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Friday 15 May 2020

Friday Favourites: Books, TV, Pods - May 2020

The two young stars of Nornal People
Friday Favourites is my occasional round-up of recommendations for good viewing, reading and listening with the odd nugget on beauty, fashion and cleaning (we'll come to that!). 

The hubster and I am off Netflix at the moment - well, except for him watching The Last Kingdom, which doesn't float my (long) boat. Like a lot of you, we watched Normal People. The picture at the top shows the two outstanding young actors, Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones. The series is available on BBC iPlayer, where it has broken records for the number of downloads, and in the US it is streaming on Hulu.

I bought the book a few months ago but never finished it. The TV adaptation is arguably a lot better. Although nothing very much happens - the story chronicles the ups and downs of a young couple's relationship from school to adulthood - it is filmed with such sensitivity and emotional intelligence that every close-up of the two actors tells a story.  We didn't binge watch it but rationed ourselves to two episodes a night.

State of Happiness

I'm enjoying State of Happiness, a Norwegian drama showing on BBC 4. This eight-parter won Best Screenplay at the Cannes Series Festival. It follows the story of a small Norwegian town, Stavanger,  and how it changed after the International oil company, Phillips Petroleum, struck oil. 

Norway’s oil was never owned privately, the state kept it, and in 1969, Norwegians were wealthy. State Of Happiness explores how it happened, how much individuals are willing to give up for the greater good, and how much society is willing to give up for each and everyone else.

People have said it reminds them of Mad Men, and certainly, being set in 1969, there is a very retro vibe going on with all the lovely old cars, fashions and decor.  It really is a top quality production.

1917 We Found Disappointing

We saved the film 1917 for its big debut in our home on VE Day (admittedly, a different war).   After all the hype - it won an Oscar for cinematography and many other awards - I was expecting a real blockbuster.  It has some big name stars but they are on screen very briefly. The starring roles belong to two relatively unknown actors.

The story tells how two British soldiers -- Lance Cpl. Schofield and Lance Cpl. Blake -- receive seemingly impossible orders. In a race against time, they must cross over into enemy territory to deliver a message that could potentially save 1,600 of their fellow comrades -- including Blake's own brother.

There was some gripping action in the first 30 minutes as the two fought their way through the trenches, went "over the top", and then nearly got blown up.  But it dragged a bit and for us was low on emotional firepower.  No tears were shed, which you usually expect in a film like this.

Podcast: Autopsy - the Last Hours Of

I worried at the start of Covid-19 I wouldn't have a usage model to listen to my beloved podcasts, but now I listen during my walks.

This podcast is also a TV series.  It reveals the truth behind the controversial deaths of global icons and people whose untimely deaths were surrounded by scandal and intense media attention. So far I've listened to Maurice Gibb from the Bee Gees, Patrick Swayze, Cass Elliott and Prince.

Fresh From The Pod

If you're a big fan of gardening, like me, you'll like this podcast from gardener and horticultural journalist Tamsin Westhorpe, who recently published a book called Diary of a Modern Country Gardener.  Each week she interviews a doyenne of gardening. These have included Matt Biggs from Gardeners' Question Time, Sir Roy Strong and US gardener Ellen Mary.

I've been Reading....

In the early days at home, I went through a phase of re-reading a lot of classic novels from Thomas Hardy. It felt comforting to be back in the rural Wessex countryside even though many of the stories involve a lot of tragedy.

I've recently read two new(ish) books and am racing through a third.

I enjoyed Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan, with a couple of reservations. The story centres around  the admission of a baby into hospital.  Paediatrician Liz is shocked to find the mother is one of her friends, Jess. The baby has an injury which needs investigation from the police and social services.  The story proceeds at a good pace and there's a satisfying conclusion, but I felt uneasy all along that nobody had wondered if the mother had some sort of post-partum mania.  (Don't worry, no spoiler).  Maybe I read too much.
Seven Lies is the debut novel from Elizabeth Kay and is a crime thriller about a woman's obsession with her friend since childhood, and how she was determined to stop anyone coming between them.
My latest read is a dystopian thriller, Q by Christina Dalcher. Everyone is tested for their "Q" rating - their intelligence quotient - and there are repercussions for those whose rating falls short.

Finally - Mrs Hinch
Various scented disinfectants from British company Zoflora

I avoided the Instagram account of cleaning sensation (!) Mrs Hinch for a long time.  Then some chapters of her new book were published online.  I was keen to read, expecting some useful tips involving lemons and bicarb.  Mrs Hinch, a glamorous young woman from Essex, is less about the old-fashioned remedies than vast quantities of commercial cleaning products.  However, she is charming and delightful, and has revived the fortunes of a couple of British companies - Minky, who produce cleaning cloths (by appointment to the Queen), and Zoflora, a family business centred around a range of wonderfully scented disinfectants.

Thanks to Mrs Hinch introducing me to Zoflora and Minky, I am forever "Hinching" my way around my home, even indulging in #ZofloraHour. (I remain impervious to her use of Lenor and Febreze). 

John is very bemused at how the Zoflora collection grows weekly as I try all the different fragrances.  For the record, my favourites are Secret Garden and Honeysuckle and Jasmine. But I'm eager to try Bluebell.....

Three of my favourite tips from Mrs H:
  • Dilute Zoflora in a spray to use around the home  (worktops, bathroom, radiators - you name it)
  • Douse a piece of kitchen towel with Zoflora and pop into your bin liner;
  • Soak your cloths in diluted Zoflora before going to bed,. You'll come down to the divine smell.
Love to hear your recommendations for latest TV, films, books, pods and cleaning in the comments!

Sharing this post with #SpreadTheKindness at Shelbee on the Edge, Anna at Muttonstyle and #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings


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