In its first week, The Testaments sold more than 103,000 copies in the UK — that’s more than double the total sales of any other hardback fiction so far this year. Margaret Atwood’s feverishly anticipated follow up to The Handmaid’s Tale had been shortlisted for the Booker Prize before even the critics had been offered a copy to review. And those who were allowed a proof before publication were shut in rooms guarded by PRs while they read the text. But is it any good?
I was 13 stone when I was 13 and used to smoke and drink milkshakes rather than go to PE. When I finally tried out the whole gym thing, my body was so unused to exercise that I ruptured a disc, got admitted to hospital and couldn't walk properly for months. Yoga has been my sworn exercise of choice ever since. Until I somewhat sceptically signed up for the F45 8-Week Challenge.
A serious side effect of finding a new I can’t stop listening kind of podcast is wanting to tell the world about it. I’ve gone for a more manageable approach and I’m just sharing with you lovely lot instead. Oh, and I’ve tasked my colleagues Tom and Katy to tell you about theirs too. But be warned, if you find your New Favourite Podcast from this bijou roundup, you’re contractually obliged to share the knowledge with everyone you know.
After reviewing over a thousand applicants and holding enough rounds of auditions to make even Simon Cowell feel bleary-eyed, the cast for Birmingham Hippodrome’s home-grown youth production of West Side Story was chosen. As part of their 120th b’day celebs, the Hipp have created a dynamic reimagining of the Romeo & Juliet tale with a cast of young locals.
In the League of Least Endearing First World Problems, complaining about not being able to go on holiday is right up there. So I won’t mention the thing I’m moaning about most this summer. But what if you could go away for a night, just a few miles from home, and feel a million miles away? Sign. Me. Up. Maybe even packing your suitcase, wearing your comfiest plane clothes, hopping off the train at B’ham International and pretending you're about to jet off to somewhere fabulous. But save yourself the flight time and just walk over to Genting Hotel at Resorts World. Maybe you could do that? Maybe I *did* that.
MADHEAD may sound like a shlocky 80s horror, but the truth is it looks set to raise way more pulses when the National Youth Dance Company brings it to the Hippodrome's Patrick Studio, July 17. Thirty eight of the UK’s finest young body-movers fuse contemporary dance, physical theatre and hip-hop (...the hippie to the hip hip hop and you don't stop the rock...).
Is the pressure okay? You know the masseuse is going to say it, but are you brave enough to answer the question honestly? After an early twenties of being terribly British and polite about the whole thing, I've spent the last five years unequivocally asking for a firmer massage. Until I found Flint + Flint’s bamboo version that is.
It's 7,187 miles from Hawaii to Birmingham and, I'll be honest, some Mondays it sure feels like it. Which makes the arrival Kuula Poké to the Great Western Arcade a city-brightening addition even before you've tucked into the food. And I'll get on to the food in two shakes of a salmon's tail.
What do Thursday evenings usually look like for you? If we're speaking candidly here, mine normally involves (literal) Netflix and chill. So in an unusual sociable twist, a few weeks ago on a rainy Thursday at 6pm, I joined Bloom Collective for a floristry workshop at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts.
I’m not saying I’m dog-obsessed but I am planning my next holiday based around seeing a dog. Rhubarb, and her owner Freyja, are residents at bed and breakfast The Sandy Duck in Falmouth and as charming as Freyja is, it was the doggo I was hoping to spot at breakfast every day.
I've always had a bad back. I tan well, smile a lot and have a spine that pathologically hates me. Or does it? Postural Alignment Therapy (or "PAT") isn't physio, or yoga, or osteopathy — it's a system of personalised exercises that works by addressing the causes of pain, rather than focussing on the symptom itself. It's about gently firing up weak, underused muscles and helping to switch off muscles that are taking too much strain.
During the early years of her biotech company Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes took to wearing a black turtleneck every day, in the style of her hero, Steve Jobs. She hired ex-Apple staff and brought in their iconic advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day. There's also speculation that she consciously changed her speaking voice to a deeper register, so she would be taken more seriously. And somehow, these are some of the less weird things Holmes has done.
It feels easier to blame my impressive content-binging on 21st century multimedia overload. It’s all Netflix’s fault that I consume a 20 part series in two weeks, okay? But the truth is I’ve never been able to make a good thing last. Just look back at my voracious Jacqueline Wilson days in the 90s to see I’ve always been like this.
If someone blindfolded you, put you on a train at New Street, and removed the blindfold only after pushing you through the doors of Sky By The Water, you probably wouldn’t think you were at Resorts World, or even in Birmingham. You’d probably also be like “Why did you blindfold me? That was kind of traumatic” but then “Wow this place is beautiful, can I live here now?”
I got eight hours of uninterrupted sleep on Friday night — those deep, refreshing sort of zzzs I'd give up most of what I own to guarantee on a regular basis. And the cause?
Marie Kondo seems like the sweetest person, probably ever. In her new Netflix show Tidying Up, the organisational goddess who became a household name in 2014 with her book The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up squeals with delight when she meets new people, and rolls around on the carpet, so happy is she when rooms have been cleared of clutter.
Italian food. Fine fine dining. Ridiculously strong décor by Tibbatts Abel; the same people that did Saint Paul's House and Opheem, Aktar Islam's other joint over the road. It’s very hard to find anything not to love about Legna, the newbie to Fleet Street (that's basically Summer Row to the uninitiated).
My Instagram explore page is 90% dog videos and 10% No Context Louis Theroux posts. I lose hours of my life watching Huskies try to find their hiding owners and German Shepherds catching treats in slow motion (with hilarious consequences, obvs). What I’m saying is, I can and do watch the most banal of dog-related content, so praise be to Netflix for creating some beautifully shot, tear-inducing, quality canine TV too.
Decapitated Barbies and pig-shaped macarons with eighties bangers for your soundtrack isn't exactly what you might think of when someone invites you for a spot of afternoon tea. But when this is the invite and chef patron Alex Claridge is the one in charge, you're not in normal town anymore. You're in new kid on the neon block, Nocturnal Animals.
You might expect a play based on a novel written 119 years ago to be a little, shall we say… old-fashioned. Well, let The Rep’s upcoming showing of Heart of Darkness, originally written by Joseph Conrad, change your mind.
Fans of Gone Girl, The Girl on The Train and that increasingly popular subgenre of pyschological thriller with a female descriptor in the title will want to add A J Finn’s debut novel The Woman in the Window to their ‘must read’ list.
Did you watch The Cry? Don't answer that, we can't hear you. But if you didn't, you really should. Written by Jacquelin Perske, and from the novel by Helen FitzGerald, Jenna Coleman leads in a psychological, chronological flip-flopping thriller that will merrily twist your guts around its little finger. And it will do so with double the torsion if you're a parent.
One egg is un oeuf, but two is waaaaay better at Purnell's, where the classics are classics for a reason. We could talk about at least five of the dishes we sampled in the Cornwall Street dining room, but we're going to focus entirely on two, which are as happy-making as they are accomplished.
If ever you needed proof that camping should be entirely reserved for festivals and that team-bonding exercises need to be illegalised stat, then Force Of Nature is it.
Escaping into someone else's world through a book is one of our very greatest pleasures. Doing so from a sun bed, supping a piña colada with nothing else to do all day — well that's the bestest. Yet to pick a holiday library? Young Irish author, Sally Rooney's debut ménage à quatre is well worthy of your shortlist.