Monday, 13 July 2015

Be The Change

I have noticed recently that it is the height of fashion to be offended.

It seems that if everybody is not catering to your every whim, you have every right to be angry about it. To write about it. To declare to everyone that you are offended. To erase the oh-so-offensive person from your life. 

I have seen people write Facebook statuses: 'anyone who expresses the opinion that [insert opinion here] will be deleted.' 

Seriously? Is that what you do in real life? I happen to know that I disagree, on a few fairly hefty subjects, with my grandparents. Would that be good reason to tell them that I don't think that we should spend time together any more? The fact that they are all round brilliant people, that they make me laugh and they send my self-esteem through the roof is not enough if they do not one hundred per cent agree with everything that I believe in? 

I understand that it may be slightly different if it's a girl you went to Primary School with and haven't actually seen for twenty years, but still. I imagine that even if she doesn't agree with every single one of your strong opinions it doesn't mean that she's a nasty person. That she deserves to notice that you deleted her from your life without any explanation. 

I did actually have a moment of doubt myself recently. A friend put a status declaring that he was angry about gay marriage being legalised in America. I read it to my mum and her boyfriend, shocked and horrified. Not so much that he had a different opinion from me, but that he had felt a need to post it at the height of the majority's excitement. I told my mum and her boyfriend that I wasn't sure what to do about it. They said, quite rightly, do nothing. 

I sat and thought about it. Of course. I think that if I had an opinion that well and truly went against the majority I probably wouldn't choose that moment to share it. But that doesn't mean that I have to do anything about his opinion. I read his reasons, I thought about them, I hugely disagreed with them. 

And then I accepted it. 

It's okay that we have different opinions. Because a lot of the time, the rest of the things that he posts make me smile. He's a nice person. We're not good friends, I don't see him ever, and will never see him again. (He was a random add after an evening sat next to each other in the library in 2010. We all have them.) But actually the thought of not following his life any more- not hearing about his adventures and knowing what he's doing now, made me feel quite sad. 

I've read a lot of posts that say that Facebook stops us communicating in  real life. There is always- without exception- somebody that writes on Father's Day- 'don't do your dad a Facebook status this year- tell him in real life.' 

Believe it or not- I'd say most people do both. 

In my house, at least, we don't all search for old photos, think carefully about what we want to say to the world about our dad, post it for everyone to see, and then sit with him at lunch and fail to acknowledge the special day. He does still, of course, get a card and a present and a lunch and a hug. Facebook is just an extra way to celebrate.

Equally, I don't believe that Facebook stops us communicating in real life to old friends, either. 

If I didn't have Facebook there's no way I would still be in  contact with that random lad that I met in the library five years ago. I probably wouldn't be in contact with people that I lived with for four months in France. I wouldn't know what my closest friends from university were doing- I know that, because some of them don't have Facebook and I haven't spoken to them for five years. 

I appreciate that maybe pre-internet we would have written letters, or used the home phone to call them. But since university I have lived in eleven different cities. I have had close friends in every one of those cities. If I had to phone and write letters to keep up with all of them I wouldn't be able to hold down a full time job. 

And actually I tend to care about everyone I meet. If it were up to me I would speak to everyone that I've ever met every day. I love that I can keep up with everyone's weddings and babies, their new jobs and travels- it is amazing that I know that my old neighbour's niece was born last week. 

I have, desperately sadly, also managed to offend people with my endlessly happy and positive blog posts. There are only a couple of incidents of this- as far as I know- but they were so unintended I cannot even begin to explain. 


I speak to people almost every day that are offended by what I do as a job. Last year, when I was working at The Lion King, somebody told me that they thought that my job was despicable, disgustingly unethical. The next day I was at a wedding and mentioned that this had happened. You can imagine the reaction of the make up artist when my answer to 'oh my goodness, what on earth do you do?!' was 'work in a Disney merchandise shop.' 

In my current job people are offended because I don't teach French to adults, which is really what they need and it's highly inconvenient that that's not what I do. I'd make a killing if I did decide to do that because that's what's needed round here. 

(I wouldn't, because I can't speak French. It would be like when Joey from Friends tries to teach dance.) 

Actually what I find offensive is that everybody thinks that their opinion is necessary. 

I believe that the internet has given us all a false sense of importance. My mum's opinion on what I do for a job means the whole world to me. If she was disgusted with me then ohmygoodness I just wouldn't be doing it. That woman that approached me at The Lion King to tell me she thought my job was disgusting really didn't need to tell me that. Why does she think I would care about her opinion? Does she think I would go and hand my notice in there and then because of her opinion? I'm sure her opinion is valued somewhere in her world. At her own job. With her own family. But not for me. Especially as she didn't even have a ticket. She had come in to the theatre precisely to tell me her opinion on selling merchandise. I genuinely don't care what she thinks, and I didn't go and hand in my  notice. 

But it doesn't mean that I didn't go and cry on my break, and then proceed to think about it for the next fifteen months. 

So all she succeeded in doing was ruining my day. 

Same as these outrageous trolls on the internet. I can't even believe that they exist. Have you ever seen the feature on Jimmy Kimmel Live where he has celebrities read out the nasty tweets that they have received? The feature itself is brilliant in that it is a reminder that what is typed into the keyboard is received by an actual human being, and it shows how ridiculous and unfounded these mean messages are, but the fact that it can exist is just the most outrageous thing I've ever heard. 

Does the middle aged woman from Texas really think that Gwyneth Paltrow cares about her opinion on her nose? Does the teenager from New York think that Lena Dunham cares what he thinks of her body? 

Because neither of them actually care about those individuals' opinions. But I imagine they were fairly hurt that somebody had taken the time to write and send them. 

Somebody wrote a nasty message on one of my blog posts once. Which I know comes with the territory, and is something that I had been ready for. This person was a friend of a friend, clearly unhinged, has a bit of a reputation, not somebody that I will ever meet. 

But it doesn't mean that I wasn't gutted. 

It seems to me that because everybody thinks that they are entitled to an opinion on everything, even things they know nothing about, even things that nobody cares for their thoughts on, nastiness is being accepted just now. 

It's something to expect if you're out there, doing something, trying to make a difference, trying your best. 

I absolutely disagree.  I think if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. 

There's the age old saying that you shouldn't judge a person until you've walked a mile in their shoes. At the moment it's been rewritten and is being shared left, right and centre on the internet using far more dramatic language along the lines of: you have no idea of the battles I'm facing, I use a smile to cover it but it's the people who smile the most that are hiding the biggest problems. Something like that. 

I fear that even that now, is being shared as a way of saying 'I'm far worse off than you, just consider that when you're with me, won't you?' 

I think that what we need to remember is that we are all facing battles that others don't know about. Every single one of us. So instead of harping on about the battles that we are facing, perhaps we ought to be thinking that with every single person that we meet. 

Maybe we didn't get the best waitress service today because she had horrendous news on her way into work. Maybe that driver didn't say thank you when you let him out because he's just driven away from his marriage. Maybe you haven't heard from that friend for a while because they're under so much stress at work. 

This is me telling the world that I am trying my best. I am trying to be the best friend, sister, daughter, colleague, granddaughter, employee, auntie and girlfriend that I can be. I'm trying to keep everyone happy. 

Chances are I am thinking of you every day. Every time I sneeze I think of the girl from secondary school who used to say 'bless-you-me' and then laugh her head off. I've been meaning to message her for ages to see how she is but never actually get round to it. Every time we have a child in work with the same name as your child, I think of you. And I think that I must message you to see how he's getting on, but then I get caught up in life and never quite get round to it. Almost every day I remember that it's the birthday of somebody I know- I have a weird memory for birthdays- but once again the year has gone by and I forgot to ask for their latest address, so it's just another online greeting for them. 

I've spoken to a lot of people about this lately. The pressure of being everything to everyone when you have so many people in your life- and everyone finds it hard.  My dad told me that it's part of being an adult. He has friends that he's desperate to see, but the time just goes. My best friends listed the people that they wish that they could find the time to see, call, message. 

But I wanted you to know. I wanted you to know that we all feel the pressure to be wonderful to everyone, to never snap, never forget to send a card, to be the thoughtful one, the helpful one, the kind one. To always see everything from everyone's point of view. And that we are all doing our best. 

So stop worrying so much.

Accept that other people are doing their best too- try not to get frustrated if you don't hear from them the second that your baby is born: they've got their own stuff to deal with. Don't complain the second something doesn't go your way- the person behind it is spinning a lot of plates, and it was yours that fell this time. That's not your fault but neither is it really theirs. Don't be offended if somebody doesn't have the same opinion as you- it's okay to disagree and move on. Even from the big things. Don't voice your opinion unless it's somehow going to make a positive impact. We don't need any more negativity just now. I recently saw a friend's status (distant friend- wouldn't be in touch were it not for the internet) that said 'be the change.' I thought it was brilliant. That doesn't mean end wars, or give up your job and go and volunteer, it means be nice. Think about how you're going to affect people with your actions. Be empathetic. Try and understand. And for goodness sake don't delete people from your life because you didn't understand them. What a huge loss for both of you. 


And remember that your best is enough. 

You're doing brilliantly.  

At least I think so. 

Even I don't quite get round to telling you often enough. 









Sunday, 28 June 2015

There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow...

It's early summer 2005.

I've finished my GCSEs, I've got the whole summer stretching in front of me, and I'm standing in the sunshine with two of my favourite people. 

My best friend, Harriett, and my prom date, James. 

My boyfriend is also there (yes, I had a boyfriend and a prom date), and so is Harriett's. 
I'm wearing a pale pink, floor length dress that doesn't quite fit properly, and my hair has been twisted into all kinds of shapes in a pile on top of my head. 

We are at our year eleven prom. 

Imagining our reunion. 

I had the clearest picture in my head. 

We'd look more or less as we do now- except we'd be wearing trouser suits (because that's what people as old as twenty six do), and we'd be sipping wine instead of apple juice. I'd have my hair done in the amazing bun style that my mum had at a posh charity dinner a few years before. 

Harriett and I would obviously still be best friends, so we'd go together. One of our husbands would probably drop us off, and the other pick us up.

It would be in the school hall, in a very similar set up to the prom. 

We'd all have name stickers on, and would stand around bopping in that adult way, chatting about our spouses and kids and the good old days of school. 

 I would be a hugely successful events planner by then, and would have organised the whole thing myself. People would keep complimenting me on its huge success, and on how much more elegant and beautiful I had become since school. 

Fast forward ten years. 

I'm alone in my little red Ka, pulling in to a pub car park. 

I'm wearing leggings, shorts, and a plain top, my hair is in a pony tail, and I'm about to walk into my ten year reunion. 

I walk in. 

Which I think is a very brave thing to do on my own. 

There are two girls just inside the door way. I don't recognise them at all, but they're around my age and very dressed up. They both look beautiful. One of them has a huge bun piled on top of her head, and the other is wearing a maxi dress. 

Oh God. 

I look like I just wandered out of work. 

I did just wander out of work. 

(Actually I did get changed. I don't wear leggings and shorts to work.) 

Still, I looked...plain. 
I take a deep breath and walk right into the pub, secretly hoping I'll find the wedding party that the beautiful girls wandered out of. 

No wedding party. No other beautifully dressed people. Nobody I recognise. 

I remind myself that they haven't closed the pub down for the reunion- if I don't see anybody I know I can just pretend I'm meeting a friend. Yes. If I don't see anybody I know I'll do an elaborate mime with my phone to demonstrate to everybody that my friend has just text me telling me to meet her in a different pub. 

I can be an excellent actress when I need to be. 

I'm about to pull my phone out of my bag when the outrageously tall man standing at the bar turns around, calls my name, and scoops me up into his arms. 

It's Prom Date James. 

The last time I saw him he was a tiny bit taller than me. had spiky brown hair and a pale pink tie to match my dress. 

Now he's at least nine foot tall (he's insisting that he's 6.3 but I'm sure that's not true), has those huge, fashion glasses, and a successful career as a building surveyor. Oh, and he's no longer James. He's now Jimmy. 

Next I saw Andrew (now Andy) and Bobby (still Bobby), who- like James- went to the same Primary and Secondary school as me. 

Both tell me that I haven't changed since Mrs Richards' class. (She taught us in Reception.) 

"Literally has barely even grown since we were five- she's so tiny!" somebody voices behind me. 

"She actually might have shrunk," another adds. 

Nothing has changed. I may as well be standing beside my locker getting my things together for Spanish. 

Only one thing is missing. 

"Harriett!" 

If I had left school knowing that seeing Harriett again in ten years would be a treat rather than the norm, I doubt I ever would have left. She was my best friend in the entire world. I hug her super tight, and note- somewhat stupidly- that she smells exactly the same as she did in 2005. 





We sit in a group and begin catching up when the glamorous girls from earlier appear and join in with the group beside us. So they are part of the reunion. 

"I don't remember them at all. They both look gorgeous. I thought I'd got the dress code totally wrong when I saw them looking so beautiful."

"I don't like girls with buns," Jimmy says, grinning. "And what do you mean they look gorgeous? You gay now?" 

Jimmy has reverted back to being James. We've all reverted back to being sixteen. I'm sure he doesn't say things like that in front of his surveyor pals. 

I thought that I had school at the forefront of my mind a lot of the time. I want to be a teacher, I work with children, I visit schools at least once if not twice a week, and I  have a stepbrother and sister who are both still there, but somehow- I realise as the conversation develops-  I've forgotten so much about school life...

1) The teachers. 

I do think of some of my teachers every now and then. My mum loves to tell the story of the art teacher who threw my- and only my- clay pot in the bin, saying it 'would be a waste of the kiln.' 

(Just to be clear my mum tells it a lot because she's still angry, not because she agrees that my was worth nothing.)

I rarely think about these though....

  • The teacher that only had one arm. I was terrified of being around her. Not because I was worried in any way that she would hurt me or was scary, but because I was convinced that one day I was going to accidentally shout 'you've only got one arm' at the sight of her and be expelled forever. 
  • The time my tutor group laid the lockers on their side and put them across the classroom door whilst my tutor was in there, then danced about waving at and taunting him.
  • The time the tiny, evil PE teacher was shouting a normally very well behaved girl (me) who was not taking it seriously enough. She was marching toward the girl as she humiliatingly shouted at her in front of everyone. The teacher- too focused on the girl to notice- walked straight into a volleyball net and got completely caught up in it and had to abandon her shouting. I have never laughed so much in my life. Especially not in front of a teacher. 
  • When we used to (and by we I genuinely mean in no terms me) knock on the underside of our tables so that the teacher would go out into the corridor to find out what was going on. 
2) The rumours...

  • If you stare at her fake arm too long she'll hit you with it. 

  • The teacher who makes the girls stand on chairs whilst he walks around looking up their skirts at their underwear. (Nobody you knew was ever made to do that but a friend of a friend was so it's definitely true.) 

  • The PE teachers that were actually a lesbian couple. 

  • The French teacher that was having an affair with the Physics teacher. It was definitely true because the cleaner was your friends' mum's friend and she had caught them in the cupboard after school one Thursday evening. (I shouldn't joke about this one because I'm quite sure this really did happen once.) 

  • The teacher that had a nervous breakdown because 8F hid her shoes in the drama cupboard. 
(I should make it clear at this moment that I do not want to be a teacher in a secondary school.) 

3) The trends...

  • Trouser skirts. You weren't cool unless you were wearing both trousers and a skirt. Why?
  • Converse trainers. More specifically in my school (not sure if this was a nationwide trend)- different coloured converse with different coloured laces. I used to wear one lime green one with pink laces, and one bright pink one with white laces. I was so cool. 
  • MSN messenger. Spending all day at school thinking of the most poignant song lyrics to put in the top bar to let him know how you felt. aNd  tHeN WrItInG tHeM LiKe ThIs. Waiting all evening for him to appear online, playing it cool for a few minutes to see if he'll say hey first and....you need to get off the internet so that your mum can make a phone call. Your whole life is ruined. 
  • Nokia 3310. It could only hold seven messages and played havoc with those of us too sentimental to delete. Harriett reminds me at the reunion that I used to cover my eyes and tell her to delete them for me. 
          "Okay, it's from Jake and it says he couldn't believe what happened in The OC either." 

         "Oh nooo, not that one, don't delete that one. Fine. Do it. Just don't let me look." 

  • Louise Rennison books. I used to cry with laughter on the beach on my summer holidays then spend the whole first term of school quoting them at Harriett. 
  • Limewire. You could almost instantly listen to your new favourite song. When the internet was fast enough. And nobody else needed the computer. And you could find it among the thousands of options. It was brilliant until my dad's friend told him he could get arrested if I kept using it. 
  • Combat trousers with tassels. I had them in green and pink, and had net vest tops in the same colour. They were my non-uniform day outfit of choice three years in a row. 
I spent the whole of my school life being told that "school is the best time of your life," and to "make the most of it, life will never be like this again." 

So I did. I soaked up every second. Enjoyed all of it. Immersed myself in everything- including the desperate dramas of secondary school like the fact that Tom- the boy who looked just like Calvin from S Club Juniors and who I was so certain I would marry- saw me in the card aisle in Asda with my mum and my life was OVER. Like the fact that my dad confiscated my phone phone for one WHOLE night and I may as well consign myself to a life alone there and then because WHAT WAS THE POINT ANYMORE?! I stressed outrageously about my year nine options. I- stupidly- took my teachers seriously when they told me my options would determine the rest of my life. I worked bloody hard. I entered the school talent show. I did all my homework to exam standard- even Art which I hated and was horrendous at. And I made sure I appreciated every second of it because it would never get better than this. 

One of my absolute favourite songwriters- John Mayer- wrote a brilliant song about school that says "they love to tell you stay inside the lines, but something's better on the other side."

Who knew?! 

College was even better than school. University was even better than that. 

My first three jobs were better still. 

Then I moved to Walt Disney World. 

When that happened I really did think that life would never get better. 

Then I met Dale. Jack was born. I discovered that Reese's peanut butter cups do exist in the UK. 

Still, I'm delighted that I was told that life would never get better than school. It's instilled in me the ability to appreciate every second: to be grateful, always.

As I sit with James, Bobby, Andrew and Harriett, laughing at old times, and catching up on everyone's current lives, something nothing short of profound hits me. 

This is the real world they told us about. 

All those years spent at school being told "you won't get away with that in the real world", "you're going to have a shock when you get into the real world," and you wait until you get into the real world."

Guess what? We're all here, and we're all okay. 

My memory flicks back over the past few months. 

I'm at Pumbaa's house. It's about 10pm. We're sitting on the sofa eating pizza and Haribo, having just said goodnight to her husband. 

Suddenly, he bursts back into the room. 

"You evil, evil woman."

Pumbaa smirks. 

"I'm just making the girls' teas."

"I don't care!" He replies, half angry, half trying not to laugh. "Go upstairs and fix it now. I can't do it myself. I'll make their teas." 

They both start laughing, as they play fight in an attempt to be the one to make the tea. 

Not the one to put the sheets on the bed. 

This is the real world. Play fighting with your husband about who does the awful job- the job that never stops being awful- of making up the bed. 

I'm at Minnie Mouse's house. She's more or less just given birth. (A few days, give or take.) Pumbaa's husband looks around at Minnie, her husband, his own wife and me. 

"Feels a bit weird having a baby with us and no adults." 
This is the real world. Being twenty six. Feeling sixteen. 

The next line of that genius song by John Mayer pops into my head. 

"I wanna run through the halls in my high school, I wanna scream at the top of my lungs. I just found out there's no such thing as the real world. Just a lie you have to rise above."

I've been listening to that song for at least ten years. And it finally makes sense. 

As I kiss these brilliant adults goodbye, vowing not to leave it until 2025 to meet up again, the final lines of the song fill my head...

"I just can't wait 'til my ten year reunion, I wanna bust down the double doors. And when I stand on these tables before you, you will know what all this time was for..."

<3

Sunday, 3 May 2015

There You'll Be

It has happened! We have our very own, brand new princess, and she's beautiful. The country has fallen in love already. 

And I have read and heard some relatively ridiculous things.

"They'll be thinking of a name. They claim that they didn't know the sex of the baby, but like any other couple I'm sure they'll have had a few options for either eventuality." 

Yes, because they're human. 

"Prince William has said he's very happy." 

I'd say he is, yes. 

There's one person- however, that hasn't really been mentioned. Yes, he did appear for a minute, yes they commented on the fact that his wave is just like his great grandmother's (ridiculous), and yes, he is adorable. 

But nobody seems to have registered how huge this is for Prince George. This gorgeous little girl is going to be the Harry to his William. His partner in crime. His best friend. 

And all anyone can talk about is how his wave outside the hospital had impeccable timing. 

I spoke to my mum about how casually siblings- the most important people in your life- are introduced to you. When somebody announces that they're having a second child, people do tend to ask how the eldest is feeling about it. 

Chances are if they're under the age of six, they don't really understand.

But it's going to affect them more than anyone. The lives of the parents have already been overhauled by baby number one, it's the lives of the siblings that you're turning upside down by having another. Their personalities, family relationships, and the way that their lives play out are about to totally change because of this baby. 

Last month my baby brother Chip turned twenty one. 

(NB. His alias is Chip because he will always be the youngest and cutest, just like the cup from Beauty and the Beast. Not because he resembles a chipmunk in any way.)

A couple of days before the party I collected together photos from his life and put them onto a USB stick to be projected onto the wall of the bar. 

Throughout the evening, at least ten people came over and commented on them to me.

"Rebecca the photos are wonderful, you've done a great job." 

"Jesus Christ Rebecca, did you need to put up that picture of me from 1999? What was I thinking with that hair?!" 

What I wanted to know was: how did they know it was me?

I asked my dad, who told me that everyone knew that he wouldn't have been able to put that together. And neither would my mum. And Mowgli- our other brother- wouldn't have known where to find the photos. 

Which left me. 

And that got me thinking.

Imagine if Chip was an only child? 

Would he just not have had little touches like the  photos on the wall? Like the video of his life I made him when he turned eighteen? Who would have stood up for him when he was being oh so wronged by our parents? Who would have squeezed his arm at funerals and laughed with him during the hymn part of weddings? Who would have brought him a pint of water and a loaf of bread when he had had one too many bacardi breezers? And then told our grandparents that he had a tummy bug when  he spent the entirety of the next day throwing up? 

I know that I've mentioned in a few posts that my brothers are the best people in the entire world. So I have always been vaguely aware of how lucky I am. But this was the first time I had really thought about how much siblings affect your life. 

I asked a few people for their thoughts. 

It was a mixed response, really. 

One of my friends- a youngest child with a big age gap- said that she didn't think her life would be different at all.

Another- also the youngest but with only an eighteen month age gap- said that his childhood would have been different but his current life would be exactly the same.

Dale insisted that his life would be no different but I know him well enough to know that his sisters and his niece and nephew mean the entire world to him, and that he would be a totally different person with a totally different day to day life if he didn't have them around. 

Mowgli's girlfriend told me she would have spent her whole life bored without her sister. 

My mum said that without her big brother she would have had nobody to idolise growing up. 

I asked Pumbaa who, as always, provided an excellent answer. 

"I feel the same about my sister as I do about men." 

Right. 

"Can't live with her, can't live without her." 

Succinct as always. 

I asked Minnie Mouse, whose sister wasn't born until she was nineteen. 

She pointed out that her cousin is like a sister to her. She can't imagine life without her cousin- but if she had had siblings from a younger age she probably wouldn't have had that same close relationship with her cousin. 

Then I asked Chip. 

Who said it was just too big a question to answer. 

He's very wise, my baby brother. 

He pointed out that the three of us: me, Mowgli, and Chip, have all got our personalities from our place in the family. He's right. I am definitely the eldest child, and anybody who meets me, oblivious to the fact that my brothers even exist, would be able to guess that quite easily. 

Mowgli is quiet but sociable. The only time he speaks is to say something hilarious. He's so easy going he's practically horizontal. He cares very much about fairness- if he was the last person to make a cup of tea, he will definitely not be making the next one until everybody else has had a turn. He is flexible, and quite happy to just be. When I asked him his thoughts on being an only child he said "I would be loved by my parents. I would be the favourite child. I'd probably be just as good looking." He's a middle child. 


Chip is a risk taker. He's outgoing, confident, creative, unorganised, messy and easily bored. He thinks quite deeply and is interested in everything. He's the youngest.

If all three of us didn't exist, then whoever was left would be a totally different person. 

Would that person have been a mix of all three of us? A perfect combination of my parents? 


 I thought about some of the 'only' children I know. 

They do tend to be a perfect combination of their parents. And they tend to be closer to their friends- they spent their childhood inviting friends on holiday, and for tea every night. They share their problems and issues with their friends, and share their sense of humour with their parents.  

Friends without siblings that I spoke to said that they felt that they were closer to their friends, and their parents, and a couple pointed out that I never get too close to anyone outside of my family because I have my brothers. 

Which I absolutely agree with. 

So there are clearly points for and against both.

They also insisted that my relationship with Mowgli and Chip is unusual. I disagree. Siblings go through so much together- maybe that manifests itself in different ways- but it's so special nonetheless. 

I recently read a list of things that having brothers teaches you. I agreed with the first two, then it got silly. "Brothers teach you what you're looking for in a relationship." Um...no. My brothers definitely didn't teach me that. My brothers taught me that men are disgusting behind closed doors, that if a lad doesn't like a girl, it doesn't matter how nice a person they are, they will be awful to her, and that being desperate and/or boring will never be attractive in a girl. They didn't teach me who I want to date. 

Anyway, I decided to make my own list of why siblings are brilliant...


1)  They keep your feet well and truly on the ground.

I have a big mole on my arm. It honestly doesn't bother me at all- mainly because I've spent my entire life having Mowgli and Chip make fun of it. They love it. When I returned from my year in Orlando and my best friends were saying they couldn't wait to hear all about it, my mum couldn't wait to see my face and my dad couldn't wait to catch up with me- my brothers went straight to the mole. They were so excited to be reunited with it. 

I spent my childhood hearing 'you can run, you can hide but you can't escape my mole' to the tune of Enrique Iglesias's song Escape. 

I will never, ever be arrogant.


2) They are your allies. 

Once, when I was at uni, I had a phone call from  Mowgli. I had been put on loud speaker. His voice was a little bit high and squeaky, you know how your voice goes when you're a bit angry and wanting to make a point? 

"Rebs, if I made the last cup of tea, and Mum and Dad both already made one, whose turn is it?" 

"Chip's." 

"Thank you!" He said, voice filled with triumph. "Everyone was saying it was my turn again. Come on Chip! Kettle on. See ya later." 

And so he was gone. 

I just told Mowgli's girlfriend this story. She turned to him and said: "You always ring Rebecca when you want to make a point! You do that to me as well." And went on to remind us all about the time she spelt scarf wrong and he rang me to get me to correct her.




3) They cover your back. 

When I told my mum I was writing this she reminded me of all the times that we've worked together to hide stuff from our parents. We took all the glass out of a picture once when Chip smashed it while our parents were on holiday. They didn't know for years. We also sellotaped a vase back together and turned it around after the boys had been playing football in the lounge. (Turns out Mum had banned that for a reason.) Then there was the time the ironing board went through the door....none of us can remember what we did to hide it, but we all agree it worked because our parents didn't know for so long. 

I picked both of them up from their football Christmas night out once because Mum had been so mad at them for throwing up in her car the year before, and I HATE anyone being mad at my brothers. I'd rather they were sick in my car. I can get annoyed at them. Nobody else. 

4) They know everything. 

And are very good to not bring it up at the worst moments. Mowgli and Chip know that I used to clip clop around in my Grandma's shoes pretending to be a teacher, they know that I've had some questionable boyfriends, that I still occasionally watch Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and that I used to constantly impersonate our French Life Holiday Rep Monique. Who was Northern. How irritating. 

They'll laugh about these things in the right company and keep them quiet the rest of the time. But it means that they understand me better than anybody else in the entire world. 

5) They will always be on your side. 

We were getting off the bus once when someone made a wholly unnecessary comment to Chip. Mowgli- easy-going, unassuming, very quiet Mowgli- told this lad that he would kill him before he spoke to his brother like that again. 

We can be mean to Chip- nobody else.


6)  They find things funny that nobody else would understand. 

Things about my parents, mainly. We have been known to call each other to immediately pass on something hilarious that either mum or dad have said. 

7) They understand our parents like nobody else. 

Our parents are insane. Really. They are funny and crazy and wise and opinionated and- it turns out- human. Only we understand what it's like to have been brought up by them and only we can laugh at stories from when we were little. And from now, in fact. 

Your siblings are always there- through everything. My brothers were there when I was a bossy five year old referring to them as "kids", when I lived in a dodgy fringe and a donnay jumper in the early noughties, when I used to make them do the bleep test when I ran my health club- fit not fat, (I was nine), when I brought my first boyfriend home, when I got my GCSE/A level/degree results, when I moved away to uni, they were at weddings, funerals and christenings, through huge celebrations and heart-breaking news, when I was leaving for my best friend's wedding and when I'm on the sofa in my jammies with my hair scraped back and embarrassing tv on. 

And they still want to know me. 

How brilliant is that?! 

These are the best people in the entire world and despite knowing every single thing about me and my life, still want to hang out with me, look after me, even. 

I recently heard some sad news, and the friend that told me said "tell your family you love them. You never know what's going to happen." 

I like to think that I'm quite good at that. I'm not big on elaborate displays of affection. I don't randomly text them out of the blue to say I love them, or share those "share if you love your brother' things on social media. I don't say it to them when we're sitting on the sofa, or when they call me to settle a spelling disagreement. 

But I squeeze them really, really tight when I see them. And will catch them just as they're walking past me and give them a hug. I ruffle their hair, and I laugh at their jokes, and I listen to them. (Although, ironically, Mowgli was trying to talk to me while I wrote this and I didn't realise he was talking to me and blanked him for quite a while, judging by his annoyance when my mind returned to the real world.) I ask about their football matches, and tell them if I've seen something I think they'll appreciate. And with every exchange- even if it's: "how's the mole today, Rebs?"- I am grateful that the best people in the entire world happen to be my little brothers. 

So maybe we should be considering Prince George a little more as we all get over excited about having a princess. Yes, we have a princess, but he has a sister. It's bigger for him than for anybody else in the entire world.  


Everything is about to change.

I hope he's as lucky as I am :) 






Sunday, 5 April 2015

Little Wonders...

On Friday 1st August 2014 I finished my shift at The Lion King and met Minnie Mouse and Pumbaa for a quiet dinner in my favourite restaurant. We were sipping our drinks and catching up when Minnie Mouse changed the entire world forever more.

She said the word "so."

As she said it, she looked up at both of us from under her unreasonably long lashes, and smiled.

My stomach immediately dropped.

Before my brain could register why on earth my stomach was behaving that way, Minnie Mouse spoke again.

"I'm pregnant."

And that was that. The world changed.

(Not that everybody felt it, of course. Our waitress continued to ask us whether we were ready to order and was not hugely impressed when we kept tearfully shaking our heads and laughing whilst snivelling, as dramatic girls do, about the fact that we hadn't looked at the menu yet. I used to be a waitress. We were the worst kind of table that night. But the world was different. The rules didn't apply to us.)

Minnie Mouse has been my best friend since 2005. When someone becomes your best friend at the age of sixteen, you go through a lot together.

We've spent plenty of years together in which the words "I'm pregnant" would have caused a different kind of crying.

So somehow her pregnancy didn't just mean that a baby was coming, it meant that we were well and truly adults.

Some of you may have noticed by looking at my various career choices and general behaviour that I am attempting to avoid growing up at all costs, and I'm doing a great job of staying in denial about the whole thing.

But my best friend being married with a mortgage and a baby? An actual baby, that she's having with her husband and taking home to her four bedroom house that has four bedrooms for this exact purpose?!

That is actually quite grown up, isn't it?

I spent the next seven months shopping for baby clothes (nb. if you work in a shop, specifically Disney Store for clientèle like me but any shop that sells baby clothes really, please don't ask the customer if they are pregnant. It's mortifying for all involved. She'll tell you if she wants to.), all manner of baby merchandise and talking to anyone and everyone about the fact that this baby was due.

Every now and then I would have a little moment of realisation, like the fact that Minnie Mouse was going to give birth to an actual person, who would go on to have a career and a love life and funny stories like the rest of us. Or like the fact that she was going to have a baby. It wasn't just a bump- one day she was going to give birth. And then there would be a baby. A real one like the ones my mum's friends have. And the fact that it would then be a toddler. We'd have a toddler running round when we caught up with each other.

I did get used to her being pregnant eventually. Probably in around the last two weeks.

We went on Pumbaa's hen weekend in September and Minnie was just about showing a bump. I drove her to Pumbaa's house where we met everyone and I felt like I had been left with the responsibility of running up a vertical travelator without dropping the crown jewels. The baby may as well have been strapped in the back wailing, for all the responsibility I felt on that fifteen minute, straight forward drive. I carried her bags, I held her hand, I brought her water at the drop of a hat. (Actually, Pumbaa would quite readily tell you that I have always been like this with Minnie Mouse. She's like a real life princess- you can't help yourself.) Then on one occasion, one tiny occasion, I slipped up. Minnie Mouse had to carry her bag herself.

She will never, ever let it go. That story will still being told at his 30th birthday party, I swear.

Pumbaa revelled in Minnie's pregnancy. She bought all the right things at all the right stages, she had all the right answers at all the right times, came out with pearls of wisdom and brilliant ideas. She'd run into the room and immediately go to the bump, running her hands over it and speaking to him like he knew her. She asked the right questions, made the right amount of fuss, and showed so much love to him from the word go.

I, like Pumbaa, was in love the second I heard that this person was even on his way to existing. I bought him haphazard presents- tops and babygros and bibs as I saw them, and was too excited to save them, just gave them straight to Minnie to go in the wardrobe. I told everyone about it, just couldn't wait. I cried walking down Surbiton High Street telling my mum about the pregnancy. For the baby shower, I took a present really suitable for a one year old, but I was too excited to wait a whole year to buy it. I touched the bump twice, when told to by Minnie Mouse, and absolutely could not get my head around that being a human.

So what I want to know is: how do people know how to act?

I was on Facebook this morning and saw that a friend had bought a mutual friend's baby a Christmas present. I'd say we're about equal friends with this mum, but I didn't even send them a card! Was I meant to send a present now that she's had a baby? Is all this wisdom just going to come to me the second I have my own house? Or a husband? Who teaches us this stuff?

Anyway, despite my lack of etiquette around the whole thing, I think it's the love that counts, right?

It reached March. He was due 12th March. (Mel C's birthday, incidentally. Why do stupid facts like that stick around?) By 7th March I was going relatively crazy. Checking my phone every five seconds. Checking Facebook just in case for some reason I didn't receive the text (my phone is notoriously unreliable.) I messaged Minnie on a daily basis to check that she was okay. Sometimes two or three times a day. Sometimes she didn't reply and I'd call her, imagining she was stuck in labour in her bathroom and for some reason couldn't dial out but would be able to answer the phone.

Once, I popped round there. She knew I was coming but she didn't answer the door immediately. I got to the point where I was about to knock on the neighbour's door and ask them to help me break in, convinced she was stuck upstairs alone and was waiting for me to turn up and rescue her.

What I had forgotten, of course, was that despite the pregnancy, she hadn't had a personality transplant. It was Minnie Mouse.

She sauntered to the door just as I was debating stopping the police car that was driving past and said "sorry babe, I was just doing my hair."

Oh.

It got to 16th March. Dale and I popped round to see her. We got back in the car, she was stood at the door waving, and I checked my empty phone and sighed.

"You know she's not in labour Rebecca, she's right there!"

Oops.

It got to 19th March.

I went into Costa and bought a coffee as a treat on the way into work. The service was exceptional, so I took down the names of the very busy-and-efficient baristas, and planned to write an email later that day. I got back into my car, and the phone started ringing. My doctor, returning a call about my appointment. As I picked up the phone I saw a text arrive. All I saw was the word "Minnie".

I never did send that email to Costa. And I wrote down the wrong time for that doctor's appointment.

She was five centimetres dilated and had been sent to hospital.

Somehow, the world had changed again. And I hadn't seen it coming this time.

I had been checking my phone obsessively for weeks. I had talked of more or less nothing else. My cousin, an excellent midwife, had been on call for me like I was pregnant, we'd been talking almost constantly about what would happen when Minnie did go into labour and how the date/time could change things. I'd watched all the tv shows where you see the characters wait for their best friends to give birth. Friends, SATC, Gavin and Stacey...I thought I knew.

I got the text and was overcome with emotion. I am quite an emotional person, so it's not shocking that I had an emotional reaction. But this was so unexpected. 

I drove out of the Costa car park, tears running down my face, when Hold On by Wilson Phillips came on. One of our (many) songs.

When I finished my year in Disney I remember one of my friends saying to me that as she watched the Epcot fireworks for the last time, she saw a show reel of the last twelve months in her head. When we moved out of our family home last September, my brother said that as he walked around the empty house for the last time, he saw a show reel of the past seventeen years in his head.

As I drove to work with the words of that text still echoing in my mind and Wilson Phillips singing in my ears, I saw a show reel of the past ten years in my head. Overhearing this outrageously beautiful and outrageously loud girl on the first day at my new college saying that she had to wait two hours for her Law class to start. Going over to her and introducing myself, explaining that I was in that Law class as well. Her telling me that I'd made a fool of myself randomly talking to a stranger like that but proceeding to hang out with me for the next two hours anyway. Her passing her driving test the same day that I failed mine. Her 18th birthday- the night that she fell over and actually seriously damaged her ankle and everybody told her to shut up and stop making such a fuss. Pumbaa's 18th birthday- the night that we all felt like actual Goddesses, despite pictures now suggesting that we were anything but. Coming back from my holiday to Halkidiki to hear that Minnie Mouse had met this boy at Pumbaa's barbecue and it looked like it might turn into something. (That boy, by the way, is the man that had text me approximately two and a half minutes earlier to say his wife was 5 cm dilated.) The trip to Dublin for our 21st birthdays where we all declared in front of my relatively new boyfriend that we couldn't believe we were almost half a century old, and he couldn't believe we really thought that. The holiday to Crete, where Minnie's bag weighed the same as the rest of ours put together and my dad almost did his back in trying to get it out of the boot. The time I got a message from Minnie whilst she was in Vegas and it was a picture of an engagement ring. The time I popped round there and she gave me a goody bag asking me to be her bridesmaid. The time we took a selfie just before we walked down the aisle and the vicar and the photographer thought it was hilarious and made it the theme of the wedding. The time Pumbaa and I walked down the aisle in our bridesmaid dresses and hadn't been warned that we were walking down to a live version of "A Thousand Years", and so sobbed in a wholly undignified manner for the rest of the service. The time we were sat in Sophie's in Covent Garden for a casual dinner and Minnie told us she was pregnant.

Where had the time gone? How was she in labour?

I got into work and told the lady on customer services as I signed in that my best friend was in labour. I got into the office and told both of the other managers. I continued to tell myself.

I spent the rest of that day in an emotional daze. I checked my phone approximately once every millisecond. The only relief I got was when I was holding interviews and was actually so focused on being professional and hiring the right people that I could temporarily forget that anything else existed.

My amazingly thoughtful and talented cousin came in and saw me at work twice that day, keeping me updated with what could potentially be going on. She told me that the absolute latest he could be born was 10pm.

I finished work at 8pm. Nothing.

It got to half past nine and I text Pumbaa. We proceeded to stare at our phones for the next ten hours, the only messages from each other.

I don't think I can tell you how I felt during this time. I'm not sure I can express it.

For some reason, despite the fact that we had spent seven and a half months being excited about her pregnancy, repeating to myself that she was growing a person, I still hadn't quite registered that she would go into actual labour and have an actual child.

It made me see pregnancy and childbirth in a whole new light.

At 7am I got a phone call to tell me that he was here, and that both mother and child were safe and sound.

I went to work in a daze. I was tired, and worried, and everything had seriously changed.

I kept seeing pregnant women and wanting to tell them: you know you have to get that out of you now, don't you? That's an actual person and you've got to push him out! Are you ready for that? Are your friends and family?

At 10am I got a text from Minnie herself.

At 12pm I got pictures of the most beautiful human being that has ever existed.

At lunch, I showed the pictures to a colleague, who couldn't believe how glamorous Minnie was post-birth. (Just to give you an idea, when she went overdue she was concerned that her eyelash extensions wouldn't last much longer.)

As I showed my work friend the pictures, I said: "Mm she had a list of names. I know she liked Joshua and Zachary but clearly they're out!" She looked at the pictures and frowned.

"Um...why? Has she said that?"

"No. But look at him. Neither of them are his name!"

She laughed her head off.

"He's...he's a baby."

By the next day, I was the definition of exhausted. I'd had texts and pictures from Minnie and her wonderful family (who I will be forever grateful to for keeping me updated), but I needed to see her before I would sleep properly again. I kept being told that I needed to see him, I needed to meet him and then it would all make sense in my head and my emotions would calm down again. Actually, I needed to see Minnie again. I love that baby so, so, so much already- he is perfect. But his mum is my best friend in the world and she had been through one hell of an ordeal. It was her I was worried about, her I needed to see again to put my mind at rest.

On Saturday 21st March (remember Sam? From Sam and Mark fame? His birthday. Seriously. I should go on Mastermind for celeb birthdays), I finally met him. This little man that I had waited for for so long. And I finally saw Minnie Mouse. And the second I hugged her, everything settled back into place again. The worry evaporated, the world settled. I relaxed. I held and cuddled him, we talked about the birth, but we talked about other things. We talked about Pumbaa's wild antics from the night before. We talked about my job. We talked about friends and family and normal things.

The world had changed. And was the same.

That night I finally slept again.

The next morning, having put the photo on Facebook just before I fell asleep, I woke up to an outrageous number of texts congratulating me. I really had mentioned it to everyone I had met in the last seven and a half months, and they all text me to tell me to pass on their congratulations.

Which was wonderful.

What I couldn't get my head around though, and probably never will, is that the world didn't stop.

I still had to go to work. I still held those interviews. I saw people walking around Sainsbury's as though life wasn't about to change forever. People I told said it was lovely and gave me a smile but- it wasn't enough. It wasn't one of the news stories down the side of my Facebook. It wasn't trending on twitter. Nobody mentioned it on This Morning.

Millions of people go through this every single day in every corner of the globe. And when it finally happened in my world- in the centre of my world, not just near it- I realised what a big deal it is.

Once upon a time, this happened because you were on your way. That's how important you are. For someone, the entire world stood still because you were being born. You are so, so special. You mean so much to the people around you. You could do anything if you wanted to. You changed the world.

Isn't it funny that we write our date of birth on so many things? We use it as a password, as a form of ID, as a way of measuring what's going to happen to us this month and who we are compatible with according to astrology! But it's hard to think that was ever an actual day, isn't it? I know that the Hillsborough Disaster happened just before I was born, and that the charity single was number one that day. I know that Charlene and Scott had not long got married on Neighbours, and that everyone was still singing Especially For You. I know that it was the year that the Children Act was passed, and the year that The Little Mermaid was released.

But I can't get my head around it being an actual day. Sometimes I look at my birth certificate and try and imagine the person that wrote the date thinking "hmm, what's the date today?" then casually writing 1989, because it was 1989.

One day, he will know that 2015 was the year that Madonna fell over at the Brits (because that will definitely be a pub quiz question in 2035), that Frozen Mania was still upon us, and that Uptown Funk stormed the charts.

What he will never know is that the entire world changed for a whole bunch of people just because he was here.

Try and remember that, next time you're doubting yourself, or questioning your self-worth.

Welcome on board Jack James Orme. Born Thursday 19th March at 21.21. Weighing a very healthy 9.7.

You have already changed the world.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Break Away...

In October last year I made a decision- just a little decision- a decision to send a text message, to be precise, without consulting my best friends or parents first. I made the decision, wrote and sent the text, and then messaged my best friends and called my Mum to tell them I had done it.

Everybody immediately told me it had been a huge mistake. I shouldn't have been so honest in my text. "There's being honest and then there's that!" Minnie Mouse had despairingly replied. 

I couldn't see what was wrong with it. Honesty was the policy that I had with the receiver of that message, and it had worked well for us thus far. I thought he would appreciate it. 

Soon though, the horrified reactions of my Mum and friends were starting to concern me. I started to feel sick, actually. And he hadn't replied. Oh God, why hadn't he replied? 

I sent another outrageously honest text, that went along the lines of: Oh my God, I shouldn't have been so honest with you. I'm sorry. Forget I ever said anything. Can we start again. Please? 

I like to think it wasn't quite as desperate as that. But you get the idea. 

I called him. He didn't answer. I had to start work. Work was going to be hell. My stomach was in knots. I told the girls at work what I had done. I wasn't massively reassured. 

My break couldn't come soon enough. 

When it finally arrived, I had a text from him saying call me. 

Oh God. 

I frantically explained that I thought it was best to be honest but now I had learnt my lesson- my friends had all told me that that was a step too far, I was sorry, I wouldn't do it again. 

He laughed down the phone. 

He told me that yeah, it was honest, and it probably wouldn't suit most people. But that was the standard we had set. That was the policy we had decided on. He hadn't thought anything of the text. But he'd read it on his way into the underground and so I hadn't received his casual and happy reply before I'd sent my frantic sorry messages. 

Then he told me something that I believe has changed and will continue to change my life: 

You hold your friends' opinions up too high Rebecca. You rely on them too much, and you care about what they think far more than you should. 

Those words struck me far deeper than I think he intended them to. 

Did I rely on my friends too much? Or was he just failing to understand how girl friendships work? 

I had a feeling it was the former. 

A couple of weeks later I was at Pumbaa and Baloo's wedding, where I was reminded that Pumbaa's friends and family were actively against her dating Baloo when she first met him. 

"Imagine if I had listened to everyone, and cared what they all thought. Imagine if I'd thought that everyone else's opinions were more important than my own." Pumbaa had said, eyebrows raised and arms flailing when I asked her about it. 

I realised that I had had it in my head that this was how our friendship worked. We ran everything by each other. That was how we made decisions. Talking to Pumbaa I realised that that wasn't strictly true. I would run everything by my friends, take their opinion as gospel, and make my decisions based on that. None of the others did that. I was being ridiculous. How had I let this go on for so long?  

A few weeks later, Madame Adelaide suggested something that I wasn't totally sure I agreed with. Remembering the advice I had been given, I took a moment to consider what my opinion was. I told her. She tipped her head to one side and said: "Oh yeah. I hadn't seen it like that. That makes sense." Then we talked about something else. 

This was a revelation to me. 

Madame Adelaide is the nicest person in the world. The most angry thing I've ever heard her say is "and then she took the buttercream and iced the cake! Can you believe it?!" 

So I'm not sure exactly what reaction I was expecting from her upon hearing I didn't totally agree with her opinion. But I learnt a big lesson in that moment. 

Madame Adelaide, Pumbaa, and Minnie Mouse- as well as anyone else I put on a pedestal- are wonderful, really. And their opinions are valuable and will always be important to me. But they are not the only opinions, their point of view is not the only one, and they would be the first to say that their ideas are not the be all and end all. They don't necessarily know the situation that I need help with or the people involved like I do. It might be that they are so quick to defend and protect me that they can't see it from the other person's point of view. It might be that they are comparing it to a situation that they feel passionate about that it can't totally be compared to. 

There's a line in the Baz Luhrmann song Sunscreen that says: 

Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth. 

And that is what I had somehow let myself forget- despite listening to that song far more often than necessary. Advice is provided with the intention of helping you but you don't have to follow it to the letter. Just because you think someone is wiser or more experienced than you doesn't mean they have all the answers for you and your exact situation. 

Since this huge revelation, I have discovered another, very similar feature, about myself. 

It turns out that, despite the fact that I love them and just think they're the best human beings on the planet, I don't have to agree with my parents on everything. 

They might be reading this and laughing, shaking their heads. I am quite opinionated. and I'll not pretend that I've never disagreed with my parents until this year. But recently my friends were discussing how much they love Emma Willis and I, in my new practice of voicing my thoughts, disagreed with them. When they asked me what I've seen her on that made me dislike her I realised...I've never seen her on anything. I don't really know anything about her. My Mum doesn't like her though. 

That's a ridiculous reason to not like her, I realised. 

How had I caught that opinion off of my Mum without noticing?!

A few days later somebody asked me if I like cats. 

"Ooh no. Ugh. Not a cat person. Not me." I scoffed. 

Then one of them started telling stories about her cat. I remembered sharing a bed with the cat in one of the houses I worked in. Then I remembered the kittens that my ex-boyfriend found and hand-reared. And then I remembered how much I love Dale's cats climbing onto my lap. 

Actually, I love cats. I think that when I do finally grow up and have a house and a pet, I would like that pet to be a cat. 

Yet somehow I had held onto this idea that I hate cats because my Dad does. 

I am twenty-five years old. I left home almost eight years ago. I've lived all across the world. I've been responsible for other people's children. I'm someone's manager. What am I doing running around voicing my parents' opinions as my own?! 

These two huge revelations of how much I rely on those around me; despite my supposed independence, my travelling, my stubborn and opinionated nature and my own initiative, have been a wake up call. I have decided to make that independence genuine and am becoming a better adult and well-rounded person as a result. 

Here are the ridiculous things that I have discovered about myself on this journey of independence so far...

1) The voices in my head are enough. 

A few weeks ago I had to call in sick to work. I hate calling in sick. My mum was one of those parents that insisted I "had a try" if I was ill, so I went into school no matter what kind of vicious bug I had and nine times out of ten would end up having to sit in the horrendous medical room throwing up into a washing up bowl that smelt of bleach until she came to get me. I am grateful to her for instilling into me the importance of only calling in if you were genuinely too ill to be there but still. The guilt gets me. Ordinarily I would have called my Mum asking her if she thought I was sick enough to warrant calling in. Wanting her to reassure me that it was the right thing to do and remind me that everyone has to do it sometimes (I've literally done it four times in my life). But this time, in my quest for independence, I realised that I knew exactly what she would say and how she would say it. That if I tried to go into work I'd only end up being off for longer. That I'd be of no use to anyone in my state anyway. She'd tell me she hates doing it too. That the people I work with should know me well enough to know it would only ever be genuine. And then I'd have dragged out making the horrible call even longer.

So I did it. I made the decision and the phone call without running it by anyone And I was off for a whole day. And neither of my parents knew. What a grown up.

2) It's okay that I like tattoos. 

Lots of people like them. Lots of people have them. A lot of those people have parents that don't like them. And that's okay. I think that they're a ridiculous reason to judge someone and, for the first time, am happy to admit that out loud. And even put it in writing. Where my parents and grandparents can read it. And I'm fairly sure they won't disown me, and that I won't get struck down. (If someone could just keep an eye on me for a while though that'd be great. If I am suddenly disowned you all know why.)

3) I will be finding out the sex of the baby. 

It's such a stupid thing to disagree on but my Mum and Grandparents passionately believe that the sex of the baby should remain a secret until the baby is born. I want to know. And I've always kind of thought...well I want to know but the family don't so I guess I won't be able to.

But I totally can and will find out! They don't have to know if they don't want to :)

(Just to be clear: I am not having a baby any time soon.)

4) I actually would quite like to go to Asia and Australia. 

My parents have never wanted to, so I have never wanted to. But now I have lots of friends there and couldn't work out my feelings. All the pictures and stories are amazing- so why do I still not want to go?

Oh wait. I do.

5) Everybody doesn't have to know everything. 

I had got myself into such a mad state of needing everybody's opinion before I made any kind of decision, or if I had any kind of dilemma, that two things would happen.

Firstly, I would hear so many different opinions that I wouldn't be able to form my own; and secondly, everybody would know all of my business all the time. It drove me crazy and it didn't seem to be a pattern I could get out of.

Until I found the power of making my own decisions. It's okay to just make a decision or deal with an issue without telling everyone I've ever met. It's okay to just ask one or two people to get it off my chest. It's easier, in  fact.

How have I only just discovered this?!

6) Nobody knows the right answer. 

I always remember that when I worked with Flounder she told me that when you're on the spot you just have to make decisions based on your own feelings and hope it works out okay. You can't run every single decision by a manager or you'll never get anything done.

I found that a really difficult concept to get my head around: I like rules and regulations, thank you very much. Anyone who's ever worked for Disney will know that decisions are made using the four keys in order. Safety is the main priority in every decision, followed by Courtesy, Show and Efficiency. That suits me: a decision making formula. Wonderful.

But in the real world, the four keys don't always apply, decisions have to be made purely on instinct and common sense.

And what I've discovered since becoming a manager is that there's not a ruler of the world that decides whether what you did is right or wrong. If you can explain why you made a decision, people will generally support it. Even if you made it without running by somebody else.

That is a huge revelation for me. I can decide things without getting someone else's opinion. And it will all work out okay. There was a time when I couldn't choose an ice cream flavour without running it by my Mum first. I'm growing up :)

 7) My parents will support me even when they disagree with me. 

I recently called my Dad and asked him for advice on something. He gave me a lot of advice based on his own experience, and then I went and did the exact opposite. When I told him what I was thinking of doing and then what I had done, he listened patiently, asked all the right questions, and reassured me that I had done the right thing.


It turns out that I'm surrounded by people who are happy to disagree with me. How magical :)

So try it out: make your own decisions, be your own person, take a deep breath and decide your own opinion. Form your own thoughts, go your own way, and make your own mistakes.

Take a risk, take a chance, make a change.

Prove yourself.

And let me know how it goes :)


















Oh! And another thing...

I am going totally against my boyfriend's beliefs by taking Davina's Five Weeks to Sugar-Free Challenge, and I will be documenting the highs and lows in my brand new blog: Just Sweet Enough. 

 http://jjustsweetenough.blogspot.co.uk/

Please do not feel obliged to have a peek, but if you're interested in doing it yourself or seeing what it's going to do to me, take a little look :)





Friday, 13 February 2015

All For Love....

Is it just me or is Valentine's Day a bigger deal than usual this year?

It feels like it is everywhere at the minute. You know that scene in the first Sex and the City movie when Miranda and Carrie go out for dinner on February 14th and there are actual paper hearts hanging from the ceiling? 

That's what my whole world feels like this February.

And I am not complaining. 

Any reason to celebrate, I say. 

One of my house mates argued that it's all just a big commercial excuse to charge an absolute fortune for everything. 

He has a point. Dale saw an advert for a two course meal at Wetherspoons for 30 pounds. Wetherspoons! 

(Just as a side note I own the only laptop in the entire world that does not have a pound sign.) 


Despite this, I am actually a supporter of Valentine's Day for two reasons: 

1) I love an excuse to celebrate. ANY excuse. I love how the air feels different if it's a special date. Everything from my own birthday to St. David's Day is exciting- anything to mix it up and make it different from every other day. (I tried to explain this to Dale the other day and told him that I even used to get a buzz out of being at school on my Mum's birthday- being reminded that there'd be cake later every time I wrote the date! Lovely.) 

2) YES, I agree, shops and restaurants absolutely take outrageous advantage of the fact that it's a date that everyone celebrates, and so the temptation is to opt out. That'll teach 'em! But shops and restaurants do the same for every celebration- ever bought Christmas decorations in June? Or those fancy soap gift box things in March? They're more than half the price they are in December. Of course they raise their prices when they know demand is higher- that's running a business. That doesn't mean that the original idea isn't just lovely. I honestly don't believe for a second that the first ever Valentine's Day back in the 5th Century was the idea of a dodgy up-and-coming Lord-Sugar-of-The-Times to make some extra cash. There is a little bit of uncertainty surrounding the origins of Valentine's Day, but the basic agreed idea is that St. Valentine put love before anything else and that everybody agreed that should be celebrated. 

And being the romantic that I am- I agree. 

Dale and I will not be taking Wetherspoons up on their 60 pound Valentine's meal, thank you very much (!) but we will be spending the day together, and acknowledging the fact that it's just lovely that we found each other. (That's about as far as it will go though- we're very British.) 

Anyway, I thought I would celebrate Valentine's Day with you, my lovely readers, by telling you just about the most romantic things I've ever heard.....

1) Surprise tickets!

This is the only story I will tell that happened to me- promise. Last year Dale was living in America and I was living...all over the place. Literally wherever I hadn't stayed yet and wherever I didn't think I would annoy people. Then I got stuck. Tube strikes and lack of a house meant that I was stuck in London for a whole Thursday with no money, nothing to do and nowhere to go. Luckily for me I knew in advance that I was going to be stuck, and on Wednesday afternoon the receptionist from work came in and handed me a piece of paper. 

She smiled and said "This is from Dale," then walked away. 

I frowned and unfolded it. 

One ticket to the show that I was desperate to see before it closed. For the Thursday matinee. 

Making magic for me from all the way across the pond. 

2) The little things. 

Regular readers will know that my best friend Minnie Mouse is currently on maternity leave. Today, instead of resting her seriously huge bump and putting her feet up, she chose to bake her husband his favourite brownies. 

When I replied to the picture she sent asking her what flavour they were, she told me they're "oreo because he LOVES oreos."

ADORABLE. 

3) Absence makes the heart grow fonder. 

One of my house mates has a boyfriend that lives in France. This Christmas he called her a couple of days before Santa was due to arrive and told her he couldn't be without her any more. He had booked her return tickets to spend the week between Boxing Day and New Year's Day in Val D'Isere with him.  

So romantic. 

4) Fifty Years Later....

For the first seventeen years of my life every time I pulled away from my paternal grandparents' house it was to wave at my Nanny with her arms around my Grandad's waist. Not in a habitual way- but in a we-just-got-engaged-yesterday way. Even at my young age it always struck me how special that was. 

I really hope I'm still that in love when I've been married for fifty years. 

5) Wedding Bells. 

Dory married her Prince Charming in an absolutely beautiful country house. It was perfect. Except for one thing. Dory had dreamt of wedding bells ever since the first time she put a pillow case on her head and walked through the living room as a bride- but country homes don't provide wedding bells. 

So Prince Charming commissioned the church next door to ring their bells at three pm in celebration of their marriage. 

Of all the absolutely beautiful things that happened that day- that was my favourite. 

6) Genuine love. 

In case you hadn't noticed from the above examples, I'm not a fan of huge, over-the-top gestures. Singing with a guitar on a flight is great in The Wedding Singer but I would die if I ever saw that in real life. I appreciate the more understated gesture. 

Last year saw my Auntie and Uncle celebrate their 24th anniversary. I recently found out that they were only together for nine months before they got married. Nine months! Dale and I have been together for a year and a half and are just about entertaining the idea of booking a week-long holiday as a couple. Twenty-five years later they are one of the best couples I know, and my Uncle's Facebook status to celebrate twenty-four years together restored any faith in love I may have lost.....

24 years ago today I took my little Mrs up the aisle, if you'll pardon the expression. Ever since there's been nothing but fun, laughter and happy times spent with the most wonderful person in the world. What a lucky girl. I've quite enjoyed myself too!!! Thanks love. One more year until our silver wedding anniversary. It makes me feel old. Loads of love. xxx

There is so much love there, and absolutely no airs or graces. Magical. 

7) Treasure Hunt. 

When I worked in Disney World I witnessed a lot of proposals, but my favourite by far actually happened in London when I was working at The Lion King. We were a part of a treasure hunt that went all around the city, reminding the girlfriend of various magical moments in their relationship, and providing her with a series of souvenirs along the way. She came to us because they see The Lion King every Christmas, and in our shop found the Rafiki statue holding a bucket of popcorn (her favourite) with a note sending her to the bar to collect her favourite drink, and then on to Trafalgar Square. 

It was a huge, romantic proposal but still managed to be personal and private. Perfect. 

8) Lessons in Love. 

I always say that I've learnt everything I know about making a marriage work from my maternal grandparents. Sometimes spending the afternoon with them actually feels like a master class in love. My Grandma has an excellent knack of making my Grandad feel like the most important person in the entire universe- even after 51 years of marriage. 

I was recently there and my Grandad had cooked some bacon (yes for me, yes I'm vegetarian- they don't understand), and my Grandma said: "Oh Derek I don't know what I'd do without you. You just have that magic touch with the bacon don't you? You really are very good." 

And my quite serious Grandad actually beamed, then tried to play it down with "well, you know, it's just knowing what you're doing" whilst clearly bursting with pride. That is true love, and a very successful marriage. 

9) Endless Support. 

I've just seen this one on Facebook but I'm sure those involved won't mind me telling you. A friend has recently started her own business and is in the process of running and promoting it. Her husband has just posted a picture of her looking beautiful and professional, clearly running a presentation on what her business involves. He has posted "Go you! You are amazing." 

Being supported like that by the person I was spending my life with would make me feel like I could do anything, and is probably what encouraged her to start this in the first place. Amazing what a bit of love can do! 

In a similar vein, I have a different friend who always wanted to own a shop. One day she arrived home to her husband with all his finances laid out in front of him. He had found a location for her shop, and gone through his finances to establish that he could support her until her business found its feet. 

I can't even find the words to express how romantic I think that is. 

10) One last one. 

Okay I mentioned above that I'd only tell you one thing that had happened to me. But writing this has made me realise just how romantic Dale is. So I'll just let you in on one more. One day in December 2013 Dale just told me to keep Thursday free. When Thursday morning came around I still didn't know anything- just that I should wrap up warm. We went for lunch in House of Blues- somewhere that I had been wanting to eat but hadn't made it to yet- then we went to the most gorgeous hotel for a tour and then into an exhibition in which everything was made of ice. We watched the story of Frosty the Snowman come to life, went down slides made of ice and got some great photos of us in those big blue coats they provide. It was such a magical surprise and so romantic, I was delighted. 

We then went on to watch the snow fall in Celebration, the town that Disney built, and then on to a medieval dinner show. 

It was honestly one of the best days of my life, every step of it was so unexpected and so romantic, absolutely magical. 

Whilst writing this post I have spoken to a lot of people about their thoughts on love, and the general consensus is that the most romantic things are the little things that happen every single day. 

Dory did a month of romantic moments- every day for a month she did something different, from putting a note on his steering wheel to making him a special breakfast. Jiminy Cricket asked her husband what the most romantic thing that she had done for him was, and he answered that it's just the little things that she does every day. I thought about my own experiences with romance- and actually it's the little every day things that get me. I was worried about finding out whether I could get my holiday dates off of work today and woke up to a text from Dale saying he was on his way to work with his fingers crossed. I spent last night looking at his baby photos and laughing at his 90s haircuts. My brother Mowgli always has his arm around his girlfriend- and the two of them find each other hilarious.  My other brother, Chip, surprised his girlfriend with a trip to the zoo today and is constantly sending her things that remind him of her. I remember being at a barbecue with Pumbaa and her husband when she turned to him and said: "do you need to stand that close to me? Why are you standing so close?!" He replied: "Because I love you okay?!" in a totally over-the-top fashion and they both laughed their heads off. The other day Minnie Mouse commented that she hopes her new born baby is born with her husband's patience. I was once at Madame Adelaide's house when she was giving her husband very precise details on making her toast and he listened intently and followed the instructions to the letter. 

When we take the time to actually consider these things, they suddenly seem like the most special, important moments ever, yet we so rarely voice how important they are. 

So let Clinton's and Wetherspoon's and even Aldi this year (!) take advantage of this over-commercialised holiday, let restaurants go all out (I just spoke to my brother on the phone and was greeted by Love Will Keep Us Together blaring out in TGI's behind him), let the cinemas go Fifty Shades crazy and the tv ads bombard us with ideas about flowers and chocolates being essential for survival this weekend. In the mean time, take this holiday for what it is: an opportunity for you to remember just how lucky you are to be surrounded by so much love, and to thank those around you for being so magical.

And please feel free to share your own magical stories below, I'd love to hear them <3 


How romantic :)