Tag Archives: Youtube

Against Finding Your Purpose in Life

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What’s the collective noun for ‘start-ups?’ Is it a glut?

I mean, those borne of a glint in the Founder’s eye that tells you they’ve found their purpose in life.

The ones with Alan Watts videos in their Youtube Favourites, who now know what really makes them tick.

Those catapulted out of bed every morning with the conviction they’ve found out why they were put on this earth: organic mole-hair baskets.

Ideally, work should feel worthwhile and rewarding- can’t argue with that.

But where does it say this has to be THE THING that boils you down into your essence?

The bastard working man’s answer to Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Perfume?

Why does it have to be our driving force- our elevator pitch to God at the gates of Heaven?:

I AM the delivery of eco-friendly banking solutions / the knitter of artisanal rye-flavoured tea cosies/ the carer of LGBT animals. Trust me, the rest was musak.

Isn’t it occasionally possible to integrate these purposes into life without encumbering them with the need to bring home the bacon?

I’m being Devil’s Avocado, natch, to make a connection between something I keep noticing and something I want.

The first is the preponderance of busy little companies wopping a kooky name on their foreheads, and heading off to the internet with a red handkerchief tied on their stick.

‘About Us’ will tell you more about what gives them a dual personal/professional hard-on, than you feel comfortable knowing.

Not that it’s anything other than passion that makes a service good.

But there seem to be so many companies all getting very aroused about the same thing- with just a tiny tweak.

There’s a gap in the market and a market in the gap, but…

…here’s the second thing…

There’s probably a bigger market in bridging the gap between the market and the gap.

So, on the one hand you’ve got a maelstrom of information, services, gizmos, earnest reasons for being.

And on the other, the people who need, want, respond to them.

The eager start-ups are all wanting a slice of that giving pie.

I can offer what you offer. Only better. And with CEO after my name on LinkedIn, and my dietary preferences in the blurb.

Or curating it:

Look, see. I’ve aggregated your news/ house buying options/ washing machine costs, thereby cutting your time investment, and customizing your experience.

The point is this: What if I don’t know what news I’m interested in, or what kind of house I should live in, or what sort of washing machine would suit me best?

I’m not talking about trawling through Which? Guides and ‘Well, at first when I got the dustbuster home…’ reviews.

But the customizing, time-cutting bit that precedes the customizing time-cutting bit.

I’m talking Advanced Boolean pre-Google Searches.

Most service providers, and their middle-men, work on the assumption that we know what we want; we just need help finding it.

This is fine if you have a blocked drain, or know that you’re a family of 4 who want to stay in Cleethorpes, are who are in need of Wifi in order not to kill each other.

But some of the biggest decisions we make in life end up finger-in-the-air at best; based on stale ideas at worst.

Where to live; where to go on holiday; where to send our kids to school; what sort of alternative health route to pursue.

Or professional: what genre of marketing agency to commission; which wholesale fleece supplier to engage; what steel manufacturer to use.

What EXACTLY is it that we’re TRULY looking for?

The start-up glut is surely out there waiting by their passionate phones to give it to us.

However, in order to connect with the fruits of these passions, we need to know what ours are first.

I fancy more businesses operating on the dating game model, where likes and preferences are probed thoughtfully, and matches suggested.

Not jokey, ‘Which city should you really be living in? Berlin’, after 3 unrelated, multiple-choice questions.

But streamlined, meaningful questionnaires that cross-reference our subconscious desires with millions of variables, and tell us stuff we didn’t even know we should be investigating.

Old skool agent expertise, for the 21st Century.

For example: How do we choose holidays?

1. Pick Sun/ snow, Beach/Pool, Mountains/City

2. Bump into neighbour in the park

3. Cruise Owners Direct for somewhere pet unfriendly

Bang! You’re in France. Again. Bumping into your neighbour…

How about:

Q: What are your favourite moments of a holiday? Are aesthetics important to you? What’s your favourite view in a painting? What brand of chorizo do you like? Do you prefer perky or weird in a restaurant? Give an example. Do you like flying? Flying mice? Characterful churches? Germans? Have you got a gsoh? Are you allergic to English tourists? Flies? Intimate massages? Are you a tight arse? What sum is 1.5 times the amount of money you think you have to spend on accomms? Trinkets? Does tipping annoy you? And the wife? Does tipping annoy her? Does your wife annoy you? (That’s another website: click on this link.)

A: Pulau Seliron. Small town on the north coast of Brunei. Wasn’t in this week-end’s Sunday supplement. Your neighbour’s never heard of it. Plenty of tapas restaurants with trinket boutiques attached. Clientele of German comedians. Now bugger off and cruise Owners Direct.

What am I asking for?

– To discover more about my preferences than I have ever bothered to probe.

– To have the world of information brought to my time-poor, self-knowledge poor, fingertips.

– To marry more of all that stuff out there, with all the stuff I now realise I want.

Full-on risk-assessment, pyschological-profiling, aspiration-hunting, dream-burrowing, passion-sniffing, intelligent questions, to help put as big a bespoke life-is-short-smile as possible on my miserable, high-expectations, greedy little face.

Those are my needs.

Now, whose purpose in life is it to meet them?



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Intro to Massage Workshop










Yesterday, I did a 5-hour introductory massage course in Covent Garden, with a view to ingratiating myself with kin and well-behaved house guests over the cold Winter months.

On arrival it wasn’t that dissimilar in feel to the Speed Awareness one I did a few months back, but for being held in a tropically-heated basement, attendees clutching a towel and baby wipes.

The online blurb described a theory-weighted programme with some have-a-go hands action at the end.

In the flesh, soothing vegetarian music and amber lights made it 2 chromosomes short of a Gentle Touch sex workshop.

We were 16 souls, mostly paired: friends, office workmates, yoga mom and punky daughter- amongst which at least 3 individuals quietly desirous of unleashing lessons learned on a hottie, armed with some vanilla-scented candles and Michael Buble’s Best Hits.

Oh, and not forgetting (though trying to avoid making eye contact with) one peaceful, hand-locked couple a few wheatgrass shots down, on the cusp of asking if Spiritual Lovemaking would be covered before or after lunch.

I could have been partnered with the Keen Bean hellbent on getting his knuckle-fold just so, whilst grappling with premature expression syndrome.

Or the middle-aged Swinger Hopeful in the graphic personality shirt confusing his Eastern European gal pal with What’s My Line? mime artist moves around her shoulder area during Circle Friction.

Lady Luck dealt me instead a well-built Muscovite in a cycling shirt, reassuringly functional in approach, with the look of Putin’s kinder brother.

Our instructor- let’s call her Karen- was an affable Liverpudlian who started every sentence with ‘Obviously’ even having established that none of us knew a massage from a vulnerable Kellogg’s employee.

She sure as eggs wasn’t going to let preparation get in the way of proceedings, taking deep breaths in – looking at her instruction sheet as if at virgin news- before exhaling all the apparently irrelevant info on the out breath, in order to ‘freestyle’.

For friends-and-family casual pummeling tips it’s all about the moves, she affirmed. So sleeves were rolled up within 10 minutes and our clothed orgy was out of the starting blocks.

It’s quite weird laying hands on a stranger you probably gave the evil eye to on the Tube 20 minutes earlier. Weirder still how quickly it becomes normal.

Corny yes, but how many wars would be waged after a summit of back rubbing? Obama leaning into a bit of Merkel shoulder pinching?

Karen made it all look like hand ballet, flowing wrist actions easing supplicant ‘receivers’ into The Land of Grateful Surrender.

Now, I wouldn’t say I was hurting Vlad per se but he wasn’t moaning ‘more more’ either and it mightn’t be a stretch to imagine he was hoping I wasn’t the escort he’d booked for the evening based on my assault of his seated torso.

Thankfully, when he did give feedback he was solicitous for it to contain all the emotion of a shipping forecast- a code to which each of us adhered like George Alagiah (the heady couple excepted, with their all-too-audible whispers of ‘Ooh yeah, do it like that, that’s how I like it. Jesus…’)

When we progressed onto ‘Hands’ it felt like mine and Vlad’s relationship had moved to second base, forearm stroking proving more intimate than neck squeezing, via the slopping on of baby oil.

One student slightly hit the nail on the head by asking, ‘What’s the point of pulling fingers?’ but Karen hammered it down harder, a soft Paul McCartney fresh from a Youtube philosophy tutorial : ‘Basically, it’s just nice to be touched.’

‘Feet’ took it up an even steeper notch, after which my partner (the proverbial last man a few hours prior) started to look like a cocoa-dusted Ryan Gosling, from which the conclusion I’d be romantically drawn to a dog if it could see its way to a bit of light effleurage (with the paddy bit of its paws, question mark)

Feet, though: not for everyone- an oddly shameful body part never allowed wholly to dissociate from Odor Eaters…

The guard of the group is down at this stage.

Some personal information is being divulged behind me and eager Sam is laughing an awful lot, while Vlad and I are relieved to find ourselves walking the tightrope of warmth and coolth without wobbling.

We’ve made some technical improvements in a short amount of time. I’ve told him not to do the thing when he sticks his finger in my Achilles heel tendon; he’s discouraged my karate chops, moving them away from brutality toward punishment.

To be honest, I reckon that our therapeutic foray has the potential to turn into a more full-blooded education without substantial resistance from the majority, given an extra 24 hours in residence and a few carefully chosen refreshments* (*included).

But for the time-being we remember ourselves and there’s only half an hour left…how to close this bite-sized sensory adventure?

With what other than the sublime Indian Head Massage, possibly still illegal in Alabama.

Involving a litany of finger titillation so scrummy it’d be a wonder if a few weren’t left gasping ‘Jurassic Park’, it’s hard to joke down this smorgasbord of sensuality; temple-encircling, scalp tapping, dry shampooing- all there for the taking.

I may have been babbling ‘Keep pulling my hair’ or ‘say something in Russian’ as Karen was bringing us back into the room, back into the room with hand-outs and the offer to spend more tutored Sundays ducking the responsibility of ferrying kids to birthday parties.

A day spent well, no doubt. Its projected legacy beyond the inexpert grappling of those foolish enough to stray within my fervent reach?

The certainty that massage is a truly skilful skill and that even when asked to apply more pressure, you need to keep the best interests of your thumbs at heart.

Unless the person asking is a circumspect Russian with a wide neck; in which case best not to take any chances.

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Your life: how good is it? How good are you at it? Is it edited, curated? Do you present it well? Are you living real French bread filled with honest Artisan cheese? Have you sorted, streamlined, maximised, distilled your choices- your choices, your choices– with regard to religion, education, investments, home improvements, exercise, recreation? Are they simplified, exemplary, recommendable? Could I Pinterest them? Are your photos artful, arty, art? Are your politics sound? Are you enacting them? Does your brand have integrity? Do you know what your brand is? Is your potential being realised? Are you living your life’s purpose? Are you fulfilled sexually, socially, emotionally? Are you aligned? Are you watching the best Youtube Vimeo Blog output? Are you sourcing creative content excellence to input? Is it the funniest, most pertinent, original, profound? Are you sharing it, adding value to it? Are you worldly, earthly, international? Are you unfolding spiritually, cosmically? Doing right by your family? Are you authentic, eclectic, organic, aware? Are you a name, a face, a card? A party goer, a party thrower? Do you inspire, admire, inquire? Do you give good guest? Have you chosen a charity? Is your diet plant-based? Do you garden? Do you know how to pretend if I garden?

Are you – let’s be honest- making the most remarkable pattern in the sand, given the stick you’ve been given? Are you demanding a new stick? Are you inventing new sand?

Are you working hard at all these things and, inbetween times, feeling guilty for not working hard at all these things?

Or are you peaceful and content, knowing you are on top of doing your utmost towards being more consistently peaceful and content?

Or do you behave as if you believe that whatever you are doing, it is enough?

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Loving Elvis for Elvis

Elvis Presley and Rufus revealed to me something magnificent last week.

If you can spare 3 full minutes to listen to this with your eyes closed, the rest of this post might have more meaning:

I was in the Hammersmith branch of ‘Tiger’, seeing to some functional gift buying (and it doesn’t get much more functional than prevaricating over decorative paper napkins in an urban mall shop in February)…

…when Elvis came piping in over the store sound-system, with non-functional things on his mind.

‘FFS,’ I thought crassly but accurately, in an expressive sense. ‘I spend 90% of my life trying to side-step the yawning chasm of my existential angst and now I can’t buy a bloody napkin without being pushed in.’

Back home, mission accomplished, I returned voluntarily to hand-wringing and put Elvis on the Youtube duke box.

As I revisited cavernous rooms of rank sentimentalism, I came to realise that Rufus had stopped re-purposing a tissue box as a receptacle for matchbox toys in order to listen to the ‘mugats’ and was being held quite in its thrall.

Moments later, reaching up, he said, ‘Ugg’ (a request for an embrace, not an outdoor slipper boot); I happily complied and we sort of square-danced around the study to The King.

Lo and behold, ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ was no longer the background to the ‘stories’ of my life- the soundtrack to my emotional movie.

It was the song as Rufus was hearing it, in his childish way: pure; beautiful; without narrative. It was moving him to soft kisses which, for a child, is Love.

So I listened to it one more time- without the noise of my histories, my projections, my over-packed hormonal baggage- as if Elvis was just singing it, rather than singing it with the express intention of messing with my equilibrium.

Try it. It’s amazing. It’s a liberation.

Now imagine doing this with every thing.

Imagine engaging with your day in a way that minimizes major themes and maximizes minute experiences as they are unfolding; imagine frying an egg for breakfast and not shell-covered disillusionment; imagine eating lunch without the memory of your mistakes or the judgment of your fear; imagine receiving, not creating people; imagine creating yourself in the act of being.

Imagine loving Elvis for Elvis.

It may not work all the time.

But when it did, you’d be humming a Louis Armstrong song instead.

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Last night I went to the Royal Festival Hall to listen to the incessant jabbering of my stream-of-semi-consciousness against a background of the Philharmonia Orchestra playing Berlioz’s ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ : look at the people- two and half thousand of them- all sitting in this one box, nobody coughing, everybody successfully containing themselves; visualise body surfing over the silver-haired appreciators or shouting out a manifesto that is filmed by a co-conspirator and broadcast on youtube; imagine this happening in venues all over London, executed in synchronicity; salivate over the publicity but conclude that everybody would hate whatever you had to say coz you said it rudely in the middle of their night out so you would have shot your own campaign in the foot; look at the musicians, having individually fought their way through streets of crime on an innocent mission, smugly lugging their instruments, converging on this time and place, enjoying their black clothes and dangly earrings and smart socks, knowing the notes, feeling confident they won’t do a bum one; think of all the flacid cocks in the slacks of the men and the frozen shepherd pie portions in the freezers of the pea-green and coral-sweatered women; wonder when a Royal last sat in their box in their eponymous Hall; wonder if they felt like Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons, when everyone turns to look at her with scorn; wonder if there is an energy in that empty box and if there is what it feels like; look at the conductor, with a body language all his own, the jerks and smooth trajectory of his arms; imagine him putting on his shirt, his fears, his investments for retirement; wonder what his wife thinks of him, what she’s doing now; marvel that people can be bothered to go out, that old people aren’t scared of Embankment tube, that some people aren’t old at all but young and dismissive of X-factor; acknowledge my out-dated ageism; consider the difference between the way classical and popular music is engaged with- one private and serious-minded, one provocative and vivid; think of the irony of quiet souls absorbing the creation of a composer brimful of opium, elsewhere e’d-up dancers freaking out to the tunes of a sober club d.j; question if classical composers used samples of each other’s music; imagine them writing it in cliched, candle-lit rooms, with leeches on their backs; imagine this performance sampling contemporary songs hidden in the symphony; wonder if this might be funny for an ad or a comedy; consider branches of this idea- rap artists in symphony seats, behaving themselves, a symphony of conductors directing a sole musician on the podium; picture Mark Zuckerberg; wonder if the violinists enjoy the plucking bits; hear a theme in the music that’s beautiful, that makes sense; feel proud of myself that I can enjoy the culture of intellects; realise I’m not concentrating; feel shallow; notice a swell in the music; feel moved; allow emotions; well up with tears about Sad Things; want some more wine; contemplate carnal pleasures in Festival bathrooms; try to come up with something interesting to think about the Central Bar Area; make a game-plan for returning chewing gum quietly to its wrapper; consider if other people would find it distasteful if I tapped notes into my phone, how much hatred they would summon, even if I held the handset low, because clearly I was a heathen and had no manners and was a bit common; worry about my new tooth and if it will continue to feel it’s not welcome, like my mouth is The Other; wonder if the person behind me has an opinion about the back of my head; try to make one about the person’s in front of me; ask if the people in the black and white boxes have season tickets, if they are thinking other things, if they are leaning forward because they’re so engrossed or because their seats encourage them to do so, either by the way they are designed or by the way they are overlooked or by both but not necessarily in equal measures, even if  you could quantify such a thing and whether there would be any advantage in doing this anyway; and why we’re all benefiting from looking at musicians when its the sounds they are creating by instructing their arms to make movements, that we want to hear; feel happy for the musicians that they haven’t lost their arms; wonder if they hate the lead violinist or if they want him and who’s winking at whom over a Rich Tea biscuit after the performance; wonder if the violinist thinks he’s special, wants extra biscuits, wants his tea just so; wish I could see his features; remember my lost specs are why I can’t; enjoy looking at the harps, seeing angels at them; run through mental archives of Elbow playing here, so much admiration in the space, for the lead singer, the clear acoustic quality of his voice; start to clap and hear someone do that appreciative shouting thing at the end and feel glad to be a part of that whoop.


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Rainy Monday morning

9.10 a.m: Email from the managing agents of our rented flat encompassing an ongoing goonery of such staggering accomplishment it is acquiring its own peculiar beauty:

‘Yes, you’re right, we did receive your cheque, rendering the second demand we sent you a paper joke. And while you’re at it, forget about the other demand for 5 billion pounds to paint the exterior of the building because you and the other tenants sussed we are the Wizard of Oz and so now we need to start the process all over again. Lots of love.’

9.30 a.m: Pick up undelivered mail from Royal Mail delivery office. Divine feelings of antipathy towards my fat car blocking those of busier, more important people.

Enter office and question wisdom of sign requesting customers not to abuse staff when they clearly need a thorough bludgeoning, along with every evil warlord in the queue in front of me.

10 a.m: Materialise at leisure facility where I am a fresh member. Have photograph taken for membership, looking like a pregnant police-custody Hugh Grant.

Dip toe romantically in rainy outdoor pool. Flee screaming indoors to hot sporey sweat-box. Begin lengths feeling hatred towards:

a.) woman swimming too close to me, forcing me to do palsied breast-stroke when she passes;

b.) the well-intentioned oversized beasts doing aqua aerobics and causing me to swallow large gulps of the resulting undulating water;

c.) the mother and baby class because of all that pure love and joyful clapping with flat hands, in the style of Hollywood actresses.

Experience maths exam anxiety trying to calculate how many more lengths I would have to complete if I switched mid-way from the 15 metre indoor pool to the 25 metre outdoor pool, based on the number of lengths I used to do at my old 20 metre pool. Plus 2 OCD roly-polies and 2 lengths of backstroke. While remembering what length I am currently on. While hating all the people above.

11.45 am: Go to Westfield shopping behemoth to return a pair of shoes, standing next to a woman wearing so much make-up I can’t help studying her, like a disease under a microscope. Wonder how she can be bothered to apply it. Wonder if her lips will stay that colour all day. Wonder if this is attractive. Observe that it’s an exuberant hue, so maybe.

Realise she is arguing with the assistant, who keeps repeating that the shoes in question are not in the sale, until her mother pitches up and tells the assistant, ‘Your record is stuck’. To which the assistant replies huffily, ‘Well, I’m sorry if that’s how you feel but they weren’t in the sale section’. To which the mother says, ‘No, the tune on your duke box..Oh, my mistake. It’s just that modern music’.

Which I find quite funny.

12.00 pm: Walk back via Levi’s to see if there’s anything on which I can spend a credit note and decide this is a brand stuck in the past.

The one where people looked cool wearing tight little Michelin-man zip-up jackets over enormous lumber jack shirts.

12.15 pm: Discover there is threadworm at Bruno’s nursery, which is bad news for everyone except Bruno, who finally has a legitimate reason to expound on his favourite subjects, bottoms and poo, lit-up from within with the charisma of Mario Testino.

12.40 pm: Eat Heinz spaghetti on toast followed by a walnut whip, for lunch. They’re retro, they’re populist, they’re Wogan.

So I follow them up with Terry Jacks singing ‘Seasons in the Sun’ on youtube, in all its catchy, story-telling, key-changing, melancholic glory.


And I’m a lisping, gap-toothed kid messing with my sisters’ vinyl singles until this rainy Monday morning becomes a rainy Monday afternoon.

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James Morrison Agony Aunt Letter

Dear Auntie Soph,

Something bad happened in my life last week and I don’t know where to turn.

I was driving along listening to the radio and this song came on.

It was easy to listen to, catchy: I liked it.

I didn’t hear who it was by but it reeked of dairy products so I tried to put it out of my mind.

But the next day it was on again and, damn, I wanted more.

The next time I got into the car I started channel surfing to find it.

It got nasty. I ended up on Magic FM.

I turned it up loud- so loud I had to sing and close all the windows.

My son was sweating. He was asking me to stop.

The whole thing was Wrong.

Finally, I Googled some of the lame lyrics and, Holy God, it was James Morrison.

Worse than that- James Morrison with NELLY FURTADO.

It’s been less than a few months since I stopped knifing her in my dreams and replaced her with Amanda Holden.

I’m a mess and Broken Strings is only the half of it.

My finger slipped on Youtube (I was looking for ‘Two Girls One Cup’, honestly) and I ran into one of his love ballads, If you don’t wanna love me – hell, even the title knows what I’m saying.

Now I’m angry.

It sounds like Otis Redding and it’s O.K. to like Otis Redding.

Why can’t I like a song by that man too?

Who makes the taste rules anyway?

I’m guessing you’ll tell me to buy an album and try to get it out of my system.

But I can’t go fouling up my Amazon recent orders list with stinky artists.

Do I wear a hoodie to HMV? Book a long-haul flight and plug in?

Please help.


musically compromised from hammersmith


Dear musically compromised from hammersmith,

Of all the mail I received this week, yours stayed with me the longest.

You’re struggling with a big issue here but some people touch children and that’s almost certainly more shameful.

It seems to me that your musical sensibilities may have been damaged when you were young.

Maybe your mother liked Richard Clayderman or there were a lot of pan pipes on in the house.

Either way, the most well-meaning of parents can unwittingly make it difficult to provide their children with the foundations for healthy musical appreciation when they reach adulthood.

Also, you’re trying to Google scatological porn so you probably went to a girls’ boarding school- the odds have been against you right from the start.

You don’t say how old you are but elsewhere you mention that you’re partial to a bit of a duet so I’m guessing you were a child of the 80s: Always by Atlantic Starr was probably a seminal moment for you.

If I typed in ‘D’ on your computer’s Youtube would ‘Dollar’ appear?

When I scratched the tippex off the bottom of the letter I could just about make out the word ‘Bolton’.

Just how much Mariah Carey is at the back of your C.D. cabinet?

In conclusion, I think you are asking for the wrong help.

You want to know how to rid yourself of bad musical taste because agreeable people disapprove of it.

In actual fact, you should embrace your true feelings and recognize this affliction as a part of you.

If you carry on listening to some good stuff this may eventually take a more natural place in your preferences.

But essentially you need a more rubbish crowd of friends, who will not judge you- ones who laugh at Russell Brand and wear t-shirts with hilarious slogans.

Then you can relax and indulge.

So James Morrison is lispy and wet and looks like Chris Martin’s weaker Siamese twin (the one who didn’t get the vital organs) but he’s not James Blunt, unless…


If you finger-tap to any of his stuff go to a door and repeatedly knock on it using your head.

Yours back,

Auntie Soph x

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