16 December, 2012

Come all Ye Unfaithful, are we Christmas Hypocrites?

And so it has begun. The season to be jolly. Fa la la la la et al will be upon our doorsteps before we know it and God help you if you've not decked your halls, wrapped your presents and girded your loins before December 24th-ish. I mean really, God help you - it's his fault Christmas exists, he could at least pitch in. Usually he slopes off after midnight mass on Christmas eve, chomping on a mince pie, and doesn't reappear until at least after New Year whence the commotion is over and he can just place himself nicely in the occasional post-Christmas prayer and munch on cold turkey. Without wanting to point fingers, haven't some of the world's largest natural disasters taken place on Boxing Day? Read; God was off that week.

Essentially, what originated as an 'annual commemoration' of the birth of Jesus, has swiftly become about something else. That isn't to say it has lost meaning, in fact I would say quite the opposite. What Christmas has developed into isn't so discriminatory as the concept of religion, but a concept that one and all can get involved in. Even those sinful gays and abhorrent left-handed people ('The right hand of the Lord doeth violently, the left hand of the Lord is exalted' - Psalm 118, v 15) can join in, now that Christmas doesn't present itself soully under the guise of a religious hols.

Whether it be the fault of God's evident Yuletide laziness (gone are the 6 days of hard-graft creating on a universal scale) or the fault of humankinds sheer obsession with consumimng all that there is and more - Consumerism Vs Christmas Spirit is a whole other blog post - the bottom line is Christmas really has lost it's merry way.

Hands up who 'does' Christmas (this can be anything from inadvertently catching a whiff of mince pie, to the full scale song and dance that is known as the Rock Around the Christmas Tree, decorations, presents, Turkey, puddings, the Queens Speech and Gavin & Stacey repeats)? Probably a large majority of people reading this 'do' Christmas in some form or another.

How many of those people, then, have ever been to midnight mass? Ever given a nod to the good Lord during your celebrations on the 25th? Ever actually, truly believed in the biblical tale of Jesus, Mary and the various people with tea-towels on their heads? I haven't and am not religious (or athiest for that matter, I'm a spiritual in-betweener). I knew it when I was 4 and wouldn't go to Bethlehem in the school nativity. I was aware it wasn't all quite true and I was not willing to partake...

It isn't the most revolutionary of musings but it sits uncomfortably with me that Christmas isn't really about what it's really about anymore. As observed, I am not religious (while I am not for one second a cynic and believe in the Tooth Fairy given enough hard evidence) as religion has for me always felt a little cult-ish (that said cult-ish) and rather unforgiving. Quite frankly I refuse to believe that anyone could have existed with such long flowing locks as the Lord Jesus supposedly did in an age pre-GHD's.

However I think therefore I am a hypocrite as I invest in one of the biggest of Christian holidays. And not just a little bit, I invest in Christmas to an extreme degree, regardless of my lack of 100% belief in it's roots. Christmas is basically my life's worth. I have spent all year asking my boyfriend how long until Christmas. Elf was based on me. At Christmas, I am cutting myself an extremely large slab of the festive pie but not really eating it...I am just doing it because it is fun and loving and exciting. As ecstatic as I am about Christmas and all it entails, is that really okay? Am I a hypocrite? Like those people who only step in to a church for the first time in their life when they decide to get married before a God they never believed in?

I have decided probably not (phew!)

My Christmas isn't really about Jesus' birthday, if I am honest, but it is about something that means a lot to me. Christmas is the one theme of the year that I dedicate over 10% of my annual allowance of time to (approx 36.5 days including prep and come-down), 25% of my annual leave from work and 100% of my savings,  however I will not invest my faith and thus my Christmas ultimately remains Godless. My Christmas is, though, about; my family, giving and receiving presents, sleep, food and catching a panto with the girls. That's it. I do get into the yuletide spirit (I am quite spiritual, so this is a brother of religion with whom I can converse) in as much as I go carol singing on Christmas Eve and I love the idea of Baby Jesus in his cosy little manger. Man, I wish I had a manger. Yet I love this spiritual side of Christmas in the same way that I love Cadburys World - it just makes me warm inside and I am likely to come out of it with free stuff and Chocolate will be there.

After Mulling it over, I have concluded that Christmas doesn't actually have to be about the concepts published in one The Bible some 2,000 years ago - times have changed and so has Crimbo. Christmas has progressed from it's roots as a religious celebration and become more of a general spirit, a mood, a culture. We have stolen a Christian thing and made it fit us. Yet it prevails in a positive manner, still promotes some really good, solid, meaningful values and it is one-size-fits-all to boot. Yes, oh left-handed pen holders, get back in here and grab your Turkey with whichever hand you please!

If Christmas is basically about being merry and bringing people together, in whatever capacity that may bring, then even though you might not be going to mass or thinking of Jesus or thanking him for all that he did for us, if you are are investing in the Christmas spirit and spreading a little cheer, then I think you're doing Christmas in a way that no-one can be anything other than okay with.

As you were.

*This does not include Santa. I firmly believe in Santa and as Elf (2003) proves, Santa is wholly and wonderfully real.

18 November, 2012

Officially off the Fence: My First Football Match

For someone with an opinion on Justin Bieber's fringe (a tad too thick to be affective), I've always been surprisingly indifferent where football is concerned. I'm certainly not what one would call a fan, but I'm happy to give it a turn every now and then. To me, football is that jumper that you're not really bothered about but sometimes it's the only one that will go with what you're wearing and so you put it on and you don't mind wearing it, hell you may even find it cosy, but really you know its a never going to get promoted into the 'regular jumper draw' and it's outings are probably no more than bi-annual. That's my relationship with football.

When it suits me I am more than happy to get involved in some good old-fashioned hooliganism, chanting with the best of them, hiding behind my hat when the opposition scores, squealing with delight during triumphant moments and panicking when cauliflower-eared strikers miss a penalty for the nth time. Usually you will find me partaking in all of the above activities when: it is the World Cup post-1996, I am watching out of support of my fella and his keen interest, or on very rare occasions my competitive side happens to be facing the right way to glimpse a random 2nd league game and decides it cannot stop watching until we know for sure that Aldershot have lost and Barnsley will not be relegated. On those occasions I am THERE. And I like to think I make a damn good supporter. All it takes to be a ‘good supporter’ is a loud voice, the ability to jump up and down on queue and a low to medium level of interest in what's happening on the field (even if that interest is just in, say, the wonderfully straight lines that have been mowed).

This Saturday however, my career as a person-who-is-mildly-interested-in-football-but-isnt-that-fussed took a massive dive. UPWARDS. If gravity did not exist and diving UPWARDS were possible, thats what happened to me this weekend. Right into the deep end of football. My chap took me to my very first ever Real Live in a Stadium Surrounded by Yobs Freezing our Tits off Football game AND I LOVED IT! Holy haribo it was good. Not a crackle of frost could cool my spirits as the day progressed into a bit of an adventure to one of the most memorable Saturdays of my LIFE. It's not often I can endure 2 hours of freezing cold without complaining but you have it on good merit I did not complain once. Certainly not twice anyway.

The day began with a walk to the train station and as we got closer my little feet gained haste until I was borderline galloping onto the platform, train picnic back bashing against my knees as we excitedly skipped along.  'pon the train we chowed down on pre-game snacks - sympathy snacks for those playing and also because I didn't know what level of edibility to expect from the quality of half-time pie I’d been promised. We were going to watch Rotherham play Cheltenham ('starting at the top' as my Dad put it) so off we went to the rather classy and new-fangled Rotherham football stadium. Also known as New York stadium. There is something awesome about the fact Rotherham’s football stadium is posing as New York’s and it is getting away with it. This in itself was enough for me.

En route to and inside the stadium, it was everything I hoped it would be. Police warily lining the streets, bald headed men in striped scarves staggering along to take their pew after a few too many pre-match beers, 3 generations from one family hurrying to watch as Grandad and Grandson chanted in unison, freezing cold seats that iced your buns on impact and a mob of lads sat behind us saying things like 'If you were the LAST PEOPLE in the world, like the LAST people though, would you sleep with your Mum?' (True quote. The answer being 'I know my Mum is fit, but I wouldn't'). I felt like a 10 year old boy featuring in a book by Nick Hornby.

Freezing in our seats but having the BEST TIME!
I grabbed a hot drink and Gareth's hand, settled in for the game and squealed with delight the second the 'real live footballers' came jogging onto the pitch to cheering and started girding their loins. Knee-ups and star-jumps filled the field, while a team of 8 or so Rotherham girls cheered on the sidelines, Red and White pom poms bouncing up and down. A surreal moment ensued when what appeared to be a mini wrestling match took place in the far corner of the pitch - not an audience kerfuffle as one might presume, but an actual weird 2 minute wrestling match complete with commentator and an introduction of each opponent via megaphone (each of which was met with the most bemused silence across the whole stadium, a bit awkward to say the least). The wrestling involved about 3 punches thrown, one man launched onto his back followed by the launcher sitting on the launchee. Wiith that oddity over it was time for the REAL battle to commence.

Once the game started I was captivated. It was 1-1 within the first 3 minutes and I was enlightened to just how entertaining live football could be. Who'd have thought this multi billion pound industry was so worthwhile. I yelled at CTFC to 'come on chaps!', I jumped up off my seat, jeering at Rotherham when we scored, jeering at Rotherham when they scored, I sighed and roared and yodled my way through the game like a one-woman jungle. Competitive sincerity combined with childlike excitement, I was the definition of supportive. I ate my Pukka Pie, I stamped my feet to stay warm, I told the lads just 'sort it out fellas' when their defense proved poor. I may have been OTT and clapped my hands like a seal whenever the ball flew up 'into the audience', but I was having so much fun. At a football match! I was a LAD!

Home time came all too quickly, and I felt a little sad as we traipsed out of the stadium, forlorn at our 4-2 loss but rosy cheeked and sparkly eyed nonetheless. I didn’t want to leave. I even hung about in the ladies lavs waiting for everyone else to leave first, huddling under the hand dryer for warmth. Needless to say I had a fantastic time and I definitely want to go again. My stance has changed to 'a person-who-is-mildly-interested-in-football-but-really-interested-in-going-to-see-it-live-and-might-pick-a-team-next-season', and I am happy about it. I have moved off the fence into firm 'football is pretty cool' territory. Oooh risque. This could be a threat to the rest of my character, but ultimately sits better with me - I don't generally enjoy perching on fences.

However, do I have the staying power to be a fully-fledged FAN? To dedicate hours of my life to a team of 11 shortly-shorted men running within a grassy grid on a cold winters day, chasing a ball to the soundtrack of derogatory chants and the view of a fat, suited man chewing gum at the speed of light while gesturing wildly to his team to 'GET THE BALL! GET THE BALL!' (years of training and a 50 grand pay scale just to reach this level of specialist advise)? Actually, I do. And this is why I CANNOT continue down this road.

I wish I could, because football fan-ism appears to be a slippery and wonderful slope. It's the big kids flume at any local swimming pool. Give me a few goes and like the 16 year old who accepts that 'one puff' from their friend in the park and swiftly becomes that 40 year old chain-smoker, I'd be hooked.  I would never be a good football fan, because I just can't do things by half. It would take over my whole existence.

Gone would be my Saturday afternoons in the warmth of my kitchen in my Cath Kidston, sacrificed for hour upon hour in cold football stands in a fleece, clutching a flask in a hope the feeling would stay in my toes until at least half-time. Banished would be my pretty dresses  in place of endless club t-shirts, organised by year and worn by none. Nonchalant trips to town would be something of the past as my neck strained for a screen in every pub, comet and ELC.  My bank balance would be murdered red by the much sought after season ticket. My friends would be replaced with miniature footballer dolls and in place of my real life boyfriend I'd have Theo Walcott, Jermaine Defoe and the Neville family at the table for dinner. My photo frames would be swiftly replaced with football memorabilia and i'd sell everything I owned to hoard merchandise. Worst of all, I'd have to find a new conversation-starter beyond 'so, can you explain the off-side rule/' which currently works as a fantastic filler in any given tumbleweed moment.

This is what would happen if I became a football fan because it is JUST TOO MUCH! So while I will continue to support England (both in football and in life) and if another casual trip to the footy comes up i'll be the first on the train (i’d even buy my own ticket), for now I am leaving the real fan-ism to the likes of my Dad and boyfriend and people who can handle the sheer excitement, to support their teams in an orderly fashion, and I’ll stick to more calming tasks like organising my spice rack.

09 November, 2012

Final Word of Self-defense: Don't like social media? Don't be on it.

"A social network service is an online service, platform, or site that focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, e.g., who share interests and/or activities."

SHARE being the operative word. Social networking sites were designed for sharing. There are no limits within that provided no-one else is getting hurt/you aren't breaking any laws. #hashtags, tagging, comments and Likes are all a part of how social media has evolved, and people should be able to use them ON THESE SITES freely and without judgement.

If you don't like people sharing their lives, don't be on a SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE. Instead of criticising people who do use them so actively, maybe think about why they use them.
I personally use them a lot for two big reasons.

# 1. Loneliness. I don't have many friends around me. Nearly all my good friends have left the city I live in and at times I spend a lot of time on my own. Being a very sharing, interactive person by nature, I use Facebook and Twitter a lot to communicate (with those people and others) and share things I might normally share with someone if they were stood right next to me. YES, I get lonely, actually. And I am not ashamed to admit that. Just because actually I DON'T publicly tell everyone when I am going through a hard time, doesn't mean I am not. 

Maybe if if you see someone like me sharing a lot online, maybe they are lonely too? I have always found social networking hugely beneficial to me for keeping in touch with my friends who are in London, Manchester,  Leeds, Australia  France, Bahrain...I miss them, and I want to share my life with them and they are not here. So sorry, but I might just choose to update my Facebook instead. Sometimes I want someone to tell me that my new hair that I am unsure of looks nice or to show them something amazing I have seen - why shouldn't I use Twitter and Facebook to do that? Still feel the need to crisitise? Oddly, I have found my Twitter followers to be THE most supportive people when I share my trials and tribulations and so I will not shy away from speaking to them just because you have an issue with it.

# 2. IT IS MY CAREER. It may not be the most meaningful of jobs, but digital marketing is something I fell into and enjoy and generally if people work in a certain industry, elements of it will fall into their personal lives. For me that is 24/7 use of social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram). I actually first set up a Twitter account in 2009 because it was the first thing my manager at the digital marketing agency told me to do. I hated it for 6 months, then one day I fell in love with it. I love the POSITIVITY it brings, people sharing the positives of their lives, and the funny stories you wouldn't otherwise hear, hearing the news as it happens, seeing amazing things happen thousands of miles away all because someone has uploaded a photo onto Twitter. I HAVE to use twitter and Facebook 24/7 for my work and so of course I am in the habit of using it a hell of  alot and goddamit I enjoy it. For the reasons just outlined. So shoot me.

I woke up in the best mood in the world this morning and that is a mood I worked hard all week for. No screw that, I have worked hard for YEARS for. I spent years working in tough jobs for crap pay before I fell into one that makes me happy, sorry would you rather I didn't share that info? I have busted a gut running like crazy at various times of day to gain body confidence after years of low-self esteem and eating disorders. So I am SORRY if you don't like my Nike Plus app telling you I just ran some miles - it motivates me to share my achievements and makes me work harder. If you don't want to see my achievements, don't look at my page.

I have worked my ass off to become a good, happy person and I am proud of my life and of the person I have grown into. And I DO want to share that with the world. If you woke up in a bad mood today, and felt the need to judge or criticise people like me for over-sharing or using Faebook and Twitter in the 'wrong' way, then maybe (just maybe) you didn't work hard for those things I so actively share now and THAT'S why you cant bear to see them. Maybe?

I don't usually react to critisicm and many many times in this situation I have taken the high road of silence - knowing I am a good and happy person, and those who criticise me probably are not. But you know what? I am human. And today I snapped.

Don't criticise someone before you know their story, be accepting and kind because everyone is fighting their own battle. 


04 November, 2012

Fireworks: When Inspiration Becomes Imitation

Last night was Fireworks night and I was watching X Factor. Its not often I do so these days, but for old times sake I pulled up a sofa-sized pew, barricaded myself in the living room and hid within a fort of high-carbohyrdate snacks watching the most debatable show on our Saturday night screens. X Factor is an awful crime against real music, it’s manufactured and it's hideously transparent but I do enjoy watching Nicole Scherzinger scanfor rhubarb yoghurt in Asda, fleece and all. Who doesn’t want to see that! (See 2010 post for more on this argument).

As always I was tweeting away like India Knight on speed for much of the 2 hours and I had plenty to say. Isn’t Ella fantastic, what has Louis done to yet another poor ‘boy band’ and doesn’t everyone wish Kye Sones was their chimney sweep mate? I averaged a tweet a minute and didn’t even bother with the #xfactor tag. MENTAL. Going back to Kye Sones though, it was a tweet (aka ‘thought’) about him that stuck. Yes there was one real, intelligent notion formed in my head during the X Factor marathon, one that reigned supreme through all the crap and subconsciously burned on through the night, with such strength that my first waking reflection today was: “It really annoyed me that Kye Sones was imitating Robbie Williams during his performance last night”.

It really annoyed me that Kye Sones was imitating Robbie Williams during his performance last night. And I wasn’t the only one to think it – Nicole Scherzinger’s slightly embarrassed sounding ‘so you were quite inspired by Robbie last week weren’t you, Kye?’ said it all. As Kye stood there looking a bit sort of like maybe he’d just been rumbled.

But Why Did Kye's Innocent Robbie Imitation Annoy Me So Much? 

I have a bit of an issue with the art of imitation, but until now I’ve never really thought about why. UNTIL NOW.

My first answer to the above question is that it is just sad to see. We are all unique and wonderful, especially Kye Sones who used to be a chimney sweep. Can Robbie say that he spent his former years covered in soot? No. I’d be happier if Kye had decided to mimic Dick Van Dyke with a sweep of his brush and a click of his heels alongside Julie Andrews – at least that would have some relevance, some bearing on who he is and how he’s got there. There on that X Factor stage covered in eyeliner.

It makes me sad to see people behaving in ways that are detrimental to their own self, and this includes ignoring who you are to sort of try and be a bit like someone else who you think is a bit cool and loveable. Perhaps because it reminds me of times when I have been a little lost and maybe done it myself and it just makes me sad. It just shouldn’t happen. Everyone should be supremely confident and individual at ALL times!

Kye Sones Looking and Acting Like Robbie

Beyond the sort of sad aspects of imitation, it does just plain annoy me too. Excuse the cliched expression, but ‘finding yourself’ is bloody hard work. Many of us who are sure of who we are and confident of it, had a hell of time getting there. We weren’t actually born that way, Lady Gaga. We possibly went through hell and/or high water to establish a self who not only are we happy with, but who we think the world might be sort of okay with too. It takes a lot of painful trials and errors before we hit the ‘self’ jackpot. So, if someone younger or less secure or just a bit lost comes along and starts wearing your dresses and speaking your language and doing your mannerisms and adopting your hobbies because they think that they’d quite like to be like that too, it’s a tad annoying. We spend so long finding ourselves, damn anyone who just takes a shortcut and plagarises our identity onto their own 411.

I don’t mean 11 year old girls dying their hair pink to look like...Pink. Finding your ‘self’ is something that comes with age and maturity, and of course while we’re young we’re going to try things we’ve seen elsewhere, that’s how the whole concept of ‘you’ starts, but a 30 year old man trying to win Britain’s largest talent show by imitating someone who has already been done over and over again? No, no, NO.

Beyond that, imitation doesn't work. To be someone, it takes substance. First of all you have to actually be that person for it to be believable (like, we aren’t just going to start thinking Kye is Robbie and therefore love him with the same Robbie love we have built up over 20 years) and second of all, identity has to come from somewhere real. Only Robbie knows how he wakes up everyday and finds the inspiration to be a loveable yet arrogant little sod who woos women and angers men nationwide. I am sorry Kye, but that just isn’t you and if it is then find your own way of doing it – you don’t need to superciliously stare-out the camera and wobble your head whilst grabbing your crotch. Kye may be able to walk the Robbie walk and talk the Robbie talk, but he doesn’t have the Robbie-ness inside him to do it forever. 

'Envy is Ignorance, Imitation is Suicide' - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Legend has it that imitation is flattering and I can see how this is true, but that doesn’t stop it from being annoying to see. One of my favourite ever tweets on my timeline read “They say imitation is flattering. I say it’s fucking annoying and you should just be yourself” and I couldn’t have agreed more. That bad boy got a RT.

The former all said, people cannot be blamed for wanting to be like someone else. At the end of the day, we just want to be loved, don’t we? And if we see someone who is loveable or who the world loves, or who is loved by someone we love, then we are going to want to be like that person. It’s not just people who do it either. Brands do it. Anything that is trying to sell itself to the rest of the world does it. When Starbucks started writing their customers names on cups and consumers fell for it, independent coffee shops starting doing it too, to be like this multi-billion dollar coffee chain so globally adored. But Cups-with-Names will never be so good anywhere as it is at Starbucks because it was a Starbucks concept and it has Starbucks written all over it.

The problem is, as individuals, if one person goes around being you; no-one else is necessarily going to know that’s what they are doing. Unless you are a famous person (like Robbie). This makes it harder to bear for the common imitatee. It is fine to imitate someone if you actively give them all the credit (‘oh thanks I am so glad you love my idea, I actually stole it straight from so and so, and so please send all adoration and/or appreciation directly to them’) but you’re not going to.

Every Firework is Unique

Poor old Kye, I have really given his innocent imitation of Robbie a grilling here, but really I am just making an example of him. There is a fine line between inspiration quarters into imitation territory and I don't think it should be crossed. Inspiration is seeing someone else do something and feeling encouraged to go and do something too. Imitation is doing the exact same thing in the same way and probably not doing it so well. Inspiration is seeing someone in a bar who is a little like a more confident version yourself and thinking ‘I want to be like that’, then going out and finding who you are and being confident about that person, not suddenly dressing like the person you saw in the bar. Inspiration is taking elements of something that has been done before you and making it your own, which is exactly what Ella did with Katy Perry’s Firework if we’re looking for a direct comparison (albiet whilst looking a bit too Adele).

Be inspired. Don’t feel you need to imitate because you don’t. Find who you are and make them go 'oh, oh, oh'. It’s not easy but it’s worth it. A lifetime of confidence and brilliance and happiness follows and it doesn’t depend on anyone else.

28 October, 2012

My Instagram Weekend: @HanPod

I have always been instarested, but up until recently have only watched from admiring afar as other better equipped individuals uploaded images of leaves, cakes, shoes, people. It all looked so kitsch and nostalgic, while I had to make do with a Blackberry Curve ‘camera’ with no flash and the inspiration of a plank of wood.

Oh Instagram. What’s not to love about a photo that was taken digitally 5 seconds ago, but looks like it has spent 40 years fading on your grandparent’s mantelpiece? An arty way to show off our lives, it’s the perfect partner for creative exhibitionists. Ahem. But come ON. What scenario doesn’t look better in ‘Toaster’, ‘Sierra’ or ‘X Pro’? With Instagram you can take a burger and literally make it look like steak. Your eyes are bluer, the leaves are redder, the cakes are prettier. It’s Insta-grande and it’s making all our lives even better.
So, having recently (finally) acquired the essential key to the Instagram world (I mean an iphone, I haven’t got the door code to their headquarters) I have gone Instagram mad (3 years later than everyone else) and can currently be found creating an HD version of my life in iform pretty much 24/7. It’s my narcissistic and creative fix, all in one.

So today, instead of crossing my T’s, dotting my I’s and putting apostrophes in the wrong places (my bad) I’m going to treat us all to some Instagrammar – all the imagery with none of the wordy nonsense. Lovely.


I love starting the weekend feeling refreshed, so I spent Friday evening turning my bedroom into a haven - the Fairylights are new (£10, Wilkinsons, Christmas range) and the rest has been a work in progress since I moved in 18 months ago (DREAM letters B&M £3, Bedcovers a Christmas gift from my Sister, heart-shaped photo holder £10 Mookau Eccy Road, Cards from Best Friends Saying I am Awesome - priceless!)

I bought and put up my own curtains for the first time ever on Friday night - it was a massive achievement for me and a Right of Passage into adulthood! It took me an hour but was well worth it. So proud! Love the Aubergine colour (Wilkinsons, £40 - bargain!!)
I used ALL these spices in one recipe on Saturday morning...I loved how they looked all lined up - this is the 'Toaster' setting on Instgram which emulates the SPICE!
Another 'first' for me this weekend, I made my first EVER chilli! I am more of a baker of cakes but sometimes I do love to cook proper meals too. My boyfriend and I both needed a high protein meal, so went for this Jamie Oliver 'Good Old Chili con Carne', which uses 5 of the above 6 spices and includes chickpeas. Was absolutely delicious and I served it with these nachos. Full and happy boyfriend, done!

NOM NOM NOM! Saturday Sin.
My third debut of the weekend, I had my re-styled on Saturday - partly because I could afford it for the first time in months and also because I like to change my hair with the seasons (a haircut for me is usually a bi-annual event!) Usually I stick to the same old blonde with sweeping fringe, but fancied  a change so (having nearly decided to go fully RED a la Florence Welch) had some red low lights put in as well as highlights, plus a full fringe for the first time since I was about 8! Nothing too drastic but for me a big step as my hair is so important to me. I really like my natural hair colour so don't want to lose it and I don't have the colouring for anything too drastic. But I love what my hairdresser did, I was so fussy and she got it spot on. Would recommend them - The Hair Rooms, Eccy Rd, £60 for the whole shebang! I feel shiny, new and autumnal, however the fringe takes my morning hair to a whole new level!

Lazy Sundays with Gareth are my favourite thing in the world and we don't often get to just totally chill out just us two, so whenever we can do, we make it extra special with a big yummy brunch! I am a feeder so always make him way too much food, but today's scrambled eggs, bacon and muffins were needed and hit the spot. Especially after the casual 12 HOURS sleep we had with the clocks going back. He needed the food and the sleep as he works a lot of nights so I hope this has set him up for another week. I am such a mother.
This book - How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran - was recommended to me by @Littlesweetpeas and then read the same recommendation in @cosmopolitanUK. Both trusty sources I ordered it as soon as I got paid and it turned up this weekend. I haven't had a chance to read it yet as it turns out but can't wait to get stuck in tonight! Will report back on this one!
Saturday night we went to see Dry The River at Leadmill. I first saw them at BBC Introducing in Manchester a year ago and fell in love. It's been amazing to watch them do so well since and it was even more awesome to see them on 'home' territory at Leadmill. Was the perfect venue for them as it was intimate and charged.  Their encore was something else as they stepped into the crowd to perform acapella stylee. Unbelievable atmosphere and massive thumbs up to Leadmill and the band. We're lucky we get to watch from the DJ Box because of Gareth's job, so our view was priceless!
Dry The River's debut album Shallow Bed is available to buy now and highlights include 'No Rest' and 'New Ceremony'.

This weekend was a really chilled one with Gareth and it felt really special. No running,  no friends, no drinking, no work, just us.  We're both quite busy people so the times we chill out together in our own bubble are always dead special. I get as excited now as I did when we first met, running around making everything just right for him. He deserves it as he works really hard and we both have had cause to celebrate recently. We don't have many photos of the 2 of us but the ones we do have are always meaningful  and seem to remember a special occasion - this is one I took when messing around on Instagram yesterday and I think it will go down as one of my favourites!
I haven't been able to excercise this weekend as I started feeling unwell on Friday (timing much!) so spent the time baking instead. Definitly the fatter option but more fun sometimes, especially on icy weekends like this. I baked Parkin (no image included as it is boring to look at!), Gareth's favourite cheesecake (2nd attempt at it, yet to get it spot on but I WILL make it as good as his Mum does!) and finally these Apple and Oatmeal cookies. They're from @Hbbakery (hummingbird bakery) Cake Days and are easy to make, plus they're really filling and sort of healthy as they have oats and apples in...? Am taking them in tomorrow for the work girls. I think in order to have a good week, it has to start with yourself and if you give a little something to cheer everyone up early on, it can go a long way and see you all right through to Friday on a positive note.

Am really looking forward to all those Instagram'd Pumpkin pictures this week, I am always fascinated by how creative people can be with the squash family! It's @HanPod on Instagram and @HannahRuthPR on Twitter if anyone wants to share their Halloween images. 

My favourite tweets of this week:

"@HannahHindmarsh: Be inspired, take every opportunity"
Sometimes tweets like this appear on your timeline just when you need them to. Hannah writes a great blog too: www.hannahsbow.co.uk

"@HayleyToothill: It's stories like this that make you realise just how lucky we are to live in the UK: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-20000997"
This was a tweet early on in the week, it made me sad but man did I appreciate every single thing last week - from running water to a warm bed. Everything else is a bonus. 
"@CosmopolitanUK: Act like a lady, think like a boss #CosmoQuoteoftheDay"
 I read this in an article of theirs not long ago and it stuck, it can be tough being an emotional girl in a business world and this helped me become stronger.

"@excercise_mad: @StPancras Just about to Choo Choo to Sheffield to see @HannahRuthPR"
 This was a personal highlight as one of my oldest bestest uni mates, Niall, came to visit and it was the first time we'd seen each other in over 6 months (possibly the longest it's ever been!) Love how with your oldest friends you can so easily slip back into it being like old times - never awkward, always great.

"@DavidChild: Is Louis out yet? Or is it just generally accepted? #xfactor"
 I wish I knew!! I love how Twitter shows you thousands of stangers hundreds of miles apart are thinking the same of you. It's comforting isn't it?

"@LeadmillGareth: The crowd at the Leadmill show last night were amazing. Silent in the right parts & then singing along at full volume. Epic"
Biased choice, but sums it up perfectly!

21 October, 2012

Me Time and Feeding the Soul

'Just Living is not Enough', said the Butterfly, 'One must have Sunshine, Freedom and a Little Flower'

Life is a busy place. For there is a lot to be done. And to be thinking about. Really, it never stops.

The ‘busies’ of our lives are likely to include; work (where the average person spends 100,000 hours of their life), exercise, eternal chores, not to mention maintaining relations with family and friends and all that implies. Birthday cards, phone calls, visits, Christmas (which in itself is an intensive timetable that haunts our schedule from around mid-October through to New Year) and – for many a senior relative – the gradual surrendering of ones cheque book, a fee by fee offloading onto less deserving Juniors. And that’s all before we have done any of the things we might actually want to do, away from our responsibilities, like watch X Factor. For 6 hours. Every weekend.

Sometimes the busiest thing about life is just that we can’t easily get off the lifemill and find some peace. There is the constant pressure to just keep going. A pressure from The Fear.

The Fear

I refer of course to the recurring fear that emerges when you have been on a little holiday and have effectively ‘got off’ of life for a week – it’s the same fear that engulfs us on a Sunday, AKA The Dread. For most people, The Dread is definitely irrational - no-one is really scared of anything in particular, it’s a vague kind of fear and that makes it worse because you cannot counteract the terror with a logical reason as to why the said fear isn’t going to materialise. Because frankly we don’t know what the hell we’re scared of every Sunday at 4pm like clockwork.

I’d like to think we the people generally enjoy our life’s work, yet still I’ve had the Sunday Dread nearly every week since I was about 7 ½ , and back then all I had to worry about was remembering my Powerangers pencil case. For this reason I can only conclude that The Dread comes from a far deeper source than us being work-shy, beyond the potent need to stay home for Jeremy Kyle, it also stems from a feeling that we don’t know how on earth we are managing to do life everyday (and some of you are doing it really rather well, pats on backs!) We think we’re fooling everyone and we’re sure to be found out pretty soon. We think (I think) if we stop doing a life for a second (like, even to just pee on the hard-shoulder) we won’t be able to get back in the drivers seat in the successful manner we were cruising along before because we actually have NO IDEA HOW TO BE A PROPER PERSON AND ARE LIKELY TO CRASH. We’d be happier in the passenger seat, looking out the window of a padded white room, saying things like ‘Granny needs a humbug’ over and over again with crazed eyes and a twitch. Yes, that would be lovely.

Luckily, life has so far proved itself to be like riding a bike and we mainly are able to get back in that saddle with ease. In fact, usually by 11am on a Monday we can often be found high as kite (on the life we were so scared of just 17 hours before) yelling ‘I can only bloody still do! Look at me! I’m working! I’m holding down a job and earning a wage and no-one suspects that actually I am just 4 years old wearing my Mum’s lipstick!’

So why then, do I (and probably some of you) still find it so hard to just stop what I’m doing and have a personal recess every once in a while?

Knowing when to STOP

I am undoubtedly a ‘busy’ person, in that my head is SO busy, full of the things I need to be doing. All. The.Time. I'm a list making extraordinaire and the first to admit my OCD characteristics when it comes to routine and making sure I am contributing a healthy amount to all areas of my life (so as not to miss a bit and end up – heaven forbid – flawed). People with busy minds like me are scared to for one second take our eyes of the proverbial ball and miss an appointment, skip the gym, be late for work, leave the dishes for a night or go a few weeks without checking in with everyone we’ve ever known – because as I’ve pointed out, we’re scared that if we do, we might just lose a grip on the reigns of our life altogether.

As result, I find it easy to do things. All day long. It’s the not doing I find tricky (unless I am asleep, and even then I feel like that is forced on me. I don’t like night-times and never have, I deign unto sleep only because I know it will make me a brighter version of myself the following morning. MORNING! YAY!) When I am in total OTT hectic mode, I get so wound up trying to keep on top of everything I ‘need’ to do, I don’t realise that actually the only thing I need to be doing is sitting down watching Dexter eating a plate of Enchiladas.

As I get older (I am now officially in the 3rd tick box in from the left on most forms, wah!) and life gets busier and that abstract time in the future when ‘things calm down a bit’ fails to materialise (it doesn’t exists btw), I find it increasingly important to leave myself the memo to take time out for the here and now. No planning and no activities, just me and my Maltesers. Because what is life without the odd moment of nothing? As scary it is to let go of ‘things’, it’s scarier to be so constant that you never stop to appreciate and enjoy stuff.

Putting you First (it's OKAY sometimes, honest!)

I can usually diagnose myself when I'm getting too chaotic, symptoms include going to bed shattered yet sleeping for all of 3 hours 12 NIGHTS IN A ROW, manically planning minute details like what time to paint my nails and worrying because I have one less carrot than I needed for my soup and just WHEN am I going to buy that extra carrot? Hmmmm?!?


After a recent few weeks of much busy-ness in my head, a new job, knackering weekends, sleepless nights, exertion, worries and excitement, I was in urgent need of a giant dose of down time, a prescription to discontinue for a bit. Like those essential beauty products that just randomly withdraw from retail after 12 years of loyalty to them – yeah, I’d get fed up if I was them too, same shelf different day, So I got myself, my conscience and even my inner crazy lady (she’s usually way more stubborn than that) to sign said prescription for 2 days of undiluted ME TIME and as a result this weekend was all about replenishing my soul. Let’s face it, our souls often come last in our vast list of priorities (which seems unfair as our minds and bodies usually get a damn good seat), but if you’re a fan of Plato you’d know your soul is the best bit, it’s jumping up and down at the back going ‘Pick me! Pick me!’ and we’re fools to ignore it.

Yes I evidently still did ‘stuff’ this weekend, like write this very post (and hopefully later I’ll shower), but in essence I felt no pressure to do ‘things’. I baked and actually ate the goods, instead of instantly giving them away. I watched TV without a sofa-exiting deadline (unheard of). I went to bed without setting an alarm on Friday night AND Saturday night *pauses to accept applause*. Instead of making a list of all I wanted to achieve this weekend, I left myself a blank page and I’ll feel no guilt if by the time the 4pm Sunday Dreads kick in, all I have to show for myself is square eyes and chocolate smeared across my face.

My soul is pretty happy about it. Smug soul alert. I'm not scared that I might not be able to do life again tomorrow, as I am pretty sure I will. I’m reasonably confident I’ll still get up and go to work (hopefully get dressed in between) and do chores and resume routine. I’m even hoping I might do it all that little bit better for having checked out of ‘things’ for a few days. I reckon come Monday morning I’ll be bright eyed and bushy haired and ready to rock myself at her very best.

Here is my ‘me’ weekend in pictures, if you’d like to see how astonishingly fat and lazy my soul is.

01 October, 2012

Who's that Girl? Being the New Girl...Again!

Being New would be easy if I was actually Jess...

Today I was New Girl again, just 12 months after having already done it. Here's my story...
I’ve never not been accepted before. Anywhere. Wherever I have gone, I have always found at least a few allies, I’ve never been on the edge of a group really and I’ve most certainly not felt like a wall-flower (those who really know me will laugh at the idea of me as a wall flower!) I assumed it was just part of who I am to always have some mates and generally be liked by people – I wasn’t so much our schools homecoming queen (if we’d had one), more I’ve not ever really given anyone any reason to actively not accept me, at the very least on a basic level of common courtesy.

All that changed when I went to my most recent job, just one (very long) year ago. I have always had strong gut feelings about places and faces, and I don’t think I’ve ever been that wrong. My gut feeling about this place wasn’t amazing though. Something didn’t fit. The place, the faces – I didn’t see how I would fall into rank there. However my mind told me to go for it, because on paper it wasn’t just an opportunity – for me and who I am, it was the opportunity. A very cool, a very sought after, life-changing chance. And for a risk-taker like me that was too much to say ‘no’ to. So I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life as for the first time ever, I ignored my gut feeling.

So off I went to this new place that didn’t quite feel right, some 50 miles away from home in Leeds and it was as hard as my gut told me it would be. I waited for it to get better. For the faces to greet me with interest, familiarity and maybe even kindness? I waited for the place to feel more like home. And maaaaan did I try. I spent weekends doing wall charts (yeah and I loved it!) to put my stamp on the place, I spent time talking to these people, trying my utmost to fit in. I spent money buying things to brighten up my workspace, I spent Sundays baking treats to open up doors of maybe even the hint of a bond? I spent energy sending emails, having conversations, trying to understand why I wasn’t being included in things or beyond that, at times, borderline persecuted.  I spent hours and hours and hours and days crying to my loved ones that I wasn’t accepted, not personally and not professionally.

Slowly but surely my confidence took a massive nose dive. If it wasn’t for my unbelievably awesome boyfriend, my wise wise Mum and my best friends, I would have been back at rock bottom self-esteem wise. However, I’d been there before and it wasn’t an easy place to come back from, plus I did have these people in my life and so I rose up and out of one out the most challenging experience I have had as a person. Don’t get me wrong I have had shitter times. I’ve been low about men, money, work, mates, family – everything. But is there anything lower than doing everything you can to do things right and yet every minute of every day questioning your own self? Who you are, the things you like, the jokes you make, the life you lead. I am funny. I am fun. I am friendly. I am tough and I am strong. But no-one in this place knew this about me because I wasn’t given the chance. And what I was able to show them, well I might as well have been showing a brick wall.

I will never know why I didn’t gel with these people in a way I have never struggled to before, and I don’t actually regret the experience because it not only lifted my career, it catapulted me massive giant steps upwards in just 12 months. My career and my bank balance will always benefit from the year I just had, but any sense of self-worth I have clung on to is all down to me and my near and dear. What I do know, is that the best thing I ever did was leave. Yes it was hard to admit defeat (I am a fighter if ever there was one) but it was easier to know that actually I wasn’t defeated, I was choosing to take myself out of a world I would never be happy in. The sooner. The better.

Luckily for me, after much soul-searching, a hard decision and just a few job applications, a new dream job came up. It was a promotion and a substantial raise and it was a long-shot. It was the first job I applied for and within 2 weeks I had an interview. Just 12 hours later, the job was mine. Sometimes when things happen too easily it feels like a trick, but sometimes it just means it couldn’t be more right. By the end of that week I’d handed in my notice and had a formal offer. Needless to say, my bosses didn’t seem to care (what, with me being so disposable as a person) and neither did I. I cried actual tears of relief when I told my boyfriend – and no doubt he sighed a massive sigh of relief as he’d witnessed so much utter heartache from me for nearly 12 months.

Needless to say, due to the unexpected social difficulties in my last role I was really very very nervous about being the New Girl again today. My confidence wasn’t what it usually is and it meant everything to me to get it right this time. I worked my ass off to make sure I started this one on not a good note, but a brilliant one. I met my new work team a few weeks ago for dinner and was relieved to find they were all not only friendly and normal, but actually very very on my wavelength. They play netball, they baked cakes, they have girly conversations and they are kind to each other. They care about each other and work as a team. After the year I’d had, this alone was sweet relief and after that first meet I couldn’t wait to get started.

The week leading up to my departure from one place and arrival at another felt surreal, but I did what I could to feel ready. As a girl I think it is so important to feel like you look the part. So I had taken careful note of what the other girls in the office wore and took myself on a big spending spree to buy the right office gear. In my last place you could wear a bikini and be considered smart, so needless to say my work wardrobe needed a re-vamp. I don’t like feeling restricted and I am certainly not one for suits, but I managed to find some outfits that felt smart, but also like me. I am talking coloured chinos, skirts with bows on, lacy tops and polka dot dresses. Nothing ground-breaking, but trying on the clothes the night before the big day I felt a lot more ready for the next chapter of my life. New place, new face. Oh and I got my eyebrows done for good measure! I don’t usually as mine are alright, but I wanted to feel sharp. A good brow always does that for a woman.

Obviously the night before I went to bed really early, after a good old pep talk from my Mum and boyfriend and watching Rylan go mental on X Factor. I thankfully slept really really well, which doesn’t always come easily to me. I am OCD about time and organisation so was up at 6.30 even though I didn’t need to leave the house until at least 8am. I think it is really important not to feel rushed and flustered when you want to make a good impression, so I was up with my alarm, and did everything from hair wash, to moisturise, to nails and of course the donning of the pre-selected outfit. Good thing I wasn’t wearing white I’d have thought it was my wedding day. I chose a black skirt with a bow waist and a burgundy lace blouse – as I felt they were smart but showed a bit of me. Something that was and is so, so important to me this time. I don’t want my own personality to be squashed or silenced. I want to be proud of being the slightly quirky, slightly crazy but also a little bit girl-next-door type that I am. YES I spend my weekends baking, but I also rock a great polka-dot so there!
New Girl Face - this is how I felt this morning!
When I was as ready as I’d ever be, I forced my 3rd cup of tea of the morning (!) and some Special K down me and off I went into the brave new world. Just a short distance from my own house and in the city I live in and love. Already this was bliss! I was soooo early, so I walked around the city centre, breathing in the gorgeous autumn air, trying to mentally prepare myself and tweeting like crazy. Tweeting my followers updates of #hannahsfirstday really calmed my nerves – the response of encouragement and love were actually over-whelming, and it really helped me to realise this was just a job. Not the make-or-break scenario I had built it up to be (perhaps understandably given my last experience).

Finally it was time. As I typed in the door code and walked into my Narnia, I knew I’d always remember this moment. I was greeted by the Chief Executive, but because I am Hannah I didn’t know this was who he was so asked where I could make a brew while I waited for my manager to arrive. Luckily he’s a lovely man it seems and he was happy to direct me to the PG Tips. Or maybe he was just happy I’m a brew-maker! I have always believed that if you have someone nice at the top, that amiability filters down and if the rest of the day was anything to go by I stand by this. I have never been so taken care of. Each member of my team sat with me to talk over their role and how I’d be working with them. People asked me questions and smiled and told me what a lovely place it is to work. The girls in the office chatted about girl stuff and offered me so much support and kindness. I did all the usual first day fandangos and even got a proper lunch-break. The day ended before it had even begun and although I’d not done much actual work, I came away feeling exhausted. Exhausted from all I’d had to take in, but also exhausted from relief. I don’t want to count any chickens (I prefer to just eat them) but if my theory that first instincts ring true prevails, then I am going to be very very happy there.

I got home by 6.20, which is amazing when for the past year I have been lucky to get in before 8, and now I have had time to spend the evening writing. In the morning I will have time for a run before work, something else I have sorely sorely missed. And after work I will be able to meet my boyfriend – not after a nightmare 2.5 hours travelling, a shivering wreck, but at a normal time and we will be able to go home and cook tea and watch TV like normal people who don’t travel to a questionable job in Leeds every day. Honestly? I couldn’t be happier. Come payday, I will be happier still as for the first time in my adult life I will have actual spare money to spend. And not just on bills! I’m not materialistic, but at 26, I am quite frankly buzzing about that.

This blog post has been therapeutic more than anything and maybe a bit self indulgent, but there is a message in here. One, is always go with your gut. Two, if you didn’t go with your gut or just find yourself in the shit anyway, get out. Just get out. If you’re a good person, with great friends, a lovely family and a doting partner, then why the hell should you be made to feel like crap every day? By anyone or any circumstances? You shouldn’t. Never be afraid of what other people may make of  your decisions, or the scrutiny and judgement you may come under. Stick with your heart. If you have the courage to be 100% true to yourself regardless of what others may think or say, then you will be rewarded. I am proof of that.

"When I felt my feet slipping, you came with your Love and kept me steady"
This post is also dedicated to Gareth as a massive thank you for catching my numerous tears – sometimes for nights and nights on end –  cooking me tea when I got in late and starving, getting up at the crack of dawn with me so I could get to work on time, having my pyjamas ready for me to climb into when I couldn’t move another step, putting up with my mood swings as a result of my misery, supporting me financially and emotionally, always answering the call when I needed him, always giving the best advise, absolutely always being there for me and never asking for anything back. If it wasn’t for him I don’t know if I’d have had the courage to leave that place so soon, for fear of judgement and failure, but his faith in me gave me a reason to change my life back to what it should be. I am so excited for this next chapter, and I know no matter what I will have the support of Gareth, my friends, family and indeed Twitter following!

Now it is bed time, before I go back for my second day of being New Girl for the millionth time. Let’s just hope this one sticks.


23 September, 2012

24/7 Birthday Girl

I find there are very different attitudes when it comes to the celebration of birthdays. There are people who are only averagely concerned about such days and don’t mind commemorating their own provided it requires minimum effort (just wheel them to the pub and skip the song part) – these people also tend to see other peoples turning of age as more of an excuse to see their mates and probably force each other to down pints of absinth. There are some who will do anything to avoid any acknowledgement of their own birthday, do not share the date on Facebook and do not notify their work friends. In fact I am sure one or two of them have gone so far as to shred their own birth certificate and convince their mother they were NOT born on this day. 365 days of the year. Mothers who, minus the evidence and perhaps a bit senile, might believe them. And then you get people like me….

I have always been the definition of a ‘Birthday Person’. Except for maybe once when I was six and ‘hid’ under the kitchen table crying (in a very obvious way) when everyone sang happy birthday to me. I love gathering all the people together once a year, squeezing the most fun possible out of the day/night/week and, yes; I do thrive on being the centre of EVERYONE'S attention for a little bit. I’m a loving person and I love to be loved in return. As I always say, love is a verb (apparently real life reverends say this too) and my birthday is when everyone can just DO their Hannah Love.

However, my Birthday Love isn’t a selfish love. My Birthday Love – love of all things birthday – is utilitarian. I want everyone to always have the best birthday possible all the time always. The more I like you, the better birthday I want you to have. As a result, not only do I spend a few weeks per annum planning my own  celebrations, my whole year is in fact land-marked by the special days and nights of the people close to me and any time in between is basically either a build up to or come down from those exceptional occasions.

I treat each birthday like a small wedding (minus the vows) and in the lead up to someone’s personal anniversary I will be a girl on a mission, armed with glitter and some weighing scales (for the cakes, not to point out if the birthday girl has gotten chubby this year). In the month of June, approximately 50% of my nearest and dearest renew their birthday vows, so it’s all I can usually do not to quit my job in favour of icing sponges. The first week of July is a recovery period during which I reflect on how much rose wine and cake I might have consumed (takes all of 10 seconds to deduce: LOADS.) 

This weekend celebrated the birthday of my housemate Miss Charlotte, who was turning 23 and looked incredible doing it. I was so excited for it and for her, I was up with the birds and spent most of the day itself perfecting her (made to order “I want FIVE layers! FIVE!”) monstrosity of a cake, most of my previous night creating a beast of a card and I had bubbles in my tummy for about 3 days previously, like you do before an interview or after an amazing piece of news. As much as I love my housemate, the fact I was quite so excited for her birthday made me have a curious think about Birthday People. I’m not the only person like me, there are loads of us out there and I want to know why birthdays mean so much to us?

This is what I decided.

Yes birthdays are about presents and cakes and looking pretty and wine, but materialistic things aren’t what drive me in life, so I know my birthday love runs far deeper than the wearing of a new party dress. For me birthdays have always been a reflective time – you look back at your year, you clearly see your own progress in a way that you might not get the time to realise on all the other average days that constitute your life. On the other hand, you might find yourself alone with only a house mouse to celebrate with, and you might realise something needs to change.

On my 24th birthday I wasn’t so much alone with a house mouse, but the way I spent my birthday made me consider the slightly wrong direction my life was taking. I found myself in the wrong house, with the wrong people, feeling wrong. It took the significance of that day for me to look at my life and understand what needed changing and who needed to change it. And quite quickly, I did. By my 25th birthday I was in a much happier environment, surrounded by all my favourites, feeling confident and having a brilliant time. Realising that on that day, made my efforts and hard work from the preceding 12 months more than worth it, and spurred me on to continue upwards.

I also feel like birthdays are the party at the end of a project - your own personal year long project, in which you have hopefully built your life up, gained more, learnt more and become better, in whatever way that may be. Life is a constant and never ending process of progression and regression. We all want to feel like we are working towards the former and sometimes we need a nudge to remind us not slack off or get distracted by other smaller projects like work or money or solving un-peace. Birthdays are that reminder.

Your birthday is one of the few times in a year when you can mentally off that treadmill and actually enjoy and appreciate what it is you live and work for. Whether that is a family or a fast car or an extensive walk-in wardrobe – on that day you can love it, drive it, wear it. It’s not often we can fully spoil ourselves or allow ourselves to be spoiled. On your birthday you can give yourself whatever you want and take the time to appreciate what others give you. You can do and eat and say whatever you feel like – it’s just socially accepted that if it’s your birthday, the world is yours for that day. We all work hard enough, in different ways, that we deserve for the world to belong to us sometimes.

For me, as much as birthdays are about the fun and the wrapping paper and the cake for breakfast, lunch and tea, they are more about the feeling you keep with you all day long. If you’re lucky it will be a feeling of satisfaction and appreciation for what you have, and if not, then a feeling that it’s time for something new and a fresh start can begin tomorrow. That is why I love them so much and do my utmost to bring other people as much happiness as I can on their own special day – to be a part of anyone’s milestone is a pretty awesome thing.

I have a few of my best friend’s birthdays coming up over the next few months and already I know it will be an amazing time. I am excited already about what cakes I will make, which dresses shall be bought and how best to show my friends that they are incredible, and deserve to shine. Their dress may dirty, the wine spills, the balloons burst and the cake may turn to love handles, but what remains of a birthday as the people leave and the music fades, is a strong sense of who you are, who you are becoming and if you want to be in the same place in 365 days time.