Looking Back ~ April 2017

It’s been a while since I shared a monthly Looking Back post, which is a shame, as I wanted to try and make it a full year! But as ever, my lack of blogging-related motivation let me down, until I decided to quietly try and blog every day in May, so here we are.

Looking back on April, I did some fun stuff! It’s not always the way, so this is definitely a good month to reflect on.

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I went to see Half a Sixpence in the West End, at the Noel Coward theatre, with my best friends. We had decided that we weren’t going to buy Christmas presents, instead we’d head to a show together, and April was the soonest we could all get together! Actually, it turned out that not all of us could attend, as a snafu with a work schedule meant that Jen was missing. But we had fun, despite being a man down, and the show was wonderful! So much energy, and a great performance by leading man Charlie Stemp.

I went bowling for the first time in years, losing miserably but not really caring as I had a lovely night out with my ridiculous work friends. And then, on the bank holiday weekend, my friend Hannah and I took a couple of day trips.

First of all, we went to Lavenham, which is a picturesque little village in Suffolk, about thirty minutes from where I live. I’ve wanted to stop by for a visit for a while, but when I realised that a small part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was filmed there, I made an executive decision and we went!

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This is me standing in front of the building that was used for Godric’s Hollow; much CG jiggery and whizzery was used to transform it, and the actors weren’t ever in Lavenham, but it still makes this Harry Potter fan happy! There are countless other beautiful buildings there; it all feels like you’re on a film set no matter where you go! The buildings are crooked and look as though they’d make you feel seasick if you lived in them.

Then on Easter Monday, as I wrote about here, Hannah and I headed to Cambridge for the day. And what a lovely day it was, complete with Zizzi’s lunch and a raspberry ripple ice cream. Oh, and plenty of beautiful old buildings to look at and photograph, and lots of blue plaques to find.

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After Cambridge came a lovely meal at Giraffe with my best friends, all of them this time, and a lovely lunch celebrating my great-niece’s first birthday. I don’t know how a year has flown by quite so quickly; it only feels like a few months since I was meeting her for the first time and falling in love. Because I’m a great aunt (I made this joke on Instagram too), I bought her a basket of books.

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And then, just last week, I headed to Southend to see The Shires in concert. I worked out that this is the fifth time that I’ve seen them live, and I think that’s a record for me! They really are so very good, and have a great mix of upbeat tunes and emotional, soulful songs to make for a really great evening.

Of course, no month would be complete without a trip to the BFI Southbank to see the one and only Mark Kermode: Live in 3D. This was my fourteenth visit to this particular show, and it was another great one. Greg Proops, Florence Pugh, Jarvis Cocker and Anne Dudley were the guests, all bringing laughs, expert chat, insight and inspiration, as Dr K’s guest so often do.

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Added to this, I saw three films at the cinema (Free Fire, Fast & Furious 8, The Belko Experiment), and six at home (The Discovery, Pete’s Dragon, Bull Durham, Adult Life Skills, WarGames, Elvis & Nixon). A good month, all told!

April 2017 Books

April

Not a stellar month for quantity, but a perfectably acceptable one in terms of quantity.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
This is my second Nicola Yoon book of the year, having read Everything Everything back in February. This was by far my favourite; even though I had no complaints about Everything Everything when I read it, I just felt as though these two characters were better realised, and the very short space of time in which the story is set gave it the sense of urgency that it needed. Natasha and Daniel are both high school seniors dealing with their own problems. Natasha’s family is undocumented, and due to be deported back to Jamaica that very evening, unless she can find a way to stop it. Daniel is a Korean-American teenager, trying to deal with the pressures placed on him by his traditional parents, and the way he wants to live his life, having grown up in America. They meet, quite by chance, and we get to witness their love grow in the space of just one day. What I loved most about this book was the frequent chapters devoted to other, completely incidental characters: the man driving the car that almost runs Natasha over, the train driver who inadvertantly changes the course of Daniel’s day with his tannoy announcement. These extra stories show just how much someone can affect your life with just the smallest action, and they are what sold the book for me. I loved it!

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
I do love a good crime novel, and that’s what we have here, with the third in the Cormoran Strike series. I didn’t realise just how long I’d left it to get around to reading this, but I’m glad I did, as I’m already hankering for the next one, and I shouldn’t have too much longer to wait! If you’re familiar with the stories, you’ll know that Strike is a former military policeman turned private detective, and with two previous high profile cases under his belt, he’s something of a celebrity. His assistant Robin, who has been with him since the start of the first book, and having proved her mettle as a private detective in the previous book, is upgraded, at least in theory, to Strike’s partner. Then she receives a female leg in the post, and this sets in motion the events of the story, in which Strike is convinced that the leg has come from an enemy from his past, and sets out, with Robin, to find out who it is.

The story itself is compelling and full of wonderful characters; I had no idea which, if any, of the four suspects was going to turn out to be the killer until the final reveal, and that’s always the mark of a good crime story. Unfortunately I do find the writing a little clumsy sometimes; there’s a distinct lack of subtetly whenever Strike or Robin want to delve into their memories, which is unfortunate considering that this whole story is about looking back in the hope that they will discover a clue to the identity of the killer. But it’s entertaining, and these are two compelling characters who I am very much looking forward to seeing in the forthcoming series.

The O’Sullivan Twins by Enid Blyton
My St. Clare’s readathon marches on; as I”ve mentioned before, I’m a Malory Towers girl, and didn’t read the St. Clare’s series as a child. This is the second book in the series, and while I stand by the idea that Blyton just transposed characters from one series to another and changed a few names, here we have a slightly more dramatic storyline that anything that ever happened at Mallory Towers, when one of the sanitorium rooms catches on fire! There’s a lot of unpleasantness in this book, with various characters being sent to Coventry, and a nasty girl leaving the school because she’s pretty irredeemable in the eyes of the other girls. But I liked it, and I’m moving on to book three right away!

Books in 2017 – 14

Album of the Week 011 ~ Freedom Highway by Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens

Album: Freedom Highway by Rhiannon Giddens

Release Date: February 2017

My Favourite Tracks: Julie, Birmingham Sunday, The Love We Almost Had

Album Notes: I don’t know anything about music. I don’t have the words to describe the music that I like, I just know that I like it. That’s been the case the whole time I’ve been writing about the albums I listen to each (or not quite each) week, but it’s especially true here.

I didn’t know Rhiannon Giddens existed until about three weeks ago, when a former university professor (Dr Owen Robinson) with whom I’m friends on Facebook, and whom I hold in very high esteem, mentioned her new album. He described it as a ‘glorious blend of slavery-era folk, delta blues, Stax soul, New Orleans street music, and even hip-hop.’ Quoting him feels cheeky, but I would never have known that those words apply to this album. All I know is that I love this album.

Me not having heard of this astonishing woman before is of no consequence, and is no reflection on her extraordinary talent. This is music that draws on centuries of the African American experience, from slavery to civil rights to the current situation. As a white woman from Essex I can’t even pretend to understand the half of it, but music likes this gives a beautiful insight.

A Bank Holiday Visit to Cambridge

Cambridge Colleges

I live exactly 37.3 miles from Cambridge, the world-famous university city, but until recently, had never visited. That changed on a whim on Easter Monday, when my friend Hannah suggested a day trip.

The best places to visit, according to Hannah (the driver), are the ones with park and ride systems, because she says that parking is the worst part of driving anywhere! So she researched Cambridge’s Park and Ride, and off we went.

Cambridge Graffiti

Cambridge doors

The weather more or less played ball; it started off fairly cloudy, but the sun was soon shining, and though it wasn’t the warmest day ever, we avoided any traditional British bank holiday rain. I didn’t really know what to expect from the city, aside from the fact that it is, of course, famous for its colleges. The city centre itself seems quite small, and easily navigable on foot.

I was on a Blue Plaque quest; in case you aren’t aware, one of my 35 Before 35 goals is to photograph 50 blue plaques. There will be a whole blog post about this at some point, but suffice to say that I found around fifteen, and searching them out really gave us a good excuse to explore places we might not otherwise have found.Punting in Cambridge

We didn’t go for a punt on the river; the weather was probably a little on the cool side for that, and in all honesty, I was offended by how much pressure the tour guides were comfortable exerting to get us to sign up. It’s a nice idea, and must be a great way to see the colleges, but not on this occasion. And not with those particular tour guides!

The colleges themselves were, of course, beautiful, and the city has managed to merge old and new in a really organic way; of course there are the high street shops that you can’t avoid in city centres, but they don’t detract from the beauty of the centuries-old buildings that have educated some of the most incredible minds of all time.

King's College Cambridge

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King's College, Cambridge

I had a really lovely time in Cambridge, and I’m hoping to go back at some point this year to pay a visit to my online friend Charlotte – as a local I’m hoping she’ll show me some of the less-touristy areas!

Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge

Cambridge Colleges

Day trip to Cambridge

Bank Holiday Cambridge

52 Films By Women

This is the first year in a while that I haven’t set myself a target number of films to watch. It’s mainly because I was so lax around my new year blog posts, but also a little bit because sometimes it’s nice to take a break and do something a little bit different.

With that in mind, I thought this would be a good year to try the 52 Films by Women challenge. It’s been a thing for a while, and Letterboxd, where I log all of my films these days, has a lot of users who have done it before, and those who are doing it this year.

It’s quite a simple idea; it just means that for each week of the year, you watch a film by a female director. Actually, until writing this post, I had taken it to mean directed or written, which is how I’ve been playing it up until now. I will try and stick to directors for the most part, but I’m also going to continue to count writers.

Women are hugely under-represented in the film industry, and women of any colour other than white even more so. I think it’s important to strive for diversity, and the only way you can get the film industry to make anything different is to watch the films that do try something different.

We’re currently in week 16 of the year, and I’m only on ten films, so I’m a bit behind on my goal of one a week, but I’m determined to get there! Here’s what I’ve watched so far:

52 women 1

The Intervention – Written and directed by Clea DuVall
The Meddler – Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria
The To Do List – Written and directed by Maggie Carey

52 women 2

Friends With Kids – Written and directed by Jennifer Westfeldt
Country Strong – Written and directed by Shana Feste
The Love Letter – Written by Maria Maggenti
Hidden Figures – Co-written by Allison Schroeder

52 women 3

Adult Life Skills – Written and directed by Rachel Tunnard
Free Fire – Co-written by Amy Jump
Fifty Shades of Grey – Directed by Sam Taylor Johnson, written by Kelly Marcel

Have you watched any female directed/written films recently? Send me your recommendations!

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