Trying to get better at life – Monthly Missive – April 2024

Trying to get better at life – Monthly Missive – April 2024

I’m here today with Penfriend’s monthly missive #1: a mini-essay on my latest attempt to get better at life, an audiovisual celebration of saltwater and the wind in my hair, some dates for your diary, music, book and TV recommendations plus 15 songs I love.

But first, an invitation: next Wednesday 1st May I’ll be playing a FREE online gig starting at 8pm UK time.

Over the years several recurring themes have arisen in my songwriting, so “She Sings Sea Songs” will bring together (almost) all my sea-referencing songs. 

Sailor’s hats are optional, hearty singalongs are encouraged. See you there?

ICYMI – things I shared in April

1. I shared the music video for “Seashaken” this month, shot on the North Frisian island of Sylt at the beginning of March. Yes, it was very cold on that empty beach!

It feels so good to have finally put visuals to the music, and I no longer have to feel annoyed with myself for waiting so long to get round to it. In a world where we’re conditioned to think that 700 views on a video in 4 days is a big failure, I’m very thankful for every person who takes the time to join me in the “Seashaken” bubble.

2. “Why I’m not pretending to be perfect and amazing” – trying out a different version of my a capella vocal loops song “Delete” for my latest livestream via a brief discussion of perfection and being a flawed human 

3. April marked the 12th and 8th birthdays of “Little Battles” and “Direction Of Travel” respectively, so I spent an afternoon setting up a deluxe audiovisual listening party and it was a joyful experience. Watch it back here.

4. In related news, the theme for April’s online gig was “Direction Of Battles” – an amalgamation of “Little Battles” and “Direction Of Travel” to celebrate both album birthdays. The limited digital release of the gig has now disappeared into the digital ether, but the gig is available to watch here.

5. April was a month of big change here at Penfriend HQ, so before I cancelled 235 recurring payments I asked myself “Is this a stupid thing to do?” 

With love from The Correspondent’s Club 🖤

April was the first month of The Correspondent’s Club on Patreon. After five years of DIY-ing it we moved to a trusted platform that has continually impressed me as a supporter of other artists on there.

Huge thanks to all the OCs (Original Correspondents) who made the leap with me, and warmest of welcomes to all the new Correspondents too!

(Thank goodness it turned out NOT to be a stupid thing to do!)

This month, members received:

  1. TCC #015 – an 8-track members only experience + 24 page zine. My personal highlight of this new art and music bundle is a new recording of “I Deny”, a song I demoed in my flat above a cafe in East Dulwich in 2005!

    Preview the new bundle here.

  2. An invitation to the Patreon launch party Zoom, where a white tiger played the acoustic guitar and I showed everyone the new album song list scrawled on my whiteboard – full video replay available here.

  3. Phone lock screens in four different colours featuring the new TCC logo! WHY NOT EH

Penfriend’s Picks

  1. Book: “The Chain” by Chimene Suleyman
  2. TV series: “Baby Reindeer” (Netflix)
  3. Album: “Wall Of Eyes” by The Smile (keep reading for this month’s playlist)

How it’s (really) going

Earlier this week I listened to an excellent podcast episode on the importance of muscle mass for longevity. I am taking many useful tips away from it, but one thing they said really stood out to me: we’re not exercising to get better at exercise, we’re exercising to get better at life.

It reminded me of the quote I try to keep in mind whenever I talk myself into setting aside 10 minutes per day to meditate: I don’t meditate to get good at meditating, I meditate to have a better day.

Getting better at life is something I think a lot about, read a lot about and listen to a lot of podcasts about.

It’s why I’m sitting here in Blackpool, sipping coffee and looking at the sea. My dear friend Jane Claire Bradley – poet, novelist, therapist and all-round superstar human – performed at Blackpool Central Library on Tuesday for World Book Night, celebrating the paperback launch of her beautiful debut novel “Dear Neighbour” – available here.

I was due a trip to the North West, so we arranged to stay on together after her performance for a proper catchup and some co-working slash life and career planning with someone smart to bounce ideas off. It was so helpful to create space specifically for that, away from my usual surroundings and distractions, and I’m feeling much clearer about what my plans are for the rest of 2024. Thanks, Jane!

The time spent squinting at calendars and notebooks yesterday has led to this very email – this “Monthly Missive” series is one of a few ideas that have languished on my To Do list for many moons. After a morning of seeing the sights here by the sea, I’m setting off for home galvanised and enthusiastic about making my next batch of ideas a reality.

Before heading up to Blackpool I spent a day and a night with my Gran at the house she’s lived in for 34 years. I slept in the bed I slept in as a little kid, stood in the garden I roller-skated in after picking up cheap skates at the car boot sale in the mid-90s. Everything seemed huge to me, then, and now it’s normal size.

This house is more familiar to me than any other relative’s home. But I didn’t think I’d ever see her there again.

Last summer we nearly lost her, and she’s been in and out of hospital ever since. She’s a trooper. She’s a marvel. And now she’s getting used to her new normal: she’s pretty mobile, still, but with carers checking in four times per day, a stairlift to whoosh upstairs on and walking frames kept within arm’s length.

I was relieved to see how steady she is – falls being a big worry for us – and we were able to take a trip out to the local shopping centre for sausage rolls and a detailed perusal of the homeware aisles of TK Maxx. It was delightful, and I now possess two delicious scented candles, a window cleaning scraper thing, a fridge organiser and some gold heart earrings. I refused to let Gran pay, so she stuffed a twenty pound note into my hand as I left. Thanks, Gran!

As I drove away from her house on Tuesday, waving in the rear view mirror, I started listening to the aforementioned podcast, recommended by my PT. She recently started sending me links to information on midlife hormonal fluctuations and how strength training and supplements (turmeric, magnesium, Vitamin D, oh my!) can build and maintain vitality. It’s brand new information for me, and it’s important.

I turn 43 on 1st June, and I feel absolutely fine about that. But I have, just recently, begun to take my health more seriously, and taking a longer term view of things. The phrase “I can’t be bothered to go to the gym” still pops into my mind regularly, but I’m more aware than ever that fulfilling my responsibilities to my body now will pay dividends in the future.

I remember being impressed with my Gran’s mobility when she was in her 70s, but I didn’t connect that thought to anything I was doing for my own health at the time. I presumed some people were lucky with their bodies and some people were unlucky – and that’s certainly true in a lot of situations – but the more I read and watch and listen to information about preventable health issues, the more I resolve to take as much into my own hands as possible on that front.

My super Gran is a huge inspiration, but I’m not willing to leave my future mobility completely to chance. However much I feel I have to get done, I am resolving to put my health first every day.

As I sit typing these words, Blackpool Tower rising up to my left, the North pier to my right and the comedy carpet in the middle, I am feeling grateful for my luck, and determined to keep putting in the reps to get better at life.

I truly hope this first Monthly Missive finds you well.

Laura xxx

EDIT 26/4/24 – 10 minutes after publishing this post yesterday I found out that Gran had fallen in her kitchen and was in an ambulance headed for A&E. Luckily I was still only an hour away, so I went to join her and my cousin while she waited for a scan. Her fractured hip (her second in 9 months) is being operated on today – thank you thank you THANK YOU NHS staff xxx

Dates for your diary

Monday 29th April – London – Brittain Ashford at The Green Note
A duo show with my friend and musical collaborator Jay Chakravorty
(I am not performing or attending, just recommending!)

Wednesday 1st May – online – “She Sings Sea Songs”
FREE online gig, 8pm UK time
Set reminder / watch / watch later

Friday 10th May – online – The Empty Page release their second album “Imploding”
I for one am excited about this! 
Pre-order here.

Tuesday 21st May – “Exotic Monsters” turns 3

13th-22nd June – around the UK – Carol Hodge + Julia Othmer present The Selenite Songs Tour
Get tickets
(I am not performing, just recommending!)

Penfriend’s Playlist – April 2024

Track listing + links to Bandcamp or band websites

1. Seventeen – Penfriend (from my 2021 album “Exotic Monsters”)
2. What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Paranoid – The Beaches
3. A Scream – Charley Stone
4. Dry Ice – The Empty Page
5. Invocation – Killing Joke
6. The Beast – Modern Coven
7. Dancing With Ghosts – Hania Rani + Patrick Watson
8. Seashaken – Penfriend (from my 2021 album “Exotic Monsters”)
9. Adult Swim – Ruby Waters
10. Rill Bill – Sleigh Bells
11. There Should Be Unicorns – The Flaming Lips
12. Moscow – Brittain Ashford
13. Milk – Abby Sage
14. W.I.F.I. (Upper) – Wildermiss
15. Under Our Pillows – The Smile

Over to you – what songs / videos / links have you enjoyed lately? Share them in the comments below xo


I’m proud and very thankful to be a fully fan-funded artist, so if you’d like to stay involved and continue to support the making of new music, writing and videos:

🎁 Get your FREE 12-track album + 31-page PDF zine of stories, photographs and artwork here.

❤️ Get immediate access to my entire digital archive (close to 200 tracks!) plus additional ongoing Member Perks by joining The Correspondent’s Club on Patreon!

🎸 Listen to my latest solo album “Exotic Monsters” and browse my back catalogue.

🎥 Watch my videos for adventures in sound & songwriting.

💬 Chat with me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

See you soon xo

Share this:
Letterbox Monthly Missives


  1. Marc Williams says:

    I am excited to listen to the new St Vincent record tonight as it arrived in the post this morning, i have also been listening to the This Could Be Texas from English Teacher and feeding my new obsession with the work of Peter Broderick by listening to his Arthur Russell tower of meaning expanded record.

  2. Kevin Cunniffe says:

    Just back from 10 days travelling around Europe on trains visiting Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna and a night in Zurich. Zurich to Derby yesterday in about 12 hours via TGV and Eurostar.

    Yesterday my download of Willson Williams dropped (Dan Willson aka Withered Hand and Kathryn Williams) but I have not had chance to listen yet. On Bandcamp Friday I bought John Moreland / Visitor. I love a couple of his albums from a few years back and this one got a good review and I liked the couple of tracks I got a chance to hear. It is z good few years since I saw him at Union Chapel.

  3. Julia Georgiou says:

    I’ve been listening and buying (cos supporting folk is important) Con & Milsky, Faeland and Prima Queen.
    As we head off to holidays and some overseas work, I’ve pre loaded the phone with all the music I’ll need, inc lots of SMW and Penfriend of course!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *