“We are, each of us, a product of the stories we tell ourselves.”
April is a month of celebrations: Easter, Eid al-Fitr, Passover, Chingming Festival, Hanshi Festival. We don’t know how we feel about the commercialisation of cultural celebrations, but as it stands, Easter is fertile ground for adults to do the thing that adults don’t often do: play. The holiday sees children, filled with whimsy and joy, embark on egg hunts, eat rabbit-shaped chocolates, and make pastel-coloured streamers. But it doesn’t have to be just for kids! We can do those things, too! We should do them, too! Play theorist Dr. Stuart Brown once said, ‘The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression.’
Luckily, April is the perfect time to let go of our rigid, grown-up tastes and socially acceptable adult norms, if only for the month. It opens with April Fools Day and is followed by International Pillow Fight Day (2nd April), No Housework Day (7th April), and National Unicorn Day (9th April), among other encouragements to frolic.
A N O T E
Watch out for Mercury
Mercury is so close to the sun that it’s usually invisible in the glare, but on 11th April the tiny planet will be at its greatest distance from its fiery friend. This means there’s a chance that those in Britain will be able to see it in the early evening sky, about an hour after sunset. Later in the month, starting on 21st April and ending on 15th May, Mercury will be in retrograde. Astrologers believe that things are likely to go awry during this time. What we’re hearing is: don’t get overly attached to plans or throw away gadget warranties...
A L B U M S F O R W H E N E V E R
Pure Fiction (2014)
We’ve been all-in with Eric Hutchinson since his first album, Sounds Like This, in 2008. His ability to create sincere music through a blend of catchy hooks, intelligent lyrics that range from witty to emotional, and tremendous musicianship is front and centre of all his offerings, but there’s something particularly captivating about his third album. Pure Fiction illustrates his ingenuity and proficiency in merging genres (folk pop, power pop, and rock) in an organic and cohesive way. The record combines upbeat, lively anthems (“Tell The World”, “A Little More”), vast, bursting tunes (“Forever”, “Love Like You”) and soulful, pared back reprieves (“Goodnight Goodbye”, “When The Sun Goes Down”), all of which completely belong on this album, despite their different tempos, topics, and tones. We’d say that, when played in the ‘right’ order, it perfectly spans a full day: pure optimism in the morning, mixed energy in the afternoon, and recuperation and rumination in the evening.
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.
A pet on your lap
There aren’t many things quite as comforting (and humbling) 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 this 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; knowing you are about to enter a new world. The very definition of a small pleasure.
Sun on your face
It’s not cheeks burning under the blazing afternoon sun or tightness in the forehead from a stubborn need to get a tan; it’s much more subtle than that. It’s 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.
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 ones that mean you are awake a little too early; realise that you can stay in bed for another thirty minutes; suddenly savour this time in bed, under the duvet warmed with your body heat and the pillows squished just right, more than you ever have savoured any time in bed.
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 considered 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.