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Comforting content to ease your mind

By March 22, 2020May 22nd, 2020No Comments

In an attempt to give our readers somewhat of a reprieve from the constant and intrusive Covid-19 noise, we mined the rogue team for some of the content or activities they turn to in times of unease.

Tag us @roguecollective if you take us up on any of this #comfortcontent.


“This is crazy, how all this is happening while Lauren’s gone. She has no clue.”


This is, if you are not familiar,  a quote from Audrina Partridge taken from The Lost Scenes, a bonus disc from The Hills boxset, and it could not feel more relevant. In the scene, Partridge’s colleague is explaining to her over lunch how the Large Hadron Collider  might cause the world to end and Partridge, drilled into steering everything back to the reality show’s storyline, tries to connect it to her pal Lauren Conrad – LC –  who is simply out of the country.

This show is my crack cocaine and I’ve never been so thankful to own the boxset, which comes with every series of Laguna Beach and The City too, as I do right now. More than any historic hangover or sad day I’ve experienced before, the oblique vapidness of conversations that they have at work – sorry – “work” and the overbuilt drama that can only be expressed through prolonged stares over half-eaten plates of salad soothe me.

I quote this show the way most people quote The Simpsons or Anchorman. In no particular order, here are my favourites that can be used in everyday life. “He’s a sucky person!” is the balanced reaction to a mild betrayal. “Homeboy wore combat boots to the beach” is an evergreen diss. “Truth and time tells all” is a nice way to sidestep responsibilities.  “You’re making yourself cry thinking about what you did “ is a rational thing to someone you just made cry. “I just saw Lo’s Britney” whenever an acquaintance has a wardrobe malfunction. And “she will always be known as the girl who didn’t go to Paris” is the ammunition you need to keep for your friend who… didn’t go to Paris. 

Kicking off in 2006 on MTV and running for six seasons until 2010, The Hills is a time capsule for that diamanté Paris Hilton era of fashion, flip phones and TMZ videos. Our bright-eyed cast begin their journey with ironed hair, patchy fake tan, giant hairbands, flared jeans, kitten heels with pointy toes and massive armpit handbags in season one, returning each season slightly more styled and with slightly more plastic surgery. 

The best stuff, coincidentally, happens between seasons and unlike the Keeping Up With the Kardashians, where the cameras never stop rolling, real life incidents are just hinted at on the show. However, the biggest between-season storyline kicked series three off to a fiery start on an episode called You Know What You Did, also known as the best and most quoted episode of The Hills ever, and it steered the biggest arc of the show; the fallout between LC and Heidi Montag. 

During the summer of 2007, a sex tape featuring LC and her Colin Farrell knock-off ex-boyfriend Jason Wahler did the rounds. The blame landed on Spencer Pratt, the show’s token villain and boyfriend, fiancé and eventual husband of Heidi Montag, LC’s ex – let me shout that for emphasis – EX best friend. As a result, we get fights in the smoking area of the nightclub Les Deux and evil soliloquies from Pratt, who thinks he is on a different TV series altogether. Pratt and Montag evolve into the most cartoonish bad guys a reality series has ever seen, becoming more glass-eyed, delusional and peroxide blonde as time wears on. However, to be fair to them, they caught onto the energy crystal craze way before everyone else. 

I’ve long held the belief that for such a scripted show, the only person living without a script in The Hills was LC. Every mascara-stained tear from her Bambi eyes was real, except, of course, for that one tear from season four, episode five that the show’s producers admitted to slowing down for dramatic effect. When everything else feels completely out of control, I can rely on a slow shot, panning over the Los Angeles skyline, and LC getting pinot grigio drunk on seemingly just a Red Bull and dishing out quotes worthy of an embroidered pillow for sale on Etsy. 


While this is admittedly my first pandemic, it somewhat compares to some of the other hard times I’ve had. Break-ups, loss, grief… None of them involved a two-metre social distance but a lot of it did involve being isolated, alone to wallow and self-soothe. In these times? I’ve turned to my one and only reliable source of film-based comfort. Dance movies.

Chewing gum for the brain, these are engaging enough to entertain but low-fi enough not to require any actual brain power. The ideal pandemic film fodder. I’m not strict – anything that can be vaguely linked to dancing gets my approval. Even, dare I say it, Bring It On – the cheerleading classic that spawned a million Irish teenage girls’ dreams, only for them to be cruelly dashed upon realising PE for us is a very low impact game of badminton in a poorly heated sports hall… if you’re lucky.

The OG and best, Dirty Dancing. Gosh what we all wouldn’t give to be gently lifted from a shallow lake by Patrick Swayze’s bare arms. And to carry a watermelon – an abject pleasure, I’m sure, if watermelons were a ‘thing’ in Ireland.

 Image credit:  @dirtydancingmovie  on Instagram

Image credit: @dirtydancingmovie on Instagram

Moving on to the modern greats. Save the Last Dance with Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas, which included a youthful Kerry Washington in one of her earlier roles. It’s dark, it’s moody, but by god does that white girl learn to move. And the dance double at the end sequence? She should’ve been paid more, and arguably may have done a better acting job as Sara than Stiles did.

My all-time favourite, and definitely the most incredibly problematic, is Centre Stage. If you haven’t seen it (WHY haven’t you?) it focuses on a girl called Jody Sawyer making her way from a small town ballet academy to the BIG CITY of New York, and the fictional American Ballet Academy. It’s dramatic, there are totally unpredictable conflicts (ahem) and most of the cast are actual ballet dancers. Which means, well… extremely questionable acting. But it’s so worth two hours of your time – please message me after so we can talk about it.

Some more favourites that I highly recommend a bingeathon with: Flashdance, Footloose, Step Up (but NOT Step Up 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9) Saturday Night Fever, Strictly Ballroom, Black Swan and Honey, a total Jessica Alba classic. Worth mentioning, and in this category for me personally are films like Grease, Burlesque, Chicago, Magic Mike and hell, throw Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in too. Deserved.

 Image credit:  Business Insider/Universal Pictures

Image credit: Business Insider/Universal Pictures


My comfort recommendation is probably not for everyone as I’m aware that there are people who don’t plan their entire existence around food and what to eat next, for the rest of you step into my kitchen…

Comfort eating is not just for self-isolation but for life. It is a practice that will buoy you through everything from not sorting your roots in advance of lockdown 2020… to the very real uncertainty that lies ahead.

Comfort cooking can be a form of meditation in these precarious times. Standing over a stove and gently frying onions and garlic in butter is more than a step in a recipe, it is a formula for solace, an alchemical process that can ease angst and conjure up easier times.

Eating and cooking can be time travel, a reprieve from the present moment and even a chance to visit with loved ones we can’t be near right now. It’s not exactly gourmet but every time I make bolognese or chilli con carne or even egg mayo, I have a conversation with my dad who is gone years now.

He had the audacity to insist he invented egg mayonnaise. I was nearly 20 when I realised that this outlandish claim was untrue. Props to him though, his innovation of adding chopped bacon and chopped tomato was inspired. Food is a language of love and memory. It carries powerful messages for the devotees among us.

During Storm Emma in 2018, I hit a jag of making Victoria Sponges. Victoria Sponges are my grandmother – the indomitable Nancy. They are also her namesake, my fearless and funny cousin Nancy. This is because the Victoria Sponge serves as a punchline to one of the family’s favourite anecdotes about the two Nancys. Don’t ask. It’s a long one and probably only funny to relatives of the Nancys.

 Photo by  Toa Heftiba  on  Unsplash

Photo by  Toa Heftiba  on  Unsplash

Suffice it to say, I cannot make one without thinking of our long-gone Grandmother Nancy and immediately WhatsApping the other Nancy. Of course, scarcity might become an issue in this unmapped territory and so for my comfort cooking, I will be making bread. It needn’t be fancy. If all you have is flour, yeast, salt and water, you can gather together a reasonable loaf.

The repetitive and tactile kneading can be a soother, a meditation. As it proves, search for something delicious to smear on it when it emerges, warm and consoling from the oven. Butter, good oil, garlic, squashed tomatoes, capers, anchovies, cheese, Nutella, jam, honey and on and on until you’re full. And remember, as Miguel de Cervantes said:

“All sorrows are less with bread.”

With that said… Here’s an easy bread recipe to do today.

Basic White Loaf

You will need:
500g strong bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
7g sachet of dried yeast
300ml lukewarm water

Put the flour and salt into a large bowl. In a jug, mix the yeast into the water, leave for a few minutes, then gradually pour it into the flour stirring and bringing in the flour from the outside to form a dough. Knead for 10 minutes on a flour-dusted surface. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean damp tea towel and prove in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200°FAN. Lightly oil a deep oven tray (about 30cm x 40cm), form the dough into a round and score the top with a sharp knife. Cover and prove until doubled in size again then bake for about 10 minutes then lower the temperature to 140°FAN and bake for a further 20 minutes until golden and sounds hollow when you knock on the underside.


Firstly a disclaimer to say that I have been so busy cooking, creating and working during this self isolation period that my list is (at this point) purely aspirational. This is what I’d like to be doing with my days, not what I am doing, what I am doing is falling into bed every night exhausted.

  1. A bit of daily yoga with Adrienne. These short, gentle yoga sessions are perfect to get a bit of exercise in while housebound. 

2. Watching the movies of my teen years. (I have admittedly done a bit of this!) I’m thinking Fried Green Tomatoes, Steel Magnolias, Gross Point Blanc and High Fidelity. Most of them hold up surprisingly well.

3. Reading. I am addicted to Robin Hobbs’ fantasy series and I have to ration out her books because when I start them I abandon all other commitments in my life. My poor children have to fend for themselves and eat toast for dinner because I can’t stop until I’ve finished the book.

4. This is a great time to lose yourself in a book series so find what you’re into and order some books from our independent bookshops who have had to close and are struggling. I suggest, The Gutter Bookshop, Books Upstairs, Chapters and Kennys. 

5. Baking. Again I have been doing a good bit of this, but it was because I ate all the St Patrick’s day sweets so I had to panic make sweets to throw at my children the next day. You cannot go wrong with any recipe by the Australian Women’s Weekly

6. Meditation videos on YouTube (I have four children in my house so I cannot imagine being able to do this, so do it for me if you can). How blissful to listen to the sound of the sea and whale noise while someone with a soothing voice tells me everything is going to be ok. Get on it!

7. Being creative. At the moment all my creative output is to survive. I’m writing to make money to feed my family and I’m making stuff to sell to people to make money but I’d love some time to just create without the need to make money. Pick up a pen or pencil and just draw what you see. Art is never wrong. 

8. Baths. Fill a bath with bubbles, put on a smelly candle and relax. Bliss!

9. Internet shopping. I do love an ol’ browse online and with so many businesses having to shut up their physical shops now is a great time to be supporting local creators.

10. Write a letter to someone you love. Letters are back in fashion now that we all have to social distance. Draw on the letter, colour it in, pop it in the post, hopefully get some nice mail back. 

And finally… a comforting playlist by Louise Bruton

Main image credit: Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash


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