Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Body Positivity & General Appreciation. Heck yeah!

Let's get one thing straight: there is absolutely, abso-freaking-LOOT-ly, nothing wrong, not even slightly, with looking at yourself in the mirror and...loving what you see. 

I know to some of you it will sound like I am stating the absolute bleeding obvious, and good for you for feeling that way because damn, for the last decade of my life I have been filled with disgust and ultimately the worst kind of sadness whenever I see myself in a reflective surface.

Firstly, no, I cannot simply not look in the mirror. That has never been an option. Why? Because I absolutely adore mirrors. Weird, I know. Hear me out...
I have no idea why mirrors are so irresistible to me. Ever since I was teeny tiny, when I'd take every opportunity to stare at my own face as it stared back at me, I have been drawn to them. Maybe it's slightly masochistic. I know I won't be happy with what I see, but I must look anyway. To torture myself. Or maybe it's because I am a secret optimist, hoping to see something agreeable each time I look. If that's the case, then well done me for being disappointed many times yet still keeping on.

Anyway, mirrors are the enemy for many girls and guys these days.
We are our own worst critics. That saying is a cliché for a reason. I first heard it in Year 9 when my 60 denier tights were stretching across my chunky pale thighs and my hair was always refusing to do that sweeping emo fringe thing effectively enough. My form tutor threw truth bombs at us every day – my personal favourite was 'oh cum doesn't dribble, ladies, it SQUIRTS! Beware!' – but this was next level. She was telling us that we saw flaws in ourselves that others couldn't. We would always see the worst, while our friends or partners had the power to pick out our most unique and gorgeous attributes.
So learning this changed my views quite a bit, yes. However it was still ages before I let myself truly believe it.

I believe it was Cat, my good friend* who many of you will refer to as Caitlin Moran, who spoke about a girl looking in a mirror and performing a body audit of sorts; a detailed examination of her physical form and the making of a list of what needs sorting out, or just getting rid of. I've been doing that for a while now, and only recently have I really made promises to myself when doing it, rather than just moaning about this and that and never inciting any change...

*we will be besties in the future, of this I am certain. 

Now, the inspiration for this post...the reason I felt the need to write it...I like my body, now. I really do. It's taken me ages, aeons, but finally I have made it to this happy place.
I have learned that when you hate your body, when you actively despise every part of it, then it just hates you right back. I showed my body my hatred of it by shoving in all manner of perfectly legal but poisonous substances – chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, more chocolate, and various disgraceful carby concoctions cooked up in a student kitchen at midnight. I would also give use of my body to many others who were less than lovely with it. I wasn't good at saying no, to anything. And thus, my body soon loathed me. I lost a lot of weight in my years at uni, due to stress mostly. Stress, and slight alcoholism, of course. I saw that as a positive, though. Then when I first moved back home and was fed properly by the family, I put on a healthy amount of weight and immediately was miserable. 

So then of course I had that ridiculous health scare. Just when I thought I couldn't hate my physical form more, it let me down more than I'd ever imagined it could. But then...I recovered. Twice. Three times. My body bailed me out and kept going after all manner of medical treatments and terrible trauma. That was when I started to like it again. Maybe even love it.

During my radiotherapy, I started feeding myself well. All the good fats, the anti-oxidants, the vitamins. I cut out the indulgences, and the general silliness. I needed to up my iron, and my lovely health-nut mum was delighted to help; spinach, kale, nuts, apricots, was a new world. I felt so clean suddenly! So fresh. I kept on the black coffee, though, I couldn't quit that. I discovered that I am dairy intolerant, which was tragic for me, a hapless cheese addict, but in 2016 I'll make veganism my new challenge.
At this time I was also letting myself sleep 10 hours per night. I embraced the regular peppermint teas trick. I went on long walks in the countryside, breathing in the delicious unpolluted air. I even started using the good shampoos and conditioners, the ones that cost a bundle but make what little hair I have left most luscious.
I may have lost around 10kg since my last operation in May. But the more important thing is that I am happy within myself. These days I look in the full-length mirror and I feel the most immense sense of achievement and excitement. I know I'm not done yet, I know I want to ditch a few more kg in the new year, but I am well and truly on my way. And that makes me beyond euphoric.

For some reason I've been anxious and reluctant to share this happiness with others, though. I feel like I'd be bragging most insufferably. Which is wrong – when a friend tells me he/she has lost a little weight, or is on a health kick, or just that they're comfortable in their shape, I clap them on the back and am truly delighted. Yet I feel like me telling people these recent positive developments in my turbulent relationship with my body would be...stupid? Annoying? Smug??

Now, it took a few glasses of rubbish rose wine and then a whisky chaser for me to get up the nerve to upload a photo to Twitter the other night, just a classic drunken mirror selfie in the loo of the pub, the caption: 'can we talk about the fact that I have lost 10kg recently and feel rather yummy? No? Okay then'. Even when tipsy as can be, the only way in which I could post a self-confident photo was with a sarky half-joking caption. It's a start; not a great start, but a start nonetheless. Hopefully someday soon I will be brave enough to make my Facey B profile pic a full-body standing-up shot...that may take a miracle, but who knows? 

'what's the greatest lesson a woman should learn?'
That since day one. she's already had everything she needs
within herself. it's the world that convinced her she did not.
- Rupi Kaur
(the genius)

Sunday, 27 December 2015

2016 is a'coming...and there's so much to do!

None of us like those post-Christmas pre-New Year feels. It's strange, to say the least. Nobody knows what to do. I've noticed that several comedians have made up routines about this time period, and all the jokes are true - we really don't know what we're going or what is happening. We really do forget which day is which (blame it on the whole day-naming thing, we forget dates and days much easier). And even though we don't get special school Christmas holidays any more, most of my friends with proper grown-up jobs are now off until January 4th.

One of the main reasons I've disliked this time this year is because ever since waking up on Boxing Day I've been filled with this desperate thirst to SORT MY SHIT OUT. And sort it all out by the 31stI don't mean to do the whole 'new year new me' thing, honest. Let me explain. By 'sort shit out' I mean...

Clutter; I need to clear my room of all the sentimental bits and bobs, and the 'just plain junk' stuff. It's time. The proof of postage receipts littering my desk (blame Vinted), the unwanted woollen wares bursting out of my wardrobe, the stack of notebooks I got this Christmas precariously perched on my bedside table.
The fam are currently discussing the idea of revamping the extension room downstairs and making it a 'reading space' which obviously is the most exciting prospect for me. I may be moving my gorgeous stacks of colour-coordinated books into the big beautiful airy room where they can have the space and attention they so deserve.

Blogs; I've been putting off the 'Best Reads of 2015' blog for far too long now, also my New Years Resolutions segment for the NYE post on Oh No,Not Another Blogger, also a few special bookish pieces due to go up in the coming months need to be mapped out, and I must snap a photo with my DSLR to go with my guest post for The Olive Fox. Yes, guest posts are part of my life now and that is truly thrilling. I have so many ideas – the sensible thing to do would be to make a list of all these ideas and then slot each one into a column per blog, based on what I think would work best with the themes and content of that site. Maybe I'll do that. After I've tidied my room.

Personal; yes, 'personal shit'. I have all manner of feelings and messages floating around me these days and I really must get to grips with them all. Some feelings need to be addressed, some notions must be tried and tested, and some suspicions have to be shut down. Vague enough? Yes, I think so. Good. I also keep meaning to put more personal stuff on this blog again. I seem to have clammed up lately, which is odd and so unlike me. My blog began when I had too much in my head at fifteen, and its very foundations are pure organic Grade A word vomit. I need some of that back.

Plans; I have finally found the perfect diary for 2016, a light green M&S affair with a lovely peacock feather design embroidered on the front. It has sections for notes and addresses in the back (which is annoying as I only just bought an address book, because yeah adult) and...wait for it...a TUBE MAP. That blew my mind. How handy will that be for all my London adventures in the new year?!
Yes, 2016 will feature much more London. Maybe less Winchester, because no offence to any of my gorgeous Hampshire friends obviously, but the town itself now upsets me quite a bit. Every time I go back I'm filled with happy nostalgia, which soon gives way to crushing heartache – whether that's because it reminds me of my more carefree days, or it hurts because I never got to finish my student life there (the social side; I got my high 2:1 degree which is arguably more important...) or just because I hate that I won't be living there again any time soon...that seems like such a stupid waste now given how well I know the city, how many pals are still there and how my old places of work are still keen to get me back.
Back to plans, I really need to fill in the new diary with all my adventures and appointments. Work experience, hospital, city breaks, catch-ups and travels. Also gigs. I'm seeing three of my favourite artists in the first four months of 2016, and I cannot wait.

Work; I need to go back to work. I see a specialist in the second week of January, so then I'll know when I can go back to work. And then I'll go back to work. Yes, I will. I need to. Not just because of money, but because I need a purpose. It's sad but true, some days I just yearn to have a purpose. I will make that purpose work. I'll go back to work. Yes, I will. 

Friends; it's got to that time of year when I keep saying to friends 'we'll see each other in the new year!' Which yes, is great for putting off organising as it's a promise but nothing concrete, but soon the concrete will need to be...laid. That's why I'm so excited to be seeing friends for NYE; I'll be starting my year on a major high and hopefully I can continue that for months! Also I really need to do some surgery on certain friendships ASAP. There are some friends who I don't see enough (we'll say 'we must hang out more!' every few months when we meet up) and ones I make too much time and too many allowances for. 2016 me won't take any shit.

So yes, I have a lot to be getting on with in the run up to the new year. Why, then, am I sat on my bed with the cat, in my pyjamas, writing this post about how much I have to get on with and sort...rather than actually getting up, grabbing my coffee and actually cracking on with it?


Saturday, 26 December 2015

Girls just wanna have fun...!

Women wank. Shocking, I know, but we do; we have yearnings and desires and fantasies which we are sometimes overcome with and the need to get ours, to be satisfied immediately, and yeah sometimes the only way in which to achieve this magical feeling is to do it our damn selves. No judgement. 

Here’s the thing: men masturbating is normal. It’s expected. Boys get to that age when they start feeling things in the downstairs department, and they have to take care of it themselves. We all know this.

A lot of sitcoms have thrived off this very normal natural concept. For instance, teenage boy Rory in ‘8 Simple Rules’ getting his first erection in a women’s fitness class in one episode, talking to his grandpa about constant horny feelings in another and jacking off to a Victoria’s Secret catalogue in the downstairs bathroom (where he was promptly caught by his school principal, cue the canned laughter) in another. 

Or ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and its endless jokey references to Ted being lonely and having to get himself off most nights while his married and man-whore friends get laid left, right and centre.

Or the very British ‘My Family’, with youngest teen Michael Harper constantly locking himself away in his attic room with lad mags he would steal from his older brother…or worse, his Dad.

Same with films; most comedy flicks cannot resist a good wank joke, it’s basically a staple these days. I mean, ‘American Pie’, hello?!

However, sometimes films go one step further and make it that much worse. Some films imply not only that boys are constantly doing themselves, but that girls…don’t. That they can’t.

The 2006 film ‘It’s A Boy Girl Thing’ features a girl waking up in a guy’s body with a raging boner…and not knowing what the heck to do with it. Firstly, that’s just odd because it implies she hasn’t learned what an erection is or why it happens, and that would mean she’s had no Sex Ed lessons at school. 

Secondly, it suggests that she wouldn’t have a clue how to pleasure herself. 

That’s just incorrect and awful. The character Nell was harmless and girly, destined for Yale and determined to steer clear of bad boys. But c’mon, she was not that naïve.
I first discovered that I could get mine myself (after having a few guys try and fail) when I was eighteen. Late bloomer, I know.

Well, I was once tempted to when I was fifteen and sat watching my secondary school’s shameful budget production of Grease: The Musical; more specifically, I was watching the teeny hint of that lower tummy V-shape showing on the school heartthrob, playing Kenickie, as he sang “you’re burnin’ up the quarter mile…” and thrust his hips while standing on the bonnet of a cardboard cut-out car…wow.

Anyway, I suppose the idea of wanking had always seemed a little too crazy to me; the idea had always made me flustered and even a little fearful. I was totally 100% ready to have sex when I turned sixteen, before that even, but having a little fiddle with myself always seemed a little…extreme.
How wrong I was! After ending things with my disgraceful moronic friend with benefits ,who happened to be the first guy to ever give me mine on every occasion (thank you, dickhead), and finding myself with no future prospective partners, I decided to literally take matters into my own hands. It took a while but eventually I was a pro. I mastered masturbating. I might put that on my CV.

It changed things for me massively; for instance, every disastrous hook-up I had after that wasn’t as bad because I knew I could rectify my unsatisfied situation if need be. Also I found it so relaxing – when I was stressing over my dissertation, nothing relieved the tension quite like a nice solo she-bop. It also sends you off to sleep sometimes. Or gets you going in the morning…

Anyway, this post is not all about the phenomenon of female masturbation. It’s also about the dire need to normalize it.

I mean, women have one specific part of their downstairs equipment that is designed purely for pleasure. The clitoris contains about 8,000 nerve endings – that’s twice as many as there are in the penis. Plus way more than in your fingertips, your lips, or your tongue. Whoa. Why waste that?!

Some men will be totally flummoxed or just plain disgusted to hear that their female partner masturbates. I know some friends of mine ended their relationships because their boyfriends couldn’t handle the fact that they handled themselves sometimes. One friend even said her boyfriend felt “grossed out”. Another said her boyf had felt “humiliated”, that he “couldn’t satisfy her enough”. Yet, surely women know and accept the fact that their boyfriends will often have a casual tug on their own…because that’s seen as normal! *growls frustratedly*

I like to think we are headed in the right direction in this subject – for instance, I remember being at college, when shopping in Ann Summers was scandalous and taboo. Nowadays, it’s fairly casual and seen as ‘a bit of fun’. I am amazed that Ann Summers products still arrive in ‘discreet packaging’ and that they offer plain shopper bags to customers when they are out and about, to avoid embarrassment…what’s that about? I mean, I understand if you’re living with your parents, maybe getting a huge parcel with Ann Summers plastered on it could be a little awkward, but you definitely shouldn’t be ashamed to walk around your local shopping center with a saucy hot pink shopping bag.

Women should be excited and proud of their wants and desires. Women don’t need to be closeted masturbators or branded ‘nymphomaniac freaks’ for actually enjoying sex. Women shouldn’t be afraid of their own sexuality. Period. Ooh speaking of which, periods…no, I’ll leave that for now. Another time, maybe... 

(Image: Leticia Cronin

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Life as a third wheel.

We’ve all been there. We have all had that friend – or even several of those friends -, the friends who dump you, without even a second thought, when a romantic interest appears in their life. 

It is one of the worst things to happen to a friendship. Particularly if you, the jilted friend, are single. There was one point in my life when my entire circle of girlfriends all had significant others, and that was wonderful for them, but it sucked for me. It meant that every time I arranged to meet up with one or two of them, they’d be en route to their boyfriend’s, or just coming back from their girlfriend’s or, worst of all, they would bring their male/female sig-oth* with them on our nice friendly catch up date. Without asking if they could, may I add. I promise I’m not bitter…
I’d have nothing to talk about over coffee when they all were gushing about their other halves and how much they loved them – or even just how great the sex was. Cringe. I just sat there and nodded along, listening and listless.
(*sig-oth is a Schmidtism; my beloved Schmidt from New Girlreferred to Cece as his sig-oth, catchy shortcut phrase for Significant Other, particularly handy to use when you’re on a tight schedz)
I always believed that this behaviour was far more common in women than in men. Male friendships always seem super-tight, in fact I thought that men often prioritised their pals over their other halves most of the time. Well, at least that’s what I’ve been led to believe in my six years of dating men…I was wrong.
The moment I tweeted about this – more specifically about my childhood bestie who had cut me loose by deleting/blocking me on every form of social media and not responding to any of my texts for weeks, because I had had a tiny disagreement with her fiancée’s family some time ago, a gigantic amount, I dare say the majority, of my male followers came flooding in with their responses, saying they’d had a similar situation happen and they still have friends who aren’t bothering with them any more due to their relationships taking priority.
I was outraged at this. Then I perused the replies I’d received from my lovely female friends in hyperspace – same thing. They’d all been pushed aside and left for dead by their besties as soon as a partner of some kind had come into play. Some of the stories I heard were appalling, many of them even worse than what I’ve experienced over the years.
It doesn’t help that I am one of those friends who immediately gets prickly with any person any one of my friends chooses to get with. Yes, I am that friend. When I first start hearing a name repeated over and over in conversation with a bestie – e.g. “Oh, Ricardo said that too!”, or “hang on, I’ve gotta reply to a text from Morticia!” – my antennae goes up and my Best Friend Instincts take over. I hate this person. They must work really damn hard to sway me round to even simply tolerating them, let alone liking them.
I try so hard not to let this happen. I am firm in my beliefs that surely if any one of my friends chooses a partner, if they fall madly in love with another human being, then HUZZAH! I am delighted for them, and this must be an excellent human being, given that my friends have perfect judgement.
So that’s the stance I always consciously try to take. However, I’ve been proven wrong one too many times. I’ve seen my star-student independent-woman friend get her self-esteem shattered by a man with a motorbike; I held a dear friend’s hair as she puked and cried wondering aloud why he didn’t care; I watched helplessly while my best guy friend had his heart toyed with by several bat-shit cray girls in a row, all of whom milked him for all he was worth both feelings and money-wise.
Yes, I am sceptical. I am a protective and often bristly best friend.
For a long time I felt that I was the one in the wrong; maybe the reason I was so upset by this was that I didn’t have the right attitude to relationships…maybe I was the problem!
Now don’t get me wrong here, I often am the problem, but in this case…no.
I am in a relationship, and have been for two years. And yes, that is a part of my life and my day-to-day existence. However, I have realised recently that in the two years we have been officially dating, my boyfriend has not met all of my friends. This is because a) a few of my oldest friends live in my home town, and he often cannot visit me there as it’s a long way from him and a shit-ton of money on the train, and b) because, well, I don’t want to drag him along to any hang-outs with my friends. Simple as.
I don’t want him to be dragged into anything, and I don’t want any of my friends to feel awkward in our company. Not because we indulge in excessive PDA (my pet hate about couples, ughh…) but because I have been the friend in that situation so many times in my life, and more often than not I dislike it very much. Most of the time I really do not enjoy being a third wheel.
Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent and I can feel myself digging a hole. My main bugbear is with the friends who feel they can just up and ditch their besties when they are getting woo’ed. That’s not cool. Me being in a relationship for two years and managing to maintain friendships, to not leave any of my dear friends behind, is not a miracle. It’s just me keeping my friends in my life. It’s really not that hard.
I totally understand dropping everything when you find your lobster, when you fall for The One…but friends?
I considered requesting this post be published under our ‘Anonymous’ header. The subject matter seemed at first to be a little dangerous – what if my friends read this, and assume I’m talking about them? What if they turn on me and defend themselves for their behaviour in past or current relationships? Then I realised that they needn’t!
All of my friends on social media are the wonderful ones who are able to balance friendships and relationships effectively. And I am so grateful to all of them. They get me. Thanks, guys. I’ll happily PDA with you. 

Monday, 21 December 2015

Even MORE To Be Read – December 2015 & January 2016.

I'm totally new to the amazing incredible perfect thing that is book mail – I've been getting the most exciting parcels lately from Orion, Gollancz and some from my book blogger pals!
My Book Blogger Secret Santa (#UKBBSS arranged by the amazing Faye) parcel is the most intriguing and exciting sight sat impatiently beneath my Christmas tree – it's purple and shiny! Oh, my.
Last week I was away from home for a few days, and when I was on my train back my mum texted to say 'you have a RIDICULOUS amount of parcels here for you!' That definitely got me extra psyched to come home.

So the arrival of these gorgeous parcels and goodies is thrilling, however it has a very big impact on my disgracefully long TBR list, and adds to the ever-growing TBR pile on my desk. The desk which I no longer use, I simply load it with books, magazines and magical crystals. Oops. So let's see what the new additions to my To Be Read list are...

Spinning Thorns, by Anna Sheehan.
Sleeping Beauty has woken, all is right with the world and the happily ever afters are well under way...or are they?
The wicked stabbing thorns surrounding the castle are still there, and the kingdom is divided. Those who boast magical powers and those who have been harshly subjected to them are caught up in a raging feud. Sleeping Beauty's daughter must right all the wrongs in a rebellion.
This excites me. I did a whole module at uni on fairy tales and the various ways in which they are told. I even submitted a twisted fairy tale of my own and received a First for it. I love dystopian fiction as well, and this novel seems to have some of that mixed in! How thrilling. Cannot wait to get started!

13 Minutes, by Sarah Pinborough.
Natasha was dead for 13 minutes. She was drowning in icy waters and has no idea how she got there. An accident? An attempt on her life? She must find out, ASAP.
This story has features some PLL -style twists and turns, plus some seriously toxic's a delicious YA mystery!
I am actually currently reading this one – I pushed a few potential reads back in favour of this, I just couldn't wait! The writing style is perfection; I've had a few exchanges with Sarah on Twitter and I already adore her.

Glass Sword, by Victoria Aveyard.
Yes, that's right. The sequel to Red Queen. I have it in my possession. It's right next to me, right now. I am currently stroking it lovingly. Cannot wait to get my teeth into it; to return to that glorious crazy world...
In case you didn't read Red Queen, a) you missed out massively and must rectify this error immediately, and b) let me fill you in...this world is fraught with disarray; power lies within those who bleed silver blood, while those who bleed filthy red are deemed lowly and powerless. The Reds are peasants in cities who work hard for the Silvers, and they are often sent off to battle and never return. Oh, and Silvers also have special powers.
Mare Barrow is different. Her blood is red but she possesses Silver abilities, she controls lightning. Thus the royal court are determined to control her, or get rid of her.
After her escape from evil at the end of Red Queen, she is now on the run and hotly pursued by the Silver king! She's also learning that being a Red with Silver powers isn't as uncommon as she had thought...

Next on the list is not so much a TBR...more a TBC. A To Be Coloured!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I freakin' love Colour Me Mindful, the series by gorgeous artist Anastasia Catris, published by the eternally lovely folks at Orion. I have the Butterfly edition, and have bought several of the others for friends this Christmas. So imagine my delight when I received Colour Me Mindful: Seasons, the latest release which includes beautiful illustrations of holidays and all things seasonal!
There are bunnies and eggs; suns and cocktails; scarecrows and pumpkins; snowflakes and snowmen! Such happiness on every page! I can't wait to get stuck in – I'm predicting I'll be colouring in a lot of this on Christmas Day, during the awkward afternoon period spent lolling lazily on sofas in a post-lunch limbo.

I've also installed a new pile on my book dumping ground desk today, between writing blog posts and snuggling with Harv – this pile (on the left, next to my beloved Buddhas and lit up with a G) is one containing exclusively books I've been given or lent recently, and so they are top priority as they must be blogged about or returned soon!
Just a couple featured currently in this pile are...

Only We Know by Simon Packham.
The story of Lauren and her sister Tilda, who had to move house with their family very suddenly and so they are now in a new school, surrounded by new people. Lauren wants to re-invent herself, but worries that the reappearance of an old acquaintance, Harry, could throw her plans completely. Luckily, he doesn't recognise her. Still, she has secrets and eventually she is threatened that they may be revealed...
I love the idea of mystery in YA, and so I really look forward to reading this!

Now Only We Know was in a parcel with Maresi: The Red Abbey Chronicles, by Maria Turtschaninoff sent to me by my amazing friend Sally (The Dark Dictator) - thank you so much, you total babe. I promise to return Maresi to you in good time and good condition – maybe along with a present or two...

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North.
Harry August is in a permanent state of revival...every time he dies, he is born again, as Harry August. Each time he is reborn, he is filled with the knowledge and memories of all his lives before. It's constant and unchanging. Until one time, when he is about to die, a girl appears at his bedside...
My beautiful friend Mel lent me this, plus Invisible Love by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt. I see that lovely gal again on New Year's Eve this year, so I can only hope I'll have even just one of those books read and ready to return to her...!

Finally, not pictured in the pile as it's sitting happily beside my bed, Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson. I take Rainbow Rowell's word as gospel, as you all should too, so when she recommended this awesome graphic novel by the epic illustrator Noelle (who I fell hard for after seeing her artwork for Fangirl) I knew I needed it in my life. Now I am merely a few pages in and already amazed/in love/hooked/all of the above.

Some of the other books in this pile have been covered in a previous post, and a couple of them have since been read! I especially loved Lobsters, by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison lent to me by the fantabulous Louise. It was totally my style and pace, and I was absorbed into a world I used to live in during my pre-uni days...cannot wait for their next release!

Confession time: I have been procrastinating from piecing together a Best Reads of 2015 post...and I'm sorry! It's just so tough, I've had an amazing year where books are concerned. At times immersing myself in a good read has actually saved me from stress and all manner of fears. Anyway, I promise it'll be up soon! Until then, I am constantly arranging my piles of books, snapping photos of my amazing book mail, and staying up reading until 3am. It's a good life! 

Get to know me on social media, maybe...
Twitter: @GracieActually
Instagram: @gracieactually

Saturday, 19 December 2015

All change, all change! But keep a little bit the same...

Well, hello there. (These days I feel the need to say 'hello' when I start a blog post, considering I now have accumulated a gorgeous and rather large bunch of that normal, or...?) It's time for a life update. Got my laptop, got coffee, got some tunes playing, got my best pal...let's go. 

I've recently been finding a fair bit of time on my hands – could be because I've recently finished radiotherapy and so have moved back home and re-settled; could also be because I don't return to work until the run up to Christmas is looking very lovely and free. It's also frustrating at times, having whole days with no purpose. I'll often tag along with my mum as she runs errands in town, arrange coffee dates with friends on their days off, or if I'm feeling extra-lame and desperate I'll jump in the car whenever a parent is going to pick up my sister from college. I also visit my colleagues from time to time, because yeah I miss them and my place of work oh so terribly. I really do.

So yes, I've had a lot of free time. Also up until the other day when my bank account well and truly dried out and gave up, I had a little money to spend. So since I have all this time, I've been trying new things...

I've always been a coffee nut. As in, I obsess over finding the perfect brew, and of course the perfect company to share it with. Arranging coffee dates with friends has become such a joy for me – taking selfies with these friends, coffee cups in hand, then sharing the joy on social media has been fun, too. I could create my own portable talk show, roaming from cafe to cafe and bringing in a different special guest every other day.
However, I do love a good cuppa at home from time to time. My family always have a bag of ground espresso in the cupboard ready to be scooped into the cafetière and awakened with boiling water at a moment's notice. Our house blend is Sainsbury's own Fairtrade Italian – unexpectedly awesome and totally underrated. Such a steal.
I do like to branch out, however. When I stayed at a friends' pad in Greenwich recently, I made use of the Waitrose across the road – the friends got two bottles of wine plus a fresh bag of espresso as I saw their supplies were dangerously low, and I also got myself some Waitrose own Italian, strength 5. That was a treat.

Then a few days after coming home from my mad London expedition, I found myself finally ordering Pact Coffee! I'd been meaning to for ages. I got their Bibli Plantation Indian blend, and it was rather stunning. Little shout out here – Thank you for the code and your totally rad friendship, Scott! (He donated enough to my Just Giving page for me to meet my target of £2,000 for the Little Princess Trust, and I will love him forever for that).
I've since had to rearrange the deliveries and make them less frequent as, y'know, I'm poor...but I'm so glad I finally took the plunge there!

Next up, Lush
I'm a Lush fangirl. Lush is my dream land. I cannot be stopped when I cross the threshold of a Lush store. The smells, the sights, the staff...all magical. I did tweet recently 'imagine if a Lush store flooded'. Seriously, imagine it though. Whoa.
I am a die hard fan of their skincare products, e.g. Grease Lightning face tonic, Ro's Argan body conditioner, Dream Cream moisturiser, and my recent miraculous discovery Cup O'Coffee face & body mask...I even recently dipped into the Kalamazoo beard & facial wash I bought my dad last year when he started Movember. My goodness, it makes my skin sing! 
I also adore a nice bath bomb, of course. I must admit I've fallen out of love with baths over the past year after having to have them every day after my operations as I couldn't stand in the shower (and having to be washed by my mum, bless her, very upsetting for me), but someday the right bath bomb will bring me right back.
So imagine my excitement when my gorgeous gal pal Lex and her rad team in Lush Southampton introduced me to Daddy-O – the perfect purple toning shampoo! I generally suit cool tones and colours, and my hair is naturally ashy, so I really like keeping it cool but my gosh it's so tough sometimes – warmth always sneaks in somehow! I've even used the super pricey Aveda Blue Malva shampoo & conditioner, which does a fair bit of cooling here and there but nowhere near as much as Lush's magical potion does! I am converted and it feels so good.

And now of course – what have I been trying that's new in the world of BOOKS?! Well, wouldn't you like to know...oh, you would? Cool.
Well obviously I've been buying up tons of books for my friends and family this Christmas (I'll be sure to write a post about who got what AND what amazing reads I discovered through Christmas shopping after the 25th!) and when my poor bank account first began to whimper I decided to take to the charity shops and see if I could sniff out some book bargains...
I always have a lot of luck in Oxfam – partly because they have whole stores dedicated to books, partly because they are awesome people. Cancer Research, British Heart Foundation and Mind also always have charming shops. I have frequented all manner of charity outlets in Winchester, Tunbridge Wells, Sutton and most recently...Bexhill.
My perfect friend Clare and I tore up the streets of Bexhill not too long ago, on a mission to score some sweet sweet literature for low low prices, and by golly we found some gems. I was able to purchase books I'd meant to read for ages but hadn't quite worked up the nerve to buy! I even came across two of my all-time favourites (The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger & Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig) and thought 'I already have copies of these, but...I love them so much...I can give these to my friends!'

(My pile is on the left, and cost a grand total of £4.50!)
(Clare's is the right, and cost her even less I believe...?!)

Oh, I also ended up getting a tattoo that day. I'd been meaning to get this particular one for ages – a semi-colon, my favourite piece of punctuation as it happens and one I use constantly when writing blog posts, creative assignments and fiction pieces, but more importantly a symbol in terms of mental health. There's a saying that you are a writer, your life is the story, and a semi-colon indicates when you could have ended things but instead chose to carry on. I so adore that.
After hearing from Clare that she'd got her semi-colon at this cool place Inkscape in Bexhill and they only charged £15, then donated all of that money to a mental health centre a few doors down from them, well it was a no-brainer...
I was actually having a slight cloudy moment when it occurred to me to do it – the feelings I was having are nowhere near as bad as ones some people experience, but they are bad enough to shake me up and make me so grateful for all the help available for mental health issues these also makes me wish there was more! There can always be more.
Also I kinda love that I got this tattoo on the side of my head that bears all the war wounds – in this photo you can see the slightest hint of my operation scar, and just behind it is where the biggest post-radio bald patch features. Represent!

I've been taking myself on a lot of walks lately. Partly for exercise, and for fresh air. Mostly for something to do, by myself. I've heard walking is good for you not just because it exerts your legs and butt, but also because it gives your brain a good workout. Now, my brain can really do with any help it can get these days, and walking has done it a lot of good. Something in the fresh air and purposeful striding really wakes it up and pats it on the back. Sometimes I even go walking without my iPod – mum will say 'you're alone with your thought!' – and I find that oddly relaxing and rewarding.

I've also gone back to my counsellor over the past couple of weeks, and I've been getting the train and then walking the rest of the way there. I find that getting a lift (as I'm not driving) and actually driving (back when I could) is a little damaging to the mind right after a counselling session; getting back behind the wheel demands you focus on this important thing (watching the roads, steering, changing gears and getting home safely) and not on what's been said and done beforehand. Whereas walking out and down the road into town afterwards has been so liberating. My mind can rest but also reflect on the session. Also I get to walk through Alexandra Park, in Hastings. That's always beautiful, and always makes my day.

So yes, I've tried a few new things recently. I've also brought back some old things with a new attitude. I can only hope that things are as chilled, calm and lovely when I return to work in the new year... *gulps*

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

A return to Stars Hollow...!!

Guys, an exciting event is coming soon; a long-overdue, highly anticipated and actually rather panic-inducing reunion of sorts. This is something that will change our lives in the best way possible, but also has the power to destroy our childhood and teenage hopes and dreams in just ninety minutes. 

I am talking, of course, about the recently (finally) announced Gilmore Girls revival.
Netflix – that life-saving site we all love and thank daily for coming into our lives – will be taking up the monstrous miraculous mantle of all things Gilmore. All things Stars Hollow. All things Luke and Lorelai. All things Paris. All things THAT MAKE US SO MUCH MORE HAPPIER.
There were whispers all around about this when the cast reunited for ATX Television Festival in the US earlier this year – my heart almost exploded seeing the red carpet photos, watching the on-stage chatter videos and reading the stars’ tweets – but for a while it was denied and pushed down, then eventually the dream faded away. And then just as we’d got to the final stage of grief, acceptance that this dream may never come true, IT HAPPENED.
Netflix closed this beautiful deal with Warner Bros., declaring it a “limited-series revival” which will be penned by series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and exec producer Daniel Palladino. This is magical – Amy S-P was, of course, the angel who brought Stars Hollow and its quirky inhabitants into our lives so many moons ago (2000), so this revival is in the best hands. There was major controversy when Amy was ousted by WB back in 2006/7 when they got going with Gilmore Girls season 7, and apparently Amy never ever sat down and watched that season – the one she didn’t write – although she was told certain things that had been done to her characters and plots by friends and colleagues.
So maybe now her taking control of the revival – my new favourite word by the way, perfectly used here as it’s like the ghost of the Gilmore family is being brought back to life – will give her the chance to correct errors and see that her story ends the way it was always intended. Or maybe she just wants to continue the tales and see where they go. I reckon she’ll have all the ideas firmly in place; they say she had endings planned out for each character when she started the show. I hope that’s true.
There has been speculation as to whether all the original cast members will feature in the reboot.
So far Lorelai (Lauren Graham), Emily (Kelly Bishop), Rory (Alexis Bledel) and Luke (Scott Patterson) are confirmed. But what about Miss Patty (Liz Torres)? Jess (Milo Ventimiglia)? Logan (Matt Czuchry, who has had his hands full with The Good Wife)? And Dean (who is now Sam Winchester, with a brother called Dean, in Supernatural)?! KIRK?! (Sean Gunn, who I saw appear in Guardians of the Galaxy and I almost fell out of my seat with excitement) WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO KIRK?????!!!!
Sadly, of course, Richard Gilmore (Edward Hermann) will not be involved, as he passed away not too long ago. I just hope they handle that well in these episodes. And that Emily Gilmore is okay.
Another fun fact to emerge after the initial news of this broke (and social media went into a total frenzy, much like a Stars Hollow town meeting without Lorelai’s snacks and Luke getting angry), is that each episode in this tiny series will be ninety minutes long, and every one will take place at a different time of year, in a different season. Oh my gosh, can you imagine?
We get to revisit Stars Hollow in the autumn; I feel that was the season that always belonged to ‘Gilmore Girls’. No other show was so perfectly decorated with fallen leaves, red trees and steaming cups. Mind you, they did winter pretty darn perfectly, too. Lorelai’s love of snow was legendary – I would always get the happiest shivers whenever she leaned out the window, smiled knowingly and said “I smell snow”. Maybe all seasons should belong to Stars Hollow? 

The Top 3 Snow Moments.
  1. When Max’s car broke down in the town square, and she looked up to thank the snow. Max may have been a bad decision as a whole, but that moment was lovely.
  2. When Lorelai was punching, pummelling and swiping at the snow that had settled in her front garden, on her tree and thus fallen onto her car, shouting that her love affair with this weather was well and truly dead and buried. 
  3. The ice rink. Holy heck, Luke made Lorelai an ice rink. Need I say more? I think for many that was the moment when Luke became Lorelai’s perfect man. For me, I decided he was when he raised an eyebrow at her and poured her the fifth cup of coffee in the first five minutes of the first episode of the first season. 
Anyway, those two weather seasons were the best when it came to this show. Having said that, the summer was nicely covered with the summer fête shindig the super-keen Town Selectman Taylor invented (the song ‘those lazy hazy crazy days of summer’ will forever be going round and round my head after the first episode of series 3) and the Hay Bale Maze (Series 7). I’ll admit I don’t remember much of spring in the show, but maybe Amy S-P can make spring unforgettable in this revamp.
So yes, the seasons were always well-established. Miss Patty always had a dance event on, Sookie would whip up something seasonal in the kitchen with Jackson’s fresh veg, and Rory would be stressing out about whatever exams she was doing at that time of year.
My Requests for This Revival:
  • No more empty cups. 
    OH MY LORDY this drove me crazy. I have all 7 series on DVD and let me tell you, not one episode featured the Gilmore ladies holding a takeaway coffee cup that actually contained any kind of fluid, coffee or otherwise. They’d be gesturing with the cups constantly – throwing them all around, up and down, shoving them in one another’s faces and taking very casual gulps whenever they remembered. Actually there were also times when they’d hand each other cups, like actual ceramic mugs, and they’d be empty. Sookie handed Michel an ‘Earl Grey tea’ in the episode 
    Die Jerk series 4, and damn it you could see the bottom of the empty mug as he took it from her! Guys, this is shameful. At least put some tap water in the takeaway cups.
  • Do Richard justice. 
    As I mentioned earlier, Edward Hermann died earlier this year of brain cancer. I remember finding this out on social media and actually instinctively crying. When asked what was up, I told my friends the devastating news and followed it with a tearful gulp and a wail of “but Emily demanded to go first!” (
    Forgiveness and Stuff, series 1)
    So yes, Amy S-P, I am sure you will do what’s best, but my gosh please give Richard Gilmore a good send-off.
  • Jess Must Return.
    In one way or another – whether he is Rory’s official long-term boyfriend (finally), or just a presence in the background. He must be there. That story must reach its conclusion.
  • Luke and Lorelai must be…Luke and Lorelai.
    These two are my original OTP, my #1 ship; they are perfect and have gone through so much together and apart, so they must be together now. C’mon, Amy. They kissed in the finale. I know you didn’t write that, Amy, but…they kissed. That was enough of a hint that the L&L train was starting up on the tracks again! Luke is the perfect father figure to Rory (not totally because he’s a good example to her or whatever, but because he loves her more than anything) and Lorelai is indescribably safe and secure with Luke.
  • Christopher……meh.
    I could live without Christopher in this revival. He can swan in for maybe a couple of minutes, have minimal screen time just so we know what he’s up to now, but that’s it. He inhibits the girls.
Gilmore Girls is so special to me. Stars Hollow is my spiritual home. Lorelai is my idol (I may or may not be planning on naming my first born daughter Lorelai someday); I identify so much with Rory, I yearn for a rock like Luke, my first boyfriend was a little too much like Dean – and Logan is every guy I fancied for a long time after that break-up. Like the Gilmore ladies, I find such comfort in junk food and old movies. Carole King is my ultimate musical heroine, and she not only sings the theme song with her gorgeous daughter Louise Goffin, she also stars in series 3 as the owner of the music shop where Lane Kim finds her sound.
I can remember the sickening horror I felt the day they stopped showing Gilmore Girls on E4 – this day happened to be a Friday 13th – and the immense relief when my sister and I were given the box set for Christmas from our parents. When I went away to uni and felt immensely homesick in the first month, my mum texted and said “Hey Rory, stay at Yale! We’re all rooting for you back in Stars Hollow xx”.
I would always watch the show at uni in my student bedrooms when I needed a lift, or a boot up the butt – my sister and I would negotiate who got what series DVD at the beginning of each semester.
Bottom line here is, I just want this reboot-reunion-revamp-revival to be as perfect as possible. I want the questionable end of series 7 slightly corrected and perfectly filtered into episode 1 of this new series.
I’m sure Amy S-P won’t let us Gilmorites down.
At the ATX Festival, she said the following words: “There’s nothing in the works at the moment’ (lies!) ‘…if it ever happened, I promise we’d do it correctly”. We trust you, Amy. Also, we are eternally grateful to you for this!
Go team! Copper Boom!
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