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I’m being dumped – by Scotland

Dignity-of-Being-Dumped-photoToday finds me up in the attic room of our house, sipping on strong black coffee, listening to Carole King’s Tapestry (click here if you’d like to listen along too), and typing away pensively.

Tapestry is the ultimate break up album, by turns soulful, melancholy, angry, sassy and warm. A friend when there doesn’t seem to be one nearby. Even the cover (Carole, barefoot on her window seat, covered in cats and smiling wisely) is downright comforting. And I need her right now – because as it turns out, breaking up is very hard to do.

Don’t worry, Mr D and I are very much together, but it seems that I’m being dumped. By Scotland. I feel like the needy ex-girlfriend, who’s increasingly undignified in her efforts to make the Scottish stay. Like the child of divorce, and even if ‘mummy and daddy’ do decide to stay together for old times’ sake, there will forever be a current of resentment, mistrust and animosity running under even the simplest exchanges.

‘Now you look so unhappy, and I feel like a fool’ (Carole King, It’s Too Late)

I’ve been noticing it for years. Not just from Scotland. My Irish grandmother’s family settled in the Northeast and even as a child, I was subject to snide remarks from grown men about how I was a ‘bloody Tory’ just because I happened to be from the Midlands (which northerners tend to classify as ‘down south’) – I was eight years old! Once, my great aunt and uncle came to tea on their way to a Cornish holiday and proceeded to shout at my father for not being a Labour supporter (he never did say who he had voted for) after they asked him.

I learned that the closer you live to London, the more you are deemed responsible for governmental policies. Having said this, I love the north of England (where I have studied) and Scotland (where I have holidayed) and have met fantastic, open-minded people from both. I don’t want to think that the media scaremongering about mutual antipathy is true.

But mostly I’m just sad and resigned to this fate. Even a vote tomorrow to sustain our union will probably result in another referendum sooner, rather than later, until Independence for Scotland is reached. I’m in dire need of chocolate.

‘So far away, doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?’ (Carole King, So Far Away)

It doesn’t help that from 3000 miles away, I can’t ascertain the actual mood surrounding the debate. I read various British newspapers that all seem to be focusing on the alleged nastiness that has punctuated the Yes and No campaigns, and the accompanying comments that don’t seem to paint many people in the best of lights.

‘You can’t talk to a man with a shot gun in his hand’ (Carole King, Smackwater Jack)    

Can I even believe the stories of violence and intimidation that are zipping around the internet? I was disgusted by one tale of a pregnant woman being kicked in the stomach at a No rally, but have not found it reported in any paper – is it in fact a myth created by cybernats?

I have a Scottish neighbour. He plays his bagpipes loudly every Saturday afternoon, and from what I hear, has been over here for about thirty years. I almost encountered him yesterday when I got caught up in the leashes of our local friendly dog walkers, with whom he was chatting. Slightly terrified, I did what I always do if I don’t want to deal with the British thing; I put on an American accent.

 And so it transpires I have never actually talked to him, and do wonder if any exchange might contain some frostiness (I do so hope not), and if he has very strong feelings on the independence issue. But then, do either of us have a right to feel strongly about an issue neither of us can vote on, having left our shared native shores?

I have registered to vote in the UK by proxy, which in itself is an act of trust but may do more good than a tardy postal vote. I wouldn’t get a vote in the Scottish independence referendum even if I was still living in England, then again nor do any Scottish servicemen/women stationed abroad. We expats already feel slightly dubious about our ability to help decide the government of a county we chose to leave willingly.

So I’m going to sit up here, drinking my coffee, looking out on to these foreign rooftops, accept the outcome and hope we can still be friends.

 ‘There’ll be good times again for me and you
But we just can’t stay together, don’t you feel it too?
Still I’m glad for what we had’ (Carole King, It’s Too late)

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Heads Up! Shock & Gore 2014 Schedule Released

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twin-peaks-cooper-doppelganger

Oh how I love the Shock & Gore horror festival at the Electric Cinema. And oh how gutted I am that I’m stuck on t’other side of the pond for this year’s fourth celebration of the weird and wonderful side of cinema.

To fully understand how much I love Shock & Gore, click HERE and HERE.

Yup it’s that good.

So what would I be going to see this year? Well I have never quite gotten over Twin Peaks, even though David Lynch abandoned the show in it’s second season leading to a sharp decline in quality and the damn network insisted that Laura Palmer’s killer was revealed early on when it was never meant to be a solved case at all and then it got cancelled on a reaaaallly infuriating cliffhanger…OK Breathe, it was 25 years ago dammit.

Horror meets Americana: Twin Peaks

Horror meets Americana: Twin Peaks

 

Anyway the fact remains that for a while, Twin Peaks captured our imaginations rather like Game of Thrones does these days. It remains one of the greatest TV series of all time. And in view of this, S&G are having a David Lynch night on Friday July 25th. There will be a showing of the strange and compelling Mulholland Drive, followed by some sort of Twin Peaks-related viewing. I have no idea what form this will take; could be a Log Lady riddle, could be Red Room dream sequence. The only thing for certain is that coffee and damn fine cherry pie will be available at the bar.

Cronos: Guillermo del Toro breathes new life into M.R. James' old 'enchanted object' plot.

Cronos: Guillermo del Toro breathes new life into M.R. James’ old ‘enchanted object’ plot.

 

For those of you who couldn’t care less about Twin Peaks (do I really owe you anything?) here are some other S&G offerings…

  • Classic spine-tingler in the form of The Innocents (Friday 25th – Thursday 31st)
  • Movie buff -worthy screening of Alien: The Director’s Cut (Saturday 26th)
  • Obligatory vampire quota is served by Cronos (Friday 25th) and the Lost Boys (Part of the All-nighter on Saturday 26th).
  • Morbid curiosity satiated by the intriguing sounding Death Cafe at the Victoria on Sunday 27th
  • Utter terrifying and all too real misery in Threads (Wednesday 30th) with a live score to bring the nuclear apocalypse even closer to home.
  • Queer Eye for the Dead Guy: Michael Blyth from the BFI delivers a lecture on gay presence in horror films from the 1930s to the present day. I expect this will be a lot like The Celluloid Closet stuff that Vito Russo wrote about and could be good fun.

So whatever keeps you awake at night, make sure you indulge it next month at Shock & Gore. And tell us how it went!

What happens in your mind when you watch Threads.

What happens in your mind when you watch Threads.

Heads Up! Sushi Passion Expands Into Great Western Arcade

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Sushi Passion: I took this photo when it was still a very new business but it has since taken off (hooray).

Promised I’d keep an eye on the place, didn’t I?

There was a very heartening post on the Facebook feed this afternoon. One of the best foodie destinations in Birmingham is expanding.

Sushi Passion has been a big hit since it set up a tiny bar among the fish mongers of the Bullring’s Indoor Market.

It was a plucky, bold move for Adam the owner, who as mentioned in previous posts, was always the best chef at Yo Sushi’s former Brindley Place location. Adam struck out on his own, making amazingly presented, high quality sushi with a true foodie sensibility.

He received Facebook flack for setting up in the market and answered back valiantly.  Were they kidding? This is the best place to be, surrounded by ingredients at their freshest. Half the fun of shopping at London’s Borough Market is visiting the food stalls inside.

Thankfully  lots of us saw that this was a good thing and Sushi Passion had regular lunch queues and loyal customers. Customers who are about to be very happy with the news that Sushi Passion is setting up shop in the Great Western Arcade.

From August, Unit 31 will be open for sushi galore. There will be the familiar bar up front as well as low traditional tables and instructions on how to eat and what to order from the staff.

Adam is a very inventive chef so expect lots of specials.

This is good news for the Great Western Arcade, situated in an area that unlike Grand Central or the Mailbox, is not seeing an influx of city investment.

But with Sushi Passion joining the ranks of the Loki Wine Tasting House,  the Whisky Shop, Anderson & Hill and The Bread Collection, the Arcade is fast becoming a viable foodie destination in Brum.

And best of all, Adam assures me that the Bullring sushi bar is going nowhere. Bonus foodie points.

Daniwah! 

 

 

 

The Most Irresponsibly Reported News Story of the Year

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British_tabloids_-_July_5_2011

Since Saturday, it has been quietly appalling to read and watch the media coverage of the ‘Virgin Killer’ tragedy.

For a start, the name gives even less dignity to Elliot Rodger’s six victims.

Certain UK and US newspapers in particular have shamelessly raked through every mucky aspect of this massacre and its perpetrator’s history with no sense of decorum.

From reprinting the killer’s so-called manifesto, to providing links to his YouTube channel (which is, nonsensically, still available to view). Every aspect of good journalism has been sacrificed on the altar of sensationalism.

Perhaps the worst aspect of this case has been the media’s short-sighted and uncaring decision to name the girl included in Rodger’s tirade. This is a girl who was barely a teenager when she unknowingly slighted him, and he subsequently developed a fixation on her and girls who looked like her. This incidence should not be leading to accusations. The girl was unfortunate enough to have attracted the attentions of a stalker. Why is the paper naming (and by association shaming) an innocent party? Instead, the media has thrown her to the wolves. From now on she will be prey to the rantings of every tech-savvy misogynist on the internet.

Press standards: The New York Daily News shows how this SHOULD have been reported.

Press standards: The New York Daily News shows how this SHOULD have been reported.

 

Not content to ruin a girl’s life over an incident that may or may not have happened during her early adolescence, the papers have also felt the need to run pictures (perhaps gleaned from social media pages) of her in bikinis/ bunny ears in an effort not just to cast misplaced blame but also just to get those all-important ‘bikini body’ shots (underage in this case) of an attractive female.

Since media coverage of serial killers began, there has been a tacit understanding that the air of publicity should be denied to the guilty party. After all, what good does it do to try and let the insane try and justify the unjustifiable? It is rather like keeping a rabid dog alive in the hope that he will stop biting.

Instead, the media has positively encouraged the public to read the misogyny, misanthropy and dangerously narcissistic delusions of a mentally ill killer. And the results are worrying. Young girls with Hybristophilia are apparently releasing sympathetic YouTube videos lamenting Rodger’s fate and fawning over how ‘cute’ he was.

Message boards all over the world are debating the reasons not just for Rodger’s deplorable acts, but for his mindset. For as many who are repulsed by  this story, there are just as many comments detailing adolescent rejection from people who recognise that particular kind of loneliness (even if they don’t agree with Rodger), deluded diatribes from the ‘Pick Up Artist Community’, and a number of posts proclaiming support of Rodger’s manifesto.

When did the tide turn with media coverage of killers? TV interviews and documentaries have not helped. It seems that if the killer has an ability to articulate their ‘victimhood’ (an aspect of narcissistic personality disorder) or some level of aesthetic attractiveness then the media is prepared to give them a platform. It happened with Ted Bundy and it is happening here. Hollywood even made two documentaries on Aileen Wuornos before the inevitable feature film.

#YesAllWomen was not Elliot Rodger’s planned legacy. Good.

 

If one good thing has come out of this misplaced media frenzy, it is the #YesAllWomen campaign on Twitter. It details the incidences of women not feeling safe around particular men, and the reasons that sexual harassment is unacceptable in our age. It has also gathered a lot of support from men. The message that all women should have dignity in their dealings with the opposite gender is admirable. If it can change one misogynist’s view of women, or prevent one rape or assault, then we should all be glad.

But Elliot Rodger’s unexpected legacy would doubtless be lost on him.

 P.S. Long time, no see – my fault entirely. So sorry.

In Search of Halloweens Past

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On my wish list: a traditional American cross stitch is creepified.

On my wish list: a traditional American cross stitch is creepified.

Here’s a handy soundtrack for this post.

It’s that time of year again, when the leaves are turning, the bars of Broad St are advertising even cheaper neon-coloured drinks and Selfridges is awash with normal food products that happen to have spooky names. As I type I’ve just seen an ad for the Halloween edition of a particular brand of miniature cheese…

This used to be in the loo (but the results got too messy). I bought it in the town of Hell, Michigan and it moves.

This used to be in the loo (but the results got too messy). I bought it in the town of Hell, Michigan and it moves.

Halloween is increasingly reaching American proportions over here (not that I mind in the slightest as regular readers will know), and since I became auntie to two adorable little American children (one of which I think is turning into a future horror film and comic-book nerd – his uncle and I are beyond pleased), I have taken the opportunity to write them a spooky poem each year in a Halloween card complete with Trick Or Treat candy from ‘over here’.  I’m aiming for a kind of J.K. Rowling approach so that the poems/ stories are age-appropriate but will get creepier as the kids grow up. I’ve written about ghosts, cats and the rules of Trick or Treating before, but really not sure where to go this year. I’ve loosely settled on The Thing but as yet said Thing is unformed and I have no idea how evil or misunderstood The Thing is or its journey (like it’s on the X-Factor or something).

The pumpkin bauble came from Bronners - the legendary Christmas shop in Michigan - everything else came from the bargain stores of Birmingham.

The pumpkin bauble came from Bronners – the legendary Christmas shop in Michigan – everything else came from the bargain stores of Birmingham.

One thing I can rely on is my trusty collection of Halloween decorations. I thought I’d share how our old flat on Berkley Street looked last year (haven’t decorated this year yet as it’s too early). I find my Halloween decs as comforting as the family Christmas decorations; it’s as much a ritual to decorate for Halloween as for any other cultural/ religious holiday in our household.  And while one or two have exotic origins (see above) they are mostly from Poundland or the 99p Store and collectively cost about a tenner. Halloween is perfect for those of us on a budget, and (even though he probably wouldn’t approve) thank God for that!  I decorate our (black) Christmas tree and drape fake cobwebs everywhere (although with my approach to dusting, the work could really do itself). I collect vintage Halloween graphics in books, on Pinterest and in print. Each year I change all the photos around the house to various printouts according to our theme. Even in the loo. Especially in the loo.

My cheap computer print outs. Last years included a photo from St Lous Cemetery No. 1, a Victorian seance and a 1930s Halloween card.

My cheap computer print outs. Last year’s included a photo from St Louis Cemetery No. 1, a Victorian seance and a 1930s Halloween card.

My dad, who is probably even more macabre than me, is always threatening to bring a Ouija board home. Back when I was fourteen he dared a friend and I to walk through the village graveyard on Halloween night. We chickened out. In fact we went somewhere to ineptly puff on some cheap Korean cigarettes, which in hindsight was even more horrific. Of course dad didn’t know this and had used an alternative route to drive around to the back of the churchyard. His plan was to cut through a field, hide behind a gravestone and jump out at us. Unfortunately, he didn’t bargain on a sleeping cow lying in the middle of the pitch black field. Dad tripped over the unlucky heifer and knocked himself out. When he eventually came to, he had to haul arse back to the house before our return. We arrived to find him, slumped in an armchair, rather out of breath and slightly smelling of cow poo.

Let us eat cake: why should the Trick or Treaters have all the fun?

Let us eat cake: why should the Trick or Treaters have all the fun?

Another year, he mounted rotting pumpkins on spikes in the front garden to lure in unsuspecting Trick or Treaters who were subsequently made to put their hands into ‘the cauldron of doom’ (a La Creuset casserole dish full of pumpkin guts and sweets) only for the sweets to be soaked through. To be fair, we were usually the only house in the village that bothered making Halloween magical for the five or less Trick or Treaters that turned up annually. For a while, you might get one or two gangs of teenagers without costumes who would just say things like: ‘Can we ‘ave some chocolate?’ or ‘Can we ‘ave some (drug) money?’  But no, no they bloody couldn’t if they didn’t put in the effort.  With the increasing popularity of Halloween, maybe we’ll get some more well-meaning T or Ts this year, so we’ll have to give them a front garden to remember… ffd89379c206ef65d6ae711b53fc4b2d

Fight Club, Gun Club and Boom Chicka Wah Wah: Peaky Blinders Episode Five

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What fresh trauma has given Grace the Thousand Yard Stare?

What fresh trauma has given Grace the Thousand Yard Stare?

First rule of Fight Club – don’t talk about Fight Club

Second rule of Fight Club – don’t talk about Fight Club

Third rule of Fight Club – Take the family’s money to open a dodgy casino, then do a runner.*

Here is the link.

Another episode and another Bradford-based location standing for Brum. This week it was the turn of Undercliffe Cemetery which doubled as St Andrews churchyard, and looked like Boot Hill. Did the Beeb’s location scouts even venture to the atmospheric Warstone Lane with its catacombs, or Key Hill? It didn’t remotely resemble the Midlands, but could have worked well in a Bronte adaptation.

Rant over. Back to episode five: Ada is still traumatised that Freddie the Horny Bolshevik is rotting in prison while she and her baby are rotting in a bed-sit, and refusing Aunt Polly-Queen of Darkness’ charity baskets of rotting vegetables. ‘Babies don’t have principles’ sniffs AP – Obviously this is in a time before Stewie Griffin.

StewieGriffin

Tommy tries to sell the guns back to the IRA while staging a double-cross, which inevitably goes wrong. This is because he uses Grace, the world’s worst secret agent/ singer/ whatever as an accomplice. All she has to do is point a gun, but she shoots one IRA goon while Tommy has to smash in the face of the other WITH A SPITOON!!!! What a disgusting way to depart this mortal coil. Nice one Grace. Still, the Gods take note and Grace’s punishment is to be proposed to by C.I.Campbell; the disgusting nature of this development cancels out all her murders. She refuses, but the mental flashbacks will last forever…

*Meanwhile dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks-Arthur Shelby runs into his dear ole Da in an illegal boxing den. Arthur Snr is a low down loser; drunk and dangerous to know as we see when he challenges his own son to fight club. ‘I don’t want to fight you Dad’ wails Arthur as daddy proceeds to knock seven bells out of him. It reminds me of the Competitive Dad sketch in The Fast Show. Arthur Snr would whip even Tyler Durden in a bout:

Family Fight Club: Arthur has some Daddy and Me Time. Image: BBC

Family Fight Club: Arthur has some Daddy and Me Time. Image: BBC

Yup, the fight was obviously a tactic to part Arthur Junior with his last living brain cell; having stolen £500 from the Shelby kitty (although ‘stolen’ is a bit rich where the Shelbys are concerned), to finance the rotten venture, Arthur Snr runs off with the cash (but not before beating up Arthur Jr again in public – and leaving him heartbroken). In a scene of tragic-comic excellence, Arthur Jr tries and fails to hang himself. Paul Anderson who plays Arthur has been brilliant in Peaky Blinders and I really hope we get to see him in more stuff.

Tommy still doesn’t know Grace told Campbell the where-abouts of Freddie… and the guns. All he knows is that she killed for him and that brought out all his Tom-Cat feelings, especially when he needed a place to lie low from the police. Grace duly sneaks him back to her place.

So obviously, Tommy and Grace proceed to make the two-backed-beast in highly stylised fashion. I’m not sure what it is about modern period dramas and sex; obviously it happened, but programme makers seem to treat it as recreationally as modern-day film sex, i.e. no thought for protection or consequences in a society way more conservative than today’s (yes, sorry to burst anyone’s liberal bubble but hardly anyone was living like a libertine back then), multiple positions, ridiculously clean and pampered bodies in industrial-England, where you’d have a bath a week if you were lucky.  Tinkling piano music stood in for the Boom-Chicka-Wah-Wah, because they didn’t have sexy music in those days. Oh wait, they did – it’s called jazz and it literally was the soundtrack to post WW1 bordellos.

FUN FACT – Watching the sex scene was made slightly more annoying by the presence of my husband, now returned from the States, who hadn’t seen PB before, but made up for his unfamiliarity by doing what he always does; namely, tapping into his inner Beastie Boy and chanting ‘GETTIN-IT-AWN-TILL-THE-BRIKKA-BREAKA-DAAAAAAAWN’ in strangulated Brooklyn tones throughout the whole scene (and doing a highly suggestive, crap dance). I swear to God, he wishes he was from Brooklyn instead of Detroit. The accent is slightly more obnoxious which suits him to a tee.

Anyway, if the viewers at home were finding it a little hard to stomach, then C.I. Campbell certainly was and called off the search because he couldn’t handle the idea of finding Grace in flagrante. It still looks like he’ll try to get his revenge though, as he promised to clean up ‘one last thing’ before leaving town, like some sort of Belfast Columbo. Let’s hope Tommy can lay his hands on the remaining missing gun. The final episode should be good.

The last laugh: C.I. Campbell is out for revenge.

The last laugh: C.I. Campbell is out for revenge.

Pardys & Poker Faces: Peaky Blinders Episode Three

Peaky-Blinders dance

Here’s the link to episode three in case you missed it.

It’s three weeks in for Peaky Blinders now, and tonight’s episode was slightly disappointing. Not just because the promised “good ‘urquharts” (good haircuts) didn’t materialise during Tom’s trip to the gee-gees at Cheltenham, but because the episode mainly centred on Grace, who is by far the weakest link in the show.

Dublin’s answer to Mata Hari was here there and everywhere this week. If she wasn’t eavesdropping through walls, she was shooting an IRA man up the scrotum, if she wasn’t flirting with Tom then she was wandering around the art gallery with C.I. Campbell (who made it very clear he’s pimping her out, albeit in an avuncular way), if she wasn’t dancing with Tommy she was pimped out to Billy Kimber, if she wasn’t – oh you get the picture I’m sure.

“If you wanna be part of my organisation, you have to make sacrifices,” Tom tells Grace. She’s been sacrificing all through the episode mate, you don’t need to tell her now! Still, at least she wasn’t singing.

Smart and smarterer: Grace attempts to seduce Tommy who is already duping Grace who is...

Smart and smarterer: Grace attempts to seduce Tommy who is already duping Grace who is…

Grace did think all her hard work was paying off when she got to dance in her new red dress with Tom at the races. Suddenly they were in the Jazz Age of Downton Abbey and Brideshead Revisited – all marcel waves, flapper gowns and, dare-I-say-it, proper haircuts.  He called her ‘Lady Sarah’ playfully, whirled her around the ballroom, gazed into her eyes and almost entrapped her before she could entrap him – then he used her as cover to escape with loot at the most romantic moment between them thus far. Oy gavalt! Grace is the worst operative in the world as she appears to have fallen in love with her mark and can’t work out that he’d throw her over in a nanosecond, or in this case just bail from a decent party.  ‘Lady Sarah’ looked momentarily despondent as she gazed at the amorous couple in the space he had left behind, both wearing elegant attire and sporting really good haircuts.

I’ve noticed the girls in Peaky Blinders (apart from Aunt Polly – Queen of Darkness, of course) seem to have very white stockings and collars. Not just Ada (who managed to stay pristine on her shotgun wedding day to Freddie the Horny Bolshevik) but whiter-than-white Grace. But how, with all that smoke and coal smote flying everywhere do they stay clean? I wouldn’t even bother trying. It’s like that ginger kid on the washing powder ad – she just accepts people are going to throw stuff at her and gets on with life; that’s character. I don’t know if Grace and Ada are dumb or just overly optimistic.

The Black Swan in Sparkbrook came in for a bit of a roasting tonight. A place for inept, wannabe IRA rebels to hang out apparently. Later in the episode, the man Grace kills is shown coming out of The Black Swan, a rough building either caked in dirt or painted in tar – it’s hard to tell, and the moniker hastily written straight on the wall in chalk. It looked characterful, damp, smelly, a real dive. I wanted to drink there, or just be a fly on the spittoon. I had a look to see if it still exists but could find no mention of it anywhere. However, there is a White Swan in nearby Deritend on the Bradford Road. Maybe a power-hose was all it took for the name to change (maybe not, as the WS is a big old brown stone Victorian boozer).

The White Swan on Bradford Street. Photo from beerintheevening.com

The White Swan on Bradford Street. Photo from beerintheevening.com

A lot of people have read these Peaky Blinders posts in search of either the filming locations (disappointingly, a lot was filmed at the Black Country Museum rather than in the neighbourhoods themselves) or historical accuracy. Hmmm, this is a programme that routinely uses The White Stripes instead of meaningful dialogue so I’m thinking it’s a good 80 percent fictional. I’m not saying The White Stripes aren’t a pleasure to listen to (and being from the grittier bits of failing car town Detroit, they oddly fit the bill to draw parallels with industrial/ criminal Brum), but I don’t think we’re going to be seeing any ‘making of’ documentaries that are heavy on the Historical Advisor talking heads or vox pops. Otto Bathurst, the director has said: “Once I took off the shackles of historical accuracy, then we could make a really cool show.” I will start researching posts on the real Peaky Blinders gang, but just try to enjoy the show for what it is: an inventively entertaining Thursday night gangster-fest.

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