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What I Watched in 2020

31 Dec

I don’t usually write up my watch list, but in this ‘unprecedented’ year, I wanted to record the films and shows that have entertained me. I don’t have space to record literally everything, but some highlights:

Film

  • La Strada (Federico Fellini) – bleak.
  • Parasite (Bong Joon-Ho) – this was the last film I saw in the cinema (Peckhamplex) and it was one of my best cinema-going experiences ever. The gasp that ran through the room at that moment!
  • Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (J-P Valkeapää) – a very darkly comic Finnish tale of BDSM and grief.
  • Paris Qui Dort (René Clair) – a silent film from 1925 that was interesting to watch in locked-down London.
  • Make Up (Claire Oakley) – a coming-of-age dressed up as a horror, set in a Cornish caravan park.
  • Papicha (Mounia Meddour) – a young woman dares to put on a fashion show in 90s Algeria.
  • Arrival (Denis Villeneuve) – a linguist must attempt to communicate with an alien species.
  • Knives Out (Rian Johnson) – a classic whodunnit with a modern twist.
  • Annihilation (Alex Garland) – a group of women must venture into a mysterious ‘zone’ where mutant creatures roam
  • Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky) – three men must venture into a mysterious ‘zone’ where all is not as it seems
  • Luxor (Zeina Durra) – a woman returns to Luxor to recuperate after serving as a war medic.
  • The Apartment (Billy Wilder) – classic comedy with an edge.
  • Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder) – a movie about the movie industry, and an ageing former star descending into madness.
  • Pinocchio (Matteo Garrone) – a stunning adaptation of a tale that is rather too dark for kids.
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What I Read in 2020

31 Dec

Is there any point in trying to write a commentary on 2020? All I can say is, I’m scathed.

For lots of reasons, I haven’t read as many books this year: only 30. History was the perfect escape, reminding me that life in the past was also difficult and dangerous. In fiction, I found myself reading a lot less YA and a lot more ‘adult’ literary, mostly by women. And I read two fantastic novels in French.

I’ve bolded my favourites.

  1. The Plotters by Un-Su Kim – Korean assassins operating out of a library.
  2. The Familiars by Stacey Halls
  3. Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan
  4. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – stunning and harrowing story of two branches of a Ghanaian family.
  5. The Private Lives of Ottoman Women by Godfrey Goodwin
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What we talk about when we talk about money

12 Dec

Aka: the best thing I did in 2020

Religion. Politics. Money. The stuff you’re not supposed to talk about at the dinner table; the stuff you rarely bring up with friends. But where we might feel comfortable, after a couple of glasses of wine, gently probing someone’s attitudes to the death penalty or the afterlife, somehow money-talk can be a step too far. 

Transitioning into the world of fintech in the early part of this year and researching the foundations of financial wellbeing, I’ve realised why. Money comes with a whole heap of baggage. It’s not just about your account balance. It’s also about feelings of shame, stigma and fear. 

That’s why I jumped at the chance to take part in the Own It project, developed and run by Friends of the Earth and Enrol Yourself. After a taster session at the Finance Innovation Lab’s Women in Finance networking event (RIP in-person networking), I signed up to train as a facilitator so I could run my own online project over the summer of 2020. 

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A Weekend in Milan

8 Nov

I miss travel. This morning, I was thinking about my trip to Milan earlier in the year, and wanted to write about it, partly as a form of deeper reminiscence.

I haven’t travelled a lot on my own. In general, I dislike being alone; I don’t think I’ve yet found the means of being totally at peace in my own company. But there is also a freedom in setting one’s own schedule, and exploring at one’s own pace.

I chose to go to Milan on something of a whim. I knew I wanted to do a weekend away in February and looked at which flights were cheapest. My friend Hannah had recently been to Milan and enjoyed it, and I also wanted to make my first trip to Italy. With a bit of Coffee Break Italian under my belt, and advance bookings for the Cathedral and The Last Supper (essential), I set off from Stansted to Bergamo.

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Don’t mention the war

27 Sep

BIG SPOILERS FOR DARK!

It feels like Netflix’s Dark has been the sleeper hit of this pandemic summer. Perhaps because it is eminently binge-worthy and rewards obsession; perhaps because its claustrophobic feel suits the current climate. But it’s not your usual ‘must-see TV’: it’s a subtitled series made in Germany.

That a German show should gain traction around the world is a cheering triumph of the Netflix era. Yet, its global popularity could be explained by its somewhat generic nature. Its ‘spooky small town’ is somewhat reminiscent of the village at the centre of Les Revenants, or even Twin Peaks. Is there anything particularly German about Winden?

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Confessions of a reluctant exerciser

24 May

This morning, I ran almost 10km from my flat in Islington down through the West End and to Whitehall, curving back round along the Victoria Embankment to Blackfriars before looping St. Paul’s to add a few more steps to my count. My feet were leaden by the time I puffed back up Farringdon Road; my lips burned with a mixture of suncream and sweat. But I had enjoyed the run, listening to the history of Chinese food in New York and a BBC documentary on shootings in Chicago.

Yes, I enjoyed a 10km run. And yesterday I enjoyed a 50 minute workout that left me gasping and jelly-legged. If you had told me some years ago that I’d one ay be a committed exerciser, I would have laughed.

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For Food’s Sake

8 May

There are few pleasures to be had, here in ‘lockdown’ (barring, of course, the warmth of a sunray on your leg as you work by the window). Food becomes the only connection to the physical.

Before the virus, I was trying to be more ‘flexitarian’. Tofu, beans, curries made with those little spice kits you can get from the supermarket. I ate breakfast and lunch at work, and sometimes dinner, too, snaffled at my desk before dashing out to a dance class or a gallery late. Salads. Those slightly slimy falafel wraps from Tesco that made my stomach cramp. A bag of Jacob’s Crinklys, lip-smacking food of the gods. An overpriced pain-au-chocolat as a Friday morning treat.

My food habits changed rapidly. In mid-Feb, I put aside a small stockpile of canned and dried goods just in case. I’ve been reluctant to touch them, but it’s good just to know I’ve got a tin of rice pudding if I’m desperate. My last meal out was a last-minute, ‘if this is my last supper, let it be a good one’, dive into Shake Shack for the deep indulgence of burger and chips.

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What I Read in 2019

30 Dec

Another year over. It’s not been a great one, to be honest with you. Anyway, we’re here for the books! A total of 42. My favourites are bolded.

You’ll notice I read a few ‘work’ books this year. Just trying to boost my skills a bit! Mostly, I really loved history this year.

1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

2. Launch by Jeff Walker

3. The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben – fascinating non-fiction

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What I Read in 2018

30 Dec

It’s my annual reading round up! I managed 41 books this year. I’m actually a little bit ashamed as it’s way below the last few years. I guess there were a couple of factors at play. Firstly, I’ve read more non-fiction and a couple of really weighty tomes, especially when it comes to history. They just take longer to read so I can’t rattle through them in a week as I can with a novel. Secondly, I’ve done a bit more writing this year (just hit 32k on my new manuscript). But thirdly, I’ve probably gone on my phone a bit too much, especially now they put free wi-fi on the train. I need to reverse this trend in 2019.

As usual, I’ve bolded my absolute favourites.

Let me know your top reads of the year, and if you share any of mine.

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I <3 NY

30 Sep

All cities are palimpsest. All cities are noisy, chaotic minglings of human bodies and human voices and the creatures who live off our filth. All cities are layers of history pressed close between aching fingers. New York is just much more in-your-face with all that. And how typical.

mon

Within seconds, Manhattan streets change from rather ramshackle collections of dollar stores and fast food joints to vast mansions and big brands. People who look like they wandered out of 1945 cross the street side by side with kids in sports leggings. South American immigrants sweep puddles into the storm drain so guys in suits and trench coats can cross safely on their way to Wall Street.

I love it. Love the deep, grimy brashness of the city. The energy that hums 24/7, for, as they rightly say, this is the city that never sleeps. It is a creature that huffs exhaust fumes and the weird, steel-scented gas that comes from subway vents, veins constantly fizzing with traffic. Lucky enough to visit twice this year, I find myself nodding at the ad campaign. Yes, I heart NY. More so on my return.

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