Variations on a Theme

Theme

Well as promised, I can confirm that we Themed Hard (please notice the capitalisation) at the weekend in honour of the Halloween Holidays. The Scooby Doo idea was an undeniable success and I think you’ll all be pleased with our faithfulness to the original course material. We can proudly say that it’s not just the costumes that make it, but the overall effort and vigour with which we throw ourselves into the whole debacle. Most of you will have seen the images and videos on various social media platforms, however I’ve done a tiny montage below for those of you who haven’t (and because I do love a good montage).


I was quite chuffed to have only spent about £8 on my outfit overall (it’s handy when Velma actually is life and most of her wardrobe is items you already own), though I have to admit to being a tad concerned at how happy I was with the brown wig (I think I was basically just recreating my mum from the 80s). To be honest though, I think we all looked rather special in it. It was an excellent night overall; Wilson’s house was decorated beautifully (so much delightful Halloween bunting) and they plied us with homemade chicken tikka wraps, vegetable lasagne and gins of various flavours.

Considering how much I hate drama and the thought of being up on stage in front of people though, I bloody love dressing up. There’s something so childishly gleeful about wearing something you normally wouldn’t, or trying make up techniques you’ve seen on YouTube and fancy a bash at. I had a couple of memories come up on Facebook over the week detailing my previous struggles with make up and albums full of hilarious decorated drunken selfies, so it’s good to know that nothing’s changed.


I feel like my attempts have been slightly more successful this time round though, however it’s more than possible that’s due to the fact I haven’t actually got to pick one for a party.

This isn’t our first rodeo though. As a team, we have themed hard over the past few years. I like to think it runs in the family (early memories from my childhood include seeing my parents dressed up for the Rocky Horror Picture Show – my dad looks fantastic in a basque and heels you’ll be glad to know), and I’ve cultivated this ability in my friends.

Alice in Wonderland was possibly one of first themes that we really made the effort for. Granted we’d done similar gatherings prior to that (Mexican night was our first official foray into the world of fancy dress parties – mainly everyone had a paper print out poncho and culturally insensitive moustaches) but this was when we really started to pull our collective finger out. Woo let us all pile into her tiny flat dressed as the main cast (we had an Alice, the Red Queen, the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum and then Jonbles stuck a piece of paper to his hoodie that said “Eat Me” because tragically it took him a year or so to really get into the swing of things) and ply each other with dangerously strong cocktails (read – vodka and fruit juice) poured out of teapots. The whole night could really be summed up by the tag line “great costumes and bad ideas”; a couple of teapots down we were trying to cram two of us into a single pair of skiing salopets, which as I am sure you can summarise, ended terribly. Woo and I crashed to the floor in dramatic slow motion and although I didn’t come off too badly, I am pretty sure Woo’s knees were never the same again. TMM made a fabulous March Hare though he did insist on taking his shirt off and just wearing his waistcoat about ten minutes in.


*Side note – this is a recurring feature of both our fancy dress parties and indeed general life. TMM is reminiscent of a little boy; he often gets too hot too quickly and resorts to immediate stripping. At parties he usually limits himself to just his top, but at home it’s fair game and the other day I was in complete fits of hysteria when he stood, completely stripped to his boxers and then fell asleep upside down on the couch within a ten minute time frame.*


The joy of TMM’s chosen activity though is that it reveals his magical chest dimp (a curious little cream egg sized dip in his rib cage) and we all have to do shots from it – because why would you not. To be honest, we have tamed down a little in our old age and the chest shots have taken a slight downturn in regularity, but I think it’s more due to the fact we all struggle to kneel down as easily now. #rockandroll

We had a 1920’s poker night that similarly could be described as a party full of fabulous looking people who made some very suspicious life choices. There were sumptuous dresses, sparkly headbands and splendid suits (with tiny pencil moustaches) galore. TMM obviously took his shirt off as soon as humanly possibly (he said it was because he’d spilt something on it but I don’t know how much I believe this) and spent the rest of the night in just his braces. I started well but then mainly proceeded to make an absolute shambles of myself. After drinking far too much far too quickly, I threw up atrociously and had to be stripped (I made an impassioned plea to all present that if I was to throw up, my strapless emerald velvet dress had to be saved – they rallied round superbly and within seconds of threatening to hurl I was down to my tights). I ended up knelt on the kitchen floor hunched over a sick bowl wearing the Drunken Dressing Gown of Shame. (There are similar pictures of various other team members in pretty much exactly the same position in various kitchens wearing the very same gown). The evening ended with me burritoed up against the living room radiator between George and the dog (who kept trying to eat out of the sick bowl).

We enjoyed other nights of drunken dressed up revelry, including Under the Sea which provided a lot of variety (we had a mermaid, a scuba diver and Jonbles, who told us he was a jelly fish but basically stuck a plastic shopping bag to his head and looked like a washed up condom. That night somehow ended up with everyone absolutely covered in sparkly blue make up that took most of the next day to scrub off. There was also Rocky Horror (a classic that TMM fully committed to – he looks equally as good as my dad in the basque), Eurovision (please pursue previous posts for photographic evidence of TMM being the prettiest lady you have ever actually seen), If We Were Super Heroes (I was Marsh Lady – using my clammy palms to save the world and TMM was General Kitchener and had a bandolier made of utensils – Woo still has our ladle) and If We Were Each Other. That was a truly hilarious night which involved a couple of quick changes for the photo opportunities, fake beards, boys in skirts and poor George coming out in hives when we made him dress up in my fur coat to be the dog.


The highlight of our whole career was, undoubtedly, the Addams Family. Jonbles went from reluctant participant to the most immersed (he let us shave him complete bald for Uncle Fester) and I really feel every one of us looked our absolute best. As is usually the way with these things, minimal effort was really required (except the shaving of Wild Yeti Man Jonbles) for maximum effect.

As is the way with most of these events though, the days after took a bit of recovering. This year was, I misguidedly thought, going to be different. With a good stodgy meal in me and only a couple of gins, I expected to be bright eyed and bushy tailed on the Saturday morning. Instead, I woke up with what seemed to a railroad spike straight through my temples and had to make a couple of unplanned trips to the bathroom to throw up unattractively. I am still convinced Wilson spiked me, because it’s either that or my ability to deal with alcohol has apparently completely vanished (is this what growing up feels like?). I was forced to spend the whole day on the couch buried under the duvet pathetically and binge watch the new Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (the Teenage Woke as TMM has taken to calling her) and lamenting that my house was not as witchy and my hair not as wavy.

I did eventually recover though, and I’ve now only got a week and a bit now until it’s time for the work do. As previously mentioned, having it so late is causing mild confusion for everyone concerned, but it does give me more time to practice putting on false eyelashes (which is 100% the work of the Devil, I don’t care what anyone says). It will most likely be the last theme of the year (so sad! I hear you cry) but I have high hopes for next year (Wizard of Oz anyone?) and I’ve still got a few late nights of make up trials in me yet.

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A Month in the Life of a HalloKween

It’s just a mini blog this week chaps, a blogette if you will, because TMM and I have managed to snag a few days off work and consequently have been cramming in as much adventure as possible, leaving little time for hardcore blogging. I’ve been writing snippets here and there during car journeys and tea breaks, but overall I can’t promise too much content.
Mainly though, I just wanted to make you all aware that Halloween is coming. HALLLLLOOOWEEEEEENNNNNN BIZNITCHES.
I’m sure you may have noticed in your own time and probably couldn’t give a tiny ghost rat’s ass, but I think it’s important to just make you all fully aware that My Time is here. Considering I am highly anxious and do not enjoy gore or horror at all (this week’s post is brought to you by the words squeamish and wimp), you’d think this somewhat counterintuitive, but this commercialised, wildly varying and completely subjective attitude we have as a society to this particular holiday is right up my street.
We have previously discussed my joy of pumpkins but it’s getting serious now; it’s the annual TMM family pumpkin carving party this weekend and I’m slightly panicked because I haven’t researched at all sufficiently and this is very much a “go big or go home” kind of event. Last year set the precedent and I’ve already had to shout at TMM for discussing ideas with his mum (or fraternizing with the enemy as I’ve taken to calling it).


TMM has already a little practice session though.

We’ve not had anymore time to make any more tasty pumpkin delights though, much to my chagrin, and seemingly all local super markets have stopped stocking canned pumpkin puree the moment I showed an interest in it. I’ve got a recipe from a friend for Pumpkin Spiced Cookies though, which I am absolutely bloody desperate to try, so there’s going to be a pumpkin puree hunt at some point.

Let’s be honest here though, the main reason I’m excited is because I freaking love dressing up like some kind of trashy 80s drama kid and there is no other festive holiday that is so accepting of that. I’ve already had a go at three make up options for no other purpose other than because I wanted to, and I’m hoping to have a go at a couple more before the month is out. I’m theming it up at work with two other ladies (our actual office Halloween celebration isn’t until Nov 9th which has which has thoroughly confused my system; but the costume is already ready) and I’ve already got nearly everything sorted for our team Scooby Doo soiree tomorrow. Fred just needs his ascot and there’s a couple of sets of dog ears that need tending to, but I can already tell we’re going to look excellent. The trouble is though, neither of those themes involve much overdramatic make up or lashings of fake blood, so I’ve had to amuse myself just a little to get the standard Halloween fix.

Just some casual Halloween looks.

It’s not just me though, the Halloween spirit has overtaken us all – TMM is smashing through his horror reading list like an absolute demon. (I think he’s found his reading niche). We bought a copy of The Haunting of Hill House to finish his month on a bang after binge watching the telly show over about 3 nights – which was fine up until the point TMM fell asleep half way through and then suddenly woke up and tried to throw his arm at me, yelling incoherently. Turns out he’d been lying on his front and had trapped his arm which had, understandably, gone numb and twitched slightly, but I am not above admitting I momentarily thought he was possessed and was fully prepared to smother him with a pillow. We’ve been very much in the zone though (minor possession fears aside). We’ve already watched Beetlejuice and decided most definitely that we are Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin (who’s butt was so much better than I ever remember it being) and have got Hocus Pocus to watch tonight. TMM has also introduced me to various new morbidly fascinating podcasts centring round the Salem Witch Trials (Unobscured by Aaron Mahnke), various horrifying folk tales and urban legends (Lore, also by Aaron Mahnke) and mysterious deaths in Norway (Death in Ice Valley by BBC World Service and NRK). Just a little light October bedtime listening.

Overall though, I think we’ve Halloweened pretty well, and that’s not too shabby considering there’s still a week to go…

Another Dead, Another Dollar

Death Blog

So I have been thinking a lot about my “dream job” recently. This happens on a semi-regular basis; the typical adult day dream of what you’d be doing if you could, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the future and what I’m supposed to be doing with my life (spoiler – I ain’t got a clue) and as such it’s been a little more at the forefront of my mind. It’s important to understand that being a grown up is pretty sucky overall, and considering you spend about 75% of your time working, it is really the best course of action to find a job/career that is actually good for you.

Now it’s all very well and good being rational and thinking about saving money and sensible career options, but I think there surely must be more to life that the daily 9-5 grind. I’ve heard horror stories of people who worked every god given day of their lives, saving up for a dream retirement and ended up dying a week after they finished. Can you think of anything more soul destroying? Working so hard for so long and then it all just being a waste? It doesn’t bear even thinking about. Still, I know it’s hard, and that talking about “living in the moment” and Carpe-Diem-ing all over the place is fine for some people, but there are those of us that can’t; because they don’t know how, because they’re scared, because they haven’t got the freedom. For the silently complaining majority, working is literally a means to an end and “living for the weekend” is more than a cheesy saying, it’s a way of life.

There’s a fine line that needs to be navigated for most of us; the perfect balance of submitting to the necessities of the world (earning enough money to live) and actually enjoying the way you do it. I’m pretty sure that there’s only a tiny fraction of people who actually love their jobs, but the rest of us need to at least find something that doesn’t make us cry every night and dread getting out of bed every morning.

My job teeters on this line, sometimes tipping further one way then the other. I really like the people I work with but the role itself can be either here nor there. I sort of accidentally fell into it and whilst it could obviously be worse and it succeeds in keeping the wolves from the door, it’s a long stretch from what I’d hoped for when I was little tot dreaming of my future. Before further education, I’d been lucky enough to never need a job. I’d tried (Somewhat lacksidasically) to find one, but I barely did anything and as such didn’t really need the funds. However, leaving University left me with an acute terror of needing to find a job immediately or face certain death and dishonour on my family. Working part time at a pub whilst studying was fine, but it wasn’t really feasible for a couple looking to set off on their own into the big wide world. TMM managed to find a job at the local mill (which makes us sound like right hillbillies) quite quickly and I was left to spend a few weeks milling about in our cramped little room above the pub feeling sorry for myself and eating left over cold pasta. Not one to be kept down though (read – having encouraging friends and family who guided me in the right direction), I contacted a couple of employment agencies and within a few days was signed up for a temp job working as a recruitment consultant for a healthcare company. Now, not to sugar coat it, but I hated that job quite passionately. I made some lovely friends and had some good times, but the job itself was gash and completely unsuited to me. Still, I spent a year there (what else was I going to do) and got what I could out of it. After that ended though, it was easier to fall into a similar role again and again and today still finds me working in recruitment (though thankfully in a role more back office based than customer facing). It’s not what I would have picked for myself when I was younger though, and I still don’t think it’s really where my passions lie.

To be honest though, the jobs I would class as right for myself are a tad…odd. I’ve been pretty set in my ways and since school, I have only ever really wanted to be one (or more) of three things.

  1. A librarian from the 1950s
  2. A famous author
  3. A mortuary assistant

Specific and somewhat niche, you can see why I have maybe struggled to find myself in these career options yet. The first choice, the librarian, is possibly the most accessible to me (though I have tried on numerous occasions to get a job in a library to little or no response) but I fear that my imagings of what working in a library is like would not be anything like what working in a library actually is, hence the caveat. I want towering wooden bookshelves; leather bound books nestled safely in amongst each other in a soothing smell of must; cabinets labelled in neat hand writing housing thousands of neatly arranged reference cards and women with sensible skirts, smart buns and piznez. Basically I want to work in the Bodleian or the Hogwarts Library. The trouble is, I think the libraries of today are a lot more multimedia based, computerised and sadly nowhere near as prevalent as they once were. That is not to say I would not jump at the chance to get myself in there (a library is a library no matter what, and if I have to bring my own reference cards I will), because no matter how the job evolves or what systems are used to manage it, it is and always will be “a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life” and that is what I am all about.

For those of you who know nothing about Isaac Asimov, I strongly suggest you go out there and educate yourselves.

The second option is I think the aspirations of everyone with a note pad and a head full of imaginations, but the trouble is most of us either don’t have the staying power or the ability to cope well with criticism and rejection. Personally, I find myself with thousands of ideas but just not the ability to flesh them out fully. I become too bogged down in the minutia of finding the perfect simile or conversational exchange and lose interest before the first chapter is out. My notes are filled with countless unfinished stories that I return to now and again, but never at a rate that will end up with the intended J.K.Rowling levels of popularity. Considering this was my dad’s third chance at a fortune (the 1st being his great monetary success and the 2nd being my sister’s – neither of which have come to fruition yet) I think he might need to start buying a lottery ticket.

The final choice has been a firm favourite ever since I fell in love with the imagined funeral director who I used to pass every day on the way to school. (Side note – the man himself was not imaginary, he and his snazzy briefcase were very real. However I have no idea what his chosen profession actually was or if his briefcase housed the secrets of the dead – I imagine it more likely he was just a very smart accountant). I found him fascinating though, and the life I made up for him, dealing with those who were not so alive, was pretty awesome.

I remember telling one of my teachers that I’d be interested in working in a funeral home during one of our short lived “Career Options” meetings at high school and I still remember the look of horrified disbelief on her face. I was quite surprised at the fervent opposition, especially considering it is possibly one of the most viable and sustainable options (never going to run out of work, are you?) and kept my ideas to myself after that. The dream never really went away though.

We actually own two copies of this book due to an unfortunate selection of incidents last Christmas involving some cover staining and a gravy disaster. However, it does mean we can take a cool picture so it’s not all bad.

I’m currently reading “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory” by Caitlin Doughty, a lady who works in the industry though, and it has done absolutely nothing to dissuade me. It’s a viscerally real, deceptively funny and surprisingly affectionate view behind the curtain of cremation and has pushed me to think about it in ways I never have before.

People have a very odd relationship with death and reading this book has made me aware of how far society (especially Western civilisation) has come from its rituals and belief systems surrounding the dearly departed. Death is so far removed from us now, and so hidden; we don’t want anything to do with the vessel that housed the person we knew. Indeed there is a commercialisation surrounding it, in our attempts to make it more palatable, death has become just another business. Some of the descriptions in the book; the things that are done to the bodies to make them “acceptable” for family viewings is almost unbelievable. I’ve already told TMM that when I die, he is to either just look upon my remains for what they are or remember me as I was. I’ve spent enough time making myself acceptable for other people, like hell am I gonna do it in death.

But one of my favourite quotes – “Someone must take care of these corpses, who have become useless at caring for themselves” really stuck with me and felt quite timely in this, my time of annual frustrations over my need to care for others but inability to do so. I want desperately to support homeless people, but I still struggle making eye contact with people I know, never mind strangers living on the street. I want to help the legions of abandoned old folk who are living alone and share in their rich histories, but can’t seem to hold a serious conversation to save my life without coming across horribly patronisingly. The thought of children suffering horrifies and shames me, but the idea of working with them terrifies me beyond compare. The dead though, they don’t actually need that much in the grand scheme of things. Someone to prepare them, someone to take care of what remains, someone to stand by as they vanish into the ground or the crematorium. It’s strange because by that point, I’m sure they really don’t care what happens, but I like to think that when I’m gone, there will be someone there to look after me one last time. They won’t know me and they probably won’t remember me, but they’ll make sure I shuffle off this mortal coil with whatever dignity remains and I find that comforting.

It might be morbid but it’s necessary and honestly? I can’t think of a dream job more worthwhile.

You’ve Got to Be Crafty to Be Kind

Knit Blog

It’s getting cold out there folks. Regardless of what the weather people keep trying to tell me, whilst wearing the plastic smiles of secret hostage victims on their faces, it is not going to be an Indian summer. Summer is dead and gone and the other morning TMM told me it was dark at 7am and I had to have a little weep. Winter is Coming, and I have already started to bring out the Bear. That coat (a most glorious fake fur beastie that makes me look like some kind of Russian oligarch) has got me through a lot of hard times and it’s been waiting patiently by the door, biding it’s time in the limelight.

The cold weather has driven us up into the Cwtch again though, in search of warmth and comfortable reading spots (which is never a bad thing). TMM is like a man possessed and has read about 4 books in the past month. He’s doing a themed Halloween book selection this month and he’s nothing if not persistent when it comes to achieving his goals. His instagram (and our CuriousReads account which has been reactivated with much aplomb) has been awash with excellent filtered pictures and superbly giffed stories detailing all the books we’re working our way through. I’ve been letting the side down a little though; after blitzing through one book in a night, I’ve only managed to read half of my current choice – though not for want of trying. It’s a lovely book and one that’s been on my list for a while (“The Bear and the Nightingale” by Katherine Arden) but I’ve just hardly had the time to pick it up recently. Hopefully this weekend I’ll be able to get a good stomp on though, because TMM has already eagerly lined up my next few choices.

I do find that the chilly weather and dark nights always make me feel like I want to start crafting again too – though I’m not sure if it’s because it speaks to the Victorian lady part of me, or because there’s there ever encroaching subconscious panic that Christmas is on the horizon and I really need to start preparing. I really haven’t done much of anything recently and I do miss it. I always like to keep my hands occupied, and there’s something much healthier about making a pom pom or sewing a piece that just playing solitaire on my phone.

The trouble is I suffer pathetically from an overabundance of “wokeness” and although I desperately yearn to start creating again, I can’t help but focus on the waste. I’ve got so many projects lying scattered around the house; ones that are either finished and have nowhere to go except into drawers, or ones that are half done but need something else purchased in order to be finished. I’m loathed to go out and buy more materials if I know they aren’t going to make it anywhere, and we really are starting to run out of room now to house all my crap.

It all came to a bit of a head on Sunday, and I had a minor existential crisis on Sunday night after watching a Country File Special on how all of our native species were dying out due to our cavalier attitude to Nature and caring for their habitats. TMM came downstairs to find my huddled up on the couch in my onesie with a cup of tea and a right sulk on and had to prise out the reason for my truculent mood. Once I’d farted about on about my general life impotence and feelings of uselessness and unworthiness in the face of helping the world, he very gently suggested I try getting rid of some of the wool by starting a new knitting project. He deftly managed to head off any further arguments about pointlessness by suggesting preparing for Christmas, or looking to charity. He brought down the 3 carrier bags of spare wool, handed me some needles and told me to get to it.

And get to it I did. Once I actually started looking, there are hundreds of websites and organisations out there looking for support. I mean, I know it’s kind of obvious, but I don’t think I realised quite how easy it was. Within 30 minutes, I’d found about 15 different websites who just wanted blankets, scarves, hats or just square patches to support the homeless, hospitals and children. No cost, no commitment – just asking for people with some free time to spend it making some simple pieces that could be used to help. What’s not to love?

I emailed a couple of the websites to check they were still live and interested in receiving items (they were) and I’ve even made myself a little handy note guide on my phone with each organisation’s name, what they’re looking for and where to send it. I’ve narrowed down my top three though (didn’t want to over face myself or promise too much too early) to start supplying.

Knit for Peace (Keeping Britain Warm) want squares (knitted or crocheted) in bright colours to sew together into dressing gowns for people. I love this because a square literally takes no time at all, and involves very minimal skill. It’s perfect for all those scraps of wool that are lying about that you can’t bear to throw away but aren’t big enough for an actual project. Also, their website had a picture of a very snazzy elderly lady in a brightly coloured patchwork dressing gown. She looked like a fabulous version of Elma the Elephant.

4bysix is a street wear branch that has all these awesome projects to help the homeless. Every item they sell is accompanied by an item for a homeless person donated on your behalf. They provide the patterns for what they can accept (I’ve just started a hat in a fetching shade of sea green) and if you contact them they’ll even send you the yarn to use. All you have to give is your time and your skills. Also it’s well trendy, so, y’know.

One that I saw and really loved the idea of was Project Linus UK. It started in America in 1995 and is so called because of Linus from Snoopy who always had his trusty security blanket. Basically, they just want to give vulnerable or sick babies, children and teenagers a “sense of security and comfort” by providing them with their own blankets. As they’ve said in their bio “we cannot reach out to every distressed child, but we can provide them with tangible evidence someone cares” and if that doesn’t tug at your heartstrings, there’s no hope for you.

There are hundreds of thousands of other charities out there; helping families who’ve lost children, pets, even penguins who need jumpers – literally anything you can think of and could want to help. Sure, it’s not saving the world, but it’s doing something for someone and that’s got to be worth it.

~

For those of you interested, these are just a few of the links to the websites mentioned above, but seriously – just google and you’ll find more.

http://www.knitforpeace.org.uk/keep-britain-warm/

https://www.4bysix.com

http://projectlinusuk.org.uk

http://www.oxfam.org.uk/donate/donate-goods (this has some great general patterns of things you can make and ideas of where to send them)

Save the Planet. Period

Planet Blog

I am glad to report things are looking a little rosier this week, dear Readers. I’m still tired and a tad weepy and horribly flued up, but it’s definitely looking a little brighter on the horizon. Part of this, I am overjoyed to say, is due to the in-pouring of supportive messages and kind words I received. These posts are never written with the expectation of response, but it just goes to show the calibre of my friends and family who are able and willing to reach out and provide a spot of sunshine in an otherwise dreary time. (True, I did cry at all of them but they were happy tears, which was a very welcome change to the standard depression crying I’d been doing the rest of the time).

I like to think my self-imposed personal-care regime (which sounds a lot filthier than it should) has played a part in this uplift in mood too. Admittedly, it is early days and one cannot expect to give ones life to change completely because one ate a little more and self-bullied a little less, but it’s rewarding to know I can actually take an element of control over myself when I am feeling so down. Given how I’ve previously dealt with similar dips, this feels like a pretty grown up response.

Now I can’t deny that I have gone from eating barely anything at work to demolishing eleventy billion packets of crisps and twixes a day, but we’ve been cooking super healthy teas so I like to think it’s balancing out. I have also developed a cold and am working on the proviso that I’ll fight off the virus with carbs. My surprisingly robust immune system is doing it’s job though, and the cold that has affected other people for weeks is already showing signs of fading. There was a rather dramatic and unnecessary event at the weekend which found me being so surprised and overwhelmed by a violent cough that I was caused to vomit and meant that, having no other means in which to catch it, I had to sacrifice half a brew before TMM could rush to my aid with a bowl (before leaving swiftly to gag in the hallway). We were all a tad disgusted and upset with that situation, but thankfully there have been no re-occurrences and I fully expect to be mostly recovered by the coming weekend. (You’ll also all be glad to know, I’m sure, that the chunder-brew was immediately and swiftly disposed of and a new chunk free cuppa was made to take it’s place).

I have been thinking a lot about caring recently. Focusing my attentions on things that made me feel better has lead me to realise I thrive on doing things that I know are good for others. I am trying to be a lot more aware of the world around me, and I’m keen on discovering ways of making the best of myself and what I can give. It’s important, especially in the current climate (both political and actual) to be aware of your impact and the differences you can make to your life that will help look after yourself and those you care about long after you’re gone. (I sound well hippy here, don’t I?). Basically what I’m saying is I’m trying to be more ecologically sufficient and I’m now going to talk about all the ways I’m being a greeny goody-two shoes. In the form of a list. Because I love lists. Soz.

Ways in Which Ebear is Single-Handily Saving the World and Being Very Modest About It Too, Amen.

Jumping on the Straw Bandwagon. I am sure you’ve all heard about the MASSIVE DANGERS single use straws (and cotton buds) pose to our very existence and the steps taken by various governmental bodies and big corporations to slow down the inevitable straw uprising and their subsequent world domination. We have had our attitudes to these plastic devils completely altered by the wonderful Sir David Attenborough, beloved by everyone in the entire world except my friend Em who is clearly a spy sent by the straws (and cotton buds), and I for one am glad. It is such a simple change to make, but the effect it could have is almost overwhelming. It has also led to a great in-depth discussion about how companies like MacDonalds should provide reusable and travel friendly cups, like Starbucks, and could provide discounts on meals every time they’re used. (This occurred whilst driving cross country and trying desperately to navigate windy roads with flimsy cups sloshing with ice cubes). Down with straws I say, and hello to a better world.

Bamboo isn’t just for Pandas. Speaking of the devilry of plastic, toothbrushes are also proven to be monstrous harbingers of doom. Videos all over social media have shown the truly shocking amounts of discarded plastic toothbrushes that have built up over time; mountains of brightly coloured and barely rotted stalks greedily filling up landfills. It’s scary to think that the toothbrush you had as a child will outlive you. To this end, I have forsaken the standard implement in favour of a bamboo one; proving myself to not only an angel but also bang on trend. Bio-degradable, healthy and stylish, they really are this season’s must have. Also, they make adorable little plant identification labels once they’re done cleaning your peggies.

Lush Living. I love Lush. I love the overwhelming aroma of hippies that hits you as soon as you cross the threshold, I love the garishly bright packaging and I love the perfectly formed bath bomb triangles on every available surface. I also love their eco-friendly attitude and their commitment to making the world a better place and am more than happy to buy into their philosophies. One change we’ve made (poor TMM had no choice in this one) is to use their shampoo bars and body soaps in place of standard bottled lotions and potions, and let me tell you – it’s pretty great. We bought a smaller than palm sized shampoo bar about 2 months ago (“Honey, I Washed My Hair” – honey, wild orange and bergamot – scientifically proven to be delicious) and we’ve still got about half of it left. It lathers beautifully, smells divine and has meant we’ve saved space (no more bottles cluttering up the bath), money (1 payment of £6 vs countless payments of £1.99 per bottle), and a little bit of the planet. We’ve changed to bar soaps too, typically purchased from the old lady section of the bathroom aisle at your local supermarket, and the “dropped the soap in the shower” jokes alone have been worth it.

It’s a bit bloody better than pads. For those of you with delicate sensibilities, or a complete lack of understanding of the female anatomy, this section might cause a slight widening of the eyes. Period pants are my newest investment and addition to the world-saving handbook, and so far they seem to be going pretty well. I have an intense dislike of all the faffing about that comes with my special monthly gift, especially the truly ridiculous amount of both money and packaging that’s wasted every damn time it comes around. Whilst you might think there is a multitude of options available out there, no matter what you always seems to end up walking a little like John Wayne and feeling immensely uncomfortably at least 1 day out of 5. Enter stage right – the specialised period friendly knicker. After spending yet another afternoon ruing the day I was ever born a woman and having to gingerly sort out my undercarriage when it seemed that once again the devil had tried to escape from my womb in as messy a ways as is possible, I decided to throw caution to the wind and give these bad boys a try. The website gayly declared promises of “moisture wicking!”, “no unshapely bulges!” and “odor-free!”, and whilst I was skeptical, I was also willing. It is with a light heart that I am pleased to announce that the website was fair in all it’s claims. Whilst when they first arrived I did raise an eyebrow at the somewhat padded nature of the butt area, I was pleased to realise they fit perfectly, were just as comfy as my other knickers and allowed for no leakage whatsoever! True, they are possibly not for the faint hearted as some light hand rinsing is required before they go in the laundry, but considering I’d being having to do just as much fannying (pun most definitely intended) about with pads, tampons or mooncups, I have to say these rate top of my chosen lady time companions so far. Saving money and the planet, one menstrual cycle at a time.

Soap Corner, being it’s adorable and eco friendly self

And so, I bring to a close the gospel of world friendliness according to Ebear. In all honesty, I am fully aware that I am not the bee all and end all of being ecologically friendly (I still shop at Primark and take showers that are outrageously long), but I’m trying and that’s got to count for something. I am open to all suggestions though, so if you have any ideas for changes to my general day to day living that will allow me to make the world that tiny bit healthier, you just let me know.

Misery: Seeking Company for Long Walks and Getting Caught in the Rain

Blog Misery

It’s gonna start off as a bit of a shit one this week, folks. For those of you who are feeling resolutely cheerful and would like to remain so, or those who are already feeling fragile and would prefer not to be nudged over the edge, you may be excused.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post focused around my mental state, and to be honest that’s been quite a good thing really. It’s much easier to talk and write and think about other things when you’re healthy and happy. Sadness only seems to breed more sadness; and along with that comes a general lethargy, a general unwillingness to do anything other than spiral downwards and the ability to only talk about how bad you feel with an unhealthily narcissistic intensity. I’ve been Sad (with a capital S) for about 2 weeks on and off now and it’s been a right old muddle of all of the above.

This time of year always heralds a general ennui and underlying feelings of melancholy for me. The change in the weather; the encroaching dark nights, the sharp winds that get in down your coat collar, the rain that seems to find it’s way under your umbrella and through your hood to dribble down the back of your neck – I truly hate it. Now don’t get me wrong,  because I love the Instagram side of Autumn just as much as the next millennial. Long walks in piles of russet coloured leaves and long sleeved thick woollen jumpers wrapped around steaming mugs of hot chocolate; that I some good shit, but it’s hardly an every day occurrence is it? The all over greyness and malaise finds me ebbing lower and lower, hunching further in to myself in a paltry effort to hibernate and hide from it all.

Unfortunately though, this turn in the seasons coincided rather succinctly with a whole miasma of other things; a perfect storm of unique and ultimately bullshit events all coming together to screw me over. Whilst each one might have been okay on their own, having all of them at once has succeeded in just tipping me over the edge.

Sadly a few weeks ago I lost something very precious. Although it was completely accidental and there was no blame to attribute, it threw me. It was something rather minor in the grand scheme of things; not expensive or useful, but it was something I’d taken completely for granted and it’s loss rippled outwards in seismic waves of despondency, affecting TMM quite strongly as well. Stupidly it left us struggling to sleep, and as most of us know, the night is dark and full of terrors. Lying in the dark without distraction meant I found myself falling back into old and particularly unhelpful habits. Hurtful, insidious thoughts started slithering in, picking on things that I’d been successfully ignoring or hadn’t realised were even affecting me. All the dark and nasty fears that are normally boxed away start clambering out of the mental woodwork and it becomes so much harder to push them away.

It’s scary how easy it is to slip and it’s incredibly unfair, especially considering how difficult it can be to drag yourself back up.

The problem is once you find yourself in a state like that, other things start piling up and situations that don’t register as problems when you’re happy and healthy suddenly become insurmountable barriers. I’ve found myself struggling at work a lot recently; letting things affect me in ways perhaps they wouldn’t have a month a go. As it’s gotten busier and busier I’ve lost the ability to navigate my way though and instead of just getting on with it, I’ve found myself bursting into tears at my desk (which annoys me more than anything so god knows how everyone else felt about it) and getting unaccountably worked up and frustrated about things. Admittedly, there are parts of it that are just shit, but I would like to believe I am better at coping than this usually. I’ve been mean to TMM as well, struggling to rein in my cruel childlike tendencies that always seem to reveal themselves when I’m depressed. It’s as though because I’m hurting, I’ve got this need to make others hurt too; to appreciate my pain through suffering of their own.

However, as dramatic as this all sounds, it’s not as doom and gloom as it could be. In times gone by I would have sunk down, deeper and deeper into this quagmire of self-pitying despair, not recognising or reacting to the problem in favour of just letting it overwhelm me. I would have ignored any helpful advice, spitefully choosing to wallow in my suffering because I thought I was a victim and deserved to be treated as such. In my older, and hopefully more worldly way though, I can decide not to do this. It sounds almost stupidly simple, but as so readily pointed out by the various mental health professionals I’ve seen over the years, I am able to help myself. Recognising this for what it is; as a symptom of an illness rather than some kind of built in flaw, and understanding that whilst it sucks, it is not forever, is something I am able to do. Sure it’s hard and I can quite resolutely affirm that it will not always be a walk in the park, but at least it’s easier than it used to be.

Weirdly enough, Russel Brand actually kick started this for me, which surprised me just as much as I’m sure it surprises you. He popped up on my Instagram feed and typically I would have just ignored him – I have opposing views on him depending on the time of day, phase of the moon and style of his hair, but something caught my attention. He was very simply talking about 5 points of self care; just 5 little suggestions he had for looking after yourself on a daily basis, and something about them chimed in me. The more I watched him speak; talking in a gentle, unassuming manner offering some simple principles about how to look after yourself, the more I felt it resonate and I felt almost bowled over by how obvious it all was. It lead me to wonder a little about what self-care principles I could put in place for myself; what aspects of general living I found myself eschewing or ignoring when I get like this and it was surprisingly easy to pinpoint.

  1. See People. As much as I moan about people and having to speak with others on a general day to day basis, I cannot deny that I am human. There is an innate requirement in us to seek out physical, mental and emotional relationships with others and we thrive off social support. Whilst I might have introvertive tendencies and very much require time on my own to recharge, I often feel better having spent time in someone’s company other than my own. People always seems to have much better advice than I expect, and are a lot more willing to be forgiving and understanding than I give them credit for.
  2. Eat, Regularly. Whenever I am feeling particularly low; my appetite seems to match my mood and it becomes too easy to skip meals altogether. Any grumbling in my stomach becomes mere background noise and sometimes the need for self-punishment is most easily abated by denying myself anything of substance. Being aware enough to stop myself before this thought solidifies, and get up to make a sandwich or a smoothie is something which is painfully simple, but can possibly have one of the most positive effects.
  3. Letting Go. Anger is something that always seems to come hand in hand with my low periods, be it at myself or others. I am an annoyingly proud person who is dangerously prone to spite and it is a combination which makes for bitter thoughts and unnecessary meanness. I still don’t think I’m quite cured enough to be able to let go of this for good, but at least being aware of my irrationality and trying to separate myself goes a long way on the road to betterment.

I get that this week’s post has been a bit of a drag, and I haven’t even got any pictures this week to break it up, but it’s felt good to get it off my chest. Mental health problems are no longer as taboo as they once were, and being able to talk about them so openly and without fear of judgment is a help in and of itself. So I hope I haven’t bummed you out too much and I promise next week I  will talk of nicer things.

 

 

Spring Forward, Falling Back

Blog Autumn

Well, that’s it guys. Summer is over. The most joyous warm weather has departed, leaving us with unnecessary amounts of rain and gradually darkening evenings. No more late nights in the garden with a good book and a beer. No more lying on the floor in patches of golden sunlight like a giant cat. No more light summer dresses, Primark sunglasses and suncream sticky skin. Cue much sighing. Now as I’m sure you’re aware, I am a tad bitter, it can’t be denied. To be quite frank, I’m generally furious with the whole damn situation, but I’m trying to be a grown-up about it (honest). Summer finishes every year and I really am going to have to get over it. It’s not like it’s a surprise.

As such, it appears that I have decided to embrace Autumn. Hard. I’ve weirdly gone into full Kirsty Alsop mode “welcoming autumn into my home” with kitschy style, but combined with my own special branch of sarcasm and swearing.

I think TMM managed to distract me from my post-summer slump early on by colluding with me on a most successful Primark haul. Primark, like Ikea, inhabits two opposing states. It either has everything you could ever possibly want (when you went in with nothing particular in mind and no money in your pockets), or it’s completely bereft of anything decent at all (especially when you go purposely looking to binge). I suggested a visit purely to stock up on some more false nails, because Primark false nails are the actual shiz, and for a £1 its stupid to not embrace them. (Seriously, they are bright, long lasting and the glue could be used to hold NASA’s rockets together – everything a girl who wants nice hands but doesn’t want to commit to full-time real lady nails could need). Anyway, I promised I would just pick up a couple of packets, and maybe a new bra, and we’d be in and out in no time. It’s important to note that TMM really is the perfect shopping companion (which is mostly wasted on me because unless it’s Primark, Ikea or a bookshop, I don’t want to be there) and he simply nodded at my bold statement, offered no argument and fired up the chariot.

It’s at this juncture that I should point out that by the time we actually made to the false nail section, we’d already had to go back for a basket and I’d picked up two jumpers, one skirt, some pumps and a fabulous pair of rust coloured cord trousers. I was wild and untamed and each floor only brought forth new delights for to get my grubby little mitts on. You’ll be glad to know I also treated TMM to a new shirt, but it really paled into insignificance by the time we finally made it to the till. You might be questioning my logic by this point (you weren’t the only one by the time it came to total up the cost) but you have to think of the bigger picture. New jumpers require colder weather, cute skirts can be beautifully paired with thick tights and some little boots and fabulous rust coloured cord trousers really are the style of the autumn season.

Please enjoy this shot of my fabulous nails (which although a little hard to see here, were a glorious combination of metallic red and orange) paired with one of my perfectly coordinating with one of the aforementioned Primark jumpers.

Side note – it is important to note that fabulous though they may be (also completely perfect for a Shaggy from Scooby Doo fancy dress outfit – just saying) cord trousers should probably not be worn in a torrential downpour. On a team outing to see the Weeping Window Poppies at Middleport, I did have to hike them up like a posh lady to make it over puddles without soaking everything up like a sponge.

My outfit choice hasn’t been the only thing I’ve been pimping up in time for the autumn season though. As you may remember from blog posts long past, I have been deeply taken with the idea of year-round wreaths as a constant decoration for ones front door. TMMs sister treated me to my own wreath base for my birthday and its been sitting quietly, patiently waiting for its turn ever since. Well, after a particularly eventful trip to Wilkos (i swear, it’s like I think I’m a Rockefeller or something) which resulted in a new kitchen mop (with fancy inbuilt sprayer) and a surprising amount of cleaning products considering who I am, I thought it time to update my flower collection. Gone is the time for pale pinks and creams, here come the russet reds, butter yellows and …orangey oranges. I brought in the summer wreath, which had done its job rather splendidly and is waiting to be stored away carefully for next year, and settled down in the cwtch with my flowers, some wire cutters and a whole lot of willing. Whilst it became abundantly clear halfway through that I still have some kind of blindness when it comes to flower arranging, I gave it a good go and both TMM and Bucky passed on their approval.

I do think I might add some purple flowers and maybe a little skull or two closer to Halloween, but it looks just as pretty as a peach at the moment.

I’ve been generally crafting all over the place, as one can tell by viewing the complete devastation that is currently our dining table. I’ve been working on a little commission for a school friend for the longest time (apologies to her for my truly awful time management) but there is always vaguely reminiscent feeling of Christmas when the table looks like this. Bucky finds great pleasure in sitting right in the middle on top of the most uncomfortable pile of paints, pencils and or pads he can find whilst trying to drink dirty paint water, so at least he’s embracing it all too.

TMM once again managing to make my chaos look artistic. He’s got a talent.

Finally, I’ve brought autumn quite soundly into our diets as well, soundly rounding out the whole emersiom therapy vibe I’ve got going on. Sourdough has made a welcome return into our lives, as it is the tastiest and most comforting of all the breads. Hearty soups full of goodness and flavour have been mightily enjoyed in very Instagram worthy ways. Cups of tea have been imbibed in a possibly alarming amount whilst cuddled under blankets with books. Most excitingly though, I have been researching pumpkins.

I mean, come on. That could be in a magazine.

No matter what anyone says, pumpkins are one of the mightiest gourds around, and over here in good old Blighty I definitely don’t think we use them to the extent that they deserve. They provide a pleather of possibility and I’ll be damned if I don’t try every bloody one of them. Now most of you will have, at some point, been involved the joys of pumpkin carving – a sport so messy it really should only be attempted by people in crime scene suits, but hardly anyone I talk to ever thinks of doing anything else with them. For shame, I say to those people. The taste sensations that await them if only they were to try strikes me as a sad waste of potential.

Now its true that I might be slightly over-egging this whole mini autumn harvest festival – there aren’t actually even pumpkins in the shops yet, but I’ve decided I’ve either got to go big or go home, and guess what? I’m already at home, so big is the only option left. If the pumpkins won’t come to Mohammed, Mohammed will just have to go to the world food aisle of Sainsbury’s and stack up on suspiciously battered tins of “Pumpkin Puree” shipped from Canada. I’ve been meaning to try this stuff for ages (one of my biggest regrets was not trying pumpkin pie when I went over to America – though boy was the peach pie tasty) and what better time is there than now? After spending a good 7 minutes watching a Buzzfeed Food video on all the possible ways I could make pumpkin based pastries for myself, I decided to give it a go. So this weekend, armed with hormonal rage, wild hair and a hankering for some tasty treats, I went at it. I have to say as well, it went pretty damn well. The recipe was surprisingly simple and easy to make (though I do think the measurements might possibly have been off, as we’ve now made 14 mini pies and I still have about the same amount of mixture again sat chilling in the freezer). A tin of puree, a can of evaporated milk (god I could drink that stuff), 2 eggs, a spoonful of ginger, a pinch or cinnamon, a sprinkling of salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of TMM’s finest ground cloves (not a euphemism, just cloves he pestle and mortared by hand) and bobs your uncle, you got your pie mixture. Eating it raw was pretty great (only a little bit though, I’m not a mad salmonella tempting bastard) and the smell was divine. We were mildly concerned about the texture it must be said, but the video promised us we were looking alright. Some banging, rolling and swearing later (TMM wisely left me alone for this section) I had some little doughy bases and I poured in my mixture with all the love and attention of a new mother. 30 minutes later (gas mark 5 for those of you who are interested) and our little pumpkin babies were ready. And let me tell you, those treats are tasty. I don’t really know quite what I was expecting if I’m honest, but I was happily impressed by the results, and can see why they’re such a smash over in the States. I plan to try at least two more of the pumpkin based suggestions before the season is out, and I expect you all to at least attempt the same. You don’t even know what world of culinary wonders awaits you.

Not to toot my own trumpet, but hat is how you make a petite pumpkin pie

And so, with great aplomb, I bring this glorious celebration of autumn to a close. I’m not ready for the rain, or the dark nights or the fast approaching build up to Christmas, but I’m accepting my fate and doing my best to welcome the fall with open arms. Come at me, bro.