5 Things to Be Grateful For

Thursday 19 September 2019

  • My ma
  • Chocolate Fingers
  • Being in bed by 9
  • Hercule Poirot
  • Glynn Bass’ bottom

I thought I’d keep my gratitude momentum going by updating my list regularly and pinning it here. Fuck trying to think of ten, I’ll start light with a solid top five.

What are you grateful for?

Life Update: September Edition

I thought I’d free flow a life update because I don’t really do that enough – and even though I often struggle to think about anything interesting I’ve been doing, that’s not really the point. We’re being real here and have to learn to take the mundane with the exciting.

So… how the fucking fuck is it already not just September but MID September? This year has flown by. I mean, I’m not too mad when Autumn is unfolding before me and The Best Month Ever™ is just round the corner but you know what I mean. Where does the time go, etc., etc. It is actually frightening how quickly the days slip through our fingers but then again what isn’t terrifying at the moment? October may celebrate the spookiest holiday but we’ve got a Brexit deadline looming and I can’t deny I’d rather take on Fred Krueger than leave the EU. At least Freddy doesn’t extend his intention to slash you in your dreams for months on end. At least Freddy isn’t a twisted Tory politician.

I didn’t come here to talk shakily about politics though, don’t worry. I’m merely saying that there’s discourse in the air and no amount of burying my head in the sand is going to change it – I’m scared and we’re fucked. But being fucked can bring positivity – it means we focus on the things that really matter such as loved ones and down time – and new shampoo. I’ve just bought a new one from Herbal Essences which is made with bourbon and Manuka honey. How lush does that sound? I can’t wait to soak it into my frizzy head tonight.

I’m currently reading Agatha Christie to usher in the colder nights and it’s the perfect combo – the deep conditioner, the book and the hot bath. These are the simple things that bring me joy and make me feel grateful I have the basic things we need to live. These are the photogenic self-care acts that we all talk about on social media. These are the things that help but aren’t the ultimate cure because we all need more than expensive bubble bath and crime novels. We need love and understanding and space and time – but it’s a start.

I’ve dragged myself over the coals quite a lot already this month. I’ve as usual taken on too much and failed at everything (in my head) so I’ve had to really assess my extra-curricular activities and chop a few things for a while. The podcast for example is now on hold until the New Year – after which we might bring in back in a different guise. I’m sad not to be doing it right now but I’m also excited for the future. The Wicca is my main focus at the moment. I’m really enjoying reading and getting into it – no spells yet but I’m desperate to get cracking on them. The diploma is going well and so far I am at 100% grade. Again, I know the real learning is off book and in the real world – and that the rest of my life can be dedicated to honing my skills and living my best witch life.

In the New Year I am also going to start looking for something new to do for a living. I have loved my current job and get to work with a plethora of incredible people but I’ve just celebrated my second year and I’m starting to feel uninspired. All in all things are okay and when they’re not I have an idea of how to make them better. I can’t complain, I have everything I need.

How are you?

Our Stop

What if you almost missed the love of your life?

Romantic books aren’t really my go to but I should probably give them more of a chance if Our Stop is anything to go by.

Nadia is a bright, dazzling woman who just can’t seem to get herself together in the morning, vowing every week to start afresh (How hard do we all feel that?). One Monday on the 7.30 from Angel, ragged but on time, Nadia’s BFF texts a copy of the paper’s Missed Connections page which seemingly has a message in it – meant for her:

To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime?

Is she the cute girl? And if so, then who is the guy?

The guy as it happens is sensitive (and fit) Daniel, whose dad has just died. Daniel finds himself seeking comfort in the idea of Nadia and, at the suggestion of his flatmate, decides one day to do something about it. So begins a back and forth of epic proportion as the pair communicate via Missed Connections.

But when they try to meet IRL, they seem to keep missing each other. Is it really meant to be after all? Well, you’ll have to read to find out but… I think you have an inkling.

Our Stop really is delightful. Sure, it’s corny but as Iris is The Holiday says, and I often quote:

I like corny. I’m looking for corny in my life.

The central characters are likeable and I’ve a lot of time for the detail and ‘padding’ out that Williams’ has done with the supporting acts. I’ve a real soft spot for Daniel’s recently widowed mother, who has a meltdown over a stolen Henry the hoover – and Daniel’s new best friend, security guard Romeo. In addition to the will-they-won’t-they, we examine grief, the idea that we’re not grown up enough, new same-sex love, consent and toxic masculinity. You can tell it’s written by an intelligent and socially engaged author – and in places I really recognised her writing style from the posts I enjoy on Instagram.

There a couple of sections that stand out to me – Daniel comforting his mum when the hoover disappears (though we all know it’s not about the hoover), a chat about grief between two dudes at a Romeo & Juliet Secret Cinema event – Nadia educating Eddie on the brilliance of Nora Efron.

There’s a lot to like here and it’s a lovely Saturday afternoon, back in bed read.
Sure, as with most romance you have to suspend a little disbelief but isn’t that the point? Sometimes you have to be open to the idea of hope and that is what this is. Open your heart, put yourself out there and great things can happen.

I’m very much looking forward to the next novel from the same author.

Book details:

Our Stop
Publisher: Avon (8 Aug. 2019)
ISBN-10: 0008320527
ISBN-13: 978-0008320522
Bought new paperback for myself

What are you reading?

Girls with Balls

This week’s film proves the real monsters are teenage girls. Am I right?

Girls with Balls

All girls volley ball team The Falcons end up stranded in the middle of nowhere after their mini-van breaks down. Little do they know they landed in degenerate hunters’ territory…

*Spoilers*

My Review

The Falcons have just won an important game and are on their way home when their tour camper breaks down. A little background first, if you will. The team includes; super bitch Morgane (Manon Azem), bossy team captain Hazuki (Anne-Solenne Hatte) and soon to be playing for the nationals Jeanne (Tiphaine Daviot). They are rag tag bunch of players who don’t always get along and in fact are rowing viciously when the camper van takes a funny turn.

Morgane more than anything is disgruntled that Jeanne has been approached by a scout at the game and could potentially be moving onto bigger and better things. Jeanne has also just gone public with her new man, who may or may not be a total skeese but more on that later.

Morgane is seriously gorgeous but has a heart of black tar and relentlessly bullies team underdog M.A. (Louise Blachère). Along for the ride are adorable lesbians Tatiana (Margot Dufrene) and Dany (Verissimo-Petit), mascot Lise (Camille Razat) and Coach (Canet) who frankly, is sick of the girls’ shit.

The team pop into a local pub when they find themselves lost in the wilderness and they soon learn the locals are not particularly warm and fuzzy. In fact they are more than a little off and the pub landlord runs foul of Tatiana’s fist when he gets too close to her woman. Morgane also assaults a boy who grabs her in the middle of an impromptu table dance. Needless to say the gang are keen to get out of dodge as quickly as possible.

Being lost is a bit of a problem but they hole up in the camper for the night, determined to reach home in the morning. Which is all kinds of lovely, isn’t it? Until their friends from the pub turn up with weapons and declare hunting season. Alas the girls (and Coach) have landed smack bang in the middle of a twisted hunting ground and they’ve got no choice now but to fight to the death.

Are they the team they purport to be? Here’s hoping because they’re going to need to rely on each other if they’re going to survive…

One by one the team bite the bullet but it’s not always at the hands of the hunters, is it Miss Mordane? Our queen bitch isn’t adverse to slicing and dicing her pals when the mood takes her and in the kerfuffle, it’s very easy to cover it up. When she kills Lise though, it’s one step too far. Meanwhile, Lise has admitted to Jeanne that she’s slept with her boyfriend – and downtrodden M.A. decides to step up and be the badass she was always meant to be.

Who will be left standing?

My Comments

Hmm. This should have been way better than it was but it isn’t a complete write-off. It plays with very real emotions such as jealousy and insecurity, while examining the concept of true team spirit. The girls have all got it but one, and are only as strong as their weakest link, no prizes for guessing who that might be. It’s bitchy fun and satisfying when the women start to fight back – and more so when real allegiances are formed, new ones beyond their roles in the team.

I bloody love M.A. who is personally victimised by Regina George Morgane in the meanest ways. Constantly ridiculed for being the fat and unappealing one, she finally snaps and begins retaliating, even before the hunters arrive.

I must admit to zoning out a little bit before the end so didn’t really get why the hunters captured the girls but there seems to be some sort of ritual at play. The men are not portrayed in the best way, playing stereotypical country bumpkin types that are most definitely inbred but who cares, when there are a satisfying number of final girls and Morgane gets her comeuppance?

Jeanne also pays a visit to her proven to be cheating new beau and he’s gonna wish he’d never been born.

Film details:

Starring: Guillaume Canet, Dany Verissimo-Petit, Denis Lavant
Director: Olivier Afonso
Year: 2018
IMDB Rating: 3.8/10
My Rating: 3/5

What does my champion think of GWB? Would she give it a bump up to score the winning goal or leave it to rot in the woods? Find out here.

It Chapter Two

Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) is back to terrorize Derry and there’s only one thing for our gang to do – come back and kill the fucking clown. A promise is a promise after all…

It Chapter Two

Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back.

You’ll Float Again

*Spoilers*

My Review

27 years after the events of the first film, we catch up with Bev, Stanley, Richie, Bill, Ben, Mike and Eddie as full grown adults, all doing their own thing outside Derry. Well, all but Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) who stayed to keep an eye on the small town and the unspeakable evil that lurks beneath it. When it becomes apparent that It – despite their victory against it last time – has not disappeared forever as they’d hoped, Mike is forced to call The Losers back together for a new fight.

None of the gang remember much except Mike, something has happened to their memories of the town they grew up in and the childhoods they knew. Most of all their summer of friendship is a blur. As they settle back into their roles within the group, these memories start to come back – and it’s not all roses. Mike must convince them to keep their vow to do what it takes to defeat It once and for all.

Unfortunately Stanley (Andy Bean) can’t join his friends – and in addition to the killer clown, the relentless pest Pennywise – the Losers also have to contend with their old bully Henry Bowers (Teach Grant), who’s just escaped the mental institution that has held him since he brutally murdered his own father. Can our pals evade a stab-happy Bowers, clear their minds and beat the shit out of the third creepiest clown in cinematic history before going back to their respective lives?

My Comments

I can’t go too far into the play by play, there’s just too much ground to cover. It is an epic story and it spans a lot of time. At 2 hours 49 it’s a beast of a movie and I loved it. I’ve seen in twice now and it’s full of all the wonder and magic and terror and nostalgia I needed. The film is imperfect and not all of it works but I’m delighted with the adaptation of a book that means a lot to me and I have no doubt that will grow with every viewing.

The effects are amazing if a little much in some places – looking at you naked hag – and the casting of the adult versions of the Losers is spot on. Particularly Eddie (James Ransone) and Richie (Hader) who steal the show with their chemistry (much as they did as kids). James McAvoy is obviously very easy on the eye and brings a solidity to Bill Denbrough, the unofficial leader of the gang. And Uncle Stephen‘s cameo was brilliant too.

Main man Bill Skarsgård nails PW perfectly. He’s really grown into the role – I particularly enjoyed the scene in which he manipulates a little girl by way of her physical insecurities (and then eats her). The scene in which the gang come together for the first time in a Chinese restaurant is also glorious – and hideous, in equal measure. I love how the film flashes between past and present day, perfectly morphing the adults back into children, pulling at our heartstrings as it goes. I can’t look at baby Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor) without wanting to smoosh the shit out of him, he’s so vulnerable and precious.

“Your hair is winter fire
January embers
My heart burns there, too.”

I have beef too – mainly the way they used Bowers and his crew. In the book the human terror was just as prolific as the supernatural and Henry posed a massive threat to the gang. In Chapter Two he’s reduced to a secondary character and framed as the light comedy relief which is just wrong. His story line never really goes anywhere. Likewise, Bill’s wife Audra and Beverly’s husband are underused and the emphasis on Bev’s lifelong cycle of abuse is not very clear. I think it’s a key element of who she is and how she defeats her demons. As a result adult Bev isn’t very well-developed and Chastain is quite overshadowed by her adolescent counterpart.

It needs to mentioned that the movie opens with a horrendous homophobic attack. It is obviously incredibly difficult to watch – but I’m glad they didn’t shy away from including it in the film. It goes some way towards making the point that Derry is bad because of an inherent evil that dwells there (or are people just bad?). The image of Pennywise putting out a hand to help a drowning man is chilling to the core and the scene looks exactly as I imagined it in my mind.

There’s a lot of fat phobia – Eddie’s ma in particular is not treated very respectfully, while Ben was only hot once he got skinny and did some crunches (true the source material) but how good would it be for the fat dude to get the girl, no questions asked?

It is a mammoth book and it would be very hard to cover everything across two films, so I shouldn’t be too sore about the missed bits. I’m still delighted with what I got and I’m sad it’s over. It may be about fear and the birth of evil but it’s also the perfect ode of the kind of friendship you’ll always hold near, even if you lose touch. I cried my eyes out as the credits rolled (both times).

Now, what I wouldn’t give for a Pennywise backstory spin off!

Film details:

Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader
Director: Andy Muschietti
Year: 2019
IMDB Rating: 7/10
My Rating: 5/5

What are you watching? Have you seen It? What did you think?

One Reason Why

TW: Suicide

“Did you really want to die?”
“No one commits suicide because they want to die.”
“Then why do they do it?”
“Because they want to stop the pain.”
~ Tiffanie DeBartolo, How to Kill a Rock Star

Yesterday was Suicide Prevention Day and I wanted to put something down as this is a topic after my own heart. There are many shocking stats about suicide in the UK that you can read about here, I won’t add to that myself. I just wanted to acknowledge this day and maybe share a little.

I learned a bit about suicide this year during my Mental Health First Aid Training. The course was given by a suicide survivor, an incredibly vibrant man who couldn’t have been more candid about his experiences. He spoke openly (and sometimes with genuine humour) about why he’d wanted to take his own life, what might have stopped him and his thoughts on it now – and it was fascinating. Surprising too, when you consider how outgoing and seemingly bright he is. This just goes to show that it isn’t always obvious what people are going through, or the kinds of people who are affected by suicidal thoughts.

Of the people on that course, there were at least a handful that had first or second-hand experience of suicide – and all their stories were heart-breaking and very raw. Honestly, I don’t think I had any idea of what something like that can leave in its wake and the repercussions seem endless. My eyes were opened by that course and I feel as though maybe I worry more about people I care about now. I’m hyper conscious of friends who seem down but sometimes I’m clumsy about how I go about making sure they’re okay. The right words don’t always come easy because it’s a massive thing to talk about – but I think it’s fine just to ask someone if they need anything.

Way back during my darkest period this was definitely something I considered. If I’m honest there just didn’t seem to be a reasonable way out. I didn’t believe I could just say ‘enough’ and be allowed to leave our home. In the end it turned out to be quite easy but I’d been beaten down so much mentally that I hit a wall and for a long time I felt dead already. I just wanted it to be over, once and for all.

In the end it was friendship that saved me. I met a group of people who wanted me to be okay and they’d make sure I was, daily. I found a tiny sliver of hope and that was enough to acknowledge that I wasn’t going to sacrifice my life to fear. I’m lucky and although I still have dark thoughts, I know what I need to do if it feels like too much.

Suicide has always been stigmatized. I no longer think a person is selfish or cowardly if they take their own life. I just think it’s sad and I wish that they could have found another way. It’s not for me to judge but I do want to be there for my loved ones or anyone who feels they need help. We can all be kinder and more observant, it doesn’t take much . We need to check in with our friends, family and colleagues.

And if you’re going through Hell, there are ways to help yourself. The Samaritans for one are an amazing organisation and they’re there 24/7, 365. Most workplaces have an Employee Assistance Programme or can offer you additional help too. It can be hard to ask for help, I completely get that but I hope you find a way to. It can change everything.

Samaritans

Web: https://www.samaritans.org/
Call: 116 123 (free)
Email: jo@samaritans.org
Or drop into your local branch

Résumé
Razors pain you,
Rivers are damp,
Acids stain you,
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful,
Nooses give,
Gas smells awful.
You might as well live.”
~ Dorothy Parker, Enough Rope

How are you?

The Corset

I thoroughly enjoyed Purcell’s The Silent Companions and found it satisfyingly creepy, perfect for this time of year. So when The Corset came out in paperback I grabbed it quickly and couldn’t wait to dive in.

To a certain extent it’s as good as TSC but it isn’t without its issues and that main issue for me is the ending. Before I go into that though, a bit about the story. I think the premise itself is brilliant and quite unique.

There have been a few stories in the past about haunted clothing (not that I can name any of them beyond In Fabric, which hasn’t even had the decency to have a proper release yet) but the concept of vindictive embroidery really appeals to me. Imagine putting all your rage and hatred into your work and seeing very tangible results. It’s pure witchcraft and as you know, I’m all about the witch these days, even if it is dark magic.

That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it in my fiction though and I really love the character of Ruth, a young girl sentenced to death for the murder of her mistress. When high society do-gooder Dorothea Truelove takes it upon herself to start visiting Ruth is gaol while she awaits her trial, the whole story of how she came to be a murderess unravels – but is she really as bad as she believes or is she a victim herself?

Dorothea meanwhile has her own agenda, namely the study of phrenology and she really wants to get her hands on Ruth’s skull. She’s also being pressured by her ol’ dad to marry since she’s just turned five and twenty – and should probably get her skates on. Little does he know that she’s in love with a common or garden bobby!

Anyway, we’re here for the darkness, aren’t we? As Ruth embroiders a macabre picture for us we get plenty of that. Bullied and poor, things take a terrible turn when her beloved mother falls pregnant. Ruth is forced to leave school to help her seamstress mum with her workload, particularly a large order for a local dressmaker. When the baby arrives everything changes and Ruth realises she may have a secret power. Does she though or is she simply mad, after years of abuse?

Well, via flashback Ruth fills us in on her sewing skills and the horrible lifestyle to which she quickly becomes accustomed. As the terror grows so does her bitterness and rage – and all that has to go somewhere. I won’t go into it too much but it is a satisfying read.

Alongside Ruth’s woes we have the slightly less dramatic issues of Dorothea, whose beauty and class make her seem much less of a victim – but there’s something going on beneath the pristine surface – and maybe she and Ruth aren’t that different after all.

I really enjoyed myself but I did find the climax a little clumsy. It’s not that I didn’t understand it, it’s more that it wasn’t ironed out in quite the same way as the rest of the book and felt rushed. It’s an interesting ending and a good one but it comes at you fast – and it took the book from a solid five to a four in my eyes. Nevertheless, I’m excited for Bone China and I love Purcell’s Gothic hand.

Book details: The Corset
Publisher: Raven Books (2 May 2019)
ISBN-10: 1408889528
ISBN-13: 978-1408889527
Bought new paperback for myself

What are you reading?