Abba or Wham? You know who to blame!

Retro vinyl music

I was recently at John Lewis, a British home & family store, when a chat with a young girl there got me thinking! She was sorting out insoles to cushion my daughter’s high instep when Frank Sinatra began singing “Hello Dolly”!  It’s a song I remember well enough from my first winter here in the UK many moons ago! It followed me everywhere. Armstrong’s voice then, with it’s rich, gravelly texture had made me want to dance – shoulder rolling, sideways shuffling and all that Jazz! The lovely girl, about 19, said she loved that song too, Michael Bublé was it?!  She loved him! He was her Christmas/Winter voice! Though she’d only recently heard it, she felt she knew it all her life. I smiled and acknowledged it with a ”Yes, Michael Bublé has a lovely voice, if a completely vile temper! 🙂 ” I left, inwardly thinking that she probably heard it first as a child, and made very happy memories to it! So did Bublé, presumably!

We’ve all probably stopped short when we’ve heard a particular artist/song play at a restaurant, doing the dishes with the radio on, whilst driving – and gone back to a particular time in our lives. Perhaps to a perfect boy you met when you were 15 and found true love –  the sort that doesn’t even re-al-ly exist, but you had managed to find it! He had the right eyes, the perfect hobbies. He played the guitar, listened to Pink Floyd; knew all the songs on Side B of The Dark Side of the Moon! You both had bemoaned the breakup of Wham!  Ah, the beauty of youth – financial disaster meant nothing more than your dad’s accountant and a bad hairday. Well, if you haven’t felt the power of musical nostalgia in one or it’s many avatars, I think I might’ve actually found Kara !

Abba disco ball bauble
By Kanchan Char

Researchers say that music has an enduring effect on us and that it is in fact potent enough to even restore brain function, improve immunity and considerably reduce stress. And that you can still sing even if you can’t talk again! Simply put, language functions are located in the left brain, but music appreciation is processed in the right. So, when one suffers damage to the left brain, your can be rewire your brain to move those functions to the other side by associating music with language.  Since all our long-term memory is stored in the right brain, this is the precise reason we associate so much of our emotional landscape with music. We’ve transcribed our memories in Quavers, Crotchets and Breves! 

Here’s what gets me – while it’s expected that we’re moved by music that saw us come of age, musical nostalgia seems to transcend that narrow period of susceptibility into a multigenerational phenomena. Not only do we react and respond to music that’s celebrated important periods in our own lives, but seemingly,  also that which lined the lives of our parents. (Of course, this adds an layer of intrigue to those who grew up in bilingual homes and where the musical apple, so to speak, fell rather far from the tree!) It stands clarified in my own life, why I  Alto to every song that Soprano’ed and the converse! I was only answering the call of Simon & Garfunkel from my subconscious! And believe you me, I did that for years!! The sins of our parents…

Apparently, we gravitate to musical genres from the Dopamine Effect, the chemical reactions we have in our brain when we feel calm, happy and soothed. The feel good neurotransmitter! It’s why we still, for most part continue to turn to music. Apart from the odd time one has to socially suffer Brahms’ Fifth Symphony at a friend’s uber-posh family dinner. Classical music is all well and good, but it does nothing other than remind me of how utterly satisfied I am with the crumbs that fell onto my own educational platter! We’ve all still remained friends, fortunately 😛 !

Some of our earliest childhood memories were probably made to music that our parents enjoyed, a lasting impression and the direction your own music choices would take, (and lest we forget, here is also a remnant of their biases and where our musical hair-raising moments have their roots!)! My generation, the late 1970’s born (the last of the ones born-free, might I add) – enjoyed the benefits of when parents didn’t think twice about introducing children to Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen or Elvis singing about Jailhouse experiences! We didn’t focus half as much as we should have on the psychology of Freud or Piaget and Erikson has ostensibly remained just a memory of bad mobile handsets! Then again, I was partly raised in Socialist India! ‘Nuf said! (Shudders at the thought of countless Russian magazine subscriptions!)

antique classical musical notes My children’s first tryst with rythm was colic-preventing Navajo music ! Falcons and flutes and eagle-bone whistles. I didn’t stop to investigate if there were any more reliable rappers on the baby scene since Jordy! I often think of the absurdity of flipping that image and seeing the Navajo calm their teething brood to the sounds of N’Sync or 98 Degrees! Ostracism from the tribe at best, I suppose! After all, there is a fine line that separates music from mere noise, and the one to make that call is the culture that’s listening to it.

The desires, despairs and triumphs of any generation are represented in the music it created. Therefore, it occasionally leaves me feeling grim that the music we seem to be leaving our grandchildren finds itself in the myopic territory of making sure every man has a ‘Beauty and a Beat! I really do try to like Justin Bieber! J

So whether you are the “Birkenstock-wearing, celebrating the birth of Granola and Indie/Folk” type of  person or a “Can’t do without a power-ballad” one- you’ve been subtly influenced by the sounds you first heard and associated well-being with ! Finally, you now have someone to concretely blame for getting it all so horribly wrong! 😀

I’m still wading through my turbid unconscious to find what made me fall in love with Matia Bazar, an Italian experimental pop group that made it big in the late ‘70’s! Or why I feel an unsurmountable urge to face my suck-it-up-and-get-on-with-it moments with Abba’s Lay all your love on me!


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All aboard the Petits Filous Express!

stained glass childhood painting kite comic

I’m hardly ever taken in by, or even mildly impressed with people who wish they were children again- kicking in the dirt, running through fields! Certainly, they must come face to face with modern childrearing once a year, and view it as a perma-beaming, icecream-eating , Mary Poppins’ish stroll through existence!

 Kanchan Char eating apples
By Daniel Simm

For us, the “you’re-in-it-for-the-next-20-years” parents, the reality of growing children up is something else! Playdates and school projects, swimming lessons and dance performances! Baby Yoga and carve-your-own Babybels!

Sigh! Wipes Brow. Drinks Tea! If you’ve made it unscathed past your own ickle-years, that’s where you should stay. Period! I’m not saying that I totally  buy into the clichéd viral posts that go around social networking, harking back to the past, polishing the halos of those who grew up with no Health & Safety and no constant surveillance by any Big Brother. High on glucose, watching Tele simply for the sheer joy of entertainment! But – thinking back, those were days we weren’t meant to learn a thing from TV, apart from how to get away from a determined cat, who failed for most part, but whose strength lay in his sheer grit! TED tells me that that is the true recipe for success! Grit – the strength to persevere, something our time-poor, technologically savvy children are in desperate want of!

Ours were truly perilous times, I’m told!! I’m often reminded of L.P Hartley and his ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’ from the book The Go-Between! Worth mentioning here are the nondescript pervs who hung around school gates unmonitored, and ornate Victorian Gothic fencing around grassy schoolyards that ripped up a chubby arm sooner than one could say Jack Robinson! Whatever your stance, whether you be one of the oldies-were-goldies brigade or one who delights over the proficiency their toddler displays operating their newest Nintendo; you’d have to agree that childhood is a changing social phenomenon, and one of equally repeated enchantment and alarm!

I recently got into a conversation with my neighbour, newly moved in from the US and very homesick for Ziplock bags, Twinkies, family-sized refrigerators and PBS; who said that she felt obliged, in the spirit of good parenting (the type that settles for vegetable stamps over plastic, made-from-scratch over shop-bought) to watch Boomerang , one of our imported, prime-time children’s channels, in a bid to pre-empt the evils of advertising.

I’m probably a bit of a softie here, having worked in advertising myself, I’m just that little bit impervious to it’s insidiousness!  Of course I know that the power of marketing means that purchasing behavior moves from the realms of choice into coercion! Pfft, I know that, but however else would I know how to differentiate between toys that are worth the next spend and those that are truly naff?!

Speedily, I thought that I must —  if only for the true and just sake of keeping up with the Joneses, watch Boomerang with my own children! Wasn’t all a waste, almost every advert was about loans, insurance or finance. My children now know the jingles to Debtbusters Loans, Ocean Finance and Sheila’s Wheels, (hitting the spot with pretty ladies in pink, who also have the good sense of insuring their cars. A life lesson there!!) Ultimately, the worst being the AXA-Sunlife over 50’s plan (that’s a life insurance company, for those of you who’re spared British Television!!) So, there!

doll-5623_1920 Our parents- my parents, had it different, their goalposts were different, so were their victories! Their foibles, no less upsetting than ours! Studies show that the term “ experience teaches us” also means that our neural pathways repeatedly choose the choices we made that gave us our raisins, Penguin bars  or whatever else we deemed rewards. And that 30% of it has become instinctual, not always the most reiable, if you ask me :P.  Given a choice, we would look back to what we knew, had and enjoyed.  It is the only tangibility we truly know! Would I want to go back to it and watch two sets of cartoons twice a week? Probably not.  Do I remember it as a pretty, if palavering picture, drenched in honey – well, I’d have to if I was a normative, well adjusted adult!!

The children we now raise are probably the most victimized by our constant comparing and assessing. We must choose for them in accordance with their framework, and know that we run the risk – as did our parents before us, to go that little bit too far! I know I would’ve crossed that line when I add Oboe lessons to our growing pile!!! 😀 For now, I shall load up our car with Ballet shoes and Tap shoes, Orange juice –with the goodness of pips, all to the sound of Edith Piaf singing in rising crescendo about having no regrets!

We survived our childhood, I’ll let them survive theirs, bruised knees and scratched tablets! Given one possible intervention- I’d probably choose reinstating Pluto!!

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Why IKEA will always work for me …

Ikea, modern, minimilist, scandinavian, scandi

One might begin with thanking oneself, especially if one plans on signing up to my blog, or following me in any capacity, that though I share an intense and passionate relationship with Ikea, I don’t strictly follow it’s winning strategy! Well, you could’ve found yourself faced with a couple of paragraphs of text, a few random images and a minimalistic title that suggested that putting it together with any level of comprehension is not just attainable, but also extremely self gratifying!

If you’ve been there and know what I’m talking about, you’ve worked out one of the greater feats of an expert amateur, welcome to the world of doityourself!!

ikea design swedish home improvement
Stonehenge by Ikea… (Actually, by Justin Pollard)


Mikael Ohlsson, IKEA Group’s chief executive reiterates that an inherent dislike of waste is at the heart of the design giant, one that resonates with my own sense of “if you wanna junk it, don’t make someone else pay”.  He speaks about the company’s thriftiness by highlighting one of it’s fastest selling item, the carnation red Ektorp sofa, a three seater, which once had a place in my own start-up life,  and which has now been packed further ‘ingeniously’, or in ikeaspeak, flat-ter, doubling the amount of sofa per given space. A tiny little tweak like that slashed costing by £100, a lot to someone like myself, who moves home about every five years, and finds themselves holding the short end of the stick whilst budgeting homeware, and other such life essentials.  Ikea’s ingenuity, above it’s immediate supply/demand gains, appreciably reduces the carbon footprint from it’s shipping. Win-win. What’s not to love ?!

ikea design living home scandinavian
IKEA Design

In case you were wondering – no, I’m not an affiliate member and no, I gain nothing by championing it! I do hold out hope of someday getting a custom designed egg-cup for my valiant hurrah of why the company means something to me. I also hope that it would be one that doubles as a compact mirror designed to fit efficiently into one of my credit card slots! Never say never -clearly, you haven’t paid close attention to the product on page number %$&& in the current catalogue!!

My love of the brand probably harks back to a long standing resentment of living in a world that tacitly accepts, even extols Planned Obsolescence – a policy of planning or designing something with a limited productive life, so it becomes unusable, or unfeasible at best, after a certain period of time.

ikea design dining scandinavian home
IKEA Design

Who of us hasn’t felt propelled to buy a mobile phone sooner than we’ve really needed, just so it supports the newest apps, functionality or if nothing better, only for it’s perceived social value. My gripe here goes all the way back to when I was 16 and was made to buy a text book, which was ‘New and Improved’ only because of three chapters switched around and 6 additional mathematical problems! The cheek!!

To make matters worse, my existing, extremely competent and functional phone is rivalled by one that boasts an impressive 41MP camera. Mind you, a semi-professional dSLR stops at a modest 18!  I can’t get the relevance of a 41mp camera on the NewGen Smartphones, and won’t, till I see a wedding photographer accept it as weapon of choice and still walk away with a paycheck, respect notwithstanding, but I’m not exactly immune! And just as quickly as I mock it, let me add that my Samsung Galaxy III has drastically gone down in street-cred from it’s mere mention!
Here again is why Ikea works as a larger symbol of my lifestyle choice… if one has no say in the matter, but to live with the disastrous consequences of planned obsolescence, it won’t hurt to keep it cheap, and recyclable! Being one of those who lives by flights of fancy – having eaten off paper plates in a small, yet indulgent flurry of “Street-food” themed nights; toyed with Orla Kiely melamine (if only to override the subsconscious screams of protest at the cheaper kinds), and played “Mother “with my precious, if limited quantities of Denby and Emma Bridgwater, I’d say that being fickle comes at a price, and  one I’m not inclined to pay.

For a modest sum, I can redesign and reinvent my entire aesthetic, and afford to be clumsy too, it’s like I was the protype demographic the company designed for! Trying to get me to be stable and have a set, inflexible style is about as productive as starting to learn Swedish without accepting humbly that S,K,Y,N,D actually go together, often in that precise order…

If it wasn’t for Ikea, most of us urban dwellers would be lost for choice when it came to affordable contemporary design! There is a certain comfort of a well spent investment (read: Bang for Buck) when you’ve just set up a bed named after a Norwegian city, and nestled yourself comfortably under bedding that borrows it’s nomenclature from flora and fauna!
Yes, there’s a whole host of us that can be kept well-lit and satisfied on the Lersta till we’re comfortably settled in with an Arne Jacobsen  !


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