Fine Lines

Who knew shopping for a new moisturiser could be so emotionally stressful?

There are so many dramatic, confidence-coroding words to wade through. Defying. Minimising. Reduce the signs of. Fight the signs of. Repair. Fix. SOS. Anti-wrinkle. Anti-ageing.

Anti-life.

The lines of my body and the lines of yours are the storylines of our lives – and I’m so, so tired of being made to feel like I have to fight the signs that I’m actually a living, breathing human who’s lucky to be growing older, and maybe even growing wiser, every day. I’m tired of the impending sense of fleshy doom companies drip feed me from all angles. Tired of heart-deep skin worries. Tired of filters specifically designed to “beautify” and hide “flaws” and distort features; filters that mess with the insides as well as the outsides of our heads. I’m tired of airbrushing. And I’m tired of chasing unattainable, ever-changing perfection.

No cream, no balm, no serum, no filter can substitute for the storylines of a life well-lived.

These are some of my body’s lines…

Little cardboard cuts scratched across my fingers and forearms – the bane of supermarket workers the world over. Palm lines that hold my future and my past, or maybe they don’t, who knows? Teeny, tiny fingerprint lines, all mine. Spidery blue lines just below my skin – beating, flowing, rushing lifelines. Hairband lines – most days one found on my right wrist, some days one found right round my tresses, the ugly ghost of a ponytail. Centre parting line, something I have always, and will always, refuse to change no matter what hairdressers say. Anklet lines, my inner bohemian/hippie/magpie released. Bracelet lines painted against my pulse. Watch strap lines telling fleshy time. Tan lines, pale moon-white skin versus slightly less pale and freckle flecked skin. Sometimes, fake tan streaks. Occasionally, wonky eyeliner. Most days, lipstick smudges. Sock lines dug into my calves. Worry lines etched deep on my forehead, maybe even carved down into my skull, from years of not knowing how to let anxieties go. Smile lines that crinkle by my lips, always ready and waiting to make an appearance, from years of knowing the best family and friends. Teary mascara streaks across my face when it all gets too much. Bra strap lines that dent my shoulders and stretch across my back. Uncomfortable underwire lines that trace up to my armpits. White dashes on my fingernails and jagged, broken lines of varnish. Burn lines, guilt infused. Bleary red veins that creep and crawl in the whites of my eyes after too little sleep, bleary red pillowcase creases that thread across my cheek bones after too much. Stretch marks, silver tiger prints blooming on my thighs, my hips, my breasts. Bikini line, ahem. Crinkles above, below, behind my knees. Little lines on my ears from earphone wires. Face mask lines on my nose, something new to get used to. Mini crosshatched lines tattooed to my hands and knees from my yoga mat. Muscle lines – be careful, I’m stronger than I look. Big lines from chair edges pressed into the backs of my thighs. Lines of book page edges printed to the fleshy bit below my thumb. Necklines – higher, lower, what will people think, why do I even care? Jean seam lines, waistband lines, cuff lines. Careless ink lines slashed across my hands. The whisper of crow’s feet lines beside my eyes, memories of laughter.

I could go on and on.

These are some of the lines of my life.

And they suit me just fine.

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all at sea

the shiny early morning.

the bustle and butterflies and getting ready. the backpack and its almost broken zip. the going, going, gone out the door. the grey, grey roads. mirror, signal, manoeuvre. the parking up.

the walk, walk, walk.

the slooshy, silver sea and glassy sunlight. the tarmac to beach ombre. the flip-flops flipped off sandy toes. the picking a spot, backwards, forwards, back again. the nerves, nerves, nerves. the trying to forget my body. the quick strip down to my costume. the quick march to the water and the cool, cool, cool of it against feet, calves, knees, thighs, tummy, arms. the deep, deep breaths. the sinking slowly down to shoulders. the unsucking of feet from sand, flip-flapping them. the slip sliding forwards. the rippling waves slapping chin, cheeks, nose. the absurd thought of sharks. the imagining of pointy teeth, fins, death. the less absurd thought of jellyfish. the imagining of tentacles, poison, death. the closing of eyes and the don’t, don’t, don’t think thoughts. the stopping. the treading water. the goggling at blue skies all above. the resting. the bobbing. neck back, head up, hair wet, heart calming. the tippy toes peeping above the water. the tide tugging, pulling, teasing. the splash marks on sunglasses and the gulls crying. the paddle boarders. the serious swimmers, caps and suits and goggles. the runners on the shore. the cruise ships hanging on the horizon, sea cities turned to ghosts. the goosebumps flooding skin. the press of time, time, time. the strokes towards the beach. the soaked soles on shifting sands. the walking. the fear of falling over. the nerves, nerves, nerves again. the trying to forget my body again. the quick steps across the beach. the sand plastered to ankles. the relief of hiding in a gritty towel. the lying back. the gentle hush of waves. the tired lungs, tired arms, tired legs. the tingly skin. the icy breeze. the tangled hair, sticky and messy in a ponytail. the book, its pages snapping in the wind. the shimmering, sea-slicked shells. the wait, wait, wait to be mostly dry. the packing up. the double check. keys, phone. keys, phone. phone, keys. the drive home with a salty smile on my lips and a little weight lifted from my heart. the rest of the day sunny and sea drunk.

the dreams, dreams, dreams.

all at sea.

reading at the beach

Armageddon Tinsel

Last year, I wrote this piece about what living with generalised anxiety disorder felt/feels like, after I was diagnosed with it in the summer of 2018 – but in the end I was, hilariously, too anxious to actually publish it. *facepalm*

It’s been living in my saved drafts, taunting me, ever since.

I’m still anxious about publishing it, but I’ve reached a point where I’m as at peace with that discomfort as I’m ever going to get – and, seeing as this week marks two years since I ended up in floods of tears opposite my GP trying to explain the amount of chaos and confusion and fear my brain was drowning in, it feels like a good time to finally share it. It took an embarrassingly long time to write (and it’s probably going to take a long time to read as well, sorry). I kept having to take breaks away from it because the line between catharsis and relapse turns out to be quite a thin one. I’ve left it how I wrote it last year, so the timeline is all wrong and there’s one word near the end that made me cringe when I reread it (you’ll see why when you get there). Also, as of March this year, I’m back on the SSRIs and back in therapy (yaaaay) to try and address the body stuff I’m still struggling with, so my “therapy free life” comment at the start definitely no longer stands. Aaaaand lastly, I know some parts of this post might sound self-pitying or pity-seeking but that’s really not what I wanted to get out of writing it – I just want to share some of the experiences I’ve had. The more I read, the more I listen, the more people I meet, and the older I get, the more I realise that we’re all struggling with something, we’re all just winging it, and we’re all just trying our best with what we’ve got – and that growing sense of perspective has been invaluable. My only hope for this post is that by sharing these things I can help anyone who’s been through or going through similar experiences to feel a little bit less alone.


Armageddon Tinsel

What Life With Generalised Anxiety Disorder Feels Like

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Back in February, after five months of CBT, I was officially released back into the wilds of therapy free life.

I was treated for generalised anxiety disorder, which – at the time – felt like a rubbishly undramatic and pathetic name for what was happening inside my brain. But, to give the name its due, it means exactly what it says.

everything + anxiety = disordered thinking, disordered behaviours, and a disordered life.

This is what it feels like…

Your brain is wired all. the. time. but it’s not wired for useful things or happy things or things that will improve you and your loved one’s lives – it’s flaring like a nuclear reactor siren for all the things that could go wrong, all the things that have gone wrong, all your failings (recent and ancient), and all the world’s failings (recent and ancient). And that anxious inner monologue is like a dog that just won’t stop barking – painful and mind-numbing to listen to, incredibly annoying, and unbelievably distracting.

You can’t sleep because, although your body is dead to the world, your brain is busy convincing you that you might never wake up; that maybe the hob is still on; that maybe all the doors and windows are unlocked; that maybe you forgot to put your car’s handbrake on (not weird worries); that maybe you said something unforgivably nasty to someone during the day and just can’t remember saying it; that maybe you ran over a cyclist whilst driving home and just didn’t notice (getting weirder worries); that maybe your foot is itchy because you scratched it on a syringe and just didn’t realise and now you have HIV or hepatitis or both; that maybe you’re the ugliest human that has ever lived and should stop leaving the house in case you make people unwell with your disgusting face; that maybe you put bleach in your cup of tea earlier and just can’t remember doing it; that maybe you randomly wrote the c-word in the middle of an e-mail, maybe wrote a whole paragraph’s worth of them, and just didn’t realise (definitely weird worries); that maybe there’s a sinkhole under your house and you’re about to die; that maybe there’s a plane tumbling to earth above your house and you’re about to die; that maybe another world war will break out and you and all your family will die; that maybe you’ll start sleepwalking and accidentally kill your family (triggered by this story in the news – fully fledged weird worries); that maybe someone in your family will start sleepwalking and kill you; that maybe you’re not real and the world isn’t real and that there’s no point to anything.

You struggle to make decisions – big and small – because you’re sure whatever you decide will end in disaster – big and small and all shades of disaster grey. You can’t concentrate and sometimes struggle to even talk because your brain is too busy processing absurd scenarios that it thinks it might need to deal with to focus on the actual task in front of it or to focus on the sentence it was half-way through saying. You stop trying new things and stop practising old things because you’re afraid of failing and afraid of ruining things that you love with your rubbishness. You refuse to put your heart on the line – refuse to put it anywhere near the line, eventually stop noticing/believing other people might be close to the line – because you’re embarrassed by your mental messiness and convinced of your physical ugliness, and you’re sure if anyone gets too close they’ll just hate you like you hate yourself.

Your memory is shot to pieces. You nod along blindly as people reminisce about events you were physically there for but mentally absent from – absent from because you were too busy trying to locate all the emergency exits; too busy wondering if there were glass shards in your drink or in your dinner; too busy imagining all the fat in your body tearing through your clothes; too busy trying to figure out how hideously disgusting you looked from 360 different angles; too busy assessing people’s faces for signs that they were repulsed or sickened by your physical appearance; too busy scrutinising an awkward moment from three minutes/days/months/years before; too busy picturing your house burning down; too busy working out if the ache in your head was actually a headache or if it was a brain haemorrhage in headache disguise; too busy praying that the sirens in the distance weren’t the police coming to arrest you for a crime you couldn’t remember committing; too busy contemplating the likelihood of gunmen appearing, which direction they would most likely appear from, and the chances of everyone’s survival.

You become vulnerable to bad people doing bad things to you because you stop trusting yourself and stop knowing which instincts you should believe in, because you blame yourself for those bad things when* they do happen, because you feel so worthless you assume no-one could be bothered to do anything bad to you anyway, because your default reaction is to shut down and convince yourself that the bad thing can’t have been real, that maybe it was just an anxious thought slipping into your perception of real life and that what you really need to do is just get a fucking grip (THIS issue is the biggest fucking kicker, I swear).

*and, unfortunately, it’s most likely when and not if – bad people know who to pick on.

AnxietyScreenshot
This is the delightful mindfuck my brain decided to treat me to after I was assaulted by a customer at work in May 2019, and this message was sent to one of my best friends as I sat crying on my sofa unable to face going on a night out to a crowded festival. I spent weeks not only worried that I might be assaulted again, but – after I reported it to the police – I became terrified that people would randomly accuse me of the same thing. It was the shitty cherry on top of an already shitty cake.

You startle constantly at the smallest things: a customer walking through the door, a friend’s hand on your shoulder, a cute little butterfly fluttering passed on its cute little way to do cute little butterfly things. You cry and you cry and you cry because you’re exhausted and don’t understand what’s happening to your brain, because you’re frustrated that you can’t just pull yourself together, and because you feel unbelievably pathetic. You hurt yourself because it puts some of the pain in your mind onto your flesh, and flesh can’t think and chitter-chatter and babble away like a mind can; and because you’ve reached a point where you really don’t care about mistreating your body anymore – burning, bleeding, and bruising feels like all it’s good for.

You’re so, so ashamed because you don’t know how one person can be filled with so much negativity and badness and horribleness, and you feel guilty because you don’t know how you’ve wasted so much life – life that could have gone to someone else, to someone who would have done something useful with it.

Round and round in circles you go – minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day. Weeks, months, and years pass. The circles get smaller, but they, somehow, encompass more worries. They, somehow, spin faster. Your centre of balance tries to shift, tries to keep up, but the dizziness balloons and grows and morphs until you’re bursting at all the threadbare seams that are, somehow, still keeping you together; until you’re pitching left, right, forwards, and backwards on an ever shrinking life tightrope; until you’re actually not sure if just giving up and falling off that life tightrope is really such a bad idea anymore.

You realise you maybe, possibly, perhaps (desperately, desperately, desperately) need some help.

You wait months before actually phoning the doctors because you’ve invented a scenario in your head where the receptionist will tell you to stop wasting their time and strike you off the surgery’s list and then that’ll be the sign from the universe that you definitely have to die. They don’t strike you off the list when you eventually ring (funny that), but you do have to wait a month for an appointment. Then you finally, fina-fucking-ly, get to the appointment – the day before your 26th birthday – and break down the second you walk through your GP’s door. You cry, and blubber, and soak the whole lower half of your face in snot and tears (classy).

You’re lucky – so, so lucky – and have a doctor who listens through your incoherent sobbing; who politely ignores all the stuff dripping from your eyes and nose, and quietly hands you a box of tissues; who takes you and your misfiring brain seriously; and who – most importantly – comes up with a plan that gives you hope that things can change, a plan that doesn’t involve you dying.

Phew.

Replace all those ‘you’s with ‘i’s and – tadah – there’s messy old me.

*waves awkwardly*

*also makes preparations to go and live in a cave to avoid facing family/friends/colleagues who didn’t already know this story*

There’s no start date for me plus GAD, no stressful epiphany, no big trauma, no pantomime villain. My therapist and I raked through a lot of things, and the words “perfect storm” are the only ones that fit – no matter how clichéd they are.

I love, love, love a cliché.

Lots of little things led me down the anxiety-brick road. I had all the life ingredients and all the personal traits to go right ahead and make myself a big old anxiety disorder cake. And I baked that cake to perfection.

What can I say? I’m a good baker. *flicks hair over shoulder sassily*

Generalised anxiety disorder is addictively habitual. It’s superstitious – if I worry about it every second for twenty four hours then maybe the bad thing won’t happen because I’ll be ready? But maybe I’m making the badness gravitate towards me by thinking about it? Fuck, which one is it supposed to be?’ – and it’s so, so delusional. Painfully delusional. It’s a hall-of-mirrors lense that tricks you into thinking you’ll see the world more clearly – in beautiful, crisp focus – if only you just take a look through it. But once you’ve leaned in to see what’s behind the glass, once you’ve leaned in to take that sneaky peek, it shows you a kaleidoscope of horribleness instead – and you don’t know how to tear your eyes from it, don’t know how to unscramble the picture that’s being painted before you.

Being painted by you.

That lense is all you think you have. It’s all you think you can rely on.

With each day, week, and year that passed GAD became inseparable from my whole sense of the world. I decorated everything I loved, all the things I dreamed of, all the hopes I had for my life with its awfulness – some Armageddon tinsel here, a few epidemic* baubles there, plus a sprinkling of sudden death glitter on top.

*okay, so let’s not talk about this prophetic word choice. 2020 is turning out to be some epic exposure therapy. *laughs awkwardly, breaks down in tears*

Every day, my brain still tries to get out that sudden death glitter and make the world sheeny-shiny with horribleness. Every day, I have to remember to put the GAD goggles down and back away from the black hole of worry lurking in my heart.

I think I’m getting better at it.

Obviously, I worry that I’m not. It’s a hard habit to kick.

But mostly I’m finding it easier to dismiss the anxieties that before would have hijacked – hook, line, and sinker – my mind for hours and days and weeks. Mostly I’m able to get on with doing the things I need and want to do. Mostly.

And for now, mostly feels like winning.

For always, mostly is winning.

*

Some links, tips, and resources that might come in handy:

  • I was helped by Steps 2 Wellbeing (a NHS service based in Dorset and Southampton, UK).
  • The Samaritans – you don’t have to be feeling suicidal to call them (maybe this is stupid of me, but I didn’t know that before I went to my GP), they’re there to help 24 hours a day, 365 days a year if you’re feeling bad and need to talk to someone.
  • Mind have lots of useful information on their website.
  • And so does the NHS.
  • Made of Millions have loads of great information, advice, and resources on their site too.
  • There are useful links for support on the Heads Together website. Heads Together is a charity founded by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to tackle the stigma associated with mental health issues.
  • Arm yourself with knowledge. Whether it’s through books, tv documentaries, podcasts, or radio programmes – learn more. It’s comforting to know you’re not alone and gives a sense of perspective that is invaluable. I find authors like Bryony Gordon, Rose Cartwright, and Matt Haig helpful. You might not have the same symptoms or diagnoses as them or me but it’s remarkable how similar the patterns of mental illnesses are, and there’s no harm in learning more about other people’s experiences.

HelpfulBooks

  • If you work for a larger company, they’re likely to have a helpline for their employees to ring (that should probably be anonymous, but double check if you’re unsure). Ditto unions.
  • And please, please, please contact your GP – don’t let make believe scary receptionists put you off.

If anyone has other charities/organisations/books/tips they can suggest, please do!

a flowerfall of roses

The weather here has been perfect for the last few weeks. Blazing blue skies. Glittering sunshine. The ocassional wandering, lonely cloud.

And, to top it all off, there are roses, roses everywhere.

I am obsessed with the Mayor of Casterbridge rosebush in our garden at the moment.  It’s overflowing with blooms; a flowerfall of pink petals and leafy greens. And it smells beautiful too, like a lush, floral summer-punch to the nose.

I’m spending an embarrassing amount of time trying to capture its beauty with my camera and on my phone. Different days, different lights, different angles, different (and undignified) stances to get those angles, holding my breath, trying to keep still, cursing any breeze but then delighting in the waft of rosy air that washes my face after it.

None of the photos seem to come out right, though, no matter how many I take.

If I could invite you all over to see it in the flowery flesh, I would.

But, for now, these three photos will have to do instead.

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SummerRoses

TheMayorOfCasterbridge

I hope your June is filled with sunshine and rosy moments.

Things I’m Doing More Of In Lockdown

Seven weeks into lockdown and life for everyone is certainly very different.

I cannot wait for it to be over, but it’s a necessary evil for now.

Having spent the last two months worrying about coronavirus, socially distancing, and staying at home I’ve noticed there are some pretty random things I’ve been doing a whole lot more of.

I’ve been…

wriggling my face a lot. I never knew how much I touched my face before – now that I can’t it’s basically all I want to do. *screams internally* It turns out that my nose gets itchy, my eyes get itchy, my forehead gets itchy, even my chin apparently gets itchy ALL THE TIME and there’s nothing I can do about it except wriggle my face around like a maniac – which does nothing about the itchiness and does everything to make me look like a complete weirdo.

feeling very socially awkward. Ah god, and I already felt so socially awkward before this all started. Weirdly, I’m finding the two metre thing one of the most stressful parts of this pandemic – I don’t want to give someone too wide a berth and seem impolite, but I don’t want to give someone too narrow a berth and seem impolite either. It’s a minefield.

marvelling at people doing stupid things. From the people who carefully wear gloves but carelessly touch everything then scratch their faces to the customers that pull their face masks down whilst leaning in to talk to me, I find it surprising every single day how silly* people can be. If I could actually touch my face without worrying about germs, it would spend a lot of time in my palms.

*I’m being polite with this word.

marvelling at me doing stupid things. This isn’t actually a new thing – I’ve been marvelling at/worrying about my ability to be an idiot for 27 years – I just wanted you all to know that I judge me and my stupidity harshly too.

having loads of baths. Not having anywhere to go makes the temptation to have a bath at four in the afternoon every day pretty much impossible to resist. I’ve never been so clean, exfoliated, and moisturised in my entire life.

contrail spotting. Contrails used to be a fact of sky life, now they’re rare and it’s kinda weird.

crying a lot. I think we’re all in this crying boat together though, right? *looks around nervously* Right?

wearing sparkly/flowery clothes all the time. Simple things please simple minds.

drawing rainbows and blue hearts. I love spotting all the rainbows that have popped up in people’s windows since March and I’ve loved releasing my inner five-year-old to draw my own too.

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my window rainbow

going make-up free. It turns out that people don’t shrivel up and die when they see my face without foundation on. I’ve been wasting so much precious time. My freckles are going to get a lot more airtime going forwards – consider yourselves warned.

clapping in the street. Once this is all over, I think I’ll actually find it weird not going outside onto the street to clap/tap pots and pans/ring bells with the neighbours on Thursday evenings.

trying not to laugh at my grandma during video calls. My grandma is 94, so the fact that she can even use a smart phone by herself is kind of amazing – but she holds the phone so close to her face during video calls and it is so, so hard not to laugh when confronted with a screen made up mostly of her nose and eyes. (It’s really hard not to cry too – I just desperately want to see her in person.) ❤

buying unsafe amounts of chocolate. I’ve basically bought a bar of chocolate at the end of every shift at work for the last two months because (and this is a direct quote from my brain): “what happens if I have to self-isolate for two weeks and run out?”. The amount of chocolate currently in my house is probably medically dangerous. I NEED TO BE STOPPED.

puzzling. There’s obviously a whole lotta things I didn’t foresee about 2020, but jigsaw puzzles becoming a big part of my life is definitely near the top of that list. Before, they were a once a year thing. Now, they’re an everyday thing.

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a moomin puzzle made the perfect seat for Jingles

How about you? What random things has lockdown seen you doing more of?

dream world

I’m not much of a night dreamer.

A day dreamer? One hundred infuriating and very distracting percent.

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lunartic

For some reason, though, when it comes to remembering what strange/terrifying/lovely/boring things have been going on in my brain overnight all I’m usually able to draw from it is a complete, dark blank. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing. It definitely doesn’t feel like a good thing. It actually makes me a little bit sad and lottle bit jealous – especially when other people talk about their weird and wonderful dreams and all I can offer in return is a (now, thankfully, less frequent) recurring nightmare in which I balloon like Violet Beauregarde from Charlie in the Chocolate Factory and get trapped in my bedroom because I’m too big to fit through the door to get out.

*scrunches up face in embarrassment and shame*

Let’s not delve too much into it.

It’ll just get messy and awkward, and there’s enough messy awkwardness going on in the world already.

*smiles a messy and awkward smile*

So, anyway.

Dreams.

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The Mud Maiden in the Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall

Since lockdown began, people all around the world have reported that they’re experiencing more frequent and more vivid dreams. I’ve seen article after article after article on them, and there’s even a study being conducted by postgraduate students at University College London on the effect the pandemic has had on our dreams.

It makes sense that our sleeping imaginations have gone haywire in the wake of Covid-19 – all of us have had to process some pretty intense emotions recently and most of us have had a lot more free time to reflect on the stories our stressed-out brains have been coming up with.

My dreams, though, are proving to be just as elusive as ever and I’m beginning to feel seriously left out.

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peek-a-moon

But, there’s hope.

At least, I hope there’s hope.

I have this next week off of work – my first break since everything went weird.

Seeing as I won’t be getting up at 4.30am and seeing as I can’t actually go out to explore the real world, I’m hoping I can have a few (hopefully not nightmarish) adventures in some dream ones instead. I’ve bought a book on lucid dreaming (not 100% sure if this was a good idea, but I guess I’ll find out), stocked up on camomile tea, turned my alarm off off off, and I’ve even got myself a special notebook (any excuse) to write out any dreams that decide to stick around in my brain for long enough for me to get them down on paper.

I might be (definitely am) taking it too seriously, but, in my defence, my social and events calendar – like everyone else’s – is looking very, very free at the moment and I need things to keep me distracted.

I’ll let you know what dream worlds I discover.

• Do you have trouble remembering dreams like me? • Have you noticed a change in your dreams since the Covid-19 pandemic started? • Have you ever kept a dream diary? •

good omens

Most of last week felt like a real struggle – like fighting through a thick, gloopy dark. But it also had moments of heart-warming, soul-lifting, and blues-battling wonder that left me feeling like things will be okay, no matter how strange they happen to be now – and they’re what I want to keep my focus on.

Two moments in particular stood out.

Both of them involved a field, and both of them involved my – already seriously overused – tear ducts.

I almost ended up in tears in the middle of a field. My sister and I were out for a walk by our local river when a big, big, big bird suddenly swooped above us, circling round and round. We’re used to seeing pigeons (tbh, isn’t everyone?), sea gulls, buzzards, crows, sparrows, herons, cormorants, and egrets on our walks but this was much more special: it was a red kite. Red kites became extinct in England in 1871, and their population recovery has been rocky and very slow since then (although it has recently begun to accelerate). My dad – who basically has the eyes of a hawk – occasionally spots one flying in the distance, and every time he does I always nod along and go “ooh” and “aah” – vaguely aware that there is some sort of bird shaped creature in the sky, but mostly aware of a whole lot of blue/clouds. But this red kite was so. close. and there was no mistaking it. It felt like a very special privilege to witness it swirling through the air just in front of us and had me blinking back tears (it had been a long day). It was utterly awe-inspiring to see, and, especially at a time like this, it felt like a good omen – a much needed reminder that things get better; they recover, they heal, and they thrive.

Red kite flying above the River Stour, Dorset, England, May 2020.

Red kite flying above the River Stour, Dorset, England, May 2020.

I actually ended up in tears in the middle of a field. This time, it was me and my mum out for a walk. Little did I know, my best friend – who I haven’t seen in person for two months – was out for a run at the same time. Cue a squeal of recognition and disbelief, a flash of happy heart butterflies, a moment where I couldn’t breathe, me bursting into tears, and an appropriately socially distant cry/talk/sob/chat from either side of the path. It was painful because I wanted to run straight into her arms and give her the biggest hug and not let her go, but it was also beautiful because I got to see her in actual physical real 3D life and it was the loveliest, most magical, surprise.

I hope you’ve had your fair share of heart-warming moments too.

Things are hard, but they will get better.

Stay safe.

three weeks, a pandemic, and a supermarket

So, coronavirus.

I don’t want to bring it up, but I can’t not.

I’ve spent the last two months desperately trying to ignore it – eyes closed, hands over my ears, singing a la-la-la song to myself – in a pathetic attempt to make it all go away.

Funnily enough, that hasn’t worked.

All of our lives and so many industries have been touched by this, in so many different ways – I wanted to share my little corner of the experience so far and get some things off my chest.

I never, ever talk about work here – for lots of reasons, but mainly because it has nothing to do with books or writing. And I don’t know whether I could technically get in trouble with someone from some department I’ve never heard of for writing about what it’s been like to accidentally, and bizarrely, find myself and my colleagues on the frontline of a pandemic, but I’m pretty sure I’m not sharing anything sensitive or secret. Everyone has already seen the photos/videos of what’s been going on in the paper, on the news, or on social media.

I work in a supermarket.

The last three weeks have been the most ridiculous, unbelievable, and insane of my working life.

Personally, this is a little bit of what it’s been like…

It’s been shift after shift after shift of hundreds of agitated people swarming all around, filled with a panic, panic, panic that has become harder and harder to shake off at the end of each day. It’s been empty shelves and angry, snide, horrible comments from actual grown-up human adults who should know how to behave better. It’s been people crowding around for pasta and rice and tins and bottles and paracetemol and soap and toilet roll, with no regard for mine or my colleagues’ personal space and, consequently, no regard for our health (and, consequently, the health of the people we live with/care for). It’s been witnessing selfishness and rudeness on a depressing scale. It’s been telling elderly customer after elderly customer that there’s no bread left, no eggs left, no flour, no pasta, no potatoes; it’s been watching them walk off down the aisle with an empty basket and wondering what they’ll eat for the rest of the week; it’s been wanting to cry, knowing that they’ve risked their health to get their shopping but have nothing to show for it because the shelves were stripped of the basics by people who, most likely, were younger and healthier and less at risk than them. It’s been looking at all the queues, people squished together closely, and thinking: “this is exactly what people are supposed to be avoiding right now.” It’s been moments of staring at the ever-growing gaps on the shop floor and wondering: “what if the deliveries actually do stop coming?” (fyi: they won’t.) In particularly dark and melodramatic and pessimistic corners of my mind, it’s been looking at myself and my colleagues thinking: “what if this is worse than they say it is? We’re basically going to be the first people to die. And all so people could fight over toilet roll they probably don’t really need.” It’s been saying goodbye to older/at risk colleagues and presuming/hoping I’ll see them fit and well in 3 months’ time. It’s been itchy, cracking hands from a mix of cardboard, paper cuts, and hand-sanitizer. It’s been a sore back, painful knees, throbbing feet. It’s been getting home and feeling dirty and contaminated – a risk to my family (particularly my mum, who went through chemo last year, and my dad, who has high-blood pressure – plus they’re both over 60). It’s been trying to figure out if I’ll ever see my 94-year-old grandma in person again. It’s been trying to adjust to the side effects of the anti-depressants I was put back on less than two weeks ago – headaches, dizziness, a constant nausea – and then trying to work out if any of the new things I’m feeling are symptoms of Covid-19 or “just” symptoms of being an anxious person. It’s been desperately wanting to catch up with my friends – see their faces, give them the biggest hugs, cry on their shoulders – but knowing that is absolutely the last thing I can do. It’s been thinking “my job is safe for now – but what happens when the economic impacts of this start digging deeper?” And, completely selfishly, it’s been freaking out that I’ll be single for ever and ever and ever more; despairing that my destiny as a crazy cat lady (and now a crazy jig-saw puzzle lady) is pretty much sealed.

It’s been all that and more, but I think that paragraph is big enough as it is.

Basically – but then, this is true for everyone right now – it’s all been a bit shit.

Times all that stress and emotion by a million, and I can only assume that that must be kind of what it feels like to work in healthcare at the moment.

I have no idea what the future holds. Stuff has got super weird, super quickly.

Somehow, unbelievably, kind of hilariously, I’ve found myself classified as a key-worker in a pandemic. I would never ever in a million years have predicted that, but here we are. I’ll keep turning up, keep taking all the precautions I can to keep me and my family healthy, keep trying to help people have access to the things they need.

At the end of the day, though, we’re all key players in this – whether we’ve been classified by the government as such or not. We all help to make the world a better, happier, safer, nicer, more interesting place.

We have to, have to, have to look after each other.

For now, from afar.

Some day soon, from up close again.

four years

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My blog turned four on Valentine’s day, and even though that was quite a while ago now I still wanted to (belatedly) mark the occasion. So, in honour of four happy blogging years I thought it would be nice to focus on four – pretty random – things that I’ve been loving and that have been making me happy this February…

engagement pancakes. One of my brothers recently got engaged. I got the date for pancake day wrong by two whole weeks. Those two things combined meant our celebratory family meal ended up being fajitas, with pancakes and ice cream for pudding (plus lots of prosecco). My mum has decided that engagement pancakes are now, officially, a family tradition. And I’m very much okay with that.

netflix. A heady mix of Storm Ciara, rain, more rain, Storm Dennis, feeling unwell, the trailer for The Witcher, a holiday week from work to use up, and a reading slump *shock, horror* meant I finally gave in and signed even more of my life and money away up for Netflix. So far, I have no regrets and a massive crush on Henry Cavill.

new recipes. As well as revolutionising the culinary world by inventing engagement pancakes, I’ve been busy revolutionising my taste buds by trying out new recipes. Three favourites from these baking forays are passion cake; chocolate hazelnut cake; and banana, chocolate & cardamom cake (originally from the River Cottage cookbook Fruit).

taking leaps. I’ve just put a deposit on a new (to me) car and, for someone whose blood is basically made up of neat cortisol, this has obviously involved unrelenting stomach butterflies, heart-juddering waves of panic, and hours of lying awake listing all the things that could go wrong. Things definitely could go wrong – cars will be cars will be cars – but they could also not (hopefully, please and thank you universe). Leaps of faith – in whatever form – are how we grow. They make life interesting. They go wrong and they go right. You just have to jump and see what happens. *tries to look wise and zen*

Here’s to the next four years of blogging!

Remi Meets the Sea

My brother and his girlfriend are down from London over the holidays with their seven month old miniature dachshund, Remi.

Remi is ADORABLE. He’s cuteness and mischief and cuddles and fabulousness on four tiny legs; with a heart of gold, the smooshiest little face, the floppiest and fluffiest ears you ever did see, and a nose that’s perfect for booping.

On Sunday, we took him to Studland beach for his first trip to the seaside.

He loved it. And it was the loveliest thing to see him discovering a whole new world; see him sallying forth into a great unknown; see his first steps on the sand; see his nose covered in it too; see him meet the sea, smell the water, paddle along the bubbly edges of it and look out at the horizon. Probably the biggest and widest horizon he’s seen so far. Poole, Bournemouth, the Isle of Wight, Old Harry Rocks, the silky silver English Channel, cloud after cloud after cloud. He took it all in his perfect, wibbly wobbly stride.

The beach was busy – but Remi’s a city dog, a seasoned pro in busyness, so he wasn’t fazed. He made lots of new furry friends and won himself lots of human admirers too.

And watching him got me feeling all philosophical.

(What can I say? I just like overthinking.)

To be fair, the end of a year and the dawn of new one always makes me reflective. What did I learn? What did I do with my life? Did I make the most of the last twelve months? What do I want to learn and do in, and how do I make the most of, the next twelve? I don’t really know how to answer those questions properly. They probably aren’t truly answerable.

All I do know is I want to be a bit like Remi meeting the sea over the next twelve months – constantly curious, open to the unknown, finding joy in the little things, and quietly confident I’ll be up to the challenge of what’s in store.

I probably won’t look quite as cute as him though.

Here’s lookin’ at you, 2020.

RemiOnTheBeach
fun and games
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boop, boop. making friends
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best feet forwards
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run, run as fast you can, you can’t catch me I’m a mini dachshund
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blurry and wriggly Remi cuddles
StudlandBeach
one last look