Can we just show some appreciation to having a change of scenery? 

  
For the last few years I’ve gone on holidays with friends. Once a year with my uni friends, as part of a sort of tradition we’ve started where we pick a UK spot, book the coolest looking accommodation we can find on Air B&B, load up some cars and go. The others have been holidays in the sense of beaches, sunshine and girl time. The last three that I’ve got back from, a different friend has mentioned how much of a massive difference that change of scenery has made to their frame of mind and outlook and frankly, mental health. 

It’s hardly groundbreaking, we go on holiday because we want to blow of steam, rest, top up the vitamin D and escape real life. The internal (and Facebook announcements of glee) parties we have when we turn on that out of office says it all. When I do mine I literally get Duke Dumont- I Got You start playing in my head. It’s like some ecstatic man in a Hawaiian shirt skips into my brain and presses play and then joy commences. And no, this doesn’t have to be reserved for jetting off to tropical shores with a vat of mosquito spray, this is to anywhere. I got imaginary Hawaiin shirt man even when I went to Wales and it was freezing and I had the flu, my mate had oral shingles (yes you read that right- she had shingles in her mouth) and my other friend badly burned herself. We went to A&E and an emergency dentist on that trip. We quite literally, as my boyfriend put it, put the ‘broke’ in ‘Pembrokeshire.’ But all that aside, all the snotty tissues and many paracetamol aside, I came back feeling like I’d been given the elixir of life. 

Alright, slight exaggeration, because I was still coughing up green stuff, but you get my point. On the day we set off I was thinking to myself that the only way this group of ill, burnt and crying people would have a good time is if we just went home. I was of course wrong. As I watched a friend drunkenly dance to various Phil Collins songs around a converted barn because she finally felt de-stressed from a frankly shit time in life, I realised this is what we always need. 

Of course, we’re not all millionaire lottery winners or chief execs, so it can’t always be converted barns, Indian Ocean beaches and plush hotel rooms with views of valleys. Sometimes it has to be another part of town you’ve never been arsed with visiting, like the time my boyfriend took me to an abandoned car park in Peckham. Romance is alive and well everyone. But seriously, we took really cool photos from said car park, then ambled about a part of London we’d never explored, walked about 4 miles, talked, ate food and erm, called the police because we witnessed an assault. If you forget the assault, that one day took me from tired and grumpy and fed up with my many health woes, to feeling better about everything and ready to go to work on Monday without groaning and moaning and sighing heavily. 

Fast forward to now, I haven’t slept properly in weeks. I’ve been irritable, the most sleep deprived I’ve perhaps ever been, been suffering with symptoms of pain and immense discomfort and paranoia about my health and feeling down in the low, low dumps. I’m now on holiday and within one day, despite jet lag and still no sleep, I feel like I’ve had a facial peel that’s revealed a whole new human. 

A new view and a bit of space. Enter all the ‘hands in the air’ emojis.

Hello, I am hormonal, how are you?

  
Oh hormones. You really are NOT the one. In a week that’s been pretty shit anyway, I’ve spent many hours wondering if I might just melt into a puddle of hormones and then evaporate never to be seen or heard of again. There was a point on Wednesday when I found myself on the verge of tears over how long a lift was taking and angry to the point that I had the shakes over how awful trains are in this country.   I don’t chuck around the word melancholy often, but that may as well have been my name at that moment in time. Poor Melancholy Rellis having a shit day, an active womb, a commuting nightmare and very wet hair from the fabulous British summer time. Woe. Was. Me.

You know when it rains heavily and the grey sky is basically you, looking down on you? Well yeah, that. 

Hormones are important to our bodies. We need them for all sorts of reasons, from breaking down fat and protecting us from diseases to improving the quality of our sleep. They exist for a reason, but don’t you sometimes just want to suck them out, put them in a blender and feed them to sharks? 

I once went to my GP and basically sat there hysterically explaining that I JUST CAN’T EVEN when it comes to hormones. Do I have too many? Am I normal? Can I have a cuddle? Can you just please prescribe me a cheese burger? The doctor assured me I was normal and welling up at a story of a donkey who saved a cat and that my feelings of the whole world being against me and out to ensure I am only ever miserable is perfectly normal, especially when menstruation  comes along and sets up camp inside my reproductive organs. 

You’ll know if you’ve ever read any of the other health woes I harp on about- bladder infections and hypermobility particularly, that I take great comfort in knowing I’m not alone. I’d like to transport hundreds of you raging, hormonal women into a giant den filled with wine and crisps and huge bars of Milka so we can revel in our emotions and cry and hug and debate politics and be generally brilliant. I have a lot of faith in my excellent gender and the ass kicking we do even when we’re angry, hungry, sad, happy and tired all at once. I like knowing we’re out there, all doing the hormonal thing together, even when it seems like the world is empty apart from us and our feels. 

I’m going to go carry on drinking Fanta Lemon (or limon, because childhood holiday nostalgia) and getting emotional over how good it tastes. Hormones gonna hormone. 

Let’s not let someone else’s tweets make us feel like failures

Enlight1-10

A few weeks ago I was doing the one thing that I try not to do when it comes to social media- getting sucked in by other people’s lives. As someone who, for work purposes, spends a lot of time looking at social media, I try and make a conscious effort not to spend ages trawling through status updates and looking at what people I don’t really like that much had for breakfast. But it happens. Last week I stumbled upon a load of tweets in a row from people who had just done massive things- moved house, bought a house, secured a job abroad, announced an engagement, they just kept coming. I don’t’ even personally know a couple of the people who had tweeted. They’re just people I sometimes talk to about writing or travel or hangovers or how cut their pet is.

I did have a small internal panic about it, because why aren’t I spending my Thursday night announcing that I’ve basically ticked all adult boxes and am winning at life in every aspect? Instead I was just lying about, too tired to blow-dry my hair and wondering if there was any feta cheese left for lunch the next day. We’ve all had a mild ‘why is everyone doing better than me?’ flutter in our brains, social media induced or otherwise.

Luckily, I only really feel that way if I’m down on my luck, having a bad day, really tired or upset about something else. I can keep an arms-length mind set to all that I see when I scroll and I’m thankful. But when it happens, it spirals and I can’t understand why I haven’t travelled to 200 countries, started my own successful freelance company and done up an entire house ready to home my children and inevitable dogs. Isn’t so lovely when our brains are rational and reasonable and take it easy on us?

Some people just seem to have lives that are full speed ahead all the time. They just do things and then they do more things and before you know it they’re making you feel like a total failure and leaving you feeling the need to start spooning Nutella into your mouth and rocking backwards and forwards. But that’s’ what we get for having all this information about other people, in text and photo form. We crave it, we search for it, we lap it up and we join in. don’t get me wrong, I love social media and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ve carved a career out of it, so I’m not about to start calling for some mass social media cleanse where we all ditch our smart phones and wifi and sit around talking more and drinking coconut water. God no. But just as I have to remind myself time and time again, there’s absolutely no harm in coasting.

Coasting along and taking things at a comfortable pace never did anyone any harm. You don’t often hear confessions where people say “I did things in my own time, when I was ready, I learned a lot and I didn’t rush into mistakes and it’s such a massive regret.” I’m all for comfy coasting, it’s pretty much been the story of my life so far. I haven’t particular rushed anything and I don’t confuse that as boring. I’m also well up for taking risks and throwing caution to the wind and sorry for sounding like your thirteen cousin, but YOLO.  I really think the YOLO attitude is important because until someone proves otherwise, I’ll stick with the idea that we really do only live once.

We are the generation that takes photos of our granola to showcase to our followers and we are the generation that has more free platforms of expression than you can shake a stick at. In many ways it’s weird and wonderful and great things come from it, but we have to make sure we don’t feel lowly, or inferior or like we’re wasting our time because someone else’s Instagram says they just promoted and are off to New York to celebrate. We just have to keep on coasting and wait patiently until it’s our turn to tweet our triumphs and do some gloating on Facebook.

 

I’ve got 99 problems and my bladder is one

IMG_9339

Of all the things I ever imagined being jealous of, people with well behaved bladders wasn’t one. But I am. If you have a bladder that works in normal ways and doesn’t cause you sleepless nights, hot flushes and the need to pee into plastic tubes for your doctor regularly, I envy you deeply.

I can’t even consider counting how many UTIs I’ve had in my adult life. I know there was a period where I had over 20 in a year (or more likely several that just decided they were making a home for themselves), leading to what seemed like endless examinations and having cameras put in places you really wouldn’t want a camera. I’ve also lost count of the amount of times I’ve been asked “does it sting when it comes out?”

If you know the plight of having bladder issues, then you know how real the struggle is. My bladder took over my life for about a year and a half. Eat, sleep, cystitis, repeat. That was pretty much how I rolled. Instead of sleeping peacefully at night I could often be found slumped on the bathroom floor cradling a bottle of water and thinking about how good life can be when you don’t have burning in your urethra.

Luckily for me, one of my housemates and best friends was going through an equally terrible time with her bladder. Infections, waking up several times a night, endless trips to the doctor and a general feeling of misery. While I’ve managed to mostly escape the clutches of bladder-doom for now, I still get the odd infection or period of time where things don’t feel quite right. It’s nice having a network of people who completely understand the awfulness to rant at when it happens. All I’m missing now is a cystitis WhatsApp group. Or actual support group. There are clearly women everywhere eligible to join.

I was once a tube going to work, and I got that terrible feeling of heat creeping up your body, followed by the sudden desperate need to go to the loo mingled in with nausea and must have looked so bloody awful that a woman approached me to ask if I needed anything. Maybe it was the fact this was about the fourth time in a month this had happened, or I was just at the end of my urinary tether, but I just word vomited all about my troubles to this absolute stranger. Turns out, she was on trimethoprim for a UTI herself. We ranted for three stops before I dragged myself off at Old Street to go and have a little cry in my office. Oh life.

One of the only things that got me through the worst of times, including laying in hospital with a raging kidney infection watching Pitch Perfect on repeat on iPad, was knowing I wasn’t alone. Even among my friends, there’s at least five girls who suffer the same as me. I’ve even gotten talking to people on Twitter who have the same issues and when you begin discussing techniques to feel better including baths, barley water and hot water bottles, you feel a sort of virtual hand holding. I even felt like I was receiving a pat on the back from Caitlin Moran recently when she tweeted on International Women’s Day that her best advice to women was ‘always have a wazz after a shag’ to cut down on the cystitis risk. What a hero.

It makes me sad that I even have this much to say about how much my own bladder trolls me, but knowing I’m not the only one sort of takes the edge off. I feel your pain girls, I really do.

 

Reading list- books you’ll probably love (well I do, anyway)

reading

Not that you would know it’s summer due to the solidly grey sky, endless rain and the need for a coat, but since it is, hopefully most people will have some sort of escape planned. Even if that involves a few days off at home with the heating whacked up and many cups of tea. Good old British summer time. I’ve done a lot of reading lately, and I’m currently building a new reading list, but these are a few tried and tested winners that you should consider reading. They’re all very different too, as I have zero ‘type’ when it comes to reading. I love all sorts. And these also aren’t new releases or anything, I just really bloody love them, and they’re all on Kindle or in paperback on Amazon if you feel inclined to try them.

Also if you’ve fallen off the reading bandwagon like I had at the start of this year, do try and get back on. I don’t care how lame it might sound to some people, because I don’t think it’s lame at all, the joy of reading a good book is hard to beat.

The Cormoran Strike books- Robert Galbraith:

So this is kind of a three-in-one recommendation and as we all know by now, these are written by JK Rowling. Since this lady is basically my literary hero thanks to HP, I don’t know why it took me so long to read these. My boyfriend read them first then kept telling me how good they were, and they are. They’re the kind of books where you invest in characters straight away and the clever writing style leaves you curious about some of the information you’ve been fed about their lives. I’m on the third at the moment, but absolutely ploughed through The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silk Worm. If you like detective stories and trying to solve a puzzle as you read, you’ll thoroughly enjoy these. They make you want to sack off your day job and become a detective and buy some mirrored aviators and a wig. I also love how they’re set in London and mention so many places I know well.

White Girl Problems- Babe Walker:

The funniest book I have ever read, without a shadow of a doubt. I howled with laughter reading this. It’s so crude and so outrageous but so bloody hilarious. It basically takes on every rich girl cliche characteristic you can imagine, adds in Los Angeles and multiplies it all by a million. There’s sex, outrageous money, fashion, surgeons, boyfriends, many diets and lots of cocaine. It touches on loads of issues girls struggle with growing up, but makes a sort of welcome relief mockery of them through this ridiculous character Babe, who you can sort of relate to in a disbelieving way. Seriously, this is the ultimate holiday read. The follow up is equally as hilarious, if not more.

Belle- Lesley Pearce:

An entire world away from the above books, this is not a read to take lightly. But if you really like losing yourself in a long read, I highly recommend this. it’s about a teenager who’s abducted into the sex-slave trade, but it’s set in 1910, so there’s lots of period descriptiveness that I wouldn’t normally go for, but loved in this book. It’s also a story you struggle to forget. I’ve read it twice, the first time about 5 years ago and still think about it sometimes. It’s also frightening when you remember this actually happened and still happens to real people.

Amy Poehler- Yes Please:

I love funny women and Amy is one of my favourite. I loved her from the very first seconds of Parks and Recreation and from snippets of her doing Saturday Night Live bits on YouTube. Her book goes into how she became as successful as she is, how the ins and outs of the comedy circuit work and all the weird and wonderful experiences her amazing career has led to. It’s funny too, obviously.

Nice is just a place in France- How to win at basically everything- The Betches:

I’ll let this book sum itself up: ‘LOOK, MAYBE YOU’RE A NICE GIRL, but we’re guessing you’re more like us or you probably wouldn’t have picked up this book. Not that we have a problem with girls who are nice people. But being nice is just not the way to get what you want. And this book is about getting what you want.’ This book is flipping hilarious and I love it dearly. It turns the world of self-help on its head with advice like ‘don’t be ugly’ and ‘don’t be poor’ and I’ve never enjoyed taking reading with a pinch of salt more.

Getting into running- inspiration to get up and go when you feel like you just can’t (or cba) 

 I’ve tried to get into running so many times. When I first moved to Fulham I used to watch all the keen runners at weekends jogging off towards the Kings Road or crossing Parson’s Green and I wanted in. It all looked so healthy and so very west London as I looked out of my window wearing my owl pyjamas and eating Biscoff with a spoon.

I used to go out every so often, with no route mapped, no distance to aim for and the wrong kind of trainers. Needless to say, my running career didn’t go so well and I swapped it for the gym.Until quite recently I never bothered trying again, partly because I was much more interested in gym classes for the structure, partly because of my painful joints and partly because I couldn’t be bothered. Then I got an email inviting me to join the Vitality 10k in London and I must have been feeling brave or recently consumed a coffee because I said yes.

The first run I went for after signing up was a fail, and I struggled to go further than a mile without needing to stop and catch my breath. In my second attempt I went a tiny bit further, but pulled my hamstring really badly and ended up nursing a painful limp for two weeks. The thought back then of even running 3k without stopping seemed impossible to me, and not even because of lack of fitness, just because it always felt like such an effort to get it done.

Now though, nearly 6 weeks on from that, things have gotten a lot better. After spending a lot of time on Runner’s World, buying a foam roller, seeking some advice from one of my gym instructors and using an app that tracks my progress, I’m comfortably running 6k in 36 minutes. I might not be the fastest, but this feels like a massive achievement. I also feel like I can go further, and my fitness levels have never been so good.  I’ve lost weight, my legs are firmer, my back feels stronger and for the first time ever I can see my abs, which is nice as I’ve been looking for them for about 10 years. Nice of them to show up.

The one thing that made the biggest difference to get from failing jogger to actual runner, was mindset. I stopped counting down how long I had left, feeling put off and cutting my target short, and started strategically planning how far and where I needed to run to. Planning. I am a planner, and even in free-running, this is what gets me through.

If you want to get into running but feel like you can’t, aren’t fit enough, like it’s too much effort or you just lack the motivation to leave the house and do it, focus on how good it’ll feel when you collapse through the door after you’ve finished. I literally do collapse through it most time, because it’s not easy. It’s not meant to be a breeze. It’s sweat, gritted teeth, determination and sore limbs, but I’ve honestly never felt better, stronger or fitter.

Starting small was also a good decision. Trying to be a hero and running 5k off the mark isn’t likely to bring great results. I started just running 2k, sometimes stopping for a quick walk and slowly built it up. I use Run Keeper to look after my distance, pace and save routes for me. It also lets you rate how you felt while running. The pace part is a big deal, and would never have occurred to me, but if you finish a run comfortably look at your pace and try to stick to it next time. I’m only attempting to quicken mine after nearly 2 months of practice.

  
I don’t know how much longer my dodgy hips and hypermobile joints will keep up this good phase they’re having and let me carry on, but right now I feel better and more like I’m taking care of my body than ever. I never considered running and getting sweaty and gross and turning the shade of beetroot would make me feel good, but runners high might just be a real thing.

So basically, if you want to do it, chances are YOU CAN. Just don’t go in blind and make a mess of it- plan, stretch, warm up, warm down, start small, breathe and get an app and a bloody good playlist.

 

Emergency bucket list

Yesterday while putting things away in the kitchen after eating dinner, I picked up my dog (she’s very little) and then absent mindedly opened the fridge and went to put her in. I repeat, I nearly put my dog in the fridge.

Not only did I nearly refrigerate Maisie the westie, the best part of my day yesterday was sitting in an empty house, in total silence, eating a broccoli stir-fry. This doesn’t make my life sound that great, I’m aware, but I think it tells me what I’ve been suspecting- I need a break.

I have one in two weeks. Just 10 working days left until I can put on my out of office for more than a long weekend since SEPTEMBER LAST YEAR. I don’t know who I am, given that I usually go away every other month. But this has made me even more keen to sit and scroll Instagram and google search my ever-growing bucket list. These are the places I want to go for future ‘I need a mother flipping holiday’ times.

Canada Yes bloody please. Mountains and camping and lakes and all-round epic scenery.

Canada.jpg

Image: Pixabay


York Closer to home, I’ve been meaning to go to this city for the longest time after hearing only wonderful things from friends who studied there or have taken weekend breaks.


Nice A friend of mine moved here recently and her photos are giving me hell. I’ve only ever been Paris and Calais so I need to explore more of France, starting with the Riviera.

Nice

Image: Mike


Costa Rica One for next year’s travel list for certain. Again, I only really got the idea from a friend going here and plastering stuff all over Instagram. Oh and Jurassic World.


Germany I’ve discussed a German road trip with my friends several times over the past couple of years. It looks amazing. I want to go to Berlin and have a ridiculous night out, but also drive through the country and stop off at tiny towns and eat all the carbs and soak up the history.

16 snippets of appreciation in adulthood

shoes.png

1) Sitting in absolute silence for a few minutes upon arriving home, away from all technology.

2) Having emergency comfort food stashed away that you can turn to after a harrowing day or several hours of train delays.

3) Having friends who understand the meaning of a text that just says ‘wine’.

4) The joy of having the means to travel.

5) Being able to justify treats (I’m talking like an M&S lunch or an elaborate coffee, not a Chanel bag) because you work hard and you know it. Or you went for a run last night, so carbs are a necessity.

6) Understanding the importance of sleeping properly.

7) Appreciating good food and being able to cook it.

8) Realising that getting home safely, quicker and warmer is worth the money a cab costs.

9) Finding actual joy in cleaning products.

10) The sudden appreciation for candles and cushions as more than just things you buy and chuck on a shelf or a sofa.

11) Savouring any spare time to just lay and read and not speak to anyone.

12) Realising that life isn’t a race and there’s little happiness to be found in trying to make it one.

13) Being old enough to decide if you eat the whole packet of crumpets.

14) Putting more thought into weekends because they don’t last long enough or come round fast enough.

15) Appreciation for all those things your parents did that you used to just think was their job, and they did it because that’s what adults do.

16) Still wanting to and occasionally acting like a teenager on a night out, pre-drinking games and wardrobe raiding included.

A face mask that’s worth your pennies from Soap & Glory

  
My skin has been behaving like a spoilt toddler lately- I’ve given it what it needs, spent money on it, fussed over it and it’s still been having tantrums. Basically a combination of slack make-up brush cleaning, going to the gym with make up on a couple of times and some disagreement with a new shampoo has left my face a bit out of sorts. And lumpy. Really rather lumpy.

I bang on about how sensitive and difficult my skin is all the time, so I won’t go into detail, but there is one combo that makes it feel clean, smooths it out and scrubs all the dirt and other random objects that linger on it to make it feel all new and happy. The Soap and Glory No More Clogs heating face mask came to me after my friend recommended it and I stumbled into Boots and found it on offer the next day. Fate.

I was a bit nervous of it because the heating confused me at first and I thought it was stinging, but nope. It’s pretty bloody glorious. It says to put a ‘grape sized’ blob on your face, then scrub in with wet hands. I always use a little bit more, because I think I have a face the size of the moon, but also I find it harder to get it covered evenly with a smaller amount.

  
  
Whenever I wash it off I feel a bit like someones hosed me down and removed all my sins. It’s so cleansing and your face feels like it’s been plumped up and steam cleaned. Besides Elemis face wash, this is my favourite face product. Sensitive skin sufferers and everyone else- go indulge in it’s warm, blue goodness.

It exfoliates well too.

5 Times the internet has been good lately

home-office-336378_1280

Image: Pixabay

1) Hannah Gale- 9 Places you absolutely have to eat in New York City 

If you weren’t hungry, you will be now. I think I could probably do a trip to NY specifically to eat those ice cream cones and drink the melon juice.

2) The meat-free hamburger that’s made from ‘plant blood’

Just read this. It’s topically interesting amidst obesity and the hype around us being more ‘plant-based’ and also just weird. I like strange food stories.

3) 23 pictures that prove you’re actually really good at life

4) Big Fashionista-Plus size bride

I’ve long been a fan of Kellie’s writing and this is another really refreshing, no nonsense read about feeling good about yourself. Good for her. And also her wedding looked amazing, and we all love wedding nosing, let’s not lie about it.

5) Spice Girls bitching

Because it’s nice to feel like we’re back in 1996