Beauty Review: Andrea Fulerton Nail Boutique Trio in Art Attack

I may be a bit of a nail obsessive, but I'm always looking for a bargain product. So Andrea Fulerton's nail polish trios, which promise three looks for the price of one (or maybe two depending on your budget), was something I couldn't resist. I'm a sucker for a bright colour as well so picked out the Art Attack set, which as well as being named after one of the greatest kids' TV shows of the 90s - ah, Neil Buchanan and his jumpers! - includes a lovely shade of bright mid-blue and a shimmery golden yellow.

As you can see, the bottle is double-ended, so you get two shades straight off, and then the idea is that you layer the two colours together to get a third shade. I've been itching to try a ring finger manicure for a while so thought today I'd go for that with the layered effect and then alternate the other colours, so I can show all three off at the same time.

Both polishes apply really well and don't streak. The blue in particular gives great coverage - I could have got away with one coat but chose to do three for comparison across my other polishes. The yellow, on the other hand, isn't as great; you can still see a bit of the nail at the tips even with three coats, but I think as it's meant to be layered over the blue more than as a stand-alone colour that's slightly forgivable.

When the two are mixed together you get a shimmery lime green colour that would be perfect for a Halloween manicure - it seems very similar to China Glaze's Zombie Zest, which I coveted for ages but couldn't find so this will make a perfect dupe. That said the colours work just as well alongside each other as they do layered and would be a great summer manicure or for a trip to the seaside. That said in comparison to some of the other shades in the range it seems to be one of the ones where the two polishes go well together - I have a couple of others in the range which I'm not sure would work in this kind of look, but we shall see...

If you fancy picking up Art Attack or any of the other Andrea Fulerton trios, they cost a very reasonable £7.99 each at Superdrug.


Theatre Review: Priscilla Queen of the Desert - the Musical

In the words of the legendary Dame Edna Everage (and in a horrible Australian accent), 'Hello possums!'

First of all, I'd like to apologise for my prolonged absence on the blogosphere - it's a cliche to say that life has got in the way, but it's also true. What with being away a lot in the past couple of months, and then Christmas, I just simply haven't had time to post many updates. But one of my New Year's resolutions is to blog at least twice a week in 2012, so feel free to shout at me if I don't update for a while! I've also given the blog title and descriptions a little bit of an overhaul, mainly because I feel a bit more settled in London now and also because it was becoming less about getting established here and a bit more about my life in general, so I wanted something that would reflect more what my blog has become and what I'd like it to be in the coming months.

So after that little bit of admin, on to today's entry...

One of my favourite films of all time is 'The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of seeing it, it follows the drag queens Mitzi Del Bra and Felicia Jollygoodfellow, aka Tick Belrose and Adam Whiteley, and male-to-female transsexual Bernadette Bassinger as they travel across Australia in a battered old bus (the titular Priscilla) to a gig at an outback casino. A few years ago the show was adapted into a stage musical, and I recently went to see it as a pre-Christmas treat.

The film itself feels very much like a jukebox musical as the songs, most of which are played on Priscilla's tape deck, are essential in terms of driving the plot forward, although the show has added in a few new songs, as well as extending some of those used in the musical (a thirty-second snippet of 'A Fine Romance' in the film becomes a full-on production number in the show) and shortening others. Sometimes it works - Richard Grieves' Tick and his son Benj duetting beautifully on 'Always On My Mind' brought a tear to my eye, and the performance of 'Hot Stuff' inside the bus was brilliantly camp - but others didn't, such as the slightly shoehorned-in 'What's Love Got To Do With It' which seemed to serve no purpose other than to give an actor something to do for five minutes. My favourite song however has to be 'Go West', as in the clip below, which is an example of where extending a song from the film has worked brilliantly. The iconic 'Finally' and 'I Will Survive' ran it a close second, but in my view were just a touch too far off the film versions' brilliance to work.


The above version is slightly different to the cast I saw it with as they've acquired a new Tick in the past year, and it also doesn't include the show's key moment of Priscilla's first appearance, but hopefully it'll help to give you a sense of the exuberance and sense of abandon that the show itself has in spades. That feeling is largely down to the brilliant casting, with a particularly standout performance from Oliver Thornton as the brilliantly bitchy yet vulnerable Felicia/Adam (although Ray Meager, aka Home & Away's Alf Stewart as Bob the mechanic, got the biggest cheer I've ever heard in a theatre when he walked on and uttered the line "Stone the flamin' crows!"). Thornton seemed absolutely game for anything, from descending from the theatre roof in an angel costume only to discard it for Roman-esque bondage gear to sitting on top of a giant shoe on Priscilla's roof that extended over the audience whilst miming to La Traviata. I can't wait to see what he does next.

The show is an absolute riot of colour, glitter, sequins and fantastic music that had me dancing in my seat (yes, I am that annoying person. I draw the line at standing up though), but I think the reason why I loved it almost as much as the film was that it shared the film's heart. Rare is the musical where the message isn't that it's OK to be who you are, but Priscilla brings that message home in a full-on manner; the characters come from a community of outsiders and with traits that make them even further outside that, but the way that the three leads embrace each other's differences is truly uplifting. I only wish I had the time and money to see it again - it closes at the end of the year. :(

I do love going to the theatre and another of my New Year's resolutions is to see more plays and musicals, so hopefully I'll be able to bring you some regular blogs on that. I've got a few shows on my 'to see' list so watch this space...

Book Review: Dead in the Family

I don't think I've made any secret of the fact I'm a True Blood fan, but one thing you may not know about me is that I'm also very stubborn about certain things, and that includes reading the book before I see the film or TV show after the 'Lord of the Rings incident' (I saw the film of Fellowship of the Ring before I read the book and now annoyingly always see Elijah Wood as Frodo). However, one of the disadvantages of this is when a book series is still publishing and is also being shown on TV is that they change all the covers, so you're forced to get the edition with the TV show's cast on the front. But I can overlook that for Charlaine Harris.

I'm going to stop now before I write the rest of this review and say in big capital letters that there are SPOILERS for the series. If you haven't read any of the other books in this series (and I really suggest that you do, in the order they were published) then please don't read on unless you don't mind knowing what happens.

Dead in the Family is the tenth book in Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries series, which follow Sookie Stackhouse, a mind-reading waitress from a small Louisiana town who gets drawn into a supernatural world of vampires, werewolves and shape-shifters over the course of the series. In the previous book Sookie was caught up in the war between her fairy great-grandfather Niall and his nephew Breandan, and when we first meet her in Dead in the Family she is still recovering from the wounds she received during the conflict. However, despite having finally settled into a relationship with the vampire Eric, quite a few of her friends and acquaintances are still having various problems with their own families, both blood relatives and vampire 'siblings'. As always, it's fallen to Sookie to help them solve things, amid the backdrop of the government pushing for a were registration system.

Now I like the Southern Vampire Mysteries series a lot, as they're very good engaging quick reads with well-realised characters and a strong sense of pace. However, for this one it just felt like there was something missing. I'm not sure if it was the fact that the action seemed to move particularly slowly, or that all the focus seemed to fall on Eric and his vampire family (including something of a shocker for any fellow history buffs out there - Harris likes to imply that there are various 'celebrity' vampires out there but I wasn't expecting this one!) which felt a bit boring to me. I tend to prefer it when she writes more about Sookie's everyday life and her trying to fit in her more supernatural based activities around that rather than getting too wrapped up in that other side of things. Whilst the books are undeniably focused on Sookie, one of the series' strengths is its ensemble cast, but apart from Eric they all seem to have been pushed into the background a little bit and everything's been wound up too quickly and neatly. I know Eric's very popular with fans of the TV series so that might be why Harris chose to give him a bigger role this time at the expense of the other characters, but in my view it was a wrong decision.

That said, the novel was well written as always and of those characters that Harris did choose to focus on, they were very well done and a good deal of depth was added to them. The new characters in this book are well drawn as well; she's got a knack for being able to tell you a lot about a person in a few short paragraphs, which works well in a series like this where you have people flitting in and out all the time. So if you like the Southern Vampire Mysteries series then this one is worth a read, even if it doesn't quite have that magic something that the others do. And hey, there's always Dead Reckoning to try and make up for it...

Book Review: Alex's Adventures in Numberland

I'm going to admit this right off: I am not a maths person. I only managed to scrape an A* at GCSE by covering my room in flashcards of formulas and obsessively writing down equations, and even now I suspect it was a total fluke. So when my boyfriend, who is very into maths and science, offered to lend me his copy of Alex's Adventures in Numberland when I was waiting for an Amazon order to come and needed a book to read, I was a bit sceptical about it at first but thought I'd give it a try. And I'm very glad I did.

The book is basically written as something of a history of mathematics, although it actually turns out to be a history of much more than that - there's a lot of anthropology and linguistics in there too, which made it instantly more appealing to me as I really enjoy that kind of thing and I think it helped me ease into the book a little better, as well as adding to the feeling that mathematics truly is the international language - the chapter on zero, for example, focuses heavily on the development of mathematics in India, whilst the chapter on counting goes from the Amazon to Japan via medieval Lincolnshire. Alex is also a very patient teacher, guiding you through the processes for how certain calculations are worked out and turning what (for me) was complete gibberish into something clear and simple that I could actually understand despite not feeling like I have a particularly mathematical brain.

However, I must say that my favourite parts of the book are the interviews with various mathematicians and those involved in the mathematical world. The chapter on pi is particularly good for this, with the competitiveness of the various mathematicians involved to calculate the number to as many digits as possible really coming through as well as their love for the subject and dedication. Plus, as someone who's much more of a natural creative, I really like the ways in which they demonstrate mathematical elements in simplified ways, like the professor who's expressing a very complicated equation through a crocheted pattern based on the formula. That marriage of creativity and practical application is a thread running through the book and really ties it all together nicely in taking mathematics out of this abstract state and into real life.

It is a bit of a struggle to get going, but once you can begin to get your head around it it's actually a fairly engrossing read. A great re-introduction to a subject a lot of us will have dropped once we left school and proof that, as the risk of sounding cheesy, maths can actually be fun. Highly recommended.

Film Review: Strictly Ballroom

As anyone who knows me will know, I am a huge fan of Strictly Come Dancing. I've been watching it since the start (minus the year Darren Gough won which I missed most of due to not having a TV in uni halls and this being before BBC iPlayer existed) and just love it - the costumes, the music, the chemistry between the celebs and pros, and even the judges' spats, although I do wish Alesha would learn to speak properly. So with the new series starting in just a few days, I figured what better time to do a blog on its namesake, Strictly Ballroom.

Shot in a mock documentary style, the film tells the story of Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio), a rebellious Aussie ballroom dancing star who causes chaos when he chooses to dance his own crowd-pleasing steps rather than those prescribed by the strict Australian Dance Federation, much to the upset of his mum Shirley and partner Liz. The only person who believes in Scott is shy beginner Fran, and they secretly begin practising together to dance Scott's steps at the Pan-Pacific Championships.

More a film to raise a wry smile than belly laughs, the film's star turn is the late Pat Thompson as Scott's Avon lady mum who's so wrapped up in her children's dance success that she loses sight of what will truly make them happy in a cloud of over the top cosmetics, frosted hair and fake tan. Even though I'm not normally a fan of kids in films, Lauren Hewett and Steve Grace make a great pairing in the roles of Kylie, Scott's little sister who turns out to be surprisingly insightful, and her partner Luke. It's also got a wonderful sequence in which Scott and Fran dance the rumba to Doris Day's 'Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps', completely lost in their own world as the others look on, made even more stark by the contrast between the simplicity of Scott and Fran's look in comparison to the neon make-up and gravity-defying hairstyles of the other characters. In fact the film's ballroom sequences are a visual riot of lurid colours and sequins, balanced with the more toned down palette of Fran's family life and her dance training with Scott.

Yes the plot's a bit simplistic - at its heart it's a Romeo and Juliet-esque tale of following your heart and standing up for what you believe in - and there's never a sense that many of the characters are particularly likeable, but there's something about the film as a whole that's ultimately uplifting and will have you rooting for Scott and Fran to win. Almost 20 years since it was made, it's still the best thing director Baz Luhrmann's ever done and highly recommended if you need a film to get lost in for a couple of hours.

Film Review: Dazed and Confused

As you may have guessed from my previous movie blogs, I have a very specific taste in movies: I like comedy (ideally witty and possibly with the occasional dash of romance), I like retro stuff, and I tend to like quirkier, more offbeat films. So it stands to reason that Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused, made all the way back in 1993, is a film that I absolutely love and come back to time and time again.

If you haven't seen it, it's set in a high school in the Dallas suburbs on the last day of school in 1976, and follows various groups of teenagers as the school year finishes and they mark the beginning of summer through the incoming senior class hazing the freshmen in various ways, followed by a party out in the woods. The 'film about nothing' idea is something that's very common to a lot of Linklater's other films, but for this I think it works really well as the focus falls on the ensemble cast. Ostensibly the main character is Randall 'Pink' Floyd (played by Jason London), the star quarterback who spends large parts of the film wrestling with his conscience to sign a pledge that none of the football players will take drugs, but the sheer array of different age and social groups means that ultimately you end up investing in all the characters and their stories, however they pan out. That's the other great thing about this film; it's very much a 'before they were famous' moment for a lot of those in it, such as Parker Posey, Mila Jovovich, Adam Goldberg and even Ben Affleck as the slightly sadistic O'Bannion. Star turns however have to go to Rory Cochrane as Slater the stoner and Matthew McConaughey as the creepy, sleazy Wooderson, who left high school many years ago but still hangs out with the local teenagers.

The film does have a very offbeat sense of humour and tends to be done in lots of little vignettes, with snippets of different characters' stories interacting with Pink's life and occasionally detouring from him, but in a way that brilliantly captures what teenage life is like in terms of the fleeting moments where you cross paths with other people in your age group. Plus in terms of the overall look of the film it's incredibly well done - girls having their friends help zip them into super-tight jeans with a pair of pliers, boys with collar length hair and oversized shirts whose psychedelic patterns make your eyes hurt - and the 70s soundtrack of Peter Frampton, Alice Cooper, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd and KISS just adds the most fantastic atmosphere. The film also has what may possibly be one of the best endings in cinema - Pink, Wooderson, Slater and Pink's girlfriend, still slightly high from the night before, driving down the freeway to get Aerosmith tickets as Foghat's Slow Ride plays in the background. It just perfectly conveys the whole feeling of the film: that this is about the choices we make and the transitions that come naturally in life, but that you should make sure you have a lot of fun while you're here. As Wooderson says, "You just gotta keep livin' man, L-I-V-I-N".

Ultimately, it's a film that perfectly captures the culture of a period in the recent past with an array of brilliant characters. If you like your films to have more action then this might not be for you, but as a Sunday afternoon film it's a great snapshot of teenagerdom and shows that despite the different times and fashions, some things don't change.

Beauty Review: Models Own Nail Polish in Gold Rush

Continuing my love affair with nail bling, this week's manicure is Models Own Gold Rush - which, as the name suggests, is a glittering gold shade. I'd been in two minds about this one because I didn't know if it was too much as it looks really glittery in the bottle, but in my eternal optimism I thought I'd give it a go.

One of the good things about Models Own, as well as the vast array of colours and the reasonable price, is that the polishes apply really well and last for ages. This is with three coats, but even with two the coverage was almost perfect (I personally like three coats just to ensure minimal streaking). As you can see it looks a lot less glittery on the nail than it does in the bottle and is more of a general gold shimmer:


I could quite happily wear this polish on its own without any nail art over the top on a day where I felt like having a bit of sparkle in my life, but of course I always get the urge to do something else to a manciure instead of just leaving it be. So once again I brought out my trusty Barry M black crackle polish, applied a thickish coat, and this is the result:


As always, base coat is Nails Inc Hyde Park and top coat is Seche Vite.

There is something a bit ghetto fabulous about this one, but I must confess I do rather like that as it's so different from the sort of thing I'd normally go for. It's quite out there so probably not for the faint of heart or if you've got a job where your bosses are very strict about this sort of thing (although I'm lucky enough to have a relatively casual office so could just about get away with it!). I think it'd make for a fab look at a Christmas party with a fairly simple outfit like a little black dress, so you can let your nails do the talking.

You can buy Models Own nail varnish from their website or in some larger Boots stores, and it'll set you back around £5 per bottle, although they do have three for £12 and five for £13 deals on the website.


Film Review: The Inbetweeners Movie

I have to admit it's been some time since I saw a film at the cinema. Back when I lived in Lancashire, the cinemas were fairly difficult to get to, and since moving to London I just haven't had the time. However, there are lots of films coming out soon that I want to see, and one of those was The Inbetweeners Movie. For those who don't know of it, it's based on a TV series about four geeky awkward teenage boys - intellectual Will, lovelorn Simon, dopey Neil and foul-mouthed Jay - and follows their adventures on a last lads' holiday in Malia before they go their separate ways after sixth form. Hilarity, cringing and a lot of nudity ensue.

I make no bones about the fact that I am a huge fan of The Inbetweeners TV show and had high hopes for this film. Yes it's something of a 70s British sitcom cliche to take your characters on holiday, but this is what teenagers do in 2011 and so it feels like the right place for them to go, as well as all the daft things that go with it such as fishbowl cocktails and dodgy hoteliers. Having never been on one of 'those' holidays when I was 18, I must admit it gave me mixed emotions in terms of wishing I had and then really wishing I hadn't. Sadly I suspect I would have been very much like Will - not handling my drink very well, overanalysing everything and (in large part) failing miserably to pull - but the fact they manage to make it look fun even when it's eye-coveringly terrible is a tribute to the writers and director.

This is balanced by excellent performances from the four main actors who have matured incredibly well from when we first saw them; the endless mickey-taking is still there, but they're also able to portray a true level of support and an almost poignant sense of loss at the end of an era. Although you don't get much more insight into why they are how they are (other than Will's dad being equally as harsh as Jay's, in an entirely different way - watch it to understand why), you're also left with the sense that these are friendships which will last. However, the standout turn has to be Blake Harrison as Neil, both for managing to give his character some surprising depths and displaying some brilliantly funny dance moves which will surely become a craze in a club near you within weeks. The writers have also managed to provide strong parts for the main female leads, particularly Jane, the sparky girl who might be what Gok Wan would describe as 'curvy' but holds her own and more with Jay, and Will's love interest witty and charming Alison.

There are a few jokes in it which feel like they've been rehashed from the TV series, and the slightly sweet ending feels a bit unnatural after three series of watching everything end badly for the Rudge Park boys, but overall if you're a fan of the show you will absolutely love it and it's easily the most I've laughed at any film in a very long time. Highly recommended.

Beauty Review: OPI Nail Lacquer in Teenage Dream

It's probably deeply uncool to confess this, but here goes: I'm a Katy Perry fan. However, whilst I like her music, the real attraction to me is her look - the slightly mad hair colours, the bright makeup, the kitschy quirky ramped-up vintage clothes. She's a bit like the girl I'd want to be if I had the confidence to just exercise that slightly crazy side of my personality. So when I saw she was doing a nail polish collection with OPI, I just had to snap it up (mainly as OPI did it in one of their very reasonably priced mini sets at £12 for four small bottles - which considering a full size one is a tenner strikes me as a very good deal). The polishes are all named after songs from her new album, and the first colour from the set I'm trying is Teenage Dream, a beautiful glittery soft pink.

The great thing about this colour is that you can build it up depending on what level of coverage you want - one coat will give you a very soft shimmer to your nails but still look relatively natural, which is good for something where you want a classic look with a twist such as a wedding (I might try this on my nails when my boyfriend's sister gets married in September), and two will deepen it to get rid of any see-throughness if that's not what you're after but still be quite subtle. However, today I wanted a look that was very pink and had a lot of sparkle, so this is with three coats:


Excuse messiness, I'll tidy them up later! The pic's not very good as I was trying to hold the blind up and take the picture at the same time, but you get the idea. As you can see it's got little bits of pink glitter in it as well as bigger chunks of holo, so depending where the light hits it you get a little sheen of sparkle or a big flash of brightness.

However, it wouldn't be a Katy Perry-style manicure if it didn't have a little bit of an edge to it as well as the prettiness, which is kind of one of her trademarks and something I'm a big fan of. I noticed in the ad campaign for her range that she wore this colour with a layer of black crackle over the top, which seemed perfect for changing this up, so I thought I'd give it a go.

 
I really like this as a look - there's almost a leopard print effect to it with the crackle which makes it quite unusual and a bit different from a plain crackle manicure which I'd normally do over a bright colour (although I should point out there'll be a lot more crackle manis forthcoming...). It also changes the whole pattern of where the glitter is by covering it up, so different bits show through in comparison to the first picture. Plus I got three compliments on it in a day which in my book equals a definite winner - so much so that I may even trot it out if I can get tickets when Katy Perry tours in London again in the autumn.

You can buy OPI Teenage Dream from www.lenawhite.co.uk, BeautyBay.com, John Lewis stores and Sally Salon Services, either on its own at £10.50 for a 15ml bottle or £12.15 as part of a set of four with the other three polishes in the range, all of which I'll blog sometime soon! Black crackle is pretty much ubiquitous at the moment, with offerings from OPI and Models Own amongst others, but the one I have is Barry M Nail Paint Special Effects (also now available in pink, blue and white) which you can buy in Superdrug and Boots for £3.99 a bottle.

Book Review: Open

I've never made any secret of the fact I'm a Liverpool fan, and am developing a growing interest in cricket, but if you asked me to pick a favourite sport I'd have to say tennis. My sisters have always loved it - my mum likes to tell the story of when they were teenagers on study leave they'd study all morning and watch Wimbledon all afternoon, littering the house with tea mugs and toast plates - and I can remember watching them make their banners before they trekked off to SW19. Eventually I joined them, and right from the off the players I liked weren't the cool, calm and collected types, but the ones who wore their hearts on their sleeves and fought for every point like they genuinely cared. I wasn't born when McEnroe and Borg were at the height of their powers, but when I first got into tennis I remember watching matches between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, and I always cheered for Andre. So at some point along the line it was inevitable I'd read his autobiography, Open (which seemed to be the book du jour on London's public transport system after the Wimbledon championships) and I must say I didn't so much read it as devour it.

Like most of us, I knew Agassi mainly for his crazy hairstyles, his 'interesting' dress sense, his marriage to Steffi Graf, his awesome returns and the sheer emotional investment he had in the sport. What I didn't know, and which forms a key thread running through the book, is that he always hated tennis and played it due to huge pressure from his father that it was the key to the American Dream. As the youngest of four children, and with three elder siblings who'd all given up the game, all that focus - good and bad - fell on Andre. Consequently, some of the early scenes in the book are heartbreaking; the fear as a nine-year-old Agassi plays a man at the tennis club for his family's savings, the aching loneliness of life at the Bolletieri Tennis Academy where he was sent at just twelve to hone his game. Several times when reading the book I felt tears coming to my eyes as I went through the pain with him (a testament to the excellent writing skills of , who wrote the book with Agassi).

When the book was first published, its big controversy was the apparent relevation that Agassi had dabbled in crystal meth and had lied to the ATP when he failed a drug test for it. Personally, that's not the big drug controversy to me; that's the scene, early on and glossed over, where a young Andre is warned by his elder brother not to take the speed his father will offer him at the next tournament. In fact, the early part of his life is so shocking that by that point you feel like you can't be shocked any more; even his flamboyant on-court style and bad behaviour just seem sad rather than anything to be appalled by.

But it isn't all doom and gloom. The book's other thread is Steffi (or, as we learn she likes to be called, Stefanie) Graf, who Andre silently adores for years, even through his tumultuous relationship with Brooke Shields, and eventually marries. In contrast to the hatred of tennis, Stefanie acts like a glimpse of hope for Andre, the one person who seems to truly understand him. The relationship, although it comes late in the book, seems to be the point at which Agassi feels truly able to be himself, and it utterly transforms his game at a time when many of his contemporaries were retiring as well as making him a much more playful, laid-back person within the relationship and growing to found his school. It almost makes me wish Steffi would write a book, I'd love to hear her side of their story (but then I am obsessed with tennis books). The other constant is Gil, Andre's coach who sticks by him through everything and becomes almost a surrogate father, no matter what else is going on in his life. His constant presence is a reassuring touchstone throughout the book, providing guidance and support but also structured tough love - something you feel Agassi needed more than he let on, although he never comes across as a brat.

Ultimately, this is a coming of age story; Agassi goes from the sixteen-year-old boy forced into a role that his family chose for him, battling his demons on the way to number one, rising and falling and, eventually, rising again as the person he always wanted to be. You'll feel like you've been through the wringer when you read it, but come out the other side feeling uplifted and positive. A great book for anyone who's interested in tennis - although it doesn't touch an awful lot on the various rivalries, the fact it's mapped out in matches lends a sense of urgency and constant uncertain movement to the book - and in human relationships. I highly recommend it. If you want to grab a copy, you can pick one up in all good bookshops or via Amazon.

Theatre Reviews: Rosencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead, Much Ado About Nothing and One Man Two Guvnors

Living in London and working where I do, I must walk past a theatre ad several times a day. I read - no, devour - the weekly London Theatre email, scouring it for news of who's performing where and who's directing what, and am constantly planning ahead to the next must-see show. In the past eight days, there have been three of them - Rosencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead, Much Ado About Nothing and One Man Two Guvnors. Coincidentally, they were all comedies. Perhaps less coincidentally, they were all wonderful, but for a myriad of different reasons.

To begin at the beginning, then, with Rosencratz and Guildernstern Are Dead. The play, if you've never heard of it before, follows the haphazard path of the minor Hamlet characters Rosencrantz and Guilderstern to the Danish court, then England and (it's not a spoiler if it's in the title, right?) to their demise. It's the second part of Sir Trevor Nunn's four-play season at TRH - he'll direct Ralph Fiennes in The Tempest and Robert Lindsay in The Lion in Winter later this year, both of which are on my to-see list - and stars Samuel Barnett and Jamie Parker, aka Posner and Scribbs from The History Boys in the title roles, both of whom are utterly brilliant. Barnett's innocent and naive daydreamer Rosencrantz is brilliantly realised, able to inflect even the word 'Heads' with the perfect level of nuance yet adding a curious sadness to the proceedings. By contrast, Parker's Guildernstern makes the perfect foil, conveying exasperation and a kind of strange mania with the ridiculousness of the whole thing, of which he seems much more aware than Rosencrantz.

However, this production belongs to Chris Andrew Mellon's fantastic Player King, like a cross betwen a devilish version of Shakespeare and Jack Sparrow, all red cloak and enunciation. He's utterly hilarious yet always retains the air of the trickster who knows far more than he is letting on, leading our heroes - if such a word can be used - and the audience deeper into this parallel universe, no matter how seemingly ridiculous things get. But the true power in this witty show is in its last half hour, when the bottom falls out of it and Rosencrantz and Guilderstern realise their fate. After an hour and a half of laughing as everyone plays tricks with language and no one understands a word anyone else says, it suddenly takes a very dark turn as the inevitability of death, which overshadows the play from the off, suddenly descends upon the characters and makes you realise that everything that came before was ultimately meaningless. If you like your humour with a side of thinking about the big questions

Sandwiched in the middle was Much Ado About Nothing. David Tennant and Catherine Tate play Benedik and Beatrice, constantly baiting each other with witty reposts, whilst Beatrice's cousin Hero and Benedick's friend Claudio make plans for their marriage. However, events are thrown into disarray when Don John plots to ruin Hero and Claudio's nuptials. As you'd expect if you've seen Tennant and Tate together in Doctor Who, the chemistry between them is utterly brilliant; you truly believe that their mocking of each other could turn to love. Tate in particular is wonderful at conveying the anguish Beatrice feels at her cousin being wronged as well as the despair of a woman in (seemingly) unrequited love. The highlight, however, is a sequence where Tennant's hungover Benedick, clad in Superman T shirt and cut off denim shorts, becomes increasingly paint splattered as he attempts to listen in on his friends' conversation about Beatrice's apparent love for him (with much help from the revolving set). This was probably the most flawed of the three productions, which feels almost sacriligeous to say about Shakespeare - the ending feels rushed and there's no real motivation for Don John other than being a miserable git. But it captures its 1980s Mediterranean setting brilliantly and the cast play the humour - and the drama - incredibly well. Plus, there's a dance sequence!

And finally, there was One Man Two Guvnors, directed by Nicholas Hynter of History Boys fame and every bit as brilliant. It's 1963 and James Corden plays Francis Henshall, a small time gangster who's dispatched to Brighton as a 'minder' for the notorious Roscoe Crabbe. What Francis doesn't know, however, is that Roscoe died three days ago and is being impersonated by his sister Rachel - whose toff boyfriend, Stanley Stubbers, also offers Francis a job, meaning he has to keep the two of them apart. Hilarity ensues, particularly a breathtakingly funny dinner sequence whcih pushes slapstick to the extreme with people falling down stairs, being attacked by doors and, as always, Francis' stomach getting the better of him. The supporting cast is fantastic, particularly Jemima Rooper as Rachel Crabbe and Tom Edden as doddery waiter Alfie. Oh, and if you don't do audience participation, then don't sit on the front - unless you want to carry trunks, get water thrown over you and be doused in squirty cream. Silly but snappy and possibly the most fun you'll have in a theatre all year.

If I could only go back to see one play, I think it'd be a toss-up between Rosencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead, just to try and get under the skin of that fantastically tricksy, absurd language, and One Man Two Guvnors for pure belly laughs. That's not to say Much Ado wasn't great, just that it lacked a little bit of the spark I felt from the others, particularly when Tate and Tennant weren't on stage.

If you'd like to try your luck at a ticket for these three, Rosencrantz and Guildernstern is running until 20th August at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, Much Ado is playing at Wyndham's Theatre until 3rd September and One Man Two Guvnors will be at the National Theatre until 19th September before touring the UK and returning to the Adelphi Theatre on 8th November.

Beauty Review: Maybelline Forever Strong Professional Nail Varnish in Orange Couture

I've been collecting a bunch of ideas for nail art for a while, but this one just struck me as the one I wanted to do today. Now, I have to admit that my make-up purchases are influenced mainly by two things - magazines and friends' purchases - and the base nail polish for today's nail art came from a feature in a magazine about summer brights. I am a sucker for bright colours and nail polish is no exception. As you might be able to guess from the name, Maybelline Forever Strong Pro in Orange Couture is a very bright orange, almost a neon but not quite. I did buy it on a bit of a whim but thought it would be a fun colour for summer, and then when I was looking through my polishes earlier I decided that it would be the perfect base polish for the idea I had.

The polish itself applies really well, largely thanks to Maybelline's brush which spreads out perfectly to give full coverage in one stroke rather than having to go down the middle and then do the sides as I normally end up doing (and which seems to make the polish go streaky more often than not). I don't have any other Maybelline polishes - apparently there's a lovely deep purple out there as well but I haven't found it in years of searching - but having found the brush so good I'm definitely going to keep my eye out for them (including that purple!). The polish also contains calcium, iron and silicia, which based on how rotten my nails are currently is a Very Good Thing.

The accent for this manicure is something that's been having a moment recently - Barry M Instant Special Effects, aka 'crackle'. For those who have been living under a metaphorical beauty rock for the past few months, crackle polish looks like an ordinary coloured polish, but when you apply it to your nail it 'cracks' (not entirely sure how, I think it's something to do with being exposed to air), leaving chunks of crackle polish on top of your base colour. I only have it in black but when I've played around with it before I've loved the effect, kind of a bit punky but also giving the base colour an edge. I knew it'd be perfect for the nail art idea I had in mind - black crackle over orange nail polish, hence 'tiger nails'!

This is done using two coats of Maybelline Orange Couture and one thick coat of Barry M - generally I find the thicker your crackle layer the fewer chunks it breaks into, which is good for this design, but if you want something where you can see more of the base colour then a slightly thinner layer would work better.



Base coat is Nails Inc Hyde Park and top coat is Seche Vite.
I really like this manicure - I think it's very funky and a bit different, and whilst it hasn't lived up to the vision I had in my head it does still look pretty cool. Plus it's confirmed my crackle addiction - expect a *lot* of these posts to feature crackle in the next few weeks!

You can buy both Maybelline Forever Strong Pro and Barry M Instant Nail Effects from your local Boots, Superdrug or independent pharmacy. The Maybelline costs around £4.09 a bottle but is quite often on offer, and the Barry M is £3.99 a bottle, which is slightly pricier than a normal Barry M polish but as you only need one coat it does last a good while. It's also on offer quite often as well so do snap some up!

Beauty Review: Topshop Nails in Geography Teacher

I am very lucky in that I work in a rather laid back office where bright nail polish is allowed, but there are occasions where you feel like a smart neutral as a nice grown-up alternative. As regular readers of this blog will know, I am a big fan of Topshop's nail polishes, which whilst having a collection full of the most amazing brights also have a good line in very nice neutrals - I also have their Mannequin polish which is a classic nude, but I have another idea for what to do with that one, so today's polish is Topshop Geography Teacher. I saw this in a magazine a little while back where it was mentioned that Katy Perry wore it (what can I say, I am a huge fan of hers) and thought it would make a change from my usual kinds of colour choices so figured I'd give it a whirl.


As always with Topshop nail polishes, it applied well and gave excellent coverage with two coats. However, as you can see from the picture, it does come out a different shade on my nails to the shade in the bottle - it's kind of a dark camel colour in the bottle but on my nails it looks much more like a chocolate brown. My boyfriend keeps making jokes about my nails looking good enough to eat (boys and food eh?). I do really like it though and will definitely wear this for smart work occasions or when I need something a bit more toned down. Plus

As with all my manis, this is done using Nails Inc Hyde Park base coat and Seche Vite top coat. I haven't really sung the praises of these much but I have to say they are both really, really good. Hyde Park is a conditioning base coat, which I bought when my nails were in rotten condition and have been using for a while. It does seem to be having an effect slowly but surely in terms of the conditioning, but as a base coat it's great at preventing staining and keeping the polish nicely bonded to the nail. It makes a nice plain clear polish as well, even though I'm not normally a fan of Nails Inc polishes. Seche Vite is something that friends on a forum I visit have sung the phrases of, and I have to say I'm impressed by it - it's incredibly shiny and works really well at preventing chips. There is a slight tendency for it to go a wee bit gloopy if you use too much of it, but otherwise I absolutely can't fault it as a top coat for when you want shine and chip-free nails for a good five days.

Geography Teacher, along with other Topshop nail colours and the rest of their make-up range, is available in larger Topshop stores and costs £5 for an 8ml bottle - sadly it seems to be discontinued on the website but I found it quite easily in the Preston branch. Nails Inc Hyde Park is available in Boots for £7.15, and I buy my Seche Vite from Sally Salon Services at £9.49 for a 14ml bottle, which is not cheap I know but the product is so good it's totally worth it in my book.

Beauty Review: Topshop Nails in Carry On Camping

For someone who is a bit of a nail polish addict, I've decided that I have too many nail polishes and so am working through my collection to decide which ones I can get rid of. Today's colour, Topshop Carry On Camping, is testing that theory. I bought this kind of on impulse as a last hurrah before I moved down to London and started my current job because I liked the name, but hadn't had a chance to test it out before now, so I figured I'd give it a go whilst I was deciding whether or not to keep it as I wasn't sure about the colour in the bottle.

One thing I do like about Topshop nail polishes is that they apply really nicely and have a lovely opaque glossy finish, although on occasion they do need three coats rather than my normal two to even them up at the edges. This one was no exception and went on like a dream, and dried in a reasonable amount of time too. The colour is one of those that seems to be different every angle you look at it - for example, I'm typing this in our lounge with the overhead light on, and in this light it looks very much like a straight mid green, almost grassy (and appropriately so given its name), but then in the bottle and natural light it seems a lot paler or darker. To show you what I mean, here are a couple of pics, both with flash but making it look totally different - the first photo makes it look more like Topshop Green Room, the second is closer to what I think it's meant to look like:




Base as always is Nails Inc Hyde Park and top coat is Seche Vite. Please excuse messiness, the pics were taken right after I'd done them so I hadn't neatened them up.

In terms of whether I'm going to keep this one, I still haven't decided. It's pretty enough, but it hasn't totally won my heart, so I'm not sure if I'm going to sell it on or not.  I have an idea for a Great Outdoors manicure with this one and two other Topshop green nail polishes, so I want to try it in that first before I make a decision.

If you fancy picking up a bottle of Carry On Camping, you can find it and the rest of the Topshop Nails range in larger branches of Topshop, at a cost of £5 for an 8ml bottle.

Beauty Review: Rimmel I Love Lasting Finish in Your Majesty

Hello again lovely people, and welcome to what I hope will become a regular feature of this much-neglected blog. It's inspired by the web forum of a very famous money-saving website, or more specifically a thread on that forum designed to encourage those taking part in the thread to use up their toiletries and cosmetics stashes. One of the regular features on the thread is the 'Friday Pamper', which is, as the name suggests, where the thread members use any products in their stashes which they might not necessarily use on a regular basis in order to reduce the amount of stuff they have. As I have a fairly hefty nail polish stash, I thought I would use this as an excuse to work through my various different polishes by trying a different colour or design every week. Doing my nails on a Friday night also has the advantage that I can get two full days of wearing polish before I have to take it off for potential interviews on Monday morning.

However, I'm kicking this post off on a four day weekend, so no having to take the polish off until Monday night, yay! And, seeing as this Friday is the day of the royal wedding, could I have picked any other polish? (Well maybe OPI Dating A Royal would have been slightly more appropriate, but I don't own that one - yet. Perhaps I'll buy it for Zara Phillips' wedding.) Rimmel I Love Lasting Finish in Your Majesty is a beautiful sparkly shade of silver, with some glitter in it, but slightly finer and not as much as the glitter in Andrea Fulerton Annie which I used in a previous manicure. You can see the difference in the picture below:


Although this shot is giving me an idea for a new uber-sparkly silver manicure, but we'll save that for another day...

The application was really good, I didn't find the polish too thick or gloopy and it gave a nice level of coverage. Rimmel's own website claims that the polish offers 'hardwearing, chip resistant, long lasting colours for a great colour finish'. I can definitely vouch for the latter statement - the finish on this manicure is absolutely brilliant, like molten silver - but will let you know how it goes on with the other claims over the next few days. So far it seems to be holding up pretty well, there are a couple of little bubbles but no major chips around 36 hours later.

For the picture below, I used two coats of Your Majesty on top of Nails Inc Hyde Park base coat and topped that with Seche Vite.



Overall, I really like this manicure - I think it's funky, edgy, a little bit rock chick and links in well with the current metallic trend going on in fashion, but is also a colour you could wear at Christmas or for nights out all year round. It's also got potential to be a good base for 'accent' polishes like China Glaze Fairy Dust or Barry M black crackle as you could amp it up a bit and give it a more blingy or punky feel to it. Definitely a keeper.

You can find Your Majesty and the rest of Rimmel's I Love Lasting Finish shades, as well as their other ranges, in Boots, Superdrug and your local independent pharmacy, where they retail at a very reasonable £2.99 for an 8ml bottle. They're quite often on 3 for 2 as well.

(And yes, I know I'm writing this on a Saturday, but yesterday was a bt too manic to update so I'm posting this today.)

TV Review: True Blood Seasons 1 and 2

I am notorious for showing up late to the party on all those 'in' TV shows - partly because I don't have Sky, and partly because I just never seem to get round to it. However, one of my goals for this year was to watch more TV box sets, and the first one I've managed to finish is the first two series of True Blood. For those of you who haven't heard of it, it follows Sookie Stackhouse, a mind-reading waitress in a small Louisiana town who meets vampire Bill Compton one night in the bar where she works and gets increasingly drawn into his world.

I have to admit I came to the series after having read all of Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire Mysteries books on which it's based (if you haven't read them, I strongly advise you do - although they will put certain things from the show in a very different light, they're very well written and a good quick read) so I was very keen to see what they'd do with the series and how true they'd stay to the books. Thankfully I wasn't disappointed - each season pretty much sticks to one of the novels, with season 1 covering Dead Until Dark and season 2 focussing on Living Dead in Dallas, although a couple of characters introduced in the second series don't turn up until the later novels and there have been a few changes to the plot.

One of the great things about the series is how much it immerses in its setting of the American Deep South. Having never been to that part of the world (well unless Florida counts) but having lived in small towns, I felt that it portrayed brilliantly the environment in terms of the closeness of the heat and the community - more so in the second series for the latter, with the attitude that everyone knows each other and that gossip gets round fast, as well as a secondary narrative that encapsulates that small town mentality. The use of music is also brilliant; as well as the bluesy edgy theme tune, the soundtrack perfectly encapsulates the dark, slightly sinister atmosphere of the series.

I also think that the casting is utterly perfect. They have gone for a 'name' of sorts by picking Anna Paquin - she of The Piano back when she was a kid - to play Sookie, but when you watch her  you can see that she's been cast wholly for her performance due to hitting that ideal balance between sweet and vulnerable yet tough as nails and willing to kick ass when necessary. The supporting characters are also very well cast, particularly Rutina Wesley as Sookie's sassy best friend Tara Thornton, Ryan Kwanten (formerly of Home and Away) as Jason, Sookie's womanising brother, Nelsan Ellis as Tara's flamboyant cousin Lafayette and Alexander Skarsgard as mean and moody vampire Eric Northman, the thousand-year-old Sherriff of Area 5.

All in all, it's a brilliant series - darkly funny, sexy, gory and an excellent way to spend a few hours. There is a slightly trashy edge to it, but it's so well done that I guarantee you'll get hooked within a couple of episodes. Highly recommended and I can't wait for series 3.

Beauty Review: Soap & Glory The Scrub Of Your Life

Seeing as how I have a huuuge toiletry stash (and because job hunting is driving me crazy), I figured that I should probably review some of it! And where better to start with than the product I started on yesterday, Soap & Glory's The Scrub Of Your Life...

I've got to admit that Soap & Glory is one of my 'things' - if I had to only use one toiletry brand for the rest of my life this would definitely be in the running. The products do what they say they will, smell fantastic and have the most gorgeous funky retro packaging. And I say that as someone who doesn't like pink! I've got a fair few of their products on the go at the moment, but as a lot of them are currently in the study at my parents' house waiting to be delivered to the flat tomorrow and I needed scrub yesterday I figured I'd break out The Scrub Of Your Life (as I've mentioned before I'm a sucker for a good pun).

As you can see it contains tiny little pink scrubby beads which help exfoliate, and goes into a nice creamy lather:



The scent, as with all Soap & Glory products, is beautiful - kind of floral, a bit powdery and generally a nice 'clean' smell. I also thought there was a stronger note of rose in the blend this time, more so than usual, which is great for me as I love rose fragrances.

In terms of how well it worked, I found that whilst it was nicely scrubby and got the job done, it wasn't as abrasive as Soap & Glory FlakeAway which I was using before. This is because of the 'moisture-foam formula', which translated from fancy product-speak seems to mean that it's more like a moisturising body wash with scrubby bits in it than a pure body scrub. I didn't feel like I needed to use body lotion after this so it's ideal for those mornings when you don't have time to moisturise or you're simply in a lazy mood.

All in all, I'd say this is a pretty great product as it's multi-functional and also does what it says on the tin by being exfoliating but without being too harsh, and is fantastic for everyday use or when you're a bit pressed for time. It's also very reasonably priced at £6.50 for 200ml, seeing as a little goes a long way - especially in comparison to FlakeAway which has a bit of a tendency to end up going down the plughole. Highly recommended.

Copy and Post: CBS Londoner

What can I say - I am a sucker for a good pun.

Seeing as I would eventually like to get into copywriting, I've decided to start including a regular trend on this blog of ads I like (and, presumably, those I don't) and why. So to kick things off, I'm beginning with the advert that inspired me to do this - CBS's The Londoner campaign.



Things I like about this ad
I should start off by saying this isn't the one I originally saw and liked - that one was something about carrying a coffee and walking quickly down Oxford Street (something I've become a bit of an expert at since I've been coming down here), and sadly I can't remember where it was other than a Tube station somewhere on the Northern line. - curse my photographic memory! But this is the only version of the long copy one I could find - I'm not so keen on the short electronic ones on the escalators - so needs must and all that.

First of all I like that it picks up on things that aren't stereotypically associated with Britishness - as in, the sorts of things that only Londoners would do and know that they do (and that tourists generally dismiss as rudeness) which by default sidesteps the traditional image of straight-laced, pinstripe suits and bowler hats, everything stops for tea-ness that has been link with the city for decades. I also like the colour scheme - whilst dark blue and green wouldn't have been my first choice, on reflection I really like it as it lets the copy speak for itself. It's only since I started getting interested in copywriting as a career, as shameful as this is to admit, that I started noticing how few long copy ads there seem to be in relation to the short copy ads, and I don't know if that's because a lot of the ads I see don't lend themselves to long copy, but to see one that I enjoy and feel like I can identify with (as an unofficial Londoner) is always a bonus. They've also just started doing versions of the short ads with comments from Facebook and Twitter - as seen at Oxford Circus earlier today - which I quite like too.

Things I don't like about this ad
With this particular one, I think the percentages make it seem a bit, well, uppity. Whereas the 'maybe it's because...' bits feel authentic, the stats are going back to that perception of the snooty Londoner. I don't think they're that accurate either - to take the theatre example, whilst I'm sure that many Londoners do visit the theatre regularly, an awful lot of that box office, especially in the West End (which presumably we're taking to be mainstream theatres churning out musicals rather than the likes of the National on the South Bank, which has always struck me as more of a 'local's' theatre), is likely to be tourists, but equally it's impossible to tell how much of that box office is tourists, so it's not an entirely accurate statistic. I should add though that on some of the other advertising for the campaign the statistics are a lot better and feel more relevant rather than this slightly strange mishmash. I'd also have liked a very subtle city skyline to the bottom of the ad or in the background, because whilst I do like the simplicity of the artwork I also think it's too easily transferable to other cities - even though you don't want to stereotype you still want your ad to say 'London'.

So, all in all, I'd give this campaign a 8.5 out of 10 - there are a few minor fiddly things I'd like to see but sort of accept that they're pretty impossible to solve, and the quality of the copy for me cancels a lot of those niggles out.

Admin and domesticity: my first few days in London

Apologies for the lack of blogging, but what with interviews and moving it's all been a bit crazy here!

So, on Saturday I finally packed up all my stuff, got on a train and waved goodbye to my old life in Lancashire to head down to London. It was a sad moment, I'll admit, because it brought it home that I'm an adult now and have to make my own way in the world, as well as the fact I felt guilty because my mum cried, but at the same time once I was on my way then all the stress seemed to go and the excitement kicked in. The journey wasn't particularly great as I had to stand up the whole way, which is partly my own fault (I didn't know you could ) and partly a lack of luggage space on the train, but we did get a cab from Euston to the flat which was quicker and cheaper than expected.

This weekend has been mostly settling in and chilling out- we went for dinner with my boyfriend's mum and grandparents and then for a few drinks for Mother's Day yesterday, but that was about the busiest it got. (The restaurant was great, by the way - best swordfish I've ever had. I'll review it later this week.) I am however falling into the bad habit of not going to bed before midnight, which won't be great when I actually have a job, especially if it's up in town, so I need to start getting out of that routine sooner rather than later.

Today I have been mostly ringing round recruitment agencies to try and sort myself out with a job now I'm here - response so far seems to have been pretty good and I've managed to send my CV off to a few places and put in for a few things, and have registration meetings with two of them in the next couple of days. I've also been working on my application to a job similar to my previous role which closes on Wednesday and for a grad scheme with a publisher that would start in six months, so there are a fair few things in the pipeline, and have spoken to one of the directors at the advertising agency I interviewed with last month for more work experience just to keep my hand in on that front. I have also been a bit of a domestic goddess - as well as finally sorting out the mountain of stuff I had left to unpack I've done a load of washing up, washed my boyfriend's shirts (oh the glamour) and got stuff for tea tomorrow from Tesco.

As well as my registration meeting, the plan for tomorrow is to go out and get a feel for my new area, plus I need to call the college I interviewed at last week to see what's happening with my application - I suspect that considering they were supposed to tell people the outcome on Friday it's a no, but if you don't ask you don't get... I also need to get the wheels in motion for claiming JSA, which is something I didn't particularly want to do but equally I'm not going to turn my nose up at £60 a week or whatever it is now, and to register with my new doctor and dentist.

So that's my first few days in London. Obviously it would have been nice to have spent it working if I'd got one of the jobs I went for a few weeks ago, but hey ho - it just wasn't meant to be I guess. As always, onwards and upwards.

Film Review: 10 Things I Hate About You

To make up for my neglecting the film-related parts of my blog, I've decided to revive it with tonight's viewing - 10 Things I Hate About You. For those (like me) who've never seen it before, it's basically a reworking of Shakespeare's play The Taming of the Shrew. Julia Stiles - where is she now? - plays Kat Stratford, an anti-social riot grrl who looks down on her classmates in that pseudo-intellectual way teenagers have a pretentious tendency to do. However, this means her sister Bianca cannot date until Kat does, something which frustrates many of their male classmates including new boy Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, probably most famous at the time for his role in Third Rock from the Sun but now 'that guy from Inception') and Joey the jock. In order to get a date with Bianca, Cameron persuades Joey to pay rebel Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) to go out with Kat, but of course it's not that simple...

What elevates this above a typical teen comedy is the awesome soundtrack and the performances, particularly those of Stiles and Ledger, whose characters could have been the typical 'moody girl' and 'dangerous guy' but end up being able to give as they get in sparkling exchanges and actually making you care about their relationship. It also strikes a nice balance in the dialogue in taking the odd line from the original play and referencing other works but keeping the setting and the majority of the script in the present day, rather than the Baz Luhrman tactic of effectively just transporting the play to a modern day setting and putting it on film (which is not an adaptation in my book). And, although it feels wrong to type this about someone who's no longer with us, Heath Ledger is rather attractive in it.

The only flaws are that it takes a little longer than I'd like to truly get going, probably could have done with fewer peripheral characters (Bogie Lowenstein, who apart from hosting the party which acts as a fairly significant shift in Kat and Patrick's relationship, seems to serve no purpose), mostly raises smiles and giggles rather than belly laughs - apart from Kat's attempt to distract the teacher whilst Patrick escapes from detention - and has a slightly rushed ending. But overall, an excellent easy watch for a Saturday night if you're in the mood for something light, frothy and fun.

This week I am mostly...

Another 'This week I am mostly...' blog from me, after a very interesting seven days...

This week I am mostly listening to: Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was first introduced to their music by my sister (who, if you didn't know her as a teenager, would not strike you as a Chilis fan!) with their Californication album, which I still think is the best thing they've ever done, and have listened to them ever since. I just really love their grooves, whether they're upping the tempo or slowing things down, and without wishing to get too melodramatic I've been having a week where I've needed music for both those states. Anthony Kiedis' lyrics teeter on that fine balance between being completely random and strangely poetic, and their live performances are pure unbridled energy. It is music that moves you, whatever mood you're in. Plus their cover of Stevie Wonder's Higher Ground is one of very few cover versions I actually like. I am both very excited and very nervous about their new album, which is hopefully coming out later this summer, as it's the first one in years without John Frusciante and I don't much like One Hot Minute, which is the last one they made without him - don't get me wrong, Dave Navarro is an amazing guitarist, but he just doesn't have that Chilis vibe. But I'm keeping an open mind about the new guy and hopefully they'll do something great.

This week I'm mostly reading: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, as part of my 'read more classic novels' endeavour. I must admit I'm not that far into it just yet, but currently it's pretty good - I haven't read a book that gripped me so much straight away for a considerable time so it's nice to have something I'm actually looking forward to reading. For those who don't know the plot, it follows a young art teacher called Walter Hartright who encounters the titular woman in white whilst walking home in the early hours of the morning, and then discovers she is linked to a house in Cumbria where he has been sent to teach two young women to draw. That's as far as I've got so I can't say any more about the plot, but at the moment it's a nice slow burner with just enough being given away to keep you reading. Highly recommended for those who like a good mystery.

This week I'm mostly wearing: Spring clothes! I am one of those people who has certain clothes which only come out of my wardrobe during certain seasons, and I always look forward to getting out the spring clothes after the spring equinox - which, roughly translated, means 'things that only go with Converse', as much as I love them they're not the most practical of winter shoes for the cold and wet north-west of England. My excitement about the spring clothes is admittedly a little odd, as I'm not much of a 'summery' person - I tend to find a lot of the high street stuff too floaty and pastelly so end up spending slightly daft money on T shirts in Fat Face and surf shops and then just wearing those with shorts and jeans all the time. Sadly a lot of my favourite summer clothes are currently languishing in my boyfriend's flat as I wanted to have the minimum amount of stuff to take with me when I move to London next weekend, but this week I've been marking the return of spring by sporting my favourite Gold by Giles at New Look electric blue trench coat and spritzing myself with Boss Orange perfume. And as of tomorrow, the Converse are back! I shouldn't be this happy about that, but in my classic overexcited way I am. :) :) :)

This week I'm mostly buying: much too much! I did a big Amazon shop this week (in my defence I had vouchers and two things in it were things I needed - new straighteners because mine have officially died and my mum's Mother Day's present), bought a skirt I really loved from Dotty P, two T shirts and some sunglasses from Truffleshuffle.co.uk (well technically three because I'm not sure which size I need in one of them but the other one will get swapped for a Pacman belt), a jumper, a T shirt and a dress from Joe Browns and a stack of nail polish, make-up and toiletries. Oops! But hey, if you can't go a bit mad with your last paycheck from your first job before you have to be a proper grown-up with bills and rent to pay, then when can you? And it'll all get used/worn etc, so it's all good... Plus (shameless pimpery alert!) I've put a bunch of stuff on eBay and Play.com which hopefully will make a bit of the money back.

The door isn't closed, just ajar...

My second-to-last week before moving has been one of ups and downs. As regular readers of my blog will no doubt be aware, I've had two interviews in the past ten days or so - one for a job that I really wanted and which would have been absolutely perfect for me, and one which was a decent starter job but ultimately not what I wanted to do with my life. I didn't get either of them.

So now I'm moving in *glances at calendar* ten days, and I have no job to go to. I am therefore in what to some would seem like the worse case scenario and having to find a temp job. At this point I should stress that I'm not averse to that whatsoever, after all work's work and money's money. However, whilst temping has its merits, I admit that I've only heard my boyfriend's horror stories about it - having to earn your holiday, being made redundant from his job and then hired back - and there is a large part of me which is very reluctant to go into something so, ultimately, insecure where I mightn't get proper employees' rights and could be out of work at a moment's notice.

However, the ad agency have been incredibly generous to me and have told me that I'm more than welcome to come back and do another internship once I move, and that they will help me out with trying to find more placements, training, putting me onto other jobs that might come up etc. So at the moment, foolish as this sounds, I'm thinking I might go to London, do a couple of weeks there and get signed up with temp agencies until I get some paid work. I'm pretty sure that ultimately, this is what I want to do, and now I've got over the disappointment of not getting the job and started to appreciate how well I actually did to get that far, I've got a plan forming of how I'm going to get there in the end.

Beauty Review: Barry M Nail Paint in Racing Green

OK, so I know that this is kind of a variation on the green and glitter theme from last time around, but I felt that in honour of Saint Patrick's Day on Thursday I had to opt for Barry M Racing Green - a proper dark, mossy, emerald green. I have to say I really loved the application of this one; it went on really well and gave me a really nice effect coverage wise (my nails for various reasons tend not to take colours well straight off so to get full coverage in two coats was great!). It seems to be one of the things with a lot of cheaper nail polish brands that coverage seems to be a lot better than some of the more expensive ones, and that's definitely one of the many things Barry M have going for them, as well as an array of funky bright colours and their infamous crackle.

This is a mani of new colours again because I hadn't used China Glaze before either, though I have a fair few of their polishes. Fairy Dust is a bit of a cult product amongst nail bloggers as one of those things that, similarly to crackle, goes with everything - basically it's a clear polish which contains holographic glitter so when your nails hit the light they go various different sparkly colours. Again, I felt that this applied really well and had great coverage, although your perception of that might depend on your angle as obviously the holo is more sparkly when the light hits it than if you angle your hand so as to just see the silver specks. (And I guarantee you'll be moving your hands round once you've got it on to see what it looks like!)

So here it is:
 
Apologies that this hasn't come out fantastically well, it looks better in real life but this was the best one where you could see the green. (Note to self: get decent camera.) Base as always is Nails Inc Harley Street and top coat is Seche Vite.

I think I definitely prefer Fairy Dust to the Andrea Fulerton Annie I used in my previous manicure like this, mainly because you get much more of the true base colour whereas I felt Annie toned down the colour underneath it and made it look paler. But then Annie isn't necessarily designed as a layering polish, whereas Fairy Dust is, so it's inevitable that that would be the case (although it still has a role to play in my nail art). The other advantage of Fairy Dust is that it works on a variety of base colours, whereas black crackle for example wouldn't show up over the Racing Green because of how dark it is.

Overall I'm pretty impressed with that - I love the effect of the Fairy Dust and can see myself using that constantly over loads of different shades, but really like Racing Green too (in fact, although this may be a bit premature, dare I say it's my favourite of my greens so far?). In fact I can see this working as a component in a slightly clashing, cheesy red, green and gold Christmas-themed mani, but that's a few months off yet!

This week I am mostly...

With apologies for the fact that this segment should perhaps be renamed 'This month I am mostly...', here is the second update of the things I am enjoying this week:

This week I'm mostly watching: Pop's Greatest Dance Crazes. If you haven't yet seen it, iPlayer. Now. Basically it's your typical '20/50/100 Greatest Whatever' show, but featuring Robert Webb - whose merits for hosting it seem to be that Flashdance routine and being brilliantly sarcastic - the usual talking heads and a selection of most of the dances that you've done at family parties/school discos/in clubs after one too many over the years. But it is also peppered with brilliantly random moments of genius, particularly watching Phil and Grant Mitchell doing Kung Fu Fighting (I still can't work out if this ever actually appeared on the show or is some kind of charity spoof), Michael Aspel talking you through the moves to the Time Warp, Madeleine Albright dancing the Macarena at the UN, several Let's Dance For Comic/Sport Relief spoofs and choreographers taking themselves just a bit too seriously. The number one is predictable - and, in my view, wrong - and a fair few entries are just very good videos as opposed to actual dance routines, but for a few hours of nostalgia it's highly recommended.

This week I'm mostly travelling: Back and forth to London. I went down there yesterday for a fairly major meeting/interview about a job that would be absolutely perfect for me and which I would love to get, then I'm going back down there tomorrow to spend the weekend in London, and I've just had an email offering me another interview next week. I must be Virgin Trains' best customer right now. (Especially after the throwing away the tickets whilst on the train mishap yesterday, but we'll gloss over that one.) On the other hand, after the 2nd of April the train journeys up and down the country will be much fewer and further between, so I suppose I'm just paying my travel dues.

This week I'm mostly attempting to read: Cranford. I am the first to admit that there are many typically 'old' things I like (Radio 4 being the prime example), but I haven't read all that many classic novels, and thought that whilst I was living at home I'd take advantage of my parents' library before I move out. This was the first one I picked out, and so I'm endeavouring to finish it before I move out. Giving up magazines for Lent however does not seem to have helped, as I'm not actually doing any more reading, but I am determined to finish this book before I move out!

This week I'm mostly listening to: Stevie Wonder. I've always loved Superstition (I am very bad for being unable to pick one favourite song of all time - instead I find one I like, play it to death, get bored of it and go on to something else - but if I had to choose that would be up there for its amazing bassline) but must confess I hadn't listened to a lot of his other music. Whilst I was packing up all my stuff for moving this weekend I decided to play something I might not normally listen to, and I picked out the Definitive Collection - which, as is usually the case with these sorts of compilations, probably not all that definitive, but it was one of the first things that came up on Spotify. And I've got to say I really, really loved it - not all of it, admittedly, but there were so many great uptempo tracks that I couldn't help dancing to that I've downloaded the lot. Plus, in an odd way, it's only when you listen to someone like Stevie Wonder that you realise how much other musicians have been influenced by him. His version of Higher Ground, whilst so different to the Red Hot Chili Peppers cover (again, me with my thing for a good bassline), is equally brilliant, and in my knowledge fail I realised that Wild Wild West samples I Wish. Definitely going on the iPod for summer music or just when I want to feel happy and dance.

Beauty Review: Topshop Green Room

Remember how I said I wasn't a nail art person? Well as I've been bulking up my polish collection (oh dear, the less said about that the better), and on the inspiration of my lovely friend Cazza, I decided to tentatively dip a toe into doing more than just wearing plain polish...

I really like Topshop nail polishes - they've got a great range of colours, they're very reasonably priced at £5 a bottle and they apply nice and evenly. This colour, Green Room, is one of their latest shades for spring/summer 11 and ties in with the whole brights and colour blocking trend currently going on fashion-wise. It looks a lot more blue on the website though, but I have a bit of a thing about green nail polish so couldn't resist snapping this one up. Andrea Fulerton, on the other hand, is something I'd heard other people raving about but hadn't got to try for myself until now, as I'd seen the colour - a mega-sparkly silver glitter - in a magazine but couldn't find it anywhere other than the huge Superdrug in Blackpool. My original plan was to wear it over a nude polish, but then Cazza suggested putting it over green, and I couldn't resist.


Base as always is Nails Inc Harley Street and top coat is Seche Vite. This is using two coats of Green Room and one of Annie.
 
These are technically quite 'old' though as I did them on Friday but only photographed them last night, but I love the effect so much I couldn't bring myself to take them off for work yesterday (although they did get a compliment from my boss, win!). The other hand doesn't look so good as I was trying to get the hang of it and over-glittered one nail and smudged a couple of others, but trial and error I suppose - it needs quite a thin coat of glitter. As you can see it goes more like a mint green when it's layered, closer to Topshop's Gone Fishing shade (another favourite but possibly too close to the polishes I have to justify a purchase).

However, I'm considering this a highly successful experiment, and more glitter layering is planned for future manicures. Just got to decide which one to go for next...

My good deed for the day - and maybe yours too

I don't normally do plugs on my blog, but a contact on a forum I frequent has recently made me aware of a fantastic little website called Give and Make Up, who basically take donations of toiletries and make-up and give them to women and children who are in refuges after escaping domestic violence. Because often they flee so suddenly, unable to take many (if any) possessions with them, they arrive at the refuges without a lot of the simple products we take for granted like shower gel and face wash. As I have a huuuge toiletry stash I thought that the least I could do was package up some stuff to help them out and to give me less stuff to pack up and find a home for when I move.

So here's a photo of my parcel and its contents - this is a standard small size Post Office parcel box which you can buy at most Post Offices:

To give you an idea of what you can send, in the box are:
Simple Oil Balancing face wipes - bought on a 2 for £5 in Boots so figured I'd give the other one away
Cotton wool pads - also bought on 3 for 2 and then realised I still had some when I got home so have put some in the parcel
Body Shop coconut shower gel sample
Four nail polishes (two Boots 17 pinks, a Nails Inc cherry red and a Nails Inc greige) - nail polish isn't one of the listed items but I thought it would be a nice treat for someone who maybe hadn't had anything like that for a while
Boots Ingredients honey & jojoba hair mask
Benefit foundation brush - they will also take any make up tools like that you have, providing they're clean of course
Marc Jacobs Daisy perfume 4ml - again, they don't specifically ask for perfume but I thought it'd be a nice treat for someone
Three Body Shop shower gels (hemp, wild cherry and cranberry)
Two pieces of soap - Lush Love and an unidentified French one which was a Christmas present a few years back

There will also be a second parcel shipping in the next few weeks which will contain the big block of Lush henna I'm too scared to use (apparently hair dye is useful as some of the women want to change their appearance after they leave the abusive relationship) and loads of little samples that are currently living in my boyfriend's bathroom cabinet.

I'd really encourage you to donate anything you can to Give and Make Up, they will take pretty much anything (you can find the full list on their site, and lightly used/sample/gift with purchase items are fine too - basically if you'd give it to a friend then they consider it OK) and it really does make a difference to the lives of those who receive the parcels. Thanks for reading and please pass on the message!

2011 goals: March update

So, we're two months into 2011, and it feels like the right time to take stock of my achievements so far this year for March:

Learning to drive
At the risk of provoking groans due to my terrible puns, this has definitely stalled. However, because of slightly scary things that are now definites (more later!), I'm ordering a licence in the next few weeks and then hopefully will start lessons in April. So hopefully within the next few weeks that'll get moving (sorry, couldn't resist...).

Moving to London
As regular readers will know, a few weeks ago I effectively resigned from my current job, which means as of the 1st of April I will be moving to London. So I'm currently in a whirlwind of packing and cleaning and paperwork in order to get everything together before I move. It feels like there's so much more to do than there was when I went to uni - things like sorting out home insurance and registering with a new doctor and dentist and selling stuff on eBay and all the rest of it - and the realisation that I'm a grown up now has kicked in, which is both terrifying and exciting in equal measure. So that's one major goal for this year tentatively close to being achieved.

Dream job
No more interviews I'm afraid, but still applying to plenty of stuff. However, I do have one huge piece of news. Remember the internship I did before Christmas? Well, one of the copywriters is moving to another agency, and I finally managed to get hold of the creative director after spending weeks ringing him to find out that he wants to meet me to talk about taking over her job! Whilst trying not to count my chickens, it would be an absolutely perfect job as I could write all day and I would be working in a great location with a lovely bunch of people (and the money wasn't bad either). Next step: speak to slightly sceptical boss about taking a day off in the next couple of weeks to go and see him, and keep applying to other jobs - see not counting chickens.

£10k in the bank
Not to big myself up too much, but I have to say I've done well on this - I've got roughly the equivalent of £6,200 in the bank now, and hopefully I'll be able to increase this next month as I'm planning to move my ISA to another provider which has a slightly better rate of interest, so hopefully that'll up the extra money coming in. I'm also due a fairly big windfall from the taxman when they eventually sort my PAYE code out so that'll be going into the fund as well. In all honesty I'm not sure how realistic the £10k target is now due to finishing my job and having to spend money to stay afloat for the first month or so, but I'd like to get as close to it as I can. We'll see what happens.

Doing more exercise
Much better than last month I'm pleased to report - I managed to complete a 20 minute workout most days in February, and when I didn't I did other exercise like walking to and from the bus stop (about a mile each way) or around London. Still haven't got into swimming or sports classes, but again once I move I'll get signed up with the local pool and go as often as I can. I'm not sure I've lost any weight, but I do feel a lot better in general - I'm sleeping well and I feel like I have more energy, which can only be a good thing.

Sorting out my style
Not much more movement on this front I'm afraid, mainly because I haven't bought many clothes this month, but I have noticed I'm getting into skirts and ballet flats. This seems to be preparation for the summer as last year I went slightly mad on that look and really enjoyed it, so I think it taps into my girly side in that regard. One thing I am adapting though is to buy items with multiple purposes - for example, the other day I bought a pair of black platform chunky heeled court shoes in New Look, which will go brilliantly with loads of things in my wardrobe, and has meant that my strappy Aldo beauties (pretty but ultimately impractical if you have short legs) and beaten up Mary Janes (which would probably cost more to fix than to buy a new pair) have now been retired. The rule about thinking of three things you can wear your new purchase with may be a cliché, but in this instance it's true.

Watching more films and box sets
Pretty much the same as last month to be honest. I've now watched the whole first season of True Blood, and completely loved it, despite knowing how the second season starts through catching the first ten minutes of it on Channel 4 a few months back, and am into season four of How I Met Your Mother. Both of those will possibly come to an end this month, and so I'm thinking of continuing alternating a comedy and a drama. Next candidate for the drama is probably going to be Being Human, as I loved the first series but then fell out of the loop, and I'm thinking of getting back into Yes Minister for the comedy. Reviews will be forthcoming. And I WILL WATCH MORE FILMS!!!

Reading more
Most of this month's reading was World Without End by Ken Follett, which I did like in the way I liked Pillars of the Earth - too many attempts to defeat the characters and a far too neatly tied-up ending, but I did love the two main characters. So I didn't exactly read more as I'm way behind my book a week schedule, but it was worth it. I am however determined to go on a reading kick this month and get through as many of the classic novels on my parents' bookshelf as possible before I move out, unless I end up taking them with me...

Using up toiletries
I've used up 14 products this month, but bought/won 6, so this goal has been a bit mixed. But the stash is gradually getting smaller, which is definitely a good thing, and I just need to keep going so I can get rid of as much stuff as possible before the move - the goal is to get rid of 20 products by the end of the month. Plus I haven't spent anywhere near as much money as I used to on toiletries (we'll ignore my growing nail varnish collection), so that's a considerable improvement.

Dying my hair red
Honestly, not going to happen, for a while at least. I did buy the henna but just don't have the guts to do it right now, as well as the sheer amount of faff it involves. If I could go to a Lush and get them to do it for me and it looked OK I might be persuaded to go for it, but then I do love my natural colour and don't want to hate the red. So this one is on hold for the time being until I stop being a wimp and just do it.

So, they're the updates on . The general consensus seems to be that it's been more of a tick-over month, just trying to keep up with everything before it all goes a bit crazy in the spring after the move, but with the very exciting prospect of an amazing job on the horizon. Now just got to see how March pans out...