Category Archives: Culture

Tea & Tattle | Ann Mah Discusses The Lost Vintage

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle here.

This week on Tea & Tattle, I’m joined by the journalist and author, Ann Mah, to discuss Ann’s bestselling book, The Lost Vintage. Having grown up in America, Ann developed a love for France from a young age, and she now splits her time between Washington DC and Paris. Her memoir, Mastering the Art of French Eating, describes the year Ann spent travelling through France and sampling different regional dishes of the country.

Ann Mah

I read Ann’s latest novel, The Lost Vintage, before my trip to Burgundy earlier in October. It was the perfect book for the occasion, as it’s set in Burgundy and tells the story of Kate, a wine expert who is studying for the Master of Wine exam. Kate travels from California to Burgundy to stay with her French relatives who own a vineyard, so she can brush up on her knowledge of Burgundian wines.

The vineyards that inspired The Lost Vintage

Whilst there, Kate discovers a hidden room within the family’s cellar, full of priceless bottles of wine that were hidden from the Nazis during WW2. But Kate also uncovers some disturbing information about her family – could one of her ancestors have collaborated with the Nazis? The Lost Vintage is a gripping book full of beautiful descriptions of the Burgundian countryside, as well as fascinating information about French food, wine and history.

The Town Hall in Meursault, where much of Ann’s novel is set.

In today’s discussion, Ann tells about the inspiration behind the book and why she become so fascinated by France’s history during WW2. It’s a brilliant discussion that’s sure to please any Francophone.

The Lost Vintage Giveaway!

I’m so delighted to say that Ann Mah is very kindly giving away some copies of The Lost Vintage to four lucky Tea & Tattle listeners (two in the USA and two in the UK). To enter to win, simply:

1/ Follow Ann Mah on instagram: @annmahnet.

2/ Follow me on my books-only instagram account: @mirandasbookcase.

3/ Like the above photo of The Lost Vintage on my instagram feed and add a comment, tagging a friend who you think would enjoy the book too.

4/ Make sure your instagram profile is public so the entry requirements can be checked.

The giveaway is for USA and UK residents only, and the winner will be announced on 6th November. Good luck!

Tea & Tattle is also available to listen to on iTunes and stitcher.

Tea and Tattle | 10 Books to Read in the Autumn

Tea and Tattle | 10 Books to Read in the Autumn

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle here.

This Friday, instead of the usual Tea Reads, I’m bringing you a special Tea & Tattle episode, where I’m catching up on the latest news, chatting about some of my recent Jump for Joys and cultural recommendations, and also sharing a list of books that I think are perfect to read in the autumn.

I hope you have a relaxing weekend ahead of you, and that listening to this Tea & Tattle helps to make it just that bit cosier!

Tea & Tattle is also available to listen to on iTunes and stitcher.

Tea & Tattle: Charlotte Jacklin of Betty Magazine

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle here.

This week on Tea & Tattle, I’m joined by the blogger and podcaster, Charlotte Jacklin. I first came across Charlotte’s work when she was editing Betty Magazine, which was one of my favourite editorials to read. Charlotte created Betty with her business partner, Charlotte Melling, but after having her baby daughter, June, in 2017, Charlotte made the decision to go her own route and relaunch Betty Magazine as an online blog.

As well as writing her fabulous blog, Charlotte co-hosts the podcast, The Fringe of It, which topped iTunes charts when it was first released. The podcast features informal chats between Charlotte and her friend Liv Purvis, as well as inspiring interviews with other creatives.

I also love Charlotte’s instagram account, which features fantastic style inspiration, as well as updates on her everyday life and insights into building a creative business. I know many people appreciate Charlotte for her transparency and honesty online, as well as her friendly, down-to-earth personality. If you ever need a bit of cheering up, then watching a few of Charlotte’s instagram stories will invariably do the trick!

In today’s discussion, Charlotte tells me about her love for fashion and how she’s developed her own sense of style over the years, as well as how giving birth to June has made Charlotte braver in pursuing her business and life goals. We also chat about being open and developing an authentic voice through blogging and instagram, as well as what has surprised Charlotte most about podcasting. This is a great episode for anyone who is seeking to be a little braver in their own life and who would love to learn more about navigating a successful creative career.

Tea & Tattle is also available to listen to on iTunes and stitcher.

London Culture | The Wider Earth, Natural History Museum

Please note: I was given tickets to ‘The Wider Earth‘ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

If you’ve got children and are hoping for some fun (and even educational) entertainment over half-term next week, then I’ve got the perfect theatre suggestion for you! I was lucky enough to be given tickets to see The Wider Earth, a play about Charles Darwin’s famous voyage on the HMS Beagle, which is now showing (highly appropriately!) at the Natural History Museum.

The museum has installed a custom-built theatre to host this production, which features a cast of seven, as well as incredible puppetry by the Dead Puppet Society. A basic stage setup was brilliantly amplified by the use of watercolour-style projections that made stunning backdrops to the drama.

Bradley Foster, Marcello Cruz and Matt Tait in The Wider Earth. Photo by Mark Douet.

The Wider Earth is written and directed by David Morton, and he shows Charles Darwin as a 22 year-old student in Cambridge, who is delighted when he’s given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to continue his passion for nature and science by taking the post as resident naturalist on the HMS Beagle on its voyage to far-flung corners of the globe.

I felt this play was clearly written with an educational view in mind, so the script is serviceable, but not overly ambitious. Morton, however, does a good job at showing how Darwin’s experiences on the voyage and the deductions he made from his observations of the lands and animals he encountered, led him to write the world-changing On the Origin of Species. Bradley Foster, who plays Charles Darwin, is engaging and perfectly combines an attitude of youthful zeal with a very serious desire to seek out truths.

It’s the visual experience of this production that truly makes it stand out. I was extremely impressed by the painterly projections that were used to add further detail and mood to the various settings. The puppets were beautiful, too, and brilliantly operated by the actors. It was lovely to hear the gasps of appreciation from the young audience when the particularly striking large puppets were used.

Bradley Foster as Charles Darwin in The Wider Earth. Photograph: Maisie Marshall/Rex/Shutterstock

Although much of the action of this play takes place on board ship, I also greatly enjoyed the details about Darwin’s home life, particularly his engagement to Emma Wedgwood. I’d had no idea that Emma Darwin had originally been Emma Wedgwood, part of the famous Wedgwood family, and in fact as soon as I got home, I ordered a biography of her in order to discover a bit more about her life. David Morton did a great job in fleshing out Emma’s character in a short space of time, and his emphasis on her passion for abolishing slavery and involvement in the abolitionist movement definitely peaked my interest. I’m looking forward to reading her biography when I get the chance, and it seemed fitting that I should leave the play on a quest for more information, even if about one of its more peripheral subjects.

The Wider Earth makes for a brilliant afternoon or night out for all the family. I would say it’s most appropriate for those age 10+, as though those younger would love the puppets, the dialogue would be difficult to follow. I definitely had my teacher cap on whilst I was watching it, and I think it would also make an excellent outing for schools for Year 6 and up.

Tickets for The Wider Earth may be purchased here. The play is showing at the Natural History Museum until 30th December, and both matinee and evening performances are available.

Tea Reads: A Visit From the Sea by Robert Louis Stevenson

Listen to the latest Tea & Reads here.

My Tea Read choice for this Friday is a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson called A Visit From the Sea. I’ve been inspired by my trip to Penzance (I’ll be travelling to Cornwall as this Tea Reads episode airs) to choose this poem, as there’s a fun connection between Robert Louis Stevenson and a Cornish pub in the area. Have a listen to the episode to find out more!

Tea & Tattle is also available to listen to on iTunes and stitcher.

Tea & Tattle: Emma Block Discusses the Joy of Watercolour

Tea & Tattle: Emma Block Discusses the Joy of Watercolour

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle here.

This Tuesday on Tea & Tattle Podcast, I’m joined by the author and illustrator Emma Block, to discuss Emma’s fantastic new book, The Joy of Watercolour. Emma started getting work as a freelance illustrator when she was only 17, and she’s gone on to develop a fantastic business and works full-time as a freelance illustrator in London.

Emma Block

Emma regularly teaches sold out water-colouring workshops in the city; I’ve been to a few of them and had such a fun time learning the basics of water-colouring and brush lettering.  Over the years, Emma has collaborated with many notable brands and fashion influencers, who love her highly recognisable, soft and feminine illustration style.

In August, Emma published her first book, The Joy of Watercolour, which shares tips and painting projects to help people get started with water-colouring, or to take their illustration practice to the next level. It’s a beautiful book, and I’ve been having a lot of fun working through Emma’s guides for beginners.

In today’s discussion, Emma tells me about the inspiration behind her book, what she’s learnt from teaching water-colouring classes to 100s of people, how to find your own unique illustration style, and how she’s developed different strands to her work as a freelance illustrator over time. This is a brilliant listen for anyone who loves water-colouring, or who are keen to give it a go for the first time and develop their own creativity.

Tea & Tattle is also available to listen to on iTunes and stitcher.

London Culture | Pinter at the Pinter, The Lover and The Collection

London Culture | Pinter at the Pinter, The Lover and The Collection

Please note: I was given tickets to ‘Pinter Two: The Lover / The Collection’ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Pinter at the Pinter is an exciting season of Harold Pinter’s one-act plays, which are being performed in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre until February. The plays are being put on as a tribute to Harold Pinter,  one of the greatest British playwrights of the 20th Century, on the 10th year anniversary of his death.

Twenty of these short plays are being produced, and a spectacular lineup of actors are performing throughout the season, including David Suchet, Rupert Graves, Tamsin Grieg, Celia Imrie, Russell Tovey and many more. ‘Pinter One,’ comprising of four one-act plays, and ‘Pinter Two,’ which includes The Lover and The Collection, are currently showing at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 20th October.

I was thrilled to be given press tickets to Pinter Two, as I’m a huge fan of David Suchet, and I couldn’t wait to see him live in The Collection. He did not disappoint! Pinter Two showcases two of Pinter’s one-act plays that explore the themes of love, fidelity, truth and fantasy.

Hayley Squires and John MacMillan in ‘The Lover.’  Image source.

John MacMillan and Hayley Squires star in The Lover as a married couple, Richard and Sarah, who are apparently exceedingly open with each other about their respective lovers. The play was first performed in 1963, and it is a play of its time, although the issues of marital happiness, mutual trust and desire that it explores are still very relevant today.

The Lover opens with witty, breakfast table repartee that’s reminiscent of Oscar Wilde. Richard cheerfully asks Sarah whether her lover is coming today, and Sarah replies that he is. Richard asks what time, and says he’ll be back by 6, to allow his wife and her lover a full afternoon. The next day, Sarah questions Richard about his mistress. He denies all knowledge of a mistress, although says he’s very well acquainted with a whore.

As the play progresses, it becomes clear that Richard and Sarah enjoy a complicated game of role-play. They are each other’s lovers, willingly acting out the fantasies of their spouse. When Richard suddenly decides he is tired of playing a part, the lines between reality and fantasy start to blur, and only then does the couple’s real tenderness for each other become apparent.

David Suchet in ‘The Collection.’  Image source.

In The Collection, David Suchet and Russell Tovey join Hayley Squires and John MacMillan in a story that further explores desire, fantasy and truth. Harry (Suchet) and his partner Bill (Tovey) cross paths with another couple James (MacMillan) and Stella (Squires), when James accuses Bill of having slept with Stella at a hotel in Leeds whilst she was away on a work trip. Apparently, Stella has confessed all to James, although her story seems surprising given the nature of Harry and Bill’s relationship. David Suchet steals the show with a hilarious and incredibly camp performance as Harry, and Tovey also adds a great comic touch combined with virile sexuality.

I feel a modern interpretation of this play adds greater nuance to Pinter’s work, as the roles of sexuality and gender are further explored under Jamie Lloyd’s direction. Just as the line between reality and fantasy was blurred in The Lover, so too does sexual preference and attraction remain ambiguous in The Collection.

Russell Tovey in ‘The Collection.’  Image source.

James enters into flirtation with Bill even as he accuses him of being unfaithful with his wife, and Bill’s story of what happened constantly changes. At first he denies ever having met Stella, then he admits to having sex with her and finally he says the truth is that he and Stella only sat in the hotel bar and talked about what they might do together, should they ever go upstairs to bed…. Who is to be believed? And what counts as an act of infidelity? Stella knows the truth of that night, but on being asked what really happened, the play closes on her enigmatic smile, so the audience must draw their own conclusion.

Of the two plays, I enjoyed The Collection the most, mainly because David Suchet’s performance was so incredible. Both productions were excellent, though, and I was also impressed by the simple, striking staging, from the bright pink walls of The Lover, to the clever use of space to portray two couple’s lives in tandem in The Collection.

Pinter Two: The Lover / The Collection is on at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 20th October. Tickets may be purchased here

 

Tea Reads | Claxton by Mark Cocker

Tea Reads | Claxton by Mark Cocker

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle here.

The Tea Read for this Friday is an extract from Mark Cocker’s nature journal, Claxton. In 2001, Mark Cocker moved to Claxton, a small village in Norfolk, and there he began journalling his observations of the plants and wild life surrounding his home. Mark Cocker writes about nature in astonishingly beautiful prose, and he has a wonderful knack for noticing those small wonders that make our everyday lives so precious.

For today’s episode, I’m discussing an extract from Cocker’s late September entires, which I think perfectly sums up this transitional month between summer and autumn.

Tea & Tattle is also available to listen to on iTunes and stitcher.

Tea & Tattle | Lucy Heath of Capture by Lucy on Building a Creative Business

Tea & Tattle: Lucy Heath of Capture by Lucy on Building a Creative Business

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle here.

This week on Tea & Tattle, I’m joined by Lucy Heath, an award winning blogger, photographer and founder of the successful online business, Capture By Lucy. Lucy creates gorgeous vinyl backdrops that she sells through Capture by Lucy, and her backdrops are bought and used by amateur and professional photographers and stylists all over the world.

I absolutely adore Lucy’s backdrops – they’re the only type I use – and I use them in my photography all the time, especially for my @mirandasbookcase instagram account, for which I take a lot of flat lays.

In today’s discussion, Lucy tells me about how she’s carved out her own space in the market by sticking to a product that she feels passionately about and by marketing her own individual skills.  We also talk about why blogging is just as important as instagram, and Lucy shares tips on how to come up with your first product and how to start a creative business.

I loved hearing about Lucy’s journey going from blogging as a hobby to developing her career as a photographer and then building her own online business. Lucy is such a genuine person, and she shares some great advice on this podcast, so it’s definitely a must listen if you’re interested in building a portfolio career and developing your photography and blogging skills.

Tea & Tattle is also available to listen to on iTunes and stitcher.

London Culture | Misty Theatre Review

London Culture | Misty Theatre Review

Please note: I was given tickets to ‘Misty’ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I had tickets to see Misty last Friday at Trafalgar Studios, so I invited a friend along to see it with me. I’d heard rave reviews about Misty, which has opened in the West End following its sell-out success at the Bush Theatre, so I was looking forward to the evening.

Shockingly, Misty is apparently only the second play written by a black playwright ever to have been produced in the West End. It’s essentially a one man show, written and performed by Arinzé Kene. What struck me most forcibly about Misty was the sheer power of Kene’s performance; he seems to give the show every part of his soul, as well as his considerable physical energy. I was awed by the sheer stamina of such a performance, which sees Kene singing, rapping, raging, crooning, wrestling with giant balloons, playing multiple characters and displaying a surprising knack for physical comedy. The play is a curious mix of gig-theatre and performance art, and it’s a credit to Kene’s talent that he manages to pull it off so convincingly.

London Culture | Misty Theatre ReviewArinzé Kene in Misty. Image © Helen Murray.

Misty is structured as a play within a play:  Kene is writing a play that exposes the social and racial prejudices that he witnesses in modern day London. But his rap about a confrontation gone wrong on a London bus is interrupted by some of his friends. They don’t like the play.  You’re selling out, they chastise him, creating content that feeds to the ‘angry black man’ stereotype that white people expect to see. His play is nothing but ‘a modern minstrel show,’ they cry in disappointment.  Kene argues that he has the right to tell whatever story he wants to tell; he speaks eloquently on the importance of being able to simply make art, to speak the truth as he sees it, as he’s experienced it. Why can’t his story just be a story? Why must it be labelled before the ink of creation is even dry?

If more plays were put on like the one he’s writing, Kene argues, then he’d go to the theatre more often. ‘Who gives a f*** about Shakespeare?’, he jeers, hammering home the point that much of what is shown in West End theatre falls short of representing  a wider audience. And yet, Kene also seems to play some homage to Shakespeare, with his use of the mise-en-abyme technique, that brings Hamlet  to mind. And just as Hamlet soliloquises on the deeper questions of life, so does Kene reflect on what it means to be an artist, specifically a black artist. It’s clear, too, that Kene shares with Shakespeare a love for word play. His lengthy monologues are superb, often nothing short of poetic, and they morph into song, into rap, into lyrical speech with expert ease. Kene’s aim may be to subvert and justly challenge the traditional theatre scene, but he shows how inspiration may be drawn from many sources, both traditional and non-traditional, to create drama that speaks of the moment.

London Culture | Misty Theatre ReviewArinzé Kene in Misty. Image © Helen Murray.

Along with the script, I was also impressed by the staging of Misty. For a minimal set, there was brilliant use of audio and video recordings and dramatic lighting to add interest and further dimension to Kene’s performance. Balloons are used as a powerful visual motif throughout the play: Kene blows up a balloon and then watches it deflate, like his ego, crumpling under criticism. At one point, he becomes trapped within a gigantic balloon, struggling to escape, just as he battles with the questions – what kind of play should he write? And how should it end?

Although, as I said, Misty is essentially a one man show, credit must go to Shiloh Coke and Adrian McLeod who play the drums and keys throughout the play, as well as taking to the stage for their parts as Kene’s friends. Coke and McLeod delivered their lines with a subtle humour that sparked a great deal of appreciation from the audience, and I thought Shiloh Coke’s performance was especially memorable.

Misty is an exciting, thought-provoking play that makes for a memorable night out. It’s showing until 20th October, and tickets may be purchased here.