A Love Letter to Going to University

1998It’s the Freshers’ Week time of year again and it’s got me thinking about how great going to uni was for me. I went in 1996, before tuition fees, since which students have become consumers of the product of education for a high cost. If I was eighteen now, I doubt I’d go to uni because I’m from a working class family that doesn’t believe in getting into debt.

A lot of my thoughts about uni made it into The Y2K Diary Of Cleo Howard. One of the big themes is her reticence about going. She has all the typical worries about being smart enough and being away from home. By the end of her first term she’s coped admirably with the change and made friends. She starts to love the city of Coventry.

The Y2K Diary Of Cleo Howard by Sarah Tipper Cover Image.jpg

Here’s an extract from The Y2K Diary Of Cleo Howard when she’s first in at uni;

Wednesday 1st November 2000 – A grey cloud looked down upon Lady Godiva’s nakedness as I walked past today. I wonder what bra size Lady Godiva is? When I came out of Woolworths blue sky heralded my reappearance. A flat puddle in the precinct was mightily upstaged by the nearby fountain’s projection of sparkling water into the chill air. I feel really detached today. It might be because I walked round town thinking about how I would describe the weather and scenery if I was a great writer. Am I really in Coventry studying English? Maybe I’ll wake up back in Reading before A Levels. When I saw the sandwich board advertising the BHS breakfast I suddenly thought that maybe a World’s Strongest Man contestant had once chosen egg, egg, egg, egg, egg, egg, egg and bacon. Or maybe there was once only seven eggs and a bit of bacon left at the time of day at which no more breakfast items were being cooked and displayed.  I went and sat in the cathedral ruins for a bit after I’d been to Woolworths. It’s my favourite Cov quiet place. In Reading I like the avenue of trees in Prospect Park.

University always teaches much more than the subject you went to study. I gained confidence in my abilities every year I was there. I hope those starting this autumn have a wonderful time.

A Love Letter To AC/DC

The recent death of Malcolm Young due to dementia has got me reminiscing about AC/DC. They were formed in 1973 and I was born in 1974 so they have always been there in my own personal musical timeline. They are part of the soundtrack to my life and I couldn’t begin to calculate how many hours I’ve spent listening to AC/DC (I’m not very good at Maths, words is what I do).

I heard them long before I saw them live. My mate AC/DC Anna was a big fan (as you might have guessed from her name). Another school friend who lived over the road from me loaned me the Who Made Who LP when we were fourteen. He is also notable for letting me watch him have a nosebleed when we were in junior school (If You Want Blood, You’ve Got It!) we sometimes wave to each other on our respective ways to work and I sometimes remember how grateful I was for the loan of that record.

ACDC2000I first saw AC/DC at Wembley in 2000. I’m not a lover of the venue (too big) but the walkway which extended from the stage so Angus could duck walk and the atmosphere made it great. Seeing the big bells and the inflatable Rosie was a spectacle. I couldn’t help wondering what her bra size was. I bought a scarf outside as a souvenir and it hung on my wall for years.

Maybe I should have been wearing my AC/DC scarf rather than hanging it up.

ACDC2001.jpgI next saw AC/DC at Milton Keynes Bowl. It was a warm day and an all ages friendly crowd. The weekend after I saw an AC/DC tribute band at the Red Lion in Abingdon, meaning I spent two weekends in a white school shirt and tie. I never went to a school where you had to wear a uniform so for me this was a novelty.

AC/DC consistently pop up in my life in little ways. I love it when you go into a pub and they have AC/DC on the jukebox. You know you’re musically safe. Or when you’re chatting to a friend in the supermarket and a Back In Black ringtone is heard and both of you go for your phone. You realise you both have the same ringtone because that riff is so perfect.

AC/DC were part of my big day too. I spent the first four minutes of my married life accompanied by Malcolm’s lyrics. The music we chose as the recessional music (the bit after you have got married and you are walking out of the room as a married couple) was “Up To My Neck In You”.

We know AC/DC is about to happen

The number of AC/DC tribute bands currently gigging is a testament to how much people want to play and hear their music. The song writing talent of Malcolm Young was phenomenal. A list on Wikipedia has 93 songs penned by him or with him as a co-writer! He was both prolific and poetic.

The music will certainly live on. I saw dirtyACkDC earlier this year and adored their close to the original, enthusiastic performance. I love watching when women dance to “You Shook Me All Night Long”, it’s so primal and is a template for exactly what good hard rock should be.

Thank you Malcolm, you’ve been a constant feature in my ears and your words and music will continue to be so.





A Love Letter To Red Dwarf

DwarfDVDsI’m going to be a bit sad when Red Dwarf XII ends. It’s the only telly I make a point of watching at the actual time it’s on. I’ve long been a fan of the boys from the Dwarf. I hadn’t realised how far I’d slid into nerdiness but when I look at the evidence I realise I’ve gone the full Dwayne Dibley.

It was slow at first. I revised for my A Levels watching my Red Dwarf videos because I couldn’t concentrate in silence. Thankfully I didn’t go into the exam room and write “I am a fish” four hundred times.

A year or two later I would test prospective boyfriends by if they liked Red Dwarf or not. You could say I had a no red, no bed policy. My favourite episode is Parallel Universe from series 2. I love the way it played with gender roles.

In my first term at Reading University my sister and I went to see Norman Lovett. We were so excited to see Holly in the flesh.


Then I joined Twitter just to find out when new Red Dwarf was on. The following is an extract from my personal diary; “Friday 24th August 2012 – I ordered my wedding dress today. For dinner we had bacon sandwiches. In the evening I joined Twitter. I’d been planning to join for a while so I can promote my book. I joined Twitter today because Red Dwarf will announce when the new series is soon if lots of people retweet about it”.

Red Dwarf has made its way into my own writing. It gets 28 mentions in my trilogy of Cleo Howard diaries and 17 mentions in my Eviscerated Panda Saga. Here are a few of these;



At 9pm tonight I’ll be putting on my London Jets T-shirt and escaping into space for half an hour with Listy, Rimmsy, Cat and Kryten, ready to share the ups and downs of their intergalactic soap opera. In December I’ll be asking my mum for a Red Dwarf DVD for Christmas, like I’ve done many times before. I’ve had hours of pleasure aboard the small rouge one!




Inspiration and Belonging – A Love Letter to The Cellar

Photo Courtesy of Sam Tomlin

The Cellar (and its previous incarnation as The Dolly) is too important a venue to be lost. It has a rich musical history and for me and many others it’s part of our personal history.

If it is to stay open, it has to have a new fire exit. There are plans to crowd fund this here; Crowd Funder To Build A New Fire Exit

The live music is obviously a key part of The Cellar’s charm and individuality. Here’s a list of bands I’ve seen in The Cellar; Dedlok, KARN8, Elmbridge Court, Western Sand, Fireroad, A Higher Demise, Remnant, Black Light Machine, Get Loose, Savage Messiah, Desert Storm, Last Great Dreamers, Steamroller, Contraverse, 12 Gauge, Theia UK, Terminus, Black Iron Priest, Ded Orse, Control The Storm, Hell’s Gazelles, Bad Behaviour, Hell’s Gazelles again, Texas Flood, Toadstool, Triaxis, Bigfoot, Terminus again.

I also saw a load of bands in The Cellar’s previous incarnation as The Dolly; The Bad Men, JOR, Bad To The Bone, Charlie Mouse, to name but a few. It was my regular Sunday night haunt back in the late 80s and early 90s.

But it’s not even just the music, it’s having somewhere to belong, somewhere to find people who get excited about the same music you do. The Cellar is used by diverse music groups, (some of which sound dreadful to me but that’s not the point). We don’t need any more shops but we do need meeting places and we do need to give music somewhere to happen. The Cellar is perfect for intimate gigs and becoming intimate with people.

Drinking in The Dolly and The Cellar in part inspired me to write my Eviscerated Panda Saga, about a fictional metal band. I wonder how many audience members have stood in The Cellar and decided that they want to play an instrument or sing?

Here’s a list of ten highly personal weird/notable things that I remember happening in the Dolly/Cellar;

  1. The time a chap put a six inch nail up his nose to impress me.
  2. The stripper that looked like Geoffrey from Rainbow.
  3. The man with handcuffs in his waistcoat pocket who told me he was journalist and asked if I wanted to go home with him but I didn’t because I find waistcoats deeply unattractive.
  4. The time I was sad and it looked like Mick Jagger shed a tear (there used to be a Rolling Stones poster in the Dolly and it is a damp sort of place so maybe Mick just happened to drip at that point, but it felt like a communion between the two of us).
  5. The night the Bad Men played (chaos, pure chaos).
  6. The night I was drunk and threw a rose onstage to the singer, thinking I was Rene from the Rene and Renata video.
  7. Me realising you can be mates with someone even if you’ve both shagged the same chap. Basically this makes you sperm sisters and everyone deserves to be happy, although your happy ending may not be where you expect to find it.
  8. Charlie Mouse’s intro music.
  9. Listening Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” being karaoke’d every week for ages.
  10. The awesome DJs (special mention should go to Paul Axtell, Terry Webb and John Chadwick).

Let’s do our best to preserve this little niche of Oxford where wonderful sounds can be heard, connections can be made and life can be lived loudly.