Best and Worst of 2018

These are my best and worst books, films, television programmes, sport and videos of 2018

 
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These are my best and worst books, films, television programmes, sport and videos of 2018. Plus there’s an update and some other miscellany of the year.

 

BOOKS

Top 5 favourite audiobooks that I listened to for the first time in 2018 (I’m unable to read books due to my illness so I have to listen to them):

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The Explorer by Katherine Rundell
I’d recommend this book to everyone. Technically it would be labelled as a book for older children but it’s such a good read. Immersive, brilliant and beautiful.
 
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Taken on Trust by Terry Waite
I’m slightly cheating by including this one on the list because I first read some of it before I became ill. But I didn’t finish it back then and I’d forgotten a lot of it so listening to it afresh this year was a pleasure and of course it has much more significance to me now, given my situation. I think this book might now be in my top 10 books of all time.
 
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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Although Maya Angelou’s poem of the same name as this book has been my favourite poem since I was 10, I’d never actually read the book until this year. Gobbled it up.
 
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The Lone City trilogy (The Jewel, The White Rose, The Black Key) by Amy Ewing
For most of my life I’ve always said that fantasy is my favourite book genre but in recent years I’ve struggled to find any new fantasy books that I don’t get bored with and so I often don’t finish the audiobook. Dystopian YA books have replaced fantasy as my favourite genre for many years now. This trilogy is the first time I’ve enjoyed the fantasy genre in a long while (although it does have dystopian elements too). It’s not high fantasy and it’s not exactly going to win any awards for literary merit but the trilogy was very enjoyable. I didn’t get bored once!
 
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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II Script
I’m only including this because I’d been waiting to read this for so long and, given that I’m a big Harry Potter fan, I was so frustrated that the play had been inaccessible to me because it isn’t available on audiobook. It still technically isn’t available but my older brother found a recording of it for me. I was so excited! I’d managed somehow to avoid all spoilers, so thank you to everyone who kept schtum. Stop reading now if you want to avoid any spoilers! So what did I think of it? At the end I was sort of left thinking “is that it?”. I was simultaneously both relieved and disappointed that nobody big died. When the original Harry Potter books were still coming out, part of the fun and anticipation/excited-dread was guessing which major character was going to die in the next book. I’m very relieved that Hermione wasn’t killed though (well, in the real timeline).
As a whole, the play was nowhere near as good, satisfying or well-plotted as a JKRowling-written Potter book but I guess it has to be seen in the theatre to appreciate it at its best for what it is.
I found Albus annoying. And Hermione would have been a far better Minister for Magic than what was depicted but I’m glad she was the Minister for Magic, like I always said she should be. She would never have hidden the time turner with such a simple riddle though; she’d have made it much harder. It’s a shame we didn’t get to know what had happened to more characters too (Hagrid, Luna, the rest of the Weasleys etc). I especially wanted to know how George was faring without Fred because, even though it’s fiction, I worry about him! I was pleased that Neville ended up a teacher at Hogwarts though as that’s what I always said thought he would be. I think that Hermione and Harry especially would have been at a much higher skill-level of magic than they were shown as in the play and most of their spells would have been nonverbal by that point, especially Hermione, but that wouldn’t have worked on stage, I guess. Overall, I found it fun but a bit insubstantial and anticlimactic. And I was more insterested in the old characters than their children. I might just stick with my head canon.

 
FILMS

Last year was such a bumper year for films that I really loved (see last year’s list of favourites here). In general, this year’s crop hasn’t been as great but here are my favourites out of them.

Best 10 films that I saw for the first time in 2018:

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – this was my favourite film of the year

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Black Panther [This comment is irrelevant to the film but it amuses me that the sign that they make with their arms crossed over their chest when they say ‘Wakanda Forever’ is the same sign that I use when I’m signalling to Mum that I’m locked in and unable to move my hands to signal/sign to her more and unable to point at letters on my alphabet card to spell words out. Very different meanings!]

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Dumplin’

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To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

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Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi – after not liking The Force Awakens so much, it was great that this film was much better.

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The Greatest Showman – I’ve still got the songs stuck in my head!

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The Princess Switch – DON’T JUDGE ME. THIS FILM IS EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED.

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Kubo and the Two Strings

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Swimming with Men – charming little film. Worth it for the joyous, feel-good ending.

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The Post
 
Honourable mentions:

Justice League, Home Again, I Feel Pretty, Incredibles 2, Paddington 2, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Skyscraper, A Quiet Place, Rip Tide, Ocean’s 8, Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom, The Baby Sitters Club, Avengers Infinity War

The most disappointing films that I saw for the first time in 2018:
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Thor: Ragnarok
I loved the first two Thor films (Thor is my fave Avenger; well, him and the Cap) but this film almost felt like a spoof of a Thor film. It was way too meta and there wasn’t a good flow to the story; it felt bitty, fitful and cluttered, more similar in feel and humour to the Guardians of the Galaxy films, which I don’t enjoy quite as much as the other superhero films.
I was a bit thrown by Jane Foster, Erik and Darcy not being in the film. Without them, the film didn’t feel grounded and it felt disconnected from Earth. I also didn’t like the random, dismissive one line explanation of Jane’s absence (apparently she and Thor broke up), especially since Thor’s mother saw their love and died to save Jane’s life in the previous film.
The quick and offhand killing off of all Thor’s closest friends was weird. They deserved better. And where on earth was Sif? No explanation as to where she was.
Thor himself seemed to have had a personality transplant from the previous films, almost a completely different person. It was disorientating.
Potentially the idea of Hela could have been interesting but she turned out to be a rather one-dimensional villain.
Plus there seemed to be a case of ‘how many famous people can we get to cameo or star in our film’. I mean…Matt Damon…whaaa? It just got ridiculous. The Benedict Cumberbatch (as wonderful as he is) part felt superfluous too.
Genuinely would like to know the reasons why you all were raving about the film, other than ‘there were some funny lines’ and ‘Jeff Goldblum’.
I did enjoy the Thor-Loki interactions though. Their relationship was always at the heart of things. So I enjoyed those bits.
Overall, I’m glad I saw it but it just wasn’t as good as I thought it was going to be, which is why it’s on this list. Disappointing. Why did you all like it so much?
 
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Ready Player One
Terrible adaptation of an enjoyable book.
 
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Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
[SPOILER WARNING] This is only on this list because I was looking forward to it and it wasn’t what I was expecting or wanting at all. I was really disappointed with what they did to it. People watch Mamma Mia to cheer themselves up, not to be sad and depressed. I HATED that they killed off Donna. Why why WHY. It was too sad for what I was hoping to be a happy viewing experience that would lift my spirits. Was Meryl Streep just not available for most of the filming or something? Otherwise why WHY would they get rid of the main (and most charismatic) character (young Donna doesn’t count; it’s not the same). Realism is not something you’re looking for in a Mamma Mia film. Just give us happy endings for goodness sake!

The worst film that I saw in 2018:

20th Century Women

Films that I’m most looking forward to seeing in 2019:

The Crimes of Grindlewald
A Star is Born
Bohemian Rhapsody
Mary Poppins Returns
Aquaman
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Captain Marvel
Avengers Endgame
Toy Story 4
The Lego Movie 2
Aladdin
Isn’t it Romantic
What Men Want
The Lion King
Dark Phoenix
Shazam!
Dumbo
Wonder Woman 1984
Frozen 2
Star Wars Episode IX
Little Women

 

TELEVISION

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Best of the TV that I saw for the first time in 2018:

Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Lost in Space (the new 2018 version)
Alexa & Katie
Brothers and Sisters
Scandal
Vanity Fair
The Circle

Best TV that I continued to watch new seasons of in 2018:

The Good Fight
Madam Secretary
Masterchef Australia
Elementary
Michael McIntyre’s Big Show
Hunted
Star Trek Discovery
Would I Lie To You
Richard Osman’s House of Games
The Graham Norton Show
Agents of SHIELD
Sense8
The Big Bang Theory
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
University Challenge
Home and Away
The Handmaid’s Tale

Most disappointing TV that I saw in 2018:
 
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Doctor Who – apart from two exceptional episodes (‘Rosa’ and ‘Demons of the Punjab’), this series has been poor. ‘Kerblam!’ was fun but the rest of the episodes were pretty dire. It was the first time that I’d ever been bored watching Doctor Who. Sad times.
I was really looking forward to a female Doctor but I think she’s been let down a bit by the showrunner. I also don’t like that they’re treating her differently to male Doctors; she seems to spend a lot of the time, more so than previous doctors, not having a clue what’s going on. Plus she keeps saying things like “I’m not sure who I am myself yet” (during the period of getting to know a new Doctor, there will always be an element of this, but hers seems to have lasted longer than previous Doctors) and she seems to be taking a lot longer than male Doctors to get used to the new Tardis controls. This all rubs me up the wrong way and along with her character not seeming as clever as previous Doctors (they seem to have made Jodie more of an action hero than a cerebral, intellectually brilliant character), and not being as commanding/authoritative as previous Doctors, it all feels a bit sexist. But I’m hoping for the best as she has the potential to develop into a great Doctor once the writers find their feet with her…hopefully.

Best TV documentary of 2018:

Burma with Simon Reeve

 
SPORT

My favourite Sporting Events of 2018 that I thoroughly enjoyed:

The World Cup – what a World Cup it was! My favourite matches were probably England v Colombia, Spain v Portugal, France v Argentina, Belgium v Japan and England v Panama.

The Commonwealth Games

Gymnastics World Championships

 

VIDEOS

These are some short videos/clips that I’ve seen on Twitter this year that made me smile. I hope that they make you smile too.


 


 
https://twitter.com/kwilli1046/status/1055528063906267138
 


 
https://twitter.com/AMAZlNGNATURE/status/1020643243829030917
 


 


 


 


 


 
https://twitter.com/harleivy/status/1073569172536393728
 


 


 


 


 


 
https://twitter.com/lntolisa/status/1077395206654357504
 

 
OTHER STUFF

It’s been the year of the fun t-shirt for me and it amuses me to wait and see if any doctors, nurses, ambulance crew or radiographers comment on them. Here are a few:
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I got some more tops for Christmas that I look forward to wearing in the year to come:

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Things I’m most proud of doing in 2018

* Doing the impossible every day. Somehow surviving with only 2 hours out of 24 hours with my head down on my pillow. FOR A WHOLE YEAR NOW. Working and working so hard that my whole body shakes with the exertion of holding my whole body in difficult and strained positions that very gradually return a bit of blood to my head and neck over 22 hours (if you’ve read my blog posts this year, you’ll know what I’m talking about), in order to stay alive and in order to get vaguely enough blood back to go down safely on the pillow for 2 hours of the day.

* The wonderful Tanya Marlow published some of my thoughts on God and suffering that she thought might be helpful to others and put them into an interview format on her blog. This meant a lot to me and made me feel like I was maybe helping some people too. You can find it here if you would like to read it: http://tanyamarlow.com/jenny-rowbory-suffering/

* I launched the ‘Five By Five’ challenge to raise money for M.E. research and vEDS. Thank you to everyone who participated. If you didn’t quite get around to making a video or said that you would do one and then forgot about it, there’s still time if you want to make me happy. The #FiveByFive challenge is this: video yourself declaring your top 5 favourite things in 5 different categories (books, films, TV shows, sports & songs). Share your video then donate here https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/fivebyfive to raise funds for vital medical research. Nominate 5 others to do it too. Here’s my video explaining the whole things and declaring my own favourites:

 
Happiest moment of 2018:
I SAW MY NEPHEWS YESTERDAY. Felix for the first time ever and Caspian for the first time since he was a baby. I can’t tell you how happy this made me. Destroyed but happy. I’ll hang on to those memories to keep me going.

 
Worst things of 2018:

Where to start? I’m not going to bore you by repeating myself; you can read about what I’ve been going through this year in my other blog posts. Every day I don’t know how to keep going and everything continues to deteriorate but I somehow have to find the strength to carry on. It’s getting harder.

* I lost count of the number of ambulance journeys this year; I think it’s probably thirty something trips. Just one ambulance trip would have made me deteriorate, let alone this amount. It’s been a gruelling process of finding out little bits of new information from different doctors/medical professionals with different specialities and trying to piece it all together myself because there’s nobody who has knowledge of all the different medical disciplines involved and nobody who has heard of this particular thing I’m experiencing. It’s been hard being this ill and still having to figure it all out by myself and trying to find solutions. Scans showed that the blood pathways in my head are much altered; the cervical veins have a very abnormally large circumference. Nobody can tell me why this is happening but they think it’s my body trying to compensate for something very wrong. We’re hoping that it’s all being caused by the atlas bone (at the top of your spine/base of your skull), which scans show is abnormally rotated upwards and to the left. The trouble is that everyone has different ideas about how to correct the atlas. There’s the horrific option of surgery, which in my condition is likely to be extremely dangerous, and nobody can tell me for sure whether it would definitely fix the problem with the blood flow, so I’m exhausting all other options first before I even consider it. In November I went to a special chiropractor for Atlas Orthogonal adjustment, which did move the atlas slightly (but didn’t correct it completely or make it straight) but it barely made any difference at all to getting blood back in my head, though it did stop the torticollis. I was told that it takes a while for blood pathways to change after the adjustment so I was still hopeful but the adjustment sadly hasn’t held (it clunked out of position in the early hours of Christmas morning when I twisted my head too far one way while I was working on my head in the extreme positions that I have to hold to bring even a small amount of blood back) but I don’t think it was making much difference anyway. When I continued to deteriorate and become physically weaker after the adjustment (because of the trip there and the exhaustion from a whole year of 22 hours a day of physical exertion of holding my head and neck in difficult positions and from not being able to lie flat like I need to be and not being able to touch my head and neck to anything, including my pillow), we decided to follow another lead. The chiropractor had shown me in my x-rays that my jaw was very misaligned and rotated and mentioned that it might be part of the problem because where the jaws go, the atlas follows. So when, as a teen, I had my four teeth extracted because of overcrowding of the teeth and a brace put in to close the holes up, the jaw was pushed into an unnatural position and not allowed to grow properly. I had the jaw-moving stuff done by an orthodontist while I was at university at around the time that I became ill. So the jaws might have moved he atlas out of alignment and the rest of the spine followed (I have mild scoliosis). If this was the case then this change in the spinal column and atlantoaxial misalignment and subluxation would have wrecked my neuroimmune system and left me unable to get rid of viruses (which is when I first became suddenly ill when I caught a nasty virus in the first term university). This theory is very appealing because it potentially means that I could maybe improve somewhat if I can somehow fix the jaws and if the atlas follows suit and corrects gradually by itself. So in December, way too soon after my week spent with the specialist chiropractor that made me deteriorate from having my body being moved by an ambulance to and fro plus other things, I travelled by ambulance to London again to a dentist/orthodontist who specialises in this jaw-atlas-spine connection theory. It was pretty disappointing because he said that I would feel some difference immediately when he put the brace in but so far nothing has happened and it’s been a few weeks of having the brace on. The brace has also moved my teeth/jaw so that not a single one of my teeth fit together anymore so when I take the brace out to eat, it’s very difficult and painful to chew. Also, when I take the brace out now, not long afterwards I start gasping for breath so I have to try to wolf down soft food quickly in order to put the brace back on as soon as possible. Maybe it has to get worse before it gets better? I don’t know. I have to go back to him in early January to see what’s going wrong, which, if it doesn’t help, will absolutely physically wreck me again. It might be trial and error. I really hope this theory is correct but I just don’t know.

* Moving house (another ambulance) early in the year.

* A pneumatic drill and roadworks outside our new house for weeks when we first got here so we had to move to temporary accommodation (more ambulances!) because the noise was agony and destroying me.

* More gaslighting, trauma, disbelief and abuse from doctors and nurses

* Hospital stays and all that they entail

* New scary diagnoses: AAI and CCI

 
BLOG

Blog posts that I’ve written in 2018:

You (yes, you) need to read what I have to say about the plastic straw ban

Let me tell you a bit about my parents…

The launch of my ‘Five by Five’ challenge and how I managed to do it

A Lot Has Happened

Update on October’s hospital visit and current health

 

How has your year been? I love hearing your news and how you are. What were your favourite and least favourite things (films, TV, books etc.) of 2018? Let me know.
 
[As an aside, please don’t contact me via Facebook Messenger; I don’t have Facebook Messenger and since about April, the normal facebook app no longer lets me see messages that were sent to me via messenger. So if you’ve sent me a private message since then, I haven’t seen it I’m afraid.]

Best and Worst of 2017: my year

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2017 was devastating for me both physically and emotionally but the following films, television, articles (and more) helped keep me going and provided glimpses of light, interest and joy (even though, like everything, they were tainted by acute physical suffering). I hope they will bring you happiness too. I added items to the list throughout the year in order to prevent me from destroying my hands even more by attempting to write the whole blog post at the end of the year.

 
FILMS

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This has been a bumper year for incredible films that I’ve loved.

Best 10 films that I saw for the first time in 2017:

1. Hidden Figures
Amazing. This was my favourite film of the year. Loved it.
2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
After the dull, bland and emotionless The Force Awakens, it was such a relief to experience the joy of Rogue One. This felt like proper Star Wars. Awesome characters that you could actually care about, an exciting plot and plenty of emotion!
3. Queen of Katwe
The story of a young girl living in the slums of Katwe who finds that she is brilliant at chess and where it takes her. Great film.
4. Moana
On first viewing, although I liked the film, I thought that the songs were a bit disappointing in that they weren’t very catchy and not up to the usual Disney standard. But on repeat viewings, the film grew on me and so did the songs. I love it a lot now. I get goosebumps in the bit where Moana sings to the “lava monster”:
‘They have stolen the heart from inside you
But this does not define you
This is not who you are
You know who you are’
5. Wonder Woman
6. Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Really good. Plus, how could anyone not love Emma Watson?
7. The Good Lie
8. The Shack
Films never make me cry but this one did!
9. Arrival
I loved the language aspects to this.
10. Sully

Honourable mentions: Lion, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, The Zookeeper’s Wife, Unbroken, Wild, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Philomena, The LEGO Batman Movie, The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio, Doctor Strange, Sing, Gifted, Snowden, Trolls

The most disappointing films that I saw for the first time in 2017:

La La Land
Me Before You
Passengers
Pitch Perfect 2
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Films that I’m most looking forward to seeing in 2018:

Thor: Ragnarok
Justice League
Avengers: Infinity War
Wonder
Ready Player One
Ocean’s 8
Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
The Greatest Showman
The Incredibles 2
Paddington 2
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again
Maze Runner: The Death Cure
X-Men: Dark Phoenix
Ant-Man and the Wasp
X-Men: New Mutants

 
Best 3 videos/talks I watched in 2017:

Video (12mins): this woman jumped from a train going to Auschwitz, leaving her unresponsive father behind. Decades later, she got a message from him:
www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/i-have-a-message-for-you

Talk: how language shapes our thinking about space, time, numbers, events, colours and gender:
www.youtube.com/language-shapes-thinking/

Talk: How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime
www.ted.com/talks/how_childhood_trauma_affects_health

 

TELEVISION

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Best of the TV that I saw for the first time in 2017:

Madam Secretary – I love this so much. If you miss The West Wing, you might enjoy this show too. Téa Leoni’s character is awesome.
Star Trek Discovery – what a treat to have new and exciting Trek. I’ve really enjoyed it.
The Good Place
The Good Fight
Salvation
The Handmaid’s Tale
Ascension
3%
Parenthood
How to Get Away with Murder
Richard Osman’s House of Games
Celebrity Hunted

Best TV that I continued to watch new seasons of in 2017:

Masterchef Australia – this has been a highlight of my year for many years now. It’s so different from any other Masterchef or cooking show; you’d have to watch it to understand what I mean. Pure joy and excitement.

Once Upon A Time – oh my goodness, THE MUSICAL EPISODE. It was a complete surprise to me but once the characters started to sing and I realised what was happening, I was bursting with delight and my eyes were wide with glee, trying to drink in and savour the joy of the moment. Loved it.

Game of Thrones – in the past I’ve been torn between loving and hating this show but this year it was spectacular. Season 7 was the best season by far.

University Challenge

Doctor Who

Would I Lie To You

The Graham Norton Show

Michael McIntyre’s Big Show – this makes me so happy. The ‘Send To All’ game and ‘The Midnight Game Show’ are my favourite bits.

Elementary

The Durrells

Sense8

Stranger Things 2 – Weirdly, I found the first season a bit slow and not all that great but I really enjoyed season 2.

The 100

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Big Bang Theory

Gogglebox

Home and Away

Have I Got News For You

Most disappointing TV that I saw for the first time in 2017, which didn’t live up to the hype:

Riverdale
Strike – The Cuckoo’s Calling
Strike – The Silkworm
Anne with an ‘e’ – I’m sorry that this fell short. Nothing can compare with the Megan Follows version of Anne of Green Gables, which is my favourite thing ever.

Best TV documentaries of 2017:
Turkey with Simon Reeve
Russia with Simon Reeve
Colombia with Simon Reeve

 
SPORT

My favourite Sporting Events of 2017 that I thoroughly enjoyed:
Swimming World Championships
Athletics World Championships
Gymnastics World Championships
Diving World Championships

 
YOUTUBE

Best 3 YouTube channels of 2017:

1. The Endless Adventure – A young American couple film their travels around the world, vlogging themselves trying different countries’ foods and experiencing their cultures. I particularly love the videos when they come to the UK; it’s fun to see their reactions to our food and culture.
2. PointlessBlogVlogs – vlog of Alfie Deyes
3. TheFineBros (FBE) and REACT – all age groups react to different things (foods, films, retro things, TV, songs etc.)

 
BLOG

Blog posts I’ve written in 2017 that I’m proud of:

Confronting my own internalised ableism:
http://www.jkrowbory.co.uk/2017/05/combatting-my-own-internalised-ableism/

The eternal dilemma of trying to Sort myself into a Hogwarts House:
http://www.jkrowbory.co.uk/2017/07/hogwartshousesorting/

Fictional male role models:
http://www.jkrowbory.co.uk/2017/07/fictional-male-role-models/

Cinema Memories:
http://www.jkrowbory.co.uk/2017/09/cinema-memories/”

When you beckon lightning and invite it in for tea:
http://www.jkrowbory.co.uk/2017/09/when-you-beckon-lightning-and-invite-it-in-for-tea/

The Best 25 Romcoms and How I Came To Love The Genre:
http://www.jkrowbory.co.uk/2017/10/romcoms/

 

BOOKS

Best audiobooks that I listened to in 2017 (I’m unable to read books due to my illness so I have to listen to them):

My brain has really struggled with audiobooks this year. Plus I can’t seem to find any that I like enough to finish listening to. However, I’m doing a reread (via audiobook) of His Dark Materials in order to refresh my teenage memory of them before listening to The Book of Dust. It’s been wonderful to rediscover the delights of Northern Lights and The Subtle Knife; I got through them quite quickly. I’m having less joy with The Amber Spyglass at the moment and it’s taking me ages to wade through it.

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The most interesting articles that I read this year (well, the ones that I remembered to bookmark at least) – I hope that you’ll find some articles here that are of interest to you too:

January:

The Data That Turned the World Upside Down – Psychologist Michal Kosinski developed a method to analyze people in minute detail based on their Facebook activity. Did a similar tool help propel Donald Trump to victory? Two reporters from Zurich-based Das Magazin went data-gathering.​

I wore men’s clothes for a month – and it changed my life

Trump’s biographers talk

How the world’s languages name the rainbow

The new gender prison

February:

From sea to plate: how plastic got into our fish

When It’s Too Late to Stop Fascism, According to Stefan Zweig

Against Normalization: The Lesson of the “Munich Post”

Tom Hiddleston on Taylor Swift, Heartbreak, and Great Bolognese

Sex, Gender, and the New Essentialism

The continuing conflict of married women’s names

It’s about 50 degrees warmer than normal near the North Pole, yet again

March:

Climate change: global reshuffle of wildlife will have huge impacts on humanity

Diseases of the Will: Neuroscience Founding Father Santiago Ramón y Cajal on the Six Psychological Flaws That Keep the Talented from Achieving Greatness

April:

What bullets do to bodies

Receding glacier causes immense Canadian river to vanish in four days

In the Oppression Olympics, women always lose

Sexism in Medicine: women are dying because doctors treat us like men

May:

The big melt: Glacier National Park is losing its glaciers

Don’t Ever Bring Me Red Velvet Cake: the “flavor” red velvet and why it’s trash

Arctic stronghold of world’s seeds flooded after permafrost melts

July:

When will climate change make the Earth uninhabitable for humans?

Something Strange in Usain Bolt’s Stride

A mission to the Pacific plastic patch

If ‘white feminism’ is a thing, gender identity ideology epitomizes it

Freed From ISIS, Yazidi Women Return in ‘Severe Shock’

August:

Robert Webb: ‘I was never very good at being a boy’

‘There are hundreds of sick crew’: is toxic air on planes making frequent flyers ill?

September:

The Week My Husband Left And My House Was Burgled I Secured A Grant To Begin The Project That Became BRCA1

Wonder Woman: Let’s Talk About That No Man’s Land Scene

Brilliant, irreverent, indefinable: my poetry class with John Ashbery

October

‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia

Glorifying Selflessness In Women Is A Way To Make Us Do All The Work

November

Harvey Weinstein’s Army of Spies

INTO THE VORTEX: Storm Chasers, megacomputers and the quest to understand superstorms

How the Zombie Fungus Takes Over Ants’ Bodies to Control Their Minds: The infamous parasite’s methods are more complex and more sinister than anyone suspected

When Women’s Rights Are #NotADebate

December:

I Made My Shed the Top Rated Restaurant On TripAdvisor

Why has the #MeToo revolution spared Woody Allen?

Mimi O’Donnell Reflects on the Loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman and the Devastation of Addiction

Harvey Weinstein is my Monster Too

Why the sexual harassment allegations you read about are the tiny tip of a huge iceberg

‘The difficulty is the point’: teaching spoon-fed students how to really read

 
PERSONAL

Best surprises of 2017:

• For Christmas, my older brother made me a game that I can play on a mobile device. A whole game! I get to be Prime Minister and make choices and decisions that affect the narrative and whether I’ll get elected again. It’s illness-friendly in that I can just play for a few minutes at a time with my thumb, save the game and then carry on playing another day for a few minutes. He spent months making it all up and doing the coding. Wow.

• Dad recorded more of his life story for me to listen to. I love this and find it fascinating.

• The wonderful Tanya Marlow dedicated her new book ‘Those Who Wait’ to me:

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Worst things of 2017:

• Further physical deterioration and increased level of severity of symptoms and pain. Being close to death all the time. Every bodily system seems to be failing even more. It’s hard to make it through. I work so hard to stay alive.

• Traumatic and lengthy legal proceedings with cruel delays. Rage, grief and heartbreak that the legal system let a particular paedophile get away with only a couple of months in jail for horrific crimes that caused lifelong destruction, damage and trauma to people. Old, wealthy, white men can get away with anything. Abusers are adept at minimising their crimes, at never truly realising or acknowledging the devastating continuing effects, impact and damage that their crimes have done to someone, at switching the narrative around so that people feel sympathy for them, at playing the victim, at appearing penitent, at absolving themselves for their crimes because they think that God has forgiven them, at manipulating people, and at feeling so sorry for themselves that they feel like a minuscule punishment is enough. A lifetime in prison wouldn’t have been enough. There was no justice.

• A head injury in May that has led to permanent damage, numbness and reduced circulation to the head. If the surface of my head is touching anything, more blood gets cut off and it becomes more numb. A constant feeling that I’m about to pass out. This also means that I can no longer use my ear defenders, which has been a nightmare because sound is agony for me. It has been especially problematic because a bypass has been being built right by us this year.

• I’m always too ill to have anyone come into my room apart from my parents bringing me food and water and emptying the commode. At Christmas though, I usually have my brothers, little nephew and sister-in-law come into my room for a few minutes, even though I have months of consequences, and that’s the only time I see them all year. This Christmas though I wasn’t able to have them come in my room at all. I’m just too ill. I’m very sad; I miss them so much. I didn’t even see Mum over the three main days of Christmas because she was laid low flat on her back in agony (due to her bad back suddenly going). She couldn’t even speak or move an arm or leg or pick up her phone due to being in so much pain. Dad was doing double shifts in both looking after me and rushing back and forth to where my brothers were staying nearby for Christmas. My parents are sad that they didn’t get to see their sons and grandson as much as they wanted and had looked forward to for so long. Their lives are especially tough because they see their daughter (me) suffering so badly every day and they’re exhausted from working so hard to care for me so well and so selflessly. They’ve given everything up for me and are worried out of their minds about me. I just wanted them to be able to have a nice time over Christmas to see my brothers. But we never seem to catch a break!

 
How has your year been? What were your favourite and least favourite things (films, TV, books etc.) of 2017? Let me know.
 

The Best 25 Romcoms and How I Came To Love The Genre

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My first experience of romcoms was on long coach journeys for school trips when I was 12-16 years old, with the far-off tiny screen at the front of the coach playing a video (VHS) of Notting Hill (I found it boring at that age and fell asleep, which is the only time that I’ve ever fallen asleep watching anything) or Chocolat (which I found myself enjoying a lot but have mixed feelings about now because of what we know about Johnny Depp).

I never watched romcoms of my own volition back then though and held them in disdain as “girly”. I used to despise and distance myself far from anything considered stereotypically “girly” because, in general, I found that I genuinely didn’t like those things but sometimes it was because I’d internalised the sexism that those things were somehow lesser and looked down upon. I’d observed and absorbed into my brain how men scoffed at and dismissed romcoms as Not Good Quality Films. As a result, I’d subconsciously adopted the same viewpoint because I didn’t want to be regarded as inferior or be derided for liking “soppy” or substandard films.

After I became ill at 18½ years old though, I started giving romcoms a chance. Gradually I admitted to myself that there were actually many, many romcoms that I really enjoyed watching and became defiantly unashamed about it. This all seems a long time ago (I’m 31 now) and I have to remind myself that there was a time when I didn’t love romcoms like I do now. I reckon I’ve seen a huge majority of them.

However, when I came to mull over my favourites and attempt to narrow them down to a top 25 for this list, I realised that I haven’t loved, or even liked, any romcom that was made anytime after 2010. Romcoms now overwhelmingly tend towards a sense of humour that I just don’t find funny; I don’t enjoy the overly ‘lewd and crude’ type of brash romcoms where they talk about things that I don’t want to hear about or do things that I don’t want to see. It also feels like there’s bad swearing every other word; I can accept swearing on occasion for comic effect or in the event of something truly terrible happening to a character but the overabundance and severity of swear words that is now common practice, is an assault on the ears and renders the swearing meaningless. It smacks of a poor script and a lack of vocabulary and originality on the part of the writer. I also can’t stand it if a romcom doesn’t have a happy ending; it has become more common for romcoms to want to be “edgy” and have an unexpected or unconventional ending. I hate this. I WANT HAPPY ENDINGS BACK. Hollywood, please go back to making nice romcoms like the ones in my list below.

So my top 25 romcoms will obviously reflect my personal tastes but I maintain that these are the BEST ones. It has been an almost impossible task to rank this top tier of 25 romcoms though (especially the top 7, which keep switching places with each other) and I reserve the right to change my mind about the order I’ve put them in. I love them all. Here they are:

 

1. Miss Congeniality

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2. Bend It Like Beckham

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3. 13 Going On 30

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4. Maid in Manhattan

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5. You’ve Got Mail

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6. The Wedding Planner

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7. Leap Year

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8. Chocolat

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9. Two Weeks Notice

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10. Music and Lyrics

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11. My Best Friend’s Wedding

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12. Legally Blonde

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13. How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days

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14. Letters to Juliet

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15. 27 Dresses

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16. Love Actually

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17. While You Were Sleeping

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18. Notting Hill

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19. She’s the Man

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20. Kate & Leopold

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21. Sweet Home Alabama

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22. Fool’s Gold

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23. Valentine’s Day

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24. The Wedding Date

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25. Confessions of a Shopaholic

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Honourable mentions: The Family Stone, Failure to Launch, Bride Wars, The Perfect Man, When Harry Met Sally, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Four Weddings and a Funeral, He’s Just Not That Into You, Hitch, Made of Honour, The Proposal, Sleepless in Seattle, The Jane Austen Book Club, Something Borrowed, The Prince and Me, When in Rome

 

What are your favourite romcoms? Let me know in the comments.

 

Cinema memories

A trip to the cinema was always a special treat. It has been fun trying to remember all the films that I saw at the cinema before I became ill. The following are my memories of my formative cinema experiences.

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The first film I ever saw at the cinema was Tom and Jerry: The Movie (1992), which I only very vaguely remember. I’m not sure if Mum was there but Dad and my brothers definitely were. I was very excited to be at the cinema but I got a bit restless during the film; it seemed to last forever.

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My Nanny and Granddad took us to a rerelease of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1993 but I don’t recall much more about the experience than that.

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My older brother always says that I then saw The Lion King (1994) but I have no recollection of this. He says that he remembers it because he was jealous that I got to see it at the cinema and he didn’t! So I’m guessing that I saw it with friends. I watched The Lion King so many times on video (VHS) afterwards that I’ve forgotten the first time that I saw it.

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I also recall watching Andre (1994) with a school friend. It was a sweet little film about a girl and a seal.

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Next was Power Rangers: The Movie (1995). I remember standing outside the Odeon cinema in Colchester (at its old site) with my younger brother and one of his school friends. I was overexcited; I loved Power Rangers so much (mainly because of Tommy, the green/white Power Ranger). At the time, the film seemed brilliant and very emotional (!). I obviously have exceptional taste in films. I got the Ivan Ooze purple slime for Christmas that year, which my relatives thought was gross and disgusting so I gleefully played with it in front of them. It was a bit like silly putty but looser and more gloopy.

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The next film I remember seeing at the cinema was Toy Story (1995), with my family and our friends the Adams family, also at the Odeon in Colchester. I’m trying to recall my feelings about the film; I think that I enjoyed it and felt it was okay/good but not great. Not the quality of the Power Rangers film. *snorts*

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Then was Men in Black (1997) with my best friend from back then. We were at the cinema by ourselves, which was very exciting and I enjoyed the film a lot. Though I remember thinking it very shocking that there was a swear word (in the first line, no less). I remember worrying ‘oh no, what if my parents found out that I saw a film with swear words in?’, which is funny to think of now. I seem to recall that afterwards, we had a McDonald’s and put on the Men in Black shades that came with the Happy Meal for the whole time. We thought we looked cool.

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My brothers and I saw Flubber (1997) when we were living in Cannock. Everyone else was queuing for Titanic but we, of discerning film taste, chose Flubber. I didn’t watch Titanic for the first time until relatively recently on Netflix. It seemed like all the girls at school went to see Titanic multiple times back in 1997 but I wasn’t interested in it.

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I then saw Entrapment (1999) at the Odeon in Colchester (I must have gone back there to visit my friend), which seems like a bit of a random film to have gone to the cinema for. Nobody else turned up to that particular screening so we had the whole cinema room to ourselves, which was an incredible experience. We could do whatever we wanted! (Which actually didn’t turn out to be anything different than usual, apart from maybe putting our feet up on the back of the chairs in front of us).

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The next film I saw completely blew me away. It was one of those ‘aha!’ moments when I realised how amazing films could be and what the fuss was all about. Don’t laugh but the film was Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999). I saw it with my parents and brothers but then my brothers and I went on to see it THREE times at the cinema in total. It was just the most incredible thing we had ever seen. Everyone makes jokes now about The Phantom Menace and how bad it is but at the time, I didn’t know anyone who didn’t love it. Only adults found Jar Jar Binks annoying; we just found him amusing. IT’S A GOOD FILM. *maniacal stare*

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On the ferry back from a school trip to France, I saw a screening of Miss Congeniality (2000) with my school friends. The friend sitting next to me was surprised that I liked it because it wasn’t a genre (romcom) that I had ever really watched before and, due to being a tomboy, apparently I wasn’t expected to like those type of films! But I loved it. I still love it now. The ferry crossing was really stormy though so the chairs kept on sliding across the floor as the boat rocked from side to side quite vigorously.

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I very nearly didn’t go to see Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001). I had told my family that I was NOT going to watch it because I didn’t want the imagined pictures in my head of all the characters and places from reading the books to be replaced by the faces of the actors and the film sets. Five minutes before my parents and brothers were going to leave for the cinema, I changed my mind and joined them after all. As soon as that magical Harry Potter theme music started up as the film began, I was glad that I did go and got to experience it with my family, even if so many things in the film were ALL WRONG. I was also miffed that it wasn’t me playing Hermione bahaha.

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Next up was The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) with my parents and brothers at a cinema in Lowestoft. My brothers were the ones who loved The Lord of the Rings; I was a bit more indifferent to the books and it had been a very long time since I’d read them, so I wasn’t expecting much from the film. Which is why it was the best surprise when my socks were knocked off in the most spectacular fashion. I was in a speechless sort of hallowed shock afterwards. I had never seen anything like it before. I was awestruck and loved it so much. The Lord of the Rings trilogy became my favourite films for a very long time. It’s still in my top 5 films to this day. It has a special place in my heart. It’s the one exception to the rule of ‘the books are always better than their film adaptions’.

I think that I saw Shrek (2001) at the Ipswich Odeon cinema but I can’t remember with whom.

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It’s hard to imagine, given the dominance of the genre now, but it was new and unusual to see a superhero film at the cinema. Superman will always be my favourite superhero (I saw the Christopher Reeve films on video when I was young and loved the TV series Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) but the film Spider-Man (2002) was pretty good too. I got goosebumps at the cinema when I heard the line ‘With great power comes great responsibility’.

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Minority Report (2002) was stunningly brilliant for me at the time. I found it very exciting and loved it. I remember seeing it with my parents and brothers at a cinema which had enormous individual comfy chairs to sit on, almost like armchairs (though I can’t for the life of me remember where this cinema was). Mum didn’t like the bit with the eyes though.

I can’t remember if I saw the original X-Men film at the cinema but I definitely remember seeing X2 (2003) with my Mum and brothers. I still have the ticket stub somewhere. Before the film, I leant my elbows on the back of the seats in front of me to try to stop anyone sitting there and blocking my view. It didn’t work. People came and sat there anyway and I had to sit back in my chair again.

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I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) with a different friend in Colchester (my first time at the new Odeon site). It was thrilling and funny; we were buzzing afterwards.

With friends from sixth form at Woodbridge, I either saw The Matrix Reloaded (2003) or The Matrix Revolutions (2003) at what used to be the UGC cinema (now Cineworld) in Ipswich; I can’t remember which film it was. They sort of blur into one. It was enjoyable to watch, even if it was panned by critics.

I then saw Love Actually (2003) with another friend for her birthday. It wasn’t long after I’d passed my driving test and I drove us both to the UGC in Ipswich all by myself, without an adult there to tell me directions. I was nervous about remembering the way there and which lanes to get into but I managed it (these were the days before SatNav!). I felt very grown up. We both enjoyed Love Actually and were chuckling away, especially at the Hugh Grant dancing in Downing Street part.

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To celebrate the end of A-Level exams and as a thank you to one of my teachers, who was also a family friend, my family and I went to see Troy (2004) with my teacher. I remember rabbling on about my exam as we walked from where we parked to the cinema and obsessing about a word that I wasn’t sure if I had translated correctly!

Those are the cinema moments that I can think of off the top of my head. What were your most memorable/formative cinema experiences? Can you remember the first film you ever saw at the cinema? Let me know in the comments.

Fictional male role models

Last year, I wrote this blog post about my favourite female fictional characters. The announcement that the new Doctor is going to be a woman (I’m incredibly jealous by the way; I wanted to be the first female Doctor!) has been accompanied by complaints that in making the Doctor a woman, we are losing one of the few non-violent fictional male role models that exist. Aside from the fact that of course women can and should be role models for boys/men too, I thought that I’d make a list of some of the other fictional male characters who don’t primarily use violence to solve their problems. This list will therefore exclude a multitude of male superheroes and other men who mostly rely on violence, whether it be through their physical strength, their weapons or special powers. Even without those characters, as you can see below, there is still a plethora of male role models to choose from. Enjoy!

• Chuck Bartowski, Captain Awesome and Morgan Grimes (from Chuck)

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Chuck is my favourite TV show of all time. The protagonist, Chuck Bartowski, is a kind, playful, nerdy, computer expert who likes to talk about his feelings a lot. When all the intelligence services’ information becomes embedded in his brain, he becomes an indispensable asset. He’s a fish out of water in the secret agent world that he’s thrust into; it’s amusing to see how an ordinary person reacts in situations that usually only highly trained spies experience. Oh, and he hates guns, which is a bonus.

Devon “Captain Awesome” Woodcomb is the boyfriend of Ellie (Chuck’s older sister) and is a surgeon. He’s a genuine, loving, “straight-arrow” of a man and is multi-talented (hence the ‘Awesome’ nickname – everything he does is awesome). He is surprising and different from what you’d expect of a man like him; he’s very loveable.

Morgan Grimes is Chuck’s loyal, if immature, best friend. He’s always there for Chuck when he needs him.

• Daniel Jackson (from Stargate SG-1)

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Daniel Jackson is a brilliant linguist and archaeologist who is fascinated by other cultures. His open-mindedness, sensitivity and empathy are often in stark contrast to the mindset of the military people around him. He is highly skilful at communicating with others and connecting to them in some way, even if they’re not human.

• Sherlock Holmes

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Sherlock Holmes is an eccentric and exceptional detective. He often astounds others with his deductive reasoning and intellectual capabilities. His confidence can border on arrogance though and he can come across as cold and phlegmatic. But as soon as an investigation begins, he becomes animated and excited once again.

• Toby Ziegler, Sam Seaborn, Josh Lyman, President Bartlet, Charlie Young and Leo McGarry (from The West Wing)

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All these men have wit, intelligence and integrity in spades. I think Toby is my favourite.

• Gilbert Blythe (from Anne of Green Gables)

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Gilbert Blythe is unflinchingly honest, intelligent and loving, with a playful sense of humour and wit. He provides a respectful academic rivalry for Anne, which pushes both of them to excellence. He behaves admirably and honourably and sacrifices a lot for those he loves.

• Chandler Bing (from Friends)

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Ms. Chanandaler Bong is by far the best character in Friends. He is sensitive and funny (he has a wonderfully sarcastic sense of humour). He comes into his own through his relationship with Monica and really blossoms and deepens as a character.

• Neal Caffrey, Peter Burke, Clinton Jones and Mozzie (from White Collar)

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Some people might argue that Neal Caffrey isn’t a good role model since he’s a criminal (whom has been released into the custody of the FBI White Collar division to consult on cases) but he’s exceptionally quick-thinking, charismatic and talented. He’s able to outwit everyone. Also, when it comes to the crunch on important matters, he does the right thing. He hates guns too.

Peter Burke is excellent at his job and becomes Neal’s handler too. He’s the only one who can keep up with Neal’s brain and antics. Peter is a man of integrity and tries to turn Neal’s life around through the good example of the way he conducts himself and how he lives his life.

Clinton Jones is another FBI agent in the White Collar division, who is highly competent and intelligent. He is very loyal and is one of the only people Peter can fully trust.

Mozzie is Neal’s quirky and unusual partner in crime. He’s the joint mastermind behind many of Neal’s schemes but is really a big softy at heart.

• Rodney McKay and Carson Beckett (from Stargate Atlantis)

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Although Rodney McKay can be arrogant and condescending, he is also a genius physicist and engineer who has a knack for problem-solving under the pressure of impending death, thus saving the day. He is grumpy and a hypochondriac but is also capable of great courage.

Carson Beckett is warm, kind and funny. His medical expertise and experience with the discovery of the Ancient gene make him an invaluable member of the team.

• Spock, Scotty, Bones and Captain Picard (from Star Trek TOS and TNG)

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I first encountered Star Trek through the film ‘Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home’ when I was about four years old. I watched it countless times and am still extremely fond of it to this day. During my early teens, I also LOVED the television series ‘Star Trek Voyager’. I enjoy the more recent Trek films too. However, my experience of TOS and TNG is limited to having seen a few sporadic episodes of those television series (I’ve seen most of the TOS and TNG films though); it’s more than enough to know that Spock, Scotty, Bones, Sulu and Picard are all worthy of being on this list though.

• Leo Fitz (from Agents of SHIELD)

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Fitz is a bubbly and enthusiastic genius engineer and technology specialist, who wears his heart on his sleeve.

• Merlin and Gaius (from Merlin)

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Merlin is a friendly, cheerful, loyal and brave young man who is on a journey of discovery as to how powerful his magic can become and finding his role in life.

Gaius is a caring, gentle man but is a strict teacher and mentor to Merlin. His knowledge, wisdom and expertise prove invaluable to Merlin. He becomes like a father to Merlin.

• Richard Castle (from Castle)

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Richard Castle is a best-selling crime author who becomes a consultant to the NYPD. He has a playful sense of humour and although he can be cocky and immature at times, his flair, imagination and knowledge of obscure subjects often lead to breakthroughs in murder investigations. He is also a great single-parent father to Alexis.

• Harry Potter, Remus Lupin and Albus Dumbledore (from Harry Potter)

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My favourite characters are actually Hermione, McGonagall and the Weasley twins but this list is about male role models so Harry, Lupin and Dumbledore are probably more appropriate.

It’s made clear in the books that the thing that is so special about Harry is not any particular magical ability but his capacity to love. Despite the trauma of all that he’s been through and all that he’s lost, he doesn’t lose his ability to love. In the end, he goes through with the greatest sacrifice of all.

Lupin is a great teacher and also a caring mentor towards Harry. When Lupin was at school, he was the more sensible, hardworking, steadying influence in his group of friends, despite being a werewolf; it was probably often necessary to try to rein in James and Sirius a bit.

Dumbledore is an eccentric wizard with a twinkle in his eye. Despite being one of the most powerful wizards of all time, he prefers to use his considerable intelligence and knowledge to solve problems and figure things out.

• Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstadter (from the Big Bang Theory)

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Sheldon and Leonard are brilliant physicists. Despite their flaws, their passion (both for science and for their geeky interests and hobbies) is infectious and admirable.

• Maurice Moss (from the IT Crowd)

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Maurice Moss is a socially awkward, nerdy IT technician. He is genuine, honest and has a good heart.

• Henry McCord (from Madam Secretary)

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Henry is a professor of ethics and religion, who is loving, encouraging and supportive of his wife, whom is Secretary of State. [I just have to add here that I love Elizabeth McCord as a character sooo much; I didn’t know of the show ‘Madam Secretary’ until this year, which is why she doesn’t feature on my list of favourite female characters that I wrote last year.]

• Peter Petrelli and Hiro Nakamura (from Heroes)

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Peter is a highly empathetic individual. It’s this that makes him special and his powers are just the natural extension of his empathy.

Hiro is a gentle, eager and joyful character who has a pure heart. He aspires to heroism and keenly feels a responsibility to use his powers (the ability to manipulate time and space) for good, to help others and save the world.

• Atticus Finch (from To Kill a Mockingbird)

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Atticus is a man of strong morals, empathy, reason and justice. He is presented as different to other men in the town in that he doesn’t gamble or play sports, doesn’t drink, smoke or hunt, but loves to read. He is respectful, polite and has a quiet strength, honour and integrity.

• Hercule Poirot

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A brilliant and eccentric detective who uses his ‘little grey cells’ to great effect.

• Sandy Cohen (from the O.C.)

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Sandy is a lawyer and a committed family man who has integrity and strong morals. He’s compassionate, funny and goes out of his way to help others, even if they are complete strangers.

• Billy Elliot (from Billy Elliot)

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Billy has to defy expectations and gender stereotypes to pursue his passion and raw talent for ballet dancing.

• Wash (from Firefly)

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Wash is a talented pilot who is kind, playful and laid-back.

• Professor X (from X-men)

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A compassionate, philosophical and devoted teacher and genius, who is always looking for a peaceful outcome.

• Harold Finch (from Person of Interest)

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A gentle man who is a genius with computers and technology.

• Giles (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

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Giles is a mild-mannered and polite man. His encyclopaedic knowledge, intelligence and experience make him an invaluable mentor to Buffy.

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To be honest, this list could go on and on. There are so many more non-violent male role models in literature, film and television. All mediums are awash with male characters so you’re spoilt for choice.

Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed anyone really great off the list. I’d love to know your favourite fictional male characters and role models.

Best and worst of 2016

 
BOOKS

Best 3 audiobooks that I listened to in 2016 (I’m unable to read books due to my illness so I have to listen to them):

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
2. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
3. Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

 
FILMS

Best 10 films that I saw for the first time in 2016:

Selma
Akeelah and the Bee
Star Trek Beyond
Finding Dory*
Zootropolis
The Man Who Knew Infinity
Eddie the Eagle
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
Captain America: Civil War
The Big Short

*I have never cried during a film in my whole life but with Finding Dory, for the first time ever, I shed two, maybe even three, teardrops. I wonder if you can guess in which scene?

The most disappointing films that I saw for the first time in 2016:

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens**
Midnight Special
Bridesmaids
Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie

**As someone who loved the first six Star Wars films – yes, even the prequels – I was shocked to find that I didn’t enjoy this; it was really bad. Not only did I get bored during the film, I found the new characters bland and it was hard to care about what happened to them. I hated how the old characters’ lives had played out; it wasn’t right. I’ll stick to what I always imagined had happened to the characters in my head and my imagined version of events – much better.

Worst films that I saw for the first time in 2016:

Deadpool [awful – I hated this]
The Wolf of Wall Street [ditto]
A Single Man [slow and boring]

Films that weren’t as bad as everybody said they were and I actually quite enjoyed:

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (extended cut)
Independence Day: Resurgence
Ghostbusters (2016)

Films that I’m most looking forward to seeing in 2017:

Moana
Queen of Katwe
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Beauty and the Beast (new Emma Watson version)
Doctor Strange
Lion
The Circle
The Shack
Thor: Ragnarok
Power Rangers
Arrival
Sully

 
TELEVISION

Best of the TV that I saw for the first time in 2016:

The Good Wife
Falling Skies
The Durrells

Best TV that I continued to watch new seasons of in 2016:

Masterchef Australia
University Challenge
The Graham Norton Show
Would I Lie to You
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Game of Thrones
Elementary
Castle
The Big Bang Theory
The 100
Gogglebox
Michael McIntyre’s Big Show
Home and Away
Only Connect

Most disappointing TV that I saw for the first time in 2016, which didn’t live up to the hype:

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life***
Luther
Stranger Things
True Detective

***Gilmore Girls is my second favourite TV show of all time (Chuck is my first) so I was really looking forward to ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ and was very excited. But I hated it, I’m afraid. I hated what they did to just about every single character and how their stories played out, especially what they did to Rory. Again, I’m sticking to what I always imagined happened to the characters in my head; my version of events is way better, if I do say so myself. There were a few good moments of ‘oh look! It’s that person! Nice to see them again after all this time.’ But otherwise it was all rather depressing, which the original seven seasons never were. The tone of the new episodes was just all wrong.

 
SPORT

Best Sporting Events of 2016:

1. The Olympics – see my take on my favourite parts here
2. Euro 2016

 
YOUTUBE

My 3 most-watched YouTube channels of 2016:

1. books and pieces – a booktuber with a particular focus on sci-fi and fantasy
2. PointlessBlogVlogs – vlog of Alfie Deyes
3. The Late Late Show with James Corden

 
BLOG

Best things that I’ve written in 2016 (allow me this self-indulgence):

My favourite fictional female characters:
http://www.jkrowbory.co.uk/2016/07/my-favourite-fictional-female-characters/

All the things that you never wanted to know about my life with an acute chronic illness:
http://www.jkrowbory.co.uk/2016/05/all-the-things-that-you-never-wanted-to-know-about-my-life-with-an-acute-chronic-illness/

My 100 question ditloid quiz in aid of M.E. Research UK and Annabelle’s Challenge:
http://www.jkrowbory.co.uk/2016/12/100-question-quiz/

– at the time of this blog post, there are just under two and a half days left to enter the quiz. Remember to get your answers in and donate! I’m really hoping that there will be a late surge in entries so that I can reach my fundraising target.

Words that help me:
http://www.jkrowbory.co.uk/2016/06/words-that-help-me/

All the television that I have ever seen:
http://www.jkrowbory.co.uk/2016/10/television/

 
PERSONAL

Best surprise of 2016:

For my 30th birthday, my Dad secretly travelled all over the UK to film at and tell anecdotes at significant places in my life, from where I was born to many of the different places where we’ve lived, as well as filming little bits with my brothers and a couple of other relatives. On my birthday, I was presented with the DVD of this. I couldn’t believe that he’d done all that for me. I felt very loved and special. It was really emotional. Wonderful to see all the places that I hadn’t seen in such a long time and all the memories that came along with that.

Biggest disappointment of 2016 (excluding health-related stuff obviously, which is too horrific to mention):

Due to the combination of (a) being bed-bound and (b) not being able to read books, I obviously haven’t been able to see/read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. As a massive Harry Potter fan, this is upsetting and I’m desperate to know what happens. I hope that either a DVD of the play will be released or that an audiobook will be made. No spoilers until then please! (Although, I think that I may have accidentally seen a spoiler on twitter, which is devastating for me, but I’m not sure.)

 
What were your favourite and least favourite things of 2016?
 

My favourite fictional female characters


In general, there is a paucity of fictional female characters compared to the number of male ones and there are even fewer that are really great, three-dimensional characters. I’ve decided to celebrate the ones that do exist. Here’s hoping for more characters as interesting as my favourite ones below. I have divided them into three categories: television, books and films. Remember, these are only my personal favourites so don’t be upset if your own favourites are not included.

 

TELEVISION

 

• Lorelai, Rory, Paris and Emily from Gilmore Girls

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I love these four people. All of them are witty, intelligent, unique characters. Lorelai and Rory are obvious contenders for this list due to them both being awesome (and immediately likeable). Just don’t ask me to pick a favourite; it’s a near impossible task. I’m probably more similar to Rory, or at least I used to be before I became ill, but I do also have Lorelai’s love of silliness. I think that there’s more than a little bit of an inner Paris in me too.
Although Emily and Paris start off as not so obvious choices for this list, I came to love them almost as much as the other two, especially Paris. They really grow on you and are very amusing to watch.

• C.J. Cregg from The West Wing
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C.J. is brilliant. She is by far the best character in The West Wing. She has a bit of a rocky start but I blame the writer for that. She’s intelligent, quick-witted, compassionate with a wicked sense of humour.

• Starbuck, President Laura Roslin and Dee from Battlestar Galactica

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Starbuck is great. She’s a hothead with a tendency to get into trouble and has a problem with authority. She also happens to be the best pilot in the fleet. She’s my favourite character in Battlestar Galactica.
President Laura Roslin is completely different but I love her self-belief when everyone else thinks she’s crazy. She has the conviction and courage to carry on anyway and saves everyone. She does have a few annoying moments but I’m willing to forgive her for them!
I like Dee. She has an awesome moment in S2E6. With a few brave words, she brings Adama to his senses and the fleet back together. She changes everything.

• Kaylee, Zoe and River from Firefly

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Kaylee is my favourite in Firefly. She’s the cheerful, exceptional mechanic of Serenity. She sees the best in everyone.
Zoe is hardcore tough-as-nails but she’s also a fully fleshed out person on top of that. She has a dry sense of humour and an affectionate but realistic relationship with her husband. She has a lot of heart alongside a strategic, military mind and her soldier’s instincts.

• Donna Noble from Doctor Who

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Donna is awesome. She is the best companion to the Doctor by far. The pairing of her and the tenth Doctor was perfect – a partnership of friends and equals. For me, those two together were the peak of Doctor Who’s brilliance and that is why the whole of the fourth season is my favourite season of Doctor Who ever. It’s unlikely that anything will surpass it.

• Joan Watson from Elementary

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I would go as far as to say that Joan Watson is my favourite depiction of Dr. Watson in any Sherlock Holmes adaptation. She is the most interesting and nuanced, with a marvellous depth of character and progression. She is what makes Elementary stand out from the crowd of other adaptations.

• Sam Carter from Stargate SG-1

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A genius. Astrophysicist and engineer. She always comes up with a solution to a problem just in time to save the day. She avoids being a one-dimensional character though; she has friendships, hobbies and relationships. She shares the curiosity, compassion and love of knowledge of Daniel Jackson, the soldier mindset of Jack and Teal’c, as well as the leadership skills of General Hammond. Stargate SG-1 was my favourite TV show in my mid-teens.

• Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles from Rizzoli & Isles

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Jane is an excellent detective. I like her because she’s a multidimensional tomboy, who is competitive, intelligent and funny.
Maura is a genius, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of just about everything and a love of order. She’s a doctor of forensic pathology and the Chief Medical Examiner of Massachusetts. She’s the polar opposite of Jane but their growing friendship is one of the greatest draws to the show.

• Melinda May, Jemma Simmons and Skye/Daisy Johnson from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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Agent May is the consummate SHIELD agent. She is a woman of few words, often favouring to just give someone a look instead, but is brilliant at her job, the best of the best. She is a formidable fighter and is extremely loyal. She’s the only one whom Coulson can always truly rely on and trust.
Jemma Simmons is a genius, an exceptional biochemist. Her partnership with the equally brilliant Fitz often saves the day when they come up with a solution to a problem. She is enthusiastic with a deep passion for science.
I like Skye/Daisy because even before she became an inhuman with superpowers, she was a master hacker. She has a dry sense of humour and becomes a skilled Agent through her training.

• Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager

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Way back in my early teens, Star Trek: Voyager was my favourite TV show. Janeway wasn’t my favourite character (Tom Paris was) but she still deserves to be on this list. A few inconsistencies in the writing aside, she was a great captain. Human and flawed, yes, but she did the best in an impossible situation, stranded in a different quadrant of space. It was her leadership and dedication that brought the crew home with the fewest amount of deaths possible.

• Diane Lockhart from The Good Wife
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Diane is my favourite person in The Good Wife. She is an excellent lawyer and loves it. She’s a really interesting character.

• General Beckman, Ellie Bartowski and Sarah Walker from Chuck
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Chuck is my favourite television show of all time. When I came to write this list though, I realised that all my favourite characters in it are male (Chuck, Cpt. Awesome, Casey and Morgan) but there are some good female characters in it too that just about make the cut for this list.
On the outside, General Beckman is stern and severe but she has a wonderful wry sense of humour and is really just a big softie.
Ellie Bartowski is a caring and protective older sister to Chuck. She’s highly intelligent, an excellent doctor and is always looking out for her brother. Unfortunately, she spends most of the show being lied to due to being kept in the dark about Chuck’s spy life as the Intersect.
Sarah Walker is harder to warm to as she hasn’t exactly got bags of personality or much depth. I wish that she had been written better. She is an exceptionally skilled CIA agent though who does have growth and character progression.

• Snow White, Emma Swan and Regina from Once Upon A Time
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I love Once Upon A Time’s refreshing retellings of traditional stories. It’s really fun. The women are particularly great; each character gets her own complex backstory which explains her motivations and choices.
Snow White still has a good heart and sees the best in people but after being forced out of her home and hunted by the Queen, she learns to fight for herself and survives as a bandit. Snow White and Prince Charming (Snow teasingly dubs him thus) become equal partners and leaders in the fight against the Queen (and later, other foes) and he is just as often in need of her help as she is of his.

• Kate Beckett, Captain Gates and Alexis from Castle
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Kate is a gifted homicide detective with the NYPD. She is tough, hard-working and dedicated but has a softer, compassionate side when dealing with the families of murder victims.
Captain Gates is highly competent at her job. She can be uncompromising and likes to play things by the book and not waver from the rules.
Alexis is Richard Castle’s level-headed daughter, who has a slightly firmer grasp on reality than her dad. Sensible and very intelligent but with a sense of fun too. She grows a lot as a character throughout the show’s seasons, starting off as a sweet but naïve teen and progressing through to adulthood.

• Diana Berrigan from White Collar
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FBI Special Agent Diana Berrigan is chronically underutilised throughout the show. Despite this, she is superbly competent, intelligent and a most trusted colleague to Peter. Her growing relationship with Neal is wonderful. She has her head screwed on straight so she views Neal with the amount of suspicion that he deserves but they find a rhythm and a banter that makes the show better. They eventually come to find a way to trust each other.

• Veronica Mars from Veronica Mars
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Veronica is a proactive, witty, smart teenage detective. She relentlessly pursues the truth and has the best snappy and irreverent one-liners.

• Betty Suarez from Ugly Betty
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Betty is friendly, enthusiastic and hard-working. She’s always upbeat and positive. Her need to take care of everyone and her tendency to put everyone else’s needs before her own can get her into trouble. She is a good leader though and is very capable; she always manages to overcome the obstacles she faces.

• Monica Geller from Friends
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Although Chandler is my favourite character in Friends, Monica is my second favourite. They are the best characters by a long way. Though not without her flaws, Monica is caring, intelligent, funny and highly competitive, which are always good things in my book.

 

BOOKS

 

• Darrell Rivers from the Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton
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Darrell is clever, great at sport, good-hearted, responsible and sensible but, crucially, alongside these things, she also has a great sense of fun and mischief. She gets involved with pranks on the teachers, which become legendary. Unlike Alicia, who can play the fool in class and still get top marks in everything, Darrell learns that she herself is not able to do both. She becomes best friends with the level-headed Sally instead, who is a better influence on her than Alicia.
Darrell was my favourite character ever as a child and I wanted to be just like her (apart from her temper).

• Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

Drawing of Hermione by JK Rowling
Drawing of Hermione by JK Rowling

Extremely intelligent, hard-working and logical. Unashamedly enthusiastic about learning and reading. She has an enormous heart with a strong conscience and always does what is right. She sets up S.P.E.W. and valiantly fights for the rights of the oppressed, despite everyone else mocking her for it. Harry and Ron would both have been dead without her knowledge of magic and cool-headed logic in extreme situations. She should have been the protagonist instead of Harry Potter. Awesome personified.

• Alanna of Trebond from The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce
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Alanna swaps places with her twin brother and disguises herself as a boy in order to train to become a knight. Unwaveringly determined, stubborn and courageous. She becomes the first female knight in a century. I admire her toughness, defiance of gender stereotypes and inner steel.

• Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
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An outspoken, energetic girl with a good heart, lively imagination, massive intellect and a passion for writing.

“I hate to think I’ve got to grow up, and be Miss March, and wear long gowns, and look as prim as a China aster! It’s bad enough to be a girl, anyway, when I like boys’ games and work and manners! I can’t get over my disappointment in not being a boy; and it’s worse than ever now, for I’m dying to go and fight with Papa, and I can only stay at home and knit, like a poky old woman!”
~ Jo March

• Sonea from The Black Magician trilogy by Trudi Canavan
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Sonea is from a poor family and discovers her magic through chance when she angrily throws a stone at the Guild magicians’ shield while she is being forced back to the slums during the annual Purge. We discover that she is one of the few magicians whose powers have developed naturally without the assistance of another, which means that she is extremely powerful.
During her first year studying at the Magicians’ Guild, she becomes even stronger by straining her powers to their limits to fend off her rival’s attacks. She also learns to develop clever strategic thinking to achieve victory in the arena. She is highly talented and hard-working; she learns two years worth of knowledge in half the time. Sonea always wants to protect those who need defending and help those who are suffering.

• Professor McGonagall from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

Drawing of Professor McGonagall by shadowycat on DeviantArt
Drawing of Professor McGonagall by shadowycat on DeviantArt

I love Professor McGonagall. She may be strict but she is always fair, even to the detriment of her own House. She is great at her job, brilliantly intelligent and capable. She’s a good person, someone of substance and integrity. I love how she lets go and forgets herself at Quidditch matches, jumping wildly up and down when Gryffindor win.

• Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
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A fierce tomboy who is intelligent, curious, thoughtful and good-hearted.

• Kestrel “Kess” Hath from The Wind on Fire trilogy by William Nicholson
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Kess is a girl of action who rebels against the society she lives in and wants to make it a better place. Her twin brother Bowman is reflective, empathetic and sensitive, leading people to say of Bowman and Kess “He is the one who feels, she is the one who does.”

• Lyra from His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
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Lyra is a scruff who prefers to play in the streets with other children than be at Jordan College, which she finds stuffy. She is rebellious, unruly, independent and fierce. She is quick-witted and canny, which leads to her being called Lyra Silvertongue.

• Sara Crewe from A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
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Kind, generous and clever. She has a vivid imagination and is great at making up stories. Even when she is starving and poor, she gives up the food that she has to someone whom she believes is even more worse-off than herself. This generosity and relentless determination to be good to others, even when they are not good to her, is what sets her apart.

• Sabriel and Lirael from The Old Kingdom trilogy by Garth Nix
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Sabriel is intelligent, strong-willed and determined. As Abhorsen, she is forced to shoulder a massive responsibility. She has to maintain extreme self-control over herself at all times so that the Dead will obey her. She wants to hurry to save her father but her compassion to those both living and dead means that she shows kindness to those who need it.
Lirael has to overcome the pain of being different and of being the only Clayr that is unable to see the future. She has to find her identity and destiny herself. She is strong and determined and has emotional depth. She is also inquisitive and always pushes herself to learn and grow.

• Matilda from Matilda by Roald Dahl
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Matilda possesses an intelligence far beyond her years and loves to read. She is bullied and neglected by her parents and brother; she plots ingenious tricks on them in revenge. She discovers that she has the power of telekenesis. I think that we all tried to move objects with the power of our minds after reading Matilda.

 

FILMS

I really struggled to find great fictional women in films. This says a lot about the film industry. There really is a dearth of female characters and the ones that do exist are a bit rubbish. I managed to recall some that I love for this list but they are mostly younger roles; there were only a few adult roles that I deemed good enough (Hollywood, do better please). Here are my favourites:

• Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables
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I love Anne’s energy and enthusiasm. This, along with her passionate, stubborn and sometimes impulsive nature, can get her into scrapes. She is a daydreamer who often gets lost in her imagination, in a fantasy world. But she is also good-hearted, gets top marks in class and has an unquenchable thirst for learning and books.

• Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games
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There isn’t much to say about Katniss that hasn’t been said already. On top of the obvious strength, fierce determination and resourcefulness, I also admire her selflessness and love in not even hesitating to trade places with her sister by volunteering as tribute. At that point, she doesn’t know that she will survive the Hunger Games so her action in that moment is effectively the same as stepping in front of someone whom is being shot at in order to take the bullet. We all hope that we would possess that same bravery for those we love.

• Pai from Whale Rider
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Pai is a natural leader. She has great respect for her tribe’s traditions and culture but she happens to defy the gender expectations of her community. Just by being true to herself, she expands what is possible for women to be in her tribe. I love her growing self-belief and determination.

• Mulan from Mulan
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Mulan is the best animated film of all time and Mulan is the best animated character ever. End of. We can’t be friends if you don’t agree (kidding…sort of). Mulan is awesome.

• Jess from Bend it like Beckham
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Jess loves playing football and is great at it. She joins her local football club. Unfortunately, her strict Sikh parents have very different ideas about what is appropriate for a young woman to be and do, which results in them banning her from playing football. She loves her parents very much but has to be strong enough to carry on being herself and doing what she loves.

• Jo from Twister
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Jo’s dad died when she was little in an F-5 tornado. This is what drives her storm-chasing and her life’s work to gather data from inside tornadoes’ funnels to better understand how they work and create an early warning system to save people’s lives so that nobody else would ever have to go through what she went through. She is passionate, determined and tough.

• Dr. Ellie Arroway from Contact
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Ellie is a brilliant scientist who works at SETI, searching for signs of extraterrestrial life. Due to her dedicated pursuit of this, she has long suffered the derision of the scientific community but she sticks to her guns and is passionate, intense and iron-willed. Her passion is fuelled by a deep fascination with the mystery of human existence and whether we are alone in the universe.

• Gracie Hart from Miss Congeniality
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Gracie Hart is the most intelligent and capable FBI agent but sometimes has a problem with following orders because she actually has a brain and thinks for herself. This gets her into trouble with her boss. She’s tough, dedicated and a lovable scruff who is thrown way out of her comfort zone.
As with most films where a female character undergoes a makeover/transformation, I prefer the person pre-transformation to afterwards (another good example being Sandy in Grease).

• Lina Mayfleet from City of Ember
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Lina loves to run and is fast. She becomes a Messenger in the underground city of Ember, which means she gets to run about all day and meet people, delivering their messages. She is curious, open-minded and notices everything, which is how she gradually begins to unravel the secrets and mysteries involved in the failing city as the power outages get longer and longer. Her bravery and determination take her out from the world she has always known.

• Anastasia from Anastasia
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Without anything except her necklace as a clue, Anastasia sets out from the orphanage that she grew up in to try to find any family that she might have. She is playful, quick-witted and determined. It’s a long journey to find what she’s been looking for.
Anastasia is the second best animated film of all time. I love it. The songs are great too.

• Deloris Van Cartier/Sister Mary Clarence from Sister Act
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Deloris is outgoing and funny with bags of personality and wit. She is thrown into a situation where she is a fish out of water but manages to make friends and revitalise the convent. Her energy and natural leadership bring about a lot of good as she persuades the nuns to leave the four walls of the convent, connect with the community and give it the practical help and love it needs.

• Merida from Brave
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Merida is adventurous, bold and brave. She just wants to be free to be herself and to be free to make her own decisions; she pushes back against the expectations of her mother.

• Sarah Baker from Cheaper by the Dozen (1 & 2)
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A mischievous girl who loves sport, being active and playing pranks.

• Annie and Hallie from The Parent Trap
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Annie and Hal are the impish twins in this well-known film. Lovable and mischievous, they devise ingenious schemes first against each other at summer camp and then to swap places so that they get to meet their other parent and then to get their parents back together.

• Vada from My Girl
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A precocious, curious girl who is growing up and has to deal with experiencing loss and grief.

• Amy from Fly Away Home
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After losing her mother in a car accident, Amy is left bereft and has to go to live with her father, who is a stranger to her. At first she is sulky and sullen but she starts to heal. Things begin to change for the better when she finds some goose eggs that she nurtures and hatches. Through her determination and her growing relationship with her father, she achieves an epic feat, involving flying a glider across the US in order to save her geese and give them a normal life.

• Maddy from Catch That Kid
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Athletic and resourceful, Maddy goes to extreme lengths when her parents don’t have the money for an operation which her much-loved father needs.

• Mia Thermopolis from The Princess Diaries
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A socially awkward teenager with a wry sense of humour, who discovers that she is the heir to the throne of another country.

• Grace from The Horse Whisperer
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After a tragic accident that results in the death of her best friend, Grace is left with a partially amputated leg and a traumatised horse who becomes uncontrollable. Grace becomes bitter and withdrawn but the horse whisperer helps her and her horse begin a journey of healing together and overcoming the grief and trauma.

• Leslie from Bridge to Terabithia
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Leslie is fast and can beat all the boys at running. She’s adventurous, compassionate and stands up for what’s right. Her boundless imagination and creativity make her see magic in the ordinary and she creates a fantasy world, which she shares with her best friend.

• Calamity Jane from Calamity Jane
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In order to hold her own in a man’s world, Calam dresses, speaks, rides and shoots like a man. She is capable and well-meaning but also disaster-prone.

• Annie from Annie
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Annie is a lovable scamp who is kind to her fellow orphans at the orphanage and looks after them. She is energetic, forthright and endearing.

• Nim from Nim’s Island
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Nim lives on an uncharted island with her father, having adventures across the island with her animal friends. She has a passion for books and is fascinated by wildlife and nature. She is good-natured, independent, resourceful and imaginative.
 
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______________________________
 
What do you think about my favourite fictional female characters? Are they much different from your own favourites? Who are your favourites? Let me know.

______________________________
 

[NB This blog post has been sitting as a draft blog post for a couple of years. I’ve been gradually adding to it, tapping it out on my iPhone with my thumb when I’ve been able. I recently realised that it was complete so I’ve finally hit the publish button. There will probably be a few mistakes and omissions but it’s the best that I can do in the situation I’m in. I don’t know how interested anyone else is in this kind of thing but I love creating these sorts of lists so that’s what matters, I guess. I haven’t been able to get onto my iPhone for months at a time of late. My hands, wrists and forearms are very damaged and completely destroyed at the moment so please don’t expect replies to any of your comments. I’d love to be able to reply. Sorry that I can’t. I’d still love to hear from you though.]

Best of 2015

Favourite discovery of 2015:
The brilliant Witch, Please podcast. A fortnightly podcast about the Harry Potter world. The two hosts are academics who are rereading the Harry Potter books and rewatching the films for the first time in a long while and then discussing them, one by one. They’re currently up to the Half-Blood Prince. I recommend going back to the start and listening from the first episode. Just wonderful. Great fun, intelligent and amusing. Feminism for the win.

2015 was the year that I properly discovered YouTube (a bit late, I know).
Favourite 10 YouTube channels of 2015:

1. TheFineBros – I like Kids React, Teens React, Adults React, Elders React and YouTubers React
2. Kinda Funny – The GameOverGreggy Show: four best friends chatting around a table
3. Kitty G – a UK-based booktuber who loves fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk and historical fiction
4. Lindsey Rey – a booktuber who loves fantasy, thrillers and more
5. JoeyGraceffa – A vlogger. I know, I know, but I find the triviality calming.
6. emmymadeinjapan – she tastes the food of different countries and reviews it
7. books and pieces – a booktuber with a particular focus on sci-fi and fantasy
8. booksandquills – a Dutch booktuber who now lives in London
9. Evan Edinger – an American YouTuber living in London
10. Jen Campbell – a UK booktuber who is also an author and poet

(I’m not including the YouTube channels of TV shows, like the ones of James Corden, Ellen Degeneres, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel. Though I do love those too. They would definitely be in my top 10)

Best TV (that I watched for the first time in 2015):
White Collar
Continuum
Rizzoli and Isles
Once Upon A Time
Person of Interest
Veronica Mars

Best TV (that I continued to watch in 2015):
Doctor Who
Agents of SHIELD
Elementary
Masterchef Australia
Castle
University Challenge
Would I Lie To You
The Graham Norton Show
Home and Away

Best 10 films that I watched for the first time in 2015, in no particular order:
What we did on our holiday
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Inside Out
Big Game
Jurassic World
Testament of Youth
Avengers: Age of Ultron
x + y
Erin Brockavich
Paddington

Best documentary:
Caribbean with Simon Reeve

Best sporting event:
The swimming world championships

Best 3 audiobooks that I listened to in 2015:
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Partials by Dan Wells
Life as we knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The 3 songs that I listened to most in 2015:
1. Superman (It’s Not Easy) by Five For Fighting
2. Dela by Johnny Clegg & Savuka
3. Way Back Into Love sung by Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore from the film Music and Lyrics

My top 50 tweeters of 2015:
(I’ll include their twitter profile bio too so that they’re not just names)

@Tanya_Marlow – Writer | Christian | Severe ME #MECFS | Former lecturer in Biblical Theology | Author: Coming Back to God When You Feel Empty | Founder of Compassionate Britain

@TheAlethiophile – Nonconformist christian blogger; bibliophile; introvert; socialist; geek; terrible conversationalist; peripatetic; morosoph; works in finance.

@jpc101 – God loving, web designing, ukulele & mandolin playing, geek! I’ve had ME for 20+ years. Raiders. Clemson. Biathlon.

@Ita99 – It’s pronounced Eata NOT Eyeta.

@joecassels – One day I’ll work out what this life thing is about. Managing CFS/ME and depression. Sad, but I like animals.

@Jocassels – Curly haired and fat

@BonneMillie – If there is a problem, yo I’ll solve it, check out the hook… Crochet, sewing, doodles, ecology, nature, gardening, sci-fi & books! planetmillie.com

@Pamreader – Writer/book blogger working in the creative world of InDesign, Photoshop, Adobe CQ5 by day, while exploring the fictional world by night.

@kateileaver – Writer. Journalist. Feminist. Professional level Harry Potter fan. Words @Pottermore @ThePoolUK @GlamourmagUK @Sunday_style.

@s_snowberry – Curating. Theology. Cylons & dragons. Changing the world. Failed novelist. Contrarian. Sugarcoater. Bring back the wolves!

@norfolkdarlo – Dad to v severe ME @Stroopwaffle. Darlo fan. Love family, dog, cathedrals, poetry, writing stories, beach huts, satay, pofertijes, East Anglia + Dales. Work @crystaleducates

@kouya – Tweets and retweets about mission, theology, languages, Africa, running and random stuff. Christian, mid-fifties, exiled-Northerner, Leeds Trinity PhD student.

@Gerrarrdus – Often looking for odd stuff in London. Creator of Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley. Dad, husband, priest. LFC and AFCRD fan.

@revpamsmith – Virtual vicar and author of Online Mission and Ministry (SPCK). Ex: prison chaplain, teacher, health service. Interests: politics, telly, theology

@SimonNRicketts – A journalist, indie screenwriter, script editor. Was at The Watford Observer, Daily Mail and The Independent. Now on The Guardian night team. Rarely serious.

@boudledidge – Writing on Christianity/feminism. Digital Comms/FR at #globaldev org. Also found at @ChristianToday @CFemNet @Project328. ‘Generally pretty terrible’.

@LizClutterbuck – Londoner, lover of gin, transport nerd & eclectic blogger. Curate at @christchurchn5 & freelance researcher. Also a part of the madness that is @matryoshkahaus.

@jtlovell1979 – Uncool before it was cool to be uncool. You can be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant. I’ve tried smart. I recommend pleasant. (also @JTinjail)

@AlisonCroggon – I write novels, poems, libretti and criticism. Columnist for Overland Journal. Yes, it’s confusing sometimes. alisoncroggon.com

@lynneguist – An American in England, Reader in Linguistics @SussexUni. This is the Twitter presence of ‘Separated by a Common Language’ blog.

@Lucy_bahaha – The march of women towards their rightful heritage of political liberty and social and industrial freedom

@neilcpferris – Conductor and teacher. RWCMD Head of Choral Conducting, London Symphony Chorus Associate Cond, Music Dir Cardiff Polyphonic Choir, Wimbledon Choral Society.

@God_loves_women – Loving Jesus. Fighting for women’s liberation. Expect ranting, Big Thoughts & quotes from my most excelllent children.

@ScottFilmCritic – Author of Rosebud Sleds and Horses’ Heads: 50 of Film’s Most Evocative Objects. Telegraph blogger. On BBC Radio 4. Roger Ebert’s UK correspondent.

@raquelita_e – Language lover, haphazard Jesus follower, music fan, poet, Brit. Trying to be kind.

@DiamonDie – journalist, author, medical/music/food writer, playwright, translator, artist, photographer, activist, expat, plant lover, demoscener, veg*n with CFS/ME/hypopit

@LMAshton – Kitchen Witch. Canadian, lived in Sri Lanka, NZ, Singapore. Science fiction/fantasy. Geek. Accountant. Redhead. Married to @FahimFarook. RookSoft.sg

@GenderDiary – A mother and father tweeting about our girl and boy and how people treat them differently. The Gender Police: A Diary: amzn.to/1FLCoAj

@mushenska – Literary agent, sartorialist and cat wrangler. Pollyanna-ish. Master of the cheeky wink. Generally heard before I’m seen. Bend and SNAP.

@MelbourneLily – Views are my own. A working mama, runs a bit, crazy cat lady, coeliac, bibliophile.

@forgetMEnotxxx – Bedridden with severe progressive M.E. & Ehlers-danlos syndrome. Dysautonomia. Endometriosis. Love my dog, plants, trees, spirituality, folklore, poetry, MJ

@aeroplanegirl – Sunday Times bestselling author of ‘Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops’ series & ‘The Bookshop Book.’ Poet. Booktuber. youtube.com/jenvcampbell

@eah39 – http://montaguemouse.wordpress.com/

@DreamsAtStake – A Journey of Hope Through Severe ME

@AmazinAdrielle – ★ Art|Craft|Animation|Games|C++ Student ♡ Cats|Birds|Turtle|Fish ✼ Severe EDS|ME/CFS|FMS|OA|POTS|SVT ☆ Behavioural Science|X-Circus Gal ☻

@aryomjapes – Continuing to be at an awkward age. Owns seventy+ hymn books and uses them all. Interpreter of life to those who find it strange. Unlocked account @japesaryom

@ECAllinson – I wear many hats. I tick lots of boxes. I have fingers in several pies. Some of them are @bloomcentral @OasisFarmSE1 @creationfestuk @mercyukorg VIEWS MY OWN

@emjric – Often wobbly. Frequently achey. Usually smiley. OVER RELIANT ON CAPITAL LETTERS.

@greg_jenner – Public Historian ~ Chief Nerd to HORRIBLE HISTORIES ~ Author of A MILLION YEARS IN A DAY amazon.co.uk/Million-Years-… ~ Prone to undignified silliness ~ Spurs fan

@goodinparts – Anglican priest still learning on the job: mum, wife & procrastinator of discintction, Private witterings here. New friends please follow @CoventryCanon

@zierlich_alex – 24. @unimelb BA student. Whovian. Disabled: genetic autoimmune disease, FM, etc. “I’m in pain. Every day. It changed me…” ~ House

@georgeluke – Human being. God-botherer. Writer. Radio producer. DJ. Rookie windsurfer. I-Something-Something-Something.

@HellsJBells – Christian. Wife to a workaholic. Ex-aircraft fitter Now swear at IT or count beans Own Rottweilers Love house music, fast cars & the seaside 🙂 #StreetPastor

@dalekwidow – Work in online publishing. Share life with @vidjam & Daleks. Like: cricket, comedy, music, Adam&Joe, Sci-Fi, drawing. Member of Dr Who Fan Orchestra

@HolzC – Writer. Humanitarian. Adores footie, dance, chocolate & baking. I work in wonderful, hectic & random land of make believe, aka ‘Theatre World’. Views all mine!

@Julia_Byers – Aspiring YA author. UMich senior. @Ch1Con founder & @ArtsAtMichigan blogger. Used bookshop minion. @KaplanLiterary intern. Lover of theatre, movies, & tea.

@GirlFromBlupo – Monoid fan and mother of twins. Writes books ‘n’ stuff. ME/FMS/JHS/POTS etc. (grr). Author website coming soon – stay tuned! delegatedetective.wordpress.com

@DozyFlo – Bookaholic and proud of it!

@martinsaunders – Relentlessly hopeful. Husband, dad, screenwriter, youth worker and God-botherer. Deputy CEO @youthscape.

@jk_rowling – Author