Escapism: through books, #spon content and meditation apps

I read an article about anxiety among pop stars in the social media generation last week. You can read it here. I liked it cause I think it accurately captures the zeitgeist (wow, I sound like my old drama teacher) in that yes, we’re all conscious of having a political and #woke conscience, just as those generations did before us with punk and whatnot. But social media – for teenagers coming of age now – has formed part of their identity, and we’re now starting to see that in the pop landscape.

In the piece, the writer identifies two types of Gen-Z’ers on social media, the ‘fame-hungry narcissists’ and the ‘hyper-aware over-thinkers’. If like me, you strongly identify with both, how do you find your place on the internet? If you’re aware that having a presence on social media will do wonders for your ‘brand’, but also know that spending too much time trying to expand this network isn’t something that comes too naturally (preferring to spend your free time reading or mastering the art of a paper aeroplane), do you decide to take steps away from this dopamine-fuelled activity and ditch the smartphone altogether? (This is clearly the the hyper-aware over-thinker stepping up the mic.) I’ve had a dream twice within the past week or so where I snap my phone in half and it crumbles into ash. I then wake up and reach for my phone to see if anybody’s texted me.

Something that intrigues me is the increasing number of people monetising their lives by just, like, travelling around the world. I’m fascinated with travel bloggers and how they use social media (yes, that thing you just tweeted a pic of your Wetherspoons round on) to fund their ‘adventures’. I wish it was as blissful as it looks but I don’t buy into it. Even more so after I watched this Vice News clip about these total #vanlife phoneys (please watch it if you have 10 mins and marvel in how messed up reality can be faked online). Millennials are more into travelling and ‘experiences’ than buying a tonne of nice stuff, apparently, so travelling the world as an influencer and getting paid for it seems like a pretty obvious way to do life, and with the inclusivity of the internet (so long as you have a Wi-Fi connection and, surely, a senior figure in your life who can bail you out of bad situations) it seems more possible than ever.

But is the content the top travel bloggers are making really that interesting? I’m always trying to find interesting things to read about travel, as everyone’s travel daddy Bill Bryson once said  in an interview: “A basic error with travel writing is assuming everybody’s interested. You have to work from exactly the opposite assumption: nobody is interested. Even your wife is not interested. You have to somehow make it so that they become interested.”

When I read that, I laughed out loud. I felt like I’d just been given the best advice about writing about holidays or trips, in that no-one cares about the ‘Today I visited this church. Wow, it was so pretty!’ kind of vibe. I’m not slating enjoying a holiday and writing about it (obviously!) but my favourite pieces about travelling are always the ones that show travelling for what it can be: rare moments of wonder and feelings of unbelievable freedom – interspersed between long bus journeys, waiting in stuffy airport lounges, finding your companion unbelievably tiresome (even if you’re travelling solo) and maybe – just maybe – small pangs of homesickness (…you can take the girl out of Peterborough). That’s why I could read Bill Bryson’s books over and over, his petty moans about the irks of travelling make the experience so much more enjoyable to read (and sure as hell beat the #spon posts from the #vanlife elite).

I am so close to finishing reading John Waters’ travelogue about hitchhiking from his native Baltimore to San Francisco, and it’s one of the most original book structures I’ve ever come across. Before he ventured off on his trip, he spent a few months imagining the best possible thing that could happen – and the worst case scenario – which form the first two-thirds of the book. So, the first 200 pages give the weird and wonderful Pope of Trash – director of cult films Hairspray and Pink Flamingos – the ability to show off his endless, no-holds-barred imagination (the ‘Best Trip’ is so heartwarming because you’re so happy everything’s worked out so well for him, and the ‘Worst Trip’ actually made me retch while eating a mushroom omelette as we meet a gruesome character who picks up near-dead roadkill and collects the creatures in her car). It makes for such a hoot of book! Here’s the link to buy it. Or watch this video. (Or ask your local library to order it in!) Also, while I’m talking about holidays and trips, our next Girl Chat episode (landing next Wednesday, April 18) is about holiday romances. Check out the all the ones preceding it here.

I’ve digressed hugely: back to the phoney #vanlife-rs. Perhaps it’s the cynicism of the person typing, but I’m sceptical of influencers and wonder how satisfying their ‘jobs’ really are. This, by the maker of parody Instagram account Deliciously Stella is interesting – as it was her idea to satirise the whole movement, but she still got sucked into the allure of free stuff anyway. I would love to think that I could travel the world on an all-expenses-paid trip as a travel blogger with #hashtag revenue streaming in, but not at the expense of missing all of the opportunities immersing yourself in another culture brings by having my head glued to my phone. Bryson again, in Neither Her Nor There: “I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”

Something not totally evil about technology though: I’ve used the Headspace mediation app every day for the past three weeks (21-day streak, holla!) and it’s already made a huge difference to how I deal with my often extremely busy mind. There have only been benefits so far, which have weasled their way into all aspects of my everyday mundanity: dealing with 3,000 unread emails at 9am, coping with the petty but way valid stresses of sharing a house (and kitchen) with several people and, well, getting back into the habit of writing again.

At the time of writing this, it’s 8:30am and I’ve managed to write almost 1,000 words already – before my ‘working day’ has even begun. I woke up in a rotten-as-hell mood this morning (disclaimer: there’s a 90% chance I have glandular fever, sigh) but I took 10 minutes to listen to the Headspace dudes’s familiar tones, grabbed my laptop, and wrote the post you’ve just read.

For those who deal with anxiety as frequently as you brush your teeth, clarity of mind is not to be scoffed at. There are 10 free days before you have to subscribe: something I got way too pissed off about (capitalising on meditation seemed as icky to me as, like, the standard £15-a-session yoga classes everywhere in central London) but after four or five days of not subscribing in protest after my trial, I felt myself spiralling back into a pattern of negative thoughts. I was curious to see if the next 10 days would feel as good as the first did. In fact, they got even better, so now I’m telling you about it.

If you’re a student, you can get Spotify Premium and Headspace for £5 a month, (sign me up to a degree course already, purely for the discount). Btw, although it might seem it, this is definitely not #spon content.

Anyway, I’m all out. Until next time!

Follow me on Twitter @taralepore

‘Do you wanna be in the business?’ – 10 songs about the music industry

I read Mike Love’s autobiography last week, the lead singer from the Beach Boys who isn’t Brian Wilson. It’s actually a wonderful read, and a fascinating one at that for anyone supremely interested in 1960s America. In it, Love documents the sudden rise of the Beach Boys as ‘America’s Band’ after Life magazine ran a cover feature about California’s surf craze. So, writing to a brief almost, the Beach Boys signed a deal to produce seven records in something like two years, on the theme of surfing, girls and cars (Surfin’ USA, California Girls, Little Deuce Coupe respectively). While I was reading it I could help but listen to the band on repeat, which got me yearning for summer during a time in mid-March where we’ve been seeing blizzard-like snow. The interesting thing about the Beach Boys is that Pet Sounds and the re-imagined Smile Sessions aside, they have only around 15 hits that have kept resurging every 10 years or so, as another generation discovers their music and makes out with their boyfriends in the car to it. The memoir also recounts the band’s infamous lawsuits throughout the years which got me thinking about the workings of the music industry since the ’60s. So I made a PLAYLIST of songs about the curious, sneaky inner goings-on in the biz (scroll down for related lyrics*). You can listen to it here.

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Here are a list of other books that I have hugely enjoyed since the turn of the new year: Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney; Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton, Rookie on Love by Rookie writers and contributors; Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I’ve tried to get into Goodreads as a way to easily share and get recommendations on what I’ve been reading, but I JUST CAN’T RATE A BOOK OUT OF FIVE! I just rate ALL the books I’ve read out of five, mostly as a pat-on-the-back to myself: Well done you! Five stars for reading a book!


I went to Newcastle for St. Patrick’s Day to see my dear friend and Girl Chat co-host Chloe Trayford. It were a right belter. Here’s some art I saw at the Baltic Gallery that I give you full permission to use as your phone wallpaper.

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On the train home, I watched Beats Rhymes and Life, a documentary about A Tribe Called Quest available on Netflix! Watch it! It’s great! It’s so great I had no idea my train arrived 40 minutes late and I got the full price of my ticket back. All good news.


Other things that I’ve been up to: Saw the motherfucking GOAT Milo at Birthdays in Stoke Newington at both his sold-out shows in London a couple of weeks ago. I don’t have any photos. He did completely different sets both nights and it was probably the most life-affirming duo of shows I’ve ever seen (no hyperboles, trust). It was quite otherworldly to be stood at the front of the crowd and see someone be so creative so spontaneously and with such conviction. If you’ve not heard him yet, I suggest you do so wherever you listen to your music. If you want to support independent radio, here’s an appearance he did on NTS Radio. He steps up around 14m 30s, but listen from the start to hear an insanely good Busdriver track.

OK, I have a terrible cold and I’m out. I’ll be back soon having done some REAL writing.


(P.S. Here’s all the lyrics related to the music business in the linked up playlist, in case you didn’t believe me).
*1. Check the Rhime – A Tribe Called Quest
“Industry rule number four thousand and eighty
Record company people are shady
So kids watch your back ’cause I think they smoke crack
I don’t doubt it, look at how they act”

2. Paint a Vulgar Picture – The Smiths
“Best of! Most of!
Satiate the need
Slip them into different sleeves!
Buy both, and feel deceived
Climber – new entry, re-entry”

3. Free Man in Paris – Joni Mitchell
“I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive
Nobody was calling me up for favours
And no one’s future to decide
You know I’d go back there tomorrow
But for the work I’ve taken on
Stoking the star maker machinery
Behind the popular song”

4. Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe – Kendrick Lamar
“You shut me down, you like the control
You speak to me like I’m a child
Try to hold it down, I know the answer
I can shake it off and you feel threatened by me”

5. Re: Animist – Milo
“Showboat rappers get stood up in their studio
I heard Wal-Mart signed Jason Derulo
Then dropped him cause he couldn’t sell crew socks
And refused to adopt the umlaut”

6. W.O.E is Entertainment – Jurassic 5
“Welcome to the wonderful world of entertainment
Where life imitate art and people get famous
Welcome to the world of showbiz arrangement
Where lights, camera, action is the language”

7. We Walk – The Ting Tings
We can’t be honest
We call it off
We got the choice if it all goes wrong
We walk, we walk

8. Have a Cigar – Pink Floyd
“You’re gonna make it if you try,
They’re gonna love you.
I’ve always had a deep respect and I mean that most sincere;
The band is just fantastic, that is really what I think,
Oh, by the way, which one’s Pink?”

9. Country House – Blur
“City dweller, successful fella thought to himself
Oops I’ve got a lot of money
Caught in a rat race terminally
I’m a professional cynic but my heart’s not in it
I’m payin’ the price of livin’ life at the limit”

10. Show Business – A Tribe Called Quest
“Let me tell you ’bout the snakes, the fakes, the lies
The highs at all of these industry shing-dings
Where you see the pretty girls
In the high animated world
Checkin’ for a rapper with all the dough
If you take a shit they want to know
And if you’re gonna fall, they won’t be around, y’all
So you still wanna do the show business?”

‘Nothing more than confetti on the floor’, or, considering ways to resolve 2017 before it even begins – 26/12/16

Resolutions for The Next Year. How lovely it is to measure things in years for absolutely no beneficial reason to us whatsoever. I think 2016 could have actually been a bit less depressing if you didn’t have to hear someone tell you how shit 2016 was being at least once a day. Oh god, a 96-year-old BBC weatherman died. Great, 2016. A racist reality TV star became the president of the United States of America. Thanks, 2016. Primark discontinued their sales of fishnet tights. Literally what the fuck, 2016.

On a personal level, I’ve had a pretty good year. I finally moved out, I travelled across a continent via high-speed train during the summer, I met a serious amount of gobsmackingly good people in a relatively small 12-month timescale, and generally had a huge hoot doing the whole lot of it. People came to watch a play I’d written, Joanne by Lady Gaga came out at the exact right time that I needed to hear it, and Instagram released a Snapchat-like feature where you can see who’s looked at your ‘story’, proving that most of your beady-eyed ex-boys still think you’re mad hot!

I went home last weekend to have Christmas with my dad, as I’m with my mum for the actual birth of Christ this time around in Spain (Feliz Navidad!) Spending the yuletide here is very different to being at home, but I am loving it. You can feel a bit weird about Christmas when your parents no longer hang out, so instead of having to deal with all that at home, it seemed like a good time to go on holiday. 

I’d been getting along just fine in London these past few months but I wonked out a bit when I mistook whisky for water at our Christmas party last week and the visit to my dad’s was a welcome break. I felt way more soothed out afterwards (my dad was quite adamant to run me a hot bath after I kept showing him how much my shoulder has been clicking lately. No, seriously, my shoulder can come out of its socket and go back in again – mostly pain free – every three to four minutes. He kind of went: Physio could be quite pricey, but Radox Muscle Soak could be the solution to this six-month problem! It wasn’t, but anyway, being home was lovely). Pa gifted unto me a book in which Beatles fans recall meeting the band on various tours from ‘58-’64, along with a recording of six Steptoe and Son radio episodes on vinyl! Like, the guy knows me, you know?

While I was immersed in hot water, trying to heal my dislocated shoulder without the financial interference of a private medical professional, I got thinking about what I could to do next year to resolve my things-that-could-be-improved things, in the hope to give 2017 a one-up on 2016. Here were some things I was thinking of doing – and am still thinking of doing – except now I’m editing this post sitting on a beach on the Costa del Sol. Come at me, 2017:

Cook better food

I moved out four months ago and thought that if you spent a fiver on a recipe book and made sure you came back from the supermarket with some onions, that pretty much meant you were Rachel Khoo. It doesn’t, my culinary skills are still quite limited to lazy bolognese (i.e., make a huge vat of it, freeze, and eat three times a week for a month).

We keep a rabbit in the flat (as a pet, not for consumption) who eats parsley and kale out of a tiny cardboard box, and sometimes I can’t help but think that I’m the one that wants to be eating something as hip ‘n’ healthy as kale, not this tiny and very cute mammal. I am better than I was, though, and I’m getting the hang of shopping relatively healthily in supermarkets on the cheap. Not only I am buying onions, I now occasionally buy the odd clove of garlic. I nearly bought parsnips the other day, but only nearly.

Answer emails on time

This has been a strange source of aggravation over the last few months: REPLY TO NECESSARY EMAILS ON THAT SAME DAY GIRL, because when you put it off until tomorrow, three weeks go by and you end up having to start emails with:

Hi,

Sorry for my late reply, I’ve been in hospital after a malaria-y kinda safari trip on the equator, hence why I couldn’t let you know about This Really Important Thing, nor respond to your several follow-up emails.

Yours very, very, very truthfully, 

Tara

I have no idea how I got into this habit so hard and fast, but I’m going to nip it in the bud as of RIGHT NOW. If you email me in 2017, I will have replied before you’ve even pressed send, okay? I’ll live in the outbox.

Stop saying sorry

Look, I’m particularly stubborn when I don’t feel it necessary to apologise for something that wasn’t my fault, but I am quite happy to say sorry to my flatmate if I walk into the kitchen and she’s frying some eggs. It’s good practice to try and not apologise by default. A colleague at my old workplace once said to me: You say sorry for nearly everything you do! And I was all, Sorry! No not sorry! Sorry not sorry! (God, 2017 is NOT going to work out at all, is it).

No more shopping on ASOS

What could alternatively be titled ‘Spend More, Buy Less, Live A More #SustainableLife’, I am going to call ‘No more shopping on ASOS’. ASOS is like Tinder, you could easily spend an entire evening on it, but it never makes you feel Peak You. Particularly since its warehouse burned down a few years ago – and delivery only became free if you spent more than £20 – it’s became a weird hellhole where I find myself buying thigh high socks and hair clips just to get my basket’s monetary value up to £20.01. It’s all too easy to spend £20.01 on shit you don’t want just to make yourself feel better. So when I feel like a delicious consumerist pick-me-up, I’m going to head to HMV and buy a bargain bucket CD (like I did the other day with a Fugees album that has since changed my life), instead of a collection of naff velvet chokers off 0f ASOS. I am adulting!

No more tote bags

YOU’RE INVITED: Are you free on January 1? Would you like to attend a ceremonial burning of all 1,001 of my tote bags, collected at various free events and music festivals? Hooray! Bring your own bottle! It’s happenin’! I’m boycotting the tote bag in 2017 to a) fix my clicky left shoulder b) look like a More Fashionable Person who actually has proper compartments in her knapsack for things like LIPSTICK and BUSINESS CARDS. You may be pleased to hear that I’ve already invested in/been gifted such bags, and I am so hyped to begin the new year equipped with body pouches that DON’T JUST COLLECT TOBACCO IN THE BOTTOM OF THEM. THAT’S ALL THAT TOTE BAGS ARE GOOD FOR. ‘Anyone got any baccy?’ ‘No, but let’s turn my tote bag inside out, and – among the tampons and broken pens – we could roll up at least eight cigarettes!’ But no, I don’t have a lighter. For all their space and life span, tote bags NEVER contain the thing they really should have in droves: fire, for your tote-born fags. Massive eye roll, tote bags. But 2017 may already be looking up – my new one has a ZIP compartment!

Write more about shit you love (it’s not a waste of time if you just get on with it and do it)

Since my hack training began in late August, I’ve been closely monitored on my work with words each day, but had begun to forget the pleasure of writing for writing’s sake. This isn’t really a resolution, more so a reminder to myself that I’m at my happiest when I’m writing a lot. So, on that note, and perhaps ironically, I’m going to stop writing now to go and pour myself another whisky and coke.

Good luck, resolution makers, and here’s to a wonderful start to next year. Here are some tunes to create your 2017 rulebook.

Love,

T.A.L x

02/02/2015- I can’t think of a title. Don’t make me do it

(I’ve been listening to a lot of wordy podcasts/Desert Island Discs this evening so instead of improvising, so to speak, I’ve typed up one of my journals entries from earlier in the month where I walked around a bit and had thoughts about life stuff.) So eloquent, Tara! So verbose!

Greenland tots|National Geographic | December 1973
Greenland tots|National Geographic | December 1973

2nd Feb 2015-

It is odd coming to a city you don’t reside in so so frequently just to walk around desperately trying not to use your Oyster card.

Eventually, the novelty of aimlessly wandering around the streets of the capital wears off (usually, prematurely – you’re only in Euston) so you end up getting on a bus to anywhere, lest the unfortunate situation of having to realise you’ve been walking for 8 miles heading into a north-west suburb because you were following someone in a leopard print coat. (Happened.)

There is a weird joy I get from padding around the pavements of London, having no idea of where I am or why I’m bothering. I consider it a kind of weird, me-time. Some people treat themselves to a manicure, I spent £20 on a slow commute up to London just for something to do. (I also frequently get my nails done. I’m worth it. I am so poor.)

It’s quite a rare thing to be walking somewhere with no real intention or purpose, able to walk that bit faster as you’re not using breath to talk or laugh with someone. My only rule is no iPods. Yes, sometimes it’s nice to soundtrack your days pretending you’re in a film of your own sad, twee life (hopefully directed by Hal Ashby), but you seriously miss out on the most GOLDEN conversations if walking with earplugs.

Example A: (heard when walking through a strangely serene Southwark yesterday evening)

Girl to 2 other friends:

(very persuasive, trying to make a point) “I mean, yes, it’s unconventional- I suppose. (Mimics a posh accent)- So… how did you meet your boyfriend? – Well, he sent me a dick pic and we just took it from there, really!” (Cue friends in hysterics.)

I don’t feel lonely as much I think I ought to during these solo visits- which is either a really good thing to be able to do or really introverted and weird, depending on how you look at these things.

Enough about me, anyway. I’m sitting in an empty Pret-style health food place, the emptiness odd due to it’s super central location, (hey, guys, it’s not a Starbucks but they still serve coffee! And pay tax!)  Whatever, it had available plug sockets.

There is a man stocking up the fridges on his own, whistling to every song on this Samba Mix CD (remember- no iPods, comrades.) Oh! to be him! I wish I knew these songs so I could whistle along with him. Maybe, I’ll sit here for seven hours (I have a bit of time to spare), nonchalantly staring at the crease of this book- pretending to read, learning all the melodies and trills totally unbeknown to him.

He’s probably thinking about his girlfriend, or if he’s single, his brother’s girlfriend- and will presume I’m just some hipster reading a book. But alas! How wrong he shall be! I will come back tomorrow, stare him in the eye, sitting at exactly the same table, whistling every song back to him.

Maybe I’ll record some of it now on my phone to get some extra practice in on the ride home.