Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, Mental Health

This Valentine’s Day, I choose me.   

As I write this, it’s Sunday and I’m in a strange place. It feels familiar – but like I might not have been there for a long time. It’s warm. I’m under a blanket. I have a mug of Gingerbread Green Tea next to me which makes me a wanker but a happy one because it’s delicious. I’m watching Julie and Julia and wishing with all my heart that Nora Ephron was still alive to write parts for women like this. I’m looking at Airbnbs and one of them has a pet pig and I might have to move in there. It’s cosy. It’s dark outside. I’m alone.

I’m on the sofa.

Guys, seriously. I’m on the actual sofa. Chilling the fuck out. What happened to me?

Is this… is this self-care?

Let’s rewind.

2018 has not got off to the start I was hoping for. Nothing terrible has happened. There are a lot of things to be happy about. I have a job. I have two sharks. I can afford to buy Eat Natural bars. But I’ve not been that happy.

If we can take a moment to remember Anastasia and her famous words, I’m sick and tired, of always being sick and tired. Where are you now girl?

If we want to be specific, lyrically and contextually Anastasia is talking about how sick and tired she is of her boyfriend being a dickhead. Not a great Valentine theme. Eduardo – “my man” – if I dare to claim him, is pretty much my only constant source of inner peace at the moment and that’s not even an innuendo.

Nevertheless, I’ve spent most of this year feeling sick and tired. And I’ve decided enough’s enough. That shit’s gotta change. Which is why it’s pretty monumental that I’m chilling my beans on a corner sofa right now.

There are a lot of great things about working in the arts. You can wear what you like. (Most) people have great personalities. Every now and then you meet Sharon Horgan (yeah I had to bring that up again.) But there’s also a lot of stress. It might be stress about your bank balance. The late nights. The competition. (The sexual harassment and abuses of power.) Or the fact that everyone in the industry seems to have the most perfectly white teeth and by comparison you think your teeth look like you’ve been smoking 40 a day even though the only thing you’ve ever smoked is a sherbet dip dap by accident.

To give you an idea of where I’m at, in the last six days, on top of a job that takes me out the house from 8.30am – 7.30pm, I did a live podcast recording, finished a draft of my new play, rehearsed my current play, started to read a book to report on for a film company because I need the extra £££, sent off a bunch of press and industry emails every day to try and get them to see my show AND had to maintain appearances of sanity and fun and energy and coolness on all social media channels so, you know, people still like me and come to my play. It’s lucky Ed was working away because seeing my boyfriend on top of that, as well as my friends, speaking to my family, cooking meals with vegetables in, not spending too much money and doing the occasional bit of exercise, was IMPOSSIBLE.

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I mean, don’t get me wrong, seeing our faces and names on a wall makes it ALL worth it.

It’s no surprise, really, despite eating a lot of tomatoes and Berocca and walking to work every day and trying to avoid the underground if possible, that this January I got the flu. And I got sad. And I felt guilty. And it took some wise words from my friend, that I don’t live in a war zone and I have all my limbs, to give me some perspective.

Because I’ve been doing it all wrong. I need to stop saying “I’m really busy, or ill, or tired” out loud or I’ll just let it happen and do nothing about it. My life does not have to be this way but I have made a decision to want it all – all by myself like a grown up (although to be honest – I don’t think I’ll ever feel like a grown-up until I can use the word smorgasbord in a sentence). If I just stuck to having a day job and a social life I would have – in many respects – an absolutely banging life. It could be enough. I could buy WAY MORE than just Eat Natural bars. Everything would continue just fine without me.

So I’ve decided it’s time for me to start having fun again. Because if I’m eternally miserable chasing a dream I should just go and get a well-paid job in the city and start spending lots of dollar in Cos, or something, whatever those people do.

Two weeks ago I went down to four days at work. It’s a horizontal step. My bank balance is frowning, but my soul is happier. I have time… time to dedicate to my own projects without it eking into my weekend so much. Time and breathing space. A little bit of risk and a little bit of pressure to keep me inspired.

I’ve changed my commute – I leave five minutes earlier so I can avoid going underground in the mornings, stay sane, look at the sky and get some work done on one train with a seat without having to get off at Victoria station which I have to say I find more traumatic than the end of The Notebook.

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Anyone else think King’s Cross is a total megababe?

And I have a new resolution. FAKE IT UNTIL I MAKE IT: to be positive, to work hard and to chill the feck out in equal measure.

I will no longer be that person who says “I’m busy, or tired, or stressed, or down” when someone asks how I am. From now on I will say “I’m good, I’m working hard, I’m hungry” (because, sadly, that I always am.) So this Valentine’s Day I’m making an online promise to love myself (not that way) that little bit more. To stop comparing myself to others, or beating myself up for not making it yet, or overdoing it. I’m going to drink more tea, sit on the sofa more, get outside for some fresh air, and floss. Because no matter what, we should always floss.

If you’d like to come and see my show SPLIT, co-written and performed with the brilliant comedian Tamar Broadbent, you can do so HERE. Use the code BESTFRIEND for £5 tickets – it runs from 28 Feb – 04 March 6.15pm as part of Vault Festival. 

 

Home, Humour, Lifestyle

Why do I love the supermarket so much?

I’m just a girl, standing in front of Sainsbury’s, telling it I… actually love Tesco more.

There are many signs I’m turning into my mother. When people come round my house I offer them every single drink that is in my house before they’ve sat down. I make up songs on the spot. I bulk cook food and freeze it like an absolute queen. I seem to be getting younger with age. But perhaps the most noticeable thing is the fact that I literally cannot get enough of the supermarket.

Just the thought of doing a “food shop” gets me going. You only have to say the word “Waitrose” and I’ll lie down and roll over. I know most of the Sainsburys basics slogans by heart even though I shop in Tesco. Honestly I’d be happy to watch somebody else do their food shop – just for pure spectator joy. I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed that when the courgette crisis happened my life stopped entirely until the shelves were replenished. Before I started writing this post, I was making a list for a potential Greek feast, and honest to God I think I got more of a kick out of it than my school pop idol competition.

So you get the idea. It’s not that I’m a fan of capitalism. Or consumerism. Or even all kinds of shopping. The other day I walked into Zara and came out in hives because there is no structure to that shop, I’m telling you. I’ve had adequate training in not spending extravagantly from a little lifestyle choice called “working in the arts” and I don’t even have any real free time – most evenings and weekends are spent seeing plays, or performing for attention, or, supposedly as of this year, training for a half marathon, which in reality means running for approximately fifteen minutes until I start thinking about how I’d rather eat my own hair than run 21k.

What is it about supermarkets that gets my heart pumping full of endorphins? Is it the freedom I should have experienced as a student getting to buy my own food for the first time, if I’d chosen to go to a university in the regions where I would actually have had money to spend? Is it because my first Saturday job was a checkout girl in Somerfield (RIP)? Because I like lists? And all the cereals? And the discount shelf? That cooking has changed from being my idea of hell to something I might, god forbid, enjoy? Or do I just worship anything that gets me out the house, not thinking about any weird symptoms and a lack of progression in my playwriting career?

Some people find food shopping stressful. My boyfriend for example. Within seconds of trying to locate celery he’s showing signs of a nervous breakdown: sweating, pupils dilating, tears in his eyes. While he’s in the corner by the toothbrushes wondering if he’ll ever see the light of day again, I’m practically giddy. Writing food lists, recipe ideas, wondering around looking at the colours of vegetables genuinely appears to be one of the best things for my anxiety. It turns out Tesco is like therapy – but way cheaper and I rarely cry.

I do like to challenge myself. Sometimes I put a time limit on it. Park, get in, grab the ingredients for a chilli faster than Usain Bolt, get out, feel like a rock star. Since committing to vegetarianism it’s been a lot more fun. Who has the best quiches? Is that a quorn chicken nugget family bag I see on sale? Do you think it’s possible to live in the pastry aisle? I never liked the meat aisle in the first place. It was cold and full of carcasses. Plus now I have more money to spend on granola. And gin.

The challenge continues. I’m trying to reduce my plastic consumption, to be a slightly flexible vegan (don’t hate me) whilst at the same time being as sustainable as possible. It’s hard, I’m not going to lie. If I did it properly I’d have to be up in the early hours making things like oat pate. But I keep reading about how we shouldn’t be buying quinoa, or almonds, or coconuts, or anything with palm oil in (that’s EVERYTHING by the way) or even bananas because of the air miles, and I’m easily influenced.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing this post is because I want to write more posts where I don’t overthink what I’m talking about – so prepare for more insight into my daily life and my worst habits. And it’s also because something tells me I can’t be the only person who thinks about Waitrose before I fall asleep at night.

I won’t bore you with the details of my average weekly food shop. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I did just type it out, in prose, and some items rhymed, but I realised that I might be the only person nosy enough to find that interesting. There isn’t really an ending to this blog, either, because where does it really end? Providing none of the symptoms I’ve been worrying about turn out to be anything actually worth worrying about I will have many long and happy trips to Tesco ahead of me.

It’s mostly just to share the love. The love for Sainsburys – its 12p shortbread and its wonderfully meaningless basics slogans, like “Basics grapes: normal grapes, but fewer of them, smaller and cheaper” and “Boneless salmon: little bits and pieces of it.” The love for Waitrose – its £1 peppers (same as everywhere else guys) that last twice as long, its essential artichokes and outrageous tofu selection. The love for Tesco – because it’s my bae and has the best satsumas out of them all. The love for Aldi – even if I only go there in other countries.

Is it just me? Could anyone else happily spend a Friday night in the biscuit aisle? Let me know. And – because I’m not a total dickhead – make sure you grab something for the food bank on your way round, gang. It’s easy and makes an indescribably big difference to people out there struggling. You know what to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home, Humour, Lifestyle

Highlights, waxing and everything in between.

Oh January. You crept up on us all didn’t you? It only seems like yesterday I was moisturising my chafing thighs in the summer heat and suddenly it’s winter and 2018 and all my shoes leak. Over Christmas I was feeling a bit in limbo. It was impossible to actually do any work because there was always brie nearby waiting to be spread onto a cracker but I couldn’t escape a feeling of stress bubbling under my skin at what the New Year might hold, whether it’s selling my show in a city where literally no one cares who you are or my hair dryer exploding.

Then, just like that, it’s the 1st January and suddenly I don’t feel so scared anymore. A little bit because FRIENDS is now on Netflix and the world seems to have righted itself. And a little bit because I only have a dread of things actually happening – once they’ve happened it’s not so alarming. The only exception to that rule is when I tried to wax my own bikini line – I thought it would be terrible and I did in fact end up glueing said wax to myself for two days, surpassing even my own imagined levels of horror.

I know it’s only been one day but I’m loving 2018 already. I’ve spent it eating leftover jelly, hanging out with my favourite humans in the countryside, watching FRIENDS re-runs and thinking of some killer resolutions. But before I get to all that here are just some of my 2017 highlights. Life is a whirlwind – one minute it’s your 21st birthday and you’re being sick on your own shoes in a nightclub and the next minute you’re an actual adult and own an Oyster travel card worth over £2000. So I’m all for sitting still for a moment to take it all in.

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For the first time ever I saved some money and paid off my credit card which when you work in the arts is no mean feat. I completed my improv course and actually performed it live in front of other human beings. I stuck to vegetarianism right up until New Year’s Eve when I forgot and ate jelly babies. I ran my first 10k. I also wrote my first solo play, entered a competition and I got into the final 100 writers (out of 1000) which made me feel slightly better about spending so much of my time dreaming about being the next Sharon Horgan. Then I actually met Sharon Horgan and told her I love her. Tamar and I ended the year how we began, performing Split to a sell-out crowd in Surrey. My podcast  launched an entire season and the next one is on its way. I managed my anxiety better than I ever have before. I got braver at admitting what I want and saying it out loud. I got angrier and started speaking out at things that make me mad. I started to give myself a break – to stop thinking of myself as a failure and be proud of who I am.

And now for this year. I’ve thought long and hard – sort of. I’m quite hungover and still watching FRIENDS in the background. But here we go:

  • Give blood – I chickened out this year and am determined to do it in 2018
  • Run a half marathon – GOD BLOODY HELP US ALL
  • Write something every day – even if it’s just a spectacularly good tweet
  • Use less plastic – no more buying soups out and straws can fuck right off
  • No more snooze button – it’s simply not allowed
  • Be able to do an actual press up by the end of the year – come onnnn Emma
  • Visit three new places – this was fun and I’m doing it again
  • Wear less make up – excluding eyebrows, I need eyebrows
  • Use my phone less – bring on tech-free evenings

So there we are. The good, the bad, and the holy shit balls I just remembered I haven’t done my tax return. WHY GOD WHY.

2017 was a blast really – sure it had its bad bits but given various worldwide events that have happened this year I think I’ve got a lot to be grateful for. I’m heading into the New Year with a whole lot of ambition but also a better sense of self-care (in every area other than bikini waxes that is). It’s all well and good piling on the pressure to make something of my life but at the end of the day, I get to come home every day to a house with its own Oxo cube tin, a pretty epic girl power Lego collection and two sharks. That’s more than enough for me.

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Happy New Year y’all. x

Home, Lifestyle, Mental Health

One year on: feeling sad, finding strength and surprising yourself.

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When I was seven, eight, I can’t remember exactly, my fish Bubbles died. He was my first pet – at least I think he was a he. I shared him with my brothers, but he was mine. He aged well, Bubbles, lived a long time for a fish. I forget how long now. Do I wish I’d given him a more original name? Perhaps.

When he died, we went down to a river at the bottom of my garden, and we dropped him in, so he could float away to… who knows where. Fish heaven? Another fish’s mouth? Hades? He could have been a bad fish for all I know.

I remember weeping. I was devastated. I remember my chest hurt and I wanted to jump in after him, follow him down to where the river ended. We walked along the river and tried to spot him. Again, I can’t remember if we did or not. The emotion has stayed with me (and his unforgettable name) but not a lot else.

He’s the only fish whose name I can remember. There were others. There was the one who, I later found out, accidentally died, maybe fell down the plughole, when my mum and dad were cleaning out the tank on a school day. They ran to a garden centre and bought another one and got away with it. I was half livid when I found out as an adult and half the most impressed I’ve been in my life.

This was all ages ago – probably twenty years ago. Christ. The shock of realising I’ve even been a conscious being for over twenty years has just made me urgently reach for a bottle of red wine . It’s the first time I can remember feeling really sad. Not sad as in crying over the end of Stranger Things (it broke me) or missing a train on a big day or just feeling generally miserable when you remember Hedwig died. Sad like when your body aches and you don’t think you’ll ever get over it. Heavy – like a bag on your back full of packets of sugar and bottles of squash (welcome to Emma’s weekly shop. Jokes.)

But of course you do get over it. And this has happened a lot of times since. There were more pets. And then there were people. My grandad, who got motor neurone disease, a hero forever in my eyes but because I was only a teenager, already harder to trace in my memories. Followed fairly swiftly by my grandma, who drew no luckier a lot in life. Witty, strong, fiery, and so well-dressed I find it hard to believe I’m related to her.

It hurts when people die before their time. A lot. It’s traumatic and strange and scarring. That was over 10 years ago now though and time, as they say, moves on. Life does get that little bit easier. You can’t believe how long it’s been in some ways. Wounds heal over and scars feel softer. It’s easier to think about, talk about, even laugh about.

Today though, it’s only been one year. A lot can happen in a year. So much has happened. So much has changed.

I’ve learned to run.

I’ve not given up.

I’ve changed my mind and I actually quite like red wine now.

I’ve become the proud mother of two cuddly sharks.

I’ve turned vegetarian.

I’ve performed my first play.

I’ve finished my improv training.

I’ve gone off tampons and got back into them again.

I’ve lost my dog.

I’ve experienced week long itchy nipples for the first time.

I’ve realised who my best friends in the world are.

I’ve seen Celine Dion in concert.

I’ve gone to new places, like Dublin, Cyprus and Harry Potter World.

I’ve (not for the first time mind) stopped biting my nails.

A year ago today my uncle Malcolm died. Diagnosed within the month he didn’t have time to begin a battle. And neither did we. The battle started after. For my dad and my family – and double as much for his.

I think of Mal every time I go running. He liked running. He was fit and healthy and only 52. I decided to get into it because why wouldn’t I look after my body more after all that? And every time I think I might give up running up a hill because my forehead is sweating into my eyes and I’ve got a wedgie and I think I hate exercise more than war I think of him.

Yesterday evening I went on a run – even though it was dark and cold and drizzling and I would have rather cracked open the bottle of red earlier and settled in for the night – and as he came to the front of my mind as he often does when I think I might be having a heart attack mid-hill climb I started crying out of nowhere. I stopped myself pretty quickly because it turns out the one thing that makes running up a hill really hard is crying at the same time. But it got me thinking about how far we’ve all come in twelve months.

I used to not be able to run up hills at all. I used to not run more than once every six months and even then it was only to chase a departing ice cream van on Clapham Common. I used to give up more easily and more often. I’ve got stronger.

Losing someone you love sucks and watching your family suffer is all kinds of rubbish. It is never a good thing and there’s nothing I wouldn’t give to change what happened. But good things do come out of it.

Things like having an opportunity to recognise how lucky you are to have loved and be loved (exactly like Moulin Rouge.) To bring you even closer to your family. To have an epiphany about what it means to feel good about your body, to not take it for granted, and to live in the moment. To do something perhaps you never thought you’d do, precisely because they can’t.

Which brings me to my parents. Who’ve had one hell of a year and who take my breath away. Today they have announced a fundraising bike ride in memory of Mal. Over 1000km down the length of France – one of his favourite places – to raise money for BowelCancerUK and the hospice that looked after him in his final days. This is unexpected. They’ve only been cycling just over a year and there’s a big difference between a casual bike ride to the pub and over 80km a day. They are fiercely determined and I’m so proud of them.

A year ago today it felt like part of our world had shattered – and it will still never be the same. But we’ve got work to do. In raising awareness, and fighting causes, and preserving memories, and making new memories, and laughing until we cry, and doing it all over again. We have a long way to go. And the problem with growing up is memories don’t disappear quite as easily so it’s hard, really hard. Bubbles is a blur now – and, let’s face it, as meaningful he was to me as a seven year-old, he was just a goldfish. Malcolm was – and is – a legend.

But the good thing with legends is – they live on.

If you’d like to donate, you can visit the fundraising link here

Home, Lifestyle, Mental Health, Secret Diary of a Tall Girl, Travel

Secret Diary of a Tall Girl #4: Cyprus Diary

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Part of me worries I’m only capable of writing posts about bad things, like losing my dog, or that the thing tampons do from time to time where they sort of dry out inside you and you have to hobble around until you can find a toilet or discrete bush to sort yourself out in. So here’s a happy holiday post for you instead.

I’m not capable of having a glamorous or romantic holiday. My IBS is usually appalling because I lose all willpower when I get into airports and eat between one and seven chocolate croissants for breakfast no matter the time of flight. I never tan successfully, my skin suffers from all the sweat, and let’s not even talk about my humidity hair. So whilst I was queen of relaxation last week for the first time in months, my trip still had a little sparkle of Emma dilemma in for sure.

So last week I gate crashed Ed’s work trip to Cyprus, like the most basic of bitches. Ed works in schools, mostly in places like Northampton and Croydon, so understandably I’ve never felt the urge to join him on his staycations. Every now and then though he gets an international invite. It’s the perfect half time between summer and Christmas, where you’re feeling a bit… dead? Your skin is falling off from all the pollution, your eyes barely stay open because it’s dark constantly, you’re crying out for nap time every hour of the day, and it’s not quite acceptable to get through the day with a six pack of mince pies yet. Time to get away.

Four days. Limassol, Cyprus (I didn’t know where that was either). A lot of ice cream, a few awkward encounters, one flat fish.

Monday

Leaving the house at 6.45am – barely know my own name. Flight is at 11.30am which gives me plenty of time to spritz myself in as many Victoria Secret perfumes as possible. Pret have run out of breakfast pots so I’m angry tweeting them. Going to Nandos instead. Nandos do spicy beans. Who knew?

I spend 4.5 hours editing my play on the plane. Remember this section, because at some point I’m going to be hassling you about it, because it has a wee London run next year.

An entire day has passed by, because Cyprus is two hours ahead, so we’ve landed at 6pm and get to the hotel at 7.30pm. It’s been about 11 hours of travelling door to door, and I’m starting to wonder why I’ve used one of my gold dust holiday days (holiday is rationed at my job more tightly than sugar in a nursery) to travel. But then we have dinner on the beach. In November. There is tzatziki. And courgette fritters. And wine. And everything is okay.

Tuesday

It’s a Tuesday and I’m in Cyprus. Honestly, this never happens. Tuesdays are more stressful than this and nearly always in London. Tuesdays are normally at the very least a full day of work followed by a three hour improvisation class and no time to wash my hair and a peanut butter sandwich for dinner on the bus.

Breakfast is unreal. Made to order pancakes. I could live here. I note you get a lot of weird looks as a woman eating breakfast alone in a hotel. I feel like a cross between Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and a lost exchange student.

There is an unusual amount of kittens in Cyprus.

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I spend the morning reading the new His Dark Materials book by the pool and I’m in seventh heaven. Then I venture out to the supermarket to get some lunch, have some difficulty weighing a tomato in a foreign country, and the cashier asks me where my parents are. I feel vulnerable.

We spend the evening walking about 3-4km to a marina, counting kittens, and eating the most enormous vegetarian mezze platter at a restaurant on the seafront.

On the walk home we can barely move. Ed thinks he’s dying. I’m kind of feeling a Maxibon but even that might be over-doing it. Anyone else have a separate sugar stomach?

Vegetarian food here is really good. I think I’m in love with an aubergine I ate for dinner.

Wednesday

It’s a Wednesday and I’m in Cyprus. Again, this is unusual.

I forgot to mention, I have extremely sore boobs on this trip. I’m prolonging my PMT a bit to try and not bleed in Cyprus, and as a consequence my hormones are eating me from the inside.

Ed has a half day at work, so I take it upon myself to do nothing again, because one of us should right?

I venture into a less psychologically damaging supermarket for lunch.

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I try and discretely eat prawn cocktail quavers in the outside bar without them asking me to buy something from the hotel, because the problem with posh hotels is everything costs money inside and I can’t bill Ed’s work for cocktails. I prep all my research for my podcast recording this week, and I feel pretty on top of the world.

I wonder if travel bloggers get thigh chafage.

We go to the gym when Ed gets back, because it makes sense to try and use it once. Here, the gym is a man’s world. It is full of testosterone and competition and weird stares. I defiantly listen to the Moana soundtrack and try not to break a rib on the weights.

Ed and I make a pact not to over-eat at dinner again and fail.

Thursday

It’s our last day. I’ve never done the whole winter break thing, and I’m sold. It is extremely good for the soul.

Ed has a free day, and we see a flat fish camouflaged in the sand in the sea. We feel like David Attenborough.

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We see an ancient Greek amphitheatre and ruins of old houses and baths in the mountains above the ocean. It makes Bromley look pretty beige.

I make the mistake of checking my work email at the airport and scare myself with the reality of having to be a working woman again tomorrow, and not a super chilled, read-aholic, freckly, wannabe professional gelato taster. I think about having lots of wine on the plane.

Now I’m on the plane. There are a lot of drunk old people. Someone is massaging their wife’s feet across the aisle as she bends over. The people next to me sense my concern and give me a home grown satsuma from their Greek plantation. I think I might have to marry both of them.

Home. Lots of people have asked me the big How Are You question this weekend and for the first time in forever I’ve honestly answered great. I’m relaxed. I’m anxiety-free. I’m nourished (not least because I made about 45 gingerbread men yesterday). I always forget the whole taking time off thing does good for your soul, but I feel like a new woman ready to rock.

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Home, Lifestyle, Mental Health

One for my dog.

When I was 13 I was awkward. I spent all my evenings after school writing medical drama fan fiction, eating marmite rolls because I was vegetarian but didn’t like any vegetables, envying my friends for their clothes, faces, hair clips, and wondering why some kids ended up in S Club Juniors and I only ended up as the least useful part on the netball team.

And then we got a dog. His name was Mahley, much to my dismay, because everyone’s first reaction was “Oh my god, like the film?” and I had to explain it was not a copy, it was spelled with an H, because my parents gave him a cute version of their favourite composer’s name, Mahler. I didn’t forgive them for approximately seven years until I realised it was cool to have musician parents, forgivable to be a bit middle class, and Mahley looks fun written down, and sounds like a sigh, with a diva twist.

And that was Mahley in a nutshell. Both horizontal as a lazy Sunday, full of love, warmth and endless affection, and a bloody liability.

Mahley grew up with us. Our house has never had a life without him. He came on long car journeys to drama school auditions, athletics tournaments, funerals, weddings, holidays, leaving a trail of white fur wherever he went. What’s the point in life without an unclogged hoover?

Mahley ate everything. My Nokia 3310, a packet of batteries, a box of creme eggs. Several condoms he found on the street. My mum’s engagement ring. He almost choked to death digging one of my very first tampons out the bin so he practically went through puberty with me. And nothing solidifies a relationship between girl and dog more than having to manually pull shoelaces out his bum in the queue for the cash point.

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For understandable reasons, Mahley got his head stuck in the bin lid.

Mahley greeted everyone. From postmen, to paramedics, to people I actively tried to ignore in the school car park. He humped my best friends at every sleepover without ever asking permission – experiencing teenage awakenings with us at every moment. He gatecrashed parties, pub visits, theatre trips, old people’s homes. Life was all about Mahley. The world was his best friend, his curiosity was boundless, his enthusiasm for everyday life was unstoppable. Like Alec Baldwin in Friends, but better.

Mahley was broken from the start, but his flaws made him. He had epilepsy as a puppy, which was a right barrel of laughs. Followed by an allergy to beef (much to his dismay) and chronic bronchitis despite never smoking a day in his life. As an old dog he got severe arthritis, but still somehow managed to escape through the front door to greet someone on the opposite side of the road, get hit by a car and walk away unharmed.

Mahley could swim for days.

Mahley could share.

Mahley once looked after a huddle of lost ducklings who had lost their mum.

Mahley didn’t understand the concept of “fetch.”

Mahley was more scared of guinea pigs than they were of him.

Mahley knew nothing about personal space.

Mahley could fly.

flydog

Mahley could never bark – not until doggy dementia got him at the age of 12 and he howled like Lupin at a full moon.

Mahley was everything.

13-year old me was delighted to not only have an Andrex puppy rolling around the house, but a companion, a reason to invite new friends over, an endless source of funny stories. And it stayed that way forever – until, 13 years later, he finally left us.

I left home when I was 18 and haven’t been home for longer than about two weeks ever since, which means Mahley is my most successful long-distance relationship to date. But it also means I’ve learned to live a life without him already. Which must be why, when he got really ill, and it looked like it might be the end, I was a bit of a robot.

Out of everyone in my family I was the only one who couldn’t be there on the day – because you know, work is a thing – and I felt slightly outside of myself, as I talked to everyone on the phone, pondered from afar how you bury a Labrador successfully, and psyched myself up to go to a three hour improv class that night, because comedy cures everything right?

So I didn’t cry. Not on the day – or the day after. Or when I went home at the weekend. I didn’t cry for another three weeks. To the point where I thought I might be dead inside.

And then on Friday night when I got home from work – out of nowhere I got into bed and cried in the most deranged way. Wailed. Heaved. Sobbed for my dog. For how I miss having to get his fucking fur off my school blazer every single morning and how I miss resting on his giant thigh like a pillow and watching him swim and watching him try to eat an ice cube and telling him stories and comforting him and getting comfort from him and seeing him in the back of the car asleep and seeing him in the front of the car with his paws on the wheel like a human and thinking he looks like a seal and showing him off to people on the high street and watching people love him as much as we do.

So I finally got some of the dog sadness out of my system – and it probably wasn’t a coincidence.

It’s a rubbish time of year for my family. A year ago we lost my treasured uncle very quickly so whilst it’s crisp and sunny outside and Christmas is around the corner and ghost pumpkins seem to be a thing this year it’s also, for my family, definitely now a time of absolute, permanent change, healing, remembrance and grief.

And seeing as I write about pretty much everything else on this blog, I just felt somewhere on here there needed to be a tribute to my dog. Because even though he was “just a dog” of course, without a doubt he made our family who we are today. Of course we exist without him – but he definitely exists in us too. In all our madness and strange illnesses and eccentricities and uniqueness he’s one of us.

mahley dog

So here’s to you Mahley dog. Thanks for the fun, the mess, the moments. You were one of a kind.

Home, Humour, Lifestyle

Why I’ve stopped waiting for the next big thing.

looking
Um… anyone seen my future?

This summer I experienced (or survived) my first wedding season. It was a whirlwind month, not only brimming with joy, confetti and ASOS-induced bankruptcy, but loaded with “what’s new with you?” questions that accompany being reunited with old friends, sitting next to your parents’ neighbours, or small talk with an old flame in a conga line.

One hazard that comes with free alcohol – alongside inappropriate flirting with the DJ at 1am – is the limitless scope for toasts. From visas to pregnancies to dogs to promotions, we were celebrating big news left right and centre when it dawned on me that I didn’t have any. I was, one might say, “news-less.” So as not to alarm anyone with my distinct lack of progress in life, I declared my biggest achievement was minesweeping table wine like a secret agent whilst discretely rearranging my underwear. But in that moment I felt a pang of self-doubt, which got me thinking about what it means to be in a quiet period in life, and whether we put too much pressure on ourselves to always have something to envy.

Social media timelines are all about special news (at least when they’re not about nuclear war) and we’re at risk of believing we’re failing if we have nothing to compare. I was caught off guard this summer, because I’m not planning a wedding, or getting a pug. I have no idea how my career will pan out, hell, I barely feel grown-up enough to use scissors without adult supervision. A voice inside my head whispers, “even Fake News is better than no news.” On reflection though, now I’ve escaped the barn conversions and am back in the safety net of London, a city teeming with lost twenty-somethings searching for the perfect coffee shop and a true sense of self, “no news” doesn’t mean we’re failing, or boring, or falling off the radar. For me right now, the classic saying rings true: no news is good news.

This summer I stopped asking myself every five minutes why I haven’t made it and gave myself a break. To see more friends, get more sleep, maybe even pluck my eyebrows. When I look back at the news I’ve shared in the last year, the things that stand out to me are writing and performing my first play (maybe worthy of a toast but alongside a full-time job it nearly finished me off), sticking to vegetarianism (let’s face it, that’s more boring than unseasoned tofu) and seeing Celine Dion live for the first time (pretty niche and cost me a week’s wages).

Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely when life is flourishing, time is flying by and you’ve a million Facebook updates to share, but I’ve realised it doesn’t necessarily make me any happier.  So I’ve stopped waiting for the next big thing, because the things that make me happiest are much smaller, or gone in an instant. Like a perfectly ripe satsuma without a pip in sight. Or finding a sun cream that doesn’t make me feel like I’ve been wrapped in cling film. And my greatest achievements? Shaving my legs without maiming my ankles, or simply not burning anything in the kitchen, obviously.

So I’m proposing my own toast. To having no news – but a lot of things to celebrate. Things which might form our every day but which are every bit as special. Because what I’m learning is, if we spend our days waiting for the next big thing, we might miss the moments that really count.