Listen to the latest episodes of Girl Chat now

EDIT: I’ve stopped updating this page now, but go ahead and listen to the latest episodes in the feed below. 

IMG_7009

Girl Chat is me and my best mate Chloe Trayford speaking to each other on the phone once a week, talking about topics on relationships and love. The idea to record a podcast came from our extremely long phone calls that would often top the 90-minute mark when Chloe was studying abroad in the Netherlands.

The juiciest stuff was always about relationships, so, ever the content creators, we decided to start recording them (with most of the names omitted or changed to protect the truly innocent). Relationships seemed like a good topic to start the project with, as we’re usually the first person we’d both go to concerning matters of the heart, but after the six episodes you’ll find gradually being added below, we hope to venture out to other topics of conversation (career stuff, political stuff, etc, TBC).

Listen to the first series of Girl Chat on iTunes or Soundcloud now (and rate and review if you’re feeling kind). 

#1 Do you believe in soulmates?

IMG_7009

Can soulmates can ever be A Thing? How do you know if someone’s right for you? And how can you decide when to pull the plug on the whole ‘together forever’ deal, if you need to?

#2 Is a long-distance relationship worth it?

long distance 2 (1)

Long distance relationships: are they doable, or just, er… long? In this week’s episode, we talk about why being away from your beau/belle isn’t necessarily all doom and gloom, and offer our best tips for making it work.

#3 Can open relationships ever work?

open relationships 3 (1)

There’s a lot of stigma/blame/shame around open relationships, so in this week’s episode, we discuss the line between polyamory and infidelity, and how it might not be as complicated as people make it out to be.

#4 New Year’s Resolutions: a fresh start or a waste of time?

Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 16.55.52

Whether you’re a fan of them or not, it’s that time of year where everyone’s reflecting on the year gone by and talking about RESOLUTIONS. Is it useful to commit to breaking bad habits or should we stay happy as we are? BIG questions for two slightly hungover Girl Chatters. And this time, Chloe’s in the building!

#5 Sex: Being in the moment and speaking your mind

Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 16.58.18

This week, we chat about how to stay in the moment during sex, being honest with your partner (and yourself) about what you’re after, plus the importance of always having loads of delicious breakfast stuff stocked in your cupboards to leave the greatest impression of all in the morning.

#6 Codependancy, setting boundaries and knowing what’s right for you

gc6.png

This week, we’re back discussing the importance of recognising when you need to take time out from something intense; establishing boundaries and communicating them to others; and knowing that you weren’t put on Earth to please other people.

#7 Online dating: do’s, dont’s and how to create the Ultimate Profile™

unnamed-2.png

This week, back by POPULAR DEMAND (kind of), we’re talking about online dating. We discuss things like how to choose your dating profile photos in a way that’s “basically the opposite of catfishing” and Chloe gives us her foolproof guide on what you’d need to do to get her to swipe right. Swipe us right! Tell your friends!

‘Wild is the wind’ – 10 songs about winter

Sunday 21st January 2018

Home for a day to sort through my books and cull all the ones that bring the least amount of sentimentality. My mother is moving house again and my old bedroom is still stacked to the brim: every Bill Bryson book going, 1,001 photos, my school yearbook, a dozen payslips from my first part-time job, and three copies of the same ABBA Gold compilation (despite moving out 18 months ago). I knew I was coming home to do this this weekend, so had prepared myself for the emotions it brings; the idea of other people moving on and you having to change with them. If it were down to me, I’d have kept every single one of these books and trinkets, as, after a few house moves and a move-out, these are the objects and notebooks that have made the final cut many times before. However, I obliged to help my mum out with the move – I genuinely don’t want the Mighty Boosh box set and stray photos of ex-boyfriends to follow her into yet another residence.

Here are some things that I’ve never managed to to throw away that have now followed me to London.

  1. Some loose papers, comprising my AS Level English coursework typed up, and the first handwritten page of the Very First Draft of my very first play. I kept the coursework because I’ve been looking for it for ages, trying to sum up to my boyfriend what kind of parties my friends and I frequented aged 16. I thank my lower sixth self that I essentially wrote a completely true account of a singular hedonistic Saturday night that was had one weekend, when us small town folk were so unbelievably bored with everything, we did everything going (as the generation that was raised watching Skins, scuzzy nights were the norm). The short story brings way more vivid memories of my misspent youth than any highly-posed photographs do. I kept the first page of my first play because there were dozens upon dozens of rewrites to get it to where it ended up, and it’s nice to remember that everything has to start somewhere.
  2. We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. I considered throwing this but a dear friend of mine bought it for my birthday during a particularly rocky year (I was 19 or something and despite it having about 30 words all in all it was such a thoughtful gift). There’s something about not being able to go over or under it – we have to go through it! – that is so immediately comforting.
  3. Wayne’s World.
  4. Wayne’s World 2.
  5. One of three ABBA Gold CDs (the other two are headed for a Peterborough British Heart Foundation, on your marks…)

Anyway, on another note, I’m pretty surprised that spring hasn’t immediately followed Christmas again. The same thing happens each year; I forget there’s at least another 60 long nights and early mornings before things start brightening up. As such, here are 10 songs of the alternative seasonal kind to wind down to this winter *fades in music*… 

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/pocketcup/playlist/4Ivq9tWs6RRv1MDuH687QD

(If you like a seasonal playlist, I did one about ‘Spring’ last year, an arguably better month and – whisper it – an arguably better playlist, too).

Things to read this January (and why scrolling social media sucks)

I don’t actually mind using the internet. I know, it’s a revelation to me too. Don’t get me wrong, our relationship hasn’t been simple – often tumultuous (deleting my Instagram profile once before, removing the Twitter app from my phone once a week, and no storage-sapping Facebook app, thank you) – but all in all, there are so many opportunities to learn, and laugh at great Vines and, well, post your writing to a technically infinite audience (a dozen or so readers per post still technically falls between 0 and infinity, so hey). The good times on the internet have included:

  1. An article of mine being published on the CBBC Newsround website in 2006. I wrote about my experience as an extra on an Eastenders episode and I remember feeling like the next step was obviously Jacqueline Wilson-level fame (how the BBC didn’t snap me up in primary school for brand loyalty alone I’ll never know)!
  2. Streaming every single episode of Mad Men during a tricky break-up. Thank you, thank you, internet.
  3. As an actual child, firing up the only programme we had on our PC besides Word and Minesweeper: Microsoft Encarta. For those of you not acquainted with the software, it was an encyclopedia you could download off a CD-ROM, like a simplified Wikipedia; a way to actually learn useful things without having to sift through a clickable hot take angle first.
  4. Having my first semi-viral moment on Twitter with a photo of a moon emoji perfectly placed over a Potato Smiley on a plate of more Potato Smileys which was retweeted by the Moon Emoji account.

(Btw, I just tried finding it for about five seconds before I realised that this is exactly what I’m writing against – wasting sweet and precious time on the internet – but you have to trust the fact that I got around 500 RETWEETS AND I LIVED OFF THAT KINDA-FAME FOR MONTHS.)

You know what doesn’t show up on this list? Scrolling. I hate scrolling. Scrolling is not only harsh on the eyes, but you don’t retain any of the information seen during scrolling – nothing good has ever come from it. We should totally just stab scrolling! I’m going to write this because I know I’m not alone in this: a way I have been waking up for the past year at least has been by turning off an alarm (on my phone, or on my radio, but the following action is almost always the same) and scrolling through the news/Twitter/Instagram on my phone. At first it started as a way to get ‘up to date with the nuyooz!’ as I tried to figure out how to be a journalist, but it turns out scan-reading depressing tweets about #MeToo, even more depressing tweets about Donald Trump’s apparent good health and (pretty funny) tweets showing people slipping over on ice or whatever is not the way to a) be a good journalist or b) greet the new day.

Therefore, here are some things I have read this week that I reckon are actually worth your time to read all the way through to the end. In the meantime, I’m going to group all of my social media apps in a folder on my phone called Scrolling Sucks to encourage me to only log in when I’ve got something to say, a picture to post or have something actively active to do on there. Scrolling is so passive, and I have an ever growing Google Docs list of books I’d really like to read (this is a different post entirely). Here are some non-paper things for you, though:

1) Money Diary: A Freelance Writer Living In London On 14k

OK, OK, this has been doing the rounds on social media a bit this week because it’s the most lolz Money Diary yet and Ms Anonymous is an absolute dude for buying £12.50 eggs and £70 coke on NYE solely for the reason that it only comes but once a year. I read it all the way through to the end because, while not freelance at the moment, the self-deprecating quips mirror the tone of my money anxiety annoyingly derived from the time I *was* freelance, silently totting up each and every bus fare and foodstuffs in my head ’til it’s all I could ever think about. Everyone tells me I’m “so great with money!”, which I think is true, but some days I walk four miles across London to get home when I *can* actually afford a £1.50 bus fare home. I have not ever once suggested getting in an Uber – unless someone else can assure me they’re paying – so while I am *good* with money, I am absolutely terrified of it, too.

2) Editor’s Letter, Utopia by Tavi Gevinson

I’m a die-hard Rookie fan and direct every single person who speaks to me towards it because there is so much accessible, smart, funny content on there that is Definitely Not For Clicks. It shaped so much of my teenage years as it launched when I was 14, and I read it religiously three times a day until I was 18 or so. Tavi Gevinson has never disappointed me in that she is only three weeks older than me yet is so incredibly smart and perceptive. Imagine my joy, then, as I read her January editor’s letter for Rookie that discusses several ideas, beginning with the idea that the role of the internet has changed so massively, and is now so much about money-making click-y stuff, that it’s OK to want to find alternative ways to have thoughts/learn stuff/document life if being online is becoming more and more uncomfortable for you (holla!)

TG: ‘Whatever you need to do to create that space for yourself, do it this year. Do it now. Fight the new pace of thinking designed to keep us in Facebook fights and make Facebook more money. Resist getting so wound up by every story that you accelerate off a cliff into apathy. Lengthen the circuit between a candid thought and your anticipation of how it will be received, a circuit constantly shrinking in fear. Try your ideas out with people you are not desperate to impress, so there’s less ego clouding your discussion.’

It’s not all bad for the internet in this piece though, as Tavi writes about how the internet, as it was in 2011, was a wonderful place for the origins of Rookie: ‘I find it endlessly amazing that teens—particularly those whose IRL communities don’t offer such a space—can now talk openly about what it’s like to be living out what you’re told should be the best years of your life, while your brain is still developing and you’re more insecure than ever and sex is a new thing but you feel incredibly unsexy, and “just be yourself” is something adults say, not teens, and it’s never actually brought any reassurance.’

She also brings forth so many other ideas that I’m not going to plagiarise here (as I’ll do so badly) but I’ll instead direct you once more to the damn thing.

3) Perfectionism is destroying the mental health of my millennial generation

And this by the great writer Daisy Buchanan on why perfectionism isn’t cool whatsoever and is actually making us ill. Scrolling (look, scrolling!) Instagram is something that ‘intellectually, we know is all a lovely lie, but emotionally it’s a struggle. Feelings seem like facts.’

(And here’s ONE paper thing – I’m currently reading Mark Greif’s collection of essays Against Everything ((which Tavi coincidentally references in her January Rookie piece too)). Would highly recommend if you like interesting reading on subjects such as the sexualisation of youth, the rise and rise of YouTube and learning how to rap as a white person. Oh, and hipsters.)

IMG_7821

Off The Record – Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes

In ‘Off the Record’, I write about music that I’ve played over and over and over and over, even though it might not be cool or new or undiscovered. Most likely, these will be albums that have been written about time and time again, but, nonetheless, hold a very dear place in my heart. I will also only allow the length of the album’s running time to write about it (as both a time-saver and a challenge).

I first wrote about Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. Next up: Fleet Foxes’ eponymous debut LP. *presses play*

The opening seconds of this album are so nostalgic to listen to. “Red squirrel in the morning, red squirrel in the evening, red squirrel in the morning, I’m coming to take you home.” Utter nonsense, but a truly memorable opener to this, one of the most stunning debut albums ever recorded (in my humble opinion, obviously).

Let’s first up talk about why I decided to write about this for my Off the Shelf mini-series, where I write about albums (cool or uncool, well-known or obscure) in the time it takes to listen to them. I didn’t discover some of the great folk singers from the ‘60s and ‘70s until my mid-teens because I was listening to this Fleet Foxes album on repeat. The album was released in 2008 (when I was 12! how terrible it is to be 12 years old!), the same year my dad took me to see the band at Cambridge Junction, a tiny and intimate venue where we stood a metre or so from the band’s psuedo-shy-turned-Instagram-king frontman, Robin Pecknold. The experience of being at that gig was like nothing I’d ever experienced (and have not experienced since).

On my dad’s recommendation, I’d listened to the album a few times before we went, and I really liked it. It’s complex but accessible, the harmonies are unbelievably pleasing to the ear (and immensely satisfying to the ex-cathedral chorister in me). The album was immediately comforting to hear; so wintry, so cosy (despite the fact it was released in June). The artwork (which must have really helped this album get noticed) is so perfectly apt for it. I didn’t know of Pieter Bruegel’s work before, but as a culture-hungry pre-teen I scoured Tumblr for more Bruegel afterwards. There’s a couple of Bruegel works in the National Gallery, and I remember one weekend stumbling upon them when I came to London for the day, all sulky and broke. “That’s my band!”, I thought, when I saw it. “The motherf***in’ Foxes!” Appropriating Renaissance paintings, like the Tabloid Art History Twitter account, but IRL.

Anyway, listening to the album has now progressed in such a way that we’re now on the fourth track, Tiger Mountain Peasant Song. This, again, is hugely reminiscent of my early teens, sitting on my bed in a box room in the countryside, wincing at the pain of calloused fingers as I tried to learn the tab for this song on the guitar my parents got me for my 13th birthday. It also reminds me of the viral video that got First Aid Kit a record deal. Warning: this is so #forest vibes, and so 2010. And, jeez, they look SO young

It’s now dawned on me that I know pretty much every word of this album. I’m finding it tricky to write as I’m singing along too hard! On He Doesn’t Know Why, you can hear Father John Misty’s, the artist formerly known as J. Tillman, lovely, thumping drums. And then, that gorgeous, a-third-apart piano sound at the end. My, my, my, does this album even get the credit it deserves? *pauses to fangirl*

Strangely, as in reverse (and probably not uncommon for those of us born in ‘96), it was this fashionable late-Noughties era of folk that got me listening to the music that influenced it, and thus changed my life forever. So, your Fleet Foxes’ and Laura Marling debut of ‘08, the whole Mumford and Sons shit, etc, ad infinitum, got me reading lots of interviews with the bands which oft referenced artists such as Neil Young (solo and with Crosby, Still and Nash) Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Therefore, I owe a lot to this band.

Now, we’ve reached Meadowlarks. Another that’s quite easy to learn the guitar part to (a surefire dealbreaker of the music you’re listening to when you’re learning an instrument) and I yearned for a group of muso-loving friends who’d come round and sing it with me. I actually recorded two of the harmonies on this track and sang along to it (one on my PC, one of my phone. Yes, PC. The family PC). 

Track number 10, Blue Ridge Mountains, is baffling in the way you might think: ‘How is this album getting better and better? It’s less than 40 minutes long!’ The melody in the verse punches and rises in an uplifting, timeless and determined way; a melody written by a 19-year-old Pecknold. The record ends with a jaw-dropping track recorded in the 1500s (jk), Oliver James, which, when we went to see the band at the Junction, was performed acapella by Pecknold. I will never forget the atmosphere in that room as the audience stood there, transfixed. It was truly magnificent, and it’s what keeps me going to see live music – the chance that you might stumble across a moment like that, where the world stops and a group of strangers share an experience that won’t ever be repeated in the same way again. 

This album remains on my shelf as it captures a very distinct part of my adolescence: long winters crushing on boys who thought I was a lesbian, wearing fleecy lumberjack shirts, and familiarising myself with basic guitar chords, frustrated yet determined by the horrible truth that I couldn’t quite play what’s recorded on the album. I still can’t. It’s a modern classic.

Listen to it on Spotify now

 

Refresh refresh refresh: how to live a calm IRL existence when you’re constantly online

Illustration by Rosie Henthorn

I’m trying to look at mental health in the same way I look at physical health. When you read the words mental health, you associate it with bad things: mental health issues, mental health problems, ‘I am struggling with my mental health’. But just like our physical health, it’s simply a part of us. It is perfectly usual, I think, to have a succession of good days, then bad days, great days, and sad days, and then do that all over again. We all ‘have’ mental health, and some days it is better than others.

Of course, it would always be preferable to have weeks upon weeks of blissed-out carefree livin’, instead of days where you’re racked with so much anxiety you think everyone in the office knows you didn’t have time to brush your teeth this morning. Weeks where you ace the job, exercise regularly and always have the right ingredients in your cupboard to cook the thing you want to cook tonight.

Being organised and having things in order feels great, but having a minor panic attack in the middle of Lidl because you can’t remember if you need to buy spaghetti (or if you have more than enough already), does not feel great. And with women being twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety than men, I’m probably not the only one feeling like everything could go wrong at any given second.

Once things start spiralling downwards, the worst, familiar feeling takes hold, an inevitably that you will have to spend the next However Long It Will Take, trying and trying and trying to do things that will make you feel better.

We’re living in an age where we have all the right tools to lead a perfect life. Selfie filters and apps that tell you exactly how long a journey will be to the second, for example, mean it is so easy to blame ourselves when things go wrong. We have all the tools/apps/life hacks available within seconds, when things don’t quite click IRL, it can make you feel inadequate.

I’m an ambitious person, which, in the digital age, means you have unlimited opportunities to realise this ambition at your fingertips. I’m a journalist, but I’d love to write another play in the next year; I’ve been meaning to start a new blog about relationships for months; I want to host a podcast about female friendships; I want to post at least three blog posts on here this month; I want to become better at guitar, find a group of muso-girls, and start the next Slits; I want to write about the books I’ve read, the music I’m listening to; I want to send out a newsletter sharing all the best stuff I’ve seen online this week, and while I’m doing all this, I want to be sharing it on four social media pages and building up a community of literal followers that can, I don’t know, envy how busy I am!

So yes, I’m ambitious, but I’m having to learn to rein it in a little. Aim high, believe in yourself, but don’t promise three editors that you can send them over a pitch that same evening if it’s already 6pm and you’ve got a deadline for another thing that night (and you need to do your washing). Or actually, do pitch those three editors if you’re feeling really excited and pumped up by the prospect of it, but don’t knock yourself down if you don’t manage to get around to it this evening, or even by the end of the week. You took on too much, and now your other work has felt the impact of it. That’s OK. Whatever. Slow it down, and learn from it.

The same applies not just to productivity, but to playing all the different roles you have to play in life. Best friend, colleague, girlfriend, daughter, neighbour, even. (Ffs, our bin was toppled over by foxes the other night, and I had the misfortune of leaving the house at the same time as my cranky-ass neighbour. There was rubbish everywhere, and we caught eye contact with each other as we left our respective houses, and I said “I’m so sorry!” Why was I sorry! I wasn’t sorry! There’s a difference between being a kind and respectful member of the community, and being someone who apologies to your tutting neighbour when a brazen urban fox leaves half-eaten creme caramels on your driveway).

Trying to do it all, have it all, and please everyone isn’t going to make you happy. Setting yourself sky-high expectations isn’t going to make you happy. Anxiety is something I’ll probably have to deal with, on and off, for many years yet, but I can at least try to come up with small changes to change my outlook that will help me to handle things better, or, at least, reduce periods of anxiety in my life to last minutes, rather than weeks. It usually starts with stepping away from the internet.

Here’s some totally ill-informed, non-medical advice that has worked when I try to do so much, that I can’t do anything at all:

1. Hydrate. Turn off your phone. Grab the nearest book around you (not a newspaper – the news is utterly anxiety-inducing – something fictional if possible) and put it down on the table in front of you. Get the biggest glass from your kitchen cupboard (I believe the pint ones stolen from pubs work well for this), run the tap ’til it’s freezing cold, and pour yourself a crystal clear glass of water. Sit and the table and drink it slowly.

Once you’ve finished the glass, pick up the book and begin to read. If you struggle to concentrate, or had the misfortune of James Joyce’s Ulysses being the nearest book to hand, don’t get mad. Take a deep breath. Instead, enjoy the new-found hydration. It is good to drink water.

2. Do things you always used to do, but haven’t done in years. This is less of a mindfulness exercise, and more of a nice thing to do if you’re feeling a bit lost or existential. It is reminding yourself that you were a person who existed, probably really quite well, before you got into a spiral of bad thoughts.

For me, I like to do things that I used to do as a child or teenager. Without regressing into wearing a nappy or whatever, I like to sit and draw for 10-15 minutes, or get some paints out and dance my fingers across some paper. I really like to listen to The Beatles. Yep, I might have had Yorkshire puddings and chips for dinner, and no, I will never stop biting my nails, but I am a really fucking good Beatles fan. If the Beatles were a pub quiz round, you’d want me in your team. Guilty pleasures are your best friend. Spend your evening or weekend being truly kind to yourself, and play some ABBA.

3. Look at those around you. When you pencil in so much stuff, you’re often putting yourself first. You have to, babe, you’re the CEO of your Filofax! But when you’re smashing glass ceilings, working your fingers to the bone, but still feel like everyone’s got their shit together in such a coherent way, that’s probably when you need people around you, to realise that a) you’re doing a stellar job, b) everyone’s flawed. I’m pretty introverted at the best of times, and when I’m facing a lot of stress, my communication skills wobble. I’ve had a very slight stammer since I was a kid, emphasised by stress, nerves and tiredness. When I’m ‘busy’, I think I don’t have the time to ask someone how their weekend was, lest they go on about it for more than 30 seconds. But I think (and hope) we do all have time to do those little things. Adam J Kurtz wrote this perfect little motto to live by in his latest book Things are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives: ‘Whatever you think you are, be a person first’.

If the last thing you want to do is be around people, but you’ve found yourself in a situation where you have to, strive for kindness above all else. And maybe mention how you’re feeling to someone else. They might offer to buy you a pint.

My dear friend Rosie, who drew the image for this piece when I told her I wanted to write something about frazzled minds, gave me some great advice when I was feeling pretty self-important and sad. She said: ‘Make use of lovely people’. So, I implore y’all to look after yourselves, look out for your friends, and look at your diary for the week and write ‘REMEMBER TO REST’ in capital letters across the top of the page.

Buy some of Rosie’s artwork here. It is very good.

Off the Record – What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye – 4/10/17

On August 1st, I tweeted that I wanted to write more about new music, but was struggling to, because all I ever found myself listening to was Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album What’s Going On.

marvin gaye

I’d been living in Wi-Fi-less existence for the past month, having just moved house. It is hard to be 21 years old and without internet for a month. It is, however, a great opportunity to rediscover CDs you might not have listened to in a while.

This isn’t the case for What’s Going On, though. I listen to it on the regular, in a way that must annoy the neighbours. I’d just finished listening to it for the first time that day, and was walking over to the stereo to press play again. Then, I had a thought. Rather than two-stepping to it in the mirror for the second time in an hour, I’d write about it in the time it takes to listen to it the whole through. Thus, the idea for a new mini-series of pieces of writing was born.

In ‘Off the Record’, I will write about music that I’ve played over and over and over and over, even though it might not be cool or new or undiscovered. Most likely, these will be albums that have been written about time and time again, but, nonetheless, hold a very dear place in my heart. I will also only allow the length of the album’s running time to write about it (as both a time-saver and a challenge).

First up: Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. *presses play*

I bought What’s Going On in HMV in Wimbledon, around this time last year, in a 2 for £10 deal with Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange. I’d just moved into my first flat in London with girls I didn’t know, and fancied a couple of new CDs so I could quickly cook my dinner, avoiding eye contact, then sit in my room all night listening to music.

ClassicTracks_01-0711-gfQFZlrqVx1SF5mEbzils.ZsueCdC9IL

After very nearly settling for the Notorious B.I.G’s Greatest Hits to complete the combo deal (which wouldn’t have been so bad, in hindsight), I couldn’t help but be drawn to Gaye’s omniscient look in his eyes on the cover of What’s Going On, plus, that collar (it was autumn 2016 – black PVC coats were seriously in).

I also thought that it was probably an album worth listening to, after all, it was one of those classics that you’d often see in Best Of lists, and famous musicians had often noted it as one of their favourite albums (including Bruce Springsteen, who said it was one of the greatest albums ever recorded, in his Desert Island Discs).

Once I’d got home, I played Ocean’s Channel Orange, and I liked it. It felt quite long (an ideal album for me is 10 tracks long, no more, no less) but I could see why people raved about it. I could really imagine making out to the album, for example, so it was good for something.

Then I put the Marvin Gaye disc in the player, and those opening bars of the title track seemed so familiar, like these were sounds that I’d heard – and enjoyed – many times before. Gaye’s voice has such a warm, soulful tone, and the way the first track just fades in (and each track bleeds over to the next one until the SEVENTH song) is magic, on recorded format. The production is second to none.

Its his 11th studio album, and very different to his previous work (some of Gaye’s best-known singles from the ’60s include Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and You’re All I Need to Get By – whereas this was released in ’71, at a time when tensions around the Vietnam War were high, something that influenced the themes of the album).

The opener is everything: Marv asking for peace (‘War is not the answer/For only love can conquer hate’), before going into something still relevant regarding police brutality in America today (‘Picket line, and picket signs/Don’t punish me with brutality/Talk to me, so you can see/What’s going on’).

This glides into a huge stand-out second track, What’s Happening Brother, (‘War is hell, when will it end/When will people start getting together again?’) before the rest of the album takes you to places, musically and emotionally, that ensure it’ll be an album you’ll listen to time and time again. There is so much there – you have to. It is a work of pure magic.

One of my ultimate favourite tracks on the album is God is Love, so much so that it made me consider a very low-key faith in Christianity at a time that I was Seriously Into This Album (but then neglected, after I realised I wasn’t into God as much as I was into Marvin Gaye). God is Love runs straight in from the previous track, Save the Children, and there’s something about the way the time signature changes and launches into ‘Do do doo doo doo, do do doo doo doo’ before the falling ‘Oh, don’t go and talk about my father/God is my friend (and I love him!)’ vocal that sends a shiver down my spine.

This stonker of a track then launches into Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), one of the greatest songs of its time (and therefore ever), asking what the f*** has happened to the O-zone layer, and ‘how much more abuse from Man can she stand?’ – which is still applicable now, but with an added 46 years of fossil fuels. Aside from the lyrics, the melancholic sighs of Gaye’s vocal complements the falling melody, making for a quietly exasperated plea asking, ‘Where did all the blue skies go?’ (something that is emotionally relatable on any rainy day, actual or metaphorical).

My boyfriend bought me a Marvin Gaye top for my birthday with the words: ‘Only love can conquer hate’ written on it (from the title track) – and, as cheesy as it seems (and is), that’s the essence of this album’s message.

I’m reaching the end of my time listening to this album, and while the above will get a necessary amount of editing, I want to stick to my plan to stop writing once the record has wound up. It is an utter joy to listen to this album, and I’ve definitely listened to it at least three times a week since I bought it a year ago. It cost me a fiver, and it’s had such a hugely positive impact on my life. It helped me through an incredibly rough patch earlier this year, as what it offers is the idea that a belief in hope – and a trust in love – will ultimately outweigh the bad in the world. It’s a beautiful message. (I’m not stoned, I promise). It also makes me rate Bruce Springsteen even more highly (if that’s possible), as, if the Boss says it’s the greatest album ever recorded, your mind should be made up anyway, before even listening to it.

If you’d like to, though, here it is:

Going Underground: Thoughts on life in London, one year on – 6/9/17

I’m writing this as paint slathered on my newly-assembled IKEA bed slowly gets its fumes up in my respiratory system. After what feels like an eternity of frantic Facebook messages, unread voicemails, and offers falling through, a group of very desperate (but very wonderful) girls finally found a house to move in to in Peckham. Go us!

The move marked the end of my first year in London, and it’s been quite the 12 months. Being a serial journal keeper, looking back on things year by year is something I tend to do quite habitually. I used to do this weird thing as a teenager where I’d track my progress each year – say the date was 13 August, I might take a look back at last year’s journal to see what I was up to on or around that date, and see how I fared up. For example: ‘Since 13 August 2013, I’ve kissed four more boys and got a fringe!’ So this post is kind of like that, but with more boys and no fringe.

If you overlook the fact that no matter how hard you work, you’ll never have enough money to go out (from filing copy in the 10 seconds you get Wi-Fi at Underground stops, to never getting a lie-in at weekends to get to the bottom of a to-do list), life in London is a rewarding hustle. It took a while though.

It’s strange to think just how much has changed since I moved away from home, but now, as I sit here, totally exhausted (perpetual state) and in need of a beer (more-than-occasional state), I feel quite grateful for the risk that I took.

Living in the city can be hard, but it pays off. I grew up in a village, where the nearest place you could get a pint of milk was a 10 minute drive away. Growing up in a place with fewer than 100 people in the mid-’00s was a weird one – it didn’t feel very rural, in fact – I spent most of my time inside the house trying to perfect my Tumblr profile.

Yet living in London is different to what I expected. Some thoughts on how to do it:

You are allowed to stay in bed all day sometimes and not feel guilty about it

In Hugo Macdonald’s beautifully written book How to Live in the City, he says it’s totally OK to to pencil in days to lounge around in bed all day – and to do this guilt-free. Because city life is a strain physically, mentally and emotionally, you shouldn’t torment yourself about it, either. (I suppose, in this frazzled digital world we live, the same could be said for those residing in hamlets).

There’s an idea that you should constantly be going at the same rate as the city, but try to remember all those evenings spent working overtime, or the times you had to cancel something hobby-based to do something work-related, and collect all your zzzzzzs guilt-free as you drift in and out of consciousness (unless you’re at your desk, obviously).

Don’t shy away from building small relationships with people you see every day

There are thousands and thousands of people bobbing around a city at any one time. It’s an impossible feat to attempt conversation with everyone you pass on the street, but why does it feel much easier to queue for the self-checkout machines at a supermarket rather than conjure up the effort to talk to someone? Your day-to-day existence can feel more connected when you say hi to the guy who makes your coffee, the woman struggling with her buggy on the bus, or the teenager at the corner shop where you top up your gas. This might seem so horribly self-help preachy but it’s bound to make you feel better, and it requires less effort than you’d think. Even saying hello and – the biggest small change you can incorporate into your city lifestyle – making eye contact, will help you feel more connected to those around you.

Be a tourist in your own city

Exploring parts of the city you don’t usually kick around in is so important to do when you can. There is so much to learn from being a tourist in the place you call home.

Macdonald says: “It’s shocking how many of us have not ‘seen the sights’ in our own cities. Whether it’s the palace, the parliament, the natural history museum, the observatory, the boat trips… these are dots on a map, chapters in a guidebook and stops on a tour for good reason. They represent the history and the culture of the place in which we live. They form the lens through which others see and experience our city – and the more ways we can look at our city, the more interesting it becomes.”

So get your sneaks on and get walking (selfie sticks optional).

Making the most of your commute

The dreaded commute can sometimes feel like one of the worst things about having a nine-to-five in the city (I have to admit, I feel quite blessed when I work from home and don’t have to step outside until everyone’s tucked away in offices). But, if you flip and reverse your commuting habits, it doesn’t need to feel quite so chore-like and time-consuming.

Imagine if you lived above your office, or just across the road from it. It’d be weird! Like those kids who used to live right near school and never knew the struggle of a rotting packed lunches and near-bullying banter on the bus home.

If you can find a way to enjoy certain aspects of your commute, it can become a way to prepare yourself for a day’s work, and likewise, leave it behind at the office as you ride home on your hour-long commute. I lost my headphones for a few weeks recently, and eavesdropped hard on the funniest conversations, the sort of things you read in Time Out’s hilarious feature Word On The Street. If listening to anyone spout bullshit before 9am is your idea of hell, listening to music on your commute is an obvious way to deal, and if you curate your playlist specifically to last as long as your journey (a bit smug about this one), you are DEFINITELY bossing your commute.

If I had 100 words in which to sum up what I’ve learned in 374 days here, they would be these words:

  • Be sensible with money, but try to curb in talking about it ALL THE TIME, as everyone’s broke as shit and no-one needs constantly reminding of that fact. Instead, revel in the solidarity shared with the three other people squatting next to you near the reduced section of the fridge in Tesco. (Except for when they take the last £0.87 sushi you were eyeing up.)
  • Be kind. Kindness is so underrated, and we’re in dire need of it. Thank the bus driver; don’t cancel on your friends twice in a row; hug your flatmates often.

Over and out, and ready for a nap! Zzzzzzzzzzz