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17.04.2020- Lockdown Living: My Cultural Comforts

Friday, 17 April 2020

At the moment, I'm sure I'm not the only one who is reaching for the cultural comfort blanket of films, television programmes and books which are old favourites, and which I know are guaranteed to put a smile on my face. There's something really important about these feel-good essentials which we turn to when we need a boost, whether that be a book that you've read religiously every year for as long as you can remember, or the box-set which is akin to sitting down in the company of some old friends. So, in the spirit of solidarity and sharing, here's a round up of my favourites-  guaranteed to help to take your mind off things, inspire you to get creative, simply make you chuckle or transport you to a different world for a few hours:

Films

Emma (2017)
Autumn de Wilde's recent adaption of Emma is now available to watch on demand at home. As I detailed in this post, it's the perfect visual treat, with beautiful design and music guaranteed to cheer you up. 

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
Fun fact- when I was a teenager I was obsessed with Lord of the Rings, or LotR as those of us in the know call it. Whilst this now means I can recite each film more or less word for word (what a useful skill for life), it also means that I'm well aware of how magical this trilogy is, and with a combined running time of over nine hours, it's definitely a series to add to your to watch list quicker than you can say second breakfast.

Miss Congeniality (2000)
Forget Gravity, forget Bird Box. The Sandra Bullock role which I am here for above any other is her starring turn as Gracie Hart in Miss Congeniality. A formative film of my teenage years, this is one to pop on if you want something to make you laugh and reminisce about the early 2000s renaissance of the romantic comedy (see also: Legally Blonde).

Sister Act (1992)

I love this film (and its soundtrack) so much that whenever it's on tv, I make a point of watching it. It really doesn't get better than Whoopi Goldberg leading a chorus of nuns in a choir competition (plus the gangster subplot..and Maggie Smith). Divine!

Jurassic Park and sequels (1993-present)
A unique strand of the action-adventure trope: action-adventure with dinosaurs. What's not to love?

Enchanted (2007)
Perhaps the greatest Disney movie ever, because it is essentially a mash-up of all of their greatest hits, complete with some absolute bops. Happy Little Working Song has become my go-to cleaning anthem of late.

Television

Escape to the Chateau (2016-present, All 4)
If you're in need of a programme to binge which is the perfect escape from your own four walls, then Escape to the Chateau is perfect. Following Angel and Dick Strawbridge as they buy and renovate a beautiful 19th-century French chateau, it's full of inspiring ideas on how to get creative and industrious with your home and garden, this is definitely the perfect tonic if you're feeling lockdown fatigue.

Pride and Prejudice (1995, BBC/Netflix)
Pure and simple, the best period drama out there. Six hour-long episodes of escapism, with lots of bonus cameo appearances to look out for.

Only Fools and Horses (1981-2003, BBC/Netflix)
No matter how many times I watch each of these episodes, they never fail to put a smile on my face- even if I can remember and anticipate the punchlines and pratfalls from one moment to the next. Treat yourself to a watch when you need a laugh-you know it makes sense.

Simon Reeve Travel Documentaries (2005- present, BBC)
The king of travel, Simon Reeve and his wonderful back catalogue of documentaries are back on iPlayer to show us the world whilst we can't go out and explore for ourselves. As well as showcasing some seriously beautiful parts of the natural world (the manatees in Belize from The Americas!), Simon's travel documentaries also showcase the perilous aspects of life in some of the world's most dangerous locations. Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn will always be favourites of mine, but I love everything he does- if you're not a fan, start at the beginning and enjoy!

The Repair Shop (2017- present, BBC)
My new tv obsession. Headed up by Jay Blades (what a name), The Repair Shop is filmed on location not far from me at the Weald and Downland Living Museum, and features a crop of expert restorers and engineers breathing new life into the treasured objects of the participants. I can rarely get through an episode without crying, and watching this has made me realise just how much I need to upskill!

Spooks (2002- 2011, BBC)
A serious genre innovator when it began, Spooks is back on iPlayer from the very beginning! There's lots here to keep you gripped, and a whole host of acting talent to look out for- plus the early 2000s episode s feature all of the iconic technology you'd expect..!

Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes (2006- 2010, BBC)

Another genre-twister, this time-travel meets buddy cop police drama premise saw Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes become firm favourites of mine when I was a student. There's so much to love about these- from the design, the costumes and the soundtracks to the punchy, meme-worthy dialogue and mysterious plot strands.

Agatha Christie's Poirot (1989- 2013, ITV)

When I was signed off work after my operation a few years back, I'd have a regular series of dates with Poirot on ITV3- in fact, getting engrossed in each of his escapades was how I measured my days. There's nothing not to love about this series- and David Suchet's central performance is so iconic that you completely forget he's acting.

W1A (2014-2017, BBC)
If you're missing your place of work and want to get lost in some truly laugh-out-loud comedy, then this is the one for you. David Tennant's narration alone is well worth tuning in for.

Books

Circe by Madeline Miller
Another cultural comfort which saw me through life post-surgery, Madeline's Miller's Circe is one of my favourite books of recent years. There's so much to get lost in- from the wonderfully evoked mystery and magic of Ancient Greece, to the shifting perspective of giving the titular character ownership over the narrative. A must-read.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gower
This book has been recommended to me by so many different people! The premise- a slightly surreal historical novel- makes it the perfect option for escapism at the moment.

Nigel: My family and other dogs by Monty Don
I read this book about a year or so after we lost our dear dog and it was the most wonderful remedy to the heartbreak which I was feeling at the time. It's crafted with such warmth and sensitivity that it really is like sitting down with Monty and Nigel (and Nell!) and having a chat with a cup of tea. Heaven.


The Insecure Girl's Handbook by Olivia Purvis
My most recently finished read, and a brilliant one to pick up if you're feeling slightly lost at the moment (I mean, who isn't?) Liv's signature style is warm and chatty, and with lots of inspiring contributions, this is well worth dedicating some time to before bed of an evening.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 
One of my all-time favourite reads, which I picked up for a beach holiday I can't tell you how many moons ago. Another excellent tome to get well and truly lost in.

The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight
Life affirming, laugh-out-loud and full of the positive power to get you through this crisis, one day (or even one page) at a time.

Living with Flowers by Rowan Blossom
If you're missing being out and about and surrounded by the beauty of nature, then Rowan Blossom's Living with Flowers is definitely one to peruse. If you're able to bring some of the outdoors in, then this book is full of great suggestions as to how to green up your gaff- from vase arrangements to table centrepieces to add some beauty to your breakfasts/lunches/dinners.

The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
The ultimate comfort blanket. Nothing else to say.

Which cultural comforts are you deploying at the moment?

(Image credit: Working Title, New Line Cinema, Castlerock Entertainment, Buena Vista, Disney, Snap/Rex Shutterstock, Channel 4, BBC, ITV, Bloomsbury and Amazon.)

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