April started in Birmingham, where I attended a three-day trade-show open to children called Kidtropolis.
Fun Kids, the UK’s children’s radio station that I work for, trundled along with an old Routemaster decked out with a recording studio. We welcomed children on, had a chat with them ‘on the radio’, high-fived hundreds and sent them on their way. Working with children is always exhausting but taxi rides, good food with clients, and a nice hotel go a long way to recuperating.
Kidtropolis was hosted at the NEC Arena which exists in a strange bubble with its own train station and international airport. Sadly, the area lacks some key infrastructure. Distances between things are easily walkable but walking is made impossible thanks to a carparks, dual carriageways, and concrete hostility. The planners failed here.
I was, however, delighted to see most of the NEC operating cashlessly, fitting in with my new (financial) year resolution.
On living cash-free, Sainsbury’s have opened their first app-only store just around the corner from my workplace. To shop, customers download the app and scan their shopping as they walk around the store. You pay on your phone (Apple Pay and Google’s equivalent both supported) and walk out. On the one hand, I love how easy it made grabbing a quick bite to eat – I strolled in, skipped the ten-deep queue, and left straight away. On the other hand, there’s still a lot to be said for sales associates and the service they offer, as I found out two weeks ago.
Daniel, who it transpires was the Manager of the opticians I popped into, selected new sunglasses for me: a pair of classic Ray-Bans with a modern matt tortoiseshell frame. Fingers crossed they see lots of use this summer.
Evidentially, one thing that has seen a lot of use is my weekend bag! I’m using a Moleskine Duffle at the moment which has plenty of room for one week's worth of clothes, toiletries, and a change of shoes. It’s a sturdy and spacious bag that looks smart.
What I've been reading:
Magazine wise, I was recommended the New York Review of Books by Rob, the barista at Kioskafé in London at the start of April. There was a fascinating article on the so-called ‘migrant caravan’ heading for the US boarder from Mexico – I recommend you read it, if you can circumvent their paywall.
The Fun Kids magazine I mentioned in the last email has reached the hands of thousands of kids at Kidtropolis, in schools, and other events. In one month we’ve managed to shift 4,000 copies. That’s 25% of the circulation of National Geographic magazine and even The Beano. Not shabby for something I made in two weeks by myself.
You can read it online.
I was reminded how good Once Upon a Time in the West Country was last week when I saw someone reading it — we had a discussion about our favourite bits. I suggest you pick that up also, it’s a funny read, perfect for this time of the year.
I’m undecided if this next one belongs in the listening to section, or in this reading section, but since it’s an audiobook – emphasis on the book – I’ll place it here. I’m currently listening to Yes Man by Danny Wallace. I’m only a few chapters in but it’s proving good. I like it when audiobooks provide more than a reading of the physical version, packed with quips and sidenotes that can’t possibly be in print — Danny does this well. Whenever a ‘personality’ writes a book, I think listening to the audio version is almost a must-do; half of the delivery (especially if they’re a comic) is in the way it’s spoken rather than how it’s written.
What I've been watching:
My girlfriend’s life for the past three weeks has been a mission in avoiding Game of Thrones and Avengers spoilers. I don’t watch either of those, so I’m all good, but I was a little sick after Kidtropolis and spent the day watching Netflix – something I haven’t done much before.
I’m late to the party in telling you about Marie Kondo’s Netflix show but if you enjoy that, try Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things from Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, directed by Matt D’Avella. An avid listener of their podcast, I saw it shortly after it landed on Netflix.
What I've been liking:
There’s a second café and bakery that I’ve begun frequenting in Holborn called Fabrique. It's small and has limited seating but is the only café I’ve seen with candles on the table at 7:30am. The coffee is good and so are the cinnamon buns.
If you’re looking for a spot of lunch, ZipBab is a good Korean restaurant just a few minutes walk away. Again, there is limited seating but everything on the menu is available to take away. They close at 3pm for a few hours ahead of dinner. The staff are friendly, the service is excellent, as is the food.
As part of my daily wardrobe, I’ve donned some new Calvin Klein jeans that fit beautifully as well as a new olive coloured summer jacket from Ted Baker. I’ve also swapped the Slow Round 12 I mentioned a few emails ago for a Casio. Always a fan of a company with a good social mission, high street sweetheart Timpson changed the battery and swapped the two straps — the strap on the Casio was poorly designed, now it’s sporting the much more comfortable strap from Slow.
The Slow is Swiss made as are a new set of pens I laid my hands on yesterday. Caran D’Ache 849’s are humble ballpoints and relatively inexpensive at £15 a pop; they make writing even the most banal notes a pleasure.
I’ve also taken my Curve Metal card out for a spin. Dubbed as ‘one card for all your cards’, the Curve app connects all your debit or credit cards into, well, one single card. You can then select which card will be charged when you use your single Curve card. You can join for free or you can upgrade to Curve Black or Metal from £10 a month. I’ve opted for Curve Metal for its gadget and travel insurance and the fact the card is 18g solid brushed metal. It looks and feels beautiful. It’s also a World Elite Mastercard so comes with credit card style insurance on your purchases, the ability to use the card to hold deposits without debiting your account, and you can get great experiences, discounts, and cashback from loads of places. Best of all, it’s compatible with Monzo in that it sends merchant information to your bank. That also means it can also give your legacy bank superpowers — you just use Curve.
What I've been listening to:
Musically, I’m enjoying Marina (and The Diamonds) new album, Love + Fear. I really love its concept; divided into two halves (no prizes for guessing their themes). Marina also did a brilliant Q&A from the London YouTube Space, if you wanted a walkthrough as you listen to it. I particularly like when musicians spill the stories around writing their songs.
Vampire Weekend’s new album hit streaming platforms on Friday. Unbelievably White sounds like some of their older stuff as does This Lifewhilst 2021 and Hold You Now are both tunes that develop their sound after many years off.
Keeping to the trend of artists releasing new material after a hiatus, Two Door Cinema Club have something in the works. I like the two singles they’ve shared so far – Satellite and Talk – and Passion Pit have begun touring their Manners album ten years after release. Sleepyhead remains one of those songs that can drag me back to a very particular point in my life.
Emma Blackery of YouTube fame released a studio version of a song she made for a commercial campaign in 2018. It's a notable change from the sound of her debut album, Villains. The song's called Cute Without You, is quite simple in production but packs a summer punch. I particularly like the lyric video which was made by Everyone's Favourite.
But one song I am not digging at the moment is the new Taylor and Brendon Urie tune. I’m down for bubblegum pop but I’m always suspicious of the authenticity of artists when they undergo metamorphosis; it was only two years ago that we heard Taylor pronounce this version of herself ‘dead’...
To my fellow media friends, Fun Kids are looking for a new Head of Sales.You’ll join the team, work with me, and work with clients like Bloomsbury, Penguin Random House, Smyths Toys, Simon & Schuster, Cannongate, and more. Applications close midday on May 20th but get in early.
My monthly newsletter is a summary of what I've been reading, writing, listening to and enjoying. Get it on the first Sunday of each month.