Month: January 2018

Film Review: Their Finest

Wonderously talented leads with a stellar supporting cast. A predictable love story with a shocking twist. Their Finest is a charming evening’s entertainment.

Netflix Bio

With public morale in war-time Britain at an all-time low, an ex-secretary is hired to write feminine flair into a propaganda film.

Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy.

Director: Lone Scherfig


This is a lovely little feel-good film with a shocking twist and a bittersweet ending.

The storyline trundles along fairly predictably, with Gemma Arterton twinkling as lovely welsh lass Catrine Cole, an ex-secretary who is brought in by a war-time film production company to write the ‘slop’, the ‘inane’ chat between women in films. The production company takes up the story of two girls who stole their father’s boat to aid in the evacuation of Dunkirk, and the story follows the production of this propaganda film from the scriptwriters’ point of view.

If you’re looking for a strong female role model in the next film you watch, but don’t like the kick-ass, loud role models that many promote, the Catrine Cole is your feminist icon. Quietly fiery, Gemma Arterton’s Catrine stands her ground against Sam Claflin’s Tom Buckley, and guns for a more prominent role for the female characters in their film. Catrine is the primary wage earner in her home, pays the rent on her flat, and even rather bravely negotiates her salary, something female employees DID NOT DO! Catrine had previously accepted a wage of £2 a week, a wage she is blatantly told is less than her male counterparts.

Sam Claflin is a wonderful actor. I love him. And he’s wonderful in this part…all apart from the fact that Sam Claflin does not pull off bookish particularly well. He’s too good looking and carries himself too well. But it doesn’t really matter. It makes no difference to how much you end up loving this character.

As for the film and production itself, it is beautifully well done. The costumes are exquisite. Throughout the film, Richard E. Grant and his production company tell us that war-time Britain wants authenticity in their films. Well, Their Finest delivers on its own kind of authenticity. The film carries a 12 rating, which I believe is due to the authentic details of a Blitzed Britain. This isn’t Game of Thrones; there’s no excessive blood, guts and gore for the sake of exciting a childish, easily excited audience. However, this film is set in London during the Blitz, and the Director Lone Scherfig (not a director I’d heard of, but one I will be keeping an eye out for) does not let us forget it.

Catrine at one point gets caught in an air-raid. The bomb she survives destroys a local shop, throwing mannequins all around the street. In the smoke and shock, Catrine believes the mannequins to be other victims. Upon realising her mistake, Catrine is sent into a hysteric laughing fit until she rounds a corner and finds the young woman leaving the tube station before her lying in the rubble, dead. The body is shown fully on camera, with authentic injuries, but is done in a way that does not take away from the storyline. We are simply seeing the horror that Catrine sees, nothing more.

A similar situation occurs when Bill Nighy’s character Ambrose Hilliard is asked to identify the body of his agent, Sammy Smith, as Sammy’s sister is unable to identify the body. Sammy’s body (shown on camera) is badly burned. Again, this is clearly not done for effect; it is just the horror of the Blitz. Hilliard at first believes that the body cannot be Sammy as his agent was missing two fingers on his left hand, and the body before him has all five fingers. The nurse then apologises, but they “try to make a whole body…for the relatives.” This is the horror and the truth of the Blitz and is tastefully nuanced in the film. Not done for effect, just for ‘authenticity’.

The ending, oh, the ending. It’s so bittersweet and lovely and heartbreaking and… I won’t spoil it for you. You’ll just need to watch it and see.

Where to watch it: Netflix

My Favourite Blogger Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories have become my new passion. I can waste a good long while watching the stories of my favourite bloggers, and I’ve found that sharing my life on my IG Stories has become even more of a joy than sharing it on here. I just love IG Stories.

I’m a very visual person, and so Instagram has always been my favourite social media platform. But I’ve always felt pressure to share the ‘perfect’ image on my feed. You see all this advice from bloggers that, in order to gain followers, you have to stick to a specific theme, and your images have to be cohesive. I just feel that this causes more stress than anything else, and adds more pressure to your feed.

But I feel Instagram Stories is just so much freer. You can post all you like on there; there’s no pressure for your stories to be perfect. And if they’re not – they’re gone in 24 hours, who cares!

Bloggers have really taken Instagram Stories and made them their own. I love watching the stories of some of my favourite bloggers; they give a real insight into the lives of the people I admire and aspire to be.


Hannah Gale

Hannah Gale is, in all honesty, one of, if not my most favourite blogger. She is just so honest and open with her blog and what she writes on there, and I feel I can really identify with her.

Her Instagram Stories are just a real extension of that. She bares all – just-woken-up selfies (not actually-been-awake-for-three-hours-and-done-my-make-up kind of selfies, but real no make-up, just come to life selfies). Her stories are full of so many details of her life, and she doesn’t hide the daft, silly things we all do. In fact, she makes sure she tells all!

Check out her blog: Hannah Gale


Paris in Four Months

Carin is living my current dream life. She moved to Paris from Sweden for four months (hence the name of her blog) and then decided that  Paris was the place for her and in Paris, she stayed.

Her stories are full of such wonderful photographs of Paris and all the glamorous, fabulous things she gets up to in her daily life. I truly enjoy watching her stories; I love the elegant feminine aesthetic they have. In fact, they’re the stories I get most excited about seeing in my queue every morning.

Check out her blog: Paris in Four Months


Wish Wish Wish

The editorial skill and quality of Carrie’s stories are just so beautiful. I love the fact that every day has a theme and a theme song. These stories are just so well thought out.

I also love that Carrie shares some of her stories as videos; you really feel as though she’s actually talking to you, not just sharing for the sake of sharing.

Check out her blog: Wish Wish Wish



First things first – this woman’s hair is the bomb! I’m actually basing a possible new haircut on it. It’s just luscious and fabulous and so unique. I love it.

Rosie is always off wandering wonderful places. I especially loved her recent trip to the Tree Hotel in Sweden. A winter wonderland before my very eyes was a wondrous sight to see every time I opened my stories.

I really like The Londoner, and I see much of Rosie’s style in my own, so I love having a nosy at what she’s wearing every day.

Check out her blog: The Londoner


Colours and Carousels

Charlotte gives me hope that I have a chance to succeed at this blogging thing. Like me, she’s a lass from Glasgow, and she’s doing pretty well, I think.

I’ve actually found myself following Charlotte to some of the interesting places she’s found around the land of Weedgie. It’s nice to see a blogger talking and blogging about my city. It’s a brilliant place and seems seriously underrated by so many of the bloggers I follow, frequently choosing Edinburgh over Glasgow at every chance.

Check out her blog: Colours and Carousels

Bonus Points!!

Shameless plug here, but I have to say I personally love my Instagram Stories. I love the freedom I have to share my life with you guys, and you don’t have to watch the nonsense I share if you want, but it does fill me with joy to look and see that so many of you are watching them. It makes me feel even better when friends tell me in person that the quite enjoy the guff I share on there (so feel free to share).

Who else should I be checking out? Feed my addiction people!

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I picked up this little number from my Gran’s little library when we visited on Boxing Day. It was the title that peaked my interest; I have a secret love of all things witchy, magical and supernatural. The blurb is so brief, it doesn’t really give anything much away, but I had a strong intuition I’d like it, so into my handbag it went.


A world of witches, daemons and vampires.

A manuscript which holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future.

Diana and Matthew – the forbidden love at the heart of it.


I loved this book!

I started out attempting to read just one chapter a night as part of a new bedtime routine, but by the 4th or 5th chapter I was having to force myself to put the book down, and eventually, I just gave up trying and flew through the ending.

The characters are so well rounded and fleshed out with great personal histories. The chemistry between Diana and Matthew, the book’s main characters, is palpable, and you just end up rooting for them from the very beginning. Diana’s fiery personality is admirable (even if does get her into trouble) and Matthew’s protectiveness, although a touch excessive, is so touching.

I actually loved this book so much I’ve bought myself my own copy, and copies of the sequels. I’ll let you know how much I fall in love with them as I go.

Find it here: Goodreads | Amazon

My Favourite Photographs of 2017

I know it’s now 2018 and I should really be looking forward to the future, rather than back at the year that’s past, but I fancied a quick trip down memory lane, just to help jump start 2018.


Singing or surtitles, which do I prefer??

A post shared by Lauren Julia McKinney (@lauren.j.mckinney) on

I spent the beginning of the year sat on the top tier of the New Atheneum Theatre in RCS, surtitling the Opera Department’s production of Handel’s Agrippina, a tale of intrigue, plots and schemes set in Ancient Rome. I enjoyed the experience, and it was great to have a bird’s eye view of the inner workings of an opera production. It truly was an enriching and insightful experience.


In February Rosie and I took one of our toss-of-a-coin adventures, this time to Brodick in Arran. The rail and ferry fare were actually pretty reasonable, and anyway, it was a trip taken with some wonderfully fabulous company. We got some really gorgeous shots as the sun cast a (freezing) golden light over our surroundings, and we got to see some local wildlife, including these swans and some rare sea otters just off the shore of the beach.


There wasn’t really much that happened in March, and, uncharacteristically, I didn’t take that many photographs. I was bogged down with essay deadlines and prepping for my end of year exam. One highlight, however, was that RCS was recognised as one of the Top 3 Performing Arts Schools in the World, and students got free cupcakes to celebrate!!


April 2017 was the year my mum turned 50! There was much celebration, including a family meal shared at Orocco Pier Bar and Restaurant, and then Afternoon Tea for the ladies at Cromlix House Hotel (Andy Murray was a no-show though).

Dad turned 51 a week after mum’s birthday, but grumpy won’t let me take any photos of him, so we’ll just have to settle with this little spread of prezzies and cards he got instead.


May is a hard one to choose just a selection of photographs because May was my adventure month, where I decided to just up and venture off somewhere. As a result, I have so many great photos that I really don’t know how I’m going to choose some favourites.

At the start of the month Mum and Dad trotted off on a wee trip away for their 25th Anniversary, and Mark disappeared off to Belgium for a Karate Trip, leaving me all on my lonesome. After finishing work one afternoon, I decided I didn’t want to just go home and sit on my tod, so instead, I hopped on a train out to Pollock Country Park for a lovely, sunny afternoon out. Following your adventurous instincts can really lead to some great days out.

Millport and the Isle of Cumbrae means a lot to my family, and it used to be that most years we’d take a trip down and cycle the island, but as time’s gone on and we’ve all got busier, that stopped happening. On another of my ‘why not’ trips in May, I hopped on the train at Glasgow Central and off I went.


I snapped this little rose on a sunny day at the stables with Mum. It just makes me think of peaceful sunny days with people we love.


July was NYCoS time! I love NYCoS time! It’s like one big, dysfunctional, musical family. I didn’t post much to Instagram much in July though, even with all the lovely photographs I took.

These little guys live in my aunt’s back garden, and are the cutest garden ornaments ever!!


It now seems that every year, August is my most manic time of year. There’s always something going on. Last year I took part in the Aberdeen International Youth Festival with RCS Voices in the first week of the month. A week of glorious sunshine, lovely people and phenomenal music.

And that was just the start of it.

Next up was a week of madness and mayhem known as Piping Live!, the international piping festival that takes place at The National Piping Centre every year. That was a week of late nights, Scottish music, and pipes. Lots of pipes.

To finish off my mad fortnight of music, I performed the Brahms Requiem with NYCoS in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh. On two hours of sleep. That part … was not fun. I had a two-hour nap in Costa’s whilst Jasmine sat next to me doing admin. The glamorous life of an operatic diva, y’know.

Next up was a holiday in the Scottish Highlands with the family. I love the Highlands, my spiritual home. So many wonderful photos were taken, but the ones on Instagram were my favourites.

Finishing off my chaotic August was our annual visit to the Blair Atholl International Horse Trials with Mum. We lucked out well and truly with the weather that day!


September was a quiet one, but it was the month I headed back to RCS for my 3rd year of Undergraduate Study. We kicked off the year with some Handel, Mozart and Beethoven in a concert with Thomas Dausgaard and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony is perhaps my favourite choral piece ever, and I was so excited to get to perform it again.


I love this photo!! Creds to Helen Corlett for her superior photography skills. This was taken at girls night at Rosie’s new flat, where we got to indulge in Rosie’s fabulously decorated window seat.

Oh, and enjoy Rosie’s cooking, of course.


I obviously get my adventurous spirit from my Dad, because this (rather chilly) visit to North Berwick was an impromptu idea from him.

The day after my visit to North Berwick, I flew down to London for my first ever girls holiday with the wife, and Katie introduced me to the wonder that is Cioccolata Fiorentine from Carluccio’s in St Pancras International Rail Station.

I couldn’t talk about my trip to London without including this Selfie.

There was a cold snap right at the end of November, and I couldn’t resist heading out into the Park to try out my new camera.


I kicked off the last month of the year with some Prokofiev. RCS teamed up with Scottish Opera to mount the Scottish Premiere of Prokofiev’s opera ‘The Fiery Angel’. Months of hard work and taxing rehearsals really paid off – the show was a great success.

I think the highlight of December, or quite possibly of 2017, was the fact that I passed my driving test!! Rosie the wonder bought me a new friend to keep me company on my long journies, aptly named ‘Broom Broom’.

My final concert of the year was in Hillington Park Parish Church, with some of the most talented young women I know.

Christmas was full of food and family, and the week in between Christmas and New Year just bled into one long period of time, but I could not have gone into 2018 without a final day out without my darling best friend.

You’ve made it!

Phew, that was a long one. If you’ve made this far I thank you for having stuck around this long. 2017 was a year full of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Here’s to 2018, and hoping it’s even better than the last.