Well, hello there. (These days I feel the need to say 'hello' when I start a blog post, considering I now have accumulated a gorgeous and rather large bunch of readers...is that normal, or...?) It's time for a life update. Got my laptop, got coffee, got some tunes playing, got my best pal...let's go.
I've recently been finding a fair bit of time on my hands – could be because I've recently finished radiotherapy and so have moved back home and re-settled; could also be because I don't return to work until January...so the run up to Christmas is looking very lovely and free. It's also frustrating at times, having whole days with no purpose. I'll often tag along with my mum as she runs errands in town, arrange coffee dates with friends on their days off, or if I'm feeling extra-lame and desperate I'll jump in the car whenever a parent is going to pick up my sister from college. I also visit my colleagues from time to time, because yeah I miss them and my place of work oh so terribly. I really do.
So yes, I've had a lot of free time. Also up until the other day when my bank account well and truly dried out and gave up, I had a little money to spend. So since I have all this time, I've been trying new things...
I've always been a coffee nut. As in, I obsess over finding the perfect brew, and of course the perfect company to share it with. Arranging coffee dates with friends has become such a joy for me – taking selfies with these friends, coffee cups in hand, then sharing the joy on social media has been fun, too. I could create my own portable talk show, roaming from cafe to cafe and bringing in a different special guest every other day.
However, I do love a good cuppa at home from time to time. My family always have a bag of ground espresso in the cupboard ready to be scooped into the cafetière and awakened with boiling water at a moment's notice. Our house blend is Sainsbury's own Fairtrade Italian – unexpectedly awesome and totally underrated. Such a steal.
I do like to branch out, however. When I stayed at a friends' pad in Greenwich recently, I made use of the Waitrose across the road – the friends got two bottles of wine plus a fresh bag of espresso as I saw their supplies were dangerously low, and I also got myself some Waitrose own Italian, strength 5. That was a treat.
Then a few days after coming home from my mad London expedition, I found myself finally ordering Pact Coffee! I'd been meaning to for ages. I got their Bibli Plantation Indian blend, and it was rather stunning. Little shout out here – Thank you for the code and your totally rad friendship, Scott! (He donated enough to my Just Giving page for me to meet my target of £2,000 for the Little Princess Trust, and I will love him forever for that).
I've since had to rearrange the deliveries and make them less frequent as, y'know, I'm poor...but I'm so glad I finally took the plunge there!
Next up, Lush.
I'm a Lush fangirl. Lush is my dream land. I cannot be stopped when I cross the threshold of a Lush store. The smells, the sights, the staff...all magical. I did tweet recently 'imagine if a Lush store flooded'. Seriously, imagine it though. Whoa.
I am a die hard fan of their skincare products, e.g. Grease Lightning face tonic, Ro's Argan body conditioner, Dream Cream moisturiser, and my recent miraculous discovery Cup O'Coffee face & body mask...I even recently dipped into the Kalamazoo beard & facial wash I bought my dad last year when he started Movember. My goodness, it makes my skin sing!
I also adore a nice bath bomb, of course. I must admit I've fallen out of love with baths over the past year after having to have them every day after my operations as I couldn't stand in the shower (and having to be washed by my mum, bless her, very upsetting for me), but someday the right bath bomb will bring me right back.
So imagine my excitement when my gorgeous gal pal Lex and her rad team in Lush Southampton introduced me to Daddy-O – the perfect purple toning shampoo! I generally suit cool tones and colours, and my hair is naturally ashy, so I really like keeping it cool but my gosh it's so tough sometimes – warmth always sneaks in somehow! I've even used the super pricey Aveda Blue Malva shampoo & conditioner, which does a fair bit of cooling here and there but nowhere near as much as Lush's magical potion does! I am converted and it feels so good.
And now of course – what have I been trying that's new in the world of BOOKS?! Well, wouldn't you like to know...oh, you would? Cool.
Well obviously I've been buying up tons of books for my friends and family this Christmas (I'll be sure to write a post about who got what AND what amazing reads I discovered through Christmas shopping after the 25th!) and when my poor bank account first began to whimper I decided to take to the charity shops and see if I could sniff out some book bargains...
I always have a lot of luck in Oxfam – partly because they have whole stores dedicated to books, partly because they are awesome people. Cancer Research, British Heart Foundation and Mind also always have charming shops. I have frequented all manner of charity outlets in Winchester, Tunbridge Wells, Sutton and most recently...Bexhill.
My perfect friend Clare and I tore up the streets of Bexhill not too long ago, on a mission to score some sweet sweet literature for low low prices, and by golly we found some gems. I was able to purchase books I'd meant to read for ages but hadn't quite worked up the nerve to buy! I even came across two of my all-time favourites (The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger & Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig) and thought 'I already have copies of these, but...I love them so much...I can give these to my friends!'
(My pile is on the left, and cost a grand total of £4.50!)
(Clare's is the right, and cost her even less I believe...?!)
Oh, I also ended up getting a tattoo that day. I'd been meaning to get this particular one for ages – a semi-colon, my favourite piece of punctuation as it happens and one I use constantly when writing blog posts, creative assignments and fiction pieces, but more importantly a symbol in terms of mental health. There's a saying that you are a writer, your life is the story, and a semi-colon indicates when you could have ended things but instead chose to carry on. I so adore that.
After hearing from Clare that she'd got her semi-colon at this cool place Inkscape in Bexhill and they only charged £15, then donated all of that money to a mental health centre a few doors down from them, well it was a no-brainer...
I was actually having a slight cloudy moment when it occurred to me to do it – the feelings I was having are nowhere near as bad as ones some people experience, but they are bad enough to shake me up and make me so grateful for all the help available for mental health issues these days...it also makes me wish there was more! There can always be more.
Also I kinda love that I got this tattoo on the side of my head that bears all the war wounds – in this photo you can see the slightest hint of my operation scar, and just behind it is where the biggest post-radio bald patch features. Represent!
I've been taking myself on a lot of walks lately. Partly for exercise, and for fresh air. Mostly for something to do, by myself. I've heard walking is good for you not just because it exerts your legs and butt, but also because it gives your brain a good workout. Now, my brain can really do with any help it can get these days, and walking has done it a lot of good. Something in the fresh air and purposeful striding really wakes it up and pats it on the back. Sometimes I even go walking without my iPod – mum will say 'you're alone with your thought!' – and I find that oddly relaxing and rewarding.
I've also gone back to my counsellor over the past couple of weeks, and I've been getting the train and then walking the rest of the way there. I find that getting a lift (as I'm not driving) and actually driving (back when I could) is a little damaging to the mind right after a counselling session; getting back behind the wheel demands you focus on this important thing (watching the roads, steering, changing gears and getting home safely) and not on what's been said and done beforehand. Whereas walking out and down the road into town afterwards has been so liberating. My mind can rest but also reflect on the session. Also I get to walk through Alexandra Park, in Hastings. That's always beautiful, and always makes my day.
So yes, I've tried a few new things recently. I've also brought back some old things with a new attitude. I can only hope that things are as chilled, calm and lovely when I return to work in the new year... *gulps*