Photos: Cardiff Bay and Doctor Who

To mark Peter Capaldi’s tenure Doctor Who upgraded from the small screen to the big screen as the first episode of the new series premiered at St David’s Hall, Cardiff. It was a popular event but somehow I managed to get tickets so it was a chance to see the new Doctor Who and visit beautiful Cardiff.

Here’s some of my photographs inlcuding the Cardiff Bay, grand buildings in the city centre and Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman from Doctor Who.

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July Book Club

At the beginning of the month Caitlin Moran released her first novel called How to Build a Girl. I felt a bit strange reading it because even if I wanted to change who I was as a teenager it’s a bit too late now, but there was enough to enjoy regardless. I will also admit that I can’t write a better review of the book than John Crace’s digested read in the Guardian which gets to the crux of the problems with the book.

The main character Johanna Morrigan lives with her large family in Wolverhampton doing the usual teenage things, but after winning a poetry competition and embarrassing herself on local TV with an impression of Scooby Doo she decides to reinvent herself. She gets interested in music, goth culture and changes her name. She’s also really interested in boys but there’s no boys willing to help her find out more about sex so Johanna spends a lot of romantic time with herself. A lot of time.

Photo: Published by Ebury Press

She moves on from writing poems to writing music reviews for a national magazine. This career feat gives her the opportunity to become a lady sex adventurer. This is Moran’s rebuttal to the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomena, but I think it works best as a chance to explain to young people what sex is actually about, the precautions needed to make it fun (there’s a chapter about coping with cystitis where every word made me wince) and how it isn’t always romantic.

Eventually Johanna realises she needs to allow herself to actually be a teenager, but by this point I think the rest of her family are more interesting. They all seem to struggle so that Johanna can have what she wants, this includes having their benefits reduced as she’s earning now but continue to lovingly support her.

The strangest thing is Caitlin Moran says the book is not autobiographical, there’s even an opening page to explain that, but there’s a lot of similarities to her career and moments in her life that she’s spoken about in How to be a Woman. All of her stories tend to involve a huge family in Wolverhampton with the main female character doing something different, if that was the case then Caitlin Moran wouldn’t be so different to everyone else. I really enjoyed reading it but it didn’t have the impact I was expecting. This could be that I’m too old for the book, or I grew up agreeing with a lot of these values. Mostly I think it didn’t hit the same stride as How to be a Woman, whether that was because it was fiction or something else, but I would recommend How to be a Woman over this book.

Last month Monty Python performed on stage for the last time at the O2, so as well as watching old shows, documentaries about the group I decided to read Michael Palin’s diaries of The Python Years. This first volume covers 1969 to 1979 which goes from Python getting established to the controversy surrounding the release of the Life of Brian.

It was interesting to see how the team worked together, and there would usually be squabbles and at several points it seems Monty Python was on the verge of splitting up. Then they get together to write something, have a pleasant chat and everything seems happy again. He also writes very honestly about his family, and makes no apologies that his diary entries sometimes miss a momentous piece of Python news for sharing a day out with his family instead.

Personally the best bit in the diaries was when Palin met Brian Winston, who is an instantly recognisable name for anyone who’s been to the Lincoln School of Journalism.

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Jeremy Paxman’s Great Britain’s Great War was a fascinating read, after studying history I knew a lot of the main events of the first World War but Paxman has lots of anecdotes from the time. He wanted to challenge the perception that the generals just sat back and got a lot of things wrong which meant a lot of young men died, and show that the approach to war and fighting was changing. However, I think the best parts of the book was dealing with the emotional side effects of war. The chapter detailing how families dealt with missing men after the war was particularly touching, especially how the public reacted to the tomb for the unknown soldier.

While Paxman’s book is a good for those wanting to start finding out more about the war, Mary Beard’s Confronting the Classics is a little bit more advanced than I was anticipating. It deals with the way Ancient Greek and Roman history has been collected, from the sounds of it mostly by people with little understanding of the Greek language or a bit too keen to make places into tourist destinations. For my A levels I studied Classical Civilisation and thought that would help with the book, but I largely studied Ancient Greece, buildings and the prose whereas Mary Beard’s book is mostly about the Romans. This just means it’s more of a challenging read and I hope it gets me reading more about the subject.

August’s reads

After reading about the war, feminism and classical civilisations I fancy some easier reads this month. I’m tempted to read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy because it’s fantastic and I haven’t read any of the books since I was a teenager. My brother is also very good at finding cheap yet good books for the Kindle and found me Where do comedians go when they die? A journey of stand up by Milton Jones for 99p. Maybe a light-hearted classic as well, we’ll see what I fancy on some of the long train journeys I have this month.

Photos: Tour de Yorkshire

Since I moved to Sheffield it’s felt that Yorkshire has been very excited by the Tour de France. This year the Grand Depart took place in Yorkshire, the first stage between Leeds and Harrogate and the second stage between York and Sheffield.

There were several places in Sheffield celebrating the day, but we went to Meadowhall to go to the Fanfest and cyclists passed by before the finish line at the nearby Motorpoint Arena. These are some photos I took of the day on my phone.

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Google automatically made some of my photos into gifs, they aren’t perfect but I think it’s an interesting way to show off the photos.

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Book club: June

June has been an odd month, I’ve started stockpiling books again and I’m not actually reading them. This is not what my year-long book club is about. I realised in January that I was collecting books and not reading them, the downside of owning a Kindle. I just need to remember that as tempting as new books are, reading them is even better.

One of my favourite books is A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, so I thought I’d try another one of his novels. I wasn’t sure what to expect as A Clockwork Orange is a very violent read filled with a made up language. One Hand Clapping is very gentle in comparison. It follows Janet and Howard who are just a normal working class couple, who enjoy watching television in the evening. They watch a boy win £1000 on a quiz show and Howard decides he will use his photographic memory to win big on the quiz show. Once he has the £1000 it’s not enough and he uses it to win roughly £80,000 by betting on horses. Now with more money than they can imagine Howard and Janet set about having an expensive lifestyle.

Burgess wrote this novel to vent about the slide in Western culture and education, and despite the book being over 50 years old it did feel current. The best bit is the twist ending though when you realise that Janet isn’t as meek as she’s made herself sound.


Dexter’s Final Cut published by Orion Books Limited.

If you thought the Dexter TV series, about a police forensic specialist whose hobby is killing people, could be a bit grim at points, then try the books by Jeff Lindsay. The storylines are different but most of the ‘baddies’ are similar, and it’s much worse reading the chopping and slicing yourself. Having said this I’ve always enjoyed the Dexter books in some way. Dexter’s Final Cut is different, not just because the title isn’t alliterative, as the killer is caught half way through the book by Dexter and not in his police capacity. But the murders continue happening.

I thought the end was a bit predictable and perhaps went a bit too far, not particularly gruesome just a bit too personal. However, it was a really enjoyable read and the ending makes me want to read the next book.

The Midwich Cuckoos is a fantastic read, I read the whole book during one long train journey. Wyndham sci-fi novels are stereotypically British. The village of Midwich experiences a strange ‘Dayout’ event, there’s no consequences until all the women of childbearing age realise they’re pregnant. Nine months later 61 children are born and the village has to deal with raising these extraordinary children and keeping it a secret. Then the villagers realise that the Children are pitting the villagers against one another and something needs to be done.

It was fascinating to follow the children and the impact that it had on the village and the women. The book was written mostly as a factual report with not many mentions of the emotional impact. There were hints to one woman who had moved to Midwich just for work and ended up pregnant as a result of being there on the Dayout and abandoned her baby because she just saw it the same as if she had contracted an illness. That story was just a sentence but I would be interested in finding out more of what the women thought about the invasion. It’s also a very sweet idea from the 1950s that a whole village of women giving birth wouldn’t get in the papers. Nowadays someone would be live tweeting something like that.

July’s reads

When it comes to the summer months people often look for beach reads, romantic novels which can be devoured in a week and left behind in a hotel room for the next person. Instead I’ve picked a few non-fiction books to read. I was enticed by Mary Beard’s Confronting the Classics because I studied Classical Civilisation at A Level so I like to revisit the subject now and again.

Continuing the non-fiction theme I’ve missed Jeremy Paxman since he left Newsnight so this month I’ll be reading his book about the first world war. And for something completely different… I’m hoping to get a copy of Michael Palin’s Monty Python diaries from the library. Monty Python do their final stage show this month and I’m quite interested to see what Python was like at the beginning.

Sheffield Doc/Fest

When I moved to Sheffield I decided to get involved with as much as possible to find out more about the city and the people. One of the first things I did, without realising how big and important the annual event is, was to sign up as a volunteer for Sheffield Doc/Fest. To point out how important the event is it included the premier of a film from the Oscar award-winning director Martin Scorsese, who even appeared on Skype at the festival.

I worked in the interactive part of the festival which, from 7-12th of June, showcased interactive documentaries on computers and iPads as well as games and a story on the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift. We were based in the Millennium Gallery in the centre of Sheffield, which was a lovely space to work in for the week, and were there to help people understand and show how things worked.

The interactive exhibit at Sheffield Doc/Fest | Photo: Charlotte Reid

My favourites in the exhibit where the two games, Type:Rider and Papers, Please. Type:Rider is a platformer game where you play as two little dots that teaches you the history of typography. In Papers, Please you work on border control and have strict rules about which people you can let in. You also have the opportunity to get bribes as you need more money to look after your family and pay the bills, but can get caught. In the ending I got I was dobbed in by my neighbour for taking a bribe and sent myself and my family to jail.

On a few of the days we had sessions to organise as well, which included setting up the room and looking after the speakers and delegates. These were interesting as some of the talks were linked to the exhibits and you got to hear from the creators and learn a bit more about their pieces.

The lovely room we held sessions in as part of Doc/Fest | Photo: Charlotte Reid

Doc/Fest also has a number of notable people who attend to show their films, do talks or present at the festival at some point. It was good to see them get involved with the rest of the festival too. The comedian Jeremy Hardy came to some of the sessions we held, and I got quick chance to tell him that I love the News Quiz which he was lovely about.

The greatest part of the week was seeing the editor of the Guardian Alan Rusbridger in our interactive section. He quite happily pottered around looking at the different exhibits and then he got a chance to experience the Oculus Rift. Naturally as he was tackling virtual reality we grabbed our cameras and snapped this frankly amazing but bizarre moment.

Alan Rusbridger on the Oculus Rift | Photo: Charlotte Reid

What I learnt from Doc/Fest

I don’t know if I learnt these things or they were ideas that I had reinforced throughout the week but it definitely gave me something to think about — warning they may sound a bit clichéd.

First of all always expect the unexpected. The interactive section was open to delegates and members of the public and we soon discovered that the Millennium Gallery was a popular place for school trips. So on a couple of occasions we had to quickly get ourselves ready for lots of school children visiting our exhibit. It was excellent to see their interest in it, and also it was great because young children understand computers, games consoles and iPads better than anyone else.

Also the questions that people have are always far more out there than you expect. This included in-depth conversations about the exhibits (some quick revision beforehand always helps) or just general questions. We fielded so many questions about toilets, wifi, the rest of Doc/Fest and where you can get passport style photographs done in Sheffield. This then leads me to my next point.

Be honest and friendly. If you don’t know the answer to something don’t make something up, ask someone else who you think might know. It’s also just more fun if you are friendly when chatting to delegates, the public, other volunteers and staff members and try to learn names as well. Doc/Fest has a reputation of being the friendliest festival, and I think Sheffield as a city is pretty friendly too.

It works the other way round too, be friendly to volunteers. These are the people who will help you out or know the people who can help you out. Also it makes the day more fun when you have silly chats. All delegates had to have their passes scanned when walking around the festival and one lady liked to think of herself as a grocery item each time she was scanned. So when we saw her we had to quickly think of new items to describe her, which varied from lemon curd to toothpaste.

Overall it was a great week. I had no idea what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s reassuring to know that Sheffield is so friendly and inviting, I learnt a lot and I’ve got a few interesting stories to tell.

All closed down | Photo: Charlotte Reid

TV Talk: Television’s Twitter Trends

I love television, so I blog about it over on TV Talk. Here’s a piece I’ve written recently about how the use of social media on TV is awkward and unnatural, and how comedy could show us how to do it better.

If you’re like me, then you will cringe when a television show goes to their social media hub to see “What Twitter thinks”. It’s clunky and always awkward and my understanding of the show hasn’t been improved by username7543 saying “LOL”. Or even worse “Let’s get this trending”.

Ross Noble's Freewheeling on Dave | Photo: UKTV

Social media is seen as such a huge part of people’s daily lives that everyone wants to tap into. It’s not enough that when watching television you are encouraged to tweet along with their suggested hashtag, they want to read your tweets out as well. Disregarding the studio full of talented people in favour of this. It’s strange though because TV is using social media in a way that normal people don’t. Unless the comment is so spectacularly amazing people don’t discuss a topic and then read a tweet out loud, so surely TV programmes need to start using social media in a way that normal people use it. And comedy seems to be the best at doing this.

To read the rest of this piece head over to TV Talk

Book club: May

Last month I decided I would pay my respects to Sue Townsend by reading more of her books. I’ve read all the Adrian Mole books but there are plenty of other characters that Sue Townsend wrote about. The woman who went to bed for a year is a sweet and funny portrayal of family life.

Eva’s twins leave home to go to university and Eva decides to take to her bed for a year. She takes stock of her life and realises that her husband who she doesn’t love is having an affair, her brainy children are unable to cope with the real world and she doesn’t know who she is anymore.

From the confines of her bed she manages to bring the family back together, whether they like one another is a different matter, and they create this varied supporting cast. Eva now has the time to just talk to people and ends up hearing people’s problems. Word gets round that she’s lucky and people from around the world end up just sitting outside her house hoping to catch a glimpse of her. I don’t know if Eva learnt a lot from staying in bed for a year but she reset her life, and I was left kind of hopeful.

Who is Tom Ditto? by Danny Wallace, image from Random House.

I’ve been looking forward to the new Danny Wallace book, called Who is Tom Ditto?. This is the second novel from Wallace, it’s a bit more grown up in comparison to his earlier books like Yes Man and Join Me. I thought his novels would be jovial and happy-go-lucky too, instead Wallace seems to deal with men who’ve lost their way.

Who is Tom Ditto? starts with Tom’s girlfriend leaving and insisting that he should carry on as normal. Understandably he tries to understand what has happened to her and discovers that she’s a follower. She has no personality of her own and just follows the lead of strong people. But rather than being an annoying person who agrees with everything you say she literally drops people to follow the next person. That can even mean ditching everything to move to Paris. Tom ends up wrapped up in the idea of following too, initially as a distraction, but realises it can help him out.

At points the book started to get a bit unbelievable, and it is a bit bleak to be following a character who doesn’t want to help himself. Luckily the supporting characters are good and they take charge in Tom’s life where he can’t. There are lots of funny stories too, Tom works at a radio station where someone ends up having a sweary meltdown on air about jam.

A good book to dip in and out of is The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth. It’s all about the terms used for interesting English phrases — most of them we use unconciously but didn’t know they had names. Each short chapter deals with a term, explaining it using old and a few modern examples too.

It’s approach to language reminds me of the book For who the bell tolls by David Marsh. They both explain complicated language terms and show how the Beatles manage to use several of them in their songs. It’s enjoyable not to be told off for using language in a poor way but to be shown the interesting and powerful ways that it has been used, and sometimes without even realising how they’ve done it.

What to read in June

I’ve been on a bit of a book splurge, all classics for hardly anything at all, just need to make sure that I actually read them. I’m hoping to sit down and enjoy the sun reading outside over the next few months — but I have to see if the weather agrees with that idea too.