The Women that Inspire me

Hello Ramajamn… It’s been a while. A degree, a house-move, a new car, and a break-up have kinda got in the way of any album reviews/spontaneous weekend city breaks that makes for interesting blog content. Sometimes life happens, and all you can do is roll with the tides, however bad the timing.

In times of hardship, or just shit-ness, I find myself drawn more and more towards the women in my life that make me feel better about myself, and the world that happens to be collapsing around me. I read once that you should surround yourself only with people that make you feel like ‘you’, and this is a philosophy that I have always lived by: there is no reason for negativity in this life. And finding those people? They’re out there, I promise. Your friends are shit? Get rid. Find the people that make your face hurt from smiling. Another philosophy I love: if something is shitty, change it. You are not a tree; you can move. This is a concept I adore, especially now, at a time when I’m about to graduate, and my friends are all in different places, and the path I thought my life was going to take has become but a gravel-drive of confusion. But alas; I am not a tree, and plans change, and I have a 100% success rate of this thing so far, so what the hell.

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As I was saying, the people I am drawn to most in these times of confusion are the strong-af women in my life that make it all look easy when it really, really isn’t. There are a few people in the world that can walk into a room and make everything okay again. In my experience, they are all female. I don’t know if that’s some kind of nurturing complex I have, or if it’s just because I have a serious problem with the patriarchy (of course YOU’RE fine, you middle-class-white-male-thing), but I’m not ashamed to admit that my strength inspiration comes from the women in my life that are the strongest.

By now you’re thinking, who ARE these women that can make such a difference?! How can I find them?! And take them for coffee/ wine?! Well, they (the ones that I have actually met) are mine. Haha. Unlucky. Go get your own.

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1) Caitlin Moran- Obviously I had to start with a ‘fictional’ woman, and the one who’s life path I am most trying to imitate. If you haven’t read ‘How To Be a Woman’, just go and do it. I don’t care how old you are, or what genitals you happen to have been born with, you NEED this philosophy, and god knows it needs you back. Within half an hour you’ll be standing on your desk chair shouting ‘I AM A FEMINIST’ and I promise you it’s a glorious feeling. Thank me later.

2) My Aunty Lynne- Lynne Rivers was probably the strongest person I have ever met and every single day of my life I wonder ‘what she would do’. She managed to squeeze so much into a life that ended too soon, and that’s something I think about often. Life can be shit, and unfair, but who are you to not make the most of it and do everything you can to better the world?! One of the last conversations I had with Lynne was while she was lying in a hospital bed, advising me on my dissertation (the woman was never at rest). She turned to me and she said ‘but you know, this is why feminism is still so, so important. Don’t you forget that.’ Every time the state of the world upsets me, and I almost give up, I remember my Aunty Lynne, and everything she taught me, and her relentless never-give-up attitude.

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3) My Best Friend- Okay so this is a cheat. I actually have four female best friends, that are all equally as strong and bad-ass as each other. Don’t worry, they know who they are. So this one goes out to all the best friends, the girls you can call at 4am, who send you motivational texts in the middle of the day, or who tag you in penis-related memes while you’re in a lecture. The girls who always bring wine, who warn their prospective boyfriends about you, who wing-woman to the fucking end. The girls who might not support your situation, because you’re being a prick right now, but who support you always. These are the girls you hold onto. Except you don’t have to, because they’re already next to you, hauling your drunk ass up a pole so you everyone can see you dance to R Kelly.

4) My Mother- Classic ‘female inspiration blog post’ time. I’ve written about my mum before, so if you’ve read my ‘Why Girls Should Try Travelling Alone’ post you’d have been expecting an appearance from Nicki. My mum is undoubtably the most inspirational woman I have ever met, and my respect for her grows every day. Never before have I met a woman that can bridge the gap between unconditional support and best friend so seamlessly, while making a Pad Thai and pouring you a glass of wine at the same time (yeah, really). When I think of mum, I think of her sat in the garden, with a glass of wine in hand, her face towards the sun. It’s November. She’s got a tan. Her undying energy towards life, despite the crap it throws her way (and believe me when I say there really has been a lot, LOT, of crap) is my inspiration every morning. I’m often told people are scared of me, but in a good way… well, I got it from my mumma. And I’m not at all scared to turn into her. In fact, I’m trying my very best to do just that.

I hope that reading about my inspirational women makes you look further into your world and find yours. I would LOVE for you to share them with me, because it can only be a good thing when we raise each other up. And I’m always on the look-out for bad-ass-ness. Tag them. Now. Do it.

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Lunching in Barcelona- the travel edit

Barcelona is known for it’s iconic and stunning architecture, it’s rambles of narrow gothic streets, and it’s fantastic shopping. For these reasons and more it’s pretty high on most avid travellers to-see list.

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I was lucky enough to visit Barcelona for a few days recently to soak up this atmosphere- and of course a lot of good spanish wine, which was often accompanied by some great long lunches. The cuisine in Barcelona is diverse and exciting, and with set lunches still trending it was often great value for money.

La Polpa-

La Polpa offer a beautiful 3 course set menu, including half a bottle of wine, mineral water and bread, for only €25. The food was beautiful, especially the carrot and peanut soup and the tuna with teriyaki and avocado, and the service was friendly and relaxed. You wouldn’t know that you were paying so little for such a great lunch. If the weather’s nice, sit outside under the heat lamps and watch Barcelona bustle around you while you pour another glass of the great house white.

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Boqueria-

If you’re after something a bit more casual while you’re exploring the hub of La Rambla, head to the Boqueria food market. It’s huge array of fruits, vegetables, fish and sweet treats is a sight in itself, and it’ll take a few times of wandering around before you decide what to pick up for an on-the-go lunch. The produce is super cheap considering how tourist-orientated this area is, so maybe try a bit of everything!

Tapas 24-

I couldn’t write about Barcelona and not talk tapas. We were lucky enough to be staying right next to Tapas 24, commonly known as the best place in the city for the authentic Spanish dishes (which is also evident by the huge number of locals that flood the place at lunchtime), and it became somewhat of our local for the week. The decor is jaunty and fun, with paintings of the food covering the walls. The beer and coffee is cheap considering the restaurant’s great reputation, and the food is something else. Everything you want from tapas, done perfectly, and you can see the chefs freshly preparing the dishes in the open kitchen. Probably best to go at an unconventional time, as opposed to peak meal times, as- like I said- this place is popular.

 

I hope this helps if you’re thinking of visiting Barcelona in 2017. It’s a beautiful city, with so much to offer, especially at lunchtime. 

 

The Lemon Twigs- Do Hollywood

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Image Courtesy of thelemontwigs.com

4AD

The Lemon Twigs are doing something completely new in their blatantly days-of-old influenced debut Do Hollywood. Clearly audible influences such as the Beatles and Beach Boys, merged with the electronic blur that we’re used to hearing in the current pop world make for something ironically cutting edge, and very interesting.

The vocals are lo-fi and the instrumentation is classic of the record’s era (which as a statement is confusing in itself- what exactly is the era?). The predictable chord progressions are satisfying and the hooks are hooking, even if they flit away by the next verse and you realise you’re listening to a completely different genre. So much goes on in one track, and the passion and fun had in every section is palpable and infectious. The cheesy over-stated percussion and obvious bass riffs make you smile, before making you check you haven’t actually been transported back to the 60s. These four boys from New York take you on a musical journey that sounds like their childhood influences all mashed up together and smoothed out with modern-day techniques, culminating in an album that showcases something innovating but that your dad will also let you put on in the car.

In not trying to do anything different, in just loving the music they grew up listening to with their Long Island dad, and in being almost too hipster, The Lemon Twigs have created something new, and something the modern-day pop world needed: an album that’s fun, authentic, brimming with talent, and just plain good.

Jack Garratt- LIVE in Plymouth

Jack Garratt exerts an insane amount of energy in his live gigs. He bounces about the stage like an excitable puppy: drumming, guitar-ing, piano-ing and vocally-octave-jumping so much that if you closed your eyes you’d think there were 4 of him on stage. He shouts and jeers, banters and teases, and makes the whole crowd sing along to songs that were only released last summer. His talent for writing an anthem is tangible in the reaction of his fans.

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Impossible to pin down long enough for a photo- Jack Garratt in a blur on stage.

Garratt exploded onto the scene last year when he was announced as the winner of the BBC Critic’s Choice Award, and his debut album Phase was a massive success. The tour that has followed is brimming with excitement, and I stand by my notion that the 25 year old lad from Buckinghamshire is 100% a live act. The slick production of the album does the fun, electronic singles no good, and it does nothing to showcase the skill of this young musician.

Never did I think I’d enjoy booing at an act, but as Garratt teases the crowd with the intros to various covers, laughing in our faces as we shout angrily at him for stopping just before the drop, I find myself laughing back at him. He’s a joker, a performer, and definitely a crowd-pleaser.

At the moment there are no upcoming Jack Garratt gigs, but I’m sure he won’t be held down for long- another album and hopefully tour must be in the pipeline, and I would highly recommend grabbing tickets to listen to the album in it’s authentic, and I believe intended, setting.

Vegan in Falmouth- the best of

I’m so lucky to live in a town that’s so diverse in its foodie options, especially for alternative diets. Being vegan in Cornwall is not only easy, but it’s really fun too, and Falmouth is especially great. I thought I’d pick the best breakfast, lunch, dinner, takeout and street food options in case you’re visiting and wanna try something new, or if you live here and are looking for something a bit different (that’s great for your conscience, too!)

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Good Vibes Cafe

 

Breakfast- Good Vibes Café. The vegan breakfast at Good Vibes is probably the best breakfast in the world. ‘Home brew’ baked beans, smoky hummus, avocado, Da Bara Bakery toast, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, basil oil: so yummy, and so good for you! Enjoy with a green smoothie for a real superfood boost. Or if you’re just popping in for coffee and cake, Bonsoy soya milk and Rude Health almond milk are available, and there’s normally a couple of vegan sweet options on offer, too (the gluten-free peanut butter brownie is a must). GV have a special Vegan Night on the 27th of November- for more information check them out on Facebook or Instagram.

Lunch- The Courtyard Deli. I recently stopped off at the deli with my family when they were visiting Falmouth, and we all left super happy (which is always tough when you’re trying to make the right lunch destination choice for these occasions). The range of salads on offer for the mezze is always changing, and they were more than happy to put together a little vegan selection for me when I asked. It was delicious, and definitely did not live up to the boring name that salads are usually given. You can also pick up some goodies to take home with you after you’ve eaten- especially great for local Christmas gifts.

Dinner- Wildebeest. The food at Wildebeest is really something special. The selective menu is carefully put together, using fresh & in-season ingredients, to create beautiful and memorable plates of food. The staff are lovely and the atmosphere is relaxed and cosy: with only a few seats available, getting there early or booking ahead is definitely advised. Closed on Tuesdays. Check out the review I wrote for Thoroughly Modern Milly to find out more: http://www.thoroughlymodernmilly.com/2016/10/thoroughly-modern-miss-wildebeest-falmouth/

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Wildebeest

 

Takeout- Brothers Pizza. Pizza is probably the only thing I miss when following a vegan diet. But, fortunately, Brothers are on hand to make sure you don’t miss out when giving the cheese a miss. The ‘Vegan Dreams’ is definitely not lacking- stacked with olives, spinach, artichoke, red peppers and more, on a crispy base with rich tomato sauce- you’ll almost forget why people ever put cheese on this in the first place…haha. If you visit on a Tuesday you get two for the price of one- but get there early, because their tiny stone oven gets full pretty quick!

Street food- Street food in Cornwall is pretty damn good, and in Falmouth we have some awesome vegan options to choose from (so much so that I couldn’t just pick one for this section). Falfalafel serve up fab Middle-Eastern inspired pittas and salad, with freshly made falafel and a bunch of tasty toppings (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Falfalafel/139830362756526?fref=ts). Terry at Salvador Thali is cooking up an Indian storm with his entirely vegan dosas- and he’s always up for good chat (https://www.facebook.com/salvadorthali/?fref=ts). Bango kitchen is out and about with his mouth-watering vegan options of sushi or dumplings- check his Facebook for local ‘banquet’ events.

 

I hope you enjoy getting out in our lovely little town and getting stuck in to some of the great local food on offer. It’s always best to support the small businesses that make Falmouth the cultural melting-pot that we all love, and it’s even better if you can do it without any animal-guilt.

 

SIDENOTE- If you wanna read more about experimenting with home-made vegan treats, check out veganasphuck.wordpress.com. Jesse makes amazing pasta (‘The Pasta Project’, as he calls it) and is really into using innovating combinations of ingredients to create the dishes we know and love, without the animal addition. 

 

 

Kings of Leon- WALLS

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Image Courtesy of popgoesculture.com

RCA

We Are Like Love Songs, the 7th album from legends of Southern-pop-rock Kings of Leon is a small step back in time to the good old days of 13 years ago. Keeping with the 5 syllable record name tradition, WALLS is easy-listening and fun, despite the somewhat depressing themes of loss and speculated divorce.

An attempted throwback to the days of Aha Shake Heartbreak and Youth and Young Manhood, the new record is almost where our nostalgia wants it to take us- with its 80s glam vibes and angsty thrashing guitars- but it doesn’t quite manage to shake off the wad of money that comes with the success of being one of the biggest bands of the last decade.

Kings of Leon have had some great moments: Youth and Young Manhood is in my top 10 favourite records ever. Since that year I bought every record, at first with delight, and then (mentioning no names, Only By The Night…) it became a bit of a risk. I tend to give Caleb and his brothers/cousins the benefit of the doubt these days, almost with a sense of pity as I discover that ‘Sex on Fire’ was  ‘the joke song on the album that nobody was supposed to notice.’ But is it too much to ask that you just push away the dollar bills and get back to the garage you guys grew up in? ‘Around the World’ perked me up a bit, but Caleb’s vocals still just sound too… good, and everything is so polished it kind of takes away some of the magic.

It could be worse though. This is a definite improvement on 2010 and 2013. Maybe album number 8 will give us just what we want? Just please KoL, don’t ever throwback to 2008.

Michael Kiwanuka- LIVE in Exeter

Michael Kiwanuka doesn’t have to say much. He walks on the stage of the tiny Phoenix, nods slightly at his devoted audience, picks up his guitar, and plays an hour and a half of mesmerising soul. He makes us clap and sway our hips at one moment, and freeze open-mouthed with glisten-eyed wonder at the pure emotion pouring out of one man and an acoustic guitar the next. The room falls silent for these moments, and everyone unites in their imagination of what it’s like to not be white middle-class Devonians in the local arts centre.

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It’s a rare thing when a new album provokes as much audience reaction as a debut. But Michael and band (which were brilliant, and so serious and succinct in what they’re doing) succeed in exciting the crowd with tracks from Love and Hate that aren’t even released singles. I also have an immense amount of respect for an artist that doesn’t play the single that a lot of people know him by, and that put him in the ‘British Folk’ category in 2012. The Home Again single wasn’t even hinted at.

The transition between the two albums is fluent, though, firmly creating the notion that the two, while involving a lot of musical and personal development, provide Kiwanuka with a successful back-catalogue of already-classics.

‘The power went down on the bus today so I couldn’t play Fifa- had to go and actually look around. I like Exeter, I’ll be back’, he says shyly, before closing the set with the epic title single of the new album.

Next time, a full brass section and gospel backing choir please Michael- but for now I’m happy with the soulful authenticity of this 29-year-old Fifa-playing boy from North London.

The tour continues until May next year, with a few more UK dates towards the end. To find out more and get tickets click here.

Bon Iver- 22, A Million

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Image courtesy of pitchfork.com

Jagjaguwar

5 years after the success of Justin Vernon’s debut record Bon Iver, Bon Iver, the indie folk musician that we thought we knew and loved is back, with a whole new sound that he calls ‘folktronica’- a genre he’s brought back to our attention and into the mainstream through his previous success, but which of course is no new innovation to subculture folk history.

It is, however, a definite shift in Bon Iver’s creative output: there are no more lulling acoustic guitar strums and calming goat-y vocals: Bon Iver is a different, more serious man. The record opens with confused glitching- it’s not until Justin’s beautiful vocal harmonies come in that we’re sure our MP3 file isn’t corrupt, and then we’re drawn into the album, like angels have descended and pulled us up into the disturbing depths of Vernon’s mind. The soft lullaby of the saxophone draws us in further, and suddenly we’re lost in the experimental dream that 22, A Million surely is.

There is no standard song form: the record slowly walks us through the beauty of Bon Iver’s uncertainty about life, his existential insecurity and his clear boredom with just playing his acoustic guitar and singing over the top. Nothing is safe about this record, and nobody can escape the innovative folk world that Vernon’s created.

‘29 #Strafford APTS’ is probably the most recognisable track- still streaked with Bon Iver’s electronic vocal harmonies, but built around a string section, it is more what we might have expected. Neatly slotted almost exactly halfway through the record, it acts as a nice grounding for the listener to grasp a hold of some sense of reality, before lurching straight back into the album.

I don’t think it’s possible to review this album without mentioning the title tracks, which themselves are enough to confuse our already disoriented folk-loving brains- ‘00000 Million’, ’33 “GOD”’… It’s almost enough to make us want to snap straight back to 2011 and forget any of this ever happened. Almost.

Michael Kiwanuka- Love and Hate

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Image courtesy of iTunes 

Polydor Records

Michael Kiwanuka returns this year with the much awaited (by me, anyway) Love and Hate. After four years of apparent heartbreak and a self-reflective existential crisis, the 29-year-old is back, having painfully injected even more soul into his music while exploring a number of personal and social issues that cause even my little middle-class-white-girl heart to ache.

The record opens with frosty strings and echoing choir chords in the 10-minute epic ‘Cold Little Heart’. After a euphoric four minutes of tension building, the rhythm section kicks in almost with relief, and the electric guitar cuts through the fog with its shrieking melody, reminding fans of the beauty of the first album. Kiwanuka’s vocals sound authentically pained and melancholy, as he bleats: ‘I’m bleeding, my cold little heart.’

The album continues, with a reasonable proportion of anguished ballads and punchy blues numbers. ‘Black Man in a White World’ is as bluesy as it gets, with casually strummed acoustic guitar, praise-like-clapping and a simple repeated bass line. The subject is just as bluesy, reminding the modern listener how important the soul revival still is- ‘I feel like I’ve been here before/ I feel that knocking at my door.’ The funk influences (‘Place I Belong’) draw out even more sophisticated cool, and the transition from horns (which were plastered all over the first album) into the dominating strings that ring out on this record, seems like a suitable step up into more grown-up themes.

The debut, Home Again, won the Critics’ Choice Award upon its release in 2012, but Love and Hate takes a place of its own amongst the voices of Otis Reading and Marvin Gaye, to name-drop just a couple of dominions of this realm. Kiwanuka has taken it into a new level, and it’s a height at which I hope he stays.

My Paris To-Do List- The Travel Edit

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My recent trip to Paris held so much expectation, I was almost more nervous than excited. It was everything I wanted to be, and more. That made it pretty tough to narrow down my 8 food/ shopping /cultural picks, but maybe it’ll help if you fancy a city break, or, like me, you just like reading about other people’s holidays and wanderlust-ing from your desk.

 

FOOD-

Fromagarie Denard- Cheese, meats, bread, wine- what more could you want? The people who work in this small street-side deli are friendly, and clearly so passionate about what they’re selling you. The menu is unique- the experts choose your cheeses based on what flavours you like, and when your food arrives they explain each item, telling you which tiny little village it came from and even advising you on which order to eat your cheese in. Sitting on the pavement in the most Parisian way, this is definitely a good experience for a new-comer to the city, and a good introduction to the amazing foods that it has to offer. Find out more about the specialists at http://fromagerie-danard.com/en.

 

Bistrotters- We were recommended this restaurant by a friend, and we weren’t disappointed. The food is fresh, colourful and simply beautiful to look at. The service was friendly, and I had the best dessert I have ever tried- french toast with dark chocolate and a salted caramel sauce. I dream about it every night. Booking ahead is essential- this place is very popular with locals and travellers alike. Reserve your table here- http://www.bistrotters.com.

 

Dose- This tiny Latin Quarter coffee shop would be easy to miss if you didn’t know it was there- something I’ve decided is generally a good sign when trying to avoid tourist traps. So much care is taken over the coffee (they call themselves ‘dealer de café’) and the atmosphere is relaxed and slow. We sat outside on benches scattered with colourful cushions, enjoying some early morning people-watching and sharing a freshly baked croissant. When we walked past a little later in the day the place was teeming with locals, so maybe grab an early table and enjoy your coffee before Paris has fully woken up. https://www.facebook.com/dosedealerdecafe/.

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CULTURE-

The Louvre- Although an obvious one, I really do think the Louvre is worth it. It’s such a beautiful building, you don’t even have to go inside to enjoy a lot of it’s splendour. Paying the small entry fee (or if you’re under 26 and have an EU driving licence it’s free) and taking half an hour to queue (you can pre-book but I actually enjoyed taking some time to enjoy the surroundings of the museum) is a small price to pay for what could be a whole day of exploring. The exhibitions are numerous and there’s something for everyone- we especially enjoyed the Egyptian corner and obviously we crammed ourselves amongst the throng of flashing cameras to peek at the Mona Lisa. Some things just have to be done. After your visit, head to a local store to grab picnic food and sit in the Jardin des Tuileries, enjoying the middle-of-the-city sanctuary that these huge grounds provide.

 

Arch de Triomph- Again another obvious one. But maybe it’s on every ‘must-do’ list for a reason. Free for under 26’s in the EU again, and with a definitely bearable queue, the views from the top of this stunning building are un-beatable. From Sacre Coeur to the Eiffel Tower, and all the way down the Champs Elisees, you can see pretty much everything apart from the building you’re up (we even spotted the apartment we were staying in). Take your time to wander the whole way around the roof of the Arch, taking in every view.

 

Sacre Coeur- My favourite evening in Paris was spent sat on the steps of Sacre Coeur, watching the sun set over the city, occasionally turning around and staring in awe at one of the most beautiful buildings ever built. We sat for hours, surrounded by tourists and locals alike. I can’t really explain the sheer beauty of this place, you just have to go and experience it for yourself.

SHOPPING-

Shakespeare and Co.- I’d been told a lot about Shakespeare and Co. before we visited Paris, but it surpassed every expectation. The shop itself is a rabbit-den of treasures- we visited three days in a row and I found something new to look at each time. People bustle outside, but the atmosphere is relaxed, and the adjoining coffee shop is the perfect place to enjoy the books you’ve just bought with a cup of good coffee and a view of Notre Dame. One to take your time over.

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Rue Mouffetard- One of the oldest food markets in the city, this Latin Quarter street fills with locals on weekend lunchtimes, its streets bursting with freshly baked bread and pastries, specialist cheeses, cured meats, crepes, and pretty much any other culinary treat you could want from France. After grabbing your coffee and a book at Shakespeare, spend the late morning wandering up and down the lane deciding what to get for lunch- check out what the locals are queuing for. It’ll be worth it, I promise.
If you’re reading this while planning a trip to Paris, or you’re already sat in a little french cafe wondering what to do next, you have my full envy. Remember to take time to slow down and enjoy the small things that make travelling the addictive and eye-opening experience that we all love so much. We can too-easily forget to just stop and look around us when we’re somewhere new- sometimes doing nearly-nothing is the best way to experience life. Profiter de chaque seconde!