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The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Jane Austen

Review: Kayleen Barlow – I Am No Bird

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Kayleen Barlow - I Am No BirdDisclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book by the author, Kayleen Barlow.

I stayed up until 2am last night reading this book, I couldn’t stop reading and had to know how it finished. It did take me a little while initially to get into the book, but I often find when that happens that I end up loving the book even more. And this was no exception, it was absolutely brilliant.

I’m a great lover of Jane Eyre, so I loved how this (and reading in general) was central to the book. Living less than 15 miles from Haworth and the birth place of the Bronte sisters, the book reminded me how I’ve never actually been to the Bronte Parsonage, although I’ve been to Haworth many times visiting friends of my Grandma. So I think a visit back to Haworth is in order very soon!

The book has two main characters, London and Marie. They were so well described in the book that I could almost feel like I was there with them. I loved London from the start, but it took me a little while to like Marie, to start with I thought she was a bit weak, but I can see now that this was because throughout the book she grew into herself and the person that she always knew she could be. I definitely identified more with London though, a woman who loves books and would much rather stay in with her favourite characters than put herself out there and risk getting hurt.

For about three quarters of the book I was trying to piece together how the characters of Marie and London were actually related, I could see that there were similarities between the characters and I thought that London was in some way going to save Marie from having a miserable life. But when I found out how the two stories fitted together (no spoilers here), I was completely shocked, I definitely didn’t see it coming (although maybe that was in part because it was almost 2am and I should have been asleep!). It was a perfect end to a brilliant book, I was in love with both characters and the ending was superb.

Finally, although the ending of the character’s stories was perfect, the most perfect part was Marie’s entry into the scholarship contest which was the actual end to the book. I think I cried through most of it because it was so emotionally written. Bravo, Kayleen, Bravo!!

Since I can’t quote the entire essay as my favourite quote, I have a couple of particular favourite lines from the book, although the first one is obviously Charlotte Bronte, and the basis of the book.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

“You can’t rise to the surface if you’re holding onto rocks. You can’t illuminate a dark room by being a shadow. You have to let go of the boulders sinking you. Only then will you be light, and only light will dispel the darkness.”

5/5

Ron Pope and Zach Berkman at Union Chapel

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This weekend was my trip to London with Frank to see Ron Pope and Zach Berkman at Union Chapel. We stayed at the same hotel as last time, which was probably a mistake. Booking a hotel 2 tube stops from Wembley on the day that Blackpool are playing West Ham in what I assume was a big match was a bad idea, our hotel was full of noisy football fans. We also found out what a ‘non-premier’ room was like. Last time we wondered what made the room premier, but this time we didn’t get an upgrade and it was pretty obvious. The room was about half the size and the bathroom was rubbish! But it was only for one night, and the gig more than made up for it.

The gig was in a beautiful church in Islington called Union Chapel. It’s a proper working church during the day, and during the night it is used for gigs and shows. The stained glass with the setting sun was simply amazing. And being a church the acoustics were amazing.

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I had seen tweets to say that Caggie Dunlop was going to be there, but she didn’t turn up. But that meant more Zach and Ron so I’m not going to complain. Zach kicked off the gig with his guitar, then played a few songs on the piano too. I love his albums, but he was wayyyy better live. I always love to feel the emotion in a song, and when Zach explained that he wrote Celia after seeing his Grandma hold her first Great Grandaughter just before she passed away made me listen a lot more closely to the words of the song. Amazing. He played a few songs I’d not heard of, and when I tweeted him after the show he told me about an old album that I’d not heard of, so that’s now playing on my iPod.

After Zach finished his set, it was over to Ron. I saw him a couple of times earlier this year when he played acoustic shows, but this time he was playing with a whole band. It was brilliant, especially when you consider that the band was put together by Ron’s tour manager and they’d never all played together until the day of the gig. When Ron was playing guitar, Zach played piano for him, and vice versa. Paul Hammer of the District also joined them for the show, which was pretty cool, especially when they all sung Somewhere in the Darkness as I wasn’t expecting any District songs.

 

The only bad part for me was that although we were in such a beautiful venue, other people clearly didn’t place quite as much importance on the fact that we were in a church. I know I’m not into fashion, but I really don’t want to see 15 year old girls wearing shorts so short that their butt is showing out the bottom. And definitely not when I’m sat in the pews of a church!

But by far the best part of the night was when Ron was about to play a song and said ‘hold on, I’ve got an idea’. He picked his phone up and started to call someone, which had us all a bit confused. It went to voicemail (typical!), and he left a message which said ‘Grandma, we’re about to play your song’. He held up the phone for everyone to say hi, then said ‘I love you‘ and hung up. He played Shoot out the Lights, then explained that he wrote the song when his Grandma had cancer and she asked him to write her a song. Luckily (and in Ron’s words), she ‘kicked cancer’s behind’. The phone call was really sweet, and you could tell that the song was quite hard for him to sing. The words of the song are so poignant now that I know why he wrote them:

We’ve been watching for a miracle
We’re praying for a sign
When the cure is made of poison then it’s hard to rest your eyes

If it’s time, Oh Lord
Shoot out the lights
Shoot out the lights

By far the best gig I’ve been to yet, even though it was a long weekend with a lot of driving – totally worth it!

https://twitter.com/#!/RonPopeMusic/status/204009479103184897

A Weekend in London – and Ron Pope!!

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This weekend, Frank and I went to London, primarily to see Ron Pope on Saturday night, but also to have a walk round and see all the touristy places as he’d never really been to London before.

I’d booked a hotel in Kenton, mainly because it was cheap (£64 for two of us for two nights). When we went to check-in, he couldn’t find any record of our booking, and eventually found out that the booking had been declined because apparently my card was invalid. Pretty weird, as I’d received a successful booking email, and also an email 3 days before our stay to say they were looking forward to seeing us. There was a big wedding in the hotel that weekend, so we were really lucky to get the last room available. Luckily for us, it was a premium room and we were upgraded free of charge, although I’m not sure exactly what made it premium. You get what you pay for I suppose, and it was nothing special. I’d probably stay there again though, it was only half a mile from the tube station which made it very convenient.

Frank’s first trip on the tube turned out to be quite entertaining too. We were waiting at the tube station for a tube that was due in 3 minutes, and two dogs came hurtling down the stairs and ran straight onto the track. Thankfully, the station staff managed to stop the tubes in both directions so the dogs didn’t get mowed down, but although they managed to get one dog off the line, the other just settled down under the front of one of the trains and made no signs of moving. After about half an hour, someone obviously made the decision that the tubes couldn’t stay there forever, so the one that we needed to be on edged really slowly past the dog, which just laid there totally oblivious. Unfortunately, because of this delay, we only got to spend about half an hour at the Imperial War Museum.

 

Saturday night was Ron Pope at The Garage (Upstairs) near Highbury and Islington tube station. It was a great venue, and we got there early enough to get right to the front of the stage. Unfortunately they had bag checks at this venue, so we lost all the food and drink that we had been carrying round London and saving for our dinner after the gig.

The gig was opened by Caggie Dunlop. I was unsure at the start of the first song as she seemed really nervous, but she soon picked it up and she was really good. She did a fantastic cover of Do it Like a Dude by Jessie J, and also sang some songs that she had written herself – there was a really good one called You Changed the Rules. I googled her after the gig to see if she had a CD, but all I found out was that she is on the reality TV show called Made in Chelsea.

Ron Pope was awesome!! He sang most of my favourite songs, and he seemed genuinely surprised when people knew all the words and were singing along. He got up from his piano during A Drop in the Ocean just to listen to us sing the song at him, and said that’s the first time he’s ever had a crowd sing along as loud. He was also really surprised that people knew about his band (The District), and joked that he should have come to the UK earlier (I totally agree)!

The only bad thing about that gig was that it was a 14+ gig, so there were a lot of screaming teenagers, including one that started crying when he came out on stage. Frank was also a little bit concerned by the teenagers, there was one girl that was stood really close in front of him, and kept moving further and further back until he was pressed into the wall as far as he could, he couldn’t wait to get out of there!

 

On Sunday morning, Frank wanted to go visit Horse Guards Parade and see the changing of the guard, which was actually quite cool. The horses are HUGE, but we learnt from the museum that they are all specially bred on a farm in Ireland. After horse guards, we walked through the park down to Buckingham Palace, and were lucky enough to see the guards marching from the palace down the Mall to Horse Guards.

 

On Monday after we checked out of the hotel, we drove 15 minutes to the RAF Museum in Hendon. It was free to get in, and free to park due to a technical fault. It was a huge museum, with a lot of planes to see, and lots of interesting information. They had a cinema room where we watched a film about Air Traffic Control, and also a 3D film about the Eurofighter Typhoon (including some pretty cool onboard shots)! After we had finished looking round here, it was a long drive home, with Frank sleeping most of the way – I think the huge ice cream sundae at Little Chef must have tired him out!

 

I think we would like to go to London again later this year and spend more time in the Imperial War Museum, and walk around some of the places we didn’t get to see, like the Natural History Museum. We picked a bad weekend to go as it was the end of half term, but it was still a great weekend!

Yes, I bought a Heat Magazine…

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I went to London on Wednesday for work. The place I was going was right next to St James’s Park (I didn’t realise how close this was to Buckingham Palace until I got there). I’ve not been to London many times, so when I got there I decided that after I had finished work, I would walk along and take some pics. Unfortunately when I got out it was raining and I hadn’t taken my umbrella, so it was a quick walk to Picadilly Circus to get out of the rain.

I had a bit of fun getting home – there was a fire south of Doncaster so all the East Coast trains were cancelled. Just as I was about to walk from Kings Cross to St Pancras to get the train to Sheffield instead, a train to Skipton (via Leeds) popped up on the board, so I went for that one. I’m not sure if many people noticed that it was going though Leeds because the train was deserted! It was a very slow journey because of congestion on the line, so I had time to watch Black Swan, and then a lot of How I Met Your Mother DVD extras. These two DVDs had an iPad/iPhone/other media device version, which meant that I didn’t have to take my laptop with me! I hope more DVDs start doing this…

I took a few pictures while I was in London (iPhone pics so not the best quality):

 

If you don’t understand the title of the post (and there is probably only one person I know that does), it’s from this old TV advert: