National Poetry Month and Gender-Neutral Toys (of course those things go together!)

As it is National Poetry Month in the UK at the moment, I thought I’d upload a fairly recent one of mine. I wrote it a few months ago for possible inclusion in a book. It didn’t make it in, sadly, but it means I can share it with you for free on the internet instead.

It was inspired by the recent campaigns to eliminate gendered-marketing for children. I just signed a petition on this subject, which I also urge other people to do. You can find it here.

It’s tempting to fill this blog post with an explanation as to why this is so important, but Joanne Harris’ blog post here already says everything I’d want to say!

So, if you’d like to read my poem on the subject, you can find it on the Poetry page (funnily enough). It’s the top one – ‘Shopping Superhero’. I feel like ‘Supermarket Superhero’ would have made a better title, but as I’d already written the poem and started it off by saying I was in a toy shop, not a supermarket, I wasn’t going to re-write the poem just to fit the better title!! Unusually for me it’s quite a fun and humorous poem, despite the fact it’s making a serious point. I hope a few people enjoy it at least, though more importantly I hope lots of people sign the petition.

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A-Z: Subaphotic (part 2)

Subaphotic – Bluminosity (album)
I’ve not listened to this album anywhere near as much as the earlier ones. Mostly because it was released in 2010, not long before I left the country. Not that that’s much of an excuse – I did have the MP3s with me.
‘Whisky Wizard’ – For this song, my Dad asked me to come up with a title that he could then write a song to. I like alliteration! And whisky.
‘In The Matrix’ – Another re-recording of an older song. I’m not sure I actually have a copy of the original – if I do it’s probably on cassette. Happy enough having this version though – it’s a good song – probably my favourite on this album actually. Not sure why, but I’m not as keen on this album as the earlier ones.

Subaphotic – Junk Male (sampler)
A sampler of 7 tracks for what became the Pix Elated album, but which had a working title of Junk Male. My Dad liked word play and puns, if that’s not obvious!!

Subaphotic – Subaphotic Theme (single promo)
I’ve called this a ‘single promo’ for want of a better description. It’s just a CD with this 1 track on it. It was before Pix Elated was finished and I really wanted a copy of this track.

Subaphotic – EBE (demo)
Called ‘EBE’ because the tracks begin with those letters – ‘Endangered’, ‘Backwards’ and ‘Ex-Phials’. Plus, y’know, the alien reference (Extraterrestrial Biological Entity, for those not as X-Files obsessed as me). All these songs ended up on ‘Ex-Phials’, unsurprisingly.
‘Endangered’ – Ooh this is a different version to the one on the album! I’d totally forgotten that. Obviously an earlier version. Not sure which I prefer. They’re not hugely different I guess – possibly just a different mix.

Subaphotic – Recent Tracks (demo)
This is actually the same 3 tracks again, but then with a bonus 4th track called ‘Failure’, which didn’t end up making it on to the album, slightly ironically!
‘Failure’ – Not sure why this didn’t make it on to the album. I think maybe it just didn’t quite fit well enough with the other songs. Though it does include the lyric ‘toilet full of rats’, which is a reference to the X-Files episode ‘Teso Dos Bichos’. Probably one of the worst X-Files episodes, but I think we’d watched it recently on one of my many X-Files rewatches.

Subaphotic – 4 tracks (demo)
Not entirely sure what this CD was all about. Quite possibly a selection of potential tracks for Ex-Phials, as it includes 2 tracks that did make it on (‘Backwards’ and ‘Angry’), plus 2 that didn’t (‘Champions Of The Cause’ and ‘Psychosis’).
‘Champions Of The Cause’ – Oh, this was the song that Dad started making a stop-animation video for, using Doctor Who figurines and stuff. He always wanted to make a video for ‘Backwards’ too, using video clips playing backwards, like in the Red Dwarf episode of the same name. I remember recording some random video footage of me pouring milk on to cereal and dropping a load of playing cards on the floor so he could use them in the video. Not sure how much progress he made with it – he always had a gazillion projects on the go, as well as doing the 9-5 job too. Ooh, I just found my video clips. The one where I make a cup of coffee includes a close-up of the base of my kettle, which I didn’t go to the effort of cleaning!! Ew. I do kinda miss my cow kettle though. It mooed and everything! Though that did get annoying quite quickly. Thankfully you could turn it off. I’ve also got 4 clips of me pretending to play the keyboard in various outfits. I’m assuming they were going to be used in the video too.
‘Psychosis’ – Not sure why this didn’t make it on to the album – I feel like it would have fit in well.
Ok, now I’ve gotten sucked into looking at all the random camera videos I’ve got saved on my computer that I’d totally forgotten about. I took a video of some of the ceilidh dancing at my friends Phil & Kat’s wedding. I’ve also got footage of the burlesque class at their hen party, though I’d remembered that one! Awww, I’ve also got footage of us singing Happy Birthday to my Auntie Margaret on her 80th birthday. I definitely don’t use the video function on my camera enough these days – I apparently used to use it a lot – often pretty randomly – I’ve got a brief clip of some friends just chatting in the pub – maybe taking video footage was still quite novel to me at the time.

Subaphotic – 3 tracks (demo)
Another 3 potential tracks for Ex-Phials. 2 of these made it on (‘Experimints’ and ‘Placebo’) and 1 didn’t (‘Everyone Else Is Happy’).

I’m going to leave this here for now, as want to go have lunch and dye my hair (not simultaneously), but I might well listen to some more later on today.

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A-Z: Subaphotic (part 1)

Ok, time to start listening to Subaphotic – the band I was in with my Dad. It’s going to be quite a strange experience I’d imagine, but a good one at the same time. I still want to put together that compilation of my favourite songs of his, so this will be a good way of starting that process.

Subaphotic – Pix Elated (album)
Starting at the beginning, of course – this is the first album from 2006. It was very much my Dad’s music – I’d just play on the occasional track when we had the opportunity to do it. We did start rehearsing tracks for potential live performances, but that kinda stopped when I moved to Cardiff and he then moved to Australia. I’m not actually sure which of these tracks I did play on now… I might recognise my bits when I hear them!
‘Without Light’ – This has got to be a potential for the tribute CD. Really lovely song.
A few of the tracks from this album are available for free download from here. I might add some more too now actually.
‘SwarV’ – The title of this comes from the fact it was the first song he wrote using his new Flying V. I really like this song. His voice goes a little bit Marc Bolan at times too, which must have been intentional, and which I like.
‘Subaphotic Theme’ – I’ve always really loved this. It was mostly put together using the Korg Oasys mega keyboard thing, which was something he’d bought fairly recently. It’s then just got some guitar over the top. Although my Dad plays the keyboard on this recorded version, he did teach me how to play it as part of our gig rehearsals. It was really good fun to play, though because of all the pre-set sounds and stuff that it uses, you had to play it perfectly or it would all go very wrong, which it often would!! Still fun though.
‘Face On’ – Another one we practised a live version of and which I really enjoyed playing on the keyboard. Again I’m pretty sure I don’t play on the recorded version though… or maybe I did on this one? I definitely played keyboard on at least one of the tracks on here – my memory’s just really bad! Ooh, actually, I think I might have played the bit of tambourine at the end! Though I’m not credited with percussion in the liner notes, only keyboard… agh, I don’t know. It was 8 years ago!

Subaphotic – Compilicated (compilation)
A compilation of songs that was put together in 2007 – mostly for promotion type purposes I think. So there are quite a few songs that I just listened to on the previous album.
‘Life’s A Breeze’ – This is the version that was produced by John Ratcliff, who’s produced stuff for A-ha, amongst other acts. I always kinda preferred my Dad’s original version to be honest, though it’s still a nice version.
Wow, I just noticed this compilation’s got 1,412 listeners on That’s pretty sweet.
‘Stript’ – Another one we practised a live version of. Another fun one too. I think the only other one we had sorted was ‘Life’s A Breeze’, which had a much more basic keyboard part, which made it a bit less fun to play. Though also less likely I’d mess it up! Ha ha.
‘ECT’ – A new (at the time) recording of an old song of his – he must have written it in the early 90s, I think.
‘Wondrous Kiss’ – Another newer version of an old song. Plus it’s the other song that was produced by John Ratcliff. Again I probably prefer the original, though that’s usually the case with songs I find – your favourite version tends to be the first one you hear. Not always, there are definitely exceptions, but as a general rule.
‘On Another Level’ – Another definite contender for the compilation.

Subaphotic – Ex-Phials (album)
I’ve still got quite a few copies of this album on CD, from when I’d post them out via orders through the website. I’ve got a few copies of the Life’s A Breeze single too. If anyone wants one of either (or both) of those CDs, just let me know – you’d just need to cover the postage cost. I really like this album – it’s generally a little rockier and edgier than the first album.
‘Angry’ – Great opening track.
‘Experi-mints’  - Aha, I play flute on this one! That’s a lot easier to recognise than any songs I might play keyboard on. Good song too.
‘Backwards’ – I play flute on this one too. I should probably get my flute out at some point and check to see if I can still remember how to play. It’s been in storage for 4 years.
‘Placebo’ – Another old one he re-recorded. Largely because it’s always been my favourite song of his. Well, since he first wrote it of course – not sure what my favourite was before that. It’s pretty similar to the original (though I still probably do prefer the original, just because I listened to it so much). It must have been a Sinaptic Gap track, so I probably mentioned it when I listened to those albums…  ah, yes, I did, albeit briefly.
‘You Win’ – Not enough songs manage to work in the word ‘courgette’!

I’m going to leave this here for today. I have really enjoyed hearing these songs again though.

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A-Z: The Stills – Strangelove

The Stills – Rememberese (single)
Maybe technically an EP? There’s only 3 songs but the first track’s ‘Still In Love Song’ – there’s not actually a track called ‘Rememberese’.

The Stills – Still In Love Song (promo single)
Just as well this is my favourite song of theirs! Quite looking forward to moving on to a different band though.

The Storys – Town Beyond The Trees (promo album)
I’m not actually that fussed on The Storys – they’re too middle of the road. I got one of their songs on a CD called Fresh Welsh Talent 2006, which I quite liked, so I then ended up buying this album at some point later, based purely on that 1 song (and the fact they’re Welsh, I guess), but yeah, not actually that keen on them. The CD was quite cheap though, so hey. I have actually seen them live as well, at a charity gig thing, though they were just as middle-of-the-road. According to, I’ve never actually listened to this album in its entirety – I listened to 2 songs and had enough of it! Not sure why I’ve kept it. I might take this opportunity to stick some food in the oven…
Seriously, why have I kept this CD?? It’s only on track 4 and it’s already getting on my nerves quite badly. I know the whole point of this A-Z thing is to play all the CDs on my shelves, but as I definitely won’t be returning this to the shelves, does that permit me to stop playing it and just move on to the next CD instead? As these rules are all of my own construct, I’m deeming that allowable. Yay. Stopping this CD and adding it to my pile of stuff to sell. Sorry The Storys, but you’re just not my thing.

Strangelove – Beautiful Alone (CD1 single)
Ahhhhh, so much better!!!! I really need to get me some Strangelove albums on CD. They’re a band that totally passed me by at the time, to be honest. I only got into them years later because Alex Lee joined Suede for a while. All the songs on here are so good though. I just googled Patrick Duff and discovered he’s had 3 solo albums too! Including one in 2013! I’ve only got the first one. I need to track me those others down.

Strangelove – Sway (CD2 single)
Ha ha, just realised I’m actually swaying to this song! Fitting title. This CD apparently cost me the grand total of 50p from a Save The Children charity shop. Definite bargain.
’20th Century Cold (live acoustic version)’ – Love this. And not just because it has the word ‘catatonia’ in it. I’m not quite that easily pleased! Although I definitely have been in the past.
‘She’s Everywhere (live acoustic version)’ – Love this too. I definitely need to listen to Strangelove a lot more often.

I think I might leave this here for today. Coming up next is Subaphotic – the band I was in with my Dad. I’ve not listened to any of his music since he died, as it’ll naturally be a pretty emotional experience. Not sure I’m quite ready for that today. Plus my food’s nearly ready.

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A-Z: State Sponsored Jukebox – The Stills

State Sponsored Jukebox – Last Night’s Thoughts This Morning (album)
I got this album for free. I ordered an album by Gintis and got this as a bonus extra, as they were on the same record label (Hidden Hive). It’s alright, but a little dull to be honest. Plus the album’s over 50 minutes long, which is definitely too long. Not as I general rule, I hasten to add, just in the case of albums that fail to hold your attention for that long.
‘Somebody’s Sleeping Downstairs’  - Actually, this song’s pretty decent.
‘You Can Find Comfort’ – This song’s over 10 minutes long. 10 minutes!!! The Asphalt World isn’t even that long. And this is no Asphalt World. It’s kind of like it’s trying to be though – it mentions taxis and everything. But it’s really really not. I’m 5 minutes in and it’s grating on me already… Ok, 2 more minutes to go and now there’s just the same endless trumpety refrain. Is this it for the rest of the song?… oh, hang on, they’ve introduced some spoken word stuff in the background. This was totally their attempt at The Asphalt World!!! Rumbled them.

Stellastarr* – Stellastarr* (album)
Jamie introduced me to Stellastarr*. I’m pretty sure I’d heard of them before, but had never felt inclined to check them out. He then encouraged me to buy this CD at a CD sale thing we went to in Newport. It’s alright – enjoyable enough – but not totally my kinda thing to be honest. Much better than the previous album I listened to, don’t get me wrong, but still, not a purchase I’d have made without the boyfriend persuasion element. But hey, it’s things like that that make music collections so interesting and life-chronicling. Not that I’d attempt to do the High Fidelity thing of ordering my music biographically! That’s just madness!! But still, people who only have music digitally are missing out on this kinda thing. It’s very easy to just delete a digital album without really thinking about it, but having a physical memento of something’s totally different.
‘Untitled’  - Quite enjoying this one. I have also just started drinking a Guinness, but I don’t think those things are necessarily connected. The internet keeps cutting out today, which is rather annoying. It often seems to play silly buggers on a Friday, for some reason. Weekends too actually. More people using it? It’s not like it’s cheap! Might look into alternatives. To Virgin Media I mean – not to the internet! I’m not gonna start keeping homing pigeons or sending smoke signals or something.

Stereophonics – The Bartender And The Thief (single)
In general I’ve always found the Stereophonics a bit dull. I’ve never felt remotely inclined to buy any of their albums. However, I do quite like this song – so when I found it for 75p in Jumbo Records in Leeds, I figured why not? My memory’s not as amazing as that might suggest though – it still has the Jumbo Records 75p sticker on it!  That’s an ace record shop by the way, if you ever find yourself in Leeds.
The b-sides are pretty stereotypical Stereophonics. Stereotypiphonics?? I far prefer ‘Fiddlers Green’ to ‘She Takes Her Clothes Off’, but I’m not going to be adding either to my general playlist.

Stereophonics – Madame Helga (promo)
Really not sure how or why I own this. I can only assume I found it really cheap somewhere – probably Music & Video Exchange. Like some kinda drug addict, I’ll have thought ‘ooh, a promo for only 50p? For a song I don’t totally dislike? I’ll have that!’
‘But Chantal, it’s Stereophonics!’
‘Yeah, but it’s only 50p!! Must. Buy. CDs.’
I might need to attend Music Buyers Anonymous. ‘Hello, my name is Chantal and I bought a Stereophonics promo.’
‘Hi Chantal! We feel your pain.’

The Stills – Logic Will Break Your Heart (album)
This CD’s actually stopped playing properly, so I’m having to play the MP3s instead, which is a shame.  The Stills are a band I got interested in quite briefly – during the whole 2004 period of buying copious numbers of singles. I don’t even know if they released another album. Their music’s pretty generic really – nothing hugely special. Enjoyable enough though. Actually, all of the stuff I’ve listened to today’s fallen into that kinda category! Don’t start your band name with the letters ‘St’ it seems.
‘Still In Love Song’ – I think this is the main reason I own this album. Definitely the best song on here.

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A-Z: Regina Spektor – The Star Spangles

Regina Spektor – Begin To Hope (album)
I tend to see this as Regina’s most summery album, so it seems quite fitting to play it today as the weather’s rather wonderful. Favourite tracks on it are definitely ‘Après Moi’ and ‘Summer In The City’.
‘That Time’ – Oh yeah, this is a favourite too. Just one I tend to forget about for some reason.

Regina Spektor – On The Radio (single)
Not sure why this is the one and only Regina single I have. I probably just happened to be in a record shop on the week of release.

The Spinto Band – Nice And Nicely Done (album)
I have Jamie to thank for introducing me to The Spinto Band. He put ‘Oh Mandy’ on a CD he made for me way back in 2009 – a bit before we started going out infact. This is a good, fun, catchy album. It manages to cram 10 songs into only 31 minutes as well, so flies by.
‘Spy Vs. Spy’ – Makes me think of the computer game, which was also something Jamie introduced me to. As I am still in that post-relationship mourning kind of phase you go through, it could easily be quite difficult to listen to this album, but it isn’t. There are a few songs I do find it quite difficult to listen to at the minute, though thankfully I don’t think any of them are coming up in the A-Z – they’ve all been and gone. Although some of my Dad’s music’s coming up soon, which is going to be difficult to listen to too.

The Star Spangles – Stay Away From Me (single)
I think I got this in one of those lucky dip kind of bags you used to get in Music And Video Exchange in Camden. I’m assuming I’ve listened to it before, but I can’t remember anything about it. I’ve not ripped the songs to MP3, which suggests I wasn’t particularly impressed. It’s just got the 2 songs on it – plus a video. Just looked them up on Wikipedia – they were a short-lived punk band from New York.
‘Stay Away From Me’ – This is alright actually. Clichéd rhyming aside – I mean, ‘park’ and ‘dark’? Why not go the full Des’ree and do ‘ghost’ and ‘toast’ too?
‘ The Sins Of A Family Fall On The Daughter’ – I can understand why I didn’t feel compelled to add these songs to my computer, but they’re better than expected. That’s not saying much, granted – they clearly wanted to be either The Clash or the Ramones – but that’s not the most heinous of crimes. I’m not gonna be adding the songs to my playlist, but I’ll keep hold of the CD. It’s quite a cool looking disc if nothing else!

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