SMALL VICTORIES – JULY 2016

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I have achieved three out of four of my small victories this month, which is pretty good going considering how busy I’ve been.

We finally found a mirror that we both sort of like, I have somehow managed to avoid the sales and we have booked all of our flights for the summer. Naturally, the one thing I didn’t do was to exercise more, although I am yet to join a gym in Bristol.

Excuses, excuses. I know.

Anyway, looking forward to the next few weeks, I have decided that I am going to focus all my efforts on enhancing this little space of mine on the Internet. Not visually, but behind the scenes.

Here’s how:

1. Get SEO Savvy

I want to ensure that my voice is being heard by the sorts of people who might be interested in hearing it, so I have started an online course with The Digital Garage (a free programme run by Google) in order to wise up on keyword research, to understand what ‘long tail phrases’ are and to find out what other SEO jargon means in a bid to strengthen my skills. I am certainly learning a lot from these tutorials as the landscape of search engines and SEO shifts and changes.

2. Master Google Analytics

Analytics has been a friend of mine for a while now and, of course, I have taught myself the basics over the past couple of years, but I am keen to get to grips with the more advanced features of it. Any suggestions as to how I might find out a little more would be much appreciated.

Until then, kinesthetic learning (otherwise known as trial and error / feeling around in the dark) is my friend.

3. Write More

I have lots to say and I finally (sort of) have the time to write it all down and get it out there. I want to commit to three posts per week at least.

Any topic suggestions are more than welcome…

4. Spread my Seed

I really love when people send me guest posts to publish and share with my readers and I can imagine that you, as the reader, find it refreshing to hear a voice or opinion other than my own.

So, this month, instead of only posting on here, I am going to share my work with other bloggers (if they’ll have me) so I’ll keep you posted on that one.

5. (And completely unrelated to the Internet) Bend and Stretch

Basically, I want to get back into practising yoga on a regular basis. When I have some time out, I forget how great it makes me feel, so I think it’s time to hop on the mat and remind myself.

And those are my goals for July.

Think about what you would like to achieve over the next few weeks and go for it; there really is no time like the present.

Good luck!

THE HUMP MONTH

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Welcome to July.

The season of sunshine, school holidays, Wimbledon, Pimms and badly dressed Brits.

But most importantly? We have reached the midway point of the year.

Yes, people, we are six months deep into 2016 and normally, at this time of year, when the days are longer, the sun has (sort of) come out to play and holiday season is fast approaching, I would reflect on the new year’s resolutions I made in a post-Christmas haze of bubbles, glitter, balls dropping and Big Ben chiming and give them a quick jump start before we head into the second half of the show.

But this year feels different. The UK is in such a state of disarray and unrest that I feel more deflated than ever before and as though I’m still slogging through the mud at Worthy Farm, in the rain, without a coat, even though I arrived back to concrete and home comforts five days ago.

But why?

Because I live in a blue country where the two viable options for our future prime minister have been, at one point or another, Boris fucking Johnson or Michael ‘Spawn of Satan’ Gove and this scares me. I find myself living in a country where the only political party who supports the working people is crumbling before my very eyes. I live in a UK that is becoming less tolerant and, in small pockets, more racist and in the city that I know and love so well, we are still berating women for feeding their children in public, while football fans watch on, tops off, in beer gardens. I am living in a world where innocent people are being killed, while gun laws are still being not only upheld, but justified, by men and where ruining someone’s life by raping them is rewarded with a six month prison sentence. As bombs going off around the globe fails to shock me anymore, I find myself starting to wonder: where did it all go wrong?

At 27, I guess I am young, yes, and I have been told on numerous occasions that I am ‘too idealistic’ or that I ‘just don’t get it’, but the fact is, I actually do. I know fine well that we are in dire straits and that ‘our’ decision to leave the European Union is a bad one. I know that for good to happen, we have to pull together. I know, from history, that change is possible, it just takes time and effort, of which I am more than willing to put in. And, even though at times it might seem impossible or exhausting to do so, I refuse to change who I am, what I believe and I will continue to march on with an open mind and a liberal, loving heart, in spite of these strange and confusing times.

So, this July, instead of looking backwards to see whether I have achieved what I set out to at the start of the year, I want everyone to join me in looking forward with one goal: to provide light – in any capacity you can think of – in these dark times so that we can begin to sort this mess out. If this comes in the form of a peaceful protest, then raise that banner high. If you can and wish to provide aid to our fellow humans in Calais, then I will donate to your cause. Hug more, talk more and never give up hope for a brighter future because, if we don’t, then who else will?

I feel as though we, as a nation, have reached rock bottom and you know what they say happens when you get there, don’t you?

Stay hopeful, young ones. We’ve got this.

The only way is up.

MIGHT NEVER HAPPEN

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A while ago, I realised that (since I have a vagina and grew up in London), it might be about time I wrote about my experiences of street harassment.

I talked about people touching my body when I hadn’t asked them to. I spoke about being cat-called and how often this happens. I reminisced about lengthy stares and bum grazes and, unfortunately, it seemed to resonate with a fair few of you. As a result, I thought I would bring your attention to ‘Might Never Happen’: a play co-written by one of my best friends, addressing aspects of the abuse and harassment that women face on a daily basis in the UK.

Doll’s Eye Theatre, the company behind this piece, address some important issues. They have taken the time to demonstrate the various guises that harassment takes on, the way people do or don’t deal with it and the way that it can make you feel the size of a thimble when it happens to you in a crowded place or somewhere you should feel safe, which, in actual fact, should be anywhere- including a dark alley in the dead of night; wearing heels, trainers, or an all in one for that matter.

I had the pleasure of watching ‘Might Never Happen’ back in May at the King’s Head in Islington. An intimate setting, which lent itself perfectly to the aptly uncomfortable scenes we endured. The material is thought-provoking and – refreshingly – demonstrates the male perspective on issues that are predominantly reserved for women’s magazine articles or feminine discussions. To me, this was the most important aspect of the performance because, all too often, I meet men who assume that women are overly sensitive to slurs on the street or that ‘we love it really’ when a man in a van comments on our *insert body part here*.

‘Might Never Happen’ asks some really interesting questions and opens up a space for conversations about what men can do to prevent this abuse from happening altogether through a combination of dark comedy and satire. It also highlights how little women can do to stop it, despite constantly being told to ‘cover up’ or ‘wear less make up’ to avoid ‘provoking men’, finally taking the blame and responsibility away from women and placing it on those who commit these acts instead.

The more we talk about how invasive these ‘lighthearted’ bum pinches, whispered ‘alright darlings’ and the standing-just-that-little-bit-too-close-to-us-incidents make us truly feel, the less accepted it will become.

Doll’s Eye Theatre will be performing ‘Might Never Happen’ again in October. You can get tickets here.

Let me know what you think.

PACKING FOR FUN IN A FIELD

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

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

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

Here goes.

Practical Items

A Torch

Bin Bags

Dry, non-perishable foods

A Onesie

A small rucksack

A good raincoat

Wellies

Individual Packs of Tissues

A bum bag / Fanny pack

A Towel

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

A refillable water bottle

A Ground Sheet

Camping Chairs

A portable phone charger

A Tent

A Sleeping Bag

An Eye Mask

Toiletries

Baby Wipes / Make Up Wipes

All the dry shampoo

Toothbrush / Toothpaste

Mini shampoo / conditioner / body wash

Hair ties / clips /kirby-grips

Make Up (obvs)

Lots of deodorant

A Razor

Paracetamol / Ibuprofen

Dioralyte

Hay fever Tablets

Eye Drops

Tampons / Pads (just in case!)

First Aid Kit

Blister Plasters

Hand Sanitiser

A Mirror

Clothes

Too many pairs of socks

A couple of pairs of thick socks

Too many pairs of pants

Three bras

A swimsuit / A bikini

Five outfits for sunny weather

Two pairs of jeans

A couple of jumpers

A pair of sandals / A pair of non-wellies

A Hat

Sunglasses

The Fun Stuff

Lots of Glitter / Vaseline

Head scarves for greasy hair

Spirits decanted into plastic bottles

Squeezy bags to decant said spirits each day

Mixers

Some cans of alcohol

A box of wine

A hip flask

Plastic cups

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

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

Every little helps!

THE SLUMP

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I had high expectations for this Easter holiday.

Very high expectations, in fact.

I envisaged sun soaked sessions outside local coffee shops with my laptop perched on my knee in an oversized jumper. I pictured lazy days in the park spent scribbling in a notebook. At one point, I was booking a very expensive holiday to Cape Verde that I couldn’t afford, hoping to tan and write at the same time. Basically, I predicted that wherever I was in the world, I would be being (at the very least) creative, although of course, the reality of any sort of writing I do consists of my bed, some snacks and a pair of unwashed, faded pyjamas, so I’m not quite sure why I all of a sudden saw myself living in some sort of Hipster paradise, churning out great works of art on the other side of the world…

But anyway, two weeks into a two and a half week break from work and all I have posted on here are two ‘Sunday Papers’ pieces (which literally consist of nothing other than other people’s fantastic writing) and a couple of ‘Monday Mantras’, which, of course, everybody needs at the start of a working week, but it’s not exactly rocket science and/or a work of creative genius to find a quote and share it.

But it’s really not that I haven’t wanted to post anything. On the contrary, I was determined to become the next Zoella or whoever else is now living off the fruits of their online presence in the space of 17 days. But, surprisingly, it hasn’t happened. Perhaps I aimed too high? Perhaps ‘becoming Zoella’ was a little too optimistic? Perhaps I’ve lazed in bed for a little too long each morning? Spent too much time cooking delicious food or getting on with adult things like finding a flat and a new job?

Truth is, I really couldn’t tell you; I haven’t a clue why I haven’t been writing. I could list five thousand reasons why I might not be feeling particularly creative at the moment, but I really have no idea where my words have gone. The problem though, is that when these slumps strike, and I go into some sort of creative coma, it’s very difficult to hop back out of it and pick up a pen or start typing. Much like working out, once I haven’t written or posted anything of any significance in a while, the thought of doing so becomes scary and – at times – impossible. I question my abilities and grow uncertain about why I even do this.

And then I get an email.

Or a private message on Twitter.

People start questioning why I haven’t posted in a while and my hearts lifts a little.

I start to hear the familiar little cogs turning and get the urge to post something… anything.

So that’s why I’m here on this Wednesday evening.

I am hoping that by typing words and hitting publish without thinking too much about them, a creative valve hidden somewhere deep inside my body will open and, just like that, the juices will start flowing once again.

Here’s to thinking, writing and being more creative over the next few weeks.

Watch this space.

THE LOVE

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

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

So here goes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

OUR LIPS AREN’T SEALED

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Love is one of those things that has the ability to knock you sideways, whilst also being able to seep in silently like a good scent. It can appear as if from out of nowhere, but it can also grow for years before you realise you’ve even been struck by it. Sometimes, you don’t even know you’ve had it until it’s gone. But that’s the thing with love, you never know what form it’s going to take, how to prepare for it or in what way it’s going to shape you. But it does shape you, in one way or another. Every. Single. Time.

And I think that’s something worth talking about.

So, seeing as Valentine’s Day is pretty much on our doorstep, I thought now would be a good time to do just that. Yes, it’s a ‘Hallmark holiday’ and a cheap excuse for retailers to up the price of prosecco and long stemmed roses, but it’s also a chance to celebrate love in a few of its many guises.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be adding a pair of lips or two to this post, just below where you’re reading now. Behind each set, you’ll find a tale about a type of love that somebody has experienced (for better or for worse). These stories have been told by people I know, people I don’t know, people I’ve met and some that I haven’t. And then, of course, some by me. From the dangerous and forbidden to lost and lesbian love, I have it covered. But please, if you feel compelled to write one of your own, send it over. I’ll be posting throughout the month, so there’s still plenty of time to spill the beans.

Although we might not like to admit it, we have all had our fair share of both heart-make and heart-break and I think it’s time we spoke honestly about these experiences in order to both celebrate and laugh in the face of love.

Come inside, our lips are far from sealed.

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