Instagram Nearly Bankrupted Me

Do you ever feel that your life isn’t ‘lux’ enough?

The effect that social media has on our psyches is yet to be fully explored and that’s partially because the experience is so fantastically insular.

I am a recovering social media addict and, although all of the services that I was an active user of were free, I very nearly ended up bankrupting myself in the quest to create a home that matched up to my unrealistic expectations.

To truly claim the title of ‘addict’ it’s important to outline the kind of effect that this technology had on me, which is difficult to do, because as much as it’s tempting to simply blame the networks, and the brands, and the influencers, and the algorithms; if it weren’t for my own weaknesses and insecurities I would never have buried myself in such a terrible hole.

Although my slide from casual scroller to full time phone abuser was gradual, when I reached my peak I was on my phone for over 8 hours a day. It started innocuously enough. I got a Facebook account in 2007 and soon I found that I’d been put in contact with all of my friends from high school. It had been years since I’d seen many of these people and it seemed that a cultural gulf had opened up between us and them.

At this point in my life I was living with my husband and daughter. I’d had to give up my career in order to have her and, as a result, we’d seen a serious drop in our household income. We weren’t surprised by this, but the financial sacrifice meant that we were forced to downsize our home and get used to a more humble way of life.

On Facebook I was constantly confronted by the successes of other people, whether it was a promotion in a new job, moving into a new home or a new car. As I slipped into abusing social media even more, I soon grew jealous of the lives of other people. Instagram offered an even more exaggerated perspective on the world and made me feel even more hopelessly inadequate. How was it possible that so many people could have so much, and I could have so little?

Before I knew it I was making purchases that I couldn’t afford and planning out new posts that would show all the world how I wasn’t as miserably poor and destitute I actually was. It started with just a few humble purchases, some makeup to treat myself, a new toy for my daughter because she had been good, soon though I was making grander plans with even grander price tags. Our little home didn’t feel like the home that I deserved, so I started improving it.

My husband only started noticing my problem when a set of modern internal doors by Portfolio were delivered to the house. They cost around £1200 in total – money that we didn’t have, because I’d spent so much of it on useless status symbols that we simply had no need for. That was the point when I was told that I had a problem, I was just sorry that it had turned into a problem for the whole family…

The Five Albums That Saved My Life

For many people listening to music is a passive activity.

I don’t intend to come across as a snob here, but I’ve been accused of snobbery before so it wouldn’t be the first time!

There’s a marked difference between being a ‘music lover’ and simply ‘someone who listens to music’. If you’re unsure about which faction you belong to then I’ll elucidate this for you. If you’re someone who sticks on Smooth Radio on your drive to work and happily sings along to every tune that comes on, then you are someone who listens to music. If you’re someone who listens to Smooth Radio on your drive to work and spends the rest of their day puzzling over the complex rhythmical context of The Four Season’s ‘December ’63‘ then you can count yourself as a music lover.

Although music is undoubtedly one of the most widely spread art forms in the world, punters are less prone to analysing and deconstructing it than they are film or even video games. This is because the purpose of mainstream music is (and has been for most of modern history) to simply provide a toe-tapping rhythm, or memorable line for the average Joe to sing along to. ‘Pop music’ has long been written for the sole purpose of making money and, as such, much of its content (whether lyrical or musical) tends to lean towards simple analogies and ‘club ready’ beats. I didn’t always have these opinions, in fact most of the philosophical opinions that I hold on music were formed over one fateful year when I was completely bed-ridden and hopelessly bored.

I was 17-years-old when I broke my femur. I was skateboarding with my friends and (rather foolishly) attempted to perform a 360º kickflip from a 30-foot half pipe. The break was a bad one and I found myself in a cast for an entire year, the time estimated by the doctors for my bones to heal. This was a time before on-demand television and also before smart phones. Luckily for me it was not a time before CD Walkmen. I was given an allowance of one new CD a week by my parents and thus began a year of music discovery that would take me further than I’d ever expected.

Although I listened to an excess of 150 records that year (my parents’ and friends’ CD collections were also fair game), I only return to a handful of them each year. These are the five records that saved my life:

Nirvana’s In Utero (1993)

It will comes as little surprise that, as a teenager in the 90s, I was a Nirvana fan, however I’d never truly paid attention to Cobain’s lyrics before I suffered my accident.

With nothing to do but listen to this record on the week of its release and pore over the sleeve notes I felt that I got a much deeper understanding for the man during this time.

Radiohead’s The Bends (1995)

I was never a big fan of Britpop during this time, but Radiohead offered something a little different at the time.

I was certainly prone to bouts of depression at the time and Radiohead’s breakthrough record was undoubtedly an album that spoke to the depressive in me.

Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells (1973)

My Dad dropped this one on my bedside table one day and I’ve always been grateful for him doing so. I’d never thought music that was so old could sound so modern, or so captivating.

I spent weeks going back to Tubular Bells, to the point where I now associate the iconic music with a fervent itchiness in my groin.

Richard & Linda Thompson’s I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight (1974)

Another one from my Dad’s collection and one that I still return to today, this record taught me that ‘folk’ music didn’t have to be all about fiddles and accordions.

The depth and range of this record still surprises me. The duo’s singing is sublime and Thompson’s guitar work remains some of my favourite ever recorded.

Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet (1986)

Amongst all of the doom and gloom, this was the album to lift my spirits when I was having a particularly rough day. I might not agree with some of the messages in this music today, but it still brings a smile to face.

Getting Away From The City…Well-being Festivals

City-life getting you down?

Despite the increase of job opportunities, variety of culture and nightlife that living in the city offers there are a more than a few ways that living in one of the UK’s urban metropolises can negatively effect your wellbeing.

Light pollution is, unsurprisingly, at its worst in Britain’s cities and is one of the chief reasons behind urbanites losing sleep each night. If it’s not the flashing sirens and the street lights pouring in through the windows then you can almost guarantee that the noise will get to you instead. Thousands of buildings are constructed every year in cities all around the UK which is fantastic for investors, but not so good for those looking to get a good night’s sleep…

Unfortunately, construction sites rarely take any time off in the city, so if you’re unlucky enough to live near one you might well find that you’re getting a rude awakening on the weekend thanks to a particularly dedicated workman getting stuck into his concrete imaging.

If this is all sounding very familiar, then don’t fear, there are plenty of opportunities for city slickers to escape for a quick reset:

The Big Retreat Wales

Only in its infancy at the moment, this festival nonetheless deserves your attention for its sheers range of fantastic activities and events. Set on an organic farm in Pemrokeshire National Park, you can take part in over 200 workshops, events and classes at the Big Retreat Wales including dance, yoga and bootcamps. There are activities for all the family here and a whole range of accommodations for you to stay in so you can catch up on your sleep and enjoy the festival.

When? 24th-27th May 2019 How Much? Adult weekend tickets (with camping) start at £89

Sun and Moon Festival

Set in the grounds of the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, this week long festival is a combination of fulfilling activities and workshops that offer people of all backgrounds the chance to learn new skills and open their minds to new ideas or cultures. Adults can try out Hatha Yoga, Quigong and Ecstatic Dance amongst other things, whilst kids can have a go at Circus Skills, Martial Artists and Street Dance.

When? August 2019 How Much? Week long tickets (with camping) start at £160

Wychwood Festival

Wychwood Festival is a well-rounded experience that offers equal parts party times and relaxing workshops. Get a sweat on with Shake That Zumba, find inner peace at the Bristol Folk House and then dance the night away to a sterling lineup of exciting alternative acts. 2018’s festival saw Baxter Dury, The Go! Team and Feeder take to the stage amongst many other festival favourites such as The Correspondents, Nerina Pallot and Toyah Wilcox.

When? 31st May-2nd June 2019 How Much? Early bird tickets (with camping) from £130

Feel Good Foods and How To Eat Them

There’s a whole world of benefits to eating these epic super foods, why not pick some up on your next trip and try out one of these body-boosting recipes at the same time?

Blueberries

These little blue balls of sweetness have long been heralded as a delectable source of much needed Vitamin C, in fact if you shove 150g of these beauties into your gob you’ll get 25% of your recommended dose of the good stuff, not to mention super-charging your bod with the nutrients needed to keep your heart ticking, and your bones good and strong. It’s the flavanoid called anthocyanin that gives ‘bloobs’ their healthy punch, giving them a powerful antioxidant quality common in many other Super Foods.

Try eating blueberries by themselves, as a topping on your usual cereal, or even as way of making your stack of pancakes a little bit healthier. You can also throw them in a smoothie to add some colours and punch to your morning!

Carrots

The carrot as we know it today was cultivated by the Dutch around the 16th century, although the original plant is thought to have originated in Asia as a hard, woody variant. This veggie is often an easy win for kids who will happily gobble it down raw if given half the chance and although they’ve not been proven to make us see in the dark they are packed full of Vitamin A, which helps prevent the loss of sight.

Serving raw carrots with hummus makes for a great snack, or even a light starter. Par boil then blitz carrots in a food processor to add texture and fibre to your curry sauce, or slice then roast them in the oven with a little salt, flour and tarragon to make a healthy alternative to potato fries.

Kale

If you’re not aware of kale yet then you’ve clearly been living under a rock for the last ten years or so. This trendy salad green is packed with nutrients that make it a fantastic base for any salad, as well as a great side. Just a couple of handfuls of kale gives you your RDA of vitamins, K, C and A, it also contains a hefty load of fibre, protein, iron, potassium and fibre. It might be a little tricky getting the kids on this one, but pair it with the right flavours and they’ll be chomping it up in no time.

You can eat kale raw but it’s usually best to blanch it for a just a few minutes to make it a bit easier to chew. Once it’s cooked you can lightly season it and use it as bed for fish, or throw it in your morning smoothie to super-charge your breakfast drink. Pair this leaf with roasted squash with nuts and clementine segments for a deliciously sweet, yet healthy salad.

Beetroot

They might get a bad rep sometimes, but the humble beetroot packs a real healthy punch. The beetroot reached the pinnacle of its popularity in the 19th century when farmers realised that they could convert the veg into sugar. Since then, beetroot has been grown all around the world and consumed by millions who prize it for its rich calcium content as well as its healthy dose of iron, and vits A and C.

Pickle your beetroot up then slice it into a salad to add a splash of colour to your plate, or serve it up roasted and whole with a sirloin steak. Beets are best eaten between June to October, but they offer solid nutritional value the whole year round.