20200913

THE SUNDAY CATCH-UP & CURRENT LIFESTYLE FAVOURITES #24


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Well, I guess that was summer? It feels a little surreal that we're about to head into autumn already. Usually my summers are a blur of holidays, festivals, events, friends, parties and more, however summer 2020 has somewhat slipped by in this limbo state. Today I'm talking about where my head's at entering autumn and of course what I've been watching, reading and listening to these past couple of months...

- CATCH-UP -

I have actually had a bit of human interaction outside of my household since restrictions were loosened up. Pretty soon after it was announced we were allowed to meet another household indoors, myself and my boyfriend headed up to Manchester, where I'm from to go and see my mum. I'd honestly never gone so long without seeing her, and I felt we had a really valuable time there going on walks in the nearby countryside I'd never even known was there despite having lived in that house for many years! If there's one thing this situation has made me do, it's been to discover interesting places and pockets of nature in the most unlikely places (that have quite often been on my doorstep). And, we went for lunch the next day, which was my first venture out, in the Northern Quarter. Given Manchester is in some sort of re-lockdown, I'm glad I visited when I had the chance.

In July, I also went for the day down to Bristol for a garden party for a friend's birthday. It was the first time I'd spent actually socialising outside of my very close circle and I was slightly worried I didn't know how to function any more! However, it was actually refreshing to speak to people who aren't the close friends I always spend my time with. It was pretty tiring to go to Bristol and back in a day, but when you're with people; you realise it's worth the effort. I'm now allowed back in the office on a rotational basis, if I wish to be. I've only been in once so far, but it did feel good to get out and see people's faces. I feel like I'm slowly getting back into a comfortable middle ground between my hectic life pre-COVID and that very small and sometimes-suffocating life I led during lockdown.

Hopefully, when this post goes up I'll be in Portugal (which is why I'm pre-writing this quite far in advance). It was a bit of a last-minute decision and I'll probably do a full blog post on the trip, if all goes to plan. However by July, we were still accepting the fact we probably wouldn't get a foreign holiday this year so took advantage of my partner's family inviting us to stay with them down in Devon in a house they rent each year for a couple of weeks. We were so incredibly lucky with the weather; it was 25-30 degrees and sunny every day, bar when we were leaving! There were days at the beach, cliff-top walks, pints by the sea and stargazing on the terrace at night. All-in-all it was a great break from everyday life and a much-needed reset.

Of course, if you read these posts every time, you'll know I'm a total foodie and you're probably not surprised I took advantage of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme throughout August. My highlight had to be Land, which brings a tasting menu experience to vegetarians! At fine dining restaurants, it's quite easy to feel short-changed on your dishes if you're not a meat-eater, and Land is not only an option that allows you to have that experience with the creative presentation and amazing flavours, but is much more affordable. I absolutely loved my meal and would definitely go back. 

Finally, for what I've been up to, I had a relaxed Bank Holiday weekend up in Chester staying at Carden Park Hotel for a spa trip and some rest and relaxation. The grounds were absolutely beautiful with a vast golf course and vineyards and the hotel itself had several restaurants to choose from and a lovely bar. It felt safe and hygienic without making me feel anxious and on-edge. We had a really delicious three-course meal at their Vines restaurant in the evening and their spa was incredible! For safety reasons some parts were closed, but it was also great because there was hardly anyone there due to restrictions on capacity at this time. I had a facial and back and shoulder massage there using all Elemental Herbology products and it did me some serious good. I returned home feeling relaxed and refreshed. 

- LIFESTYLE FAVOURITES -

Forgotten: Women of Juarez | I actually have a few podcasts to discuss in this post and Forgotten is the first of them. At first, I honestly wasn't sure about a podcast about the plight of young Mexican women being told by this white English man, but the Oz Woloshyn is really just the facilitator of the production and lets the women, journalists and family members affected by what's happened in Juarez tell their own story with little interjection. Juarez lies on the US-Mexican border and is therefore a hotspot for people and drug trafficking. Within the city, hundreds of women have gone missing since the mid-90s, many of them being found murdered. However, those who try to get to the truth seem to meet unpleasant ends and many of the police investigations appear to have been mishandled. This podcast investigates whether a cross-border serial killer (or several) is on the rampage in the city or if there's something bigger at play. It's difficult to listen to, but it seems important to acknowledge the pain and injustice suffered by the families of the missing and murdered women and this podcast really allows them to tell their story, after having had it brushed under the carpet for many years by the authorities. 

Case File | This is one of those podcasts I discovered and just binged on until I'd listened to the entire back catalogue. If you're interested in true crime stories; it's a must-listen! I actually really like that it's an Australian production, because it focuses on stories from Australia and New Zealand that I'd never heard before (there are only so many retellings of crimes such as those of Jeffrey Dahmer that one can stomach), as well as some UK stories I'd not come across. They're well-researched and well-told. One of the other little small touches I like is that the episodes are named after the victims as opposed to the perpetrator. It's a subtle thing but I think it's important that, as fascinating as these events are in terms of psychology and what the crime tells us about the time and place it was carried out in, the story is about their lives as opposed to overly glorifying the criminal who committed the act, It's a fine balance, because of course we want to understand how a person could do such a terrible thing, but this podcast manages to explore all of these ideas without feeling like it's giving the murderers any 'glory'.

Radio Rental | Near misses, unexplained events, potentially supernatural experiences; this podcast explores it all! It's real people telling their true stories of bizarre things that happened to them (whilst using a slightly bonkers framing device that sort of works), some of which they get answers on, whilst others remain a case of speculation. One woman thinks she almost became the victim of a creepy would-be murderer, another man blacked out along with his girlfriend for a period of time during which neither of them can explain what happened, another man sparks a digital conversation with a stranger that turns dark. It's absolutely fascinating and compelling listening if you're in any way intrigued by mystery and the unexplained.

Just Mercy | I feel the true purpose of cinema is to move you in some way, and I thought about this film at length, for many days after I watched it. It's based on a true story of a young law graduate (played by Michael B. Jordan) who goes down the the southern states of the US to work on exonerating prisoners on death row. He meets an African-American man called Johnny D (played by Jamie Foxx) who's been imprisoned for over a decade for a murder. The state had virtually no evidence and no motive as to why he'd commit the crime. However, he was convicted on the word of one man (with plenty of reason to lie in exchange for a lighter sentence in respect of his own crimes), following police pressure to catch the killer of a local white woman. It sounds simple, but the legal team have to fight to even get their exonerating evidence heard by the legal powers in the state, all whilst years of Johnny's life slip away, as his children grow up without him and his cell mates face their execution dates. It's heartbreaking on so many levels and the sense of injustice from the systemic racism experienced by the imprisoned men is almost too much to watch. It also inspired us to re-watch Life and Death Row (a BBC documentary) which is absolutely fantastic. I can't recommend this film enough, though you'll take an emotional battering in the process.

Marriage Story | This is one of those films that won big at the Oscars and that I actually did really connect with it personally. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are both fantastic in this relationship drama. It's shot beautifully and it's truly honest; if you've ever loved anyone, you'll probably be able to relate to a lot of what happens. There's the bickering, the lingering bitterness, the sacrifices you make for your family, the financial strain, the emotional difficulties and all of that stuff that comes up during a nasty divorce and custody battle. However, there are also some brilliantly-done moments of empathy and familiarity that feel very honest about the fondness you would always hold for someone that's been a part of your life for so many years. Laura Dern also puts a terrific turn as a 'no holds barred' LA divorce lawyer.

What have you been up to lately? How are you finding post-lockdown life?


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