A guide to being a first time buyer

Back when I first started looking at places to buy, I spent ages on Google searching for advice and answers to the many questions I had. The longer the process went on, the more I struggled to find the information I needed and although I did find a lot of useful stuff online, I couldn’t find anything tailored to me – a fairly clueless first time buyer with a massive amount of anxiety about the whole thing.

We had a bit of a roller coaster time with our first attempt. After about six weeks of searching we found a place and went for it, got an offer accepted, got the ball rolling, paid for searches and did a lot of paperwork only for it to stall. After that, problem after problem started to crop up and we realised why it’s said that buying a home is one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do. As frustrating, upsetting and irritating as it all was, waving goodbye to four months commitment on a place to start over taught us some valuable lessons about the world of buying. it also turned out to be a good thing, as we’re much happier in a different area and feel much more settled.

I kept wishing I could find a place online that had more than a few snippets of information, so this is my effort at making that happen. I noted down all of the things that we struggled to understand and the things surprised us or made us want to shout “WHAT EVEN IS THIS???” to put together the below in the hope it might help a few others. This is all based on my experience so of course it doesn’t have everything you might need, but I hope it contains at least one useful explanation!

First things first – getting the mortgage sorted

We went through London and Country for our mortgage advice, which is a completely free service and I couldn’t recommend them enough. They took all of our financial information, talked through exactly what we wanted to do and spend and came back with mortgage offers from four different banks. Alongside this we did our own enquiries to compare, and once we had chosen a mortgage product, they guided us through the whole process.

If you don’t want to use a broker you can make appointments at banks to apply for a mortgage in principle (online calculators exist for basically all of them so I’d suggest finding the best couple of offers online and making appointments with those) but be prepared for a wait. Banks seems to have very long waiting lists for appointments in-branch so get organised in advance. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to make offers on places without a mortgage in principle/decision in principle, so this should be your first port of call.

You can get some information on the cost of buying a house from upfront fees to leaseholding costs from The Money Advice Service.

viewings, estate agents and questions

We used the classic combination of Right Move and Zoopla to search for places to view. It’s also worth signing up to mailing lists of estate agents in the areas you are looking at. It can be easier to get yourself on open day lists for popular places if they can contact you directly. We also had trouble getting booked in for viewings at first as we weren’t quick enough, so I’d strongly recommend doing your searching and phoning in the morning as the best places get snapped up FAST.

When we were at viewings I used to forget all of the diligent and sensible questions I should have been asking and just made awkward small talk instead –so take a list on paper and make sure you use it!

I wrote a post on questions to ask estate agents and things to consider that might not be obvious. There are little things you can do like running taps and flushing loos to check water pressure, as well as asking to look inside lofts or basements (which can hide all kinds of issues and secrets).

Also, this is an important one, if you’re buying a flat, make sure you check the number of years left on the lease. The EA should have this information and if they don’t ask them to try and get it. We learnt that when leases slip below 80 years, a property price starts to fall until it is renewed. Renewing a lease can be very costly (upwards of £6000) so consider this very carefully. You can get more information from the Lease Advice Service.

Easy research to do online when choosing a home

There’s plenty of stuff you can look up online to help you decide if you want to live somewhere.  Since we were initially looking at moving to a completely new county, we used a few different websites to do research:

Crime stats by postcode – not much fun but worth knowing.

House price data from the Land Registry – you can look up what other places nearby have recently sold for.

Find our if a property is at risk of flooding – if you’re anywhere near water it’s worth paying the small amount for the proper report. You can also get flood maps through this link.

Street Check – you simply enter a postcode and get a load of information on the area from housing and culture to employment and the all important broadband speeds.

Ask the local authority – we did some digging around with one local authority to ask about road planning and flood defences and got a lot of information for free. We simply looked up with LA we needed and googled for contact details, gave them a call and followed instructions. We also asked the local council if any building work applications has ever been submitted for one property we liked that was very old.

Putting in offers

This post looks at the questions you can expect to be asked – particularly when putting in an offer. I thought it would be as simple as calling the EA and naming a price, but of course it isn’t.

If other people are bidding too, you might end up in a bidding war, so calculate how high you can afford to go and think about stamp duty and deposit too –and stay by the phone! In some cases if multiple bids are put forward, you’ll be asked to give your best and final offer. We also learnt the hard way that it’s best to get your offer in as early as you can. We lost a house we really liked because two bidders had offered the same amount and since we were second to get it in, we weren’t successful.

During the bidding process we were asked for copies of our mortgage in principle and proof of deposit from all three EAs that we went through, which we did not expect and initially weren’t prepared for.

As much as I resented doing this, it’s worth getting savings account statements prepared or proof of deposit from a third party if you’re being gifted it. A bank statement with a date stamp suffices. Our mortgage advisor told us that EAs have no right to see these things, but they’ll ask anyway to make sure they aren’t taking bids from people who aren’t truly in a position to buy. The Home owners alliance offer tips on haggling over a price and the sealed bids process.

If your deposit is coming from a third party and not your own savings, you might also need a letter from that person confirming the money is a gift. If its a loan, you’ll need to fill out a form saying so, as all of this gets considered by your lender. You should get advice on all of this from your broker or mortgage advisor at the bank.

Picking a solicitor

Once you get an offer accepted on a home, you’ll likely be asked to move quickly on appointing a solicitor. You don’t need to wait until you’ve had an offer accepted to start getting quotes. We did this simply by asking people we knew for recommendations and good old Googling.

Often, EAs will offer you a quote from their solicitors, or a firm they’re in partnership with. There’s nothing wrong with having a look but don’t feel you have to use them because you don’t. When it comes to choosing one, read reviews, compare quotes and think about location. If you feel you’d be happier having an office to pop into (you can save money on postage by taking forms directly into offices) then look for one based close to home, though it doesn’t matter if you never meet your rep face-to-face. We never met ours as he was based in Manchester but we were in regular contact and had no issues on the communication front (though you should get a feel for this in reviews).

Really Moving is an online service that can help you find solicitors in your area and offer reviews. Rated Solicitors does much the same.

What will you need to pay them for? Well in short, every single thing they do. Ask for a  purchase estimate before you appoint, which should offer a total on legal fees, searches, checks and stamp duty, calculated on the property price -this won’t be the final price but should give you a good idea of where you stand.

Exchange, completion and moving day

There isn’t much to say on this as (hopefully) it’s pretty straight forward. Once you’ve finished the paperwork and got all queries back you can look at dates for exchange and completion. You might face an extra charge if you complete within one week of exchange, so if you can space them out you could save money. You don’t have to do much on either of these days, but we were told to check in regularly with our solicitor for updates on completion day especially.

Stay calm

It is stressful, but it also doesn’t have to be. Our second attempt was smooth, relatively easy and straight forward. My best pieces of advice would be to stay in contact with your solicitor and the EA as much as possible. Ask for regular updates from your solicitor (you’re paying them after all) and stick to your guns. If something feels wrong, it probably is. It’s a big deal to buy your first home, so don’t rush your decisions and it really is true that if you don’t feel 100% happy with a property then tread carefully. Oh and good luck!

Resting is not a sign of weakness

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On Monday I woke up with a swollen eye, a banging headache and felt a bit like someone had spent the night repeatedly running me over for fun. It was great.

This is not normally the sort of thing that would keep me from work. I live with a condition that causes chronic pain and fatigue and joint dislocations, so I’m used to feeling ropey. Feeling ropey is kind of the norm. But on Monday I just couldn’t. I needed to rest. I needed to sleep more, I needed to hold a hot flannel over my eye and I just needed to drink tea and not move. I basically needed to let my body and my brain catch up with life. It’s not just the chronically ill out there who need to rest sometimes though.

We’re a generation of busy people. We rush everywhere. We do everything. We get up early, stay  out late, have a crippling fear of missing out and we run ourselves into the ground trying to have a full life. It’s bloody exhausting. Yet, a lot of people I know (not all, admittedly, I do know some bed fanatics) feel ashamed of resting. They feel like they’re being boring, or letting people down, or wasting time if they just take a day out to regroup. I’m one of those people. I feel like I need to do something productive every day, on top of going to work, doing washing, cooking, going to the gym, doing freelance stuff, cleaning the shower, seeing my friends. I always want to fit in more.

We need to just stop. There’s nothing wrong with having a day where you genuinely feel like rubbish to spend the day making yourself feel better. I think for the most part, if you’re feeling in need of one of those days, you probably earned it and then some.

It’s not an easy habit to break but if you can appreciate the fact you need to give yourself time to be a human and catch up on EVERYTHING around you, you’ll benefit more than you could imagine.

Six things to concentrate on when you get your first DSLR camera

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If you’re immersed in the digital world of content creating, you’ll know that photography is key. When you’re producing your own images for a website, blog or even using imagery to build up followers or create a brand, the better they are, the better you’ll do.

Blogs have really taken hold of photography. It’s not uncommon for even spare-time bloggers to use top of the range equipment, and many blogs have pages of glossy, pristine photos to accompany their words.

Creating something that looks good means you’re creating something that’s going to sell itself better to others. Would you rather scroll through pages of dimly lit photos that look like someone took them on their phone, in the dark, after several gins, or would your eyes prefer bright, well executed, attractive photography?

Probably the latter, let’s be honest.
You definitely do not need a DSLR camera to take good photos. If you’ve got an eye then you can do it on basically anything, but if you’ve taken the leap of getting yourself a pricey, impressive looking piece of equipment, you may as well do it justice. It can be overwhelming, there’s a lot of buttons, functions, modes and options not to mention lenses and straps and caps. It’s tempting to stick it on automatic and leave it at that. BUT DON’T. LEARN.

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Here’s 6 things you should concentrate on first:

1)      Take lots of photos – it sounds like a no-brainer, but there’s a reason why ‘practise makes perfect’ is such a cliché. The only way to improve is to always be shooting – learn by doing. This one is also dead easy, all you need is your camera, your eyes and a little time. You’ll be amazed how quickly you start to think like a photographer as well, it won’t be long before you start see opportunities and framing up potential shots in your head about 8,000 times a day. Which brings me to the next point….
2)      Have your camera with you as much as you possibly can. Another obvious one, but you can’t jump on those 8,000 daily opportunities without your camera. And you will kick yourself when you miss them. Obviously, you won’t be able to have it on you 100% of the time (we’re not people of leisure who wonder aimlessly between cafes and coffee shops all day, sadly) but try to keep it on you as much as possible.
3)      Fittingly, point three is about the fabled rule of thirds. It’s a pretty standard rule of composition that basically says you should avoid placing your subject bang in the centre of frame. Instead, switch on your camera’s guide lines, that will divide your viewfinder into nine boxes, and position your subject where two lines intersect. Those lines are also really handy if you’re shooting landscapes: the number of old photos I’ve taken with wonky horizons is a source of never-ending shame. The best thing about this is what a quick win it is – your shots will improve immediately. But! don’t be beholden to it – in photography as in all things, the rules are there to be broken and knowing when to flout the rule of thirds will result in great shots.
4)      Get to grips with Manual mode: the M on your dial makes the camera your bitch, giving you complete control over the settings that will have a huge say in how your pictures come out. There are three biggies to consider: aperture (the size of the hole that lets light into the lens, and determines your depth of field), shutter speed (the length of time the shutter is open) and ISO (the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor to light). Getting an idea of these three things and how they interact with and affect each other, will open up endless opportunities for creativity, whether its pin-sharp focus throughout the frame, getting that velvety smooth background blur for portrait shots or using long exposures to paint with light and motion. Once you’ve got the hang of Manual, using the semi-automatic settings such as Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority will be much easier.
5)      The ultimate cliché: enjoy it. Don’t get downhearted if your shots aren’t coming out like you see them in your head. Simply check your settings and go again. Everyone is on the same learning curve and every photography great has been where you (and I) are now. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Ansel Adams, widely regarded as one of the greatest photographers of all time, said: ’Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.’ And he wasn’t even shooting with a digital camera.
6)      A cheeky final point: be a student of the game. Read a lot about photography. There are a shit ton of websites and blogs about the art and craft of taking pictures, from technique to different bits of kit, so it makes sense to use them.
HAPPY PHOTO TAKING. HAPPY CONTENT WINNING.
Thanks https://dannyboyjnr.exposure.co/ for the tips

londonwinter

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Setting a marker for making big, grown up decisions

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There’s a lot I could sit and drone about when it comes to adulthood. A lot of it would bore people instantly to tears, but there are some things that I know I’m not alone in pondering. I think pondering is a really underused work. That’s my adult thought for the day. I’m done. (I wish).

One of these things, something I have recently been having fun and games with, is taking the plunge on big, grown up decisions. I’m not sure if you start to feel more responsible and like a ‘real adult’ the older you get, (I hope not, I don’t want to ever stop associating gin with dancing on tables or Harry potter as the Holy Grail) but most of the time I generally feel like a ridiculous teenager flouncing around in a life I haven’t quite accepted. I’m fine with that. Totally fine. Making big choices though, you know the kind that actually have a real impact on your future and involve stuff like finance (I still can’t use a scientific calculator), is something you have to put on your ‘responsible, mature person’ act for and face head on.

I do wish I had some kind of advice fairy I could get out from under the bed and ask wordly questions too about what I should do when it comes to deciding on big things, but this isn’t  a weird Pixar film, so. yeah. No fairy.

We recently made (then unmade, then postponed) the decision to move home, regroup, save some money and then find a hew home. Moving out of somewhere where you have a good rent deal, lived for a long time, have all the convenience and friends at hand whenever you need or want them, is not an easy choice to make. But then if we don’t, we’ll never have quite enough savings to do what we want to do. Not for a fairly long time anyway.

It feels like a step back, but actually it’s a step back to take a massive step forward. It’s something that will hopefully set us up massively for the next few years and give us a foundation to go on and be EVEN more grown up and adult-like. We have tiptoed around the subject, put the date back. dreaded it, looked forward to it, regretted it, I’ve even dreamt about it. For a while I just kept thinking stuff like ‘I’ll win the lottery, so it’s fine’ or ‘maybe I’ll just go back to Sri Lanka, FOREVER.’

Both would be wonderful, but neither are realistic. I wish I was one of those people who can sit down, go through options and make an educated choice in one swift, slick move. But I can’t. I can’t even readily decide between crunchy or smooth peanut butter lately. The struggle is real. But it’s done. Date set. No going back.

Finally deciding on something big is a massive relief. It might not be easy, but if you know it’s worthwhile for future you, do it. That’s the marker I’m going to set for the foreseeable future of ‘deciding things.’

Girls, why do we forget to reward our own hard work?

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I’m not one of those people that’ll get all roudy during a discussion at the pub an start listing ways in which woman are better than men and how our struggle is much more real because periods and birth and cystitis. I have as much respect for men as I do for my fellow girls. I live with a man, have a lot of man friends who I love very much, have a great dad, work with a delightful bunch of men. You catch my drift.

But I am, at the end of the day (and at the start of the day actually) a woman. I have a V not a P, so yeah, gonna write about women.

I went to the doctors on Monday about a chronic condition I have, just a sort of check in, and she asked me why I had my jaw clenched. I wasn’t aware I did. She then asked me about stress and life and how I was feeling, and though I went in feeling alright, I suddenly, when put on the spot, got a bit overwhelmed by various feelings and worries and stresses and how tired I was, just to top things off. Nothing like some exhaustion to really brighten up your day.

She told me to try really hard to de-stress, (I have had a stressful 12 months, for many other reasons than life in general) and basically sent me away with my usual bloods to get done and an order to chill out. But it’s HARD. It’s really hard and we definitely do not give ourselves credit where it’s due.

I imagine my list of girl things that prove stressful and a drag at times wouldn’t be much different to most others. Periods, cystitis, the cost of a good bra, fear of giving birth (I haven’t quite got there yet, so I just sit and wonder), annoyance over the fact there’s still inequality in the workplace. That’s a few off the top of my head. I could, if I had the time, really get into but I don’t, thankfully.

Ultimately, there’s not a great deal we can do about these things. They are mostly all a part of life we accept and get on with (obvs not inequality, nuh uh), because what else can we do? I’m not looking for sympathy or anyone to jump up and say ‘YEAH SOLIDARITY SISTER’. I’m really, really not. I just think it doesn’t hurt from time to time to remember that us girls deserve to pat ourselves on the back sometimes. I sometimes get home from work on a day where I’ve had bad stomach cramps and needed endless painkillers to stay sitting upright and think, yeah, probably going to treat myself to a vat of chocolate tonight. Damn right! I also think it’s nice to remember that your girl friends might need a bit of encouragement from time to time. A good friend of mine recently told me to give myself a break because ‘you can’t feel pleased about achievements and pizza when you’re dead.’

I mean, sound advice right there.

There’s nothing wrong with self-rewarding and nothing wrong with recognising that we do a good job of cruising through the river of crap that can be life sometimes.

30 girl things that are good to know

1) Men really aren’t that bothered about what underwear you’re wearing and are probably more interested in it if it has batman on or something.

2) There’s no shame in feeling defeated by period pains, they damn well hurt.

3) There are loads of women on beaches all over the world who don’t look like Victoria’s Secret Models.

4) The Amara filter will make you feel good about your life on a bad day.

5) Hair brushing is not a daily necessity.

6) You can’t always be the one in the relationship who has flowers bought for you and the door held open.

7) It’s never a good idea to buy clothes that are slightly tight from Topshop. Not ever.

8) Ebay sells every dress you will ever need.

9) Stockings are not always sexy and graceful, they are quite often a massively unfeminine pain in the backside particularly when you’re hoisting them up on an escalator.

10) Never put lipstick on dry lips.

11) You probably care more about pubic hair than any man ever will.

12) Bras without wires in are the dream and a source of joy in life.

13) Plucking your eyebrows after a few wines is not an idea you will thank yourself for.

14) Girlfriends are harder to keep the older you get, but the good ones will prevail even when you don’t WhatsApp 25 times a day.

15) Keeping eyeliner on your lids rather than the bottoms of eyes too can make you look more awake when you’re nakered.

16) Putting lip balm on before drinking red wine helps stop staining.

17) Weights are not just for men.

18) Adding a tea spoon of baking soda to squash is a cystitis remedy for life.

19) Taking your bra off at work when the back ache is too real is fine as long as your top isn’t slightly transparent. Check yo’self before you wreck yo’self.

20) Wearing foundation to the gym just clogs your pores and you will have post-shower whiteheads. Sexy.

21) Take tampons with you when travelling. They DO vary greatly across the world.

22) Warm flannels do wonders for skin.

23) Face scrubbing should be gentle, not actually scrubby.

24) Tumble drying tights should be avoided unless you enjoy the ‘elastic is broke, tights are around my ankles’ vibe.

25) Buying thongs a size up is good practice. (or not buying them at all)

26) Men will get used to you talking about your period. You shouldn’t have to hide it and pretend it doesn’t stop by once a month and cause you great pains.

27) Clean bedding is too important to sleep in mascara or even consider using fake tan now you’re an adult.

28) Offering tea and a hug to your girlfriends in times of need is probably the thing they want the most (followed by wine and outrageous dancing, but first tea)

29) Avocado won’t go brown in salads if you chuck the avocado stone in there too. MAGIC.

30) Wine is both friend, and enemy.

Charity shops- Making the most of shopping second hand

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My addiction to going into charity shops and emerging with an array of weird and wonderful clothes has featured a lot on this blog. It all stems from me living next door to one in Fulham, meaning I walk past every single day, I challenge anyone to do this and not go in 4 times a week! It’s hard I tell you.

When I first started buying stuff from charity shops, it was mostly quirky little bags or grandad jumpers that I could take to festivals or wear around the house in winter. Then things got a bit more involved and I started buying, erm….everything. A lot of stuff in charity shops is a bit too far out for my liking, but most now feature high street sections (British Heart Foundation is very good at this) and you can get your hands on some true bargains. It’s also a good way of picking up nice little vintage bits like shirts or skirts that you would pay through the roof for on eBay and in vintage shops. You know what I mean- ‘TRUE VINTAGE URBAN RENEWAL ONLY £55!!!!’ No thanks pal. My favourite ever buy, which i’ve written about before, is this gorgeous dress:

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Making the most of second hand shopping doesn’t take much skill, but there are a few things worth keeping in mind. It’s easy when you see something nice to just pick it up and think that’ll do, but check the label and look at the brand. Sometimes I’ve seen charity shops pricing up stuff from Primark for probably what it was bought for brand new. That kinda defeats the object, so be sure to check. Also make sure what you’re getting isn’t damaged, most charity shops are good at marking on labels if repairs are needed, but I’ve bought clothes before and got them home to find holes, broken zips or missing buttons. Bit of an issue when you don’t have a sewing machine and are generally inept with a needle and thread.

I generally use charity shops to buy bright, unusual tops or jackets that I can add to my normal wardrobe and won’t see other people wearing, like the shirt below, which cost £2 from Sue Ryder in Fulham. Scouring through the men’s shirt section is always worth five minutes of your time, you never know what delights you might find. Mens 70s shirts are basically high fashion now days, Urban Outfitters stock stuff similar to what you can find in your local Cancer Research shop.

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Going into shops in the morning if you can is usually the best time, as newer stuff that’ll get snapped up quickly is put out the night before or before the shop opens. Also if you’re going in with serious intention to buy, take cash, most take card but the ones I frequent mostly have a limit or just prefer to be paid in cash. I love a good charity shop haul and I am long overdue, so that’s my probably my Saturday morning sorted.

Below: White Vero Moda top: £2. Blue and white shirt £2. Lilac cropped shirt £1.

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    100% pure silk scarf print shirt, probably unsuitable for every occassion ever but I will never part with- £3.

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6 tips to help cut period pains and make your time of the month less vile

1) Drink A LOT of water.

I was told this an eternity ago by my high school nurse, who was offering me some advice circa 2005 when I was in her office begging painkillers and bent over double and it’s stuck with me. Drinking a lot of water is supposed to help cut down the bloating, and if you can drink warm water even better, as this increases blood flow and can relax the cramps. The warm water thing has eased me in the past. Both drinking and laying in it, obvs.

2) Go for a walk

I have had occasions when standing isn’t really possible, but if you can get yourself together or waddle out of your office chair for ten minutes, walking helps alleviate pain. Moving is sometimes the last thing you want to do when you feel like someone is knitting a scarf using your womb lining, but exercise is always being thrown at us as a good way to help period pains, and the people don’t seem to be lying. I’m not sure I would take it as far as going to the gym though.

3) Peppermint Tea

My favourite, because it’s warm and delicious, and it’s tea and placing a hot mug on your stomach is a massive bonus. I mean, what an all round winner. It’s also a prophylactic substance (technical term), as drinking it before can help cut down on how bloated and gross you feel when the day rolls around. I LOVE peppermint tea, for literally any stomach ailment. Hunger, eaten 4000 calories for lunch, bloated beyond any hope, period bloat, life bloat, general tea need. All of the peppermint. All of the tea.

4) Eat better

I feel like trying to eat better is an eternal struggle. I want to eat well all the time but then when you least expect it there’s a brownie in front of you and then the day just completely derails. I’ve been told by various people and elders I have consulted (wept at) to eat better around my period. A better diet apparently means you have more of the vitamins and calcium you need, meaning your body deals with your period better. I mean, I’m not sure about this one because I’ve never put enough effort in, as I don’t eat that terribly anyway, but I’m sure there’ some science to it that is true. Papaya is supposed to be particularly good, so go stock up on tropical fruit and pretend you’re somewhere a million times nicer than bed/your desk/the bathroom floor.

5) Cut back on caffeine

Lame, but this is another one that I’ve been told about a lot over the years of struggle. Apparently knocking back too much caffeine can have all kinds of negative effects on your cycle. I’m not really in the market to give up coffee for anything, but if you struggle with periods of irregular length, or just irregular periods in particular, and you are a caffeine fiend, give it a go. who knows what marvellous changes you might see. (Or be like me and just carry on sniffling into your latte while you search for painkillers.)

6) Try Ibuprofen Lysine

I have tried all manner of period painkillers, including ones specifically marketed at tackling cramps, but often these are overpriced and you’re paying for a box that says it will help your period pains, but the pills are in fact the same as regular, cheaper painkillers. Ibuprofen lysine has become my go to pill. it seems to work the quickest, kill the most pain and last the longest. Boots own brand is fine, and much cheaper than branded options.

Good luck ladies. Good luck.

Change in your early twenties

I was meant to spend this Sunday merrily wandering around in the sunshine with my friend but instead I’m in bed feeling vile. The only saviour is the fact I found a Callipo in the freezer and had time to catch up on stuff I can do without moving (laying, napping, rolling around in blankets). Also writing this. From bed. Hiya.

I’m also a teeny tiny bit happy to be lounging in bed because I’m so SO tired. Tired mostly from adjusting to a new job and a new routine. Change is one of those things that’s ultimately good for us. It might not always come about because of the best circumstances but it certainly proves who we are. Getting your head around change is hard and exhausting.

My early twenties have been full of change. Life seems to be ever-evolving and turning direction and while it’s never taken me somewhere I don’t want to be, it’s been a tiring ride.

Turning 21 and leaving uni feels like it happened to someone else. It feels like something that took place so long ago it can’t be my memory. Yet at the same time running around Kingston-Upon-Thames drunk on port and visiting the river late at night to watch the swans feels like five minutes ago. Time is weird. I’d kinda like time to slow down. It’s only being able to have a day of doing nothing that’s given me time to reflect on how much has changed.

Relationships have changed, homes have changed, life goals, career paths, friendship groups, hobbies and even food I like. It’s all changed. Some for the better and some maybe for the better, I’m not entirely clear on everything but who is?

This period of life, my early twenties (now mid-twenties I guess JESUS WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN) must be the same for almost everyone. Its like you haven’t quite found a clothes size that fits you perfectly because you keep fluctuating, but you feel like pretty soon that will stop and you’ll find a good fit. The not fitting quite right into anything period hasn’t been a bad one at all. Youth is wasted on the young, they’re right about that. I’ve had a ball of a time in the last five years and haven’t appreciated it enough. It’s been a surreal, hormonal, happy, sad, exciting, hard, confusing, tipsy and candle-burning at both ends time.

I’ve learnt the most about myself and the most about life by taking on changes and just rolling with it. Not knowing what the hell is happening around you is a good test of how well you deal with shit. I’m now glad for the instability and the financial recklessness and the adventurous travels. I’m glad I tested myself and I’m glad I am where I am at 25. I’d like to personally thank the challenge of change for shaping me and most people I know into fun, hilarious, cheerful and kind people. THANKS FOR THAT.

I’m going to go listen to Roll Deep or something and think about 2009.

Things to remember when you start a new job

  

So starting a job isn’t the most fun thing in the world, we can probably all agree. I’ve inflicted it on myself 4 times since leaving uni and every time the first day looms I end up asking myself why I’ve done this again. Why have I left an office and a group of colleagues I’m comfortable and settled with? Like, FFS Lauren, stop pushing yourself to do better. God.

In fairness, I’ve always ended up loving what I’ve done work wise, which is nice, and moving on has been a mixture of natural career progression and working on project contracts, so I’ve sort of had to do it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re super confident or taking on a job you’ve been headhunted for because you’re a sensational genius, I think everyone can relate to first day apprehension. The whole thing of getting used to how things work, even down to tea and coffee. Do you do rounds? Is it all communal? Can I just delve into those mint teabags? Is that cake for everyone? You know how it is. I started a new job last week so it felt like a good time to get this down.

And then there’s all the other crap you have to deal with, like setting up staff with IT, getting  a log in, getting security passes and codes. A long list of new job admin. Oh the joy. At the end of the day though, it really isn’t that bad, and there’s a few things to remember that can ease the process:

THEY hired YOU 

You applied, got shortlisted, got interviewed, maybe got interviewed again and then they picked you. You were the one they wanted, so turning up on your first day should be all about, HIYA I’M HERE AND I’M READY TO PROVE YOU RIGHT. These people wanted you on their workforce, you’re not just rocking up somewhere at random to be annoying and get in the way.

New job, new mindset

This is something I actually really like about starting somewhere new. It’s a good excuse to rid yourself of any work negativity you’ve collected from your old place (I mean, let’s face it, it happens) and spring clean your mind to feel happy and motivated. This is something completely new, with new people and new aims and you can tackle it in whatever you feel best, without any opposition from your negative thoughts.

You’re about to better yourself

Any new job means new experiences, probably some you never even imagined you would have. Any kind of situation you handle or skill you develop can go on the old CV and be used to your advantage. There’s no better time than when you start something new to set yourself some self-development goals and get going with them.

New friend potentials, new drinking partner potentials, new lunch pal potentials etc etc

I think people really make a job what it is, so getting to know new ones is never a bad thing. If you’re fortunate enough to start somewhere and get good people vibes, then you’ll be fine. It takes a while to get to know people and feel comfortable, but having it done it before you know it’s worth it when you do. You can never have enough Friday night wine friends. Never.

So basically, if you’re about to have your first day somewhere or you’re looking for a new job but finding it all a bit overwhelming, just remember that there’s way more good than bad. It’s also totally okay to have a breather in the loo on your first day, just don’t stay in there so long that people notice.