Thursday 31 December 2009

A toast...


... to 2010.

Here's to finding the beauty in the most mundane situations; to positivity and creativity; to laughter, love, friendships and family; to forgiveness and second, third and fourth chances to finally get it right; to health, wealth and happiness.

But above all?

To more magic, more sparkle, more wishes coming true and a more wonderful year for all of us.

Happy New Year everyone, I hope 2010 brings you all of the above and so much more xxx

The Best of 2009: Day 31

Day 31: Resolution you wish you'd stuck with?

I don't really remember my New Year's resolutions but I'm guessing that one of them was to lose weight. Which is something I haven't really achieved this year, for one reason or another. I have a difficult relationship with food, to say the least, and it's something I intend to work on more fully in 2010. I haven't ever really blogged about it in any great detail, and there's only person in the world who knows the full extent of the problem (and it took me a long time to tell him, despite our closeness). Maybe one day I'll write a post about it, maybe one day I won't feel ashamed to discuss it. But for now, I am too embarrassed so all I will say is this... next year I hope to have a healthier relationship with food.

So that's that, my final 'The Best of 2009' post. I've written on all but two prompts (fyi, best blog and best advert - i don't watch adverts) and it's actually been very interesting to look back over my year and find the best bits. A few prompts have brought tears to my eyes, as a lot of feelings and memories are still quite raw and fresh. Some prompts have made me laugh and revisit some superbly happy times. Some prompts have actually been really difficult to write about. But I've done it, and I'm glad I have. All my posts for this little project can be found here, if you have time on your hands and are so inclined.

2009 hasn't been the easiest of years, for a lot of people. I was going to do a 'review of the year' post but, to be honest, I think I'd rather not. This blog has documented most things in minute detail (sorry about that) and I'm not sure I need to, or want to, revisit certain things just yet. I'd like to remember this year as the year I found out a lot about myself and made huge changes to better what I found, the year that brought me a lot of pain but also a lot of joy and the year that shook me to my very core and forced me to take a long hard look at myself, in every way imaginable. I've emerged relatively unscathed and a lot richer emotionally, as a result of everything that's happened.

2009, I can't say I'm sorry to see you go, but thankyou for everything you've taught me.

Wednesday 30 December 2009


Sod off Cupid

Do you ever feel like the internet is laughing at you?

I received an email from a dating site today. A dating site that I hadn't logged into for a fair while. 'Your New Matches!' it boldly and excitedly proclaimed. But, what's that? Who's number one on the list?

Oh yes, of course it's him. And with a higher percentage match than first time around. Yep, I could have told you that. I could have told you that 85% of him is me. And 85% of me is him.

I never minded the other 15%, truth be told. That was the 15% that required compromise and understanding and belief. That was the 15% we worked so hard to overcome. The 15% that meant being there when he needed me, listening to him when noone else would or could, learning new things from him about science that I had no clue about and taking him to art galleries and gigs of my favourite bands. The 15% that meant we argued, but that showed me there was enough passion there to even bother arguing, to even bother trying.

I loved that 15%.

Tuesday 29 December 2009

"Hello my friend I see you're back again...."

The best photograph I've taken this year, I think

The Best of 2009: Days 20-29 (Yeah, I suck)

Day 20: Best new person?  This sounds ridiculous but I'm going to say myself. Compared to the person I was a year ago I'm completely different. For the first time in my life I believe in myself, I know what I want and where I'm going. I have my off days (who doesn't?) but, for the most part, this is the most drama free, happy and stable that my life's ever been.

Day 21: Best new project? I'm actually really enjoying doing my 365 project on Flickr. It's surprisingly difficult to try and take a different photo of yourself every day and I'm loving the challenge. I'm also doing The Big 50, my own list of 50 things that I'd like to achieve or experience before I turn 29. I haven't ticked too many off just yet but many things are planned for very soon.

Day 22: Best startup? Like Smidge I'm going to say Cocosa. I've bought some beautiful things from there this year, at ridiculously cheap prices (including my new snow boots which make me feel like one of the Wild Things). Plus, when I had a slight problem a while ago they emailed me and sorted it out in a very satisfactory manner. Hurrah.

Day 23: Best web tool? Twitter! I love it and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I've met some incredibly lovely people via the manner of tweet and it makes days in the office fly by!

Day 24: Best learning experience? Ooh there have been many learning experiences this year, it's been a year of finding out a lot about myself and others. But I think the best one has to be my Dad and prostate cancer. It taught me that you can never take anything for granted. You don't know what's around the corner so make the most of every single moment you have. Grab every opportunity you can. Learn to forgive as life's too short to bear grudges. Laugh as often as you can. Give more than you expect to receive. Most of all, love the ones in your life and make sure they know it.

Day 25: Best gift you gave yourself? The best gift I gave myself wasn't material, although I have bought many pretty things this year. No, the best gift I gave myself was that I stopped beating myself up over things. I've always been a bit of a one for putting myself down and allowing myself to take the blame for things that weren't my fault. No more. If I make a mistake, I learn from it and I don't dwell on it. I don't overthink things any more, I don't analyse everything that happens and I don't think of worst case scenarios any more. I was always a pessimist in the past because I thought that if I didn't expect anything then I wouldn't get disappointed. But now I'm of the opinion that you make your own luck, and if you're optimistic and open to best case scenarios then you're more likely to get them.

Day 26: Best insight or epiphany moment? I've had a fair few this year but the main one can be read about here.

Day 27: Best social web moment? Meeting two of my most favourite blogging ladies, Smidge and Lis. I've known Lis for almost ten years so it was a fairly surreal moment walking into a pub in Edinburgh and seeing her sitting there. Smidge put up with me for two weekends this year and muchos alcohol was drunk. Lovely ladies.

Day 28: Best stationery? The Simple Diary. But I've always been a bit of a stationery geek so stick a nice pen (rollerball please, yum) and a nice pad of paper in my hand and I'll be a happy little soldier.

Day 29: Best laugh? I try and laugh at least once a day, and I usually laugh a hell of a lot more than that. I am a huge fan of laughing. I really can't pick one best laugh and, to be honest, most of the things that I laugh about with my friends wouldn't mean anything to anyone else. We are the kings and queens of ridiculous injokes.

Monday 28 December 2009

That was the year that was...

1) Was 2009 a good year for you?
Yes and no. I had some of the happiest times of my life but also some of the saddest. (That's the answer I gave last year but it still rings true)

2) What were your favourite moments of the year?
Valentines Day night out at Chibuku in Liverpool, virtually every moment of the holiday to New York (particularly the afternoon spent in a sports bar, drinking $3 beers and laughing our heads off), meeting Michael Eavis at Glastonbury. The best though? The moment on 31st May when the truth finally came out and the day and night were spent talking, making plans and finally admitting how we felt. I've literally never felt happier than I did the moment those three little words were uttered.

3) What was your least favourite moment of the year?
The moment we found out my Dad's cancer had spread, after the doctor had assured us that it hadn't.

4) Where were you when 2009 began?
I was in Thomsons in the gay village in Manchester. I vaguely remember doing the conga to a dance version of Auld Lang Syne. Good times.

5) Who were you with?
Friends, lots of them.

6) Where will you be when 2009 ends?
No plans. Probably something fairly low key with a couple of friends, or I might just go to bed at 10pm. I kind of just want this year to be over as soon as possible.

7) Who will you be with when 2009 ends?
Myself or a couple of friends.

8) Did you keep your new years resolution of 2009?
They were "To lose weight, go to the gym, get happy, work hard, sleep more, laugh more, love more, dance more, be thankful more, like myself more..."  I'd say I've achieved just over half of those. C-, could do better.

9) Do you have a new years resolution for 2010?
Just to continue on my road of self discovery (I'm aware that makes me sound like a tosser) and lose weight. Slimming World here I come.

10) Did you fall in love in 2009?
I remained in love. Fell more in love, despite everything.

11) If yes, with who?
I think we all know the answer to that.

12) If yes, do they know?
I would imagine so, yes.

13) Are you still in love with them?

14) You regret it?
Never. I regret letting myself be walked all over. But I was so much weaker then than I am now. I never regret love. It's too rare and special for that.

15) Did you breakup with anyone in 2009?
Nope. I came closer than I ever have before, but I always believe that things will work out. I never walk away, not when I believe the other person's worth it, whether they think they are or not.

16) Did you make any new friends in 2009?
I became a lot closer to certain people and met a lot of lovely people through work. Plus a couple of other randoms that appeared in my life.

17) Who are your favourite new friends?
Work people. It's nice to actually care about the people you work with.

18) What was your favourite month of 2009?
April. New York, Go Ape, birthday celebrations of a certain someone.

19) Did you travel outside of your country of residence in 2009?
New York! Ooh, and Amsterdam on the way to New York.

20) How many different states/provinces did you travel to in 2009?
I'm not an American. Next year I hope to visit lots though. Helen's Grand American Tour 2010?

21) Did you lose anybody close to you in 2009?
Lose as in die? No. Lose as in lose? Yes. I hope to find them soon. And put them in my pocket for keeps. (Again, my answer from last year)

22) Did you miss anybody in the past year?
I miss the other half of me.

23) What was your favourite movie that you saw in 2009?
Avatar. Or Up. Or Slumdog Millionnaire. I loved every film I saw this year.

24) What was your favourite song from 2009?
According to, Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Saint Etienne and We Interrupt This Programme by Coburn. How very fitting. Love, interrupted.

25) What was your favourite record from 2009?
I haven't really listened to a lot of new music this year. Probably 'The Back Room' by Editors. Although it makes me quite sad sometimes. Too many memories.

26) How many concerts did you see in 2009?
Not nearly enough. Basement Jaxx, Ladytron (in NYC, holla!), Girls Aloud, Pet Shop Boys, Tina Turner, Little Boots, Glastonbury Festival.

27) Did you have a favourite concert in 2009?
Tina Turner. Hands down the best concert I've ever seen and the woman is a living legend. She was on stage for two and a half hours, dancing like a demon. Truly incredible. I took my Mum for her 65th birthday and she had the time of her life.

28) Did you drink a lot of alcohol in 2009?
Not as much as last year. Certainly not as much wine consumed in bed. It's no fun on your own.

29) Did you do a lot of drugs in 2009?
Define drugs... I drank a lot of tea?

30) How many people did you sleep with in 2009?
I shared a bed with numerous friends. I rarely sleep.

31) Did you do anything you are ashamed of this year?
I'm actually less ashamed of myself this year than ever before. I think, for the most part, I've behaved fairly well. There were a couple of alcohol related incidents that weren't exactly wonderful but I think it's best not to dwell on things that happen under the influence. People argue, that's just the way it is. It doesn't mean that everything is awful or wrong. It's the making up that counts.

32) Where did most of your money go?
Savings (for the first time ever), the taxman (I hate you), nice wine, make up and shoes. Always shoes.

33) What was the worst lie someone told you in 2009?
I have no idea. I'm not aware of any lies. So either I haven't been told any or they were all very good liars. I haven't told any lies this year, as far as I can remember. Maybe the odd white lie, but nothing more than that.

34) Did you treat somebody badly in 2009?
I don't think so. I hope not anyway.

35) Did somebody treat you badly in 2009?
Yes. Nothing so bad that it can't be undone though.

36) How much money did you spend in 2009?
A lot less than last year. For the first time in nine years I'm out of my overdraft and I've paid off my credit card debts. Living within your means is the new living beyond your means.

37) What was your proudest moment of 2009?
Appearing on the Fourth Plinth.

38) What was your most embarrassing moment of 2009?
I don't actually get embarrassed very easily. That's what comes from going out with a man with no shame for 18 months. Haha.

39) If you could go back in time to any moment of 2009 and change something, what would it be?
I'd change my Dad's results. I'd make him cancer free and healthy. Everything else will work itself out.
     “Things usually work out in the end.”
     “What if they don’t?”
     “That just means you haven’t come to the end yet.”

40) What are your plans for 2010?
To travel a bit, work a bit, live a bit, love a bit, laugh a bit and buy my own house.

Sunday 27 December 2009

Christmas by numbers

The view from the sofa, Christmas Day

Number of mince pies eaten: Surprisingly few. This year I've been all about the Lebkuchen.
Lbs of turkey eaten: Approximately twelve. And that was just on Christmas Day.
Pink gin and tonics drunk: At least 15. M&S 'Think Pink' gin is my new love.
Duff presents received: Just the one. The rest were all fantastic.
Times fallen over on the ice: Zero. Hurrah!
Number of boxes of chocolates received: Seven. Seriously. I may not be able to leave the house soon.
Number of Christmas wishes made: Just the one.

Christmas was.... lovely.

It was quiet, full of gorgeous food, drink and my Dad sleeping in the chair after Christmas dinner. Fairly textbook really. I got a Slanket, a Banana Guard (which looks terrifyingly like a fruit themed sex toy) and various other bits and bobs. Books, DVDs, Wii games and more chocolate than I've ever seen in my entire life (Fact: I don't even like chocolate that much).

We've been mostly housebound for the last few days due to the ice lying on the roads. It was inches deep in parts and almost impossible to drive a car on. But the rain has come and the ice is thawing, so I guess normal life is about to resume.

Maybe though, just maybe, there's still time and enough magic left for Christmas wishes to come true...

Friday 25 December 2009

We wish you a....

Thursday 24 December 2009

Going postal

Seriously tree, be a bit bigger

There are few things I love more in this world than post. Real post I mean, not bills or junk mail or any of that rubbish. Letters, packages, presents.... I love love love them.

Look what I've received this week:

From my crazy American penpal... a whole host of yankee doodle treats. Including an an Oregon State hat (with a beaver on it, I heart beavers), lots of candy (Hi grape Jolly Ranchers, you're my wife now) and some facts about Oregon. I heart facts too. Seriously the best package ever. Thanks Natalie!

From Rachelle... the most epic black and white cookies ever. All the way from Philadelphia! Rachelle, you rock. Hard. All I did was tweet about how I was craving a black and white cookie and voila!

The kindness of relative strangers restores my faith in humanity. Love.

I'm now in a shockingly festive mood so I present to you a pictorial journey through Christmas Eve...

 My tree beats your tree. Fact. 

Don't be hatin' on my new boots y'all
Consumerism at it's most decadent and grotesque

Outdoor lights FTW

This Christmas Eve is the best Christmas Eve ever. I finished at work at 1pm, I've been wrapping presents and unwrapping packages this afternoon, The Spinners 'Sing Out, Shout With Joy' is on downstairs (we've listened to it on Christmas Eve every year ever since I can remember) and my Mum's making corned beef hash for tea, just like every year. Then I'm off to to the pub for festive drinks and gossip with E and A, followed by a tipsy stumble home in the snow and (hopefully) a peaceful sleep before the magic of tomorrow begins.

Merry Christmas everyone xxx

Snow is falling, all around me...

Another day, another snowfall...

Wednesday 23 December 2009

It'll be lonely this Christmas...


Are you spending Christmas with your loved ones this year? 

A family Christmas? A celebration with friends?

I've been looking forward to Christmas for weeks. But tonight all I can think about is those people who are spending it alone. Those people whose loved ones have passed on, or who are far away, or those who are estranged. I think my thoughts are partly because it's my first duty with the charity tomorrow. Who knows what calls I'll hear. Who knows how many people feel that they have noone else to turn to at this time of year. Christmas is a magnifier I guess, for both happiness and sadness.

I'd love to be able to get all the lonely people in the world together. To put them in a big room and let friendships form.

But I guess if I can be there, on the end of the phone, and if I can let just one person know that someone cares and that they're not totally alone in this world, then that's a start.

Monday 21 December 2009

This weekend I...

Bed, I heart thee

... Went to my staff do, a festive party, a concert, a tranny show and approximately 4 million bars.
... Went to bed at 4am, 3am and 3.30am respectively.
... Drank a dandelion & burdock alcopop. Truly the most horrific thing I've ever had in my mouth. Fnarr fnarr.
... Had a total of 14 hours sleep.
... Got ridiculously excited about the snow.
... Did not fall over in said snow. Shocking. I normally have the balance of a newly born deer.
... Cursed my foolishness when I was rudely awakened by my alarm this morning. School night drinking = ugh.
... Had an incredible time.

And now? Now I sleep.

Sunday 20 December 2009

Snow business


Snow has been falling for most of the day.

The world is muffled by a blanket of white. The only noise is from the children down the street laughing as they throw snowballs and build snowmen.

Branches are bending, heavy with the weight of snow.

The sky blackens, another shower begins.

I love this.

Saturday 19 December 2009

The Best of 2009: Days 18 &19

Day 18: Best shop?

I do a lot of shopping. A lot. I buy shoes and handbags and jewellery like it's going out of fashion. It's something I need to try and curb if I'm ever to own my own house. I tend to do most of my shopping online as I can rarely be bothered to contend with queues of people (particularly at this time of year).

I can't really choose just one shop as I have lots of favourites but my top three are:

1) Alphabet Bags. I have the 'H' bag and the 'I refuse to participate in a recession' bag. I love them. Durable, roomy and a bit quirky. Plus the people who run the shop are utterly delightful and delivery is amazingly fast, always. Plus it's the sister site to Keep Calm Gallery, whose prints I covet on a daily basis.

2) A huge range, varying prices to suit all budgets and the taker of a lot of my money this year. Oops.

3) Rock 'n Rose. Unusual jewellery at fairly cheap prices. Whenever I wear one of their creations I always get lots of compliments and where-did-you-get-thats. I am currently coveting the winter rose necklace.

Day 19: Best car ride?

Car rides were not my friend this year so it's hard to pick a best one. There was the horrific 13 hour odyssey to Glastonbury in June. Then there was the 4 hour journey to Nottingham on bonfire night (that should have taken an hour and a half) which resulted in me missing fireworks in the garden with my friend's gorgeous little son. Then there was every car ride to Liverpool where I felt nervous and sick and worried because I didn't know what I'd find when I got there, what mood would greet me, what I'd have done wrong.

The only car ride I can really remember enjoying is the taxi ride from JFK Airport to our apartment in Manhattan. Yes, that was pretty darn special actually.

Friday 18 December 2009

Excitable beavers

Today I am more excitable than a beaver who's just spotted a huge pile of sticks. Yes, I just said beaver. Stop sniggering.

"Why? Why are you so excited?" I hear you cry in unison.

Well tonight is my work Christmas party. Tomorrow is a Grand Festive Buffet at A's. Sunday I'm seeing the Pet Shop Boys. Monday I am having a night in. Tuesday I'm seeing Avatar. Wednesday I have my first duty with the charity. Thursday is Christmas Eve and there will be joyful pub times. Friday it's Christmas Day. Saturday I'm having Boxing Day drinks and DVDs and drunkenness at N's. After that, who knows. I think that's more than enough to be going on with.

Tonight I am wearing:

Christmas do

Plus this cape:

Three course meal (all paid for), free bar, a night on the tiles in classy Warrington afterwards. What more could a girl ask for at this time of year?

Thursday 17 December 2009

The Best of 2009: Day 17

Day 17: Best word to sum up the year?

2009 has been....

Wednesday 16 December 2009

The Best of 2009: Days 15 &16

Day 15: Best packaging?

I am a sucker for nice packaging. Nice packaging is likely to make my brain lose all sense of rationality and hand over far more money than I should just because 'it's so pretty!!' 

The best packaging I've seen this year belongs to that little parcel above, from Tuesday Afternoon Tea. I bought a darling little moleskine notebook decorated with a polaroid and the words 'dream big and believe.' It's perfect and it's where I write my big and important plans (tm). I'm now coveting the 'It's the little things' notebook. Amy makes beautiful, whimsical little treasures and I implore you all to buy lots of things from her.

Brooch by Emma Ferguson

Day 16: Best tea?

This is a great prompt for me. I am a tea freak. My tea obsession has grown to ridiculous proportions this year. In short, tea is my porn.

Teas I have in the cupboard at work (nicknamed the tea library by my colleagues):

Dalgety Lemon & Ginger
Dalgety Pure Ginger
Jackons's Sencha Green Tea & Mint
Mr Scruff's Mint & Chilli
Clipper Green Tea & Ginseng
Clipper Green Tea & Lemon
Tesco Apple & Blackcurrant
Dragonfly Rooibos Vanilla
Twining's Lady Grey
Clipper Nettle Tea
Clipper White Tea
M&S Peppermint tea

See? TEA FREAK. It's impossible for me to choose an all time favourite as it changes daily but right now it's Rooibos Vanilla. The vanilla makes it taste a bit festive and it's got a lovely strong flavour.


Tuesday 15 December 2009

A decade in the life of...

Scanned from an old photo, hence rubbish quality

2000 - I took my A-Levels, got my heart broken by my first love and went to New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC (amongst others) with my parents. It was also the year I chopped all my  hair off and began my spiky phase. I started university in Nottingham and made some lovely friends, G and B. B was the first person I ever spoke to in Nottingham and G was the second and we're still close friends now. Aww. The first six weeks of university passed in a haze of fancy dress parties, dancing till inappropriate times in the morning and eating more takeaways than you can shake a stick at. We went out every night for six weeks. Pretty hardcore.

Me in my uni days. Frightening, no?

2001 - I was going out with a boy I met on the internet. Back before internet dating was acceptable. I met him on the 4later forum. HA. In the summer I went on a girls' holiday to Sidari in Corfu. Ten girls, two weeks, mayhem.

2002 - I was depressed. Quite severely. I'd been dumped and failed my second year of university. I started to resit the year in its entirety in September. I don't remember much else about 2002. Not a good year.

2003 - The mother of all rubbish years. My Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer (she went through a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and has now been clear for 6 years), I failed second year for a second time and I had a horrific car crash. I did meet a lovely boy though, P, who I went out with for almost three years. I met him in a terrible nightclub in Nottingham. Having had far too much to drink. The pinnacle of which was my friend buying two double vodkas with a shot of blue aftershock in each. Yes, IN. Oh, and P was 18. I was 21. Harlot. Ooh, also went to my first Glastonbury. And went to Magaluf. Ha ha.

A studenty me in 2004. Complete with duffle coat and Harry Potter badge. Ha.

2004 - I was in the middle of a year without residency from university at the start of the year and working at a local hotel. I retook an exam in July and, ta da, finally passed second year. Third time lucky. I went to Glastonbury again. And had a magical weekend in London near Christmas, including a wonderful day at the Tate Modern.

Seriously Helen, the hair doesn't suit you

2005 - I graduated. FINALLY. And with a 2:1. Shocking. Sadly, my graduation was on the day that the London bombings took place. Kind of took the shine off it. But it was still the proudest day of my life (and my parents'). Upto that point anyway. I moved home for a couple of months in June and then moved back to Nottingham, into a gorgeous city centre apartment with my friend G. We had a whale of a time. I took on the role of unemployed layabout for a couple of months, before landing a Customer Services job. Grim. I used my unemployment wisely though and spent the whole time drinking iced coffee, doing puzzle books and entering competitions in Take A Break. Oh, and me and Paul split up towards the end of the year. Sad times.

In Pacha, Ibiza. Word.

2006 - G and I went our separate ways in January and I moved into my very own apartment. Bang in the centre of Nottingham and utterly gorgeous. I loved living on my own. My friend L lived in the centre of town too and we spent our weekends dancing till dawn, eating roast dinners and watching horror films. I was still working in Customer Services though and decided that the time was right to actually use my law degree, so I applied for the Legal Practice Course. Alas, being accepted meant that I would have to move home, as the extortionate tuition fees meant there was no way I could afford to stay in Nottingham on my own. I was accepted. During summer I went on a coach tour of the Deep South (USA) with my parents and it was incredible. Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee. I also went to Ibiza in 2006 and it was ludicrously expensive. Fun though. Apart from the evening when someone got shot in the bar next to us.

Glastonbury 2007. Grim.

2007 - January took me home to Cheshire. Back to the parental home. Back to a place I thought I'd left behind for good. All was not rosy for the first few months and adjusting to life at home was not easy. I was used to living alone and doing as I pleased. I worked in a recruitment agency for a while, then spent six months working in the prosecutions department of a Government department. Muchos fun was had while I was being paid £9 an hour to photocopy and read cases about drug smugglers. I went to Glasontbury in June. It was muddy. So muddy I nearly wept. Fast forward to September and I started my Legal Practice Course. Which turned out to be the most tedious use for £10,000 ever. Still, at least it was better than working in Customer Services. In November I met a boy. A boy I really liked. The boy that became the reason this blog began.

Me at V Festival, 2008. Not a good look.

2008 - I documented the year pretty well in this post but it can be summarised thusly: Gigs, camping, festivals, wine, cheese, Dublin, Greece, nights out, coaches home at 5am, duvet days, black hair, debauchery, heartbreak.

Me in New York, April 2009

2009 - Well, what can I say about 2009 that hasn't already been documented here? Not much, to be honest. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I'm (nearly) always completely honest on my blog. I write things here that I wouldn't say out loud (despite most of my friends reading it), it just seems easier somehow. It's my way of communicating. My sounding board. My high horse. My rooftop for shouting from. This year has been ludicrous. Cancer, broken wrists, more heartbreak. But also New York, Glastonbury and wonderful times spent with wonderful friends.

It's been a funny old decade. Reading it back there have been some truly awful times. Two lots of cancer, four relationship breakdowns, one car crash, two failed years at university.

What I haven't documented in any detail in this little review, of course, are the nights spent laughing until my face hurt, the injokes, the nights of dancing and drinking and tomfoolery. The years I spent growing up and finding out who I am. Bizarrely, the majority of my growing up has been in the last six months. Funny that. At the age of 28 I'm finally an adult.

An adult with a tendency towards idiocy, excitability and daydreaming. But an adult nonetheless. An adult who always hopes for better things, who always wants the best for everyone and who always, always believes wholeheartedly in love.

I'm happy with that.

Monday 14 December 2009

The Best of 2009: Day 14

Day 14: Best rush?

April 6th, 9pm.

A taxi from JFK Airport. Through Queens. Across the Triborough Bridge.

The bright city lights came into view.

We gasped. I grabbed your hand. We stared, openmouthed.

Never have I been as excited as I was right then, right in that moment.

Sunday 13 December 2009

The Best of 2009: Days 12 & 13

Get in my face now 

Day 12: Best new food?

Olives! My love for them began to grow last year in Greece but 2009 was the year they became cemented in my affections. Only the black ones though, the green ones scare me. Particularly the massive ones. No food should look that menacing.

Day 13: Best change I made to the place I live?

There haven't really been any material changes to the place I live (apart from trying to keep my room a little tidier) but it's still a much happier place than it was this time last year. The reason? The changes I've made in myself have enabled me to get along with my parents a thousand times better than ever before, thus making the house a happy one. Happy, positive Helen = harmonious living for all.

Oh the weather outside is frightful...

5 ways to make a winter's day infinitely more magical:

1) Throw an impromptu dance party in your kitchen. Crank up the volume, jump around like a maniac and feel the endorphins come running!

2) Bake a cake, some cookies or some brownies. Your house or flat will be filled with warmth and the smell of baking. What's better than that?!

3) Go for a long walk in the crisp winter air. Crunch through leaves, skip when noone else is looking (or even if they are) and treat youself to a mulled wine when you get home.

4) Put on your warmest socks, grab a good book or a stack of magazines and spend the afternoon lazing, with a cup of hot chocolate by your side. A weekend wasted is never a wasted weekend and all that.

5) Plan something fun to do for every weekend in January. It doesn't have to be expensive (who's got money in January?!) but try and be creative! A local museum or art gallery that you've not been to before, a weekend getaway in a city you've always wanted to visit (there are some super cheap hotel deals in January) or simply building a fort in your living room and spending the weekend in there reading, listening to music and making exciting plans for the year ahead.

Saturday 12 December 2009

Christmas wishes

Dear Santa

I've been a good girl this year, I swear. Aside from occasionally having too much to drink, having a foul mouth on occasion and spending too much money on pretty things. For Christmas I'd love it if you could bring me the following:
  • I'd really love it if you could make sure that my Dad's cancer has gone. He's having a scan on 29th December, to see what the situation is. It'd be tremendous if you could make his scan give us good news.
  • Mark Owen, wearing nothing but a bowtie and a smile. I ask for this every year and am always disappointed not to find a little naked Northerner in my stocking on Christmas morn. Please sort it out.
  • A Canon EOS 500D DSLR. Please? Pretty please? I'm really enjoying doing my 365 project on Flickr but I feel limited by my camera. I could do so much better with a big girl's camera.
  • The sequinned lips jumper by Markus Lupfer. I was *this* close to buying it last week but then realised that spending £201 on a jumper was slightly frivolous. You're rich though aren't you Santa? 
  • A 15" red satchel from the Cambridge Satchel Company. Embossed with 'MOO' in silver letters.
  • Iron will power for the new year. I've lost some weight but have a lot more to lose. Sadly, when you work in an office full of people who love food, it's difficult not to gorge yourself on M&S biscuits, pastries, cakes and sweets. So iron will power would be much appreciated.
  • There is one other person thing I'd really like. I'm sure you can work out who what that is Santa, you're a clever guy.

Lots of Love and festive snuffles,

Helen (aged 28 years and one month) xx

Friday 11 December 2009

The Best of 2009: Days 10 & 11

 A gratuitous shot of another Best

A couple of quickies for you today (easy, tiger)....

Day 10: Best album?

For sheer 'memories so vivid it makes my heart hurt' wonderfullness it has to be 'For Emma, Forever Ago' by Bon Iver. Honorable mentions go to 'Junior' by Royksopp (for New York memories) and 'Hands' by Little Boots (who was so wonderful last night that my face is still smiling from it).

Day 11: Best place?

I have two. The answer I feel I should give and the truth. So let's do both. That's just how I roll.

The answer I feel I should give.... New York. Everything about it. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the vibrancy, the diversity, the magic. I adore it.

The truth.... On a bed. In a room. In a house. On a street. In Liverpool. With a boy. The boy. The bed that was our restaurant, our cinema, our place to talk and plan and fight and make up and everything else inbetween. My viewing platform for when he was mixing. The place I did my make-up before a night out. Our sick bed when we were too hungover to do anything other than watch endless I'm Alan Partridge and eat cheese balls. The place we ate scrambed eggs, read the Sunday papers and drank Lazy Sunday coffee.

Sigh. Ignore me, I'm just having one of those days.

Thursday 10 December 2009

You've got mail

Dear Post Office

I've just spent my lunch hour queuing to send two packages. One to Nottingham. One to Oregon. You normally have about ten staff on the counters but today, on the last day of international posting before Christmas, you had two. Many thanks for that. I so enjoyed my 55 minute queuing experience and I felt compelled to write and tell you all about it.

I really can't decide which was my favourite part. There was, of course, the extreme joy that erupted in my heart every time another person's mobile phone (set to super loud, naturally) started belting out a joyous rave tune (welcome to Warrington). This joy was only heightened by the fact that the owners of said phones couldn't find them, so rummaged in their bags looking for them for what felt like 4 hours. Hilarious.

Then there was my experience of the wonderful ticketing system that you've introduced. Now, instead of queuing like normal people, we have to take a ticket and brave the gauntlet of what feels like a giant deli counter. Only with less scotch eggs and nice cheeses and more despair, dismay and postage-filled horror. I'm sure you can imagine my joy when, upon inspecting my ticket, I saw that there were 31 people in the queue in front of me. Wonderful!

What made my post office experience even better though (if that's possible!) was the realisation that, of the three 'queues' of tickets (special delivery, counter services and travel money), there were only people queing for counter services. This, of course, meant that whenever a newcomer to the post office circus of devastation took a ticket for special delivery or travel money, they got to jump the queue and get served next. HA! HA! HA! How me and the other 356 people in the queue for counter services laughed.

Waiting for number 84 to be called by the monotonous droning voice was truly one of the most uplifting, life affirming and festive experiences of my whole life. Thankyou post office, you really are wonderful. Have a fantastic Christmas.


Helen xxx

Wednesday 9 December 2009

The Best of 2009: Day 9

Day 9: Challenge of the year?

This has been a year of challenges. 2009 was the year I got my heart broken and lost myself for a while. 2009 was also the year my Dad was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. But, on the flip side, 2009 was the year I found myself. It sounds incredibly cheesy but I've learnt more about myself and who I am than this year than ever before. I am a thousand times more comfortable in my own skin now than I was a year ago. I'm two thousand times more independent. And I'm three thousand times happier with who I am.

I wrote a post in August about three goals I'd set for myself...
  • Do more things that scare me
  • Worry less
  • Love myself more

Since then I've done two things that have scared the bejesus out of me. Two things that took me to the very edge and made me grow as a person. I took part in the One & Other art project and spent an hour on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. I used my hour to paint a portrait of my beloved Dad and raised over £2000 for the prostate cancer charity. It was one of the best days of my entire life and one that completely changed my outlook on me, my life and the world surrounding me. Secondly, I began my training as a volunteer for a UK charity that offers emotional support to those in despair or distress. Training that has caused me to challenge my perceptions, my views and the way I interact with people. Training that I completed tonight. Now the real fun begins...

It's been one hell of a year.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

The Best of 2009: Day 8

Day 8: Best moment of peace?

Without a doubt my favourite part of the day is my journey to work in the morning. It's twenty minutes where I have time to think about the day to come. Before work starts, before the emails and the phone calls begin. I drive past lots of open fields and woodland and the sunrises are often spectacular, particularly at this time of year. As the days gets shorter and the mornings get darker I savour these minutes even more. At times it can feel like I'm awake whilst the world is sleeping and I relish that feeling.

Silence and peace is something that I've only come to truly appreciate over the last six months or so. Before then I feared it. I didn't want to be still or silent. I guess I was afraid of the thoughts that might take over. I value my own space so much more now than ever before in my life. In fact, I think I'd go crazy without it.

(I skipped yesterday's 'best of' post on purpose. I've documented many times which are my favourite blogs and I didn't feel the need to do it again. You know who you are my lovelies)

Monday 7 December 2009

Monday Mutterings

Today I am feeling: Sad. I ran over a squirrel yesterday and it's really affected me. I am a giant girl. I was doing about 40mph though, and it ran straight out in front of me. There was nothing I could do. Even so, I still cried for about an hour when I got home.

Today I am drinking: Mr Scruff's Mint & Chilli tea. It is lovely. BEVERAGE ALERT!

Today I am eating: Satsumas, toast with thick cut ruby grapefruit marmalade, rice with Frank's red hot sauce and lots of green vegetables. Not all at the same time. Plus Candy Cane Oreos (amazing, seriously), grape Jolly Ranchers (I love it when work colleagues go to the US on holiday) and fudge (I love having a work colleague whose husband runs a fudge business. My thighs don't)

Today I am listening to: The Miike Snow album. Still. Also, Little Boots as I'm off to see her lovely little Blackpoolian (clearly not a word) face on Thursday. Hurrah.

Today I am coveting: This print. Tits for the win. Blue tits obviously, what else would I be talking about? Tut.

Sunday 6 December 2009

The Best of 2009: Day 6

via rofanator

Day 6: Best workshop?

I'm not sure if this counts as a workshop or not but here we go. As some of you may know I'm currently training as a listening volunteer with a well known crisis charity. For the past seven weeks, every Wednesday night, I've been learning how to cope with calls from people in despair or distress (plus prank calls and sex calls, but we'll save those for another day). The lonely, the suicidal, the hurt and the frightened. It's been hard. Really hard at times. It's made me challenge my perceptions, my beliefs and the way I handle situations. But it's also been the most incredible thing that I've ever done. There's only one week of training left and then I'll be taking calls. It's starting to get very real now. And quite frightening.

I'm still not sure how I'll cope when I get a call from someone who's already taken steps to end their life. A call from someone who just wants to tell another person their secrets before they leave this mortal coil. It's a huge privilege in a way, to listen to things that they've never told anyone else before. A huge privilege but also a burden.

Because that's the thing about being a listener. You can't take the stories home with you. You can't tell your friends, your family or anyone else about what you've heard. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared about how I'll cope. But I will.

There are so many lonely people in this world and if I can be there for even a few of them, to let them know that they're not alone, then isn't that fantastic?

Saturday 5 December 2009

The Best of 2009: Day 5

Day 5: Best night out?

Remembering my best night out is bittersweet. Memories of how happy we were, how carefree, how daft, how utterly irresponsible. It was Valentines Day and I was on my to meet him for a coffee. Things were confusing, unsure and I was nervous. Half a bottle of gin and half a frozen pizza later and things were great again. Our Valentines feast followed by him teaching me how to use his decks. I was never very good but I wanted to learn. I wanted to feel what he felt, that same passion, that magic behind his eyes. I wanted to understand.

A house party followed. Cava, more gin, unmentionable things. Laughter, mockery, play fighting, fielding questions we didn't know how to answer about how he knew me. About who we were.

And so to the nightclub. Our favourite. The night aptly named 'Valentines Day Massacre'. Loud, pulsating music that reached into your very soul and forced you to dance. And dance we did, until the wee small (big?) hours, entwined in laughter, music and love too, though neither of us would admit it. Falling out into the street afterwards, a sweating mass of happiness, music still ringing in our ears.

Then home. More gin. Him on the decks. My own personal DJ. A post-night out routine that I miss so much. Keeping the party going until the sun rose and the room became filled with light. No sleep. More laughing. The next two days spent in a haze of wine, conversations about anything and everything and intense happiness.

Yeah, that was a pretty good night out.

Friday 4 December 2009

The Best of 2009: Day 4

Day 4: Best book?

Once again I hang my head in shame as I admit to not having finished a single book this year. Bad Helen. So instead I present to you a selection of my all time favourites, most of them books I read a lot as a child...

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous -  I read this book over and over when I was younger. I think it came free with Sugar or Just Seventeen and it was probably the first time I became aware of the existence of drugs. A harrowing book.

Matilda by Roald Dahl - Who hasn't read Matilda? Who doesn't love Matilda? Awesome.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding - Again, another book that I've read over and over. I first read it as part of my English GCSE (I think?) and I loved it. Poor Piggy.

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend - This book reminds me of my childhood. It was made into a TV series and I was forbidden from watching it. Apparently it was too naughty. Thanks Mum.

And, my all time favourite....

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl - I think my copy of this is possibly the oldest thing in the whole world. It's falling to pieces and has been read hundreds of times. I read it so much as a child that I developed an irrational fear of my parents being trampled to death by a rampaging rhinocerous. A most wonderful book, in every respect.

One of my resolutions for next year: read more.

Thursday 3 December 2009

The Best of 2009: Day 3

Day 3: Best article?

As I've said before, I really don't read as much as I should. I haven't read a single book this year. I've started many but not completed any of them and this is not something I'm proud of. I do read quite a lot of articles online though. Varying in subject from teacup pigs (WANT!) to Scientology (DO NOT WANT) to whatever-I'm-currently-obsessed-with (currently it's Hashima Island).

I've read many an article on happiness this year. How to find it. How to keep it. How to be happy with what you have and stop wishing your life away. There was a time a few months ago when I needed some direction, when I felt like everything was imploding around me. Internet articles are possibly not the best place to obtain direction in times of sadness but one article really spoke to me...

'Creating Our Own Happiness' by Wayne Coyne.

"Try to be happy within the context of the life we are actually living. Happiness is not a situation to be longed for or a convergence of lucky happenstance. Through the power of our own minds, we can help ourselves. This I believe."

Wednesday 2 December 2009

The Best of 2009: Day 2

Not the best meal, but an incredible burger nonetheless

Day 2: Best restaurant experience?

Carrying on the theme from yesterday, my best restaurant experience of this year (and probably ever) was Spice Market, in New York. It was, in a word, sensational. The restaurant serves what is, essentially, posh Asian street food but every single bite was like a little piece of heaven. I'm not even exaggerating. Even more incredible than the food though was the service. Unobtrusive yet ridiculously efficient. And I can't even describe the decor so I shall simply quote from a review I read.... "The restaurant’s vast space is immediately disorienting yet instantly welcoming, energized and undeniably dazzling... going vertical instead of horizontal, shadowy rather than bright, utilizing no glass, all wood, with nary a right angle or unadorned square inch... The result is a carved and tiered temple to hedonism with great sight lines, bordello lighting, and terrific traffic flow." Basically it's like having dinner inside a giant carved wooden pagoda. Which is always fun.

We ate:

Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Spicy Thai Fried Chicken Wings with Mango and Mint
Crispy Salt and Pepper Skate
Onion and Chili Crusted Short Ribs with Egg Noodles and Pea Shoots
Jasmine Rice

We drank:

The most expensive bottle of red wine of my entire life.

We felt:

Like movie stars. Sad fact: I felt like I was in an episode of Sex and the City. Walking out onto the streets of the Meatpacking District, with the light from neighbouring bars bouncing off the cobbles was an experience I'll never ever forget. An expensive experience (that's what you do for the birthday of someone special though, isn't it?) but worth every single penny.

I've made myself hungry now. Darn it.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

The Best of 2009: Day 1

This year has been good, bad, brilliant, horrific, sad, happy and I've experienced the whole spectrum of emotions. To try and make a bit of sense of it, and to try and appreciate the good things that have happened (because I am all about that these days, after all) I've decided to do The Best of 2009 challenge (along with LizSara and Smidge).

One post, one topic, every day in December. Some days I might just post a photo. Some days I might write a longer post. We shall have to see how it pans out...

Day 1 - Best Trip of 2009?

Undoubtedly New York. Not only the best trip of 2009 but the best trip of my entire life. If you've got time on your hands and you feel so inclined you can read about my trip here, here, here and here. I never quite finished my New York Tale, I never wrote the final part. I'm not sure why to be honest. I never did like endings though... I prefer to leave things open.

New York was magnificent in every respect. It's the only city I've ever been to where I can see myself living. If only it wasn't so expensive and US immigration wasn't so arduous (for arduous read impossible). Every street felt like a movie set, every meal was the most wonderful meal, every Budweiser was the best beer ever tasted. There were more 'bests' than you can shake a stick at. From the best coffee (in the Financial District on our first day) to the best burger (in Hard Rock Cafe, fyi) to the best muffins (a little deli on Bleeker). 

It was exhausting, exhilerating and utterly wonderful. I'll never forget those 8 magical days or that little apartment in Harlem that saw so much laughter, a fair few 99 cent beers and a hell of a lot of foot soak.

Monday 30 November 2009

Honesty is the best policy

I've been tagged for an Honest Scrap award by the lovely Jeni, thankyou! I'm supposed to share “10 Honest Things” about myself and then nominate some people whose blogs I find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged me.

I'm always completely honest (too honest sometimes) on here anyway but there are a few things that have been bugging me recently, so what better opportunity than this to overshare once more...

10 Honest Things About Myself:

1) I have very strong emotional reactions to certain songs, tv shows and types of food, etc, that remind me of  times gone by. For example, I can no longer listen to 'Kingdom of Rust' by Doves, drink Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc, eat halloumi or watch Black Books without falling into a pit of sadness.

2) I'm terrified that my Dad's cancer won't go away. He finishes his chemotherapy next week and then he'll have 'the scan' in January. It fills me with such abject horror that I just don't think about what comes next. I'm not sure I've ever actually admitted that before.

3) I spend a lot of money on shoes and jewellery. A LOT. I like pretty things on my feet, round my neck and wrists and on my fingers. I'm also incredibly fussy about the jewellery I wear and would only trust one or two people in my life to actually buy any for me.

4) I'm more self conscious of my appearance than ever before. Although I'm two stone lighter than I was three years ago I feel fatter than ever before. Conversely though, I'm far more confident than I have been in years. Probably because I dress better, accessorise better, wear nicer make up and have nice hair (fact, I always get compliments on it).

5) I don't go a day without wondering where he is, how he is and whether he ever thinks of me. I am plagued by thoughts of what could have been and it hurts. I'm not sure that I'll ever stop hoping.

6) I feel conflicted at the moment. One half of me wants to pack up and jet off for a year of travelling next year. The other half of me wants to buy a house and put down roots. My mind changes between the two daily and I have no idea what to do.

7) I use humour as a defence mechanism. I am variously crude, loud and sarcastic but, more often than not, that's just a front.

8) I believe that wishes can come true. Although I'm not sure that I believe in a God as such, I believe that there is something up there looking down on us. I believe in a higher power and the concept of fate. I believe that if you are a good person and do the best you can then good things will come to you.

9) One of my favourite snacks (when I wasn't on a diet) is melted cheese. In a bowl. On its own. Different types of cheese cut into chunks and melted (hence the need for the diet). I am a dirty pig.

10) I love my job. I geniunely enjoy going into work most mornings and, although I have my bad days (who doesn't) I feel really lucky to work where I do, and with the people I work with. A year ago I was unemployed and at the lowest part of, probably, my whole life. It's a very different story 12 months on.

So, there you go.

I nominate Miss Smidge, Lainey, Lis and LizSara. All of them super supportive and encouraging, always.