Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Counting Down to Flying Out!

Getting ready to leave the country when you only have three weeks to get sorted is no joke!

The last week or so we have been working incredibly hard to get everything straight so we can fly out to Madeira on the 25th of March.

I say we, I’ve been doing a lot of paperwork and Mr P has reacted the way he usually does when we have a lot to do on a tight schedule... ebay has seen a lot of action over the past few days!

But I think we’re slowly getting there. The worst part of all of this has been cancelling gigs that we already had in our diary. When your job is entertaining people the last thing you want to do is let them down. Luckily most people have been very understanding, while they’re disappointed they also understand that we need to think about our future and we can’t turn down this opportunity.

Unfortunately not everyone reacts in this way. One agent in particular was very rude to me when I rang them (never mind I was giving them plenty of notice of cancellation...). Apparently I should just be grateful that this particular agent had managed to find me a whole two gigs in the space of a year and had only charged me a 20% commission for the privilege (!). There are a lot of people out there willing to take the mick, luckily experience is starting to teach us who to trust.

I’m very excited to have this opportunity to take the thing I love and turn it into a viable career. It’s a chance that not many people get and I know how lucky I am. We’ve worked extremely hard for this opportunity grabbing at every chance we’ve had. We’ve taken on work that’s cost us money, we’ve travelled for miles to perform in strange little places and we’ve put our all into every single gig whether we’ve played to 20 or 200 people.

I would never pretend to really know what I’m doing and there has been a lot of luck in trying to make something like this work but I do have a few tips for anybody trying to do their own thing whether it’s music or anything else.

#1 Stay Professional

That means smiling, talking to everybody, no swearing, be on time, no drinking (unless it’s offered – then no going over the top). Always remember that you are representing yourself and your reputation. A good reputation is hard to come by and insanely easy to lose, don’t underestimate how important it is. Just because you have no boss to answer to doesn’t mean you can behave however you want.

#2 Perform

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, whether you’re in a top class theatre or playing in a pub to 5 people, every person in the audience deserves a good show. You never ever know who’s watching.

#3 Greet everybody with a smile and a handshake... and be sure to say goodbye

This is something I learnt from my Mr P. When we were first together I admit it drove me insane (and still often does!), every time we tried to leave a venue it always took him at least half an hour. But over time I have learnt how important this gesture is. I’ve often complained about how musicians (particularly men) often ignore me in favour of Mr P. Greeting everybody with a handshake and a smile is a fantastic way to break the ice and make a brilliant first impression. This simple gesture can do you a lot of good.

#4 Be prepared to do a lot of hours.

Doing anything off your own back is always hard. It takes a lot of work and there is no one to delegate to. It’s not 9 till 5 hours. It will be on your mind constantly, you’ll dream about it, weekends will cease to have any meaning, holidays will only be times when you could be working. But, if you’re lucky, it’ll all turn into something good.

#5 Grab every opportunity.

Someone needs a keyboard player and you can only play campdown races? Agree to do it... There’s an open mic night and someone doesn’t really know the song? Get up and steal the mic off them... Everything is an experience and everything will help you on your way. If you feel self conscious or nervous then get over it... that may sound harsh but you don’t get anywhere by shaking on the sidelines. My first ever big gig as Connie Francis I agreed to do with only 5 days notice, I only knew half the songs, I didn’t have a dress and I had to buy a wig on my way to the theatre. It was terrifying, my wig almost fell off and the first song I sang was with mostly nonsense words... but I did it. After that performing as Connie didn’t feel so scary any more. Agree to do anything, you’re never going to get anywhere sat at home.

Finally... remember that it’s worth it.

That’s what I’m telling myself as I try to figure out how I’m going to pack everything up, sort all the paperwork and learn a silly amount of songs in the space of less than three weeks...

Mrs P

X x x x x x x x

Monday, 4 March 2013

We Made It

Once upon a time there was a girl named Kyla.

She lived an ordinary life with good friends and a happy – if occasionally slightly unusual – family. She went to University and met a boy; she studied Psychology and Deaf Studies and dreamt of becoming a teacher.

But life rarely works out according to plan.

While at University Kyla’s stepdad Dave died unexpectedly after a short, but brutal, illness. It was a huge shock and life-changing moment even if she wasn’t fully aware of it at the time. Her hard-working step-dad had been a huge part of forming Kyla’s character - always working to instil motivation and a considerable work ethic.  His sudden death at an age when he should have been starting to think about reaping the reward of his life spent working made Kyla re-think many aspects of her own future.

Determined to grab life by the balls Kyla graduated with a 2:1 degree only a year after the death of Dave. She spent a little time exploring New Zealand with money inherited from her beloved Grandma then returned, expecting her degree, intern work experience and voluntary work to ensure her a good job.

But the country Kyla returned to was changed. High levels of redundancies, increased cost of living and lack of entry level opportunities meant that Britain was not a good place to be a graduate. Time and time again Kyla was rejected for jobs due to a lack of experience that the public sector was in no hurry to provide. She was also ditched by the boyfriend and was sad for a while.... until she realised she could still be awesome without him. Eventually Kyla managed to find a job she loved working with children that she adored and she was happy.

However, this country appears determined to ensure that those who are highly qualified shy away from childcare. The pay for support staff in schools is horrendous and if you are newly graduated and dreaming of the day you can afford to live somewhere other than your old bedroom it’s nigh on impossible to live on. Kyla started to look for other work and courses but found nothing she could afford to do. She started to feel despondent and to give up on ever achieving anything in life. The sense that there had to be something more to life than this – something that had been developing ever since the death of Dave – became an uncontrollable itch.

That was when Kyla’s life was hit by an explosion of colour. A man, different to any other man she’d ever known, swept into her life like a whirlwind.

This man was like nothing she’d ever experienced. He sent her flowers before their second date and turned up at her house with boxes of cookies, picnic hampers, profiteroles, wine and steak. He serenaded her with guitar and double bass (a particular weakness...). If she cried he wiped away her tears with a handkerchief and she found it the single most endearing moment of her life.

Mr P changed her life with the ferocity like a hurricane and – for once – she found herself giving in. From being cautious, reticent and quietly alarmed, gradually Kyla found herself falling deeper and deeper in love with this crazy, sweet tornado of a man. When he proposed just outside the castle in Disneyland, Paris on their first anniversary it felt like perfection, their wedding exactly one year later was the frosting on the delicious cupcake.

Life wasn’t all plain sailing though. The itch to do something – anything – had intensified in Kyla. Although she adored her job working with special needs children she had become disillusioned with the lack of influence she held in her position and longed to do more.

That’s when Mr P first convinced her to give being a musician a go. She was wary but – not seeing any other options available – she agreed.

Her first show was the single most terrifying thing she had ever done. The weeks preceding it were filled with panic attacks, crises of confidence and constant tears. Somehow she survived the baptism of fire and threw herself into more no matter how scared she felt.

Unfortunately, in this business, there is no probation and sometimes those who are experienced forget what it took to get that way.  Kyla found it hard to deal with the constant rejections, the negative comments and the occasional outright hostility that working in the entertainment industry brings and her confidence took a nose dive.

Those who have followed this blog regularly knows what happened next.

Kyla accepted a job on a new show, worked incredibly hard and built her confidence to a stage where she finally felt OK in herself again. She quit her day job and got ready to throw herself into touring.

Then the inevitable happened... over a voicemail.

Broke, beaten down and rootless, Kyla didn’t know what to do.

But this time she wasn’t beaten. She knew that no matter how bad she felt in this moment she was going to get through.

That was when Kyla first picked up her red lipstick. She thought through everything she’d suffered over the past few years, she thought how much she’d love to crawl under a duvet.

Then she opened her lipstick and put it on.

Since that moment – almost 4 months ago Kyla has made it her mission to throw herself at life, whether life liked it or not.

She started endlessly promoting herself and Mr P as a musical duo, determined that no matter what they could always rely on each other. Their relationship grew and developed to a stage where they knew they could take on anything. They worked hard together touring the country, spending hours cooped up in an old Ford Transit travelling from gig to gig. There was frustration, exhaustion and endless doubt but they carried on working every single day, often performing for nothing in order to hone their act.

Kyla started writing, trying to post a blog as often as she could. She grew to know people in the vintage community and revelled in this new world. She tried Burlesque classes and presented a radio show. She was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis – a condition that causes great pain and makes her extremely tired and coped with it the way she copes with everything. She put on her lipstick.

Finally Kyla had learnt that fear is nothing.

Everyone in life has bad moments, some are worse than others. Some people suffer greatly, others are lucky. The only thing you can control in this life is how you react to misfortune.

And the only thing standing in your way is you.

Just over a week ago, at 7am one cold grey morning. Kyla and Mr P found themselves driving down to Brighton. They were more nervous than they had been in a long long time. After an endless journey they found themselves in a tiny cramped studio, singing to two complete strangers at close quarters. After just 40 minutes it was all over and they travelled home hardly daring to hope.

Sometimes life is cruel, it gives you more than you think you can possibly handle. But it’s always for a reason, and you will always be led to exactly where you need to be.

For Kyla and Mr P that place is Madeira. Working as fully fledged musicians within an amazing hotel. The place they will be flying to in only three weeks.

Life has come very far for that scared little girl trembling on stage. Now she is ready, they are ready.

And they will take on life together.

For my explosion of colour. You make everything. I love you.

Mrs P

X x x x x x x x x x x x  x x

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Ten Songs for every Red Lipstick Lady

It's 8pm and I'm in bed...

Not for any good reason unfortunately. Turns out being diagnosed with an Inflammatory Bowel Disease isn't fun. I'm very worn out, everything's a bit of an effort. I've had to miss Burlesque tonight for the second week running due to illness which is getting me very down.

Luckily I was still able to present my radio show today which cheered me up! I have some brilliant listeners who always make me smile, and I'm still putting on my lipstick.

My radio show today got me thinking about awesome songs which should be a go to for any red lipstick lady when she's feeling run down so I thought I'd share ten of them with you!

#10 “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”  Aretha Franklin

Aretha is, quite simply, a powerhouse. She was named the Queen of Soul early on in her career and has effortlessly maintained her crown over the 50 plus years she has been recording. Her own life was peppered with troubles including teenage pregnancy and an abusive marriage but she forged on. Respect is a song that has been used to empower women during the feminist movement and was also an anthem for the civil rights movement.

Whenever you feel like life’s getting too much I dare you to listen to this song and not feel strengthened.

#9 – "Fujiyama Mama" Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson is - quite simply - just a cool lady. If Aretha is the Queen of soul then Wanda is the Queen of Rockabilly.

I've talked before about the difficulties of being a girl in the rock n roll world as it is a very male world. Well Wanda was not only a girl in the rock n roll world she owned it. She was the first female recording artist to record rockabilly after receiving rock n roll lessons from Elvis (who she was dating at the time). Even though she was told "girls don't sell records" and was derided for wearing heels, earings and dresses she still carried on with a successful recording career that endures to this day.

My favourite of all her songs has to be Fujiyama Mama, it's brilliant for singing along to when you're fed up.


#8 – "Fallin’" Connie Francis

 I've spoken before about what an inspiration Connie Francis is to me. She has dealt with a lot of rough times in her life including almost suffocating during a horrific rape attack for which the culprit was never found and also losing her beloved brother in a mafia shoot out.

Despite everything she has endured and consistently used her bad experiences to help others. I love her song Fallin as it really shows her amazing vocals.


#7 –  "Dynamite" Brenda Lee

 Despite being only 4 ft 9 inches tall Brenda Lee earned the nickname Little Miss Dynamite after recording the song Dynamite in 1957 at the age of only 13. A very popular rockabilly performer Brenda Lee had 37 US chart hits during the 60's - only surpassed by Elvis, The Beatles, Ray Charles and Connie Francis. 

If you can listen to this song and not have it stuck in your head cheering you up for days then you're a stronger person than I am. 


#6  "Shout"  LuLu

I don't think this one needs much explanation... I opened my first ever Retro Radio Show with this song just because I think it sums up the red lipstick attitude perfectly. Because sometimes all we need to do is shout.


#5 – "Proud Mary" Tina Turner

Tina's experiences of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband Ike have been well documented. Despite her tough life she has continued to record and to put herself on a stage in front of thousands no matter what anyone thought of her. To me, that is an ultimate red lipstick lady.

And no-one does it quite as well as Tina.


# 4 – "Help Me Make it Through The Night" Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash


Sometimes it's easy, when looking at strong women, to start to think that all men are awful beasts who do nothing but make trouble. However, June Carter is proof that sometimesa great love is enough.

An extremely talented and versatile woman (June actually wrote "Ring of Fire" for John) June was, by her own admission, happiest as Mrs John Cash. Through their long marriage she would remain the voice of reason, tempering down John's destructive side and helping him to create a lasting legacy of country music.

This song for me sums up the pair of them. 

#3 "You've Got A Friend" Carole King

Carole King is an awesome lady and incredible songwriter. This song won her a grammy award for best songwriter - the first female artist ever to receive the award. Whenever you're feeling a little low this song is a great pick me up, because no matter what - you've always got a friend.


#2 "I only want to be with you" Dusty Springfield

I sing this song quite regularly on gigs and I absolutely adore it. It always gets people up and dancing! Dusty is instantly recognisable as a Vintage goddess, with that blonde beehive and dark eye makeup you can't mistake her for an instant!

She also had a troubled personal life, struggling with her mental health and sexuality but through her music she became an icon. This is a perfect hairbrush tune.

#1 – Don't Rain on My Parade Barbra Streisand

Is there ever a song more suited to the red lipstick state of mind than this one? Barbra Streisand is a living legend, she's a true star of stage and screen, she's a singer, performer, philanthropist.... you name it. I could spend ages telling you about her but I won't.

Instead I say to you, go get your lipstick on, grab your hairbrush and try not to sing along to this one - it's physically impossible.

Because no matter what no-one is gonna rain on your parade!

Mrs P

x x x x x x x x x x x x

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Red Lipstick: It's Not Just a Colour

It's a state of mind

February is not a good month for me

I don’t know why, February just seems to be a month when things go a bit wrong.

Today is the 5th anniversary of the death of my Step-Dad Dave. In some ways it feels like it happened only yesterday, in other ways it’s a lifetime ago. I think a lot of my red lipstick attitude comes from how my Mum and I handled the crushing grief from then as a family. We haven’t stopped and we’ve grabbed at life with both hands. I could talk to you about overcoming grief but there’s nothing I can really say that hasn’t been said a hundred times before. It never fully leaves you but it does improve as time moves on and 5 years down the line I’m able to reflect on the time we had with Dave, what I learnt from it, what I’d change and what I’ll cherish.

There are other reasons why February is not a good month for me.

Mr P and I are yet to spend a Valentine’s Day together outside of the hospital. I’ve had a lot of health problems over the past few years and for some reason my appointments always seem to fall on Valentine’s Day! Poor old Mr P...

Then there was last Valentine’s Day.

Last Christmas I fell pregnant. It was completely unplanned and unexpected, just one of those things that happens. The pregnancy ended on Valentine’s Day last year. It was painful and horrible and the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through by far.

I’m not going to say anything else as this is still extremely hard for me to talk about and is not something I generally share.

The reason I’m sharing these deeply personal things is because I want to show you why I started this red lipstick project, and also that it’s possible to keep fighting no matter what happens to you. Even when things feel so bleak and so terrible you don’t think you’ll ever feel good again you can claw your way back to happiness.

After my last few February’s I was a bit of a mess. I was angry and irrational, I tried drinking to block out the pain (which didn’t work), I tried working to block out the pain (which worked quite well until I was fired...).  

Nothing truly worked until I started putting on my red lipstick.

It might sound strange or crazy but, for me, wearing my red lipstick triggered a complete change in my mental state. Suddenly the things I did were governed by what I was wearing. Bear with me here...

You put on red lipstick... but red lipstick looks strange without any other makeup so you put on some eye shadow and mascara... now you haven’t done your face just to sit about on the sofa all day and crying will smudge your mascara so you get out of your pyjamas for the first time in days... so now you’re looking pretty good you might as well smell the same so you put on a spritz of perfume.... also your hair might as well come out of the ponytail you’ve been keeping it in... by this time you’re feeling pretty damn good about yourself and you want to share it with the world so you head out the door. When your husband comes home from work he doesn’t find you scuffling about feeling miserable – he finds you with a huge smile on your face waiting for a big kiss.

Wearing red lipstick really does impact your life. It doesn’t matter where you wear it – wear it at home, wear it in the office, wear it round the supermarket if you feel like! It is the ultimate confidence and mood booster.

I’ve been through some hard stuff in the past few years but when I put on my lipstick I feel lucky. Lucky to have a husband who loves me and a relationship that’s been strengthened by the things that have befallen us. Lucky to have the strength of mind to withstand any storm. Lucky to know the difference between what’s important and what's not.

Continuing my February curse I have had a rubbish few days. Back around Christmas time I started experiencing some distressing digestive symptoms. I ignored it for a while thinking that maybe it was just the effect of the things I was eating and drinking all Christmas. Eventually I confided what was going on with Mr P and he convinced me to go to the doctor.  I was referred straight to the hospital for tests including an upper endoscopy and colonoscopy.

They were exactly as fun as they sound... yesterday I was not allowed to eat anything solid and I got to finish my day with two litres of something called Moviprep which cleanses your insides by.... well you can probably guess!

This morning I wasn’t allowed to drink at all which was very difficult. I then went to the hospital to be heavily sedated and have cameras stuck every which way – I’ve only just really woken up!

I’m still waiting on biopsy results but it sounds like I have something called ulcerative colitis (see an NHS description here

So... not much fun. And yet another thing to add to my (rather rubbish) bow! But this time I’m not going to let it phase me. If I’m ill then I’ll deal with it the same way I deal with everything else – by putting on my red lipstick and facing the world!

Tomorrow marks the three month anniversary of when I started this diary. It has changed my life.

And I owe it all to red lipstick.

Mrs P

X x x x x x x x x x x x x x 

P.S. I have finally managed to update my blog settings so that anyone can leave a comment - please feel free to share any comments you may have!

P.P.S Changes in bowel habit are rarely good, if you are ever worried about something like that then see a doctor immediately, there's no need to feel embarrassed or silly. Most of the time it's nothing but it's always better to be safe. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Vintage Fairs and Burlesque Jems

Yesterday I got to go one of my favourite places to be on a Sunday...

A Vintage Fair!

This fair was run by Haddon events and Mr P and I were lucky enough to be able to go and provide some music for them. I’m not going to lie, after Saturday night we were both very bleary eyed and more than a little tired. I have never been more grateful for benefit foundation...

Vintage fairs are absolutely wonderful. There’s nothing better than spending your Sunday poking around an amazing array of stalls. You never know what you’re going to find: - Case in point? Remember the happy whales?


Yup, they were a vintage fair find from Cinnamon Bay Ltd – a great little shop that also makes bespoke vintage themed wedding gifts – find them on facebook here.

There’s also the chance to buy some amazing clothes. One of my favourite stalls of the day was Lucy Can’t Dance, a fantastic vintage shop that was set up in April 2012. Lucy Can’t Dance.

Not only has this lady got some amazing genuine vintage items available to buy but she also makes absolutely beautiful garments. You can also order custom made bespoke items. I am very excited about this and am planning on making a BIG order before the rest of the world discovers this beautiful clothing. Check out her website here

There was loads more, vintage tea sets a-plenty, jewellery – I bought this string of vintage glass beads which I love.

There are also stalls offering vintage hair and makeup transformations. One of Mr P and I’s favourite moments from yesterday was when a young girl bought her first 50’s style dress from one of the stalls then visited a makeover counter. By the time they finished she was completely transformed and looked stunning!

The cherry on top of the whole thing for me was the Burlesque Jems strutting their stuff.

They looked amazing; I was completely in awe of them. I hope I can join them up there one day. I think they’re incredible, they looked absolutely stunning and they performed their moves flawlessly.

And a little cheekily...

I’ve talked a bit before about the power of Burlesque and yesterday really brought it home to me. The ladies on stage were confident, fierce and absolutely stunning regardless of their shape or size. They completely owned the stage and the room. As I looked around the hall every face I saw was completely spellbound. They were tantalising without being smutty – as Jem puts it the brilliant thing about her burlesque classes is that you can still make your Nan proud – and really made the day.

I hope one day I’m good enough and confident enough to join these ladies in my basque and frilly knickers. They are still so much braver than me – I will sing on stage for hours but strutting my stuff is still beyond me!

There are many more vintage fairs and events coming up and I really recommend them. You don’t have to be into the vintage life to enjoy yourself – the atmosphere is fun, warm and friendly. Entrance isn’t expensive and it’s a chance to have a look for items that you have no chance of finding on the high street. You also have a chance of seeing Mr P and I doing our thing – occasionally we may even make sense! (The tiredness did not help my speech yesterday).

Keep up to date with upcoming Essex vintage fairs here

For other vintage fairs across the UK you can look here

Mrs P

X x x x x x x x