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It's Sunday morning and time to get a nice mug of coffee and sit down for a catch-up once again! We're talking life and what I've been reading, watching and listening to lately; I hope you enjoy...


Towards the end of summer, I had an amazing trip with my boyfriend to Lake Como (there's a full blog post with lots of photos on our holiday here) and I went with a big group of friends and friends of friends from university to Manchester Pride over August Bank Holiday. The weather was incredible and we just had the best time, as always; laughing, making new connections, soaking up all the positive vibes and dancing the day and night away in the streets, as we rolled in and out of bars. I've been to this event a couple of times and it's just the most amazing, inclusive party in the streets where everyone can be their true selves and that raises a lot of money for some great LGBT+ causes.

Since the end of summer, things have been a little quiet; I won't lie! It was lovely meeting up with my closest friends a couple of weeks back in London, which in itself was a pretty chill weekend of brunching and hanging out at various people's flats. I've still been learning to drive and - despite some setbacks and some things I've found really difficult - I'm determined to have that red license before Christmas! Wish me luck... There are also other (good) things hopefully on the horizon that I look forward to sharing soon. 

Besides that, it's actually been really nice hanging out with my boyfriend's social circle here in Birmingham. We recently went bouldering at a climbing centre near my boyfriend's place, which was harder than it looked - I genuinely ached for a couple of days afterwards but I feel like it would be a pretty cool thing to get really good at. I'm just far from 'good' right now! We also went to see Daniel Caesar play and he was supported by Anais. I was definitely more of a casual listener, just along for the ride and open to discovering something new and I actually really thought it was a great show. He's an incredibly talented artist and there's a lot more to his back catalogue than the slowies I'd associated with him. If you want to see an artist who sounds incredible live; see if you can get your hands on tickets for this tour.


Canto Manchester | Whilst I was home in Manchester I went for lunch in Ancoats with my mum. This area has seriously been transformed over the past few years and has some lovely restaurants. This time we decided to go to Canto, which is a really cool but very affordable tapas place. For lunch they have a deal that gets you three dishes (one of which can be dessert, if you so wish) for £15 and that was so much food - I was absolutely stuffed. I had some incredible croquettes, calamari (as always) and flatbread; it was all so tasty! Definitely check this out if you're ever in the area.

Cooking | Since the end of summer I've got into cooking in a big way! I think I honestly had just convinced myself I was no good and so kept it simple with dishes like stir fry or let my boyfriend take the lead. However, I reached a point where I just wanted more variety, wanted to pull my weight a bit more in the kitchen and there was a 'bolognese cook off' at work which I had an axe to grind in (after endless grief over being a pescetarian from colleagues, I wanted to prove a vegan, plant-based alternative could be just as tasty. I think it's fair to say I got the last laugh...) I'm definitely more about the flavours than intensely technical dishes but I'm really enjoying it. Some of my favourite sources of weeknight-friendly recipes are the blogs Lazy Cat Kitchen and Cookie and Kate and the book Bosh.

Circe by Madeline Miller | As a former Classics student, it's fair to say I have a fondness for Greek myths and Legends so - after seeing some really positive reviews - I decided to get this book on Audible as a bit of a summer holiday read. If you aren't familiar with Circe, she was a lower divinity / witch who lived on an island that Odysseus and his crew landed on, so I thought it was an interesting concept to hone in on this character and tell her personal story. She's often portrayed as a temptress or an evil witch in discussions around the Odyssey so I really liked how this book took a deep-dive into her background, her motivations, and totally reframed how this character - who dates back to antiquity - is viewed. It's narrated in the first person but more than that; Circe's voice and how she tells the story reflects her immortality, which makes it very narratively different to anything else I've read. Time seems to effortlessly slip by but her voice remains virtually unchanged. It's a relatively quick read and I really enjoyed it - if you love your myths and legends, it's a must-read.

Joker | I think calling this 'Batman-ish' film a favourite is something of a misnomer. It was a deeply unpleasant experience from start to finish and I have a lot of thoughts about it -which could fill a short essay - but I'll try to keep it concise. I found this film relentlessly bleak, deeply misanthropic and brutally violent; there wasn't a single pinprick of light or hope during the 2 hour run time. It's told entirely from Arthur Fleck's unreliable perspective, which makes it difficult viewing - like being forced into the twisted mind of a serial killer or mass shooter and seeing their crimes enacted entirely through their eyes. It's often difficult to even know what's 'real' and what's part of his revenge fantasy. I see why people are concerned it might become some sort of incel creation myth, but at the same time I don't think we can say there are certain types of stories we 'aren't allowed' to tell. I think the difficulty with this film is that it's so ambiguous; the character's actions aren't really denounced or justified, leaving the audience to decide whether they idolise or condemn him. I think it's really great that we're having the conversation about where the line is in terms of what we depict in films, how these themes are framed and the real-world implications of art.  Something that definitely rubbed me up the wrong way in this very grounded, 'real world' setting was how the film handled mental illness and intertwined it with this concept of a 'crazy', 'evil' villain. I feel like it tried to make a point about deprivation and our treatment of those suffering from mental illness but it doesn't quite pull it off, largely due to the source material. I won't compare it to Heath Ledger's performance, because I don't want to do a disservice to either actor, but Joaquin Phoenix's portrayal was absolutely incredible. His Joker was equal parts compelling and horrifying, making me feel genuinely uncomfortable at times. The score is also phenomenal. This film got under my skin and did what any great film should do; got us talking. My boyfriend hated this film but it still inspired conversations afterwards about violence in film, if art needs to have any inherent meaning or purpose and so on.

Bird Box | I think we must have been the last people to watch this film on Netflix but we finally got round to it and I have to say I really loved Bird Box! I feel like it got quite mixed reviews (I will admit there are some unfortunate implications about mental health in it) and I'm not really sure why. It's a dystopian / post-apocalyptic story focusing on Mallory, who is pregnant when people mysteriously start killing themselves across the world. This phenomenon soon sweeps to where she is and she joins a group in hiding who have deduced that people are seeing some creature or force that is so terrible they immediately want to kill themselves upon seeing it. However, they soon learn there's a small minority of people who can look at this thing and survive and - intoxicated from whatever it is - they want to force others to look at it too. So they're fighting on two fronts here! I really enjoyed how this film dealt with grief, loss and hope; it was essentially about Mallory losing many of the people close to her but having to carry on and be a mother. I personally liked that the beings / force causing this chaos was kept mysterious; I honestly think that's the best way to maintain suspense, though I appreciate it annoyed a few people!

The Boys | I won't lie; I've not been really into a show on Amazon Prime for a while, but the Boys knocked my socks off! It was so addictive, yet we really didn't want it to be over... The Boys is set in a world where capitalism has turned superheroes into commodities working for a giant corporation and they act as figureheads more than they fight crime, however they're up to all sorts of debauchery in their private lives... At the same time, a group of vigilantes plot to take them down. This show is laugh-out-loud funny, foul-mouthed, fast-paced, witty, intelligent and very original. If you fancy an antidote to squeaky-clean Marvel family fun; give the Boys a go.

The Great Hack | I don't think a documentary has blown my mind quite like this one did in a very long time... I don't even know where to begin! Cambridge Analytica was a previously barely-on-the-radar data / communications consulting outfit, however they hit the headlines when it was uncovered that they were using Facebook data (from sources like those cute little free personality tests everyone used to take) to pick out millions of voters who they considered 'suggestible' and bombard them with propaganda to make these people vote for their clients (most famously Donald Trump and the Leave Campaign). If the insane amounts of data they mined from Facebook suggested you might be undecided on Brexit, you'd be bombarded with images of Syrian refugees trying to make it across the English Channel with some provocative wording. And it worked. Part of the documentary followed journalist Carole Cadwalladr's endless research into Cambridge Analytic and her efforts to expose them. The other part interestingly followed their 20-something former sales manager, who was pretty compelling to watch because I could never really tell if she was just naive and didn't realise what she'd gotten herself into or if she just didn't care (her switching political affiliations seemed to indicate she just wanted to be on the winning team). Can we ever have a free election in this new world? What measures are needed to govern the use of our data? How do we hold social media sites to account for these sorts of things? These were just some of the questions I walked away with. This documentary is truly explosive and you have to see it for yourself!

Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out | I think it's really hard to understand what it's like to be famous in the age of social media unless you've been at the source of some sort of controversy, however this documentary by Jesy Nelson of Little Mix fame was an eye-opener. I think their time on the X Factor was at a bit of a unique point; social media was there but I don't think reality TV shows really knew how to deal with that and didn't prepare contestants for what they were getting into. Jesy was the victim of some really vile hate campaigns and, not only does this documentary tell her story, but it tells the stories of teenagers bullied into suicide and their families. It's powerful stuff. I truly can't comprehend what makes someone tweet a celebrity telling them they should kill themselves, however I really hope this documentary makes people want to be a little bit kinder when they're hiding behind their online anonymity.

Skincare YouTube | I don't know why but, even as I've gotten more and more into skincare over the past year or two, I've always still tended to consume more makeup-related content on YouTube until recently. Recently I've discovered two channels I've really been loving: James Welsh and Susan Yara / Mixed Makeup (especially her skincare reaction videos!) James Welsh is very polished, factual and straight with you, breaking down skincare products, sharing dos and don'ts and giving really helpful brand overviews. Susan Yara is just really sweet and a total pleasure to watch. I absolutely love her skincare reaction videos where she'll watch a celebrity's video of their skincare routine and (of course, kindly) critique it; it's honestly such a good way to spread skincare knowledge and help people understand what bad habits they might be in that are detrimental to their skin.

Do you have any film, book or TV recommendations? What have you been up to as we've headed into autumn?

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