Things I’ve Learnt Over the Last Month Volume VII

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I can tell that you’re all itching for one of my classic brain-dumps where I throw a pile of subjective opinions at you and pretend it’s fact. You know, like a newspaper.

Well here’s the latest edition.

  • Human beings are capable of unthinkable evil.
  • Human beings are also capable of great resilience.
  • If we’re honest with ourselves, the English, as a people group, are not built for warm weather.
  • A Magnum ice-cream is an incomparable experience.
  • I’m also going through twin obsessions with raspberry sorbet and clotted cream ice cream. Summer is not good for me.
  • The wide-leg trend is great for warmer weather as it gives your legs room to breathe. Skinny jeans on a hot day is a form of modern torture.
  • Being a tourist is all well and good, but there’s nothing like seeing a place from a local’s perspective.
  • Nothing revives you quite like spending quality time with good friends.
  • Befriending people who are in positions to give you free coffee is essential.
  • The whole ‘summer body’ thing isn’t exactly going to plan, and summer is just going to have to take what it gets at this point, to be honest.
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Things I’ve Learnt Over the Last Month Volume VI

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Like the citizens of Narnia, I never quite thought we’d make it through winter and am continuously shocked at how the spring sun continues to shine. I’m half expecting it to snow tomorrow.

Regardless, this year is chugging along rather determinedly and we’re already halfway through April. That’s almost a third of 2017 all used up.

As a rule, I try as much as possible to avoid learning things. I’m no longer in education, so surely that means I already know all there is to know. Occasionally however, some new nugget of knowledge will slip through the blockades and plant itself firmly into the recesses of my mind.

Here are some from the last month.

  • Spring is my absolute favourite.
  • I’m really into politics. Sorry, I mean political drama TV shows. Same thing, right?
  • Beetroot isn’t completely unassailably, irredeemably disgusting. Just quite disgusting.
  • Time just gets faster and faster. Unless you’re at work. Then it gets slower and slower, until you leave work, at which point it immediately speeds up again.
  • TV show Scandal is woefully underrated in this country.
  • Sunshine always puts me in a good moods.
  • God is greater than I ever could have imagined.
  • There is such a thing as too much McDonald’s.
  • York’s coffee shop scene is unparalleled.
  • If I keep consuming coffee at my current rate I’ll be bankrupt before the year is out.
  • Americans think that “burgularize” is a word. Bless them.

 

 

Things I’ve Learnt Over The Last Year

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Longtime followers of this blog, all three of you, will remember that I used to do a regular feature called Things I’ve Learnt Over the Last Month. Clearly I haven’t learnt much recently as it’s been over a year since I last blessed you with my pearls of fatuous wisdom.

We’re well into 2017 now but I think we can all agree that 2016 was a… let’s say special year. So here is a list of non-related conclusions that I have drawn from my last 12 months on planet Earth.

 

  • It will never not surprise me just how early it starts getting dark in the winter.
  • You should take every chance to travel that comes your way. Not just abroad, but new cities, towns and even places in your own location you don’t know well. There’s so much world out there.
  • Beauty is very often in the details.
  • Having incorrectly predicted the results of two of the West’s biggest elections, it is clear that I know very little about politics. And neither do pollsters, it would seem.
  • The Belgian people are a lot prouder of Stella Artois than they should be.
  • If 2016 has taught us one thing, it’s that death is no respecter of fame, money, talent or power.
  • I’ll never not love my friends.
  • I’ll also never not love Friends.
  • I’m now officially a (reluctant) fan of Little Mix. What can I say? Those girls make some catchy songs. This is exactly what happened with Taylor swift in 2014 when I started liking her deviously addictive music against my will and now I’d happily follow that woman into war. I’m a little worried about where this Little Mix thing is going, to be honest… I mean, there’s four of them. Imagine how much more power they can wield over me.
  • I’m not that great at making decisions.
  • God loves me more than I can possibly wrap my head around.
  • Having not been a student for over a year now, I’m now fully able to go to nice bars for drinks without wanting to go to a club. It’s a thing now.
  • Apparently I’ve been kicking footballs wrong my whole life. Oh well.

 

Hope you enjoyed this compilation of my inane musings about life. This year I’ll try and keep them a little more regular.

Have a great 2017.

Days 19 – 25 #EdisXmasCountdown

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To quote 1970s rock band Slade, “It’s Chriiiiiiiistmaaassssssssss!!!!!!”

Yep, it’s finally happened.

Merry Christmas, one and all.

For those who don’t know, for Advent, I’ve been compiling a list of my favourite Christmas songs on Twitter – ancient carols, modern pop and everything in between, as long as it brings a certain Yuletide joy.

Each Sunday in December I’ve written a post listing the previous week’s songs and a little about why I like them/what they mean to me. Where possible I’ve tried to include a Spotify and Youtube link so everyone can listen. Unless you’re on Apple Music or Tidal, in which case, you’re on your own. Ask Taylor Swift or Beyonce to help you.

You can read the posts so far here and if you’re not so much a fan of reading you can just listen to the playlist here. You don’t even have to read this if you don’t want to. I give you permission to close this  webpage.

Ok, I’ve just lost 3 of the 7 people that regularly read my blog, but that’s ok. I’ve got the best ones left.

For the last week of advent, I thought we’d stick to the absolute Christmas classics. You’ll probably know all these songs, though you might not necessarily know these versions.

So grab a class of mulled wine, get cozy, sit back and relax (or stand, I don’t care) and enjoy 7 of the best Christmas songs ever.

Day 19

Fairytale of New York – The Pogues ft. Kirsty MacColl

I told you I wasn’t messing about. For many, it simply wouldn’t be Christmas without this song.

Released in 1987, this Irish folk-style ballad is a duet between MacColl and Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan and, despite questionable lyrics, has gone on to become one of the most popular Christmas songs in the UK.

Singing in the distinctive drunken howl that we have come to associate with the Irish, MacGowan and MacColl insult each other and sing an ode to Christmas in New York City – a place where you’ve definitely got to take the good with the bad.

Something about this song just makes you want to put your arms around the people next to you and mumble vague melodic noises (until you get to the chorus) and then scream out with all you’ve got about policemen and Galway Bay!

 

Day 20

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Tom Odell

I have to be honest, I had overlooked this song until I re-watched the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special last week. Something about seeing that eccentric Anglo-Welsh family sing this at the end just got to me.

Unfortunately Larry Lamb didn’t record his and the West/Shipman’s cover of this Hollywood golden era gem. In his defence, he’s been busy recently doing unspeakable things in the Australian outback. Instead, here’s Tom Odell who’s voice you’ll remember from John Lewis’s saccharine Christmas advert about the penguin.

Eschewing the big booming sound of earlier versions from the likes of Sinatra, Tom’s vocals are soft and earnest as he plays along on the piano.

This one’s perfect to sing with the family or curl by the fire with a glass of mulled wine. You might not have noticed, but I kind of like mulled wine.

 

Day 21

Carol of the Bells

Carol of the Bells is one or my favourite carols ever. You might remember it from the film Home Alone as well as countless adverts over the years.

It definitely has a little bit of a sinister feel to it, especially on the choir version but, I’ve gone for this a capella cover by the Pentatonix. These guys manage to rival even the unassailable Michael Buble when it comes to Christmas output, releasing a new Christmas album each of the last three years.

This song is a joyful paean (Google it. I did) to the ringing bells that signify Christmastime is well and truly upon us once more. This obviously harks back to a time when churches, towncriers, and I guess just random people used to ring bells willy-nilly. Thankfully, these days are no more. The modern equivalent of yuletide signal I guess is the first time you hear those jingle bells in _________ (*insert literally any Christmas song here*).

 

Day 22

Jingle Bell Rock – Straight No Chaser

Mean Girls.  Need i say more?

Of course, this song was featured in the now iconic dance scene from the 2004 high school comedy – the fateful dance that spelt the beginning of the end for Gretchen Wiener (of toaster strudel fame).

Today’s version is from a capella group Straight No Chaser and they do a great job of livening up the song.

 

Day 23

Silent Night

Apparently this is Britain’s favourite carol. I used to hate it and find it incredibly boring, but in recent years, this slow, gentle hymn has started to grow on me.

The harmonies in today’s cover are absolutely stunning, while the lyrics bring to mind a lovely yet unrealistically peaceful manger scene. With labour screams, baby crying and all manner of animal noise, I can’t imagine that night was very silent, but it works for the song so let’s just enjoy that.

Day 24

All I Want for Christmas is You – Mariah Carey

When I hear those first 13 xylophone notes, to be honest, when I hear the first 3 xylophone notes, I don’t care where I am, what I’m doing or who I’m with, I am getting up and I am going to sing the heck out of that song. No regrets.

This is perhaps the Chistmas tune. I absolutely love this song. So familiar, so cheerful, so difficult to sing. We’ve all tried and failed to hit that high note at the end, or at least mimic Mariah’s trademark vocal acrobatics. As My friend Hazel says, “PICK A NOTE, MARIAH!!”

“Make my wish come truuuu-ooooh-oooh-oooh-eee-ooo-oooh, all I want for Christmaaaaaas iiii-yiiii-yiiii-iiiis youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!”

Despite MC’s best efforts to make sure that no one other than herself is able to sing this song, I think we can all agree that is is probably one of the best Christmas songs of the last 25 years. If not, ever.

It’s definitely one of the most popular – earning (as of 2013) over $50million. And I know that I’ve probably added at least a cheeky million myself since then. Honestly, they must turn up at Mariah’s house every year with a truck full of money with all the royalties she must get from this song.

Being such a popular track, there are loads of covers for this song and many of them are quite good. Fair play, you don’t mess around when you’re covering Mariah. One that I do not enjoy is the unnecessary 2011 remix duet with Justin Bieber. I’m not even going to put the link, but the video features Mariah dancing suggestively (it’s the only way she knows how) while a teenage Bieber goes shopping for trainers and a Nintendo 3DS.

2011, ladies and gentlemen! Regardless, despite their best attempts, nothing can ruin this song for me.

 

Day 25

Hark the Herald Angels Sing – Pentatonix

 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the best part of any carol is the last verse when the band and the choir just go cray and jettison their chill with reckless abandon.

The traditional version of this song is no exception. In fact I was at a carol service yesterday and  it was done beautifully. I love the traditional arrangement of this hymn but if I’m honest, it can be a little slow paced at at times. And it’s basically just a waiting game till you get your the last verse.

So because it’s Christmas day – a big celebration day! – here’s the more lively gospel-style cover from everyone’s favourite YouTube a capella group, the Pentatonix.

Turn it up and let’s have a party!

 

 

 

Ok, there you have it, that’s the end of the countdown!

How was it for you?

One thing I’ve learnt from doing this is the fact that I officially enjoy the Christmas season more than I do Christmas day itself. Being an adult, at least by definition, my parents have pretty much given up on the whole Christmas presents thing (other than the odd small gift), so apart from the huge meal, there’s not really much on the day for me to look forward to, other than contemplating the birth of our saviour. But you can do that any day.

Until now, I guess I’d been subconsciously harbouring retrospective youthful glee at the prospect of opening presents. But now that’s all over, I just enjoy the season. The music, the food, the parties, the lights, the sequins, even the reluctant “goodwill” where people at least try and make an effort to get along.

So that means that this whole countdown i.e. advent itself has been a bit of a countdown to nothing, really. A countdown to a nice meal and a largely ceremonial small gift exchange with my family.

Even if you get a mountain of presents every year and the most amazing Christmas dinner, have you ever been disappointed by Christmas? Found the magical glee shortlived? Or thought the excitement was better than the day itself?

If so, that’s because Christmas day is literally just a day. A day that’s not even Jesus’ real birthday and was chosen – among other reasons – to match already existing pagan festivals at the end of the year (Roman Saturnalia as well as the Winter Solstice).

Like just about every other festival (pagan or otherwise), Christmas has very much been swallowed up by the consumerism machine. I used to work in a supermarket where Christmas goods came out in late September/early October. The mince pies’ best before date didn’t even last till Christmas.

For a lot of us, Christmas is all about stuff. We acknowledge that there’s something nice about an angel and a baby and being a good person, but really it’s about the presents, or the food, or the television, or the booze.

But there’s got be more, right?

What is Christmas really about?

Ah of course, the little baby Jesus.

But why do we care about a peasant baby, born out of wedlock 2000 years ago in cave full of animal crap? Sorry, Jesus, I’m just telling it like it is.

This video talks a little about what Christmas is and why we celebrate it.

 

 

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. 

John 3:16‭ MSG

 

Ok, that’s my little preachy section over. And also the end of this blog series.

Have an amazing Christmas, everyone! And thanks so much for reading if you made it this far. And thanks for joining in with me on this musical adventure.

Now go and have a mulled wine, you deserve it.

 

Days 11 – 18 #EdisXmasCountdown

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It’s exactly a week till Christmas! How are we all feeling? Excited? Exuberant? Expectant? Extra special? Exhausted your list of words that begin with “ex”?

The question is: how are you going to spend your last week of advent? For many, the next 7 days are going to be stressful. For a start, schools have closed for the holidays so poor, poor, unlucky parents have to deal with kids who are coiled up like springs with anticipation.

Then there’s the last minute Christmas shopping, enforced time with distant relatives, and of course the pressure of making it look you’re relaxing and enjoying yourself, regardless of how you actually feel.

Despite all this, advent can be a time of anticipation and reflection. Simultaneously looking forward and backward. For the church, advent is a time of looking forward to the return of Christ to establish His kingdom on earth (bear with me) as well as looking back at the good things God has already done for us.

For folks of a less Christian persuasion, this last week before Christmas can be a time to think about what we’re thankful for and what we’re looking forward to in the new year.

Hey, you know what helps with reflection? Music!

Lucily for you, I happen to have 7 of my favourite Christmas songs listed below for your listening pleasure. Wow, what a coincidence!

Here’s what the last 7 days have sounded like for me.

 

Day 12

Santa Tell Me – Ariana Grande

For day 12, we have another track from everyone’s favourite ponytail-loving soprano. In today’s song Ms Grande prays to Santa (who takes on the role of deity around Christmas time), begging him to let her know if her crush is a keeper or if he’ll disappear by the new year, leaving her heartbroken.

I can’t imagine that Father Christmas is thrilled about being expected to deal with boy problems when his jurisdiction is clearly toys and/or Christmas merriment. And if Marks and Spencer’s advert is anything to go by, his own wife is keeping secrets from him so he might not be the best person to ask for relationship advice

Regardless, this 2014 pop/R&B track is a fun, catchy little number and its low budget video is right on the cute/sexy line – a tightrope on which 2016 Ariana can now somersault with her eyes closed and her arms tied behind her back.

 

Day 13

Lonely This Christmas – KT Tunstall

Taking things down a notch, KT Tunstall’s stripped back cover of this Mud classic reminds us that Christmas can be a lonely time for a lot of people. Whether due a break up like in this song, bereavement, or various other reasons, Christmas isn’t always a time of coming together for everyone.

Eschewing the retro band, KT opts for a lower key sound than the original with just a guitar and her gentle voice.  Beautiful.

It’s quite a sad one today, but that’s ok. Sad isn’t always bad.

Hey that rhymes!

See, things are looking up already.

 

Day 14

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Nat King Cole

Apparently this is one of the oldest carols still in use, having been around at least as long ago as the 16th century. So yeah, pretty old.

This cover is from Nat King Cole’s 1961 Christmas album which I would have described as pretty old until I wrote the above paragraph. So let’s just say it’s been around for a while.

It has a slight creepy edge to it – the pointed vocals, the short, sharp violin strokes, and the booming bass choir all build a sense of mounting tension. It’s basically the musical equivalent of a child’s patience the closer we get to Christmas day

For those interested, there’s some vaguely intriguing stuff about how the words and their meaning have slightly changed over the years. Linguists, check that out here.

For those of you who have lives, just enjoy some lovely music from one of the greats.

 

Day 15

The Christmas Goose – Kate Rusby

My housemate introduced me to this song. Round of applause for Adam, ladies and gentlemen.

While having the feel of something that fishwives would sing a hundred years ago, this song only came out last year. In it, Kate tells the story of a merry traveller in Manchester who meets a beautiful chambermaid in a pub and gets a bit of a surprise when he returns the next year. I’ll say no more than that.

While I would find its repetitive nature annoying in another song, the steady tune allows Kate to paint a picture in your head and tell you a little story.

All together now!

“All around the green wood, so early in the morn…”

 

Day 16

8 Days of Christmas – Destiny’s Child

As I admitted on Twitter, a large part of this song’s inclusion is simply that it just feels wrong to compile a list of music that doesn’t somehow feature Beyonce. I could make a list of the best male accordion players named Ian, born between 1911 and 1913, and still somehow find a way to include Beyonce.

Also, I don’t want to be killed in my sleep by the Beyhive and/or Illuminati which, the more I learn, the more I’m convinced are one and the same.

Released in 2001, this song enumerates 8 things that the trio’s respective/collective boyfriend(s) bought and did for them in the run up to Christmas. Clearly money was a little tight as he couldn’t quite stretch to 12 items like in the other song, but it’s the thought that counts.

Choice items on the list include a diamond belly ring and a gift certificate to buy CDs which serve as a little reminder that this song came out 15 years ago.

 

Day 17

I Want an Alien for Christmas – Fountains of Wayne

Most famous for fancying Stacey’s mother, the boys (read: men) of Fountains of Wayne have now moved on to bigger things, this time setting their sights on an extra-terrestrial. Always wanting things they can’t have.

Once again, singing from the perspective of a child/teen, this early noughties rock track is basically a list of reasons why they should have an alien and how they promise to look after it if they get one.

You have to praise the guys for their ability to get into the mind of a kid because I’m pretty sure I used most of these excuses when asking my parents for things as a child.

With a back catalogue of songs about unobtainable desires, I’m guessing that their next output will be a cover of Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths.

 

Day 18

O Holy Night – Katie Melua

Featuring backing vocals from Gori Women’s Choir, this understated cover of the old hymn is featured on Melua’s latest album In Winter.

I love this gentle, stripped back version but if you’re looking for one with more vocal punch, Leona Lewis kills it here. Mind you, Katie holds her own, managing to maintain a note at the end for like 10 seconds seemingly without even taking a breath beforehand.

Originally written as a poem, O Holy Night talks about that fateful night in Bethlehem. That said, it’s admittedly hard to fully appreciate the impact of the lyrics when they are being sung softly sung over a gentle guitar.

Told from the perspective of the shepherds and the wise men, this song tells of their wonder, joy and downright amazement at meeting Jesus. They literally met God.

What would you do if you came face to face with God? The shepherd lads couldn’t believe it. Being a shepherd in those days meant you were pretty low down on the pecking order. Yet they were chosen to witness the birth of the saviour. Mind-blowing.

I’d crap myself if Prince William and Kate had invited me to meet their babies when they were born. I’d probably crap myself if I was invited to be a part of one of the several and ubiquitous Kardashian pregnancies

And what about the wise men? They came a long, long, long, long, long, way. Clearly they were doing all right for money judging by their cavalier attitude to handing gold to a baby, but still their journey would have cost a lot of money and even more time. These guys sacrificed a lot to visit a baby.

But what if he wasn’t just a baby?

Perhaps a little far-fetched, but what if this baby was God’s son? God in a body.

What if this whole Jesus thing is more than just a story we tell at Christmas?

 

Have a great week!

Days 5 – 11 #EdisXmasCountdown

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We’ve made it to the 2nd Sunday of advent. Well done all of you for staying alive.

For those who don’t know, or have understandably blocked me on social media, for advent this year I’m doing a countdown on Twitter of 25 of my favourite Christmas songs and carols (#EdisXmasCountdown). On Sundays, I’ll post a list of the week’s songs with a little about why I like them and what they mean to me.

In traditional churches all over the world, a priest of some sort will light a candle on an advent wreath each Sunday to mark the passing of a week of advent, so in a similar vein, I too shall ignite the… musical flame of advent and… put a fire in the wreath of… your minds…

Ok, that metaphor doesn’t really work, but you get what I’m doing.

I’ve tried to get a mix of classics and modern songs as well as tried to find some interesting new covers of songs that you might know well, just to shake things up a little. Where possible I’ll put a Spotify and YouTube link to make it as easy as possible to join in. For the most recent list, checkout my Spotify playlist which I update everyday.

Here’s what the last 7 days of advent have looked like for me.

Day 5

O Come All Ye Faithful

One of the best things about Christmas is the carols. I absolutely love carols. You might recall that I also love Beverleys too.

Written around 300 years ago, O Come All Ye Faithful is definitely one of the best. A rallying cry to come and worship the newborn saviour in Bethlehem, this song always gets me in the Christmas mood. It’s amazing to think that people have been singing this same song every year since before your great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was born.

Without a doubt, the best part of any carol is the last verse or two when they just go crazy with the instruments and the harmonies, and any semblance of chill is well and truly lost. Look out for verse 3 in this one. “Sing choirs of angels…” could not be more correct.

Day 6

Baby It’s Cold Outside – Johnny Mercer & Margaret Whiting

Our song for day 6 is a beautiful Christmas duet. Written by Frank Loesser in 1944 for he and his wife to perform at dinner parties, he eventually sold the rights to MGM who recorded it for the film Neptune’s Daughter.

Having spent a lovely evening together, the song is a back-and-forth conversation between two lovers. The lady wants to stay, but feels she shouldn’t, while the gentleman tries to convince her to.

It has to be said that the man’s gentle yet relentless insistence that his lady friend stay with him does make me at least a little uncomfortable. The video for this cover from Zooey Deschanel’s band She & Him humorously flips the genders and highlights the creepiness. Additionally, upping the sinister element considerably, according to Wikipedia, on the original sheet music, the male vocalist is identified as the “wolf” and the female as the “mouse”.

All that said, even a basic look into the lyrics and the context reveals no sinister intentions. As noted in the Washington Post, it is clear that our lady does want to stay and all her protestations are about what people would think of her in an era when a lady spending the night at a gentleman’s house just wasn’t done. And as feminist blog Persephone Magazine points out, even the lady’s “What’s in this drink?” line was a common jokey phrase used in movies at the time to excuse one’s bad behaviour – the joke often being that there was nothing in the drink.

So perhaps things aren’t as bad as they seem. I’ll let you make up your own mind. Regardless, it’s a beautiful piece of music which my housemate and I have spent the past few weeks trying to learn so we can cutely sing it together by the fire.

We’ve still got a long way to go.

Day 7

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love

All the songs in the countdown so far have been relatively cutesy – romantic ditties, Christmas carols, inappropriately seductive letters to Santa. Outside of the song realm however, the holiday season is rarely so saccharine. We’ve all had a family argument or two at Christmas, most likely over a game of Monopoly.

The vocalist in today’s song has obviously had a falling out with her other half. This song is her plea to her lover to return because Christmas isn’t the same when they’re apart.

Like most Christmas songs (including yesterday’s one) Michael Buble has covered this track. The poor thing just can’t help himself. This time however, I really enjoy his version. Well played, Michael.

Despite its relatively cheery tune, there’s a lot of raw emotion in this song. I’m imagining crying on the doorstop, dressing gown blowing in the wind, screaming after the car as it speeds off down the street. You know, really dramatic, anguished stuff.

That’s Christmas.

Day 8

Ding Dong Merrily On High (The Celebration’s Started) – Rend Collective

With this cheerful cover of a 500 year-old carol, Rend Collective bring us right into Christmas with their usual brand of acoustic folk. Shaking things up somewhat, they mix in samples from some other Christmas songs too.

For those who don’t know, Rend Collective are a Northern Irish Christian folk band. They are often compared to Mumford and Sons as their musical style is similar to Mumford’s was before they discovered leather jackets and electric guitars.

This song is from their aptly named Christmas album – Campfire Christmas Vol. 1 –  which features tons of great yuletide covers to get you into a rustic folk-y acoustic Christmas spirit.

Day 9

Shake Up Christmas – Train

With this song, the masterminds at Coca-Cola aimed to strengthen their stranglehold on the season of Christmas.

It’s a well known fact that the marketing team at Coke are geniuses. Who else could inspire such brand loyalty that leads to public protests after changing the formula?

But when it comes to Christmas, the Coca-Cola marketing machine is at its best.

Firstly, if rumours are to be believed, they rebranded Father Christmas himself, making his costume red and white to match their logo. Coke deny this, admitting that, though they weren’t the first to present the jolly red Santa, they definitely played a part in sealing him in the public consciousness with a campaign that started in the 1930s and spanned 3 decades.

Then they decided that their 21 year old Christmas Coke truck advert is “iconic”, meaning that they can replay the same ad year after year with no pressure to make a new one. Some people even go as far as to say that the release of the classic advert each year signals the official beginning of Christmas season. Meanwhile, poor John Lewis reportedly spends up to £7,000,000 cooking up new ways to make us cry each year.

Finally, Coca-Cola managed to impress their jingle upon this absolute Christmas tune – thus indirectly branding their corporate identity onto Christmas itself. Even more than they already have so far.

Well played, Coca-Cola. Well Played.

Regardless, this song is a lovely, cheerful pop-rock ode to Christmas and the happiness it can bring. Cliched? Yes. Twee? Yes. Enjoyable? Definitely.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got an unexplainably strong craving for a Coke.

 

Day 10

Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Bing Crosby ft. The Andrews Sisters

For me, this is the official Christmas elf anthem. I know that sounds weird, but this song feels like it was written purely to inspire productivity – like the folk songs factory workers used to sing in the industrial revolution.

I’m seeing a workshop full of elves in a production line singing this a capella while they hammer wooden toy trains and paint toy soldiers in perfect unison.

In which case, the threat of their boss and, let’s face it, overlord watching them even while they sleep seems a little more menacing.

Anyway this vintage Christmas song is over 80 years old now and has been covered by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Justin Bieber. The first lyrics of the latter version being “Santa’s coming, girl!” because that’s what Justin Bieber was like in 2011. To be honest, that year wasn’t great for me either.

With Dr Seuss-esque lyrics about “rooty toot toots and rummy tum tums” this is a jolly romp of song and will surely get you in the mood for Christmas.

Or help your productivity in repetitive manual labour. Whichever comes first.

 

Day 11

Mary Did You Know? – Pentatonix

When I was in primary school, I took part in a Christmas play called Captain Christmas. It was about a young captain who led a rag-tag bunch of petty criminals on some sort of adventure. I can’t remember much about it, but I do remember that there was a catchy song about girl power (it was the early noughties), a jungle scene which featured a song about monkeys, and it all ended up with the gang at a Christmas party with Tony Blair and John Prescott (it was the early noughties). I played an elephant who told a joke in a series of jungle-related one liners.

I nailed it.

The next year I had 7 lines in a play called The Bethlehem Bandits which was about a rag-tag bunch of petty criminals (I’m sensing a theme here) who try and rob some shepherds, 3 kings, and a pregnant couple with a donkey. As you can probably guess, the gang eventually end up in a stable to see the newly born baby. I think something was briefly mentioned about how this baby was somehow “special” but without going into too much detail. At the end, we all sang a song with a questionable dance routine. (It was the early noughties).

I’m not really sure why I have shared all that with you, to be honest. Maybe it’s pride over my acting prowess.

Anyway, today’s song has me thinking about the nativity.

We all know the story – pregnant Mary, angels, shepherds, wise men and/or kings, sub-standard inn accommodation. But if it’s all true (indulge me for a moment), what would that have actually felt like?

What would it have been like for Mary? Aside from giving birth in a stable (which in those days were basically just caves full of animal crap. And animals), what was it like delivering such a “special” baby? Giving birth to the son of God – i.e. God in human form.

Today’s song takes a look into that.

With this graceful cover, Youtube famous a capella group Pentatonix have breathed new life into this truly beautiful song of wonder and pondering?

Did you know
that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby you kissed the face of God?

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?

We can go into whether or not you think it all makes sense another time. Genuinely, comment or message me and I’ll tell you why I believe it. But if this is true. If this true, then surely this is the most amazing thing that’s ever happened.

God. On earth. As a human.

Why? How? For what?

And why do we celebrate it anyway?

These are the questions that Christmas should have us asking.

I’ll leave you to ponder a little and we’ll chat again soon.

 

Days 2 – 4 #EdisXmasCountdown

christmas, EdisXmasCountdown, music, musings

Today is the first Sunday of advent. In many of the more traditional churches all over the world, a candle will be lit on an advent wreath to mark the passage of the first week of the season.

I’m going to do the next best thing and share with you the songs that I’ve been enjoying so far this month for #EdisXmasCountdown. A social media shout out is basically the millennial equivalent of lighting a candle in respect, anyway.

For those who don’t know, for advent, I’m counting down 25 of my favourite Christmas songs and carols as we wait for the momentous day to arrive. Instead of a centimetre of poor quality chocolate, every day I’ll be tucking into a a Yuletide audio delight and saying a little about why I like them and what they mean to me.

Follow all the action on Twitter at #EdisXmasCountdown. Where possible I’ll put a link to Spotify and I’ll embed a Youtube clip if it’s available so everyone can enjoy this. Except people on Apple Music or Tidal. You’ll have to search it yourself. You made your choice.

And just to clarify for the purists, I’ve only gone with ‘Xmas’ rather than ‘Christmas’ to save characters on Twitter. Don’t worry, Christ is still very much at the centre of my Christmas.

I started on the 1st with A light Has Dawned by Belfrey Music ft. Will & Mim Johnson, so let’s see where the rest of the week has gone.

Day 2

White Christmas – Michael Buble ft. Shania Twain

I have always had a completely undeserved, completely irrational dislike for Michael Buble. Call it jealousy, call it spite, whatever, he just kind of annoyed me.

This isn’t about you, Michael. It’s about me. And I’m working on it.

Anyway, this song went some way to my reluctant acceptance of Mr Buble. Obviously the most popular version of White Christmas is the Bing Crosby one, but this is a fun update of the classic.

Country queen Shania’s and classic crooner Michael’s voices fir perfectly together. Also, I’m glad that they played around with the track a little and had some fun, managing to bring it into the 21st century without having to resort to dubstep or a verse from a popular rapper.

Covering a well-loved song is always a bit hit-and-miss, but I’d say they definitely hit this one. With vocals so smooth that they lead you to believe that he personally lubricates each syllable, this song is a triumph for the self-proclaimed king of Christmas.

You win this round, Buble.

Day 3

You’re A Mean One, Mr Grinch – Jordan Smith

Perhaps an odd choice, but I absolutely love this song. There’s just something about the threateningly non-threatening lyrics that gets me.

Written for the 1966 cartoon film The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (obviously), this track describes Dr Seuss’ hairy green Scrooge endeavouring to ruin Christmas for a town.

What I’m loving about #EdisXmasCountdown is finding interesting versions of classic tunes. There are loads for this one. Glee did it (to be fair, Glee do everything), Fight Song singer Rachel Platten gave us her take. Even Cee Lo Green covered it, because Christmas doesn’t need to make sense.

I’ve gone for this version from 2015’s winner of The Voice US, Jordan Smith, who manages to keep the cute Christmas charm of the classic while giving it a bit of big band boost. I’m absolutely killing the alliteration today.

Obviously the moral of the story is that Christmas isn’t about presents, food or stuff, but about love, family, forgiveness etc. A beautiful message, but I’m going to take it a little further, and remind us (myself included) that yes, that is what Christmas is about, but so is life.

Goodwill to all people shouldn’t begin and end at Christmas. Let’s try and be loving, forgiving, kind and generous all year round.

*Steps down from soapbox*

Day 4

Santa Baby – Ariana Grande ft. Liz Gillies

Like any song that’s been consistently popular for over 60 years, Santa Baby has spawned a lot of covers. From Eartha Kitt’s original to Madonna to The Pussycat Dolls to Glee (they cover everything) to Colbie Caillat, it feels like everyone’s had a go.

One version I’m not in love with is the Michael Buble one. As discussed previously, I have my issues with Mr Buble, so this is perhaps unsurprising.

Giving credit where it’s due, Michael took on for himself the very arduous task of making a song that describes Santa Claus as a sugar daddy sound vaguely heterosexual.

He butches things up by replacing many of the “baby”s with “buddy” and with talk about K’nex and Mercedes. Even the ’54 convertible is changed to a manly “steel blue” instead of the previously feminine “light blue”. Obviously it’s quite tongue in cheek but I just wonder why he bothered.

Anyway, this cover from Ariana Grande and Liz Gillies modernises the tune a little but maintains the playful provocative nature of the song. At the time, both Grande and Gillies were fresh off Nickelodeon’s Victorious so this cover features fewer suggestive squeals than that of seasoned temptress Kylie.

While it does nothing to show off, for example, Grande’s impressive vocal range, their voices blend beautifully with each other, though the vocals are overly soft at times, and almost lispy, probably in an attempt to be soothing and seductive.

Regardless, this is genuinely one of my favourite Christmas songs. Odd I know, but the heart wants what it wants. Which in this case is a ’54 convertible. Light blue, please.

So that’s where we are at the moment. Feel free to join the conversation here, on Twitter, follow the playlist on Spotify, whatever. Just do you.

The good news is that we’ve got another 21 days to enjoy some great songs. Well, at least average songs. Christmas music is a mixed bag, to be honest.

Merry Christmas!

#EdisXmasCountdown

christmas, EdisXmasCountdown, music, musings

It’s officially Christmastime! To be fair, I work in retail where it’s been Christmas since mid-August, but now it’s for real! It’s odd because I’m not usually this excited for it, but this year, something is stirring within me, bringing a new wave of seasonal glee that I haven’t felt since I was but a young boy.

To mark this, I thought I’d do something for advent.

So instead of eating a morsel of poorly made synthetic chocolate every day, I’m going to (try to) post a Christmas song – carol or otherise – that I enjoy. You can follow along on Twiter at #EdisXmasCountdown and when I can (hopefully at the end of each week), I’ll post an update here with a little more about the songs.

But to start us off, here’s Day 1.

light-has-dawned

1st December

A Light Has Dawned – Belfrey Music ft. Will & Mim Johnson

You don’t really hear many new carols these days.

Sure, there are a plethora of Christmas songs released every year by artists who are after the never-ending royalties that a yuletide classic brings. But these are all jingle bell-laden ditties about waiting for your partner to come home or kissing them under the mistletoe, filled with cliches and poorly veiled innuendo. Don’t worry, you can look forward to seeing many of those songs later in the countdown. But today’s song is different.

Anyway, last year, some good friends of mine wrote and produced A Light Has Dawned – a modern Christmas song that is actually about Christmas. You know, Jesus and stuff. It’s basically the nativity in song form. In fact, at a huge carol service last year, I saw a modern nativity scene acted out to this track so it really is a modern carol. It’s truly a beautiful song and I especially love the hamronies.

Give it a listen here.

And let’s get ready for Christmas!  25 more sleeps.

 

 

I need to get this off my chest…

film, magnate, miscellaneous, musings

Ok, so there’s something I need to confess.

I’m seeing someone else.

There, I said it.

I wrote a short piece for another site about the latest Spectre trailer. I’m sorry, it was stupid, it meant nothing. But now I’m involved with them and I can’t get out of it.

Now listen very carefully. I want you to know that my heart will always belong here. Always and forever. To put it in a way I’ve often seen on Twitter, you guys are my main chick and they’re the side chick. Ok? You know that, right? You’re the main chick. And no one can ever take that away from you.

You will always be my one and only bae. I mean that.

If you can see past the soul-crushing betrayal, feel free to check out my post for Magnate here. They do some really cool stuff.

Lots of love,

Edi

“Sprechen Sie Englisch?”

musings, places

Remember that time you went to Hamburg with two hours notice, no accommodation, no plans, no contacts and next to no money?

I feel like I’ll be asking myself that one for a while.

Just over a week ago I took part in Escape and Pray, a faith adventure organised by Fusion, a charity that is passionate about seeing students come to know Jesus. I see silent alarm bells going off in your mind. “Escape and Pray”, ” faith adventure”, “Jesus”. It’s going to be one of those posts, isn’t it? Yes. Yes it is. Sorry, not sorry.

Escape and Pray aimed to give students the opportunity to live out Luke 10. Though obviously not quite to the letter, seeing that we’re not the group of middle Eastern agitators to whom the words were originally uttered. Basically, it was a chance to have an adventure and to trust in God to provide and to connect with students and with churches and just to generally meet new people and to go to Europe and to have a lot of fun. So here’s the premise: organise a group of mates, turn up at the airport and open an envelope containing your European city destination, your tickets and €20 per person. Then go to said destination with only the time before your flight to frantically try and find accommodation and contacts. Standard.

media-20150624 Arriving at Manchester airport with my amazing team – Rob, Emily and Rosie –  I was a little nervous but heavily excited. A couple of minutes before finding out our destination, for reasons unknown to myself, I unwittingly set my heart on Valencia as a possible destination. Who knows why, but I was crossed-fingered for Valencia. Then we opened the fateful orange envelope. “You’re going to Hamburg!”, said the orange piece of paper. I stared at the words. Jet black on orange. They stared back, the paper mocking me with its hue, the precise shade of the Valencia orange. I fell to my knees in anguish.

No I’m just kidding. My disappointment lasted about as long as it it took me to realise that Hamburg was in Germany, the land of beer and sausages. (See previous posts to understand why beer is now significant to me.) My excitement soon became sprinkled with worry. I don’t know anyone in Germany, talk less of Hamburg. And the Hamburgular’s really busy at the moment with his makeover so he wouldn’t be able to help us out either. Just like any other millenials, we turned to social media in our time of need. And I called my mum too.

With the ensuing social media blitz of excitement and pleas for help over (though yet to yield any significant progress), we stepped aboard the bright orange hull of one of Easyjet’s finest vessels. I’m 90% sure Fusion only picked Easyjet because they have a weird thing for orange branding. An hour and a half later, there we were in Hamburg, taking selfies on the runway like a Kardashian. Having landed, we opportunistically leapt upon the free airport WiFi and checked our messages, trying to confirm some form of accommodation. Amazingly we’d had four offers of places to stay by the time we got to the city! After leaving the airport, we tried to hitchhike to the city centre. We wrote ‘bahnhof’ on a piece of paper and stood at a junction smiling sweetly with our thumbs extended. Later it was pointed out to us that bahnhof, meaning train station, was not a useful sign, as there are 68 stations in Hamburg, none of which were particularly obvious that we meant. Maybe that’s why every car sped past us. Or maybe they just didn’t like our faces. Or maybe both.

After paying for a bus with our tails between our legs, we wandered around town for a while, starving, trying to find the cheapest traditional food, one of our challenges being trying a local delicacy. We went for Currywurst and never have I enjoyed curried sausage so much. OK that was the first time I’ve ever had curried sausage, but it was good. No, it was great. After dinner, we met the girl who’d kindly organised accommodation for us, having been messaged by a friend about our predicament. She was a lovely student and she let the girls stay with her and found some mates to house Rob and myself.

The next morning, I felt great. We’d spent ages chatting with our hosts and joined them in their morning prayer sesh so I started the day on a real high. Wandering around the University of Hamburg was fun. We were able to tick a few more challenges off our list including crashing a lecture. We sat at the back for a while looking conspicuous and English, often one and the same, but hightailed it out of there when the lecturer put some incomprehensible symbols on the overhead projector (I know, right?) and it became clear that we’d have to spend an hour listening to a lecture in German that I’d have struggled to understand in English.

University of Hamburg! #hamburg #teamhamburgers #🍔 #escapeandpray

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Next we made our way into town to try and find a church for some good old-fashioned Christian sanctuary. Most of them were closed – unsurprising seeing as it was a Monday afternoon. The evening before, we had found a fast food joint that had free WiFi at Hauptbahnhof, Hamburg’s main train station, and this became something of a headquarters for us. Or rather, the spot on the floor just outside it, where the WiFi still worked but there was no pressure to buy anything, became something of a headquarters for us. We soon came up with a hilarious team name – #TeamHamburgers – a name that became much less funny when we realised that people from Hamburg genuinely call themselves Hamburgers as the meat-related Americanism clearly isn’t as much of a thing for them. As expected, the trip was full of poor jokes about eating the locals and abuse of burger emojis on social media.

Afterwards, we wandered toward the harbour and took a picture with the Hamburg State Opera House – selfie with a monument, check! We were quite hungry but were reluctant to buy anything to eat because we’d already spent a fair bit on food and transport the previous day. One thing we’d agreed on was that we wanted to give away as much of the money as possible. (That was also one of the challenges by the way, so not just us being selfless saints!) Having spent the day wandering around with our stomachs rumbling, we saw a homeless man outside of a church and one of the team suggested we buy lunch for him. This didn’t sit quite right with my self-preservation instincts, but I wasn’t about to refuse a man on the street lunch so I went along with it. It was oddly humbling buying food for him and none for ourselves. It was also quite humbling realising that the empty stomach feeling that we had was probably how he felt most of the time. I’m not going to pretend it was easy giving out money that we felt we needed, or that the clouds parted and a heavenly beam of approving light shone down, but I think it did me good to think about someone else at that time and to put things into perspective.

Later #TeamHamburgers returned to the university to make use of its WiFi. Eduroam is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Counting our money in the university dining hall, it turned out we had a little more than we’d thought – enough to buy some food and still be able to afford the next day’s train fair to the airport. With that night’s accommodation confirmed, we splashed out on the cheapest dish served by the canteen. Let me tell you, you’ve never had better pasta and tomato sauce. We shared two meals between the four of us, like two pairs of besotted dogs from different social classes enjoying Italian food on a particularly bella notte. The person who served us didn’t ask for any student ID, our dishevelled appearance no doubt telling her all she needed to know, so we were charged the cheaper student price that obviously wouldn’t have been available to us if she’d known we didn’t actually attend that university. Talk about stealing benefits. This extra windfall of $2 allowed us to treat ourselves to some waffles too and I gleefully smothered them in a blizzard of powdered sugar. Bearing in mind that I’d been up for 11ish hours and had eaten nothing more than a slice of malt bread, a Toffee Crisp and a morsel of cheese, this made me feel amazing. The hungry, grumpy afternoon was long forgotten and I felt ready, once again, to take on the world.

Earlier we’d responded to an ad we’d seen on a noticeboard asking for foreign students to discuss real estate in their home countries. The ad promised free coffee or beer for the participants. Naturally, we jumped at the chance. We met the three girls whose project it was for in a coffee shop and talked for a while about house prices, living conditions etc. for students in England. After we’d finished discussing their topics we just chatted for ages. One thing that transpired was that Germans pay something like €300 per semester for university. €300. This was such a slap in the face to the £27,000+ bill that I’ve racked up over the last three years. I struggled not to spit out my coffee in shock. To be fair though, maybe if they sprung a little more than €300, they’d be able to afford more than an overhead projector in lectures… Yeah I went there. Afterwards the girls insisted on buying us a delicious pastry that was native to Hamburg. It was a sort of cinnamon roll/croissant hybrid and had a name that we all struggled with. It was something along the lines of “fransbrochoweivenoborgeniebrushettastiplwievelsknitcheluchen”. Something like that. When I say the girls insisted on buying us this treat, I mean it. These generous students walked us to three different bakeries before they found some fransbrochoweivenoborgeniebrushettastiplwievelsknitcheluchen to buy for us . Once again we were bowled over by the unwarranted kindness of strangers. Earlier, we’d prayed for food and drink and we’d had a great meal and dessert, followed by coffee and more dessert. Suffice to say we felt very grateful.

As evening came in, #TeamHamburgers (I’m not even sure that the hashtag is ironic anymore) made our way to our second host’s house. This woman had got in contact, having heard about us from a friend on social media. From the moment we stepped foot in the house, we were welcomed like guests of honour. All four women who lived there were so lovely and generous to us. They made a curry for dinner and I ate so much. Like a rude amount. It was delicious. We stayed up and chatted for a while, but they had work in the morning and we wanted an early night too so we soon went to bed.media-20150624 (1) The next morning, they provided a lovely continental breakfast of various meats and cheeses. We laughed about the differences between German and English food. It would appear that Germans find the concept of the full English breakfast ridiculous as they prefer a lighter start to the day. Apparently they can’t be dealing with sandwiches for lunch either – they like a hearty hot lunch. And quite frankly, that’s something I can get behind. Two slices of bread and a smear of filling can only take you so far at lunchtime. And why are sandwiches so expensive? I need answers. But this can be discussed later. Anyway, after praying with our hosts, we left for the city centre, laden with a packed lunch that had been lovingly prepared for us. Honestly, the kindness of strangers. Overwhelming.

After a ferry ride to a ‘beach’ that mostly consisted of stones and disappointment, we prayed for different areas of the city. On a whim, we also walked along the Old Elbe Tunnel that was 426m long and 24m below sea level. Coming up on the other side, we found little more than severely underwhelming industrial estates. Ah well, it can’t always be Narnia.

Tunnel vision. #escapeandpray #hamburg #teamhamburgers #tunnel #photography

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We were all exhausted as we headed back to the airport. Exhausted but grateful. Exhausted but content. Exhausted but elated. Looking at the #escapeandpray hashtag in the airport (thank you, Turkish Airlines for the free WiFi), it was exciting to see all that God had been doing with the other groups dotted all over Europe.

Love this place. #escapeandpray #hamburg #teamhamburgers #🍔 ##hamburg #spam #sorrynotsorry

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So what did I enjoy? The many opportunities Hamburg offered me to take pseudo arty Instagram pictures. What did I struggle with? Living, quite literally, on a prayer. The trip helped me realise that I don’t really trust God in my day to day life as I rarely ever lack anything I need, or even want. What won’t I forget? German efficiency. Honestly, the public transport system in Hamburg is ridiculously good. €6 for a day ticket in all zones and all forms of prompt and timely transport, including ferries. And don’t even get me started on their university fees. What will I take from this? Generosity. The kindness of strangers. It, quite frankly, amazed me that people would allow foreign strangers to sleep in their house with merely hours of notice. Actual strangers. We weren’t even friends of friends. Not really. I quite like what this group who went to Oslo calls it: unnecessary generosity.

Getting home felt great. As did our celebratory McDonalds. After ordering my main meal (BBQ Chicken Legend Deluxe with bacon), I showed my student card to get a free burger. Student life has many perks. Free burgers and crushing debt. Anyway, surely proving that God has a sense of humour, the McDonalds lady asked me: “Will that be a cheeseburger or a Hamburger?” I’ll let you guess which one I chose.

Weltenbummler means globetrotter. we had no idea till someone who saw the photograph pointed that out.

Weltenbummler means globetrotter. we had no idea till someone who saw the photograph pointed that out.