After all my proclamations about 2017 being the year I rediscover my creative spark, I’m ending January having written less than I have in a long time.
And, honestly, it feels fantastic.
Not counting day job duties, my January output has consisted of 10 blog posts, one radio feature, one magazine column – and weekends. Glorious, glorious weekends, reading books and seeing friends and napping on the sofa at 3pm on a Sunday. While I’m too much of a workaholic, terrified of my own irrelevance, to let that be the case long-term, I’m quite happy to potter along while we put the mechanisms in place that will enable me to work part-time. I’m less anxious than I have felt in ages and I have written some of my favourite things on here for a long time, so I guess there’s something to be said for taking a break from beating yourself up all the time.
I don’t have a regular reviewing gig at the moment, so I thought I’d try out a new roundup post of the things I’ve been watching, reading and listening to in any given month. It’s sort of like a monthly “favourites” post, except I’ve been using the same mascara for about three years (I know) and I get to be catty if I want to. Without further ado, here’s how my January looked:
Sherlock Series 4: (2017, BBC1) Hey, remember when Steven Moffat’s contemporary retelling of the Sherlock Holmes stories was a breathless, exciting romp through the sort of mysteries that you could play along with at home? No, me neither. Sure, there were moments of brilliance dotted throughout what felt like the swansong of Benny Cumbersnatch’s sallow-skinned detective and his hobbit companion – but does anybody else feel like every time Moffat has a woman on the screen doing Cool Shit it’s done as if to scream LOOK! LOOK! I LOVE WIMMIN! STOP SHOUTING AT ME, FEMINISTS ON THE INTERNET! **
The OA: (2016, Netflix) I do love a properly divisive telly drama. I feel like everybody who’s binged on Netflix’s latest sci-fi/fantasy drama either loves or hates it – so, for those keeping score at home, I snoozed through most of the first episode before firmly joining the former camp about 10 minutes from the end. This was the first show in a long while that kept me cueing up episodes – and that ending. Though I’m pretty sure it would take more than a near-death experience to give me a voice like Sharon Van Etten’s. ****
Weiner: (2016, Netflix) The most tragic thing about this documentary, which told the story of the second most appropriately-named man in American politics’ ill-fated 2013 New York mayoral election? Those snippets of him in Congress, before we Brits even knew who he was, doing his job and doing it brilliantly. This was a jaw-dropping watch at times, not least because of whatever narcissistic tendency of Weiner’s to keep the cameras rolling at some properly stomach-clenching moments. ****
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: (2016) The billing of this standalone instalment of the Star Wars franchise as something separate from, but linked to, the series kind of put me off going to see it – while at the same time piquing Stringer’s curiosity (along with the animatronic presence of Firefly‘s Alan Tudyk). With nothing else worth writing home about on at the cinema during our recent Citizen M staycation, we took the plunge – for a film which I loved as a Star Wars film, and Stringer was characteristically indifferent to. So glad they’ve ruled out a CGI Carrie Fisher for the big finale though… shudder. ****
La La Land: (2016) Guys, I feel like I was mis-sold this one – they told me it was a romantic, feel-good musical but firstly, with the exception of the first five minutes, it didn’t feel that much like a musical (maybe I just burst into song more than most people? hrrrrng); and secondly, there was a point in there I literally heard and felt my heart break. That rare example of a film I really loved, but that I have absolutely no need to ever see again as long as I live. ****
Filth: (2013, Netflix) This adaptation of the Irvine Welsh novel, starring James McAvoy and the kid from Billy Elliot as corrupt cops in Edinburgh, was the epitome of what my mother would describe as “not nice”. One of those films that kept me hooked throughout, as much in horror as in anything else, and which I came away from feeling almost… violated. **
Carrie Fisher, Postcards From the Edge: (1987) I bought this on Kindle the night that Debbie Reynolds died, started it shortly afterwards and finished it in two days, which wouldn’t have impressed me either back in my days as a voracious reader but given I managed about 20 books throughout the whole of 2016 is a testament to what a hilarious, gripping read this semi-autobiographical novel about a young starlet dealing with addiction, rehab and the aftermath is. Not dated at all. *****
Franz Nicolay, The Humorless Ladies of Border Control: (2016) Let’s not talk about how long it took me to get through this eastern European travelogue/tour diary from one of my favourite musicians, because it’s certainly not a testament to the gripping, vivid writing. Nicolay’s first book made me desperate to start promoting his Glasgow shows again – but also unsurprised if he ultimately decides to jack in life on the road for writing. ****
Noir at the Bar: Auld Lang Sin (The Raven, Glasgow, 19th January): So as well as being a kick-ass writer, my husband also co-hosts a regular night for crime fiction fans – usually at The Raven bar in Glasgow. Last month’s triumphant return for Noir at the Bar was particularly special because it was the first time that regular LYG contributor – and my very good friend – Kaite Welsh read from her debut novel, The Wages of Sin, in public. I might have cried a little – and cannot wait to get my hands on the full thing when it’s released in the UK via Headline in June (US readers can get their mitts on it in March).
- my apparent ability to improvise beef and chorizo burgers when I accidentally defrosted mince instead of burgers;
- this incredible Tiptree salted caramel spread, a sample of which I got with a My Little Box subscription, particularly when scooped straight from the jar using giant chocolate buttons as a spoon;
- paying for media: we need good journalism more than ever and I’m proud to have added digital subscriptions to The Guardian, The New York Times and Slate to my Herald subscription (hey, I have a vested interest in keeping them going, okay?);
- Singl-end. So good I visited twice this month, with Alice and with Charlotte. Go swoon over bae’s pictures from our brunch and tell me you don’t feel the same;
- dogs on the radio. Even – especially – uncooperative dogs on the radio (this is my job, guys…);
- this brilliantly-written New York Times feature about the Neanderthals, and the “I Had Babies to Pay For My Baby” episode of Death, Sex and Money.