I was aiming for the traditional seven things but wrote 600 words on just the first two, so I’ve had to edit the list somewhat.
First up is Sali Hughes’ new book, Pretty Iconic. I don’t think I’ve been so excited for the release of a book since the final Harry Potter instalment, to be perfectly honest. And oh God, Pretty Iconic is worth every moment of the breathless wait. It’s gorgeous. Hughes’ first book, Pretty Honest, was a sort of beauty how-to guide aimed at ‘normal’ women with ‘real’ lives – she wrote a chapter on make-up and skincare for new mums, for example, and a chapter on acne that I’ve read so many times I’m surprised there’s still ink on the page – whereas Iconic is more of a product encylopaedia. Hughes has put together a hefty list (the book runs to 420 pages) of the most influential skin care, make-up, haircare, perfume and body products and explained why they’re so iconic, what they’ve meant to her, and where she’s not such a fan, has suggested alternatives. This isn’t a book about Sali Hughes’ bathroom cabinet (though of course, I’d devour that too); it covers the history of beauty and is threaded throughout with anecdotes from Sali’s own life. Unsurprisingly, the book is a beautiful thing in itself, as well as being written with her characteristic wit, warmth and no-bullshit tone – and the photography is to die for. The hits of nostalgia keep coming as you rifle through the pages – clear mascara and Bonne Bell Lip Smackers remind me of my 11-year-old self; L’Oreal Elnett takes me back even further, to when I’d watch Mum get ready for work and nearly choke on the cloud of hairspray. Brylcreem reminds me of Gramps – his pipe, checked shirts, ‘pull-overs’ and inexplicable love of Blind Date. Rimmel London’s Hide the Blemish concealer recalls my early teen years – and Hughes is thankfully bold enough to say that in its early formulation, it concealed precisely nothing.
Like Pretty Honest, this isn’t a book about make-up – it’s a book about life.
(It would make an excellent Christmas present for the product junkie in your life.)
I’ve read a lot of reviews and opinion pieces about Ken Loach’s new film, I, Daniel Blake – and I expect you have too. There’s no doubt that it’s an incredible piece of film-making that demonstrates Loach’s mastery of his craft, and while it’s desperately, wet-face-makingly sad (seriously: you will need tissues, and lots of them), it also manages to be warm and witty, and Dave Johns and Hayley Squires turn in beautiful performances. The silence in the cinema as the credits rolled spoke volumes.
It is flawed, however (though still unarguably deserving of its Palme d’Or win, no matter what Camilla ‘Point-Misser’ Long may think) – it’s a little too heavy-handed, and the characters are amalgams of stories more than anything. It is without question a film that needed to be made, a story that needed to be told. The trouble is, when you paint with such broad strokes, you have to anticipate people pointing out the brushmarks. This is not a film that will win over enough of the people it needs to win over in order to change the conversation about how the state should help those in need – like Conservative politicians and Daily Mail readers. Those are the people that need to have this film forced into their eyeballs, and those are the very people who’ll find it easy to dismiss. This film has started a much-needed dialogue, but only in places like the Guardian and the New Statesman – where that was already happening.
I was lucky enough to get to see Love’s Labour’s Lost at Chichester Festival Theatre yesterday – the Royal Shakespeare Company have paired it with Much Ado About Nothing and have been performing both plays at CFT for the last month or so. The bad news is: the run finished yesterday. The good news is, it’s moving to London in December. And I cannot recommend it highly enough. Put all thoughts of conducting line-by-line analysis of the Bard’s work in a stuffy classroom with a terminally boring English teacher out of your mind, and treat yourself to this. Honestly. It’s gloriously silly, touching, with elements of slapstick and gorgeous costumes.
This cake. The last couple of times we’ve had friends for dinner, I’ve made this cake, and it’s gone down a storm. Either that, or I have very polite friends. I don’t have anything to add; just do what Nigella tells you to do, sit back and let the compliments roll in and the waistlines expand. I served it with a white chocolate and mascarpone cream, lemon and white chocolate being soulmates of the pudding world. For that, melt about 100g of white chocolate, leave to cool slightly, then stir it into roughly 125g of room-temp mascarpone. The measurements don’t have to be exact, you’re just looking to add some sweetness to the cool thickness of the mascarpone. God, I love cake.
The lovely thing about Flight Brigade is that when you go to see them live, you know you’re in safe hands. They simply never deliver an average performance – they’re all fantastic musicians, with an unparalleled knack for melody, but I think the real magic lies in the fact that they know how to channel their energy. They know exactly when to reign it in, go soft and slow, and when to let go and ‘rock out’ (and God, what a terrible phrase that is. Sorry. You know what I mean). Anyway – they’re finally releasing their debut album, aftter a good few years of honing their sound. They played an intimate little gig at Brighton’s Hope and Ruin on Friday night, and it was glorious. They’ve gone from folky-pop to something altogether bigger and rockier, while never abandoning their intensely melodic sensibilities. I find it really hard to describe their sound now, and I can’t put my finger on why; I just can’t think of any other bands that sound like they do. I really hope ‘Our Friends Our Enemies’ brings them the recognition they deserve. (Their bio is worth a read.)
Til next time.