Posted in bloggers, Careers, Lifestyle, london

A Moment To Reflect

This week, the sun’s finally shining over London after what felt like an endless winter. I went for a run around my favourite route near the river Thames, with no goal in mind except to enjoy the beautiful spring day. Although physically I’m not as fit as I used to be, and though I was huffing and puffing after one kilometre, it felt like the first easy breath I’ve taken in ages.

There’s plenty of reasons to be happy and content. This week I finally got my British citizenship approved, after six years of hard work, struggle, achievements and so much joy that I hardly know how to put it all into words. It felt like the culmination of a lifetime of dreams, and despite Brexit and the looming uncertainty surrounding the country’s future, I still find myself incredibly grateful to have made it this far.

That’s not to say its all been sunshine and roses these past couple of weeks. Parts of it were downright maddening, in fact. It’s funny how some things are magnified in your mind if you continue to dwell on them over and over, until a seemingly manageable molehill now feels like an immoveable mountain.

I am a champion dweller.

I really should rid myself of this habit of being unable to let go of things. I tend to obsess about certain issues or concerns to the point where it is the. only. thing. I. see. I get a kind of tunnel vision where I’m unable to move on until I’ve picked the problem apart in a hundred different ways trying to come up with a solution.

I need to learn to accept that there are problems that can only be solved by acceptance and compromise.

I need to learn that not everyone will see things the way I do, and that the choices we make are a product of past experiences and influences. There is no point in judging others according to the standards that you set for yourself. You will only drive yourself mad.

I think the only thing that will keep you sane is to continue to do you, and not to mind so much about what other people are getting up to, difficult as that may be for type A personalities like myself. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

Towards the end of this week, whenever I felt like pulling my hair out in frustration, I reminded myself that – just like everything else – this too shall pass. Life is too short to be pissed all the time, as a wise person once said. There are far too many beautiful things in this earth to appreciate; you can’t let problems that will probably be inconsequential a year down the line get you down.

Most of all, I remembered to breathe, to stay centred, to focus on the things that are important, and to remember that even though other people may let you down, the key thing is to not let yourself down.

Happy start of the week, fellow blabbaholics and bookworms! xx

Posted in Books, Lifestyle

My Winter-Spring Reading List

A friend was asking me for book recommendations earlier this week and it made me go back to my bookshelf to check out what I have, only to realise I have a freakin’ stockpile of books I’ve bought but haven’t had the time to read yet.

I need help. I have a disease. A disease where I need to follow the compulsion to buy books every time I go into a bookstore. I always leave Waterstones asking myself: WHAT THE HELL HAVE I JUST DONE?!?

(This is usually after having just forked over at least 50£ for a bunch of books)

I’ve now imposed a ban upon myself: I am no longer allowed to buy books until I finish the unread ones currently sitting on my shelves.

So, without further ado, here’s my 2019 winter-spring reading list:

Becoming – Michelle Obama

This one I’m halfway through, and I personally can’t wait to blog about this incredibly inspiring book. A must-read, especially for strong independent women trying to find their place in the world.

Mythos – Stephen Fry

The story of the Greek Gods told in Stephen Fry’s inimitably funny, humorous and tongue-in-cheek style. Mythology as seen and narrated from a 21st century perspective. This should be fun!

Heroes – Stephen Fry

A companion to Mythos, this time covering the Age of Heroes: Perseus, Jason and the Argonauts etc.

The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker

This one intrigued me so much when I pick it up, because its the Iliad as seen through the eyes of the women who had to live through those turbulent times. For once, Achilles and his damned heel won’t be the centre of attention.

The Queen and I – Sue Townsend

What happens if the institution of monarchy were suddenly abolished and the Royal Family had to move to and adjust to living a life in the Midlands? It makes for great comedy, I’d imagine!

Fire and Blood – George RR Martin

The long and bloody history of the Targaryen dynasty, starting from Aegon the Conqueror to Aegon III. I love love love Game of Thrones, and although this doesn’t cover recent history (like the reign of Mad King Aerys) I still can’t wait to read this.

Time’s Convert – Deborah Harkness

Going back to the world of A Discovery of Witches, which, incidentally is now a major tv series! Haha

Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty

As I understand it, nine people go into some retreat where nothing is at it seems and the retreat leader seems to have nefarious and sinister plans. Oooh.

Black Widow – Chris Brookmyre

About a woman who goes through husbands like I go through socks, except her husbands end up dead so maybe that’s not the most fitting analogy. Lol

City of Ghosts – Victoria Schwab

A book about a girl who can see ghosts, set in one of my favourite cities: Edinburgh

Middlemarch – George Eliot

Because I need to read a classic every once in a while.

The ABC Murders – Agatha Christie

Recommended by my sister and also now a tv series!

Victoria – AN Wilson

Because I love hearing stories about women who rise to the occasion, and Victoria has always been one of my favourite monarchs.

One Day in December – Josie Wilson

Rounding things up with a little story about love and serendipity.

Hope you all find something in this list to enjoy!

Posted in Horror, Lifestyle, Travel

The Tower of Terror

A group of people go into an amusement park and plan what rides to go on. They decide, just for shits and giggles, to go on the scariest and most thrilling ride imaginable.

If there are 5 people in that group, you can bet your entire mortgage that 4 of them genuinely want to go on said ride. And then there’s that one sucker who’s been peer-pressured into it because FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

Being the sensible person that I am, I have never seen the value of paying big bucks to voluntarily put yourself in a room that’s been made to resemble an old elevator that will then drop over a hundred feet, simulating a free fall that once killed 5 people (or sent them into The Twilight Zone. Same thing).

Unfortunately, remember our friend who’s been peer-pressured into going on that ride? Yep. Most of the time, that friend is ME.

I am the sucker that inevitably finds herself clutching at the rails and asking myself, among other things, WHAT THE BLOODY HELL WAS I THINKING?

You know, when you’re strapped into a contraption that’s about to do a vertical drop of over a hundred feet, your life doesn’t quite flash before your eyes, but its a damn close thing.

So what was I thinking during those final moments before I plunge into certain death the bottom of the Tower of Terror? Let me illuminate you.

On the day of the BIG DAY:

Surely I don’t need to do this. My siblings and my cousin won’t disown me if I back out, after all we’re FAMILY.

When you see the windows of the tower opening and hear the god-awful screams:

Oh my god. What am I doing? Is it too late to back out?

When you realise what a Disney Fast Pass means:

Why are we jumping the queue?? I want to have time to contemplate my life before I go on this death trap.

When you’re ushered into the converted library for a video introduction:

Is it normal for my legs to feel like jelly?

When you see a little boy who’s about 5 years old excitedly waiting for the elevator shaft:

Seriously. Get a grip. Kids do this all the time, surely YOU – an ADULT – will be able to handle it.

5 minutes later:

Nope, no way. Kids obviously don’t know enough to make an informed decision. Theirs is the courage that comes from ignorance.

When the elevator shaft opens:

Oh God, I am going to pass out.

While strapping yourself into your seat:

Shit. Shit. Shit. SHHHHIIIIIIT.

When the ride starts moving:

Why? Why am I doing this?? Why the bloody hell am I doing this? Let me out!

When they “fake-drop” you:

Okay, that wasn’t too bad. I got this. I think I can handle this.

When they drop you FOR REAL:

Holy mother of Christ! Help me Jesus!!!!

When they drop you for the second time:

Go to your happy place. Go to your happy place. It will all be over soon.

When they drop you the third time:

Surely this must be over soon!

When the camera flashes to take a reaction photo:

You expect me to be photogenic at a time like this???

* What I actually managed was this masterpiece:

And when its over:

I will never do this again. Its hard to conceive of anything that will motivate me to ever go on this ride again. Perhaps if the fate of the Brexit negotiations rest on it. And even then, I still say Nigel Farage and the other fools can literally take the fall for me.

Posted in bloggers, fitness, Health and Well-Being, Lifestyle, Self-Discovery, Travel

Life Lessons From Hiking

After a hectic four-day trip to Vegas, my aunt took my sister and I to a 15 kilometre hike around Silver Falls State Park in Oregon.

I’ve always considered myself a city girl, and I will probably never live more than commutable distance away from a major city, like London. If I have it my way I will be renting my flat in Soho (for the same price!) until I die.

But for some reason I’ve developed a strange fascination for hiking around nature this year. I’ve discovered how much I love to just walk with no particular destination in mind, to soak in the views around me and allow it to soothe my often anxious and high-strung city soul.

You learn a lot when you’re somewhere with no mobile phone coverage or Wifi, especially when you’re running low on battery and can’t even listen to music on your Spotify. In that instant, its just you and nature and whoever happens to be hiking with you (my family, in this case).

I’d like to share some of those lessons in the hopes that, like me, you find the time to get away from it all for a while and have the opportunity to enjoy the pleasures (and lessons!) of hiking.

Be prepared.

I’m very vain, and my instagram is filled to the brim with photos of me in various outfits. But there’s no room for vanity around nature. You have to be prepared for rain, sunshine, mud, water and whatever elements Mother Nature decides to throw your way.

For me, this really is a metaphor for life, and its something that I should really be sorting out now that I’m in my 30s. No one wants to think too hard about things like insurance and savings when life’s a party, but you can sure as hell guarantee they’ll be thinking about it when the challenges start pouring in like rain.

Disconnect and Unplug.

I’ve already blogged once about my increasing disillusion with social media, and yet I find myself still posting on Facebook and Instagram time after time after time. Its like I’ve been conditioned to think that anything I do in life is not worthwhile unless its validated by my “followers” in the form of likes.

Be honest. How often do you look around when you’re on holiday to find that you and your friends are all on your phones, racing to be the first to upload photos or post an Instagram story? Or wasting time trying to get the perfect shot that you fail to soak in the beautiful piece of the world that you’re fortunate enough to find yourself in?

Yesterday I had a phone that was dying and was without a Power-bank for a change. I also didn’t have mobile data or Wifi coverage. And I think it was the best thing that’s ever happened to me on this trip. To just be able to enjoy the experience without feeling the need to update the rest of the world about what I was doing, to really BE in the moment, was a gift.

I think for the rest of this trip I will try to be on airplane mode more often.

Put one foot in front of the other

I think of myself as a reasonably fit individual but I have to say I had reservations about the 15km hike, especially when I realised that a) there won’t be a toilet for miles and b) the trail will naturally have uphill, downhill and (did I mention?) uphill portions.

It requires stamina and good breath control, sure. But one should never underestimate the power of the mind. If you psych yourself out by thinking of all the ways it could go wrong, or decide that you’ll never make it before you even try, you’ll miss out on an incredible experience.

There were times during the hike that I thought a particularly challenging trail would never end, but eventually it evens out, and before I knew it I’ve made it to the finish line. It’s a lot like life, you really just need to keep moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other until you make it.

Breathe

I live in a city where life is so fast-paced that you wake up on Friday not knowing where the rest of the week had gone. I’ve built a career and most days I find that I actually love my job, but it does account for at least 30% of my overall stress and anxiety.

I attended a talk once where the speaker said that stress is really just a series of tasks that you need to do. You’re stressed because you’ve either procrastinated so much that tasks have piled up, or you’ve set unrealistic goals in the first place.

I’ll add to that and say you get stressed because you forget to sit still and just breathe. This hike was extremely taxing, but there were periods when we stopped to catch our breath, relax, enjoy the scenery and work up to getting our second wind.

Life should be like that. You should be able to press pause and look out for your physical and mental health. I think one of the things I could definitely do when I get back to London is to work less extra shifts and have more time for me. Since getting back from Australia I feel like the energiser bunny that just keeps going and going and going. I feel like I never have enough time to breathe, to just BE.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Nothing’s so important that you lose your health and yourself over it.

The journey is the destination

Finally, and I know this is such a cliche, but cliches exist for a reason. Winnie the Pooh once said:

We didn’t realise we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.

We spend so much time worrying about where we’re going and what we’re going to do when we get there that we don’t stop to appreciate the journey.

I didn’t even realise we were nearing the end of the trail until my aunt pointed it out to me. I was having so much fun exploring the beauty of one of Oregon’s most beautiful state parks that I didn’t realise we’d walked 15 kilometres.

Whatever you do in this life, enjoy it. Make memories, make friends, try new things, push yourself. At the end of the day, where you go and when you get there won’t be as important as HOW you get there.

Posted in bloggers, Celebrities, Food, Lifestyle, Travel

Etiquette for Meeting Celebrities AKA What NOT to Do When Meeting Gordon Ramsay

While in Vegas, one does hope to meet celebrities of a certain calibre. Its almost a given. I mean, in the time that my sister and I stayed at the MGM Grand they hosted the Latin Grammy Awards and I am still convinced that I rode the lift with Jennifer Lopez (apparently it was a very convincing impersonator but whatever).

Anyway, I’m sure most of us would like to see celebrities but are we really fully prepared in the event that such a momentous occasion actually occurs?

Never fear, I am here to tell you exactly how to increase the likelihood of meeting one, what to expect, what to do and what not to to do. Are you ready for this?

First of all, its all about location, location, location.

If you want to see celebrities, be where the action’s happening. Do research. Where do they eat? What nightclubs do they frequent? In this world obsessed with social media its not hard to engage in some low-key stalking.

Or if you’re like me and you find the thought of doing the above ludicrous, then maybe just choose a nice restaurant with no hope, and no agenda, just the intention of enjoying a nice meal with your family, and wait for miracles to happen.

In our case, we chose to eat at Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas.

The casino itself was so opulent, it truly boggles the mind. Where else but in Vegas will you find yourself trying your luck on slot machines located at the base of the Eiffel Tower under a very convincing facade of a Parisian sky?

Anyway, I am now of the opinion that the difference between eating at say, McDonald’s, and a Gordon Ramsay restaurant is in the service. Instead of the sullen person in front of the till asking you if you wanted hash browns to go with your Egg McMuffins, you get personalised service, constant attention and GET THIS, an actual live meat presentation instead of an ordinary humdrum menu.

I have never had wagyu rib cap before and I probably won’t be able to afford to do so anytime soon, but can I just take the time to say this was absolutely delicious? Steak. Heaven.

Second, always have a celebrity-worthy outfit.

I mean, you have to dress up in Vegas anyway. Its almost a requirement. I got to Vegas and I felt underdressed and low maintenance for the first time in my life. They take dressing up to a whole new level.

What you mustn’t do is wear a jumpsuit that requires another person, like your sister for example, to fasten it. See Exhibit A below.

Because believe me, you will find yourself abandoned with the zipper and buttons at the back only half done-up, because said sibling has abandoned you in the toilet after your aunt has made the pronouncement that Gordon freakin’ Ramsay is in the restaurant.

You will then find yourself trying desperately not to have a wardrobe malfunction in front of one of the most famous chefs in the world.

Thirdly, pay attention during the photo op.

Celebrities are busy busy people, and they have loads of fans to meet. In this case, Gordon Ramsay had to go around the entire restaurant, table by table, to give diners indigestion secondary to the sheer awe of meeting him.

What you must NOT do is be too excited and hyper that you develop tunnel vision and not realise who’s actually taking the photo. You must NOT ignore Chef when he tries to tell you to look at the camera so the photo can finally be taken.

But then again, the result of not following this rule is truly hilarious and priceless.

Here’s Chef, telling my beloved Di-ko to please, please, PLEASE, look at the camera madam.

(And also, my jumpsuit is holding up. Not a side-boob in sight, thank goodness).

Finally, enjoy the moment.

Celebrities are people too, and (surprise, surprise) when you engage them in conversation they will actually respond. I told Chef that we’d also just come from London, and he asked us where we lived and what we do. He even asked about the state of the NHS.

Sadly, he did not offer us a 20% discount on our meal so Nando’s, you’re still our favourite restaurant.

The whole experience was absolutely surreal, especially since we’ve been obsessed with watching Hell’s Kitchen reruns on Netflix this year.

I think my sister was tempted to ask Chef Ramsay to say “its raaaaawwwww” just to hear what it sounds like in person, but she didn’t want him to think we were stupid. I would have gone for it if I thought about it.

So there you go, everything you need to learn about celebrity sightings. All smiles and say cheese, everyone!

Posted in bloggers, dating, Lifestyle, relationships, Self-Discovery

Castles in the Sky

My old boss once told me that one of my greatest strengths is my ability to think of the most outlandish and craziest ideas and then have that idea become a reality. She says that I work like I have my head in the clouds most of the time, and I come down to earth and get on with the business of making things happen.

I suppose I’ve always been a very optimistic person. I’ve been fortunate enough to have an easy and happy childhood. Even when things seemed difficult, life always had a way of sorting things out with or without my help.

Being somewhat of a type A personality of course I wasn’t contented to watch from the sidelines. I’d like to think a took an active role and made some pretty savvy life choices to get to where I am. I’ve made some mistakes along the way but I’ve managed to bounce back from them with my psyche relatively intact.

So yes,  I am a person who’s full of hope. Hope springs eternal; I shit dreams and unicorn and all that. It will be the last thing that leaves my body when I’m dying, and even then I’d probably be clinging to the hope that I can find a way to defeat death somehow.

Hope is a double-edged sword though. On the one hand, it is what propels me to keep going and to keep pursuing the things that I aspire to. But on the other hand, I often wonder how much hope affects my ability to perceive and interpret the reality of what’s actually happening around me.

I sometimes find myself in situations where I do really stupid things in the hopes that things will go my way, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I once built an epic romance out of what was essentially a platonic relationship, based on nothing but hopes and dreams alone.

I’ve travelled tens and thousands of kilometres on the hopes of finding something amazing, based on something as flimsy as a month’s worth of semi-intense connections (and you know, that connection might have just been due to Christmas being in the air and the lights around Central London making things more romantic than they normally were).

I’ve had my heart if not broken, certainly bruised, because I refuse to give up hope without definitive proof, and that definitive proof usually comes in the form of almost soul-crushing disappointment.

After my recent brush with hope and its consequences, it would be tempting to resolve to be a hard-eyed realist from now moving forward. It would certainly save me a lot of tears (and a good chunk of my life savings) if I did.

But the thing is, I wouldn’t know who I am if I wasn’t the kind of person who would go to the other side of the world for the chance of exploring the potential for something more with someone who made my heart beat for the first time in a long time.

And yeah, maybe that blew up in my face a little bit, but I came back to London ready to try again, to give it another go.

And when I get to a point where I’m ready to throw in the towel because I feel like I may never find the kind of love I’ve always dreamed of having, I somehow find an inner reserve of hope that something amazing could still happen.

I suppose what I’ve realised, after having given it some thought since I came back from my holidays, is that I would rather hope and love a little too much, than to ever become a cynic who can’t see the possibilities of the extraordinary in the ordinariness of life.

I’ll keep building my castles in the sky. Who knows? Someday my prince could even come along and join me there. Or better yet, a prince will come along who will share a mortgage with me and join forces in the battle against exorbitant London house prices. Lol

Happy Sunday, one and all.

Posted in Lifestyle, Self-Discovery, Travel

The Gift of Disney

For my birthday this year, my sister bought me an all-expense paid trip to Disneyland Paris.

Anyone who knows me would know that this is the most perfect gift anyone could have given me. I don’t care if this is my 31st birthday. In my opinion, you stop needing Disney when you are on your deathbed. I cannot conceive of any age where I won’t feel excited at the sight of Sleeping Beauty’s castle or when I won’t get a giddy feeling when I hear the opening notes of A Whole New World.

I digress. 

There is something to be said about a company who’s entire ethos is built on the power of dreams, on the power of believing that something magical is waiting to happen just around the corner.

And I know in this cynical world, where more often than not it is violence and not pixie dust that is commonplace, that may seem really trite and corny. I had a colleague who incredulously asked ‘Why??” when I said I was spending my birthday in Disneyland. He asked me whether I wouldn’t rather go to Italy to soak up some culture instead.

(Yeah…no. I’ve been to Italy so many times and I’m all cultured out thank you very much. I just want to see Mickey, Minnie and the entire gang of Disney Princesses).

Walt Disney once said that the problem with the world is that too many people grow up. I agree with that statement but only up to a certain point. Because as accurate as that may have been in the 50s or 60s, in these turbulent times you HAVE to grow up fast if you want to make it. If you want to survive.

I don’t think people growing up is the problem so much as it is people equating growing up with letting go of their dreams. Too many people stop seeing the world with wonder. Too many people go through life just waiting to be disappointed rather than thinking of it as one grand adventure.

And can you really blame them?

These are hard times. And it sometimes feels like its going to get worse before it gets better. President Trump. Brexit. Wars. Never-ending conflict in the Middle East. Harvey Weinstein. I’ve stopped keeping up with current events because it feels like there’s always suffering somewhere in the world. Its really hard to keep believing in the wishes our hearts make in the face of such troubles.

On a more personal front, the week before we went to Disney was one of the more challenging weeks of my life.  I don’t do change very well and that week felt like a week of endings: I was saying goodbye to something that had been a major part of my life for the better part of the decade in order to do something different. I said goodbye to a friend who’d been like a rock for me these past couple of years because she’s moving back to Australia.

I wasn’t feeling very Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.

I was also feeling all kinds of depressed and yes, afraid, about the fact that I am now officially in my 30s and I don’t feel like I have anything to show for it. The fear of ageing hits you at the oddest of times but all the more so on birthdays I think.  Birthdays always make me feel the weight of all of society’s expectations more than any other time of the year. I always feel like my life never quite measures up to the standards of how a 30-year-old’s life should be.

WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH.

Like I said, I really needed this Disney trip. It made me realise that as scary as the world is becoming, I shouldn’t let it affect me so much because at the end of the day, there’s not much I can do about it. What will be will be.

I should also stop thinking about living my life according to other people’s standards. I say this all the time, but every time my birthday comes around (or when someone has a kid, or gets married, or achieves some other milestone that I’m nowhere near achieving), I always forget this  one simple truth: we will all go through life our own way, and the only person who gets to decide how we should our lives is US.

What I should be more afraid of is the concept of fear itself. I admit, I sometimes have anxiety problems. I worry too much about consequences that sometimes I don’t even bother trying. I let my fears get in the way of me experiencing new things. I can’t count the number of opportunities I’ve let slip simply because I was too afraid to try, or to say how I feel.

So whilst I was queuing up to ride the Hyper Space Mountain on Frontier Land, I suddenly decided that this year would be the Year of No Fear. I would make a point of going after things that scare me. If it makes me feel anxious, if it gets me out of my comfort zone, then its probably worth doing, if only for the life experience.

I will try not to be afraid of going after something I want, even if I crash and burn in the process. What’s the worse that could happen? Rejection? Heartbreak? Humiliation? I can survive all those things. What I won’t survive is regret, or looking back years from now and thinking about what could have been.

I don’t think my sister realised the impact of the birthday present she’d given me this year. It’s given me back a portion of the belief and wonder that I had as a child, and has made me resolve to go through life thinking that something amazing is going to happen every day. Its infinitely better than going through life being afraid all the time. It’s the year of no fear, and when we get over our fears I think that’s when we really start to live.

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All this introspection aside though, I just really REALLY enjoyed going to Disneyland. I wouldn’t want you to think I spent the entire weekend ruminating on the meaning of life.

 

EYE. ROLL.

 

I spent the weekend fighting with children for a spot to see Cinderella, riding rollercoasters and magic carpets and singing It’s A Small World After All. I saw Disney Princesses, and my heart went all a flutter when all those Prince Charming’s made an appearance.

There was lights, music, fireworks and Mickey Mouse on parade.

It was epic, fabulous and all kinds of awesome. It was the perfect way to start the Year of No Fear.

Happy 31st to me. Its going to be a great year, I can feel it. 

 

Posted in bloggers, Books, Lifestyle

Save The Culture

Dear Complete Stranger,

A mutual friend of ours asked me to send you a copy of my favourite book as part of a drive to save the lost art of reading.

You don’t know me from Adam, so you probably have no idea that asking me to pick a favourite book is like asking a mother to choose a favourite child.

Every single book I’ve read and kept on my shelves meant something to me once upon a time. They were an escape, a reason to laugh, to cry and to feel; a reason to hope when all seemed lost, an inspiration to do more than I could, to be more than I am.

I think there’s power in the telling of a story. Any story. From The Boy Who Lived and Edward Cullen to Sherlock Holmes and Mrs. Danvers, from Middle Earth to Narnia: each story encourages us to believe in the innate goodness of man, the dangers of greed, and the redemptive power of love.

They tell us that we are not alone in our experiences. There are people out there who share in the joys of our triumphs, and there are people who have gone through the same trials we have and have lived to tell the tale.

So whether its that secondhand book I bought for a quid or that beautiful illustrated hardbound copy of the first book in the Game of Thrones series: I love them all. But I suppose the idea is to pick ONE.

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I picked the one that I thought you’d enjoy the most, and its truly one of my favourite books of all time. Also, I own multiple copies of Pride and Prejudice because, DUH, Mr. Darcy.

I participated in this project on a leap of faith. I have no idea whether others will pass it on the way they’re meant to. But the idea that somewhere, somehow, someone is looking at their bookshelf and picking out their favourite book so they can send it to me? I think its magical.

So I hope you enjoy Pride and Prejudice. If you’ve read it before, I hope you’ll have a good time reliving the longing gazes and silent yearning, as well as the satirical commentary on society, that Jane Austen does so well.

To all other strangers out there, if you’re reading this blog and you love books as much as  this stranger and I do, let me know in the comments or email me to ask about how you can participate in the #savetheculture project.

At the very least, it’ll free up a space for you to buy more books!

Cheers, bookworms. xx

Posted in bloggers, fitness, Health and Well-Being, Lifestyle, Self-Discovery

Confessions of a Body Shaming Victim

Last week, in the middle of a stressful theatre list where I was worried about having sets and instruments for the surgical procedures we were about to do, one of my male colleagues told me that he thought I was looking “a little chubby“.

Now normally, I would be able to brush off a comment like that. But last week I was especially vulnerable because I had spent the entire week before that binge-eating as a result of the combined effects of hormones and the natural stress of having made some big career changes.

I won’t deny that my self-esteem has always been inversely proportional to my body weight. I come from a country where a UK size 4 is considered the norm and a UK size 12 is almost bordering on fat (if not outright obese). Growing up, I’ve always accepted that this is the standard of beauty against which I will be measured and I am painfully aware that in that regard I have always fallen hopelessly short.

Anyway, this one thoughtless but probably  innocent comment sent me on a downward spiral throughout the day, to the point where I couldn’t even look at food without feeling sick. That day, I saw food as the enemy rather than something that will fuel and nourish me.

My sister and I finished late that day and she asked me whether I wanted to order takeaway rather than go through the hassle of having to cook dinner. I had to tell her that I can’t even think about what to eat for dinner until I’ve stepped on a weighing scale and confirmed whether I have indeed gained weight or not.

I know, I know. Berate me all you want about how stupid and illogical this was, you’re not telling me anything I haven’t already told myself. Rationally, I know that beauty is skin deep, and there’s more to me than just my physical attributes, everyone is lovely in their own way yada yada yada

Rationally, I know that it is INCREDIBLY UNREALISTIC AND DELUSIONAL to think that I will ever be, say, a Victoria’s Secret model. To start with, I just don’t think I have the genes for it. But how do you deal with that irrational part of you that just wants to fit in? How do you deal with that part of you who just wants, FOR ONCE, to not worry every time you want to eat a brownie?

I always say to myself that I exercise and workout for my health and because its fun, not because I’m chasing this picture in my head of what a “sexy” body should like. Someone once told me that confidence is the new sexy anyway and most of the time I have confidence in spades.

I’m not one to deprive myself of food, nor do I usually stop myself from wearing certain clothes because I think I’m too “fat” to pull it off. My favourite outfit is a cropped top for goodness sake. I think there’s nothing you can’t wear as long as you choose the right size for you. Don’t stuff yourself into a size 8 when you’ll look and feel so much better in a size 12.

I guess what I’m saying is that even though I’m a well-adjusted person most of the time and I’ve developed a healthy relationship with (and a healthy acceptance of) my body over the years, my weight will continue to be the one aspect of my life that I will always be incredibly sensitive about. There’s nothing I can do to change that.

Blame it on a childhood full of teasing and being called a member of the “Spice Pigs“, a nickname my friend’s brother called my circle of girl friends because we were all “healthy“. Blame it on a culture that glorifies being skinny. Blame it on the media. But it is what it is, I will always be sensitive about it.

Not even 24 hours after the incident with my colleague, I was at a Bruno Mars concert and, as is expected in these things, people turned up in their summer outfits. Which means to say there was a bare minimum of clothing present. We saw a girl wearing a really tight stringy top that looked three sizes too small for her. Honest-to-god, she looked like a burst sausage.

But you see, what does that say about me that I have those kind of thoughts? What does it say about me that I joke and laugh at someone else’s expense when I know how much it hurts to have the same thing done to me? It doesn’t matter that I didn’t say it to her face, the mere act of mocking her behind her back makes me the worst kind of hypocrite there is

And that is the true confession. We are all of us simultaneously victims and perpetrators of body-shaming.

One of my friends once tweeted that you should change the world by example and not with your opinions. Writing this blog is my way of admitting that I also have my faults, and a way of promising that I’m going to try to be better.

I just think we should all be kinder to ourselves and to others. Believe me, whatever criticisms you make of someone does not match the amount of self-criticism that that person has already given herself. No one judges us more harshly than we ourselves do. Having other people say what we’re already thinking just adds insult to a self-inflicted injury.

I hope that this story makes other people think twice the next time they feel the need to tell other people something potentially hurtful about themselves. Try a compliment the next time. No matter how a person looks I believe you will always find something good to say about them, and it will make them feel better as well as making you feel better about yourself.

You know what I want? For once, I want someone to come up to me and say “You look chubby and its awesome”. Full-figured doesn’t have to be a bad thing. People need to know that as long as they’re happy and healthy, its okay to look the way they do. 

SAY NO TO BODY SHAMING. Focus on the positive rather than the negative and do the world a bit of good.

Posted in Health and Well-Being, Lifestyle, sport

How To Get 100 People To Run In Six Easy Steps

Summer in London means people are more motivated to go out and be active.

Or so one would think.

Operating theatre staff are notorious for being reclusive and exclusive (even though in reality we really are a nice and sociable bunch). Tucked away in some hidden corner of the hospital, we probably see more blood than sunshine (morbid, much?), so as some kind of team building activity, I thought it would be a great idea for us to join the annual run organised by the Institute of Sports, Exercise and Health. 

As you can imagine, when I raised this during the daily team brief I was met with reactions that ranged from skeptical to downright scornful. Team building for most people means having a sit-down dinner and maybe having a few rounds of beer afterwards, preferably sponsored by surgeons and anaesthetists. But. You can do that on any ordinary day. This activity is actually a chance to get everyone out in the sun and running for charity. Think of the health benefits!

But no dice. People heard the word running and they literally ran away from the idea. So I had to get creative (and manipulative) and think about how I can generate enthusiasm for my idea. I thought if I could just get 30 people to sign up, I’d consider that a good turnout. This was about two months ago. Here we are 60 days later, the event has just finished and I managed to get ONE HUNDRED people from the department to run the race.

How did I do it? I honestly have no clue. I had several moments these past couple of weeks as I was sorting out bundles of registration forms and actually collecting money in the form of COINS when I thought to myself, what in the world was I thinking? The whole thing had totally run away from me (see what I did there?) and I was petrified that I would fail to organise this properly now that its turned into such a large-scale activity.

But we did it. And a good day was had by all. Looking back I think there were six key things that really made all the difference. And I thought I’d share it with everyone just in case you’re thinking of getting your own department to do something active, and also I want everyone in my department to take note so someone else can organise this next year! Lol

Plan a picnic

I think food is the fulcrum around which all of society spins. Its not love or money that makes the world go round, its booze (haha). So when my team and I said that there will be a picnic afterwards, people became more enthusiastic about the whole thing. We told people to bring food and drinks potluck-style, and my colleague Joanne volunteered to head the food committee. Instant attendance-booster.

Appeal to everyone’s naturally competitive nature

I don’t know about other departments, but our theatre team consists of some of the most competitive bunch of individuals I know. So we made a competition within the race, telling people to get into teams, and the idea was that the first group to get all five people within their team to the finish line wins a prize. Suddenly everyone was coming up with team names, printing their own t-shirts, motivating each other to train and of course, ragging each other about whose team is going to win (mine won, by the way, JUST SAYING).

Open it up to family and friends

Look, we already work five out of seven days in the hospital. Its really difficult to get people to voluntarily come on a Sunday; for free I might add. So we made sure to encourage people to bring their family and friends and turn it into some kind of Family Day so that those with kids can be persuaded to come. It was good to see people mingling and having the kids play with each other.

I often think that seeing someone in a social situation allows you to relate better with someone. In a stressful environment such as the operating theatres, there are a hundred and one ways for people to end up in some kind of argument. There’s also a hierarchy, and in some ways that hierarchy is there for a reason, but it also makes it easy for people to forget that at the end of the day, we’re all human. We have more in common than we think.

Okay, I got a little bit sidetracked there. I was just really chuffed to see families interacting. It really warms the heart.

Un-complicate the process

I’d like to think that I have good insight and people skills. I have a sort of innate understanding about how people think and how to best get them to cooperate. And I know that in order for everyone to stay enthusiastic, I should take out as much of the administrative work as I can (and inevitably, have them fall on my shoulders).

So I asked ISEH if there was any way we could register as a group (this was back when I thought I would have at most 30 runners) and they were so great at helping me find a way to make it easy for people to sign up.

Of course, I did spend the last three weeks collecting registration forms, chasing people for payment, counting change and putting names on an Excel spreadsheet, but I looked around the number of happy, smiling faces today and I have to say, it was worth it.

Make running less intimidating

Honestly, when I first started running I never thought I could even finish a 3k, let alone a 10k (which is the longest run I’ve ever done to date). And I think most people feel that way. They think running is just for the fittest of individuals and that they’re too slow to participate.

Every time someone came up to me who was hesitant about joining the run, I told them, look, its not about finishing first or finishing within a certain time. The point is to do it, and even if you finish behind everyone else, even if you finish last, you still finish. That is an achievement in and of itself because on a Sunday, half the population of England are on their couches (or in a pub somewhere watching the Football World Cup).

Even if you choose to walk a 5k, that is literally 15,000 steps. It can be done in like an hour and a bit, which is still a good time for finishing a 5k run especially if you don’t run regularly or you’ve not trained. Also, it was good of ISEH to have a 2.5k option – especially for the kids – because that’s really what the majority of the our team chose to do.

It takes a village

The idea might have been mine, and I may have done the leg work, but this would never have been organised if I hadn’t had help from my team and if people didn’t embrace the idea. I’m really thankful for my bosses who were so supportive, and who actually came and ran themselves. It was also great of them to buy medals so we can have our own awarding ceremony. I’m thankful to everyone that came, period. I think everyone deserves a round of applause at this point.

At the end of the day, we were all there to support each other and have a good time. I lost track of the number of people who passed by me and took the time to slow down and give me encouraging words or a thumbs up sign. One of our theatre leads actually crossed the finish line AND THEN went back to encourage and motivate the rest of his team, it was awesome.

 

I’m realistic enough to realise that all the problems of the world, and the NHS and our department in particular, will not be solved by one little fun run. But i genuinely hope, at the risk of sounding too corny or maudlin, that we can keep the momentum going and be able to see work a little better with each other than we did before this run.

And if not, well, there’s always next year. 

Thank you everyone for your support!  🙂