I hope this letter finds you in the midst of a groundbreaking, spirit-awakening culinary creation involving oats. Just thought I’d take some time out of my day to write to you; I’m exhausted after spending nine hours in front of a computer screen, so apologies if you see any typos.
First, let me start by expressing my deepest admiration for your morning routine, your ability to redefine breakfast entirely. The way you do it is so *chefs kiss*; from the freshest ingredients straight from Waitrose, to the way you ethereally put the dish together. I would never have thought it could improve my mental health to slow right down and take the time to procure a healthy, nutritious bowl; your invention of turmeric oats with lashings of agave syrup, hemp seeds and dragon fruit seems nothing short of a masterpiece that makes for a transcendental experience. And well done for discovering cinnamon sprinkled over apples – ground-breaking! I don’t believe anybody has thought of anything so innovative before, so thank you for showing us all about it in your perfectly posed selfie video.
Unfortunately, as I peel my eyelids apart and stumble out of bed at 5:30am, my morning is less magical. Most days I can only muster a quick, sad, film-topped coffee before I jolt out of the door to catch a train that smells of sweaty gym socks. Sometimes I manage buttered toast, if I’m feeling fancy.
I also applaud your commitment to dragging yourself away from the comfort of your post-breakfast reading time in your perfectly made cream bed to then reposition your camera in your pilates studio. Your very own pilates studio! I wish I didn’t have to share a gym with sweaty men who grunt during every rep. When the clock strikes 1pm, I am not donned in a cute, matching gym set. Instead, I find myself sat at a hot desk (that I had to book three weeks ago to secure, mind you!) convincing myself this £5 prawn cocktail sandwich from M&S was worth sacrificing a flat white from Caffe Nero for the office beans. In this moment, I am not gracefully extending opposing legs and arms and letting go of all negative thoughts. Instead, I find myself thinking this could have been an email. I could have been spared the torture of being trapped in a conversation about your children if you had just emailed me but saying ‘oh, I can’t believe it’s Monday again already! Honestly, where does the time go.’
You’ve seen it plastered all over the internet: skincare is really taking everybody by storm. Yesterday, my 6 year old sister asked me what kind of retinol she should start on and then firmly announced she would no longer be participating in laughter in an effort to prevent smile lines and crows feet from forming on her youthful face.
The abundance of content out there would almost convince you that skincare is for women only, that it is only little girls that should be practicing a 10-step night time routine instead of drinking warm almond milk before bed. Only women care about having soft, supple skin, and any man who purchases a moisturiser at Boots will be immediately stopped by security and asked whether he was actually looking for the gay bar.
Well, fellas, you can sigh a big, manly sigh of relief, because there’s a new brand in town. Rough N Tuff are here to shake up the skincare scene, with a wild new man-scented line of seven new products for only the manliest of men amongst you. This is for the ones who take charge of the barbecue, who watch Scarface and drink beer, who would rather starve to death than set foot in the kitchen. So put down your axe, get your flannels on and tell your wife to head down to the pharmacy to pick up this brand-spanking new set for you (not for your birthday, you don’t care about that).
In a world where achievements come in the form of fast racecars and senior citizen skydiving, there’s a lone wolf in West Yorkshire with his eyes set on a record that’s in the grasp of practically anybody who has walked past a bookshop. Meet Frodo Leatherbound, a literary iconoclast hell-bent on venturing where most of us haven’t intentionally dared to tread.
He hopes to break a world record with the largest collection of unread books on his bookshelf.
As we enter his cluttered, yet charmingly pretentious library (really, his living room, from what we can see of it), it’s a sight to behold. We are mesmerised by the towering shelves bulging at the seams, crammed with books Frodo can’t even remember the names of. Some of these volumes, we notice, are duplicated two, three, even four times, like they’re breeding more books in various editions and bindings.
A cursory glance will reveal an impressive mix of subjects; there is everything from biographies of long-forgotten pop stars to the collected wisdom of world leaders, Guinness World Record books dating back two decades, poetry anthologies, hundreds of classics, a smattering of contemporary tomes, and three signed Delia Smith books.
Aptly named, Frodo insists his genetic disposition to book hoarding is a legacy passed down through some bookish DNA, courtesy of parents who have refused to comment. In a wave of nostalgia, he recalls his youth, growing up amidst a world of picture-books, hefty journals, huge hardbacks, and even the charming pop-up books that characterised his formative years. Read more
When I think back to days gone by — you know, the days before voluntary 10pm bedtimes, a strong aversion to teenagers, the discovery of more than a few grey hairs, and a tendency to feel every single ache under the sun — I remember being a 19-year-old caffeine-fuelled creative powerhouse who didn’t stop until the sun started to bleed into the night. Sometimes I was convinced it even rose a little later just to give me more time to myself, but maybe that was just me thinking the world fell at my feet whenever I willed it. That I could have anything I wanted. I was right, though; I could.
Unsurprisingly, it would take more than a spell of dizziness, a gnawing stomach, and tired eyes to break me from the almost physical connection I had to the keys on my laptop. Writer’s block? I didn’t know her. I wrote when I wanted to write, and my day ended when I wanted it to end. I was juggling a million different hobbies and somehow still able to squeeze twenty-five hours from a day for everything I wanted to do (and all the things I didn’t). My skin suffered, I was a little underweight, and everything I created was borne out of some sort of affliction, but I always had something to be proud of at the end of the day. That’s what kept me going – I was addicted to the dopamine I sorely lacked. In truth, I was never really living in the real world. I was living through each piece of art I created, and it showed, weighing heavy on my entire being, scrawled all over everything I produced. I lost touch with reality; it started with books, which plagued me with a billion different perspectives of the world and only managed to feed my cynicism, and then I turned to writing in an attempt to drain myself of all the excess poison in my mind. I’m not sure if what I wrote was good, or I just needed something to relate to – whichever it was, I made it appear, and it worked. I dare not revisit the things I used to create, but there was a lot of it.Read more
What is it that weighs you down? Why can you only smile so wide, and why is every laugh touched by sadness? Why do you sigh like that, and why do your shoulders drop when you hear bad news, and why can you move on so quickly, as if you were expecting it all to fail anyway?
You carry the weight of the world, and you carry the worlds of other people, and you carry the worlds of the people you no longer are.
We can only handle so much sadness until we crack; we can only find the answers to questions we understand. You take on the pain of other people and lock it away safely for them until one day your soul is clogged with anguish that you can’t even locate. You ignore your own pain and push it deep inside you to make room for others, for the new you that you’re desperate to maintain, and it gets lost behind boxes that don’t even have your name on them. How do you rip something out of you if you can’t even find it? It’s as if something has died behind the walls, under the floorboards, and nothing of it remains but the bad smell it leaves behind. And you find that everywhere. It lingers on your clothes, in your hair, and it threatens to drive away everything you love. It eats away at your strength and it fogs everything in front of you; all you want to do is run away from it and keep running, and you can’t stand still to appreciate what you have in front of you because you’re embarrassed. If you stand still long enough, they’ll see you for what you are.
It’s 03:32am and we’re doing sixty down a forty. The roads are mostly empty, but I know this means we’ll be hearing police sirens any second now, and I don’t know how shady it’ll look when they open the door of a blacked out A3 to see two brown twenty-somethings with blood on the passenger seat. But I don’t tell Adam about the last part, because I want him to make it to the hospital alive without flipping the car.
I wouldn’t normally see a doctor for a cut, but I haven’t been able to move my hand for a while without fear of painting his seats red. I can’t feel my arm anymore and I think my fingers are about to fall off.
‘I don’t know, man,’ I sigh, too exhausted to even try to think about what happened. These days I just give myself a migraine trying to fill in the gaps; I can’t remember something I wasn’t there for. But I saw the marks on her neck, and what I do know is I did it again. I don’t know what else happened; we made up and fell asleep, we had sex, I think. She fell asleep again. I stayed up. Everything was fine. Then there was blood.
The lights outside are a blur.
Adam quickly looks down at the blood-soaked cloth I’m holding against my left palm, and his eyes keep darting to his seats, occasionally checking that I haven’t spilled any. I have.
‘Why the fuck…’ he mutters under his breath as he pushes his foot down on the accelerator, the engine growling.Read more