August favourites

Oh no, I forgot to blog (nearly) all month. (Again).

I have not left this blog, despite appearances. I just have a lot less time than I did before. Or, perhaps I have the exact same amount of time but I’m allocating it to different things.

I think most likely it’s a combination of both.

But today I’m here and next week I’m determined to write a proper review of The Everlasting Rose, the second part of The Belles duology. I was pretty disappointed by it and I really, really didn’t want to be. I’m still sad about it. This is why I so rarely read series. They burn me (almost) every time.

But today is not for bemoaning disappointments. It’s favourites time.

To listen: Lover

I mean obviously. My unapologetic love for Taylor Swift will never end. The vulnerability and unabashed look at the ways you can be insecure and difficult and brilliant in this set of songs draws me in every single time I listen. I love her, especially the way she has developed over the years into a politically active, nuanced and private figure who is clearly prepared to grow as a person.

Love her.

To listen: WTF with Betty Gilpin

Probably the most regular feature on my favourites, I know, but these conversations bring so much to my life. Especially this one. I adore Betty Gilpin. She’s an amazing and unusual actress and the way she talks about insecurity, mental health and dealing with ‘life in the vestibule’ speaks to me on a very personal level. This conversation felt like listening to two people take a stroll through my brain – it was so comforting and validating on basically every level.

The read: The Gentlewoman

This magazine is one of those £8, comes out quarterly, only available to purchase in pretentious shops-type deals but it is worth the investment of your pennies. It’s packed with creative, subversive and fascinating women from across the feminist, political and artistic spectrum. The writing is stunning and thoughtful, with truly some of the best celebrity profiles I’ve ever read. If you don’t believe me, you can read some of them online here.

(I particularly recommend Alison Janney and Sandra Oh)

Person: Carolyn off Killing Eve

Will you make sure that Pointless is recording, Kenny?

It is easy to be so distracted by Jodie and Sandra that you don’t realise Fiona Shaw is one of the best characters on Killing Eve – at least, that’s what I found during season 1. Season 2 though, for me, was dominated by Fiona Shaw – or, I should say, Carolyn. Did she say anything that wasn’t completely weird and utterly perfectly delivered? No – no she did not.

How was YOUR August? I hope everyone has had a lovely summer, depending on which hemisphere you happen to live in.

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July favourites

Another month has flown by. I realised the other day that I’ve been telling people I’ve been living in my new city for about a month for so long that it’s suddenly turned into two.

I am not reading enough – but I think that’s standard during transitional phases of life.

(please say it’s not just me)

I just haven’t chunked out the time lately. I’ve been prioritising other things. But I’m going to get back to it. I’m about half way through The Book Thief right now, a tome of a novel I’ve been meaning to read for years but finally am now due to one of my housemates, who pretty much holds it up as the standard that all books should meet.

I’m liking it, so far. It’s one of those where the narrator (literally Death) tells you the worst before it happens, but it makes it no less painful when it arrives, despite all the warnings.

Anyway: some favourites

To watch: Jessica Jones, the final season

I will be bitter about the abrupt and unfair killing of these Marvel shows maybe forever (I hold an excellent grudge.) Netflix has a lot to answer for! After a season two that I had some mixed feelings about, season three was so STRONG. From crazy psychopaths to sisters on the edge and “I know you don’t want to die alone, but you’re going to”, this show packed a serious emotional punch as it hurtled toward a cathartic, if slightly hurried, finish.

Jessica Jones has always been a show that feels a lot like Veronica Mars, and with Benjamin Walker as Erik who reminded me SO MUCH of a hangdog Logan Echolls it was ridiculous – basically I had everything I wanted. And I felt somewhat justified in my feelings about Trish, which even in the best of times have never been especially warm.

Low key I am in love with this man.

While it’s great that JJ and Daredevil got to go out on such a high note, what I really want is a fourth season.

Grumble grumble grumble.

Also, potentially unpopular opinion, but I feel like as much as we all want cameos to happen they only ever feel awkward and unnecessary and afterwards you wonder if maybe it would be better if none of the superheroes of New York knew each other, even though that doesn’t quite make sense either because while it’s big, it’s not that big.

Also also, how do they choose who gets to fight which evil? I’ve always wondered about that.

To wear: jumpsuits

Okay, clearly we’re a little thin on the ground for favourites this month. But I just want everyone to know that I purchased a jumpsuit and now I honestly don’t know how I lived before it was in my wardrobe. Just saying.

To do: Museums!

As I have mentioned around 10,000 times, I recently moved to a new city. It’s a big tourist spot in the UK, and while that comes with many annoying things (tourists. Dear god tourists are annoying and why do they all walk so slowly and why do they not realise that people live here and sometimes just need to get from A to B without having to practically parkour over them so they don’t ruin their selfies?!), what it does mean is that we’re totally spoilt for choice when it comes to museums and I have to say I love it. I don’t really know anything about art, there are huge swathes of history I’m utterly clueless about and I don’t usually pay for the audio guides that explain it because ANOTHER £5? Are you kidding me? But going in and just allowing myself the time and space to respond to what I’m seeing, read the free information they have and try to resist the urge to Instagram it engages a totally different part of my brain. It’s difficult to feel stress inside a museum. It’s another world where all that’s required from you is your attention and whatever intellectual engagement you have to offer, and I have concluded that wandering around them is good for my soul. I highly recommend it.

To do: the gym

I became an exercise person a few years ago when, as I was coming out of a truly horrifying time in my personal life, a friend asked me whether I wanted to do a sponsored run with her for charity. For the first time in my life, I approached exercise not as some all-or-nothing event that I had to be amazing at right away or what’s the point, but as something I could build up little by little, and in the five-or-so years since it has become a really central part of how I try and keep myself mentally healthy. In the past few weeks as my life has changed in ways big and small it’s the one ritual I have managed to keep up pretty consistently, and it’s honestly keeping me sane.

How is your summer? I hope you didn’t melt in the heat. Me and the family of baby seagulls currently living directly outside my window (who are causing me equal levels of irritation and anxiety) struggled up here in the attic, but we just about made it through.

June favourites

So about a month ago I moved to a new city and started a new job.

Since then blogging has been, shall we say, patchy.

I had this idea when I moved that I was definitely not going to miss a week no matter what happened.

Really anyone could have told me this was not a realistic goal.

So, lads – I think you’re going to have to bear with me as we go through this period of adjustment. I’m busy with work, and with trying to bond with my housemates – mostly through the medium of Love Island. If you don’t live in the UK and therefore don’t know what that is…. It’s probably for the best.

If you live in the UK – please don’t judge me too harshly. I have had to do quite a lot of ‘networking’ in the past weeks and I tell you it is a great tool to have at your disposable during a conversational lull/when you’re trying to avoid talking about yourself because for some reason even when people ask you totally reasonable and acceptable questions about your life part of your mind says no I shall tell you nothing I am very attached to being an identityless woman of mystery/ I live my whole life in fear of judgement for a range of reasons we would both rather I don’t get into right now.

 In reality though I just come off as super boring because that’s what happens when you aren’t holding up your side of the conversation.

And then I get a stomach ache.

Basically me.

Anyway.

Doing nothing but meeting new people for a month is hard.

I don’t have a ton of favourites right now, but those I’ve loved, I’ve loved hard.

(also I have not read enough books lately to review. Though I did read How To Stop Time by Matt Haig, which I really did not like. I’m now reading The Girls, by Emma Cline, which I really love. Balance.)

Let’s begin:

To listen: Eve Ensler’s episode of WTF with Marc Maron

I’m a woman of habit – usually – and particularly during this last few weeks of relative madness (honestly I define ‘madness’ as having to leave the house, which I have to do pretty much every single day now. Who have I become?) nothing gives me comfort and calm like turning of WTF. This episode was a tough one – Eve Ensler suffered pretty much every kind of abuse possible at the hands of her father and she’s written a book about it from said father’s (now deceased) point of view. It’s a powerful conversation about abuse, healing and patriarchy. Eve cries. Marc cries. I cried. I say this with all of the trigger warnings, but please do consider listening. It’s a beautiful, painful and raw conversation – Marc does those well.

To listen: In League With Dragons

The Mountain Goats have taken their music in a new a fascinating direction with their last couple albums. Largely gone are the No Children like shouty, guitar strumming songs of old in favour of a much more produced sound. But the heart is the same. In songs that are supposedly about wizards and demons John Darnielle talks about pain and surviving it. It’s a reminder that hope is as valid a reaction as anger and despair – basically like every Mountain Goats album – and it’s, as always, just exactly what I need.

‘Done Bleeding’ is my favourite song right now, but I could be swayed by ‘Clemency for the Wizard King’ or ‘Going Invisible 2’.

That’s… probably it honestly.

See ya’ soon.

May favourites

May was something of a crazy month for me. I went on holiday to Venice for week, and then yesterday I moved to a new city to start a new job – after a manic few weeks finishing up any outstanding freelance projects before that phase of my life (thankfully) reached a close. For now.

I am a totally shy introvert, so moving to a new city full of strangers into a house full of strangers (I am living in a slightly weird place that used to be a B&B, with six other people) feels like a Big Deal. I’ve moved here for a temporary, but very exciting job, so I’m doing my best to put my anxieties aside (by which I obviously mean read lots of books and watch lots of TV and try not to think about them) and enjoy myself.

So far I’m not doing too badly. I took myself out for a coffee date this morning. Yesterday I made my room pretty.

It’s in progress.

Anyway, onto my favourites from May!

Travelling by myself

In the weeks leading up to Venice, whenever I mentioned I was going away, and then, when asked, revealed that it was by myself, I got some funny looks. I felt like I had to make excuses for myself. Reassure people that I did have friends. Mention that you have to do some things by yourself when you’re single as if that was something I felt regretful about.

The truth?

I fucking love going on holiday by myself.

Wandering aimlessly for hours, not worrying that I’m boring someone else, whether their needs are being met… it’s the best. I’ve been away alone three times now and every time I wait for myself to get lonely and I just… don’t.

There might be something wrong with me.

All I can say is it felt like freedom.

F Word

This is a series on the Soul Pancake YouTube channel about a queer couple looking to foster and perhaps adopt a child. It offers a fascinating insight into the foster and adopt process in the US, casting an analytical eye over systemic racism in the system – people of colour are much more likely to have their children removed in situations where white parents are allowed to keep theirs – the limbo potential foster and adoptive parents experience as they negotiate the system and the tensions between biological parents and foster parents. It is emotional AF (I cried. A lot.) and painful and hopeful and heart-breaking – and an invaluable look at a much under-represented experience. The episode where they interview bio parents fighting to get their rights to their children reinstated is particularly devastating and necessary.

See Something Say Something

The See Something Say Something podcast is back! One of the most tragic losses of the great Buzzfeed podcast cull of 2018, I was thrilled to see Ahmed Ali Akbar and guests back on the air as an independent outfit. See Something Say Something is a podcast about being a Muslim in the US right now. From their award-winning Ramadan series to interviews with some amazing guests like everybody’s fave chef, Samin Nosrat and author Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib AKA Carly Rae Jepsen’s no. 1 fan among many other great people, every episode is a blend of political commentary, pop culture (RIP Zayn and Gigi) and just a chance to spend time with some awesome people.

Aja Barber

Aja Barber is an activist-writer-stylist talking about systematic racism, sustainable fashion and saving the planet. Through her Instagram and Patreon accounts she dissects the role of white supremacy in the climate emergency, and how we can all hold each other accountable – most especially white people – for the role we are playing in the destruction of the planet. I feel really strongly about the destructive power of fast fashion, but for a long time I couldn’t find many voices within the sustainable fashion movement that really resonated with me. It’s a lot of very rich, mostly white women dancing in fields wearing flowing dresses and talking about veganism. And while that’s fine for them, the story a lot of those accounts tell lacked the urgency and complexity with which I wanted to see the conversation take place – also, to be frank, they showed a lifestyle totally financially unattainable to me. Then I found Barber’s work. She discusses the problem of fast fashion with the intelligence, nuance and analytical complexity I’d been looking for. She constantly challenges the white woman in her audience to be better, more accountable, more intersectional in their perspective and has pushed me to consider what doing my best really looks like. And, with her particular interest in second hand shopping, she shows that living sustainably is more accessible than we might think.

If you fancy catching up, this month I reviewed…

How to be a Craftivist by Sarah Corbett
The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X. R. Pan
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

How was your May? Have you ever moved to a new place for a job? Any tips would be much appreciated!

April favourites

About an hour after I wrote the below I went down with the most awful norovirus I have ever had. I’ve been in bed for 2 days. Yesterday I watched 9 hours of Mad Men. That is too much Mad Men. I don’t even like that show.

We are on day 3. I plan to get out of bed at some point today. But first I’m posting this because rain or shine I am determined to stick to my weekly schedule goddamnit!

To visit: The Eden Project

Based in Cornwall, England, this impressive botanical project opened in the late 1990s. I visited when I was a kid but hadn’t been back since, so when my bestie and I were planning a trip out recently we decided to head down there are check it out. Two enormous domes – biomes, as they’re known – house a wide range of plant and animal life. You’ve got the Mediterranean biome – the smaller of the two, this one is comfortable to walk around in, packed with birds and bright flowers and a cute little pizza place I’d recommend for some lunch. There are a whole of bunch of food options at TEP, but we thought this was by far the nicest one. After you’ve eaten your pizza, have a wander and make sure to check out the tulips in the spring – they’re truly gorgeous – and the weird Bacchanalian sculptures for The Secret History vibes.

After that you head into the rainforest biome, and, as much as I loved hanging out in the Mediterranean, this was really the highlight of the day for me. Hot, sticky and humid as hell, regardless of the weather come with the knowledge that whatever you’re wearing, after you’ve spent about 15 minutes in here you’re going to want to take it off.

(Also, just give up on your hair for the day.)

Packed with beautiful rainforest plants including bananas, cacao trees and the orchid pergola, which houses over 500 different species, make sure to also watch out for the birds, lizards and beetles that call this biome home. Despite the heat, which the higher you climb does become quite extreme, we spent more than an hour inside the rainforest biome. It’s full of fascinating facts about the impact loss of the rainforest is having on the planet in addition to a beautiful but utterly devastating exhibition of photography of native people – who the TEP describe as natural environmentalists – and how climate change and deforestation has destroyed their way of living in so many places.

And the biomes are really just half of your day. Beautiful gardens, fascinating exhibitions and a massive play area for the kids in addition to activities like zip lining (super expensive but looks SO FUN) mean you can comfortably spend the entire day here – and at £25 for entry, you’re going to want to!

To watch: Barry (HBO/NowTV)

Barry

This weird show about a depressed hitman turned actor is dark, menacing, depressing and very very funny. A lot of shows boast a ‘morally grey’ leading man, but Bill Hader’s fantastic turn as Barry is one of the only lovable murderers on TV I have genuinely complicated feelings about, owing to an awful/brilliant twist at the end of the first season. Watch it nooooowww.

To listen: Mitski

I have commitment issues, but with this girl I’m in it for the long haul. Mitski isn’t new to me but she is the only artist I can think of where every time I hear a song I get lost in her albums for days.

March favourites

March has been kind of crazy month for me! I (finally) got a new job. It’s temporary again, and involves moving to a new city which is very nerve-wracking, but I’m excited. Truth be told, I need a change and I think some time in a new city – however long it ends up lasting – will do me good.

To listen: The High Low

The High Low

I recently read Everything I Know About Love (review here) by Dolly Alderton and absolutely adored it. When I mentioned the book to a friend, she said “I think she has a podcast” and so obviously I downloaded it immediately. The High Low is the weekly pop culture/news podcast I didn’t know I needed. Hosted by Alderton and Pandora Skyes, together they discuss the news, books, television and podcasts you need in your life. It’s most of what I care about distilled into around and hour and a half and I love it.

To watch: Jameela Jamil and Sam Smith talk about body confidence

I have been a fan of Jameela Jamil for a while. As someone from the UK, I knew she existed before The Good Place and used to absolutely love her column in Cosmopolitan. I think her I Weigh body positivity project is really wonderful, and it has inspired me to think critically about my Instagram habits and start unfollowing people who make me feel bad about myself. I Weigh is gradually expanding, and its latest iteration is a YouTube channel where Jamil interviews people (so far it’s just Sam Smith but I think there are more planned) about body confidence and the impact diet culture has had on their lives. This conversation with Sam Smith… is, well. It’s a lot. You might have a little weep. It is such an honest, vulnerable conversation about the false equivalence of thinness and happiness, the grim reality of fame and the necessity of vulnerability – especially in the world of the Instagram highlight reel.

To watch: Fleabag (BBC, Amazon Prime)

fleabag

I only started watching Fleabag a few weeks ago, and to be honest, it has kind of taken over my life. This tragicomedy about sorrow, loneliness and attempting personal growth  is a work of actual genius. In any half hour episode the star and creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge will have you laughing, crying and staring dumbly in open-mouthed wonder as she articulates the world in all its awful glory. This is the only show I’ve ever watched where, when an episode ends I immediately go back to the beginning and watch it all over again.

Also she has, from where I can see, pretty much the entire UK wanting to fuck a priest (played to PERFECTION by Andrew Scott) right now – which, given how little else we can agree on, is no small thing.

To read: “Nobody Shows”

This is heart-breaking. Also you should read it.

To use: The Body Shop Vitamin-E Eye Cream

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What does that post-it say? You’ll never know… mwahahaha

In the last year I’ve had to have a couple of facials so I could write about them for work (I know. My life is hard.) and two of the facialists I’ve seen have told me that my under-eye area is very dry. Eye cream is one of those things I always considered a beauty industry scam to get you to buy more products (looking at you “double cleansing”) but I actually do think this stuff is having a positive impact on my face! I mean, the best solution would be sleep but who has time for that. Also using it makes me feel like a fancy lady with a proper skincare routine, which I am very much enjoying.

 

February favourites

I love a changing season. Whether the transition is from summer into autumn or winter into spring it always reminds me to notice. The world is constantly shifting, however much it feels like I am staying the same. There is comfort in that, I think.

The other day I walked a different route from usual on a boring Sunday and had the strange experience of being, for a short while, totally lost in the place where I live.

Truthfully, I got stuck in a field. I couldn’t find the gate out and was determined not to turn back the way I came. It was in the last corner I checked.

It was a big field, okay?

I was weirdly disappointed when, on finally finding the exit, I rounded a corner and was abruptly back in familiar territory.

I would say lately my mood has been characterised by constant feelings of ‘Urgh, this? Again?’

I’ve found myself particularly vulnerable to falling down well-trod mental holes, my brain circling the drain of paralysing insecurity, complete indecision and general feelings of panic. This is not unusual for me. I’ve never really figured out how to deal with myself when I’m like this (if you have any tips, please share), so I’m not going to lie, I have been watching a lot of TV. Living in my own brain is not a good option for me right now, so I have been spending as much time ‘elsewhere’ as I possibly can.

I would say this is probably not how adults are supposed to deal with their problems, but if that was the case, why would Netflix even exist?

All of this was a really long winded way of explaining that most of my favourites this month are in the realm of television.

Russian Doll

Russian Doll
Netflix

This show. I just… I can’t. It was as if Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland distilled everything that my heart needs right now down into funny, heart-wrenching, revelatory half hour segments.

Also I’m basically Alan (minus the whole roof thing, don’t worry).

Russian Doll is an amazing new Netflix drama about Nadia (Lyonne), who dies after being hit by a car on her birthday, only to wake up and repeat the loop of birthday/leave party/death over and over again. Eventually, after several deaths she finds another shares her violent ‘purgatory’ (it’s in the trailer so not really a spoiler), Alan, and together they try and figure out what the fuck is going on.

This show kind of defies categorization – its half hour slot makes you assume comedy, and it certainly is funny – but it’s also a high concept drama built in a complex and confusing purgatory-like world that is also a study on loneliness and childhood trauma.

It’s real good you should watch it. Natasha Lyonne is always stunning and never more so than in this.

The Umbrella Academy

The Umbrella Academy
Netflix

This month I learned that the guy from My Chemical Romance wrote a series of graphic novels that got made into a TV show? Turns out people you don’t keep track of are still making stuff!

The Umbrella Academy is a show about a group of superheroes (and their one unsuper sister) who, after years of separation, come back together after the death of their abusive adoptive dad.

It’s a show about family dysfunction, the apocalypse, and how hard it is to pick which one of those is the more pressing issue.

I think we can all relate.

It also features one of the most impressive performances I think I’ve ever seen by a child actor. Fifteen-year-old Aiden Gallagher, playing a 50-something-year-old stuck in a 13-year-old’s body, has the presence and charisma of a much older actor, and was a consistent scene-stealer even with his much more experienced co-stars. Here’s hoping fame doesn’t ruin him, cause if he can avoid going crazy then I think he has an exciting career ahead of him.

Estee Lalonde

estee

I’m not going to lie, I started watching Estee Lalonde videos earlier this year because she has short hair, and as of a few weeks ago, I also have short hair. I find her videos comfortingly down to earth – in a my skin care routine costs more than you earn in a month sort of way – and her willingness to share her down days (she deals with depression and anxiety) comforting as I climb out of my own psychological holes. Also she has a super cute greyhound.

Tin Star

Tin Star
Sky 

This is a stupid fucking show that is essentially Lie To Me but with murder and alcoholism. Tim Roth gives a bizarre performance as Jack, a police officer/hitman/occasional drug dealer trying to keep his family together against unlikely odds of violence, cults and that time he murdered his daughter’s boyfriend.

It’s one of those shows that only exists to raise the stakes, and is entertaining even as it is utterly ludicrous. It also has an oddly comedic tone for a show that began with a toddler getting shot in the face.

Yet, I’m still watching.

New Girl

Nick and Jess

Rewatching because Nick and Jess are my OTP. I LOVE THEM SO MUCH.