Nothing is impossible in your own powerful mind!

It’s been a scorching week in Sheffield. Last Saturday, I ran a stall at Sharrow Festival, for one strand of my “portfolio career”, being an independent organiser for Usborne Childrens’ books. I haven’t had a lot of time to develop my Usborne business over the last few months, so a stall at a popular community festival on a sunny day would be a great way of getting  back on track. That’s what I thought, anyway. I ended up selling very few books, although plenty of people came to browse and I enjoyed demonstrating my “wind-up pirate ship” book with children.I ended up dehydrated, sunburned (despite lashings of Factor 50), and disappointed. I was fed up about spending the day by myself, missing everything else going on at the festival. However, it was a chance for me to examine myself. My negative mood was partly the product of the time of the month (not that you want to know!) but partly, I just needed to “get a grip” and take stock of what’s working and not working in my free range life. I needed to focus on the positive things in my life.

The stall at Sharrow might not have worked the way I wanted it to, but I’m visiting a local Surestart Centre with my books next week. I’ve ordered lots of pre-school books, and now I’ve done the required amount of orders to qualify for discounts for schools and educational groups, which should help things to take off.

I’ve also managed to complete one of my freelance projects; editing a novel. Now I’m just waiting for the author to give me the final few chapters and to perfect the ending for the thriller. The writer, Tom Webster, is eighty, proving that writing is a vocation for life. The novel is exciting, funning and sexy; about a man who gets tangled in a web of murders while helping an old flame he’s falling in love with all over again!

Another great thing that’s happened this week is my burgeoning career as a music journalist. I sent my review of the Allstar Revolution gig at the O2 to a local listings magazine called Toast. It turned out they’d already reviewed the gig themselves, giving the band a great write-up. However, the editor asked me if I would be interested in doing some live music reviews for them. My first assignment was last Saturday, so sunburned and on my own, I headed off to review the Sherlocks at the Leadmill. I quite enjoyed scribbling in my notebook and looking aloof! One of their fans, an older guy, who might have been the grandad of a band member, spotted me taking photos and asked if I’d give them a good review! I said the review would be great. They’re a really talented young band. I just wish that hopeful indie bands in Sheffield didn’t think that they have to sound like the Artic Monkeys. The Sherlocks suffer from this a bit, but are well on the way to developing their own sound – and they have a truly rabid following, which must help!

The editor of Toast liked my review and asked if I was available to review any gigs this weekend. I emailed the dates when I was available, and the dates when I’m going to be at music festivals! The editor, Si, immediately asked if I was available to review the Levellers gig in Graves Park in Sheffield on Friday. Of course I said yes – they’re one of my favourite bands of all time, and I’d been indecisive about getting tickets as I’m watching the pennies at the moment. And even better, my other half agreed to come with me!

So, on a still-boiling early Friday evening, we jumped into the rather erratically driven taxi I’d booked to Graves Park. Graves Park is massive. It’s on the opposite side of Sheffield from our house, so we’ve not been there very often. Sheffield is full of parks, but Graves Park is one the scale of one of London’s big parks, with woodland, lakes, a golf course and even its own farm with highland cattle! We found the big top venue for the gig easily and I was on the guestlist – that’s always an exciting moment! My name was down and I was definitely coming in! The event was called Under the Big Top, and it was like a mini-festival, with portaloos, food stalls, a bar, and the all-important Heras Fencing – and lots of interesting people. Inevitably, someone with dreadlocks was doing poi juggling on the grass! My other half isn’t used to festivals and thought that the audience were “a bunch of freaks”.

It was great to see Sheffield band Bison doing such a high-profile support slot. Bison have been going for almost ten years and I’ve seen them perform many party-igniting sets over the years, including an awesome set at Glastonbury in 2007. After a few years’ break (during which some of them have started families and settled down a bit!), they’re back, a bit older, but still delivering funny songs for dancing like a loon. Their ska-brass songs sounded great in the summer evening. My partner (I hate that term, it makes me sound as if I’m really smug! Suggestions on a postcard for a good name for a long-term boyfriend anyone!), anyway, my partner loved their hi-vis orange outfits, but he didn’t like the reggae sounding songs and thought they were a bit “wacky”. Their set seemed to win over a good percentage of the audience though, although the rest of the crowd were split between sitting on the grass in the beautiful dusk, or joining the half-an-hour queue for the bar!

The queue for the bar was totally ridiculous, and hopefully the bar capacity was increased before Richard Hawley’s set yesterday evening (as Richard H is known to like a drink or two!) It was a pain, but I chatted to a man I’d met at Beautiful Days festival (the Levellers’ own festival) last year, and at the end of our wait, we got to drink a pint of delicious local Bradfield Ale. The Levellers had actually started by the time our pints were being poured.

The Levellers played a brilliant set: hit after hit. I must have seen them about thirty times (I’ll try to work it out exactly one day), and it’s almost twenty years since I first saw them – 1993, the Granby Halls in Leicester. The Levellers have now been going for 25 years and are still one of the hardest working bands in the music biz. As well as their own festival, they own and run their own recording studio, The Metway, in their home town of Brighton. But they’re not just churning out the songs they’ve been playing all this time. Singer Mark Chadwick takes the time to engage with the audience, and each song is imbued with energy and passion. Bass player Jeremy Cunningham still does scissor-kicks – and still has waist length purple dreadlocks.  It’s impossible not to be carried along. I was singing to ‘Men an Tol’ with my eyes closed, and jumping up and down to the punkier songs. My favourite moment at a Levellers’ gig is when everyone punches the air during ‘Riverflow’, after the line: “I don’t know how you made it through all the smoke and brew you do. It sure has left its mark on you but you’re still with us today – hooray!” and I wasn’t disappointed. The band finished with their classic cover of ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’, and then we filtered out into the night. My partner’s verdict was “they’re f**king brilliant!” which is high praise indeed!

The other half and I got a little lost trying to get out of the park, but we managed to buy a couple of beers and get on a bus that stops a few minutes’ walk from home. What happened next wasn’t so great! On Queen’s Road, nearer to the city centre, some shadowy figures seemed to launch something at the bus. Something hit the bus violently, and I thought it was a brick. It seemed to have hit the bus just below my window. Then a couple of girls came down from the top deck, visibly shaken and saying a window had been broken. The bus stopped and the driver got out to inspect the damage. Luckily, we were very near to the depot, so a replacement bus was hastily arranged. The back upstairs window of the bus was completely shattered – on both sides. That meant that the attackers must have used a gun of some kind. We were all a little jittery after that! Sheffield usually feels like a relatively safe city, and I’ve stood chatting late at night, outside the Haggler’s Corner arts centre, exactly where we were attacked. If anyone had been sitting on the back upstairs seat of the bus, they may have been killed. Sobering stuff.

The rest of the weekend was exciting too. I’ve been to my friend Jaspal’s Indian “hen-night” – called a Sangeet. It was great fun, and involved her aunties singing saucy songs – unfortunately they were in Punjabi so I didn’t understand them, but we all ate ourselves silly with delicious home-made Indian food. With the weather so hot, it almost felt like we were actually in India, rather than Milton Keynes! The wedding’s next week – it’s going to be really exciting.

So this week, I’ve learned that the best antidote for being fed up is to get out there and enjoy yourself, seize any opportunities that come your way and also to make your own opportunities!

Here’s a direct link to the music reviews on my blog!

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