Tuesday, 31 May 2016


On Saturday night, I went to a masquerade ball.

It was for a 30th birthday, the venue was stunning, and it was just a wonderful evening.

Firstly, it was so lovely to properly dress up. We often do nice things, but not events where you get the chance to really go all out, wear something new and feel special for the evening. It felt like an escape from the every day, and everyone really went for it. I was surrounded by beautiful dresses and the most incredible masks. No one in the room had let the side down!

There was a three-piece jazz band playing throughout the party, and the evening sun was streaming in through the huge windows.

I had met a grand total of about four people in the room before Saturday night, but 10 minutes in it didn't feel like that was the case. Sometimes, people stick with the people they know, but everyone was so open and friendly and there was a real sense that people spent the evening circulating.

It was a truly special event, and hopefully everything the birthday girl had imagined!

I'd like to order some more evenings like this one, please!

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Clicking 'Reply'

I’ve started a new thing over the past few months: replying to emails.

I don’t mean work emails or emails from family – I of course already replied to those ones.

I mean email newsletters.

I’m signed up to the newsletters of a fair amount of writers and bloggers, all of whom write content I absolutely love to receive. They’re newsletters that I get excited about opening when they land in my inbox.

A couple of months ago, I realised they’d never know how much I loved these letters to my inbox, emails which feel like they’re written only to me, unless I told them.

So I told them.

Laura Jane Williams wrote a good few months ago about a feeling of not being good enough. I can’t remember then context exactly but she’d realised this feeling and had chosen to approach those feelings differently. In a relatively short email, she had summed up all the emotions I had been feeling that same week: nerves, excitement, mixed together with a feeling of ‘who cares, anyway?’ In the same email, I think she mentioned her book. (Becoming. Out next month. I pre-ordered it ages ago and cannot wait for it to drop through the door.)

I replied to her email, and told her that. Later that day, about to get on the tube on my way home, she replied. Not only did she reply, but she replied like an old friend. She was so genuinely humbled and happy to hear my praise for her writing, despite the fact I’m one of many admirers of her work.

Emma Gannon has a book coming out, too. I pre-ordered it along with Becoming, as I have loved more than anything seeing the stories of Emma and Laura unfold online. I’m so happy for the amazing things happening to both of them. When Emma emailed the cover and release date of her book I couldn’t help but reply: her book will share my birthday (July 7th – get it pre-ordered)! She replied to me straight away, agreeing that it would be a crime to deny myself of a book-shaped birthday present. A few weeks later, I replied to a tweet of hers and she acknowledged again about her book sharing my birthday.

Two people I’ve never met, but who responded to me like friends.

For me, I was happy to be able to tell two people I really admire that I’m impressed by their work, that I care, and that I’m following their journeys. For them, they heard that a random 23 year-old in London couldn’t wait to read their books, and loved their writing. Win, win.

A couple of weeks ago, Nicole Antoinette (of Real Talk Radio, a podcast you need to listen to) wrote a beautiful email about her relationship with alcohol and journey to sobriety. First, I told her I was looking forward to hearing the special edition of her podcast focusing on this issue, as I don’t drink myself and have experienced alcohol dependence within my family. Secondly, she used a phrase which summed up exactly how I feel when my anxiety is bad, or just after a bad period of it when I am exhausted. She spoke of a ‘vulnerability hangover’. I’m going to write about this at more length soon as it struck such a chord with me, but I let her know that she had given me words for a feeling I had tried to explain for so long but had never been able to put words to.

Within hours, she had replied. A short reply, but a reply with all the warmth you’d expect from her had you ever read her writing or listened to Real Talk Radio.

That’s only a few examples, but maybe the few which have stood out for me the most.

When writers and bloggers send out a monthly or weekly or even daily newsletter, they are putting such time and effort and emotion into a piece of writing or a collation of content which feels like it is for you alone.

If you appreciate what someone is writing, tell them.

Tell them when their writing touches you, or that you are proud of what they have achieved.

If their writing has allowed you to feel a feeling you had been avoiding, confront an issue you couldn’t face, or lifted your spirits when you’ve been low, tell them.

The newsletters of the many fantastic writers I follow fill my inbox like the words of friends, and when they have that effect on me I’m going to let them know.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Back to Earth with a Bump

Amazing as being away last week was, you have to return to reality.

On the most part things are good but life has a way of sometimes throwing the not-so-good in your face just to remind you you're back! Last Saturday was one of those days...

  • I got home with a full food shop to find I apparently no longer have a freezer shelf.
  • The cleaner was doing her usual trick of slamming every door and crashing the hoover into everything while talking on her phone at full volume.
  • I had to chase O2 for the FIFTH time about an ongoing issue.
  • I had a frustrating email about an incident from a few weeks ago which I won't go into.
  • I realised I'd spent slightly more than expected this month - not to the extreme, but enough to be annoying as I like to stick to my budget and plans.

Things like this kept popping up all day, as if reminding me that my week away was over.

I guess it's all a case of perspective, isn't it? Things that would normally be a bit annoying are hugely annoying in contrast to the week of relaxation you've just had.

It takes time to settle back into routine and get back into the swing of things.

I think I'm there now.

I've had a week back at work, I've got an exciting event this weekend, and I've got a lot of things lined up for June and July that I can't wait for.

There was bound to be a wobble when I got back home, because the week away was so brilliant. And I think that's the real takeaway here: it was great. The week of nothing was great.

It allowed me to click refresh, and to get back and push on with the everyday (the good and the annoying parts).

That's not stopped me starting to think about when my next little escape will be, though...

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Sea Air

I cannot describe how much good my week in Kent did me.

For seven days the only aim was to relax.

I have relaxing days at home, some weekends for example, but when you're at home there are always little jobs or plans popping up, and I don't think you truly switch off in the same way as when you're somewhere else.

The cottage was roomy and bright, decorated beautifully and so homely and comfortable. The garden was huge and alongside it ran the cutest coastal path. On  the other side of this path were rolling green hills leading down to the long pebble beach.

The weather was beautiful, with blue skies and warm air and only a couple of hours of rain in the whole week.

There was nothing to do but relax.

There weren't shops everywhere, or tasks to be done. There weren't people around you rushing and stressing and gossiping.

People were quiet. People were calm. People were strolling. People were walking their dogs. People were friendly.

The pace of life was about ten times slower than London, at least.

Walking along the beach paths and down grassy paths, I could breathe in unpolluted air. The breeze was fresh. The smell of the sea was everywhere and uninterrupted.

There's something so calming about the sight and sound of the tiny waves lapping against the pebbles, or that fuzzy, almost indistinct line on the horizon where sea meets sky.

When I got home, the people I live with said I look 'really refreshed'.

And I feel it.

My mind is always racing, but for the week its pace had slowed, worries seemed smaller, and time was free to take it slow.

I felt completely removed from everything, and I think it did me an awful lot of good.

There's always the temptation to fill free time with fun things to do. There are so many opportunities and places and people to see.

But sometimes, you need to just press pause. To breathe. To take in the tiniest details of the nature around you. To press refresh. To be slow.

Monday, 23 May 2016

A Week by the Seaside (Photo Diary)

I've had a bit of a blog break over the last couple of weeks for a number of reasons, but the main one is that I've just spent a week at the seaside!

I spent Friday to Friday at a cottage by the beach in Herne Bay, Kent, where the itinerary was nothing but relaxation.

I've walked, I've mini golfed, I've napped, I've watched films and most importantly I've relaxed.

It's so easy to get swept away in the pace of work and life, especially in the mad rush that is London. I'm someone that gets stressed very easily, yet sometimes don't admit to myself when I need a break.

The week away was great timing for a lot of reasons, and I thought today I'd just share some pictures of the beautiful place I've been spending my days...

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Thirty years

On this day thirty years ago my parents said ‘I do’.

My mum looked beautiful. Dad had a dodgy moustache and wasn’t sure the correct way to kneel down during the marriage ceremony.

Thirty years on, they’re celebrating their love on an incredible trip around Sri Lanka.

They’re in love, and they’re the best of friends.

I have so much admiration for the two people I call Mum and Dad, and their relationship is just one of the things I have been so lucky to grow up around.

They laugh. They bicker. They support. They mess about. They make plans.

They go on adventures. They go on dates. They have ‘couple friends’ and their own friends.

They both run their own companies and support each other relentlessly through the ups and downs that come with that.

They taught my sister and me so much of what we know. They put us through fantastic schools and helped us continue on to our universities. They help us when we need advice, or are struggling. 

They let us make our own mistakes, whilst making it clear they’re there when we need them.

They taught me the importance of making time for the people that matter.

They taught me that when you love someone, you should want to be with them all the time, but also love your time apart, which you can then come together and share tales about.

They taught me the importance of family, and supporting one another.

They brought up my sister and me in a happy, happy home, full of love and support.

When we make mistakes, they tell us why we were wrong.

When we do things well, they’re the proudest people in the world.

I feel so lucky to have parents who are still so in love, and live every day together as the best of friends.

They have taught me so much about love, life and family. To me they are the most important people in the world.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

The Reading List #40

This is by far one of my favourite reading lists, in that these books were all five star. Some I had been meaning to read for a long time before finally picking them up, and I’m so glad I finally read them. Others I had never heard of until picking them up and now can’t stop recommending them.

Dominion, C. J. Sansom

It is 1952, in a world where Britain surrendered to Hitler in 1940, and Churchill is leading an underground resistance movement. Full of spies and political drama, this was a real page-turner. The story was good, but what I loved the most was how utterly convincing the world created was. It felt like a very realistic scenario, and this was sustained throughout the novel. I’ve recommended this one to a lot of people.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire & The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson

The plot begins in the first book, with Mikael Blomkvist researching the Vanger Corporation for an unsolved mystery. Lisbeth Salander is a hacker and a lone wolf, with whom he crosses paths… And that’s all I can say! This isn’t a genre I’d typically go for – there’s a fair amount of violence and a focus on coding and hacking. The intricate plot also pulls in journalism and corruption, and it’s a real page-turner. Blomkvist and Salander are also stunningly complex characters, who I enjoyed reading about.

The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown

A Louvre curator has been brutally murdered, and his body is left surrounded by codes. Professor Robert Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu work together through the riddles. I came to this one way after everyone else had read it, and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to. There’s plenty of suspense, and the ‘history’ is plausible and well thought-out. There were some moments where I couldn’t help feeling they’d escaped or cracked a code a little too easily to be believable, but overall it was a good read.

The Storyteller, Jodi Picoult

Easily one of my favourite books in a long time. The story spans two generations – one part is a man and his family, who are living with secrets in the present day; the other part is a Holocaust tale. This was just breath-taking, with the lives of the characters intricately woven. The story of one woman’s journey as a girl in horrific circumstances, and how her gift for storytelling kept her going, was beautiful. Both the war story and the present day were written well, with great characters, and I definitely shed a few tears.

Which books have you read recently which you can’t stop reading?

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

What works for some people doesn't for all...

Anyone who knows me well knows two things about me:

1. I make lists, lots of lists. I wrote about that here.
2. If I'm into a routine of doing something, or interested in something, I will give it my full attention and headspace.

This year, I've been making an effort to eat better and move more, and for the first time ever feel like I've been making some real progress, but there are still changes I want to make.

Recently, I realised one of the changes I had made was actually damaging my progression and the way I looked at myself.

I was keeping a record of what I was eating, and what exercise I was doing.

This was originally to let me keep track of what I was doing and let me notice improvements that could be made. Writing down what you're eating is also something I've heard recommended many times to hold yourself accountable, and notice any unhealthy patterns you might have fallen into.

A few weeks ago, I realised these lists were becoming a problem. Rather than using them as tools to learn from and allow me to make improvements, I was becoming fixated on them.

I absolutely had to fill in the lists at the end of the day.

I was writing everything, down to how many flights of stairs I'd climbed or what portions I was having of each food.

 I wasn't using them as a useful record to learn from; I was using the lists to get frustrated at myself.

If there was a day where I hadn't done the exercise I'd planned to, I wouldn't say 'oh well, I can do better tomorrow'. I was looking at the list thinking 'I've failed'.

When it comes to food, I was just highlighting another problem area. My relationship with food, though improving, is still a very complicated one. There are a huge number of foods I still won't touch, which all relate back to things that were happening when my anxiety was at its worst.

At some point, when I'm ready, I will write about this relationship with food. For now, all that's important is that the relationship is complex, and that it means there sometimes is not the variety or speed of improvement I might want.

I carried on with these lists for a good few months, convinced I should be doing them because it works for other people.

A few weeks ago, I knew I had to stop.

Since throwing away the lists, my exercise pattern has been more consistent. I've tried harder in the workouts I do, and if I need a day off then I have one.

Since throwing away the lists, I've tried two foods I haven't touched in thee years (since pre-anxiety), and I've stopped judging myself so harshly. I've also found it easier to cut out as much of the junk food now I'm not writing down my mistakes.

I guess the point of this post is that everyone is different. Techniques that work for some are the worst solution for others. Through trial and error, you'll find what works for you.

If a method other people rave about doesn't feel right for you, just stop.

It's your life, live it your way.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Hello, May 2016

The fifth month of the year has already joined us.

As I always say, the past month has flown by.

April began with the most beautiful, sunny weekend in Hertfordshire. I finally went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour, and had a day out at Paradise Wildlife Park. De Vere Theobalds Park Hotel was the setting for the weekend, and I had the most relaxing, wonderful time.

Later in the month, my wonderful friend Laura RAN THE LONDON MARATHON. I'm so, so proud of her, and was tracking her throughout the whole course, getting a little emotional when she'd done it.

I also saw Disney's stunning new adaptation of The Jungle Book, and had plenty of lovely, relaxed meals out.

It was an action-packed month, as usual, with these things joined by a busy month at work, and the final appointment of my 6-week intensive counselling course for my anxiety.

In amongst all that, the month has just slipped by.

May looks set to be a good one, too.

I've got a few plans and evenings out coming up, followed by a whole week at the seaside in Kent, taking a real break from everything to just slow down and relax in amazing company.

My parents are off on an incredible trip to Sri Lanka to celebrate THIRTY years of marriage, and I can't wait to hear about their adventures (and get a bit jealous). My sister spent most of April in Indonesia visiting monkeys and Komodo dragons and volcanoes, so maybe I need to up my game!

Hopefully May will bring some sunny days, as I'm struggling with the fact the weather just can't make up its mind what to do at the moment!

I'm ready for you, May. Welcome.

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