That part of me

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The seventh week. It's insane to think that I've now been living in Manchester, 200-and-something miles from home, for seven weeks already. On two separate ends of the scale, it's gone scarily fast and yet it feels like I've been here forever all at the same time. I can't quite put my finger on what makes me feel so comfortable to live here. I keep telling people that it feels 'just like home' and I guess in a way it really does. Manchester is a city just like London, only more condensed. Like somebody has put a gigantic clamp around the M25 and squeezed it into a perfect M60 shape (motorway analogies because I can, okay). It has all the amenities that London has: a frequent bus network, suburbs and little secrets, restaurants and bars galore, an awesome green ring. It's a non-stop 24-hour locale that beckons all types of the human lifeform.

But there's something more than just how similar it is to the place I grew up in. Something that's less of a physical attraction and more of a mental connection. For the first time in a long time, I feel absolutely at ease here. Calm, tranquil, like I've lived here all my life. It could be a combination of the excitement of being in new surroundings both at home and a work, slightly more enjoyable working hours than I had down south (no more waking up at 4:45am anyway), living just down the road to my boyfriend as oppose to a 4-hour drive. I don't know what it is, all I know is that I'm riding the wave right now and enjoying this new positive feeling about ~life~ and I am not complaining!

Not one to blow my own trumpet or anything, but I'm probably the most positive, enthusiastic person I know. Seriously, almost painfully so. Everything is amazing to me. A walk to the shops or a daytrip to a beauty spot, it doesn't matter, they're basically the same thing in terms of level of excitement. I am a total yes person, perhaps even suffering from a side dose of FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out - that is sometimes detrimental to my wellbeing. I'm only just learning to tone it down a bit and lend myself a bit of 'me time', something that has me itching as soon as I say the N-word (which is no, in case you thought otherwise). It's tough but I'm beginning to get used to it. I'm finding that it helps me focus more on things I really want to achieve day-to-day, week-by-week, in the extended future. And I've been trying to fill my 'me time' with less wasteful activities such as spending 3 hours watching YouTube clips and vlogs (don't judge me, we've all been there). More getting engrossed in Netflix series' and turning page after page in a new book. Orange Is The New Black, It's Not Me It's You and Eleanor & Park which I just started today have kept my little brain buzzing. Even though I am a self-confessed painfully positive person, of course I have worries just like any other 27-year-old in this day and age. I worry about money - don't we all? - not on a daily survival basis or even looking after the important things in life like annual car insurance, but I'm definitely concerned about saving enough for South East Asia in the winter. I'm worried about my place in my job and whether I should start fine-tuning skills to help my CV look more appealing. I'm worried about my horrible headaches. Sometimes I worry just a little bit about my age and that I'm going to run out of time to do all the things that I want to do before I 'settle down'. Most of my worries concern travel and if you know me well enough I guess that won't be surprising in the slightest.

But there are things that I am unshaken by too. Aside from the brief 'omg-I'm-running-out-of-time' quandaries I have about age, I often remind myself that I'm only 27. I'm hardly old and it's just a bloody number. Sometimes when I'm asked, I have to take a moment to think because if I was to reply so quickly I'm sure I'd say 23 - that's the age I honestly feel. I'm unshaken by my body these days; it used to be a big deal to me more recent that I'd like to admit, but now it's a case of love me or leave me. I'm comfortable in my own skin. Yeah I have a belly and wobbly thighs and a uneven skin tone and wide shoulders - I like all of that. I like every single part of me and I'm really trying to look after myself in the best way possible, to help my headaches more than anything. I gave myself a period of grace after moving where I could gorge on chocolate and takeaways whenever I like, just like nesting into a new relationship. Now, I've manned up: giving up the free paninis at work is a tough deal but after filling my lunchtimes with stuff like a homemade blackened cajun chicken salad and baby carrots with lashings of sweet chilli houmous, the blow has certainly been softened. I drink water like it's going out of fashion. I walk everywhere and take a new route wherever I go. Even my mini money worries eventually get the YOLO treatment in my head; you can't take it with you when you die, after all.

Another thing I've been rediscovering my enjoyment in is simply listening to music again. I don't really know why, but I just haven't had the ear for listening to a lot of music for the past couple of years. I've given so many albums a spin in the last few weeks that my rusty account is wondering what all the drama is. I'm really enjoying the new Everything Everything and Mumford & Sons albums, Florence & The Machine and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds as previously mentioned, old favourites like Belle & Sebastian and The Bronx and Jake Bugg always, always, always. It's re-revved up my interest in volunteering at Leeds Festival this year and all the bands that I could have an opportunity at catching.

What is the relevance of all of this? Nothing really; this is just a collective of words that my brain sent to my fingertips to type up for next-to-nobody to witness. But all of this and some recent thoughts have made me realise something quite drastic and of the utmost importance: I'm actually beginning to pinpoint that in the last couple of years I've been more down that I ever realised. The D-word is something that I would never throw around lightly (depressed, by the way) but I would perhaps say that isn't too far from the truth. The thing is, when you're there in the moment and wallowing in it, you can never quite see it for yourself. And as I mentioned before, I am the number one person at putting on that sunny disposition like a well-worn hat. Now I can look back and clearly appreciate, for lack of a better term, that I haven't been myself for a long long time. But that's okay, because everything is going to be so much better. In fact, it's mostly better already.

I'm so excited for the rest of the year. Even the rest of this week and overlapping into next is enough to send me giddy with glee - attending the hen party of my best friend is any little lady's dream, especially when it's with a glorious gaggle of girls in a countryside cottage in deepest Derbyshire! Then, armed with an extra couple of days off and totally seizing the moment I'm extending my drive down south to visit the parents and pop in on a couple of friends. In less than a month I will be holidaying of the Isle Of Mull with my boyfriend and his family and I cannot wait to just be away from everything and immersed in nature and outstanding beauty. August brings the aforementioned Leeds Fest, September hopefully brings a trip to Budapest with some new-found friends and November brings backpacking around South East Asia into the forefront. I'm also full of beans about all the guests I can host, all the walks and hikes that I can do, all the photos that I can snap and all the writing I can do.

To say that I'm turning a page is an insult to understatements. It's more like I'm beginning a brand new chapter, one that has been on the cusp of starting for so long but never quite gaining enough momentum to become true. But it's here and now and ready and I'm holding on tight. Don't give away the end; the one thing that stays mine.

Step away from the stress

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

This will be short and sweet. To cut a long story short, I got so stressed while trying to carve the perfect introduction to this post that I literally had to walk away from my laptop whilst counting to ten - which is basically the most ironic thing in the world, pending post considering. But maybe that in itself serves as the so-called perfect introduction to how something free, simple and available to near-enough everybody can help to eliminate everyday stress. This little thing, lads and lasses, is walking.

Saturday was one of them classic non-starter days for me. To add to already feeling just a teensy bit hormonal - not that that's any justifiable excuse, guys - I was feeling peeved with work and the man in my life, completely worried about saving money for my end of year trip to South East Asia, super tired and a bit bogged down by muggy weather. It culminated in a roaring crescendo involving a rusty bike, a bit of a strop and a lot of tears. I'm talking like so many tears that your face swells dramatically. Yeah, I'm not painting a pretty picture here but honestly, I'm beginning to realise how much stress is affecting my life. So after we'd all calmed down a bit on Saturday evening, I was scooped up and put into my car. Belted up and radio on, we drove about 45 minutes to Dovestone Reservoir which sits on the cusp of several borders: Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and the Peak District National Park. I hadn't heard of this place before let alone ever having been, but I silently followed directions as I let my nerves calm down. We pulled up to the beauty spot's car park at 9:20pm and firstly I was amazed by how light it was outside still. Then, I was completely blown away as we walked up a couple of steps and were met with the most fantastic view that I have come across since moving to the north. Honestly, I'd put this view up there on par with wonders that I wandered to in North America.

It wasn't just the view that we'd come for though. It was a bit of a walk to shake everything off. The thing is, about walking, is that the most simple thing it gives to you is time. Time to let those crazy thoughts dissolve away into nothing, and time to collate an action plan on how you're going to make everything better. Not only that but you're so easily distracted by gorgeous views or little avenues that are just begging to be explored. Once you get going and get that endorphin-loaded boost running through your body, you'll find that you can just keep going and going and going.

Three miles and a whole hour later, we returned to the car park completely refreshed and ready for anything. It was that easy - and it goes without saying that I thoroughly recommend, if you feel down or blue or stressed or wound up, just take yourself out for a walk. It doesn't have to involve getting into a car to find somewhere far away from anything, or somewhere epic, or even that long. It could be around your neighbourhood or to just keep walking until you can't be bothered anymore, then get the bus home. You will not find the answer sat at home wallowing or indebting yourself to trawling on the internet (we've all been there). You still probably won't find any answers while out walking but trust me, you'll feel a whole lot better than if you didn't put on your shoes and just get out there.

Try it soon. Arrange some tunes, drag a friend along or go it alone. Turning miles into smiles; that's my guarantee. Ain't nothing like a little bit of self-therapy.

Little trip to Llandudno

Friday, 12 June 2015

As previously mentioned, this week I took myself off on a little daytrip to the biggest town in North Wales, Llandudno. Or as I came to describe it to my friends and on various forms of social media, my little random loner trip. It's fair to say that I have no problem with doing things alone: I grew up as an only child with a vivid imagination and a strong sense of self-motivation. And I definitely have no shame in public selfies and partaking in activities solo either. Somebody said to me yesterday, "Aw are you all on your own love?" To which I replied, "It's certainly cheaper that way!" Am I right or am I right?

My self-motivation was a bit lacking yesterday as I didn't manage to get out of the house until gone 11am! But luckily, the drive from Manchester was straightforward and completely traffic free! To get to anywhere in North Wales you basically just need to follow the M56 all the way to the end, which almost-but-not-quite connects with the A55 - just follow signs for Conwy or Bangor and all will be just fine. The drive itself only takes about an hour and fifteen minutes and is punctuated with a plethora of gorgeous sights: think glorious hillside castles and churches, flora and fauna galore and sweeping hills. When offset by a big bulging blue sky, then it simply is the roadtrip of dreams. I've driven this route before on the way to climb Mount Snowdown last year (something I still desperately need to post about) but I really enjoyed driving it again. I had a playlist of Slaves, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and Florence & The Machine and the whole thing just *clicked*.

Upon arrival in Llandudno, I thought I was going to have to shell out a small fortune for parking. However, if you tear yourself away from the promenade and the tiny-but-bustling high street (which is not high-streety in the slightest, give for a WH Smith and a Caffe Nero) and follow the signs for long stay parking, you find yourself on Gloddaeth Ave. If you drive past a big gorgeous Wetherspoons called The Palladium then you're on the right track. You'll come across rows and rows of cars parked in the middle of the road (trust me, it'll make sense on sight) and there you have it, free parking. Once you've parked up it's literally a matter of a few minute's walk back to the hustle and the bustle of the bay. But before you give yourself to all things seasidey, why don't you check out the Great Orme?

This is perhaps the reason why I feel so connected with Llandudno on the first date: the Great Orme is spectacularly stunning, gloriously gorgeous and tantalisingly terrific. Awful adjectives and alliterations aside (or maybe not), this is perhaps one of the most beautiful nature reserves on earth that I've had the pleasure of setting foot upon. There's a myriad of ways that you can reach the summit of the Great Orme, and at just over 200m walking up it is certainly not out of the question. But there are some great forms of transport you can take up it, namely the cable car or the tramway. I chose to go up by the tram this time, which takes you very slowly up a selection of high incline streets. You feel like you're on a furnicular for the most part. A quick change of carriages at the halfway point and then you're set for the summit. I was so lucky to have taken myself on this trip on such a gorgeous day: we've been lacking on the weather front so far this year in the UK, but this was definitely legs-out weather. Once at the top you can grab a coffee if you wish, or check out the amazing visitor's information centre which is a mere footstep off of the tram at the top and fills you with wonderful facts and all the history of the site. The area upon the Great Orme is pretty small, just 2 miles by 1 mile, which means ample exploration time with definitely enough left over to amble around, find a little sitting spot and enjoy the gorgeous views.

I chose to give up my return tram ticket to a complete stranger (good deed for the day done and dusted) and follow the signposts that pointed i'r dref - or to town. Remember, when in Wales...! The walk was very delightful, only exacerbated by the sunny day, and the signs and paths were fairly easy to follow. Well, until I went a bit off piste and ended up in a little bit of a scrambling situation which is highly unrecommended if you come wearing Converse. But I finished the walk in high spirits and smiling, and in desperate need of ice cream. Luckily, I'd passed just the place on the walk into town earlier on: The Looking Glass, a cute little Alice In Wonderland-themed ice cream parlour, boasting 24 homemade flavours to boot. These included unique specimens such as Flutternutter, Bubblegum, White Chocolate Cheesecake, Apple Pie and pretty much anything your imagination desired. I went for a nice big tub of tasty Mint Chocolate Chip, which was a clear winner in my eyes. I'll definitely have to go back and put the others to the test though... it's only fair.

Wandering along the promenade, I was dazzled by the sights of the coastline. The architecture and atmosphere of the town make you feel as if you are somewhere on the French Riviera; you know, that very Victorian building style and colour scheme. There wasn't a single eyesore in sight. Boat trips that took you out to the edge of the bay on the regular, a pier that extends out into the sea holding delights such as freshly-fried doughnuts and penny arcades, and a tiny beach full of real sand. It seems that Llandudno has it all. I can see it being a perfect little destination for a quick weekend break away from the monotonies of day to day life, with a plentiful of guesthouses and hotels such as Travelodge all within a stone's throw from the action. And if you don't have a car for the oh-so scenic drive, then it's attended to by Arriva Trains Wales with good connections from Chester and Manchester. It'll still be an eyepleaser of a journey.

So, are you up for a trip to Llandudno now?
Or have you been before & also sharing the love with me right now?

Throw those curtains wide

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Image from

Let's talk about routine. Now, I'm not a creature of habit. In fact, I'm probably somewhat of a nightmare to all who exist around me. I insist that it's not my fault; call it a comeback of over a decade of shift work. This is something that needs to desperately change in my life but that's another story for another day... what I need to talk about is how awful I am at sticking to a routine in my life because of it. You know, the simple adult stuff like waking up at the same time, eating breakfast, keeping moving and generally being proactive about the day ahead.

I don't know what's been wrong with me of recent (I say recent, I mean more like a year) but pretty much every week, on my first day off (or sometimes both, if they're split) I get the most soul-destroying migraine. Definitely not just a headache, as I'm sure no headache makes you cry deliriously and slap yourself over the head to try and alleviate the pain and become best buddies with the bathroom. TMI? IDC. Another bad thing about me is that I'm a massive procrastinator. Tell me to 'check it out and go to the doctor' and I'll put it off for longer than necessary. It's next on my list, alright? Whether it's a bit of caffeine addiction (and subsequent withdrawal) or definitely the discovery of leisure sickness, who knows. Again: another story for another day. This is a big factor in why keeping to routines in my life is pretty much non-existent. I live day to day waking up at different times, going to work for anything between 4 to 12 hours, and my days off are usually spent lying in my pit while I pine for the great outdoors. This is not the life I envisioned for myself!

However this morning was different: I woke up without any head pain. I'm so amazed that I keep pinching myself to be sure I'm not dreaming. It's the first day off in a while where I've woken up with a clear brain and I'm so excited for the day ahead - I'm going to write this post, have quesadillas for breakfast and drive myself to Llandudno for a little daytrip. I've managed to stick to a fairly normal-person-kind-of-routine this morning and it's made me realise that I need to introduce it into my everyday life and not just my days off. This consistency in your life is not boring, instead it promotes a proactive lifestyle whatever the weather.

Here are some tips that I think help to introduce routine into fractured lives...
:: Wake up at the same time every day, or make your best attempt to.
:: (So perhaps reduce those 1pm lay-ins to the days you're crippled after houseparties. We've all been there.)
:: Immediately do something that you associate with 'being up and att'em'. For me, it's brushing my teeth.
:: Exercise. Just get it out the way. A 10 minute pilates video, a 20 minute run. It's no time at all.
:: (And it makes you SO happy, you don't even realise.)
:: Shower and wash your face. I don't wash my hair everyday but that fresh shower feeling is the win.
:: Eat a half-decent breakfast. It doesn't have to be big, even if it's just a cup of tea and a bit of toast.
:: Lay out an outfit for the day. So girlie, I know. But it stops me from living in hareem pants all day.
:: Like the above, make a small effort. Brush your hair and put on some mascara or lippie. Little things!
:: Write down a plan for the day. Sometimes, just having it there in black and white makes me stick to it.
:: Have another cup of tea. Because, tea. Also drink plenty of water! Nothing like kickstarting your day.
:: Throw those curtains wide, make your bed, put on some bangin' tunes and jive jive jive.

What do you do to kickstart your morning routine?
Have you ever heard of or suffered from 'leisure sickess'?