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Friday Five: 50 Final Favourites

Kronk-Yzma-high-five-Emperors-New-GrooveThis is our 162nd Friday Five column. 

Over the past decade, we - with the help of some spectacular guests - have made over 1,500 recommendations - from vegetables to Star Trek novels, cover-tentacles to character-swapsgeek anthems to fanfictions, memes to Pakistani action heroes

Friday Fives only had one rule: be positive. They were always an excuse to talk about something we loved, no matter how niche or geeky or mundane. As a result, we got interesting people, being really passionate, about a lot of very silly things. They were a joy to read and even more fun to write.

Our last Friday Five is a Friday Fifty [actually 58, as 'cheating' is another long-standing Friday Five tradition], as we pick, well, whatever. Enjoy.



Five things that make me look like an absolute snob, but damn it, I genuinely love them:

  • Lung ching (aka Dragonwell) tea: I don't steep for more than about 2 minutes, and I love that smokey woody flavour more than life itself. 

  • Châteauneuf-du-Pape: overpriced French red for tourists and asshole but god damn, I love a harsh red with a long afterglow.

  • Giant steaks, rare: I love steak, and I like lots of steak, and I like steak served really, really rare.

  • Pretentious period drama: give me angst-ridden upper-class swots and give me lots of them. The longer the source material, the longer the adaptation. The longer the adaptation, the happier I am.

  • Modern art galleries: I have endless issues with being told how to consume art ('in this 12'x12' room, painted white, with only this one piece of art showcased within') but art museums, particularly modern art galleries, calm my brain down in a way almost nothing else can.

182194161Five great meals (not in any order):

  • Our joint 30th birthday party. We shared a roast suckling pig with 14 friends. Whatever you're imagining right now? It was SEVENTY-SEVEN BILLION TIMES THAT.

  • Dinner at Boulevard, early summer, 2000: I ate a soft-shelled crab for dinner and butterscotch bourbon fondue for desert. This event will be a genuine high-point in my life's history.

  • A giant bowl of pasta at Estrela: we'd spent four hours in blazing heat using forks to remove carpet tacks from our hardwood floors. Nothing has ever tasted as good as that bowl of pasta.

  • Smoked, butterflied steak: the first thing Jared ever made on our smoker, and it was brilliant.

  • Blackberries, fresh off the vine: the town I grew up in was overgrown with blackberry brambles, and for about two weeks in August you could stuff yourself on berries. Literally nothing tastes better than a sun-warmed blackberry you just picked.
Harvey and Peep
Numbers 5 and 4, respectively.

Five cats (in reverse chronological order):

5. Harvey. Our most recent cat, who is probably the nicest animal I've ever known in my entire life. She has no object permanence but all the heart in the world.

4. Peep. She's all squishy attitude. She doesn't come to you. You'll go to her, and you'll like it.

3. Mr Pickles. Oh, Mr Pickles. I was 13, he was 2 months old. I was shy and nerdy and weird; he was the shy runt of the litter. We had a good long run of it together: 18 years of moving from house to house, apartment to apartment, state to state, and finally, country to country. He tolerated all of it with an astonishing lack of good grace.

2. Whiskers: a stray my family adopted when I was only 6. She had asthma but was otherwise healthy as a horse, and once she discovered that inside is warmer than outside, she gave up being a stray for ever. 

1. Rocky Raccoon: another stray my mother cat-whispered into becoming the perfect pet. I only ever saw my father cry twice; the first time was when we had to put Rocky to sleep.

Five inappropriate crushes:

  • Gambit, from X-Men: The Animated Series. Look, being 13 is confusing.

  • Dimitri, from Anastasia. Also being 17, I guess. 

  • Littlefinger. I... have a weakness for a schemer.

  • Lemond Bishop from The Good Wife. I also have a weakness for a well-cut suit.

  • The Sheriff of Nottingham (Rickman-style), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The character's a murdering psychopath who tries to rape Maid Marion at the end of the film, so believe me when I say that I'm well aware of the issues at play. AND YET. 

Five really nice things:

1. When you smoosh your nose between your cat's shoulder-blades, after she's been sitting in the sun for a while, and inhale deeply. That scent.

2. The sound of a coffee maker, making coffee. Ours is from the 70s and it burbles.

3. Planting a seed and watching it grow

4. That baby panda that sneezes.

5. Bugs. Here, watch this movie.


As a shout out to our foodblog origins... The five best fries in London:

  • Dirty Bones' Lamb Fries - I love these because they're absolutely stupid. Fries with chunks of tender lamb on top, with jalapeno and miso. There's generally no reason for this to exist, and I like to think that they were doctored up one night by half-exhausted chefs looking for a post-dinner-rush snack and giddily tipping all their favourites into a pan. But in that madness lies perfection: a ridiculously indulgent 'side' that is all wrong and so right.

  • Carbon - They're a bit squooshy, but I like squooshy fries. You just have to eat them while they're hot, before they congeal into a slimy potatoctopus. And the harissa dipping sauce is feisty and sublime.

  • Honest Burger - rosemary, salt and HEROIN. there is no other explanation

  • Canton Arms - they've served them, like, twice, but they were perfect

  • Byron's Cheese Fries - I really like Byron, which is a reliable 8/10 every time I go there. Their cheese fries have the greatest variance though. The actual cheese (their homebrew mix) is delicious, and the fries are an excellent vehicle for getting it into your body. But you have to make sure they really, really pour it on. 
Overrated: Five Guys. Seriously, I think they do well on quality, and I like the cut. But, like everything else at Five Guys, they're just kind of... fine? I always leave Five Guys with a strange sense of melancholy. How is ever meal always £17? Why am I overfull, but still unsatisfied? How can the Central Tennessee Explorer-Despatch and 10,000 other local newspapers like this so much, and I feel so... hollow? Is it being reduced to eating 'monkey nuts' while waiting in line? Is that the state of civilisation - to be bribed with simian treats to wait around anxiously for a cafeteria tray full of overpriced, empty calories? Five Guys is ennui on a bun.
Five books I liked as a kid, tentatively re-read, and might even like more now:
Seriously, I think half the content of Pornokitsch was 'I re-read a childhood favourite and BOY WAS IT RAPEY'. A shout out to those books that aged well.
  • Taran Wanderer and Vesper Holly - Yes, that's a book and series, but whatever. Lloyd Alexander was my One True Light as a child, and, in the pre-internet days, finding another one of his books was always a wonderful pleasure. Taran confused the hell out of me as a kid, but, even then, plucked at my brainstrings in a 'this is important' way - as an adult, I can finally see how special it is. And Vesper Holly is an Indiana Jones-esque action series with a clever, hilarious female protagonist and infinite hijinks.

  • Tombs of Atuan - The best Earthsea book, and one of the five best fantasy books ever written. Come at me.

  • The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - Like John Bellairs, Joan Aiken's "children's" books are best expressed through their tragicomic Gorey covers. Half goofy, half unsettling; all bundled together with a real sense of menace.

  • The Hobbit - So much better than The Lord of the Rings. I will die on this hill. I think there's a Dunning-Kruger curve with Tolkienism, in which we - hopefully - start, and come back to, The Hobbit. Every lesson in The Hobbit - no destiny, no exceptionalism, friendship, cleverness, hard work, common sense over vain philosophy, dragons are awesome -  made sense as a kid, disappeared under the grandeur of Rings mega-epicness, and then makes sense again.

  • The graphic oeuvre of Ed Emberley - I just bought a stack of these (and markers) for my niece and nephews and I am SO JEALOUS.
Bonus not a book: Calvin and Hobbes. Still perfect.
Five books with deeply silly elevator pitches that I think are genuinely amazing:
I really like these books because, if you describe them, they sound like pure pulp silliness - like, you're half-embarrassed by the words coming out of your mouth. But also? Screw the haters - these are all immensely clever, thematically rich books that manage to land powerful messages while also being fun as hell to read.
  • China Mieville's Last Days of New Paris (surrealist art vs nazi demons)

  • Christopher Farnsworth's The President's Vampire (ok, this one is pure pulp silliness - but it is also unrepentently proud of it, and I love every ridiculous word)

  • Stark Holborn's Nunslinger (self-explanatory)

  • Megan Abbott's Dare Me (cheerleader noir)

  • H Vernor Dixon's The Hunger and the Hate (lettuce noir. LETTUCE NOIR. 🥗🕵️)
Bonus not-a-book: Squirrel Girl (self-explanatory) (But important, because if there's ANY genre or format that needs to take itself less seriously, be more accessible to new readers, find something meaningful to say, and still be true to the joy of its culture... that'd be superhero comics. And Squirrel Girl does all of that.)
In fact... Five Ten recent-ish comic books that aren't Squirrel Girl that I like to think about whenever I'm losing faith in comics: 
  • iZombie - an actual self-contained story arc that's beautiful and lonely and lovely and leaves you feeling full

  • Red Sonja (the Gail Simone run) - Doesn't just redeem a badly flawed character, but is easily one of the best fantasy stories (any format) of the last decade. Again, accessible, thoughtful and fun.

  • They're Not Like Us - a compelling take on 'real life' superheroism, and its emotional impact: messy and wild.
  • Descender - when it comes to star-spanning space fantasy, I think I prefer the focused and poignant Descender to the jaw-dropping sprawl of Saga... but I'm damn glad I live in an era where I've got both.

  • Boxers and Saints - I cried. Shut up. 

  • Wild Children - It is deeply pretentious, but also... a terrific comic about comics; a discussion about relative realities, made all the more harrowing because of its school-setting.

  • SuperMutant Magic Academy - Weird and beautiful and I find myself thinking about it a lot, which is always a good sign.

  • Bad Machinery - Lovely and hilarious and so very, very weird. Perfect balance of heartwarming and goofy, and, in many ways, the closest thing to Calvin & Hobbes I can think of. (Despite the lack of tigers.)

  • Shaft: A Complicated Man - like Red Sonja, more than the sum of its, uh, cultural parts - a fantastic piece of crime fiction with a compelling central character. 

  • Patsy Walker, Hellcat! - Like Squirrel Girl, a take on the four-colour superhero that leaves you feeling really good about life.
Five Funkos that I keep by me, because they make me happy and I identify with them a disconcerting amount because they all represent different aspects of my personality and/or ideology and it is REALLY best not to think about that too closely:
  • Beca

  • Joy

  • Jyn 

  • Kuzco (llama, of course)

  • Smaug
Not a Funko but truly beloved: my InGen despatch bag. No one everrecognises it for the shamelessly nerdy accessory that it is, but it always makes me smile. It is now so ratty that it looks like it went through an actual raptor attack, and I carry it every day.