Self care – who has the time?

Self care.

This is something people keep going on about of late, and I never really understood the significance of it until very recently.

I find it very hard to follow my own advice; I’m constantly telling my friends to live their best life, using one of my go-to phrases of “YOYO” to encourage them to wear what they want to wear, to try new things, and that they can’t pour from an empty cup… yet I find I’m running myself ragged.

I am constantly exhausted. There’s a massive difference, I’ve found, between motivation and ability; between “I can’t be arsed” and “I can’t”. We haven’t been to the gym for a few weeks because honestly, after a 12 hour day at work, I can’t. I find I’m in pain all over. I have a pain in my left shoulder that runs down my left arm when I lift it a certain way (probably just a trapped nerve) but this is something I can’t rest. My hips ache, and my dodgy knee is going through a super rough patch… but I can’t just stop life, can I?

I have a house that, despite there only being two adults and a guinea pig, is constantly untidy and in need of a clean. I have a full time job, with the commute to and fro I’m out the house almost twelve hours a day. I don’t know how people cope with having children too, honestly I really can’t see how they make it work.

My days off are spent tidying, cleaning, and doing all the stuff I need to do; I know there are things I need to do for myself too, but I can’t seem to bring myself to put myself first.

It’s hard to admit but I’ve been having panic attacks again. There, I said it. If you’ve read this far down this post, I’m impressed; you’re either a good friend or incredibly bored, and it’s more likely the latter as I’ve found good friends are far and few between the older you get (don’t even mention how planning a wedding can make friends randomly ghost you with no explanation…) they’ve come out of nowhere, I can’t put my finger on why they’re back. I don’t even know when they’re likely to come on, which is less than convenient given I’ve had one at work last week. Thankfully I was doing something which kept me out of the way and gave me time to try and keep it under control, but as I took myself out of work for my lunch break I had another.

Taking myself out of work for my break is something I’m going to try to do more often. We are pretty much always busy, running round like lunatics trying to get everything done, and I find that I don’t have my entire break most days as I feel so guilty that we are so busy. Taking myself out and giving myself an hour away should hopefully give me enough time to charge up a little and give me a little boost.

My days off for the foreseeable will just be a constant battle of tidying and wanting to spend the whole day in bed. It’s my day off today, and I’m feeling guilt rise up in my chest because I had a (terrible) lie in and I’ve wasted a few hours this morning. There’s so much that needs to be done, and not enough time. I had the weekend off (incredibly rare in retail if you’re not management) and whilst we spent it together, we spent the entire weekend with friends and family, which isn’t really quality “us time” so it was just as tiring trying to socialise, and we didn’t spend any time at all in the house so no jobs got done. While it’s nice to socialise I felt like the entire weekend was wasted because the house wasn’t tidied and we didn’t get any quality time together either. I know, I’m rambling.

Le sigh.

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Bank Holiday Mondays – I finally got one!

If you’re British you’ll probably be familiar with Bank Holidays. That glorious day that office dwellers count down to, an extra day off, plonked on the end of a (regular) weekend. For about half of the office working population, it’s an excuse to get the mower out or pop to B&Q, whilst the other half are nursing a two day hangover. It also means a 4 day week. Hurrah!

Hurrah for some. Not for those who work in care, the field workers of the emergency services, or retailers. Oh no. Not only do we work all hours of the day, including evenings and weekends (this may come as a shock to many of you desk jockeys, but YES, the people helping you in the hospital, looking after your nan in her nursing home, or serving you whilst you bemoan the 5p bag charge are in fact human beings with families!) but we work on bank holidays too. I’m unfamiliar with the structure in care & emergency services, but quite often in retail the higher management who work in the offices won’t be working the bank holidays, and generally store management don’t have to work them because there’s nobody at head office they need to deal with. That leads to the little people running the show.

Hoards of people, dressed in short shorts and boob tubes. Angry sunburn. Toes, toes everywhere. We get it, you’re enjoying 3 days off in a row (something we don’t get in retail, ever. You’d be lucky to get two off in a row, and even then most likely they will be week days) so why are y’all so grouchy? It’s sunny, if you’re dressed up to enjoy it then ENJOY IT!

I’ve done retail now for 13 years, and for the first time since I can ever remember, I had this bank holiday Monday off work. Not to be confused with my Husband, with his Mon-Fri gig and desk drawer full of snacks, who had a 3 day weekend; I worked Saturday and Sunday. But when I saw this day off on the rota I didn’t quite believe it. Us, sharing a day off, together? At the same time? Surely not! But we did.

Unfamiliar with this Bank Holiday Monday notion, I wasn’t sure what we should do. Do we paint the fence? Definitely tidy the house. Maybe we should sort out the loft? And then it hit me. I didn’t want to do what we should do, I wanted to do something we wanted to do!! We tried to think of things to do or places to go that wouldn’t involve hoards of screaming children being ignored by their parents on their phones, but round where we live that would be impossible. I noticed on Instagram that my tattoo artist had been to a food fair that was open all weekend… hurrah! We had plans. I set my husband on the trail to find & book us tickets, and off I went to work.

Monday morning crept around, and it was sunny. Glorious sunshine was forcing its way through every gap in the curtains, desperate to get us out to enjoy it. We got ready, and with our cold brew coffees in hand we got in the car for the 45 minute journey to Weston Park. I was ecstatic. Sunshine, on a day off, together?! FOOD FESTIVAL!? Could this be the best day ever?

It was not to be.

We turned up, and were directed to the overflow car park. It must be good if it’s so busy we’re in the overflow, right? The other car park, it turned out, was pretty small. Not to worry, we were early and it would pick up. We found the door to the gardens and saw a few wheelbarrows and plant pots dotted about, and lots and lots of elderly people. Not really the target market for a food festival, but they’ve got to eat too I suppose.

This is where the day turned.

We saw a lovely smiling older bloke in a polo shirt under a little pop up gazebo, looking like a man who might check tickets. We proudly produce our e-tickets, and the man checks them both, and looks up at us with a face heavily laden with burden. It’s the wrong bank holiday. “There is a festival on today, if you want to stay” he says “it’s a plant festival”.

I don’t know if I was more embarrassed or devastated. The company that organised the festival did indeed have one for Weston Park, but it was at the end of May. The one I had seen on Instagram was currently happening further south, near Exeter. My husband had simply seen “bank holiday” and booked those tickets (and of course I’m working the next Bank Holiday Monday).

We made sure to enjoy our day out together anyway. It was absolutely glorious, so we headed to Bewdley for a walk along the river. The parking gods blessed us with a space on a very busy car park, and we found a mini craft fair in the town.

We stopped off at a place called The Junction, and had incredible veggie burgers, the kind that gets you making all sorts of weird noises whilst you’re eating. I got to try a purple Parma Violet Gin, which was a weird, multi sensory experience. It was almost UV, the purple practically glowed, and when you breathed out you could taste Parma Violets.

They actually carry 50 Gins, despite the outside looking like a cafe, so if you’re a Gin lover and find yourself in Bewdley, be sure to find The Junction! It’s small and unassuming, but the service is friendly and the food is pretty good too!

A mooch around the charity shops meant I found another fish vase to add to my collection, and some new M&S sandals (something I wouldn’t normally wear) for £4.50! We topped it off with a trip to Teddy Gray’s for some Herbals, before a sunny drive home.

Sat in the garden with our roast potatoes and salad (we’re doing Weight Watchers, so everything goes with salad, okay?) I felt very content having spent a day fighting off thoughts that there was so much we should have been doing; for once I pushed aside all those thoughts of commitment to the house work and errands, and enjoyed myself. I gave myself a true day off, and spent it with the person most important and precious to me.

I can finally see why you all get so crazy about Bank Holiday Mondays now.

Oh, the places you’ll go

I have a Pinterest board for travel, and Hawaii is way up at the top. (This image above is from my Pinterest board, but it’s so hard to find the original artist, can anyone help so I can find a print for it please?)

We’ve been planning our honeymoon, and originally Hawaii was on the cards, but it was just far too expensive for us right now. My heart fell out of my arse. Devastated. We are, however, doing a road trip from New Orleans to San Fran, and that was pretty high up on the list too, so I’m not too disappointed; we’ve agreed that we will save up and go in 5 years time. I’ve already got a terracotta savings jar with money from the odd Shpock sale and pocket change inside. Check back in 5 years to see if we actually go!

Right now I’m up to my ears in wedding crafts, calls from all the people wanting to see us (it’s in 3 weeks, did I mention that?) and I am far too excited to be stopping off in small towns that look like movie sets!

Seed and Bean – chocolate treats for the dairy free folk!

I’m dairy free, so it’s a bit tough when you’ve had a bad day and really want a treat. Everything has milk in. Fresh milk, milk powder, milk sugar, milk proteins… I can’t find anywhere that does small bars of Bournville and cheap dark chocolate still contains milk.

Then, one road trip to Bristol changed things: Gloucester Services. If you’ve never been, make an effort to stop. Oh, how the other half lives. If Waitrose teamed up with Nigel Slater, this is the services they’d come up with. Burgers for £10, hand rolled sausage rolls for £4, water from the wings of fairies at £3.50… you get the picture. But they do stock weird and wonderful brands you don’t find anywhere else, which is where we found Seed and Bean.

They CLEARLY label the front of the packet with Vegan, so no searching the ingredients. They have more than one option, six that we could see!

The first time we bought two, as they’re a little pricey as chocolate goes, however on our second trip we bought four bars. They were on offer, which was the perfect chance to try more flavours!

Our favourites so far are Chilli & Lime, and the Lemon & Cardamom. If I’m honest, we’d both take a hard pass on the Coconut & Raspberry. I’m totally open to trying more, though, for research purposes of course.

Also: the entire packaging can be composted!! Even the inner “foil” is biodegradable. This makes me so happy!

(Not sponsored: just a fan. This post is off my own back, the chocolate was discovered, paid for, eaten, and hastily replaced before being eaten again, all by myself and my partner. Seed and Bean aren’t even aware of this post, yet.)

Spiders and Conkers

You can lecture me all you want… I know spiders eat flies and are animals with feelings. I know they can be cute (my mom has one and she warms herself in the sun… cute af) but I can’t abide Harvestman and house spiders.

We live near a huge nature reserve and get all sorts of creatures inside and outside our home, but every year we get an infestation of spiders. We constantly have the ghosty types hanging around in every nook and cranny, but we also get huge house spiders, you can HEAR them walking on the carpet for Christ sake. We even have a tunnel web living in our fence, and I’m okay with that.

I’ve found having conkers around the home really does help. I don’t even care if it means they just stay in their little spidery apartments in the house, I just prefer not to see them.

Plus, conkers are so pretty!

Bad tattoos

A while ago on Instagram, I made a post about poorly executed tattoos and mentioned that I would go into more detail.

In September, I got a new tattoo. I’m going to stop right there and ask anyone against tattoos to click the X at the top of the page, or press the home button on your phone, and move on; this blog post is not here for you to pass judgement on my lifestyle choices. Are they gone? Good.

Anyway, I went to a different place as I’d seen the work of a girl and really enjoyed her style. An old colleague had been there before and had a good experience with her too, so I was expecting it to be okay.

When I arrived, she swiftly sized up the space and drew it up. It was an odd shop set up with the owner having their mates going through constantly and slagging people off openly etc, but I wasn’t going to let that affect the work of the girl doing it.

It was on my leg, and other than the backs of my calves I’ve not had my legs done, so didn’t know what to expect. What I wasn’t expecting was pain in the levels of me texting my future SIL to say that, if this had been the first tattoo I ever had, I wouldn’t have had any of the others. This was nearing unbearable, but I put that down to it being in a spot I’d never had done.

Fast forward to bedtime and it was agony. Not the usual throbbing warmth, but actual pain. The following day it was incredibly tender and swollen, and it swelled up even more throughout the day. My manager pointed it out to me, and I looked down to see my ankle spilling out over my trainer socks.

I had trouble with it throughout the next few days, and noticed some red bumps. I figured it might have been a bit of irritation, but they got worse. Worried, I messaged the girl who didn’t seem bothered and to let her know if it got worse. It healed past the scaly fish food stage, and was still rashy, so I messaged again and she told me to go to the doctors.

I got to see the same ANP that judged me openly about my choice of destination a few years ago, when I suffered awful reactions to bug bites on holiday and needed antibiotics… “I don’t know why on Earth you’d go to such a filthy place”. I expected, and received, judgement. Being told I’m a silly girl and asked “why would you do this” when I’ve had 10 years of tattoos with no issues is neither helpful or appropriate. She said it wasn’t infected (phew!) but that it could be a reaction. Could be. That’s as much as she would do. She told me it was my own fault and to take antihistamines. Excellent.

I found out what she had used, and I’d had the same inks before. Most people I asked kept on the same line of “people can react to red ink!” Which is really helpful because the areas affected have blue ink… the flowers with red ink are the only unaffected parts.

I’d already been booked in for another one with someone else, and went along. At first she was a bit hesitant to do one so close to the affected one, but after getting all the other artists in the studio to check it out they agreed it would be safe as it wasn’t spreading. None of them had seen anything like it, and immediately searched the girl and mentioned from their professional opinion that she’s rather heavy handed and overworks the skin. A few mins later they’d done some digging and found immediate blow outs on some of her clients and deduced that she’s damaged my skin with the way she did it; the areas affected are mostly shaded rather than coloured in. They think she might have used a different method for the shading, which apparently isn’t really appropriate.

My new tattoo healed perfectly, and I’ve since been back to the place to get two more. It was pretty painless, as painless as they can be, and she gave me a pot of balm she makes herself, to keep both my new and dodgy tattoos beautifully hydrated and calm… I now wouldn’t use anything else on my skin, period. She needs to make it in bulk and sell it so I can slather my entire body in it.

The bad one is still bad. There’s dark red bumps that, when rubbed with a cream or moisturiser, go paler for a few minutes before returning to the darker hue. They’re very dry and scaly, I can moisturise them 3x a day and they’re still super flaky. They’re sensitive to touch and bleed easily. I cannot shave this area as I’m worried it will hurt and bleed all over, so I’m lightly trimming the hairs with a beard trimmer (that’s why the photos are so hairy!) they don’t itch. They aren’t ingrown hairs, I get ingrown hairs all over my legs if I shave in the winter, and I know what they feel/look like and they’re super easy to pop out. These just bleed upon touching. I’ve tried gentle exfoliation too. Nothing is working.

If you’ve ever had this happen, drop me a line if you have any tips!