Is ‘the book version’ Always Better?

“If I ever get a book published and then allow someone to make a film out of it, please shoot me directly in the face” – me, consistently throughout my adult life.

Perhaps that statement may be a bit strong, yes, but any book lover can relate to the internal anxiety of “the film version” of a treasured book being released. It is just truly horrible, but I don’t think anyone has ever managed to comprehensively explain why. For me, I honestly find it invasive and as if someone has stolen thoughts and memories from my own brain and re-interpreted them without my permission. Oh, the endless arguments of “but they missed out the best part!” with my literary challenged friends as we leave the cinema. However, after the absolute insanity that was BBC One’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol was on TV this week; I found myself in a position I don’t often find myself in – having logic used by someone else to disprove something I’ve said. Specifically I was mid-rant (as I often seem to find myself), having played the “they didn’t use ANY of the original text” card, to which a friend said “but it’s an interpretation; if you want the original text go and re-read the book.” Valid points were made.

Before I go any further on this, I feel like I need to name and shame some worst offenders here, purely as a means of cleansing my soul like an exorcism.

“Me Before You” – book by Jojo Moyes. Where to even begin? The main issues I had with this ‘interpretation’ are twofold: primarily, the relationship between Will and Louisa was never about romance and never had that element to it, at least not in the version in my head. Secondly, Will’s dad feeling trapped in a loveless marriage because of a need to care for him was a significant factor in the decision to end his life, which made sense, yet was completely omitted which just made Will seem a bit selfish for wanting to die with no real legitimate reason, especially when, in film land, he has his lovey-dovey, doting girlfriend to live for now. Just, why?

“The Golden Compass” – adapted from His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. I was actually so offended by this very concept that I haven’t seen any more than the trailer. Why would you take a concept from a book, base a film on it, and then have the AUDACITY to re-name said concept. A “golden compass” is not even a thing. It’s an alethiometer, and your film idea is stupid.

“The Girl on the Train” – book by Paula Hawkins. Confession time, I actually don’t dislike this film. It’s so Autumnal that I do quite like to watch it in October, just as the dark nights are starting. However, the film and the book are essentially different stories which just happen to share a name because they are such polarised interpretations of the same characters. Also, why hire a British actress to play a British character, and then randomly set it in America? Not knowing the answer to that question is probably the reason I sometimes can’t fall asleep at night.

Moving back to my original point, perhaps the issue here is that I need to un-learn the use of the phrase “film version” and change it to “interpretation”. Much like the endless “Edward or Jacob” debate which spanned from ‘Twilight’ years before it was immortalised in tween culture by Kristen Stewart (although not really a debate because the obvious and only correct answer is Jacob); books are subject to a huge range of interpretations based on text alone, and that can be even before they get “turned into” films, if they are ever at all. I had a similar debate with a friend who also loved “Elizabeth is Missing” by Emma Healey (tremendous read if you haven’t yet come across it); after we both watched the TV film version and had entirely different reactions. I was appalled at the notion that it had turned the story into an overly emotional, upsetting personification of the harsh reality that is Alzheimer’s and strayed away from being a great mystery novel which happened to be portrayed through the main character having Alzheimer’s. At this point, my friend looked me square in the face and said “did we read the same book?”.

Whilst I can confirm that we did, in fact, read the exact same book (even the same physical copy as I lent it to her), unfortunately we both have different brains and personalities, so we interpreted it differently and, to my shock and horror, it would seem that ‘my’ understanding is not necessarily the correct one. I know, I’m still coming down from the surprise of this myself. So, with my newfound acceptance of film adaptations of treasured books as being ‘one person’s interpretation’ of a story and not a personal attack on my love of particular books, I went to see the new Little Women this week and I actually really enjoyed seeing beloved characters come to life on screen. In fact, I would go as far as saying I liked this version of Little Women better than the book, because I seem to be the only person who read that book and didn’t want Jo and Laurie to get together. I personally thought Laurie and Amy made a much better match because Jo is a free spirit who cannot be tamed and Laurie is kind of pathetic, like Amy, which is the angle Greta Gerwig seems to have taken and it absolutely worked. Perhaps like the urban legend about the woman who bought a snake which then began measuring her each night in preparation for eventually eating her, all stories are eventually told in various versions and, although we all have our favourites, that might not necessarily make others wrong?

2019 in Review

Yet again, I’ve managed to take an accidental two months off from even looking at this blog. No, once again, I have no legitimate explanation as to why I keep doing this; all I can really say in my defence is that although I love the festive season, it’s a lot of bloomin’ work. I have almost a whole turkey, half a pecan pie and fifteen pigs in blankets in my fridge as proof of this. And as for the pine needles matted into my dog’s fur and sprinkled around the house like confetti, I’m now just pretending not to notice. Still, it’s only once a year, eh? (Low key wish I’d done a Christmas with the Kranks and skipped it all though; joking…a bit).

Anyway, it’s been a pretty big year for me; although a year is a very long time when you really think about it so it’s not actually that surprising that I managed to cram a lot in. Still, I’ve been doing some reflecting, as we all seem to do at this time of year (though it’s mostly fuelled by Buck’s Fizz and a lack of anything better to do in the absence of anything worth watching on TV), and have compiled a list of the main life lessons I’ve learned this year, to pass on to you as a gift of wisom because I’m just nice like that.

Wedding Planning is like Childbirth

Okay so I haven’t actually ever given birth, so I can’t confirm this with ny real certainty, but if we can accept the premise that childbirth is painful and horrible while it’s happening but produces something lovely at the end, which is so lovely that the mother forgets all the pain, then this analogy works. My struggle with planning my wedding this year has been well documented, and whilst I think it’s really important to acknowledge that it can be quite a lonely and really challenging time and never dismissed as “one of those things” we must endure, the one piece of advice I would give to anyone in that scenario is that all the horrible bits are quickly forgotten. I would say this is the one piece of advice which I wish I had been given, but every married person I know told me this at the time, yet I just chose to ignore it whilst I was in the midst of a stress akin to the level of pain during the ‘crowning’ phase of birth. I genuinely thought that the damage done to relationships between myself and various family members and friends during the hard parts was irreprable, but that was honestly forgotten by about three seconds into the vows, and I was having normal conversations with said individuals within forty eight hours of getting married; as if the last ten months of absolute warfare had not happened at all. Trust me, just wade through that mud because it does get easier and all is forgotten.

Pretty much everyone has mental health issues of some kind

Mental health is one of those things that we talk about all the time on social media to try and “break the stigma”, which is great, but unfortunately I think sometimes it’s like the polar opposite to your address and phone number; something we’re happy to discuss with strangers on the internet but not our own family and friends. For various reasons which I won’t bore you with, I found myself in a position this year of needing some extra support to feel ‘okay’ again, and each time I mustered up the courage to try and explain it to a friend, colleague or family member; every time I was met with some variation of “oh yeah that happened to me too” or “oh that’s nothing, when I was in that position I…”. It could just be that I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by people who are supportive, but even people I don’t know that well met this with the same response. Basically, if I’d known it was pretty much a normal, run of the mill thing to have those kinds of issues at some point in life, I wouldn’t have ignored it for so long and let it get worse; so don’t do that if you find yourself in that position at any point.

Smear tests are fine

I’m not even going to bother labouring that point. This year I hit the age bracket to be eligible for smear tests (when did the things you become eligible for on birthdays stop being fun? I’m guessing at 18). I wasn’t particularly nervous but honestly it was so uneventful in every single way that it’s barely worth mentioning, except to make the point that they’re not an issue at all and I don’t understand why some people turn it into one.

Eating healthily and exercising actually does work

Again, this sounds obvious, but like most people I’ve spent a lot of time over the years trying to instantly lose weight or tone up in some way through the next fad – I have a Nutribullet in the cupboard gathering dust to prove it. For various reasons, including a desire to not die at fifty if it can be helped, I started doing a mix of different exercise classes and eating a bit better on weekdays (weekends are junk food time; and that is a habit I will never be able to change); and quite unexpectedly became fitter and healthier. I don’t know when it exactly happened, I just sort of noticed one day that I could get up the stairs without stopping for breath and could fit into clothes a bit more easily. Whilst I realise that my variation of specific eating patterns and exercise routines would not be healthy or advisable for everyone, I’m just making the point that it is literally that simple. It takes a while yes, but there is no magic Joe Wicks-inspired, keto-ing or Nutribullet-ing formula; it’s pretty much just eating better and moving more. Who knew? Certainly not me.

If you’re not sure about eggs, put them in water

I’m not just mentioning this on account of my love of using prime numbers and therefore a desire to include five points, but also because this is a genuinely useful life hack I learned this year. My uncertainty about whether eggs are good to use always seems to occur on a Sunday before 10 a.m; specifically before the shops are open so I have no real other option than to use them. Well, unless I were to not have Sunday morning pancakes, which would be entirely ridiculous. But yes, fill a bowl with water and if the egg is off it will float to the top, if it’s fine it will stay at the bottom, and if it’s okay but not the freshest, it will stay at the bottom but stand up vertically. You’re welcome.

 

Review – Christmas with the Shipyard Girls

“Sometimes in life, love has to be sacrificed for a greater love.”

Yes, that time of year seems to be upon us once again. No, not just me getting prematurely excited about Christmas before the clocks have even changed, but me getting excited about a new installment of my favourite saga which features the best girl-power tribe since the Spice Girls. Although, The Shipyard Girls is set fifty years before Girl Power stormed into our lives one platform shoe at a time, so maybe our squad of welders were actually the original? The timeline boundaries between fictional and non-fictional feminist heroes are not entirely clear.

As usual, I digress. Christmas with the Shipyard Girls is, maybe second only to the Gavin and Stacey reboot, the Christmas special we have all been waiting for. I love Christmas, and as you’re all well aware by now, I love this saga; so I felt an odd mix of excitement and apprehension ahead of reading it, with my main thought being “please, please don’t mess this up, Nancy.” Needless to say, of course Nancy Revell has once again, smashed it. I love a Christmas spin-off of an existing saga – like a TV special, it’s always exciting to see your favourite characters against a festive backdrop, but a common mistake with Christmas editions is to have a short novella which, although usually festive enough that you can practically smell the roasting chestnuts diffusing from the pages, don’t actually have much of a ‘point’. Christmas with the Shipyard Girls however, I was pleased to discover, is actually a full-length novel with a good, meaty plot which happens to take place around the festive season; i.e. not one of those mistletoe-infused, pointless novellas which are clearly just marketing ploys to boost royalties (she says like she doesn’t also buy those whenever they come out).

Ironically for a Christmas story, I think this is possibly the darkest intstalment in this saga so far. Not in a depressing way, but we’re now almost half way through the war and that is clearly starting to take a significant toll on our characters. We’ve had some really impactful, emotional moments in previous stories (still not over the air raid at the end of ‘Victory’), but this was the first time I’ve read a Shipyard Girls book, or anything for that matter, and felt consistently emotional throughout – I found myself reading the entire thing with tears prickling in the back of my eyes. Having said that, I think it’s definitely important to include the darker or more challenging sides of the characters’ journeys, it would’ve been really easy for Nancy Revell to turn this into a Bing Crosby-esque yuletide scene of all our principal characters enjoying the festivities by a warm fire as if they were drawn on a Christmas card. Unfortunately, although they certainly made the festive season as magical as possible, the sad fact remains that this is a group of people who are existing in one of, if not the most, tumultuous and challenging periods of modern history.

The relationship between Polly and Tommy is very much in the foreground at this point in the saga, and although I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t finished yet, I initially found myself firmly cemented on ‘team Polly’. It reminded me of an ongoing discussion within my friendship group, in which most of us are in agreement of ‘I could never have a boyfriend who was in the army, imagine that lifestyle and periods of not knowing where he was, why would you do that to yourself?’. Thankfully, we are all lucky enough to live in a period where we have that choice, but unfortunately for Polly, and most other women of her time, sometimes that choice was taken away from them, and the context in which she is living intensifies every emotion like petrol on a bonfire which, as always, Nancy Revell evokes perfectly for the reader.

“Polly and Tommy’s love had become another casualty of this damned war.”

Despite the darker elements of the story, as always Nancy Revell has graced us with yet another gripping plot, which is also peppered with little pockets of emotion which remind us of the intense bond shared by these characters. My favourite part was when Martha and her parents receive the gift basket in true ‘A Christmas Carol’ style. Although this made little, if any, difference to the overall plot, it was the most genuinely touching moment – and Martha going to bed on Christmas Eve with her hot chocolate and biscuits gave me an image of her as Tiny Tim which, for any existing Shipyard Girls reader, is just heartwarmingly hilarious.

Although Christmas with the Shipyard Girls isn’t explicitly ‘Christmassy’ throughout every chapter; the generosity, selflessness and love between all the characters flows through every page, showing the ‘true’ meaning of the season of good will, before building up to the festive finale which is sure to ignite that warm, festive feeling in even the most ‘humbug’ of grinches.

Why not have a look at the rest of the blog tour?

Bullet Journaling

“Mindfulness” is the buzz word at the moment. Actually it has been for a while, and I will happily raise my hands and confess to the fact that I am a sheep and follow the ‘mindfullness’ crowd by reposting motivational quotes about ‘making time for you’ and ‘being in the moment’ whenever I can; which is entirely hypocritical because my idea of savouring the moment is having a slightly slower walk back up the path after taking the bin out. Which, usually I just find tedious and an unnecessary waste of time after 0.5 seconds. I had an hour long, full body massage last week (not a typical Thursday afternoon for me, it was a post-wedding, mourning the loss of my Thomas Cook honeymoon treat), and even in a darkened room where the only sound is music specifically engineered to relax you, with someone physically relieving the tension in my body, I spent the hour thinking “am I relaxed enough yet?”. Ah, the perils of being an impatient, anxiety-ridden overthinker. However, despite being unable to achieve a state of even moderate relaxation without first receiving a general anaesthetic, I recently tried my hand at bullet journaling.

Bullet journals are something I have admired from afar for a while now, and by ‘afar’ I mean by looking at my Instagram feed and thinking “that’s too faffy and technical for me”, much like the satisfyingly organised homes and perfectly contoured make-up. I spent an embarrassingly long time researching which bullet journal to get before realising that they are all, essentially, just paper. Having said that, I’m not a monster so of course I spent money on a lovely smooth, pretty new notebook in which to do my bullet-journaling; along with some fun stickers because you’re never too old for stickers.

What I noticed about the more expensive, more technical bullet journals was that they were mostly segmented and had different prompts to help you think about what to write, but there are a lot of ways to manage this without spending a fortune. A lot of ‘fancier’ bullet journals are divided up by day, but that’s essentially just a desk planner or a weekly diary – readily available for less than a couple of quid if you look in the right place. I personally didn’t want to get into a weekly view, it felt too similar to planning my work schedule, and I like the idea of being able to close the page on each day – I haven’t re-read any of my previous entries, I just don’t find it beneficial or enjoyable. My journal came with some emjoi stickers (how very 2019), which I really liked, and prompted me to buy some specific ‘bullet journal stickers’ with little quotes and mantras on. To get the juices flowing, I start each day’s entry by choosing an emoji sticker and a quote which best fit that day, then using the written part to elaborate a bit on why. Even if my emoji for the day is the crying face because it’s been horrible, I’ll jot down a summary of why it was so horrible even if it’s just “busy day at work, am exhausted”. Something about putting it in that onto the paper and closing the page does, to my pleasant surprise, make me feel a bit lighter. It’s like that bit in Harry Potter when Dumbledore uses his wand to drag thoughts out of his head and put them in the water – who doesn’t love some de-cluttering?

The easiest counter-productivity traps to fall into with bullet journaling which would then put you off doing it again are to dwell too much on the negatives, and to write too much. I’ve managed to tackle both of those with some nifty tricks which were so useful I may have to consider copyright. First, although it’s perfectly fine and sometimes beneficial to write down negative things, for every negative point about my day I make myself write a “but”. For example, if I’ve had a difficult day at work I tend to follow it with “but, I did my best and that’s all that can be expected”. Ending on a positive definitely made me see the ‘point’ of bullet journaling, because writing a list of everything that was rubbish about your day is quite draining and just makes you feel worse. So, keep that little weighing scale of negatives and positives even.

Also, for someone like me who is a rambler (someone who talks a lot, not an old person who likes getting lost in the countryside), it’s very tempting to start writing War and Peace and listing every aspect and emotion of your day. To overcome that, I started being quite deliberate with the time slot I allocated for the journaling. While setting a timer seems like a nice idea, I personally would just stare at the timer and feel like I was taking an exam which would be totally counter-productive, but I’ve started using a limited time slot like waiting for the bath to run or for my dinner to cook – there’s a clear end point but it’s not a race against the clock. I did see someone else post online about how they like to see it as a challenge to write something that will summarise their day in thirty seconds, as if there was a trailer for the film version of that particular day in your life. That is also a fun and non-restrictive way to think about it; but sadly I’m from the North and talk really fast so could probably still get a feature length film out in thirty seconds.

So, after doing some research on bullet journaling, and from doing my own, I came to the conclusion that it is a genuinely useful and healthy habit to get into, but that it really needs to be bespoke to the person doing it. I’ve seen some journals online which have so many boxes, each demanding to be filled in with separate thoughts or ideas, or some which set targets for the week which, to me, just seems like a trap for self-induced guilt like New Year’s Resolutions. Although I started off by forcing myself to do this each day, it has quickly become a habit, and a useful one at that.

Unpopular Opinion: Literary Edition

I don’t know where the recent obsession with ‘unpopular opinions’ came from, but it seems to be the new ‘no offence’ – phrases which, although overused, seem to make it perfectly justifiable to say something controversial and/or offensive if your comment is preceeded by those two little words. However, as irritating as I find the Radio 1 segment of ‘unpopular opinion’ (that theme tune is the Playdays theme, how on Earth did they get that through copyright, and how dare they ruin a cherished childhood TV show); a feature which seems to be code for ‘let’s just all have a rant about minor inconveniences in our lives’, I am both a feminist and a chatty Northerner and therefore a big believer in expressing one’s opinion, however ‘unpopular’ it may be. Literary opinions, I find, are often even more divisive, so I have bravely decided to challenge the status quo around the written word; and am hoping to boldly shake things up by causing even more of a stir than ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’.

Harry Potter is not good. 

Okay so I probably lost the majority of you at that point, but hear me out. Conceptually, Hogwarts is a great idea in itself – it is quite original if you discount baiscally every specific character and magical spell, all of which have largely been copied and pasted from a Wikipedia page on Greek Mythology, though I am a big fan of magical realism so these books definitely paved the way for more in this genre, and I am always in favour of women making careers for themselves – J.K. Rowling is a really great influential woman. BUT, her writing is not good. I’m sorry, but the sentence structure is terrible, her laptop clearly had no ‘synonyms’ function because every other word is the same, and they are just. too. long. for. children.

The ‘Twilight’ Saga really isn’t actually bad.

The odd couple of people who accepted the first point have probably now closed this window on their browser, but if you are still here, please hear me out. The films are absolutely terrible, we can all accept that and move on. That is a discussion for another day. But the ‘Twilight’ saga, is actually pretty damn good. I read all four books before any of the films came out, so I’m probably one of few people who were truly objective about it, and it really is a travesty when a terrible film ruins a truly good book *cough* Gone Girl *cough, cough*. The main things which irritate me about ‘Twilight’ critics is the unbridled hatred for Bella Swan. “She’s too quiet”, “she’s pathetic”, “she’s too plain” – I’m sorry, can anyone locate a teenage girl who is NOT quiet, shy, a bit plain looking and completely pathetic when it comes to a hot boy? We were ALL Bella Swan at some stage in our lives, and for me the release of this saga coincided with my awkward phase of admiring boys from a distance, wishing I had a decent pair of tits or a wardrobe with something other than plaid shirts and yearning for the universe to give me some self confidence – Bella Swan is the relatabale hero which we all need at some point in our lives. In a world of Hannah Montanas and Kendal Jenners, be a Bella Swan. Believe me, having a Bella Swan phase does wonders for developing resilience as an adult, not to mention an excellent grasp of self-depricating humour.

Stephanie Meyer is actually a good writer as well. So, even if you don’t like the overall concept of ‘Twilight’, it has the edge over sagas in that it is actually an engaging read. I do however accept that Breaking Dawn was entirely unnecessary and, if it absoutely had to be published, did not need to be so long and drawn out (I have a slight suspicion it was actually written by J.K. Rowling), but Twilight does not deserve the level of hate it gets, not one bit. But, if you really can’t damage your social status by being seen with a Twilight book, ‘Shiver’ by Maggie Stiefvater is definitely worth looking into; very similar concept but, you know, better in that you don’t have to picture Robert Pattinson’s slightly pained facial expressions when you read it.

Anne is the best Bronte sister

It goes without saying that the Bronte sisters are all a hugely important part of literary history and Feminism. All three were absolute trailblazers and I don’t dislike any of them. However, Wuthering Heights is absolutely and utterly terrible. That novel is the Twilight of the nineteenth century; Heathcliff brooding over his own misery and kind of being a d*ck to everyone because he isn’t with the girl he likes, which has only occurred through his own self loathing and punishment, and Cathy being unable to function without his weird, narcissistic and controlling persona – that is Bella and Edward at their worst. Cathy in her room refusing to eat? That is ‘New Moon’ Bella who is literally prepared to lie on the ground in a dark forest and then isolate herself for like a year because she is too pathetic to function without her aloof man. Maybe in a hundred years GCSE students will be studying ‘Twilight ‘and discussing if the wildness of the Forks forests is indicative of the wildness of Edward’s character like the Moors and Heathcliff, but honestly I do not understand the obsession with Wuthering Heights. It’s badly written, drones on a lot and is just utterly depressing.

Jane Eyre on the other hand? Hello, feminist empowerment. I have never seen a TV or film adaptation of Jane Eyre, and I don’t need to. That book is just perfect, although the ending is a bit questionable – I mean, she’s so fiercely independent that she is prepared to sleep in the field rather than rely on the weird, old, MARRIED, man she fancies; but then ends up with him in the end? What’s that about? Which brings me to, the absoulute MASTERPIECE that is ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’. I know an English teacher who has not even read this book. Anne is such an overlooked Bronte sister and it deeply upsets me because that story would be divisive even today – romance from the point of view of a heterosexual man pursuing a woman? A woman who has fled an abusive relationship who isn’t damaged or in need of saving by the new man? Unheard of, yet incredibly refreshing and empowering. Anne, on behalf of the reading community globally, I would just like to take this opportunity to apologise for treating you like Michael Collins on Apollo 11. Go on, Google who that is, and you’ll get the joke.

Historical fiction can and should be enjoyed by young people.

Anyone who has looked at this blog will be well aware that I love a historical fiction saga. The Shipyard Girls gives me life, Rosie Goodwin and Glenda Young literally could not churn out a bad novel if they tried; basically I will read anything that takes place prior to 1960. But, for some reason, historical sagas like this are almost exclusively marketed at women over 60. The same applies for ‘teen’ and ‘young adult’ fiction. Apart from books which help children how to read and those which contain some distressing or inappropriate content, I do not understand how fiction can be marketed at particular ages, or even genders. I just don’t get it. You don’t go to the cinema and say “what’s new in the ages 14-16 section this week?” or “what’s being pushed on the twenty-something women via Heat Magazine this month?”. Everyone I have ever met enjoys an absolute array of film genres, so why do we restrict ourselves with books? I know people who will exclusively read crime, or exclusively read romance – why are you doing that to yourself? I enjoy Silence of the Lambs as much as Bridget Jones, and as much as Frozen; film choices depend what ‘mood’ you’re in, and it’s absolutely the same with books. Snobbery is what it is if I’m going to be quite frank, and I can’t chuffing stand it.

So, if you’ve made it this far without recoiling in disgust at my defence of Bella Swan and slating of J.K. Rowling – to the majority of the reading community that’s like saying the American version of The Inbetweeners was better than the original. But, I’m comfortable with who I am and absolutely believe we should all let our literary freak flags fly and read whatever the hell we want to without judgement because what’s the worst that could happen – you find a new series that you love?

“Reader, I married him”

As now seems to be a ‘Clyde’s Corner’ tradition, I’ll begin with this month’s attempted justification for my lack of recent blogging activity. At least this time I have a legitimate excuse because….drum roll please….I got married last week! Yes, the ‘Bridezilla Diaries’ element of this blog will sadly be no more, so let’s make sure it has a good send off. Planning my wedding was, in many ways, the worst experience of my life – it plunged my mental health and relationship with my now-husband to depths so low they could only be seen by the Kraken in Pirates of the Caribbean. I came very close to falling out with pretty much everyone in my life at some stage or another, did not sleep for weeks at a time and seriously discussed cancelling the whole thing on at least four or five occasions that I can remember (probably more). People kept telling me “it’ll all be worth it in the end” and I just could not conceive of that actually being the case, especially since the majority of people providing this reassurance were either unmarried or had had much smaller weddings than mine. However, I can confirm, as a married person who recently had the experience of a wedding (they do say you forget trauma if you talk about it too long after it happened), I can confirm that, if done correctly, it is absolutely and utterly worth it (even if it is so windy that your veil hits the registrar directly in the face during the vows).

Like Christmas, there was so much anticipation and build-up to the day that, despite it being utterly amazing, I never really got ‘the feeling’ of it being my wedding day. Even whilst walking down the aisle with all my friends and family staring awkwardly at me, my heels sinking into the mud, veil blowing all over the place and my husband sobbing uncontrollably in the distance, it still didn’t feel like it was my wedding. That is one thing which I do wish other married people had told me – ultimately, it is just a day with your friends and family where you all have a party together, and that’s fine! That is still a great day, but if you’re waiting and waiting for it to ‘hit’ you that it’s your wedding, you’re probably going to be disappointed. I think I’m still in denial that it even happened and wasn’t all just a dream, because let’s face it, moshing out to Evanescence and My Chemical Romance in a gorgeous dress and sand-covered Converse is literally the dream. Or maybe it’s because marriage is too big a thing to really imagine; like outer space, it’s just too mind boggling to really think about so in the same way we describe infinite space as being “pretty big”, my wedding day was “pretty amazing”.

Having said that, it was a wedding, we have a big family and (let’s face it) this is me, so obvioiusly there was some drama. The night before, I remember sitting in my beautiful big room, finally able to enjoy some peace and quiet after spending all day and night with friends and family, and just sobbing uncontrollably. Every worry which I’d managed to suppress during the months leading up to it, every snide comment I’d faced and the overwhelming feeling that I was being a massive, selfish diva by having a wedding at all just came pouring out of my eyeballs like the lava at the end of Hunchback of Notre Dame. Through every conflict I’d kept reminding myself that it was ‘our day’ and ‘we should do it how we want’, but when the push came to shove I felt a horrible sense of guilt that the day ahead should be about other people, and that I was letting everyone else down. Inevitably, as is the case with most weddings, we did disappoint people in some ways – there is always something more that people want to do for you, or some other way they want to be involved and you do have to become comfortable saying “no”, which is really hard to do to family and friends.

However, despite the guilt, everyone who attended my wedding (even people who I never expected to admit it) made some reference to how amazing it was that me and my husband had had the day that we wanted, and how it had been ‘so us’. At the time I was obviously just so relieved and happy that everyone was enjoying the day as much as I was, and revelling in the fact that people finally understood why I’d made the decisions I had in the run-up; but now I’ve had time to come back down to Earth and reflect on the day, I do find it a bit sad that people had to say that at all. Of course the wedding is about the couple getting married – without them the day wouldn’t be happening at all! It’s 2019 and usually couples pay for their own wedding (or at least a large part of it), so where is the sense in dropping the average spend of £30,000 on a day that you’re not going to enjoy? It should be a total given that it’s the couple’s day, and I do genuinely find it sad that people were surprised by this – if people had accepted this a year ago I would have been saved from so much anguish.

Our day was made completely perfect by our wonderful venue and suppliers (in particular our amazing photographers who ensured we had free drinks in our hands at all times throughout the day), so I feel incredibly lucky to have made it through what is arguably the biggest, most stressful day of a person’s life, without a long list of regrets; but the one thing I would have absolutely done differently is how we managed the day before. Our wedding venue is an hour and a half drive away from our home, so a large chunk of the day before was spent packing our car and driving up the A1 with some family, and since a lot of our friends were staying locally we arranged to meet for dinner the night before to catch up. Although this was a lovely meal and a great time spent catching up with people and introducing everyone who hadn’t met before, I was totally knackered. Being tired before your wedding has even properly started is never a good thing, and I basically didn’t see my husband-to-be at all. We also had beautiful rooms booked  and paid for, which we had no time to really enjoy. I remember settling into bed, later than I would’ve liked, dimming the lights and getting tucked under the covers with my book and thinking “I wish I had more than an hour to sit and enjoy this”. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that you see very little of your new spouse on the wedding day, and even though our venue were wonderful about ensuring we had enough time to enjoy each other’s company on the day, I do wish we’d had some quiet time together to relax and really take it all in the night before.

So, much like getting into the North Sea on a windy day, your wedding day really isn’t that bad once you get into it, and even though it can feel like you’ve royally pissed off every person you’ve ever met throughout the planning process, it is indeed worth it in the end; as long as you stick to your guns and blow everyone’s naive minds by ‘having the day you really want’. And if it all goes a bit pear shaped; photos can be edited, most people probably weren’t paying enough attention to notice the mistakes anyway, and you can always just get divorced.

Exhibit A of things going wrong, aka “we did not notice this cake has ribbon on each layer”

 

 

 

 

Summer Reads

I feel like I keep starting every blog post with an apology for the lack of recent posting, but by skipping July entirely I’ve set a new record for myself. However, instead of boring you with yet more excuses about how busy my day job is and how stressful it is organising a wedding (which will all be over and done with in four weeks – eek!), I’m just going to glaze right over that and skip ahead to the actual post.

So, apparently it’s summer. Despite the constant rain storms and the fact that I sadly no longer get six weeks of freedom to mark the occasion, according to my calendar it is in fact summer. I’ve never quite understood the logic around ‘summer’ book promotions – as anyone who has visited this blog before will be well aware, I read anything and everything and the time of year doesn’t really come into the decision making process. Having said that, book shops and women’s magazines seem to become inundated with ‘holiday reading’ recommendations faster than chemists can promote this year’s must have ‘chub rub’ hack (still haven’t been able to find that liquid talc, god dammit, Asda). So, I decided to compile a quick list of my personal favourite summer reads.

In the same way Christmas seems to exist on a foundation of do-gooding and pigging out, I’ve always thought that Summer is constructed around an obsession with self reinvention and the pursuit of new adventures, yet also at the same time built on a premise of revisiting one’s past and reveling in how far you’ve come (think Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama). On that basis, I decided to include books with plots or general feelings along those lines, rather than a stereotypical romance by the pool with the cabana boy type rubbish which usually hog the limelight in Summer promotions.

The Single Girl’s To-Do List – Lindsey Kelk

It’s very difficult to review a book which you read seven years ago, BUT, the fact that I read it so long ago and still think of it as a good summer read surely counts for something, yes? I read this in my first ‘grown up’ summer, after finishing my A Levels and trying to figure out the next step in my life, and although I genuinely can’t remember specific parts of the plot or even the characters’ names without Googling it – what sticks with me is that feeling of freedom, that anything is possible and that a Summer lived to the max has some inane power to turn you from the proverbial caterpillar into the butterfly you always knew you could be.

The Last Piece of My Heart – Paige Toon

Disclaimer: every Paige Toon book is a perfect summer read, but TLPOMH is the one that really sticks out for me. I grew up in a family that loved staycations – i.e. staying in the U.K. for holidays (usually in a caravan), so for me, being in a campervan in Cornwall signifies everything that is British Summer. Falling in love whilst staying on an actual British caravan site by the sea brought back endless memories of a misspent youth for me, do with that information what you will. As with all of Paige Toon’s work, the reader becomes completely and utterly immersed in the setting, and you fall in love with yet another fictional character which sadly only exists inside Paige Toon’s mind. But, again as with all Paige Toon books, you end it with your heart feeling full and an overwhelming desire to sack off your day job and take off in a Campervan looking for hot widowers to pursue romance with.

The Vast Fields of Ordinary – Nick Burd

Simply one of, if not my actual, favourite books of all time. This is a young adult fiction book which was gifted to me by my mum years ago, though I managed to misplace it and then find it again as an adult; but the writing still had exactly the same impact. I’m a big advocate of adult readers exploring young adult fiction – there’s something about the YA genre which makes writers push the boundaries a bit more and let their creative freak flags fly (I’m looking at you, Twilight, I mean what on Earth was that actually?). Like The Breakfast Club, this is one of those wonderfully plot-less yet still gripping stories. It takes place over the summer holidays and follows the teenage protagonist as he tries to navigate through his first love, which is relatable to absolutely everyone young or old, but the story also runs in parallel to a local child mysteriously disappearing. I’m not aware of anything else Nick Burd has written (please send links my way if he has), but the writing is just extraordinary. Also, the love triangle which is the central focus of the plot involves three gay male teenagers, which is a really refreshing change from all the hetero-normative girl-meets-boy teen romance which seems to dominate the shelves (again, sorry Twilight, I secretly love you really).

Ingo – Helen Dunmore

Another young adult fiction book which I was gifted by my English-teacher mother, I’m sensing a theme here. I read, actually no it’s more accurate to say I devoured, the Ingo series when I was in my early teens. Again, I love an English seaside town in the Summer as the backdrop for an adventure, and anything involving a mermaid will always have me on board. Even when I have re-read these books as an adult, I’m still always sucked into the magic and excitement of Sapphire discovering the magical underwater world of Ingo, and her long lost father. What starts as every little girl’s dream, finding a secret mermaid colony right on her doorstep, develops into quite an intense saga which spans multiple installments, throughout which Sapphire is conflicted between the life she’s always known and the complicated, sometimes dark, world of Ingo where her familial roots lie; which at times physically pulls her in.

Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee

Unpopular literary opinion alert – I don’t really get the hype of To Kill a Mockingbird, though this is at least 99% due to the fact that I studied it for English Literature GCSE within a school that thought watching the film and learning four or five quotes was an acceptable substitute for actually teaching literature for two years. Rant over. I did re-visit To Kill a Mockingbird as an adult, and have to admit I enjoyed it far more when I wasn’t under pressure to remember specific quotes about a rabid dog and walking around in someone else’s shoes which I would then later have to regurgitate onto an AQA workbook in a smelly, sweaty school hall in mid-June. Mockingbird, although it reads a bit weirdly and more like columns than a novel, is a classic Summer story in my humble opinion – for me it’s tyre swings, lakes and running freely with your friends whilst relishing in the fact that school is out (try reading that last bit without getting Alice Cooper stuck in your head – impossible). Scout Finch will always be one of my main literary heroes; I want to call my future daughter Scout but sadly my husband to be does not appreciate good feminist heroes. Watchman is again a Summer story of the American countryside: tyre swings, lakes and catching up with friends, but experienced through the adult Scout who returns to Macomb with a fresh pair of eyes from her new life in New York. Although the plot is a little darker than Mockingbird (yes that apparently is possible), it still left me with a warm heart and a nostalgic smile on my face from revisiting summers gone by and seeing how Scout graduated into the adult, yet still just as feisty, Jean-Louise Finch.

 

 

Review – If You Could Go Anywhere

It’s mildly ridiculous that I’ve been writing this blog for almost a year and have yet to review any Paige Toon books. I had always been aware of her writing but never got around to reading any of her books until I met her at a signing last year, and since reading ‘Five Years from Now’ have become hooked and got through her entire back catalogue with rapid speed. I think a lot of readers are put off her books because, if you line them all up together, they do look like a stereotypical, mushy ‘chick-lit’ series which is one dimensional and lacks any real substance. I don’t know why so many people hate on ‘chick lit’ (I wrote a specific rant about this previously) – if a book is good it’s good, I don’t think genre particularly matters and, why is it so ridiculous that someone might want to read books which make them all warm and fuzzy inside? Rom-com films largely follow the same formula as ‘chick-lit’ and they aren’t frowned upon in the slightest. I’ll never understand literary snobs, but I digress as always.

“Angie has always wanted to travel, but at twenty-seven she has barely stepped outside the small mining town where she was born. Instead, she discovers the world through stories told to her by passing travellers, dreaming that one day she’ll see it all for herself.

When her grandmother passes away, leaving Angie with no remaining family, she is ready to start her own adventures. Then she finds a letter revealing the address of the father she never knew, and realises instantly where her journey must begin: Italy.”

The thing which really makes Paige Toon’s books stand out from others in this genre is that there is always a massive amount of significance given to the location in which the characters’ stories unfold. With every story of hers I have read, I’ve always felt completely immersed in the characters’ worlds and she always takes her readers on a journey through these places, essentially like Google maps; and ‘If You Could Go Anywhere’ is no exception. I was completely transported to the streets of Rome and it was like I was stood behind Angie the whole time, taking in what she was discovering. The locations in the book, as with all of Paige Toon’s work, act as benchmarks through which the characters’ stories progress, rather than through linear dates or significant life events, which allows the story to run much deeper and properly submerges the reader in the characters’ thoughts and feelings, rather than being focused around pacing and where the story is ‘going’.

I think this is what always keeps Paige Toon’s work so original, although the plots are always great and the character development is amazing, new and different locations allow for great characters to blossom within different cultures and keep their stories fresh. Again, I have absolutely no issues with ‘chick-lit’, I think it’s as valuable a genre as any other and if a formula works then why change it? But, the magic formula of a girl meeting a boy who helps her get over some past issues and she discovers who she really is along the way, can start to feel a little bit tired when you read as much as I do. It’s no reflection on the genre or skills of the author, but when you read a lot it does start to feel a bit tedious reading about yet another single twenty-something with a HR job in London who is struggling with the loss of a parent or sibling and trying to progress her career.

On the topic of the ‘magic formula’ of chic-lit and classic ‘girl meets boy’ novels, of which there is nothing inherently wrong, ‘If You Could Go Anywhere’ completely turned this on its head. Without revealing too many spoilers, on completion of this book I would definitely say that it’s actually a story of the girl saving the boy – Angie is definitely the strong pair of arms shielding him from his inner demons, which is really refreshing and very 2019 – feminism, yay! It would have been very easy for Paige Toon to take shy, sheltered Angie on a journey across Italy with a daring, carefree, ‘tumbleweed blowing in the wind’ Jack Dawson type who shows her how to really live, and that would have been a perfectly lovely plot, but Paige never does a plot by halves. Angie is a very tempting character to place in the role of a damsel in distress and I think if the author had fallen into this trap, the overall plot and character development wouldn’t have had half the impact – Angie becomes so headstrong and independent by the end of the story that it is really inspiring, and not only does she become her own hero but she becomes someone else’s too, which is an absolute 180 turn from the Angie at the beginning – though as with all Paige Toon books, I’m too busy enjoying the amazing setting to notice how much the character has developed through subtle changes until it hits you in the face during the climactic finale.

So, if you have been living under a rock and are not familiar with Paige Toon, or if you’ve been reluctant to try her work because it looks too ‘chick-lit’, I would absolutely suggest picking up literally any of her novels as a starting point because you will inevitably end up reading them all. Hopefully ‘If You Could Go Anywhere’ is followed by yet more additions to the long list of Paige Toon’s totally inspiring and feel-good reads. Besides, surely she can’t retire until she’s written about at least every country? Certainly doable if you ask me…

‘Dark Angel’ – Why it’s ‘sometimes’ Understandable to Kill Your Husband

Dead and rotten though she may be, Mary Ann Cotton remains a fundamental figure in North East history. I live within the parish where she was christened, used to live in a flat which stood on the site of her former workplace and have had the privilege of entering the archives of Beamish Museum to see what is alleged to be the infamous teapot. Whilst I cannot ever condone poisoning one’s husband(s) and children, or poisoning anyone for that matter, I recently re-watched ‘Dark Angel’ on ITV (an excellent dramatisation and possibly the best true crime series ever created), which does always leave me feeling sorry for her and wondering whether, when all things are considered, she really had much of a choice.

It is apt that I watched this series (for the third time, seriously cannot get enough of it), on the same day where I had had a conversation with a work colleague about how infuriatingly useless men can be, and the frustration she was feeling at her partner failing to understand how difficult it is for her to juggle full time work, childcare, housework, cooking, laundry, paying bills and something of a social life whilst he works away. Of course, this is not the case for everyone – even in the North East which still has clearly marked working men’s clubs in which women are not welcome; contains women such as my mother in law who refer to hoovering as ‘women’s work’ and judge people on how strongly their house smells of Zooflora; I’m sure there are many stay at home dads, single dads and combinations of parents consisting of all genders and sexualities who don’t conform to the North East ‘ideal’ of the male coal miner and his loving wife who has his slippers on the fire and tea on the table every evening. And, I’m sure there are many heterosexual, ‘typical’, nuclear families who have a perfectly even division of household labour, but it did get me thinking about how much things have actually changed for women.

In a news week where a woman finally had her conviction quashed for killing an abusive husband in self defense and police have suggested replacing knives with blunt blades is a viable solution to protect domestic violence victims, taking place well over a hundred years after Mary Ann Cotton’s era, this did heighten my curiosity about the kind of life she lived. No, we aren’t giving birth in coal dust, gathering water from a pump at the end of the street and catching smallpox at regular intervals any more, but the majority of women I know who are in long term, heterosexual relationships spend a lot of time feeling bloody stressed out, especially when children are thrown into the mix. And this is in a time of free healthcare, accessible contraception, maternity leave and child benefit – so living a life of being perpetually pregnant, existing in absolute poverty, having no understanding of mental health issues and living in a time where domestic violence and rape perpetrated by your husband was perfectly legal, must have been absolutely horrendous.

Again, I feel a need to disclaim that serial murder is never justifiable, but it is my personal belief that people are a product of their surroundings, and nurture is far more important than nature when it comes to understanding people; this is a woman whose own father’s dead body was brought to her house in a bag marked ‘property of Hetton colliery’ when she was barely out if nappies, it was bloody tough going in the 1800’s! I have seen in my academic and professional background that you can never really know how someone will react to being pushed to their absolute limits of survival until they are tested and what pure desperation can do to even the most level-headed of people. I do think Mary Ann’s story is a testament to just how extreme the situation was for working class women at the time, and although it’s generally accepted by Criminologists and Historians that she became motivated by pure greed and lust by the end of her criminal career, when you consider the perfect storm of depression, constant bereavement, living in squalor, not knowing where your or your children’s next meals are coming from, being unable to afford basic healthcare and being totally dependent on a husband to pay to have your basic needs met, although not excusable, it isn’t surprising to see how quickly things escalated. Wanting love and stability is probably a fundamental desire for the majority of people, especially women, and when faced with such limited options, specifically, the possibility of going to the workhouse or dying of starvation in a filthy alleyway because your husband is unable to work, I can see what she was trying to achieve, despite disagreeing with her choice of method on every level.

“I wanted more. More than coal dust, childbirth and men who think saying ‘I love you’ is enough” 

Joanne Froggatt as Mary Ann Cotton, ‘Dark Angel’ (ITV, 2016)

It is worth noting at this point that despite Mary Ann Cotton being widely accepted as the UK’s first serial killer, and the first serious female offender, she was actually only ever convicted of one murder, which she steadfastly denied into the grave. I love a grizzly true crime story and a local history legend – I’ve had the ‘privilege’ of seeing up close what was Durham Gaol inside the prison and can confirm it is every bit as haunting and creepy as it probably was for Mary Ann Cotton when she walked her final steps to face the noose, so it’s no surprise really that I find her story fascinating. However, if you’re not familiar with it I strongly recommend watching ‘Dark Angel’ or reading the book by Professor David Wilson on which it is based, and inevitably forming your own theory – was she a desperate pauper doing what she could to survive, or the greedy black widow the nursery rhyme portrays?

25 Lessons Learned in 25 Years

Now, obviously I’ve learned more than twenty five things in my twenty five years spent on this Earth; but I don’t think writing about how I learned to walk, drive or use a ‘big girl’ toilet would make very interesting reading. So, in honour of my twenty fifth journey around the sun, I decided to compile twenty five useful things which I have learned at some point in my life, in the hope that it might offer some assistance to your own. Although, if you’ve followed this blog for a while you will probably have gathered that my life is a hot mess and in no way an example of success or inner peace, so this may also serve as a useful guide of twenty five things to avoid doing, for fear of becoming like me.

  1.  Drink water.
    It sounds obvious, but it makes a huge difference to everything; skin, waistline, staves off the dreaded cystitis, wakes you up, and it’s free – what’s not to love?
  2. Take vitamins.
    Obviously consult a doctor before taking anything you aren’t completely sure is safe for you, but I swear by Zinc for making a cold recover quickly and taking Vitamin D every day last Winter gave me a new lease of life.
  3. Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to friends.
    I have probably four or five friends, and that’s it. No wide circle of acquaintances, no huge group chats, I simply can’t be bothered. All of my friends know how often I pee, where I would go if I needed to go off grid after killing someone and who I would invite to my fantasy dinner party. It is far more beneficial to have one genuine friend who has your back than fifteen who don’t.
  4. Have an exercise routine.
    Whatever that means to you; whether it’s walking the dog each night, swimming, going to a gym or doing yoga in your pants on the living room floor. I’ve had a variety of routines with varying levels of effort in the last few years, but there has always been one consistent theme – I have felt better physically and mentally when I have had some sort of exercise habit, regardless of its intensity.
  5. Good bras are worth investing in.
    I rarely replace my bras. I buy about four sturdy bras and keep them for about two years. It is worth paying the money up front, rather than buying fifteen Primark bras a month. Especially so with sports bras, because back pain is not fun. Life is too short to spend it with your boobs hanging round your knees and breaking your shoulders.
  6. Do the job which you enjoy the most, not that which pays the most.
    I have wasted too large a proportion of my life and happiness on horrible jobs which were everything I wanted on paper, but made me loathe the thought of getting up in the morning. I was at my happiest when I left that job for a significant pay cut to work somewhere that made me smile every day.
  7. Be with the partner who makes you laugh.
    Obviously other qualities are important to overall compatibility, but looks change, interests change, life changes; and I’ve found that the best way to get through the tough bits is to have someone with you who is on your level of humour.
  8. Read as often as you can.
    Even if it’s just a magazine or the odd newspaper article, reading something printed on paper is good for the imagination and healthier than looking at a screen. Unplug yourself from the Matrix once in a while and exercise that brain.
  9. Eat less meat.
    I’ve been pescatarian for four years now. Do I miss meat sometimes? Yes. Did I enjoy meat? Absolutely yes. But, my blood pressure is down, metabolism is up and the planet and the animals are thankful for it.
  10. Have a ‘treat yourself’ beauty splurge habit.
    When we feel good on the inside, it shows on the outside, and I think this goes both ways. When we feel confident in our appearance it affects everything positively, so whether it’s having a quick face pack at home or something more indulgent like a spa day, have something in reserve that you know will always make you feel fabulous. I always feel like I can conquer the world with a fresh manicure.
  11. Have a proper de-clutter at least once a year.
    I usually do two big de-clutters a year. I don’t even plan it in, it just consumes me at certain points. I’m currently basking in the after-glow of a good clear out, and feel more relaxed and centred for it. Plus, donating things to charity and recycling things properly is good karma all round.
  12. Invest time and money in making your home how you want it.
    You spend too much time at home to not feel totally comfortable in it. I wasted years in crappy flats which I never bothered to improve in any way because they were “only temporary”, but your home is your castle and feels much better to come home to when it reflects your personality.
  13. An extra spin and drain cycle on the washing machine makes an incredible difference to drying time.
    I thought this was common knowledge until about a fortnight ago when a colleague complained her washing was taking ages to dry and steaming her house up. It takes ten minutes after a normal cycle but means my washing is dry overnight. Simple choice.
  14. Use sun cream.
    Skin cancer is not a joke, even if you think you don’t burn. Most daily moisturisers have an SPF in now anyway, so you don’t have to think about it as much.
  15. Mental health is important.
    It’s possibly more important than physical health. I have experienced physical health problems as a result of mental health issues, between which I never connected the dots. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t experienced some form of mental ill-health in their life; I learned the hard way that it’s better to deal with it early on and not bury your head in the sand, because that doesn’t actually fix it.
  16. Look after your teeth.
    Dentist bills are not fun, and fillings are not fun. Avoid both by flossing every day and using an electric toothbrush.
  17. Don’t ever lie to fit in.
    I wasted a lot of time and energy doing that as a teenager, it is exhausting and attracts the wrong type of friends. Real friends don’t care if you don’t go to clubs every week and prefer to watch Teen Mom in your pyjamas – find your tribe because they’ll sit next to you doing the exact same thing.
  18. Before posting anything on social media, do the boss/grandma test.
    “Would I care if my boss/grandma saw this?” If the answer is yes, probably best said privately or not at all. It’s far too easy to spy on other people’s content now, and some people like to ‘grass’ other people up as we say in Sunderland. Employing this has definitely saved me from some awkward situations.
  19. Wash your hair as little as possible.
    Nobody can actually tell if your hair has that slightly greasy, in-between-wash feeling. I have managed to get my hair washing down to twice a week and yes, the lie-ins are worth it. Plus, it’s good for your hair and the great Jonathan Van Ness swears by it so that’s good enough for me.
  20. The world does not end if you go out without make up.
    I used to put foundation on to take the wheelie bin out or go to the petrol station. Then I joined a gym which is next to a supermarket and often pop in on my way to or from a workout. Guess what? Nobody is even looking at you because this is Britain and we all look at our phones/the floor when in public. Make up is expensive and a faff to put on, don’t waste it on five minute trips to the shops.
  21. It’s not a race.
    I wasted a lot of opportunities for happiness by comparing myself to other people who were ‘further ahead’ than me in terms of careers and relationships. We’re not all playing the same game, it’s like entering a race but looking at the person throwing a javelin – it isn’t like for like, it’s you vs you.
  22. End relationships which are not beneficial or productive.
    It sounds harsh, but sometimes, through nobody’s fault, relationships break down or stop serving a purpose. It’s wasteful to both parties to continue flogging it if it’s faded, whether that’s a partner, friend or even a family member.
  23. It’s okay to say no.
    Whether it’s a work commitment, social event or even to that little voice in your head who is telling you to feel guilty if you don’t get x, y or z done. I’m a Brit, I’m used to people pleasing and then complaining about it behind their backs. It’s far easier to just say no from the outset.
  24. Tampon applicators serve literally no purpose. 
    Other than polluting the planet and taking up extra space in your bag. I have never used one and do not see the point. It’s not a difficult target to miss, that’s all I’m saying.
  25. Take photos.
    We all hate that annoying friend who makes you stop and take photos every two seconds, but I have multiple photo albums which are ordered chronologically and I love looking back through them. I’m not saying take a photo every morning when you arrive at work, but when you spend quality time with loved ones, take a photo to commemorate it. I will always remember one specific occasion where I saw a group of close friends and we forgot to take any photos, I actually used the phrase “we’ll take some next time”, and one of those friends died a week later. Making memories is important, but it’s also important to capture them so you don’t forget when you look back.