31 Oct 2016

It's time to do this

New things

A couple of months back, I spent a good few days researching my company’s flexible working policy in great detail. Needless to say, it was boring as hell but I did learn a fair amount of things (and vow to always read work policies from now on. Seriously, go read your own; you may find you’ve got an awful lot of privileges that your place of work has mysteriously failed to tell you about).

In my next one to one with my line manager, I announced to her that I wanted to start working compressed hours so I had more time to write. Amazingly, she said yes.

I had to fill out an application form and wait for it to go through several people and drift around HR’s inbox for a while but eventually I got the go ahead, and this week I’ve worked longer hours every day so that, when Friday hit, I could log-off at midday.


And now I’m sat in Costa with my laptop and my thoughts and absolutely no work emails whatsoever and I am TERRIFIED.

I have wanted this moment for so long. Because all I’ve wanted for a long time is more time to write. And since moving to St Albans, every day I’ve walked past cafes (cos lol I swear this place births another one every week) and imagined myself sat in one of them with my laptop and just writing, with no restrictions and no other obligations.

And, in my own small way, I’ve made it happen. I know one small afternoon a week doesn’t sound like a lot. But that’s a whole six hours I didn’t have before. A whole six hours to myself that I can dedicate to purely writing.

I’m filled with this intense thrill at the thought. But I am also shitting myself. Because there’s nowhere to hide now. There’s been a lot of fantasising and not a lot of doing when it’s come to writing in the last couple of years (a result of the reality that is post-graduate life), hence why I put in the compressed hours request. So now I’ve got to actually do it. To write regularly again; to see if this is absolutely what I want my main focus to be and then plan my life around it.

And I’m scared. Scared that it won’t be as good as I imagined. Or that this desperate need I feel may turn out to be me clinging on to writing because it’s the only thing I’ve ever known. Or that I’ll find I can’t do it anymore.

And I’m excited. Excited that it might be exactly how I imagined. That these ideas and thoughts and characters that are whirring around my head might be put on paper and actually exist outside my own head. That this may be the start of the next chapter.

I don’t entirely know how to end this post so I’m just gonna note that I’m still so happy I did this despite the fact that I’ve realised my laptop battery is not equipped for several hours in Costa without being plugged in, and a child just screamed loud enough to make me change my mind about having children. Oh and there is a lack of seats and a guy just tried to sit at my table with me. Um, no hun. Nuh uh. 

Kay bye.

28 Oct 2016

What's your fantasy?


I should probably say from the outset that I do not mean those kind of fantasies. Sorry if that's why you clicked on this post...


Everyone has a fantasy, and everyone’s fantasy varies dramatically. Some people fantasise about that pair of shoes they cannot afford. Some people fantasise about Benedict Cumberbatch. Some people fantasise about having more money. About their wedding. Better sex. Different sex. To play football professionally. To be prettier (sadly). Thinner (sadly). To own a snazzy car. To have a better job.

(We should note that some people fantasise about being safe or having clean water so, if we are lucky enough, we can fantasise about the trivial above.)

Me? I fantasise about being able to write (that and Benedict Cumberbatch obvs).

Because I have always wanted to write. From approx the age of five; so basically as long as I can remember.

It’s only since leaving university that I’ve truly processed how much the need to write is there.

Because since graduating, the luxury of time has been taken away and adulting put there in its place. And when deprived of the time to write, I suddenly realised how much I wanted to do it and how I’d taken it for granted most of my life.

I have a lot of friends who know what they want, who studied accordingly at university and are now on their career path, with a sense of direction. And I make that sound easy but those guys have worked really bloody hard and I couldn’t be more proud of them or pleased for them. Yet I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t felt some envy in the last couple of years. I’m not jealous of them or their lives, but I have envied the fact that they know what they want. That they have a plan.

When I haven’t even got a ‘pla’*

I think I will always envy those who came out of university knowing what they want. Knowing what you want makes life easier. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to work as hard or face as many obstacles or that you’re guaranteed success. But it does give you a smidge of a head start. Cos the rest of us have gotta float; restless, unsure and confused. Goddamn it, it would have been so much easier to walk out of university knowing what I wanted to do next. A plan would have been all sorts of dreamy.

I did kinda try to build a career in writing. I did writing internships and worked as a writer in business for a disastrous six months. And I learned that if I was ever going to get to a point where I write things that I enjoy and earn money from, I would have to a) work freelance or b) spend many, many years writing shit for other people. Because, if you want to write, the non-novelist, non-journalist career involves writing what other people want you to write. You can work as a copywriter and write adverts or tender documents and all the other million and one things people require to be written every day (if you don’t believe this, take a look and just consider the amount of written words in the world around you. How they are used to make you buy stuff impact you). The problem is, the only person I want to write for is myself. Selfish I know. And when you write full time, in an office, all you do is write for other people. And your love drains away drip by drip. Cos no one wants to go home and carry on working do they?

What it’s taken me a while to realise is that, actually, I do know what I want. I know I want to write. It’s just it’s pretty hard to build a career path or plan with that and that’s why I’ve felt so flippin’ confused for a long time. I still don’t even have a ‘pla’ but I probs do know what I want to do.

Cos you gotta do what ya love right? (Yeah it's true but, yeah, I did also throw up a lil bit when writing that). 

*Honestly, you should know by now that I like to throw Friends references into all aspect of my life.

22 Oct 2016

A life detox in Holland


I'm sat on a train from Brussels to London and next to my feet there’s a bag full of cheese and stroopwafels and a whole other assortment of (edible) goodies that have come back with me from a four day trip to the Netherlands. The amount of cheese is kinda embarrassing but who even cares? It's cheese. Enough said. Holland really does seem to have a cheese factory/museum on every corner. Heads up fellow cheese lovers; it’s the place to be.

The Eurostar is transporting us back to reality and lol, I ain’t sure I’m ready for it. Having time completely removed from your day-to-day life, a life detox if you like, really does give you perspective.

Because, in between catching up with G’s fam, playing with kids, looking at windmills and, naturally, buying all the cheese; I’ve noticed a few things.

Firstly, I essentially just had four days technology-free (not including the occasional meanders over to Instagram cos Amsterdam is so flippin' instagramable that it would have been rude not to) and I feel so much better for it that it's kind of worried me.

I look at screens all the time. I work in an office on a computer. I write on my laptop/iPad, I scroll through my phone, I watch TV etc. I use devices with screens to read blog posts, watch videos, check recipes, talk to my friends, read the news... you get the idea.

And, really, we all know that can’t be good. They say anything is fine, as long as it’s in moderation, but the amount of time I spend looking at screens is not moderate. It ain’t even close. And that’s gotta change.

I haven't been sleeping great in the last few months. And yes, I know the fact that I’ve moved to a new place and have a mattress about as comfy as a bed of rocks are contributing factors here. But I also know that the nights where I barely looked at my phone, watched minimal TV and spent half an hour in bed reading or doodling, or just taking a few deep breaths and chilling, before turning the light out (rather than scrolling through my phone and turning the light out with my head still whirring), are the nights that stand out because I slept through.

Whilst in Holland, I slept deeper and better than I've done in ages and deep down I know the lack of technology and more fresh air in my day were significant here. It made me realise how much of my life I spend indoors, sat down and looking at a screen.

Which leads me to my second observation; that there are many different styles and paces of life out there and you don’t have to stick to the one you’ve found yourself in. 

And I know you’re thinking duh Kate but you gotta admit we’re all guilty of sticking within the realms of what we know. Doing something completely different or suddenly veering down another path out of the blue is a lot harder than it looks.

But you can do it, if you want.

I don’t have to work In An Office In London. That is not the only way of life out there. I lovelovelove living in St Albans right now, and don’t want to have to give that up any time soon, so I recognise that at the moment, London is the most obvious place to work. But, right down to my core, I know that I cannot keep getting onto a Thameslink train every morning for the rest of my life. I look at those older, tired faces on my train and know that I don’t want to get there. I don’t want to still be slogging through a shite commute just for the ‘privilege’ of working in London in ten years time. There are perks of the big city, don’t get me wrong, and I do take advantage of them. But you gotta sacrifice a lot of time and money, and a little bit of your soul, for those perks and I’m not sure the maths is even here. Those perks aren’t going to make it worth it in the long run.

And I know this. I roll my eyes at people who say they can never leave London, who think the idea of moving into the country or to ‘The North’ (as though it’s a different land) is absurd and feel sorry for those who can’t delve in London’s delights on a regular basis. I chuckle to myself because, as a girl who came from ‘The North’, I know that everyone else looks at those in London and laughs. I think they look at how much we pay in rent and/or commuting costs and think we have literally lost the plot. And I agree with them. So why the heck (northern girl speak coming through) don’t I jump ship? Cos London is what I know now. Perhaps I’ve even fallen into the trap of thinking that this is where the most interesting jobs are. Which is ironic when a) this is crap, b) I spend most of my working day bored out of my tree and c) I know full well that my main passion doesn’t lie in a traditional ‘career’ anyway.

I don’t think I want to spend the rest of my working life in front of a screen. I accept that screens will probably always be part of our lives now. And I want to write and I know I prefer to type when writing at length cos my hands are WEAK and die after ten minutes of handwriting. But maybe I need to look into jobs that have more variety than sat on my arse, looking at a screen. Maybe there’s even some jobs that force more exercise and fresh air into my day-to-day life*. And maybe I need to take the leap and force myself out of London.

After living at a different pace for four days, I’ve reminded myself that I can make these changes if I want. There is nothing stopping me. So maybe it’s time to start making them.

* I danced with the idea of being a post-woman and was on the verge of looking it up when G pointed out I'd have to get up at 4am. Jeez, always stamping on my dreams.


13 Oct 2016

Simple, sexy lunch ideas

Simple lunch ideas

What with working at home two days a week and currently spending all my weekends studying, studying, studying; it feels like I’ve been sat at the desk in our flat a lot during the day recently. Which means my lunch breaks are important. Well, actually, I always take my lunch seriously, no matter what I’m doing. But particularly when that hour in the middle of the day is the only time for my brain to shut down. In these important times, a standard sandwich ain’t gonna cut it. And neither is something that’s gonna take ages to cook. Nah uh.

It’s a fine balance to have but I think I’ve just about nailed it. The following lunches are my current faves and they’re simple, sexy and mighty tasty. And take minimal time to put together. Also, nearly all of them can be easily transported if you are one of those poor souls who has to go to the office five days a week (it’s a cruel, cruel world). Annnnd, I’m gonna go all out and say they’re reeeelatively healthy(ish). Boom.

Pizza pasta salad

Boil some whole wheat pasta and mix in some sun-dried tomato pesto when cooked. Chop up a handful of cherry tomatoes, chorizo and black olives and throw on top of the pasta with some fresh basil leaves. Add some mozzarella if ya like.

Simple lunch ideas

Avocado, goat’s cheese and sweet chill bagel

Cut a bagel in half and lightly toast it. Spread some sweet chilli sauce on top. Mash up an avocado and spread on top of the bagel. Sprinkle soft goat’s cheese on top. So flippin’ dreamy.

Simple lunch ideas

Filled pasta with kale and tomatoes 

You know those fresh pasta parcels that cook in about 3 mins? You always need a pack hanging around in your fridge. Throw a handful of kale (getting some greens in without you even noticing) in some boiling water for like a minute and then throw in about a third of a pack of your choice of filled pasta (my current faves are goat’s cheese & pesto or spinach & ricotta). Once cooked (so quick!), drain the pasta and kale and serve up with a few chopped cherry tomatoes on top. And maybe some cheese; grated cheddar always makes a meal.

Simple lunch ideas

Sweet chilli halloumi couscous 

Make up your couscous and lightly fry a handful of chopped cherry tomatoes and red pepper. Mix the tomatoes/peppers with the couscous and serve with a few slices of grilled halloumi on top. Drizzle with a shiz load of sweet chilli sauce cos sweet chilli sauce is the one.

Simple lunch ideas

Goat’s cheese, chorizo and lentil salad 

Lightly fry a handful of chopped chorizo in a pan on the hob until just crisp. Set aside and then use the same pan (doesn’t matter if the juice of the chorizo is still there) to heat up some green lentils on the hob for a couple of mins (or until they’re warmed through). Mix in a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard (or more/less depending on how many you’re cooking for). Use the lentils as the base of your salad. On top, throw on some green leaves, cucumber, beetroot and whatever else you fancy. Then add the chorizo and some soft goat’s cheese and off you pop kids.

Simple lunch ideas

10 Oct 2016

6 unusual books to cosy up to this autumn

unusual books to cosy up to this autumn

I really should have included snuggling under a blanket with a good book in my autumn love list. Clearly I was just far too wrapped up in the thought of candles and crumbles.

Mmmm crumbles.

Anyway kids, here are some brilliant, and slightly different, books for you to delve into at this time of conkers and Yankee candles (both of which seem to be spreading throughout our flat...). Enjoy!

The Versions Of Us - Laura Barnett

Kinda like a more complicated version of Sliding Doors but without the annoying characters (not that I don’t love that film). Jim and Eva meet at university aged 19 and you follow three different versions of their lives up until they're elderly. It takes a little while to get used to jumping between three different stories but once you get into the swing of things, you’re so hooked by the concept of all the different paths life can take you down. The characters are all so realistically human and it makes the story so lovely and gives you all the LIFE feels.

Reasons To Stay Alive - Matt Haig

This little memoir is just lovely. It’s engaging, intertwined with humour and might even save lives.

Matt Haig suffered a breakdown in his early twenties. This is his fight; told through lists, anecdotes and regular reminders of reasons to stay alive.

The Opposite of Loneliness - Marina Keegan

I saw so much of myself in Marina. The need to write, the need to be better, the need to share, the need to create. This girl was a storyteller and a much better one than I could have hoped to have been at university.  This book is a collection of her short stories and essays and every single one of them is so OMG YES. Her essays, in particular, are full of what it means to be a young adult in the 21st century.
Marina died in a car accident five days after she graduated and this book is a tribute to her incredible talent and questions how much more she could have given had she lived. 

Lovely. Dark. Deep. - Amy McNamara

Oh maaaan, young adult genre nailing it yet again. The title pretty much sums it up tbh; this book makes you ache. You start off knowing that Wren lost her boyfriend in a car accident and has retreated into herself to the point of being an elective mute. And then you just gotta go with it because the full story of what happens emerges over the novel and you meet all these dandy characters who help Wren start to heal.
It’s a story of loss and pain and guilt and hope and reflection and new beginnings.

Nobody Told Me – Hollie McNish

So when I told my friend some of the details in this book, she went as white as a ghost dressed in a sheet and kinda looked like she was gonna throw up the shit load of cheese we'd just engulfed.

Oops; soz babes. So, yeah, word of warning; don't read if you have a fear around the concept of giving birth. If you ain't ready to even think about that shiz, then tuck this one away for another day. However, if – like me – you have a kinda fascination with what being pregnant and what giving birth really entails, then go ahead.

The ‘Nobody told me’ title basically refers to all the things that happen to a woman when she’s pregnant and gives birth that society seems to pretend don’t happen. Like when women give birth in TV programmes and in the next scene have flat, toned stomachs. Sure, babes, sure.

So, yeah, if you want to know about the sheer wonder of things your body is capable of and the reality and delights of what having a child is really about... I'd say go for it. Just expect to be told how it is.

Oh and there's poetry. Pretty darn awesome poetry.

As I’ve said before, in my opinion, Hollie McNish is the ultimate sass queen. The woman makes a living by being a performance poet; HOW COOL IS THAT?! She makes you laugh, cry and creates that warm fuzzy feeling. This is a combination of honest diary entries and hilarious, thought-provoking poems and she just nails it. Put aside any pre-conceived notions of poetry and read this; you'll end up freaking loving it.

Very Good Lives - J.K. Rowling

You can read this baby in half an hour and I cannot recommend enough that you take that half an hour out of your day. This is the commencement address that JK Rowling gave to the graduates at Harvard University in 2008. She talks about the benefits of failure; how having the courage to fail is key to taking risks and a good life, and of the importance of imagination; how imagining ourselves in the place of someone less fortunate is a unique human quality that we all must strive for.
Every time I read this, I’m reminded how important it is to do what you love, how the important things in life are not what’s listed on your CV and, most of all, how lucky I am.

The speech is here if you fancy listening to it instead.

Happy reading folks x

unusual books to cosy up to this autumn

2 Oct 2016

15 things that happen when you live with a boy

15 things that happen when you live with a boy

It’s six months this weekend since G and I started living together. Six months since I waved goodbye to the bedroom I’d had since I was 15. Six months since we hauled everything we own up a rickety spiral staircase (no mean feat when you own an enormous corner sofa*). 

And it is really rather dreamy. Soz for the little-sick-in-mouth gushiness but I do truly love our little life and flat here in St Albans.

Anyway, here are some observations I’ve had in the last six months.

1) You will spend the majority of the time in his company wearing your slippers with unbrushed hair and no make up. Remember the days at the beginning when you'd attempt to dress nice just for hanging round the house? Pffft as if you can do that shit every day. It’s been a long, hard day at work and you NEED to take your bra off and get in your pjs pronto. 

2) You now have conversations about recycling, the loud neighbours, the washing up, bills, how to remove that weird smell in the fridge... You hope no one finds out how boring you've become. 

3) Gone are the days where you can indulge in a family sized bar of chocolate, four cookies and a bag of haribo. Because there's someone there to witness your shame now. Plus you have to share. FFS. 

4) You can't have Friends continuously playing in the background for days on end. Apparently some people don't like that. 

5) Both of you will have to work hard to not let snoring and/or quilt stealing totally ruin your relationship.

6) Sport. You will watch sport. You may even have a moment where you get drawn into said sport. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING. 

7) You'll probs put on weight. Such an old cliché but when you’re living with someone who seems to enjoy a pudding as much as you do, pudding happens. I’d love to say I’m sorry but, well, I ain’t. 

8) You feel a little lost and cold and lonely in bed when he goes away for the night.  WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT STRONG INDEPENDENT WOMAN?! 

9) You can also kiss goodbye to starfishing in bed. Those days are gone. The sooner you come to terms with it, the better. 

10) He won't muster up quite as much enthusiasm about cat videos as your sister does. 

11) Until corrected, he will think that putting on the hot water for 15 mins is enough for you to have a shower. Nah babes. Nah. 

12) Say goodbye to the mystery that comes at the beginning of relationships. You now wash each other’s pants; there ain't no going back from that. 

13) You won't cuddle and have little pillow chats every night like you used to cos you now spend every single night together and it's hot and shush, I gotta watch Scandal

14) You will become surprisingly blasé about the fact that you haven't showered or shaved your legs in several days. Hey, if he wanted a pamper queen, he should have looked elsewhere. 

15) You will randomly hug him on a near-daily basis, usually when he’s trying to concentrate on something else, because for some unbeknown reason, he wants to live with you and that gives you all the happy feels. 

Love ya babes <3

*Upon reading this blog post, G would like it to be known that I wasn't actually part of the group of people who carried the sofa up the staircase... I watched whilst eating cake. Hashtag no regrets.