“When humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses.”
Truth time: when we thought about creating this month’s issue, we weren’t sure we had anything to say, let alone the energy to say it. That lead to questions about if it mattered — if anyone was reading (especially given that we currently don’t use social media or really promote being) and if what we were creating was valuable. To make sure we’re always working from the right place, these are questions we often ponder, and our feelings about them, like with most things in life, are always shifting. But January and February, even with strong starts and the best of intentions, left us feeling especially depleted and defeated.
Then, nearing the end of February, on a rare sunny afternoon, waking from a short, sweet nap, the first murmurs of vitality started to make themselves known to us. We realised that we did have a few things to share, and we felt good about putting them out there from the usual place of joy and hope. We can’t predict the future of anything, not least how we’ll feel on any given day and thus the fate of being, but right now, inspiration and optimism are starting to show up, and here we are, pleased to shed our winter coats and enter this season of growth and possibility.
HYDE PARK, being
A N O T E
On 8th of this month, it’s International Women’s Day. The global holiday officially began in 1911 (following three years of unrest and protest) and is marked around the world (in Germany, as of 2019, it’s a public holiday). The day focuses on a variety of issues, such as the gender pay gap, women in technology, and women’s health, and encourages a diverse array of activities, from parties to marches. This year’s theme is #EmbraceEquity, encouraging folks to bring attention to discrimination and bias against women, and call for equality.
A L B U M S F O R W H E N E V E R
MTV Unplugged (2017)
Bleachers, the band fronted by Jack Antonoff, has released four (fantastic) studio albums so far, but it’s their 2017 live record that we always seem to go back to. Their MTV Unplugged offering is a compilation of songs from the band’s first three albums: Strange Desire, Gone Now, and Terrible Thrills Vol.2 (the latter of which features every song from Strange Desire but covered by female artists). This live recording gives fans the opportunity to focus on the instrumentation away from production — hearing the horns live is a particular treat. The record also features some of the band’s collaborators. Carly Rae Jepson performs “Shadow” — a song she collabs on with Antonoff on Terrible Thrills Vol.2 — and Lorde sings “Don’t Take the Money”, a tune she co-wrote on Gone Now.
Bleachers joins the long list of artists who have released MTV Unplugged albums. In the 30-odd years the series has been running, a huge number of its records have become platinum bestsellers, most notably Eric Clapton (1992), Nirvana (1994), and Alicia Keys (2005).
L O N G R E A D
In 2016, The School of Life published a book called Small Pleasures. It offers exactly what the title promises: a book full of little joys that are available to us in daily life, should we make the time and have the presence of mind to notice them. Inspired by this appreciation of all things daily and beautiful, here are a few of our own small pleasures.
Sun on your face
It’s not cheeks burning under the blazing afternoon sun or tightness in the forehead from a stubborn desire for a tan; it’s much more subtle than that. The gentle dance of dappled rays across your whole face for a minute or ten, the way you close your eyes and tilt your head back and the golden goodness seems to smooth over you like a wave over a rock, coating your skin in a sparkly kind of warmth. Delicious always, but especially so in winter.
A pet on your lap
There aren’t many things quite as comforting as being a cushion for a beloved pet. A cat adopting the croissant position on your lap, their C-shape both a clever defence against falling into the gap between your legs and their comfiest pose. A dog’s head on your thigh, maybe even a paw too as if to claim the land, comforting not only because you are The Chosen Lap but because the weight of another living being on your own living being offers the sweet gift of reciprocity; you are both loving and loved. Also, their warm, weighted furriness is just really lovely.
Starting a new book
You have been waiting for the exact right moment — finishing a current book, being in the right mood, having a whole afternoon to yourself — and now it’s here. The unbridled giddiness that comes with starting a book you’ve been eagerly anticipating is a feeling we don’t get enough of (and certainly don’t encourage) as adults. There’s a child-like excitement in opening the first page, reading slowly and carefully, in a way you never seem to nearing the end of a book, and knowing you are about to enter a new world. The very definition of a small pleasure.
There aren’t any big issues, just a few crinkled fronds here, some old wispy growths there. You notice one morning and end up moving from plant to plant in your home, carefully snipping with the small pair of secateurs you bought in a random gift shop that time. You prod the soil with a finger to determine whether it needs more water. Then, a quick dust of the leaves and a repositioning of the plant so it gets what it needs: sun, shade, the best view in the house. You feel connected (and, undoubtedly, wholesome) as you tend to these living things.
Sticking your head out the window
There’s a reason dogs love lolling their heads out of car windows; outside air, especially the kind that blows in faces and through hair, feels good. They can’t get enough of the stuff. We were all out there once, in the fresh breeze, in the open. Perhaps on a cellular level, gusts of fresh air, rather than stationary rooms of recycled, stifled air, make us humans feel at home. So, whether you’re in a moving vehicle or your living room, it’s a long afternoon or a morning ripe with potential, crack open a window, stick your head out, and take a big gulp.
Staying in bed
It goes like this: fumble for the clock/watch/phone; squint so you can make out the numbers; compute that, unlike most days, they are not the numbers that demand you get out of bed but rather ones that mean you are awake a little too early; realise that you can stay in bed for another thirty minutes; actively savour this time in bed, under the duvet warmed by your body heat and the pillows squished just right, more than you ever have savoured any time in bed.
Arriving at the bus stop at the exact right moment
It’s so perfect, it could be a choreographed pas de deux; you walking at your usual pace towards the bus stop, the bus pulling in at the right speed for you to take one more step and be greeted with the opening of its doors. No running, panting, checking a watch (its face a blur) as you run, bags banging into your side. Equally, no impatiently shifting of weight from one leg to the other as you stand and crane your neck for the bus that you swear should have been here by now.
B O O K S F O R W H E N E V E R
Pandora’s Jar — Natalie Haynes
In recent years, there’s been a resurgence of the retelling of Greek myths. Readers can’t get enough of the epics told in accessible ways (e.g., Stephen Fry’s Mythos) and from new perspectives (e.g., Madeleine Miller’s books, giving voices to characters often sidelined). In Pandora’s Jar, Natalie Haynes veers away from retelling legendary stories or writing new versions and instead analyses and challenges the depictions and outright omissions of many females written in lore (and thus seemingly, stone). From Pandora, who, despite all evidence pointing in other directions, is blamed for unleashing ills on the world, to Medusa, who is cursed, killed, and used by cowardly Perseus to fend off attackers and yet is widely considered to be an evil monster. Using logic, reason, and compassion, Haynes releases these women from the villainous (or, indeed, invisible) roles they’ve been exiled to and gives us the chance to see them, and the full picture, differently.