Stay in Shape 1: Get Creative! 5 Ideas for Getting Creative in Lockdown!

I’ve had my fair share of struggles with mental health, physical injury, and unhealthy habits. From incidents requiring surgery to mental scars requiring consultation, I have battled many a demon to be who I am today, and therefore have plenty of advice as to how you might help yourself out too!

This post is about the power of getting creative. Firstly, I would like to stress that I myself am not particularly creative. That is why I have started this blog, to find a creative outlet. Even so, my sister has sworn by the importance of letting her imagination run wild for a while now and the drawing attached was her birthday present to me! That is why I want to tell you what getting creative has done for me since I started listening to her.

Not to get too off message though, I think it is important to say that you don’t have to be good at whatever creative outlet you choose. In fact, it may even be preferable for you to not be so good at it. The struggle to get better at something you aren’t so good at is an important process to achieve a true sense of accomplishment, a feeling which can be invaluable in creating or reaffirming your sense of self-worth!

I will admit that I have somewhat cannibalised this idea from one of my favourite content creators. I frequently listen to Joe Rogan’s podcasts and, in one in which he casually converses with Dan Blizerian, Joe makes an important point about the value of struggle:

“One of the most fascinating lessons I’ve absorbed about life is that struggle is good… Do things that are difficult. It’s very important to struggle. You don’t get to know yourself without struggle. You don’t know who you are until you get tested.” Joe Rogan

Improving one’s personal abilities, and overcoming the struggle required to do so, is absolutely invaluable as an experience. As Joe Rogan points out, you really get to know yourself when you are tested under pressure and, in my opinion, there are few situations which put pressure on you more than when you place it on yourself with the intention of improving your skills. For your mental health, or at least for mine in the past, overcoming this pressure is a powerful healing tool.

Anyway, lets return back to the specific value of getting creative. There is something distinctly therapeutic about freeing your mind in this way. Right now, all the stresses associated with lockdown, from being put on furlough to having your freedom of movement restricted, can mount up really easily.

I can’t tell you that getting creative will alleviate all of your many concerns; however, for me at least, it provides some respite. Respite in the sense that, for however long I spend writing my blog each day, my mind is not focused on all of the problems that are swarming around me, and the rest of the UK, at present.

Here are some ideas for how you can let your creative juices flow:

  1. Get drawing!

I started this article off with a drawing by my little sister and so it feels right that I begin this list by recommending drawing to you.

Drawing is an exceptionally freeing option for your imagination. You can take on designing and executing anything that you can conjure up in your head. Many of the greatest painters who have ever lived, from Michelangelo to Van Gogh, were master drawers even before they had developed their skills with a brush. If its good enough for them, surely its good enough for you!

With that, all I’ll say is pick up a pencil and get drawing!

  1. Start doing some writing!

Writing comes in a whole variety of forms. Perhaps you would like to write a short story, a blog, or even a novel! There certainly are a lot of different options for your consideration.

I chose to write a blog, in part, because it gives me the opportunity to consistently complete tasks I set myself. Creating content daily, or weekly, provides me with regular achievements and an associated sense of accomplishment to go along with each.

Admittedly, I am also writing a novel, I presume of around 90 000 words by the time I finish it; however, I am finding it to be something of a slog. Each chapter requires weeks of work and, although I enjoy overcoming the consistent struggle I associate with developing my book, I find that blogging provides me with regular successes to be proud of. That is why I personally prefer it.

Whatever you plan to write, I recommend doing it as soon as possible!

  1. Take up a sport!

Taking up a team sport right now isn’t going to be possible. Lockdown is making it tough to do just about anything that involves contact with other people, but how about a solo sport?

I am a boxer and martial artist. I find that training alone and using online tutorials is an easy way to build up my array of skills. Shadow boxing, for most martial arts, is a very easy way to build on your skills. All you need is a decent sized mirror so that you can observe the form of strikes you throw.

Alternatively, take up something a little simpler. How about good old-fashioned running? Instead of one walk a day, get yourself off on a run and keep fit!

  1. How about a craft?

Sewing, knitting, papercraft, woodcraft, metal working… The list goes on forever!

Most crafts will require you to invest a little money to get started, but they are fantastic ways of immersing yourself in worthwhile activities. Creating items you can be proud of, whether it be a scarf, a necklace, or even a chair, will give you a fantastic new skill whether you intend to market your items, give them as gifts, or collect them for yourself!

Do your research and pick up the craft that’s right for you!

  1. Pick up a camera!

You don’t need some fancy long lens camera to take perfect pictures nowadays. A combination of your smartphone and accompanying photo editing software will do the trick! That makes it really easy to become an amateur photographer so why not take advantage of the situation?

On your one walk a day in lockdown, take the opportunity to grab your camera or phone and snap some shots that will cheer up the people you care about, and perhaps even a wider audience if you have Instagram!

This is the perfect way to get arty and capitalize upon your limited dose of freedom right now, so get snapping.

So that’s a quick rundown of a few different creative outlets you might like to explore. I can’t tell you how important creativity has been for keeping my anxiety at bay in recent times and I hope it does something similar for you!


Lockdown Reads 6: My Family and Other Animals

Gerald Durrell’s autobiographical tale, set in Corfu, was instrumental in spurring my adolescent penchant for catching reptiles on the heaths of south east England. It is a fantastically woven tale of Durrell’s childhood in which he never fails to poke fun at the character flaws of his family members.

The story begins in England with the Durrell family, made up of Gerald’s mother, sister, and two brothers. Gerald’s eldest brother, Larry, complains that the ailments from which each of the family members are suffering could be cured by a move to warmer climes. Winning the debate with his mother, Larry convinces her and the family to up and move to Corfu, which they promptly do.

On the island, Corfu’s abundance of native critters helps Gerald to realise his love for animals. He acquires a tortoise and his tutor, George, integrates zoology into his curriculum, fuelling his fire for nature even further. Throughout the story, Gerald accumulates a variety of animal companions, from his dog to a matchbox full of scorpions. These serve to create varying degrees of havoc at different points in the book which all add to the humour of the story.

The humorous elements of the story are perhaps furthered by no character more than Spiro, and his colourful language. Spiro is the taxi driver who saves the family from droves of his Greek compatriots at the beginning of the story and becomes a strong family friend to the Durrells. He is never far from those parts of the narrative which are most comical and I guarantee you will love him!

There are a plethora of other individuals in the book who also make for strong influences on the story. Leslie, the second eldest brother with a love of firearms, provides one of my favourite moments in the entire work, when he drives Margo’s temporary companion, one of Gerald’s tutors, from the family villa with the threat of shooting him upon any potential return. It is genuinely very comical, notwithstanding the connotations which this part of the story might have if the particulars were to come out in the world today.

I will spare further details of the book, but I could write in a lot more detail should anyone so wish. Gerald Durrell builds this story brilliantly and that is why it became a staple bedtime story in my early years, and a book I read regularly into my teens. If you’re looking for something lighthearted to read, then this may well be right up your alley!

Why You Should Visit Florence!

This thread of posts is on my bucket list, both the parts of it I have done and those I am yet to do. It has been written to provide consistent content for your perusal (particularly with lockdown at the moment). I hope West’s Bucket Lists will provide some inspiration, perhaps for your future travels, and even a little escapism in these uncertain times.

“To see the sun sink down, drowned on his pink and purple and golden floods, and overwhelm Florence with tides of colour that make all the sharp lines dim and faint and turn the solid city to a city of dreams, is a sight to stir the coldest nature, and make a sympathetic one drunk with ecstasy.”

Mark Twain

Florence is a place on my bucket list I have frequented, but never will there come a time where I have visited the city enough.

In architectural brilliance alone, Florence supersedes just about every other city I have visited, with the possible exception of Rome. Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome, and Giotto’s accompanying bell tower, are just two magnificent reminders of this city’s former position at the heart of the renaissance. The Duomo, of which both of the previous architectural marvels are mere parts, stands regal over the city. It is, in itself, amongst the most beautiful of buildings the world over, and enough reason to visit the city alone.

If art of the architectural form is not enough in itself though, the Galleria degli Uffizi houses plenty of paintings and sculptures to sink your teeth into. Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, for example, is an enduring vision of the renaissance and a universal symbol of beauty. Riding on her seashell, nude and pale, Venus leans towards the reader in contrapposto form.

Italy is also a country renowned for its food, and Florence prepares good quality nosh with the rest of the country, as if part of some national agenda. Great gelato can be found all over the city and I recommend looking up and trying a variety because, why not? You are travelling after all! Pistachio is my favourite and, if you haven’t tried it, although it is not a desperately uncommon taste, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

A couple of other things you might try, two of my personal favourites, are cannoli from Café Rivoire and Biastecca alla Fiorentina, the local form of steak. Both should definitely be on your agenda.

Finally, a quick word on Tuscany. I have been to many wonderful campsites and attached restaurants across the world, but Tuscany holds my favourite of them all. I may very well write an entire article on my experiences at Azienda Agricola Montaioncino on another day; however, I must recommend the place now. Just outside Empoli, not far from Florence, this little campsite is an uncut diamond. Good, cheap, and simple food, supplemented with fantastic wine, views of vineyards for miles, and positively wonderful hosts, makes for an award-winning combination. If you are inclined to travel from the countryside and into Florence, then stay here for sure!

Lockdown Reads 5: The Butterfly Lion

I’ve decided to write a series of short recommendations/critiques/summaries of my favourite books. These are titles you can perhaps purchase on one day delivery, or Amazon audible, to keep you busy during these uncertain times.

On this occasion, I plan on telling you about one of my all-time dearest children’s book. I grew up inhaling Michael Morpurgo’s various works but one, The Butterfly Lion, was always my favourite. It might not necessarily have the grandiosity of his work War horse, but the book is an emotional read, especially for a children’s book, and has charm coming out of its ears.

From the relationship between Bertie and Millie, the two human protagonists in the story, to the bond betwixt both of them and their lion, the book is nothing but heartwarming. Bertie is a young boy growing up on his family farm in Africa. When his father shoots a lioness, Bertie adopts her white lion cub.

Bertie, whilst sneaking away from school to try and see his lion, meets a young girl named Millie. The whole story is actually narrated by Millie to a young boy in the present.  Millie and Bertie become close friends until the First World War divides them. Bertie wins the Victoria Cross for valour when he saves two men and, upon reading of his exploits in a newspaper, Millie tracks him down.

Bertie and Millie find out that their lion was part of a circus and, although the circus has shut down, they rescue him from his owner. Bertie and Millie move to England, talking the lion with them, and complete their love story’s arc, getting married. When the lion dies, they are both greatly saddened, and Bertie carves a chalk lion onto the hillside. The white chalk lion attracts butterflies in droves and this gives the book its elegant title.

There are other nuances to the story that I have decided not to include in my narrative; however, this is the gist of the storyline. It is a beautifully crafted tale and Michael Morpurgo is a true artisan of children’s novels. If your children are bored in lockdown and need a read then this novel is a terrific option.

Lockdown Reads 4: The Lays of Ancient Rome

This recommendation is for a very different sort of book to those which I have written about before and will likely write about in the future.

The Lays of Ancient Rome, written by Thomas Babington Macaulay, a man with the most fabulously British name, is a collection of a series of narrative poems which recount the stories which have shaped modern understanding of early Roman History and canon.

I first learned of the book when one of my friends quoted this reference to me, in particularly poetic fashion, just before a boxing match:

‘Then out spake brave Horatius, The Captain of the Gate: “To every man upon this earth Death cometh soon or late. And how can men die better Than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers, And the temples of his Gods.”’

This particular excerpt is taken from the poem Horatius, a story of sacrifice not dissimilar to Thermopylae, but for the ending. Horatius and his two comrades defend the Sublician Bridge, the crossing point on the Tiber at Rome, against an advancing Etruscan army. Horatius ends up standing alone whilst Roman engineers demolish the bridge into the river to halt the Etruscan advance. Whilst Horatius survives, swimming back to shore, his willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice is a powerful reminder of the strength of character which few men possess when they need to carry the world on their shoulders.

Aside from this poem, others, like The Battle of Lake Regillus and The Prophecy of Capys, tell other ‘foundation myth’ type stories absolutely brilliantly and eloquently.

This book of poetry is undoubtedly hard to read; however, to help nourish a blossoming understanding of Roman history, and a passion for classic works of literature, I could not think of one much better.

Lockdown Reads 3: Shoe Dog

I’ve decided to write a series of short recommendations/critiques/summaries of my favourite books. These are titles you can perhaps purchase on one day delivery, or Amazon audible, to keep you busy during these uncertain times.

We’re back to non-fiction for this one. I will start with a quick disclaimer this time around. I’ve never actually read Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog, but I have listened to it on Audible a couple of times.

I will say, if you start listening to the audiobook, you might be warded off by Phil Knight’s introduction. I know, from some of my friends who have been in the car when I put on his dulcet tones, that his voice is not to everyone’s taste. I’ll tell you right now though, he doesn’t stick to narration for any longer than the introduction so skip that if necessary.

The book itself details the rise of then shoe start-up, and now fitness giant, Nike. From humble origins in sleepy Oregon to lucrative international deals with superstar athletes the world over, Phil Knight’s autobiography details the meteoric rise of his company.

The book is, however, much more than a simple rags to riches tale. There is much to be gleaned, if you treat the book as something of a self-help guide, from its founder’s consistent exuberance and unshakeable faith in his vision for Nike. I read the book for inspiration when I was raising capital for my own start-up and found it to be a fountain of information, particularly on how to be a good founder and a great human being.

Shoe Dog is a really interesting autobiography that lends itself to a much wider audience than just potential founders of startups. If you have an ambitious bone in your body, there is much to learn from Phil Knight’s life and I can’t recommend it enough.

Lockdown Reads 2: Mortal Engines

I’ve decided to write a series of short recommendations/critiques/summaries of my favourite books. These are titles you can perhaps purchase on one day delivery, or Amazon audible, to keep you busy during these uncertain times.

The second book on my list is Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. Admittedly, now that Peter Jackson has released his movie adaptation of the title, this book is not the best-kept secret it once was. The movie, whilst I personally consider it to be better than some others would argue, certainly does not do the novel justice. So, if you didn’t like the film and thus didn’t want to read the book, I would recommend that you change your tune and order a copy.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by the long ago fought ‘60-minute war’, settlements have taken to strapping on wheels and chasing one another for the scarce resources they need in a food web called ‘municipal darwinism’. Our protagonist, Tom Natsworthy, a resident and proud apprentice historian of London, falls out of the city and is thrust into the mad and dangerous world where predator cities hunt everything in sight.

With twists and turns abound, the first book of the quartet follows Tom’s quest for truth and his blossoming relationship with the terrifying Hester Shaw. Hester, for reasons that will become clear when you read Mortal Engines, is one of the most interestingly written characters I have come across in my experiments in reading science fiction. She alone deserves your eyes on the page.

For a post-apocalyptic quest like no other, pick up a copy and get reading.

An Intro to West’s Bucket List and Bhutan!

This blog may seem to be something of a rat’s nest. There are a variety of types of post running in every which way and, unfortunately, that may not lend itself to complete clarity.

I therefore believe that a series of posts, linked thematically and regularly written, may help to bring about some semblance of order to my blog for you, the readers. Therefore, to go alongside my Lockdown Reads series, I am writing my West’s Bucket List series. The posts in West’s Bucket List will be grouped into former, things I have done that were on the list, and future, those things that I desperately wish to do and are therefore still on it. Let me know in the comments if you have any ideas as to what I should add to my bucket list and I may well do some reading up and add them!

So, that was a little intro to what I’m doing and now here’s my first entry.

Most of my list is made up of activities I wish to try, foods I wish to taste, or very specific cities, or regions, I wish to visit; however, Bhutan is an entire country that I’m desperate to see every inch of.

I first heard of the country when I watched the BBC documentary Lost Land of the Tiger as a kid. In it, a team of wildlife experts and film makers search the mountainous and heavily forested regions in Bhutan to identify a, then unidentified, tiger population. I was absolutely taken aback by the dramatic panoramic shots of the country and resolved to one day visit. High in the Himalayas, Bhutan boasts a magical combination of monasteries and mountains. The pictures of Taktsang, nestled abreast a sheer cliff face and atop a rocky outcrop in the upper Paro valley, should be iconic. Perhaps the temple would be if more new people knew of Bhutan and I believe that, one day very soon, they may well do.

Whether you visit to learn what you can of Buddhist culture, hike among the national parks, or seek out the elusive tiger, visiting Bhutan will unfortunately set you back a pretty penny. That is perhaps why I fear that visiting it will fall far down my list of priorities. The government has put a minimum of $200 per day, per person, to visit the country even in low season. This is with the noble aim of ensuring the country isn’t ravaged by the negative impacts of tourism, something I genuinely and wholeheartedly commend. Unfortunately though, that alone makes the trip unaffordable for some, myself included at present; however, I one day intend to go. I hope to see you there when I do!

Lockdown Reads 1: Freakonomics

I’ve decided to write a series of short recommendations/critiques/summaries of my favourite books. These are titles you can perhaps purchase on one day delivery, or Amazon audible, to keep you busy almost immediately during these uncertain times.

My first book recommendation would have to be Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner and Stephen Levitt. I hope I don’t lose anybody with this recommendation because Freakonomics is a tad unconventional to say the least. It’s a non-fiction read which has been described as a melding of pop culture with economics.

The book claims, rather grandiosely, that it ‘explores the hidden side of everything’. While it may not quite do that, I’ve never read a book, cover to cover, quite as quickly as Freakonomics. I was first made aware of it back when I watched suits and the fledging lawyer, Mike Ross, referenced the book by saying. “A person is more likely to die while dealing drugs than on death row in Texas”.

It’s off the wall takes like these, explained with analysis of huge tracts of data, that give you sociological insights into a range of topics that you may never been exposed to.

From studies on the economics of drug dealing and the socioeconomic patterns of how parents name their children, to the way in which school teachers and sumo wrestlers have cheated their respective systems, Freakonomics is the perfect tool to help you cultivate your inquisitive nature, or sharpen the minds of your loved ones with intellectual discussion.

It’s not a difficult read but it will require your full attention.  I promise once you pick it up, you won’t be able to put it down though!

The Fallout of Dirty Monopoly Tactics

The crew; Andy, Caitlin, Rachel, and I, organised a get together back before Christmas. It was to meet Rach’s new boyfriend. Now I’m not a big one for meeting the new boyfriends in the group. Apparently, I come off a tad protective and I’ve made one or two enemies in the past. Fortunately, Rach promised a home cooked dinner and I had a fair amount of fear I’d miss out, so I went along.

Andy and I rode round to the house, in Forest Row in Sussex. Forest Row is quaint and pretty, but I’d only ever go there to see Rach. It’s not exactly Brighton town on a student night. So, I met Nyasha, Rachel’s new guy, and he was a quality bloke. We got chatting about rugby and mutual acquaintances from Southampton. All in all, dinner went past and the whole group got on like a house on fire.

Then Caitlin and Rachel, seemingly in unison, uttered four words that would put group friendships on ice for a few weeks, “shall we play monopoly?”

I was a tad reticent, unwilling to commit to what I knew would be a disaster. I’m incredibly competitive and board games do not show off my good side. Caitlin, however, was totally insistent and we ended up pulling out the board.

Rachel, Caitlin, and Nyasha all decided to stand alone as players. The scotty dog, the iron, and the top hat. Andy and I though; we’re team players. We took the battleship. The game was going pretty well, and team battleship had accrued a fair amount of property, but we weren’t cash rich. On the other hand, Nyasha, Mr Top Hat himself, didn’t have much property but did have a lot of dough.

Somehow, the battleship managed to land on just about his only property and drained our remaining cash reserves. Rach decided to make a deal with us. She’d cover our bill in exchange for a property. Fortunately, Andy was the banker and, whilst Rachel and I deliberated over terms, he sneakily mortgaged the property in question. Rachel bought the property and realised she’d have to bankrupt herself to use it.

Rachel blew a gasket when she realised and went into a huge sulk. It was only made that much worse when Andy and I landed on one of her properties, but she didn’t notice until we moved off it and burst out laughing. Rach, with a face like thunder, decided to buy a property off Caitlin she thought we needed and, paying over the odds to stop us completing a set, made the deal. Upon the realisation she had confused orange with red, and thus brought the wrong property, Rachel went up another notch.

Andy and I finally compounded her rage when we made a deal with Nyasha. We teamed up our capital with his property and cleared up the board after that. Caitlin was obliterated near instantly on Oxford Street and then Rach, a business magnate until fairly recently, was finally toppled. Her last stand on Mayfair was the final nail in the coffin.

Rach didn’t text us back for a few weeks and I think Andy, Nyasha, and I would all tell you that Monopoly is the perfect way to get the cold shoulder if you’re that way inclined.

My Top Seven TV Show Recommendations for Lockdown

First of all, I’m not exactly a tv critic. Or is it tv show critic? To be honest that kind of tells you everything. I don’t know actors’ names. I don’t know good camera work. I don’t even really know if people are acting all that well. What I do know is what I find watchable and if you’re looking for dam watchable TV, I got yall covered folks.

Disclaimer number two; these aren’t my favourite shows. They’re basically shows I’ve watched in the last six months that I’ve enjoyed and that, if you’re inclined to watch something right now, might keep you on the hook. Oh and, disclaimer three, I’m going to try not to spoil anything but if you really want to avoid any details, maybe don’t my choice explanations. Now, in no particular order, the shows…

  1. Peep Show

So, I sort of told I lie before because one of the shows in the lineup is my all time favourite. Peep Show is absolutely hilarious. It’s the story of two thirty something flat mates, the el dude brothers, living their slightly sad lives relentlessly in South London.

The quirk is that you can hear their inner monologues at all times. Moreover, almost every single shot from every series is filmed from the perspective of one of the characters. It takes a few minutes to get used to but when you do, it’s brilliant, if slightly cringey and uncomfortable, television. Mitchell and Webb nailed this one.

  1. Ozark

The word Ozark seems to be in just about everyone’s mouths who I’ve been talking to recently. The series is undoubtedly brilliant. Jason Bateman is the financial advisor who drags his family from Chicago and into rural Missouri at the behest of a cartel. There he is to launder money and try to stay out of trouble, but everyone knows that in the back creeks of middle America, even the hills have eyes.

For a tv series that is supposed to focus on the task of banking money, it is never slow. Things just get worse and worse, and its awesome to watch. If you were hoping for one of those twenty-episode American crime series with each episode seemingly distinctly separate though, this isn’t for you. The plot is intricate, and the characters flawed. The line between good and bad is so blurred that no two of my friends have rooted for the same character as their favourite. That’s the beauty of the show though, it reminds you that you never really know what people are capable of until they’re pushed.

  1. Billions

Chuck Rhoades and Bobby Axelrod. District Attorney and billionaire hedge fund manager. Ever heard the story of Laelaps, the hunting dog that never failed to catch its prey, and the Teumessian Fox, the canine that could never be caught? This feels a lot like that.

The series is all about a district attorney seeking to bring down a kingpin and that’s enthralling to watch. Chuck is absolutely relentless and ruthless. His character is complex and perhaps a fair bit twisted. He’s coming to hunt a whale and is willing to do just about anything to get him. Bobby is well liked and, at times, seems almost more moral than his counterpart, but there are skeletons in his closet too and he knows it. For a crime drama that takes things to the next level, put Billions atop the list.

  1. Taboo

I almost put Peaky Blinders on here, and maybe I should’ve done, but I actually prefer this gem because its Tom Hardy’s show through and through.

Taboo is the story of a returning James Delaney who has come to London in the wake of his father’s death. London itself is dark and foreboding; with all of its tenants themselves embodying varying degrees of malice and menace. Set in 1814, the series centers upon the shadowy past James Delaney, a man who is not to be trifled with, and his dealings with the Crown of Britain and the behemoth that was the East India Trading Company.

The series is full of mystery, pithy quotes, and bloodshed. Probably the least well-known show on the least, and perhaps the one with the dreariest sounding premise, I wouldn’t be surprised if the show gained a lot of traction with people sat at home. If you give it a go you won’t be able to stop watching. It’s just too good!

  1. Afterlife

If Taboo had a dreary premise, this show’s is downright depressing. Ricky Gervais is Tony, the widower in mourning after the untimely death of his wife at the hands of cancer.

If you want a lighthearted comedy then this might not take your fancy but, in all honesty, this is the singular most heartwarming comedy I have ever watched. Of course, there are many lows, every episode really, and even times when your heart sinks to your stomach as our protagonist contemplates suicide, but that only serves to fuel your joy when good comes about in the story.

There are a plethora of zany, and sometimes slightly too real, characters who all care about Tony and they are all wonderfully complementary to his, at times, slightly tiresome persona. You may have never thought that some of the topics in Afterlife could get you laughing, but I promise you, Ricky Gervais is the king of black comedy. Season 2 also just came out!

  1. Gangs of London

If you have a weak stomach, and I cannot stress this enough, do not watch Gangs of London. The violence and gore are absolutely gratuitous. Yes, the fight scenes are coordinated better than any I’ve ever seen, and as a fighter I sort of know what I’m looking at, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to watch.

The show starts out with Finn Wallace’s death. That’s no spoiler, it’s all over the trailer. The rest of it details the brutal hunt for Finn’s killers by his son, Sean Wallace, a young man full of pent up rage and with a need to prove himself. As he gets further down the rabbit hole of London’s criminal underworld, there are twists and turns abound which keep you on your toes. If you can watch through the violence, then you will be glued to the screen. Season 1 only just came out so get on the hype train now guys!

  1. Ballers

I can’t say I’m usually a fan of Dwayne Johnson’s acting but, as Spencer Strasmore, financial manager to the young stars of the NFL, he lights up the screen. There is something authentic about the former wrestler jumping in to play a former NFL veteran.

The show is a little less pedal to the metal than the other dramas I’ve thrown your way. It’s not about shootouts or mob-level crime, but I found it enthralling. I am a big NFL fan (go Broncos!), but there isn’t much actual sporting action depicted. Its more about the trials and tribulations of the big guy, Spencer, and those around him. It touches on major health scandals that have afflicted the sport, the lavish lifestyle that goes along with being a premier athlete, and the struggle it takes to get to the top of the business world. There are definite undertones of Jerry Maguire, but across several seasons of action rather than one film, and if that takes

4 Things Helping Me Live Life in Lockdown

I understand that lockdown is the bane of just about everyone’s lives at the moment. I have to say though, perhaps counter intuitively, that for me it has been something of a blessing.

Of course, lockdown has not been without its negatives. I am worried about my at risk loved ones. I also worry about my friends who are key workers, particularly one of my closest friends who fears she has contracted the virus as a doctor. All of that is a given; however, I can’t help but find some positives in the situation. There are some distinct glimmers of hope in amongst the madness for me right now.

I read an article by Joe Lycett about a week ago in which he stated that the symptoms of his anxiety have somewhat lessened during lockdown. I feel the same way. Doing my graduate diploma in law this year has been particularly stressful and, coupled with a number of other, slightly graver issues I have been worried about, my mental health has been shaky at best throughout this academic year.

Right now, though, my mental health is the best it’s been since my first year at Durham. I’m finding being at home has taken a weight of my chest. Removing three hours of commuting out of my day has freed up time for me to do some of the activities which help me to pacify a lot of the anxieties I suffer from. Here are the four things that have made lockdown not only bearable, but actually genuinely enjoyable for me.

  1. Spending time with family.

I’ll be the first person to say that this isn’t necessarily a positive for everyone. For me right now though, the past few weeks have been a great opportunity to reconnect with my grandparents.

I now pick up food for my grandparents regularly because they just can’t risk it themselves. This gets me out of the house and gives me the pleasure of spending time chatting to them when I drop off the food, from a fair distance away of course. I have to say, to my shame, that I neglected to visit my grandparents as much as I should have before lockdown and, right now, I’m relishing the chance to spend a little time doing something for them. Helping out my grandparents also intersects with another slither of advice which everyone is embracing at the moment; help out those in your community who are most in need. I’m not a Christian personally but, at the moment, I truly believe ‘love thy neighbour’ has never been more important than it is right now.

If you have an opportunity to reconnect or spend a little more time with the people you care about, without breaking the rules that protect everyone, I can’t recommend it enough!

  1. Getting in the exercise.

I came out of Christmas carrying a little bit of weight and, with exams and work giving me little time to myself, I found that there was no easy way to get my body and fitness levels to where I wanted to be.

Lockdown has given me just that opportunity. I bought a cheap exercise bike, pull up bar, and weights online, and have now gone absolutely fitness crazy. As Joe Rogan has said in his podcasts with Jocko Willink, nothing puts your mind at ease like getting over some struggle. Challenging myself physically again gives me my daily dopamine hit and makes home feel less like a prison, and more like my personal gym. Its a bear pit where I come out of every day that little bit tougher than the last.

My target of 1000 pushups every other day might seem a little absurd to some people, but now that I can do it, I really feel like the time at home has made me that much fitter and healthier. That’s something that, going forward, I want to keep improving upon because keeping fit always gives my mental health a little shot of positivity that I can do what I put my mind to!

  1. Doing something creative.

In my free time I had been pondering writing a novel for a while. Of course, with my still having to do university work, I don’t have all day to exercise and do the creative stuff, but sometimes I do manage both.

So, I’ve started writing a fictional novel; experimenting with it in just about every way I can twist my frankly limited literary skills. Simultaneously, my sister has continued to produce her fantastic drawings. We both believe strongly that there is something inherently therapeutic about letting your mind run wild with creativity. I suppose there’s nothing revolutionary about that sentiment at all but, right now, I truly understand why.

Getting lost in my thoughts and creating chapter after chapter I am genuinely proud of, is a great way to spend an hour here and there. I can’t recommend doing something creative enough, whether its writing, painting, sewing, or something else entirely. 

  1. Planning something for the future.

Get you some hope! I have to say, when I don’t have something to look forward to, I often get bogged down in an underwhelming routine I inevitably create for myself.

Think of something fun to do tomorrow, next week, next month, or even next year, to give you a little bit of excitement today. Right now, I am very strapped for cash; a situation which furlough hasn’t helped at all. That’s why I’ve been applying for jobs abroad and also planning some road trips for that second Boris Johnson tells us lockdown and social distancing are over. Applying for jobs abroad will give me the opportunity to travel whilst hopefully replenishing the overdraft a tad. Moreover, road trips are just about the cheapest way I know how to travel. The thought of getting back on the road with a few mates, come the end of Summer, is just about the best way I know to get myself hyped for next month I’ll likely spend looking sullenly out of my bedroom window.