I write for The Meteor who (amongst other things) are aiming to shine a light on people in Manchester who care. Arguably everything is political but my approach is to focus on the people not the parties who are making a difference. Making a difference is easier and more effective if it’s a group effort so when RainOnMe FC, a queer football team, announced on social media they were boycotting the Qatar 2022 World Cup I was immediately interested in finding out more. Here is my article:


Pride, Diversified?

The venue for ‘Family Pride’ was the amphitheatre at Great Northern Warehouse and is a new addition to Manchester Pride which, has been running since 1985. Events were overseen by the likes of Ginny Lemon, who made a name for herself on Ru Paul’s Drag Race, she one of the entertainers responsible for whipping up an excitable crowd of children with congas and musical statues before asking: ‘What’s my favourite thing in the whole wide world?’ ‘Drugs!’ shouted a Mum on her second pint.

Maybe, but Ginny Lemon was high on endorphins, as were the kids. The atmosphere at Family Pride was more Calpol than Class A’s. Times have changed not just for the attendee’s at Family Pride but for society as a whole which has seen a marked increase in same- sex couples becoming parents so the organisers of Pride are attempting to move with them.

 As Mark Fletcher, CEO at Manchester Pride, explains “We know that there has been an enthusiasm for the festival to become even more community-focused and we believe that the three stages in our Gay Village Party will provide a wide variety of artists that will relate directly to our Manchester LGBTQ+ community.”

But the communities within the LGBT community were mostly catered for outside of the ‘Gay Village Party’ with venues such as the Feel Good Club hosting Superbia: Disabled, Queer and Hear and YES hosting Youth Pride Manchester with activities more aimed at teenagers including placard making, affirmations or a room full of giddy teenagers attempting to make shapes shouted out by the compere such as a ‘Gay dragon breathing out glitter’! The schedule had gone out of the window and proceedings, according to a volunteer, had become a bit more ‘organic’.

I probably wasn’t Youth Pride’s target audience so took myself off to Sackville Gardens to catch the Dog Show hosted by the ever- present Ginny Lemon. Unfortunately, by the time I got there the only panting being done was by men dressed in rubber dog outfits and a deadpan drag queen judging the participants and intoning again and again ‘Oh lovely, very playful’.

Similar to the offerings at YES, I don’t think I was the target audience so walked down to Chorlton Street or as it had become, charity street. There were stalls for charities such as the RSPB and The Black Trans Foundation but, given the drunken mayhem taking place 200 feet away, the stall which most caught my eye was the Sober Gay Socials.

The stall was manned by Stephen Wilkinson, who founded Sober Gay Socials after recovering from alcoholism. They set up booze free socials such as roast dinners, picnics and country walks and I got chatting to a rep from Lyres, an alcohol free, drinks company selling cans of a convincing imitations of classic drinks. He tells me that a poll taken amongst the LGBT community found that over 50% of respondents would be classified as alcoholics and that there is a pressing need to address this issue amongst the LGBT Community. Despite this, he was selling cans of Lyre’s drinks at £2.50 a can and giving all proceeds to Sober Gay Socials who receive no funding from the LGBT Foundation.

Pride, which still offered the usual fayre of bountiful booze, deadpan drag queens, and dubious popstars made an attempt at making the event more relevant to all sections of the community most notably with Family Pride which, in many ways was more enjoyable than the party on Canal Street! Hopefully the small steps to include different abilities, ages, genders, and races will become bigger and intolerance will become smaller.

However, sexuality does not dictate your tastes and views of the world and unfortunately there are still a lot of issues with ableism, sexism and racism on Canal Street, just like with society at large. The message of love and inclusivity at Pride does not always extend to other minorities and engagement with the politics which bought us to where we are today in terms gay rights and law changes, is in short supply.

Where would women be without like Emmeline and the Suffragists?

This was demonstrated by a humble Socialist Worker stall manned by two people on the pavement, beside the parade and the lack of floats for charities such as Mind or organisations such as the National LGBT Police Network. But yet the floats for Booking.com, Co- Op Funerals, Wickes and UPS were large and well-funded. The Pride parade demonstrated how Manchester Pride still prioritises corporate over community interests and their outlook isn’t radical enough for meaningful changes to take place any time soon.

Counting syllables, not days.

I appreciate it’s not the most complicated idea: a three-line poem, with each line containing five syllables, seven, then five but still, I write one each morning because it requires a modicum of effort, thought and creativity, and gives me a little fist pump sense of achievement each morning when I condense my thoughts into this structure.

Haiku’s are simple, comically simple in fact as Ricky, the adorable protagonist, in the Hunt for the Wilder People proves, he obsessively writes haikus including the poignant ‘Maggots’.

You don’t need an MA in Poetry to get the concept of haiku but Michelle in Derry Girls didn’t get it when she penned, ‘Boys’. Claiming to be a master of the haiku may not win you any poetry plaudits but some are here are some of mine anyway.


Guilt erodes the soul

Spiritual structure helps

Gives a strong ballast


Crab preparation

A Christmas first. Caught at sea

Now, in my belly


Shame shrinks the present

There is no past or future

This helps and soothes me


A missing seagull

Lost in Manchester squawking

Cannot see the sea


Counting syllables

Rules for the unruly mind

Maths for the wordsmith


Digital rescue

Saves me from reality

Can’t log off from life


In a malaise maze

Clarity will light the way

Dreams of direction


Life under lockdown

Urban audio turned low

Surreal silence


A sprinkle of fun

A small dash of devilry

Eat it noisily

What is a city without its people?

At the end of last year, I had a job at the University of Law which, overlooks the wonderous (ahem) vista of Piccadilly Gardens and while eating my lunch in the staff room I had the chance to see and wonder at how each person follows their own individual path, seemingly unaware of one another yet, occupying the same space.

Looking down on the city you live in, gives a literal and spiritual sense of perspective. Valuable at any time but especially during lockdown where the most common sight is the four walls you live in and your own reflection!

Directions is largely about all the individual unheard stories that we’re surrounded by in a city and how easy it is to feel as though yours is the only story that matters.

The buildings of Manchester signify its gradual growth over the years, unlike the much, maligned tower blocks which seem to be built at speed, with the singular purpose of making money for a handful of people, and have little use for everyone else.

 I came across a quote by an American writer, Alessandro Busa in his book, The Creative Destruction of New York City which pretty much sums up my opinion at the rate Manchester is growing upwards, ‘The space created by capital is a very seductive space indeed- provided you have the money.’

But ultimately this isn’t an angry poem about the commodification of space but a poem about perspective which, we all need when life, in the city, starts to feel a little claustrophobic.

This video uses the timelapse images of different areas of Manchester taken by Tommy Fegrado which beautifully capture the constant movement of the city which, most of us are too involved with to notice. I’m so glad Tommy let me use his images because I think so much of poetry deserves to be brought to life and not just live on a page and thanks to Nick Marchant for the edit, Tommy Fegrado for the visuals and Jon Hopkins for the audio. Creativity can kill claustrophobia.

Corona Class #10

Make Yourself at Home

Home, we all need one. To park up our arses, stresses and thoughts for the day. It is a place of sanctuary, a place of rest and a place that can nurture good and bad habits. One of my good habits is to rinse off washing up liquid on pots and pans before they dry because, no one wants soapy stir fry do they? My housemates point of pride is, to make sure tupperware is married with lids before they go on honeymoon in the tupperware cupboard (or locale as I like to call it).

My other housemates cat, Annie, doesn’t like closed doors, as soon as a door is closed she wants to go through it. In the house Annie is Queen, the honourary head of state; she makes no decisions but, merely passes judgement on them. These details may seem mundane to an outsider but, (in normal times of course) the decisions made in the house can have just as much relevance as those made in the House of Commons.

Houseshares can be a struggle where understanding and consideration can go a little awry but having a house that feels like home is an aim that most people share. Making a house a home is a luxury you can afford when you have one and unfortunately far too many people don’t have this essential human need being met. An hour on the streets of Manchester will testify to this.

Once shelter has been achieved work can then begin on building a fuller life where emotional needs can be met too ‘Home is Where the Heart Is’ and associated cliches are often found, framed, in pound shops and charity shops up and down the country but, as with most cliches, it has an element of truth. Ask anyone who lives in a grotty rat infested bed sit, a homeless shelter or a damp student house and they’ll tell you their home certainly isn’t where their heart is.

Morrissons made sentiments

Throughout my twenties I believed that only boring, older people bought houses but as I’ve got older the allure of buying a house has become more appealing. But getting on the housing ladder just isn’t an option unless I earn £30,000 a year and I certainly can’t boast that. For my parents generation houseshares were not a foregone conclusion because buying a home was a lot more viable, when my parents moved to Manchester they bought a house for £16,000. But times have changed, with house prices steadily increasing and within the last two decades, in England, house prices have risen by 173% and the bulk of homeowners in the UK are aged between 65-74 years old.

Maybe, if I was focused enough, I could have, like most of my peers from uni, bagged a well paid job needed to bag a house but I always had the perception that settling on one path meant being boring and that I can’t be settled, and have fun, in fact, being unsettled is anything but, fun. It leads to a steady trickle of houseshares that rarely feel like home and unsatisfying jobs that rarely feel like careers.

Of course this unsettled state of mind doesn’t have to be a permanant and I am fortunate enough to have family who can provide financial help if I really need it. But, of course others are not so fortunate. The BBC has released a series called, Hard Up the first episode, No Place to Call Home features a man who shows the crew around his bedroom in supported accomodation he says that, ‘There’s no point putting pictures up because they’ll only be down again in a week. I’ve never been settled where I can actually unpack and relax….it feels like I’m always tense, my shoulders are up high, my guard’s always up.’

There are many factors which lead to homelessness with poor mental health being a common cause. For example, since leaving university I have changed addresses at least ten times and I think it would be fair to say I have lived most of my adult life in an unsettled state of mind with a common mantra of ‘this isn’t enough’ or ‘this won’t do’ repeating frequently. This restless energy hasn’t always been negative, I have lived in other countries and it has prevented me from living in situations that I don’t actually want such as, a heteronormative relationship, and 2.4 kids. But regardless of sexuality and beliefs having a persistant restless energy is more manageable as a 27 year old than a….well, I’m not going to reveal my age but suffice to say the twenties ship, has sailed.

No one believes that I am the age I say I am and I believe it’s not because I look particularly young (covid crows feet anyone?) but because of the energy I convey: expectant and ready for change. Dwelling in possibility without actually making it a reality is just as bad as dwelling in misery. Both states cultivate inaction. I may be dwelling in possibility but, I’m still dwelling in a houseshare.

I have realised that being settled is not just for boring old people, it doesn’t have to mean I commit to living in one place forever, or owning a home. Positive change comes about when I feel at home in my own skin and believe that I am good enough. From this settled state of mind, I will be able to plan a life where houseshares aren’t a necessity, but a choice.

A hidden benefit of this pandemic is, it has provided a lot of boundaries, that doesn’t allow much escape from the reality of existance which, can be oppresive but sometimes, for me, it has provided an enforced period of settlement forcing me to live in reality not, possibility. Living a life is difficult and stressful even if I land the good job, partner and house which, admitedlly I do now want. But, for now, planning for that is a lot more achievable if, I dwell in a place of calm.

Corona Class #9

Imperfect positivity

I have read a lot of self- help books in my time; ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers, ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Toll and my personal favourite, ‘When I Say No I feel Guilty’ by Manuel J Smith. The one I am currently reading isn’t strictly a self help book it’s The Artists Way’ by Julia Cameron and is lauded by the self- appointed guru of Essex, Russell Brand as ‘A practical, spiritual, and nurturing book.’

I have enjoyed engaging with Cameron’s advice because it offers ways to access your creativity which, makes self improvement fun, and memorable. Usually with other books my renewed understanding of the world slowly fades within a month of reading it partly because I believe that, if I just follow the instructions everything will be fine.

Yet, happiness as most people know, is not a state we dwell in for long and to expect to live in a constant sense of well-being, joy and contentment is impossible. Yet, I think that is what a lot of self- help books promise to do. They provide people with hope that perfection is achievable if, you just think the ‘right’ way and if you don’t, you’re somehow lacking.

My Mum teases me over the amount of self help books I have acquired over the years and my naïve belief in their power to ‘fix’ my thinking. But I am not naïve enough to think that self- help books can ever take the place of talking to a trusted friend or a counsellor.

But those two things are not always readily available so for me, I find taking practical steps such as exercise and meditation are positive, practical steps which makes me feel better equipped to deal with my emotions.

During Covid 19, negative emotions abound, so there is a greater push for positivity which attempts to gloss over any legitimate and understandable negative emotions which people have. This myopic view of reality is known as toxic positivity.

For example, I recently broke my wrist and before the operation on my wrist I needed a Covid swab which would determine whether the operation could be carried out or not. “But” I asked the tired sounding NHS office clerk “What if the test is positive? What happens then? Do I just have to live with a broken wrist?” My attempts to ask the right questions and be practical were met with “Just try and stay positive”. But I didn’t feel I was being particularly negative, just practical. She probably wanted to give me a better answer but given the lack of knowledge and guidelines about Covid 19, she couldn’t.

I was understandably anxious and in normal times you could say I was ‘catastrophising’- a symptom of anxiety, but, this is the ‘new normal’ and the ‘new normal’ is pretty catastrophic for everybody, with or without mental health issues and dismissing those feelings isn’t going to make it any better.

The novelty of lockdown has faded and the survival mode that we needed to remain aware or productive is an unsustainable way to live yet, a common feature of everyday life. The enthusiasm for ‘making the most of it’, learning Spanish, baking bread and writing novels has worn away, leading to a disconnection with our true emotions.

I see a neurologist to help manage my epilepsy and he referred me to a neuropsychologist who, listened to me and gave me lots of practical advice on how to manage my condition which a counsellor cannot do. She gave me good advice on how to practically deal with stress and loneliness and during one session she showed me this video which totally struck a chord for someone who expects to be happy all the time:

It’s OK to be unhappy, scared or confused these are normal human emotions and no one is defective for having them, even if they are unwanted. I believe it is better to feel something rather than nothing because after all, indifference is not a human emotion and being emotionally numb is usually a sign of falling further down the greasy pole of depression. Although, in tough times, it’s understandable that indifference is preferable.

Now more than ever, life is hard, maintaining relationships is hard, but the need to remain mindful of our emotions and of other peoples has never been so important. Yes, be grateful for what we have, yes, do what we can to be healthy, but just drifting into a state of mindless positivity won’t solve anything. Because trying to hide or deny our feelings can lead to more stress.

Happiness is only one emotion on the spectrum of human emotions and belief that this is the ‘best’ one reduces the ability to differentiate between feelings and truly understand ourselves or the world around us. Being unwilling to ‘open up’ and grapple with difficult emotions stops us from getting emotionally close to people and our obsession with perfect positivity affects work life too; No job is ‘perfect’ no relationship is ‘perfect’ but some are worth putting up with if they add more to your life, than they take away.

The Best Medicine

‘If you weren’t funny I probably wouldn’t be mates with you’ said erm, a ‘mate’. Despite this being the very definition of a backwards compliment I still, regarded it as a compliment because humour, is important to me. I chase a laugh about 80% of the time I communicate and yes,  this is probably to mask my own insecurities and anxiety but I still love making people laugh and I’m fascinated by why and how we laugh.

While I enjoy making people laugh does that mean I am cut out for stand up? To answer this question I signed up for ‘Beat the Frog’, an open Mic night at Manchester’s famous comedy club, Frog and Bucket. I was due to perform in May but then Corona hit and all joyful, scary, thrilling activity was suspended. Instead the scariest thing that happened to me in May was an old lady came within three feet of me and a man, in a car, sneezed with his window open as I walked past.

I have been writing down my funny thoughts for months but have no way of knowing if it is actually funny because it is entirely subjective and after three hours of crouching over a laptop on your own, nothing feels like it will be funny ever again and I am filled with existential dread.

I needed help from someone ‘in the know’ not necessarily to read my stuff but at least give me some tips on how to approach the process of writing comedy. I asked Ros Bell booker at XS Malarkey who said ‘I understand the desire to have a how to guide but it’s a lot more personal than that…. The best advice I can give you is go to loads of stand up shows (or) watch them online, pay attention to who you like. Why do you like them? Are they absurd? Observational? Narrative? Then start writing what you think is funny. If it makes you laugh, chances are it’ll make someone else laugh.’

Despite wanting to try stand up, I rarely watch stand up, live or online, so followed Ros’s advice and looked up mainly female or LGBT comedians and after watching a Sara Pascoe set, happened across Fern Brady who is a dry, sharp, bisexual Glaswegian who definitely makes me laugh and the kind of laughter that descends into a sneaky snigger as she vocalises the dark, odd, silly thoughts that people have in their head but rarely say out loud.

This, I guess, is a good example of surreal comedy and something I would love to emulate. Surreal comedy is not the broad, brush strokes of someone like Russell Howard who covers lots of relatable, popular topics such as deriding Donald Trump’s vanity and stupidity.

I have a lot to learn about what could work on stage, but from what I can gather, avoiding perfectionism in your writing and being your authentic self, are important. This is how I aspire to be in real life so, stand up could work for me. But the only way I will know is if I try and hopefully this will be sooner rather than later. But, for the time being, I will have to get my laughs wherever I can, but ideally in the same physical space as other people and not through a laptop!

XS Malarkey offers some quality live comedy on Twitch on a Tuesday night featuring conversations with the comedians as well. It is free, with the option to donate.

Corona Class, Lesson #8


Insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting different results, Mark Twain was referring to addiction, which, is definitely worth a post given that lockdown has seen a spike in drug use

But I am not referring to a cheeky glass of Zinfandel of an evening but another addiction of mine: cycling. I love it, however, I had a reality check a couple of weeks ago when I fell off my bike and broke my wrist. But, when it heals, I will get back on my bike out of love but also, currently, out of necessity.

As the governement is warning people to avoid public transport they now have to reassess how people travel. For me, cycling is a no brainer: it’s fast, fun and free but for others cycling is a plan C after the car and bus. I see cars as moving death machines and don’t really understand their appeal so a £2 billion package to encourage cyclists in cities and decrease reliance on cars is a welcome chink of light.

However when I went to A&E for an X- Ray, the nurse said they had treated a lot more cycling related injuries, so with this in mind, I have compiled a list of cycling Do’s and Dont’s that I have picked up along the way but which, admittedly I don’t always follow.


  1. Wear a helmet. Enough said. Although my reluctance to get helmet hair, puts me off. But I need to ask myself, what would I rather have, brain damage or weird hair?
  2. Watch out for drains and metrolink tracks or you will get your tyre caught in them and fall sideways
  3. Invest in bike lights but make sure you take them off when locking up in public or there is no guarantee that they will be there when you get back
  4. Invest in a good Krptonite U- lock they are immune from bolt cutters
  5. Make eye contact with drivers, to make sure they have seen you


  1. Listen to headphones. On the road you need all your senses
  2. Stand on your pedals to speed up, use your gears
  3. Ride on the pavement, one of my pet hates, is trying to avoid getting knocked over by a cyclist who doesn’t know their place
  4. Jump red lights, drivers hate you for it
  5. Trust Audi drivers. People who regularly speed in fast cars generally have little regard for other road users

Obviously with cycling the risk of injury is an understandable concern but don’t let that put you off, cycling is great and you don’t have to tolerate standing underneath someone’s armpit, getting a waft of last night’s garlic breath and of course, risking exposure to Coronavirus on public transport.

Just like lots of areas of life cycling requires confidence to keep your balance and moving forward so have fun, but follow the Covid 19 mantra and stay safe!

Corona Class, Lesson #7

Living for the city

‘What is it that separates us from animals?’ asks Professor Bauer, the Anthropology teacher in the hilarious comedy, Community. ‘Tools!’ she declares ‘Like this blow gun I used to hunt monkeys in the Amazon’ upon which, she shoots a dart from her blow gun and tranquilises an annoying student with star shaped sideburns.

For now, most of us, apart from key workers of course, have literally downed tools and the streets are largely deserted. I regard the city as another ‘tool’ that is fundamental to carving out a life and is the ultimate testament to human endeavour. But without people using the city, what is it but a collection of roads and buildings?

Manchester has its fair share of beautiful buildings but it’s no secret that its friendly, talented people are just as good. People, give a city its purpose, meaning and soul. Equally, a city can give you a purpose, meaning and soul, in other words, an identity because ironically we need the need the identities of others to know ourselves.

As we roam around, we can see people who have made similar choices to us and recognise them as part of your ‘tribe’. We take part in ‘social display’ as described in Grayson Perry’s TV programme All in the Best Possible Taste our choices about what we wear and where we go, reaffirm our identity and send constant indicators about who we think we are.

Cities are a playground for expression, but with no where to go and no one to notice, we are forced to be at peace with our essential selves without the big bad city. Manchester based photographer Ahmani Vidal has captured Manchesters inhabitants at home, during lockdown, using Facetime, the portraits capture subjects at their most relaxed, away from the world outside.

There are 2.813 million people living in Greater Manchester, I use the same streets as everyone else, but it feels like no one uses them, the way I do. There is a formal version of Manchester in maps and tourist books and an informal version, your version. Those buildings which tourists admire mean something different to you because they hold memories that only you have.

Runner in Alexandra Park, Whalley Range

Everyone makes their environment their own. One of my favourite descriptive phrases is ‘desire lines’ those renegade paths which people create and are a common sight in parks now, from people keen to maintain their two metres distance. Desire lines are not on the official maps of Manchester, this is people making the city, their own and is described by some academics as a sign of ‘civil disobedience.’

For me, Manchester Central Library is not just a brilliant example of Neo Roman architecture, it’s a place where the smell of old books instantly takes me back to being twelve years old in my Mums office at the Library Theatre where she worked, or my first job there as a seventeen year old theatre usher. Despite this being twenty years ago (God, I’m old) as soon as I smell those old books the memory is as fresh as if I was seventeen again.

It’s a cliché but remembering something as if it ‘happened yesterday’ proves that our personal narratives are not just linear, they spread out too and are shaped by time and place. We can go for years staying the same and within minutes experience a fundamental shift in attitude depending on our, environment.

Although it is profoundly sad to see a once buzzing city centre, subdued and empty there is also a strange ethereal beauty to the empty streets and a strong will to make Manchester liveable again. This is captured beautifully by Luke Shepherd for Lemontape videos.

An empty city is like having a free house. At first you roam around it, doing what you want, feeling free but after a while with no one to share your space with, the novelty wears off and it’s pretty dull .

I am an eternal city kid and have never lived in any other environment but I am beginning to understand what it might be like to live in a small, rural village: seeing the same four people every day, with limited opportunities for entertainment and expression.

But this is not necessarily a love letter to Manchester or cities in general I understand that they can be crowded, smelly and unwelcoming places and now, more than ever it’s sweet relief to escape to the country. Being in nature frees you from small concerns which seem somehow of great importance in everyday life. You no longer have to worry about social display and have the freedom to just ‘be’. But, after a large dose of fresh air, I am ready to come home again and follow my own path.

Corona Class, Lesson #6

Whole Time You

I have travelled and lived in three continents and I am very proud of having the guts to go and look back on my times away from the UK with fondness. But, it was hard work: hot, stressful and at times, traumatic, travel is not always the fairy tale dream it’s perceived to be. Still, like any experience it has its high and lows, darkness and light.

I lived in Vietnam, teaching English, I loved living there but didn’t like teaching (my sole source of income) and after a year, I started to miss the UK and Europe in general. The majority of the friends I made were moving on too. But, I couldn’t hack the idea of going ‘home’ because I knew I’d have to pick up where I left off and there wasn’t much to pick up. I had few friends, no job and nowhere to live so I took the only sensible option: apply for another teaching job, in Spain.

Once I arrived in Spain it became obvious, after a month, that I wasn’t entirely committed to the idea of working in Spain and wasn’t enjoying teaching but stuck it out doggedly and comforted myself with sunshine and vermouth, a worthy distraction from my emotions but one which has no longevity and lacks self- awareness.

Fast forward to now and I am back in the UK self- isolating in a terraced house in Old Trafford, Manchester. But I am still me, whether I’m stuck at home during a pandemic or bombing about on a scooter in Vietnam. Despite some of the challenges I faced in Vietnam I felt refreshed and more appreciative of life when I got home and that’s the hoped for outcome with most travel experiences but, it took the situation to end, before I felt those feelings. Equally, now, people are hoping for a change in perspective and shift in values after Coronavirus even though the day to day existence in lockdown is, at best, tough.

House arrest has hit people hard, but no matter where you are geographically you are still you, emotionally and spiritually. It reminds me of a poem called ‘You’ by Dennis O’ Driscoll, ‘The earth has squeezed you in, found you space; any loss of face you feel is solely yours- you with the same all old daily moods, debts, intuitions, food fads, pet hates, Achilles heels.’ You cannot run away from yourself but you can learn how to manage yourself.

Equally being holed up at home, going on Netflix odysseys and drinking your weight in wine will distract you from reality but once the TV is off, at some point, you have to face how you feel there is literally no running away from it. Before this lockdown, I approached my problems by making innocuous to- do lists and doing something, anything, as a strategy to avoid how I felt, which can be just as unhealthy as wallowing in self- pity and watching TV to cope.

Before I even stepped foot on a plane I became obsessed with the book The Art of Travel by Alain De Botton which, says, ‘We are inundated with advice on where to travel to; we hear little of why we should go and how we could be more fulfilled doing so.’ The urge to escape is strong with anyone wishing to travel but if that’s your sole reason for going, you’re in for a rude awakening.

For most people your way of seeing while away from home, in new surroundings, is wide eyed and receptive, you’re ready to be educated and surprised from one moment to the next. But why can’t we apply this attitude to our ‘ordinary’ life? This idea is touched upon by the French philosopher Xavier de Maistre who applies the principles of wonder to his home life by not leaving his bedroom for a year and treating the experience like he was travelling in the big, wide world.  He published a book about this experience originally titled, Journey round my Bedroom.

He resolved to treat his surroundings as though he’d never seen them before and to consider everything as of potential interest. He followed his philosophy with a second book Nocturnal Expedition round my bedroom where he looks outside his window, collecting a few insights and wondering ‘What would it cost those who are out for a walk or crowding out of the theatre to look up for a moment and admire the gleaming constellations above their head?’ Maybe they were too busy talking about the play or on the 18th Century version of a parking meter?

Obviously time is an important component in this, as most people don’t have the time to soak in each and every moment and while I believe practicing mindfulness can help you appreciate life and improve mental health most people have pressing responsibilities which stare them in the face and prevent them from looking around. I have more time than most and whenever I am in a mindful, disposition the tendency to see the world the world as a fascinating place is strong.

I am by no means a Zen master but sitting with my emotions through meditation has helped calm my monkey mind. However I still carry around the same beliefs, memories and insecurities the only variable is how I manage them. Yes, distraction from reality can be a welcome respite from reality but it’s worth enjoying the things that you are ‘used’ to in order to not rely on distractions so much.

Obviously the situation we’re in requires a certain amount of stoicism and joyful feelings are in short supply and I am not saying that the bedroom is the place to be. I love being out and about; even stepping out into town can feel like an adventure if you approach it in the right way. But I am used to living a certain way and have learnt that I am reticent to take on new experiences for fear of them being crap. I lazily think that I know it won’t be fun so saying yes to things I’ve never done before is, in itself, exciting and enhances reality.

If joyful feelings have existed once, they can again and in order to deal with mundanity we can focus, slow down and access our sense of wonder to enjoy the things we once overlooked. Paying attention to detail is a wise use of time and time is a commodity most people have more of right now.  We can save up moments of joy or insight, cherish them and cash in those joy chips for when we need them most.