Are You Prepared To Go It Alone?

If You Don’t Land The Perfect Relationship, Will You Still Be Okay?

Have you ever envisioned your time in this world ultimately being a solo adventure? Or, to put it more dramatically – are you prepared to end up alone?

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The Music or the Misery?

(Or: Why life seems so much better with sad songs in it)

sad music wallow

Are you one of those people who listens to upbeat, happy tunes whenever they feel down in the dumps? Or do you dive headfirst into a heart-rending ballad, wallowing in the sadness, letting the melancholy melody wash over you in a wave of blissful catharsis?

Well in case you haven’t guessed from the description above, I’m a fully paid-up, card-carrying member of the latter. I live for this shit. I need it – to quote Bon Jovi (yup, you read that right) – like a poet needs the pain. At the ripe oldage of 37, I’m still a moody, grungy overemotional teenager at heart. In some sick, twisted way, it makes me feel light years better to hear all those churning, dark, magnetic, gut-wrenching feelings from a position of ‘once removed’; like if Eddie Vedder can perfectly describe how I felt about a particular breakup or a jaunt down the one-way street of unrequited love, then it saves me the work.

Many an hour would be passed in secondary school by me simply writing out lyrics pertinent to my emotional situation. From a wide assortment of artists, I would fill page after page with the works of the great masters such as Hetfield, Di Franco, Morrison, Dylan, Amos et al. I was, and still am, a bit of a Rain Man when it comes to retaining song lyrics, so I could go on unchecked for tens of pages at a time, depending on how boring I found the lesson. Pity the auld Leaving Cert was never presented in song form; I’d have been a 600-pointer for sure.

I’m quoting Nick Hornby a lot while discussing this topic, but he’s got the best take on it in his book High Fidelity:


No contest for me, I was of the former. I was a clinically depressed, miserable, tormented, stereotypical teenage child of an ugly divorce, so much so that while my parents were in the middle of taking a verbal sledgehammer to the crumbling walls of their marriage, I stuck Pearl Jam’s Ten album on at full blast to drown out the anger outside my bedroom walls and give me a dose of the anger I felt within. To this day, I can’t listen to the song ‘Once’ without being transported back to the blood-red walls of my teenage bedroom and feeling the sky fall down around me.

My music gave me a lovely soft place to fall. I didn’t have to make sense of or verbalise what I felt, or try to ignore it – I just needed to (apologies to all the young folk out there) stick on the right cassette. It was like having your favourite musician as your own personal well-being advocate. Imagine Axl Rose sitting your feuding parental units down and roaring at them, telling them to get their shit together and stop fucking with your head or else he’ll fuck their telly out the window. How fun.

Some folk find it worrying that someone could be so immersed in sad melancholy music – to them, I say ‘CHILL’. Better that it’s out there rather than being buried deep down, only to resurface when you least expect it. Your brain is a dickhead for that sort of thing. Trust me.

I suppose it depends on how each of us uses music. Some use it to help transform their mood; others like me use it to express & enhance the mood I’m already in. To each his own.

You can buy this - click on the pic!

You can buy this apparently – click on the pic!

I wonder why it’s so much easier to become attracted to dark, depressing music and poetry? Along with those aforementioned musicians, all of the great classical poets that have etched their initials on the tough, bark-like exterior of my heart were all a bunch of miserable, Emo, navel-gazing bastards. And oh, how I loved them for it. Dickinson, Plath, Woolf, Shelley, Poe – I’d sit them all at my fantasy Dead or Alive Dinner Party any day. Hopkins and Wordsworth with their daffodils and fawning over nature’s glory can fuck off back to Disneyland. There’s no room at my dinner table for Shiny Happy bastards.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate a rollicking good peppy-as-fuck tune on occasion. Show me ‘Footloose’ in the club, and I’ll show you dance moves that would make Kevin Bacon vomit with jealousy. Happy tunes have their place in the world, obviously. However, there’s something far more visceral, dark and delicious about a deep sad song that pulls you in for a slow, languid embrace, telling you it’ll all be okay. It tells you they’ve been there where you are, they feel it too, and they’re going to save you the trouble of having to put words on something, the description of which evades you. They have it worked out already through the medium of song – and it’s utterly perfect.

Go on, press play again. Let it wash over you once more.

Someone pass me a tissue…..

sad

SIX SONGS SO SAD THEY’LL GIVE YOU AN EMO-BONER

(click on the song title to give your ears a tearful hug)

1:  Bon Iver – re: Stacks 

2: Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat

3: Pearl Jam – Black

4: Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were

5: Tori Amos – Silent All These Years

6: Ani Di Franco – Both Hands

J-Ro goes solo…in Edinburgh! (Part 1)

Swear t'God, that's my halo.

Swear t’God, that’s my halo.

If there’s one thing that I absolutely love, and I haven’t done enough of, it’s travelling solo. Don’t get me wrong, group holidays or taking a road trip with pals are great craic in their own right, but if you want to know yourself, I mean really know yourself when you’re not surrounded by all the people and things that define you back home, then head off on your Tobler somewhere for a few days, preferably somewhere you’ve never been before, where hardly anyone knows you. I say ‘hardly anyone’ because God knows, this social media-ridden planet can be tiny.

You find all sorts on Daft these days...

You find all sorts on Daft these days…

There’s something really nice about having an city to yourself, on your own schedule, at your own pace. It’s very self-indulgent. I guess it’s because I’ve been single in my adult life for so long (don’t feel in the least bit sorry for me, I’m only killing time until Tom Hardy gets that vial of blood and personal dating profile I sent him). Years ago, I decided that I didn’t want to wait around until I had a partner to go on mini-breaks and other adventures. Good thing really – otherwise I’d have mummified myself out of sheer boredom.

Now to date, my solo trips have been few and far between – and fairly local. Apart from that ten-day trip to Israel five years ago, but I’ll save that for The Book. The UK and Ireland have been my go-to destinations, and I’ve played it safe. There’s always been people I know within a text’s distance. This time the chance came up to be in Edinburgh for over a week in the form of cat-sitting for two really good mates who were coming back to Ireland for a visit, so off I went. Lucky for me, this cat is the best of craic – all he’s missing is opposable thumbs and he could look after ME for the week. One smart cookie, is Arthur.

Arthur touching my foot - and my heart.

Arthur touching my foot – and my heart.

I’ve been to Edinburgh twice before with friends and seen a few different sides to the place, all of them really cool. Unfortunately for my waistline, but fortunately for my sense of direction, I use restaurants and anything food-related the way Google Maps uses red pins. So when I arrived in The ‘Burgh, I had a calorie-based sixth sense about where to go and what to do. Plus, it’s probably one of the best cities ever to get lost in, because it’s jam-flippin’ packed with mad stuff like history and shit. I love me some history…

Some history; just lying in the middle of the road like a mad bastard.

Some history; just lying in the middle of the road like a mad bastard.

So in went the earphones and on went the shades (just so I’d look like I was pure one of the locals and not a – *GASP* – tourist.) I strolled around the main streets and lanes, hitting up Gregg’s to get something pastry-ish and drowning in fondant icing, and my disguise as a local was complete. I gave the game away a few times up around the Castle when I stood still to take pics and fought the urge to hug identically-dressed elderly American couples who stepped off giant shiny tour buses nearby and just scream “IT’S SO FUCKIN COOL!” Instead I fought the urge to tell them all that Sean Bean lives there and actually dresses like Ned Stark all the time in real life. I probably should have acted on that urge. And filmed it.

In between being an Agony Aunt and a cat-sitter, I explored bits of Edinburgh I hadn’t had the chance to. I also found the most brilliant vintage boutique and hair salon called Miss Dixiebelle’s just up the road off Prince’s St, and they fixed my neglected dejected mop of misery and gave me back a bangin’ set of Bettie Bangs. I was born again, in the light of flamingo wallpaper and rockabilly tunes. What a time to be alive!

I could well get used to this pampering lark.

I could well get used to this pampering lark.

The after shot. God bless Miss Dixiebelle.

The after shot. God bless Miss Dixiebelle.

On my first day a-wandering during the week, I’d gone completely arseways direction-wise, getting everything mixed up and thinking up was down. Normally I’d have been murdering myself for being such an idiot, but because I had given myself permission to enjoy the trip and treat it like a holiday, I actually found it quite liberating. So, thanking the Gods above and below for the good weather, i just began strolling. I saw this vintage shop that took my breath away. It was like an Aladdin’s Cave, where I seemed to suffer serious sensory overload. Such colours, and stuff and things and petticoats and lovely bits… *sigh* I basically wanted to do this the entire time I was in there:

This veritable Vintage Nirvana was Armstrong’s in Grassmarket, and I want ALL THE THINGS in there. That’s if they let me back in after the noises I made when I clapped eyes on a frilly blue vintage dress, and the worse noises I made when I realised even my left arm wouldn’t fit in the waistband.

The retail experience, I won’t bore you with. But suffice to say I got some things. Frocks for two weddings, so my one specific mission was accomplished. Some bits I got hold of can be seen on my Instagram, and wait until you get a load of the Bettie Page figure-hugging dress I got. I’ve never felt more sexay, and that’s saying something since I’ve put on a truckload of weight the last year. That’ll be up in a few weeks when the wedding bash is upon us. SERIOUSLY. Best dress ever.

Today (Saturday) I decided to head to The Edinburgh Dungeon by myself, Billy No-Mates that I am. Figured I may as well commit to being creepy Forever Alone girl. Great craic altogether. The feckers put me in a cage in the torture chamber. Sound. However I got chatting to one of the staff members while we waited to begin the tour, and when I went in for the official pic, Stevie (my new bestie) was only mad to get in on the action. So in he hopped, and he became my accomplice. By the time our tour was over and I went to get my picture souvenir, I was famous. The lads working told me they had a great laugh when they saw the pics of their mate and some mad Irish one waving an axe and acting terrified on a boat. I got a keyring, so now me and Dungeon-Stevie (totally his name now) are immortalised forever, bound by plastic and metal.

Pantomime terror - NAILED IT.

Pantomime terror – NAILED IT.

So now, I’m flippin’ wrecked, but clear-headed and happy at the same time since I can’t even remember when. So tomorrow, I’m buying into the whole tourist thing proper-styles, and getting on an open-top double decker bus for a big sightseeing tour all around the city. Can’t fucking wait! I’ll doll myself up good and proper so I’ll stick out like a sore thumb sitting with all the couples in matching windbreakers and fanny-packs; a goth among the pigeons.

Then on Monday – I’m getting tattooed. YES…

On Tuesday, because life is awesome – I’m going to get a book signed by the legend that is Amanda Palmer. My mission is to get a selfie with her to add to my collection. Well, it’s more a pair of pics than a collection, but hey. You gotta start somewhere right?

Jen Ronan & Jon Ronson - or

Jen Ronan & Jon Ronson – or “When J-Ro Met J-Ro”

Me and Irvine Welsh - soundest Scotsman since Robert The Bruce

Me and Irvine Welsh – soundest Scotsman since Robert The Bruce

Tune in for Part 2 in the next few days! It’s gonna be a good ‘un….