Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls – No Man’s Land at the Opera House, Manchester (26/11/19)

Frank Turner was the last gig of a very quiet year of gigging for me. When Rosie asked me if I fancied catching Frank Turner play his new album at a ‘sit down’ gig in Manchester, I snatched up the offer (and Rosie kindly treated me to my ticket for my birthday). It wasn’t just the new album but a 2-hour 40-minute set of well organised frivolity.

A grand theatre. A stage filled with instruments in the distance. In the foreground is green theatre chairs each with red binoculars on the back of them. There are a few people sat in the seats throughout the theatre, but mostly, it is empty.

Frank opened up his set alone with ‘Ginny Bingham’s Ghost’, a classic fiery folk number, before addressing the elephant in the room – that every single one of us was seated. That was for the exception of two lairy old-timers on the end of our row, Dad dancing in the aisle with their empty pint glasses. ‘Stick with me, we’re going to get through it together’ Frank told us. For me, it was the ideal set-up, not least to kick back after a long day at work. Sit-down gigs are wildly underrated.

Once the show was well and truly opened, Frank was joined on stage by the Sleeping Souls to play out the rest of his latest album ‘No Man’s Land’ with a passionate introduction to the women each song was inspired by.

Having read a few cynical reviews around his latest album, I was pleased it went down so well live with a heavily invested audience. Even Frank himself, acknowledged that, despite the album having been out for several months, his fans weren’t very familiar with the songs. The setting of the Opera House and the carefully planned yet chilled out set-up of the show was the perfect space for giving each track the context it deserved.

Admittedly, No Man’s Land is quite a leap from anything he’s done before but still so very on brand – folky, fun and as deep as ever. I think the difficulty for some connecting with the new album, is that much of Frank’s previous work has been so relatable for fans, which is why people love it so much. But you have to take a step back for No Man’s Land, because it isn’t about us. Listening to the album live is the perfect opportunity to give it your full attention and connect with it because there is so much to appreciate. It’s a cliché to say, but Frank is an excellent storyteller and he’ll make you fall in love with the songs and the people in them when you hear it live.

My personal favourites from No Man’s Land are Rescue Annie, The Lioness and top of the list, The Graveyard of the Outcast Dead – a festive number about medieval priests burying prostitutes in an unmarked London grave (move over Pogues because it’s an absolute corker).

Following a thorough delve into No Man’s Land, there was an interval (yes, it was a sit-down gig with an interval – you need this) before the band returned to play a perfect selection of the classic Frank anthems – Frankthems.

Comfortable though we were, there was no nodding off at this gig. It was a seated party. Frank kept to a fairly chronological order, which made the nostalgia satisfying but never predictable. The seatbelts were off for the final belters and the comfortable fun was over. It was time to get sweaty. Unfortunately, the aisle-Dads left prematurely and so missed their opportunity to do this gig properly. The energy peaked (as it should) with ‘Photosynthesize’ and Frank finished with a calm favourite, ending an absolutely perfect night out on ‘Be More Kind’.

My verdict of the show was that, whilst unconventional, it really worked. It served an important purpose for No Man’s Land, which in my opinion, has been misunderstood and grossly underappreciated. If you’re feeling cynical, I encourage you to listen the podcast (Frank Turner’s Tales from No Man’s Land) and invest a bit of your time and thought into this album – it’s not too late. As always, the best way to fall in love with music is to hear it live.

Also, I support sit-down shows.


A stage with five men playing instruments. To the left there is a drummer and in the centre at the back is two men on guitar/bass. To the right is a man behind a piano. At the front of the stage, Frank Turner, wearing a short-sleeved black t-shirt is playing an acoustic guitar and singing. There are spotlights up ahead and the silhouette of a crowded audience is at the bottom of the image.

A road trip to The Isle of Skye

‘We’re going to Brexit Britain’s very own Iceland.’ One of my Christmas presents from Jonny came in an A4 envelope. It was his handmade infopack for a holiday to the Isle of Skye. He’d booked it over Easter and in the chaos of mortgages and house buying it came at just the right time.

With the total journey being a nine-hour drive (ten from Jonny) we decided to stop off in Glasgow on the way there and Edinburgh on the way back to break the journey up. We didn’t get much time to explore either city as we spent most of the day travelling but we made time for a museum and a pizza in Glasgow, and a stroll around the city (and another pizza) in Edinburgh. I’d been to Edinburgh a few times before, but Glasgow was a first for both of us.


Glasgow was our first stop on Thursday and after unloading our bags and relocating rooms in the hotel, we headed out to the Gallery of Modern Art. We spent around an hour in the museum before closing but it probably needs a little more time to explore in properly. The gallery is on four floors with quite a lot of interesting work to cover. There’s also a café, a shop and a library.

The famous cone-mounted Duke of Wellington

Pizza Punks

From the museum, we headed over to Pizza Punks which had come recommended by my friend Emma. We are both in agreement that it was one of the best parts of the trip and 100% the best pizza we’ve ever had. Pizza Punks has a massive menu, with plenty of allergy friendly, gluten free and vegan options to choose from. And it’s delicious. We both opted for the ‘make your own’ pizza, where you can choose from different bases, sauces, cheeses and toppings. The pizzas are then cooked in an open kitchen within the restaurant. Do you ever get too old to appreciate that?

Jonny went for a sour dough base with meaty toppings and I went for a vegan pizza with all of my favourite things as well as vegan haggis. It was a milestone for me. I’m not supposed to eat dairy (but I do pick at it occasionally) and I have built up an aversion to vegan cheese after some nasty super market experiences, but the vegan cheese at Pizza Punks was to die for. I took most of my pizza away to graze on and it was all I could think about for the rest of the holiday. I would return to Glasgow for the pizza alone. Thanks for the recommendation, Emma!

McLay’s Guest House

We stayed in the McLays Guest House hotel whilst in Glasgow, and we accidentally booked a room with a shared bathroom, which was no good for me. Fortunately, there was an ensuite room available and they were able to move us across. The hotel was cheap and cheerful; the bathroom was falling apart a little bit, but the staff were lovely and helpful and it was absolutely fine for the night we were staying. They offered breakfast the next morning for an additional charge, but we had plenty of pizza left to be getting on with and hit the road to Skye nice and early.

Highland views

Jonny did all of the driving, which made it extremely chill for me. The drive down to Skye was exclusively A-roads and absolutely stunning. We drove through valleys of beautiful clear Scottish lochs overlooked by rocky, snow-topped mountains. The weather wasn’t great whilst we were down in Skye, but it pulled out the stops for both our drive down and back. The roads in the north of Scotland are littered with laybys with accompanying viewpoints. The drive was an attraction in itself and reminded us of a much brighter Icelandic Golden Circle.


Flodigarry Pods

Jonny had booked us the cosiest pod to stay in for the next 3 nights. The pod was on a farm. Out the front was an enormous field of sheep – there were baby lambs right on our doorstep! There are a lot of sheep in Skye – in fields, up mountains and wondering around the roadside. There were also chickens, a few cows and some gorgeous sheep dog on the farm. Beyond the field was a beautiful sea view. There were only two glamping pods, situated down the bottom of the farm driveway. The owners were really helpful and personable and pulled out all the stops when our shower broke. The location was absolutely beautiful. Even on a grey day, sitting out having breakfast and a morning tea on the porch looking out to sea was perfect.

The inside of our pod was extremely cosy with heated walls and floors. We had a bed, sofa, dining table, smart TV (with Netflix), hob, microwave, kettle, kitchen sink, fridge and freezer. All in our compact little pod. The beds were extremely comfortable and after long days walking in the fresh air, coming back to our cosy little pod was a dream.

Four days of bliss

So that’s what we did – lots of walks in the fresh air and lots of cosying up in our little pod. We stayed in Flodigarry which was an isolated area on the very north of the island. The nearest almost-amenities were a 15-minute drive away in Staffin which comprised of a community dining hall (recommended – we went for grub on our first night), a small convenience store and a beach. That was it until our nearest town – Portree – which was a 40-minute drive away.

Staffin Beach

There was so much natural beauty between Flodigarry and Portree. It was fresh and quiet with sea smells and polite bird sounds. When we arrived, the weather was turning but I was desperate to get to the beach. Staffin beach was accessed via a narrow slip road, with two car parking points. If you’re a good climber, you might be able to access the main beach (on the other side of a rock wall) but it was a bit too advanced for us. We managed a paddle in the sea, a boulder on some tamer rocks and a climb up one of the cliffs. I was really pleased with myself for getting further than a toddler we met on our way up.


From then on, I didn’t take my walking boots off. Despite the lack of amenities, we found it quite busy with walkers and tourists all around. I’ve never been somewhere so isolated with so many tourists. We travelled into Portree on our second day – a small harbour town with lots of lovely craft and outdoor shops and plenty of hostels too.


Scorrybreac Trail

After grabbing coffee and cake in the town, we walked down to Scorrybreac Trail walk, a short walk (approx. 40minutes – 1 hour) along the coast. The views were spectacular. I was amazed how clear and blue the water was around the rocks. We also spotted some fish farms that looked like space ships from the land. There were points on the walk that made me feel shakey due to the height and we also tackled a considerable hill climb – slowly but surely taking time to sit down and hyperventilate every 60 seconds. Once back on level ground, the walk took us through some moors and back into Portree where we stopped for a well-earned chippy at the very popular Lower Deck Seafood Restaurant. I had the most delicious tomato soup I have ever tasted.


Oldman of Storr

The highlight of our trip to Skye was our climb up the Oldman of Storr, later that afternoon. We later found out that Storr is classified as a mountain under UK standards and have been feeling very proud of ourselves ever since. Storr was one of the most challenging walks I have ever attempted. Not long after setting off, Jonny took to reassurance tactics with ‘it levels off just around that corner’. Friends, it did not level off just around that corner. It was incredibly steep, but with baby steps and sit downs we made it to the top! The downside to Storr is the gradient is absolutely relentless all the way up. It’s soul destroying seeing the length and height of the path in front of you and the climbers so far above you. The flipside is there are plenty of opportunities to sit down on the rocks (the ones, that you are climbing). The feeling when you get to the top is incredible. The sense of achievement is immense. The views are awesome. As it was so overcast, we couldn’t see the top from the bottom as it was covered by clouds. Setting off, we had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. But it was worth it.


Dunvegan Castle

We went easy on ourselves the next day and opted for a run out to Dunvegan Castle and gardens (not even vegan!). Dunvegan Castle was an extremely hairy one-hour drive from Flodigarry. When I say hairy, I mean sedate yourself if you don’t like precarious single-track roads up the side of a mountain. I’m not good with heights and it was a white-knuckle experience for me. Thank God I wasn’t driving!

Despite the drizzly day, Dunvegan Castle was another island beauty. The gardens were full of pretty flowers, woodlands and waterfalls. You could also set off from the castle out on a seal trip (if you’re ok with choppy Scottish waters and dinghies). Inside the castle was full of history and you could even experience the dark, cramped dungeon. After we’d been through the castle, we browsed the shop (all of the highland cow merch!) and went to the café for some lunch before heading back to Flodigarry.

Flodigarry Fossil Walk

Our final walk came recommended from the folder in our pod. We decided to try it on our final day as it was very close by to where we were staying. It was called the ‘Flodigarry Fossil Trail’ and was definitely made up. The walk begins by parking down the bottom of someone’s drive, walking round the side of their house, across some quick-mud and out to the beach. Again – gorgeous views heading out to the beach which was the only saving grace of this walk. We then scrambled down some rocks and along said rocks for an unspecified amount of time. I honestly thought we’d get washed out to sea and never found.

At the (eventual) end of these rocks we came to a derelict old house and were instructed to enter the field through the kissing gate. The kissing gate was, at this point in time, guarded by some quite large, territorial looking cows. Jonny tested the waters, but they did not look happy, so I climbed over a fence and had to jump across a stream to join him. I am a vegetarian and did not want to be eaten by cows. The walk concluded by entering through someone’s back garden gate and walking past their kitchen window (where they were stood washing up). I would just like to use my experience to discourage anyone from taking the so called Flodigarry Fossil Trail. It is a lie. There were no fossils.

Ben Nevis

The sun showed up again for our final day in Skye and our drive back to Edinburgh. As Jonny had been doing a lot of driving on our holiday, we made compulsory stops at viewpoints every hour and called in some stunning locations from Lochside to mountainside. My favourite stop off was definitely Fort William where we looked out over the beautiful snow-topped Ben Nevis.


We stayed at The Haymarket Hotel in Edinburgh, a short walk from the city centre. After a perfect, but exhausting 4 days, we sat in the beautiful park for most of the afternoon before heading to Pizza Express for our last meal in Scotland.

Take me back!

Thanks to my excellent boyfriend for an excellent Christmas present – it was absolutely perfect. I highly recommend Skye (and definitely the Flodigarry pods) for anyone in need of a refreshing and destressing break away. It’s a beautiful Island with beautiful views, towns and walks. I would definitely go back – you don’t have to ask me twice, just take me back!

Iceland Airwaves 2018

For better and for worse, Iceland Airwaves is like no other festival you’ll have experienced. Mostly for the better.

We booked our tickets during the early bird period meaning they were cheaper (£100 each) and at this point we didn’t have any line-up or accessibility information. I’ve been eyeing up Airwaves Festival for years and catching up on the highlights from home so I was desperate to go. We decided to take a gamble, and if the line-up wasn’t for us or if it wasn’t accessible we’d just accept the loss and find something else to do – we’d be in Iceland after all!

We did manage the festival though and we saw lots of it.


The first gig we saw, and one of my favourite moments of the entire festival, was Olafur Arnlads recording a live session at Kex Hostel (the living room of your dreams). We arrived early, and despite being a junkyard of long tables, sofas and chairs, there was nowhere available to sit. An audience was forming on the floor, close to the performing corner as if waiting for a story. Jonny and I found a space to sit on a rug behind the sound booth.

Olafur Arnalds

Olafur creates a sea of silence when he plays. His piano was delicate, gentle, soothing, warming – you would have heard a pin drop. Everything was calm, a hundred people were hypnotised and I could have sat on the rug and listened to him play for the remainder of the holiday. I’d like to see sitting rug space become the norm for gigs in 2019.

A standard had been set and the bar was maintained throughout the festival.

Our next stop was Hildur and we discovered Reykjavik Art Museum. Prior to her performance we were able to sit in a massive glass window and look out over Reykjavik Harbour – it was perfect.


I’d heard of Hildur the previous year and she pulled a great crowd in the largest venue at the festival. Hildur won an Icelandic Music Award in 2017 and had more fresh material to perform at Airwaves which we were lucky to catch for the first time at the festival. Hildur is dreamy, poppy, hugely likable and basically a heroine through her power and passion which is written all over her stage presence. If you haven’t heard of her, her latest single Picture Perfect is waiting to be your favourite song of 2019.

For the rest of the night we did a bit of wandering, starting in Idno which got too full to stick around, then moved on to the heavy noise and colour of Gaukurinn.


Thursday was another corker starting with some exitotic indie beats produced by the five-piece that is Flamingods (Jonny got me a belting EP for Christmas to follow-up from this gig). In 2017 I discovered a new brand of alternative music and found myself drifting towards happy tribal noises. Flamingods is filling this particular spec very nicely. Contrasting with the icey views out of the windows of Kex Hostel, Flamingods teleport you to a space desert. We stood for most of the performance and we were captivated.


Asgier was one of the acts I was looking forward to the most. He was doing a short live radio performance on Thursday afternoon at Skuli Craft Bar before his main performance on Saturday. Despite getting there early, we had to watch from outside due to the venue being full. I managed to peer in through one of the windows for a short while, but we listened to most of his performance from a gazebo next to the bar, under a heat lamp, in a frosty Icelandic town square where his performance was played through speakers.

Asgier (through a window)

It was incredibly Icelandic, and he sounded as charming and idyllic as I’d hoped. We didn’t make it to his main performance (or out to the festival at all on Saturday), but it was great to hear his live radio set and hear him chat away about his music at Skuli.

We headed back to Kex Hostel for the next performance – a fair walk out from the rest of the venues but such a warm and welcoming treat when you arrive. We were there to see Fontaines D.C and they created some of the loudest punk noise of the festival. Fontaines D.C have a sound that was made to sound fresh, raw and loud live. They filled an already full Kex Hostel with an Irish charm that is pretty and rough and tasty all at once.

Fontaines D.C

Our Thursday finale was Superorganism who may have sound tracked our Iceland holiday (as well as my entire 2018 and probably my 2019). They played the entirety of their debut album making us feel happy and hypnotised and pleasantly disorientated. I was so excited for their performance. Towards the end of their performance they played Everybody Wants to Be Famous which is one of my all-time favourite songs. Owing to technical difficulties they announced they would play it twice and I peaked. I wondered how Superorganism would be topped.

Superorganism – Everybody wants to be extremely grainy


Friday was the best day for both of us and Mammut was the highlight of our holiday. We hadn’t been to Gamla Bio yet, so we wanted to make sure we arrived early to get a good view. We had to queue for a while but then we got an amazing spot up on the balcony where we stayed for the following 3 acts. Between Mountains were up first and they serenaded us with Icelandic folk music that was beautiful, eerie and soul-soothing. Between Mountains have incredible talent and control over their music. They’re only 16 and 18 years old but have been performing for a couple of years already. I’m really excited to see where they go in future.

Between Mountains

Fufanu were up next. They were lively as hell and so much fun! This was my first experience of Fufanu and I was very much on board. Fufanu are an alternative techno band who use huge beats to create an enormous sound. The drumming was a force of possession (Erling Bang) and their front man (Kaktus Einarsson) had more energy than a child on blue smarties. They were an absolute treat to watch. Jonny has really enjoyed listening to Fufanu since returning so I bought him a pile of goodies for Christmas.


Mammut followed Fufanu and our Iceland experience peaked. I have been a fan of Mammut for at least 2 years now and I was beyond excited to be catching them in their homeland. Gamla Bio was such a wonderful venue to hear them in with its grandeur matching their massive sound. To me, Mammut are the heart and soul of Icelandic music. Simultaneously eerie and highly addictive. Mammut are more of an experience than a band. They have elements that are poetic and heavy and soft and fierce and visual. I heard they’ve been playing together since they were pretty young and whilst they’ve had some changes this year after losing their drummer, they still sound polished to perfection. Mammut are powerful enough to make your skin tingle and your brain vibrate. They were savoured whilst onstage and mourned the minute they left. Not only the most memorable moment in Iceland but one of the most memorable live performances I’ve ever seen. I’m pining to see them again, but I can’t imagine ever seeing them in a venue so well suited as Gamla Bio.


We wandered around for the rest of the night, catching Sorry at Gaukurrin and then catching part of The Voidz back at Gamla Bio (sat on the floor by the door this time). Friday was the last day of the festival for us as we (well, I) was too exhausted to go out on Saturday, so I said goodbye to the festival and gave my body a night to recover.

Access stuff

Not long after purchasing our tickets, we decided to upgrade to VIP. The VIP package offered separate viewing areas and queue jumping (capacity permitting) and so we thought this was probably a useful access tool if all else failed. The upgrades were £70 but included a bag full of goodies including an Airwaves tote bag, a t-shirt, a thermal hat, chocolate, moisturiser and a festival programme. The VIP package proved worth every penny both as a disabled person and a gig-goer.

If I hadn’t purchased a VIP upgrade, I’m not sure I would have been able to see much of the festival. One of the VIP areas was one of the only areas in the festival with seating and whilst we still took part in an awful lot of queuing it was considerably less than it would have been otherwise. The seating area at Reykjavik Art Museum was our go to venue when we needed a rest. A venue like this is a godsend at a multi-venue festival and allowed me to stay out for longer and enjoy the festival.

Being in the VIP queue at Gamla Bio meant that we were first in the venue and got the only seat in the house. If I went back to Airwaves again (and I must!) I wouldn’t hesitate to upgrade to VIP. In fact, I wouldn’t go otherwise. If you’re thinking of trying out Iceland Airwaves, whether disabled or not, I highly recommend the upgrade. It’s an extremely busy festival (like nothing you’ve ever seen before) and venues are at capacity very quickly. If you want to enjoy the festival, see as much music as possible and cut down the amount of time stood in a queue, get an upgrade. £170 for a 4-day festival is not unreasonable.

Soon after booking tickets, I found an email address to contact about disabled access. We exchanged many detailed and friendly emails with Will, head of marketing and ops at Iceland Airwaves who had such a lot of patience and did his best to pull together some useful information for us. He arranged for us to pick up disabled access bands which, he said would allow us priority as long as the venue had capacity. This was extra reassurance with our VIP wristbands, but we didn’t really need to use them as we didn’t feel it could offer any more than the VIP bands. The VIP bands alone made the festival about as accessible as it could be.

The festival certainly had limitations. In many ways it was highly inaccessible. I really struggled in the queues even though we were given priority. We often had to arrive half an hour early for venues to open so we could get in before they reached capacity. The festival itself didn’t seem to have a capacity limit meaning there were more people than they could fit in venues. The crowd tracker was a really useful tool as it told you how busy venues were and sent out a notification when venues were nearing capacity and then again at full capacity.

Many of the venues didn’t have any crowd control. We stood at the back of Idno crowd and kept moving backwards as it got busier until it was so full we were stood outside. For performances at other venues, we didn’t make it inside at all and were stood outside watching through the windows as the crowds spilled out onto the streets. For many performances, it didn’t matter whether a venue was accessible or not because you couldn’t get inside anyway.

If you’re going as a disabled gig-goer my advice would be to get in touch before-hand and let them know your specific requirements, so they can advise the best course of action. They were really helpful. They also offer PA tickets, so utilise that if you need to. Use the app and the crowd tracker, upgrade to VIP, plan meticulously and get to all your performances early. Lastly – explore! Whilst Airwaves is an incredibly busy festival, its also nice and relaxed with a great atmosphere and lots of fun people to bump into and chat to. Everyone will have a recommendation for you!

Iceland, November 2018

Iceland is my new spiritual home. I loved everything about Iceland and its perfect way of life. Almost as unforgettable as the breath-taking landscape, must-do lagoons, boat trips, caves and the jam-packed 4-day music festival is the standard of indoor heating. The holiday was back to back memorable moments, from the cosy little apartment I now call ‘our home’, to the trips, the scenery, the food, the city and most importantly the music. It’s been 2 months since we arrived back from Iceland, and whilst it’s been a two-month period of recovery that I am only just emerging from, I’ve finally sat down to write it up (grab a brew!).


After booking tickets to our bucket list festival, our next pay out was for accommodation. We did a little research on what was on offer and the best places to stay – from hotels, to hostels, to Airbnbs. The hotels were expensive as was anything right in the city centre, but we didn’t want to be too far out as we knew we’d be spending a lot of time (and late nights) in Reykjavik at the festival.

We found a reasonably priced and extremely cosy Nordic looking Airbnb studio advertised as a 15-minute walk from the city centre. The walk turned out to be a little longer once we got there but otherwise, it was just what we were looking for. Our host was friendly, answered our queries quickly and gave us all the information we needed for our arrival. The apartment was small and cosy but with everything we needed.

I absolutely loved spending time curled up under blankets on the sofa watching Netflix (a ridiculous amount of Peep Show considering how busy we were) and Kexp Radio shows of the bands we were seeing.

I was glad to have our own kitchen, not knowing how I’d get on with food or if I would be able to eat out, as well as the fact that we’d heard Icelandic dining was expensive. The kitchen had an oven, a hob, microwave, fridge freezer, toaster and kettle meaning that I was able to do a little bit of cooking whilst we were there (a curry and late night curly fries) and we could lie in and make breakfast before heading out. The apartment was warm, cosy and absolutely perfect.

The only downside of our accommodation was that it was more like a 40-minute walk to Reykjavik, meaning that we only did it once. Fortunately, there was a bus stop really close to our apartment (all busses in Reykjavik are accessible!). The busses were regular, circular and ran until gone midnight which was convenient. We used an app for our tickets and happily shuttled back and forth between Reykjavik and rest breaks.

If we went back to Reykjavik (and we will!) we would definitely stay in ‘our’ apartment again. It was a perfect, cosy home from home.

[View it here]


We walked into Reykjavik soon after we arrived at our apartment at about 5pm. From where we were staying it was downhill to the city centre but a long trudge back up. Reykjavik’s aesthetic is truly picturesque and warmly welcoming on a chilly day; washed out pastel buildings with bright roof tops, modern glass venues sharing space with man-made lakes and rustic hostels and of course Reykjavik’s main landmark, the grand futuristic Hallgrímskirkja cathedral (which looks beautiful at night).

You may have heard that Iceland is expensive – it is. We paid £35 for half a loaf of bread, a small packet of tea bags and 6 bottles of water. But not all the rumours are true. We didn’t find eating out too expensive compared with eating in. The Icelandic cuisine is not as wacky and primitive as you’re led to believe and they don’t actually like eating whale. Eating whale is a tourist tradition and most restaurants in Reykjavik take a stand against whaling by advertising the ‘Meet us don’t eat us’ sticker in their windows.

There is, however, plenty of fish to be had. As a vegetarian this wasn’t for me, but Jonny sampled several different plates and recommends Reykjavik Fish Restaurant as his favourite. He also sampled some of Reykjavik’s famous hot dog stands which were widely recommended to us. He reviews them as ‘excellent, better than Ikea’.

I’d heard that I’d struggle as a vegetarian but that wasn’t the case. Not only do most restaurants in Reykjavik have vegetarian and vegan options but I found them to be absolutely delicious. Whether you’re vegetarian or vegan, I highly recommend trying some Icelandic falafel which is the best I’ve ever tasted. The bar has been set far too high to buy it back home. The falafel in Frederiksen Ale House (extremely warm, comfy and cosy with cheap drinks at happy hour) was my favourite, and after trying it on the first night, I was desperate to go back a second time – so we did. Having got a taste for it straight away, I almost exclusively ate falafel for the duration of our trip.

We spent Saturday browsing the high street and back alleys of the city centre hopping from art shops to second hand shops jam packed with the largest selection of vintage Nordic knitwear I have ever laid eyes on. Our chief concern was music pick-ups because the Reykjavik record shops are a goldmine to get lost in. I was thrilled to pick up both of Mammut’s albums, the day after we’d seen them live, especially after struggling to get my hands on them back home. Jonny picked up some classic Bjork as well as some Fufanu, an Icelandic alt-techno band that we’d discovered at the festival.

Between every side street that separates the city from the sea front, you’ll find a view like this:

Like us, you might find yourself ‘just nipping down’ to have a look and spending an hour enduring a face full of wind whilst attempting to take in the beautiful scenery.


Blue Lagoon (day 3)


If you’re heading to Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is an absolute must do. With the exception of the Northern Lights, it might be Iceland’s busiest tourist attraction. We didn’t want to book too much with having the festival to keep us busy, but this was high up on my list. I absolutely love spas and the Blue Lagoon is as good as it gets. It was the first attraction we visited.

We booked our tickets online in advance and we were able pick from two packages – comfort and premium. We picked the comfort package which offered 4 hours in the lagoon, a towel, a free drink in the pool and a silica mask. We paid 6990ISK each which works out just short of £50. For an extra £20, the premium package offers a bath robe (as well as towel), slippers, a free drink in the pool, a table reservation in their restaurant and free sparkling wine when dining. As we weren’t too bothered about dining, the comfort package was enough. Whilst you do get a free towel, I highly recommend taking your own too and leaving it in the changing room. The towels are quite small, and after you’ve hung it up outside (with fifty-odd other towels) and the wind has blown it half way across the lagoon, you’re going to end up going back into the changing room with someone else’s. I was so glad I took my own towel as it would have been a huge infection risk for my tube site.

The day we visited was probably the coldest and windiest day that we were in Iceland. This made for a brave dash from the changing rooms into the pool. However, once you hit the water, the warmth is an instant hit and I was so toasty and relaxed. The lagoon is quite large with seated areas throughout and a lovely little circuit to drift round. Towards the back of the lagoon, there’s a bar and with either package you can have one free drink. We got given bands when we arrived which could be used for our lockers and scanned for our drinks. Despite being in chilly Iceland, we both had a nice cold blue slush which went down well in the heat of the lagoon.

Throughout the pool, there are several generators covered in rock and the closer you get to the generators, the hotter it gets. I’m the sort of person that likes to boil myself like a potato in the bath so I couldn’t help drift towards the seats around the generator, but it was too hot for Jonny. Further towards the front of the lagoon (at the end of our circuit), there’s a hut where we could grab a handful of silica face mask. We were told to leave the mask on for 15 minutes and then rinse it off in the lagoon. My face was so soft afterwards. There’s also a waterfall close to the mask hut which is great for anyone who enjoys a heavy massage, but lovely and relaxing to sit by and listen to.

Whilst we were allowed to stay in the pool for 4 hours, we couldn’t stay in very long as I needed to get back to my feed. However, for me, it was totally worth the money. We really enjoyed our time in the lagoon and it was such a perfect experience. I want to feel so good all over again.

Accessibility information was really difficult to find for the Blue Lagoon. It’s on their web page, but I had to email them to find out. Even after clicking through all the pages and searching the terms ‘accessibility’, ‘disabled’ etc, I still couldn’t find anything. It turns out, provisions are very good and you can find all they have to offer here.

The entrance to the pool is via a wide ramp so easy to get into. As the water is concentrated with silica, it’s very thick and dense so I found it quite difficult to move through. The silica will also leave your hair feeling really thick and stiff afterwards. This is fine (and good!) if you have thin, limp hair like me (I use silica powder on my hair anyway) but might be a nightmare for people with thick or frizzy hair. In the changing room, they have their own special shampoo and conditioner which works an absolute treat for getting it out. It makes your hair feel so nice. I looked at it in the gift shop afterward, but it was a bit too expensive to justify.

Lava Tunnel (day 4)

Whilst I was well aware that Iceland is famous for its volcanoes, the Lava Tunnel was not something I’d heard of. Jonny found this lesser known gem whilst doing a bit of research and we were intrigued so decided to book. Firstly, I should state that this is quite an inaccessible attraction. The tunnel itself is not long and has plenty of opportunities to sit down. The tour guide stops every couple of minutes to give a talk and this is the perfect opportunity to sit down on a rock and catch your breath.

For the first part of the tour, there’s no clear path and it’s almost a rock-climbing expedition. The floor is uneven, and it can be a little slippery in places. Once you’re over the initial mound of rocks, you enter onto a grated platform bridge and the rest is flat and easy to walk on (with the exception of a few steps).

The Lava Tunnel, by nature was a very cold attraction. Before we started the tour we met in the reception hut and we were given a hard hat and head torch to wear and our tour guide ran through some health and safety rules.

The first part of the tunnel was full of rocks and we were given some really interesting talks – if you’re into geology, it’ll be so far up your street. We were told about the different rock in the tunnel and how it was formed by a stream of lava.  This most likely happened around the time of the earth’s creation! The walls in the cave are formed of different colours and textures all as a result of how the lava interacted with the earth and then corroded over the years.

There were holes in the roof of the tunnel to begin with, but as we got further in the tunnel got smaller and we were lit by artificial lights. Near to the end of the tunnel, we reached a viewing platform and we were all asked to take a seat. What happened next was the coolest part of the tour. We were first asked if there was anyone on the tour who didn’t like the dark and after there were no objections, we were told to turn off our head torches and close our eyes. Seconds later, we were asked to open them again and it was pitch black – complete darkness. There was complete silence and our tour guide let us sit for a minute in darkness, listening to the sounds and feeling the atmosphere of the cave. It was amazing. We only walked a little further after this before we reached the end of the tunnel. Our tour guide took pictures of us all at this point and then we were allowed to make our own way back, exploring, touching and taking in the natural aura of the cave.

Whale Watch (day 6)

The whale watch was the last attraction we booked. Going on a whale watch has been so close to the top of my to do list for as long as I can remember. I’ve had a fascination with sea life and the ocean since I was younger (my first experience of campaigning was with Shark Trust when I was 13). I used to fantasise about seeing whales in the wild (in my head, I was always somewhere more exotic). That said, I was reluctant to book because I have terrible sea sickness and I know that Iceland is notorious for windy, choppy waters. However, I would have kicked myself if I’d have gone all the way to Iceland and not done it, so we bit the bullet and I’m so glad we did.

It could have gone either way. A few days prior, someone we met at the festival told us that some trips had been cancelled due to rough waters (this did nothing to easy my concerns).

We were incredibly lucky on our whale watch. Day 6 was the calmest day that we were in Iceland and the waters were so still. I could hardly tell I was on a boat. Not only was the weather kind to us, but so were the whales. We were told that we had about a 60% of seeing ‘something’. This didn’t necessarily mean a whale. It could mean dolphins or puffins or other sea life. On our way back, our tour guide declared that he’d remember our watch for a long time and that it was the most successful one he’d been on. We ended up staying out in the waters for an extra hour, following an enormous pod of dolphins. There were some tourists on our boat that even missed their flight for it!

The boat that we chose to book on (named Andrea) had three decks – two indoor decks (with the middle deck having an onboard café) and a top deck. It was lovely and warm on the middle and lower decks – a nice cosy spot to come inside and warm up with a cup of tea in between lookouts. The top deck was extremely chilly, but also where all the action happened. The guide stood up top and spoke to us through a PA system and we were told to treat the boat like a clock and spread out. If we saw something, we called out the direction on the clock and the guide would announce it so all decks could hear. And we saw a lot. We saw a few puffins, two pods of porpoise, a Minke whale and lastly that huge pod of dolphins. Seeing animals in the wild is incredible and such a different experience to seeing them in an aquarium. After initials gasps of awe and excitement it was so quiet whenever we had a spot. We were absolutely captivated.

The tour lasted approximately five and a half hours and took well over an hour to get back. On our way back to the dock, we gathered in the café and our tour guide gave us some talks about whales, including sharing round some whale parts like jawbones and filter teeth.

We paid approximately £50 each for our whale watch tickets and it was worth every penny. I’m so pleased that I got to do a whale watch and so lucky that we saw so much. Mostly, I’m thankful that I can tick it off my list and that it is memorable for the sea life and not because I spent 6 hours vomiting.

Golden Circle (day 7)

The Golden Circle was Jonny’s choice and was a 6 hour round car journey (including stops) filled with breath-taking natural beauty. By this point of the holiday, I was fully intending on sitting in the car and napping whilst Jonny chauffeured me round like a diva, but the stop-offs were too good to miss. Making the decision to hire a car from the airport when we arrived was worth it for this trip alone. We hired an enormous Dacia Duster that we both had a go at driving throughout our holiday. Jonny offered to do the driving (/hogged the steering wheel) for most of the trip but I’m not complaining. I didn’t envy him the 6-hour Golden Circle journey but apparently, he really enjoyed it!

We only got out the car on 3 of the stops, but drove round the entire circuit. The drive alone is filled with absolutely beautiful scenery. Like most of Iceland, you can barely open your eyes without being hit by an incredible view.


Þingvellir (pronounced ‘Thing-vil-er in English) is a stunning national park that sits on a valley separated by two tectonic plates. You can access the viewing platforms fairly easily where you can look out over the valley of rocks. From there, you can see the old Þingvellir church – a quaint white monument amongst the golden landscape. If you have a bit more time to spare you can go on a hike through the valley, a history tour or even diving in one of the (beautifully clear) bodies of water. If you can make time and energy for a hike, you can cross the continental divide between Europe and North America.


Gulfoss was loud, wet, windy, noisy and the coldest temperature I have ever experienced. So cold and wet, it can feel hard to breathe. The size of the waterfall is astounding. From the top, there are three large steps. It is 32metres in height with the largest (final) drop making up 21metres of waterfall. Whilst the waterfall itself is difficult to turn away from, the conditions made it difficult to hang around.


It is as cool as the pictures you’ve seen. Geysir is the name of the main eruption site (Great Geysir) and geysers all over the world get their name from it. The Great Geysir erupts sporadically and often stops completely. Strokkur is the name of the geyser that we saw erupt – this erupts every few minutes to a height of about 30 metres, just less than half of the current height of the Great Geysir. We hung about to watch it go off a couple of times and Jonny managed to get this awesome video. His phone added this appropriate music which cannot be removed (but why would we want to?).


Well done if you made it to the end! The main reason we went to Iceland was for Iceland Airwaves music festival so I have another blog post on that still to come. Stay tuned for my festival review, which will be posted later this week…

A weekend in the City of London / 27th-29th July

It’s been a couple of weeks since Jonny and I went on a short weekend adventure to London. Our main reason for going was for a meeting I had, but we thought we’d make a weekend of it. We headed down on Friday 27th July after work and got a late afternoon train back on Sunday 29th. After a long summer heatwave, it was the weekend the rain came – obviously.

London is quite expensive so I had to weigh up whether I was going to stay the weekend. With the train tickets being costly on their own and the meeting being quite long on Saturday, it made more sense to stay overnight and have a fun weekend in London.

I love London. I’ve been going to London on a regular basis since I was a teenager. Back then it was mostly for medical stuff but I’ve always managed to squeeze something in. There’s always something to do in London. Having such good public transport links means that you can cover a lot of ground in a short space of time and you can make it up as you go.

Last time I went to London for a long pleasure trip, my experience with attractions was pretty up and down but fortunately we had a better experience this time.

We didn’t have a great start to the weekend, with our train being over an hour delayed due to the heat. This left us a bit of time to wander round the apocalyptic streets of Warrington Bank Quay, get a kebab and sit on the platform and read the reviews of the hotel we were staying in.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that the reviews fell short of reassuring. They ranged from ‘missing a window pane’ to ‘poo on the shower’ to ‘would rather stay in Auschwitz’.  There were complaints about the steep spiral staircase with no lift and the unbearably hot bedrooms. The room that we’d booked said that we had an ensuite but several reviewers who had expected an ensuite found they had a shared bathroom. Another reviewer said that they didn’t have any plug sockets. This was a big issue for me because I would need to charge my pump.

I was worried. The delayed train made matters worse because it meant that we wouldn’t be arriving in London until gone 11pm which would make finding somewhere else impossible. We passed the time on our extended journey by searching hotel vacancies. Unsurprisingly, most places were booked up at 9.30pm on a Friday night. We even debated ringing round to see if we could secure a room elsewhere and sacking off the hotel we’d booked. In the end, we decided to chance it.

Kings Hotel, 36-37 Argyle Square

The hotel was an 8-minute walk from Euston, or opposite Kings Cross Station. It was in a great location as it was so central. This was one of my reasons for choosing it (it obviously wasn’t the reviews since I didn’t bother to read them!). We paid a little over £80 per night for the hotel which is an absolute bargain in central London so I wasn’t expecting anything fancy. I was just hoping it was safe. When we arrived, we were greeted by a friendly member of staff who gave us our key and directed us to our room.

Up the dreaded staircase we went (which actually wasn’t that bad). We were on the second floor, (which was about enough climbing for me) and in room 34. The room was a small basic twin room. It was exceptionally hot when we arrived, but it had an old slide-up window which opened wide and the room quickly cooled down. We pushed the twin beds together and we both had a double plug socket to the side of our beds (only one worked on Jonny’s side). We had a TV on the wall with a remote and a small ensuite which had a toilet, sink and cubicle shower. In some of the pictures on, the showers/bathrooms appear to be in the bedroom and not a separate room, but this wasn’t the case for us.

The room was small, basic and a bit shabby (my bed had the knobs missing off the end) but it was clean and smelled fresh. We had duvets and a thin sheet on our bed and one pillow each. The beds were extremely comfortable and we both slept like logs.

We were given a clean towel each day as well as a new bar of soap and a sachet of shampoo. Jonny had a wall lamp next to his bed, but it didn’t work so we just used the TV as a night light. There was WiFi in the hotel, but we didn’t use it so I’m not sure how well it worked.

In terms of access, I had everything I needed with an ensuite and a plug for my pump next to my bed. I may have struggled with another flight of stairs. I can’t imagine this hotel would have any wheelchair accessible rooms due to the size and the stairs would be an issue for many people with mobility impairments.

All in all, it was fine for us. Perhaps the other rooms weren’t as nice as ours or perhaps the other reviewers were being a bit harsh. For a hotel in central London at such a low price, I was pleased with it.

Would I stay there again? Probably.

We got into bed as soon as we got there as we were pretty tired and I had to be up fairly early the next day for the meeting.

Cappadocia, 293 Grays Inn Road

After we were up and showered (little more than a dribble), we searched for some local café’s for breakfast and decided to go for Cappadocia, based on the pancake-porn uploaded to trip advisor. It advertises ‘vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options’ which sealed the deal.

As the sun was still holding on, we opted for an outside seat. I ordered an orange juice, tea with soya and a round of toast and Jonny ordered the eggs, bacon and pancakes with orange juice.


The food and drinks were good, service was a bit chaotic and slow and they didn’t take card. There was a cash machine on the road opposite, but it was out of order, and I had a rough time finding another one (it wasn’t nearby!). This put us behind schedule a bit and left me in a bit of a rush when we got back to the hotel room. Food – good, service – not so great.

I may or may not have mentioned that I was accepted to to join Attitude is Everything’s board of trustees a couple of months ago. The first board meeting came less than a week after I was asked to join which meant that I only had enough time to Skype into my first meeting. This time I was down in London for my first away day with the other trustees. I had a great day – it was really interesting and exciting to be a part of conversations with other people who are equally as passionate about accessibility in the live music industry. The meeting went on for most of the day and was followed by a few drinks in the sunshine outside a local pub.

After I was finished there, I headed off to meet Jonny and Sean in Hyde Park and from there onto Soho for a few drinks. We decided to walk back to the hotel because I was so done with all the steps in the tube stations. I find it easier to walk a longer distance on the flat and find steps a bit of a pain. It was quite busy which can cause extra problems with my bag and feeding tube in the confines of a tube train. We stopped a few times on the way – once to pick up a pizza (from Franco Manca in Bloomsbury – highly recommend!) and once to grab some drinks.

Jonny wasn’t ready for heading back to the ‘manky hotel’ but I was shattered and needed my bed so back we went. After eating his pizza Jonny was out like a light and we both had our heads down for 10pm. Party animals.

We hadn’t been given a check out time and took advantage of that with a lie in the next day. Once we’d checked out, we dropped our bags off at the luggage hold in Euston Station and then went for some breakfast at Café Ritazza. I ordered a decaf caramel macchiato and after raving about how amazing it tasted for a decaf, I soon found out that it wasn’t a decaf. I’m not very tolerant of caffeine; I can manage it in tea but in coffee or energy drinks it makes me feel really dizzy and sick.

The Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road

The Wellcome Museum has been on my list for the longest time but this is the first time I’ve managed to check it out. If you’re in the health field, have an interest in health or have morbid curiosities for weird stuff, this is for you. The museum is right opposite Euston Station, so it’s a great way to pass the time if you’re waiting for a train.

For morbid curiosities head to the ‘Medicine Man’ exhibition which features an excellent haul of Henry Wellcome’s weird and wonderful objects. One of my favourites from this permanent exhibition was the Sri Lankan health masks (or ‘disease demons’), believed to cure sickness in ancient times. You’ll also find Napoleon’s toothbrush, an uncovered mummy (not for the easily spooked) and some shrunken heads.




We checked out the ‘Teeth’ exhibition which lasts until mid-September, the permanent ‘Medicine Now’ exhibition which had an interesting feature on diet and obesity, the library and the restaurant.


There are two restaurants in the museum and we went to the slightly fancier (and quieter) restaurant on the first floor. Jonny treated himself to some swordfish and we both had some fancy lemonade.

I’m keen to go back again for another look at the Wellcome. It’s easily my new favourite museum in London.

Accessibility was great with level access to the building, lifts to all floors and level access to all the exhibits. There were audio guides in every room, as well as large print pull-outs within the exhibits.

The Thames

From there, we caught the tube from Euston to London Bridge and went for a walk along the Thames. It had been raining pretty heavy throughout the morning but it had slowed down to a drizzle by lunchtime so we were able to snap a few pictures along the river.


The Golden Hinde

We stumbled across the Golden Hind Ship on our walk and we were intrigued enough to pay £5 each to have a look inside. When we got in, there seemed to be some live dramatic re-enactment going on for an audience of small children. It was fairly cramped and involved a lot of crouching or crawling, which made avoiding the children’s entertainment quite awkward (and terrifying) at times but it was good fun for a fiver. The boat was very tactile with no areas closed off. You could aim a cannon, poke your head out of the windows, sit in the captain’s quarters and even take the helm.


It was completely inaccessible for wheelchair users and generally not very accessible due to the nature of it. We were asked to go down all the steps backwards and treat them like ladders for safety reasons and there was a lot of crouching involved. That said it was very small which meant there wasn’t too much distance to cover. Great for history lovers and great for children who want to climb about and touch things.

From there, we headed back to the station and that was the end of our weekend in London. Fortunately, our train back home was smoother than the one out and I was totally ready for my bed when I got in.

I have two more trips to London in the next few months – for hospital and charity things. If you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them. Tell me what you like to do in London?

Album Review: The Vaccines – Combat Sports

The Vaccines are back with their fourth studio album Combat Sports, charting in at #4 and nobody could be more excited than I. Releasing a new indie album can be a fairly thankless task. Journos, bloggers and fans are pretentious, reserved and obsessed with asking bands to prove they are not the Strokes or the Arctic Monkeys. So how are The Vaccines fairing?

After a rocky couple of years (including the departure of their drummer, Pete Robertson in 2016) LP4 seemed like a distant dream.

By summer of 2017, The Vaccines had successfully sourced themselves a new drummer (Yoann Intonti of indie power-pop band, Spector) and crowned the much loved Australian live member, Timothy Lanham, an official member of the band. From three members to five, the band were ready for a strong come back and a glimmer of hope emerged as they played brand new material at several festivals last year. Footage of the new material was devoured and fans desperately anticipated an album.

In November, the album was given a name, a date was set, album art was published, and a very long-awaited tour was announced.

Over the past 3 months, one by one, The Vaccines have drip-fed song at a time from Combat Sports. Their first single, I Can’t Quit came accompanied with a gritty music video featuring Staffordshire terriers, blood, fresh linen and culminated ominously with one man down. As is the Vaccines way, it coupled upbeat melodies with a darker underlay. In addition to this, each of their following singles was released with a very special 80s style Top of the Pops live music video, delivering not only a delightful sound but a full package of aesthetics and influences. What a treat!

After releasing 5 delicious singles from their upcoming album, the full collection finally arrived on 30th March – and what a Good Friday it turned out to be! I would be lying if I said I didn’t wait up for a listen in the early hours.

Euphoric power-pop

Whilst rumours hinted LP4 may see a stylistic revisit to the snappy indie pop of their debut, there’s certainly no repeated material here. WDYEFTV? was a collection of rough dance-worthy garage whilst Combat Sports is clean-cut, sharp and triumphant. It’s undoubtedly their most poppy sound yet.  The melodies aren’t just catchy, the lyrics are also punchy and depressingly victorious with every ingredient of a classic anthem.

It’s hard to pick out a climax on the record when nearly every track is bulging with euphoria. The album opens with Put it on a T-shirt, admittedly, more power-croon than power-pop but no less infectious than its consequent tracks. The record speeds up as it delivers their elated first single I Can’t Quit followed by Your Love is My Favourite Band, a blind profession of love and possibly the most addictive track on the album. Surfing in the Sky is confidently fierce and maintains a quick tempo before Maybe (Luck of the Draw) brings us down a peg – floaty, reflective and dazzlingly synthy.

When interviewed for Radio X, Justin said that his favourite track from the album was Young American. This will never be a classic power-pop anthem, but nonetheless it is an extremely important track. Young American is the sort of track that wouldn’t usually make a Vaccines A-side, but I’m so glad it did. On first listen, the lyrics are hard hitting and a touch surreal yet intensely emotional (‘suffocate me in between your thighs and take me swimming naked in your eyes). Whilst the band have proven they’re more than capable of pulling off slower tracks (such as Wetsuit and English Graffiti) Justin’s ability to perform such a delicate vocal range is rarely showcased. Young American is the sound of an open wound and yet insanely comforting. It’s no easy listen, but it’ll be there for you when you’re feeling tender.

With the arrival of Nightclub, the album turns from self-absorbing comfort to an unexpected punch in the face. Much like the ear-ringing assault of hangover, Nightclub is a sonic boot camp; an aggressive riff, an ominous bass, a fierce vocal delivery and a brutally rhythmic drum assembly. It is a fast-paced delivery of chaotic thoughts within a focused soliloquy. This track is the epitome of Combat Sports.

If Nightclub is a boot camp, Out On the Street is an apologetic muscle rub.  And like any post night-out hangover cure, it’s a back handed apology if ever there was one – ‘I thought of her, I thought of you, I thought it through and then I called you’. Listen to this track with a sensitive ear and you’ll hear an open and innocent vulnerability, but it can also be enjoyed by carelessly belting out the lyrics in the early hours of a house party or on the long, cramped drive to your next festival. A true Vaccines anthem.

On first impression Take it Easy was my personal favourite. It encompasses all that is good about both classic nostalgic power-pop and current indie-pop. Sonically, it’s a cross between Status Quo’s Rocking All Over The World, and Metronomy’s The Look. Whilst The Look takes me right back to folding away a wet tent in the dark at Glasto ‘17, Take It Easy takes me back to Saturday afternoons in the 90s, dancing around the back room on a beige floral carpet. It reeks nostalgia and yet it’s as original as they come. Take It Easy is a self-conscious track (that’s the problem with people like me) that gives a nod to naïve ambition (I wanna be a star and I want to make it rain/ give me words of wisdom but don’t let me take the class). The tone is self-deprecating (standard Vaccines) yet bashfully accepting of youthful, try-hard ignorance. It’s a salute to everything that we once thought cool and permission to chill out and forgive ourselves. In five years’ time it will comfort me as I look back on my sincerely chosen hipster glasses. And this very piece of writing.

The penultimate track, Someone to Lose is another glorious track, riddled with relatable nostalgia, to belt out your car window, though an incredibly humbled predecessor to the finale. Rolling Stones, is more of a victory march than an ending. The melodies are wholly triumphant with a sound that incorporates a synthesizer turn church organ, a solid base drum and most importantly an absolutely gut-busting guitar riff. It’s the closest thing to a power ballad that the band have ever put out. If the bombastic Give Me A Sign ended English Graffiti on a question mark, Rolling Stones confidently ends Combat Sports like a self-written eulogy to their most colourful album yet.

Pre-sale bundle

combat sports package.jpg
Image description: the contents of The Vaccines – Combat Sports album bundle laid out on a golden wood background. Top left, a square vinyl record sleeve featuring the top half of a man led down holding the hand of a person who is out of shot. He has two rings on his hand. His face is out of shot except for his mouth. He has dark brown curly hair. He wears a leather jacket and a t-shirt that says ‘combat sports’. Across the top of the album it says ‘The Vaccines’ in orange. The top left album is signed five times. Top right is a audio cassette with the same cover as the record sleeve and bottom left is a CD with the same cover again. The CD is also signed five times. Bottom right is another vinyl record sleeve, the identical to the first, without signatures.

The Vaccines offered some delightful packages to choose from on pre-ordering Combat Sports including tapes, CDs, limited addition coloured vinyl and a special .zip file of demo tracks. I ordered one of everything, not least because it gave me* access to pre-sale tickets to Ally Pally and their tour. The demos are pretty interesting, so if you didn’t pre-order… unlucky.

*should have given me access.




I’ll be seeing the band live at Manchester Academy on Monday and Ally Pally on Saturday – gig review inevitably to follow!


In honour of 22.05.2017

I have great memories of wonderful nights at the arena – I was 10 when I went to my first event at the MEN and I’ve attended too many to count since then. At the end of every gig, I stand in the foyer waiting to regroup with friends who’ve stood or sat elsewhere. Moments after the lights are up I’ve been in the queue to buy merchandise in that same foyer, every time. But this really isn’t about me. I wasn’t there. Each time the lights have gone up I’ve grabbed my merchandise, met my friends and we’ve literally danced our way back to the car, then relived our gig all the way home. My memories of the MEN are so different to those who attended Monday night’s concert. It’s not that ‘it could have been me’, it’s more a case that those people are the same as me. They had the same story with a different ending. They counted down the days and then let their hair down. They soaked up the atmosphere like thirsty music-crazed sponges and when encore hit, they too probably willed it to last just a few moments longer. They did everything I did; they planned meticulously, talked about it almost every day and they were so excited.  Their gig was everything to them as mine are to me.

These gig-goers were also young children, only just bursting into the wonderful world of live music. An arena as large as the MEN (that’s the largest indoor arena in Europe) can be overwhelming even when you’re having fun. I remember feeling overwhelmed the first time; so many people, so many loud noises, people shouting, things being thrown, darkness and flashing lights. Thousands of people making their way in and out and at the same time. So many doors, entrances, exits, a complete maize. Concerts are wild and crazy, people are noisy and weird. But that’s the beauty of it. Live music is a place where you can be yourself. Be loud and with confidence. Being a child attending a large venue as the MEN can be terrifying. But events like that are supposed to be their introduction to an amazing world.

Live music is such a beautiful thing. A place where you can congregate with people like you, or people completely not like you, and share something communally wonderful. Live music should be a safe place where you can escape the stresses of your reality, and be care free for a short time. Many of those young girls will have been amidst their GCSE’s and more than deserved a night to feel good again and relieve a bit of stress. Many of them will have been much younger and this may have been their first ever concert. They were supposed to discover a safe place and fun world, as I once did.

I hope the survivors of this awful event can find that world again and realise that live music is there for them and not against them. I hope they can find the beauty of live music because it will always be there and they don’t deserve to be shut out of it by one hideous man.

It’s so much easier for me to say keep going, because I wasn’t there and going back to an event after that requires serious courage. But I can’t will people enough to keep going out, keep supporting your live music scene and keep doing whatever it is that you love. It’s important now more than ever. I attended two events over the weekend and I’ll be going to another one on Wednesday – we will not be beaten. We also attended the vigil in Manchester on Tuesday and these events show that there are so many beautiful people to hold up the city, the country and the live music scene. Attending these events made me feel so much better. There’s so much good in the world – we can’t let ugly people cloud that.

So, try and be brave. Go and add your body and your face to whatever it is you love and make sure that you’re a part of keeping it alive.

Manchester Sikh community giving out free goodies to the people who attended Tuesday night’s vigil