Most of June was about recovering from the Madness of May, focusing on Compassionate Britain, and I didn’t do as much writing as I would have liked.
BUT – excitingly! – She Loves Magazine, a wonderful Christian magazine with a heart for social justice, asked me to be a regular contributor and join the esteemed ranks of writers such as Sarah Bessey, Kathy Escobar, Esther Emery and Abby Norman. I was honoured to say yes – please look for my posts there in the future.
Jon went on retreat, and the boy and I survived and made kick-ass paper aeroplanes.
I was pretty wiped from Compassionate Britain and being home alone, so I only managed a trip out of the house once this month, but it was fun, and we got to see an Actual Helicopter, and ate fish and chips by the sea.
June is always associated with strawberries for me, and I have mainly been eating strawberries, honeydew melon and pecan nuts. And paleo fudge. YUM.
The boy’s favourite imaginary superhero this month was Mr Breaky-Man, and then King Mystery. King Mystery is a baddy. The boy seems to be creating increasingly dystopian imaginary worlds these days. I love it.
Books (contains Amazon Affiliate links)
- Cherry Trees, Sushi and Takarazuka – Jill Rutherford. I read this memoir because I have a friend currently living in Japan, and I wanted to find out what Japanese culture is like. From the little I know of culture shock, it’s a journey – the delighted honeymoon of ‘it’s so different’, followed by the depression of ‘it’s so different’, and eventually assimilation, which is often unconscious, and you only realise it when you return home and think, ‘it’s so different’. Although the author, a middle-aged single English teacher, lived in Japan for seven years, most of the book had the outraged and frustrated tone of ‘it’s so different!’ It was helpful to have an insider understanding of some of the frustrations that Western travellers would have in confronting Japanese culture, (for example, the fact that Japanese people order for you in a restaurant, rather than you choosing your own food). I most enjoyed her insights about women and Japanese culture, because it was refreshing to hear some feminist critique. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if she had stayed for another ten years, whether her understanding of Japanese culture would have transitioned from being largely critical to being more sympathetic, with a greater understanding. While she’s positive about the individual kindness of her Japanese friends, she didn’t seem to move beyond that initial culture shock. It’s a book I would recommend to westerners living in Japan, frustrated with culture shock, but I would hesitate to recommend it more generally than that. I got a free copy of this in exchange for my honest review, which this is. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
- Snow – Orhan Pamuk. This was so promising – a novel about an agnostic reporter who comes home to a Turkish town to investigate why Muslim girls are committing suicide, apparently over an argument about whether they should cover their heads. It is especially interesting because, reversing the usual stereotypes, it sets the atheist, warmongering, secular society in an unsympathetic light, and the oppressed and non-violent Islamic fundamentalists in a more sympathetic light. However, I struggled with it for a number of reasons: the writing style, which distanced me from the characters (potentially a fault with the translation); the misogyny of the central character – I was unsure whether I was supposed to sympathise with him; and most of all, the story seemed peripheral to the philosophical debates between atheism and Islam. If I hadn’t been reading it for a book club, I would have given up 370 pages earlier. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
- Digging for Diamonds – Cathy Madavan. This is a Christian living book about identity as a Christian, using the image of a diamond as an extended metaphor, covering topics about self image (flawed yet unique) and also more diverse topics like Christian community and enduring hard times. I have never heard Cathy speak, but I imagine that she would pack out Christian conferences, because even in her writing style you can hear the warmth, wit and wisdom in her voice. She is one of those writers who is instantly likeable, and her writing is like sitting down with a friend with a good cup of coffee, laughing together at funny stories memories and talking good sense to one another. Each chapter is easily digestible, and has a verse, a prayer, and some discussion questions. This is an easy and immensely enjoyable read, with some great practical wisdom. I got a free copy of this in exchange for my honest review, which this is. Recommended. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
- Just show up – Kara Tippetts, Jill Lynne Buteyn. You may have heard of Kara Tippetts, a woman who tragically died in her thirties of breast cancer, leaving behind a loving husband and four young children. She blogged at Mundane Faithfulness and authored The Hardest Peace, describing her journey. This book is a companion piece, written almost entirely by a close friend of hers, about how to support people when they are going through hard times. It is short, easy to read, and especially useful for its practical tips of how to offer help when someone is suffering. As someone who has been a recipient of help, I found myself nodding at all the suggestions with a hearty amen. The thing that stood out most for me was the reminder that ‘it’s not about you’. So often the temptation when someone is suffering is to make it about you, rather than them, and I was challenged myself at this point when I considered some of my friends who are going through a hard time right now. I was also struck by how beautiful the church can be – the ongoing dedication of the group of friends who gathered round Kara and her family to support them and love them unconditionally was very moving. I got a free copy of this in exchange for my honest review, which this is. Recommended. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Films – (in brief: rent out I Capture the Castle and Iron Lady.)
- The Ugly Truth – Decidedly more ugly than truth. The story is about a misogynistic, anti-relationship, men are from the stone age, women are from Venus, man who, because he is played by a good-looking actor, is supposed to be seen as a hero. If that were a relationship in real life, I’d say there would be a strong chance of Katherine Heigl’s character ending up in hospital. It flirts dangerously close to the ‘he’s not really emotionally abusive, he’s just been hurt before – I can change him’ narrative. It made me feel very uncomfortable. Avoid. MISS.
- Frost/Nixon – I wanted to watch this to see what all the fuss was about the famous interview, and get more informed. I was a little disappointed – though Frank Langella was captivating as Nixon, Frost came across as a two-dimensional character, and I never understood his motivation. It’s got great actors in it, but there’s something missing. MISS-ish.
- My Week with Marilyn – this is a charming film, with Michelle Williams putting in a fabulous performance. She manages to walk that line between vulnerability and manipulation exquisitely. With Eddie Redmayne, Michelle Williams, and nice but small turns by Emma Watson and Dame Judi Dench, this shines because of the quality of the acting. Understated but very enjoyable. HIT. Get it from Amazon.co.uk (£4.20 at the moment) or Amazon.com ($5.51).
- Robin Hood – a Disney Classic. Managed to negotiate the mild peril whilst watching it with the boy, and he loved it – score! Played Robin Hood and Maid Marian afterwards. I also confessed on Twitter that Robin Hood is my cartoon crush. HIT. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
- I Capture the Castle – this is one of the most delicious and whimsical books ever written, and this film captures the book perfectly. Bill Nighy is wonderful as the eccentric father, and I love the earnest and beautiful innocence of the main character. Love love love this film. HIT. Get it from Amazon.co.uk (£4.16) or Amazon.com. While you’re there, get the book as well – you won’t be sorry – from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
- The Iron Lady – this was an excellent film, beautifully crafted. Meryl Streep was amazing as Thatcher – she just became her – a well-deserved Oscar turn for best actress. I felt the film struck the balance well between respecting Thatcher as a person whilst exposing some of her more devastating policies, and explored the nature of madness, old age, ambition and hubris. All with stellar acting. This is a great film. HIT. Get it from Amazon.co.uk (£3.00) or Amazon.com ($7.73).
- Pride and Prejudice – was really enjoying the first three episodes of the series, but my video stopped working just before the episode where Colin Firth dives into the lake. Darn it. Get it from Amazon.co.uk (£4.99) or Amazon.com.
- How I Met Your Mother reruns
- New girl – Season Four, and I’m getting back into it. Best quote so far: “I know I’m gullible… Because people tell me that and I have no reason not to believe them.” Classic Jess.
- Nashville, Empire, Jane the Virgin. SO much good TV.
- Melody Gardot – Currency of Man. Her new album – sultry, bluesy delicious. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
- Joy Williams – Venus. Joy Williams’ first album post-Civil Wars. Sometimes her voice sounds a bit Celine Dion, sometimes a bit Tori Amos. It took me a while to get out of the ‘It’s only half of the Civil Wars’ headspace, but once I did, I was hooked. This is musically dark and sophisticated, and really haunting. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Love – according to Chez Marlow.
Two vignettes which give you an indication of our general relationship. The first – my post at the Mudroom about secret love letters. The second – this conversation:
Me, to Jon: I think I look beautiful today. Don’t you think I look ravishingly beautiful today?
Jon (considers): Summery.
Me (looks in mirror again): Okay, but what about my hair – ravishingly beautiful?
Jon (squints slightly): Tousled. Certainly tousled.
Me: Hair is full dry now. Beautiful, no?
Jon (re-examines): Outdoorsy.
Me: what about with glasses off?
Jon: You’re looking…leonine today.
Me: Hmm, leonine… I’ll take it.
Ladies and gentleman, I present to you – Jon Marlow – telling it how it is. (I love it.)
On the internets
- Ex-lovers meet for the first time in 30 years
- Sheryl Sandberg’s incredible essay on dealing with grief after the sudden death of her husband
- The perfect thing my doctor said about my life with chronic illness
- When your pants and your life don’t fit
- Researchers find missing link between brain and immune system
I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for her magnificent What I’m Into Linkup.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means if you click through to Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com from this site and buy absolutely anything in the world, you help this site, at no extra cost to you.
Over to you:
- What have you been into this month?