Surviving Quarantine 2020

Hello friends!

I am delighted to announce that after a 4 year extended hiatus, today, I am making an iconic comeback and updating my blog. And it only took a global pandemic and mandatory quarantine for me to finally feel inspired.

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Is my comeback bigger than Britney’s? In a word, yes.

In what I can only describe as an absolutely outrageous turn of events, the world is currently gripped in a pandemic, with a virus known formally as COVID-19 tearing through almost every country on Earth and putting large swathes of it into quarantine. 

Those who live with me in beautiful Barcelona will be all too familiar with our new, quarantine lifestyle. However for those whose governments are fucking around instead of making firm, life saving decisions, let me tell you what life in quarantine looks like.

Everyone who can work from home, does. People are only allowed to leave their homes to travel to their jobs, to buy groceries, to go to the pharmacies and to go to the bank. If you have a dog, you are permitted to take them on a short walk alone and must maintain the safe minimum distance from others. If you are caught outside by the police without due cause, you will be asked to return home. If the police happen to be absolute pricks that day, you may also receive a hefty fine.

There are queues for supermarkets. Everyone must remain a mandatory distance apart when in public spaces. Toilet paper, pasta and beans are like gold dust. People are wearing all varieties of home made hazmat suits in an effort to protect themselves – especially the elderly, I have noticed. 

It is an entirely new way of living.

I am not a scientist and I am not here to frighten you or to give you information on COVID-19; that is not my place and quite frankly, there are already a few too many sudden, armchair scientists for my tastes (you know who you are).

What I want to do is talk honestly about how I am staying sane during this time. My friends in quarantine are naturally anxious and afraid – what is happening in Spain right now is barely the tip of the iceberg and we are not yet at peak infection here. Those in countries not yet in quarantine are curious and in all honesty, likely to join us all very soon.

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Note to the UK: if this man cared about you at all, you would already be in quarantine.

While it seems we have apparently stumbled into a dystopian nightmare, I am trying to remain positive. In that spirit, I present to you my guide for surviving a minimum 15 day house confinement.

Incidentally the government of Spain says 15 days in quarantine but we all know we are staring down the barrel of a 30 day quarantine minimum.

Keep to a Schedule as Much as Possible

Look, I am not your mum. Thankfully, I am not anyone’s mum yet because even with 28 years of experience I can barely look after myself. I have 0 qualifications to back up the advice I am about to give, but I believe it to be true, so I am going to dispense it anyway. 

Keep. To. A. Schedule. 

As much as your anxiety will allow you to, do your best to create structure and routine in your new indoor life.

You might assume that working from home will help you create structure, but working from home cannot miraculously provide you with a routine – it requires you as an individual to make smart choices for yourself: get up and go to bed at times reasonable for your job. Make an effort to shower and get dressed properly each day. Incorporate what you still can from normal daily life. Exercising, cooking, meditating, gaming, creative pastimes and socialising via apps are all still perfectly available for you to do if you make the choice to do them.

Regardless of whether you are working from home or just having to stay there indefinitely, if you start keeping irregular hours, stop looking after yourself and refuse to keep any semblance of a normal life, then it’s fairly like you’ll end up feeling 1000x worse than is necessary during an already difficult time.

Practice Self Care 

Ahhhh “self care.” Remember when self care was a thing you enjoyed doing and not an overused marketing term rammed down your throat by every raw, natural, vegan, handmade, organic company on Earth? I remember those days. They were good fuckin’ days.

But as the old saying goes, you either die a hero or live long enough to become exhausted marketing jargon in a capitalist nightmare.

All (true and relevant) jokes aside, I do believe it is important to step back and think about what self care as a concept really means to you.

For some people it is ensuring they take the time to exercise. For others, it is a face mask and doing their nails. There are those that find solace and time for themselves in arts, crafts and music. I am even told that there are some people – people very different to me –  who face their anxiety head on and practice self care through meditation instead of by drinking an entire bottle of red wine.

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Me telling everyone to look after themselves while I cane wine directly from the bottle.

However self care looks for you, make sure you take some time to look after yourself. Show yourself kindness. You deserve it and quite frankly, the world could do with a few more good vibes right now.

Exercise

Whether you love it or hate it, science stands firmly united behind the fact that exercise is good for both body and mind.

My journey into exercise was a slow one that began when I turned 18. Before this, I was adamant that any kind of exercise was just not my vibe, and if someone had told me that just a few short years later at 21 I would be running and climbing mountains for fun, I would have laughed straight in their faces. 

It has now been a decade since I turned 18, and incorporating regular exercise into my life remains one of the biggest, accidental gifts I have ever given to myself.

For me personally, exercise allows me to either consider my own thoughts in peace or to disconnect from them entirely. It gives me a place to channel my frustrations and my anxiety in a beneficial manner instead of a self destructive one. It helps my body work better and more efficiently; it has banished the back pain I get from a job that finds me mostly sitting at a desk.

I could extoll the virtues of exercise all day long but ultimately, if you are not sold on it and cannot find a way to enjoy it, then me insisting that you try to work it into your daily quarantine (lol) is just going to annoy you.

What I would say however is this: while quarantining, exercise has taken on new roles in my life that are helping me adjust to the big changes. I am not allowed to be outside often, so exercise gives me a reason to move my body. It helps add structure to my day in an otherwise deeply chaotic time, and I am someone who thrives deeply in structured environments.

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I don’t know who I am if I don’t have at least one list on the go.

And the great part is, there are TONNES of apps and online resources to help you: YouTube, Freeletics, Kayla Istines, YogaAnytime – the list is endless and several of them are currently free to download until the end of March, when this first round of quarantine is supposed to end (spoiler alert: it is not going to end after 15 days).

So even if you despise exercise passionately, finding ways to move, expend energy and add structure to your day will only help.

Try To Be Healthy and Consistent With Meals

I mentioned earlier that I am not your mum and this fact, unsurprisingly, remains true.

However let me tell you something that you might expect to hear from a mum / dad / parental figure / whoever it is in your life still telling you what to do despite the fact that you have consistently been paying your own bills for 10+ years now.

Eat some fucking vegetables.

Seriously. Everyone in Spain seems to be hoarding pasta and beans despite there being an abundance of fresh or even just different produce. And all I can think about is how awful it is going to be for those people when they need to take a shit after a full 15 (30 lol) days of eating only kidney beans and pasta.

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Sorry not sorry for that gross visual.

I am not saying now is the ideal time to begin a gruelling new health regime and I would never advocate for that anyway. Just don’t be an idiot that lives on kidney bean chickpea black bean pasta either.

And of course, don’t forget to treat yourself. Times are strange and life is short. A cheeky Deliveroo (or food delivery service of your choice), is good for your mental health and chocolate is soothing to the soul.

Just don’t forget to eat some fucking vegetables too.

Don’t Feel Like You Have to Constantly be Using the Extra Time “Wisely”

Yesterday I saw this tweet by LaChrista Greco on her Instagram page, @GuerrillaFeminism. And it spoke to me.

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A gentle reminder that the capitalist machine does not give a single shit if you lose your livelihood due to COVID-19!

Let me be clear: I was one of those people offering hot takes on how all this extra time indoors could be filled.

While I am grateful that I can still work and believe there are steps that can be taken to minimise the impact of quarantine on mental wellbeing and daily life, feeling like you have to use the extra time to do more work is unlikely to be the wisest use of time at all.

Right now, it is normal to feel afraid or anxious about what is going on because it is unprecedented in our lifetime, and it will be something that the entire world will speak about long after it is over.

As the tweet says, our main priority is to look after ourselves, our loved ones and each other as much as possible. Everything else is secondary.

Lean on Friends and Family – And Be There to Lean on in Return

I am in the fortunate position to be living with my boyfriend, who also happens to be one of my best friends in the world. His natural messiness aside, he makes me laugh every day during a difficult time and reminds me why I enjoy being alive.

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We… do not look like this after almost a week in quarantine.

Not everyone is so fortunate. Some people may live alone. Some may have disabilities and be dependent on the help of others. Some may be forced to isolate with a partner who is also their abuser.

Some of these are unfathomable scenarios for a person to find themselves in. Now more than ever, we need to make sure we reach out to one another and lean on one another and show each other the best of humanity instead of the ugly parts. 

Humans are social creatures by nature and to be locked inside is unnatural to us. If you know someone who might need some extra help to get through the isolation, make sure you text them to check on their well being and schedule some time to speak.

Likewise, feelings of loneliness, stress, fear, anxiety and restlessness are all a reality of the situation. If you need to reach out to someone, then do it. And don’t think for one second you will be annoying someone, even if you have not spoken for a while.

Since being in quarantine I have been in some form of text chain or video chat with around 75% of my friends. One of the most beautiful parts has been reconnecting with older friends living in different places. These are people whom I love fiercely but who have different professions, in different countries and timezones all over the world. We struggle to make time because an adult schedule is notoriously difficult to balance. Now, with the extra time, a chance to reconnect and catch up has appeared, and it’s been a surprising bright side in amongst the utter shite of the entire situation.

Obviously I can only advise you based on what is working for me, and we are all different. But we are also all human, and humans prosper in environments that are good for them. The above is a selection of actions that have been helping me create a good environment and that are helping me stay mentally resilient in a trying time. My hope is that they might help you too. And if not, well my blog is pretty funny a lot of the time so I hope it at least made you smile.

See you in four years for the next post!

The Strangest Summer

I had my first ever panic attack yesterday evening, and honestly – and I will be very honest with you here – it was a total cunt.

I was on the London Underground, except I wasn’t really, not in my own head. In my head, I was in a cage that was being lowered into the ocean, and I was drowning and drowning and drowning and I couldn’t breathe. My lungs felt full of smoke and water and I couldn’t think or see through the blind panic that had settled across my entire mind like a thick layer of murky pollution. Honestly the inside of my head was like Victorian London, I could not see shit in there. Every time I managed to grasp a coherent thought, something that could anchor me back into reality, it slipped away into the mist and the anxiety consumed me.

I don’t know how I got home, but when I did I collapsed on the floor and cried as two of my housemates soothed me. One gave me some herbal remedies which I could barely shove into my mouth because I was sobbing like a heartbroken child.

Like I said, the experience was a total cunt. And very likely stemmed from pent up stress and uncertainness regarding moving. It’s an odd experience, to throw your very comfortable life completely into the void and then shrug, hoping it’s not a colossal mistake.

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I threw my life screaming into the void and the void whispered back, ‘you’re an ungrateful butthole.’

The attack also marked the start of a very bizarre 24 hours in which I have been mostly drunk, nearly missed my flight because I fell asleep in the airport for 2 hours (the only 2 hours I have slept in the last 36), temporarily joined a stag do who very kindly bought me a lot of Heineken on my flight and then met my utterly wonderful Air BnB host, who is a very talented contemporary dancer, cabaret performer and Pilates teacher. We barely have a common language but he made me an amazing coffee and showed me his fantastic work and welcomed me into his beautiful home.

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My Air BnB host is basically everything I wish I could be but refuse to work for because ultimately, I prefer sleep and eating pizza to pretty much everything.

And now I am sat here with yet more beer wondering where the summer went and how it was quite so intense and spectacular and exhausting. There were charming eccentricities and exciting people at every turn. And now somehow, inexplicably, I live in Spain because the last 3 months have made no sense, and life makes no sense and nothing makes sense really at all but it’s all quite marvellous regardless.

This is a strange blog post because it’s mostly just my stream of consciousness, an immediate reaction to a time so strange it defies being put into words, quite honestly.

But holy shit, what a time it has been.

 

On Leaving London

Time waits for no man.

Spanish Flag

I have been in London for two years, although it has felt significantly longer. The reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, a lot of good, bad, cool and weird things have happened during my time here. Almost too many things for 24 months. A few of them I am borderline convinced I dreamed.

Secondly, London is where I experienced the heady and bizarre growing pains that shape the early twenties of the millennial generation, a generation that frequently feels lost and lonely in a time when the world has never been more global or humanity better connected. It was a time of, as Kylie Jenner might say, ‘realising stuff,’ about both myself and the world. Some of it terrible, but a lot of it surprisingly positive.

BoJo

Pictured: the not so positive. Also, an accurate representation of how I am feeling right now.

I thought leaving London would be euphoric and I am sure when I board a one way flight to Barcelona, the joy will be genuine and immense (although at present, it hardly feels real). For the first time ever, I feel as though I am choosing to take the next big step in my life instead of having it thrust upon me. Leaving school, leaving home, graduating University, getting a job, moving to one of the most metropolitan cities on Earth – everything felt as though it happened very suddenly, before I was ready for it. I think this sentiment echoes across an entire generation trying to find their way.

But I have an odd connection to the vast and densely populated capital of England, one that I don’t think will ever die. I sincerely hope that I never have to come back and although I spent the first 12 months here feeling like I was constantly at the point of drowning, teetering on the edge of a very real and painful depression, I know I will look back on my time here and cite it as one of my most important chapters. And in between the bad times, likely one of the most fun.

For so many people I know, navigating the early twenties was something of a battlefield. A baptism of fire. I watched my peers conquer their demons, which came in a variety forms: mental health, grief, heart break, stress, repressed emotions and a seemingly constant fear of being not quite good enough. And it was really fucking cool, watching my friends grow into excellent adults who are confident and comfortable within themselves. It was really fucking cool doing it myself.

Thailand

Basically ‘I found myself’ and I didn’t even have to travel to South East Asia to do it! Also, it turns out that I am excellent.

And now it’s time to move onto to the next big adventure- although I will be honest, at present that consists mostly of putting things into boxes and then labelling those boxes, so it’s less bold adventure and more life administration.

Leaving London honestly feels a little like heartbreak, not just because of the life I am leaving behind and the dear friends who will no longer be close by, but also because I feel like my time here shaped me into a person who is not a complete piece of shit. It was hard, desperately hard at times, but I think with the benefit of hindsight, it was also completely necessary. I thought often about writing this piece, long before I knew I was leaving. I always assumed that it would be a joyous post. In reality,  I feel a mixture of emotions and have instead penned a love letter to a place that shaped me beyond what I can properly put into words

And on that note, I shall stop, before the self-indulgence becomes too much for anyone to continue reading. Stay wild London – there’s a whole new generation coming up who might be needing you.

To Barcelona.

When You Become That Political Bellend

The EU referendum has been the culmination of my political awakening. A political awakening is a bit like a sexual awakening, except it’s nowhere near as fun and everything makes you feel really fucking angry instead of relentlessly horny. Sexual awakening means coming of age and developing an understanding of your body, your sexuality and your place in the world. Political awakening means learning horrible things, like how few exceptionally powerful men run your country’s media or that your Prime Minister apparently once received fellatio from a dead pig.

David Cameron

Pics or it didn’t happen! HAHAHAHA pls don’t show me pics man I’m delicate I can’t.

I guess the two actually have very little in common, but I am presently one glass of wine (edit: make that two glasses of wine) deep into my evening so the analogies and metaphors will not be subtle and I will not apologise for that.

It is only recently that I realised quite what a political bellend I have become. Once upon time, I was just satisfied that the British public cast their votes at all. That was me at 18 – bright eyed and bushy tailed, just old enough to throw my exceptionally liberal vote into the ballet box. I didn’t mind what party or politician people voted for, I just wanted people to vote. I wanted them to exercise their right to democracy in a world where so many people are silenced and murdered for even considering such a thing.

Like many people at 18, I was pretty naïve.

Now, when it comes to voting on anything remotely political,  I am that guy, all up in your social media newsfeeds (and if you are unfortunate enough to know me in person, your face), yelling about my opinion and why your opinion should be like my opinion.

Of course in reality, your opinion can be what you want – all I ask is that it is moderately well informed.

I am still grateful for democracy every day. I am grateful to not only be allowed my opinion, but to be actively encouraged in expressing it, defending it and admitting its limitations. But growing means waking up to truths you never knew were there and that sometimes you wish you did not have to know.

My dear work bae, Ana Brenikov, expressed it best for me. She has a unique eloquence that is born from a fundamental understanding of how things work and why people are the way are. One of our colleagues asked me why I am so into politics, why it burns something so deep inside of me. After all, isn’t an interest in politics just like reading or cooking or rock climbing – another hobby of mine?

And Ana explained it like this.

When you start to look at and understand the vast web of interlinking global politics, it becomes very difficult not to feel passionate about how your country and the world more widely is run.

I am by no means a political expert, but a lot of the time, developing an understanding of the political world around you feels a lot like being violently awoken  from a peaceful and excellent sleep. You’re groggy as fuck, everything slowly comes into focus and then suddenly you are very, very pissed off.

I see career politicians who have never worked in the professions they now have power over (oh hey Michael Gove as former Secretary of State for Education or Jeremy Hunt as Secretary of State for Health), I see the 1% exercise unfathomable amounts of power over the media in my country with no regard for ethical journalism or objective reporting. I see the wealthy breaking laws that the rest of us are supposed to abide by if we want to stay out of prison. I see politicians who bought their careers through their parents instead of toiling for their beliefs.

Slowly, you start to see corruption everywhere. You start to see how you think the world should be run and how it is actually run, and that the two have virtually nothing in common.

And it is long as fuck.

I have tried to stop myself from expressing all the big political opinions that I have, but I cannot find the off switch and I honestly don’t want to. I would rather people are engaged and educated and have an opinion than sit there not having an opinion at all, or sit there feeling smug because they voted but they don’t feel compelled to explain why they vote the way they do or why they think the way they do.

And I like knowing. I by no means know everything and I never will. I will never fully understand the complexities of global politics, much less global economics. But I want to drink in and understand as much as I can,.

And that, my friends, is how I became that goddamn political bellend on your social media feeds.

Tonight my country decides whether or not it wants to leave the EU and my emotions on the matter are so powerful that it’s unlikely I will sleep properly. My opinion is almost irrelvent. But I want people to read, I want them find what is important to them, to be informed to their best of their ability and to be passionate about where they cast their vote.

…And personally, I hope their vote is to remain.

Craig David

SORRY I TOLD YOU I CAN’T SWITCH OFF THE POLITICAL OPINIONS ANY MORE.

 

Why it is Okay to be Angry

I’ve always worried that perhaps I am too angry of a person. I use quaint variations of the term ‘angry’ to try and sugar coat the vein of aggression that runs deep within me – variations like ‘fiery’ and ‘strong willed’ and ‘a bit of a cunt.’

Now let me clarify something important here: I am at peace with myself. I would even go so far as to boldly declare that I like myself. But I have always wondered about people who seem so serene when they look upon the state of the world. I have often wondered if they know something that I do not, if they have reached some higher level of thought that I have not.

And quite honestly, I have come to the conclusion that these people are walking around with their eyes closed, because if you could see the state of the world, you would be fucking livid.

You may have heard of a minor international scandal breaking in the news over the past couple of weeks. It’s called the Panama Papers and every media and news outlet in the world has been scandalised by the dodgy financial practices of the world’s 1%. The main story that has caught the attention of the UK audience of course, has been David Cameron’s dealings in his father’s offshore ‘company’ Blairmore Holdings. There have been many arguments regarding how and when he paid tax and exactly how he profited from Blairmore Holdings (if he even profited at all). However this is almost irrelevant – the primary outrage is that he has been allowed to partake in a practice reserved for the rich elite, a practice you can partake in only if you have vast amounts of money to drop on hiding your vast amounts of money.

Mossack Fonesca

Honestly it was pretty much a non story with no far reaching implications that could potentially span years. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had completely passed you by. 

If you are a normal member of society, like myself, you cannot afford to do this. You have to go to work, apply yourself and pay some fucking tax. And, as Caitlin Moran rightly points out, if every Tom, Dick and Harry in the UK could afford to hide their money in an offshore tax haven and avoid paying tax, the UK would be fucked within a matter of weeks. What David Cameron has done is still legal only because he and his very select group of privileged friends can profit from it and just because something is legal doesn’t make it morally correct. Let me assure you, dear normal person of the UK, if you could avoid tax by hiding your money in an offshore tax haven, it would be very fucking illegal, very fucking quickly.

And just to add insult to injury, this has all happened against the backdrop of the Tories plunging the country into austerity and cutting benefits for disabled people, in order to encourage them to find a job.

‘We’re all in this together’ – once upon time this was David Cameron’s rallying cry to the population of the UK. Classic foot in the mouth moment because as the above shows, he’s in it with his rich besties and if you can’t work because YOU LITERALLY CANNOT WALK, then fuck you I guess.

How anyone can read this and not feel an inordinate amount of rage bubbling within them is beyond me. How anyone can watch refugees suffocating in the back of trucks as they flee their war torn homes and not a feel bitter, angry sadness is mind blowing. When the majority of MP’s voted to airstrike Syria last year, they brayed and applauded their own decision to drop bombs on a mostly innocent civilian population. That’s right – there was no humility. No silently trying to comprehend the gravitas of the situation. There was applause. A FUCKING ROUND OF APPLAUSE. How anyone could watch that and not want to stand on the top of a mountain screaming is unfathomable.

And I have come to a harsh and bitter conclusion – people are not angry for two very important reasons:

  • Because being ignorant is the easy option.
  • Because the world tricks you into this ignorance, knowing that you will stay there, because it is easy.

To understand even a fraction of the Panama Papers, or the refugee crisis, or the complexities of the American political system, or why turning all school into academies is a very bad idea takes work. It takes time. It takes reading. It sometimes takes reading 3 different news sources 5 times and still not fully understanding the story, because it deals with such complicated ideas.

Don’t get me wrong, we need frivolity, we need entertainment and we need the inane in order to cope with just how awful the world can be. But even deeply educated people seem not to give a flying fuck about the state of the world, because to understand the world is damn hard.

Beyonce

We also need Beyoncé, because her new album will be fucking fire (and possibly the last bastion of human hope).

And then we come to point 2 – the world tricks you into not caring, into staying ignorant.

Some very wise bastard (James Ramsay) once said:

‘We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.’

The world is hell bent on making you care about and chase things that are not important. It wants you to chase a ‘good’ job that you probably hate, money, fame and an utterly bastardised version of success created by the wealthy, so that while you are looking the other way, they can fuck around in offshore tax havens, not do their bit for society and generally break a shitload of laws that they expect you to obey.

And if they can keep you stupid and consuming, why would you ever complain, even when you have every reason to?

A wilfully ignorant society is one that is easy to control, and if we truly care more about the clothes we wear than how we treat the people around us then we have failed so completely as a society that I am unsure even Charlie Brooker could mine it for satire.

And that is why anger is not only okay, but necessary. This is why am I not worried about finding inner peace. This is why I don’t care when people tell me to be less angry or to calm down or to be a fucking lady. The second I stop being angry I will have given in to complacency and stopped caring.
And unfortunately for pretty much all of you, that isn’t happening any time soon.

50 Happy Things

Life can be hard. Life can be tough. Life might be shitting on you right now, which is why I briefly considered calling this post ’50 Things That Prove Life Isn’t Shit 100% of The Time. Maybe like 20% of The Time Which is Honestly Great Odds in The Grand Scheme of Things, But I know You Don’t Want to Hear That When Life is Shitting on You.’

Unfortunately, that title doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.

BUT, there is always a shred of good to be found in amongst the bad. Below, I have compiled a list of small, everyday things that make myself (and undoubtedly many others with great taste) very happy. I realised somewhat recently that occasionally, I look for reasons to be unhappy instead of embracing all the good that is in my life. I sometimes allow hardship to desensitize me, to make me cold and cynical.

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‘What fish fuck in.’

And even when life is awful and I all I feel is the numbing weight of occasional depression, I am painfully aware that I don’t want to be that person.

On the days when I (or maybe you) don’t feel very good, we can refer to this list and remember that even when life is being a grade A penis, there’s still some small amount of joy in the world.

Without further ado, here are 50 happy things, from my irrelevant (but usually pretty hilarious) perspective.

1.) The fact that there are so many different types of cheese in the world (and that I have yet to try them all).

2.) Daffodils, because they are quite literally the sun in flower form (and the first sign that spring has arrived).

3.) The smell of freshly ground coffee first thing in the morning.

4.) Fresh, warm falafel with hummus.

5.) Petrichor – the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil.

6.) Seeing a tiny dog in a big muzzle and thinking ‘what hell hast though wrought, o tiny dog, to deserve a fate such as this!?’

Dog

“I have done unspeakable things.”

7.) When the iconic intro to ‘Hot in Herre’ by Nelly flows through the speakers and your entire body spasms, because you cannot help but immediately dance upon hearing this still fresh af banger.

8.) The shock when you style your hair perfectly first time round. The joy that then follows when you have a flawless day because your hair looks fucking great and nobody can touch you (or your beautiful mane).

9.) When someone sends you a really good Snapchat (or when someone is just generally excellent on Snapchat).

10.) That somewhere in the world, Ryan Reynolds and Justin Trudeau actually exist.

11.) The serenity and sense of being that can be found only in the mountains (or within nature).

12.) When you kiss someone during winter and you both have warm mouths but cold noses.

13.) When someone makes you a cup of tea (and they do it perfectly because their parents didn’t raise a cretin).

14.) When someone genuinely wants to know how your day was and what you did with it.

15.) Eating pizza in bed (this could apply to all food, but pizza is by far the most enjoyable and satisfying for reasons that I cannot fully articulate).

Pizza

I WISH I KNEW HOW TO QUIT YOOOUUU!

16.) Taking your bra off at the end of a long day and giving your boobs the freedom that they deserve.

17.) Feeling the warmth of the sunshine on your skin (this is significantly amplified if on holiday).

18.) When you catch a bus without having to wait for it, completely by accident.

19.) Absolutely everything about Christmas (FUCK YEAH CHRISTMAS!)

20.) When you have an excellent nap.

21.) Miniature versions of regular sized objects (except for cake, stop making cake smaller you bastards!)

22.) The sense of therapy you feel when cooking or baking. The more elaborate the meal/dessert, the more therapeutic the experience.

23.) When you have a hot water bottle and achieve next level cosiness.

24.) When you have cold hands, so you discreetly warm them on your own boobs.

25.) Cats that don’t run away from you and instead shower you with affection, making you feel like the great queen of the felines or a mighty cat whisperer.

26.) When you have breakfast food for dinner or leftover takeaway for breakfast.

27.) When someone plays with your hair and gently scratches your scalp (because secretly, we are all Labradors).

28.) That you can buy armour for cats.

Armour for cats

There may come a day when this concept is not awesome, BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY!

29.) When you meet someone on the same wavelength as you and the friendship is instantaneous and effortless.

30.) Spooning.

31.) Hand written letters (and postcards!)

32.) Actually managing to save some money.

33.) Marvelling at how blue the sky truly is on a clear day.

34.) When someone else makes or buys you any form of food, just because they like you and they want your taste buds to be happy. Extra points if it is one of your favourites.

35.) Arguing with strangers on Twitter.

36.) When you deliver a zinging one liner/response and it receives a warm reception from the masses.

37.) Every time you see a shooting star and think ‘holy fucking shit, flying star space rock things!’ (That’s how I science).

38.) Jeff Goldblum’s iconic performance in Jurassic park (and the fact that Jurassic Park exists generally).

Jeff Goldblum

Easily the most seminal and important role of the 90’s. Also, the sexiest.

39.) That you can purchase an Emotional Drake Necklace on Etsy. (Other wonderfully bizarre items worth mentioning: salt distilled from people’s tears, a candle scented like Dumbledore’s fictional office, Sherlock themed thongs and pretty much any item you could desire emblazoned with Kim Kardashian’s ugly cry face).

40.) Seeing people with really cool skills and talents perform said cool skills and talents.

41.) When someone correctly uses one of your favourite words/a great word in a sentence.

42.) When you listen to someone bi/multilingual speaking in a language besides their mother tongue.

43.) Pug dogs.

44.) A very personal one – When I see wild Heather chilling on the mountains and feel a sense of kinship with my hardy little namesake. I then Googled ‘Heather’ and found an ENTIRE WEBSITE dedicated to Heather called ‘The Heather Garden’ and let’s be honest those jokes write themselves.

45.) When you buy new climbing gear, revel in its newness, then break it in on some rock.

46.) When nobody is home, so you can stroll around naked as the day you were born. And pee with the door open. (Shout out to all those people sans family and housemates who can do this all day every day!)

47.) The exhausted, slightly battered yet utterly triumphant satisfaction you experience when you have been outdoors climbing all day (or hiking, or skiing, or surfing, or kayaking or etc). The first sip of a crisp, cold beer when in this gratifyingly weathered state is also something quite special.

48.) When your bare feet are in contact with the grass, sand, tarmac or dirt and you lament the need for shoes because bare feet against the earth feels magical.

49.) The sound of rain outside when you are tucked up safely in bed with absolutely zero need to get up and go outside.

50.) When someone tells you that they love you.

 

Why Have An International Women’s Day?

(AKA, why don’t we have an International Men’s Day too, or an International Equality Day?)

Update: there is an International Men’s Day, huzzah! However the below still stands.

On International Women’s Day, I expect the usual tirade from ignorant men asking why there is no International Men’s Day. It is remarkably similar to when white people criticise Black History Month or declare that all lives, not just black lives, matter.

Khloe Kardashian

If I could roll my eyes any harder they would disappear into my fucking head.

I am not writing this for men however, as I am not here to pander to men who are too lazy and ill-informed to read a book.

I’m here to talk to the women.

What has broken my heart today has been the sheer number of women on social media asking why International Women’s Day is still relevant or why we don’t have an International Equality Day instead. Spoiler alert, it’s because equality is a myth.

Women live in a world that was built by and is still run by (mostly white, mostly wealthy) men. These wealthy white men benefit from this patriarchal structure both financially and socially, while women (and especially poor women and women of colour) tend to be disadvantaged by said structure and the men who maintain it.

For example, adult illiteracy is at an all-time low the world over, but women make up the vast majority of those who cannot read because in certain areas of the world they are denied access to an education. In other parts of the world, female genital mutilation is still seen as a socially acceptable thing to do to very young girls, who have no say in how their body is treated or any understanding of what is happening. In America, a first world country, men still seek to control women’s reproductive rights by closing abortion centres and attempting to restrict access to the morning after pill. Sexual abuse, assault and rape is still overwhelmingly committed by men against girls and women; ditto to domestic violence. Oh, and just two days ago, The Guardian published an article stating that women in the UK will earn £300, 000 less over their lifetime when compared to men.

Pugs

I keep trying to make jokes but I am too angry. Here is some cute puppies to ease the trauma that was the previous paragraph.

These examples barely even scratch the surface of the issue, they are merely drops in a much larger pond.

So this is a call to my fellow girls and women – just because the above doesn’t affect you, doesn’t mean that the fight is over or that International Women’s Day is unnecessary.

Women who can’t see why we need an International Women’s Day are generally lucky enough to be born white, to be born into first world countries, to be well educated and financially independent, to have lived lives relatively free of trauma.

Women like this, like me, benefit from an immense amount of social privilege that is not afforded to the majority of our sisters both in the UK and beyond. And the chances are, if you scrutinise your own life, you will find moments where inequality and sexism has impacted on your life: perhaps a man who wouldn’t take no for an answer at a bar. Maybe someone unexpectedly feeling up your arse in a nightclub. Perhaps it is when you feel unsafe walking home alone late at night and so clutch your house keys between your fingers like a makeshift knuckle duster. Or maybe it’s having a man introduce himself to you at a fancy dress party by sliding his hand up your shorts to your pants and asking you who you have come dressed as.

That last one actually happened to me just last week.

Patrick Bateman

Those who know me can probably guess that this party guest did not stay for much longer.

So to finish, a short message to all the women who may have said they do not understand why today is important. We have come so far but we still have so much to do and fight for. We can only do this if we empower one another, lift one another up and are unafraid to point out and shout about all the injustice that exists within the world.

It’s a long and exhausting fight and you will face vocal opposition from the few who benefit from the world’s patriarchal structure. But I promise you it is (and will be) very much worth it.

Concentration Camps and Selfie Sticks

Recently I took a festive trip to Munich with a dear friend of mine. Among the visits to fairy tale castles, festive markets, steins and glühweins, we took a particularly sobering trip to Dachau Concentration Camp.

Dachau

There are literally no witticisms to be had here.

It is hard to describe quite what visiting a concentration camp is like. The atrocities that took place there are unfathomable and yet they are outlined in unflinching, unceremonious detail. I stood in a large, silent courtyard with snow falling peacefully around me and thought about how just 70 years earlier, in the spot where I was standing, people had been tortured to death simply for being Jewish, Polish, Romany, gay, disabled or outspoken.

While there, it was hard not to contemplate the tense political situation the world currently finds itself embroiled in and to find unsettling parallels. The Nazi’s marked the supposed enemies of their regime by forcing them to wear the Star of David on their clothes. Upon admittance to concentration camps, the skin would be physically branded with a serial number.

Just last month, in November 2015, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump suggested that Muslims in America should logged into a database, so that they can be identified and tracked.

70 years ago, the Nazis published propaganda that painted the Jews as thieves and paedophiles, responsible for Germany’s economic woes in the earlier half of the 20th century. Through doing this, they built a cult of fear around anything associated with being Jewish and positioned Jewish people as one of the enemies of their regime.

Right now there exists a similar fear within certain factions of western society, but it seems to be directed at those with brown skin, anyone who identifies as a Muslim or anyone who is looking to escape their war torn country for a more hopeful existence. It only takes a glance at the comments section on any news or social media site to find people letting their unfounded fear, instead of the facts, inform their (usually astonishingly racist) opinion.

Youtube

I’m looking at you, YouTube. Unfortunately for all of humanity, this ScreenGrab is genuine.* In related news, someone should probably let Niqk Fjaoj know that Judaism and Islam are in fact two separate religions.

So it was with utter disbelief that while at Dachau, I watched a visitor get her friend to take a photograph as she grinned and hung provocatively off of the door to the gas chamber. Feel free to go back and reread that sentence a second time if you can’t quite bring yourself to believe that it really happened.

I am not one of those people who irrationally dislikes selfie sticks, because I am mostly a silly person and I love silly things. But there was something unsettling about seeing them used so frivolously in a place where the murder rate was so high, the Nazis had to build their own crematoria in order to deal with the overwhelming number of dead bodies.

Dachau 2

31, 951 dead bodies, for anyone who would like to be pedantic.

I understand wanting to document an experience and I saw many professional and amateur photographers doing just that during my visit. But I also saw many tourists taking photographs without stopping for a moment to consider where they were and the sheer gravity of what occurred there. I watched grown adults take photographs of themselves smiling inside of an actual fucking gas chamber and wondered how anyone on the planet could lack the self-awareness to realise that such a photograph is in no way appropriate. ‘Hey honey, quick, let’s get a selfie in the gas chamber where the Nazis executed their political opponents. The kids will love this one!’

That is a door real people had to walk through knowing that they were about to be executed, knowing they would never see their loved ones again, knowing that they were just another victim in a war being manipulated by powerful men who never had to fight or suffer in it. But so long as you get your photograph and you can upload it to Instagram for likes, who cares?

I don’t hate social media – far from it. But there’s a time and a place, and I think we can all agree that a concentration camp is most definitely not the place at any time, ever.

The world feels like it is standing on the edge of a precipice; a war of some form has already commenced and as with all wars, the causalities will be mostly innocent people. Visiting a concentration camp should make you think – it should make you reflect on hard, terrible subjects and the nature of humanity, both your own and in the world more generally. It should highlight the importance of freedom and how lucky we are to be born to times and countries that don’t wish to mercilessly persecute us for absolutely reason at all, because that is not a luxury that all people currently have.

It should not, in absolutely any way at all, make you reach for your selfie stick. And if it does, you need to ask someone to slap you and then sit you down until you realise what a colossal idiot you have been.

*ScreenGrab taken from the comments section on M.I.A’s ‘Borders’ music video on Youtube. Well worth a watch/listen. Do yourself a favour though and skip the comments.

23 Things That I Have Learned

Socrates supposedly once proposed a variant of the following: ‘I know one thing: that I know nothing.’ It is a sentiment echoed across the works of  philosophers, religions and poets, throughout cultures all over the world. And it is absolutely true.

But in life, we are constantly learning. Over the past 5 years, I have done the following (and an awful lot more besides): obtained a degree, fallen in love, fallen out of love, travelled to various different parts of the world and seen some utterly wonderful things along the way. I have laughed so hard that I have definitely peed a little and I have floated through extended periods of utter bliss. On the other side of the coin, I have cried myself to the point of exhaustion and felt so broken that I was unsure if I would ever be able to put the pieces back together.

I have lived through the best year of my life so far, which was then immediately followed by the worst. I have lost friends and made others that I hope I will know for the rest of my time on this planet. I have discovered the benefits of exercise and I have taken up a new pastime in rock climbing that terrifies, exhilarates and fulfils me in ways that can be difficult to articulate. I have opened my mind to new concepts and beliefs, shared incredible moments with a vast array of people and been privileged enough to experience some of the most beautiful parts of human existence.

I have tried desperately to cram as much life as possible into those terrifyingly short 5 years.

I am 23 years old and after a turbulent 14 months, I finally feel at peace with the world again. As I look back on all that I have done, experienced and felt, here are 23 things that I have learned.

 

Blog Picture

Warning: some of these lessons took much longer than others to figure out.

1.) It is okay to ask for help if you need it. Pride comes before a fall.

2.) Have a strong moral code. Stick to it.

3.) Never, ever settle. But do realise that in life, compromise is sometimes necessary and an inflexible nature will hinder you.

4.) Read books.

5.) Diets will make you fucking miserable and absolutely no fun at the party. Everything in moderation.

6.) On the flip side of number 5, it is completely okay if you need to eat a whole cake sometimes.

7.) Good friends will outlast every romance that enters your life and pick you up when you don’t feel like you can stand by yourself. Always be ready to do the same in return.

8.) If you don’t care about a person then you don’t need to care about their opinion.

9.) Life is too short for driftwood and losing friends is a natural part of growing up. Don’t worry about it.

10.) Keep your head in the clouds but your feet firmly on the ground.

11.) Pay more for nice wine. It is absolutely worth it.

12.)  Keep a picture of good friends or a good memory in your purse. It will immediately brighten your day every time you see it.

 

Blog Post 2

The view from my purse. It is impossible for me to feel sad when I see these two idiots pulling faces at me.

13.) Exercise will help you deal with stress and make you feel good about yourself.

14.) Make peace with the past otherwise you can’t move forwards. Be aware that this can only be done with adequate time.

15.) If you are going to fall in love, do it with everything you have got to give. Otherwise don’t bother.

16.) A lot of problems arise from people’s inability to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Try to do this as often as you can remember to.

17.) If it scares you, it is probably important and you probably need to face it. (Apart from spiders, because fuck that).

18.) Find something you love to do. Do it as much as possible.

19.) It is acceptable to get exasperated at people who don’t stand on the right hand side of the escalator, both inside and outside of London. It is a very sensible system and should be adopted worldwide.

20.) Make peace with who you are, but don’t live in denial of your negative qualities. Work towards becoming a better and more open minded person.

21.) Be kind. Both to yourself and others.

22.) Ask for what you want. Ask for what you need. The worst you can be told is no and that is far less scary than you think it will be.

23.) When it comes to men, heed the wise, wonderful and witty words of Amy Poehler: ‘if [he doesn’t] eat pussy, keep walking.’**

The above is by no means an exhaustive list and in another 5 years time, I have no doubt that it will have at least trebled in size. But learning how to navigate adulthood and its various complexities has been a surprisingly enjoyable voyage, even when it was truly awful. Here’s to the journey – it turns out that there is an awful lot to see.

Bonus tip 24 as that is my next birthday (supplied by my  wise and dear friend Serena): fried chicken at 4 am is always the right choice. Always.

**23 could of course apply to women too, but women who like women tend not to fear the vagina. (Follow their example. Get stuck in).

The Curse of the Crazy Girl

Break ups are messy affairs. They are fuelled by anger, grief and a bitter sadness that runs so deep, it is difficult to articulate the pain.

As I grow older however, I have started to notice a recurring theme emerge across the break ups I see around me: the narrative of the ‘crazy girl.’

Calling a woman crazy in the aftermath of a failed relationship is frighteningly common, incredibly damaging and ridiculously sexist.

It wasn’t an issue I gave much thought to until that very insult was laid at my own feet. I could have shrugged off the accusation with grace, but alas I am not a graceful woman. I am a gobshite and it is 2015, not 1870 – if something makes us ladies unhappy, we are allowed to express it. Thanks, feminism!

Cool

Look, an elaborately styled metaphor!

I had a long hard think about what might constitute ‘crazy’ behaviour after a relationship ends; I then compiled a list of potential break up behaviours that I think would indicate an individual not of sound mind. Most of these I stole from films, because as we all know, films are a highly factual source to reference and Hollywood never lies:

  • Murdering pets/bunny boiling.
  • Slashing car tires/general destruction of property and/or well-loved items.
  • Sending demeaning texts/Whatsapps/Facebook messages.
  • Turning up unexpectedly and somewhat terrifyingly at an ex’s house/place of work/etc.

I would like to stress that I have engaged in none of the above. With the support of fantastic friends, I have moved on with my life and started dating new people. It has been some of the most exciting and happiest months of my life so far.

But unfortunately, I cannot let this accusation slide, because as I have already mentioned above, I am a gobshite and it seems to be predominantly women who get this insult thrown at them.

So how did I get slapped with the big ol’ crazy badge I wonder? Let’s discuss!

1.) You are Not Crazy if You Can Express Your Emotions (And if You Expect Others to Express Theirs)

We bring men up teaching them that to be in touch with the world emotionally is unmanly and pathetic. If you are a man, and you can emote in a healthy fashion, you are ‘a big girl,’ because as we all know, there is nothing worse in this life than being a girl and having a fantastic set of tits. The horror.

Maybe this constant pressure for men to ignore their emotional well being is related to suicide being the biggest killer of men aged 20 – 45 in the UKOn our fair isle, 78% of all suicides are male.

Conversely, we live in a society that brings women up to be in touch with their emotions and empathetic to the emotional needs of those around them. We expect women to have these qualities and view them as inherently feminine and attractive. Until of course, a woman emotes that she isn’t happy or that you have upset her, and suddenly she’s ‘crazy,’ or ‘emotional’ or ‘demanding.’

Here’s the rub of it: never, ever let anyone undermine your feelings or deny your emotional needs. Being able to feel things and then talk about those things is not pathetic and it doesn’t make you crazy. A big part of a healthy relationship is knowing what your partner’s emotional needs are and ensuring that those needs are met.

On the flipside of that, if you are asking your partner difficult emotional questions and all you are getting in response is a dead eyed stutter, then be prepared to work through it. Acquiring emotional intelligence and being able to discuss your feelings takes work, but the results are always worth it and the relationships (whether partners, friends or children) are always sweeter for the effort.

Potato

Basically, if you could get more emotional care and empathy from this potato, you probably need to re-evaluate a few things.

2.) You are Not Crazy for Knowing What Your Needs Are and Asking That They be Met

This follows on quite nicely from point number one.

Everyone has different needs. For example, I generally need 9 hours of sleep a night to function as a reasonable adult during the week – this is something I know about myself. My dear friend Rachel however, can tear through life changing the world on maybe 4 hours sleep a night.

Part of a relationship is making sure that – within obvious limits – your partner’s needs are met. Some people like to be in touch every day; others are comfortable with less contact time. Some people are sensitive and need reassurance before beginning a task; others register much less anxiety.

Knowing what you need and asking a partner to fulfil those needs does not make you crazy, and you should never be made to feel that way (unless of course, what you need from a relationship is a bowl of green peanut M&M’s and 19 cats). Relationships are give and take – you take what you need from your partner and you give back just as much to make sure that they are happy and fulfilled and content. Assuming their needs are not ridiculous, this should never feel like a chore.

If it does feel like a chore or if you don’t get what you need, you end up staying in a hopeless relationship that brings you no joy. And I think we can all agree on that being the truly crazy choice.

Kitten

Although if they give you even one cat over the course of the relationship, they are probably a keeper.

3.) You are Not Crazy if You Struggle With Your Mental Health Sometimes

Allow me to get real for a second lads.

When I first moved to London, I really struggled to adjust to my new life. I was overcome with a constant sense of aching loneliness, and I fought through periods of depression that I attempted to offset with obsessive compulsive behaviour – something I have always wrestled with.

I used to be ashamed of that, but I can talk about it openly now as everybody struggles and there is no shame in that.

But there was a time when I couldn’t talk about it. Every time I tried, the words simply wouldn’t come out.

Now imagine feeling that way, and the very first person that you manage to confide in is your boyfriend or girlfriend. It is a difficult thing to do and you have never felt so vulnerable in all your life.

Now imagine you and your boyfriend or girlfriend then break up, and, after everything you have told them, that particular ex decides to paint you as crazy to your mutual friends. If you imagine that such a thing might hurt, you are correct. It did hurt. A lot.

The important thing to remember here, once again, is that you are not crazy. You were just unlucky enough to confide in an asshat and as Taylor Swift once wisely sang, there is unfortunately no known cure for terminal ass hattery.

Taylor Swift

I might have been paraphrasing on those Taylor Swift lyrics.

I have had enough of the term crazy and I have had enough of it being levelled against perfectly sane women who were bold enough to demand that someone be a decent partner to them. Knowing what you want and what you are willing to accept from people doesn’t make you crazy, it makes you awesome. ‘Crazy’ is frequently a lie, a mean and lazy lie that does little to acknowledge that both relationships and their ending takes two people.

And if you ever doubt yourself just remember – Taylor Swift has been where you are and she is on your side. And because she refused to take any shit, she now gets to date ultra-babe Calvin Harris.

There is hope people.