Browsing Category:



    July 2018 update

    july18 month

    I’m writing this well in retrospect of July, which now feels like an age ago, but looking back on my diary it was another busy month.  It started with a visit to the wonderful and inspirational Impact Hub for the revived Brum Zine Festival, which I’ve written all about here.  I returned back there a few weeks later for another great event with the authors of Slay In Your Lane.

    I also made it to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to see Dippy the Dinosaur, who was on a national tour from the National History Museum, the Real Bodies exhibition at the NEC from China, and a trip to the Charlecote Manor with my mum.

    Thinking back it has been a rather cultural month.


    What I’ve been watching…

    An interesting month cinema-wise: some a couple of classic films, some wonderful British films and some big blockbusters too…

    • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – Dinosaurs, more dinosaurs, genetically-modified dinosaur, more genetically-modified dinosaurs! I don’t know if it was that I just really needed the loo towards the end of this film but if felt a bit stale. The big bad of the first Jurassic World was a genetically modified dinosaur; genetically modifying an already genetically modified dinosaur for the second film felt repetitive. And it felt like the producers knew this so they threw in the whole weaponisation element and preachy humanity-will-end-itself angle, which all felt a bit stale and 90s, and not in a good way.
    • The First Purge – what I wanted the first of the Purge movies to be – horror with socio-political undertones. A bit disappointed in the first one, I’ve not bothered to watch the other Purge movies, but The First Purge lands a well-timed punch to the jaw at political decision-makers. I would’ve liked more of the political commentary, but placing the Purge as a tactic of the ruling right-wing political party New Founding Fathers attempts to ethnically and socially cleanse New York’s Staten Island is timely and makes it feel a bit different to a lot of the ultraviolence genre films of late. But still very much one for fans of the genre.
    • The More You Ignore Me – Based on a Jo Brand novel, it is a story set in the 1980s of a teenage girl, her mentally ill month (played by Sheridan Smith) and a love of Morrissey. With Mark Addy playing the kind of character stoic and affable father-figure you expect of him, Sally Phillips as the local GP who has fallen for the father despite treating the mother, Jo Brand as a former psychiatric nurse now shopkeeper and Sheila Hancock as gran it’s a bit of a who’s who of British screen – even Darren from Hollyoaks makes a cameo as a doctor at the local psychiatric facility. It is a charming film with plenty of warmth, which deals with a subject matter with typical British humour.
    • Hotel Artemis – a dystopian thriller, where criminals use a member’s-only hospital run by a nurse with a tragic past. On a riots night in LA, the hotel becomes full and a face from the nurse’s past appears.
    • Blue Brothers – screened as part of a surprise 50th birthday party for a friend and The Birmingham Breakfast Club blogger, Simon.
    • The Italian Job – finally got round to seeing this classic British film with a score by a live orchestra. Read more here.
    • Pin Cushion – another British film, this one tells the story of an eccentric mother and daughter who move to a new town and never really fit in.  It’s a tragic tale about the affects of bullying.
    • Halima’s Path – a grieving mother who loses her son in the Bosnian war must track down her estranged niece.
    • First Reformed – the pastor of a small church has a crisis of faith, and a chance meeting with a depressed environmental activist and his pregnant wife only confuse things.
    • Skyscraper – The Rock plays a security consultant whose in charge of a tower which is taken over by terrorists. Think Die Hard with less grit, but all the stunts you’d expect.
    • Incredibles 2 – everyone’s favourite superhero family are back, with Elastigirl the main focus. Fun, a little too long (aren’t most films these days) and enjoyable, but didn’t feel as strong as the first.

    I also made it to the theatre three times to see Super Hamlet 64 at the Old Joint Stock, The 39 Steps at Blue Orange Theatre and Madagascar the Musical at the New Alexandra Theatre.


    As a Brummie, these few lines in Holly Bourne’s book made me laugh aloud.

    What I’ve been reading…

    I started one book, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, but temporarily put it down to read How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne.  It’s the stroy of Tori Bailey, bestselling author of keep-it-real snarky self help manual might be flying off the shelves but her real life isn’t quite as perfect as it would seem. 

    I really enjoy Holly’s books, which are typically more Young Adult, but this first one for ‘grown ups’ which is more aimed at the twenty/thirty somethings and entirely relatable.  Lazy reviewers might see the front cover and label it chick-lit, but there are some darker undertones, highlighting similar issues to some of Holly’s books aimed at younger women.  I really enjoyed it as a read, a good reminder not to measure your life against other people’s, especially not their highlight reel against your real life. I hope Holly write some more books in this area.


    A Month in Review: June 2018 update

    Monthly look back

    Feels strange to think at the beginning of the month I was in Australia visiting my sister, snuggling my niece and getting Nick to explain Love Island to me.  Flying back is always hard because I never want to leave, and spending the best part of a day going through several timezones (Australia, Singapore, Dubai and UK) is tricky.

    But I landed back and then a few days later got to enjoy Lets Ride Birmingham, which closed off a few of the main roads around the city – and of course, I got to meet Sir Chris Hoy.  The rest of the month was taken up with work, theatre trips, the rescheduled Flight of the Conchords gig at the LG Arena, getting to check out the very posh Odeon Luxe and heading off to the BBC Good Food Show and Gardeners World.


    Looking back, it was a pretty busy month!

    What I’ve been watching…

    Lets start with films, because there’s a continuation of the film reviews I did for my friend Louise, noting all the films I watched on the mamouth trip back from Melbourne to Birmingham…

    Well this is off to a bad start – emirates haven’t updated the on-board computers and the films I intended to watch aren’t here. There’s also crying babies and we’ve been on the plane for 15mins. So I’ve resorted to Jumanji – if nostalgia and The Rock can’t fix this then the world is a darker place than I thought.

    • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – The Rock’s eyebrows should be given an Oscar. This is actually a pretty clever updating of the original concept where Jumanji morphs into a video-game and gives the players three lives and in-game cutaways. The acting is very good, Karen Gillan, The Rock and Jack Black in particular. It’s a film which low-key challenges a lot of stereotypes and doesn’t resort to cheap cliched jokes – it has a surprising amount of awareness. And one of of the Jonas brothers.

    None of the air stewards know anything about the June movies.

    • Finding Your Feet – some heartwarming British pick me up. Woman leaves her husband after discovering he’s having an affair and reconnects with her sister, and herself. You know what you’re getting with this one, it’s charming British comedy, heart-warming with a touch of reality in case you feared it was too sugary. Oh sod it, there were tears shed. There’s also a chase along a canal which is totally up my street.

    Turns out the plane should’ve been updated on the 1st…its now the 5th.

    • Virginia Casta (Colombian)- Spanish language film with the sort of slight magical realism they’re famous for. It’s loosely about life being made up of memories, it takes a snapshot of Virginia’s life at a time when things aren’t going so well; after being dumped by a total fuckboy she almost jumps off her building, becomes a minor local celebrity in the process. I’m not entirely sure what the plot is meant to be, and yet I enjoyed it…maybe because it made me feel less aimless!
    • Up – thought I should probably get round to watching this because apparently I haven’t had enough upset today. Old man tries to honour a promise to his departed wife and takes his house to Paradise Falls. I’m concerned at the impact all these helium balloons would have on the environment, especially given Kevin and her babies. A delightful gem, shouldn’t have left it so long.
    • Bittersweet Brew (Korean) – a guy who really likes coffee and wants to be a barista but his mum wants him to be a lawyer. He moves to his aunts at the seaside. There is a gay semi-vampiric police officer with a massive crush on him. The aunt had lung cancer and her son has learning disabilities (think Leo in Gilbert Grape), and a failing coffee shop. It’s kinda weird and yet I liked it.
    • Wonder – the story of Auggie, who has a significant facial deformity, and the people who orbit around him, as he starts school for the first time after being homeschooled. I adored the book and whilst this does a good job of staying faithful to the story it doesn’t quite have its spirit, but it does try.

    Return journey 2 – Success! They’ve updated the system and I think I should be able to get at least three of the four films I wanted to watch.

    • The Boy Downstairs – a charming indie-style romcom film about a girl who accidentally moved into the same building as her ex-boyfriend. Told by split narrative of past and present, it’s about second chances, and the uncertainty of being a young adult.
    • Thoroughbreds –  is it lazy to suggest this feels a bit like an American version of Heavenly Creatures meets Cruel Intentions? In so far as it’s about two friends with an unhealthy bond who are cold, calculating and emotionally void. They plot to kill the creepy stepdad of one of the girls, trying to rope in the local small-time drug dealer. Odd, very odd. Felt a bit slow but I think that’s because I want to be asleep.
    • Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool – an aging Oscar winning film star has a passionate love affair with a younger man. But all very late 1970s British. Slow paced, possibly a little too slow for a marathon plane journey, but emotional and nuanced. Jamie Bell should be a national treasure, why isn’t he in more things?
    • The Female Brain – I was going to watch something a bit more worthy but I couldn’t face it. I feel like I’ve seen this before, like really seen huge clips of this. But when?! I’m not sure how sound the science is (not to mention the whole sex vs gender) but it’s a nice easy to watch film.

    And then of course, I can’t forget the cinema.

    • Can You Dig This – uplifting documentary about urban gardening in south-central LA, and how it changed lives. More on the blog post
    • Hereditary – pretty meh about this.  A few genuinely scary moments, but all in all felt like two different types of film squished together
    • Adriftseen in the fancy Odeon Luxe. Based on the real-life story of a couple who attempt to sail a boat back to the US but get caught in a storm. Interesting, but felt quite typical of the genre
    • Love Soniaopened the Birmingham Indian Film Festival and was a really brave choice. A story about a young women who ends up in sex slavery after trying to find her sister. Sensitively shot but no less horrifying, it showed the worldwide problem of sex trafficking
    • Ocean’s 8made me want to strut out of the cinema, call my gals and plan a heist. Typical heist movie (because they all are), but with an all-girl team, no love interests and a lot of girl power. could’ve done without James Cordon though
    • Deadpool 2 – kinda felt like more of the same from the first Deadpool movie, which was fun but nothing particularly wow. Did like the introduction of Cable, and the end credit scene with Green Lantern
    • The Book Club – I was the only person in the cinema for this. Four terrific actresses in a pretty generic rom-com but for retired women rather than the usual twenty/thirty-something.
    • Cycleanother BIFF film, about a well-respected man in his community whose bike is stolen, and the way the thieves play off his good reputation to stay fed and watered. A darling film, but I still maintain a horror when your beloved bike is outside.

    Theatre wise it was a busy month with four theatre shows – Summer Holiday, Birdsong, Woyzeck and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.


    What I read…

    Another dismal month for reading, but at least I did finish one book – Nina is Not Okay by the comedian Shappi Khorsandi.  It’s a story about a teenage girl who develops a drinking problem, much like the one that killed her father.  After the break up of a relationship, Nina goes out drinking and have having one too many finds herself kicked out of a club with a man she hardly knows; next thing she’s in a taxi, clutching her knickers and not sure what’s happened.  This begins a spiral of alcohol abuse and sketchy situations with men, until one time she goes too far.

    Nina is Not Okay manages to tackle some pretty big issues  (alcoholism, parental bereavement, sexual abuse) all whilst creating a character who is unravelling on the page but somehow despite all of her issues with addiction and self-destruction, still likeable.  It’s not an easy read; it’s tougher than The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven but less bleak than Asking For It by Louise O’Neill, both of which also deal with sexual assault, teenage girls and partying.  But it’s a very well crafted book, I’m not sure enjoyable is quite the right word, but it was certainly a book I’d recommend.


    Halfway through 2018…

    How I am getting on with my 2018 challenges...

    I’m trying really hard not to say “how are we half way through the year already”, because it’s such a massive cliche.  But seriously, how are we?!

    As I mentioned in the first of these blog posts, I’m not overly keen on New Year’s Resolutions, but I do like to try and set myself fun challenges.  This year I went for a trinity of books, film and theatre, and this is the mid-way look at how I’m getting on.  In terms of the numbers, I’ve already completed one, am well on course to completely the other and failing miserably at the third.  But numbers rarely tell the whole story.

    I’ve really enjoyed how much having these challenges have kept the idea of going to the cinema or theatre more front of mind.  What this means is that if I’ve got some time free I’ll have a look at what’s on and see what my budget can afford.  It means I’ve seen some really interesting pieces of theatre around social issues, but also some things which are a bit more off the wall (I’m looking at you The String Quartest’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety).  I worried with taking up cycling that I’d lose my cinema days, but I’ve managed a few and now instead I cycle down and feel a bit less guilty at spending the day lounging around watching films when I’ve cycled a few miles to get there.

    50 films at the cinema

    I was well on track in the first quarter of the year, and was almost close to completing it by the halfway point, but after going on holiday for two weeks this would’ve meant cramming in a few films for the sake of it, rather than the enjoyment.  So I didn’t, but I am still at a respectable

    Second Quarter

    Ready Player One | Isle of Dogs | Midnight Sun | A Quiet Place | Ghost Stories | Love Simon | Funny Cow | Beast | Avengers Infinity War | The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society | Journeyman | Avengers Infinity War (IMAX) | Tully | You Can Dig This | Hereditary | Adrift | Love Sonia | Ocean’s 8 | Deadpool 2 | The Book Club | Cycle = 45

    Read 24 books in a year

    Looking very likely that I won’t get anywhere near this one.  With health struggles this year, I’ve really struggled to be able to focus on reading for any length of time, of even shorter bursts like on the bus (I’m usually having a nap instead).  I’ve been carting round Holly Bourne’s new book, an author I have enjoyed all of her previous work and have similarly for this one, but just struggling to maintain focus. Must try harder.

    Second Quarter

    The Exact Opposite of Okay | Nina Is Not Okay

    See 12 theatre shows – DONE

    I’d set this at twelve shows for the year thinking one a month was doable, but in the second quarter of the year I steamed ahead and managed to get to 17 shows.  I’ve got a few more lined up for the upcoming months, but rather than create a stretch target, I’m just going to keep trying to fit in shows when I can.

    Second Quarter

    Fat Friends | Police Cops From Outer Space | This House | Love From a Stranger | The String Quartest’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety | Legally Blonde | Summer Holiday | Birdsong | Woyzeck | Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

    Right then, onto the second half of the year…


    April update

    April update

    April has been a busy month, and looking back on it, it’s no wonder I’m feeling tired.  Work saw me go on day trips to Leicester and Coventry, as well as a three day trip to Lancaster (which I wrote about here) and I also spent the weekend visiting friends in Colchester. I really enjoy the act of travelling so I didn’t mind all the train journeys, but I need to spend some quality time at home spring cleaning before a trip to Australia next month to see my sister.

    Read more


    Quarterly update

    Quarterly Update 14

    I’m not really one for New Year’s Resolutions, there’s something a bit joyless about them – they always seem to be about berating yourself for not being good enough.  And I’m quite versed at doing that without having resolution hanging round like millstone round my neck.  But I do like the timeliness of setting myself a challenge that is smart – sensible, measurable, attainable, resourced and time-limited.

    This year I wanted to revive some of the challenges I’ve done before, like the book and film challenges, but add in another one for the theatre.  A few years ago I went to the theatre quite a bit, and I really enjoy it, but with everything going on it’s really easy to forget this.

    Read more


    Month in review – March 2018


    This month can mainly categorised by what my boss terms ‘floored by flu’.  I ended up off work for two weeks with the flu, which included the worst sinus pain I’ve ever had, double ear infections, sore throat and the inability to be more than four steps away from a kettle.  Whilst I’m over the worst of it, some of the symptoms are stubbornly sticking around and I’m trying not to push it too much.

    Read more