Home, Humour, Lifestyle, Mental Health

Confidence: what is it and how do I get some?

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I daydream about The Sound of Music an unhealthy amount.

I daydream about having a four octave range. I daydream about making clothes from curtains. I daydream about running up stone steps and climbing trees with a gang of siblings. (I’m not currently talking to either of my brothers as one of them bought they other one a ‘make your own felt soup dragon’ from The Clangers and didn’t get me one. And I can’t run up any steps without an inhaler. Also I’m an adult now.) I daydream about fucking over a group of Nazis by fiddling around with their car engine. I daydream about living in the mountains. I daydream about my life being a musical. I daydream about becoming a nun so I don’t have to decide what to wear every day and, also, you know, a place in heaven and an actual life plan.

There are more dreams and aspirations to take away from The Sound of Music than there are Nando’s order combinations, but it’s now, at the ripe old age of 28, as I embark on a new adventure called “freelance writer”, that I’m starting to think about maybe the biggest one of all. Confidence. That moment in the film where Maria has to find it in herself to do what she dreams of, to be brave, to stop doubting herself and to face her fears; to be confident.

Please allow me to pause briefly in my narrative, to contextualise the lyrics of Confidence in light of my new life as a freelance writer, so you get an idea of where I’m at right now, mentally and lyrically.

What will this day be like? I wonder.

(I open my laptop. Some melted chocolate is stuck under the “F7” key. I think about cleaning it but decide against it, for no particular reason.)

What will my future be? I wonder.

(One month into trying to write for a living, I’m googling that job at Edinburgh zoo I read about; the person who has to pick penguins up who keep falling over because of the planes flying in the sky above them.)

It could be so exciting to be out in the world, to be free

(If only I could actually bring myself to write something)

My heart should be wildly rejoicing

(OMG I get to be on SNL, what?)

Oh, what’s the matter with me?

(I genuinely have no idea how that could ever happen)

I’ve always longed for adventure

(By which I mean a Hogwarts letter…)

To do the things I’ve never dared

(By which I mean eat the hottest sauce at Nando’s, or, you know, actually put myself forward for something or say “I’m good. Pick me”)

Now here I’m facing adventure

(Freelancing)

Then why am I so scared?

(Rent to pay… wedding to organise… the fact my vagina went numb for two days, but that’s another story)

A captain with seven children

(By captain I mean biscuit tin, and by children I mean biscuits, and by seven I mean none, because I ate them all before lunchtime)

What’s so fearsome about that?

(Bloating, diabetes…)

Oh, I must stop these doubts, all these worries

(You’re telling me)

If I don’t I just know I’ll turn back

(Honestly, if this doesn’t work out, I’m happy to go back to any job I’ve had previously, except the one temping for an account who dribbled on me.)

I must dream of the things I am seeking

(To…be…a…writer…TO… BE… A… WRITER…)

I am seeking the courage I lack

(Seeking it in the fridge, in a yoghurt pot, because probiotics solve everything… right?)

You still with me? Good.

Confidence. Confidence. It’s a weird one. I think somewhere along the line I used to have it. I must have felt confident when I wrote my first pop song, at the age of eight, and performed it to my dad who, bless him, had to let me know it wasn’t appropriate to sing: “anytime, anywhere, you and I, well, I care lots, because when I’m with you we can make love.” Yes. You read that lack of scansion correctly. Lucky I’m not trying to be a freelance lyricist.

I also think, at times, I have it now. Or one kind at least. The courage to get up on stage and improvise in front of a paying crowd every week (although not enough to come off stage and stop myself from immediately apologising to my team mates for ruining the show). The kind that tells me it’s a good idea to write blogs and post them on the internet, not even anonymously (although not enough to feel crippled with fear and self-doubt the minute I hit publish). I will leave the house without make up, walk around in my underwear (obviously when appropriate, not at the dentist), happily talk to strangers.

But, that proper, deep-down self-belief, in who I am, and what I want to do with my life. That’s… harder for me to come to terms with, I’m realising. I had three back-to-back meetings the day I churned out this blog on a particularly uneventful train journey home, and kept wondering why I apologise in advance for everything I say and do. Why I don’t appear to have any belief in the ideas I’m presenting until someone else tells me they’re okay. Why I resort to jokes, or self-deprecation, when someone says something nice about me. For example:

“I like your hair.” “Thanks. I have a short stump at the back that you can’t see where it accidentally caught fire.”

“Your show was great.” “Thanks. I basically shat myself before I went on stage.”

We all do it. From time to time. Some more than others. I think. Women, especially.

“I like your dress.” “It was on sale, it would look better on you, it’s baggy around my waist/my nipples/my elbows.”

“You’re so good at this or that.” “No I’m not. Don’t be stupid. Why would you say that? No I’m not.

I cried a lot last week, turned into a bit of an anxiety wreck, and went to bed, because I lost track of a play I’m writing. I just couldn’t find a way out of it. And I ended up being so full of self-despair that I couldn’t look at my computer anymore. But when the loathing passed, I got a bit mad at myself. That I always see the worst in myself and the work I do. That I can’t seem to ever argue on my own behalf. That I have so little faith in myself. That I was drafting up an email telling the people who commissioned me that they should approach someone else.

It’s particularly tricky when you’re trying to publicise a show that you’ve written and that you’re also performing, as I was doing a month ago. I needed people to come and see it (like, in a box office guarantee way, you know) and, I guess, somewhere deep down, I did want people to see it too, but I also sort of didn’t, because it made me feel nauseous and vulnerable and exposed. So it’s a strange thing, going on social media and yelling, COME AND SEE MY PLAY, when there’s a giant part of you going, DON’T. DON’T DO IT. GO AND HAVE A DONUT INSTEAD. NOTHING BEATS A DONUT.

This isn’t who I want to be. I’m all for empowering women, lifting my sisters up with me, as someone cooler than me might phrase it, so why am I so bad at empowering myself? Where does it come from? Will I have my ‘Maria walking round the abbey walls’ moment where I suddenly start singing and believing in myself? Where will that epiphany take place? Tesco? The shower? The toilet on a South Eastern train? Should I just go to Austria? Is Austria where dreams are made?

For a little while now, it’s felt like this ‘thing’ I’m trying to do in life is just a game I’m playing. Like a strange version of The Sims with more croissants. I feel frequently that I’m having some kind of out of body experience, I’m watching myself, and laughing. Is it just me? I doubt it somehow.

I don’t have any answers. I’m genuinely curious to hear from people who’ve found it. Found that core, that nut of confidence that keeps them centered, that keeps them moving, that stops them from saying “sorry” or “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t” or questioning constantly, wasting time questioning, instead of spending time sensibly, at a donut shop, where only good decisions are made. It’s in me somewhere, I’m sure. If someone told me, “you’re not funny” I think I’d have a thing or two to say about that, but I probably wouldn’t actually say it, I’d probably just feel a thing or two, and then go home and eat some more yoghurt.

Obviously this is a largely millennial, first-world problem. I’m aware I may be coming across extremely vain and self-involved and I need to get over myself, do what I have to do, and then do something worthwhile, like volunteer in a community allotment, or rescue a dog, or argue against tampon tax more often. But hey, I’m flawed, extremely flawed actually, physically too; that numb vagina could come back at any minute. It’s a constant threat. In that, my friends, I am confident.

Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, Mental Health, social media

Inspired by Britney Spears: what happens when it gets toxic.

Baby, give me it
You’re dangerous
I’m loving it

Too high
Can’t come down
Losin’ my head
Spinnin’ ’round and ’round
Do you feel me now?

Oh,
The taste of your lips
I’m on a ride
You’re toxic I’m slippin’ under
With a taste of a poison paradise

I’m addicted to you
Don’t you know that you’re toxic?
And I love what you do
Don’t you know that you’re toxic?

(Britney Spears, 2013)

Saying ‘social media is toxic’ out loud is about as revelatory as saying the green pasta twirls are the best; everyone knows it. If it wasn’t so faffy (and wasteful) buying a packet of Tricolore and picking out just the green ones, I’d absolutely be bingeing on them as much as I binge on Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, you name it. But I’m not. I’m sticking to good old fashioned fusili, because I don’t have the time for that shit and I’m waiting until they just do the right thing and invent entirely green packs of pasta, and also, I’m too busy bingeing on Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, you name it.

I work from home on Fridays. Last week was possibly the busiest week in recent memory (and my memory isn’t great because social media keeps killing off my brain cells). On top of my job which that week included organising a press night, I had improv rehearsals, an improv show, a photo shoot, rehearsals for another play and several meetings squished in around that like a tea cosie of added pressure. It was a great week – I like being busy and everything sort of worked and went okay and I look my age and not like a haggard old hypothermic witch in like 75% of the photographs – but it’s been 11 days since I’ve had a day to just ‘be’ and so last night I thought I’d not bother setting an alarm and wake up naturally.

At 7.45pm – because apparently when you turn 28 you become a morning person – for approximately 36 seconds I felt like a goddess. My body and brain was refreshed and my electric blanket was more comforting than a hug from Oprah. Then I picked up my phone and began the morning scroll. 47 minutes later I’m a different woman. I’m stewing over a cup of tea, feeling nauseous, distracted, unmotivated, and, ever so slightly wizened. Excuse my use of ‘wizened,’ it’s just so fun to say.

I spent a few minutes talking to my sister-in-law, who I live with, about how I need to start charging my phone downstairs and investing in an alarm clock, so I can’t tempt myself with all the glories of the online world before I can even properly see out of one eye. I then grabbed my phone and deleted all the apps. I mean, I say all the apps, I kept Whatsapp – because I’m not ready to lose my entire friendship group and I have a lot of long distance relationships to maintain – and I deleted Facebook ages ago because these days it’s about as interesting as a pot of houmous. But I did plonk Twitter and Instagram in the trash and now I’m sitting down to contemplate where to go.

When I think about what I’ve seen on social media this week it’s no wonder I’m ageing prematurely and constantly vomming a small bit in my mouth. On Twitter, before 8am, I’ve seen pigs being tortured, racist Halloween costumes, stories of sexual assault, men telling women they’re shit, women telling men they’re shit and petty, bitchy gossip which is reminiscent of being 14, except in year nine we had MSN so we just said it to people’s faces. On Instagram, I’m seeing people’s holiday snaps, perfect vegan breakfasts, nights out, cocktails, shopping hauls, pumpkin after pumpkin after sodding pumpkin, often shared by people I know – and I’m including myself in this – aren’t actually happy. Not really.

Why are we teasing each other with snapshots of our perfect moments when life isn’t perfect? What are we doing to each other? Why are we playing this game, which we all know isn’t real, to make ourselves feel better for a split-second until we see a picture of someone else in a bikini/drinking a frappuccino/getting a free holiday/getting engaged/having a baby/being more successful than us/buying a house/spending loads of money/being cool and suddenly feel shit again?

When I was on holiday I turned the data on my phone off and started writing a blogpost I never ended up publishing. It was called “vacation: unfiltered” because I got really cliché in Tuscany. Yet again, I’d reached a point where I spent more time looking at Twitter and Instagram than I did breathing, blinking and, judging by the state of my IBS, digesting food. Something had to change. So why not add to the challenges I had already set myself for holiday (get a tan, regular bowel movements, eat ice cream every day) and turn off that free 4G?

Here were some of my entries, about the detox but also compensations for the one photograph of the pool I gave in and uploaded to Instagram, in the form of some holiday truths.

It’s Tuesday as I write, and I haven’t been on Facebook since Friday. I checked Twitter once, because it’s Edinburgh Fringe and I get FOMO, and I gave into temptation and posted a photo of our swimming pool on Instagram, because, let’s face it, us millennials have been bred to brag, and what’s the point of having a swimming pool to yourselves set against a backdrop of Tuscan vineyards if you can’t ignore the view and instead spend 15 minutes showing off to people, most of whom aren’t your friends?

I’ve checked Instagram once and Whatsapp about twice a day – because I’m very attached to my friends, and also there are other ways of bragging.

We have been truly ravaged by mosquitoes. I look like a pepperoni pizza.

Yesterday I got stung between the eyes by a wasp and it’s only thanks to the fact I’m already double-dosing on antihistamines due to my worldwide hay fever together with the fact my body is already covered in red bumps that you can’t tell. 

In fact, I also have spots thanks to sun cream that are worse, far worse, so that’s nice.

I have IBS. The biggest triggers for bloating that can rival a woman who is six months pregnant are dairy and white flour. My diet on holiday has mostly comprised of pizza, pasta, bruschetta, ice cream, yoghurt and extra bread alongside every meal. My attempt at eating vegan regularly has flown so far out the window I THINK it has landed somewhere in the Yorkshire dales. If it’s any consolation I did find vegan Calippos and, if I hadn’t already posted on Facebook that Ed and I are getting married, I would be at the registry office right now, trying to make a Vegan Calippo my life partner.

I think I have three ingrown hairs on my bikini line.

It took us three days to find good food out. It might look picturesque but Tuscany’s main delicacies are wild boar and steak – not ideal for vegetarians.

Our shower only releases one line of water, like when a hose (or penis) dribbles a bit. Washing over half a metre of thick hair is one hell of an adventure.

And, finally, the image I project on social media versus the reality:

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The irony about writing this blog post is I’m entirely reliant on social media to get anyone to read it. So, already, within about an hour of deleting the apps I’m travelling the old-fashioned browser route to satisfy my approval cravings. And I’m reliant on it in other ways too. I’d never have raised over £1000 for my half marathon without Facebook. No one would come and see my shows. I wouldn’t be able to stalk cute babies dressed as characters from Killing Eve. I’d be ignorant of many world events – and equally at risk of staying in my tiny bubble.

But something has to change. Today a particularly vicious, gleeful cycle of bitching on Twitter pushed me over the edge. Me taking a break isn’t going to change anything – but I might actually be able to get some work done today if I stop letting it overwhelm me. It’s not always industry-related. Sometimes it’s an animal cruelty video. Or an Instagram story by someone whose life is cooler than mine. So I guess this is my way of making a promise to myself – to detach from it all – and also, as much as I find it hard to imagine that anyone has read my blog and thought ‘I’m so jealous of that cystitis-fuelled, anxiety-ridden queen of IBS,’ to just compensate for any part I’m playing in that social media game by dismantling it, acknowledging the bullshit, and taking off the filter.

It’s Friday morning. It’s 10am. I’ve done no actual work yet except write this blog. I’m sat in my Harry Potter pyjama bottoms with no bra on. I think I’m allergic to my laundry detergent so I’m regularly itching various parts of my body. I just ate Cornflakes with oat milk – part of my vegan agenda that begins at 8am and ends as soon as I eat chocolate and cheese later in the day. My hands are numb because the house is cold. I’m me.

 

 

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, Humour, Lifestyle

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

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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.

Home, Humour, Lifestyle, Music

Falling for Celine Dion and why it’s just fine to be a “fangirl.”

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It’s no secret I spend a questionable amount of my free time feeling what one might call “nostalgic.” It might be down to the fact my commute is long. Perhaps it’s because I’m genetically programmed to daydream. Or maybe I’m a just pretty experienced and imaginative procrastinator; either way I could get lost in memories of bygone times any day of the week.

I’ve talked for days, frequently exhausted the topics of jokes on ice lolly sticks, terrible fashion choices or weekly potato smileys, all of which impacted greatly on my childhood, but something I don’t think I’ve touched on before is the act of hardcore fandom that is a coming of age essential for any teenage girl. Up there with ra-ra skirts and making decisions based on The Notebook, one of the things I miss the most about being young is that heart-throbbing, soul-defining, spine-tingling rite du passage that is hero worship.

I spent most of my teenage years obsessing over someone or something. This spanned oh so many years and oh so many victims. From Idina Menzel and the entire cast of Rent (thanks to everyone who put up with that phase between 2004-2008), Nicole Kidman because she was my hair and height twin, or Dr Lara Stone in Casualty, who I became so connected to every Saturday night I thought I might be gay, which caused me to have an intense (if a little premature) conversation with my mum outside a Chinese takeaway in my hometown about the possibility of my being in love with a fictional doctor and what this would mean for the family and my GCSEs.

It’s an experience I imagine most of us are familiar with, and even if you’re not, and I am in fact worryingly alone in my experiences of infatuation and idolisation (although I doubt that), I’ll put it down to the fact that I was a red-haired, glasses-wearing, musical-obsessing 14-year old (cough 17-year old) on a unique journey of self-discovery.

We grow out of it as adults. In the same way we’ve grown out of crimping (tragically I might add), holiday braids and painting little suncream hearts on our stomachs on the beach. Fandom is now “fangirling” – an irrational, hysterical, often irritating display of adoration in the eyes of others, not helped by One Direction. Seen as a phase born out of insecurity, dreams, vulnerability or longing, fandom belongs to the young. Try as you might, it’s much harder to admit to a celebrity crush in your mid-twenties. If you, like me, enjoy playing up to social norms, you might wear a McBusted t-shirt at rush hour on the tube just to piss off people in suits, but you still feel like a bit of an outsider.

When I spent half my weekly wages on a ticket to Celine Dion I was met with a mixed reaction. Some friends commented with a Titanic pun (and received a warm response obviously). Others “only know one of her songs” apparently (what have you been doing all your life?) and a few really wanted to know how old she is before commenting. Celine isn’t your average musical heroine, it seems (and she’s also younger than you think.) It seems Celine is not as universally adored as, say, Beyoncé or Adele – so what is it about her that has charmed me and many others to the point of a) spending so much money on a really quite terrible seat that is potentially closer to heaven than the woman herself and b) feeling like seeing her live really is the peak of bucket list goals.

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I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about all this because, genuinely, I can’t get her out of my mind. I’m still lost in awe of her facial expressions, hand gestures, and the fact she only needed one sip of water in two hours. The magic can’t only be Celine being Celine though; I think it has to be a little bit about you being you, or me being me too. Chemistry.

Celine being Celine, we know, has one hell of a set of pipes. These pipes, it probably goes without saying, are the soundtrack to my life. She is a superhuman, a machine, a goddess, and there’s a lot to be said for sheer mind-blowing talent. Scrolling through my Facebook timeline it appears a pretty large proportion of my friends who get her (and by “get her” I mean are equally obsessed) are singers. So Celine is goals. Celine is also so French. The sass, the style, the softness, the slightly mad chatter between songs, her soul is divine. And it’s addictive.

But of course, French doesn’t do it for everyone. So what else? Well, me being me, I’m all for someone who’s open. Who can get up on the stage at the O2 and talk about sticky toffee pudding getting stuck in her teeth right before killing Think Twice. Who can openly celebrate the life of her husband and share her sense of loss with others so generously. Someone who inspires you to be you, no one but you, and to be you to the nth degree.

You want more? Celine commits. I want to live the rest of my life giving as much as Celine gives in It’s All Coming Back To Me Now, whether you’re opening your heart to the heavens or pounding the floor. And of course it’s the cheese. It has to be that fine line, trodden in sequined boots and leather jackets, between effortless talent and international glamour and something slightly (maybe really) uncool.

It seems relevant at this point to tell you that as I’m writing this the girl next to me on the train is reading over my shoulder and it’s making me extremely uncomfortable. Like far more uncomfortable than if I were writing about thrush. Which makes me question whether it’s embarrassing to be writing about Celine Dion? Why does she make half of us clasp our hands to our hearts and instantly start singing That’s The Way It Is and the other half cringe?

And I think it’s because Celine – all her jewelry and riches and Vegas residencies aside – embraces everything we shy away from. She is unashamedly herself. She is optimistic, unbelievably extra, devoted and wears her heart on her sleeve. Celine is my spirit animal and Saturday night couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve been stuck in what a bit of a “grey zone” – feeling a bit lost and lacking confidence and inspiration and thinking ice cream is the only answer. And it felt really good for a dream to come true. And not only that – it felt so good to laugh and to cry and to sing and to fangirl.

Or fan-woman. As women – and as writers, or artists, or, hell, maybe doctors, accountants, aerospace engineers – we are socially programmed to compare ourselves to others. But the magic of Celine is, you can’t beat her. You can watch and celebrate and fall in love and feel like you might die for her but you feel amazing instead of terrible because it would be pointless trying to compare yourself anyway. Celine injected me with a sense of not only joy but real purpose and energy and life. People think fangirling is lame, or irrational, or immature and I’ll tell you what, I am all of those things quite a lot of the time. Sometimes I’m so lame I surprise myself. I sleep with a giant shark for crying out loud and my GCSE music recording was a duet of My Heart Will Go On with my dad.

But what we all forget is that diehard hero worship is defining. It is momentous, unforgettable, healing. This blog post is half in total celebration of Celine Dion – because, like I said, I’m intoxicated. But it’s also half in celebration of experiencing real inspiration. Of loving someone you don’t know (in a non-stalker way.) Of still being on that journey of self-discovery and that being just fine. And whether it’s Celine that does it for you, or Sadiq Khan, or the person who gave you a free coffee at Pret, basically as long as it’s not Trump it’s the one.

Also. That girl next to me on the train who was making me feel uncomfortable. I realised it had nothing to do with Celine. She was eating a Mr Whippy at rush hour. Weird right? You know what’s weirder? Whilst eating the Mr Whippy she was flicking aimlessly through a book about murder. And the moral of that story is, there are far weirder ways to spend your free time than listening to Taking Chances on repeat. It’s also okay for you to imagine than all eight of your Desert Island Discs would be from her greatest hits album. I think it’s probably even fine to sometimes feel sad that she won’t be singing at your wedding even though you’re not planning a wedding – or your funeral even though you haven’t died yet.

So thanks, Celine, for a Saturday night of dreams and a new lease of life. You’re the one.

 

 

fitness, Home, Lifestyle

This girl can… (very slowly).

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Being a somewhat unrealistic and over-ambitious 26-year old with next to no spare time, I decided to set out quite a lot of goals for myself in 2017. Some were reasonable; trying to sleep more than a restless toddler and to speak Spanish more regularly than just calling my mother madre in every text message.

If you counted stopping biting my nails, a bound-to-fail tradition I keep up purely to entertain myself, along with not straightening my hair anymore and trying to avoid the biscuit tin, I’d be so busy trying to keep my goals I’d forget to do the important things like licking the cake bowl tin, and trying to watch six seasons of Girls in one month.

Either way, I had a lot of fun on New Year’s Eve with my friends trying to outline what I want to achieve this year, the person I want to be, and apparently I didn’t drink all the gin because amongst ‘singing an entire song in public in a different accent’ lay two more realistic, helpful, turn-your-life-around kind of goals.

The first of which was to become a vegetarian. I’m now four and a bit months in, having only failed once in the first week of January when I forgot about the new me and accidentally had chicken dippers at Wetherspoons to make myself feel happier about the tube strike. Not only do I love my new diet but I’ve found it easy to commit to, satisfying in more ways than one, and guilt-free (now I can enjoy the sight of baby lambs on a hillside without feeling like a criminal.) Success.

The second goal, and shamefully not for the first time, was to do more exercise. And not only do more exercise but find a routine that I can stick to, that can become embedded in my lifestyle, to the extent that I miss it when I don’t do it. Like Twitter.

So I wasn’t asking much and it, my friends, has been easier said than done.

I used to be a sporty kid. Until the age of sixteen I was on every team at school, competed in national athletics tournaments (I know), ran without wanting to kill myself, took my swimming costume everywhere and didn’t see daily exercise as a battle. Somewhere along the line of studying more, taking up drama full-time instead, losing my confidence and not wanting to be sweaty and ginger, simply losing interest, meant I left that lifestyle behind.

Fast-forward a decade and I was a different person. Whilst I still walked a lot, did the occasional set of abs exercises when it became an emergency the day before a holiday, ran around Clapham Common every now and then but often got distracted by the ice cream van, tried to run up the escalators on a good day, and did a bit of yoga when my head was overflowing, I wasn’t exactly in shape. And something about naturally having a flat stomach when it isn’t disguised by an IBS food baby means you forget you might not be the healthiest person on the planet.

Over a period of time, you start looking in the mirror and thinking you could do better. That determination increases ten-fold when someone you know gets seriously ill, and suddenly you want to start looking after yourself a bit more, basically because I’m very sensitive when it comes to doctors judging me.

I kept hearing about how running, or any form of activity that isn’t Netflix, is not only good for your heart and your muscles, but also for your brain, your posture, your skin, your digestion; basically all the things I haven’t exactly got under control. I’m easily influenced, so when Lena Dunham starts talking about how running has been the most effective cure for her anxiety, or some fresh-faced Youtuber puts her clear skin down to cardio, I get swayed.

Suddenly I don’t want to be that person who’s proud of staying thin without doing any exercise. I want to be the person whose muscles ache from a weekend workout, whose heart is healthy, who has good stamina for drunk rounders in the summer, whose doing everything she can to grab life by the balls and live it in the best way.

So where did that leave me?

Well, I had a long way to go. This is coming from someone who used to put that Cocoa Butter Toning moisturiser on nightly in an effort to try and get a firmer bum. Who burnt most of her calories sneezing on a high pollen day, or trying to get into a tight pair of jeans. Who wrote a blog called “24 things to do instead of going for a run” that included writing a musical and making a toothpaste mural.

I’ve learned it’s as much a psychological battle as anything else. So in January I did two things to win over my mind. I downloaded Couch to 5k, in an effort to start over again, build up stamina properly, stop giving up at a stitch, and compete with myself. And I bought a whole load of new exercise gear, because it turns out the most effective thing to get me out the door is guilt that I’ve spent money on a new sports bra and not used it enough.

Reader, it has worked.

Now I’m not encouraging you to go and spend all your money in TK Maxx because I don’t get paid for that but it was the push I needed. Part of the problem in the past was every time I tried to do more than walk around Clapham Common I was ending up with shin splints, sore ankles and clicky knees. Which are all nice excuses to order Dominos instead but also rather inconvenient.

So this time I went to Runners Direct and got my gait tested, which involves running on a treadmill in front of a lanky eighteen-year old who tells you your knees and ankles are not aligned, before prescribing you the most unattractive, bulky, electric blue trainers in the home counties.

I’m not lying when I say these trainers not only look worse than bowling shoes but are so bright it’s possible for someone at the top of the Shard to point and laugh at you. And you have to pay for them. But, sigh, they work, the eighteen-year old knows his stuff. I can run without feeling snappy or pained the next day and apparently you’re not supposed to look good running anyway, who knew?

And despite just gagging a bit because I sound like such a wanker, I really love Couch to 5k. It’s got into that part of my psyche that makes me hate it as much as I love it, I have to obey it, and it’s mildly manipulative but in quite an alluring way. Basically it’s the most complicated relationship I’ve had in my life but four months on and something inside me has changed.

Yesterday was Easter Day, a day I used to reserve for bingeing and perhaps a stroll around the local duck pond if I felt particularly ambitious, but I forced myself to get up and run, dragging Eduardo with me so he could yell at me when I try to hide behind the children on the swings. I just went on the most active holiday of my life, where if we weren’t surfing or hiking, we were playing tennis and kayaking, and, again, I felt something shift in my attitude towards everything. I like being this active, and I like feeling noticeably fitter. Ed no longer has to tempt me up the side of a mountain with Haribo which means we save at least one Euro every trip.

At the risk of sounding like the next Rebecca Adlington, I want to start strength training; four months ago I didn’t know what that was and would have taken a guess at it being a kind of advanced hair conditioner for brittle ends. Because it’s fine being able to run 5K without stopping (I say that hypothetically, I still need an inhaler and to be slightly drunk to achieve that), but I’d quite like to be able to do a press-up just in case I change my mind about working in theatre and want to join the army, or something. I’d quite like to know what it feels like to have definition in my arms, to carry a rucksack to work without my back caving in, to have strong thighs so I can pin my boyfriend down on the floor and steal the remote.

The thing about exercise is that it can feel like slow progress. I find running in the morning really difficult, so much harder than in the evening, partly because my antihistamines haven’t kicked in and also because I’m still half-asleep, and every time I force myself to go out I feel terrible, like I’ve taken ten steps back. Similarly, the other day I looked at myself in a wetsuit and thought, why do I not looking like a surfer babe yet? But the problem is, no one actually looks good in a wetsuit and I can’t really surf, so it was unfair to ask myself that question.

The reason I’m writing all this down is twofold. Firstly, I’m really only at the start of all this and need as much help as I can get; I need to be able to read this back to myself when I feel less enthused about going out in the rain, or testing out the weights at the gym in front of scary gym people, because I’ll be letting down my audience (of approximately two people) if I give in. Secondly, if there is anyone else out there who is as easily influenced as me, and also wanting to integrate a bit of movement into your routine without becoming a dickhead or exhausted, perhaps this will help.

It’s really hard to commit to doing exercise when you have a life. I’m out of the house at work for at least eleven hours a day, and if I’m not seeing plays in the evening, I’m rehearsing or doing my improvisation class, or am too tired to function, let alone do up the laces on my trainers. Summer helps; on an evening off I am better at forcing myself to get some fresh air because it eases off that feeling of being trapped in an office all day, and I’ve started enjoying morning runs at the weekend because it means I can eat the entire contents of the fridge for the rest of the day.

I love food, I think about it all the time, am queen of snacks, work my holidays around it, sometimes think I might like to marry a pain au raisin, and the thought of it is pretty much the only thing that gets me around a park run. Never have I wanted to become a person who thinks twice before having a second cookie, or who honestly chooses nuts as their favourite snack, but I do see the plus side of being a little more balanced.

Kate Moss once got in a shit load of trouble for saying “nothing tastes better than thin feels” which is completely mad, because croissants are heaven, and feeling your hip bones dig into a sun lounger is unbelievably shit and leaves you with an uneven tan because you can only lie on your front for approximately seven seconds. So in the sense of cancelling out her motto, here’s mine: “nothing tastes better than eating an entire cherry pound cake after panting round your local park for half an hour like an arthritic gorilla.”

Happy bank holiday friends, and wish me luck. X

Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London

Looking backwards, then looking forwards, both hopefully without walking into a lamp post.

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Happy New Year you sexy beasts!

Today I started the year as I mean to go on; with a bowl full of Star Wars cereal and a lack of desire to wash my hair. After a week of friends, family, shortbread bingeing, country air, dog envy, wellies, board games, and refusing to go anywhere without my slippers, I’m back in London and ready to get into the swing of things, big time.

Right now I’m thinking about insuring my gadgets – so clearly this is the year I take over the world and become extremely boring.

I wanted to jump on the reflections and resolutions bandwagon even if it’s just giving myself a pat on the back for grating cheese last year without injuring myself and lining up some exciting goals including getting a better rounders bat. 2016 was a bullshit year for us all and some things are hard to recover from. So it’s lucky we’re all superheroes, hey?

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2016, THE BEST BITS.

  • Starting improvisation classes. It’s all about meeting new friends, playing around and growing in confidence. Plus learning things is SO COOL (said Hermione). Bring on term two.
  • Writing a play with one of my best friends, the one and only Tamar Broadbent (remember her name). We have two shows coming up on January 24 and 27 at The Bunker Theatre so come see please as we don’t have enough grandmas between us to fill 220 seats. (Tickets HERE!)
  • Living in the countryside. Okay, so when I say living in the countryside, really I mean the London/Kent border but in comparison to where I was living before it’s practically the sticks. I love being a 10-minute drive from fields that stretch all the way to the horizon. I might be a city girl in the week, but the weekend is for farms, wellies and fresh air and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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  • Sitting at a table in a hotel and having someone make me a pain au chocolat from scratch.
  • My Macbook has changed my life. I’m dying inside as I type that but having a computer that works without catching fire, doesn’t run out of battery before I’ve opened up a window, and that’s light enough for me to carry into work and write on every day/lunch/commute is the bomb. Apple – you can sponsor me whenevs, babe, you’ve got my number (and everyone’s number you fucking weirdo.)
  • Being in a job I love, with people who are fun and kind, who let me write a staff panto, have an endless snack selection, and which means I can actually pay my rent without having a heart attack is cool. Who knew?

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  • Finding my sharks. Period.
  • On starting my tax return, discovering to my amazement I’ve kept my government gateway password in my oyster card holder for an entire year and it’s the first time I don’t need to call up HMRC to get new log-in details. I think that means I’m now responsible enough to get a dog.
  • The people who make my world go round. Eduardo for being my shark dad and other half, my family for being my core and such fun, and all my friendlings for not complaining about coming to my shows, and generally being the best humans on earth.

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2016, THE OUTTAKES.

  • We all know anxiety is a bitch. And whilst my stress levels are down, butterflies are dormant, general throat swelling and stomach churning is stable, it’s still the bane of my life and the journey isn’t over because I’m still a nightmare hypochondriac. So let’s make 2017 a year of more talking about mental health; it really works.
  • Having a second smear test because of an abnormal result was a real piece of dick, and I’m kind of dreading going back for my annual check-up this month. But how lucky are we for the NHS, and how unusual and innovative a start to the year it is when someone spray paints your cervix, and thank god for wine.
  • No one invites cancer and yet it always turns up to the best parties. Losing someone special this year turned my world upside down, and still catches me mid-breath. But the people you love never really leave you; they are in piano keys, and family, and laughter, and sunshine. So here’s to a year of making the most of every single minute and saying I love you.
  • Losing faith in half the country, and then half of America, and also a lot of humankind has been a strange one for us all to deal with this year. None of us have the answers, and I imagine it’s another year ahead of unease, disappointment, frustration and battles that seem impossible. But I have faith in people, in action, in goodness, in kindness and in working together. Let’s make magic happen.
  • One year later, deep in the depths of winter, my allergies are going nowhere. Pretty sure I’ve single-handedly kept Kleenex in business, that 60% of the water in my body is lemon and honey, and I’ve permanently damaged the insides of my sinuses from nasal spray. Consequently I’m thinking about naming my first born Hayfever.

AND FINALLY, 2017’S RESOLUTIONS, IN BRIEF (BECAUSE I’M ABOUT TO MAKE ED WATCH THE SOUND OF MUSIC FOR THE FIRST TIME).

  • I want to be less addicted to my phone. No more stalking Zoella on Twitter and getting annoyed that she spells LOTS with an apostrophe.
  • Exercise has got to make an appearance. My arms feel like playdoh right now and I’d like to have upper body strength for the following hypothetical scenarios; meeting Donald Trump and punching him, riding a whale, and breaking a Terry’s chocolate orange open with my bare hands.
  • More sleep is coming my way and stress is being kicked out the park this year.
  • Taking my bra off earlier in the day is high on the agenda, or perhaps just finding way to discretely not wear one. They are such a pile of shit and I’m having none of it.
  • Laughing as much as possible. Seriously, I want this year to be full of stomach-spasming, side-splitting LOLS.
  • Following on from that I might get an experimental haircut. And also I want to be better at accents. Someone please help me.
  • Instead of trying to be revolutionary and give up lip balm, I just want to make sure I have enough lip balms in every bag, pocket and room in the house so I never hyperventilate when I lose one.
  • I want to give everything I have to creative projects. This year is the year I give it my all. Whether it’s the play, or the podcast, the blog, or getting extremely good at plasticine, I want to have enough faith in myself to grab every opportunity going and make. things. happen.
  • I’d like to do more for charity, join more political protests, read more books, see more films, speak more Spanish, and buy shoes that fit.
  • Finally, I never want to forget the priorities. The people I love to the bottom of my heart, health and happiness, sharks, sleep, protecting the planet, complaining less and acting more, and being kind.
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Can I see my future from here?

Happy New Year all of you. Let’s do this. X