Ten Things About Me (Revised Bio)

Inspired by the friend who I call my ‘spiritual twin’ (you know who you are), I have updated my bio with ten things about me:

1. I want to write but rarely do it. This tortures me daily, and, unless I seek to remedy it by writing more often, will continue to torture me until my dying day.

2. I worry: about hate, about greed, about selfishness, about the state of the world my (God willing) children will inherit. I worry about what people think of me. I worry that this makes me shallow. I worry about things happening to my loved ones. I worry how I would cope. I worry that this makes me selfish. I worry that worrying will send me to an early grave. But I’m so good at worrying that I also wonder what I would do if I wasn’t worrying. Probably more writing (see point 1)….Oh.

3. I see myself as two people (though, as far as I am aware, I am not technically schizophrenic): a) the fancy dress loving party girl, who loves nothing more than having fun with her friends, because she has seen through her own experiences that life is short, so why not enjoy the ride? b) the more serious and reflective person who wants to learn and to help people and to find her higher purpose (I suspect it is also she who really, really wants to write). Sometimes these sides are conflicting. Fortunately they are in total agreement when it comes to chocolate, red wine and travel.

4. I don’t see myself as an ardent feminist, but the older I get the more frustrated I feel by the societal view of women and ageing. Having just hit the metabolically displeasing age of 35 (now officially past it according to the massive wankflap that is Donald Trump, as well as virtually every media outlet on the planet, whether they overtly state it or not) I hate the fact I am made (and have let myself be manipulated) to feel that my fertility is now teetering on the edge of a clifftop free fall, and that even if I do negotiate this rocky march towards infertility and manage a miracle procreation, my usefulness as a financially solvent career woman will be over, seeing as having a baby in your mid to late thirties is pretty much akin to career suicide. It’s enough to make you want to drown yourself in a vat of wine (hence why I often don a wig and do just that – see point 3a).

5. The older I get, the more I realise that you are never too old to love drum and bass (whether you are ever too old to publicly dance to drum and bass is an issue I am currently grappling with). Ditto UK garage. I will never be ashamed of these two great loves. Never.

6. Speaking of great loves, I have two: my husband, who (sickening as it is) completes me, and Leonardo DiCaprio, whom I have loved since I first laid eyes on him as Romeo to Kate Winslet’s Juliet, and will love until my dying day (likewise the husband, all being well). As much as I like Kate Winslet, I will never forgive her for leaving him on that door. There was definitely room for two.

7. I am riddled with self doubt, and have a serious case of imposter syndrome, particularly in relation to my fourteen year communications career. I have never understood how anyone could deem me capable of running their campaigns. The lack of complaints would suggest I haven’t made a total balls up of it so far. But there’s still time.

8. Infinity and death frighten me senseless. I can’t even talk about the universe without breaking into a sweat. I need to believe in life after death because death CANNOT be the end. I should probably have some (more) counselling to address these issues.

9. If procrastination were an Olympic sport, I would win Gold, Silver and Bronze (to give an example, I sat down an hour ago to work on my new novel, and instead have been updating this bio. I refer you to point 1. Sigh).

10. I make more lists than Buzzfeed. When I die, besides having Oasis’s Champagne Supernova played at my funeral (deep breaths – see point 8), I should probably have a To Do list inscribed on my headstone for when I reach the other side…

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Freak Out

In my third year of university I suffered from panic attacks, which were the physical manifestation of my guilt at having been so lackadaisical in attitude towards academic study for the preceding two years. I vividly remember one afternoon when I was attempting to start work on my dissertation and my housemate and best friend bounded into my room and informed me we would be attending a house party that evening. Summoning some hitherto unknown strength of will I declined the offer and explained the likelihood of my failing my degree if I ventured outside the house between that very moment and the end of term, but my protestations fell on unsympathetic ears. “You’ve got 15 minutes,” my friend said, “by the time I get out of the shower you need to be ready to go.” As it happened, by the time she got out of the shower I was about as far from ready as could be-I had, in fact, become so distressed by my predicament that I had unintentionally hyperventilated myself into unconsciousness and collapsed backwards onto the bed. Needless to say, by the time I came around I was so disoriented that work was not an option-and alcohol, and indeed the house party, won out (as so oft they did in those halcyon days of my early twenties. Oh who am I kidding? They still do more than ten years later).

Why did I tell you that story? For two reasons actually. Firstly, because today I had a moment when I felt the same chest-crushing anxiety I felt that day at university, as it hit me in a tidal wave of realisation that this move to Belgium really IS happening two weeks on Saturday, and I suddenly and acutely felt a sense of loss for all the loved ones that I’m leaving here in the UK, as well as a sense of panic about leaping into the great unknown without the security of a job or social network where I’m going. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100% committed to this move and can’t wait to start this new chapter in my life. I suppose trepidation is just a natural part of the process of acclimatisation to change.

The second reason I told that story is that tomorrow is my thirty third birthday, and as I sit here reminiscing about my uni days I find it difficult to accept they were more than a decade ago. I always thought by the time I reached my early thirties I’d feel grown up and would have life all figured out. But the reality is there is no ‘magic age’ at which we humans become ‘grown up.’ And whilst I waste a lot of breath moaning about my advancing years, I have to say that’s one realisation I’m glad to have had.

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The Wonder Years (or why ageing maybe isn’t so terrible after all-maybe)

Today I was listening to Radio 1 Xtra (I know what you’re thinking – isn’t she a bit old to be listening to that?) when the dj, an enthusiastic chap with a penchant for substituting every other word with “cuz” (yup, definitely too old) began bemoaning the speeding up of time as people get older. “I mean cuz,” he said, “I’m only twenty six and already it feels like a week goes by in a day. Imagine being, like, fifty! How bad would it be then?” How bad indeed.

When it comes to whining about ageing I’m hardly one to talk. Until I reached my current age of *coughs* thirty two I’d always enjoyed lavish birthday celebrations, but as my thirty third hurtles towards me at alarming speed (that dj was right, dagnamit) I must confess I’m feeling hugely (and that’s an understatement) underwhelmed (I am also aware, at this point in proceedings, that older readers may well be gnashing their teeth and branding metaphorical claw hammers positioned directly above my skull). The logical part of my brain is constantly telling me that there’s nothing I can do to stop the process so I may as well accept it, yet I can’t stop fixating on my frown lines long enough to listen to it.

If it’s true that you’re only as old as the man you feel then I’m twenty seven all over again. Though, in all seriousness and as great as it is, being a woman who is five years older than her partner is not without its challenges. Fortunately I’ve always been young for my years in both spirit and looks (an old soul I most certainly am not) and so, for the time being at least, it suits me to be living a youthful and relatively unencumbered lifestyle. But that’s not to say I don’t continually worry whether what I do is age appropriate, or draw constant comparisons with my peer group, many of whom are now playing out the traditional marriage and 2.4 children scenario with aplomb. Don’t get me wrong, I want that myself desperately, and not in the TOO distant future either (cover your ears darling), but right now the thought of sleepless nights, snotty noses and nappies is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat. I want to go on more adventures before I settle down, to live a bit more and eke out just a bit more time for being selfish. But what about convention and my biological clock? Wahhhh!

Then, in the midst of all these brain-churning thoughts, I stop. And a realisation dawns on me. No matter how old we get, those of us who do keep ageing are the lucky ones. So many people’s lives are tragically cut short before they have a chance to worry about worry lines, or contemplate the future of their relationship or career. As the Buddhist way of thinking goes, when all is said, done and worried about (I made that last bit up), all we have is this very moment – so what’s the point of worrying about a future that we cannot guarantee?

And so, in light of the above (and ignoring the current agony I’m in with no doubt age-related back issues) maybe it isn’t quite my time to switch over to Radio 2 after all. Isn’t that right, Cuz?

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What Grown-ups don’t tell you about Growing Up…

Earlier today I was washing my hands in front of the bathroom mirror when I noticed something horrifying – what looked suspiciously like a grey hair. Now I know we all go grey eventually, and I’m also aware as a result of my peers’ experiences that it’s not uncommon for the odd grey to sprout in your early thirties. But, naively it now seems, I thought that just applied to people with dark hair (the recent media furore surrounding Kate Middleton’s apparently greying locks not having escaped my attention), not blondes. And I certainly never thought it would apply to me.

I’ll never forget the day my mum came into my bedroom when I was at home one weekend several years ago. She looked into the mirror and announced in a pained voice: “You know darling, when I look at myself now I can’t believe it’s really me – inside I still feel the same as I did when I was in my twenties. It’s horrible getting old.”

That moment was a turning point for my twenty-something self, as hitherto I’d always laboured under the misapprehension that one day – most likely when I hit my thirties, which at that time still felt like aeons away – I would magically feel grown up and more than able to assume the responsibilities befitting such a status. Realising this would not, in fact, be the case, was like receiving an unwanted and aggressive slap in the face.

No matter how much you sugar coat it, the truth is that there is no magic age when you become a grown-up – indeed many people (and I fear I may fall into this category) go through their whole lives never quite feeling like one (conversely, some people – who are in the minority, I might add – seem to have come out of the womb responsible adults, though for the purpose of this post I shan’t get into talking about them). When our bodies begin to show signs of ageing, therefore, it feels like a betrayal. How can we have grey hairs – surely a sign of our imminent demise? – when we still feel (and often act) like teenagers? It’s not fair! (I am stamping my feet as I type this – very mature).

Having re-examined the rogue hair in the mirror this afternoon I think I may, in fact, have been mistaken about it being grey. But, whether it was a trick of the light or not, something tells me that moment might have been quite pivotal in the next stages of my development. Each decade brings with it new learnings, and today I’ve discovered that grey doesn’t equal grave. A cheery thought to leave you with on a Friday!

Peter Pan Syndrome

As I prepare to move seamlessly from an afternoon of sanding and varnishing furniture in a nursery to an all-night fancy dress (Halloween-themed) techno rave with twenty friends, it does occur to me the life I lead is sometimes a dichotomy of considerable proportions.

I’ve talked about my (late onset) love of fancy dress on this blog before, and have also touched more than once on my deep-seated fear that I should start acting my age. But the problem is this: I don’t want to. Yes, I’m thirty two now and yes, there is a palpably strong argument to be made that it’s time to slow down, rein in the partying and (wait for it) “settle down.” And yet the counter argument of thirty two no longer being ‘old’ in a society where everything is increasingly happening later in life is just as compelling.

There’s also the fact I have a boyfriend who is five years younger than me, which means that even if I wanted to tone down my social life I would struggle to do so without being labelled the ‘boring older woman.’ Not that I really care what I’m labelled these days (that being the only obvious benefit of growing up, as far as I can see).

Reading the above one might assume I’m out on the town every night. This, I’m happy to report, is very much not the case. I worked out the second I hit thirty that mid-week drinking in this decade and beyond would only bring me pain-not that I always manage to remember that, mind, but at least the slip ups are fewer these days. When I do go out I simply like to make sure that the occasion is steeped in fun-and how much more fun can you get than fancy dress? I’ll tell you: No more.

It could be argued that I have a severe case of Peter Pan Syndrome, and that may well be right, but you know what? When I’m old and grey and lying on my death bed I will never have cause for concern that I didn’t make the most of being young(ish). Come to think of it, I wonder if they do fancy dress parties in heaven…

Walking tall

Calling all ladies “of a certain age” (by which I mean over the age of thirty): Let’s talk high heels. Or, to be more specific: Have your high heel-wearing days been in decline since the halcyon days of your twenties? Or are you still flying the flag for glamorous women the world over by squeezing your tootsies daily – a la Mrs Beckham – into skyscraper shoes that would dwarf the Shard?

I ask this question because it’s recently dawned on me that these days – bar the odd wedding or social engagement that demands smartness – I almost never wear high heels. I’m honestly not sure if this was a gradual decline or an abrupt change but, either way, I seem to have lost the glamour factor somewhere along the line.

And it’s not just when it comes to footwear. Not only have I not had a hair cut in over six months, most days when I roll out of bed and open my wardrobe to select an outfit I completely bypass the (admittedly few) corporate dresses in favour of my staple (and so ancient they practically pre-date the dinosaurs) comfort outfits. On the odd days when I do reintroduce a smart top or shirt (usually because everything else is in the wash) I get complimented by my colleagues on how nice I look. But does it tempt me to dress like that every day? Does it heck.

The thing is this: I place a very high premium on comfort. Why put yourself in constant pain by wearing towering heels all day long, or squeeze yourself into smart office wear that makes you feel uncomfortable (when, let’s face it, you’ll just be spending eight hours slumped over your desk inhaling minstrels anyway)?

This all rather begs the questions: When did I become this slob who doesn’t care about her appearance?! Is it age or laziness that’s made me this way? Whatever the answers to these questions, I’ve come to work today in a smart dress and towering heels, and have booked myself a hair appointment for this Thursday. I may have got into bad habits over the years, but I’m not ready to call it quits on glamour just yet…


Forever young

I’ve never been a fan of beauty features, especially those interminable ones that harp on endlessly about the latest ‘miracle’ cream which most of us would have to sell a kidney to stand even a chance of affording. These days even girls in their early twenties are slathering on anti-wrinkle serum every night in the hope they will forever retain their youthful complexions. Whatever happened to growing old gracefully?

Lord knows I’ve done enough damage to my skin over the years through sunbathing and smoking alone. Fortunately I’ve now firmly knocked the smoking on the head, but I’m still partial to the odd high factor cream-less lay about on the Common, despite the regular health warnings we’re now subjected to (have the people making the announcements actually looked out of the window lately? It would be a miracle if the sun’s rays were able to penetrate the thick canopy of cloud that’s hung over us for the past few months).

But whilst many of my peers won’t use anything but the best on their skin to try and redress the balance of years of excess, I’ve always balked at spending over £15 on any single beauty product (with the sole exception of Boots No.7 Protect and Perfect serum, which is scientifically PROVEN to work, don’t you know). My mum, who’s in her sixties, still looks fantastic for her age and claims never to have used anything but soap and water, Oil of Ulay (as it was ‘back in the day’ – sorry Mum!) and E45 on her skin. So I’m praying to the God of Genes to keep me in good nick without a monthly shipment of Crème de la Mer.

What I have begun to fall victim to now I’m advancing further into my thirties is the latest tranche of fad food supplements. Only last week a packet of Spirulina powder plopped onto my desk (soon to be followed by a packet of Wheatgrass powder). Promising to “combat various forms of malnutrition, boost the immune system, protect against cancer, support detoxification, increase overall energy level, fight infections, counter obesity and relieve stress,” this is one SERIOUS super food.

The downside (because of course there is always a downside with these things) is that it tastes AWFUL. This morning when I mixed up my first dose with some apple juice and banana it smelt so bad I could hardly bear to raise it to my lips and take a sip. But I persevered, because if it does even half of the things it claims to do I might very well live forever – which will likely cost a fortune in skin cream, even if it is the £15-a-pop kind…