An education in horror: The Shining

Last night, I sat in my lounge room typing, a belly full of soup, a warm heater keeping out the cold, and a feeling of safety and sanity. A stark contrast to the world I had entered in the afternoon, at a screening of Stanley Kubrik’s classic horror thriller, The Shining, which was playing at Broadway cinema for the Mayhem Horror Festival

Although this film was made over 30 years ago and has legendary cinema status, somehow I had never seen it before.

I’m still reeling from the experience. Visually stunning, incredibly creepy, Kubrick’s imagining of Stephen King’s novel is unlike anything else I’ve seen.

Opening scene of The Shining

From the opening sequence, flying across spectacular mountain scenery, with a deep and sorrowful soundtrack playing, the sense of foreboding is strong.

Set within the Colorado mountains, the film is a study in isolation, the supernatural and madness. Jack Torrance and his family have taken up residence at The Overlook hotel for the winter, to act as caretakers while the hotel is closed for the season. Right from the beginning, we feel that something isn’t right in the hotel, amplified by the hotel manager telling Jack that a few years previously, a caretaker caught ‘cabin fever’ at the hotel and murdered his wife and daughters.

As the story unravels we realise that all is not as it seems as the hotel. Jack’s wife, Wendy, tries to make a normal life within the isolated and lonely rooms with her son Danny, or ‘Doc’ as they call him, but as the time passes, and a storm snows them in, Jack loses his grip on sanity.

I absolutely loved the way the film looked. It was released in 1980, and the hotel is fantastically retro. The carpets feature bold geometric patterns, adding to the sense of space in the hotel, with its cavernous rooms and seemingly endless kitchen.

Danny explores the Outlook Hotel

I especially loved the way Kubrick follows Danny as he pedals around the hotel across the huge patterned carpets, around and around in circles, with the camera seeing the world from the same perspective as the boy.

Ghostly twins

The ghostly twin girls who appear to Danny, are especially creepy. As is Danny’s imaginary friend ‘Tony’, who seems to have a mind of his own, and apparently lives in Danny’s mouth and is the manifestation of his telepathic powers.

Wendy and Danny…. REDRUM

The only thing I didn’t entirely find convincing in the film was the character of Wendy, played by Shelley Duvall. Wendy is insipid and submissive. She doesn’t seem to understand the world around her, and seems oblivious to Jack’s faults, and is even a pushover when it comes to her son and his demands.

Apparently the character is much more well-rounded and lively in the book. In the film, I found myself willing her to wake up to what was happening and take control of the situation, and I found Duvall’s portrayal to be quite unconvincing at times. Although I did love some of her outfits, particularly the corduroy dungaree dress and checked shirt she runs around in at the end of the film.

Seventies style, with knife

Jack

Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance on the other hand, is utterly convincing… terrifyingly so. His descent into the unhinged is frighteningly believable, and those famous expressive eyebrows are used to devastating effect. From his imagined conversations with residents of the hotel past to his encounter in the warned against Room 237, Nicholson goes from caring father to psychotic murderer without a falter.

I was lucky enough to see the extended version of The Shining yesterday, which is 24 minutes longer than the original screened in Europe, and features additional and extended scenes.

Broadway Cinema had been dressed by Mayhem’s organisers to celebrate this special screening of The Shining, with photos from the set on display around the cinema, a creepy window of ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’, and the addition of Room 237 brass numbers to the toilet doors.

Room 237 at Broadway

I’m not a particularly huge fan of horror when it comes to blood and gore, but I do love the tension and intrigue of a good psychological thriller and hugely enjoyed The Shining. I’m already looking forward to watching it again, and am intrigued by the amount that’s been written about this film and its possible meanings and conspiracy theories.

Have you seen The Shining? What’s your favourite scary movie?

After The Shining, I’ll be continuing my education in classic thrillers. Next up will by Psycho I think – another classic which has until now passed me by!

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The Cheese Shop, Nottingham

Hands up who loves cheese? I’m assuming quite a few of you have your hands in the air right now. I love cheese so much that I have both my hands up, which is fairly impressive given I’m somehow still managing to type this. Three cheers for cheese!

As much as I love sweet things, if I had to choose between cheese and chocolate, then nine out of ten times, cheese would be the winner.

So it should come as no surprise that The Cheese Shop in Nottingham is one of my favourite foodie finds in the city. No fancy play on words, it does what it says on the tin. This is a shop, which sells cheese. It does one thing, and it does it truly well.

This family-run business has been running for almost 20 years, and has a loyal clientele in Nottingham. Local Michelin-starred chef Sat Bains even sources his cheese from here.

Around a month ago, The Cheese Shop moved premises. It stayed in the Flying Horse Walk arcade, but moved a few doors up, to expand from a small cheese counter, to a store about four times the size, now featuring a 30-cover cafe. More cheers for the cheese shop please!

Last weekend my friend Meli and I paid the new version of The Cheese Shop a visit, so I thought I’d share a little virtual tour of it with you.

Cheese counter at The Cheese Shop

The cheese counter at The Cheese Shop, is of course still the highlight. They have a huge selection, with a focus on locally sourced and British cheeses. You can pick up Nottinghamshire cheeses such as Stilton from Colston Bassett and Cropwell Bishop dairies, and Stichelton from the Welbeck Estate. Also regional varieties such as Lincolnshire Poacher.

Easy on the eye

The brothers who run the shop are helpful and friendly – they can answer any of your cheese related questions, and when I was in choosing cheese for a cheese plate a few weeks ago, they even let me try small pieces of the cheeses I was interested in before buying.

Friendly little mouse

As well as cheese, they now have an amazing array of homemade cakes, to be eaten with a lovely cup of tea. Plus they serve great value cheese rolls, where you can choose from any of the cheeses on the counter and have it served up in a crusty roll (with onion relish if you like) for just £2.50. Bargain!

Meli went for the classic Victoria sponge, and I had a goats cheese roll with onion relish. It was delicious… sorry no pics of those as they were eaten far too quickly.

Cafe at The Cheese Shop

There are plenty of other food treats to tempt you in store too – I can see myself doing a bit of Christmas shopping here.

Table of treats

Tempting truffles

These truffles looked particularly lovely I thought.

Cat tongues

And my French friend was excited to see these classic French biscuits, ‘cat tongues’ on sale. Some of you may have seen Danny do a version of these in the Great British Bake Off recently.

I heartily recommend a visit to the Cheese Shop next time you’re in Nottingham. I’ll be returning soon to keep working my way through the cheese selection, in order to made an educated decision on which is my favourite.

Which do you prefer? Chocolate or cheese?

Happy eating,

Erin x

A day out in Belper

One of my favourite things about living in England, is how easy it is to get to most places by public transport. I can walk ten minutes from my house, hop on a train and end up just about anywhere – even London is less than two hours from our front door by train. And to an Australian, two hours to get somewhere really isn’t very far at all.

So it was I found myself on a gloriously cold and crisp sunshiney winters day, hopping on a train to a new destination, off to discover the delights of the pretty market town of Belper. The reason for my visit was to catch-up with my lovely friend Catherine who lives in Belper, which is nestled in the Amber Valley on the banks of the River Derwent, in Derbyshire.

Autumn colours at the weir in Belper

The journey to Belper from Beeston, where we live, took me just over half an hour, and when I got there I felt like I was on holiday for the afternoon. Sometimes just being somewhere new can have that effect I find, and it probably helped that the sun was shining.

Posing in Belper

The weir on the River Derwent is one of my friend’s favourite spots, and I can see why. The running water and arched bridge make for a pretty picture, and I loved the trees growing right in the middle!

On the banks of the river

We wandered around the River Gardens, which are very picturesque, and met some of the friendly local ducks and geese. The bandstand in the park is used for concerts and performances in the summer – what a gorgeous spot for it.

The River Gardens

Belper was once at the heart of the industrial revolution, thanks to its cotton mills, which were powered by water from the River Derwent. The remaining mill building now houses a small museum, but much of it is also sitting empty. It is an amazing building, hopefully they bring it back to its former glory one day soon.

The old Mill building

The East Mill

Belper’s charm is that it is small enough to be quaint and pretty, surrounded by rolling green fields, but still has enough going on to make for a delightful day out.

Historic church in Belper

We wandered along narrow cobbled streets, past tiny cottages which would have once housed the mill workers, and by a beautiful old church yard full of autumn colours.

The Ritz Cinema

In town, Catherine pointed out The Ritz, their local cinema. Belper’s high street has some great independent shops and places to eat. We wandered into a specialist liquor store, homewares store and a few lovely clothes shops, in an attempt to get our Christmas shopping started.

After plenty of walking and chatting, our thirst got the better of us. Cat took me to a lovely cafe, I Should Cocoa, which is a chocolate shop slash cafe, and full to the brim with delicious goodies. We found a sunny spot inside and ordered hot chocolates. I went for the dark hot chocolate with orange, and I have to say it might have been THE best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. So smooth and chocolately, rich but not sickeningly sweet, it came with cream on top and a demure little bowl of marshmallows. Hot chocolate heaven.

Catherine and our hot chocolates!

I spied a couple of other nice places nearby, and will definitely be returning to try them! Fresh Basil is a deli selling local and artisan produce, and has been named one of the top 50 UK delicatessens by The independent. And next door to I Should Cocoa is Strutt Street Bakery, which had plenty of tempting treats in its front window.

Belper is just 45 minutes by train from Nottingham and 15 minutes by train from Derby. Have you ever been to Belper? Let me know what you thought!

Happy travels,

Erin x

Book review: On Chesil Beach

At only 166 pages long, On Chesil Beach is a sliver of a novel, but don’t let this short length trick you into thinking the story isn’t big in every other sense.

My friend Helen leant me this book after a discussion on a bus journey home about James McAvoy’s admirable qualities, which led to discussing Atonement, and to the Ian McEwan books we’d both read.

I’d read Atonement and Saturday, and really enjoyed both. Atonement especially is quite a tome, although time and patience reward you. Helen recommended On Chesil Beach to me, and very kindly leant me her copy.

I found myself on a return train journey to London last week, so spent much of this train time reading McEwan’s Booker short-listed novella. As soon as I started, I was intrigued. The scene is set – we join two newly weds in the early 60s, in the twilight between their wedding ceremony and the wedding night itself.

The story covers just a few hours of their marriage, and examines these in minute detail, intersecting the minutes with visits back to the story of Florence and Edward’s meeting, courtship, family relationships, hopes and dreams.

On Chesil Beach is Ian McEwan doing what he does best – looking at how small moments in time can have huge impacts on the direction of a life.

It is a story of its time – Florence and Edward’s 60s is not yet the sexually liberated decade we’ve learnt of. They are still constrained by society and its expectations, and at just 22 years old, they are vulnerable and naïve, but also full of hope for life and of love for each other.

The story leads us towards one moment, one turning point in their relationship, which becomes a cliff on which they totter. Will they recover from it, learn from it, trust each other? Or will it be something from which they can’t go back?

On Chesil Beach is absorbing and I was grateful to have some dedicated, uninterrupted hours to read it. Towards the end of the book, when Edward and Florence are on the beach and laying themselves bare, and letting their emotions and hurt egos dictate their battle, I found myself willing each of them to empathise with the other. In many ways, this is a frustrating story, but it also feels true. It is easy to imagine a young woman such as Florence, scared of an unknown sexual life with her husband. And a young man such as Edward, looking forward to the first night of a shared bed with his new wife.

The story is sad, horrifying and heartfelt, and McEwan’s writing is beautiful. One of my favourite scenes is of a walk Florence and Edward take in the summer of their courtship – it captures their love, and the simple pleasure they take in each other’s company, so wonderfully. Scenes like this are what make the book’s ending even harder to read.

On Chesil Beach illustration by the New York Times

If you too have read On Chesil Beach then I’d recommend this review of it on The Guardian website. If you haven’t read the book yet, perhaps don’t read this review, as it does give quite a bit of the story away (which I’ve tried not to do!)… http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/mar/25/fiction.ianmcewan

Big thanks to Helen for the recommendation and lending me her copy of the book. Thanks Helen!

Cake Eaters Anonymous

Exactly one year ago I attended my first ever meeting of Cake Eaters Anonymous in Nottingham. Scheduled cake eating with other cake lovers? Yes, I was pretty keen, and have been a committed Cake Club member ever since. The idea behind the group is simple – once a month we get together in a chosen venue, bring a cake to share and raise money for a worthy local charity.

Today was the October meeting, which took place at the beautiful Fothergills Pub in the centre of Nottingham, opposite Nottingham Castle and the photo opportunity that is the Robin Hood statue (see my profile pic for a demonstation of ‘Robin-Hooding’).

Given the timing, this month had a Halloween theme, and the room was awash with an excess of orange food colouring, bats, spiderwebs, skeletons, and even a graveyard.

I decided to try this Nigella recipe for chocolate and cherry cupcakes, topped with gory bloody eyeballs. Steps on how to try this at home to follow in another blog post soon.

The cake spread was seriously impressive this month – the majority of people had gone to town on the Halloween theme, and those that hadn’t instead chose to showcase seasonal flavours such as pumpkin, cinnamon, apple, almond and hazelnut in their cakes.

Bat cupcakes and coffin cakes (with homemade honeycomb).

Halloween bundt cake by the very clever Kerry, no-bake tiffin and a very lovely looking chocolate and almond cake.

Spiderweb cupcakes and Laura’s very lovely chocolate and orange fudge cake.

For the ticket price, we’re entitled to three cakes/pieces of cake. The monthly decision of which cakes to have is probably the toughest I face in my life. Yes, I know, I have quite an easy life and it’s a very nice problem to have!

I decided to go for a piece of Laura’s chocolate orange fudge cake (which was voted the best cake of the day), a cinnamon swirl cupcake by talented Liana of Star Bakery (whose son had helped with the decorations) and a piece of gorgeous hazelnut and apple cake.

What a treat!

I always look forward to the last Sunday of the month – such a top way to spend the afternoon, chatting with lovely people, sharing homemade cake and sipping tea in a beautiful venue.

I’d also like to take the chance to dispel a few cake club myths…

1. Cake Club isn’t a euphemism for ‘greedy overeaters’. We’re all there because we love baking and sharing what we’ve made with fellow bakers, and I’m pretty sure we all limit our cake bingeing to once a month. Although that said, it is a pretty dangerous club to attend if you’re on a diet.

2. Cake Club isn’t just for ladies. Most people assume Cake Club is some sort of extension of the Women’s Institute, but we actually have quite a few male bakers every month, and often they make the best cakes (see the three finalists from this year’s Great British Bake Off if you still need convincing boys can bake).

3. Cake Club isn’t just for professional bakers. We have people of every age and ability attending, from people who bake professionally, to those who are just starting out and use it as a chance to try new recipes and techniques. Everyone is welcome.

The next meeting of Cake Club is taking place on Sunday 25 November. Join the Facebook page to be kept up to date on tickets. You can also see a list of other cake clubs around the UK on the notes of the Facebook page if you’d like to find one near you. Or start your own! As well as raising money for charity through ticket price, there is also a raffle and donation box on the day.

Happy baking,

Erin