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Wednesday 29 September 2021

September Favourites: Books, TV, Podcasts - and Link-Up


Two adults eating popcorn and watching TV with dog. Photo by Andres Ayrton from Pexels

Dear friends. Another month has flown by and it's time for my review of September's TV, books and podcasts. Highlights of the month:  Manhunt, Dr Death series 3 (podcast), and books Magpie and The Dark.


Another lean month to be honest. We started a couple of dramas / comedies that looked promising but interest soon waned. 

Manhunt Series 2: a good crime series on ITV  

(ITV Hub, Britbox;  season 1 is available on Prime)

Martin Clunes as DCI Colin Sutton in ITV's Manhunt

This is the second series following the real life solving of puzzling criminal cases by Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton.  It's old-fashioned, detail obsessed policing, nothing to do with the world of Line of Duty and its "covert intelligence sources" and raids by armed police.  

Martin Clunes gives a wonderfully subtle and nuanced performance as the low-key DCI. In series 1, we saw how hours and hours were spent studying CCTV to find the van used by Levi Bellfield, the man responsible for killing Amelie Delagrange, Marsha McDonnell and Milly Dowler in the early 2000’s.

In series 2, Sutton, nearing retirement,  is brought in to review the case of the Night Stalker, a terrifying serial rapist and burglar who terrorised the elderly of south London.  His crimes had gone undetected for over 15 years and police were pinning all their hopes on finding a match for DNA found at the scene of one of the crimes. Sutton adopts a different strategy to catch the criminal, including a plea for a huge increase in resourcing for three nights of detailed surveillance.  

Episode 1 was a little slow as it set the scene and showed the quiet animosity to which Sutton was subjected, but it soon picked up pace and I found it utterly gripping.

The Hunt for a Killer  (BBC iPlayer)

In a similar vein was this Swedish drama, also about a real-life criminal case. In March 1989, Sweden was rocked by the murder of 10-year-old Helen Nilsson, in Hörby in the country's south. The case remained unsolved for 16 years. Hunt for a Killer follows the unwavering journey of police officers Per-Åke Åkesson and Monica Olhed who led the investigation team that eventually, against all odds, found Helen's killer.

Again, there's no glamour here: police often pursue the wrong leads, the case gets sidelined, a senior officer seems determined to block the initiatives of Per-Åke to solve the case.  Finally it is DNA and a laboratory in Birmingham (England) that unlocks the killer. But even so, police have just a few days to pull together a short list of suspects for DNA testing, and catch the killer, before resourcing is pulled. 

The Morning Show (Apple TV)

In preparation for the new series we reprised the first season to remind ourselves of the plot. Jennifer Aniston and Reece Witherspoon return for more battles in the TV studio. The first season felt new and refreshing, with the 2019 drama revolving around a Harvey Weinstein type plot, with senior executives eventually exposed on air for ignoring a culture of misogyny and sexual misconduct. 

Series 2 - based on the two episodes we've seen so far - is a bit lost, not sure which direction it's going in. Things have changed a lot at the TV network, and in an unlikely turn of affairs, it's decided to bring back Alex (Jennifer Aniston) as co-host for The Morning Show.  The gloves are off as Bradley (Witherspoon) has a showdown with Alex and makes it clear she will no longer be treated as her lackey.  It all seems a bit old-fashioned, diva TV presenters on a traditional TV channel. I have heard the series gets into a groove by episode 3, so fingers crossed. 

Tried but didn't like it 

Back to Life (BBC iPlayer): comedy drama. When Miri Matteson returns home after eighteen years, can she integrate back into her old life? With a terrible event from her past hanging over her, it won’t be easy.  Mr Mutton was unconvinced after the first episode, I would have given it longer.  

Post Mortem (Netflix). This black comedy from Norway, set in a funeral directors in a small town where no-one ever dies, initially intrigued me. I loved its quirkiness. But upon discovering it was about vampires  (I suppose the clue was "no-one ever dies") we quickly lost interest. Vampires to me are Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee. No exceptions.

Podcast Reviews

Making the Cut (Entale Studios)

It's always fun to discover a podcast that's been going for a while, but had escaped the Mutton radar. And when I first started to listen to Making the Cut (nothing to do with the TV series I reviewed last month), I had no idea Davina McCall was one of the presenters.  

I was initially attracted by an episode where the presenters were reviewing a Lake District stay which included e-biking and zipwires.  I went through a whole episode without realising the presenters were Davina and her friend and hairdresser, Michael Douglas. 

It's a rich seam of entertainment and very enjoyable too: each week the couple chat away, like the old friends they are, giving us advice and tips on all sorts of topics ranging from tubing mascara in the very first episode to travel features, TV reviews, decorating and pets' yoga.

Dr Death (Wondery)

Each series of Dr Death tells the story of a real-life doctor who endangered the lives of patients for years before being apprehended.  It's a sober indictment of the medical industry where managers and doctors often join forces to protect the guilty. Series 3 tells the story of the charismatic and handsome Paolo Macchiarini, a pioneering thoracic surgeon, inventor of a new technique and generally feted wherever he goes. 

For the first few episodes the focus is on his relationship with Benita, who is creating a documentary about his life saving surgery.   They start seeing each other once filming has finished and become engaged. It's soon clear that Paolo is living in a fantasy world. He undertakes the organization of their wedding but things are starting to unravel, and at one point he promises Benita that the Pope will officiate over their Rome wedding, even though Paolo is divorced and Benita is not Catholic. 

The focus eventually shifts back to Paolo's medical misdemeanors, and an appalling cover-up by a prestigious Swedish medical institute, even after four doctors there had supplied proof that Paolo's surgeries were far from life saving and had not been fully tested.

I was interested to see that Dr Death is now a TV series with Christian Slater and Alec Baldwin, but it's on Starzplay which would be yet another subscription, so we won't be watching it. 

Book Reviews

Magpie by Elizabeth Day

I was 40% into Magpie, a psychological thriller by the creator of the  Failure podcast series, and I was thinking crossly it had been seriously over-hyped.  A famiiar trope was going on:  the successful, loved-up couple with a pretty house,  their smug existence suddenly disrupted by a stranger "who wants their life."

Fortunately I stuck with it because in the blink of an eye, the narrative changed and it had suddenly become a whole lot more dark and complex. It has a very strong "middle," but towards the end it suddenly becomes benign and soft again, and the twist I was expecting at the end never materialised. Disappointing. 

1979 by Val McDermid

This had resonance for me on many levels. Val McDermid, the queen of crime fiction, is a former journalist who trained on the same newspaper as me. And 1979 was the year I entered journalism.

1979 is the first in a new series of novels featuring journalist Allie Burns. She works on a Scottish daily where the pace is certainly a bit faster than the sedate little Plymouth weekly that Val and I worked on. As one of very few women, Allie is constantly patronized and under-estimated by the hard-bitten males working on the paper. 

I enjoyed the nostalgia fest, and in particular the playlist at the back of the book, but I found the story a bit far fetched. 

The Dark by Emma Haughton

An Antarctic research station, totally inaccessible for several months of the year,  is the setting for this tense and gripping thriller.  Kate is flown in as an emergency doctor, after her predecessor was killed in a tragic accident. As the small team settles in for winter, Kate starts wondering about what actually happened to the doctor. She starts to do some digging. Then there's a murder, with no chance of police being able to attend, and the knowledge that the killer is living among them.

The writing is sloppy at times, lots of lazy stereotypes (the lesbian who wears dungarees, the Sikh who makes a good curry). Kate is an irritating heroine, addicted to prescription painkillers and and slow to cotton on. 

Most of the tension is supplied by the setting and claustrophobic conditions, but it finally becomes a nail biter in the last stages of the book. 

Broken Greek by Pete Paphides

Broken Greek is the childhood memoir of music critic Pete Paphides, whose family came to settle in Birmingham when he was very young.  Although he's a good 10-15 years younger than me, it's a wonderful return to the 70s and 80s and in particular to the music of the era. 

He reminded me of a few things I had forgotten about, such as  Dial a Disc, where you rang a phone number for 2p a minute and an unnamed song was played down the line to you.

Paphides has an encyclopedic knowledge of the music of that era. At first the lists of records, lists of what was in the top 20, and the analysis behind song words, was a delight. But by the last chapters it had become tedious. 

I loved the reminders of how young kids often choose records:  they become fixated with the singer rather than the actual song.  In Paphides' case, he was often mentally choosing a foster parent in case his parents left him, and became obsessed with singers who had kind faces like Agnetha and Frida, one of the women in Brotherhood of Man, and the Barron Knights. The story of when he actually met the latter group is toe curling but fortunately has a happy ending. 

It's also a poignant and sad memoir, because his Greek Cypriot father never got over his desire to return to his homeland once he had made his fortune from fish and chips.  When it became clear this was not going to happen, and his sons didn't want to live there anyway, his father became morose and no longer wanted to go back for long summers. 

The real tragedy for me was Paphides' mother.  She started off a talented seamstress but ended up a slave to the fish and chip shop.  During the long summers when her husband took the boys abroad, she managed the chip shop almost single handed for 12 hours a day.  And when she had to have a hysterectomy, her husband was entirely unsympathetic and expected her to be back at work within days.  

Well, that's my round-up for September.  As always, I'd love to hear your views and recommendations in the comments. 

Sharing this post with:  Beauty by Miss L, On Mondays We Link Up at Glass of Glam, Top of the World Style at High Latitude Style, Chic & Stylish at Mummabstylish, #SpreadTheKindness at Shelbee on the Edge, #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings, Thursday Moda at Elegance and Mommyhood, Turning Heads Tuesday at Elegantly Dressed and Stylish,  Style with a Smile  at StylesplashTFF at Doused in PinkLizzie in Lace Confident Twosday at IDoDeclaireRena at Fine WhateverFabulous Fridays at Lucy Bertoldi, #Neverendingstyle at The Grey Brunette #TheWednesdayLinkUp at Claire Justine, Fancy Friday at Nancy's Fashion StyleStyle Six at This Blonde's Shopping Bag Happiness is Homemade at Life as a Leo Wife 

#WowOnWednesday Link-Up

Now it's time for #WowOnWednesday, the weekly link-up where readers can find new blogs to read, and bloggers can find new readers. 

Last Week's Favourites (Most Clicked)

"Autumn Planning" by Michelle from Fifty & Fab shows how September has become the new January for radical overhauls to our everyday routines. Michelle has a new blogging location and is putting into practice some great tips from a life coach. 

"Fashion over Forty:  Too Old for a Tiered Mini Skirt?" asks Ellie from Elliebelle's Corner. When you look as cute (and youthful) as this, the answer is No! Never too old.

Is This Mutton Favourite

"A Whole Lotta Seventies Styling in One Outfit" from Catherine at Not Dressed as Lamb.  You can always rely on Catherine for masterful pattern mixing and bold colours. 

For More Mutton 

Stay in the loop: follow Is This Mutton? on Bloglovin or Feedspot. I post extra goodies on the Is This Mutton? Facebook page. Check out the Is This Mutton? Pinterest boards, including boards on other bloggers in fab outfits plus beauty, jewellery, hairstyles and fashion picks. Is This Mutton? is also on Twitter and Instagram.

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Monday 27 September 2021

Pretty in Pink: Style Not Age Challenge

Gail Hanlon from over 50s style blog Is This Mutton in an all-pink outfit

Pretty in Pink is this month's Style Not Age Challenge, set by Anna from Anna's Island Style. This was music to my ears because I love pink and have quite a lot of it. It's a very flattering colour on all women, if you find the right shades. 


Wednesday 22 September 2021

Back to the Office - and Link Up


Over 50s blogger Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton in red and beige

Dear friends: quite a mixed post this week. I'm covering the imminent return to the office;  a wonderful pre-Christmas season gift to ourselves, and a quick beauty update that includes my lash and brow trial, inspired by Catherine from Not Dressed as Lamb. 

Wednesday 15 September 2021

Find the Best Earrings for Your Face Shape - and Link-Up


Greetings, dear friends.  Earrings, like shoes, are a kind gift to ourselves. They're a way of wearing fashion, they don't rebuke us for getting bigger or thinner, and they add some sizzle to the most ordinary of outfits.


Wednesday 8 September 2021

Taking On the Instagram Algorithms - and Link-Up

Is This Mutton blogger Gail Hanlon wearing Blue Jewel and Ganzi Purple with Glowbeads

I've spent the last week having some fun with Instagram:  seeing if I could play "the algorithms." I'm not really very active on IG normally. I post around two feed posts a week, and Stories most days, although usually about my forest walks.  But I do visit IG frequently to see what all the lovely ladies I follow are up to. I had 3,197 followers in February and am now at 3,578. It's a very slow slog!

Monday 6 September 2021

Sentence a Day: August 2021

 Yates Meadow in Epping Forest partially mown in August

Covid Update: We're out of lockdown in the UK. People are slowly trickling back to their offices, masks are mostly worn voluntarily, and the social distancing rule is no more. It's still challenging to go abroad on holiday, with hotel quarantine required if you visit a tier 3 country.  The number of Covid cases is still very high in the UK but with the majority vaccinated, it is mostly among young people and not causing a critical number of hospitalizations. Yet.


Friday 3 September 2021

Friday Favourites: August 2021: Vigil, Underbelly, Fearne Cotton and Many More

Wearing headphones on a country walk, Is This Mutton's Gail Hanlon with her monthly digest of podcast, TV and book recommendations

Dear friends - welcome to Friday Favourites, my roundup of podcasts, TV and books in August. Once again I found TV a bit underwhelming, although it perked up later in August with The Chair and Vigil. But let's start with books.  This time I'm scoring the books read on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being utterly amazing. 


Wednesday 1 September 2021

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