SMALL VICTORIES – FEBRUARY

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It’s ten days into the month and I have only just realised that I haven’t laid out any of my goals for February. I guess thats what happens when life moves at 100mph and you find Valentine’s Day on your doorstep before you’ve even had time to digest your Christmas turkey.

But less of me sounding old and talking about time flying and down to the nitty gritty. What would I like to achieve over the next few weeks?

Here goes:

1. Read

I have a pile of books that I’ve acquired of late – from gifted reads to downloaded suggestions – that I am yet to even open. It’s my aim to find the time to enjoy just one of them (probably ‘Big Magic’) before the month is out.

2. Meditate

I’ve been reading all about ‘Mindfulness’ recently and OH HOT DAMN I had no idea that it was a) so complicated and b) required so much of my time and attention. Mindfulness isn’t just about feeling calm, it’s a way of life that allows you to manipulate your consciousness to live more in the moment. I think you’ll agree that we could all do with practising this a little more. I’ll let you know how I get on.

3. Sort

I will be moving out soon and my wardrobes are overflowing (yes, I am addicted to buying boots and coats, so sue me), but there is no point in lugging the tat along with me into my new chapter. I think I’ll use the time I have off work next week to sort through clothes and work out which items to chuck, keep or give to charity. Hopefully, that way, I can actually see what I have to wear and avoid that pre-night out floordrobe from developing…

4. Bang

No, not that kind of bang. I’ve been thinking of cutting in some bangs (aka, a fringe) again for a while now. The truth is, I much prefer my face-piece when my forehead is covered, but it’s just so difficult to maintain- particularly in rainy old England. Although it might not seem like a huge decision to many of you, those who have suffered from #fringepains in the past – from needing regular trims to hiding hat hair – will know why this is a big enough decision to be in my small victories post.

And that’s it. The theme of this month’s aims seems to be both practical and calming. And I’m cool with that.

So what are you going to try and achieve this month?

Whatever you set your sights on, go get it, tiger.

THE SUNDAY PAPERS

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It’s Sunday. It’s October. And I’ve got my ticket to Glastonbury in the bag. Life is good. As is the internet. Here are some of my favourites reads from the past 7 days, for you to enjoy.

I know it’s Monday tomorrow. But until then, relax and be merry. We still have a few hours of Sunday left to tuck into…

Have a good one.

Wise words from wonderful women

Where did the memorial for slaves go?

Irish women speak out about abortion

What is life like for female refugees?

The problem with body hair being used as a tool for feminism

Haunting photography

Why I love being a British woman

Is the party over?

Orgasms at the drop of a hat: why are we still not getting it?

Cases for and against Corbyn’s women troubles

We do have types, apparently

Make your space a space

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THE JOURNEY

ebeec88a001103e9404aa36dddf55c44There is nothing better than a train ride to cleanse the soul; unless you’re not a fan of thinking, that is.

Larkin’s Whitsun Weddings was where I first saw train journeys as something other than a means to an end. Before sitting in that A level English lesson, trains to me had merely equated to a packet of cheese and onion and a can of coke on the way to Glasgow, running through Victoria because I was late (again), or being way too early for my departure because mum was in charge of the tickets.

After leaving school however, train journeys changed for me and they became the only way to reach the men in my life; I enjoy long distance, and my own space, it seems.

I started seeing a guy on my gap year who was in his second year at Durham, so naturally I decided to go and visit him for the weekend. The four hour train ride up there consisted of me feeling nervous, ticking off a mental checklist about all of the things hidden in my way-too-large-for-three-days bag and growing excited about the historic sights of the north. The return journey was somewhat different. A four hour trip turned into an eight hour test of endurance due to (probably three inches of) snow and a completely unprecedented delay; a tut for every single person who visited the buffet cart to grab their complementary drink due to weather conditions and a chance to reflect on the god-awful weekend I’d just had and how much I wouldn’t fit into Durham life for love nor money.

I then set off for university myself, where my next experience of trains was with the same guy. We were clearly too young and stupid to realise that weekends away didn’t work for us, ending up in him travelling for over ten hours from Durham to Exeter to see me, only to turn around after a further, excruciatingly bad, twelve hours to complete the return journey ahead of schedule. It was at this point that we called it a day. However, all was not lost as he did make the effort to text and tell me how beautiful Wales looked at that time of year and thankfully for him, he still had his untouched cheddar ploughman’s from the journey down to keep him company.

Throughout my university years, the train line between Paddington and St Davids was my time to cope with things; be it the transition of moving from home to a life in halls, an essay that I’d left to the last minute or a never ending break up. It was the place where I did most of my thinking as it was when I was at my most sober and I actually had a minute to stop and think about how weird being a student actually was. Each time I landed at either destination I would feel as though I didn’t belong and missed the former, but for those couple of hours, all of that didn’t matter because it was just me, my music and a mediocre cup of tea.

Being British, I obviously didn’t want anyone to sit next to me, I still feel a completely irrational pang of guilt as the ticket inspector makes his way through the carriage and I never pay for a first class ticket because, well, why would I? Trains are far more poetic than journeys in the sky or on the road, so what more could an extra fiver get me aside from a hot chocolate that tastes like… well… chocolate?

Travelling is a time to reflect, to read, to do the things that you can’t do at home or at work because they seem outdated or a waste of time when you could be checking Instagram; that’s why I pity those who take their laptop along for the ride. Train carriages are that half way house where you’re always leaving something behind and heading towards something else. You’re transient, for the four, five or fifteen hours spent on that train track and it’s a small chunk of time that you have completely to yourself, unless you’ve managed to book yourself onto the same carriage as a BYOB stag do en route to Leeds, of course.

Although you might not realise it, the Great British Railroad is a beautiful thing that connects us all. It’s very easy to forget when you’re surrounded by concrete that, although it might not be aliens, there really might just be something else out there beyond the 9-5 or your morning flat white fix.

So embrace the railway and explore our greener pastures, even if it is through a rain sodden train window en route to a raucous weekend in Newcastle. After all, life is totally about balance.

The Thanksgiving

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Being suitably British, but having feasted on Gossip Girl and The OC for the course of my younger years, I’ve been mildly obsessed with our friends across the pond for a long while now. A recent trip to the Big Apple did nothing to curb this unrelenting desire to be a citizen of the United States but instead made me fall a little out of love with London – something I never thought possible – and even more infatuated with the American Dream.

This, along with the fact that I’m feeling a little downbeat with the state of things at present, I’ve decided to make like the yanks and cheer myself up by recounting all of the things that I am grateful for this Thanksgiving Thursday.

First up are my friends. I am 99% sure that I know a bunch of the best women to ever have existed and sometimes I wonder whether they are even human at all. Always on hand to give me a cuddle when I need it and a kick up the arse when I don’t realise I do, they are a collection of the funniest, most intelligent and, I’m going to say it, inspirational girls I’ve ever known. Not only that but they have an extraordinary (albeit taking a while to get there) taste in men. I couldn’t ask for better bearded additions to our little group, so thanks to you for being the perfect gentlemen and taking care of my little ladies.

I am thankful for the hairiest but most wonderful man to have entered my life. Pretty much a best friend that I happen to kiss a lot, he knows to never order me a crème brûlée, has an impeccable taste in footwear and has been an absolute stick of Brighton rock in what has been a bit of a mental year.

I am thankful for my family, both immediate and extended. You are all kind of odd, kind of interesting and kind of great. I am thankful that my brother and his girlfriend, currently making their way around South America, haven’t lost a limb; lost each other or even lost their minds; all of which are quite possible. Speaking of which, I’m thankful that they’ve even had the opportunity to do something so epic as to see a slice of the world (I say thankful, I mean jealous). 

To those who have stopped panicking about stocking up on tinned goods or border control and have instead donated their time to the Ebola Crisis Appeal: thank you. Be it through downloading the 400th Band Aid single, texting in or even heading out there – it all helps and (selfishly) restores my faith in humanity.

I am thankful for my education, a basic human right that women are not entitled to elsewhere in the world. My education has led me to the understanding that with a little patience and hard work, you can achieve a great deal and it has opened me up to, quite literally, a world of opportunity.

On a perhaps more materialistic note, I am thankful to Lena Dunham, David Nicholls and Don Tillman for quenching my literary thirst this year and I am appreciative for the Toffee Nut Lattes that provide me with a reason to retreat from the cold and reunite with one of my oldest friends at this time of year; these red-cupped delights provide caffeine and comfort like no other.

I am thankful that we have seasons in this city; for bobble hats and woolly jumpers, the countryside that is but an hour away from me and for still being allowed to purchase a young person’s railcard because, well, it makes me feel young. 

And finally, but perhaps most importantly to me, I would like to say thanks to all of you for reading my blog, sharing it amongst friends and most of all, enjoying it.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The Music

large (12)There’s nothing worse than a music snob.

You know the types I’m talking about. Those who believe Frank Ocean to be a waste of time without having listened to one of his tracks and those who berate Ed Sheeran for being too mainstream. Basically, I’m talking about those who make unfounded statements for no other reason except for the fact that it’s cool to say that you have a distaste for modern, or even just popular, music.

I tend to just put it down to ignorance and a lack of dedication to the cause on your part. Dig a little deeper into today’s music and you’ll find some hidden treasures. And correct me if I’m wrong but it takes time to tick by for things to be deemed timeless, much like denim or the LBD. You laugh now but Ben Howard or Paolo Nutini, men capable of a lot more than some of your favourite golden oldies, could too be timeless, if you give them time, of course. And if you really do feel that way about modern music, then why are you dancing to the Arctic Monkeys on a night out? They released their first album in 2006. I don’t care if you’re drunk. Don’t be a hypocrite.

I wholeheartedly agree that it’s infuriating when an artist makes millions from generic dance tunes pumped out of what seems to be their arse holes, but don’t generalise and say that there’s no musical talent at the moment when you fail to do your research. Right now, sadly yes, the mainstream is all about mega bucks and fame and I would love to find a way to bring a wider variation of talent to the fore. But when you tell me that it’s impossible to boast about the talent of today compared with musicians from the 1970s, I can do nothing but laugh.

I’m not saying I’m a musical genius and I probably don’t know as much, technically, as some of you reading this, but I do listen to all kinds of music, all the time. My dad had me listening to Suede at ten years old and I was completely unaware of how political I was being when I introduced my best friend to Morrissey back in primary school. But it wasn’t all deep lyrics and men dressed as vicars. Dad also stood by my side as I sang along to B*Witched at Wembley in my pedal pushers with a light up wand and an oversized Fanta, and he whole-heartedly backed me through my Spice Girl phase. I believe that creative taste not only comes from the media, society or current trends, I think it’s also something that’s inherited, which makes it okay to appreciate older music, but we must be tolerable of all types.

I’ve been trained, by my wonderful – but completely barking – parents, to reserve no space in my life for pretentiousness, but I get when it when people are frustrated that a lack of talent becomes a sensation for reasons such as a leaked sex tape or a handsome face. But sadly, that’s been the way of the world for a long time now, and as epic as Elvis was, he too was predominantly a pretty face and a pair of snake hips. Unwarranted success is not a thing of today; in fact, it was something that was born a long time ago.

Compare Primark, for instance, to higher quality labels made with more craft, skill and a higher thread count; yes there’s an obvious difference in quality, but they each have a value.  Imagine you’d spent a shed load of cash on that one off trend last year? These fads are what clothing for a fiver was made for. I mean, thank GOD I bought a trouser skirt for a quid. That’s one piece I’m glad to see the back of, but I enjoyed it while it lasted. And the same goes for music. I was at a party this weekend where I watched a little girl ‘Shake It Off’ with more style and grace than Taylor Swift herself. Alongside her was my mother of 53 years, a granny of 85 years and two 16 year old males. I doubt that we’ll still be singing it in 2045, but a song that brings a range of people together and can provide that much happiness for three minutes, is worthy of something in my opinion and shouldn’t be mocked.

Do more of what makes you happy and less of what you think should make you happy. If you want to compose classical music by day and watch Miley Cyrus in concert by night, then do it. Life is too short to panic about who might be judging you or what is cool. And if you genuinely want to listen to Chopin all day errrday, then okay, but don’t condemn Joe Bloggs for listening to Usher on repeat – particularly if he’s going through a bad break up.

I’m not wholly exempt from this snobbery and have to check myself when I judge the footwear of tube hoppers across the capital or wince at men in jewellery, but if they’re happy, then I should be too. My brother thinks that some of the clothes I wear are outrageous and I do have a somewhat eclectic music taste but that’s what headphones were made for, as well as an inherent lack of giving a shit.

Being able to accept people for who they are and allowing them to love what they love in peace, whilst having your own opinion? You can’t get classier than that.

So just accept that some people prefer One Direction to The Beatles and get on with your life. I’m sure they probably think Dylan is garbage. And that’s fine too, kind of.

Each to their own.

The Royal Wedding

People all over yesterday’s bunting-clad world sat down to tea and crumpets in celebration of the wedding of the century. It was one of those days where you’ll remember exactly where you were and who you were with… I know I won’t be forgetting it in a hurry; I had been excited for weeks!

Normally, I’d be the cynical type and wonder what all the fuss was about, but yesterday morning I tuned in like everybody else and gasped and clapped at the morning’s build up and the afternoon celebrations. I didn’t even enjoy it because I’m a romantic or a royalist. The only thing I could put it down to was something I’ve never really felt before… patriotism.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an out and out royalist, but I do feel as though we could all do with being a little more proud of our heritage and traditions. I am not saying that we’re perfect but you have to admit, it’s pretty damn great to be British. As Hugh Grant so perfectly points out for us in Love Actually, ‘We may be a small country, but we’re a great one, too. The country of Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham’s right foot. David Beckham’s left foot, come to that… ‘. I think we could all learn something from this faux prime minister.

Yes, we normally have crap summers, but our winters are the cosiest around. Yes, we drink tea all day, yes we have bad teeth and yes we are traditionally rather pale. But we have churned out some of the best music, films, charities and food in the world! I think those flags in Regent Street should be a permanent fixture as a symbol of our appreciation of, well, ourselves.

I just think that for all the trouble that has been going on in the world from unending disputes to devastating natural disasters, I think yesterday, for one whole day, it was forgotten and people were allowed not to worry. And if a royal wedding is what it takes to bring a smile to the face of Brits across the country and the world over then I say ‘Bring on the Coronation!’

The beauty of this wedding though is that she is a ‘commoner’ marrying the Prince. You have to think though; her parents must be absolutely beside themselves! When they dropped her at St Andrews at the turn of the millennium, they were hoping that she would get a 2:1 to land a good job après university. Instead, she got royal.

Lucky cow.

Now, girls… William might have been snapped up, but the dream isn’t over. Harry is still up for grabs and it just so happens I’m heading to Mahiki next week in the hope of meeting him if anyone’s interested? Yah?

I’ll meet you at the back of the queue…

Hats off to the happy couple!

The Cup of Tea

“Gizza cup a tea lav!” Phill Mitchell, Eastenders.

“I should like a cup of tea please.” The Queen, United Kingdom.

“Ahhh, i’m dying for a cup of tea” Anyone British. Any time of day.

“Anyone want a cup of tea?” Idiot. “Yes Pleeeaaassseeee!!!” Housemates everywhere.

As I was browsing the web the other day, I discovered that 165, 000, 000 cups of tea are drunk in the UK everday!!! Never mind Booze Britain, we’re all friggin’ tea total apparently. I completely sympathise with this much tea consumption but I fail to comprehend exactly why it is that no matter how blue you’re feeling, that cup of milk, boiling water and a very questionable looking sack of leaves with a very unfortunate name can lift your spirits? However, I am not complaining. Tea has helped me through some good and bad times, whatever the secret ingredient. It even surpasses gin.

So if you’ve had a day as bad as mine, go and grab a cup of rosie and curl up on the sofa with a good book. And a chocolate hob knob, of course.

The Chip Buttie

large (6)Is it possible that the west country is even more stuck in the dark ages than I’d first anticipated?

I’ve been at university now for almost three years and have been happily ignorant to the fact that people did not love something as close to my heart as the age old ‘chip buttie’.

I now feel even more like an outsider in this tiny town.

On Friday, I took a stroll to the local fish & chip shop and ordered a large (of course) portion of chips to take away. I brought it home and began to prepare only the best snack ever. I got out two slices of thick, white bread, slathered on some butter, wacked some chips on and covered them in tomato ketchup. Normal, right? My housemate looked at me as if I were an alien. “You’re eating chips in bread?!?!” I was so taken aback I dropped the beloved sandwich and questioned what was wrong with something I deemed to be a typically English snack. Apparently carbs, wrapped in carbs, is weird.

I mean yes, it is a guilty pleasure but in no way am I ever going to stop indulging in this wonderful tradition.

I am hoping that the people of London (at least) know what i’m talking about… Go and grab some chips, cheap white bread and slather on loads of butter… you won’t ever look back.

Except for to notice how huge your butt has got after eating twenty of these gloriously naughty suppers…

Enjoy!