Week 35: Billie Holiday – Lady Sings The Blues

20 Apr


I finished work! The moment I’ve been crawling towards for the last few weeks like a dying beetle has finally arrived. The relief is colossal. I never knew I could feel so tired and broken. Maybe it’s preparation for being a little old lady one day. There is certainly a similar level of tea drinking and biscuit eating going on.

As well as feeling relieved, the sense of transition has taken me be surprise. I have my feet in two worlds now, not really wholly in either. My relationships with the people around me are changing, with virtually everyone. Some people have nothing to say to me anymore, to some I am just a baby-vessel they have nothing in common with, some are wistful as if I have been lost somehow, some are excited, some are fascinated, some (a very few) are just exactly as they always were. Predictably I am being drawn closer into my own family, in-laws suddenly dancing round me like I’m sitting on a golden egg, my own parents over-emotional and more interested in me than they have been since I was in bermuda shorts. My Mum  left tearful today as she won’t see me again until I am to someone else what she is to me.

The world is moving around me even though I feel like I’m standing still. It’s a strange and dizzying sensation. People moving closer, people stepping back. I’m not honestly sure how much is real and how much is in my hormone-addled, over-sensitive brain.

Perhaps the trick is not to care too much about any of it, real or imagined. Maybe life is teaching me to have patience and rely a bit more on myself. To forge out into the unknown with nothing more than my (radically depleted) wits and a bit of faith in my own instinct instead of constantly building a picture of myself through other people’s eyes. Maybe that’s a pretty good kick-off for some confident parenting.

Billie Holiday is great thinking music, isn’t she? I promise to talk flippantly about something pointless next week.


Week 34: Crowded House – Together Alone

14 Apr


Here’s something. When all my peers were warring it out over East 17 and Take That, at an age when my husband-to-be and many more of my current friends were smoking badly rolled spliffs to Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine, I was sitting in my bedroom listening to Crowded House. I didn’t start to understand grunge until after Kurt died, didn’t think I liked heavy music at all in fact, so didn’t bother to listen to it. Later on, I finally heard Bleach, realised how comparatively average Nevermind was and set off on my own journey into noisy stuff, making my own map, but still occasionally putting on the same Crowded House CD. I think what I’m trying to say is that I’ve never been especially cool.

I cleaned the bathroom to Together Alone this weekend – it’s still great, although I don’t remember it sounding as much like the Beatles as it does. Cleaning and tidying is all I seem able to focus on at the moment. Anything that interrupts me from preparing myself and the house for the baby has become immensely irritating to me. I love this post on maternity leave by Esme, who is due a couple of weeks before me. Nobody tells you that  the main reason that you’ll want to finish work is not just because you’re tired and fed up (although you definitely will be), there will also be this deeper hormonal need to vanish inside your own body and concentrate on the life growing inside you, at the expense of all other mental function. For me, this has been helpfully flagged by my inability to use the intellectual part of my brain for more than a few seconds at a time. I think my bosses will be relieved when I’ve gone. Nobody wants a comms exec who has lost the ability to communicate.

(Having said that my last internal email got an enormous staff response. Maybe I am now able to tap into other people’s instinctive brains and finally get them to act through my writing. Or maybe I just sent it with the wrong attachment.)

So, here I am, vanishing into my neocortex. Everything is based on what I feel rather than what I think. For an over-analytical mind, it’s like pulling my own batteries out and watching my power run out. It feels liberating, actually.

Four working days to go now. It will be a grateful limp over the finish line.

Week 33: Cheap Trick – In Color

6 Apr


Let us consider for a moment the genre of powerpop.

Powerpop confounds me. It is an unholy blend of blue-collar rock music (ugh, sweaty balls) and shimmery 60s pop (ugh, Beatlemania) and by all rights it should make me want to vom all over my shoes.

It’s simultaneously blokey and fey and merely writing about it as a concept this second is annoying me. And yet I really, really love so many powerpop songs. They should be tacky, but they’re just not. There’s something magical and unexpected in the chord progressions of a great Cheap Trick song. the sneaky little sevenths and minor chords in the verses that just lifts it out of Status Quo territory and into something inimitable and instantly classic cool without ever being obvious.

I’ve put In Color down as my album of the week, but actually I’ve been playing my favourite self-made powerpop CDR. I know that’s sort of cheating the whole classic-album-a-week thing, but I can’t stop listening to it, I love it, and there it is.

Surrender – Cheap Trick
Go All The Way – The Raspberries
Hanging On The Telephone – The Nerves
A Million Miles Away – The Plimsouls
Boys Don’t Lie – Shoes
What I Like About You – The Romantics
Southern Girls – Cheap Trick
I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend –The Rubinoos
Hold Onto Something – Great Buildings
Starry Eyes – The Records
I Want You Back – Hoodoo Gurus
I’m On Fire – Dwight Twilley Band
Time and Time Again – The Smithereens
Precious To Me – Phil Seymour
Come On Come On – Cheap Trick

Blondie are a great example of a popular band of the same era that did that same thing of taking a potentially cheesy song and swaggering it til it sounds timelessly cool (their cover of the above Nerves song is a good example).

I’m not sure if you’d call the Cars and Blondie pure powerpop bands – more powerpop influenced – but they were absolutely the sound of my babyhood. I do wonder if excessive exposure to that sound is what gives me a blissed-out nostalgic feeling when I hear all this delicious stuff.

I have been getting behind with this blog! I am 34 weeks tomorrow. I desperately need to tell you about NCT and the day Sam built the Power Triangle. Next time, next time.

Week 32: The Replacements – Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash

29 Mar


I’m going to go out there and say The Replacements are one of the greatest bands of all time. Go on go on go on. You know it’s true.

I have lost the ability to listen to (or, in fact, DO) anything challenging. I am rolling round and round in a world of old and comforting favourites like Placemats. I spent last weekend clearing through my CDs, torn between a nesting urge to get rid of everything I haven’t listened to in 10 years and being emotionally wracked by anything that brought back memories (that was most things) and being unable to consign a single thing to the bin pile. Needless to say, I gained very little in the way of space. What I DO have is a new and overwhelming urge to listen to Planes Mistaken For Stars and Life Detecting Coffins. Maybe I’ll have better luck at getting rid of stuff when I clear out the shoe cupboard. Or… maybe not.

Nesting (it’s a real thing apparently, and it’s happening to me) is not only giving rise to clear-outs, it’s prompting a compulsive need to clean and bake. The sad thing is that I appear to do neither very well any more, falling asleep halfway through the former, and forgetting to buy any of the right ingredients for the latter leading to some horrific “improvisations” and leading to nothing but more cleaning up and a pervading sense of my own failure.

Luckily it’s Easter and we have a joyful four days off for me to indulge these new “favourite” hobbies, plus also sleeping and eating which I could currently win Olympic events at . We’ll also be celebrating six whole years of being Team Braz-Smyth tomorrow as our two year wedding anniversary on June 4th is likely to rather dominated by the arrival of a tiny and exhausting bundle. Large chocolate eggs and much lolling on the sofa drinking tea seem to be the order of celebrations- it’s amazing how exciting I’m finding the prospect. Sam has spent the entirety of our relationship trying to get me to sit down and chill the fuck out, and I think it’s finally worked.




Week 31: Sly & The Family Stone – Stand

19 Mar


Happy birthday Sly Stone! 70 today and still funky.

When I’m 70, our little boy will be 37.  Some people think you should hold back on imagining your child’s life for them, but really, who can resist? It’s like a birthday party or a wedding or meeting a famous person – impossible not to daydream about what it might be like, however hard you try. I wondered what my kids might be like even before I was pregnant, and now it’s an itch I can’t stop scratching.

I don’t waste time wondering what his career will be or any of that. I have learned the hard way that what you are on paper might not say that much about who you are as a person. But I do like to think about his personality – the things he will more than likely not escape with his gene pool (stubborness, independence, a stupid sense of humour) and the things that could go either way – will he be shy or loud or something inbetween? Technical or artistic or neither? Or both? It’s too much fun not to wonder. I wonder about things all the time, and then they never turn out the way I expect. That’s half the fun of having your head in the clouds.

I am going to be very good and not be melodramatic about my tooth this week – instead I am setting it as a pain benchmark and wondering how much labour will surpass it by, in a very detached and scientific way. The antibiotics have helped enormously but I’m still feeling cross about the lack of anti-inflammatories I’m allowed and worrying about how I’ll cope as it heals following my extraction which is booked for next week. There should be some rules about not having to go through this when you’ve already got a list of antenatal ailments as long as two pairs of arms. And also just as Easter lands and my one year of guilt-free chocolate consumption will have the mockers well and truly put on it. These things are important, you know.

Will also not be melodramatic about being first trimester tired again, recurrent bad back or the fact that work is horrible and I still have five weeks to go until I finish. WILL NOT. Will not.

Instead I will look in awe at this very exciting being wriggling underneath my t-shirt and wonder what it will be like when he’s taller than me.


Week 30: Stars Of The Lid- And Their Refinement Of The Decline

10 Mar


I went to Italy and it rained and I slept and that was the best thing for me. I could have done without Tooth Of Doom rearing up halfway through and preventing me from eating The Delicious Things, but a week off work has still been liquid gold and I can’t complain a bit. My Sam is very patient. I’m glad he doesn’t mind being a lazy bones.

Now, however, things are not fun. It’s all about somehow keeping up strength and nutrition on a liquid diet and trying to sleep through the pain and being sick all over the place (why is that? is this first tri again?), which is all really rather annoying as I was quite rested by Wednesday and even felt a bit psychologically prepared for going back to work. I feel wrathful that, as ever, there is so little pain relief that anyone is prepared to say I can take, so I’m having to minor dose in order to get sleep in more than 30 minute blasts. I am unapologetically grumpy and scared. I have never been in this much pain for so long. I dream about codeine and tramadol and I fantasise about smashing my jaw with a hammer or drowning in a long bath, just to have some rest.

I’m choosing music for birthing, which is why I’m listening to this Stars Of The Lid record this week. It’s at the very least interesting to see how fear through pain can be managed, how to relax and think around pain, and how much harder it is to move away from a fear reaction when the pain you’re going through is due to something being wrong with your body rather than a natural process that our bodies have evolved to perform.

This might change nearer the time, but I can honestly say I feel more anxious about how I’ll cope after our baby is born than I feel worried about labour. I feel about labour the way I feel about a long, hard run – I’ll get through it because I want to do it, because I’m completely focused and I want the prize.

This tooth though. This tooth can fuck right off.

Week 29: No Doubt – Tragic Kingdom

2 Mar


It’s just a week to listen to this record, it just is.  A full album I know every single word to and can’t hear without singing every one and pretending to myself that I might sound even vaguely like Gwen.

Not only has the sun started to come out just a tiny bit, which always makes things better, I’m also busy throwing things that still vaguely fit into a suitcase ready to jet off to Florence on one last fabulous holiday before our family gets bigger by a whole person.

I have never been this excited about a holiday.

I feel the exact feeling I used to feel just before summer holidays at school. This might be because my job feels more like school than ever. Also because I am starting to get really tired again and am beyond ready to collapse for a few days. Forcing myself to stay up til 9 is getting to be a real fight, and the idea of having full days with no plans where I can sleep when I want to, go out when I want to, eat when I want to, and generally loaf about and not do anything if I don’t want to is utterly blissful. I also showed enormous foresight by getting us a proper nice hotel for the first time in our lives so if I want to spend the full six days getting pruney in the bathtub then I’ll only be getting our money’s worth and I shan’t feel an ounce of guilt.

I promise to bring you lots of beautiful pictures, but seeing as Sam tried to take one of me yesterday and declared “I can’t make the camera make you look pregnant. You just look like a chubber!” I think we might be skipping any of me for a while.

Happy March everyone. I hope you have something happy to look forward to this month, even if it’s just listening to some super-awesome 90s alternative pop music for the rest of the day.