Fairwell Sandro-Spurs Unlucky Midfield General

This January transfer window finally saw the end of Sandro Raniere’s career in British football as he moved on a free transfer from QPR to Turkish side Antalyaspor. With it fell the curtain on an injury plagued period in which Sandro never reached the heights that he promised early on in his time at White Hart Lane.

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Sandro at his unveiling at Antalyaspor

After commanding the midfield in Internacional’s  2010 Copa Libertadores win, Sandro arrived in North London with the promise to change Spurs reputation of having a somewhat flaky midfield. Early on he starred for Tottenham, dominating the midfield in crucial Champions League ties against Inter and AC Milan, breaking up the play in front of the back four. He appeared to be the answer to Spurs fans prayers, a player capable of adding steel to a team that all to often looked lightweight in the middle, earning him the nickname ‘beast’ amongst the fans. Yet these two performances were to be the pinnacle of his career to date, showing glimpses of a world class defensive midfielder.In 2013, Sandro picked up a knee injury, putting him out for the majority of the 13-14 season. This was to become a regular occurrence for the rest of his career in English football, lengthy rehabilitation periods punctuated with rare uneventful appearances.

 

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Sandro snapping into a tackle in perhaps his finest performance in a Spurs shirt against AC Milan.

In September 2014 Sandro joined Queens Park Rangers after falling down the pecking order at Tottenham due to his persistent knee injuries. His time at QPR displayed little of his best form, suggesting that the knee injuries had a lasting impact on his game. In January 2016 he joined West Bromwich Albion on loan for the rest of the season, but he barely featured for Pulis’s side and they didn’t take up the option to make his loan move permanent at the end of the season. At the end of the season QPR made it apparent that  Sandro was no longer wanted at Loftus Road, as they wanted to shift his considerable wages off their bulging wage bill. Over the summer, a move to Sporting Lisbon got to the stage of a medical, only for Lisbon to back out of the deal due to Sandro failing the medical because of his knee problems. This outcome is disputed by Sandro, who claims that the medical report was insincere and that he was actually fully fit. This angered Sandro, who understandably saw the potential move to Lisbon as a real opportunity to play at the elite Champions League level many felt he belonged. As the summer transfer window slammed shut, he was forced to remain at QPR and barely feature until his recent January transfer to Turkish team  Antalyaspor. This saw the end of Sandro’s frustrating career in English football, in which he never fulfilled the promise he showed in the first year of his Spurs tenure.

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Sandro at his time at QPR.

In many ways Sandro represents a change of direction for Spurs, with them moving towards stronger, more dynamic centre midfield players. With Moussa Dembele, Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier currently battling for defensive midfield positions at the Lane, it can perhaps be attributed to the early performances of Sandro that displayed that a bit of bite in the midfield could lead to increased returns for the Lilly-whites. For that and the great memories and attitude that Sandro brought to Tottenham, we should be thankful for his short English career and hope that he can succeed in Turkey and rise again to the top level of European football in which it once appeared he thrived.

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Nick Clegg-Between the Extremes: Book Review

In ‘Between the Extremes’ Nick Clegg offers readers an insiders guide to the coalition government and provides a convincing argument for a centrist path in the future. He stresses the need for rational debate following the divisive EU referendum campaigns.

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Clegg starts the book by providing an overview of his spectacular rise and fall, from the hero of the inaugural leaders TV debates (aka Cleggomania) to the Cenotaph, the day after his party were trounced in the 2015 general election and he was forced to resign. Following the TV debates Clegg was heralded as the face of a new centre-left politics, gaining legions of fans and bringing a swell of support for the Lib Dems, leading them to form the coalition government with the Conservatives in 2010. The Lib Dems entered the coalition full of optimism, yet its clear that this experience paved the way for a frustrating experience for the party. Here Clegg is particularly sincere, explaining the mental and physical tole a leadership role takes on an individual. After this begins a section of Clegg justifying his political decisions whilst in office, with particular attention paid to the student tuition fees issue. Here it feels relatively self indulgent, with him often claiming that events were completely out of his hands. It appears that narratives of his lack of power seem all too convenient. This section feels politically motivated and is out of character with the more objective stance taken in other parts of the book, wherein he is candid about the naivety of his party. In this section you get the sense that Clegg is trying to right the wrongs of the coalition. He persistently states that the sentiment that future will look back on the coalition far more positively, but if the last five years proves anything, it is that this is not the case, where the Liberal Democrats appear to ignore the coalition years entirely.

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Clegg and Cameron at the Rose Garden

Clegg then presents his vision of a centrist political future, wherein politics is dominated by compromise. Indeed, Clegg feels that in the future coalitions will be far more regular, forcing intra-party concessions. As a result he see’s the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition as something of a game-changer in the UK. Clegg foresees the fragmentation of politics as a reason for coalitions as the rise of third parties continues in the form of UKIP. Clegg then makes a compelling argument for electoral reform to combat this new political environment and better reflect the voting choices of the electorate.

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Clegg was forced to resign following a dismal result in the 2015 general election 

A large portion of the book deals with Europe from Clegg’s pro-European stance and the issue with the EU referendum campaigns. He explains how the discourses created in the campaigns are dangerous and that the divisive messages were damaging to British politics. Here he argues that there is a need for more rational debate in the political sphere, which was missing in the EU debates. Here is Clegg at his idealistic best, arguing from his Rationalist-Liberalist beliefs but it seems fairly far removed from the reality of contemporary political discourses. Clegg’s analysis is thus an counterpoint to modern political campaign strategies and offers a reasoned critique of the way that political communication is going.

 

To conclude, Between the Extremes is a candid and timely autobiography that provides an insiders look at the coalition years. The book provides perspectives on the future of politics and critiques of the increasingly partisan political system. If you are looking to understand the Lib Dems role in the coalition or feel that post-Brexit politics is alienating you, it is definitely worth a read.

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Theresa May Brexit Speech – Snap Reaction

Today Theresa May finally provided a substantive picture of the governments Brexit plan.

The headline news is that May plans to take Britain out of the European single market, breaking a 2015 Tory manifesto pledge. This further questions the legitimacy of her mandate and renders arguments of ‘taking back control’ something of a damp squib.Her message of wanting a positive relationship with the EU seem rather dependent on a ‘they need us more than we need them’ logic, which I fear is rather a false supposition that aims to quell fears rather than provide practical answers on the future of Britain.

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Yet she has also stated that Parliament will get a final vote on proposed Brexit plans. This is a tacit acknowledgement that the ongoing high Court case is petulant at best. This provides some kind of democratic mandate to Brexit which is much needed. It is up to a largely anonymous opposition to challenge what’s been put forward and push for a Brexit that works for all.This landmark speech provides evidence that we are heading for a hard Brexit, so lets strap ourselves in, it’s sure to be an intriguing course at least!

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Dr Seuss- The Artist

Cat Detective in the Wrong Part of Town- A part of Dr Suess Private artwork

When recently reading a young relatives selection of Dr Seuss novels, I was flabbergasted at their creative mite. As a child who never really indulged in the world of Seuess I was left reading the book for myself, engaged by the off-the-wall characters and surreal settings.

Upon further research about Suess I found a great website, (http://www.drseussart.com) about the man behind the children’s books and his personal endeavours which have only recently come to light in the form of numerous public exhibitions of his work.

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I Dreamed I was a Doorman at the Hotel del Coronado

Suess often stayed up late into the night producing fantastic surreal works that are very much in the style of his children’s work, but far more complex in subject matter. These paintings often show Giesel in his alter ego as a cat. The works are in a variety of styles, some are complex landscapes whilst others focus on a single character and the mystery that surrounds them.

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Cat from the Wrong Side of the Tracks

On top of this Suess created a range of unorthodox taxidermy. This was effectively bringing his fictional animalistic characters to life. He did these by combining numerous different aspects of different animals and combining them into a cartoon fantasy animal, with an appropriately fantastical name.

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An example of Dr Suess’ taxidermy; the Goo-Goo-Eyed Tasmanian Wolghast

Giesels career previous to becoming an author was as a political cartoonist. His satirical cartoons often included surreal versions of political leaders and political concepts. His cartoons often had left wing isolationist undertones.

I just though I’d post this as I believe that this work needs to be recognized for what it is, great artwork from a truly unique man. If you want to see more head to the aforementioned website.

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Paul Simonon ICA- Wot No Bike Exhibition

Paul Simonon- Wot No Bike

Just thought I’d try and raise some awareness for the new Paul Simonon exhibition opening at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London on the 21st January to the 6th February.

Simonon is most famous for being the unbelievably cool bass player for The Clash as well as The Good The Bad and The Queen and most recently Gorillaz.

Paul Simonon pictured in his time with Gorillaz

On top of this he is an accomplished artist and his new exhibition promises some interesting still life’s referencing the influence rock’n’roll has had on his life. His work mainly consists of pastel on canvas and has an interesting aesthetic quality that feels very personal. Along with the exhibition a limited edition book with images of the show inside will be available to purchase.

Egg, Bacon, Frying Pan- By Paul Simonon

So if you’re about London in the next few weeks I would definitely give this show a visit.

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What Are You Looking At: 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye- Book Review

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What Are You Looking At: 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye, By Will Gompertz

What Are You Looking At….. is a book detailing the history of modern art for amateurs. Gompertz takes us on a journey through modern art, starting with the impressionists, right up to the hugely popular modern street art movement made popular by Banksy amongst others. The book is split up into the main modern art movements like cubism and abstract art. From here, the author describes the intentions of each movement whilst introducing it’s major players and why they did what they did.

The book takes the standpoint that a lot of people regard modern art to be lacking in skill, with quips like “I could of done that” echoing around modern art galleries. It is a standpoint that many gallery curators would encounter in their everyday lives. It’s a fact that many critics and a great deal of the public don’t particularly see much skill in works like Damian Hirsts ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991’ ,Duschamps ‘Fountain’ or numerous comparable works. It is Gompertz who persistently tries to battle against this mindset in the book and he argues the validity of all modern art throughout.

 

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The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, by Damian Hirst

 

Fountain 1917, replica 1964 by Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968

Marcel Duschamps Fountain

 

This mindset works to varying degrees. If you were of that mindset before reading the book it is great, as it makes you understand the validity of the art. But if you weren’t and you appreciated the art beforehand, then the passages of validation is just hot air.

As a complete amateur to art, this book was exactly the entry point I was looking for. The vast majority of art ‘outsiders’ are intimidated when they try to discuss art in a meaningful way, myself included. But this book is written in such a conversational tone, that it is just engrossing. Gompertz strikes the perfect balance, he doesn’t patronise the reader and he doesn’t bombard them with artistic jargon. This was exactly the way I wanted modern art described to me. Art was of interest to me, but I never felt like I was able to truly understand it or discuss it in any way apart from superficial statements like, “it’s nice to look at”. This book has really helped open my eyes to art and I now feel semi confident when discussing the various movements of modern art.

A problem I found was that the Kindle version had issues. One of these was that the pictures of the art were black and white and not in the best quality. When discussing work like that of Mondrian, you really need to see the pictures in colour. I therefore had to Google all of the images that Gomepertz talks about. This  was time consuming and slightly annoying. But be prepared to do it if you purchase the Kindle version, as it is necessary.

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Broadway Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian is an example of artwork that needs to be seen in colour to appreciate.

The book tries to describe modern art as a continuous narrative. I found this really interesting. When talking about a certain artist, Gompertz begins with a short biography, which helps to contextualise the work of the individual. I really enjoyed finding out about the artist and the ideas behind the works, as well as the art itself.

I think this book is the perfect introduction to modern art. Because of this I would give this book a 9 out of 10, it was everything I wanted it to be on purchasing. It gave me the information I craved, told in an engaging and non patronising way. I really enjoyed this book and I would really recommend it to anyone who is interested in art, or those who feel they don’t fully understand modern art. This book has certainly peaked my interest in art and will probably be the first of many art books I purchase in the future.

 

 

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Rayman Legends – Game Review

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Rayman: Origins is a side scrolling platformer, starring Rayman and his cast of crazy friends. The action puts Rayman and Co in the centre of numerous adventures, that require you to jump, flap and fly to save the world from an assortment of wacky villains.

This game is incredibly good fun. Every single minute of it is enjoyable. Whether you are playing along to the rhythm of Eye of the Tiger performed exclusively by ukuleles or fighting an enormous luchador, the result is the same, pure, unadulterated entertainment. I thought I would mention this at the beginning of the review because it’s what struck me first when playing it. It’s just easy to pick up, beautifully creative and whacky fun. You jump straight in and never want to jump out. It is an engrossing experience which shows what can be done using even the simplest of gaming mechanics and principles.

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Fighting a giant luchador, is just the beginning of the unique fun that happens regularly in Rayman: Legends.

Its a super stylish, super crazy and exudes an absurd personality that is omnipresent within the game. The visuals and soundtrack are both completely unique. The backdrops to the side scrolling action are remarkably creative and this helps to give each adventure a unique tone and feel. The music complements this fantastically well, evoking a playful atmosphere which is pulsating throughout. An example of this is a spy themed level where the cliché Bondesque music is pastiched brilliantly. This is probably why I like this game so much, it just exudes a unique, fun character which shines a light up to the gaming industry as a whole, giving a message that games are primarily about fun, not just shooting.

Rayman: Legends is currently available on the PlayStation store for only ten pounds. This represents great value for money and is a sound investment for any avid gamer. You also get two games for the price of one as you can play every level from Rayman: Origins on this game. I had already played Rayman: Origins and enjoyed it thoroughly and replaying some of the levels was just as enjoyable as when I first played them. If you haven’t played origins then this makes the game incredibly good value. At this low price point I must say that I would recommend any gamer to buy this. It’s such a refreshing gaming experience that can be enjoyed by any of gamings niche audiences.

The new music style levels are my highlight of the game. They basically have you platforming at high speed hitting certain objects to the beat of the song, in a similar fashion to the Guitar Hero franchise. You play along to Eye of the Tiger as well as a fantastic orchestration level which is quite probably my favourite level of the game. They are a fresh idea for the Rayman franchise and give the gamer yet another means to have some great fun and memorable moments.

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New musical levels provide even more depth to the Rayman experience

This game accommodates for all level of players from beginners to platforming fanatics. If you are beginner you can cruise through most levels, but if you are more advanced you will trying to find every hidden character and collect as many lumes (the equivalent of Mario’s coins) as possible. This is a huge undertaking as the game just gets harder and harder. At times it has you screaming at the screen, but I think this is a good thing as few games offer the degree of difficulty that some of the levels provide. The cliché of a game being easy to pick up difficult to master, is very apt for this title.

Despite me saying that this game is for everyone, it should be a approached in a light hearted way, this game says nothing about everyday life or the human condition, it’s just fun. So there is a chance that those less whimsical could be caught up in being cynical about the surreal nature of the game, but to the cynics, I say relax, it’s a game and enjoy it for what it is, a wonderfully creative achievement.

Offline Co-op is another aspect of this game. It allows four players to pick up a controller and jump into the action. You go through the single player campaign with multiple players. This has problems though, as the screen gets packed with too many characters and it ruins the pacing which is so fantastic when played alone. The online offering is not much better either, this game is definitely best experienced on your own, or with two players in my opinion.

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Playing with too many players can lead to a visual overload.

I am scoring this game 9 out of 10. This is because it’s an unbelievably fun game with whimsical, eccentric environments and soundtrack. It is a unique experience and at just £10 it is a sound investment for any gamer. For me this is a standard bearer of how much fun a light hearted game can be and I will certainly remember my experiences of Rayman: Legends for a very long time.

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The Minutuarist- Book Review

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The Minituarist by Jessie Burton

The Minutuarist takes place in 16th century Amsterdam, where newlywed Petronella Brandt opens the doors to her new life. But when she gets their, married life is not all its cracked up to be…

The title of this book, to me at least, is slightly misleading. The Minutuarist, (someone who makes small things) is a peripheral figure in the book and the vast majority of the content is about the odd family that Petronella Brandt finds herself in the centre of. So maybe ‘The 16th Century Dutch Housewife’ is a more apt name, but is perhaps less catchy and interesting. This annoyed me because I got something I wasn’t looking for.

There is not a huge amount of description in The Minituarist. One of the main reasons I bought to the book was because of it’s 16th century Amsterdam setting, it’s a period and setting which is relatively uncommon for modern day fiction. Unfortunately where the book takes place is almost completely irrelevant to the story. There are a few romantic descriptions of the famous canals and a bakery, but apart from that, the book never delves into it’s setting beyond face value. Amsterdam is simply a framework.

When you start reading, it becomes immediately clear that it is written for the female market. After reading the books synopsis and reviews prior to buying the book, I don’t feel this was made apparent. This again annoyed me slightly, as this wasn’t what I wanted, but I persisted with the book regardless.

However the story is intriguing throughout, even if is not what I expected. The book tells the tale of Petronella Brandt, a country girl recently married to a rich Amsterdam-based merchant. Life at her new marital home is not what she expects. Whilst her dissatisfaction is going on she is sent numerous miniature objects by a local artisan. The miniaturist makes unbelievably accurate pieces, which begin to concern Petronella as they become more and more insightful. From here the story twists and turns and has some genuinely shocking moments. This is definitely an enjoyable book to read and I found it difficult to put down. However upon completion I felt like it didn’t fulfil it’s own potential. The story certainly seems appealing and on reaching half way, you feel like the book is really going to deliver. But the second half of the story languishes on and goes in directions I didn’t want or expect it to take. This left me disappointed when the book finished.

Overall I feel like The Minitiarist is an interesting book, but it doesn’t fulfil it’s early promise and because of that I would score it a 7 out of 10, it’s a very decent read, but simply not fantastic. For a debut novel, this is an author which I will be looking out for in the near future. I definitely think it is worth a read for some people, but for me, it wasn’t what I expected it to be.

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An Officer and a Spy- Book Review

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An Officer and a Spy is a historical fiction novel based on the Dreyfus affair, a political scandal which took place in turn of the 20th Century France. The affair is a standard bearer for injustice by a nation state. Dreyfus was sent to an isolated prison situated on Devils Island for passing on state secrets to France’s principle enemy of the time, Germany. The action takes place within the French secret service, as Head of the intelligence section Georges Picquart becomes less and less convinced by the Dreyfus trials legitimacy.

The book is historical fiction at it’s best, placing you in the shoes of a prominent figure, involved in a prominent issue in an interesting period in history. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction as it allows the reader to immerse themselves in a time period and also learn about history whilst being entertained. If you don’t enjoy historical fiction then I would avoid this book. To someone not intrigued by the subject matter, this book could be seen as dry and boring. If your looking for action and adventure, look elsewhere, as this book delves into political conspiracy in a bureaucratic style. The majority of the book consists of character discourse and evidence finding and analysis. So before purchasing this book I would give it a bit of thought as to whether this is entertaining to you as I understand that it could be boring to some.

The books protagonist, General Picquart

The books protagonist, General Picquart

Most of the entertainment from this book comes from a truly immersive setting as well as a thoroughly well researched set of characters. General Picquart is a very engaging protagonist and the character creates an empathy for his situation, the powerlessness of being confronted with a national conspiracy is tangible on every page as you reach the books conclusion. This is an impressive feat as Harris doesn’t give trivial details of the character to make him understandable. Very little is known about his life, he is portrayed simply as a man dedicated to his job and to justice. The supporting characters are also complex and interesting, with a host of Picquarts colleagues becoming more and more intriguing as the book progresses.

The narrative of the story twists and turns at a steady pace throughout. The scale of the affair itself is quite extraordinary if you aren’t familiar with it and the subject matter makes this book very absorbing. It definitely falls into the category of page turners. Once you are into the plot, you just can’t wait to see the issue resolved, this makes the book an interesting summer read and worthy of the readers time.

It must be said that this book is in no way ground breaking. The historical fiction is based entirely on true events, not really deviating from real events, except from creating the dialogue of the characters. This makes the book less thought provoking than a historical fiction book with a little bit more fiction, like Dominion by C.J Samson, for example. On completing Dominion a host of questions run through your mind, based on the fact that the author manipulates history to tell a compelling story. With An Officer and A Spy, it’s simply retelling history in a narrative format. This makes it less stirring as a book by comparison. Even so, it is still absorbing, particularly if, like me, you weren’t aware of the Dreyfus affair before reading. Knowing about the subject before reading ruins a lot of the books surprises.

I am giving this book a 7 out of 10. the book is a real page turner for those interested in history, but could be considered boring by those less interested. It is a retelling of an astonishing political scandal and for that alone the book is worth a read. It is proficiently written, with good character development, but this is not a ground breaking book in my opinion.

 

 

 

 

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The Young Doctor’s Notebook- TV Review

The Young Doctor is a Sky Arts PlayHouse Presents dark comedy based on the works of Mikhail Bulgakov.

The TV series stars Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe

The TV series stars Jon Hamm (left) and Daniel Radcliffe

As a massive fan of Mad Men I was intrigued when I cam across Don Draper in a doctors coat standing with Daniel Radcliffe when browsing through Sky’s Now TV. I had wanted to watch the show since I first heard of it, but I only recently got round to watching it. This is a review of the first series of the show and will probably be followed by the more recent series very soon (once I’ve watched it).

 

Danielle Radcliffe stars as Dr Bolmgard, a young Russian doctor who, after passing his medical exams with record high grades, is sent to a remote Russian village to be the doctor of the hospital. In the series Jon Hamm stars as an older Dr Bolmgard looking back at his time in the Russian village. He interacts with his younger self trying to prevent a crippling morphine addiction from taking place. The show is set in 1917 and pans forward occasionally to 16 years later when the older Bolmgard is in trouble for writing fake morphine prescriptions to feed his own addiction.

This programme is, for me, an utterly unique TV experience. I have never watched anything like it and I mean this in the most positive sense. It’s refreshing to watch a show with a completely different tone to it. The show is a black comedy, filled with blood and guts and a tremendous amount of clever British humour.  The laughs seem to come from out of nowhere, one minute you’ll be watching a foot cut off with a saw and the next you’ll be laughing (I won’t give away why). It is out of the young doctors despair that the laughs come. He is a young man at the top of his young profession, taken from the bright lights of Moscow (where he studied) and thrust in this isolated and frozen landscape. He just doesn’t know what to do and when the older doctor appears, he does little to help out the young doctor. The on screen chemistry between Hamm and Radcliffe is excellent, conveying the fact that the doctor used to admire who he was and despises what he has become. They argue, they fight, but you always feel like the older doctor has the younger doctors welfare, even if they don’t get along. It all makes for an interesting relationship, which is engrossing to watch. The other supporting characters are also fantastically portrayed by a stellar cast.

Hamm and Radcliffes chemistry is fantastic

Hamm and Radcliffes chemistry is fantastic

The shows Russian setting is also a startlingly unique experience on our TV sets. When you see Russians in the modern media, they are usually ill thought out villains in big budget action films. But here the rich Russian cultural history is explored and it makes the universe come alive.The Russian soundtrack is also excellent, helping to immerse you in the atmosphere even deeper.

It’s important to say that if you don’t like blood and gore, this show is not for you. It shows very graphic surgical scenes, which, using medical equipment used in 1917, is not pretty. An amputation and a tooth removal bring particularly horrific moments. But within this horror, there are some light-hearted moments, which nod to the viewer, ‘we know this is a bit horrific’. But then again this added to the immersion, surgery in 1917 was rather messy and so it is portrayed and overall I am thankful for that.

If you are squeamish, look elsewhere

If you are squeamish, look elsewhere

A Young Doctors Notebook is a fantastic TV show and with only 4 episodes it will leave you wanting more. But this is a show that needs to be cherished, it is fantastically written, acted and scored by a cast of fantastic individuals. This is what modern TV should offer, thought provoking yet funny, utterly unique experiences. I would give this show 9 out of 10, as I think it is brilliant and quite frankly I can’t wait to watch series 2.

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