1 Oct 2013

Missing a friend today

This time ten years ago I lost one of my very close friends. I was just twenty years old, and I'm not sure even at thirty, that I've ever really come to terms with it properly. We were good friends in and out of college and I can honestly say he was one of the kindest and most considerate people I've ever met. This was proven to me and witnessed by me repeatedly in the few short years I had the honour to have him in my life.

It has however taught me a few very important lessons, more so than any other death that has taken place in my lifetime. Maybe because he was so young and has made me be thankful for any birthday I've had since. When family, friends and randoms have said "Oh, it's just another day" or "uurrrghh, I don't want to turn thirty..." I want to give them a shake. Age, in most cases, is a privilege that is regularly taken for granted. I'm sure you'll agree on days when you're ill, or something awful has happened, there's nothing you would wish for more than 'a bit of normality'/feeling 'normal' again and the same goes for the gift of life. This attitude has encouraged me to try things that I wouldn't have pushed myself to do and take chances to improve my life and have lots of experiences I might not have had the confidence or the drive to pursue

Maybe because it threatened my own mortality? Let's face it, we expect older people to die, and that's not harsh, it's a fact of life. But when a lad of twenty dies in a tragic road accident, you begin to realise, especially at the point in your life when you feel like you're invincible and can take on the world single handedly, that you're not invincible and all the risk taking, careless behaviours people indulge in need to be replaced by more respectful ones.

Lastly, his death has been a contributing factor in me being less of a doormat. A combination of this and growing older has made me less tolerant of toxic situations and relationships. I'm now only an advocate of trying to nurture something worth trying for whether that's a friendship, romance, work situation or general day to day occurrence.

So, thank you, Jim. I miss him more than anyone will ever realise, but his impact on my life will never be unappreciated or forgotten and neither will he.  

30 Aug 2013

Fun at work - is it a sin or should it be encouraged?

I happen to have the best work colleagues in the entire world. They're the hardest working bunch of people but at the same time, even under immense pressure, we still all have a laugh.

Recently, we were 'advised' that the fun should maybe not be so visible which I was a bit cross about. After all, if you're still working hard whilst chatting or laughing why should it matter? I would understand if we were stood chatting and doing nothing productive...

The point of all this is that I would much rather go into a workplace where people enjoyed themselves and where work got done rather than seeing people looking down-trodden and demoralised. Morale counts for a lot in any workplace, but especially in a high-pressure environment! Just look at google headquarters for instance?! When did the fun police make smiling and laughing illegal? 

26 May 2013

Changing priorities

My big birthday is quickly approaching and just before that is the ten year anniversary of my Mr and I's togetherness. It has flown and it has made me think about the last decade, how I've stayed the same and how I've  changed. 

Thankfully, I've managed to stay looking virtually the same in this time - probably in the most part due to having exactly the same hair do and not beefing up much. Attitude and priorities on the other hand seem to have changed. 

Ten years ago I was living with my parents, studying for my degree and most income was spent on new shoes, clothes and nights out. I wanted to move to a big city, drink cocktails and be with my friends all the time in a big bubble of hedonism. I wanted a house or flat to rent with a yard because I hated gardening and wanted to just have space for deck chairs and a BBQ. 

Today I sit outside a house I have bought with my husband in our garden in my suburban hometown. We have mostly spent the bank holiday gardening and planning a vegetable patch and trying to figure out time to see our friends who are all busy with similar grown up people decisions. Unbelievably, I couldn't be happier, despite all the things I wanted being so far from what I want now. I'm not sure I could convince my 19 year old self of that though!

21 May 2013

Business Sense vs COMMON SENSE?

I've been watching the series by Mary Portas about saving the British High Street. It's been a very interesting and sobering watch, viewing evidence of the state of the country and realising it's not just 'Up North' that's being hit this hard.

Stockton - a nearby town to where I live - is one of the Portas Pilot Towns and as I understand it, it wasn't worth her while coming and using this as one of the examples for the series because it's currently like a building site. It's a shame because I would have liked to see her wave her magic wand over somewhere closer to home so we would be able to personally appreciate the benefits of all this sooner than expected.

If I were to have a conversation with anyone about what I thought we could do try and boost our declining localities, I think the first step would have to be in the direction of landlords. Since everywhere you go and look, you seem to see empty shop units and offices, it makes a lot of sense to me for rent to be reduced to give small business a sporting chance. Things are hard enough in this climate without rocketing/high rent costs. The responsibility also falls with the government and local councils to reduce business rates. Both these things don't have to be a permanent reduction but maybe on a common sense basis depending on the economic circumstances at the time. After all, are units not better being used and bringing in some money than derelict and earning nothing? Encouraging small to medium enterprises into unused buildings will kick start the funds for the council and the landlords and will also help surrounding businesses by increasing footfall. When I've read some information about the Portas Pilots, in fairness, these seem to already be recommendations or guidelines which is a good sign.

There are plenty of unemployed people in this country, and I imagine there's a healthy proportion where they do want to work. Our local uni, Teesside University, offers a scheme for small businesses to have a graduate work for them for 'free' where they are actually paid by the university, therefore they get paid experience and you get a worker for a temporary period. If more voluntary posts/subsidised posts were advertised, I'm sure it would help people get confident and get back into work and would also take pressure off small business, who can ill afford staff, in potentially busy periods (e.g. Christmas).

If people used a bit more common sense, perhaps things would gradually get better. We just all need to look out for one another and become a community again. Traditional values and attitudes need to make a comeback and then we might catch a glimpse of the glory days we all seem to look back on so fondly.

My first sewing machine

I got this beautiful thing in a British Red Cross charity shop on Monday. It was a bargain and just needs a bit of TLC. Can't wait to use it :) Any first project advice would be greatly appreciated but I know once I start I'll never stop!!!

3 Apr 2013

Yull want 'em all!

Vintage inspired and shoes are two of my favourite things so I was OVERJOYED when I happened upon Yull. If you do one favour for yourself this week it will be to take a peek at their beautiful creations which, by the way, are made in our very own Great Britain! The 'Chartwell' is available in a selection of colours - mustard, pink and blue - has white piping detail around the foot and a white toe.

Image taken from www.yull.co.uk

I'm a big 'Mad Men' nut and with the latest series hurtling towards us at high speed (I cannot wait) I've been inspired to channel my 'inner Jonie' and plan to invest in these affordable beauties. These are a total classic. Looked after properly, they will last you for years and years to come.  I would team it with this sort of look:

 Image taken from www.chicagotribune.com

Teamed with some seamed stockings, feline black liquid eyeliner, a perfect pout and a Lulu Guiness bag I know most of us would feel pretty pleased with ourselves. The 'Chartwell' collection are, at time of blogging) only £75 - amazingly cheap for the crafting involved. If you compared them to something that you would be offered on the High Street, I find it hard to believe that you could find many things comparable with the value of these.

Conversely, I would be just as happy in skinny jeans and Yull's very own Fulham Boots.
Image taken from www.yull.co.uk

With our long winter showing little sign of changing into a scorching spring/summer anytime soon, it's still all about layering up. Boots like these can see you through the whole year really. Whilst they would look great with jeans and chunky cardigans or leather jackets, they would look just as fabulous with a floral dress to add a bit of an edge. I've found an image (below) that I feel brings together similar ideas and shows how well they can work. Chic, elegant but still a bit edgy - perfection. The Fulham boot is currently £90 - again, very competitive for boots, and possibly unfairly cheap considering the design and materials. I guess the only thing to do is pick some of these beautiful shoes and figure out which way you'll wear them today?

Image taken from www.popsugar.com

6 Feb 2013


Since I was seven years old I have had a very real phobia of needles. It has prevented me from visiting different countries that require vaccines, stopped me from seeking medical attention for (fortunately) minor ailments and has generally had a huge bearing on my life for the past 23 years.

How did it all begin? The Dentist. I was absolutely fine with it all until then actually. Before that I'd needed numerous blood tests etc and always been fine but when I came to have teeth removed they told me I was having knockout gas and when I turned around they were whacking a syringe into the bend of my arm. No wonder then that that is the area I'm the most phobic about people even touching. At the present time I can't even bear to look at people extending their forearms in this fashion. I suppose nowadays I'd have a case to sue for damages (curse you 1980's and your lack of ridiculous suing culture!)

My 'rock bottom' was a couple of years ago when to talk about needles made me feel breathless and it all culminated in a bit of upset at work. I'd taken a job as a receptionist at a Doctors surgery and one of the girls said I might need a Hepatitis injection because I was handling samples. I freaked and the first thing I thought was that I could either run or hand my notice in and run. I don't suppose these are healthy attitudes when you have bills to pay but hey ho. After a lot of tears, the nurse talked me round into staying and for one the first times in my adult life I felt like someone had really listened and understood. She talked me through different options she'd offered needle phobics before and it helped me feel like I'd have someone to trust if I needed advice about any of it. At this point, I couldn't even hold boxes if I knew there was a syringe casing in it.

Nearly a year later, I found myself working in a pharmacy. At this point I had decided that I had to try and sort all this out and try and take baby steps to desensitise myself. Surrounded by lots of very understanding colleagues I've really tested myself and after a year and a half of working there I can hold the boxes with them in and even look at the real thing so long as I'm the one in control. This sounds very insignificant but I assure you it's one of the biggest adjustments of my life.

Rant time...The most irritating things people can say to a needle phobic are as follows:

-It's just a scratch
-Don't fuss it's over in a second
-Look away and you won't notice
-I'm scared of needles too
-Lots of people are scared of needles

I think most people don't understand phobias. I know how I feel is irrational and that doesn't hurt very much but getting my mind and body to go along with this is quite something else. I was asked at my 'rock bottom' if my life or my family and friends lives depended in me having an injection in the bend of my arm would I do it? The answer was and is 'no' and I am DISGUSTED at myself and I love my family and friends more than anything but but that's how strong the grip of a phobia is.

I'm now on a quest to try and sort this out so any tips you have or alerting me to mechanisms you have seen that exist would be greatly appreciated. Wish me luck!