24/02/13 - Let's hear it for the 'Girls'

I make no qualms about the fact that I am a big fan of 'Sex and the City'.  In fact, Emma and I recently finished the entire boxset which we started little over a month ago.  It may not be intellectually stimulating or a work of high filmic art, but it's fun and fabulous.  The earlier seasons in particular may seem a little dated, but Carrie's ridiculous fashion sense is all part of the joy of watching it (as well as a source of endless frustration - why does she think it is okay to forgo a bra in almost every outfit?!).  It's an easy way to switch off for half an hour and enter a world of endless possibility.  All the dresses are couture, the shoes have red soles and the Cosmos just keep flowing.  And, at the time (running from 1998 to 2004), it was breaking every sexual taboo in the book.  But there are four new girls in the Big Apple, and they are not sporting Manolo Blahniks.

'Girls' is the ground-breaking new HBO comedy series from writer Lena Dunham, and in many ways, it follows the SatC formula to a T.  Four girls; the sexually liberated one, the prissy sensible one and the classy gallery worker, their lives all narrated by the sassy writer.  But, while 'Sex and the City' is an example of the way a lot of women wish their lives could be, 'Girls' is a sometimes painfully realistic portrayal of being a twenty-something going it alone in the big city.  Hannah, Marni, Jessa and Shoshanna aren't racking up credit card bills by splashing out on $400 shoes whenever their boyfriends mess them around.  They're struggling to pay rent, attempting to fly the nest but still relying on handouts - as one character says, "It's not adult life if your parents pay for your Blackberry" - and dealing with dysfunctional relationships of various kinds, from the virginal Shoshanna to the almost disturbingly perverted kinks of Adam, Hannah's not-quite boyfriend (not for the easily offended).  

The sex scenes are distinctly unglamourised; no romping on the plush carpet of your brand new, well-lit walk-in closet here, Miss Bradshaw.  It's awkward, graphic and often entirely unpleasurable.  Dunham, who plays Hannah as well as penning the show, seems to have no problems with stripping off the camera and putting herself into all kinds of uncomfortable situations.  Her frankness when approaching sexual taboos, along with the important social issue of body image within young women ("No, I have not tried a lot to lose weight.  I've decided I'd have some other concerns in my life"), is central to the overwhelming success of the show thus far.  It's refreshing to watch a programme in which not everyone is built like a Victoria's Secret angel and having mind-blowing sex every night.

Although this may not sound like a recipe for a comedy series, 'Girls' is wickedly funny. The writing is sharp and witty, and the characters say the things we're all thinking but often wouldn't dare to say.  While the humour is undoubtedly black, I personally find it hilarious.  Dunham's turn of the phrase is perfect and sets the overall tone of the show.  There's a level of self-awareness within it which I particularly enjoy; in the first episode, there is a large 'Sex and the City' poster on the wall in Shoshanna's apartment and she proceeds to dissect herself and her friends in the way many women and girls have since the late nineties - "a Carrie, but with some Samantha aspects and Charlotte hair.  That's like, a really good combination".  It is impossible to escape SatC's influences; these girls will be the ones who moved to New York on the understanding that their lives would follow the same glamorous path they'd witnessed in those six seasons.

'Girls' has had some very high-blown statements thrown its way, including the branding of Lena Dunham as 'the voice of a generation' (a phrase which is in fact used in the first episode and has seemingly haunted Dunham ever since) as well as an awful lot of critical backlash towards almost every aspect of the show.  Is it a recession-age 'Sex and the City', a refreshing new look at modern life, or yet another programme detailing the lives of privileged white America, of which many believe we have more than enough?  Can we relate to these characters and their plights, or are they largely unlikeable?  In my opinion, the potential unlikeability (is that a word?) of the characters is what makes them relateable.  They're flawed, they're spoiled, they're realistic.  Dunham doesn't offer these characters salvation from their negative qualities because that isn't how life works.  Everyone is messed up and self-involved, and 'Girls' addresses that without flinching.

I won't get into the socioeconomic politics of the show, nor the racial issue which has plagued many reviews.  All I will say is; I thoroughly enjoy this programme and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a cleverly written comedy series.  Although, as I said, not for the sexually squeamish and maybe don't watch this one with your parents or younger brother.

Have you watched 'Girls'?  What did you think of it?

19/02/13 - Party Time in Manchester

I know I haven't been blogging a lot recently; swamped with essays, Performing Arts commitments and general 'this is my last term of university, this is terrifying' stuff.  Which has left little room to do anything worth blogging about.  But this past weekend, I had an amazing weekend with some of my favourite people in a city which is rapidly becoming one of my favourites as well.

My gorgeous and very talented friend Chloe (you can check out her wonderful photography here and I highly recommend you do, she's genuinely brilliant) turned 21 and some of our friends from home descended on the Greater Manchester area to celebrate.  In my rush and excitement to get there, I managed to forget not only my night-out flats, any and all jewellery I might have considered and to paint my nails (I had to buy a cheap one and do them on the train.  Can't go wrong with a £1.99 Miss Sporty polish!) - I also didn't pack my camera.  Bad blogger.  So the following photos have been poached from Facebook...big love to Chelsea and Rachael for being more organised than me!

The birthday girl, struggling to blow out her candles.

The beautiful brunette on the right has a
wonderful blog you should look at!

We had a wonderful evening; lots of drinking, dancing and laughter.  I tried coffee-flavoured vodka for the first time, abandoned my heels in favour of wearing my trainers to the club (apparently, it looked edgy and not just stupid - I was happy to accept that as I really didn't want to wear my heels), and spent getting on towards half an hour assembling the world's most uncomfortable camp bed whilst eating dry toast on the return to Chloe's flat at 4am.  I am most definitely going to miss the student lifestyle!

It was a lovely break from the essays-and-lectures routine and it's always great to see the girls from home.  Although time is rapidly running out, I'm hoping we can squeeze in plenty more times like this before some of us graduate and have to - eek! - settle down.

Hopefully I will have more to write about soon, but as it is, the only things I can really promise are recipe posts and some potential beauty product reviews.  If that's something you'd be interested in, please let me know in the comments!

10/02/13 - The V-Day Debate

Personally, I've never been quite sure about Valentine's Day.  And that's not because I'm bitter or because I've had my heart broken or because I'm lonely.  I just don't think it should be as big a deal as it is.  This is the first year since I've been at university that I will be single on February 14th, which means that the past two years, I have had Valentine's plans.  And the bulk of this blog post is adapted from a Facebook message I sent a depressed single friend this time last year. So I'm not down on V-Day because I'm single, let's just clear that up at the very start.

I believe that the people you love should know it every day, not just once a year.  I think most of the Valentine's Day merchandise on the market is tacky and the whole concept puts a lot of pressure on couples, and particularly on men, to make forced and expensive romantic gestures.  If your boyfriend wants to do something sweet for you on Valentine's Day, then good for both him and you...but don't make him feel like it's a necessity.  I know girls who make their partners feel so guilty if their Valentine's plans aren't as romantic or extravagant as the girl feels they deserve, and it's just not fair particularly when these couples are living on a student budget.  If you choose to go for a weekend away or a nice meal out, then great!  But if that isn't the case, the day can be just as special; a night in can be just as romantic, if not more so, than being in an overcrowded restaurant full of couples under as much pressure to have fun and make the most of the day as you are.  It's not about flash presents and sparkly cards, it's about spending time with the person you love.  And if you're single, that doesn't change!  My plans include one of my closest friends, some form of delicious food, a lot of wine and a certain man that any of the Les Mis or Gossip Girl fans amongst you will recognise...Lauren and I will be watching a bootleg YouTube version of Aaron Tveit as Link in Hairspray on Broadway, and we couldn't be happier!

This girl...
...and this guy.  V-Day sorted!

It is my opinion that Valentine's Day isn't just a consumerist day solely for lovers.  Take this opportunity (a day when spilling your feelings isn't frowned upon, a day on which we are openly encouraged to be soppy) to tell your friends and family just how much they mean to you.  Love takes all forms, so let people know how much you love them - whether it's your parents, siblings, best friends, colleagues, or even your pets.  If you're single, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the day as much as people in relationships.  Gather your best friends and have a cosy night in, or a crazy night out.  Equally, February 14th is a day like any other, so there is no shame in not celebrating anything at all - be it your loved-up coupledom, or your singleness.  Sit at home with a DVD and a tub of Ben and Jerry's.  Catch up on some TV you've missed.  And go to bed sound in the knowledge that you haven't wasted a ludicrous amount of money on a box of chocolates which will be half-price tomorrow.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a really lovely day filled with love, no matter what form it comes in.  And that's the end of the sappiness, I promise.

04/02/13 - NYR Update #1

This is just a quick post to let you all know how my New Year's resolutions are going.  I'll be doing one every month, to keep track of my progress and hopefully motivate myself to do better the next month.  Enjoy!

1) Get a degree.  This one is going as well as can be expected; I handed in my three January essays on time, although I do feel there were elements of them which I could have improved.  Thus far, this semester hasn't been too taxing as it hasn't started, but as it stands I'm up-to-date with my reading and I'm trying to be more organised.  All my new deadlines are neatly written down in my 2013 diary which is my new best friend, and while they seem intimidating, I'm determined to make the most of this term academically.  Is it weird that I might kind of miss writing essays?

The only thing keeping me sane.

2) Spending ban.  This hasn't been as successful unfortunately.  I've stuck to my one clothing purchase rule, haven't even taken advantage of my book purchase, and my candles and magazine addiction is all but kicked into touch.  I bought a new foundation as my current one was pretty much finished, so that's okay...but I did treat myself to a Korres lip butter - oops!  The food one has been my biggest issue.  Our dishwasher's been broken, so eating takeaways or going out for lunch is the best option for keeping our kitchen tidy...such a student mindset.  But from here on in, I'll be much more controlled. 

3) Healthy living.  This has been potentially non-existent and I have no excuses for it.  I would put it down to the lack of a routine over the past few weeks.  As I get into the swing of timetabling, I will have set times to be up and about around uni, which makes going to the gym regularly easier.  Recently, I've been getting up too late to have breakfast, sleeping far too much (afternoon naps have become customary) and having regular evening cocktails or a cheeky glass/bottle of vino.  The whole thing has not been conducive to a healthier lifestyle.  But I am determined to crack down as of this week.  Hopefully next month, I'll have better things to report.

I hope everyone else's New Year's resolutions are going better than mine are!  Let me know in the comments, so I can sympathise with your struggles and be jealous of your successes!