A Gaiman-esque birthday

Neil Gaiman is probably my favourite author; certainly my favourite living author. Even so, I was surprised (and very pleased) with quite how much Gaiman featured on my 29th birthday yesterday.

Jen got me Norse Mythology, which hadn’t really been on my radar, despite being released this month. I was delighted with the present, of course, but didn’t know what to expect – in just over 24 hours I’m now 3/4s of the way through and thoroughly enjoying it. Essentially a series of short stories, light-weight and a bit mad, they are none-the-less engaging and a fun read.

Then my parents went and got me two Coraline prints, both signed by Chris Riddell. They are from the 10th-anniversary edition – which I have signed by both illustrator and author, and which I consider an important part of my book collection – so I’m chuffed to bits with them. They framed one, the other will have to stay unframed for now.

All this Neil Gaiman talk made me think about American Gods. When I think about American Gods, I have to read American Gods. I consider it my favourite book ever, and this time around I decided to listen to the audiobook. It is very well done. Shadow has just been busted out of train-prison by his dead wife – if that doesn’t make sense to you, do yourself a favour and read the book.

Then, to end the birthday-day, we watched the film version of Coraline – one of the few films which I consider to be better than the book (only other one I can think of off the top of my head is Shutter Island, but I’m sure there are others) whilst eating homemade red Thai curry and dumplings by Jen.

On a non-Gaiman front, I also got the final Tribe Called Quest album, which is fantastic. 

Not a bad birthday all-round.

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Libratone Q Adapt Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

Before saying anything else, I’ll say that I’ve never before seen such an incredibly good-looking set of headphones. The Libratone Q Adapt are sleek, stylish and constructed with excellent materials. The leather is soft, the plastic and metals are smooth, the cloth is textured – combined with thought and care into something truly special to see and feel.

And that’s just first thoughts on taking them out of the box. When using them – because form without function is pointless – they show what they are really made of. Sound quality is excellent, with rich bass and nicely balanced treble. My writing today is being accompanied by The Juan MacLean’s In A Dream and it is immersive, but even when I switch to something more aggressive – Run The Jewels III, anyone? – the headphones keep up magnificently.

I’ve been using the Libratone Q for about 2 months now and I’ve only just downloaded the app. This has brought with it some helpful firmware updates that have fixed some of the issues I had with the touch controls – yes touch controls, some space-age stroking of the bird on the right side unit allows for changing tracks, volume control, phone answering and more – and has also introduced me to the impressive CityMix noise control.

I fell in love with these headphones as soon as I held them in my hands. Combine that with rich sound and advanced controls, I never want to take them off – a shame, seeing as Jen nabbed them for her commute within seconds of them arriving…

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These headphones were sent to me by Amazon for review, but my thoughts are my own and entirely honest. There are also affiliate links in this review.

Paris – Cereal City Guide

Later this month we’re off to Paris for thatbeastjen‘s 30th birthday.

I booked the long weekend away and originally planned to have it a surprise for her, right up until we got on the Eurostar. Then, as time went passed, I started thinking that you can’t really get excited about something that you don’t know about…

So instead I got her a guidebook to Paris as an early present and as a way of revealing her birthday trip’s identity. Now we get to be excited together and decide exactly what we want to do.

We went to Paris two years ago for her birthday and both loved it, so we’re not completely new to it, but the Cereal Paris City Guide features loads of places we would never have found out about on our own. Naturally, being a Cereal book it is gorgeously designed with a minimalistic feel. The photos are emotive and give you a sense of the place, and the descriptions are short but with enough information to make them useful.

I considered getting Quiet Paris by Siobhan Wall, having previously got Quiet London for my sister which was lovely, but decided on the Cereal guide as it is more recent, so hopefully less chance of places having moved or closed.

Can’t wait for Paris. I’ll be taking lots of photos and sharing them here when we’re back.

Cereal Paris City Guide and Eiffel Tower

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Cereal Paris City Guide - inside close up 1

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Biographic series – Vincent van Gogh

Ammonite Press have recently launched a new range of books called Biographic, which are design led, infographic-style biographies of artists, writers and scientists. They are, simply put, gorgeous.

The first that I came across was Biographic: Van Gogh, but the range will also soon include:

The idea of using an infographic-style presentation for a book works fantastically, with so much information presented in an easy to digest way that also looks great. I’ve learnt a lot about van Gogh’s frankly tragic life, which I probably never would have otherwise, not being a big fan of heavy historical biographies.

I’m excited to get my hands on the rest of the series.

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There are some affiliate links in this article, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I love these books.

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Lewes with the Canon EFS 24mm

I work in Lewes, a very picturesque little town between Eastbourne and Brighton. At lunch I’ll often have a walk around (and up and down – it’s a hilly place), so when I got my new Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 prime lens a spate of amazing winter sun gave me the perfect opportunity to give it a test run.

I’m not going into detail about vignetting,  chromatic aberrations or technical stuff, this is just a chance for me to share my feelings on it.

My feelings are good. I like this lens a lot. It’s a pancake lens (very small) so is discreet and lightweight, making the Canon 500d I use feel more like a bridge camera than a DSLR. I should mention that as an EF-S lens, it is specifically designed for crop sensor Canons (eg 500d, 1000d, 70d) and won’t work on full-frame cameras (eg 5d).

f/2.8 is fairly fast for such a low-cost lens, so you can get some really nice bokeh when you want it, much more than a typical zoom lens in the same price bracket.

Like with the 50mm prime I got last year, I was immediately impressed by the clarity the lens offers, it’s a great piece of glass for the price (look to pay about £130). There’s something about prime lenses that I don’t think you get with a zoom, a sense that you’re seeing a unique perspective through your camera.

Here’s my perspective on Lewes…

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Please note there are a couple of affiliate links in this post, but my thoughts on the lenses are genuine and this post has not been sponsored in any way.

The Brighton Beard Company – Balm and Oil Review

I don’t do clean-shaven. It makes me look podgy and child-like. So I’ve had stubble for years, but over the last couple it has developed into a fully-fledged beard, which is getting bigger by the minute.

I’ve never been one to go in for toiletries and the like, I’ve got my Bulldog moisturiser and that’s always been enough. But with the beard has arrived a new problem – scratchy bristles!

Eventually thatbeastjen had enough and bought me a Beard Balm and a Beard Oil from Brighton Beard Co..

They’ve got the branding spot on, with a mix of modern style and sailor-themed nostalgia. Combine that with odd little stories to go with each of their products (such as the tale of Creampot Tom, a lawless son of a gun) and you’ve got a compelling brand. I always like finding creative companies that are local to me, too.

At first it was the Jasmine and Lemon Beard Balm that was my go to. It is easy to apply and smells great, but now I’m leaning towards the Blackpepper and Grapefruit Beard Oil as my favourite, as it has a great aroma and for me seems to have a real impact on softening and conditioning my face fuzz.

Brighton Beard Company - Beard Oil and Beard Balm

Brighton Beard Company - Creampot Tom's Beard Balm

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Blark and Son

Blark and Son is a new series based around the sometimes mundane, sometimes insane lives of Blark and his son (called Son). Each episode is just 30 seconds long and is broadcast through Instagram.

I’m fascinated by animation in all its forms and I’m fascinated by social media, so something that combines them both in such a unique way is great to see.

Here’s the first episode:

MLK Day – "You know what a Jr. king is? A prince."

A post shared by Blark and Son (@blarkandson) on

It’s funny, irreverent and beautiful in its own hideous way. But for me, it is the behind the scenes process that is most interesting. Rocket Jump Film School recently did an episode on Blark and Son, which you can watch here: