The Sunday Seven: 13/03/2016

First up, it’s the Sali Hughes & India Knight radio show (that’s the latest one), on the lovely Soho Radio. Pool columnist/Guardian beauty writer/all-round good egg Sali Hughes and Times columnist and novelist India Knight present a monthly show (live every fourth Thursday from 10am-12pm, but for those of us who have 9-5 gigs, available on Mixcloud within 24 hours), and it’s joyous. They talk politics (Donald Trump was called “an enormous pair of clapping buttocks” and “just…vomit” during their most recent show), culture, feminism – all the good stuff. It’s like listening to two cool aunties having a natter, and because it’s online only, they can get fiercely opinionated and sweary. Which I like. Perfect for having on in the background while you potter around the house at the weekend.

Sunstroke, Tessa Hadley.Sunstroke I used to be against short stories in principle. I still find them frustrating – if you’ve got a vague plot in mind, surely you can get at least a novella out of it, if you’re any sort of writer? But this collection has changed my mind, purely on the basis of its beautiful, needle-sharp prose. Hadley describes the mundane and the everyday in such exquisite, precise detail that it’s hard to put the book down. I was genuinely left wanting more.

Still writingStill Writing, Dani Shapiro. I’ve been reading a lot of books about writing, recently, having realised far too late that there’s no such thing as being too obsessed by the thing you want to do for a living (eventually, anyway). What’s lovely about doing this is finding just how much common ground there is between writers – even if their work couldn’t be more different. You have to sit there and make it happen, you have to ‘feel’ your way, you don’t have to follow rules, you have to be deeply, brutally honest with yourself and cut the things that don’t work. As they say: murder your darlings. There are so many great lines in Shapiro’s book, relevant to anyone trying to pursue a vaguely creative path, not just writers.

Porridge. Specifically, this one. You know me well enough by now – I have no interest in extolling the virtues of a dairy-free, sugar-free, wheatless, funless existence. What is the point in living if you can’t enjoy the occasional hunk of coffee and walnut cake? The occasional post-shag plate of toast and cheesy scrambled eggs? The occasional bowl of pasta in bed alone, watching Love on Netflix? I stand by all of this, and will to the day I die (of some sort of cheese overdose, probably). However, please believe me when I say that this stuff makes an excellent desk breakfast (never ‘deskfast’, please, we’re not savages). I only bought it because it was reduced in Sainsburys – no-one needs to spend £4.60 on five sachets of oats, for God’s sake – and I am perpetually on the hunt for easy breakfasts that are a bit healthier than “a small bucket of coffee, a banana and a couple of biscuits”, which was becoming a bad habit. It’s genuinely very nice, and doesn’t have that heaviness that ‘normal’ porridge sometimes does. And while the mornings are still pretty bloody chilly, it’s quite nice to have a cosy sort of breakfast.

Enemies at Bleach Brighton. DB and I have a running joke – I say ‘joke’, I’m the only one who finds it remotely funny, and it’s actually more just ‘accurate’ than ‘humorous’ – where, if he’s playing a math-rock band in the car, I’ll ask “who’s this? I can’t tell, it could be any one of a number of bands because THEY ALL SOUND THE SAME”. I love sounding like a mum who’s tuned in to Radio 1 by accident. I’m sure not all math-rock bands do sound the same, but… no, actually, I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that math-rock is the whitest, most male and middle-class genre of music in existence. I do a ‘woman tally’ in my head whenever I find myself at such a gig; anything over 6 is a gold star gig. It’s wall-to-wall beards, checked shirts and the sorts of jackets dads wore in the early 90s. Unfortunately I can’t bring myself to hold all this against the genre; the intricate guitar sounds and drumming you actually take notice of pull me in.

ANYWAY. A slightly more accurate way to describe Enemies would be post-rock meets math-pop, and they are seriously good (try Coral Castle or Robert Reid on for size), if you like your riffs neat and precise but with plenty of energy. They played some new tracks that sounded bigger, more epic, almost verging into Brontide territory, which is never a bad thing.

The Night Manager. Oh man, I am properly into Tom Hiddleston this. The first episode was full of totally implausible dialogue and temporal jumps – “six months later” this and “three years previously” that – but the over the course of the subsequent two episodes, it’s warmed up a treat. It looks beautiful, it’s nice to see Hugh Laurie play a proper baddie, and Tom Hollander has been stealing every scene he’s in, with the rather unexpected Ray-Winstone-goes-to-Eton thing his character seems to have going on. Essential Sunday night viewing.

Lastly: cheat’s guacamole. I was exceptionally proud of myself on Saturday evening when I had dinner pretty much on the table, complete with wine and candles, for DB when he walked in after a hard day’s drumming. (Offers of marriage will be considered – it’s always good to have a back-up man – but I can’t promise the Stepford Wife thing will happen more than once every six months.) Alongside homemade enchiladas, I chucked together a super-simple guacamole, super-simple being the only kind of culinary action I can handle. To serve two hungry people and still have some left over for the next night: chop about half a small red onion into tiny bits, small as you can, and mash the flesh of two medium avocados. Combine, and stir in the juice of a lime. Add salt and pepper to taste, maybe a splash more lime, and some chili powder if it’s to hand. Done. The traditional recipe uses coriander and fresh chilis/jalapenos and tomatoes, but the cheat’s version will do the trick, trust me.

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