In many ways, I am my own worst enemy.
Towards the end of August, I saw a link circulating on social media about the Feather & Down September sleep challenge, designed to help busy people create sleep rituals and get a better night’s sleep. It’s a topic that has always interested me, plus, the first however many people to sign up were promised a free bottle of their award-winning lavender and chamomile pillow spray (a product I’d always been curious about, but was too resentful to actually pay for since they seem to work with bloggers all the time, hi, call me) to help them get started.
I didn’t actually expect to be one of the lucky people who’d receive a spray, but I did – and I spent the first half of September having the greatest sleep of my life. Now, that was partly because I was up and down to London more than usual for work, and nothing focuses the mind on good sleep hygiene like the knowledge that you’re up at 4:50am the next morning (or, indeed, having gotten up at 4:50am, doing the London round trip and being back at your desk the next morning). But, regardless of the efficacy or otherwise of essential oils, I think by giving me bit of ritual as well as a scent to associate with bedtime the spray played a part too.
So how come, by the end of the month, I was back to lying in bed reading lengthy angry comment threads from people I don’t know on local news Facebook pages for an hour every night before remembering I should have been in bed an hour ago?
Self-sabotage, guys. It seems I can’t help myself.
There’s a passage in Deborah Frances-White’s The Guilty Feminist (a book I actually read last week, so it’ll appear in next month’s round-up), which resonated with me so hard I got whiplash in the middle of the Marks & Spencer cafe:
My authentic self likes to sleep late and watch movies. My best self likes to get out of bed and make movies. I find if I just do the things my best self would do for six weeks or so, that becomes my habitual self. Your authentic self is simply your habitual self. If you want to be someone bold, brave, rhythmical, regal, defiant, deviant, loud, loving, energetic, ebullient, fearless and full of yes – you just have to do the shorts of things that someone like that would do… no matter what anyone says, you are ‘that kind of person’.
When I look back at the last few years of my life it sometimes seems as though whatever I do, whatever good habits I get into, I manage to last a couple of weeks or a couple of months before I let my “authentic” (read: lazy-ass, credit card spendin’, never puts away her shit, eats half a tub of Ben & Jerry’s in a single sitting) self get the better of me. It’s alright, she soothes me, when my best self’s guilt over half-finished plans and the things I never quite got around to doing gets too loud, you’re depressed. You’re entitled to rest. You can do it tomorrow. Start next week. Make it your new year’s resolution.
And sometimes it’s fair enough: I do have depression! I’m really, really tired, like, all the time! Only 65 people read that 24 hours in Malaga post that I was really proud of, and that took me ages; and nobody gives a shit about my podcast idea anyway!
But also, if I spent just a fraction of the time I spend whinging about never doing the things I want to do in actually doing them and got an early night once in a while there’s every chance I could be unstoppable.
Bodyguard (BBC One): It won’t surprise regular readers of this column to know that I was less of a fan of the saviour of primetime telly than the other 11 million people who watched this, falling squarely as it does within my least favourite dramatic sub-genre: #MANPAIN. Interesting enough as a political thriller, but once the big twist happened and it turned into a woe-is-me whodunnit? No thanks. Still, at least I made a few BBC Radio Scotland pounds out of it. **
Killing Eve (BBC Three): I must have been waiting for months for Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s wickedly funny, deliciously dark six-part crime drama, which so unfairly aired on BBC America first (to the delight of all my favourite culture podcasts). Inspired casting (who would have thought sweet Jodie Comer, of My Mad Fat Diary fame, would make such a delightful psychopath?) and excellent writing, the first and last episodes in particular – Killing Eve overturns genre-gender cliches and has a tonne of fun doing so. ****
Girlhood (2014): This month, I finally attended a screening hosted by She’s En Scene, a Glasgow-based community cinema project screening films made by women in women-only spaces (they’re hosting The Love Witch for Halloween, and I’m annoyed I have a clash!). Girlhood is a French coming-of-age drama centred on Marieme, a teenage girl from a poor Parisian suburb. It’s a brutal watch at times, despite some beautiful scenes involving Marieme and her friends in the girl gang she becomes a part of (and a Rihanna soundtrack). Director Céline Sciamma says that, in telling a story centred on the lives of black teenagers, her goal was to share a perspective often underdeveloped in French film. Her characters are complex and vividly realised, and you can’t help but will better things if not for Marieme, then for the sisters she leaves behind. ***
Smokey and the Bandit (1977): Because, for some reason, I was the only person who marked the passing of Burt Reynolds by watching this clip from The X-Files on repeat:
BlacKkKlansman (2018): About two thirds of the way through BlacKkKlansman I started to feel really sick, but I didn’t manage to put my finger on why until I read Nick Hasted’s review for The Arts Desk: there’s something about the bright colours and almost cartoonish tone of it that, in Nick’s words, “sugars the poison of its racist language to make you swallow more than you might otherwise stomach, till the verbal rot starts to choke the air with unchallenged hate”.
It couldn’t be more obvious that Spike Lee had an agenda with this film, from the Trumpian catchphrases buried within the script to its gut punch of an ending (one that hit my screening like a bomb followed, after stunned silence, by a standing ovation). I didn’t begrudge him it for a second, though. ****
A Simple Favour (2018): Thanks to those cultural podcasts o’ mine, I knew going in that this “dark side of Paul Feig” thriller would not be what I expected. But even by that standard? It was flipping BONKERS. Anna Kendrick plays a goodie-two-shoes mommy vlogger swept up in the mysterious disappearance of her sophisticated, gin martini-drinking best friend Blake Lively, but double crosses and double standards ultimately lead to all hell breaking loose. Throw in a vintage franco-pop soundtrack for perfectly popcorn-friendly fun. I’m also delighted that they went to the trouble of creating separate titles for its US and UK releases. ***
Darren McGarvey – Poverty Safari (2017): There’s no way someone like me would have been given the opportunity to write a book like this had I not draped it, at least partially, in the veil of a misery memoir.
It doesn’t surprise me that this book by the Glaswegian musician and social commentator also known as Loki won the Orwell Prize for political writing: I can see how, to parts of the London establishment, Poverty Safari really would be something of a guide book to a whole other undiscovered culture. Through a mixture of memoir, polemic, history (of the Gorbals slums/regeneration and community resistance in Pollok, in particular) and contemporary research/interviews, McGarvey has created a really compelling book about class and social deprivation in the UK from a Glasgow base. Of course, it wouldn’t be McGarvey’s writing without plenty to disagree with, too: dismissals of intersectionality and “call-out culture” in particular come across like missed opportunities. ****
Joshua Ferris – Then We Came To The End (2007): or, perhaps, What Happened to the Microserfs During the Recession – Copeland may never have played with first-person plural as a POV but there are definite shades of him all over this book. You’ll either love or hate the narrative conceit but, to me, it plays with the idea of corporate ‘groupthink’ in a startling way – but despite an ending that makes you question the veracity of a huge chunk of what has gone before, the most surprising thing about this book for me was finding out that it actually came out 10 years ago. ****
Trevor Noah – Born a Crime (2016): TREVOR NOAH IS YOUNGER THAN ME. I say this not in a self-pitying, what-have-I-done-with-my-life kinda way, but to underscore just how horrifying his story of growing up in the dying days of apartheid is. Yet it’s funny, too (I mean, of course – he’s a professional comedian), as well as being a personal account of a disturbing episode of global history that occurred in my own lifetime. ****
Chris McQueer – Hings (2017) In an ideal world, every household in Glasgow – if not the country – would keep a copy of Chris McQueer’s hilarious and surreal debut short story collection in the bog. But since we all spend that time on our phones now, you’re as well getting a copy for your Kindle. ****
Alexandra Stréliski – Inscape: Maybe I’m finally getting into instrumental music in my old age. Maybe there’s just something about Alexandra Stréliski’s minimalist, yet uplifting style that pushes the right buttons. A Montreal-based pianist and composer whose working relationship with director Jean-Marc Vallée means that you may have already heard her work in the likes of Sharp Objects (two tracks from this album), Dallas Buyers Club and Big Little Lies, Stréliski is definitely worth delving into.
Camp Cope @ Audio, Glasgow, 2nd September: The Australian feminist punk trip who have made what is a serious contender for my album of 2018 had a packed Audio hanging on their every angry, hilarious word. I was already halfway in love with Georgia Maq, but when she introduced “The Opener” as “Avril Lavigne’s ‘Sk8r Boi’, but after she realised the guy wrote songs about how much he hated women she started a band with the other girl” I was GONE.
Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop @ National Museum of Scotland: I want to say nothing could tempt me through to our nation’s capital faster than an exhibition purporting to recount the history of my favourite thing in the world, but then again I held off three months from opening… Audio-video exhibits, plus items as embedded in my favourite popular culture as Shirley Manson’s orange puffa jacket and King Creosote’s “KC Rules OK”-painted fence made this way more compelling to me than the book of the same name. It’s on until 25th November, if you’re yet to check it out (and I recommend you do).
The Art of Coorie by Gabriella Bennett launch @ Waterstones Byres Road, 18th September: Described by some as the Scottish equivalent of hygge “coorie” is, to Times journalist Gabrielle Bennett, based around deriving comfort and energy from wild landscapes and convivial interiors. Launched at a cosy west end event over gin and shortbread, the book finds Bennett enjoying “wild swimming”, meeting contemporary Scottish designers, smoking fish and experiencing stunning landscapes from “Caledonian cool” hotels – and yes, there’s at least one dog photo.
Shrek! The Musical @ King’s Theatre, Glasgow, 25th September: reviewed here.
- How Outback Steakhouse and others secretly fed the first responders at Ground Zero (Toss Your Own Salad);
- The worst of humanity’s impulses will follow us to Mars – so how will law enforcement cope? (The Atlantic);
- Saving the planet will take more than switching to recyclable coffee cups, says George Monbiot, in a piece which has done more to alter my consumption habits than anything else I’ve read on the subject (The Guardian);
- Hole’s 1994 gamechanger Live Through This gets a long-overdue Pitchfork review – and the correct score.
- mate dates with the angelic Sarah-Louise, who has recently relaunched her incredible blog;
- the incredible salt and pepper chicken wings that make the easiest and tastiest weeknight dinner;
- tights that actually fit from Edinburgh-based Snag Tights;
- an invite to my first-ever intu Braehead press event (genuine bucket list moment guys, don’t @ me)
- midweek pancake brunches with my love at Cafe Strange Brew;
- getting my first ever book review published in The Scots Magazine.
Until next month, my loves!