Karma Kafe, Ko Phangan

I’m still dubious about how one pronounces Ko Phangan and have been laughed at upon every attempt. Nonetheless the island is serene, the least touristy of Koh Tao, Ko Samui and itself. We stayed at a resort where I had insisted that a fan room as opposed to air conditioning was worth the drop in price. We did as a result spend the night sweating profusely, trying to convince ourselves that the breeze from the fan, blowing stray hairs over to the left, then back to the right sides of our faces was just like the soothing wind of nature (which it very much was not).

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Ko Phangan boasts a huge number of vegan restaurants in Srithanu, which turned out to be a thirty or so minute drive from the port, Thong Sala, and where we were staying. Taxis on Ko Phangan were less abundant than in other areas, with most people turning to scooters as an easy way of access around the island. I didn’t venture out in hiring a scooter myself, but I don’t think a license or experience is required to do so, with scooters on offer for miniscule amounts of money, two or three pounds per day from our hotel.

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We decided not to risk a scooter journey but instead hitched a communal taxi to Srithanu, and explored several quaint jewellery stores as well as picking up some well needed after sun in the local pharmacy. We ended this little exploration in the Karma Kafe, with stylish décor and dark wood. The sign in the toilet was hugely amusing, something along the lines of ‘don’t flush toilet paper / sanitary products / kittens and puppies / your ex’s belongings’.

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The food here was also one of my favourites amongst our travels. Hungry, as usual, I ordered two mains. The first was a rice bowl with the most deliciously spiced pumpkin, the second a burrito with beans and the same tasty pumpkin and squash puree. My friend ordered raw tacos, slightly let down upon discovering that the tacos were in fact not the crispy carb shells back home but cabbage bowls, but still insisted the dish to be worth the initial disappointment.

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If out and exploring Ko Phangan and brave enough to hitch a scooter trip, Karma Kafe is well worth the trip!

20/18 moo 8, Koh Pha Ngan, Surat Thani 84280, Thailand
open 12-10pm

Atsumi Raw Cafe, Phuket

We landed in Phuket town centre to find it a little disappointing, hardly blue seas and white beaches but rather a busy and jostling city with little in the way of vegetarian foods on offer. A good distance from the beach which was more of a port than somewhere where we could expose our pasty British skin, the only vegan café I could find was a fair drive down to the South of the island of Phuket, near Rawai.

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We originally had planned to alter our hostel accommodation and move from Phuket town centre to the more tranquil beaches tripadvisor promised us of Rawai – this was later altered again to the fantastical nightlife and equal beach opportunities offered by Patong, on the West. It was rather dark and dreary on arrival, with my friend imbued with a desperate cold, both of us hungry and damp. We set out on a fairly expensive taxi ride to Atsumi raw café, planning to also check out Rawai and assess if a hostel swap was worth the cost.

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The café is situated on the side of a main road so easy to locate. It is linked with the Atsumi Wellness Centre, where yoga, detox and even fasting plans are on offer (fortunately we came for the food, not the fasting). A café is situated to the front of the restaurant, with the dining behind. The food here was absolutely superb, perhaps the best raw options available. I chose a vegetable burrito in a corn tortilla, with an array of sauces. After travelling for the day I was decidedly hungry and do have to admit that vegan food is not the most filling – so I moved on to a raw Caesar salad, with cashew cheese to follow. My stomach still growling, I ended the meal with a raw vegan brownie. I’m not a huge fan of raw desserts and would rather eat an actual brownie over mashed dates, but it did certainly taste like the picture of health, filled with cacao, banana and almonds.

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The food here towards the higher range of all places we visited, but the service was swift and wifi even faster, so if in Phuket, Atsumi is definitely worth the trip, perhaps tied with a yoga session to really hammer down on the health.

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99/1 Moo 7, Wiset Road Rawai district, Phuket, Thailand
atsumirawcafe@hotmail.co.th
Tel: +6676289224

open 9am – 8pm

Vegetarian Travels in Thailand

I’m not a vegan but sometimes I pretend to be. Several times whilst travelling Thailand I’d insist I was a vegan, GIN JAE, probably with a very doubtful pronunciation to our restaurant caterers. My travelling partner wasn’t always keyed in to my attempts to ensure our food wasn’t peppered with cunningly disguised meatballs or fish sauces.
”What? No you’re not Liv you’re vegetarian, questbars aren’t vegan anyway”, would come answering back. My backpack did actually come back a full 3kgs lighter thanks to my daily consumption of protein bars and products in a vain attempt to protect my mini muscles, in a country where chicken, fish and rice dishes are available left right and centre but vegetarian protein is limited to eggs, or tofu if you’re lucky and looking straight ahead.

However, with a little help from tripadvisor and the Instagram #veganthailand hashtag, I was able to source out a huge number of brilliant vegan and vegetarian friendly restaurants all across Thailand. Less appealing to the locals but filled with fellow veggie travelers and harems of yoga lovers, with great manes of dreadlocked hair and sunkissed skin (and usually a shiny iPhone, seeking out the available wifi like ourselves as these restaurants are usually a scale above the local haunts in price), Thailand offers a great range of vegetarian friendly cafes and restaurants in all main areas.

I hope to review several of the restaurants we visited over the course of the next few weeks, whilst the delicious meals are still fresh in my head. Here are a few samples of my favourites;

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Rustic and Blue, Chiang Mai

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Chalong, Phuket

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Greenlight Cafe, Ko Samui

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Pud, Ko Tao

Fed by Water

I’m not really the sort of person to just drop into the nearest restaurant, give the menu a quick scan and order a speedy dinner. This is reinforced by my vegetarianism, having had one too many pea risottos with it seeming to be the most popular vegetarian option at any traditional pub style diner. Fed by Water, in Dalston, is somewhere I’ve had my eye on for months, having browsed the tripadvisor reviews alongside instragram uploads for delicious looking vegan options of pasta, pizza, and an array of salads.

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In all honesty, I didn’t even notice the restaurant’s mantra upon first inspection; fed by water. I assumed water connoted the natural world and this was some vague praise for ethical veganism. The restaurant instead prides itself on using only purified water. As stated on their website,

“FED’s filtration system is based on an active carbon filtration which removes impurities like lime scale, chlorine and unwanted bacteria, while retaining the minerals and nutritional elements present in the water”.

This is in turn claims to boost the nutritional properties of all food and drinks on offer. I’m not wholly convinced by basing the entire restaurant concept on filtrated water, it seems to be an attempt at finding some niche style of branding, but the website does also encourage recycling and an environmental awareness.

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Many will turn their nose up at veganism for the banal thought of resigning themselves to a life of undressed salad leaves, or, like FreeLee, so many bananas you might indeed turn yellow. The potato detox and other fad diets have shocked many into categorizing vegans as pitiful people who exist on a sad diet of sad salad leaves. Fed by Water demonstrates how this need not be the case for a vegan diet; you could call it vegan junk food, if you like, with no restrictions on pizza toppings for even your meat eating friend who couldn’t possibly cope with a pizza without salami. ‘Fake’ meat options are readily available in the form of seitan carpaccio and salami, and cheese is swapped out for cashew nut equivalent. The novelty of these huge pizzas is increased by the availability of black charcoal dough, just in case you want that gothic snap for your food diary.

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We shared the carbonara and ballox between two – salads also still on offer in case you are a leaf loving type of vegan. The portions are generous, with plenty of beautifully flavoured pasta sauce and salty pieces of seitan. It didn’t quite live up t my memory of bacon but came the closest I’ve been in six years.

The star dish were the veggie and cheese balls, accompanied by grain salad, avocado puree and charcoal infused bread. The highlight of Christmas dinner was always stuffing for me, and you can imagine by disappointment, upon my first vegetarian Christmas, in discovering what exactly stuffing was and where it came from. These balls tasted very much like the stuffing I remember, and almost aromatic. The cashew cheese spreads were also individual and delicious.

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Prices are moderate, £12.95 for the salad and £13.95 for the pasta. Arriving just a little after four for an early pre theatre dinner, the restaurant was fairly quiet, and service faultless. With commendable ethics and enticing food, Fed by Water can’t really be faulted. Whether or not your free bottle of purified water does taste any different from the tap water back home, I’ll have to leave up to you.

Open everyday, 11am – 11pm

FED BY WATER™
Unit 1b Dalston Cross Shopping Centre,
64 Kingsland High Street E8 2LX
London, United Kingdom

God’s Own Junkyard

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Ever fancied seeing your name in shining lights, Hollywood style? I’m sure you had that little niggling dream in younger days. Swaggering down Broadway, the leading lady in an array of West End musicals. You might also have come to the bitter realisation that this would progress no further than a far off dream after year seven drama lessons, whereby your teacher might have eyed you up with a furrowed brow and expression of mild pity as you desperately tried to bring Oliver to life for the school’s seasonal production. Never mind that, you surely did your best to bring a wholly convincing re-enactment of a goldfish to the table instead, ferreted away to one of the smaller parts with a reassuring smile.

Well, acting talents aside (I bet you’ve also been the weakest link to any Christmas table charades game too), having your name in shining lights is certainly possible in one area of London.

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God’s Own Junkyard is a gallery for the bright and dazzling neon art, the likes of which can be rented out to feature in films, such as Tomb Raider 2 and Tomorrow Never Dies. Situated a little out of the middle of London, the gallery can be found a short walk from Walthamstow Central tube station (although google maps turned this into a scenic half hour expedition through suburban London).

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The inside of the industrial space is truly bedazzling. Neon pieces cover the walls, ceilings, and lie dotted around the floor-space for an overwhelming burst of colour and light. The gallery features numerous huge and awe-striking pieces with quirky phrases such as ‘Sail Away with Me’ and ‘Are you getting enough?’ The art seems to find a sweet balance between gaudy provocation of the many erotic shops in which the pieces were once found, alongside the bright eyed amazement of any child taken to his first carnival, where many of the other, more innocent signs also stem.

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Alongside these huge constellations are smaller and sweeter designs, simple love hearts and crowns, small enough to stand on a nightstand.

Many of the pieces have been created by Christopher Bracey, a British neon artist who sadly passed away two years ago. He allegedly stated that most of his early commissioned work for instigated by the rising sex industry, benefited by the allure of his luscious and alluring signs. His death was voiced through Twitter with the touching and poignant message, “Just wanna let you know I am actually in Gods Own Junk Yard”, fitting to his life works, and the gallery continues to be run by relatives.

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If out and about in London, I would highly suggest a trip down to Gods Own Junkyard to visit the neon delights. It is however only open on weekends, but the included café, the ‘Rolling Scones’ makes it well worth the excursion for the ability to sit down to a cheery slice of cake and take in the glittering lights.

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Of course, you can also rake out a small fortune to purchase one of the delectable installations, although the prices don’t come cheap, one of the more known pieces, ‘Don’t Worry’ sold for £40,000 back in 2014. Many of the pieces are however up for hire, if you do fancy your name in shining lights, perhaps for your 21st if not a star studded career.

Gods Own Junkyard
Unit 12
Ravenswood Industrial Estate
Shernhall Street
London
E17 9HQ

ON NAIL BITING

People tend to box together nail biters as a certain category of person. Nibbling away at your fingertips surely indicates anxiety, a shy and feverish complex, and a fear of the world eased a little by tearing at already raggedy hands. Even as a self confessed nail biter, I consider the habit horrendous. Gnawing away at your nails at a public bus stop, or sliding your tongue over a torn hangnail at work is so unsightly. Not to mention the number of germs and bacteria lurking under your nails, as I recall the DailyMail (fantastically credible source) blaspheming the number of germs upon gym equipment, far more than inhabit your toilet bowl.

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why I cannot be left to paint my own nails

Despite the pressing knowledge of how unattractive a habit nail biting truly is, coupled with a standard attempt at hygiene, I haven’t been able to break my own bad habits. Starting young, my parents tried desperately to pull my fingers out of my mouth as a child, coating my hands in vinegar (for which I developed keen taste, licking off my hands like a placid kitten) and tabasco (which resulted in yowls and screaming, after which nail biting was accepted as less of an ordeal). Even today, it offers a pleasant distraction when sitting idly, waiting for a delayed appointment. Immersed in thought, in exams for instance, absent minded chewing away at a nail seems to beckon on answers.

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False nails have offered a short and bittersweet solution to this issue. If, like myself, you’ve never had particularly long or attractive nails, you’ll understand the delicacy added by a set of acrylics. Your hands seem more defined and dainty, even if coated in calluses from the gym. Not overly expensive either, £25 will buy you a set lasting several weeks, plus you’re able to release your inner fashion atrocities in glitter varnish or questionable designs.

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Sadly my long running streak of fake nails and fewer hours spent examining hangnails came to a tragic end yesterday, as whilst trying to balance chatting and a barbell (two things which don’t go hand in hand), I managed to clip one of my nails backwards, splitting my fake, and real nail in the process. I soldiered on through my workout with a grimace and a taped finger (because apparently stuffing dirty hands in my mouth is acceptable, but a small cut is considered desperately unsanitary). It seems that this would be the end to my short spell of fake nails which don’t couple particularly well with regular exercise, nor typing, hence the lack of posts. As a miniature mid year resolution, I’ll be commencing yet another attempt at giving up nail biting in a desperate attempt for princess hands.

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on the post exam slump.

I’ve been a little quiet round these parts; exam season has been in full swing (and to top that off, I’ve justified my excessive anxious nail biting as a result as reason behind having a constant false set of nails which makes typing increasingly difficult).

When you’re knee deep in exams for which the entire year has revolved around in preparation for, the end can seem so far from reach. Nights drag on, particularly if you like to tie your studying to the clock. Switching up one subject to another at 6 o’clock. Exchanging back at 8. Your tastebuds also take a light vacation, too fixated on books beneath you or a screen in front of you to focus on any mealtime. You hit mini ‘walls’, reminiscent of the wall marathon runners cajole over – not that I’ve engaged in any particularly arduous running. Sitting bleary eyed staring straight ahead, or practicing your new world record level of procrastination. Tidying up the kitchen has never felt so fun.

This entire year has felt like a build up, a slow climax untoward the June exams.
The finger blisters induced by a really awkward style of writing and tearing through ten pages per essay have finally started to heal over. I no longer need to scrape off concealer by the barrel from beneath my eyelids, having snoozed tranquilly through the past week. I braved a cold turkey cut on my caffeine addiction, having fuelled morning exams with a twitchy attentiveness. However, despite all these positive attributes accompanying the end of year and term time, there is a certain slump, an anti climax. Hours no longer hold purpose with no more need to quench my brain with knowledge. I don’t need to set an alarm, hence the continuous snoozing. I’ve now completed Orange is the New Black and Game of Thrones in a very short space of time, my two bucket list style rewards for finishing the year, which now gives my life very little purpose beyond Netflix. It is a gradual and slightly painful relax back into reality, realising that the hours you’ve dedicated to your books in the previous months, the grappling with inner will to force out a couple extra hours and elation at putting down your pen at the end of every exam, has very little contribution to the real world. Momentous as the finishing line might seem for you, life moves – and has moved – on without you. You now no longer have an excuse to get out of walking the dog. It’s also probably time to visit your nan and remind her of your existence, having holed yourself up for the past few months.

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post exam celebrations and a shocking reminder of what we all look like with makeup on

What I’m trying to say is that it’s been all quite a build up, a hell of a lot of stress (resulting in a hell of a lot of tongue ulcers, which, according to my WebMD self diagnosis and inner hypochondriac are caused by stress in question) for quite the post exam slump.

Whilst still in the process of catching up on a years worth of sleep, I’m hopefully going to be a little more active in the blogosphere, with Thailand on the cards in a few weeks, and feeding my superstitions by diving at tables and other wooden object whenever someone mentions results day.

On a sports massage

I don’t really have any excuse for neglecting my blog, only that it’s that time of year, as it is for any student in education at the moment (granted it’s been that time of year since about October, whence forth I resigned my Friday nights away from tequila shots at local clubs, and slung back a pair of heels for a pair of slippers all in favour of studious commitment).
The libraries are filled, the online student forums buzzing. I’m still a frequent visitor at both university libraries in Exeter, but have been told to contain my minor fury at never being able to find a tidy little seat to rattle away at Hamlet upon, not actually descending from the uni. The fresh scent of newly cut grass and the fragrance of Spring is mixed with stress. Pre exam stress, to be precise.

I have a tendency to get overly anxious in the coming months pre exams, thus my mother suggested a relaxing spa day to soothe the woes (and the consistent tongue ulcers I’ve had since Christmas, which I’m diagnosing as another stress induced plague). An afternoon of plush dressing robes and massage oils did sound extraordinarily enticing. Unfotunately the waiting list at the local country club was a month long, as I’m envisioning the hordes of stressed students flocking upon the spa baths, with a round of golf to tip off the evening.

Not to be put out, I booked a sports massage – considering myself a powerlifter-in-progress and recognising the fair amount of damage I’ve done to my body in learning the ropes of weightlifting.
As the Sims have taught us all, the true key to a lover’s heart is furiously massaging their back. That being said, I’ve always struggled to find the so called ‘knots’ when kneading someone else’s flesh. My masseur did not however have quite the same issue. I can only attempt to convey a level of white pain of having a knuckle or elbow ground down on a tender spot on your back. The science behind it was explained and was truly intriguing, although I could only vaguely attempt to pass on this knowledge with metaphors of untangling knotted hair or spaghetti. There were several points during the session where I thought I might be brought to dry heaving, with my face planted through the massage hole and thankfully pointed at the ground.

I’m not entirely sure I would label the experience as relaxing. There were certainly no tall glasses of iced water with fresh cucumber slices, deep, chanting music, nor yankee candles.

That being said, my back certainly does feel like ready kneaded dough a day later, which can surely not be a bad thing.

Jamie’s Italian

I am a notoriously picker eater, as I think I’ve loosely described in other posts. I’m sure I’ve caused countless waiters notable irritation at requesting the pine nuts not adorn the salad, although no I’m not allergic so the kitchen need not send out a warning flare should I break out in hives. Having spent a great deal of these past few years thronged into domesticity, I could at thirteen scour a supermarket shelves, set loose like a bloodhound to a scent trail, and return obediently to the master with a basket full of undoubtedly the cheapest offers (fairy liquid tablets are notorious for making this as difficult as possible with their mismatched deals). I also prepare and organise my own meals, nowadays half eaten out of scrubbed Tupperware dishes like a true frugal busybody. Any form of travel, for instance through Paddington station, no longer requires the frantic hand signal and mad dash into M&S or YO-Sushi for train snacks – whilst the attendant drolls on over the boarding train status – as my handbag is neatly crammed with hopefully leak-proof Tupperware finery.
Following my brother moving from the UK to New Zealand, there was talk of his girlfriend having joined the local Tupperware conventions, and having reached the status of a proud host of many Tupperware parties. I’m patiently waiting to reach a similar level, Empress of convenient plastic lunchboxes.

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Of course I must sometimes reach out beyond the slightly hairy forks lurking at the bottom of my handbag. Exeter isn’t unfortunately rife with restaurants, people tending to instead flock to local pubs which aren’t always veggie-friendly, unless you want that Steak & Chips without the steak?
Jamie’s Italian was only opened recently, in 2015, but has fast become one of my favourites. Expanded over two floors, you can dine amongst the friendly chatter between booths on the lower floor, or in the slightly more secluded upstairs. The atmosphere is relaxed and intimate, the lights dim, the odd cured leg of animal swinging in the breeze from the kitchen décor.
Order a ‘plank’, and it’ll often come propped up on two very authentic retro pasta cans, for the full effect.

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The menu is broad, and caters appraisingly for meat eaters and vegetarians alike, alongside the fussy fingers who really just care for a bowl of tomato pasta at the end of the day. Portions are also available in half sizes, for the gaggle of office ladies watching their waistlines in the lunchtime run, or full for those with neverending black hole of a stomach, when it comes to pasta.

The staff are undeniably efficient, this I noted from the word go. After an interesting run in with YO-Sushi in the first week of it’s opening (I don’t blame the new staff, looking at battered tofu you wouldn’t always think that the white jelly substance does require cooking), I’m a little dubious over visiting newly opened restaurants. However the staff were so avidly attentive, more so than most other chains. The presence of the specials board adds a classier aspect to your meal, which will be recited by your waiter or waitress of the evening, with an added recommendation of their own.
(I do sometimes wonder if they do truly have the time to try every special, to advocate the duck as really so divine)

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Nonetheless, my latest Jamie’s venture was equally tasteful. Being boring I opted for the squash salad with ‘whipped ricotta’ for a second time and yes all pine nuts were scarpered away from my dish.

On Classics & a cinema excursion

As most of my friends are already aware (due to my extensive yammering on any night out, plus my undue service as a sober chauffeur to and from local night haunts), I’m still unable to drink alcohol on my course of roaccutane until August.
Sadly not the chirpiest of sober clubbers, I tend to tour my trusted little mini home after dropping the collectives off to enjoy a hazy alcohol induced night.
Weekends have become all a little droll and bemusing, sat scouring The Tab as opposed to wreaking havoc out on the town. It was on one such article, concerning a fellow sober clubber – albeit by choice – that I decided to roll back the clocks to preteen weekend cinema excursions. This girl claimed university life hardly needed a shot of tequila and a slim picking of lime, when instead she prided herself on having attended all recent movie releases, like a true saint.

Although I can’t quite afford to budget out a tenner for Vue teen tickets all that regularly, I have decided to educate myself a little more in terms of the visual arts.
Zoolander 2 was the obvious choice here, for heightening the senses, stimulating the intellect, reaching undiscovered levels of erudite satiation
I’m sure you can all hear ‘kids who can’t read good’ echoing somewhere in the background.

Anyhow I don’t wish to spoil the thrilling journey alongside Ben Stiller and his infamous pout, in his sassy quest to regain the love of his son. Something did however strike me while watching the showing – what would someone watching this say maybe ten, fifteen years down the line think?

I say this while deeply engrossed in Aristophanes The Clouds, as one of my Classical Civilisation texts on Ancient Greek Comedy. The play follows a greed stricken Athenian man, so desperate to outwit debt collectors haranguing his measly fortunes after his son floundered what little they held on racing ponies. He turns to the widely criticised philosophist, Socrates, hoping he too can learn the art of deceiving the world with complex ideologies and spoken intellect. I’ll attempt not to run into spoilers in this field, as I’m sure you’re teetering on the edge of your seat, eager to nosedive into ancient Greek drama.

One catchesim that has arisen in class is whether or not a modern audience would find thee same humour in the play as a group of slightly inebriated men in togas once did. The play satirises many known politicians of the period, and surely these jokes go amiss on us nowadays.
While we might all be in fits of giggles at an onstage representation of Boris Johnson, all albino, his drooping and furrowed white brows pedalling around on one of his infamous bikes, we might just struggle to find ‘Cleisthenes’ and his trademark shaven chin – the source of great ridicule for feminine attributes – quite as entertaining, in a production of ‘The Clouds’.

As much of the plot in Zoolander 2 is peppered with the faces of famed fashion designers, and of course with Justin Bieber’s sunkissed cheeks thrown into the mix, I do question what an audience perhaps a decade down the line would think. The brutal execution of a teen heart-throb might not be equally amusing when the name doesn’t make you think of pet monkeys, beautifully photoshopped Calvin Klein abdominals, and the verification that he does truly not stuff socks down his pants.
Much in the same way that the satirical humour of the Old Comedies floats over our heads, it is intriguing to see how these timeless plays influence what you pay out to see on a quiet Friday, alongside that extra large popcorn which-you-probably-shouldn’t-have but will still munch through by the time the adverts come to a neat end.
Just as we need a little footnote to help us laugh along to Cleisthenes and his chin, smooth as a baby’s bottom, we might one day need a little helping hand to laugh along to Justin Bieber’s fated demise in Zoolander 2.