My Life

More personal ramblings.

REVIEW: Don’t Take Me Home (2017)

Documentary about the Welsh international football team’s rise through the FIFA World Rankings, and their first international tournament for 58 years when they got to the Euro’s in France in 2016.

I’m half English, half Welsh, with my dad being Welsh. I was staying with him in Spain during a lot of the 2016 Euros, and have fond memories watching Wales’ matches (and also Iceland’s) because they were the underdogs and it was the first time Wales had been in a major international tournament for decades. Perhaps it’s because of those memories, and thoughts of my dad who died three months ago, that made me decide to watch Don’t Take Me Home, but I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did.

Rather than being a comprehensive history of Welsh international football, Don’t Take Me Home focusses on how coach Chris Coleman took these players who were grieving for their former coach and were 117th in the rankings, to the Euros and making a far bigger impact than just about anyone could imagine.

The focus is on Euros 2016 and follows the team through the Group Stages and beyond. It’s a talking heads type documentary with players and staff commenting on their thoughts and feelings before, during and after games. The footage of the games is interspersed with players commentary, and the matches are just as thrilling as when I watched them four years ago. Don’t Take Me Home also gives an insight into the players mentality and how they gel together, on and off the pitch. It really shows how this group of players are friends and that while naturally they trained hard and talked tactics during the tournament, they still could wind down and have fun.

One thing Don’t Take Me Home showed really well was the passion of the Welsh fans and how the teams’ success and drive made such an impact. Wales is a small country, one of the smallest in the tournament, and now it’s a country that other people have heard of. As I said, my dad was Welsh. He lived in Spain for eighteen years, and for so long the locals down the pub (my dad did learn Spanish) would presume he was English which naturally annoyed him a lot. It wasn’t until Gareth Bale started playing for Real Madrid that he had a point of reference for the Spanish (“Soy Galés como Gareth Bale”) and watching the matches down his local, with Wales doing better than Spain that year, made them take notice.

The footage showing the Welsh fans, both in France following the team around the country, and the ones back home in Wales in fan parks and down their local pubs, is just great. Their joy is infectious and Don’t Take Me Home is filled with a lot of feel good moments.

While Don’t Take Me Home will certainly strike a chord with Welsh fans, I think anyone who is a fan of football and underdogs will enjoy this insight into a team that achieved great things. 4/5.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I hope you are all having a wonderful day, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, and you’re having fun, and doing what you hoped to be doing at Christmas.

Christmas is a very chilled out affair for me as I’ve got such a small family so Christmas day, and the whole Christmas break really, is just an excuse to chill out, eat a lot of food, watch films and read books.

Thoughts on… Reading Slumps

I like routines especially when it comes to my blog. On Monday’s I post a film review and on Thursday’s I post a book review and if there’s something else I want to write about it’ll go live on any other day – that’s how I’ve done it for years now. I’m pretty consistent when it comes to that “schedule” but it’s tough to keep up with it when you’re in a reading slump.

I’ve read two books this month and I’m currently in the middle of two more; The Dry by Jane Harper on audio and I’m reading a physical copy of Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi. It’s not unusual for me to be reading one book on audio and another in physical format at the same time, but what is unusual is that it’s two and a half weeks since I started the physical book and it’s less than 300 pages long.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a reading slump.

I think this one has been brought about by life being a bit more busy than usual. I’ve started a new job, I did a movie marathon for charity, and I have family-related things I’m perhaps I’m subconsciously worrying about. I say subconsciously as I’m very much a person who doesn’t think they get stressed, until my body gives up in some shape or form and I realise I wasn’t feeling that great. Time to read and being in the right headspace to read is definitely the main factor. And while I do find the premise of Frankenstein in Baghdad interesting and I like how it has a large cast of characters, I never feel compelled to pick it up even though when I am reading it, I enjoy it. It’s a weird situation to be in.

This long weekend I plan to either finish Frankenstein in Baghdad or consciously put it aside and pick up something else. I can always go back to Frankenstein in Baghdad when I’m more in the mood for it. Because that’s something I’ve learnt about myself over the many years I’ve been reading – I am a mood reader.

That’s why my TBR’s are often pointless as I might read one or two books from them but the rest of that week/month/whatever I’ll read completely different things. With my Read the World Project I do think I put pressure on myself to read certain books and quickly. The plan with that project was to read a book from every country in the world before I turn 30 which is in less than two and a half years now and I have about 100 countries still left to read. While I enjoy reading books from different people in different places, and I’ve certainly found some favourites that I would never have heard of if it wasn’t for this challenge, there’s sometimes an underlying sense of guilt if I’m reading books that don’t fit for the challenge.

I think really for me, reading slumps are something that happens when I’m drained, can’t focus on the physical act of reading, and can’t find a book that suits my mood. To get myself out of reading slumps I tend to go to graphic novels as they are so much shorter and quicker to read than a novel. If I read a couple of graphic novels, I feel like I’ve achieved something and can then attempt to read a novel next.

I’m still learning to tell myself that putting aside a book to try it again at a later date, or just admitting that it’s not for me and DNF-ing it, is absolutely fine. I haven’t “wasted time” on that book and it’s totally OK to just have a break from reading if my mind is not up to it – blogging schedule be damned!

I hope this all makes sense. I was trying to write through how my feelings on reading and how that relates to blogging. I also have a clearer idea of how I’m going to think about my current read, my reading slump, and what kind of book(s) I want to read next. Have you ever had a reading slump? And if you have, how have you gotten yourself out of it? It’s always good to hear other people’s tips and tricks.

The London Bookshop Crawl 2019

This time last week the London Bookshop Crawl was in full swing. It’s an event that lasted from Friday 8th – Sunday 10th February but I only took part on Saturday. There were guided tours, special events, book swaps and over 80 bookshops across London taking part. The London Bookshop Crawl is like a pub crawl except with books which is awesome!

I’m an old hat at this London Bookshop Crawl thing and it’s amazing to see how much this event has grown over the past four years. I decided to get a ticket for the guided bookshop crawl around the King’s Cross area as I’m a big fan of the guided groups. It’s a great way to meet people, and it is fun discovering new bookshops with people, comparing purchases and generally being a bad influence on each other.

We met at the British Library which I hadn’t been to since I was at university and there was our first stop of the crawl – the British Library Bookshop. There I bought Crimson by Nivaq Korneliussen which is a coming of age story that was on my radar before the bookshop crawl which is always a bonus. The reason I was aware of this book was because it’s set in Greenland and by an author who’s from Greenland so it’s perfect for my Read the World Project.

Next, we went to the Blackwell’s Bookshop in the Welcome Library. There I bought Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies, a non-fiction book that’s all about what feminism means to different women. This is another book that was previously on my radar (SPOILER ALERT! I think I did pretty well at buying books that I previously wanted/was aware of) I think I’ll definitely be going back there again as it was a great book and gift shop and I heard that the actual library itself was pretty amazing too, so it’d be nice to explore that properly.

We went to second-hand bookstore Judd Books next which was a really very well stocked second-hand bookstore, with pretty much all the books being in great condition and a wide choice of genres. There I bought The War Correspondent by Greg McLaughlin, which isn’t for me but is actually going to be a birthday present for my dad. It’s his birthday next month so I’m well impressed with myself being so organised.

Then we went to Gay’s the Word which was practically next door to Judd Books. There I got Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann which is a YA story about an asexual black main character. This is another one which has been on my wishlist for a while and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the next book I pick up. Gay’s the Word is one of only two specifically LGBT+ bookstores in the UK and it sells both queer fiction and non-fiction. It had a really friendly atmosphere and the books it had in stock were a great mix of genres.

The penultimate stop on the London Bookshop Crawl for me was Housmans which is a radical bookshop selling new and secondhand books from a whole range of genres including progressive politics, and where I got two books! I bought Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena, which was on my wishlist, and African Titanics by Abu Bakr Khaal, which wasn’t on my wishlist but they are both reasonable short and both are for my Read the World Project. I really liked Housmans and will be going back there again as it’s just around the corner from King’s Cross station and that’s the station I go to and from London.

My final stop was Word on the Water which is such a lovely little second-hand bookshop on a barge on the river. The guys who run the place are great and there’s always something cool to find there.

I was restrained and didn’t buy anything from Word on the Water, so I finished my 2019 bookshop crawl with six books, five for me and one as a gift which wasn’t too bad if I do say so myself. I’ve generally become better at buying books that I’m already interested in or am sure I will pick and read sooner rather than later. I’m still trying to get that TBR down!

I had a great time on the London Bookshop Crawl. I got to meet up with twitter pals and people I’d met on previous bookshop crawls and everyone in our little group were friendly and chatty and they were a great bunch of people to spend a few hours in bookshops with. Out of the six bookshops I visited, I’d only been to one before which was Word on the Water, so it was great to discover new bookshops that I’d never noticed before.

I have to say thanks once again to the amazing Bex who organises the whole bookshop crawl in her spare time. She’s absolutely brilliant and I can’t wait to see what she puts together next year for the fifth anniversary of the London Bookshop Crawl! There’s likely to be mini bookshop crawls in a city or two around the UK in the summer so if you’re interested make sure you follow them on Twitter to keep up to date with everything and check out the Bookshop Crawl website. Oh and it’s always fun to check out the #LondonBookshopCrawl on Twitter to see other peoples purchases and adventures over the weekend. Until next year!

Happy New Year!

I hope you’re all having a lovely evening, seeing in the New Year however you want to. I’m seeing in 2019 at a friend’s house, and I’m going to be crashing on his sofa so I’m probably a little merry as this post goes live.

My 2018 was pretty good, there was nothing extraordinary but nothing too traumatic either. I made new friends, went on holiday to new places, and watched a lot of films. I hope 2018 has been kind to you, and if it hasn’t it’s gone now and I hope 2019 will be better.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

Hope you all have a wonderful day, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, and spend the day having fun and doing exactly what you want to do.

Christmas is a small affair for me as I have a small family. The whole day is very relaxed as we eat a lot of food and we watch a lot of films. So when you read this, that’s probably what we’re doing!

Thoughts on… Blogmas

Blogmas is almost over and it’s been an interesting experience. I’ve felt I haven’t really given the blogmas challenge my all, especially in the past week, and that’s been due to life, a lack of inspiration for posts and not being as prepared as I hoped to be.

I’d decided I wanted to try and do blogmas way back in October. I had some blog ideas, had even started drafting some, but didn’t have anything properly written or scheduled. Then I was without a laptop for almost three weeks in November due to mine dying and having to be sent away to fix. I was able to borrow a laptop from work, but I definitely didn’t get as much blogmas prep done compared to if I’d had my own computer.

I took part and completed blogtober last year and towards the end of that challenge I was finding it hard to think of things to write about, so because blogmas is shorter (by six days but still) I thought it’d be easier. In some ways it was. I fell back on weekly posts like Book Blogger Hop and Top 5 Wednesday to help me out, and I had my usual weekly film and book reviews, but that still left three or four other days each week to fill. I did write some posts I’m proud of. I loved writing all my thoughts on audiobooks and how my attitude towards them have changed, and the Avengers: End Game trailer led me writing a trailer reaction for the first time in ages and one that was almost 800 words long.

I do enjoy how events like blogmas gets me to push myself when it comes to blogging. It gets me to think of more creative posts than my usual book and film reviews, but at the same time it makes me appreciate my weekly book and film reviews. I like having a routine with my blog, both because it’s nice for me and, I presume, my readers like the regular mix of film and books and don’t mind my eclectic tastes that much.

Blogmas, like blogtober and the A-Z in April Challenge, taught me that I can write more and manage to post everyday – whether that’s through being organised and scheduling days or weeks ahead, or by getting something up at about 10pm like this post is going to be. But I don’t want the pressure of posting every day if I don’t have to have it. Blogging should be fun, and for me it still is even after having this blog for five years now. That’s an achievement to me and I hope I still enjoy blogging just as much in five more years – if blogging is still something I want to be doing of course!

Why I Love… The Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy

I finished my yearly rewatch of The Lord of the Rings this week. I watched The Fellowship of the Ring (my favourite in the trilogy) on Monday, The Two Towers on Tuesday, and The Return of the King on Wednesday. These were the theatrical editions because while I own and have watched the extended editions a couple of time, it’s the theatrical editions that I love the most – because it’s those versions I saw in the cinema and fell in love with.

The Lord of the Rings is inexplicably linked to Christmas to me. That’s because when each film was released, me, my mum and my gran would go together to see each one on Christmas Eve. It was a family tradition for three years and I loved it. Now I always rewatch The Lord of the Rings in December, as close to Christmas Eve as possible. When I was at university and had longer holidays and less to do in them, I even watched all three films on one Christmas Eve before. Now with work and having to travel home for Christmas, I can only do watching one per evening, three nights in a row.

I love every film in the trilogy, but my absolute favourite is The Fellowship of the Ring. I think I love that one so much because it is kind of the most light-hearted of the trilogy. It’s the one that introduces all the big characters, is more hopeful but it also has some scary moments and brilliant battles. The Mines of Moria sequence is one of my favourites in the whole trilogy, both the battle and the chase to the bridge. Also love the Skirmish at Amon Hen at the end of the film. That’s a brutal battle but one that’s so motivated by the characters you’ve grown attached to over the course of the film.

While the Battle of Helm’s Deep is fantastic, and I always get goosebumps when Haldir and the elves arrive to help, I think The Two Towers is my least favourite. That’s because I don’t love Frodo and Sam’s plot until they meet Faramir but I like the Merry and Pippin stuff with Treebeard and I adore seeing what Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are doing. That doesn’t mean to say The Two Towers is bad, it’s still immensely enjoyable and does a great job of reintroducing all the characters we’ve already met and setting up the importance of Rohan and its people in the first 20 minutes – that’s a great screenplay.

The Return of the King is the perfect end to a perfect trilogy. I love every character’s plot; the battles are phenomenal, and the story is so full of hope. Yes, it has a dozen endings, but I love every single one of them and they send me on an emotional rollercoaster.

I love The Lord of the Rings trilogy because of the way it makes me feel. It’s got nostalgia value for me as it was such a formative influence on my taste in films and stories, so every time I watch it it feels like a warm hug. I’m still constantly surprised that no matter how many times I watch the trilogy (this year was my 14th full trilogy rewatch) there’s still little things that I notice and that bring me joy.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy just makes me happy. It makes me smile, makes me cry, and I still get completely taken in by the battles and the whole world of Middle Earth. I love it so much and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put into words how much I love these films or how much they mean to me.

BOOK BLOGGER HOP: Do you listen to music while you are writing your blog posts?

Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly feature hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, to find bookish blogs and to learn more about the bloggers themselves. You can find more info on the feature here.

This week’s question is: Do you listen to music while you are writing your blog posts? If so, what genre of music do you listen to?

The short answer is sometimes. I like listening to music while I write as it’s sometimes too quiet if I don’t, but I can write without music too. Sometimes it depends on the blog post – if it’s a review when I’ve got a lot to say or the subject is a bit more complicated or sensitive, I might forgo the music to make sure I concentrate.

As I type this post I’m listening to Imagine Dragons latest album (I’m liking it a lot, but I love pretty much all of Imagine Dragons music though so maybe I’m biased) and it’s that sort of music I listen to when I write a blog post. I like to listen music that has guitars and is upbeat but not too catchy because if it is catchy, I’ll end up singing along instead of focusing on what I’m writing. I like listening to music I already know too so it can be a pleasant background noise.

Do you listen to music when you write blog posts? Or when you do any writing in general?

Thoughts on… Film Award Season

It’s mid-December and that means only one thing – film award season is heating up.

Award season is interesting to say the least and it can be annoying, overwhelming and relentless. I do have a vague interest in award season and what films get nominated for Golden Globes, SAG awards, Oscars and everything else. Part of it is because I’m a part of #FilmTwitter as there’s no escape from it all. It can be annoying and all the arguments when different films are slated or snubbed or praised can make me dislike a film. Which of course is not a good thing because the film should be judged on your viewing experience of it, not what awards it has or hasn’t been nominated for or what other people think about it.

One year when I was at university, I think it was the 2013 to 2014 awards season, I decided to try and watch all the films that would be nominated for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress at the Oscars. Living in the UK that meant that I would get the “Oscar bait” aka all the films that was likely to be nominated for the big awards a month or two after America. It was an interesting experience but not one that I want to repeat any time soon.

I watched films that I wouldn’t normally watch. For instance, Nebraska which I can’t remember anything about and August: Osage County and the only thing I remember about that film is disliking every single one of the characters. Attempting to see all the films that will get Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress nominations was something I did to be able to say, “I’ve seen that film!” and when the nominations actually came out, I could have an opinion on all the nominees in a category. Now though, I can’t be bothered to be honest. I would rather watch films that I think I’m going to enjoy or are something I want to see no matter what nominations it does or doesn’t get and while there can be some very enjoyable and interesting “Oscar bait” films I don’t want to force myself to watch them if I don’t want to.

I think this time of year with all the awards it is sometimes just a bit much. Everyone has an opinion and there’s so many films out there, so naturally some of the films and the performances that are being talked about I haven’t seen but now I don’t feel that I must catch up. That’s because the films or performances are ones I don’t want to watch or are in horror films or are other genres that I’m not interested in and am 99% sure I won’t enjoy.

I’ll admit I’m a bit surprised that Widows isn’t getting more nominations, as I thought the performances and script were top notch, but I’ve learnt not to get too caught up in awards season. Though, I do readily admit that I love that The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is one of three films (the other two being Ben-Hur and Titanic) to have one 11 Oscars and, I believe, is the only film to have one an award in every category it was nominated in. But besides that little titbit, I’m not going to let awards season, and the 2019 Oscars, get me down.

Do you try to have an opinion on every film that gets nominated for the big awards? Or does Oscar-season just pass you by?