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Friday 29 October 2021

Friday Favourites: Books, TV, Podcasts: October Edition


Dear friends -welcome to the October edition of Friday Favourites, my round-up of books, podcasts and TV.  It was a much better month for new TV shows.  Autumn always has a positive effect on the schedules.  Let's start first with television, and two of Apple TV's big bets. 


Invasion (Apple TV)

Oooh I thought:  an alien invasion, and Sam Neill! But we're four episodes in, and not one glimpse of an alien.  Instead, the drama focuses on individual people and families, and the real-time effects of the invasion on them.  All we know about the invasion so far is that strange things are happening.  Sam Neill, a sheriff about to retire in episode 1, was sucked into a strange hole in the middle of a corn field.  A bus load of British school children  careered across a field and haven't been seen by us since.  A Japanese astronaut went into space, and her communications director, and girlfriend, pictured, mourned when the space ship disappeared.

So all very mysterious, but a bit ponderous too.  I'm finding it hard to engage with the characters - the few that are constant. We've seen one family in each episode:  the husband has been cheating on his wife with an Instagram cookery "influencer." He wants to leave his family, and comes across as spineless and weak. The two children are very whiny. I have high hopes for the wife, played by Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani, as she seems resourceful and spirited. 

It looks as if many stars are taking part in the series, including Kim Cattrall and Elizabeth Moss.

Foundation (Apple TV)

At least Invasion has promise.  The same cannot be said for the gloom fest that is Foundation. It takes itself very seriously. 

We're still persevering, but I've long forgotten the original premise, spelled out in episode 1.  I don't blame Jared Harris for bailing after one episode. Nobody smiles in Foundation. There aren't even any aliens to speak of, just angry people on planets which seem to have no natural resources, yet the people have been there for decades. 

Maid (Netflix)

Maid is a mini series about the plight of a young woman who leaves her drunken boyfriend and tries to go it alone with their three year old daughter.  It's a disturbing tale of how little state support there is for a woman like Alex.  Things start to get a bit better for her but she's repeatedly let down by her bipolar mother, played by Andie MacDowell. Her father, who has a new family, offers help, but Alex is triggered by an incident when she's cleaning the house of a runaway who was badly treated by his mother. She remembers she and her mother fleeing from her father several years ago.  It's an engrossing true story.  We root for Alex all the way and despair when she makes naive decisions.

Cobra  (Sky)

Brits are well familiar with the term "Cobra" by now, which is the Government's emergency committee convened to deal with crises like Covid.  Boris Johnson famously missed several meetings of Cobra early on in the pandemic because he was writing a book about the Romans. 

In Sky's Cobra, now in its second series, the Prime Minister is Robert Sutherland, played by Robert Carlyle. His Downing Street Chief of Staff is played by Victoria Hamilton with a snappy pixie cut and good tailoring. If Boris thought he was under siege with a pandemic, Sutherland has it in spades with cyber attacks and 300 people killed after a solar flare. Not to mention problems in his personal life.

The government's harried intelligence chief, Eleanor James (Lisa Palfrey) doesn't seem to have a clue who's behind it all. It could be the Russians, Chinese or Americans. My money's on the Americans, who were the villains in the recent drama Vigil, and seem to be the current scapegoats in UK dramas. 

Cobra is an ambitious drama but sometimes it's very implausible. Big moments with special effects are done on the cheap. Some of the actors are far too hammy and cliched, like David Haig, who plays the villainous newly appointed Foreign Secretary. Mr Mutton and I were both engaging with our phones during the most recent episode, which speaks volumes. 

Family Business (Netflix)

If you're pining for Call My Agent, the wonderful French comedy drama series, you might want to try Family Business. There's a familiar face in the form of Arlette, who plays the family's matriarch.  Now in its second series, this is the story of a family who unwittingly get into cannabis production after their butchery business fails.  It's not quite as funny CMA, but is a nice little amuse bouche. 

Shetland  (BBC)

We only discovered Shetland recently: it's now back in series 6.  I wonder how such a small place can generate so much crime, but we always said that about Midsomer Murders. Shetland is a non-flashy crime series, based on the novels of Anne Cleeves. It's got characters we can invest in, good acting and spectacular scenery.

The Long Call (ITV)

ITV's new four-part crime drama this week also had spectacular scenery, and was also based on a book by Anne Cleeves. It was set in North Devon, and the cinematography was stunning with lots of back lighting and bokeh. 

The drama focuses on Detective Inspector Matthew Venn, who has returned to live in a small community in North Devon with his husband. It’s a place Matthew walked away from 20 years ago, after being rejected by his family who are part of the area’s Barum Brethren community.  His mother is Juliet Stevenson who delivers a tour de force performance in her Brethren headscarf. As you might expect, this a community rife with secrets and lies - and a couple of murders. 

 We have yet to watch episode four but I'm told Anita Dobson, (pictured), who's unrecognizable as the downtrodden wife of Brethen leader Dennis (Martin Shaw), steals the show.


Loved and Missed by Susie Boyt

Ruth brings up Lily after her drug addict daughter Eleanor can't, or won't. It's a short novel, beautifully written, poignant and wistful.  Near the end Lily takes over as narrator - I won't explain why - which seemed abrupt and left me wishing I knew how Ruth felt about a significant development in her life, when she had shared so much in the book. The title "Loved and Missed" refers to a scene in the book where this is an inscription on a grave, and Ruth muses that maybe it meant the person tried to love, but didn't succeed. 

This Much is True, Miriam Margolyes

Actor Miriam Margolyes is always outrageous when she's interviewed for TV and radio. I've often thought it's an act that she puts on to attract attention. At the beginning of her autobiography, she more or less agrees with this, and says she hopes the book will show a more considered, deeper Miriam.  

Various reviews talk about hilarious anecdotes, hilarious stories and eye popping candor. To be honest, I didn't experience that and maybe expected more. 

Miriam was a much loved only child, and doted on by her parents. They were a tight unit.  She says not a day goes by when she doesn't think of Mummy. I felt that Miriam has never escaped that precious little girl.  A lot of the book is devoted to her memories of school, with teachers described in great detail. She often talks about meeting people, hitting it off immediately, and becoming friends with them for life. She's very lucky if this is true.  I couldn't help thinking she had inordinate pride in her ability to collect people. 

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

My goodness this was hard work.  This most recent novel by Sally Rooney was acclaimed by most critics, but in Amazon reviews just 38% said it was excellent.  It tells the story of four people, and there are lots of emails between the two main characters where they endlessly debate the meaning of life and the beauty of nature.  Unlike Normal People, which had realism, sweetness and honesty, this just seems pretentious and dull. 

The Unheard by Nicci French

The excellent crime writing duo have come up with something quite different. When three year old Poppy produces a macabre painting, her mother, who's split up with Poppy's father, hears alarm bells. The picture appears to show a woman falling. Is it based on truth?  Did Poppy witness a crime?  Police and her ex-husband think Tess is delusional.  It was a bit slow but eventually the story began to gather pace. 

Podcast Reviews

British Scandal (Wondery)

I thoroughly enjoy this series, which has dissected a few recent, and not so recent, scandals including The Litvinenko Affair, The Murdoch Phone Hacking, which brought about the end of the News of the World newspaper, and The Profumo Affair. Mostly recently, The Canoe Con has held me agog. I remember the story well:  beset by financial problems, John Darwin decided to stage his own death to collect the insurance money.  He and his wife fled to Panama and started a new life.  

What I'd forgotten was that when John Darwin "disappeared" on a kayak trip, his wife was waiting at the next bay to pick him up, and he spent the night in a bed and breakfast watching news of his disappearance on TV and the massive search that ensued.  He then had to live like a fugitive in their boarding house, hiding in the attic whenever police called. And his research had been flawed, because when his wife tried to claim on the insurance, she was told there would be no pay out without a body.

It's an amazing story and one that will soon be told in a film.  

What makes the series so entertaining is the way it's presented by Alice Levine and Matt Forde. Their badinage is a joy to behold, not in the least cringe-city as it is with most double-handed podcasts. Don't miss the last episode, where they interview the chief investigating officer about the Darwins' crimes.  He has a dry North East sense of humour, a wonderful laugh, and it's just a delight.  

British Scandal is going into the Is This Mutton Podcast Hall of Fame.  See my other podcast recommendations here. 

The Liz Earle Podcast

Liz Earle sold her eponymous beauty company many years ago and has since become a serious commentator on women's health and well being.  She has a website and a very good podcast. The podcast talks about latest evidence-based developments on topics including the menopause, women taking testosterone; how to have better sleep; cruelty-free beauty, depression, immunity and so on.  Her experts are all well known, and often the facts they discuss are astonishing. The only annoying things about it are the cheesy intro music  (teeth on edge!) and the unpredictable audio quality. The ads are always much louder than the podcast speakers. 

Sharing this post with #Linkupontheedge at Shelbee on the Edge, #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings,Rena at Fine WhateverFabulous Fridays at Lucy Bertoldi, #Neverendingstyle at The Grey Brunette  

That's it for this month's bumper edition.  As always, love to hear your views and recommendations in the comments. 


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.


Wednesday 27 October 2021

Shortage of Aliens: and Link-Up

 Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton in red plaid dress by Fabienne Chapot

I often wonder about life beyond our planet.  Surely ours is not the only inhabited planet in the universe?  I always think of the aliens as far more advanced, technologically, morally - to us.  

Visits, or invasions, by them are increasingly unlikely because what would induce them to come to earth?  To pick over the detritus of a planet that selfishly and brutally destroyed its natural resources, and where wars are still common? 


Monday 25 October 2021

Cosy Autumn Coats

Style Not Age Challenge

Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton in velvet coat from Joe Browns

It's time to reach for a cosy coat, and here's the latest Style Not Age Challenge to inspire you.  My coat is called "the Virtuous Velvet Coat" and you can find it on Joe Browns. They kindly gifted me the coat, which I think you'll agree is stunning with its gold buttons and shaping. 

A burgundy velvet coat with gold buttons is the cosy coat chosen by Is This Mutton for the Style Not Age Challenge Cosy Autumn Coats

I'm wearing the coat over a Hope burgundy velour skirt, Ted Baker jumper and Kettlewell silver scarf. The vegan lace-up brogue boots, new, are from Marks and Spencer. Bag from Mulberry.

Gail Hanlon from style blog Is This Mutton in burgundy velvet coat from Joe Browns

Now let's see what my blogger friends came up.  Hilda, from Over the Hilda, who devised the coats challenge, is wearing a Michael Kors coat she found in TK Maxx.  It's a very warm coat with a hood, like a blanket she says, so Hilda is obviously expecting a cold snap or lots of outdoor dining  (if another lockdown beckons, hopefully not!). Her green boots are from Primark/Penneys.  Her leggings are by Spanx.  

Emma from Style Splash is also wearing a coat she snapped up at a bargain price. Originally from Marks & Spencer, she had seen the coat in a charity shop but it wasn't the right size. Then it popped up on eBay for £10.  It's a very desirable coat with its contrasting leopard print collar. 

Emma has layered it over a leopard print top from SilkFred and some velvet trousers from Very. She says a bad hair day led to her wearing the velvet turban style hat with pearl embellishments. 

Jacqui from Mummabstylish can't wait to wear her new padded coat from Marks and Spencer with its fashionable press stud fastenings. It looks great with her houndstooth bag and will certainly keep her warm during chilly shopping expeditions and lunches with friends.

Anna from Anna's Island Style is wearing a pre- loved coat from Kew 159, dress from  Topshop, shoes by Office and sunglasses by Radley London. Her blue sky shows us that autumn/fall is not always too cold, so perfect for a lightweight coat.

I hope we've inspired you with our coat choices! More pics on each of the blogs. 

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.


Wednesday 20 October 2021

Capsule Dressing Made Easy - and Link-Up

 Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton-the over-50s style blog-in Chloe jacket, v neck top, infinity scarf and belt by Kettlewell and Cavendish skirt by Boden

Dear friends. I was very shocked when my winter clothes came down from the loft a couple of weeks ago. Four large bags, and there were already quite a few winter clothes already taking up space in my wardrobe, Mr Mutton's wardrobe, and the downstairs coats cupboard.  

Over the last few months I've been building a colourful wardrobe of clothes from Kettlewell in my colours  (Winter), which should last me for several years.  It now takes up one half of my wardrobe.  And Mr Mutton then issued an edict that my coats Had To Go.  From his wardrobe, at least.

Friday 15 October 2021

Turning the Beauty Industry Upside Down with 3 Sticks

Forever You Beauty's Natural Glow Trio as tested by blogger Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton. Image copyright Is This Mutton 2021

A young British company is poised to revolutionize the way older women apply make-up. Instead of offering the usual products aimed at covering up the signs of aging, Forever You's range aims to enhance our natural beauty without concealing or erasing. 

Wednesday 13 October 2021

Finding Your Own Style

 Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton in black and white with a splash of red

Dear friends. Today we're talking style personalities.  What's yours?  You may have had a consultation and discovered your prescription,  or you may have discovered what works for you over time.  It's a good thing to know because it saves you time and costly mistakes.  


Wednesday 6 October 2021

Now for Good News - and Link-Up

 Is This Mutton blogger Gail Hanlon in purple beanie and sweater from Kettlewell Colours

Hello dear friends.  This post is a last minute substitution. My original post focused on how hard it is being a woman right now,  in the context of a serving London police officer having murdered a 33 year old woman who was walking home. 


Tuesday 5 October 2021

Sentence a Day: September 2021: Ducks, Pansies, Covid Scare

 A peaceful scene at Connaught Water, Eping Forest, with ducks

Weds 1 September

Mum not feeling well, thinks it may be Covid. Very worrying because although she's double vaccinated, she's 89 and very independent. She's been on the bus a few times and people aren't wearing face coverings.

Busy day.  Urban walk. Kettlewell's new range landed and ordered a few pieces in new colours carmine red and deep amethyst. 

Thurs 2 Sept

Woke up 4.30 worried about mum. Spoke to her. She has v croaky voice, bit breathless and has lost taste/smell. But otherwise sounds OK. I asked my brother to drop a Covid test round, which his wife did. 

Fri 3 September

Mum did test but was evasive when I asked if it was positive. Did a forest walk but mind too preoccupied to listen to podcasts. 

Sat 4 Sept

Mum did another test and admitted both were positive. She couldn't face up to it yesterday. I wanted to go down and stay with her but she was adamant I shouldn't. 

Short lived blue sky.  Did 5 mile walk wearing new sunglasses for 1st time.  Went to Epping and garden centre for compost and pansies. Watched film Let him go (Kevin Costner) - 6 out of 10. Dinner: lamb tagine

On a regular walk in Epping Forest: Gail Hanlon from style blog Is This Mutton

Sun 5 Sept

Dropped J off at High Beech for his session with the marathon runners.  He's leading a group of newbies each week but doesn't want to cover the long distances, so giving him a lift cuts out some of the mileage. Mum feeling a lot better. Thank God. 

Mon 6 Sept

Hot weather finally materialised. Did walk in forest. Started researching trips to the Northern Lights for my sabbatical month of November. My first choice, Sweden,  isn't admitting those from the UK.  Likely to get worse as the Covid case rates increase.  Reluctant to book anything. Dinner: spaghetti and meatballs

Tues 7 Sept

Remembering my brother, whose nickname was Snurgie Boy, who died in 2014 aged 60. Hot weather today. Did walk 4 .4 miles around Connaught Water, a man-made pond in Epping Forest.  Weeded and planted pansies. Dinner was Thai curry.

Weds 8 Sept

Very hot again! Booked car in for inspection. Busy day work wise but lots of noise with trees being pruned. Dinner: Quiche and salad

Thursday 9 Sept

Workout.  Cloudy, been raining in night. Three-day heatwave has ended. Ordered 2022 year planner.  Bought these dwarf gladioli. Dinner: Chilli. 

Friday 10 Sept 

Mum tested negative.  Big relief. Quiet day. Fish n chips for dinner.  5 mile walk, cloudy. Couple heavy showers during day

Sat 11 September

Cloudy with sunny intervals.  Went to two local shops which used to have collection boxes for the food banks, but both have gone. So did the walk to Tesco to drop off some supplies.  In the garden re-sited a deutzia shrub and planted salvia Amistad.  Watching The Morning Show series 1 again, to get ready for the new season. Dinner: macaroni cheese.

Sun 12 September

Fairly bright.  Wrote blog post. Left a box of stuff outside with the label "Help yourselves." Everything was taken.  Walked over to Rachel and Sean's for lunch, which was shepherds pie. 

Mon 13 September

Sean, whom we saw yesterday, has tested positive. Oh dear. We both did tests which were negative.  Dinner: spaghetti bolognese. 

Tues 14 September

Terrible weather.  Tested negative again before breakfast. Drove 25 miles to Jodie's to have hair done.  Rachel had a negative PCR test. Dinner: falafels and salad.   

Hair in foils for Is This Mutton blogger Gail Hanlon

Weds 15 September

Did a forest trail 4.2 miles. Fairly busy. My new 2022 organiser arrived from Fraser and Parsley. Dinner: Chicken coconut bowl, Cauliflower cheese

Thurs 16 September

Workout. Elton John postponed tour until 2023. We were supposed to be going at the end of November.  Had made all the arrangements for Liverpool. Aargh. 

Friday 17 September

J not keen to go to Liverpool without the concert and unfortunately tickets not refundable.  Sunny day, did forest walk.

Sat 18 September

 J accompanied me on part of my 5 miler via Yates Meadow. Sunny morning.  Then did housework.  Booked a 6 day stay at a new Fit Farms location in Devon, during my sabbatical month of November. Saw the 1st episode of new series of The Morning Show.  Slow start. 

Sun 19 September

Put a box of books outside for people to help themselves, but only one was taken! Did some product photography and wrote blog post after dropping J off at High Beech.  Roast chicken. Started When the Dust Settles  (Danish thriller). 

Mon 20 Sept

Forest walk. Saw a school photo being taken in one of the car parks near the forest. Air purifier came.  Going to use it in the dining room when we have a lot of people round at Christmas. 

Tues 21 Sept

Lovely misty walk with sun rising. New smart meter installed.  Saw John's brother who parked on our drive while Yvonne was at the opticians.

Weds 22 September

Autumn equinox.  All set for walk then remembered I had a 9am meeting with APAC.  Meant to do a walk later in the day but it never happened. The days getting darker sooner means I get to see the solar lights coming on in the garden. 

Thursday 23 September

Workout. Drove to Fulbourn near Cambridge to meet a former colleague for lunch. Sunny and warm. Very proud to be featured in Mummabystylish in the "At home with" series. 

Fri 24 September

Did walk, location units are back in the forest.  Had appointment with dental hygienist but when I turned up they said I didn't. When I got home I found the appointment card which showed I was right.

Sat 25 September

Did short walk with J around golf course. Cloudy.  Did shoot for our bloggers' challenge, Pretty in Pink.  Relaxing day. Watched film The Admission, 6 out of 10

Sun 26 September

Workout. Didn't do any blog photography but wrote a couple of posts. Roast beef

Mon 27 September

Wet walk!  Supposed to be going in the office twice this week as it has reopened properly:  Tuesday and Thursday. There are incentives to lure us back: free food from various trucks, free ice-cream. 

Tues 28 September

Supposed to be in office but petrol crisis caused by shortage of HGV drivers makes it difficult, as it's a 110 mile trip each time. A Huff Post freelance got in touch to ask for my views on beauty industry prejudice.  Happy to oblige.

Weds 29 September

Secured a Xmas Eve online shopping slot! Probably the first time ever. And Davina McCall liked one of my tweets. Amazing. John saw the small cattle on his run in the forest. I haven't seen them for ages. 

Thurs 30 Sept

Didn't go to office, still haven't been able to get petrol. Did longer walk than usual to try to see the small cattle (didn't). Had to hurry to get back in time for a 10am meeting. The pansies I bought earlier this month are looking good, at the front of the house. 

That was my September. October and November are birthday months with lots of activities, so come back for a more exciting account in four weeks' time! 

Sharing this post with:#Linkup on the Edge at Shelbee on the Edge, #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings, Rena at Fine WhateverFabulous Fridays at Lucy Bertoldi, #TheWeekendLinkUp at Claire Justine


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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