Thursday, 30 June 2011

Where is she?

Where is she?

The station is swarming – suited and booted, uniformed, paint splattered overalls, too short shorts, floating dresses, rushing rushing rushing, rushing everywhere.

Too many people, where are they all going? Another train pulls in delivering more of them. Some have a firm shake of hands and walk off -  a business meeting, others rush to one another and embrace – old friends meeting up, another looks completely lost, furiously studying their map – a tourist.

Surely she must get here soon?

A short sharp pain in my back as somebody sits to join me on the metal seats, throwing themselves backwards into their chair. The waft of greasy meat hits my nostrils, making my stomach flip over with nausea.

I look up to watch the young, oily haired boy take huge, but hurried bites into the fast food grabbed in his hands. The brown bag it was stored in dotted with splashes of fat.

My backside starts to get a dull, throbbing ache in it, perhaps I should stand up. It took so long to finally get lowered down into this seat though, what with my shaky hands and stick. My knees aren’t what they used to be, sometimes I wonder if they’ll just give up and I’ll wake up one day and they just won’t want to support me anymore.

I’m shocked out of my daydream by a shrill beeping, as some sort of cleaning contraption with one of those coloured fellows sitting on it whooshes past. In my day a good old-fashioned broom or a brush and pan sufficed.

The middle aged woman next to me pushes her thick, black-rimmed spectacles further up the bridge of her nose and huffs, hastily moving her small suitcase to one side, out of the way. She starts tapping the screen of a small, thin computer-like device in her hands, deep in concentration.

“Ah, these damn things! The battery on them is atrocious, bring back my Blackberry any day!” she loudly announces to me. I smile politely, not quite sure what she’s talking about. Then the plastic block starts to emit a sound, much like mother’s old phone in the Forest Gate house. it’s a phone of some sort then? Must be one of these fancy mobiles, what do they call them, eye books or something?

I can feel myself getting hotter and hotter and wipe my brow with my handkerchief. The sun is strong today, fancy having a roof like this, it’s like storing us all in a greenhouse!

“We are sorry to announce the 16:37 to Shenfield is delayed by eight minutes, we apologise for any inconvenience caused,” a well spoken voice declares over some sort of loudspeaker. 

Delays? Hm maybe she’s stuck underground somewhere then? Surely she would have been better off getting her sister to drop her off, I don’t like to think of her spoiling her nice dress and shoes on the trains.

Maybe I’ll go find out what all the trouble is. If I can just get the angle right and lean on my good arm I should be alright. Here goes.

Bang! Smack back down on the chair. The woman next to me tuts, the youngster next to me says nothing. Oh he’s gone, I notice the empty seat, when did he get up and leave, he had a whole meal and drink to eat a minute ago. Well I think it was a minute ago. How long have I been here now?

“Are you alright sir?” I can just about make out the words of this blonde haired, frail, tight and brightly clothed girl. Such a strong accent, I can’t quite place where she’s from. I look up through my squinting eyes, the bright light bursting through the glass roof makes it hard to adjust.

“Albert, me old man, what you doing back ere?” Eddie? Is that Eddie? I hope Martha’s alright, oh god perhaps something’s happened to her that’s why she’s taken so long...
A smart young man with an oddly familiar face smiles at me and gently places his hand on my bony shoulder.

“It’s okay, leave him to me” he says to the young girl, she smiles sadly and walks away.

“So Albert, what are you doing back here again then eh?”

“It’s Martha, Martha’s running so late. Do you know where she is? Is she okay? Do you know Eddie?”

He clears his throat.

I look at my watch and tap my foot impatiently. “We’re going to end up missing the dance at this rate.”

The man goes to help me up, he must work here, I notice his name badge and the familiar blue and red outfit.

“Come on Bert, let’s get you out the way before the mad rush begins, eh?”

“Albert, my name’s Albert, Albert Smithfield. Son of Victor Smithfield, the owner of Smithfield’s Tailors down the road I’ll have you know.”

“Aw come on, you said yesterday I could call you Bert when we had that nice cuppa in the office, remember?”

He seems to be grinning at me like we’re familiar, he seems friendly enough I suppose, perhaps he’s confused and mistaken me for someone else?

“I’m sorry I think you’ve got a bit muddled. I don’t know you,” I let him down gently.

He smiles at me, rather pityingly I must say and tries to gesture me forwards. No, I’m not having this.

“Look sonny, I don’t know who you are and I don’t appreciate you manhandling me like this”.

Chris - the name badge identifies him as – quickly takes a swift step back away from me and holds his hands up.

“I thought you might not remember. You seemed to be getting better Monday. I’m Chris, Albert. We meet, probably around once a week or so, here at the station. You’ve been coming here for the past few months or so. Looking for Martha? ”

I’m confused. The past few months?

“She was your wife.”

“I know who Martha is! She is my wife, what do you mean was?”

Chris, the station attendant, looks sad, gently takes the old man by the arm and leads him off to the staffroom to start the process all over again. Calling Lindsay, the daughter, notifying Maplewood Care Home again and softly explaining to Albert that Martha’s dead. He’s in 2011, he’s got confused again, he’s not a young man off to court his lifelong friend and partner, he’s here in Liverpool Street station, yet again caught up in the neverending wait for the love of his life who passed away and left him over three years ago, when his dementia all began.

* This short story was written by me and inspired by a number of things – my wait in Liverpool Street station yesterday whilst I was early for my interview and did some more prep sitting there, my lovely dear Nanny Rhoda who is sadly no longer with us and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and also a really nice old man who used to live in her care home with her, who was always dressed smartly in a suit waiting for his ‘family’ to come and visit, who never arrived.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Well I survived – both the storm and my second interview. Now it’s time to sit back and see what happens and keep every single thing possible crossed.

Kinda feeling a bit sad right now though as left the interview and just headed back home – boyfriend’s working, all my friends are at work, any of my family who live nearby are on holiday, so I’m all alone.

You know what I’ve done, come back and had some chocolate and coffee and have been watching Dinner Dates – what a saddo! I must say though I just cannot believe this guy on here. He has so far told one girl that parmesan includes the same enzyme as vomit and another that to get rid of indigestion you just wipe your armpits and breathe it in. Nice.

What is it about us that sometimes stops us from thinking about what we’re going to say.

I am a classic example of this – well take for instance today I told the interviewee how I love writing, but have not pursued it anymore as a career as you have to be really lucky to be well paid for it. Yes well done Mel you go right ahead and say that to someone who used to head up a huge well known newspaper/media organisation, duh!... 

There was also the time I told a client how for my birthday I was having an Ann Summers party, because I was worried that what I’d told him so far was a bit dull sounding. I do tend to feel I need to be honest with people, which in the main I think people appreciate, but at other times I really need to learn how to keep my mouth shut!

Ha! The guy has just picked which girl he wants to take out, her face just says it all – the fakest smile ever. I’ve also become quite adept at that – doing a forced smile and pretending something is funny or I agree.

So what should we do, be honest all the time and just tell it like it is, or try the fake approach so as not to offend?

Well if I was the girl on this programme I don’t think I could hold back on his horrendous outfit and would have to speak my mind. As my friend would say the colour is ‘T Mobile pink’ and he kinda looked like he was off to go ride a horse rather than go out and enjoy a meal.

Is it better to be strong and opinionated, or keep it to yourself for an easy life? Why are some of us naturally honest early on and others start off mischievous from childhood and fib their way throughout?

Truth be told do we really want to always be told the truth or do we like being charmed with false interest and approval? Think about it, how would you really react if when you asked your friend or partner if your bum looked big in that outfit they turned round and told you yes it did? I think for now I’m going to carry on in blissful ignorance thank you very much…

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Calm before the storm

I absolutely hate storms. Seriously I can’t stand them. The sound of thunder, a bolt of lightning and I am reduced to a quivering mess!

So now sitting in my office (thankfully not one of the higher buildings in the Canary Wharf area) I am looking out the window at the darkened skies filled with dread. Every roll of thunder, every lightning flash and I either gasp or oooh in response.

I’ve been reassured with words that this is tame compared to South Africa and lightning strikes the highest thing, so although at 5ft 11 I’m a bit of a female giant, I’m not high up enough to be struck.

Let’s just hope this stops before the end of the day else how am I going to leave the building and get home? Plus the boyfriend is working until late tonight (joys of dating a paramedic), so I’ve got nobody to comfort me when I’m indoors and I AM on the top floor there – okay it’s only a three floor building, but that’s just details people...

I got myself all prepared yesterday for this worrying weather to hit last night, but oh no, this storm’s sneaky. It has waited for me to feel calm and content and forget about it and then BANG it strikes!

We’re also on the cusp of a metaphorical storm in that tomorrow I have a second interview for a job and I keep forgetting about it and then getting super nervous when I remember. Apparently I was quite impressive last time, but how can I improve on that? What do I need to whip out the bag to excite the next set of people I meet? A night of prepping awaits me that’s for sure...

Oh well, if this weather continues who knows I may well not even make it there – no I’m not suggesting I’ll have been struck by lightning, I could just still be stuck at home underneath my duvet waiting for it all to end.

Is social media ruining our lives?

When you got up this morning what is one of the first things you did? Check your phone for Twitter updates? Let the world know you’re awake by telling Facebook ‘what’s on your mind’? Okay perhaps not as soon as you woke up for some of you, but on the commute to work, once you’ve sat down in the office? How many times will you then update or check this throughout the day?

I work in an industry where social media is a big thing and is fast becoming – no scrap that – is definitely a key tool for many companies to get their messages out there. Whether it’s to show a face to their brand, find a way to interact with their customer base or advertise the services they offer. A YouTube channel, Facebook page and/or Twitter account used to be things that were a suggestion of something nice to have, now they are a must have.

Some people may use it as a tool to let anyone and everyone know what we’ve been up to (I shockingly have 150+ photo albums on my account), whilst others use it to ‘follow’ their favourite band to find out what they’re up to. However, this is just the mere beginning of what you can do, you can get the latest news, share your views on it and learn other people’s opinions, you can promote any charity events you are participating in to help raise more cash or you can get reunited with old school chums who you may have lost touch with.

However, it’s not all happy times; the power of social media can actually be a dangerous thing. Look at the recent case where a juror and defendant discussed an ongoing case on Facebook. Or the many people who have lost their jobs over the tweets they posted – US journalists, British politicians, amateur footballers, I could go on. You have to remember the sheer amount of people who may end up reading your comments, like you would think before you speak in a normal conversation (well most of us anyway), you need to apply the same when you voice your opinion on a social media site. Clearly this is even more important if you’re in a high powered job, in the public eye or in a particularly sensitive industry.

Testament to the popularity and power involved here is the fact that this week actually sees Social Media Day. A whole day dedicated to it!

In turn, although it’s great to show your customers and business clients a more human side to your company, it can also create havoc – benefits may take a while to show, you need to closely monitor comments and also ensure you can guarantee timely responses. Don’t forget it works both ways too – if people aren’t happy with the service they receive they don’t have to tell you about it, they can just go right ahead and complain to fellow Facebookers, tweet to their followers or even record a disgruntled video to upload onto YouTube!

If as a company you allow your staff to represent the company via social media you need to put in place strict rules to adhere to, you want to provide genuine updates, but you need to keep your branding in mind and the values of your organisation. I’ve noticed some people clearly indicate on their profile information on Twitter now that the views are completely their own, so as to avoid any connections made between themselves and where they work.

I for one am pretty addicted to social media and find it – for now – a very positive area to get to work with and embrace within my personal life. I regularly update my Facebook status, I tweet about myself and my industry, I watch YouTube videos for tips and then I’ll read up on what’s going on in social media and share that!

Although the thought of social media not being there anymore, trying to ‘survive’ without Facebook for a few days when I recently went to a festival (I left my phone at home) and the buzz I get when I’m ‘retweeted’ does worry me somewhat. Do I really need to take so many photos when I’m out and about, or am I subconsciously considering how they’ll look on Facebook? When I arrive somewhere people don’t really need to know where I am, but sometimes I just can’t stop myself ‘checking in’ regardless.

What about privacy? Is there ever a time now when you can do something without someone finding out about it – I’m referring to going out socially here, rather than the fact you ate a whole tub of ice cream in your PJs when home alone! If you don’t put a photo up of yourself, or go onto ‘places’ and declare where you are, you can bet somebody in the group will.

We all know about recent developments where face recognition is now being adapted automatically on your account to allow ‘easier tagging’ of images on Facebook. A potential employer searches your name online – oops there comes up your somewhat drunken profile picture, whether you’re ‘friends’ or not. What happens with security – when you get so excited about that upcoming holiday, you announce when you’re at the airport or how you’re sipping your drink in the sun, you might as well scream ‘hello burglars, my house is empty, that’s right empty!! Just go on in and help yourselves!’ There were cases in America I believe where whole gangs of burglars were planning their operations based around information they could gain just from people’s social media accounts.

Despite all these so-called cons of social media though, perhaps you just need to apply a bit commonsense and be wary. Keep informed of changes where you may well need to go into your account settings and make some updates to increase your privacy, think before you type out that update and try and remember just how many people could see those words or images.

It seems to me rather than ruining our lives, for most of us social media seems to be in fact ruling our lives in a lot of ways – whether this is positive or negative remains to be seen...

Monday, 27 June 2011

Trashy TV or a way to unwind?

So, no blog ALL weekend. Although I’ve only just started doing this I actually genuinely missed writing it, much to my boyfriend’s bemusement.

Don’t worry though this means an extra treat (or punishment, depending on your opinion of this blog) for you because I’m now writing more than one post today as a result!

One of my guilty pleasures is watching what we refer to as trashy TV. You know the sort of thing, where you don’t really need to engage your brain too much, just sit back, relax and stare?

Why do we label it so? And is it bad for you? Should I be ashamed of my TV-watching, or be proud to be seen as shallow? Why is it trash and why shouldn’t we watch it?

I’m sure many of you will know those people who loudly declare they don’t watch television – as if it’s below them to merely use a remote control and partake in something so common. It’s this sort of comment which makes ‘trashees’ like me feel ashamed of going home after work and vegging out in front of the box.

More importantly who is it that decides they are trashy?

I often gorge myself on said programmes and recently a friend of mine reminded me the reason our friendship got started was based on our common interest in the delights of television shows such as Don’t Tell The Bride, World’s Strictest Parents and Embarrassing Bodies.

There you go then, there’s one reason I think can be firmly listed under the pro section for any argument surrounding these programmes – conversation. There’s no denying it they spark debate – whether it’s to discuss what happened in the programme, to people outright laughing at the stupidity of what they watched.

Other delights such as cookery based items – Masterchef, Come Dine With Me, Dinner Date etc – actually can prove inspiration to cook. A couple of girlfriends and myself started a regular CDWM evening once a month last year where we’d compete with one another (serving a course each). Not only did this give us a regular chance to catch up on our news, but it also created a bit of banter between us and encouraged me to make proper meals and not just chuck something together with a few bits of food and a jar of sauce!

Relationship-led pieces can help you treasure what you’ve got – be thankful your Mum loves you and doesn’t try to compete with you, unlike those on Hotter Than My Daughter. Or get ideas for your upcoming wedding on Four Weddings, Bridezilla or DTTB. Gain some tips on DIY and colour schemes from the likes of Mad About The House, 60 Second Makeover or DIY SOS.

In a world where we deal with underpaid, stressful jobs and have to juggle relationships, family, a career, looking good and developing our skills, then surely having a way out is key? My Dad used to constantly fall asleep in the evenings whilst he was still at work and was told it was his way of coping with the pressures of his role, some of my friends like to indulge in a cheeky glass of wine to soothe their nightmare day, or go on a wild night out to let their hair down. Why then can we not unwind with watching the television, switching off from the day and our responsibilities and watching something that interests us?

Sometimes we might want to enjoy a factual documentary, discover more about a historical event, or work out how to be better with our budget. On the flip side we may get home from work after a hard day of juggling figures, schedules and clients and just want to sit down and find out how people in Essex, Chelsea or Newcastle like to spend their time – tanning, drinking and living up to stereotypes...

I say don’t feel guilty for watching these sorts of shows on TV, so what if you get some form of relief watching Jeremy Kyle, it’s just another part of who you are and what you enjoy. As long as you don’t spend your whole spare time indulging in them and find you can’t recall the last time you read a paper, watched the news or met up with friends, then I think you’re safe.

Right I better go; I’ve just seen this ‘reem’ idea for how to discipline your kids with the ‘naughty step’ which I need to put on Facebook, then it’s off to get my nails done and top up my fake tan, after that me and my Mum need to go shopping for clubbing outfits, I need to start my new diet shakes to become the best loser, ask Dr Christian for tips on how to get rid of that embarrassing bodymark, oh and pick up my gypsy wedding dress from the dry cleaners!

These are a few of my favourite things

Another poem, this time about all my favourite things...

The smell of freshly baked bread
All cosied up in my lovely big bed
A great impromptu night out with family or friends
Flicking through a trashy mag for the latest trends
Freshly cut grass and that morning cup of coffee
Relaxing by a pool when it’s lovely and sunny
Seeing the sights and learning new things
Drinking and laughing and late night dancing
Coming home from the shops laden down with new buys
Then modelling the purchases in front of interested eyes
The sound of the wine pouring out of the bottle
Eating a great meal, but not feeling too full
Lying on a beach hearing the waves lap against the sand
A smile from my boyfriend as he reaches to hold my hand
My hair being stroked as I gradually drift off to sleep
Beautiful packaging from a gift I will always keep
Buying again yet another bikini
And dresses and bags and really cool jewellery
Curling up with a really good book
Gossiping with the girls just with a look
Feeling loved and being smothered with cuddles and hugs
Eating post-run picnics in the park, food completely covering the rug
The super soft skin of my niece and nephew
The way I feel when my man says I love you
Just managing to catch that bus or a train
All snuggled up indoors when outside it’s full of cold and the rain
Counting down the days until you go away
All the things you enjoy on a great holiday
Watching my favourite bands at a gig or festival
Or discovering new acts sometimes can be the best of all
My Mum’s roast dinner, my man’s lasagne or Thai soup
 Partying with my friends as a really big group
Catching a good film or a great theatre show
Sipping on cocktails and trying new ones I don’t know
The buzz from keeping fit when I go to the gym
Compliments I get and the way I feel when I start to look trim
Going swimming, so refreshing and cool
Checking out my fave male celebs, oh how I drool
Looking back over photos of all those great times
Getting new things for my flat and knowing it’s all mine
The sense of fulfilment and pride when I receive praise
Taking part in charity events and the pleasure at cash amounts that I raise
Keeping my clients at work really happy
Everyone there knowing the person with the answer will most likely be me
Getting back into my writing and the sense of relief at this time of change
This new chapter in my life, although it still feels a bit strange
No matter my mood my niece and nephew, always full of fun and games
Them trying out new words and managing to speak my name
The sense of security knowing my parents are always there
Feeling relaxed and rejuvenated when I restyle my hair
I could carry on, the list seems never-ending
But for now I shall stop, look on Facebook or Twitter and see what’s trending

Friday, 24 June 2011


Eyes being pulled down, desperate to close
Why she’s so quiet everybody knows
Mouth dry like sandpaper with a terrible thirst
Breakfast this morning just made things feel worse
Head heavy with pain and filled with a million pounding drums
Tongue licking lips and trying to moisten parched gums
Embarrassing images flashing through the mind
Stomach flipping over recalling where we dined
Skull achy and tight, feels ready to split
If that person on the phone gets any louder I’m ready to hit
As the evening went on it all seemed so right
Talking and laughing no workday in sight
Tequila and vodka, cocktails and wine
Once a few had gone down my mind was not mine
The shrilling pitch of the alarm signalled morning, no that’s not right
I’m still unable to move and so tired it has to really be night?
I’ll make it through ‘til 530, I know I can do it
I’ll drink and eat junk food until I feel fit
Getting home I’ll be tired and vow never again
Until the next night gets arranged and I’ll be keen to know when
For now I’ll keep switching from hot and to cold
My body will rebel and remind me I’m too old
I’ll groan at the memories and the way I’m now feeling
Clutch on to the toilet in front of which I’m now kneeling
Hangover, hangover, please will you go away
I enjoyed myself last night, but this price I’m not willing to pay

Thursday, 23 June 2011

On a mission to find manners

After yet another unpleasant encounter with one of the typical ‘charming’ travellers on the District Line this morning I am in a bad mood and getting all worked up about people and their lack of manners.

Why is it that increasingly people seem to have some form of allergy to basic, simple manners? You know that completely out there idea of holding a door open for someone if they are behind you, rather than letting it slam in their face. Or perhaps even when driving round a roundabout actually switching on that great invention on your car which indicates what direction you’re going, instead of potentially causing an accident and leaving others around you to just guess your intentions. No? Too much effort, can’t be bothered? Thought so.

The main thing I hate about bad manners – particularly those found on the commute – is that it starts to affect you and you find yourself becoming that miserable monster tutting, pushing and huffing your way through your journey. I often think to myself I hope I don’t see anyone I know on the train as I’d be embarrassed by my miserable demeanour and tunnel vision approach to getting home.

One thing that really gets me is people not saying thank you. I like to think of myself as quite a helpful person, particularly in the workplace, but the amount of times I’ve gone out my way to help people (particularly when others wouldn’t) and not got one measly thank you...
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a medal for being a decent human being, but just on the odd occasion a rare expression of gratitude would just make my day that little bit nicer.

Perhaps it’s because I am quite polite myself and am very conscious of saying thank you. I used to be friends with such a rude girl, who led to all sorts of embarrassment for us when we went out for meals/drinks because of her abrupt attitude to any waiting staff she encountered. No thank you was ever offered, each menu grabbed out their hands, no smile ever passed her lips. Awful.

My boyfriend is also great with his manners, so much so that he ends up apologising to people when it’s not his fault – say for example people barge into him in the street or on public transport. This is something that really bothers me for some bizarre reason and I can often be seeing telling him off for apologising when he’s done absolutely nothing wrong.

Why then for most people is saying sorry so hard? Being a bit of a stubborn character (only child, Leo starsign, need I say more) I myself am guilty of this if I get into an argument with family/friends, I just can’t bring myself to admit I’m in the wrong and it takes a long while for me to calm down and see things logically. Although if I were to accidentally tread on someone’s foot on the train, knock someone in a shop, or feel I was being awkward in my food order in a restaurant, I’d be the first to apologise.

Yet every day I come into contact with numerous people who let people down, take advantage, disrupt people’s working schedules, knock people on the train and more, but say nothing. Absolutely nothing. To me it should be like the word sorry comes out your mouth on auto pilot whenever you do anything wrong, it’s not like it requires a lot of effort.

What’s the answer to this rude society we live in then? Do we need to go back to having people attend finishing schools so they know the right way to carry themselves throughout life? On having a nose online the most popular results coming up are sites advising parents how to teach their children good manners and obviously this is where it all starts and how a precedent is set for how to behave. It seems to me though people need some form of lessons as they get older, a refresher course if you were of good manners and etiquette. This site offers advice on how to teach adults good manners if they are lacking for instance. And interestingly these findings show that psychologists are saying thank you is actually good for us!

So go on, take your time walking to the train station tonight, let someone next to you go in front and board the bus first, smile and thank your waiter if you eat out and give your partner a big hug and apologise for all the times you have been in the wrong. We all want to get home after work or make it to our destination as soon as we can, we’re all tired from a hard day and we’re all likely to be fed up with something – be it our jobs, our financial situation, a family issue. Instead of taking your frustration out on others though, step back and take a deep breath and think of how you’re feeling and how you’d like to be treated. Who knows perhaps tomorrow morning you’ll find you’re the one who gets offered that seat or receives that thank you card for your kind efforts.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Age aint nothing but a number?

Ooh look at me with another music inspired title!

So, I’ve been chatting with my colleague this afternoon and it inspired me for my topic of today – age. Why is it that people of the same age can be so different – in personality, looks, attitude?

I cited a number of examples – my 67 year old Auntie who looks like she’s in her 50s and acts like she’s in her 30s, one set of grandparents who were very active and liked to go out lots and the other who were more traditional grandparents and sat indoors doing traditional ‘old people’ activities. I also have friends who even when we were at school acted more like middle-aged women than teenagers.

I’ve also been thinking about age lately as I don’t seem to be able to accept that I’m getting old, of course at 28 I’m not an OAP or anything I know. However, when it dawned on me recently that most of my close friends turn 30 this year I really felt quite freaked out by it all. When I was at school and saw people of 30 they seemed so grown up and had everything in life – we’re still into going out drinking and making fools of ourselves, not all of us have our own property and aren’t quite there yet with our careers. Even now if I hear someone is pregnant my initial thought is the same as when I found out about teen Mum’s at school/college! How are they going to cope, what did their Mum say??

But then you get those people that are settled and are perhaps a bit younger than you – good career, nice house, married, got kids and you start to doubt yourself. Where did I go wrong? Why am I not at that place yet?

I keep going back and forth in my thoughts – one minute I envy those around me who seem to have it all, then the next I feel too young to be approaching 30 and want to just be young and have fun. My poor boyfriend doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going. Just before we went to Isle of Wight I nagged the poor boy for being too boring and that we needed to go out more and then last night watching Children’s Hospital and looking at footage of his niece and nephew on his phone I declared I wanted a baby!

What exactly makes some of us reach the age of 80 and still be in the gym and out there enjoying life? Image popping into my head is a guy we fondly know as Disco Dave (not quite sure how old he is) who can often be seen in local pubs dancing the night away to cover bands. Or those of us who even when we’re young decide all that clubbing and boozing lark is not for us, we’re more comfy sitting on the sofa with a nice cuppa and some biscuits, no rock climbing or abseiling for us thank you very much.

Why do some of us love bingo over a boogie and cross stitch over the cross trainer?

Of late I’ve been joking about taking my niece out when she’s grown up for nights out on the town, we’re looking at I guess about 14 years or so before that happens – I’ll then be 42-43...Is that too old to be out on the tiles and will I just be an embarrassment to her rather than a fun party animal companion? When do I need to start worrying about what I wear? Should I have started doing that already??

When at school you have it all planned out don’t you? My plan was married by 25, kid by 28, living in a nice big house, hadn’t really thought about what job I was doing, I suspect though it would’ve been journalism related... Hm so here I am about to change jobs, I do work in the media so it’s close, I have a boyfriend of nearly 6 years but I’m not engaged/married, I definitely don’t have a child and I own a one bedroom flat. Okay not a bad achievement granted, but not quite the grand plan I’d dreamed up.
Should we judge ourselves and work by these deadlines though, or is it okay to just get on with life and take it as it comes? They say as you get old you gradually start to become young again – obviously I’m referring to the not too pleasant state you get when very old and go back to being like a baby. But isn’t it funny how whatever age we are we always want to be younger or older. When you’re young you want to be old enough to get served for booze/fags, I can remember being in infant school and wanting to be old enough to be in junior school so I could pour my own water in the assembly hall at lunch, then once you get past 21 you start to wish you could stay around that age. I’ve found 25+ is the turning point when you don’t want to get any older, I’ll just stay here please and have enough experience in life to know what I’m doing but still be young enough to go out and wear the latest fashions.

Oh well, looks like I’m three years late to make that wish, so begins the downward slide into thirtydoom and trying to become a proper grown up. After all I’m going to have to be extremely mature minded when I decide what fancy dress costume to wear to my friends’ 30th bouncy castle parties.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Where did all the love go?

I’ve been wondering lately – in the words of one of my favourite bands - where did all the love go?

Recently I kind of lost faith in relationships and marriage. You are constantly bombarded in the press with stories of celebrity couples breaking up, footballers cheating on their wives and stats on how many marriages now end in divorce.

When it hits close to home it really starts to sink in though and this is what’s happened over the last couple of years. I’ve witnessed close friends divorce after less than two years of marriage because both of them cheated on one another (one to a much greater extent than the other). Obviously not everyone can stay together, but this pair appeared to be the happiest, most loved-up couple you can imagine – on the surface – always snuggled up and romantic, he wrote and sang a song on their wedding day, been together since college, I won’t go on.

Maybe of less importance, some may argue, I’ve also seen close friends of mine in a relationship break up, again due to infidelity. They’ve since both moved on and seem to be with more suitable partners, which is a good thing. However, people cheating on each other now seems to be an extremely acceptable fact of life, which I for one, find extremely sad.

What I don’t understand is why do people stay with someone if they’re not really happy. I don’t mean in circumstances when you’re stuck with Mr Nasty and can’t seem to let go (I think we’ve all seemed to have one of those!) What I’m referring to is people who stay with their other half when they are looking elsewhere and often going elsewhere too… Why stay with that person if you want to be free and single? A one off is bad enough, but at least it can be classed as a mistake, but regularly cheating on someone, why do it?

We all know someone who’s a bit of a lad and likes to flirt and try it on with people, it just seems to be their character, but when they settle down to get married to someone they claim to love surely all this stops? You should love each other for the true person they are and for all their faults when you get with someone, but to me that shouldn’t include cheating. Yet I’ve heard of people being approached for ‘a bit of fun’ with such a person on their stag do and even someone having their bum pinched at the wedding reception by the groom!

In a similar way, people who use their stag or hen do as an excuse to sleep with or ‘get off with’ someone, just does not cut it with me. Don’t get me wrong when I have my hen do – whenever that may be – I plan to have lots of fun and use it as a reason to have a real good time with my girl friends. Perhaps I might even indulge in a cheesy stripper and party dares, but I will not be getting involved with any males who happen to be there. Your hen or stag is not really your last chance to let your hair down nowadays, it’s not like you become locked up indoors when you get married. To me it’s a chance to celebrate your great news and love for your partner with your closest friends.

It almost seems increasingly that people get married for the big day – the dress, the presents, the party – rather than what should be key to the event…that old fashioned concept of love.

Now don’t worry (I sense you’ll be feeling at this point the post is becoming rather negative and whiney), my belief in love and relationships recently has been restored. This is all thanks to a very close friend of mine, we haven’t known each other for that long in the grand scheme of things, but we tell each other near enough everything. This friend brought me to tears and made me feel so touched a few months back by asking me to be her Maid of Honour – just me, no other bridesmaids, just little old me walking down the aisle with her and helping her plan her big day.

On first glance I appreciate this looks rather biased on my part, but the reason I am feeling more hopeful is because of the way this lady is handling it all. The couple are getting married for one reason and one reason only – they love each other. This ceremony isn’t going to include great old aunty Maud who you haven’t seen for years, or that distant cousin who only pops up at weddings and funerals. Oh no this wedding is actually about the two most important people – the bride and groom. They are having everything on their special day to represent their personalities and their beliefs. Not only is this a refreshing approach, but one I think other people could learn from. It’s not a case of going old fashioned and following tradition either, all plans are being made around their relationship and its history and some are far from conventional.

I can’t describe how pleased I was for said friend when she told me she’d got engaged, I know she wanted it for some time and was unsure when the big day would arrive. Her man loves her very very much and shows his affection in his own way, but he is very private and not prone to grand gestures. So when he proposed in a romantic setting within a city associated with love it came as a double surprise and to me shows just how much she means to him.

Perhaps there is hope out there then and there are still people in relationships because they love that person and are happy being with them and only them. I have been with my boyfriend for six years this August and am more than happy with him and couldn’t ask for a more caring and supportive guy to be with.

So to all my single friends out there, keep positive – there is true love out there and you will find your Prince/Princess Charming one day, I have. To all those people not happy in relationships and wanting to see if they can have their cake and eat it, please think it through - the grass is not always greener. And if you’ve reached that stage where your boyfriend/husband/wife/girlfriend is not enough for you then please don’t break their heart, do the right thing and end it. Life’s too short to be with someone you’re not satisfied with and love is too precious a gift to waste.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Hobby horse

Think back to when you were younger, how many different clubs and groups did you belong to? I have memories of ballet, horseriding, brownies, girl guides, youth club, swimming, keyboard club, school choir, jazz dance, college magazine, creative writing group, the list is endless…

But then what happens when you grow older? When do hobbies become something that you get embarrassed about and you’d rather hang out with your friends, go to the cinema, go shopping and not have that big commitment in your life?

It’s weird, I can remember absolutely adoring horseriding for years, every Saturday morning me and my parents would get up early and drive to the local stables. I’d spend my Saturday morning on top of whatever horse was picked for me that week (often the biggest shire-horse-type animal available what with my height) and trot, canter and jump my way around the fields and arenas. But then I became a teenager and suddenly wearing jodphurs, carrying a crop and donning riding boots and hat were not cool. No, it was much more with it to be seen in new clothes hanging round the town centre and going to the cinema.

You spend your teenage years trying to fit in and do what’s cool, but then when you start work the tables are turned. Your CV. Interests, what do you like doing? Socialising and going out drinking is not a particularly positive activity to list…But what do you like doing you ask yourself, what hobbies do you have? Help! You realise you are actually struggling to figure out something you do enjoy. What do I do to fill all my spare time you wonder?

And now yet again in my life I am starting to ponder what activities can I take part in? Am I becoming an old bore because I don’t have enough ‘proper’ hobbies. It’s like we go full circle – from attending every club going, to being embarrassed by being too interested in something and then right back round again to feeling ashamed you don’t have enough of interest in your life.

So as I list things I am interested in do they sound good enough? Gym, swimming, reading, writing, travelling, eating out, the theatre, films, music gigs. But is there really anything different there – should I be training in martial arts, climbing mountains at weekends or learning to sing opera? Who decides what hobbies are good enough and are worthy to mention.

What new hobbies should I be looking into? And does the cycle continue again as we get older? When we have kids do we get ashamed at being too old to have the hobbies we hold? Do we have to cast aside our interests to make sure we’re always free to ferry the kids to their after school clubs and weekend games?

Do we get to a certain age when old hobbies aren’t allowed anymore and we’ll just make ourselves look a fool by trying to take them up again? I’ve recently started considering taking up horseriding again – not only did I enjoy it (well I did get a bit scared of the jumps), but I’ve realised as I’ve got older how good it is for your fitness levels and body shape! But at 28, nearly 29, are people going to laugh at me getting all dressed up in the full riding gear and trying to jump back on that horse?

What do other people do? Doing a quick search online reveals a lot of people are into gardening, yoga, family history, swimming, cycling and photography. There are even sites out there telling you the best hobbies to have to make people fancy you! On looking on other sites wine tasting can be a hobby out there to be enjoyed – sounds promising…Ooh or cake decorating (does that include eating them?...)
It seems the options really are endless, you just need to decide what interests you the most and I guess what you can do that’s within your budget. After all, this study from as far back as 2002 showed that some parents were spending nearly £1,000 a year for a son and daughter to enjoy their hobbies, and that was 9 years ago. Goodness knows what the costs would be now…

I’m going to go and ponder what new hobby I want to take up and in turn what one I think will be deemed acceptable. The only problem now is, when am I going to get time to do it??

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Father's Day & Flu

Well today is Father’s Day and as we already know my Dad is not here this year – he’s off in Canada enjoying himself. I’ve already sent him a text and sent an update email on what’s going on over here with me. But I also thought this morning when I woke up of my friends who unfortunately do not have their fathers here anymore and I’m sad to say I know quite a lot of people who are young and without their Dad. So just a quick thought today out to them and any others who have lost their Dad xx

On another note as my Dad wasn’t here I was due to go to the in-laws today for some food and family fun, however so far I am still in my little flat dressed in my jogging bottoms and makeup-less and my boyfriend is sat joining me. The reason why? Man flu.

We both got absolutely drenched recently when we went to the Isle Of Wight festival – you know the one that everyone always says has lovely weather and in fact on occasion when they’ve been there has been almost too hot? No, not when we were there. We had sunny spells don’t get me wrong, but then came Sunday – the day of rain, a whole day and night of rain and super strong wind to be exact, it just did not stop. This in turn resulted in an absolute mudbath within the campsite, the fields which played home to the various stages, stalls and bars and the ‘car park’ (cut to memories of me trying to push the car wearing clean flipflops in thick mud…)

Due to the rain, mud and my new wellies letting in water (when will I learn not to keep buying ‘bargain’ clothes/footwear etc) we both went to sleep in a cold tent absolutely soaked and shivering. Now welcome to the result – we’re both ill, I have a sore throat, tickly cough and a mushy head and my man, well…he is dying, absolutely dying. Of course he is – he’s a man…

All credit to him, he actually is pretty ill if I’m honest, he’s got an awfully high temperature, he can just about talk and he’s full of aches and has completely lost his appetite. I also know he’s pretty ill as he adores his niece and nephew and is currently giving up the opportunity of seeing them to stay at home and get better.

I’ll admit I am not a typical girl in that sense and can myself be accused of being struck down with ‘man flu’ on many occasion. When I get poorly I completely feel sorry for myself and it’s all I can focus on and I use it as a great excuse to have tons of chocolate ice cream (for my sore throat of course!) But this time round I’m trying to ignore the fact I’m ill as I have a job interview Tuesday which I HAVE to be normal for and I have interview prep and job hunting to do. Therefore I have to just get on with it and deal with being unwell.

So why is it guys seem to develop this uber awful version of whatever illness they get? What makes things so much harder for them? Should us girlies be more sympathetic to their woes?

Well if you want to help your man in his hour of need, check out this site I found it very entertaining, sure to generate a few giggles, even if it doesn’t miraculously cure his dangerous disease!
However, perhaps I need to step back and consider he genuinely is ill and in fact does suffer more than me? According to some research last year there is indeed evidence stating that men put fun and ‘adventure’ above their health and so are more prone to get sick.

For now I’m going to grab the Ben & Jerry’s out the fridge and ease my throat, whilst enjoying the sounds of huffing and puffing coming from next to me as my boyfriend tries to deal with his sickness and make sure I’m fully aware he’s still ill…

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Comfort Eaters Anonymous

I'm being a bit naughty as I should be interview prepping right now, but after a three course meal for lunch and half a bottle of wine I'm feeling a teeny bit sleepy and lazy. Plus I've been trying to work out how to create and add my photo to this blog - hard work you know and very important stuff!

Anyways, I'm also feeling a bit sleepy as I woke up at 7 am today - on a Saturday, not good. The reason being was because I had absolutely awful cramp in my left calf muscle. This displeases me for many reasons, not just for waking me up and causing me pain, but primarily because I know it's a sign I've put on weight again and am eating too much crap.

A couple of years back something in me switched and I decided I was fat and I was the fat girl of my group and I didn't like it. Now at the time if I looked at photos of me I thought I looked okay and if you ask any family or friends they didn't particularly think I was this huge Shrek-like monster, BUT if I look back at old pictures now...OMG was I big...We're not talking 20-stone or ready to be a contestant on Biggest Loser or Supersize vs Superskinny (two favourite trashy TV indulgences of mine), but I was I'd say a big size 16 (and possibly an 18 but stuffed into size 16 clothes). Not good.

So I decided to change and I took it all very seriously - sorted out my diet and my exercise routine and I lost around two and half stone or so. This did me the world of good, boosted my confidence, meant I could fit in size 12-14 clothes and ensured tons of compliments from those around me. I felt more confident in my clothes, on nights out and even at work weirdly for some reason.

However, in some odd way I also found losing weight meant some people started to treat me differently (or not bother with me at all) and weirdly when I lost weight was when it all started to go a little Pete Tong for me at work (I am SO showing my age using such a reference).

Well what has this got to do with life now you ask, am I now a stick insect-like creature who is super happy with the prospect of soon leaving my awful job??? In a word, no. I am becoming a bit of a porker again - or at least I feel that way. My clothes are getting tighter again (admittedly my new 12-14 size clothes) and I can't remember the last time I was in the gym. The reason for this is I've been stressed and when I get stressed this means chocolate - well it kinda means chocolate, wine, takeaways, crisps, cakes, name it I'll eat it. Yes, like a lot of women out there I comfort eat. I love my food and oh how I wish for the day to be one of these people who says they eat because they have to and when they're stressing out they 'just can't eat'. Oh no, not me I stuff my face and comfort eat until I can eat no more.

So why is it that some of us comfort eat (and in turn put on weight and undo all our good work) and others just can't bear to eat more than a few crumbs when times are tough? 

The problem I've got now is that I've eaten lots, which helped me feel better at the time, but now I've got guilt because I've not been exercising and I'm putting on weight, in turn leading to lower self esteem because I know I don't look as good.

This study  suggests that there could well be a gene which causes us anxiety when we're stressed and triggers us to eat what we refer to as comfort foods. So is it down to my genes as to why I like to eat when I'm stressed?... Is it somehow linked to control? So often people get eating disorders where they starve themselves or binge to make themselves sick just because to them it means they have control over things. 

Your parents/family life could also be to blame according to other studies so perhaps if you associate a particular food that maybe your parents used a reward when you were younger and had an accident, then you could turn to it in later life too.

Sometimes I've even found I'll try and comfort eat in secret so as not to look too much of a pig, which some could argue is a sign of an eating disorder if you start to consume food secretly.

A proportion of studies have even found that some people actually do the opposite and eat comfort food when they're happy. Come on guys, surely you're the messed up ones?! The clues in the name - eat to feel comfort...

Who knows what causes it, there could be a whole host of reasons, but for now I'm off to find my old uni mate (who often ate sticks of celery after a night out whilst we ate our toasties/burgers) and a close friend of mine who recently admitted she's got an addiction to grapes. Perhaps they can give me some tips...