on my headphones and whacked on one of my most played songs. A classic of a classic, Ralf Vaugh Williams’ The Lark Ascending is as beautiful a composition if ever there was one. And while I can never begin to review it on a note-by-note basis (this girl dropped trombone when she was sixteen) I can firmly say that as a sentient human being it is a song that always helps lighten my spirits whatever mood I am in. I’m playing it right now as I type, listen:

So delicate but forthright and strong. Each time I hear the notes I see a different version of me play out, be it the girl in an evening dress or the girl donning her stick and hanky as she strides towards the city where the streets are paved with gold. And it was listening to The Lark Ascending that night in an average pub with mice running around that I was able to find my inner composure. Don’t get me wrong, mice or any kind of vermin indoors is not particularly pleasant, nor should it be ignored, but just listening to classical music, well, it seemed to transport me somewhere completely different. I could overlook the mice dashing about, in fact I was even able to half smile at their ill fated antics to get any distance before a human made a move of their own.

And then I looked down and saw a mouse sniffing my pump shoe and the bare foot within. Then I freaked the hell out and swiftly finished my juice as a scooted towards the door of a rapidly emptying watering hole. I left the single member of bar staff in the delightful company of the American and a newly arrived drunk local.

And it made me think, when did I start embracing classical music? What were the key tracks that started it? Well bizarrely my love of classical music all started with a free CD that came with a Saturday Daily Express newspaper. Remember those few years where newspapers gave out CDs every five minutes with a random assortment of music? Well in 2004 we got one and it must have been the Euros or something because it was called Football Passion (even though the last World Cup had been in 2002).


Well much to the surprise of 11 year old me and a good deal of other Daily Express readers the CD was purely classical music. Not a sniff of Lighting Seeds in sight. And yet in a very weird way a free piece of plastic came to be the making of me. Playing it in the car for weeks afterwards I was able to formulate my own narratives around each song. The first and strongest story I devised around a song that was around the composition of William Tell Overture. Don’t listen to this and tell me you can’t picture the spectacle of the horse racing?

Picture a scene resembling the Grand National or Cheltenham Races, horses chasing up to hurdles and bounding over. Riders falling to the wayside one by one as proud owners look on to see their champions to the photo finish. So much energy and excitement.

Pavane, the song that flows straight after William Tell Overture on the CD’s playlist, created in my head the sense of disappointment of the losers.

The riders cast aside as failures, the damaged horses piled in heaps awaiting their fate as the rain starts to drop down. That or a general sense of romantic sadness, young boys packing bags and sent off to war when they barely understand what suffering is. The long days of rain and sadness.

And then, several songs later…

The slow build up, the knowing that something is about to happen, something is about to change. And then boom! The base drops and you’re filled with a sensation of happiness and warmth. The rain has stopped, war is over, there is a shining future ahead and all you can see is the goodness in humanity. O brave new world!

As crazy as it would seem, a free CD aimed at a sport I had no interest in would spark a new altogether different fascination in me. Around the same time my Mum got given a compilation CD set for Christmas called Pure Chillout.


Still played around the house some fifteen years later, the album’s selection of modern hits with a feeling of ‘future classics’ was timed perfectly to those early teenage years of trying to make sense of the world under a mountain of coursework. The Heart Asks Pleasure First has strong banking connotations in the UK, but for me I could see only two lovers running around wild meadows, pausing only to catch their breath and the beauty of their company.

How mighty is the piano.

Mum, a now retired teacher, used Adiemus for one of her class’ dance routines.

Aged about nine, I listened to the song repeated endless times in the kitchen while she formulated the choreography for a group of twenty seven to eleven year olds. I remember watching the class rehearsing the performance an thinking it very impressive given my Mum half an hour before had been teaching Maths. However it wasn’t the story I’d created in my head.

In my head I pictured it as a battle scene. The noble and good army preparing for the battle ahead at camp, heading to the field, squaring up with their mighty and evil enemy across the board field. Then the charge with an almighty crash as the two sides interlock for the first time. The bloody battle, the slaughter and long battle, ending with the head of the enemy cut clean off and rolling away. The enemy drop their weaponry and the good Queen proclaims the victory to her humble supporters.

In hindsight I understand why my Mum couldn’t have acted out similar with her students.

Spin things back to the present day and you can find Mozart sitting comfortably as playlist bedfellows to songs such as this where English lyrics start to make an appearance, but only as long as they serve as backing vocals to the main event:


I now find myself frequently utilising the power of the classical genre to help me focus on big tasks or help support and make sense of the creative noise in my head. With no fake beats or confusing lyrics to contend with my mind can make its own conclusions of what it hears. And like any form of artwork, I can listen to it knowing that a distant person on the far side of the world can understand the wordless track just as easily and form their own opinions and judgements.

Were years of classical music the only reason I put up with hoards of bar mice that evening? Of course not. But could I say to you, hand on heart, that without ever listening to a classical music track I’d be sat here today writing the way I do? Now that’s a tougher question to answer. Because classical music forced me to form a story based on no steer whatsoever. It began that process of storytelling that has stuck with me ever since. Without the genre I genuinely do not know if I’d still be able to pull writing topics out of thin air or even if I’d have the confidence to share my ideas for the world to see for themselves.

If it is inspiration you seek, it is classical you must find.

What Halloween Means to Me

To some Halloween means this…


Or this…


If you have too much time on your hands it could even mean this…


But for my sister and I the spirit of Halloween is more than just over the top costumes and expensive decorations. We see beyond the sugar coated antics of our peers, looking much further ahead, past the day itself. For after every Halloween comes the bit that really gets me excited – reduced pumpkins.


Quick, grab as many as you can!



And that, that’s what Halloween means to me.

Pumpkin soup anyone?

North Korea – a Very British Take

I don’t know about you, but I aren’t half irritated by all this talk of North Korea and the like.

There’s no easy way of addressing the rather sticky topic of a country that has barely two sticks to rub together but a tonne of bombs ready to light. Even the utterance of the word ‘Kim’ nowadays makes people shudder. (I feel for anyone of the same name, it must make office discussions a nightmare.) No longer is “Hitler” deemed the ultimate buzz kill of conversations, no, that title now falls to the bomb-drop (pun not intended) of “so…North Korea, eh?”

Drop the mic and never pick it up.

Maybe the dictator is threatening to blow us all up because he tried Instagram and realised that he’s not Kim Kardashian?


You’re a strong, independent man Jong-un, you don’t need no followers…or human rights or peace talks…


Me personally I’ve got to a point where I’m a bit fed up of hearing all about it. Personally I always considered myself to be akin to Cypher in The Matrix. Sod all the misery and slavery in the real world, give me an amazing life in the fake one. As such it doesn’t half frustrate me when I keep having to watch news about increasing tensions, followed by relaxations, then changed up to tensions again. If I wanted to watch a little fat man in a suit I’d have put on Thomas the Tank Engine.

(And we can all get covered in falling pails of milk and it’ll be hilarious and harmless in equal measure.)

As a British person I’m presently faced with three equally delightful prospects of the future: a) death by war, b) death by global warming or c) death by lack of French cheese and wine through Brexit. It’s all water off a duck’s back now, in fact I’m probably more likely to complain to the BBC if the news report does not feature at least two of the above. Unless the article features tea, I’m super hopeful that we’ll get all of that tea China promised us some 150 years ago. I’m going to ask Father Christmas for it this year, that or duct tape for Boris Johnson, whichever suits.

In truth I feel more frustration and sadness over the people who live in North Korea. There is nothing for them there but poverty, misery and worse. No one reports on them, no one thinks about how sanctions hit the citizens who have done no wrong. I’m no politician or John Lennon, but it just seems like such a screwed up country and people are treating it, on the surface, like it’s one naughty child and shouting at it for long enough will calm it down. But since when does that work with normal children? Or Trump? You take away their bacon and they get more irritable.

If we learnt from past mistakes I swear the world wouldn’t be in such a mess right now.

People just need to calm down, and someone needs to give Kim a girlfriend or a new hobby. Has anyone thought about introducing the dictator to cross stitch for example? Or maybe the satisfaction of a well maintained allotment? Just thoughts you know (and considerably cheaper than a world war – sign him up for one of those monthly magazine kits for sale in WHSmith.)

The issue of North Korea isn’t great, I get it, but when I get home from a long day at work can you perhaps not tell me I’m going to die from an exploding bomb or the after effects? I’ve just cleared a backlog of admin and health and safety e-learning and with the greatest of respect Trump I really, really, do not want to know right now. Don’t tell me that the hour spent learning how to position my monitor screen is about to go down the drain. Because seriously, I do not have time for it.

In a nutshell then I’ve basically explained the problems in North Kora through use of Instagram, a children’s TV show and a kid with a bacon addiction. I guess some writers are just born with it.


*FYI – all views are mine (because what other crazy fool would write the above?)

Famous Speeches Reimagined with Tea

Because the world would be a better place if we let out the hate and let in the tea.


Speech to the Troops at Tilbury Fort – Queen Elizabeth I

I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a strong tea drinker, and of a tea drinker of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade my beverage stocks on a Monday morning…


Address to the Army at the Beginning of the Italian Campaign – Napoleon Bonaparte

Soldiers, you are naked and ill tea-ed! Government owes you much and can give you nothing. The patience and courage you have shown in the midst of these rocks are admirable; but they gain you no renown; no glory results to you from your endurance. It is my design to lead you into the most fertile tea plains of the world. Rich provinces and great cities will be in your power; there you will find honour, glory, and rich beverages. Soldiers of Italy! Will you be wanting in Breakfast or Earl Grey?”


We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches – Winston Churchill

We shall drink tea on the beaches, we shall drink tea on the landing grounds, we shall drink tea in the fields and in the streets, we shall drink tea in the hills; we shall never surrender…tea


I Have a Dream – Martin Luther King Jr.

I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be replanted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made green, and the crooked places will be made straight rowed, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation’s into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, coffee drinkers and tea lovers, knowing that we will all have tea one day.


Chairman Mao Zedong

An army without tea is a dull-witted army, and a dull-witted army cannot defeat the enemy.


Neil Armstrong (on the invention of fruit tea)

That’s one small step for tea, one giant leap for mankind.


Dali Lama

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own action to make a good cup of tea.


Presidential Inauguration Speech – Donald Trump

From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be only Tea First. Tea First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American Teabags and American Tea drinkers. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our caffeine, and destroying our mid-afternoon breaks. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never, ever let you down Mr PG Tips Monkey.


You get the idea.

Written in response to the WordPress prompt of the day: Tea

Look, All I’m Sayin’…

Reason #8587839 why the English language is so hard to learn – Savor

a) Savor is American.
b) Savour is the exact same word spelt differently (and correctly might I add) in British English (i.e. English, English).
c) Savour is too close to the Jesus Christ the Saviour, for my liking (especially when robed men go about and start including bread in the same conversation).


And that was another episode of “Look, All I’m Sayin’…” next week we’ll start the first of a special ten part special into how every element of following phrase should never have slipped through the net:

“No way did you knowing read a trashy colored book called ‘from Reading to Rubbish’! I saw someone reading that too. It was whilst I was on the see saw in the park with the poor car parking. You might as well pour your pounds down the drain with that one, but then no one reads anymore anyway. If I had it my way I’d do a ‘U’ turn on policy preventing pupils from using their pupils on lunch break, and let their creativity break loose by buying books in bimonthly sales, or else we might as well say bye-bye to the future.”


Written in response to the WordPress Prompt of the day: Savor

Nablopomo Day 24: Can We Trade Black Friday for Thanksgiving? (An Open Letter to America)

Dear America,

Here in Britain we don’t have a lot. We have tea, cake and Benedict Cumberbatch but that’s about it. Every year at around this time we experience on our television sets what can only described as TG-Fest (Thanksgiving Fest). All of our imported shows from your country suddenly switch on the Thanksgiving story plot without warning in blatant disregard for the storyline of other episodes. That cousin who flew out to Australia last episode? He’s now back on the scene. The dog who was very much dead and/or non-existent? Well they’re now scampering about with Grandma May’s sausages (in an apparently hilarious fashion). It makes no sense.

This however is nothing in comparison to how us Brits react to the general concept of Thanksgiving. Every year we get caught up in this moral no man’s land of envy and pride when your national celebration comes into conversation. We envy you because we in Britain have no such celebration of ‘thankfulness’. We have Christmas, sure, but Thanksgiving is a festival with actual historical routes, a festival which doesn’t bond itself to a particular religion or custom. An alien from Mars could rock up the day before Thanksgiving and quickly understand what it’s all about. While Christmas truly is a great occasion, it’s a festival that often seems embarrassed by it’s own upbringing. It’s as if God is the most uncool parent figure of all time. You watch any Christmas film released in recent times and you’ll find it to be a movie completely devoid of religious connotation, but instead shoved full of Santa, presents and generic ‘festive’ music (i.e. everything commercial). You’ll struggle to find so much as an extra muttering the phrase ‘fully booked’ out of fear it’ll make the movie religious – even though Christmas has the word ‘Christ’ in it…

That said, we in the UK hate the thought of having to spend more time and money on family than needs be, so we also look down on Thanksgiving. We will happily sip on pumpkin lattes while you toil over pumpkin pies. For people like me who have their birthdays around this time of year, the thought of having three big events happen in the space of two months sounds like a social and logistical nightmare that I’d rather avoid. How do you guys coordinate present and card drops alongside work dos and catch up drinks? I feel stressed just thinking about it. I may pine for an extra day off to do nothing, but I certainly do not envy the chaos that must ensue beforehand.

Regardless of how we react to Thanksgiving, you guys seem to be content on exporting your culture, like it or not. This, dear America, is where I and many, many, Brits take issue. What the stuff is this Black Friday nonsense you’ve decided to dump on us? In the form of the mighty Amazon.com, your country bestowed Black Friday on us a few years back, it was like a neighbour who you’ve lived next to for ten years deciding to randomly give you a bottle of shampoo. You don’t need shampoo, you don’t particularly want shampoo, yet you’ve been handed it and, because you’re British, you’re morally obliged to accept it. Worse still, you feel bound to acknowledge this as normal. You’re bald-headed, it’s not ruddy normal, but then Britishness always trumps the bleeding obvious. This is what Black Friday is to us. Pointless but tolerated. It’s a needless excuse for companies to make us buy stuff we don’t want, to make us panic buy. Let me tell you America, if there’s one thing we don’t need to be taught, it’s how to panic buy. We’re pretty dam good at that already thank you very much.

I like to think myself in the growing minority, now borderline majority, who think this post-Thanksgiving festival is a joke. Last year my Black Friday purchases came to a total sum of £2.70. I went into a department store to buy tights, saw that everything had 10% off, shrugged shoulders and bought the same pack of tights for 30p less. From the multitude of ten elderly ladies in that shop, I can confirm that my feelings were replicated store-wide. It is no coincidence that said department store chain (BHS) has now closed down.

In short America, the residents of the United Kingdom do not care for your tat festivals. We do not give two hoots for Black Friday. You won the battle with Proms, Halloween and McDonalds, but you will not prevail with Black Friday. We have honestly got enough political tat of our own to be dealing with before we start maxing out our credit cards on Rod Stewart’s Greatest Hits CD. Maybe you thought you were being nice to share, maybe you don’t want us anywhere near Thanksgiving, but either way you made the wrong call. You and our British-based consumer giants went one step too far.

Behold, Black Friday in 2014:

Back Friday, 2015:

Based on this trend, I’d predict Black Friday 2020 to be little more than a racist parade staged by the English Defence League. But you know what? I’m not even surprised. I’ll actually to be happy to see the back of Black Friday in fifty years time when you guys finally stop flooding our airwaves with adverts for ‘deals of the century’, where stockists take £20 off that cheap Chinese drill they can’t shift.

So, happy Thanksgiving America. Us Britons wish you all the happiness and peace you seek on your special day. Suggestion; next year we take all your spiced pumpkin pies and paid leave and, in return, you can have 18% off selected toner cartridges. Seems fair, right?


Yours Sincerely,

Alice E. Bennett

British Resident


Nablopomo Day 9: Speechless (US Presidential Elections 2016 – Results)

I saw this in the magazine aisle today and it made me very sad. Sad and concerned.


It’s official, the American people have voted in Donald J. Trump to be their next president and, by default, one of the leaders of the free world. Donald Trump. Trump.

I’m sorry, I am really trying here, but I fail to see why anyone would/did vote for this man. There’s nothing about him that makes him suitable for the position. Neither his CV nor his personality lends itself to the role in anyway. The only thing (and it’s such a slim thing) is that my colleague suggested that given Trump and our own Nigel Farage are so chummy, maybe we’ll get a trade deal with America, but that’s such a pie in the sky thing.

I guess now it’s my turn to question and generalise all American voters in the same why Europeans did to us when as a nation we voted for Brexit. It doesn’t feel as good or smug as I thought it would. In a world where Russia grows stronger, terrorists get more media attention than they deserve and Toblerone decide to radically cut down the chocolate content of bars I don’t know what to think or believe anymore.

Jesus Christ America, what have you done?

Nablopomo Day 8: The Lesser of Two Evils (US General Election 2016)

Given the countless number of blog posts, news articles, Facebook posts and general trollers out there, I’m going to keep this as short and sweet as possible. When it comes to my views on the Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton and the Republican contender Donald Trump, my opinion on the US general election 2016 is the same as my opinions on the 2012 general election. In fact they’re also the same as those felt for the 2008 general election, the 2004 general election and, had I not been so obsessed with Pokémon and rolling in mud, it probably would have been the same in 2000. My thoughts can be summed up in one statement is this:

Please America, just pick the normal one. The lesser of two evils.

It’s not too hard to do. Look, the other candidate has even been discovered as a massive homophobic/communist/sexist/racist/idiot. See! They’ve even admitted to it! (Wait, why are these people cheering?)

What I think I struggle with most about this election is that in a country of 324,707,000 people the two people put forward to rule country and, arguably, the world are not liked by anyone in said country. It genuinely makes no sense. Big shocker – the normal one everyone usually falls back on isn’t actually quite the saint everyone desperately wanted to be. Suddenly everyone would rather former President Hoover was resurrected and brought back to stand office – and he was the man that caused the Great Depression of 1929-1945.

Now, I know in the UK we’re not quite up there in size with America but I’m going to say one thing – British Empire. Ok, so that in mind, I’d say we can draw fair comparisons between our two political spectrums. How come when our former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was caught on tape in 2010 describing a voter as a ‘bigoted woman’, it literally spelt the end of his political carrier, yet Donald Trump has woman after woman claiming indecent assault and he is somehow able to shrug it off? If you told me our two countries were inhabited by creatures as different as fish and unicorns I’d understand, but on the surface the only things separating us (and I’m going to overly generalise here) are our differing accents and Wendy’s. So why are we in this position? Why am I going to bed thinking the same thing on a four year rotation? And why is it getting progressively worse each time? If the slightly better candidate gets in this time, are we only delaying the inevitable car crash when, in four years’ time, I’ll switch on my TV to see the political debate being fought over by Big Bird and Barney the Dinosaur?

I know it’s too late for this election. The nominees were decided months ago and your votes have well and truly been cast. The decision has been made. However, whatever the result tonight/tomorrow, America I ask of you only this:

For the love of God, don’t screw our planet up.