The Playlist: What I’ve Been Listening To

Lera Lynn – Lately

Arguably the breakout star of True Detective‘s underwhelming series was not an actor, but the crooning, country singer echoing from the back of the bar. That voice belongs to Lera Lynn, a Nashville-based songstress whose moody, melancholic vibes and soulful twang earned her the attention of legendary musician T Bone Burnett. My favourite track from those she penned for the second instalment of HBO’s noir-ish hit, is Lately. Stripped back and haunting, the melody has a gothic edge, whilst the almost guttural timbre of her voice reverberates with nostalgia. Lately is an utterly mesmeric lullaby and by the far the most captivating element of the show.

Jess Glynne – Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

Best known for her distinctive vocals on Clean Bandit’s No.1 Rather Be, the copper-haired hit maker has just released her debut album I Cry When I Laugh, and its standout song for me, is the feel good anthem Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself.  This is the kind of sassy pop that will get you in the mood for a Saturday night.

Mac Demarco – Another One

Another One is Demarco’s self-recorded 8 track mini album that continues in the twangy, zany vein of Salad Days. He’s perfect the art of mellow melodies and whimsical vocals that make for something watery, reflective and joyfully simplistic. My favourite track is the upbeat, guitar-laced I’ve Been Waiting For Her.

Everything Everything – Regret

Slightly older, but no less magical than the other entries, this track from the band’s third album is pop perfection. With it’s effervescent percussion, throbbing drum beat and frenetic falsetto, Everything Everything have delivered something as dazzling as it is dizzying.

Chvrches – Never Ending Circles

The Glaswegian synth-pop trio return to fray with a glossy, whirlwind track from their upcoming sophomore album, Every Open Eye. It’s not a particularly noticeable departure from their debut material, and perhaps lacks the edge of Lies or Recover, but it’s beautifully produced and gets better with every listen.

Today I Experienced What It Felt Like To Be Sexually Harassed

I recently read Daisy Buchanan’s article over at The Guardian about the pressure to respond or be polite to harassers in order to be safe. I shared her indignation.

“We’ve all been bothered by persistent guys who pester us relentlessly, believing themselves to be entitled to our company and more. We’re under pressure to be polite and manage their expectations”.

Then something happened today, which turned my agreement to anger.

I was waiting for a friend in North London to begin a house viewing and decided to do so in the nearby park. On my way, a man and his friend approached me and asked if they could talk to me. I declined. However, one of the men continued to walk next to me and ask questions about my personal life and comment about my appearance. Eventually, I came to a garden and saw another woman sitting inside, so thought if I joined her, the men would be on their way. However, the particularly confrontational one of the two persisted and sat next to me, asking why I didn’t want to talk him and if it was because he was black. (Oh sure, because if a white man approached and heckled me, I’d be lapping that up).

I tried two tactics. Initially I ignored him, at which point he became aggressive. So I began to engage with his questions and literally used ‘stranger danger’ as a reason for not wanting to talk to him. He continued to posit the argument that for two people to begin dating they had to start as strangers (not only was he delusional about the future of our interactions, he had a beer in hand, so was on his way to drunkenness too).

Conversation, as well as intercourse, should be consensual and the fact that a stranger feels compelled to talk to you doesn’t mean you should have to respond. Especially if the topics of conversation are not only invasive but offensive.

The point at which he dared to touch my knee with his hand, was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I got up and proceeded to walk back to the high street. This inspired the poor soul to launch a profane attack, my rejection of him clearly indicating my promiscuity and wanton ways (you can guess the types of slurs that were being shouted at me). And I mean shouted. I literally had to walk through a public space with derogatory comments echoing in the distance.

Initially, I had thought ‘how silly of me to walk into a park alone’. Yet during this incident I saw another two solo women, who were managing to go about their days uninhibited. The fault doesn’t lie with the women who dare to do something sans-companionship, it lies with the thinking that men somehow have a right to our attention.

Buchanan highlighted the issue that law enforcement is lacking and that “we need to spread the message that it isn’t flirting if it feels frightening. To create spaces where all women feel they are safe to look their harasser in the eye and say: “Leave me alone. I do not want to talk to you.”

And whilst this remains true, what happens if you tell the person bothering you exactly that and they prevail. After explicitly telling this man I didn’t want to talk to him and that he was making me uncomfortable, his mission to hassle me was only invigorated.

It was at this point I felt completely vulnerable. My voice and my concerns were not being heard and beyond that there was seemingly little I could do to restore my sense of safety. This man had intruded on my morning and I was unable to stop him.

In an era where the harassment of women is so common there’s over 75,000 entries in the Everyday Sexism Project, going out has become a game of roulette where we count ourselves lucky to be left unperturbed. Where walking along a certain street, at certain time is considered a risk.

It’s ridiculous that if a woman were to approach a man and ask if he had girlfriend they’d most likely be surprised, and somewhat flattered. When this man did the same to me, I felt endangered.

Live Review: Kaiser Chiefs at Sandown

Kaiser Chiefs and horse-racing might seem like an obscure combination, but it made for an adrenalin-fuelled and energetic night of entertainment.

The Chiefs predominantly stuck to their roster of classics, belting out tunes such as Modern Way, Everyday I Love You Less and Less, and Ruby with the same vigour and enthusiasm as when they first graced the airwaves.

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Newer material was also trialled out – a particular favourite of mine being their recently unveiled single ‘Falling Awake’, a teaser for their forthcoming album. And the titular song from their LP Education, Education and War also made an appearance, though the slightly older crowd seemed less receptive to this than the golden oldies.

Still, the Kaiser Chiefs proved – not like they have to – the enduring popularity and allure of their music. They’re a down-to-earth man-band of passionate musicians and theirs is brand of music characterised by accessibility, catchiness and political undercurrents. Like a lovechild of The Jam, Pulp and The Specials; they take all the good bits and make it their own. A special, pulpy jam that is chiefly the Kaisers if you will.

Indeed, their stage presence or more precisely, frontman Ricky Wilson’s is what really sets them apart. Wilson bounds around the stage like a puppy on steroids and knows how to entertain a crowd. Sure the band play the anthems, but it’s Wilson who gets you singing and clapping along.

In fact the jubilance with which he prances around and jumps on the sound equipment belies the bittersweet and brutally frank lyrics.

With swagger and satire they continue to march to the beat of their indie-rock drum, and do so somewhat under the radar.

They’re a sly band the Kaiser Chiefs. It’s easy to forget just how good they are.

Copenhagen

A sojourn to the Danish capital.

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A mere 90-minute plane journey away, Copenhagen is fast-becoming a savvy alternative to the Paris’, Berlin’s and Rome’s of the city-break posse.

Lonely Planet have labelled it the “coolest kid on the Nordic block” and certainly it manages to combine the quaint, cobble-stone feel of a historical town with the cutting-edge design and world class cuisine of a bustling metropolis, resulting in a delightfully urbane, whilst equally sedate, experience.

Day One

bicycleThe first thing you notice is the sheer amount of bicycles. They dominate every pavement, both in parked and transit form. There are wide cycling lanes adjoined to each pedestrian pavement, giving it a far more relaxed feel than the chaos that is London where cyclists basically merge onto the road and have to fight it out with buses, taxis and cars for the right to stay alive. Cycling appears to be more seamlessly assimilated into Danish culture, wherein – without resorting to hyperbole – literally EVERYONE does it.

In London you generally expect to see enthusiasts donning Lycra and trainers, whereas in Copenhagen whatever you’re wearing is deemed suitable bike-riding attire. It’s refreshingly unfussy. Their free-for-all, mixed ability attitude to cycling is decidedly appealing and it’s practicality as a mode of transport is something other cities could do well to adopt.

Our Danish digs came courtesy of Airbnb, and we stayed in a beautifully rustic, spacious and minimalist apartment in the Vesterbro area, a place I’ve come to refer to as the Hackney of Copenhagen.

Vesterbro is still shedding its former skin as a red-light district, and despite being named as Thrillist’s No. 4 Most Hipster Neighbourhood in the entire world – a result no doubt of the slow trickle of gentrification and artistry seeping into the otherwise seedy surroundings – is peppered with enough strip clubs, erotica shops and adult-themed bars to give the game away.

Still, there are some hidden treasures to be discovered amidst the sauciness. Many of which lie on the Værnedamsvej street;

  • Granola (more of which later)
  • Dola (vintage knick knacks, interior design adornments and adorable furnishings that make you wish you’d brought more spending money).
  • Blomsterskuret (flowers galore)
  • Playtype Concept Store (for fans of font and minimalist design)

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After our wanderings through Vesterbro, we visited the famed Tivoli Gardens.

Tivoli is what you get if you cross Thorpe Park, Duloc (that eerie town from Shrek) and a German beer garden. It’s essentially a theme park where you pay £9 for the pleasure of strolling around and seeing everything else you have to shell out money for. If you’re feeling frivolous and particularly youthful, Tivoli is fun to check out and in the summer there are fireworks and gigs to keep you entertained for longer than the length of a rollercoaster ride. However if you’re looking to remain within a tight budget and don’t have a lot of time in Copenhagen, I would seriously ignore the guidebooks that label Tivoli a must-see and instead carve out time for the more rewarding sights.

For dinner we visited an organic pizza kitchen and cocktail bar called Neighbourhood, situated on a higgledy-piggledy street called Istedgade which sees bars and boutiques nestled among the topless clubs and surprising amount of wig shops.

It’s a vibrant, buzzing hangout where rustic, communal tables give it the neighbour-y feel and the size of the pizzas will certainly make you glad of walking home. Everything is fresh, fair-trade and tasty as fuck. The cocktails also riff-off the history of the area, e.g. “RED LIGHT LIQUID fresh, fruity, sour like a pimp”. I sampled this incredibly potent bad boy:

EXPRESSO’D RUM smooth, boozy, caffeine kick
Coffee and vanilla infused organic golden rum, chocolate cocktail bitters, stirred the old fashioned way with an orange twist

After which I was glad of a lie down… 

Day Two

My superbly planned itinerary kicked into action, with a stroll to Torverhallerne Market; an indoor food emporium that caters to all kinds of artisanal and acquired tastes.

There are two parallel compartments, one which houses delicatessens, shops and eateries, and the other which serves and sells the fresh items (fish, meat, pastries, e.t.c). The glass and steel halls, which are surrounded by trees and benches, host about 80 vendors in total, and peddle everything from seasonal herbs and berries, to smoked meats, seafood and cheeses, smørrebrød (traditional Danish open-faced sandwiches), fresh pasta, and hand-brewed coffee. Think Borough Market only more sedate, structured and Scandinavian.

porridgeWe made a stop at a branch of famed porridge café (give me chance to explain), Grød, which translates as ‘gruel’ – or porridge if you’re not in the cast of Oliver! – in Danish.
It’s a haven of oat-based nourishment, and the furthest thing from bland you could possibly imagine. With a variety of toppings and additions, you can stick to the menu or create your own blend as you watch it stirred and served before your very eyes. I opted for the original porridge, accompanied by an Icelandic yoghurt called Skyr, apple compote and granola. It was nothing less than spectacular. The kind of hearty goodness that makes a crisp wintry morning (or an unseasonably warm day in a city) seem manageable.

With our souls and stomachs truly tended to, we headed to the Botanical Gardens, a beautiful expanse of greenery that boasts 10 hectares of exotic flora and fauna and makes for a delightful setting in which to relax and ruminate.

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The Round Tower was next on the agenda, which as the name suggests is a striking cylindrical building, offering panoramic views of the city. What’s more, to accomplish such a feat, you don’t to have ascend a ridiculous number of stairs, but rather meander up a slope. A win-win situation if ever I’ve known one.

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From the top of the tower we spotted the Rosenborg gardens and decided they looked particularly pleasant and deserved further exploration. We didn’t head inside the Rosenborg castle, but true to the view from afar, the surroundings were delightful.

rosenborg_castle

For dinner we headed back to the Istedgade to a local cafe called Bang & Jensen that serves cheap and cheerful comfort food and cocktails. I had the bizarre blend of a vegetarian curry with several white Russians. I’m not sure I sampled everything that Danish cuisine had to offer and this isn’t the kind of place that Noma-enthusiasts would care to frequent, but for a reasonably priced and substantial meal, I couldn’t recommend anything better.

DAY THREE

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If you like avocado, Copenhagen is well-equipped to indulge your cravings. Ours were satiated at a modern establishment called The Union Kitchen, famed for its breakfast menu and balls.

Yes you read that correctly. Located on a side street off the lively, cafe-ridden and somewhat touristy Nyhavn (a.k.a the picturesque, multi-coloured panorama that accompanies every mention of Copenhagen), this dark, dive bar-esque haunt belies the jolly atmosphere and spunky attitude.

I didn’t have the balls, nor the appetite to sample the cheekier offerings on their menu. However the avocado and poached egg on toast sufficed admirably.

We immediately hopped on a NyNyhavn2havn boat tour, which ticks off most of the capital’s landmarks and architectural highlights in the lean time of 1 hour. I’d definitely recommend taking the trip in the morning, as it avoided peak time and provided delightful respite from the city environment.

During the trip you get to see the playhose, the opera house, the library, the notorious Little Mermaid (small, but perfectly formed) and various other historical facades.

playhouse

Our jam (and what turned out to be avocado) packed day continued with a stroll past the Marble Church to the Amalienborg Palace (the winter residence of the Danish royal family, dahhling).

the-marble-church-in-cobenhagen-frederiks-kirke-marmorkirken-marianne-granum-blogThe Marble Church is a particularly impressive sight, known for its rococo architecture. Certainly, the golden and turquoise tincture of the building lent an air of opulence.

The nearby garden, fountain and sparkling view of the river make this a worthwhile place to spend some time, and we stretched out the experience even further by coinciding our visit with the changing of the guard. (Did someone say well-planned itinerary?!)

guards

Powering forth, we then paid a visit to the Design Museum, situated mere minutes from the Palace. A bit like London’s V+A, the Museum offers insight into a variety of crafts from illustration, jewellery and fashion to contemporary furniture design and ceramics. I found the lights on display the most striking, predominantly because it afforded me the opportunity to be really pretentious and arty with my photography.

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With our cultural thirsts quenched (I would have loved to visit the National Gallery and the more remote Louisiana Museum of Modern Arts, but alas I had to compromise with two philistines), we meandered on toward Kastellet – a contender for highlight of my trip.

Kastellet is deemed to be one of the most pristinely preserved fortifications in Europe, and still operates as a military facility. Cue lots of muscular army men jogging around the perimeter.

It was a very visually arresting place, with the vibrant red brick of the buildings contrasting magnificently with the blue skies and green grass. N.B. It was the kind of fresh, soft grass that I would’ve happily rolled down had I not been wearing white. (No doubt it would’ve made for a splendid Persil advertorial).

Kastellat2

From above, Kastellet forms the shape of a pentagram and much like the bird’s eye view of its layout everything here seemed ordered and uniform. It’s a beautiful place to take a stroll (in a city that offers a plethora of areas to complete such an activity), and when combined with the glorious sunshine, it’s fully deserving of all the superlatives with which I’ve labelled it.

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DAY FOUR

For breakfast we visited Granola, the aforementioned cafe that has it’s charmingly antiquated ambience down pat. What’s more, the breakfast is on point – offering everything from granola and yoghurt to omelettes and sausages. It’s very Parisian and perhaps not especially Danish, but it’s got a sterling reputation for a reason.

Our last day, I have to admit, I fluffed massively in the planning stakes. I mistook the buildings within Frederiksberg gardens for Frederiksborg Palace which unlike the latter you cannot visit. Secondly, the Cisternerne – an underground grotto, besieged by stalagmites was closed on a Monday.

We wondered through the tranquil grounds anyway and were rewarded with a peek into the elephant and flamingo enclosures of the Copenhagen Zoo, however there wasn’t much else here to particularly impress. N.B. the Carlsberg Brewery is nearby and offers a free tour and two free pints – also closed on a Monday. Never has a lesson in preparation failure tasted so bitter.

Frederiskberg2

Frederiksberg

Still, the trip wasn’t completely ruined.

Denmark took the top spot on the United Nation’s World Happiness Report, 2013 & 2014 and came in third in the 2015 report, following closely behind Switzerland and Iceland.

Copenhagen certainly gives you lots of reasons to understand why.