Category: Guest bloggers

Five films that would make great holidays

With the unusual burst of subtropical temperatures in the British climate this week, movie lover Harry Casey-Woodward ponders which films would make the best vacations. Grab your sun cream, floppy hats and bikinis…

Pirates of the Caribbean 

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Let’s start with an obvious one, already a popular holiday destination but let’s go back a couple hundred years. Don’t enjoy all the frills of a package holiday? Then get ready to work your passage on a wooden ship, crew consisting of the captain and you. You don’t mind working and fighting off pesky pirates, you will sail to such exotic cultural hotspots as the lively port of Tortuga (mind the fists and pistol shots). With luck, you may even discover deserted islands stocked with rum. ‘Welcome to the Caribbean, lass’.

Jurassic World 

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Let’s face it, ever since you saw Jurassic Park you’ve been imagining what a working dinosaur park where nothing went wrong would be like. Maybe you even went so far as to design it on bits of paper… ANYWAY last year’s blockbuster Jurassic World finally gave us our wish. Well sort of. Things went wrong pretty quickly. But we got a chance to see the rides, the petting zoo and the fast food courts we all imagined and you’d like to think you’d do a better job at running them than the idiots always in charge.

The Hobbit 

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Fancy a bit of hiking? Of course you don’t have to be whisked off by a band of hairy dwarves to go see some impressive mountain architecture… and possibly slay a dragon. Who wouldn’t want to go on a trip that involves spelunking, rapids and observing such exciting wildlife as giant spiders? No? Well you could just go as far as Rivendell or even stay at home in Hobbiton for a gentler holiday of tea and possibly elf salad. Just don’t pick up any shiny rings for the love of God. You’ll open a whole can of worms if you do.

Harry Potter 

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Of course, why not go somewhere where you don’t even have to go outside for adventure? Hogwarts would surely make a killing if it let out rooms for the summer, like muggle universities do. Even if you’re not a Potter lover you’ve got to appreciate a castle with comfy four poster beds, constant feasts and a neighbouring village that supplies magical sweets and butter beer. Just don’t tell anyone about the murderous whispers in the walls, or the dodgy defence against the dark arts teacher that may be a criminal in disguise. Brings the mood down.

The Shining 

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Now you may think I’m mad, hopefully not Jack Nicholson mad. But hear me out. Imagine getting an entire luxurious hotel to yourself with a fully stocked kitchen (including all the chocolate ice cream and French fries with ketchup you can eat) and all the snow outside you could ever want to play with. There’s even a maze! Well the maze is a bit creepy. So are the ghosts and the dreadful sense of isolation but let’s ignore those. Just don’t come here with psychic gifts or be Jack Nicholson.

Images from ibtimes.com, Forbes.com, telegraph.co.uk, csmonitor.com and stephenking.wikia.com

Veganism and Ink

In this post our guest blogger Amber Bryce discusses how she thinks veganism and tattoos go perfectly together and she talks to two tattoo artists who also share her point of view…  

In many ways, I think that veganism and tattoos make a perfect pair. They’re  decisions that hold a lot of weight and impact, they can change your entire outlook on life and help to narrate a new kind of future for either yourself, or the world. To discuss the subject further I spoke with two lovely women in the tattoo industry: Avalon, a tattoo artist who works at The Grand Illusion Studio in Melbourne, Australia, and Dina, who owns Gristle Tattoo in Brooklyn, USA.

Here’s what they had to say…

Avalon Westcott, 24, Melbourne

How long have you been tattooing for? I started apprenticing at The Grand Illusion (Melbourne) at the start of 2013 and did my first tattoo ever on myself by the end of 2013. Before tattooing I had been painting for a few years, doing custom pet portraits for people, which was so much fun.

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When did you become vegan? I went vegan five years ago when my fiancé Josh and I moved to the states for a few months. A month into my veganism I realised how amazing I felt, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. At that point I knew there was no turning back and that nothing, no peer pressure, no craving, no situation would ever make me eat animals again.

Is your veganism something that has always inspired your tattoo designs? I can’t count the amount of vegan inspired tattoos that I’ve done. Animals have become my speciality! I usually tattoo a combination of animals together, cows, lambs, chickens (lots of chickens) and piggies. Meeting like-minded people, chatting food, chatting animals and sharing a mutual lifestyle really brings me closer to the clients.

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How do you think tattoos can help veganism? It’s no surprise that people with tattoos are often asked about why they have particular tattoos. My clients get tattooed for themselves, often to celebrate a milestone in their veganism or to commemorate animals, however, if anyone were to ask about why they have a love heart with animals in it tattooed on them I’m sure they’re proud to explain why. I believe that having a vegan tattoo is a very courageous and inspiring thing. To welcome people to question your lifestyle or even comment on it takes strength.

Do you have any personal vegan tattoos? If so, who are they by? I do have a few animal tattoos myself! My most recent is a girl dressed up as a chicken referenced from some vintage flash painted by Earl Brown, circa 1950, on the side of my thigh by the brilliant Becca Gené-Bacon from Hand of Glory in Brooklyn, NY.

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What’s your favourite vegan tattoo that you’ve done? Every vegan tattoo that I have done holds its own meaning and its own memories. Really, they’re all as special as each other for the client, and myself.

Dina DiCenso, Brooklyn

When did you become vegan? I’ve been 100% vegan for six years and the two years prior to that I was 90% vegan (I ate cheese once every four months) and then I was vegetarian for about 15 years prior to that. So when I opened my own business it seemed natural for it to be vegan.

How has veganism informed your business? I use the shop to do a lot of fundraisers for animal rescues. We work with small, local rescues that are in desperate need of funds. We tailor each fundraiser flash to fit the organisation. For example, we do wolves when we work with Wolf Conservation Center, we do farm animals when we work with Skylands or Woodstock Farm Sanctuaries and we have a TnR event coming up so we’ll design cat related flash.

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How do you think tattoos can help the cause of veganism? I think tattoos can inspire veganism in a few ways. First, if people encounter enough people with vegan tattoos, they may stop and think about how many people are vegan and that it’s possible for them to change and be vegan too. And second, they may also see an image that inspires them to change their own lifestyle and habits.

Tell us about your tattoos? For me, it’s important to have my tattoos have meaning so I don’t get sick of them. Few things have more importance to me than the animals I’ve rescued, and animals in general, so I’ve tried to get a few of my favourites as tattoos.

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You convinced Reprofax to make the first vegan stencil paper! Tell me more about that. I had read online about the stencil paper possibly not being vegan. Rather than take the postings at face value, I tried to contact the company directly. After several contact attempts and no response I had my geneticist friend test it. He came back with lanolin as the offending ingredient and then about the same time I got his results, the company responded confirming it was indeed lanolin — it holds the ink onto the plastic sheet.

I then began harassing them until they agreed to make a vegan stencil paper. Their chemist had retired ten years prior, which is why they were reluctant to create any new versions of the paper. We helped test their early versions and when they had a solid final version, I was the first one to buy it. Many artists are unaware products in the tattoo process are not vegan – they think it’s limited to the ink and aftercare. But it’s the ointment, the soap and even the moisture strip on razors.

5 Best Zombie Films

With the current political turmoil and the prospect of leaving the EU, it might be a good time to revisit films about escalating apocalyptic chaos and horror. Zombie films fit the bill nicely. Casual film lover Harry Casey-Woodward gives a countdown of his top five undead masterpieces.

5. Land of the Dead, 2005 

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Let’s kick, or rather shuffle off with a tour-de-force from the granddaddy of the zombie genre, George A. Romero. In this film, zombies have taken over America except for a few fortified cities. This horror turns into an allegory, when the undead masses get fed up of being used for target practice, learn how to use guns and march on one of the cities, where the wealthy reside in luxurious, high security high-rises. More an action than a horror, expect plenty of anti-capitalist sentiment under all the groaning and guns.

4. Night of the Living Dead, 1968 

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Let’s dig even deeper into the horror vaults and claw up Romero’s first film and arguably the first proper zombie film. This simple tale of some mismatched Americans trying to last a night trapped in a farmhouse with zombies at the door raised the bar for horror. Rather than being some Gothic ghost story, Living Dead reflected the paranoia and racial strife of late 60s America. Also, for a black and white film with limited special effects some scenes are still horrible to watch. It might be because everything looks awfully dark due to the lack of colour, but the fact that the zombies aren’t smothered in the gratuitous make-up of today makes them look more human and thus more scary.

3. Dawn of the Dead, 1978 

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Romero’s second zombie feature came a decade after his first one and was an even bigger horror fest. Those pesky zombies are still ravaging America and a handful of survivors break away from the madness of media and carnage to take refuge inside an abandoned shopping mall, which they turn into a materialistic palace besieged by the zombies outside. While Living Dead was a savage comment on the 60s, Dawn is a bleak attack on hollow consumerism. The 2004 remake upped the  action and gore (which was a feat since the original is a rollercoaster ride of guns and guts) but left out the social commentary that made the original stand out from the undead pack.

2. 28 Days Later, 2002 

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Time to bring some British class into the list. Trainspotting director Danny Boyle dipped his toe into the horror genre and made something scarier than any zombie film gone before. For one thing, his zombies weren’t shuffling grey corpses. After a university-produced virus strikes Britain, the entire population turn into zombies who, when they’re not RUNNING after you, vomit blood and bleed out of their eyes. This movie also has a gritty British bleakness (helped by the fact it’s shot entirely in grainy handheld digital) and a hundred percent serious attitude to its characters and zombies that make this a decent dystopian drama.

1. Shaun of the Dead, 2004 

And now for something completely different. I guess this film shouldn’t really count since it’s a comedy and mocks the above zombie classics while acknowledging their influence. But like in An American Werewolf in London, comedy is Shaun of the Dead‘s secret weapon. 28 Days Later may have more serious characters, but it wallows so much in misery it’s quite gruelling to sit through. Most of Shaun of the Dead‘s characters end up dead and I felt more sorrow for them because they made me laugh. It’s also easy to forget that some of the scenes in Shaun are still quite horrible, thanks to graphic prosthetics and unexpected emotion, even while it makes the point that the concept of a zombie epidemic is a bit ridiculous anyway.

Images from cinemagogue.com, sequart.org, deadline.com, cinesthesiac.blogspot.co.uk and sky.com.

Film Review: The Conjuring 2

It’s not Halloween but there’s never a bad time to get scared in a cinema. Harry Casey-Woodward, casual film connoisseur, certainly did when he went to see The Conjuring 2.

The Conjuring 2, 2016, cert 15, dir James Wan, 3/5 

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Ghost movies are my least favourite sub-genre of horror. It’s not just the fact that recent examples like the Paranormal Activity series have over-used genre cliches to death. It’s more the fact that these movies demand to be taken so seriously. Most slasher movies are bad but at least they’re tounge in cheek about it.

Therefore I had low expectations of The Conjuring 2. If I’m honest, I haven’t seen the first film so I had no expectations. All I knew was that both films are based on a real-life American ghost-investigating married couple, Ed and Lorraine Warrren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). In the sequel they’re checking out a case in England 1977, where a family are suffering a nasty haunting. If you haven’t seen the first film either, you’ll be glad to know that the only thing connecting the sequel to it’s predecessor are the characters, so you can enjoy it as a stand-alone film.

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I was worried that this would be another horror milking the fact that it’s based on a true story. Thankfully, it makes small use of mockumentary techniques used by other recent horrors like The Quiet Ones and puts more effort into scaring the crap out of you. There is a laughable start, where this American movie does its best to transport you to 1970s Britain, from a London themed montage set to the Clash to schoolchildren pronouncing carefully selected swear words like ‘w****r’ with crisp accents.

After that it’s classy horror. There were a lot of stock scenes and techniques I recognised from other horrors, like CGI ghosts. The difference between Conjuring and other recent horrors though is that it does these cliches well, so much so that I felt dread throughout the entire movie. Through a reliance on simple but effective scares like the dark, creepy noises and things moving when they shouldn’t, a dinghy London house is transformed into a palace of terror.

MK1_5074.dngIt was also handy that we saw the film mostly through children’s eyes, who are naturally more scared when wandering around the house at night or even in the day. The icing on the cake, however, was that the ghost was genuinely horrible; perhaps because he was some old cockney geezer (no, not the hitcher from Mighty Boosh). Madison Woolfe (the actress playing the ghost’s favourite target) could also pull terrific faces when possessed.

I actually felt sorry for the characters, not just the single mum (Frances O’Connor) and her sweet kids being plagued by the ghost, but I even liked the husband and wife ghostbusters. In real life I’d probably find them annoying but they have a charm in the film. It might have been the scene where Mr. Warrren serenades the children with an Elvis song. The film was very sentimental at points, but it almost had the feel of classy 70s horrors like The Exorcist or The Omen. It looks good, it’s gripping and it’s scary so as far as I’m concerned it ticks most of the horror boxes. It’s not massively original or striking but it still makes you jump.

Images from comingsoon.net, geekculture.co and bloody-disgusting.com.

5 Best Tom Hanks Films

On the occasion of a new film starring the grand Tom Hanks, political comedy Hologram for a King, casual reviewer Harry Casey-Woodward has ranked his five greatest films (in his opinion). He always plays the dependable good guy in emotional dramas, yet he puts his sweat and soul into every role. Time to Hanks it up…

5. Philadelphia, 1993 

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Probably the saddest role Hanks has ever done and that’s saying a lot. It’s also his most topical: a gay lawyer who’s fired by his firm after they discover he has AIDS. Denzel Washington plays his defence in the resulting trial, who happens to be homophobic. To watch Denzel overcoming his prejudices and Hanks’s character succumb to AIDS while surrounded by his loved ones is truly touching. Better bring tissues.

4. Saving Private Ryan, 1998 

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Possibly one of his most reserved roles in one of his most intense films. Private Ryan somehow blended realistically brutal combat scenes with an unrealistic, patriotic plot, setting a template for hordes of WW2 films, shows and games. Hanks plays the squadron leader you’d want to be ordered around by, the strong and quiet Captain Miller who always keep his head under fire even while everyone else is literally losing theirs.

3. Road to Perdition, 2002 

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Based on a comic believe it or not, this may be one of the most original and gripping gangster epics you could see. Hanks plays a mobster whose son witnesses him killing someone. If that wasn’t traumatic enough, Hanks’s partner in the crime (a slimy pre-Bond Daniel Craig) attempts to tie up loose ends by slaughtering Hanks’s family. Hanks is forced to go on the run with his surviving son, teaching him how to drive cars and rob banks while being stalked by a creepy killer played by Jude Law, who has an unhealthy obsession with cameras and corpses. It’s a moving father/son relationship road movie, with guns.

2. The Green Mile, 1999 

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One of the jobs on Hank’s varied CV is prison guard on death row in the 1930s. In this adaptation of a Stephen King book directed by Frank Darabont (who also directed two other King adaptations, Shawshank Redemption and The Mist), a new prisoner is brought onto Hanks’s block, a huge black man in dungarees who’s scared of the dark but apparently murdered two girls. He’s also able to perform miracles of healing. The film is very black and white in its presentation of heroes and villains and it’s portrayal of race relations throws up interesting questions. But it never fails to be gripping and moving. This is definitely one of his most emotional roles.

1. Forrest Gump, 1994 

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French/American actress/director Julie Delpy says she hates this film and that it helped lead to the election of George Bush. While I can kind of see what she means, as this is one of those very sentimental and patriotic American films, the plot is still very varied and takes the audience through a maelstrom of emotions. Gump is celebrated as a simple Everyman who does a lot of great things, but he also experiences the dark side of America’s history in his Odyssey through the late twentieth century. It’s somehow still a naive but very grown-up movie. To me, this is Hanks’s most lovable role in one of the most lovable and inspiring films of all time.

Images from entertainmentfuse.com, baldmove.comrosiepowell2000.typepad.com, mentalfloss.com and forrestgump.com.

Thoughts on the 2016 Brighton Tattoo Convention by a Man with no Tattoos

Writer Harry Casey-Woodward has no tattoos, yet he found himself accompanying his tattoo-loving wife to the Brighton Tattoo Convention on 1st May. These are his impressions…

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Tattoos are a part of my life, but not directly. Both my sister and my wife are tattoo enthusiasts. My wife currently has eleven tattoos and she’s getting another one this summer. I’ve lost count of how many my sister has (and so has she!)

I don’t feel any burning desire to get tattoos for myself, but I can’t help sharing in the excitement my wife feels when she’s arranging a new tattoo or when we’re on our way to getting one. I have accompanied her for nearly all her tattoos and although the process looks uncomfortable and painful, the end result pleases her deeply and that’s enough for me.

Although I can’t decide on an image I’d like enough to have etched into my skin, I admire the sheer amount of images tattooists are able to imagine and illustrate on paper and skin. I especially respect the skill behind them after sitting through several sessions and watching art gradually blossom on my wife’s body.

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This year’s Brighton Tattoo Convention was a fine exhibition of such skills. Being the first big tattoo event I’ve attended, I felt a little alienated; like a bare-skinned astronaut amongst a strange multi-coloured race. Excessive similes aside, I mostly felt like I was at a living, breathing art gallery. But never did I feel the threat and suspicion that some people feel when confronted with tattoos. It certainly would have been my grandparents’ idea of hell!

On the other hand, I wonder if the event itself felt like a big inky cocoon for tattoo lovers, a haven where they could indulge in ink without being judged by outsiders. There was certainly a lack of shame in the human body, as people whipped out bare flesh to get tattooed in the cramped stalls while throngs of onlookers streamed past.

In fact, the closeness of the stalls heightened the impression of a close tattooed community within the spacious bosom of the Brighton Centre. Tattooists and tattoo lovers alike were mingling and chatting and generally appeared to be having a good time. Even a few people getting inked looked to be in some cat-like state of relaxation. The whole event oozed excited but chilled vibes.

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It was also amazing to see such a range of tattoos and yet everybody had their own style, from traditional fantasy-themed art to swearing cats. It was cool to see different methods of tattooing too, like the Ta Moko stall and one lady hand-poking an octopus on somene’s leg.

The event still hasn’t convinced me to get a tattoo, despite my wife’s nagging, and she was sad not to get one since booking lists that day had been eagerly filled. But we had a cool day out in the unbeatable joy land of Brighton. My wife also got fresh tattoo ideas and collected many cards from new tattooists she met and liked, which now make a nice collage on our notice board.

Photos by James Gilyead

Growing Pains With Tracy Kiss

28-year-old Tracy Kiss, blogger, model and mother, from Buckingham talks about how having a tattoo to cover her stretch marks helped her to reclaim and love her body once again… 

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When did you start modelling and how did you get into the industry? At the age of 18. I was talent scouted by MTV to model in a documentary about relationships, I then went on to do page 3 for The Daily Sport newspaper.

What made you want to become a model? I was bullied terribly up until the age of 17 for being shy, geeky and insecure. When I was talent scouted I never imagined in a million years that I could ever be a model but they saw something in me and I’m so glad that they did because it brought me out of my shell.

What kind of work did you do? I was a glamour model before having my two children which involves lots of lingerie, bikinis and topless as well as the occasional catwalk and fashion.

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Did this change how you saw your body? Did modelling help with your confidence? Although modelling gave me bags of confidence that I never knew existed it also changed me as a person. I spent endless minutes on sunbeds to maintain a year round tan, dyed my hair peroxide blonde, wore fake nails, false eyelashes and dressed in skin tight revealing outfits. I literally changed everything about my appearance within a year and although I loved my ‘new’ body I realised deep down that I wasn’t being true to myself.

How has pregnancy and being a mother affected how you see your body? Becoming a single parent at the age of 19 was such a wake up call, it made me realise that there’s so much more to life than the shallowness of how we view others. Beauty doesn’t come from a packet, tube or needle it’s from natural confidence, being comfortable in your own skin and feeling happy. My body shape changed dramatically, I was incredibly thin and as my pregnancy developed I started to get stretch marks which were deep red lines that seemed to slash my skin. At that time my body was my career, and I felt that becoming a mother had ended the life I knew by scarring me so badly.

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Do you miss being pregnant? Despite all of that I loved being pregnant, it was difficult for me to adjust to the weight gain at first because I had always been so strict on myself. But once I embraced it I realised how much I love food, how happy I was to feel my daughter kick inside of me and despite knowing I had to bring her into the world alone I felt safe knowing that we were going through it together. There is nothing as precious as unconditional love and I’d happily have more children if I met the right man one day.

How has pregnancy affected your body physically? Physically pregnancy has had an horrendous affect on my body at such a young age, firstly from scarring up my stomach hips and thighs with stretch marks, weakening my stomach muscles and making my chest collapse. I had breast implants that became loose and leaked from the pressure of breast feeding, so I underwent reconstructive surgery. It has been the most joyful yet painful experience of my life but I’d do it a thousand times over for my children, they are my absolute world.

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Can you tell us about your stretch marks? Also how you tried to get rid of them? My stretch marks remained the same with my second pregnancy and didn’t get any worse, I think my skin was already so badly damaged that it couldn’t possibly stretch any further. I had fairly large babies with my daughter weighing 7lbs and my son 8lbs 8oz, but I blame my love of food for contributing to my weight gain as for once in my life I didn’t worry about what I ate!

I’ve tried everything to get rid of my stretch marks which I’ve covered in my beauty blogs from oils and creams to needling and lasering, all methods designed to stimulate the regrowth of natural collagen in the skin to help to repair it. Whilst stretch marks can be improved they can never be removed unless you cut the skin away which I didn’t want. Fortunately with my treatments I was able to lighten my stretch marks from a deep red colour to a pale white, instead of being deep they became a little more shallow and where the skin had become so loose and wrinkled it’s now firmer and flatter but still scarred, just a little less obviously.

Why did you choose to cover them with a tattoo? How did you pick the design? I chose to cover my stretchmarks with a tattoo because the pigment in my skin had disappeared from stomach, which left me with white lines.  At the age of 28 I was hiding my body, I never wanted anybody to look at or touch my stomach because I was embarrassed.

The only way left for me to try to remove my stretchmarks without surgery was to cover them with a tattoo and once my final laser treatment was complete to correct the texture of my skin I called my tattooist, James King, to talk about designs. I already have 10 tattoos including; feathers, wings and my children’s dates of birth.  I’m a nature loving vegan, I live for peace, love and happiness so we combined a lotus flower with the hamsa hand to signify strength, beauty and good fortune.

I wanted to turn a part of my body that I hated into something positive, and  my tattoo has done just that! Something that once hurt and upset me for so many years now makes me smile uncontrollably. I never thought I’d feel so happy in my skin again as I do now, it’s given me my youth back.

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What would you say to other mums feeling the same way as you did? I’d tell other mums to look into turning their scars into body art because you only have one life. To me a tattoo isn’t just a decoration, it’s a story, a reminder and inspiration for life. It’s capturing your essence as a person, expressing your individualism and in my case turning something negative into a positive. Everybody should be able to love their bodies no matter their age, size and ethnicity. For me tattoos have given me back my confidence, true confidence and shown me how I can love myself for who I am. I’m a woman reborn, my embarrassment and insecurities have vanished and I’m ecstatic to have a second chance with my body.

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What was your first tattoo? Do you still love it? Rather foolishly I got my first tattoo at the age of 14 which was a tribal swirl on my lower back that I covered over with angel wings, that mean so much more to me, as I believe feathers symbolise hope and freedom. My first tattoo was something that I rushed into simply because it was fashionable at the time, it had no meaning to me and was nothing more than a filled in stencil that I outgrew.

Can you tell us about your other tattoos? My favourite is ‘love is blind’ tattooed under my breasts, its a reminder of how life may change but true love is unconditional and that is very much what I have for my children. My babies taught me the most important lessons in life of patience, strength and natural beauty and although being a single parent is incredibly challenging at times it has made me the person I am today. Tattoos have given me back my fire, repaired my body and rebuilt my self esteem whilst capturing my heart for all to see and I will cherish them forever.

Film Review: The Revenant

Writer and hobbyist reviewer Harry Casey-Woodward reviews The Revenant, the Academy-award winning survival/revenge epic starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Revenant, 2016, cert 15, dir Alejandro G. Inarritu, 4/5 

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I tend to avoid Leonardo DiCaprio films. Not because I don’t think he’s a good actor, but there’s something about him that puts me off; either his golden Hollywood looks or I just wasn’t interested in the films he picked. His firery role in Django Unchained, however, as the charming but unhinged villain Monsieur Candy surprised and entertained me. So when I heard he was taking the lead in another western-style film he certainly had my attention.

In The Revenant, he plays real life, big-bearded American frontiersman Hugh Glass. He and his half-Pawnee son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) have joined a band of trappers on a pelt-gathering expedition in some remote forests. After a savage attack by the natives, the survivors hike through the woods back to base camp. On the way, however, Glass is brutally mauled by a bear.

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When the men realise they can’t haul Glass’s paralysed body back to camp, Hawk, another boy named Bridger (Will Poulter) and a man named Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) agree to stay behind and take care of him in the woods. Fitzgerald, who has already proven himself to be a bit of a cad, stabs Hawk and persuades Bridger to leave Glass for dead; just so he can get back quickly and get paid. Glass, however, refuses to die and drags his mangled body across the frozen wastes thirsting for revenge.

The film may follow a traditional revenge western formula but the way it’s shot makes it a unique experience. I haven’t seen any of the director’s films, like Birdmanso I had no expectations of his style. The gritty violence of the film and its characters is contrasted with its beautiful shots and scenery. I don’t know how they managed it but most of the action was filmed in long, smooth tracking shots, often with a fisheye lens. Such striking filming gets over-used but it never fails to portray the sweeping majesty of the epic plot and scenery.

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The film never loses sight of its brutal realism though. The hunky Tom Hardy has been transformed into a selfish hillbilly rat who isn’t afraid to lie and kill for survival or money. DiCaprio obviously deserved his Oscar for his challenging performance, although I’m not sure if performance is the right word. Does putting yourself through hell for a film count as good acting or just dedication? When he’s not eating raw bison liver, he is good at being haunted and intense. But you could argue this film is two and a half hours of DiCaprio being cold, starving and suffering in general and of course being very serious about it. As gripping as this is, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

If I’m honest, though, I can’t think of any valid faults for this film. It’s an historical epic unlike any you’ve seen, a thrilling blend of old fashioned storytelling and striking filmmaking. It offers a bleak view of humanity, but somehow I didn’t feel greatly depressed by the end. This might have been due to a combination of awe-inspiring natural scenery and DiCaprio’s sheer bloody will to survive.

Images from foxmovies.com.

Gig Review: Future of the Left

Hobbyist writer Harry Casey-Woodward recently saw Cardiff post-hardcore rockers Future of the Left, as they promoted their latest album at the Electric Ballroom in Camden…

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If you haven’t heard of Future of the Left, you should have. They are very entertaining and sometimes scary to listen to. I reviewed their latest album already on this blog, The Peace and Truce of Future of the Left, released in April this year. To celebrate, they held a gig on the 21st of that month at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, because they like it there apparently.

I still think the new songs miss some of the spark of the older stuff, but I’ve seen the band live before and it was such a thundering sweaty experience I gladly bought tickets again. As the band’s singer/guitarist Andrew Falkous said, they want their gigs to be ‘bludgeoning‘ assaults. They are certainly worth seeing for their outrageous levels of noise, attitude and energy alone.

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I wish I could say what the support bands (Right Hand Left Hand and The St. Pierre Snake Invasion) were like. Unfortunately me and my companions failed to drag ourselves away from Camden’s Black Heart in time. When we arrived at the venue for Future’s slot, my first impressions of the Electric Ballroom were very big and purple. It felt like being at an ant party inside a hollowed out grape.

Apparently it was the band’s biggest headline gig yet and they didn’t disappoint, despite being reduced to a three-man lineup recently after extra guitarist Jimmy Watkins left. I was intrigued however to see a new unknown guitarist accompanying Falco, his bass-playing wife Julia Ruzicka and drummer Jack Egglestone throughout the set. They were even joined by two other strangers for one new song ‘In a Former Life’, who provided backing chants for the chorus.

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I was delighted when the band opened with ‘Kept by Bees’ a drum-fuelled slow burning non-single off their first album Curses, which was a rarity for their current sets. They then slipped into the storming powerhouse of ‘Arming Eritrea’, the opener of their second album Travels with Myself and Another, which got the crowd pumping. It was nice to see their new songs get just as good reactions as synth-heavy favourites ‘Manchasm’ and ‘You Need Satan More Than He Needs You’. I was underwhelmed by the new songs on first listen, but they were thrilling and powerful live and I roared along to the lyrics with everyone else. To add further excitement, the set was peppered with songs from Falco’s last band mclusky, including the joyous non-single ‘Gareth Brown Says’ which was also a rare treat.

Falco was his usual top form as a performer, switching from mid-song stand up to screaming himself hoarse. He also enjoyed the immense positivity from the audience, thanking everyone for giving a bigger turnout than Leeds. He also declared if anyone didn’t like the new album they could f*** off, and that attitude sums up the band for me. They haven’t enjoyed the successes of other lesser bands, but they’re still stubbornly producing their exhilarating, defiantly distinctive music after nine years and thank Christ for that.

Images from pollythomas.co.uk.

Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: Got Sleeves

Our columnist Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, is a fashion lecturer, freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. In this post she’ll be talking about how getting her arms tattooed was a big deal…

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I never thought I’d get my arms tattooed. It had never been in my plan. But then again when I first started getting tattooed I never thought I’d be even close to heavily tattooed, even when I started to get large scale pieces I never foresaw the next. For me getting tattooed has been a process, my tattoos are something which evolve- a collaboration between my own ideas and those of the artists I work with. Even now I don’t have a final vision in mind, I still don’t know if I will end up with a full body suit or not. I have a very wait-and-see attitude I guess. I know I will get two half sleeves and my sides tattooed to connect my back piece into more of a traditional style Japanese half-body suit. But my legs are a random mix of different styles, do I keep them looking separate or do I sleeve them?  I’m going off the point; the point of having my arms tattooed being a big deal for me.

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I think it’s a huge deal as even though over half my body is tattooed I still don’t feel that I look that heavily tattooed, not from the front anyway. Clothed most people wouldn’t even know I was tattooed. The arms are so visible though, there is no hiding. I have over thought my arms a lot, possibly too much which is why it took me until the age of 34 to have them done. I had also decided that I wanted them to stop at the top of the arm and not go over onto the shoulder and certainly not the chest. So now I have the outline down of my first sleeve, it stops at the elbow and creeps over my shoulder onto my chest. Yeah about that, once my artist had drawn it on, we tried a few different ways of laying it out; it’s just what looked best. I didn’t give it a second thought. Now it’s done it just feels right and I’ve no idea why I was stressing out about it so much in the first place. When I first started to get large tattoos it would take me a while to get used to them, suddenly having something alien on my skin. Now with each tattoo I feel a little bit more like myself with each addition. My sleeve is only half done but it feels like it has always been there.