All Killa No Filla Live- Brighton


All Killa, No Filla- Rachel Fairburn and Kiri Pritchard-McLean (Barry Mellor)

I love a podcast and one of my absolute favourites is All Killa No Filla, which I discovered last summer. Hosted by Manchester-based comedians Rachel Fairburn and Kiri Pritchard McLean, it makes me feel like I’m listening to two of my mates- except they’re talking about serial killers as well as the other stuff you might discuss with your friends. And they’re damn funny too (I’ll never look at Gary Barlow/gear sticks/sausage rolls again in the same way.) Since I’d been into reading about serial killers since I was a kid- nice and normal- I was so pleased to find it. If you have yet to listen to it, I am very jealous because you have an ace back catalogue to enjoy. Although maybe don’t start with the Fred and Rose West triple hander. It’s a bit of a shocker for the uninitiated*. According to a lady I spoke to at the show- and Benn- Harold Shipman might be the entry level episode. Up to you though. Everyone has a favourite. I like HH Holmes and the female serial killers best. #feminism.

Even better is that the All Killa No Filla duo are taking it on tour. Brighton was the first date and what a doozy it was: a whole hour on the unsolved Bible John case (although a strong suspect was discussed. I won’t give it away in case it gets broadcast**.) The crimes are never treated gratuitously or as a joke, but the laughs come from the interweaving of Rachel and Kiri’s stories about their lives- Kiri’s mum is a badass, by the way- and their observations of the world. They also explore and unpick the reasons why whoever their subject is/was became a serial killer.

I had so. much. fun., even if I did end up going on my own because Benn had a pathetic hangover. I also made friends with a friend of a friend who was going, which was lovely. But I can also confirm that Rachel and Kiri are brilliant- engaging, funny and knowledgeable, as well as sarky and down-to-earth. The other fans were great too. For a crowd so interested in such a macabre topic, they were lovely- and gave gifts to our hosts of serial killer Guess Who (would buy) and taxidermied mice (relevant to my interests.) Overall a fun hour and a bit with lovely people who happen to share a slightly odd interest.

Finally, I came away with a lovely ‘colour a killer’ colouring book, which I am very much looking forward to tackling. Might have to put my D at GCSE Art to good use and badly draw glasses on Jeffrey Dahmer though.

All Killa, No Filla is touring. Find information here.

*Fun fact- as a result of listening to this podcast, I have asked Benn to clear my Google history in the case of my mysterious death/disappearance. I would like to say to any police investigating me for the future that I just wanted to see what these people looked like. Thanks.

**Second fun fact- I once got into a mild disagreement with Professor David Wilson on Twitter about the subject of French Fancies during an episode of The Great British Bake Off.


Writers’ HQ: Seven Ideas In Seven Days


Remember my novel? I was working on it loads last summer and then I did (most of) NaNoWriMo in November, before the world decided it really wanted to bring me down with its ridiculous ideas. I also got bogged down in family stuff, D’s operation, Christmas and then the hell that is working in a school when a new curriculum is trying to be introduced. I lost my way and I lost my mojo. My characters were still in my brain, my story was still asking to be written, but I just struggled to get it down or find time to write.

This is where Writers’ HQ comes in; its founders Sarah and Jo are time-poor, cash-poor, sliiiiightly sweary writers (both Sarah and Jo are novelists) who also happen to be mothers and needed a way to find time to do their work. They offer a range of ways for others to write too- monthly writers’ retreats in Brighton and Worthing, as well as online courses which are reasonably priced (there are also free exercises for a lot of the courses, if you want to check them out before committing to buy one) and take into account the pressures of daily life. Now, disclosure time: Jo is a friend of mine and has been trying to get me to go to the Brighton retreat for AGES, but I either never have money/time/anything to work on. Instead, she offered me the chance to have a go at February’s Seven Ideas In Seven Days course. I jumped on it.

Seven Ideas In Seven Days costs £20 and you are given a lesson everyday that takes around an hour to complete. I loved the variety of different tasks and the ideas I came up with were often completely new to me and very intriguing- I have at least three new ideas for different stories in completely new-to-my-writing genres (including one about the popularity of succulent plants being part  of an alien invasion plot, which I may just write for the LOLZ), as well as two new perspectives on the novels that have lived in  my brain for a long time.

I also liked the forum- although I’m not sure everyone signed up for this month’s course was using it. However, I found two supportive course members and Sarah who were all brilliant for bouncing ideas off, discussing what we’d written and where our work could go next. It felt less scary than a class and more like a friendly chat in a coffee shop (except that I was drinking tea. And in my own house. You understand the imagery though.)

Would I recommend the course? Yes. It was a lot of fun and I’d like to do another course if I get enough money together- there are all sorts of things on offer, from how to plot your novel right through to actually writing/editing the beast and eventually sending it off to a publisher. It was more personal than just using a book or an anonymous blogpost to write and I think the structure and the range of tasks meant that I sat down every night to work. It also made me realise that I CAN carve some time out of the day to write, even if it’s not much. It’s better to write a bit than not at all. I look forward to reacquainting myself with my characters. And the Mutant Succulents From Space With Mind Bending Powers Of Persuasion, obv.


Not Today Satan: Bianca Del Rio at Brighton Dome

“Please, don’t take anything I say seriously,” Bianca Del Rio asked of her audience after arriving onstage. A couple of minutes before, a recording  invited any of us of an easily offended disposition to leave- but as if any of us would. We know what we’re in for- that’s why we’re here. After all, Wikipedia does describe Bianca as an ‘insult comic’.


Source: RuPaul’s Drag Race wiki

I was lucky to be there at all, actually. I managed to snag a press ticket for me and my friend Jaqui in order to review the show for The Argus (at time of writing, it’s not online. I’ll link to it here when it is.) Later, as I tried and write the review with a little gin inside me, I found it hard to write everything down in 200 words. I gave the show 5/5.

Almost everyone in the theatre will have known Bianca from RuPaul’s Drag Race. The room was filled with a captive audience: gay, straight, married, single; all there for a good time and the excitement was infectious. Jaqui and I made friends with two girls outside the venue and we made more friends with some lads in the merch queue (we didn’t have enough money for t-shirts, so we ended up buying each other exactly the same signed photo.) The audience loved Bianca. I’d argue that she’s the most successful contestant from the show, her catchphrase ‘Not today, Satan!’ even making it on protest signs at the recent anti-Trump marches. Despite the acid tongue, Bianca (the stage name of Roy Haylock) is adored, this being her second tour after ‘Rolodex of Hate’ a couple of years ago. I think ultimately it’s because we’re included in the joke- even when, sometimes, it’s aimed squarely at us. But it’s OK. We can take it because ultimately, the joke is on Bianca too. This is what makes Bianca’s comedy work: yes, it’s a bit mean, but we like her. We’re all in this together, warts and all.

Her set deals gleefully with her participation on Drag Race, the biggest cheers (and biggest boos) being offered during gossipy snippets about fellow contestants. “But, after all, the are my sisters!” Bianca offered up every time she took a sip of wine, a knowing wink in the direction of the audience. I always compare Bianca’s comedy to that of Joan Rivers; it’s sharp and funny, but sometimes you will wince when it gets a bit close to the bone. Literally no one is safe- age, race, gender, sexuality, class is all up for grabs. The sketches deal with stuff you might expect- Donald Trump, for example, “I promised I wouldn’t get political!” and weird people on reality TV to the more surreal, such as being a drunk drag queen at an airport. I literally had face ache after the show, I’d been laughing so much. After the set, Bianca offered answers to pre-submitted questions about everything from advice for new drag queens to a key scene in Hurricane Bianca. And all this was done at the mercy of a malfunctioning wig and very high heels. Fantastic.

I loved every minute of the show; even though I know this type of humour is not everyone’s cup of tea, I can’t think of anyone-other than the late Joan Rivers- who does it better.


Divine Divas: Grand Hotel (1932)

Image result for grand hotel film:

I saw Grand Hotel when I was about 18; I remember not being hugely impressed and I promptly forgot about it. When I revisited it a couple of weeks ago, it actually took about three hours to watch it, because I kept being interrupted. I think me and this film have been fated to not get on from the start.


Garbo as the ballerina, Grusinskaya

The action takes place across a 24 hour period (roughly), in which a series of characters find themselves in a hotel in Berlin. There’s a playboy baron, played by John Barrymore, who is not what he initially seems; a dying man, determined to live out his last days in style after living a careful life (played by Barrymore’s older brother Lionel, best known to modern audiences for his turn in It’s a Wonderful Life); a prima donna ballerina with crippling stage fright, played by Greta Garbo (and the original source for her famous catchphrase); a bully-boy business executive played by the notorious belligerent Wallace Beery; and a seductive stenographer, played to (early) type by Joan Crawford. There’s crime, a death, fights and at least someone gets something resembling a happy ending.

Joan Crawford in Grand Hotel, 1932:

Joan Crawford as Flaemmchen

It’s definitely a bit of a weird film. It feels quite ‘bitty’, more that the studio was interested in having a film stuffed full of famous actors (it was the first film to have such a star powered ensemble cast), rather than much of a plot. I mean, that’s not to say that there isn’t a plot there- there is, sort of- but so many characters make it hard to really get any of the threads to feel more than superficial.

Joan Crawford, as the unfortunately named Flaemmchen, is the best thing about this film (although I’d say Lionel Barrymore plays his nervy, dying man to pathetic perfection). She exudes sexiness in a time just before the Hays’ Code came along and ruined all the fun in Hollywood. She’s unapologetic in her sensuality and she knows what she’s doing. She knows damn well that she’s in control of the men in the room- although there’s a scene in which she shows extraordinary kindness, too. It’s amazing to watch; I can’t actually think of an a modern actress who has the same kind of presence on screen, and only a few actresses ever who were able to come close- Rita Hayworth, maybe? Others were undeniably sexy, but there’s just something about Crawford that I can’t really put my finger on.

And we need to talk about Garbo. In the You Must Remember This podcast (listen, if you haven’t), Karina Longworth recommends that those wanting to watch a Garbo film for the first time try something else. I’ve never seen another Garbo film, but I get what she means- the world’s most famous Swede (before ABBA and Ikea, anyway) is not brilliant. In fact, at times, she’s perfectly hammy. In fact, there are scenes where she’s hammier than a ham and gammon sandwich served in a bacon factory. I do understand why, though- she’s playing a pampered, spoilt ballerina and she shares many scenes with John Barrymore, more used to a New York stage than being in front of a camera. But, oh, by modern standards, it’s hard to watch.

In short, this is a good place to start if you want to get a feel for 1930s films- it looks amazing and there are key stars in it. But if you want to watch a good film, I’d maybe put this about fifth on your list…

NEXT FILM ON THE PLAYLIST: Of Human Bondage (1934), starring Bette Davis and Leslie Howard.



#PaperHaul Featured: Pattern Lounge

It’s a grey day, as I write (the day after a visit by OFSTED too, at work. Joy!) I’m tryng to combat the blues by listening to Kylie Minogue and showing you some stationery inspired by the colour and heat of India. It’s this month’s #PaperHaul box!

20160511_122459The stationery in this box owes a lot to henna designs in particular (I LOVE henna. Some girls I went to school with showed me how to do it around 1997- when Gwen Stefani was doing it- and I never really mastered it, so I admire how intricate the designs are) and the colour palette is a warm one, full of reds, pinks and greens. There are no stickers in this box, which is a shame as they’re my favourite bit, but there’s plenty of other stuff.


Mini cards and gift tags

I must apologise, actually, how blue these photos are- lack of light and my cackhanded photography are to blame (as usual.)


Postcards and greetings card

I think the greetings card is my favourite thing in the whole box (with the exception of the washi tape, obv.) I have been sending a lot of postcards lately ‘just because’ and no doubt these two will make their way to a postbox soon.


Blank page notebook

The notebooks are starting to get seriously useful- I’m currently using one to record info for my freelance jobs, another one is being used to keep track of D’s various collections of lilliputian toys and another one is full of the mad stuff he says (to be presented to him when he is a gigantic 18 year old.) This one has blank pages, which is very useful for just about anything.


Washi tape

A lovely summery box… let’s just hope that the weather matches up to it in the next few days!

You can register for #PaperHaul here.

Disclaimer: I get my box at a discounted rate, but my reviews are honest and reflect my own opinions.


#PaperHaul Featured: Jodie Goolding

Ah, #PaperHaul, I love you. I love how, after a month where I’ve been a bit unsure about a box, the following month you produce a box that is so me it’s like you read my mind. March’s box really did pull a rabbit out of a, er, box sufficiently sized to fit through a standard UK letterbox.


If you read my #PaperHaul reviews regularly, you’ll know I’m a sucker for the animal boxes more than any other (but I’d like to put in my semi-regular request for a dinosaur themed box…) This month’s didn’t disappoint. What I like about it is that it’s on the right side of cute to not be too twee. Plus, the positive message is one I can really get behind. The notecards above are a perfect encapsulation of the overall feel of the box.


The postcards remind me of adult colouring books- and actually, it might be nice if you sent them to a friend who could colour them in. But that’s up to you- I’m not your boss or anything.


I am a worrier of the highest order. I am currently worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet and is only a possible problem. It’s definitely a skill. Wouldn’t it be nice if you sent this card to your worrisome friend?


The washi tape is another strong one this month. Most recently utilised on a child’s birthday present. (My hairdresser was amazed when she saw my washi tape bowl and couldn’t get over how many rolls I had. I like to think she was impressed.)


I love these larger-than-usual stickers! I’ve stuck them onto my writing case. I’d definitely like bigger stickers to be a thing sometimes, although I do also like the smaller stickers for decorating letters etc.


Finally, the notebook. It’s cute and I already have someone in mind for it.

Overall, a good box this month! I understand that every box won’t be to my taste, but I must say that I’ve found stashing the cards etc has been quite useful, as I always have something on hand, stationery-wise. I’d definitely say that #PaperHaul has made me seem 68% more organised when it comes to birthdays and other occasions.

You can register for #PaperHaul here.

Disclaimer: I get my box at a discounted rate, but my reviews are honest and reflect my own opinions.


Strictly Come Dancing: Week 12- Semi Finals

Wowzers! We got here fast, didn’t we? As usual, we’ve lost the ‘comedy’ celebs, as well as a couple of early favourites (Peter, Helen) and the final five has a couple of surprises (Katie? Anita? I’m not complaining though, as I like both.) Each couple tonight will dance two dances, which is nice. At least one of the dances tonight is a rumba. I’m going to let Eli Gold tell you how I feel about this:


Shall we get started, then?

Katie and Anton- Charleston (It’s Too Darn Hot)


I love this song! It’s a good match with the Charleston and I always expect Katie to approach each dance with gusto, even if she’s not consistent in terms of quality. (Also, I would literally KILL for legs like Katie’s, although they would look odd on my potato-esque body. Que serra, serra.) Katie definitely Gave Good Face, but there were points where she kind of lost it a bit and seemed to hesitate. It’s definitely hard to be a ballroom specialist in a year when the Charleston is king.

Ouch, a low score for a semi-final dance AND a Charleston.

Scores: Craig-4 Darcey-7 Len-7 Bruno-7 TOTAL:25

Jay and Aliona- Viennese Waltz (Have You Ever Loved A Woman)


Ack, would you want to be the first Viennese Waltz after last week’s East End gin palace barnstormer? It is Jay though, so whatevs. I’m not ashamed to admit that Bryan Adams is a guilty pleasure of mine, but I’m not a massive fan of this schmaltzy song (mind you, it could have been Everything I Do, so let’s not cut our noses off to spite our faces here.) This was OK. I’m not a huge fan of the Viennese, if I’m honest. I loved Aliona’s dress though. I’m not going to lie- I didn’t hear a lot of the critique because D was being a bit annoying.

Scores: Craig-8 Darcey-9 Len-8 Bruno-9 TOTAL:34

Georgia and Giovanni- Cha Cha (I Will Survive)


Not so subtle message after last week’s (quite frankly unjust) stint in the dance-off. Georgia will probably garner sympathy this week with the audience though, what with the shock that she was in the bottom two AND a complicated sounding sore throat. However, for me, this felt like it took a long time to get going into the actual dance. Once it got going though, it was fun. Everyone knows how hard it is to party when you just want to be home in your pjs, right?

Scores: Craig-8 Darcey-8 Len-8 Bruno-9 TOTAL:33

Anita and Gleb- Foxtrot (New York, New York)


I do LOVE a proper glitzy foxtrot, none of these slower ones that seem to have been en vogue this series. I loved this- there’s a lot to be said for sticking to the classics, even if your (gorgeous) dress looks like a cross between flamingo roadkill and Animal from the Muppets. I’d like to own that dress, please. I thought the marks were a tad harsh, but then what do I know?

Scores: Craig-7 Darcey-8 Len-8 Bruno-9 TOTAL:32

Kellie and Kevin- Rumba (Songbird)


Oh, God. I find both the rumba AND this kind of dreary song so bloody boring. So I just KNEW how much I’d love this dance.


Also, who has Kellie cheesed off in wardrobe? Anyway. Rumba. Yeah. Fast bits, twirly bits. OK. Some bits seemed quite fast. It wasn’t too raunchy, which was good AND they didn’t use any props! Hurrah!

Scores: Craig-9 Darcey-8 Len-9 Bruno-8 TOTAL:34

Katie and Anton- Waltz (O Mio Babbino Caro)


You always know that Katie and Anton in a classic ballroom dance will be (or at least, should be!) lovely to look at. I had high hopes after earlier’s shakier Charleston; if Katie can’t do a waltz well, I don’t think I can believe in anything any more. Including Christmas. I could tell that this was going to be A Serious Dance, as Strictly had got the smoke machine out. As predicted, Katie did well, but I thought there were a few little stumbles (as mentioned by Len.) I’m not sure Katie will be in the competition next week.

Scores: Craig-8 Darcey-9 Len-7 Bruno-7 TOTAL: 31  


Jay and Aliona-Charleston (Doctor Jazz)


Jay has a lot to live up to since that amazing jive a few weeks ago- but I wondered if he would be able to do ‘the face’ better than Peter Andre could. That being said, there’s a sort of innocence about Jay which never makes him look like he’s trying so hard; he doesn’t appear to have that same sort of hard-bitten professionalism that some of the other contestants have had this year. This dance just SEEMS made for me- my favourite dance with a Doctor Who theme. This just made me grin from ear to ear- it was so much fun and slightly messy. LOVED IT. Also, I want some glittery Converse.

Scores: Craig- 9 Darcey-9 Len-9 Bruno-10 TOTAL:37


Georgia and Giovanni- Viennese Waltz (Runaway)


Both waltzes this week appear at first glance to be pretty traditional. But there’s no denying that Georgia does do princess-y ballroom and the judges love it. (Although between you and me, I think two Viennese Waltzes this week has been a bit of an overkill.) This was pretty, in spite of the band’s weird take on the song. I like to think the guitar-y bits were a tribute to Jim Corr, AKA The Forgotten Corr.

Scores: Craig-9 Darcey-10 Len-9 Bruno-10 TOTAL: 38


Anita and Gleb- Salsa (Feel This Moment)


Why do people keep encouraging Pitbull (known in my house as ‘that odious little man’) by using his music for stuff like this? Before tonight’s show, I reckoned on this being the weaker of Anita’s two dances. I liked the futuristic cheerleader routine, even if Benn did ask why Gleb was dressed like Freddie Mercury for a Pitbull track. It did seem quite a complex routine though, blimey.

Scores: Craig-8 Darcey-8 Len-8 Bruno-8 TOTAL:32


Kellie and Kevin- American Smooth (Let’s Face The Music And Dance)


Ooh, this is quite Anton-esque in terms of dance and song choice, innit?  The dance itself was such a lovely end to the show (especially after that futuristic-cheerleaders-on-speed routine) and I will always, ALWAYS have time for old fashioned glamour in dance. All the little Fred and Ginger touches and the Art Deco set design just made this so beautiful.

Scores: Craig-9 Darcey-10 Len-10 Bruno-10 TOTAL:39


So, at the top of the leaderboard we have KELLIE and KATIE is at the bottom; I predict Katie and Anita will be in the bottom two tomorrow, with Katie leaving. But then, what do I know? I’ve got it wrong every sodding week.

Let me know your thoughts!