What I’ve Bookmarked | 12

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Winter appears to have landed, and I can’t remember the last day the sun managed to break through the clouds. My plan for today is to stay curled up in my cosy leggings for as long as possible, with maybe a little bit of spring (winter?) cleaning.

My housemate recommended the How to Fail podcast to me, and I love the episodes with Alistair Campbell and Otegha Uwagba

The types of men you’ll meet post Me Too

Why women’s shoes are so painful 

I’m a bit of a sucker for posts about things people are thankful for, I really liked Kate & Briony’s

Why America’s best burger joint closed down

When Michelle Obama met Oprah

3 New York baristas spill the deets on tips, regulars & oat milk

I am obsessed with this tartan suit

I’ve used Clue since I stopped using birth control and find it really useful, but this is an interesting read all the same; period tracking apps like Clue and Glow are not for women 

I’ve really been enjoying Liv’s content, and this post is no exception (and is how ads should really be)

As someone who is very anti the side hustle, I really liked this article

Something about the murky weather is making a visit somewhere warm very appealing. Meg & Lucy’s posts from the Western deserts of the USA are not helping

I did also love Naomi’s post of her family enjoying the first snow in New York

Bee’s 100 Christmas Gift Ideas are lovely

10 things to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed

3 women on finding fulfilment outside of the mainstream

I discovered Rosemary MacCabe’s blog when I was belatedly looking for Dublin recommendations and am obsessed with her non-anonymous, totally honest Money Diaries. Start here.

Amy
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Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

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What I’ve Read | The Last Five Months

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So the last time I wrote about books was back in February, and I’m now sitting on 44 books read so far this year; which is so much better than what I managed in 2017. Rather than try and re-cap every book I’ve read in this time, I thought I’d write about the ones that have really stuck out for me.

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton (2018, Fig Tree)
I love Dolly Alderton, having read her articles and obsessively listened to the podcast she shares with Pandora Sykes (The High Low) for months. Everything I Know About Love is a memoir of her teenage years and twenties growing up and falling in (and out) of love in London; and the female friendships that have got her through. Alderton is a great writer, and this is instantly relatable and I’ve never laughed so much at a book (the section on living out romances via MSN messenger felt very true) and then sobbed in a few chapters time. So many of my friends have read and adored this book too, and I’m so excited to see what Dolly does next.

Hired by James Bloodworth (2018, Atlantic Books)
Hired follows journalist James Bloodworth in an exploration of the low-wage, zero-hour jobs that many people in Britain have found themselves in. He works in one of Amazon’s warehouses in the West Midlands, as an Uber driver in London, in a call centre in Wales and as a personal carer in Blackpool. In doing so he shines a light on the cost of convenience; and on how job insecurity has impacted communities across the country, and contributed to our massively divided political sphere. He writes with real empathy about his co-workers, and about his clients during his time in Blackpool. This really should be required reading to understand in-work poverty and how the ‘gig economy’ is far from cool when you’re not a tech bro. This has also stopped me shopping on Amazon.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (2017, Doubleday)
This was a book that was definitely enabled by the internet and I’m so glad that I picked it up. The novel follows Cyril, who is born to a single young woman in rural Ireland and who finds himself adopted by a well-off, but distant, couple in Dublin. The story follows him growing up, and attempting to figure out his identity against a backdrop of Irish and global history. Cyril makes many poor decisions, and there are moments when I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake him; but he was a character I grew very attached to and was very sad to say goodbye to him at the end. Boyne, who is possibly best known for The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, is excellent at creating fully-fledged, complicated characters and writes about them with deep empathy, and despite a lot of tragedy taking place within The Heart’s Invisible Furies it never felt exploitative. I’m so glad to have read this, and to have lots of Boyne’s back catalogue to get stuck into.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (2017, Little Brown)
I really liked Everything I Never Told You, so I was very excited to read Little Fires Everywhere. This follows two families in Shaker Heights, a town that has been planned to be perfect. The novel opens with the wealthy Richardson’s family home being burnt to the ground by their teenage daughter. We then track back to when single artist Mia Warren moves to the neighbourhood with her daughter, and rents a home from the very proper Elena Richardson who likes to feel like she’s ‘giving back’ to those in need; and the Richardson and Warrens’ lives being to intertwine-before a cross-cultural adoption in the town tears them apart. Much like her first novel, Ng is just so good at writing characters and relationships, in particular her teenage characters are perfect. This is becoming a television series starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, and I cannot wait.

Fall Out by Tim Shipman (2017, William Collins)
Tim Shipman is a long-time UK political journalist, and is currently the Political Editor of The Times, and this book takes full advantage of his connections. Fall Out is the story of the…fall-out…of the EU referendum and the ensuing Brexit vote, following the various political parties through to the 2017 election. It’s a fascinating, entertaining and slightly depressing exploration of the political class, and all sides come out looking less than rosy. I would really recommend this if you want to try and gain an understanding of what goes on in Westminster-and then get very depressed at the fact they’re the ones in charge of one of the biggest changes to the UK in many, many years.

Conversations with Friends (2017, Faber & Faber) and Normal People (2018, Faber & Faber) by Sally Rooney
I’m including both of Rooney’s novels here because they are both just so good. Both these novels explore young people attempting to find their way in the early 20s in Ireland, making bad decisions and hurting each other in the process. Conversations with Friends follows Frances and Bobbi who are best friends and ex-girlfriends now performing spoken word poetry together. They get sucked into the world of older journalist Melissa and her jobbing-actor husband Nick. The way Rooney writes these twisted, pointed relationships is excellent, and the relationship between Frances and Nick is really interestingly developed. Normal People is on the surface more straight-forward, following wealthy friendless Marianne and popular Connell whose Mum cleans Marianne’s house; a chance encounter in her kitchen sparks a change in their relationship and the novel then explores it through their last year at secondary school into university. However, Rooney plays with your expectations of characters and relationships and again it is excellent. I’m so excited to read Rooney’s next work.

How to Survive a Plague by David France (2016, Knopf)
I’d been thinking about this book since I saw Angels in America at the National, and I am incredibly glad I picked it up. This is the story of the AIDS epidemic, and the scientists and ordinary people who teamed up to defeat it. This is a period of history I feel like the majority of us know too little about, and this book made me incredibly angry but also ultimately hopeful at what we can achieve when we work together.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson (2018, Bloomsbury)
Kate Atkinson is one of my favourite authors so a new book by her is always exciting time for me; and this isn’t an exception. Spies! Lady spies! World War! A flamingo on the cover! Transcription is the story of Juliet who accidentally becomes a typist for an espionage unit focused on thwarting right-wing sympathisers at home during WW2; a role that follows her many years later into her work at the BBC. Whilst this is potentially not the most Serious Historical Fiction book you will read this year, it is great fun and Atkinson’s writing is a favourite. I’d read this if you fancy a bit of an espionage romp, and Life After Life if you’re after something more complex.

Amy
Twitter | Instagram

Where I’ve Been | The Last Five Months

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Saw Taylor Swift’s reputation tour; brunch at Alabama’s; formally saying goodbye to the NGDP

As the past five months have kept me so busy I haven’t been able to write anything here, I figured I’d do a bit of a highlight reel of the things I’ve been up to.

June

  • I travelled to Manchester with my housemate to see Taylor Swift on her reputation tour. I didn’t think I was a huge fan of this album but she puts on an amazing show and her performances have somehow got even better from 1989. Our seats were much better than we thought they were and I’m a complete sucker for fireworks
  • We went for brunch the following morning at Alabama’s which was amazing; I could have ordered most of the menu and they bought the bill in a copy of The Great Gatsby which was instant additional points
  • I made my first visit to the Wellcome Collection to see their exhibition about teeth and found it fascinating; and discovered their very lovely library
  • I formally bit farewell to the NGDP (applications open for Cohort 20 here) back in Manchester. It was a slightly strange experience as a lot of the focus was on how to decide what your future full-time job would look like; which was obviously not that relevant to me. However, it was great fun to get slightly (very) drunk in Manchester with some people I’ve had the best two years with. The next day was however quite grim.
  • The family all headed to Italy again this year, continuing it as one of my happiest of places. I love the food and the views; and this year we also went to a wine tasting which was amazing (and I’m yet to find an occasion worth opening the wine I bought for)
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One of my favourite views ever; delicious seafood from Osteria Cicca; sunset views; San Michele cathedral in Lucca

July

  • I went to Birmingham to catch up with a couple of friends. This featured me actually drinking a beer (and enjoying it) at Clink Beer in Digbeth, and then also checking out Digbeth Dining Club which I’d never been two despite living in Brum for 4 years
  • I saw The Lehman Trilogy at the National Theatre which was nothing like I expected but absolutely brilliant. Three actors (Simon Russell Beale, Ben Miles & Adam Godley) play numerous generations of the Lehman family; following their arrival in the States to the establishment of Lehman Brothers bank, and its demise
  • This month also heralded a change in housemate, and a brunch at London Grind to welcome our newbie (featuring bottomless prosecco and amazing but very filling pancakes)
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Excellent halloumi burger in Digbeth; pancakes & an optimistic salad in London Grind; peak millennial neon lights; drinks in Adventure Bar

August

  • A night out in Clapham which started in Adventure Bar, briefly took in a pub and ended up in Mommi (whose food I am still thinking about 3 months later-amazing)
  • Brunch for my housemate’s birthday at Asia de Cuba, again amazing food and far, far too much alcohol
  • Little Shop of Horrors at Regent’s Park was definitely a theatre-y highlight. We managed to get free tickets after a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar last year was rained off. This was so brilliantly performed and the costumes were fantastic.
  • My first social at my new job was organised by me (pressure) at Roof East, where I discovered a secret talent at boules which will no doubt be very useful upon retirement
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Little Shop of Horrors at Regent’s Park; fancy gins at Tuttons; afternoon tea at Mr Foggs; sneak peak of my commute to my current work location

September

  • Mum came down to London and I took a day of leave to enjoy central London when it’s not too busy. We went to an Audery Hepburn exhibition, had drinks at Tuttons in Covent Garden and then afternoon tea at Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour
  • I bought my housemate tickets to Bat Out of Hell for her birthday which is utterly bonkers but also very fun (Meat Loaf songs are inherently theatrical). I also appear to have created a monster as she has now seen the show four times.
  • A holiday to Pula in Croatia; whilst it was not super warm I somehow still managed to sunburn myself; eat my bodyweight in octupus and enjoy some incredibly picturesque towns. I’m still not over how blue the sea was
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The sunset on our first day in Pula; a tiny bit of Rome in Pula; the view from the fortress in Pula (which we nearly killed ourselves getting to); sundown on our final day

October

  • Afternoon tea at 45 Park Lane with the girls we’re going to Vegas with in the new year. Possibly the only afternoon tea where I could have eaten more of the savoury food (the mini grilled cheese was to die for)
  • Headed to Lincoln to meet friends. Slightly strange to revisit somewhere I was last when I was 19, but cool to check out some new places including Cafe Shanti (excellent halloumi burger) and Basecamp Coffee-in addition to catching up with friends who I always adore seeing
  • After being desperate to see it since the production was announced years ago; I finally got to see Company which I will definitely be writing a post on because I don’t think I’ve loved a show so much in a long time
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Afternoon tea in Park Lane which ended in a huge food coma; coffee at Basecamp; views when I decided to walk from my pilates class; COMPANY

So that’s what has been keeping me busy; November is shaping up to be just as busy and I’m very excited to be getting into the (whisper it) festive season.

Amy
Twitter | Instagram

What I’ve Bookmarked| The Last 5 Months

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*awkwardly clears throat*

I’m a terrible blogger. Terrible. I’ve made references to some pretty big changes that have happened this year before, and I’ve definitely dropped some balls that I wanted to keep juggling; one of them is this space.

However, I’ve been getting writer envy reading some posts some friends have been writing and have decided to resurrect this space; also I miss writing for fun and not for work so…as a return I’ve decided to give you a list of the things that I loved reading/watching/listening to on the interwebs since the summer (my favourite physical books will be another post).

Grab a coffee and check out these links on everything from weddings to local government…

How Britain’s political conversation turned toxic

The Jumpsuit: A critical essay

Inside the minds (and cabinets) of self-proclaimed make-up addicts

The national calamity we don’t hear about; the death of local democracy

I’m really passive aggressive, and I need to cut that shit out

Majority of young men more likely to challenge sexual harassment since #MeToo

Anna on the mistakes & lessons she’s learnt so far in her twenties 

We can’t all be winners as a new welfare state emerges

Millennial pink, Gen-Z yellow & the truth about colour click-bait

What is a woman worth?

Inside the murky world of influencer marketing 

Serial is back; Season 3 is exploring the American justice system. It’s a tough listen but really worth it so far.

The dark side of viral stories meant to ‘restore your faith in humanity’

Remembering Kate Spade & her legacy

All the Gwyneth Paltrow-iest details from Gwyneth Paltrow’s wedding

Where the hell is the love of my life?

Call Your Girlfriend remains a favourite; this episode with Rebecca Traister and this with Stacey Abrams are worth a listen

Beauty secrets from a ballet dancer

Hating fast fashion is a privilege 

How Mark Zuckerberg became too big to fail

We are all ‘real’ women, so why do we keep insisting that some us aren’t?

Marianne Elliott on Desert Island Discs

This is a very hard listen, but excellent: Before the Next One, a This American Life episode on school shootings

 

Amy
Twitter | Instagram

Thoughts On: Translations, National Theatre

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I knew next-to-nothing about Translations, outside of the fact that it was set in Ireland, years ago. My friend was buying a lot of tickets for the new season of the National, and I decided to take the opportunity to see a play by Brian Friel.

The play is set in a small rural village in Ireland in the 1800s; when the play opens the drama is focused on the opening of a new national school in the area which would close the small village school run by the alcoholic schoolmaster Hugh (Ciaran Hinds) but sustained by his son Manus (Seamus O’Hara). The plot really begins when Owen (Colin Morgan), Hugh’s other son returns to the village after years away along with the English army, in his role as translator for a new map of the area. What follows is a play that explores in microcosm the relationship between England and Ireland, and people and their languages.

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I found Friel’s thoughts on language as shown in this play to be really interesting. Naively, and probably a consequence of living in a country that exports its language, I’d never really reflected on the power that is intrinsic to language. How a sense of belonging is crafted from it, and how easy it is to take power away from people through language. When the English re-name the areas of Ireland, they are also removing the history that they have not participated in; Owen and Manus argue over the need to preserve this history, whether it is ridiculous to maintain a legend remembered by so few people, or whether it is key to retaining the land’s sense of self.

Friel also plays with the possibilities of whether it is ever possible to belong to an area that you have taken by force. Young, idealistic Lt Yolland (Adetomiwa Edun) falls for the rural area, Gaelic (despite being unable to speak it properly) and local woman Maire (Judith Roddy), despite the two being unable to really communicate, and Maire long being expected to marry Manus. However, it is made clear that Yolland could never truly belong to the community he wants to; and the arc of history and future hardships are hinted both in the text; with characters fretting about blight on the potato crop, considering emigrating to America and Ian Rickson’s staging of the final moments reminding the audience that England and Ireland’s fraught relationship is hardly a thing of the distant past.

Rae Smith’s design is mostly focused on a small part of the Olivier’s sprawling stage, but is effective at creating the poor, rural neighbourhood. Her work is complimented by Neil Austin’s lighting which can move between somber and romantic effectively.

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The ensemble cast are all very strong. Colin Morgan and Seamus O’Hara are both very good as opposite sides of a similar coin; especially as the former begins to realise the darker implications of his work. Judith Roddy is thoughtful in her portrayal of Maire, and Adetomiwa Edun as her counterpart is warm and engaging. I also found Dermot Crowley’s performance as Jimmy Jack, a local vagrant who can recite Ancient Greek and Latin, surprisingly moving.

I’d really recommend seeing this, it’s definitely a play that has left me with much to think about.

Amy
Twitter | Instagram

Thoughts On: Chess at ENO & Policing Audiences

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Chess is one of my absolute favourite musicals. The Tim Rice/Benny Andersson/Bjorn Ulvaeus (yes the guys from ABBA) show combines great music with the historic background of the Cold War, which is a period of history that I am definitely a nerd about. So when ENO announced that its summer musical would be this show (following on from Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard and Emma Thompson in Sweeney Todd) I jumped at the chance to get tickets.

Whilst I am a huge fan of the show, I am very aware of its flaws. The book is probably where a lot of its problems lie. The show follows Russian Anatoly Sergievsky (Michael Ball), who is challenging American celebrity chess champ Freddie Trumper (Tim Howar) for the world championship. During the tournament he begins to question his loyalty to his country as he falls for Florence Vassy (Cassidy Janson), despite already being married. The focus squarely on Anatoly is a bit of a shift in this production, which whilst helping the story make sense, I did miss Florence playing a more central role (from when I saw the Craig Revel-Horwood production of show a few years ago, and from the Royal Albert Hall production). It also takes a long-time to get going; with the first 30 minutes being an awful lot of scene-setting which did seem to be testing the patience of those around me.

However, ENO’s production does place the music front and centre. The huge orchestra is on a platform at the back of the stage, and they elevate the score wonderfully. This is complimented by the strong cast. I was a bit disappointed when the cast was first announced, as I’d had pretty high hopes and Michael Ball struck me as far too old for the part. This is still the case, at least when he’s playing opposite Cassidy Janson and Alexandra Burke as his wife; but he is in great voice and ‘Anthem’ really bought the Coliseum down. I’d never seen Janson in anything but she did a great job with Florence’s tricky songs, and even made ‘Heaven Help My Heart’, usually a skip-able song, moving. Burke, who seems to attract a bizarre amount of criticism, was strong in a role that is pretty underwritten, and made ‘Someone Else’s Story’ actually quite moving (though I’m not sure what her and Janson did to the costume designer to deserve their outfits). I also enjoyed Phillip Browne as Molokov, who with the male ensemble, does a fab job of ‘The Soviet Machine’.

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So on the one hand, I really enjoyed Chess. However, English National Opera itself did a pretty tricky job of making me feel welcome. To start, the tickets where ludicrously expensive, considering it is not a show that I think is massively well known outside of theatre audiences. This was exacerbated by the fact that the affordable tickets where mostly in the balcony (where I sat), and the staging (by Laurence Connor) was such that we frequently were unable to see key pieces of theatre action; including the actual chess matches and…Michael Ball singing in both Anthem and some of Endgame. It is incredibly frustrating when directors direct for just one part of the audience; and this was exacerbated by the choice to have limited other stage business and a reliance on nifty but get-old-quickly video screens.

Yet this wasn’t the most irritating thing that ENO did; that came in their musical audience only ban on bringing drinks (including water) and food into the theatre that hadn’t been purchased there. Whilst I appreciate and understand a desire to prevent people bringing picnics with them, banning water during a heatwave seemed kind of mad. This is all made even worse by the fact that this rule was targeted purely at audiences for Chess. The inherent snobbishness in the idea that musical audiences are in some way more likely to be rowdy than their ‘normal’ opera and ballet visitors is pretty terrible. Since the news of the policy broke, and people on Twitter got angry, ENO have now expanded this policy to cover opera audiences as well, but for me the damage has been done. The arts, and especially traditional venues, still have much to do to make them more accessible to new audiences, and considering opera is something that still has a reputation of elitism, you would think ENO would welcome an opportunity to try and get return visits from new audiences by making their experience one they would want to repeat. But alas.

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What I’ve Bookmarked | 10

This is a bit of a bumper edition, as although I’ve been away from this blog, I’ve still been reading and watching blogs, newsletters and my social media feeds with my usual furore. So grab a coffee, and have a chill Sunday reading and watching some things that I’ve loved over the past month(s).

Am I stinking vermin or am I running the world? The racists think it’s both.

Young women are convinced motherhood is going to suck, and they’re right

This accurately sums up a painful amount of my dating experiences: Lex on being needy

Literally every single unnecessary purchase I’ve made so far this year

Katie Hopkins is dishing out advice for Londoners, live from her living room in Devon

This story about a bridal shower will make you want to never get married

Good Skin vs Bad Skin: The Cultural Ramifications of ‘Bad Skin’

Why University Challenge is deliberately asking more questions about women

Did drinking give me breast cancer?

Cardi B on her unstoppable rise, repping gang life and the peril of butt injections

My favourite moment of our wedding

Do I need to start thinking about having kids?

Ready Player One is the roadmap to digital dystopia 

Mandy Patinkin & Katherine Grody on being madly in love for 40 years

Rose on how to be confident

Here’s to strong women: the end of the damsel in financial distress

From crystals to horoscopes: the rise of spirituality in a sceptical world

This is exactly how I asked for my first raise, and got it

I made this for brunch today and it was amazing

Everything Rachel Green wore that we would wear now

Leandra and Pandora discuss early motherhood 

20 quick dinners for people who hate cooking

Michelle’s Money Diary as a freelancer on a variable income

loved this piece: On loving Starbucks and losing a safe space

I’m tempted to make these for a Royal Wedding picnic next week: strawberry pie bars

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash