Ruby Assembly have never had so much time apart, and yet we’ve never felt more together as a team. 2021 has been a challenging year in Victoria, with notable physical distance between ourselves and our clients. Our work has felt important and of additional gravity, as we supported clients to remain meaningfully in connection with their own audiences during a fraught period. We had to stay abreast of all things COVID-19 and vaxx in order to write informative materials for our clients to share with their own stakeholders, all of which meant we were neck-deep in pandemic material week-in and out, a challenge to face on its own.
I am so proud of the work that my colleagues and I have done in 2021. Janice, Georgina and Katherine are all fine writers and strategists who are imaginative, respectful and above all kind. Ruby Assembly, our clients and my family benefit from their ability to improvise, stick-to-it and write on some of the most complex briefs while working from their homes. Our Ruby Assembly Annual for 2021 is a thought-piece from each of the team.
We hope you enjoy. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Iolanthe & Ruby Assembly
Janice’s must-haves for a Hot Vax Summer
This is the #hotvaxsummer Instagram was telling us about! Like many Victorians, I am happy to leave 2021 in the past and look forward to what the new year has to offer. Here are my favourite purchases in anticipation for a memorable 2022:
Those people who get oddly fussy and particular over yearly planners? Yes, I’m one of them! After all, it’s keeping my life in order, so I really do my due diligence and shortlist a few options before making my decision. Why is Emma Kate Co. this year’s winner? There was a gorgeous selection of colours to choose from (I went for Pumpkin Spice!), different layouts (I chose ‘Horizontal Weekly’ – I prefer seeing my whole week at a glance with an accompanying blank dotted grid page to personalise), perfect size for travel, ribbon dividers, and most importantly, 120gsm paper! No bleed through from highlighters, and it feels nice! This planner is perfect for people who like to stay creative; I prefer blank pages where I can add my own system and habit trackers rather than meal planning tables and goal setting sections I wouldn’t use.
La Nina aside, I will be making a bigger effort to enjoy some day trips to the beach this Summer. And what better motivation than a new set of swimmers! I recently discovered Bydee, a Sydney-based swimwear label strongly focused on plastic-free sustainable practices and positive change. Their products feature timeless designs so all purchases are an investment, as well as the use of regenerated and recycled materials. The cherry on top was the packaging when my order arrived – it was in a lovely ribboned box which can definitely be reused!
Lockdown may be over, but picnics sure aren’t! Anyone who knows me, knows I always rock up with my Gorman picnic rug and lunch bags. But until now I’ve yet to find travel bags that are large enough to be repurposed for other occasions as well. Enter, the Somewhere Co.! I’m currently waiting for my ‘Auburn Nights’ cooler bag to be delivered – it’s got plenty of compartments to organise your items, the option of carry handles and shoulder straps, and there were so many prints to choose from! I’ll be taking it to the beach, on road trips, Moonlight Cinema outings, and using as an overnight travel bag.
Between hand washing, sanitising, AND bouldering quite regularly, my hands are not stoked for Summer! My biggest dilemma with hand creams is they often take too long to absorb into skin, and you feel like you’ve lost half the product once you start touching anything. This fancy ‘hand pomade’ (ahem, it’s just hand cream) definitely solved those issues by absorbing straight away and giving a natural and refreshing scent. My favourite is the basil and shea butter!
Georgina on 2021
As I write this blog post wrap-up for 2021 I’m awaiting a negative COVID-19 test result so I can fly to Tasmania and spend Christmas with my family. I’m pretty anxious about the possibility of testing positive and spending the next two weeks alone in isolation. What a fitting end to 2021 that would be.
But, I’m sure you didn’t come here to read my personal diary entry!
I actually had may fun topics on my list for this blog but I couldn’t make myself focus on any of them. It was then I realised this distracted mindset has been a theme for me in 2021 – and one I’m learning to shift: worrying about elements of the future that I can’t control.
It’s something I’m sure you have felt all too aware of in the last two years. We are either dreading or anticipating what’s next – there’s rarely an in-between place of acceptance or contentment. Whilst being ’worry free’ is not our natural stance (nor should it be), it can be mindfully navigated with practice.
So, I thought I’d share a few ways I’ve been practicing being more present in 2021 (wanky meditation techniques not included!!)
Not better. Just more. Writing in a professional capacity can leave you feeling a bit lost for words in other areas of your life. I’ve learnt to open my notebook or blank Google doc and just spill whatever comes. It doesn’t have to be perfect and in fact, by allowing yourself to write unfiltered you release expectations. You’ll be surprised at how eloquent you might actually be about what’s lying under the surface!
In a world marked by conflict, it can be a challenge to stop and listen to someone without feeling your own judgement, views and perceptions arise. Next time someone expresses an opinion that doesn’t align with mine, my first reaction will be to stop and listen. To hear their reasoning and what’s going on in their life and to construct a response that might contribute to a positive conversation.
Last week was my busiest week. I almost forgot I’d been locked down for months of the year! I loved being busy, running from appointment to dinner to Christmas gathering. My body, however, did not enjoy it. I’m not sure whether it’s due to the ‘lockdown conditioning’ we have all been through or end-of-year burnout. It was a reminder of the important practice of ‘pause’ I learnt during lockdown – a moment to become acutely aware of my feelings, thought patterns and behaviours. For me, this looks like writing down three things that went well for me throughout the day before I go to bed. The action of stopping creates a checkpoint to refocus, realign and shoot for the next goal. Don’t be going so fast that you zoom past the opportunity for a breather!
Iolanthe on 2021
2021 has been a year of ‘new normal’, and in many ways, a return to form. Having a new baby in tow meant learning new rhythms, and getting to know our little one – her likes, dislikes and flourishing personality. It also meant negotiating a balance between business and parenting, which resulted in our baby going to daycare a couple of days a week from the age of 3 months. I feel this was a real blessing; not only because I love my work and need the space to focus on it, but because our daughter was able to socialise and learn to accept care from others during the isolation of COVID-19.
Being at home and working has in many ways suited my temperament (and need for naps to make up for sleep debt). The extra time in my personal domain has allowed me to focus on what brings me the most joy. Interestingly enough, the ways I enjoy spending my time are almost identical to the pleasures of my childhood. This could be because they are almost all time-costly activities, and in a season of life where time is at a premium, they feel like a luxury.
Our daughter’s ‘baby jail’ is neatly tucked up against our battered and gorgeous piano, a gift from my husband while I was pregnant. This means I rarely touch it at the moment, with a focus on putting baby into her secure environment while I nap, fold clothes, dry my hair etc. etc. But when I do; oh the joy! I am looking forward to receiving a whole bunch of sheet music for Christmas, which will give much happiness over the summer holidays. I’m rusty, but competent; from minuets to Allen Stone bangers, I’m plonking around on the piano.
Whether Kindle or paperback, reading IS THE LUXURY. It means space and quiet, and venturing to new worlds. Reading is new ideas, fresh conversations and a stretching of the brain rarely afforded by the digital realm I’m often reading in. Currently on the reading list is Dune by Frank Herbert, The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel and some choice YA from The Fable Crate.
To feel strong, I need to do ‘strong’ things. I have just returned to weight training with a focus on competing in 2023 in some way. It is an effort to get to the workout space, but it is fun (and luxurious) to be challenged by a personal trainer. I also do some group classes in an all-female environment (that has childcare yas!), and use the FitBod app when working out at the gym solo.
Oh! To have the time to play those boardgames I purchased during COVID-19! I love a board-game; they are the VERY ULTIMATE of time spent in hobby with friends. You need to be able to concentrate (aka be child-free) when playing boardgames, and with bubba sleeping less it seems like this joy may need to take a back seat with occasional binge-days planned well ahead, babysitter in tow. I love Quacks of Quedlinburg, Takenoko and Gwent. I’ve also recently purchased Dixit, Small World and Arboretum; I hope to crack these open during a trip to Fortress soon. One other thing that’s delightful about boardgame culture is the level of diversity and inclusion amongst hobbyists. A uniquely welcoming community in the wild, and a wonderful way to spend time with your mates while coercing your brain into learning new skills; boardgames for the win!
Katherine Fixes ‘Love, Actually’ in Seven Easy Steps
Love, Actually, it’s not funny – it’s art. The seemingly innocent 2003 Christmas rom-com divides people more than a Marvel end-credits scene ever could. You either really love Love, Actually, or you really, REALLY hate Love, Actually. There is no in-between. No middle ground. If you say you haven’t seen it, you’re lying. You HAVE seen Love, Actually, and you have very strong feelings about it. (Sorry to gaslight you but when discussing Love, Actually it’s almost acceptable to do so???) (cc: Mark) (Oh, we will get to MARK.)
I’m not going to write a think piece about Love, Actually, because it’s been done so many times already. Instead, I’m going to FIX IT. This is my Christmas gift to you all. You’re welcome! Love IS all around!!
Mark is actually in love with Peter
Of all the terrible plots in this movie, this is the most terrible one. It’s also the most iconic. Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is the creepy sign guy that films close-ups of Keira Knightly at her wedding and then gets mad at her when she’s like “Ummm, you what mate?” Mark sucks and no one likes him, especially not Juliet (Keira Knightly.)
Mark being in love with Juliet makes no sense. We the audience know nothing about her except that she likes squishy hats and has terrible taste in pie. Mark doesn’t seem to know much about her, either. They’ve certainly never had a conversation before. However, it is very well established that Mark and Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) have been best friends for years. Mark even organizes a secret flash mob Beatles sing-a-long for Peter’s wedding!
So let’s do this instead. At the wedding, he doesn’t film creepy closeups of Juliet, he films them of his BEST FRIEND. When Juliet comes to see him at his apartment and asks for the video of their wedding, she sees the footage and realizes immediately why Mark has always been so cold towards her. She’s taking away the man he loves!!! Of course, she is sympathetic, but Mark still storms off and does his weird little scream while Dido plays (an iconic scene that I would never cut.) For the first time, someone has truly seen him, and he’s terrified.
When Mark knocks on the door, it isn’t Juliet that answers. It’s Peter. Mark does his little card show, telling Peter “to me, you are perfect” and showing him the photo of the rotting corpse (ah, romance.) It’s beautiful. It makes SENSE. We are all SOBBING. They share a sweet kiss, then Peter goes back to his wife and Mark walks into the night telling himself “enough, now. Enough.” He’s ready to truly be himself, and to find love, just like his best friend Peter did. HELLO, SPINOFF??
Everyone fat-shaming Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) can sod off
I actually really enjoy this storyline and if it wasn’t for Groovy Prime Minister David (Hugh Grant) fat-shaming Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) at the end of the film, and every other character fat-shaming her at every possible opportunity it would (almost) be fine!
Whenever someone tells David that Natalie is overweight (which weirdly happens a lot???) he’s just like “um, what?” and then continues to be charming and awkward. But when they get together, he tells her that she’s fat. It’s like the movie is trying to tell us that he can ‘really’ see her now but he loves her anyway, like some weird reverse Shallow Hal. It’s weird and I hate it.
In movies we never see men acknowledge that they can and are attracted to women in bigger bodies when it actually happens all the time! Instead, they learn to ‘overcome’ their love interest’s body because it’s what’s on ‘the inside’ that counts.
I’d LOVE to see a character in a bigger body be lusted after without her body being a punchline or an obstacle. Just have people talk about how fit she is! So, to fix this storyline we just need to get rid of every single reference to Natalie’s weight. In the bin. Buh-bye. See you never.
On this note, while I do love Martine McCutcheon and think she does a marvelous job at delivering David his choccie biscuits, I am unfortunately going to need to recast her with a fat actress. The thing is, Martine isn’t fat, just like Renee Zellwegger isn’t fat in Bridget Jones (Richard Curtis really has a thing for casting thin women and telling us that they’re overweight!) We need to see an actual fat actress play Natalie. In exchange, I will cast Martine in Game of Thrones.
Because this is my movie and I’ll do whatever I want, I would like to see Gabourey Sidibe in the role. Yes, she would have only been 20 in 2003 which is far too young to marry a Prime Minister, but Keira Knightly was only 18 when she played Juliet, so by those standards Gabourey is potentially too old. 2003 certainly was a time!!
Colin and Tony are in a polyamorous relationship
Just like Mark, it is extremely obvious that Tony (Abdul Salis) is harboring a big ol’ crush on his goofy, cater offending friend Colin (Kris Marshall) who is planning to go to America to meet women.
Colin going to America to hook up is one of the funniest parts of the movie, so we’ve gotta keep it. Easy fix! Over Christmas sweet Col and his devoted boyfriend Tony decide that they want to explore an open relationship. Tony goes to America and ends up at a bar where he meets a group of very eager Americans who ask him to pronounce words with his adorable accent and then offer him somewhere to sleep, which is very generous considering they can’t even afford pajamas!
Meanwhile back in London, Tony and Mark share a kiss under the mistletoe. Awwww! Then they all reunite at the airport at the end of the film and Denise Richards is there and everyone is happy BECAUSE IT’S CHRISTMAS!
Jamie (Colin Firth) does learn to speak Portuguese and fly to meet Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz) on Christmas but instead of asking her to “marriage him” they just go to dinner or something??
I HATE UNCLE JAMIE! I always end up feeling very concerned for Aurelia after she moves to London to ‘marriage’ a man she hardly knows. Jamie is clearly not handling his divorce very well. He spends most of the film trying to mask a midlife crisis while writing his little book in his little cottage, so the last thing he needs is to jump into another committed relationship mere weeks after his ex-wife’s affair with his brother was revealed. Don’t men buy Porche’s anymore?
I’m not a monster. There IS something very romantic and cute about them both learning each other’s native language so that they can tell each other how they feel. Let’s keep that, but instead of having them get engaged maybe they can just go for coffee and have a chat? That way, we can still have that super cute kiss in the restaurant where Mr Darcy does the thing with his thumb on Aurelia’s lips (swoon!) but we also don’t need to fear for her wellbeing (also swoon.)
For the love of GOD let’s give Sarah (Laura Linney) a happy ending
Love doesn’t always work out. I get that. But Sarah has been in love with Karl (Rodrigo Sontoro) for two years, seven months, three days, an hour, and thirty minutes and she deserves to have it work out! Honestly, break up any other couple in this movie. I don’t care. Just let Sarah and Karl LIVE THEIR LIVES!!!Karl and Sarah get together after their work Christmas party (!!!) but Sarah calls it off mid-hook up in order to be with her brother Michael (Michael Fitzgerald), who is in full-time care and calls her regularly. It’s heartbreaking.
This storyline sucks not just because we want Sarah and Karl to live happily ever after, but also because it makes Sarah’s mentally ill brother look like the bad guy for stopping her from finding happiness. Instead, let’s have Karl offer to go to the hospital with Sarah and wait for her outside while she spends time with her brother. Then, during our end-of-movie montage, we see Sarah introduce them.
We find out during Mark’s spinoff movie that they got married and had one hundred babies and EVERYONE IS HAPPY BECAUSE IT IS CHRISTMAS!!!
Emma Thompson meets Joni Mitchell, leaves her husband to start a folk music career
I adore Alan Rickman, but I will never recover from the pain of watching Emma Thompson cry to Joni Mitchell. His character Harry has an affair with Mia (Heike Makatsch), which leaves his wife Karen devastated. However, she stays with him for the kids. NOT IN MY MOVIE!!
Here’s my version. After crying to Both Sides, Now (officially the saddest scene in the history of cinema), Karen goes for a walk alone and sees that Joni Mitchell is playing in London that night, but tickets are sold out. She meets up with her brother, the groovy PM who is now deliriously in love with his fit girlfriend Gabourey Sidibe. He immediately senses that his sister is sad and calls the venue to get her on the VIP list to see her idol (he can do that because he’s the Prime Minister!)
Karen goes to the concert and meets Joni, who tells her that you’re never too old to follow her dreams (it will be more poetic when Joni says it.) Joni then invites her on stage and they perform a duet of ‘River’ which might seem unrealistic but they did it in A Star Is Born and if it’s good enough for Lady Gaga then it’s good enough for Emma Thompson. Guess who’s in the audience? Billy Mack’s manager, Joe (Gregor Fischer)! He signs her and she uses the money from her 2004 Christmas number one to pay for an incredible divorce lawyer and a lifetime supply of lobster costumes for her daughter’s next nativity play.
Meanwhile, Mia and Harry do NOT get together. Mia appears in Mark’s spinoff movie, where it is revealed that Mia is an undercover spy who used the “affair” to get closer to Harry, who is actually Hans Gruber from Die Hard! Because when you steal 600 million, they will find you, unless they think you’re already dead.
Billy Mack, Sam & Daniel, and John & Judy’s storylines are perfect and will remain the same
Except that obviously Billy Mack (Bill Nighy), Karen, and Sam (an all-grown-up Thomas Brodie-Sangster) will record a song to be featured in John and Judy’s (the two stand-in actors who fall in love) next film. IT JUST MAKES SENSE!
‘Love, Actually’ is available to stream in Australia on Stan.