You Are Not So Smart, by David McRaney – Based on the popular blog of the same name, this book highlights the hidden assumptions of our everyday life. In 48 insightful chapters, McRaney acknowledges the ways in which we compromise our intelligence every day.
Tuesday, 19 August 2014
My friends make fun of me because I like to take photographs of the books I’m reading, pop attractive filters on them (Valencia, thanks) and upload them to Instagram. But I see it as something of a public service, always aiming to make people aware of the latest literary creations available to them (in all good bookstores). They should be thanking me.
I read, on average, a book a week. Some I don’t enjoy, some are simply entertaining acts of light escapism, and some change the way I see the world and live my life. That is the beauty of a book – there is so much potential for greatness.
I decided to collate some of my latest reads. I would recommend all of them, for different reasons, depending on what you want out of them. All are a beautiful or funny or haunting collection of words.
The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion – The message is that love can conquer all, which is sentimental, to say the least, but compelling and touching nonetheless. I adored this book and implore you to read it. It will make you laugh and cry with equal gusto and I for one, am happy with that.
Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler – The author reveals the collapse of Min and Ed's relationship through stories about the “prizes and debris” that Min has kept as mementos and is about to dump on Ed’s doorstep. For me, the highlight of this beautiful little book was the gorgeous illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. Although it was not the most compelling read of my life, it is a sweet and poignant story.
Finding Colin Firth, by Mia March – I loved this book. It’s not particularly imaginative and it’s not going to be talked about for years to come, but it was a perfect commuting read, which elicits genuine concern for March’s carefully crafted characters. Take it on holiday or read it on the train, you’ll like it, I’m sure.
Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, by Helen Fielding – The first Bridget Jones book was and remains to be one of my favourite books of all time, and when I heard a new one was coming out, there was no way I was going to wait for the paperback. Although it fails to reach the heights of Bridget Jones’ Diary, that infamous voice of the woman who tries so desperately and fails so endearingly, rings throughout.
A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby – This is one of only two books I’ve read after seeing the film, which isn’t a way of living life I endorse. It is important, dark and funny, but the writing style started to jar with me after a chapter or so. I preferred the film.
Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight – McCreight uncovers the relationship of a mother and daughter, which, heartbreakingly, is doomed from the first page. Underneath the mystery surrounding the daughter’s untimely death, is an intensely accurate portrait of the flawed but loving relationship between family members.
The State We’re In, by Adele Parks – It’s Bridget Jones meets Nicholas Sparks; terribly sad, quietly funny, and you’ll heartily root for those characters, happily forgiving their misgivings and faults in the process.
Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell – It is the simplicity with which the author tells of this unlikely young love that makes this book so wonderful. And it is wonderful. Unlikely, of course, and sometimes excruciating, but Eleanor and Park make you realise that love is simple, and perhaps it only breaks because we complicate it.
Writing these reviews made me realise how much I read about love. I’m not sure what that says about me, I’m not sure I want to know, but I think the way that literature deals with matters of the heart has and will always be of the upmost importance.
Posted by clairemaxwell at 14:53
Thursday, 10 July 2014
Does the bad stuff spark creativity? Should we be looking for experience over contentment? Is happy boring?
After binge-watching GIRLS for the last few days and hearing the show’s anti-heroine, Hannah Horvath, explain to a fellow character that she’s “never wanted to be happy”, I started to think about the idea of struggle in a different way.
The bad stuff we go through, while traumatic at the time, leads to lessons learned, a deeper sense of character and stories to tell. For those of us who like to write from experience, the bad stuff sure does offer up an expanse of potential material.
Not only have I learned a lot from the comparatively minimal trials I’ve experienced, but some of my favourite and best stories to tell are tales of woe. The kind of stories I repeat, over and over, to any willing audience I can find, in my always honourable attempt to be both self-deprecating and the centre of attention.
I usually get a big laugh when I recall the day I got dumped and received a formal warning at work for not offering someone a cup of tea, and then almost crashed my car on the way home because I was sobbing so violently whilst simultaneously singing along to the Demi Lavato classic, Skyscraper. It was very dramatic and not at all funny at the time – I was in a deep state of inner turmoil and self-pity and kind of felt like I was in a film – but now, I think it’s fucking hilarious.
Similarly, when I was 17 years old and crippled with OCD, I did some pretty weird stuff, the kind of stuff that only really gets airtime in satirical comedy sketches. And I've used that - I’ve written a lot about OCD and my experiences, my first published article was about the illness, and so, in a way, I’m grateful for the opportunities it provided me with.
Almost all the big comedians have, or have had, some form of mental illness. Stephen Fry suffers from bipolar disorder, Miranda Hart and Spike Milligan from depression, as well as David Walliams, Paul Merton and Robin Williams. A study by Oxford University researchers found that there is a link between mental illness and creativity and that the creative elements needed for humour are similar to traits seen in people with psychosis.
Despite her youthful ignorance, Hannah Horvath, known in real life as Lena Dunham, seems to have hit the nail on the head somewhat. Suffering is authentic and raw, while happiness is more fickle. It is openly and easily expressed, which doesn’t lend itself to character development or creativity.
The idea of not wanting to be happy is an alien one, and it doesn’t sit particularly comfortably. Perhaps though, if only subconsciously, we want the journey more than the end goal. And if not, maybe that's what is best for us. Creatively speaking, anyway.
Of course it's all about balance - everything is about balance. Whether it's how much carbohydrate, protein and vegetables you eat or how much time you spend alone vs social-butterflying. We need the bad to appreciate (or even comprehend) the good, that is undeniable, but to return to my earlier queston, "is happy boring?", my conclusion is yes, but only to the question in its most simplistic form. Negative experiences keep us wanting, discontent and hopefully moving forward. I always want to be moving forward, being inspired and creating. I don't think it is a case of wanting bad things to happen, it is rather a case of wanting to experience as much as possible, and to do that one must enter the world, fully and fearlessly, and get hurt and damaged in the process. You can't be creative without that. It is arguably impossible.
So Hannah-from-GIRLS, I agree, we should go and experience life, devoid of fear. Let's do that. And then write about it.
Posted by clairemaxwell at 12:55
Thursday, 19 June 2014
Burger. HELLO. I've been there. I wish I was there now
Your pictures look shit when you split them in three. Come on guys, VISUALS
Stop showing me your cat it makes me cry *double taps through regretful tears*
Urgh, I hate your sports-bra-post-run-mirror-selfies because you’re horribly narcissistic and you have such a nice belly
I hate most of the people I follow
Maybe I should unfollow some of them…?
No, don’t be ridiculous, then who would I hate?
I’d find someone
Like this person on holiday while I’m at work. What a horrible bitch
OR THIS PERSON INSTAGRAMMING THEIR BOYFRIEND
LOOK AT THE FUCKING CAPTION
I think I just threw up in my mouth
LOOK AT THE FUCKING CAPTION
I think I just threw up in my mouth
Your dinner looks shit
I want a cat so bad
I don’t care that you went for a run and I also don’t care how many calories you burnt, but I’m still going to like your picture of your expensive calorie counting watch because I’m such an encouraging friend
I wish I was Joy the Baker
FUCK YES ELLIE GOULDING HAS POSTED A SELFIE AND SHE LOOKS SO SICK
If that picture was of anyone else I’d hate them
I’m going to take a selfie now and I’ll probably go with a Valencia filter because I think that’s the one that makes my skin look good
And then I’ll ask mum if we can get a cat again
Posted by clairemaxwell at 16:55
Wednesday, 11 June 2014
Another year is gone, like a lingering hangover in a cloud of biscuit crumbs, cheap wine and vague regret. I am 22-years-old now, and so grateful that 21 is finally over.
I didn’t enjoy being 21, frankly, which had much to do with unfortunate situations and a little to do with unrealistic expectations. I feel like there’s too much pressure on the poor 21-year-old to have all the fun available to them, whilst also being a fully grown grownup who manages their finances and remembers to shower in the morning. The two are not compatible. Such expectations set us up for a fall and I think that’s flawed and a bit mean.
This past year I’ve been juggling a hefty commute, starting my career, a couple of break ups, a LOT of wine, some deep sadness, and, only-on-one-occasion-I-hasten-to-add, staying out till 6am on a Tuesday and then catching the 7.32 to Baker Street to negotiate a day of meetings.
I was not fresh.
I hope to feel more comfortable in my 22nd year on earth. I plan to move to London, get properly settled there and in my new job, and rinse that Taylor Swift song for all it is worth. It’s also the first year since I was 17 that I’ve been single (madness) and I hope to become a little more content in that too.
Before I can begin all that contented new-me crap though, I must show you my birthday. The weekend was splendid, thanks. Friday night nicely tended to my moderate alcoholism, on Saturday we had all the family round for a BBQ, and on Sunday (my actual birthday) I ate my weight in pastries, burgers and cheese, and got a bit sunburnt in a beer garden. Top chuffing notch.
Posted by clairemaxwell at 21:01
Thursday, 29 May 2014
Take a weekend camping trip to the beach and sit under the stars drinking bottles of cider, listening to pretentious tunes and laughing about complete shit
Don’t worry too much about the tummy rolls on show when sitting at a 90 degree angle wearing a bikini. No one is looking, or cares, so enjoy that sun on your skin gurrrrrrl, but…
Wear sun cream
Meet friends after work on a Friday and sit/stand outside one of those impossibly busy London pubs just being happy we’re all alive and there’s wine in the world
Go buy frozen yoghurt from one of those places you always walk past and think: “I’d really like to buy frozen yoghurt, but I won’t today.”
Rooftop cinema – preferably with hotdogs
Rooftop bar, while watching the sun go down and holding a bellini
Wear short denim dungarees most of the time
Buy and wear funny t-shirts. Under said dungarees
Barbeque halloumi, mushrooms and peppers and shove it all in a warm bun and then in your face
Make time for the people you love
Don’t take anything too seriously, only have fun, and remember that people disappoint, but pizza is eternal.
Posted by clairemaxwell at 12:53
Thursday, 22 May 2014
Some might not feel it entirely necessary in the scheme of their lives to queue outdoors in the cold for a humble burger, but to those people I say “YOU FOOLS”. And when I say it I shout and spit a bit, just to, you know, emphasise my point.
I found myself outside Five Guys in Covent Garden a couple of months ago with a friend who fervently and regularly sings its praises. There was a long queue, but delicious smells of frying patties and sizzling cheese were wafting out the front door and down the line and there was no chance of anyone going ANYWHERE, except for inside.
Five Guys is an American chain that recently came over to London to tantalise our taste buds and widen our waistlines. At a similar time Shake Shack appeared, just round the corner and boasting a very similar story. From reading burger reviews online, which I do regularly, it appears that people are in one camp or the other - Five Guys or Shake Shack. I’ll visit Shake Shack soon and decide on my allegiance. But first, Five Guys...
Once inside the no-frills, reasonably authentic looking diner, we ordered at the counter. I went for my usual cheese burger, obviously, while my companion tried out a hotdog (no judgements here). We got small fries to share and were presented with a large paper bag bursting full of those delightful fried potato morsels. More than enough for a family of five.
The burger was exquisite. I’m not normally an advocate of the sesame seed bun but this one was perfect - lightly toasted and an ideal harness for the juicy burger and sloppy toppings it encased. The patty was well-done but still moist, the lettuce was crispy and fresh and the cheese melted into everything around it, making every mouthful a little bite of gooey heaven.
That mammoth bag of chips went down a treat too. They were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Simple and exactly as I believe chips were intended to be.
Our meals disappeared in minutes, which is always a good sign.
And so, dear reader, my message to you is this: next time you see a line of hungry looking people snaking around the outside of a distinctly average looking burger joint, do join them, they might know something you don’t, and you might just like it.
(TOP TIP: Always go for the "little burger". It's the size of a normal burger elsewhere and considerably cheaper than the standard burger at FG.)
Official rating system:
Value: 9/10 Prices start at £4.75 for a little burger, and considering the quantity of fries you get in a "small" portion - excellent value for money.
Food: 9/10 Strong, very strong.
Staff: 5/10 A bit McDonalds-y in the service.
Overall: 8/10 Perfect for a quick and delicious bite to eat.
See other burger reviews here.
Five Guys, 1-3 Long Acre, WC2, www.fiveguys.co.uk
Thursday, 15 May 2014
Hi, remember me? I used to write words here before I lost any trace of creative spark and disappeared into my real-life world where everything goes too quickly and unnoticed. I think my blog, much like my life, needs a face lift, a burst of energy and some bloody content.
(Actually my life needs no extra content, it has plenty thanks – ridiculous, mostly inadvisable content).
I'm trying to make changes and organise my real life, and I want to do the same with my blog too. Now I'm not writing for a day job, and instead working with other people's writing, I will hopefully have more creative energy to do the kind of writing I actually enjoy.
Words, food and pictures are what get my heart a'racing, so how about some burgers? With good pictures and hopefully legible, possibly amusing words. That’s as good a place to start as any, better even. I’ve been tirelessly researching new London eateries to add to my list, tirelessly I tell you, so here’s what I’ve come up with (including the ones already on there):
Red Dog Saloon – Hoxton
Burger and Lobster – Soho
MeatLiquor – Soho – (I’ve been but sans camera. I’ll be back, it was dreamy)
Five Guys – Covent Garden – (done and coming up in the next few days)
Shake Shack – Covent Garden
Lucky Chip – Bethnal Green
Boom Burger – Notting Hill
Hache Burgers – Camden, Chelsea, Clapham, Shoreditch
Electric Diner – Notting Hill
The Loft – Clapham
Dip & Flip - Battersea
Bleeker St - food truck, in Kings Cross and Dalston
Dip & Flip - Battersea
Bleeker St - food truck, in Kings Cross and Dalston
I work in London, I’m planning on living there too ASAP, I have no excuse not to be eating delicious cheesy patties every other week AT LEAST. I hope you’re as excited as I am. If you’d like to join me in the eating of burgers, do let me know, although it would be preferable if I knew you or at least knew you not to be a psycho.
I'm also looking forward to generating some publicity for the often-overlooked-friend-of-the-burger, chips.
Once I've finished writing about all of these places, I'm moving onto pizza, the other light-of-my-life.
Posted by clairemaxwell at 16:36