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As you’ve probably gathered, I have never been so happy to kiss goodbye to a year as I was as 2012 ticked into 2013. I know resolutions divide opinion and of the blogs I read, it seems to be pretty evenly split by haters and hopers. Personally, I never reflect and mull (get it!) more than I do over the festive December period. I think it’s a combination of being around loved-ones and family, the kind messages scribbled into Christmas cards, spending time back in the house and town I grew up in… oh and the fact I am drunk at some point most days. This means that when December 31st comes around, I couldn’t be in a better position to really give myself a shake and think about what I want from the year ahead.

They are probably of way more interest to me than anyone else, but I feel if I put them out for the world-wide-world to see, then perhaps I’m more likely to achieve them.

2013

2013 New Years Resolutions

01. Read 51 books: In typical fashion, after basking in my 50-book reading challenge victory for about ten minutes, I decided it had to be upped to 51 for this year. So far, so good, and I am on book number two. I’m currently reading Invisible by Paul Auster which from the description I was desperately hoping for something similar to one of my absolute favourite books The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It doesn’t really bear any similarities other than being based in an American university but it is a very captivating read. I am only a quarter through but the fact that whilst reading it I was stood in the kitchen cooking my dinner and let the the pasta boil over for about three minutes whilst I got through a particularly tense bit says quite a lot.

02. Learn to surf: In February I’m finally taking the holiday I was meant to have in October but my cyst Vs body take over hijacked. Nick & I are spending a week in the depths of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, and amongst many activities (hikes, a bird sanctuary, haggling at souks, star gazing… oh and a few massages and dips in the pool of course!) we are going to spend the day learning to surf in the bath-water warm sea. I’m so excited to try something so entirely new, although not too hopeful at my ability since I am clumsy enough walking on two feet in flat shoes.

03. Visit 3 countries (not including Europe) and 10 new cities: This sounds like a vast amount but with Africa already booked, then being fortunate enough to travel with my job (although it’s not like a holiday as I used to naively imagine work jet-setting would be. Oh no! Try 15 presentations in 14 days, with jet lag and a broad accent that not a single person understands thrown in) and a few other tricks up my sleeve… well lets just say I think I’ll be a different person come 2014 with a much broader view of the world and my place in it. I’m going to buy a big map and some coloured stickers and chart all the place I go. Note how I even manage to make something fun and spontaneous like travelling, organised and colour code-able.

04. Climb Snowdon: I’m also keen to make the most of the UK and see more of it this year. Part of this is a pact I have made with a good friend to join him on his conquering of Mount. Snowdon in Wales (his new years resolution is to climb a mountain in England, Scotland & Wales). I know it’s probably wrong that at the moment I’m most excited about what things I can bake for a picnic (!) but it will definitely feel like a real achievement.

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05. QUIT caffeine: Caffeine is pretty sinister. I highly recommend the you are not so smart blog on it. I never really thought I was addicted to caffeine, I just knew that I loved coffee in all it’s forms and also as a proud Yorkshire girl had an excuse to drink 20 cups of tea a day. I’m not kidding, I regularly had 2 or 3 cups on the go at my desk (the difference in shades of tea-brown was very aesthetically pleasing!) Then had my C-scare and all round month of medical misery, and I did everything I could afterwards to find out how to avoid a relapse. Part of this was seeing a nutritionist who believes that the key (in my case) is to keep everything in my body as balanced as possible, and part of this is avoiding spikes in blood sugar/adrenaline. And part of that? Quit caffeine. At the point I was given this I was having 3 coffees a day and yes, about 20-25 cups of tea.

Soooo… I didn’t go cold turkey obviously, but I started replacing tea for the wonder that is Rooibos (rank on it’s own, yet a taste sensation with milk). I also made the glorious discovery that my beloved Yorkshire Tea make a decaf version and are still are polite enough to use the lets make a proper brew tagline on it, even though I am from Yorkshire and definitely don’t think it’s a proper brew with non of the good (hmm, bad) stuff in it. 3 Months on and I now just have one coffee a week, as a treat on a Saturday! Cutting down was far more brutal and painful than I ever imagined. I got the absolute worst splitting headaches that no pain killer could touch. I swayed deliriously between napping on the bus and nights of sweaty insomnia. I know this is very un-PC but at one point I did say “If it’s this hard to come off coffee, how hard must it be to come off heroin?“. I just massively under-estimated that yes, I was addicted to coffee. In fact (and my bank balance could have told me this years ago) I was a heavy user. Anyway, this year I aim to cut out all caffeine entirely.

06. Finish knitting my scarf: For a decade my new years resolution was consistently to learn to knit. I have finally succeeded! So proud! I’m so nauseatingly twee that it was ridiculous that I couldn’t actually knit before. The other day I found myself knitting, drinking herbal tea, wearing a floral dress & listening to the Magnetic Fields. I actually out-tweed myself.  So I am well on the way with a neat maroon/navy striped scarf. I need to get a wriggle on and finish it in time to gift it next winter, and to finish the knit-your-own-owl (!) of dreams Craig bought me.

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07. Brush up my Spanish: I did Spanish GCSE and got a B. Nowadays I can still pronounce the funny j noise and I can say I’ve got a hangover. Then it all gets a bit fuzzy. In 2003 I backpacked in Spain and after a week of stuttering and stammering over my hola’s, me and my backpack buddy went to a Spanish rock club and drank aLOT of bodka and suddenly I was conversing with everyone in there about how many brothers/sisters they had and whether they preferred the beach or the forest. Important GCSE level questions  My friend couldn’t believe it and thought I had been lying the whole time about my level of Spanish ability… but it proves that with me it’s a confidence thing as much as a forgetful thing. So I signed up for a 10 week course (beginner level as I miserably failed the intermediate online test!) and am really looking forward to getting grips on another language again. And I got given a really beautiful handprinted notebook for Christmas that I can use for my homework. New stationary makes any project instantly exciting non?

 08. Write half of the secret-project: Well isn’t this annoying? It’s something I am sworn to secrecy until the future, so this is all I can say… for now!

09. Blog more than 2013: Given the fast and furious pace I am blogging at the moment I have probably already achieved this! You’re going to be sick of the sight of me. It feels really good to be writing for myself again, rather than just at work, and it seemed such a shame not to be using my little slice of the internet pie that actually costs me money every year. I’m not really hung-up on the fact it’s not a beauty blog, it’s not a fashion blog, it’s not a book blog etc etc. It’s a lifestyle blog. That covers all bases right!

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09. Alter my work/life balance: I graduated university, I moved to London and I became a rat race face and never looked up. I dread to actually think the hours I have worked in the last 5 years and getting ill made me realise that the body can only take a certain amount of burning the candle ferociously. So I have thrown myself back into my pilates, swimming and am being really strict not to book & doublebook every evening, night and weekend up with seeing people and going places and packing and unpacking and then tossing & turning all night having feverish work-dreams. Something definitely has to give, and I’m determined not to end up on the operating table again any time soon.

10. Be brave: I never associate myself with being brave, and it’s something I aspire to be and know I am really, but this year more than ever I will be putting myself in positions out of my comfort zone just to keep on growing into a big tough lion girl… woman.

11. Get back in music: I used to be surgically attached to my mix tapes, homemade CDs and always ahead of the curve with new bands. I am now SO sick of the same songs on my itunes and the fact that I ‘forgot’ to get the new Metric CD… who are one of my favourite bands?! Also that I didn’t even know about the Kings of Convenience side project? Poor show. Going to End of the Road festival  really whet my musical appetite again and since then I’ve enjoying some of the lesser-known acts I discovered. I’m currently listening to a lot of Alessi’s Ark, Tennis, Dead Man’s Bones, Foxes, Kimbra, Band of Skulls, Kurt Vile, First Aid Kit, John Grant, Django Django, Miracle Fortress and Tame Impala. It’s so nice not to be stuck on a permanent shuffle-shuffle-shuffle-same-old-stuff cycle.

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12. STOP saying “Oh my God”: Why do I say this? Why oh why. I have actually adapted it to Oh my gosh but that’s still very annoying. How do other people express surprise?? I hear myself saying Oh my godgosh in my shocked-voice and I must say it multiple times a day and I hate it. Can you please recommend other words? Or maybe I just need a shocked noise?

13. Daily Records (Thirteen resolutions for 2013!)Last year I took a photo every day and it was so useful for my sieve brain to remember events and orders of occurrences that usually drop out of my head as soon as they’ve happened. This year I am going to continue taking a photo a day as it’s a natural habit, but I’m also going to take a photo of my face everyday! I’m not really vain I promise, but as I head towards the big 3-0 (not til 2014, phew) I am really curious to track my outfits/hair style and well skin to see if I start to look older. I’m not going to put them anywhere public, just for my beady eyes. I’ve shared one below though, which perfectly illustrates my current no-make-up state and also the lions man hair that I couldn’t tame. The final record I am keeping is that I bought Lol & Craig this for Christmas. You get asked a question a day, and keep it for 5 years. Then another one arrived from Amazon randomly so I get to partake too. The questions are brilliant and go from the deep (Can people really change?) to the inane (What was the last restaurant you went to?) I never know what on earth to write in a diary, so the daily prompt is perfect.

& That’s it. Have you got a resolution? Have you seen any other good bloggers list theirs? I’ve seen a few but I’d love to see more. Roll on 2013, I have a really good feeling about you being sparkly and shiny and super.

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As I get older I realise that I probably fall into the category of those with a nervous disposition. I think the mathematical formulae for being this way is:

Control Freak + Over Active Imagination = Easily Terrified

A prime example of this being a few months back when I was living alone in the flat for 3 months and spent the majority of nights sleeping curled on the sofa clutching a kitchen knife, yknow, just in case. But just because I am naturally twitchy and squirmy around all things scary, doesn’t mean I don’t love it. [As demonstrated when I went Ghost Hunting recently!] Obviously I don’t love being awake at 4am because I think I can hear a ghost baby crying in my wardrobe (!) but safer, controlled scary things like movies, books and tv shows I am all for. I think fear is an itch that everyone loves to scratch, but then starts to regret when you’re later laying in bed replaying scary moments and cold sweating.

I’ve actually always been a fan of all things scary from a really young age. I think it’s because both my maternal and paternal grandparents had a collection of phenomenal ghost stories, and out of every story they would regale me with – it was the ones that made goosebumps cover my arms and my spine tingle that I’d beg for over and over. I supposed that as influencers and carers, they should have been reassuring me that ghosts and things that go bump in the night are aload of guff… but I’m grateful they didn’t as those stories are the ones I repeat again to family and friends even now. My sister is three years older than me, and while other girls our age were reading Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High we were building up the worlds largest collection of Point Horror books and counting down the hours to Michael Aspels Strange But True (oh god! the credits!)

Can you remember the first time you felt real fear? I can remember mine. There was an independent  video shop (the type of which I imagine are almost completely extinct now) that my mum would take us to on a Saturday after swimming, to get a film for that evening. The video shop was called 2001 Videos – HOW scary that ‘2001’ seemed so far in the distant future and as if when it eventually was 2001 we’d be living in space and driving hover cars. Anyway, tangent ahoy, at 2001 Videos we religiously stuck to the kids and cartoons section, occasionally browsing the general releases. At the back by the counter there was the Horror aisle and my sister would always dare me to walk up it. I think I was about 6 when I finally took the bait and waited for my mum to be distracted before taking a deep breath and stepping hesitantly towards the word HORROR. There were two video boxes in particular that were SO frightening, so horrifying and so unlike anything I’d ever seen that they shook me to the core. They were Childs Play and Hellraiser

No matter that we eventually left the shop (with something nice like Care Bears) and that I was back in the comfort of my family home, the fact that I had those terrifying images burnt into my retinas meant I just couldn’t relax and I had nightmares for weeks. From a bloody VHS box! Not even watching the film!

Anyway this is all a bit of a build up to the fact that last week I went to see the INCREDIBLE Ghost Stories at the Duke of York Theatre. The play is written by Andy Nyman – co-creator and director of Derren Brown’s television and stage shows and Jeremy Dyson – League Of Gentleman genius. Their aim in creating Ghost Stories was to bring back some of the classic Victoriana theatre going experience; something creepy, haunting and that could raise a blood curdling scream.

Before going to see Ghost Stories I had avoided reading or googling anything about it (and you should too! Which is also why I promise I wont go into any depth about the content) and so really had no idea what to expect. Approaching the theatre absolutely covered in goading signs saying “Just keep telling yourself its only a show”, “Pant-Wettingly Scary” and “NOT suitable for those with a nervous disposition” (Oh, hi!) I was starting to feel the churn of fear in my belly before I’d even entered. Everything about the theatre experience is designed to put you at un-ease from the second you walk in; from the decor, the darkness of the circle as you find your seat and the well to hell sound effects playing as you sit waiting for it to begin.

I think that Ghost Stories is possibly one of the best pieces of theatre I have seen in my entire life. I just cannot beg you hard enough that you have to go and see it while it’s still running. It will certainly make you scream, question everything and immediately want to book tickets to see it again. (I did, sad!) The acting, set and intricate story are just mindblowing. Just when you think you know what is going on, you realise you have no idea! You are constantly lulled in false senses of security before embarrassing yourself by jumping ten feet in the air and screaming in the face of the person next to you.

Five stars, go see it, go book it now.

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True, Blud!

I give blood every 4 months. I never preach about anything really; but this is the only topic I get vaguely on a high-horse and stroppy about and that is just because I cannot comprehend why anyone capable, would not give blood.  I know there are some strict guidelines (that I don’t agree with particularly) that can hinder lovely, blood filled eager people doing it. But if you are eligable to do it, and it’s really easy to check here, then why wouldn’t you? I just don’t think any excuse can stand up to the ‘but you might save someones’ life?’ arguement.

Anyway a very reliable survey of 5 (grumpy/distracted) work colleagues delivered the following extremely scientific results: I’m scared, I hate needles, I hate hospitals, I would probably faint, hit my head, and then need the blood transfusion myself.

So; since I went to give blood this week and it’s fresh in my brain (just the the big sticky pint of my O+ rushing around someone elses body right now!) I thought I’d just write down exactly what happens. Because if you’ve never given blood and are scared of the unknown, then a really honest play by play might help?

1. Book an appointment. You can just rock up to your nearest donation centre, but you have to queue behind appointmented people and therefore could have a long jittery wait. It’s very easy to book either online or by phoning – and wherever I’ve worked there has always been a donation centre within 10 minute walk.

2. Before you go, drink loads of water. It makes you more likely to be able to give a full donation quickly (weirdly so does hot weather) and also make sure you have a nice big munch on something like sugary pastries or krispy kremes (not official nhs advice, just.. mine). Don’t go if you have a cold, are sick or have taken paracetemol – because you don’t really want to share those nasties with someone already in a bad way. Also wear something with short sleeves so that it’s easy to reach your inner-elbow where the blood gets taken from. Don’t make my mistake of usually forgettitng and wearing an un-removable dress with a million and one fiddly buttons to negotiate around.

3. When you walk in, you’ll be greeted by a nice receptionist. He/She’ll give you a double sided form to fill out, but it’s all easy things and then lots of yes or no ticky-box questions mostly about who you’ve bumped uglies with of late and where you’ve traveled to.  They are quite hardcore questions, but asked in the most polite way and cleverly written in nice  happy colours.

4. Hand the form back in and sit back and read a magazine and scope out the other people who are there to donate. There is always a nice smug-noble atmosphere and lots of knowing, youre-a-good-person-too nods & smiles going on.

5. A nurse will come and call your name. They won’t be one of the taking-blood staff members, their job is just to double check you are in a good state to donate. They take you into a small office and go through all your answers to the forms and then take a small blood test – which is to check your iron levels are healthy. They use the tiniest needle in history to prick the side of your pointing-finger. I wouldn’t lie to you – you actually can’t even feel the needle go in, let alone any pain. They squeeze out a little drop of blood and put it into a tube of blue liquid and if it sinks, you’re good to go. If it floats you might be a bit anemic and not be able to donate that day. If you aren’t squeamish you should watch it happening because the blood forms a neat little ring as it floats down. Don’t panic about this, I eat so little fruit&veg that it’s a miracle I don’t have scurvy and also the only exercise I do is running for the tube – so I’m sure your iron levels will be tiptop too.

6. You are then shown through to a bay of beds. It does look all medical and hostpital like, which I know is un-nerving, but better than it looking like a casino or nightclub or something. There might be a few other people already at different stages of giving blood, but you will usually have your own nurse looking after you. You just lie down on the bed and get asked to confirm your name, address and DOB. Then the nurse will quickly prep your arm – all they do is rub it with a very-cold wet wipe that numbs it and cleans it all one go – ta da! Next the nurse may ask you to clench your fist to help your veins raise to the surface.

7. Then the grizzly bit. It definitely can’t be described as fun, and obviously it is a tiny bit nerve wracking, but just look away and think of desert islands, Josh Hartnett & peanut butter, a happy place etc. The nurse will use that cheerful phrase that makes you want to punch them (just a short sharp scratch!) but I guarentee by by the time they’ve got through “short sharp scra…” the needle is in and you are away on your blood giving mission. Yes it hurts a tiny bit but by the time you are pouting and grizzling about it, it’s stopped hurting and you are instantly distracted by remembering how awesome you are for doing this.

8. I know it’s hard to believe but whilst you are donating, the needle doesn’t tug, hurt or sting. You could basically be sat on a sun lounger, it’s not painful. Sometimes you can feel a bit woozy or faint – usually if you’ve been nervous so you get a rush of adrenaline at the start when the needle goes in, it’s a totally normal reaction and if it happens the nurses will give you a pep talk and help you back to normality.

9. Donation time can be anything from 5 to 15 minutes depending on how big your veins are. I helpfully have the worlds smallest veins (ok not world record breaking small, but small enough for me to only be able to provide a full donation every other time I go) and if you do too, the vein might stop playing nicely half way through and there is a small chance the nurse will have to come and jiggle the needle around and help things along.  It might just be me though. The nurse will chat to you if you are nervous, and if you’re not she will never stray too far away which is really re-assuring. If you are brave, you can have a look and see the blood filling the plastic medical pouch. I’m always surprised by how un-cartoon-red it is. It’s the exact shade of my Number 17 Cocoa Cabana nail polish in fact.

10. It’s all over quicky, they remove the needle (a bit sore and throbby for a second) and then the prospect of a nice cup of tea and some biscuits will help you quickly get over it. You have to put a small dressing over your inner elbow which you leave on for six hours. It’s not because you will bleed or anything gruesome, more just to stop any infections or your coat rubbing. So now you leave the bay of beds, and go to a small tea room section where someone congratulates you on donating and then makes you a nice drink. They give you a few advice leaflets on bruising and then after checking you are feeling fine and unfaint, after ten minutes you can skip off the wherever you like. (If you’re me, straight to Starbucks for big creamy, chocolatey frappucino as big as my head, go on.. you deserve it and need to ‘build back your strength’) and after that? Sometimes it’s normal to feel slightly space cadet and light headed but nothing that would prevent you doing a normal day work or whatnot. If you drink alcohol that day, you might get pretty smashed pretty quickly and be able to blame any bad behaviour on being 470ml down on blood! So booze with caution. It takes just a few days for your body to restore your blood levels so it cannot be used as an excuse for long, sorry.

And that’s that. It really isn’t traumatic, or scary or even particularly exciting. Just a really good thing to do with your time. In total, you are probably in the centre for under an hour – even if you have a ten minute wait at the start. That’s all I have to report, well except that the last two times I have been to my local Soho branch; the nurse has told me they’d just had a break in. Which created the following reaction: First – dismay at why on earth anyone would want to steal from such a worthy, nhs centre? Second – ohmygod! actually, who would want to steal blood? There’s only one rational explanation. Vampires must really exist! True Blood, Being Human, Twilight… They all go it spot on and now I know the truth and they are robbing my blood bank and wow…. Third: On no wait, drug addicts need other things they have here. Syringes, needles etc etc, and it’s slightly more likey they exist on the mean streets of London.

Damn.

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