IT’S FINALLY HERE!

SNN1201SFTW-620_1637562aI know you’re busy stuffing your faces and unwrapping gifts, but I just wanted to say a big, fat MERRY CHRISTMAS to you wonderful lot! I hope you’re having as much fun as these two probably were as this picture was being taken. And if you’re not? Get drunk. Or wait for New Years Eve to arrive when you can get pissed with friends.

For now, go and enjoy some time with your nearest and dearest, get stuck into a cracking box set and be sure to help those in need whenever you can this Christmas season.

Much love,

Olivia

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THE SOUND OF CHRISTMAS

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Being off sick from work means Lemsip, pyjamas, plenty of sleep and all the carbs.

But if, like me, you H A T E being ill and find yourself getting bored easily, sick days also mean finding things to do to make you feel a little more normal. So, because it’s the party season, I thought it might be nice to share with you my favourite Christmas songs of all time to help you get into the festive spirit and to help me feel a little more normal again because, let’s face it, Christmas is the worst time to be sick.

Do_They_Know_It's_Christmas_single_cover_-_1984 Happy_Xmas_(War_is_Over) artworks-000087967920-3syf0r-t500x500 510le6q0LbL._SL500_AA280_ Coldplay_-_Christmas_Lights

I hope you enjoyed my festive favourites with a glass of Mulled Wine or two. Only 15 days to go…

SMALL VICTORIES – DECEMBER

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December has arrived, so I guess it’s time for awkward exchanges at the Christmas party, secret santa extravaganzas and the mother of all evils: mistletoe. But more importantly, it’s time for reflection, relaxation and for giving yourself a break as we wind down towards the end of the year.

But no matter how much shopping, partying and consuming I’ll be doing, I will still endeavour to achieve something – no matter how small – this month.

So here goes:

1. Buy Badass Gifts

I am not the best present buyer, I’ll admit. In fact, I am the worst. From gifts that I’d like to receive instead of them to last minute panic buys, I never seem to nail it. I think I’ll just ask for lists from loved ones this year. Avoid disappointment and all that.

2. Keep Moving

I will inevitably consume more food than my stomach can manage over the festive period. I will probably eat more Pret Christmas sandwiches than you could ever imagine. I will guzzle ALL the wine, drink all the whiskey and dollop on all the cream. This is fine. If, and only if, I exercise amidst the frivolity. As long as I don’t PUT ON weight, I’m a happy lady. Losing it is doubtful when pigs in blankets and mum’s turkey are involved. And I’m fine with that.

3. Reflect and Release

What. A. Proverbial. Year.

It’s been one of those ‘would much rather forget happened’ years, so my aim is to tie up any loose ends, reflect on mistakes, celebrate triumphs, analyse mishaps and everything in between and then just… let it all go. 2016 is going to be the freshest of starts for me and I can’t wait.

4. Make Like Monica Bing…

… and take more photographs with my camera instead of my phone to capture the party season in full swing. Better quality. More special. No explanation needed really.

And that’s it. My final ‘Small Victories’ post of 2015.

What are your small triumphs going to be in this final month of the year? Remember that whatever they are, to keep your goals constructive, achievable and inspired… good luck!

BAGS OF KINDNESS

Whether it stems from a fear of the cold or a belief that no one should be alone at Christmas, winter time makes me feel far more charitable than the rest of the year.

Although I am, of course, aware that there are still people in need in the height of Summer, I seem to give more money to charity as we head towards December, am more likely to stop and talk to a person in need on the street and I am certainly more likely to promote projects such as this one. And being a feminist and an admittedly seasonal charitable person, this drive for ‘Bags of Kindness’ is an opportunity to help sent from heaven. And it’s so easy to do. So whether it’s Christmas at yours this year which means that you’re unable to put your hours in at your local Crisis centre or whether you don’t have the cash to donate to your chosen charity, I have a solution. And it comes in the form of a rucksack filled with kindness. Kindness in the shape of sanitary towels and a toothbrush no less, but kindness all the same.

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Unless you live on Mars, (in which case, why are you reading this?) you will know that there are thousands of vulnerable women sleeping rough on the streets of London and across the UK and that they need your help. These women have wound up on the streets, not out of choice, but because of abusive relationships, familial fall outs or a series of unfortunate events. But their struggle doesn’t stop at finding some spare change for food or somewhere dry to sleep. The streets are a difficult place to be and – often – it’s only a matter of time before vulnerable women end up sex working to survive. And some of them with children to protect. This is not only dangerous, but mentally damaging for the mother- and even the child.

So what can you do to help?

Although it is impossible for us to drag each and every single one of these women away from their dangerous circumstances, the amazing women at The Kindness Project have come up with a way of helping those women in need in ways that we take for granted. The idea is that we each buy a rucksack (or even rucksacks) for these vulnerable women and then fill them with everything – from moisturiser and knickers to sleeping bags and socks – to make their life that little bit easier over the coming winter months. There is a Facebook group that you can join that tells you exactly what to put into the bags and exactly what not to put into the bags and it’s important that you follow these guidelines. Where and when to drop your bags off is also included here, so make sure you click.

Whichever way I seem to look at the moment – on the news, in the papers and online – there seems to be violence, torment or just something negative for people to shout about, so let’s give kindness a voice this Christmas and get this female-focused project off the ground. I have never seen girl power like it. Except for the Spice Girls. And they would definitely donate a rucksack or two.

See you at the drop off point!

#MANONTHEMOON

How could I ignore this? The start of the festive period AND John Lewis’ most beautiful Christmas ad yet… Better still, it’s promoting Age UK, a charity I endorse to the fullest.

If you haven’t seen this yet, grab a tissue. It’s a tear jerker.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuz2ILq4UeA

Lastly, please, please, PLEASE donate some money to Age UK. It won’t take long.

I went to buy a takeaway pizza tonight for a tenner. Instead, I cooked some frozen chips and donated the money instead. I’m not a martyr and I’m certainly not a saint, I just can’t bear the thought of people feeling lonely or being alone. Do the right thing and donate here.

The Travel – A Guest Post

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Seeing The World: What Better Way To Spend Your Time?

Throughout my teenage years and early twenties, travelling was always something that I felt I probably should do, rather than actually wanted to. Being the painfully OCD freak that I am and so very attached to London’s home comforts, the grim logistics of backpacking oddly never appealed to me. Needless to say, not showering for days on end, scooping dinner out of a tin (if at all), and nursing foreign hair infestations was not on my list of things to do. Regretfully at the ripe old age of 27, I’ll happily say I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s the best thing I’ve ever chosen to do.

Obviously there were holidays over the years: family trips to Spain, boozy city breaks with mates, South Africa with Seany, jollies with the missus and music festivals, all of which I’m hugely fortunate to have enjoyed and loved. This trip, however, is something else entirely. The places, people and cultures have been so dramatically diverse, heart-meltingly humble and astoundingly helpful, to the extent I often believed these encounters were an elaborate scam or robbery. They never were.

Views so beautiful they have literally taken my breath away, surroundings that no iPhone, digital camera or even SLR can truly capture and I can’t even attempt to describe in words the sheer size and scale of these places. And the beer, let’s not forget the beer; at any time of day and more wallet-friendly than water on most occasions; smashing three course lunches for about £1.50 in Bolivia and frankly inhaling the dirt-cheap steaks and red wine of Argentina, as if someone were about to steal them from under our noses. The people we’ve met along the way have also been (for the most part, I’ll get to that) terrific human beings and I wouldn’t think twice about putting any of them up in the big smoke.

But despite those seemingly endless praises, travelling does carry its darker undertones. So’s not to put you off, I’ll try and keep this brief. Here’s what those Lonely Planet books don’t tell you:

The Comfort Zone

Travelling with my girlfriend has been hugely rewarding both on a personal level and in terms of our relationship. We’re now so close, it’s become common place to discuss the consistency, colour and volume of our shit, after EVERY trip to the toilet. Sometimes it’s even reported through the bathroom door, bellowing with sheer joy and relief that it’s a, ‘SOLID ONE!’, having beaten the diarrhoea roulette. Your partner’s face is also seriously important, you better really, really, like it, for the only time you don’t see it, is when you’re asleep or during those brief milliseconds of respite when you blink.

Tossers

I’ve made a point of mentioning how amazing the people we’ve met are, and on the whole, we’ve been very lucky. Of course, as a law of averages, there are going to be exceptions, or, ‘tossers’, as I like to call them. Company so intolerable, that it makes you think perhaps you’re being punished for something in a past life. Wankers so unfathomably annoying, that I frequently found myself pushing an imaginary sock into their mouths, in the hope of putting a plug into the know-it-all, anti-government, anti-commercialism, anti-job, anti-McDonald’s, anti-fucking-anything to be honest chat. One chap in particular spoke at length to us at how large household brands and corporate companies were destroying the world and killing people, as in actually murdering them for land. The same cock sat there telling us all of this in a pair of Nike tracksuit bottoms, guzzling a can of Coke with his Marlborough Lights, showing us ‘proof’, on his sodding iPHONE. We got some comic mileage out of this knob though, so not all bad.

Dormz

Even after nearly thee months, the concept of this still unnerves me. “Hi eight total strangers, so we’re all just going to sleep in this hotbox of a room together, stacked like free prisoners, pretending like this is all completely normal behaviour?”. It has to be done at times and there’ll be a good few more to come I imagine, but I don’t like it. Not one bit. The sound of incessant snoring, persistent crotch scratching, phlegm-hocking and and bilingual sleep talking will always hold a dear place in my heart. As will the Venezuelan girls puking solidly between 3-4am, then ignoring their 5:30am alarm call for what felt like an eternity, until they were literally shaken to consciousness by my main bitch – she can get scarily Belfast when she needs to. Thankfully we’ve not bore witness (that we know of) to any camel-feeding, sausage-eating, todger-pulling or finger blasting. Yet. We did however come across one harrowing account of a dorm experience, where a charming Aussie girl insisted her new love conquest refrained from, “Spitting in her fanny”, at which point the neighbouring bed occupier had enough and threw them both out. Bravo.

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Having digested all that, I’m sure you’re busy clicking through Sky Scanner web pages with your calculator, and so you should be, it’ll be the best decision you’ll ever make. You won’t remember that car or designer handbag you bought on your deathbed in years to come, instead it’ll be some naked Slovakian boy on the opposite bunk, who in his sleep-induced state decided he was going to sit on the end of his bed and glare into your soul, while you pretend to be engrossed in the latest free download on your Kindle. Good times.

photoWritten by Alex O’Brien, my real life older brother. No we are not twins, yes I am the better looking one.

If you want to keep updated on his escapades, home or away, follow him on twitter here. He’s kind of funny.

The Bad Day

Normally Monday brings with it a bit of doom and gloom. This week, Wednesday was woeful.

I’ll start from the beginning. My mother and I decided to go shopping to return some shoes and to find an outfit for this weekend’s birthday celebrations. We went to return the shoes and were accused of wearing them before returning them: it was safe to say that the day started badly and I was not best pleased. We left the store rather disappointed and decided to go for a coffee to digest the morning’s grievances. On arriving at Megabucks, they kindly informed me that they’d run out of “toffee-nut latte” sprinkles. Things really were going from bad to worse. I reluctantly settled for a cappuccino and we went on our merry way. After around half an hour of shopping, my super vigilant mother realised that her purse had been stolen and I thought I was about to give up on the day altogether. We then spent an extra half an hour scouring shop floors for the purse, cancelling cards and mourning the loss of her Boots Advantage Card. After this, things escalated: I fell over in the middle of Regent Street, almost got trampled on by an oversized 4×4, got on the bus to realise I had no money on my oyster and no cash on me, missed out on my lottery numbers by one number on each ball and finally, returned home without an outfit for this weekend.

This is about as bad as my bad day gets and I have moaned about it ever since, until now.

I saw an advertisement on the tube last night for Centre Point. It’s a charity supporting the lives of young people living on the street which put my life into perspective. I then realised that yes, mum’s purse had been stolen, (which was inherently wrong), but perhaps they were desperate? Yes, I fell over and embarrassed myself in the middle of central London and yes, I am still working part-time with very little money to spare. But at least I have a warm, loving home and know I’ll be surrounded by love and hopefully happiness this Christmas: these young people won’t.

If your bad day sounds a little like mine, count yourself lucky. And rather than spend a ridiculous amount of money on a pair of unstylish Ugg boots or poncy Polaroid camera; sponsor a child this season and donate to Centre Point: http://www.centrepoint.org.uk/home .

The latest computer game really is just for Christmas; a special memory lasts a lifetime. I promise.