What’s Been On My Mind This Week

Question Mark1. The 2014 Winter Olympics

The Games have now come to an end. Russia, the host nation, topped the medal table. Clare Balding was the only openly-gay presenter in Sochi, though gay athletes participated and other countries sent representatives. Before the Games, many people spoke out against Russia’s controversial gay ‘propaganda’ laws; laws that make it illegal to speak in defence of gay rights or say homosexual relationships are equal to heterosexual ones in front of minors. Yet there was little discussion of Russia’s state-sanctioned oppression of LGBT people during the Games.

2. House of Cards

The second series of this Netflix drama was released in its entirety on 14th February. I love it for the Shakespearean relationship between husband and wife Frank and Claire Underwood (clear echoes of Macbeth and Richard III), and how it is unremittingly bleak yet utterly gripping. There was also an interesting article in the Independent this week about the experience of binge-watching television series.

3. Salamander

The new foreign-language drama currently being shown on Saturday evenings on BBC4 following the conclusion of The Bridge. A Flemish political thriller/drama from Belgium, Salamander is good, yet I can’t help but ask: where are all the women? Give me The KillingBorgenThe Bridge or French cop drama Spiral with their strong female leads any day.

4. The Shed

I had lunch at this fantastic Notting Hill-based restaurant this week. Run by two brothers – Oliver and Richard Gladwin – the menu changes daily and the majority of the produce is sourced from their youngest brother’s farm in Nutbourne, East Sussex. Vegetarians are well catered for, and we even tried cheese that chef Oliver’s mother had made! Look out for the book later this year.

5. I’m currently reading Heft by Liz Moore. It’s the story of Arthur Opp, a retired, reclusive professor who weighs 550 pounds and hasn’t left his house in ten years. When a former student of his contacts him out of the blue, Arthur is forced to confront what has become of his life.

6. I’m currently listening to Pale Green Ghosts by John Grant. Former front-man of The Czars, this is Grant’s second solo album, and it’s a beauty. Recorded in the midst of a health crisis – Grant recently discovered he is HIV positive – it features the heartbreakingly honest lyrics we’ve come to expect, but this time they are set to 80s electronica and synth-pop. Grant’s writing is by turns incredibly, darkly funny and then almost unbearably sad as he refreshingly and unashamedly lays himself bare once more.

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