It's been such a long time since we last caught up and I guess that's been because my life has been a little bit messy, chaotic and confused this past summer - in both good ways and bad! So, let's dive into it and I'll also share my current lifestyle favourites...
I don't even know where to begin but I guess my birthday is as good a place as any; it was a bit of a weird one, as I'd just gone through one of the many dramatic rollercoaster moments I've had in my love life this year! (Even now, somehow nothing is really easy or straightforward...) Whilst it feels like a distant memory now, it was kind of weird to be out celebrating with all my friends with that going on in the background but also it was also a reminder of the strong non-romantic connections I have and am so grateful for. As I've mentioned a lot, I did buy my first home this year which has meant that despite the world opening up in 2022, I've not had a ton of money to go on holiday. However, I did get away to Tavira, which is a pretty, quiet town in the eastern part of the Algarve. The weather was beautiful and it was the relaxing break I needed at that moment in time. I had a lovely summer here in the UK too; I was able to enjoy the weather and something as simple as a ginger beer on my balcony after work was so nice.
Then suddenly autumn has come around again! It felt almost out of nowhere; the final hurrah of summer for me was going to Manchester Pride with my friends, and the weather was still lovely for that and we had an amazing time enjoying the sun, the amazing acts and just soaking up the atmosphere. But within a couple of weeks it was getting darker in the evenings and I found myself reaching for the heating dial! I'm really not an autumn / winter person; I actually find myself reluctant to go out as much and it just saps my energy and mood. This year I've got plans pretty much every weekend from the start of October to the end of December, which I hope will force me out of that funk. It's actually been great to get back into the office too and have a bit of flexibility to work from home when I need to whilst still getting that social side of things. I've also kept up my running, which I think is helping me in terms of being in a good mindset. Obviously the winters we've had the past couple of years have been tough in many ways so I'm thankful this winter isn't going to be like that. And I have a really nice space now: my flat is finished completely! You can check out my home and food content on my lifestyle Instagram account if you like that kind of thing.
The next couple of podcasts I wanted to mention are linked by journalist Michael Hobbes. A friend of mine recommended You're Wrong About which debunks recent history, moral panics and social phenomena, managing to be informative, engaging and witty all at once. Examples of episodes include Stranger Danger, Shaken Baby Syndrome, Homelessness and Monica Lewinsky. Michael actually left that podcast (fellow journalist Sarah Marshall now hosts it with a new guest every week) and has another show with Aubrey Gordon called Maintenance Phase, which actually is in the same spirit of debunking and analysing social trends but it focuses in on health fads, diet trends, nutrition and the wellness industry. It's really reframed the way in which I think about health and diet, and acts as a bit of an antidote to the way 00s diet culture warped my brain (it was not a fun time to be a teenage girl...) Intuitively it's always made sense to me that a lot of these corner-cutting trends don't feel like they're good for your health or even work for weight loss where that's the goal, but it's been great to hear them break it down in such an easily-digestible way (pardon the pun).
I've also read a couple of books by celebrities lately, which surprises me more than anyone else, because that's not typically an interest of mine at all. The first is I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy. Provocative title, I know! And it does come with a lot of trigger warnings... To me, the cover really captures that dichotomy between the dark humour and the raw trauma and grief. Jennette McCurdy is a former Disney star (if you aren't aware) and this memoir charts her fraught and complex relationship with her abusive mother, her eating disorder and how she came to terms with her trauma. Jennette is a wonderful writer and captures a specific tone that really works for the subject matter; these heavy topics are treated with the required sensitivity but the dark humour acts as a kind of nervous release valve. If you have dealt with complex family relationships, I highly recommend checking out this book because it's relatable in the way it says the 'unsayable'.
The other book I really enjoyed was My Body by Emily Ratajkowski, which I never would've thought to check out had I not heard Emily (a supermodel and Instagram influencer) on the Call Her Daddy podcast. It's a collection of essays in a somewhat-narrative memoir structure, examining themes such as objectification and self-objectification, sexual assault and self esteem. It's bizarre how relatable a lot of what she says is, which I guess goes to show how ingrained self esteem issues are in everyone; even a woman widely considered to be one of the most attractive on the planet feels this way! It's particularly interesting how Emily talks about the effect of having so much value placed on how she looked (even in childhood), what it's like to have your body commodified (and acting as your income source) and how all of this can really make you feel alienated from your body. Yes, it's very much a book about Emily's experience, without any consideration really given to the impact that the beauty standards she upholds has on everyone else, but I guess it never claimed to be about that! Emily has a really sensitive, immersive writing style which made this a great read regardless of its shortcomings.
I'm a huge fan of horror films but, honestly: there are a lot of very bad ones out there! Smile wasn't really on my radar but as it started getting lots of positive reviews, I spontaneously saw it with a friend and really enjoyed it. The basic plot is that a doctor working in an emergency mental health ward witnesses the bizarre and graphic suicide of her patient (who in turn witnessed the suicide of her professor a few days earlier). It seems this string of incidents might be something supernatural... It's a classic horror film but it's very well executed with solid acting performances, plenty of twists, the right amount of jump scares and a story that makes you care about what happens. What took it to the next level for me is probably the themes it examines such as mental health and the way in which, one someone is labelled as 'mentally ill', the rest of society often dismisses their very real feelings and cries for help. It also examines trauma and guilt through a supernatural curse that very literally forces you to face your demons.
In a significant mood shift (but hey, let's end on a more lighthearted note!) I also watched and loved Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. It's a comedy drama that primarily takes place in a hotel room as interactions between two characters. Emma Thompson plays a retired, widowed teacher who - after a lifetime of joyless, functional sex - decides to hire a much-younger sex worker in search of excitement and liberation. It's a funny but also very real look at a number of topics: changing social mores, the pressures of societal expectations of middle aged women, how women of that generation were made to feel about sex and about how we can find different types of meaningful connections in unexpected places. It's charming, touching (I guess in more ways than one!) and was a real joy to watch.
Let me know if you've come across any of my favourites and tell me: what have you been watching, reading and listening to this autumn?