Health, Lifestyle, Mens Health, Opinion

Movember. The Importance of asking ‘how are you’?

This will be the fifth occasion I have participated in Movember and it gets more important every year. Some might say the growing of a moustache is some gimmicky, hipster tradition to show the world ‘Hey, I’ll grow some ridiculous facial hair and get away with it for charity’. If you do think that, you are grossly missing the point.

I truly grasped the importance of Movember in the country where the movement originates, Australia. Over there hipsters seemingly lurk on every corner and moustaches are far more readily spotted. There does not seem to be a taboo over comical upper facial hair, but there does seem to be a taboo over men’s health.

Whenever I think of an Australian, I think of the men I met while doing my farmwork. Tough men who would work in the field all day and come in to a steak dinner. One of the phrases I often heard (though barely aimed at me) was ‘Take a spoonful of concrete and harden the fuck up’. Down under, readily talking about men’s health was frowned upon. Men would not discuss how they were feeling, they’d get their head down and carry on. This is largely the case in the UK where suffering alone is a tangible concern.

Few people ask that simple question, ‘how are you?’ My boss asks me that every so often as she knows there are times when I am struggling, whether that be with my workload or battling Seasonal Affective Disorder. She will take me a quiet area and we will have a ten minute chat where I can offload. It makes a huge difference to know that there is someone checking in on you. When was the last time you asked someone ‘how are you?’ and got a truthful response? ‘I’m alright ta’, when really you have just seen them walk in looking as if they have the world on their shoulders.

Getting men to talk emotionally is a huge challenge and admittedly there are few men I speak to whom I know I can truly offload to. Ask yourself, if you were having a hard time mentally, who would you admit that to? The statistics make for distressing reading –

. One in eight men have experienced a mental health problem

. The biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK is suicide

Men cannot afford to keep it all in and to borrow one of the foundations slogans, ‘Suicide notes talk too late’. Aside from mental health, there are two physical illnesses which Stand Up To Cancer thankfully highlighted last week; prostate and testicular cancer.

. One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point

. Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in men aged 25-49

And yet, do men talk about this? Not really, which is why the Movember Foundation is so vital. Simply talking about men’s health is one huge step and if that means me growing a moustache to raise awareness then great. Happy to.

 

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Film, Uncategorized

The Oscars 2016: Predictions

Granted, this isn’t exactly an original post as I did the exact same thing for 2014’s ceremony. Looking back I was miles out from the results too; I predicted Wolf of Wall Street to clean up and that Leonardo di Caprio would finally get his Best Actor nod, it seemed overdue then too.

This year’s awards are a bit more predictable, or at least it seems there are more obvious winners with a few standout performances. One element that is sadly predictable is the lack of black nominations. However, I cannot seem to recall an outstanding performance that SHOULD have garnered a nomination so it does not seem so glaring an omission. Not like David Oyelowo for Selma, now THAT was an injustice.

Anyway, onto the categories…

BEST PICTURE

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

  • I’d love to see Mad Max: Fury Road claim this simply for how wondrously high-octane and bonkers crazy that film is but they don’t give out Best Picture Oscars for that. No, they hand them out to ‘difficult watches’ like Schindler’s List hence it seems just that The Revenant should get this, if not Room.

 

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ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Matt Damon, The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

  • It just has to be, doesn’t it? He fought with a bear, he endured -25c conditions and slept in a horse. What does he have to do to win one!? Anyway, Eddie Redmayne won LAST year.

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ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Cate Blanchett, Carol

Brie Larson, Room

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

  • I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen the other nominations but Larson brings such depth to her performance, such gravitas that once you see it you cannot imagine it being beaten.

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ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Christian Bale, The Big Short

Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone, Creed

  • Again, it’d be warming to see Tom Hardy get this as he arguably outshone Di Caprio. Rylance was sublime in Bridge of Spies but Stallone might edge this.

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ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara, Carol

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

  • Fair to say I had a giddy smile every time Leigh popped up on screen during The Hateful Eight, she was such a spiteful bitch. So she won’t win and as I haven’t seen the other nominations I’d take a stab at Vikander.

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ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Anomalisa

Boy and the World

Inside Out

Shaun the Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There

  • Again, I’ve only seen the one film I’m going for but Inside Out is a heartwarming, hilarious classic. Plus it got me and Mum out of the house with smiles on our face for a bit during the worst week in July.

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CINEMATOGRAPHY

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Sicario

  • While I yearned for my days back in the huge expanse of Australian desert during Mad Max there was something beautiful captured in nearly every scene during The Revenant.Yes, the conditions were perilous but when you see the glistening landscapes of Alberta in all their snow-dipped magnificence it certainly appeared worth it.

COSTUME DESIGN

Carol

Cinderella

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

  • The battered leather, the face mask and those elegant yet daring white sarongs. They’ll probably give it to The Danish Girl though.

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DIRECTING

The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

  • I know he won last year but Iñárritu’s immersive direction throws you into the midst of the film. Arrows go whizzing past and you can almost feel the -25 chill, that’s the sign of a master director at work

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DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

Amy

Cartel Land

The Look of Silence

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

  • Yes, I didn’t see the other nominations but having endured her death as played out in the public eye at the time, Amy broke my heart.

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FILM EDITING

The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Spotlight

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  • If there was an award for editing so a film that ran over 2 hours fails to feel even half that long, oh wait, there is. Done.

 

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MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Mad Max: Fury Road

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out

the Window and Disappeared

The Revenant

  • You try keeping up your appearance in the Australian desert when you’re NOT driving around. There’s red dust EVERYWHERE.

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MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

Bridge of Spies

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  • An original score from Ennio Morricone simply has to win, doesn’t it?

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MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

“Earned It,” Fifty Shades of Grey

“Manta Ray,” Racing Extinction

“Simple Song #3,” Youth

“Til It Happens To You,” The Hunting Ground

“Writing’s On The Wall,” Spectre

  • Geeze, there must have been some slim pickings if Sam Smith’s ‘effort’ was nominated.

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PRODUCTION DESIGN

Bridge of Spies

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

  • I’m aware I’m overlooking Mars but Bridge of Spies looked and felt like you would imagine Germany during the Cold War. The brooding wall, the palpably murky edginess lying around every street corner, it all looked organically authentic.

 

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SOUND EDITING

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  • Y’know, when I’m watching a film I never, ever think ‘Oh my, they really edited that swoosh well’. But then Star Wars had lightsaber swooshes and The Millenium Falcon so…

SOUND MIXING

Bridge of Spies

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  • See above.

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VISUAL EFFECTS

Ex Machina

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  • The Martian recreated Mars but Star Wars recreated GALAXIES.

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WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

The Big Short

Brooklyn

Carol

The Martian

Room

  • Basing this one on my wise auntie and her excellent opinion after reading the book.

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WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

Bridge of Spies

Ex Machina

Inside Out

Spotlight

Straight Outta Compton

  • Oh look, a black nomination. Even then I’d like to see Ex Machina nab this as it seemed so outlandish yet such a disturbingly real idea. What if you could create AI? Then to explore the idea so vividly was very impressive.

 

Feel free to agree/disagree in the comments section.

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Uncategorized

REVIEW: Courtney Barnett at the Sheffield Leadmill

You could forgive Courtney Barnett if you found her taking sanctuary in her dressing room as the clock ticked down to show-time. A lot has been written about this beguiling 25 year-old since the release of her two debut EPs, paired together in ‘The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas’. Last week her debut album ‘Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit’ piqued interest and gained rave reviews, no pressure then.

Yet instead of cowering under the weight of new-found expectancy she could be found just two deep from the front excitedly snapping away at opening support act and fellow endearing Aussie, Fraser A Gorman. This being Sheffield she was left unattended, probably best for someone who will later breezily describe how an afternoon’s gardening led to a panic attack.

The Leadmill was close to sold out, barely a surprise when you consider how much Sheffield has sound-tracked the banality of life with dry, witty, quick-fire lyrics. Consider Jarvis and Turner then you can easily slot in Barnett for deadpan delivery complete with her ever-so-cool-but-don’t-call-it-cool Melbournian drawl.

The current face and sound of slackerdom opened her set with ‘Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party’. An unassuming, millennial anthem of meh which centres around the line ‘I wanna go out but I wanna stay home’. Thankfully, most in the room were glad they ventured out despite weather that daylight savings won’t fix.

Courtney Barnett (Photo courtesy of the ever helpful Jon Downing)

Courtney Barnett (Photo courtesy of the ever helpful Jon Downing)

There is an endearing charm to Courtney Barnett that is hard to pin down. Her patterned t-shirt, exuberant guitar licks and the way she gently disarms any loose heckling. Maybe it is the fact she quietly started her own record label, Milk Records, to take care of her and her musical chums. Maybe it is the playful sketches and homemade aesthetic that adorn her album artwork and merchandise. Maybe it is just her carefully selected points of view. Like many Australians I have met she shares her suburban status with a more far-reaching outlook. From my time in Melbourne I could picture the Swanston Street commuter captured so eloquently in ‘Elevator Operator’ catching the 96 tram. Mainly as this was my favourite route, taking in hipster Brunswick and ending at St Kilda Beach. I knew the troubles of house hunting away from all the coffee shops, even if I failed to venture as far as deceased estates in (De)Preston.

That she could then solemnly expand on the perils of big business, complete with knackered truckers and ‘taxidermied kangeroos’ on the Hume Highway was impressive enough during ‘Dead Fox’. However, in an age of distraction it was ‘Kim’s Caravan’ that showed Barnett’s real precocity and left the room floored. A tale of a dying seal and the Great Barrier Reef being dredged beyond belief set to an agonisingly heart-breaking delivery and a resounding finale. Not many slackers can show so much soul-baring concern for the environment.

That’s not to say she does not know how to have fun. While her debut album showcases a labour of love, song craftsmanship and anxiety, tonight she looked to let loose. You sense that the spotlight still offers a glimpse into her inner awkward and being Australian means she can brazenly dismiss it, jokingly renaming ‘Debbie Downer’ to ‘Debbie’s Fucking AWESOME’. At other times she seemed far more comfortable tapping a guitar pedal, turning her six-string into a weapon of mass distortion and shaking her mass of thick, brown hair, as during ‘History Eraser’. Close your eyes during ‘Pedestrian At Best’ and you could imagine the screeching guitar and snarling delivery as a female fronted Nirvana circa In Utero.

For the encore she delved into the silly love song set in a swimming pool that is ‘Aqua Profunda!’ and a whimsical cover of The Easybeats’ ‘I’ll Make You Happy’. For someone who can belt out the line, ‘put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you’, she may have found an audience happy to disagree.

As this blog post is all about my opinion, and partly about my time in Australia, I am submitting it in the All About You Party. Get involved!

Mama and More

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Travel

The Grass Really Can Be Greener On The Other Side Of The World

Well, this was always going to happen, all it needed was a few inches of snow to make me realise. I really miss Australia.

Just over a year ago I landed at Birmingham Airport, hardly the most glamorous of venues to make my return to Blighty. As I walked into the chill of a British winter I thought I was ready to return home, clearly I was not.

January was always going to be a tough month. Seasonal Affective Disorder can be at its most disruptive, no matter how much light therapy you undertake or vitamin D tablets you gulp down. To top it off there is the hideous return to work in the new year and I find myself enduring the month. This isn’t just the winter blues, this is the sting of the travel bug.

Times like these I really wish I had not made as many friends who still remain down under. Just one quick scan on Facebook informs me that a few of them are attending the Australian Open in Melbourne. There are the inevitable beach selfies and Foursquare check-ins at a rooftop cinema. Seemingly every meal is served from a barbecue yet grilled meat not only entices people outside but rewards them in voting booths. We offer biscuits, over there they get a sausage in bread.

Thanks to social media it is almost impossible to miss what is going on in Australia, like continually seeing the best ex-girlfriend you ever let go.

Australians simply do certain things better. Take adverse weather conditions for instance. For a bushfire they pull together, neighbours are checked even if it takes half an hour to reach them and citizens genuinely heed good advice. Here it takes a few inches of snow to cause havoc. Motorists decide that their journey REALLY IS THAT IMPORTANT and they justify that ludicrous drive up the hill despite the ice. Over the past two days the footpath to my house has been an icy deathtrap, forcing me to walk up the road and judging by the steely glares of passing drivers the road is for their Land Rover, not a mere pedestrian. Just take a glance out of your window and have some consideration.

Australians like to let you know what they are thinking. It sounds simple enough but it makes a big difference. If they disagree with something sooner rather than later you will be told. For the record, I have just been called a ‘camel jockey’ by an Australian on Twitter for disagreeing on a geographical point (Australia does lie in Oceania, not Asia which can be confirmed by Wikipedia). At least he told me his view.

Back in Blighty it does not take long for me to realise that us Poms really do simmering disdain remarkably well. You would have thought that January was never-ending judging by the looks of resentment on the streets. It is the little things I notice, the smug grin on a man who just beats me to the supermarket check-out. The foolhardiness of the runner who simply will not allow patches of ice to disrupt his Saturday morning routine. The arrogance of a reveller on Saturday night who decides that the only way he is going to get served is to wave a £10 note at a barman. The simple act of saying please and thank-you going forgotten.

I miss being in a country with no discernible class system in effect, where a blue collar worker can be king. Where wages leave you wanting to stay behind and you can actually enjoy your time in an office without feeling the pressure of job cuts and an economy still in recovery. Life just seemed far more affordable over there. Sure, an $8 pint was ridiculous yet there was the impression that companies were happy to give a little back. Like, getting off your final stop using your myki card (the Melbourne equivalent of an Oyster card) before 7am being free, yes, free. Can you even imagine that in London? The extra public transport put on for sports events, while anyone wanting to attend a match at Wembley better check they can still catch the last train home.

This morning I watched the final of the Australian Open. Pretty much every time the camera panned over the Rod Laver Arena my heart ached due to remembering my time in Melbourne and Australia in general. Put simply, the grass really can be greener on the other side of the world.

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Football

Top, top World Cup Moments

The opening goal by Paul Pogba against Nigeria was the 146th of this World Cup, that is already more than the total from South Africa four years ago. My memory of that World Cup is hazy as not a lot really happened apart from Suarez’s handball and celebration against Ghana (surely his behaviour had improved), Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany (surely there’d be goal-line technology this time, Sepp) and deserved last-minute glory for Spain. So much has already happened in this World Cup that it hasn’t even finished and it is being heralded as one of the finest in living memory. This could be down to several reasons; a change in mindset and the death of ‘tika taka’, which was laid to rest on 13th June 2014 in Salvador, being an obvious one. Perhaps it is down to the more reliable Brazuca ball actually hitting its intended target instead of mimicking the flight of a beach ball. The second round has just been completed and there have been several memorable moments so far, here are a few of my favourites. Sometimes you have a moment in a match where everything changes, when all that seemed true and righteous suddenly dissolves before your very eyes. The signs were there that football had moved on from ‘tika taka’ ever since Bayern Munich ripped Barcelona apart 7-0 on aggregate in the 2013 Champions League semi-finals. However, Spain were still being talked about as potential winners of this World Cup, albeit in hushed tones. It took 44 minutes for that expectation to be gazumped. Dutch left-back Daley Blind had already shown Spain to be shaky to a well-aimed long ball and another found Robin van Persie through on goal. Many strikers would have brought the ball down, aimed and shot but the Flying Dutchman has such technique and nous that he made the diving header look effortless. The Netherlands were to run out 5-1 winners, the World Champions were on their way home.

The Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman (Photo by Getty)

“Anticipation has a habit to set you up, for disappoint”, so sang Alex Turner in ‘The View From The Afternoon’. It’s also a line that brings to mind England World Cup campaigns. For once, the expectation was patted down as England were placed in a difficult group with Uruguay, Costa Rica and Italy. Many expected the opening game in Group G to be a tepid affair due to the sapping conditions in Manaus yet England actually came out and attacked with a verve and energy rarely seen since 1996. Of course, Italy punctured that early enterprise with a typically considered set piece. Still, England came forward and equalised with a sublime goal; Raheem Sterling feeding Wayne Rooney on the left and an inch-perfect cross found Daniel Sturridge who tapped in from close range. All downhill from there though as England eventually limped home bottom of their group.

Daniel Sturridge celebrates his goal against Italy

Daniel Sturridge celebrates his goal against Italy (Photo by Telegraph.co.uk)

Part of me wonders whether Pepe is simply from a bygone era of mindlessness on a football pitch. Back in the early 90’s you could hack a sprightly attacker from behind, stamp on his goolies and get away with it. In 2014 that gains you a lengthy ban and a Daily Mail expose on how no-one is thinking of the children watching this depravity at 5pm. Germany ran out comfortable 4-0 winners yet it may have been less brutal had Pepe not gotten himself sent off in the first half. Alas, Portugal left Brazil with Cristiano Ronaldo still carrying so much hair gel it’d put many traveller’s hand luggage allowance to shame. Had they not lost as heavily to Germany in their opening match they may have squeezed through on goal difference, then again if you have someone as mindless as Pepe in your defence you are always running the risk.

Pepe gets himself sent off against Germany

Pepe gets himself sent off against Germany (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

As a Manchester United fan you could forgive me for being harsh on Marouane Fellaini. For £27m you expect a bit more from a Premier League player than a few bookings and a selection of painfully inept performances. Still, he remains in the squad so I was hoping he would demonstrate some worth on the international stage. With Belgium losing 1-0 to Algeria in their opening group game there were several more dynamic substitutions Marc Wilmots could have made. It all seemed hopelessly desperate, a bit ‘David Moyes’ then the cross came in, Fellaini met it and the ball bounced in off the crossbar. Redemption and maybe a bit of hope he can reproduce such form back in M16.

Fellaini equalises against Algeria

Fellaini equalises against Algeria (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Having witnessed first-hand how mediocre this Australian team could be I expected some tennis scorelines in a group containing Chile, Spain and Holland. They finished bottom with no points yet left with their heads held high following some spirited performances (take note, England). You would be forgiven for thinking that of the Tim Cahill goals I could have picked it would be the ‘worldie’ against the Netherlands, however, that was a 5pm kickoff I missed. Of the 11pm kickoffs I have managed to catch the Chile v Australia game was a welcome surprise. Having gone 0-2 inside 20 minutes I feared the worst but then Cahill scored a trademark header and Australia galvanised. Sure, they eventually lost but against a highly fancied team they arguably deserved a draw. It is weird for Australians to go into a tournament as unfancied so to come out with no points and still feel proud must be a pretty new sensation.

Tim Cahill scores against Chile

Tim Cahill scores against Chile (Photo by AP)

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Lifestyle

Who needs Valentine’s Day anyway?

The supermarkets have stacked up their heart-shaped boxes and bottles of pink bubbly. Hell, even the Post Office have stocked up on fancy cards. It’s that time of the year again when Zac Efron appears on billboards while restaurants and florists are rubbing their hands in unadulterated glee. Yup. Valentine’s Day.

Unless you work in a business that directly profits from the 14th of February then chances are you are dreading it. No-one ever seems to win so who needs it anyway?

Boyfriends are hoping that the dozen roses they have organised to be delivered at great expense to their girlfriend’s office is significantly large enough to impress. Incidentally, the girlfriend is hoping that whatever the boyfriend has had delivered is going to be 1. More impressive than last year and 2. More impressive than every other delivery in the office. Anything falling below those standards and they might as well not bother.

Then there is the poor girl that merely expects a single rose then glumly sits at her desk come 3.45pm when it is obvious that nothing is forthcoming.

That’s the expectation of Valentine’s Day and the pitfalls that come with it. For decades it has been the norm that couples buy each other gifts to show that ‘You’re the only one for me, baby’. Hang on. Why do you need to go to a shop and find something to say that? It’s such a façade. Just SAY IT EVERY DAY TO THEIR FACE.

Who needs Valentine’s Day anyway? Who needs to HAVE to prove to their significant other that they do actually love them in the form of flowers/chocolates/dinner/any other extravagance you wish to name? Because it’s romantic? Because everyone else is doing it? Because the TV told them to?

If anything, the day seems to be more for those struggling relationships where the day is set up to be make or break. Sure, going over the top with a weekend away may patch over the abysmal other 364 days of the year but then again, it might not.

Surely there is something wrong if you NEED Valentines Day. If you do love your partner then you should not need a defined day in the calendar to declare it. Simply show that you adore them every day and it only needs a tiny gesture that comes for free. You don’t have to turn up with flowers, simply give them a kiss and ask them how their day went. Hold their hand, hug them, surprise them with a home-cooked meal once in a while. Sometimes the smallest gesture can matter more than a dozen delivered roses, I’d like to think that’s the case most of the time.

For the last two years I have found myself in a major Australian city and seen the extent to which some people will go to impress on Valentine’s Day. I’ll sit on a bench and watch office girls struggling to carry the huge bunch of flowers they have had delivered. At home they’ll sit in a vase and eventually wilt, perhaps as a fitting end to the suggested heartfelt feeling with which they were purchased. By the time the flowers are worthless, will the gesture seem the same?

Money is to be made and Hollywood gets in on the act with a plethora of instantly forgettable films that arrive just in time for ‘Love Day’. This year there is ‘Endless Love’ (this years Romeo and Juliet remake though there is another film out which is actually called Romeo and Juliet) and ‘The Awkward Moment’ starring Zac Efron, of course. Though it’s probably a blessing they’re so forgettable as it means the couples on the back row and in the dark corners can keep themselves occupied.

This year I am having another Anti-Valentines Day. Put simply, I don’t see the point in the day so I’ll spend an evening alone with a bowl of popcorn, a couple of horror films and a bottle of wine that may or may not be part of a supermarket offer. See, even though I don’t want to be a part of it the supermarket has still suckered a couple of quid out of me. At least the supermarkets can say they need Valentines Day.

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Food

My Top Ten Biscuits

Due to a playful yet strenuous discussion over the merits of certain biscuits I have decided to come up with this, a definitive list of my top ten biscuits. This was difficult and there were some hard decisions and several compromises. Of course, this is wholly down to my opinion so feel free to nod in approval or hurl abuse in disagreement or even add your own top ten in the comments. There are some old-school favourites and some controversial choices (one goes against The Queen but sod it) yet top ten lists are never going to please everyone so here goes.

10. Malted Milk

A grossly underrated biscuit and one of my childhood favourites. Just thinking of them takes me back to wondering if my head would explode with joy if I dunked one in a glass of milk. It didn’t and it so worth the dare.

Malted Milk

9. Fig Roll

The first of a few controversial entries which ponders the eternal question – ‘What exactly is a biscuit?’. I shall give you a clue to my thinking, all of these entries can be found in the same supermarket aisle. Anyway, you could argue that this is actually healthy and constitutes one of your five a day yet after eating a pack in one go I doubt your doctor would agree. Still, I wouldn’t blame you due to their rich, sticky interior and modest, complimentary casing.

Fig Roll

Fig Roll

8. Fruit Shrewsbury

Another fruity favourite is the Fruit Shrewsbury which, unlike most of these inclusions, is actually a little posh and tricky to find. That sweet combination of lemon, rosewater, caraway seeds and raisins is well worth tracking down though.

Fruit Sjrewsbury

Fruit Shrewsbury

7. Oreo

Yes, there’s a zillion varieties. Yes, the Oreo is American. Yes, it is still a damn fine biscuit. Up until my recent trip to America I thought I had tried every variety available but how wrong I was. Thanks to my Auntie I am now aware of the Heads or Tails (one side is chocolate biscuit, the other is vanilla) and the BerryBurst Ice Cream which tastes as orgasmic as it sounds. For the sake of argument I am going to include the mere classic black and white version; perfect for splitting, licking and dunking.

Oreo

Oreo

6. Jammie Dodger

Another childhood favourite. I’m not sure if it’s the playful heart shape or the sweet, gooey filling that lures me in. Incidentally, one of the most difficult omissions was shortbread and since that is the biscuit used here this inclusion proves a compromise.

Jammie Dodger

Jammie Dodger

5. Ginger Nut Creams

Another near-miss for this list was the humble Ginger Nut which is such a favourite I have even tried to re-create my own. Still, it’s tarted up comrade does get in as proof that nearly any biscuit can be improved with a layer of cream.

Ginger Cream

Ginger Cream

4. Dark Chocolate Digestives

As with most foodstuffs, a layer of chocolate also elevates many a biscuit. The humble Digestive is a favourite of my parents as it remains a solid, dunking biscuit; unpretentious, dependable and you know exactly how long you can leave it in your brew. However, the dark chocolate simply adds a layer of sophistication to it.

Dark Chocolate Digestive

Dark Chocolate Digestive

3. Penguin/TimTams

The biscuit that began the debate. It was not until I arrived into Melbourne that I discovered just how amazing this chocolate sandwich is. One of my housemates, Zoe, got me a cup of tea and excitedly produced a packet of TimTams (basically the Australian equivalent of a Penguin) and asked if I had heard of the ‘TimTam Slam’. I had not so she instructed me to dunk the biscuit into the tea and suck through the open end. My mind was blown. Not only is this an improvement on dunking but shortly after sucking through a gulp of your beverage you know it’s exactly the right time to scoff down the moist biscuit. After all that, it is still only ranked third.

TimTams

TimTams

2. Jaffa Cake

Apologies Maam. The Queen will disagree yet as the Jaffa Cake resides in the biscuit aisle I am implored to include it. Those unaware of the historical debate of whether a Jaffa Cake is a biscuit or a cake will be heartened to know that this actually went to a court of law, I certainly was. Under UK law when a biscuit is covered in chocolate it becomes a cake and subject to the standard VAT rate. However, in 1991 McVities challenged this ruling and came up against Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise. The case went to the courts who were forced to settle the debate and they ruled in favour of McVities. One of the critical arguments being the difference between what happens when biscuits and cakes go stale. Of course, biscuits go softer yet the Jaffa Cake actually goes harder. Case closed.

There are few things I truly missed more than Jaffa Cakes when I was traveling, so much so that my Mum posted a few boxes across to Australia. It’s been well known that I can scoff a whole packet in one go and have even gone to the extreme of pimping it to a full size cake version. For the record, the jelly is not orange flavoured but tangerine.

Jaffa Cake

Jaffa Cake

1. Monte Carlo

Top of the pile is the Monte Carlo. Sorry. What do you mean you’ve not heard of it? Shame that. Australians are rightly mocked for their lack of culinary expertise yet in the Monte Carlo they have created a gem of a biscuit. Two oval shaped biscuits of golden syrup, honey and coconut are sandwiched with a layer of rich vanilla cream and raspberry jam. Every component compliments each other and having worked in several Australian offices I can vouch for it’s versatility in the dunking and splitting stakes. You can also gauge it’s popularity by the very fact that it’s own secret fan club would get to work early just to hoard a couple.

Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo

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