Four Hundred Years: A sonnet

Today marks four hundred years since the death of William Shakespeare. Legendary playwright, accomplished poet, Eskimo Brother of Chris Martin…What better way to honour the immortal bard than with a sonnet?

Four Hundred Years

He drew the crowds from London’s filthy pits

Of bears and dogs and men all stained with blood,

To stand and watch wise fools parade their wits

And fallen kings, betrayed, die in the mud.

His words bewitched our tongues and grew his fame.

Our land and language spread and learned to swagger.

This brave new world still echoed with his name

And proved the pen as mighty as the dagger.

Enduring might may prove more foul than fair.

Still nations bleed, although their wealth abounds.

We seek an exit (pursued by a bear).

Markets are freedom; flesh sold by the pound.

Four hundred years his bones have lain unmoved:

Their home not so much changed, much less improved.

Sophie Sharp, 2016. 

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The Canny Valley

Warning: Contains mild spoilers for Happy Valley Seasons 1 & 2.

Much is made of the lack of diversity on our film screens, from #OscarsSoWhite to the sexist casting notes that would be hilarious if they weren’t so depressing. In Hollywood, women over 35 can play either the Queen or somebody’s mum. Meanwhile, craggy middle-aged dudes seduce stunning rom-com 20-somethings, or limp their way through another action franchise. So it’s heartening to see that, over in TV land, writers and directors are starting to offer female actors more of the complex, meaty roles that their male counterparts have long enjoyed.

Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, Robin Wright; on the US networks, these ladies are bringing us compelling characters who kick serious butt in 6-inch stilettos. But the heroine who really speaks to me is more likely to be found in a woolly hat and a hi-vis jacket. Sarah Lancashire has long been one of British TV’s gems, from her Coronation Street days to her award-winning performance in Last Tango in Halifax. But to my mind, Happy Valley is her finest hour.

Lancashire plays Sergeant Catherine Cawood, a West Yorkshire police officer who won’t let the ghosts of her past stop her from serving her community. When the man who raped her daughter is released from prison and returns to his old stomping grounds, she must face her own demons while unravelling complex cases and holding her family together.

Catherine is a tough cookie with a mind is as sharp as her tongue. Yet we also get to see her flaws, her vulnerability, and the struggle she faces taking the lead both at home and in the workplace. The second season of Happy Valley, which just landed on Netflix, sees Catherine both investigating and suspected of a series of murders. The wonderful Charlie Murphy also makes a triumphant return, her character transformed from helpless victim to rookie police officer with her sights on CID.

TV detectives are so often talented loners, piecing together clues with their massive brains, but incapable of solving the riddle of other human beings. The beauty of Catherine Cawood is that she is a not a detective; she’s a police officer. From the opening scene of the first episode, where she talks down a drug addict determined to set himself on fire, she relies on people skills to solve problems. She cares, she listens, and it makes her brilliant at what she does. The message that order can be maintained not only through force, but through compassion, is a powerful one. Sometimes a simple conversation can be all that it takes. Other times, however, you just have to Taser someone in the crotch.

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Luckily, she’s got that covered.

Strong As Hell: Are you ready for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 2?

Tomorrow is the big day: Season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt arrives on Netflix! In celebration, I thought I’d share all the ways in which this show has changed my life.

1. Any time the Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson classic ‘Unbreakable’ comes up in conversation – which happens frequently, as you can imagine – I am contractually obligated to shout ‘They alive, dammit! It’s a miracle!’ at the top of my lungs.

2. Pinot Noir is so much more than a delicious bottle of wine.

3. I’ve realized that I can totally pull off the light up trainers my Mum refused to buy me when I was 10. It is never too late to make your dreams happen.

4. I no longer purchase underwear from that travelling bra salesman in the white van. Even if his fitting skills are legendary. #lessonlearned

5. I’ve learned that you actually can endure anything for ten seconds at a time. Even on days where my life seems about as exciting as endlessly turning a crank, but with none of the accompanying mystery.

If none of that made any sense to you, I’m guessing you haven’t emerged from your own bunker into the brightly coloured world of Kimmy Schmidt yet. If you hate laughing, give it a miss. Otherwise, you still have a whole evening to catch up on Season 1. Grab a bag of candy, and dig in.

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