Love is a Gift

It’s still November yet the John Lewis ad has already aired and I’ve been harrassed more than once by Olaf the Snowman from Frozen in the Open Market. I’m no Grinch but I do draw the line personally at embracing the Christmas Spirit before December 1st. If you’re an early Christmas lover then that’s fine, you do you hun.

I have had more than one conversation about the darker side of Christmas though and even though I don’t want to be ‘that guy’, I do think it’s important to acknowledge and understand that not everyone is full of the joys of Rudolph this time of year. The Christmas season is incredibly difficult for many people for many different reasons – and the relentless onslaught of Mariah Carey holiday songs can take its toll (is there more than one actually?). Everywhere you look when you’re not feeling it is a homage to the big man and his pals – it must be unbearable.

This very topic came up at work yesterday as a collection of us gathered around one of our phones to watch an ‘alternative’ Christmas video. You might have seen it yourself on television as its creators have been interviewed a couple of times and lots of viewers are saying it’s even better than the Elton John JL advert this year.

The concept is simple in itself, and features a thirtysomething man listening to cassette tapes on an old Walkman, left to him as a gift by his late mother. Each tape is a touching personal message recorded for him for every year she was able to do it. Its tagline is “Love is a gift that lasts forever. Merry Christmas.”

Most of us were near tears even talking about it but a couple of people pondered why we have to think about sad things at Christmas – which prompted quite an interesting debate. While I get that point, it’s not a choice for a lot of lonely or bereaved people. There are people with nothing in this world, who barely get through their day to day lives, let alone the festive season. Just because everything is sprinkled with a light dusting of glitter does not mean that those troubles go away.

This isn’t a call to arms really. There are a lot of things you can do to give back this Christmas, from volunteering to reaching out to someone who may be struggling. Even just standing up and saying you’re there for your friends and colleagues if they need anyone can be a good thing. I’ve seen a couple of Facebook statuses over 2018 that touch on that same point.

Life is tough at the best of times and Christmas is hard – it’s financially stressful, socially exhausting and there’s a lot of pressure to pull on your favourite ugly sweater and get into the spirit. What if you can’t? I just think we should be conscious of each other and kind wherever we can be.

What are your thoughts?

In the meantime, have a look at Love is a Gift, the short film mentioned above.

The Monday Feeling

I have a super power. I’m not sure why but wherever I go, people tell me things. Deep and meaningful snippets of detail from their lives that I don’t ask for. I love it though – it makes me feel good to be trusted and it must mean I have an open face.

I think sometimes if you make eye contact with someone you tend to connect with them whether you like it or not. This can backfire in certain social situations, like on holiday when you want to be left alone or on the bus. On the plane to Copenhagen, which was delayed for 2.5 hours, I got talking to the American guy beside me and by the time I’d landed I knew his fiance’s name, how he proposed, their upcoming wedding date, where he worked in Chicago and his favourite film. Not to mention his political views and where he stood on religion.

For the most part I wouldn’t change a thing – I’d much rather be approachable than not. I’m giggling as I think about the handful of friends I have that would seriously disagree with me.

Anyway, I was going to write about my favourite witch films today but have decided to bump that post in favour of this one because I’m kind of buzzing about a conversation I had with the woman in the Co-op last week, and this morning.

Before I start, I should write a disclaimer to say that the Co-op seems to be the scene of a lot of these scenarios for me. Years ago I befriended a guy behind the counter who used to give me leftover flowers most mornings and then went off to have a tummy tuck. My friend Darren found it hilarious how much information I would be bombarded with while handing over money for my cheese & pickle sandwiches. And all while the queue backed up behind me considerably.

Now it’s a woman in town who’s a little bit younger than me. On Friday she was all over the place so I asked her if she was okay. She revealed that she was in a 17 year relationship that had gone off the boil and was now messaging someone else. While I didn’t ask, she was pretty willing to go in on the fact that her long-term boyfriend was taking her for granted and the new one was exciting and super-attentive (they always are at this stage, babe). I had to tell her I’d been there in the same situation because I have – and that she should seriously try to do what’s right for herself.

Well! This morning she greeted me with the biggest smile and told me she’d ended it over the weekend. Nothing about the new guy because it isn’t even about him. It’s about her. She said she was walking on air and that it went so much better than she’d anticipated. Now she has the rest of her life to look forward to – and won’t be turning 40 in a horrible relationship. And man, I FELT HER. I felt it all.

I have been there and I remember the absolute high of finally being free, the greatest feeling of all time. The fear, the anticipation, the realisation that all future decisions were my own, that I had a choice – and that I could change everything if I wanted to. She’s going to feel up and down for a while but over all, she’s going to feel on top of the goddamn world and it makes me so happy for her. You go for it, girl, enjoy every minute!

So people tell me things and I love it but I particularly love it when it’s a good story and one I can personally cheer for. She’s so nice this lady that I imagine we could be friends in IRL. And as for all the other secrets well they stay here with me, not to be blogged about. Ever.

“That’s why her hair is so big, it’s full of secrets.” ~ Damian, Mean Girls

Horror F(r)iends

I might not have made it clear enough on this blog: I live for the movies. All movies really but mainly horror. Good horror, bad horror, cheap horror – most of it has a place in this old heart of mine. My absolute favourites of all time include Candyman and Hellraiser – with a whole lot of variety in between – and what better month than this to revisit the classics and discover new and exciting horror gems?

This post isn’t strictly about those movies though (we’ll do a 31 Horrors recap at the end of the month), it’s about the like-minded friends who love the same movies I do (specifically horror). People like this, the ones who really really get you are like gold dust I swear and this post is for them.

Of course anyone who reads this blog will be familiar with my blog wife Jillian already. We originally bonded over our love of odd movies and are now three years deep into our Great Blog Collab. Our specialty, and favourite month just happens to be Halloween so you could say we’re on the same page when it comes to horror films (and shark movies but they get their own month). In fact, Ginger Snaps is the first film we ever reviewed together, FACT FANS. We also appreciate women on murderous rampages, Film Noir and women who look good smoking.

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Katharine Isabelle, werewolves AND smoking? The holy horror trinity (read my review here)

Jill and I have had some real hits and misses over the years but most times seem to more or less agree on the ratings. Sometimes the films we pick are too good and that can be a problem when our original MO is to snark the hell out of the things we watch – but you can’t win them all. I’m so thankful for Jill, one of the best things to come out of blogging for me – a gorgeous friend online and IRL now too.

James, my podcast partner also deserves a shout out for sitting through some of the dreck I’ve made him watch over the years in the name of content. Cat Sick Blues, anyone? (I do NOT recommend). We’ve also explored a lot of anti-horror together. To name but a few: Felt, The Sacrament, Magic Magic, Spring and Digging Up the Marrow – all of which could be categorised outside the genre comfortably but are definitely shining examples of horror done well.

Honestly, the podcast has brought me so much joy and being able to just waffle on about films until the cows come home is the best thing ever. There’s a limit to how much people want to talk to me about these things so to find a like-minded partner is priceless, honestly. I hope we never stop. Even if James doesn’t rate The Exorcist III.

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Felt (2014)

And last but by no means least my lovely friend Matt who unwittingly inspired today’s post. Matt is the most knowledgeable horror fiend I know and even though we’ve only known each other for a year, I feel like he’s my horror twin. This morning we compared notes via messenger on what we’ve watched this month already and those are the conversations I live for.

We’re even planning a really cool project off the back of our interests and it is going to be so ace I can’t even tell you. I’ll share more when we’ve actually got off our bottoms and made solid plans. This week we’re just treading water until Halloween (2018) is released.

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Hai bae ❤

I can’t not shout out my husband as well, who puts up with all my shit and still seems to like me. Who hasn’t wavered (yet) when I’ve forced him to get involved in my 31 Horrors challenge. Who suggested The Company of Wolves for tonight’s viewing – and who’s just super-cute most of the time. How lucky am I?

So today I am feeling extra blessed to have these people in my life so we can share our common interests like the beasts that we are.

Thanks for being as horrible as I am deep down 🎃👻🔪

Autumn Bucket List

I haven’t really planned much for Autumn apart from my trip, which in itself is a pretty cool thing to cross off the bucket list. I’ve always wanted to visit Copenhagen, so I guess I’ll start there.

These are the things I’ll be doing this Autumn, in no particular order.

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Copenhagen

Tora and I have been friends for years, ever since I got back from Vancouver. My old BFF was always trying to force us together, even before I left and neither of us were that into the idea. But on our own terms we inevitably fell in love and have been close ever since. This will be our first trip away together and we can’t wait.

We have rented our own apartment about 45 minutes from where all the action happens in the city and have a very vague to-do list – I want to visit The Little Mermaid, Tivoli and the design museum and just generally mooch, and Tora’s in agreement.

This is exactly what I need right now, good company, good surroundings and a shitload of good food and drink. And as you read this I will be away enjoying myself. Catch you on the flip side.

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The Perfect PSL

In a pinch obviously Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte will do but it’s not great. Much better if you have it made with soya milk. This Fall I will be searching for the perfect PSL – I have a suspicion it’s out there somewhere just waiting for me to rescue it.

I do love a seasonal drink in the late Autumn sunshine, leaves crunching satisfyingly underfoot as I amble on my way to wherever I’m going.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

IMDB Synopsis

As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends.

I’m quite certain Jill will be with me on this one, and I really hope it’s great. Riverdale, like Sabrina is based on the Archie comics and was a pile of trash (sometimes in a good way, ultimately not).

Any 90’s kid worth their salt had a soft spot for Melissa Joan Hart’s Sabrina, the Teenage Witch in all it’s cheesy, all-American splendor. To be able to revisit the source material with a darker twist sounds blissful and I’m very excited about it. I’ve missed Salem the cat.

Whisper after me: Please be good. Please be good. Please be good.

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Doing Nothing

There’s an art to doing nothing and I think I have it down pat. I’ll be making far less plans in the evenings and I shall be nesting with the best of them. Heaven.

What have you got planned?

FOMO Oh No

I’m anti-social. Honestly, if I were left to my own devices I’d be a full-time hermit living on Cloud 9, never going out and having all my meals and necessities delivered to my door.

Unfortunately, I also have severe FOMO and I like my friends so cannot live out my natural anti-social tendencies to their fullest. I go out with people a lot and I do love it. Sometimes I have to bail because there are too many people in one place, take Pride for instance. One of my favourite times to be living in Brighton and yet I can only bring myself to dip a toe into the festivities before it all gets too much.

I’m not boring I promise, just anxious and crowd-phobic. Yet I look at the Instagram stories of my loved ones having fun and I wish I were wild again, I wish I could be in the midst of it. It’s a bit sad for a 40 year old to be thinking this way but I guess that’s the nature of social media and I sometimes worry I’m going to get left behind, one day I’ll be too old to be part of it and that’s bloody stupid, isn’t it?

What if everyone has so much fun without me that they stop asking me out and I’m forced to sit in night after night for the rest of my life watching re-runs of Friends on a loop, lamenting the good times? You can see the damage I do to myself by thinking this way and continually being logged on?

I know my friends love me and not just for being there socially. I bring more to the table than my appearance at every single social event (hopefully). Quality not quantity and all that.

I think I need to step back and appreciate how lucky I am. That true friendship doesn’t just stop because you’re not there for one do. And doesn’t it make the ones you make it to all the more special? Life’s hard when you’re a contradictory little bitch, innit?

Anyone else suffer from a severe case of FOMO?

Old Wounds

As a person who worries way too much about what other people think of me, I often agree to things I don’t want to do.

Nothing crazy, just meetings that don’t really hold any value for either party involved, that are arranged just to tick a box. An obligation box if you will.

That might sound harsh but surely we all do it? I’m trying so hard to be more honest about these things, to only agree to things I want to do, see people who bring me joy – treat my down time as something special, a currency to be used wisely.

This week an old, old friend of a friend contacted me about meeting up as she’ll be in the country in July. I mean, we’re Facebook friends and everything but the basis of our relationship was always my old best friend, the one I broke up with nearly seven years ago. They were in a relationship and I hung out with them a bit when I lived in Vancouver.

When she contacted me it felt rude to say no even though my first instinct was to ignore her message. She hasn’t done anything wrong. But really all we ever had in common was my OBF and she’s not someone I feel like talking about over a pint any time soon. I’m trying to let go of negativity, not rake it all back up.

But saying no does not come naturally. Anyone else the same? It doesn’t mean I’m selfless or saintly, it’s more that need I have to please everyone. It’s exhausting.

But after a pep talk from my friend Darren, in which he made me see I have the right to leave the past where it is, I told her it wasn’t something that would work for me. I told her I’d moved on and that I had no interest in looking  backwards again. And you know what? The world didn’t implode and she doesn’t hate me. We’re still Facebook friends.

A lesson was learnt in that simple action and I suddenly feel quite strong. I’m learning to let go and give myself what I need. I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to ever again (except go to work). I don’t have to please everybody all the time. There is always a way to be kind but firm about your feelings and it’s a revelation. Aged 40 I’m still learning to be honest.

Now who else can I cancel?! (Kidding).

How to Lose Friends and Give Yourself Unnessary Anxiety For a Week

Honesty, am I right? I’m doing it here now, did I mention? Even if it’s scary or someone misreads it or thinks it’s a thinly disguised dig at them (If you think this post is about you, it probably is).

So today, let’s talk about losing or specifically breaking up with, friends. I’ve been lucky (maybe) in that I’ve only really suffered one crushing friendship heartbreak. It is akin to having your heart ripped out of your chest, or it was for me so let me have that dramatic statement.

Even though it was me who pumped the breaks on our toxic 15+ year friendship (and I’ve never regretted it), I still think about her almost daily with a sorrow that has never been matched. I ache with sadness that we didn’t make it but we never could have, the end was inevitable.

Now I have a number of GREAT friends but I haven’t seriously labelled any of them ‘the one’ because why would I exactly? I think I’m scared I’ll become someone’s property again. Yes, I know this sounds dreadful but I told you it was toxic. I was a performing circus bear for many of those 15 years and now perhaps you can see why it was doomed from the start. Bears aren’t supposed to tell jokes in a tutu and turn a blind eye to bad behaviours.

I’m scared of feeling loss again* because it really did leave a gaping wound. These days it’s no longer bleeding, it’s scar tissue that tingles when it rains. Which I can live with.

Much like shedding a shitty boyfriend after six years, living through that loss has taught me exactly what I need from my friendships now. And if I don’t get what I need, or catch a faint whiff of toxicity, I’ll be gone before you can finish humming the first verse of the Friends theme. This might sound like I value myself highly above all others and I suppose that’s true. I’m protecting myself and I think that’s perfectly acceptable.

I should be clear about what constitutes toxic for me. It’s not people with issues, everyone has those and I can handle friends that need me, for no doubt I will need them equally. It’s not drama so much, though I try to take after Mary J. Blige on that topic.

It’s, well it’s like my friend Michaela says: “Some people are radiators and some are drains” and never a truer word has been spoken. If my friend is all me, me, me and can only see to the end of their own experience then I’m afraid I’ve got nothing for her/him. Even then I think calling each other out is a healthy and honest thing, God knows I need educating all the time on things I have no knowledge/experience of.

Sometimes friendships do have a period of being very one-sided. I can be extremely selfish, with time mostly but sometimes food. I don’t share food. I may forget to inquire how a friend’s job interview/doctor’s appointment went because I’m too busy gazing into my own navel (try it, it’s not that easy) but we tend to right ourselves and balance it all back out again because that’s how friendship works.

I’ve recently fallen out with a newish pal, can you tell? I’m getting there, I just wanted to set the scene with that introduction.

So, I find myself on the other side of last week and I’m one friend down and I almost can’t believe it’s happened. Not because I’m so amazing that I can’t fathom someone not liking me, no. But because I didn’t see what happened going down the way it did, yet here I am.

I’m not going too far into this. Let’s just say I asked for some understanding on a subject I feel strongly about (diets) and got nothing but bullshit back. I even apologised in case I’d expressed myself bluntly (extremely likely) but apparently asking not to discuss something personally triggering was one step too far. So I AM OUT.

My learning curve has not left me in the position that I now find cutting people out of my life easy, quite the opposite. My anxiety means it’s pretty much all I’ve thought of since it happened. I feel physically sick when I should be singing Aretha’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

I want to cry and roll into a ball. I want to lash out. Mostly, I want to rewind time to before I asked for anything and bite my tongue. Except why should I? I’m not in the wrong.

This week I lost a friend and I don’t feel good about it. On the plus side, well I asked for some understanding and that’s huge for me! I’m delighted about that. Perhaps at the end of this post is where I say, a lesson was learned here today: honesty may be the best policy, but not everyone wants to hear it. And not everyone is the person you thought they were.

<SHRUG>

*This is next to impossible if you trust someone. You have to love like you’ve never been hurt before, even with chums.