Why Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

When I was younger I would do all the things necessary to make sure my life was in some sort of reasonable state, like go to work and pay the bills. I would go shopping and go to the dentist and the hairdressers and the opticians. I would clean my apartment and do the cooking and washing. I would search for new insurance and check I wasn’t paying too much on energy bills. Make sure my car was repaired and that the petrol tank was full. And many other mundane, routine tasks that one must carry out as fully functional adult.  

I would then spend time being sociable at the weekends. Going out with all sorts of acquaintances and friends. Attending parties and celebrations. Maybe there would be a work event to go to. Spending time talking to people on the phone or constantly texting and messaging. By Sunday night I was completely exhausted just from existing. You would think that the sociable aspect of my life would give me time to unwind at the weekend but it just left me even more wiped out. It was rare that I had the time or money to do some of the things that I wanted to do in this short life. 

I did this for years. Thinking that if I didn’t it was somehow wrong? I would feel like my friends would be unhappy with me if I didn’t attend everything that I was invited to. Sometimes I would say yes to things and then by the time the actual event came around I didn’t want to go because I was, as usual, exhausted. I resolved to go because I had committed to the plan and I loved my friends and didn’t want to let them down just because I was tired. I would give it my all when I met them, not wanting to be a misery guts, but I would leave feeling depleted. 

I’m of course not unusual. Most of us do this day in, day out. Week in, week out. Soldiering through life and not stopping to even consider if we have to live like this. I had an epiphany eventually. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t force myself to continue like a zombie. I was done. Not even the thought of the possible consequences of stopping the train were enough to prevent me from pulling the brake. Something had to give. Things had to change. 

I didn’t really understand what was meant by selflove or selfcare until recently. I used to think selfcare was spending time at a spa for example. Or that selflove was transforming into a massive narcissist. This is what a lot of people believed too. Thankfully I came to realise that I was wrong. And so have many in society. 

However, there is still very much a stigma around this. Opinions are shifting but this old school notion of you must be all things to all people at all times is still there. I see it everyday. Or as I know think of it as martyrdom without the glory. Keep calm and carry on must be one of the most toxic sayings of the 21st century. This mentality could have been what saved many from complete emotional breakdown during wars but fortunately we’re no longer at war. So you can take your tea towels and mugs and send them back to 1939 where they belong! 

The mental health of the UK is on the decline and the NHS is struggling to cope with the influx of patients, with waiting lists for treatment and assessments getting longer. Therefore the stigma around self-care needs to be tackled because the need to practice it is greater than ever. On flights we are taught to put our own oxygen masks on first to enable us to be in a state to help others if we’re ok. We need to adopt this measure in our own lives and end the stigma. Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is lifesaving. 

After my own wake up call, I live life quite differently these days. I still go to work and pay my bills and keep my ship afloat. But I’ve learned one of the most important words in the self-care dictionary. The word is ‘No’. I’ve learned to pace myself and only put on my plate enough for me to digest safely. I understand that the world will continue to spin if I choose to have some time out. I’ve learned to understand my own limits and have a little more faith in those around me that will understand if I can’t be available 24/7. Trust me when I say you don’t need the people in your life that tell you this isn’t ok. Learn to be your own best friend is one of the best pieces of advice I can give. 



Going it Alone – The Highs & Lows of Solo Travel


Chicago – 27th January – 1st February 2018

After years of casually chatting to people about this possibility and hearing all their nonchalant stories about travelling abroad on their own, I decided that I was 38 years old and had never taken the plunge and by Jesus it was time! So I booked 5 nights away in the same area of Chicago that I stayed in just a few months earlier. I absolutely adored my first trip to, as the locals say, ‘Chi-town’. Or not, as Google has just corrected me. Apparently the locals hate this. Note to self: – Must not piss off the real Chicagoans if I wanted them to love me. And I really, really did. This was my first experience of travelling alone and what I found out. I shall begin with the things that suck about going on holiday alone.


1. Being Responsible for Every Aspect

That’s right folks, if you have a shit time, on your head be it. In order to avoid forking out all those hard-earned pennies and taking gold-dust holidays from work and your holiday then falling flat like a wet balloon, it is very much in your interest to have a solid plan. And I don’t just mean for the lovely fun things and activities that you will be doing when you get there. Of course, planning that stuff is the best bit, however, you won’t get to that part while you’re there if you don’t organise yourself properly. The more you research and organise, the less stressful your trip will be. Therefore I recommend planning all your regular things like:

Which flight from which airports will be best?

Is hold luggage included in the cost of the flight?

Do you need a visa to get in and out of your destination?

Which hotel should you stay at?

Should you stay in a hotel at all? Maybe an Airbnb or a hostel is more your thing?

Which is the best area to stay in?

How are you going to get to and from both airports in both countries?


Then there are all the smaller details like:

If you’re going to a particularly far-flung country, will you need inoculations?

What type of insurance should you get? (And yes you absolutely need this! For the price of a couple of drinks, it’s totally worth being covered in case you end up being super unlucky. You could end up in the hospital or your holiday could be cancelled or your luggage could disappear mysteriously. Don’t be a jackass. Just get the damn insurance!)

What type of currency will you need?

Should you take any other methods of payment other than cash?

How will you get around while you’re doing all the amazing things that you’ve planned?

What about your phone and Wi-Fi while you’re there? Is it worth getting a local sim card in comparison to getting a deal with your internet provider for data?


Do you see what I mean kids? There’s a lot more to consider than you might have first thought. You may think my list is excessive and that I’m just a ‘type A’ control freak BUT let me tell you that having all this stuff covered will make for a far more pleasant, smooth experience and leave you with as much precious time as possible to have an epic trip.


2. Sometimes the Larger Attractions are More Fun with Others

During my second visit to Chicago I was the biggest motherfuckin tourist you ever did see. I did a big bus tour of the city, I went to the aquarium, I went to Union Station, I went to the Harold Washington Library. All I was missing was my ‘I heart Chicago’ t-shirt and novelty sunglasses folks. Whilst I fully immersed myself in these experiences and genuinely enjoyed them (seriously Shedd Aquarium is a must-see, it’s unbelievable!), there are some sights in life that are better to experience with other people. They just are. Having someone to go ”Omg! Look at this!” to is a nice feeling. I suppose you could always point these things out to random strangers who happen to be passing, but you run the risk of A. at worst being physically hurt by them or B. at best being given a strange sideways glance as their walking speed suddenly increases. It’s good to have someone to enjoy this stuff with.


3. Safety is Better in Numbers

Fortunately safety wasn’t really an issue for me during my trip to Chicago. I felt safe while I was there. I have however been alone on trips in my own country and at times have felt a fraction intimidated. One example was the time that I had missed my train from London to Manchester and had to wait for the next one which wasn’t departing until the next morning. With barely any cash left from my trip I was forced to wait in the station until the next morning (there was no internet at the time of my story, therefore no way to borrow cash from a generous family member or friend). During my bizarre evening on the station floor, drifting briefly in and out of slumber, a rather drunk-looking man entered the station. He headed towards me and to my horror as he got closer, I realised that he was covered in blood. He proceeded to sit down next to me. Whilst he did not speak, he mostly just dozed in and out of sleep himself, I was very uncomfortable. I shuffled away from him while he slept and after a few hours he woke and casually strolled out of the station. This story, along with others, keeps me on my guard somewhat during particular places and times of day. With this in mind, it can feel far less scary when travelling with others.


4. You Get More Bang for Your Buck

Sadly to travel solo is often punishable by pocket. Irritatingly there are many things that cost more when you’re riffing it on your own. The cost of booking a single hotel room is usually almost as expensive as booking a double. You may as well book that double and have a bigger bed to jump up and down on! As for Airbnb’s, I have stayed in a few. Personally when I’m on a trip I like privacy. So renting a room in the host’s home isn’t the best scenario for me. This luxury does come at a cost however. It is much cheaper to rent a private place with others than it is on your own. So unfortunately if you don’t fancy sleeping with your host’s cat using your face as a cushion all night, it’s gonna cost yer! Also things like Uber are more expensive solo. Uber Pool however, in my experience, is pretty stress-free. Urban folks are just mostly wanting to get from A to B without any drama either. Although I would imagine your drive could very easily be different later at night or in slightly less secure areas. So again being sans friends will be harder on the purse strings peeps if you want to use Uber by yourself.


Onto the good stuff! Here are the reasons that travelling alone can be an awesome experience. Go forth unaccompanied little ones.


1. Being Responsible for Every Aspect!

While having to do everything yourself from a planning point of view can be tedious, at the same time, it can also be marvellous. You get to be the boss, you get to make all the decisions, yay! You can tailor your entire holiday to what you want to do. No more having to deal with the politics of a communal trip. Because let’s face it, that kind of thing is a ball-ache for everyone involved. When it’s just you at the wheel, you can choose what, when and how you do things. And if you want to mix things up while you’re there, then all that’s cool too. Who knows what crazy shit will go down?!


2. Getting Around Like a Well-Oiled Efficiency Machine

This is something that I hadn’t really imagined before, but I found that it was far easier to navigate plans on my own. It was much easier to figure out how to get around as quickly and smoothly as possible without the distractions of other folks. Spending less time and worry trying to decipher how to get to places left me with more time to spend in those places. Wonderful!


3. Headspace – Breathe and Take in Your Surroundings – Ahhhhh……

Whilst travelling with others can be an amazing thing to share and often proves to be a great way to bond, being alone, I found, made for a much deeper experience. With less distraction, I was much more able to absorb the environment around me. I could see, hear, taste and smell everything with more clarity. I was able to stop more for a moment and just be. Really taking note of what was happening. I felt like I got a much richer holiday experience alone.


4. Strangers in a Distant Land

Do not ask me why but when you travel by yourself it seems to be far easier to connect with new and sometimes people you wouldn’t usually meet, than it can be when you have company. Locals and other fellow travellers maybe feel less intimidated to approach one person as appose to a few together. The same goes with talking to other solo wanderers. There’s one of you and one of them simultaneously sharing the wonders of exploring as an individual. When you’re on a trip with your homies, not everyone is comfortable with making potential new homies. Being by oneself means you no longer have to worry about this. Connect people, connect!


5. All the Space, All for You, All of the Time

One of the great things about globe-trotting solitary is that you have a lot more space. Assuming you’re not travelling at peak times (another tip, it’s cheaper off-peak generally speaking) you could potentially have more room to spread yourself out on a long-haul flight. Or during your roaming while you’re in your chosen destination. Much more comfortable, especially in hotter climates. There’s not much worse than being cramped together in a smelly sweatbox of a bus or train. And people can be super gross *vomit face*. But the best thing is having lots of room when you get back to your accommodation after a long days fun. No fighting for the best bed or hanging around cross-legged waiting for the bathroom. No more listening to snoring or nasal passages being assaulted by someone’s rancid lack of foot hygiene. You’re officially free god damn it!


So there you have it. The ups, the downs, the highs, the lows, the good, the bad, and the downright vile. Of course your solo trip and how it pans out for you will ultimately depend a lot on your attitude. Well, apart from shit that’s out of your control like a hurricane or a civil war breakout perhaps. It’s not for everyone but what I will say is to at least try it once. I’m definitely a convert and you may be too.





How To Survive Christmas When You Hate Christmas

When I was a kid I loved Christmas. It was the event of the year in our house. I adored everything about it. The decorations, the presents, the food, the festive films, the school plays, buying little Christmas presents for my family and friends in Woolworths with my pocket money, it was the best thing about being a kid.

I even loved my school’s annual excursion to the local church for a Christmas service. Although I think this was more to do with getting a couple of hours out of school than anything else! It was a magical experience for myself and my siblings. We were lucky to have these times and for that I am grateful. 

Fast forward 25 years and my feelings on Christmas had changed dramatically. After a few god-awful Decembers full of pain and heartbreak, I began to loathe the whole debacle. I felt like Christmas and the build-up to it were being rammed down my throat. Suffocating on what I perceived to be artificial merriness.

Every year I would become more and more irritated until one year I exploded. I had a meltdown during Christmas dinner and stormed out. I didn’t speak to my family and they didn’t speak to me for almost two weeks. It was the worst Christmas I had ever had. I had managed to push away the people that I needed the most at that time. 

After this, I realised that just because I wasn’t a fan, didn’t mean I had to sulk and complain like a petulant child and put a miserable cloud over it for everyone else who loved this time of year. So I endeavoured to make sure that from then on I would make a concerted effort to get into the spirit of things on the big day.

I realised that part of the reason I hated the festive season, aside from some shitty memories, was the insanity of the month of December. It was all just too much and by the time Christmas day rocked up, I was exhausted from the shopping, the crowds, the songs, the events and the overload of food.

So I came up with a survival strategy to make it through all this in one piece. Thus freeing me to have to the energy to genuinely have a good time on the 25th. So here I am passing on my knowledge. These are my tips to help those of you who find it all a bit too much. 


Plan in Advance & Shop Early! 

Nothing ground-breaking in this tip folks. Just good old-fashioned common sense. Honestly, if you’re one these folks who is running around in the town centre a couple of days before Christmas day, or worse, on Christmas eve, you’re really not doing yourselves any favours.

I know life can be busy and the time runs away with us but trust me some planning and making the effort earlier (as in before December, and even earlier if possible) will be worth the pain.

Imagine all those suckers pushing their way through manic shopping centres the week before and revel in the fact that you’re sat at home in your pyjamas watching Netflix! Ahhhh……bliss. 


If You Do Need to Enter the Shopping Tornado… 

If for some reason life bites you in the arse and you honestly can’t do your shopping early, the good news is there are some simple hacks to help make the shopping excursions a little bit more tolerable.

Invest in a pair of headphones or earphones and wear them while you shop. This will drown out your 175th hearing of Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas’ while you browse. Trust me, Slipknot is much better Slade. Metal bitch!

Take regular time-outs if you’re out in the field for a while. Starbucks and Pret are your shining beacons of hope in the chaos. Use them!

Also, wear layers and comfortable footwear. There’s nothing worse than being hotter than a roasting turkey or have throbbing feet’s while you’re queuing for tills.

Lastly, make a list and remember to take it or put it on your phone. This way you will at least have some plan of where you need to go to minimise the pain.


Do Not Be Scared to Turn Down Invitations! 

How many times have you been sat at a Christmas event of some sort and secretly can’t wait to get home, take your shoes off and put the kettle on? And I can guarantee that at least half of the other people in that room will be thinking the same thing. Maybe even the hosts!

Often people just throw these things because that’s what they think they should be doing as opposed to actually wanting to. Parties and shindigs can be a lot of fun but the hangovers and the tiredness the day after, not so much.

Be kind to yourselves and graciously say thank you but decline some of the invites. Wouldn’t it be nicer to limit yourself to just a couple of things and really enjoy them than attending everything in a half-arsed manner?

If you’re someone who feels guilty if you don’t say yes, then another strategy is to limit the time you spend at events and stick to it. Unless of course you’re having a ball and don’t want to. In that case go forth and fill your Christmas boots! 


Have Christmas-Free Days! 

This one can be difficult because it’s hard to find solitary in the midst of the cyclone of Christmas madness. Tis not impossible though! Find a room in the house that isn’t being strangled by tinsel and baubles and declare it a Christmas-free sanctuary.

Stay away from tv channels with advertising if possible. Or switch off the tv altogether and read a book. Go to the cinema or to a gallery. They can be great places to hide from the world for a couple of hours.

Stay off Facebook. I cannot state this one enough! The majority of what you’re missing out on is pictures of people’s Christmas decorations and piles of presents that they’ve wrapped. Enthralling. 


Look After Yourself – Physically/Mentally! 

Get outside and get some fresh air, away from all the crowds. Go for a nice relaxing walk. Go for a swim. I would imagine most pools aren’t that busy at this time of year. Do some form of gentle exercise to clear the gross, lethargic feeling from mince pie and chocolate overload.

Drink plenty of water. Meditate. Create something (not Christmas-related obvs!). Go for a massage. Do some journaling.

Anything that you can think of as self-care. Most of us are guilty of abandoning our best interests at Christmas but these are the times when these practises will boost our enjoyment. Not squash it. 


The thing is, you don’t have to conform to the tyranny of Christmas if you’re not into it. The people that know you and love you will understand that it’s nothing personal if you explain that you’re keeping things a little more low-key.

The rest of the Christmas fascists can take a long walk off a short cliff. Really. No-one is going to die if you don’t go to their annual boxing day buffet!

Christmas needn’t be so ridiculous. These days I tend to just think of it as Sunday dinner with a few presents thrown in and because of this perspective I actually look forward to it now. I hope you manage to make peace with it too. 


The Samaritans

Campaign Against Living Miserably


For anyone who isn’t looking forward to Christmas Day, have a read of this and see if you fancy joining us here on Twitter for #joinin. A little bit of company if you need it.

Mental Health Crisis Angels


All Dogs Go to Heaven – A Tribute To La Floof

Rescue Dog


Mum: Let’s just see how she gets on with our other dog before we decide if we’re keeping her or not.

(5 minutes after dog arrives and small, inflated, ball of fluff is scrambling to climb up patio step into garden)

Dad (looking at my mum’s face): There’s no way that dog is going home.

We sat around the dinner table that night trying to pick a name for the new addition to the family. Going through all the names of the Simpsons characters for some reason, we decided on Maggie.

Maggie was a rescue dog who had been given away at just a couple of months old because her new and ignorant owners no longer required a puppy that chewed and pooped all the time. I have no clue why they didn’t understand this before they got a dog but I shall not rant. Their loss was our gain!


Sadly, Maggie was suffering from malnutrition when we got her due to again, the moronic previous owners. She was whisked to the vets and after a lot of time and TLC from my mum, she was a healthy pup again.


Weird Dog

Dogpics 006

Dogs can we super weird and Maggie was no different! All kinds of crazy behaviour was observed throughout her life.

She loved snow. She would catch snowballs, she would eat snow but most strangely she would lie in it. For hours! In the dark sometimes! Dog was meant to live in a Nordic country I tell thee.

She had a bizarre habit of licking random inanimate objects. Casually strolling past, no table leg, pillow, cupboard door, fridge or anything else weird was left un-licked.

One of her favourite habits was trying to climb into tiny spaces or sitting on things that didn’t fit her body size. Spaces that not even a house mouse could fit into it. One time she tried to get into the space behind a small printer that was placed on the lower shelf of an office desk. Channelling her inner cat I suppose?



Comedy Dog


Maggie, like most dogges, was not a fan of the B.A.T.H. Yep, like MI5 trained spies, we would hatch different plans to get her into the tub. Distract, grab and dash was always a winner to deceive her.

Step 1. Lure dog into false sense of security with favourite dog biscuit.

Step 2. Ambush dog while distracted and scoop up into ball.

Step 3. Dash to bathroom and lock door behind you. Well, I say dash but have you ever tried to ‘dash’ with a fully sized golden retriever/german-shepherd cross in arms? It’s more of a stagger around and crawl upstairs in a sweating, red-faced manner.

This is the face that side-eyed us from the bath when we managed to get her in there.


Maggie was my running buddy for years. However, my buddy seemed incapable of running in a straight line. I would almost always get caught up in her lead as I tried to run forwards while she ran to the side. Grabbing scraps of gross leftover pizza and any other old food from the path as she went.

During one such run, we found ourselves in a comedy of errors. She wasn’t a fan of cars and one day we were running past one parked vehicle when the driver turned on the engine as Maggie trotted by. Freaking out at the loud noise, the trot turned into a marathon sprint.

A few yards in front of us a small boy suddenly turned and saw a wide-eyed, alsatian-resembling beast barrelling towards him, which in turn freaked him out and he began running too.

So there we were. Me, panting and trying to shout at the boy to tell him she wasn’t going to maul him to death while being dragged along by panicking dog. And then in front of us a terrified young kid running like his life depended on it.

Once I had managed to regain control of the dog and the poor boy had disappeared into the horizon, I swear I laughed until I nearly threw up.


Dog of a Thousand Names Dog

You know what it’s like. Even the family pet ends up with pet names as the years go by. Maggie was no exception. Here is a small selection:

La floof



Maggeth doggeth

Margaret (her Sunday name)




Eeyore (same demeanour)

Chops (when she was little)



Fluffy dog

Bear dog


Best Friend Dog

I have lost count of the number of times Maggie was my mental health hero. She would flop down near me and hang out in good times and bad. She bought me endless joy.

Just having her in the same room would instantly make me feel better about everything. She was my antidepressant and my best friend.


When I moved out of my parents’ house, I would go to see her frequently. I went to see the dog more than my family. Sorry folks! She never forgot me and it would be like picking up where we left off.

We were so lucky to have her for such a long time. Although none of us wanted to, we had to let her go after 15 years and her third struggle with cancer.

I remember our last day together. We sat in the garden together underneath the apple tree with a warm early summer breeze on our faces. Just as we did the day we met. I couldn’t have asked for a lovelier, more fitting goodbye for la floof.

I am heartbroken, even months later, and miss her terribly but know how blessed we were to have her for such a long time. For that I will always be grateful.







Chicago – The City That Oozes Charisma

Last October some friends and I took to the skies and flew to Chicago for a holiday. Having only been to New York before, I was excited at the prospect of trying somewhere new. Although for me, Chicago had big shoes to fill.

I was expecting a city like Manhattan in a lot of ways but maybe not quite as vibrant and exciting. How I ate my words folks. How I ate my words!

I came away feeling like I had a real connection to this mid-west metropolis. If you have never been before, I urge you to pack a suitcase immediately, book yourself into an Airbnb and go. You won’t be disappointed. Here’s why:


Chicago is not New York


If you had asked where in the world I would move to if someone held a gun to my head and said pick, a year ago I would have said New York. No question. I have been three times and there’s been nowhere I have visited that I’ve loved as much. I feel a traitor saying this but now I worship Chicago equally.

I visited twice in three months. Pretty much living on beans on toast to be able to cough up for another trip across the pond, tells you exactly how hard I fell in love. New York is quite different from Chicago. Chicago is much less intense than New York.

While having a plethora of tourist attractions, the hordes of people flocking to them is sparse in comparison. And these same people are pretty chilled too. No enormous queues for tickets and endlessly dodging people trying to take photos. No more coming away feeling stressed when you’re meant to be de-compressing from your life.

The streets aren’t as crowded. It feels more like you’re just meshing with the locals, sans visitors. The pavements are far cleaner too. I suppose this could be due to a more balanced number of tourists to tidy up after. On the whole, Chicago leaves you feeling more like you can breathe.


Speaking of Oxygen


This city has oodles of green space. If you’re someone who needs to spend time connecting with nature during a city break, then this is the place for you.

Lincoln Park was vast with gorgeous views of the Chicago skyline. Plus there is the added bonus of Lincoln Park Zoo! I’m a ginormous animal lover and had a blast here. And it’s free. Yes, free! This isn’t some petting zoo with an attitude either. It’s a full-sized, big enough to spend a full afternoon or longer, wandering and exploring type zoo.

We also took a trip to Millennium Park, which was romantic if you add a coffee and a walk during a lovely fall sunset. Filled with fantastic futuristic-looking sculptures and structures and pieces of art to muse over, this was a highlight for me.

If you walk over the bridge that connects the park to the Art Institute of Chicago, do me a favour and stop in the middle. On one side you will see an awesome view of the skyline. You will also see the famous Chicago loop train passing through the city. Then turn around. On the other side of the bridge you will be treated to an epic view of Lake Michigan. Two stunning views for the price of one.

When you’re not exploring one of these emerald gems, just walking through the city you will be enveloped by the beautiful tree-lined streets. They are in abundance. Magnificent to experience in the fall!


Architecture – It’s Everywhere


As mentioned earlier, Chicago is not New York and much of the architecture isn’t either. Many people are of the opinion that once you’ve seen one city, you’ve pretty much seen them all. I was more than pleasantly surprised when I went to the windy city.

A combination of past and present in the centre of town, there is always something different to see. In my opinion though the really stunning buildings are to be seen in the ordinary residential streets.

In the North, every house on every street is quite different. Eclectic as far as the eye can fathom. No cloning, build ’em fast and cheap, property developers have set foot here.

You can easily while away the hours wandering these amazing streets and see something different at every turn. The beauty is the detail though, so pay close attention.


The CTA – How I Love Thee


This may be a boring point to talk about to some but do not underestimate the blessing of a well organised, easy to understand, clean and cheap transportation system. The Chicago Transit Authority is all of these things. It’s also super-fast and reliable too.

As a self-confessed nerd of city transit systems (I know, shut up), I take note of these things. Let me assure you this is one of the best I’ve experienced so far.

Grab yourself a Ventra card, download the app to your phone, top up and off you go. You can also go old school and top up at a station if you prefer… like a savage, might I add.

Touch in, touch out on the card readers as you enter and exit and one, single cheap fare will be deducted from your Ventra account.

This single fare system was a revelation to a person who is used to being charged for distance. On the London underground, for instance, the further you go the more you pay. Trust me, the CTA system is much kinder on your bank balance.

Don’t rule out the bus system either. I’m a big fan of the train but wanting to be as efficient as possible I found that using a combination of the two was the best way to do this. Equally as reliable and fast as the train, I quickly became a big fan of the bus. Believe me, at home I haven’t taken a bus in years!


Culture, Culture, Culture


Chicago is a city that takes its art seriously. By art, I mean music, performance, visual, classic, contemporary, cutting-edge and everything in between. This is my city for art and art is my home.

There is much to see and do and experience during all seasons. Indoors and outdoors. I only dipped my toe in the Chicago art scene and I actually covered a fair amount of ground. This shows you how far Chicagoans take their culture.

I spent a full afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago and managed to cover most of the enormous building. By cover, I mean I almost ran around the place, trying to take in as much as possible. I may as well have just eaten some of the pieces, I consumed so much.

It drips with every period of art and sculpture known to man. The place is incredible. I pretty much had an emotional breakdown when I realised I was staring at an original Van Gogh! Seriously, it was right there in front of me! What the hell man?!

Chicago is world famous for its music scene. Particularly blues. I enjoyed a fantastic night at the crazy cool Kingston Mines club in Lincoln Park.

I can’t recommend this place enough. Art murals and fairy lights adorn the walls and bars. Both bars seem to serve every alcoholic drink that ever existed, tempting you into a full immersion of the Kingston Mines experience.

This particular night The Mike Wheeler Band were performing. Funky soul was the order of the evening. The lead singer/guitarist came out into the crowd and pulled you right into the performance. In turn, the crowd were equally as involved and made the band feel loved. All these elements make for a fantastic gig.

The real highlight of the performance was the bass guitarist. The guy’s skills were insane. This man was born with a guitar in his hands and you could tell that he loves what he does. The whole band in fact. Go and see for yourself!

The real jewel in the crown for a night in Chicago though is a trip to the Green Mill in Uptown. This place bleeds history. Walking through the door you feel you have just stepped into a bygone era.

The Green Mill is known for being a regular spot for the likes of Al Capone and his mobsters’ during the prohibition era. It was also a hangout for Charlie Chaplin who worked on his silent films just a few streets away at Essanay studios.

On the night I visited, the band were playing swing music. Some patrons were dressed in 1920’s attire, which adds to that feeling of being in another place and time.

I watched a few YouTube videos on East Coast swing before my trip and now considering myself an expert (ha!) I got up to try my hand. I did my best but I was mostly useless. Pro-tip: – never wear brand new heels and try to swing. Ouch!

It was a hell of a lot of fun though. The Green Mill is a must do for a night of true magic.


The People – Charisma and Grit For Days


I fell in love with the people of Chicago. Unlike other cities, the folks here seemed calmer and more approachable. I didn’t have that uneasy feeling of being potentially unsafe or vulnerable as a tourist. Even while walking the streets alone late at night.

When asked for help or directions, the people were friendly and relaxed. Let me tell you Chicagoans are smooth. I was like a school-girl with a crush on the locals. What the hell was happening here?!

The thing I found most appealing about the people of this city though was their hard-line liberalism. They aren’t taking the shit that Trump is dishing out.

If I was him, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to visit Chicago. He definitely isn’t welcome in this town. And the people wouldn’t have a problem telling him that. God bless them.




A Little Bowl Story

Every morning since I started my current job, two and a half years ago, I have eaten porridge in the morning. Not the most exciting way to break the old fast I admit but it’s low-fat, filling and chep. I’m very boring when it comes to food. I really don’t have the will to come up with different ideas to fuel my body every day. There are too many decisions and choices to make every day as it is and deciding what to eat three times a day, seven days a week, fifty two weeks a year (does quick mental calculation…..yes that’s right I did it mentally…..ahem!) which adds up to, if I spend a minimum of five minutes, which, let’s face it, most of us probably spend more time than that trying to make a decision, 91 hours! 3.79 days a year thinking about what we should eat. With that in mind, I tend to migrate to the same choices when it comes to food. Hence the long love affair with the lumpy stuff.

So after about 2 years of this, I decided to break the mould! Yes, I went nuts in my local Aldi one day after deciding that my usual brand of porridge pot contained too much sugar and it was also beginning to grate on me carrying a stupid little plastic pot in my bag to work every morning, taking up more space than it needs to within the abyss that is my work bag. So the decision was made to fuck up the status quo and buy one monstrous bag of porridge. The thinking behind this absolute lunacy was that I’d only have to haul that bag into work once every few weeks. No more forgetting my breakfast! I could also have some control over how much sugar went into my face every morning.

This decision become a double-edged sword though. I now needed paraphernalia to create my porridge. The ease with which I could rustle up my morning chow was no longer so simple! Gone were the simple days of just ripping the aluminium lid off the pot and throwing in some hot water. No. I now needed equipment. This being:

1 x suitably engineered spoon (teaspoons were no longer going to cut it. The spoon to container ratio had doubled in size. Teaspoons would drown in an ordinary sized bowl and don’t talk to me about soup spoons! I don’t have time to explain about the technicalities of using a soup spoon for anything other than soup)

1 x medium sized breakfast bowl (stolen from the communal work crockery supplies)

1 x gross, workplace, weeks of other people’s lunch encrusted, microwave

1 x guesstimated measurement of milk (who the hell has time to measure out 250ml of milk?!)

After getting to grips with my new morning porridge system, which consisted of pouring the super complicated combination of porridge and milk into the bowl and launching into the aforementioned delightful workplace microwave, I was happily basking in my own genius, chuffed with how efficient and delicious my new breakfast routine was, when disaster struck.

One morning I reached into the dedicated kitchen cupboard for cups, plates, bowls and whatnot to grab my lovely bowl and to my utter horror, it was GONE. Half asleep I thought, I must be mistaken. Maybe someone had accidently put it in another cupboard. I searched manically for my sacred bowl in the other cupboards and in draws, even the mouldy microwave! It was not in any of these places. Where could it be? I asked myself, scratching my head. *GASPS* Maybe someone broke it?! Surely the bowl-breaking-bastard would have owned up to such a crime? Why would someone even touch my bowl though? They all have their own! Unless there was some Greek-style plate smashing party that I hadn’t been invited to? I loitered in the middle of the kitchen confused and hungry. Then it came to me. There was only one other explanation for the disappearance! It had been stolen!!

This is a bizarre comprehension. This wasn’t some pretty-fancy-pants-John Lewis-Orla Kiely type crockery. This was a standard issue-ikea-just-moved-into-my-first-student-digs kinda bowl. Why would some weird bowl-stealing klepto do this? Where the hell was I meant to put my breakfast now? I suppose I could have borrowed some other persons bowl but everyone where I work seems to have their own personal sets of kitchenware that they’ve built up over time and not knowing whose stuff belonged to whom, I was reluctant to just take a random bowl and leave another poor bowless victim in the same predicament as me. Puzzled and hungry.

Eventually I decided that the best course of action was to just steal another one from the communal supply once again. So off I shuffled with stomach a-rumbling, miffed at my missing bowl, over to the cupboard, which is in another kitchen in another part of the building might I add, to get another. Mission successfully accomplished, I headed back to my designated kitchen and finally with all ingredients and utensils in place, managed to conjure my lovely, homely, oaty breakfast!

Normal service was resumed and the rest of my day went quite swimmingly thank you very much. However, the very next morning, in my bleary-eyed early morning haze I found that yet again my sad little bowl was gone! I mean WTF?! Was this a joke? Was there a hidden camera somewhere secretly filming me stood there like a lemon trying to figure what was going on? Who does that?! Especially to someone who is barely able to produce an audible hello first thing in the morning? I tell you something, ‘Morning Martine’ is deeply unpleasant. ‘Morning Martine’ is like Ellen Burstyn’s character from The Exorcist, head spinning, crawling around on the ceiling, whites of the eyes on show. Punks know not to mess with me until at least 11am!

I stuck my head out of the kitchen door to see if there were any suspicious looking faces or half smirking smiles, trying not to giggle. Nothing. Everything appeared as is. Maybe my joker could pull off an Oscar-winning performance in feigning normalcy. Who knows? Once again, I hauled my ass over to the second kitchen to take another company bowl. On account of this being my second visit to the other kitchen in as many days, other members of staff were beginning to give me sideways glances. What was this imposter doing in their kitchen again? Folks were beginning to talk. Trying not to arouse anymore suspicion than I already had, I almost belly crawled along the kitchen floor, opened the cupboard and retrieved the object and belly-crawled back out. Once safely back in my own kitchen, I breathed a sigh of relief and made my freakin porridge. I was starting to wonder if my genius plan of switching from pots was really worth all this extra drama.

The next morning, suffering from mild PTSD (porridge traumatic stress disorder) I tentatively went to see if it was possible to have some breakfast? Yes, having the ability to make my morning meal now came with a question mark. I know it was ignorant of me to just presume that I could make some mere porridge in the morning without having to fight and steal for the privilege. How naïve and pea-brained I was to assume otherwise. I slowly made my way to the cupboard door. It made one of those horror film squeaking sounds as I opened it. I scanned the contents. I scanned again. I looked in despair at everyone else’s’ nice, clean and ready to be utilised crockery at a moment’s notice, without a struggle. It wasn’t there. IT WASN’T THERE. IT WASN’T THERE!!!! Arrrrghhhhh!!! My fear suddenly disappeared. I flung the kitchen door open, marched over to the other kitchen, opened the cupboard door and ripped yet another bowl from the now dwindling stack. Marched back to my kitchen and made porridge like I’d never made it before. Like a crazy person! The aftermath was one of lawless chaos. There were milk and oats and spoons strewn everywhere. Somebody casually walking in after me would have had the thought that something bad had gone down in this room.

Back in my office, without the threat of my bowl disappearing, I managed to calm down and decided I needed to come up with a plan. A plan to halt this wily crockery-stealing deviant. After some thought, after plans were drawn and then disregarded and then drawn again, my plan was simple. I was going to out-fox the fox. Rip the rug from beneath them. My plan was to remove my sad old bowl from the scene of the crime and lock it away in my desk drawer. I would take the key home with me. I proceeded to sit at my desk, grinning and rubbing my hands together like a cheesy conniving movie villain. I couldn’t wait to see if my ‘brilliant’ plan would pay off.

The following morning, with my new found fearless attitude, I drove to work to see if my takedown had succeeded. I sat down at my desk and turned to the drawer that held the now, weirdly priceless, bowl….hopefully…… There didn’t appear to be any signs of tampering, seeing as the culprit didn’t have access to this sacred drawer (also Ikea I think). Had my ingenuous idea worked? I pulled out the key from my bag and slowly opened it. And there it was! Exactly where I had left it the night before. Clean and un-messed with! The nightmare was over. I could feel the emotion beginning to overwhelm me. I wanted to grab my boring little white bowl and run into the streets, declaring myself victorious! Hugging people and showing them my triumph! Unfortunately I had a client meeting at 9am. I skipped to the meeting room, elated in the knowledge that I had defeated evil! Bowl stealerers succeed when good office staff do nothing.

I never did find out who my adversary was. I often wonder if they are somewhere, out in the big wide world, casually pilfering kitchenware from innocent people. Rendering their victims confused and starving. I, however, went on to eat breakfast every day without a care in the world. I even upgraded to a Marks and Spencer’s bowl. Safe in the knowledge that I would never have to fight for my right to eat porridge again!

From An Introvert To Extrovert’s – It’s Not You, It’s Me

A long time ago being introverted was usually labelled as being shy. Or quiet. Or in one’s shell. Or sometimes, and quite rudely, a bit strange or odd. I was one of said types of people when I was younger. Even as a child I would happily spend hours on my own quietly reading a book, according to my parents. Looking back I was always happiest by myself, in my own little world with only my imagination for company. I loved to spend hours listening to music by myself or sometimes I would sit with a ginormous Walkman (it was the eighties, all electronic devices were MASSIVE) in the playground outside our flat in London, listening to Wham (yes I still like them, and no I don’t care that you’re probably laughing! Wham haters), while most other kids were crawling all over the climbing frames or playing hopscotch on the makeshift grid they had drawn on the floor using a piece of chalk. I was more than content in my own company.

Playing with other kids was fun sometimes and I did have some friends who I hung out with regularly throughout my childhood, but unawares to me until a couple of years ago, I realised that I was quite an anxious child. Being sociable, going to my parent’s friends’ houses and being told to play with so and so who I didn’t really know, or going to a birthday party and being left there for a few hours was actually quite uncomfortable for me. Although I didn’t really comprehend this properly at the time. I was nervous at first and then after a while, most of the time, I would relax and enjoy being daft with my friends. I don’t want to paint a picture of me as a panicking, crying, shaking mess of a child. On the surface, other than the fact that I wouldn’t really initiate a friendship, once I started talking to other kids, you probably wouldn’t have any clue that inside I was very nervous. I knew I didn’t feel right but I also didn’t really realise that I could vocalise how I felt. So I just pushed my feelings down and played through my anxiety.

I did this for most of my life, right up until a couple of years ago. I’m now 38. Being introverted wasn’t something that was recognised, or not that I or anyone I knew were aware of. Now introversion is much more widely discussed. There a thousand articles, blogs and video’s on the internet on the subject. Introverts are sticking their anxious heads above the parapet and are trying to clear up the mysteries surrounding us. We live in a very extroverted world. People talk non-stop! It’s a very energetic, thriving society we live in, always moving, always evolving, getting faster and more demanding on our time than ever before, seemingly better designed for outgoing, vibrant, personalities. Introverts are cut from a different cloth. There are of course many similarities between us and our extroverted friends. We’re all still human after all. And it’s not a binary division between the two types of people. For example, I’m an introvert but until you really get talking to me properly about real things, not just small talk, you could easily mistake me for being extroverted. I can be loud and chatty and inviting. I thought I was meant to be a grab-life-by-the-balls type and had adapted to being quite a sociable person.

And then came the breaking point for me. Life was mowing me down left, right and centre and I could no longer put on the façade and compress and ignore the feelings I had had my entire life. I had sailed close to the wind with this a few times before in the past but the life meltdown I experienced in 2014 and 2015 was different. I was broken in every imaginable way. I took some time to try and figure out how things had gone so catastrophically wrong. During this process, I began to understand that I had been unknowingly acting my way through life. It wasn’t a conscious decision though. I didn’t even comprehend that there was another way to live my life other than being out there, trying to be confident and taking everything that I wanted from life so brashly! Doing the same thing as almost everybody else. I started to remember what I was like as a child before the world, metaphorically and literally in some cases, dragged me outside and forced me to be ‘normal’.

During this time, I stumbled across some articles about introverted traits. Suddenly a very bright, almost blinding, light was switched on for me. This was me! These were my tribe! Hurrah! And then hurrah some more! I began to understand why I would always feel so exhausted after any kind of social interaction. I am left with the energy of a wet gnat, even after a positive encounter with life-long friends. Speaking for myself, when I’m communicating with another person, I’m exclusively focused on that person. I find it very difficult to have a conversation properly and do other things at the same time. I never realised that a lot of the time, I’m actually physically tensed up and sometimes can retreat to the comfort of my home feeling like I’ve just worked out. Bones aching. Therefore, spending time alone is crucial to my general well-being. Mentally and physically, I need time to relax and uncoil from the day.

In the past I didn’t get this. I would keep going full throttle until my life started to suffer because I could no longer keep up with the world and it’s constant demands. And the demands that I would put on myself too of course. The best way I can describe this is to imagine that you’re in a boxing match. Your component is giving you total beating and you’re trying to get back up but it’s difficult because you’re completely exhausted. The referee calls a time out and you can claw back some energy while you rest. That for me is what life is like. Except now I am my own referee.

As I understand it extroverts are the opposite in their needs. Most require a lot of interaction and prefer to spend time in places with a high concentration of social energy. This is the environment that a lot of extroverts feel at their best selves and seem to thrive in all walks of life. This type of place is required for them to recharge, just as I, an introvert would retreat to a place of little physical human communication. We are quite opposite in our needs.

After the realisation that I wasn’t being my authentic self and then beginning to put myself first a little more in term of my needs and what I have to do to stay afloat as my introverted self, I began to think about how introverts and extroverts in different kinds of relationships and how as an extrovert it could be quite upsetting that their introverted counterparts do not need their constant companionship. I watched a few videos on YouTube of extroverts who were voicing this feeling. I suppose it could feel like some of us are quite cold. Or that we don’t understand their needs. I began to put myself in their shoes. It could appear that we don’t value you. That we don’t contact you as much as you might like us to. That we’re uninterested in you. This could be very hurtful to a particularly sensitive extrovert. They might not always show it, especially as adults who aren’t supposed to get upset when they’re being ignored sometimes. Those emotions are probably there to many though. That must feel hurtful.

So I’m here to tell you that from my own point of view and I’m sure many others like me, that it’s not you extroverts, it’s me, or us. Just because we are sometimes a bit detached from you (and sometimes quite a lot actually) this dosen’t mean that you aren’t important to us. We do need you and your loud, crazy, dynamic ways. We like you. We love you. You are valued. We’re mindful of the fact that we can’t always be everything you want us to be sometimes. And a lot of us wish we could be. But without meeting our own needs first occasionally, we, I specifically, will start to sink. Alone time is like oxygen. So please don’t take it personally. I think as long as we keep trying to communicate these truths to each other, the faster we should get to a place of balance that works for all of us x