Sunday, 24 July 2016

Poor Cow: DVD Review and Giveaway

Poor Cow (1967) restoration

It was Ken Loach’s first feature film and an unprecedented commercial and critical success. Released in 1967, Poor Cow marked the beginning of a movement towards social realism in filmmaking and launched Loach’s career as one of the most important British filmmakers of our time.

This summer Poor Cow starring Carol White, John Bindon and Terence Stamp has received a brand new restoration and will be available on DVD, Blu-ray and EST from July 25 2016.

Written by Nell Dunn, Poor Cow is set in London in the 1960s. Joy (Carol White, Cathy Come Home) returns home with her new baby boy to Tom, her abusive and uncaring husband. He also happens to be a thief and is caught by police during a botched robbery. While he is in jail, Joy becomes close with his associate Dave (Terence Stamp) and the two soon fall in love. The problem is that Dave is also a career criminal and he is sent to jail following a particularly violent home invasion.

Terence Stamp and Carol White in Poor Cow (1967)

Torn between her love for Dave and her need to make a living and support her child, Joy makes the decisions she needs to make to stay alive and stave off her loneliness.

Even today, almost 50 years after it was first released, Poor Cow is an impressive film and absolutely uncompromising in its gritty portrayal of squalor and social problems in London in the 1960s. The restoration is superb and the story timeless, the effect of which is that it does not feel like you are watching an old film.

Lovers of the 1960s will love the colours, fashions, cars, makeup and hairstyles of the film and the vibrant portrayal of life in London at the time.

Carol White in Poor Cow (1967)

The most notable aspect of the film is the acting. Ken Loach famously worked without a script and the performances were all improvised. This is truly astounding, especially given the chemistry between Carol White and Terence Stamp on set; at every point in the film you are immersed in Joy’s journey and the challenges she faces. It is almost heart-breaking to consider the talent that Carol White was and her decent into alcoholism and drug abuse in later years.

Almost as enjoyable as the film itself are the DVD extras:

  • Poor Cow & The British New Wave featurette
  • New interview with Ken Loach
  • New interview with Terence Stamp
  • New interview with Nell Dunn
  • Archive interview with Carol White

The interview with Terence Stamp was the most interesting of the extra features and I also quite enjoyed the interview with Carol White which was filmed on the set of Poor Cow.

Poor Cow is part of the Vintage Classics collection which showcases iconic British films complete with brand new extra content. The Digital Film restoration was funded by STUDIOCANAL in collaboration with e BFI’s Unlocking Film Heritage programme awarding funds from the National Lottery.

I loved Poor Cow and I know that readers will too and am happy to announce that I have two copies of the restored film to give away on DVD. Simply enter using the Gleam widget below. Entry is open to residents of the United Kingdom only.

The Poor Cow DVD Giveaway

More competitions at ThePrizeFinder


Saturday, 16 July 2016

Giveaway: The Dreamday Pattern Journals

I love the promise of a new notebook. I run my hands over the cover before I open it to the front page and sit for a moment with my pen poised above the first line. This notebook could become anything, a place to doodle, to write down my plans for the future or home to my writing. While some notebooks come and go, some remain forever. In a box in my study lie the scores of journals that I kept during my teenage and university years. I recorded everything, every crush and friendship, every party we went to, every teacher that crossed my path.

It’s been a long time since I kept a paper journal, having gone online at the dawn of the internet, but this week I encountered a notebook that immediately inspired me to pick up a pen again and write.

The Dreamday Pattern Journal Range

The Dreamday Pattern Journals are a set of colouring-in journals designed for “writing, musing, drawing and doodling”. Each journal is inspired by an iconic design location and featured over 100 pages of note paper intertwined with colouring pages.

Previous Dreamday Pattern Journals include Mid-Century Modern – Scandinavian Design, Heraldic – Paris, Renaissance – Florence and my personal favourite Art Deco – Manhattan.

The Dreamday Pattern Journals are designed in London by Pentagram, one of the world’s most iconic design studios, and are a must for any stationery addict.

Brand New Dreamday Pattern Journals for Summer 2016

Brand new Dreamday Pattern Journals - Kyoto and Marrakech

This summer, Laurence King Publishing are releasing two brand new notebooks in The Dreamday Pattern Journal series.

Complete with cherry-blossom pink cover and classic Japanese leaf-and-wave colouring designs, The Japanese Style – Kyoto journal is a must for any lover of Japanese culture and design.

LIkewise, the eye-catching Moroccan mosaics on the cover of the Moroccan Style – Marrakech journal is a must for fans of the North African country and the authentic geometric patterns inside will keep you doodling and colouring-in for hours.


Japanese Style Kyoto - The Dreamday Pattern Journal

I have in my hands both of the new Dreamday Pattern Journal releases. The bad news is that I'm keeping the Moroccan Style - Marrakech journal for myself but the good news is that I am giving away the Japanese Style – Kyoto journal.

Enter using the widget below. It is super easy to enter answering a simple question and there are loads of other ways to gain additional entries too.

Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favour!

The Dreamday Pattern Journal Giveaway

More competitions at ThePrizeFinder


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

David Bowie is: The Documentary re-released for one night only on 14 July

Installation Shot of David Bowie is at the V&A is courtesy David Bowie Archive (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London (1)

I find it difficult to describe my 40-year love affair with David Bowie. Unlike ELO and Livin' Thing, which I can quite clearly remember hearing for the first time, I can't remember the first time I heard Bowie. He was just always there. 

My parents were massive fans, of course, and they had all of his LPs. I can quite clearly remember playing my cassette tape (they didn't let me anywhere near the record collection) of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars over and over and over again. I truly believe that "Five Years" and "Moonage Daydream" are responsible for my love of dystopia and science fiction, having planted the seed long before I encountered the books and films that had inspired Bowie. 

By my final year in school, I remember that not many people my age were listening to Bowie, at least with the fervour that I was, and I received countless blank looks when I revealed that I was basing my final year English speech on the life and times of David Bowie. Quite risqué for South Africa in 1990 but luckily my English teacher was a massive fan herself. 

When the David Bowie Is exhibition was announced at the V&A it was natural that I would buy tickets for my mum and I but I recall being faintly overwhelmed on the day - there was so much to see and so much to take in and we were herded through the exhibition quite swiftly because of the timed entry. 

Installation Shot of David Bowie is at the V&A is courtesy David Bowie Archive (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London (3) 

It was with interest then that I heard that the V&A had released a feature length documentary about the exhibition. David Bowie is takes us back to the exhibition, to the costumes, multimedia, hand-written lyrics and most importantly (for me) to the section on the Berlin years. It might have been too much to take in in the day but once again I was reminded of everything that I saw and how massively inspirational and human David Bowie was. He was a man of such drive and brilliance and we were given a very rare insight into his genius. 

Directed by Hamish Hamilton, the BAFTA winning director of the Academy Awards and the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, David Bowie is features speeches given by Pulp front-man Jarvis Cocker and legendary Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto on the final night of the exhibition in London. It also features interviews with curators and fans alike as they talk about the impact David Bowie had on them. 

Installation Shot of David Bowie is at the V&A is courtesy David Bowie Archive (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London(4)

"I hope that visitors to the exhibition see that he was and is a really considerable genius who was worthy of their fandom"

If you’ve been to exhibition and would like to relive your experience or if the currently touring exhibition has not yet made it to your corner of the world and you’d like a sneak peak or if, heaven’s forbid, you’ve missed it, then you’ll definitely want to see David Bowie is.

The Documentary film of the ground-breaking V&A Exhibition DAVID BOWIE IS (London in 2013), is re-released in Vue cinemas and selected venues across the UK on 14 July.

For cinema tickets and more information visit

For details on the touring exhibition visit Touring Exhibition: David Bowie is.


Sunday, 3 July 2016

Mary McCluskey’s Intrusion – Exclusive Excerpt

Intrusion by Mary McCluskey

When Kat and Scott Hamilton lose their teenage son in an accident, they know that their grief can bring them together but it can also tear them apart. Enter Sarah Cherrington, an old school friend of Kat’s. Self-assured and wildly successful, her helping hand soon turns to schoolgirl rivalry and an intrusion into every aspect Kat and Scott’s lives.

Intrusion is the new novel by Mary McCluskey and today I am thrilled to share an exclusive excerpt of this edge-of-your-seat thriller as part of the Intrusion blog tour.

Intrusion by Mary McCluskey - Exclusive Excerpt

Intrusion by Mary McCluskey is out now (£8.99 Little A)

The narrow hotel bar, with its dull, disguising light, ran alongside the crystal ballroom. Kat Hamilton, seated on a barstool at the far end of the room, sipped her fourth gin and tonic and wished that she could fade like a ghost into the wall. The formal attire pinched. She had worn only casual clothes since the funeral; on bad days she wore her nightshirt all day. On this evening, the classic black dress chafed against her skin, like a winter sweater on sunburn.

Her husband, Scott, had visited her twice, stealing sips from her drink, taking deep breaths as he surveyed the room. He hadn’t tried to persuade her to join him in the glittering ballroom: he knew she would say no. Scott was to receive a Los Angeles Lawyers Pro Bono Award for negotiating a lease for a halfway house run by a local priest and reformed gang members. Kat had not wanted to come.

“Just for an hour, sweetheart.”

“Why? The partners won’t notice if I’m there or not.”

“Not for the partners. For the kids.”

“The kids?”

“Yep. They’ve worked hard.”

“Okay. One hour.”

She could see Scott at the far side of the ballroom, Glenda Lilley, his smart female associate, at his elbow, Father O’Connor jubilant beside him. Scott shook hands, smiled, appeared in control. He had never lost control. Not even when their world imploded at 10:31 a.m. on a Saturday morning twelve weeks and three days ago when Kat lifted the phone to hear a police officer’s voice say, I am very sorry to have to tell you, ma’am, that your son, Christopher ... And after an enormous whoosh, when the air was sucked out of the universe, she had screamed and screamed until Scott ran in from the garden, took hold of her shoulders, and held her tight to his chest. The officer’s words resonated in her head every day. She wondered if Scott still heard screaming.

“You plan to hide out in the bar all evening?”

James Dempsey draped his long body onto the stool next to her. An attractive young black man they had befriended when he was a summer clerk, he was now a hotshot associate, trying hard to make partner.

“Hi, James. Not all evening. I suppose I have to be at the table when they make the award. Then, I hope we can just slip away.”

He took her hand.

“Not getting any easier for you, Kat?”

“No. It’s not.”

“Scott doing better?” he asked.

“Scott has admirable self-control. And a stiff upper lip.”

They both looked over at Scott, still holding court in the center of a group. A typical urban lawyer, Kat thought, even to the serious eyeglasses. Still a handsome man, though, at least to her.

“I thought you Brits had the prerogative on that,” James said. “But I guess it’s the manly way.”



“What’s the womanly way?” she asked. “Tears?”

“Tears are fine, Kat. You’re in pain.”

“Yes,” she said. “Pain. You know, Chris’s death hurts more physi­cally than his birth did. Physically.

Kat knew she was talking too much, four drinks were hurtling around her bloodstream, but she could not stop.

“It’s like someone took a knife and just scooped out everything— heart, guts. We’re the hollow ones, now, Scott and I. All scooped out.”

She looked helplessly at James. He reached out and placed an arm around her shoulders.

“It’s grief, Kat. It’s normal.”

“But if I’m normal, what’s Scott? I can’t move, and he can’t stand still. He’s working twelve hours a day.”

“That’s maybe his way. He’s doing great work for this project.”

“I know that.”

A young black man with a shaved bullet head, an earring, and a solid buffed body stopped beside them and stared at James.

Intrusion by Mark McCluskey“Hey, what’s up, brother?” he asked. James grinned.

“Well hello, Chiller. You here to support your buddies?”

“Man, I’m here to receive my award. I’m a fucking recipient.”

Kat was sure that James knew this, but he pretended surprise.

“I’m looking forward to seeing that. I’ll be cheering.”

“Damn right. You better be cheering, bro.”

Chiller swaggered off. James, still smiling, turned back to Kat.

“We better get in there. You’re at the main table. Behind the podium.”

The awards ceremony began immediately, while people were still eating, which meant, Kat noted gratefully, that the evening would soon be over. She was having difficulty swallowing. When Scott’s name was called, he accepted the small plaque with a simple thank-you, bowing graciously, and Kat applauded with the others. But there was some whispering between Scott and the MC, and Scott returned to the podium again. He smiled as he took the microphone.

“Well, I also get to present an award this evening. And it’s a big honor for me. It’s to a young man from Compton. While we were nego­tiating contracts, doing the easy stuff like the leases and the paperwork, a group of kids were out there working fifteen hours a day, painting, rebuilding, fixing. Making it safe. Making it home. Representing that group today—Chiller.”

Chiller headed toward the podium and Scott began to read from the card he was handed.

“I am proud to present this award to Christopher . . .”

Scott faltered, stared at the card in his hand, his face ashen. Kat’s heart leaped. How could this be? Christopher was a blue-eyed, smiling teenager. A boy with fair hair and freckles, just like her own. The hushed audience waited. Chiller turned, frowning. Scott began again. He said the words carefully now, with rigid deliberation.

“To Christopher Richard Washington, aka Chiller.”

The applause was loud and exuberant. Chiller, grinning as a press camera flashed, took the silver trophy and waved it at the audience, holding both arms above his head like a prizefighter. Scott looked over at her and Kat saw that the ice had splintered, the armor shattered and fallen away. His eyes were bleak as they met hers, then he looked away, staring into an impossible future.

Intrusion by Mary McCluskey is out now. Available in bookshops and on Amazon.

Mary McCluskey

Mary McCluskey is a journalist and a prize winning short story writer. Her short stories have been published in The Atlantic, the London Magazine, Story Quarterly,, London's Litro, Sunday Express’s S Magazine, and literary magazines in the US, UK, Australia and Hong Kong.  She divides her time between Stratford upon Avon in the UK and Los Angeles, California.

Continue on the Intrusion Blog Tour

If you’d like to find out more about Mary and Intrusion, do visit the blogs below for news, interviews and exclusive content. Alternatively, you can follow @McCluskeyMary and @LittleABooks on Twitter.

Intrusion Blog Tour

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