‘Freedom lies in being bold.’
The summer holidays have us feeling giddy, even though we’re no longer schoolkids about to embark on a 6-week-long break. That said, we can channel this level of enthusiasm for the next month and a half. Even if we’re not jetting off to warmer climes or cavorting across country, there are an abundance of adventures to be had right in our own towns and cities, and even, according to Xavier de Maistre, in our rooms. In A Journey Around My Room (published in 1794), the Frenchman turns our idea of travel on its head, observing and waxing lyrical about the items in his room with the notion that what matters is our perspective on travel, not the destination itself. This idea has been championed in more recent times by philosopher Alain de Botton, who reckons that, with an open mind and open eyes, a walk to the local shop can be just as exciting and interesting as venturing overseas.
Here’s to a summer ripe with expeditions, journeys, and adventures — and you may not even leave your 'hood.
Cover image: Lake Trasimeno, being
Cover quote: Robert Frost
G O O D S T U F F
Good On You is a website championing ethical, sustainable fashion. What makes it special is its brand directory, which can be used on the website or downloaded as an app. It has evaluations of thousands of brands, giving them an overall rating (ranging from ‘We Avoid’ to ‘Great’), scores out of five for ‘planet’, ‘people’, and ‘animals’, and then elaborations on what they know. It’s handy for finding out the deal behind big brands, but also for discovering other, lesser-known brands that are doing a great job. All useful stuff for being more conscious and careful about what we buy.
Find your sleep animal
Every human has a chronotype — a natural internal circadian clock that affects our sleep and appetite preferences. Each chronotype is categorised as an animal: lion, bear, wolf, and dolphin. The quick quiz at chronoquiz.com determines which animal you are and will hopefully call attention to your patterns and habits so you can start your own journey to better sleep and overall wellbeing. (FYI, we’re a lion and a dolphin!)
Relieve allergies, natural style
‘Tis the season to be sneezy, weepy, itchy, and any other allergy-related adjectives. Some people require some serious antihistamines, but for those with milder symptoms, acupressure, a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine, is a neat natural alternative. For itchy eyes or nasal congestion, press your index fingers (with a deep, firm pressure) at the start (inner part) of your eyebrows. For scratchy throats or rashes, try pressing on the outer side of your elbow creases.
N O T E S O N
Cider has been around since ancient times — it was popular during the Greek, Roman and the Middle Eastern empires (in fact, its name likely comes from a Hebrew or Greek word with the meaning ‘strong drink’). But it was after the Normans invaded Britain in 1066 that cider really took off. The Normans planted orchards of acidic and tannic cider apples and introduced efficient pressing technology. Soon, certain British counties that had the right climates and soils (mostly in the West Country) became the home of cider cultivation.
The fermented apple drink was commonly thought of as a form of wine (King Charles I even ranked it above wine, apparently), which was handy as during The Little Ice Age (1300s-1800s), grapes couldn’t survive but apples could, sparking the glory years of cider. Cider had a rough time in the ‘80s and ‘90s, though, associated with both old male farmers and teenagers glugging from tins on park benches. But in the 2000s, brands started marketing it towards young people using cool adverts and snazzy bottles, and it underwent a rebirth.
Most of us today know cider as a sweet, sparkling alcoholic drink ideal for beer gardens on summer days. It comes in a variety of iterations though; it can be still and it can also have different profiles much like wine — dry, sweet, etc. The one thing that every cider has in common (if it cares about the law), though: at least thirty-five percent apple juice.
A L B U M S F O R W H E N E V E R
The Writing’s on the Wall
“Say My Name”
When we think of Destiny’s Child, tons of images come up: Bey, Kelly, and Michelle on the beach in the video for “Survivor”; the trio making their comeback with a badass dance-off in “Lose My Breath”; the girls reuniting at 2018 Coachella. But let’s cast our minds back to the start of the group’s success: The Writing’s on the Wall. Back then, it was Bey, Kelly, LeToya and LaTavia. Following a lukewarm debut album the year before, they (with the help of Missy Elliot) produced what can only be described as a total hit factory. This 1999 album is the sacred home of “Say My Name”, “Jumpin’ Jumpin’”, “Bills Bills Bills”, and “Bug a Boo”, and on the rerelease, “Independent Women Pt I”. In the various editions that were released after the original, there were also some collabs with top peeps like Wyclef and Timbaland.
Playing off of the title, at the end of each song, one of the members says a commandment related to the next tune, e.g. “Thou shalt say my name”. Actual goosebumps.
The record earnt six Grammy nominations and was ranked 39th in Billboard’s Top 200 Albums of the Decade. Soon after, Michelle joined the group, and general world domination commenced.
D I V E I N
Today, our phones are “phones”.
How strange for an object to no longer be associated first and foremost with its name and primary function but for totally unrelated uses.
There’s endless research and debate about modern technology and its helpful and harmful effects, but this ode to landlines isn’t about that. Rather, it’s an unapologetic swim in a pool of wistfulness (with a few strokes of reflection and lamentation, for good measure).
* * *
I feel deep nostalgia for phones plugged into walls — not to be charged but to, y’know, work. In my childhood, when the phone (sitting on a specific telephone table in the living room) rang, it could’ve been anyone. A family friend. A travel agent through whom we had booked a holiday. A salesperson. A school friend. The conversation could’ve been as casual as ‘where shall we meet tomorrow?’ or as meaningful as me whispering into the receiver and turning my body towards the wall, willing my family not to look at me as my friend asks about a boy I think I’m in love with. The conversation could’ve been pressing enough to shout, ‘get off the Internet, I need to use the phone’, or pressured too much by shouts of ‘hurry up, you’re blocking the line’.
* * *
Landlines allow a casual approach to communication. In The Cassandra Chronicles, writer Ariel Leve (as her alter ego, Cassandra) calls a friend for a casual reason in almost every essay. She calls to ask if they would hypothetically donate an organ. She calls on a random day at a random time just to chat. She calls the café downstairs to put in her order.
For many of us today, the idea of calling a friend at any unspecified time to ask something completely random or brief feels like an invasion of privacy, or something that can only be a one-off. So we tend to schedule phone calls with loved ones and text them when we see something that reminds us of them instead of dialling their numbers and telling them with our voices.
There’s merit to scheduling calls; often you both have set windows of available time. Maybe there are time zones to consider. Scheduling also gives you something to look forward to and to commit to so you’re not feeding the dog, only half-listening to your friend as she bares her soul. There’s no use calling someone for a long chat while they’re at work. But the simple answer to all of this, perhaps somewhat incomprehensible today, is: if they don’t want to (or can’t) answer the phone, they won’t. They have that choice. And it removes so much of our modern angst. There are no two blue ticks to over-analyse. There is no agitation about them not answering at the agreed-upon time and you having ‘wasted’ time. They either answer or they don’t. We either try again or we don’t. Or we can leave a message (perhaps spoken not typed, should their mobile phone have an answering machine service).
* * *
There is a slowness that landlines offer — although perhaps that’s only the case now that we’re going so fast (it’s all relative; we never would’ve thought that we were living in a ‘slow way’ when we used landlines back in the day).
Today, we don’t have to wait until someone has finished using the Internet. We don’t have to dial. We don’t have to know numbers off-by-heart or own a physical address book. Of course, this makes things more convenient, but as Tim Wu says in his often-referenced NYT article “The Tyranny of Convenience”, ‘convenience begets more convenience’. Not necessarily a good thing when trying to live more consciously.
We all know that lots of things have been negatively impacted by the rise of the smartphone, especially the pace at which we live, but aspects of communication seem to have taken a deeper hit than we may recognise (perhaps because we’re pacified by the high volume of communication apps smartphones insist we use).
* * *
As with many things that have faded in the bright (sometimes blinding) rays of change, there is something deeply comforting about landline phones. If you don’t own one, you can get this nostalgia fix on screen. In When Harry Met Sally, the title characters lie in their respective beds, chatting on their landline phones while watching the same film. In Friends, pre-mobile phones, they listen in on each other’s conversations on the other line and hurry each other’s phone use because they’re waiting for a call.
And then, to bring ourselves back into the present and have a good laugh at ourselves, we can watch the New Girl episode “Landlines”. The gang decide to get a landline to solve the problem of there being adequate reception in only one bedroom. In one particularly hilarious scene, they huddle around the plastic, blue device as if it’s an alien. Reactions include:
‘Where do you put your music?’
‘Why is there a rope?’
‘I'm just excited to add a third number: Home, work, and cell. Damn, I'm reachable.’
* * *
Remember your first ever mobile phone? Maybe it had a pull-out aerial (Clueless-style), or chunky buttons, or a tiny grey screen, or (if you’re younger than us) a Qwerty keyboard or laggy touchscreen. Regardless, it was likely very different from the phone you use now. Even the landline was advanced upon. Early phones had spiral diallers and little cone-shaped receivers to be held up to the ear. Then came trapezium-shaped bodies with dainty receivers cradled above. The ‘80s and ‘90s gave us curly-wired devices of varying builds (see: singular and rectangular, office-style, pink and fluffy, burger-shaped, etc). Following that were chunky portable handsets with pull-out aerials and buttons built into the receiver. And most recently (but not actually recent) are sleek portable phones resembling early mobiles that stand upright in answering machine docks.
* * *
Video calls have been particularly helpful during the pandemic. Landlines can’t show you your friend’s newborn baby. Landlines can’t let you see your father, whom you haven’t physically seen in two years. There is a lot that landlines can’t do, but I often wonder: how would we have coped during the pandemic or when separated from loved ones if we didn’t have Skype or Zoom or FaceTime? How did people cope and stay well when they couldn’t see their loved ones in non-techno times? Was hearing a voice on the other end of the line enough? And (a question for our times in general): is something inherently enough because there isn’t any other way?
R E A D S F O R W H E N E V E R
Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold — Stephen Fry
Want to know more about the ancient Greeks but don’t have the patience or inclination to read verbose tomes about it? We recommend Mythos by Stephen Fry. His retelling of the Greek classics is accessible, fascinating, and full of that ancient Greek god drama. Also, the book is resplendent with Fry’s trademark witticism and character; you can almost hear his voice when you read, especially in the footnotes. There are a lot of complicated (often incestuous) links between the gods, meaning it can be hard to stay on top of who’s who in each story. Our (and Stephen’s!) advice? Don’t sweat it. Just enjoy each dramatic, traumatic, fantastical story as it is and if you can remember whose brother’s lover’s mother they’re talking about, that’s a bonus. Fry followed Mythos with Heroes, focused specifically on Greek heroes, and later Troy, a look at the Trojan War.
R O O T S
The word ‘spa’ as we know it came from a place with medicinal spring waters. Spa in Belgium was the place to relax and heal in the Middle Ages. It became so popular that by the 1600s, any place with a medicinal spring was called a ‘spa’ and, later, any place with heated baths as well as springs. Now, of course, it’s any kind of wellness centre that has water treatments or facilities.
In terms of etymology, it’s believed that ‘spa’ was originally derived from the word espa, the word for ‘fountain’ in Walloon (a Romance language associated with Belgians). The origin of the term spa is the Latin spargere, which means ‘to sprinkle’.