THE 14TH FEBRUARY

large (10)

I love it when people say that they dislike Valentine’s Day. Except I don’t love it. I hate it. Particularly when the same people scrutinising its sentiment also celebrate Christmas, Easter, a Friday or even their uncle’s Bah Mitzvah in the only way they know how: with presents, alcohol and too much food.

So what’s the problem with celebrating love in much the same way?

They complain about shop windows, overpriced goods and the pressure to buy. But the same humans, come December 1st, turn into elves themselves, donning Christmas jumpers, drinking too much whiskey and tucking into overpriced Christmas cheese. And I’m pretty sure they ain’t celebrating Jesus’ birthday. They just enjoy the time of year. They like investing time in family – until Uncle Toby drinks too much wine and tells you about that time he and Aunt Sheila did the dirty in the back of your family car – and they get stuck in.

But they come to a halt on love day.

They grimace, they denounce their involvement and shy away from card buying and gift giving.

But why?

The ‘I show you every day’ sentiment doesn’t wash with me. That’s nice and all and I really appreciate being spooned to the point I think I might suffocate on a nightly basis, but why is it such a hardship for you to show me just that little bit more on one day of the year? Yes, card shops relish in this time of year. But they also exploit our warm hearts at many other times throughout the calendar months; so what’s new? You know as well as I do that we’re exploited by big retailers on pretty much a daily basis, but if you really want to roll with that excuse? Then use your hands and make a card, squeeze them extra tightly or cook them a nice meal. Nobody ever said you had to actually buy something.

I think that hating on Valentine’s Day is a little ‘on trend’ but the question I’m asking is: when did love go out of fashion? In a world that can be bleak and a little bit scary, why wouldn’t we take any opportunity we can to celebrate something positive and tell those who we love that we don’t know where we’d be without them and spoil those who most deserve it?

Basically, I don’t care if it’s not really your thing. In fact, let it glide past you for all I care. But don’t shout your mouth off about how much you hate it, because Valentine’s Day can be whatever you want it to be. Make a crappy card, treat them to a homemade red velvet, sit on the sofa with snacks and a good film or just don’t fart on their leg for the next 24hrs. Whatever love is to you, celebrate that in the best way you can.

The 14th February might not mean much to you, but to someone who needs a little loving (i.e. everybody at one point or other), it can mean a heck of a lot.

Have a good one love bunnies.

THE SECOND WIND

large (11)

Whenever someone asks me whether they should get back with their ex, I, and most likely you will too, dish out the same, woeful, clichéd advice: exes are exes for a reason; if things didn’t work out the first time, then they definitely won’t this time; don’t look back, you’re not going that way, or, my personal favourite: there’s plenty more fish in the sea.

But what about when the person contemplating getting back with their ex is you? What happens when you’re the one nervously muttering to your friends that you’ve been seeing him again and that it might be worth a shot? You once said that you would never talk to him again and now you’re holding his hand. Everyone shifts awkwardly in their seats and you order another round.

It’s at this point that you need to follow your heart and not the eye rolls from those around you. Mainly because they aren’t there and despite the fact that you’re convinced that the world and his wife are judging you and your other half, they aren’t. Unless you’re on Made In Chelsea, in which case yes, they are in fact watching and judging you every Monday at 9.

But it’s fair to say that those around us rarely know what to say in these situations. They’ve dragged us from the depths of break up hell – from nights in with all the food to nights out with all the gin – to being okay again. They want to protect you and are fearful of giving the wrong advice. So they end up not giving you any.

And understandably so.

However, as I perch nervously upon the very first few weeks into a second attempt at a relationship, I can tell you that all I want is advice. Advice on how to navigate a new old relationship. How to act, behave and cope. How to know when enough is enough and how to know if you’ve made the right decision. Each relationship is a personal journey and I most certainly do not have all the answers. But I can talk to you about what I’ve learnt so far.

So here goes.

Firstly, tread carefully. You have both been through a bad break up (more importantly, the same break up) and although you would like to tell yourselves that you are completely over the trials of yesteryear, it is only natural to have clung onto some of the nasties that lurked at the end of your time together.

But turn this into a positive.

Talk, listen and figure out whatever it was that led to your demise. Returning to the scene of the crime means that forgiveness becomes a part of your language and you begin to learn from your mistakes. You will gain a lot from letting things go and even more from working (hard) through others. Do not ignore the issues from before; deal with them head on and then – more importantly – move on.

Secondly, you do not need to know if they have touched another human since you broke up. Unless they’ve bumped uglies with your bestie, you are both here now and that is all that matters.

Thirdly, you can’t un-know each other. If you’re looking for butterflies and awkward kisses, then quit now. You know he picks his nose when your back is turned and he knows you secretly love Zoella. If you’re not okay with certain aspects of each other’s personality, you never will be. Behaving like someone other than yourself might fix things in the short term, but if things are going better now that you’re not being yourself, then it might be time to actually just… find someone else.

And finally, because break ups are so shit, you will inevitably have seen each other at your absolute worst. There are some splits  – I’m sure we have all experienced them – that can make even the coldest of humans feel as though their heart might fall out of their arse holes. And what is likely to happen when we feel like there’s a high chance that one of our vital organs might vacate our rectums? We act crazy. At times a little frenzied. Always a little out of character.

So pull right back.

The throes of a break up can normalise screaming, shouting and name calling. They can endorse bad behaviour, shocking decisions and a great deal of tears and snot, but you need to remember that this is not how humans should behave. Particularly not two humans who are supposed to be in love. So touch base with what you were like before the end and go back to a time when you were respectful, honest and kind to each other. Things might have got bad towards the end, but they were once really good, right? Hark back to the good times and shake off the bad. You’re back together for a reason, so set boundaries for how loud you’re allowed to shout, put coping mechanisms in place for when times are tough and be really honest about what bothers you. Then just sit back and enjoy the ride.

I don’t know the stats on how many couples have been successful at a second wind, but what I do know is that if you feel as though something is worth a shot, then it probably is. Even if it’s just to hammer home that you are actually better suited to someone else.

Who cares if it takes you a couple of goes to get it just right? After all, practise really does make perfect.

Good luck.

THE CITY

42e595bc8aa84fd82e38df3d1cb4c45a

When people think of their happy place, it’s normally a vision of white sands, blue skies and Caipirinhas on tap, right? Well my happy place – even after 25 years – is right here in this big city, and I will tell you why.

By day, we only notice the grumpy faces, the brisk walks and the litter on the pavement. It’s hard to see past the endless rows of chicken shops and aggy kids on the bus on the way to work. You seem to always need an umbrella, even in springtime, and you pay a fortune for pretty much everything- not to mention your bag getting knicked from right under your nose.

On a good day, however, the city comes alive.

And although I love my shabby home town and was oh-so-territorial when every man and his dog moved here after university (only to realise that they had all moved to Clapham and then I didn’t mind as much), it isn’t all about this little place that I call home; it’s just urban life that I love. And I love it for the things it has taught me.

Paris, for example, is where I learnt that (unfortunately) racism does in fact still exist in the 21st century. I also learnt here that it was okay to wear black everyday. Barcelona was where I, as a twelve year old, discovered the art world. It was also where I learnt – the hard way – to keep my belongings close to my chest in public places. Bucharest is where I learnt how to survive a coach full of people en route to a festival (you stock up on water and more booze and hope for the best). It’s also where I realised that it’s possible to buy beer for a pound. London is where I learnt to fall in love. And the Big Apple? Well, that’s where I learnt how to live.

Going from London to New York felt like flying home, rather than heading into the unknown. I padded those streets like an extra in Home Alone and pretended it was no biggie that I found myself in Brooklyn. Forget jungle exploration or bumming about on a beach, this was my Nirvana. The concrete, the smell of food, even the smell of “trash”, the greyness, the bustle, the paranoia, the anonymity. It felt so comforting and familiar, so akin to something else I’d known before: my first love, London.

They say the world is your Oyster, but I say there’s only one city where there’s an Oyster Card, and it’s right on my doorstep. So if you’re unable to travel the world, then find yourself a place smack bang in the middle of the capital. Yes, it’s expensive, but each borough, district or quarter is like flying to a foreign land and is therefore worth every single penny. With an array of delicacies, cultures and occupants, a tube ride from home can give you a completely different experience from anything you’ve seen before. And I mean that.

This Ode to My Hometown is nothing you haven’t heard spouted from the mouths of Londoners a million times before me, but in the depths of winter, when the Christmas lights have gone and summers spent in Hyde Park seem too far away to even think about, it’s very easy to forget how magical this place really is.

If you’re still not buying into it, head to Kings Cross Station, to platform 9 3/4 and see where THAT train takes you…

 

The Pornography

large (9)

Porn was first thrust upon me, much like anyone else who grew up in the noughties, in the charming form of Two Girls, One Cup. Suffice to say, I haven’t had a great relationship with the medium since.

The next thing I remember was a school trip to Wales, where boys who had only seen nudity in print, were passing a copy of Nuts Magazine around the coach. They shared their thoughts about a lack of pubic hair and different shades of areola, as us girls looked on with both intrigue and fright.

My boyfriend during these younger years was caught watching porn by his mum – an act as alien to me then as peeing standing up – and despite it being a moment of awkward humiliation for them both, she took it upon herself to stand there and give him a rollicking for objectifying girls: what a woman.

Following on from my teenage years, my male friends at university developed my fascination with porn by introducing me to the delights of ‘Sausage Pizza’. One of their favourite past times was to leave ‘Meat Spin’ running on my unattended laptop during dissertation time for me to return to as a treat after running off for a quick toilet break.(If you’re not sure what either of those food related porn titles are, take it from me, it’s better that way.)

Back in the day, and by this I’m only talking ten or so years ago, porn was taboo and the only way to get yourself off was to watch the 10 minute preview to an adult film on some obscure 900 Sky channel or switch over to TOTP where Rachel Stevens was doing her thing. Nowadays, we can access a whole world of sexual fantasy, in ultra high definition, from behind a computer screen, or even more conveniently, through our smart phones.

The majority of both my male and female counterparts watch porn on a regular basis and I’ve even known guys to share porn between friends. It has become so much a part of our daily lives that questioning the morality of it would be like questioning the morality of a roast potato. But aside from the fact that (some of) the stars of the small screen make a stack of money, how else is it enhancing the lives of these men and women who are having sex for cash? To me, there’s no difference between this occupation and that of a hooker on the streets of London, and any monetary transaction that exists when having sex, whether a punter or a production team is paying you, is just wrong in my opinion.

There’s obviously a darker side to the industry, and between the inappropriate videos out there and how easy they are to access, I can’t help but fear for future generations who are watching this stuff as children. Not only are they being educated in the art of bad sex, but these films are taking ideas of brutality and domination, and normalising them. In fact, these films are such a poor example of what sex is really like, that I’d probably give those sex education videos from my school days a little more credit. I also think more time should be given to educate those of an older generation who aren’t aware that these films are but a click away from their child’s reach, but I’ll save that for another day.

A guy I was seeing at the end of last year said that there was something he found shameful about masturbating and that he always felt a little self-deprecating afterwards, like he’d done something really wrong. I think it’s important to recognise that there’s nothing wrong with a little self love, but it’s the tools that are used to get you there that might be the problem.

Perhaps porn is a good way to vent mismatched sexual desires that you don’t share with you partner, or to tide you over until your next conquest, but we need to remember what it was like to be obsessed with what sex was going to be like before we had it. The whole world is obsessed with it because it’s amazing. And why is it amazing? Because you get to touch another person’s body, feel great and if you’re really lucky, connect on a higher level. Watching porn, albeit a fantastic form of contraception, just means more time spent staring at a screen as opposed to each other and I find that tapping at a keyboard to watch people have sex is much like staring through the window of a great restaurant to see people eating instead of heading inside and trying the menu for yourself.

Taking all of the moral questions surrounding the industry such as how these people are being treated behind the scenes and how many of them have chosen this as a career choice away, I don’t actually have a massive problem with it being watched, even within the realms of a relationship. I’m safe in the knowledge that my boyfriend isn’t thinking about me as he watches Jenna Jameson’s puppies jump up and down onscreen, but I’m cool with that; after all, my boobs will never be as big as hers and I wouldn’t want him to miss out, being the boob man that he is. But when it comes to my turn, why am I expected to enjoy ‘female friendly’ films?  I feel a need to let all of you porn producers out there know that not all of us girls want to be caressed with scented oils or fed fresh strawberries and I find it simply hilarious how this new age porn industry can be so regressive at times.

As you can see, I’m not 100% sure where I stand on the whole porn debate, but as a little experiment, I think I’ll steer clear of it for a while.

Think that might take too much will power as the winter nights draw in? Film your own and be safe in the knowledge that both parties have consented, are being taken care of (in more ways than one) and I’m sure you’ll feel far more satisfied watching a demonstration by someone with a good working knowledge of the female anatomy, because FYI, what they do in porn films is not good sex and I can guarantee it will not get your girlfriend anywhere near where you want her to be.

I am, shamefully however, looking forward to Fifty Shades of Grey coming out at the cinema next year.

Does that count as porn?

Who even knows anymore.

The Chase

large (6)

Mexico. 2008. Spring Break.

My first encounter with a chaser.

I.e. A soft drink that jocks knocked back after shotting vodka or tequila.

London. 2013. Spring Term.

My second encounter with a chaser.

I.e. A lot of teasing which led to a dumping which burned like a shot of Sambucca but was forgotten as quickly as a hangover.

Ever since Nursery school, chasing has been a major part of our social interaction. The boys would relentlessly follow us girls around the playground in pursuit of an innocent peck until the bell went or the whistle blew. I then went home to sit in front of Tom & Jerry which was essentially twenty-five minutes of the same thing. This frantic cartoon was later exchanged for ten years worth of cat and mouse action between Rachel and Ross. Pretty much the same plot line except for I don’t think Tom was trying to shag Jerry the whole time, unless I missed something really quite pivotal, of course.

I feel like I’m now living out this childhood game, except for now it normally takes place in dark rooms with loud music and vodka and comes to a halt at last orders.

Although undeniably thrilling to watch, I think we have to ask ourselves why we permit ourselves to enter into this exchange later in life? Why do we bother to chase or be chased? I think it’s to fill a gap until something better comes along. That probably explains why, when we finally get what we’ve been pursuing for such a long time, we lose interest. To the chaser, it’s normally just a passing the time supper with a side of ego boost. Think about it. Why did Tom never actually catch Jerry?

We must be careful. Along the road we chase upon, wooing can lead to winning someone’s affection rather than just their attention and it’s at this point you should stop teasing and start walking.

The truth of the matter is, you shouldn’t have to try to win someone over. If they like you, they will be with you. End of story. A chaser might chase you all the way to the top of Primrose Hill, but if it’s for all the wrong reasons, they won’t be waiting for you when you get to the bottom.

Spend your life chasing your dreams rather than people; the rest will fall into place.

The First Love

large (3)

In reality, my first love was a pink, holey leotard that I used to prance around the house in as a child. I was given it at five, grew out of it by seven, still wore it at eight and verged on camel toe by nine when mum decided to throw it out and I went into mourning.

Much like my tatty leotard, first high school romances generally don’t fit properly. Hence why it’s a romantic rarity for couples to remain together from the age of nineteen to ninety, or why most girls blub at The Notebook (myself not included).

Me and my first boyfriend went to the same school. We found ourselves in the same friendship group. I lost my virginity to him while his mum had popped out for a Chinese. We stuck The Streets on, fumbled around for a bit and soon enough it was time for dad to pick me up. There was no fuss and it probably sounds a lot like your first time. And, probably not too dissimilar to your version, we loved each other a little too much. I, for one, was infatuated. In fact, if I’m honest, I was bat shit crazy. My MySpace was pretty much homage to him, we spent days at a time in bed and a two week holiday away from him felt like a twenty year stint in Holloway.

Never mind how serious your current relationship (or marriage) is now, that ability to love too much is something that cannot be recycled. Much like that teddy you lost as a child, you always hope that they are sitting safely somewhere, undamaged, with someone to love them as much as you did.

But do we ever really let go? Of course we do. However, just like your old toys that are stowed away in the attic, gifts from him are probably dotted around your room. You might not wear that bracelet someone bought you for your christening any more but you still have it, just like those disposable photos you took by the sea on that weekend away together. There’s a naivety that surrounds that first love that you’ll always want to protect. It reminds you of a time where cheating was only committed by the most wretched of humans and marriage didn’t seem so ridiculous. You’re basically reminding yourself that cynicism didn’t always exist.

It would seem that first loves bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood; no matter what age it strikes. It teaches you your capacity to love, exposes you to terrible loss and, of course, what to do with someone else’s furry bits.

So what would you say to your very important person if you could talk to them now?

I’d probably say thanks for teaching me at a young age that not all men are idiots. Oh, and for introducing me to capers.

Still with your first? You might as well write a book it’s so rare.

Wish you were still with yours? You could always put your faith in that cliché about ending up wearing the first thing you tried on…

Or you could just get out there a little more. They might have been the first but that certainly doesn’t mean they’re the one.

The Valentine

I once spent Valentine’s Day in McDonald’s which, actually, has been one of my favourite love days to date. A Big Mac and a stroll through Exeter city centre and I’m all yours, apparently. And before you assume that I was only content with such a budget date because I was a student, I can tell you that I’d still much rather sit in McDonalds getting pea-shot-at by delinquents than paying double for a meal at Pizza Express, whilst rubbing shoulders with newly-weds and soppy couples called Roger and Tilly.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no cupid-quasher and am an absolute sucker for huge, romantic gestures, but something I’d like to see happen is for real love to be expressed on the most doting of days rather than just accepting the crappy Hallmark definition.

Carrie Bradshaw once said that she was, “Looking for love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, all-consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love”. And on first watching that final episode of undoubtedly one of the best television series of all time, I thought that this was romance at its finest. But as time goes by, I’ve started to wonder whether or not this is in fact something that lots of us crave, all the while totally taking for granted real love.

For love to be ‘all consuming’, it verges on an addiction. And an unhealthy one at that. For it to be “inconvenient”, it normally involves sacrifice of sorts. So one of you might already be attached or you could be living far away from each other. These components make everything far more intense and cause you to label your feelings as a matter of urgency, perhaps thrusting us into the label of love when in reality it’s something very different?

As I’ve mentioned before (on roughly 4576 occasions), I have been in love once in my life. And although it has recently come to pass, it did teach me what real love is. It’s not that bizarre teenage love that consumes you for the duration of sixth form. Instead it’s quite literally offering someone your last Rolo. Or leaving a great party early when they’ve had too much to drink or buying a train ticket to see them even when you’ve almost maxed out your overdraft.

I’ve come to realise that real romantic love should be as infinite and comparable to that which you have for your best friend (minus the canoodling of course). For instance, I would never in a million years contemplate swapping any of my best girl friends for any other women. And real romantic love should feel the same. If you look back at every Valentine’s Day since you were aware of its arguably pathetic existence, I can assure you that there will have been one new love interest per year. But I bet your bestie has remained well after you’ve closed the door behind all of them. That’s real love.

Basically, when you experience true love, the grass is always greener on your side of the fence.

My parents have been married for twenty five years and when I ask how she has managed to remain faithful, she proudly replies, “because he’s enough”. And as unromantic as that “enough” might sound to you, it’s probably the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard. It’s the contentment and utter acceptance of who each other are that I find so inspired. And that’s why I think they’ve lasted a whole quarter of a century.

Life is only full of ups and downs if you let yourself get taken along for the ride, and with the right person, even the most challenging of circumstances can be plain sailing.

So if you’re looking for someone to spend your life with, then you won’t want what Carrie calls ‘real love’. Instead, you’ll want friendship, with that certain je ne sais quoi thrown in.

Not just a shit card on Valentine’s Day.

Happy 14th February everyone.

The Fall

Over the past few days I have heard nothing but complaints about the seasonal changes that are fast approaching the capital. And I have to say, I’ve heard enough. I’ve got a lot of love for autumn and all its golden glory. In fact, I would go as far as saying it’s my favourite time of year, and always has been.

Here are the reasons why I love to celebrate this underappreciated season:

Firstly, the cityscape is far more idyllic and so much more romantic than in any other season. St James’ Park is dusted with crispy leaves and people’s padded clasps look all the more cosy in soft leather gloves. And talking of gloves; Autumnal wardrobes are the best. Bejewelled cardigans and eclectic jackets for ladies and huge collared coats and brogues for men. Less unmanicured toes and too short-shorts and more muted tones and red nails. It’s without a doubt, the classiest time of year for fashion. Something which also compliments this is the complexion of our skin beyond September. For those post-holiday; a warm glow still remains but for those who aren’t, the windswept blush will suffice. The look is somewhat post-coital but without the sweat. No need for blusher.

Not only do we look better, but in my opinion social activities are far more satisfying wrapped up in a woollen bow. For instance, it’s the perfect time to go city-surfing. The romantic setting will be pre-packed for you by the falling leaves and darker evenings so no need for champagne and strawberries. All you have to do is find someone to explore with and snog as you’re encompassed in an auburn hue. Let’s be honest, a photo in front of The Eiffel Tower would not be complete without a beret. And you can’t wear one of those in the summer can you eh? Aside from city-hopping, our bad behaviour becomes more and more appropriate too; i.e. eating lots. September is an excuse to gorge on that chocolate cake after behaving for the duration of the summer months and not worry about it as you know that your oversized boyfriend jumper will cover it up whilst making you look utterly adorable to unsuspecting eyes.

And if you Londoners are still not convinced; autumn brings a smooth running TFL. As we all know, transport in London is pretty much non-existent in the winter due to the snow and is pretty much un-usable in the summer because it’s so hot that you feint, thus falling into the arms of a sweaty builder in a beater. In the autumn it’s cosy enough and regular enough to truly enjoy it.

“But the rain!” I hear you cry…

Yes, I will admit that the rain is somewhat irritating when you’re heading to a party or when your new French Soles are soaked right through, but as always, there’s a light at the end of the puddle (sorry). It’s an excuse to share your brolly with that fittie at the bus stop, or run into Starbucks in a bid to talk to the gorgeous girl behind the counter. Plus, the much sought after Toffee-Nut Latte will be re-introduced sooner than you can say ‘Christmas’.

I hope you now agree (at the very least) that autumn isn’t so bad after all.

The Royal Wedding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucky cow.

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

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

Hats off to the happy couple!