Pass the cheese, please

Like many people, I love Nadiya of Bake Off and now her own TV show fame. I’ve been watching her British Food Adventure with a sort of vague interest – experimenting in the kitchen is not high on my agenda at the moment. But, then I saw the third episode and realised I should pay more attention to this lady – she talks sense.

Me too, Nadiya, me too.

Red Rock around the clock

I was planning on publishing another update to my Adventures in Netflix series, but was waiting until I’d watched one more series of something. Unfortunately, any Netflix watching I had planned has been delayed as I’ve become totally obsessed with Red Rock – an Irish police drama that airs on the BBC during the daytime, the iPlayer whenever you want, and I believe on Amazon Video as well.

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Dublin in our household, so the concept of a soap based in the Dublin area was quickly my favourite thing. At first, I was just enamoured by the scenery and the accents, but I soon became caught up in the story as well. A few inter-twining plots make up this soap, with your traditional Romeo and Juliet love story, alongside a particularly creepy grooming storyline as well as cops going bad, family loyalties and plenty more.

I missed the series when it was originally on the BBC last year, and discovered it when it was repeated ahead of the second. The second series is now halfway through, and as it airs every single day, I’ve been struggling to keep up. Weekends become Red Rock marathons, and there’s not much time for watching anything else. But it’s totally worth it.

I highly recommend the show for anyone that has a fondness for the Irish accent or is just interested in daytime police soap drama. And hey, watch this space for my next trip to Dublin wherein I accidentally go searching for filming locations.

Putting the Hart into the West End

When it was first announced that Miranda Hart would be taking the role of Miss Hannigan in the West End production of Annie, I knew I’d have to go and see it. Annie isn’t one of my favourite musicals – children and animals and all that jazz – but the chance to see Miranda in her first stage musical role was too good to pass up. Thus, I rocked up to the Picadilly Theatre one Saturday to see how it all went down.

Miranda was, naturally, the star of the show, and I loved her take on Miss Hannigan – not exactly evil but clearly an unpleasant person with no sensitive side, and a fondness for the bottle. She played it to perfection, a comical character but nowhere near the almost clown-like sitcom that I love so much. She can sing too, and dance, although the Easy Street number did perhaps show an unfair comparison between the musical actors and the comedic ones.

I was blown away by how good the voice was of the Annie I saw. There are three teams of kids, but I suspect they all have the same amount of talent. Funny, earnest, an incredible voice, and completely commanding the stage at that young age, it was an impressive feat. I particularly liked Mr Warbucks, though, Alex Bourne doing a great job as the stern businessman with a secret heart of gold.

All in all, it didn’t necessarily endear me to the musical any more than I was before, but it was a brilliant rendition of it with plenty of talented people. Miss Hannigan is being taken over by Craig Revel Horwood soon, and whilst I don’t think I’ll go back to see that, I can imagine that’s also going to be a sight to behold.

On the record 2017, Part 6: Hear them and love them and join the dots

Here’s why this album adventure still remains a lot of fun even 18 months after it started.

Me: I get why Queen’s stuff got turned into a musical, because Freddie was so theatrical anyway, you know? I really don’t see how it works with Meat Loaf.

Mr C: Sure, except you know Meat Loaf’s work is called rock opera, right?

Me: Wha…

[x2 listens of Bat Out Of Hell later]

Me: I get it now.

I really liked that Meat Loaf album, but hey, you can read on to find out more about that.

Week 26

  • Dua Lipa, Dua Lipa
    I’ve only just become aware of Dua Lipa, but her album was a surprise to me. It’s your standard pop fare, although I did think it was made up of well-produced, catchy songs, if not hugely memorable. Her voice is interesting though, deeper and more soulful than I’d expected.
  • Crowded House, Crowded House
    Only knew Don’t Dream It’s Over going into this one, and that is a stand out track of the album (although the Miley/Ariana version is better), but actually the rest of it was a lot of fun too. Good pop rock, interesting hooks, very listenable. Enjoyed it.

Week 27

  • TLC, TLC
    I didn’t realise the girls were getting the band back together, but out of nowhere came a self-titled album from TLC (or TC as they sadly should be now). It was a good album, sort of standard R&B with that quite notable TLC sound. Not sure any of it stands out for me but very, very listenable album.
  • Bat Out of Hell, Meat Loaf
    I loved this! It’s a bit of a surprise because whilst I know I like Meatloaf songs in isolation, I wasn’t sure about a whole album stacked with super long songs in that rock opera style. Don’t know what I was worrying about, it was brilliant! Curious to listen on to Part II now.

Week 28

  • Something to Tell You, Haim
    Oof I love this album. I was eagerly anticipating it, and listened to it twice in quick succession before 8am on the day it came out. Love it so much. Every song has a unique something, it’s all quite angsty but these girls know how to layer their instruments and voices to create great sounds. Will listen many more times, I know.
  • Escape, Enrique Iglesias
    This album has that pure early 2000s pop sound that I so loved. I’ve sort of grown out of it now but love it as a nostalgia trip. One of the songs was very Eurovision, and I do wonder if putting the same songs in various languages really counts, but otherwise it’s a great foot-tapping pop album.

Week 29

  • Evolve, Imagine Dragons
    Really liked this album. I sort of feel like I don’t know any Imagine Dragons songs but then hear them and love them and join the dots that they’re by this band. This album is a fab collection of pop-rock with some powerful rock anthems sitting comfortably side by side with more traditional pop blends. Love it.
  • Like a Prayer, Madonna
    Interesting collection of songs here, some massively stand out more than others but it also makes a complete work that has to be considered together. It’s good, and you can hear the craft in it, alongside Madonna’s excellent voice and musicality. Not sure it totally won me over but I appreciate the work.

Week 30

  • Parking Lot Symphony, Trombone Shorty
    Not my usual style of music but actually quite liked it. It scared me off a little at the start – the first track being almost entirely jazzy, but moved into more comfortable territory. I like the songs with added brass instruments, and it’s got a cool vibe. Not all my cup of tea but still a good album.
  • Appetite for Destruction, Guns N’ Roses
    Hard to think I can add anything to the world about this band, quintessential hard rock, with a couple of fantastic anthems on there – Sweet Child O’ Mine particularly stands out. But it’s an album full of good tracks, quite intense in places but overall a solid listen.

It does impress me much

As if I wasn’t obsessed with Haim enough at the moment, they’ve only gone and covered Shania Twain for a radio segment in Australia. Turns out they’re pretty fond of the country/pop sensation, and they do a fab job of covering That Don’t Impress Me Much.

Okay, so you’ve got a car!

As an aside, I can’t figure if the segment title ‘Like a Version’ is genius or not. It’s a good pun, but does it work in this context? Undecided.

Podcast of the Month – In Her Court

This podcast first came to my attention as one of the episodes featured the rather marvellous Simona de Silvestro – race car driver and generally all round good egg. Once I listened to that episode, I very quickly downloaded all the preceding shows and subscribed so I wouldn’t miss any future publications either.

In Her Court comes out of Australia and features sports journalist Sam Squiers interviewing a variety of sporting names regarding all things “women in sport”. Topics have included overcoming difficult events, changing sports mid-career, getting a leg up, fighting for equality with men, and sporting injuries. The focus of the most recent episode, which actually ended the first season of the show, was about whether women are more susceptible to injuries than their male counterparts, and delving deeper into that taboo topic of menstruation.

If you look at the research, much of it is very old, and some of it is quite amusing, clearly written by men. Wouldn’t be acceptable these days, let me put it that way.

I think clarification of all these things: whether exercise is of benefit to help mitigate pre-menstrual symptoms, and if that’s the case, what sort of exercise? How many girls are really significantly affected? I wondered whether in fact it’s sport and menstrual dysfunction self-selects, and girls who do get a lot of period pain, joint pain and aching and bad pre-menstrual symptoms end up not being able to reach that high level because they’re perhaps affected badly.

Dr Diana Robinson

As a Formula One fan, the topic of women making their way in sport is never far from my mind, so it was refreshing to get opinions from so many different sports people – some I had heard of and some I hadn’t, but all with interesting and insightful things to add to the conversation.

Like I mentioned above, the show has finished its first season while Ms Squiers goes on maternity leave, but it is set to return. In the meantime, you can catch up with all the episodes that have aired so far – these aren’t particularly timely conversations so you can listen at any time, but they are important discussions that can only serve to further the cause.

The Championships, Wimbledon 2017

For the past two weeks, the 2017 Wimbledon Championships have been underway, and they’ve provided lots of ups and downs, highlights and disappointments, the usual Grand Slam tournament soap opera. This year was different for me, though, because I was there on day one. I was one of those attendees in the grounds of the All-England Club. I never really thought I’d get to Wimbledon in person. It was a vague desire, but the complexity of getting tickets alongside the fact that coverage at home only ever gets more comprehensive and engaging meant I thought I’d be an armchair fan for the foreseeable future.

However, I was lucky enough to get a ticket for Court 1, Day 1, (thanks Helen!) and thus I was there to see the opening matches kick off. I could talk you step by step through my day, how I saw Kim Clijsters on the press balcony, how I saw James Ward taking a picture with a fan whilst simultaneously continuing his conversation with his friend, how I marvelled at Venus Williams from a seat with an incredible view, how I opted not to indulge in the over-priced strawberries.

I could do all that but why bother? You know how cool Wimbledon is.

Instead, here are five things I noticed that you probably don’t get in your average Wimbo review.

  1. The gate staff were exceptionally vigilant.
    Everyone I encountered that day that was helping out, either as volunteer, or paid staff, was supremely kind and courteous, helpful, knowledgable. It left me with a really good impression of the organisation of the event. The gate staff were checking bags, naturally, and it was a thorough but very polite search. I thought it interesting that they were on high alert for guerrilla marketing – on the walk up to the grounds, some had been handed freebie bags, these were taken off them at the gate so as not to provide excessive marketing to the companies behind it. Intriguing.
  2. The Aorangi hill is really uncomfortable.
    I’m sure there are a few prime spots, on the curve of the ridge with the screen straight ahead, but I perched on a steep incline to enjoy a snack and gained nothing but a bad back and a cricked neck. The people that sit there in the rain, or stick out five set thrillers are to be applauded indeed.
  3. The difference in power and speed that is so much clearer in reality than on TV.
    I experienced this briefly when I was at Eastbourne a few years ago, but it was never more obvious than at Wimbledon. Obviously, these tennis players are tremendously fit and hitting the balls very hard, but on TV that can almost seem glossy and less impressive. In reality, you can see the effort going into every single point, and the reactions are so much more intense when you’re looking directly at someone rather than through a TV screen. That being said, I did miss the commentary, the different angles, and the reminders of break point/set point/match point.
  4. The ball boys and girls are incredibly earnest.
    I’ve always loved the ball kids at Wimbledon, they’re very good at their work and you can see the hours of training that have gone into making the fortnight’s games run smoothly. Up close and personal, you can see how much it means to them. Their arms are ramrod straight, they dash this way and that and never leave a stray ball behind. Straight backs, barely blinking, ever-ready, it’s really a proud sight to see. As a quick aside – has anyone seen any ball girls doing the kneel-at-the-net role? Is that boys only?
  5. I know this is silly, but it’s really annoying that Centre Court is in the middle.
    You just have to walk around it to get anywhere, and it’s huge.

I found the Wimbledon experience a brilliant one, slightly overwhelming in places, but for the most part a fantastic day out. I can’t say I feel it justifies queuing from 5am in the morning in the hopes of getting a ticket but it’s certainly worth a punt on the ballot. I saw some great players, excellent matches, and wore myself out walking round and round the grounds. It only rained for a brief moment, the covers only came on for a few minutes, and the rest of the day was gorgeous – as it has been for the most of the two weeks.

Thanks Wimbledon 2017, for a fab day, an exciting tournament, and another item ticked off the bucket list.