Friday, 27 February 2009

Millenium Music Festival

Last Saturday, February 21st, I went along to Cardiff's Millenium stadium with some friends and we listened to a free performance by two bands. This was part of a 24-hour music festival which was funded by the Wellcome Trust and took place at venues all over the UK. From what I understood, the music from these venues would be recorded seperately and then played simultaneously to target the brain's neurons, combining music, art and science.

A solo acoustic act played about half a dozen songs which were funny but judging from the performer's attitude I'm still not sure if they were meant to be. He described one of songs as a reaction against a critic who said his songs were funny, yet the song lyrics were about killing that critic...

The next act were a three-man band (minus a member) who mumbled their lines, dropped instruments and were quite challenging to the ear. Nevertheless, the event provided a great atmosphere among the sixty-strong audience. Jaffa cakes were passed round (bonus!) and photos were taken and I certianly enjoyed the unique experience especially as it was in the stadium looked beautiful, lit up in the warm and waning afternoon sunshine.

Followed by a glass of wine in The Pen and Wig, we all had a great day out!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

February's Fashion Week (or two)

February has been a fantastic month for vintage fashion, from designer dresses to handmade hair slides, the recent fashion markets in Cardiff have offered a wide and varying array to suit all tastes.

On every first Sunday of the month, Milgi’s is host to the Boutique Night Market, which has a selection of kitsch stalls offering a variety of things, from handmade felt brooches to vintage jewellery and clothes too.

February’s market was held inside, due to the cold weather, so a legendary Milgi’s cocktail, a huge slice of cake or homemade pizza could be enjoyed as you walk around the stalls.

Being inside it is cramped, with stalls overflowing with jewellery and people constantly coming in and out, yet this adds to the warm and friendly atmosphere, where the stall holders offer explanations as to the origins of a garment or to the age of it.

One of the stall holders, Ceri Davis, said: “Tonight has been successful already. I’ve made £28.50 and all the stuff on my stall are my own clothes and accessories that I’ve just been hoarding in the attic for ages.

“I own a ridiculous amount and it was definitely time to do something with it!” she added.

I had already bought a black and silver sequinned top from her stall for £4 and was surprised to hear that it used to belong to her; most of the clothes on her rail seemed to be authentically vintage or new.

Another bargain I found was a silver brooch with orange jewels which was only £2.

A few of the jewellery stalls were quite expensive; the first stall had brooches on sale for about £10, but other stalls, such as Ceri’s, had much lower prices as they were her own goods.

If you have never visited Milgi’s put it as high priority on your to-do list.

It seems to be a unique social bar and lounge, offering unusual yet delicious food and drinks, with a Yurt outside where you can watch a film and recline on their armchairs and mattresses.

The Boutique Night Market is held at Milgi’s, City Road, on every first Sunday of the month and starts at 6pm. Admission is free.

In addition, February has also had the Blind Lemon Vintage Fashion Fair parade a vast array of fabulously eclectic clothes and jewellery at Cardiff City Hall on Sunday February 8.

This is my fashion highlight of the year, where dozens of stalls, both amateur and professional, combine to provide for every fashion style, taste and decade.

The stalls zig-zag across City Hall, creating pathways in between each other and directing the flow of fashionistas from one laden stall to the next.

Some sell vintage pearls or vintage jump-suits, others sell obviously second-hand (vintage is deliciously second-hand yet has character added to the item because of it, whereas second-hand does not have quite the same amount of vitality) items which are ideal for fancy dress parties.

In fact, one stall specialised in medieval fancy dress attire, while others specialised in cowboy-esque boots and waistcoats, 1940’s hat feathers or even 1980’s grandma-esque garments.

Ann, who has had a stall in City Hall five times now, was selling an eclectic mix of gold jewellery and costume jewellery,1960’s Polaroid sunglasses as well as some of her mother’s old accessorises and hats.

Ann said: “I’ve got most of my things from my mother who is a hoarder. She has so much stuff to shift as she has been collecting for 30 years, but now it’s time for her house to be cleared out, her things have come here.”

Like Milgi’s, some stalls are more expensive than others, with one stall selling exquisite handmade feathered and sequinned hair adornments for £35-£55.

They were truly worth every penny if you could afford it.

At the other end of the scale, one of the stalls had loads of bargains on display, with huge ornate and embellished rings priced at £4 at the most, earrings for £1 and jewellery-making components for only 50p so you could even make your own.

I could not resist such bargains and ended up spending £10 at this stall, purchasing three pairs of earrings, a hair pin and a huge ring that (ridiculously) is the width of three fingers.

Cardiff’s next Vintage Fashion Fair at City Hall is not until November, but it is a must-have date for your dairy and certainly something for all fashionistas to anticipate.

The Cardiff Vintage Fashion Fair is held at City Hall, in November and February. Admission is £4 or £3.50 with student identification. Alternatively, visit for an online version.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Hide Now by Glyn Maxwell

As I've already said, I really like the poet William Blake but I do also love modernist and postmodernist poetry too. I'm really fascinated by Dada poetry, ever since I went beyond Surrealism and discovered the art movement Dada, which was quite revolutionary in 1916. Although, in retrospect, it does appear to be a transitional movement between Futurism and Surrealism, which effectively cannabalised it.

I have written my own Dada-inspired poems from Tristan Tzara's newspaper poem which describes how to make a Dada poem out of newspaper clippings. It's really fun to do and it's amazing how many poetical features, like assonance and alliteration, pop up even though the poem is created using the theory of chance. I haven't typed these poems up yet but when I do I will definately post them on Handsel.

I digress from what I meant to write about in this post but it is tenuously connected with the theme of poetry (quelle suprise!). As I enjoy postmodernism poetry a girl in my Creative Writing seminar gave me Glyn Maxwell's book, Hide Now, which is his ninth collection of poems, but I was quite disappointed by it.

By reading The Guardian's review, I obviously have a lot more to learn about poetry, or I do not appreciate it as I should do... for a more comprehensive and professional review visit, or for my own liitle review of it read the following! I did try not to be too damning as there were some redeeming features to a few of the poems:

Written with a dry and colloquial diction, Glyn Maxwell’s collection of poems in Hide Now are abundant with poetic characteristics.

Theses features both help and hinder his poems, which can make for a forced read, even for an admirer of poetry or perhaps because of this. The Independent praises his “brilliantly elaborate syntax and forms” but it is this very elaborateness that make his poems too convoluted to be read with ease. His narratives are intricate yet can appear superfluous, as if he is trying too hard to be complicated by making the many poetic features mean too many things. Powell’s Books have heralded Maxwell as ‘the most adept heir to the poetic legacies of W. H. Auden and Robert Frost,’ yet for true Auden and Frost aficionados Maxwell would be a definite disappointment.

Despite these negative comments, the poem 'A Play of the Word' demonstrates how Maxwell’s lyrical style can be enjoyable and shows his complex syntactical style to its full advantage. His technique becomes more comfortable, especially for poetical novices or those who like to read for pleasure more than for analytical aggravation, in his shorter poems. 'Love Songs from plays', 'It too remains' and 'All Things Bright' are much more pleasant and amusing. Perhaps this is because the poem can be read and the book can be put down again in a space of twenty seconds.

What the government has been gassing on about

I was reading through some back-dated news online and looking at what the government had been doing since Brown has been PM when I stumbled across one particular article that caught my attention. It was about the government's proposals to cut down greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. Doesn't that seem to be a huge goal?, I thought. And the more I did think about it the more it seemed really ambitious, which is not a bad thing especially as it's about saving the planet bla bla but it also seemed as if the government may have set themselves yet another goal that they would not reach.

A couple weeks after this, I looked up a communications company profile and looked at available placements. The application form for their graduate placement scheme included a short essay on a variety of subjetcs and to my total amazement one of the subjects was government gas emissions!! I took this as a definate sign to apply and after some research this is the article I submitted:

By declaring that greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 80% in the next 41 years, the government has simultaneously declared what seems to be a very ambitious and improbable goal.

However, rather than focussing on the potential failure of this 80% target, although a substantial percentage will most likely be achieved, should not society be buoyed and encouraged by the mere suggestion of such an ambitious goal?

By increasing the previous 60% target does it not show how the government is attempting to tackle climate change seriously, as well as demonstrating a higher degree of reliance and faith in society to reach the proposed target, even if it does seem high?

With the next generation being born into a world preoccupied with the damaging future effects of global warming and climate change, they will certainly make the goal seem more attainable than in 2009, when the current ‘everyday man’ is perhaps having to make a determined effort to change and cut down on energy excesses.

Despite this theory, recent decisions made by the government only fail to make that target seem unattainable. For example, the aviation industry is hugely problematic regarding greenhouse emissions. On top of this, Heathrow’s third runway has been approved (albeit from a very narrow vote) by the same government that should be leading by example in their attempts to cut down on emissions that harm the atmosphere. Consequently, this decreases the feasibility of reaching the target.

The Independent has mentioned that the Conservatives have not ruled out expanding airports in the south-east. Comments like these, from a potential future government (realistically at some point between the next election and 2050), fail to raise enough hope to make the ambitious 80% goal attainable.

All Hail the Protected Badger

From Winscott Barton healthy fields stretch on and on.
The colourful squares of blue flax and yellow rape
disappear with the distant moors on the horizon.
In the nineties it was not usual for farmers to grow
rapeseed for biodiesel and flax for fabric and dye,
but these paid government schemes make up the view
that used to be full with a flock of healthy Suffolks.

Eight years on and the scant compensation is spent,
On burying and cleaning and disinfecting, the farm
only just surviving, but with no money left for stock.

But what farm needs a flock with DEFRA’s
[1] help?
Inspections reveal a rare bird in a tuft of grass
so they say we must, we really must have a plan
a DEFRA protection plan for that tuft! We must!
What’s that? Lots of bats? Well, it is a farm barn –
they can protect the bats? Why, we must do that!
And the badgers! Who cares about tuberculosis
and how their warrens ruin fields? We can’t afford
cattle anyway so let’s protect the damn badgers!

Eight years on the small farmer relies on paid acres
of rape, swedes and wildlife protection schemes,
but never a scheme to restore a farmer’s lost flock.

The millennium saw blistered mouths and jellied hearts
starve our two thousand black-faced Suffolk Ewes,
seven hundred lambs and a dozen rams. Then shot
and rotting for a week before being piled on a pyre
to burn and smoulder and stink by the kitchen window.
And eight years later we’ve spent the compensation,
not on new stock but on rules and badger protection.

[1] The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.


As I said, I have been improving on my attempts at poetry and my Creative Writing tutor really helped me with this poem, which I had posted back in December as The View from Winscott Barton. Actually, this poem has now split into the poem below, Home, and also All Hail the Protected Badger, which is definately influenced from my experiences growing up on the family farm in Devon. My tutor, John Freeman (all round good egg who has an enviable memory for poetry) advised me not to be so constrained by poetic conventions like rhyme schemes and pentameter, but to let the poem create itself naturally. By following his advice, I think this poem now shows the emotions that I had originally wanted to convey about my gorgeously scenic home environment.


As I walk away from the warmth of the house in my new welly boots
the dull shine of the rubber is soon buffed by the Boxing Day dew.
I slide up the iced garden path and walk over hardened tractor ruts
without making an imprint in the concrete mud. It must be cold.

The frosted grass crunches like the frantic ripping of wrapping paper,
the sky is a new blue blanket with a half moon sleeping on it;
my nose is having a ‘dewdrop day’ as Dad would say when he sniffles,
yet my new scarf, mittens and boot socks insulate me, thank you Mum.

So I walk on, wrapped in Christmas warmth, my wellies wanting to skip
and skate on the fresh clean air that hugs and tugs at my woolly layers,
until I reach the farm’s frost-whitened fields, where every year I stand
and every year my mittened hands clasp Cannapark’s cold green gate.

Then my wet wellies stand on the clear ice covering the bottom rung
and the gate lowers an inch with the weight from yesterday’s feasting.
Dad trundles by on the tractor, shouting ‘Mind them hinges, maid!’
which makes me smile wide, and the cold clean air dries my bared teeth.

In front of me breaths mist the air as the cattle graze in Cannapark,
let out from the shed as a Christmas treat while the ground remains dry,
although the morning dew glistens on their broad rusty-red backs
as they stand against the sheltered northern hedge in single file.

In my head, Dad mumbles how he’ll have to tighten the hinges
as I clamber to sit on the top rung and breathe in the winter scene.
And as I look at the family land all around it takes my breath
and fills me with comfort to know that every year I can call this home.

A belated Happy New Year (apologies...)

It may seem as if I have been ingoring my blog of late but I can defend my lack of posts by now uploading the work I have been concentrating on.

Some pieces of poetry that I have put on Handsel Mondays I have since taken off to develop and improve: a masterpiece is never finished! I have spent my Christmas break and January writing my essays and compiling a poetry portfolio for my degree, and it is this portfolio which now consists of these improved pieces of poetry - well, hopefully they're improved! So, the poems I initially disregarded, or were not wholly pleased with, have now been jiggled and fiddled for my portfolio but I have also spent my free time writing poems that were not aimed at my degree and I will be uploading both efforts. Have a look and hopefully they will tell you provoking stories with an uplifting atmosphere!


Oh yes, Happy New Year! I realise this is seriously belated... and I can only say that I haven't abandoned my blog as I have been keeping a daily paper version - yes, the traditional diary is back!

I've been writing in a diary for nearly every year of my life but in the last half a dozen years, when I have attempted keeping a dairy, I haven't been writing past the spring. This year will be different! I really want to jot down everything that happens in my final year of uni and especially what happens and how I am feeling when we all graduate from Cardiff in the summer. Scary stuff! But there is no way I can share the diary with my online blog - it's far too embaressing! Especially the late night praisings of Miss Barlow, after a few drinks and a fun night in our Union. Check out Barlow's blog at