You’re an open book. We all are.


How much time do you spend feeding your inner-monologue into the internet? I, it would seem, spend a lot. I recently noticed it had been exactly five years since I dropped the standard ‘who gives a shit what you had for lunch’ line and signed up to Twitter to publish my thoughts in digital soundbites. At the time of writing this, I’ve tweeted 31,0320 times. A quick google tells me that the average word length in the English language is 4.5 characters, so knocking off a bit for spaces and punctuation, that number of tweets equates to around 900,000 words. To put that into context, my tweeted word count comes in just short of Proust’s gargantuan collection of consciousness, In Search of Lost Time, estimated to be about 1,200,000 words, and considerably ahead of Tolstoy’s notoriously lengthy War and Peace, which Wikipedia claims comes in at 587,287 words. Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations pales in comparison at only 185,258 words. Should I be searching for any time I might’ve lost, I certainly I know where to find it.

A part of me wonders just what I could have created, had I thrown the same number of words about more purposefully, but there’s no doubt my, and other people’s feeds, actually do a pretty good job of telling a story. There’s plenty of things I make a point of not talking about on Twitter – I personally keep relationships, for example, to myself (or a group iMessages at least), but it’ll all be there in sub-tweets, incongruous @s, notable silences, or strings of strategic Instagram likes, if you know what you’re looking for. I would never have announced a break-up I went through on any of my feeds, but having previously crowded my chat with cooking experiments and television commentary, I did publicly register my interest for a room-for-one, and tediously tapped out tweets that wondered how I came to have woken up wearing my coat in bed when last I knew, I was at a party. That, I would say, tells you all you need to know.

In a brilliant piece on The Cut recently, Maureen O’Connor mused on the idea that while you might avoid your exes IRL, you can never fully be shot of them online, such is the inevitability of them lingering in your feeds. I personally have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to following anyone I’ve been involved with on any social networks (Instagram’s the most dangerous) but that doesn’t stop people popping up in conversation threads or pictures posted by mutual friends, and every now and then you’ll wince as much when you see them re-tweeted into your timeline as you would if you actually bumped into them.

Like it or not, the internet means your baggage is laid bare, but has it ever really not been? In an exhibition of work by Jacques Henri Lartigue, currently showing at The Photographer’s gallery in London, the following 1931 diary except precedes images of the blossoming, and subsequent demise of his relationship with Madeleine Messager, known as Bibi: ‘And now it is up to you, modest photographs, to do what you can – very little, I know – to tell everything, explain everything, make everything be imagined. Everything, even and above all, what cannot be photographed’. Indeed, Bibi’s distancing gaze from the lens as the series moves throughout the 1920s expresses as much of a distance from her husband as a verbal explanation could.

I recently found my 3G shielded by mountains in a beautiful enclave of Snowdonia, and in the absence of internet, expected to be offered respite from my, or anyone else’s, subtext. It didn’t take long though, to work out that while social media is an enabler of personal projection on a large scale, like in Lartigue’s photographs, people wear their stories as clearly headlines on their faces, and camped in close quarters among fellow wilderness-seekers, it wasn’t hard to read theirs. Opposite my friend and I, a father and son – who, on a side note, totally reminded me of the central duo in Nick Cave’s The Death of Bunny Monro – sat in bored silence until a mother and her son pitched up next to them. The two children made instant friends, but the two parents’ reluctance to interact with each other spoke loudly of their differing worlds. In a tableau that illustrated the tale I assumed for them almost too perfectly, both adults sat metres apart, each in their own camps, backs turned to each other, with their children playing in between – a bleak picture of loneliness. Maybe I spent to much time with little more than the moon to stare at, and read more than was there, but you have to admit either way, it’s the smallest things that reveal the most.

Rooting through the boot of my mother’s car, which I had borrowed for the trip, I discovered a bag containing a stale baguette and a pot of hummus. She’ll often carry snacks like this, apparently unable to find anything she’ll actually want to eat away from home, and being very much a creature of habit, she’s been stockpiling hummus since she, and the rest of England’s aspirational middle class, took a shine to whipped chick peas in the early 90s. Looking at these two seemingly innocuous items of food, festering away in the heat, was as good as having her jump out of the car-boot herself, such is the clear snapshot of her character they offer.

It starkly reminded me, that you can opt out of the internet for a few days, or forever, but people, and everything they mean to you, will remain around you all the same. You can can control what makes the cut into your feeds all you like, but happening upon what my mother had absent-mindedly left in her car, I knew that for the rest of my life, and long after she’s gone, a pot of hummus will tie a knot in my throat far tighter than a rogue RT I didn’t mean to see ever could.

Laura Vs. Garden: cleaning up

Screenshot 2014-03-09 20.19.32

I don’t believe in giving things up. Giving up on things when you feel like you’re flogging a dead horse, sure, but not cutting things you enjoy, even to the point of excess, out of your life entirely. People parading around their ‘dry January’ plights is an annual gripe of mine. As though somehow being vocal about binging on hot chocolate and Twixes for a month, before hitting the nearest All Bar One to wash your feet in Zinfandel and lager as soon as 1st February hits is somehow admirable. The seriously addicted aside, there’s no merit in abstinence, it’s just sanctimonious dick-swinging in place of sensible control, which is of course a much better idea. If you like something, do it, enjoy it, and don’t feel guilty about it, just don’t drown yourself in it.

So even when I entered 2014, as I have done most years since the millennial prefix changed from one to two, with my face in a toilet, my coat ‘somewhere else’ and the ‘what did I say to who and when?’ troll at the forefront of my thoughts, I didn’t make any empty promises to give up the wine, the gin and all my other pub favourites until I’d forgotten how bad the hangover could be. Even after a particularly precarious year of alcohol consumption, that idea not only seemed impossible, but beside the point, like killing the problem rather than the cause, and importantly, really fucking dull.

That said, it did feel more than ever like it was perhaps time to at least consider my drinking habits. As much as I’ve always just seen myself as someone who simply enjoyed drinking, 2013 saw me waking up on the outer ends of bus routes, or if I was at home, in my shoes and headphones with little recollection of how I had got there, but much gratitude that I at least had. I’m still paying for two phone contracts after ‘misplacing’ more than one iPhone during what should have just been casual after-work drinks and I’m reasonably sure I fractured my elbow in a similar situation.

The real affront to just how habitual, as opposed to recreational my drinking might be, came during a routine health check in late December. ‘So how much would you say you drink in a week?’, the doctor asked me. It was a Thursday, so recalling a Monday night glass of wine that had turned into a bottle or two with a friend, a couple of glasses of red the night before, and the anticipation that the weekend could easily add up to another three bottles of wine over the course of a few days, I threw out what I considered to be modest but honest suggestions. ‘I don’t know, five bottles of wine maybe?’. Seemed reasonable to me. There’s three glasses in a bottle, so fifteen glasses over seven days is a couple of glasses a day, or three to four on some nights with the odd drink free break. That’s perfectly normal, right? Apparently not. ‘Do you really think that’s how much you drink?’ the doctor responded, surprised. ‘Yeah’, I shrugged, still thinking that was a reasonable and realistic estimation. ‘If you keep drinking like that, you’re going to seriously damage your health’, my assessor glumly offered.

‘Well’, I thought, ‘medical professionals are hardly going to endorse such pursuits’, and continued merrily through a season where prosecco at lunch and martinis at dinner are practically obligatory. Somehow though, I struggled to shake the idea that perhaps this wasn’t simply seasonal, and travelling back to London after Christmas in an especially fragile state the day after some quiet drinks in the pub with school mates, that turned into drinking everything in sight at a friend’s parents house after last orders, and then everything my own mum and dad had lying around following that, decided that maybe the idea of not buying a bottle of wine by default on a Friday wasn’t such a mad idea, or that perhaps it is possible to enter a pub and order a soft drink (is it, really?).

I don’t want to give up drinking. I love drinking. The clink of bottles mingled with the rustle of a plastic bag has joy-inducing Pavlovian effect on me, and there’s something about the sour smell of stale beer that lingers in the air of every pub that I find truly comforting. I’ve grown up going to pubs, I bonded with my best friends over several pints and I’ve had all my most ambitious ideas on a barstool, even if I can’t always remember them. Not only do I simply have no desire to give up drinking, I feel like it would mean losing a huge part of who I am. I like being the person who’s always up for a surreptitious tinnie in the office on Friday, or who wants to prolong the fun of a dinner with a quick pint afterwards. I also just really love wine. A nice steak, for instance, just wouldn’t be the same without it. How on earth do you go on a date without that first knocked back glass to calm your nerves. What is a sunny Sunday without a cool outdoor pint? But that’s all it needs to be. A quick pint, a glass of wine, not a slippery slope to oblivion at the pop of every cork.

Rather than sit uncomfortably on the wagon only to leap straight off into my old habits, however, I’m attempting to simply cut down. Whether this is possible remains to be seen, but I’m trying at least.

Looking out of my bedroom window onto the botanical apocalypse our garden has become over the winter months, I realised that going green-fingered could be a perfect way preventing myself becoming yellow-livered. Having a project to pursue would give me extra reason not to spend precious weekend time in a duvet cocoon trying to claw back memories of the night before, and there’s nothing I hate more than making wild claims about things I’m going to achieve only to have to admit defeat when I’m asked how that’s going. ‘I’m going to dig everything up, I’ll replant the lawn, we can grow vegetables and hang wind chimes in trees’, I optimitically declared to my housemate. Another housemate gave me some Gladioli bulbs, ‘to get you started’, for my birthday. ‘Well I’ve got to do this now’, I thought.

So despite the January drizzle, with Godspeed You! Black Emperor pumping through my headphones and a cagoule keeping out the damp I started to take on the weeds. It became clear very quickly that it’s going to be a big task. Removing the worm-farm of bind-weed from beneath the beds is a mammoth job in itself, and dandelions, something I’d only ever seen as sweet pouffs of cotton among the grass, are actually the devil. They’ve got roots as thick as tree-trunks and if you try a tug of war pulling the bastards out of the ground, they will most certainly win. I know this because I learned it sitting on my arse in a pile of soil. Three bin-bags of docks, snake-like vines and the leaves of dandelions I’d failed to extract fully from the ground laughing at me, I’d barely made a dent in the overgrowth, but a couple of sessions later, and it’s starting to look more work-in-progress than squat, so I’m making some headway. I feel hopeful that come summertime it’ll be blooming, and that I’ll have lowered my alcohol tolerance down to just a couple of Pimms in the time I’ve spent in the garden over the boozer.

All that bending and digging certainly exhausted me enough to keep me out of the pub for the first few weekends of the year, and now that spring’s hit, there’s even more reason to wipe out the weeds in time to plant things for summer. Let’s just see what happens.

Exile on Mare Street: how a year alone in Hackney can soothe the soul.

Somebody recently told me that the best thing you can do in your twenties is to realise that it’s OK give up, that ‘there’s a tremendous amount of dignity in accepting things on their realistic terms’. It was with that sentiment that last summer, I stopped saying that you always have to work at being with someone, despite it not necessarily being easy, and I simply, and suddenly, gave up a failing relationship of almost five years. I drew a firm line under what had been a generally happy, but ultimately doomed period, and exiled myself to Hackney, away from cosy comfort of friends and familiarity that I’d so far been enjoying in South East London.

The East London bandwagon was one I’d prided myself in having resisting, but it was less notoriety of postcode than a need for utter independence that took me there. Having so far spent such a large part of my adult life involved with another person, the thirst to be utterly alone was barely quenchable, which meant shaking off things as great as a reliable social circle, and as small as a detailed knowledge of bus routes to my house (the price of which was at least 5 x £16 taxis from Walthamstow Central, the end of the 48 route, to Homerton at 4am).

And independence was what I got. Outside of wild, but fleeting social situations, of which there were many, I simply spent a lot of time by myself, learning to be alone. It’s amazing how much you rely on other people without realising it when you’ve previously had a string of them there as back-up – one friend’s Saturday-dinner kaiboshing hangover can throw your whole weekend out of whack. When that happens, and you’ve parked yourself on the opposite side of the city from the people you can call upon at the last minute for an evening of Tesco wine and instant noodles, you find yourself eyeing up the £5 Dino by yourself, and the most valuable thing I quickly learned was to become cool with that. Being forcibly alone taught me that while it’s OK to want to be around people, it’s very important not to need to, because the only person whose actions you ever have any control over, is you.

So I learned to enjoy the catharsis of silently decoding my own thoughts in the solitude of a quiet park, the joyous decadence of sitting in bed all day letting entire series’ tick over on Netflix without needing to get dressed and be anywhere, and the inquisitive indulgence of following trails of article links down an internet rabbit hole without anybody asking me what I’m reading.

But I also learned that it’s emotionally exhausting to keep going to parties where you barely know a soul, relying on gin-confidence and behaving destructively, with the questionable goal of ‘getting-to-know-new-people’, and ‘having-the-best-time-ever’, and that actually it can be really lonely to spend an evening by yourself when the trains to where your friends live aren’t running for the weekend, simply because you’re convinced that this is all character building anyway.

With this in mind, I’m find myself a year after my initial surrender, happy to give up once again, this time on my East London exile. I’ve accepted that there’s little to be gained from continuing to stubbornly isolate myself, clinging to the cliched notion that this will all help me uncover the answer to ‘how should a person be?’ (Sheila Heti’s novel, the name of which asks that very question, was of course top of my reading list the second I arrived in E5), and have moved back to South East London, where I belong.

I’ve realised that there’s no ultimate merit in behaving like a an aloof stray cat, and confident in the fact that I’ve proved that I don’t need to, I can accept the huge amount of happiness that can be gained by allowing yourself to be surrounded by the people you love.

Where are all the hidden tracks hiding now?

Nirvana Posed In Frankfurt 1991


Do you remember how excited you were the first time you discovered a hidden track on a CD? The anticipation you felt as the time-ticker kept counting even after the last song had ended? In the pre-internet desert that was 1996, it was a momentous day when my friend phoned me to tell me she’d just found Your House lurking un-listened on her CD copy of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill (I only had it on tape) months after we’d played every other track to death.


When you couldn’t search for bonus tracks by your favourite artists on YouTube or Soundcloud, finding a secret song tucked away at the end of an album was a really big deal. You felt like a total boss that had discovered an insider secret, something the band had thrown in just for those clever and dedicated enough to spot the extra ring of music burned onto the outer edge of a CD, or painstakingly waited for the point when the end-of-album silence was broken with a surprise song. But nowadays, with every musical tidbit independent of an album’s main track-listing available on demand, the hidden tracks aren’t hiding any more. Could this mean they’ve lost their magic?


Indeed, when the rough and dirty jam session sneaks up at the end of Nirvana’s Nevermind, it acts as a surreptitious fuck you to the slickly produced, radio-friendly album they’d always expressed discomfort with, but streamed out of that context, it could just be an innocuous outtake from their earlier album, Bleach – good to listen to, but without much meaning. Similarly, the aforementioned Your House gives a raw and vulnerable context to the venom of the tracks that precede it, but on it’s own, it could just an awkward a capella about heartbreak.


In general, the CD hasn’t got much going for it. It’s not as grand as a vinyl, with its outré artwork and ceremonious playing process, and there’s no way a shiny, not-even-that-compact disk can rival the delight of being able to binge on an entire back-catalogue in a couple of clicks. But the illicit hidden track, that’s really the CD’s edge. BRB, skipping to the end of all my favourite albums.

Books I read in 2012


In 2012, a year of change, tumult, and reckless abandon for me, it is apt that my reading list consisted of odes to alcohol by Kingsley Amis and F. Scott Fitzgerald, tales of soul-searching, risk and fierce independence from Nora Ephron and Sheila Heti, and a little Nick Cave smut thrown in for good measure. If you could tell your own story using the stories you read, then the following list paints a blurry (thanks to the wine) picture of mine this year.

On Booze – F. Scott Fitzgerald

As famous for being pissed as he is for denouncing the American Dream, Fitzgerald has plenty to say on drink, from using it to solve a plethora of seasonal turkey woes (burn turkey, get drunk, don’t care), to tales of him and Zelda tearing up the twenties like nobody else had before or has since.

The Death of Bunny Munro – Nick Cave

Of course I read the Cave-man’s latest literary output, and of course I didn’t actually finish it because I drunkenly abandoned it somewhere between Camden and Hackney when I still had 50 pages to go. But what I did read, I enjoyed. With the same frank flaire that make the lyrics to his dark and dirty song, Stagger Lee, some of his best, in The Death of Bunny Munro, Nick Cave creates characters that are so intensely unlikeable, and scenes so jaw droppingly grotesque, that you couldn’t look away from its pages even if you wanted to. Does Bunny actually meet a gruesome end? I’ll have to finish it to find out.

How Should a Person Be? – Shelia Heti

The New Yorker called Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be? ‘hideously narcissistic’, which is as much an accurate summing up of what the book is about as it is a criticism. Like Girls, Lena Dunham’s controversial sit-com, to which the book is often compared, it deals with the coming-of-age desire of creative women in their mid-twenties to make an impact and offer something new, clever and exciting to the world. This could indeed seem a narcissistic concern, but at the same time is the plight of many, and it’s this brutal honesty that makes Heti’s at times cringe-worthy, but always perfectly-crafted and original novel so wonderful. Even when you recognise your worst traits in her words, you realise that at least you’re not alone in brattishly thinking your life, is like, the hardest thing ever FML x 10.

I Remember Nothing, I Feel Bad About My Neck – Nora Ephron

It wasn’t until Nora Ephron died in the summer of 2012, and I read so much about her life, influence and surprise (to everyone she knew at least) death, most notably in pieces by Frank Rich and Lena Dunham, that I realised I hadn’t read any of her own work. A travesty considering her films, When Harry Met Sally, and Sleepless in Seattle are amongst my favourites. It never mattered to me that they’re sappy and mindlessly romantic, because as Ephron seemed to be the first to understand in her two works of non-fiction that I read this year, I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing, even the steeliest of people can be melted by a connection with a like-minded other, whether they be lovers, friends or family. Particularly in I Remember Nothing, which Ephron wrote when she knew she was dying, but also in parts of I Feel Bad About My Neck, a reflection on ageing, death looms, in tales of old friends, long-loved-and-lost apartments, and lists of everyday things she will miss (pie) and won’t miss (bras). But that’s not to say her books are bleak. Instead, her humour and warmth pleasantly urge that given your inevitable, and unpredictable expiration, you should have your hair expensively blow-dried, eat three desserts if you want, and enjoy spending time with, and having conversations with, the people you care about the most, because who knows when they, or you, will be gone.

Everyday Drinking – Kingsley Amis

Kingsley Amis’ encyclopedic exploration of every drink imaginable is as useful a reference on booze as it is a witty insight into its author’s drinking habits. Top tip: don’t waste leftover wine, simply throw it into an indiscriminate punch, and never attempt to read this book with a hangover.

The Electric Michelangelo – Sarah Hall

There’s something highly addictive about books set in New York, and Sarah Hall’s tale of a young English tattooist’s journey into the dark carnival underworld of turn-of-the-century Coney Island tells a part of the city’s story we don’t often hear. With its mixture of unusual characters, including a girl that keeps a horse in her apartment and a pair of Siamese twins who run a dive bar, The Electric Michelangelo is nothing short of eye-opening.

See books I read in 2011.

Playlist: A Winter’s Tale


I like winter. I like the cold, I’m cool with the dark, and perhaps more tellingly, I revel in the moment of stillness we’re offered as nature lays dormant. In winter you hibernate, reflect and procrastinate. After all, nobody really expects you to see through your wild schemes until at least spring. As such, the music that matches the year’s downtime is indulgently contemplative and calm, like the aural equivalent of snoozing.

Opening with the final track from Wild Beasts’ album, Smother, an album I’ve always found to evoke the first icy twilight hours of winter, and dotted with great gusts of Dirty Three and soothing waves of Richard Hawley, here is a collection of songs that were made for cold days with heavy grey skies.





It’s a tough life being a ~creative person~. You have to deal with people who get off on spreadsheets and say mad shit that makes you want to punch yourself in the face, like, all the time. Mad shit that Ireland’s creative community have captured in some swankily designed posters. It’s worrying how many of these things I have actually heard IRL. Here’s some of my favourites, and here’s the rest.



















Via Buzzfeed