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.

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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.

January favourites

Time to wrap up the only month of the year we describe as “long”.

How was your January?

Mine was mixed. As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I lost my job back in December (budget cuts) and so I’ve spent January looking for work (there isn’t much around) and finding freelance jobs (that pay very little money) so I’ve been busy, albeit, broke.

BUT I am not yet destitute and I’ve gotten to do some pretty interesting stuff this month. I met a jaguar when out in my journalistic capacity. I mean, there was a single chain link fence between me and the jaguar (thank the lord), but that is a lot less fence than there usually is between me and a jaguar. When we went up to the ‘keepers only’ part of the enclosure for my jaguar meet-and-greet, my tour guide/the owner of the zoo told me that he was going to have to politely ask that I kept my hands well away from the wire and I was like sir, that is NOT going to be a problem. I like my fingers attached to my body.

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He, on the other hand, abides by no such rules 
Anyway. Time for my favourites.

Stationary fave: 2019 diary

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My mum got this for me because she wants me to feel excited for my new freelance lifestyle, as I suppose I might if it had happened on purpose. I was sceptical at first, but this thing is GREAT. It has your standard day of the week set up, but it also has a tear off shopping list section, a meal planning section, monthly calendar-style grids (perfect for keeping track of random deadlines) and monthly planning pages. As someone who is very much a list-maker this appeals to my style of organisation on every level. I LOVE it.

To watch: Salt Fat Acid Heat, Netflix

salt fat acid heat
Photo: Netflix

This show, based on the cookery book penned by its host, Samin Nosrat, is a freaking DELIGHT. I fell in love with Samin when she appeared on Call Your Girlfriend towards the end of last year, and her cookery show is every bit as adorable as she is. In SFAH, Samin takes viewers through the basics of cooking and shares her belief that every recipe boils down to the four elements of the show’s title. What I enjoy most about this show is watching Samin eat. She gets such pure, uncomplicated joy from food and I love it.

It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut with cooking, to treat it like another inconvenience at the end of a long day, but watching SFAH makes me enjoy the process again, and really revel in eating whatever it is I’ve made. Even if you’re not a cookery show person (I’m actually not – the power of Samin drew me in) you should still watch Salt Fat Acid Heat. It’s sweet, relaxing, gentle viewing and feels like the perfect antidote to what a nightmare the world is right now.

To watch: The Punisher, Netflix

frank
I’m so attracted to this man it is becoming a problem.

Jon Bernthal’s performance in this bloody, problematic and morally grey (lol. Understatement of the year) show continues to utterly captivate me. The supporting cast are immense, from Amber Rose Revah’s traumatised, morally compromised Homeland Security agent Dinah Madani to Ben Barnes’ unhinged, amnesiac Billy Russo, everyone in this show is at the top of their game and don’t deserve the cancellation that is surely coming for them.

To listen: Longform

longform

If you’re interested in journalism you need this podcast in your life. I can’t believe I didn’t know about it until now! Longform is a series of interviews with journalists about their writing process, how they got to where they are and how they tackled some of their most famous stories. It is fascinating, and I really can’t recommend it enough. Episode 325 would make a great starting point – an interview with Lizzie Johnson about how she came to cover wildfires for the San Francisco Chronicle.

What have you been loving this month? Have you watched The Punisher or Salt Fat Acid Heat? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Top 5 reads of 2018

Boiling down my favourite books of the year to a list of only five was a difficult task. While 2018 was, in many ways, an odd reading year for me (I read way less than I have in years. I was always reading something, but it took me a lot longer to finish books than it used to), I did get around to picking up several absolute stunners, so choosing the top five of a pretty spectacular bunch was not an easy thing to do.

But I love an end-of-year round up, so I struggled through.

5 To Kill a Kingdom – Alexandra Christo

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This hate-to-love adventure between a siren and heir to the crown of the sea and siren-hunter and heir to the crown of the land was thrilling, silly and a much-needed distraction during a very stressful few weeks. Expect murder, romance and pirates – all the good stuff, basically.

4 The Belles – Dhonielle Clayton

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In a world in which beauty equals power, you might believe as the only truly beautiful people in the land, the Belles would be running the show – but instead they are little more than slaves, sold to royals desperate for a slice of the beauty the Belles are born with. I ADORED this dystopic story of a group of women groomed their entire lives for royal servitude growing to realise all is very much not as it seems. Bonus points for having a Stern Man as a love interest. I love me a Stern Man and I can’t wait to watch Camellia run rings around him in book two.

3 Redefining Realness – Janet Mock

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Picking my favourite memoir of the year was a painful task, but when I got really honest with myself I found that the title could only ever belong to Janet. In her gorgeous and unique prose, Janet describes in searing detail growing up mixed race, poor and trans in Hawaii. Her story is one of survival and fighting for self-definition that opened up a world I have never experienced first-hand while also really speaking to my personal struggles.

2 An Absolutely Remarkable Thing – Hank Green

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Hank Green’s debut novel was one of my most anticipated of the year and it did not disappoint. A heart-wrenching, funny and cringe-inducing portrait of our brand-influenced, perpetually online times, it tells the tale of what happens when a person sacrifices their sense of self (and safety) for their brand. Also, robots.

1 Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

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This funny, bleak, brutal, heart-breaking and utterly life-affirming novel about abuse, isolation and, eventually, finding a way to re-engage with the world was the absolute highlight of my reading year. If you’ve ever felt alone in the world (so, everyone), you should read this book. Eleanor’s story proves without a shadow of a doubt that there is something better for everyone, if only you can find the strength to reach for it.

Honourable mentions (because I am a cheat)

All The Single Ladies – Rebecca Traister

Never World Wake – Marisha Pessl

No One Tells You This – Glynnis Macnicol

Love, Hate and Other Filters – Samira Ahmed

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi