Day 42: What does one listen to if not listening to The National? Asked the human cookie monster.

What you’re reading is approximately ten days to two weeks stale. Proceed with caution and apologies if it’s a little soggy.

I am so sick of my own music. Dear God, what did I listen to before The National? Is there a life outside of the same frigging playlists that I keep relentlessly shoving on as supposed white noise AND incongruently motivational music? Send help. I cannot abide to work in silence and yet I am so very easily distracted that anything with a beat, a lyric, a basic melody has me hurtling towards unproductive yodelling.

I asked my musician friend for suggestions – something melodic and soft and pleasant – and he proffered an album called ‘Heavy Axe.’ Sometimes I think my friends don’t understand me but I guess everyone feels that way sometimes, right?

I have been wailing about the need to discover new music for about three years now.

I keep forgetting that cultivating new music is a hobby. It requires time, patience, and a forbearance for the many frogs you have to reluctantly allow to lick your ear holes before you find one gem of an anthem.

It is probably the thing I miss most about my ex-boyfriend: the ability to steal all his cool, carefully curated playlists and bands and pass them off as my own. Apart from a la carte intercourse and manipulating the other half into being contractually obligated to order food according to my wishes and then give me 70% of whatever arrives on their plate, that is absolutely the best thing about being in a relationship: coolness by proxy.

Attempting to Spotify radio my way out of my somnolent music slump, I fell back into the arms of Alex Cameron. The fact he is Jemima Kirke’s (Jessa in Girls and in my opinion one of the most sensual and seductive women in the world) partner has honestly sent me OUT OF MY FRIGGING MIND. I want an intense and inappropriate love like that. Not even love – lust would do just fine. All I now desire in life is to sit and watch them answer questions together on Instagram stories in their madcap artists’ home. So that’s what I’m doing. I’ve watched Stranger’s Kiss about a million times this week – the music video they shot to justify the fact they were having rampant sex and falling in love. It’s become a permanent loop that is the soundtrack to my every moment, waking or otherwise. It ends only for me to press play again. Perhaps it’s because of the restless yearning it expresses: that deep and boundless longing I think so many of us can relate to in lockdown. The deliciousness and illicitness of a stranger’s kiss who, of course, isn’t really a stranger at all. And that saxophone though.

Researching for work, I came across a snippet of where EU funding is being distributed to: €350 million euros, in an effort to curb migration, has been pledged to the following:

  • Support voluntary return programmes (where refugees or asylum seekers would ‘opt’ to return to their country of origin)
  • Build reception centres (“reception” centres. Just like the direct provision system in Ireland, “reception centres” can vary from disused hotels to overcrowded accommodation more akin to a prison. Reception implies welcome – there is nothing welcoming about these centres where asylum seekers are forced to wait – often for months on end – to see if their reason for wanting a better life is valid enough.)
  • Protect external borders of Greece and Bulgaria (protect from who exactly? What this actually means is to prevent NGOs and emergency search and rescue response units from stepping in to save lives that are in peril during unsafe refugee crossings. This means preventing people from accessing EU soil which is the only chance they have of a life without imminent danger or threat to their life or safety. It means sending people back to near-certain torture, slavery, rape in Libya. It is also helping to fan an incendiary rise in populism and right-wing xenophobia in places like Lesbos, Greece, where long-disillusioned locals are becoming violent against both volunteers and refugees. I have seen too much footage of women and children in precarious dinghy’s being shoved back onto the boat by Lesbos locals who won’t let them come ashore. This additional funding from the EU essentially says: yep, this is a justified human response, we validate and support this.)
  • Reinforce Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office. (I encountered the sheer terror that is Frontex in the Mediterranean sea. Frontex is border control. Frontex is terrfifying ships that would patrol the waters between Turkey and Lesbos looking for refugee crossings. If found before entering EU waters, they would send the boats back to Turkey. Frontex is not known for its humanity or its compassion)

This is migration curbing. This is inhumane. What do these things mean? This means funnelling money into preventing people from having a fair chance at not just a better life but ANY life. I feel tainted by association. I am ashamed to be European.

Can we all just agree that Tesco’s own-brand peanut butter cookies have to be the most anti-climactic baked good of all time? I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more let down by packaging in my entire life.

Full disclosure: I’m not a processed bickie (bikkie? bicky? bickie? save me?) kind-of gal. Just hook me up to some freshly-baked scones and save the hyperbolic packets for some other poor cretin. Palm oil and shit sugar just don’t do it for me…unless doing it for me equates to becoming both extremely energised and faint/light-headed at the same time. But then I see these new luxury brands – the ranges in gilded packaging with words like “finest” and “deluxe” scrawled across them in italics and I abandon my search for eggs – I swear to God they must move them in the middle of the night – and instead decide to LOSE. MY. SHIT. in the middle of the condiments aisle.

I revert to a seven-year-old self whose sugar intake was limited to “special treat day”. Thankfully, my driver’s licence says that I’m now a legal and law-abiding adult and that I am therefore entitled to grant the child within me all her most fervent, gluttonous wishes. And so this is how I was found, one Monday mid-morning quivering with ebullient excitement at the range of deluxe cookies stretching floor to ceiling in the arctic cold that is Phibsborough’s dilapidated Tesco.

GOD. Dilapidated. So long since I’ve let that word run loose amongst my teeth and gums: what a treasure, what a ringing consonance of delight.

Chocolate. Double Chocolate. White Chocolate. Peanut Butter. All available to me with one quick flick of my thumb to my Apply Pay. The possibilities. The limitlessness.

I understand this is an irrational overreaction. Just to confirm for any sceptics out there, I have been to a supermarket before and, prior to this lockdown hoedown throwdown, used to successfully execute a weekly shop almost without incident.

Also, can we please have a moment for the fact that, when typing out the phrase “lockdown hoedown throwdown” hoedown is THE ONLY WORD that wasn’t underlined as incorrect? Excuse me? Did Miley Cyrus personally add this into OED or is this a legitimate, sanctified word? Please email your responses.

However, this was probably only the fourth time I’ve gone shopping since COVID and the first time I’ve done so up in Dublin, miles away from family, and at the freest and most independent I’ve been in about a gazillion years.

So there is the distinct possibility I might have been a tad giddy.

I went for peanut butter – CLASSIC HOLZ. The close-up shot of the cookie on the packaging assured me they would be the perfect symphony of taste and texture – sweet with a salty foil, a crunch to counteract the softness.

I was nigh on ecstatic.

I purchased my chosen cookies excitedly, furtively, almost waiting for my mother to appear and tell me I couldn’t have them. I was already fantasising about exactly how and when and where I would consume them: what I would wear (sequined slippers and fresh pyjamas); what would accompany them (tea – obviously); what I would watch (Mae Martin’s Feel Good because I WOULD FEEL GOOD).

I skipped home listening to, you guessed it, THE BLOODY NATIONAL.

As is often my habit, I decided to have one as a taste-test experiment while I unpacked the rest of my shopping: standard and advisable practice.

While the illustrations had assured me I was about to devour a thick, mountainous cookie the size of a plate, the reality couldn’t have been more different. Tearing back the midnight-blue foil – why does everyone think using midnight blue always makes something sophisticated? – I discovered the saddest looking array of glorified tea biscuits I’ve ever seen in my life. They might as well have been the frigging communion bread, they were so small and transparent in their thinness.

I ate them in an entire sulk that I still haven’t quite recovered from. Thank God everyone knows I’m really only seven so they’re very understanding about it.


Tree Tings

Ironic that as I give out about my own music taste it seems of late this tricoloured collection of things bringing me joy revolves solely around my worn and weary Spotify archives. Am going to endeavour to diversify henceforward:

  • Season Two of New Girl. It’s highly problematic and hasn’t aged well at all (perhaps wasn’t even ok when originally aired) what with the homophobia, xenophobia and casual sexism loaded into most of the comedy but dear Lord, it’s my guilty pleasure right now. Schmidt is a delight and my cold coronavirus heart needed the Nick and Jess saga to warm its frigid chambers.
  • Zadie Smith on Literary Friction. I think I perhaps enjoy listening to Zadie Smith almost more than I enjoy reading her body of work: which is saying something seeing as I’m close to devouring everything she’s written. This interview really spoke to me as it touches on the “inevitabilism” of the past decade and the technological trade off of identity and integrity for convenience as well as the role and joy of fiction and the author’s place within it. Show me a wiser, kinder voice. I’ll wait.
  • Writing banal tasks such as “shower” on a to-do list and then crossing them off with an inky flourish. I currently feel overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the unknown variables determining my unemployed, unmoored life and so a daily to-do list is my salve, my life buoy, my shallow attempt to feel in control. Could not recommend more.

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