10 reasons people with anxiety will survive the apocalypse

Let me start with this. Anxiety isn’t fun. For me, personally, it’s relatively mild compared to most people. It still affects my work, my relationships and my life in general on a regular basis. However, I’ve gotten better and better at dealing and coming to terms with it. Frankly one of the ways I cope is to try and look at the bright side wherever I can. In a time where it’s as high as it’s ever been, the idea to write this made me smile and laugh. Hopefully, it does for you as well.

Watching the news lately gives the feeling that the apocalypse has already begun. When one is already overthinking simple day to day things, it opens up a whole new realm of things to obsess about. Will it be slow as the climate continues to change? Slightly faster in the form of a pandemic? Or will the Cheeto in-charge of the worlds largest nuclear arsenal bring about the end swiftly over a Twitter re-tweet? Whichever way the end may come, there are more than a few reasons why I think the anxious will be right there beside the meek to inherit the Earth.

#1 – We’re already several steps ahead on the “what else could go wrong” train of thought.

In the normal world, this is not necessarily a good thing, but in the apocalypse, things will be different. We’ll be the ones avoiding the plot twists like Matt Damon in, well, all his films really. Food shortage? Psh, I’ve been stocking up food for weeks. People are re-animating as zombies from the pandemic? I’ve been worrying about that since patient zero, it’s like you don’t even read my blog!

go ahead, ask me one more time what I have to be anxious about.

#2 – We’re already suspicious that people don’t like us based on small things.

In a world where you’re forced to make alliances with strangers whom you don’t trust, we won’t be falling into the classic trap of being stabbed in the back. No betrayals can sneak up on us, we saw that slightly strange look you gave us that one time. There’s no way we’re giving you the chance to turn on us! Heck, we’re already probably a mile away, dissecting the look a rabid dog gave us to determine if we did something to make it angry.

seriously though, those zombies are definitely not your friends

#3 – Social anxiety will protect us.

Even in the recent escalation of the coronavirus, there’s some positive news I’m taking from this. I might actually be encouraged to stay inside, away from people and large social gatherings. You mean it’s become socially acceptable, even encouraged to sit at home and watch a film on a Friday night? I’ve been training for this moment for years. No getting stir crazy for us, because we’re in our element and you can call us when it’s over.

Actually, don’t. This is great.

#nonewfriendsintheapocalypse

#4 – We are not waiting to “see how that injury is in the morning”.

Pass me the disinfectant, the bandages and the anti-biotics right bloody now. I am not taking chances here. How on earth can I outrun the zombies when they appear if my leg is infected? Thankfully I also stocked up on real medical supplies at the pharmacy before it got bad, while everyone else was in a fistfight over hand sanitizer and toilet paper.

#5 – We already know where all the safest places would be.

Part of over-thinking every possible thing that could go wrong is coming up with how you’d deal with it. Climate crisis? Guess what, I’m already on Mars. Nuclear fallout? Not for me, because I’m still on Mars. You got me here, pretty much all my doomsday scenarios end up on Mars.

Oh hey, Matt Damon! Pass the potatoes, please.

but what happens if climate change happens on Mars?

#6 – We’ve already come to terms with it.

A big benefit of having the world end in your mind dozens and dozens of times is that if it did actually happen then, well it won’t quite come as much of a shock. Will we still worry about it? Sure, but while everyone else is in complete shock or have their heads stuck in the sand we’ll be gearing up for action. Having your worst fears realized like a deja vu at least gives you the dress rehearsal you need when it actually goes down. Just like watching House of Cards.

presented without comment

#7 – We’re not likely to “be a hero” foolishly

Look, I’m not saying anxious people aren’t going to help others out, but we’re going to be reasonable about it. Jesse Eisenberg’s character in Zombieland was the epitome of anxiety in the apocalypse and he made it by following a specific set of rules. In this case, anxiety is our superpower by making us just think about things a tiny bit longer. If we could pick our superpower we’d probably pick something else, but this is ours and damn it we’re going to make the most of it.

#8 – We’re already used to using coping mechanisms to manage fear

Anxiety makes every day fear feel like your life is in danger. Anxiety triggers biological responses that cause adrenaline to surge and other similar physiological responses same as they do when you’re in real danger. People with anxiety constantly work to develop coping mechanisms to still be able to function when it happens.

While sleep might be scarce in the apocalypse, running sure as f*ck won’t be.

you can also add making phone calls and answering the door

#9 – We’re meticulously detailed in planning and execution

In Pokemon, you are advised to take a pokemon with you into the wild because it’s dangerous out there. Well in the apocalypse my pokemon will be lists, plans and maps. What do we need, what’s the backup plan, how do we get there and what could possibly go wrong?

It’s a largely useless skill when nothing is actually likely to go wrong, but who’s going to be laughing when it saves our asses because we had a back-up route around the brand new shiny giant nuclear crater.

#10 – We’re excellent at functioning with little to no sleep

Some people stay up too late because they were reading a good book, or binging a great Netflix show. We regularly stay up watching the great classics of all time like “That time I accidentally called someone the wrong name in 5th grade” or “Dissecting meaningless sentences people said to me: A history”. Zero stars to both, I would not recommend.

In the real world, this means constantly being tired in a world where most other people are well-rested. In the apocalypse, we’ll all be tired and some of us will just be better at dealing with it. (This also applies to nightshift workers, new parents and anyone who has to deal with people in a retail setting.)

the real irony is sleeping less makes it worse

Sure, this may seem overblown and the world isn’t coming to an end immediately. You could even argue that things are still getting better, the last time we had a pandemic this big it killed half of Europe! Things aren’t ever as bad as they seem, but you try telling our anxiety that.

Our superpower is just waiting to be needed, and in the meantime maybe befriend an anxious person. We might be some work to deal with now, but when the end comes you’ll be thankful you did.

A beginner’s guide to Whisk(e)y

You see it in glass decanters and crystal glasses on shows like Mad Men, The Crown and in Harvey Spector’s office on Suits. Whisky is everywhere, and often a symbol of high class, powerful people.

It doesn’t have to be.

Ever since my grandfather first introduced me to a whisky when I was a teenager, I’ve learned a lot about it. I by no means profess to be an expert, and ultimately it all comes down to preference. Some of my favourite bottles are not expensive but are the region or flavours I enjoy most.  If you are looking have a dram as your next drink of choice, hopefully, this can help you figure out what you might like best!

Much like math, when it comes to learning about whisk(e)y, the brackets are important. Whisky is Scottish and whiskey is Irish. The e followed Irish settlers to the United States, while just about every other producer worldwide doesn’t use it. The major other producers include Canada, Japan, India. While small in terms of volume, Australia’s whiskies have won numerous awards. Each region has some distinctive processes and ingredients that they use to get different flavours.

Whiskies are made from different combinations of malted barley, corn, rye and wheat. The different mixes determine what the whisky is called. The famous “Single Malt” refers to only one type of mashed malt from a single distillery being used.

The distilled alcohol is then aged in burnt oak barrels, usually previously used to store sherry, wine or even rum. Each region has different requirements and standards for how long to be aged, and which mix of grains to use and each produces a different flavour. The type of barrel and length of ageing typically has the most effect on the flavour.

Scotland

In Scotland, whisky, Scotch Whisky or Scotch is made in five different regions. Scotland is the largest producer of whisky globally and there is a seemingly endless variety to sample. I recommend this guide to dive into the details further if you’re interested.

If you are new to whisky I’d recommend trying Speyside first, from a distillery like Aberlour. They age in Sherry barrels which gives the whisky an easier to drink, sweeter flavour and a deeper red colour. Other Speyside single malts are the readily available Glenlivet or Glenfiddich brands. For a Highland whisky, far and away my favourite is Dalmore, which is also a sherry cask variety with a deep ruby red colour. If you really want to go for it, however, Islay produces the smoky or peaty flavours that are famously attributed to whiskies such as Lagavulin and Bowmore. Islay whiskies are usually the most acquired tastes.

Ireland

Generally speaking, the main difference with Irish whiskies is that they are distilled three times instead of two. Irish whiskey was once the most popular but is only recently undergoing a renaissance. Jameson is probably the most famous worldwide and although the bottom shelf bottle is a bit harsh, some of the other vintages are easier drinking. My personal favourite of the Irish whiskies is Writer’s Tears, partially for the taste and partially for the irony.

North America

In North America, whiskies are commonly known as Bourbon or Rye, although other less common wheat, corn and malt whiskies are also made. In Canada, whisky or rye must be aged for at least three years in barrels and must be entirely produced and aged in Canada. Outside of the common ones like Crown Royal, I thoroughly enjoy Pike Creek’s 10-year-old rum barrel whisky. It’s cheap and has really nice vanilla, caramel and spice flavours. Rye is made in the US, with similar rules to Canada. Bourbon whiskey is made with at least 51% corn maize and a special distinction is made for Tennessee whiskey which must be filtered using sugar maple charcoal. This most famous of these is, of course, Jack Daniels.

Japan

Most people who are unfamiliar with whisky would be surprised by the next fact. Japan is the fourth-largest producer of whisky in the world. Japan’s whisky is heavily influenced by Scotland and produces a similar style of Single Malts. Yamazaki is Japan’s oldest distillery and was founded in 1924, while it’s two most internationally well known are Nikka and Suntory. I find Japanese whiskies to be a little more acquired tastes and a bit harsher at first so I wouldn’t recommend starting here.

In terms of an introduction to regions, let’s stop here, not because whiskies from other countries aren’t great, but because this is an introduction and let’s be honest, you’re already overwhelmed.

To ice, or not to ice

One final, important question to answer. How should you drink your whisky? Single Malt purists will gasp at the thought of on the rocks for a nice scotch. How dare you. They insist that a “few drops of spring water” is all that’s needed to activate the flavours. I not only think that’s pretentious but also for the average whisky drinker, you’re not having top-shelf stuff very often. Also, to be honest, I can’t say spring water is often at hand and you wouldn’t catch me dead saying that at a restaurant or bar.

The exception to this rule is if you are drinking a Scotch in Scotland. Using ice, having a whisky cocktail or anything other than scotch, neat should probably be listed as a travel advisory. Especially smaller towns and rural distillery towns.

Ultimately most drinkers, experts and even distillers will tell you it comes down to preference. My personal preference is generally to have it neat when trying a whisky for the first time, or for really smooth bottles. After a lot of acquired taste, more often than not I will drink a single malt neat because I genuinely enjoy it that way. When I first started though I almost always had a small cube of ice. For cheap whiskies, I still tend to use a little ice as chilling it can cut down on the harshness of the alcohol.

Recommendations

Finally, here’s a shortlist of whiskies for each region I think are good starting points for people looking to get into it:

Aberlour 12-year-old, Speyside, Scotland – matured in both sherry and oak casks, smooth drinking and has fruity notes

Laphroaig 10-year-old, Islay, Scotland – A peaty Islay classic whisky with a rare sweetness to it for an Islay

Dalmore 12-year-old, Highlands, Scotland – Double barrel-aged in both bourbon and sherry casks. My all-time favourite.

Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky, Japan – Spicy with a bit of fruity taste from one of Japan’s most well-known distilleries.

Pike Creek 10-year-old, Canada – Going a bit off the board with this one as it’s not one of the biggest Canadian distilleries, however, it’s a great starter one as it’s cheap and aged in rum barrels giving it a sweet vanilla taste.

Maker’s Mark Bourbon, USA – The classic bourbon for making Manhattan cocktails is also great on its own.

Writer’s Tears Copper Pot, Ireland – A traditional copper pot Irish whisky that’s easy to drink with honey notes.

An adventure in songwriting; take one

As Keith Richards put it, songwriting is a weird game. Coming from someone who has been a rockstar through the ’60s and ’70s, I’m sure he could write a book on weird games and with this one, he’s certainly right.

I’ve played the guitar for nearly fifteen years and I have a pretty substantial repertoire of songs I can confidently cover. What always eluded me was an original song that I was proud of. I’m not exactly musically gifted, and only know the basics of music theory from a few brief stints with a clarinet in grade school. Early attempts in my teenage years mostly yielded lame love songs, nearly all ended up crumpled up in the trash bin thankfully sparing the world from having their ears made bloody.

I’d largely given up on it for a long time and just continued on learning other people’s songs. That is, until one Sunday sometime last year when I was wandering through the Waterstone’s in Greenwich. A book by Frank Turner called Try This at Home caught my eye. I’d never really been into his music, but he often toured with one of my favourite bands, the Arkells, so I gave it a shot.

Not only did the book get me into his music, it sort of simplified the songwriting process for me. The book is a collection of anecdotes and stories as to how Frank wrote 30+ of his songs. I strongly recommend having a read for anyone attempting to write their first song, it taught me not to overthink the lyric writing process and to start with what I know.

Finding the lyrics

Around the time I found the book, I was in the middle of a bit of a rough patch. I was in the midst of job hunting as my job at the time was causing me a lot of stress, and several of my best friends had just recently moved overseas or otherwise abroad and a lot of that was on my mind. So I started writing it down. Some of it wasn’t rhyming or lyrical at all to start, just sentences on a page, but I found it got me started. Rather than having to write a verse, bridge, chorus or whatever, I pieced together a story one or two lines at a time and continuously re-arranged and re-wrote until it told the story the way I wanted it to.

What I got out of it was an honest biographical set of lyrics, much in Frank Turner’s style. Lyrics don’t need to be hopelessly cryptic or nuanced for people to relate, they just need to be real. This is what I came up with:

We were young and living in Brixton,
Nights spent out at Happy Dumplings,
Smoking joints in Brockwell park,
and cheap cigars when it got dark.


Life chats with the Killers,
Cause she’s just another girl,
Drinking ciders until dawn,
Or until the whole case was gone.

One day we’ll be grey and old,
And spread all across the world,
Thinking of those memories made,
In our South London days.

We’d stumble all the way,
Going to the bar and back,
But we’d never even leave,
The front door of our flat
.

Not exactly poetry in motion there, however, it gave me enough to start with. Even the more cryptic sounding things are really specific references to stuff we used to do when we lived in Brixton. For example, in the last verse, going to the bar and back without leaving the flat was in reference to a card game/drinking game my housemate and I used to play called Bar and Back and often resulted in us getting too drunk to make it out to the bar.

Finding the sound

Right, so now I had lyrics. Trying to add chords and the vocal melody was a BAD start. When I sent the first rough version to my dad, bless him, he came back with something along the lines of, “Great start, vocals could use some work though”. My advice here is definitely to keep it simple, stupid. Ultimately what ended up working was this:

  1. Make a list of all the songs you know how to cover.
  2. Write down what Key each of those songs is written in (you can usually find out just by googling the songs).
  3. Highlight which ones you find easiest to sing.
  4. Pick one of those keys. I picked the key of G.
  5. Identify the chords which sit in that key. For G, this was G(i), Am(ii), Bm (iii), C (iv), D(v), Em(vi).
  6. Start experimenting with common chord progressions and singing the lyrics over top. I originally started with I-V-VI-IV (G, D, Em, C) but found that the Am sounded better and ended up with G, D, Am, C

Once I came up with the chord progression, I essentially just kept playing and singing the song all the way through adding little flourishes and changes in volume and vocal pitch until I liked the way it sounded. It can be hard to separate the chords from vocals and create a melody at first but over time I found a natural place to separate them.

Don’t be afraid to fail

My last piece of advice, probably the most important one, is don’t be too hard on yourself. I think that was my biggest barrier for years, if a song wasn’t great right off the bat I’d drop it and get discouraged. You’re not setting out to be the Beatles, you’re writing a song because you want to learn how. In Macklemore’s song 10,000 Hours, the lyric goes
“The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great because they paint a lot”

Even now, the “final product” of my first song is not something spectacular but I’m proud of it because I wrote it. It’ll never be more than something I play when I’m messing about or playing with my uncle, but it’s still something I did.

One piece of this I didn’t touch on, and will in a future post is how to begin recording vocals/guitar so you can play it back to yourself and hear in good quality how it is done.

Songwriting is indeed a weird game and we can’t all be Keith Richards, but hey, gotta start somewhere.

“Final” recording of the song “London Days”.

An Amateur Approach to Cooking

I don’t really know what I’m doing, but here we are.

No, that’s not the title of my sex tape, but it could definitely be the title of my cooking show. The show would then proceed to be an hour of me saying “hmm, I wonder if that will work” and “needs more butter”.

Recipes are less of rules, and more “guidelines” when I’m cooking. Except for baking or things like pancakes where the mixtures need to be spot on, most of the dishes I’ve learned to make once maybe started out as a recipe. Much to my girlfriend’s displeasure, every time we sit down to eat I tend to try the meal and immediately say something like “needs more salt” or “it’s a bit overcooked”. Luckily for me, she puts up with being my test eater and only rolls her eyes a little when I criticize the food.

This is pretty much my whole approach to cooking. Try new things, see what happens and adjust accordingly. The closest I’ve come to a cooking class is calling my mother in a panic the first time my friend and I tried to cook a turkey for a dinner and couldn’t work out what part of the turkey the stuffing goes in. It turned out okay, and more often than not things do. You can always order a pizza if it doesn’t work out.

Amateur chefs in action. Note, the knife technique shown is not recommended.

The advice and recipes you find here are largely going to be along these lines and I would encourage anyone who wants to start cooking more adventurously to do the same. The advice isn’t going to turn you into a professional cook, and with that in mind if you’re here looking for anything more than amateur advice you’re probably in the wrong spot. Ask me to give advice for making dinner for your friends, I’m your man. Put me in front of Gordon Ramsey, he’ll very quickly have found his next idiot sandwich.

So for all of you looking to start somewhere here are some guidelines to get you started and build some confidence:

  1. Plan it out a little. While recipes are a guideline, it doesn’t hurt to have a plan for it all to be ready at the same time. Thinking about roughly how long everything is going to take, which pans you’re going to use and do you have enough space in the oven can make all the difference.
  2. Take a list to the shop. You will almost certainly forget something.
  3. If you can, buy better ingredients. Local greengrocers, butcher’s and the like will almost always result in better food.
  4. Don’t multi-task and cook while doing other things. It’s really hard to burn something if you’re paying attention to it.
  5. Own at least one good, sharp knife. Using dull and crappy knives is not only going to make chopping harder, but it’s also dangerous.
  6. Prep ahead of time as much as possible. Chopping ingredients and having them all ready before you start cooking makes it a much less stressful affair.
  7. Taste your food along the way. This is a habit I’ve gotten into more and more and it’s definitely yielded better results. Better to know what it needs before you serve it up.
  8. If someone you know makes something really good, ask them how they do it. Personal accounts beat online recipes any day.
  9. Have some fun while you cook. I almost always have music on and have been known to dance around the kitchen a little. If it becomes something you have fun doing, you’ll do it more.

Cooking is something most adults have to do every day and has a huge effect on both mental and physical health. Learning to enjoy cooking is a great way to build confidence and make things feel less like a chore. Even simple meals can be delicious just by improving basic things.

What’s your #1 tip for people looking to give cooking a go?

And, we’re back

So, err, let’s try this again, shall we?

If I compared myself now to myself who started this blog five years ago, I suppose an apt title for this post could have actually been “Under New Management”. Like a restaurant undergoing the same change, I’m back with optimism and a new menu with some of the old classics. I’ve decided to branch out a bit into other aspects of my life that I am interested in, and hopefully, you are too.

You’ll notice that the home page is changed and that I’ve added a few more menus. It’s important to revisit your goals every so often and although I still love to go on an adventure, everyday life can be pretty great too. Like travelling and writing about it, I do not profess to be an expert in any one of these areas and quite frankly I’ve made up most of it as I go along but they are all things I am passionate about, spend a great amount of time doing and hopefully will resonate with you.

Food&Booze

This name is inspired by a tiny little, now-defunct restaurant in Lisbon that expertly combined a love of both eating and drinking. For me particularly, I enjoy cooking delicious food with simple ingredients and methods, and drinking delicious whisky and other booze while I do it. If you want to learn more about making meals ranging from a grilled cheese sandwich to a Christmas turkey, or the difference between an Irish and Japanese whisky, this is the place for you!

Photography

Travelling definitely inspired my love of photography, but while I’m not jet-setting I still love to snap pictures around London and other local places. This is simply a collection of my favourite photos and you can buy them as prints if you so desire! Proceeds will fund the Food&Booze section mostly…

Mental Health

I wrote a few years back about my own mental health and how travelling helped cope with it. The stories here will be personal and honest accounts of dealing with mental health and well-being and what I’ve learned since is that you can’t always get on a plane to outrun anxiety or depression and there are other ways of dealing with it. At the very least, I hope that they bring a better understanding of what it means to deal with mental health issues, and help others feel like they are not alone.

Books

I read a lot of books. Books about travel, cooking, writing, working, fiction books, biography books and mental health books. My goal for 2020 is to read thirty new books and I’ll be sharing my thoughts along the way. Hit me up in the comments with suggestions as well, as I’m always on the hunt for a new one. You can find my first list of travel book recommendations here.

Music

Music is extremely personal to everyone and often a very emotional experience. From playing the guitar, learning to write songs, attending gigs and everyday listening I find music brings everything I do together. This is by far my most experimental endeavour so bear with me as I will attempt to less verbosely articulate my own experiences with music. This will range from the best songs to cook dinner too, to the basics of recording a song and maybe even some music history. Like jazz music, there shall be no rules and it’ll largely be made up as I go along. Hopefully, it sounds good.

A really important aspect of all of this is that we’re going to have some fun. With anything, there’s no one right way to do it and I want people to get involved. Want to tell me how the way I did it was crap and there’s a better way? Cool, don’t be a dick and I’ll happily listen. Want to write about the niche history of the slide guitar? I can’t pay you but by all means, give it a go. You can get in contact here!