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Pieminister Gets My Vote

I’d heard about Pieminister. My friends had sung its praises, my girlfriend has often sighed at pie we’ve bought, saying it’s just not Pieminister, and then we also own their cookbook ‘A Pie for All Seasons’, from which delicious pies have been made. But I’d never actually been to a Pieminister.

Hipster looking shop with views of the Town Hall

This all changed today, when Beth took me out to celebrate my new job. (I work in tech now guys – any women or LGBTQ+ people in tech advice, hit me up.) And so, with a Pieminister recently opened in Brum, we went. And man, it was not oversold. At all.

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View of the Town Hall was A++

With all kinds of pie, from beef to chicken to vegetarian and even gluten free, you’re not short of options. Unless you’re vegan. With only one main option that isn’t even a pie, it might not be everything you want from a pie joint if you’re vegan. All names are puns and everything sounds delicious – which is my kind of restaurant. And all pies come with gravy. Our waitress was very clear on that, which I fully appreciate.

When you’ve picked your pie, then you can pick your meal type. Classic, Mothership, Feast or Stick ‘Em Up – all of which come with varying amounts of sides or sticks (kebabs skewers with either pigs in blankets, onion rings or halloumi).

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Gotta love a flat lay esque photo

I went for the Free Ranger (chicken, ham, leek and thyme), with mash, garden peas with chilli and a stick of pigs in blankets. Beth had the Chicken of Aragon, with mash, minted mushy peas and a stick of pigs in bankets.

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Food for the eyes as well as the stomach

It was gorgeous. Not only was the presentation lovely, but it tasted delicious. The pie was everything pie should be. If I had to describe the epitome of a pie, it would be the pie I had at Pieminister. Both kinds of pea were great, and the pigs in blankets were exactly right.

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I was trying to be arty with gravy

All of the staff were super lovely, and the service was good. Oh, and on Sundays, cocktails are two for one. I thoroughly enjoyed Pieminister, totally see what all the hype was about. I’ll be going back as soon as I can. Next time you’re dreaming of pie, this is the place to go.

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Queer and Now

On Saturday, Tate Britain held an event called Queer and Now, launching Pride in London for 2017. They’ve also currently got an exhibition called Queer British Art 1861-1967, which is on until 1st October. All in all, it promised to be a fantastic day, and me and Beth headed down to London.

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Right queer, right now

A note on the use of Queer: Tate Britain outlined in the Queer and Now programme that ‘the word queer has been used both as a term of abuse and by LGBTQ+ people to refer to themselves from the end of the 19th century onwards. Queer and Now is inspired by its usage as an inclusive, fluid term for people of different sexualites and gender identities, and as a way of expressing ways of being in the world that don’t conform to the established norms’. Please be aware that I use queer throughout this post to refer to the LGBTQ+ community, as I both use it to refer to my identity as a bisexual woman in a relationship with a woman and it was part of an event called Queer and Now. However, I feel it’s important to acknowledge that while queer has been reclaimed by some members of the community but not every member of the LGBTQ+ community is happy to use queer, so it’s always worth talking to members of the community about how they would like to be referred to.

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The size of a giant wall this was

First thing we did was go round Queer British Art 1861-1967. Starting, as you might expect, in 1861 it chronicles art created by people confirmed or believed to be queer, which was often of people confirmed or believed to be queer. My favourite rooms were Blooomsbury And Beyond, which focused on the Bloomsbury group – a set of artists and writers whose gender identities and sexualities spanned the full LGBTQ+ spectrum, and the Defying Convention room, which focused on how gender norms were challenged in the late 19th and early 20th century, particularly by women* and non binary people.

These rooms in particular, but also the rooms before them, tried to be representative past white gay cisgender men, including several women, trans men and nonbinary individuals. Most notably, the self portrait used in the promtional material for the exhibit is of Gluck, whose name, as stated by the artist, is to be used with “no prefix, suffix, or quotes” and resigned from an art society when this wasn’t followed. However, there was little racial diversity throughout the exhibit, and the final three rooms, as far as I saw, focused on cis men, as if the rest of the queer community stopped produing art in the early 20th century. The exhibition also had a real problem with deadnaming trans and nonbinary people. (Deadnaming is when when a trans person’s birth name is referred to either in addition to or instead of their chosen name.)

As exhibits go, it was so great to see myself represented in art, and to have this representation explicitly referred to in the signs next to the art. Some of the pieces in the exhibit were on loan from Birmingham Art Gallery, and I have seen them several times, never knowing they were part of queer art history. However, while I could see myself represented, there was still huge swathes of the community who were not. As I said earlier, the racial diversity in the displayed art was poor, women disappeared from the exhibit past the early 20th century and I imagine it must be upsetting for trans and non binary people to see themselves in the art, only for the artists identities to be disrepected in the contextual writing. I’d still recommend the exhibit, as the sheer joy of being in a space where queer artists were allowed to be queer was exhilirating, but as a white woman, I do speak from a position of relative privilege in being able to see myself in the art shown.

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Solid sign this is. To the point, I like it

While we were in Queer British Art,  Queer and Now got off to a swinging start, and when we came out of the exhibit the gallery was busy. All the activites were free, some were explicitly family friendly, and the variety on offer was incredible. From LGBTQ+ vendors at the pop up esty store, to performance art to make up workshops to talks about queer history, there really was something for everyone.

We learnt about queer convicts in Australia before we headed to The O Show on female masculinity. Hosted by Oriana Fox, this was a chat show style talk about the expression of female masculinity. Guests included Lucy Hutson, a performance artist, Temi Wilkey, actor and drag king who co-runs Pecs, a Drag King collective, and Del LaGrace Volcano, an international photographer who has referred to themselves as a ‘part-time gender terrorist’.

Drag King Cole (Temi Wilkey) and Thrustin Limbersnake (Lauren Steele), two Drag Kings of the Pecs collective, performed a lip sync, which was incredible. The discussion on female masculinity was really interesting, and two days later I’m still thinking about issues discussed. But, in all honesty, the thing that has most stuck with me was Temi’s solo performance as Drag King Cole, which was about police brutality against the black community in Britain and the USA. I’d never realised how political drag could be and how it could be used to make such a powerful statement. The room was silent when she’d finished, as well it should have been.

As the day turned into evening, there were several DJ sets beginning, but after so much to think about (how much do I subscribe to traditional gendered dressing, if I have kids how do I raise them in this society while being aware that the gender binary is a harmful contruct, where is my closest drag king night), we headed home for Birmingham.

It was glorious to be in such a queer coded space. It felt more queer coded than Pride, and that’s saying something. Coming back into the real world was a bit of a shock, especially when a stag do took over our train carriage on the way home, but I feel buoyed up by my queer Saturday in London. We have always existed. We produce art, we form academic theory, we hold hands and kiss in art galleries. We exist.

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Love happens here

*To confirm, whenever I say women, I include trans women.

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Victorian Computing Heroes

On Monday, me and Beth took advantage of the bank holiday to go on a quick jaunt to London. After speeding round the British Museum and eating a veritable feast at Wahaca, we headed for the Science Museum. I’d never been and Beth promised interactive exhibits. Which, as everyone knows, are the best kind of exhibits.

And then we came down a set of stairs and I freaked out.

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BEHOLD. THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE.

The Difference Engine is essentially the first computer. Charles Babbage designed it between 1847 and 1849, to calculate and run mathematical algorithms to speed up mathematical and scientific endeavors. Due to the fact that this was in the 1800s, it was never made because they couldn’t make parts that were precise enough. Oh, and Babbage abandoned the project to work on the Analytical Machine, which was a new and improved version of the Difference Machine. (He never finished the Analytical Machine either).

But the Science Museum built the Difference Engine in 1991 following Babbage’s plans. A big machine (though nowhere near as big as the first working computers) it is precisely calibrated to be able to churn through hundreds of numbers.

All of the above is pretty cool. Victorian inventor, first computers… It has all the makings of a great story. I’m not the first person to think this. In fact, I only found out about Charles Babbage and the Difference Engine thanks to Sydney Padua thinking it was a great story.

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An okay photo of a really excellent book.

Enter The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. Focusing on Charles Babbage, aforementioned inventor of the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine, and Ada Lovelace, who was basically the first computer programmer, this graphic novel first outlines what actually happened with Lovelace, Babbage and the Difference Engine, but then moves into imagining what could have happened if the Difference Engine had worked. And the answer is wacky steampunk-esque shenanigans.

With Babbage as an over protective owner of the Difference Engine (which, by all accounts, he was) and Ada Lovelace as pipe smoking, scientific and mathematical genius who worked out how to programme the Difference Engine (which, again, is an accurate and historical truthful portrayal), Lovelace and Babbage is a fantastic graphic novel. It’s lovingly drawn, extremely funny and historically accurate as far as possible. It has citations. What other graphic novel has citations.

I have never enjoyed scientific history so much, and Lovelace is my new hero (Did I mention that she was a female scientific genius in the Victorian era on whose work Turing based some of his research on?). Read it – you won’t regret it. And you too might get to freak out in the Science Museum like massive dork.

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Gif by Sydney Padua

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Welcome to my Crib v2

I’m back! Kind of… This blog comes to you courtsey of 3G. Despite having moved in with my girlfriend over a month ago, we still don’t have broadband. It’s a work in progress, but I’ve missed you guys, so 3G it is.

Back when this blog was still a Year Abroad blog, I did a post about my room. And I thought, as moving in with Beth has been the highlight of my year, that I’d show you the cool bits of our house.

So many house guardians 

Our mantelpiece is full of totoro and hippogriffs and pokemon and dorky dinosaurs from Iceland. They’re cute and cuddly and look after the house while we’re not there.

Hoxton Monster Supplies do great business out of us

I’ve mentioned Hoxton Street Monster Supplies before in this post, but since then I’ve been to the actual shop not just the Liberty’s pop up.

HSMS is fantastic, a childhood dream come true. It sells salt made from tears, tinned fear and fang floss for even the most discerning werewolves.

All proceeds go to the Ministry of Stories, a creative writing and mentoring charity for children. It’s a great place to visit and a great place to support. It keeps our kitchen well stocked with the Collywobbles and Mortal Terror.

Space!!!

We have a space wall. Because space is great and we might become an interplanetary species. Also, Nasa do some really fantastic space posters.

Most important part of the house

 Behold the tea shelf. The heart of the home. A world of choice and none of them wrong. At last count there were at least 20… We may have a problem. A warming, mood lifting, cup full of a problem.

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I’m not Dead

I’m so sorry for the radio silence. A month ago I moved house and a certain internet provider who shall rename nameless has been promising me internet that entire time.

I still do not have internet. (I’m posting this by 3G.) Which is deeply frustrating not only because I’d quite like to be able to do a Tesco delivery order, but because I have so many things saved up to tell you about.

Until the internet gods favour me again, you can keep up with me on Twitter, especially for Bake Off tweeting, or on Facebook for regularly scheduled moaning about the lack of internet.

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Look, I can’t be dead when I have such great taste in hats and superheros.

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Who You Gonna Call?

The original Ghostbusters came out in 1984 and starred Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson as the titular group. An iconic piece of pop culture, I watched it as a teenager as part of my 80s films phase. It was enjoyable, but I’ve not rewatched it since.

I’ve seen the new Ghostbusters film twice now. If the cinemas near me were still showing it at convenient times, I’d go see it again. Suffice to say, I really really enjoyed it. Starring Kristen Wigg, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon as the paranormal fighting bunch, it’s enjoyable and funny.

However, the film was receiving backlash before it was even released. Mostly because of the all female cast, partially because it was remake. Some people think it should be a continuation of the Ghostbusters series, rather than a reboot, which I think is a fair criticism. I’m quite happy with it being a reboot, but I didn’t love the original series, so that’s why I think that. As for all the retaliation, because they cast women in the lead roles … It’s time, okay? It’s 2016, women can be the lead in films other than rom coms.

Because I’ve seen it twice, I’ve been asked my opinion on the film a few times, so below find my frequently asked questions. Hope it helps if you’ve not seen it yet.

  1. Is it an enjoyable film?

Yes. Yes, it’s a highly enjoyable film. Laughs and scares and highly likable characters. Even the creator of the original Ghostbusters loved it. It’s everything a summer film should be. I would so suggest you go and see it.

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Dan Aykroyd’s facebook page giving Ghosbuster (2016) the thumbs up.

  1. Is it a good film?

Tricky question. It’s a silly film, like the original Ghostbusters, and for me the answer to this questions would be ‘well, it’s not going to win an Oscar’. But the original Ghostbusters was nominated for 2 Oscars. So who knows?

The CGI is fantastic, the acting is so good, and the plot makes sense. No glaring holes that I can think so.

  1. Is it like the original?

Much like every other reboot or series continuation, Ghostbusters has its fair share of shout outs and homage paying moments. But unlike Jurassic World, they’re not jarring, and the plot is different enough to the original to feel like you could have just watched the original.

  1. Isn’t Hollywood doing too many remakes?

Quite possibly. For me, it’s weird because I haven’t seen a lot of the originals (Jurassic Park, Star Wars…), so to me they’re entirely new films. But maybe Hollywood’s out of ideas. Who knows?

  1. Was it weird that all the main characters were female?

It was weird. But it shouldn’t be weird that there’s a film with 4 female leads, who are not sexualised, are never the butt of sexist or size-ist jokes, who so totally kick ass.

Women in films are never portrayed like this. Usually there’s only one woman who has to represent all of womankind, who looks a certain way to fit certain beauty standards, who either is the damsel in distress, or ends up fighting the only other woman in the film, who is never the main bad guy.

Watching Ghostbusters, particularly the climatic fight scene, made my heart swell three sizes. Because for what feels like the first time ever, I got to see women fight like men get to. That is to say, go all out fighting for their lives, not in spandex, not in sexy positions, but with badass music and proton guns galore.

 

I can’t quite explain how much this film means to me. And I know that its had such an emotional response for me, because of the portrayal of women in it. Which is great, and a good reason to go see the film anyway. However, that aside, you should go see it because it’s fun and silly and so enjoyable.

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Pockets of Greatness

Last couple of weeks have been… interesting. And while …interesting is not a fantastic way to describe past times, there have been some pockets of greatness. So I’m gonna tell you about them, and hopefully the …interesting-ness will end and we will be back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

  1. John Finnemore’s sketch try out.

John Finnemore, writer of Cabin Pressure and John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme, sometimes tries out sketches before he puts them into his radio show. And me and my girlfriend got tickets. Cue an hour of excellent comedy and a pocket of greatness was created.

  1. Fantastic food.

Arabica in Borough market has amazing food from The Levant (and if you like me don’t know what that means, here’s Wikipedia). I had Armenian-Style Lahmacun which was so delicious that I have no pictures of it, only fond memories. As well as fantastic food, Arabica has great drinks, it’s under railway arches (which I love) and the staff were so lovely.

  1. Gavin & Stacey

Yes, I’m about ten years too late to the party. But when it first came out I wasn’t so fussed by Gavin and Stacey. But I ran out of TV shows to watch on Netflix (suggestions in the comments, please) and so I ended up watching the British sitcom from the 00’s. And it’s great. Comedy focused around the little things. I now completely understand why everyone was talking about it when I was 15.

  1. Friends

Friends are great, as I’m sure most of you are aware. And in my life they’ve been super great recently. I’ve been a French evening to cheer up a homesick friend, I’ve met up with friends from school with plans to see them again soon, and I’ve reconnected with a friend from childhood after about a decade. Having friends and doing things with friends is highly recommended. 10/10. A++. Would do again.