Josh is one of the most reliably stressed people I know, and so I am untrusting that his mindfulness routine will help me in any way whatsoeverjoshua shortman and martha gazzard for varsity

The time has come (and gone) once more – this instalment of Martha’s Mindful Madness is late. Exam season only continues to best me despite my moderate efforts. In any case, welcome back young and old, old and new, friend and foe, to my silly little column, where I try to gentle-parent my screaming and tired brain, often to some success. This week, my original plans fell through, but my knight in shining armour was not far away on his mindfulness steed, and so Joshua Shortman, Caius’ formally dressed hippie, has very kindly agreed to show me what he does to relax! Everyone say, “thank you Josh!”

“His head is made up of four circles (big ear, glasses, glasses, big ear)”

Shorty can be spotted up to 400ft away due to his loping gait and the fact that his head is made up of four circles (big ear, glasses, glasses, big ear). With both an impressive and goodly selection of jumpers and a mild-mannered disposition, he’s like an extra in a Hugh Grant film about Cambridge, and the lady goes wild for it. The lady being me, for he is my boyfriend. Josh is also one of the most reliably stressed people I know, and so I already am untrusting that his mindfulness routine will help me in any way whatsoever, because I know that it doesn’t really help him. On with the show!

As with every article, our method was tripartite – to listen to Shostakovich while working, for me to have a bath in the horrible Caius basement, and to sit on his balcony.


Josh wanted me to say that listening to Russian classical music is a strictly post-9pm activity, but that he would make an exception this one time, for Varsity. With a cup of mint tea by my side, I couldn’t help but note that the first of the three mindfulness activities Shortman does in fact include working, which felt stupid. I suppose this is symptomatic of him being the first finalist I have interviewed, and also that maybe he doesn’t know what the word ‘relaxing’ means. This is only worsened by the fact that Shostakovich sounds as if the music from Jaws was turned into a viral TikTok sound – sped up and with some sort of weird reverb. When I brought this up, Josh simply told me to ‘soak up the atmosphere’ in the name of journalism because he would probably be working for another couple of hours. I can think of many atmospheres I would rather soak up than a slightly mouldy room at the top of St Mike’s with the soundtrack to my sweaty nightmares playing.

“Shostakovich sounds as if the music from Jaws was turned into a viral TikTok sound”

If I had to describe our listening party in one word, that word would be stressful. I refused to do any real work, partly because the music was so grating, and partly because I am in denial about having to do another exam. Instead I did some fiddling around on spreadsheets and the like. This was horrible. 1/10

PART TWO: SLOSH-ta-SOAP-ich (a stretch, I know)

Now I did try to argue that I could just lie and say that I had had a bath, but Josh would not budge, on the grounds of journalistic integrity. And so I began the descent to the basement, and can only describe what followed as harrowing. I had been in the communal male bathroom a few times before, with its shower stalls that go to nipple-height, and its exposed drainage system. Other delightful features include the DANGER: LIVE WIRE tags dotted artfully along the walls, which themselves boast the finest wallpaper nature has to offer: black mould. Not one to be put off by fear of electrocution or respiratory failure, I ventured into one of the two stalls that had bathtubs. I was greeted by a peephole that, when looked into from the outside of the stall, gave a direct view to where my genitals would be in just a few moments – relaxing!

Josh gave the bath a gratuitous sluice to rid it of both pubes and rust chunks before retreating back upstairs, and away I was. Despite the generally bad aura and fluorescent lighting, I had quite a nice bath. It was deep, warm, and fairly private, although clearly built for lanky Caius men, as I kept slipping when I tried to lie down a bit, leading to either partial submersion of my mouth and nose or a cold upper body. Josh also suggested that I play Nick Drake on his little speaker – this was much better than Shostakovich and didn’t immediately raise my cortisol levels. This bath was mostly not very nice, but mainly in a funny way, and I think if I wasn’t used to my mouldless and chaste bathroom back at King’s, I could begin to relax. As it stands, I never want to bathe in a place where the water runs yellow before it runs clear again. 4/10

“Delightful features include the DANGER: LIVE WIRE tags dotted artfully along the walls”


This part does what it says on the tin really – Shorty and I climbed out his little wooden window to sit on his balcony and have a smoke. The balcony is really the roof of the bay window below, but for all intents and purposes it functions as a real life feature of St Mike’s. The view is fantastic from here though – you can see the tops of King’s Chapel and St Mary’s, and various little higgledy-piggledy buildings that make up Caius’ undergraduate accommodation. There’s a sense of not really being in the real world, especially since you can’t see the street, so you’re often the only people in view. Josh tried to get me to climb higher and sit on the top of the roof, which I categorically refused to do for fear of vomiting, and also for fear of fear. I already struggled to feel entirely safe on the objectively very safe bit of roof I was on, but I knew this would happen when I gingerly hopped out the window. We talked about his imminent graduation, specifically my role in keeping his family occupied on the day, and how being up high makes him feel small and the comfort that gives him. If I wasn’t so scared of heights, this would have been perfect, and it was pretty close nonetheless. 9/10


Mountain View

Martha’s Mindful Madness: bed, dread, and starting a column

Overall, however, my original hypothesis was mostly correct – I do not feel hugely relaxed, but I would wager that this is also how Josh feels, as he is never hugely relaxed either. However dangerous and horrible my bath and roof escapades were, not to mention the genuinely panic-inducing music, I did spend a lovely few hours with one of my favourite people. Even in my most vulnerable moments (peephole in bathroom), we laughed and chuckled to our heart’s content. To hark back to Izzy’s article, mindfulness doesn’t have to be activities, it can also be people. Having said that, what mindfulness definitely is not is a bath in the Caius basement.