Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Home




Being home for Christmas has been an amazing thing. I feel rested, calm, slightly bored, and a lot more at peace than I did before the break. 

The interesting thing about going home for Christmas though is how it makes everyone revert to their teenage selves. My older brother and I bickered over the TV remote, him insisting on watching Match of the Day while I was mid-Big Bang Theory. My younger brother spent time with friends he's known since the age of 5. We were all exposed to the local, small town, gossip mill. 

But while my brothers revelled in catching up with some of their oldest friends, but I actively avoided almost all contact with my former self.

I'm not the girl I was when I was in school. In fact, when I look at the one or two pictures of 16-year-old Alice I can find easily, I barely recognise her. She and I still wear the same size clothes (in fact, I still regularly wear a top I'm wearing in one of these pictures), our hair is not dissimilar, our smile is of course roughly the same- somewhat tentative, crinkle eyed, with that weird upper lip dimple- but there's practically an entire decade between us. A decade of change, of development, of joy and sadness and fear, and I'm just, quite simply, not her.

Why would I want to spend time with people who still remember me as that girl? Who have known me since before I knew myself?

In some ways, there is something immensely comforting in spending time with people who have known you for the best part of your life, and I do spend a lot of time with Z, my primary school best friend. But Z and I have spent time together throughout all of that change. We recognise each other as the adults we are now, not the girls we once were. 

(Though of course we still remember the times we dressed in matching outfits, or made up dance routines to Disney songs)

I feel this year has been a huge one in terms of development and change. Maybe more so than at any other time in my life. And you have, of course, read passages of that (and, incidentally, thank you to sticking with me through all of this. It does mean a lot). I no longer feel as though I really have to explain who I am to people. I no longer have the energy or inclination to spend time with people who don't make me feel good about myself. 

I'm at the point of welcoming the new year with open arms now. I have grand plans for this year. I'm still trying to work out the logistics of them, but I'm so excited to make the most of this year and to travel and visit new places and see old friends marry and make new friends and have new adventures. 

I'm going to use 2016 to find out more about myself- to take trips alone, to start a new job (I hope), to experience ALL THE THINGS. 

And while I'm so excited for the new, and to discover and dream and explore, I'm also happy to know that- despite hating being thought of as the girl I used to be- there is always a home for me here.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

A Growing Sense of Peace

Source
On Monday, I got home from work and promptly burst into tears. Big, heaving, heavy sobs, tears pouring down my face, leaving me unable to catch my breath. 

I cried for so many things. For angry comments aimed at me. For my friend leaving for a new job. For news which should have been good, but which really left me panicked. For everything that has happened this year, and the year before. For Christmas, for my family, for friends, for feeling lost.

After a while, I stopped. I picked myself up, I made myself supper, and I carried on.

Last night, I met my friend L to talk about something that happened to me seven years ago. And of course, we started by talking about everything that has happened to each of us recently. In fact, she greeted me with "Alice, it sounds like you've had a really, really heavy few months". And I filled her in, and she filled me in, and we talked about mutual friends and families and health and happiness, and laughing, I told her that in fact, it isn't just a couple of months or years of chaos- in fact, I think this is just my life. 

And I asked her Is this what life is? Periods of chaos and crap and everything being really dreadful, punctuated with little happy times?

Of course, I accepted that some of those happy times are longer than others, and of course, you could argue the opposite- that life is periods of happiness punctuated with little moments of chaos and crap. But I think accepting that things just kind of are like this, and that that is okay, makes things a little easier to deal with. 

This morning, I text M to wish him a Happy Christmas. He's heading home today. No one deserves a peaceful Christmas more than he does, and I needed him to know that I was thinking of him and wishing him well. And the fact that he replied within moments, and told me to have a great Christmas, and suggested a catch up in the new year... it made me feel more peaceful. It made it easier to accept things the way they are.

Because maybe life is just constant chaos punctuated by little moments of happiness. And maybe that's hard, and horrible, and difficult to accept. But maybe when you do accept it, you realise that it isn't altogether a bad thing. That maybe rolling withe the punches, rather than letting them knock you flat, is the only way any of us can get through the day to day. That happiness isn't something we should perpetually feel. That heartbreaks happen, and everyone leaves, and things are so so tough. But that these things make us stronger, and braver, and harder, yes- but also softer to those experiencing the things we've gone through.

Because that's all any of us want, isn't it? To know we aren't the only ones feeling what we feel? 

So yes. I'm feeling exhausted, and hardened, and battered and bruised and strong and weak and like there's actually a gaping hole at the bottom of my sternum... but there's a growing sense of peace within me too.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Hello

Found here

It's weird. At the end of November, I actually spent a few days writing in a notebook, instead of writing draft posts. Writing here stopped feeling safe. A couple of people from Real Life made it clear that they (or others they know well) read this space, and I suddenly felt frightened to post on here, in case someone pulled me up on it. 

But I decided that I prefer shouting into the void to writing in a notebook. And people who know me in real life and who aren't close friends, well, they can peek into my mind all they like. It's the burden of writing things on the Internet, I suppose. I'm just going to continue on as if I have no idea that anyone I know actually reads these words.


Mama came to visit at the weekend. And as she was leaving, she said "I hope you'll be okay". I asked her "Have I given you reason to believe I'm not okay?", and she kind of raised her eyebrows at me and said "I know you're getting there. But no, I don't believe you're completely okay just yet."

She was of course completely right, as mothers so frequently are. 

I'm okay. Sort of. And equally, I'm very sort of Not Okay.

As we all do, I have good days and bad days. I have days on end when my mind screams at me, or I constantly see things I want to share with someone I can't share with. When my heart ACHES, and it feels like I'll never feel like myself again. 

And other days, I feel whole, and well. I forget the various events of this year for hours at a time, I smile and laugh and sing and bake- that thing I haven't done for over a month while my heart knitted itself back together. 

Because my heart is- more or less- knitted back together now. It's raw, and the wound has a tendency to open when I pull at its edges, but it's getting there. And yes, a chunk of it is missing. And yes, this was perhaps one wound too many for this year- a year which has seen SO much change and SO much heartache for me, and for many people near to me- but that's okay.

In so many ways, I'll consider 2015 an absolute write off. But perhaps I'll also look back on 2015 as a time when I finally stood 100% on my own two feet. When I cemented some of my strongest, truest friendships, and when I found that I love so so so hard. As a year I learned to put myself first, and a year when another strong, but wounded, person also put me first, when neither of us wanted that. 

And maybe that's okay. Maybe those victories are enough. 

Monday, 23 November 2015

Parallel Universes



I've spent a large part of the weekend living in my head and thinking of a parallel universe. It's a dangerous habit of mine, where I think "if this hadn't happened, I'd be doing this or that". It's a game which can sometimes be fun- "oh god, thank GOODNESS I'm not doing that!"-  but for the most part leaves me feeling lost and a little confused as to how I ended up doing what I'm doing, and feeling how I'm feeling.

This time, I thought of the people to whom I've had to explain what a "tor" is. I was so caught in my head, I took a snap, before I realised that everyone who cares about me now knows what one is. I pictured myself wandering hand in hand with another person, or giggling down the phone late at night.

I don't recognise this girl. The Alice I know is independent, self sufficient, strong. The Alice I am at the moment is tearful, contemplative, quiet. She leaves the room when certain conversations begin; looks at her loved ones jealously, begrudging their happiness. She forgets to eat breakfast, and spends days at work with her headphones in, head down, quietly trying to make it through the eight or nine hours she spends at her desk. She doesn't bake any more.

I feel like this year, I've lost who I am. I've spent so much of this year being something else to someone else (multiple someone elses, in fact) that it has stopped me from thinking about the things that I am, that I want, that I need. I've spent days, weeks, months feeling guilty about asking for the things I need. Hiding what I feel to allow others to feel what they feel. Diminishing myself so as not to make others feel small. Hiding my feelings, hiding relationships, hiding in offices and stairwells and bedrooms and on trains.

I'm ending 2015 as a person I don't really recognise when I look in the mirror. The dark circles under my eyes, the sadness in my face, the set of my jaw that makes it look like I'm steeling myself against another blow.

I don't know who I am any more. I don't know how to get back to myself, either.

And that scares me. I don't want to be this person. I don't want to be sad, I don't want to be lonely, I don't want to pull myself away from the people who do care about me. But it's what I'm finding myself doing.

And I have no idea why.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

On 2015

Source
Where do I even begin? Where, for that matter, do I end?

You'd assume that a post entitled On 2015 would begin back in January and would end 50 days from now. But I have a funny feeling that there are events from this year which will ripple into next year, and there are certainly things that have happened this year which are a direct result of things I did last year.

So where do I start?

This year... I have no words for this year. I think I have felt every single emotion. Currently, for example, I'm swinging wildly between deep grief as the result of a truly horrible heartbreak; to happiness for friends and family; to a sense of acceptance of the way things are at the moment; to guilt for boring my friends with yet more drama; to anger, at situations being the way they are; to concern for those I love; to deep frustration at my inability to do anything to ameliorate certain situations- for myself or others I care about; to pain.

Actual, physical pain. 

(I read a piece on A Cup Of Jo recently that mentioned that taking painkillers actually helps the pain of a broken heart. Who knew?) 

There's been another ending. Neither of us wanted it. It isn't a situation that either of us predicted when we were making plans for weekend escapes and hiding in stairwells and whispering across pillows and dancing by starlight. But life is hard, and it is what it is. And my god, what "it" is is painful. I feel raw, and it just plain hurts.

And strangely, this year started in the same way. With my heart in a blender over a really inappropriate man. A man who I let in, and who I was a fool over, despite his own better judgement, and despite my better judgement. We cared about each other deeply- we still do, in a funny sort of way- but it was a situation I'm so glad we never took further than it went.

I think I'm addicted to those highs, you know. The highs you feel when your heart and your head are screaming different things at you but you go with your heart and oh my god it feels so right

Of course, your head is inevitably somewhat right, as you realise when you're quietly crying at your desk on a Tuesday afternoon, thinking of the plans you hadn't even realised that you had made, grieving for a future you hadn't realised you had been planning, thinking of a man who came into your life in a blaze of charm and humour and life and vitality.

It's hard. 

I've learned a lot this year. I've learned I can deal with a huge amount more than I ever thought I could. I've learned that I am strong, that I love quickly and deeply and strongly. I've learned that I am able to put myself first on occasion, and that normally, that isn't a bad thing.

In many ways, all I want right now is to sleep until 2016. I don't want to deal with the way I feel right now, or the consequences of some of my actions earlier in the year. 

But really, I know that it is necessary to feel what I feel right now. I need to remember that I am allowed to have feelings and emotions. That I do not need to hide them, or feel embarrassed by them, or pretend to feel anything more or less than I actually feel. And I know that this will pass, and I will heal, and I will enter 2016 a different woman to the Alice who entered 2015.

This too will pass, but in the meantime, it will be what it will be.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

And So It Is



I'm not one for rituals, or routine. 

I have my morning routine- up at 6:45am, kettle on, shower, make tea, music on, clothes on, sip tea while blow drying my hair, make up on, work snacks gathered, and out of the door by 7:40am (to be at my desk for 8am- yes, I'm that person). But aside from that? I like to take days at face value, to enjoy them independently, individually, for precisely what they are.

A new opportunity.

But recently, M and I have slipped into a funny sort of routine. 

Conflicting diaries and the kind of time consuming dramas and issues which make you realise holy hell I actually am an adult (that is to say, house sales and job interviews and meetings with lawyers and meetings at all hours of the day and the like) have meant that lately, we haven't been able to see quite as much of each other as we might have liked.
But somehow, Sunday has become our day. 

We don't necessarily do the same things each time- in fact, we've never done the same thing twice. But Sunday is a day where we do our best to make time for each other. 

Chopping wood by hand and building campfires. Teasing each other. Long walks through Richmond Park to peek through the telescope at King Henry's Mound. Buying fancy teas. Or even just a stolen half an hour, hidden away in a stairwell to keep out of sight of prying eyes.

(Life is complicated)

But life is what it is, and for those hours on a Sunday, none of the dramas or difficulties or complications seem to matter. Technology and tiredness and complexity gets put to one side and we are just... us. 

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Small Happy Things


A delicious Portuguese red wine, shared with friends over steak and ale pie and wide ranging conversations.

New feather pillows.

Plans to visit Jenny for wedding cake planning and long catch ups (and, I'm hoping, a countryside walk with Pip) 

Being taught how to chop wood correctly with an actual, proper axe.

Long walks through Richmond Park, complete with a peek through a telescope to spot St Paul's Cathedral, and childishly balancing along the edge of a wall, instead of walking on the path like a sensible adult would.

Tesco deliveries where unpacking the box feels a little like Christmas: "Oh, I forgot I ordered this!"

The autumn sunshine, and watching the sky change colour as I peek through the window while I shower.

Plans for a supremely girly day with one of my favourite women on the planet, complete with wedding dress shopping, make up lessons, and tea at Ladurée.

And a man who is incredibly important to me, who told me lately that I don’t seem 25. Despite my baby face, and tendency to dance to Taylor Swift, and the wide-eyed wonder with which I look at the unfamiliar, he told me that I am an Old Soul. Someone who has packed a huge amount into their twenty five years on the planet we call Home. He told me that I am intelligent, and wise, and beautiful, and I could have cried at the realisation that here is someone who looks at me and sees not the past or the damage, or who sees me as somebody’s someone, but who seems (bizarrely, incredibly, wonderfully) to see me as entirely and completely myself.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Now

I found this here
Things feel like they have gently, simply, calmly, quietly slotted into place recently, and I've found myself thinking "Oh there you are. I've been waiting for you". 

It's funny, isn't it, how that happens?

I've had so many people trying to warn me off this feeling, though. Trying to tell me to take a step back, that I don't owe anyone anything, that I should take some time for myself

That isn't what I want though.

Time is a difficult thing, though. There's just constantly too little of it, too many other pressing demands- meetings and friends and theatre trips, and Brussels and individuals and groups who need attention.

I always say that if I had a superpower, I would want to be able to control time. To travel in it, to pause it, to replay certain wonderful wonderful moments ad nauseum. That power would be incredibly useful, don't you think?

I feel like I've found a moment in my life where I'm just really very... settled? Calm? Content, even? I'm not really sure what the word to describe this feeling is, but I'm enjoying it.

I'm enjoying the evenings in tartan pyjama bottoms and an extra-large charcoal grey cashmere jumpers. I'm enjoying the nights at the NHM, dressed in a short dress and high heels, red wine in hand and the most wonderful company at my elbow. I'm enjoying the days at work, where I get to show my worth, and impress all the right people, and silence the doubters. I'm enjoying the Sunday mornings in bed with hot drinks.

If I could pause a moment, I think it would be now. 

It would allow us to enjoy each other, enjoy The Now, to drink in the moment and these feelings and the fact that this is my favourite time of year. 

But instead, we march on. Time racing past, hurling us forwards, bringing us towards Whatever It Is That Comes Next.

Winter. Trips away. More meetings, more pressures on our time. 

But we'll meet it when it comes, and until then, we'll enjoy this moment. We'll think, and we'll breathe, and we'll face whatever it coming when it arrives.

Monday, 28 September 2015

A Moment

Original source unknown

Firelight. A chimnea burning bright with the logs we had chopped earlier in the evening, leaving our arms and shoulders aching.

Toasting with glasses of a wine which shares my name.

Nibbling on flatbreads cooked over a fire, sharing dip that neither of us could be trusted with if left alone.

A request, and a subsequent demand for this song so vehement it provoked laughter and accusations of bossiness. An easy smile as the first notes hit the air.

Turning my face to the stars. Breathing in the cool air.

Feeling arms wrap around me. Turning into the embrace.

And dancing. Dancing to the song I can't get out of my head, by starlight and firelight.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Return

Image from here
As I left the house this morning, I realised I should have taken a coat, as my breath rose in plumes as I hurried to the tube. It felt cold, and fresh, and crisp, and good. I wrapped my scarf closer around me, hurrying to the warmth of the station.

Last week was spent in Rhodes. The weather was glorious, the company (Mama CupandSaucer) was phenomenal, and I spent the week unwinding, unknotting, calming, and returning to myself.

And then I came back to earth with the most phenomenal thud. Work this week has been extraordinary. I've had to put walls back up to maintain some semblance of sense. Numbers have been blocked from my mobile phone. The knots I spent a week removing are coming back.

This year has been... there are actually no words to explain what this year has been. For various family members, it has been the ultimate annus horribilis. Deaths, separations, depression, illness. It's all happened this year.

I was hoping the autumn might be a fresh start. And while today started with yet more challenging news, I'm determined that it still will be. I am working to remove toxicity from my life, to keep moving forwards, to enter the colder, darker days with a smile on my face. 

I am entering the later stages of this year with an improved awareness of who I am. Who I want by my side, in my team, fighting my corner. What I want. Where I see myself going. When these things might happen.Why I'm here.  How I can get there.

Alice is rising from the ashes, yet again. And as I look back on who I was at this time last year, and think about who I am now- there's no comparison. I'm fuller (though thinner), more whole (though with people missing), more myself. There's a line, from somewhere, which says I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be. And while I try to remember who I have been and where I have come from, it's true. I have lost touch with people I used to be. I remember them, affectionately, like the primary school friends you swapped friendship bracelets with- but I no longer am them, and they are no longer me.

But I'm here. Returning to London. Returning to reality. Back to earth with a bump. But standing tall, feeling strong, feeling supported. 

Feeling whole.



Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Done



Change is afoot once again.

I did a difficult thing. I put myself first- selfishly- and took steps to do the things that will really make me happy. 

It's hard putting yourself first sometimes. 

I've spent a lot of my life diminishing myself for other people. Trying to squash myself into the shapes that they want me to be. Dimming my light, and bending to their will, and letting things go on their terms.

But I'm done.

I'm done, and I'm not doing that again. I understand that many people have not done this to me maliciously- and that in some cases, I have been willing to do it. But I can't, and I will not be doing anything other than the things that make me happy from hereon out. 

It's a process. This is an untrodden path, and a long one too. 

But I have incredible people by my side, holding my hands, taking each step of the way with me.

And sooner or later, it will be done.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Glitter and Bubbles

Do you ever get that feeling, where the excitable bubbles in your stomach make you feel full to the brim, and leave a smile on your face all day? 

Pretty much my entire week has been like that.

Excitement, nerves, and happy thoughts have bubbled in my stomach. Guilt has been there too, chomping away at that bit of my appetite that the happy bubbles haven't consumed, but the happiness has kind of overawed that feeling.

And I'm left feeling bright like glitter, and bubbly like champagne. There have been high flags of colour on my cheeks, a shine in my eyes, and a wobble to my step (because I've done something silly to my ankle- maybe I shouldn't wear heels...)

But regardless. Isn't that a nice way to feel?


Thursday, 27 August 2015

Bravery vs Idiocy



It's a fine line, isn't it? Between bravery and idiocy?

Every now and then we make a choice. 

To some people- that choice would be brave. Jumping off a bridge, tied to a bungee cord, is brave, according to some people. 

That same thing would be idiotic to someone else.
What if the rope breaks? What if you fall?

Is it as simple as that though? 

Surely there's a grey area? An area where you can do foolish, foolish things, and not think about them?

I'm 25. I am brave- I moved to London, I jump on planes alone, I met A's family and didn't cry.  

I'm also idiotic. In my time, I've kissed inappropriate men. I've been for drinks with random men, I've walked home alone at night (in heels), I've drunk dialed.
(But couldn't you say that all of those things are brave too?)

And there's the grey area, where I've stood and said no to opportunities some would say are too good to miss, I've quit, I've STARTED, I've been "too" drunk and alone. I've been exhilarated by my options, and terrified by my choices.

It seems to me that there's also a line between contentment and complacency. And i'm happy with the former, but scared by the latter. 

So here I am. Standing on the bridge. Ready to jump. Decisions to make.

What if I fall?

But what if I fly?

Thursday, 20 August 2015

A Year In London



It's quite hard to believe that I've lived in this city of ours for a year already. 

It feels like just weeks ago that mon pere dropped me off at my flat, helping me lug bags and suitcases and boxes up the stairs; that I arrived at my new job an hour early; that I got dragged out for supper by friends on my first night; that I spent the first bank holiday weekend sobbing on my bedroom floor because I felt so lonely.

So much has changed since then. And in some ways, nothing has changed at all. 

London is huge. It's easy and difficult and friendly and frightening and hot and rainy and exciting and expensive and boring and just like everywhere else and like nowhere else at all, all at the exact same time.

And so much has happened since I've been here. There have been drunken, inappropriate kisses, and sagas stretching on from there. There have been endless meals out, pub quizzes, drinks in beer gardens. There have been museum trips, and coffees in Soho, trips to Borough Market and a stand-out supper in the Shard. Pancake parties, and work drinks; bruised arms, and bruised hearts; new friends, and old friends.

I'm happier here than I have been anywhere other than home. But it's a lonely city. I have my most wonderful, wonderful friends here- girls I've met through blogging, school friends I've reconnected with, university friends who just can't shake me, work friends (one of whom causes more trouble than perhaps they are worth). But without some people, I'd be lost in this big old city of ours.

I adore living here. Part of me can't imagine living anywhere else. The other part can't wait for the day I can escape, back to fresh air and fields. 

What will the next year bring? Who knows. New jobs, potentially. New houses, potentially. New friends, potentially. I think my favourite and least favourite part of this city is how unpredictable it can be. 

So here's to the next 12 months. London, you're stuck with me for a while yet.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Breathing and Cheese


I feel like I can finally breathe again.

I'm on the other side of a massive, huge, enormous work task. Months of planning, preparation, tears, and work came to its conclusion recently, and I finally have time to just be.

Everyone has noticed. A spent a lot of last weekend laughing at me, remembering that I sing a lot when I'm happy. G has stopped looking at me with a perpetually worried look in his eyes, and happily told me that it's good to have Usual Alice back. D bought me bubbles, P sent me flowers. It's over, it's done.

And I finally have chance to catch up with my loves. On Friday night, A and I went to the National Theatre to see Everyman- which is quite possibly the best thing I've seen on stage since War Horse. And Saturday night was spent behaving badly with A, B, C, D, and E. (Yes, we have abcedarian names. No, it's not deliberate).

And last Wednesday, Emily and Ellie and I caught up over pizza, dip, and all the cheese I could carry. 

We watched The Other Woman and agreed that Barber's cheddar is quite possibly the best cheddar we've ever tried. In fact, we ate more of that than we did of the comté or brie. And that's saying quite a lot, coming from someone whose life more or less revolves around the next opportunity she has to eat cheese. But it really is just that tasty- just how a cheddar should be.

And other than that? I've been pottering along. Trying to remember which day of the week it is, an d that I can go home at a normal time again. It's a most peculiar feeling.

So tell me. What have you been up to?


Barber's very kindly sent me a rather large amount of cheese to try. While the cheese was free, my opinions are, of course, all my own.



Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Morning Thoughts


It's early. I was at my desk by 7:45- not unheard of at the moment, and not painful because of my morning person tendencies- but still, frustrating. 

I carried my handbag, full of fruit and a pot of yoghurt for a desk-breakfast. And my running kit, as I'd promised I would. We'd agreed we'd run together. I'm not sure why I agreed- perhaps a strange kind of emotional masochism?

I sat opposite a woman I'd seen before. Painfully thin, she gets off at my stop, and I've seen her around the building. I have no idea who she is, or what she does, but we've sat opposite each other on a number of occasions. 

And today, a new face. A good looking guy in cycling clothes (on the tube?), who I spot sneaking glances at me. We get off at the same stop and he follows me down the street. I don't notice when he turns off, but I suddenly notice he's no longer behind me, and wonder. 

I get to the office. Doors unlocked, swipe access only. I was the last out last night, but G returned to lock up. I'm the second in this morning, and revel in the silence. Just me, my PC, and the clock noisily ticking away, reminding me that half of my team are likely to still be in bed. 

I breathe. Log in. And prepare. 

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Morning Thoughts


Things have been strange lately. Some serious dramas have led to me pulling back from an awful lot of things- Facebook went about five weeks ago, this blog was taken down for a wee while, and about the only social media channel I was regularly updating was Instagram.

It seemed for a while that things wouldn't be the same ever again.

To be honest, it has actually become clear lately that they won't be. 

But this morning, I got up early. I crept downstairs, fed the cat, and made a cup of tea. I waited until my brother, E, appeared, and went to chatter to him as he got ready for work.

And it was this morning, as E sat on the stairs singing, and I danced in the hallway to the sound of his voice, that I realised. Things might be weird. Change might be afoot.

But as long as we have each other, we have it all.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Untitled

Found here
Why is it so much easier to write about difficult feelings and tricky decisions than it is to write about happiness?

I'm unbearably happy at the moment. So much so, it makes me nervous, and I find myself saying to A "You aren't going to leave, are you?". I tried to push him away by being horrible once. He just gave me a cuddle and asked if I was okay. Proof, if I ever needed it, that he probably isn't going anywhere just yet.

I think it's also that reading about how happy people are is actually a little boring. We like tragedy. We like drama. We like the stories about men who don't call after a date, about kissing inappropriate married men, about friends who are no longer friends, about incestuous webs of friends who have all slept together or lived together (these are all conversations I've had in the last six months or so).

We don't like stories about the way he and I do the crossword on the tube home, or the stories about how I fall asleep on his shoulder when we're watching Eurovision, or how we spent Monday morning making avocado and poached eggs on toast. It's not interesting. It's twee.

So what do I write about?

I'm bored of reading blog posts about lipsticks and wishlists. I'm bored of posts about products that clearly wouldn't have chosen unless they were sent for free.

So it leaves me here. Posting once in a blue moon about nothing in particular. Other than to tell you that lately, I feel like I have really found my people. Those people I'd run to whether I was happy or sad or needed help or needed a laugh. Their initials are oddly alphabetical. A. B. B. C. C. C. D. E. J. M. Occasionally there's a G in there too, though often not. Some live close by. Some live far away. ALL make me hideously happy. I spend little time with people who make me feel anything less than phenomenal- I've had friendships in the past that have made me feel dreadful about myself, where I find myself constantly competing, comparing, and finding myself wanting. 

Is this it? Is this what happiness is? Feeling content, and peaceful, and generally smiling rather than feeling anxious and confused?

Of course, it's worth noting that there's an element of this that is a medicated happiness. That a huge part of me fears the fact that this is a medicated happiness. Is it real? Is it an illusion?

I like to think it's real. I suppose only time will tell.

And there was a five-month saga, that left me confused and battered and bruised.  That left me feeling baffled and happy and rejected and empowered and oh.so.guilty. Always guilty. I have to keep reminding myself that I genuinely did nothing wrong. I was always honest, never cruel. But regardless, it has now finally, absolutely been put to rest, and the weight that has been lifted from my shoulders as a result is palpable.

Anyway.

What do you want to talk about today?

Friday, 17 April 2015

Independence

It's a funny old thing, independence, don't you think?



Over the years, I've been told off on multiple occasions for bottling things up, not letting people in, keeping things to myself.Not long ago, Mama CupandSaucer sent me a text telling me It's okay to let people look after you Alice. As long as you don't take advantage- which I know you won't- then it's okay to accept offers of help.

I'm ferociously independent. I have no problem with taking myself out for lunch, or coffee, or flying alone. I have problems with people trying to do things for me. I'm small, and sometimes that makes people think I'm dainty, and need looking after- and I like to prove that I don't, by standing on kickstools in five inch heels to put posters up, or balancing precariously on the edges of things so I'm able to reach something before some tall person reaches it for me. I brush it off when I walk into things, or fall over, or get hit in the face with a ball, because I can't bear to admit that I need help.

In fact, when I was interviewed for my current job, they asked me, "What would you say your biggest weakness is?". I thought I'd already messed up the interview by this point, so decided I had nothing to lose by being totally honest. "I won't always ask for help when I need it". I gave good examples, and managed to turn it around- and clearly, it didn't damage my prospects, as they gave me the job- but even now, my boss will sometimes say to me, "Why on earth didn't you say something?!" when I fill up during a one-to-one, or threaten him with the Nerf gun he bought me because I'm so stressed. I remind him that I told him on Day 0 that I don't ask for help, and he sighs, shakes his head, and reminds me that that's what he's here for. His job is to make sure I can do my job.

The problem is though- once I let someone in, and accept their help, I become scared of relying on them. I'm scared that I'll lean on someone too hard, and they'll step away, letting me crash to the floor. It's happened before, and it will happen again. When people ask me why I won't let them in- in the past, ex boyfriends have got very upset over it- I remind them that everyone leaves. And sooner or later, they up sticks (or, in some cases, I do), and they prove me right.

A is away at the moment, and I miss him. I miss him more than I should. I'm scared that I'm too reliant on him- but at the same time, I know that he and I rely on each other. We support each other because we get each other. And that's not me losing my independence. In the early stages of our relationship, A used to laugh at the fact that I'd have to schedule him in a couple of weeks in advance because I was so busy. Now, he's my three-legged-race partner. We look out for each other, knowing that if one of us trips, the other is there to catch them.

I'm independent. But suddenly, I've realised that being independent doesn't mean I'm not allowed to depend on someone else sometimes too.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Happiness is... (vol. 98)

On a day where work felt almost too much to bear, and life feels hard, and my heart feels heavy, and my eyes are tired- these are the days I need to write happiness lists. These are the days I need reminding that while things may sometimes seem awful, they perhaps are not endlessly so. This too shall pass.


 
Being greeted at the door with a gin cocktail on the warmest day of the year so far.

Wearing heels to work three days in a row.

Saturday morning coffee dates, with a man who brings me flowers.

White t-shirts tucked into swirly midi-skirts.

 Completing the crossword. Between us, we do it almost every time.

Green tea.

 Feeling like I'm becoming the woman I always thought I would be.

Thank you cards, hen parties, and save-the-dates.

Carrying armfuls of flowers and second hand books home.

Craft fairs and croissant dates with beautiful friends.

Menu planning.

The warmth of the spring sunshine on my shoulders.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Morning, Early Riser

 
 
"Morning early riser, couldn't you sleep?"

So he greeted me this morning. He's keeping an eye on me- sitting me down, pulling information out of my brain, making me think carefully about what has to be done now, and what I'd prefer to do now. What I can delegate up, what I can delegate down.Whether I'm sleeping. What's going on at home.

He keeps joking that I'll have my own office and department by the summer; I keep telling him I'll be Queen of the Universe by the time I'm 30. He tells me I have a lot of common sense for such a little person; I threaten to punch him for patronising me. I might be small, I tell him, but I can hit hard and pull it out of the bag when I need to. He knows that, he reassures me. He has every faith I'm not going to mess up.

We tease each other, bounce ideas off each other, keep an eye on each other. I value these moments. The half an hour of quiet conversation when the office is nearly empty at 8am. The offer of proper coffee from the little shop across the way- every morning, despite the fact he knows I've given it up for Lent. The giggly conversations while others look on in bafflement. The times he goes to put his hand on my knee and stops himself, or when I go to rest my head on his shoulder before realising I really shouldn't.

It's something. It's always been a thing. And at the same time, it's not a thing. It's nothing at all, actually.
 
 I'm happy- tired, and busy, and stressed, but happy. And having support from all sides- and knowing I'm loved by a multitude of people- helps. And A. Always A. A, who makes me forget about this and who needs me as much as I need him. A, who deserves only the best things.

Is it any wonder I wake early?

Monday, 2 March 2015

Happiness Is... (Vol 97)

There's literally only one thing I can talk about today. 

On Saturday, my baby brother married his girlfriend of 8 years. I've known A since we were 11- she was in my year at school- and I honestly cannot think of anyone more perfect for him. I don't think I have ever felt happier, more excited, or prouder than I did when I saw A walk into the church in her beautiful gown, escorted by her dad, with tears streaming down her face, and E just looking so unbelievably happy. It was an unbelievably magical day, and I can't believe it has now been and gone.

So this week it's all about Saturday- and happiness is...



... gaining a new sister-in-law, as A officially became part of the family.

... being involved in the ceremony, by delivering 1 Corinthians 13 in a way that was apparently good enough for 75% of the guests to come and congratulate me after the fact.



... catching the moment when JR kissed E on the cheek as the photographer blinked. 


.... hanging out with these little monsters.

... getting on famously with A's brother's girlfriend. She's amazing.

... bashful receiving compliments on my cupcakes. 


... Playing drinking games on the table during the speeches. I do NOT recommend agreeing to drink everything someone says "thank" in a wedding speech.


... the incredible food. I've rarely been so impressed by a starter.

... JR and AS having the most incredible dance off to Star Wars Cantina

... being totally surrounded by family and old friends and godparents


... The sweet table. I decided a wedding was a good time to have a day off Lent

... The INCREDIBLE magician, who made my great-grandmother's ring appear and disappear and totally floored my older brother with it all


... Dancing with friends and family to the most wonderful band ever. Seriously, if you have an occasion in Devon, I strongly recommend booking Jessica and the Rabbits

... Ending the night in a circle, squashed between JR and my aunt, singing and dancing to Hey Jude while E and A swirled in the middle. Just so perfect.


I couldn't be happier for my brother and new sister-in-law, and I hope they have a long and happy life together. 

What's making you happy this week?

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Spelt and Seed Biscuits

I appear to have somehow ended up dating a man who doesn't have a sweet tooth. I mean- seriously?!



He knows I love to bake, and he appreciates basically anything I make for him- he's a massive foodie. But given the choice, he'd always pick a starter over a pudding, salted popcorn over sweet, and crisps over chocolate. 

So when my original Valentine's Day gift for him went slightly awry- I accidentally had it shipped to Devon, rather than my London address- I decided that I would bake something for him. Normally, I'd have done some kind of brownies- maybe with caramel and pecan, or chilli, or with a peanut butter swirl- but bearing in mind A's propensity to pick the savoury over the sweet, I decided to branch out slightly.


I actually don't do a lot of savoury baking. Pastry- yes, but I'm just as comfortable working with sweet shortcrust as I am plain. Scones- I'm a plain-with-cream-and-jam girl. But savoury biscuits are so simple, and these are so good, that I'm pleased A's weird tastes won out. And it was a double bonus that I had all the ingredients for these to hand, particularly considering I was suffering with a ridiculous hangover after a few too many drinks with my work colleagues the night before. 

These are excellent to the point that I'm now going to make them at every opportunity- they're going to become my new staple hostess gift, presented in a pretty jar alongside a hunk of cheese and maybe some chutney. Because you should absolutely serve these with cheese- preferably Mayfield or Delice de Bourgogne, which are our new favourites. The Mayfield works well with a fig chutney, but the Delice de Bourgogne should be left to sing on its own- and sing it does. Honestly, the stuff is incredible.

And a note on ingredients. I'm not usually wildly prescriptive- much more a "use what you have" kinda girl. But for these, whatever you do do not use plain white flour. It will make for the most boring biscuits ever, and it's just not worth it. Spelt flour is great, but if you have rye or even just wholemeal flour to hand, I'm sure they'd work well too. I'm now trying to think up variations too- I think wholemeal flour with chopped walnuts would be excellent, or maybe even adding in some sundried tomatoes and parmesan. Hmm.



Spelt and Seed Biscuits (makes around 20)

150g spelt flour
100g mixed seeds
85g salted butter
2-3 tbsp water

Rub the butter into the flour in the same way you would if you were making a crumble- that is to say, until it looks kind of like breadcrumbs. Stir through the seeds to distribute evenly. Then add 2-3 tablespoonfuls of water slowly to pull the mixture together into a dough.

Dust a (clean..!) work surface with a little extra spelt flour, and roll the dough out- you want it to be about half a centimeter thick. Then cut out into rounds (or stars, hearts, gingerbread men...), pulling the dough back  together and re-rolling to use it all up. 

Space out on lined baking trays (I got about seven on each- they don't spread much but do space them apart) and bake at 180C for around 10 minutes. 

Allow to cool, and either top with cheese and eat them immediately, or package into pretty jars to give as presents. They keep well for a few days in an airtight jar, if they last as long as that.


Monday, 16 February 2015

Happiness Is... (Vol. 96)

As I sat in the sun on Sunday, hands wrapped around a poorly made but still perfect cup of tea, I realised I'm in a very good place at the moment. I smiled up at A, who was squinting at me in the sun, and felt so full of life that it was hard not to clap my hands with the pure joy of that moment. 

Sundays should always feel like that, shouldn't they?

After a dreadful day at work on Friday, this weekend started with (too many) drinks with my favourite work colleagues, and rolled into a luxurious, relaxing weekend. It was absolutely exactly what I needed.   Life goes in peaks and troughs, and I'm aware this is a peak- but I'm very willing to enjoy it while it lasts. 

Anyway. This week, happiness is...


... the first snowdrops. On Sunday, we went for a long stroll around the Rookery at Streatham Common, and in the White Garden I spotted my first snowdrops of the year. I love snowdrops perhaps more than any other flower for the simple reason that they are the first real reminder that there is indeed a season other than winter. Here comes the sun indeed. 

... Sunday night period dramas. Did anyone else watch Indian Summers last night? QI mean, it's no Downton, but I think it will fill that void nicely.


... homemade eggs benedict. A is an excellent cook, and we appear to make a pretty good team in the kitchen too. On Sunday morning, we whipped the most incredible eggs benedict- toasted muffins, smoked ham, poached Burford Brown eggs, and homemade hollandaise. We were talking about it for most of the rest of the day. 

.... shared hangovers. After a night of excessive wine (and excessive cheese on toast when I got in) on Friday night, I woke up on Saturday feeling rather worse for wear. Fortunately, my housemate S had been to a work black tie gala and was feeling equally as dreadful as me. Well, they do say that misery loves company, and we both felt better knowing that someone else was feeling a bit grim too. 


... putting chocolate on my porridge. As a hangover treat, I made myself Leon inspired porridge, topped with banana, walnuts, and a good grating of dark chocolate. Well it was a Saturday...!!

... Oh, and giving this space a little refresh!! What do you think of its kind of updated look?!

What's making you happy this week?

Friday, 6 February 2015

For Desire



I see poetry (like literature, and art, actually) as a very personal art form. And by that I mean that in my opinion it doesn't matter if what you like is high-brow and intense, or something written or painted by a child, or straightforward and straight down the line- what matters is that you like it. Everyone else be damned.

I like impressionism and Sebastian Faulks, e.e. cummings and Kandinsky and Robert Lenkiewicz, Ian McEwan and Audrey Niffenegger, and, as you'll read below, Kim Addonizio. For Desire is just kind of summing up how I feel today- so, you get to share in this.

Much love. Have a fantastic Friday, everyone.

Give me the strongest cheese, the one that stinks best;
and I want the good wine, the swirl in crystal
surrendering the bruised scent of blackberries,
or cherries, the rich spurt in the back
of the throat, the holding it there before swallowing.
Give me the lover who yanks open the door
of his house and presses me to the wall
in the dim hallway, and keeps me there until I’m drenched
and shaking, whose kisses arrive by the boatload
and begin their delicious diaspora
through the cities and small towns of my body.
To hell with the saints, with martyrs
of my childhood meant to instruct me
in the power of endurance and faith,
to hell with the next world and its pallid angels
swooning and sighing like Victorian girls.
I want this world. I want to walk into
the ocean and feel it trying to drag me along
like I’m nothing but a broken bit of scratched glass,
and I want to resist it. I want to go
staggering and flailing my way
through the bars and back rooms,
through the gleaming hotels and weedy
lots of abandoned sunflowers and the parks
where dogs are let off their leashes
in spite of the signs, where they sniff each
other and roll together in the grass, I want to
lie down somewhere and suffer for love until
it nearly kills me, and then I want to get up again
and put on that little black dress and wait
for you, yes you, to come over here
and get down on your knees and tell me
just how fucking good I look.
 
“For Desire” ― Kim Addonizio