Monday, 30 March 2015

us by david nicholls.

My Dad bought me this book, during a Sunday afternoon slowly walking through bookshops, and I’m pretty grateful, as it’s probably not a book I would have picked up on my accord. And I say that, despite having read David Nicholls’ previous book One Day (didn’t everyone?) which stands as one of the books that’s made me cry the most in my life (the film being even worse, I actively remember me and my friend going to see it, the film ending and us both literally bawling).

The book follows the story of Douglas, who is woken up in the middle of the night by his wife of nearly 25 years, Connie, who says she wants to leave him – “. She says she won’t leave him until they have completed their Grand Tour, which they’re due to go on with their son Albie before he leaves home to go to University. Connie and Douglas are completely opposite types, she’s an artist and he’s a biochemist. They meet when she’s off her face, and he’s desperately trying to leave a party. As Mark Lawson wrote; “whereas One Day mismatched a serious-minded woman with a hedonistic and libidinous man, Us reverses the polarities.” Despite this, Douglas clearly adores his wife and can’t conceive of life without her. Douglas decides that he will use the Grand Tour as his chance to win back his wife.

One of the biggest criticisms I’ve seen of the book is that it’s relatively unrealistic. But although this is vaguely true (I’m not sure many married couples on the brink of divorce would actually decide to go on a long holiday together, pre-booked and organised or not) and sure, some of the events which occur on the way are relatively unrealistic too. But at the same time, it’s never too unrealistic. It could happen. It probably wouldn’t, but it could. And that’s good enough for me. Stories, at the end of the day, don’t always have to be completely realistic.

I found myself really relating to Douglas throughout the book, even though he is a married biochemist in his fifties and I’m a very much single comms girl in her twenties. He’s sensible and in contrast to his wife he’s predictable and not very spontaneous, which is a state of life I can very much relate to. Not only that, but his son is very much his wife’s kid, and he often tries to fit into their arty world, but always finds himself on the edge, not quite able to connect. I am sure there are many people who would read that and could relate in some way, to a moment in their lives when they just felt they couldn’t get into the same bubble as those around them.

I felt endlessly sorry for Douglas. It was so obvious that he’d constantly try his best to make sure his family had good lives, but all of his attempts are met with bullshit back from his son and his wife. How could they not see how hard he was trying? How could they not see how much he loved and adored them both? Why would Connie never stand up for him? Why was Albie allowed to get away with so much shit? My parents would have killed me if I’d behaved in any way close to how he behaved. It sometimes becomes slightly distressing to see someone working so hard, and getting shot down at every moment, so full of hope, yet completely shat on at every opportunity.

The book doesn’t use traditional chapters, instead it’s split up into numbered mini-chapters, which make it easy to read and keep the pace going. They all have slightly odd names, all of which are explained within that paragraph. The book flits in and out of the present and explaining the history between Douglas and Connie, but it never feels disjointed or difficult to read.

The book (in cliché fashion) made me laugh and made me cry and at one point it completely took the wind out of sales. I read it all within the space of two days, and when it finished I was gutted. It was one of those books that I wanted to know more about, and wanted to know what had happened to the characters later on. If you get chance to read this book, take it, I can recommend it whole heartedly.

Friday, 27 March 2015

review: superdrug naturally radiant glycolic overnight peel.

I picked this up as part of my “I will always look for new Superdrug products because I love them” approach to life. I was drawn in by the sciencey name of this product, which I am essentially ashamed of, but not too embarrassed to admit. I’ve used Superdrug’s Naturally Radiant range before (the hot cloth cleanser and various moisturisers to be specific) and even though it’s still in second place compared to their vitamin E range, I’m still a pretty big fan.

This product claims to be “formulated with a unique energising complex and infused with Kiwi and Mulberry extracts to help revive skin’s radiance and even out skin tone”. Right. Apparently it’s a “refreshing gel formula” which also “refines and retextures the skin’s surface, providing a brighter more youthful complexion”. Great, exactly what I could do with. Having turned 24 not so long ago, I am increasingly concerned that I am getting and looking older with each passing second. My skin is suffering.

The directions for the use of the product are a little vague. It tells you to use a small pea sized amount to a freshly cleansed face at night, avoiding your eye area, leaving overnight to wash off the next morning. That’s all well and good, but do I moisturise? I don’t like not moisturising at night, because my skin can really suffer if I don’t, so I’ve tried it both ways and I can honestly say I haven’t seen much of a difference. Also, how often am I supposed to use it? Every night? Once a week? It all becomes trial and error, which isn’t all that great when it comes to a product like this. In the end I used this two or three times a week. I once used it three times in a row and my face went a little red. Nothing drastic, and nothing that make up couldn’t cover, but still. Not ideal. I would also say that avoiding the eye area is pretty crucial, I got it a bit too close and my eyes went a bit puffy, but then I do have very sensitive eyes so probably me and not the product.

It’s easy enough to sleep in. One of the things I was worried about was waking up the next morning and feeling like a rock with a stiff face, and luckily that wasn’t the case. I almost completely forgot that I’d even applied it the night before. It sinks in pretty quickly once you’ve applied it and you can do it straight before bed without waiting around.

I’ll admit I didn’t love this product when I first started using it. I didn’t see any real difference on the first, second or third time I used it. The only real benefits at this point was that my face felt really clean once I’d washed it off in the morning, more so than normal, and quite soft. But I persevered and I’m actually quite impressed by it. Once I’ve washed it off in the morning, my face feels soft, really clean – not oily at all – my pores aren’t as clogged as they used to be. It has definitely made my skin look slightly healthier too.

Now this isn’t a miracle product by any means, but for £5.99 I’m not complaining. It does the job as well as I’d expected. Will I be repurchasing? Possibly – if it’s on offer than more than likely.

Monday, 23 March 2015

postmans park.

A few months ago, I had a week off work and I decided to spend it seeing things around London. One afternoon, I headed off to the City, which is a part of London I never actually go and visit. It was so long ago now I remember I actually combined it with a visit to see the poppies at the Tower of London. 

I found myself in Postman’s Park, which is a small park not that far away from St Pauls. It was built in 1900, after a Victorian painter – GF Watts – wrote to the Times suggesting a park which commemorated ‘heroic men and women’. Inside the park there’s a small gallery, called the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice, which has glazed tablets which document a tale of when someone has died while being a hero and trying to save others. 

I love the language which is used on the tablets “ saved a drowning boy from the canal but sadly was unable to save himself”, “saved six persons from fire in Gray’s Inn Road, but in his last heroic act he was scorched to death”. The last tablet to be added was in 2009, which was the first addition for 78 years, and recommendations can still be taken. 

If you have ten minutes spare and you’re around the park, I would seriously recommend going to have a quick look at the Gallery and reading the different tablets. Some of them are quite moving and all quite unexpected. Definitely one of London’s slightly odder ‘attractions’. 

Friday, 20 March 2015

review: mua pro-base prime & conceal tone correcting baked powder

I always go searching through the MUA stand at Superdrug on the lookout for anything new they might have. I don’t like some of their stuff, but I really like some of their concealers so I always have a search – plus as most things are well under a fiver, you can usually try something out when you wouldn’t normally take a risk on it. I always feel a bit like a teenager using their stuff, but I am as skint as I was when I was fourteen, so that embarrassment never lasts all that long.

So I picked up this tone correcting baked powder, because I use an ELF tone corrector every single day, it’s one of my must have make up items. If I ever put in an ELF order, I buy about six boxes just to make sure I never run out. And while that’s all well and good, I have, of course, run out, so picking this up in MUA I thought “hurrah, a product which claims to do the same thing, but without delivery! Cracking”, and I was quite excited to try it out.

If you’ve never used a tone corrector before, they have four different colours, to try and even out your tone and complexion and to brighten you up. For example, the peach tone helps to neutralise dark circles, the lilac tone helps to brighten, the green tone helps to neutralise redness and the yellow helps to neutralise dark patches. As an off shoot, the ELF product works in pretty much exactly the same way, and has so far been one of the better products for my dark eye circles. So I was expecting quite a lot.

But I’m not hugely impressed with this product. It works well, but only just to a point. Because of the baked nature of the product, I find it takes a lot of effort to get enough product on my face to make a real difference. This would have been so much better if it was just a ‘standard’ powder. This only works well when it comes to mixing the colours together to get some coverage, but it’s almost impossible to separate the colours to target any problem areas you might have. Also, you only get a small amount of product, but it’s packaged in a way which makes you think you have loads. Sneaky and cheeky.

If you’re after a good tone corrector, I’d stick with the ELF version. It’s definitely worth waiting for over using this product. Having said that, MUA also do a tone and correct product which is cream based. Even without having used that, I would say if you’re tied between the two in Superdrug, choose the cream based version. Even for only £4, I won't be getting this again.

Monday, 16 March 2015

museum of brands, packaging and advertising.

If I had any form of creativity whatsoever, I would have gone into advertising and perhaps in another life I would have done. Instead I did the next best thing. I picked a communications masters degree and visited the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, hidden away in a mews building in Notting Hill.

This is possibly one of London's slightly odder museums, and also not free (it costs £6 and doesn't take an incredibly long time to get around). I honestly wouldn't recommend it if you have no interest in anything to do with brands, packaging, advertising, social history, design or anything 'vintage' (I'm cringing at my own phrasing here, I'm sorry).

The museum is unsurprising split into three sections; brands, packaging and advertising. I'll be honest and say that I didn't enjoy the advertising section a huge amount. It starts at 1800 and goes right up to the present date. I enjoyed it more the further on I got, as I started to recognise more and more of the products which were featured and could remember some from my own childhood. I imagine that if you were older, you'd enjoy more sections. But the 1990s and the 2000s section was pretty fun and a great trip down memory lane.

My favourite part was the bit where you get to see each product and its evolution through time, seeing how it's changed throughout the years. And there are little facts throughout the small museum. If you have an hour or two spare and you're in Notting Hill, I would definitely recommend it.