Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Last Jedi - The Final(ish) Verdict

Hi folks, 

It seems I have quickly fallen off my 'must post more updates' wagon BUT I am a free bird for the next fortnight and so, between mouthfuls of high-sugar high-butter low-vitamin foods, I hope to get more scribbling done - and start off 2018 the way I mean to continue. 

Now the dust has settled a little on 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' I'd love to hear your thoughts. As you know the films had a very different response from critics and audiences - and so is DEFINITELY either the best or the very worst Star Wars film ever.

For me, it was... okay? Not a vigorous review I'll admit but the Star Wars films beyond the original trilogy aren't something that beats at the centre of my geekery heart. It was exciting in bits but the story structure was a bit wonky. 

Here are my pros and cons - with massive spoilers included. 

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Why 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' and 'Notting Hill' are completely different.

He shot to fame with frothy Richard Curtis comedies but following subsequent turns in 'Love Actually', 'Bridget Jones' Diary' and 'About a Boy', Hugh Grant just about turned up for a series of much lesser rom-coms ('Did you Hear About the Morgans?', 'American Dreamz', 'Music and Lyrics'). 

In the 21st century his most passionate and high-profile role seemed destined to be that of of anti-press-intrusion campaigner - but recently he seems to be enjoying his time on screen again.

Hugh will soon be seen in a dramatic role in 'A Very English Scandal' and turned in what I think is a career best performance in 'Paddington 2' (Check out my review here). 

With that in mind, I thought it timely to revisit the charge most often levelled at 90s hey-day Hugh Grant - that he always played the same part, one that was essentially himself.


Here's why Charles ('Four Weddings') and William ('Notting Hill') are different... 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Night Visitor


It's been some time since I have posted regularly but am determined to pick up the pace once more. In the meantime here's something that happened me last week. I might write up the night's events in full as a short story (there's a lot more material there). 

Rory @theroryjohn

Just had an unexpected night visitor.
I left my bedroom window open to get air but was woken by voices arguing outside. It turned out to be just one voice - or rather one person. A woman arguing loudly with herself as she tried to get her drugs together and smoke something.
She sat on the windowsill. I got out of bed and stood in the shadows scared that she'd look through the window and...scare me.
Over the next two hours she got mad with herself over her fear of insects ('I know they are horrendous! You said so several times now, well it's still true'), the lack of porch light after I turned it off ('who would have the audacity to suggest a little light? Who would DARE DREAM?'), a chattering over mental health problems and how tired she is, all punctuated by an angry insistence that she concentrate and get moving. There was one voice that was hard and strict, the other was scared of it and childlike.
What was unnerving was when I hear another real voice approach, a man. She called out - 'leave me alone you can't touch me, there's someone listening inside that open window and they'll hear you!' The man moved off. Then it happened again a while later. She was staying because of the supposed protection of me listening in the shadows.
Eventually I went out to talk to her. She was meek and apologetic and looked so very...normal. Like a perfectly nice woman, the quiet one in the office who has a favourite pen. She said the drugs were 'just a little treat.. well that's not true'. She was very sorry for any bother. I said I could turn the light on if she wants but that I have to shut the window soon as I have work tomorrow and for her not to take offence. Her name was Mia, I told her mine. She insisted she would be safe and would find somewhere. I went back to the bedroom and shut the window, then a soft voice said 'ok I'm going, good night rory!' I called 'night Mia!' and she shuffled off.
I keep thinking about those dodgy men and how scared that nice Mia was of her own voices.

Monday, August 28, 2017

No Carnival. No Julia.

Having listened to ‘mixed reviews’ on the Notting Hill Carnival since arriving in London (these fluctuate between an aggressively traumatic war zone or the best street party of your life, nothing in between), I felt a tickle of compulsion to see it for myself this year. 

I shoved my proper camera into my bag, always an act of faith that I am about to bear witness to raw brilliance, and set off on the twenty minute walk towards Notting Hill. On the way I passed a few stray souls who were struggling to stay vertical. Usually dodging eye contact with the dangerously pissed might be unnerving but when on the way to a festival it seems to have the opposite effect - a preview of upcoming attractions. My anticipation buzzed for those electric pushy crowds, belly-vibrating music, and sun-sparkling costumes. 

I arrived to find street sweepers, confused tourists, graffitied wooden panels being pulled from shop windows, and nothing else. Kerbside plastic cups and cans marked the empty shell of a party long over. It transpires Carnival is a day event. It was now almost eight in the deep evening. I put my camera back in my bag. 

As I trundled towards home I passed a Mediterranean family who were not sure of where they were going and were very tired of not getting there. The father took charge as he asked me in hard-fought english if there was a ‘typical’ street nearby. ‘Typical’ was a key word he’d learned and so kept repeating it in a variety of tones. ‘Typical? Typical… Typical!… a TYPICAL street?’ 

I directed them to Portobello road and tried to explain it was the one from the film - which I had presumed was what led them to this part of town. But their faces remained clouded. I ploughed on. ’Hugh Grant? Julia Roberts?’ 

‘Ah Julia Roberts!’ the father’s face leap from question mark to exclamation and he checked the directions again - ‘The second road on right? The second!! Ok we go!’ He lead the kids and wife away, now strengthened by his mission. It was only when they disappeared from view that I realised I was not the only one who would be sorely disappointed by Notting Hill that day. All they would find there were street sweepers, weary shopkeepers, and equally confused tourists - perhaps ones who had also been sent on a misguided hunt for toothy Hollywood royalty. 

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Saturday, August 26, 2017

My Secret Passion for Old People on 'First Dates'

Our vexed TV hero, who has likely been ‘taken off the case’ for their maverick ways, slowly draws their hand over their lips, stares into the injustice of systemic corruption/middle distance, and reaches for that bottle of whiskey clanking around in the top drawer. 

I do much the same when office life deals me a deathly blow (eg there's no clean mugs left and all spoons have disappeared yet again) but instead of a opening a bottle of whiskey I open up a new tab and watch clips of old people on ‘First Dates’. Oh the sweet relief of listening to the aged chat about death and disappointment over a prawn starter.

If watching twinkly old people and cute young people (eg 'The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds') is the new opiate of the masses then Channel 4 is the Walter White in the supply chain. They recently combined these powerful strains of the drug in the almighty ‘Old People's Home for 4 Year Olds’ (still on All4).  Such a powerful hit of life-affirming joy that one can easily become completely incapacitated with happy-sad tears (“Are you okay?!”, “No. A grouchy old man is pretending to be a bear… *sniffle*… so he can make a child laugh.”)

But back to ‘First Dates’ and what I believe the older folks can teach those of us who are relatively young about dating and decent conversation. 

First off they don’t immediately discount people if they don’t look like they’d be Insta-compatible.  Instead they just want to share and listen to stories, compare battle-scars, laugh and sigh over this joyful, cruel, daft life. Twice the age of those who might feel jaded by the terror and tedium of ‘making new friends’, they always seem to find something sparkling and fascinating in the other. Perhaps they don’t always end up ripping (or carefully unbuttoning) each other’s clothes off but as they wave goodbye to Fred they seem to be happier and lighter for having made a new connection.

What I most admire is not only their lack of shyness about asking direct questions (usually along the lines of ‘Wife dead?’, ‘Any kids?’, ‘Aren’t you sad?’) but also that they never seem embarrassed or phased by the direct answers. They genuinely want to hear about the other person’s life and want to get to the heart of that story even before Cici is looming for their drinks order. 

They listen intently to each other’s gentle adventures, the oft-rehearsed funny anecdotes, and tales of deep sorrow (always accompanied by a softly faltering piano). When told something starkly sad they don’t nervously nudge things back into the shallows or offer empty platitudes, instead they listen. Really listen. 

It seems to me they to usually come to the unspoken agreement that ‘This life can be shit but it’s also utterly brilliant… despite being mostly shit’ - which is perhaps why the rest of us take such comfort and joy in watching them. 

For example take this couple on First Dates who popped up on my feed today, she doesn’t become shiftily awkward when her date reveals his son died tragically - instead she keeps looking into his eyes and really listening. 

Now if only the staff were replaced hyperactive 4 year olds who want to build forts under the tables we’d be in TV heaven*. 

*Apologies to Fred, Cici, Laura, Merlin and that bloke who fancies Cici, I do love you. 

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

More older folk on 'First Dates' after the jump! 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Twist on Property Prices

As a child I was obsessed with mapping fiction. While others were out enjoying fresh air and mucky-kneed society I toiled away in my attic scrawling my own maps to wrangle some locational sense from the Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, Springfield, and the physically impossible Rovers Return (my heart still races with anger thinking about how the back kitchen would actually be half-way across Rosamund Street). 

I still like to know where things should be especially when if book set in a real city. I have retraced Mrs Dalloway's stroll to get flowers and can't read Sherlock Holmes without cross-examining each journey with Google Maps. And so this week I investigated/Googled where exactly the back alleys, dodgy pubs, and posh homes of Oliver Twist were meant to be. Luckily Dickens was equally obsessed with geographic detail. He mentions 93 unique London locations in the book and it all makes sense. That is my kind of writer. 

imagined Oliver Twist followed the expected divide between the slums of the East End and the leafy avenues of the West but actually the contrast is drawn between two areas of London whose fortunes have changed dramatically since 1839. 

Fagin's den is just off Saffron Hill, near Farringdon station (which means that unlike every other costume drama's obsessive need to stick St Paul's into the background, it does make sense here). These days it's a characterless Pret and glass-building commercial hub where businessfolk have a 'cheeky pint' after work, but then... 

“A dirtier of more wretched place he had never seen. The street was very narrow and muddy, and the air was impregnated with filthy odours. There were a good many small shops; but the only stock in trade appeared to be heaps of children, who, even at that time of night, were crawling in and out at the doors, or screaming from the inside. The sole places that seemed to prosper amid the general blight of the place, were the public-houses; and in them, the lowest orders of Irish were wrangling with might and main. Covered ways and yards, which here and there diverged from the main street, disclosed little knots of houses, where drunken men and women were positively wallowing in filth; and from several of the door-ways, great ill-looking fellows were cautiously emerging, bound, to all appearance, on no very well-disposed or harmless errands.”

Meanwhile Oliver's posh saviour Mr Brownlow lived "a quiet shady street near Pentonville" which brings us just east of Kings Cross and west of Islington. It was then a mecca for upwardly-mobile living (in fact was the first planned suburb in London) but, while still probably unaffordable for most people, is far from the aspirational hot-spot it once was. There's now large prison stuck on it and a higher crime rate than Fagin's end of town. 

So in conclusion - Fagin solidly beat Brownlow in the property investment stakes. He'd be laughing had he only just held-on to life for 180 years and not been fictional. 

Further info on the location in Oliver Twist HERE

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Quick Reviews: Dunkirk, Baby Driver, & Wonder Woman


It's been ages since I've posted anything but I have my limp excuses - I was away in Ibiza for the summer and it's not a location that encourages productive blogging. I'm happily back in cloudy London now and will most definitely (ie hopefully) get back to more keyboard tapping. 

In the meantime I've been catching up on all the films I missed while away (the lads-on-tour side of Ibiza also has a mysterious lack of cinemas) including Dunkirk, Baby Driver, and Wonder Woman

Please have a look at my very quick reviews of these three after the jump! 

Thanks, Rory x 

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Discovering The (oh so obscure) Song of the Summer

All the best summers of our lives are locked and forever ready to reload in our memories by their very particular soundtrack. 

A big Christmas song will just remind you of burping turkey dinners and smiling faintly at 'whacky' gifts, a big summer anthem brings you right back to the very specifics of that one long summer you spent awkwardly snogging and grimacing through ciders in the park, or later discovering complete freedom and foreign medical services on your first big holiday with friends, or later again, sweating on your daily commute and going to a garden centre on your one bank holiday off (ah the wonders of adult life). No decent summer passes without that one track.  

Summer 2016 was conquered by Drake's 'One Dance', but while away in France myself and some friends uncovered an alternative -  Kungs vs Cookin' on 3 Burners 'This Girl'

It was our anthem and absolutely ours alone. The oh so sweet smugness of finding that obscure track you can casually gloat over back home 'Oh you haven't heard of it? I guess it's just a continental thing... you see I was travelling... and I am better than you.' 

We returned to the UK to discover that it was number 2 in the charts. And had been for the entire summer. Goddamit. 

I'm spending this summer in Ibiza and yet again had my little tastemaker ears primed.  We discovered a banger that is playing in every bar, cafe, and eardrum across the island. It's a little Spanish number called 'Despacito'. 

Which, it transpires, has been number 1 in the US and the UK for the past month. In fact it is topping charts in 57 countries. It has 1.8 billion views on YouTube. I fear I may not be the only one to stumble on this particular exotic gem. 

What links these two summer bangers? The majority of us trying to sing along have absolutely no idea what we're saying. 'This Girl' because it's muffled gibberish and Despacito because for us folk who aren't fluent in Spanish any attempt to join in involves trying to style it out with makey-up words like 'ta-ta-la-uriotto baba zinko rinko freeto!' 

Even Justin Bieber, who features on the track isn't quite sure what's going on, during a NY gig tried to get away with substituting with cries of 'Burrito!' and 'Doritos!' Good effort. 

The chorus actually means 'Slowly....I want to smell your neck slowly/Let me whisper things in your ear/So that you'll remember if you're not with me/SlowlyI want to undress you with my kisses, slowly/I sign the walls of your labyrinth/And make your whole body a manuscript."

Oh my. I need a lie down and a Cornetto after that. Sign the walls of your labryrinth? Personally I relate more to the burrito version. 

It is the first US number 1 in Spanish language in 21 years. So what was the previous one? Well it's a certain obscure little backwater of a track I personally uncovered. Check it out HERE 

What's your song of the summer? I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The woman who remembers Southam Street

This afternoon I went to a photography exhibition of 1950s life on one west London street. Roger Mayne's pictures show grubby happy kids doing handstands, shrieking, playing, smoking, and looking warily at strangers.

A wiry old woman with an angular back kept trying to drum up conversation with tightly polite types. She asked 'You interested in Southham street then?' All she got in return were sympathetic smiles and flickers of panic. Eventually she gave it a go with me and found a willing audience. I was happy to prod her stories along with the occasional question (almost all of which were ignored).

'Course I grew up near Southam street...' she began, as though this were self evident. She told me of the 'squalid' street she was afraid to walk on, the only time she dared was when she had to go to the cinema and pass the sweet smell of the liquorice factory on the way.
'Course it's all gone now, it's under a tower'
'Course everyone treated each other the same in those days...'
'Course you've have twenty kids living in one house back then'
'Course it's getting worse again now, but I got something to look forward to..'

And so she went on reminiscing about a lost London, of how she was told to avoid teddy boys, how she worked on Portobello road which was not 'for tourists like it is now', how the area changed with arrivals 'in from the West Indies ', how she loved going 'down cinema, which they torn down now of course'.
One particular highlight was a casual mention of Rillington Place and how her mum lived opposite 'that Christie' (infamous murderer) who was 'a lovely quiet man they say 'cept for what he done. Course you don't know how much of it is true'.

Other gallery goers slowed their pace in her orbit, snatching titbits of childhood games, crowded tenement lives, of how it's all changed but how 'nothing's changed that much really, it all goes round in circles'.
When reflecting on how life is still 'just as bad as ever' for poor families in the area she added 'course I got something to look forward to'. That phrase bubbling up again and again.
I, thinking she's either talking about Brexit or death, didn't draw her on it but she wasn't going to hold back for an invitation.
'You know what I got to look forward to?' She pulled a leaflet from her bag 'I'm a Jehovah's Witness, I'm going to paradise. Have a look through this magazine on salvation...what's your name? Rory I'm Helen. You keep that, have a flick through'
'Course we don't ASK for a donation...'

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Review: 'Alien: Covenant' and Harry Styles' album

I was recently at home in Dublin and teamed up with my dad for this quick review of 'Alien: Covenant' and Harry Styles' debut solo album. 

We'd love to hear what you think! 

I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Saturday, May 6, 2017

How to Cure a Cold

I have a few weeks off from work and it's free time I have been aching for since Christmas. I've long imagined busy little projects and adventures to fill the days so they felt like weeks, each so bursting with incident, revelation and life-changing moments that they'll require their own chapter in the autobiography, if not their own volume. 

Instead I've been shivering, snotty and suffering a scratchy throat that feels like a sour crow is pecking at it. EVERY SINGLE TIME I get a holiday my immune system takes one too. 

So how to beat this bastarding cold? I'm assaulting my system with so much Berocca my pee shall never be non-luminous again. But my dad's very-oft-repeated theory goes that if you take loads of vitamin C you'll beat a cold in 6 days, if you don't you'll beat a cold in 6 days. And for once, facts back him up. All a doctor can offer is 'rest, plenty of water, some vitamin C'. None of it will cure you, it will just make you feel a bit less shite. 

Having grown up in Ireland there were of course other 'cures' which we don't realise are peculiar to our island until talking to outside folk - for example 7up (served flat) and Lucozade were considered medicinal wonders. Serve some flat 7Up with dry toast (because you don't want to excite the stomach too much) and you'll be grand in a few hours. Also if I was extra whiney I might get a slice of Viennetta or raspberry ripple served on a saucer ("but don't tell the others"). 

Chatting about this on Twitter a friend added into the mix 'and Club Orange microwaved!!!!' Club Orange is fizzy orange like Fanta... that's then heated until warm. The very thought makes my stomach want to escape my body. Or am I missing out?! If so, I am happy to. 

If you have any sickness cures that you grew up with only to discover they were bizarre/tastebud torture (see above) let me know below or I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Sunday, April 23, 2017

New Rant Vid! Photogenic People

If you hate people who always look great in a photo.... and hate people who always moan about how they look in a photo. Then this is the video for you!

(Ps It's been nearly a year since I made a vid so would love to hear your feedback! @theroryjohn

Saturday, April 15, 2017

5 Things I Loved This Week #2

Some of the things I've loved this week including Michelle Visage, a video at the Tate, the podcast everyone is droning on about, and this fella... 

1 Immigrant Song

I've been hearing a lot of this song recently and it's still never enough. 

Last week over on reddit someone posted about how the opening credits to 'The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo' (English version) make for a better Bond opening sequence than most Bond films. 

It's damn true you know.

That blood-thickening noise is Karen O and Trent Reznor's cover of Led Zeppelin's 1970 Viking anthem 'Immigrant Song'. I now listen to it every time I need a He-Man-esque 'I HAVE THE POWER' boost for work/a casual strut down a train platform/a trip to the kettle. 

This week the original popped up in the teaser trailer for 'Thor: Ragnorak' (which actually looks fun). This track is clearly destined to be my new life anthem. Enemies beware. 

2 S-Town podcast

From the people behind Serial, here's a new highly addictive podcast that will have you taking the long-way home with ears aching for answers. 

It begins with a murder mystery and pivots several times into something completely different - including a character portrait and ending in a philosophical pondering of what it means to live life well. 

To say more gives too much away but in short it's an evocative Southern Gothic filled with hugely colourful characters though at its conclusion (I finally got there during an impromptu three hour walk) I was left a little unsatisfied and felt well, a bit icky. 

A co-worker I argued with by the biscuit tin felt (like many who listened) that it is a work of genius but I wondered if this was a great journalist (Brian Reed) following a story wherever it took him or someone desperately shaping a story as their years of research whimpered out into nothing much at all. Some prompts felt oddly motivated (what was he trying to say exactly with Tyler's finger anecdote?) and most central pursuits fall away without explanation. 

That said it is most definitely worth a listen. A painting of (a) life that is in turns grimly dark and beautiful. 

3 Mark Leckey 'Dream English Kid' at Tate Britain 

I'm wary of dark rooms showing videos in galleries. Sometimes this is because the films are dull as a dry sponge but nobody leaves in case they look stupid, but mostly I stay away as (unlike some, no judgement) I don't savour the thought of sitting on a stranger in the dark. 

But I gave this a go and loved it. 'Dream English Kid' is choppy-changy visual poem, a montage of found footage and reconstruction broadly looking at hedonism and anxiety in the last quarter of the 20th century. 

Imagine David Lynch grew up in Liverpool on potato waffles, Angel Delight and nuclear warnings you might get a sense of what Leckey's piece is like. And like Lynch's work this is something to let wash over you and to feel rather than grapple to make sense of. 

4 The Diva Rules by Michelle Visage

Okay so I am a sucker for a impulse buy life-coach book and a decent 97% of the time I'm completely deflated by chapter 2, realising yet again it's just some joker selling common sense but sticking Capitalized Letters on Repeated Buzzwords to make it look like they are Inventing Bold New Concepts. 

This one falls into my 3%. Yes, there's nothing startlingly new in here and it's not a long read but it's delivered with sharp humour and zero bullshit. I'm all for anything that gives me some much needed workplace pep and Michelle is like a bollocking boxer's coach in your corner when it comes to work ethic. One of her rules is 'Don't get ready, stay ready' (ie always be prepped for big opportunities and work your arse off to jump to the next level). 

Oh and for those who might think it's only for girls and gays don't be afraid of the word 'Diva' (which she strongly distinguishes from being a self-obsessed bitch who judges others instead of celebrating them), Diva = Anyone who is an unstoppable powerhouse. 

Btw Who else is enjoying the new 'Ru Paul's Drag Race' episodes? Valentina for the win! 

5 Lessons from the Screenplay

Every award season I'm left frustrated as the world swoons over the best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, best director, best picture (one for the producers) and always back 17 rows from the limelight is the ACTUAL PERSON WHO WROTE THE DAMN FILM.  

I love YouTube video essays about film (channelcriswell and Every Frame a Painting are brilliant) and 'Lessons from the Screenplay' is a great one that redresses this insane imbalance of appreciation. 

Also this week! 

Kendrick Lamarr's new album 'DAMN' was one of my big highlights of the week but due to my shocking rap/hip hop ignorance I don't think I could write much about without exposing myself the utter jackass I am. Great album though. 

Harry Styles' 'Sign of the Times'. I have zero shame about it. While Zayn and Niall have launched their own careers (and Zayn's album was class), it always felt like One Direction was a launching pad for the Harry's inevitable and colossal solo success. And it's time to launch. Admittedly this track took a listen or two to really get into but now it just will not leave me alone. It's a pure belter. I've already pre-ordered the album.

While we're on the subject I've also long admired Harry's 'dishevelled son of a rock star smelling of cider in Primrose Hill' style and in particular envied his crusty old Chelsea boots. Several years later and I've finally bought my own pair - grey suede from Kurt Geiger. I will wear them till they are stinking dead. 

(BTW while looking up that image I've discovered the same pair are on sale online for literally HALF THE PRICE. Well that's ruined that happy purchase for me.) 

I also saw 'Ghost in the Shell'. It was okay. I reckon if you're doing a sci-fi based on a graphic novel then the cinematography needs to be on-point in every shot and I felt there was ever-so slightly missed opportunities all over the shop. That said, if you're hungry for choreographed ass-kicking and Blade Runner android pondering then do check it out. 

I'd really love to hear any feedback or general waffle you have!

 I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Fearsome: Mice, Pigeons, & Clowns - Oh My!

It seems I have the powerful animal attraction of Snow White. While she coaxed birds, rabbits and squirrels (with eyes the size of plates) into helping with the housework, I am a magnet for mice and ants. 

Or at least the housemates suspect I'm behind it. Due to the ever building evidence, I'd have to agree. I'm either a cursed witch or rodents just find me damn sexy.  

Since I moved in two months ago we've had a tiny biblical plague of 'things that make you go eww'. The ants issue is being handled with ineffectual sprays and hard stares but there was another guest that wreaked greater havoc. 

Housemate M (preserving anonymity so there's a slightly less chance of her telling me to quit detailing every bloody thing that happens) screamed as though possessed with the terrors of hell one night. She's spied a very casual mouse in her room (reports say he didn't scuttle, he strolled - which was rude). Housemate M does not like mice. So much so that she emigrated. Really. 

The next day we got a message saying she'd returned to the home-country until the mouse was dealt with. 'Dealt with' in the Mafia understanding of the phrase. Thankfully she's back and the mouse has not been seen round these parts since. I think he casually strolled off for a drama-free life.
My mum also hates mice. My brother found out just how much when he found a dead mouse in a trap, crept up behind her and held it beside her face before calling her name. She did not laugh. 

They don't bother me much. Granted I wouldn't like to wake up and find one taking a bath in my mouth but when I see them nipping about on tube platforms I think 'aww mouse!' instead of 'ARGH BURNDOWNTHESTATION'. 

I also quite like spiders, don't have issue with snakes, and I bloody love a good pigeon. My mate Louise goes into a trance-state of quivering dread if one comes within 30 metres. I on the other-hand was conditioned to love pigeons from an early age by the 'Feed the birds' lady (who, now I reflect on it, was only ever interested in peddling overpriced bags of crumbs to tourists). 

I'm not going to belittle or sneer at those with irrational fears - because people don't tend to appreciate that and because I have a few of my own. 

This week a new trailer for a remake of 'Stephen King's IT' brought back happy childhood memories for many. For those who don't know it's about a demonic razor-toothed clown who lurked in drains and guts children. 

The bit that scared the living bejesus out of me in the original was a girl spying Pennywise through a clothes line. He smiles, she giggles. We see him again and... well... 

So I don't hang out much with clowns. I don't tend to trust child-catchers either. But these fears are reasonable. One that is edging towards unnecessary is the dread that grips me upon seeing a 'costumed character' - ie some randomer dressed as a friendly cartoon with a giant head and huge white gloves. Their real faces lurking somewhere behind those dead eyes. 

I despise and resent their eager joviality. They are not fun. They are sweaty strangers who dress up as something you love so they can trick you into hugging them.. or just to get paid a small wage...or to kill you. Who's to say?!

If one of these jolly dickheads was found lurking under my bed I would not merely emigrate until it's killed, I would watch the city burn from space. 

And that's not an over-reaction. 

Do you have any major fears? I'm on Twitter @theroryjohn

Monday, March 27, 2017

5 Things I Loved This Week

I've become a believer in praising what you want to see more of in the world. If I've enjoyed something I'll try and tell the person behind it. Because....

- Creative types are stereotyped as praise-guzzling egomaniacs but more often are shy worrywarts who put heaps of work into something and are anxious about how it's received.

- People assume others are doing the praising. Often nobody is. 

- Sometimes they tweet back! (I know this is not cool but I am not cool.) 

- It's a nice thing to do.

In the spirit of sharing great stuff here are 5 things I bloody loved this week.


1 Edith Bowman's podcast 'Soundtracking' where she chats to directors about the music used in their films. It's that simple but Edith makes it brilliant. She's clearly done her homework on each director's filmography and they in turn clearly love joining her for a deep nerdy dive into the choices they agonised over but often nobody appreciates. 

'Kong: Skull Island' director Jordan Vogt-Roberts said it was one of the most enjoyable conversations he's had in a long time - further specifying he didn't just mean while doing press junkets, he meant in life. I particularly recommend Edith's recent joyful catch-up with Edgar Wright which just went up this week. 

If you're a fan of films you'll love it. If you're a fan of music you'll love it. If you're a fan of good conversation you'll love it. 

2 A few years ago over pints at the BBC, 'Harlots' (Hulu, ITV Encore) co-creator Alison Newman quietly tipped me off that she had a great wee idea stirring for a drama but wouldn't be drawn further. 

At the time she was trying to track down Lucy Beale's killer as DI Samantha Keeble. Keeble failed (damn you Bobby!) but Alison has far more bloody-minded determination. She and Moira Buffini have turned a spark of fascination with the hidden history of 18th century prostitution into a hugely acclaimed series. 

As you'd expect from a lavish drama, the cast is impressive (including Samantha Morton, Lesley Manville, and Jessica Brown-Findlay of 'Downtown' fame) and every costume and location is on point.  But 'Harlots' doesn't feel for a second like a politely dull but worthy costume drama. This 18th century is fresh, colourful and new (as it should be, most dramas seem to forget that the clothes and houses were brand new at the time). Packed with rivalry, bitchiness, sex, lust and backstabbing, this is not your gentle bookish Sunday night viewing, it's gripping gutsy telly. 

Judging from my housemates gasps & curses at characters (she watches telly like an American watches the Super Bowl) this is going to be huge. Probably best not to watch it with your mum though (there's lots of thrusting and wobbly bits). 

3 Bowing out this week was series 2 of 'The Great Pottery Throw Down' or 'Pots Win Prizes' as it blatantly should have been called. Like 'The Great British Bake Off', which it will forever be compared with, Pottery Throwdown beavered away in the background for the first series before really hitting its stride and capturing the Twitter audience in the second. 

Like Bake Off, the magic is in the casting - the contenders are all likeable, quietly quirky (but not in a 'I'm mad me!' way), impressively talented, and do care for each other (when Elaine left Nam sadly reflected "Elaine is the only one who actually took care of me..."). 

Unlike Bake Off there's a thumping soundtrack of 1960 British rock, a male judge who will cry if a plate feels nice, and with Sara Cox presenting there are cheeky nods to the obvious innuendos (rims, bottoms, handles being 'well hung') but it feels far less self-conscious. 

The finale has played and the winner declared but catch up on iPlayer if you missed out. I promise you will not look at a mug handle the same way ever again. 

4 'Walking music' doesn't sound like much of a compliment but for years The XX have been my soundtrack to aimless wandering whilst feeling big profound emotions about nothing in particular. They carved out their own distinct line in ambient tunes to muse to - so much so that for me their second album felt just that bit too similar to the first. 

I expected their third album 'I See You' would be yet more of the same but instead it's proved a quick addiction and I would wager their best yet. There's still the distinctive XX sound with Romy and Oliver's vocals dancing in and over each and it does move at the pace of hungover soul shuffling from the sofa to kettle, but the album feels much more robust  - there's more muscle in the flesh. Or to put it another way, it's damn catchy. 

5 'Yoga with Adriene' also comes recommended as Caitlin Moran's YouTube tutorial of choice and has been my weedy body's saviour. After decades of avoiding public exercise for fear that I'll be utterly shite at it, this easy home yoga series has helped me feel that my body isn't entirely defective. It's just a bit lazy and non-stretchy.

Adriene is a perky and insanely positive Texan yoga instructor and actor. I know, how insufferable does she sound already? BUT trust me you'll love her. She guides with a laid-back encouraging attitude and occasional tangents into rap, pop or a TV reference she can't quite remember (one of her more frequent phrases is 'Okay...shuttup Adriene'). 

Last year I tried her 30 day challenge and made it to the heady heights of Day 6 before jacking it in, this year I'm at Day 18 and counting - and that's mostly down to the fact that Adriene doesn't make me feel like a useless dolt when I fail. She will stretch you both literally and figuratively but won't frustrate you. 

You will never stand up without hearing 'head over heart, heart over pelvis' again. 

Anything you loved this week you'd like to share?

I'm on Twitter @theRoryJohn