Sunday, 2 June 2019

Five Things My Nan Taught Me





It seems weird to be typing these letters, foreign almost to my fingers as they tap away on my keyboard. My grandmother, i.e the love of my life, my ultimate number one fan, my life advice guru and all round best friend passed away at the age of 95 on May 23rd.
The grief and pain is like nothing I have ever experienced, it has dulled me as a person and my world has become considerably darker without her in it. You ever meet that one person that you look at and think, “thank God I have you”? Well, that was/is my Nan. There never will be another quite like her, and I don’t think I will ever get over losing her.
They say that time is the greatest healer, but I am an impatient individual and here I am tapping my watch to see when this great ‘heal’ will kick in. Will it be like the Big Bang? Or will it be quieter than that, slowly setting in within me until one day I wake up and feel content? I mean I wish I knew, but for now I will keep waiting for that big moment where I get knocked off my feet and say “Christ, I feel okay”.
In a short lived attempt to try and pull myself out of my miserable weekend activity of watching Umbrella Academy and knocking back questionable volumes of orange juice, I have decided to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys if you want to get technical) and draft out the top five things that my nan taught me. Now, there are far more than five obviously, but for the interest of my own self-loathing which is looming imminently, I decided to give you the highlights of my nans pearls of wisdom. This lady survived being bombed out of London, thinking she saw a UFO sighting on her way cycling back home (still TBC on what this actually was) and survived the loss of one of her own children, my dad. So when I say this lady knows things, she knows thing.

1.       Always wear a thermal vest
Now this was very genuine advice my nan gave me when I declared I was moving to Leeds for university, i.e The Great North. I don’t know if my nan ever ventured this far North from her very southern roots, but she was very adamant I would need thermal vests “to keep your poor back warm”. I later found out someone at her day group had told her that the North was very cold, which was why her insistence on my vest wearing intensified tenfold suddenly.
I used to scoff at this and decided this simply “wasn’t cool” so decided to ignore her and instead opted to go out in the depths of winter in Leeds in nothing but a thin jacket and leggings on many an occasion whilst going to uni. I rapidly realised my nan did indeed have a point about it being bloody cold in the North, and my southern bones saluted her when I strolled in to M&S like a lamb to slaughter to go and find some fetching thermal vests to shove on underneath my clothes.

2.       Always show your appreciation to shop staff
My nan used to work in a shop / department store way back when e-commerce was a word which would score you 0 points on a game of Scrabble, and her experiences working in this shop with the way she was treated from customers cemented a very clear stance in her mind on how shop workers should be treated.
If you have an office job and have never suffered the delights of a middle-aged woman waving a faulty item of underwear at you whilst declaring she will tell all her friends how terrible the quality of the clothing is from the store you work in, then I salute you. Well done you, you dodged that bullet. Seriously, I think I may have PTSD from my time working as a sales assistant.
Apparently the moment you work in a shop or supermarket, some individuals see you as lesser to them, and that you are only there to serve their every outrageous whim and need. Your forced smile will be put to the test as you listen to them drone on and on in a monotone voice about how expensive x, y, z is and can’t you do them a discount? No Sandra I cannot, I don’t make the damned prices.
My Nan instilled in all of us that how you treat shop workers is a reflection on you as a person, and I have to say after my brief stint of working in retail – that is the damned truth. Be nice to your servers and your waitresses and your bartenders because they sure as hell aren’t at work on a hot day in Summer to be given a load of abuse by someone who seems to think they’ve suddenly become more important than the Queen herself.

3.       Always have good biscuits in, just in case you get a visitor
Once of my earliest memories as a child was charging in to my Nan and Granddads house after a morning of horse riding, making a firm bee line for the biscuit tin which was always kept in the kitchen cupboard.
My granddad, naturally, would always make sure I got him one out too and would then pretend to have no idea that he wasn’t supposed to be having biscuits: “you mean I can’t have one biscuit? Oh, it will impact my diabetes? I didn’t know”.
No matter how many times over the years we told nan that we had already had a big lunch before heading over, she would still offer us out a selection of biscuits with our cups of tea, asking several times if she couldn’t tempt us with a biscuit or two. Why yes Nan, you can indeed tempt my full stomach with one little biscuit. Or maybe two. Oh, who cares hand me the box.
One thing I did later find out about my nans biscuit offering was this: if you have guests over, always offer them biscuits with their cups of tea. However, always make sure you take out your favourite biscuit before presenting the tin to everyone else so that you still get the best one for yourself.

4.       Be forgiving, even if you don’t want to
This next statement will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me when I say that I do like to hold a grudge. Someone walks in front of me in the street? Hold a grudge.
Someone is mean to my sister? God damnit, I will definitely hold a grudge.
Someone calls my dog a bit plump? I will hold that grudge until I die, even if they have a very strong point that my dog does need to be on a diet.
My nan often told me that forgiveness was better than holding a grudge of any form, as I would often ring her up to complain when things had gone wrong. She would sit silently listening to my (vastly animated) recounting of the horrors of my day, only for her to give me some very calm and wise words to mull over. She was a calming woman, my grandmother.

5.       Always tell people they are your favourite
This is my final thought piece to end on, and it’s because it is my favourite example of my Nan doing what she does best.
For years, nan would always tell me I was her favourite grandchild and I would have a smugness about this which was almost palpable whilst I sauntered around her house – lucky me, I am the chosen one, I am the favourite, watch out cousins because I am here and I am the favourite one so move out your seat I’m here to see Nan.
I would always end our twice weekly phone calls with a “goodbye, love you” and she would reciprocate this. If I was having a bad day, she would always say “remember you’re my favourite” and this could pull me out of any bad mood which life put me in.
Now, imagine my horror when four of us cousins were in her hospital room with her saying goodbye when someone else said the immortal words of “it’s okay – I’m your favourite”. Shock, horror, betrayal. They must have got it wrong; there obviously cannot simply be two favourites, that isn’t how this game of love works.
“Hang on Nan, I’m your favourite?” Came a voice – a voice which wasn’t mine. That meant three of us had been told we were the favourite. The fourth looked around and said, “No, I’m the favourite!”.
The penny (and the ego) dropped – we were all the favourites. All of us, in our own ways were our Nan’s favourite because she loved us all that implicitly and without reproach that she simply couldn’t have loved one of us more over the other.

That’s the thing about my Nan; family always came first for her regardless of the situation. The world was falling down? Family first.
Someone was horrible to me at uni? Family first.
Not got enough seats at the dinner table for the influx of people coming over to sample your roast dinner and treacle sponge? Family first, find extra seats.

It’s not goodbye Nan, it’s simply see you later x



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Wednesday, 6 March 2019

How I'm Becoming A Better Person



Now I am no saint. I know that, my friends know that, my nan does not know that but that doesn't matter I am the apple of her eye and favourite grandchild so I can do no wrong. 
I can be selfish (especially if there is cake involved in the office, move out the way I'm coming in hot), I can be insecure (hello social media reality) and I can sulk like there is no tomorrow when something doesn't go my way. However, whilst this is (only slightly) cute on my year and a half year old goddaughter, this is not cute on an adult.  
I have recently done a lot of reflecting on what I'd like to get out of this year, and I have drawn together a list of ways in which I am becoming a better person which I think are also, coincidentally, things which everyone / anyone (except Donald Trump & co.) can aim for. 

1. Become a blood / organ donor 
Now, I have been an organ donor for the past decade and have offered up everything there is to offer up when I am gone, but it was only very recently that I went and gave blood. I'm not bothered by needles or blood, so whilst one of my co-workers looked like she was going to faint at the experience, I was happily watching the news on my lunch hour with a needle wedged in to my vein whilst I discussed Top Gear with a lovely nurse. 
The whole experience took less than an hour start to finish (less time than it takes for HD Brows ladies, and we've got time for that, haven't we?), and I gleefully used it as an excuse not to go to the gym that night and instead gain sympathy and much respect from everyone I smugly told about my activities - no browsing River Island on my lunch break today, no sir, I was off making a difference and saving lives. 
A few weeks later I recieved a text from the blood bank to tell me that my blood had gone to a trauma hospital in Manchester, and I recieved a shiny red card through the post telling me what my blood type was which I now tell everyone no matter whether they're interested or not. Signing up is quick and simple for both becoming a donor and giving blood, and it's something which can save a life and make you feel smug :  https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/ 

2. Ask 
I get it, we all lead busy lives. Being busy almost becomes a competition with people "oh your evening was busy? Well I washed all my clothes for the week, did the weekly food shop, meal prepped enough food to feed a small township and meditated for half an hour whilst soul searching all before Master Chef last night", and I have been one of those people in the past. However, being so caught up in our own lives means we sometimes forget to just ask if someone is okay. 
Recently I saw the advert for the Samaratins asking people to just ask "are you okay?" to someone who looks like they may not be. This struck a chord with me, and I have now started routinely checking in on my friends, whether they look like they need the help or not - you never know the internal battles someone is facing so always be kind, you never know how this may positively impact someone. 

3. Don't hold grudges 
I was / am (nearly retired, nearly) an individual who can hold a grudge or two, but I've recently realised that whilst I'm seething in to my Coco Pops mulling over my grudge, the other person will either not know because I have resting bitch face, or will have moved on. 
I've decided that I am no longer carrying negative energy (very millenial I know) going forward, and that means simply letting go of the bad blood I may have for certain individuals or situations. 
Last year my now ex-boyfriend cheated on me and the anger and resentment bubbled away for months and impacted my mental health to the point that when someone tried to talk to me in a bar I'd curtly walk away and not entertain the chance of speaking to someone. Did this impact my ex and his cheating ways? No, he was probably tucked up in bed (someones bed anyway) sleeping sound whilst I sat up picking over every detail of what had happened and wondering "where the !?!?!?!?!! did it go wrong?" - I've also now stopped stalking his social media so well done me, very adult very grown up.

4. Show your gratitude
My grandmother is the true love of my life, my rock, my lifeline and my world. I love her more than words could express and I get a warm fuzzy feeling inside when I hear her voice over the phone or see her looking out the window when she knows I'm visiting her. 
My nan would probably (definitely) give me the shirt off of her back if I asked her, because she is a naturally loving and caring person and I have decided that I will never stop showing her my gratitude for simply being in my life. 
We always use the phrase "but I thought I had more time" for things. You thought you had more time to get to your mate date on time, you thought you had more time to get the bus in to work and be sat at your desk before your manager walks in, you thought you had more time. 
My nan is 95 years of age, and I know that time is not something I have much left of with her, so I spend twice a week minimum on the phone to her telling her about my week, asking her about her community group she attends and asking if she has heard from her son, my uncle, who lives in Australia and listening to her excitedly tell me about the new ready meal she tried which was actually quite pleasant but still not a patch on what she used to make from scratch back when she could stand that long. 
  Nan, you can't use a basic mobile phone let alone get on to the internet and ever find this, but I love you. 
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Monday, 18 February 2019

Mental Health And Exercise

I did it again.
Another impromptu hiatus which is becoming a clear reoccurrence on the books that are my life. And whilst I committed to writing more content this year, I found myself sitting at my desk twiddling my thumbs and browsing dog videos on the ‘gram instead.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have any content, it was just that when I started, I ended up drawing a blank halfway through and thinking, does anywhere actually care if I’m cutting meat consumption down? Or whether my new trainers were snazzy enough (side note : they are)?
I constantly feel an overarching sense of pressure when it comes to my life, I naturally try to overachieve regardless of the situation or scenario, which often results in me feeling dejected and frustrated when things don’t go just right.

This, in turn has pushed me on in to a feeling of “well I won’t bother today, because I’m not going to be very good so not point starting”. I didn’t connect all of this feelings until I read an article about catching yourself every time you say something negative about yourself internally and instead saying two good things about yourself. Initially, I struggled to think of anything but since it was internalised, I decided to start rattling through the things that I thought were possibly true : I am kind,  I am polite, I am caring, I am funny (if you like poor dad jokes) and I am compassionate. Most of all, I am worthy.

The problem is, is I know exercise is good for the brain, because after I’ve gone on a run or been to a class I do feel genuinely better, but it’s the initial drag of getting in to the gym or getting my trainers on to run that is my stumbling block. I don’t need to preach to you about the benefits of exercise on your mental health, but what I will say is it’s damned hard to think about anything other than your breathing when you’re slogging your way up a steep hill on hill sprints which see you gasping for air when you hit the summit, followed by exhilaration and the smug “hey I just did that” the follows.
I am trying to be kinder to myself this month, and the positive reinforcements have definitely been helping which is now, in turn, seeing me sticking my running trainers on and going for my first run this evening since falling a few weeks ago (snazzy trainers slightly less snazzy covered in mud), and I am forcing myself to focus on my breathing and just my breathing.

We spend a lot of time in our own heads, especially when we are perfectionists, but does anyone care or even notice if you have a slight trip up in a presentation or quite literally when you’re walking for the bus? Does anyone care if your lunch isn’t #InstagramWorthy whilst you devour it at your desk whilst browsing city breaks and gossip columns? The answer is no, but we live in a consumer society where we are told we need to improve ourselves because companies make a profit off of it. I don’t buy in to Skinny Teas / Coffees / lattes / pancakes, as I’d rather not be sat on the toilet all day (this girl has business to attend to) , but I do definitely buy in to the hype of ‘age defying’ skin creams, serums and remedies (getting worse by the year as I edge closer to 30).

February is going to be my month of rediscovery on what it’s like to be kind to myself, as god only knows that is missing around here. I have made a conscious effort to go to two gym classes a week, but I am not piling on the pressure to go five days a week. I am eating sensibly, but I am not chucking everything in an app to see what my fat % is, and I am definitely not stepping on a set of scales for the foreseeable. February – let’s go.
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Sunday, 13 January 2019

Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone

Sweaty, gasping and red in the face. No, this isn’t some weird confessional of my private life , but how I ended the Leeds 10K back in 2018.
Whilst walking to collect my finishers medal (which I showed off to practically everyone) , I vowed to never run a 10K again. 
I expected the traumatic memories of my 10K to fade like harrowing childbirth memories did, but I was wrong. So why the hell have I signed up again?
Well, I’m doing it for a charity which I have fallen in love / gratitude with - Jo’s Trust. Jo’s Trust are the only dedicated cervical cancer charity in the UK and I’ve found myself leaning on them in my (many) hours of need. 
Not only have I signed up, but I’ve manahed to guilt trip people who I work with in to suffering along with me - win win. One of my only New Years resolution other than world dominance and marrying Tom Hardy was to give back more and spread awareness of cervical cancer. 
I (drunkenly) brain stormed ways to fundraise which ranged from bake sales (tick) to skydiving (definitely not tick, no thanks) and settled on the achievable task of running a 10K in sub one hour. 
I’m hoping this will boost my mental health as well as my physical health which has seen me dodging cardio better than my dog dodges having his tablets. 
2019 is the year of slowly pushing boundaries , and my snazzy new trainers will do the job just nicely.
Since drafting this blog, I’ve made another outrageous decision to sign up to a ballot for the Great North Run on behalf of Jo’s and I am toe tappingly waiting for a response back from how that is going to go. 
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