Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life – the verdict

Well, hello there! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? This isn’t really the official end of this blog’s hiatus, but I wanted to repost something here from my Medium page, as this seems like its natural home. It’s a bit of a word-vomit in response to the Gilmore Girls revival – be warned, it contains spoilers!

WARNING: Gilmore Girls spoilers ahead. Major ones. Do not, repeat DO NOT read any further if you haven’t watched it yet and you don’t want to know what happens. On the other hand, if you haven’t watched it and don’t care about spoilers, go right ahead. Also, these are just the immediate thoughts that spilled out after watching. I will, of course, need time to digest and discuss it at length.

So I binge-watched the whole Gilmore Girls revival in one day. Of course I did. It was never going to go any other way. I have been obsessed with the show since 2010, when I was in hospital with an infected ear piercing (I was 24. I have no excuses) and watched the whole thing on Channel 4 just because it was on. In many ways, A Year in the Life it was exactly what I hoped for: I laughed, I cried, I saw all my favourite characters together again. The life choices written for them made sense, for the most part. For the most part.

Now we get to the specifics. There were some great touches (Paris running a fertility clinic, because of course she does; Michel finally, definitively out of the closet, thank God; the WiFi in the diner; Emily using the word bullshit) and it was properly funny and sad and wonderful. The explanation for Sookie’s conspicuous absence for most of the series was very deftly done, and the way they handled Richard’s death was perfect. There was a lot of real, true emotion, a lot of real grief — horrible, even spiteful things said out of pain and loss that can’t be taken back, people dealing with death in that fragile, fallible, human way. None of that is very Stars Hollow, which, let’s face it, was always a bit of a fairy tale world. But it worked, thanks to sensitive writing, good actors, and careful direction.

As an aside, the Stars Hollow musical was genius and should definitely be staged for real.

But it also felt tonally wonky, with some pretty seismic shifts in mood and events: the big, serious, painful row between Emily and Lorelai right at the beginning, that mystery letter that Emily mentions during therapy, neither of which are ever really addressed, the oh-suddenly-we’re-in-a-fertility-clinic, the oh-suddenly-Lorelai-is-doing-Wild (the book, not the movie), the oh-suddenly-Rory-is-back-home-running-the-Stars-Hollow-Gazette-but-wait-no-she’s-writing-a-book. The inclusion of the “thirty-something-gang” and the scene with Babette and Morey barbecuing in the Black, White and Read movie theatre felt wrong, too — they felt surreal in a world meant to be taken as slice-of-life, as if they belonged in another show.

I also really didn’t quite buy the Logan story line. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad it involved a shirtless Matt Czuchry scene, because that man is buff, but him having a fiancée the whole time, whom he was cheating on with Rory? I totally buy Logan as a philanderer because that was his personality from the beginning, but Rory going along with it? I mean, obviously, things change in a nine-year period, but it felt like a major leap for her.

All of those things individually don’t necessarily feel out of place (yes, even the Rory sleeping with Logan aspect). They all conceivably could be logical, reasonable events in the lives of any of these characters. The problem was it felt a little bit like there were a lot of things Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino had planned for a full eighth season if there’d been one, and they were all kind of shoehorned in because there wasn’t enough space or time. It meant so many important characters and plot points were reduced to walk-ons and tiny, blink-and-you-miss-it scenes, like Dean appearing to mention being married with three kids and a fourth on the way, and then disappearing again.

It also made me a little bit sad that Lane wasn’t given more room and agency — why couldn’t she have had a life and a career, like Paris, who also, somehow, has two kids? And the Doyle divorce? Just because he became a screenwriter? It was just dropped on us and then breezed past, like so many other things. Rory’s journalism career just collapsing? No way, with all her brains and education and talent, it would fall apart just like that, or at least not without a better explanation. Why wouldn’t she have hit up some of her old contacts from earlier in her career? And why was there a dance number? I would definitely have cut the dance number in favour of giving Jess (Milo Ventimiglia. Still hot) more space, as the screen time he was given made it quite clear he’s still in love with Rory.

Now the really important stuff: the ending. If you’ve been reading up to this point, thinking, “ok, this hasn’t really spoiled anything, I still want to watch it to find out what the hell she’s on about,” now would be a good time to look away.

Rory. Pregnant. And fade to black. Out loud, and in a way that probably scared my neighbours, I screamed, “WHAT?! YOU CAN’T DO THAT!” at the TV. To be fair, I did see it coming — the mystery appointment she mentions in Doose’s, the conversation with her father about not being in her life — but I thought if they really were going to do it, they would’ve got to it a lot sooner. I’ve already read some theories as to the father (could it somehow be Jess in an unseen hook-up? Did she go to Paris and use a sperm donor? Dean through sheer machismo and height?) but let’s face it: it’s Logan. He was the last person she slept with and the one person she was sleeping with regularly, despite having a thoroughly forgettable boyfriend (as in actually — it was part of the plot that people were constantly forgetting him). I’ll grant you, it does make sense: Rory going through the same thing her mother did, albeit as an adult rather than a teenager, a way to come full circle. But just slapping us with it right at the end? I mean, COME ON!

Ok, let’s cut to the chase: I loved it. It was never going to be everything I wanted to be, or everything every other die-hard fan wanted it to be, and it would be vastly unrealistic and unfair to expect that. I loved it for what it was — a look back into the lives of the characters who’ve meant so much to me for the last six years. I’ve watched the original seven seasons countless times, and I rather suspect there’ll be a few goes round for the new ones, too. But I think what it’s really brought to the fore is that there should have been an eighth season, and now it has all of us die-hards praying, wishing on stars, crossing everything we can physically cross that maybe, just maybe there will be, or at least another mini-series. Come on, Netflix, answer our prayers!

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Just so you know…

This blog is taking a short hiatus. I won’t be able to devote as much energy to it as I’d like over the next couple of months while I try to get my novel crowdfunded, so I’ve decided just to take a little break from it. You’ll still be able to read my stuff on Medium and on the Huffington Post blog, of course! Love you guys. See you in October. Oh, and don’t forget to pledge on my Unbound page – think of it as pre-ordering the book!

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“Only an ebook”

Here’s a strange thing. A very kind friend shared my crowdfunding page on Twitter and someone responded, saying it was “a shame it’s only an ebook” and they would have pledged if it were a print edition. Just in case there are others thinking along the same lines, I thought I should address this.

I will concede, I used to think ebooks didn’t carry as much prestige as printed books. I suppose it’s partly my age – I grew up on the cusp of the non-digital age and the absolutely-everything-online age – and partly my background as an English lit student; I still have a special place in my heart for libraries. But I’ve since changed my mind. For example, I’m now reading the absolutely superlative The Sea Hates a Coward, by Nate Crowley, on my iPhone. Husband doesn’t go on holiday without the iPad so he can use the iBooks app. My parents, who are in their sixties, adore their Kindle Fire.

We’re no longer living in a world where ebooks are weird, niche things, solely the domain of people who couldn’t get a “real” publishing deal. They are now pretty much mainstream, and in cases like mine, they are a way for debut novelists to get a foot on the publishing ladder. It’s increasingly difficult to get a “traditional” publishing deal these days. Unsolicited manuscripts are either ignored or take weeks or even months to be read. Lots of publishers and agents won’t take you if you don’t have an established presence. This is a way to overcome those hurdles and, if the book does well, it could in fact get a print run somewhere down the line!

It’s not a case of a lack of access anymore, either. If you don’t have a Kindle or other e-reader, like Kobo, I bet you have a smartphone and I bet your smartphone has an ebook app. Even if you don’t have a smart phone, I bet you have a computer and I bet that computer is capable of supporting similar ebook software.

In summary, don’t let the fact that it’s an ebook put you off! It’s still a book, still the same quality of writing and editing as you’d find on paper, still the same amount of work and passion, and, in my humble opinion, well worth pledging for. And of course, here’s that link again:

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My novel

Yes, as promised, I am now commencing banging on about this. The novel is written. The crowd-funding page is up. You can find it here.

This has been a long time in the making but we’re not there yet, so if anyone who reads this feels inclined to pledge, I’d be incredibly grateful. Modern times being what they are, it’s now vanishingly rare for debut novelists to get big book deals straight out of the gate, so I’ve decided to go a different way.

I was sceptical at first, I admit, but I’ve seen the quality of the work that comes out of Unbound and I am heartily impressed. I only hope people are also impressed enough with me!

I must also add that I am already incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped so far. I’m truly humbled by your generosity!

By the way, don’t forget this is the first draft and will be edited, but if you do pick up any little hiccups (like my mum noticed I’d said “jumble sale”, which is a UK thing, instead of “rummage sale”, the US equivalent) let me know and I’ll make a note.

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It’s been a while…

…so why not just dive right in with a little political interlude? Let’s talk for a moment about the things people have started saying now that Brexit is a reality.

I live in London and I voted remain. I know large percentages of the rest of London did, too. I know many of us supported staying with the EU, supported unity, supported maintaining our ties, rather than the isolationism, fear, and bigotry that went along with the leave campaign. I know we’re all hurting right now, reeling at the shock. It’s like a bereavement. More than half those who voted have effectively pissed away our future. We’re going to lose so much in terms of funding and freedom of movement, and so many other things. We know that. The leavers who are now regretting their choice know that. But the answer is NOT more isolationism. I’m finding it incredibly hard to believe that a growing number of people are seriously talking about petitioning to have London made an independent city state. It just boggles my mind. It feels like a child having a tantrum when it doesn’t get its own way. And this from people whose vote reflected a desire to remain united! Do you seriously want to leave the rest of the country, millions of whom also voted remain, out in the cold? Do you want to cut them loose, leave them without a capital, without a seat of power, without a goddamn parliament? Do you want to just make them somebody else’s problem? It’s not as if all the millions of people who also voted remain would be able to desert their lives to come and live in this ridiculous fantasy land you’ve cooked up.

And fantasy it is. There’s no way London could survive independently. The structure for it is not there. Trade deals would have to be negotiated. Everything would have to be imported, including things previously readily available from elsewhere in the UK. It would have to set up its own NHS, its own taxes, its own subsidies and so on and so on and so on. Prices would rise further. Another election would have to be called because let’s be honest, it would be rather too much of a leap to go from mayor to president. It would become untenable in a matter of weeks.

I get it. You’re angry. You’re hurt. So am I. So are a lot of people. But what we really need is to push for a general election. Calling for another referendum isn’t the answer either: you can’t just keep voting until you get the result you want. Don’t forget, 16 million people voted leave and who’s to say more wouldn’t joint them? New leadership is our best shot at sorting this mess out. Let’s make that happen and let’s make sure it’s not Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage at the helm.

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Podcasts: the best way to stay sane on the train?

I’ve probably whinged about it before. My commute is pretty long: door to door, if everything goes more or less smoothly, it’s over an hour. If there are hiccups, it can be up to two hours, as it was last night, for example. It’s been longer in the past – when I lived outside London and travelled in, it was three trains and one-and-a-half hours, minimum. The point, of course, is that this leaves a lot of scope for stupidity, and, in turn, frustration – people cramming onto already full trains, people shoving you out of the way, people invading your personal space. People smacking you with their bags, treading on your feet. Delays, cancellations, disruptions.


All that can leave a person mentally exhausted by the time they get to the office.

What, then, is the solution, or at least the best protection from fits of sub-psychotic rage? Podcasts, that’s what. I’ve tried other distractions – reading, games, music – but podcasts have been by far and away the most successful. Unlike music, you really have to listen, to pay attention to what’s being said. Unlike reading or games, you don’t need a seat or even that much personal space.

It’s taken me an awfully long time to get on the podcast band wagon, but now that I have, I don’t ever plan to get off. On that note, here’s a rundown of a few of my faves, in no particular order:

  1. Serial
    You’ve undoubtedly heard of this, even if you haven’t heard it. It’s presented by Sarah Koenig and is an offshoot of the public radio juggernaut that is This American Life. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, superb. It’s unbelievably well-researched, engaging and compelling. I binged my way through the first season, waited anxiously for each new episode of the second season, and now am extremely excited for the third.
  2. Welcome to Night Vale
    It’s hipster-tastic. I’m reasonably sure creator Joseph Fink is based in Brooklyn, it’s self-consciously and self-professedly “weird”, and its merchandise branding is based on selling stuff that no one else has and marks you out as a member of an elite (albeit pretty big) club. But I love it. There’s something very earnest about this fictional tale of America’s strangest town, and it consistently obeys its own internal logic, which pleases me. Also, Cecil Baldwin’s voice is actually addictive.
  3. Alice Isn’t Dead
    A new one from the same team that created Welcome to Night Vale, this is an altogether darker, creepier, more adult podcast. It follows an unnamed narrator as she travels through the US in a big rig in search of her missing wife. The great thing about this one is that it could be read as another straightforward fantasy, rooted in magic realism – but it could be something else. It could also be that this narrator has been driven mad by her own grief and everything she’s reporting is mere hallucination. Very enjoyable so far.
  4. This American Life
    Serial’s parent podcast, it’s an hour-long weekly show, covering facets of American day-to-day living as disparate as life in middle schools, to the struggles of migrant workers, to door-to-door canvassing on issues such as gay marriage and abortion. The problem with this one, and it’s fairly minor, is what I’ve come to describe as “podcast voice”: there’s a certain cadence, tone and rhythm that seems to be employed by every reporter, and it can get a pretty grating. This is outstanding reporting, though, and worth a listen if you can get past that.
  5. Beautiful/Anonymous
    Beautiful stories from anonymous people. Also a bit of podcast voice in this one, but less so, because it’s a call-in show. Comedian Chris Gethard invites members of the public to call him and talk about…whatever. Anything they’re thinking about or worried about. Regrets, hopes, dreams. There are rules – the caller has to remain anonymous; they have a maximum of an hour to chat; only they can end the call before the end of their slot. In that time, Gethard can question callers, guide them, maybe even provoke them a little, but ultimately, they’re in control. It’s about them. The great thing about it is that it demonstrates just exactly how extraordinary seemingly ordinary people can appear when they tell their stories without any personal context.
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A funny thing happened…pt 1

To get the ball rolling, here’s an example of the kind of funny, weird, couldn’t-make-it-up story I’m looking for. I came across it via a friend of a friend on Twitter, and it is worth reading through the thread to the end. The climax (or anti-climax) is great. For the time being, by the way, I’ve decided I’m going to publish these here, unless things really do take off!

From @JoshRaby:


This story also reminded me of a funny thing that happened to me involving McDonald’s, probably about six or seven years ago. I was coming back to London on the train and decided to book a cab back from the station (this was in the days before Uber, and the only other option was a black cab, which would have been super expensive). So I made a reservation with a pretty reputable cab company – not one I’d used before, but I had it on good authority that they were reliable and at least semi-reasonably priced. I didn’t give it another thought until I got to the station.

That was when things started to get complicated. It took me a while to find my cab – there were no alerts on make, model or registration back then, and all I had to go on was a rough description of geographical location – but I tracked it down in the end and we were on our way. I will concede that I lived more or less in the sticks at the time, but it seemed to take an inordinately long time to get where we were going, and by the time we arrived, it must have been well after midnight (my train would have got in at 10.30pm or so). No matter, I thought. We got there in the end, and I had a price quote in hand to make sure I wouldn’t be overcharged.

This was also in the days before credit cards were widely accepted in cabs, so I had to pay cash, and all I had on me were two twenty-pound notes, for a fare of probably £30. This is where the McDonald’s connection comes in. The cab driver, of course, didn’t have change, so the only thing he could think to do was drive to the McDonald’s round the corner, with me and my luggage in tow. He went in – not to the drive thru, but to the restaurant proper – leaving me in the car, starting to freak out about whether this was some elaborate ploy to kidnap me. To make matters worse, he took at least 15 minutes or so with his order and came back with what appeared to be a full meal – rather than, I don’t know, say, something quick and easy just to get the change.

He then finally drove me back; I paid him and got out of the car expecting him to follow, at least to open the boot, if not to help me with my luggage. But he didn’t. He started to drive off. With my stuff (about two weeks’ worth of my belongings as I recall). I had to chase him down the street a few yards, banging on the back of the car, to get him to stop. Luckily, he did, but he left me in the middle of the street, laden with all my bags, to trudge back to the house. When I got there, I checked the change he’d given me.

It was wrong.

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