The Alternative Christmas Soundtrack: Podcast reviews

Nothing screams ‘it’s festive season’ like belting out Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas whilst decorating the tree, but sometimes we could all do with a break from the festivities (December is a long month right?) To help drown out the noise this Christmas, I’ve reviewed three of my favourite podcasts.

Happy Place Podcast with Fearne Cotton

Happy Place with Fearne Cotton

A special space for mindful conversations, Happy Place with Fearne Cotton was the first podcast which had me hooked. A follow up to her hit book ‘HAPPY’, Fearne uses the podcast as a platform to share her own experiences with mental health and explore the topic of feeling blue with a variety of well-known and inspiring guests.

The topic of happiness leaves an open invitation to endless conversation; What is being happy? And can you ever truly reach a state of happiness? The subject matter may seem a heavy one, but what Fearne is best at is making you feel as if you’re sat in your own living room having a natter over a cuppa tea with your mates. This easy-going approach to what are hard-hitting issues including depression, heartbreak and addiction allows you to reflect on your own emotions, and sit comfortably in the thought that it’s okay to not be okay. Featured guests range from the extremely funny Dawn French in the first series of the podcast, to none other than former secretary of state and leading ‘Nasty Woman’ Hilary Rodham Clinton in more recent episodes. Lesser known names but equally as inspiring, are the likes of writer, journalist and all round bad-ass Bryony Gordon, and Poorna Bell who courageously leads a discussion on grief after losing her husband to heroin addiction.

This heart-warming club of which we are all invited to join is Fearne’s greatest work yet, and I’ve blissfully adopted her noteful ‘Mmmmm’s into my every day life. Insightful, endearing and a virtual hug through your headphones, this podcast is perfect for anyone who needs a little extra support this Christmas.

Happy Place is available on all podcast platforms, for more info click here.

My Dad wrote a Porno

My Dad wrote a porno

I mean, it’s quite literally what it says on the tin. Jamie Morton’s dad wrote a porno, or to be specific- a dirty book about the pots and pans industry and a horny AF women called Belinda. But instead of burning it on the log fire and gifting his Dad coal for Christmas, Jamie turned his Dad’s filthy thoughts into a groundbreaking comedy podcast. I mean seriously, he really did. Joined by his two best mates Alice Levine and James Cooper, the cringed out trio narrate the books whilst picking apart the porn inside. It’s simply genius. The child-like laughter at the mention of bodily fluids and the grossed out sighs let-out by the three friends as they bond over the ludacris which is Jamie’s Dad’s sexual fantasies, teleport you right back to when you accidentally first watched a sex scene on the tv with your parents. Imagine Kevin and Perry Goes Large, but in 2019. No thank you Mrs Patterson.

The show has become a cultural phenomenom, touring the World as a Live show and garnering a loyal celebrity following. Ever thought you’d hear Lin-Manuel Miranda review an independent porn fiction? Well now you can with the addition of the Footnotes episodes. This podcast is probably not one to listen to whilst dishing out dinner with your gran (be sure to scrub those pots and pans kids), but it certainly will help break the ice at a work’s Christmas do’.

My Dad wrote a porno is available on all podcast platforms, for more info click here

The Guilty Feminist with Deborah Frances-White

The Guilty Feminist Podcast

I’m a feminist but I got paid money to pose topless for men’s magazines, and I enjoyed it. Yep, I think I qualify for a membership into this movement.

This comedy podcast is anchored by tear-rollingly funny comedian Deborah Frances-White, as White and her panel of mischevious accomplices share their 21st Century Feminist views, along with their insecurities, hypocrisies and fears that undermine them. As a self-confessed feminist who’s outspoken about the movement, I am all to aware of my actions, morals and principles which pop up on a regular basis and scream ‘BAD FEMINIST! BAD FEMINIST! GET DOWN FROM THAT MAN!”. Whilst we live in a society which continues to scrutinise eachother’s every move (can you be a feminist and get a bikini wax!?) this refreshingly honest series allows women across the World to breathe, and remember we are not perfect. Think you thought you knew what a Feminist was? Think again.

The show is filmed in front of a live audience and carries a similar feel to panel shows such as ‘Mock the Week’, keeping the content light in it’s delivery, but heavy in it’s topics. White is joined by a variety of guests, from fellow comedians to trail blazers and ambassador’s. This series provides women with a safe space to share their anger at the patriarchal society, whilst also admitting that we secretly like it when you pay for dinner. Me? Guilty as charged.

The Guilty Feminist is available on all podcast platforms. For more information click here

Check out the other blogs in the 12 Blogs Of Christmas and let me know what your fave podcast is!

The Ultimate Gift Guide for Women, by a woman.

The Ultimate Christmas Gift guide for women by women. Shop gift ideas for your mum, sister and girlfriend

Whilst the promise of an over-priced mulled wine and an Instagram pic’ opportunity at the local Christmas Market may be enough to entice the woman in your life out onto the shopper-littered streets, personally you couldn’t think of anything worse than pulling on your beanie hat and tackling the dreaded Christmas shop. As the 1st of December hits and the festive reality sinks in, men across the land let out collective sighs of ‘What the hell am I going to get Mum this year?‘ and ‘Girls are so difficult to shop for!‘. But Christmas shopping for your girlfriend doesn’t have to end in a last-minute dash to Boots on Christmas Eve.

I’ve put together the ultimate gift guide for women, by a woman which will save your Mum from another bath bomb set and have your wife gleefully unwrapping your sack this year. It’s a Christmas miracle!

1. The Happiness Planner 2020

thehappinessplanner.com, £36.34.

The Happiness Planner 2020 - Perfect Christmas Gift for your sister
The Happiness Planner 2020: Spiral Bound

Set her up for a goal-kicking 2020 with this journal. Jam-packed with mindful text and inspirational activities to release the bad-ass woman inside, this on-trend, pastel-hue diary with a twist will have her breaking down ceilings and conquering her goals before you can say ‘Nasty Woman’.

For: Your yogi-loving younger sister.

Price: £36.34

Shop at thehappinessplanner.com

2. Our Special Place Scented Candle by Illumer

notonthehighstreet.com, from £29

The Perfect Gift for your Girlfriend this Christmas. Personalised Candle of your special place
Our Special Place Candle by ILLUMER

Show her that you really do remember making those memories with this personalised map detail scented candle. A gold love heart marks the spot, putting your special place on the map and confirming your spot as the romantic one out of all her mates BF’s. If you really want to show off, add your own message to the lid and secure your space in the boyfriend hall of fame forever.

For: The Australian girlfriend you met on your gap year.

Price: from £29

Shop at notonthehighstreet.com

3. Personalised Jute Bag by Tillyanna

www.joules.com , £30 – *CURRENTLY £27 IN THE BLACK FRIDAY SALE! Plus Free Standard Delivery

The Perfect Christmas Gift for a teacher, your mum, your sister and wife. Save on the Black Friday Sale!
Name and Location Jute Bag by Tillyanna

Most women only want two things- to save the planet and look stylish doing so. Okay, that’s a total exaggeration, but it’s a damn good place to start. Help set her up for the day with this practical jute bag, big enough to hide a bottle of sauvignion in on parents evenings.

For: Your clever AF wife.

Price: £30 (£27 in the Black Friday Sale)

Shop at www.joules.com

4. Onno Indoor Plant Pot, Hortology

hortology.co.uk, from £27.99

A trendy vintage plant pot for your mum or your nan. The perfect Christmas Gift

Indoor plants are having their en vogue moment right now, and with cacti and succulents leading the pack even the laziest of green fingers can get involved with this trend. Add some colour into her life with this on-trend plant pot. Note, you’ll probably want to buy a plant for her too.

For: Your mum who’s sick of scarves.

Price: from £27.99 , bag a discount when you sign up to their newsletter.

Shop at hortology.co.uk

5. Evangelisque Body, Ann Summers.

annsummers.com , £50 – *CURRENTLY HALF PRICE IN THE BLACK FRIDAY SALE!!! NOW ONLY £25.00

Treat your partner to some sexy lingerie this Christmas. This lingerie is perfect for your girlfriend and wife.
Evangelisque Body, Ann Summers

Don’t shy away from buying your partner sexy lingerie. Receiving a sexy gift could be the ego boost she is looking for and can remind her that you still fancy her and want to see her looking- and most importantly feeling beautiful. This body is a flattering design which covers the stomach (an area many women are self-conscious about) while still showing off those gorgeous curves of hers. Tip: Nose through her underwear drawer in the least pervy way possible to find out her size, choosing the wrong one could be a touchy subject.

For: The fiánce who needs to take her mind off the wedding planning.

Price: £50, sign up to their newsletter for discounts. – CURRENTLY £25.00 IN THE BLACK FRIDAY SALE!

Shop at annsummers.com

6. Isla Chunky Throw, Urban Outfitters

urbanoutfitters.com , £60 – *NOW £30 IN THE BLACK FRIDAY SALE! PLUS AND EXTRA 20% 0FF WITH DISCOUNT CODE EXTRA20

The perfect Christmas Gift for your girlfriend, sister or best friend. This chunky warm vintage style blanket
Isla Chuky Throw Blanket, Urban Outfitters

A blanket worth staying in for. Snuggle on down to Netflix and Chill in this chunky crochet inspired throw, big enough for two. The neutral tone will fit right in with any room decor.

For: The second-year student girlfriend. Keep away from thieving housemates.

Price: £60.00 – CURRENTLY £24.00 IN THE BLACK FRIDAY SALE WITH CODE EXTRA20

Shop at urbanoutfitters.com

7. Tanya Whitebits Self Tan Bronzing Mousse

tanyawhitebits.co.uk , £16.99

The perfect fake tan! The best self-tan. Shop beauty for your girlfriend
Tanya Whitebits Self Tanning Mousse 200ml

Stop trying to fight the self-tan battle with your GF because you’re never going to win. Instead, get on board and introduce her to the perfect Summer glow with this tanning mousse, made of organic and natural ingredients. No more biscuit smell for you, no more patchy tan for her- win win!

For: Your New Years Eve Party Date- *probably won’t recommend as a gift if it’s your first date, although it’d certainly break the ice.

Price: £16.99

Shop at tanyawhitebits.co.uk

8. Weirdo Hand Embroidered Velvet Cushion by Jordan Lovella

etsy.com/uk , £26

The perfect personalised Christmas Present for your sister or your mum. A hand-embroidered cushion case.
Weirdo Hand Embroidered Velvet Cushion by Jordan Lovella

Actions speak louder than words, and your older sister never lets you get a word in edge ways anyway. Share the sibling banter and say it with a cushion. Check out the seller’s etsy shop as they also do customised requests, in case you’ve got something personal to get off your chest.

For: Your bossy older sister who used to eat worms as a kid.

Price: £26

Shop at etsy.com/uk

9. Three Month Flower Subscription, Bloom & Wild

bloomandwild.com, from £65 – *BLACK FRIDAY SALE! SAVE 15% OFF WITH CODE BRIGHTFRI

The perfect Christmas Gift for your Nan or Grandma or Mum. A flower subscription the personal touch
Three month Flower Subscription, Bloom and Wild

Because giving isn’t just for Christmas. Buy your loved one a flower subscription and spread the Christms cheer throughout the year. Starting off with a 3-month option and expanding to a years subscription, this gift is perfect for your gran who’ll appreciate the virtual hug and gentle reminder that you’re thinking of her throughout the year.

For: Your loveable Nan who you don’t get to see as much as you’d like.

Price: Starting at £65 for three months

Shop at bloomandwild.com

10. Fujifilm Instax Mini 9

very.co.uk, £64.99 – *CURRENTLY £57.99 IN THE BLACK FRIDAY SALE!

The perfect Christmas Gift for teens, for your daughter and for your friend. This polaroid camera is perfect for festivals and special memories

OKAY Boomer. So you blinked and suddenly your little girl is now a teenager and your once hero status has been demoted to embarassing dad. Gain brownie points fast with this purple instax mini camera, perfect for capturing all those totes emosh moments with her BFF’s.

For: Your Instagram obsessed teenage Daughter

Price: £64.99 – *CURRENTLY £57.99 IN THE BLACK FRIDAY SALE!

Shop at very.co.uk

11. Cat Shaped Himalayan Salt Lamp

sourcediy.com, £17.59

A mindful Christmas present for the yogi in your family. The perfect gift for cat lovers
Cat shaped Himalayan Salt Lamp

It’s so ugly that it’s bloody great. This pussycat shaped salt lamp will serve more purpose than just looking ghastly on a cat lovers bedside table. Himalayan salt lamps work as natural ionisers, helping to keep the air clean and give off the perfect orange-y hue to relax under after a long day at work. I personally think everyone should own one of these lamps, they add such a comforting glow to a room and make the perfect gift.

For: Your mum, your girlfriend, your wife, and you.

Price: £17.59

Shop at sourcediy.com – if the kitty isn’t doing it for you, you can purchase a crystal shaped lamp here.

12. Rose Quartz Face Roller, Oliver Bonas

oliverbonas.com , £25

The perfect Christmas Gift for beauty lovers. Rose Quartz Face Roller, the best gift for your sister

The must-have accessory of the season, the Rose Quartz Face Massage rollers are said to encourage lymphatic circulation and drainage, and cell turnover, which helps to reduce tension and inflammation in the skin. They also wipe away your tears when you’re feeling a little down. Sounds like a winner to me.

For: Your hormonal lover who doesn’t want to get dressed unless it involves going out to buy Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

Price: £25

Shop at oliverbonas.com


Ho Ho Hope you enjoy shopping for your loved ones, remember it’s not the gift but the thought that counts. And if all else fails, women fucking love chocolate. Or wine. Chocolate and wine.

Keep an eye out for the other blogs featuring in the #12BlogsOfChristmas

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.

The cancellation of The Jeremy Kyle Show: Can we end poverty porn for good?

The cancellation of The Jeremy Kyle Show: Can we end poverty porn for good?

This week saw the daytime TV talk show ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show’ cancelled permanently by ITV after a guest committed suicide just one week after being publicly humiliated over a lie detector test whilst filming the show. A father, grandfather and an individual suffering from mental health, Steven Dymond’s death has garnered the attention of MP’s, psychiatrists and experts who are all calling for urgent action to be taken by production companies to provide up-to-par aftercare for their guests, with Downing Street adding that the case was ‘deeply disturbing’.

And that it is, but what is perhaps more deeply disturbing is how it has taken fourteen years of degradation of their participants- many vulnerable individuals- across three thousand, three hundred and twenty episodes for the show to be cancelled. Or how 1.5 million people regularly tuned in to watch what a district judge once described as ‘human bear-baiting’ unfold on prime-time tv with their cup of tea and toast as part of their morning routine. Or perhaps how anyone expected nearly twenty-odd-thousand guests, most seeking help with sex, alcohol and drug related problems, to be provided with top-level aftercare by a production company profiting off their pain. And maybe the most deeply disturbing of them all, is the hypocrisy of the MP’s claiming a tv entertainment show, for right or wrong, need to take responsibility for the care of their vulnerable participants, whilst child poverty figures sit above 50% in some of the most deprived parts of Britain.

Reality-tv has provided a platform to spread hate and propaganda towards our societies poorest and defenseless. From shows like The Jeremy Kyle Show who entice guests in with the promise of first-class therapists, a posh hotel and a cigarette allowance before Kyle screams judgements at them in front of a baying audience, pointing our their dowdy appearance whilst they sit in the tracksuit they’ve been encouraged to wear. To documentaries’ such as ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!’ which follows enforcement officers as they repossess the homes of those too poor to pay their bills; and ‘Rich House, Poor House‘ which sees families from opposite ends of the financial and class spectrum swap houses and budgets for a week, providing a cruel insight into the lives of their rich counterparts who take pity upon their debts and less-than appealing lifestyles, some of whom take it upon themselves to be their knight in shining armour and buy the poor family a new carpet, before slipping quickly back into their comfortable life in their sought after postcode. And let’s not forget reality shows aimed at a younger audience such as Geordie Shore, who handpicked young adults from working-class backgrounds and struck them off the dole and into the limelight; ploughing them with free alcohol and a new found infamy in the World of television. All of these shows garner Nationwide attention and aim to highlight the worst qualities of the lower-classes in order to humiliate and ridicule for the gain and entertainment of others, all the while whilst pushing an ideal supported by decades of austerity that these individuals are a nuisance to our society. And we the public buy into it every single time.

Reflecting our ancestors medieval traditions, we throw insult and judgement’s at those airing their dirty laundry on our screens, one rotten tomato after another whilst cackling at the despair of others like the sadist’s we so desperately claim not to be; Unfortunately social media only acts as an enabler to these views. I recently watched an episode of Blind Date which portrayed a lady as being a little ungrateful at being picked and who giggled along with the crowd at the appearance of her date. Twitter lit up with negative comments about this woman’s looks, her attitude, how she ‘wasn’t a looker herself’. Tweet after tweet nitpicked away at this woman’s body image whilst she desperately tried to personally reply to all the criticism coming her way by sharing how nervous and awkward the heckling audience made her feel, and that she wasn’t used to being on television. I felt extremely uncomfortable watching all of this unfold, it was as if she had been thrown to the lions and was furiously trying to crawl away, with I imagine very little aftercare on how to deal with such a scrutiny from the Blind Date team. This raised the question Why we as a society use TV as our output in taking so much pleasure from another’s pain? Watching someone else’s misery is a leisurely activity for us, our Friday night wind-down. Our Saturday’s are spent finding their social channels to tell them how we feel about their performance. And as Sunday comes around, we prepare for our own battles we’ll face in the week ahead that are, thankfully, not played out in the public eye, whilst our ‘willing’ participants (a term many like to use to support this theatre of cruelty) deal with the aftermath of their lives changing forever. Chris Lyons, a previous guest on The Jeremy Kyle Show has claimed the show “Ruined my life. All of a sudden, I wasn’t Chris Lyons any more. I was just that guy off The Jeremy Kyle Show”.

No one can prepare you for the mass judgement of others, whether you’re semi-aware of the publicity the show brings i.e: being a contestant on Love Island, to filming a one-off tv appearance you thought would be ‘a bit of fun’. The cancelling of The Jeremy Kyle Show is a step in the right direction toward ending poverty porn and the glee in which others find in it, but whilst production companies have a duty of care to their participants, we have a responsibility as humans to be a little nicer to each other; And to recognise that we are contributing to a class-divide problem which stretches much wider than the channels encased in our small screens. Would Steve Dymond have felt the immense pressure and humiliation which led to him taking his own life from just Kyle’s comments alone? Maybe. But a heckling audience and the thought of the widespread embarrassment and judgement from failing a lie detector test in front of 1 million viewers to come might have just been his tip of the iceberg.


If you are struggling with your mental health and would like someone to talk to, please contact mind.org.uk or call 0300 123 3393.