THE COLLEAGUE

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People often talk about how important their friends are.

We so frequently recall fond memories of those we have known since university or school and we praise our families for being wonderful- and don’t get me wrong, these people are the people I turn to first. I do feel, however, that we need to give our work colleagues a little more credit for the crucial part that they play in our everyday lives.

Hear me out.

I get that your boyfriend/girlfriend/lover has to endure a run down of the last eight hours at the end of a long, hard day. I know that your girlfriends are the ones nursing your broken heart when things don’t quite work out as planned. Your mum and dad will no doubt be the ones to get you through a really rough patch, it was your grandparent’s job to spoil you rotten and your brother or sister are there to let you know that you’ve put on a bit of weight when no one else will. But the people you work with? They’re the ones who see you everyday, come rain or shine. On a good side of the bed day or on a bad side of the bed day. There’s no respite for those you share a desk with and they have to look at your face for at least six hours a day, whether they (or you) like it or not and this is why I feel it’s high time we celebrate these people we find ourselves spending most of our time with.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that a good work colleague is hard to come by. In fact, starting a new job is a bit like an arranged marriage: you just don’t know what you’re going to get, but what I can say, with some certainty, is that knowing that I can have snippets of great conversation and a laugh at some point between the hours of 9am and 5pm is what makes me stop hitting snooze on my alarm each day. Aside from loving what I do, of course.

More to the point though, post-education, where else do you get the chance to meet and make life-long friends anymore? As a twenty-something, you can’t just approach people in bars and ask them to hang out with you as a mate. Nor do apps intended for this purpose ever really work. Friendship groups are set in stone by 27 and work is the only place you get to meet anyone new. Yet another reason why work colleagues are the bomb.

This positive outlook on desk mates, however, isn’t always agreed upon. In fact, I’ve heard tales-a-plenty about torturous co-workers in the last few days and I recently listened to a podcast by The Pool where someone had written in to ask for advice on how to handle their god-awful neighbouring teammate who chewed really loudly at their desk and sighed a lot. First of all: really dude? personal space, please. Secondly, it made me realise how lucky I have been. Although I’ve had some awkward romantic encounters and have faced both healthy disagreements and a couple of disappointments throughout my working life, I have always managed to find people I click with within my team, company or school and it is those humans who I would like to celebrate today. The ones who put up with my incessant need to talk things through, the ones who help curb my habit of writing endless lists and those who spend hours after work chatting, just because.

So, colleagues of the world: although we might have to make small talk with one another on impromptu tube rides home, spend lunch times working next to each other instead of eating across from one another and we may get a little inappropriate at after work drinks, you are what makes the 9-5 bearable, so let’s be grateful for that.

Tomorrow, take the time to offer a colleague a cup of tea or fetch them a diet coke from the shop. If you have a bit of spare time, offer them a helping hand with something they’re working on, or just get blind drunk on prosecco after hours for no reason at all.

You never know, once you get to talking to people, you might go from being colleagues to life-long friends.

Lord knows, stranger things have happened.

PACKING FOR FUN IN A FIELD

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Spending four or five days in a field might sound like fun and games (which it most definitely is), but if you’re underprepared, then you will be miserable, resulting in drinking all your warm booze by the end of day one and having to spend the majority of your money on over-priced cider.

With this in mind, I thought I would devise a festival checklist for those of you joining me in Somerset over the next few days/heading to one of a number of UK festivals this summer season.

This list ranges from the very obvious, to the unthought of.

Here goes.

Practical Items

A Torch

Bin Bags

Dry, non-perishable foods

A Onesie

A small rucksack

A good raincoat

Wellies

Individual Packs of Tissues

A bum bag / Fanny pack

A Towel

A ‘Granny Trolley’ to carry heavy stuff (if you’re not driving)

A refillable water bottle

A Ground Sheet

Camping Chairs

A portable phone charger

A Tent

A Sleeping Bag

An Eye Mask

Toiletries

Baby Wipes / Make Up Wipes

All the dry shampoo

Toothbrush / Toothpaste

Mini shampoo / conditioner / body wash

Hair ties / clips /kirby-grips

Make Up (obvs)

Lots of deodorant

A Razor

Paracetamol / Ibuprofen

Dioralyte

Hay fever Tablets

Eye Drops

Tampons / Pads (just in case!)

First Aid Kit

Blister Plasters

Hand Sanitiser

A Mirror

Clothes

Too many pairs of socks

A couple of pairs of thick socks

Too many pairs of pants

Three bras

A swimsuit / A bikini

Five outfits for sunny weather

Two pairs of jeans

A couple of jumpers

A pair of sandals / A pair of non-wellies

A Hat

Sunglasses

The Fun Stuff

Lots of Glitter / Vaseline

Head scarves for greasy hair

Spirits decanted into plastic bottles

Squeezy bags to decant said spirits each day

Mixers

Some cans of alcohol

A box of wine

A hip flask

Plastic cups

And last but not least, your ticket! (And some ID, as some festivals require you to show this on entry and I was ID’d for booze at last year’s Glastonbury). I was 26.

Aside from that, pack well, have fun, look after each other and anything else you can think of to add to the list? Let me know and I’ll add it.

Every little helps!

THE LOVE

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I was going to end my celebration of love on a list of things I currently adore: from the new season of Girls and fish pie to fat coke and spring sunshine.

But how could I celebrate the most powerful of all the emotions for four weeks running without even mentioning the big fat love of my own life, instead opting for a list of vacuous things I sort of like at the moment? You might find the following post gushing or boastful, but I just think it’s fitting. Because, although I find it cathartic to reminisce, and you probably find it more entertaining reading about my tragic mishaps and bad choices of the past, I think it’s important to also be grateful (and honest) about what really ticks my tock (snacks aside) in the here and now.

So here goes.

I currently share a bed with a man whom I – in equal parts – love dearly but also wish to strangle at almost every hour of the day. He is horrendous at making plans, one of the worst communicators and spends far too much time on Buzzfeed and/or BBC News, whilst I grapple for a comforting spoon or a much needed boob grope. Vegetables are exempt from his diet. He eats a little too loudly when it’s just the two of us. If it’s yellow, he let’s it mellow. He has a terrible – and really quite bizarre – phobia of pregnant women falling over. And we disagree on pretty much every political opinion a person can have.

But he is also kind. Loving. And overwhelmingly gentle for a man of his stature. He loves my freckles. He runs me baths. And he surprises me every single day. He is the sort of guy who springs a (very romantic) Valentine’s surprise on you and accepts that you choose (the not so romantic) Meat Mission as your dinner selection at the end of it. He sleeps in a single bed with you and bares the stiff neck the next day. He understands the importance of a perfectly-timed poached egg. He showers as much as you and knows a good coffee when he tastes one. He is the sort of guy who buys you a powder blue bike (basket included) for your first birthday together (2 months in). He is the type of person you meet in New York a month later while he’s away for business, just because. And he’s the sort of guy who surprises you with a trip to Norway for Christmas, so that you can pretend to be Anna from Frozen for a few days in the snow. He puts up with your singing, adoration (obsession) with Jemima Kirke and your complete inability to deal with a hangover. In fact, he puts up with you. Full stop.

So, right now, for as long as it takes you to read this post, I would like to celebrate the love I have with him. And then, I promise, I’ll get right back to humour, sarcasm and laughing in the face of anyone who takes life (and themselves) a little bit too seriously.

Love can appear out of the most unexpected of scenarios or places. In my case, it was via an app. In your case, it might be through work, via a friend of a friend, or at a very messy house party. But I’m happy to have discovered – after a month of people sharing their experiences of the heart – that, in whichever way love falls into our arms, we are all pretty damn grateful for it. Be it the good times that we can cherish, the heart break that has taught us a valuable lesson or the decisions that we have been forced to consider that only make us stronger. And that’s exactly the way it should be.

So, even if you have to pick pieces of chewed up food out of his bushy beard, share your hair bands with him or suffer from being spooned to the point of suffocation, just let love in. Because the real thing – when you eventually find it – probably (definitely) won’t look the way you think it should. And it will absolutely be better than you ever could have imagined.

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Thank you for reading and celebrating with me this month. And thanks to all those who bore their souls to me and allowed me to share their experiences with my readers.

Keep cuddling, keep smiling and keep being honest with those who have nabbed a piece of your heart, because one day it might be a little too late to let them know just how much they mean to you.

THE SUNDAY PAPERS

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As my month of love continues to grow, I thought I would stick to all things relationships and sex for this week’s Sunday Papers post. Here’s my round up of romance from the last 7 days.

Sex Myths Decoded

Single and Proud

Going the Distance

Dating at 30

Sober

For When Cupid Doesn’t Strike

A Love Story

Bag a Bargain

Addicted to Love

Ridin’ Solo

Couples Living With Couples

When Divorce is a Good Thing

Women Enjoy It Too

I can’t get no…

Have a great week.

THE NEW YEAR

large (19)I feel like I have learnt more about myself in the past year than I have in the last 26 put together.

I started 2015 on what can only be described as the lowest I have ever been. I had no job, my relationship was hanging on by less than a thread and I was suffering quite severely with anxiety and low self esteem. I looked to the year ahead and couldn’t see past March to be honest. I felt as though everything I knew about myself was wrong, I didn’t know where I was going to be by the following January and, when things were really bad, I didn’t care.

But here I am. With a job I don’t love but I need, not for the money but peace of mind, a relationship that I wouldn’t trade for anything and a healthier outlook on the future.

Cliché or not, I genuinely can’t believe how much can change in a year.

Back in January, those closest to me kept saying that time was a healer and that things would change. They would remind me that nothing is permanent and that I wouldn’t feel this way forever. As you can imagine, I didn’t believe a single word of what they said. Instead, I chose to just bury my head in the sand and carry on with things by ignoring the stuff that was bothering me. This, of course, only made things worse. Until I decided to hit the reset button, chill the f out for a bit and start again.

And then just like that – or rather, six, quite long, quite difficult months later – on an ordinary day in December as I walked home from work, I realised that I didn’t feel sad, anxious, hurt or disappointed anymore. In fact, without knowing, I had grown in confidence, I was happier, more optimistic and driven than ever, but I didn’t feel these things outwardly, overwhelmingly or life-changeingly. I felt them in the most beautiful way possible: I simply felt okay again. And that’s exactly what I wanted to achieve when I hit the reset button back in July. I just wanted to feel like I was in control again and – finally – I do.

So, although I have friends who are joining me on a high of happiness at the close of the year – from engagements and career moves to pregnancies and new relationships – I also have those around me who have recently lost loved ones, who are caring for those who might not be with us for much longer and those who are nursing not broken, but completely shattered, hearts. And it is to those people who I am dedicating this New Year’s post to. Because I was you this time last year, waiting for midnight, hoping for a fairy godmother to appear and wash all of my troubles away with her magic wand. So, although you know as well as I did that she’s never going to come, I am here to remind you that, over the next few months, your luck will change, that there is still time to fix whatever it is that is broken and that by this time next year you will look back and almost be grateful for what you’ve just endured. It will take a few months of cutting yourself some slack, a dash of hard work and a whole lot of me time, but I promise, you will get there.

So, whether you’re excited, apprehensive or nervous about the coming year, be sure to surround yourself with the people you love tonight and give thanks for the things you do have, because that’s really the only thing that matters in this life.

See you in 2016 for another adventure.

Happy New Year.

THE SUNDAY ROUNDUP – 2015

large (20)I started The Sunday Papers a few months ago when I decided that I wanted to share my favourite articles of the week with you. The idea was to get people reading, generate discussions around important topical issues and discover some great online magazines along the way. However, when I sat down to write my final Sunday Papers post of the year, I decided that – instead of sharing my media highlights of the week with you – I would share my personal “life highlights” from the last 365 days.

I am a great believer in gratitude, optimism and glass half-fullness, so I’d like to share these moments with you in a bid to celebrate the goodness of 2015 rather than dwelling on the negative that sometimes seems to surround us.

So here goes.

Falling in Love with my Blog Again

Back in March, restless before my 26th birthday and impending nose-dive into my late twenties, I decided to invest in a new web layout. Although I will soon be able to do this myself, web design was out of my reach at the time and I chose to use Pipdig who were an absolute dream to work with. I was so happy with the design and ease of application and would recommend them to anyone looking for a change. The fact that I am still loving the layout after 9 months is testament to how pleased I am with the result. Best investment of the year.

One Room. All of my Favourites.

After a bit of a tumultuous few months, I decided to have a low maintenance birthday this year and invited all of my best ones to my boyfriend’s flat for drinks and a jaunt into Tooting. The best birthdays are the ones spent with food, drink and good people. Nailed it.

Watching Florence + The Machine at Glastonbury

By far my favourite moment of 2015. I’ve seen her perform before and since Glastonbury and I’ve never felt the way I did when watching her on the Pyramid Stage that night. Magical.

10 Year Reunion and the Realisation that Life is Good

My school reunion made me realise that things rarely change between good friends. After nervously teetering in stilettos, arm in arm with the same friends I’ve had since my school days, I had an epic evening catching up with the women of my past and celebrating our achievements. From engagements and travel to babies and career moves, we had all moved on but still shared the same (hilarious and sometimes shocking) memories that shaped us and even managed to find time to sing a rendition of Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love of All – a song close to my year group’s hearts – one last time. Ten years on, we were all still a long way from where we had predicted we’d be in our year books, but it was still reassuring to know that everyone was doing okay after all these years.

An all-girls BBQ in Beckenham and the night of a thousand Old Fashions

On the hottest day of the year, a friend of mine threw a birthday party in her back garden, which just so happens to be the size of a football pitch, with her parents, who just so happen to be some of the best around. A few Hungarian shots, home grown food and potent wine later, we hung out in the evening breeze, arguing over whether to have Kisstory or Magic on the radio and trying to make sure Helen (the birthday girl) was still standing (she wasn’t). That day spent in her garden was the most carefree I had been in a while and, just to add to it (because Summer evenings have a knack for surprising you) a friend and I ended up crashing a boy’s night out in Brixton and discovered a secret bar where we drank Old Fashioneds and talked until the early hours. For some reason this ordinary day became one of my highlights of the year.

The 4th of September 2015

Just a very good day indeed.

An Engagement to Remember

Finally, and most importantly, one of my oldest friends got engaged just before Christmas. IN NEW YORK. I cried, I screamed, I did all of the things that I thought I would do if I were to get engaged. I had no idea that someone else’s joy could bring me so much happiness, but it turns out it can. When you’ve grown up beside someone and shared their boy history along the way, seeing them so happy with someone you adore as much as them? Priceless. And the perfect end to 2015.

So that’s it from me and my year. What were your highlights of the last 365 days? Be sure to write them down and be thankful for them. Who knows what the next twelve months might bring…

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THE SECOND WIND

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Whenever someone asks me whether they should get back with their ex, I, and most likely you will too, dish out the same, woeful, clichéd advice: exes are exes for a reason; if things didn’t work out the first time, then they definitely won’t this time; don’t look back, you’re not going that way, or, my personal favourite: there’s plenty more fish in the sea.

But what about when the person contemplating getting back with their ex is you? What happens when you’re the one nervously muttering to your friends that you’ve been seeing him again and that it might be worth a shot? You once said that you would never talk to him again and now you’re holding his hand. Everyone shifts awkwardly in their seats and you order another round.

It’s at this point that you need to follow your heart and not the eye rolls from those around you. Mainly because they aren’t there and despite the fact that you’re convinced that the world and his wife are judging you and your other half, they aren’t. Unless you’re on Made In Chelsea, in which case yes, they are in fact watching and judging you every Monday at 9.

But it’s fair to say that those around us rarely know what to say in these situations. They’ve dragged us from the depths of break up hell – from nights in with all the food to nights out with all the gin – to being okay again. They want to protect you and are fearful of giving the wrong advice. So they end up not giving you any.

And understandably so.

However, as I perch nervously upon the very first few weeks into a second attempt at a relationship, I can tell you that all I want is advice. Advice on how to navigate a new old relationship. How to act, behave and cope. How to know when enough is enough and how to know if you’ve made the right decision. Each relationship is a personal journey and I most certainly do not have all the answers. But I can talk to you about what I’ve learnt so far.

So here goes.

Firstly, tread carefully. You have both been through a bad break up (more importantly, the same break up) and although you would like to tell yourselves that you are completely over the trials of yesteryear, it is only natural to have clung onto some of the nasties that lurked at the end of your time together.

But turn this into a positive.

Talk, listen and figure out whatever it was that led to your demise. Returning to the scene of the crime means that forgiveness becomes a part of your language and you begin to learn from your mistakes. You will gain a lot from letting things go and even more from working (hard) through others. Do not ignore the issues from before; deal with them head on and then – more importantly – move on.

Secondly, you do not need to know if they have touched another human since you broke up. Unless they’ve bumped uglies with your bestie, you are both here now and that is all that matters.

Thirdly, you can’t un-know each other. If you’re looking for butterflies and awkward kisses, then quit now. You know he picks his nose when your back is turned and he knows you secretly love Zoella. If you’re not okay with certain aspects of each other’s personality, you never will be. Behaving like someone other than yourself might fix things in the short term, but if things are going better now that you’re not being yourself, then it might be time to actually just… find someone else.

And finally, because break ups are so shit, you will inevitably have seen each other at your absolute worst. There are some splits  – I’m sure we have all experienced them – that can make even the coldest of humans feel as though their heart might fall out of their arse holes. And what is likely to happen when we feel like there’s a high chance that one of our vital organs might vacate our rectums? We act crazy. At times a little frenzied. Always a little out of character.

So pull right back.

The throes of a break up can normalise screaming, shouting and name calling. They can endorse bad behaviour, shocking decisions and a great deal of tears and snot, but you need to remember that this is not how humans should behave. Particularly not two humans who are supposed to be in love. So touch base with what you were like before the end and go back to a time when you were respectful, honest and kind to each other. Things might have got bad towards the end, but they were once really good, right? Hark back to the good times and shake off the bad. You’re back together for a reason, so set boundaries for how loud you’re allowed to shout, put coping mechanisms in place for when times are tough and be really honest about what bothers you. Then just sit back and enjoy the ride.

I don’t know the stats on how many couples have been successful at a second wind, but what I do know is that if you feel as though something is worth a shot, then it probably is. Even if it’s just to hammer home that you are actually better suited to someone else.

Who cares if it takes you a couple of goes to get it just right? After all, practise really does make perfect.

Good luck.