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The last couple of weeks have been really bloody weird, and they’re only set to get weirder both societally and in my head. Today for instance, I thought about cleaning out the U-bend under my kitchen sink, as it’s been smelly for weeks, (and by weeks I mean years), but then I decided I was going to save it as a treat, so I didn’t use all the activities up all at once.

A treat! Honestly, I worry about myself sometimes.

I am doing other things to keep myself busy at home though, things that actually feel relaxing, like catching up on reading and getting through my backlog of interiors magazines. I do find interiors a really lovely escapism, so when FURCO got in touch this week to see if I fancied writing a piece about modern interiors, I thought it might be a nice distraction. FURCO is an online furniture superstore that’s a one stop shop for everything for the home – beds, sofas, dining, the lot. Have a browse of their full collection at https://www.furco.co.uk/.

For anyone else who fancies escaping from the world for a bit via the medium of coral pink velvet sofas, I thought I’d share some of my interiors related Pinterest boards. In fact ‘organise Pinterest boards’ should probably go on my list of activity ideas, for once I’ve indulged myself in the joy that is the U-bend.

Living coral interiors

Okay, so living coral was the Pantone colour of the year last year, but it’s one of my favourites and I think it’s so beautiful in a home, either on the walls or in the soft furnishings. You’ll notice this board features more than one coral pink squishy velvet sofa. The DREAM sofa.

Vibrant living rooms

My house surprises me sometimes. My walls are all fairly neutral and I’ve done very little painting since I moved in – just the chimney breast in the living room and one wall of my bedroom, which I painted a dark teal. It surprises me because whenever I cut things out of magazines that I like, or make Pinterest boards for living spaces, they are always about colour and patterns and textures. Oh and lots of velvet sofas. I honestly don’t know why I’ve never just bought a velvet sofa.

Conservatory goals

Before coronavirus, back when I had a decent regular income and could picture the future, I thought a lot about a conservatory. My neighbour has one on the back of their house and I’m kind of envious about all the extra space it gives them. I would love to have a room with doors that opened out onto the garden and space to properly go to town on my plant obsession, and that’s what this Pinterest board is all about.

If you could design your dream interior, or pick that one piece of furniture you’ve also wanted in your home, what would it look like? Leave a comment and let me know!

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My mum told me yesterday that she doesn’t think I know how to worry properly.

It was because I’d been telling her that one of my main worries about the coronavirus was zombies. Zombies or perhaps man-eating plants. ‘I don’t care how much toilet paper I have,’ I said, ‘the most stressful thing about going to the supermarket is getting out of the car and expecting to see the undead shuffle out of the trolley park.’

‘I absolutely promise you,’ she said, ‘that there will not be any zombies.’

‘That’s exactly what they say at this point in the books,’ I pointed out, in what felt like a completely reasonable way, ‘but then the virus mutates and suddenly your shrubs are trying to eat you in the night.’

‘I think perhaps that you’re not used to worrying,’ said my mum, ‘and that you’re not sure how to process it. I don’t think it’s really about zombies.’

She might be right.

Whereas my sister, in her own words, has been ‘prepping for this moment her whole life’, emotionally at least, (although they do also always have more than a normal amount of pasta at home), I have not. Anxiety has historically not been my ‘thing’ and I prefer to waft through life unconcerned by external events or health concerns. Over the last year or so though, maybe age, maybe the midlife unravelling, I’d already started to notice odd niggles about things taking root – a needless trip to the optician because my eyes ‘don’t feel right’ here, a cry over the pointlessness of life there. I’ve felt slightly off my game for a while and coronavirus feels like it could be the thing that tips me over the edge.

25 years of reading dystopian fiction has left me with an ingrained fear of things like viruses, over which we appear to have so little control. It feels scary to me because it’s unpredictable, it could be anywhere and because we don’t know how to kill it.

Just like zombies. View Post

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In the past I’ve had a pretty laissez-faire attitude to parenting.

It’s not that I don’t care, (she types carefully, just for the record), it’s more that my priority is for my children to do something that makes them happy and that they enjoy, rather than being one of those parents who forces their kids into ballet and violin lessons at age three and plays Mozart to the them in the womb.

If anything, you could say I have a tendency to be too hands off, and that the lack of discipline in my nature has left them sometimes feeling a bit at sea when it comes to having support with big life choices. Or maybe not, who knows – you’d have to ask them I guess.

You wouldn’t think though that, when it came to educational choices, I’d have a particularly strong opinion, so it’s always felt rather out of character for me that when Bee voiced a desire to do ‘BTEC Babies’ after she finished school, I was more than a little discouraging. (It wasn’t actually called BTEC Babies, we just call it that whenever Bee brings it up as an example of my failings as a parent, and it has kind of stuck.)

T Levels

Post-16 Bee thinking wistfully about what life might have been like if I’d let her do BTEC Babies

I’m ashamed to say that there was definitely an element of snobbery behind me telling her she’d be much better off doing A Levels. I could remember so clearly being that age and the stigma attached to BTECs – they were very much seen at the time, at least by my friends, as something you did if you weren’t clever enough to take the ‘proper’ academic route. I was also concerned that by not doing A Levels she’d be limiting herself in terms of what else she might be able to do. Essentially I didn’t see the value in a vocational qualification.

How wrong I was.

As university fees have soared, and the graduate job market becomes increasingly competitive, school leavers are looking for different routes into work, routes that let them continue their studies at the same time as getting useful, real world experience. While A Levels continue to be a popular choice, apprenticeships have staged an impressive comeback over recent years, with opportunities up to degree level, and attitudes towards technical qualifications generally have definitely shifted. Loads of the parents I speak to nowadays are encouraging their kids to think outside the A Level box and explore different options post-GCSEs.

One of these options is T Levels. View Post

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About a month ago I had what might possibly have been the worst cold sore that any human being has ever had.

Okay, that’s a bit of and exaggeration, but it was definitely the worst cold sore that I’ve ever had. I don’t get them that often, and didn’t get any at all until I was in my 30s, but when they strike they go all out, guns blazing.

I do what I can, smearing them liberally with cold sore cream as soon as I feel the tingle, but they laugh in my face. Literally in my face, because that’s what so horrible about cold sores isn’t it? They are RIGHT THERE. You can’t escape from them, or hide them. It’s not like when you were a teenager – you can’t wear a casual white polo neck under your school shirt like you might to hide a dodgy love bite. (Hypothetically.)

Every single time you talk to someone your cold sore wiggles about, drawing attention to itself. Mine take so long to go away too because my tongue obsesses over them, poking and prodding even though I tell it not too. They’re horrible things and anything that could help to get rid of them quicker, or even stop them appearing at all, has got to be worth a try hasn’t it?

That’s why I agreed to write a post about HERPOthermView Post

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It’s 5.30pm on a Sunday evening and I’m in an old church in Bristol. Long ropes dangle from the ceiling as I stand, 6 feet above the ground, on a trapeze. I lean forward, one leg extended behind me. I crouch slowly and sit down on the bar. I lean back and let go with one hand, twisting my body, my legs stretched out straight, toes pointed.

In that moment I feel powerful, alive, and only vaguely concerned about how sweaty my palm feels on the rope. In my mind I look like this and in lieu of photographic evidence I defy anyone to prove otherwise:

Trapeze artist

Last week, in our first session of a five week aerial skills course, we were on the hoop. With the hoop I felt about as graceful as a badly coordinated toddler trying to zip up a coat. On the trapeze though, (once the instructor has helped me get on), I am a goddess, full of energy and grace.

Now I’m not saying that two weeks of drinking Ensure Max Protein everyday has turned me into a world class circus acrobat, ready to fly through the air, confident in my strength and power, but it has made me a little less tired, given me a little more energy, and that can’t be a bad thing, not when according to research*, around 10.5 million of us in the UK feel exhausted from our ‘always on’ lives.

I don’t know if it’s age, or the midlife unravelling or what it is really, but a lot lately, (the last couple of years if I’m honest), I’ve just felt pretty tired. Worn out with having to DO everything, by myself, all the time. Tired of being always responsible, generating all my own work, having to remember to reply to my Instagram messages and get the car MOTed and have Belle’s eyes tested and, and, and…

*deep breaths* View Post

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New year, new decade and all that, so this morning I indulged in some typical new year activities i.e. looking back through social media pictures over the years and being drawn into my own story, where I always look so much younger and healthier and like I’ve spent every single day doing interesting things with interesting people or having interesting thoughts.

I spent a few minutes sighing wistfully and wondering what happened to the me that hired a jukebox for the weekend just to have a Grease themed party, and then I looked through the pictures on my phone rather than the carefully curated ones and remembered that most of the time I was actually just eating beans on toast and watching First Dates on catch up.

I’m not sure which is worse really – sighing over a life that was mostly imagined or realising you’ve probably been quite boring all along.

While I was in my phone pictures I found this, which I saved from a book I read in March 2018 and have been meaning to do something with ever since. March 2018 was a few weeks before I turned 40 and clearly I was feeling it.

It made me realise that although I didn’t put my midlife unravelling into words until over a year later in this post from June last year, and even wrote then that I felt taken by surprise, the first loose threads were already there back in that March, which is nearly two years ago now.

I read the unravelling post back to myself before I wrote this and felt that same twist of recognition in my chest, which makes you wonder doesn’t it, how long is it meant to last? View Post

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When I lived in Bristol I didn’t often venture south of the river into Bedminster. Partly I didn’t really think I was cool enough, but also I wasn’t convinced there was any reason to visit. Bedminster is the grotty bit of Bristol right?

Wrong!

Okay sure, some parts of it are still ‘up and coming’, but in terms of shopping, eating and entertainment it actually has a lot going on. I should probably feel more of a soft spot for it as an area too as Bedminster used to be its own town, separate from Bristol, and until 1831 was part of Somerset. Fun fact for you there.

Nowadays I can’t stake any claim to it geographically, but I went to have a wander around to see how things have changed since 1831, (hint: a lot), and to give you some tips for places to visit the next time you’re in Bedminster, especially if you’re heading to Bristol to do some Christmas shopping.

I’ve been into south Bristol quite a few times, mainly to see shows at The Tobacco Factory or to visit their outdoor market, but I’ve never ventured much past the immediate area around the theatre. The top end of North Street definitely has plenty going on, including the new Greta artwork, painted for Upfest this year, and the amazing Souk Kitchen where I ate possibly the best flatbread I’ve ever tasted.

Greta painting Bedminster

Pay attention to the car to give you an idea of the scale

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honesty in blogging

Honesty has always been incredibly important to me.

That sounds kind of obvious, but when you start to pay attention it’s amazing how many little lies we let slip through just in the course of a day – excuses for not wanting to go out in the evening, white lies to children – it all adds up.

The older I get, the more I try to avoid these little lies, even if they feel like they might not do any harm. It might feel easier to tell a friend you can’t come out because you have a headache, but is it really any harder to just say ‘you know what, I really do want to see you, but today has just been exhausting and I know if we go out tonight I’m going to be rubbish company and neither of us will have a good time’?

I also try to be honest because I want other people to be honest with me. I’d much prefer to ask someone how they are and hear that actually, things aren’t great, if that’s the reality of their situation. I find it hard to be all ‘oh yeah, fine, great!’ with people when that’s not how I’m feeling and it’s through our vulnerability, sharing the bad stuff as well as the good, that we form real connections with people.

When it comes to blogging and social media it’s the same – I want to present a real version of myself so that you feel that the relationship we have as writer and reader is a genuine one. I’m not afraid to tell you when I’m sad, or when I get my vagina rejuvenated, and I like that. It’s like we’re chums.

What I’m finding more and more difficult though is feeling like I’m telling you the truth, but not the whole truth. View Post

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When I mention TikTok to anyone over the age of about 30, the usual response is a kind of blank stare. ‘What’s TikTok?’ they ask, saying ‘TikTok’ in the same slow, confused way that my mum says ‘mobile data’, sounding out every syllable with equal emphasis, like it’s a foreign language.

Chances are though that even if you don’t use TikTok, your young adults do. As we all know, responsible parents take internet safety very seriously and definitely don’t just watch Gardener’s World pretending not to have noticed that their teen is an hour over the screen time limit.

Seriously though, it is important to at least have an understanding of what TikTok is about, and how to use TikTok’s safety and security features, even if you’d rather be planning next year’s borders. It’s important to understand how to use it safely.

I’ve put together a TikTok guide for parents to help you get to grips with what it’s all about.

What is TikTok?

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a free app for 13+, (available on Android and IOS), that lets you record, share and watch short videos. They often involve goofing around to popular music, (I said ‘popular music’ in my head like an old person – ‘ooh is that in the hit parade?’), and TikTok can actually be influential in turning songs into hits.

Belle uses TikTok a lot for making short dance videos or odd montages where she jumps in the air and lands in a different outfit. The last thing that Belle made and showed me was a short video, set to music, of her pushing one of Joey’s toy cars slowly towards a woodlouse on the carpet. No, I don’t understand either, but this is what counts as funny nowadays apparently. My point is that there is a massive range of content on TikTok and it’s a great platform for exploring your creativity. View Post

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It’s 10 years ago now since I gave up the nine to five and became self-employed.

Bee and Belle were fourteen and seven at the time and I made the decision for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I may have been drunk. Secondly I was sick of wasting my time for not much money – it felt like I was spending hours at my desk and often accomplishing very little. Not (always) because I was being slack, but because there’s always so much down time, waiting on decisions, waiting on management.

There has been a lot of research in fact into the amount of actual WORK that people get done on the average working day and most of it, like this study, concludes than in the average eight hour day at the office, most people do less than three hours of work.

It’s ridiculous isn’t it?

I hated the rigidity of it, having to turn up and be at your desk between set hours, just because that’s what everybody does. It felt so pointless, especially when, as a single parent, I was having to do things like forgo school performances and pay for extra childcare. I spent five years after Belle was born stressing myself out, working badly paid, part-time jobs for which I was generally over-qualified, driving from one job to another on my lunch break, scoffing a sandwich in the car. It wasn’t much fun and I didn’t make much money.

I knew that if I worked for myself I could get the flexibility I needed to prioritise my children. I also knew that I was smart and could work quickly and would probably end up working far fewer hours for the same money, if not more.

I was right.

Fast forward 10 years then to last week, when I was listening to a presentation about business growth.

“Put your hand up,” said the speaker, “if you would like to grow your business.” He smiled and kind of chuckled, as though that was an obvious question. Who wouldn’t want to grow their business? Dur.

I kept my hand down. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Funky Pigeon

I’m going to be completely honest here and say that in my younger days I would have found the idea of personalised Christmas gifts a little tacky. I say ‘my younger days’ like I’m referring to the 1870s or something – I just mean when I was maybe in my early twenties and still clinging to the illusion that if I just tried hard enough, and walked with enough nonchalance, that I could be COOL.

Obviously I can’t – I have a collection of Nancy Drew books and the Inspector Morse box set – but the lovely thing about getting older is that you don’t actually care any more. I love that sassy girl detective and you can like it or lump it. Plus I just remembered that when Belle was a baby I had a photo of her and Bee put on a mousemat, so, perhaps I’ve always secretly loved personalised gifts.

If you fancy putting the face of someone you love on a Christmas bauble this year then you’ve come to the right place! I put this post together with the help of Funky Pigeon’s range of first Christmas gifts and with the exclusive code JO20 you can get 20% off baubles, cushions, snow globes, and photo blocks until December 23rd.

This Christmas will be our first with baby Joey, which opens up lots of opportunities for personalised ‘baby’s first Christmas’ items. Joey is adorable – put him on a personalised cushion and seriously, what’s not to love?

Personalised cushion

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Yep, that’s right. Who doesn’t want a life free from ‘worrying about vaginal inconveniences’? It’s a quote from the Silk’n website and the turn of phrase made me smile. I pictured trying to get into a car park, late for a meeting, and being blocked by a row of inconveniently placed vaginas.

It’s not that obviously.

What it actually refers to is all of those issues that come with age, childbirth and menopause – weakening vaginal walls, urinary incontinence, diminished sexual pleasure – all those really FUN things that we experience as women. God, it’s a great life isn’t it?

You may remember that a while ago I went and had my vagina zapped at a clinic in London to tackle the same issues, and as great as it was, that was a one off treatment that only lasted for around 18 months. It was also pricey and had to be done by an expert. The Silk’n Tightra has a similar aim, but it’s the first of these kind of ‘women’s intimate health’ devices that you can use at home. It’s also a lot more affordable – buy it direct from the Silk’n website at the moment for £309.

Silk’n Tightra uses clinically tested and proven Bi-Polar Radiofrequency energy – the same technology that’s used a lot in facial treatments to tighten and rejuvenate skin. Home facial devices have become increasingly popular as an alternative to paying for expensive clinical treatments, and the Silk’n Tightra is just like this, only for your downstairs bits.

Here’s a proper video explaining exactly how it works, in case my incredibly high tech explanation wasn’t enough:

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