A place to call home

It’s Friday night and my bathroom is the cleanest it’s been in the whole time we’ve lived here.

I cleaned around the taps with a toothbrush for God’s sake. This can mean only one of two things: my mother is visiting, or I’m moving out. This time, it’s the latter.

This will be my 18th move in my 27 years on this planet. I moved around a lot as a kid after my parents split up, and we were shunted from one rented place to another as rents got too high or we found somewhere better. As a kid, I thankfully saw the experience as an adventure. I still remember favourite bits from each of those places; one that came with a really cool den/ playhouse in the garden that was full of lego and loads of musty old toys. My own private solace. I felt like the coolest kid on our estate.

Another with a huge bedroom cupboard I could hide in, with floor to ceiling shelves that I wanted to fill with a tidy regiment of toys. One – not so good – in which had to share a bedroom with my mother, who snores like a Lancaster Bomber and didn’t share my fondness for listening to Spiceworld on repeat.

At 18 I moved away from home – far, far away, in fact. 300 miles from just outside Durham to Bristol. And so continued the annual ritual of packing up, giving things to charity, forcing myself to be ruthless and let go of things I could do without. Finding that loads of my stuff had been ruined by the damp that seems a creeping, silent inevitability for us renters.

I have become a world-class packer. A packing ninja, if you will.  I can fit untold amounts of shit into 15 boxes, storing shit within other shit to make it as small as possible. The other day I squeezed my Vietnamese Lantern inside my foam roller to save space. Yeah, next level Tetris shit. I am also master of packing this shit into very small cars. A Sunday Van Tripper. A footwell fiend. You want shit moving? Call me, fire up the Nissan Micra, and bring me a bottle of prosecco for afters.

Classic Tetris Van, lovingly packed by yours truly.

Classic Tetris Van, lovingly packed by yours truly.

But if I’m honest, these are skills I would happily trade for one thing: a place to call home.

This particular move is a temporary one. We’re in the rip-roaring, poke-yourself-in-the-eyeballs-twice-a-day process of trying to buy our first flat in London, and are very lucky to have the chance to house-sit for the next few months. It means we can save up lots of money we were haemorrhaging on our overpriced, tiny rented flat, and say bye to our neighbours from hell and late night police shenanigans. We can later use this to pay the endlessly hopeless, infuriating team of mavericks who may or may not let us buy a flat at a vastly inflated price.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate just how lucky we are to be able to consider buying a flat, and indeed to have a roof over our heads at all. Working for a large children’s charity, I am acutely aware of the huge number of vulnerable individuals and families who are living on the streets, in hostels, refuges, sofa surfing and otherwise. (If you want to help, look up Shelter, Centrepoint, or St. Mungos – they’re all great).

But that doesn’t stop me pining for stability. For the chance to grow into and with our home. For the option to paint, to make cosy, to put our stamp on a place. To lovingly repair what’s broken, rather than putting up with it because our landlord won’t pay out. For a sense of belonging to a community; an area we know inside out – the best and worst streets, the hidden gems, the best late-night shop, the only pizza worth ordering. The perfect running route, the wintery walk.

Of course, one benefit of moving around so much is that I’ve built up my own, poor-man’s, version of The Knowledge. I can tell you that The Faltering Fullback in Finsbury Park has an outstanding beer garden. And that there’s a good chicken place within stumbling distance. I can tell you about the ridiculous bloody artisan pizza place in the back of our local Spar in Walthamstow village – £6 a pop and not too shabby.

The Nag's Head beer garden. Cracking fairy lights.

The Nag’s Head beer garden. Cracking fairy lights.

Head there after The Nag’s Head via the cavernous shop / yard selling antiques between Hoe Street and the William Morris Gallery. I can also tell you never to bother with Chooks in Muswell Hill; life is too short to pay good money for crap chicken.

Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to the day when we get the keys to somewhere we (and our boxes of shit) can call home.

Providing I don’t get locked up for killing my estate agent in the meantime, of course…

It’s okay not to be okay.

Its okay not to be okay

This morning I found myself sobbing on my yoga mat in extended child’s pose. Quite childlike, I suppose… an extended toddler’s pose, if you will.

My brain is in the trenches of an internal war of attrition between the negative and the positive. Between the side of me that sees the glass half full, grabs life by the balls and laughs loudly, versus my tendency towards cynicism, sarcasm and anxiety.

I find myself analysing and counter-analysing my feelings constantly. Why can’t I just be happy all the time? Always take the positive stance? How come I’m not leaping out of bed and rushing out the door to go and be awesome every day? To be the best I can be?

I count myself as a striver. A do-er. An achiever. You want something sorting out? Talk to me, I’m already on it.

Does that mean that when I am not striving and thriving – when I don’t want to get out of bed, or am struggling to shake off worries – I am failing? Absofuckinglutely not. So why does it feel like I am?

Because positive is The New Thing.

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A rare 'treat' - £5 juice from Planet Organic

My Whole30 review: the good, the bad and the ugly

Whole 30 title

720 hours. 43,200 minutes. 2,592,000 seconds. A lot can happen in 30 days. If you’re on Whole30, mainly A LOT OF COOKING.

It’s 30 days since my boyfriend James and I started the challenge. I know a few of my friends have read with interest our voyage into this unfamiliar and slightly strange territory, so I thought I’d share an update on our progress.

To re-cap, Whole30 is a restrictive version of the Paleo way of eating. Whole30 is about eating real, unprocessed foods and high quality meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats such as olives, nuts and seeds. That means no grains, no dairy, no sugar (yes, that includes booze and more natural sugars like maple syrup and honey) no legumes (that’s peanuts, chick peas / beans / lentils etc to you and me) and no preservatives like MSG or sulphites (surprisingly ubiquitous in so many foods).

You’re not allowed to re-create ‘healthy’ versions of treats that fit within the guidelines, such as pancakes or cookies. They are ‘treat’ foods and contribute to an unhealthy attitude towards food as a reward.

It’s about re-setting your body, boosting energy, pinpointing foods that don’t agree with you and re-connecting with food.

It’s a strict regime; the slightest slip and you’ve failed

one bite of pizza, one splash of milk in your coffee, one lick of the spoon mixing the batter within the 30 day period and you’ve broken the “reset” button, requiring you to start over again on Day 1….Don’t even consider the possibility of a “slip.” Unless you physically tripped and your face landed in a box of doughnuts, there is no “slip.” You make a choice to eat something unhealthy. It is always a choice, so do not phrase it as if you had an accident.

PHEW. Ok. So, how did we get on?

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Empower

Fire up, cheerlead and champion the women in your life – and yourself!

Empower

What if every girl in the world had access to education? What if women could walk home alone at night without fear of being attacked? What if those who hold political power reflected the demographic of the people they represent? What if 50% of leadership roles went to women? What if childcare was affordable and accessible? What if the media stopped using women’s self-image as a weapon to make us feel guilty and inadequate? What if we stopped enforcing gender stereotypes  and started telling women and girls that they could be whatever they damn well like?

Can you imagine a world like that? Wouldn’t it be incredible?

It’s International Women’s Day; a day to celebrate women. To champion, empower, and advocate for equality. To raise our voices in praise of how far we’ve come, but,crucially, to look ahead and take action to create the change that needs to happen to bring true equality.

Getting fired up

I spent this afternoon surrounded by inspiring women at a workshop run by my local MP and all-round eMPowering woman, Stella Creasy. They take the name of Circular Firing Up Squads – don’t let that put you off – these are workshops designed to bring women together to get fired up, cheered on and – most importantly – to go and take action. To put ourselves forward, speak up, make ourselves heard and take opportunities. To encourage more women to step into leadership roles and create change – one woman at a time.

And here’s what I came away with.

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Crunchy nut cottage pie2

Crunchy nut cottage pie – a delicious Whole30 paleo recipe

I’m on day four of the Whole30 Challenge and I’m feeling cautiously fabulous. By now, according to the challenge timeline, I should want to ‘kill all the things’. But – aside from totally normal fleeting moments of disdain or fury (people who stop at the top of tube escalators, people who say 100 words when they could see 15, that sort of thing), I’ve felt pretty fucking great.

J and I have both noticed we’ve not had our usual peaks and troughs of energy – no 3 o’clock slumps where I’d normally hunt down a biscuit or two with a cup of tea to keep me going. I’ve had a pretty full-on week and have really felt I had the energy to power through it.

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whole 30 start

No half measures; starting the Whole30 challenge

whole 30 start

Those who know me well will know that I’ve not always been ‘into’ food and cooking. My food journey as a kid was mainly from freezer to plate in the company of that jolly old sailor, Captain Birds Eye.

SCENE FROM TELEVISION ADVERT FOR 'BIRDSEYE' SHOWS CAPTAIN BIRDSEYE

Like a lot of kids I knew, walks home from school were punctuated with trips to the local shop to pick up some sweets – as many as you could buy with 50 pence. I didn’t eat a pepper until I was about 18 and my university cooking repertoire consisted of pasta, chilli and curry (from a jar) on loop. And kebabs, obviously. And cider. And….you get the point.

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NTC Finsbury Park edit

Review: my month with Nike Training Club

If you read my first post of the year, you’ll know that one of my goals was to work out with Nike Training Club twice a week.

Apart from the privilege of paying triple the rent of my hometown and five quid for a pint, one of the nice things about living in London is access to exciting free stuff like Nike Training Clubs. Over the last month, I’ve tried out classes at the Stratford Nike Store (queue burpees in front of bemused strangers on the shop floor) and Finsbury Park (queue running through clouds of marijuana smoke and heckles from horny homeless guys).

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