Love is real, real is love…

I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. I like Cary Grant movies & bittersweet love songs & Jane Austen novels. My heart forever swells for romance. It’s just that as I’ve gotten older my idea of true romance has changed.

I remember watching interviews of John Lennon talking about how he never wanted to be apart from Yoko & thinking I wanted to be in love like that. I thought the idea of wanting to spend every moment with someone was beautiful. Now it strikes me as frankly, unhealthy. The first time I saw Renee Zellweger translate ‘you complete me’ & moon over the signing couple, I melted. These days it’s more like boaking. It’s actually a bit weird that I ever internalised that version of love. I’ve never been someone who wanted to be around others all the time. My own company has always been valuable. My ‘hobbies’ are fairly solitary; reading, writing, swimming. I’m not really a joiner. I have lived alone for most of my adult life. When everyone else was still living with their parents or a bundle of flat mates I had already figured out that I quite liked closing my front door & knowing I am alone. I believe a part of me still thought when the right person come along that would change. Their breath would make my air sweeter, their presence would be essential. For a while there I actually thought that a soulmate might just make me whole. Now I look at the sentence & cringe. The right person is amazing, but a great love adds to one’s life. It’s an extra. My mug is full of me, a relationship is just the delicious cream & mallows on top. I can’t reach the peak potential of me if I spend every second of my life with someone else. By default I’d never put own needs first. I know now that love is not all encompassing; it’s vital to leave a little room for me.

In days gone by used to take note of dates. Anniversaries and so on. I knew the day I met exes, first kisses & I love yous. It mattered to me that we mark those days with flowers or dinner or whatever. I loved rom com’s & the big dreamy gestures. I thought I hankered for that kind of romance. I planned aspects of my theoretical future wedding. Thinking that the perfect music & public declarations would make it more concrete. Turns out none of it really matters. There isn’t a bouquet big enough to make you forget that someone didn’t come home for three nights. No public display of affection makes up for a routine lack of consideration. If a relationship doesn’t have a daily beating heart, the Hollywood bits won’t keep it alive. Which is not to say that some folk can’t have both. I know happy people who’s loving partners do big time classic romance & that’s fantastic. It just doesn’t seem that important to me anymore. The Toyboy & I don’t have an anniversary. Neither of us thought to take note of our first date & when it comes down to it, we don’t really care. We do all the things you might do in anniversary whenever we feel like it. What does it matter? Maybe we’ll get married someday & maybe we won’t. I’m not bothered as long as I’m happy. The gown & first dance & piece of paper won’t actually change what happens between him & I. On reflection the romantic cinematic moments that have really stuck with me aren’t the flashy ones anyway. They’re were quiet, intimate interactions. Like when Bill Murray whispers ‘ I’m not worried about you’ to a sleeping Scarlett Johansen in Lost in Translation. That sets off my butterflies. Likewise in my life, it’s the everyday romance that sets my heart a flutter. Rubbing tiger balm on my sore bits or drinking fizz in the bath with me. Co opting each other’s turn of phrase & bringing me vegan treats. Wrapping a gift creatively to please me. Knowing my sushi order & that I always want Diet Coke. Carrying my bag. Sitting by my hospital bed. Saying what you mean. And a million other real life indications that I matter, that I’m known, are what I need.

So, yes I love romance & I love that St Valentine’s Day reminds us to cherish & treat our one & only. I just don’t think it has to be wrapped up in hearts & shouted. The wee moments count. To get back to Lennon, it turns out love is real & real is love.

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Friday favourites…

Wow, it has been a big week. I’ve felt all the feelings & did all the things. I will catch you up on my goings on soonish. In the meantime please content yourself with a variety of my current favourite things. You know the deal, all the wee bits that get me through the good & bad days.

First up is appropriately named First Aid Kit . I am rather in love with their new album Ruins . It has just enough melancholy to nurture my ‘ i just need a small cry’ moments whilst also containing sufficient uplifting ditties. It’s folksy & soothing, but also pleasantly raw in places. It is an added bonus that the band wear the most divine clothes. Their hard hippie aesthetic wets my whistle. In short, three cheers for the Swedish sisters charming my senses.

First aid kit, ruins Album cover

Next is a yummy little treat that pleases my tum. Yes, I take comfort in food, sue me. I have always been a lover of jelly, but obviously not all jelly is vegan friendly & some vegan brands lacked a satisfactory wobble. I am chick who likes some wibble. This winter my cupboards have been packed with Hartley’s 10 cal jelly pots. I first discovered these years ago during an insane starvation diet, but they are utterly delicious. These days I couldn’t care less about the calorie count, but do love their variety of fruity flavours. Everything from classic strawberry & orange to elderflower lemonade and Black Forest gateau. Every single variety is packed full of fruity flavour and not a single non vegan ingredient. They are also exceptionally easy going on the stomach meaning I have something tasty to eat even when mine is at it’s most uncooperative. Yeah!

Vegan jelly

No fav list of mine would be complete without some reading material. My current book just happens to be one of my all time favourite writers, Alan Bennett. I absolutely adore everything he does, but in particular I love his diaries & memoirs. I find his writing as comforting as a cup of mint tea. Even when he tackles heavy subjects he does so with such a light hand that it soothes me to read his words. I love that I can trust his politics, his wit & his decency. He writes about complex, sensitive issues with an honesty & compassion missing from so much of modern life. His most recent collection of prose, Keeping on Keeping on is as enchanting as ever. His daily doings & opinions on the world at large have been getting me through a tricky start to the year. If you need your faith in humanity (& beautiful writing) restored, Bennett is the man for the job.

Cat poking his head over a book

Bronan doesn’t enjoy Alan Bennett as much as I do. He’s a less reading, more ear rubbing kind of cat.

Another small item bringing joy to my life this week is badges. I am a longtime fan of the humble pin badge & am rejoicing in their revival. Not so long ago I had to search for badges that pleased me. Now pins with messages that delight are everywhere I look. There’s nothing better than wearing your heart (& your politics) on your sleeve or in my case chest. I have taken to expressing my mood with a collection of badges each day. They are a darling embellishment to every outfit. Plus, no one can say they haven’t been warned; they tell you what to expect before I even open my mouth.

Feminist badges

Last but not least is Now Tv. I had a Sky package of one kind or another for years, but constantly had problems with it. My broadband dropped, I lost signal for no reason and it always took 3 weeks to get through to customer services. So, I ditched it and got Now instead. It’s so much simpler and cheaper. Oh & now my internet consistently works. I am useless with services like this & tend to put up with problems forever because I worry changing will be just too much hassle. This switch was so easy that I am now checking out what else I could benefit from changing. Suppliers beware.

Another cruelty free quickie…

Another Friday night, another beauty quickie. This week I’m raving about nail polish. Primark nail polish to be exact.

I am a nail polish addict. I am constantly buying pretty new shades. Which can get pricey. So, I was delighted to discover that Primark cosmetics are completely cruelty free. Their polish range is extensive, gloss, matte, glitter, metallics & my favourite satin matte. They have every colour in every shade & prices range from 90p to £1.50 a bottle.

Satin Matte for when you can’t decide between high gloss & classy matte.

You’ll be wondering how good a 90p nail varnish can be. Well, I’ll tell you; they’re brilliant. I have already tried quite a few & every single variety has been fantastic. Two coats gives deep, even cover that lasts at least a week. All that without harming a single hair on any creature’s head. If Primark can do it so can luxury brands. I’m looking at you Benefit, MAC, Nars et al.

This week’s nails.

You can find a comprehensive list of cruelty free brands here.

You’re clouding my mind…

Nothing bad happened this week. No extra stressful event. No triggering sights or scents. In fact, it was quite nice. Easy weekend with my man. Luxuriously relaxing day with my sister. Words were flowing. I had nothing more taxing than baby shopping & light housework scheduled. All should have been well, but no one told my brain.

At some point on Monday night my head switched from calm to high alert. Try as I might I can not decipher why. I was one minute thinking about what colours to paint my nails & the next desperately trying to pinpoint my panic. It happens that fast. Like a storm cloud darkening the sky, my mood stiffens. Suddenly my only thought is why do I feel like something very, very bad is about to happen? All I can do is run through every aspect of my life & weigh up how likely disaster is. It doesn’t matter that my checks come up empty. That only makes the anxiety worse. Even If I can’t locate a likely impending crisis, I still feel on the verge of one. The disparity between my thought & feeling drives me crazy.

My body betrays me. It takes its queues from my beleaguered brain. Thus every gust of wind or car in the street sends my heart racing. I can’t relax. I can’t sit still. I can’t get anything done either. My head is too busy with the millions of terrible possibilities it has to discount. I can’t concentrate properly, so every task takes twice as long as it should. Or just doesn’t get done at all because you know, the post man came & I had to hide in my bedroom. What I was hiding from, I don’t know. I can’t think of a single scenario in which someone knocking on my door could realistically lead to a catastrophe. Nevertheless, I cower.

It’s exhausting and it is maddening. Free floating anxiety. I’m basically just fighting with my own stupid head. There is nothing to fear except fear itself. I think that phrase is supposed to comforting; not for me. Illogical, inexplicable fear itself is a formidable opponent. I’ll be ok. Can someone just please tell my brain.

Just another manic Monday…

My very clever sister decided that instead of having a baby shower type affair she would just invite some lovely women to join her for a spa day. Thus I spent my Monday being a luxury bitch at beautiful spa. Thank you, little sister.

The setting of our unmanic monday was Gleddoch House Hotel & Spa. It looked extra scenic surrounded by snow, but once wrapped up in the soft, fluffy robes the cold wasn’t touching us. 


After my treatment there was a gorgeously calm & comfortable relaxation room to unwind in. Suitably soothed I returned to pool for some laps & general floating around. I love being in the water because my body hurts so much less when submerged. I love it even more when in the company of smart & funny women. 


Of course it wouldn’t be a spa day without a dip in a hot tub & what’s the point of a hot tub if it isn’t really cold? The Gleddoch had us covered with this amazing roof top hot tub; enjoying the steamy bubbles whilst surrounded by snowy mountains is definitely a good way to spend a Monday. 


After all the relaxing we had a bite with more views and the already mums gave the mum to be a little tongue in cheek advice. We sneaked in a few forbidden presents & headed home to enjoy our spa day afterglow. 


So, thank you little sister not only for making a whole new person for me to love, but for providing me an opportunity to really enjoy a Monday. 

Just a girl in a t-shirt…

On Monday night I finally made it out of house. I’ve been having a fairly bad flair and struggled to do anything at all last week. With the pain a bit more manageable & a brand new dress to wear I was excited to step out.

Cinema & sushi night with my sister is an enjoyable, but low impact excursion. It’s perfect for when I’m not feeling tip top. As is this t shirt dress. It’s super comfy & cosy whilst also being beautifully cut. The vivid print is just what is needed to chase away the January gloom.  In short it’s effortlessly perfect. 


Dress – Monki

Shoes – Primark

I also tried out some new slap. Barry M is one of my current make up favs. I’m absolutely loving this range of metallic lip paints & their strobing cream has ousted every other highlighter in my make up bag. 


Matte me up in Allure.

Strobe cream in Galactic.


After a week of jammies & greasy hair I felt pretty good. A thorough catch up with my sis & a giant Diet Coke left me feeling much improved. 



Incidentally, we saw Darkest Hour. Gary Oldman was great, but the film was only ok. If you know anything of Churchill you probably won’t appreciate this portrayal of him as the ordinary people’s hero. I wouldn’t rush to see it. 

I don’t know where I stand…

About 7 months ago, after years many years of knee pain & a limp that had become almost permanent I had an X-ray that revealed arthritis. After even more pain & increasingly frequent falls my Dr recommend a walking stick. 

I had been experiencing pain in my right knee for years. When I first mentioned it to a Gp he put it down to a small accident I had whilst playing with my niece. I had plenty going on health wise & at the time it wasn’t a constant or severe pain, so I left it at that. The knee got progressively worse & I mentioned it a few times to various gp’s but no one was worried & it got sidelined by more immediately pressing health issues. By the time I really couldn’t ignore it anymore I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The knee pain was attributed to fibro & that was pretty much that. The pain however continued to get worse. It hurt all the time, standing or sitting. It even  woke me in the night. Then came the swelling, then the limp shortly followed by the knee giving way & me falling on my arse more than once. Back to my Gp I went, but only to seek advice on what might help my knee; I believed it was fibro related. Finally, over four years later I was sent for an x-ray, which revealed significant erosion in my knee joint. I didn’t expect to have a condition like arthritis at 37 & I certainly never envisioned myself with a walking stick, but here I am.

Foot & walking stick

There are so many things I could say about the difficulties of getting a diagnosis or even investigations when you have chronic conditions. So often when medical professionals see things like fibro in your notes they will just link everything to that. When you have multiple chronic conditions  multiply the difficulty. Add to that mental health issues, being a woman, being fat, the drs who think everyone with chronic pain is drug seeking & honestly, I’m just exhausted. Yes, it could have been spotted sooner. Yes, I would probably have a better prognosis if it had, but at this stage I’m just too tired to even think about that. There isn’t anything that can done about it anyway. It is what it is. 

Unfortunately what it is is pretty shit. On a number of levels. I hate to admit it, but there’s been a real mental adjustment along with the physical. I find it really hard when people see me with the stick for the first time. I worry that they’re thinking, oh god, she has another thing wrong with her. I worry that they’re embarrassed. I worry that I’m just too much of an inconvenience. 

I hate it, but a walking stick is a blow to the self esteem. I don’t feel particularly sexy as I hobble along, so obviously I question if others will view me differently. Intellectually I know there is no weakness in disability, but emotionally I feel weaker. I feel less useful.

Less fun.

Less appealing. 

All the while I’m telling myself what nonsense that is. That I know better than to indulge in such ableist thinking. Then I think if I, a disabled person am having these thoughts, then others certainly are & that’s not a productive thought process. I’ve already experienced how ignorant the world can be. How many people will still push past me or not offer me a seat. I’ve learned that places who bill themselves as accessible, just aren’t (and my mobility is still so much better than a lot of people’s). The weird thing is, I think the kind folk are almost harder to take. Every time someone offers to let me skip them in a long queue or asks if I need help, I feel utterly exposed. I’m grateful for the seats & the consideration, but I still feel very vulnerable about needing them. I’ve put so much stock in the power of being independent & capable that another level of disability is a struggle to accept. Yet, writing those words feel very indulgent. How dare I ‘woe is me’ when things could be a millions times harder, as I know they are for millions more if people. I know some of this linked to my mental health issues. There are familiar themes here; shame, guilt & a big helping of get over it. I suspect though, that maybe these feelings are pretty common for those dealing with disability. Thoughts & feelings aside, life is just a bit harder. For me & I’m sure for those around me. I’m slower & more limited. I can’t go anywhere without checking a dozen things beforehand. I’m grumpier & less reliable. Spontaneity is out, relentless checking is in. I hurt more. I need more rest & assistance. I find everything exhausting. I sound like an absolute joy to be around, right?


Finally, there is the stress. All of the above is stressful. Everyday tasks, trying to do something fun, the future are stressful. Attempting to manage all the stress, is stressful! 

I realise this is all sounding very negative & I don’t want to be that person, but I do want to talk about it. I’d like there to more of a conversation about chronic illness & disability. I’m sure some of this will get easier. Some of it won’t & I’ll have to adjust. Spoonie life is nothing if not challenging. The opportunity to spill my guts definitely makes it a little bit easier.