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.

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 BEST FRIEND’S BOYFRIEND

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No, I haven’t done the unthinkable.

I am simply here to celebrate how wonderful it is when your friend falls in love with someone that you do too. It’s like a sigh of relief you didn’t know you needed to take. A realisation that you can relax now; they’re being taken care of.

To be quite frank, the men who have chosen to be in the lives of my six besties are super human. They must be for having to put up with not understanding a single joke from our school days and still making the effort to laugh at every single one. Not to mention tolerating the squeals, tears, tantrums and mini (and also incredibly rare) fall outs we have.

But despite the list of reasons to love them, you don’t realise quite how much you appreciate your best friend’s boyfriend until they bundle you all into an Uber after a night out. Until they’re giving you life advice at 3am in the corner of the BBC Introducing Tent. Until they offer you pizza on a hungover Sunday after letting you sleep in their bed whilst they snooze upstairs with their housemate. When they cope for 5 days in a tent with 6 of you girls with no other boy company in sight. When they put you on their shoulders at a gig even though you probably weigh more than they do. When they nurse your mate when she’s definitely over the limit. When they invite you to their birthday without knowing you because they know it’ll make her feel better. And when they write you a blog post when you’re short on Tory opinions.

Of course, in the past, I haven’t taken a shining to all of their choices. There was the guy who cheated on one of them in front of me- I mean come on, I am standing RIGHT HERE. Then there was the one who didn’t only want one, but two girlfriends at the same time- I have to admit that (although an absolute creature feature) his ability to multi task was tremendous. Then there was the one who dumped her on her birthday. And the one who just stopped texting. And then there are the collective of those who were just a bit odd, a bit not right for them and the ones who used their hands a bit too much. Then of course there are the ones we all loved and are rather sad to see the back of. But such is life, let’s not dwell on it too much.

Your best friend’s boyfriends are an exclusive group of men who you can hang out with without the fear of them staring at your chest, giving you skewed advice or any of the other things single men do that are annoying. They are the friends you never knew you had. Or even wanted.

I might be tempting fate here by singing their praises – they could easily, of course, turn out to be five little beasties – but all I know is that right now I have a beautiful extension of my friends in the loveliest way possible, in the form of beards, great music taste and a whole lot of patience.

Never underestimate the value of your best friend’s boyfriend because, when it comes to her fleeing the friendship nest and diving into proper adulthood (i.e. marriage, mortgages and babies), you’re going to hope he’s a good’un.

Be thankful for the great men in your life. And more importantly, your friend’s lives.

THE BIRTHDAY

large (12)It’s that wonderful time of year again where I gain a wrinkle, four grey hairs and have a crisis of age.

I love birthdays.

Obviously the cards, presents and celebratory food cushion the blow, but why do I always panic when I realise that I’m another year older despite understanding – since the tender age of five – the simple concept of time?

Despite this blind, undying ignorance, birthdays aren’t all bad. Because mine happens to fall in the spring time – the season best known for new beginnings, bunny rabbits and general pinterest-worthy joyousness – I always treat them like a second New Year. I pledge vows to myself and set targets for the year ahead by reflecting on the things I’d have done differently, and of course, I rarely stick to my promises. So I thought, why break the habit of a life time?

Because I’m older, and a little wiser now. That’s why.

It’s essential to think about improvement, but it’s equally as important to realise how far you’ve come. So I will start by thinking about the things that I know now, that I wish I knew then.

Here goes:

One. Things take time. This includes everything from projects, to love.

Don’t. Rush. Anything.

Two. Most people deserve a second chance. Rarely do people deserve a third.

Three. Do not, under any circumstances, fad diet. Just maybe cut down on the Kit Kats.

Four. Yoga is a whole lot more than stretching in tight pants. The older you get, the more you’ll realise this.

And five. Having fewer good friends is better than having lots of shit ones.

I could go on and on, as 25 years is actually quite a long time, but the gist is this: things will always be okay. Yes, I have had my heartbroken, but it’s fixed now. Of course, I have failed at things, but I’ve succeeded in so many others. And, much like you, I cut my own hair once. Badly. But it’s grown out now. What I’m trying to say is, despite living with these goddamn freckles and a butt the size of Narnia my entire life, there are plenty of people who would kill to be you or I. So instead of trying to better ourselves each year, why not give ourselves a pat on the back, just for making it this far? Because life isn’t always a lemon sorbet at the seaside, if you know what I mean? And we’re probably doing alright, considering.

Behind a haze of pollution and astonishing drink prices, it’s really rather easy to forget why you’re alive, but when your birthday swings round, and people come together just to celebrate the simple fact that you were born, it all, very suddenly, becomes oh so clear.

Always be thankful for what you have. And I’m not talking about that new camera.

Happy Birthday to me.

TURNING 26

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The last time I was bothered about getting older was when I turned 21.

Something about entering my early twenties freaked me out and now my late twenties are doing the exact same job. Much to my surprise however, it was my best birthday yet. Surrounded by the people I love was the best present I could ever have asked for and I felt very grateful today, despite being really quite hungover.

Ryan kicked off the celebrations by giving me my present before the party and I was a little overwhelmed to say the least. I had been banging on about saving for a camera for such a long time and he (unbelievably) took it upon himself to get me one- it’s definitely one of the best presents I’ve ever received!

Once I’d wiped away my tears of ABSOLUTE JOY, I got dressed and poured myself a G&T. We ate pizza and drank some too much prosecco before heading out to Tooting and then back again for drunken yoga moves and cheeseburgers. Here are a bunch of my favourites…

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Check out the cupcakes that my friend Helen made for me…

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… and some of the presents my friends gave me…

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I woke up this morning and gorged on cupcakes in bed before lounging around and working off my hangover whilst Ryan cleaned the flat.

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Mum and dad kindly came and picked us up late afternoon to enjoy a curry and open some more presents at home with the whole family.

The best birthday yet! Here’s to being 26!

THE FRIENDSHIP GROUP

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At school we were called cliquey, at university we were deemed long-distance lovers and now we’re not sure what people say because it’s just us, without anyone looking, or getting in.

Some might focus on the downside to surrounding myself with the same five women everyday; they might wince at some of the intimate details we’ve shared with each other from the bedroom… or bathroom; they probably think we should get out more and meet new people and some might not give a damn.

Don’t get me wrong, we have our own friends, a few of us have men in our lives and we spend enough time with work colleagues and university pals in our free time, but when the shit hits the fan, or we sky-rocket to success, we know who to dial (or WhatsApp) first.

Although I adore my home town, it can be a scary place when you’re growing up: being robbed is a reality; navigating the tube at eleven years old is the norm; bomb scares at school were a regular occurrence and being turned away from the clubs of Soho at 16 years old was a rite of passage. So, as opposed to growing up in the country, where the biggest threat is the nearest cow, living in the big city since birth means that there is more of an urgency to cement yourself within a group of friends- not only to listen to your tales of woe, but to make sure you make it home in one piece.

I’m lucky. The girls who surround me now are the ones that I have grown up with. From first loves, first times, and first Bacardi Breezers, to graduating, getting engaged and securing the perfect jobs; we’ve been there. These ladies aren’t just around when times get hard, nor are they only cheering you on as you complete your most recent triathlon or to welcome you home from a year-long adventure across the globe; they’re there all the time. When you’ve over-filled yourself on dim sum or when you’ve broken a nail: they’re interested, they’re present, they’re listening.

And that is why friendship is important.

Finding the perfect partner is a wonderful thing, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. I’d be perfectly happy spending my final days with this lot; reminiscing about teenage flings and that night in Mexico that we’ll take to our grave. Sounds like a much better option to me than watching your other half lose his teeth, hair and marbles trying to keep up with your progressive banter.

Although we never go to the bathroom in a bar without a hand to hold and are deemed to be the less independent of the sexes, men need friends too. My bearded buffoon has a group of friends so tight that I think they might one day combust. Secrets never to be divulged and infinitely fall-out-proof, this group of men make my girls look like we don’t even know each other. And that’s pretty cool if you ask me. People with friends are people to rely on and are the types of people you want to have relationships with: their loyalty has been tried and tested, they’re guaranteed to have some great stories and if you’re really, really lucky, their friends will become your friends too.

I know that with most things in life, quantity doesn’t trump quality, and friendship is no exception to this rule; one really good friend is far better than five average ones. But what if you have five epic ones?

I’m starting to think I’ve struck gold… until I remember that they too are flawed.

One tells me off for putting salt on my toast; one farts freely in my presence; one (I’m almost certain) is unsure of what planet she’s on half the time; one insists on getting the night bus home instead of a taxi and one nicks all the male attention on nights out. But for all of their flaws? They’re the most water-tight bunch of women in the world with a collection of the best brains and beautiful faces this planet has ever known. Without them, I’m not sure I’d still be standing.

So here’s to the friendship group; your very own handpicked family- a little shoddy, embarrassing at times, but arguably more important than your best friend or lover.

Two’s company, three’s a crowd, more than that is a fucking adventure.

Cheers to them.

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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.

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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 Friend

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Friends ran for ten seasons; a lengthy lifespan for a television series. But, much like this phenomenon, do real friendships have an expiration date?

Whether it’s because your bum chum turns into a lover, or whether you simply move away, a change in dynamic is inevitable when it comes to primarily platonic relationships. This change can come in the form of growing ever closer, or drifting apart.

Humans are ultimately going to do wrong at some stage. And although a true friend can, at times, be upheld as some sort of modern day superhero for putting up with you, they’re no exception to this fatal flaw. But it’s how much you would forgive them for which is the greatest gage of how much they mean to you. True friends are invaluable. If you think about your best friend and are unable to bring yourself to picture your life without them in it, then they will always be there. Basically, because you won’t let them not be, regardless of the mistakes they make, or how many times they falter. I guarantee that your bestie could poke you in the eye with a needle whilst getting off with your ex and you’d still find it in your heart to forgive them.

Your school friends will have been there with you as you slowly but surely grew into your face and your teeth were being forced into alignment by, what was essentially, barbed wire. Your university companions will have cleaned up your vodka induced vomit from the kitchen sink. Your work makes will have told you, (sorry, lied to you) that your behaviour was totally acceptable on Friday night, despite falling asleep in the loo until closing time. Your gym buddies will compliment your dewy complexion after 45 minutes on the treadmill and your oldest friend will tell everybody that your family are completely normal, whilst ensuring they never, ever mention that time involving your father and a red, glittery thong.

What I guess I’m trying to say, is that a friend can come along at any time, for any length of time, and for whatever reason. You might never truly be aware of why or ever really appreciate their presence until they’re gone, but they all play a part in your story. It’s whether you want to carry them through to the next chapter which is entirely up to you. There are those who will play a leading role right up until the end, there are many who will feature fleetingly and a few that you will kill off for good reason. Regardless of this, they were a friend and we can all do with at least one at the best of times.

The only friend that I can safely say we could do without, is a “friend with benefits”. The benefits of a friendship should not fall under the same category as blow jobs in my opinion.

But who am I to classify the capacities of friendship anyway?

A true friend is like a wonderwall: completely subjective.

The way I see it, as soon as you think you’re able to make sense of how to loosely define what a friend actually is, you’ve defeated the point of them.

After all, it’s impossible to define love.