Blessed are the Cheesemakers

Today was a Gloria Sty. Blue skied and sunny, constantly teasing and urging me to slip off my jacket to expose my grateful skin to the delicious UV and top up my vitamin D, before the slightest breeze gently but firmly reminding me that it’s only 12 degrees.

London was pretty in the light – for some reason (I’m no meteorologist) there was little to no evidence of the hideous air pollution we bring upon ourselves in the name of progress, leaving the view down the river relatively smogless, and gorgeous. Canary Wharf was twinkling innocently in the light, trying to distract from how ominous its ever-expanding size is. It’s not a very young person thing to say, but it’s all skyscrapers now. Back in my day most of that was, well, roads leading to skyscrapers.

Conditions were perfect for a meander. As I strolled by the Thames I tilted my head back and enjoyed the sun on my face, and inhaled the familiar smell of London fresh air: doses of pollutants at the level that our nostrils now process as non-existent; distant exhaust fumes; and the intermittent wafts of weed. No matter what time of day.

I have such a deep-rooted fear of authority that I will never understand such brazen blazing.

I didn’t recognise the smell of weed until 2011, living in Lille. As university and life experience had yet to even loosen the stick up my arse, let alone attempt to remove it, it was utterly baffling to me that I would smell it at all. I was in public! The public could smell it! That meant the police could!

Sweet baby angel.

Even though I did a Big Shop yesterday, this seemed like a good time to pop in to an independent cheese shop I have heard good things about.

I perused the selection with relish (and pickle, and chutney. Sorry, that was cheap of me) and discussed the artisanal Maroilles (a reminder of my year dans le Nord) with the French cheesemonger. His accent was not too pronounced, not harsh, perhaps a semi-soft like the Morbier I ended up buying. Almost any accent will be appealing to me when discussing cheese, but there is a French lilt brings a particularly sexy authority on this subject.

Friendly, bespectacled, smiling. Thank god he wasn’t offering cheese samples or I may not have been able to stop myself from clambering over the display unit and demanding he take me atop a ripe, oozing brie. (For clarity – I would have been able to – I am a human and can control my urges. Christ.)

My reverie was, thank the lord, interrupted. Two children, seemingly his daughters, popped their heads around from the back of the shop to ask if they could eat a brioche. Savour that image for a moment – is there anything more idyllic, stereotypical and adorable than a small French girl asking a cheesemonger about brioche?

I sprang into action, slamming the snooze button on the dozens of biological alarms that had started to sound. I engaged the mental checklist of Things That Would Be Curtailed By Pregnancy/Kids: free time, booze, lie ins, booze, unpasteurised cheese, booze, swearing aloud whenever I want, booze, sushi, booze… Once I had completed the exercise, both my hormonal transgressions – the sexual and the maternal – had subsided, and I was free to eavesdrop and chat at my leisure (always in the name of improving my vocab). I completed my purchase and waved goodbye and à bientôt.

On my way home, I chastised myself for letting my French lapse – to learn and then forget is infinitely more blameworthy than to be ignorant – but reassured myself with the memory of how shocking my pronunciation was. The constant shame of my inability to do the French “r” had been especially galling (Gaul-ing? Geddit?) as I was studying “droit… non, droit. Droit! Drrrrrrroit! ….les lois”. I repeated “droit, droit, droit” under my breath as I plodded home, until I realised that my apparent hacking up of mucus was beginning to scare the locals.

An enjoyable day, all in all. It served as a reminder (and, in current times, and uncomfortable one) of how much even I, a self-proclaimed recluse, can enjoy (and some may say overthink) the most minor of social interactions.

Anyway, I think I will celebrate my ongoing childlessness and have a small house red with my Ossau Iraty. I don’t know about you, but cheese makes me thirsty.


The Spatchcock Effect

Wouldn’t it be great if Jon Ronson did a podcast series about the impact of the internet on the production and popularity of food porn? That’s the only reason for the title. Moving on…

This weekend I visited The King and Co in Clapham, where my friend is doing a guest slot in the kitchen.

Wait. Did you hear that?

Just me?

Listen carefully…

Free Range Jane’s menu at The King and Co

I never thought it would happen
at the King and Co in Clapham
out by the windy common
a lunch I ain’t forgotten.
The pub itself is cosy
So if you’re feeling nosy
I’d pop in for a visit
– that’s not a bad plan is it?

We started with some nibbles
with which I had no quibbles,
but space concerns were central
regarding matters ventral.
Her forte is fried chicken
so that’s what I was pickin’
The burger had aioli –
Delicious, fresh, unholy.

I tried the lemon posset
Although in normal course it’s
a choice I’d be eschewing
(because of babies’ spewing).
I don’t like lemons creamy
But this was pretty dreamy.
While not a posset gal, it
was good to cleanse the palate…


Local businesses that will be feeling the pinch with the increase in self-isolation.

If you are not yet quarantined, it’s a good time to make an extra effort to sustain small companies that will be losing customers.

If you head in to the King and Co, please spend the extra few quid if you can to order some popcorn chicken on the side as a nibble (she also has some cauliflower bites which I wanted to try but did not have capacity for).

If you are still out and about, try to walk the extra few metres to get your coffee from the local not the ubiquitous chains, who can absorb the loss a little easier.

If a comedian you know has had to cancel shows, check if they have a patreon or sell merch.

This is all very preachy and TBD whether I practise it, but it’s something to keep in mind.

And if you are worried about keeping yourself fed in the coming weeks, head for a meal from Free Range Jane and you won’t need another meal for at least 48 hours, which is mighty good value.

A French dip is better than friendship.

Some final thoughts on the food:

  • there were veggie/vegan options which looked actually nice rather than token gestures.
  • I’m not a wing gal but the wings looked NICE – bigger than any I’d seen before. These were some happy and delicious chickens.
  • Do not look at FRJ’s instagram unless you are in a position to eat very shortly after.

Know Your Worth


I recently applied for a job.

This is always an uncomfortable process, especially for those of us who have had self-criticism instilled into us from an early age.

CVs, university forms, speculative bids – anything where you have to “sell yourself” feels, to many of us, like fraud. But I need to show I’m worth my salt. That I’m worth my salary.

I spent 5 years of working among people who had a level of self-confidence that varied from healthy to borderline negligent (of course I’m right, why bother checking with an expert?) (crucially, especially as regards my ability to get anywhere near that half-decade milestone, this did not apply to my closest colleagues).

Being surrounded by this terrifying and – let’s face it – predominantly masculine attitude began as intimidating. How could I possibly work here with all these obviously superior beings?

Over time, and with experience of the personalities in question, not to mention their work, I grew to realise the extent of the braggadocio. Noticing errors, realising the proportion of bluffing, I began to realise that lots of these people had adopted a “fake it ’til you make it” attitude, maybe even as early as school, and for some of them, “making it” had served a evidence that there was no need to retroactively gain the expertise that their way with words had convinced others that they had.

This prick would be paid more than me for doing the same job. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Perhaps I am over-sensitive. Or rather: I definitely am over-sensitive (a (male) psychiatrist, when I was discussing the level of casual sexism I encountered at work, told me on our first meeting “I’m sure it isn’t ALL your male colleagues who are condescending.” Condescendingly) and the realisation that not every workplace rewarded these accomplished actors quite so much was pretty high on my list of reasons to leave.

For balance: it is BUSINESS after all. And in BUSINESS you get the deal done. These guys were good at BUSINESS. Where were you, Lauren? Hunched over your desk, trying to perfect your drafting, frequently in tears over your inability to deliver and feeling sick with anxiety. That’s where.

(That’s it, I promise. I’m not bringing sex or gender into it any more. That’s a rant for another day.)

So, after the requisite (and luxurious) career break, both to sort my brain out and to work out what exactly it is I can and should and want to do, I am back at the applications. And I’m having to sell myself.

I am only just able now to “brag with basis” – to remember that I do have certain talents. Once I’d dusted off and polished my CV (with immense help from an incredibly generous friend), I was reassured that over 5 years in that job I had indeed gained some skills. There’s nothing like explaining what your job was to someone who has no idea about it to make you realise just how much expertise you have (which you didn’t realise wasn’t common knowledge).

So far, so uncomfortable.

I’m enjoying stock images today, can you tell? Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Unfortunately, the application then went on to ask my “salary expectations.”

This for a role in a sector I am unfamiliar with, with no advertised salary, and where similar roles I have seen advertised vary by, let’s say, £40,000.

This was a whole new realm of self-doubt for me.

Was I to pluck a figure from the air? Is “as long as I enjoy the job, anything over living wage is fine” an acceptable response or does it devalue my experience? Would doing so be taken as a subtle hint that I do not have dependents so I can slave away more than other women can because I am a career gal and pick me pick me pick me? I became extremely conscious of the university lecturers I could hear outside the window, striking for fair pay.

I sought advice on this topic – responses generally suggested that I ask for what I wanted, what I needed, or what I deserved.


What do I want? I want this job. I don’t want to act like I’m trying to undercut others, I don’t want to give the impression that I would be bad at my job, I don’t want to seem like an overblown corporate twat who thinks they deserve three figures.

I want a fair wage. I want my education and training to be taken into account, but I also want there to be equivalent recognition that I won’t be in danger or exerting myself physically. If I have to check emails outside working hours, I want that to be reflected in the salary or in overtime.

I want there to be an advertised salary. I want them to tell me for god’s sake.


Is there a formula here?

I could add up my living costs, outgoings, plus and adjustment for general standard of living I guess.

But then… my costs are currently low. I currently have no dependents. So my figure would be lower and undercut someone with equivalent experience who has to pay for childcare (and by care I include… food).

I live alone. My costs are higher than someone who is happily cohabiting and splitting costs that way. That doesn’t seem like something that should factor into my salary. Although I suppose I don’t have to factor in monthly contributions to a fund for future legal costs of divorce (this is something married people do, right?).

Some other people said age x 1,000, or (age+10) x 1,000. This cannot be right. What if I had been off work ill for five years (as it is I haven’t worked for nearly one)? What if I had a career break for kids? What if I had worked for 20 years in one thing then changed to another? All these rules seem to be are attempts to make sense of an arbitrary question, rules where so many caveats and variables have to be added that the rule barely makes sense any more (like how “i before e except after c” only works if you add “but only if it rhymes with bee”).

It’s a question that I am becoming increasingly convinced should not be asked.

Just Desserts

This one struck me as particularly alien.

What am I…worth? How could I possibly be expected to know this? Do I go by my internal monologue, in which case I’ll do the fucking work for free? Or do I go by my previous salary, in the knowledge that that was danger money, payment for our souls, our sleep and our mental health? And that even then, it was a nonsensical industry where people who had a hugely inflated self-worth flourished and the salaries were commensurate?

Beware the work phone, although I imagine it implies a hefty hike in salary. Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

The only job I have had which could give me a yardstick for my “worth” had been valuing the entirety of my attention and brainspace. The 9-5 (or whatever it is these days) that I am prepared to offer is an entirely different asset.

There’s no conclusion to this ramble. I submitted the application. I found some vaguely equivalent-looking roles at other equivalent-looking places, I took about £5k off the average of them, and I added some self-effacing caveats. And now I’m hoping for the best. The figure worked out as just under what my former employer pays its (zero experience, entry level, need to be built up from nothing) trainees. No wonder we were all such pricks.

I’m used to the worry while waiting to be judged. But knowing that the feedback can now contain an assessment of my assessment of my self-worth? Those are wheels within wheels which are really going to grind on the windmills of my mind.

This photo doesn’t relate to anything, I just found it hilarious. Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

Ride (8 Mar 2020)

I’m regretting my choice of date format. It works for Feb but “Mar” does nothing for me.

Anyway… more theatre, and musical theatre at that!


The usual caveat applies of course – any criticism I have should be taken with the shovelful of salt it deserves, as I can’t write, compose, direct, sing, play, or act. In the context of this review, this will be even more pertinent than usual, not because there is much criticism (spoiler alert: I loved it) but because the sheer talent of the people involved blew me away.

The entirety of this review will contain spoilers. If that’s an issue for you, you’re safe until the end of the “Cast” section.

Given my obscurity, this seems an incredibly grandiose statement, but just to let you know that the reason I heard of and went to see Ride is that I heard of it through Facebook. Lovely best friend Rose’s brother in law was the “movement director” (a term as comprehensible to me as “management consultant,” but I think it translates as “choreographer but make it fashion”) and one of the writers of Ride I have met a couple of times before and am friends with on Facebook.

I hope (but you know, I don’t care that much) that you understand that this would not compromise my review. I HAVE THE UTMOST INTEGRITY. In fact, I’d be far more comfortable writing a scathing review, because then they could it write off due to my lack of credentials, than having to look either of them in the eye after the fangirling that is to follow.

Ride at the Vaults Festival, March 2020


Ride is a new musical from Bottle Cap Theatre which has just finished a run at the Vault Festival, based on the life of Annie Londonderry. Because of my tendency to descend into ramble, I’ll put my conclusion here: this is a slick and accomplished piece of theatre and if it is ever put on again, you should go and see it. For now, nothing seems to be planned but keep your eye on their Twitter – even if it’s not Ride, I’d be confident that whatever they do next will be worth a look.

A note on the Vault Festival: this was my first time attending and I have to say, it is right at the centre of my bubble. It takes place in the arches under Waterloo station, a space covered in permitted graffiti – a permission that allows middle class losers like me to nod appreciatively as if we think it’s Art. The corridors between the events space were filled with a sort of fog – or was it vape clouds? – reminiscent of the late night fug of a students union club night or (in My Lovely Partner’s view) a laser quest venue. The loos were a revelation of reassurances – a sign proclaiming values of inclusivity, LGBTQ+ support and various other policies, the “If you’re on a date and it doesn’t feel right” posters (users of women’s loos will know what I mean, and I’m not saying here because it’s our special secret/of limited value if sex pests know what it is), and, joy of joys, gender neutral toilets. I was one of about fifteen people I saw in dungarees. I will be back there.

So, back to Ride and to Annie.

Annie Londonderry was the first woman to cycle around the world, from 1894-95. Ride consists of her telling her tale, pitching herself as a columnist to the publishers of the New York World. As she continues, the audience starts to understand that her tale may have a few inconsistencies, and learns the truth about Annie.

There’s your non-spoilery intro. Now let’s get to it.


The tale is told by Annie herself (played at the Vaults by Amy Parker) and a reluctant assistant, Martha (Amelia Gabriel).

And… that’s it. Once I realised this was a female two hander, my gynae senses were tingling. It was already a tale of female empowerment, but now it was going to be told by two women.

Amelia Gabriel (L) and Amy Parker (R) as Martha and Annie.

Parker was great, bringing the necessary fire and tenacity to Annie. While there was the standard knot in the stomach when an English audience realise their compatriots are playing American, her Boston accent didn’t set off any alarms to me (Americans may disagree) not withstanding the occasional reversion to Musical Theatre Voice during the numbers (credit to MLP for that observation – don’t worry, he also said nice things). Annie is played as impressive but veering on unlikeably strident, which I enjoyed – why do we have to pretend in theatre that only “nice” people succeed? – and which became more forgiveable with the revelations that followed.

…Annie Londonderry was flawed; she was slippery, she was creative, she spun contradictory tales to journalists, she she understood how to charm people and she used it to her advantage.

Freya Smith, co-creator and director of Ride (more here)

Gabriel was also enjoyable – Martha enters as a timid character, voice wavering, and the am-dram alarm bells rang as nervous energy is one of the most easily overplayed traits in theatre (as ever, spoken as an audience member). She didn’t overdo it, though, and the two played off each other brilliantly, particularly in the (ample) comic moments (and perhaps a little less so in other emotional states). Unlike her character, Gabriel herself was not overshadowed by the strong female lead.

Story and production

My recent musical theatre experience has been the razzmatazz of full on West End shows, where there is always backing singing and dancing unless the song is a slow, sad one or is about two people being in love. I was a little nervous about whether two people would be enough for a musical. But this worked fantastically – the two women taking on a whole host of characters and emotions and using the simple props to full effect. After the relentless onslaught of & Juliet where any and every prop, character and lighting effect would be thrown at each number, Ride was a refreshing (ring the cliché bell) change, with two people, an office chair and a hatstand more than sufficing for an engaging and visually satisfying performance.

This is particularly apparent in the two opening numbers. The second, “The Wager”, sets up Annie and Martha’s relationship and personalities with startling efficiency and involves some fantastic choreography (sorry – movement?) as the characters (and hatstand) slip in and out of various characters to tell the story of the businessmen’s bet on whether Annie could complete the challenge.

The opener, “Ride” – a catchy summary of the freedom Annie feels on the bike and the societal objections to women riding, is catchy and its content reminiscent of one of the best examples of this I’ve seen – Me and the Sky in Come From Away (almost definitely not a legal link…). Some enjoyable wordplay too – but if I ever refer to an inanimate object as my “new best friend” please punch me squarely between the eyes.

I am a sucker for a story of a woman breaking into a man’s world. The show describes Annie’s struggle to be taken seriously – her comical asides on the barriers to entry for women (e.g. a lack of cycling clothing designed for women and stuffy accusations that time in the saddle would compromise a lady’s all-important purity) delivered with aplomb.

Annie’s story is all the more impressive given her background. Born Annie Kopchovsky, she went by Londonderry during the ride (a sponsorship deal with a local company) in order to disguise the fact that she was a Jewish Latvian immigrant at a time where that was yet another (and very significant) hurdle.

Annie’s stories are inconsistent (Martha intermittently working up the courage to interrupt the strident Annie to query her, only to be shut down). Annie’s true identity is eventually revealed, not only her heritage but the fact that she has a husband and children, and that the wager between businessmen (supposedly the catalyst for her trip) may never have existed, but was possibly fabricated by Annie to gain publicity for an achievement which otherwise may have been ignored.

It’s a great addition to the classic “woman overcomes societal prejudice” and a story that definitely deserves to be told. And if you want to see a musical about female empowerment, give & Juliet a miss and instead watch this and then listen to a 90s Smash Hits CD.

My main criticism of Ride is that I want more of it. I caught myself checking the list of musical numbers provided with mild panic – “another song already? But we’re still only in France!” – as we raced towards the finishing line (get it?).

Annie’s relationships along the way end abruptly and without fanfare: a friendship with a French customs officer (played as an “Allo Allo” caricature to big laughs and a smidgen of Remoaner discomfort) which is developed over two songs and ends in a single line, and a potential love interest which is given the closest-to-romantic song of the show but again, is abandoned almost without discussion and used as a vehicle for the revelation that Annie is Jewish and married.

I don’t by any means wish to say that there should have been more romance (in this uber-Bechdel compliant production it would be “absoid” – rhymes with “distoibed” – to require that), and perhaps the curtailing of these relationships is another way of demonstrating Annie’s erratic, intense and inconsistent storytelling. But once the key revelations are made, we are whisked to the end of the show as fast as the actors’ legs can pedal. For all the set up, the penultimate section feels like it could have given us more to get our teeth into. The final song is a satisfying finale, but we still left the theatre far too early.

With a running time of one hour, Ride would have been hard pressed to do any more. I’m intrigued to know whether these constraints are imposed by venues, festivals, or budget, or whether they are an artistic choice of the writers. I could see Ride easily working if expanded to a “full length” show.


This is another rare zero-cry production. There are a few reasons for this.

As mentioned above, the pace and length of the show mean it would have to be a pretty hefty gut punch to get even me to shed a tear.

While the subject matter is moving – struggle through adversity, sexism, anti-semitism, death of a relative – the latter two are dealt with rapidly and with a level of abstraction which means the focus is more on Annie’s strength and bravery than on the adversity that makes her achievement so impressive. (Let that sentence serve as a reminder of the value of brevity…)

Ride doesn’t take what seems to be the obvious route of, once the adversity is revealed, wallowing in a slow, musical-theatre-whisper number in a minor key. Instead, Annie collapses and the story of the journey (including a rare shout out to Sri Lanka in musical theatre) is taken up by Martha, leaving no time for tears.

Also, I’d only had a half of stout beforehand.


Perhaps another reason that I didn’t cry at Ride is that I was transfixed. I had never heard of Annie, and was keen to know more. Hearing at the start of the show that she was only 24 at the time of the ride was particularly (favourite world alert) jarring – four years my junior and she was a trailblazer.

To watch this on International Women’s Day, having spent the week listening to coverage of the women’s T20 World Cup which had culminated that same day, was a apt But that it also hammered home the fact that people can achieve so much in so little time, and in the face of such adversity, made me feel a slight traitor to my gender.


The cricketers I could ignore. While I am impressed by sporting prowess, it is so inaccessible to me that I’d never resent a Wimbledon champion for being half my age and wish I had spent my life training. With Annie, though, her achievement was not just a sporting endeavour but a glass-ceiling-busting, prejudice-defying feat of derring-do (and yes they say derring-do in the show), and reminded me that I. Have. Done. Nothing.

As I watched Annie’s tale, I was also distracted by the storytellers themselves. Two talented women, making a career of their passion, and doing so bloody well at it. The fact that one of the writers of the show, Freya, was someone I know really hammered this home. I’m not close with her – acquaintances really – but she feels like a peer, and here she is producing this. I occasionally caught sight of her at the keyboard, hair in a half up-do like a blonder Alice Fraser, and felt a swell of inferiority which while not unusual for me was particularly powerful. (See why I was more worried about being effusive than critical?)

I can cope with Lin-Manuel Miranda being a genius, but someone English and my age-ish and in my social circle? That’s too much, man. It was like the moment of realisation a couple of Fringes ago that the comedians I admire these days are within five to ten years of my age. Rose Matafeo won the Edinburgh Comedy Award and dated James Acaster, both achievements I could only dream of emulating, and she is two weeks younger than me for Christ’s sake.

Now I have started this whole process of “what the fuck do I do with my life,” with its offshoot of “what is my passion and is that a thing?” seeing people who seem already to know and to have put the effort into pursuing it is a wrench. Alice Fraser, forever a beacon of hope during my former career (she has spoken about previously having a similar job and look! She’s now an incredible comedian!) is now a reminder that I still have no clue what I want to do and even less chance to excel at it (which, try as I might, remains important to me. I guess I’m not excelling at trying not to want to excel).

But I do at least remind myself that some poor misguided fools may have felt the same about me a year or so back. All these creative people are doing is putting in work, and providing output. I did that with aplomb in the field of Big Evil Commercial Law, it’s just that that output is less public and less impressive.

In fact, Freya’s partner once asked me about the process of applying to and training at a Magic Circle law firm, as he was exploring training contracts at the time. Poor bastard. This was before I quit, so I was busy being miserable, and the fact that someone was interested in the job and had some implied respect for my achievements probably gave me a modicum of self-respect that month, maybe enough to sustain myself through another classic three-meals-at-your-desk, bottle-of-wine-and-ten-fags-before-bed day.

Now I’m out of it, I wish him all the best if that’s still what he is trying to do (for all I know he was just being polite by asking). Some people like that job, they really do. Now I’ve put myself voluntarily into career purgatory, I am feeling a lot of pressure on my decision of what to do with my time.

That doesn’t necessarily mean in terms of career. One of the terrifying parts of this step is that vast, empty stretches of time have opened up before me like those never-ending American highways. Signs pop up through the day: “Acceptable Drinking Time: 2 hours”, “You have just missed: Lunch,” “Tiredness kills: take a break,” and I feel like if I am going to fill them with anything, I need to do it well.

And then I enter the long lists of things I wish I could do, rather than things I think I should try doing. To take a lesson from Ride and cut a long story short, this results in me continuing to do nothing. But hey, at least I’m writing about it now.

(Credit for all images: Bottle Cap Theatre.)


Some updates…

I’ve not posted enough. So here are some updates because I know that my ten devoted readers will be most distressed without my invaluable input.

I’ve been doing a lot of dogsitting. It’s a great mental health boost. Aside from anything else, you have to go outside (my depression has – thank whoever – never been so bad that I would be willing to let a dog shit (i) on my floor, or (ii) be sad).

Coronavirus. I was dealing ok with this panic – I basically self-isolate anyway – but having spoken to my doctor parents I became MORE worried. This is almost unheard of – normally their fact-based input soothes my hypochondria, but in this case my conclusion was that I was too calm. I am not in a high-risk group, but have loved ones who are. Fuck! My main concession (other than counting during handwashing) is a resolution to drink less so that if I have a headache, I know it’s a symptom of a virus not just my own bad choices.

I went to do a Big Shop at Asda this week. Empty shelves and empty tables, where loo roll was stocked no more. Also empty were the soap shelves (annoying as I actually need soap) and, oddly, cornflakes (but other cereals aplenty). Odd, the choices people make.

I was pondering board game balancing the other day – mechanisms included in games to make sure that once one player gets ahead, it doesn’t just snowball to inevitable victory.

My mental health has balancing mechanisms.

I will go through days, maybe a week if it’s really bad, of barely leaving the house, cancelling all appointments, staying in bed except to let food in or out of my body.

Once I’m out of it, I will venture outside. Once I’ve been outside enough, with its fresh air and minor exercise, I may arrange to see friends. If I am seeing friends, I will have to shower. I may feel better enough to stay at My Lovely Partner’s place rather than remaining ensconced in my flat.

This sounds like snowballing, a lack of balancing, a rush towards having all the hotels on all the dark blues and greens.

Not to worry – as soon as I feel well enough to stay at MLP’s, I do so, and I forget my pills, and down we go. No matter how many I leave there when I’m up and organised, they always run out. And whether it is an actual impact of missing my medication, or a nocebo effect, or even just beating myself up for my own incompetence, it’s a reliable stomp on the brain.

So yes – my brain has balancing mechanisms to keep itself level. The level is just slightly too low for my liking, which makes the game less than fun to play.

Speaking of board games and coronavirus, my brother bought me Pandemic for my birthday. I love it, but we only got a chance to play a couple of games before it started feeling a bit too on the nose.

Today – TODAY – I started actively listening to Lizzo. Erm, I don’t know if you guys have heard of her but she is pretty great. HOW have I just got round to this? Other than the fact I rarely listen to music and am very set in my ways… the problem with being set in your ways is that Simon and Garfunkel never came out with “Why men great ’til they gotta be great?”.

I had a weekend of theatre – Good at the South London Theatre (which I may spew out some short thoughts on in future) and Ride at the Vault Festival which I will publish my post on tomorrow.

This glut of theatre is not like me, but I like it. In fact it can’t be like me, because I like it.

(On liking oneself, this is a great little pick me up as long as you don’t think about the words.)

Anyway – the run of theatre may have to be curtailed. Partly because I keep posting what are essentially theatre reviews (i) with absolutely no right to do so and (ii) which acts as an excuse to not think of other things to write, and partly because once the epidemic hits it’s probably not a great idea to spend a lot of time in large crowds in confined spaces. Back to the duvet fort it is.

Now be gone!


& Juliet (27 Feb 2020)

What the fucking fuck was that?

& Juliet, a jukebox musical featuring songs written/produced by Max Martin, a person I have never heard of but who has worked with Britney, Westlife and the Backstreet Boys, should be perfect for me. I love a strong female lead, I love 90s pop, & I love ampersands.

But it requires so much buy-in to its nonsensical universe that I’m not sure I am ready to commit to it.

The usual notes:

  • STANDARD REVIEW DISCLAIMER: I can’t act. I can’t sing. All my comments are strictly as a person who has seen other shows, and shouldn’t in any way be construed as me claiming to know what I am talking about or that I could do better.
  • Post-Research Additions (PRAs) will be in italics but also any time I mention an actor’s name you can be sure as shit I googled it.
  • Spoilers: this is entirely spoilers. Pretty hefty ones, and the post is entirely about the show (no more general ramble) so give it a miss if you want to see the show without knowing plot details.
  • No particular content warnings except perhaps that at one point I talk out of my arse about gender. I am trying to be sensitive and it is not your job to school me but if you see an error, please do point it out. If a straight cis woman trying to comment on a gender non-conforming character isn’t going to work for you, don’t read. And please tell me to stay in my lane.

Here we go!

The first thing I noticed in & Juliet was the costumes. Then the set. And then – when not a word had been spoken or sung – I really began to worry what was about to happen.

I don’t know about costume design, but I know that someone had fun with these ones. I don’t tend to notice or comment on costumes unless they are pointedly minimalist or excessively extravagant. They were… Jacobean, 90s, 80s, Emerald-city, scrappy, punky, fashion, would-be-post-apocalyptic-if-everyone-wasn’t-so-darn-chipper monstrosities. It’s a criticism from me but there could be all sorts of thoughts behind them that I can’t appreciate.

So – where were we? We were in England. It said so on the back of the stage. And we would be in Verona (naturally) and then Paris, each easily signposted. But… when were we? There was a 50s(?) jukebox onstage and some opening breakdancing, then on walks Mr Shakespeare.

& Juliet delights in its anachronisms. The costumes themselves intentionally make no sense, and this carries on throughout the production. This is a world with selfies and retro cameras, with suits of armour and boybands, the threat of being sent to a nunnery combined with female empowerment in a nightclub, and a 600 mile journey seeming insurmountable until a horse/cycle-drawn carriage appears to carry our heroes with their…vibrantly patterned rucksacks.

In Paris, for example, we are treated to the Moulin Rouge, the Eiffel Tower, a Metro sign, the Shakespeare and Co book shop (particularly troubling in a play where the premise is that Shakespeare is still writing) and the padlock-laden Pont des Arts.

As a recovering francophile, surely I enjoy this maniac homage to the Frenchest of French cities?

Well… I think I came to. But it was a cautious enjoyment, the nervous appreciation of an awkward first date where you can’t tell whether the guy is quirky in a fun way that’s perfect for you, or whether you want to hot foot it out of there as soon as the bill is paid and stick to well-lit roads.


A rare zero cry show. What does this mean? Am I suddenly a stable human being, or is this an unmoving show?

Cast. Casting? The players! My thoughts on the people acting, and the choices by them and of them.

For a West End musical, I found some of the performances a little stilted. For example, there were occasional pauses where there should have been interruptions, it wasn’t as slick as I was expecting.

Anne Hathaway grew on me – while she did occasionally veer into that musical theatre trap of seeming a bit cbeebies at times, by intermission I was a fan and she belted out a number early doors in Act 2.

There was a very distracting presence in the swing. A man who, among others, played Juliet’s father and a sneering French bouncer (more of that later). I couldn’t place him, and he kept drawing my eye. Great dancing, acting, all that jazz. The only thing I could think he might be from was the comedy group Police Cops and that just didn’t seem possible. (PRA: it turns out his name is Christopher Parkinson and, from the cast summaries on the show website, I don’t know him from anywhere. WHO IS THIS MAN?)

Shakespeare was played with fitting bravado by some bloke who I also couldn’t place. Was he from some slightly newer version of McFly? Eastenders five years ago? There were a couple of slightly more ballroom choreography parts with the Shakespeares for no goddamn reason, does this mean he was on Strictly so they’ve shoe-horned that in? (PRA: based on that reasoning, I came to the conclusion that the man was that there Tom Chambers, but the site says it is Oliver Tompsett who I don’t think I’ve seen before. Who casted this and how do they keep doing this?)

May was played expertly by a nice man bearing a striking resemblance to the one I saw playing Jamie when I saw it a few months B.B. (Before Blog) (PRA: on googling there appears to be no crossover. This mistake is particularly painful. His name is Arun-Blair Mangat and he is gawwwwwjus.)

Juliet herself, who is (according to the website) still played by Miriam Teak-Lee (who I watched absolutely smash Angelica Schuyler and had been keen to see in this different but not dissimilar role, was replaced by (I think from the site, albeit not listed as an understudy) Grace Mouat, who also grew on me through the show with increasingly impressive vocals. She also looks a lot like a former colleague of mine. Just so you know.

As for Juliet’s love (or not) interests: I loved Tim Mahendran as Francois. This goes back to my old “I hate to point it out because we should be beyond pointing it out but until that point let’s celebrate it” spiel (of which much more later) but the fact that he’s not your standard toned love interest is fantastic. He’s hardly plus-size, but there is something so comforting in having a normal-looking person being a handsome, kind, likeable love interest. On the other side of the coin, Romeo (Jordan Luke Gage) is perfectly cast – the chirpy, punchable face (lots of this is in the hair and the acting, I’ve nothing against the guy) of a modern male, teen celebrity. From the moment he made his main entrance he had the air of a Youtube star, the kind I would see crop up on panel shows and feel old for resenting. (PRA: it seems JLG was also in Bat Out of Hell – whether when I saw it or not, I don’t know, but oh my Christ do I have a lot to say about that.)

The Music

OK, so here’s where we really get into it.

On paper, this is for me. My experience of jukebox musicals (I’m not sure whether this qualifies – it is all one writer rather than all one performer like Mamma Mia or Bat – but that’s what I’m going with and if they didn’t want that they shouldn’t have put a fucking jukebox as a prop in the first and last scenes SHOULD THEY?) has been hit and miss. There are a lot of traps that you can fall into when the songs you have to fit in are ready-made, and inevitably my enjoyment will depend on whether I knew/liked the songs already.

With Mamma Mia, it’s the sweet spot – songs I know and like, some I didn’t know but others do, and shoehorned in with no apology to create a “romp”, a “fun show”, a “fans of Abba will love this” experience.

With Bat Out Of Hell, well – I knew one song and maybe two further halves. But even if I’d known them all, nothing could have prepared me for the no-holds-barred batshit (no pun intended, trust me if it was I would say) spectacular that unfolded before me. A giant prop motorbike, a post-apocalyptic landscape that was never explained, a villain who TORTURES TEENS and then is magically redeemed at the end to reunited with his wife, a couple of mysterious references to the “chemical wars” – I emerged blinking into Soho unsure what I had witnessed, not regretting it, but sure as shit not about to recommend it.

& Juliet falls somewhere between these. The songs I was promised, I got, and they were songs I loved. Until about six songs in. With horror, I realised that the artist tying these songs together was far more prolific than I had thoguand we suddenly descended into (gulp) “modern songs.” It started innocuously enough with something I recognised as Katy Perry and/or Taylor Swift but led on to songs that I definitely did not know. And when knowledge of the songs is what was giving me most enjoyment in the first half, it was a worrying turn. The point in the “Songs from School’ club night when the DJ decides they’ve done enough and starts to creep into the 2010s.

One song (well, it turned out to be two, mashed up into a duet between Nurse (more later) and… Lance? Leon? More on him too) was wonderfully performed, but I spent the whole time wondering where I knew it from. This is not the point of the jukebox musical. The jukebox joy is in the “OH MY GOD IT’S THIS,” the squeal of recognition on a night out, the “that’s my jam” at a 90s party. For me, the songs veered from that zenith of knowledge to the nadir of recognition – “oh god, I’ve heard this in shops.”

Take, for example, those mashed up songs. One was gratingly familiar but without my usual 90s/00s thrill of “Right, let me mouth to you every single word and embellishment and harmony to show I know it by heart, and you thank your lucky stars I can’t actually sing”. But where was it from? I recognised the motif, I felt like it was used in a repetitive way – maybe it is on the cricket before and after ad breaks? After all, don’t most people know Snow Patrol’s Spitting Games from golf score cards in our youth? Anyone? Bueller…?

Then, as I was walking back to Waterloo (whoop-ah, oh yeah yeah) it transformed in my head. Is it from Black Mirror, Russian Doll? It’s used in a scary dream world, it is disjointed, I associate it with a lack of control. WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT SONG? Meanwhile, the plot has moved on and the performance was all but missed. You see the problem? (is this, I’m dreaming away…)

(PRA: turns out the mystery song is “Break Free” by Ariana Grande. See what I mean? MODERN. The woman is younger than me! I need songs by people who I see clickbait links about saying I won’t believe how they look now. I shall continue to meditate on where the fuck I know it from. It’s the bit that goes “this is, the part where I bla bla de bla bla”. WHAT IS IT? WHAT? Further research has revealed that other “modern” songs I didn’t know were released between 2009 and 2014…)

[Update (28/02/20): Break Free is used in The Good Place in the nightmarish giraffe/shrimp/zig zag clothing scene. Allow me some smugness at recognising Ariana as the soundtrack to a scary dream world. I feel so relieved.]

And then & Juliet suffers from problems at the other end of the scale. The songs that I knew, I knew so well that it was (favourite word alert) jarring to hear them done otherwise. Even a song that is on the “modern but known” level (Roar by… Katy Perry?) had an arrangement I wasn’t a fan of, but it started from, well, the start. The leap in my heart hearing the opening strains of a Britney or Backstreet Boys classic was dampened by the unexpected changes.

I know I sound like an old fogey complaining that everything now is covers. I know I am being a small-c conservative asshat and moaning that they’re changing things from my childhood, but… jarring! It’s jarring as fuck! Merrily singing along (in my head, don’t worry) to suddenly hear a different flourish or have “can’t” with a long “a” in Larger Than Life (the opener) or an unexpected (and I think affected) cockney(?) twang in “I Want It That…Why?” was like running full pelt down a familiar path only to miss a step and have your stomach jump into your throat while you wait to see if everything is about to come crashing down.

There are other jukebox musical pitfalls that & Juliet sidesteps admirably, though. There is a special circle of hell for the writers of such artworks who are so desperate to shoehorn in a song that they signal it from the earliest possible opportunity with a nod and a wink.

The worst example, but perhaps the most forgivable due to its necessity, is to name characters after songs (I’m looking at you Across The Universe, at which the audience I was in gave a collective groan when a character introduced herself – “I’m Prudence”). However, & Juliet flies deftly under the radar here. By intermission, this trick had only been employed once, in the final number and not in a way that made me cringe. Francois DuBois, a name I was be sure could not be used for such evils, had been called Frankie by Juliet. Lo and behold, in It’s My Life, Shakespeare points at him for “like Frankie said I did it my way.”

You know what? WELL FUCKING DONE.

It didn’t end there. Mr DuBois was used again when the family boyband, or BoisBand, reformed for Everybody (Backstreet’s Back). Even more satisfying was when May’s name, which had seemed shoehorned but only for the purposes of a discussion of gender (more later), turned out to also be perfectly primed for that immortal line, “It’s gonna be me” which is, was and has always been pronounced “may.” Chapeau, creators of & Juliet.

Another trap avoided was having your audience, from the beginning of each scene, trying to work out which song it was leading up to. Usually I suppose this is a symptom of creating your plot around the songs you want to include rather than having a strong story which songs slot into. & Juliet probably gets an easier ride too from having a wider pool of songs to choose from so the audience cannot anticipate so well. We all know which Abba songs we recognise, but how many songs do you know that you can identify as being written/produced by Max Martin? (I’m still going to have a tooth-grind at the amount of Grande though.)

The sprawling nature of Martin’s work did lead to some conjecture though. They had some Taylor Swift… so surely Love Story, a song addressing Romeo, will feature? Think again. Surely Mr Martin has been working even longer than I realise and thus Dire Straits will kick in at some point with Romeo and Juliet? No dice.

I wonder what it was like for hardcore Meatloaf fans watching Bat Out of Hell? Were they confused, having been keen to get invested in the plot? Or was it more that they didn’t give a shit what was shoved in around it, as long as their songs were there? Which brings us to…

Plot and… production in general – I need to make these snappier, how can I make these snappier? By knowing what I’m talking about? Pass.

Just like when I attend club nights playing 90s bangers and load up on sugary alcohol, I have a lot to say.

From the opening, I was nervous. It’s a big project to write the most famous writer rewriting one of the most famous plays. The tension grew as Shakespeare was introduced with bravado reminiscent of a Horrible Histories revision guide, and then went about explaining the plot of Romeo and Juliet with all the charisma of an overenthusiastic, recently qualified English teacher.

The show eased into it, the transitions and links between scene scenes and writing scenes became more palatable. But in aiming for such a tricky concept, I think the show falls short of the promised premise. Here are my main thoughts.

Let’s talk about May.


May is a character whose gender is a subject of comment from their inception. I thought perhaps a trans woman, but in articles I’ve read May is described as gender non-conforming. I will stick with that and please forgive (and absolutely correct) any slips.

I loved having this character in a mainstream performance. Martin Crimp’s Cyrano (which I loved and may write about later) had a little nod of the head to its modernity by talking in the abstract about the fluidity of gender identity, and of course Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has transferred the increased awareness of drag (thank you, your holiness RuPaul) to the West End, but I had yet to see a gender non-conforming named character, with a plot. Not just that, but it was a key plot point without it being a Play About Gender. I would love a play about gender, it’s a great way to convey these important things which I remain ignorant about, but the fact that it was a not front and centre, but acknowledged and still important story felt like a big step in the normalisation of queer identities. I’d be particularly interested in your thoughts on this.

I still can’t decide whether I loved or hated the use of Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman and I Kissed A Girl in relation to May. Were they great, ignoring/commenting on their gender? Or was it a bit too much of a nod and a wink?

One final point – which I suppose is derived from my thinking May was a trans woman rather than gender non-conforming. I was confused by May’s inclusion in the boy band when until that point I was sure they had used female pronouns. It seemed almost that work of establishing May as (I thought) female identifying was undone in one fell swoop there. But it was a necessary device to get all the love interests on stage I guess, and hey it led to a great musical number. And it makes more sense now I have read that May is gender non-conforming rather than female. I guess this is just more cis confusion on my part. Again, thoughts welcomed.

We had a return of the sassy black woman trope which I incompetently tried to address in my Waitress review, with the Shakespearean Nurse. However, joyfully, this character was given a more extensive personality, a history, and a storyline of her own which overtook her initial interjections about Juliet’s love life. She was played brilliantly by Melanie La Barrie, with a voice which at moments was reminiscent (to me…) of Tina Turner in its tone. Her love interest, Lance (David Bedella) plays off her really well and the comedy of character means that Nurse isn’t reduced to purely comedy – there are times where she is playing straight against him. I really liked them together.


Plot-wise, at intermission I thought I knew where this was going. Juliet and Frankie would end it, he would be united with May, and she would go on to be independent (rejecting Romeo), Anne and Shakin’ Stevens would either reconcile or break up and I couldn’t give a shit, and Lance and Nurse would be together.

Well, to paraphrase a song from an artist who inspired a baffling musical: three out of four ain’t bad.

I thought I had the full house but, after what you think is the final number, bloody Juliet decides to give it another go (in a totally chill, no pressure way, yeah?) with Romeo, widely acknowledged to be a “douche” (50 year old hat back on: really? We’re saying that?).

Yes, yes, I’m peak cynic, and yes, I know that feminism doesn’t mean not being with a man and yes, I acknowledge that something approximating love does exist and am grateful that this show ditches the notion of fate BUT: why do all the characters end up with/remain with partners at the end of the show? That’s not satisfying. I have come a long way in easing up on the cynicism – I no longer get grumpy if all the characters end up happy – but can’t at least one be happy alone? Contrast Waitress, which goes a little further on that, albeit shoving in a child to fulfil the woman.

Other brief notes:

  • White middle-aged woman repeatedly saying yaaaaas, but in a way that was meant to be cringey. Do we give it a pass?
  • MANIPULATIVE SHIT OF THE SHOW AWARD (I might have to retain this and retroactively grant it to Ogie in Waitress): Romeo saying “If you can look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t love me, I’ll go.” FUCK YOU, MATE. Sometimes people still feel love but want to end a relationship. Everything she had said until that point was about ending the relationship and you decide to add another performative ultimatum in the hope you can guilt her out of it or take advantage of the fact she has doubts? GET TO FUCK. Juliet plays it well and I think – I *think* – in light of her response we aren’t meant to find Romeo’s demand romantic, but it’s a fine fucking line.
  • Both this and Waitress had novel “turn off your phone” messages. In Waitress, a prerecorded little ditty and here, chalkboards being held up (and for & Juliet, any anachronism is of course irrelevant). It’s nice to see these creative ways but I would rather people just STOP BEING DICKS and we wouldn’t need these messages at all.
  • I guess some people aren’t dicks but just forget. Fine. I take it back.
  • Update to aside: they do address “doing accents” but I still don’t get it. Do it or don’t.
  • Some enjoyable updates in terms of Juliet’s age, the portrayal of gender, women and marriage by Big Will, grumbles about historical sexism, corsets and the like. And these knowing nudges were less irritating than I tend to find them (think Stonehenge in Ice Age (2?) – “modern architecture, it’ll never last” – THE JOKE IS THAT WE KNOW IT DID. That is a trite example, being from a film for kids, but it is annoyingly pervasive and really gets my back up.)
  • I got really distracted trying to work out if the writer scenes were in some kind of rhyme scheme or not. There were occasional couplets and I thought it was a clever nod to old Shake-o’s penchant for pentameter, but it didn’t seem to track throughout. There was some good use of well-known passages though, for example the repurposing of the lark/nightingale banter between Nurse and Lance. One such nod I could not forgive, however, was the cringe-inducing “Herefore art I, Romeo”. Sure, it as said by a character who was played as a dunce but (and I now announce my campaign slogan for my run for office) CAN WE STOP PERPETUATING THE MYTH THAT WHEREFORE MEANS WHERE?

Overall though…

Who is this for?

This is what I struggled with.

It wasn’t quite for the large group of schoolboys in front of me who spent intermission saying they didn’t understand.

It wasn’t people my age – well, maybe it was but it was for people my age who listened to Radio 1 for longer than I did. Which is fair.

Is it for an educational matinee, or a boozy Friday evening for people who wish they still had the energy for a 90s club night (I don’t know who that could possibly refer to…)?

There were some world-weary comments about marriage and kids, which would please an older audience, but why would they be going to watch music that goes back to the mid-90s if that? Presumably bringing kids? But they won’t get it either.

Perhaps it is a strength of the show that I can’t tell who it’s “for”. But would I recommend it?

Maybe. I’d have to know you. The only people I can say I’d definitely recommend it to are secondary school teachers who want an English Lit or Drama trip.

And therein I find the audience. It is older adults, parents. With a smattering of secondary school kids. Because this is a show that will flourish in secondary school end-of-year shows country-wide. It’s fun, it is familiar, it might need censoring (the boys in front, all 30ish of them, looked at each other aghast – and I couldn’t tell if it was sarcastic or not – when the F-bomb dropped), it’s an update to a classic that shows your new head of Drama is both with it and respects the classics. It has characters that will make children more comfortable with gender and sexuality. It weaves in occasional “proper” Shakespeare to keep the crusties happy and toes the line of modernity enough to feel relevant.

The suitability for a school show is in no small part down to some of the flaws I perceived in the show. It was slick, clearly expensive, professional, sure. But some choices (e.g. both times the word glitter is said in lyrics, glitter is thrown into the air) are so terrifyingly reminiscent of something I would consider the height of sophistication in 2004 (at the age of 12) that I can only conclude that this show is meant to be performed by teens.

And if it is, best of all, whoever is in charge of set and costume can do whatever the fuck they want.


An Unfinished Cup of Tea and a Madeleine

The following is the product of a long walk after a glass of wine – a potent combination for mentally drafting my bullshit.

It’s funny how things stick in your head.

When I described Rose as my best friend in my Waitress post, I kept thinking of the phrase “my best friend, my number one.”

This is from a poem I read when I was younger, the name and author of which I tried to find but couldn’t (at least before I lost the remaining battery on my phone).

It is a child talking about their best friend insulting them, and, from the pieces in my memory, goes like this:

Today my best friend, my number one
Called me a “dirty darkie”
When I wouldn’t give her a sweetie.

(The narrator describes it and goes on to say, more or less) of all the people in the world, I wouldn’t expect it of you, Char Hardy. The other ones who are stupid and ignorant, yes, but not you.

Char went a very strange colour (and apologised, said she didn’t mean it)
(The narrator responds with the final line)
Well then, what exactly do you mean?

Not being able to find the poem was immensely frustrating. My dad often refers to having an “unfinished cup of tea feeling” – knowing you had drunk half but that you hadn’t finished, that you must have left it somewhere but can’t remember the location.

That’s how I feel when I can’t string together these memories, or when I know the answer but can’t bring it to mind. Known unknowns, or is it an unknown known? It’s a known that you know you don’t know at the time, infuriatingly, know that you did know.

I’ve since searched more thoroughly and the poem is Names, by Jackie Kay. I can’t (quickly) find a good link but it is at page 15 of the collection here.

(I don’t want to imply from this choice of memory that I was a particularly precocious child, wandering around theorising about racial politics… for balance, please note that I can much more easily recite The Day I Fell Down The Toilet (with bits of spaghetti and peas).)

This is hardly an original take, but it struck me how pre-Google I would have had to rely on remembering, asking around, digging out the book of children’s poetry back home. My cup of tea may never have been finished.

I can remember the book too. It was dark blue, with bright pink and maybe also white lettering, perhaps a pink lining to the cover. It was if not square, more square than the average book proportions. Thin, hardback, with the dust jacket pristine – I was fiercely protective of dust jackets.

I remember seeing the same book on a shelf a few years ago, and the memory of it was odd, intense. This led to my learning of “madeleine moments” from my then partner.

She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called ‘petites madeleines,’ which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate, a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory–this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was myself. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, accidental, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy?

Marcel Proust

I’ve not read A La Recherche du Temps Perdu. My ex, with the Oxford degree that served as a constant reminder of my intellectual inferiority, presumably had. I certainly don’t have any more detailed description of what the madeleine and its memories signified in Proust’s writing. I won’t sully his memory by trying to summarise or elaborate on the meaning of Marcel’s morceau, as it were. (Pause for applause.)

It’s funny how something so universal and relatable as “strong feelings provoked by a memory” can become so much more refined if you attach a name like Proust. Even if you yourself are expressing nothing approaching his (again, presumably) complex ideas, whack in the name of a great thinker and your argument or witticism has gained immeasurable gravitas.

I’m hardly one to rail against elites or intellectuals – look where that’s got us, for fuck’s sake – but it is odd how resentful this fact makes me.

It doesn’t make much sense. I love knowing things. The other day, I overheard a tourist asking for directions. It was the holy trinity of desired directions: I could offer to help unasked (thereby hopefully slightly easing London’s unfriendly reputation for this stranger); I actually knew the answer; and the directions needed were immensely straightforward.

It is hard to tell if I derived more smugness from doing a nice thing, or from knowing something that the other person didn’t. Jesus Christ I hate how I think.

Anyway, given my love of knowledge, you’d think I wouldn’t resent being informed of something. It’s not as though I only derive pleasure from knowledge a companion doesn’t have – I hardly begrudged my teachers at school their superior knowledge (although thinking about it – did I only enjoy learning if I thought my peers wouldn’t remember it as well? Hmm).

But there was only so much I could force myself to have the correct internal response of “oh, that’s interesting, I’m glad I now know that” when the source of the facts was consistently the same person, and I was never giving anything back. That relationship was a barrage of intellectual and factual superiority, a constant blast to the brain, hopefully done without malice but who can tell, really? I began in awe, I ended in self-flagellation.

There’s a fine line between being raised to have confidence in your own opinions, and being a pompous prick. And a “public” school and Oxbridge education are only going to tip my prejudices towards the latter. (In the words of a (nice) ex who attended a grammar school: “We were told at school to have confidence bordering on arrogance.”)

(Major caveat: I’m in the most fragile of glass houses here, I know I have had a fantastic and privileged education. I’m sure it has instilled in me all sorts of confidence that I don’t realise I have. And I’m sure I am that pompous prick in the eyes of many people. Assuming many, if any, people care.)

I suppose the key is for me to have less of an inferiority complex. God knows how I go about that though – perhaps someone better informed can let me know.


Waitress (26 Feb 2020)

Some notes before we start:

  • STANDARD REVIEW DISCLAIMER: I can’t act. I can’t sing. All my comments are strictly as a person who has seen other shows, and shouldn’t in any way be construed as me claiming to know what I am talking about or that I could do better.
  • Post-Research Additions (PRAs) will be in italics.
  • Spoilers: there will be show spoilers in this post. I will keep them between the two pictures of pie below. After the second pie, it will be more general blather about what I thought having seen the show without specific spoilers, but this will involve some of the themes in the show (although nothing that you can’t get from the first paragraph of the Wikipedia page).
  • Content warning: this post will touch on domestic violence/abuse.

Right, here goes:

You know, I like this blog business. It’s somewhere to stick all the nonsense thoughts that I’m relentlessly drafting all day. Due to the perpetual deadness of my phone, I had to nip into Ryman’s on the Strand so that I could capture my precious hot takes in a notebook (this was particularly painful since I have been hoarding stationery since the age of 5 with no use for it).

My pen dried up too but that just meant I got to dismantle it and blow into the ink cartridge which was a little nostalgic thrill.

So here I am in The Harp scribbling to type up later, with my half of session ale. I asked for zero/low alcohol but wasn’t keen on the offering. (Can you tell I’m super virtuous, because I’ve practically got the fluorescent ping pong bats out (PRA: these are apparently called “marshalling batons”) and it’s only going to get worse.)


Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

I just saw Waitress. Here are my thoughts, in more or less bullet form.


  • Sara Bareilles was and is incredible. There were a fair few songs, not least “She Used To Be Mine” which blew me away and made me think to myself “ROSE NEEDS TO SEE THIS”. Rose is my best friend, who knows about acting and singing. I would hesitate to recommend any musical performance to her as she can listen to something I consider perfectly capable and point out that it is sharp or flat or poorly acted.
    • (Not-quite PRA, but subsequent thought: I am pretty sure Rose has actually seen Waitress and recommended it to me.
    • Post-not-quite-PRA: I messaged her today, she has seen it, but is seeing it tonight with this cast. Her original cast did not have SB but did have the wonderful Jack McBrayer, who the man on the bar told me had interpreted Ogie very differently.)
  • The love interest, Doctor Pometter, looked familiar. I feel like in the film it was played by a Nathan Fillion-type (insert Missy Foreman-Greenwald quote) (PRA: it was. It was Fillion). This guy, though, looked familiar. Was he the original West End Phil in Groundhog Day? These guys all look the same to me.
    • (PRA: it is actually Gavin Creel, who was the original West End Elder Price! Hello!)
  • I can see Jack McBrayer making a good Ogie. I wonder what he did with it. I liked this guy too (PRA: Joel Montague) but honestly, aren’t we a bit done with the whole “nerd as comic relief” thing? I am. (PRA: I’ve since found an audio recording of JMcB’s performance online, which is almost certainly illegal. It is… different. He can’t sing at all which is magnificent. I can picture it so well. Kenneth Parcell all over.)
  • Band: these were on stage à la Come From Away, and I was grateful for it. As ever, my eye was drawn to the bassist (I do love me some deft fingers) but to be honest, the whole band would be on my To Do list. That conditional tense is working particularly hard for the pianist though, who was female and therefore spared my affection.
  • (PRA: the original cast recordings linked below feature Kimiko Glenn (who you, well I, know from Orange Is The New Black and as the voice of Stefani Stilton in Bojack Horseman) as Dawn. I can see her as an excellent Dawn, not that there was anything wrong with Dawn as current cast in London, and her voice in the recording gives me very strong Chenoweth vibes.)


I cry easily, especially in musicals, and any show will have a cry score. This was a whopping FIVE CRY SHOW. Almost unprecedented.

They were minor weeps, not the snotty, gasping for air, blurring-your-vision-for-the-last-five-songs cries of Hamilton. It was more typical musical crying – sad or sweet moments, emotional manipulation with key changes, big notes, harmonies, that sort of thing.

The ones I remember were primarily songs to the future baby, as well as (of course), the soaring She Used To Be Mine. But the main one was a song by Old Joe, an older man giving life advice. I mean, how could I not?

The introduction to that song was really distractingly familiar. I couldn’t identify what it reminded me of at the time, and as I write have now forgotten how the song goes (PRA: here’s the song from the original cast, and the intro is pretty much First Day Of My Life by Bright Eyes – my tear ducts had no chance).

General thoughts

(for which I should probably issue an Attempted Wokeness Alert)

It was so nice that a female character found fulfilment outside a man (although being the childless cynic I am, it would be nice for that to also have been without a child, or for there to have been an implication that that would be possible). It was also satisfying that they didn’t make an effort for Dr P to suddenly be a villain or for his wife to be conveniently awful, giving an easy get out for Jenna to then be with him.

There was a same-sex couple in the… ensemble? is that the word? I hate that I notice, and I don’t want casting to be a check-box, but just like racial diversity, it is still something I pick up on and am grateful for in a West End (or any) show. In particular, having a same-sex couple in the background (not that I am against them being in the foreground…), just living their lives, being on a date, dancing at a wedding, and never being commented on or used for plot, was brilliant to see and I should think would have been unheard of ten years ago. Just look at the shitshow when Strictly put two male dancers together as a one-off. This stuff is still important.

On diversity… I took slight issue with one character. There is a sassy black nurse. Is this too much of a trope? Probably not my place to comment on it, but isn’t this one of those things that crops up in loads of films and shows? The character was played well, and the audience loved her cheeky asides, but she had no other plot or role other than this. Something for me to research more, I suppose.

On the portrayals of domestic violence and abuse: the overt violence was a lot “milder” (if one can say that) than I remember the film being. I may be misremembering I suppose. Either way, it was just as shocking. Both in the choreographed flashbacks of Jenna’s parents and in the scenes with her husband, it was particularly impactful seeing it on stage, especially in a musical. It may just be the shows I see, but it’s heavier stuff than the usual fluff of musical theatre (although I feel like they are becoming darker/more complex of late). But that ties in with why Waitress makes such a great musical. Just as the bleakness of Jenna’s life contrasts with the delightful, twee pies and diner aesthetic, the usual upbeatness of musical theatre is another jarring juxtaposition that worked for me.

On Dawn and Ogie…

The character of Dawn was, as with most “nerdy” or “never been kissed” types, a pretty huge “there but for the grace of god go I” for me. A “quirky” (heaven preserve us), detail-driven, perfectionist who had never dated and worried both about meeting the wrong person, and meeting the right person and him dismissing her. When He Sees Me was a particularly potent summary of my pre-dating fears. Wonderful comic choreography too. It produced a little throat lump but was too innately funny to add one to the cryometer. It will be relistened at length though.

I liked Ogie. I did, despite my hesitation of “isn’t it funny what a nerd he is” being absolutely sledgehammered with him. But what the fuck is going on with Never Getting Rid Of Me? It’s a kooky portrayal of meeting after online date where a man is convinced that woman is The One, and vows to hang around until he makes her see things the same way. This kind of shit used to be romantic, and he appears unthreatening in the show (although don’t they always?) but I think it’s time to put the boombox down and respect a no, lads. This couple ends up happy, so we are told that this behaviour can be justified and rewarded, that there is value in refusing to respect a woman’s decision. Bollocks to it all, really.

I think I was also disappointed in Dawn’s story – as is often the case, a woman is set up as complex and knowing what she likes, cautious and sensible, and yet her defences fall and she is immediately wooed by some simple fact – here, that both she and Ogie like civil war history. Sure, shared interests are important, and the show does try to imply it is some in-the-stars fate bollocks, or at least a broader compatibility, by also including the fact that they both like whipped cream separate from the pie to preserve the crunch and get the ratio right (on which they are absolutely correct). But I can’t get much satisfaction in their love story. It was good for comedy, but tied up so quickly and simply that any personality that had been established for Dawn in When He Sees Me was reduced to her just being “perfect for Ogie.” Ogie at least had a slightly broader personality (some of it creepy) what with his “poems” and stories about his cat. Maybe I’m being overly cynical.

Further rambles below.

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Waitress was previously a film (PRA: and a book before apparently). I hadn’t thought about it for a long time.

It was originally recommended to me by my first boyfriend, in uni. I bought the DVD for myself from Amazon. These were the days when my bank statements still got sent home home (as opposed to uni) and were liable to be opened there, so I had to craft myself an excuse for buying it because (a) my parents didn’t know about my boyfriend yet (that only happened roughly a year in) and (b) it shouldn’t be for me because I was busy being Diligent Student. I think the lie was only needed because the purchase was exposed when I clicked the wrong delivery address, rather than the bank statements being read.

It’s only these days I notice the weirdness of this dynamic, and quite how much I remained a child, remained parented as a child, well into university, a time where the idea is to gain independence.

I also wonder how much of it was purely my perception, self-policing based on pressure that I only assumed was being put on me.

To some extent, isn’t a that lot of parenting, though? The whole “go to your room before I count to three” – don’t most parents not actually know what happens after three, and just rely on their tone and the fear it instils?

I have no authority to talk about parenting. I’ve never done it, but would like to. Things like this terrify me though. What if my child is scared of me, grows up to have a memory (whether accurate or not) of an overprotective, over-strict ogre? What if my child thinks I am pushing for something that I’m not? What if some choice I make in my life or throwaway comment has a massive unintended impact on my (still fictional) child when they themselves are an adult (think Jenna’s flashbacks).

There have been a few things that were said to me as a child that still stick with me, that have an ongoing impact, but which I have since brought up and the people have no memory of it. Things from my parents, a schoolfriend using a racial slur, words that still choke me up or inform my decisions but to them were nothing and, in some cases, not even said out of malice.

It is also weird that I have noticed an easy win for the cryometer in shows or songs or films is parent-child relationships, but that as I get older I start looking at them from a different perspective. I have gone from “I wish I had/didn’t have a relationship like that with my parent” to “I hope I do/don’t have a relationship like that with my child.” Is this some hormonal shift? I’m certainly broody a lot but without wanting a child imminently. Is it purely age? Is it that as more and more of my peers have children it hits home that that is what is expected of me, or, if I want to have biological children, required of me in a relatively short period of time?

It is a really odd moment when you suddenly realise your parents were people as well as your parents. I have no idea what my parents were or are like external to their relationships to me. I hope I don’t have that with my child.

Anyway, to round it off – I have a playlist of songs about parenting that I love, and that that make me wish I had a child so I could appreciate the songs even more (what better reason to procreate). There’s something so much more moving in that love and conflict than there is in romantic love. Lady Bird made me bawl more than any romance ever could.

Here’s a selection of songs from that playlist that have given me the theatre-sobs, and thanks for reading.

  • Abba – Slipping Through My Fingers. This one made me a snotty mess after pints of wine (a combination of (a) being (willingly) coerced into buying a bottle, and (b) the no-glass theatre policy).
  • Hamilton (spoilers I guess) – the two songs that perfectly bookend Philip Hamilton’s life are so moving and important to me as to probably warrant a blog post of their own one day so no more on that.
  • Gavin Osborn – Holding It Together. A beautiful song about the very English repression of feelings as a daughter leaves home which again made me (and the girl next to me) a snotty mess during Stories For The Starlit Sky (Daniel Kitson).(NB – the tracks are mislabelled on Spotify and on Amazon. What is labelled “Dancing With His Dad” is in fact Holding It Together, and vice versa.
  • Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – He’s My Boy. This is a bit outside my usual since the song is very specifically about a son, so I could only really put myself in the shoes of the mother, which would of course be a stretch at this stage in my life. Still, it makes the list.

See ya, pals.


This is how I do it

Blog posts incoming – I went to shows today and yesterday and will be publishing my thoughts as well as another ramble. Hopefully at least two tonight so I can stay relatively up to date with my internal monologue.

I’ll tidy them a bit but probably won’t otherwise edit, although I will add some clarifications or facts I wanted to subsequently look up.

Because of this, they will probably be an absolute ball-ache to read, for which I offer my humblest apologies (or as humble as one can be in a blog). The reason isn’t some highfalutin belief that the words are more potent or impressive as immediately written, but simply that if I leave them longer, I’ll think that people will expect them to be “better,” or I’ll agonise about how they “should” be, and likely wouldn’t post at all.

So… watch this space, and thank you for reading even though I seem to be actively making it hard for you.


Skin-coloured skin

I didn’t know when I started this blog what I would be writing. And then, hey presto – a news story I can comfortably bang on about.

I won’t be saying anything here that hasn’t been said elsewhere (a disclaimer I could, I’m sure, include on any of my posts). But here we go.

Tesco have announced that they will be providing plasters in a range of skin tones. Responses seem to fit into one of three camps: About Time; I Never Even Thought About That; and WHY ARE YOU RUINING MY COUNTRY.

I won’t bother addressing the latter – I’ve actively avoided reading those opinions, and can be sure that this is one of those stories where not reading the comments is self-care.

I’m firmly in camp About Time.

Growing up, there was a moment when suddenly my peers became grown up, and started wearing skin-coloured tights. Classy. Adult. Showing skin and yet not. Toying with the boundaries of the uniform rules.

For all of secondary school I had been comfortable (albeit cripplingly unsexy) in the bottle green tights all winter, bottle green ankle socks all summer. But when sixth form arrived, with its “office wear” code, suddenly nude, or skin-coloured, tights were on the menu. And they just weren’t an option for me. So I would swelter in black tights until I was sure the weather was warm enough for bare legs to be considered decent.

My friends would ask why I didn’t wear skin-coloured tights. And my response remained the same from school to the workplace, with varying levels of sarcasm: I don’t have skin-coloured skin.

It was a throwaway line, but ultimately, it was what I believed. I didn’t grow up in a diverse, multicultural metropolis. My friends would helpfully point out that different skin tone tights existed, but even the darkest available made me look like I had leg dandruff.

It was one reminder among many that I was not the norm. I was Other. If not an overt statement that I didn’t look the way I was “supposed” to, a gentle hint that what was available to “normal” people was not always going to be available to me.

It could be a blessing sometimes. My aversion to make up, which I can now pass off as a feminist stance (yawn) is down to the fact that I simply had no way of doing it. No older sister to show me how, and rarely if ever would the right tones be available in the North Devon shops in the 90s. Cosmo or whatever trash was being passed around that week would hardly ever address the idea that different skin tones might suit different things, and if they did it was a “feature.” I remember a slight rush of excitement, I think in a waiting room, when I saw a cover proudly announcing “looks for every skin tone.”

Now I know not to get excited at these. In the early 2000s, these could be summarised as: English Rose; some more tanned version of white; black. If you were lucky, they’d throw in olive. The continent of Asia never really featured in my experience. (And since when was there one tone of “black”?)

So now, plasters. I have to admit, I was quite “lucky” (hold your optimism until you read the rest of the sentence, it’s a pretty bleak statement) to be relatively pale for a person of colour. In winter, I can roughly blend into an Elastoplast. I can be plaster-passing. But in summer, when the melanocytes stretch and wake up and make me unmistakably non-white, the “normal” plasters stick out on a sore thumb.

Malorie Blackman, in her 2001 novel Noughts and Crosses (or elsewhere in that series) describes a topsy-turvy world where there is systematic oppression of white people by black people. (I loved these books growing up although now I despair slightly – is this really what white people need to be fed to help them work out that racism is wrong?) Anyway, she describes in passing the humiliation or silliness felt by a white person sticking on a darker toned plaster, which in that world was the default. And that was when plasters were added to the list of things I hadn’t noticed were meant to match, and didn’t. The ways in which I was other.

I’ve had years of colouring in my face with the colour everyone else was using, before realising it didn’t match me at all – whether it was a primary school drawing or an attempt at teenage contouring. I don’t have skin-coloured skin.

So I’m overjoyed to see Tesco expanding its range. Darker toned plasters have been available for a while, but not being available in a large supermarket makes them niche, specialist, reinforces the normalcy of the paler version, emphasises our otherness.

Don’t get me wrong. I will be watching like a hawk. Any difference in pricing, any indication that the pale plasters are the default, and I’ll be up on the highest of chestnut-brown horses before you can say “structural racism.” You might think it excessive, but companies have form on this. Dove’s misguided campaign which labelled moisturiser for “normal to dark” skin is a reminder of how quickly these attempts to provide for a diverse audience can turn into active othering, rather than othering by omission.

The advent of Heist and other hosiery companies which provide a range of tones in tights as the default has opened up a whole new world for me. A world where I can wear tights in spring and autumn, make myself look summery while keeping my legs warm. And now it’s a world where I can cover up a cut without it being visible from metres away. What tiny, tiny victories, you might think. And if you’re thinking it, I’ll bet it’s because you’ve never even had to consider it. Because you have skin-coloured skin.


A Blog. How Modern.

I have a blog now. As a 28-year-old, unemployed Londoner, this should not be surprising to anyone.

I have been told a few times I needed to Write. With a capital W. To Write and to have Thoughts.

I’ve never thought of this as something I can do. I have never considered myself to have any abilities beyond what could be given a percentage score on a pre-approved mark scheme. 

This isn’t to say I didn’t (or don’t) respect those who do. On the contrary, to be comfortable doing something so immeasurably creative was mind-blowing for me. Imagine being so confident in your own thoughts, opinions or ability that you could just send your work out into the world for criticism. To be read by other people who Get things and Know things and have Thoughts about Literature.

So you will have to bear with me* while I convince myself that capitalised words are something I can (and should) produce anywhere more public than my brain. Let me transform myself from carefully composed facebook status-poster to Mac-using, Starbucks-inhabiting blog stalwart before your very eyes.

I’ve never been one for extra-curriculars. At least, extra-curriculars that wouldn’t be good on a UCAS form. Hobbies? Sorry, I’m busy trying to excel in a way that society has deemed fit to be measured. Passion? Keep it in your pants, friendo.

Having now left my job, the job to which I can only assume my entire childhood and education were leading, I am at something of an impasse. What do I do with my time now I am not breaking it down into chargeable hours?

And then it starts. Well-meaning people saying I should Write. Or worse, “try stand up” – more on that another time perhaps. 

To me, these have always been backhanded compliments. They way I interpreted them was akin to the old trope when setting up a friend – “she has a great personality” (I mean, when the fuck did that become a bad thing to say?)

If someone told me I was funny, I used to (often still do) hear “well I want to say something nice, and we both know you’re not conventionally attractive.” It’s only recently that, if told I am smart, I am able to take the compliment. Similarly, if Writing comes up in the context of trying to find myself a creative outlet, the subtext I immediately go to is “look, you sure as shit can’t paint or sing, so just stick to the words please.”

(I appreciate that this is very “woe is me” but if I can’t be self-indulgent to the point of self-abuse, then what is the point of a blog?)

So this is a departure for me. It isn’t comfortable. There are no attainment prizes or gold stars available. I apologise in advance. Except I don’t, because fuck that and you don’t have to read it, do you?

* You don’t HAVE to do anything. You are, of course, free to go about your day without reading my drivel.

Life is like a box of chocolates

What would you say if someone told you their favourite chocolate in the world was Bournville?

Maybe they have an emotional connection to it that you couldn’t identify with – it reminds them of happy days growing up near Birmingham, for instance. Maybe their tastes are just different to yours – they are able to enjoy a hint of darkness without wishing for the 80% stuff, the masochistic bitterness that makes you wonder whether that is actually sweetness you detect or is just your brain trying to convince you this is an enjoyable confection.

It usually turns out, however, that the reason that someone’s favourite chocolate is Bournville is simply that they haven’t really had anything else. It’s always been their favourite and they are satisfied.

Now, it’s not for me to judge. Maybe, even if they had access to a wide variety of chocolates, Bournville would still be the one for them. That’s perfectly reasonable.

Maybe they get a lot more out of Bournville than I do, they experience in it a range of flavours and textures inaccessible to my palate because… I don’t know… I was never taught to appreciate them? Maybe they are just confident enough in themselves and in their choices, not to mention in the fact that they deserve chocolate, that the idea that others might be even more pleasant simply does not cross their minds.

This way of thinking feels alien to me. It is the way of our grandparents – during the war, you were probably glad of a tiny square of chocolate of any standard, even some rationing-era, cocoa-free substitute, and you got used to that and by jove, that’s all you would ever need. They look in horror at millennials with our smorgasbord of options, our reckless abandon in sampling, exploring, even deigning to decide some are “not for us” – in my day you took what you were given and were glad of it, sonny Jim. I always wondered why their tastes didn’t change over time but maybe if you tell yourself enough that there are no other options, they don’t. Or you ignore your doubts.

But I can get understand that in the older generation – it was a different mindset back then. And of course I understand that there is an evolutionary draw, an instinct to enjoy any chocolate. Sugar and fat were historically scarce and so our bodies and minds act against our own best interests – we are biologically inclined to like whatever is on offer.

And some of what is on offer is truly awful. I mean, anyone would consider Bournville the food of the gods if all they had been fed beforehand had been shit. I am lucky enough never to have had really shit chocolate – the closest I came was one sample which was delicious until it turned out to contain trace elements of shit. It would have been obvious enough I had only read the ingredients, and that I (usually fastidious) had omitted to was a particular gut punch. This was the flavour I’d been most enthusiastic about until that point, and I resolved to scrutinise all chocolate with a soul-destroying cynicism from that point onwards.

I suppose it’s all about expectation. Hershey’s kisses had been built up to me so much in popular culture that when I wasn’t bowled over by my first taste of one (in fact, I was slightly concerned that it was off but was assured otherwise) I wondered whether there was something wrong with me (this is before I realised that TV could lie about ANYTHING and you wouldn’t have a clue unless you experienced it yourself. Up is down, left is right, the police can be bad and drugs are fun).

I wonder how this lockdown period will affect people’s opinions of their favoured snack. Some have stockpiled their brand of choice and will spend the next month or three hunkered down, working their way through the stash. Will they start to find it sickly and wish for an alternative? I had always assumed this was a risk integral to having a favourite, but perhaps that demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of just how much they like it.

Others are stuck just wishing they could get any chocolate, even Tesco Value Plain, but are finding the supermarkets all out of stock and are settling for meagre alternatives. After a cup of cocoa doesn’t hit the spot you start to wonder whether you can manufacture your own, or even be happy without.

I suspect that what will happen is that we will emerge from the lockdown with those who genuinely loved the Bournville, regardless of any alternatives available, no more or less enamoured with it. Its presence is the happy default. I suppose that goes to show how alien that thinking is to me – I can’t imagine three months of non-stop sameness being anything other than depressing, or an opportunity to find all the things I disliked about a certain brand.

Those who were unsure of their favourite will likely emerge hoping to gorge on the options available, the Easter bounty, hollow and cream-filled and bitter and sweet, before getting that sick feeling of overindulgence and wishing they’d just picked a favourite and settled, and reminding themselves that in their gran’s day you took what you were given. And so the cycle continues.

And that, in case you hadn’t unpicked my heavy-handed metaphor, is why I don’t think I believe in true love.