Sugar, We’re Going Down…

Sugar, We're Going Down banner

It’ll be no surprise to most, if not all, of those who know me –

I hate my body.

This will have a positive outcome I promise! Just keep reading…

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Trying to find a photo from my size 12 days that wasn’t blurry or weird was really hard… 

There’s a lot that frustrates me about my physique, which goes beyond not being as ‘skinny’ as I’d like to be. As you know, I used to play rugby. I was a healthy size 12, I trained three times a week, I ate what I liked, and I could run up my four flights of stairs without being out of breath.

None of those facts have been true for about eight years. I’m now a full hour glassed size 20, I go to the gym when I can but not as often as I should, I punish myself with my eating habits, and thanks to my recent cold I have to stop halfway up the stairs to catch my breath before carrying up the rest. 

Added to this: I’ve got polycystic ovarian syndrome.

It’s an interesting little dysfunction, my ovaries cling on to eggs to create cysts. I can’t have kids, and I gain weight like crazy. My size 12 to size 20 slide didn’t take the full eight years, it’s just taken me this long to admit it. I went from a size 12 to a size 16 in months, whilst at university, and everyone told me it was Fresher’s bloating. All the alcohol and cheap pasta. But then after uni, I kept ballooning. I went to see my doctor, and she reminded me that weight gain is a side effect of POS.

‘How can I stop the POS?’
‘By going on the pill.’
‘Can I go on the pill?’
‘I can’t put you on the pill until you lose some weight.’

You see my conundrum? A cruel Catch 22 of needing to lose weight and control my body so that I can lose weight and control my body.

There are other psychological factors for me hating my body but if you need to know those, my ‘Did I let anxiety win?’ blog covers most of them.

Here comes the positive bit –

My flatmate Lina and I are going to do a ‘No Sugar for September’ challenge. 30 days of zero refined or added sugar. I really struggle to diet, I get bored easily and the moment someone tells me I can’t have something then that’s all I want. But we’re hoping that by doing this together we’ll be able to cut out sugar for a month.

I don’t expect this to be easy, I’ve got the biggest sweet tooth ever! And sugar – as I discovered when shopping yesterday – is in EVERYTHING! But I’ve got the support of my flatmate and my family, and a game plan. I’ve found replacements for the sugary things I have daily, such as tea, breakfast and lunch. And sugarless alternatives to snacks and other things like that.

I’m not entirely sure what I hope to get out of this. I’ve spent a long term trying to train myself to like my body, even a little bit. But considering I’m the only person I allow to see it in the harsh light of day – maybe I need to stop fixating and starting ‘fixing’ the problems I think I have. And this can’t hurt, right?

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No, but seriously, why hasn’t vogue called yet? 

I’ll try to update the blog every day so you can see whether the alternatives are worth the money, how the lack of sugar impacts my mood, weight and mindset, and please – for me – treat yourself today. 

Just don’t tell me about it…

 

 

‘We don’t just tolerate dogs, we’re dog friendly’

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This is Zoe, and she hopes you’re having a good day. 

We have a new addition to the family. Zoe O’Donnell is a gorgeous springer spaniel puppy, and she’s the light of my life. Admittedly, she’s not my dog – but my brother and his girlfriend are proving to be great dog-parents.

They want to take her wherever they go but, unfortunately, that’s not always possible. Whilst there is a growing number of coffee shops and pubs that say, ‘dog friendly’, my brother is discovering this actually means ‘we’ll tolerate your dog, but…’

Which seems so strange to me. Is there anything better than being in a public place and seeing a dog? Really? Our pets are part of the family. They bond strangers, they’re excited to see you at the end of a long day.  They comfort us when we’re sad, they do that cute head-tilt thing when we talk to them, and if kicking you in the face to get more comfortable on the sofa isn’t love then I don’t want it!

 

Which is why I’ve got to tell you about this amazing wedding venue I’ve found. (Preface, this is not sponsored, I just really love this venue!)

I visited Bilsington Priory, (St Augustine’s Priory) to discuss potentially hosting a writing workshop at their gorgeous historical venue. I was greeted by a gorgeous pack of good boys and girls, who licked my hands, my ankles, and eventually fell asleep at my feet. Throwing back to a paragraph when I said there’s nothing better than spotting a dog in a public place well – a whole pack is the only thing.

Whilst enjoying tea with Libby and Zena, the team that run the beautiful estate, the door bell rang. A flurry of barks erupted, and I forgot for a moment that I was in a meeting trying to be professional. I got excited along with the dogs and when they were told to be quiet, I had to restrain a laugh. I loved it. I asked if people were allowed to bring their dogs to events, and Libby assured me that all dogs were welcome.

‘We don’t just tolerate dogs, we’re dog friendly. In fact, we’ve had a few brides walk their dogs down the aisle of the chapel.’

And she’s got the photos to prove it! In fact, because of the space and the facilities, dogs aren’t the only four legged friends welcome on your wedding day.

So next time you see a sign saying, ‘no dogs,’ don’t be disheartened. Because there’s a little spot in the middle of the countryside which would be perfect for your special day.

The Book Junkie Trials Readathon – Blackhearts.

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So, I’ve completed my first book for the readathon – and to be honest, I’m pretty proud of myself. I haven’t finished a book in two weeks since I was at school, and it’s nice to get that feeling of accomplishment even if the books was – and I’m being generous here – mediocre.

This will be an ‘uninterrupted’ book review, and will cover more than three chapters but first: a quick reminder of the prompt given and why I chose Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman.

“Dwarf Mount: You spot a fair tavern wench, however, the Dwarf Mines, grimey and dusty, didn’t evoke a very romantic feeling. Read a book with a hint of romance to get you in the mood.”

Blackhearts has been on my general TBR list for at least a year, and had lived in my Amazon wishlist for a year before that. It wasn’t a ‘recommended’ book, from either a friend or an algorithm, but the front cover intrigued me and the promises of passion and pirates ticked a lot of boxes.

On Three: Initial Response. 

The opening chapters delivered on the promises made by the blurb and the front cover. The audience is given two perspectives; Anne’s, who is a mixed-race maid, daughter to both a well-reputed merchant and a slave from the West Indies, and Teach, otherwise known as Edward ‘Teach’ Drummond, a ship’s captain and the son of the wealthiest merchant in Bristol.

We learn that Anne isn’t afraid to defend herself, after an altercation between the two main characters. Teach is immediately intrigued by Anne and there’s obvious sexual chemistry.

The one thing they have in common is that they’re prisoners of Teach’s father, the master of the house and cold fish. He’s not interested in his son’s passions for sailing, but wants him to be married to a Baron’s daughter as soon as possible so that the family can become titled.

The historical backdrop of Bristol in 1697 helps to cement the characters amongst brutal tradition and an inescapable destiny. We feel for Anne who is trapped, and hope that Teach might be the one to help her escape.

Upon finishing. *Spoilers ahead*.

Yeah. Hope springs eternal – I guess.

For the next twelve chapters, the characters are caught in a cyclical argument of

‘Just give me a chance.’ ‘No.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘You’re engaged, you’re a bad influence, your dad would be mad’.

All justifiable responses, but the narrative drags. Their actual ‘relationship’ lasts one chapter, before they’re torn apart through actions that are signposted to the point of being predictable earlier on in the story. A maid with a grudge finally gets Anne into a situation she can’t talk her way out of, and the only hint of Piracy is the threat hanging over Teach’s head after he’s accused. This also only lasts two chapters.

There’s no substance to this book. The conflict has no drive, and there are no real stakes. Anne becomes grating because she’s so determined to think one thing and then act another. And Teach’s behaviour is borderline problematic, but we’re supposed to forgive him because he’s in love with Anne.

TLDR:

I gave this book 2/5 stars on Goodreads, because it’s not awful. But it’s monotonous and I’m not running to the bookshop to buy the next in the series. Here’s hoping my next book for the readathon is better!

 

The Book Junkie Trial’s Readathon – The Reading List.

I’m taking part in a readathon.

Did I know readathon’s existed before last year? No. Was that because I didn’t watch enough Booktubers? Probably.

I’m 27 years old – and I’m not going to lie, I had to think about it for a second. Time was people would read a book, and then find a select group of friends you could talk about that book with. These people would be the bread and butter of your recommendations and book chat. Without them, your creativity might starve. Or you’d spend a lot of time at the library skimming through things you may or may not actually enjoy reading.

Then came the internet, and an inter-galaxy of opportunities to give your opinion and share reading experiences. And, unfortunately, until now I’ve not had the time to enjoy this outside of ‘reading for half an hour before going to bed.’ But since I’ve become self-employed and I’ve developed a Book Review Blog with my mum, I’ve made the time to read more. Which is why I’m taking part in a readathon.

Last year I set myself the goal of reading (and actually finishing) 12 books. One a month. Shouldn’t have been too difficult except it was. Whilst I was teaching, I couldn’t scrape five minutes for a smoothie let alone the hours it would take for me to enjoy 12 books. I’m by no means a ‘speed-reader’ and it blows my mind that there are wonderful people out there who ‘read the whole of the Harry Potter series in a weekend.’

Just know I’ve seen you. I respect you. I also kinda loathe you.

So I didn’t reach my target. Not even close. But it’s a new year, and I’ve got a new job that works to my own schedule. So I’m taking part in a readathon.

Scribes Map

Naomi (@TeatimewithNaomi) suggested The Book Junkie Trials, which was going to be a fantasy style readathon run by her majesty, Rachael Marie. It was the perfect choice. Her majesty organised a quiz to put you into a team, and I became a scribe. She created a map for each team and little additional ‘trials’ like sharing photos of your TBR and tweeting about your Daemon. Before the readathon had even started, I’d found a thousand new people to follow (only slight hyperbole) and all these like-minded, wonderful people wanted to talk to me about books! Dream accomplished. 

So I thought I’d post this before the readathon starts, because I’m going to be posting more blogs as I work through my reading list. Below is what I’ve chosen and why:

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The Prompts

1. Dwarf Mount: You spot a fair tavern wench, however, the Dwarf Mines, grimey and dusty, didn’t evoke a very romantic feeling. Read a book with a hint of romance to get you in the mood.

I chose Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman. It has been on my general TBR list for a while, and promises passion and pirates! Seemed like the perfect place to start.

2. Apothecary Towers: Where the wizards dwell. Tricksters. They have blind-folded you and randomised all your books, choose a book at random from your bookshelf.

Technically, I didn’t choose this, but Scarlet by Marissa Meyer was recommended to me by a friend after I threatened to give up on the series after thinking the first book, ‘Cinder’ was meh. Nothing wrong with Cinder, it just didn’t hold my interest as much as I wanted it to. And my two favourite characters died so it left me with very little root for. I’ve been promised book two in the series is worth going back for.

3. The Great Library: Ahh the great archives, find and read a book that has been on your TBR forever.

I bought Cruel Prince during the great hype of 2018. Which might not seem like forever ago, but we’re five months away from 2020. Just give yourself a minute to let that sink in. I avoided reading it because those who read and finished it before I could get my hands on a copy did not review it highly. So I kept putting it off and reading other things. So I guess it kinda counts.

4. The Drowning Deep: The Whirlpool… is so…. mesmerising. Read a book with rich world-building that will suck you into its own world, instead.

Because I’m a Scribe, the weakness attributed to me was ‘I spend too much time documenting my findings, so my challenges take longer. I must read a book over 500 pages.’ Turns out I’ve read quite a few books over 500 pages, but not within a month. I needed something with incredible world building and staying power. So I chose The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. Whilst I was on my MA course, I joined a creative writing group which focused on Fantasy called Moonrakers. So I got to spend a lot of time talking about fantasy with other fantasy nerds and just generally living my best life. Brandon Sanderson was quoted on a regular basis and even though I’ve read hundreds of fantasy books, I was promised by all that this was the author I needed to sink my teeth into. The hype is real, so I hope it delivers.

5. The Bookie Grail: Here you find a lost manuscript, delivered on this forgotten island by a fallen star. Read the group book: Stardust.

So, that’s my reading list. I’ve got 31 days to complete it. Wish me luck!

On 3… A Review of How to Stop Time.

The concept: 

If you read the previous ‘On 3…’ you can skip this bit.

You know that feeling when you’re half way through a book, and you’re already sick of it but you have to finish it? No? Oh… yeah… erm… me either… I guess. Well, I’m trying to break that habit – which I don’t have – with popular fiction books I’ve not read. Yet.

So I’m trying something different. When submitting to agents, you have to hook them with three chapters. So, I’m going to review the following novel on three chapters – and no more. These reviews are a teaser of what’s yet to come within the narrative, the questions the novel sets before the reader, and whether I would continue to read or not.

And – as so much of my life is – this review will be interrupted and ‘corrected’ by my mum.

How to Stop Time, Matt HaigImage result for how to stop time

Confession. I went into this book already obsessed with Matt Haig. I’ve read snippets of his writing before, I’ve followed him on Twitter, I narrowly missed the chance to see him read in Bath and all my friends from uni rate his writing. So – I went in with big expectations.

I was not disappointed.

Matt Haig creates a lovely balance between informative information about the scientific perspective and philosophies of the main character whilst also including a colloquial voice, charming personality and an overriding sense that the main character is empathetic and warm even whilst surrounded by others who are not.

Tom, the main character, doesn’t age the way a normal human would – but makes a point to explain he’s not a ‘sexy vampire’ either, which always needs clarification when discussing age-related superpowers. (Thanks Twilight.)

Mum: It’s an interesting concept of ageing slower than the average person, something we would all like to be able to do once we are into our 30’s, 40’s onwards. So much to do and so little time. Blink and you’ve missed your life! I’m interested in going on a journey with Tom.

And the opening few pages create potential conflict, asking tense questions about the world Tom lives in – never giving too much away but with a voice that seems transparent and authentic. Not the easiest thing in the world to do.

The final sentences of the opening chapter GUARANTEED I’d read this book until the end.

‘Anyone who does discover our secret, and believes it, tends to find their short lives are cut even shorter. So the danger isn’t just from ordinary humans. It’s also from within.’

Love. The. Drama.

Mum: I already don’t like Hendrich because he’s controlling and playing games but I’m intrigued to read further because I’m yet to understand what hold he has over Tom and why people need to die?

Oh Hendrich is the worst. For all of Tom’s empathy and warmth, Hendrich is cold, calculating and ‘lawful evil’ if I’m allowed to make a D&D reference in this review. I did genuinely laugh when I discovered a man who doesn’t age got Botox and a brow lift to ‘fit in’. People are strange. And Tom describes him best as

‘An incredibly ancient child’

Which is the greatest oxymoron I’ve ever read.

Matt Haig’s characters are so inherently human. Even in only a few short pages. Panic attacks and attention deficits. I don’t understand why he’s trapped. I don’t understand why he wants to go back to London. I don’t understand who ‘she’ is, and if she’s also an albatross. But I’m excited to find out.

Mum: It must be pretty good if Stephen Fry and Graham Norton have put their names on the cover. And did you know, ‘but nothing ever happens in heaven’ is from a Talking Heads song?

Heaven is a place where nothing happens

 

I just immediately thought of the Artworks piece down in the Folkestone Creative Quarter. So, definitely showing your age there.

Mum: Ha. Ha.

But it is cool that an idea or perspective can transcend time especially when the main character has nothing but time.

Well done Matt Haig, we can’t wait to see how it ends.

On 3… A Review of We Were Liars.

The concept: 

If you read the previous ‘On 3…’ you can skip this bit.

You know that feeling when you’re half way through a book, and you’re already sick of it but you have to finish it? No? Oh… yeah… erm… me either… I guess. Well, I’m trying to break that habit – which I don’t have – with popular fiction books I’ve not read. Yet.

So I’m trying something different. When submitting to agents, you have to hook them with three chapters. So, I’m going to review the following novel on three chapters – and no more. These reviews are a teaser of what’s yet to come within the narrative, the questions the novel sets before the reader, and whether I would continue to read or not.

And – as so much of my life is – this review will be interrupted and ‘corrected’ by my mum.

We Were Liars

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart

Can I just say, I love a map. And a family tree. During my time studying Historical Fiction at Bath Spa University for my MA, I was told that including a family tree or a timeline was a ‘bit of a cop out’ as the story should world-build around the time you’re including for your story. But that the opening page is a map of Beechwood Island, with the building names and families in residence, and then the second page is the Sinclair family tree suggests a uniformity and quintessential nature to the world I’m about to travel through.

Which, of course, is perfectly in sync with the jarring opening sentences.

‘Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family. No one is a criminal. No one is an addict. No one is a failure.’

Why does that strike me as insincere?

Cadence Sinclair Eastman sounds like every over-dramatic, hormone ridden student having a bad day. She’s full of existential crises and an overwhelming desire to both stand out and stay hidden. She’s condescending about her aunt’s ‘stay at home’ position, whilst calling her own mum ‘mummy’, seems overtly disgusted by money whilst spending it from a comfortable position of ‘not bothering to understand’ where the money comes from. I don’t like her. She’s too much a poet, and as a narrator – less than reliable.

Mum: ‘I’m so glad the first three chapters are no more than 3.5 pages. The short, staccato sentences were clearly meant to give impact and drama. I was just irritated by them. What utter drivel.’

I feel like it’s a stylistic choice to develop the character as opposed to just ‘for the drama,’ but I’ll echo my point from earlier that she seems over-dramatic and hormone ridden. As condescending as that might sound. A lot of literary writers at the moment are dropping the drawn-out complex sentences for short, brusque responses to the situation of the story and the character’s immediate thought. And We Were Liars is – in my opinion – literary fiction. The conflict so far has been internalised. Her father has left. Her family is a mess but won’t admit it. But, the ‘bullet’ – which I didn’t realise was a metaphor at first – is in her chest. Not out in open play.

And if you think I’m kidding about the metaphor – I genuinely read the sentence

‘And then he pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest’.

Twice with the response – Wait. What? Before realising she’d just had a break down at her dad driving away.

Mum: Oh. I read it three times and thought she’d actually been shot.

What? And then got up and gone shopping for furniture? With a chest wound?

Mum: That’s what she said. I was captured by the cover. I thought it was written for grown ups, a murder mystery and not a poetry-literary-teen-y bleurgh. It’s too deep.

And you say I’ve got a short attention span.

Mum: I just feel I was sold a pup. I thought it would be a grown up book for grown ups. But it was a sheep in wolf clothing.

Mum: The pretence to show the families as wealthy and clearly something to be proud of, or jealous depending on how you view Americans, was pathetic. It was like name dropping celebrities to gain kudos. Martha’s Vineyard, Ivy League colleges and famous cities were through out to prove a point, but instead made a pathetic attempt at a lazy list of places where the rich supposedly hang out.

They are obvious sign posts – but – signposting works. If I were to write a story about someone from Portsmouth University meeting someone from St Andrews – you’d immediately have expectations about both people just from the signposted uni alone. (To be clear, I don’t have a preference on either, but there’s a reason Kate Middleton met her prince charming at St Andrews and not Portsmouth.) And if this novel was marketed for teenagers (which makes sense because the character is 17, so her target audience would be 15-ish) then the signposts don’t need to be clever or intricate. They need to be clear. These people are clearly filthy rich.

Mum: I won’t be reading any further. Waste of space on the bookshelf.

I never thought I’d find myself defending We Were Liars. I guess a part of me remembers that it was one of my favourite students (I know it’s bad form to admit I had favourites but hey, what are you going to do?) that recommended the book to me in the first place. And whilst the language is both flowery and brief, over-emotional and stark, I do think there’s a place for it and I can see why so many young people enjoy it.

I am intrigued to find out what the ‘accident’ is because you don’t find out in the first three chapters. And I fully expect the family to unravel and reveal themselves to be less than worthy of the time the narrator spends thinking and talking about them. Maybe We Were Liars is worth the rest of my afternoon.

Only one way to find out.

On 3…Review of The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

The concept: 

You know that feeling when you’re half way through a book, and you’re already sick of it but you have to finish it? No? Oh… yeah… erm… me either… I guess. Well, I’m trying to break that habit – which I don’t have – with popular fiction books I’ve not read. Yet.

So I’m trying something different. When submitting to agents, you have to hook them with three chapters. So, I’m going to review the following novel on three chapters – and no more. These reviews are a teaser of what’s yet to come within the narrative, the questions the novel sets before the reader, and whether I would continue to read or not. 

And – as so much of my life is – this review will be interrupted and ‘corrected’ by my mum.

The Flatshare, Beth O’Leary.

The Flatshare
My promise to review this months ago…

 

The Flatshare has a really fresh premise for a love story. Two people, in the same space but never meeting. Communicating by little notes around their shared space. The blurb promised imprisoned brothers, obsessive ex-boyfriends and demanding clients. All tropes for a perfect storm of conflict, and because romance isn’t my go-to genre of favourite reading, this seemed like a new leaf for me and my reading habits.

Mum: “I like it. It’s definitely the sort of book I would take on holiday and will finish within the first few days sat by the pool. I didn’t read the blurb deliberately so that I wasn’t in a position to star second guessing how the story would go.”

But my cynical brain couldn’t turn off when I finally met the main characters.

Tiffany is an assistant editor who puts plants in the way of people she doesn’t want to talk to. She’s got polarised best friends who seem to have all met at university but never lived together; which I’ve got a lot of questions about, but I’ll get to that. She’s also got an ex-boyfriend, who has a sofa she’s been living on for the last few months. Which I’ve also got a lot of questions about, but I’ll get to that.

The other main character is Leon, a monosyllabic night nurse who speaks only to the reader through truncated sentences and with ‘need to know’ information. He has a girlfriend with suitable ‘antagonist’ appeal – but that’s all the information about Leon we get.

Mum: “I struggled with the change of style of writing to reflect Tiff and Leon. I can understand his sentence structure will not be as flowing and romantically created as Tiffs and is maybe trying to reflect the difference between a creative person and one in a medical/scientific environment but his early story was too staccato for me and I was glad to move back to Tiff.”

You’re wrong, mum, but okay. This was my first disappointment. Tiffany feels like a collection of so many romantic heroines that it was nice to have Leon’s thoughts to create some discord from the usual. But of the totalled eleven pages the first three chapters get, Leon only gets two. We get a physical description of Leon from Tiffany, who has the audacity to explain he’s not her type. Come on. We’re reading a Leon is a romance. You can’t pull the wool over my eyes that easily. But, if anything was going to make me read on, it’s Leon’s perspective.

But as we get more of Tiffany – I need to return to her story.

I mentioned questions I had about her living situation:

  1. Why did she and her boyfriend break up? She mentions that he ‘always comes back’ suggesting maybe he plays away or finds her lacking in some way.
    • Why do romances have to perpetuate the idea we have to stick around for someone who doesn’t appreciate us to ‘make it work’. You might love that person but love yourself enough to know this isn’t healthy. Please.

Mum: “She’s hanging on to her romantic past with a guy who has clearly moved on to his next conquest. She’s being used as a ‘fuck buddy.’”

Please. For the love of all we hold dear, never say Fuck Buddy again in my presence.

Mum: “But she is! He keeps coming back for more!”

I feel sick.

  1. Why does she think it’s okay to live on his sofa for months? Why is she surprised that after months he wants rent money? Why is she surprised that the new girlfriend isn’t happy with the arrangement?
    • If I was dating someone, and their ex was still living on their sofa – I’d be out of there. Ex’s can be friends but having someone that you were emotionally and physically intimate still in your space is baggage you’ve not dealt with yet. And I’m bringing my own pile of damage- I mean baggage for us to deal with. I don’t need hers. She’s got to go.

Mum: “I’m guessing the split was much more one sided. I’m not surprised her replacement wants her out of the flat.”

  1. What did Tiffany do that ‘disappointed’ Justin (the ex) so much that he wrote her a Facebook message doing a 180 on their creepy little arrangement? And why is that not what Tiffany focuses on, but the fact he says she’s ‘been taking advantage’ of him?
    • She may well have taken advantage. He may well be emotionally manipulating her, but we’re not given what the behaviour or thing was – so how can we fully back either character? It doesn’t feel like an ‘unreliable narrator’ or ‘untruthful narrator’. It just feels like she’s self-absorbed. Maybe she is.

And at the end of chapter 3, we learn Justin is engaged to this new girlfriend. Her friends think she’ll handle this so poorly that they get her drunk before telling her. Sounds like a healthy coping mechanism…

So, her friends:

  1. What degree did these people do? That you’ve got an assistant editor and a barrister and a scruff bag on the same course?
    • I’m assuming the same course because at no point have they lived together. And having been to Uni twice, I met people through three things. Course, societies and living situation. But these friends are so polarised – it doesn’t seem authentic. People don’t have to be dressed in opposites and act opposite to have differing opinions and behaviours.
    • Friends should have something in common, no? And you can’t tell me Tiffany is their link because they’ve started living together!

Mum: “I like Tiff and her friends. They are stereotypical of the friendships I like to follow. Friends I would like to have in my life although mine know better than to ply me with alcohol.”

Thank God.

Mum: “Her friends care. In a similar vein to Four Weddings and a Funeral kind of way. I feel like I know Tiff early on in the book and I like her.”

  1. How old are Gerty and Mo?
    • There’s a historical fiction concept called the ‘Tiffany Problem’ that suggests people have set ideas about history and anything that jars with that idea is questioned. So even though the name Tiffany is medieval, if you had King Henry VIII talking to a Tiffany – no one would believe it.
    • Equally – Gerty and Mo age these characters. Not only do they seem more emotionally mature than Tiffany (prepped to buy their own flat which is ‘eye wateringly expensive’, and don’t think the flat share is a good idea) their names make them sound like they should be in their forties.

Okay – I think I’ve really dug into the characters enough… Sorry O’Leary.

Dialogue though… that’s something I’m struggling with in this novel. I’ll give you an example:

‘We could have put you under the dining table if you were less than 5’9’ – Gerty about Tiffany.

Erm, what? I’ve never met anyone who drops descriptive exposition bombs like that in a conversation before. There are so many ways for someone to be shown as tall that this is just… weird.

Leon’s take on dialogue is interesting because it reads like a transcript of the events. But, as I’ve already said, there isn’t enough Leon to really create a contrast between characters. If I were to take all the dialogue from Tiffany’s chapters and get you to link them to people who say them, unless you know the book really well it would be difficult to separate them. They all get the Tiffany twang and idiosyncrasies given to them, which is understandable. I do a particular voice when I’m repeating dialogue from people I’ve spoken, but she’s rendering the dialogue as it happens so there should be some individuality that breaks through that. And yet it doesn’t.

So: how does the first three chapters leave me?

Do I care that Justin is engaged? Not especially. Good luck to him. Tiffany needs to grow up a bit.

Do I care that Leon is nervous about telling his girlfriend about the flatshare? Not really. It would be more interesting if she’d suggested it, thus creating the wedge between them whilst Leon kept working towards a strong relationship.

But it’s a romance isn’t it? The two main characters are going to get together. Was I tempted to read the last line and found out if I was right? Yeah, actually I was. Because even though I find Tiffany bizarre and unreliable, and the dialogue difficult to chew through, Leon has potential. And I’ve not got to the premise of them actually living together yet. I want to know how that pans out. How their behaviours fall into patterns and how they eventually meet in person. What does Justin do that makes him obsessive because I’ve not seen anything yet? And where’s the imprisoned brother?

Mum: “I’m looking forward to pinching this book to take on holiday so that I can finish it!”

Yeah. Well done O’Leary, we’d both read past three chapters.

 

If you think Fleabag is only for posh girls, you’ve misunderstood the situation.

This is in response to Ellen E. Jones’ article for The Guardian.

Posh, adjective. Meaning to do something in an ‘upper-class’ way, showing the qualities of elegance or smarts. Fleabag is none of these things. I’d end my argument here, but I’ve got a few more points to make.

With a private education, an ancestry in titled nobility, and the way she carries herself in interviews, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s echoes through each character she creates. But it would be naive of us as an audience to assume that every facet of her own personality is found in her characters, or that her characters are only representative of her characteristics. In simpler terms, do not confuse the creator for the character.

I attended a London university for my undergraduate degree, based in West London. So far west in fact it almost wasn’t London at all. Within that subsection of London, you have beautifully posh and expensive places such as Richmond. And right next door you have Hounslow. I’d been there less than a week when one of my classmates told me that Folkestone, my home town, must be ‘really posh’ because of the way I spoke. Over the years, Folkestone has done everything it can to be the artistic hub of the south east. But Folkestone is not posh. Folkestone, I pointed out to my classmates, had the highest rate of teenage pregnancy and chlamydia in Kent. The poshest of all sexually transmitted infections.

Fleabag is well spoken. That does not mean Fleabag is posh. Let me compare Fleabag with and without her family. In the very first episode she’s reading a newspaper alone on the bus. The series is set in London, so arguably this is a newspaper Fleabag found rather than purchased. But the headlines are very telling. They read, ‘Private School Head Assaults Pupil in Class’ ‘Has the word Feminism become dirty?’ ‘Bank Chiefs face House of Commons Enquiry’ – and in the corner there is an ad for a mortgage company with a fully naked girl, legs spread and pelvis up. Clearly this is a riff on other Heralds and their focus on the scandalous, but it’s all anti-establishment. Props help shape the world characters live in, and this seedy working-class newspaper is no different from the radiator headboard with clothes drying on it in Fleabag’s home, the fact she has an Argos clothing rail rather than a wardrobe, or the fact that Harry says he’s going to take ‘the posh shampoo’.

Compare this with her behaviour around her ‘uptight’, ‘beautiful’, ‘super rich’, ‘high powered’ sister whose ‘clothes look awesome on’.  She hides away from them, barricading herself behind smart remarks and jokes. She attends feminist lectures, awkward spa retreats and family dinners to make her family happy. Even the lighting betrays the pretence she puts on, so her family remain unaware to her unhappiness. When Fleabag is surrounded by her family it’s often soft, warm lighting whilst she stands in the darker, colder areas. When she’s on her own, it’s harsher. Often grey. She’s not putting on a pretence for the audience (which we greatly appreciate) so we see her in the raw colours of her life. When her heart is broken by her family’s betrayals, we, as an audience, might scream ‘relatable!’ but the truth is, we empathise. We understand and sympathise with her struggle. No matter our own background, we can recognise a spiral that hasn’t hit bottom yet. Her father’s house might be huge, but the flat Fleabag lives in isn’t. Her God-mother might be a high-end artist, but Fleabag is close to liquidising her business. The prestige of her family makes her grief more poignant, but it doesn’t make Fleabag posh.

Waller-Bridge has carefully constructed a barrier between her character Fleabag and the audience, a wall which only empathy can bring down. She breaks the fourth wall not to relate to us, but to invite us in on her perspective of all the events. Whether this is done through commentary, a sharp look, or finishing someone’s sentence for us.

We never hear Fleabag’s given name. Characters only speak to her directly or, in the case of her God-mother, a click of the fingers, and therefore we associate the name Fleabag and the connotations of that with the main character. Even Boo, who could be the originator of the nickname, only ever speaks to Fleabag directly. They share an improvised song about ‘lunch break abortions’ and being ‘modern women’, which is a far cry from the lifestyle ‘two degrees, a husband and a Burberry coat’ gives her sister.

Fleabag isn’t posh, though she’s surrounded by a world that is. A world that does not sympathise or empathise with her, so we as an audience must. If the story was just for posh girls, it wouldn’t be so heart breaking.

What was the last film you watched? – Victoria and Abdul

Victoria and Abdul PosterWay back when – when ‘drama’ wasn’t twitter beef or insta hashtags, but something people did for entertainment and to win a goat (actual facts, look it up), there were two main types.

Comedy

Tragedy.

Comedies would be filled with lots of little mishaps, but inevitably ended up with a cathartic happy ending.

Tragedies – didn’t. They would be filled with comedic elements, but make you cry your little eyes out. And the British – if I do say so myself – are really bloody good at comic tragedies. Victoria and Abdul is an example of this.

 

Here’s why: (PS. Spoilers)

The screenshot opens in Agra, our lead (played by Ali Fazal) begins his morning with prayer. The camera then follows him walk through Agra to where he works, following his feet with only a few shots of his face. We meet exactly one English soldier on his way to work, who is rude and obnoxious and calls Abdul Karim and ‘idiot’. Now, English comedy (at least from where I’m sat) has always played on how aware it is of the classic ‘Englishman’. Here we have a British film, showing the audience how ridiculous British-isms are. There’s no doubt the Englishman is rude, but Abdul carries on his way – showing that this behaviour is the norm, the English ruin everything (even a nice walk to work) and everyone else just ignores them.

This is then carried on for the next sixteen minutes, hammering home the idea that English traditions are completely underwhelming or simple-minded to those looking from the outside in. There’s a great juxtaposition between the two ‘Hindus’ as they keep being called. One is excited to be in England, one can’t wait to be home. This second character (played by Adeel Akhtar) even goes as far as to compare the English to ‘Barbarians’ because of what they put in sausages. The two Indian men are told their new costumes were designed to look ‘authentic’ even when Abdul points out they’re nothing like the traditional costumes. And they look so bored!

As course after course of food comes out, there are casual side glances, rolling eyes, stares, and sighs. All little details that show how disappointing the whole thing is. But what makes this absolutely genius is Queen Victoria (played by the true queen herself Judi Dench) is asleep. She’s awoken to receive a coin, makes eye contact Abdul and the opening titles (16 minutes in mind…) flash across the screen practically screaming – this is it. This is the relationship that could save her. If you’d like to know more about their true relationship, Vanity Fair has written an amazing article all about it.

The queen is, at this moment in her life anyway, bloody miserable. Her husband is dead, her lover is dead, her children are horrible and she’s sick of being bossed around. She’s clearly dying of boredom and because the English can’t help themselves, there are even jokes about her constipation. But here is this person, a complete contrast to everyone she knows. He’s excited to talk about carpets, to teach her his language, to talk about what being a Muslim is like and she’s revived by his enthusiasm. She encourages him to bring his wife to England, and unlike everyone else, isn’t terrified of this woman whose face is covered up or different. It’s exciting. And it’s lovely to watch.

Image result for opening scenes of Abdul and VictoriaWhich means the moments of contrast are stark and terrifying.

Servants shutting doors in Abdul’s face, being put in cold and isolating dorms, but most importantly – the constant backstabbing.

Bertie, Prince of Wales (played by Eddie Izzard) is a nasty, scheming little man who begins with the household – who already are at odds with Abdul – and then with Abdul’s friend Muhammed.

This is where Muhammed becomes my favourite character. His speech to the Prince is 10/10. He refuses to sell out his friend, well aware that he is dying because of the awful English weather. He’s proud of his friend for playing the game so well, and when he dies (I did warn about spoilers) the English are there to ruin it again.

Because everyone is so focused on making sure the queen is okay, his death passes with only two moments of note. The first is when Abdul’s serving boy runs up to Abdul to tell him about Muhammed, and the next moment is his funeral. I was seconds away from tears.

Abdul is then alone – as his wife and mother-in-law get 0 lines – with only the queen to protect him. The court are on his back constantly, looking for any reason to have him removed. And once the queen dies, he’s sent back to India and all of the letters and journals they shared together where destroyed. Now I’m for real crying. Damn you. Damn you cinema!

The film comes full circle, with Abdul waking up in Agra, and then walking through the streets. He returns to the Taj Mahal gardens, where a large statue of Queen Victoria has been put up and he keeps his promise to stay by her side. And isn’t that bloody lovely/heartbreaking.

I spent a lot of time talking about the money with Big Hero 6 – because I wanted to make a point that whilst I didn’t like it, clearly others must because it rolled in the dollar as it were. Victoria and Abdul have done pretty well, grossing $61,000,000 worldwide so far. I, personally, think it’s worth all of the awards. And has redeemed Stephen Frears after Tamara Drewe for me.

Let me know in the comments below if you agree or disagree or if you want to share your opinion. See you tomorrow!

Who are your favourites on Youtube?

Below are all the Youtuber’s which aren’t just my favourites – but I 100% recommend and why. So, in no particular order…

ListiclesWhat Culture 

Matt Holmes began What Culture as a direct response to Superman Lives being terrible in 2006. Since then, their web content has ballooned into covering Films, Television, Sports, Gaming, Comics, Science and more. They welcome new content from smaller names, paying per article and the team behind the youtube content know exactly how to keep you interested in films you thought you’d heard everything about already. They review, critique and list quirks about films into nice little bites of awesome perfect for those ‘in-between’ moments like bus-rides and toilet breaks. 10/10 would recommend.

Community Queen USAMeghan Tonjes

This Goddess is the epitome of the Hussle Hard. She’s founded body positive collaborations, appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show, featured as Catherine The Great in an Epic Rap Battle (nominated for 2016 Streamy Award), has the voice of an angel, the wisdom to recognise trash and the compassion to explain why it’s trash eloquently. And who can forget #bootyrevolution? She knows what she’s about, encourages confidence, and makes me want to be a better human being. So yes. Flame Emoji. Heart Eyes Emoji.

Community Queen UKLex Croucher 

This wonderful human being always seems to predict exactly the content I was waiting for; whether it’s a rationalized and eloquent opinion on the politicised advertisements from Lush, Feminism, Sexy Darth Vader or discharge. She’s one of the few youtubers that I’ve seen encouraging her ‘community’ to engage by engaging with them via twitter on a regular basis – rather than just posting and not responding. She’s the most humane human being on the entire site. #Queen.

NewsPhil Defranco

If you’re ever feeling lost or exhausted by the constant barrage of anti-Muslim media, or Fox and Friends pretending the world isn’t fucking bleak – turn to the Defranco show. Before the PDS, there was SXEPhil. An opinionated hot-headed Italian boy with backward facing caps, too many volatile reactions, and clickbait titles. But over the last ten years or so, Phil’s let people into his world via the vlogs and BTS videos and become one of the few places I go for my news without worrying about ‘fake news’ or biased media. His opinions are still part of what makes his narration of events interesting, but the teenage angst has become something productive and considerate. And the team that works with him are second to none. I hope one day I can buy them all a drink to thank them for their service to the industry (as ick as I’ve made that sound).

“News, it’s what we do here.”

ComedyMike Falzone

I was (metaphorically) introduced to Mike Falzone through his time on SourceFed. He’d had a career as a muscian and youtuber previous, but he was coming into his comedy and stand up career which has since exploded. I’m just waiting for him to come to the UK so I can see him live. That’s the dream. He’s got a show called Mike in the Morning which is a parody of all those boring AF morning and daytime shows – which includes such elements as ‘Reading Tweets from Far Away’ and ‘Bad Furniture’. I’ve contributed to the latter with a gross sink I found on the road with a leaf in it. Mike responded by calling it ‘lovely’. Which made my day.

Video EssaysLindsay Ellis 

So, it’s no secret amongst my friends that I’m obsessed with video essays – and I blame Lindsay Ellis and her ‘Nostalgia Chic’ for getting me hooked in the first place. If you’re not sure if video essays are going to be your thing, have a flick through her content. I’d put money on you finding something worth your time. Nazi imagery in Star Wars maybe? Or the gender battles of Transformers? What about how Rent is the worst musical? Or the history of the Hunchback of Notredam? She’s got something for everyone, I promise.

So who are your faves? Leave me a comment below with any recommendations you’ve got!