What an absolute whirlwind February was! My 2020 mantra of ‘Less Is More’ has been well and truly left in the dust. I hate to be that person who continually shouts ‘I’m so BUSY!’ into the void, but it has been rather manic, and my brain and body are feeling the effects of it.
March, I was hoping, would be a time for me to slow down a little; to write a bit more, sleep a bit more, and spend time with my loved ones.
I think the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’ might be applicable here. I meant a little more downtime; not complete quarantine.
Anyway, as always, here are the things I loved in February. If you’re looking for some Good Things to focus on amidst the Bad News, or some new stuff to read and watch if you’re suddenly spending a lot of time inside, maybe something here will help.
This Country Season Three
My boyfriend is obsessed with this show. OBSESSED. To the extent that we spent his birthday exploring the village where the series is filmed. It was a bit surreal but weirdly special.
BBC’s This Country, though, has slowly won a place in my heart too. While being joyously funny in its simplicity, it’s also tinged with a little poignancy, and I can’t help but feel incredible empathy for Kerry and Kurtan while they wreak havoc on their Cotswold Community. Series Three has been offered up as the Last Series and I will be very sad to see it finish.
A Monster Calls [press tickets]
I reviewed this show at Chichester Festival Theatre and came out feeling emotionally overwhelmed. I needed a few minutes to recover enough to walk back to the train station. It’s a truly beautiful and spellbinding story that really reminded me why I love theatre so much. A very special production, and one you really shouldn’t miss if you can help it.
Make It SO 2020 [press tickets]
You’ll probably have seen my tweets and posts about NST’s Make It SO festival of local fledgeling theatre. I enjoyed three weeks of home-grown productions, designed to give artists the chance to showcase their work and learn from their audiences.
Though I couldn’t make every single piece, I reviewed the nine shows I went to see, and you can read all about them in my Make It SO blog post.
The Write Time Connection Cafe
I’ve managed to make it to three sessions so far – my first in February – and each one has been motivating and inspiring. It feels so good to meet and chat with fellow creatives, all experiencing the same challenges as me (writer’s block is only the start of it!).
I know the coming months may make things a little less predictable, but I can’t wait for it to continue, and to make the most of the community.
We welcomed February in Devon, with new people and new places. I spent many a childhood summer in the county, and it was lovely to be back and exploring a new part of it (and a very special one at that). I hope to be back soon.
To Move In Time at the Arnolfini
February saw my first visit to Bristol’s Arnolfini, for a monologue performed by Tyrone Huggins and written by Tim Etchells called To Move In Time. It was almost a stream-of-consciousness list of all the things the protagonist would do if he could travel in time; from making real change happen and removing evil from history, to simply watching as many sunsets and sunrises as possible.
This was a show that provoked much discussion afterwards over dinner – and while it was almost a little too long, it was mostly mesmerising. I hope to return to the venue for another show sometime!
Why I’m Embracing My Envy by Daisy Buchanan
This essay by Daisy Buchanan in Grazia is another case of an idea I’ve been wrestling with being taken on by someone else (with, presumably, similar but superior thoughts) and turned into a truly beautiful piece that I could never have written.
I admit to being an envious person; it’s one of my worse traits. Although, as Daisy argues, perhaps we should be leaning into these green feelings. This article is definitely grounding and reassuring. We’re all human; let’s use these feelings to our advantage.
Here’s an extract:
“To stop myself from being caught out by envy, I must come to terms with myself – neither duckling nor swan. Sometimes I have failed, sometimes I have succeeded, and I’ve had the opportunity to make work that I am proud of. The universe has not cheated me out of anything by making me frumpier and dumpier than my friend. There is much for me to be grateful for and cheerful about – it’s just impossible to notice it when I’m struck down by a case of the Not Mes.”
M&S Hedge End [press visit]
I’m a sucker for a treat from M&S; last month I was invited along to visit the new concept store in Hedge End, and they have totally reimagined the shopping experience. From their ‘Fill Your Own’ stations which reduce waste, to their wine-tasting area (yes!) and fresh food prep teams (Pasta Evangelists, anyone?) it was full of new initiatives that not only make shopping easier (and better value) but much more pleasant.
I hope these stores will become more widespread; in the meantime, I’m already planning a return visit.
Three O’Clock Choc
February saw the final Three O’Clock Choc session of it’s kind, after three years.
What am I going on about?
I’ve explained it all in this Twitter thread; a look at friendship, mental health, and a little initiative my friend Jonny and I came up with to help check in on each other.
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy
This book was a gift from my boyfriend after a bit of a tricky week, and it is so incredibly beautiful. I’ve spotted it in book shops over the last few months, but owning a copy myself means a lot; opening it up and reading through it was so soothing.
It’s full of gorgeous illustrations and wonderful and simple messages that will resonate with young and old alike. A paper-bound cuddle, it might be the comfort you need right now. It’s reassuring to have this stunning book on my bookshelf.
I finally caught Late Night on Amazon Prime; a film featuring Emma Thompson as a talk-show host on the verge of being irrelevant, and Mindy Kaling as the whirlwind writer who…well. No spoilers here. But it was a wonderful watch and made me even more determined to channel Emma Thompson when I’m a little older. I highly recommend popping it on one evening.
Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo made it to my favourite books of 2019, so I had hopes that her latest raved-about read would, too. I mean, it’s early days in 2020, but it’s looking good at the moment. I adored this book – a rock’n’roll feast, written in an unusual interview style. I even dreamed about it.
Temple Spa at Southampton Harbour Hotel [press event]
I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to skincare. Sure, I moisturise twice a day and own a hot-cloth cleanser, but I easily fall into the trap of the dreaded face wipe, and though I never sleep with my makeup on, I’ve only just started using eye cream (and that’s only because I’m fast approaching 30!)
I went along to Southampton’s luxurious Harbour Hotel for an evening event, exploring the products from Temple Spa, who now have treatments at the spa in the Hotel. We were taught how to give ourselves a facial using their seriously luxurious products, and I had a great time. My skin felt amazing!
While I can’t really afford high-end skin products, learning how to use creams and lotions properly, and being offered the chance to try them for myself, was a real treat. It also means that when I do want to spoil myself with some skin products, or a spa day, I know exactly where to go!
You can watch me using the products over on my Instagram stories, too. Aren’t you lucky?