That night I was alone in my house in Los Angeles. It’s Christmas Eve Eve and despite having a stocked fridge full of things to make a nutritious evening meal, all I wanted was scrambled eggs.

Growing up, I did not like scrambled eggs. I liked eggs done every other which-way you could imagine, but even the word scrambled eggs activated my gag reflex. I think this was mainly because scrambled eggs were done a certain way in my house. We weren’t a family for full English fry-ups, so the fact it was an integral part of our Christmas Day itinerary is somewhat surprising. It was the only day of the year that any of us had a cooked meal at any other point than dinner, and it felt like such a luxury.

Everyone had a job; mine was the military operation of creating enough toast, of the right colour ways, for nine people with a toaster that only had two slots. My sister made the scrambled eggs; using the microwave in the corner of the kitchen. I think this was out of necessity since the hob would have been used for beans (Dad) and bacon (Mum). Family lore stated that the microwave was a present when my mum gave birth to our little brother in 1987. I never questioned from who. Either way, I dreaded the appearance of that scrambled egg every year. Microwaving a bowl of eggs turns them into a mushy, colourless cloud. The lack of colour does not equal a lack of smell. The steamy stench stuck in my nostrils for the best part of a decade.

Then I had a boyfriend while I was at University who was a terrible cook. On our one and only Valentines Day together he invited me over with the promise of preparing me dinner. I thought this was the height of sophistication. He’d kicked his housemate out, used a grotty tea towel as a table cloth and there might have even been Ikea tea-lights. He served me up a plate of white pasta bows and proudly proffered a bottle of tomato ketchup in my direction. Yep, he genuinely thought ‘pasta and tomato sauce’ was farfalle + Heinz’s finest. Side-eye stories like these make it all the more surprising that he was the person who instilled in me an acceptance of scrambled eggs. But not really, because he couldn’t cook, so they were just fried egg basically. Over-done, omelette consistency eggs that I ate by the mountain that summer to avoid any other kitchen experiments or much of anything at all. Our relationship was a wonky meeting of two anxious minds; our short time together peppered with panic attacks and sleepless nights and wrung hands but there was always comfort to be found in scrambled eggs.

Then I moved into a London house-share with my first ever friend from the South of England. Tres exotic. Now she was the height of sophistication. She had things like a cafetiere, she spoke French and she covered our house in arty black and white 80p postcards from Paperchase. And finally, she taught me to make proper scrambled eggs. We lived an hours commute from central London and were both just starting out in careers so we never saw each other on week nights, but we would take it in turns to buy Saturday breakfast ingredients and meet in the kitchen to rustle up bagels and eggs and coffee and orange juice. Even though I insisted I didn’t like scrambled eggs, she insisted I just hadn’t had them done right. She used ingredients from Marks and Spencer (they do not just sell knickers, I learnt) and went big on the butter, the cream and the pepper. The key, she taught me, was that before you think they are done – take the eggs off the heat. The pan is so hot, that they’ll continue to cook through but keep the creamy consistency. Over our year of living together, I learnt to not only love scrambled eggs but how to make them perfectly. We stopped being friends soon after moving out and I learnt that ‘break-ups’ with female friends are just as, if not more, devastating than romantic relationships.

But I still think of her every single time I take the pan off the heat. When the eggs are just-right.

A Sunrise

The day I am going to write about happened a while ago now. On a Friday in early March all of Pip’s family, friends and fans gathered to celebrate her life. Unfortunately for a few frustrating factors relating to my far-flung location, I couldn’t be there in person and that felt really tough.

I hadn’t known what to do with the day, other than that I wouldn’t be able to be at work pretending I was ok, which the rest of the time I have got pretty adept at. The only idea I had of honouring Pip properly was to ensure that I saw the sunrise, and sunset, that day. Given that daytime savings hadn’t yet kicked in, the sky was pitch black when my alarm went off at 5.15am and I creaked out of bed and onto the deserted streets. I was heading towards an overlook that I often hike to, but quickly realised I had never done it at such an unearthly hour and as I scrabbled up towards the highest point… I began to think perhaps it was a risky thing to do. I kept my headphones on the whole way, slowly waking up with each track change.

About a month before we lost her, Pip had sent me a letter. It has sat on my bedside table ever since and I can’t imagine a morning where I don’t read it. The thing that gnaws away at me is the time it took me to write my reply. As so often during her illness, I found myself paralysed because I didn’t want to face up to what was happening or acknowledge that time was limited. When I finally finished it, and sent it, it was too late. The card I sent with it was this totally goofy illustration of a rabbit wearing heart-shaped sunglasses, stood in front of the Hollywood sign on a surfboard. Rabbit’s aren’t really an animal I have any sort of connection with, and as Pip was basically half-feline, she didn’t either. I’ve berated myself time after time for sending such a naff card and knowing that whoever opened it eventually, if it even did get opened, would not be Pip.

As I got to end of the path and I rounded the final bend, I honestly laughed out loud to see a rabbit right in front of me. I’ve been to this overlook over 50 times in the past 18 months and never, ever seen a rabbit there. In fact, I’ve barely seen any rabbits in LA or California, full stop. It just felt so reassuring and instantly eased my guilt at that bloody stupid rabbit card.

As I sat on ‘my’ bench (so-called just because I never find anyone else sitting on it, although I am sure the day will come soon where I realise I am one of many people who have claimed it for themselves) I finally turned off my playlist and couldn’t believe the rush of deafening bird song, the urgent pre-dawn animal calls and the steady roar of the distant freeway traffic. Then the sun started to crack through the darkness.

Of course it was the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. It honestly wouldn’t have mattered if it was grey, raining and muted – which wouldn’t have been such a stretch given the actual ‘winter’ we’ve had this year. But it felt fitting that everything for that moment in time was technicolor. The layers of mountains were illuminated in different tones of pink across the horizon. The sky was golden and ombre, with tiny tufts of cloud catching the rays.

The rabbit moved closer.

Unlike most mornings there, I didn’t need to clock watch and hurry home. Slowly but surely strands of light started beaming over the skyscrapers of Downtown. The sun started to pick out the rows of palm trees in the distance. The city turned from pink to orange to bright white.

The rabbit moved closer.

As the sun reached dizzying heights, I felt warmer. And I felt the denial and resistance at the truth I had been carrying heavily on my shoulders, begin to thaw away.

I felt so strongly that Pip was with me that day, and continues to be with me. Every day a specific thought or long-lost memory floods back, painting in some colour to the grey gloom around the situation. I recently walked into a car park and disturbed a huge flock of pigeons who were feasting on some stale bread. My steps sent them exploding into the air around me, and like when I saw the rabbit I almost laughed out loud. I had completely forgotten Pip’s fear of birds. When we worked together in London, she would have me walk a metre ahead on our coffee-runs – flapping and scaring any pigeons out of the way so that she could have safe passage. For someone as steely and courageous as she was, I always felt reassured by this small vulnerability but hadn’t thought of it for so long and I am sure everyone else in the car park was wondering why the pigeons made me laugh, then cry in quick succession. Although it’s probably not the weirdest thing they’ve seen in LA.

This week I had to go through a visa-renewal document online that was auto-populated from my last application. As I scrolled through the sections, the electric shock on my fingers as I tabbed to the “Supervisor” listing and saw Pip’s name. And the pain as I had to change it to someone else. And the times like that which make me buckle with grief.

What happens when you’re Bip, and then you’re just Bee. How do I hold onto the super-specific best version of me that she bought out. Pip was always someone who saw a side of me that no one else did. She saw bravery where a lot of people see softness. She held me to a standard that I wouldn’t have thought possible myself, and she had such a huge impact on the person I’ve become – not least because without her I wouldn’t be living in Los Angeles. I will do everything I can to keep to the track she started me on.

And maybe I’ll go and watch another sunrise tomorrow.

I always admired the fact that whilst she committed her life to heading up Communications for huge companies; Pip was an incredibly private person herself. I want to write about how vital her life was and how keenly I, and the world, will feel her loss. But I also want to respect that she was never someone to share her life online or let too many people into the nooks and crannies.

Pip passed away on Sunday and I find myself in that bewildering stage of grief where it feels impossible to accept. My first reaction is to want to creating something, anything, and get it out there. I can feel Pip shaking her head and eye-rolling, as her response would be entirely the opposite.

For a period of time Pip and I sat and worked so closely, that people started referring to us as ‘Bip’. We would still exclusively call each other that; long after we had both moved to opposite coasts of America and our desks were thousands of miles apart.

There are threads throughout our friendship. In London, our office was next door to the famous department store Liberty. We would spend far too many lunch breaks just walking the floors, talking and spending money we didn’t have in the high-end chocolate section. It has meant that I forever associate Liberty with Pip. In 2016, when Pip told me that she had cancer, I was on a flight to New York within days. I had some time to spare before visiting hours began and found myself wandering up and down Broadway; where something in the Uniqlo window caught my eye. It was the first day of a partnership with Liberty; and their iconic floral prints and patterns flooded the shop. I picked up two matching tee-shirts for ‘Bip’.

Two years later and I’d randomly dug my twin-tee-shirt out of the depths of my wardrobe, when faced with an unseasonably warm winter day. And I was wearing it when I heard the news that Pip had died. I don’t know why I want to share this, or why I clutch to the fact that it must have some meaning. I suppose right now it doesn’t feel that there is anything to clutch to amongst the pain and the sadness and the anger, but this is something that’s none of those things.

Pip was the most fiercely loyal person. I feel like that phrase gets used a lot; but loyalty is something shown through actions rather than words and this is a woman who kept our friendship unwavering when I was in South America and she was in London. When I was in London and she was… in New York. And finally, when I was in Los Angeles and she was in London. We circled each other like cats, never managing to settle in the same place, at the same time, again. That’s appropriate though, as Pip’s adoration of all things feline was something you would know within moments of meeting her. Lost kitty souls would always find their way to Pip; even when she lived in a multi-story apartment building with barely any space for herself. I was fortunate to have Pip as a mentor, her passion for PR and her generosity in sharing her knowledge, skills and relationships was inspiring. She had an incredible ability for candor, with kindness. Her laugh was the best on the planet. I am terrified that at some point I won’t be able to conjure up that laugh, the way I can right now. I think it says everything about her that even when deep-down a terrifying road of her illness, less than a month ago she took the time to send me a letter full of praise and words of support to ME. That ability to be relentlessly giving, is the rarest quality and something I hope anyone reading this will attempt to bake into their own daily lives, in honour of someone who made it look effortless.

I wrote a lot of this in a letter that I posted on Wednesday. That letter won’t ever be read by its intended recipient. Instead the letter will probably cause additional pain to those who intercept it, and for that I feel guilty. I hope she knew everything I have written here already and I hope if even one more person knows now, that it was worth sharing this.

This artwork was on the wall next to the hotel I stayed in when visiting Pip in hospital in New York. It felt like a sign then, and even more of one now.

You are so, so loved Pip.

Homesickness is nothing. Fifty percent of the people in the world are homesick all the time. – John Cheever


As I sit down to write this, it’s been 284 days since I stepped foot in England. It’s been 496 days since I stepped foot in Yorkshire. There’s a lot of reasons for these things. I decided to spend last Christmas with my festive friend and families, which is the peakest of peak times to travel and cost such a vast amount of dollars to pull off, that I only just paid it all back to the bank. I wanted to spend a solid chunk of time in Los Angeles this year to try and better settle-in and invest in work, relationships and actually living here; rather than having half a foot in a life 5437 miles away. I wanted to use my holiday/vacation/holiday days exploring the Golden Coast. Oh and somewhere along the line I got stuck in a Green Card application black hole where if I leave the country, the immigration folks view that as me cancelling my application. Due to the political situation everything is big-time backlogged and no one in-the-know can even predict when I might get ‘advanced parole’ and be able to leave the US again. Yes it is genuinely called parole. Just like leaving prison.


As the hours tick down from my last time connecting with the country that was (is? is it still?) my home, I can feel my sense of identity blurring around the edges. Identity isn’t something I’d ever given any thought, before wrenching myself from everything familiar and known. I have always thought my identity was made up of a few key parts:


i] Being from Yorkshire – cut me and I bleed white roses, I know basically all the words to on Ilkla Moor Bah’Tat, my default greeting to strangers are the equally baffling y’alreet or iyer love, I wistfully stare at the Yorkshire Tea box on an almost daily basis as I make a stereotypically huge quantity of cuppas and yearn for rolling hills as the kettle boils.


ii] Being from Bradford – and that experience is a whole blog post in itself, but watch Happy Valley and you might get some hints at the pros and cons of that whole situation (yes I know it’s based in Hebden-ish, but same-same)


iii] Being an adopted Londoner. I lived South, West, East then North. I had my northern naivety quickly rubbed off. I loved, I lost, I lived so frantically and full-y that I basically burnt out before I was 30 but I never regretted a second of my big smoke education that shaped the me I became.


But what does it mean if you move somewhere that barely any part of that identity means anything to the people around you. And that’s not a criticism. It’s a fact; just like I have no knowledge of what is automatically baked in to being from ‘the mid west’, or having attended Stanford (or is it Stamford?), or why I should or shouldn’t support The Patriots, or the context behind the movement in generations and countries for certain cultures being more represented here than in the UK, or what age a 7th grader is, or what a snow cone is. I feel like one track of my brain is desperately trying to pick up on social cues or looks or hints as I fail again, and again, to understand even the most basic of small-talk, in a country that feels like it’s constantly tripping me up even after two years. I also feel like the combination of my accent, colloquialisms and attempts to portray my personality give me the same sensation as when I was speaking fluent Spanish during my six months in Latin America. Despite that fact that here I am able to speak English, I do the same scanning for corrections and pesky-enunciation, and articulate myself with the perma-fear that I’m going to accidentally offend someone or embarrass myself.



When I moved to London there was the similar bewildering sense of setting up a life somewhere new, and being a northerner was somewhat novel, but at least given the right amount of information people could quickly fill in some gaps themselves. Here, I am more likely to be asked if I am Australian than anything else. This might be because for the first time in my life my skin tone is something other than so-ghostly-white-it’s-almost-blue. Again I’m not even saying this is a bad thing, because it means everyone is taking me at face value and I’m doing the same in reverse, but it’s still a weird thing. It’s a new thing. And it’s the thing that’s making me also feel like I am losing a grip on myself. I am stuck between wanting to immerse myself in my new home and learn everything there is to know about it; yet still stubbornly saying loo even though no one understands what it means and still pronouncing latte ‘lah-ay” even if it means I have to use additional sign language and pointing for that to be understood. Maybe I need to stop fighting to clutch on to things that don’t even make sense or mesh here. But then what will I become, and who will I be without those cornerstones of myself?


I’m reading an incredible book right now called The Lonely City by Olivia Laing. I have found myself rationing it into chunks, partly because I am enjoying it so much but partly because it hits so many nerves and truths that I have to steel myself before diving in. Olivia’s book was inspired by her experience of moving from England to New York and she explores, far more gracefully, the exact themes I’ve touched on above. She too recounts being unable to order a daily coffee without being misunderstood and states, “I might have found it funny in England, or irritating, or I might not have noticed it at all, but that autumn it worked under my skin, depositing little grains of anxiety and shame…. I was exposing myself as a non-native, an outsider, someone who doesn’t know the code word is regular or drip.” 
She also said this, which I highlighted and almost kissed my kindle as it summed up what I had been berating myself as me just being ‘over sensitive’, “It was as if, having been so cataclysmically dismissed on a daily basis by the barista, my ears had become attuned to the note of rejection, and when it came, as it inevitably does, in small doses throughout the day, some vital part of me clamped and closed, poised to flee. There was something agonising about speaking and being misunderstood or found unintelligible, something that got right to the heart of all my fears about loneliness- no one will ever understand you. No one wants to hear what you say. Why can’t you fit in, why do you have to stick out so much?”


Even in my own flat I am surrounded by subliminal messages that I am neither here, nor there. I still face a daily juggle of “stuff that needs a UK adaptor to work” and things that I can plug straight into the wall. Even as I type this, there is a a line beneath this says draft saved at 6.09am because my WordPress account is still set to UK time. People talk about muscle-memory, and here I experience brain muscle-memory all the time. For example I want to go and watch The Florida Project this weekend. So tonight I logged onto the Curzon Cinemas website, and got as far as looking at times before I realised that I was looking at my go-to London chain and obviously that’s not going to help me with any movie-going pursuits whatsoever. Every time something like this happens, it’s like being scalded. How can I be physically sat in Los Angeles, but still automatically reach for London?



The fact that I even LIVE in Los Angeles still creeps up on me sometimes. Now I’ve adapted to the another day of sun climate, and my week is mostly spend at a desk where I cannot see that sunshine anyway, I’ve had times where I will leave work and something happens where I ‘remember’ that I am on the other side of the world and it’s almost like everything around me judders and the realisation leaves me breathless. This happened all the time when I first moved here, but it still sneaks up on a quite regularly basis. This week I felt it as I watched The National play at the Hollywood Bowl. My fan-girling knows no bounds, so I am sure if you’ve read me prattle on here before then you know they are my all-time favourite band who I’ve been fortunate to have soundtrack my entire adult life from a failed attempt to living in Sheffield in 2003 through to well, this year. They are the only band that feel like every song sings especially for every stage of where I’ve been when they’ve been releasing new material. It was an amazing experience to see them at such an iconic LA venue; and underneath the starry sky, especially as so many of their songs reference Hollywood or LA. I was lost in the performance and then they played their song England. And I felt that jarring shock of staggered thoughts and realisations “I love this song because it’s about England where I live”, “No wait, I don’t live there and I can’t even identify with living somewhere rainy anymore” “Oh my goodness I don’t live in London and I miss everyone there” “Oh wait this song talks about LA too” “I live in LA, that’s exciting”.


I feel like this might all sound a bit moaning-minnie, but the other part is that I’ve never felt more at home anywhere (including Bradford, Yorkshire and London) than I have in Los Angeles and it’s been that way pretty much since I unpacked my suitcase of belongings into an unfurnished flat in September 2015. And maybe that’s why it’s causing the identity crisis; because I know I’m not just going to be retreating back to my hometown anytime soon. I think I just need a top-up. It’s nothing a fat rascal, a potter and a natter and some sheet-ice-rain won’t cure.



I also just really need to see a sheep. I haven’t seen a sheep for nearly 500 days and I’m not sure why that, more than anything else, feels disorientating… but it does. I want to be on a train and see the little fluffy clouds dotting the green fields, in that reassuringly bland way that I took for granted for three decades.

Three things happened in July. Firstly, I took a ‘vacation’ to Lake Arrowhead. The week unsurprisingly involved a lot of wild swimming in the glittering mountain waters, and as I revelled in the feeling of nothingness beneath my feet and my heart pounding with each stroke; somewhere in the back of my brain I started wondering why on earth I hadn’t been to a swimming pool once since I moved to Los Angeles. The same week, my mum accidentally attended the celebrations of David Hockney’s 80th birthday in our shared hometown of Bradford and she kindly sent me a photograph of the giant birthday cake that was made depicting one of his vibrant acrylic swimming pool paintings. Finally, my dear Kerry started sharing photographs of her regular visits to Bramley Baths in Leeds. The Edwardian baths have been there in some form since 1904, and are a now a Grade II listed building. Amongst these occurrences, an urgent desire burned for me to revisit a thread that has run consistently through my life and last weekend I finally because a member of the The Culver City Municipal Plunge.

1. Shipley Swimming Pool

I started swimming lessons at a very young age. I had an amazing terrycloth swimsuit that was bright blue with an orange goldfish on the front; that I’d enviously watched my older sisters wear before me, and was crushed when I too grew out of it. I splashed about in the baby pool working towards my Watermanship Badge. I can very clearly remember the terror of ‘jumping in’, the excruciating rub of pulling armbands onto dry skin, the ‘lightbulb’ moment when I thought that if I just walked along the bottom of the pool, but did the correct arm movements, I would fool everyone into thinking I could swim (clearly forgetting that the pool water is, in fact, transparent) and the heavenly taste of the raspberry slush puppy I was allowed after each class. I was an instant water baby and threw myself into taking as many classes and exams as possible. I quickly worked up from regular classes, to underwater skills during which I  remember a misguided test that involved picking a brick off the bottom of the pool whilst wearing pyjamas. I moved onto my 10 metres, 25 metres, 50 metres, 100 metres, 200 metres, and eventually so many metres that I did a charity swim for OXFAM where I swam for three hours without stopping. Next it was time to take the bronze, silver and gold certificates and after that my Saturday morning routine, which had existed for half a decade at that point, was ending. With no more classes to take, I had two choices. I could specialise in either diving or, synchronised swimming. I am pretty sure I took one look at the high-board and figured I would rather spend my time in the water than standing 10 metres above it, most likely paralysed with fear.

2. Belle Vue Swimming Pool

I’m smiling to myself as I type out the name, as I am guessing that Belle Vue means Beautiful View and there was absolutely nothing aesthetically pleasing about this building or the part of Bradford that it existed in. I tried to find a photograph but went down a Google rabbit hole and can only assume it’s long since been demolished; which would not surprise me. My secret life as a synchronised swimmer began at the age of 11. I can’t even tell you how UN-COOL ‘synchro’ was in the mid ’90s. There was none of this kitsch or quirky association of the now-Olympic sport; it was something I could not admit to anyone that I did. I went to great lengths to hide my swimming kit on practise days, and was forever having to scuttle off to the pool from school before anyone could ask me to walk home with them. My time as a synchronised swimmer was my one and only experience of competitive sport and having a coach in anything. I was part of the “City of Bradford Synchronised Swimmers” and would participate in meets and competitions around Yorkshire. It was quite a shock to the system. I arrived at my first lesson to be directed to a white board that had written on it: 20 x breaststroke, 20 x front crawl, 20 x back crawl, 20 x butterfly, 20 x sculling – which is the arm + hand movement that you do during synchro to keep the rest of your body looking completely still on top of the water. Yes, 100 laps was just the ‘warm-up’ before we even began doing our routines and positions. No wonder my body resembled a spaghetti strand at that age.

I wish someone had the foresight to make a documentary about pre-teen synchronised swimmers in Bradford in the nineties. The stranger-than-fiction lengths of bitchiness that a group of competitive pre-teen girls will go to is staggering. Tickling feet mid group-routine, hiding nose-clips before a big competitions and endless vying to be the one that was selected to perform a ‘solo’ routine at the next competition. I enjoyed the training and the craft, but back before the sport was taken so seriously there was still a strong ‘beauty pageant’ element to any competition. We wore ridiculous matching sequinned outfits, vaseline on our face to stop the caked-on make up running and our hair was covered in yet-more-sequins, flowers and then set with gelatine; which you could only remove after with near-boiling water. Each swimmer would perform various positions and then have a panel of judges hold up scores. It’s a tough age to receive a wall of 1’s for your wonky ballet leg. My one and only solo routine featured a self-selected musical accompaniment of East 17, Ace of Base and Eternal. Oh and The Power by SNAP! and you can just imagine how special that was for everyone. The clearest memory that stays with me from these days is the way the music vibrated through your body and cued the various moves. You couldn’t wear goggles, so vision in the deep water was pretty murky and it was the beats that guided you. As I slunk into my teens and puberty crept in, I started to buckle under the pressure to stay a certain shape that my body just wasn’t blooming in to. The previously harmless in-fighting took on a darker body-shaming tone, and I was absolutely sick of training when all my friends were ligging about watching telly or shopping at Bay Trading Company or planning sleepovers.

3. Central London YMCA Club

In my early-twenties I finally made the move from Yorkshire to London that I had been craving since my teens. My timing could have been better; as a week or so before moving, we found out that my mum had a serious health issue. She was still adamant that I go, and of course I did, but my heart was very much back home with her. The big smoke is a tough, rough and gritty city. I do adore it, but I am pretty sure nobody gets out of their first year unscathed. I had my chirpy, friendly northern edges quickly rubbed off. I missed everyone back home like crazy. I was in a disastrous house-share with two friends in a black hole part of Streatham that was nowhere near any form of transport; clocking my commute up to over an hour each way. I was working in my first high-pressure ‘career’ job, for ‘expenses only’. Looking back I was just completely clueless and bumbling through each day as best I could. It was at this time that I retreated back to old habits and spent every spare minute I could under water. I found a swimming pool at the YMCA just off Oxford Street, that was under a ten minute walk from my office. It’s not an exaggeration that I would sometimes go there morning, noon and night; re-using the same soggy costume after a quick blast with the hair dryer. The swimming pool at the time was in the basement of the building. You accessed it from the changing rooms by taking a long spiral stair case deeper and deeper until there was no noise and no natural light, which was as creepy as it sounds. The stairs led you to a dark dingy pond-pool that was actually demolished (there’s a theme to these stories!) later. In all my memories, I am alone in the swimming pool. This seems absolutely impossible with hindsight; as it was a busy central London facility. Why wasn’t there even a lifeguard for company? Maybe it really was that unappealing? Or maybe it was the fact I was probably there on a Saturday night when most people were spilling out of pubs. When I look back to this time, it has that sepia nostalgia film of un-realness. I think I owe those hours spent slowly-pruning, for transitioning me through that first foreboding year and into a London life that I loved.

I wrote a short story called ‘Chlorine’ at the time, about this swimming pool. I desperately want to edit it as it feels so clunky and cheesy now, but that would be cheating.

The shock of the air against my damp skin caused a blanket of goosebumps to sprout across my arms and chest. The swimming pool was empty, and I was alone apart from the echoing of my wet feet slapping against the tiles. An hour of monotonous lengths and playing chicken with my lungs, as to how long I could stay under the surface, hadn’t helped to clear my mind. The watery salvation absent that usually comes with tracing my fingernails along the lines on bottom and starving myself of oxygen until a thousand sparkles swarm my vision. Instead I ripped myself from the stillness that always looks such an enticing aqua marine from the edge. The stench of chlorine followed me as I stood at the top of the staircase back to the changing rooms. The one that twists and turns in spirals that seem to last forever, forcing you to spend an excess amount of time out of the water lusting for the hot soapy shower waiting only moments away.

Your figure shocked me as I turned the last corner. My swimming costume clung and creased into an itchy second skin. I told you my eyes were scarlet due to the chemicals that make the water that tempting toxic blue. You knew I was lying as you reached a long arm around my tiny frame. The one that shrinks and shrieks since I moved to this stupid city. Crevices appearing where softness existed before. Bruises sprouting on corners of my body that protrude instead of retreating coyly. The walls sang back the drip drip drip from our soggy embrace and our bones creaked as we broke away.

4. The Culver City Municipal Plunge

My last blog post talked about anxiety and taking control over unwieldy thoughts and feelings. Well I think it’s evident that there has been quite a key location missing in my life. Every night that I now pack my swimming cap, towel and locker padlock in advance of a morning dip, I feel some of the days stresses and strains just melting away. I’ve made no secret that moving countries and re-setting life has it’s ups, and it’s downs. When we first moved here I actually bookmarked the swimming pool information, but instantly found the prospect of working out when I could fit in going, what the membership fees were and just not knowing the etiquette of lanes and lessons completely overwhelming. I’m angry at past-me for giving up so quickly and taking nearly two years to fall back on what is clearly such a tried and tested method for my brain. On my first trip there, everything was a disaster. I paid the wrong fee (I should have got a ‘resident’ discount) and I misjudged the lanes so badly that I got into the fast lane, and was instantly yelled at by a butterfly-ing man. And it was FINE. I retreated to the medium lane and basked in the fact that I can swim outside, in an unheated pool, all year round. My view from doing backstroke is palm trees, and bright yellow diving boards. I like to do my laps underwater, watching the the sunshine dancing on the tiles and the bubbles from my nose obstructing my view.

I get into the swimming pool with questions, and I leave with only answers.

And this time around, I get to do it inside a real-life David Hockney painting.



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I’ve spent pretty much all my life skirting around the fact I’m an incredibly anxious person. I hide behind calling myself a worry wart, a control freak, a Monica-from-Friends and most commonly an over thinker. It’s a relief that nowadays anxiety is better understood and widely discussed. However, that doesn’t mean I’m anymore comfortable with it being a dominating part of my personality and an exhausting presence within most of my decisions, desires and dreams. I’ve mostly dealt with my anxiety using two methods; denial and flooding. Denial is the veneer of confidence, togetherness and surface level cool-cucumber I attempt to fool the world with, whilst silently wringing my hands under my desk at work or laying awake at night re-running conversations and analysing them into oblivion. Flooding is when I force situations onto myself such as backpacking around Latin America or moving my life to another country where my anxiety almost implodes with possible scenarios to fret about, and for a short time I’m left with the type of calm that potentially most people live with all the time.

I was a teenager when I was first diagnosed with a heart condition. It was an excruciating time to suffer the symptoms I initially had; palpitations and fainting. At the age of sixteen, where all I wanted to do was melt into the background and avoid the judgement of my peers, I felt like the world’s biggest attention seeker. My condition was quickly under control with medication and I have lived without any real impact on my life, other than the fact I can’t take drugs and I can’t ride rollercoasters; which let’s face it, is an over-thinkers dream existence anyway. When I arrived in America, I started getting some new and alarming symptoms which led to getting a fancy Beverly Hills cardiologist and an ultrasound of my heart. The scan was a far more emotional experience than I expected; it felt like a privilege to get up close and personal with the organ that enables me to live this huge life. And boy, was it NOISY. I can only compare it to listening to a full orchestra. The obvious comparison is the persistent and booming drum beat which you’d expect. What I wasn’t expecting was the reedy, wind-section whistling of the valves or the high pitched sinewy string-section.

Shortly after, my cardiologist shed a little light on my heart-life. Firstly, the ‘condition’ I thought I had been diagnosed with as a teen, was actually just the name of my symptoms (tachycardia) and not the cause. Secondly, he could clearly diagnose that I had Mitral Valve Prolapse. The marvellous mitral valve sits between the left atrium and the left ventricle and helps control the flow of blood as it passes from the left atrium into the left ventricle. The valve has two flaps of tissue — known as leaflets — that open and close together like a pair of swinging doors. Each time the heart beats, the left ventricle pumps blood out to the body and the flaps of the mitral valve swing shut to prevent the blood in the ventricle from flowing backward into the left atrium. In my case, one of the leaflets is oversized; causing it to occasionally ‘stick’ in the incorrect position and causing the (as you’d expect) frightening sensation that something is very wrong in the ticker department.

The sensation is always (always!) corrected by the heart and only lasts seconds, so I am extremely fortunate as it’s a completely safe and common condition, and more of an inconvenience than anything to be concerned by. The reason I am telling you this; is that the diagnosis was instantly followed up by him asking if I would consider myself an anxious person. I was totally bemused and my ‘denial’ brain was on the cusp of absolute outrage and the million reasons I am absolutely together and cool, calm, collected thank you very much. But instead I was honest, and explained that anxious is basically my default setting. He explained that he’d actually been part of a study where they investigated the link between MVP and anxiety and found it to be disproportionately high; the reason being that the condition keeps your body in a daily state of physical anxiety. This explanation was followed up with the advice to avoid stress, to reduce the symptoms. (lol)

So, after a life of denial and flooding; two very short term solutions for being anxious; this was the nudge I needed to stop being so passive about my constant over-thinking. I’m finally investing some time and effort into a journey that will see my brain grow out of those bad habits and cycles I find myself in. I’m having faith that perhaps I’m way more in control over the way I respond to situations than I have previously thought, and that I don’t just have to accept this as my forever-state. I took a month to actively reduce the time I spent on my phone, the time I spent communicating with others and the boundaries I needed to just to give myself space to stop, and re-start. I’ve found Start Where You Are by Meera Lee Patel a great source of plots + plans for areas to focus on both short and long term. I’m finding the 52 List for Happiness Journal a great way to mark my progress each week. I’ve also discovered bottomless mimosa brunches with my friend Karolina, where we seem to be able to put the entire world to rights by the time we reach number 5. It’s felt like I am getting to know an entirely new part of myself (peace sign emoji!) which is unexpected at the age of 33. One of the top recommendations from, well, everywhere has been meditation.

I signed up for Headspace and started the ‘Take 10’ programme in earnest. Firstly I was horrified by my prioritising of time. Why oh why do I think it’s acceptable to spend hours scrolling through Instagram, or logging onto my work emails at the crack of dawn, or snoozing for an extra twenty minutes, or vanishing down a conspiracy theory about Avril Lavigne; but claim I cannot find ten minutes each morning to meditate? I’m an idiot. It’s really taught me a lot in how I place value on my time and how ten minutes should not feel like such an impossible daily hurdle.

The next issue was that when I am meditating I just don’t know how to stop thinking! The nice Headspace man starts chatting and I feel totally committed to listening to him for oooh about twenty seconds, before my chain of thought goes something like:

“OK! Listen to my surroundings. Well I can hear my neighbour stomping about and Buttercup whining because I have closed the bedroom door. Maybe this would be better if I was somewhere relaxing like the beach. Then I would just hear the sea. Except the closest beach is so close to the road. And LAX. So then I’d just hear the aeroplanes too. When am I next going back to LAX anyway? Oh Kerry’s visit is soon, I can’t wait for that. I need to prepare the itinerary though. I wonder if we can get a reservation at Mama Shelter. What even is Mama Shelter? I’ve just heard lots of people talking about it but I don’t know if it’s food or drink or what. So maybe we should go somewhere I have actually been and know is good. But maybe it’s fun to try somewhere new? etc ETC ETCCCC!”

By which point, I’ve totally tuned out every tip, tactic and instruction that Headspace man is telling me. I find the Headspace blog really insightful and interesting, and their recent How to stop overthinking and start living article was great, but not specific to the meditating process.

Do you meditate and are you an over thinker? Is there hope for me yet? It feels like a key to unlocking some better brain behaviour; but at the same time it provides the perfect un-distracted space for my thoughts to run riot.


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Since moving to Los Angeles I’ve written a grand total of two blog posts. That’s one post every 9 months, and it strikes me as ridiculous that it is taking me a human-baby length gestation period to get any words out of my buzzing brain and into this nook of internet. It frustrates me on a daily basis, as I know this is an experience I should be documenting in a more meaningful way than photographs of sunsets on Instagram. It’s not that I’m not inspired, it’s not that I don’t have creative juices flowing and it’s not a case of writers block. It’s just that taking your whole life as you know it and plonking it down again 5000 miles away is an experience that I just find impossible to translate into words. I wrote last year about the pressure I felt to be living the dream and box away the shell-shock that came with my newly-wed, new-job and new-country triple whammy.

I’ve had a few moments recently that have led me to realise the only comparison I can make to my Los Angeles experience is that it’s like being in a new romantic relationship. I haven’t met a new beau since the age of 27 which was way back in 2012 when a boy called Nick asked “Excuse me, is your name Bee?”. He dazzled me in that moment and we’ve spent the next five years facing our formative late twenties and transition into thirties hand-in-hand. We’ve explored, we’ve danced in the kitchen, we’ve had to look some of life’s biggest fears in the eyes and we’ve never been able to say no to an adventure. We’ve matured together; adapting and adjusting ourselves like tree roots growing around each other and tightening their grip.

Los Angeles feel like the start of something very similar. Firstly, in a familiar way, I am falling fiercely in love. Everything is rose-tinted (literally, with the California natural ‘filter’) and I’ll hear no criticism of the city or the ways it could be bad for me. I want to bask gloriously in the ways which is it making my heart so full. Perching at the top of Baldwin Heights as dusk settles over the sprawling cityscape and lights begin to wink knowingly at me. Driving down the freeway with a car full of friends; laughing and singing and weaving through traffic. Always having the Hollywood sign in my peripheral vision. Being able to leave my desk, and have sand between my toes within half an hour. Small talk with my neighbours. I’m trying out new ways of being me, to people who have never known anything different.

Then you creep out of the honeymoon period and into the intimate stage. Where you open yourself up and share your slant on life, your hopes, dreams and terrors. It feels like Los Angeles is challenging me on a daily basis to revisit everything I thought I knew about myself; and ask why it is that way. If I hadn’t moved from England and my comfortable slope into a future I pretty much had mapped out, I can’t imagine I would ever have analysed myself in this way. It’s something I feel like is only possible when you’re ripped away from people who’ve known you forever and the only society you’ve ever known; especially when in your home country and adopted country that society is seriously going through the wringer.

Moving to LA has also been like jumping into freezing cold water. Every day my heart is racing. Sometimes I am gasping for air, because it’s too overwhelming. But I am kicking my legs and I am determined to keep my head above the waves because this city is demanding that I be the best version of myself. It’s teaching me to demand the highest standard. To be braver than I knew, to be kinder than before and to ask myself, in an experience that is giving me so much; what the hell am I giving back?

When Nick and I first met; we talked endlessly about how neither of us had ever felt ‘at home’ in any city or country we’d lived in. (Between us we’d racked up Bradford, Southampton, Sheffield, Norwich, Leeds, Toronto, Melbourne and London) This was a big part of our decision to travel the world. There, we checked-in with a further sixteen countries and still we’d closer our eyes each night with a feeling of not quite belonging. Then we moved here and it was like someone turning a key and everything clicking into place. We both are thriving here; individually and together. So keen to clutch to this new found sense of certainty we decided to adopt a dog who’s breed means we can never move back to the UK whilst we own her.

Make of that what you will. I think we might finally be home.

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When I was 17 years old, I had a lot of feelings.


I was also fortunate enough to be in the possession of a newly minted driving license and semi-regular use of my dads bottle-green Vauxhall Corsa. When anxiety crept through my veins, cruel words skittered around my brain or sadness started seeping through my thin skin; I had a solution. I would get in my car armed with a teetering tower of cassette tapes. I would drive, and I would drive, and I would drive. As I travelled further from my stifling attic bedroom and out into the wider world, I wouldn’t stop until I had put enough distance between myself and whatever had got me tied in knots.

I only had a car for two sweet years of spontaneous 2am trips to service stations, daring the boys at college to ‘race’ (cheers Ryan Gosling) ordering a hundred McDonalds Apple Pies through the drive-through window and the myriad of novelty car-uses you can find in the heady days before full-time employment and any sort of responsibility. Then I moved away for university and my name was removed from the insurance policy, never to return.

Since then I’ve never lived anywhere that would warrant having a car. Cut to… actually let’s not count the years as there are many; I have settled in a city that is defined by just that. Whilst it’s an urban myth that it’s ‘impossible’ to live in Los Angeles without car, it certainly makes it easier to navigate the 503 square miles of city. After not driving for so long, I had to start the process pretty much from scratch. Muscle memory isn’t too reliable when you learnt using manual gears, and driving on the opposite side of the road. It’s like viewing everything in a mirror and my first year here has been dominated by sweaty palms and second guessing if I’m really on the right (wrong) side of the road or not. I also had to take a test to legally drive with a state issued driving license. 17 is the perfect age to revise road theory and take long Sunday lessons with patient parents. 32, plunged into a foreign country with a full-time job, is not the perfect age to revise road theory that refers to the British ‘pavement’, as sidewalk and the British ‘road’ as… pavement. Confused? Welcome to my world. It’s also not the perfect age to practise driving on your precious weekends when you could be at the beach or the mountains or doing something that doesn’t fill you with the sinking suspicion that everyone is trying to kill you.

But, as I ticked over into my thirteenth month here I took my practical test and passed. Highlights included my examiner asking me to point out where the window defroster was (there is no frost in LA, ever) and the part where practically the whole test route was dug up for roadworks and the nice chap barely seemed to know where he was going, let alone how to instruct me. Oh and I got tooted three times by drivers who didn’t appreciate my ‘actual stop’ at the red diamond signs, far preferring the iconic ‘California roll.’

On Friday night, I was home alone. Nick was out of town. I was battling the germs that come along with the first rain of the year, because I am a soft Angeleno these days. I was feeling gloomy. And then I was in the driving seat before I knew it. And I drove, and I drove, and I drove. The sky above me was water colour blooms of burnt, bronze and blush. Neon signs, twinkling headlights and sparkles in the sky that could be stars or planes or something else entirely. Silhouettes of birds, and the metro rumbling over head. It’s truly impossible to feel lonely when you’re in LA traffic. The comfort of person after person making their own way in the world, but on the same stretch of road as you.

I may have switched skylines from the mill chimneys of Bradford to the palm trees of California… but I’m so happy to have rediscovered the peace that can be found in a dusky drive to nowhere, anywhere and everywhere.


A Year On

Tonight, for the first time in over a year, I felt the urge to write. To sit down with a candle burning, Bon Iver playing and to type my heart and brain into this blank space until it started to make sense to me, and I guess, to you.


That process, in itself, proved to be a pretty accurate comparison for how I am feeling. I go to log on and can’t remember what the URL is to even access my blog CMS. I panic. I realise the URL from my designer lays in an old hotmail inbox that I haven’t logged into for over a year. I try to log on, and I don’t know the password. So after 15 minutes of frustrating faffing with codes sent to UK mobile phone numbers I no longer have, and even more archaic ‘back-up’ email addresses, I reset the password. The inbox is frozen in time. The last email received was the day of my wedding, which feels so impossibly long ago. The recent-message-list is peppered with shipping company chasers, ‘deep clean’ flat quotes and a reservation reminder for a leaving dinner at my favourite London tapas restaurant. Hotmail welcomes me as Miss Barker, and of course that’s not me at all anymore. I finally find the buried treasure URL I’m looking for in a 2011 email chain, and then… I try the only 4 passwords I can imagine I used, and am instantly locked out. Too many failed log-in attempts. Please try again in 20 minutes. By this point I am hot with rage at the tediousness of how something that used to be second nature, that used to be so me, could now be unobtainable.

I’m finally here and I feel like the virtual riddles of ‘old me’ versus ‘new me’ from the last hour pretty aptly sum up the effect that moving 5437 miles across the world has had on my mentality. I’ve become fractured into two versions of myself, and it’s only tonight that I have put my finger on that. And realised that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Moving to Los Angeles is obviously an opportunity of a life-time and there isn’t a day that I don’t feel incredibly hashtag-blessed hashtag-grateful that this California Dream happened to me. To a girl that grew up in Bradford, didn’t even step foot on an aeroplane until she was 18 years old, and has stumbled from city to city, room to flat to room, never quite finding anywhere that felt like home. However in true Hollywood style, the highs of been high and the lows have been low. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the hardest thing I have done in my whole life and that I was woefully unprepared for that when I signed the contract and shipped out on my LA adventure. There was an additional factor in the tough-stuff in that I had also spent all my time leading up to the move, planning a wedding. It was worth every second, but I feel like the big-life-happenings of the past two years have left absolutely no breathing space for me being me. And I almost haven’t. I’ve got my head down, gritted my teeth, put my nose to the grindstone and all the other turns of phrase about body parts. I’m not saying I’ve been a hermit because you have probably followed me on Instagram or the YouTube videos and seen the sunsets, the weekends away, the cocktails and the galavanting. What I am saying though is that I haven’t quite known who I am in those situations and unless you’ve transplanted yourself into a whole new world then it probably sounds bizarre. In the same way I find it peculiar that 2016 has so far been both the happiest and toughest years of my life.

To better illustrate what I mean; tonight I found a box that still hadn’t been unpacked from our shipping delivery. It was full of dusty unloved vinyl that I bought on a whim in 2004 and have never owned a record player since. But recently we bought a dinky sky-blue one, so I greedily dug them all out and played them one after another after another after another. The soundtrack to such a specific period of my life had me slow dancing to myself around my apartment; evoking such strong memories of damp leaves in Leeds’ Hyde Park as I traipsed from university lecture halls to my bar maid job. My attic bedroom in my Hessle house-share. The nights out with sticky floors, the obsessive friendships, the walks of shame as the sun rose and the birds started to sing, the stubborn self-confidence that you can only muster when you’re yet to even begin to figure life out. The experience was so jarring on so many levels. Firstly, the brief transportation back to a decade old version of my life. Secondly, I realise I have barely listened to music since I moved. Instead I listen to podcasts obsessively, finding comfort in the company of faceless voices discussing wrongful convictions and folklore and 1920’s Hollywood scandals and how to Lean In to my career that fill my brain and prevent it from wandering anywhere. My consciousness is filled with shiny-new disposable stuff, and kept at arms length from music that might send nostalgia flooding into my world that is so far from the one I’d be reminded of.

This is so hard to articulate and I imagine you’re reading this with a healthy dose of side-eye by this point. Perhaps what I am feeling is what it is to grow up, and by removing myself from the places that I did grown up – the change is impossible to ignore and more dramatic? For the past two years I think I’ve pretty much denied myself access to ‘past’ me, as it has been so crucial to focus on this new life I’m hastily building. I don’t have the same solar system of family and friends here who know me so well they can see through any ‘I’m-fine’ bravado; of which there has been plenty lately. They are on a different time-zone. We are trying our best with exotic stamp-marked snail mail, army-mission planned Skype calls and the holy grail: transatlantic visits! But there are times when it’s 7pm on a Friday night and I feel melancholy and it’s 3am for them and the loneliness is crushing. I send my SOS texts but I know they will only be answered when I have finally fallen asleep, and by then it’ll be a new sunny day in LA and most likely, I’ll be feeling chirpier and keener to focus on new news than my wallowing.

I have put an unreasonable and unattainable amount of pressure on myself to enjoy every second of life in LA. I’ve felt incapable of putting my hands up and saying this is really bloody hard work sometimes. I’ve felt it would be a failure to admit it’s a challenge. I’ve felt that so many people would love to be in my position that I have to suck it up and put on a brave face. When actually, that builds barriers and only puts double the distance between me and the people in my life; both old and new. I think the break through I had today is that I absolutely need to be all versions of me. I need to remember everything that has bought me on the journey to a point where I am sat in America, surrounded by those things I traipsed from room to flat to room, and with a snoring rescue pup warming my feet.

I guess I wanted to say, I am okay – but at times I have been very much not okay. Leaving behind everything you know and adapting to a new culture, a new job, a new city and a new status as somebody’s wife is bound to be a stretch. Just doing one of those could cause a tailspin, so climbing a mountain of them was bound to create a noticeable shift. It’s taught me so much though, and I am proud of the fact that a year on I am finally shifting gears into a new phase. I am comfortable in my own skin. I am confident about the dynamics I need, and those that the distance is actually benefitting. I am in awe of my inspiring husband, who has ridden his fair share of rollercoaster dips and dives in this past year too but continues to make my wellbeing his priority.

I am adapting to a quality of life that will allow me to listen to records, to wake up to catch the sunrise, to feel the sand between my toes and to stitch together the pre-LA and the post-LA me.

Ahhh, it is so nice to be tapping away here again! You’ve probably noticed that this blog has purely become a little hidey-hole of the internet that I only update when I know I will really enjoy scratching the itch and have a rare solo afternoon like today. Nick is wearily making his way back across the country from his stag do! And so, charged up on a millions cups (bowls) of tea and having completed all my wedmin / wedding crafty tasks I thought oh! Like a Skeleton Key! Let’s do this old friend. I stick mostly to posting about my travel adventures over on TwentySomething Burnouts and this really is a place for more intimate and ramshackle brain ramblings. However with the total-plot twist life change news that I am moving to LA (as in, this time next month I will be a fully fledged living-working resident of Los Angeles – woooah) I have a feeling that I will be recording my life a little more fully on the internet again. That said; I don’t know if it will be blogging. I LOVE it, don’t get me wrong, and having kept a diary since I learnt to write, and an online journal since I discovered Livejournal at the age of 17, I’ll always do this. That said, writing a blog entry takes quite a bit of brain power. Working in marketing I regularly write long form content (blogs, press releases, campaign round-ups, copy etc) all day long which means that in my downtime I am slightly more reluctant to sit at my laptop continuing to work. After quite a bit of thought I decided I’d like to document my move to LA a little more visually; so will be setting up some sort of home to post videos. I feel like since I’ll be on the other side of the world it might be an easier way to share my new life with friends and family than attempting to do it justice with fancy words. PLUS! I will find it much easier to sit and natter at a camera than typing away; although I have no editing skills so might need to sweet talk my husband (!!) for help there.


But that’s enough of that, back to life right now. Well having said goodbye to London before; you’d think I’d be doing a better job of it this time but it seems to be a similar gut wrench of excitement to leave the pesky bits (tube traumas, grumpy folk, crazy creeping rent costs) and sadness to face the fact that realistically this may be the last time I live in the big smoke. Those pangs hit me at the funniest of moments. Don’t get me wrong, I know I am ridiculously blessed to be moving to a place that sounds like a dream to live in… but London has been my home for a decade. So I’m totally allowed a long goodbye! I even found myself gazing adoringly at Piccadilly Circus the other day – having spent 10 years desperately trying to avoid that particular patch. I think it boils down to the fact that I know who I am in London. I know I like to treat myself to a mocha from The Fields Beneath if it’s a dreary day. I know I like to wow visitors by taking them to Kings Cross Dishoom & nattering over pink drinks. I know I can pull on some trainers and be at the top of Primrose Hill in 15 minutes looking out over the whole of a toy-town skyline in the distance. I know that the cat who lives next door is called Thomas and where he likes his belly ruffled. I know Craig and I can go dancing at Archer Street at any given moment and they’ll play Taylor Swift and everything will feel ok again. I know I’m only a 3 hour train journey from Yorkshire and the wilderness when I need a brain break. I don’t know how to live my life in LA. Where will I go to make sense of myself?


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It’s ok though. Because I had all these feelings before I quit my life and backpacked around the place and they dissolved within about a day of me stepping foot off the plane. It’s hard to be all wistful and emo when a new culture and adventure is demanding every ounce of concentration! I’m also a bit over-whelmed and run-down from: a) leaving my job/downloading my work brain b) preparing for a new job c) planning a (very DIY) wedding and d) preparing to ship and move my life to another country. I’m sure all of these feature on a “most stressful life things” list somewhere and I’m a bit like a bingo card of THINGS TO THINK AND DO right now. I honestly don’t know how I would function without To Doist. Every second I spend my time right now feels like it’s been colour coded, tagged and categorised in that app right now (even writing this – cringe!) Luckily Nick has been on hand to save me from myself and make sure that I have downtime. This week he surprised me with tickets to see Empire Records at the Camden Market Backyard Cinema Film Festival! Let’s not talk about the fact that Empire Records is TWENTY years old this year (it’s ok though, Pretty Woman is 30 years old). Nick splurged on some sort of lux (so LA!) tickets that included a free whopping Honest Burger and a giant cider. We cosied up under blankets on deck chairs and not even a decent dose of British Summer rain could stop us bopping along to the soundtrack (which I used to have on tape cassette in my first car) and talking along with the unforgettable quotes that are taking up valuable GBs in my bee brain. Attention Rex Manning fans, to your left you will notice a shoplifter being chased by night manager, Lucas. This young man will be caught, deep fried in a vat of hot oil and served to our first hundred customers. Just another tasty treat from the gang at Empire Records! The festival is running for another couple of weeks, including the chance to see Amy in Camden which would be pretty fitting and a screening of Teen Wolf which sadly clashes with my work leaving shindig so please go and watch it on my behalf!


Something else that’s been making me happy is flowers! When Blossoming Gifts emailed me to ask if I’d like to sample their delivery flower service I obviously said yes please and then swooned over the fact they had a bouquet of Apricot Rose & Hydrangea. I am having hydrangeas for my bridal flowers so the thought of having some in the house whilst I did the final bits and bobs of wedding planning felt really special. And no I haven’t walked up and down the side of my bed holding the vase as if it was my bouquet and smiling sweetly at the walls pretending they were guests. Nope, no siree. I was super impressed with the delivery bouquet options; it felt like they had some really unusual colour and flower combinations and are clearly experts in what works well together. The flowers arrived in a very sturdy box and lasted a whole week without wilting, even in the tropical London smog we had lately. In fact the apricot dalidas are still going strong so I’ve transferred them into a little glass vase that Nick bought me which is actually a wine carafe that is given to Italian army officers as standard kit (snazzy!) which he picked up at the local Army Surplus Store.




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Blossoming Gifts have kindly passed on a discount of 33% off if you’d like to treat yourself! I’d definitely rate them and the ease of being able to pick a bunch online and know they will be delivered safely and swiftly is so easy. No more scuttling around a service station hunting out a crummy old carnation creation when in need of thanking someone! You just need to enter the code BGIFTS33. You can check out their flowers by post here and their cheap flower selection (which don’t look cheap – score!) here. I’m already desperate to order myself the orangery selection – those giant daisies are cute as a button.

One thing that is also concerning me greatly about the upcoming move is WOE I will not be in the UK for the Great British Bake Off final. And apparently there isn’t a Great American Bake Off to fill the (cake) hole so I am going to need to work out how to use Tunnel Bear properly and work out the time zone different for watching it as soon as possible and hope it doesn’t involve being awake at 4am or something. Everybody without exception in my team at work is GBBO mad; so for the last couple of years I have helped to organise a team bake off where a different person bakes every Wednesday. Last year I burnt my arm so badly whilst making a Chocolate & Yorkshire Ale cake that I had to go to A&E when it made my veins turn red and angry! This year I managed to avoid any hospitalisation and also managed to make a random thought that had popped into my head a baked good reality. I had wondered if I could make a cake that looked like a watermelon using some kind of mystical food colouring / dark chocolate drop combo. And well… it kind of worked!


Before I sign off I just want to share a few final things that are currently floating my boat, since I have been absent for a while. Mainly – PODCASTS. Serial was my gateway drug, which led onto podcasts about that podcast (still totally hooked on Undisclosed, Serial Dynasty, Serially Obsessed and Crime Writers on Serial) and about the same time I discovered Welcome to Night Vale and This American Life which tend to also be the big gateway podcast pathways for the less crime oriented types. Oh and I loved listening to Grantland’s Watch the Thrones almost more than watching this season of Game of Thrones. Podcasts have completely revolutionised my life in terms of how much more fun any sort of travel or chores now are. Whereas previously I might have put a few tunes on to motivate myself to do the washing up or my commute; now I honestly track my walk to work against how many episodes of podcasts I have to get through and get extremely excited about that time alone in a totally immersive world of audio. I feel embarrassed, as an audio book lover, why it took me so long to figure out that podcasts were swiftly going to become my favourite form of entertainment.


Recently I have got deep in to three podcasts that I wanted to share; given that basically all my podcast discoveries have come via recommendations. They all have something in common and have unearthed a part of my tastes, likes and interests that had somehow become dampened as I have grown into an adult. That thing is… MYSTERY! As a child I was absolutely obsessive about mysteries. My sister and I would count down the excruciating seconds for Strange but True with Michael Aspel to come on each week. We had various books of unsolved mysteries including the classics like the Bermuda Triangle, Jack the Ripper and Mary Celeste and I would paw over them every night after lights out using the old torch-under-the-duvet trick. I can remember the giddy-terrified sensation of hearing about a new spooky story or unsolved mystery and laying awake for hours trying to unpick the details and try to solve it; not for the good of humanity but in order to not be totally freaked out and need to do the shameful climb into bed with my sister! As I’ve got older I have developed a more control-freak-ish personality and therefore all things mysterious have slightly gone out of the window. That said I have still always had a curiosity for true crime (mainly in the form of an addiction to Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City and always reading the headlines of Chat magazine when lurking at the supermarket checkout) and maintained a love for zombies and b-movies. All of these long lost loves have been re-ignited through my three top podcasts; hooray! Childhood me is so happy to feel that spooky goosebump skin once more!

  1. Lore : Sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction. This bi-weekly podcast explores topics such as real life zombies, folklore, mysterious beasts, asylums, cabins in the woods and haunted hotels. I almost squealed when I saw episode 9 pop-up in my feed as it covers the story of the Devil on the Roof; the story I remember terrifying me into a near catatonic state when I first read about it with sweaty palms at a stupidly young age (blame having elder siblings!) It’s hosted by Aaron Mahnke who has the worlds most soothing voice and is also a supernatural thriller author and resident of Boston (known for the Salem trials and being Lovecraft heartland; so a pretty good place to start) and I can’t recommend it enough. Just make sure you have an Ovaltine lined up for bedtime after listening.
  2. Generation Why : Murders, myths, monsters and miscarriages of justice. I have come to this cult podcast at a shamefully late date considering how much it’s my cup of tea. That said; it now means I could binge on about 50 incredible episodes in the space of 3 weeks – covering everything from the disappearance of Madeline McCann, the case of D B Cooper, the Zodiac Killer and Robert Durst. Amongst these more contemporary cases though are sprinkled a ton of old classics from my reading-by-torchlight days which I have gleefully revisited with an adult brain – Loch Ness Monster, Bermuda Triangle, Big Foot and the Bermuda Triangle! The podcast is so well produced and presented by Aaron and Justin that you soon feel like you are sitting down with a couple of old chums for a natter about the weird and wonderful. I like the fact that the more grizzly / grim cases (multiple homicides or violence against kids/women) often focus far more on education around the legal implications or the culture surrounding the circumstances than just fear-mongering or focussing on the gory details. For example I listened to the podcast about Lucie Blackman; a story I felt really affected by at the time when it was all over the news, and was relieved that the podcast was super respectful and featured a real expert in Japanese culture and lifestyle to explain the context of the case.
  3. The Mystery ShowA podcast where Starlee Kine solves mysteries. This podcast is a ridiculously simple concept – Starlee Kine investigates mysteries that cannot be solved by the power of Google. On the journey to solve the mysteries however; it’s the people and the places that Starlee is taken that create a rollercoaster of emotions, unexpected forks in the road and twists & turns that become so unexpected you almost forget what the original mystery way (for example the SPECTACULAR Phil Spector story that is revealed whilst looking for the source of Welcome Back, Kotter lunch pail artwork) it’s adorable, it’s engaging and it’s a must-listen.


Ah that was nice. See you again sooner; I promise.


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