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A night as long as a lifetime

London, 1977. The whole country is on the move. It is not only the political situation, but also hostile youth groups that add to the taut atmosphere in the UK. Terry, Ray and Leon are right in the middle of it all. They’re young, hungry for life and all working for London’s most popular music magazine.

The reader lives through a single night with the trio, the night that Elvis dies and that changes the world for a whole generation. It isn’t just politics and the music scene that changes, the night steers the lives of all three friends in a new direction.

Ray, the youngest of the group, grew up in a desolate working class neighbourhood. He can’t rely on his family to support him and tries to make it on his own. With a mother stricken by depression and an alcoholic father, he struggles with finding his place in the world and tries to find something to hold on to.

His friend Leon, on the other hand, tries to escape the overbearing expectations of his successful father by living in a squat with homeless and drug addicts.

The third in the trio, Terry, just decides to break up with his girlfriend when she tells him that she’s pregnant.

All of them are on the verge of growing up entirely and entering adult terrains. The personal stories feel a little too drawn out at times and too clichéd to be credible, but for me, ‘Stories we could tell’ is about the music and the Zeitgeist of the Seventies.

Author Tony Parsons certainly drew inspiration from his own experience as a music journalist for NME in said era. He might have generalised a bit too much using his protagonists as poster children of Britain’s various youth cultures, but the book is still a good read.

It seems like nostalgia got the best of Parsons, which is just right for readers who were born post 1980. He captures the feeling of a whole generation and makes me as a member of today’s society long for the days when young people were different: curious, optimistic and eager to change the world.

The woman in gold

Monday evening. Five to eight. Yawning void in the cinema hall and a film that, by the sound of it, could be anything: “Woman in Gold”. An epic three hour long historical drama? A detective story? Or maybe the sequel to the mediocre horror flick “Woman in Black”? Luckily, it is none of the above.

At the turn of the 20th century, Austrian painter Gustav Klimt created an iconic masterpiece: The woman in gold. Officially named “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I”, the painting was commissioned by Adele’s husband Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy industrialist and lover of the arts. It was greatly admired by family and visitors until the Nazis invaded Austria in 1938 and began disowning Jewish families like the Bloch-Bauers of all their properties.

Decades later, the Austrian government decides to return artworks that have been stolen by the Nazis to their rightful owners. Maria Altmann, one of the last remaining members of the Bloch-Bauer family, has made a new life for herself in Los Angeles and wants nothing to do with the country she was so brutally betrayed by. Still, she is intrigued by the thought of getting back something that not only belonged to the family she had to leave behind, but is also the legacy of her beloved aunt who died when Maria was only 9 years old.

Together with young attorney Randol Schoenberg, Altmann (played by Helen Mirren) tries to get the paintings back. Hesitant at first, she becomes more determined after Austrian authorities refuse to return any artwork or even negotiate. Over the space of several years, her and Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds with glasses and a set of false teeth) travel to Austria, go to courts and start to come to terms with the past.

The way director Simon Curtis weaves together past and present events make “Woman in Gold” a pleasure to watch. The film tells many stories in one: the preservation of history, the terrors of World War II, the friendship between generations and the return of artworks to their rightful owners as a sign of respect to the survivors of the Holocaust.

“Woman in Gold” is for anyone who likes a good story – and who doesn’t?

German people casually crack nuts with their butts and spit at each other on live TV

Have you ever seen four people trying to fit their heads into a single bathing cap, someone telling the colour of pencils by licking them and a guy extinguishing candles with his tears, and all that in one place and within the course of three hours? No? Welcome to the world of German TV. To be fair, I am talking about a very special German TV show – this is not the norm. But I am also talking about Germany’s most popular TV show – it is actually referred to as ‘the biggest TV show in all Europe’. I am talking about ‘Wetten, dass…?’

Here’s the facts: It has been running for over 30 years. It has an average of 20 million viewers (which is 25% of the whole population of Germany). From Bud Spencer to Paris Hilton and Leonardo DiCaprio, basically every famous person has been a guest on the show at least once. Robbie Williams was there 12 times! And it is a show about grown up people cracking nuts with their butts and blowing up condoms with their noses until they burst. Why?! You may ask. To give you a better understanding of ‘Wetten, dass…?’ let me explain you the concept.

‘Wetten, dass…?’ is a live show broadcasted 8 times a year and is supposed to be on for two hours, but it always lasts three or longer because the hosts don’t know when to stop. The show is based around bets and celebrity guests – German people who apply beforehand perform unusual, oftentimes bizarre things within a certain amount of time and the celebrity guests have to bet if the candidates will accomplish their task or not. If the celebrities lose the bet, they have to perform a task themselves. These activities used to be charitable, but nowadays they are more “humorous”, like Gerard Butler pouring a bucket of ice into his underpants.

Sounds weird, but just to remind you, every fifth person in Germany watches ‘Wetten, dass…?’ and literally everyone who is famous has appeared on the show at least once – Naomi Campbell, Bill Gates, Madonna, Karl Lagerfeld, David Copperfield, David Beckham and Beyoncé just to name a few.

So what makes this show so special? Definitely its weirdness. It is unique – not in a good way if you ask me, but people just love it. Rumour has it that a lot of people just watch it because they were brought up with it and after being tortured by the show’s weirdness for years, they just don’t question it anymore and came to the point where they think everything happening on the show is normal. There is no explanation, but Germans love ‘Wetten, dass…?’ and you could say it is part of their culture.

Unfortunately, the show went downhill when longtime host Thomas Gottschalk retired and some stuck-up twat took over in 2012. That is said to be the reason why the show will be cancelled by the end of the year – people just don’t watch it anymore. I actually have to stop now because I get really nostalgic and sad, even though I have not seen the show in years. But why do they have to drop it after 34 years of joy and weirdness?

PS: I didn’t think there would be a counterpart in this country because I’ve never heard of a British TV show where people spit into each others mouths to guess what toothpaste someone was using or try to crack nuts with their butts. But apparently, there once was a similar show in the UK called ‘You Bet!’ – it was cancelled in 1997.

Train travel in Europe

For train travel website thetrainline.com, I wrote all types of travel content, from trip reviews to detailed train station guides. A few of my favourites:

Britain’s most picturesque steam train in 3D

Writing it was easy, producing it was not: I spent 24 hours in North Yorkshire and supervised a team of 3D photographers while chatting with this steam train’s staff to gather information for my article. Written by me, edited by a dear colleague. Find out more: thetrainline.com/via/europe/uk/england/north-yorkshire-moors-railway

A day trip to Margate

To research this piece, I hopped on a train to Margate and snapped pictures from the train window, scribbled down my first impressions and strolled along the beach – in the rain. Read it here: thetrainline.com/train-times/london-to-margate

The complete guide to travelling from the UK to Europe by train 

A guide for all those wanting to cross the pond by train rather than hopping on a flight. thetrainline.com/trains/europe/trains-to-europe

 

Reviews galore

While studying at Teeside University, I regularly contributed to the student newspaper website. As an arts and culture lover, writing reviews is my way of expressing my excitement whenever I discover a new gem. These are my favourites.

As tside.co.uk’s archives regularly get cleared to make space for new articles, my pieces aren’t live on the site anymore. I’ve republished them on my own website, click on the titles below to read:

German people casually crack nuts with their butts and spit at each other on live TV

The woman in gold 

A night as long as a lifetime 

My first pottery show

I recently participated in a show & pottery sale at my studio. It was terrifying and very successful! This was the first time anyone outside of my family and friends saw my pottery, and the first ever “exposure” for my pots. The communal studio I work at puts on a bi-annual show and members are encouraged to take part, so I thought why not and signed up. 

It was so great to see everyone’s work and the different things you can make with clay. I’ve seen everything from functional plant pots and mugs to odd sculptures like a large brown egg type thing with legs. 

In the weeks leading up to the show, I spent lots of time in the studio panicking about not having enough things to sell and making so much that I’m now sitting on a large number of oddly shaped bowls. Oh well, I’ll keep them for next time!

That being said, I also sold a substantial amount of things which I’m so happy about – I didn’t expect to sell anything at all so when I got an email from the studio manager about how much I sold I was really surprised – and excited! Now at least half of the sales are due to some very supportive lovely friends and family, but there were a few sales to strangers too. I guess that means someone actually likes my pots, which is a weird and wonderful feeling. There’s going to be another show & sale around Christmas time in Peckham, and I’m excited to see how much I’ll improve by then and hopefully have lots of wintery-christmassy designs to sell. 

handmade ceramics from Peckham London

My shelf at the show (it’s usually full of half-finished work and dust)

The first pots

I made my first pots in August 2018, and I sometimes need to remind myself that it’s not even been a year since I started my first pottery class. Sharing a studio with dozens of extremely skilled people can sometimes be intimidating, and it’s hard not to fall into the comparison trap. Whenever I go to the ‘finished work’ shelf in the studio, I admire the craftsmanship and creativity of my fellow potters. They make truly great stuff! It’s inspiring, but I also catch myself thinking “I wish my pots would look like this”. It’s hard not to be impatient, but I know and have been told by several teachers that pottery is a craft, and you get better at it by practicing.  

August 2018

It’s annoying and amazing in equal measures how making something – anything – forces you to be patient, and that’s particularly true for working with clay. There’s so many steps to follow, from wedging the clay to get the air bubbles out to making sure you don’t apply the glaze too thickly. If you rush a step, it will show – air bubbles trapped in your clay might make your object crack, and thick glaze application can lead to drips that form at the bottom of your pot and make it stick to the kiln shelf. 

Looking at the first pots I made now, 9 months after I made them, makes me a little bit proud: even though I beat myself up for still making wonky pots, you can see a big difference between the ones I made in August to my latest ones. It’s actually great how the clay objects show my progress and the things I have learned. But that’s a story for another time. 

small handmade ceramic bowls
May 2019