We sang, we went to the gym, and we got bladderedIzzy Wilkinson with permission for Varsity

Welcome back to Martha’s Mindful Madness, the column where I, Martha Gazzard, tell the friends I have bullied into reading this article about the time when I hung out with one of my other friends. So far on my journey, I have gained a deeper appreciation of what it means to relax, and this has only continued with this week’s guest. Please welcome to the stage, Maxim Knowles!

Most often seen strutting around Sidge in the baggiest trousers ever made, Max is a powerhouse of music production, committing to the bit, applying sociological theory to the music he listens to, and overall being a very good person. This week, as with every week, we embarked on a trifold journey of zen, navigating this stressful and confusing sea of life with the art of mindfulness as our North Star. We sang, we went to the gym, and we got bladdered. At the end of the day, as we reflected on our success, Max said that it had been one of his favourite days in a while and, reader, I must agree.

“I kept holding the microphone so close to my mouth it sounded like a demonic jacuzzi”


Mr Knowles and I decided that for our first activity, we would do something we had been meaning to do for over a year – write a song. I must admit, I felt worried that I would look a fool in front of my much more experienced and knowledgeable friend. To his credit though, Max was the best person I could have made this ‘song’ with, and he never made me feel silly or ignorant, especially when I kept holding the microphone so close to my mouth it sounded like a demonic jacuzzi. For this, I thank him. Max also wrote the lyrics for the song (he basically did everything), which includes such themes as: loving my boyfriend, meeting Benedict Cumberbatch, a cameo from my dad on the phone, and belly breathing. Listen to the tiger who CaME to varsity here:


At the end of a two-and-a-half-hour session, we emerged, triumphant, from the airless and windowless space that was Music Practice Room 2, and promptly made my three friends listen to our song twice in the smoking area. I think they sort of liked it. I love it. 9.8/10


Avid followers will know that exercise featured in my first instalment, where I ran around Highgate

Woods and wanted to shoot myself dead afterwards. However, this time around, I didn’t mind the humiliation so much, although I did spend a lot of time wondering if I was the only person in the world without back muscles. I lifted some weights while lying on my back, and then I lifted some weights while sort of kneeling on a bench, and then I pulled some very heavy handles towards the floor in a few different ways – my arms hurt while I type this, and I fear they will never return to their original state: weak, yes, but painless. If Max hadn’t changed my outlook on the gym while we were there, I might be tempted to be a little bitch about my muscles right now, but as it stands, I feel stoic about them.

“My arms hurt while I type this, and I fear they will never return to their original state”

During a break between sets, Max told me that he likes the gym because it makes him feel connected to himself – there is something distinctly grounding about doing a repetitive movement until you can’t anymore, and he felt connected to his body and its purpose. I found this view of exercise, and specifically the gym, insanely refreshing, and really quite mindful. In an era of increasingly unrealistic beauty standards for men and women, and increasing pressure to conform to them, there is something radically healthy in the way that Max thinks about the gym, and I particularly liked that this train of thought can apply to anyone, regardless of size or ability. As someone who has struggled with my own relationship to my body for my entire life, it was incredible to be in this space and realise that just because there are huge mirrors in this weird concrete underground gym, I don’t have to focus on what is reflected back in them. In any case, I’m definitely no Pyrros Dimas, but I could see myself going back to the gym semi-regularly/twice in the next three years. 8/10


Now, dear reader, I have something to tell you that I have been keeping silent about thus far. I have a horrific hangover! Oh it is so bad! I have been so brave. Max and I decided to go to TCWM before we joined our friends on a traditional Pickerel trip. As with most social events, I was late, and had to cycle there in my pyjama bottoms and get changed into a floor length skirt on the street (fancy dress code), so I did not get off on the most relaxing foot. But, once there, all my stress simply poured away, melted by the heat gun of friendship and booze. We talked about music as a form of resistance, and reviewed our day, followed swiftly by three rounds of shithead (Max: 2, Martha: 1).

I introduced a new game to the group, whereby one person asks you a question, and you reply normally, until you break into an improvised musical theatre song. If you were at the Pick on Friday night and saw a girl in a big red skirt singing in a bad American accent, it was not me. The party continued after Max popped home, and I got wankered to such an extent that I had to get my boyfriend to walk me home. It turns out it took us an hour and a half to get from the Pick to King’s College, which, famously, is a ten minute walk. Overall, the evening was delightful, but my sleep afterwards was horrid, and my head now feels bad. 7/10


Mountain View

Martha’s Mindful Madness: shopaholism, turntablism, and Poet’s Corner

This week’s activities were lovely, and I could not have asked for a more mindful friend to have participated in them with. If anything, I am beginning to learn that feeling better in yourself is not about what you do, it’s about who you do it with. Mindfulness can be tricky and feel futile, but I would much rather feel sad in a body I know and care for, in a way that I can manage, than feel like an alien to myself. As a final point, now that I can DJ and am a singer-songwriter, if any May Balls need a headliner, I am available and my fee is very modest.