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.

 

 

Health, Home, Humour, Lifestyle, Mental Health

Roundabouts.

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Sometimes I think I’m in control of my life. I look at my impressive selection of Tupperware. I regularly buy courgettes. I think about insurance from time to time. And often I feel in control of my life when I’m driving, even if it’s just to the local swimming pool. I feel content, have a purpose. To be honest, I probably enjoy any mode of transport that isn’t the tube, but cars are the best. I can play music out loud, fill the passenger seat with snacks, feel the sun on my right arm and hope I get a lopsided tan.

It must be something to do with the fact I’ve made life decisions that mean I lack stability and a sense of direction in a general way. Sometimes, genuinely, I feel like I’m more likely to win an international snooker championship than ever actually write for a living. Sometimes I’m okay with that. Sometimes I feel happy in the decision I’ve made to chase a seemingly impossible dream and never pay off my student loan. And then other times, I pretend I’m fine and then I have a breakdown at a roundabout for no apparent reason, in the vehicle that’s supposed to represent me at my most sane (a Daihatsu Charade), and realise it’s all got a bit too much.

Recently I lost the plot at a roundabout and realised I’m not superwoman. And I learned that the biggest risk behind being in denial is finding yourself crying in a farm shop car park on the phone to your dad on a Saturday morning. I should have realised, by the level of anxiety the thought of filling my car up at the petrol station on the motorway was causing me, that I wasn’t in a good frame of mind. I should have known, from the fact I woke up, wondered why Ed hadn’t texted me from Scotland to say good night, assumed he’d died and started planning his funeral, that perhaps I wasn’t in the most balanced of moods. Nevertheless, I persisted, and it didn’t go so well.

Of course I’m no longer at the roundabout now, because I drove home, made a cup of tea and called it a day, but I am at a roundabout, permanently it feels, going round in circles, and I don’t know which way to go. I’ve talked before about coming out the other side of a battle with anxiety, dosed up on therapy and ready to rock the universe. And to a degree this is true – most of the time I’m much better than I was before. But right now, it’s not as good as it could be. Part of me wonders if it’s ironic, a twist of fate at work, because in a moment of ambition I signed up for a half marathon to fundraise for Mind UK, and since deciding to try and run 21 kilometres through the city of London in the name of the country’s biggest mental health charity my anxiety has gone through the roof.

One of the most frustrating triggers is a sense of restlessness, boredom or loneliness. It makes me feel like a failure, it makes me panic, it makes me cry. It’s why I don’t spend much time alone in my house. I see plays. I do classes. I run around the park. I see friends. I fill my time with work. But this is complicated because another trigger is exhaustion, doing too much and high levels of stress, and so I often find myself trying to find a balance between doing too much and doing too little. I suppose this is the reason why I seem to have developed a perpetual fear of making decisions and a rather debilitating sense of potential regret or guilt. I’m constantly over-thinking what I should and shouldn’t do, with my day, with my job, with my life.

I’ve become slightly allergic to people asking me ‘How I am’ and ‘How things are going.’ Something bottles up inside me. Genuinely, I have no words, and this is a scary thing for someone who enjoys words. Succulent. Discombobulated. Refrigerator. I feel like I have nothing to say – or that if I did start to actually try and describe how I feel it would be extremely inappropriate in the theatre green room, or during a smear test. But that’s why I have a blog – to open a lid on things unspoken. The other day on Twitter I saw the description for the 19th century equivalent of “meh”; “flobly-mobly,” which means somewhere between well and not-well, and in need of sunshine.

I am extremely flobly-mobly right now.

I really hoped that I could start referring to ‘my anxiety’ as just ‘anxiety’ – something separate from myself, like ‘crunchy nut cornflakes’ and ‘nuclear war’ but I can’t, because it’s a part of me, like my ability to play on words, and my hair. And just like my hair, sometimes my brain behaves, and sometimes it gets a bit frazzled. My anxiety means I spend a lot of time thinking about cancer. It means stomach butterflies. IBS. Chewing the inside of my mouth every day. Not picking up the phone to unknown numbers. Thinking about getting home before I’ve even gone out. Fearing decision making. Intrusive thoughts. Thinking about cancer some more. Restless nights. Palpitations. Distraction. Procrastination. Dread.

However…

My anxiety makes me a caring person. Empathetic. Forward-thinking. Organised. A good party planner (even if once everyone arrives and has a great time I go upstairs to bed). Without anxiety I doubt I’d have acquired my sense of humour. My cynicism. To be honest, I doubt I’d have such good Tupperware, because I’d probably just chill out about routine and money and just buy lunch out more often. My anxiety makes me hungry – for success, for fulfilment, for crème eggs when I’m feeling really low. My anxiety makes me me – a Wednesday’s child, a good friend, a funny person, a writer.

It’s 6.50am. I set my alarm to go on a morning run.* I’m trying to break through this distaste I have for running first thing in the morning. I once had a terrible experience involving a Park run and hay fever and it put me off. But most half marathons seem to be at the crack of dawn, so I need to somehow get through it. I’m in bed, having a cup of tea, waking up, writing, and then I’ll leave the house. It’s sunny outside. This week, I’m doing me. I’m doing the things that make me happy, and giving myself a pat on the back for just getting through it. Often I fall into the trap of thinking anxiety is a weakness, a failure, a system breakdown of sorts. What I forget when I’m panicking, and remember when I’m calm, is that it makes you strong. It’s not easy getting up and going to work on an average day, let alone when your brain has spent all night telling you you probably have HIV. Sometimes it’s really hard just to get on the damn train.

I am lucky. I live in a world where we are beginning to talk about mental health openly. The sun is shining outside. I have a support system. Freak shakes exist. This is a reminder to myself that I need to get back to operating on a scale of gratefulness, love and joy, and not a scale of fear, pressure and guilt. I’m running this damn half marathon whether I like it or not, and I’m running it for brains, and health, and honesty. So you can expect some more from me on this topic. I’ve shut it off for a while, because sometimes it’s quite nice to think you’re chill all the time and crack on like a normal person. But the door’s wide open again. Because I’m hardly normal. I have two pet sharks. And normal is boring.

*I wrote this blog post yesterday and forgot to post it. I’m not going on a run this morning. I have an 8.30am hospital appointment for a colposcopy. The third year in a row that my smear test has come back abnormal (told you I wasn’t normal.) Don’t want to sound like a preacher’s daughter, but go get your vaginas looked at, mates. It’s not the most fun I have on an annual basis but I’d rather this than, you know, my vagina falling out or something. Book. Your. Smears.

 

 

 

Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, realism

Coming Clean.

I have something to confess to you all.

There is a dress at the bottom of my washing basket that has been there for one year. It’s hand wash only and in twelve months I haven’t found the motivation, inspiration or remotest sense of interest to sort it out.

I hate hand-washing clothes for a number of reasons. It’s time consuming. It’s faffy. I have to go upstairs to use the good sink. It’s boring. But it’s absolutely no excuse, is it? I should be ashamed. On a shame scale I’d say it’s probably worse than forgetting about a satsuma at the bottom of the fruit bowl and only discovering it one month later after it’s grown its own ecosystem, but it’s not as bad as, say, leaving your child in the supermarket and going home to watch Gogglebox?

Either way though, I refuse to be ashamed, because, let’s face it, this entire blog centres around confessions and smashing filters to smithereens and if I really was ashamed of myself, I’d probably be doing something about it, instead of pointedly ignoring said item of clothing and writing about it instead.

I’m taking it as a sign that today is my one-year anniversary of not giving a shit. In the age of clean, I’m embracing the obscene (and rhyming, apparently.) Because the thing is, I know, deep down, I am just the kind of person that cares more about having a choice of cereals in the morning than a choice of presentable clothes.

It isn’t even a time thing. I take a lot of time making cool packed lunches in multi-coloured Tupperware. I spend time straightening my hair so I don’t look like an (albeit anaemic) Aslan. I spend time writing, sitting on my hands so I don’t bite my nails, thinking about the future, thinking about puns, and – I’m self-conscious enough to feel like I have to defend myself here – washing everything else. Because I’m still a clean person. I wash all my other clothes – very regularly. My towels. My face. My hair. (Sadly, even though my loathing for hair washing rivals my loathing for complicated laundry items, I can’t get away with leaving my head at the bottom of the washing basket for a year.)

And the dress isn’t soiled or anything. I don’t think I even sweated that much that evening. Come to think of it, I probably didn’t need to wash it. I probably could have just sprayed it with Febreze and hung it back up. And my laundry basket is this kind of plasticky stand-alone Ikea one, so I don’t think it’s prone to germs or infestations. Basically I don’t think I’m endangering myself or anyone I live with by leaving it in there, getting it out every time I do a normal wash, and putting it back in.

It’s just one of those can’t be bothered adult things that I’ve let get the better of me. Like descaling the kettle. And getting a proper job.

Maybe I’m a late developer. I mean, let’s face it, I still haven’t got boobs. Perhaps when I hit 30 I’ll finally learn how to do it all. How to shave my legs without maiming myself, how to stop all my woolly clothes from going bobbly, how to just hand wash a damn dress. Or maybe, maybe, I’m not responsible enough to do washing. Perhaps I can skip that bit of adult life out. I tried to wash my denim jacket earlier and forgot I’d left a crème egg in the top pocket. It’s now fucked. Truly fucked. And the worst part is, I’d bought the egg as a present for someone. It wasn’t even for me. No part of the situation is fair.

It seems ironic, given London’s illegal levels of pollution, that we seem to be living in a clean age. Instagram grids are flawless, fridges are jam-packed, no, not even with jam, but with spinach and spirulina and self-love (mine is actually full of cheese strings left over from my noughties play). Everyone is living up to this idea of perfection that’s probably inspired partly by Scandinavia and their damn perfect interior décor, partly by Reese Witherspoon, and partly by that person you went to school with on Facebook who you don’t really like, or know anything about anymore, but who posts photos of her baby in immaculate bibs (why does it never dribble)?

But it’s not sustainable, is it? Just like fossil fuels, this mining of Youtube and Instagram and Pinterest for lifestyle inspiration and the perfect bath (if I took a photograph of my bath and put it on Instagram I’d probably get reported for being triggering), means at some point if we haven’t already, we’re all going to end up having a breakdown. Perhaps we all need to take a step back and start leaving more things at the bottom of the laundry bin.

I’m not writing all this in reaction to the clean scene, because honestly, actively ignoring that dress at the bottom of my laundry basket isn’t an act of protest. But it does fit nicely with the theme. I’ve given up chasing perfection and trying to be something I’m not. I spent pretty much all my teenage years trying to escape my own body and be someone else. It resulted in a bad fringe, two months spent trying to be a ballet dancer, and a lot of self-loathing.

I’m happy with who I am now but I don’t take myself seriously enough to start trying to paint an image of perfection online. I barely know how Instagram works, although I did recently discover when posting a podcast, that if you use the hashtag #adultfilm a lot of porn stars start following you so that’s exciting. It’s actually quite hard being an adult and managing to do lots of different things. We don’t get wet break time. We don’t get rewards for doing unpleasant things like tax or epilating. We have to be responsible for our own tax. Not nearly enough of our clothes have pockets in.

So happy anniversary to me. Cheers to being messy. To celebrate, I might do a hand wash tonight, because now I’ve put the dress out into the world I feel like I really ought to do something about it.

Well. At least before I turn 30.

 

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.

quavers

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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