Sunday, 16 November 2014

Things I have learnt in my early twenties (so far)

(Here I am looking irresistible on my 20th birthday, modelling a crazed expression and a paper plate. This was when drinking to excess was cool and napping was not. Oh, how times have changed.)

Crying is totally natural, and totally okay. Welcome to the human experience. Sometimes, a wave of all-consuming misery strikes and there's nothing more necessary than a cacophonous, snotty, hearty sob, the kind of sob that turns your face into a bizarre, 'is-that-a-human?' optical illusion. It doesn't matter if your reasoning seems weird or pathetic or illogical, or even if your reasoning is erm, well, non-existent. (Story of my life, folks. I'm sure One Direction wrote a song about it.) If you feel the turbulent wave of tears, you just need to ride it, ugly crying faces and all. (And eat pizza. All the pizza.)

Alcohol is over-rated. Unless it involves good company and Scrabble, it rarely ends well. And long gone are the days where I could drink 2 bottles of cheap, disgusting wine on a night out and still function as a civilised human being the next day. Oh no. The hangover is real. Nowadays, the next day is spent bed-ridden, illiterate, and nauseous, with the occasional 'treat' of a  short interval of activity, during which I will make 4 slices of butter-lathered toast and weep profusely about the state of my life. Oh. Let's just stay sober.

Exercise is not the enemy. About 2 years ago, my life was blessed with a marvel of activity. After eating far too many 'well, there's nothing better to do' custard creams at work, which lead to a humiliating photograph upon a broomstick at the Harry Potter studio tour (no further reminiscing on that topic, ta very much), I developed a sudden and surprising desire to actually get off of my juicy derriere and get those love handles flailing. Back then, I invested in a hula hoop, and I started throwing it around my porky body to cheesy 90s pop like there was no tomorrow. I discovered three things that year; firstly, that HULA HOOPING IS REALLY FUN AND PLEASES YOUR INNER CHILD GREATLY, secondly, that sports bras squash buoyant breasts into all sorts of awesome, peculiar shapes,(it's an art form, I'm telling you), and thirdly, that exercise in general is absolute tonic for both the body and the soul.

One day, we will be dead. Yup, there will come a day when every human being who inhabits this earth, including me, and you (sorry), will invade an unceasing state of total oblivion. There too will come a time when everything we ever thought and said and did and discovered will be forgotten. Even my amazing cartwheels. True acceptance of this knowledge fuels a life better lived, I'm sure of it. You can read more on my thoughts on mortality on right here.

Sleep is awesome. Life is much easier after a good night's sleep. And naps are brilliant. I used to mock my parents for napping, but I have been converted. I am a nap champion. Nappety nap. I love a nap.  (Except for when it is prolonged and you wake up in a pool of your own dribble with no immediate knowledge of who you are, where you are, or what you are. Anything goes in those fragile moments. 'You're a wizard, Harry.' 'I'm a.... what?')

'Sexy' doesn't just mean 'YOU SMELL SOOO GOOD' aftershave, a hairy, handsome face, and toned forearms. Of course, those things go some way in increasing my temptation to take my clothes off, butultimately, the human mind is the sexiest thing of all. Sexy means you're kind and confident and ambitious and intelligent. Sexy means you'll exercise your funny bones and listen to me waffle on about things you're not interested in and share my enthusiasm for the night sky. Sexy means you'll still associate with me even when I'm sporting an insane monobrow and unruly calf hair, and that you'll tell me I look 'so lovely' even when I look like I've slept in a hedge. Understated eroticism...Isn't it grand? Who wants to date me?

As a general rule, clubbing is the shittiest thing ever. It involves a lot of money, a lot of alcohol, and a lot of noise. Do you know what's nicer? Staying in. Spooning a chum or a puppy or a pillow. Being wrapped up in a dinosaur onesie. Going to bed before 4am. Being sober and responsible and totally in control of your actions and not being dry-humped by the local 'BANTAAAAAAAAAAAsaurus'. Please and thank you.

Stuff is expensive. Once upon a time, my Granddad gave me £2.50 and I squealed with joy. 'TWO POUNDS AND FIFTY PENCE, WOWEEEEEEEEEEE!' These days, £2.50 barely covers a one hour stay in a car park littered with McDonald's bags and the urine of raucous drunks. Being human costs a lot of money.

I invent the best farmyard themed jokes. 'What did the cow say to her calf? We are FARMily.' Thank you very much. You're welcome.

You have to be your own best friend. The relationship you have with you is the most important relationship you will ever encounter. Preach it. Life will bring a mad scattering of change and inconsistency, but no matter what happens within the beautiful and terrible terrain of your existence, you will always be you. If you're not laughing at your own jokes or groping your own breasts, or declaring your own perpetual brilliance every now and again, you bloody well ought to be. Revel in your oneness. Love yourself. Click, click, head wiggle.

Time does actually fly. What?! It's November? Already? Why does February feel like it was just 5 minutes ago? It's still 2012, right?

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Things Fred never said

"You mean I've been taken away from my mum and dad.... For this? And she's called me Frederick Albus? If I poo on floor, will she send me back?' 

"I know... Camouflage! If I camouflage she might not know I exist. I am not puppy. I am carpet. I am not puppy. I am carpet. I am not puppy. I am carpet. Oh shit... she's clocked me.'

"Okay. Shit's getting really weird now. What is this human cloth?"

"Hey ladeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeez."

"I am not puppy. I am fabric dog house patio. I am not puppy. I am fabric dog house patio. I am not puppy. I am fabric dog house patio."

"THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE! I am doing a wee on her brand new coat."

"This new toy looks like cat. I do not trust cat. I fear for my life. Cat is bad."

"There is a urinating human in front of me. I SEE URINATING HUMAN NAKED. I SCAR FOREVER."

 "Genitals are not for camera. Please put camera away."

"This is the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE! I play flowerpots. Flowerpots is fun."

"I'm mastering the seductive selfie. I steal her phone and tweet this one to Margaret."

"I'm too hungover to play Fred."
"What is 'hungover'? You will be hung over banister if you is not pick up this furry bear on a rope and throw it across the room."

"Did you make this mess Fred?"
"No, this mess made me."

"I see humans sit like this and eat pizza out of boxes. Maybe if I sit like this, I get pizza out of boxes."

"Awwwwww, it's a dinoFred!"
"I kill you."

"Please don't shake when you get out the bath Fred!"
"I make her think I going to cooperate... then I go shake it like a polaroid picture. But first, I wee in bath."

"What the shit happened to my hair? Next time she put me in bath, I put her in prison."


"Wow Fred... There's some gratitude! Don't you like your new bed?"
"I don't need new bed. I have bed which smells of puppy and dribble and biscuits and all your socks I is hiding."

"I only like her kissing my face when her breath smells of chicken. She too minty! Too minty!"

"Puppy so handsome. Puppy got swag. I tweet this one to Margaret and invite her round to play squeaky pigs."

"Puppy achieve anything in receipt of tiny, biscuity bones. Biscuity bones make puppy genius. I got GCSEs. What is GCSEs?"

"Too minty! Too minty!"

"It wasn't me. It was white furry guest and stuffed monkey."

"What a splendid day it would be for one to go out and stretch one's furry legs. Why is human still laying in bed? MARGARET? Is that you?! Please take me out so I can sniff bum. Please take me out so I can sniff bum and pavement and pavement stains and bushes and grass and walls and lamp-posts and humans and carrier bags and crisp packets and lawn mowers and bins. "

"I did not scatter post all over floor. I did not do it. I am not guilty."
"Why are you hiding your face against the wardrobe door?"
"...Smells of.... Biscuits?"

"What are you doing up there Fred?!"
"I thought I saw a squirrel. Now I am stuck on this chair. I am stuck on chair forever. I is not fly. STUCK ON CHAIR! Is you help me? I AM STUCK ON CHAIR FOREVER."

"Why is she like to be so close to my face? It is the same face I had yesterday. She still is not smell of chicken. I bite her thumb."

"Are you a fat boy?"
"She is calling me fat. What is fat? Oh... Fat is when you eat too many biscuits and get a big, furry tummy? LET'S GET FAT! FAT SOUNDS AWESOME! And big bed is for puppy. Not for humans. Big bed is for puppy."

"What are you doing up there Fred?"
"Coffee table is not for human cups and magazines. Coffee table is hard sofa for puppies. Coffee table is in centre of room so puppy gets all the attention."

"She thinks she can dress up as cat and cuddle me. Cat is bad. I am going to smack her."

"I is not make this mess. It was the budgie."

"No. I is not been tipping over flowerpots. Evil cat dragged me into a pond and tried to murder me! Now I am cold and wet and traumatised. I need biscuits. BISCUITS!"
"You need a bath; that's what you need!"
"No bath. No, I put you in prison."

"Hairspray lid is mine."
"I don't think it is Fred. Where's your ball?"

Sunday, 26 October 2014

10 people you follow on Instagram

Disclaimer: You're probably one of, or a mix of these people yourself. I know I definitely am.  Let us all revel in the perpetual brilliance of instant photo sharing and the strange creatures it turns us into.

The selfie addict.  Millions and millions of selfies are taken and uploaded to Instagram every single day. Some people are taking the trend to a whole new extreme and have worked a 'photo-shoot for uno' into their daily routine. You've absolutely no hope of forgetting what they look like. Every day, enhanced by the same 74% of the same flattering filter, you get to see them from the same angle, in the same location, rocking the same sultry pout. On the rare occasion that they do post something other than #selfie, #me, or #likeforlike, you imagine that they are frantically weeping over an unruly strand of hair. The heartbreak is real. 

Hashtag Harry. #Why #can't #people #learn #how #to #use #hashtags #properly #instead #of #hashtagging #every #single #bloody #insignificant #word? #SHUTUP

The Instachef. I think we all fancy ourselves as a bit of a chef when it comes to Instagram. With just one sly filter and a climb onto a fellow diner's shoulders to perfect that fancy, aerial angle, we can turn Thursday's mediocre sausage and mash into a gourmet masterpiece, convincing ourselves, as well as the rest of the world, that it absolutely didn't taste like the sole of Grandma's trusty sandals ('I've had these since 1974...'), and that we are in fact Jamie Oliver. #YUM  

The Instawizard. This rare breed of Instagrammer has some sort of irritating, magical appeal which enables them to collect 285 likes on pictures that are, well, quite frankly, boring, rubbish, and shit. HOW? HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN? What has their mid-morning iced latte got on my chubby, frizzy puppy in a dinosaur costume? Please and thank you. 

The Insta(nt nausea) couple. These two are so obsessively together that you'd be forgiven for thinking they've moulded into one human being. The first few times you were given a visual insight into their #perfect relationship, you 'aww'ed. You thought 'ohhh, how lovely!' Nowadays, they're infuriating you with hourly updates of their #evergrowinglove, filling your feed with blatant post sex selfies, arty snaps of all 20 of their toes at the beach, and of course, the imperative and thoroughly uncreative photographic staple of all couples such as these... 'You have a hand, I have a hand, let's make a heart (over every single sunset we witness).....AWWWW! We are SOOO cute!' 

The fitness guru. Society would have us believe that workouts didn't happen unless you instagrammed them. Every time this person goes to the gym, a mini photo shoot is inevitable. They'll work out for a calculated amount of time, get a dewy/sweaty, but not too unsexy glow about them, and then take a cluster of #sexy selfies and declare that #sweatisjustyourfatcrying. This person has been placed on earth to haunt your soul and make you question your culinary decisions. They do look pretty good... But also, you hate them. 

'MY LIFE IS ONE BIG PARTAAAAAY!' This person's feed is entirely made up of photos of them and their blurry, 'beautgifuuuuul frnds' out at the club, 'on tequilabvbaaa!', 'luuvig life, mwah!'. It makes no difference whether it's Monday night, Wednesday night, Friday night, or Sunday night; these folk are out revelling in their bustling social lives and shaving 10 years off of their life expectancy every single bloody day. They'll share it all exactly as they see it (aka blurry and wonky, because they're so intoxicated they can't hold their phone still enough to take a photo that makes any form of sense), and their caption writing skills will always be on grammatical par with those of a banana.

Miss I-just-stepped-out-of-a-magazine.' Porcelain white teacups. This morning's acai bowl perfectly placed in the centre of a coffee table that always looks brand-spanking-new and sparkly and as if it's never played host to anything more sinister than that ridiculously healthy breakfast. Pristine nails. Heart shaped dishes. Meticulously laid out strawberries. Soft-focussed hues. Let me tell you something about this perfect person; outside of that tiny, perfect snapshot within which everything is perfect, they are living in utter chaos. They've been wearing the same expensive knickers for a FORTNIGHT; I promise you.

The serial bather. Every time this person has a bath, they take a carefully angled, 'arty' snap of their slightly submerged legs. There's enough smooth, wet flesh to tease their audience with their implicit nudity, and enough water lapping and bubbles to do it without moving into territory that shouts 'here are my genitals! FANCY A GANDER?' Granted, these borderline raunchy bathers are masters of composition, but...Why have they got their £700 mobile devices in the bath?! Whatever happened to making festive beards out of bubbles and pretending to be a shark? 

The Instacreep. This person has posted a grand total of 0 photos, yet follows 418 people. You forget that they even have an account until they spookily reference one of your 6-week-old photos when you bump into them in Waitrose. They never like anything; they just stalk, quietly, soaking up lives like a virtual sponge, keeping tabs on everybody that they know and everybody that they don't, including their exes new girlfriend's cousin's best friend. These folk are not forces to be reckoned with. #creepin'

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Things more important than knowing 44 words for vagina

(*Image credited to Flickr user opopododo*)

I was at London Victoria station recently. Cool story, I know.

I was so wrapped up in contemplation, probably about work or unicorns or the astounding rate at which  my unruly, Gorilla-esque calf hair re-sprouts itself (gents; form an orderly queue), that I almost took an enthusiastic stroll into the men's toilets. As I awkwardly looked at my non-existent watch and swivelled towards the more appropriate destination, I stumbled into the swivelling path of a man who had just done exactly the same thing at the entrance to the ladies. We clocked our mutual mistake, and laughed at ourselves, and at each other, and then we stood gawkily, for a cursory moment, almost struggling with the surprise of our sudden and unexpected social interaction. 'You are a human stranger!', 'I am a human stranger too!' 'WHAT IS THIS...Is this an acknowledgement of our existence? Am I participating in actual life?' 'Shiiiiit.'

This scenario got me thinking about the way that we see the world, our perspective of our surroundings, if you will. All too often, we're so engrossed in getting from A to B, or in what we're having for dinner tonight, or in whether he/she feels the same way that we do; so consumed by our own robotic routines and thoughts and selves and the infinitesimal spectrum of our own lives, that we fail to notice or appreciate our surroundings; we fail to look outward. And whilst I totally champion social media and the accessibility/value of the virtual world and its creative opportunities (social medYAAAA is my actual job...Since when was that a thing?!), it comes with its curses.

I've spent days at beautiful beaches with friends who would rather follow a Twitter trend about Kim Kardashian's ass in 'that AH-MAZING dress' on a cracked screen than fully appreciate the beauty of the water and the horizon and the scattering of wonky sandcastles. (Kim Kardashian's ass is a sight to behold, but come on...WONKY SANDCASTLES)! I've been to firework displays where people have watched the whole bloody thing through an iphone camera screen. I've been guilty of barging into undeserving strangers whilst reading the latest viral post about alternative words for 'vagina.' (Don't look at me like that. We all read weird shit on the internet. There's just a time and a place, and apparently it isn't an 08.56am frantic excursion through an office car park.)

Whatever my reasons for the Victoria toilet incident, I shouldn't really have come close to creeping on all of those urinating male commuters that day, and I certainly shouldn't have felt genuine surprise to have shared a moment of interaction with a stranger. After that, I made a conscious effort to shift my focus and fully participate in the present. 'You know what, Kathy B, just shut up. You're going to have haddock for dinner tonight anyway, you usually bloody do. Unicorns! Work is work... Focus on that at work. Shave your Gorilla-esque calf hair when you get a spare four hours. And of course he doesn't feel the same way you do; that is a given, you are still, erm, you, after all. Sorted.'

I noticed the grey, angry clouds teasing at the last pools of blue sky, and how beautiful and damp and dishevelled and stripped of vibrancy the streets of London looked. I clocked the warm smile of a homeless man with papery, creased hands, and I gave him enough money to buy a cup of tea and a sandwich. I bought myself a sandwich too, and I focussed solely on that sandwich. It had ham in it. It was extraordinary. I observed people looking happy and sad and windswept and troubled and excited and rushed, and I took a moment to wonder what the stories were behind those faces. As I rode the train home (do we ride trains? We do now...), I saw the beauty of the rolling clouds and the transitioning landscapes as the train veered from city to countryside, through industrial states and vast, open fields full of trees and cows. It was moovellous. And as night fell, I gazed up at the sky in all of its spectacularity, filled with mad scatterings of moon and stars and darkness, and I just thought 'wow, I am alive. I am so lucky to be alive and to be able to witness all of these things that can be so insignificant and so extraordinary all at once.'

Familiarity is a funny old concept. It's a perception. Naturally, we become accustomed to our daily routines, to our drive into work, and to certain people or places, but ask yourself this; in a world that's ever-changing, can we ever really fulfil that definition? Can we ever really be familiar? Perhaps it's just a flawed concept that leads us to switch off to things that we haven't even realised are there. Perhaps if we make more of an effort to become regular tourists of the 'familiar', we'll see something new and brilliant every single day. The 'here' and 'now' does not to deserve to be neglected.

Ultimately, as important as our culinary decisions are (I know I'm not the only person in this world who suffers from hangryness), and as brilliant as it is to know all of these weird and witty and horrendous terms for vagina (University Challenge; good day to you), and as fascinating and convenient as it may be to have an entire virtual world in your pocket; the most fervent charms of our existence stem from seeing and doing and feeling, from being part of and present in a moment that is in no way saturated. And no, it's not something we can do every day (the human mind is a challenging beast to tame), but I think that this change in perspective is something we should all aim for every now and again. Ham sandwiches can be really, really awesome if you are completely and utterly devoted to that ham you know. Human beings are pretty fascinating too. And the night sky? Well... Just take a look outside*. Enjoy it. 

*This activity works best when it is night-time.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Making a difference

(*Photo credited to Neal Fowler*)

The struggle of humankind is inevitable. Some of us are born into unfortunate or difficult or even terrible circumstances. All of us experience circumstances of these kind at some point during the course of our existence. We all need a little, or a lot of something from someone else every now and again to inject colour and hope and opportunity into our lives when colour and hope and opportunity are diminished. In varying contexts, there are people better off and worse off than I am, and there are people better off and worse off than you, all of whom could do with some help at some point. It's intrinsic to my nature, just like it probably is to yours, just like it is a lot of other people in this world, to think 'you know what, I want to make a difference'....'I can make a difference', however that may manifest itself. But what does that mean? What does it actually mean to make a difference?

Sometimes, if I'm particularly moved or shocked or infuriated by something, my desire to make a difference fills me with so much passion and fervency that I physically feel like I could burst. Thoughts and ideas cascade and hurtle out of me like fireworks at terrifying pace. BANG. Some of those thoughts and ideas, like those awesome fireworks that, for lack of better description, just look like bloody CHRISTMAS in the sky, are pretty damn special. Most of them, however, fly beautifully within my mind and then disintegrate the moment that they hit the damning chill of reality. Terrible ideas are my forte. (Sympathetic nods are totally warranted at this point. Thanks.)

Either way, I'm totally wired to think and create and get excited about stuff, and so the subtle thought of trying to make a difference often catapults my brain into the realms of near-delirium. What can I do to change the world, maaaaaaaaan? How can I raise thousands of pounds for this cause or that cause or this person or that campaign? Could I do a naked paraglide without being arrested or making anyone recoil in horror? (Ahem, rhetorical question; thank you very much.) Could I do a sponsored cartwheelathon from like, Brighton, to erm, MARS?

If you take those 3 words, 'making a difference', and you create an acronym, you get 'mad'. Sometimes, it does make me mad. It makes me mad that I can think up or pursue these ridiculous, grand ideas which never quite come to life or work in a setting beyond my own frantic cognition. And it makes me mad in the best kind of way too. My imagination's never more vibrant than when I'm conjuring up a way to positively influence other people. I completely champion big, mad ideas. Mad brings about the unforgettable. Mad inspires and influences and sends shockwaves to people's souls and makes people go 'shiiiiiiiiiiiit!' and 'wow', and sometimes 'shiiiiiiiiiiiit!' and 'wow' are entirely what's needed. We'll always remember that one person who did that amazing thing that benefitted all of those lives, and rightly so.

There is, however, a certain, easily neglected piece of sparkly wisdom that we should all become more complacent with.

You don't have to change the entire world to make a difference; you just need to be a positive force on the little piece of world around you, on everybody, on people who are happy or sad, on people who are having the 'BEST DAY EVER!' or 'just one of those days, pass me the vino'. Be mad and be creative as you please, but just don't forget the wonder of all of those lovely, little things that you can offer people: those innate qualities of yours that make it so easy for you to be quietly extraordinary. Don't belittle your worth simply because you may not have the time or courage or audacity to do something totally insane or, (cue note to self) because it's impossible to do a sponsored cartwheelathon to Mars.

Exercise your manners and your funny bone. Compliment people; just don't be a creep about it. Never walk past a crying person in the street. Ask people how they are. Tell Margaret from the post office how fabulous her frizzy, mauve barnet is. Hold doors open for people. Let loveliness burst out of you like rays of sunshine. Smile at strangers; just don't be a creep about it. Live passionately and fully and well. Tell people how you feel. Share gin and conversation. Stay faithful to your own dreams and never dampen the dreams of others. Throw your porky limbs around each other and revel in the brilliance of physical affection; just don't be a creep about it. Look after your body. Be honest. Just be lovely. Making a difference really can be that simple.

In May 2011, I was travelling back from London, alone, and for whatever reason, I was completely inconsolable. There were tears. There was snot. There were bizarre, hideous facial expressions and bizarre, hideous crying noises that made me look/sound like a farm animal in distress. I would not have blamed the stranger sitting opposite me had he buried a nervous laugh into his sleeve or quietly scurried off to a different carriage so he could enjoy the rest of his journey without playing witness to my peculiar breakdown. But no; he retrieved a packet of tissues from his pocket and he handed them to me. He then leaned over and patted me, albeit awkwardly, on my arm. He did his best to offer a reassuring smile too. And in doing those things, as insignificant as they may seem out of context, he completely turned my day around.

Often, the littlest scatterings of kindness and positive humanity are those which are most profound. Don't forget it.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Dear 16 year old me

It's me. You. As in you, in seven years time: a wiser, more confident, definitely-not-any-taller version. Hullo. Happy birthday! As I am you, I know that tonight you will be having your very first house party. You will consume about 4 WKDs and end up attempting to feed Mini Cheddars to a camcorder and weeping profusely because you missed Christmas, even though you didn't miss Christmas. You may also possibly do a wee in an alleyway. Tonight, too, will be the first and last time you ever wear fishnets. You know why? Because they are aesthetic suicide. You're going to feel really, really shit and humiliated come dawn. It won't set the calibre for the rest of your youth, I promise. We will just pretend it never happened.

This next pocket of seven years will be bursting with things that will surprise, inspire and change you. There are some things however, that I'd like you to know now, just to make the journey ahead that little bit easier.

If you take just one crucial piece of advice from this letter, please let it be this. You are not old, and you do not know everything. Yes, you are on the verge of leaving school and will be going to the prom in a real, 'actual limousine with da bois.. OMG', (please stop talking like that), yes, your upper torso seems to have expanded into a mass of ample bosom (that doesn't mean excess mammary spillage is a good look though...), and yes, you're going to do pretty bloody well in your GCSEs, but in the grand scheme of things, you know only a tiny speck of dust upon an entire grand spectrum of information. Over the next seven years, you'll realise that learning is so much more satisfying when it doesn't end with a grade on a piece of paper. Learn as much as you can about everything that you can. Books are tonic for the idle mind; continue to immerse yourself in them. Appreciate creativity and literature and music and science and technology and religion and history and people and places. Appreciate everything, even the lesson on 'breeds of gulls' which may well be told to you by a half pissed, bearded old man on a train. If you never speak of it again, at least you will know which birdie is most likely to steal your tuna sandwich.

Please stop giving yourself that Lady-Sovereign-esque, scalp-chafing ponytail that sticks out of your head like a misplaced penis. It will get it's very own mention in the yearbook, and seven years on, you will still be mocked for it by all of your remaining school friends.

Keep your dignity when your heart gets broken. I can absolutely promise you that desperate, unsolicited, drunken text messages are never worth the humiliation. I can also absolutely promise you that although there will be times where you feel as if that one person has completely obliterated your one chance of heart-shaped happiness, you will move on. You'll eat a lot of pizza and you'll have a little cry and in a moment of rage you might even envisage yourself knocking them over with a tractor, but you will always move on; you're human, that's what humans do.

Love has a habit of fucking people up, but if you're drowning in the details of someone, it's always a risk worth taking. Just make sure they're kind. I fear that kindness is a dying art. Treasure those who champion it. (Also, show your Grandma a picture of every potential suitor and trust her instincts. She seems to have mastered the art of being right about these kind of things.)

Stop drinking blue alcohol in the park. It never ends well. Stay in and eat broccoli instead. Broccoli is awesome.

Keep writing. Don't listen to all of those people who will tell you to pursue a 'proper' career path. Always remember that whatever happens, and whatever you're getting paid to do, you are a writer through pursuit, not profession. You are a writer because you write. It will always be the greatest love of your life; honour it. And guess what? Your creative career will take off, eventually. From 2011 onwards, the Internet will become your literary playground. You'll have an audience. You'll write about life and genitals and the bizarreness of human beings, and people will actually read it. A French man will even tell you that you're the best thing to happen to the planet since Dr Who. Effectively, you'll also write yourself into a job that you love. Those soul destroying days behind the pizza counter at Asda will feel like a million years ago. Just don't accept that 'Transatlantic Agony Aunt' gig for the e-magazine in New York... That shit will get far too weird.

Fear is futile. Your hair looks terrible blonde. You're always going to be rubbish at looking interested when you're not. People you expect to live forever aren't going to live forever. Dinosaur onesies are totally okay. You're going to get a B in Art even though you are absolutely terrible at Art and everyone is expecting you to fail. (I know! That will remain perpetually funny.) Expand your horizons. Honesty is always the best policy, even when it feels like it's not. You'll always be your own worst critic. Wear heels that are comfortable; the intoxicated, stumbling goat look does you no favours.

Make the most of your blistering naiveity. These are the last few months of a beautiful pocket in time during which you are not fully aware of what the world is capable of. Don't waste it fretting about the size of your thighs.



Monday, 22 September 2014

Things that people say about love/dating that are untrue, inaccurate or rubbish

'I'll be the one who can make him commit.' We've all got ourselves caught up in dating Mr 'LADZ-ON-TOOOOOUUUUR, playaaaaaaaa!' at least once in our lives. They're not necessarily our usual type, or the kind of person we want to take home to our Grandma, or even the kind of person we could ever fall in love with. They do, after all, pride themselves on their supposedly massive genitalia and shout 'bantz!' far more than should be legal, but sometimes, they've got the charm, they've got the shit jokes, and they've got a compliment for every occasion. These kind of men are easy to like and often fun to be around, albeit in a very temporary and superficial kind of way. It's an appealing fantasy that we can be 'special' enough and brilliant enough to take Mr 'YES- BONE HER MAAATE!', cleanse him of his STIs, and sprout him a halo. Here's the deal; we can't. We are still special and brilliant. He is just living his life aboard the Genital Express, stopping briefly at every station before hurtling off to the next one. It's a bit like the London Underground... Germy. And disappointing. And absolutely never worth jumping onto. Move on; I dare you.

'I just don't know what I want.' If you're involved with someone, and you're at a point of potential progression with them but you just 'don't know' what you want, the chances are that you probably don't want it. Your confusion itself is implicit of that, and of course, it is your right and your privilege as a complex human being to be completely bewildered and overwhelmed by any such situation. Just don't get that person all muddled up in your brainspace. Your decision has clearly already been made within the depths of your subconsciousness. You really don't need to kiss them another 400 times/make them fall in love with you before you confirm it. Thanks.

'Deep inside, there's a really, really, nice person!' Yawwwwwwn. It is a terrible side effect of optimism to believe that every human being has the ability to be marvellous and kind and emotionally capable of reaching their highest potential. Guilty as charged. I've hung onto relationships, or to my own feelings for unworthy people because I've loved the idea of what I thought they could be, whilst failing to accept that they are, and will eternally remain: a) an asshole,  b) completely uninterested, or c) an asshole. Some people are just, well, perpetually awful. Take that knowledge and run with it. Or away from it. Run away from it. And by it, I mean the person who is only nice within the glittering shackles of your fantasy.

Everybody deserves a second chance. He slept with your best friend? He punched a llama when you went to the zoo? He got drunk and came back with a tattoo declaring 'LUV U 4EVA (insert-your-name-here)'. Nope. No second chances. Some things are unforgivable. 

'Date a checklist and you can't go wrong.' If you or I were to list every quality we think we would want in a potential partner, I can guarantee that we will have met so many people who have ticked all of those boxes and will have felt nothing. When two people do develop feelings for each other, there's a rare, invisible magnetism that I think is rather magical. Those sciencey folk might tell me that it's to do with hormones and chemical reactions and my fertilisation preferences (I promise never to write a sex manual), but I prefer to think of it as something raw and beautiful and totally inexplicable, something far greater than a just a selection of appealing characteristics and the right amount of facial hair. Don't settle for a checklist; settle for somebody who you couldn't engineer on paper, somebody who's all over your mind when you're awake at 3am, somebody who completely captivates you beyond your own personal comprehension. It's one of the most enchanting feelings in the entire world. (Perhaps even as good as sneezing.) Shall we get our violins out now? 

'Here's some advice for you, play hard to get!/Treat them mean, keep them keen!' Unless you are 12, or are championing a grave lack of intelligence, there is no valid excuse to be doing any of this. You don't have to confess your undying love for someone and thrust yourself upon them after five minutes, but being upfront about the way you feel and actually being a a bit keen is a positive thing. Let people know that you're interested. Ask them what they're doing tonight. Tell them that you want to take them out for some overpriced wine and a chinwag. Give them a cuddle. It will get you a lot further and make you a lot happier than ignoring them for a week over some ridiculous idea that it makes you look 'cooler.' Treat them keen... Keep them... keen? It's easy-peasy-let's-be-lovely-squeezy. Preach it.

'The couples who argue the most are the ones who love each other the most.' Call me old fashioned, but since when did train wreck relationships become so glamorous? Since when did slanging matches, crying, and stomping out the room like a furious toddler become a worthy way to spend a Thursday evening? Granted, it's inevitable that human beings in close proximity are going to get on each other's nerves every now and again. Niggles can escalate and everybody disagrees from time to time, but, the way I see it, the couples who love each other the most are those who find themselves arguing over the littlest the least. You know why? Because they're too busy enjoying each other's company/being happy/fornicating/chinwagging/sharing biscuits. (Insert/delete activities associated with joy as appropriate.)

'The right person will complete you.' Newsflash. Nobody on this earth is going to 'complete' you. You are already a complete person, all complete there with your organs and your thoughts and your ideas and your dreams and your hairy toes. And if you don't think you are, there are probably a few inner gremlins that you need to tame. Expecting another imperfect human to be the staple component of your happiness and existence is never going to end well. 

'I just can't be on my own!' You can. You do not need to fill your heart or your bed with a mediocre human being as part of a strange, flawed attempt to validate your own self worth. You are the only person who can sort that shit. Relish the opportunity to be thoroughly selfish from time to time, and whether you're single or not, always nurture the most important relationship that you will ever encounter, your relationship with you. Be your own best friend. Laugh at your own jokes. Learn stuff and do stuff that you want to do and do it for you. Treat yourself to bacon and brie sandwiches for dinner. Go on lone, rainbow chasing adventures upon your unicorn. Be kind to your reflection. Grope your own breasts. Do nude cartwheels and declare your own perpetual brilliance and revel in your oneness. Please and thank you. (That got a bit weird, but I enjoyed it, and I smiled and I thought 'you are so much fun to be around Kathy B', and in turn I accidentally proved my own point. You're welcome.)

Have you heard people say things about love/dating that are untrue, inaccurate or rubbish? Tweet me your thoughts: @kathyb5710

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Dear Granny B,

I'm six years old. As was our weekly tradition; it's a Saturday night and I'm staying at yours. My hair, which, by the way, is circa 3ft long, has been tied into one of your trademark messy, fuzzy plaits, curled gently across my shoulder as I lay there in the dark. There's a storm outside, and as it picks up and the thunder starts roaring across the black, sinister sky and the rain starts hammering on the window, you potter in with your cup of tea and your packet of TUC crackers, wrapped up in your ivory, floral nightgown, and you sit on the chair at the end of my bed, crumbs falling into your lap. You didn't say anything. You just sat, eating those crackers. I didn't stay awake for much longer, because having you there was always enough, but, even in those brief, sleepy moments of mine, I remember thinking how lucky I was to have a Grandma who would happily sit up until 3am if it meant I didn't have to. I also remember thinking you were the ultimate criminal for eating crackers after you'd brushed your teeth.

I'm eighteen years old. We're sat next to each other at Tommy's funeral. You've just lost the man you've loved and squabbled with for over fifty years. The most integral part of your life has come to its end and I know you're heartbroken. You're holding my hand as the poem I wrote for him is being read out. Your bottom lip is shaking and your eyes are laced with tears. Not a single one of them fell. I look at you and I know you're holding it together for me. You whispered how beautiful my words were and how proud you were of me. I bought you a Baileys at the wake and we said goodbye to him together. I never would have made it through that day without you.

I'm twenty one years old. You've made the spontaneous decision that you need to get a boyfriend so you've got someone around who can help you with the hoovering. We're sat at the dining table on my laptop, and we've loaded up 'Plenty of Fish.' You can barely navigate a Nokia 3310, let alone an entire website, so I wasn't too sure how many folk of your generation would be clued up on internet dating. 600+ results later; I don't think you've ever been more thrilled that I was wrong. We cry-laughed at 74 year old Londoner Terry and his explicitly written desires for a young, curvy, Asian babe, and then we cry-laughed some more at topless Peter from Gloucestershire, whose questionable camera angles had made him look like a cross between a wild yeti, and my left thumb. Once we caught our breath, you asked if we could look at the under 25s instead. You never did get your date, but it never really mattered. Topless Peter took pride of place on the cover of your birthday card that year and we laughed about it all over again.

In March 2013, 5 months after we struggled to find you a boyfriend on the Internet, you got diagnosed with bowel cancer. For the first time in my life, I experienced days where I just couldn't find a bright side or a silver lining, or some great, philosophical reasoning as to why this might be happening. Those positive things that I cling onto when things are shit were just completely non-existent; there was nothing positive about seeing you, this sharp, funny, vibrant woman laying helpless and confused in a hospital bed. There was nothing positive about the idea that my entire world was going to be cruelly and suddenly stripped of your presence. You weren't having any of it. You made it your mission to see me as a bridesmaid at my best friend's wedding that coming August. You promised me you'd be there.

You underwent major surgery to remove the cancer and ultimately to save your life. I spent evening after evening sat with you at the hospital, chinwagging about the ways of the world, mutually lusting over that Aussie anaesthetist, and generally feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude to the universe for letting you live. In hindsight; yes, your cancer was an awful experience, but it was also one that brought us together in a way that I could never have envisaged. I learnt so much from you during that time. I learnt so much about your life and your beliefs and your innate courage and your penchant for dishy young men with kind eyes and scattered facial hair....Familiar, I know. I learnt that it's okay not to be okay, and that I can still function as a human and be there for other people even when I'm tempted to break into a Havisham-style sob every five minutes. I discovered a new sadness that makes me treasure happiness even more-so. And of course, I learnt that hospital doughnuts are surprisingly addictive. You ordered one whenever they were on the menu and sneaked it into my hands every single time.

I've spent so much of my life with you and I've adored every second of it. I can't remember a time when you haven't supported me, except perhaps for that moment I cracked open the third bottle of wine on Christmas Day. You've shared with me your silly witticisms and you've let me drag you to the pantomime every year, and you've asked for every last tiny detail when I've been on a date. 'Ooooh look, isn't he lovely?I think he might be the one Kath!' You've bought me slippers every winter and you've been the first person on the phone whenever anything noteworthy has happened. You've believed in me when I haven't believed in myself. You've loved me so fiercely and so purely, and it is a love I'll carry with me always.

I look at you and I know that heroism isn't about having a superpower, or being utterly fearless, or having cheese-grater abs. It isn't about living an insane fictional lifestyle or getting viral media coverage (I know you don't know what that means), or possessing the expert skill of kissing whilst upside down. (Your arthritic knees would never allow it anyway.) It's not even about prancing around in a fancy costume or swishing through the street in a cape. Nope, perhaps the truest of heroes are those who walk among us: those who throw goodwill around like confetti, those whose hearts are made of the finest gold, those who are extraordinary just by existing and make us feel extraordinary with just one kind glance. Perhaps the most worthy heroes are those who can inspire us to be so much better without ever thinking it or telling us that we need to be. That's you Granny dearest. And every last pinch of love that I have within me is yours. I'll never forget your face when you saw me as a bridesmaid.

If I'm anything like you are when I'm silver-haired and wrinkly, I'll know that it's been a life well lived.

Yours always,

Kath x

Next Sunday, I'll be dressing up as my dear old Granny B and walking 10k at St Wilfrid's Hospice's first ever Hero Walk. If you've got a spare fiver and want to make a difference to this incredible charity and the community it serves, you can sponsor me right here!

Monday, 1 September 2014

The curse of social media silence

The internet is my creative playground. If you're reading this, the internet may well be your creative playground too. Hello. Good day to you. There's something quite extraordinary about this place.

The problem, however, with the extraordinary, vast, creative playground of the internet, is that sometimes it feels as if you're existing on the outskirts, skipping and waving and shouting 'helloooooo, I'm hereeeeee, come and play with me!' but to little avail. It's not difficult, particularly within the blogosphere, or when you're trying to establish a presence on social media, to feel as if you're waffling on to an audience of one: yourself. I'm a firm believer that talking to yourself is a total marvel during a Thursday morning hoover, or when you're in the shower contemplating life philosophies, or even when you're just in an overtly enthusiastic 'I LOVE LIFE' mood and feel the need to declare to oneself how much fun it is to have breasts that exist and swing and bounce and how wonderful it is to dwell beneath a sky full of wispy clouds and sunshine and magpies. But, when you have a message to share, a message that you fully believe to be important or witty or captivating or inspiring, talking to yourself doesn't quite have the same appeal.

It's easy to invest a substantial amount of time in creating something. It might be an idea that your curious mind conjured up weeks ago. You became pregnant with that idea. You made plans for it and fed it and grew it. You delivered that baby straight from the depths of your love canal and you fell in love with it. You nurtured it, you crafted it, you spent hours perfecting it and preparing it for the world, and then you put your baby out into the virtual sphere. And....Erm, nothing. No tangible response. Your nan phoned you up to tell you that she loved it, but you can't help but feel that's her obligation. In less than 24 hours, these words that you put together can go from being a literary explosion of near ingenuity and lasting sentiment, tonic for the idle mind, perhaps, to being the shittiest idea you ever had. That born and bred wordsmith within you: the fiercely passionate writer who is definitely going to do some good in the world, is suddenly scratching at an empty page with a half-chewed pen that doesn't work. You turn into a disheartened, frustrated failure, who vows instead to spend the rest of time drinking gin and eating crisps and 'NEVER writing again'.

As creatives, I think the craving for acknowledgement and appreciation is inevitable. Although we can see traffic and statistics, the desire to connect with others on a personal level is intrinsic to our human nature. If we made someone else in this world think, or if we inspired somebody to do a naked cartwheel, or even if we just made someone chuckle and splutter into their Cornflakes, we want them to tell us about it. We need that validation that actually, yes, our efforts were worth every second and we're alright at what we do, and there's reason to keep doing it. Ultimately, the approval from people we've never met is where the magic's at, and social media is the perfect platform upon which to deliver and receive it. Social media silence, therefore, when you've put so much of yourself into something, is one of the biggest curses of modern day creativity. It sucks. A lot.

Let me tell you something about social media silence and the flawed theory that it breeds. So, nobody tweeted? Nobody commented. Nobody sent you an email about it. It's easy to assume in that case that your work was absolutely bloody pointless and that nobody is interested in your particular brand of creativity, even though it's your most loyal passion, that one, all-encompassing thing that saves you from mediocrity and keeps you in love with living. Nobody cares. It's an assumption that I've made many times. It's an assumption that you've made many times.

It's a complete and utter illusion. I promise.

The number one rule of creativity is that you do it for you. Everything that you create has a purpose in serving yourself. You took an idea out of your head and turned it into something that cleared your mind and made you less insane. Good for you. That shit is never a waste of time, regardless of whether you feel it has an audience, which, irrefutably, it does.

Take a moment to think about the way that you personally consume creative content online. How often do you favourite a piece or return religiously to a particular blog or read or watch something and think 'THAT WAS SO AWESOME'? All the time. How often do you actually go and credit the creator or share their work or tweet them your praise or email them to tell them how ridiculously in awe of their talent you are? Probably not so much.

Just because your post doesn't go viral, or because nobody tells you that they enjoyed it, it doesn't mean that nobody's enjoyed it. I absolutely guarantee that there is somebody out there who cherishes every single word that you write and adores your little, virtual world. Even if you have only one reader that you're aware of, that one reader might be absolutely gutted if you ever decided to stop creating. You might bring light to that one reader's day where nothing else can. And if you know from your traffic that you have a somewhat established audience who just don't interact much, it's ignorant to assume that they are less inspired or less grateful because of that. You are making a difference. There's always an audience for creativity, even if they're not as present as you'd like them to be.

And so I guess the moral of this is to embrace what you do. Don't even toy with the idea of giving up on your craft. Be conscious of the fact that somebody, somewhere, perhaps without the preface of a Twitter handle or bloglovin' account, has fallen in love with your creative consciousness. Perhaps we should all be a little more optimistic and believe in ourselves the way that our returning audience believes in us, and perhaps we should all make a little more effort to not always be the silent consumer.

Go and let someone know that you love what they do; I dare you. And go and bloody do a naked cartwheel to celebrate. (Don't forget to tell me all about it.)

Monday, 18 August 2014

'Make your life spectacular, I know I did'

There are human beings like me, who can spend 2 hours creating what essentially is a shitty joke about a farm animal that nobody will ever laugh at, and then there are human beings like Robin Williams, whose innate charm and wit and irresistible, inherent madness bursts out of their souls like sunbeams; people who possess a degree of effortless, magical, manic ingenuity, an inexplicable energy that cannot be taught nor manufactured. Unfortunately, being Robin Williams and being all of these things did not make Robin Williams immune to the explicit reality of the human experience, and it is this cultural acceptance, coupled with the tragic circumstances that engineered his untimely death, that have shone a light upon the fragility of our own psyche.

In those final moments, it did not matter that Robin Williams had the love and admiration of his family and an adoring fan-base worldwide. It did not matter that he had carved himself an incredible career: that he was the master of the one-liner, of mimicry, of hilarity, that he was wealthy, that he had exercised his talent and achieved all of these fantastic things that many modern creatives aspire to; that he had magnificently entertained people across the world. It did not matter that he had been generous or kind or that he had thousands of people who would have thrown their arms around him and begged him not to do it. The only thing, I imagine, that mattered in those moments, was his escape from his own manic facade: the crippling pain, the all-encompassing sadness that was suddenly entirely unbearable. It seems a terrible injustice that one man can be enough for the entire world when the entire world cannot be enough for that one man. Robin Williams taught us all that laughter is the best medicine, but unfortunately, it did little to appease his pain at the end.

Robin's tragic death serves as a heavy, solemn reminder that there is an ineradicable, chronic delicacy rooted within us. The human condition is incredibly delicate: love,  fame, accolade, wit, vibrancy of character; none of it immortalises people nor protects people from dismal narratives. In the aftermath of tragedies such as this, it's so important that we extract that knowledge and strap it to us and use it to live our own lives better: to be considerate and lovely, to be vigilant, to be mindful of the inevitable struggle of others, to realise that actually, yes, we're all a little fucked up and maybe always a little bit on the verge of self-destruction and we're all fundamentally alone, but ultimately it is this commonality that binds us together.

Although his demons proved too much for him in the end, Robin Williams is still an example of human resilience in the face of grave adversity. Mental health issues are not a side effect of naivety nor adolescence nor a pessimistic nature; mental health issues are a side effect of being alive, their ferocity variant from person to person. These were issues that Robin fought for many years of his life, and yet still, he achieved everything that he did. He experienced love and family and children and he lit the world up even when his own was dark and through that, he has left an incredible legacy. There is a great deal of hope to be taken from that.

The damning reality is that we are never going to be able to stop people from killing themselves, but perhaps through striving to accept that nothing in life is permanent, we can more-so appreciate the sacrality of our own preservation. We need to realise that happiness, in its purest and loveliest form: happiness that entirely dismantles any negative thought, happiness that feels insane and infinite, only ever comes to us temporarily. Where life itself is fleeting, those moments are even more evanescent. Wrap yourselves up in those moments of euphoria and hold onto them for as long as you can. Embrace the finest pleasures of being human; enjoy the awesome people around you, fall in love, make a difference, fuel your little spark of madness. Do all of those things with the consciousness that the world owes you none of it and enjoy the sense of great privilege that this bestows. Equally, for as long as we're alive, the prospect of change breeds hope. In Robin's own poignant words, 'suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.' 'No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.' Use them to do good.

'In the end, none of us have very long on this earth. Life is fleeting. And if you're ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish and think of me.'

Sunday, 3 August 2014

A letter to the friend who died before his time

Dear Zac/Mr Zacharia Dingle,

When I was 16, I received a phone-call that changed life as I knew it. I can still hear those 4, choked up words as if I heard them this morning. 'It's Zac... He's died.' I can still hear some of the friends I love the most dissolving into tears in the background.

You were one of the friends that I grew up with. You feature in half-crumpled primary school class photos, grinning straight into the lens a few rows behind me. You strike the same pose in lots of the secondary school photos too. You were always there, that gorgeous, broad smile a constant presence in my life, interchanging between the background and foreground as the years passed by. You were one of those people who had become an intrinsic human feature of my existence, one of those people who was always meant to be around.

I remember those long, summer evenings that we'd spend sitting up by the garages on the street that I still live in, revelling in the delirium of sun and youth and puberty, sharing silly jokes and pointless conversations about boobs and making weird noises at each other. I remember how unimpressed you were when we ordered happy meals at McDonalds and realised that the mini Barbie doll I got with mine wasn't wearing any knickers. I can still see the comedy, horrified expression on your face when you held her above your head and subtly averted your gaze upwards. I laughed so much at your jovial rant that I spent the duration of the meal spluttering chips in all directions.

I remember all those times waiting outside Media Studies in the last years of school. If you weren't picking me up and spinning me around until I was screaming at you to put me down, you were squeezing my cheeks, whispering funny, crude little things to me. When we had a fire drill in the middle of winter, you wrapped me up in your cardigan, only to come over and ask if you could have it back 10 minutes later. 'I'm freezing my knackers off here!' It was the thought that counted Zac. And the thought always counted with you.

You were easily the most popular person in our year at school, completely adored by every single person who crossed your path. When our English teacher read the closing line of 'Animal Farm' in year 9, you stood up, enthusiastically said, 'that was beautiful, Miss', and initiated a whole class round of applause. You were full of laughter and hope and ambition and opportunity, full of a certain rare and inexplicable charm that could light up an entire room and put everyone in it in the palm of your hand. You were a born entertainer, a history maker, a young, creative, quirky, brilliant man with a heart of the finest gold. You were all of these extraordinary things, and you were 3 days off of the birthday you were so excited about. People aren't supposed to die fresh out of secondary school, but youespecially, weren't supposed to die fresh out of secondary school.

On this day 6 years ago, the world stopped making sense. We were cruelly welcomed to the explicit reality of the human experience, and we were hideously unprepared. We didn't know what to do, or how to cope, or if we'd ever feel truly happy again. We knew nothing except that you were suddenly gone and that life would never be the same again. Hundreds of people came together for your funeral. We laughed and cried and clung to each other and made jokes that you were probably about to walk in from some spontaneous, exotic holiday and wonder what all the fuss was about.

It's more of a sedated wound these days, but every so often, it opens and surges with the same astounding pain: the mammoth sense of loss and anxiety, the crippling sadness that you were so young and so wonderful and so screwed over by the universe, the anger of that terrible injustice. I still cry for you from time to time, especially on days like today. I'm also under no illusion that the insane disbelief and grief that I felt was minimal compared to that of your best friends, your family, your parents, those people who loved you even more than I did. I cry for them too. I guess the greatest misfortune of living is that love cannot and does not immortalise people.

It's now been 6 years since you died, and with every year, time has carried us further away from who we were back then. Even though we're all now in our early 20s, you'll always be 15. I often wonder what you would be like now. Would you still be sporting the bounciest, sheepiest mop of hair in Eastbourne? Would you have achieved some of those big, creative dreams of yours? Would I still bump into you along the street to find that you'd spent your entire day shopping for hula skirts? 'What do you think of this one? I love the swish.'

We'll never get the answers to those questions, but even though you're not around, you're still around, somehow. You're there whenever I hear 'A Long December' by Counting Crows or see a bright red cardigan hanging in the window of a mens' shop. You're present in some of the decisions that I make, your loss a fervent reminder of the fragility of life and the sacrality of people and opportunity and the profound importance of pursuing the things that make us happy. The best we can do to honour people like you is to live fully and passionately and well, to never shy away from loving other people, to embrace life with the same zest and gratitude that you did and to laugh as hard as possible as often as we can.

I know now that we can be happy even though you died, and we have no reason to feel guilty for that. Perhaps it's a different kind of happy, but it's a happy that can still consume us during life's best moments. It's a happy that can still feel infinite. It's a Zachary James Whitington kind of happy. And that's all you'd have ever wanted for us. It was an innate and incredible privilege to have known you.

I'm sorry that my doll wasn't wearing any knickers.

Sleep tight buddy. I'll love you always.

Katharia x

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