Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Luke Jermay: Psychic Cabaret


Luke Jermay opened the show by asking the audience to raise their hands if they believed mind reading was possible, to which a scattering of nervous hands went up. The general consensus was “No, not really”, it seemed. Had he asked at the end of his show, I expect every hand in the room would have shot up.

In the intimate venue of the Basement, underneath City Screen Cinema on Coney Street, Jermay altered beliefs on what a single man could do with pure intuition. Stunning the audience with his uncanny ability to pinpoint exact details, with no clues or overt trickery, Jermay left us in awe. He could tell you a stranger‘s exact date of birth, know the full name of an audience member’s first kiss, and was somehow able to produce mirror images of drawings the audience members were asked to make in private.

He quickly developed a rapport with the audience, handling unexpected challenges with a finesse and sense of humour that made the show seamless. His adeptness at mastering the audience’s emotions was impressive; one moment everyone would be chuckling at a wonderfully delivered insult, the next we were hung in suspense.

The small venue was the perfect location for Jermay. A highly interactive show, I walked into the show hoping to be able to sit quietly at the back and spectate without interruption, yet by the end of the show, I was hoping that I’d have a chance to get involved - an opportunity that a surprisingly large number of the audience got to take.

Having written for and worked with many famous magicians and mentalists, such as Derren Brown and Dynamo, Jermay’s talent is indisputable. It has taken him around the world, from Las Vegas to London.

Luckily for York, Jermay won’t be rushing off anytime soon, so there are plenty of chances to see this unusual live entertainment act for yourselves. The Psychic Cabaret will be at Basement on the first Thursday of every month, and with tickets at just £12, it’s a show that you can’t afford to miss. This is entertainment that truly delights and spooks simultaneously, and an experience that you will talk about for a long time afterwards.

REVIEW FOR THE YORKER, FIRST PUBLISHED HERE: http://www.theyorker.co.uk/arts/performingarts/10558

Thursday, 16 February 2012

A Confession.

The reason you're reading this is because you want the confession, right? Well first things first then. It's that I cannot count. Well, I can COUNT, but the level of all other maths skills I have are so shockingly low, that I may as well not be able to get past ten. What's brought this confession on? Well. At work, another waitress who works as a teacher gave me a maths sum that her Year Three class all completed successfully, yet proved impossible for the pair of us.

Snigger away. Any of you that haven't come into contact with my arithmetic skills may be underestimiating just how bad I actually am. Those of you who have seen me try to split a restaurant bill between three people will be well aware by now. It's not that I can't actually do the maths, (okay, 80% of the time), it's more that I'm so worried about getting it wrong, or making a fool of myself, that I just freeze up. It's called "maths anxiety", and apparently, it's A Real Thing. I can't be bothered to do the research, but I'll just assume its a little bit like dyslexia but specifically to numbers, or a deep set psychological block between you and the equals sign. Either way, I have self-diagnosed myself with it.

Real life examples of my shockingly low ability aren't exactly far and few between. Totting up the bus fare in change, figuring out monthly budgets, calculating the student discount price; I get so uneasy doing it that I usually give up. If I'm ever in debt to somebody for the splitting of a taxi or whatever, I'll patiently wait until someone else suggests the repayment total before contributing.

I've always been keen to learn other languages, but the one place I always fall down at is when it comes to learning the name of numbers. I've been studying Chinese for two years, and it'd take me a good thirty seconds to remeber the word for 22. I've been doing French for over five and I've still no idea how to say 78. If it wasn't so pathetic, it'd be funny.

It's not as though I'm unintelligent, either. At least I'd like to think so. I got B at GCSE level (my proudest ever number-related achievement), I've functioned successfully behind a till before, and I happen to be a student at The University of York- so it's not as though I'm completely incapable of any complex thought or analytical skills.There's something about algebra that draws a blank expression, every time.

I'm in the middle of attempting to combat this embarrassing inability.  I'm taking an online course offered by the wonderful careers service at The University of York called "Numbers At Work"- a fact that my nearest and dearest have taken plenty an opportunity to mock me over. They just can't believe that I'd voluntarily opt to be assessed on my knowledge of Pythagoras, wherever that is. (I'm joking. Calm down.)

The reason I'm putting myself through this unknown level of hell is simple. Self improvement. To avoid future embarrassing situations, the ones where people slowly turn to look at you in awe when they register that you've actually just publicly admitted to not being able to times by four without a calculator. Where you get looks of confusion when you purposefully overestimate how much a taxi will cost, just so you don't get caught out. When people judge you for not being able to instantly determine the cost in GBP when the price is written in euros.

People are very judgemental about numeracy skills. Having a way with numbers is considered the proof of how clever a person is, and the fact that I am substantially lacking in this area leaves me by the wayside, still trying to count my fingers and toes, while everyone else is already sussing out the complexities of intense mechanical mathematics. At least, that's what is seems like. And I'm ready to sacrifice the time to prove that I am in fact CAPABLE, I just choose to hide behind my achievements in English-based subjects in order to avoid ever being proved wrong. Because at the end of it all, that's what this is about. I hate being wrong. Being wrong torments me like the most unachievable algebraic equation in the world being completed by a class of nine year olds while I struggle on. And I just won't stand for it.



Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Yorker Archives- Single's Valentines Day!


The fourteenth of February. Are you spending it loved up in an Italian restaurant? Or having a cosy night in with a soppy film and an early night with your partner? Travelling across the country to run into the arms of your loved one at the other end of the train journey? No? Well, you’re in the right place.

If you’re planning on spending the night sulking, doing your best Bridget Jones impression, or pretending that the significance of this day simply doesn’t exist, then (ironically) you are not alone. Valentine’s Day divides people into two distinct kinds- couples and singles. The couples are -ahem- spoken for tonight, the singles are at a loose end.
But instead of falling asleep hugging your pillow, drunk on wine and loneliness, make this night that little bit less tragic by making it your own Anti-Valentine’s Day.

Step One: Avoid the centre of York. Restaurants will be choc-a-bloc with couples, as will bars. During the day, you won’t be able to cross the street without weaving in between legions of hand-holding shoppers. Don’t dream of going to clubs; tonight’s the night for desperation in Willow. Unless you’re happy to spend the night being eyed up by people who are out completely alone on the day designed for lovers- give this one a miss.

Step Two: Don’t wear anything pink. Simple, this one. If you wear pink, then you’ll blend straight into the background, against all the lucid fuchsia cards and decorations.

Step Three: Don’t turn on the TV. Another simple one. Watching The Notebook, or some Wedding Special, is a dangerous path to take on V-Day. One minute you’re enjoying your standard Eastenderspub brawl, the next you’re being subject to proposals and sickly sweet love proclamations. Instead, crack out the least romantic film you have; Might I suggest Creep, or Hostel, or something equally terrifying/angry.

Step Four: Do not get drunk. Although it may seem like an easy way to avoid anything loved-up (vodka is, after all, the simplest way to wipe a night from existence), in reality, you just end up whining about how forever alone you are. Or worse, on the phone to your ex, screaming the lyrics to an Adele song. I’m trying to get you through this day dignity intact, so trust me on this one.

Step Five: Distract yourself. Maybe get your mates round? Surely you have some single friends. Maybe tackle that essay you’ve been putting off all week, or finally do all the washing you’ve accumulated over the term. You could even bake a tonne of cupcakes, and only give the out to single friends. Ha.

If all else fails, just make the most of the snow by pelting snowballs at people who look too damn happy. Not that you’re bitter. Not at all.


(First published by The Yorker at http://www.theyorker.co.uk/lifestyle/theknow/10435)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Newcastle; A Wide-Eyed Review of an Intense Nightlife


This past weekend, I ventured (even more) up North for my fourth ever visit to Toon. Being a student, and as I was staying with friends at Newcastle University, this was never going to be a trip drenched in high-brow culture, five star rooms, fine cuisine and finer wine. Much more likely was the “Skool Disco” themed bar crawl, student halls covered in cider spills and Dubstep Night posters, and a late night McDonlads after a round or two of alcopops…

But then, who says the height of sophistication is the height of fun? Certainly not Newcastle, in any case.
Kicking off my trip with a two hour train delay (without a book to keep me preoccupied- huge oversight on my part), I was already freezing. Pacing the platform in York to avoid freezing solid in the wind was good preparation for the inevitably bitter Newcastle weather, and was just the first opportunity that weekend for me to scold myself for not owning what my mum would call a “proper coat”.

Once I’d eventually pulled into the station and met my friend, we walked back to her university halls. We immediately started getting ready for a night of drinking games & trip into the city centre to experience the infamous Toon nightlife. Originally we intended to go to Digital, possibly Newcastle’s most famous club, but the (at least) hour long queue dampened our spirits a little bit, and having already turned down a night at the Student’s Union, we opted to go to Powerhouse instead.

Easily amused by a flashing dancefloor.
Being a student in a city where the nightlife is humble, and the peak of most wild evenings is generally spent in The Willow; a former Chinese restaurant’s function room which serves free prawn crackers all night and plays Rod Stewart in between Pixie Lott and Nero hits; walking into any club in Newcastle can be a little overwhelming at first.

For a starter, I’m yet to go into a club in the North-East that isn’t massive. On another (entirely unrelated) note; I’m yet to spend a night in a North-East club without getting lost at any point. The first time I ever went into Riverside, it took me a good half an hour to find the rest of the people I’d gone in with. Perdu is aptly named.
Easily amused by unusual lampshades...

The clientele was a mixture of locals and students, the music was your standard chart & club hits, and the drinks were a little overpriced for my pauper/student budget. Exactly what you’d expect from a Saturday night on the tiles. What was new to me, however, was the sheer size of the crowd, and the extravagance of the venue itself. Flashing dance floor, enormous and bizarre light shades, and enough podiums and platforms for everyone to have a go at being centre stage. I was impressed.

PowerHouse
The second night was a student bar crawl, cringingly called “Carnage” (bit too much of a “Gap Yah” term for my liking, but the branding isn’t really up to me). It’s a notorious event among students, and tickets (t-shirts) are hotly sought after in the hours leading up to the event. Although it officially began in Players Bar at 8pm, most students hadn’t recovered from the previous night’s hangover by then, and were still customising their Carnage t-shirts into something related to its school kid fancy dress theme.

As a side note, how weird is dressing up as a school pupil when you’re only just at University yourself? Many Uni students will have only been out of school uniforms for a summer, or at the most for two years whilst at college. It’s a bit like doing a beach themed fancy dress a week after you get back from a holiday on the coast. Whatever, Carnage needed an obligatory theme- and having already previously used up “Cops & Robbers”, “Sexy Santas” and “Nympho Nurses & Dirty Doctors”, the Ann Summers catalogue they seemingly use to decide on a costuming premise was probably looking a bit battered. Not that the women of Newcastle had any difficulty in providing all kinds of imaginative ways to turn up wearing a compulsory t-shirt ticket and very little else, all within the theme’s limits.

Vast crowd in Liquid
Finally, loaded with 3D glasses and drawn on freckles, we gave Tiger Tiger a miss and headed straight next door to another unfeasibly enormous bar, Sam Jacks. Was pleasantly surprised at the price of a double vodka cranberry, so decided to order another one at the following bar to be met with a disappointingly higher price in Bambu. Another Bambu related complaint- the entry stamp took severe and repeated scrubbing for several hours before disappearing. Loved the oversized discoball, loved the balcony from the upstairs bar area overlooking the downstairs dancefloor. That is, until the spectators watching the dancing realised how hilarious it would be to spill a little of their drink to watch the dancers’ outraged reaction. Other than these (admittedly minor) complaints, this bar/club didn’t fail to impress.

Liquid 
Once we’d had enough of it here, we headed to the final destination, Liquid. I’ve been to the franchised club before, once before on a similar event the year previous in Newcastle, and in the Halifax version when I’m a bit closer to home. Liquid Newcastle dwarfs Liquid Halifax, though you can clearly see the similarities in the d├ęcor and style of the clubs. Not as edgy as other Newcastle nightlife venues, it’s probably my least favourite club I’ve visited so far in the Toon, but it still makes an impression- if only due to its sheer size and labyrinth of routes to and from the smoking terraces, bars and toilets.

The nightlife in Newcastle is definitely a major attraction. With so much competition so many different demographics to excite, and such a notorious reputation as the party capital of the North, the clubs and bars really strive to stand out, in an off-hand and impossibly cool way. Rather than being home to several massive and soulless venues, most place has real character and soul, in a way many other cities’ clubs omit. A Toon night out mightn’t have any class, but it certainly has its own unique style.