#SWGD – Fall At The First

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Day 1. (Explicit) 

I woke up feeling immediate regret. I needed a cup of tea. I needed strong breakfast tea with a dash of milk and one sugar. Just one couldn’t hurt?

I resisted. I’d just drink water. Water is really good for you, I told myself. It’s great for your skin, helps regulate body temperature, oh, and it keeps you alive! As a line manager of mine once said, ‘Hydrate or die.’

3057640316098_LSo with a 1ltr and a half of Volvic Sugar Free at hand, I hid upstairs. There’s no sugar upstairs, I’d already eaten it all before the challenge started. Maybe if I physically avoided sugar I’d be able to resist?

Lina was having a much harder time. She works in a cafe, surrounded by sugary cakes. Somehow she managed to suffice with a bowl of cucumber. At one point, she explained, that she was going to stare at the cakes whilst eating the cucumber to see if that would trick her mind into thinking she was eating sugar when she wasn’t. Yeah… we can all guess how well that worked.

And then it was my turn to be tested again.

My dad is a Mason, and they host a charity bbq for the families every year. Our mission was to bring a pudding, as if life wasn’t cruel enough, so my mum created an Eton Mess (for the political irony).

‘I can’t eat that,’ I told her, more to remind myself that the cream and meringues had sugar in them.

‘It’s okay, I’ve put some strawberries aside for you.’

Five strawberries. Six, after she saw my disappointed face. They’d have to do, I guessed. I didn’t want to sound ungrateful.

They say when you lose a sense the others become more heightened. Well, I was neglecting my tastebuds, and my nose decided to overcompensate. It was probably psychosomatic but the moment I arrived at the bbq, all I could smell was sugar. It was in the BBQ sauce drizzled on the ribs, it was in the cheesecakes, cakes, and other sweet puddings on the counter. It was in every fizzy drink available.

I’d brought a bottle of water with me, filled with my Volvic Touch of Fruit, so that I didn’t need to break my pact on day one. We hung out for over an hour, chatting with people, buying raffle tickets, having a laugh and then food was served.

Now, there’s a lot of old people at these functions. And they took forever to get through the buffet. So by the time I got there, I was starving (didn’t have breakfast, in a stern attempt to avoid sugar) and just wanted to stuff my face so that I wouldn’t want dessert. I started with salad – no sugar in salad. Sausages, kebab, potato salad – couldn’t guarantee no sugar, but there weren’t many other options. The pasta salad probably had sugar in it, but was it worth fussing over right now? And then my big blunder. The mistake I should have seen coming.

A plump white roll, with powdered flour on the top. Fluffy. Soft. I didn’t even think – it went onto my plate. So did a rib. Well… it would be rude not to!

I sat down, and started eating. Took a bite out of my roll.

Oh no.

Oh. No. What have I done?

‘This has got sugar in it, hasn’t it?’

‘Well I wasn’t going to say anything,’ said the brother who did a nutrition module at uni.

Fuck.

How did I manage to fuck up on the first day!? I wasn’t even 24 hours in!! I handed the roll to my brother, who happily munched away on my roll (which I’d tucked the sausages inside, so I didn’t have those anymore either). Whilst I ate my probably-covered-in-sugar rib.

‘You did really well to stop yourself though!’ said Lina, the greatest cheerleader ever.

‘But I failed! On day one.’

‘Better to fail on day one than day 21 when you should know better.’

Tomorrow will be better, I told myself. Tomorrow will be easier because I’ll be able to control everything I eat. Tomorrow. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Sugar, We’re Going Down…

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It’ll be no surprise to most, if not all, of those who know me –

I hate my body.

This will have a positive outcome I promise! Just keep reading…

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Trying to find a photo from my size 12 days that wasn’t blurry or weird was really hard… 

There’s a lot that frustrates me about my physique, which goes beyond not being as ‘skinny’ as I’d like to be. As you know, I used to play rugby. I was a healthy size 12, I trained three times a week, I ate what I liked, and I could run up my four flights of stairs without being out of breath.

None of those facts have been true for about eight years. I’m now a full hour glassed size 20, I go to the gym when I can but not as often as I should, I punish myself with my eating habits, and thanks to my recent cold I have to stop halfway up the stairs to catch my breath before carrying up the rest. 

Added to this: I’ve got polycystic ovarian syndrome.

It’s an interesting little dysfunction, my ovaries cling on to eggs to create cysts. I can’t have kids, and I gain weight like crazy. My size 12 to size 20 slide didn’t take the full eight years, it’s just taken me this long to admit it. I went from a size 12 to a size 16 in months, whilst at university, and everyone told me it was Fresher’s bloating. All the alcohol and cheap pasta. But then after uni, I kept ballooning. I went to see my doctor, and she reminded me that weight gain is a side effect of POS.

‘How can I stop the POS?’
‘By going on the pill.’
‘Can I go on the pill?’
‘I can’t put you on the pill until you lose some weight.’

You see my conundrum? A cruel Catch 22 of needing to lose weight and control my body so that I can lose weight and control my body.

There are other psychological factors for me hating my body but if you need to know those, my ‘Did I let anxiety win?’ blog covers most of them.

Here comes the positive bit –

My flatmate Lina and I are going to do a ‘No Sugar for September’ challenge. 30 days of zero refined or added sugar. I really struggle to diet, I get bored easily and the moment someone tells me I can’t have something then that’s all I want. But we’re hoping that by doing this together we’ll be able to cut out sugar for a month.

I don’t expect this to be easy, I’ve got the biggest sweet tooth ever! And sugar – as I discovered when shopping yesterday – is in EVERYTHING! But I’ve got the support of my flatmate and my family, and a game plan. I’ve found replacements for the sugary things I have daily, such as tea, breakfast and lunch. And sugarless alternatives to snacks and other things like that.

I’m not entirely sure what I hope to get out of this. I’ve spent a long term trying to train myself to like my body, even a little bit. But considering I’m the only person I allow to see it in the harsh light of day – maybe I need to stop fixating and starting ‘fixing’ the problems I think I have. And this can’t hurt, right?

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No, but seriously, why hasn’t vogue called yet? 

I’ll try to update the blog every day so you can see whether the alternatives are worth the money, how the lack of sugar impacts my mood, weight and mindset, and please – for me – treat yourself today. 

Just don’t tell me about it…

 

 

‘We don’t just tolerate dogs, we’re dog friendly’

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This is Zoe, and she hopes you’re having a good day. 

We have a new addition to the family. Zoe O’Donnell is a gorgeous springer spaniel puppy, and she’s the light of my life. Admittedly, she’s not my dog – but my brother and his girlfriend are proving to be great dog-parents.

They want to take her wherever they go but, unfortunately, that’s not always possible. Whilst there is a growing number of coffee shops and pubs that say, ‘dog friendly’, my brother is discovering this actually means ‘we’ll tolerate your dog, but…’

Which seems so strange to me. Is there anything better than being in a public place and seeing a dog? Really? Our pets are part of the family. They bond strangers, they’re excited to see you at the end of a long day.  They comfort us when we’re sad, they do that cute head-tilt thing when we talk to them, and if kicking you in the face to get more comfortable on the sofa isn’t love then I don’t want it!

 

Which is why I’ve got to tell you about this amazing wedding venue I’ve found. (Preface, this is not sponsored, I just really love this venue!)

I visited Bilsington Priory, (St Augustine’s Priory) to discuss potentially hosting a writing workshop at their gorgeous historical venue. I was greeted by a gorgeous pack of good boys and girls, who licked my hands, my ankles, and eventually fell asleep at my feet. Throwing back to a paragraph when I said there’s nothing better than spotting a dog in a public place well – a whole pack is the only thing.

Whilst enjoying tea with Libby and Zena, the team that run the beautiful estate, the door bell rang. A flurry of barks erupted, and I forgot for a moment that I was in a meeting trying to be professional. I got excited along with the dogs and when they were told to be quiet, I had to restrain a laugh. I loved it. I asked if people were allowed to bring their dogs to events, and Libby assured me that all dogs were welcome.

‘We don’t just tolerate dogs, we’re dog friendly. In fact, we’ve had a few brides walk their dogs down the aisle of the chapel.’

And she’s got the photos to prove it! In fact, because of the space and the facilities, dogs aren’t the only four legged friends welcome on your wedding day.

So next time you see a sign saying, ‘no dogs,’ don’t be disheartened. Because there’s a little spot in the middle of the countryside which would be perfect for your special day.

The Book Junkie Trial’s Readathon – The Reading List.

I’m taking part in a readathon.

Did I know readathon’s existed before last year? No. Was that because I didn’t watch enough Booktubers? Probably.

I’m 27 years old – and I’m not going to lie, I had to think about it for a second. Time was people would read a book, and then find a select group of friends you could talk about that book with. These people would be the bread and butter of your recommendations and book chat. Without them, your creativity might starve. Or you’d spend a lot of time at the library skimming through things you may or may not actually enjoy reading.

Then came the internet, and an inter-galaxy of opportunities to give your opinion and share reading experiences. And, unfortunately, until now I’ve not had the time to enjoy this outside of ‘reading for half an hour before going to bed.’ But since I’ve become self-employed and I’ve developed a Book Review Blog with my mum, I’ve made the time to read more. Which is why I’m taking part in a readathon.

Last year I set myself the goal of reading (and actually finishing) 12 books. One a month. Shouldn’t have been too difficult except it was. Whilst I was teaching, I couldn’t scrape five minutes for a smoothie let alone the hours it would take for me to enjoy 12 books. I’m by no means a ‘speed-reader’ and it blows my mind that there are wonderful people out there who ‘read the whole of the Harry Potter series in a weekend.’

Just know I’ve seen you. I respect you. I also kinda loathe you.

So I didn’t reach my target. Not even close. But it’s a new year, and I’ve got a new job that works to my own schedule. So I’m taking part in a readathon.

Scribes Map

Naomi (@TeatimewithNaomi) suggested The Book Junkie Trials, which was going to be a fantasy style readathon run by her majesty, Rachael Marie. It was the perfect choice. Her majesty organised a quiz to put you into a team, and I became a scribe. She created a map for each team and little additional ‘trials’ like sharing photos of your TBR and tweeting about your Daemon. Before the readathon had even started, I’d found a thousand new people to follow (only slight hyperbole) and all these like-minded, wonderful people wanted to talk to me about books! Dream accomplished. 

So I thought I’d post this before the readathon starts, because I’m going to be posting more blogs as I work through my reading list. Below is what I’ve chosen and why:

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The Prompts

1. Dwarf Mount: You spot a fair tavern wench, however, the Dwarf Mines, grimey and dusty, didn’t evoke a very romantic feeling. Read a book with a hint of romance to get you in the mood.

I chose Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman. It has been on my general TBR list for a while, and promises passion and pirates! Seemed like the perfect place to start.

2. Apothecary Towers: Where the wizards dwell. Tricksters. They have blind-folded you and randomised all your books, choose a book at random from your bookshelf.

Technically, I didn’t choose this, but Scarlet by Marissa Meyer was recommended to me by a friend after I threatened to give up on the series after thinking the first book, ‘Cinder’ was meh. Nothing wrong with Cinder, it just didn’t hold my interest as much as I wanted it to. And my two favourite characters died so it left me with very little root for. I’ve been promised book two in the series is worth going back for.

3. The Great Library: Ahh the great archives, find and read a book that has been on your TBR forever.

I bought Cruel Prince during the great hype of 2018. Which might not seem like forever ago, but we’re five months away from 2020. Just give yourself a minute to let that sink in. I avoided reading it because those who read and finished it before I could get my hands on a copy did not review it highly. So I kept putting it off and reading other things. So I guess it kinda counts.

4. The Drowning Deep: The Whirlpool… is so…. mesmerising. Read a book with rich world-building that will suck you into its own world, instead.

Because I’m a Scribe, the weakness attributed to me was ‘I spend too much time documenting my findings, so my challenges take longer. I must read a book over 500 pages.’ Turns out I’ve read quite a few books over 500 pages, but not within a month. I needed something with incredible world building and staying power. So I chose The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. Whilst I was on my MA course, I joined a creative writing group which focused on Fantasy called Moonrakers. So I got to spend a lot of time talking about fantasy with other fantasy nerds and just generally living my best life. Brandon Sanderson was quoted on a regular basis and even though I’ve read hundreds of fantasy books, I was promised by all that this was the author I needed to sink my teeth into. The hype is real, so I hope it delivers.

5. The Bookie Grail: Here you find a lost manuscript, delivered on this forgotten island by a fallen star. Read the group book: Stardust.

So, that’s my reading list. I’ve got 31 days to complete it. Wish me luck!

Storytime – James Bond.

James Bond 

The tack room smelt of saddle wax and damp. A bizarre mixture of plastic and leather, oats and hay. A scent a thousand teenage girls carried with them, until they don’t. Riding lessons had been cancelled, so the other girls and I huddled inside, happy we at least had a counter to climb on and a mini fridge to raid. A small heater clicked in its corner as it attempted to heat the cold concrete, and we waited for our parents.

I was the youngest. Too short to climb up onto the counter, too chubby to try. Relegated to the floor. The cold seeped through my jodhpurs, and I still had my helmet on. It was heavy and warm on my head. Plus, the strap was fiddly.

I felt buried in my own silence. Redundant. The older girls were talking about boys. Who they fancied, when they would see them next, whilst I looked up at these girls wondering if I’d be invited to join in. One of the nicer girls noticed I was watching, and out of some misguided kindness extended the question to me.

‘Is there a boy you fancy?’

I’d had time to think about it, so my response was immediate.

‘James Bond.’ I said. ‘I love James Bond.’

There was silence. Tight lips tucked in on themselves.

‘Which one?’ a blonde girl broke.

Too young to understand, I persisted, ‘James Bond. All of them.’

Hyena like, pack-cackling rippled through the tack room, and I realised too late I’d made a mistake.

‘Do you mean Pierce Brosnan?’ a third girl pressed. She didn’t have kind eyes or a nice temper. She was baiting me. I was smart enough to know that much. If one of the nicer girls had asked, I’d have been more honest. I’d have explained the difference between traditional Bond over the newer, flashier Bond with his out of control gadgets and unnecessary explosions.

But I buckled under the eyes of this older girl. I nodded. Feeling like a coward. Not brave enough to admit Sean Connery was better.

*

A few years later, the scent of saddle wax had been replaced by salt watered air and evening cold. The faux shipwreck, climbing wall and wooden towers of Folkestone’s coastal park were haloed by the orange fluorescents of metal streetlights. Strange shades were cast by the palm trees, as our playground attempted its best impression of being anything other than a fishing town.

I’d been abandoned by my friends who were smoking weed in the top tower of the wooden castle. A boy with curly hair had offered me a toke and I’d politely refused.

He and I sat in the little children’s boats that rocked, his feet touched the floor whilst mine did not. He thought he was a bad boy because he’d done a bit of shop lifting, skipped school and smoked weed. He’d had sex too, which he was clearly proud of. He also walked his niece to school, played rugby religiously and offered me his hoodie when I shivered. I refused that too. I was determined to be warm in my rugby training jacket with South East Girls printed in barbie pink across my back. I didn’t want to look needy.

Our friends heckled us from the tower. Making smoochie noises and laughing. He gave them the middle finger back, like a bad boy. And I laughed.

When the shouting died down, and fresh smoke billowed out of the tower. The tall boy relaxed his body into a slouch. I relaxed too. I liked this boy; he was funny and nice and that was all it took for me to like someone. He’d told me that he fancied someone in our group, and a small part of me hoped that now we were alone he’d tell me who it was. Not so I could mock, or shriek or sympathise. Just my common curiosity.

‘Is there someone you fancy?’ he asked, watching me in the haze of orange and black.

Less than a second passed before I answered. His game was clear to me, because it was the same as mine. I decided to reward his curiosity with the truth. Not the whole truth, I knew James Bond was not going to be the right answer. But I would tell this tall, curly haired rugby player exactly how I felt.

I shrugged. Looked him dead in the eye so he knew I was being honest and said,

‘Nah. Boys are stupid.’

Did I let anxiety win?

Preface: Anxiety affects everyone differently. If you read this and feel what I’m talking about doesn’t relate to you, that’s fine. It was nice having you, feel free to check out something different in my long line of content.

If it does, and you feel the need to speak to someone, please check out the Samaritans (or another charity of your choosing). They’ve helped me in the past, and I know they do good work:

Anyway – as you were…

When an ex-England rugby captain invites you to join her team, you don’t say no. You might preface the response text with such phrases as ‘bit intimidated by the team’ and ‘I’m a pretty rubbish player now’, but rugby is in the blood of my family, I couldn’t say no.

And it was exciting. I’d not played a game of rugby in nearly six years. I’d coached, played one game for Aylesford, reffed a little. But to play, consistently, for a team? I missed it.

When I was at university, for whatever reason, I gave up rugby. Focused on my work and my course and didn’t give rugby (or horse riding) much thought. I didn’t realise at the time that I was suffering from anxiety, and that anxiety was taking away the two things I’d enjoyed most (after writing and reading), rugby and horse riding. By the time I’d finished my course, I didn’t horse ride and I didn’t play. And to put in context for you how important those things had been for me previously, I’d played for Kent and South East England – which meant training Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, horse riding Friday, a night off Saturday, game Sunday, recovery Monday. And then? Nothing. Weekdays filled with cramming in work and focusing on my writing.

It didn’t seem like that big a problem. Until I was invited – by Spencer – to play alongside Aylesford. I went to two training sessions, met some really nice girls. Played one game. And it was a shit game. I can’t even remember if we won. What I can remember is, I missed every tackle. I was breathing like I smoked forty a day, and I felt like I’d been in a car accident for the next two weeks.

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Where had my body gone? Why was I know a size twenty not a size twelve? When did that happen?

I knew things were really bad when I was getting texts from five or six girls from the team asking if I was coming to training, and my physical response was to burst into tears. It wasn’t their fault I was shit. It wasn’t their fault I was crying because I was shit. And in hindsight, it wasn’t my fault either, but I felt like it was. I felt like I was letting everyone down. I was a fat mess. A stupid fat mess.

On a night out, a group of lads had seen me at my heaviest and sung ‘Nelly the Elephant’ at me as I walked past. My mum (and I know she hates me telling this story, but it’s super relevant) once told me I had to go to rugby training, because ‘I weighed as much as she did when she was pregnant with me’. And that was at my lightest.

I resolved not to give a shit about my body anymore. I was going to the gym, eating healthy, and it didn’t seem to make a difference. I stopped responding to texts from the girls and basically fell off the side of the earth, hiding in my work and doing teacher training, where I gained more weight.

My dad suggested I go an see a hypnotherapist. If you think that sounds crazy, well, so did I. I thought ‘what’s the point? It’s not going to help. It’s a magic trick.’

But I went anyway – because you don’t say no to my dad – and I had my first session free and another three sessions for £40 after that. I cried pretty much that entire first session. I told the hypnotherapist that I hated my body, that I hated myself. And he told me, to give myself permission to go to the gym and get better. He asked what my parents would say to support me.

And it worked. I went to the gym. I started losing weight. I could run up and down the stairs without being out of breath because I gave myself permission to. I was coaching rugby full time, I did my ref course. I felt better. Happier. I dropped out of teaching and did my MA in creative writing – the best mistake I could have made! I finally understood how lucky I was.

But I still wasn’t playing rugby. And I still wasn’t horse riding. I’d tried loaning a horse, but it threw me, kicked at me, tried to bully me out of the field. And I just wasn’t confident enough. I went for a lesson with my old riding school, and had a panic attack whilst sat on the horse. Couldn’t breathe. Felt like my chest was trying to cave in on itself. I got off. Took some deep breathes. Got back on. Had a brilliant lesson, jumped, cantered, loved it.

And then in June of this year, Spencer invited me to play rugby again. This, though I didn’t know it, would be the real test to see if I’d kicked my anxiety squarely in the nads.

I think she messaged me on facebook – or text me, I can’t find it now. But she invited me to join the Old Elthamians and my immediate response was ‘Hell. Yes.’  Folkestone didn’t have a team anymore, everyone was off playing elsewhere or not playing at all. This was my chance to get back into rugby properly.

Of course, the first week was fitness testing. And I failed. Big time.

I had strong-ish arms and strong-ish legs. But when it came to running the mile, I felt sick. I was basically walking by halfway through the first quarter. And by half way round I had to stop. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t stand up straight, I couldn’t see straight. If I’d eaten more that day it would have resurfaced.

And the girls on my new team cheered me on. They congratulated me – even though I was quite clearly the weakest link in their team. I’d thought it was going to be humiliating. Demoralising. But I couldn’t have asked for a nicer bunch of girls to back me. I went home exhausted, and with a smile on my face.

Then I got the flu. Flu, in the summer. That sounds like an excuse. So I went to the gym, and made myself sicker. Then I had a meeting with my tutor in Bristol. So that was week three missed as well. And by week four, I’d torn my ACL. (The muscle in your knee that you need for any kind of movement apparently!) How? By standing in the kitchen. My knee made a weird popping motion to the side, and the damage was done. Another two weeks of recovery.

I was still getting texts from girls on my team ‘are you coming to training?’ ‘are we seeing you this week?’ ‘come along anyway, help out. Support.’ – But I didn’t want to just watch. I wanted to keep up. I wanted to play. And as the weeks rolled on, I was falling further and further behind – and I’d started as their shittest player anyway!

So this Wednesday was my first training session back. I’d missed Monday’s fitness training because I had a committee meeting (because I’m social sec now), and Spence had said she couldn’t give me a lift, so I’d have to make my own way.

That’s fine, I thought. I’ve been before. The girls will be happy for the numbers if nothing else. My morning was pretty chilled, Netflix, a bit of editing and lots of tea. At lunch, I had a meeting with another young writer I’m really excited to be working with, but driving back from our meeting I started crying.

The old phrases ‘fat mess’ ‘stupid’ ‘crap player’ ‘lazy’ rolling around in the back of my head. With new phrases like ‘slow’ ‘worst player’, ‘they wouldn’t even notice if you never showed up again’ ‘they’re just saying you should play so they’ve got numbers’ ‘why bother?’. And I cried the whole way home. By the time I got home, I thought I was over it. Posted a facebook status (which I never do) calling Anxiety a wankmaggot – like name calling made me super mature and able to handle it.

But the truth was, anxiety was using phrases I’d said to make me think I didn’t want to play rugby anymore. That it was too much trouble. A waste of time. That I didn’t really enjoy it anyway.

It made me feel completely alone too. Like I could die, and people would be annoyed I’d inconvenienced them. I thought about taking the ten-minute walk to the cliffs by my house. Jumping. Leaving a note on my computer that said ‘Happy now?’ like it was someone else’s fault. And then I felt guilty. What the fuck did I have to be upset about? I’m not homeless, or drug dependent, I’m a little overweight, over-emotional, and attention seeking. Get the fuck over it.

I was making tea, and mum tried to give me a hug. I told her not to touch me. Not to pander to me. I was being pathetic. She sat me down and talked to me. Really listened. Really cared. Told me I was putting too much pressure on myself not to feel. Too much pressure to be amazing at rugby. Because I was acting like I was scared. Not scared of the drive – Bristol to Kent is three to four hours, this was nothing like that. Not the people – because they’d been nothing but lovely to me. Fear of failure then. Of letting people down.

So I had to ask myself: Does the pressure need to be there? No. Will the girls care? No. Will they be disappointed if I don’t show up – probably not. Or is that anxiety creeping in again? Could I ask them? No, that’s not their problem.

What do you want then? Deep breathe. I want this. I want to get fitter, I don’t want to feel sorry for myself. I can’t let it win. So I packed my stuff, I shaved my legs and I went to training. I got a few comments about being a ‘stranger’, but people seemed happy enough to have me around. They remembered my name at least.

And yeah, the training session was hard. My knee starting hurting almost immediately. I avoided contact to begin with, but took on the tackle pad when it came to swapping people out. One girl could move me. Whether it was weight, or skill, or just planting my good leg in the way, girls were hitting the pad and bouncing off. I could do this.

We split off into forwards and backs. Had to work in pods. Take the ball, hit the pad, go down. I could do that too. But my knee collided with the floor and suddenly I felt like I was on fire. Like Someone had rubbed gunpowder into my knee. I couldn’t straighten it without it burning. I had to bow out. And I felt, again, like I was letting everyone down.

Now I’d had quite a positive response to the Facebook post. People, especially other rugby girls, sharing their support. I didn’t want to leave the pitch. That felt like giving up, and letting those people down too. I felt stupid. Pathetic. And it hurt so much.

Eventually, the training ended. I dropped one of the girls off at the train station, called my friend and told her I was fine. I was fine. I’d done it. I’d gone to training, I’d given it my all. I’d hurt myself, but no one had died. That was a win.

400076_10150598927390659_328815983_nThe next day my knee didn’t hurt at all. And I was left with this deep, deep fear that it had all been in my head. That I was putting up physical roadblocks in the way of getting fitter. Because I feel trapped in this flabby mess I call my body. I’m stuck on the days when I could make every breakdown and high levels of competition. Run fast enough to be in the right place at the right time, make a tackle worthy of Spencer mentioning it in the newspaper article she was writing.

I went to a BNI business meeting, and one of the members who has me on Facebook came up and gave me a hug. Told me he’d seen my status and thought I needed it. I told him I’d just had a stupid wobble, and he said ‘we all have those’.

So to Priscilla, Claire, Yvonne, Bex, Katherine, Lina, Mark, and Andy – thank you so much for taking your time out to give me the nudge I needed when I needed it most. You’ll never know how important those comments and messages were to me at that moment.

And as for whether I let the anxiety win or not – I’ve no fucking idea. I’ve got serious DOMS today, which has annoyed me because I could/should have done more at training. But I’m also kind of smug, because I know somewhere in me is the capacity for good rugby.

And if you’re looking to join a really good, high-quality rugby team full of girls, let me put you in touch…

So what can you take away from this (frankly grotesque and self-indulgent) essay. Everyone has their own shit, sure. But it’s okay to ask for help, to feel inadequate, or insecure. So long as you know you can ask for help from those around you. And if you see someone is having a hard time, spare them a kind word, a quick message or a hug. It might make more difference than you realise.

 

Why do you do what you do?

I guess, as I’m technically asking myself this question, it would be a bit of a cop-out to say ‘because I love it’. Though I do, and I always have enjoyed; writing, editing, conversing, blogging, reading, and everything that connects those dots together.

It’s just become more obvious to me the more I’ve been layered and layered with jobs and writing-related stress.

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Today I did a workshop with the Metis – Ashford and Folkestone Network for women in business. I was, unsurprisingly, really nervous about it. How can I explain to people – in only half an hour – how to get the most out of their blog? How do I dare when this is my current shop front? I’ve had blogs in the past that have done really well (and others that haven’t). What if I’m not as good as I think I am? What if I’m a fraud?

Turns out – everyone has those fears. Everyone is trying to do their best. This shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did highlight the amount of pressure I feel to be the ‘voice of authority’ when it comes to blogging. Which is stupid – for the simple reason I AM an authority when it comes to blogging because of years of experience, my client track record, my statistics and my research.

Of course, you never know you know something until someone reminds you.

UntitledI went to AccessxHelenAnderz last week at Hoxton Hall. I’ve been to a few workshops on Youtube and blogging, and this was – in my ever so humble opinion – one of the best. Helen Anderson introduced herself in a humble/hustling hard kind of way which was fresh and authentic. She didn’t teach anyone in the room to ‘suck eggs’ or ever assume that people were too stupid to understand her. She was friendly, fun and informed.

Now I ghost write for other people, I wanted to make sure I was evoking that same kind of reaction.

I started with a little game, asking people in pairs to tell an anecdote. Telling them they had three minutes to explain the anecdote. I then gave them 45 seconds and cut in.

“Not everyone is going to have time to read everything. And you’re fighting against the noise around you. You’ve got to make sure your blog stands out.” – And away I went. We talked about types of blog, types of content, types of audience. And I ran over my half an hour easily – even though I’d skipped two slides so I could leave time for questions! I hope Helen Anderz doesn’t mind that I quoted her directly – “If you’ve got a voice or a message, you’ll find an audience.” I just felt, for these brilliant businesswomen, it was the perfect take away.

I was asked at the end, “what is your favourite quote?” (and maybe that’s what this blog post should have been called.

My response:- Shia LaBeouf, “Just do it.” I wanted to make people laugh. When you’re laughing, you’re relaxed and open to new things. And that’s what I wanted to share with them.

I really enjoyed sharing my knowledge and experience with women with their own keen business understanding. Plus it helped that I was told at the end how “amiable, and well presented” I was. How professional. How enthusiastic. I couldn’t stop grinning the whole way home.

So why do I do what I do? Because I love it, for all the reasons above and more.

How are you dealing with the heat?

Short answer: I’m not. The heat is gross, and I want my ‘English Weather’ back.

Last week, my town had one day of rain; and I wrote more for my manuscript in that day than I had the entire week previous. It’s not just that I’m a lover of rain – which I am – it’s the halting sagginess to summer heat I can’t stand. Everything stops moving or slows down. People feel like they’re walking through custard. Hot custard.

We all think we’re going to be really excited for summer – and I think that’s because all the ‘fun things’ happen during summer. Bbqs, beach days, cocktails and budgie-smugglers (my dad’s term for speedos), and I always feel bad for raining on the parade. (Did you see what I did there?) But unless you don’t sweat, or have a pool, the summer is the worst.

IMG_20171217_102540_666You’ve got people suffering from heat stroke, and the animals! Think of the animals!

This morning – and this is one of the reasons this post is late, I was outside enjoying the sunshine with my dog like a massive hypocrite – I filled one of those children’s plastic toy boxes full of water (made sure it came out cold first) and watched my dog play in it. He was soaked. Drank half the bucket too. And then he curled up on our cold, tiled, kitchen floor and fell asleep. So cute.

The cats were more tentative about the box. The boy casually sniffed it, but decided the surrounding puddles were enough of a warning and walked away. The girl nearly put her face straight into it, not realising how high the water was. After sneezing the water out, she drank and curled up under a tree in our garden.

We’ve got water bowls all over the house at the moment to protect our babies from this god-awful heat.

I’ve not slept in my bed for weeks. Just perched on top of my sheets, with my pillows under my neck so that my face doesn’t touch anything! Who knew the back of your knees could sweat so much… And as for the underboob – well, I don’t want to go into it. But you could probably fry and egg under there. Just saying.

I was in London twice this week – and London in the summer is gross. On Monday I travelled by car, and was saved by minimal walking and state of the art air-conditioning. It was more difficult once I was in the building I was visiting, but with lots of dark nooks and big doors I stayed relatively cool.

Yesterday was different. I was wearing as little as possible (without being indecent) finding myself trousers of a pretty thin chiffon so that I looked like I could be wearing trousers or pajamas and no one would be able to tell the difference. The woman who sold them told me they’d ‘do me no good’ because they were black and ‘no matter the fabric, black always absorbs the heat’. Which is true. That’s one of the first things I learned in science. But Chiffon – if cut widely enough, barely touches you. It’s too busy dancing in the breeze of motion. So they worked a treat. But my face wanted to evacuate every pore. I’ve never had such a sweaty upper-lip in my life. Gross.

But I had a large bottle of water with me, that just so happened to be colour co-ordinated with my nails and trainers. Because a year ago, at work, I was given some very solid heat related advice. My boss’s husband came into the office with a pack of twelve water bottles. Just little handy ones you can chuck in a bag. He turned me and said,

37753947_10156318106650659_2347511016687927296_n‘Nat always forgets to drink water, so when you see her, point at those and tell her ‘hydrate or die’.

And then he left. And so poignant was that interaction, I’ve stuck with that advice ever since. Hydrate or die – you’ll not forget that in a hurry.

So give me rain. Pouring, dark, cold rain. Not enough to drown me, maybe 30 days instead of 40. At least then I might get my manuscript finished.

How long does it take for you to get ready?

Blogger's Daily Routine Timeline InfographicIf you’re one of those magical people who can wake up and just ‘be awake’ I’d ask which demon you sold your soul to and how can I get in touch?

Waking up for me is an ORDEAL! Firstly, why do all alarms ring through your head? Why can’t they lull you awake, gently? And with enough time to become sentient, after that weird fever dream you were just experiencing? I’ve tried using different songs, phone ringtones, the radio. All of it hurts. So once I’m awake I like to lie awake and stare at the ceiling for ten minutes whilst I contemplate pretending to be dead or calling in sick. Eventually, the need the use the bathroom becomes overwhelming and I get up.

When it comes to breakfast, well, this is the laziest part of my morning. I’ll either have cereal or toast if I’m doing it myself. I’ve recently moved back in with my parents (because my MA in Creative Writing has rinsed my account), and my mum likes to have bacon and eggs on toast for breakfast. If she’s cooking, then I wake up to the smells of bacon and it’s a lot easier to be enthused.

Once I’ve eaten, it’s time to shower and brush my teeth. I don’t spend longer than ten minutes in the shower. My hair is quite long, but I find a simple wash once and condition every three days keeps it in good condition. I don’t douse it in hairspray or straighten it very often, so it keeps my hairdresser happy when I see her.

On a dry day, it takes me exactly eleven minutes to get dressed, make my bed, brush my hair and brush my teeth. It’s the only part of my morning where I feel even remotely efficient. Rarely does my underwear match. Rarely can I find two socks with the same pattern, so I tend to stick with at least the same colour. I’ve tried to only buy black socks to that I can pretend I have my life together. But I love a novelty sock. I will not apologise.

On a wet day, it takes slightly longer to get dressed because of the drying process. First, I have to enjoy a cup of tea, a bit of my book or a youtube video. It’s a must, without this part of my day everything else crumbles. Then I lightly blow dry my hair at the root, and towel dry the ends. If I’m sat at my desk/vanity table whilst this is happening, it’s about this time that my cat comes running into my room, screaming, and sits on my lap slowing the rest of my morning down. Whilst I’ve been working from home this hasn’t been a problem – but when I get back to a nine-to-five in September? Well, we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.

Finally, Makeup.

I timed this bit, because it’s the longest part of my ‘getting ready’ process – which is why it only happens if I’m:

  • Sick – and need to hide how awful I look to the general public.
  • I’m on a date – and need to hide how awful I look to the poor schmuk sat across from me.
  • I’m on a night out with my friends – and I need to hide the fact I’m the Lena Dunham to their Taylor Swift(s).
    • This is a reference to Katherine Ryan’s stand up comedy AKA The hilarious retelling of truths too relevant to my life. If you’ve not seen her Netflix Specials – fix your life immediately. 
  • I’m bored and I’ve got time.

Seventeen minutes to do my makeup. I’m saying that up front so you know in advance that I have no idea what I’m doing. That’s not the expedient ‘I do my make up every day, bit of foundation, bit of mascara and away I go!’ nor is it the ‘Everything I learned from my professional MUA course I’ve put into bite-size chunks for Instagram and Youtube – you’re welcome’. It’s in the chubby middle section of ‘I learned from everything I know youtube and cannot get the cat-eye flick on even the sixth try’.

It happens like this: Wash face, prime face, foundation, concealer, blusher, eyes, face powder (I know this is wrong, but I make no apologies. I’m just doing my best!) eyebrows, mascara, lipstick, check for boogers, maybe take a selfie. Depends how good the light is and how much spare time I have. Filter it. Save for later. I don’t like posting too many selfies at once, I don’t want people to think I’m at that level of self-confidence because I’m not, and they might expect me to do confident things like show up to parties.

I only have one bag that I use on a regular basis, so it has phone, keys and purse already in it. If I need anything else then I’ve usually packed it the night before because, again, I like to pretend I’ve got my life together.

Things that will never be part of my morning routine:

  1. Painting my nails – it never dries in time. I always get it everywhere. If I’m going to make a mess it’s going to be in the cool afternoon time so that I don’t have to worry about spending too much time on.
  2. Exercise – my dad goes to the gym before work three times a week, swimming at the weekends. And this blows my mind. I don’t want to be damp and gross from sweating and then showering in an unfamiliar place. I don’t want to hurt and ache when I walk around the office. Who am I kidding? I don’t want to exercise if I can help it…
  3. Food Prep – there’s something exciting about wondering whether you’re going to eat lunch at a normal time or scrabble at the local supermarket to throw something together in the short break you have. Unless… does leftover Chinese count as food prep?

So what do you think? Could you improve my routine? Or does it sound all too familiar? Leave a comment below, share with your friends and I’ll see you next week!

Have you ever dyed your hair?

Dying your hair is a lot of hard work and commitment. I’m not really a fan of either of those things when it comes to my appearance – which is why I’ll never dye my hair again.  The first time I dyed my hair should have been an experience to put me off for life, but I like to learn mistakes a couple of times just to be sure.

Image result for hair highlights cap free use
Allure

You know?

PHASE 1 – The Blonde Highlights

I’d wanted blonde highlights – either because they’d been suggested to me or because everyone in my class was getting them. I can’t remember – I  just remember thinking it would be easier to do than it was. But my mum came home with one of those ‘highlighting’ caps and good lord…

Have you ever experienced someone digging into your head rhythmically for hours, to get to the smallest strands of hair? Because that’s what this is. It feels like hours of life you’re never getting back because when you see your hair poking out of the cap it’s like ‘is that it?’

But it looked okay, I didn’t hate it. And then we went on holiday…

NERD ALERT – Copper is found in traces in water, thanks to the pipes and wells used to store water. You can also use copper-based algaecides to keep your swimming pools clean. But when copper is oxidized by chlorine is binds to the proteins in hair.

TLDR – Copper water + Chlorine + hair = green tints.

And because bleached hair is so stripped down, dyed hair can look fluorescent. So I went to Margarita with gorgeous blonde highlights and came back looking like I’d stitched a witch’s wig into mine.

Copper is an alkali though, so I was told to put something red and acidic in my hair and it would counter the oxidation. We were recommended – I kid you not – tomato ketchup. So I washed tomato ketchup into my hair a couple of times and got most of the blonde back. Only in some lights could the green be seen.

PHASE 2 – Bottle Black Emo Kid

Because each phase should rebel against the last right? Black hair was sweeping through my friends shortly after the blonde highlight fiasco – so I jumped on that bandwagon too. The problem was, I had a bob. And glasses. And a school uniform. I looked less like the cool anime emo kids and more like Velma Dinkley from Scooby Doo.

And there was no fooling my classmates. My roots were lighter than the rest of my hair, so required constant upkeep. Being called ‘Bottle Black’ became a sort of slur for someone trying too hard and I gave up after that. If I were to go and dye my hair again now, this is probably the phase I’d return to. I’m pale, I think I’d look good as a casual goth.

PHASE 3 – Colour Colour

Like I said, every phase has to rebel against the last. And the last phase was to go big and bright with colours. My friends hit the bright red hard. All of them, pretty much, and I became the ‘unique one’ for not bothering. For letting my hair grow out long and brown and natural.

The truth was, I wasn’t very well, and all my hair fell out. Well, not all my hair – but enough to make growing it out a mission because it was stress induced and stress perpetuating. So it was a few years between being ill and dying my hair purple. Yes, purple – because if everyone else went red, why would I bother?

I’d expected a bright Cadbury purple, but my hairdresser ‘knew better’ and gave me a soft magenta purple. It was nice. It was different. No one cared. By this point, different hair dyes that change colour in the rain and under heat was a thing. Dying your hair multiple colours and having the top black so no one would know until the wind came along or you put it up into a ponytail.

And when it grew out it looked like a cheap Balayage. It went a bizarre red/ombre/ginger colour which did suit my long brown hair but it only sprung to life through my lack of commitment. And that was years ago. I don’t bother dying my hair now.

I might try low lights though – when it’s colder and I’m not wasting the money on something I’m going to sling out of my face with a hair band.

Let me know what you think.