Both creatively and professionally, stuff June was a pretty fantastic month for me. The amount I earned through my blog, freelance journalism and consultancy work hit an all-time high, and I got to push myself out of my comfort zone and try some brand-new things.
Plus, June is my birthday month, so it stands to reason that it is my favourite.
I started the month trying to shift a lingering chest infection but, more importantly, through in Edinburgh at the launch event for Kaite Welsh’s fantastic debut novel, The Wages of Sin. It was the first of three trips to the capital for me this month: the following Monday I recorded my radio panel show debut at a local comedy club (to be aired, appropriately enough, on my birthday) then, two weeks later, went back through to interview Kaite and review a restaurant. You can’t say I’m not doing anything with those freelance Mondays of mine.
I also had great fun doing one of my semi-regular contributor slots on BBC Radio Scotland, discussing female representation among festival headliners and on lineups more generally (skip to 1hr 35min). With Glasgow just last weekend hosting a music festival at which only one woman graced the main stage all weekend, you’d think the topic was a timely one – but not according to broadcaster Billy Sloan, who dismissed any such debate as “female paranoia”. The fee for my appearance cleared yesterday morning, so I treated myself to a typewriter-print dress in the Lindy Bop sale. Every time I wear it, it will remind me how much fun it is to be a feminist killjoy in the cultural conversation.
Master of None, s2 (Netflix): The Aziz Ansazi-starring dramedy took some creative risks in its second season – not least in shifting some of the action from New York to Modena, Italy – but every single one of them landed as well as every other review you’ve already read said they did. First Date (based, no doubt, on Ansazi’s Modern Romance research/memoir); New York, I Love You (contains the best TV comedy moment of 2017, and it’s in ASL!); and Thanksgiving are all absolutely stunning episodes – but I don’t get why I’m the only person in the world who seems to find Eric Wareham’s Arnold creepy as fuck? ****
Wonder Woman (2017): Ah, that awkward twenty minutes or so I was convinced a film I’d been looking forward to enormously was going full-on zen samurai shit. Anyone who knows me knows there are a few things I hate about superhero movies – mystical origin stories, training montages and talk of “destiny” chief among them. Turns out it’s no more interesting to me when the main players are women. Still, once we got off the Island of the Wonder Women this was the superhero movie I didn’t know I needed – something that I didn’t realise until I caught the tears running down my cheeks during a key scene. ****
The Aristocats (1970): When Charlotte mentioned that she had nearly come to blows with her boyfriend over the fact that he hadn’t seen her favourite Disney movie, I thought it safest to smile and nod – but when the DVD turned up as a birthday present shortly after I was ultimately forced to admit that neither had I, I knew I had to fix my oversight quickly. Had I seen this as a child it would probably be one of my favourite movies too, but watching it as a 35-year-old means I’m forced to deduct a star on behalf of Scat Cat and his Backing Band of Racial Stereotypes. ***
Better Call Saul, s3 (Netflix): I got into trouble for raising on Twitter the spectre that every episode of Better Call Saul brings us a little closer to finding out the reason why Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill’s future is one without Kim Wexler in it, but I gotta say it: the chemistry between actors Rhea Seahorn and Bob Odenkirk is incredible, and one of the many reasons I love the Breaking Bad prequel more than the phenomenon that spawned it. As more characters from that universe begin to infiltrate crooked lawyer Jimmy McGill’s world, the end-game is increasingly speeding into view – and I both can’t wait and am dreading it. ****
Lorde, Melodrama (2017): So I have this sneaking suspicion that my two favourite albums of 2017 came out on the same day this month, but that’s where any similarities end. Loosely themed around both a house party and a relationship collapsing in on itself, from the initial giddy rush (“Green Light”, “The Louvre”) to “cleaning up the champagne glasses” (“Sober II/Melodrama”), Melodrama is the sort of album that a) begs to be listened to in glorious, technicolour order; and b) makes me wish I was still reviewing albums on the reg. Full of hidden detail that rewards repeated, close listening, while still packed with pop bangers. I am obsessed with this record. *****
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit: The Nashville Sound (2017): And I’m similarly obsessed with the new Jason Isbell album, which sounds like the record he’s been waiting to make his whole life – or, at least, since the birth of his daughter. Isbell is one of the most thoughtful, and thought-provoking, songwriters around, but his musings on identity (personal, cultural and political), family, heartbreak and the broader cultural conversation are never dull. His delivery of the line “there can’t be more of them than us”, on the album’s first single “Hope The High Road”, was a moment of catharsis I never knew I needed.
Bonus shout-out to Ariana Grande, whose “One Last Time” took on another layer of meaning after the bombing at her Manchester Arena concert and the benefit concert she put together in the aftermath, but which is also just a bloody great song. Favourite podcast listens of the month: the “Deaf” episode of Beautiful/Anonymous; and the “Friends and Blasphemers” episode of Reply All, about what happened to LiveJournal – particularly for this quote from co-host Alex Goldman:
The connections I made at that time … they burned bright in a way that I don’t feel like I replicate in my current life.”
You know who you are, and I love you.
Aziz Ansari: Modern Romance (2015): I have a love/hate relationship with my Kindle. The 99p Deal of the Day is the perfect excuse to pick up the books on your to-read list at a fraction of the price – but I’m terrible for then forgetting to do the actual reading. I feel like Aziz Ansari would appreciate the fact that I bought this about two years ago (only to pick it up after the “First Date” episode of Master of None described above) because his clever, engaging blend of social science and memoir has plenty to say about the impact of technology on people’s lives, specifically their dating lives. I love Ansari’s style and am completely fascinated by his subject matter, even though I met my husband (online) long before online technology became the multi-billion pound, gameified industry it is today. ****
Kaite Welsh, The Wages of Sin (2017): As I mentioned in the preamble to my recently-published interview with debut author (and one of my best friends) Kaite Welsh, my lack of interest in historical literature meant I wasn’t sure if I’d like the first book about Edinburgh University medical student, amateur sleuth and “fallen woman” Sarah Gilchrist. But, if you’re of a similar disposition, let me assure you: this book skilfully blends a gripping mystery with feminist social commentary and just the right amount of period detail to take you to a really intriguing place. Highly recommended, regardless of the fact it’s by my pal. *****
Naomi Alderman, The Power (2017): This year’s Baileys Prize for Fiction winner has been joint top of my “recommended reading” list in recent weeks, even if author Naomi Alderman gets a little heavy-handed with her central conceit. A world in which girls, and then women, develop the power to deliver electric shocks, and the fallout from that, results in a sort-of gender-flipped Handmaid’s Tale, and raises some uncomfortable questions about dominance and gender. ****
My favourite things I read online this month were Nandi Rose Plunkett of Pinegrove’s blistering takedown of music industry sexism, “Don’t Call Me the Girl in the Band” (for Esquire, of all places, though I believe it stemmed from a Twitter thread of hers); Buzzfeed books editor Isaac Fitzgerald on falling for my favourite band (“for every feeling you could have at a show, well, there’s a Hold Steady lyric for that”); and Margaret Talbot’s quietly gut-wrenching New Yorker piece on heroin addiction in one West Virginia town.
Kaite’s book launch at Waterstones, Edinburgh, 1st June.
Bash & Pop, King Tut’s, Glasgow, 27th June: Once upon a time, a boy started messaging a girl he saw posting on Tommy Stinson’s MySpace page. 12 years or so later, they’re getting a divorce because the wife is a fucking embarrassment (love that photo though).
Spoon, The Art School, Glasgow, 28th June: Confession: I wasn’t half as excited to be reviewing Spoon as half my Facebook feed, who kept telling me they were so good live. Turns out they were right! For frontman of a band I’d always assumed to be the geeky, wordy type Britt Daniel has the charismatic thing down – and having comedian Adam Buxton support was an inspired, if unusual, choice.
- my gorgeous Mud Urban Flowers birthday bouquet from Charlotte – nobody ever sends me flowers!
- the Kat Von D Alchemist highlighter palette (part of my birthday gift from Jehane, who always gets the best gifts;
- having my pals get TGI Fridays to sing happy birthday to me, because I’m a big wean.
- sunny Tuesday evening gin dates at Gin71 Merchant City, with an ice-cold Lussa gin (from an all-female run distillery – on brand!) and Sicilian lemon tonic;
- M&S salted caramel popcorn (I like to cancel out the rage-inducing “guilt-free snacking” label by eating two bags at once;
- the lemon tulle birthday skirt my sister tracked down for me after two months of frantic Googling;
- Monument Valley 2.
Hope you’re all having a lovely July!