Thursday, 12 March 2015

I lost my creative shit

Hullo. My name is Kathy B. Remember me?

I've been absent from the blogosphere for a while. Due to the nature of the internet, and the boundless quantity of half-amusing, engaging content available, I'm not going to assume that you will have noticed my absence. But I have, and so it matters, even if just a little, and just to me.

The love of writing, the love of that writing being read: making people chuckle on a mediocre Thursday when they're meant to be running reports at work, making people think about stuff, inspiring people to do wonderful things like CARTWHEEL BECAUSE IT IS BLOODY AWESOME, just the marvellous reality that I can throw some letters onto a page or at the internet and potentially make a small, positive difference to myself or to another human being, is a love that manifests itself within the depths of my grubby soul. It's an integral part of who I am. And it keeps me sane. For me, there's no greater solace or saviour from mediocrity than sitting by the sea and scrawling my little heart out, filling page upon page of my latest battered notebook with words and sentences so hurried that I can barely decipher them afterwards.

I find the journey from head spark to literary explosion completely captivating. I have an idea, and with little conscious contemplation, it spirals. It spews out of me like dinner after two bottles of white wine (you're welcome), and I'm like, 'WOW, I just wrote this thing. Shit.' It's a certain kind of magic...Right? Or if it isn't, and it's just late and I'm a bit delirious (I appreciate this scenario is totally feasible), I'm basically saying that writing is my one fierce passion and it has always served me well. At least, almost always.

I need to write as much as I want to write... So when, as I have done many times over the past month, I'm staring at a list of half-decent ideas that I've excitedly scribbled down during whirlwind moments of all-encompassing inspiration, and I can't, or at least I feel like 'I JUST CAN'T BLOODY WRITE!', well, it's a total fucking minefield. I don't need to explain how frustrating it is as a creator, one who really needs to create to remain a civilised and happy human, to feel completely stripped of all ability to do so, because I imagine that if you're still reading this post, you've probably lost your shit at some point too. You know of the bizarre confidence crisis and the unnecessary self-loathing that comes with it. You know of the comparisons you start making to the 197865341 'AH-MAY-ZIN' writers/artists/musicians you stalk online who are 'just so much BETTER AT LIFE' than you. You know those feelings. They know those feelings too. Congratulations: welcome to the human experience. We're all in this together! I'm pretty sure the cast of High School Musical wrote a song about it.

See, I've thought a lot about this over the past few weeks (aka tonight), and that's exactly what this is all about...Not High School Musical (that would be a slightly weird conclusion), but being human. It's just inevitable, isn't it? We can't expect to bask in an eternal ray of easy-peasy-creative-squeezy sunshine. We can't expect to be at our very best all of the time. We can't expect to never have to rediscover or nurture a skill or talent. We can't expect to never have to really search within ourselves or the world around us for that moment of all-encompassing inspiration within which everything aligns and we have this grand idea that we can giddily gallop off into the sunset with.

Perhaps the secret to resolving a creative rut is to embrace it. Welcome it with open arms. Write through it; you might realise after penning 'a really shitty piece', that it wasn't actually that bad at all. Write about it in the hope that it will dissolve as you type. (Oh, hullo.) If it's the only thought you've got in your head and it turns into a slightly strange rambly mess, then so be it. It's a rambly mess that people are going to relate to. It's something that makes you write again. Something that puts things into perspective and makes you feel a little bit silly. Something that you'll totally ignore next time. But still, it's something.

And if you can't write through it or write about it, don't write anything at all. Just wait, patiently. Be a bit frustrated if you will, but know that the magic (which may or may not be actual magic), will come back to you, I promise. For as long as you're out in the real world, and you're seeing and thinking and feeling and loving and doing, how could it not?

Monday, 2 February 2015

12 signs that your party life is over

You only go out when there's a birthday or a special occasion. Not just because it's Friday. Or Saturday. Or Monday. Or Wednesday. Or even Thursday, because, you know...'YOLO BABES!' When you think about it, you can't even remember the last time you were out past 1am, except perhaps for that time you enjoyed an excursion to Tesco to stock up on onions and razors.

You wonder, seriously, how you ever pulled an all nighter. You used to stagger out of the club as the sun was rising. Sometimes, you'd even head straight into work and survive an entire day's shift afterwards. Whaaaat? You can barely get through a sober weekday evening without feeling an overwhelming need to nap. And long gone are the days when alcohol would invigorate you...Oh no. It now leaves you curled up in a ball of crippling weariness come 9pm.

You're insecure about your dance moves. You once possessed dazzling confidence that you looked like Beyonce as you shook your booooootaaay and threw serious shapes in the middle of the dancefloor. These days, you just know that you looked a choreographic cataclysm with your flailing arms and your awkward thrusts and your expression of subtle grimace as you tried to join 'shorty' and get 'low, low, low.' You have made yourself a promise that you shall never again recreate this horror. Instead, should you find yourself confronted with a dancefloor, you shall bop awkwardly on the outskirts and pray that nobody notices you.

You actually enjoy the alcohol you do drink these days. Drinking blue alcohol that tasted of bleach and disappointment once seemed a fair trade for getting 'f*cking mashed!' (Who ever brought potato into this?) Nowadays, there's an air of sophistication to your beverage choices. You drink wiiiine, darling. And gin. And whisky. And you enjoy it. You savour the taste. Somehow, without you noticing the transition, your approach to alcohol is in line with that of your parents. Oh, sweet adulthood.

You no longer suffer from 'FOMO'. Your fear of missing out meant that you just had to go out and party at every available opportunity. What if something 'AHHH-may-zin' happened and you weren't there? You were certain that staying in meant that OMG EVERYBODY IN THE WHOLE WORLD FFS was having more fun than you. You're now well aware that the only thing you're missing out on is a beer stained dress, your best friend spilling theatrical tears in the bathroom, and a hangover that will leave you bed-ridden, illiterate, sweaty, and nauseous. Cool. Sounds fun. Reeeeally bloody fun.

Halloween isn't the biggest event of your calendar anymore. Once upon a time, Halloween was THE biggest night of your year. 'It's the one night when you can dress up as a slut and get away with it!' Seriously. You actually used to say that shit. Do you know what's nicer? Not dressing up as a slut. Being seen in public wearing clothes that actually cover your vagina.

Your Facebook profile isn't being constantly updated with tagged photos. You swinging around a lamp post with laddered tights. You pouting in a toilet mirror sporting wonky fake eyelashes and smudged lipstick. You with limp, frazzled hair extensions. Oh...And you again, crying into a portion of cheesy chips. Yup. It's been a while since you've been shamed on social media. Nowadays, you only get tagged in photos of the family cat and your friends' babies.

You have PVP whenever you wear a short dress. PVP is Peeping Vagina Paranoia, by the way. It is a thing. You're not alone in your suffering; I feel you. If your dress hemline sits anywhere above your knee, you will spend your whole evening fretting about accidentally revealing your genitalia to the unsuspecting public. 'Oh my gosh, it's just soooooo short. Why didn't I wear trousers? Seriously, I look like such a tart. If I bend over, the back of my thigh is going to be TOTALLY out. My bum, my bum! Sob. Why didn't these thoughts haunt me on Halloween in 2008?' 

You actually get stuff done at the weekend. A weekend is made up of TWO WHOLE DAYS. Two whole days filled with opportunity! Two whole days not filled with trying to apply those bloody false eyelashes, being dry-humped by the local BANTAAAAAsaurus Rex, and weeping over the state of your life.

You've succumbed to the fact that you can't walk in heels. 'Arrrg, I just LOVE them, look how SPARKLY they are!' is no longer a valid excuse for stumbling around town like a three-legged goat and injuring yourself. If it isn't comfortable, it isn't happening. Orthopaedic flip flips all the way.

You get giggly and a little wreckless after 2 drinks. Isn't everything just so bloody hilarious after 200ml of wine? You have no idea what you're laughing at, but HAHAHA. 'I'm crying, I'm crying...I can't breaaaathe, my stomach hurts!' On your bi-annual night out, you can be the merriest member of the bunch for no more than £4.25, and it is FANTASTIC. You might even do a little cartwheel across the lounge before you slip contently into bed. You won't drunk-text your ex though, because you've absolutely got your shit together.   

'Jason Deruuuuuuuuuuuuuulo'. Who?

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Dear 80 year old me...

Get your glasses. (They're on your head, you silly old dear.) It's you. 23 year old you. Hullo. How many antique books do you have now? Did you ever get a white Bichon Frise and call it Margaret? Can you still cartwheel?

I imagine that sometimes you look in the mirror with a mournful sigh and say 'when did I get so bloody old?' I imagine you yearn for your youth: for the buoyancy of your breasts, for the blissful, staggering naivety which had you believe you could do absolutely anything, for the way in which the whole world felt bursting with opportunity and the years ahead felt like a blank canvas waiting to be splattered with the remarkable, for the fifty years you had stretched out before you. Let me tell you something Kathy B; those wrinkles on your face are a greater blessing than you will probably ever appreciate. You are old because you have lived, you've fucking lived (HURRAH!), and to have lived and to have been given the opportunity to love and laugh and think and feel for so long...Well, that is the greatest luxury of all. Embrace your twilight years. Never doubt how lucky you are to still have air in your lungs.

If you have Grandchildren...Woah. I never thought that was going to happen. You really have surprised yourself there. Treasure them with your entirety. Look upon them and smirk at me, me, the you of 2015, who is a) slightly lacking in maternal prowess...(by slightly, I mean significantly), and b) fiercely adamant that children are 'just not an aspiration of mine'. Laugh at how very wrong you were. Be the Grandma to them that your Grandma was to you. Build them forts. Let them stay up late eating crackers. Pretend that their hideous rendition of that hideous song that you totally hate is the most beautiful thing you have ever heard.

Wear elasticated pants. Elasticated pants are good for the soul. And for big bottoms. I'm really looking forward to the elasticated pants.

No one ever flourishes from dwelling on the things they could have been or should have been or might have been. Accept that mistakes are an integral part of the human experience. If you can put them right, and you want to put them right, then go ahead, put them right. But otherwise, just suck it up. Do your best with whatever it may be. Whenever you're feeling glum, anaesthetise yourself with a bloody good book and some marmite toast. I feel as if these two things will have always served you well and will continue to serve you well until the very end.

Be affectionate. Youth don't have a monopoly on that stuff, you know. I think your heart is best worn on your sleeve. It always has been. Cuddle people. Tell people how wonderful they are. Never be bitter that you are old and others are not; choose kindness, use your experiences and your wisdom to do good. And did I say cuddle people? Cuddle people with boundless enthusiasm. CUDDLING IS BRILL. OKAY?

Always end the day with a jaunt under the night sky. I'm confident that the mad scattering of stars and darkness above you will be as beautiful to you now as it was to you at 23.

I really hope you've achieved all of the things that you so desperately want to achieve as I write this. Please keep writing. It will stop you from going insane, if you haven't already. And one day, somebody just like you might stumble across your written memoirs or your blog and think 'WOW, this is an insight into life 100 years before I was born! Whaaaat? Unicorns were real? A hearty Macarena was the best way to start the day? Calf hair grew 3FT LONG?' Creativity will always mean something to someone, and most importantly, it will always mean something to you, at least I think it will. I can't imagine a version of you who doesn't have a pen on standby. So just write. Write until your fingers are crooked and cracked and bleeding. Write until you have achieved a lifelong page of pensive scrawls. Please very much.

If you still haven't visited the sea of stars, and you're still fit enough to go and visit them... GO. GO. GO! And if you still haven't finished that bloody book that you started 60 years ago... Erm, let's just accept that it's probably not going to happen. Albert Carter was a terrific man inside that head of yours. At least you got to enjoy him, even if the rest of the world didn't.

I hope that you've collected fond memories and embarrassed yourself in public far more than any human should. I hope you've experienced wonderful things and wonderful places and wonderful people and love, world-changing love, the kind that blew your mind and made you feel infinite.

I hope you've treated yourself to a fabulous armchair, a really fabulous armchair. 

Never stop cracking shit jokes or bursting into spontaneous song. Both pursuits filled your day-to-day youth with joy. Don't waste too much time watching TV. Eat broccoli and move those limbs now and again. Your health is your wealth.

Most of all, remember that your life isn't over until it's over. There's still time to rediscover your perfect cartwheel.

Yours (somewhere in that head of yours...A very long time ago),

23 year old you x

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Things I learnt in Rome

Just before Christmas, I went on a pocket-rocket journey of spirited discovery with Ashley, one of my oldest, dearest chums. (Hello Ashley. Remember when you got told off for splashing the sandpit water in reception class. And then you cried. Loads. Haha. Love you too.)

We panicked about the possibility of five days without marmite, got stuck on a train to Gatwick with a man who was fierce in telling us, pre 8am, that we had shamed Jesus and were both in possession of a one way ticket to hell (thank you very much, kind stranger), discussed my excessive spinach consumption whilst trying to settle pre-flight nerves at Gatwick, and then we got on a plane to Italy.

It was like a school trip on steroids. Here are some things that I learnt in Rome.

If he gives you roses, it's not because he thinks you're a pretty English girl. En route back to our apartment one evening, we stopped off at the Spanish steps and climbed to the top. It wasn't necessarily the most moving or inspiring part of the trip, but when six red roses were thrust upon us by a wandering gent ('oooooohhh ladeeeeeeez, you so pritteh, pritteh English girl'), I thought 'oh, how lovely, this was worth almost suffocating on the Metro for.' Five minutes later, myself and the not-so-much-of-a-gent were practically conjoined as he badgered me for Euros and ran his grubby hands along my sleeves. One minute later, the red roses were cruelly stripped from my palm. Romeance is well and truly dead. (At prime tourist spots anyway.)

The Colosseum was built in 8 years, which is the best kind of bonkers. When we pulled up outside Rome's most iconic architectural attraction, it stripped the air from my lungs for a moment. Not many things can be crumbling, mournful, and vulnerable, but austere and imposing and fabulous all at once. I cannot comprehend that human beings created something so magnificent in less than a decade. It would have been beautiful. It is beautiful; far too beautiful to have played host to such inhumanity.

Culinary orgasms are an actual thing. Towards the end of our trip, we took a pilgrimage to ice cream parlour 'Il Gelato di San Crispino'. Elizabeth Gilbert raves about it in 'Eat, Pray, Love', and as a huge fan of the book, and a dedicated trustee of her literary wisdom, there was no way I was going to visit Rome without living this part of her adventure myself. I love my ice cream. I'm genuinely thrilled with a Mr Whippy or a few spoonfuls of Carte D'or (I'm a cheap date, I know)....But this ice creamIt was something else. I have peaked on frozen treats. It was the BEST THING I HAVE EVER TASTED IN MY ENTIRE LIFE...SOMEBODY BRING IT TO ENGLAND AND FEED IT TO ME, PLEASE.

Italian bus drivers are mental. It wasn't just 'Eat, Pray, Love' that came to life in Rome. Oh no. We lived a scene from 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' too. 'Take it away Ernie...It's going to be a bummmmpy ride!' I feared for my life on multiple occasions. 

"Pantheon has the word 'pant' in it." Some people travel to beautiful cities and have defining moments of creative or intellectual genius. Others travel to beautiful cities and say weird things just before they fall asleep. Unfortunately, I am the latter. I remember the moment these words transpired. I was passionate. I was enthusiastic. I was certain that I was saying something truly profound, something that might just change the world and everybody in it. Newsflash: it didn't. But you're welcome anyway.  Pantomime has the word pant in it too.

I am not a banana, but apparently I look like one. Fortunately, I'm not the only one in this world with bizarre sleeping habits. One night, I woke up to a kneeling Ashley running her fingers across my cheek, her wandering hand flopping onto my breast as I startled her with a weird, 'what-are-you-doing?' grunt. We both collapsed back into static slumber immediately, but a debrief over breakfast soon confirmed that she was dreaming about a giant banana. She was trying to peel me. It was one of the creepiest and greatest realisations of our lives.

If you want to have your mind blown, you need to go to Vatican City. Vatican City, to me, feels like the kind of place where a placid unicorn could glide gently through the Italian sky and you'd just smile and say 'oh hello, good day to you', without so much of a flicker of realisation that you are alive in the real world and have just encountered a placid unicorn. It felt as if we were wandering through an extravagant dream. After touring the Vatican museums (think nude statues, an array of magnificent ceilings, and a bloody massive bath tub), we climbed 551 'my-calves-have-DIED-and-I-feel-like-this-wall-is-caving-in-on-us-oh-wait-it-actually-is' stairs to the top of St Peter's Basilica dome. There have been few 'fuck, it is so good to be alive' moments greater than standing up there. Never has the exchange of pulled muscles and the acute risk of a panic attack been so satisfying.

Selfie stick sellers are the most irritating humans to ever walk the planet. I have my very own selfie stick. It is attached to me. It is called MY ARM. Oh look... I have another one. It is not attached to me. It is called MY FRIEND. Take your selfie stick and waft it in a different direction. Stop trying to behead me with it. Please very much. Thank you.

The whole city is a museum. Basically, Rome in its entirety is thoroughly beautiful; absolutely fucking beautiful. You know when you wake up from a hideous nightmare just before the crazed monster is about to swallow your flailing legs? You know when you have that sudden, terrifying, spectacular realisation that you are completely  in love with another human being? You know when it's Sunday morning, and you're in bed, and a day filled with perfect nothingness stretches out before you? It's as if all of these wonderful feelings have manifested themselves in the sprawling grandeur of the city: in the curvature of every building, in the rickety, cobbled streets, across every breath-taking horizon. You get the sense that it all means something too. Quiet history seeps through its architectural veins: a city so monumental, yet somehow so modest. Elizabeth Gilbert penned a sentence about her desire to be Rome when she's an old lady. I totally feel her.

'Uscita.' It means 'exit'. And it is the only Italian word that I can utter with total confidence. USCITA! It feels so good to be so bilingual.

Rome, I love you.

Sunday, 11 January 2015


Once upon a time, I stood, dizzy with wine, opposite a guy I was dating. I was drunk, and happy, completely consumed by the sparkliest state of giddy euphoria. I went to kiss him goodbye, and with a playful smirk on his lips, he asked me back to his. I politely declined his offer. He slapped me across the face, really bloody hard. But apparently I 'deserved' it. 'You not taking my dick hurts a lot more.'

Then there was Adam, who I met in a bar one night. We got as far as the promise of a trip to see Les Mis at the theatre before he pissed in an alleyway and threw up on my shoes. There was Stuart, who left me a voicemail saying 'you're quite fit you know...I thiiiiink I could see you again', James, who was playing genital tennis with his ex-girlfriend for the duration of our relationship, Fraser, who would win triple gold at the Ludicrous Lie Olympics, and Ryan...Where-art-thou-Ryan?, who spent three glorious months inside my soul, confessed his undying love for me, aaaand then disappeared off of the face of the earth. That same day. Oh. Okay. SEE YOU. (I bumped into him two years later. He was dry humping a 16 year old in a bus shelter. I think I had a lucky escape.)

This isn't a sob story, neither is it an enthusiastic 'I HATE MEN', 'OH-EM-GEE, ALL MEN ARE BASTARDIOS' moment. Whilst I may have passionately championed sexism in the playground as I linked arms with all of my sistaaaaahz in my Clarks buckled shoes, performing an enthusiastic chorus of all-join-in, the-boys-are-in-the-bin!, I now totally get that if you're a shit human, you're a shit human; it isn't gender exclusive. Of course I know many wonderful men. And I've dated wonderful men. I've also loved being single in-between. But like everybody else in this world, I've been fucked over when it comes to matters of the heart. I've been treated in the kind of way that leaves the world stripped of colour: the kind of world in which you have a snotty, cacophonous sobbing session to Adele, demolish all of the wine in your fridge, and reassure yourself twenty times over with that dramatic, ill-informed declaration: 'I AM NEVER GETTING CLOSE TO ANYONE AGAIN'.

And then there was him. Him. 

He has this look. It's a look that I know is reserved just for me. Sometimes, his eyes trap mine with such fervent favour that the existence of everything else in this world is paralysed. I can barely string a sentence together when it happens. John Keats would probably pen a poem about it.

The written word serves me so well that occasionally (and by occasionally, I mean mostly), intelligible speech fails me; he gets that. But he'll always listen. He'll always try to make sense of it, even if he feels like he's having a conversation with his drunk Aunt or a brick wall. And he's incredibly patient with how useless I am at expressing emotion. Seriously, I am horrendous. It took me at least three months to pay him a compliment and communicate this in a way that didn't sound like I was a) lying, b) creepin' on him/plotting his murder, or c) mocking him.

He exercises his manners. He does all of the lovely, gentlemanly stuff that the world doesn't see enough of these days. He's a cuddler. He's a doer. He's a sayer. He's an 'I'm-going-to-tell-you-you-look-beautiful-even-though-you-look-like-you-slept-in-a-hedge-er'. He's a one-day-I'll-be-dead-er-so-I'm-going-to-kiss-you-now-er. He's so many wonderful things.

We've shared stories and ideas and our own philosophies and silly little jokes. We've gotten merry on overpriced wine and enjoyed weekend adventures in beautiful places. We've laid, legs tangled, from dusk until dawn. Sometimes, I've fought to stay awake against his body because I've not wanted to lose the marvel of that moment to the unconsciousness of sleep.

The moral of this story?

There are bloody good people in this world: kind, honest, brilliant people who will take your heart and look after it, people who would never dream of slapping you for not taking 'the big D', people who understand that dry-humping in bus shelters is not a desirable past-time.

There are people who will make the fuckers of before and those memories of wiping liquid chips off of your shoes feel like memories that belong to somebody else.

To Him: Thank you.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

'New Year, New.... No!'

(*Image sourced from  & credited to Flickr user Nanagyei*)

And so here we are. 2015, good day to you. A brand-spanking new, shiny, sparkly, untouched year expands before us, an unused calendar our new chapter, a canvas of opportunity and self-reinvention...

Last night, we clinked our glasses and slurred a customary 'neeeeeeew yaaaaar, new meeeeeee!'. This will be IT. This will be OUR year: the year that we shall effortlessly glide into that dress that will make our ass look so delicious it could be put on a platter and served up at The Ritz, the year that we will run marathons, concoct culinary masterpieces, enjoy the mechanical grind of celery crunching, double our salary, be a total ray of sunshine to everybody at all times, blog every single week, fuck shit up and change the entire world, discover untouched reserves of discipline and willpower, and absolutely not sleep with that annoyingly gorgeous guy to whom we only exist when he's drunk at 3am.

As humans, we often evolve into creatures of habit: developing routines, becoming complacent,  becoming too demotivated or too apprehensive to say 'fuck this, I'm going to do this or learn that, or stop cracking terrible jokes that send my colleagues into pre-10am despair.' (Sorry Liz.) New Year seems to snap us out of that. Temporarily, we become over-excited, incurable optimists, and the dawning of this expansion of untainted time bestows upon us this feeling of great personal empowerment, a sense, if you will, of the direction we should be heading in. This year will be 'THE best year EV-AAAH!Won't it?! Let's wrap our porky legs around our heads and make a million pounds in a week to celebrate!

It's easy to get swept up in the giddy, euphoric merry-go-round of New Year's resolve, particularly after spending a festive fortnight either drinking Prosecco into the early hours, or curled up on the sofa in a onesie demolishing biscuit selection boxes and the whole of Tesco Express's cheese and cracker supply. Post Christmas, our sedated, indulgent lifestyles and distended stomachs leave us feeling a little defeated, slightly self-loathing perhaps. The only way to fix this merry mess is to enthusiastically declare that we will spend 2015 climbing every mountain in Europe, despite the fact that we work full-time and emotionally collapse whenever the escalator's broken at the shopping centre, and we have to ascend up 3 small flights of stairs to the next level of Debenhams.

Yes, New Year may well ignite a spark of positive change, but it also has the ability to send us gleefully galloping into a peculiar world of resolution bonkerism, the kind of world where we completely forget that we hate yoga, and that we're only ever going to dash out of bed at 5am if we're experiencing a sudden, overwhelming urge to urinate or fancy some crisps. By January 4th, the immense pressure that we have placed upon ourselves means that we are a) completely bored of every last one of our grand plans, b) still exactly the same person that we were 5 days previously, and c) desperate to stay home and eat pies.

The answer is simple. Just be realistic. Pen resolutions until the cows come home if you will, but make sure they fit in with your current lifestyle. Make the changes that you'd happily consider without the aphrodisiac of an enthusiastic countdown and today's 'that was SO worth it'  hangover. (Was it though? Really?)

Accept that you are still you. If you're not this hilarious, studious, philanthropic, well-groomed, overtly sporty human that other folk's Instagram photos and Sports Direct sales demand that you ought to be, you're probably still not going to be those things come the end of 2015, not all at once anyway. And you know what, it really doesn't matter.

Just be you, but better. Aim for that every day, through the inevitable highs and lows that 2015 will bring. And if you fall off of the horse, don't lose your shit over it. Just get back on the horse. But eat a pie first.

You're welcome.

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.

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All of these humans