01 May 2015

April Favourites

As this post goes live, I will be on the way to Mexico for some culture, history, sun, fun and especially food. In the meantime, though, here are some of the things I enjoyed in April.

1. Bron (The Bridge). I had overdosed a bit on Scandinavian and/or crime dramas, but as soon as I watched the first episode of Bron, a Swedish–Danish collaboration, I was hooked. As the show opens, a body is found on the bridge between Malmö, Sweden, and Copenhagen, Denmark, and because the jurisdiction is initially uncertain, two detectives — Saga (Sofia Helin), a brilliant Swedish detective with a number of Asperger's-like characteristics, and her jovial but troubled Danish colleague Martin (Kim Bodnia) — take on the case. The crimes are interesting, but it's the beautifully complex and subtle relationship between Saga and Martin that really makes Bron stand out. Oh, and season two is even better than the first season!

2. Quarter Horse Coffee. I stopped by Oxford-based Quarter Horse Coffee while visiting my parents last month. It's an awesome cafe with friendly staff and excellent coffee. I have been enjoying some of their beans, which they roast at their Birmingham location, at home for the past couple of weeks and it will definitely be my go-to place for stocking up on coffee when I'm in town.

3. So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. This was easily my favourite book of the month. Ronson explores what public shaming means in the #hashtag age. He talks to a number of people who have experienced high-profile public shamings, explores the psychology of the shamers and the shamees and asks whether there is anything that you can do if a single ill-advised Facebook photo upload has done serious damage to your online — and real-world — reputation. The narrative is compelling and the stories are fascinating, although you do wonder if by devouring the book you are somehow participating in the continued attention to the featured individuals.

4. Smorgasburg. I spend a lot of time at street-food markets, but Smorgasburg — the weekly weekend outdoor feast held in Williamsburg, Brooklyn — is one of the biggest and best. A huge number of stalls sell a wide variety of food from breakfast sandwiches to barbecue and lobster rolls to lollipops. I gorged on an epic egg-and-bacon roll from Rise & Swine, a lobster roll and a couple of delicious oysters. But there were so many other things I would have liked to try, including Asian hot dogs, tacos and ramen burgers. I also bought a jar of salted caramel peanut butter from The 3 Nuts, which tastes great on a bagel or, you know, your finger.

5. Michel Thomas Method language courses. I'm a self-proclaimed language geek. I speak French and Italian with reasonable fluency, but I've also picked up some basic proficiency in Spanish, German and Japanese over the years. While I was revising for my A-level French and Italian, some 13 years ago, I decided it was an excellent time to start learning Spanish and I used Michel Thomas's eight-CD course. I've managed to maintain an elementary level of Spanish with very little practice, which will come in useful on this holiday. I also used the eight-CD Japanese course before my trip to Japan last year and I was impressed how much Japanese I learned — and still know. If you want a language course that teaches you the grammar and the structures, rather than giving you phrases to memorise by rote, check out the Michel Thomas courses.

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