Come rain or come shine…

Last Thursday our teachers were on strike (solidarity!), so the little ones had a bonus day off. We decided to make the most of it with a wee woodlands adventure.

Unfortunately the Scottish weather did not play ball. The outdoor portion of day was cut short due to a downpour. The little ones were undaunted & Auntie ly discovered she is cute in the rain. Win, win.

Glasses – Where Light

I opted for layers to combat the changeable weather. Starting with my incredible leopard dungarees, adding anything cosy & topping it all off with a waterproof. I think I achieved the correct balance between practical & crazy auntie.

Fat women with her hands on hips wearing leopard print dungarees and yellow cardi
Dungarees – ASOS Curve
Anorak – M&S

We rounded up the day watching the choppy sea from the cosy car & it was perfect.

Helensburgh

The Home Front…

I joined my local Facebook group during the refuse strikes because I never knew what I supposed to be doing with my bins. I had mostly forgotten about it until recently when I noticed that folk were using it to help those in need in our community. I was so impressed with how tirelessly some people work to make sure no one goes without essentials.

I hadn’t considered this way of helping out before, but it really is incredibly straightforward. You can donate clothes & items that you don’t use. Little gifts, toiletries etc that will make a huge different to families who are struggling this winter. I don’t necessarily believe in the ‘charity begins at home’ mantra, but I do hate to think of neighbours being in dire straits. We all know that this year it’s harder than ever to make ends meet, it’s good to know that we can take simple steps to help.

Please check out local community, facebook groups etc if you are having a clear out or can afford to pick up a few extras this Xmas season. There are undoubtedly families close by who’s Christmas would be greatly improved by these little acts of kindness.

Kid’s Out provide Xmas gifts for children in refuge. You can select & pay for a gift online.

Alternatively, you can’t make online donations to a the following groups.

The Trussel Trust is the UK’s largest foodbank group. You can donate online to support their work of keeping people fed this winter.

Refuge have an option to buy a Xmas dinner parcel for a family of various sizes. You can help provide a happier festive period for families feeling domestic violence.

Indie Xmas 2.0…

If you’re still on the look out for original gifts read on. I have more glorious independent businesses & creators for you to explore.

Flamingosaurus Rex is a gorgeous gallery in Edinburgh. They showcases talented artists & always have the most covetable art. You can buy digital prints & funky stationary on their site or drop into the gallery if you’re local.

Topple and Burn make radical, left wing apparel & jewellery. I have so many pieces already and I will undoubtedly buy more. Their ‘Fuck the Tories’ Xmas jumper is an absolute dream. Topple & Burn practise what they preach by supporting excellent causes. You can’t go wrong with a purchase form here.

Juniper & Friends is an animal rescue & rehab. The women behind the store does incredible work with foxes, possums, skunks & more. She rehabilitates injured wildlife & gives a home to animal that cannot be released into the wild. I have been following all the amazing wee creatures in her life on Instagram forever. Watching these animals grow & thrive is wonderful. You can support this incredible work & get yourself some adorable items at the same time. Juniper & Friends have merch ranging from tees to art work created by the animals. These would make the perfect gift for any animal lover.

I will never stop singing the praises of Wilde Mode. Their pieces are size inclusive, gender free and zero waste. All staff are paid a living wage and materials are ethically sourced. They have the most diverse ad campaigns and of course their products are amazing. Their knickers are the comfiest I have ever worn. With an extending product range, there is something for everyone. Go shop!

Finally we have Fugly Plates , recycling old crockery into sweary works of art. I love eveything they do. Re using old things that no one wants is always a good thing. Even better when the final product is so cool. If you have a foul mouthed friend this the place to shop.

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Friday Quickie…

I am by no means a beauty expert. In fact, I doubt I would even qualify as a novice. I’ve never been able to keep up with the big thing in beauty. Nor have I ever had the patience for 12 step bedtime routines. I’m a basic beauty bitch.

It’s mostly cleaning, moisturising & spf in this house. Throw in the a face mask whenever the mood or a break out demands it and you have my whole regime. At 42 I’m beginning to think about the old face a little more. I’m wearing pretty well so far (luck & good genes). I am however a tint bit obsessed with my pores & would like to keep it fresh as long as I can. So, I thought I’d share a few things I have rated & one I didn’t like so much.

Right off the bat I’m a dupe girl. I’m down for all the befits at a fraction of the price. I have also found that supermarket/high street brands are more likely to be cruelty free too. Which, begs the question, if they can do it, why can’t he big boys?

I’ve been using the Lacura Rose Toner from Aldi for a really long time. I love the scent and it makes my skin feel super soft. The Healthy Glow is a new buy, I like it for when those pesky pores are acting up. Both are of course pixie dupes. I used to use the pixie toner and I honestly find these to be the exact same. I like easy and whapping this on with some cotton wool as just that.

Two bottles of Lacura toner

Talking about those pores, am I only person who is addicted to those little blackhead extracting tools? Well, in a effort to reduce my time at the magnifying mirror I bought The Ordinary Salycilic Acid 2%. It gets rave reviews everywhere, but I couldn’t get along with it. I have an aversion to anything that feels oily or greasy & this is oil city. I gave up after a few uses, I just couldn’t stand how it feels. I can’t speak to its efficacy because I didn’t give it time to work. It’s not for me.

The ordinary salicylic acid

In the ordinary’s place I picked up Primark’s Salicylic Booster Serum. This one I like. The serum feels much nicer in my skin. I use it every other day and I am already noticing an improvement after 3ish weeks.

My skin always gets dry at this time of year, I think because the weather is harsher. Anyway, it seemed like a good time to try out a new moisturiser. When I saw this Drunk Elephant dupe in the magical middle aisle, I grabbed it. I haven’t used the original, so can’t compare. I am enjoying the Lacura version, though. Super hydrating and soothing. I know nothing about all the varied ingredients and claims. Only that it takes care of the wee dry patches & it feels gorgeous on my face.

Last up is L’Occitane Body Ice Gel. It was a gift from my Mum that is definitely going to become a staple. It’s mint & verbena which are two of my fav scents. It has the most amazing cooling & refreshing sensation when applied. I use it on my hands constantly. At the end of a busy day it also feels so good on my feet. Apparently it is also a fantastic after sun if you bung it in the fridge. I’m sure my ghostly skin will appreciate that next summer.

Small Xmas 2022…

We all know by now that it’s good to shop small. Buying from small business allows you buy products that meet your ethical standards whilst also supporting your local community. This year more than ever those businesses need your support. Thus, I give you the first instalment of Xmas gift guide.

I came across Graceful Favours via a friend’s post on social media & I’m sold. They make pretty wedding favours and do some special chrismassy treats. The paint your Xmas cookies are just so cute. I know my little ones would enjoy this as a wee festive craft. Truth to be told, I would too.

Festively iced biscuits

Ebony and Black make the most incredible scented candles & melts. The inspiration for their fragrances comes from historical figures, places and moments, which I think is an excellent idea. For instance their Reign range, influenced by Mary Stuart’s return to Scotland has a beautiful fresh scent. I have this one burning as I type; my whole whole house smells like windswept seaside meadow. Everything is vegan and handmade in Scotland. Such care is taken over all the little details, these make a gorgeous gift.

Burning candle and wax melting

If you’re looking for something a little more personal Ruby etc is offfering original pet portraits (hurry spots are selling out fast). Ruby etc creates witty & unique art. I’m a long time fan, their work immediately ups the cool factor of any room.

If you follow me at all you can’t have failed to notice that I adore Pockets and Sedition. Handmade, size inclusive with pockets! They also donate a percentage of profits to very worthy causes. If you’re into all of that I imagine you will share my excitement at the launch of their Xmas range. Pyjamas & clothes in joyous Xmas prints plus some glam dresses for all those nights out. I bloody love some festive jammies for all that Xmas slouching, another must have.

Pyjamas with festive dinosaur print

Last, but not least we have Glad Rags, my favourite thrift shop. If you’re in the Glasgow area I cannot recommend this south side gem highly enough. Their stock is varied & wonderful, profits are redirected into the community and they support many local creators. Glad Rags also run lots of fun workshops & activities. They are not unique, second hand shops exist everywhere and are a vital part in reducing the volume of waste we produce. They are also an excellent alternative/antidote to fast fashion.

The easiest entry in my present list is already taken care of. All Bronan wants are unlimited paper bags and all of my attention.

Black and white cat in a paper bag

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In the name of the Father, the Skeptic & Son…

I was raised Roman Catholic. I went to mass every Sunday, made confessions, took communion. I attended catholic schools. My primary school was flanked by a chapel, a missionary monastery & a convent. By virtue of attending those schools most of my friends were also catholic. We all prayed before lunchtime, sang hymns in assembly and had regular R.E. Classes. What I mean is I understand how organised religion works. I was immersed in dogma throughout my childhood.

That’s not to say I always liked it. Even early on I remember having the distinct feeling that some it was icky. I didn’t like the bullying ways of my school chaplains. Some of the things my teachers hammered home did not fit with the whole peace & love vibe. Mass was never anything other than a thing to be endured. Catholicism always felt too rigid.

It wasn’t until I hit secondary school that I really started to call bullshit. I didn’t believe much of what I was being taught. More importantly I hated the intolerance. Catholic views on sex, sexuality, gender roles, abortion and so much more simply did not align with my own. Neither did they fit with what I had learned at home. I couldn’t bite my tongue in the face of bigotry dressed up as god’s word. Nor could I bring myself to do the cherry picking that many religious folks do. The catholic faith felt like a straight jacket & I would not be restrained.

Thus, I drifted away. I stopped going to mass. I let myself question everything I had absorbed. I dug into the history of the church and its current practices. The more informed I became the less respect I had for any of it. It’s all steeped in atrocities & injustice. Organised religion it seemed was just a way to control the masses. What better way to impose your will than to tell people it was in fact, god’s will. By the time I finished school I no longer considered or described myself catholic at all. I had & have no use for any organised religion. I believe there is a higher power of some description, but not some patriarchal judge in the sky.

Most of my family still belong to the church. I have friends of various faiths & none. I’m very much a live & let live type of person. As long as no one is trying to impose their beliefs upon me or actively do harm in the name of religion; I don’t consider it my business. I do however retain a distrust & distaste for the institutions. I want no part of it.

I tell you all this in order for you to understand how I felt when I received this comment on something I wrote on the anniversary of my baby’s due date.

Anger was my main reaction. I removed the comment & blocked the (blank) account. I hated the thought of someone more vulnerable than myself receiving such a comment. I felt angry that this so called church elder was trawling for people they thought they could manipulate. However, I didn’t want to give it anymore time or energy. They were blocked; end of story.

Unfortunately not. A couple of weeks later, on my birthday, I received an email. This time from a church elder named Liam McIntosh. It was more of the same. Insulting & ignorant comments about my life, offers of ‘support’ and that suspicious claim of referral from a concerned friend. There is not a single person in my life who if concerned would ask the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to help me. This contact enraged me. I have an excellent support system, a sense of purpose and lots of joy in my life. However, I am aware that many people do not. I remember how little it took to overwhelm me when I was in the depths of mental illness & grief. I am also cognisant of how easily some people who feel desperate may be manipulated. Both messages utilised abuse tactics; belittle, claim to be doing so for the victim’s benefit and then purport to have all the answers. A church setting out to prey on vulnerable people in this manner sickens me.

This kind of behaviour is exactly why I do not like organised religion. It is predatory. This organisation is clearly seeking out people they believe to be vulnerable in order to manipulate them. I am not that person. I share my experiences in order to dispel stigma. I find the ‘concerned friend’ tactic particularly disturbing as it purposely exploits the guilt & shame that many people in difficult circumstances already feel.

After receiving that email I felt sufficiently angry & concerned to act. I tried to track down both men who contacted me. I could find no trace of either on official church websites etc nor could I find any record of professional training that would qualify them to offer such advice. The only COFLDS that I could find in Hamilton has disbanded. I called Edinburgh & Glasgow branches, but neither wanted to comment. Nor would they provide details of anyone in a senior role to discuss these communications. Some elders though are obviously reading this blog, perhaps they would like explain themselves?

I’m not finished with this. I am worried about the harm these unethical strategies could cause. As a result I am working on a more in depth piece for publication. If you or someone you know has been contacted in this way, I would like to hear from you.

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Charity of the Month…

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I know there are lots of campaigns at the moment, but I want to suggest a less discussed group. METUPUK are a patient advocacy group who push to promote issues related to secondary/metastatic cancer.

In the UK 31 women a day die from secondary breast cancer. Despite this secondary cancers are often less visible. People living with secondary cancer need better drug access, more drug trials and more awareness.

I was shocked when I learned that figure. I discovered it through an Instagram friend, who is living with secondary cancer. The lack of knowledge about a disease that effects so many people is appalling. Please consider making a donation if you can.

Pink cancer ribbon with the met up uk

My week in spooky season pictures…

It’s the October week holidays here. Of course that means some fun adventures & more spooky nails. It’s getting chilly out there, so I’ve been getting into the cosy looks.

I went a bit horror on the nails and tried out some chuckyish stitched wounds. I didn’t want them to be too gruesome, so nothing realistic here.

Pale white hands with stitched wound design manicure

On Wednesday we decided to introduce my nephew to a place my sis & I have loved since childhood. The Burrell Collection is an art gallery/museum in Glasgow that has recently reopened after a refurb and shake up of exhibits. The exhibits are presented in the most incredible building surrounded by woodlands, but in the middle of the city. It is one of my very favourite places and it was wonderful to see the boy enjoy it too.

Long white corridor leading to huge window looking out to forest

The revamp is great. They have maintained the heart of the collection whilst adding excellent interactive aspects. The boy loved playing the games & puzzles, all of which helped him better understand the exhibits. The cafe has a great vegan & child friendly menu. The Burrell also ticks the accessibility box. Lots of space to manoeuvre, lifts to all exhibits, loads of places to sit down when you need to rest.

White woman and child playing an interactive game
The Burrell Collection interior
The Burrell Collection interiors

After The Burrell we checked out the also revamped swing park. Thus I needed to be both cosy and waterproof. I opted for this lovely jumper dress & light weight rain jacket; both presents from my Mum.

Fat white women with hands on her hips wearing blue jumper dress& khaki rain mac
Dress – In The Style
Rain Max – Marks & Spencer
Tights – Pretty Polly
Glasses – Where Light

I chipped my Chucky nails, necessitating a premature change. I went for some creepy trees and sparkly bats. Let’s hope I can manage not to wreck this design right away.

My nephew has recently developed a love for golf; crazy golf in particular. Today we indulged that new found passion with a trip to Paradise Golf. He loved it, claiming two hole in ones & ultimately the game. Auntie ly struggled a little, but luckily I had my perfect little man to play for me when I needed a sit down.

Child playing crazy golf

We had a little sushi for lunch, picked up some shark wellies & grabbed a doughnut before heading home. It’s always too hot at Xscape and I kept that in mind when choosing my outfit. I wore a bunch of old favs today including my comfy shoes & a skirt with pockets!

Fat white woman with hands on her hips wearing swing skirt and t shirt
T-Shirt – Curated By Girls
Skirt – Lindy Bop
Tights – Snag
Pillow Slides – Primark

Haunted…

It’s that time of year again. Yup, that’s right, Spooky Season! I love a bit halloweeny fun, especially on my nails. I’m a bit slow off the mark this year, but I have loads more spooky designs planned.

I eased into the Halloween nails with a cute little crescent moon & love heart web.

Hands with lilac manicure with black crescent moon,  cat & spider web

A little glitter made these drippy, swirly nails a sparkly spook.

Park white hands with purple manicure with white swirls and glittery black drips

Currently sporting my favourite so far. I tried The Shining themed nails before, but I think I nailed (!) it this time.

The shining themed manicure

Also in keeping with the season are my new (to me) Iron Fist shoes. Fangs & leopard print, what more could a girl want? I missed these when they were in the shops, but found a brand new, unworn pair on Vinted. Thrifting win.

Tattooed pale white feet in shoes with Leopard fangs and black cat
Pale white feet in Leopard print flats and black cat

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More than embarrassing…

We’re all familiar with the reminder letters and campaigns urging us not to miss our cervical smear test. We are rightly told how important they are in detecting cancers early. I’m glad these tests are available. I am also happy that we are educated on why these tests are so necessary. However, I find myself increasingly frustrated with the messaging.

So often when a person or organisation wants to encourage people to attend cervical screenings they focus on how easy it is. We’re told it is silly to be embarrassed and it will be over in a flash. Don’t risk your life over 5 mins of feeling awkward is repeated. Smear tests are confidently declared to be not painful. Just a little discomfort, nothing to worry about. While that might be true for lots, it is not full the picture. The patronising assumption that people miss smear tests because they’re self-conscious is harmful. Many people have valid reasons for their reticence. Addressing those issues would be a more effective way of increasing uptake numbers.

Research from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and Rape crisis revealed that 72% of women who have experienced sexual violence have skipped or delayed a smear test. When you consider that at least 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted you can begin to understand the scale of the issue.

Birth trauma & pregnancy loss also impact a significant portion of those who require smear tests. Gynae exams & cervical screening require being in vulnerable positions that can trigger a trauma response. Recent research is finding that baby loss & birth trauma often results in PTSD. So, it’s easy to see why a smear test would be not a easy exam for those who are affected.

There are also medical conditions/physicalitys that can make a smear test very difficult. Conditions like ,vaginisimus, endometriosis, cervical ectropion and more can make smear tests painful or difficult. Cervical position, vaginal dryness, menopausal changes and FGM can also impact how a smear test feels.

Trans men may find smear tests hard for all obvious reason. Dysphoria, stigma, discrimination and more. I’m sure everyone can understand how having to deal with any or all of those things is a frightening prospect. It can also be difficult to access information; trans men may not be invited for cervical screening, there is confusion about who requires the test etc. Of course this may be combined with any of the other issues on this list.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I just want to be clear that there are many real reason for a person to avoid cervical screening. That being said, how can we make it easier? Well, there are actually a lot of accommodations you can ask for. I don’t see this talked about enough, so I wanted to share that information.

Before I get into the details, I want to be clear that you do not have to disclose anything you are not ready to discuss. You can ask for accommodations without revealing your trauma.

Before the Test

You can ask you GP to take your name off the automatic reminder list if those letters are distressing.

Ask for the test to be performed by a person of your preferred gender.

If you have an established relationship with a Dr/Nurse you can ask to have them do your smear test.

Make an appointment to talk about the smear test. Discuss anything you need to talk about. Be that how the test is done, why is it done, your fears, worries etc.

Request a double appointment to allow time breaks, extra time.

Plan what you will do after the test. You may not feel up to returning to work or you might not want to be alone.

The Test

Take an emotional support person to the appointment.

Request a chaperone be present for the test.

Ask to talk through the ‘mechanics’ of the test before you start. Have the Dr/Nurse show you the instruments used.

Tell the person performing the test any words or phrases that could be triggering for you. If there are words of comfort that are helpful for you ask them to use those.

Explain how heavy/light a touch you are comfortable. If there are areas you would like them to avoid touching if possible, tell the Dr/Nurse.

Ask to insert the speculum yourself.

If you are concerned about specific trauma/pain response discuss that with the Dr/Nurse. For example tell them this part of the exam is usually painful for me or I might be unable to chat/answer questions.

Agree a plan of action beforehand; what would you like to happen if you are triggered/pain is too much. You can decide on a word or sign to use if you are in distress.

Combatting Pain/Distress

Mindfulness Techniques – Exercises like naming three things you can see, smell, hear can help route you in the now.

Distraction – Play music, make small talk with Dr/Nurse, your support person.

Squared Breathing – This sometimes helps me get through acute pain/the onset of panic. Breath in for 4, hold for 4, breath out for 4, hold for 4. Repeat.

Take a comforting object. Fidget object. Scent that invokes calming feeling. Hold support person’s hand.

Discuss having medication prescribed. Things like benzodiazepines can help with anxiety, allow your body to be less tense. Maybe you need a stronger pain medication to deal with the test/after effects.

Know Your Limits

It is ok to stop at any point. If any part of the process becomes too much, stop. You can reschedule the appointment. It is ok to try as many times as you need. This test is for you. You are not obligated to fit into anyone else’s timeline or expectations.

Smear test are an important part of early cancer detection, but your whole health & well being are equally important. Shaming people or dismissing the reason for their reluctance does not help. If we are to increase the uptake rates we need to acknowledge what is actually preventing people from attending. We also need to facilitate ways to address those concerns.

If you require more support you can contact :

My Body Back Project

Rape Crisis (Helpline – 08088 01 03 02)

Action For Trans Health

Jo’s Trust

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