The Sunday Six: 31/01/2016

Only six good things have happened this week. Good job it’s still alliterative.

My friend Hannah’s blog. Since we shared a flat in the final year of our English degrees, Hannah has lived in Brighton, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and now Bahrain. She is very much a woman who goes out and has adventures, and she’s also a very good friend – we can go months without Skyping and then spend a whole afternoon catching up. I’m so pleased we can be blogging buddies – she’s very funny, so you need to bookmark ‘Back with a bangs’ now.

Sali Hughes. We know Guardian beauty columnist and writer Sali Hughes is a herSali Hugheso of mine – the very first thing I read on a Wednesday morning, usually stood at Three Bridges station peering at my phone, is her Pool column – and this week, I met her when she appeared at the Lewes Literary Society. She read the opening chapter of her first book, Pretty Honest (part beauty how-to guide, part feminist manifesto, all wise, intelligent writing), was interviewed by Lewes writer Beth Miller and took questions from the audience. And as if that wasn’t enough for me and my fellow Hughes fans, she then stayed and signed copies of her book for anyone that wanted one. They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but you absolutely should when your heroes are this lovely. She was sweet and friendly and when I asked her for writing advice (what else was I going to ask her?), she gave me a glittering little jewel that I’d never have thought of on my own, and unlike most advice I’m given, I’m going to take it and try it and see if it works. She also told me to send her the link to my blog, which was lovely of her, but I’ve been overcome with page-fright (stage fright but for writers) so probably won’t.

The lady in front of me in the book-signing queue was properly nervous about meeting Sali (“I might cry!”), so I started telling her not to worry because I felt the same and nearly cried myself when I met Caitlin Moran. It turns out she too had met Caitlin and had shed actual tears. When you think about it, it’s strange, but also quite lovely that successful, clever, opinionated feminist writers have that kind of pulling power. Both Moran’s and Hughes’ audiences range from teenagers to great-grandmothers, and a high proportion of them go full fangirl when they get to meet them in person. DB and I had an interesting conversation about it. “It’s weird,” he said. “If I meet my drumming heroes – I mean, it’s pretty cool, but I wouldn’t feel particularly emotional about it, I’d just think that it was, you know, great. Is it because women have to put up with so much more bullshit than men on a daily basis, so when you have someone who’s kind of on your side, it’s just a massive relief?”

It is that. It’s so nice to see a well-known woman who is a) working hard and having a brilliant career as a result, and b) also visibly and vociferously on our side. It’s inspiring to see a successful woman who is pro-women.

Spotlight. Describing Spotlight as a journalism-based procedural drama does it a huge disservice, really (who wants to sit and watch actors pretending to have editorial meetings for two hours?) but it’s the best phrase I’ve got – and it’s a brilliant film. Telling the story of how the Boston Globe investigative team uncovered the extent of child abuse by Catholic priests, the film is understated and at no point gets wrapped up in its own drama. It doesn’t need to – as the Boston Globe itself says, “the story is the story“. The stand-out performances come from Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci and Mark Ruffalo (who delivers the film’s most passionate speech – not that it changes anything), but the real kicker comes from the film’s epilogue. You’ll know it when you see it.

Chocolate and Cuckoo Clocks: The Essential Alan Coren. In his introduction to Terry Pratchett’s A Slip of the Keyboard, Neil Gaiman mentions how both Pratchett and himself were inspired by Alan Coren when it came to learning how to be funny on paper, so I was excited to find Chocolate and Cuckoo Clocks in the library. You don’t need to bother with the frankly tedious introduction written by his children, Victoria and Giles (I have all the time in the world for Victoria Coren-Mitchell, but though Giles is sometimes quite funny, he comes off as an absolute knob), but there is some pure comedy gold in this book. My personal favourites are “Five Go To Elsinore” – a Famous Five story told in the style of Shakespeare – and a response to a doctor’s apparently rather judgmental comments regarding Beethoven’s alcoholism. Sample quote: “How but through regular intakes of fermented anaesthetic are we – there, I’ve said it – artists to stave off the canvas jacket and the screaming abdab?”

Nivea Oil Free Moisturising Day Cream. It’s back to basics in the face Niveadepartment this week, with some good old Nivea, favourite of mums and grans everywhere. The way I feel about using moisturiser is also the way I feel about doing my tax return – I know I have to do it, but I hate the very idea of it, so I put it off until we’re in dire straits and HMRC are breaking down the door, dermatologically speaking (I’ve no idea, but go with it). My skin just doesn’t like most moisturisers, and seems to break out at the merest whiff of them. But even oily skins like mine that are stuck in their teenager phase need moisture (took me about a decade to realise this – sorry, face), so as I’m hoping to age as gracefully as Felicity Kendal or Helen Mirren, I’m trying to be nice to my epidermis. This oil-free cream is lightweight, smells fresh and clean, and doesn’t seem to be upsetting my incredibly oversensitive prima donna of a face. Yet.

Jack Monroe

Cookery books. In particular, this one, which Drummer Boy gave to me on Wednesday evening. I’d left work early, following the onset of a migraine – half my vision was replaced with a big loop of flashing zigzags while I was trying to buy lunch in Sainsburys, which prompted a slight panic at the self-service checkout. I’ve had migraines every few months for probably thirteen years, and I still spend the first twenty minutes of them thinking “this time, it’s definitely a stroke. I’m going to die, I know it”. Trying to pay for my sandwich and ibuprofen, with one eye closed and an assistant demanding to see some ID for the painkillers was quite the challenge. “Sorry, but you look so young,” she said. I was in no mood for flattery. Lady, I have wiggly lights streaking across my eyes, my right hand won’t quite do what it’s told and I don’t know if it’s because I’m having a Massive Internal Panic or if I’m actually about to snuff it in a supermarket, and you want to see my provisional driver’s license. I mean, really?! I didn’t say any of this, though I wanted to. ANYWAY. I made it home, had a bath and went to bed, and then Drummer Boy rocked up with presents, bless his bottomless golden heart. I have nothing but respect for Jack Monroe, and I love her cooking ethos – good, nutritious food on a modest budget.

Over and out.

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