In 2015, let’s do some living

Working alongside some very worldly people means I spend a lot of time at work listening to stories of travel and projects and adventure. It’s fascinating and inspiring and best of all, it makes you hungry for life. It’s the sort of environment where you could feel like you’ve wasted your life because you’ve not managed to fit in nearly half the stuff they have. They are all older than me though, so I know I still have time. It’s already an obvious decision that the fast-approaching new year will be hopefully better than the last. Obvious because no one hopes for a worse year, do they?

The great thing about life is time, especially being in your twenties. Time is, hopefully, something you have a lot of. It’s rolling out ahead of you and it has absolutely no rhyme or reason. Unless you have life planned, day-by-day, to a tight schedule which will take you from now to pretty much retirement or beyond, you can’t have any idea what will come your way. I don’t know a soul on this earth who has such a plan and I wouldn’t want to. No thanks.

Even tiny things which happen in life, that in the grand scheme are pretty insignificant, can bring a lot of joy. For example this photo of me and one of my best friends, pretending a mop is a broomstick while out celebrating my sister’s birthday. It’s stupid and it had no real impact on my life at the time. We didn’t go out with a firm plan to find a mop and then pretend we are from Harry Potter. However, it happened, and now this photo makes me laugh and feel happy every time I re-visit it, which is fairly often.

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I am not for one resolutions and you certainly won’t find me laying in bed on New Years day suffering from a hangover and updating Facebook with something like ‘New year, new start xoxo’. Urgh. Just stop. All of you stop. A new year is a good time to change things, because we associate it with starting again. You can’t really start life over though. Life starts when you are born, everything that comes after is change. Changing for the better is good. We should all do more of it.

My 2015 is going to come with a theme, one that is actually already in place as of now. The theme is ‘Yes I can.’ Being young and feeling completely bogged down by the need to get an amazing job, earn a shed-load of money and save up for a house that is an absolute rip off and is so small you can barely believe the price tag and so on and so on. You know the score. I actually can’t believe it’s taken me 24 years of life to realise that saying no to things because you have to fit the mold of ‘successful’ and ‘normal’ is just so massively lame. This is definitely something to leave behind. I am happy to join the club that have had the same awakening, which is really what it feels like.

I want to do things. I want to do everything. I do want a house and I do want to have nice things and a good job, but I just want so much more. So many random things to do and places to go and days out to have and people to meet. I tell myself everyday in my head ‘no you can’t do that.’ Why? Money? Time? practicality? Time is running out. It runs out everyday and we have no shelf life so what better time than now? I’m not saying that I’m going to get loads of credit cards and put a round-the-world trip on them, I’m not an idiot. But I will do everything in my power and my budget and my actual ability to just tell myself ‘yes you can’. Go for it. Why the hell not. You can’t take anything with you and nothing materialistic makes me as happy as fleeting moments like that mop photo or moments like these, when I tell myself ‘yeah let’s do it, let’s do some living.’

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Christmas at Kew Gardens

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So it’s six days until Christmas. Less than week. I have no idea how this can even be possible, but it’s happening.

If you want to squeeze in something very festive in the last week of build-up, try Kew Gardens. The Christmas trail is nothing short of lovely. It’s full of pretty light shows, festive music, mulled wine stalls and yummy food. It’s also really good for little kids, with rides, a giant helter skelter and lots of adorable photo opportunities. The gift shop is  packed with nice last minute gift ideas too from body sprays to seriously chic wellies and scarfs.

It’s a mile long walk, so you need to wrap up extra-warm, but it’s worth being outside in the cold for.

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You can hang lanterns on a wishing tree, toast marshmallows, walk through a tunnel of twinkling lights and see snowflakes reflected on all the buildings. Those that like all things mulled this time of year can indulge in sloe mulled gin by Sipsmith. Yep. MULLED GIN.

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The light show across the lake as you enter is beautiful and I can imagine any child being truly enchanted. It’s a lot less fussy, busy and offensively loud than Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. You need tickets, but they can be bought online and printed at home and it really is worth the £15 adult entry price. You will leave feeling fully ready for December 25th.

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Staying sane in your twenties

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Sometimes I think I might be going mad. Sometimes I blame London, sometimes I blame money, mostly I just blame life. Sitting and reflecting on the amount of stuff I worry about and how often I let my brain run away with the idea that I have messed up everything in life and I am a lost cause is worrying. Maybe I should do something about it. Maybe I should just chill out. Maybe I should take up something relaxing like knitting. Maybe I need to stop reading all the articles that say we are screwed because the older generation took it all. Or maybe I’ll get a puppy. A puppy will solve everything.

But seriously, it’s really hard to feel sane in your 20s, so I am finding out. I don’t have a baby, am not engaged, don’t have a mortgage, probably haven’t found my calling in life and haven’t done any charity work abroad. OH THE FAILURE. I blame my friends partly; we stress each other out SO MUCH just by openly talking about all these things and boasting without meaning to when we get them. Damn you Instagram, you lying fiend.  We all talk about when we will have kids and joke about never affording to buy a house or why no one has jumped up and down to marry us yet. It might be fine at the time, and we just move on to the next topic of conversation, but the truth is it’s impossible not to dwell.

Sitting on the tube in frozen panic that your GHDs are still on and you will return home to a smouldering pile of ash and your landlord will be there, waiting to kill you and kidnap your parent’s dog as revenge, that’s fine. That’s general, normal, ‘I’m 24 and today I straightened my hair still 90% asleep’ worry. Lying awake at night crippled by stress that you’re not about to complete on buying a house, or will your fertility run out before you have a baby and what if you never, ever get promoted and remain a bit skint forever? WHAT WILL YOU DO THEN? That is not normal worry. Why are we, twenty-something people, getting so massively worked up and worn down by the idea that we have to have it all and it has to happen now?

I am one of these people, as my boyfriend, who is laid back to the point he’s practically a horizontal being, will definitely back up. He’s probably terrified of me and wondering where the relaxed, casual, fun person from 2010 has gone. Well she’s currently coming up with ways to spend 2015 living life, rather than worrying that life isn’t being lived right. It’s such a drag, not having it all. It’s just terrible isn’t it? Being free to go on holidays and having a bit of disposable income to travel and go to festivals, stay out after work to have a drink, lay in bed until lunchtime on a Sunday and eat cereal for dinner whenever we want. How completely unbearable are our lives? How do we get out of bed to face the day?

Not so bad eh, when you think about it like that. It’s absolutely fine to one day want to sit in a home you own that’s filled with furniture you thriftily sourced on Gumtree, with your chubby little toddlers taking naps alongside your little dog. It’s also okay to not want to have little toddlers and dogs and just spend your life roaming the planet and doing seriously cool things. Your life’s happiness absolutely cannot be measured by what you own, or you’ll never be satisfied. It also can’t be put into perspective in your twenties.

I think it’s time to remember that youth can’t be purchased when you’re 40 and you’ve got your life a bit sorted. It also can’t be paused or frozen Austin Powers style. I regret the last year I spent stressing out about things that either will or won’t happen, so I’ll happily take my 24th year of life forward and remember that the next birthday is 25, not 50.

C is for cancer, Christmas and checking

Cancer (the first C) is a scary word. Whenever I think about it I associate it with very sick people, battling against their bodies to keep on living. A few months ago I was laying in bed watching TV when a cancer research advert came on and I remember thinking it seemed unlikely to happen to me, just because you don’t expect it do you? People in my family have had and sadly died of cancer, but not my immediate relatives. Not my parents or grandparents or aunts or uncles. You don’t get any sort of training for this kind of thing so I guess until it happens you don’t have much of an opinion, apart from maybe fear. I didn’t dwell on the cancer advert. Fast forward three months to Christmas time and it’s been a bigger effort than ever to feel festive.

Cancer happening in a family does strange things to dynamics. Where there should be utter chaos and panic and lots of planning, a strange calm sets in. You suddenly take a breath to reflect on life and realise the only things that really matter are people. People being okay, people getting support and people having really good reasons to take on round one against cancer, let alone the many rounds that follow.

Christmas (the second C) in the age of 2014 is predominately about buying presents, getting nice things, channeling man V food and going on commercial days and nights out to festive themed places and bars. I love Christmas. I love mulled wine and jumpers with happy polar bears on and eating mince pies for breakfast.

This year I love everything more. Mostly thanks to one simple task that has saved a life this year: Checking. The third C obviously.

Christmas has essentially been saved for my family thanks to something my mum saw on TV. I’ve spent a lot of this festive period checking everything on my body excessively because I am the ultimate worrier. But now I am the prepared ultimate worrier.

Cancer will throw you the biggest curve ball and make for the scariest time. It is something that needs to be faced though. When you have it on your brain 24/7 you realise that it’s everywhere. Splashed all over TV, the tube, the news, magazines. You can’t escape it. Well thank God for that.

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Check yourself. It’s Christmas. Cancer isn’t festive or cheerful but it is so very real. Tell everyone you know to check themselves. What better time to start than now. This isn’t a post on the signs of breast cancer, it’s a post about getting in the way of cancer.

Checking has saved christmas this year for my family, but ultimately it’s saved a life. I’ll drink to that.

Hangovers in your twenties: Part 3

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So today is apparently the most hungover day of the year. Judging by the people who I shared my late night tube journey with last night, I can definitely see why. I witnessed a man fail to get off at the right stop due to the inability to walk; awkward as his wife made it off and watched him speed away looking less than impressed. He didn’t even make it off at the next stop. In fact, he’s probably still on the District line wondering where exactly Upminster is and how he got there.

This hangover falls under the categories or festive and unjust.

Event: Pre-Christmas catch up with a friend

Venue: Rabieng Thai restaurant in Angel and La Farola cocktail cafe 

Run down: This was one of those occasions when you haven’t seen a very good friend in a while and you have SO MUCH to say that within an hour you’ve burned through at least 37 topics and discussed everyone you know at length, but you still need another sold four hours to feel fully caught up. This is usually one of those times I find you can drink a vile amount and find yourself wondering if you have a problem the next day, but while you’re there you are oblivious to the 234533 units you’ve put away by 8pm.

Thankfully, given work today and my limited time to get my stomach pumped, 234533 units did not pass my lips. We shared a bottle of red wine with dinner and I definitely had less than half. Just one bottle. Between two. Reasonable. Totally adult. Very responsible.

Food: Rabieng is easily the nicest Thai meal I have had outside of Thailand and I recommend it highly. The peanut sauce is basically a dream come true in your mouth and the curry is absolutely divine. Green is usually my curry of choice, but we got red and green, to be extra- adventurous and red won hands down. It was so delicious I think I could marry and have children with it. If you are a fan of Thai you have to do yourself a giant life favour and go here. 10/10 on food. They also accept gourmet society cards if you phone ahead and book a table. The whole thing left me massively yearning for this:

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Cocktails: La Farola was a place we just happened to fall into because they had a cosy little table by the window empty and there were lots of pretty fairy lights. The sign outside promised cocktails and cocktails they deliver. This was a good night for ‘best ever’ experiences, because it was the best porn star martini I have ever tasted. Shots of prosecco should be more common. Continuing the theme of responsible adults, we had one each. ONE.

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The hangover: Unjust. Unfair. Ridiculous. Inexplicable. I have felt sick since the moment I stepped out of bed. The sort of nagging, acidic ‘Oh you had a drink last night didn’t you’ sick reminder that your body gives you. The amount of food I ate, and the fact I had water before bed and first thing in the morning really shouldn’t have warranted this nauseous delight of a day. I have had this amount of alcohol and much less food on many occasions and felt like a goddess the next day. Hangovers are officially a mystery. They can’t be tamed.

Score: 6/10, mostly because it just isn’t fair

Cognitive behavioural therapy

We need to talk

Last week I had a telephone assessment with a mental health practitioner. It’s probably the third or fourth similar assessment I’ve had and what strikes me most about them is how good mental health staff are at cooing reassuringly – “mmm” – I swear, the first week of their training must be devoted to getting the pitch just so.

We went through the questionnaire that’s designed to determine where you are on a scale of depression and anxiety. This caused a brief bout of self-recrimination because my scores, on the whole, were low and I felt briefly as though I was wasting her time. It’s an interesting mental contortion to wish that you were more depressed so as to not disappoint a stranger at the other end of a phone. I suppose its one that goes right to the heart of what it is to suffer anxiety.

It’s an interesting…

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18 thoughts and feelings of people who use the District Line

1- You arrive at work angry and void of any hope or cheerfulness at least three times a week.

2- Earls Court isn’t just a place to you, it’s a circle of strange, confused Hell where nothing makes sense and you have to take risks to get where you want to go in life.

3- You associate the colour green with pain and suffering.

4- Any day with less than 9 signal failures is a victory.

5- Manically laughing as you squeeze your body, bag and soul on the tube at Fulham Broadway in the morning is completely reasonable behaviour.

6- You’ve suffered heat stroke and noticed your limbs physically melting on a city bound service in the summer.

7- You recognise one of life’s big questions as ‘Why don’t they use the big, airy trains to go to the city where more people travel? Not even cattle are transported like this.’

8- You use the fleeting moment signal returns at Sloane Square to tweet the District Line a sarcastic comment like ‘well done guys, an hour to go 8 stops. Bravo.’

9- You ask yourself time and time again… What is the point of Cannon Street?

10- The thought of travelling from Wimbledon to Upminster leaves you feeling like you could vomit at any given moment.

11- ‘This train is now terminating at…’ are words that remind you that life is unfair, unjust and needs to be re-evaluated.

12- You have a support group on Whatsapp with friends that also use the District Line, because sometimes you just need to get it all out.

13- Although you see it time and time again, you can’t get over how full the train can be at Southfields a mere three stops in.

14- Seeing a near empty train roll into Earls Court from Richmond or Ealing Broadway inspires you to start looking at new flats. You could find somewhere nice to live near Ealing Common right?

15- You’ve learnt the hard way that good service actually means a barely acceptable service.

16- Minor delays and severe delays may as well be a reminder to bring your sleeping bag, because let’s face it, you’re going nowhere.

17- Being late for everything has become a part of your life.

18- You realise you’ve forgotten the person you were before you began suffering with PTDLD- Post-traumatic District Line Disorder.

You should also take a look at @DistrictLame on Twitter, for obvious reasons