What to Watch on Netflix

Courtesy of Netflix.com

Netflix

has over 94 million subscribers and nearly 15,000 titles available to watch. Whether you're suggesting "Netflix and Chill" with someone, hibernating for a bit of self-care or just need some background noise there's probably something on there for you to watch.

I've been using Netflix for about 4 years and have watched a fair amount of the shows and movies on there, but there are a handful of them that I return to again and again. So, if you've got a little time to kill and want something to put on, here are my favourite shows and films that are currently available to stream on Netflix!

Shows

Let's start with a couple of series on Netflix that I've really enjoyed. They are all on Netflix UK, and most (if not all) are available internationally.

Peep Show

Let's start with a classic, shall we? Peep Show is about the somewhat antagonistic friendship between two flatmates (played by David Mitchell and Robert Webb) who met at uni but have very different ideas about adulthood. Uptight, serious Mark and bohemian sexual deviant, Jez, are the perfect example of odd-couple comedy, though are ultimately both equally hapless in pursuit of love and success.

I've watched Peep Show from start to finish more times than I care to count and can quote it word-perfectly. In fact, my Tinder profile briefly read "Mark Corrigan in the streets, Mark Corrigan in the sheets". Why, yes, I am still single.

Hemlock Grove

When a girls's corpse turns up in a small town, suspicion is immediately thrown at new arrival, Peter Romancek. Peter has his own secrets, but so does eminent local family, the Godfreys. Letha Godfrey claims to be pregnant by an angel, Roman's father died under suspicious circumstances, and who is Shelley?

Right, ok, hear me out because this show is a bit... silly. The acting is sketchy, the scripting can be a little off and the entire premise is utterly daft, BUT if you're into supernatural mysteries with an attractive cast (including a pre-IT Bill Skarsgård) and plenty of WTF moments then it's worth a try.

Fawlty Towers

Basil Fawlty and his wife, Sybill, run a hotel in Torquay with sarcastic chambermaid Polly and incompetent (but well-meaning) waiter, Manuel. He's from Barcelona.

Another British comedy, this is one of the greatest shows ever, in my humble opinion. Granted it's a little dated in places, but Basil Fawlty's snobbery and ineptitude will never not be funny. If you want to try one episode, "Communication Problems" is one of the strongest half-hours of television in history.

Gilmore Girls

In a lively Connecticut hamlet a spunky single mum named Lorelai raises her gifted and talented teenage daughter, Rory. With the support of the townsfolk and the often fractious involvement of Lorelai's wealthy parents, these two young women navigate school, work and relationships.

I'm in the middle of a re-watch of Gilmore Girls now, and I'll be honest, it's a slightly different experience as an adult than it was when I was a teenager. My views on the behaviour of the characters has changed and I'm starting to find Rory very annoying... but overall it's still one of my favourite shows from my adolescence and for that it retains a place in my heart. Oh, and Lane Kim deserved better.

American Horror Story

An anthology show comprising six-and-a-bit seasons to date, American Horror Story tells a new tale in every season. Starting with the disturbing tale of the Harmons' haunted California home and with themes like infidelity, motherhood, disability and feminism, this show has a little something for everybody. Unless you're scared of clowns, in which case give season 5 a hard miss.

I'm the first to admit that some seasons of this show are a little dodgy, but obviously I've watched it all multiple times anyway. I still think it's one of the most inventive shows on television, and the campy bizarreness of the whole thing is part of the fun. If you want to just pick the strongest season, I'd go with the second - AHS: Asylum is definitely the standout. 

Honourable Mentions

Other shows I've loved include Stranger Things, The Office, The IT Crowd, The Mighty Boosh, Horrible Histories, Black Mirror, Call the Midwife, Orange is the New Black, Doctor Foster, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Blackadder, iZombie, Girlboss and Outnumbered

Movies

Again, these are all available on Netflix UK (at least at the time I published this post...)

The Invitation (2015)

When Will and his girlfriend are invited to his former home by his ex-wife, he is uncomfortable right from the outset. As the awkward dinner party continues, and strange guests appear at the house, Will starts to wonder if something sinister might be afoot. Does somebody have dark motives, or is Will simply affected by spectres from the past?

To carry on the horror theme for just a second, this film does an excellent job of inducing a creeping sense of dread and paranoia, and the final act rolls out some true gasp-worthy moments. Scary without resorting to torture porn, this is one of the stronger suspenseful films of recent years.

Anastasia (1997)

When evil wizard Rasputin is scorned by the Tsar, he makes a deal with the devil to spark a revolution, resulting in the death or exile of the Russian royal family. Princess Anastasia is lost, presumed dead, and her devastated grandmother escapes to Paris. Years later, amnesiac orphan Anya meets conmen Dimitri and Vlad, who convince her that she could be the lost princess, but Rasputin isn't finished yet.

This is probably one of the greatest non-Disney musicals. The songs are beautiful and the animation is stunning. I also really appreciate that the love story is secondary to the personal journey that Anya is on, and her quest to find where she belongs is the crux of the film. If you've never seen it, you should. If you have seen it, watch it again.

 Bachelorette (2012) 

Overachiever Regan is unmanageably jealous when her high school friend, Becky, announces her engagement. The wedding reunites Regan with her old friends, promiscuous wild card Gena and ditsy, tactless Katie. The night before the wedding causes a huge amount of damage to the dress, and the three bridesmaids end up on a wild goose chase to set things right before the big day.

The plot might sound frivolous but my favourite thing about this film is how unlikeable the central characters are, while still managing to earn some sympathy with the viewer. The comedy (and plot) have some seriously dark moments, which stop this from being just another wedding movie.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Five friends go to a lake retreat for a weekend, but as night falls the hot youngsters are besieged by bloodthirsty killers. So far, so formulaic. But why do we keep seeing a bunch of office workers organising something big, and why does that guy keep going on about mermaids? 

In the same way that Scream subverted the horror genre back in the 90s, Cabin in the Woods takes all the tropes and cliches of the genre and creates an absolute gem of a film. Just scary and silly enough, it's worth a watch even if you're not that into horror.

Hot Fuzz (2007)

A star policeman is sent to a small west country village and starts to suspect that there may be a seething criminal underbelly underneath the veneer of harmless friendliness, and things get a bit... explodey.

One of the Cornetto Trilogy featuring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, this is one of those films that I can watch when I'm in any mood. If I'm grumpy it'll cheer me up. If I'm happy I enjoy the shameless silliness of it. It just makes me laugh. The fact that it was filmed in Wells, where I have been multiple times, kind of adds to the experience.

I hope I've given you some ideas of things to watch, or at the very least reminded you of something you've enjoyed. Happy viewing!

(This post is not sponsored.)

Self-Harm: Why I Did It, and How I Quit

Trigger Warning: 
This post discusses eating disorders, various methods of self harm and suicide. Please read with caution.


First things first, I have bipolar disorder. My psychiatrist suggests that this might have been triggered or caused, at least in part, by being sent to boarding school at the age of eight, where I was bullied horribly.

My first memory of hurting myself out of rage, upset and frustration was pulling my hair out in clumps. I'd never heard of self-harm (or, more specifically, trichotillomania) , and I was confused by my own behaviour. Now, I know that not all trichotillomania is self-harm, as such, sometimes it's a compulsive behaviour that even feels satisfying despite the ill-effects, but in my instance I'd pull out so much hair at once that I'd even bleed. I'd hide the clumps, not understanding why I'd done it but feeling ashamed and frightened. I was nine.

While I didn't get what was going on, I knew it wasn't "normal", and even at that age I could put together the fact that I did it when I was most miserable. I linked my misery to wanting to do something destructive, so I tried to find something else I could do. I settled on tearing up bits of paper. I carried notepaper in the pockets of my school uniform and when I was teased or bullied or homesick I'd take some out and tear it in half, and in half again and again until I had a pile of tiny squares, and then I'd throw it away. I even kept paper under my pillow for when the other girls would say horrible things to or about me after the lights went out. I remember getting in trouble for it when the matron changed my sheets and accidentally littered my dormitory with confetti.


Time passed, and I changed schools. I was marginally happier, and at the very least I was somewhat occupied. I would sometimes pull out my hair absent-mindedly, but strands, not fistfuls. I still do that now when I'm very stressed, but as long as it's only occasionally I try not to let it worry me too much. 

However, in about 2005, something happened. I got a subscription to a teen magazine, which did a feature on "the new epidemic: cutting". I'm sure it was well-intentioned, and maybe for the people who'd already heard of the self-harm via cutting it might have been helpful. But for me, who'd never heard of it before, it read like an instruction manual. While the article said "Girls who cut turn to it as a form of release" I read "Cutting will give you release". I'm in no way suggesting that the publishers intended to advocate cutting, but that's certainly how I ended up interpreting it. It even mentioned different tools and instruments people used to hurt themselves. To this mentally-ill 13 year old it was like a how-to guide.

It was around about this time that cutting, and other forms of self-harm, became common knowledge. TV characters were doing it, rumour abounded at school about which girls might be doing it, it was on everyone's lips. Magazines and news features meant to raise awareness in order to keep people safe, but really all it did was spread the word.

I cut myself quietly over years. It was never a cry for attention for me (not that doing it for attention invalidates it, generally the people crying for attention are just crying for help). It was about taking control of the pain on the inside, because when I felt pain on the outside too I felt less of an unmanageable division between my brain and my body.

My body was another problem. From a very (and I mean very) young age I was made to feel like my body was repugnant. I was tall for my age, and very wide-set. There are photos of me from my childhood where I looked fairly chunky from the front, but if I turned sideways there was nothing to me. However, as I got older and my hips got even bigger, my boobs started kicking in and I started to binge-eat whatever I could buy with my pocket money as a "fuck you" to anyone who'd ever commented on my weight, I actually started to get fat, which only made things worse. Their taunting and snide comments started to, for want of a better phrase, gain weight.


This resulted in me starting to make myself vomit. At first just after I'd binged, but then I started doing it after every meal. I was a self-harming bulimic for over a year. It sounds a little backwards, but this extreme behaviour is what led me to have a bit of an epiphany about cutting.

It struck me that, to my mind, I was putting myself through forced regurgitation to make myself thinner, and by extension more "attractive". It suddenly seemed strange to be mutilating myself one minute and trying to make myself "pretty" the next. I resolved to stop adding to my map of scars, purely because it was counterproductive to my ultimate goal of trying to be attractive to other people.

However, like quitting any addiction, it wasn't as simple as deciding to stop. I needed a substitute, a surrogate. This is where the article that started it all actually came in handy, because it had listed suggestions for things to try in order to quit, which I'd remembered for all those years. When I was at home, I could fish ice cubes out of the freezer and squeeze them in my fist. When I was back at school I did the same with hard or sharp objects which were slightly painful to grip but wouldn't penetrate the skin, like pinecones or rulers. I'd hoard elastic bands up my sleeves and snap them against my wrists. Over time I weaned myself off this dependency too. 

I finally quit purging when I was caught by a teacher who I loathed (the feeling was mutual) and was, frankly, too scared to do it again in case she caught me, because she made it very clear that she had her eye on me.


I won't lie to you and say that I've been entirely successful in putting this past addiction behind me. I have had slips when life has seemed especially unbearable. I have made attempts on my own life. I have resorted to making myself vomit. But not often. Not compulsively. And of that I think I think I can be proud. 

If you're struggling, I can only recommend seeking help. I know it's hard and it's scary, but there are professionals out there who could make a huge difference to your life. If you're not able to do that, but you want to quit, then I can tell you that my method of substituting cutting and hair-pulling for other, less-destructive habits was helpful. In my experience at least, it will made it easier to eventually quit. I promise, no matter how impossible it might seem to finally break the addiction you can do it, and you will.

I'm a Bad Person - But I'm Trying to Be Better

I wrote a while back about how I used to be racist, and how I grew up and, through my life experiences and because of wonderful people I have met, my worldview drastically changed. Living with white privilege (or any privilege) means constantly adjusting to be the best ally you can be, and I don't always get it right.

I'm a bad person, and this cup of coffee is part of the reason

What does coffee have to do with being a bad person, you ask? Read on!

Taking a hard look at your own behaviour can be really difficult. Facing up to your own bad habits and mistakes isn't an easy task, but sometimes it's the first step to making improvements to your lifestyle and the way you treat the world around you. I know I don't tread as lightly or live as nobly as I can, or should. So, in the interests of becoming a (slightly) better person, here is a list of reasons that I'm a bad person, and how I plan to better myself.

(Ok, maybe "bad person" is a bit strong, though maybe it isn't. But whether you think these things make me objectively a "bad person" or subjectively "morally wobbly" that's your call.)

1. Using non-cruelty-free makeup

If you asked me how I felt about non-CF makeup I'd say "There's no real excuse for using makeup tested on animals, especially if you call yourself an animal-lover. There are so many options and awesome CF brands, there's no reason to support brands that are complicit in animal abuse." Yet, if you looked in my makeup box or even my handbag you'd find a ton of lipsticks from Rimmel and Maybelline and Urban Decay, which either sell in China (and therefore their products are tested on animals) or are owned by parent companies which do the same. If I think about someone forcing my animals through the torture of cosmetics testing I fill with rage and sadness, so the fact that I've knowingly supported companies that pay for animals to be used in this way actually makes me feel a bit sick.

BUT I've fully committed to only replacing my used makeup/cosmetics/bath and beauty products with cruelty-free, vegan alternatives. I haven't totally settled on whether I'll continue to use CF brands owned by non-CF parent companies, but what I can say is that I won't be buying from brands that sell in China and therefore allow mandatory animal testing of their products. I've already ordered some stuff from Tarte! What's more, when I've finally moved into my own house, I also plan to use CF and vegan cleaning products in my home.

2. Using an ad blocker

This might not sound like a "bad" thing on the surface, but using an ad blocker means that the producers of online media you consume, from news sites to blogs and YouTube videos don't get their ad revenue. Some creators rely on these paychecks to survive, particularly YouTubers. If I think about it, it seems unfair that I'd undercut the earnings of people whose work I enjoy and admire for the sake of saving 30 seconds, or avoiding a banner here and there.

BUT when I can afford it I do contribute to content creators whose work I regularly watch/read via Patreon or other similar schemes, and I plan to get organised so I can whitelist certain sites to allow their ads. I also buy merch that my favourite musicians/YouTubers bring out, and retweet/share sponsored posts that my friends do. In fact, my beautiful new header was done by my blogging friend, Kelly. Check out her work and hire her, she's awesome.

3. Contributing to "fast fashion"

I think it's fair to say I'm not very "trendy". I mean, I'm secure in my sense of style, but my style isn't exactly stylish, if you catch my meaning.

If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen me rant recently about how modern life prizes convenience over ethics, and this is very true of the fashion industry. Most of us know that in order to produce large volumes of clothing very cheaply, companies rely on exploitative working environments for their factory labourers. In short, this means sweatshops, pitifully low wages, dangerous working conditions and, in some cases, slave labour and the forced employment of children. If this is something you care about on any level, I highly recommend you do some research - it really is eye-opening. As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes I put my disgust at the abuse of vulnerable, impoverished workers aside for a cute, cheap item of clothing.

BUT I'm trying really hard not to let consumer culture get the better of me, and to only buy clothes from charity shops or ethical companies. I also want to try my hand at making my own clothes and I want to focus on being more inventive with clothes I already own instead of feeling a constant need to buy new things.

Yes, my beloved car is also part of the problem...

4. Speeding

In all fairness, this is not on purpose. I am a fairly new driver, and a generally absent-minded person. Now and again if I'm driving alone, or it's night time, or there are no other cars on the road, I just don't pay as much attention to my speed as I should. This may sound like pretty average behaviour, but really there's no excuse for it, especially when you bear in mind that excessive speed is the 2nd most common cause of car accidents. Every time I get in the car I think to myself "remember your speed" and yet on most journeys I find myself at least a couple of miles over the speed limit.

BUT fixing this bad behaviour is simply a case of paying more attention. Apple's new update even means that the Maps app shows the speed limit of whatever road you're on, which will be a help. Considering how anxious I used to be about driving, careful motoring should be in my nature.

5. Wasting resources

Laziness isn't an excuse, but it is the reason. I leave things plugged in, I leave the tap running while I brush my teeth, I leave the shower running while I condition my hair, I drive when I could feasibly walk or take public transport, I don't use food in my fridge and have to throw it away, I use plastic straws... the list is, to my shame, somewhat endless.

BUT, first things first, I've ordered these reusable straws so I can stop using plastic ones, and plan to take my reuseable coffee cup with me when I go to coffee shops. I will start turning the tap off while I'm actually brushing my teeth or conditioning my hair, and I'll try and be more organised about making food, using food scraps and turning appliances off at the wall when they're not actually in use.

Ok, so maybe doing all of these things just means I'm a fallible, lazy product of consumer culture. But I don't have to be a fallible, lazy product of consumer culture. I hope that writing all this down and owning up to it is the first step to making myself accountable and doing a better job.

Things I Learned Working in a Kitchen

When I was 19 I dropped out of uni (for the first time... more on that in another post.) My parents said I could come home as long as I found myself a job, which was fair enough, and went back to uni in September, which I did (with disastrous results, but again, more on that another time). I moved back to Wiltshire and started applying for every job I was remotely interested in. My only work experience was volunteering in a charity shop and occasional waitressing at school events, so I wasn't exactly massively qualified, but eventually I got hired as a "Kitchen Assistant" at a local chain café/restaurant. I'm not going to name it, because I don't want a lawsuit on my hands in the unlikely event that they ever read this post. You'll see why.

Anyway, I was hired specifically to cover the early shift, which meant getting there on the very first bus (which took over an hour) assembling sandwiches, stocking displays and helping with breakfasts. The place was horribly understaffed, so even though I was meant to be part-time I was often asked to stay and cover other shifts, which meant I was regularly doing 14 hours shifts, 6 days a week which was not only exhausting but completely illegal. I quit after a month because I got another job offer, but despite my short stint in this role I learned a few things which I thought I'd share.

1. Commercial kitchens aren't as clean as you might think (or hope)

I thought a kitchen where food was prepared for public consumption would be hospital-level clean. I was wrong. It wasn't infested with vermin or anything, but it was definitely scungy around the edges, and the big bags of ingredients weren't as tightly sealed as you'd expect. Other people in the kitchen wore their aprons outside to smoke, which kind of defeats the object of wearing one for hygiene. Granted, this was just one kitchen, but given that it had a 4-star hygiene certificate I shudder to think what standard all other kitchens are at. Also, I once grated my knuckle off while grating apple for one of the cooks and my boss told me to just "pick out the bloody bits and use the rest" which is just gross.

2. Working in a kitchen makes you really hungry... at first

This might sound obvious, but being surrounded by the smell of food does mean your stomach is growling for your entire shift, for the first few days. Then the effects of seeing food in such huge quantities means you start seeing food as just inventory and your appetite sort of vanishes.

3. Poached eggs are really easy to make

They can be tricky little suckers, but once you've cooked 100 or so in a few days you get the hang of it. My best method is to use a deep frying pan, put the water and a splash of vinegar in and stir it until the water is swirling around at a decent pace. Then crack the egg straight into the centre. The motion of the water will keep your poached egg in a tidy little ball. No cling film or silicone moulds for me!

4. Customers ask some really dumb questions

My favourites were "Does your wholewheat toast contain wheat", "Do you have any vegetarian chicken salads" and "I know it's three minutes until you close but you have time to make seven burgers?"

5. People will joke about spitting in your food, but they probably won't

When dealing with the aforementioned stupid customers, or unreasonably picky customers, we all made the odd silly joke about adding, ahem, bodily fluids to their plates, but to my knowledge nobody ever actually did anything untoward.

6. Some dishes are just money down the drain

The biggest mark up is on pasta meals, especially "pasta bake" dishes. The sauce is bought in huge buckets and is mixed up with pre-boiled pasta before being chucked in the microwave with some bulk-bought grated cheese on it. It's your money, you do what you like, but it'll cost you pennies to make exactly the same thing at home, so paying upwards of £7 for it is a bit extravagant.

7. Communication is key

In a kitchen if someone says "That's hot" or "Move", you need to listen. Especially as seasoned waiters and kitchen staff have Targaryen-levels of heat tolerance, so if they say something is hot it'll melt your skin off. In dangerous environments you also learn the perils of lack of communication, like the time I was helping with the washing up and stuck my hand in a massive cooking pot to scrub it and shredded my hand on a smashed glass that the waiter had forgotten to mention. I have a pretty serious phobia of broken glass, so this resulted in a full-blown panic attack. Bad times, my friends. Bad times.

8. Sometimes you have to say "no"

As I mentioned earlier, I was constantly asked to stay way after my shift and work extra days, and MAN was I knackered. I do appreciate that for some people putting your foot down with your boss and turning down overtime isn't necessarily an option, and that's crappy. But if you're working so hard it's making you ill or putting you in danger then you need to put yourself first. In my case I ended up quitting, but maybe if I'd felt more comfortable setting boundaries and only working my allocated hours I might not have been as burned out (and might not have grated my knuckle off...)

9. The right music can have healing powers

If you're going to be in a loud, hot, dangerous room for 14 hours on the trot you need the right playlist to keep yourself going. I've never appreciated music more than I did in that job. Though, a fistful of chocolate chips out of the supply cupboard helped in emergencies...

10. It's ok to quit a job if it's not right for you

Even now that I have a job I'm generally happy with I've always got one eye on job listings. You never know what might be out there, and if another opportunity comes along that's better for you then it's totally ok to chase it. I'd never quit a job before and the nerves and guilt I felt were off the charts. I felt like, by leaving, I was letting everyone down, but ultimately life is too short to turn down better offers. This isn't specific to kitchens, I suppose, but it's important anyway.

So, would I ever work in a commercial kitchen again? Probably not. Was it a wasted experience? Definitely not.

My Favourite Songs


Shakespeare called music "the food of love", but I call it food for the soul. Music has helped me smile when I thought I couldn't, and helped me cry when that was the only thing I could do. It's helped me find new friends and deal with losing lovers. Music is always there when I need it.

We all have specific songs we turn to at different point in our lives, so I thought I'd share with you the songs I play when I'm in need of soul food.

When I want to feel like a strong woman...



Throw The Fear - Tom Rosenthal

As I see it, this song is a love letter to daughters, and the lyrics are all about growing up and owning your girlhood as it develops into womanhood, as well as coping with life's setbacks. Tom Rosenthal is one of my favourite musicians anyway, but I listen to this song probably three or four times a week.

When I'm feeling bitter...



Somebody More Like You - Nickel Creek

This song is dripping with sarcasm and perfectly exemplifies the stage of a breakup where you start to loathe your ex for their inadequacies and failures. It's the perfect mix of measured politeness and scathing hatred, and singing it loudly in the car through my hurt tears is sometimes exactly the right remedy.

When I need to smile...


Henrietta - The Fratellis

I have been listening to the Costello Music album for 11 years, which is kind of frightening, but I vivdly remember hearing this song for the first time and being weirdly thrilled by the weird rhythm and raunchy language. Even now, the "Hello!" in the intro puts a whacking great grin on my face, and I can't help but yell/sing along.

When I want to slam the door and shut the world out...



Barfight Revolution - Margot and the Nuclear So and So's

Margot and the Nukes are a band I stumbled across while I was going through a particularly horrible bout of insomnia at university, and having listened to one song (As Tall as Cliffs, if I remember rightly) I devoured everything else they'd released. The noisy moodiness of this song is like an audio file made by the worst of my misanthropic, sleep-deprived darkness, and playing it loudly is just what I need on those bad, bad days.

When I want to dance...



Glue - Fickle Friends

I'm not much of a dancer, but the odd jump around my room is called for, and this is one of the tracks I'll choose. It's harmlessly cheerful, and had enough of a beat for me to jiggle around to.

When I need to cry...



Sick of Losing Soulmates - dodie

We all know how it feels to lose a friend or a lover, and this song from Dodie Clark turns that frustrated, hollow despair into a mournful pop-folk number that always helps me get my therapeutic cry face going.

When I need to get pumped...



Crazy = Genius - Panic! At The Disco

This is a song that I generally play right at the beginning of a night time car journey. The energy of the song is usually just enough to sustain me for the rest of a dark drive.

When I'm feeling smitten...



No One Left To Love But Me - Maisie Peters

You know a song is good when it survives an association with someone you've grown to hate. I played this song to a recent ex who turned out to be a cheating, lying coward. You'd think that would taint the song forever, but no. I still love it as much as I did when I first heard it, and next time I feel myself getting twitterpated you bet your ass I'll be listening to this song while blushing and smiling.

When I feel thoughtful...



On My Own - Tessa Violet

Tessa's most recent EP really makes the most of her wistful vocal tone and pensive lyrics, but as much as I love the produced versions, this video is my all-time favourite Tessa track. I listen to her when I need to get in the mood to write, and it always gets my creative writing brain in gear.

When I want to sing in the shower...



The Honeymoon Suite - Creeper

I could easily have put any Creeper song under this category because their Eternity In Your Arms album is one of the shining lights of 2017 for me, but The Honeymoon Suite is actually an earlier track that didn't make it onto the album. When I first heard it I listened to it on repeat and it's a song I never tire of.

What are your favourite songs? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter! I'm always looking for new tunes for my rotation.

Why Do I Blog?



Recently I found myself sat at Woking station for over an hour waiting for a connection. As Gilmore Girls buffered, I took in my surroundings and my eyes settled on a pretty standard safety sign, which unexpectedly reminded me of a blog post I wrote almost exactly six years ago, sitting in that exact spot. The sign said, "Please keep back from the platform edge. Passing trains cause air turbulence."

"But wait," I hear you cry, "Your blog isn't six years old!" You are quite right, dear readers. This blog most certainly isn't six years old. However, I've been blogging in some guise or other since I was about 12 years old. First of all I used the blog function on Myspace, before starting a succession of blogs on Blogger.com. Some documented my long-term online "relationship" with someone I met through a Harry Potter forum who may or may not have been a total catfish, and one I started right before I left school and kept for the first two years of university. I posted poems and unfinished song lyrics, and odes to boyfriends past. I had a blog dedicated to my doodles and drawings, some of which I'd like to revisit and redraw sometime.

It's funny looking back on these archives of pre-trigger-warning content, written because I felt like writing was my only way of coping. I talk in detail about my depression (at least five years before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder), about an event which I now know to be the cause of my PTSD, and about how betrayed I felt when the guy I lost my virginity to fucked another girl on my birthday. I knew nothing about branding or analytics, I didn't really care about page views, bounce rate or adding images to my posts. The only only thing you could call consistent was me starting and ending each post with part of a song lyric, because I was a cool tortured soul.

Blogging, as a while, used to be a form of journaling, a diary you could share. For some I'm sure it still is. It's strange to see how it's evolved into this incredibly complicated and varied industry, for many becoming the main form of media consumption.

As a writer, and a creative, I am fairly secure in the knowledge that my blog will never become my day job, and with the blogging world becoming increasingly competitive I often find myself asking why the hell I do it. Why do I willingly enter myself into this crowded, and occasionally vicious, public forum? Am I desperate to stay relevant? Do I like the sound of my own (digital) voice? Do I even have anything to say?

I'll never be the next big blogger, and that's ok. I guess I'm happy to just be a passing train, and maybe cause a little air turbulence from time to time.

Victoria Wood Killed the Ghost of my Relationship

I tried to do a drawing of Victoria but it was offensively bad.
I was bullied growing up. I needn't go into detail at this point, but I had a rough time in childhood. I got given lots of advice on how to cope, but the one I latched onto is, "If they start to laugh, then you should laugh too. Then they're not laughing at you, they're laughing with you." It wasn't always easy, or indeed possible, but I learned to laugh loud enough to drown out their spite. I started to make self-deprecating jokes before they could do it. I became complicit.

When I was in my late teens I had a boyfriend who did stand-up comedy. Throughout our relationship I went with him to numerous gigs and sat dutifully in the audience making sure to laugh at his jokes, whether or not I found them funny (though, to his credit, most of them were). I even forced a giggle at the jokes that were at his own expense and actually made me slightly uncomfortable, like an anecdote which claimed his ex had compared sex with him to being “repeatedly slapped with a pillowcase full of jelly”. I’ll respectfully decline to corroborate this comparison.

Like most people who go to enough amateur stand-up nights, I started to think “maybe I can do this”. My boyfriend thought I was funny, my friends thought I was funny. In fact it was in my first year of uni that I discovered that my no-filter, off-kilter way of talking was actually interesting, or at least amusing, to the people around me. After  a childhood of feeling like an irreversible freak, I realised that I could make people laugh, and that was empowering. Rather than using my flippant self-criticism as a form of defence from my enemies, it became a way to entertain, and sometimes shock, my friends. The more I watched aspiring comedians bumble their clumsy ways through their first gigs, the more I thought that I could give it a go myself some time.

Eventually I broached the subject with my then-boyfriend, suggesting that I wanted to try a mix of stand-up and comedy songs, hoping for some pearls of wisdom, or at least a pep talk. I can’t remember exactly what he said word-for-word but it more or less amounted to “people won’t laugh as much because you’re a girl, and that’ll distract them from the jokes, you’ll need to be twice as funny just to catch up.”

Ah, little baby feminist, Elena. You should have left him there and then. Instead I let his sexist, horseshit statement put me off even attempting stand up for at least a year after he said it.
In that year, he and I broke up anyway. His pre-graduation crisis and my depression became more than our fledgling relationship could handle and by the summer I was single again. My heart was quite badly bruised and it messed with me for months afterwards. Like many post-breakup-humans I felt haunted by the ghost of my failed relationship.

What didn’t remotely help is that shortly after the relationship was officially dead, I almost died too. My lungs were evidently jealous of all the attention my broken heart was getting, so they decided to break too. Not content with having one thing wrong with them at a time, I had suspected blood clots on both (which meant self-injecting with blood thinners, which sucked) as well as pleurisy (where your lung lining is inflamed, causing laboured, painful breathing when your lungs rub on the lining), pleural effusions (where the lung cavity fills with fluid, which is also bloody painful and affects your breathing) and, long term, pleural adhesions on my left lung (where the lung tissue sticks together and gets scarred.) In the diagnosing process the doctors also mentioned scary diagnoses like pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer. It was a very bad time.

Once I was out of the hospital, whacked out on two types of heavy painkillers, I was pretty much just a human beanbag for a few weeks while I recovered. While I was propped up in the living room I did weeks of channel surfing, tiring quickly of the constant repeats on E4 and endless episodes of Friends. This was a pre-Netflix era for me, and I got sick of my usual channels really quickly. One day, too tired to change the channel, and vaguely recognising the name from videos my parents had, I struck up re-runs of Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV. 

It didn't take long before I was hooked. Here were some of the great actresses like Julie Walters and Celia Imrie who I recognised from Harry Potter and Bridget Jones, starring gamely alongside this warm, hilarious woman who could make me laugh while she pulled at my heartstrings. Her astute, observant, bittersweet brand of comedy was not only something that made me laugh, it was also reflective of the kind of jokes I wanted to write and had been assured wouldn't be funny. I watched as Victoria Wood put live audiences in stitches with musical comedy, which I had been told wouldn't be accepted. My body was all bent out of shape and I still felt betrayed and heartbroken, but suddenly my faith in my ability to overcome adversity with humour was restored.

There are, of course, other comedians of all genders who have gladdened and inspired me along the way. I quote Shappi Khorsandi on a near-daily basis, and I still have a huge crush on Mae Martin after I saw her at a gig the comedian boyfriend did a slot at. Probably my earliest and most enduring experience with comedy was cassette tapes of Rowan Atkinson, Live in Belfast which I can recite word-for-word.

By my third year of uni I'd been gigging regularly as a singer/guitarist for almost two and a half years, and when a gig at one of the student bar started going terribly due to technical issues, I took the opportunity to joke away the awkwardness. When the microphone stand continually collapsed I quipped, "See, I've been single so long that even inanimate object don't want to be that close to my mouth." People laughed. They laughed quite a lot. At the end of the gig someone asked if they could book me to do a stand-up slot at a benefit for Amnesty International. I seized the moment and agreed, and when I got home that night I wrote my set, including four new songs, in about two hours. I was pumped.

I can't remember my first gig too clearly. I was nervous as all hell and I'd been to enough amateur comedy nights to have an acute fear of the pin-drop silence that follows every bombed punchline. I downed a few whiskeys and took to the stage with my trusty uke, and sang songs about bisexuality, hangovers, self-doubt and the inevitability of drunkenly snogging a bellend on SU nights. To my relief, people laughed. They laughed hard. In fact the girl who had booked me cried with laughter. I was flying.

I did a few gigs, all fairly successful, but once uni was over I lost steam. I was too poor to travel to venues to continue on my streak and eventually depression took over again and I lost motivation for simple things like eating and other basic self-care, let alone schlepping into London for gigs. But that almost wasn't important any more.

My short-lived comedy career was fun. It was empowering. And, ultimately, it proved my ex wrong. I couldn't stop him falling out of love with me, or writing about me on his blog. But I could make a room full of strangers laugh. And that felt way, way better.

Cruel to be Cruel: Body Police are Horrible

This weekend I went out clubbing for maybe the second time this year. I'm not a big drinker, and I don't really go out much unless it's a gig or something to do with the band, but I've made some really close friends at work and we went out with a small group. We got dressed together, did hair and makeup at one of the other girls' houses, helped each other choose outfits... it's something I haven't done since uni, and it felt really nice to be surrounded by girls, doing unabashedly girly things. It was such an open, supportive atmosphere, and I didn't really realise how much I'd missed this girl-group dynamic since I moved home. Don't get me wrong, I love my Trash Panda bros and my guy time, but it was just really nice to be part of a girl gang. We all left the house feeling like nines.

Eyebrow game is strong
 I took a number of selfies and felt actually pretty. My much slimmer, much fitter friend pointed out that our legs are a similar shape and I was hugely, enormously flattered. Instead of disagreeing with the compliment out of habit, I actually took a look and was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't hot air. I looked at myself in the mirror before we went out and thought, "Well, sure, I have a belly. And yes, I have some squidge. And from certain angles my ass looks weird, and I know I have a moon face and more than one chin. But none of those things is inherently bad or unattractive, in this day and age. My boobs look cracking, my hair looks great and these heels are actually relatively comfortable. I feel like a Vampire queen. I'm ready to go out." After years of bulimia, binge-starve cycles, hair-pulling, self-loathing and dissociative visual disturbances all based on my body, this is kind of a big deal for me. 

Tipsy duckface
Of course there were points in the night where I caught sight of myself in the mirror and thought, "Jesus, as a size 16 with a sizeable spare tyre, should I really have worn such a tight skirt? Or a lacy top?" But for a change I put those feelings to rest. Gone are the days of "hide your fatness under something baggy so as not to offend the thin people". We live in a world of Ashley Graham, Kardashians, Tess Holliday, Rebel Wilson, Melissa McCarthy, all big(gish), beautiful, proud women.

Myspace mirror selfie
I'm fat, but I get a certain level of "fat privilege" by being an hourglass - which many argue is the only fat shape generally thought to be acceptable by mainstream media. I saw these "flaws" in myself, I acknowledged them, and I rationalised them away until I felt good about myself again. And I did feel good about myself. I was surrounded by my friends, beautiful girls, and I didn't feel like the "fat friend" or "the ugly one" as I've so often felt before in a group of beautiful girls. I felt like a legitimate part of the "squad".

Last selfie before I fell asleep
Even this morning, with yesterday's makeup still clinging to the creases around my eyes, and my hair extensions matted up from a short, restless sleep I looked in the mirror and thought "You look better than usual today, kudos." I looked at photos of us from the night before and didn't cringe at the sight of myself, even in the photos where I have VBO (that's Visible Belly Outline to the uninitiated.)

The morning after
I looked more dressed up than usual, more made up, preened, polished and yes, the photos were taken at a flattering, double-chin-concealing angle. But for the first time in a long time I was looking at photos of me taken by somebody else and not wanting to screech "Oh, Jesus, delete it! Please don't put that on Facebook." I felt cute, in the most and least "attractive" photos (like the Instax photos we took where my face looks like a white planet in a wig). I felt closer to my friends. I was tired, slightly hungover, and my feet still hurt now, but I was happy. Genuinely happy.

Hungover, in my pjs
Then I got home.

I showed my mum some of the photos from the evening, buoyed up from the confidence boost the evening had given me. She sort of nodded and grimaced while she looked at them and then she said, "But it's not the real you, is it. You can't see your double chin." I tried not to let that comment take any of the wind out of my sails, and I mentioned what my friend had said about my legs. "Your friend must have big legs, then," she said. When I replied that I thought that my legs were proportionally slimmer than my upper body she just declared outright, "You don't have slim legs. You look nice in PICTURES but when we look at you all we see is your double chin." I pointed out that I know I'm photogenic, and that I know I look better in photos than in real life. She said, "I don't want you to have body dysmorphia and think that you look good when you know you need to lose weight." This was the point at which I left the room.

Later she came upstairs and said to me, "I'm sorry... but you don't have slim legs." I told her that apologising by repeating the things she was apologising for was a pretty poor excuse for an apology. She left the room in a strop.

I am too goddamn old to be blogging about hating the way my mother speaks to me.

I know what I look like. I'm very, very aware of how my body looks both in and out of clothes. I know I have stretchmarks in a colour range from angry purple to almost-imperceptible silver across my tummy, thighs, hips and boobs. I know that I have crappy skin on my arms and legs thanks to keratosis pilaris. I could draw you an unsettlingly accurate sketch, from memory alone, of the way my stomach folds at the top of my thighs or the sides of my back, at my waist, which my brothers dubbed "flub lines" when they saw me in a bikini as a teenager. I know I have "thighbrows" when I kneel and a crease in my neck from my double chin. I know I have a flat ass for a fat girl. I know I have a bump in my nose, scars in my eyebrows and on my thighs. And my wrists. And the back of one hand.

My rational, twenty-first century brain tells me that none of those things are something I should be ashamed of or feel forced to change. My liberal, body-positive, accepting, tolerant heart would see any one, all or combination of these things in another person and not judge them. I know that your body size doesn't accurately reflect your health and that BMI is trash. "Fat" is just an adjective.

The fact of the matter is, if someone stabs you with a kitchen knife, you wouldn't call it cooking. If someone uses words as weapons, they hurt. It doesn't matter that I already know when I look like; if someone tells me that they hate or are disgusted by something about my appearance it's still going to sting, regardless of how I initially felt about it.

My relationship with my body is chequered, complicated and incredibly dark in places. I have hated myself and felt such deep despair that I've wanted to hurt and punish myself, and times I've sincerely wanted to disappear or die. There are still things I want to change, and am working on changing. But I have learned from bitter experience that progress that comes from a place of self-love is so much better than progress from self-loathing.

I know I'm fat. I know I disgust and disappoint my mother.

I also know that I can sing pretty well, and write lyrics that people can relate to. I am good at my job, I'm compassionate, and I can make loads of different things, even if it does mean the occasional hot glue gun burn. I also know I can do squats with a 71kg woman sitting on my shoulders. And as someone reminded me on Twitter, if I can lift up an entire human woman, I can lift myself up too.

I don't really know how to end this post. I don't have a punchline or anything revelatory to say. I guess all I can add is that we get one chance at life, and one shot at being remembered. And I'd much rather be remembered as "squishy, but kind".

Reasons I Have Cried

In case you're new here, I have bipolar disorder. One thing I've noticed is that when I'm in "neutral" I barely cry at all. I don't really laugh either, but my eyes don't leak. When I'm depressed I'll laugh for no reason until my whole body cramps up. When I'm either astronomically high or devastatingly low, I cry. A lot. For really ridiculous reasons. I thought I'd clue you in on some of the reasons I've cried in the last two months.

1. Because Sebastian the crab said "You could go home with all the normal fish and just be... just be... just be miserable for the rest of your life." And because Ariel looked sad. By the way, I watched The Little Mermaid for my Zusterschap series "Feminist Film School"!

2. Because I remembered the Center Parcs advert with the morose mummy bear.

3. Because my rabbit died. This is admittedly a rational reason to cry, but I cried so hard I made myself ill, which is less rational.

4. Because I re-read the synopsis of the Oscar Wilde story "The Nightingale and the Rose". Do not read it if you're feeling fragile, okay?

5. Because I started writing a song and I could hear it in my head and it sounded good.

6. Because I heard that J.K. Rowling is releasing The Cursed Child's script as a book.

7. Because I met a really great dog.

8. Because I saw my friend Claire and we shared a long-overdue, very long hug.

9. Because the new Army recruitment advert made me so angry.

10. Because C3-P0 showed up in The Force Awakens. I should point out, I cried five times during The Force Awakens.

11. Because I was still awake at 5am on a Sunday night.

12. Because it was light outside when I left work.

13. Because someone left a comment on my Zusterschap piece about tropes in film which complimented my writing.

14. Because the clouds were really pretty.

15. Because my dad sent an uncharacteristically sweet and gentle message to me after my rabbit Dexter died.

16. Because I told my mum how much I wanted to die last year, but how grateful I am to be alive now.

17. Because the boys in my band said very, very nice things to me and made me feel like I matter. This has happened more than once.

18. Because I sneezed.

19. Because I wrote a little post about how much I love my friends, and how much I value them.

20. Because sometimes my brain tells me everything is hopeless, and I am too tired to argue.

That's not even all of the reasons I've cried so far this year, but it's a pretty decent selection. If you, or someone you know is crying more often, or you're in any way worried about your mental health, please talk to someone. Don't suffer in silence. You deserve better.

If you liked this post, check out my health blog, GREEN ABOUT THE GILLS, for mental health and more!

Saying Goodbye to my Dexter

This weekend I lost two of my rabbits. It's never easy to have a pet die, and I love, and have loved, all of my pets. I've cried when my goldfish and shrimps died, and just thinking about the fact that my dog is getting old cuts me up. Losing two rabbits in one weekend has been horrible enough, but one of the two was my boy Dexter.


All of my adult rabbits have been rescues, and I feel very strongly about the ethics surrounding animal adoption. But, part of the problem behind adopting is that you can't guarantee that the animal had been raised in a wholesome, healthy environment. I know for a fact that Dexter (along with Teddy and Oliver, who I rescued from the same woman) were all kept in terrible conditions and given an appalling diet of white bread and breakfast cereals. Oliver died from kidney problems associated with this upbringing last year, and Dexter had ongoing digestive issues. That said, Teddy is in the peak of health, despite some initial behavioural issues that look a good nine months to resolve.


I love all my animals, from the littlest minnow to my big soppy labrador. But Dexter really was my baby. He was the first rabbit to ever actively seek contact and affection from me. He was the first bunny to fall asleep on my lap, or snuggle into my neck for security.


He needed me for more than just food, water and shelter; Dexter made it clear that he needed my love in a way no other rabbit ever has. Losing him has left a weird hollow feeling in my chest, and I've been crying so hard over the last few days I've actually made myself ill.


I know part of the grieving process is trying to make some sense and meaning out of the lost life, especially when the death was so sudden and unexpected. This is definitely the case here. I want to do something to remember my tiny boy, something good and important. And, after a little thought, I think I know what it is.


I've been toying with going cruelty free with my choice of hair/beauty products and cosmetics for a long time. I've been vegan and vegetarian previously, though I'm currently omnivorous, and I plan to spend this year re-aligning my life to a fully vegetarian diet, if not completely vegan.



While Dexter was never a lab-rabbit, he did experience a lot of suffering in his early life, and if my actions can go even a small way to help prevent animals going through unnecessary pain then it's something I have to do. So, I'm going to start eliminating all non cruelty-free products from my life. So, if anyone had a dupe for MAC's "Men Love Mystery" I'm all ears.


So, in a few months' time if someone asks why I only shop cruelty-free, I'll tell them I'm doing it for Dexter.


If you're thinking of getting a pet, please consider animal adoption first. Contact your local shelter for more information.



Six Things Saving My Life

(TW: Mental Health, Suicide, Self Harm)

I do what I can to make this blog a positive place, and it's certainly my intention to largely focus on the fun and whimsical aspects of my life. However, something happened recently which reminded me of some less fun stuff, and I felt compelled to talk about it.

For those of you who don't know I have Bipolar Disorder. I'm coping fairly well the bulk of the time. I'm medicated, I'm working on a care plan with my doctors and I'm doing a decent job of exorcising toxic influences from my life. I haven't self-harmed in four months, and it's been a long time since I was unable to go to work due to depression. It's mostly been good. Mostly.

That last two years, in some ways, were really great. In others they were challenging. Very, very challenging. In fact 2014/2015 were nearly the death of me, more than once. That's not a joke or a turn of phrase, I mean it very seriously. On two occasions in the last 15 months my suicidal thoughts almost became more than thoughts. I don't really want or need to get into the details of those hideous days. Misery is a self-nourishing monster, and sometimes we can break the cycle ourselves, and sometimes we can't. I'm in therapy and taking 100mg of quetiapine/seroquel daily, and this goes a long way to helping keep me safe. However, I would like to recognise some of the non-medical things that have stopped me from going to the darkest places in my mind.

My Band

This sounds like a cliché, but my band

Trash Panda

has been such an incredible outlet. Not just because writing songs about my heartbreaks and depression has helped me make sense of it all, but because I have made amazing friendships with these three boys, and knowing that I get to spend several hours a month making loud noises with them can help me push through dark days, and they're always there when I need them.

My Friends, Both "Real" and "Virtual"

I've been geographically isolated from a lot of my friends since I moved to the countryside, and that's been a challenge. I still see and talk to my uni and school friends when I can, but modern life is tricky and I'm terrible at staying in touch with people. I have kind of found my refuge in social media, especially within the blogging community. It's crazy that even five years ago it was considered a bit unusual and creepy to make friends on the internet, but right now, I don't know what I'd do without my "web friends".

My Pets

I have so much love for animals in general, but obviously there is a spectacularly special place in my heart for my own pets. I have seven bunnies, a beautiful dog called Buffy and a small tropical fish tank with bala sharks, tetras, minnows and a shrimp called Sid. Not only do they make me happy with their clowning, cuddles and mere presence, but taking care of them provides even my worst days with structure. During those grim periods where I don't want to face the world, I know I have to get up and feed my creatures and make sure all their needs are met.

Creative Efforts

I have read a number of studies about the psychological benefits of doing creative things. For me, I find a huge sense of pleasure and accomplishment in doing creative projects, regardless of what they are. Even just the activity can help engage me, especially when I'm having a manic episode.

YouTube

When I can't work up the energy to make things, YouTube can provide a distraction from my mutinying mind. Mindlessly watching playlists doesn't solve or cure anything, but it can give me something to focus on when I'd rather not concentrate on myself, and a little laugh goes a long way.

Family

My family, I think it's fair to say, aren't particularly clued up about mental illness. I went to boarding school when I was eight, and I've spent years hiding my mental struggles and breakdowns, so we're working on our communication. They're going to get involved in my developing care plan, and I'm trying to be more open about what I need. All that aside, being at home has been the best thing for me, especially last year when I hit some really deep lows. Rather than living alone and bunkering in when my depression really hits, having my family around me forces me to function a little better. They don't always get it right, and we all have a lot to learn, but they're trying. And more than that, they're my family. Even just watching TV with my mum or chatting with my brother about trivial stuff can make me feel a bit more normal, and that can help set me back on balance. And as much as we argue and rub each other up the wrong way, a hug from my family can really help on days when only a hug will do.

If you have any concerns about your mental health then please, please get in touch with your GP. It might not be a quick or easy process, but you deserve to have your mental health addressed and taken seriously. Don't suffer in silence.

5 Times to Keep Your Mouth Shut

This week has been a bit interesting on Twitter. A couple of girls have taken it upon themselves to drag a friend of mine for offering various blogger services, and then subsequently slagged her off for writing a post championing sisterly support. One of these mean-spirited girls has now written a post effectively saying that she believes that offering unsolicited criticism is “healthy” and that instigating arguments is something she enjoys.

Well, good for you mate. If being bitter, underhand and vindictive is your thing, don't let me stop you.

I happen to be the kind of girl who grew up with the philosophy of “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”. I was bullied physically and verbally at school, and a lot of that bullying came in the form of “criticism”. People making uninvited comments about my appearance, taste in music, preference for books or lack of social skills may have been interpreted as “helpful comments” from the bullies but on the receiving end, it just felt like being ripped apart by people who hated and derided everything I was. When you “criticise” someone, you could well be making fun of someone’s identity, or acknowledging and highlighting perceived flaws that they’re already well aware of, and sensitive about.

This face sums up how I feel about your mean opinions.
In short; when you say something negative about someone, they could take it badly. You’d think this was common sense, but some of the conversations I’ve had on Twitter this week would indicate contrarily. Some people clearly enjoy being unpleasant to others and social media gives them a platform to spread their nasty opinions to huge audiences.

HOWEVER, if you’re a positive sort of a person and don’t derive a sick sense of pleasure from publicly tearing other people down, here’s a handy list of occasions where you should probably keep quiet.

1. If you don’t like someone’s selfie
If someone’s posted a photo of themselves and you don’t like their eyeshadow choice or their fluffy coat, don’t say anything. If they haven’t asked for an opinion, don’t give one. Say something nice, or say nothing.

I see a lot of posts on social media of people (mostly girls) asking for help in choosing an outfit, or for a lipstick to go with what they’re wearing. In these cases you’re obviously invited to give an opinion, and by all means do so. Though, if you are a positive sort of a person, do it by complimenting the things you DO like, rather than criticising the things you don’t. Positive reinforcement is just so much better than negative.

Of course, if the reason you don’t like it is because they’re in blackface, pissing on graves or murdering babies then you crack on and shred them. But if you think their lipstick is too dark for their skin tone, don’t say a word.

2. If you don’t see the use in a service someone is offering
This is close to home for me this week. As previously mentioned, one of my friends was viciously subtweeted for offering blogger services, purely because someone didn’t see the value in it.

Now, I dye and cut my own hair, and I take control of my own personal grooming; eyebrows, manicures, body hair removal, I do it all at home. But you’ll never see me on a public platform being rude about beauticians and the people who visit them. By the same token, just because you don’t see the point of something doesn’t mean others will feel the same. By being rude about this service you run the risk of angering or upsetting both the provider and the users. If it’s not for you, that’s totally fine, but you probably don’t need to share that opinion with the world. They’re not hurting anyone by offering their skills, but you might be causing hurt by being dismissive about them.

3. When someone gets insignificant details wrong in a story
This is something my mum is particularly bad at doing.

Picture the scene: you’re at a family dinner and telling one of your favourite anecdotes, and all of a sudden someone cuts you off to clarify an inconsequential detail. It throws your flow. At best it makes you look like your memory is dodgy. At worst, you look like a liar. It makes you feel stupid, not to mention annoyed.

This kind of nit-picking is so unnecessary, and it doesn’t make anyone look good. Don’t do it. Don’t be that person.

4. If you’re not keen on someone’s wedding choices
Recently a very good friend of mine got in touch with me in a bit of a state. She’d been showing someone the engagement rings she likes, only for that person to be super disparaging, saying that my friend’s choices were “common”, “not expensive enough” and “not special or unique”. My friend couldn’t quite explain why she was so affected by this, but long story short she was very upset.

Some people know for years and years what they want from their wedding and their engagement. Your wedding is an important day, and the aesthetic choices you make for that day are a reflection of your sense of style, your relationship and your identity as a whole. So, when you criticise someone’s decisions about their wedding or engagement rings, you’re not just criticising that individual thing, you’re criticising the person. Also, if their partner bought the ring for them it could be the best they could afford. If you’re rude about that, you’re opening up a whole can of worms.

Their choice of ring doesn’t affect you in any way. If they want a fist-sized rock or an amethyst the size of an ant, that’s their taste. Likewise, if they want jam jars filled with pansies at their reception and you think that’s tacky then keep your trap shut and just don’t do it at your wedding.

5. Just after a break up
I’ll admit, I’ve fallen into this trap before, so learn from my mistakes guys! When a friend has just gone through a break up, it’s very easy to say things like, “We always hated him” or “She was always a bitch”. This might make your friend feel better in the short run, but it creates one hell of an awkward mess if they ever get back together with that person.

Also, even if they’re done with them for good, your friend will probably be quite emotionally vulnerable shortly after their relationship has come to an end. Any attacks on their former partner could be taken completely the wrong way. It’s probably safer to concentrate on taking care of your friend, rather than on cussing out their ex.


Ultimately, the internet is a free-for-all and you can do and say as you please. It’s just worth remembering that, whenever you open your mouth or press “send” you’re opening yourself up to criticism, argument and potentially some hate. The best way to avoid that is to keep it positive and only send out the kind of vibes you want in return. 


Tidying: My Golden Rules

My Nemesis: The Cupboard of Doom
I'm not afraid to admit it: I am one of life's messy people. Some would blame my ADD and dyspraxia, some would call it an expression of creative chaos, my mum just thinks I'm lazy. I can deal with a certain amount of clutter and my clothing carpet doesn't bother me as much as it probably should, but even I reach a tipping point where I wake up in the morning, look around myself and wonder in horror who came in and trashed the place. Then I remember that it was me. I did it. I trashed the place.

Being a blogger, I do fall into the cliché trap of wishing my whole life was a copper and marble minimalist haven, but that's never going to happen. But, on days like this morning where I want to create some semblance of harmony in my boudoir I do follow a couple of simple rules:

Dress Seasonally

I know British weather is pretty changeable but for the most part you can assume that in Winter it'll be cold, in Summer it'll be warm and in between is a mystery. If, like me, you have more clothes than you know what to do with then it's wise to split and store them along seasonal lines. Things like jeans and t-shirts are clearly year-round wear, but floaty summer dresses and strappy sandals can probably go away until May. Likewise, your heaviest jumpers and thick-knit dresses can go into storage in the middle of Spring. I use massive storage bags from dotcomgiftshop which have lovely prints and are remarkably sturdy. 

Don't Be Shamed By Your Closet

I think it's fair to say that a lot of us have clothes that we see as "someday" items: designer jeans a size too small that were too much of a bargain to pass up, that dress you wore once after a stomach flu? Conversely you could have larger items you still love but are too roomy now. Bodies change shape and size throughout our lives based on your age, your hormones, your lifestyle and your overall health, and I know in my own case I can get quite disheartened by ill-fitting clothes, whether they're big or small. 

What's more, most of us simply don't have the space to accommodate clothing that we don't/can't actually wear. So, get yourself in a good mood and a positive headspace where trying on clothes isn't going to make you feel crappy (for me the timing of this is crucial) and have a dress-up session. Make three sections of things that are too small, things that are too big and things that fit you now. Keep the things that fit in your closet, put the others away, clearly labelled (or if your weight is stable and has been for a while, you can maybe consider donating or chucking some of these other items). This way, if your weight fluctuates and your current wardrobe isn't quite working for you, you know where to look to easily find something to wear that looks and feels great.

Out of Sight, Out of the Way

It's a simple rule, but a useful one. Your space is never going to stay clean and tidy if you have to do an assault course through storage to get to everyday items. If your system means that your pants are at the bottom of a pile of ball dresses then you're going to end up with a room covered in gowns, your knickers on your head and you will be banned from your local Tesco for life. Or something.

What I mean by this is that you need to make sure that the things you need most are the easiest to get to. If you have one drawer or box for all of your lingerie, keep the fancy stuff near the bottom and your everyday undies near the top. Separate all of your basic plain t-shirts from your logo/band/merch tops. If you have office wear, try to keep this in its own place so you don't get frenzied on bleary-eyed Monday mornings. Things that you have put away for the season can reasonably be put in more awkward, out-of-reach places, like under-bed storage, deep cupboards and lofts, if you have one. I can also apply this to going-out shoes, as I pretty much never go out. I'm a hermit and happy about it.

Folding is Your Friend

I'm not Buzzfeed so I'm not going to write a list of top thirty-three ways you can fold a pair of leggings, but the point still stands. There's more than one way to fold, and the obvious way isn't always the best one. If, like me, you have loads of t-shirts in shades of black and grey, but with very different logos, figure out a way to display them so that the design is showing. If you have multiple pairs of black jeans that are actually different cuts or lengths then find a way to display that within your closet. This way you don't have to pull out half of your clothing to find what you're actually looking for.

Dream Theme

We all like a clear decorative message, whether that's in Instagram, someone's blog or in a well-thought-out room. I'm no Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen (is he still a thing?) but I have vaguely themed my office and my bedroom. My office decor is grey, turquoise and copper and my bedroom is more of a woodland rustic theme, with stag bedsheets, lots of wood colours and natural finishes. Having a theme can make objects seem like they belong together, and that in turn can make the space look more complete. Colour themes work well, but a more conceptual category can work fine too. If nothing else, if will force you to look critically at any random purchase you consider in the future and might put you off an impulse buy if it won't fit within the otherwise flawless décor. But this approach isn't just applicable to new things...

Time to Say Goodbye

We all have sentimental belongings. Love letters, little knick-knacks, photographs, we've all got 'em. But, there comes a time where we have to decide: do we want to have a clean and serene space or do we want a bookshelf covered in ceramic teddy bears? Either answer is perfectly fine depending on your preference, but you can strike a balance. Take a cold, hard look at some of your bric-a-brac and decide for yourself if you really want to keep that rock your ex brought you from Kenya when you were 19 (true story). If you don't really want it in the cold hard light of day, be ruthless and get rid. If you think you want to keep something for posterity but you don't want to be reminded of it all the time, put it in storage with a reminder to look at it in 6 months to a year to reevaluate. If you want to keep it, and you want it on show, find some way to showcase it prettily and meaningfully. I have a specific shelf for just this purpose, and once the shelf starts to overflow I force myself to rethink how much gubbins I really need.

Remember Who You Are

It's all well and good listening to me harp on about shoulds and should-nots, but you know better than I do what your lifestyle requires. Pick and choose what suits you, don't be afraid to experiment with storage and display solutions to find what works best. Keep the ideas that work, and try something else if it doesn't. Also remember that I am still a messy person and as such I am not in a constant state of instagram-friendly feng-shui. But, hey, it's an excuse to put on some loud music and chuck clutter, which always feels pretty good once you're done!

How do you keep your world in balance? Are you a closet wizard or is your floordrobe bigger than mine? Let me know! I'm about to apply my own rules to my own room, so I'll keep y'all posted via Twitter!



Six Little Things That Bring Me Joy

Life is quite scary. It's very easy to make a never-ending list of big negative spectres looming large over all of our lives. Just watching the news or looking at a paper can be enough to induce anxiety, and it's sometimes really hard to find something to smile about. When this happens, I have a few things I like to fall back on to create a little bit of happiness, however temporary.

Hugs
I went to Build-a-Bear and made a bunny. A Star Wars bunny. I'm so on-brand.
I'm not an overly tactile person. I don't go out of my way to touch people, I don't like physical contact when I'm not actively seeking it and I can get a bit prickly if someone invades my personal space. But, correctly timed, a good hug can have immensely healing properties. There's a lot of science that says that you get lots of lovely hormone floods when you hug people, and I know it can make me feel better when I need it.

Bunnies

My fluffbag family never fails to make me happy. Ok, maybe I'm not so thrilled when I'm scrubbing hutches in the rain, or when one of them costs me lots of money at the vet, but spending time with rabbits is time well-spent. They are wonderful clowns, and they all have such varied personalities and quirks. 2015 was a slightly rough year for the bunny family, which makes them all the more precious to me.

Red Lipstick

When life gets you down, there's nothing like a kick-ass shade of red to make you feel a bit more pulled-together.

Star Wars

 Yep, I'm a consumer whore and I have no shame.

Drawing


Doodling has long been one of my coping mechanisms, and I have a few recurring characters, like Derek the Merbear. I'd really love to finish a children's book one day using these characters and my sketches. 

Aquariums

I love going to aquariums so much. I also love the sea, but I don't go too often, so I make do by visiting aquariums as often as I can. I love finding a quiet tank, sitting by it and resting my head at just the right angle, so I can imagine I'm actually in the water with the fish.

What makes you all glowy with joy? Let me know in the comments!