28 October, 2015

9 things to get a girl through a bad day


Looking like a pro can make you feel like a pro. I wear lipstick on most days because let’s be real, it is the grown-ups answer to face paint. Especially on the days that seem un-doable, when you have actual big problems that mean something tiny like running out of milk is THE END OF THE WORLD (a tantrum which you later justify as “the straw that broke the camel’s back”) and all you can see in front of you is 12 hours of pain and a lot of rain.

Even on those depressing days, painting your lips makes you feel like a doyenne of the day. It makes you want to smile. Fake it ‘til you make it and that. So go forth and buy out the Mac counter, show the world you’re ready to face it, even if on the inside you’re crying into your bone dry Weetabix.

Desk. Snacks.

Although we are worldly wise and highly advanced here in 2015 (ahem) underneath all the evolution our basic instincts still remain. Sometimes you have to strip your life goals right back to simply getting through the day and achieving food. It can therefore be incredibly reassuring to stock up on snacks. 

Setting up a tuck shop at your desk can be strangely heartening. That may look like a satsuma, but it’s actually a mid-morning pep talk. And what was once an ordinary Wham bar, is now going to help me Pow my way to 5pm.

Buy a thing

We are living in a material world, and we are a material girl god dammit. We just are. We don’t always succumb to the temptation of material things, but when you spend most of your time resisting the lure of stuff, then it’s okay to occasionally fall into debt for the sake of your sanity. Whether you “need” some silk pyjamas to make you feel like a queen, or a sexy new chunky knit to be your hug all day long – just treat yourself. Your wardrobe might not need those extravagances, but your soul does.

Choose a power song, and listen to it on repeat

Because we’re all Beyonce. And that woman has seen so many of us through so many battles. If B isn’t your vibe, find yourself a song that does make you feel empowered, positive, lifted (lighthouse family anyone?) because music really is a miracle for the moods.

Send up a flare

When my friends and I are struggling, we step up for each other in little ways. When I have a friend in need, I go into full list sending mode. Lists of ridiculous things that have happened to me (no-one wants to know about your most humiliating moments more than your best mates), or if I have had a normal day (rare) I’ll bullet point every amazing quality I love about them. And they do the same back. “No, YOU’RE amazing.”

Your friends don’t always know when you are having a bad time of it though. Sometimes it is best to just power through, but other times you’ve used up all your last fight, and you really need someone else to swoop in with some sunshine. Don’t update your Facebook status with a sad face hoping for the sympathy (nosiness) to flood in, because that’s annoying, but DO send the death skull followed by the ambulance emoji to your mates in a Whatsapp group. They’ll know what to do.

Cancel. Your. Plans.

It always seems to be that when you’re burnt all out and sinking into an abyss, that will also be the one night you have plans with the very same person you have cancelled on the last 7 times for the very same reason. And then it’s just hanging over you all day, debating cancelling, until it’s definitely too late to do so. The last time I did that, I spent £40 I didn’t have and very wobbly 2 hours stuffing my face with gyozas to avoid crying. Woesabi. I was terrible company and made myself sick from the emotional exhaustion.

After that, I made a mental note to next time give myself a night in front of Netflix when I know I need it. Your gut knows what you need, and you have gots to listen to it more than you need to please your pals. I am learning that sometimes you just have to be a little selfish and stop worrying what other people will think. I mean, no-one was better off for me showing up that night. No-one.

Make plans

Conversely, sometimes making evening plans is what you need to pull you through from 9 to 5. Depending on the cause of your misery, there are times when only a cocktail and a bitch with your pal will lift you of your slump. It’s easy to “stuck in your own head” and it can do a world of good to just have a damn glass of wine, forget about all that is real life and let go for a bit. Just don’t let all the way go, because if you were down before, waking up with a hangover is going to be the nail in the proverbial coffin.

The right shoe

Not much in this life is our friend whatever the weather but shoes, shoes are. They always fit - unless you have hideously wide feet like me, then you get laughed out of Office on the regular - there is a pair to fit every mood, occasion and handbag, and wearing the right shoe on the right day can make all the difference.

Take today, it torrential rained on me ALL DAY LONG as I trekked to Birmingham and back with just my umbrella and a sodding wet sodding non-waterproof coat for sodding company. My shoes had my back though.The heel kept me above the floods, the sturdy leather remained waterproof and whilst I hobbled along like a drowned rat, I felt ten feet tall (inc the brolly)

Remember this isn’t everything you are

Sometimes the days are so tough, that it’s all you can do to brace yourself for the storms each morning and try your absolute best to build armour from within. Sometimes, we move through the days with knots in our stomachs and fragile hearts. On those days, you have to keep moving, look beyond, and remember that whatever THIS is, is not your end all.

Whatever your worries are now, will not be your worries one day. So let them go, because this will pass. It’s easier said than done, but that outlook can really help you to snub the sludge you’re trudging through, keep your head above water and look ahead to that sun on that horizon. It may seem far, but it’s there and you’ll make it.

24 October, 2015

A change is as good as a rest

But sometimes you just need an almighty rest, right? A proper pyjama wearing, sun bathing, tea drinking, cake eating, adventure going, Netflix watching, phone ignoring, cocktail sipping break. Not just a day to yourself, or a weekend away, but a full on sabbatical from life.

I can say with some (a lot of) certainty that I have never before needed a break like I need one now. My mind and soul have been working overtime for far too long, and my body is breaking down from the exhaustion of this year. I have ulcers (sexy), I am permanently fatigued, my mind is so far into over-drive, a missed bus makes me feel like weeping, and the weekends? They don’t even touch the sides. My resilience is at an all-time low, and all that can save me is some sunshine, and distance.

Sometimes we go through big change - break-ups, house moves, professional shifts. Sometimes they ALL HAPPEN AT ONCE. However positive these changes are, it's exhausting. That’s been my experience of this year, and it’s been relentless. There's the consequences of the big changes as well. You don't get an earthquake without ensuing tremors and, for me, The Break Up (the catalyst for most of it) prompted some big shifts in my other relationships too. Although I am now closer than ever to some of my circle, for other relationships it’s provoked a slight disbandment. No-one likes to see you change, to climb out of your box, to break-through into new territory that they don’t understand or relate to. So inevitably, despite a new found happiness and freedom, this year has been an emotional obstacle course for me, and I am tired.

This is the year I also chose to take little to no time off from work. Woe is me? Not really. I have saved up all that time to go somewhere I have always wanted to go. A holiday I would never have had the chance to do in my previous life. In a total cliché, I broke up with someone and immediately booked myself on a flight to Thailand, with an 8 month delay. Apparently planned spontaneity is my thing. 

My good friend and I both went through our Big Break Ups at the start of the year, and it worked out ideally when we turned to each other and said “LETS GO.” Since the day we booked that holiday, we’ve between the two of us experienced every stress under the sun. And I haven’t even seen the bloody sun. It’s been an absolute marathon, and whilst it’s done me good to just keep moving, I have so little left in reserve. BUT, finally, two weeks today my pal and I are going away for that adventure, and I couldn’t need it more. The emphasis is not on needing the exotic trip – that is just the cherry on the timeout that I am ultimately craving.

This year has been everything. It’s been stressful, it’s been liberating, it’s been heartbreaking, it’s been gruelling, it’s been fun, it’s been exhausting, it’s been challenging, it’s been hopeful, it’s been unexpected, it’s been unpredictable, it’s been rewarding, it’s been pivotal, it’s been an education. It’s been mine. It’s been long. It’s not over.

The period of turbulence isn’t over either, I know that. I won’t waltz into 2016 worry-free, I know that too (I'd be more likely to fox-trot). It is going to come with even more change, but they are changes I am excited about, that I am expecting, that I know will feed my soul. Meanwhile, for me and 2015 a lot of the hard work is done. I can jump on that plane in two weeks, soak up some sunshine and adventure, and end this year strong, fighting, and hopeful. I will come back with returned resilience, absolutely no tan, and hopefully a few less ailments.


08 October, 2015

Doing friendship at 29

Friends are the business. They are the family you get to choose. They are the cherry on your cake, the stars in your sky, your support bra, your walking stick, the cushions in your en suite. And while I have a decidedly beautiful array of cushions and walking sticks, my twenties have proven a challenging time for friendships.

Not because my friends haven’t been the bollocks throughout, oh how they have, but because life takes us increasingly away from our mates. As much as they are the very THING we probably most benefit from spending time with (subject to Significant Others), they can be the hardest to get to. On my list of “hurdles between me and my support network” I have; challenging jobs and long hours, money (not enough of), time (not enough of), responsibilities, marriages and kids (not mine), and pure geography. Nipping for a coffee with your best mate isn't as handy when they’re at the bottom of the M1.

Yet these aren't the relationships you can maintain with the occasional endorsement on LinkedIn, these are the ones that need serious face time, dammit. And while Apple cottoned on quick and gave us FaceTime, even that isn't the same as a real human hug and a chat with the ones who build you up. Even with the best will in the world, it can be so hard to make the time to spend with good friends. You can value someone with your life, and see them but once a year.

As I get close to 30 though, I am really proud of the group of friends I have around me. Not only did I find the confidence to cleanse the knob’ed ones out in my early twenties, but of the group of us left standing, we stand so strong, because we have been to BATTLE together. We have stood the test of time and distance, we have grown and changed and done our twenties to death, and we reach 30 with a tighter bond than ever.

For me, maintaining good friendships in adulthood takes commitment, understanding, and the ability to let go – as with any relationship.

Commitment to the fact that even if you can’t see each other for 6 months, you really want to and you WILL make it happen and you’ll send Whatsapps, tweets, emails and cards aplenty in between.

Understanding that if a friend lets you down sometimes, that doesn’t make them a bad one. It just means they got stuck at work , or they got a broken leg, or they accidentally opened all the food in their fridge and needed to finish it whilst keeping an eye on the TV. Can you say multitask? For me it's about recognising that when a friend sometimes can’t make it to us when we need them, they are still a great friend. And instead of feeling let down we say “that’s okay, life is hard, eat the ice cream, I’ll still be here when the sugar wears off.”

Letting it go when your friend hasn’t been exactly who you wanted them to be. So they slept through your lunch plans, or they forgot to call, or they bought the shoes you were coveting. Let it go. Seriously. Because unless they slept with your boyfriend or sold your favourite Nan, the only friends you should be keeping are the ones who can get away with sometimes f*cking up, because the rest of the time they are just there for you, championing you, supporting you and being mega great.

Above all that, it's remembering why you are friends. My best friend from school and I live such different lives. We live 200 miles apart. We have completely opposite working schedules and move in different worlds. She's amongst beauty, glitz and glamour every day. I work in a digital bubble. My most glamorous possession is posh humous. To summarise: last weekend she was hitting up festivals and I was baking fig rolls.

In many ways we couldn't be more at odds. And sometimes that’s really hard. But, we keep our sh*t together. We are right there for every birthday, every break-up and every hilarious blunder. We still value all the same qualities in each other that existed 12 years ago, we just have to fight a little harder now we aren't sat next to each other in Psychology.

But these mates of mine, they are worth every long phone call, every mile, every hungover drive home, because I treasure them so very much. Good things happening to my friends is as good as good things to happening to me. I am proud of all their successes, and celebrate them as if they were my own. I’ll always invest my last bit of energy in maintaining these precious gems. And they do the same for me. I recently left my friend an audio Whatsapp late on a Sunday night, from what can only be described as my death bed, to explain I’d not replied as I’d been throwing up all day and unable to read words after downing doubles until 4am. But I could't NOT reply. I mean if that’s not commitment. 

This post was inspired by an article I read the other day about the importance of holding onto good friends. It said “tell your friends you love them now, and if they've hurt you or pissed you off, get over it, get round it, get through it, because you just don’t know what is ahead.” I nodded and grunted vehemently at every word. So much so that the man next to me offered me a hanky.


04 October, 2015

25 questions a twenty-something girl might ask

  1. Where are all the Kirby grips? No seriously. Who has them? 
  2. Why do they claim half a tin of soup is a portion? Is it a trick? 
  3. I’ve been drinking wine conscientiously for a strong 12 years. Yet, one glass and I’m hammered? 
  4. Can I go one more day without washing my hair? It’s just Such. An. Effort. 
  5. Do I NEED to do yoga to achieve a yoga bum? 
  6. How important is ironing? Really? 
  7. Is it okay that I AM EQUAL TO MAN but also want them to pay and do all the fancy gestures? Don’t answer that. 
  8. I didn’t text back for like, an hour. That’s “cool”, right? 
  9. They ladder before interviews, they are a nightmare to wiggle on and completely unsexy to wiggle off. For the love of god will someone please design a better tight? 
  10. What do we want? Free tampons! When do we want them? Now! 
  11. Megan Fox can’t be real? 
  12. That day of the week that you just cannot and your hair is greasy and you didn’t have time for make-up and there’s toothpaste on your (creased) blouse, and suddenly everyone’s all “Oooh you look great, I love your hair all dripping like that.” HOW? 
  13. But, it doesn’t count when you eat chips off someone else’s plate or in two half portions? DOES IT? Very sad, chubby face. 
  14. How many times can I view someone’s Facebook before it can reasonably be considered stalking? 
  15. How seriously should I be considering switching to “matcha”? (Bet it’s no matcha for my Yorkshire tea).
  16. How do people BUY HOUSES? *increases overdraft* 
  17. Do I care that I just destroyed a whole, large pizza in a time when Kate Hudson “avoids complex carbs”? Not really. 
  18. Do I own too many pairs of “cute” pyjamas for a fully grown adult? And more importantly, do I spend too much time in them? 
  19. How can I upload a selfie without it looking like I am uploading a selfie? 
  20. Where do broken hearts go? 
  21. I wonder what my actual bra size is? 
  22. Which Friends character am I most like? Rachel? Did you say Rachel? I think you mean Rachel. 
  23. I have a few “good years” left on my metabolism, right? *Goes in for thirds* 
  24. Will anyone notice that I a) have no idea what I am doing b) have been blagging it since I graduated and c) am A CHILD INSIDE?
  25. What would Zooey do? 

03 October, 2015

#WIDN - October

(This is a BIT late as I've been poorly sick, but please see below my late entry into #WIDN October).

Dealing with my parents use of technology

My mum has just discovered the dictate function on texts, and is going to town with the new-fangled feature. However, it often scribes her words incorrectly. And she doesn't change them. Often her messages take some serious translation and most recently she announced my 31 year old sister was going to Butlins. “Abby is going to Butlin. Ha ha But. Lynn. Well you know what I mean. I am on dictate.” Berlin. Abi is going to BERLIN.

Meanwhile, the last time I rang my Dad there was just a load of squeaking on the end of the phone. I have no idea what button he’d pressed. I text him, defeated, saying it sounded like Alvin, Simon and Theordore had answered the phone to which he replied “lol!” and I haven’t’ heard from him since.*

Living alone

Technically, I have been doing this since March, but now it’s been long enough that I know it suits me. This is the first time I've lived by my actual self, and it was a bloody scary move. Going back into a house-share was not an option. After living with a partner, you go past the point of being able to deal with anyone else’s idiosyncrasies other than theirs or your own. I have become far too selfish with my personal space and I don’t want to have to live with anymore drug addicts, alcoholics or people who do not shower (all true).

I was a bit scared of being lonely, bored and…well, scared. But honestly? There hasn’t been time for that. My feet haven’t touched the ground this year, and I love that my downtime is just that. Yes I am skint, and as a single occupant you are responsible for everything to the point you can’t so much as miss a bin day - that’s exhausting. And sometimes it would be nice if some form of food was just there when I got in after a long day. Yet with all that said, the good more than outweighs the bad, and I’m very much enjoying being miss independent (with a little help from my friends). Throw your hands up AT ME.

Baking a hellalot

This may not come as any great surprise to those who know me, as baking is my religion at the best of times. There I am, every Sunday, holding up my whisk in worship. But right now I am in a complete baking frenzy. The cold Autumn air, the Pumpkin Spiced Lattes, Paul Hollywood’s steely Blue eyes and, dare I say it, the first hints of festivity. It all just makes me want to get up at dawn, don an apron and create batter all day long. So I mainly do.

Cutting and sticking

Creating has always been my anchor. From my earliest days when I’d happily lose whole weekends crafting paper lanterns (can I hear Watch with Mother yo!), paper-mache-ing some rather attractive vases, sketching the fruit bowl for the 700th time, and building Ferries out of shoeboxes (what?). In grown-up times, creating has become other things – baking, blogging, cards and collages. (The world just wasn’t ready for my cardboard catamarans).

The last few months I have been in a much freer place, and creating has become the centre of my being again. Nothing makes me happier than a day spent locked away, making things. I will easily plan whole weekends around my want to do this. It’s my therapy, it’s my ME, it’s so fun. Would anyone like some personalised bunting? 

Buying all of the Benefit counter

I switched to 'proper' make-up when the world decided I was ready for a grown-up salary. Ironically, this meant that last Christmas I forked out £50 on a Benefit gift set for myself (half the content of which I ALREADY HAD) just because it came in a pretty, festive, gingerbread house tin. Those guys know what women want, and if it isn’t fairy-tale themed aluminium.

Since being poor again (sigh) I’ve had to cut back on my Topshop habit and Graze boxes, but some corners cannot be cut and proper foundation is one of them. My friend once said to me that her Mum said to her (bear with me) “you only get one face.” Profound. Since that day I have invested my last pennies in ensuring I treat my one face as well as I can. And the Benefit counter is just SO pretty at this time of year.

Doing an emotion on 2015

I think of October as the penultimate scene in the play of the year. That act before the finale, where you start to see the end of the year, ready to wrap the whole thing up in a bow. You’re not quite there, but you know it’s coming, and all the characters of your life are poising to take their bow. 

2015 has been really quite something, and it’s by far from over. There are so many adventures to tend to still before the year is out, but I already know that it is forever going to remain in my memory as one of the most pivotal and profound years of my whole life. Oh, sentimental me.

Schmaltzing (that's a word)

I am clearly in a very sentimental time in my life, as barely a day goes by that I don’t post a card or stick another photo on my pinboard. As much as we live in a virtual world, I think these tangible forms of love are so important. I surround myself with memories, and make sure to tell people how much I value them in a way that means a little more than a quoted re-tweet.

Fan-girling hard on my own friends

I rave about my friends a lot and they get a lot of airtime here, because they prop me up and make my world go round all at the same time. Like a hand twirling a tiny disco ball. Each and every one of my friends gives me something so unique, and when I reflect on the amazing, supportive, strong group of girls I have around me I just feel so lucky and proud.

When you go through something big, your friends show you what they are really made of, and how selfless they can be. And this year mine have blown me all the way away with their thoughtfulness, ability to make me laugh and just solid Gold advice. If I valued them before, now I’m ready to have them stored away in a vault (not in like a dark, scary, pyscho way) because I never want to lose these treasures.

New Girl Series 4

I just watched the entire series in a very short space of time, and after a shaky series 3 it seems the show has rediscovered its verve. Whatever you think of Jess and her entourage, any show with Schmidt in is well worth losing 2 days of your life to.

*update: I heard from him mid this blog post, via a voicemail that said "Hello love, I am in a car park sometimes known as the M4. Anyway, hope to speak soon!"