If you're living in Auckland and have lost count of what day of lockdown we're in, don't worry, you're not alone. As the time ticks on it can be harder to think of new ways to stay occupied, especially with the school holidays starting, so that's why we're here to help. Check out our list of ideas below to keep your an your bubble entertained over the coming week.
Mental Health Awareness Week
It's the tail end of Mental Health Awareness Week and, if you're in Tamaki Makaurau, chances are you're already painfully aware of your mental state. Covid-19 has put a strain on the mental health of many, and awareness is just part of the equation. Taking active steps towards improving your mental health all year round is vitally important. The theme of this year's MHAW — Take Time to Korero — focuses on the importance of our everyday conversations with others. There are some great suggestions on the MHAW website for ways to connect with people — it could be as simple as phoning a friend or family member you haven't spoken to in a while, going for a walk with a friend (if you're outside Auckland) or with someone in your bubble, or organising a virtual dinner date with a friend on video chat. There's a host of other ways to improve your mental wellness, including mindfulness, meditation, exercise, yoga, kindness and gratitude practices, all outlined on the Mental Health Foundation's website. Why not put down your paper right now and offer someone some words of kindness, either in a text, phone call or email. It might just be the bright spot in their day that they desperately need.
Go to the Mental Health Awareness Week and Mental Health Foundation website for resources and information on how to improve and maintain your mental health.
What to watch
Be inspired by Calum Henderson's definitive list of what's hot right now and from the vault.
Spice Girls: How Girl Power Changed the World (8:30pm Monday, TVNZ 2)
If what you want, what you really really want, is to suddenly feel very very old, consider this: 'Wannabe' by Spice Girls came out 25 years ago this year. It's a full quarter of a century since Scary, Sporty, Baby, Ginger and Posh bounded into the world with their zig-a-zig-aahs and their Union Jacks and their Girl Power.
Watching the hugely entertaining new three-part documentary Spice Girls: How Girl Power Changed the World, it does suddenly feel like a whole other era. The series, from Channel 4 in the UK, examines the whole cultural phenomenon through a modern lens, while still managing to tick all the right nostalgic boxes. It's as definitive a Spice Girls documentary as you could hope for without the input of any of the Spice Girls themselves.
Instead, we hear from people such as the group's original manager (who they promptly ditched after the audition process), a woman who almost made the cut (Spice Girls own version of the Beatles' Pete Best), and their former hair stylist. Their stories are all interesting, however, so who's to judge?
The first episode, in particular, is a trove of rare old handycam footage, dating back to the 1994 auditions for the film Tank Girl, where the future Ginger and Posh unknowingly stood side by side. These days they'd probably just go on Love Island, but in the '90s it was all about the audition circuit. Eventually, they would all respond to a crappy clip art flyer which asked "R. U. 18-23 with the ability to sing/dance," and the rest is history.
There are some fascinating glimpses of the group pre-fame, before they'd adopted their various personas. One thing they clearly all had in common from the start was confidence, which was needed to come in and shake up the extremely male-dominated '90s music industry the way they did.
Pact of Silence (TVNZ OnDemand)
Jack Evans is: the owner of a Welsh brewery, a cocaine addict, "an idiot" according to his employees, and before the end of Pact of Silence's first episode, dead. The British series (broadcast over there as The Pact) mostly deals with the aftermath of his death, on the night of a party at the brewery where just about everyone had a motive to kill him. A group of his shabbily treated workers - among them Hayley from Coronation Street - from the brewery floor, know who did it but make a pact to keep it secret. We'll see how that goes for them, then.
Squid Game (Netflix)
On one hand, the latest Netflix sensation is extremely violent and stressful, on the other it's also very brightly coloured, which seems to balance it out somehow. South Korean series Squid Game is a Battle Royale-type story about a mysterious series of playground games people are convinced to enter with the promise that winning it could lift them out of crippling debt – only once it starts and people are being slain left, right and centre do they realise the stakes are a bit higher than they had been led to believe. It's high-action and addictive viewing, despite or perhaps because of the familiar premise – the fact it's dubbed in English probably helps too.
Diana: The Musical (Netflix)
This is not, as the title might lead you to believe, some kind of joke. Diana: The Musical is a proper, serious, all-singing, all-dancing musical about the life and loves of Lady Diana Spencer, the Princess of Wales. Is it any good? That probably depends a lot on how you feel about musicals as an artform – reviews for the stage production that opened last year were extremely lukewarm. What's important is that it has beaten to the punch both the next season of The Crown and Spencer – the upcoming biopic with Kristen Stewart as Princess Di.
Movie of the Week: Searching (Netflix)
One of the few movies that's probably actually better to watch on a laptop than the big screen, Searching is a mystery thriller about a dad (John Cho) following a trail of digital clues to try and track down his missing 16-year-old-daughter, with the help of a detective (Debra Messing). The hook is that the whole movie takes place within the confines of his computer screen, playing out over chat and video and voice calls, with some good old amateur cyber-sleuthing in the mix too. The premise is executed really well, with the intimacy of the screen making the mystery all the more gripping.
From the Vault: Miracle (2004) (Disney Plus)
A tip for next time you feel like watching a rousing sports movie: Disney Plus has loads of them. From 2004, Miracle is the real-life Mighty Ducks story of the 1980 US men's Olympic ice hockey team, who overcame extreme underdog status to beat the Soviet Union in a match labelled the "Miracle on Ice". The movie focuses on the team's coach, Herb Brooks, (Kurt Russell) selecting his scrappy team, then training them to be world beaters. It's got all the big inspirational moments you could hope for, with minimal dramatic licence – everything in the movie is pretty much how it really happened.
Tu meke tune-in
If you've got children in your care these school holidays, you're probably equal parts relieved to take a break from homeschooling and deeply terrified about how you'll entertain those little ratbags in level 3. The good news is the creative team from Tu Meke Tui has a little something planned for this week that your younger children can enjoy. There will be three half-hour live stream events: Monday is a quiz and games session with spot prizes to be won; Tuesday is a waiata session with Akinehi Munroe (Taitū the Takahē) teaching the tamariki a song from Tu Meke Tūī! Live On Stage before a big group sing-a-long; and on Wednesday author Malcolm Clarke will perform a live reading of two stories — Tu Meke Tūī! and Tu Meke Tuatara! The books are beautifully illustrated by artist Flox and inspired by Aotearoa's native wildlife. After the live streams, videos of the events will remain available online to watch at any stage throughout the holidays so your kids can watch them again and again and again and again while you drink a cup of tea and stare into the abyss.
October 4-6, 10am (live). Head to the website to tune in.
Plan ahead: Dua Lipa
Planning anything right now feels precarious but surely, for the love of God, you can book tickets for a concert in November 2022. Dua Lipa, the electronic pop icon whose banging tunes have helped us through many a lockdown workout and spontaneous kitchen dance party, recently announced two shows in Tamaki Makaurau next year. It's part of the worldwide tour for her album, Future Nostalgia, which has been in the top 10 albums in Aotearoa for more than 76 weeks. Get yourself an early Christmas present and give yourself the gift of something to look forward to, albeit for a very, very long time, by getting tickets to Dua Lipa. You'll be more than ready for a wild night out by the end of next year and we're pretty confident Dua Lipa is going to make it worth the wait.
November 2-3. Spark Arena, Auckland CBD. General admission tickets start from $115.40 with a range of VIP options available from Ticketmaster.
Read read read
Now is a really good time to take your eyes off a screen for a while and pick up a good book. Independent bookstores like Time Out in Mt Eden need our support at the best of times, so you better believe they've got their contactless pick-up window in full operation during level 3. Need gifts to give? Get a book. Have kids to occupy during the school holidays? Get them lots of books. Need to escape from reality for a bit? Get a fantasy book. Breathing in a new, freshly cracked-open book is one of life's purest pleasures. You're already deprived of so many of life's joys right now, so don't let books be another. Support your local independent bookseller, whoever that may be, and read your way out of this immortal lockdown.
The Time Out pick-up window is 9am-6pm daily at 432 Mt Eden Rd, Mt Eden Village, Auckland. Head to their website to order online.
Art for good
Locked in our homes, we can feel hopeless when it comes to the suffering of others around the world, but there are things we can do. For one, artist Victoria Baldwin is selling her photographic series of tulips (laleh, in Persian) and donating all the profits to Women for Afghan Women. The organisation has been working for 20 years on the ground in Afghanistan to support women and girls there and in the diaspora. Due to the dangerous situation at present, the organisation has had to temporarily suspend some services in Afghanistan in order to get their staff safely out, however they're continuing to work tirelessly with the sudden increase of Afghani refugees. Baldwin's photographs depict laleh — the national flower of Afghanistan — distorted in various ways, which she parallels with the disruption the women and girls of Afghanistan are currently enduring. You could brighten up your walls and donate to a good cause all at once. Head to Victoria Baldwin's website to order.
Photographs $55 including postage within Aotearoa.
Tipping Point. It's hard to think of a better name for a wine launched in a lockdown. This quaffable creation, created by beloved Everyman Al Brown and his winemaking friends, Tipping Point Field Blend — one of a variety — is a way to get yourself through those excruciating family zooms when you feel you are reaching your absolute tipping point. The good feels extend beyond your own bubble — Tipping Point gives back to charities like The Bumble Bee Conservation Trust, Sea Cleaners, Kea Conservation Trust, The Hauraki Gulf Conservation Trust, Wilding Free Mackenzie and Te Tira Whakamataki. Tipping Point wines, available from supermarkets, from $25.
"Necessity is the mother of invention" may be a cliche but it's a good one. In level 4 the "necessity" was keeping our sanity and the key to that was being able to enjoy a decent coffee — trying to get as close to the version your favourite barista might make you. We got good at it, so while we might have treated ourselves with a celebratory flat white takeout at level 3, the truth is, we became quite wedded to the homemade variety. The key ingredient to our invention, we discovered, apart from fresh-ground beans and the little kitchen accessory that could — the Bialetti stove-top — was the Barista range of oat milk, from Oaty. Once heated and frothed in that old one-cup plunger we dragged out from the back of the corner cupboard where rolling pins, empty jars and cake racks go to die then be revived again in lockdowns, you get this creamy-but-light topping on your strong espresso. We tried Oaty regular in our banana bread — to go with the coffee.
Oaty, plant-based milk, is available at supermarkets, from $4.
What to eat
For lack of things to do in lockdown, many people would have found themselves cleaning out the pantry, fridge and freezer. But when is that food good and when is it bad?
Obviously, you don't want to kill yourself or anyone else. But, as long as things aren't actually rotten, rancid or have dangerous mould or bacteria, then there's no point in wasting them.
Odds of leftover bread are easily transformed into breadcrumbs. A nugget of bacon or chorizo is an excellent flavour-booster for soup or pasta, leftover parmesan rinds add their umami clout to soups, and frozen vegetables make useful fillings for quiche, frittata, pasta sauce and the pakoras below. Waste not, want not, the planet will be proud of you.
This week Annabel Langbein is helping us transform our leftovers into delicious feasts. Check out her recipes here.