2017 was a bit of a slack year for me on the old book front.

I could make up excuses about moving house and relationship changes and what not, but let’s be honest, it’s really just laziness. When you’re tired, watching the remake of Dynasty on Netflix feels EASIER than actually having to move your eyes from one side of a page to the next, over and over again.

It’s stupid really, because I love reading, and a good book is way more absorbing than the antics of modern day Fallon Carrington, so this year I decided to make an effort to read more books. And by ‘read’ I mean ‘finish’, not just read a few chapters, stack them up on my bedside table and move on to the next thing.

To give myself some focus I thought that every month I’d share with you what I’ve been reading. Pretty straightforward – no vagina gags – just a few thoughts that might give you some inspiration for your next book choice. I’m not going to bother with links or anything, you know how to work the old Google.

It doesn’t really count as reading, but I’ve also listened this month to the audiobook version of The Humans by Matt Haig. I’ve read (with my eyes) a few of his books already and love them. Matt writes with this straightforward honesty and clarity that often makes me stop and think ‘YES. That’s exactly it.’ He has a way of capturing the essence of things in a very beautiful, simple yet powerful way.

So, the books.

Margaret Atwood Hag-Seed View Post

There is literally so much opportunity for hilarity in this post that I don’t know where to start.

It’s a serious subject – my vagina and the laxity thereof – but also, it’s my VAGINA, so. Also, as serious a subject as it may be, it’s always good to be able to have a laugh about these things isn’t it? I mean sure, the woman we saw when my Mum and I went to register my Gran’s death wasn’t exactly on board with that as a concept, but I think it’s important to be able to laugh about serious things – it helps us talk about them.

Where to begin?

First up I’m imagining your mind boggling a little at the term ‘vaginal laxity.’ I don’t blame you. Let’s not get carried away though, nothing is flapping about in the breeze like the proverbial wizard’s sleeve, it’s just a term used to describe what happens naturally to your vaginal tissue as it ages and after it has gone through trauma like childbirth. Your vagina is made up of collagen fibres, just like your skin, and it’s natural that over time it can lose its strength and shape.

Still with me?

Okay.

So, while this loosening is to some extent ‘normal’, it can have a significant impact on our lives. It can play a part in urinary incontinence and it can impact on sexual sensation and satisfaction. Neither of these are things you should feel that you just have to put up with, especially if they are changing the way you go about your day to day life. If you’re not enjoying sex any more, or are worrying about going out because of the fear of leaks, then that’s not okay.

The Geneveve treatment, available at The Clinic by Dr Mayoni Gooneratne, uses tiny pulses of radiofrequency energy to gently heat the deeper layers of the vaginal tissue to stimulate the body’s own natural regenerative processes. Dr Mayoni is passionate about helping women to feel confident and comfortable, which is why she is the perfect doctor for a treatment such as Geneveve.

Dr Mayoni is an experienced general surgeon and during her medical training, she spent several years specifically studying pelvic floor dysfunction. She saw for herself just how deeply so many women are affected by pelvic floor issues, yet so many don’t seek help for it because they feel it’s something they just have to accept, or they are embarrassed to talk about it. Dr Mayoni’s passion for female wellness is evident throughout the procedure and she made me feel at ease which was great, especially with the type of treatment I was about to have.

It was a grey Friday in January that I look the train to London, to try the Geneveve treatment for myself, unusually aware of my vagina, amusing myself by composing Instagram stories. View Post

I saw something on Twitter a week or so ago.

‘We are now entering the third month of January,’ it said.

It took me a minute, but God, that’s how it felt this year didn’t it? It became a thing for us to all talk about, as a nice distarction from the weather.

‘January’s dragging isn’t it?’

‘When is January going to be over?’

‘How long even IS January this year?’

Needless to say that Belle and I were very much looking forward to a night away at The Belfry Hotel and Resort over the last weekend in January. It came a couple of days after a slightly stressful parents’ evening, and was generally much needed.

The Belfry Hotel and Resort was incredibly easy to get to, which is always a nice start to a mini break. We whizzed (sensibly) up the M5 and the M42 and there it was, just a few minutes off the motorway.

First impressions were ‘blimey, this is a massive place isn’t it?’ And it is. The Belfry resort is huge, with over 300 rooms, a large restaurant, separate bars, a huge golf shop, indoor pool, spa and of course, a golf course. I was expecting January to be quiet, but the place was buzzing with people. (Hence some of the images in this post being provided by the hotel, as I couldn’t find anywhere to take pictures without people in them!)

Belfry Hotel Lobby

This is just the lobby!

First things first, we checked in and dropped off our stuff in our room. This was a little bit of a mission as the place is so big that our room was a good walk from the reception, through some corridors, the golf bar, and then up in the lifts. We found it in the end though and only had to stop for directions once. View Post

‘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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Do you remember recently when I sent my poo through the post?

It wasn’t the sexiest thing I’ve ever done to be honest, but it was part of some research looking at how your DNA and your gut bacteria effect your health. Although it didn’t flag any weird diseases or anything, my general gut health was not great. In fact, I only scored 4 out of 10 for my ‘microbiome diversity’.

how to improve microbiome diversity

Oops.

Apparently ‘Diversity indicates the approximate number of bacterial species that live in a person’s gut. Each type has its own functions that are often complementary. A diverse microbiome can perform a broader range of tasks that regulate and compensate, making the whole system more stable. If the community lacks richness, this compensation mechanism may be compromised and cause dysbiosis, a condition known to precede illness.’

And nobody wants THAT do they?

Also, generally I dislike doing badly in tests. It’s not really my THING. It takes me back to being ten years old and being in the team for the inter-school book quiz. We were in the semi-finals, which were being held in the town library in front of an audience of friends and family. We’d been given a book to read, which we were then quizzed on.

The quiz began.

‘We will be asking questions today about ‘Woof”, said the quizmaster.

I panicked.

We hadn’t read ‘Woof’.

It turned out that our teacher, Mrs Bryant, who I already had a bit of a grudge against as she had disagreed in front of the class with my interpretation of some of Romeo and Juliet, (I was a precocious child, but she was wrong), had made us read the book for the FINAL by mistake – ‘The Wolves of Willoughby Chase’. Rather than stand up and say something though, she let us sit through the WHOLE QUIZ getting everything wrong and looking stupid. Needless to say I cried at the end and have never forgiven her.

Anyway.

My gut bacteria. View Post

God, January is being LOOOOOONG this year isn’t it? It’s so miserable, all the rain and dark mornings.

What you need to to WIN A COMPETITION! How much better would you feel about life if a hamper of cheese turned up on your doorstep?? With this in mind, I asked the super lovely (and lucky) Di Coke to come up with some tips to help you win competitions. Di is something of a comping expert. She’s been winning competitions for twenty years, since the good old days when it was answers on a postcard, and she shares her tips on her own hugely successful blog, Super Lucky.

Here are Di’s seven habits of successful competition winners:

1. Buying random stuff they dont need

 A successful comper will have cupboards full of toilet roll, toothpaste, tuna and crisps, bought as ‘qualifying’ products for competition entries. But in addition to these useful products, expect to see them stocking up on Tena Lady pads and random baby products too. Because if a competition offers a decent chance of a win, compers will buy the product to enter regardless of whether it’s any use to them. Oh, and they’ll buy in bulk too – just in case the promotional packs disappear off the shelves. Don’t worry though, those 40 packs of sanitary towels will be donated to a local FoodBank or Women’s Refuge once the comp’s over!

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