Back from Blackpool and in the ballroom we know and love, this is a regular dancing week before we hit another theme next week - Musicals week! Sadly Kym couldn’t perform today due to testing positive for Covid, so she technically gets a free pass to next week and at this stage in the competition, I really think that’s a huge advantage!
Nevertheless, we still had six glorious couples dancing (oof it’s getting empty at the bottom of those stairs, isn’t it?
This week, the final episode of Andor streamed on Disney+ bringing to a close a 12 episode season that is one of the best Star Wars creations since Rogue One (not counting Baby Yoda, obviously). Whilst I have my obsession with the Mandalorian firmly in mind, I have to admit that the quality of this series of Andor really shone through from start to finish. Okay, not quite the start, I did already mention that the first couple of episodes were slow, slow, slow.
I had honestly not even heard of Alan Jackson until he was honoured at one of the country award shows this year, and figured if he was such a classic country artist, it was worth giving him a listen. I was a bit nervous because, you know, it’s proper old school country and that isn’t always my cup of tea - I’m more of a modern country girl. But, actually, it was really good. It was old school but it wasn’t bad, very listenable and just a nice, solid album.
I really liked this album. I don’t know if I was expecting great things particularly but it came as a nice surprise. It’s that kind of grown up pop that is really easy to listen to, but without being boring. It has some strong melodies that don’t stick in your head particularly but are wonderful to listen to - and nice themes, good lyrics, plenty to like!
As a kid, I tried to read this book so many times, but I never got past the first few pages. I have that image of Roger zig-zagging across the field embedded in my mind, but I had no idea what happened next. This time, I listened to an audiobook version of it and managed to get all the way through - hooray! It didn’t really grab me hugely, reminded me very much of Enid Blyton, although this came first, obviously. I did like how imaginative these kids are, and how they really threw themselves into this island life they created. But the war with the uncle seemed odd to me. Never mind, finally achieved the end of the book, job done!
This was the first novel written by TV bigwig Jed Mercurio, and it’s very different from the other one I read (Ascent). It follows the early days of our protagonist’s career in a hospital, with the very many challenges faced by young doctors - all the pressure from the scheduling, the lack of funding, the difficult patients, and worse than all of these, the colleagues. The main focus of the story is whether our hero should turn whistleblower or not after a number of things go wrong and are covered up. It’s a very difficult read but very well written and the stress and tension just leap off the page.
For the first time in three years, Strictly was back in the Blackpool ballroom with everything that comes with that - echoey vocals, additional dancers, fish and chips, rollercoasters, and everyone talking about how important the seaside town is to the world of ballroom dancing. Even though we’re all a bit cynical about just how much everyone bangs on about Blackpool, it’s still quite exciting to see how much they all love it and how much it means to them.
It was August when I last wrote about Nasa’s Artemis mission and the ongoing delays of launching. Those delays kept on coming but wahey, the rocket finally lifted off this week and the Artemis Orion craft is finally on its way to the moon. Apparently it will be tomorrow when the ship reaches its closest proximity to the moon, 80 miles, before heading into orbit.
The latest official Nasa update talks of the tests they’ve been doing along the way - solar power, WiFi signal, radiator systems and navigation guidance.
Two things happened that made Bread this week’s album. My dad suggested them as a band I hadn’t experienced yet, and then Everything I Own was featured on a TV show and I realised how much I love that song without knowing who the artist was. As soon as I saw it was Bread, the two things clicked into place and thus, time for a 1970s soft-rock album. It was really good, that song stood out, and I was a bit annoyed at the concept of the song Diary - don’t read people’s diaries - but very 70s in the best way, a nice gentle album to get you through the week.
I was really looking forward to this and maybe I should have tempered my expectations a little because, although it’s good, it was a bit of a disappointment. It was like an easy listening album, and only a couple of times I thought the album was going to pick up and start going somewhere, but it never did. There was no huge hit or anything to grab at you, like Twisted or Girlfriend, but it’s still a nice album to listen to and you can’t fault the talent on display.
The last episode of the latest true crime dramatisation A Friend of the Family aired this week, and I think it brought to a conclusion an incredible series that has really been well constructed from start to finish.
The series tells the true life tale of the Broberg family - something that has already been covered in a documentary and a podcast, apparently, I have not consumed either of them, this was all new to me.
Obviously I was going to read this as a massive Friends fan, and it was a very interesting memoir. I listened to the audiobook so Matthew Perry was telling his own story and what a difficult time he’s had. It’s unflinchingly honest, this book, so that Perry doesn’t always come across as the hero, sometimes not even a particularly nice person (what is his beef with Keanu, please?) but it’s an important story to share. Addiction is horrible and hard and can affect anyone, no matter how much money or privilege you have. He talks about his early upbringing, with understanding of the events that shaped some of his later problems, but without making excuses. His time on Friends is discussed, particularly the process of getting the role in the first place, how close the group became, and how they supported him through some of the tougher times. And, as the book title suggests, there’s a lot of women coming and going in Perry’s life… including Julia Roberts! Ultimately it’s a difficult read and I maybe wished for more tales from the set, but well-written, well-read and a fresh take on the struggles of addiction.
I had planned to do a quick update halfway through my 30 days of guitar challenge, I’m a couple of days late but let’s do it anyway. It’s really just to note down a few of the things I’ve found over the first half of the month:
I was really worried about the tips of my fingers being painful and potentially prohibitive to playing every single day, but the good news is I’m trying to be quite strict on the time I play each day which helps make it more manageable.
There are a lot of problems with the clothing industry for women - sizing inconsistencies, promotional angles, impact of fast fashion - but one of the biggest issues is the lack of pockets. This isn’t new news, it’s been a vocal complaint from many women for years: where are my pockets? There’s no good reason that suit trousers or jackets or skirts or anything don’t have pockets. Or worse, they have a pretend pocket opening with a sewed up liner.
It’s Blackpool next week, in case you missed one of the hundred references to it in this week’s show. Time to get your drinking games on! Blackpool… DRINK! A fact I heard during the week on It Takes Two was that four of the six couples who have left the show so far have gone out on a Charleston, making it the danger dance of the series so far. Ellie’s on for the Charleston this week - uh oh - and she was first up on the dancefloor.
I don’t know that I would have specifically picked this up but I had it as part of a two-in-one collection including the Mount Everest adventure. That one was a good read, but I didn’t get quite so engaged in this one. I don’t know if it’s just the nature of the challenge being undertaken or what but I really rushed through to get to the end. Clearly this was a hard experience and a real endurance exercise but it sort of read quite slow and boring - because ultimately it’s five guys in a boat just clinging on to get to the other side, rather than the slightly more interesting and varied experience of climbing a mountain. But tick, another book finished.
Duolingo have been rolling out a new format to their free language learning app, with a more structured approach than previously. I’ve been using the app on and off for years, and have loved it, it’s been my go to for language learning. The new path rolled out to me this month, as it did to most others, having been in testing and beta for a while, and the reaction has been… mixed would be polite, negative would be more truthful.
Really good, solid, 80s rock pop. Alone is an absolute belter and of course I’m listening to this album because the song popped up on Strictly Come Dancing at the weekend. What a tune! The rest of the album doesn’t quite stand up to such a high level, but it’s honestly not that far off. It’s just that recognisable rock from the decade of big hair and equally big riffs. Good job.
This is a good album, nice sounds, very 1975 from start to finish. It’s not going to stick in my mind, particularly, I don’t know that there’s a standout song in there, but as an album to listen to, it’s perfect. The only real complaint is that the title doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in relation to the rest of it. But I’m sure there’s something I’m missing.
After wrapping up the Apple TV+ series based on this work, I sought out the original but it wasn’t available as a digital read, only an audiobook. So I quickly raced through that on Audible Plus - it’s well written and read, detailing the important moments of the journey, but if I’m honest, if I hadn’t have watched the show, I don’t know that it would have grabbed me all that much. Still, good to have the background behind the piece.