This Sparks Joy! Spring 2023 edition

The very end of a tree branch with three newly sprouted leaves at its tip and three others at the right side of the photo. Between the two areas of new growth the twig has spots of green grey lichen. Behind the branch, all out of focus, are a the rather brownish surface of a lake, the sunlight lake bank covered in green grass, a swathe of trees and hedge, and patches of blue sky.

Despite what I might have claimed to contrary in blogs gone by, I have now come to accept that whilst I might love the colours of autumn and the platonic ideal of that season, Spring is really my favourite time of year. Thus the things that are delighting me most at the moment are bud covered trees, flowers busting out all over and explosive dawn choruses that begin the now visibly lengthening days. 

Nature: It’s not just walks in the spring-filled woods that have been making me happy, I’ve been spending time in the garden as well, doing a variety of tasks that should probably have been dealt with last year. Certainly the hydrangea should have been dead-headed before April, I definitely should have weeded the paths in the autumn, and I suspect I should have noticed the roses needed rescuing from the vinca which was trying to use them as a climbing frame far earlier than I did. Alas, trying to manage clearing my parents house as well as keep my own home ticking over is a Herculean task (think the Augean stables but with 50 years worth of belongings taking the place of the excrement) so I’m having to be pragmatic about just how much I can get done and when.

But gardening is one of the things that I do really enjoy when I do it. Getting my hands dirty and spending some of my time properly reconnecting with the earth does wonders for my brain as well as my body. Even when it’s been too awful, weather wise, to get much work done (I may be an all weather walker but I’m definitely a fair weather gardener) I’ve been giving my few remaining indoor plants and herbs some TLC to keep the serotonin flowing.

Film: Belfast, which went on general release in the UK back in January 2022, so I know I’m very late to the party. However this was a deliberate choise as I wanted to watch it with my best friend, who grew up in Northern Ireland, and the first time we were able to get together to do that since it came out was this February (pandemic and a variety of housing issues conspired against us wildly with that) so I sat down to watch with a heightened level of expectation. 

I was not dissapointed in the slightest. Part of the expection was tied to the fact that Kenneth Branagh’s script won the oscar for Best Original Screenplay but it was far more than merely good. I think Steve Pond’s review for TheWrap said it best: “The film feels true in the way it must be exploring Branagh’s memories of a tumultuous and confusing time, and the way it pays tribute to a vibrant community as that community is irrevocably changed.” 

My friend, who grew up in the troubles, also found it believable and noticed many small things that added a layer of familiarity for her which people who had not experienced the situation first hand probably would not see – I certainly wouldn’t have done if she hadn’t explained them to me afterwards. This attention to detail both grounded and enhanced the film in her eyes. 

For me it was a very down to earth and yet deeply moving film that felt incredibly organic, and was filled with pitch perfect performances from a cast of fantastic actors. Jude Hill was an excellent choice for Buddy, Caitríona Balfe and Jamie Dorman nailing it as Buddy’s parents. Colin Morgan was genuinely menacing and  but it was Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds as Buddy’s grandparents were the performances that brought me to tears. 

This film is definitely worth your time. 

TV Show: The ninth and final series of Endeavour, the long running prequel to Inspector Morse, was aired at the start of March. I grew up with Inspector Morse on ITV, it began when I was just about old enough to be watching and finished as I finished uni, and was initially skeptical as to whether a prequel would work. The pilot, way back in January 2012, proved to me that it very much would – Roger Allam was already one of my favourite actors and Shaun Evans was entirely captivating as Endeavour – and then I watched seasons 1 to 8 as they aired, finding in them a level of care and attention to detail that has often felt missing in other series created and broadcast in the same timeframe. I didn’t quite manage to watch season 9 as it aired thanks to a combination of life, the universe, and a wish to put off the inevitable sadness of seeing the last three episodes of something I loved just in case they weren’t up to snuff.

I needn’t have worried. The writers did the cast proud, giving them almost 6 hours of excellent script to get their teeth into. We got three episodes that were faithful to all that had gone before, brought some things full circle, tied up the loose ends, and that gave the actors a chance to say goodbye to the characters they’ve been living with for a decade. The audience got that same chance and I’m not ashamed to say that it made me cry. 

It also made me got straight to the ITV app and start a full rewatch of the whole series, which seriously cut into my reading time but has been thoroughly enjoyable. I’m just over a third of the way through (there are 36 episodes in total, each around 110 minutes long) and have to say my favourite episode of those first four series remains the one with the tiger.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about please go and check the series out, if you can put up with the adverts it’s all free to watch.   

Music: Again, I suspect that this band is one that everyone else has been listening to for years and I’ve only properly found them now but goodness me, aren’t the Oh Hellos fab! A couple of their songs were in a random playlist someone sent me the link to a couple of years ago because “you’re all into the folky fantasy type stuff, yeah?” and I’m ashamed to say that although I ran through the playlist regularly and sang along (as best a partially deaf person can when they can’t entirely work out what the words are but love the tune) I didn’t do any more than that. It several years, until my errant humming of Soldier, Poet, King (which has a lot of oh lei oh lai-ing in it, which is very easy for my poor ears to pick up on) caused my mother to ask what I was singing. And I had to admit I didn’t know and scroll through the play list until I found it and then went to have a look at the rest of their work.

Soldier, Poet, King is as good a showcase for their talents as any of their songs and remains my favourite but everything they’ve done is excellent. I now have a playlist with all the albums in release order for my own delectation and delight, which is bookended by Hello My Old Heart and their first album Through the Deep, Dark Valley, which they digitally remastered and re-released in 2021 and 2022 to mark the tenth anniversary of them both. Go and have a listen for yourself, their website has previews of all their songs.

One thought on “This Sparks Joy! Spring 2023 edition

  1. . I love your recommendations. Oh Hellos are new to me and now on a playlist. Like a folkier first aid kit, (who I absolutely love).

    Also – yes the Tiger episode is the best, I cried at the end of the series too. Am enjoying Colin from Accounts at the moment. Quirky, slightly offbeat Australian comedy. Excited to see what we do the the shadows has been renewed for series 5 and 6.

    In nature I’ve noir being very cold for April, the seedling are really struggling. I fear there is no longer seasonal stability.

    Liked by 1 person

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