I just don’t really know

thumb_IMG_1922_1024

I’ve never felt more conflicted than I do right now. You know how people say that they feel hunger like an emotion? That’s me with conflict. My brain is like a ball of “I don’t know” and it’s annoying and interesting and means I keep waking up at 4am to have a silent battle about big and small things and things I shouldn’t even need to question myself on.

I spend a lot of my spare time just being torn, not about a general direction for my life, but about almost everything. I have, as most people do, a gigantic, ever-growing list of things I want to do, places I want to go, food I want to eat, beaches I want to sunbathe on, cultures I want to experience, jobs I want to have, causes I want to help, clothes I want to wear – it’s endless.

I want to do different things with work and at the same time I want to do the same things with work. I want to go to a hundred new places, but I also want to revisit places I love. I want to channel all of my energy and spare time into one idea, yet I can’t seem to focus on it for long enough without getting more ideas.

In one rather dull evening at home alone, feeling a bit ill and a bit angry, I’ve felt conflicted about my hobbies, my travel plans, my next big thing to save for, if I should lay in bed or sit in the living room – it doesn’t matter how big a thing or how trivial, if it it’s my mind you can bet I’m conflicted about it.

Maybe this is just an age thing (27 in 6 days TICK TOCK), maybe it’s just another outcome of spending too much of my life online viewing how other people live and wondering how on earth they manage to do it all. It might be a bit of both, or it might be other stuff. It might be people close to me in both age and emotional ties fighting off killer diseases and making me constantly think about how short life is. It might be the fact I’ve just bought my first home and am feeling suddenly strange that this huge weight has been lifted and I’ve scraped over the finish line of this massive looming task.

I can’t seem to decide lately if I want to drink tea or coffee, let alone make choices that will impact my life every single day. Not knowing up from down and left from right is as annoying as it is sort of intriguing. If conflict is something that comes with this stage of life then I hope it brings good choices, early nights and late nights and absolutely immense amounts of cheese.

Knowing the answers is boring anyway, right?

Sometimes things go wrong and it’s just what you need 


The past three months have been a rollercoaster ride of very grown-up feeling stuff going wrong, getting better and repeating. We started 2017 with plans to move away to an entirely new place. We had the house, had the ideas and had it sort of mapped out. I thought it was right and that it was time and I built it up to be something it never would have been. 

Then it all went wrong, turned into a giant mess and eventually the whole thing got scrapped. 

I can’t explain how delightfully thrilled I am about that. 

It’s amazing how much you realise you didn’t want something until it’s called off and cancelled.

I know now I’m not doing it that my choice to wave goodbye to London and buy a quaint little house by a river big enough for a family I don’t yet have was because it felt like that’s what other people were doing. I felt like I should do it because it was responsible. It was sensible. It was something to grow into and decorate and change and get used to and just to learn to fit in.

When it all fell apart we took serious stock of what was happening with our lives and I realised that I just did not want it. I wanted to live near people I know. I wanted to be in London (well, the outskirts cos y’know, I’m not a billionaire) and I wanted to live somewhere I actually liked. 

All I really want right now is to able to commute quickly, feel comfortable, have space to myself and get a grip on the next big challenge – and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

I don’t know why I felt the need to press fast forward a hundred times like my life depended on it, but it did not do me any favours. 

I had this feeling that I’d be judged or deemed behind the masses or some other strange, unrealistic emotion that I can’t quite explain. I don’t even know who I felt like I had to answer to. There’s no person, no group of people, no conversation that I can blame. I think it was just the curse of seeing so much of other people’s lives online and getting blinded by it all on top of being a bit of a bully to myself. 

The whole situation worked out way better than I could ever have imagined. Something that felt like a disaster turned into a saviour. 

I’m fully excited for the rest of 2017 and what we’ve decided to do. I certainly now appreciate that spending a year working bloody hard and saving harder wasn’t done to feel unsure and anxious, it was to make life better. 

So here’s to not going through with stuff that doesn’t come from the heart and to an exciting next few months. 

The problem with weekends when you’re a mid-20s grandma

IMG_2295
There’s something that doesn’t quite sit right with weekends anymore. What used to be a glorious prospect involving lengthy lay-ins until lunchtime, big nights out and lazy days spent trawling high streets or debriefing with friends about the vodka haze, is now this big internal ‘can I be arsed?’ battle.

Some things haven’t changed. For instance, going out on a Friday night still makes the weekend feel longer, and getting a night out done and dusted with two days stretching out in front of you to do sweet FA is still the best way to go about life. It’s also still true that Sunday hangovers are the worst and that making plans for Sunday afteroon (but nothing that ends later than 8) is good for combating the blues.

These are weekend rules I’ll probably always live by. Rules that became ingrained when I was in my late teens and very early 20s and have just continued to serve me well. Now staring down the barrell of 26 (I know, it’s not old, but I still remember rolling around in Spoons aged 19 drinking jugs of blue alcohol like it was happening a couple of hours ago so forgive me for my horror) all I want from weekends is rest and food that makes me feel satisfied and a bit smug. Smutisfied. I want a meal that makes me feel smutisfied. Think heavy on the cheese, plenty of veg, semi-fancy wine and good helping of carbs. 

These days, plans freak me out. Getting to Friday is still beautiful and amazing and I scroll through Instagram without hating all those ‘FRIYAY’ memes as much as I hate other slogan posts, but there’s this slight fear for what’s coming if I know it’s a busy one.

Not going out on Friday and Saturday used to be a failure. It used to make me feel like I was wasting time or not using my short freedom from employment properly. Now days, realising I have places to be and people to please at various locations and times across Saturday and Sunday makes me feel a bit sad.

That’s the problem with being a mid-20s grandma- plans start to hit you hard. When you wake up tired, you just want to spend your weekend laying, floating around, maybe going food shopping, maybe going to the gym, maybe going to the pub, probably watching half a series of something on Netflix and unashamedly eating in bed with half a can of dry shampoo in your hair. But it’s not all boring. I still really love an impromptu night out because they just sneak up on you so you don’t have time to think about how tired you are or how little money you have. I do get excited for seeing friends, I’m not an unsociable snore entirely, and I definitely like birthday meals, celebrations and long afternoons in the sun (three times a year if we’re lucky), but i also really, massively look forward to REST. Sweet, glorious and unassuming rest.

Despite this love of doing nothing, weekends also seem to get filled and booked out weeks in advance and now I have to arrange something stupid like going for a few drinks on a Saturday afternoon weeks before the event. I’m not sure how these things happen. I’m not sure if maybe I’m just lame. But I do know I don’t care.

Walking around the house after a day of total relaxation drinking wine and wearing big socks and loose pyjamas is my grandma dream. 

Invisible illness – the struggle is still real

img_0812

I don’t consider my illness to be invisible. To me, it’s blindingly obvious.

When I look at my feet, I see the scattered red dots where my blood vessels have leaked and stained. When I look at my ankles I see the weird red and orange patches that no doctor can explain, just hanging out down there like a little fake tan accident. When I look at my arms I see the strange way they bend and the places where my joints don’t look right.

To other people, I look perfectly normal. Bog standard. Run of the mill. Just another face in the crowd.  I don’t look ill, (unless you get up close and personal with my face on a bad day and see all the lines and purple marks having a tired party) I mostly just look like someone who got up early and could use a sit down, which is basically all of us right?

I get up five days a week and cram myself on the train to go to work. I work all day, go to the gym or running in the evenings, see friends, eat out – I live a good life and I’m lucky, but every day I’m also aware that I could feel awful at any given moment.

The best way I can describe life with an illness like mine is that I’ve spent my (almost) 27 years feeling a bit ropey. For years I thought I was just unlucky. People, family included, would joke that I was a sick note or that I didn’t have an immune system and I just agreed. People can’t get their head around pain for no apparent reason when they’ve never dealt with it, so in many ways I wasn’t taken that seriously and that includes by doctors.

When I finally got diagnosed with having Ehlers Danlos syndrome after a long and arduous battle, the GP I saw as part of my follow up told me she too had an invisible illness and that she felt my frustration. She also said that it was likely to be a lifelong struggle to get people to understand that looking good doesn’t equate to feeling good.

She wasn’t wrong.

I still find myself not bothering to tell people when I feel really bad. If I have to limp for two days because my hip has come out of place, I’ll just get on with it when I could really use more rest. I still get disbelieving looks when I complain about not feeling right. I still get asked “REALLY ill again!?” if I do tell people things aren’t good.

You definitely do build up a resilience to be able to carry on when you’re feeling like crap with chronic pain conditions. Chronic illness in general is certainly a character building experience. It’s really been online, social media particularly, that I’ve found a strong support network. The internet has given people who suffer with rare conditions a forum to come together and it’s been extremely important to me. It’s so reassuring to speak to another person who just gets it and is living it too.

The majority of people I’ve connected with and turned to for help online have struggled at one point or another with trying to communicate to people that you can be seriously unwell but still look totally fine. It really is a thing.

How do you tell a stranger on a train that you need a seat when you look young, well and fit as a fiddle? How do you explain to your employer that despite the fact you were breezing round the office yesterday full of good cheer, today you can’t come in because you can’t move?

It’s a battle and it’s a tiring one and there are many people fighting it, so be kind to your mate who feels ill a lot, because you can never really know what’s happening to a person.

9 online homeware stores that deserve a little attention 

 

I keep googling ‘homeware stores UK’ in the hope of finding some new places to shop from. I’ve found a few round-ups and lists of online homeware stores that aren’t just Ikea or John Lewis or Oliver Bonas (not that I don’t love all of those – I just want some different options) but then I get to the sites themselves and often find my status as a non-millionaire a problem.

I have a whole new home to fill very soon as I’ve managed to accumulate basically zero furniture in my 26 years (adulting like a pro) and I don’t want to buy EVERYTHING from Ikea.

I say this, I will buy many things from Ikea.

While I don’t want to overload and buy loads of stuff I don’t need, having lots of empty space to fill seems as good a reason as any to get some shopping done. After many weeks scouring the internet, Twitter, Instagram, blogs and magazines I’ve put together a list of homeware websites/shops that are affordable, sell all the things you’ll likely need to function and plenty of pretty bits for staring lovingly at too.

1) M&S

Okay, now this is probably obvious to everyone and I thought I’d get it out the way, but I honestly never really thought about M&S for homeware. I love their food and I love their clothes but that’s always been the extent of my Marks and Sparks browsing. Turns out they have a lot to offer.

What they’re good for: KITCHENWARE! The above spring coffee mug was brought home by my boyfriend the other week and they have loads of similar, lovely kitchen/cookware bits.

2) Wayfair

This is my current favourite website. They sell practically everything in the home world and they change their offerings so often you’ll never get bored of browsing.

What they’re good for: Sales – they have a new sale every couple of days on different products or themes or even by room. They do a good selection of contemporary sofas and lots of lovely light fixtures too.

3) Red Candy

The point of Red Candy is to be bright and bold and buy less beige and they can certainly help there.

What they’re good for: Clocks and photo frames are especially worth a look.

4) Lo and Behold

I found this site through just typing ‘homeware’ into the Twitter search bar, and while they don’t actually stock that much, you can find some gems. Very modern, very smart and all of the colours and patterns are understated and chic.

What they’re good for: Throws, bedding and lights.

5) The Range

I feel like maybe most people know about The Range, but late to the party as ever I only found their site a few weeks ago. Lots of furniture – big furniture, small furniture, they sell everything. It’s not all my cup of tea but there are some really nice storage pieces and coffee tables.

What they’re good for: Reasonable prices, good storage and lots of selection.

6) The Little House Shop

A lot of the stuff on here reminds me of H&M’s home offerings, but they do a bit more in the way of jazzy lights, bigger selection of prints on cushions and random stuff like toys.

What they’re good for: Lights, hanging mirrors, cushions and planters.

7) Cuckooland

I came for the name, stayed for the wooden storage. When I first landed on this site I wasn’t really sure it was really for me (although they the most amazing kids teepee beds that make me want to be 8 again), but they have some really nice stuff.

What they’re good for: Chests of drawers, storage units, garden stuff, kids furniture.

8) Howkapow

Expect bright, cheerful and quirky.

What they’re good for: Unusual candles, pretty mugs and cups, quirky kitchenware and fun gifts.

9) Bouf

Not the cheapest in this list, but it’s the bigger stuff you’d pay more for anyway that they win at. Lots of trendy hexagonal shaped furniture and really nice  painted wood.

What they’re good for: Bookcases and dining chairs.

Creativity – Changing stuff, being happier, repeating.

img_8835

Last week I went on a really good date night. It was good because it was a Thursday and that means it was nearly Friday and there’s never anything bad about that. It was also good because it involved an evening spent in the company of Caitlin Moran – funny Times columnist and author of books which I immensely enjoy.

It was a fairly low key event in The Troxy where she was interviewed by a fellow Times columnist and they talked about all sorts and it was funny and relatable and at times very touching. There was a game of ‘shag, marry, avoid’ involving Trump, talk of masturbating, talk of smelling of soup and talk of being scared of men. I saw Caitlin talk about life and writing at an almost identical event a few years ago and I took away from that exactly what I did from this one – I should stop doing stuff creatively that I don’t like that much and do whatever I want, even if that’s not much at all.

What this did was reinforce a feeling I’ve had for some time now. I haven’t been using my blog or social media in the same way as I have done over the last few years lately because this feeling that it wasn’t really what I wanted to write or do or put my name on kept resurfacing. I’ve been busier than ever before the past five months and this all consuming time has left me unable to blog much, but I also just haven’t wanted to. Massive cba vibes all round, which is not really what you’re meant to admit to people but it’s true. I haven’t wanted to blog, or tweet much or interact online because I started feeling increasingly like I hate everything I’m doing. Instead I’ve been enjoying my job more, getting out more in my spare time and trying to relax and lay off grinding my teeth.

I think when I started out blogging and trying to learn more about online platforms it was for a specific goal. I was looking to change jobs and do something more focused and when I achieved that, for a while it spurred me on to do more. Then after that time, I found myself doing the same as everyone else in what is a very over-saturated market. This feeling has lingered. My time has been limited. My energy has lessened. My motivation for this thing I used to love has frittered away.

I knew all of these feelings existed but I just sort of kept covering them up. I was putting concealer on my creative crisis. Like, hello massive life zit making me feel quite awful, let me just dab you with some nice nude cover-up until you look and feel even worse and people point and stare.

It took that evening of listening to one of my favourite inspirational women who openly tweets about the importance of weeing after you get laid in the battle against cystitis and writes columns about politics and women’s rights at the same time, to truly realise I was fully over my need to blend in and tick boxes. Caitlin Moran talks a lot about having a platform and using it to be honest and open and to reach people in a way you’re comfortable with. That’s why I came to this part of the Internet. That why I started giving WordPress some of my hard earned dollar, but it’s not the same anymore.

I don’t want to write about stuff I see tweeted onto my timeline everyday because I don’t feel I have anything new to offer. People are already doing a mighty fine job in that corner of the market and I don’t feel like it’s my cup of tea anymore. That doesn’t mean I won’t still read it, because I will, I love reading about other people’s lives. I just don’t want to do stuff just to do stuff. I don’t want to have this schedule of box ticking. I don’t want to do what people expect. I want to do stuff that I like, even if only two people read it and one of them is having IT issues and they’re stuck on my website involuntarily.

That is fine. I am happy with that. Sometimes I force my dog to sit on my lap when I feel down and she always comes round to it eventually. If you are stuck on this website I hope you’re easing into it. If not, apologies. Ask Siri to help you.

I know what I want to do with my spare time now. I have this almost fully formed idea in my head of what to burn creative energy on and what my hobbies will be over the next year.

It does involve doing stuff on here and it does involve trying to knit again even though I heard my mum and nan snickering secretly at my first effort (low point). I will essentially do what I want. I will enjoy it. It will be great (probably). Now I am going to lay down because I ate a lot of Thai food then ran for a train and it’s painful.

Adoration for the most average weekends

img_9213

I adored the weekend just gone (please come back) yet I did absolutely nothing special during it. I didn’t go out out, I didn’t do anything to my hair or put on much make up, I didn’t celebrate anything, go shopping, drink wine or try anything new apart from putting cheesy nachos inside a fajita which was a dream come true.

Happiness at the weekend can still be dancing until 4am, trying to phone the ‘Night Tsar’ on a help phone at Bank tube station and getting in round after round of Cafe Patron. All of that is still fun, I still like doing it and I get genuinely excited about the prospect of going out somewhere which requires me to think about my choice of shoe and sharpen my eyeliner, but there’s a whole new contented feeling in town come 5pm on a Friday.

These days, weekend satisfaction and all round happy feelings include:

-Cleaning things with bleach that smell like citrus fruits and then commenting on how fresh everything is for the rest of the day.

-Homeware shopping online until I realise I don’t need any of it, saving a few links and then repeating the next day.

-Walking. Walking anywhere with water, trees, ideally swans and maybe a nice photogenic bridge.

-Not sleeping in. The me of five years ago wants to slap the me of right now hard around the face and throw a glass of water over me, but it’s true. Being dressed, functioning and coherent outside of the house by 9am makes me feel like I’m coasting through life as opposed to the desperately treading water and shaking my head feeling I have most of the time.

-Drinking enough wine to feel warm and fall asleep easily and doing it because FRIDAY, but not so much that I wake up and need to stick my head out of a window at 7am and do the ‘phone, keys, bank cards, ID’ bag check that follows a heavy evening. (I haven’t actually had to do this in so long and I sort of miss it but also NO).

-Being able to get in on a Saturday afternoon and stay in where there will be no wind, no rain, no chance of being failed by public transplant, no queues, no general public and no need to have clean hair.

I know the ‘being a granny’ in your 20s thing is hardly groundbreaking but being a bit boring and predictable has never felt better. I also think that after a long time and very up and down 12 months, I’ve finally embraced a better mindset and a rosier outlook, which makes lovely weekend all the more lovely.

February reads: Four brilliant books


I started this year really well in the reading department after signing up for a Goodreads account, but it’s fallen to the wayside a bit over the past couple of weeks. In an attempt to kickstart things again and boost my total reads for 2017 so far, I downloaded a couple of books this weekend and put about 58 in my amazon basket (and about 58 pairs of shoes in my ASOS basket to match). I intended to read loads on Sunday but life (including a balance of work and sticky toffee pudding) scuppered that plan.

The stuff I have actually gotten around to reading (shoutout to Thameslink for all the delays recently giving me time to read on freezing platforms) has been really bloody good. The best are listed below and I’d highly recommend them all.

Hold Back the Stars – Katie Khan 

This is Katie’s first novel, and I ordered it after following her on Twitter for a long time. She heads up digital at Paramount and after always enjoying her work and personal life tweets I felt like I needed to read this. Also the cover is gorgeous and will do your bookshelf a pretty little favour when you’re done.

Behind Closed Doors – B A Paris

This is brilliant. A proper page-turner and if you love Girl on the Train and Gone Girl style books this is a must. I gave it to my mum to read for her holiday last week and ended up reading the start again afterwards and it’s just as good second time around. It’s essentially about a glamorous, happy marriage that is actually far from. Just the right amount of grit.

The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

Yeah I know, so late to the party there are people asleep on the stairs and the wine ran out three hours ago. I had been meaning to read this for so long and when I found it on my boyfriends kindle I finally did it – in just under two days. If you haven’t gotten round to this, seriously do. It’s pretty short, very sharp and really interesting. I’ve never read something like this and found it so clever and inspiring and actually pretty moving.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

I mentioned this in the pub at work on a Friday and a couple of people whipped round to chime in on how bloody good it is. It took me a while to twig exactly what this was about but that, in my opinion, makes the book. The way the story of Rosemary and Fern is told is like thinking back to childhood with your own sibling, but then you learn it really isn’t like that. I absolutely loved this, probably one of the best books I’ve read in years.

Quick and easy crumpet french toast

 

img_0893

IMG_0890.JPG

I’ve been looking up pancake recipes this week because the best day of the year fast approaches, and every so often a french toast recipe crops up and I have the biggest craving (to both eat it and book flights to New York). French toast is one my favourite indulgent brunches but I haven’t made it in a couple of years because I feel like it’s loads of effort.

It’s not loads of effort, I am just loads of lazy.

I had crumpets in the cupboard and a slightly hungover sister, boyfriend and brother in-law to feed, and since I didn’t think they’d want plain crumpets and we had bugger all else in the cupboards, french crumpets happened.

I once saw an amazing looking chocolate and cinnamon french crumpet recipe but it was very complicated and frankly I can’t be arsed with complicated on a Saturday morning. This is quick, easy and tasty so it gets full marks for lazy weekend eating.

You Need: crumpets, milk, 2 eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter to fry with and something sweet to drizzle on top.

Directions: Crack 2 eggs into a bowl and add in about 4 tablespoons of milk, some cinnamon and nutmeg and whisk together until you get a runny, sticky mixture. I put a tiny bit of dessicated coconut in too, but obviously it’s not necessary.

Dump your crumpets in for a little soak (about one minute on each side) and heat the pan with some butter. Fry them all together if you have a big enough pan, so you can actually eat them at the same time rather than awkwardly queue. I chucked frozen berries into the pan while they browned and let them go mushy to use as topping.

Once they’re browned, drizzle them with honey or maple syrup, chuck on your toppings and et voila, you’re done.

5 little coping mechanisms for when life gets you down

img_0812

I was supposed to spend the weekend just gone catching up on various stuff, blogging included, after a stressful couple of months but it didn’t happen. Since I’ve been blogging less, I’ve used social media less and I’ve gotten used to being detached from my phone and the internet more and I think that change will stay. It’s no lie that social detoxes do wonders for the mind and for anxiety. I’ve been ill the past week with some sort of virus and cough and stayed inside for 48 hours, so rather than stare at screen all weekend, we drove down to Worthing to visit Dan’s dad and had a lovely, fresh and airy little break. (Thanks @Dannyboyjnr for the photo skills displayed above).

We’ve managed to get on top of  most of our issues including living situation, home buying, car owning and storage issues in the past ten days, but it hasn’t been the prettiest start to the year. I definitely think adult life should come with harsher warnings, or even just a good sit down in a pub for half hour where someone tells you that things will get shit, then probably worse, then be really hard before they get better. Insert mum, dad, Hermione Granger, a wise cat – whoever you like.

These are the things that have got me through this irritating little patch of life and I can confirm they have all eased my woes for at least fifteen minutes, but some for much longer.

1) Walking

You cannot beat literally walking your worries away. The further into my twenties I get, the more I seem to want to go for walks. Obviously countryside and sprawling views of natural beauty would always be preferred, but even walking round the block or a longer way home from the station will do it. We blew away the cobwebs on the Sussex Downs on Saturday then spent Sunday morning strolling around Arundel and I feel a million times better for it.

2) Paying closer attention to sleep

I’m quite bad for letting myself get overly tired then having a casual 12 hour sleep marathon to try and fix it, but it doesn’t work for me. Being extra strict on bedtimes and setting alarms even on weekends (I mean, nothing before 8:45/9 because I’m not an alien) stops me from over-sleeping, which just makes me feel gross and lethargic and is all a bit sad.

3) A ‘three things to accomplish’ list for every working day

I’ve actually found work a relaxing escape from dealing with daunting admin and life decisions lately (no YOU need to sort your life out) and I saw someone on Twitter going on about hand-writing three things you want to achieve every day when you first sit down at work. I did every day I worked last week and a couple the week before and it’s quite nice, if not just because ticking something off a list is satisfying as hell.

4) Separation from the news

I can’t ever be that far from current events partly because I work in a press environment and partly because I just don’t like it, but a little bit of down time is good for the soul. The news is freaking mental 99% of the time at the moment, and when I’m not pulling ‘WHAT THE F’ faces I’m feeling sad about the state of the world, so time away from Twitter and news sites has been cathartic.

5) Eat better, feel better

Yeah, yeah, yeah I know, LAME. But as someone who doesn’t really have a bad diet anyway, I really notice the difference in how I feel physically when stress eating kicks in. Roaming the kitchen looking for anything carb-laden and chocolate covered has been a 2017 hobby of mine. I need to stop though, and I have mostly (apart from this weekend because cake and red wine and life) and when I eat well, I do feel a billion times better for it. Now I just need to dose up on willpower and I’ll be dandy.