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.

 

 

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Holiday Blues and Writing Cues

Hol Blog

I’m not going to lie to you Readers, it’s been bloody hard going trying to blog this week. Even now, I can’t promise that it’s going to be a particularly good one, or even if it’s going to make it past 500 words. It appears that whilst there is a way, there is definitely a distinct lack of will.

I do want to state right now though, that this dirge in writing is not for lack of content – indeed you’ll be glad to know we Whitby-ed hard. We ventured far and wide, and our disgustingly early start (for which we in the back of the car complained about HARD) paid off and meant that we had chance to visit the absolutely stunning abbey before most people were even up. We were able to take many hilarious photos of us carefully (read – idiotically) re-enacting scenes from Dracula (I made an excellent Lucy), and TMM (ever the true professional) had even brought his nice new copy with him for some lovely moody shots.

I mean, just look at the artistry! TMM is really wasted where he is.

We also enjoyed a truly hysterical affair in the £4 Dracula experience on the main street. I feel like we should have been made more aware of what to expect, but to be honest the rather shapeless Gary Oldman puppet in the window and the particularly un-arsed man with a scruffy band t-shirt and unkempt facial hair didn’t promise much. Within 5 minutes however, Wilson was practically underneath Jonbles t-shirt and all of us had let out the odd exclamation (except for perhaps TMM, who was tucked at the back of the queue (missing out on most of the story much to his chagrin) and rather at home in the horror strewn décor – Angry Boy (TM) at heart that he is). The animatronic powered curtain covered puppet that flew out, or the man dressed as a wolf (unsure tbh) who was clearly enjoying himself hiding round corners proved to be a little startling, especially for the young women and her daughter who kept running to hide behind us whist screeching unattractively. My favourite bit though, was when we were all crammed into the section depicting Dracula (or a melted looking plastic scarecrow mask with a awkward hair in a dressing gown) rising from the coffin and Wilson turned slightly and proceeded to let out a splitting cry only to follow it with “oh, it’s only TMM”. Apparently his looming figure loitering in the background pushed her over the edge and poor Jonbles arm probably still has little half moon nail marks in it. The sweet little ale pub we all crowded into after (with added taxidermy foxes and portraits of dogs in army regalia) for a swift one was definitely the balm we needed to calm our nerves.

By this point, we were all a bit hot and over-emotional so we retreated to the car to get our cases and take them to the cottage. TMM was the perfect gentleman and took all the wheelie cases (the cobbles were making me laugh to hard too actually do anything) and after a few back and forths, we eventually located our spot and were able to collapse on the couches for a breather and a glass of cider. Our first evening culminated in a visit to a couple of nice gin bars and a superb fish and chips (battered black pudding is definitely a new thing that I am All About).

The next day saw us adventure even further afield, after stopping to pick up TMM a new fisherman’s smock which was possibly the only thing that could have complimented his dungarees so perfectly. Indeed, there were parts when he paused to stare artfully out across the marina and we were all struck at how suited he was to his environment. I always knew I’d marry a sailor.

It’s a shame that none of us could open our eyes in that second photo, but at least we look happy enough. At that point anyway…

Once suited and booted, we walked to Robin Hood’s Bay along the coastal path. I think it is fair to say that there were massively varying levels of enthusiasm about this, though TMM once again showed his true gentlemanly nature by saving Wilson for certain death in a rocky stream and escorting her down some of the more tricky hills. (Woo pointed out here that she expected a while essay about how sh*t walking is so she is pleased by my polite reference to my dislike here. She thinks I secretly love it. I do not).

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Have you seen a cuter couple? They look like they’re off for an early afternoon constitutional.

In the Bay itself, we stopped for a  truly superb lunch (so much grilled cheese and white bread was imbibed) and a few cuppas. The journey back was slightly easier, especially for TMM, Wilson and I, who decided to get the bus back so we could veg on the couch with cups of tea and watch Monsters vs. Aliens. We (read TMM) made ourselves useful though in stopping at the local Coop to pick up the makings of a homemade fish pie and having tea ready to go whist Woo and Jonbles braved the return route on their own. It was best for all really, as it meant that Wilson and I were in far better spirits by the time we were beckoned to a close by bar to meet the returning heroes. We spent a little while enjoying watching the various Steampunk aficionados that were wandering about in full regalia and drinking happily before returning home to our pjs and TMM’s truly spectacular tea. Like true grannies on tour, we were all safely tucked up with blankets and wine by 9pm, and spent the rest of our evening being pulled and pummelled by Woo, who used her not inconsidarably strong pointy fingers to massage away any knots and draw forth some truly ridiculous noises. At one point, she basically played Wilson like a human piano. By the end of it though, we were all slightly more tender and aware of our faults (I apparently have a ridiculous hard knot in my lower back that has been affectionately christened “The Butt Marble” and TMM has an appointment to visit Ann – the official back lady – because we are mildly concerned his spine is all out of whack) and ready for our two tubs of super fancy ice cream.

Our final days bloomed with a rather unnecessary downpour and after a sturdy fry up and a stop for a couple of books (it’s not a holiday without them) and a lovely pair of jet earrings for yours truly, we all bustled back into Juan (Woo’s car) and started for home. Whilst it took a little longer than we could have hoped, and there was a mild fear of vomming from at least two members of the party, we made it back in one piece.

(Admittedly, I do also have to admit the snapchats sent from my particularly disgruntled work pals who were thoroughly not enjoying their day only served to make the whole experience that much better – #soznotsoz)

Well, at least I can say I made it past 500 words, though I can’t say if any of them are particularly thrilling. We enjoyed ourselves (please see below images for further reference) and I can only hope those reading this got some fraction of amusement too.

 

 

And We All Live Apacaly Ever After

Alpaca Blog

So as some of you may have seen on my Facebook or Instagram, I spent the weekend living my best life and enjoying my birthday present from Woo. Woo is what we would class as “good people”; she puts up with my consistent and often hysterical emails, endless hearty bants and works well within the dreaded birthday constraints of “no stuff” when dealing with potential presents. I am very troublesome when it comes to giving people suggestions of what I want for my birthday. When I was younger, I would prepare colour coded lists in triplicate that went to all family members to provide clear guidelines on what I wanted. These days, I merely shrug and ask specifically for “no stuff” because I am a hoarder and must be controlled. Woo understands that my life in a constant battle between wanting All of the Things (like a true millennial), whilst simultaneously wanting to live like a Buddhist monk and free myself from the fetters of the material world. Last Christmas, she got me a trip to the Manchester Cat Café (that came with a hand drawn card which still sits on the mantle piece) and a pot of hair dye because she gets me. For my birthday this year, she succeeded once again in pulling it out of the bag (along with matching card) and this Sunday found us in the Lake District walking Alpacas.

Now let me tell you straight that walking with Alpacas might be the closest thing on this earth to true happiness and anyone who thinks otherwise is clearly deranged.

There were 5 of us that went, crammed into the new little motor (still as yet unnamed) and chipper at the prospect of the fun that awaited – little did we know how much joy we would experience. The company itself – Alpacaly Ever After (and whoever came up with that name deserves a medal) is based in the grounds of the Lingholm Estate in Derwentwater, Keswick. It is a gorgeous setting; coincidentally the Summer home of Beatrix Potter during her formative years as well as the home of where the new Swallows and Amazons film. It is basically the dictionary definition of “idyllic” and 100% the kind of place Alpacas deserve to live.

We arrived and went straight to the café (because we know what we’re about and what we’re about is fancy café lunches) before wandering the kitchen gardens that inspired many of Beatrix Potter’s tales and all getting slightly emotional that we weren’t posh ladies from the turn of the century. Soon though, the time came and we stood, all shifty like, by the statue of a giant and slightly mental looking red squirrel whilst waiting for our contact. Turns out, arranging Alpaca dates is somewhat similar to spy meetings – who knew?

Anyway, Shelley, our very knowledge and super smiley guide, appeared in a timely fashion and led us to our delightfully cuddly charges. She carefully explained the stroking etiquette – due to their eye positioning, they have a blind spot (unsurprising with those fringes if I’m honest) and like most animals don’t like being stroked where they can’t see. This meant their heads and backs were out of bounds, and also that there should be no butt touchings, which is just good manners really. Mainly she advised we stick to their necks when petting, but considering the length of them, this wasn’t too much of a hardship.

Whilst she was talking, she corralled our various partners and harnessed them up and we dithered about with thinly veiled excitement. By the time the gates opened and the Alpacas were led out, we were a undoubtedly overcome.

Now Jonbles had no Alpaca because he is a boring old fart, but he came along for the ride anyway and admitted later (no matter how much he tries to deny it now) that he wished he’d had one too. The rest of us picked (or were picked by) the four Alpacas who were milling about giving us the side eye – and the whole process was somewhat reminiscent of the wands in Harry Potter; the Alpaca picks the walker, not the other way around.

Woo went first because she is by far the bravest, and was paired with Kato; a big bubble headed beastie who was pretty much the agreed leader and enjoyed having a good chatter the whole way round.

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I followed and was paired with Jasper, who had fabulous hair, a casual attitude and the ability to wee for about half an hour non-stop (we matched perfectly). Shelley explained that there are actually only 2 breeds of Alpaca; Suri and Huacaya. Huacaya are by far the most prevalent, making up approximately 90% of the Alpaca population, and whilst they were lucky enough to have Jasper, he is the Loneliest Suri. The only one in their herd, he stands out a little and after being unfortunately snipped in the trouser snake department, is destined to stay that way. Still, he was The Most Chill and we bonded beautifully (read I pawed him desperately and he snuffled me a little and posed wonderfully for selfies).

     

Wilson “The Honey Badger” was paired with Jake, a toothy gentleman who knew exactly what he was about and wasn’t prepared to be moved unless he was ready. He viewed the whole excursion as a sort of extended buffet selection.

    

Finally, an executive decision was made that TMM should be left with little Theo, who whilst looking like a baby and being 2 years old, was pretty much fully grown. They looked like a kind of comedy duo (think Shrek and Donkey but much prettier) but they bonded beautifully (possibly over their matching eye lashes) and I’m pretty sure might have actually been each other’s spirit animals.

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During the walk itself, in which we were lead around the grounds and, in turn, had much fun shepherding our companions around, our very lovely guide educated us about the Alpacas as well as the land the company resides on. Obviously I was in nerd heaven because we all know how much I enjoy fun learning – and learning with Alpacas in the most fun. For example, did you know Alpacas are bred specifically for their fibre, unlike Llamas who are working animals and can be used to carry up to 10 stone. Sadly this meant I couldn’t throw myself on Jaspers back and gallop off into the sunset as I had hoped, but a girl can dream.

We also learnt that they “hum” when talking to each other (Kato had a lot to say), only have one row of teeth (along the bottom) so no accidental dismemberment of which there was a slight fear, and only actually spit when distressed, but let’s face it – who doesn’t? They’re also incredibly graceful considering how silly the look, and surprised us all by taking the various sets if stairs we came across in their stride (ha ha).

Within the hour though, I can safely say that each if us had fallen head over heels with our charges and once we had taken them back and given them some snacks, were all heartbroken to have to walk away. I’m not ashamed to say I could have wept as Jasper non committedly bumped his head against my arm before scratching his belly with a back hoof and trotted off without a backwards glance. I know our love was a fleeting and possibly one sided affair, but I can’t help but hope that as I’m writing this, he still thinks of me now and then.

It was obviously a bit too much for some people…

The Ivy – The Commoners Guide to Eating Posh

Blog Ivy

Picture, if you will, two weary travellers. Wandering aimlessly under the baking sun; their skin is pink, their limbs are heavy and their nerves a slightly frayed due to encroaching hunger that is unstated by the raspberries they had for breakfast in the car. Lost, they have been wandering Cambridge for hours, buffeted by the inordinate amount of school groups (curious, on a Saturday) and tourists who are rampaging the streets. There is also the gradual realisation the perhaps visiting a city where each attraction is hidden by large, unerring wooden doors bearing unapologetic slogans like “No Visitors, Only Students” or “£13 per person for entry” was possibly not the best choice of destination when their pockets are a little tighter than normal.

Eventually, after trudging past cafes, restaurants and eateries packed to the gills; after pressing their noses sadly against the windows and eyeing piled high plates of food on their way to other people; after being so dehydrated that they had resorted to threatening to spit in each other’s mouths to provide any kind of moisture, a metaphorical light appears on the horizon. Coming to a stop outside an unassuming dark green shop front to gently berate each other for having let it get to this stage, one gestures to the darkened doorway with only a slight hint of exasperation and says “what about here then?”

Up a step, they are greeted by a smart young lady in a starched white shirt behind an imposing lectern housing a computer screen. She stands just to the right of a sizable wooden door with an artful stained glass window and to her left hangs a rather dramatic deep red velvet curtain. She smiles candidly at our heroes before asking softly “reservation?”

“Err, table for two?” Is the somewhat querulous response. She narrows her eyes just a fraction and looks down at her computer screen. From somewhere behind her appears another lady, this one with added blazer, who whispers something quietly in her ear. It is here, dear reader, that our weary wanderers began to get the sneaking suspicion they had stumbled on something a little beyond their usual fare. Indeed, the internal warning sirens were sounding and a couple of sharp glances were shared between them as another lady appears off the street, pushes her way through and flippantly remarks over her shoulder to the door woman and friend as she slips through the door that she was there to meet people. The sliver of restaurant viewable for the brief second it took her to get through afford a mere flash of finery and the impression of chandeliers.

Suddenly the burgundy curtain swishes aside and a third lady appears; this one wearing a smart red dress and fancy heels. She smiles and inclines her head, before slipping behind the lectern, palming some menus and shepherding our duo through the door.

On the other side, they are met with a sight to behold. What they had originally expected to be a single room with a couple of tables turns out to be the size of a banquet hall and positively dripping with opulence. Beautifully tiled floors in dark blues and mustard yellows sit below dark wooden tables and walls artistically crammed with photos and paintings. Waiters and waitresses in full regalia (waistcoats and ties) move quietly and swiftly round with huge trays balanced precariously, and burly men in suits circle silently, smiling beautifully at guests.

The pair huddle together and hurry to follow their guide, nearly tripping each other as they stare, open mouthed at the two bars that could have stolen from a 1935 gin joint, resplendent with crystal glasses, mirrored fittings and bottle displays that could have easily doubled as a potions store. After what seems like an inordinate amount of time, they are invited to take a seat at a sweetly tucked away corner table. They fall somewhat chaotically onto the plush couches and take the proffered menus with only slightly trembling hands.

“Any water?” Asks the hostess. Our wanderers share panicked looks at being asked a question so promptly without any chance of preparation and after a moment of hesitation nod frantically.

“Still or Sparkling?” Is the next query which results in yet more overwrought looks, before the safer option of still is plumped for. Finally left to their own devices for the first time, our champions take a moment to properly absorb their surroundings; the salt and pepper shakers that appear to be made from gold and the casually placed wine bucket at every available corner before bursting into stifled giggles and muttered suggestions that they are definitely not posh enough to be where they are. They both suddenly hush when their server returns with a glass bottle of water that she carefully pours into the prepared glasses. As she walks away, there’s a flurry of panicked whispering regarding potential costs of bottled water vs dehydration. Turning to the menus, they hold hands tightly under the table in preparation of expenses. The mains cause a conjoined wince, and the wine list is discarded immediately, but the sandwiches are perused with interest.

By the time a new waiter appears; a swarthy man with curly dark hair and an intense unblinking stare, our duo are prepared to order. A pair of peach and elderflower lemonades are first, followed by an order for eggs benedict and a truffled chicken sandwich.

Here, dear reader, we must take a side bar to discuss the hereforto unknown wonders of truffled chicken. Initially unsure, I (for yes, the heroes you’ve shared this journey with your friendly neighbourhood Ebear and TMM) chose it under supervision and boy, was I rewarded. Two rounds of fried bread, chunks of perfectly tender and ridiculously tasty chicken, salad dressed in some kind of delightful dressing and pre salted chunky chips. The food of the gods.

By the time the meals arrive, our wanderers have settled enough to enjoy their environment and appreciate how it is to live like one of the rich and famous. Surrounded by fancy people with laughs like braying horses and neck scarves galore, they tuck into their food with relish.

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Sadly, small but unapologetic signs declared “No Photography Allowed”, but worry not. It did not stop our intrepid heroes who gladly broke the rules to take a sneaky photo of this super fancy knife with a silver fly on the handle (though it’s clear a life of covert observation is not on the cards considering how blurry this is).

Due to high hunger levels and a small yet undeniable fear someone was going to realise that our couple were 100% not posh enough to be there and kick them out, the plates were clean within a rather small timeframe. Due to unfortunately unexpected circumstances and somewhat limited funds, there was no time for desserts (though the delightful looking Rum Baba with Chantilly Cream was noted and will be enjoyed again in the future). However, before dropping the cash and hightailing it out of there as fast as their £10 Primark pumps would carry them, both our explorers braved the crowds of Cambridgites to visit the facilities.

Typically, I have to admit, I barely visit toilets in the outside world, because I have the bladder of a camel and a definite fear of being kidnapped. This time though, it was definitely worth the risk, if only for the apparent million mile walk (I still have no idea how this place actually fitted behind such a demure shop front) lined with beautiful botanical drawings. The full size wall mural of a tropical bird was much appreciated too (I tried to take a photo of this too, but was scuppered when someone suddenly appeared at the top of the stairs to stare at me judgingly).

The obligatory toilet selfie – it smelt freaking amazing in there.

Soon though our heroes emerged, blinking and slightly shell shocked, into the bright sunshine. Bellies full, pockets significantly lighter and lives enriched, they strode hand in hand, off towards the horizon.

Birthday Bonanza

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Well that’s it folks, I have officially joined the 27 club. My birthday has come and gone and I am now firmly in the realm of “being responsible” and definitely no longer young enough to accidentally commit a crime but still avoid jail time (which is an irrational but very specific fear I have. My mother has promised that if, god forbid, I should end up embroiled in an accidental life of crime and sent to the Big House, she’ll come bail me out with a file baked in a cake and a Thelma and Louise style getaway – hopefully sans the cliff dive – but I’d rather just try and avoid the whole thing altogether if possible). As I pointed out to a colleague, if I were a rock star I could totally die now and join the hallowed halls of the Forever 27, though thankfully I’m boring as sin and highly unlikely to shuffle off this mortal coil through excessive drug use or car vs. tree related incidents. I’m pretty much planning on seeing this year out in the same style as the old one.

As always though, I’ve had an excellent birthday haul so kudos to all who we’re involved. You’ve all done very well and should give yourselves a nice pat on the back. Admittedly, I may or may have not started opening some presents on the previous Monday, but I did have to go to the dentist and gifts were coming through the letter box with tempting regularity, so I don’t really see how I can be blamed for getting carried away. Also, I’m a grown up now, and can open my presents whenever I please, so there. I would like to thank my dad and his lovely lady friend for their promptly posted and delightful gifts which made me smile after having to go and be super brave with hygiene specialists.

I also had to open some presents early when we went to see TMM’s clan (because I wouldn’t see them on the day and it would have been rude not to show my gratitude) and as per they excelled themselves present-wise (not to rub it in but I am 100% their favourite child, soz not soz). I got not only a yummy tea, but also a fancy box of Ferrero Rocher (TMM successfully demonstrated how he’s been unhealthily influenced by my family by not being able to help quoting “you’rr spoiling us ambassador” every time I offer him one), charming gin related paraphernalia, bath bombs, summer wreath kits, a puppy fuss (the last one now since all the puppies have gone to their new home and not one of those homes was mine, boo hiss) and a snotty kiss off beautiful baby Thea.

My work colleagues also did extremely well, but to be honest I didn’t give them much option as I had very handily provided a laminated and regularly updated daily countdown from around the 163 day mark. Whilst the Friday wasn’t the most enjoyable of days (stupid busy work), the gift giving was top notch and the presents were smashing. Some of you may have already seen Leroy the Llama mug, who is now my designated tea vessel of choice, though he provides much hilarity when he pokes my eye every time I get near to the bottom of my brew. I also got Sydney Sloth the phone holder who has helped with finger cramp, and a selection of others joys including but not limited to; a lovely framed print of a flamingo among pigeons, fancy neon coloured booze (my favourite kind) and some rather gorgeous lilies that proved themselves to be almost fatal to some old dear on the bus home. I also got two books from my boss (who requested a special shout out, so word to her) that give the definitions of lots of weird and wonderful words that have had us in fits of laughter when we probably should have been busier doing what we’re paid for. We have educated ourselves though, and have some excellent new words to add to our vocabularies, such as “Kinabra – the Greek word for the stank of a billy goat” (please note, the italics are a direct quotation) and “Kakopyge – someone who has ugly buttocks” (pg. 136 of The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Words by George Stone Saussy the 3rd). Sadly none of us have managed to shoehorn them into a telephone call yet, but we’ll keep trying.

Look at my beautiful things. LOOK AT THEM.

TMM did his level best to spoil me rotten whilst adhering to the proviso he wasn’t to get me much. He not only made me pancakes in bed, he didn’t make me move until about 3 o’clock and then treated me to a new Lush face mask, some Primark jeans, a showing of Deadpool 2 (with Ben and Jerries’ ice-cream!) and a lovely Starbucks lunch. (This in itself was fun because I had hibiscus iced tea which is simultaneously the most hipsterish thing EVER and the tastiest drink I’ve had in a long time. The lovely Barista lady was a complete doll too, and did my a nice little happy birthday message and got my name right (though the more I look the more it looks like Eleanour, but still the first bit is right and that’s what usually throws people). I also got taken to the stage version of Thoroughly Modern Millie which was excellent (if questionably racist in sections) and have consequently spent the last two days fake tap dancing around the house, saying “oh terrif” with unnecessary amounts of enthusiasm and telling TMM how thoroughly modern I am. Admittedly, he’s been doing pretty much the same thing as he is definitely a modern woman, so its worked out well.

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It’s nearly Eleanor, so we’re definitely accepting it as a win.

*Speaking of, if anybody missed our Eurovision dress up last week on my Instagram last week, you really need to go and have a look. TMM went as Conchita (the winner a few years ago, with the amazing eye makeup and perfectly sculpted beard), and I have to say I have never been more proud of my make up abilities. TMM is a pretty hunky looking chap, it can’t be denied, but I literally don’t think I’ve ever seen a more attractive woman. His cheekbones take highlight like a champ and I found myself staring dreamily at his profile whilst the light glinted of them. It was like Xena Warrior Princess with chest hair. I couldn’t even bring myself to be annoyed at how pretty he looked, because I was too busy being deeply in love with his beautifully shadowed eyes and cow-like eyelashes.

Team were as good as they always are and newest edition Yoga Martin BBQ’d like a master (I’m pretty sure the BBQ was planned anyway, but I’m just going to assume it was in honour of my birthday and give him my birthday kudos blessing like the magnanimous delight I am). Turns out I am now all about barbequed fish like you would not believe and having it three times in two weeks is really as good as you could want it to be. There was much hilarity with axe throwing (which I definitely not good at), archery (which I watched from the side-lines shouting out helpful safety tips), air rifle shooting (which I enjoyed but hit absolutely nothing with) and I left with twice the amount I’d birthday cake I’d arrived with, a delightful doodle book/wonderfully pleasing coloured pencils and a date to walk with llamas in June (YASSSSSSS).

In true Indian wedding style (the perks of having a far flung family) the celebrations will continue throughout the week, and I know I’ve still got a My Hermes (family couriers of choice) parcel on its way from dearest Neens. We’ve also planned a trip to visit Mother and the rest of the Welsh Massive at the weekend too, though admittedly Hans the Devil Chariot is still beeping endlessly so we might be slightly frazzled (read – murderous) by the time we get there. It’s definitely worth it though, because I have siblings to squeeze, cousins to cuddle and a game of Cards Against Humanity or two to enjoy.

Now before I sign off, I thought I’d just leave you with some fun facts and notable events from my date of birth (other than the obvious *twirls*) that might help you in a pub quiz one day.

1) 1536 – The Execution of Anne Boleyn (cheery)

2) 1885 – 1st mass production of shoes by Jan Matzeliger in Lynn, Massachusetts (this fact pleases me immensely and I’m not sure why)

3) 1897 – Oscar Wilde released from Reading Gaol (Reading as in the place, not the act, which confused me more than it should have done for a minute)

4) 1928 – 51 frogs enter 1st annual “Frog Jumping Jubilee” in Angel’s Camp, California (I mean, why not)

5) 1939 – Birth of James Fox (phwoar)

6) 1948 – birth of Grace Jones (who terrifies me ever so slightly)

7) 1962 – Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday, Mr President” to John F Kennedy (My Mother did a great rendition of this down the phone to on my birthday)

8) 2018 – Meghan and Harry get married (you might have seen it mentioned briefly on the news)

9) 2161 – Syzygy: 8 of 9 planets aligned on same side of sun (something to look forward to)

I hope you all get at least one of those stuck in your head for next year in honour of me. TTFN.

I Have Walked 500 Miles

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*A little note before we start – Today’s post is sponsored by Levels by Avicii which I have been listening to on repeat since Monday and BuckMiester, the world’s most passive aggressive cat. He is currently sitting unashamedly brimming with rage by the foot of the armchair I had to kick him out of in order to be able to plug in my laptop, giving me shifty side eyes and throwing “hella shade” whilst simultaneously refusing to move out of stroking distance. Just because he’s miffed doesn’t mean he’s going to do himself out of a good fussing.*

The Time Line of out current relationship. Disgusted bat pose > accusing eyes > grudgingly allowance of neck tickles.

In general though, I’m pleased to say things are looking up. Regarding my weekly weather update that I have appear to have been unthinkingly giving you all, (and which I’m sure you’re all terribly invested in) I’m happy to say we had a whole three (3) days of summer over the weekend. Saturday was, in fact, so warm that I sat on our front wall for most of the morning chatting to TMM’s mum whilst he and his dad tinkered with Hans. I then proceeded to go through a further two (2) outfit changes to ensure I was baring as much skin to the sun as was safe and socially acceptable to do so. Whilst this pleasant weather unfortunately didn’t last (I am writing this post interspersed with sad, sepia moments of me staring forlornly out of a rain soaked window) I have been promised by various news sites to expect some more nice weather as soon as May, so that’s something at least.

Speaking of Hans (the devil’s chariot as I have unkindly christened him), you’ll be glad to know he is now up and running again, though he is still very much for the rope. I have made the executive decision that, whilst I don’t drive, I deserve to be driven in comfort and it’s time for a new car. Poor TMM has been swept along without consent and whilst I think perhaps he would have been fine to keep Hans or look at another second hand car, he’s coming to terms with the security and sensibleness of getting something that, if not brand new, at least comes with a warrantee. We’ve been looking into the various routes on how to do so without bankrupting ourselves, feeling very grown up all the while, and even have what could loosely be termed as a “plan of action” regarding the whole shebang. Thankfully we’ve got a rather good network of supportive parents, mechanically minded friends and neighbours with an obsession for cars and hopefully between the lot of us, we’ll manage to go into summer in a car likely to make it across country for our various road trips, rather than leaving us stranded in the middle of a busy road (which has happened to us on more that one occasion. Let me tell you, you haven’t known awkward British embarrassment until you’ve broken down at a set of traffic lights or on a steep hill off a roundabout and had to be pushed out of the way of angry honking motorists).

Our lack of car has meant our weekend has been rather sedate though, for want of a better word. It’s weird to think that there was a point in my life when I didn’t have ready access to a car and yet managed to fill my weekends with ease. Now, there has been a slight and irrational undercurrent of confinement and I think both TMM and I have felt at a bit of a loose end. We tidied, we lazed and we watched most of the London Marathon with twin expressions of amazement and slight panic – I can’t even comprehend how people can do something like that. It simultaneously seemed to be one of the longest weekends of doing nothing whilst being over in the blink of the proverbial. The biggest thing we achieved (just behind fixing Hans and just ahead finishing my most recent upcycling project) was walking to visit our Pet Old Lady Molly and take Benji, the World’s Most Ridiculous Dog out for his daily jaunt.
You might have thought after watching a literal f*ckton of people push themselves to the limit of physical endurance on one of the hottest days of the year would have motivated and encouraged me to take to such an endeavour with vigour. If that is the case, I think perhaps you don’t know me quite as well as you thought. In the car, the whole event takes roughly 40 minutes from start to finish (and 30 minutes of that is spent helping shake Molly into her trousers and discussing the sad lack of corporal punishment in today’s society – her opinion, not mine). Without the car, it takes 700 hours apparently. It’s strange because when I was younger, I used to love going hiking with my family. We had official walking boots, matching cagoules (literally the coolest) and every walk typically ended with me threatening to cry if I had to give up the stick I had inevitably adopted along the way to be my designated hiking staff. These days, I have the boots, an actual hiking stick with a handy camera on the end and a partner who is desperate to explore and yet the love for walking has gone. Admittedly (and if I am being honest with myself) it wasn’t quite as awful as I’m making out, and it was nice to get a bit of fresh air and smash my step target three days in a row for the first time ever, but I definitely don’t think I’m going to be signing up for any marathons any time soon.

(I would like to reiterate this statement pointedly to my best Woo. Not only is she generally insistent that I join her in all kinds of hideously active hobbies, she is now threatening to fake her own death after I stupidly shared my absent-minded musings that if she died I would have to run a marathon in her honour as it’s on her bucket list.)

Through all of our trekking cross country and confused carless wanderings though, the highlight of my weekend was going to see My Dad Wrote a Porno live on Friday night. For those of you not in the know, this title might seem a little alarming (as well it should) but I definitely recommend it to ALL. It’s a free podcast feature Alice Levine (of Radio 1 fame) and her friends, Jamie and James (cute but slightly confusing) and does exactly what it says on the tin. Jamie is “fortunate” (note my use of sarcastic quotations here) enough to have a father who decided, somewhat rashly I think, to give writing erotic literature a go, and did so with what can only be described as relish. As any good millennial would do, Jamie told all of his friends and decided to do a weekly podcast in which he reads it out loud, in all of its graphic detail, and then proceeds to completely tear it apart for #bants. It’s pleasing on so many levels; including but not limited to the way that poor Jamie is constantly reminded of his personal shame, the vigour in which he approaches the various accents (and boy are there many) and the very relatable way that both Alice and James absolutely corpse about the place with laughter after practically every sentence. It’s unknown if Rocky Flintstone (the nom-de-plume given to Jamie’s dad/the author of this fabulous fiasco) is particularly satirical in his choices or just completely unknowing about how a women’s genitalia works, but either way it’s great for a giggle.


Pre Porno stage – you can just about see the top of the heads of the absolute granny legends who took up half a row

The live show consisted of a reading of the “lost chapter” of one of the Belinda Blinks novels (of which there are, somewhat alarmingly, many) and included various references to hilarious in-jokes, a short yet extremely comedic lecture on the positioning of a women’s cervix (it makes sense as to why this is very much needed when you listen to the podcast, I swear) and some truly terrifying audience participation (which may or may not be exactly what you’re thinking).

However, in an unseen and rather heart-breaking turn of events, poor TMM, who had been looking forward to the show for months, was too poorly to go (cue much sulking on all of our parts). In his honour I refused to enjoy myself too much and when I got home we binged a couple of episodes of the podcast (interspersed with my retelling of the best bits from the show) to cheer him up. He is mostly recovered now thankfully, and we’ve been girding our loins with glee for the new series of the podcast, which is due out in a couple of weeks. Just enough time for all of you Porno virgins to catch up…

This weekend brings the promise of car shopping (hooray), hopefully a new fridge (we did call the landlord like typical grownups and he did the typical landlord thing of fiddling with it, humming and saying he’d get back to us) and at least one (read – 76) cinema trips to watch the new Avengers film – which I am dangerously excited about. I am so excited I almost don’t want to go and see it because I don’t know if my gentle geek heart can take what it’s going to dish out, but TMM has promised to stand by me and not walk away in embarrassment even if I ugly cry (this will undoubtedly happen). The good news is that Mother is continuing to allow me to oversee her education of the Marvel universe (how grudgingly I can’t tell over WhatsApp, but she is providing thoughtful commentary so I’m feeling confident) and this means that even if (when) TMM gets bored of me wanting to see Avenger – Infinity Wars for the millionth time, I will at least get one more viewing with her (soz not soz MotherBear).

I will leave you here to ponder on your interest (or lack thereof) in dramatic superhero adventures/patriarchally written pornos and report back next week with further insight into my week and an updated weather report. Stay Classy San Diego.

Wedding Bells and Techical Hells

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THE SUN IS SHINING, THE BIRDS ARE SINGING, and I’m rescuing confused wasps left, right and centre. (Unlike nearly everyone else I know, I have a lot of love for a wasp. I feel that they get a lot of bad press for just living their lives and I relate hard to their spikey nature and urge to sting anyone who looks at them funny). Whilst there have been a few near misses with the weather, we have had at least two days of mostly blue skies and warmish sunlight so far this week, and I’m starting to feel mildly hopeful that winter might soon be over. Obviously I’m not getting too excited; no doubt next weekend will herald blizzards and terrible conditions to punish us all for getting too hyped up with the sun we’ve had, but I’m embracing it whilst I can.

Admittedly, my positivity has taken a slight knock these last couple of days though. Once again, Hans von Manshaft has deemed it necessary to give up the ghost. Poor TMM left the house on Wednesday morning to go to work only to discover a glaring alarm light and large puddle of brake fluid on the pavement and very much not in the car where it was supposed to be. Considering I don’t even drive, cars are very much the bane of my life and I am resentful that after all the money and attention we’ve given to Hans, he still thinks it’s appropriate to break every couple of months. I can’t help but feel soon might be the time to heed Mr B’s advice (“should have got a Dacia”) and send Hans off down the river in a flaming Viking boat. Until then, I am once again a complete and total “Bus Wanker” (opposed to usually, when I’m only part time) and poor TMM has had to resort to begging lifts from kindly work colleagues by doing his best puppy dog eyes.

We’re also currently contending with a broken fridge, which was a bit of a kick in the teeth after we had just stocked it full with the weekly shop. TMM has manfully defrosted the whole thing (there’s cool boxes of miscellaneous freezer surprise tuppawears all over the place) and we’re desperately clinging on to the faint hope that it might have just been a blocked fan. To be fair, if it is in the final death throes, it is really not the end of the world. We live in rented accommodation which, whilst not being the best for everything, does mean that broken household appliances actually fall under someone else’s remit. The only problem is that we had to speak to our landlord not so long ago to get the washing machine replaced, and being the nervy little buggers we are, there’s the slight concern he’s going to think we’ve started trashing the place for lols. However, I would rather end up with a new fridge than not, so if it’s not fixed by tonight, I’ll be pulling up my big girl pants and giving him a call.

Though if I’m being honest, it might have to wait until the weekend because the house is currently a pigsty and I can’t have anyone coming round to replace anything when I can’t even remember the last time I vacuumed…

On a much more chipper note, we did have a very lovely weekend attending the wedding of TMM’s younger brother. We are now officially the only unmarried and childless pair of that family group. Coincidentally we are also the oldest, which possibly says a little about our mental ages, so the baton falls to us to start actually (and in all grown up seriousness) planning our own nuptials. Though we sharn’t be planning the children (we’re definitely sticking to cats). Whist I am not the best wedding guest you could ever want (Introverts and Social Anxiety R Us), there’s always something nice about attending the ceremony, and I teared up at least 3 times throughout the day – which is definitely a winning sign. Everybody looked beautiful and TMM’s sister once again excelled herself at the flower displays and buttonholes. (She’s already been volunteered to do ours, thought I’m not sure if she knows it yet). I also felt slightly smug when I got a little thank you in the speech for doing the place settings and somebody whispered “she handwrote all these?!” in amazement.

TMM, I and baby Thea looking our best

TMM and I also excelled ourselves on the dance floor, which I think was a surprise to all involved. Admittedly, I love a good boogie as much as the next person, but I was quite content to sit on the side-lines this time. However, TMM took part in (and lost) a few drinking competitions with his sister. A foolish endeavour as everyone involved soon realised. She is actually a demon when it comes to pints and has never entered a contest she didn’t smash. Consequently he was a lot more easily influenced by the lure of the banging tunes. By 9pm, I had being lassoed and wrangled in and I actually don’t think we stopped dancing until 1.30am. Sensibly though, I has transferred to flat shoes early on in the evening and woke up the following morning with feet as fresh as a daisy.

It did become abundantly clear though that the TMM family share one very specific trait (other than having the worst luck with cars) – trying to keep them in one place for more than 5 minutes is like trying to keep hold of a bag full of eels. They’re basically weasels in people suits; adorable, but as tricky as hell to keep track of. TMM kept dragging me into dance circles before vanishing through doorways and reappearing twenty minutes later on the opposite side of the building deep in conversation with someone. His sister seemed to have some kind of teleportation device and popped up for the beginning of every song only to disappear and leave people bewildered and dancing with the faint outline of where she’d just been. The groom, doing his best groomly duty, managed to be in every conversation group I saw whilst also successfully wrangling various tiny dots who were zooming around the dance floor with all the gay abandon of, well, a kid at a wedding. I shared many bemused and slightly hysterical glances with the respective partners of the TMM clan each time we lost one of them, though Nan Pat did reveal with much glee that she used to do the very same thing to her husband, so at least we know their keeping up family traditions.

Poor TMM was slightly worst for the wear the next morning (he’s not used to such hard-core partying) and spent most of Sunday napping whilst I did a bit of DIY and finally dyed my hair. I’d been keeping the pink until the wedding because I’d, completely incidentally, managed to get it to perfectly compliment my dress for the occasion, but after 3 months with one colour I was starting to push the limits of my comfortableness with commitment. However I am now feeling fresh and funky with my new lagoon/atlantic blue shades. Though I do have to be honest, the general shape of my hair is somewhat less than satisfactory. I’m currently in the horribly awkward stage where it’s not long enough to do anything with, but not short enough to be cute and punky and I’m left looking a little bit like Wendolene from Wallace and Gromit. I’m having to keep firmly reminding myself that I need to stick it out, because if I get it cut I’ll only end up in this situation again in a month or so. Better to push through now and come out of the other side a stronger and more stylish person, rather than shy away from an inevitable event. Hopefully it won’t take long to grow out and soon I’ll be able to model a fashionable and adorable bob in all the colours of the rainbow.

In honour of the happy couple though (and in continuing from last week’s hilarious post), I’ve done a little digging in the Royal Imperial Dream Book to find some topical snippets. (I’ve decided I want to really get my £5 worth from this book, so you might want to strap in for a lot of these little epilogues over the next few weeks). Please excuse the dodgy camera angles – I was in charge of my own photography and you can very much tell.

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Drunkenness. This one kind of makes sense. Everyone makes friends when drunk, and whilst TMM might not have felt so chipper about it the morning after, I think on the night it sounds about right.

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Wedding & Weeping. This one felt suitable for all aspects of my week, and I thought it was handy they were right next to each other. Somewhat unsurprisingly, to dream of nice things such as weddings results in sadness and despair, and to dream of crying is actually a positive omen. Either way, I’ve got a bit of good and a bit of bad to go off.