Is it really time to wave goodbye to summer again? I just wish it could last forever, but at the same time, I can't say it hasn't been an action-packed few weeks... If you'd like to know what I've been doing, listening to, reading and watching recently then stay tuned!
I'm finally at the age where a lot of people I know are getting married and it isn't weird - yikes! The first wedding of the season was for a colleague of mine so a good group of us from the office went to the evening reception. It was so much fun and such a beautiful venue - it was also so lovely of her to invite us to a pretty close-knit event. I'm also so glad I got to wear my extortionate Reiss dress that's only had a single outing in the two years I've had it! I love any excuse to get glammed up these days.
The next wedding was a little more intense, given that I was a part of it... One of my oldest friends from back in Manchester got married at the end of July and it was an amazing whirlwind! We were up early to get to the salon for about 8am to start on hair and makeup - of course we had a few glasses of prosecco while we were at it. It was a lovely ceremony at a local church before we headed to the venue. It's safe to say that after the stress of getting everyone where they needed to be on time - myself, the bride and the rest of the bridesmaids were relieved to just relax and have a few drinks (though my duties meant I had to help the bride in her huge dress wherever she went!) We had so much fun that night and met some amazing people - I honestly don't know how I stayed conscious for so many hours but I powered through and had a great time.
For the wedding I went to this past Friday it was definitely a less formal and traditional affair. One of my really close friends who I lived with at university for two years tied the knot with her boyfriend. The morning was a really small ceremony but myself and some other friends and family joined in the afternoon and it was so much fun! It honestly just felt like a really great party! The food was absolutely amazing - Cafe Reem (an independent family-owned Middle Eastern brunch / lunch place in Birmingham) did the catering and it was fantastic. I'm honestly still thinking about that food now...
I've also been in London quite a lot lately for weekends with my friends. I was originally going to go to Brighton Pride last month but was having such a stressful time that I didn't really want a hard-partying weekend! Instead I just met my friends in London and we had a really nice evening catching up. We had dinner at Via Emilia, which is one of the least expensive places I've ever eaten in the capital - definitely check it out if you're ever in North London. It does really great Italian food and my friend made me try sparkling red wine...I didn't hate it! We had an accidentally late night out in Hoxton Square but the next day a few of us got brunch at Dishoom to recover and had a little look round the shops (I made a purchase at the Deciem store). I wasn't sure how I'd feel about Indian for breakfast but that cheese on toast was next-level! I was then back a couple of weeks later as a friend of mine hosts a legendary big BBQ at her parents' house every year. The Friday night was really chill - we had a bottle of wine or two and a catch-up. We met some other friends at Granger and Co for lunch the next day (of course with bellinis!) before getting supplies and joining the party. We really don't see the friend whose party it was that often so it was great to hang out, meet her friends and just have a laugh. I definitely went a bit too hard and was in bed by midnight...
Another thing I've done recently that I wanted to talk about is giving blood. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my stories - I donated last month for the first time and it really wasn't anywhere near as bad as I'd imagined! It was really convenient as there's a donation centre right in the middle of Birmingham high street. The actual taking of the blood takes about 20 minutes but you do have to answer some questions and have a small sample taken before you even get into the seat. I felt the needle go in but after that, all I could really feel was a mild pressure. I chose not to look at the tube because I'm kind of squeamish, so I just chatted to the friend I went with and played on my phone, though you do have to keep clenching and relaxing the arm the needle is in. I didn't even feel it come out, to be honest, and didn't experience any bruising. I did feel slightly tired and light-headed afterwards, which didn't really surprise me because I'm prone to faintness at the best of times! You get plenty of time to chill out, have something to drink and eat unlimited crisps and chocolate afterwards. A little while later I got a text letting me know I'm O Negative, which is pretty amazing because it means I can donate to any other blood type! (Though the flipside is that I can only take O Negative blood.) It also felt important as an ethnic minority because, although most people can take anyone's blood in their ABO group in an emergency, if you need regular transfusions for a medical condition a closer match is needed (which is going to be found in someone from a similar ethnic background). A couple of weeks later they also let me know that my blood had been used and in which hospital, which was really nice to know. If you're interested in donating blood you can check out all the information on the NHS Give Blood website.
Aside from giving blood, I've also been up to some more fun stuff with work! We had our summer party at the end of last month, which I actually helped organise. We ended up holding it at Revolucion de Cuba in Birmingham - although we didn't have a huge budget, we managed to get food, welcome cocktails, a band, drinks vouchers and a private area all within it. The food was actually really great - which it always is - but I wasn't sure if the buffet style might have meant it wasn't the same standard. That definitely wasn't true! We ended up at Dirty Martini and it was a pretty late one - I was very glad I'd already booked the Friday off... We also recently had a bit of an evening out with just the younger crowd from my team. We got curry at Mowgli (my main was ok but the starters were great so I'd definitely stick to the street food if I go again) before heading out for drinks. I'm on what still feels like a very new team - everyone there had been working in the Birmingham office for under two years - so it's great we all get on and there's a good little group of younger people who are really sociable!
With all the travelling around, it was only right for me to host some friends in Birmingham, so last month for the bank holiday weekend, I did just that! On the Friday we all went to a night that a loyal group of us frequent called Magic Door. It was great as always, but a late one (also, as always...) Once we managed to get ourselves out of bed we went for lunch at Damascena in Moseley - one of my favourite places to eat. It's super affordable and the food is all middle eastern, so I usually get a mezze platter of some sort. It's also very vegetarian and vegan friendly. There's one in the city centre now too (and one that' just opened or is about to open in Harborne), so if you're ever in Birmingham; it's a must-visit! I won't lie - afterwards we had to go home for another little nap before heading into town to see Blackkklansman (reviewed below) at the Electric Cinema. We had a few happy hour cocktails afterwards and also grabbed some food at Indian Brewery - an affordable street food place (that makes its own craft beers) near where I work that I obviously frequent! We got a few drinks afterwards but couldn't manage another late one so collapsed into bed at a reasonable time and had a very lazy Sunday...
As I've bragged many times on my blog - my best friend is doing a PhD in nuclear materials at Oxford (as you do!) so I've spent a lot of time there. She's managed to meet some really cool people there, as she always does, and although it isn't quite as awesome a backdrop as when I was visiting her in Bristol, I've still been to see her loads. On my first trip of this month, myself and another of our friends were just bored so decided to do a Friday to Saturday! We went to what's become a regular haunt for us: the Coconut Tree, which is a tapas-style southeast Asian restaurant with great cocktails and an affordable menu. The service was...questionable...this time round, but the food was amazing, as always. We had a really lovely Saturday too - after making brunch and helping my friend move house (that was actually quite stressful and not so lovely...) we had a wander around the city and soaked up the very last of the summer sun at the Varsity Club, a rooftop bar with gorgeous views.
When I headed back a mere week later we tried somewhere new for dinner on the Friday - a restaurant called Arbequina that's hidden away in an old pharmacy! Again, it's one of the few very well-priced places to eat out in Oxford and the Spanish tapas was spot-on. We did have quite a bit of wine at dinner and ended up having a good dance at an Alice in Wonderland themed speakeasy that did really good cocktails and randomly played the sort of 90s and early 00s R&B that we LOVE. We did a spot of shopping the next day before a big party and night out that my friend threw as a housewarming. It was actually pretty nice out the next day so we did a bit of the old hair of the dog and got a bottle of prosecco to drink on the sunny quad at my friend's college.
Just last week I headed for a final bit of late summer sun in Tuscany! It really was a lovely break - we ate, we drank wine and we explored the historic cities of Lucca, Pisa and Livorno. I didn't visit Florence on this trip because I've been several times before and it really does deserve a full long weekend of its own, in the very least! Our hotel was in Tirrenia, which is a beach resort that's perfectly positioned if you want to explore that side of Tuscany and the weather was a beautiful 30 degrees. Needless to say, I'm feeling the summer blues now I'm back home in rainy, windy Birmingham and coming down with a bad cold... Check out my Instagram for the photos.
Shane Dawson | I get that Shane is an OG YouTuber, but I'd actually never really seen any of his videos. Maybe when he first came out I was still watching funny cats or something... I think he's a great example of how you can move and change as a creator to keep making interesting content that people are excited about. I've really enjoyed his little documentary-style series' that see him spend time with other YouTubers and really dig into what makes them tick.
I couldn't talk about this without talking about Jeffree Star. Whilst I cannot and will not condone his past behaviour (and arguably much of the behaviour he still displays on social media to this day), this series did what it intended to do and it showed those shades of grey. In life there's rarely black and white or good and evil, but I do think 'cancel culture' encourages us to think in that way instead of seeing the nuance and those shades of grey. It's clear that Jeffree has been through things I could barely imagine (self harm, his father's suicide when he was a child, homophobia, the failure of his music career, just to name a few) and both for better and for worse; these things have shaped the person he is today. I don't want to excuse his behaviour but I can't judge other people from my position of having had a normal, happy childhood and a pretty comfortable adulthood. Whilst I personally am turned off by the kind of gaudy, ostentatious displays of wealth that make up so much of his persona, I can now see that he does this because he's gone from having nothing to having a fortune beyond any normal person's wildest dreams (along with the problems that brings) that he seems amazed at and grateful for.
Will I be rushing out to buy his latest eyeshadow palette? Probably not. Do I now understand him better as a human being? Absolutely. Shane just has this way of putting people at ease in such a natural way that gets them to show sides of them we'd never have seen in any context.
Jenna Moreci | I do want to do a proper post my experience of writing a book soon, but now I'm almost done I've been thinking about my next steps. I know it's a crazy stab in the dark but I'd never forgive myself if I didn't try to get published! Jenna's channel is a fantastic resource if you write fiction - whether you're self-publishing and need to understand the costs, you're going down the traditional route and want to find an agent, or even if you're right at the start of your journey and you want to understand how to plot your story, create a convincing romance, kill off a major character, inject real tension into the narrative or whatever else! There's also fun content on there like the worst female characters in fiction (which is how I stumbled upon her channel!) and tired fantasy genre tropes. I find Jenna really engaging, funny and relatable, which makes her content so easy to watch.
BlacKkKlansman | It honestly took me about a day to fully process this film and even now, I have a lot of feelings! I'm going to try and channel them into cohesive sentences... If you don't know the story, it's based on the true tale of a black police officer in the US, infiltrating a local chapter of the KKK in the 1970s. Of course it's told in true Spike Lee style (it's definitely a return to form for him after a few ropey outings). This film had a real knack for making those jokes that expose uncomfortable truths and getting you laugh out of pure discomfort.
It was such an experience to see this in a small cinema and I've never gone through such a series of emotions during a film. Me, my friends and a group of complete strangers all laughed, cried and cheered together at various points in the film. The ending is something of a sucker punch too - you know when a film usually ends, people start standing up, faffing around and moving towards the exit before the credits have even had a chance to roll? Not after this one; the entire screen sat for several minutes in total stunned silence. This is such an important film that is SO relevant right now. The power of ideology is just as strong now as it was then. It also left a really interesting question (I like that it showed two characters with opposing views on the matter without painting one as 'right' and one as 'wrong'): can you change a system from within or do you have to destroy it and rebuild it? I just want everyone to watch this film!
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi | When I was a teenager, I ate up every young adult fantasy novel I could find, though I guess I got kind of bored with the similar themes and settings (the chosen one, quasi-medieval world, dragons etc.) In enters the book I've kind of been waiting for: a high fantasy epic that draws on African mythology and is set in that world instead of the tired Northern European backdrop. I'm sure Adeyemi isn't the first to put out a book like this, but she's probably the first to have her story become so big - and what better time, in this post-Black Panther world? This book has already been optioned for a film and it's the author's debut! The story follows three children as they set out to bring magic back to their kingdom after it was eradicated by an oppressive ruler. There were definitely metaphors for racism and oppression, though in this setting it didn't bother me as much as that usually does - as much as I LOVE Harry Potter and it was an important part of my childhood, I do think the 'blood purity as racism' metaphor glossed over real racism and other forms of oppression instead of letting it interact with them and the characters weren't exactly a diverse bunch.... In this context, with issues such as colourism addressed alongside the 'magical racism', it did work for me. My only criticism is that it is a bit slow to start. It's not until well over 1/3 through that our heroes properly set off on their epic quest!
Have you discovered any great films, books or tv shows I should be checking out?
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