Tag Archives: love

SMILE: Happy International Happiness Day!

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At Glade Festival in 2012

“Happiness may have different meanings for different people. But we can all agree that it means working to end conflict, poverty and other unfortunate conditions in which so many of our fellow human beings live.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Read here about International Happiness Day and why the United Nations created this day to reclaim happiness.

I think it is so important to be aware of our happiness, particularly with so many distractions all around us. Many of us are working more than one job to make ends meet, are dealing with ridiculous workloads, have the stresses of parenthood or various other issues to deal with. Add things like iPhones into the mix and the constant distractions of those email or text bleeps are stopping us from both feeling and recognising our everyday happiness. I know so many people, myself included who are so caught up in their workload and stresses of their lives that they forget to take a step back and appreciate things. This is one reason I was so glad to have a break from everything last week and head off to London for some fun and to forget about work and everything else for a couple of days. It was so refreshing and I even turned my phone on silent for once!

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Pushing my giant snowball

I hate that the UN feel they have to mark a day out as one to feel especially happy for, but it is so necessary when everyone is so busy. We live in a world where we do have to schedule in happiness and downtime. But if that is the case, then let’s make this day count. I’m making it my business to make my happiness spread to as many other people as possible, whether friends and family, other bloggers, Twitter followers or Facebook friends. I’m going to take a step back from all the chaos the day brings and remember to appreciate the little things and to share them with others, along with a smile. Why don’t you do the same? Make it your business to share a smile today – once you have made yourself happy, pass it on and watch the smiles spread.

What has made you happy today? What have you done to spread this smile and make the world a happier place?

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Loving life in London town and celebrating in the sunshine

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The view across the London Eye and Houses of Parliament in the sunshine

I still haven’t quite managed to get back to reality after last week’s mid-week break to London – I just keep wishing I was back strolling along the South Bank drinking wine in the sunshine! Me and the boyfriend had the trip planned after he bought me tickets to see Ella Eyre at XOYO for Christmas – both very excited after seeing her perform the other year on tour with Rudimental. Unfortunately a change in the date of the gig meant the tickets had the wrong date on and we ended up missing the gig – so no Christmas present but we more than made up for it with an epic couple of days.

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Sunshine and smiles on the bridge

When we arrived in London we decided to ignore our previous plans to head to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaur exhibit and to the British Museum for the exhibitions on Egyptians and Vikings – it was just far too sunny to be inside looking at history. Instead we headed straight to Embankment with plans of grabbing some lunch and sitting out in the sunshine. As we walked out of the station and towards the bridge, we came across a food festival.

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Mark with his lucky heather

 

We could resist heading into the gardens were there were various stalls selling jerk chicken, pasta dishes, African cuisine and even fish dogs (fish finger hot dogs!). We plumped for a lobster bite, which was absolutely delicious, followed by black truffle mushroom risotto balls stuffed with Italian cheese and with a tasty ragu – incredible! We were glad for these later on when we ended up not getting the chance to eat again until late! While we ate, we sat in these beautiful gardens with a great view of the London Eye.

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Afterwards we walked across the bridge to South Bank and strolled along in the sunshine watching the street theatre and listening to live music. I loved the steel drums, while Mark was the perfect target for anyone selling anything from ‘lucky’ heather to bibles!

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The bendiest rasta men I have ever seen!

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Mark with his lucky heather

We must have walked miles, stopping now and then to sit in bars drinking wine in the sunshine and trying to remember where we were going. As we were walking, we found some leaflets for a gig that night in Camden Market where a ska orchestra would be playing at Dingwalls. We figured this was a perfect replacement for Ella Eyre and decided to head there instead of to Soho to watch a jazz band. After a quick stop at the Restup Hostel (genuinely nicer than hotels we have stayed in previously in London, perfect position for going out all over and my first choice more often than not).

10003439_10151937972882617_1889696327_nWe grabbed a quick bite to eat and a few drinks then headed to Camden where The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra and another ska act would be playing later on. It was a great little venue – slap bang in the middle of Camden, dark and full of interesting characters – just my kind of place. The bands were great, really lively and energetic – they had everyone up and dancing from the beginning. I’ve never seen any other music have such a awesome effect on a group of people with such different backgrounds, ages and jobs – it really has such a good atmosphere and has got me all excited for the summer at BoomTown fair. The band played such a range of instruments and were really talented – I was very impressed.

1622840_10151937973082617_110445465_n 1012138_10151937973202617_1120837800_nWe danced long and hard and my legs were killing me by the end after a day spent walking all over London. The next day we spent eating our way round the food stalls at Camden Market nursing our hangovers before heading home. A great few days in London where we achieved nothing we planned to do but had loads of random fun. It was great to get away and really hard to come back to work after this followed by the weekend. It was also our eight year anniversary over the weekend – quite an achievement in itself! Can’t quite believe we’ve been together for more than a quarter of my life now – we must be doing something right!

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Do you love spontaneous trips like this or do you prefer to plan every second? What’s the most random thing you’ve come across in London?

 

Lifting the veil on relationships past and present with my favourite film

1178598691_2When rearranging my DVDs the other day, I came across one of my favourite films ever and just couldn’t resist sharing it with you. It might not be one of those classic films that you instantly think of with stars like Audrey Hepburn or Humphrey Bogart, it might not be a massive blockbuster with fast cars and barely clothed women. But The Painted Veil is a story of the journey from indifference to real pain, heartache and suffering, and eventually rediscovering love against the backdrop of a remote village in China that is overrun with cholera.

This is the third film adaptation from a novel written in 1925, with other films made of the story in 1934 and 1957, all on the topic of adultery. This version of the film both starred and was produced by two of my favourite actors – Naomi Watts and Edward Norton. The pair are both incredibly talented and just seem to have a certain way of portraying emotions while seeming to hold everything back – incredibly British despite both learning their craft in America and Australia. They just approach their films in such a different way to other actors I have watched, by playing the character gingerly rather than full-on. This is something that works so well with the story of two people who have both failed each other and are unsure of how to progress.

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It’s very much a story about people getting beyond the worst in themselves and figuring out how to look at each other honestly, forgive each other for their failings and get to a better place… When I read it, I was very affected by it because in it I saw my own failings.                                                      Edward Norton

I love the relationship between the couple, which while appearing broken and fragmented, soon grows into more than the pair could have dreamed of when first setting out on their journey. It is far more raw and real than that of all those silly romantic comedies (don’t get me wrong – I love a Rachel McAdams movie, but sometimes we need a dose of real life as well!). The story is an honest tale of a woman who uses a man as her escape but soon realises he is not enough. She looks elsewhere to fill the gaps in their relationship but this forces them further apart. When the world around them, a cholera outbreak, forces them to muck in and to look at each other differently, they start to heal both themselves and each other. It is a story of forgiveness and of rediscovering the beauty in another where previously you only felt despair. Watch here as Edward Norton discusses the characters in the film.

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I went on the assumption that if you were willing to allow Walter and Kitty to grow… you had the potential for a love story that was both tragic and meaningful.                                                Edward Norton

This film is always one that brings a tear to my eye, the love story is just such a devastatingly realistic portrayal of so many relationships that it can’t help but touch you, whether you are in a relationship or not. But the part that I love the most has to be the incredibly beautiful scenery. Most of the movie was filmed in an untouched area of Chinese land in Huang Yao and in Guilin, Guangxi, with other sections in Shanghai. The landscape is utterly breathtaking and genuinely makes it look like the actors have gone back in time – combined with the pair’s awkward style of acting it really does feel like the film captures the complex relationships of the time against a powerful backdrop.

I absolutely love this film but I’m not 100% sure why – it might be the scenery or the story, or it might be the acting. But it might just be the fact that I finally found a film in which the characters truly fucked up and lived with the problem, that they fixed the problem and made it out the other side. So refreshing in a world of disposable relationships.

What’s your favourite film and why?

Relationships: What’s it really like to have a boyfriend at university?

Photo by Francisco Osorio

Photo by Francisco Osorio

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d avoid the cheesy posts and instead offer some advice for young couples who are facing decisions over continuing a relationship at university. When I first received my acceptance letters, took those dreaded exams and realised I had got the results I wanted and needed to move on to the university life I had been dreaming about for the past two years of hard slog throughout A-levels. Everyone had been worried – my parents thought I wasn’t spending enough time on my work and revision because of my boyfriend and my friends were worried he would lead me astray. But I sure showed them when I got that A and three B’s – more than I needed to go to the University of Hertfordshire.

Again, my parents were worried about UoH being my first choice because it asked for a lot less UCAS points than I was predicted, even less than I received. I had chosen it based on the course content, the number of live researchers who would be my lecturers, the beautiful campus and accommodation, and of course the great feeling I had when looking around. I’ve always been one for going with my gut when decision-making, and from the second I walked on to the campus and looked around, I just knew this was the university for me. I refused to compromise this for courses that didn’t cover what I wanted to study and for accommodation that looked like a prison, and it worked well because I left with a 2.1 BA Hons in English Literature and Language and Communication.

Photo by Oleh Slobodeniuk

Photo by Oleh Slobodeniuk

But enough about all of that – this post is focusing on the fact that throughout all of my time at university, I stayed with my boyfriend while he lived and worked back at home. I have spoken to several girls since who were just heading off to university and just didn’t know how they would cope with having a boyfriend back at home while they studied – they didn’t know what it would be like. Just as I was asked for advice back then, I will give it again now.

University will test your relationship, probably beyond anything before this time. You will be madly in love with your boyfriend before you go and often can’t bear the thought of breaking up, but at the same time are ready for a whole new adventure – it’s a confusing time for many. For me, it was simple. I loved my boyfriend and wanted to stay with him regardless – I didn’t see why university would get in the way of that. Of course, distance plays a big part in this and I had chosen a university that was just two hours drive from my home town (not chosen because of boyfriend, just coincidence). But if you really want to make it work, it won’t matter the distance.

Becoming an independent woman:

You need to remember that you will be experiencing a whole new world of living away, new-found independence and freedom, making new friends, discovering new passions, keeping up with your course and lots and lots of partying. Your new schedule may not have space for boyfriend time at first with all of the nights out and busy days associated with Fresher’s Week (ours turned into a month). So you have to remember that your other half might find it a bit difficult at first – not only are you off having a new adventure without him, but you suddenly might not have much time for them. It is important to make the effort to keep them updated and make them feel a part of it as well, you wouldn’t like it if they disappeared off to get drunk with strangers for two weeks without speaking to you.

Photo by Elizabeth K

Photo by Elizabeth K

Time-management is the key

A lot of this first month of university (and the rest) is spent getting pretty drunk and the lectures often take up a lot less of your time with more work expected in your own time – often this time is spent in bed, hungover and watching rubbish TV. I know there is a lot of other work thrown in, otherwise how did I get that 2.1? But my point is that your schedules could end up the opposite of each other – I got to a point where I was up all night, either partying or in the library and would sleep most of the day when I wasn’t in lectures – I just seemed to work better at night. This was difficult when my boyfriend was at home working shifts at an engineering company because often I would want to drunk call him after a night out or text him all night but couldn’t because that would wake him up, likewise, he would text in the day but I would be asleep or in lectures. You need to find your own balance that will work for you as a couple.

Don’t forget the importance of alone time

One huge benefit of going to university is having your own space, perhaps you were both living with parents at home and struggled to get time to yourselves. Suddenly, you have your own room in a block of people that won’t disturb you – you can go off for dinner, or cook your own, lay in bed all day and watch movies or do whatever you want. This freedom is great after being interrupted every five minutes at home. Make the most of this time. We had it easier because my university was quite quiet at weekends with many people going home to work in London, so my boyfriend could come up and visit and often we would have the whole flat to ourselves. Likewise, I made sure to come home and visit both him and my family – in my third year I had a car at university so I could nip home at a moments notice, or likewise he could come to visit me without relying on the trains.

Photo by LetMeBeYourSwearWord

Photo by LetMeBeYourSwearWord

Temptation

This is the main one I get asked about. Yes, there is a lot of temptation at university, especially if you like sweaty blokes who are wearing too much aftershave and have been daring their mates to down dirty pints without being sick on themselves. Not really my type thanks. For some girls, they might feel they are being left out of all the drunken snogging and sleeping around that comes with Freshers but what are you really missing out on other than the Walk of Shame while dressed as Superwoman (as one of my friends had to do) and a bout of chlamydia? It is possible to go to university and not sleep with everyone, it is possible to go on a night out and go home with your girls and a greasy burger, it is possible to spend a night in your own bed. There are a lot of girls out there who get drunk and just need some affection – this was the tough bit, being drunk and wanting to call your boyfriend because you miss him, but not being able to because he’s got work in two hours. But you deal with it and move on. There’s a hell of a lot of other stuff going on that you don’t need to concern yourself with all of this – but if you are tempted, them be sure to end the relationship before making a big mistake and hurting your partner.

Put simply – it is possible to have a happy, loving, long-distance relationship while at university. It isn’t always easy, but in the end it is more valuable than any one night stand. You will have wobbles and strops over seeing each other and missing each other, but you will also have amazing times that you will never forget and you will end up a lot stronger for it. My main advice is to be sure of what you want before you go but don’t be afraid to change your mind when you actually experience university life – choose what is best for you. If you think it is worth it, it probably is. I was two years into my relationship when I went to university and now we are coming up to our eighth anniversary.

Have you been faced with a big decision over whether to break off a relationship or stay together at university? What did you choose?

Fairy tales shaped my life, but does that make me any less of an independent woman?

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Just some of my favourite childhood books

I was reading something about Valentine’s Day and the way that successful marketing campaigns have raised women’s expectations in terms of material possessions while lowering them when it comes to emotional attachment and the treatment they deserve. It was an interesting piece – certainly thought-provoking and it stuck in my mind. I’m not really sure how much marketing campaigns have really changed other than making us think we simply must have those roses, chocolates or mini-break – we all scoff and say it’s a load of rubbish invented by Clinton Cards (as an ex-Clinton’s worker I am the first to laugh at the mugs who buy £10 boxed cards) but let’s be honest, we all melt at the thought of our men sweeping us off our feet and treating us to a romantic night.

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But this all started long before we had a clue about romance or roses, before we even considered the possibility that boys were not gross and smelly. From birth, my parents read to me constantly – fairy tales about princes who rescued princesses from dragons and from towers, who fought long and hard for their women, who would let nothing stand in their way. As I grew, I read to myself and to my parents, more stories about boys who would take you to Neverland, where you could soar above the clouds and be young and happy forever. Even the tales about animals told stories of love, kindness and happy couples like Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet. My expectations were raised throughout my childhood as I grew up thinking this was how all men behaved, to this day I still have those high expectations and even after seeing how some men actually behave, I still believe in true love, soul mates and fate.

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What concerns me is that so many women out there are devaluing themselves by settling for less than the romance, the kindness, the thoughtfulness and the faithfulness that should come with a relationship. I know so many woman who have put up with terrible treatment, with boyfriends who have constantly let them down, been late, been selfish, said thoughtless things, even manipulated them and tried to control who they were friends with, many have been cheated on, some repeatedly. It is sad to see it happen, especially when you are the friend who keeps trying to save them from themselves, but only the woman can make the changes needed to find the man who will really treat her as she deserves.

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It makes me wonder if we are lowering our expectations, or whether they were always around the same level – perhaps the marketing campaigns are just finding more ways to make us feel like we are missing out on something. At the end of the day, each relationship is very different and we all go into them with different expectations. Something that could play a big part in this is how much more independent women are now compared to in our parents’ and grandparents’ generations – we have our own money, our own homes, jobs, cars, friends and lives. So many barely have time for a boyfriend and often choose to be single now because they actually prefer to focus on themselves and their own careers. That’s true, but only for a while. I don’t know a single girl who deep down doesn’t just want someone she can cuddle up to on the sofa or go out on dates with. many girls may try to deny this, but at the end of the day, all of us just want to be loved. Does that make us any less independent?

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I don’t think so, but there are two types of girls. There are those who have their own lives even when they are in a relationship – the ones who don’t crumble when it all falls apart and the ones who still have incredibly full lives when a relationship ends. And there are those who are left a ghost of the girl they used to be, who have forgotten all their friends in favour of a man who has now left them high and dry and who realise their whole life centred around their man. I like to think of myself as the first of these and I think it is important to be this girl. Just because you are a romantic who dreams of being whisked away on a magic carpet, doesn’t mean you have to give up who you are – in fact, a healthy relationship is one where you should never have to give this up. A healthy relationship should encourage you to follow your passions and indulge your hobbies with friends, family and colleagues as well as each other. It is easy to get caught up in the honeymoon stages of a relationship, but when things steady out it is important to remember to spend as much time with friends. Having that fairytale romance should never stop you from being an independent woman – if anything, being that independent woman is more likely to secure you the man of your dreams.

What do you think? Leave me a comment and share your thoughts on the subject..

It’ll be lonely this Christmas, without you to hold..

It’s that time of year again when everyone is planning what they’ll be doing Christmas Day – what time is the roast, when are you opening presents and whether you’ll be heading out to see the Royals, if, like me, you are lucky enough to live near Sandringham.

The age-old argument over whether it is better to be single or in a couple at Christmastime will surface again as singles prepare themselves for what might be their first solo Christmas after a break-up, they prepare to sit around with the family watching their siblings fawn over their other halves. And what about those work Christmas parties or those annoying uncles? Having to answer the same old questions about when you’re going to find a nice boyfriend and settle down… Bleurgh.

It can be depressing to be single at Christmas if you think about matching Christmas jumpers, finding the perfect present for the one you love and snuggling up in front of the fire. But what about the flip side – you also end up spending a fortune on Christmas presents and face that huge battle of where to spend Christmas!

As someone who has been in a relationship for nearly seven years, but who doesn’t yet live with said boyfriend – this time of year can be just plain annoying. Much as I love my boyfriend, we haven’t moved in together yet – a combination of reasons – mainly money. But the fact that we don’t means that we don’t have any real choice in how we spend Christmas. We are still stuck in that in-between phase where I have to spend much of it at home with my parents, sister and grandfather, which I love, but it is a struggle to even go out with friend to the pub on these days because they have so much planned! I hate to hurt their feelings, and I love every one of our Christmas traditions, from the party on Christmas Eve through to the Christmas Day walk and visit to the seaside and watching the Royals.

Meanwhile, my boyfriend, who now lives with a friend, has spent his last few Christmases visiting his mum’s house for dinner and presents, spending most of the day there, trying to fit a visit to his father’s house, an hour away, to see his grandparents and  spending the rest of the time tucking into cheese boards and getting drunk at his new house. We both love Christmas and spending it at our different homes, but I can’t help but long for just one Christmas where we could spend it just by ourselves. We could eat ridiculous amounts, stay in our pants all day and although I would force him to watch the EastEnders Christmas Special, we could watch whatever we liked after!

It is difficult when you are in an adult relationship, but are unable to live together because there are so many demands put on you by other people and it is so hard to refuse because you don’t want anyone to feel left out. Also, you yourself do not want to miss out on doing anything or seeing anyone. But it is so hard when everyone wants a piece of you – it is just impossible to fit in Christmas dinner with every branch of your own family, and everyone in your boyfriend’s family as well! I don’t think there is really any remedy for the situation other than to run away, shut up and get on with it, or complain and hurt people’s feelings. Not my style, so I’ll pipe down and get on with it! At least I can escape to his house when things get a bit much with all of my family packed into my house!

How are you spending Christmas this year? Do you face the same couple/family struggles each Christmas? How do you cope?

 

Don’t tell me it’s over!

I absolutely love this programme – Him & Her. It is a fantastic comedy based around a couple and the flat they live in, their lives, relationship and friends. It is absolutely hilarious and really helps to show what real couple are like, or at least a lot of what my relationship is like.

It was so refreshing when I came across this series, after the finish of Gavin and Stacey I was looking for something that would fill the gap left in my life. It is rare that I get attached to a TV series because I am so often missing episodes and forced to catch up because of working late or other commitments. But this one instantly sucked me in, the simplicity of the comedy, the peering into real life and fly-on-the-wall type of comedy is brilliant and the characters are so realistic and endearing – they really are someone that you know in real life. This is something that I think if so important for me to really find comedy actually funny – if I can’t imagine bumping into these people on the street or link them with someone I already know, it is too far away from reality to find funny – that is where I fell out with the Mighty Boosh.

I absolutely adore Sarah Solemani and Russell Tovey in everything they do, but I also love the character of Dan in the programme. He is brilliant to watch, especially when he thinks no-one is watching him. I particularly love the moments when he is alone in the room and starts picking things up or trying to eat things. One of my favourite episodes has to be the one where Shelley finally stood up to Laura – just to see the look on Laura’s face was priceless!

I’m so looking forward to the final series – but so upset that it has to end. Now I guess I better start looking out for a replacement series! Any suggestions? Which TV series’ have had you hooked from the beginning, and why?

‘Him & Her’ final series: The stars talk weddings, sex and being cool

Him & Her: ‘It’s rare to find a sitcom where the couple get on’ – video interview