March 2, 2020

Introducing… alonement

Alonement is a podcast dedicated to the most important relationship you will ever have: your relationship with yourself. Host Francesca Specter speaks to interviewees from Alain de Botton to Poorna Bell about the time they spend alone, and why it matters.

 

March 13, 2020

Alain de Botton

Hello, and welcome to the debut episode of the alonement podcast! The show got off to a flying start when Alain de Botton kindly agreed to be my first guest – a brilliant (if not a little daunting) beginning.

I was soon reassured upon arriving at Alain’s office in north London. In person, the philosopher, author and School of Life founder is every bit as quick-witted and articulate as those innumerate YouTube videos would suggest – but with a base note of light-hearted humour.

A lesser-known fact I learned about Alain is that his surname, de Botton (of Sephardic Jewish origin), coincidentally translates to ‘ordinary’ in Korean, meaning he goes by the nickname ‘Mr Ordinary’ among his many, many fans at the School of Life's Seoul branch. As Alain’s dedicated global fanbase will know, he is anything but ordinary. Yet, what IS apt about this nickname is that it acknowledges Alain’s versatility; his ability to respond with a gentle, yet incredibly insightful, wisdom to almost any topic you introduce – like a tennis player with a knack for drop shots.

During our conversation, we talked about everything from Bridget Jones to the benefits of takeaway curry (honestly), with wider discussions on how to develop greater self-knowledge, how to find the right romantic partner, and the all-important difference between being alone and loneliness.

What I most enjoyed about our conversation was Alain’s suggestion that we need to make the state of being alone ‘glamorous’. In this, he identified something central to the alonement concept, which is demonstrating that alone time – done correctly – is something empowering and aspirational, rather than the painfully negative connotations typically associated with being alone.

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Thinking & Eating, written by the team at the School of Life and referenced in this episode, is now available to buy here.

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Contact: press@alonement.com

March 20, 2020

Jada Sezer

If there’s one thing Jada, a body-positive model and UN Women ambassador stands for, it’s empowerment – and that quality radiated from her like sunshine throughout this recording. 

By the time she arrived at my flat at 10am – looking characteristically gorgeous – she had already appeared on national news to promote body diversity in advertising. The day before, she’d qualified for a motorcycle licence. Despite this (and, I later learned, not even having eaten breakfast), she proved fiercely intelligent – showing off the fruits of her MA in Child Psychotherapy – inspiring and positive. ‘Don’t worry.  I don’t get hangry!’ she reassured me during the interview. She’s certainly a better woman than me. 

Think the most confident, popular girl at school – but, with it all, incredibly nice, patiently bearing with me when a memory card surrendered mid-way through our recording. During our conversation, we discussed the importance of valuing the time you spend out of a romantic relationship – a period she describes as ‘one of the best times for figuring out who I was, and who I am, and what I love’ – together with how to set healthy boundaries with a new partner. We also discussed the brilliance of Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel, together with our shared wanderlust for Japan (where Jada made a life-changing solo trip!). 

I left this recording feeling hugely inspired by Jada’s strong, independent attitude. I’d love to hear what you think – get in touch in the reviews section below!

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P.s. The podcast we reference is ‘Where Should We Begin’ by the ever-fabulous Esther Perel.

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March 27, 2020

Jo Good

Meet Jo Good, the original poster girl for alonement. You’ll likely know Jo as the chatty BBC Radio London talk show host who can – and does – talk for hours a day about everything under the sun for a living. Yet – Jo, a former actress, is also a paradox because, despite her public persona, she most adores time alone when she’s not talking to anyone.

Living in a flat in Marylebone with her bulldog Matilda, Jo leads a lifestyle which, in her own words, ‘goes against the tide’. Jo leads a hectic lifestyle, which involves hosting her radio show Monday to Friday, together with a podcast, ‘Dogs in the City’, and last but not least starring in twice-weekly blogs for her Middle Aged Minx YouTube channel. 

Yet, in the gaps between her work engagements, Jo ‘goes to earth’ – a phrase she uses to describe spending time in her flat, without seeing another human, and recharging before she faces the world again.

Jo and I talk about her experience of losing her partner, late radio presenter Big George; her decision not to have children; her handy trick for leaving parties early and the stigma surrounding being alone during certain times of the year, like New Year’s Eve.

It took just over an hour for Jo to become one of my all-time favourite interviewees. She’s a true role model when it comes to living a life less ordinary – a fascinating person who lives life on her own terms while bringing so much joy to many others.

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April 3, 2020

Alice Liveing

Alice Liveing is a part-time personal trainer, part-time superhero. A three-time bestselling author, she’s a woman on a mission to change our idea of what strength looks like, hosting a podcast of her own, Give Me Strength, where she chats to everyone from Olympians to glossy magazine editors about what their idea of strength looks like. 

I’ve followed Alice on Instagram for years, where she shares brilliant workout videos combined with thorough explanations and positive mantras. In person, I found her every bit as sunny and approachable as her social media presence suggests. During the recording of this episode, Alice radically changed the way I think about self care – I loved her suggestion that sometimes self care is just getting out of bed in the morning, a notion I’m sure many of us can relate to. Our conversation ranged from the benefits of exercising alone to the important issue of domestic violence, something Alice herself has experienced first-hand.

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Alice is an ambassador for Women’s Aid, a charity which aims to end domestic violence against women and children. For those looking for further information and support, visit the Women’s Aid website on womensaid.org.uk.

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Twitter: @ChezSpecter @aliceliveing_

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Instagram @ChezSpecter @alonementofficial @aliceliveing

April 10, 2020

Derek Owusu

In this week’s episode, I interview one of the most exciting debut authors of the moment – Derek Owusu, the first novelist to sign with Stormzy's publishing imprint, Merky Books. We discuss the role of identity in Derek's writing – which is heavily inspired by his own life – and the difficulty he faces when separating his own emotions and experiences and that of his characters in his debut novel, ‘That Reminds Me’. Derek is committed to bringing so-called taboo subjects to light, and in this episode we cover important issues such as growing up in foster care, self-harm and mental health. Derek also opens up about his struggle with borderline personality disorder – a high-stigmatised, underreported and complex condition affecting a predicted 7 in 1,000 people in the UK, according to The GuardianIf you are affected by any of the self-harm or suicide-related issues discussed in this podcast episode, contact the Samaritans at Samaritans.org or call their free hotline on 116 123. 

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Derek Owusu’s debut novel, ‘That Reminds Me, is available to buy now on Amazon.

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Follow @ChezSpecter on Instagram and Twitter, @alonementofficial on Instagram.

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Learn more about alonement on alonement.com.

April 17, 2020

Poorna Bell

From the word go, Poorna Bell was one of my DREAM guests for the podcast  – so I was a little bit delighted when she agreed to be on series one. 

We recorded this episode back in February, before Covid-19 worries really hit the UK, yet our conversation will resonate for anyone learning to value their alone time right now. 

Poorna shares how she discovered her need for time alone, with her thoughts, after her husband, Rob, died by suicide in 2015. She describes her life-changing solo travels – which she chronicles beautifully in her book, ‘In Search of Silence’ – and we weigh up Emma's Watson's polarising ‘self-partnered’ term. 

We also discuss the pitfalls of workplace culture and open plan offices – rather fitting for right now, when we’re all working from home. 

Poorna’s sensitivity, emotional intelligence and humour are the qualities that have always drawn me to her writing – and they shine through in this episode. I hope you enjoy it! 

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Enjoy this episode? Please do leave a written review – it makes all the difference to help others discover the show. 

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Poorna’s book, ‘In Search of Silence’, is available to order online from Amazon and from all good book stores. 

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Twitter: @ChezSpecter @PoornaBell 

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Instagram: @ChezSpecter @PoornaBell 

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Learn more about Alonement on www.alonement.com

How will we live and spend time alone after COVID-19? I interview Eric Klinenberg, sociologist and author of 'Going Solo', about how our attitudes towards solitude might shift in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. What are the unique challenges towards valuing alone time in an age of social distancing? How will our romantic relationships change? Will companies push their employees towards remote home-working? And will it now be harder than ever to differentiate between alone and lonely? These are all questions we discuss in this special, timely episode of the Alonement podcast.

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Eric Klinenberg’s book, ‘Going Solo’, is available to order online from Amazon and from all good bookshops. You can also buy his latest book, ‘Palaces for the People’.

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Twitter: @ChezSpecter @EricKlinenberg

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Instagram: @ChezSpecter @alonementofficial

It’s official: scientists are the new celebrities – which is why I’m so delighted to have one as my remote guest for the second special COVID-19 episode of the Alonement podcast.

 

British-born nanotechnologist Dr Michelle Dickinson, a long-term friend to Jacinda Ardern, has been working with New Zealand’s Prime Minister to help communicate the science behind COVID-19 to the public.

 

Day to day, Michelle runs Nanogirl’s Lab – under her alter-ego of Nanogirl – to teach children STEM skills. Self-identifying as ‘a weird socially-awkward introvert’, Michelle has nevertheless established herself as a household name and shared with me how she has harnessed her quiet superpowers in order to effectively communicate the science behind the COVID-19 virus to the public.

 

Michelle is also, believe it or not, loving lockdown: an opinion that has been whispered by some introverts over the past few weeks. Despite this – she also speaks about the huge toll that the health crisis is taking on the public’s mental health, and why it’s important to her to communicate the psychological toll on those feeling scared and alone at this time.

 

Whether you’re an introvert, an extrovert, or you haven’t made your mind up yet, I hope you find our conversation just as fascinating and eye-opening as I did.

 

Did you enjoy this episode? Let me know what you think with a written review on Apple Podcasts. You can also get in touch on press@alonement.com.

 

Twitter: @ChezSpecter @medickinson

Instagram: @ChezSpecter @alonementofficial @medickinson

May 8, 2020

Alexandra Shulman

One of the great perks of recording this podcast is the chance to chat to some of my career idols. This week’s guest, former British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman, is not only someone I’ve looked up to for years, but also my former boss. I began my career as a Vogue intern – where I picked up many of the skills that have seen me through my journalistic jobs, and got to see Alexandra – the longest-standing editor in Vogue’s history – in action.

In this episode, Alexandra reveals how her natural independence of thought and unflappability helped her succeed as a leader – ‘I’ve always had opinions’. She also shares honest anecdotes from her time at the magazine’s helm, including the time she got tongue-tied while sitting opposite Benedict Cumberbatch on a plane. It’s an anecdote about as far from The Devil Wears Prada – a film based on her US counterpart – as you can get.

We discuss everything from the myth of ‘having it all’ and single parenting to the role clothing plays in influencing your sense of self – a key topic at the heart of Alexandra’s latest book, ‘Clothes… and Other Things That Matter’ – available now on Amazon.

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Instagram: @chezspecter @alonementofficial @alexandrashulman

Twitter: @chezspecter @AShulman2

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