Super weird and/or wonderful things to give you a break from the news

The news is almost universally grim right now, so we need a few diversions to give our batteries time to recharge. Here are a few ideas to explore, all of them my personal selections and free from the influence of their creators!


If, like me, you find it hard to get to sleep at night for worrying about what outrage against truth, justice and democracy this government will perpetrate next, then give Shirley and Spinoza Radio a try… The link I’ve given you is to the catch-up archive.

Eclectic is an understatement! Fausto Caceres is the genius behind the beautifully-curated music collages and immersive soundscapes. He has a magpie eye…(or should that be ear?) and his picks will take you right around the universe of sound. You could find yourself listening to white noise, or ambient or some trippy-hippy stuff or an old standard. Whatever…it’s all extraordinary. He broadcasts from Dali in Yunnan Province, China, though I think he’s a Californian and alumnus of Berkeley. Super weird, huh?


Sick of scrolling though lists of the same old films on Netflix or Prime? Try MUBI. As with Shirley and Spinoza, it’s the curation that makes this arthouse movie channel such a joy. Just like a real cinema, they show a limited selection of films every month which a) spares you hours of scrolling/decision-making and b) means you are likely to watch something you would not otherwise have known about or been able to see. There are fabulous, thought-provoking and beautiful films being made all over the world and reminders of our shared humanity and planet are pretty important right now.



Lots of bookshops offer a reading subscription service and this is a brilliant way to break out of your reading rut and discover new writers. I’ve been lucky enough to be given birthday gift subscriptions to Mr B’s (Emporium Bookshop) service three times, now. It’s been a revelation. Of course, much depends on how honest you are in the questionnaire responses you send back. Don’t be tempted to treat it like a dating app, showing off your scholarship or catholic tastes. It could backfire!

My reading experience has been greatly enriched by the process. Without Mr B, I would never have read Hari Kunzru, China Mieville or Joanna Walsh. All three of these writers will also take you into new realms of thought and imagination as well as sheer pleasure at the virtuosity of their use of the English language. It doesn’t have to be all about literary fiction, of course. I also got a Steve Cavanagh one month. An American crime procedural writer, his tense, taut novels are now amongst my staples.


There has been a bit of a trend to rediscover or focus on women artists, with standout shows on Artemisia Gentileschi at the National Gallery and the extraordinary and disturbing Dorothea Tanning at Tate Modern. I am really looking forward to this: Paula Rego at Tate Britain. If you are not familiar with her muscular, robust, uncompromising, magic realist work, then I really urge you to take a look…online, if nothing else. Thankfully, there is quite a lot of video content on her, too, (despite her being notoriously reluctant to be interviewed or filmed) including this film by her son. She grew up in Portugal under the shadow of dictatorship and it’s impossible to miss a sense of anger and implacability behind much of her work. in that respect, there is a risk of being reminded of the deteriorating state of democracy in the UK…

For more outdoorsy things to do, please take a look at Mike Zollo’s cycling articles and Anna Andrews’ pieces on gardening for nature. Coming soon: David Love on how to get stuck in to astronomy!