Escapism

Have you ever fully felt present? Inarguably engulfed in the here and now? Void of any outside influence or worry? It’s what we all desperately search for, isn’t it? The peace, the stillness, the seemingly flat-line of life, where gargantuan levels of life exists.

I’ve escaped to the country for the weekend, which isn’t difficult to do when you live in Wales. A fourty-five minute drive out of the bustling Capital which is Cardiff has transported me inland, where I seem to be the only human who exists. A desire to escape my normality and the four walls of my city life flat has led me to a charming Air B&B on the cuff of Monmouthshire, where such is so peaceful that the dull hum of the fridge and the fizzing of the WiFi router is enough to distract you from the happenings which lie outside. My creative juices- as an overtly confident drama student would declare – have felt somewhat confined over the last couple of months. Not due to a lack of ideas or ambition, but of the ‘get up and go’ which entails distracting myself from the familiarities which lie in my flat long enough to put my phone – and social media – away and pick up my laptop to write and to edit and to exhert excitement into a piece of machinery of which I’ve sat in an office chair staring at for seven hours previously. I needed to detach work from my personal passion projects, and reconnect with the exuberance I’d left behind on the office desk. I needed to look up and look out of an unfamiliar window and inhale the essence which laid outside it. I needed to fling open the glass and breathe in the crisp air which lifted the fog that shrouded my brain. I needed to escape.

The brilliance of nature is widely scoffed at. An olde-worlde answer which doesn’t stack up with 21st Century problems. I’m guilty myself of ignoring it’s miracles, eyes glued firmly to the device which sits pride of place in my hands. But there is no better practice when mastering the art of being present and alive than sitting amongst the trees and the life which thrives amongst them. ‘She’s a treehugger!’ I hear you cry. Not quite yet, but there’s still time; As I relish in the beauty of the birds and the ahem- bees which dance on the opposite side of the pane of glass I can’t help but feel connected, feel inspired, feel creative again.

Through the looking glass. I spent most of my
Time at this window.

I closed my eyes and listened to the life unfolding around me. I’m failing to recall a time I noticed such a variety of bird songs flounceing through the air; The edgeless purring coming from the chicken pen was in stark contrast to the high-pitched call which echoed from the Red-Kite soaring above. I opened my eyes and everything seemed brighter. The leaves fell in a spiral, mincing off their branches to their final resting space. Apples lay at my feet, bruised by their hardship, damaged goods. A squirrel leapt across the grass with grace which could challenge a RAD trained ballerina. In the distance, pillows of clouds consumed the top of Sugar Loaf mountain, its peak name-sakingly peaking through the fog to expose it’s greatness to those quick enough to capture it. In hindsight, none of these things were extroadinarily obscure in themselves, but the anchoring of the present moment of which they provided was a step towards creating my own corner of extraordinary.

Connecting with yourself, with your aims, with your goals, is a necessary step in reminding ourselves why we’re here and what it is we want to do. It is so easy to get caught up in the mundaneness of life, the 8am alarm clocks and the 7pm microwave meals. Allowing yourself time to escape, gifting yourself those moments of stillness you will never get back is an act of kindness of which you will never regret. Whether you physically escape to a bolthole in the country like myself, or step outside and take in the greatness of your local park, next time don’t just watch the World go by, entangle yourself amongst it.

It’s cool to be kind.

It’s cool to be kind.

You’ve got to be cruel to be kind, or so we’re told, right? ‘They’re being mean because they like you’ is – quite honestly- a messed-up role we accept as a must-be fact when we’re infants; A bright-eyed and bushy haired four year old believing that the boy who pushed us over on the playground and scraped open our bruise-riddled knee cap was picking on us because he liked us. Some folk build their whole personalities around their brutal ‘honesty’ and the fact that they’re #real, claiming the title of the bitch of the group as if it were a Pride of Britain award. “I just say it how it is babe”. What you’re saying- babe – is that you’re a prick.

For far too long we’ve brushed off rudeness as a character trait, something to laugh along at although we wouldnt dare say it ourselves. Excusing the behaviour of that friend who’s slut shaming others from the pub corner because ‘that’s just what they’re like’. Or letting your elderly relative get away with calling the woman on the table next to you ‘a bit of a porker’ because ‘he’s from that generation’. But what if this ‘harmless’ fun in which you giggle at under closed doors amongst your tightly-woven friendship group is breeding something more harmful than a sour-mouthed loveable rogue? One who can’t be scoffed at and told to pipe down over a pint of Heineken and a packet of bacon fries, or sighed at that ‘Grandpa you can’t say that anymore!’ through muffled laughs of secret impress. What if these small spikes of validation are slowly encouraging the rise of thy once woeful friend or relative to tread into ever more dangerous territory; Territory where they cannot be monitored, recognised or identified, Where they can hide under a false persona and push young girls to attempt suicide through their smug opinions and ghastly off-the-cuff comments. What if you’re giving birth to an internet troll?

Sounds crazy, right? But they’re arising from somewhere, and at lightning speed. As someone who has unfortunately been on the receiving end of online trolling and name-calling, I can *categorically* state that these individuals aren’t overweight, sweaty men who wear off-white vests and hang out in their mums garages giving their wrists a good work out –not all of them anyway. These people are really, really….normal? Your mum’s friend Carol (it’s always Carol isn’t it?) who lives a few doors down might send round some of her left over apple pie on a foggy Thursday evening, but what you fail to see is that she’s also pressing send on a Facebook comment calling a twenty-something girl she doesn’t know a slag on a local newspaper’s page. Your loveable elderly Uncle? He’s sending unsolicited dick pics and graphic sexual comments about what he wants to ‘do’ to women fifty years his junior straight into their inbox. Your brother? He’s belittling women on Twitter and telling them to get a real job. And your sister? Well, she might be tagging her friend in an Instagram post as they laugh at the way a girls belly roll sits. These people drop their kids off alongside us at the school gates and they bust out a sweat on the bike next to us at a spin-class. They could be sitting alongside you in the office or at the table on Christmas Day. Intenet trolls don’t have three-feet tall purple hair and hide under a bridge ready to steal your pet goat as it trots by, Internet trolls walk amongst us and it’s highly likely they’re being spurred on by someone – or something- which has led them to genuinely believe that they must share their opinion that you have fat ankles and are boring AF before they combust into a cloud of frogs because they haven’t been #real in at least ten minutes.

Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out – Jesy speaks candidly about her mental health struggles in the documentary (Photo: BBC)

Jesy Nelson’s gritty BBC Three Documentary ‘Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out‘ exposed the side of the internet we all try and dismiss, turning our heads to the outpour of hatred that spills out of the fingertips of thousands of individuals online. ‘Don’t Feed The Trolls’ we’re told. But when someone is attacking your character, manipulating your image, stealing your photo’s or lampooning the bits of your body you hate to see reflected back at you in the mirror, it’s difficult to shrug it off as just nothing; To not want to defend yourself, or not take their comment personally. If a kid called you a name in the school playground, you would’ve called them something back, or at the very least gone home and cried into your pillow about it afterwards. To suggest we can choose to totally ignore it is a difficult pill to swallow. In fact, it’s like trying to swallow a scotch egg whole. It’s just not going down. To see the affect these stranger’s comments have had on Jesy’s character was heart-shattering. A once confident and laughter-hungry young girl now riddled with insecurities she didn’t place on herself. We can say it time and time again- these trolls are sad, they’re bitter, they’re lonely. But how do we stop them? How do we re-train them, change their behaviour, convince them that they’re wrong? How can we stop these secret (and sometimes openly proud) hate-breathers in their tracks? They seem to have no shame, no empathy, no emotion. Somewhere along the way we’ve created a society where people feel completely comfortable being a knob. It’s really, really concerning.

It’s cool to be kind, it’s nice to be nice. But Mary Poppins isn’t real and life isn’t always as straight as a twelve-inch ruler (what did you think I was going to say?). We say mean things sometimes, we laugh at horrible things sometimes and we occasionally, un-intentionally encourage bad behaviour. We’re only human, after all. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be a little more aware of eachother’s feelings? Even strangers and people behind Instagram posts and reality-tv shows have crappy days. When did we become so de-sensitised to that?

Let me serve you up some homework that will warm your cockles more than your Nan’s roast potatoes on a hungover Sunday. For seven days, comment something positive under someone’s Instagram/Facebook/Twitter picture. Seven People. Seven nice comments. Seven days. Trust me, it’ll leave you feeling a whole lot nicer and much more appreciated by the World than letting a Kardashian know what you really think of them under their most recent post will.

#777 Are you in?

SOS: Deserted on Love Island; Why none of us can find higher ground.

Love Island Cast, 2019

It’s been two weeks since the final of this years Love Island, which saw ultimate fuck-boy repeller Amber and the outcome of what you’d be presented with at the check-out if your mum took you to ‘Build a Bear’ but for boyfriends, Greg (srsly why can’t we do that yet? Can someone Black Mirror the shit out of that please?), crowned champions of shagging and salmon’ing. Fourteen long days. 336 painful hours, or- as I prefer to keep track of it, 19,600 excruciating minutes. If you haven’t already gathered from my torturess tallying or my knowledge of this years break out star ‘The Salmon’, I am a Love Island super fan. Gasp Horror Get a life. Yeah, I get it, I should be ashamed. I’ve never been a super fan of anything, other than the icons that are Hear’Say, and even I got bored of them when Kym Marsh left. It’s become trendy to proclaim you hate the show, that you hold some superior status because you enjoy scrolling through Twitter moaning about the show instead of actually just watching the show in question. But when your views are on par with Piers Morgan, there’s nothing ‘edgy’ about you mate, your just a bit of a prick. For all it’s cringe, it’s tragic-ness and it’s satire, there is something rather endearing about watching a group of strangers fight to share a bed with a girl that they all have a connection with (Did I miss 5G network hitting Mallorca first? Michael, hit me up with your network provider because your connection rate is outstanding) -that they met 24 hours ago, who they’re totally willing to pie their current fling for- who they also met 24 hours ago– because you know, it is what it is, right?

In fact, calling it endearing is playing it mighty humble, to say the least. This years show broke records, with six million of us minions all tuning in amongst the pie’s and the no-text-back’s of our own lives to see how firefighter turned King Of Thy Fuck Boys Michael was going to go down in flames when Hurricane Amber hit (fuck me, it was good seeing him mess it up at the end wasn’t it? But we’ll get to that later). A millenial phenomonem like no other, a show which started with Paul Danan and Calum Best frolicking on the beaches of Fiji (If she don’t remember Celebrity Love Island and the infamous ‘love shack’, she’s too young for you bruh), has become an all-consuming prime time tv-show turned podcast turned after-show turned twitter takeover like no other. Water Bottles and Suitcases alike are coveted items, squiggled with your name in a font a poor intern probably mocked up in the deep shadows of Ian Stirling’s voice box. Car air-freshner’s and Boohoo clothing #ads have become a set-piece of the contestant’s Instagram accounts furniture, whilst viewing parties are popping up across the country faster than Ovie (Oh, Ovie) can shout ‘MESSAGE’. But what is it about this Island-which is really a rich persons villa– that has us cancelling our plans to be in front of the tv by 9pm evevery night to hear those magic words seep into our veins….. TONIGHT, ON LOVE ISLAND.

It’s pretty simple really, we’re all ridiculously curious about eachother’s lives, desperate to find out if anyone else out there is shit with securing dates or keeps getting ghosted at the earliest opportunity. An air air hostess, an eye-lash guru and a naked butler walk into a room, and all I want to know is ‘how the fuck do you look like that, and where can I buy your trousers?’. Love Island provides us with the platform to see inside the inner circle, the cool kids in school who wore thongs aged 12 and snogged boys at the school disco’s. We’re enticed in by their beauty, their glamour, their claims their mum shaves their arses, just wondering is this really what it’s like beyond the blue tick? As an audience we love to love, the proof of that is in the Loose Women Panel Slots and This Morning Presnter gigs which wouldn’t be offered to the contestants if no-one gave a shit. But boy, do we all love to hate too. Love Island is an escape from our shitty dating history where even Aled from Merthyr- who’s a solid 5 at the most after a few dozen flavoured vodkas in revs- is putting us in a taxi to go home…. alone. Pointing out a former Miss United Kingdom winner walks ‘like a dinosaur’ and seeing sex-goddess Maura get given the cheek by Tommy ‘how are you that pretty’ Fury gives us the reassurance that all us sausage-roll loving, drunk-texting beings need that maybe, just maybe, these carved by the gods and painted by the GAWDS perfect looking humans aren’t so perfect after all.

Some people complain that there isn’t enough variety when it comes to looks on the show. That the producers should throw in your average Joe bloggs from the building site and Brenda from your local pub because that would be soooo much more entertaining (yeah, I’ve seen you traitors on Twitter, and you call yourself fans?). But listen up folks, as much of a champion I am for Sharon’s Worlwide, that’s what we’ve got Eastenders for ok? Because the fact is we know what goes on in these everyday folks lives, because we live it, every day. As much as we all hate to admit it, what draws us in to those neon-bikini poolside scenes are the bodies and the hair extensions and the ‘how is there that many good looking people in one room?questions. We watch their every move and admire them from afar as if they were Angelina fucking Jolie in her Tomb Raider days. Buying the clothes that they’re wearing, Following their social accounts, Voting for them to WIN even more money than they already have in their trust funds and a minute percent of what they’ll make from their club appearance fee’s. But what separates the Love Island contestants from their A-list counterparts is the very same thing which keeps them apart, the idea that next year- that could be me.

They’re relatable. They haven’t got *that* much (sorry guys) talent when it comes to making it big that you think shit, I’m 10 years behind on the acting classes here. For all the tits and the tan, there’s primark push-up bra’s and bondi sands. For all the smiles and veneers, there’s a ryanair flight to Turkey. For all the chat, and the vibes and the untimely pie’s, there’s a guy who’s told you you’re just not his type. What’s different about Love Island is the feeling of involvement, the thoughts of how nice it’d be for you and your mates to jump in the pool fully clothed after the guy you fancy asks you to be his girlfriend, the anger of your boy taking lad banter too far (Anton, we’re all looking at you yeah?) and the sinking feeling of comforting your best friend after her boyfriend cheats on her in front of her mates. These glamourous tv-stars are just like us, and that gives us that hit, that warmth, those good vibes to know that ok, maybe i’m really alright?

So next time you scoff at the thought of sitting through sixty minutes of snogging and ‘have you ever’ games, think of the last time you genuinely related to someone’s toe-curling sex confessions and ‘I can’t promise I won’t do it again’ chats on TV. Countdown not doing it for you, no? Love Island is refreshing. It’s tacky. It’s fun. It’s predictable. It’s everything you’ve thought it is and more, but it’s reality TV at it’s finest, and at it’s most authentic. That’s ignoring the fake hair and teeth and tits, of course.

It’s time to check in with your mindfulness.

It’s time to check in with your mindfulness.

I’m sat with an ahem, double gin and tonic on my one side, and ‘The Motivation Mainfesto’ by Brendan Burchard on my other. I’ve claimed my position on the balcony of a bar down Cardiff Bay with my visions of living the idyllic, ‘writer inspired by beautiful views’ high life, interrupted by a sea of Swansea accents which penetrate my eardrums as they toast the hot weather with pints of Welsh Cider, and the NSFW bedroom antics they got up to the previous night (honestly, nothing like a overhearing a conversation on grey hairy balls to inspire you to look within). An array of suspicious black curly hairs are entwined in the sticky alcohol infused table I call home for the next 80 minutes or so as I settle in for some much needed *me doing something I actually enjoy doing * time.

This blog has been a long while coming. Something I’ve pushed to the side whilst continuing to convince myself I have no time to write. No time amongst the endless scrolling. No time amongst the moaning. No time amongst the worrying. No time amongst the smiling, the laughing, the creating, the making. I try and practice my mindfulness as often as possible, but the last two months has seen me drift away into no-mans land on a leaking old kayak; Doing everything, but doing nothing. It’s about time I checked in with my mindfulness.

Mindfulness to some may seem like a load of codswallop. A land of airy-fairy; for hippies and yuppies and that weird group of kids at school who wore blankets as jackets and ties around their head. Although it’s admittedly questionable whether the cheap skunk they were smoking may have fogged up their adolescent minds, those hippie kids were sure onto something great. I’ve been practicing mindfulness for about five years now, since I discovered ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne. Some of you may have heard of it, some of you may have fallen in love with it, some of you may have turned your nose up at it. But one thing you can’t do is deny it; deny it’s basic message which is the Law Of Attraction- you attract what you think. Now hang in there, I’m not about to go all Uri Geller on you, I’m just highlighting something which has got me out of a few down-and-out places over the years. I have thought my way out of a mediocre reality and into a World of wonder and glee; a World full of experiences beyond my wildest dreams. And by ‘thought‘ I don’t mean I’ve sat in my room in my own self-pity whilst hoping the winds may change. But by continuing to envision a better life for myself; to hold on to the positives, the dreams, the unreachable, whilst working until 2.30am pulling pints in my local pub and living in parents spare room. And this was after I’d peaked at glamour modelling.

You’re going to have to get a full time job Jess” my Dad would tell me, as I prepared for another slog at the bar. I’d graduated University and had had to move back to Aberystwyth because I couldn’t afford to live in Cardiff now the safety blanket of my student loan had evaporated. The Ban The Lad Mag campaigns were in full swing and my modelling work had dried up, and when the work did come in, it was a six and a half hour Arriva trains (trust me, this matters!) train journey away in London. I had a degree in a topic I had no interest in pursuing, and years of experience in an industry which was disappearing. “Something’s going to happen” I’d tell my Dad, refusing to let go of the dream of a life outside of working in the one clothes shop in town. Days and weeks went by as I would shrug off my Dad’s validated worries with a spring in my step on my way to another 2am shift. I was adamant that there was more than this, and I refused to accept the reality which was point blank staring me in the face. Then I received a call from my friend of a last minute job that had come up, in none other than the Bahamas (I mean seriously, I’ll take that sign from above thank you). With a joint ‘fuck it‘ we both agreed to go together and that trip was the start of my “Something’s going to happen’“; The start of my new life. Fast forward three months from that trip and I had moved back to Cardiff into my own apartment, working in a job role I would never have thought up for myself, but which seemed as if it was made for me. Since then, I’ve held onto the practices of ‘The Secret’ as proof that miracles do really happen, but positivity isn’t an easy ride.

Three years on and I’ve rode the waves of a rough sea. With mind-blowing highs, comes mind-numbing lows. I’ve found happiness, then I’ve lost it, I’ve felt as if I had everything planned, and then I’ve never felt so unstable in my life. I’ve discovered yoga, I’ve collected crystals, I’ve meditated for hours, and I’ve thought it was a loads of bollocks. When things aren’t exactly going your way, it’s hard to wake up and smile and tell yourself everything is going to be alright. No one has a great day every day, not even the Dalai Lama. But having some positive thoughts to anchor yourself too in times of distress is a damn good place to start. The last few weeks I’ve lost sight of my mindfulness; I pushed it aside like a banana skin lobbed out the window, playing second best to a phone which refuses to leave the grasp of my hands. But in its absence, boy did I miss it.

Because what can’t be denied is the power of positive thoughts, happy minds and simple actions of love. It’s quite simply science (seriously, you can look it up).

If you think good things, you’ll feel good things. If you do good things, you’ll feel good things. If you say good things, you’ll feel good things. If you tell yourself everything is going to be okay, and you believe it, then everything is really going to be okay. Somehow (I haven’t quite figured that bit out yet).

Mindfulness doesn’t have to be downward dogs and breathing techniques, it can be sitting in silence whilst in the bath, or putting your phone down to talk to your friends. It can be looking up when you’re walking through nature, or smiling at the person cycling passed you (honestly, people always look so surprised when I do this!). It can be putting your favourite cheesy music on full blast when you wake up in the morning and dancing around your flat naked (just me? Okay). Check in with the things that make you feel good, that release that hit, that serotonin (The instant happy chemicals) or dopamine (the happy chemicals which come from anticipation), that feeling of “ah, that was nice”, and do them tenfold.

My personal biggest challenge at the moment is quietening my mind when it throws the big question of “How?” To the forefront of my brain with a mighty sling shot (I’m convinced this is how headaches occur). How am I going to achieve everything I want to achieve? How am I going to make my money to live a comfortable life? How am I going to settle down and start my own family? You can get so caught up in the How that you can miss it happening right in front of you. See the thing is, you’re not supposed to know how; the innocent and untraveled and inexperienced 22 year old me knew that. She didn’t worry about the how, she laughed in the face of the how, she just knew that it would. And that was enough to change the direction of my life. I think I’m ready to meet her again.

Coachella: The Influencer Olympics or Just a Sign of the Times?

Coachella: The Influencer Olympics or Just a Sign of the Times?

I bounce down the dusty path with a rhythmic strut on, influenced by the poolside champagne mules and desert-dry sunshine. To the left of me is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. To the right of me? The most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. In front of me? You guessed it, another female competing for the title of being the MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN I HAVE EVER SEEN. I have never seen so many good looking people in one place, and I’ve been in a lot of situations which involve good looking people. We que up by the gates waiting to slither through the electronic security scanners (UK Festivals take note… or don’t?). My see thru’ pale eyes are blinded by a sea of diamanté netted dresses with nothing but a black thong bikini underneath. Shell suits and bucket hats don’t quite cut it here when it comes to the epitome of festival fashion. “OH NO! WE’RE GOING THROUGH THE GA (general admission) ENTRANCE” a group of girls behind me gasp as it dawns on them they’re at the wrong gate and they’re at a high risk of catching cooties from the ghastly commoners who grace the general grounds, who paid just $500 for their ticket, instead of getting it for free from a brand.

Security cleared and the bag (entry) secured, I weave my way through the impressive art installations and even more impressive collections of individuals, all huddled around the infamous Ferris wheel trying to get that perfect Instagram shot. I want in on the fun. “Will you take one of me with the wheel?” I ask my agent (lol joke, my friend) rhetorically, not waiting for an answer as I thrust my camera into her hands. “Yeah can you like, get lower? Get the wheel in. Make my legs look skinny. How’s it looking?” In my head I look like all those other girls. You know the ones. With the perfect silhouette. The best background. The impeccable lighting. The face-wide smile. My friend hands back my phone and as we huddle around to look back at the ahem-magic- of which we’ve most certainly just created, we can’t help but burst out into infectious laughter. What the fuck is that. A Victoria’s Secret Model I ain’t. “It’s not quite the image I had in mind” I manage to mutter through the breaks for air in the childlike giggling. Not willing to take all the credit for the god awful creations, my friend isn’t a professionally trained photographer either, and what we thought would be the next hottest post on the gram’ turned out to be more “wham, bam, no thank you ma’am”. “It must all be in the editing” my friend comforted me, whilst lying through her teeth. But then again you see, it really kind of is in the editing. And the model of course. And the photographer. The lighting. The app. The location. The filters. The camera. What attending Coachella taught me is that the images you see on Instagram- well, they’re fake. There’s always a million people around you, whilst these influencers manage to be in a half empty field (or not at the festival at all). The lighting isn’t a bleached app hue and everyone doesn’t live under a permanent state of a sun-kissed warm tone. This doesn’t mean I enjoy the festival any less, in fact it’s allowed me to give less of a shit about comparing myself to the impossible professionally taken and edited Instagram posts I see online, and accept that the magic I can create with my face, a Judy and an iPhone 8s is a little bit different than what the girls being sponsored to be at the festival and being followed by agents, social media managers, content creators and professional photographers can produce- and that’s alright by me.

The not-so money shot.

We worm our way through the flower bed of influencers to collect our ID band- a tradition which has not been passed on to it’s British equivalents. This is my fourth time visiting Coachella (I know, I’m a lucky sod) but each year without fail the individual blessed with the importance of checking my pink plastic will still squint at me with a judgemental glare, and act as if they’re doing me a favour granting my 26 year old self exclusive access to the sweet fountain of alcohol that awaits. The alcohol system they have in place at the festival is one of the most obvious differences to me as a beer guzzling Brit. Whilst in a UK festival you’d be handed a warm can of Amstel for a fiver, here cold beer is on tap, which I guess is why you pay $11 a pint (this is the cheapest drink you’ll get btw, so you better get comfortable with it). If ever we decided to splash out and get the $18 *gulp* tequila shots in, then buy either State law or maybe just plain boring festival rules, they have to serve it with ice so you can’t just neck it- which kind of defeats the point. Then, in typical American fashion, there’s the awkward “How much do you want to tip?” Screen which flashes up and glares at you with it’s readily marked percentages. SOZ to say but not sorry to admit it, by pint 3 we’d reached British confidence level of selecting “no tip” and scurrying off before the server could give us the evil eyes. I know, I get it, we’re bad people. But you’ve literally handed me a readily poured pint whilst barely raising a smile, and quite frankly that’s just not enough to get a British person to part with their hard earned ca$$$h. Shuffling along with our tail between our legs and a pint in our hands, we find a spot to enjoy the liquid gold in our cups. Except we’re limited for seats. Because for some reason which I’m yet to fathom why, you’re not allowed to take alcohol out into the main area. Fenced in like cattle, you’re confined to the grounds within these white walls. Which might not be a problem for the average tee-total member of generation Z, but for two booze-guzzling Welsh women it certainly switches up your festival experience. There’s nothing better than the sun beaming down on your glittered and sunburnt scalp, a luke-warm pint of Carlsberg in hand, watching some indie-band playing songs you’ve never heard of whilst you’re being rained on by liquid which you hope is just beer, but in your heart know the likelihood is that it’s someone’s piss. But those sweet UK festival memories will not be made out in the desert; in fact it seems no one really gets steaming here at all. We succumb to defeat and find a spot in our pen to watch the main stage from, and that’s where we’ll set up camp for the next three days of the festival (you’ll notice on my Coachella vlog that all the clips of artists are filmed from the exact same angle – the bar!).

Where do all these people go in everyone else’s Insta posts?!

All around us people are posing for pictures. One girl is sprawled out on the floor, another is holding up a product, someone else is pretending to walk whilst going nowhere. Coachella is the only place in the World where you can look like an egotistical twat, and no one can judge you for it. But for all it’s fake-assery and pretentious-ness, there’s something about this festival which draws me back every damn time. The location is beautiful. The guaranteed sunshine changes your whole mood. There’s a laidback vibe to the place (this might have something to do with the stench of weed everywhere you turn). The art installations are incredible. The organisation is smooth. The acts are great. It’s just a bloody great place to have a bloody great time. I’ve seen influencers posting about how “it’s not what it seems” or “how it’s not fun anymore” and I understand everyone has a different experience, but your personal experience will be what you make it. Sure, everyone’s after that money shot for their gram’, but isn’t that just a sign of the times we’re in? People take pictures of the chicken nuggets and chips their mums made them for dinner, of course you’re going to want a picture next to a 100ft moving Astronaut. But it’s not all content creation and posing for photos. All around there are tens of thousands of people that are enjoying the music and making memories with their friends; soaking in the atmosphere and forgetting about how many likes their new post has got. If you’re being paid to be there, under the pressure of getting content to post for your sponsors and having to take separate outfits with you just to get a decent promo’ pic, then yeah, you’re probably going to have a shit time. But if you’ve been dreaming of visiting this magical place in the desert, to party with your friends and have a holiday of a lifetime, then go, and make it what you want it to be. Plus, imagine how good your Instagram feed will look afterwards. It’s a win, win if you ask me.

Catch my Coachella and LA Travel Vlog, going LIVE on YouTube Tuesday 30th of April!

Two beer’s in and Instagram content secured, you can rest in the knowledge that we were having a bloody great time.

FYI: Always take No as an answer.

FYI: Always take No as an answer.

Scrolling vigorously through Twitter for the eleventh time that hour I caught on to a theme in which had been imploded onto my timeline over the last 48 hours. For this week, Twitter has been alive with the sound of men having to be told that no means no. And I’m not talking the deep, dark, deadly bloody serious rape terms of ‘No’. I’m talking in terms of “Hi Can I get your number?” And the answer being ‘No’ category. For something that may seem rather innocent, and I’m sure for many it starts out as just that, these spur of the moment advances can take a deep turn into the “Is this guy gonna follow me home and murder all my cats” lane pretty quickly.

I’m not saying men have a problem with rejection. But men have a problem with rejection. If that churns a feeling of anger or irate in you, you may possibly be relating to that on some kind of level. And I’m not judging you, because it is engrained deep in in our past. In women being viewed as objects, as something to own, as a mans property. Something you are well within your right to claim ownership of. Except, you’re not. I know this sounds cave-man like, and we’re like, totally in the 21st Century you guuuuuys, but this is not an occurrence which only happens in the dregs of the dark ages. You see, worryingly I cannot recall a single time in my life where I have turned down a guy, whether that be for the offer of a drink, a dance, a date, or to give my number out, where I haven’t felt the need to give an excuse. I’m just going to repeat that for effect. FELT THE NEED TO GIVE AN EXCUSE. Because when it comes to respecting a woman’s simple ‘No’, this seems to be a concept of which is extremely difficult for some men to process. “WhY nOt? HaVe YoU GoT A bOyFrIeNd?” No. Can I just not fancy you? Can I just not want to give my personal number which holds the key to the backdoor of my fucking Narnia to a bloke who’s not wearing any socks and has strolled over here after approximately – eiiiight? We’ll guess eight– pints of lager? There’s an entitlement. They want an answer. They want a reason why, like they deserve it. Guys, I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you, but you don’t deserve it. And no, I’m not trying to tease you (HONESTLY whoever decided to teach us all as little kids that we’re being mean because we like you has a lot to fucking answer for). I’m not going to change my mind if you keep following me around the club, cock-blocking me whilst pretending to be my boyfriend every time a guy steps within four foot of me like it’s cute and endearing- it’s not, it’s fucking crazy! Honestly, if a girl acted like that (and I’ll hear you out boys, I know they’re out there) you’d be marking her down as a psycho before she could mumble the words “Beeeeb, do ya wanna buy meh a drink?”

New age Feminist Icon (and slowly becoming my fave person ever) Jameela Jamil tweeted this week of her experience when a guy asked for her number and she said no, well, sort of. She explained (are you catching on to the trend here?) that she had a boyfriend. And then THANKED HIM for the offer. That’s right folks, we even thank you for the privilege now! Thank you for considering me kind sir, but this young maid already has an owner.

What comes as no surprise but is equally as terrifying is how quickly the ahem- kind gentleman- starts reeling off threats and insults. Ahhh, the insults. I know them all to well. “Don’t fancy you anyway you slag” “Didn’t wanna shag you anyway you minger” Awww, that’s the reason you came all the way over here just because you don’t want to get in my pants? Weird flex but ok hun. Jameela continued:

Jameela’ s confessions impacted me on a level in which I could relate. The “I’ve got a boyfriend” trick is the oldest in my little black book of excuses. As someone who’s stayed relatively single my whole adult life (honestly I’m FINE *insert Ross Geller voice) I’ve had to arm myself with a plethora of weapons, ready to unleash as soon as those five dreaded words drop out of a guys mouth. “Can I have your number?” is a phrase which lives on a level beyond the “What’s the WiFi code?” And just below the “Why don’t you have any kids yet?“. Because “Can I have your number” means “I want to see you again”. It means this has gone swell. All 30 seconds of it. It means you want me to invest my time, which you don’t know how little or much I have considering you met me one gin and tonic ago, into messaging you. It’s a commitment. And it’s not one I’m going to jump into lightly with some guy I just bumped into at the back room bar of Revolution. Of course, I’m not that much of a cynic. I’m not talking about the once in a lifetime attraction. The “we’ve just eye-fucked across the room for two hours and snogged on the dance floor and she’s told me about her Aunty Sue’s alcohol addition and we’re going to run away to Vegas and get married” attraction. If there’s a spark. Then go for it. But know when there isn’t. Like, erm, two minutes after you’ve met. Or when I serve you the drink that you’ve just paid for because it’s part of my job. (Are you keeping up?)

Unfortunately but not surprisingly, Jameela’s story wasn’t a one-off case. Many women replied with their own experiences of having turned down men and their reactions, and some are quite simply fucking terrifying.

There are literally hundreds of them. This is our life. Day in. Day out. It is exhausting. I used to work at a pub where drunk guys would ask my sober self for my number. I would politely decline, even laugh along (that’s another one of our tricks, we don’t think you’re funny, we just don’t want you to get angry at us), but they wouldn’t stop. When it was quiet, I would have to glass collect. They would follow me around “Why won’t you give me your number then?” “Is it cos’ you’ve got a boyfriend?” ‘Yeah” I’d lie. They need the validation. They need to know that if you didn’t have a boyfriend, of course you would pick them. And then they go. One simple lie about a made-up boyfriend and they’re off to the next pub with nothing but a “I hope he treats you nice” on their way out. You see the thing that I have sussed out with guys is that they respect my made up boyfriend, more than me, as a human, standing in front of them, saying no.

Then there’s the drink situation. You offer me a drink. I decline. You get arsey. You offer me a drink. I accept. You expect something from me. One small gesture from you, is a mind-fuck for me. If I politely accept, then you’ll glare at me every time another man dares to talk to me like you’ve bought ownership of me via a £5.95 glass of Sauvignon. If I decline, I’m the stuck up tart who you and your mates make comments about every time I go to the toilet. I swap my ring to my wedding finger. It keeps the guys away. My friend and I make a pact to be lesbian lovers. It draws guys in.

I’m not saying that all men are shit bags. I’m not even saying these men are shit bags. But what I am doing is pointing out how consent and respect aren’t limited to the worst case scenarios. Something as simple as offering a girl a drink can be lovely thing to do, when it’s done properly. When it’s done wrongly, I’m being escorted to my car at night after my shift or walking home with my keys entwined in my fingers because you might still be lurking around waiting for me to finish work. No means no, in all circumstances.

*Featured image by Robin Duister https://cargocollective.com/robinduister/filter/drawing/No-Means-No-1


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Reality TV: Fame, Followers and Broken people.

Reality TV: Fame, Followers and Broken people.

I sat down for a meal Saturday night with my mum and my friend, right in the heart of a city that was alive with glee and celebration. People sang around us, laughter filled our table and drinks flowed at such a pace it was like water was turning to wine right in front of our eyes. In a brief lull waiting for our next tray of drinks to arrive we took advantage of the two minutes peace to catch up with the social media we had so happily neglected throughout the day. That’s when my friend saw the news. “Oh my God, Mike from Love Island has died”. The news hit like a ton of bricks as I tried to wrap my head around this information which was unfolding rapidly online. I actively refreshed my twitter feed hoping somewhere that it was some messed up rumour. My WhatsApp groups came alive with notifications of disbelief as the three of us sat there trying to process how, in a World where we were naively immersing ourselves in so much joy, an individual had been in so much pain. I didn’t know Mike Thalassitis. Neither did my friends. Or my mum. Or the countless people messaging on WhatsApp. But something about this abhorrent news hit us all hard, as if it could have happened to any one of us, our boyfriend, our friend, our brother, our son. See the thing with reality stars is that they are so good at being just that, real.

We build a relationship with these people daily for months on end. We engage with their friends via social media. We read about them every day in the news. We watch their families on morning TV. We see baby pictures of them printed in the news. We hear gossip about them trending on twitter. They are relatable in all their guts and glory; their insecurities and mishaps reassuring us that we are all human, whilst we can’t help but admire their undeniable beauty. They leave you feeling as if they really could be your best mate, but deep down you know you’ll never be cool enough to sit at their table. Like the popular kids at school, they’re attainable, they’re accessible, and you can’t help but want to know what Johnny got up to round the back of the school sheds, no matter how much you pretend you don’t care. The media and the public place them on a pedal stool for approximately 120 days of the year. 120 intense days where they are catapulted to a level of fame only a select few A-List, Media-trained celebrities have ever reached before. A level which no-one, no matter how many 20 minute psychological reviews they were given, could ever be fully prepared for.

The Reality TV World is a phenomenon which is still relatively new, and a World which production companies and contestants are actively trying to navigate. Whilst shows like Big Brother were huge in their day, the introduction of social media means that the 2 million people watching at home are not just judging you to their husband sitting next to them on the sofa, but can actively tell you how much of a twat they think you are direct, online, for millions more people to see, to like, to retweet and to join in with. If you’ve been on Twitter when Love Island has been airing you will know exactly what I mean. The entire trending topics are filled with Love Island hashtags; Hundreds-of-thousands of tweets sent out about a girl who until last week worked in a local shoe-shop and now has the entire World watch her chase after a man she met 24 hours ago to stay in a game show with the allure of finding your soul mate at the end of it. Srsly, just read that sentence again. The social media World is so fickle, you can go from hero-to-zero in one 60 minute episode as #Loyal Georgia was soon to find out. Personal Home-made sex video’s that before now had only ever been seen by the two of you engaging in the act have now gone viral for everyone and their nan to see. Ex-partner’s tweet their stories about you, Childhood friends sell their stories on you, feeding into this villain character which this edited entertainment show has created of you, all for their 15 seconds of fame online and to be a part of this insane feeding frenzy which we all buy into like crack addicts waiting for our next hit. I always joke to my friends that I could never go on Love Island because of the embarrassing catalogue of old modelling pictures of me that lie deep, deep down on the web, knowing that they’d be splashed online for millions of people to criticise and point out the exact things that I already hate about myself. I’ve actually been approached by the ITV2 casting team before, and whilst the allure of instant money making opportunities no doubt plants a seed in your mind, you can’t help but ignore the harsh reality that once you’re in a show as popular as Love Island, you become public property, opening yourself up to your entire life- before, during and after the show- being up for criticism and judgement. That’s not something that your average gym receptionist, hairdresser or even doctor can mentally cope with.

And then comes the months after the show ends. When the personal appearances dry up, when no one wants a picture with you anymore, when the free gifts stop coming, you’re yesterday’s news. You can’t go back to your normal job because everyone knows you as the one who had sex on the tele. Your co-workers think you think you’re better than them. Your boss can’t be bothered with the hassle of people taking pictures of you at work. You’re at a complete and utter crossroads. But the one absolutely manic fucking thing to deal with which is thrown in the mix here is that once you’ve stopped reaping the financial benefits from this and the work dries up, you still have your followers. Millions of followers on social media. A currency which is useless in paying your mortgage, but actively feeds your ego and pets your ever-growing insecurities. You’re a someone, but you’re no one. It means nothing, but it means everything. I have dealt with this on an extremely minor level considering what these reality contestants deal with, but the allure of having hundreds of thousands of followers and feeling pressure to live up to this fake life that comes with it, posting content to make your life look overly exciting whilst you’re desperately trying to figure out how you’re going to pay your bills next month. I’ve been out on my birthday in a nightclub when a guy approached me saying I “think you’re someone special because you have 90,000 followers on Instagram”, who proceeded to push me down some stairs and follow me crying out of the club as I begged him to leave me alone, an event which ended in a physical alteration, fake rumours being spread about me, facebook posts claiming I said things I didn’t, and me eventually having to threaten legal action if the slander continued. Being ‘Instagram famous’ is such a new concept, that no-one knows what the right thing to do is or how to cope, it can be a fucking lonely place.

Seeing the senseless loss of young lives is heartbreaking for us all. There has been calls for the production companies to do more in supporting those who come out of reality tv show’s and have their lives turned upside down, and whilst I absolutely believe that they need to do more in supporting and preparing them for what lies ahead, the reality is that they cannot check up on their contestants from one, two, three years ago regularly. However we, as the viewing public who make these individuals famous through engaging in conversations online, watching the show and buying their merch’ have a duty and responsibility as human beings to not say nasty shit to people online. This is something so simple that we could all do that would really change people’s lives. Life is already tough enough and we’re all dealing with our own issues in private, that one tweet could be the straw that breaks the camels back. I fear this won’t be the last time something as tragic as this happens as we continue to make ‘normal’ people famous. I can’t help but worry about how Influencers in years to come will cope when Instagram disappears, when followers lose their currency, when they have to go back to ‘regular’ jobs but no-one will hire them as the online foot-print they’ve left behind is being used against them years later. We need to realise that we are in an extremely rare and unique social experiment that we’ve never experienced before, meaning no-one has the right answers, me included. If we want to keep reaping the benefits of reality tv and social media, we need to take responsibility with how we engage with it and remember that behind the glamorous tv show which provides us with sixty-minutes of night-time entertainment, or glossy Instagram posts of filtered Individuals, there are real people, with real lives, and real problems to deal with.

If you are struggling with your mental health or just want someone to talk to call the Samaritans on their free, 24 hour contact line 116 123, or if writing it down is more your thing, send them an email to jo@samaritans.org You don’t have to be suicidal to contact them. You don’t have to wait until it’s too late.

My thoughts and respects go out to the families and friends of both Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon.