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 JOB CENTRE – JESS MARK

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Age: 26

Occupation: Nutritionist

Which means: I’m currently working on a study at King’s College University, helping patients to reduce their risk of developing Cardiovascular Disease within the next 10 years. We are testing whether a psychological technique known as ‘Motivational Interviewing’ can help patients with lifestyle changes such as eating healthily and increasing exercise to reduce heart disease risk. I also write health and nutrition articles for TotallyTween – an online magazine for 8-12 year olds.

Did you go to uni? I studied Nutrition at the University of Nottingham and graduated in 2010.

What was your first job after graduating? I decided to go travelling, so my first job was working at Wimbledon. I had a few different jobs to save money to fund my 8 month long trip. When I got back from travelling, I decided to really pursue the nutrition route but it was so difficult to find a paid job! I did lots of volunteering at various charities, an internship at a Nutrition PR company and then decided to go freelance. My first proper nutritionist role was for Hillingdon council, working as a Nutrition Coach for teens, helping them to manage their weight and become more active. I was also running nutrition workshops for parents and children in primary schools across south London.

Do you have to have a degree to do your job, or is work experience more important? Having a nutrition degree and work experience were both really important in landing the job. For this project in particular, other health-related and psychology qualifications were also accepted as the role incorporates nutrition, exercise and psychology. However, other nutrition roles I have had ask for a degree as a requirement.

What’s the difference between a Nutritionist and a Dietician? Currently, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist as the title isn’t protected in the same way as a Dietitian. There is however, The Association for Nutrition (AfN), a charity that holds a register of Nutritionists who work at senior levels across the NHS, academia, industry and food service. This is to enable public safety and ensure those who release information are adequately trained and knowledgeable enough to provide evidence-based information and follow strict code of conduct. In order to join the register, you have to demonstrate core competencies in nutrition and science. The AfN currently accredits a number of undergraduate and postgraduate courses – my course at Nottingham was one of them. Students completing an accredited degree programme have the right to apply to join the register. Joining the register post-graduation gives you the title Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) and after 3 year’s worth of experience you can become a Registered Nutritionist (RNutr). This is useful because employers are increasingly looking for registered status in posts they advertise.

What’s does a typical day at the office look like for you? No day is ever the same, which I love! I spend most of my time at GP surgeries or community venues working with my patients. If I’m in the office, I attend meetings, catch up on emails, book my patients in for the week and organise rooms at GP surgeries and venues. I also have to plan my sessions and write up patient outcomes from sessions. Working on a study means that there is quite a lot of data to be collected and recorded. When I’m out of the office, I’m either working one to one with patients or delivering group sessions.

What’s the dress code? Smart/casual. As I spend a lot of time travelling to different locations, my main priority is comfort but I try to look as professional as possible. I do have to carry lots of resources to sessions, so it’s not unusual to see me running around in my trainers with a change of shoes in my backpack!

Where do you see yourself in two to three years time? What are your achievable goals? I would like to get back doing freelance work. I really enjoyed creating my own projects, especially for children. I think it’s so important for children and parents to be properly educated about food, so I want to continue health promotion in this area. I would also quite like to do some more studying and work abroad.

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would it be? I really can’t see myself not working in this field. I love food, so it would probably be something food related – maybe own a restaurant or set up a food delivery service?

The world has gone mad for ‘Super Foods’ and ‘Clean Eating’ – is it all  just another moneymaking scheme? I definitely see it as a massive marketing ploy. There’s always a particular food that we ‘must be eating’ that will ‘solve all our health problems’. The term ‘Superfood’, however, has no official definition and the EU have banned health claims on packaging unless it can be supported by scientific evidence because it gives us a false expectation of the benefits. ‘Clean eating’ also has no definition or scientific support. The reality is, if you eat a ‘Superfood’ thinking that it will undo the damage of consuming other unhealthy, processed foods, it won’t! Superfoods cannot compensate for unhealthy eating; no food on its own can work miracles. The Superfood trend exploits the fact that healthy lifestyle choices can reduce our risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, strokes and cancer. There’s a massive wellness trend at the moment with a lot of influence from social media- Instagram in particular. You see lots of incorrect advice being handed out which can be very dangerous as it promotes confusion and misinformation. I know it’s boring and everyone has heard it before, but a healthy and balanced diet really is key. Limiting yourself to consuming only a certain superfood or ‘eating clean’ and restricting other important nutrients can be detrimental too. Balance and moderation are what’s important. We need to eat what’s right according to our individual needs.

And finally, what one piece of practical career advice would you give to your younger self?

STOP WORRYING!  I would tell myself that there’s no point worrying if the problem can be solved, and if it can’t be solved there is still no point in worrying! It’s not going to help the situation, so just let it be. If you’ve tried hard enough and really given something your best shot, you’ve got to trust that things will take care of themselves and work out in the end.

*

My beautiful best friend, confidante and foodie. We like to eat. And party.

Questions for Jess? Just ask.

BRIGHTON MARATHON 2015

My friend Imani is insane. She is insane because she ran 26 miles today. My friend Imani is also amazing. She is amazing because she ran 26 miles today.

Luckily for me, Brighton is a simple train ride away. Or so I thought. Meeting Jess, who almost didn’t make it due to unforeseen hungover circumstances and a desperate need for chicken nuggets, made for a somewhat flustered start to the day. But once we arrived in Brighton, found a good spot and ran alongside our bestie, we soon forgot about the drama of the morning.

Spending the day in this seaside town is always a pleasure. And although she didn’t get any chips and had to side step her way home after the race, I think even Imani would agree that it was the perfect way to spend a sunny Sunday.

Here’s what we got up to…

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A gazillion energy drinks and some almost-tears later, Imani completed the race in just over 5 hrs. Proud doesn’t even cut it.

Apparently it’s mind over matter, running the marathon, but I’m not so sure I could do it.

Could you?

THE SUBSTANCE

4639f10cf6d22f795ac20caa63594174As I watched a guy snort coke off a nightclub table top last week, I thought… well, I didn’t actually think anything to be honest. But that in itself made me realise that it just (rightly or wrongly) isn’t something that shocks or surprises me anymore.

I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m a Londoner or not, but drugs seem to have been a staple on the party scene since I first stepped off the tube and into the bright lights of Piccadilly.

During sixth form, Nu-Rave was at its peak. And it wasn’t just the 80s clothing that people were replicating, but the whole rave culture. If you’re not sure what I mean by this, 2005 – 2007 (for people of a certain age) pretty much consisted of pill-popping, endless bottles of Evian and a whole load of shit music that you wouldn’t dream of dancing to sober.

Then came university where, cliche or not, weed was pretty popular in halls and student houses. I’m sure you can picture the scene: a host of sweaty post-pubescents, surrounded by piles of pizza boxes behind a green haze. Then came graduation, and with that came jobs, money and easier access to the stronger stuff. Having never entered the heels and suit-jacket type of workplace myself, my knowledge is minimal, but I’ve heard countless stories of coke in the staffroom, sharing grams with the boss and week-long benders that started out innocently as a client lunch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that Class As are used in places outside of the banking district, but I think you can see why I’m using this as an example.

Sounds like fun, right?

It probably is, until the time comes for our generation to feel the effects of this hapless drug use on our bodies.

We look at pill heads from the eighties, now in their 40s and 50s, and you can see it. The hours of partying etched into their deep seated wrinkles, some still clinging onto shaved barnets with ink scrawled across their bodies with the 6am musings of a barely-conscious paralytic. And we’ll be no different. I know some really quite successful people who use on a daily basis, there are tons who dabble each weekend and very few who have never tried some sort of substance. The scary part about recreational drug use is that with all the new types available on the market, we just can’t be sure what the effects will be and what sort of long-term damage we might be faced with; we just have to sit tight and wait.

A good few of my friends, however, are already feeling the effects, with a slow demise into depression, anxiety and addiction and most of them are under 30. I’ve watched people I know go from being the life and soul to quivering wrecks, unable to even go to the shop for a pint of milk; these are intelligent, good looking people who are now shadows of their former selves. There are also people I know who have turned to it in times of desperation, as a way of blocking out reality and existing in what they deem to be ‘a place of peace’. You might think I’m exaggerating, and so be it. Maybe in twenty years from now, you’ll look around you and realise that those people you partied a little too hard with are now looking somewhat dishevelled. And then you might look in the mirror and realise that you’re one of them.

This post isn’t here to judge or point fingers and lots of people who dabble end up having only great memories to show for it, but my intention is to hopefully make you think about maybe giving your body a rest- for at least 1 weekend out of 52. It’s already trying to cope with the alcohol running through your veins, let alone the crap that you’re shoving up your nose as well.

A night out V your future? I’ll leave it to you to decide what’s more important.

To me, it’s obvious.

Have a good week.

THE BODY

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I love food.

I have never had a problem gorging on carbs and rarely count calories. I always thought that I was actually an Italian woman trapped in a freckled body and felt superior because I was one of the few girls in my year who wasn’t obsessed with what I ate. I had this idea that I was the cool girl, the one who ordered spaghetti on a date, slurped until her heart was content and never split puddings. Ever.

But what I lacked in obsession, I more than made up for in neglect. I used to be skinny and only ever used to move my body to shuffle to the dance floor, drifted from shop window to shop window and only ate vegetables because I had to. I would eat a cheese and pickle sandwich everyday after school, after snacking all day, and no one could understand where it all went.

But since I turned 25 and completely lost the ability to break down anything fattier than a carrot stick, I decided to give my body the leg up that it needed. In addition to buying a yoga mat – and actually using it – I’ve started juicing; making glasses of goodness that kick coffee’s arse in the pick-me-up stakes each morning. I cycle, I walk, I sit down less and I’ve started wearing heels again. Not only do they make me look taller than normal and feel a little more glam than when I’m in my jim-jams, they give my calves a workout when I get down and dirty on the dance floor.

Now, although I’m pretty laid back about what goes in my mouth (don’t), pretty much only eat when I’m hungry and give my body what it craves – even if that is a bar of Whole Nut -one rule I do abide by is that I absolutely never weigh myself. This isn’t just because the last time I checked (in 2005) I weighed eight stone and I would like to continue to pretend that I am stuck in that weightless, pubescent tunnel, but because it doesn’t matter to me what the scales say. As long as I don’t have to burst a blood vessel trying to fit into my beloved black skinny jeans and I can still cycle across London on a Sunday without passing out, then I’m happy.

Loving our bodies shouldn’t just be about pounds and ounces and although we’d like to say otherwise, most women my age tend to focus primarily on what’s staring back at them in the mirror. I love to try out the latest MAC lipstick as much as the next person and have an unhealthy obsession with clothes, but I cannot stress enough that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, so please, do not neglect your health.

You might be young, have hair like Rapunzel, a bang-tidy bod and your nails might be lacquered every Tuesday, but that’s not what’s going to keep you going for the next 30 years, is it? Just because we are young doesn’t mean that we are immune from life’s curveballs, no matter how invincible we feel after a few glasses of gin. Prevention is so much better than cure, so speak to someone if you are not feeling 100%. Go for all of your check ups – even if it means cancelling on friends – and have a timely route around for lumps and bumps, because no one else is going to do it for you… well, unless you ask nicely.

I, myself, have been feeling a bit fuzzy in the head as of late, so have been accepting advice from wherever it’s offered. One chap suggested to me that I would only be able to move forward with things and exercise a positive mental attitude if I explored what is good for my body. “Sort out the physical”, he said, “and the rest will follow”. And he was right. A few vitamins, some freshly squeezed fruit juice and some serious work outs later, I feel a lot more like myself. Actually no, a better version of myself.

I urge you to do it too and do it now; after all, once the arthritis sets in, there’ll be no Zumba for anyone.

Here’s to health and happiness. Have a wonderful Wednesday.

100

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No, my blog is not one hundred years old. I have, however, published one hundred posts since it all began back in December 2010. And that, I believe, is cause for celebration.

As I sat in my tiny – and very chilly – bedroom in Exeter in my third year at university, I wrote my first few posts. I think they were about tea, or lipstick, or chips; a little insight into what I thought was important at 21. As I threw words out there, somewhat naively, into the internet, I didn’t picture my blog lasting past the Christmas holidays, but here I am, four and a bit years later, writing my 100th post.

I started The London Ladybird as a way to write something other than chapters of my dissertation – which was centred around Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and therefore not wholly uninteresting – as well as to hopefully try and persuade people in the working world that I could string a couple of sentences together and that they should pay me to do so. But not even just that; I hoped that I could make people laugh, or feel a little more understood than they did already.

The feedback I get from people is why this site is still up and running. Those who have provided guest posts to me over the years always say how nerve-wracking they found the whole experience and a lot of people say they would never submit anything to me for fear of being ridiculed. I won’t lie, I still feel a little anxious each time I publish a post – not because I don’t want people to critique my work, in fact, I welcome constructive criticism – but I fear that people won’t enjoy the next as much as the last. However, the conversations that my posts inspire amongst friends and the comments I receive from strangers (be them agreeing with what I have to say or not) make it all worthwhile.

I’ve decided to celebrate all of this by choosing my top three posts since it all began, so here they are:

The Freckle – because it was my first ever.

The Fart – because I can’t believe I wrote about something so grim.

The Betrayal – because it was hard to write and even harder to post.

So, for as long as you are (hopefully) still enjoying this little space of mine on the internet, I’ll continue to write about everything from relationships to embarrassing bodily functions, because, why not? And if you’re contemplating starting one of your own, my advice to you would be to go for it; you really don’t have much to lose.

My one piece of advice? Always remember that:

‘The internet’s not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink’

The Social Network. 

Only post what you really mean. Be honest, be smart, be open to other’s opinions.

Thank you for all of your support over the years. Here’s to the next one hundred posts!

The Test

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When Jade Goody walked out of the Big Brother house back in 2003, I thought that all she’d taught me about life was a) never to have sex on TV and b) that salmon satin looks good on no one.

How wrong was I?

The woman single-handedly raised awareness for cervical cancer in young women.

Sadly, it took her dying to do so.

Left undiagnosed, it can become terminal and treatment can grow futile. Wishing to avoid this fate at all costs, I went for my annual smear test this morning.

As I sat in the waiting room for longer than anticipated, due to strains on the NHS, which we shan’t go into now, I grew anxious. As somebody who is, let’s say, unafraid to bare all, these nerves came as a surprise.

Will I wee on her face? Will she find a tampon up there from 2008 that has now turned into a foetus with cotton wool hands? Should I have shaved? Will she care? And WHY does this waiting room smell like poo?!

These were just some of the thoughts running through my mind pre-inspection that I thought I’d share with you because, well, nerves are normal when you’re about to show your private parts to a complete stranger.

But then my name was called.

She closed the door behind us and asked me to remove my pants in the same way you’d ask someone if they’d like to remove their jacket at a dinner party. Naturally I obliged, in awkward silence, and lay down on the bed.

She then pressed on with it – poor girl – and it was actually fine, aside from her awkwardly complimenting me on my pelvic floor muscles and the impromptu arrival of a young man looking for his umbrella. We had a laugh about his ill timing, I put my vagina away and all was well with the world within a few short minutes.

And now it’s over for the next 1095 days and I will endeavour to forget the whole thing until then.

But I don’t want you to forget it. Not the part about me opening my legs – you can definitely forget that part – but I don’t want you to put off getting yours done.

If you weren’t aware of what a smear test was before reading this, then hopefully it’ll spark an interest and if you’ve been putting it off: don’t. It really isn’t that bad.

I can’t help but feel that post-childbirth, I’ll look back at this post and think ‘Dear girl, if only you knew’.

But until then, I will continue to dread them in a mid-twenties, without child, ignorance but I will also endeavour to endure them on a regular basis. And so should you.

Good luck!

The Habit

So there’s no smoke without fire.

But is there fire without smoke? The designated area that you’ll find in pubs, clubs and bars across the country is undoubtedly the source of friendships, bonds and sometimes life time love affairs with the flick of a lighter.

But does that give us enough reason to smoke?

In these health conscious times, knowing the effects of nicotine and us being more than a fag ash away from the glamorous chuffing of the 1920s, why does our generation still partake in this past time? To spark conversation of course. But do we need to suck on a small white stick behind a rope, on the street, in order to bond? Surely all that puffing just gets in the way of conversation?

There are some social circles where smoking is a given. Arts students will do it with a coffee in hand, gap year travellers do it while tying on their anklets and businessmen do it on their lunch breaks, huddled in doorways. There’s definitely something about doing this, huddling in doorways thing, which feels almost primitive. It’s like a bonding technique to discuss how stressed they are and how much money they earn. And much like Rachel in Friends, when the office smokers go out for a fag break, you’ll always wonder what exactly it is they speak of whilst pirouetting on a fire exit stairwell.

Far from these veteran smokers, are the seasonal smokers. Come their second or third pint of the night, they will steal one’s cigarettes thereafter. Some do it because their drunken minds tell them they look cool doing so, some are craving that first drag head rush and then there are those who are simply trying to chat someone up who puts away twenty a day. They will light the wrong end, hold it with their pinkie and normally drop it at some stage. Or worst of all, choke. You’d think that taking up smoking for one night only wouldn’t bag you a bird but, somehow, sometimes it does. There is however, definitely something in sharing a cigarette. Especially with someone you don’t know. It brings you closer than swapping numbers or sitting side by side. Unless it’s post-coital of course. In which case, I’m pretty sure you probably know each other well enough.

Despite how it may appear, I am not here trying to tempt you into smoking. Far from it. There are the obvious downsides. The first being inevitable illness, as well as ash going in the eye which will always equate to an awkward moment which cannot be styled out due to temporary blindness, and finally, spending masses of money with very little to show for it.

However, and I think most of you will agree, that the scene in Alfie, the one where Sienna Miller strips off, would not be complete without that cigarette perched on her lower lip. And the same can be said for real life love scenes. Or any sort of scene for that matter. Look at Danny Zucko for Christ’s sake.

But as cancer rarely exists in Hollywood movies, perhaps we should leave it to the professionals who are probably puffing on tea leaves rather than tobacco on set. So although it has, and will always, looking effing cool, try and kick that habit. Or at least cut it down to one-a-chat-up-line.

After all, smoking kills. Kissing doesn’t. You do the math.

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!