I know that no one cares about those ‘God I’m so sorry I’ve not blogged in so long! How you must have missed me!’ posts, because let’s face it, you didn’t even notice I was gone did you?

I bloody knew it. How rude.

The hiatus has been for reasons two-fold. One, I seem to live my life on Instagram stories and forget that some people still read actual long sentences rather than just looking at pictures of me having a cup of tea in the garden. Two, I’ve been on tour! Doesn’t that sound glam? I say it casually to men on Tinder – ‘Oh gosh sorry for the slow reply, I’ve been on tour you know!’ – and it FEELS terrible glam to me. It actually has been a lot of fun, although I’ve learnt that dressing rooms are really way less luxurious than I had imagined them to be. Mainly it’s just a few plastic chairs and a shower in the corner. More hospital waiting room that backstage home to the stars.

I’ve been the host of a book tour for the Sunday Times bestselling, all round very funny and clever Gill Sims, who writes the Why Mummy series of books and has just realised her fifth novel, The Saturday Night Sauvignon Sisterhood, which, fun fact, I was only the third person to read. It’s very good. I cried twice – once sad tears and once happy tears – which isn’t bad considering my daughter Bee has always maintained I have a heart of stone. View Post

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If there was one thing I could change that I feel would significantly change the quality of my life it would be the consistency of my sleep.

When I was a teenager, pre-children, (I was 16 when I was first pregnant so my teenage years and parenting overlapped), my sleep was impeccable. I used to be in bed by around 9pm every night and I slept so soundly that sometimes my mum and my sister would worry that I was actually dead. They could shout at me and shake me and nothing, I was out cold.

And then I had a baby and honestly I’m not sure I’ve slept properly since. With my first daughter it wasn’t so bad – I still did the half ear open thing that all mothers do, but she slept well and I didn’t have a prolonged period of sleepless nights. Belle though found sleep more difficult. For the first couple of years she slept in bed with me and would wake sometimes hourly, and it wasn’t until she started school that she started sleeping through the night.

Fast forward another 10 years or so and the perimenopause and all her delights were upon me, most noticeable of which was an apparent inability to sleep for more than an hour or two at a time without having to balance it out with an equal amount of time spent thrashing about uncomfortably, counting down the hours until I knew I would have to be awake again.

Starting HRT last year helped massively, and I do wake up less and for shorter periods now, but my sleep is still far from perfect and it varies during my cycle too, some nights letting me go for hours at a time, others keeping me on high alert with anxious dreams and periods of overheating.

Fun. Times. All. Round. View Post

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A little while ago I posted this picture on Instagram.

It was a bit of a spur of the moment picture – I was lighting a candle and realised that I put dead matches back into the box specifically because I once had a boyfriend who used to hate it. Every time he opened a box of matches and found a dead one that I’d put back in, unthinking, he’d get cross. Not cross like he’d pick up the candle and throw it through a window or anything, but genuinely annoyed enough to make me feel like I’d done something wrong.

good things about being single

I’ve had a lot of boyfriends who have got that level of cross about stupid things like dead matches. It’s exhausting. It leaves you with that walking on eggshells feeling, never sure what small thing might actually be super irritating or send someone into a sulk. It wears you down, makes you question yourself and can leave you feeling like you’re not really good enough, like those ‘flaws’ somehow make you a less than desirable partner. View Post

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Have you been watching the Sex And The City reboot, And Just Like That?

I have and I loved it, even though it made me cry a LOT.

I was never an OG Sex And The City fan. I have a story about how when I first decided I wanted to be a freelance journalist and started my blog it was because I’d been watching a lot of Sex And The City and fancied myself sitting about outside cafes writing a relationship column and drinking cocktails every night with hot men. While the story is true, it happened in 2009, over 10 years after the show first aired. Not exactly ‘finger on the pulse’ stuff.

I started watching it because I’d just come out of a nine year relationship, aged 30, and I needed something to remind me what it meant to be single. The version of single I saw on Sex And The City wasn’t my version though. They were single and childless and seemingly had endless money available for high heels and parties, despite spending most of their time on dates. I on the other hand had a teenager and a six year old, I definitely did not have endless money, I spent most of my time on the school run or cooking fish fingers, and my cocktail options were pretty much limited to WKD at the local Wetherspoons.

And then there was the fashion. Women’s clothing has just never been something I’ve understood. Sure, they looked pretty, but I would never have been able to tell you what designers they were wearing, nor would I have cared. I wanted the lifestyle and the freedom, but not to have to maintain such high standards. I wanted the male attention, but not at any cost.

If we’re laying it out, I never especially like Carrie either. I found her whiney and difficult and selfish. But perhaps partly that was jealousy, as I’d never felt like I’d had the opportunity to be selfish.

When And Just Like That came out then, it wasn’t like I was wetting my pants excited about it. I wanted to take a look, but I wasn’t expecting to feel a particularly strong connection. I watched the first episode though and BOOM, suddenly I could see what all the fuss had been about first time around amongst the single women in their twenties and thirties.

Suddenly I could RELATE. View Post

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Okay, I know, I’ve given it away just a tiny bit in the name of this post, but take a look at my new necklace from Sinful. Pretend you didn’t see the title… can you guess what it is?

vibrator necklace sex toys

What’s that? You think its a mini clitoral vibrator? Oh my God, you’re right! However did you guess?

*cough*

If you hadn’t known though, it wouldn’t have been the first thing that sprang to mind would it? I definitely haven’t come across any vibrator necklaces before. (Pun intended. Sorry not sorry.) This one is the Crave Vesper Necklace from Sinful, which immediately makes me think of James Bond and Vesper martinis and makes it extra sexy.

It has four different vibration programmes – three continuous and one pulsating – and you never have to worry about it running out of batteries because it’s rechargeable via a USB cable that’s included. The whole thing comes in a beautiful box, making it look simply like an innocent piece of jewellery. View Post

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Includes gifted items from Lily Blanche

On Monday I went into town for a meetingThat sounds terribly exciting, but I use the word town in the traditional sense i.e. I walked into Taunton town centre, not the fancy sense that rich people use to mean going into London to see a show. Shame.

Still, it WAS exciting. I changed out of my muddy dog walking clothes especially, and wore my fur coat, which I only get to wear I’m on my own as otherwise Mako freaks out a bit. I think she might think I’m being attacked by some other sort of animal? I took the obligatory selfie, and here I am, looking quite the part.

Lily Blanche pearl necklace

As you may have spotted, I’m also wearing a rather lovely baroque pearl necklace, which was a recent gift from a lovely jewellery company called Lily Blanche, who have a whole range of beautiful necklaces, lockets and personalised jewellery. I chose the baroque pearl because of the inspiration behind the Lily Blanche brand, which you can read about on their website:

‘The Lily Blanche story beings on the windswept Island of Skye in the Inner Hebrides, where I spent childhood holidays with my grandmother, Lily Blanche Sheridan. It was here, playing on the shore of the loch, opposite my grandmother’s white-washed croft, that I first came across real pearls washed up on the rocks.’

Isn’t that a lovely image? When I’m wearing the necklace I can imagine the thrill as a child of finding a real pearl just lying there, sandy amongst the rocks. It sounds like just the sort of adventure I longed for when I was younger. (And now if I’m honest.) View Post

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How ARE you?

It’s a question I feel like we’ve been asking each other a lot over the last couple of years, and for at least the first 18 months of that I would have said ‘I’m fine!’

Fine. It’s such a nothing word isn’t it?

‘Oh you know,’ I might have followed up with, ‘just plodding along!’

PLODDING. Ergh, what a grim description to have of your own life.

If you’ve asked me in the last few months though, as long as you haven’t caught me on a bad dog day, then I definitely won’t have described myself as plodding, because I have been feeling GOOD.

ACTIVELY GOOD. Look at me this morning – this is an actively good face.

Now when I say good, I don’t mean I’m bouncing off the walls in excitement, full of boundless energy, in the gym every morning or anything like that, let’s not get silly, but I feel NORMAL. View Post

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A few weeks ago an email landed in my inbox and the next day I quit the job I’ve been doing for three days a week for the last year.

It wasn’t my boss saying something horrendous, she’s perfectly lovely, it was an email newsletter from writer Oliver Burkeman. In it he quoted the late American psychotherapist Sheldon Kopp:

‘You are free to do whatever you want. You need only face the consequences.’

I read and reread that quote several times, letting it sink in.

At first I felt a bit defensive about it to be honest, like I wanted to say ‘yeah that’s all very well, but I can’t possibly do x, y and z.’ It’s a symptom of the modern world that we’re fed a myth of being able to ‘have it all’. As women especially, we’re presented with this ludicrous idea that we can, and by implication we should, have a successful and fulfilling career AND be a fully present parent AND have some kind of side hustle making our own hand poured soy candles.

Being ‘free’ to do whatever you want can feel like a pressure to do everything at once and when you choose not to, or aren’t able to, it can feel like a failure.

That’s not what Kopp is saying though. He’s not saying you can do whatever you like and therefore you must, he’s just saying go for it if you like, just decide if it’s worth the consequences.

Alongside the myth of having it all of course goes the guilt, and it’s when the consequence of our actions is guilt that we so often feel crippled. How can we be ‘good’ people if we don’t put others first?

‘Oh of course my dream is a travel the world in a campervan, taking photographs of the local wildlife,’ says the mum of teenagers, ‘but I can’t possibly do that because the kids need me to support them through university.’

She could though.

(I said that in a excited but whispery voice, can you tell?)

The consequences might be many, but she could. It’s kind of crazy and wildly exciting when you actually start to think about all the things you could do or say or be if you were prepared to accept the consequences.

I’d been holding back on quitting my job specifically because I was afraid of the consequences. I felt a sense of obligation, (that guilt again), I was worried about my boss’s reaction, I didn’t want to feel like I had let anyone down – it was a lot of feelings that really say more about me and my overgrown sense of responsibility than about anything else.

After reading Oliver Burkeman’s email though, it suddenly felt so much clearer. It became a simple equation, (I like equations) – was the sum of the benefits worth more to me than the potential short term awkwardness? Of course it was. I handed in my notice.

The next time you find yourself wrangling internally over a decision that doesn’t immediately sit comfortably with you, or that causes pangs of guilt, just consider the consequences and ask yourself ‘is it worth it?’

If the answer is yes then to hell with the rest.

 

freedom of choice

 

Photo by Nathan McBride on Unsplash

Also I totally stole the subject line. Sorry Oliver Burkeman. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that.

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A few weeks ago I listened to Oliver Burkeman’s new book, Four Thousand Weeks. It’s about how much time we have to live on average, (the clue is in the title), and how to use it. Generally I have to say I found it more terrifying than liberating, but it was just before I started HRT so maybe I was peak hormonal midlife crisis.

One phrase stuck out for me at the time and has been swooshing around my brain ever since – it’s the idea of always trying to clear the decks.

Most of us I’m sure do this a lot. We literally clear our desks before we start work or we clean the kitchen before we sit down to relax in front of the TV. Sometimes it’s a procrastination tool, sometimes it’s a feeling that we have to do something we don’t want to do in order to earn the ‘reward’, whatever that may be.

Sometimes though it’s bigger. Sometimes clearing the decks can be a feeling of needing to wait until something has happened in order to do something else.

‘Once I’ve lost a stone I will feel better about myself and will start dating again.’

‘I just need to finish up this big project at work and then I can make time for family.’

‘The kids will be leaving home in a few years, that will be the time to pursue my own dreams.’

We’re scared of starting something, of taking a risk, of just enjoying ourselves, so we wait for the perfect moment. We wait until we’ve accomplished the things we feel we need to accomplish. We feel like if we can just clear the inbox, THEN we will start that creative project we honestly really do want to do. We just need to finish the house renovations and THEN we can start having friends and family to stay. We just need to clear the decks first, then we can properly start.

SPOILER: The decks will never be cleared.

Life doesn’t work like that. You can empty your inbox but the emails will keep coming. Lose that stone and what a surprise, you won’t instantly feel confident about dating. Nothing is really ever finished. There is never a right time.

I think the idea of never being able to clear the decks stuck with me because it aligns with my own personal motto.

(Yes, I have a personal motto. I am THAT person and I’m not even sorry about it. I don’t have it in swirly writing above my front door or anything, but I carry it in the back of my head, quietly, just as a guide.)

Ready, fire, aim.

I know, I’m awesome right? You’re welcome to share.

If I had spent my life waiting until I knew exactly where I was going before I started anything then I would never have taken any of the first steps that have led me into exciting adventures, new opportunities and, admittedly, disastrous relationships. I wouldn’t be here, writing this blog, that’s for sure. The career’s test at school told me I should be an insurance underwriter and the internet hadn’t even been invented.

When people ask me how I came up with my blog name I shrug and say ‘it was available and I’d had a glass of wine.’ I could have spent ages choosing a name and designing a logo and getting everything just so, but then I would never have begun. I would never have asked Antonio Banderas if he thought that if birds ruled the world, they would leave food out for humans.

We have four thousand weeks people.

We can’t afford to wait until we feel 100% ready because what if that time never comes? This isn’t a dress rehearsal, life isn’t just around the corner waiting to start just as soon as you’ve sent the kids of the university, retiled the kitchen and joined the gym. It’s happening right now. This is it, it’s started, and the clock is ticking.

You should probably stop reading this and get on with it.

Ready, fire, aim

The link to Oliver Burkeman’s book is an affiliate link so if it’s on your wishlist, buy it through me and I get a few pennies. Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash  

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I’ve been struggling for a long time now to feel creative.

There are loads of excuses I could come up with, like a global pandemic, significant parenting and grandparenting responsibilities, stress, I don’t know, there’s plenty to pin it on, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I come to the conclusion that it’s something bigger than that.

I’ve been feeling this same kind of ‘God I wish I could just sit and stare at an unopened book and eat bourbons’ vibe probably, if I’m honest, since I wrote this post, which is before I’d even heard of the phrase ‘social distancing’, so it hardly seems fair to blame my lack of creative inspiration on Covid.

At the time I called it a midlife unravelling, because a friend had told me about this article and everything I read resonated with me so much, but since I wrote the post over two years ago a new word for it has been blipping more and more frequently on my radar – PERIMENOPAUSE.

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I talk about the perimenopause quite a lot over there, which is fine – the lack of flow in the creative juice department lends itself well to a few sparsely worded Instagram stories, but I’ve written less about it here, probably because the sheer volume of words required makes it feel impossible.

While I do feel that the whole concept of perimenopause has gained more and more publicity over the last couple of years, I think there’s still a huge lack of understanding around what exactly the perimenopause is, and what it means for all the people who go through it.

If you think perimenopause, what do you think? Can you reel of some of the common effects or do you just think hot flushes? (Which actually are more common during menopause that perimenopause.) Do you know how long it can last? (Up to ten years God help us.)

I was listening to a podcast today that used an expression that really stuck with me – they called perimenopause an ‘all systems’ condition. Perimenopause isn’t just a gynaecological issue, it’s an EVERYTHING issue. It impacts every area of your life, from sleep to libido. It can cause joint pain, lethargy, anxiety, skin and hair changes, even tinnitus.

Perimenopause can effect your energy levels and your motivation. It gives you BRAIN FOG. It makes life sometimes feel overwhelming or infuriating or pointless.

Perimenopause gets EVERYWHERE, in every bit of you.

There are women who’ve given up jobs because perimenopause symptoms have made them feel like they’re no longer capable, like they might be going crazy, like they might have dementia, like they are drowning.

Is it really any wonder that when I wake up multiple times every single night, lie awake for sometimes hours at a time, unable to find a place to lie that isn’t too hot or too painful for my hips, that I might feel a tad lack lustre? Can I really be blamed for not wanting to sit down and bash out creative stories everyday when sometimes even opening my laptop makes me furious and exhausted all at once?

No.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this post to be honest, I think I just wanted to start talking here more about what’s going on for me right now and to give some insight for people who might be feeling that same lack of motivation and direction, some reassurance that if this is you, you’re not alone, you’re not crazy.

Over HALF the world’s population experience the perimenopause, so it’s time we started talking about it. If any of this resonates with you I’d love to hear from you – you can leave a comment on this post.

 

perimenopause symptoms

PS. My Menopause Doctor is a great source of information on the menopause and perimenopause and a great place to start if you want to find out more.

 

 

 

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I was struck by this analogy this week and it has stayed with me – life at the moment feels like being handed the menu at a Hungry Horse pub.

You know when you go into a super fancy restaurant and they present you with a menu on one sheet of thick, cream A4 paper? There are four options for the main course – probably pork, chicken, fish, and something for the vegetarians. The prices are given just as whole numbers – a solitary 17 – because this place is too fancy for pound signs or pence.

It feels special doesn’t it? You feel like those four options are all going to be delicious, that someone has taken care over them, put thought into them.

And then you go to a Hungry Horse.

They take you to your table, your feet sticking a little to the carpet along the way, and they present you with the menu. There are about 47,000 choices, everything comes with a side of chips and garlic bread and somehow everything is £3.49, even the steak.

(Nobody ever needs chips and garlic bread. Especially not when the main dish is already pasta.)

If you compare the menus, the Hungry Horse gives you more choice. The multiple dinner options should give you a sense of freedom surely? Apparently not. Something I’ve learned, just in the last few months really, is that choice doesn’t equal freedom. In the case of the Hungry Horse menu, choice makes everything feel less.

The Hungry Horse feels like life feels to me since the easing of lockdown – overwhelming, cheap and way too heavy on the carbs.

This sounds like I’m just being terribly snobby, possibly I was a little with the sticky carpet comment, but it’s not really about price, it’s more just supply and demand I guess – basic economics. While options have been limited in the big wide world it’s given the choices that are available more significance and made them feel more valuable. Going out for a walk on a Saturday morning and finding a vintage truck selling coffee and teacakes in a garden centre car park feels so much more magical then walking down a busy High Street, cafés either side of you. With choice, it feels to me, comes the cheapening of individual options.

I know that in theory I should be able to hold onto that magic and to see those special moments regardless of the noise around them, but it’s hard. Imagine a tiny farm shop selling freshly baked bread, milk, apples, and local cheese. Then imagine Tesco. Those things exist within Tesco but it’s not the same – they’re harder to find and you feel less connected to them when you do.

I guess we just have to try to hold those simple pleasures close, to seek them out and to cherish them when we find them. How you do that as the noise of life and of choice starts to build I don’t know, but I do know that chips and garlic bread is never the answer.

too much choice

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I had a boyfriend once who used the phrase ‘a waste’ to describe the times when we saw each other and didn’t have sex.

It was a sunny afternoon when he said it. We’d just been for a walk along the beach and were sat on the grass with coffee and ice creams. I was lying with my head on his thigh, watching the clouds, the sun warm on my face. His comment ruined the vibe to be honest.

We weren’t living together and we both had other things in our lives, like work and families and friends, so sometimes we might spend the night together, sometimes I’d go to his house during the day, other times we’d go on what I thought were lovely outings – an opportunity to spend some time together and do nice things like lie on the grass and eat ice creams.

He tried to justify it, and talked about ’emotional connection’ and other things that to me felt like him just digging a bigger hole. It stuck with me. It hurt if I’m honest. Was that what it came down to for him? Was simply spending time with me not enough? If we stayed together would I always feel the pressure to perform, even years down the line?

Now I’m not saying that I was looking to put in a solid year and then never have sex again, but I appreciate that sex evolves over the course of a long term relationship, and in very different ways for different couples as well as the individuals within the couple. But how important exactly is sex in a long term relationship?

When I talk to friends about their sex lives, the message is, as you might expect, mixed.

Some friends barely do it at all but claim to be completely happy with that – they say it’s just not an important part of their relationship anymore. Others might make the effort on birthdays or holidays. A couple of married people I know haven’t had sex in over a decade.

I decided to do some research. (Research being the technical term for ‘nosing about into other people’s sex lives’.)

I started with some Twitter polls. Not exactly SCIENCE, but I thought it would be a good place to start to get an overview of exactly how important sex is to people in a long term relationship. I appreciate that it’s a bit of a self-selecting survey, and the people doing it once a year might not be the most willing to take part, but hey ho.

Here’s what I found:

How often do people have sex View Post

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