The Coffee Shop

I stroll in at 7:30, look around and the place is empty. Absolute bliss. I get my choice of seat, any seat. Do I want to be sitting in the sun? in the shade? Hardback chair? By the window? I spend a good couple of minutes deciding in my head as my order arrives. Heaven knows what I must look like now to the girl behind the counter.

I’m back at the local coffee shop. Those who know me best will know I don’t even like coffee, but as I regularly point out, they do serve other drinks. The idea of popping out to the local Starbucks was never my cup of tea – yes, I had to throw that in – but recently I find myself doing it more and more.

Why? Consider it a form of self-care. Not the drink itself, not the walk (I do plenty of that anyway), but just being there. I live alone and know very few in the area outside of work, so my social calendar is hardly bustling. I struggle to socialise and feel incredibly uncomfortable in most social situations, that doesn’t help. Sure, I get lonely quite often. Most of the time I cope with that. I’ve got pretty used to it. This isn’t a whole pity me situation – most of the time I like the lack of people.

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Time for Labour to Lead

It’s hard to be a so-called moderate in the UK these days. Not only do you find both parties veering further towards each wing, you also see that UK politics is now completely devoid of rationality as we hurtle towards Brexit. Alastair Campbell describes Labour’s position as “constructive ambiguity”, I find that to be a kind assessment. Both parties believe the argument is sorted, and both are under the false illusion that a hard Brexit was voted for.

Labour’s policy seems to be to appeal to leavers whilst hoping that their pro-European membership wouldn’t feel compelled to vote for any other party. At some point, this has to give. Mark Carney recently revealed that household incomes are about £900 per household lower than was forecast back in May 2016, and due to Brexit, the economy is roughly 2% lower than it would have been had we voted to remain in the EU two years ago. If Corbyn and McDonnell want to implement their manifesto promises, a hard Brexit is simply out of the question.

In 2017, the ambiguity worked. Leavers felt that Corbyn wanted to leave the EU as much as them, and Remainers saw Labour as the only route to blunt May’s push for hard Brexit. Again, this has to give, and it seems it’s the Remainers who are buckling. In 2017 the party was able to shift the focus onto other issues such as healthcare, but with Brexit day looming that strategy is out of the window. Only 26% think that Labour’s position on Brexit is clear, while 60% believe it’s unclear.

The public overwhelmingly favours the PM’s handling of Brexit, with 32% approval compared to a measly 19% for Corbyn. May is also impressing far more leave voters than Corbyn is remainers, 40% of leavers back May, just 26% of those who voted to remain back Corbyn’s treatment of Brexit. Labour is also losing the support of young people; last year 19% more 18-34-year-olds backed Corbyn over May, now the PM has a 2% lead. As Labour members shift, Corbyn stays rooted.

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Clinging On, Any Memes Necessary

On the morning of the 4th, I woke up to see that Labour had failed to take London councils such as Westminster and Wandsworth and had managed to lose Barnet along the way. By the time I got home from work only 12 hours later, I was shocked (but unsurprised) to see my Twitter feed telling me that last night was Labour’s best local elections performance since 1971.

Spoiler: it wasn’t.

The ‘original fact’, albeit not completely factual itself, was that it was Labour’s best performance in London in local elections since 1971. Then again, the rest of the country hardly seems to matter to the Labour party anymore. Of course, the BBC, ITV, Sky News, and all other reputable news corporations ran with the truth that, really, not much happened last night. ‘Neck and neck’ the BBC called it. That outraged the Corbyn clique.

Later that night I found myself seeing memes showing the final seat tallies; Labour with 2350 and Conservatives 1332, positioned next to the report from the BBC saying, ‘neck and neck’. It seems, unsurprisingly, not everyone knows how the locals work. The popular vote was actually neck and neck, 35% apiece for the main two parties with the Liberal Democrats surging up to 16 percent.

A lie travels around the globe while the truth is putting on its shoes. On Twitter, it travels quicker. Sure, we can point out to these people their mistakes. Maybe they’ll listen. Maybe they’ll simply call us ‘right wing’ or ‘Blairites’. But the damage is already done. Before you know it, Rachel Swindon has retweeted the lie and it has over 20,000 retweets and a million impressions.

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Cricket’s Crisis Point

The last few weeks could easily be mistaken for an average BBC2 comedy. The cricket season starts just a week after heavy blizzards across the country, Peter Siddle takes a wicket wearing a woolly hat, and the ECB announce a new 100 ball format to ‘shake up cricket’. I can imagine it now. Kris Marshall plays the bumbling ECB executive, and there’s a load of poor innuendos about stumps.

It’s almost like The Thick of It. The intern pitches the idea of a 10-ball final over, and suddenly it’s being announced to the nation. For years now, a new competition was always in the offing to try to rival the IPL or the Big Bash. Sure, we have our T20 blast, but a shorter inter-city format was needed. Then came the announcement from the ECB. A new eight-team city tournament was on its way from 2020, but rather than T20, there will be 100 balls per innings.

With the working title ‘The Hundred’, it’s an attempt to appeal to the masses. The competition will offer faster matches, start slightly earlier, and allow kids to get home at a reasonable hour. There will be 15 traditional six-ball overs and a single 10-ball over to complete each innings. A women’s event, run along the same lines, will also be launched. To increase viewership, the BBC will also have shared coverage, allowing those without Sky TV to get involved in the action too.

After the announcement, social media was up in arms. I mean yeah, on the face of it, it all does sound rather stupid. But could this work? Could it revolutionise the game? Eoin Morgan certainly thinks so. He’s warned that unless English cricket is prepared to accept change, the sport may die out. Participation levels have fallen steadily over the past decade, and it’s ‘boring’ reputation needs quick fixing. I’m a traditionalist myself; test cricket is the ultimate for me, but I understand that sport today demands quicker, more exciting formats.

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Free Agency Accounts

The schedule is now set, so that means one thing, the NFL season is getting closer. The Eagles will kick off the new season against the Falcons in less than 5 months’ time, and the next big step to come is the NFL Draft in just 5 days’ time down in Arlington, Texas. All teams will have put together their ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ by now, but for some teams, their decisions may make or break their season.

Therefore, teams now tend to focus their energy on the free agency market, as they know most of their choices will be proven talent despite the considerably higher costs involved. So, who had a shrewd free agency? And who finds themselves in a quandary heading into Thursday’s draft?

Let’s start up in the North and in Chicago. It was all change in the offseason for the Bears and John Fox left to be replaced by first-time head coach Matt Nagy. Last years the Bears boasted a very young, raw squad with heaps of potential to harness, and the organisation have built on that these past few months. Bringing in Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton is very astute, and their offence could be one to watch this year. Trubisky showed promise and fits the Alex Smith mould that Nagy worked so well with over in Kansas.

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The Politics we Deserve?

“Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right”, as the old song goes. Used to ridicule the music industry by Gerry Rafferty, but instead seems more fitting in encapsulating the current political climate. Actually, it would be kind. Clowns? Maybe the one from IT. Jokers? More like absolute jokes.

Obama once said, “You get the politicians you deserve”. Although I see the reason, I don’t personally think it’s quite that simple. Sure, if you vote in Donald Trump you get that kind of president and voting for Brexit has paved the way for what we have in Britain. But is that the public’s fault? Politicians have never really been particularly liked. At best, people tend to be rather apathetic towards the culture of politics. That was certainly the case during the noughties, where turnout at elections reached all-time lows. The problem is, that is misinterpreted.

Certain members of the left like to jump on New Labour for bringing in this apathy, especially throughout the younger generations. The problem is, it’s because everything was running well. Surely that’s the point of politicians. They run everything smoothly so that our lives pass by without even hearing from them between election campaigns. Usually, political engagement comes from instability, anger, and despair at who is in office. So, is it such a great thing?

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Is it Time to Pay More Attention to our Digital Health?

We are constantly digitally connected. We check our phones when we wake up, and we browse social media that little too long before we fall asleep. The average age a child has their first mobile phone is 10, and youngsters now use their families’ devices long before that. 50% of young people are heavy social media users, but digital gluttony is far beyond that. We now use it for shopping, banking, relationships, work, and hobbies. Without it, we would simply be lost.

The digital era has brought us benefits aplenty. It’s produced services, products, games, networking, life hacks, and has arguably both improved and streamlined our lives. Social media has been at the forefront of this over the past decade. It brings us connectivity, not just to family and friends but idols and people all over the world. It allows people to express themselves, explore their identity and interests, and interact with those who share the same interests as us. It brings empathy, builds communities, can provide emotional support, and even allows us to participate in movements. Unfortunately, the pitfalls are catching up.

Despite its benefits, we know social media can be harmful to young people and their health. Several studies have found a link between social media use and worsened mental health, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and increased suicide risk. Half of girls and two-fifths of boys have been the victims of online bullying, and 41% of Gen Z users say social media makes them sad, anxious, or depressed, with Instagram and Snapchat judged to be the most destructive. Of all the main social media websites, only YouTube was judged to have an overall positive effect.

One reason is that we all fall into the trap of comparisons, wondering why our lives aren’t as great as the people we follow. It’s easy to forget that social media is a highlight reel, a place we post our best pictures, our funniest jokes, our favourite memories. You may see someone’s holiday to Corfu and the party they attended last Friday, but you won’t see that bout of food poisoning or a pimple they just couldn’t cover yesterday. People present their perfect life, whilst hiding their real struggles. Envy has become heightened in the digital age.

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