In association with Thomas Sabo

I have this thing with rings.

I’ve always liked them, generally, but the thing started about eight or nine years ago one day in Glastonbury. I’d gone over to meet a friend for breakfast and we were talking about something rather exciting for me that had happened the day before. I’ve always had a terrible memory, but I knew I wanted to remember this particular thing, so I decided to buy myself a piece of jewellery to mark the occasion.

I bought myself a rather lovely silver ring made with abalone shell, which I love. I bought it to fit the ring finger on my left hand, not especially out of any kind of marriage related principle, but just because it looked nice there and I’m a grown up person and can wear a ring on whatever finger I like, thank you very much society.

(Gosh, that came out a bit stronger than I thought it was going to – maybe it was principle.)

Ever since then, every time I have wanted to celebrate something good happening in my life – like the first time I had a feature published in a national newspaper – or just wanted to remind myself why I am super cool and generally awesome, I’ve bought myself a ring. I wouldn’t say I’m especially materialistic and I’m definitely not one of those people who spends loads of money on clothes and shoes and handbags, but just now and then it’s nice to treat yourself. In fact, it’s somehow more special when it only IS now and then. (Plus you can spend more and feel less guilty.)

Jewellery is a bit of a funny one, as it’s often something you feel you have to wait to be given, especially women’s jewellery, which is strange in a way as it’s so personal – who knows what you love better than yourself?

Which is why when Thomas Sabo got in touch to ask if I would like to take a look at their jewellery, just as I was sending off the final draft of my debut novel, I had a browse through the ladies rings and chose this crown ring from the Kingdom of Dreams collection:

Thomas Sabo ring View Post

In association with The Inner Circle

I’ve been single for about 14 months. Although I enjoy the freedom and the space in the bed, I’d love to have someone to share things with. I’ve dabbled with the ‘swipey’ dating apps, but it gets depressing when you just see the same faces holding the same giant fish…

When The Inner Circle asked me if I wanted to check out their selective dating site I played it cool for about 37 seconds, then shouted ‘Yes please!’

The Inner Circle review

I’ve just started exploring the site, so can’t tell you (yet) that The Inner Circle is THE place to meet the partner of your dreams, but I CAN tell you what makes it different from other dating sites.  View Post

GAWD 23 years is a LONG TIME isn’t it?? More than half my life in fact. Over 8000 days.

Oh hang on, 8000 days somehow doesn’t sound as much does it? Let’s stick with 23 years.

Donkey Sanctuary

Any excuse to use the ‘Belle looking like the very small host of a donkey documentary’ photo.

Anyway, you’d hope that over that time I would have learnt a few things – you know, picked up some tips and tricks, stuff not to do. So here’s a list I came up with of some of the things I’ve learnt as a parent.

1.  You will always be a parent. Even when they grow up and leave home they still need you, just in different ways. (Mainly cash based.)

2.  Don’t take a toddler into a big Asda when they are tired or hungry. It WILL end in tears, probably yours in the car park.

3.  There is never a ‘right’ way to cut sandwiches – what was right yesterday will be wrong today so always check.

4.  Even when they get older and should have realised by now, your children will still think you know the ‘answers’. Belle asked me yesterday when the right amount of time is to tell someone you love them.

5.  Every school concert you ever go to will make you want to poke forks into yourself and then your youngest will leave school and you will cry quietly to yourself at the thought of never going to another badly performed nativity.

6.  Having pizza for two meals in one day is totally legitimate. View Post

Post in association with Babbel

I arrived at the warehouse on the outskirts of London feeling nervous.

I pushed my way through the plastic strip curtain covering the door. I felt like I was nine years old again, going into the chilled food aisle at Gateway with my Gran.

My head was full of Spanish phrases. ‘Tengo tres gatos,’ I muttered to myself. ‘Tienes mascotas?’

On the other side of the plastic curtain a film crew was setting up.

It wasn’t your normal kind of first date scenario.

First dates can be pretty nerve wracking at the best of times. Blind dates even more so. Add in the fact that you are being filmed and the whole date has to be conducted in a language that you’ve only been learning for three weeks and the scope for personal embarrassment is massive.

Fortunately I do not embarrass easily, which is why when language app Babbel set me the challenge a few weeks previously I had been all over it. I mean sure, I’d been secretly hoping that I would end up with French or German, as I studied both of these up to A-level, but Spanish… I’ve watched a bit of Dora the Explorer. I felt up for the challenge.

The fact that my date was Spanish had only been revealed to me three weeks previously in an Oscar ceremony style envelope opening. With the cameras on me, it was revealed that my date was going to be Marco, and off I was sent with a subscription to Babbel and a childlike desire to be star pupil. (I was one of four people taking up the challenge and damn it, I was going to be the best.)

How does Babbel work?

So there I was.

I had Babbel and I had three weeks. I was a little daunted, but I got stuck in. You can use Babbel on your desktop or via the app, but I did all of my learning through the app as liked the flexibility this gave me. You can download lessons to do offline, so I could do twenty minutes on the way to work easily, or do a little bit in bed last thing at night. (I had the idea that it would work a bit like a hypnosis and that if I did it just before going to sleep it would SINK IN without me having to do anything.)

The Babbel team recommended that I did around 15-30 minutes every day and I have to admit that initially I thought I might struggle. I was worried that it might feel a bit like a chore – like having homework set that you didn’t want to do – but it really didn’t. I actually found myself looking forward to it. Sometimes I did an hour, sometimes less, but the time always passed pretty quickly while I was learning.

Your learning on Babbel is split up into lessons, which probably take around 10 or 15 minutes each, depending how quickly you go. You can either work through a course of lessons, or try other ad hoc lessons according to why you’re learning. I went through the whole of the beginner level 1 course and part of level 2, but I also dipped into other subjects, like this one, you know, just in case:

learn Spanish with Babbel View Post

This year I popped my Love Island cherry. As far as cherry popping experiences go, it has been a good one – I certainly haven’t been left underwhelmed. In fact, Love Island has become an integral part of my evening. I even found myself giving relationship advice to a friend yesterday based on the exploits of the Love Island contestants.

‘If you’re finding yourself thinking too much about it,’ I said to a friend who has been seeing a new man for a couple of months, ‘maybe it just isn’t meant to be? It’s like Wes and Megan,’ I said, getting into my stride. ‘Wes was perfectly happy with Laura, but still at the back of his mind he felt like he could potentially be happiER.’ (Who doesn’t want to hear that from someone you’re dating?)

‘But then he got with Megan and he just KNEW,’ I said. ‘Maybe if he was right for you you would just KNOW?’

I feel like this total acceptance of everything that happens on Love Island as FACT probably says a lot about my approach to relationships generally, but we will brush over that bit for now.

What I want to talk about today is how sad I am that Sam and Georgia finally made the decision to leave the villa together. Aside from the fact that Sam is the only one of the boys who I could ever begin to vaguely imagine myself having sex with, (‘he’s relatively kind of small and like a weasel’ I wrote in my family WhatsApp group, ‘so pretty much my type’), I have developed something of a soft spot for Georgia.

I think it’s because she reminds me a bit of myself. View Post

In association with Match

I’ve been dating on and off for about ten months now and I’m actually really enjoying it. I’m happy on my own but I’m open to meeting new people and that feels nice – I can enjoy getting to know someone over dinner without any pressure and I’ve met some really interesting and fun people.

I don’t know if it’s an age thing, and generally having a lot more confidence, but I feel more relaxed and positive about dating than I ever have before. It’s pretty cool.

It’s very different to when I dated ten or even five years ago. The fact that Belle is now 15 and happy to stay home alone makes a massive difference. When I think back to my earlier experiences of dating as a single parent I mainly remember the painful logistics of the whole thing.

Specifically, babysitting.

I mean think about it, it doesn’t matter how much effort you make getting your feet ‘summer ready’ or curling your hair in sexy waves around your face if you end up with a small toddler casually sat next to you at dinner does it?

single parent dating babysitting service Match Yoopies

What me?

(Just to clarify – I have never taken a toddler on a first date, mine or anyone else’s. This is one of my favourite ever pictures of Belle though, known affectionately in the family as ‘big sandwich’.) View Post