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To graduate will be an awfully big adventure.

This time four years ago, I think I was still doing my A-levels. And then there was to be a long summer of friends and holidays and then, then there would be results day. After that, as long as I’d reached Nottingham’s requirements, I’d be off to university in September.

I’ve been trying to think back to remember how I felt, which is difficult. Not only was it four years ago, but my Mom was seriously ill, which took precedent over what I was going to get in my A-levels. I mean, I must have been excited. Since I was about 15, all I wanted was to go to university. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I’d watched too many films, read too many books, but my heart was set on university.

Originally I was going to do English Literature. Then it was German and English Lit. And by the time AS level English Lit had finished bashing me over the head, I knew I didn’t want to spend three years at university studying it. So German it was. I made lists of universities. Compared them by what grades they wanted, how far away from home they were, even if I’d ever been to the city they were in. I was excited. Anxious to leave home, be an adult, learn something about Germany that wasn’t just the language.

And now it’s all over. My four years are at an end. It’s very anti-climatic. No-one warned me about that. My last lectures were exam prep that basically no-one turned up for. My last exam was a translation exam, so it involved lots of vocab learning but no heavy duty, practice essay writing, notecards filled with dates type revision. If I can paraphrase T.S. Eliot, this is the way uni ends. Not with a bang but a …huh.

University has been pretty great. I’ve learnt to cook, to motivate myself, to actually clean a house. I’ve learnt how to play Quidditch and how to swing dance. I’ve made friends and lived abroad for 9 months. I’m even basically fluent in German. And while I still ended up studying some literature, I didn’t hate it like I thought I would. Except Brecht. I do not understand Brecht.

Now what? It’s a time for making plans and moving forward with life. Which is terrifying. I mean, I like moving forward, I like the fact that in theory the world is open for me to do whatever I want. But the job hunt is not going spectacularly well, I have no idea where I’m going to be in a month, two month, three months time, and I’m not really sure what I’m doing with my life.

But I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’m scared, yes, but that’s not going to stop life happening. So I just have to get on with it. And if I can move by myself to Germany to a town so in the middle of nowhere that even Google street view hasn’t made it there yet, I’m sure I can cope with whatever is about to happen. So graduation is an awfully big adventure, but unlike Peter Pan, I’m ready to grow up.

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Procrasti-watching

It’s exam season, so procrastination is easy to come by right now. Bedrooms have never been so clean, all the washing up is done, and arts & crafts projects are creeping to the top of everyone’s to do lists. There are so many productive ways to procrastinate, but what if you’re looking for a less industrious way to waste time? Or what if you’re looking for a way to spend ten minute breaks in mindless entertainment without having to watch a TV series in ten minute chunks? Well, I have the answer: Web series. And as always, I have a list of recommendations. Because if I can’t procrastinate by sharing procrastination tips with you guys, then what is this blog for?*

Now, web series is a broad term, so I should probably focus this blog post a little more. Man, you can tell I’ve been writing essays. I’m going to talk about web series that are modern day adaptations of books or plays that are so old there are no longer any copyright claims on them. Because that’s much simpler than trying to obtain rights.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Click here for the first episode. And the entire playlist.

Ah, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. My introduction into the world of web series. Based on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, it’s set in modern day America, with Elizabeth Bennet having a vlog. There are some changes to the cast, notably that Bennet sister Kitty is demoted to being a cat.

I’ve talked before about regency drama not really being my thing, but somehow when you introduce the internet I’m much more interested. Especially with a cast like this. It’s well acted, well put together and mostly well scripted. I’ve never really cared about the Wickham plot line, mostly because the younger Bennet sisters have never felt like real characters to me, but this adaption? I was so invested. Many conversations were had in caps lock over social media about it.

Most importantly, for your procrastination/break having purposes there are 100 episodes, each between 2 and 8 minutes long. And there’s spin offs with various characters getting their own vlogs, even if they do not have 100 episodes. Also, it’s complete. No waiting around for the next episode to be uploaded. So go on. Watch the Elizabeth and Darcy story play out in a whole new way.

Carmilla

First ep (and playlist of the rest) above.

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu is a vampire book that predates Dracula by 26 years. And, as the name suggests, the eponymous vampire is female. She’s also a lesbian. And these two facts hold true in the adaption. In fact, the majority of the cast are female, and the non-heterosexual relationships are confirmed in world. While I’ve not read the book so I can’t really comment on the success of the adaptation in that regard, I really enjoyed watching it.

Laura, the protagonist, is thoroughly engaging, as are the rest of the characters. Set in an American college where strange things are commonplace, Laura’s roommate goes missing and she embarks on a mission to rescue her. On the way, she gets a replacement roommate by the name of Carmilla, and soon things spiral out of control. One day you’re looking for your missing roommate, the next you’re battling a force of evil older than you can imagine. University, am I right?

Like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Carmilla is complete. At least, series one is. Which means you can pause between episodes, knowing that when you’ve finished the next paragraph of your essay, all cliffhanger questions will be resolved. And season 2 starts on the 2nd June. So you won’t even have long to wait to find out what the future holds for Laura.

Emma Approved

Click above for the first ep and then the rest.

Created by the same people who did The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Emma Approved is based on, yup, you guessed it – Emma by Jane Austen. Hand on heart, I prefer Emma Approved to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. The creators learnt from their (admittedly not huge) mistakes with LBD and made Emma Approved great. Though it probably helps that I haven’t read Emma

With a fantastic, racially diverse cast, Emma Approved is set in a life consultancy firm in America run by Emma. She match makes, she throws parties, she drums up clients for businesses – is there anything she can’t do? Well, as it turns out, yes. But you’ll have to watch to find out what.

Again, Emma Approved is fully complete, so all cliffhangers will be resolved and won’t distract you from that pesky revision. It even includes a cameo from a character from the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, so if you watch both, keep an eye out for that. Honestly, I really enjoy Emma Approved, and have now watched it all the way through about 4 times. Though not all during exam season. After all, I do have to get some revision done.

March Family Letters

Above is your new favourite show.

This is my current favourite thing. A modern day adaptation of Little Women by Lousia May Alcott, it’s set in Canada, with the premise being that the March sisters’ mother has been deployed overseas and their vlog channel is so she can keep up to date with their lives.

With a non-heterosexual relationship, people of colour and asexual representation, the adaptation is bang up to date, and Jo March is gloriously feminist. All of the sisters are, from Meg who’s studying to be an engineer, to Beth whose talents lie in music, to Amy who is desperately trying to make her mark on the world. I’m really enjoying it and am impatiently awaiting Tuesdays and Fridays.

Yes, this one isn’t finished yet. But so far, it’s been amazing, following the plot of the original book faithfully while updating it to fit in the modern setting. I do really love this web series, especially as it switches between full cast videos, individual sister videos and the updates of the ongoing play ‘The Witch’s Curse’. It’s seriously great. You should definitely check it out.

Those four are my recommended series, because a) they’re great and b) I’ve watched them all. Other series I’ve heard decent things about but haven’t actually watched are Frankenstein, M.D. (with a female scientist as the lead character) and Nothing Much to Do (set in New Zealand if the others are too North America-centric for you), which are respectively based on Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. If you’ve got any recommendations on any other web series I should filling my break times with, please leave a comment. I have an exam and an essay to go and then a whole lot of free time to fill. And if you have exams and essays and stress, good luck! You’ll be fine. Remember to breathe.

*I would like to assure all family members reading, I am doing work and am merely exaggerating for stylistic effect.

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Don’t Stop Movin’ to the Funky Funky Beat (ft. The Strypes)

Because I’m a cool kid*, last week I was at two different gigs. Two whole gigs, guys. I now have to use two hands to count the number of music gigs I’ve been to. Definitely a cool kid.** And to prove it, I’m gonna tell you about them.

First gig was The Strypes at Rescue Rooms in Nottingham on the 6th May. Man, that was a lot of information in one sentence. I’d never been to a gig at Rescue Rooms despite frequenting the establishment weekly in my first year for the pub quiz, so this was my first time in the club side rather than the bar side. It’s like a club. Not sure what I was expecting.

So, The Strypes. According to their website, they’re a 4 piece rhythm and blues band from Cavan, Ireland who formed in 2011.  I mean, I thought they were Britpop, but I’m not going to argue with their official online bio. They do look like they should be Britpop though.

They were supported by Red Faces who are actually Britpop according to their Soundcloud bio. They were alright. I have to admit I’m not the hugest fan of Britpop. So I can’t give a more qualified opinion. I have no idea of their lyrics but they looked like they were having a good time, so it was at least fun to watch them. That counts for something, right?

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Red Faces. Not The Strypes.

When The Strypes came on, I was ready for music I recognised. And then they announced they were mostly doing stuff from their new EP, which I believe wasn’t out at the time. It’s a perfectly valid decision, especially as I think the point of this tour was to promote the EP. It’s just difficult to sing along to songs you’ve not heard before. They did play a couple of songs from their first EP so I wasn’t entirely lost for the entire evening. Just most of it.

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Actually The Strypes

However, The Strypes were a lot of fun to watch, especially when the lead singer and the bass guitarist had synchronised head movements to certain parts of the songs. So despite the lack of songs I actually knew, it was a decent evening. You can listen to The Strypes here.

Then, on 7th May, I headed to Birmingham to see S Club 7 in concert. Oh yes, I went to see S Club and I am not ashamed of it. Because it was so good. So good. Excellent, really. Even amazing. Maybe I should start from the beginning.

The support act was meant to be Bars and Melody (nope, never heard of them) and then ended up being AJ Lehrman (never heard of him either). He was very earnest. Considering it was just him on a huge stage, he tried valiantly, but I couldn’t help but doubt his claims that he loved S Club 7 as a kid, seeing as how he’s 16. He might have loved them. He might have. But they broke up in 2003, six whole years before he was born. So… Anyway, he did a couple of his own songs and then a cover of Pretty Pretty Please by Pink, and exhorted us to believe in ourselves and that we’re perfect exactly as we are. Which was an admirable statement. Like, I said, he was very earnest. Very American.

And then. Then the lights dimmed and everyone was on their feet. And then S Club 7 came out. Now, I never saw S Club 7 in concert when I was a kid, so my nostalgia is for dancing round my room, rather than comparing my childhood experience of a concert to an adult one. But my stars and bonnet, were they good.

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The seven back together again.

If you’ve never heard of S Club 7, below is one of their hits. They were together between 1998 and 2003, and had their own TV shows of Miami 7, then L.A. 7, then Hollywood 7 and Viva S Club. They had a film, which I’d completely forgotten about until last week. They were huge in the UK. Not sure if they made it in the rest of the world…

Getting primary school disco flashbacks

Their songs are pure, unadulterated pop. It was the early 00s, and the cheesier and poppier a song was, the better it did. That’s how I remember it anyway. And S Club 7 played into that cheesiness the entire way through the gig. They weren’t trying to pretend that their songs are going to down in history as perfectly crafted songs, there was no pretension, just sheer cheese and joy.

Not the official video, but the version from their TV show for added nostalgia.

As well as their hits, they each did an individual bit. For most of them, this was a performance of their solo songs – Rachel Stevens did LA Ex. It was awesome. But Paul came out with a guitar and did an acoustic rendition of ‘Reach’. Which probably shouldn’t have worked, but it did and he got really excited when the audience did the harmonies. As if we weren’t going to do the harmonies.

There was also a full S Club 7 cover of Uptown Funk, which was ridiculous and amazing, much like the original. It was such a great night. Some of the links between songs were kinda forced, but seeing as it was the first night of the tour, I can forgive them for being a little shaky on how to get from one solo act to the next. It was an excellent concert and I’m so glad I went. Thanks to Jo for coming too and singing along as much as I did. Sometimes it’s nice to just listen to purely happy music. Sometimes, cheese is good for the soul.

* Disclaimer: I am definitely not a cool kid.

**Disclaimer: I am still definitely not a cool kid.

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Swingamajig (ft. various Whatstheirnames)

Swingamajig. How do I describe Swingamajig? Bowties galore. Music from every corner. Longer queues for face painting than alcohol. Probably sums it up well enough. Cool, blog post done. I’m kidding. You know I’m about to launch into a long post about a really excellent day.

Swingamajig is an electroswing festival that, this year, happened on 3rd May at the Custard Factory in Birmingham. And due to the alluring combination of Birmingham and electroswing I went.  Do love me some electroswing.

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THEY HAD A DRAGON.

Starting at 2pm and going on until 6am with 6 different areas, Swingamajig knows how to party. I, however, having recently reached the grand old age of 22 cannot party that hard, and arrived at 3pm ish with plans to leave at 10.30pm. It also meant I could actually get home rather than trying to get a taxi for many miles for much money. So, there I was, on a beautiful May day, all on my lonesome at a festival I was very excited for. First thing I do? End up at a cabaret show at the Mockingbird Theatre. Where I bumped into people I knew. The world is small.

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Fun fact: 20% of pictures on this blog are of a ceiling strung with fairy lights and bunting esque things

The cabaret was pretty great. Started with hula hooping and ribbon dancing, moved on to a strong men act from Johnny Foreigner and Joe Public, to a swing dance performance by The Mudflappers, to a magic act by Those Two Magicians, to a burlesque performance by the Vixens, all emceed by the Reverend Michael Alabama Jackson and Sister Mary Lou from The Church (it’s a play type thing.)

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And people say Birmingham’s ugly.

After the cabaret was done, I went on a wander round the site and found the Arch stage, which was outside and quickly became my favourite stage. I caught the end of Voodoo Jukebox‘s set, who you can listen to here. Then a friend from uni turned up and I went to find them before dragging them back to the Arch stage to listen to Maniere des Bohemiens, who you can listen to here. They were great – we ended up sticking around for the entirety of their hour long set.

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Some excellent graffiti 

We wandered into the Main Stage area just in time for Elle and the Pocket Belles to start their set. The best way I can describe them is as the embodiment of Candyman by Christina Aguilera. It was great. They did originals and covers and there was even a Disney medley in there. You can listen to them here. They had a very electro remix of one of their songs and the crowd went ridiculously wild, as if everyone suddenly went ‘this sounds like club music. We can dance to club music.’

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So impressive.

On our way out, there was a performance of hoop work. I don’t know what the proper term for it is. There was a hula hoop suspended from the ceiling and two girls took it turns to do very impressive things that I’m pretty sure are magic.

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Okay, so maybe 25% of pictures on here are of ceilings strung with cool stuff.

We ended up in the swing room in The Attic, because, well, it was us, but a lesson was starting so I left my friend and went on a wander round to The Ragtime Records Warehouse. Had a bit of a bop to some very electro electroswing before I ended back up back outside at the Arch Stage. And there I was introduced to the music of the fabulous Rin Tins. They were awesome. One of their guitarists had the most expressive face ever and they were very into audience participation. Seriously, it was one of the best hours I’ve ever spent listening to live music. They’re so good. Go and listen to them here.

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Clarinet in a band = big yes.

After The Rin Tins sadly finished, we headed back up to The Attic because a friend of ours was djing and well, you know, swing dancing. After half an hour of social dancing and buying The Rin Tins’ CD, I had to go, if I wanted to get home.

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They had a fire person. Have I mentioned how cool Swingamajig was?

Swingamajig was amazing. I had a really great time and I’ve already talked about it enough to persuade two friends to come with me next year if it’s on. The venues were awesome, the people were great and I found a ton of new music to listen to. I have nothing bad to say about it.

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All the girls love a period film

It is a cliché universally acknowledged that females love period dramas. How many times have we seen films or read books in which a woman reads Pride and Prejudice every year, and don’t you just love the BBC adaptation? So faithful to the book and with the pleasing addition of Colin Firth in a wet white shirt.

Now, I’m not bashing Pride and Prejudice, or even Austen in general. They’re very fine books, and the BBC adaptation is by all accounts very good. But personally, I’m not the biggest fan of Regency drama. In fact I have to say, that when it comes to corsets and crinolines, I tend towards the Victorian era and even then at a push.

So, if I’m not swooning over Mr Darcy or longing for Heathcliff to come striding over the moors, how do I cope? What happens when I feel the desperate, primal need to watch something from a bygone era? Simple. I look to a more recent time.

Sadly, this isn’t a post about how much I love 90s films (though watch this space because that’s a great idea.) Instead it’s my three favourite period dramas. And don’t worry. Colin Firth features twice.

  1. The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)

Okay, so I do believe I just said I wasn’t a big fan of the corsets and crinolines era, but set in 1895, The Importance of Being Earnest is only just still in that period. Besides, it’s based on a play by Oscar Wilde and if anyone doesn’t feel like a fusty Victorian, it’s Wilde.

The 2002 film feels far more modern than the 1952 film (shocking, that), and it’s a great way to spend 97 minutes of your life. With Colin Firth in the lead, as well as other characters played by Rupert Everett, Reese Witherspoon and Judi Dench, it’s fairly star studded. Obviously that doesn’t make a film, but it helps.

The film goes out of its way to be funny, not that it needs to go very far from the original text to do so. In fact, all it does is add visual cues, creating jokes that perhaps weren’t explicitly in the original, but I’m sure Wilde would approve of anyway. With clever, witty women, immensely quotable lines, and Colin Firth singing long before Mamma Mia, there’s so much to enjoy in this film.

  1. Easy Virtue (2008)

Again, featuring some excellent actors like Jessica Biel, Colin Firth (yes, again), Kristin Scott Thomas and Ben Barnes, this film is set in 1920s England. The prodigal son John is returning to the family’s country home, that is somewhat falling down because a) they have no money and b) there’s no staff left seeing as most of the men died in WW1. But instead of coming home to marry childhood friend Sarah whose wealth would save the manor, John has already married Larita, who is *gasp* older, *double gasp* a race car driver and *faints* American. Her and his mother do not get on.

It’s based on a Noel Coward play and is very funny, very sardonic.  I think it’d probably be considered “British humour”, and if that only vaguely appeals to you, you need to watch it even if just for the butler played by the fantastic Kris Marshall. And the soundtrack. The soundtrack is a mix of genuine twenties songs and modern songs done in a twenties style. Don’t think that sounds awesome? Check it out:

Not a Tom Jones fan? There’s also an amazing version of ‘When the Tough Get Going’

  1. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)

Released the same year as Easy Virtue, it took me a good while longer to discover Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, most likely because Ben Barnes isn’t in it. But Amy Adams, Frances McDormand, Lee Pace and Mark Strong are. And my stars and bonnet, is it a fantastic film.

Set in 1939, Miss Pettigrew is a frequently dismissed governeness, who, ends up working for Delysia Lafosse as a social secretary, despite not knowing what a social secretary is. Delysia juggles three men, fashions shows and parties, all in her pursuit of fame and happiness. Of course, only one of the men truly loves her and this much is obvious. The film follows Miss Pettigrew for only one day, but what a day.

Gorgeously and lovingly accurate to the 30s, the costumes and sets are a joy, and I wish somewhere like The Scarlet Peacock existed (except perhaps with a less sexist owner). It’s based on a book by Winifred Watson, which is equally as excellent, and I can’t help but love it. Not that there’s any reason to not. With two female leads, an engaging plot and the aforementioned attention to detail in the dressing, it’s a fantastic fantastic film.