Wading through quicksand

“Have you got any soul?” a woman asks the next afternoon. That depends, I feel like saying; some days yes, some days no. A few days ago I was right out; now I’ve got loads, too much, more than I can handle. I wish I could spread it a bit more evenly, I want to tell her, get a better balance, but I can’t seem to get it sorted. I can see she wouldn’t be interested in my internal stock control problems though, so I simply point to where I keep the soul I have, right by the exit, just next to the blues.” – High Fidelity, Nick Hornby

As a result of a bizarre trend in cinema during my formative years, I spent a lot of my childhood worrying about quicksand. How would I spot it? What would I do if I became stuck in it? What if others I’m with are stuck too? A quick Google informs me that death via quicksand is decidedly rare, and I’m – thankfully – yet to face-off this fear in a literal sense.

But I’m starting to think the warning over the perils of quicksand may have proven allegorical. Just as Rob in High Fidelity has his remaining soul kept by the exit, next to the blues, my soul is out of reach whilst the rest of me is wading through the quicksand. Futilely grabbing at life-vines which snap before assisting any rescue.

I think I’ve lost my hope, and I’m not sure when I last had it so I can’t really retrace my steps to find it.

There’s enough reason for this boggy feeling to have arisen – not that anyone should have to feel like they must reason or rationalise their feelings for them to be valid. It’s more that, in this instance, I could see things were getting denser, the dumptrucks of life dropping off piles of sand at increasing shortening intervals but I thought I was okay. Things were ‘manageable’. This is all temporary. This too shall pass.

But now I’m in panic mode as things have bypassed my capacity levels. I no longer feel that my head is above water and breathing feels a little patchy.

Ironically, for someone who never learnt to swim, I’m pretty good at that ‘just keep swimming thing’. Dory would be proud. My work, personal and general life has thrown enough at me to test my personal buoyancy. Yet, as I’ve hit a 100% likelihood rate of answering ‘existing’ to every single variant of the ‘How’s things? You okay? How are you?’ question format I wonder if it I’ve just become numb.

Because right now I feel like a lobster without it’s shell, red raw and so vulnerable to the point of defensive – more likely to attack out of self-perseveration rather than risk another hit landing. There’s no doubt this is the by-product of burnout, of having utilised my supply of bounce-back and now the energy packs need charging.

And thus, I’m wading in the quicksand, too tired to pull myself out.

Which, as far as I can work out, leaves me with two options.

One, I keep hoping for a Fairy Godmother to arrive and lift me out of it. Not the best solution as the existence of Fairy Godmother’s is, as far as I’m aware, unfounded and unconfirmed. I’d be waiting a long old while. And, knowing my luck, the Fairy Godmother from Shrek 2 will arrive and just wreck more havoc.

Then there’s the other option. The advice for what to do when stuck in quicksand might be the key here: lean back so that the weight of your body is distributed over a wider area. Moving won’t cause you to sink. In fact, slow back-and-forth movements can actually let water into the cavity around a trapped limb, loosening the quicksand’s hold. Getting out will take a while, though.

Maybe Dory was sort of onto something with her sagely wisdom. Maybe keeping swimming is the answer, but I need to abandon those big old’ movements. Maybe I need to keep moving, slowly, a little at a time – celebrating the progress, not lamenting the time it takes.

Because, apparently, ‘getting out will take a while, though.’


All The Single Ladies

Last night, I went to a singles night. I’ll avoid naming the company here. That feels sort-of unfair, although I could make an argument for the fact that perhaps a degree of transparency from their end would have made things feel fairer…

My friend and I (I’ll add her name here if she’s happy for me to, otherwise I’ll refer to her as Lady Mystery – LM) headed over to THE LAND OF HIPSTERS having booked the tickets for the event two months prior. The Charlotte back in February, she was younger. Naïve. Oblivious. She had suggested going with a blasé nonchalance. As I made my way to meet LM, I suddenly hated younger me with a passion – how dare she set me up like this?!? Why was I going to this event? Why was I turning a friend into an accomplice in misadventure?

The answer, and I have no shame in saying this, was it felt a real opportunity to maybe meet someone. Someone to hang out with. Maybe fall in love with? Whilst in the midst of a year-long self-imposed ban from dating apps (#AppFree23) going to an in-person dating event felt like a good option. Maybe the only option.

We arrived at the pub/warehouse with the deliciously awful trepidation that sets in when you have the grandiose realisation of the endless possibilities of life – at how swiftly things can change so unexpectedly. That a look or conversation with a stranger could be the start of something. Be that at a shop, an event, work or a warehouse/pub. Heck, I wouldn’t even be here writing this if one brave soul hadn’t chatted up a fitty on the Tube (Hey, Mum and Dad!) We cross the threshold, as I feign confidence I definitely do not feel inside, smiling brightly – fixed Chesire Cat grin – at the woman at the desk and wave my ticket in her face.

‘Oh! Are you here for the dating event?’ She smiles back warmly, kindly, seemingly aware of the internal trepidation I am currently enduring. ‘Just walk through the pub,’ she continues. Sounds so simple doesn’t it, walking through a pub – she may have well have asked me to run a half marathon, ‘then turn left at the bar. Enjoy!’

LM and I make our way through the pub. It is full of men. Maybe near-enough only men? And, oh my, this night is looking good. Men on their own. Men in pairs. Men in groups. LOOK AT ALL THESE MEN!?! And they’re single? I’ve found them! I feel like I’ve found the Loch Ness monster, who was hanging out with Big Foot and making weird hybrid babies. I have discovered Atlantis, the mythical place were single men reside.

Did you know there were two big football matches on last night?

I didn’t.

They weren’t here for the event. They were there to watch the footie with their mates. They weren’t here to meet me. Want to know how I realised that? As I had to queue by a door that was under a bright neon sign that declared the name of the company/event which left it in no under certain terms this was an event for singles.

Now, I have no problem with being single. I’m very open about it. You may have read things I’ve written about it before – be that how lonely it can be, how I found myself grieving being on path different than I expected, how awful speed dating on a Friday night in Bank was and how I even did a Guardian Blind Date. But, it was incredibly humbling to be stood under that sign, leaving behind the appealing-looking plaid-wearing bushy-bearded hipsters to go into a mysterious side room. Shepherded away from what we had come here before, but who knew what would be through the door…

It was a – currently pretty empty – warehouse with tables, which would later on double in size. There was a bar. A free shot card could be cashed in as/when we wished. That had been mentioned in advance. As had the 90s theme and live music. Perhaps that was an ambiguous descriptor and we had gotten the wrong end of the stick because I thought that, even if the event was a dud – at least I’d be getting a boogie to some 90s tuuuunes.

No offence to the very talented singer and her accompanying guitarist but, coming to a non-digital event to meet new people – be that new friends or potential loves of life aside – I had never imagined variants of songs by Katie Melua, Norah Jones and Eva Cassidy soundtracking my foray into a mass singles event. I want to celebrate being young(ish), foolish(most definitely) and happy (I mean, I try). I would go on to have this despite, and undoubtedly because, of these and other factors. How many bicycles are in Beijing isn’t the most applicable musical conundrum to compliment the situation we had found ourselves in. Later, a breathy cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’ felt like a personal attack.

Now, all of these things are surmountable, vibes can be created and curated after all. Ascetics aren’t why we are here. Ass-etics are. (#SorryNotSorry). As women looking to date men (I know, I know. Thank you for your sympathies) we are here to hopefully meet some men. Let’s get some chatting in, maybe some cheeky flirting? Who knows?!? The night is young and full of possibilities isn’t it?

Full. Funny word that. Because the warehouse was full of people. Near-exclusively women. As the event had promised 400 people would be in attendance, I shall use that to guide my maths here. This warehouse was full of 390 women. And 10 men.


At this point, I should say the event had not promised even numbers or anything of the short. And, of course, it hadn’t promised the impossible by ensuring LoLs would be met that night. In the branding materials, there’s an emphasis on how it’s a chance to make female friends as well as date. Talk about hedging your bets. And I did in fact make two new friends, who LM and I already have a group chat with (I called it sequins as we met both of them talking about sequins. I never claimed to be inventive!) Hanging out with them was glorious, as we mainly delivered scathing missives to each other about the event.

But, during the 3am panic I would later endure in bed that night, as I worried about how this evening was clearly a sign that I will inevitability die alone after having had a brutal hit to my self-esteem and romantic optimism, I tried to unpick why I was feeling this way. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far: 1) We’d paid £15 for a dating event, where some semblance of dating was somehow meant to occur with a ratio of 39:1. 2) Some, if not all of the men, hadn’t paid or had been offered some sort of discount as an incentive. Discovering that was a kicker. They had not come on their own volition but had needed encouragement to attend. 3) Getting into a position of talking to one of the 10 men was a Herculean task, involving trying to catch their attention or joining a pre-existing circle of conversation. 4) It turns out that, when stood in a group of multiple women to one man, it can feel pretty crappy to have their eyes over your shoulder scouring for better opportunities. Now, I understand why this happened. I make no claim that I’d be doing anything different in the reverse version of this scenario. It’s like you were headed to play Supermarket Sweep at Tesco Metro but you’ve actually ended up at Big Tesco – there’s way more to look at than you expected, you’re short on time and you want to grab the best shop possible. 5) It could have all been solved with a bit of transparency in advance. An update to attendees so expectations could be suitably adjusted.

I could be really corny, and end this on – the truthful and accurate statement – that friendship really was the highlight yesterday. We sat and chatted, laughed at all sorts and desperately tried to avoid the eye contact of the Miniature Cowboy doing laps of the venue surveying us like cattle. And you know what, I’m going to be that earnest and sentimental. Because, whilst I’m sad that the opportunity didn’t play out as I hoped and I genuinely have no idea how I’ll ever met someone, last night I got to sit with a new mate scoffing free overly-fennel-y sausage rolls whilst watching one of our group perform a group Macarena on stage.

And, if there’s anything that can be learnt from the past 3 years, you’ve got to embrace and hold on tight to unexpected joy.

Stage Five: Acceptance

As a species, we’re pretty crap both at grieving and talking about grieving. It’s often a thing pushed aside, an elephant in the corner, ignored and moved around. Which is mad, as we face so many types of grief in our lives that can be truly impactful. There’s a particular spectrum of grief that comes with age milestones. I’m only recently realising that I’m mourning my twenties. Hold fire before judging here please and let me explain…

Yes, I’m heading into my fifth month of being 30 so this has taken a little while. But sometimes you can only realise the true depth of an experience or feeling when you step away from it. Furthermore, considering the emotional rollercoaster I experience pre-August 25th, this prolonged deceleration shouldn’t be such a surprise. And I’m not grieving the end of what my twenties were. I’m grieving the end of what my twenties could have been. How I thought they were going to go and how far away they ended up being from that.

This is not to moan about my lot. For I have an incredible life. My family are wonderful, as are my circle of friends. My health could be better, could be worse. I have hobbies I love and am pretty good at. There is not a single regret at where I am now and the paths I took to get there. But the bit I’m balancing internally is how the path I’m on isn’t the one I expected and arguably, due to all manner of societal pressures, isn’t the one that I envisioned at the start of my 20s.

I thought, by the age of 30, I would have experienced love. The romantic variant.

How this love looked was depicted varied over the years. At the start of my 20s, I was certain that the decade would end with home-owning child-reading with a husband. I’d gone to university expecting to meet my soulmate, so that narrative all felt totally inevitable. And yet, as the years past, I didn’t meet that person. That all-encompassing much-prophesised soulmate who would complete me didn’t come riding in on his noble stead.

Instead, in all honesty, I meet nobody. Nobody that counts. Not really. Aside from the odd arsehole who crawled out the woodwork and provided situationships that resulted in little more than demoralising disappointment and ruthless rejection.

I guess I should be thankful really. I’ve got to my big-age and my heart is intact. It has never been broken, instead it’s been a bit bruised and it’s taken a couple of dents. Which, perhaps in a rather Romantic take on it, makes me feel quite sad. Because a broken heart is a heart that has been used and taken out of the packet. It’s heart that experienced joy before the fall; that once felt alive and soaring.

Don’t get me wrong, big girls do cry – even those who haven’t been in love. Those disappointments still resulted in tears to the point of dehydration and some of the most awful moments in my life, I refuse to undersell or underacknowledge those pains I have overcome. In theory the brightest lights cast the darkest shadows, so I deeply begrudge that the darkest shadows that came from the hands of others were caused by the human equivalent of dim light bulbs.

I am incredibly appreciative of the love and joy I have from my friends and family. I have little doubt that, not matter what or who crosses the rest of however long I have left on this planet, I have a handful of friends who were some of the true great loves of my life. It almost feels disloyal to them to be asking for more.

But I hope that even though romantic love didn’t arrive in my past, it will be awaiting me in my (please, oh holy deities – near!) future. What I would give for something to counter those pangs of loneliness that arrive from not having and never have felt it. Especially as the form of that loneliness has unexpectadly shifted over the decade.

If I had a pound for every time I’ve ever said ‘I’m going to die alone’ I wouldn’t be a millionaire, but I’m pretty sure I’d have a damn nice pair of Louboutins. Sometimes it was a phrase uttered as a joke, other times (and I’m being frank and open here) whilst crying into a pillow. Or on a train or bus. Once or twice, on a park bench. Several times over several alcholoic beverages with friends.

But nowadays that feeling I link with that fear now actually arrives when I’m not alone. It arrives when I’m with friends who are in a couple. It’s not an omnipresent feeling, it’s one that arrives and disappears as suddenly as lightening. But, like thunder, it’s one that strikes at the very core and deeply echoes within. It’s for a craving of the intimacy they share, the knowledge they have their person and the certainty that comes with that. As taboo as it may be to say, I really crave that.

That’s the thing I find myself trying to find acceptance with. That’s what my five stages of grief for my twenties have been tied to: the denial that I felt so profoundly about it, the anger that ‘everyone else’ got to have that whilst I didn’t, the self-bargaining I made in how to ‘deal’ with it and the sadness at having ‘not, and never have been, feeling wanted’.

By writing this I’m trying to finally reach a degree of self-acceptance of it all. That experience isn’t one-size fits all, life cannot be predicted and that I didn’t do my twenties ‘the wrong way’.

And, I can also feel that way whilst also wanting to experience romantic love.

I don’t *need* romantic love, but I’d like to be able to give it a try. To love someone and be loved back. To have my person’s back and they have mine. I’m not looking for the centre of my solar system, I’ve formed a most-excellent one all on my own. I’m looking for another solar system to rest next to. We can sit in the rocketship, exploring our respective solar systems and the rest of the galaxy. Together.

A Man Called Ove

(Review published in June 2017)

Carl Fredricksen from Up (2009) and the eponymous Ove (played by Rolf Lassgård) have a few things in common. They are old, pretty much on their own (through choice along with the way life has played out) and they are grumpy. Very grumpy. There’s a special word to describe characters of such ilk – curmudgeons. 59-year-old Ove may be cinema’s greatest curmudgeon yet. He’s miserable – he doesn’t care who knows it and it almost seems like he wants to spread the misery onto the masses, i.e the people who live in the same fancy housing estate he lives in. The older residents know Ove and know they are better off leaving the ex-chairman of the board of the neighbourhood associations to his own devices. If they follow his many rules, routines and regulations, there shouldn’t be any problems.

The new neighbours – an Iranian immigrant Parvenah (Pars), her Swedish husband and their two young daughters – don’t know this, however. They manage, totally inadvertently and completely unmaliciously, to break several rules as soon as they arrive. Ove does not react well. They even ask him for favours and rope him in to help them! Unlike the other residents, yet just like us, they do not know Ove’s past and what led him to being such a curmudgeon. They also do not realise, but unlike us, that they’ve just interrupted Ove’s suicide attempt…

It feels intrinsically and morally wrong to associate the adjective ‘funny’ with suicide and yet Ove’s multiple suicide attempts are somehow incredibly funny. They’ve been filmed that way. Ove may be a man desperate for a way out, and a way to be reunited with his late wife, but life has other plans in store for him, in the form of the new arrivals who have not-so-rudely interrupted him. Throughout the film, Ove tries to end his life but either Parvenah, her family, or flashbacks prevent Ove from ending his life. The world clearly isn’t ready to let him go and it’s through the flashbacks we fully begin to understand why. We bare witness to numerous key moments from Ove’s life – love, loss and everything in between. In these moments he is both the same man yet one who is vastly different. The reason for that? Sonja.

We find out in the film’s early moments that Ove’s wife died from cancer six months prior. Like yin and yang they completed each other, her tenderness smoothing out Ove’s harshness and forcing him out into a world he really wasn’t all that fond of. The utter devastation he feels at her loss is only compounded when he is fired from the company he has worked at for 43 years. He sees no reason to carry on living and it’s clear the universe is desperate to intervene. Repeatedly.

The aforementioned funny is the result of a careful blend of gallows humour, black comedy, dash of slapstick and excellent characterisation to make Ove truly endearing, even during his more pernickety moments. Over the film’s running time, courtesy of having his flashbacks juxtaposed with the present day, we get to bare witness to Ove’s greatness. We see just how extraordinary this seemingly ordinary man actually is. We realise just how kind and caring he has been and can be – it soon becomes clear there is a heart of gold behind exterior layers of steel. In fact, it would take the possessor of a heart of stone not to release more than a few tears during the moving journey through Ove’s past. The burgeoning friendship between Ove and Parvenah becomes a much needed reminder of the nature of first impressions – it’s all too easy to form a judgement from what we see on the outside looking in and that in doing so we might just miss the inner pain that person is hiding away.

The film is just like Ove himself. Quietly moving, darkly funny, sweetly tender, incredibly sincere and oh-so heartbreaking. The result is a film that is life affirming in a way that is all too rare and all too needed.

Stream On – Vol 3

Five tv and film watching suggestions on your favourite streaming sites. What more could you want? More you say? You’re so greedy – I love it! Well, here’s volume one and two.

Fire of Love (2022: Disney+: 83 mins)

Undoubtedly in my top ten films of the year, this is a sublime documentary. Boy who loves volcanoes meets girl who loves volcanoes. They fall in love, get married and spend their lives researching volcanoes, taking incredible risks to discover as much as they can about one of nature’s most destructive forces. Told only via archive footage and voiceover, with no talking heads, this is an insanely beautifully story on two levels. One, the love story that drives it and two, their footage of the volcanoes is unlike anything ever seen before. Total must-see.

Killer Sally (2022: Netflix: 3 x 50 mins)

Now onto a docuseries that is far less subtle but is still extremely compelling. Along with family and friends, former professional bodybuilder Sally McNeil charts her rocky marriage and its end in a Valentine’s Day murder. A well-constructed series, the very fact the ‘killer’ in question is at the centre of telling ‘her’ story makes for an increasingly intriguing watch.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022: Amazon Prime: 106 mins)

Nicolas Cage. Pedro Pascal. Need I say more?

County Lines (2020: BBC iPlayer: 83 mins)

One of the most essential British movies in recent years, a 14-year-old boy (Conrad Khan) is groomed into a lethal nation-wide drug-selling enterprise which exploits vulnerable children and traffics them across Britain. Simon (Harris Dickinson) is the malevolent heart of the operation. Blistering performances tell a story that writer-director Henry Blake witnessed first hand as a youth worker in a Pupil Referral Unit. For those who work alongside young people, I cannot implore you to watch this enough.

The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019: All4: 114 mins)

And now for something entirely different, an incredibly warm-hearted adaptation of Charles Dickens. Dev Patel is the eponymous character, with an insanely good ensemble cast made up of Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, Peter Capaldi, Fisayo Akinade, Gwendoline Christie, Darren Boyd, Morfydd Clark and Daisy May Cooper to name but a few. Perfect watching for a Sunday afternoon, a proper comfort-watch.

Stream On Vol #2

Five tv and film watching suggestions on your favourite streaming sites. As I write, the weather is incredibly miserable and the want to do anything but watch telly is low – so why not check out these things you may have missed? Not enough for you? Here’s volume one.

Reboot (2022: Disney+: 8 x 30 mins)

With all the recent reboots of beloved sitcoms, it’s no surprise we’ve now got a show about a rebooted sitcom. Thankfully this one is pretty good too! In the mid-noughties Keegan-Michael Key, Johnny Knoxville and Judy Greer were the biggest stars on TV – until they show got cancelled. 15 years later, they’re making a comeback – courtesy of impassioned showrunner Rachel Bloom. With only 8 episodes in its first season, this feels like a grower not a show-er. But, with some great gags and plotting, this is a charming one-to-watch.

SAS: Rogue Heroes (2022: BBC iPlayer: 6 x 60 mins)

How do you follow up Peaky Blinders? Well, apparently you make a show about the creation of the SAS. Any doubt or confusion you have as to why this is a natural progression will be shattered in the first 5 minutes. Because these men are as wild as Tommy ‘fucking’ Shelby and co. It’s 1941 and the possibility of Great Britain losing the war seems to be increasing every day. And so a couple of men decide to come with a ‘little experiment’ involving parachutes. Witty, funny and very violent, it’s the lead trio of Connor Swindells, Jack O’Connell and Alfie Allen that really give this its edge. Airing every on BBC1 every Sunday in it’s prime 9pm slot, all six episodes are already on iPlayer if you can’t wait.

The Bastard Son & The Devil Itself (2022: Netflix: 8 x 30 mins)

As a *massive* fan of Being Human, it feels like it’s been too long since we’ve had a Brit-based fantasy drama. Just like Being Human, we have impeccable building of both world and lore, a great cast – particularly Jay Lycurgo, who is going to be a star – and it’s regularly laugh-out-loud funny. This world of witchcraft is also really appealing because of how effectively it moves along, it’s extremely pacey – more things happen in an episode that entire series of some shows.  It’s not yet been renewed for season two, so please join me in watching and championing it!

See How They Run (2022: Disney+: 99 mins)

Never has a film been so perfectly made for a lazy Sunday afternoon in the rainy time. As a mega Agatha Christie-superfan, I was always going to be here for this. In the West End of 1950s London, plans for a movie version of a smash-hit play come to an abrupt halt after a pivotal member of the crew is murdered. Sam Rockwell is the curmudgeonly lead detective in charge of breaking the case, Saoirse Ronan the unexperienced officer who gets assigned to shadow him. Beautiful costumes and setting, with a story told with so much charm. As my Welsh Grandma would say, ‘S’lovely!’

Velvet Goldmine (1998: Netflix: 119 mins)

Heh heh heh. You there! Do you like David Bowie? How about Iggy Pop? Now, how do you feel about seeing a heavily stylised fictionalised film about their lives? In 1984, Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale) is the journalist writing an article about the withdrawal from public life of 1970s glam rock star Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) following a death hoax ten years earlier. He’ll discover the role Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor) had to play in proceedings. Directed by Todd Haynes, this film is camptstic and so delicious. In case you were wondering, the title comes from this Bowie song – Bowie refused the rights to six of his songs being used in this film and after seeing it said “When I saw the film I thought the best thing about it was the gay scenes. They were the only successful part of the film, frankly.”

Stream On #1

Right, as I’ve been failing with posting on Wednesdays – lets give Stream On, posted every Sunday, a go! Here’s five recommendations of film and telly that might tickle your fancy. And, if you’re a fellow teacher, may serve as a distraction from the looming back-to-school dread. Not enough for you here? Check out my previous posts here.

The Bear (2022: Disney+: 8 episodes)

Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) is used to working in the finest restaurants in the world. But, after the sudden death of his brother, he finds himself back in Chicago running his brother’s sandwich shop. A comedy drama that is able to do both tense seriousness and joyful humour, genuinely one of the finest shows this year.

A Friend of the Family (2022: Sky/NOW: 9 episodes, 6 aired so far)

In an incredibly unusual move, this true story opens with a direct to camera address from the woman at the centre of the story, Jan Broberg, who calmly informs us that what we are about to see is true from a time very different to our own – the 1970s. Over a period of a few years, Jan was kidnapped on multiple occasions by a family friend. Jake Lacy plays him in all his charismatic horror. Colin Hanks and Anna Paquin are wonderfully understated as Jan’s lost parents. Hendrix Yancey and Mckenna Grace are incredible as younger and slightly older Jan. A mind-boggling story that has to be seen to be believed. New episodes drop every Friday.

The Peripheral (2022: Amazon: 8 episodes, 3 aired so far)

If you’re looking for your next hit of sci-fi, you’ve come to the right place. Based on a novel by the legend that is William Gibson, Flynne Fisher (Chloë Grace Moretz) lives in a future not too dissimilar from our own. She and her brother Burton (Jack Reynor) are doing all they can to look after their ill mother – their main revenue being participating in virtual games. However, Flynne quickly discovers there’s more truth than fiction in their latest acquisition. Impecable world-building, I can’t wait to see how this pans out. New episodes drop every Friday.

The Vow (2022: Sky/Now: season 1 = 9 episodes, season 2 = 11 episodes, 2 aired so far)

The Vow was one of the most jaw-dropping true crime docuseries we’d had in years, as the self-improvement group NXIVM imploded, with charges including sex trafficking and racketeering conspiracy brought against its highest members and founder Keith Raniere. Season two now sees Keith’s trial fully under way, as we continue to pick through the wreckage of the group. Another one that has to be seen to be believed. New episodes drop every Tuesday.

Wendell & Wild (2022: Netflix: 105 mins)

Henry Selick’s first movie since 2009’s Coraline. His fifth stop-motion masterpiece. A collaboration with Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. Arriving Halloween weekend. Dropped with next-to-no fanfare. Let’s see if we can rectify that! Two scheming demon brothers, Wendell (Key) and Wild (Peele), enlist the aid of 13-year-old Kat Elliot (Lyric Ross) to summon them to the Land of the Living. A stop-motion animation treat aimed for 9 years+.

What To Watch Wednesday #8

I’m sure there’s theory for it, but when it gets darker and colder – I crave crime-related telly. If you’re the same, then this week’s 6 picks are for you….

Here’s What To Watch Wednesday #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7.

Slow Horses (Apple TV+: 2022: 6 x 50 mins)

River Cartwright (Jack Lowden) was an up-and-coming MI5 Agent until he made a serious mistake during a live training exercise, and found himself relegated to dead end work at Slough House. Ruled over by the curmudgeonly Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman), it’s usually the home of dead end missions – until something dangerous comes headed quickly their way. The stacked cast also includes Olivia Cooke, Kristin Scott Thomas and Jonathon Pryce – to name but a few. An excellent addition to the espionage genre.

Inside Man (BBC iPlayer: 2022: 4 x 60 mins – two episodes shown so far)

Speaking of stacked cast, we turn here to David Tennant, Dolly Wells, Lydia West and Stanley Tucci fronting this intriguingly intricate crime drama. Tucci plays Jefferson Grieff – a law lecturer turned criminal on death row. His unique skillset has people turning to him to solve crimes. Lydia West plays Beth Davenport, a journalist who’s come to interview Jefferson and is also planning to use the opportunity to ask for his help with finding new friend Janice (Wells) who was last seen going to tutor the son of Rev Harry Watling (Tennant). Pulpy and properly compelling.

Am I Being Unreasonable? (BBC iPlayer: 2022: 6 x 30 mins)

The show’s title comes from the message board of the infamous Mumsnet, an online forum where mums around the world vent about their lives – which inspired Daisy May Cooper during her own unhappy marriage that she went on to co-write a show with her best friend Seline Hizli. Nic is depressed and mourning the secret lover her oblivious husband (Dustin Demri-Jones) knows nothing about. Lonely and isolated, Nic makes friends with a new school mum. Jen (Hizli) is unlike all the other mums in the village, and her friendship quickly becomes everything Nic has ever wanted – except it seems like Jen isn’t all that she appears… Savagely funny and dark as anything, a special mention has to go to young actor Lenny Rush who is incredible as Nic’s son.

Sicario (Netflix: 2015: 121 mins)

Taylor Sheridan has written some of the most underappreciated crime movies of the 21st Century, a run that kicked off with this film. Add in the iconic director Denis Villeneuve at the helm. Round it off with cast members Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benico Del Toro, Daniel Kaluuya and Jon Bernthal – I don’t think I need to say much more aside from the fact you need to be prepared for this dark and murky thriller.

Cruel Summer (Prime Video:2021: 10 x 45 mins)

In the summer of 1993 Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia) was nerdy and invisible. In summer 1994 she was the most popular girl in school. By 1995, the loser outcast. Over the course of the ten episodes we hop between the three years as things begun to become more apparent. Whilst it clearly has something to do with the disappearance of beloved Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt), how exactly is Jeanette involved? Deviously twisty and turny.

Romcom of the week – While You Were Sleeping (Disney+: 1995: 103 mins)

The fun thing about this film is, it’s on the cusp of creepy and it’s down to the charm of the leads that it really isn’t and ends up being one of the finest romantic comedies of the 90s. A hopelessly romantic Chicago Transit Authority token collector (Sandra Bullock) has been lusting over commuter Peter (Peter Gallagher) for as long as she can remember. When an accident occurs, and Peter ends up in a coma, she finds herself being mistaken as his fiancée. Enamoured with his close-knit family, she decides to play the role – although a growing connection with his brother Jack (Bill Pullman) may just jeopardise everything. I know, just trust me with this one. If you’re not sure, Bill Pullman as a plaid lumberjack shirt wearing grumpy love interest should be reason enough.

What-To-Watch #7

Autumn is in in air! So, this week, let’s adds some pumpkin spice to proceedings – here’s 5 autumnal (or autumnal adjacent!) treats for you.

Here’s What To Watch Wednesday #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6.

Ghosts (2019-: BBC: 24 x 30 mins)

With series 4 in its entirety having just dropped on BBC iPlayer, it’s the perfect time to get watching the finest British sitcom from this century so far. First Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) inherits a mansion in the countryside, then an accident results in her being able to see the ghosts who reside within it – except everyone else, including her husband Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) can’t see them. By the team behind Horrible Histories and Yonderland, this is British comedy at its finest – each episode is so well crafted and packed full of laughs.

If you like this, you might like: Yonderland (2013-2015), Inside No.9 (2014-)

Minx (2022-: Paramount+: 30 mins – 4 episodes aired currently)

This one is set in LA so it’s not traditionally autumnal, but there’s something about Jake Johnson in 70s get-up that feels autumn… somehow. Anyway, Joyce (Ophelia Lovibond) is a proud and earnest feminist who wants to start a magazine. Low-rent publisher Doug (Jake Johnson) is the only person open to funding it, and thus the first erotic magazine for women is born! There’s so many reasons to watch this, from the crisp script to the incredible rapport between Lovibond & Johnson. Be warned – this isn’t nesscarily one to watch with under 18s or your parents. If you don’t believe me, there’s a dong-tage during episode one that will clear things up…

If you like this, you might like: Loot (2022-), Kevin Can Fuck Himself (2021-)

Industry (2020-: BBC: 16 x 50 mins)

We left season one on some massive cliffhangers in 2020, and now season two is here. There’s something about autumn that has us craving crime & melodrama – we can live vicariously through their self-sabotage and disaster – this show has that covered and then some as we follow young bankers and traders make their way in the financial world in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse. Delicious.

If you like this, you might like: The Dropout (2022), Succession (2018-)

Gilmore Girls (2000-07-: Netflix: 154 x 44 mins)

It would be amiss of me not to mention the most autumnal show that has and will ever exist. Loreali Gilmore (Lauren Graham) was 16 when she had her daughter Rory, leaving behind her well-off family and abandoning the plans they had for her. Now 16, Rory (Alexis Bledel) has been offered a place at the best school in the state – but Lorelai needs her parents help to make Rory’s dream happen. That’s the starting point for it all. No show does Autumn as well at this one, nor has set an impossible bar for men as high as Scott Patterson’s Luke Danes…

If you like this, you might like: Jane The Virgin (2014-19), Ugly Betty (2006-10)

Romcom of the week: About Time (2013: Netflix: 123 mins)

I’ve got quite a low-tolerance for Richard Curtis movies and am firmly in the anti-Love Actually camp. This one, however, is my kryptonite. Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) felt that he was failing at life, until aged 21 when he discovers an inherited ability to travel back in time – allowing him all manner of redoes. He thinks getting a girlfriend will change everything, and Mary (Rachel McAdams) does – but maybe not in the manner he expects… MVP has to be Bill Nighy as Tim’s father. Funny, heartfelt and profound.  

What-To-Watch Wednesday #6

What To Watch Wednesday #5

After a break last week – due to personal, not national, reasons – W2W is back. 5 recommendations of underseen gems on your favourite streaming services

Here’s What To Watch Wednesday #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5)

Hacks (2021-: Prime Video: 19 x 35 mins)

Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) is one of the most faces and names in comedy. Her long-running residency in Las Vegas is renowned, even if her material is no longer as fresh as it used to be. That’s where Ava (Hannah Einbinder) steps in, when a professional crisis has her fleeing LA in desperate search of a job. Their shared agent Jimmy (Paul W.Downs) thinks this could be the start of a mutually beneficial partnership, but he’s already got enough on his plate in the form of his chaotic assistant Kayla (Megan Statler). Darkly funny and totally must-see.

If you like this, you might like: Broad City (2014-2019), The Marvellous Mrs Maisel (2017-)

Abbott Elementary (2021-: Disney+: 13 x 23 mins)

The finest sitcom on tv currently, it feels sure to go down in TV history for all the best reasons. By and starring writer-creator Quinta Brunson, she plays Janine – one of a group of teachers who are brought together in one of the worst public schools in the country, simply because they love teaching. Grounded in the experiences by Brunson’s own teacher mother, this teacher-writer gives it the full double thumbs up here.

If you like this, you might like: Superstore (2015-2021), Great News (2017-2018)

We’re Here (2020-: Sky/Now: 14 x 50 mins)

Drag brings people together. It also has the ability to pull people out of their comfort zones and find their voices, as is encouraged here by Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka and Shangela as they travel the country visiting small-town residents and encouraging to own the stage in a lip sync extravaganza.

If you like this, you might like: Queer Eye (2018-), Glow Up (2019-)

Only Murders In The Building (2021-: Disney+: 20 x 35 mins)

Long-time friends Martin Short and Steve Martin have an incredible rapport, as showcased here in this murder mystery with a difference. They play Oliver Putman and Charles-Haden Savage, respectively. Both residents of an affluent Upper West Side apartment building, a shared love of true crime podcasts finds them teaming up with Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) to solve the murder of one of their neighbours. Funny and carefully crafted, there’s nothing like it on TV right now.

If you like this, you might like: The Flight Attendant (2020-), Barry (2018-)

Romcom of the week: Marry Me (2022: Sky/Now: 111 mins)

Global pop superstar Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez) ends up married to a stranger, divorced maths teacher Charles (Owen Wilson), after finding out her actual fiancée has been cheating on her. Determined to not become a laughingstock in the press, Kat persuades Charles to carry on their fake-marriage until the attention is no longer upon them. Bet you can guess what happens next… CINEMA!