A couple of weeks ago this picture popped up on my Instagram feed:

A post shared by Madelaine (@fromxthextower) on

I looked at it, scrolled on a bit, and then went back and looked at it some more. (It’s from a woman called Maddie by the way, who writes a really thought provoking blog here.)

I thought about it for a little while and started to feel a bit sad and cross all at once. Why it is that we have come to equate love with pain? Why do so many people feel that love without turbulence is somehow less worthy, less REAL? View Post

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I had a day last week where I looked at the step counter on my phone and it said ‘789’.

For an ENTIRE DAY.

Gawd.

789 steps. What’s the matter with me??

(Can I just say, in my defence, that I don’t have anything on my wrist, so it does only count steps I do whilst I have my phone on me and not things like walking into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, but still.)

NOT GOOD.

I was about to say it because it’s winter – the cold etc – but then I checked myself, because it’s not really that at all, I’m just a lazy bones. I don’t play any sports, I do not RUN, (*shudders*), and unless it’s towards the packet of rich tea fingers on the floor by my chair then stretching doesn’t feature high on my list of activities either.

In fact, my own laziness was a big part of the motivation behind me getting an office a couple of years ago. When you work at home those 789 step days can become a common occurrence. At least now, (most days), I walk to my office and back. Unless it’s pouring with rain. Or I can think of another legitimate excuse.

But still. It’s a bit lame.

What’s especially lame is that once I’m actually out and walking, I really quite enjoy it. It’s a bit like the washing up – it STARES at you, taunting you, making you imagine how AWFUL it’s going to be, but it’s never as bad once you start.

I’m going to hit 40 in a few months though, and I really don’t want to become one of those middle aged ladies who groans getting in and out of chairs.

(‘Become’ – ha!)

So I have decided to take action.

It’s clearly not enough for me to HAVE a step counter, I need other people to SEE my step counter. I need to be shamed into taking action. I need to feel that competitive instinct – the one that doesn’t let small children beat me at SNAP.

(They don’t learn if you let them win.)

So I’ve downloaded the Sport Relief app.

Sport relief app View Post

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You know when something happens that just makes you despair of humanity? Well that.

Here’s what happened. (I deleted the actual messages as I was so cross, so this is roughly what went down.)

I had arranged a brunch date with a guy I met online. We’d exchanged a few messages, but he seemed keen to meet. Fine. All good. And then I got a cold, which turned into a horrible cough. Anyone who knows me knows I get horrible coughs. I had visions of coughing and spluttering eggs benedict in his face.

It was not sexy.

So a few days before we were due to meet I let him know that I wasn’t feeling well.

‘Are you trying to tell me something?’ he said.

‘Well yes,’ I replied, ‘I’m trying to tell you I’m not well. I wanted to warn you, in case I didn’t get better.’

‘Right,’ he said, ‘only if you’re fobbing me off then I’d rather you were just up front about it.’

‘I’m not fobbing you off,’ I said, bristling. ‘I have a cough. I’m telling you, that’s all. Would you like an audio file?’

‘It’s just that six ladies since November have suddenly developed coughs a couple of days before we’re meant to go out, so I’d rather you were just honest with me if you’re going to cancel and then I’m never going to hear from you again.’

I was annoyed. I don’t care how many people have said what to him. That’s not me is it?

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I was doing a bit of research this week for a new list.

As you may know, back in 2013 (GAH!) I made a list of 40 things I wanted to do before I turned 40, an event which has rather crept up on me and appears to be happening THIS APRIL.

I’ll be writing more about that at some point, but in the meantime I have started thinking about my next list – 50 things to do before 50. Obviously it will include things like ‘stagger about a bit at the fact that I am in my 40s’, but I also want it to have some fun and unusual things on it, so I was doing some Googling.

I happened upon this list from American Cosmopolitan, (which I should have realised was a bad sign), of ‘50 things every woman should do before she dies.’

Given the publication, I guess I should have expected things like ‘learn to give the perfect blow job at the same time as achieving the dream thigh gap with this one miracle exercise’, but it still made me cross.

Here are some of the things that American Cosmopolitan thinks we should aspire to, some KEY LIFE GOALS for women:

  • Put a streak in your hair, or dye all of it
  • Learn to make one full meal
  • Eat dessert for breakfast
  • Eat a huge piece of cake (or candy bar or ice cream cone or whatever your favourite dessert is) and feel wonderful about it
  • Make a whole cake for no reason other than to sit there and attack it with forks alone/with your roommate/boyfriend
  • Just completely lose it at customer service when they’re being dicks  
  • Spend an entire day eating nothing but crap
  • Speak in public

krispy kreme

Well, I think already we are feeling EMPOWERED aren’t we ladies?? View Post

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I’ve been single now for coming up five months.

On the one hand I am perfectly happy – work is good, I’m settling into my house, and have the kitties obviously. Who could fail to be happy with three cats of their very own to stroke every single day? I love being able to do everything on my own terms, have all the kittens on the bed without anyone raising their eyebrows at me, spend all my spare money on yellow velvet armchairs from eBay, all that jazz.

But also sometimes I feel lonely.

When I say this to people, or words to this effect, there isn’t a huge amount of sympathy.

‘You don’t need a man!’ people say. (Normally married people. Cheers guys.)

‘Embrace being single!’ (Okay…)

‘You’re perfectly fine just you!’ (Obviously.)

I do know all those things. I don’t NEED a man. I am perfectly capable of doing all the things that need to be done, I have loving friends and family, I can work a drill and I can kick back with a puzzle as well as the next person. I GET IT.

But still, sometimes I feel lonely.

Not in a way where I feel physically alone, but a little bit like something is missing. Just sometimes. Not like I’m sobbing into a tub of Ben & Jerry’s every night or anything, but from time to time it would be nice to have someone squeeze my hand and exchange a glance that’s just for me.

And this is OKAY. View Post

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This week we went down to Cornwall to stay with my Dad and Step-Mum for a bit of post-Christmas family time. On Wednesday evening we settled down to a game of Balderdash, my Dad’s favourite.

For those of you who don’t know, Balderdash is a game where you each make up an alternative definition of a word, a law, an acronym – things like that – with the aim of convincing the other players that yours is the correct one.

So, it was my turn to be the ‘dasher’, who’s the person that reads out the clue, and while everyone else was writing down their ideas I had a look at the other categories on the card. I looked at the acronym – B.H.G.A. I turned the card over the see what it was.

British Hang Gliding Association.

Cool.

EXCEPT WAIT, WHAT??

British HANG Gliding Association?? What on earth is HANG gliding? View Post

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I was checking my direct messages on Twitter yesterday. I have it set up so that anyone can message me, even if I don’t follow them, so that I can be contacted by potential clients, bloggers asking for advice, fans wanting signed photos, that sort of thing.

One message was a photo.

‘That’s weird,’ I thought to myself, ‘is that just a hand?’

I looked again. It was a cupped hand, palm up.

‘What’s he holding?’ I wondered, ‘is that Caesar salad dressing?’

Oh.

(Not salad dressing.)

So my question here is, what the actual hell?? In what world is this is a normal thing to send a woman you have never even spoken to before? What part of someone’s brain tells them that this is okay? View Post

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I had a boyfriend once who refused to kick piles of autumn leaves.

Every time I did it, he would do that thing where you draw your breath in sharply between your teeth.

‘What’s the matter?’ I would say, foot mid air, ready to send a heap of red and gold leaves flying across the path.

‘You shouldn’t kick the leaves like that,’ he would reply. ‘You never know what might be under them. You’ll probably end up kicking dog shit.’

It took the edge of my autumnal fun, that’s for sure.

It made me sad too, because as an attitude to life, what even is this??

why you should kick autumn leaves View Post

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This is a post about salted caramel.

I hadn’t given a lot of thought, past vague annoyance, to salted caramel as a concept until I did a poll on Twitter about scones. (It’s afternoon tea week.) Someone replied to my poll saying that they had actually just come onto Twitter to complain about the fact that they had seen a salted caramel scone which, we agreed, is all kinds of wrong.

Firstly, scones should be plain. The jam and the cream are the stars there. But that’s not the point. The point is that SALTED CARAMEL HAS TAKEN OVER THE WORLD.

too much salted caramel

(Not literally obviously, that would be impractical.)

Salted caramel needs to get back in its box.

Salted caramel was fun and exciting for a little while back in 20XX*, but JUST STOP NOW. Yes, yes, it was very clever, putting something so sweet with something so salty, (salt), but enough already. We’re over it.

I had a quick look at all of the different salted caramel things you can get now and it’s just stupid.

Salted caramel rice pudding, salted caramel coffee, salted caramel tequila, salted caramel lip balm, SALTED CARAMEL GREEN TEA?! Nope. If you’re looking to build a bit of muscle you can even get salted caramel flavour ‘impact whey protein’, whatever that is.

That’s enough salted caramel. We tasted your salty sweet goodness and we liked it, but hush now.

*I was going to do some research and pin it down but I didn’t want salted caramel to WIN.

Image – by MaraZe/shutterstock

 

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‘Are you busy?’

I swear I’ve been asked this at least half a dozen times this week by different people. And not in an ‘are you busy because I need a quick word’ sort of way, but in an ‘is work generally busy’ way.

‘No,’ I answer.

That throws people. They look confused, as though I’ve just admitted out loud to being a FAILURE AT LIFE.

I’ve had to start explaining to people that the reason I wanted to work for myself in the first place was for the flexibility to take time off whenever I liked, or to have quieter periods during the school holidays. For me, that’s the whole point of self-employment. Why on earth would you give up a stable, reliable income and then continue to work like someone was watching you all the time?

I’m not busy at the moment because I choose not to be. SHOCK HORROR.

It’s the middle of the summer holidays and next year Belle goes into year eleven, so I want to be at home while she’s still vaguely interested in hanging out with me. We also moved into a new house at the end of June, and it’s nice to be able to potter about arranging books into pretty colours and generally settling in.

Just because I’m not busy, does that mean I’m not successful or hard working? Does it mean I’m lazy, or that no one wants to work with me? View Post

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If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen that Belle and I have recently been in Greece, on the island of Leros. We were there as part of a trip organised by Blog Authentic, to find out more about the refugee situation and to help out in any way we could. It was a fantastic trip, and I’ll be writing more about it over the next few weeks, but I just wanted to share something that I’ve been thinking about a lot since we got back.

It’s essentially about luck.

Take a look at this picture:

Greece refugees

It was taken by Kirby from Blog Authentic one afternoon when we went with some of the refugee families on a trip to the local beach. It’s only a ten minute drive away from the dilapidated ex-mental hospital building they currently live in, but they can’t visit often because the centre doesn’t have any transport. It’s only a small thing, but we were pleased to be able to organise some cars for the afternoon.

The boy on the right is called Winston. He is five years old and he lives in Yorkshire with his mum and dad and his two brothers. He likes colouring and drawing and he has beautiful handwriting. His mum Esther writes the blog Inside Out and About and we absolutely loved sharing our experiences in Greece with them.

The teenage boy on the left is called Matez*. He likes swimming and he loved Winston. They posed for dozens of photos together. He is currently living in Leros in a refugee centre all alone, as an underage minor, without any of his family. His mum and dad and brother are still in Damascus in Syria. We asked Matez where he hoped to live eventually. He said he just wanted to go home.

So what has Winston done ‘right’ that means he gets to live with his family in a safe country? What has Matez done ‘wrong’ that means he is alone in a foreign country with no idea of what’s going to happen to him?

Nothing.

It’s just luck.

It was just luck that Winston was born in the UK. Just luck that Matez was born in Syria. It’s just luck that you’re reading this now, probably from a perfectly comfy sofa or office chair, knowing that your family are safe and that you live without fear for your life.

What feels doubly unfair to me though is that so many people feel like they are somehow ‘better’ than people like Matez, that they can sit on that comfy sofa and judge him – package him up in their mind into a group of people who are somehow less deserving of love and support and kindness.

Matez is a CHILD. An ordinary boy. He likes swimming in the sea and making new friends. He just happens to have been born in Syria and is now on his own, missing his family. It feels so sad and wrong to me that life deals out such different hands to people, purely at random, and yet we can’t open our hearts to everyone, regardless of where luck lands them.

Winston talked about his new friends all the way home and wants to go back and visit them, but how can you explain to a five year old that Matez doesn’t even know where chance will take him next?

We’ve set up a fund to raise money for the refugee families on Leros. Please donate here. Belle and I have seen for ourselves what a big difference a small gesture can make. Thank you.

*Some names have be changed.

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I had an email this morning from a PR I’ve person not worked with before with the offer of a review for my blog.

‘Hi Lovely!’ it began, which immediately made me want to punch the sender in the face.

‘Hope you’re well,’ she went on. ‘We are looking for a Mum who’s had several natural births, for a non-invasive £5K vaginal rejuvenation treatment on offer with top Harley Street Doctor.’

What the actual f***? My first thought was of the doctor adjusting his head torch, and going in with a feather duster and one of those Dulux tester posts of satin finish emulsion. And then I got pissed off.

I wrote back.

‘Thanks for your email but it’s not one for me thanks,’ I said. ‘I have had two natural births which were, as you say, NATURAL. I’m quite happy with my vagina and do not want or need it rejuvenated. I find it very sad that women are made to believe that they would ever need to spend £5,000 on something as ridiculous as this.’

I mean come on.

I hate this. I hate that women are conditioned to loathe their bodies to the point that they would consider spending actual money on having their VAGINAS REJUVENATED. What the hell is the matter with the world?? Can we not just content ourselves with the MIRACLE THAT IS BIRTH?!?!

vaginal rejuvenation

Image – Vasiuk Iryna/shutterstock

‘Oh yeah, I have grown and birthed two healthy human beings, but to be honest I think things are looking a bit shabby down there now, so I should probably have that tidied up.’

FOR WHO??

Who are we doing this for?

I’m pretty sure it’s not for ourselves. Do you crouch over a mirror every morning and dream of rejuvenation? After the treatment would you get dressed thinking ‘I’m so glad I had my vagina tidied up, I’m going to look so much better for it in my meeting this afternoon.’

It made me mad.

Is it just me?

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