Month: February 2017

A change in season, a change in pain

Is it possible to itch to death? I want to say yes. For the past few months it felt like I was holding my breath whilst I tried to get through Christmas, a wedding, and a particularly busy time at work. Now, as I start to exhale and adjust to the rhythm of daily life, I can feel my little quirks rearing their ugly heads.

Quirks. I prefer that word to ‘symptoms’ or ‘pains’ or ‘things that make me want to scream’.

My legs have been getting heavy, my neck’s been getting tight, I feel tired, and I am so itchy absolutely everywhere that I just want to stand under the shower for all of the hours in all of the days. The worst places are my armpits and my eyeballs. I wake in the night not sure which to itch first, so use one hand to itch my eye and one to itch under my arm – it’s like a disturbing version of that game where you pat your head and rub your belly at the same time, except I’m trying not to gauge my eyes out. All this when all I want to do is sleep.

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The change in season always marks a change in my pain, but this month it’s also having an effect on my ability to mentally focus.

I’m curled up on my sofa in my leggings and house cardi (a cardigan so comfortable but so old and ugly that it can never be worn in public), the fire is roaring and I have a toasted, buttery, hot cross bun on the plate beside me – my favourite seasonal snack. It’s the perfect picture of calm, relaxation, and rest – a hygge dream.

But in my mind, oh… my mind… it feels like there is so much to do. There are things to clean, buy, fix, paint, tidy, read. Everything needs something doing to it, none of it is actually that important and so all of it feels pointless and pressing in equal measure.

Lists are my friend and so I figure the best approach to this madness is to create three columns. 1) The jobs that need to be done like install the cat flap, get the cats micro-chipped, sort out my repeat prescriptions; 2) The jobs that I want to be done, like framing and hanging pictures, painting furniture, sorting through my wardrobe; and 3) The things that are not even necessary, but they’re taking up space by with that nagging feeling that makes me search for answers in the most ridiculous places, asking myself questions like, what should I do with my hair? Do I have the right clothes for my holiday? What am I reading after my current book?

None of these things are big things, obviously, but each thought – regardless of the column it sits in – takes up space in my mind. And when my mind feels like it’s getting smaller at the same time these things are multiplying, it makes for a challenging time.

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Last weekend we were out in the garden for the first time this year. The weather was mild and we were able to potter together as we pulled up weeds and cut back last year’s dead branches. This pop of colour was the first sign of Spring, and a good reminder that beautiful, simple things appear amongst the chaotic overgrowth.

I’m going to have an early night and try to work out what on earth I’m blogging about this year. I feel like it would be nice to have a bit of a plan for 2017, if only so that you could decide if it’s worth sticking around. So far I can tell you this corner of the internet will include a write-up of our three weeks in Canada, some thoughts and pictures from our wedding, coping tips for fibro flares, and no doubt a fair few activities for those looking to lead a life less physical. Hang on in there, the fog will clear and it will be Spring before we know it.


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Sharing the love – and why I struggle with Valentine’s Day

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Etsy: Heart garland

I will never understand Valentine’s day. I never have.

At school I hated it because all the cool kids got cards and the rest of us felt totally unloved and embarrassed. When anonymous cards were sent, it became an opportunity for the cool kids to make fun of all the losers who weren’t ‘man enough’ to put their name to their declarations, and I just found the whole concept very weird and uncomfortable.

When I was sixteen I moved to South Africa and went to a school which embraced Valentine’s day in a truly American-high-school style. Everyone in the all-girls school gathered in the hall at lunch time whilst the headteacher held a bucket of single roses; she then preceded to call out the names of every girl who had received a rose from the boys school round the corner. What utter lunacy.

I only wish I’d been a stronger character at school. I wish I’d rebelled and spoken out about the social isolation caused by these theatrical performances. And that’s all they are, because if you love someone you will tell them in your own way. You don’t need to publicly remind the popular girls that fourteen hormonal boys have a hard-on for them, and you don’t need to remind the girls lacking confidence that no one has noticed them. (Of course, it’s likely that they were very much noticed – but probably by the boy that didn’t have the confidence to buy a rose from the school office and send it to the school round the corner.) I’ll never understand why teachers thought this was a good idea.

When I went to University, fellow students found Valentine’s day depressing. It made them miserable, and I hated that this Hallmark Holiday had such a hold over people.

Today I drove to work and listened to the radio. People (largely women) were sending in examples of the most romantic things their partners’ had done to celebrate Valentine’s day. One woman said that she was so grateful to her “amazing husband” because he had brought her a cup of coffee in bed, and said she could have a lie in for twenty minutes whilst he got the kids ready for school because, Valentine’s Day. 

I’m sure there’s more to their relationship and family dynamic than the text message sent in to BBC Radio, but I couldn’t help but think it would be great if he shared that duty with her every day. But who knows, maybe he has other duties.

I channelled my v-day frustrations to R when I got home, and tried to work out what makes me so annoyed by it. Is it the constant display of all the love? Is it the public Facebook messages between couples who live together that makes it feel like we’re back in a school performance? Maybe, but that’s expected. We live in a world where we share everything all of the time, so surely displaying love is no different to publicly displaying food and friendship and parties on social media – of which, by the way, I am entirely guilty. So why shouldn’t we share love? Maybe it’s nice to give people a day to be mushy when the world feels like it’s building walls to separate us.

I think that perhaps, above everything, my difficulty with this day is that it doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel like true romance; it feels forced and contrived. A guy at work asked me to remind him to buy roses (obviously) at lunch time because, Valentine’s Day. Is that romance? Doing it because everyone else is doing it? I guess romance means different things to each of us, and if this is real to you or you just welcome an opportunity to indulge in romance then that’s absolutely fine. But it’s still a day for just you and your significant other, right? We don’t need you to stand up in front of your peers and smugly say, ‘look how in love I am’. Because, on any other day, maybe that would be okay. Maybe your selfie in a love heart and PDA would be cute, but when thousands of people are doing it on one day in one go, it feels like we’re being bombarded. It loses it’s authenticity and it feels like we’re competing. It feels like we’re saying ‘Look! My partner’s better than yours!’

We are all very different, and if I’m allowed to rant about V-day in my corner of the web you are of course welcome to bask in the glory of love hearts in yours. So if you’re madly in love and this is a day you celebrate, then I hope you have had a wonderful day and that you got spoilt rotten. If it’s not your thing, I hope you have a day just like every other day, celebrating your love in your own way no matter how understated that may be. But if you’re not madly in love and this day gets you down in any way, all I’m saying is: don’t let it. Because to many of us (70% according to a survey on Twitter that I now can’t find to link to) it’s utter nonsense.

I don’t feel like I can end this post on a completely negative vibe – I got called grumpy and cynical twice at work today! – so I’m going to mark this year’s Valentine’s day by joining the #sharingthelove hashtag which I actually find quite lovely. It’s a chance to share nine pictures from the last 12 months that show how much I love the people around me. I figure if we’re going to publicly share love on this day, let’s share all different kinds of love with lots of very lovely people. (And yes, pizza deserves a spot because pizza is love.)

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Date weekend in London

I love date night. I’m never too bothered about how we spend it, but I love getting out of the house and doing something away from the daily routine to catch up with my S.O and really spend time together.

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that R and I attempted a mini-moon to Tallinn (Estonia’s capital city) last month, but it didn’t go too well. R got flu and we didn’t leave the apartment other than my trips to the supermarket and the pharmacy. Not quite the romantic post-wedding getaway we had planned.

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Last weekend we decided to try again – this time in our own capital city, which was massively helped by the fact that my sister’s wedding present to us was a night’s stay in the very beautiful High Road House boutique hotel in South West London.

We kicked off the weekend with Friday night cocktails and Stewart Lee’s Content Provider, a comedy tour I highly recommend if you enjoy dry satirical comedy with a strong focus on history and politics. I hardly ever see live stand-up these days but it’s something I wish I did more of; laughter really is the best medicine and I seriously need to up my dosage.

On Saturday we treated ourselves to lunch at Marcus Wareing’s restaurant at The Berkley – creatively named ‘Marcus‘.  We had cocktails (the theme of the weekend) and a three course set lunch menu with a matching wine list because why the hell not. Cheap it is not but, in the spirit of firmly sticking to my new year’s resolutions, it was one hell of an experience and one I definitely plan on repeating at some point.

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Feeling full and tipsy and ready for a snooze, I suggested we go and see the afternoon screening of La La Land. I wholeheartedly adore Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling but had a feeling the film had been over-rated by the critics and would probably a bit pretentious if not a little bit nauseating, so probably a good place to rest my eyes. Ladies and gents, I was wrong. So very wrong. It was WONDERFUL.

Being back in the big city reminded me how much I love London. It has pockets of utter glory and there’s nothing I love more than strolling through the back streets and wistfully admiring the colourful overpriced townhouses on my way to a cosy gastro pub. On Sunday we did just that, and found ourselves at The Smokehouse in Chiswick. I’m pretty critical of a pub roast dinner because it often doesn’t live up to the home-cooked version, but my oh my their roast beef with all the trimmings was absolutely perfect. They have a sister pub in Islington so if you find yourself in North or West London on a cold Sunday lunch time, do yourself a favour and get involved.

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As we headed over to High Road House Hotel, I had a bit of a spring in my step. I’m always so envious of people who stay in hotels just for the sake of it and we are not that couple. We have lived together for eight years and we stay in hotels – usually cheap ones – out of the necessity of needing a place to crash, not to indulge in a night of luxury. But High Road House is exactly the place to go to hide away from real life and curl up on a bed so comfortable and in sheets so soft you imagine you’ve died and gone to heaven on a cloud.

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We stayed in the Play Room (worth noting the lift doesn’t go all the way to the top floor, so you spoonies have one flight to cope with) and it just screams relaxation – or rather, whispers it in a soft, calming voice. The bath, surrounded by an array of Cowshed products, is just perfect for an evening soak, and the huge shower makes for a refreshing morning wake-up call.

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The stay reminded me of two very important things: one, there is quite possibly nothing better than a good mattress with crisp, clean, white bedding and two, it’s good to take time out and stay somewhere quiet for no reason other than to curl up and hide away. It’s heavenly, and in my mind it’s what date weekends are made of.

Now… time to start planning the next one.