Beginners (Film) Review

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Jill picked another Ewan McGregor movie for this week (with a fair amount of encouragement from me), so sue us.

We decided he was infinitely more appealing than Pinhead right now (and honestly, unless we go back to #3 in the series, I’m pretty sure the PH we know and love has been replaced by another actor and I don’t know how I feel about that).

So, Ewan. Here we are again, Sir and might I respectfully say to the room, this is a phase of McGregor I really enjoy. Stripey sweaters, older, slightly more debonair McGregor. Hummina.

Also, no swinging appendage this time which is bittersweet I suppose – like, this is a film that doesn’t need dick to give it worth, yet I kind of like seeing it in all it’s familiarity, you know?

*Spoilers*! As well as added asides from me (in (brackets) AND italics to show the seriousness of the situation).

Beginners (2010)

Director: Mike Mills
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent, Goran Visnjic

IMDB Synopsis: A young man is rocked by two announcements from his elderly father: that he has terminal cancer, and that he has a young male lover.

My Review:

This film is an introspective meander through the recent and historic pasts of an emotionally distant father and son, as well as a glimpse into a future so far unmapped for our boy, Oliver (McG).

(This film is so sad I blubbed throughout, maybe because Christopher Plummer looks so much like my grandfather did. Sadly, our own Grampy never did come out towards the end or experience the joy of real love before he left us (that we know of anyway)).

Oliver is coming to terms with the passing of his absent for the majority of his childhood father, Hal. We flit back and forth on Hal and Oliver’s timelines so we meet Hal after he’s come out at the age of 75, following the passing of his wife Georgia (Mary Page Keller). He has a boyfriend called Andy and doesn’t insist on monogamy. He has a little dog called Arthur and likes parties. He’s also been diagnosed with cancer and things, frankly aren’t looking great.

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An emoji or two wouldn’t have killed ya

In the present, Hal has passed on and Oliver has taken ownership of Arthur, who has separation anxiety. One evening Oliver goes to a house party with his friends (and Arthur), and meets the charming Anna. They share an adorable meet cute and the spark ignites.

(Mélanie Laurent makes me want to be so French it hurts. Everything about her seems so effortless and I’m in love with her.)

Oliver is sad though, mourning a father he only really got to know in the latter part of his life, sometimes with a side of TMI. There is real love between them but Oliver has trouble with his own relationships having witnessed the problems in his parents’ marriage (several decades of living a lie can do that to a couple). He’s scared shitless and seems aimless in other areas, though he’s trying to find his groove creatively.

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“Have you read this one? It’s called Marley & Me…”

Oliver is an illustrator with a unique style which he’s trying to evolve beyond album covers for obscure brands. He creates a series of drawings called The History of Sadness, to give you an idea of where his head’s at but it’s rejected by the band he’s done it for because he’s too much of a damn maverick and they don’t get it.

(I get it Oliver! HOLD ME!)

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The Sads

Meanwhile, back in the past, Hal is finally truly happy and loving his New Gay Life, spearheading gay political letter writing groups, gay film clubs, the gay pride committee. He’s a big hit in the gay community but he’s also in denial as his illness gets worse, telling his friends he’s turned a corner health wise.

Oliver and Anna are slowly getting to know one another in 2003, though she’s an actress who travels from job to job so there are periods of absence (you don’t really notice them within the film). Honestly, not that much happens in this film, it’s very navel-gazey which is not necessarily a bad thing.

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Pretty sure this lady wants to be me too

Eventually Oliver’s fear of not feeling the way ‘he should’ when Anna moves in causes a big fight and Anna leaves. Arthur works on his neediness (kind of), Andy confronts Oliver about his ‘homophobia’ after Hal’s death and Oliver makes some political graffiti (not necessarily in that order).

Questions:

Will Oliver fuck this all up? Will Anna come back? More importantly, will super-cute Arthur the Dog ever get over his grief?

All these questions will be answered by the end of the movie. You’ll also, I predict: cry a lot, hug the next person you see after you’re done and want to call your family immediately.

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Political, innit

My Thoughts: 

I think you can get from the above that, although action is thin on the ground, this is an emotional piece of art that will stay with you long after Ewan has shuffled off the screen in his stripey jumper. It’s a thinker and in places it is heart-wrenchingly beautiful.

I found myself tearing up an awful lot and I think it’s okay for me to admit here in my safe place that that’s because losing my remaining parent is the stuff of nightmares. It actually makes me panic if I think about it, so I try not to. Beginners takes you to that place and forces you to stare at it head on, to consider the act of forgiveness and letting go, and taking the person before you for exactly who they are, warty/fucking fabulous bits and all.

GAH!

McGregor is sexy as fuck throughout (good hair and nice eyes) and Melanie is effervescent but the film really belongs to Plummer, whose Hal is a joy to behold in every way. His childlike glee at finally getting to live his best life is making me form a lump in my throat as I type this.

The interspersed illustrations are also dead good.

My Rating: 4/5 – It’s all about the mood this film and it’ll cut you up, like a ferret with a flick knife. I’m telling you.

If this doesn’t get you thinking about your loved ones and your past/present relationships then you’ve a heart of granite. You’ve at least got to agree that Arthur the Jack Russell is one of the sweetest showbiz canines in a long while (that doesn’t get murdered horribly).

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“Do you like my tight sweater?”

So, did my wonderful blog wife get The Sads watching this (in the good way) or did she get the sads (in the bad way)? Only one way to find out, you know the drill by now! ❤

Easter

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An accurate recreation of how I look in my lounge wear

We’ve never been big Easter celebrators round these parts.

Being non-religious and all, it’s usually just an excuse to enjoy a gleeful four day weekend (more if you’re clever with your holiday days) and to eat chocolate for every meal.

I’ve been a lazy, lazy toad personally. Sure, I’ve been out a bit, seen some friends, seen a couple of movies at the cinema, nothing strenuous. But the rest of it has been mainly spent in my knickers, pottering.

I love a potter about, me. I like my own bedroom nook, in which I seem to regress, watching teen movies and blow drying my hair. Reading and painting nails.

I’m responsibility-less for a few hours at a time, not stressing out about the usual things: work, ageing, whether The Carters (Queen Bey and Jay Z, not Danny Dyer and Co) are really on the rocks. It’s nice.

You know what? Sometimes it’s just nice to take time to recharge and therefore they’ll be no more guilt speak from me. I have two more lie ins ahead, a banoffee luxury egg in my fridge and I might even draw myself up a blog plan.

I want to spend more time around these parts, making it nice. My virtual nook, if you will.

Whatever you’re doing this weekend, have a good one! ❤

Velvet Goldmine (Film) Review

Never knowingly underdressed

Another week has just passed us by and we’re bringing you another Ewan McGregor flick because, well, do we really need a reason? He gets his willy out in this one if that’s any consolation (probably not TBF) – plus, it really is rather a glamorous thrill ride this one (the film, not the willy).

Relax, I’m not going to make this entire post all about the swinging appendage that is Ewan McGregor’s front junk but I would like to. Luckily for all concerned, this film has enough else going for it that I won’t need to mention it again (maybe once more).

It’s my choice this week, next week we’ll be spending time in Hell with the Cenobites once more (or will we?). Until then, it’s platform heels and crushed velvet bell bottoms all the way.

Shall we begin, class?

*As always spoilers*

Velvet Goldmine (1998)

Director: Todd Haynes
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Jonathon Rhys Meyers, Toni Collette, Eddie Izzard, Christian Bale

IMDB Synopsis: In 1984, British journalist Arthur Stuart investigates the career of 1970s glam superstar Brian Slade, who was heavily influenced in his early years by hard-living and rebellious American singer Curt Wild.

My Review:

Arthur Stuart (Bale) is a journalist tasked with finding out what happened to notorious glam rocker Brian Slade, after an ill-advised publicity stunt all but obliterates his career in the seventies. It is now 1984 and things look pretty grey in comparison to the Technicolor disco ball dream of the swinging seventies.

Stuart is himself gay and following a series of vignettes, we learn a few things about his difficult personal journey and how it runs parallel with the lives and loves of Slade himself, and Slade’s long-term inspiration, Curt Wild.

Importantly, we get to see just how these men have had a personal influence on Arthur.

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The polar opposite of glamorous

Whilst seeking out Brian Slade, Arthur interviews a collection of people who have been touched in some way or another by the enigmatic and flamboyant star, including Slade’s one time wife, Mandy Slade; his former manager and a lot of people in between.

The question on Arthur’s mind (and thus, ours) is: what became of Brian Slade and where the fuck is he now?

VG undulates all over the place time-wise so this post will be anything but linear. It doesn’t matter at all though as the meandering lends the film a dreamy tone that compliments its subject matter. Plus, you mostly just came along for the ride, didn’t you?

Arthur’s memories help us piece together a picture of what his home life was like before he fell into the glam rock lifestyle and essentially finally found himself a tribe to which he belonged. Like Bowie did for many people, so Brian Slade and later, Curt Wild gave Arthur the inner strength to find himself and later come out, to the horror of his conservative parents.

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“Mum! I’m just popping down Tesco, need anything?!”

On the night of the ‘assassination of Brian Slade’ (which is later uncovered to be a hoax), Arthur is there and this act proves to be a turning point in not only his life, but Slade’s too.

The trajectory of Slade’s glittering career isn’t perfect, however after years on the circuit without much to show for it, things start to look up for him. He ditches his loyal manager, Cecil (Michael Feast) for the slightly more funky Jerry Devine (Izzard) and things happen fast.

Slade also meets the fabulous Mandi and the pair quickly marry. They’re very much an ‘It’ couple, though it’s an open relationship where anything goes for our sexually fluid friends. Everyone’s happy and free until Slade travels to America to connect with a performer he’s had his eye on from almost the start, one Curt Wild.

(Our first introduction to Curt Wild is a rousing stage scene in which he gets stark bollock naked and fondles himself while the crowd jeers).

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“Shit, Adam Ant’s over there, he’ll be wanting his jacket back.”

Slade gets his way and Wild comes to England to cut a record with him, though he brings with him his own battered baggage (junkie, innit). The pair share a connection that threatens the future of The Slades’ marriage and will change the course of all their lives forever.

Fame is also a bitch and as the pair get more and more known, and Slade allows himself to be taken over by his alter-ego “Maxwell Demon”, things start to fall apart irrevocably. Not to mention the fake shooting which fans are not at all amused by.

The breakdown off the Slades’ marriage is told to Arthur by Mandi herself, now nursing a stiff whiskey in a dive bar in London. She looks broken, a former shadow of her glitter bug self. Time has not been kind it would seem, and neither was Brian at the end of their bitter-sweet time together. You can’t help but feel sorry for her.

FYI, Slade-era Mandi has THE BEST WARDROBE EVER *heart eyes emoji*.

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Fucking fabulous forever

Meanwhile, Arthur is still searchin’ and hopin’ – and coming up empty handed. There’s no Brian Slade in the phone book, see. But his investigation leads him back to Curt Wild, who it turns out, has met Arthur before, though it’s not clear if he remembers. Arthur does though and the two share a moment.

Arthur has also been taken off the Slade story due to lack of public interest and put on coverage of the Tommy Stone tour. What does it all mean really?

Questions:

Will Arthur finally work out the big mystery?

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“Must pick up bleach on the way home…”

My Thoughts:

Loved it I did. I can’t believe it’s taken me 18 years to watch this movie. The performances are great across the board but I do feel as though this movie belongs to Toni Collette, who injects humanity into quite a superficial character, during quite a superficial period.

Ewan is perfect in all his Iggy Pop-esque glory and gives Curt heart where he could easily have been just another broken casualty of a hardcore lifestyle. I really believe that Curt loved Brian Slade, and it was beautiful and heartbreaking in equal measure.

I don’t like Rhy Meyers for some reason. I think it’s his haughty face which I’ll admit is perfect for Slade. Brian Slade isn’t one for heavy dialogue, he sings and he looks beautiful, those are his USPs. When he disappears you almost don’t notice, it’s like he was never really there, never really real. (Ooh deep).

I didn’t altogether buy the ending, it doesn’t seem feasible to me so I might need to talk that out with you, Jill! I was all a little like WHAAAAAAA? as the credits rolled. Maybe I misunderstood but it doesn’t ring very true to me. It’s almost like the ‘Grease ending’ – where the fuck did the flying car suddenly come from?

That’s my only criticism. This film was more or less made with me in mind.

I love that you can easily recognise real life performers here in their loose fictional disguises – Bowie! Pop! Bolan! – and it’s super fun. I also loved the smaller cameos throughout – Brian Molko! – the costume design, the music. It’s spot on.

My Rating: 4.5/5 -My disbelief in the ending is the only thing that marks this down. 

Did Jillian want to kick up her platform boots and dye her mullet baby blue or is she ready to say goodbye to Glam Rock forever? See for yourself here.

NB: I nearly went on strike writing this review as I kept losing my work and had to type it from scratch at least twice. I nearly marked the film down for my technological frustrations, GODFUCKINGDAMMIT!

I’m over it now.

Skinny Dipping (and Other Pursuits): March Wish List

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Rachel Backpack, Skinny Dip London, £35 (I might now own this)*

Fashion is supposed to be fun. Clean lines and lightweight fabrics have their place but if it’s boring and not zhushed up with something delightful then what is the fucking point?

I personally like colour, clashing prints and things that hang from my throat and earlobes that resemble toys from Kinder Eggs.

The rise of the pin badge has got to be one of the most pleasing trends and it’s in full swing now, as is the sew or iron on patch, which makes me glad I bought an over sized black denim jacket for the Spring. It was born to cart around the clacking pins and embroidered nostalgia I will bestow upon it.

Here are just a few of my favourite things at the moment:

Skinny Dip London

I first noticed this brand in Topshop, a store I seldom go into because it doesn’t do clothes that fit me. But a friend was buying Mom Jeans and there I was, drawn like a magnet to the Mermaid Tears clutch bags.

Since then Skinny Dip seems to have gone from strength to strength, branching out from cute phone cases to bags, purses and make-up bags, as well as collaborating with interesting people such as ASOS Stylist and Curve model, Felicity Hayward.

My only issue now is having too much to choose from. I’ve narrowed it down to just a couple of pieces that are guaranteed to up your handbag game (and I might own a couple of them now, so sue me).

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Leopard iPhone 6 case, £14 ~ Girls Coin Purse, £12 ~ Leopard Makeup Bag, £14

Sugar and Vice Designs

I’m obsessed and just about ready to splash out on a handful of the sweetest enamel badges I’ve ever seen. Somebody stop me! (Actually don’t, my Spring/Summer wardrobe needs them). Also, irony = I don’t even like avocados!

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Tik Tok, £7 ~ Gemstone, £7 ~ Planchette, £6 ~ Avocado, £6

Tatty Devine

Probably one of the first brands you think of when you think of fun pieces. I personally covert this baby:

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Dental Bling Necklace, £45

As worn by super babe, Emma of Archer Avenue. Check her out!

Black Heart Creatives

I have so many amazing pieces from here, including my ultimate favourite Glitter Lips Necklace but it just keeps getting better and I just keep getting poorer.

How bloody cool are these? WANT!

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Girl Gang Fist Necklace, £30-£33 ~ Custom Bamboo Earrings, £20 (I would totes have the No Scrubs though)

Fairy Cakes

Another great treasure trove of enamel pins and patches. I’m seriously digging:

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Rainbow Juice Box, £7 ~ Ferris Wheel, £7 ~“No Thanks…”, £7 ~ Nutella, £7

I’m also obsessed with this necklace and this patch:

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Giant Hexagon Necklace, £50 ~ Fight Like a Girl Iron On Patch, £6

So that concludes this rather colourful post of all things I am currently lusting after. I think this year is going to be a colour riot with lots of nods to the happy times of my childhood.

Yes, I’ll definitely be getting out the sewing kit and adding my favourite things to my jacket. Ten year old Christa would be proud as a pickle.

What do you think about all this kitsch? Is this a look you would happily rock or does it terrify you? ❤

Ps. These are mostly small businesses run by people I follow and admire on social media. Where possible I always try to support small business because I can see how much love and attention has gone into each design and piece. Check them out, I know you won’t be disappointed.

*In my ‘raving days’ I had a Barbie backpack (this! Which is heartbreakingly SOLD OUT). I loved it more than life and I’m forever trying to recreate that relationship with fluffy arm candy! Pretty sure my mum threw it away when I went travelling…

Little Voice (Film) Review

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This is exactly the sort of movie you want to be snuggling down to on a Sunday afternoon (the time I tend to view all our films). It’s gentle Sunday subject matter with just the right amount of Northern Grit but it has swears in it too so it’s not exactly The Sound of Music (1965), which I abhor with every fibre of my being.

That said, and I will elaborate further down the line, I had seen this movie before and remember thinking it was on the just-a-bit-too-cheesy side and therefore not for me. Would a re-watching bring about a change of heart or would it cement my original assessment, I wonder? Read on my friends to find out for yourselves which camp I’m in. (I know right? Thrilling!)

Oh, and this is McGregor Vs. Pinhead Month (last week’s review here) so expect some fine Scottish beef in this review. Sadly, Pinhead does not appear propped up against the bar at Mr. Boo’s, and perhaps that’s just as well as Mari Hoff would make him look like Hello Kitty in comparison.

As always *beware spoilers!*

Little Voice (1998)

Director: Mark Herman
Stars: Brenda Blethyn, Jane Horrocks, Michael Caine, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent

IMDB Synopsis: The pathetically shy LV lives the life of a recluse listening to her late father’s old records in her room and in the process driving her abusive, loud-mouthed mother, Mari Hoff, to distraction. At night, however, when her father’s ghost visits, LV sings the songs of the great divas such as Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Shirley Bassey.

My Review: 

This film has a very satisfying villain in the form of Mari Hoff. Brassy, brazen and horrible, Mari spends her entire existence screaming at the top of her lungs, having it off with inappropriate men and resenting her hermit of a daughter, LV (aka Little Voice) for whatever reason she can think of.

Things are starting to look up for Mari as she’s just started seeing showbiz veteran Ray and thinks he’s the catch of the century. Mr Hoff, LV’s father, has been dead for some time and this is part of the reason for LV’s reclusive lifestyle.

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“I really love this remix by Old Dirty Bastard.”

It’s down to her enduring love for her father that LV is obsessed with his old records, all by the likes of the divas; Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and Shirley Bassey. She locks herself in her room and seeks solace in the voices of these empowering women – which of course drives her mother even more mad.

Things could be on the up for LV too in the form of awkward Billy (our boy), who meets LV on a routine BT telephone installation at Mrs. Hoff’s house. Shy LV isn’t the greatest communicator but this doesn’t deter Pigeon Enthusiast Billy, who finds weird and wonderful excuses to visit (bordering on unacceptable I would say, Ewan, if it were anybody but you).

Incidentally, The Hoffs reside above a former record shop and the whole place is shot to shit. The electrics alone would turn my hair white and like The Hoff Family, the building is falling apart from the inside.

Also becoming a regular at the house is Ray, who one night overhears LV singing to herself and is blown away by her talent. Part good singer/part impressionist, Ray is eager to hitch his wagon to LV’s before she is snapped up by someone else. Plus, it seems Scarborough isn’t exactly teeming with it’s own untapped talent (Take Fat anyone?).

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“I can see right up your robe, not a lot of people know that.”

The next morning Ray pulls out all the stops to build a connection with LV, who can actually speak it turns out. She seems to be starting to trust him and clearly enjoys the ego stroke, though it looks unlikely showbiz is the next stop.

Or is it? Ray gets Mr Boo, who owns the local nightclub, round to The Hoff House to check out LV, though she refuses to perform. Following an altercation with Mari, however, Little Voice starts to sing (she’s infused inside a reverie about her dead father) and Mr Boo lose his mind too.

What follows is a brief audition at the Club (LV dragged almost kicking and screaming) which ends exactly as you’d imagine. It seems everyone’s dreams are dashed.

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How I enter all rooms

Or are they? Somehow Ray manages to talk Little Voice into a One Night Only performance at the Club (old fashioned emotional manipulation, that’ll do it). One preparing-for-the-show montage later and there she is, on stage in front of a packed out audience. Rather than completely fuck it all up, LV imagines her father in the crowd and absolutely nails it. She proves so popular that it’s a given that this is it, next stop Vegas.

Nobody bothers to ask Little Voice what she wants though and she clams up, jeopardising the next nights performance, to which a big talent scout has been invited.

Amidst the excitement of a catatonic LV, Ray finally loses his rag with clingy Mari, punches out Mr Boo and embarrasses himself onstage at the Club. What’s more there’s a dangerous incident that changes life for Mari and LV forever.

“Only the very best promotional materials for my girl.”

Questions:

What will happen to Mean Old Mari and her softly spoken daughter? Will there ever be calm between then?

Will Billy ever get LV alone? Will LV ever find her one true voice?

And will you care? I suppose that’s one of the most important questions to ponder.

My Thoughts:

This is a nice British film about finding the confidence to stand up and be counted. It’s also about grief and moving on, and that’s quite touching. Personally LV annoys me and the cabaret scenes leave me cold, like the singing bits in Glee but there’s enough in this for me to have enjoyed it. Brenda Blethyn is an amazing actress that lends even Mari a little sympathy, although she’s pretty heinous.

Although my loins burn bright and true for McGregor, and always shall, this is not the place. Pigeon botherer Billy is a wet blanket and no mistake. Sweet and perfect for LV though.

My Rating: 3/5. Nice but not amazing.

Did Little Voice make Jill want to sing from the rafters or did she want to Gin soak her sorrows down the Club with Mr Boo? Find out here, yo.

2 Today

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Well, technically yesterday (we bought ourselves a day in Feb this year, innit?) but there were way more important things to blog about obviously.

Now I have more time to celebrate, I bought myself a Red Velvet cupcake to inhale while I type this. Cake is always the best way to honour any anniversary, naturally. Last year I did quite the fantasy post but I don’t know if I have the mental capacity this evening to replicate it (hectic day). I’ll do my best.

To start, a few of my favorite posts over the last year:

Just a wee flavour of how things go down around here (if you’re new and have just inexplicably stumbled onto this very post – WELCOME!).

For the purposes of this post I figured I’d set myself a few blogging goals:

  • Schedule more posts – So that we don’t have a situation like this one, where absolutely nothing has been thought through… JK! Goofing aside, it’s a very nice feeling to know you’re on top of your ramblings and utilising your time like a motherfucking BOSS
  • Take better pictures – This Guy (me) has a new iPad and the camera is about 7568% better that the one on my scabby old phone so expect to be wowed by future imagery
  • Get better at commenting – I’ve been working on this but could always be better

And finally, if my mystery benefactor just happens to pass by and wants to gift me, I’ll take everything on the Skinnydip London website please. Like, absolutely everything.

To every single person who takes the time to read and comment, thank you. It means the world, it really does. The last year of blogging has been great, I’ve met amazing people, discovered some really great blogs and I can’t wait to put in more time around here.

Now, if you’ll excuse me – I’ve got a date with the rest of this cake ❤