Saturday, 30 November 2013

Inferior Book Group #3:

As you might have guessed from my lack of posts recently, I've been a wee bit busy this month.  Luckily, November's Inferior Book Group choice was a fairly short one, so I managed to get through it in time for my review!

Scoop by Evelyn Waugh was published 75 years ago, in 1938, and it did take me a little while to get used to the writing style.  Still, after a couple of chapters I was completely immersed.  I found some of Waugh's long sections of background or description somewhat jarring, mostly due to the difference in language and my lack of political knowledge.  I think the surprisingly modern dialogue helped to suck me in to the story, and to bring its characters to life.

Source: here

My Dad is a big fan of Evelyn Waugh's work, and has tried to get me to read his novels countless times.  This is the first one I've actually succeeded with, but I'm sure it won't be my last.  It turns out that one of my parents' many over used 'catchphrases'  - 'Up to a point, Lord Copper' - is actually stolen from Scoop.  Who knew?

As I mentioned at the end of last month's Book Group post, Scoop was actually recommended by one of my tutors at uni.  He assured my class it was probably the most accurate literary depiction of what being a journalist is really like.  I should stress that the book is satirical, but I could seriously sympathise with poor William Boot from the very beginning, as he unwittingly fumbled his way into the world of journalism.

'Look at it this way.  News is what a chap who doesn't care much about anything wants to read.  And it's only news until he's read it.  After that it's dead.  We're paid to supply news.  If someone else has sent a story before us, our story isn't news.'

Scoop essentially follows the story of the naive William Boot as he is accidentally promoted from rural nature columnist to foreign war correspondent at national newspaper, Daily Beast, due to a case of mistaken identity.  William has no idea what he's doing, but then neither do I.

Source: here

Some of the plotlines are charmingly old fashioned, and others not so charming.  A lot of frank racism appears, casually slotted in as part of a character description or within dialogue.  This may have been the norm back in 1938, but today it is uncomfortable to read, in my opinion anyway.

That being said, I had no difficulty connecting with the majority of Waugh's characters.  I cringed for and along with William through all of his trials and tribulations.  I laughed at the stereotypical journalists he befriended on his journey, and even recognised that sinking feeling when your colleague has a far better 'scoop' than you do...

I feel like Scoop is a novel I'll revisit several times, and appreciate more as I (hopefully) become a proper journalist myself.

For December, I'll be rewarding myself with a little bit of light reading (well, it is nearly Christmas, after all!) that I've been looking forward to for a while.  If you too love Mindy Kaling - of The Office US and The Mindy Project - then join me in reading her autobiography/memoir type thing, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns).

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Homeware Christmas gift guide:

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?  I certainly have... not.  I'm not quite sure where November has gone.  I'm usually fairly unprepared for the festive season, but this year is the worst so far.  Still, I'm looking forward to getting started and spoiling my friends and family.

If you're still in need of some inspiration, I've thrown together a quick homeware Christmas gift guide.  My ideas aren't revolutionary, but they are fairly gender and age neutral, so there should be something for everyone!

Source: here

Mugs are an affordable present that everyone will appreciate.  You can wrap it up with some of the recipient's favourite tea, coffee or hot chocolate, and maybe some biscuits too. 

1. Tunnock's Teacake Mug (by Gillian Kyle) from (£11.50)
2. Monogrammed Mug from Anthropologie (£6)
3. Christmas Town Half Pint Mug (by Emma Bridgewater) from John Lewis (£15.96

Giving wall decoration as a Christmas present can be tricky, but if you know your friend or family member's taste well enough, go for it!  They'll think of you every time they walk past your gift in pride of place.

1. Wooden Deer Head from Oliver Bonas (£28)
2. Batboy Print (by The Grey Earl) from (£20)
3. Cosmic Coat Rack from Oliver Bonas (£55)

Vases always come in handy, and they can be as functional or ornate as you like.

1. Owl Bubble Vase from Oliver Bonas (£14.50)
2. SOCKERART Vase from IKEA (£14)
3. Pragmatic Vase, Eat Cake from Anthropologie (£38)

You didn't think I could resist some cushions, did you?  Well... you were right.

1. Hand Knitted Cushion from Matalan (£18)
2. Tunnock's Teacake Round Cushion (by Gillian Kyle) from (£36.50)
3. Canvas Cushion Cover from H&M (£6.99)

Good luck, everybody!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Instagram #16:

1. A cute keepsake from Flat 0/1 in Glasgow - go there, it's cool!  2. A tiny Lego version of myself, built at the Lego store in Glasgow.  3. I love this Lego flamingo!

4. The crazy blob of hummus man on my new Paperchase pencil case.  5. The scary, secluded and foggy bus stop I always have to wait at after work...  6. Fleecy skull and cross bones pyjama bottoms from men's Primark.

7. I'm such a hoarder, I couldn't help taking this collection of swizzle sticks home from Hard Rock Cafe...  8. Three Blind Wolves getting excited on stage.  9. The most amazing coffee and caramel brownie from my beloved Lovecrumbs. Their brownies are the best I've ever tasted, and that's not an exaggeration!

10. Some wintery purchases, and the subject of this month's Inferior Book Group.  11. Craig getting all cosy!  12. Watching telly together under a tartan blanket on a Saturday night - old before our time!

13. I spotted these lovely retro Campbell's soup tins in Asda!  14. I couldn't resist buying this ridiculous (but amazing) crocodile Christmas decoration for our tree this year.  15. My attempt at a sugar skull pumpkin for Halloween this year!

16. My biggest culinary disaster to date (and there have been a few!) involved the bottom falling off my casserole dish...  17. A festive living room, all lit up for Halloween!  18. I fell in love with this carton shaped milk jug in Asda, but couldn't justify buying it. Yet.

19. Lots of cards on the mantlepiece, ready for Craig's birthday (which was yesterday!).    20. An extremely adult sticker that Craig gifted me, and which I wore all day at uni, and also out to dinner.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Growler Beers UK:

A few months ago, a new shop front appeared on Morningside Road, not far from my flat.  From the signage, I assumed that there would be a new pub in the area soon, but the idea behind Growler Beers UK is actually much better and much more unique than your bog standard bar.

Source: here

Growler Beers sells craft ales, lagers and ciders, bottled on site, and intended to be enjoyed at home.  The shop is set up like a bar (without any seating) and you can choose from over ten varieties on tap.  Some of these options are seasonal, but this gives you chance to try something new every time you visit!

To briefly explain the unusual name, historically a 'growler' is a container used to take beer home from craft breweries.  Owner and mastermind, Stuart Dinning, decided to modify this idea (as some American, Canadian and Australian businesses have done already) and give customers the ability to enjoy freshly poured pints from the comfort of their own sofa.

When I visited for the first time this week, Stuart was there to give me advice and fully explain the Growler process to me.  You can either purchase your very own glass growler to keep forever for £8.50, or you can pay a deposit of either £5 or £10 (depending on size) to borrow a bottle.  Stuart then talked me through all of the ciders and beers available, and gave me the option to taste a small sample of anything that tempted me before I made a decision.  Although Growler Beers only has an off licence and can't legally sell alcohol to be consumed on the premises, they are allowed to give free tasters, which is both generous and a really good idea!

Source: here

It might be playing it safe, but I'm not much of a beer drinker, so I decided to opt for a one litre bottle of Jaggy Thistle cider, brewed by Thistly Cross.  Stuart described it as apple juice with a kick, and it certainly lives up to that claim!  I would eventually like to buy my own growler to keep, but with the promise of special edition Christmas bottles going on sale in the near future, I've decided to wait.

I love the concept behind Growler Beers, and would highly recommend visiting if you're passing by.  The experience was so much more fun than standing in front of a measly supermarket selection and choosing a pre poured bottle of the same old cider that I always plump for.  Plus, it's good to support local and independent businesses - it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!  That might have something to do with the Jaggy Thistle, though...