On Tuesday this week I found myself in a hot tub at the Lido in Bristol. I say ‘found myself’ – I didn’t wake up there, blurry eyed and confused, I got IN. You know, consciously.

Two women who looked about my age were sat opposite me, chatting about various lighthearted things. There was a natural lull in the conversation. The woman on the left, we will call her woman one, looked thoughtful.

‘I think I know what it is to love somebody,’ said woman one, seemingly out of nowhere, ‘but I don’t think I’m in love with my husband.’

There was another silence. Not so natural this time. Woman two looked shocked, like perhaps she didn’t feel like she knew woman one well enough to be hearing this.

‘Wow,’ said woman two, ‘that’s pretty big. How long have you felt like that? I think it’s pretty normal over time to feel a different kind of love for a partner.’

‘I’m not sure,’ said woman one, ‘I think I’ve always felt like it. It’s actually the first time I’ve said it out loud to anyone.’

Woman two was definitely feeling the pressure at this point, and I was doing my best not to stare directly at them, but it was hard to listen over the noise of the bubbles without being able to see their faces.

‘How do you feel about that?’ said woman two.

Woman one sighed. ‘I guess I just try not to think about it. I push it to one side. I figure that’s just it now.’ She looked sad.

WHAT THE HELL?? View Post

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I’ve been on quite a few first dates over the last few months. I’m not desperate for a relationship or anything, (although I’d happily have one), but I like meeting new people and I love an outing, so a first date is just a fun excuse for cocktails really.

I find first dates a rather strange thing generally though.

It’s because of THE SPARK.

Ah yes, THE SPARK. That elusive something that is apparently meant to reveal clearly within minutes of meeting a total stranger whether or not they have the potential to be the love of your life. When you put it like that it seems a bit ridiculous doesn’t it?

That’s because it IS a bit ridiculous.

I mean sure, you might go for lunch with someone and be pretty sure at the end that you DON’T want to see them again, but unless they really are so tedious or insensitive or gruesome like this one I went on, that you can say NO with 100% certainty, then how exactly are you meant to know? How many couples have you heard joking about how they met – ‘Oh yeah, I couldn’t stand him when I first met him! I thought he was awful!’ – and then there they are, ten years later, happily married.

I love watching First Dates, and yet sometimes I can’t help but feel frustrated.

‘She was a really lovely woman’, a guy might say at the end. ‘She’s gorgeous, and we got on really well and shared a sense of humour, but I just wasn’t sure I felt THAT SPARK.’

God.

THE SPARK.

When should you feel the spark on a first date? View Post

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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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Post in association with NatWest

A couple of weeks ago I found myself sat alone at the bar of a members’ only club in London, sipping prosecco and feeling that heady mix of nervous and excited as I messaged my family WhatsApp group.

‘What are you doing in London?’ asked my sister Annabel.

‘I’m going to a speed dating session being run by NatWest to show how easily you can be emotionally vulnerable to online scams,’ I told her. ‘I was MADE for this.’

‘Do the other daters know,’ asked Annabel, ‘or is the assignment to go in and try and scam them?’

‘I think they have to scam ME,’ I said, ‘but I know there’s going to be ‘a twist’. A behavioural psychologist is going to be there. Maybe they just watch and laugh at how gullible I am??’

‘You’re going to get so scammed,’ she said.

‘I’m going to get scammed RIGHT UP,’ I agreed. ‘Hopefully someone will step in before I hand over any cash.’

tips to avoid being scammed

Because I wasn’t joking when I said I was made for this experiment. 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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‘Is the heating going to be on?’ Belle asked me as we were on our way home yesterday evening.

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I put it on earlier for the cats. In case they got cold.’

She looked at me.

‘The cats who spend the whole night outside and are covered in fur?’ she asked, eyebrows raised.

‘Yes,’ I said, feeling a bit silly, ‘I didn’t want them to be sad.’

AND THERE WE ARE.

Welcome to my new life, in which I spend an unreasonable amount of time every day worrying about whether or not my cats are happy. Because how exactly do you know if a cat is happy? What if they are bored? What if they get lonely and miss me but don’t know how to tell me? What if they wish I’d leave the radio on, or would like a different blanket?

Every time I leave the house I wonder if they’ll be sad, not knowing when I’m coming back, (I do tell them but I never see them write it down), or if when I DO come back they will have forgotten me. It can be hard with cats because they often don’t give a lot away. A dog will make it very clear how happy he is, but cats play it much cooler. Someone on Twitter said to me recently that cats can actually understand and speak English, they just CHOOSE not to. I feel like this could be true.

I know I’m doing all the basics – they’re microchipped, vaccinated, treated for fleas and worms regularly and have a balanced diet, (WHISKAS® ‘creamy soups’ are their favourites, and I find it adorable that they are called ‘creamy soups’), but how about their emotional wellbeing? Are my cats happy?

When you look at it rationally, they do seem pretty content.

They mainly lie around on top of me on the bed like this:

How do I know if my cats are happy?

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When your children are small, you imagine a chart that looks something like this:

important advice as a parent

And then they grow up and you realise it’s actually more like this:

important advice as a parent

Oh. View Post

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At the moment for book group we are reading A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. It centres around a family of four children and the generations either side, and how we live as part of a family and how that shapes us.

At one point in the book the mother, Abby, makes a comment about parenting. She says ‘you can only ever be as happy as you unhappiest child.’ I don’t think this is a new statement, but I hadn’t heard it before and it made me stop, put down the book, and think about it for a little while.

Is it true? Can you only ever be as happy as your least happy child?

as happy as your least happy child

Initially it stopped me because I thought perhaps it was one of those simple, throw away lines that perfectly captures something very true. We all want our children to be happy after all, and it’s not nice when they aren’t, but the more I thought about it, the more I disagreed with it. I mean, no offence to my children, because I think they are amazing and beautiful and strong and everything, but they aren’t always the HAPPIEST of people.

I decided I have two problems with it: 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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I know I post a lot about my kitties on social media, and sneak in the odd picture of them here, but I thought it might be time for a little round up?

I say that as though it’s YOU who wants to see them, rather than me that wants to look at them. I woke up this morning though feeling a teeny bit fraught, after having those flustered dreams where you’re trying to do something and it never works, so I thought this might be soothing.

We’ve had the cats for less than three months, and yet I can’t imagine life without them. I always knew I was a cat person, but I had no idea that I was going to love them quite so much. I mean properly, like they are real life babies. (Which I DO know they aren’t, but it would be awful wouldn’t it to go to work knowing your seven month old baby was just playing in the street on their own??)

Inevitably, my camera roll is now about 87% cat, and so I had a look through and picked out some of my favourites – photos that capture certain things I love about my cats.

I love how my cats tesselate

The first picture is actually a pair.

I peered over the edge of the sofa to look at (one of) the cats’ beds, because I heard little kitty noises. Endeavour was asleep, looking very cosy.

cat asleep

Literally two minutes later I had another peep.

Wait?

What? View Post

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Do you remember that time my pyjamas smelt of Michael Bublé?

It was a while ago now, and I’ve washed them a few times since. The smell is no longer there.

Michael seemed put out last time he came round.

‘Why do your pyjamas no longer smell of meeeee?’ he sang. ‘Why have you forsaken me so?’

‘Michael, Michael,’ I replied, trying to quieten him down a little bit, ‘you need to get over this, you need to move on.’

‘But Josephiiiiiiine!’ he sang, at such high volume that the cats hid under the bed, ‘I cannot leeeeeeeave you!’

‘Well you must Michael,’ I insisted, shooing him down the stairs and out of the front door.

‘At least let me leave you this By Invitation gift set,’ he said, thrusting a box through the gap in the door in a last ditch attempt to win my heart. ‘It contains a 50ml Eau de Parfum and a 150ml shower gel. Spray a little on your pillow and think of me!’

I took it, just so he would leave, but I can’t keep it, so I’m giving it away in this competition.*

Michael Buble By Invitation perfume 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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