From 2016, until the 2019 election and later the Coronavirus pandemic, the British media was dominated — obsessed— by two things: Brexit and Donald Trump. Every British news site, TV channel, and tabloid paper published about Trump daily. His most banal remarks were headline-worthy. Brexit’s prevalence as a constant in the news isn’t surprising (not that it wasn’t tiring) but the fact British media often gave more coverage to the American president than to our own leaders, and commented more on American politics than our own, is harder to explain. You could suppose that compared to blander, more photoshopped personalities…


For 15 months after graduation I was a NEET. A ‘Not in Employment, Education, or Training’. It’s not a time I reminisce about, but as every writer knows, periods of despair are always worth mining for potential literary product.

What follows is an A to Z of different aspects of unemployment. Or, on what it was like to be unemployed in a particular place (northern England) at a particular time (2019 and 2020), the second half of it spent in COVID lockdown.

During, I lived with my parents and they supported me. So mine was a privileged unemployment. Long-term (Google…


James Bulger was one month off his third birthday when he was lured away from his mother by two ten year old boys in The Strand shopping centre in Bootle, near Liverpool. The names of the two boys — Jon Venables and Robert Thompson — are known to most people in Britain and their police mug shots have been engraved as the archetypal images of the person who is ‘born bad’. …


Christmas Day 2009: Inglorious Basterds was my family’s ‘Christmas Day film’. I didn’t know who Quentin Tarantino was, but I remembered Basterds advertised as a standard Brad Pitt WW2 shoot-em-up (like Fury would be a few years later). Hyperactive teenage me found himself watching a near three hour long movie, made up mostly of dialogue, heavily subtitled, slow-burn pacing with minimal action scenes: I was agitatedly bored and complained to my family throughout. And then the climax came: theatre burning down, audience in chaos, the Basterds bursting in gunning everyone in sight, Nazis on fire, big explosion finale. My uncle…


In Ottessa Moshfegh’s sleepily existential novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation the unnamed narrator, describing an ex-boyfriend, tells us he wasn’t one of those guys, a ‘specific brand of young male’:

An “alternative” to the mainstream frat boys and premed straight and narrow guys, these scholarly, charmless, intellectual brats, dominated the more creative [university] departments. […] “Dudes” reading Nietzsche on the subway, reading Proust, reading David Foster Wallace, jotting down their brilliant thoughts into a black Moleskin pocket notebook. […] They thought that they wanted to be adored, to be influential, celebrated for their genius, that they deserved to…


Roughly three weeks ago Black Lives Matter protesters gathered at Grey’s Monument in Newcastle, near where I live, as part of the activism sparked by the murder of George Floyd. Not long into the day a ‘counter-protest’ turned up calling themselves ‘Defenders of Newcastle’ who said they were there to stop BLM protesters taking down the statue of Charles Earl Grey. Grey was prime minister when slavery was abolished in the British Empire, so it seemed absurd to tear his statue down. Only, the protesters never said they wanted to take the statue down; Grey’s monument is a good spot…


Sometime in 2017 I transformed into a lobster. I lived as one for well over a year. It wasn’t a sudden waking-up-different Kafkaesque change, it came on slow, so by the time I reached full lobster form I hardly noticed. I knew something was different but couldn’t articulate what — but, writing now in 2020, I’m not a lobster anymore.

For the confused: I’m talking about Jordan Peterson. His fans are sometimes called Lobsters (mostly by others). We’ll get to why. During my fandom I binged on Peterson’s videos and books and subscribed totally to the Petersonian worldview. If there’s…


I knew the picture as the front cover of Rage Against the Machine’s first album years before I knew the story. A monk sits in the classic legs-crossed meditation pose half-consumed by flames while a busy street of fellow Buddhists look on at him.

Thích Quang Duc was a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk. A day before his self-immolation, in 1963, journalists were tipped off with the location and told to come see an important event but weren’t told what would happen. On the day, Thích arrived by car with two other monks. He sat on the road while one doused…


It’s 25 years since Kurt Cobain died. Killed by depression and addiction. The people that escaped 1994 have steadily wrinkled with entropy but Cobain, having taken the James Dean trade-off — a lifetime for a good-looking corpse — remains preserved, statued in time, receding into the distance while the rest of us float further out into space. The Rolling Stones continue to gather no moss, or are actively smothering themselves in it depending on who you ask — either way, they are still shedding skin and changing shape. Whereas Nirvana already feels like a sturdy, familiar furniture-piece in the collective…


The maladaptive daydreamer spends the majority of her waking-life lost in thought. Her fantasies are so vividly absorbing she spends hours each day in them, losing track of time and of what’s going on around her. She crafts complex, ongoing stories and becomes attached to the characters. Other times her thoughts are short and fragmentary. But whatever form it takes she is always thinking. She often indulges in fantasy while alone but can do so around other people too, especially when she hasn’t had time to ‘catch up’ on her thinking.

A common experience of the maladaptive daydreamer is walking…

Charlie Platts

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