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I wrote about loneliness for The Guardian

“Write what you know,” they say. And so I was thrilled to be asked by my lovely editor at The Guardian if I would like to write something about the state of modern loneliness. Read it online HERE or the unedited version below…

Loneliness can creep through your bones like a disease, wash over you unexpectedly like a stranger’s vomit or sit in the pit of your stomach for weeks like undigested chewing gum. Especially, it turns out, if you’re young. A survey carried out by Opinium for The Big Lunch has found that 18% of 18 to 34-year olds have experienced the dull, quiet ache of being lonely. Which is no surprise to me.

Of course it’s easy to be lonely in your twenties. You may sit in an office of fifty people, but if you email your colleagues rather than warming your hands on the shared gossip and communal kettle of the office kitchen then it’s hard to feel truly part of a group. When you eat lunch sitting at your desk, idly scanning through other people’s Facebook photos rather than chatting around a table about the canteen’s latest attempt at tex mex, you leave yourself open to the cold draught of loneliness. If you sit on a sofa with your flatmate silently scrolling through everybody tweeting from a party you didn’t get invited to, rather than catching up on your friend’s latest romantic failure, you may well start to feel socially estranged. (Continued)

I did a spot of cold water swimming for The Metro

I bloody love a swim…

There’s something just a little odd about walking past a sign for nude sunbathing when you’re wearing a sheepskin coat, gloves and a hat. And yet, that’s where I found myself, early one March morning, striding up to the shore of the Men’s Ponds on Hampstead Heath for a swim.

That’s right: I can now officially say that I have swum all year round in every pond on Hampstead Heath; women’s, men’s and mixed. In sunshine and in snow. Which is just as well because on this day the water is absolutely Baltic and, had I not been already acclimatised, jumping into several feet of freezing water would actually be fairly dangerous.

Temperature aside, the water is wonderful. Clean, refreshing and a few minutes in get a fly over from a flock of bright green Hampstead parakeets; a surprisingly tropical sight on such a chilly Spring day. I splash back and forth, trying to do my best Busby Berkeley impression with my skin tingling, my heart thumping and a wonderful clear-headed silence all around me; I’m swimming with endorphins. (Continued)

I went knitting in the Faroe Islands for The Guardian

Oh isn’t life wonderful? Do Something sent me to the Faroe Islands to learn about knitting with the wonderful women of that windswept nation. You can read the online version HERE or the rather sloppy first draft below…

The women of the Faroe Islands used to cross the mountains with a bucket of milk over each arm, two on their back, while knitting sweaters for their fish- drenched men. To actually knit while walking into howling gales and hopping over streams without turning your yarn into a milk-slopped cheese isn’t just admirable, it’s unfathomable.
Actually, quite a lot about the Faroe Islands is unfathomable. Firstly, it is unfathomably beautiful – soaring hills, green valleys, snow-blasted rockpools and waterfalls that plunge directly into the sea below. Secondly, it can be unfathomably cold – during winter, daylight shrinks to just four hours and snow sometimes cuts all 18 islands become off entirely from the outside world.

I wrote about The Lucky Taco

I spent the day in the kitchen of The Lucky Taco blending brains and tweezering fish. Read it online HERE or the unedited version below…

It’s not often that I’m up to my wrists in brain, tongue and bones before lunch. And yet, just half an hour into my prep day at The Lucky Taco in Auckland there I was, tweezering monkfish, marinating lambs’ brains and slicing boiled tongue into perfect snack-size strips.

If your idea of a taco is a gum-strafing hard pudenda of crispy yellow corn, filled with iceberg lettuce and three flicks of cheddar cheese then, well, firstly, hello Ms Spragg I hope you’re still enjoying life as a dinner lady. But secondly, boy are you in for a shock if you ever get a proper one.

The soft corn and flour tortillas of The Lucky Taco are about as far from the flavourless semicircular Doritos of my youth as a bacon sandwich is from a Frazzle. But what is interesting about these authentically Mexican pockets of meat, spice and merriment is that although Otis and Sarah who make them spent a month in Mexico learning the business of hot folded food, almost every single ingredient is as kiwi as a sunburnt thigh. You see, New Zealand is a fertile place; they even call it God Zone (Kerala and Texas already put tabs on God’s Own Country). You could drop a tissue here and it would put down roots and produce fruit eventually. So the vast majority of the ingredients used in a Lucky Taco were grown, plucked and picked right here, in my fatherland; in the land of the long white cloud. (Continued)

Bitch stole my look

My cousin Hana had the most wonderful wedding in Maketu. And, even though I sewed my suit specially, it turns out someone else had the same idea.

I wrote about New Zealand’s fruit fly invasion

As I’m in New Zealand I thought I’d better bring the news of Godzone’s potential insect apocalypse to the world. Read it online, with my photos HERE. Or the unedited version below…

New Zealand often feels like the beginning of a horror movie. You know, the creepy, quiet bit before the whole thing turns to shit. The lawns are all neatly mown, the trees are heavy with lemons, the sun is shining, the houses even have white picket fences, for christ’s sake.

Which makes it even more striking when a whole suburb slides into David Cronenberg, World War Z, Resident Evil-style hysteria over a fruit fly. Yes, a fruit fly. Not one of those flying freckles that hover above brown bananas, which is what I think of when you say fruit fly. But a coca cola bottle-bodied bastard from Australia that looks like a bee in a black bike helmet and could, were it to set up a breeding ground, bring New Zealand fruit exports to a halt. (Continued)

I wrote about not taking cocaine for The Debrief

My lovely editor at The Debrief asked if I could write something about basically being Woody Allen in Play It Again Sam. You can read the online version HERE.

Or the unedited version below…

Call me a prude, but I’ve just never fancied keeping jars full of my own piss in the fridge. Call me a glutton, but I imagine I’d get bored of living on just milk and red peppers. Call me faux-modest but if aliens came to earth, I don’t think I’d be their first port of call.

All of the above, while firstly explaining why I’ll never write Station to Station or solve a mystery like A Scandal in Bohemia, also hints at my other great secret: I’ve never taken cocaine. I know, can you imagine? All these opinions, all that talking, all the cycling around and telling people what I think, all those plans, all those parties and yet the most vivacious thing I’ve ever stuck up my nose is my fingers or a vick’s inhaler. (Continued)

I’m doing the Machynlleth Comedy Festival

You should come, if you like. It’s on Sunday 3rd May at The Royal House, at 2.3pm and will be lots of fun. All the details and tickets HERE.

I tried gymnastics for The Guardian

Goodness me, but isn’t Do Something brilliant? Last month they let me go to Bristol to try my hand (and legs) at gymnastics. You can read the online version HERE. Or the original below…

Ever since I attempted to clear a horse vault in Year 4 PE and ended up crashing, genitals-first, into a leather-upholstered block of wood, I have been rather wary of gymnastics. I avoided parallel bars and swerved crash mats as often and as tenaciously as I could. Of course, it didn’t help that my every attempt was watched over in horror by a PE teacher who wore loose-fitting peach tracksuits that made her look like a naked Shar Pei on hind legs.

So it was with a less-than-light heart that I approached the South West Gymnastic Centre, deep in suburban Portishead. The sight of all those wall-mounted wooden bars and dangling ropes did little to ease my panic. And yet, wonderful things were about to happen. By which I mean, the leotard wardrobe was about to happen. This was a gateway to a lyrca wonderland; a portal to drag queen Narnia; all velvet, sequins and go-faster flame shapes. (Continued)

I wrote about being a beauty slacker for The Guardian

I’m not sure that tampons really count as beauty products, but I was very pleased when The Guardian asked me to write this. Read it online here or the unedited version below…

A small, wrinkled sandwich bag containing a toothbrush, one mascara, a small bottle of cocoa butter and some 69p deodorant from Wilkinsons – my ‘sponge bag’ is more the sort of thing you’d expect to find in the suitcase of a recently-divorced pen salesman from Redditch who’s living in the back of his Ford Mondeo while disputing the terms of his custody settlement than a 30-year-old metropolitan woman. And yet, I’m really not sure what else I need.

Never one to spend a lot of money on make up (I used to share a lipstick with my 92-year-old grandmother and have bought blusher exactly once) and utterly unconvinced by the idea of an antiwrinkle cream, over the last year I have found myself simply forgetting to replace things as they run out. Liquid eyeliner? Ran dry in January. Foundation? I haven’t bought any since May last year. Eye cream? I wouldn’t know where to start. Lipstick? Not while this indelible family heirloom is still rattling around the bottom of my handbag.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not allergic to washing. Water doesn’t, gecko-like, jump from my self-cleaning skin. In fact, I’ll say here that the old self-cleaning argument has always reeked slightly of well-meaning bullshit to me. But there is definitely a whole sea shelf of beauty products, ‘treats’ and treatments from which I will merrily abstain, without a second glance. (Continued)