Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Going Underground

This guy.
I don't think this will come as a shock to anyone when I say, it's been a while since I've updated anything online. Blog, twitter, facebook... the lot. For now, I'm deactivating facebook, and I won't be updating this little space either (I've always been a bit of an on-off blogger, and I think it's come to the point where I prefer reading other, more dedicated blogs than creating my own). I'm having way too much fun in Paris, so I don't really have the time to post all about it on here. However, if you do want to get hold of me, I'll still keep my twitter open for the odd tweet or two, and instagram as I can't resist a good peruse. You may or may not see more of me on there. To my dearest friends and family, I'm pretty sure you have my personal email address/phone number, but if not, email me using the one provided on this site and I'll get back to you. x

Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Paris Diary: La guerre 'fait maison'

Everyone around the world knows that La France is the country of food - and not just for food producers, but of beautiful recipes and astonishing chefs. France is second only to Japan for Michelin star restaurants, so it comes with no surprise that any threat to its food industry is a matter of grave importance.

I am of course referring to possibly the best projet de loi that has come out in a while from the French Government - its attempt to curb fraudulent "fait maison" (homemade) meals in restaurants in France. I think we've all experienced it at some place or another where we've ordered a pretty pricey, intriguing sounding meal only to be rewarded with a stale microwaved meal. Thankfully, the French have had enough, and are now well on their way to passing a law against any such act on meals labelled "fait maison".

I for one am all for this. Food fraudsters everywhere better beware! A microwave is no way of cooking food in France, let alone selling it. I'll let you know when this comes into practice!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Paris Guide

The Eiffel Tower by YW Photography
It's been a little while since I posted about my adventures in Paris, but that's mainly because I've been working my socks off at work! There have been some midweek escapades however, but having not taken many photographs I have to say it'd make for some very dull blogs! Instead, I've created my Paris Guide of places I've been and things I've seen that I would recommend to anyone visiting or living in the city. I may have only been here for three weeks but it's already growing!

So if you're visiting the city of love as a holiday, or moving here on your placement, or even just living in Paris, take a look at my recommended places to go and events to experience!

I also would like to add here a little thank you to the wonderful Yasmin of YW Photography who let me use her stunning picture of the Eiffel Tower above. You can visit her website at to see many more beautiful photographs or even book a photo shoot!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Paris Diary: Fête de la musique

Summer Solstice at Stone Henge, England
Yesterday was Midsummer's Day; Summer Solstice; whatever you want to call it. In England, this usually comprises of someone going "Oh, here comes the winter then, we're back on the downhill path, etc." and a few gypsy/hippy/pagan people gathering at Stone Henge, as depicted, right (taken from The Telegraph).

But not in Paris. Oh no! This Midsummer's Day marked the annual Fête de la musique, happening on June 21 in Paris ever since its introduction in 1982 by Maurice Fleuret (Director of Music & Dance) under Jack Lang (Minister of Culture). Apparently he found that 1 in 2 children in France played a musical instrument, and so Fête de la musique was born as a way of encouraging both professional and amateur musicians to take to the streets! It was so successful that it's now celebrated across a number of other countries (pull your socks up, Great Britain!).

Timbao on the night of Fête de la Musique
As for my night out, it consisted of bopping around Montmartre and Pigalle to drum orchestra Timbao, a DJ set outside Café Chappe, a death metal band, a tiny acoustic group, a man playing violin to house music outside Zazabar, an excitable ska band in Omnibus Café and then sashaying my way home past some great salsa music and through the crowds of Parisians dancing on the streets.

The most striking thing about it all was the pure happiness everyone, everywhere. Friends across the city told tales of the exact same thing; everybody dancing and smiling, cheering on the cars and bikes trying to get through their dancing bodies, applauding the residents who came onto their balconies to watch the makeshift dance floors that were the streets and alleys.

Tip of the Day: If you're ever around Paris in June, make sure it's June 21st!

Friday, 14 June 2013

The Paris Diary: La première semaine

Paris Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie - Avenue de Friedland
Despite the earlier mornings and later evenings, my first week in Paris has flown by! I'm settling in at work - the team are really friendly, the office culture is easy to pick up and the building I work in is amazing (let's just say I work on Avenue de Friedland... if you know Paris, and/or it's proximity to the Arc de Triomphe you'll know how posh it is!). I'm shadowing another student currently and she's been really kind to me as I'm still ironing out the kinks in working in an international business - the constant switches in language being my toughest task. My job comprises of scouting for news our clients will be interested in, so this means reading a lot of newspapers and websites (in both English and French) and sending out newsflashes and newsletters. Basically, lots of news!

Aside from work, I've been discovering a little more about the area I'm living in (I'd like to say Montmartre, but I'm two streets away from that... welcome to Barbès!). So far there's been no direct hassle, even with the "light" collision directly outside our flat, the roof of the shop next door falling down and the constant offering of fake cigarettes by illegal street vendors. Other than that, I've enjoyed a visit to the greasy friend chicken shop nearby (the legendary Chicken 75), then making homemade fried chicken with my flatmates and their friends and meeting the little old lady across the hall (even if that was because I sounded like I was bashing our front door down when my key got stuck...).

So, to round up this week, here are the top five things I've discovered so far:

1. The Distinction in Arrondissements
Steak and Chips
This is something I was warned about before I came to Paris, but it was more in reference to the architecture than anything else. In fact, it's pretty easy to discern which arrondissement you're in just by looking at the style of people's clothes and the price of a main meal in the surrounding restaurants. For example:

1st (Pont Neuf): blazers, tight jeans, patent leather brogues; 79,95 € for a three course meal and drinks
7th (Eiffel Tower): a random mix of foreign tourists and their clothes; 19,60 € for steak and chips with a soft drink
8th (Champs-Élysées): black shift dresses, silk scarfs, stillettos; 4,25 € for an M&S prawn mayo sandwich
18th (Barbès): cultural dress, socks and sandals; 6,50 € for a fried chicken meal

2. Work's Canteen
What a life saver! With my best intentions of avoiding the abovementioned expensive prawn mayo sandwiches, I brought in a packed lunch for my first day of work. No need! The canteen, serving quite a workforce, clearly benefits from economies of scale - 2,25 € for an amazing chicken and egg salad, with of course the usual free bread (bread is apparently free in all of France when served with a main meal), free carafes of mineral water, free salad dressings, olives, pickles etc. and only an extra 32 cents for a good amount of brie or a natural yoghurt. It's my new favourite place to eat.

3. The Weather
Even with England a stone's throw away, it's pretty clear the weather in Paris is definitely different. I'd say much more decisive - if you wake up and it's cloudy, it'll be grey skies all day. If you wake up and it's sunny, it'll be brilliantly bright all day.

4. The Architecture
A pretty obvious one, but it's worth a mention. Everywhere in Paris is beautiful. Everywhere within the 20 arrondissements is sculpted, carved and built with more flair than any other city I've been to.

5. Apples & Pears
The best foody thing I found this week was a cross between a yoghurt and a compote, in the form of mashed apples and pears. I think the closest thing in England is the same flavour of baby food, but here, it's actually acceptable to eat. And they're really, really tasty!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Paris Diary: La première exploration

The Louvre Palace and Museum
Sunday was the first day without ma famille - they took the long ferry journey home while I stayed in the cloud-ridden yet forever beautiful city.

Free time means exploration time so I journeyed out to Châtelet (Les Halles) with a friend, where we realised our error almost immediately - the surrounding shopping centre was dead. Sundays really are the day of rest on the continent, apart from the glowing golden arches, proving just how American le McDo really is.

Despite all this, we walked on and found ourselves on an impulsive trip to the Louvre, with a spot of lunch at a teeny tiny family-run restaurant. Prepare yourself folks - you won't find a proper meal here under 10 euros! The meal really was good though, tagliatelle with a special homemade sauce and as much parmesan as I liked.

Again, the Louvre turned out to be a bad idea - the day being the main problem. The queue filled the courtyard completely, so it was a quick spot of sightseeing until we stumbled upon a smaller museum - Le Musée des Arts Decoratifs - full of jewellery (including the jewelled fruit below), fabrics and interior design. And the beauty of being a student still meant free entry!

We then strolled around for a good few miles, admiring the city in spitting rain and reaching the Galeries Lafayette, and then into the cheesily-named Happy Days Diner for some super-thick milkshakes. Yum yum yum.

I also managed to pick up a Navigo Card on my way home, with the strange experience of having my photo printed onto the card through a little hand-held webcam by the cashier. The beauty of the Navigo is that it's issued free, and then it's up to you on how much you want to top it up by - all you need is proof that you live and/or work in the Île-de-France, and then subscriptions for a week or month in whichever zones you like are easily added to the card via the computer terminals.

This also means more exploration is (quite literally) on the card!

Tip of the Day: Make sure you know which days places are shut. Everyone in France likes a break; shopping centres and the majority of places are closed on a Sunday, however the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays... it really just depends on where you want to go!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

The Paris Diary: La tour Eiffel

The Champ de Mars
Saturday was a very different sort of day - starting out the many failed attempts at purchasing a Navigo Card (the new version of the Carte Orange, a metro travel card reserved for those who work in the Île-de-France) due to "technical difficulties", (despite plenty of employees telling me where to go, it seemed none of them knew it was closed) leaving me and a few other fellow citoyens scratching our heads at the SNCF office in Gare du Nord.

After this was a brief trip into Barbès for some UK-to-Europe socket adaptors (nowhere had them - not even Carrefour or Tatti!) and then for a French sim card (again, no-one had them except for Lebara sims, however our landlord has given us a phone with free UK calls, so there would be no need... all I need is internet!). Instead I decided to buy lunch for my family and walk to where they were staying, but as soon as they came down and saw my bulging bags they told me I was too late - they'd already had lunch!

Brasserie de la Tour Eiffel
However the day was turned around with a trip to the Eiffel Tower and then La Brasserie de la Tour Eiffel, a French restaurant just around the corner. I have to admit, I don't really get why people visit the Eiffel Tower. Sure, it's a breath-taking monument, especially when you see it for the first time, but to queue for a good while and spend a good amount of money to climb some stairs to see Paris from above - when there's plenty of other places to do the exact same thing for free - has me confused. It's basically France's answer to the Iron Giant - with a pricey fee, e.g. a plastic 330ml bottle of Coca Cola costs €5 there!

The Eiffel Tower
The restaurant however was amazing. Pricey and completely worth it - I had the best bolognese ever (even if it's not very French!). Then it was a quick run back to Toracdéro metro to avoid a heavy storm and all the way to Abbesses for a good walk around the - sadly closed - patisseries. The proprietor of La Brasserie did however recommend visiting Madeleine for the best patisseries - something I'll have to take up soon!

I also will quickly mention how I got locked out on the street - despite the three keys and five flights of creaky wooden stairs to get in, there's also a code on the main door that I hadn't been told. Magically the caretaker was sitting at the first floor window and shouted it to me, otherwise I don't know what I would have done!

Tip of the Day: Buy at least two adaptors before travelling abroad!

Friday, 7 June 2013

The Paris Diary: Les touristes

View from my room in Barbès
Today was the complete opposite of yesterday, I'm happy to say! I've now moved in with all my things (I thought I had too much but somehow, I've done a Mary Poppins and magically fitted everything onto my shelves and tiny wardrobe) and met my 3 flatmates. They're really really lovely, and quite honestly haven't had any trouble living in Barbès - despite the one pick-pocketing horror story from yesterday.

Before all that however, it was my first grand display of French in order to open a bank account. I went with the BNP Paribas close to my flat (that's a bank, not the "slightly" racist political party), but not before actually applying the age-old "ou est la banque?" that every french teacher in the land drums into their school children. A thank you is in order!

After spending a good 40 minutes in the bank discussing my account (which is in fact two accounts, that still need verifying via letters sent in the post across the road to my flat, to be signed and sent back across the road via post, along with more proof of identification and a standard 10 day delay before I get my card... Ah la France! The birth place of bureaucracy!) I left and had a quick leftover kebab for lunch (kinda gross, kinda nice) and then to finishing off unpacking.

After moving in it was onto some more exploration - stumbling into Montmartre, Abbesses (my new all-time favourite place to be, even if it's un peu plus cher...) and then accidentally some of the red-light district, spiced up with an odd wooden sword fight in the middle of a backstreet by a man and woman dressed in black (does anyone have any idea what this is about??). Then it was revisiting le Moulin de la Gallette, where we'd stayed close by on holiday 11 years ago (how I still have the memories I don't know!) and then climbing the grand old steps of the Basilisque du Sacré Coeur, whose, er, turrets I can see from my bedroom window.

Somewhere in that time I also:
La Basilisque du Sacré Coeur
  1. Bought the most delicious ice cream - two scoops, one melon, one mango - and I can't compare it to anything better than Remi's reaction to grapes and cheese in Ratatouille.
  2. Was asked by a little girl if I liked One Direction and I said they're not bad (I had to lie, I didn't want to break her heart) and she told me she loved me. All in French!
  3. I saw a woman's bag get stolen as she watched a street performer. It's clear to see that these people target tourists, or those easily distracted and unaware of their belongings/surroundings. Don't get caught out.
After all this I got home, washed and rested my poor worn out feet. I don't think I've ever climbed so many steps in one day ever. Bienvenue à Paris!

Tip of the Day: no matter how enthralling street performances are, always keep an eye on your stuff!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Paris Diary: Le voyage

The ferry before we set off from Folkestone, Dover
Today was possibly the longest day of my entire life - forget Midsummer's Day, travelling to Paris from a sleepy East Anglian town via ferry is now on my list of things never, ever, ever to do ever again!

Getting up at half-six to rush to pack everything in the car (and coming short of jumping up and down on the boot to close it), along with the hazy, unpleasant drifting in and out of sleep until we reached the white cliffs of Dover was just the start. With a slightly sicky feeling in my stomach it was goodbye England, but not without the slow sly torture of the Channel - walking like a drunk up and down the deck was only cured by the strong ice coffee I bought onboard.

To give France its due, once the humid clouds dispersed it was a sunny, 25°C run through the rolling golden fields until we got to Paris. The welcome we received was from the sprawling suburbs - la banlieue parisienne - was a different story; tower blocks dotted between standstill traffic and little shacks belonging to immigrants was an unhappy sight and the blank stares at us - les etrangers - didn't go unnoticed.

This dissipated into a colourful, heaving welcome from Barbés (18th arrondissement), where my flat is. People in the street became as arrogant as the French drivers, swarming around the backstreets as we crawled along and (I hate to say it) feeling a little too close for comfort. This was reinforced by the scary story from a girl I bumped into in my building, telling me about having her phone pick-pocketed on her first day in the city. Not a great start.

The Parisian rooftops from Montmartre
The flat itself is teeny tiny but not too bad. My room is as wide as the double bed in it - no idea how they got that in there! - but after my family treated me to a meal, I'm staying at their rented flat tonight. Let's just say that the price tag really reflects how lavish the place is in comparison to mine (just look at the view from the window!).

And so to retire to bed, achey and confused. A bonne soirée to you, dear reader.

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Case of the Mysterious Cupcakes

It's been a funny old month - revision periods always are. How unnatural, filling the mind of one subject, only to tip it out in pages of exam scrawl, and then repeat. The relief to finish my second year exams was dizzying, and I've really had a ball enjoying myself - going out pretty much every night since.

The one thing I wasn't expecting however, after riding the rollercoaster of emotions over the last few weeks, was the 6 mysterious cupcakes that turned up on my doorstep this morning, hand delivered by the wonderful Frost & Snow Bakery.

At first I thought it was a joke from my boyfriend, or even just one of my friends who was waving me a farewell before I move to Paris (by the end of this week I'll be there!). But so far, nobody's come forward!

As for the cakes themselves, they're gorgeously soft and smothered in buttercream, with the only clue being the strange "6" - or as has now been pointed out to me, "b" - decorating each of them.

The box itself was sent to "Bonjour Mademoiselle", which shows it's in connection to the blog but I'm still completely clueless! I'm sorry, strange cupcake sender, but I really don't know who you are or if I deserve these delicious gifts!

... What I'm trying to say is, let me know who you are so I can properly say thank you, and also let me know what the "b" / "6" stands for? This just gets curiouser and curiouser...

To everyone else, if I don't wake up tomorrow, call the police. I've been poisoned by cupcakes!

After some cyber-sleuthing (thank you to whoever runs Frost & Snow's twitter!) it turns out Westfield Merry Hill were the mysterious senders - but there's still no clue as to what the 6 (confirmed as a 6) represents! The mystery continues!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

My Ball & Chain

My blogging pencil has become a little blunt; sorry about the recent lack of blogging and gaps between posts. I know, I know, The Free Download Series isn't even half-way through, but I'm having to call it off just for a moment. I hate to see the blog age, with less input from both you readers and myself, but I'm really trying to nail my second-year exams, and then I'm off to a little place called Paris.

Until this task labelled "revision" has been ticked off, I've really got to shut up shop and get my head down to some serious studying. So until I'm free of this academic ball-and-chain, I'll bid thee farewell.

A bientôt!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

St. Vincent & David Byrne: Who

St. VincentDavid Byrne's insanely catchy song "Who" has been engaging with my brain in a wonderful dance all night. Probably my most cherished guilty pleasure, St. Vincent's eclectic, electric and simply beautiful music is given a refreshing twist with the sleek vocals of Talking Heads' former frontman.

This free download is only the start, however. As the first track to a whole album full of the duo, Love This Giant is an album I've been missing off my radar for almost a year.

If you're like me and this is the first you've heard of it too, feel free to get the taster yourself and download "Who" from the bottom of St. Vincent's website here.

P.S. You can also get "Surgeon", from her second album "Strange Mercy" for free too - go directly to the page here.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Pete Roe: Midnight:Mystery

The wonderfully-bearded, musically-talented and happy chappy Pete Roe is kindly giving away the double a-side "Midnight:Mystery" (Further into Midnight and A Strange Kind of Mystery in the Air - that's two tracks, folks!) to coincide with the release of his debut album Our Beloved Bubble this week.

No stranger to the live folk scene, notably as one of Laura Marling's bandmembers, he's definitely one to watch this year. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for his sterling, heartfelt, foot-tapping music - his album tour may be coming to a town near you soon too!

To get another lovely present from The Free Download Series, head on over to Pete Roe's website here and sign up to his mailing list. Simple as that!

Friday, 3 May 2013

Bear's Den: Agape

Bear's Den, formerly known as Cherbourg, are making their way up. Having seen them support Matt Corby last year, I know first hand how powerful their songs can be, and with such a distinctive voice and lyrics, it's a song you'll take a long while to forget.

To get your third installment of The Free Download Series, head over to their Music Glue page here and snap up another lovely freebie!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Nathaniel Rateliff: Laughing

A real diamond among the pack, Nathaniel Rateliff has been stealing the hearts of everyone, everywhere with his album In Memory Of Loss; from the mournful, delicate tracks to the upbeat, getting-on-with-life mood, tinted by the memory of his brother, it's a masterpiece of music.

So it comes as a wide-eyed surprise to find another track sitting pretty at the top of his website, and yet it's really just another wondrous gift from the gentleman who makes music for music, not fame. I doubt my words can do much justice, so all I'm going to say is that "Laughing" is a truly happy, rolling-summer track. Listen to it, drink up its goodness.

To get the second track from The Free Download Series, simply click along to the website, and follow the instructions under his banner. Thank you, Mister Rateliff.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Beach House: Myth

A week or so ago, I stumbled back over Beach House's amazing album, Teen Dream and from there I then also stumbled over this - there's no better word for it - dreamy free download. In the time it's been between forgetting the album and re-finding it, the band has released their fourth album, Bloom; Myth being the first track on it.

And what an entrancing track it is... more and more, their music aligns itself with a soundtrack plucked from a melancholic dream, one that ends in a startled, even tearful rebirth into reality. Less of a song, more of an enrapturing experience.

By signing up to their mailing list here, you too can get your hands on this phenomenal start to The Free Download Series.

Monday, 29 April 2013

The Free Download Series

So it's coming up to that time of year where us students are cramming our brains full of all the ideas we've learnt over the last year, and I for one am already bored of it actually really enjoying myself!

On the one hand, it's really hard work, but on the other is that golden shiny reward feeling of getting through it and knowing everything's gonna be okay. That and the fact my year-and-a-bit stay in Paris is just over a month away.

In the meantime however is the question of music. Some people revise really well to music and with that in mind I think it's time I unveil Bonjour Mademoiselle's Free Download Series.

Over the next two weeks, I'm going to be posting a new Free Download each day, available to everyone - just look for the banner above. Whether it be artists I've written about, bands I follow on Twitter, or newsletters I've signed myself up to, I've collected quite a few lovely little freebies that I think you might enjoy too.

It's a well-oiled student philosophy that in fact, quite a lot of things in this world are free... you've just got to know where to look and/or be a complete charmer. So, to all of you revising, or simply hunting the best things in life, I hope you enjoy the next few blog posts!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Camera Obscura: Do It Again

They do indeed Do It Again... the (sometimes overly) sickly sweet vocals of Traceyanne Campbell return with the cheery indie pop that Camera Obscura is so famous for. The release comes with news of a new album, Desire Lines, hitting the shelves (or, in a more boring world, the shiny MP3 download buttons) at the start of June this year. Like their previous album, it may be more of an indulgence to listen to one or two tracks at a time rather than the whole record in one go, much like a box of chocolates. For now, savouring this sweet track will be enough to keep me going 'til the full release...

Sunday, 21 April 2013

La foi dans la mode

Ellie from La foi dans la mode got in touch a little while ago about a Liebster Award - thank you Ellie. Here are my responses from her questions, which you might find interesting too!

1. Favourite piece of clothing?
It's got to be a dress - probably my black and cream ASOS skater dress I got for my birthday, I really love wearing it. Sadly it's now only being stocked in maternity, but if you're preggers, I would heavily recommend it!

2. First blog you ever followed?
Design*Sponge has got to be the first proper blog I followed - without really knowing what a blog was at that point!

3. Your claim to fame?
I once got into a bit of a fight with Theo Paphitis on Twitter over his misuse of the English language. The backlash was something else... in my defence, I didn't know he was dyslexic!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Cheap as Chips

It's getting closer to summertime (finally), and my Relay for Life run, so on both counts I'm trying to get fit. Not in a crazy-gym-extravaganza kinda way, but more in the tone-up-that-tum way. I think most girls and guys will find at some point, their tummy overhangs their jeans just a teeny tiny bit - I'm at that stage now. Easter chocolate definitely did not help.

So I'm trying to tone up in two ways, the first of which is by eating healthier. My aims are to eat five pieces of fruit and veg everyday, cut back on snacks (mainly the sneaky crisps and chocolate) and drink a lot of water.

Right now, I'm at the point where a glass of water is like my phone; I feel lost without one. But the water goal is easy; water's free. Even in my uni, there are drinking water taps (if you know where to find them, and keep a bottle handy!). The bit I'm struggling with financially is the eating element.

Fruit and veg is so expensive! £2 for 4 apples is not good value, Tesco! It takes me long enough to work out how much an individual apple costs because of the bizarre mixture of "by weight"/"by apple" pricing, let alone earn the money to afford them. Why would anyone go to such lengths to buy an apple anyway? Especially when you can ditch the whole apple idea and buy 12 packets of crisps is £2.50 - whereas 12 apples would cost you over £5?

In circumstances such as these, I get crazily fed up with supermarkets. Give us back our greengrocers and independents! "Every little helps" is not applicable when junk food is as cheap as chips (a pun that beautifully illustrates my point). I hope the good people at the Bank of Students know why we're all into our overdrafts... we're trying to be healthy!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Relay for Life!

Yay! This will be the first tick on my 21 before 21 list, and I'm really proud to be doing it for such a wonderful cause.

Every year my university sets a Relay for Life course around campus and this year I've joined up with a team of people from the SU to run a total of 24 hours between us. All the money we raise will go straight to Cancer Research UK, a charity very close to my heart.

I'm going to keep this bit short and sweet, as I really don't like being hindered for money, and so to avoid being a hypocrite, I'm simply going to put my sponsor link HERE. I'm still going to run around and donate my money whether I get sponsors or not, but I didn't want to miss this opportunity.

Thank you for even reading this blog or looking at the photo, as that in itself raises awareness.

- B x

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Dan Croll: Compliment Your Soul

This song is very much out of the blue - I've never heard of Dan Croll before, but as soon as this danced its way into my ears I knew I had to share it. Both the song and the video are a bizarre but intriguing mash up of styles, and with the sugary-sweet lyrics (what are you after, Dan?!), I'm going to keep my eyes (and ears!) peeled for more of Dan's music. You've got yourself a new fan, in the shape of me!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Question Time

The lovely Brooke Amanda recently got in touch to pass on a couple of questions from what I think was another Liebster nomination. For all of you who have nominated me for the Liebster, thanks for the time and effort - if I do get time, I will try to post back and answer questions but I think it's only fair now I've had it that other upcoming blogs get their time in the limelight. Thanks Brooke, it's very sweet of you. Here are my answers:

1. What nail polish colour/brand is your fave?
I have to say Barry M is the counter I always return to - my last purchase was Cappuccino, a colour that looks a chic brown in some lights, and a light purple in others which I love.

2. Favourite song?
This is an impossible question for me! The songs I can't stop listening to right now are:
3. Book you are currently reading?
Books! Sadly it's mainly books relating to my University course. The fun ones on the side aren't getting enough attention, and they are:
  • Harry Potter à l'ecole des sorciers (Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone in French)
  • Le Dossier (a book about why the French hate the English [might as well know thy soon-to-be neighbour], in English)

Monday, 25 March 2013

Darwin Deez: You Can't Be My Girl

"I think I love you are horrible."

After Darwin Deez's new album, Songs for Imaginative People, landed in my lap a little while ago, I've been bopping around like a happy little puppet and now I think it's time for you to join me. And where better to start than You Can't Be My Girl. It's easy to see that if all the songs were lined up for a race, this would be the flat-out winner. You Can't Be My Girl is an insanely catchy song that will keep you bopping all through the night to the point where you'll wake up with it on the brain. This, coupled with another comical-genius video from the band shows why you should never take life too seriously, and why you too should get your hands on a copy of the album. You are an Imaginative Person after all, right?

Darwin Deez, in the words of Jack Black in School of Rock, thank you for "sticking it to the man".

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Wake Owl: Gold

I'm not sure what took me so long to post about Wake Owl; I've had the band bookmarked for months. I'm not sure how I stumbled upon them, but I'm very glad I did. Like a band full of more convincing and sombre James Vincent McMorrows, I've now listened to Gold on loop for a good twenty minutes... if I ever do turn my half-finished novel into a fully-fledged hardback and then into an independent film, it really would be an honour to have this song as its theme song. For now though, if anyone could, uh, send a girl a tenner, I'd love to get their full album, Wild Country. Until then, here's to few more plays...

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Noah & The Whale: There Will Come a Time

"And I've got to say... well done. Not many people have done what you guys have done y'know."

Noah & The Whale are back, and it looks live they've swapped their velvet suits for police uniforms as they reveal their new album and film. There Will Come a Time gives us a glimpse into the Orwellian "Teenland", a detention centre for all teens (not half as fun as the theme-park imagery I had in mind).

The single itself isn't half as catchy as L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N., the first single they released from Last Night on Earth, but as always it's going to be a case of locking myself in a room with the album once it's out before I can really make a judgement. What with a chameleon-type attitude, it seems that every album has its own style twist, with Heart of Nowhere being no exception.

For now though, it seems this new direction is a cross between Last Night on Earth and Arcade Fire's Scenes from the Suburbs. For me, I'm pretty sure the beautiful film accompaniment to The First Days of Spring will remain my favourite, but I'm still excited to see how this new film plays out! Looking forward to the full release!

Monday, 11 March 2013

21 Things Before 21

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you'll know that this past weekend was my birthday weekend where I magically transformed from a teenager to an adult (this is of course, sarcasm, except I did get a full fringe!). Being 20 hasn't really felt that different (yet), so I've decided to shake things up a bit and set myself some adventures and challenges for over the course of the year. I'll keep you updated as to when I tick things off the list - here goes!

1. Sleep under the stars
Well, I've never slept outside without a tent before...
2. Get the next plane train to anywhere
Planes are a little out of my budget right now!
3. Buy a lottery ticket
I never have, and it could just be my lucky day
4. Graffiti
Watch out, I might be the next Banksy
5. Get my fortune told
I don't believe in fortune tellers, but it'd be fun
6. Live a month without TV
I'm pretty sure I'd get a lot more done
7. Knit something worthwhile
I'd love to become a prolific knitter (granny-ish, perhaps...)
8. Paint a picture and hang it
I've painted before, but never hung anything
9. Become a better chef
Moving to France = learning French cuisine
10. Karaoke
I'm so shy about my singing voice!
11. Send a message in a bottle
Someone might stumble across it someday
12. Take up meditation
I really think it'd be good stress relief
13. Give blood
Possibly the scariest challenge, but I would love to do it
14. Complete my novel
It's been ages! I apologise!
15. Eat a steak
Never ever had steak. Ever ever.
16. Stay in a five star hotel
Yes please!
17. Stay in a one star hotel
For the comparison!
18. Disappear from Facebook
Forever and ever. I hate Facebook.
19. Read LOTS
I ought to read more. In French and English.
20. Volunteer
Do something charitable
21. Commit random acts of kindness
We'll see how these come along over the year...

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Westfield Merry Hill S/S13 Fashion Show!

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So, I can now let the cat out of the bag - last night I was invited along to Westfield Merry Hill to see an exclusive S/S13 high-street fashion show! Apart from getting a little lost in the huge - and when I say huge, I mean H-U-G-E - shopping centre, the night was a great opportunity to see some of the upcoming trends (and from my point of view, what I shall be donning when I start working in Paris!).

I've got to admit, I'm still very much a girly-girl at heart (my wardrobe is at least 70% dresses) so it was the Blurred Splash Print Maxi Dress from Warehouse that really caught my attention, along with the bright floral outfit from Oasis. I've got a nice little pink blazer of my own which fits right in to the S/S trend, but it's the maxi that's now on my wish list - possibly a winner for the Uni Grad Ball this year.

Other trends included daring monochrome from New Look, sports couture at Internaçionale and that indie-kid look that a lot of people are rocking these days at Vero Moda and Jack Jones.

To go alongside the enormous Merry Hill shopping centre, there's a huge discount event going on this weekend (Friday 8th - Saturday 9th March) with up to 20% off over 30 stores - perfect for that last minute Mother's Day present or seasonal wardrobe revamp! For any shopaholic in the West Midlands, it's definitely worth a day trip (you'll need that long to get around all the shops!). To get your voucher booklet in advance, click here - I hope you have a good time if you go along!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Art

1 ~ 2 ~ 3 ~ 4 ~ 5 ~ 6 ~ 7 ~ 8

Zissou fever is catching. I must invest in a red hat some time! Or, at least, a little Team Zissou ring. Oh that would be a great idea, I bet someone's Etsy'd that already. In the meantime, here's a few incredibly artistic tributes to the amazing film that is The Life Aquatic. Wes Anderson, you god.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

This Week's Stumbles

It's my first try at writing a weekly round up - with a pretty busy lifestyle I find it hard to make time for pure writing, which is a real shame. So as a way of remedying this, I've decided to keep a weekly write up, to let you know about the top five little wonderings and deserved things I stumble across. This week:
  1. I was given my first ever romantic bouquet of flowers; some beautiful chrysanthemums that faded from purple to yellow. They were the closest thing to a bouquet of daisies, my favourites!
  2. On my daily walk to University, a man randomly stopped me, shook my hand and said he hoped I had a good day. I'm not sure why, but it certainly did keep me smiling. Random acts of kindness are very, very lovely!
  3. I won some #MarsTweetShop Pedigree Dentastix... their promotional vending machine was a great PR stunt, even if I couldn't eat my prize.
  4. Feeling a bit peaky, I watched the wondrous The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and as such cemented my love for Wes Anderson and all his films, whilst also encouraging me to give Owen Wilson more credit than I normally do.
  5. I also found my old wooden watercolour set - time to experiment with some painting!
I will let you know how it goes, and what a get up to over the next week soon enough!

- Besma x

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Sweet Baboo: Let's Go Swimming in the Wild

Children of April, be sure to put this on your birthday wish lists! Along with this whiskered wonder of a video, Sweet Baboo is soon to be releasing a whole array of wonders in the form of his latest album, Ships (to be pronounced "Chips") out on 22nd April, and a UK-wide tour! Could we possibly ask for more from the lovely bumbling Welshman?

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Disney: Paperman

With the gap growing between childhood and how old I am now, it's still a wonder that Disney can put together even the shortest of shorts that pull at my heartstrings and make my eyes grow wide with wonder. But, of course, that's the magic of Disney.

Give yourself six and a half minutes with Paperman, a love story set in a time before technology, where sending paper planes across the street was a novel and charming way to get hold of that cute girl you met at the train station, rather than the incessant virtual paper planes buzzing on mobile phones and pinging on personal computers. Sometimes, I really do believe the days before technology were ones worth growing up in - and clearly, so does Disney too.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Rae Morris: From Above

I've featured Rae Morris on here a number of times now but I can't quite contain my excitement every time she releases something new. A little while ago (sorry I've been very, very busy) she announced that her newest EP will be coming out on 10th March (for those of you who know me well... put two and two together?) and along with that, her latest single. "From Above" is again a beautiful, beautiful piece of music but it also shows just how far she's come, getting closer to a full-band, studio-recording sound. And she really deserves all the love and recognition she gets.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Illegal Downloads vs Illegal Coffee

I was discussing with someone from work the recent UK tax scandals (essentially, how huge multinational businesses have found a loophole in the financial system to avoid paying tax), and it struck me how ironic the system is.

Think about it. Most people who live in the city alongside me enjoy rushing into their local Starbucks at some time or another. Whether it be that early-morning coffee grab, or a chilled frappuccino with friends in the afternoon, the three cafés that I pass on my daily walk are always brimming with customers.

Perhaps or perhaps not-so-unfortunately, this very same café has become the "face" of the aforementioned tax scandal, alongside the now not-so-trusty Amazon and the social media devil Facebook. So explain to me this:

Why do people prefer to support giant unethical corporations, over the small, hardworking artists and artisans of society?

The Internet is flooded with illegal music and film downloads. I've even seen people idolising musicians on Twitter while the illegal download link on their iTunes screenshot is perfectly visible! This, along with the stealing of others artwork or photography - or simply the art of not linking back - on Tumblr for example, has become a real issue!

I simply find it unfathomable that some people do not appreciate true talent, enjoy spreading that appreciation to others, and put into perspective that while it may cost a musician hundreds of pounds for that one crucial recording studio session, a cup of coffee costs pennies to make - and that money isn't circulating back into our economy. That, my friends, is the true irony of "Fair Trade".

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Adam Green & Binki Shapiro: Just to Make Me Feel Good

I heard this a little while ago, and sadly this is the only recorded-track video I could find (rather than live) - so please spare me for using an almost too-try-hard video, what with the cliché grainy grey-scale filmography, cliché breakfast room, cliché critique of themselves and even the cliché boy-girl duet  have now found the official music video!

Nonetheless, I am a new fan of Adam Green & Binki Shapiro, and am looking at purchasing their album when it comes out (hits the shelves - if there still are music stores by then - on 28th January). Perhaps if you close your eyes, and focus on the lovely, slightly sombre backing track, you'll understand the magic I felt the first time I heard it (which coincidentally was on the radio). Enjoy.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Dawes: When My Time Comes

I don't think I ever really wrote about the love affair I've had with the music of L.A. based band, Dawes. It started a while ago, after (quite rightly) searching out a few of Mumford and Son's' recommended listens... Dawes have supported Mumford previously, hence the connection, but little really came of this first chance encounter; a "Favourite" on my YouTube channel, but nothing more.

So when I was invited to review them supporting Mumford and Sons at the LG Arena, Birmingham in November, I genuinely thought it was fate. Writing in the magazine I'm Editor of, I said: "for a concert with just under 14,000 fans, their music and friendly chit chat between songs somehow managed to restore the intimacy and connections"... and went on to lust over the astonishing guitar solo they finished on during "When My Time Comes".

But really, the epiphany of our relationship came when Dawes took to the stage alongside the Mumford boys to sing "A Little Help from My Friends". The emotions in that huge, huge, echoing arena were incredible, and were even slightly juxtaposed by the comic falsetto backing singing...

I'd go so far as to say they're Los Angeles' 
equivalent of Mumford and Sons

After all this then, it's the least I can do to recommend them to you. They're a band who deserve a lot more recognition, and if they ever hit the UK again, make sure you snap up some tickets. You won't be disappointed - and you might even see me there!

Friday, 18 January 2013

How to Tie a Bow Tie

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, one of the most mesmerising and useful stop-motion films out there.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Mynabirds: Body of Work

After looking through a long chain of blogs, I stumbled across another music blog (we may be far and few between, but we certainly are a passionate bunch!). Advance Copy's Kenyon Hopkin, who sounds to me to be some kind of radio disc jockey too, runs the place, and top of the page was Laura Burhenn (who toured alongside Bright Eyes)'s new* project - The Mynabirds. And what a great project it is too!

With echoes of Lykke Li in not only the song but the video too, I'm bopping around to it trying to hurriedly finish off the last few scraps of revision I've got to go. Exams are the worst but good music and lots of tea really does help!

*New-ish... starting in 2009, however the above single was released Nov 2012. Forgive me for being so slow on the uptake!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The End for HMV?

The golden age for HMV
His Masters Voice, a gem in the crown of the music market, has gone to the administrators. But with this, I'm struggling to really see why no-one has quite put their finger on the cause of death yet.

It may look like a simple "economic crisis" failure, another Woolworths (sob!), but I've always been a little worried for HMV. Shopping there, in recent years, has caused more of a grimace than a grin - the high prices sometimes took the shine off the excitement of buying new releases. Why not wait an extra three days and order it on Amazon instead?

This, combined with their inability to take to online sales (I questioned myself today, with wind of the news - "Do they even sell music online?"), has made them the Neanderthal in the face of Homo-Sapiens Amazon and iTunes. And like Everything Everything so rightly pointed out on the Channel 4 news tonight (please note my pleasant surprise at how well they did alongside Jon Snow), HMV spread itself too thinly across the market, branching out into films, games, tickets, merchandise, sound systems...

The one thing I'm desperately, desperately praying about now is the survival of Waterstones, a member of the HMV group. I don't know if I could handle another great british institution closing down, let alone a guardian of books.

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Great Gatsby

The buildings were higher, the parties were bigger; the morals were looser and the liquor was cheaper

Sorry folks for the recent lull in posting - it's been hard to keep up, especially with it being my exam period. So much work, so little time!

I hope you're all keeping well and looking out for the snow - it was lovely and thick last night, but it had all been washed away by the rain this morning. No crunching around in wellington boots for me! (At least, not yet... still crossing my fingers for another bout tonight!)

Tom (Buchanan!) Hardy 
As a small way of apologising for my absence, here is the trailer for what looks to be my film of the year (although, having said that, I do love finding little surprises along the way...). Leonardo Di Caprio and Carey Mulligan, in a film by Baz Luhrmann? What could be better! (Well, I have to admit that if they'd cast Tom Hardy as the raging Tom Buchanan, the film would be a perfect translation of my interpretation of the book, but I'll give Joel Edgerton a chance).

I'm going to say something almost sinful now too, but I don't even mind that Kanye West's No Church in The Wild is becoming The Great Gatsby's signature song... Roll on 17th May 2013!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Shannon May

I was scrolling through my little self-accumulated library of art and illustration when I came across the pieces above, and didn't know who had created them. Taken from one of my popular haunts, Design*Sponge, I managed to track down the artist and her website.

Her name is Shannon May, and although the Music for Airports piece has remained unpublished, it's one of my favourites, along with the lovely pastel Rural Water piece and now her geometric experiments too. I need to express how much I really like the pieces and in fact, the composition of the above two together. In a way, it seems very aspirational - to jump into the air with technicolour friends and to fly away on a beam of radio waves.

Shannon also has a blog and an etsy store with many more geometric experiments. Take a peek! I'm keeping her under my "Art" tab in case I can one day buy a print, and also, I hope she doesn't mind that I'm using her art for my Twitter background!