La Belle Dame sans Merci

‘I saw pale kings, and princes too,

Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;

Who cried—“La belle Dame sans merci

Hath thee in thrall!’ – La Belle Dame Sans Merci, John Keats, 1884.

I must be a woman without mercy. I have no other choice.

In Faerie, in matters of the throne, there is no room for sentiment, for softness. I have invented myself. A mortal woman gave birth to me, to Taryn, but to survive I have had to create myself. Taryn and I, once links in a chain, now severed forever. I am entirely alone. I have crafted myself from ice and stone, and there has been no fire with the heat to melt me, no landslide forceful enough to fell me. I thought that no-one could ever truly touch my heart.

Which is why this rush of tenderness when I look down at the sharp planes of Cardan’s face, the equine profile, the porcelain softness of his skin, is fairly terrifying. It’s also pretty embarrassing for the self-styled ice queen. I hated him, but hate is a passion too.

He looks softer in sleep. Beautiful. Younger. Less annoying.

“Do you make a habit of watching people in their private rooms sleep, or has voyeurism become a hobby of yours only recently?” he asks in a deceptively pleasant tone, eyes still closed.

That didn’t last long.

“I’m hardly a voyeur,” I snap back. “I came in here on…state business. Besides, I wouldn’t have had to trespeass into your precious ‘private chamber’, if you’d only get up at a reasonable hour. It’s way past noon.”

“Hm. Mulberry wine does not make for early rising.”

“Try not drinking three buckets of it then,” I reply tartly.

He finally opens his eyes, glaring mutinously up at me. He pouts, his lips incongruously rosy in comparison to his pallid complexion. I move my gaze hastily from his lips, focusing instead on the burning glare directed my way.

“One would have thought that lie-ins were a perk of being High King,” he bit out acidly. “Besides, how else am I meant to relieve the pressure of bearing responsibilty for every Sidhe and slimeball in the whole of Elfhame? The burden of responsibility truly does weigh so heavily upon my shoulders.”

He smirks insincerely at this, and makes to burrow under the sumptuous silken sheets. He pulls the covers over his head, effectively blocking my view of him. One white, slender foot protrudes from the end of the bed.

Eyes narrowing, I grab his foot and yank it viciously, practically yanking him out of bed.

“Ow,” he yells, furious. “Your hands,” he mutters mutinously, are “like ice.”

“‘The burden of responsibility on your shoulders.’ I scoff, suppressing the unwelcome guilt bubbling in my stomach. “I do everything. The world on your shoulders, don’t make me laugh. You paint yourself as a veritable Atlas.”

This was intended to provoke him into action, but he does not look as angry as expected.

“You know your mythology,” he observes, seemingly interested.

“Contrary to what you seem to believe, I actually do have two brain cells to rub together. Now Get.Up. You have things to do, things which, surprisingly, don’t include sleeping the days away and stumbling around in a fog of wine and powder until dawn.”

I have still not removed my hands from around his ankle. It does indeed feel warm, his skin smooth as silk. He does not resist my clutch, but instead makes to sit up and shifts slightly, his face now unnervingly close to mine. I try not too look at his smooth bare chest, his blood crimson nightshirt cut low. I move my gaze hastily to his face. This is not much better. Guiltily, I take in the purple shadows under his eyes, the slight swelling of his lips. I have noticed that he has a nervous habit of biting his bottom lip, sometimes hard enough to draw blood. Not that I’ve been staring at him. Much.

“You really are a woman without mercy, Jude Duarte,” he states darkly. A mischievous smirk plays upon his face, disarming me. “La Belle Dame Sans Merci, in fact…” he muses. He peers up at me through disgustingly full and long eyelashes. “Yes…’full beautiful’…though you are certainly not and are never to be a ‘faeries child’…” He stretches regally, like a smug black cat, and trails a long elegant hand over mine, still circled loosely over his ankle. I drop my hand like I have been burned, and back away in what I hope is an imperceptible admission of my discomfort.

My retreat did not escape his notice. He grins wolfishly, sharp canines visible, and I am furious. I do not care to decide whether I am angry with him or with myself.

I blush, angry against my will, my guilt ebbing away and replaced by something more familiar – irritation. He is needling me, trying to entice me into a furious verbal sparring match. I won’t give him the satisfaction.  His words, spoken months ago now, ring in my ears. ‘I will be your puppet’, he had promised, his words laced with disgust. I have manipulated him, certainly, anticipated his every move and maneuvered him like a piece on a chess board. So why does it still feel as though Cardan will forever be the puppet master? I certainly do not feel as though I am the one pulling the strings.

I grit my teeth. “Get. Up. Now,” I repeat more firmly, hoping that the sharpness of my tone masks that I am floundering, that he renders me defenseless and lost with his winged words. I feel as though I am a sheep pretending to be a wolf, running with the pack and hoping desperately that no-one will notice that it’s howl is actually a baa.

“Now Jude, is that any way in which to address your sovereign?” he drawls, flicking a lock of midnight black hair out of his face. He is the picture of bored indifference.

“Get up, your majesty, or I swear I’ll schedule a royal appearance. Every goblin baby in the Kingdom bestowed with a kiss and a charm from the High King Cardan, I can just picture the excitement now…

“I know that you have taken it upon yourself to become some kind of…Royal Aide…but continue to be a royal pain in my backside and I will become very difficult indeed. I may not be able to directly defy you Jude, but I assure you that I can annoy and needle you until it feels as though one year were twenty. Continue to irritate me and I will do all in my power to frustrate your plans. Unless…”

My voice betrays me with a quiver, my throat dry as the wood we burn at Summer Solstice. “Unless?”

He finally moves from the bed, stalking towards me until we are nose to nose. I stare into his crow black eyes. They are an abyss and they are infinite. I could get lost in them and I am not entirely certain I would be able to find myself again. His breath is still sweet from last nights wine and tickles my cheek. I feel drunk from the pure nearness of him.

“Unless you learn…to be nice. A woman without mercy you may be…but I might suggest you learn some, ah…what is the word? Cordiality. I suggest you learn some cordiality in order to ensure my continued benevolence.

You may be the belle dame sans merci…but do not forget that you have cast me as the wicked king. Rule me with a will of iron and mortal or not, you will burn.”

I hold my breath. After a moment, the tension passes and a familiar smirk plays upon his face like the first freshness in the air after a heavy thunder storm.

“You had better lead the way. I have, apparently, much to do.”

“I’ll uh, let you get ready.”

“That is good of you,” he condescends, tone thick with sarcasm.

“I’ll see you in the throne room?” I stutter, half request, half demand. “Come down as soon as your finished. Please.”

“It will be as you say. Keep my seat warm.”

I guess that’s what I set out to accomplish. Funny how an invisible crown can weigh so heavy and cost so much.


Does #GIRLCRUSH 😍have a dark side? 🖤

For as long as I can remember I have been nursing a #GIRLCRUSH. The object of my affection and adoration has varied vastly over the years, and remains fickle to this day. These idols have included, but not been limited to, Angelina Ballerina (sparked my life-long desire to be a ballerina – only a lack of talent, grace and rhythm stands in my way), Amy MacDonald (Scottish songtress, still cool AF), Ariel from the Little Mermaid (I dreamed of dying my hair red, I did not start using forks as hairbrushes), Teresa from Hollyoaks (gorgeous and blonde, she made me dream of a sophistication only fake tan and bumpits can lend*). When I turned 16 and found Tumblr my ideal look began to modelled on super edgy, super-skinny goth beauty Felice Fawn. These days it’s all about Instagram and we’re bombarded every second of every day with a literal lineup of beautiful, accomplished women to compare ourselves to. I’m simultaneously in love with and envious of a different girls look, life, style, every single day. These intense and often brief bouts of the girlcrushing have invariably resulted in an attempt to change something about myself in order to be more like the subject of my platonic, nonetheless intense, obsession. Indeed, at 21, I still find myself poring over images of certain women I admire aesthetically, wondering how I can make myself ‘more like that.’

  1.  The ultimate Primadonna, Angie B.
  2.  Of course, Ariel. I still wish I could make ‘AhAaaaaaaHHHH’ sound as sweet and musical as she does. #GOALS.
  3.  Amy MacDonald. Responsible for my terrible combover fringe in year 8. She worked it, I didn’t.
  4. The ever-so controversial and ever so 2012 Tumblr Darling Felice Fawn.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this admiration. Yet, hypocritically there is something that sits uncomfortably with me about the term and indeed the entire phenomena of the #GIRLCRUSH. It leaves me with the same vague ‘ickiness’ that arises when I see girls plastering the word ‘GOALS’ over anything from a pair of sheeny Louboutin heels, to a couple kissing, to a models bikini shot on Instagram. Admiring other women is healthy, understandable, and empowering. The issue starts when we view the beauty of other women as the absence of our own. In the throws of ‘girl crush’ I become guilty of allowing this person to become my mercurial, narrow definition of beauty. Often, and I feel I’m not entirely alone in this, the object of my admiration becomes an image I measure myself against, something to aspire to. Crucially, it’s hard to remember that what I’m comparing myself to is just that…an image. I am not these women, I do not live their lives. I access only a very small amount of their lives through the smokescreen, filtered platform of social media.

Ultimately, I’m know that I’m always going to be nursing a #GIRLCRUSH on someone or other. I know this because women are amazing. There are so many women I admire for their beauty, their intelligence, their style, their artistic talent. Knowing this, I’m striving to remember that I admire these women as something about them resonates and strikes a cord within me, and I can cultivate these facets within myself without feeling I’m falling short as I cannot ever be as perfect/beautiful/talented as this particular person. Whenever we nurse a #GIRLCRUSH we need to take a step-back, remembering we are comparing ourselves to a photo, a 2D cardboard cut-out of a person, not a living breathing flawed individual. Whenever we find ourselves temped to comment ‘GOALS😩😩’ followed by excessive emoji’s on a celeb/model/social media queen’s selfie, we should perhaps reconsider. I LOVE that girls are so ready to admire and boost others, but instead of idolising the image as an aspirational goal, perhaps just comment on something you find beautiful about them. That means more and is more mentally beneficial to yourself than constricting this person to ‘GOALS.’

Through this post I hope to remind you, and myself, that you can be pretty like you – you don’t have to be pretty like the eternal, ephemeral and ever changing ‘her.’ You, yourself, unfiltered, are enough. Trying to be someone else is limiting, and serves only to constrain you. Don’t let admiring someone else’s shine dim your sparkle. 💛✨💛✨

d9a2ad70413130c108fc0cace2c73d79 *BUMPITS

Honesty Hour: Mending, Not Fixed.

It’s hard to be honest. Even to yourself.

For the past few months I’ve been thinking of myself, determinedly, as ‘better.’ I’d divided the 2016 incarnation of me that was exercising for hours daily, that cried over white bread, that turned down invitations in case necessity dictated I ate something I was not ‘allowed’, and the present me – eating when I feel like it, not doing hours of running – into two separate entities, two different people. I look back at pictures, noting the protracted collar bones, the smile that never reached my eyes, the quietly manic aura. I can sense the anxiety that bubbled insidiously just below the surface masked by a forced smile, a carefully constructed facade. I was not well.

In this last week, however, I have been forced to acknowledge an unpalatable truth. I am better, undoubtedly, but I am still not ‘well.’ The anxiety attacks that seemed to have abated around November time came back with a vengeance, knocking me off kilter and sending me into a spin.

Almost subconsciously, perhaps as an attempt to find an outlet for my negative emotions, I have begun to cut out more food groups. I did not even realise this fully until my mother raised her concern.

Thoughts of food and weight still dominate my brain. I thought I’d gained a bit of weight – I wrote in November that I was physically ‘stronger and softer.’ I stepped on the scale for the first time in months a couple of days ago. My weight is the same as it was on my last doctors appointment. The mind is a powerful beast. What we see and feel is not always a true reflection of reality.

I find it difficult to separate decisions I make for ethical reasons, decisions coming from my ‘authentic’ self, and ‘things-I-absolutely-must-do-or-some-insidious-terrifying-unnamable-thing-will-happen.’ I cannot deny that a good percentage of actions I take on a daily basis are performed to satisfy and pander to my anxieties surrounding food and my weight.

I tentatively broach a thorny and emotive topic: veganism. I have eaten animal products sparingly for a long time – I ate solely white meat first, then I moved to pescatarianism. I transitioned to full, clean-cut vegetarianism before Christmas. I then axed dairy.

I truly believe that Veganism is the most ethical choice. It’s better for the Earth, and of course, for the animals. However, this latest dietary endeavour, the shunning of products that ‘may contain traces of egg,’ the avoidance of full-fat dairy yoghurt…is this something I do because I want to? Was this a choice I made, or another ‘rule’ I must adhere to, another bid for that illusive will-o-the-wisp; ‘perfection.’ Is Veganism something I feel I can define myself with, a label to grant me some identity, to give me a tribe? Is it to help me feel that I belong, that I stand for something? Is it a sound choice I made for the right reasons or is it so I can put #vegan in my Instagram bio? Am I being ethical or is my attempt at Veganism just a socially acceptable way to admit that I’m scared of losing control when faced with a block of Brie? Is it wrong that I feel comforted when I see that saintly ‘Ve?’ In my heart of hearts, I know that it is. What I consume doesn’t make me any more or less worthy than the next person.

I am still in need of that quiet voice in the back of my brain that tells me, ‘This is safe. You are allowed to eat this.’ Are my food choices disordered? Or is it a case of morality? In all honesty, I think it’s a tangled, hotchpotch mish-mash of both, and it frightens me that I cannot filter my ethics from ED.

I am recovering. I am not, unfortunately, recovered. I eat a hell of a lot more, ‘enough’, likely more than. But am I mentally ‘fixed’? I have to say no. I am not yet physically healthy, either, although mental and physical health are two separate beasts. I have gone back to the doctors where I will be undergoing tests and hopefully receive guidance from a dietician. I am embarrassed by this, slightly. I do not feel ‘sick enough.’ I don’t look ill. The truth is, however, that I need support. I am still not menstruating. I still feel anxious if I don’t ‘do my steps.’ I am still not at a healthy weight – though I truly thought I had gained. As my mother pointed out, I need help to break out of this cycle. I do not want to be stuck in this ‘functioning-fine-but-not-fully-better’, this fog of ‘doing-kind-of-okay-but-only-if-i-do-10000 steps-and-can-eat-from-a-list-of-my-prescribed-foods.’ I want to reach a point where food and weight do not dominate my life. I want to stop taking comfort in being thin. I want to be proud of myself for more than fitting into the smallest size in the shop. I want to build an identity that isn’t tied with my body. I can only do this by letting go. Letting go of the BS that tells me people will only like me at XS. Quite simply, I want to stop being so afraid.

In all honestly, I am afraid. I’m afraid of the future. I’m scared of being nothing, of never achieving anything palpable. I am haunted by the feeling that I am wasting my life. But I am trying not to panic. As my dad wisely tells me, ‘life is a marathon, not a sprint.’ A journey, not a destination. I may never reach a firm, defined finish line at which I feel ‘BETTER.’ But I can start by getting to a healthy weight. I can accept more spontaneous invitations. I can keep putting myself out there, keep trying, although at times it feels embarrassingly hard.

I am loved. I love others. I have friends. An amazing, supportive family that care. A puppy that wags his tail whenever he sees me. I’ll be happy. I’m mending, not mended. I’m trying to enjoy the process of unfucking myself. I just need to try.

The more I think about it, that seems to be a lot of what life is – ‘unfucking’ yourself, and shedding what ever shackles you. We are all art works in progress. We deserve to love ourselves at every stage. We might be a bit messy at some points, our lines are a little smudged. But we’ve sure as hell got to believe that there’s something of a masterpiece in each of us, imperfections and all. The most important thing is taking steps to improve our lives, to keep going, and simply to release what does not serve us.

Autumnal Reflections

I love Autumn. I love the colours. I love the weak November sunshine. I love the glow of lights coming shining from the interior of a cosy pub. I love the puffed dragon’s breath of exhaled air on a cold, crisp, but sunny morning. As the leaves fall from the trees, it feels like a period of transition, a time when we ourselves are invited shed restrictive patterns and start afresh. The hedonistic fractiousness of the summer seems to fade, replaced by something slower, comforting and calmer. The moreish, punchy sangria that is Summer matures and simplifies to the Autumn/Winter’s rich, full-bodied glass of red wine.

I feel better than I did in Summer. Without wanting to speak/type too soon, in some ways I too, feel that I’m becoming calmer, more balanced. Like the trees, I’m shedding the excess. Shaking off dead leaves. Still growing, but a little more firmly rooted. I’m ever so slightly less frantic, less panicked. I’m fully embracing Autumn’s heralding of a more restful, restorative period.

This Autumn I’ve been trying to think less and do more, whilst at the same time not punishing myself by keeping furiously active. I’ve been trying to obsess over myself less. I’m getting stronger and softer physically. I still worry and feel anxious, as does everyone, but certainly not to the extent I was a few months ago. The weight on my chest has lightened. I can usually escape the whirlpool of worry and anxiety I would’ve been sucked into, drowning, in summer. I am able to breathe a little easier.

This season seems irrefutably reflective (what else is a glass of large red wine for other than to sip, warmed from the inside, musing on life and love and why Shaggy’s ‘It Wasn’t Me’ is playing on an loop inside my head? Just me? Oh well). In any case, I can’t help noticing that I’ve got a hell of a lot to be grateful for. I’ve got an incredible family unit. I’ve got some fantastic friends that my improved attitude has allowed me to have some lovely days (and nights!) out with. I’m being kinder to myself, more flexible, less rigid (most notably with food – I allow myself things I wouldn’t have even dared look at a few months ago – but I like to think I’m now more open to the opportunities life has to offer in general). I’m trying to trust the universe to see me right. I graduate (this week, in fact), with a good degree. I’ve been lucky enough to win some prizes for my work. I’ve made my parents proud. I’ve been welcomed into a new job that I enjoy. I’m trying not to let it’s temporary nature and the uncertainty of my future scare me. I work with some fantastic children and some very kind souls. Every day presents something new and usually gifts me with a genuine laugh and plenty of smiles. Life with an incredibly loving but cheeky puppy has been an utterly new experience, but is slowly settling down! He is pleased to see me everyday, and the love I get from him on a daily basis is a gift worth taking note of. I’m making time for meditation and yoga. I cut my hair off, shedding the old hair like the trees shed the leaves. I feel lighter. I’m trying to be kinder, more relaxed. I’m lucky. I’m making an effort to notice that, and keeping my complaining and irrationality to a minimum.

As Autumn comes to a close and Winter gently yet firmly sidles ever closer, like the crunch of wellies in dusty white snow, I feel cautiously…happy. I’m feeling infinitely more excited about life. I’m lucky. I want to just keep falling more and more in love with life. Life has seasons. For what feels like a long time I’ve felt bare and dark, naked and vulnerable. Fragile. Dull. Dead. At odds with the Autumn/Winter landscape, the stark trees, I’m actually daring to believe I can flourish. I feel (hope!) that I’m getting my spark back (or gaining one!). I’m capable of feeling a fizz of excitement inside me again. I’m growing. I might have previously looked down at the Autumnal leaves, trampled underfoot, and seen a dismal dark sludge. My mind is now clear enough to see the orange, the gold, the vibrant red. The beauty in the shiny brown of a precious conker. As the seasons change, we all have the chance to be born again, to restore. I’m grateful that I’m more grounded than I was. I wish for my roots to spread, to smile and genuinely mean it, for love in all forms. I want to keep looking up at the clear, cold blue sky, admiring the minimal branches of the unadorned trees, hearing birdsong, and feeling my heart to sing response. I am thankful for the happiness I feel and my only firm goal currently is to attract and incite more joy in myself and others.

Away With The Fairies: In Favour of Believing Magic and Dreams

As long as I can remember, I have been 'away with the fairies.' A chronic daydreamer, from a very early age I was constantly floating on a cloud of some kind of whimsy. Whether my fantasies be patched together from Alan Garner, JK Rowling, Eva Ibbotson or even Toy Story (at around 6, I had a thing for Woody the cowboy)…as a child I was always longing to be somewhere I wasn't. The everyday, mundane and minute details of everyday life bored me.  Admittedly, they still do, sometimes. Whilst on the surface throughout my school days I'd be attentive and quiet, mentally I'd be an age way, in a liminal time, a faraway place. I'd be deep in an enchanted forest, running down the spiral staircase of a rich King's castle, hanging out in the Gryffindor common room with Harry (wishful thinking – I am so blatantly a Hufflepuff…), or living with Tolkien's elvish folk in Rivendell. My favourite film today, aged twenty one, is Labyrinth. I am in love with the fantasy art of Brian Froud, Jasmine Beckett Griffith. I own unicorn candles. I have a miniature, mischievous brass Cornish Piskie that I almost unconsciously rub surreptitiously everyday for 'good luck.' I wholeheartedly embrace the concept of the seven chakras, and fully believe in the life-enhancing and calming properties of crystals. I have been described as 'kooky' by friends. I'm not entirely sure it was meant as a compliment. Don't get me wrong, I'm not utterly spaced out 24/7, but I can get so lost in my own thoughts/daydreams that I am rendered oblivious to those around me.  Whilst a vivid imagination can certainly be a blessing, it can also be a curse. I'm self-aware enough to realise that my chronic daydreaming can sometimes make me appear withdrawn, odd, or at worst, rude. I'm not. At least, I hope I'm not. I just don't always have the energy or the practicality reserves required to deal with some interactions, unfortunately. The left side of my brain has always remained firmly in control. Give me a cryptic poem to puzzle over rather than an equation any day. I might be able to think of something vaguely intelligent regarding the poem. The equation would be a lost cause -(Math is my Kyrptonite).

Although it's certainly got it's drawbacks, I think there are a few reasons that I should feel pretty okay about not being quite ready to hang up my fairy wings and plant my feet firmly on the ground quite yet. I think it's a sign of creativity. It shows hope – daydreaming is, to me, daring to believe that the world can be a different place; more magical, a place where anything can happen and dreams can be believed. I wrote earlier that the mundane details of the life bore me. In many ways, this is true. Most of us don't get a thrill out of online baking (unless your account looks like Richard Branson's), and to my knowledge I don't know anyone that particularly enjoys washing the dishes, dealing with energy bills, or hanging out the laundry. I am not a practical person. My head could definitely be screwed on a little more firmly. But crucially, it's the times that we are engaged with dull tasks that we can allow our mind's to wander, that give us the time for the spark of fantasy and wonder to be ignited. I once had a job, aged sixteen, where one of my main tasks was to lick envelopes. I'm not kidding, I was literally paid to sit and seal them up. Money for nothing, certainly, but soul destroyingly dull. I resolutely didn't care – it just gave me more time to daydream, uninterrupted. The rhythmic seal of the envelope, ceremoniously writing out the addresses in block capitals, acted as a kind of soothing backdrop for the riot of fantastical in my daydreams. I'm not suggesting that we all boycott necessary, everyday tasks or lose our grip on reality altogether. Daydreaming can rob us of just being present in the moment, and I'm a huge advocate of being mindful.  I just think it's important that we sometimes allow ourselves occasionally to escape reality, to not be consumed by trivial annoyances of everyday life. I'm a firm proponent of the idea that there is magic all around us, inside us. We must make an effort to see it, to create it, to cultivate the creativity inside us and refuse to let that sprinkling of pixie dust in our souls to rub off during the (sometimes eroding) difficulties of everyday life.

Pupdate: Picking A Puppy/Showcasing My Utter Indecisiveness 

I am the world’s worst decision maker. Or at least, I’m up there. In the top twenty, for sure. I basically need a flow chart to decide what socks to wear in the morning. I find having multiple options vaguely terrifying. If I were to psychoanalyse myself, I’d say it’s likely rooted in a deep fear of failure, of making the ‘wrong’ choice. The inability to make swift decisions can strike whether the choice is minor or major, life changing or inconsequential. Case and point: I once cried, age six, in The Disney Store, unable to choose between a Tigger watch with a green strap or one sporting Oddball from 102 Dalmatians with a blue strap. It just felt so incredibly vital that I made the right decision. Fifteen years later, this indecisiveness has, unfortunately, remained a resolutely unshifting facet of my character. Incidentally, I chose Oddball. Probably appropriate.

So yes, it’s fair to say that I find decisions difficult. But lately, I’ve been confronted with a hell of a lot of them. I’ve just finished my degree in English Literature, a broad degree that offers no firm direction. Everything is incredibly uncertain, career-wise. I’m unsure what to pursue, and having to decide what the hell I’m actually going to do with my life is, to say the least, pretty f*cking overwhelming.

A more pleasant decision and immediate decision to be made, as opposed to the foggy realm of my future career path, was going to choose a puppy this weekend. I nonetheless found it ridiculously difficult. I looked down at three beautiful puppies. They all had faces constructed by the angels. Big brown eyes blinked endearingly. Wet noses nuzzles, tiny sandy tongues licked affectionately. I loved them. I loved them all. I wanted them all. I needed them all. It took an age. I ummed and ahhhed, cradling each one, wanting whichever was pup I currently had in my arms. It seemed impossible. How could I possibly pick between them?! But pick I did. I chose a red pup – the one I’d held first. I cradled him like a tiny furry child and as he blinked up at me, I followed my gut instinct and said that this was the doggy for me. Signed, sealed, (and not quite yet) delivered, he’ll become part of the family officially in three weeks. I adore him already. I look at his picture and melt, reduced to a ridiculous, soppy mess – or rather, an even more ridiculous, soppier mess than usual.

In the end, I made a choice. I’m incredibly happy with the one I made. I’m happy with my judgement. Sure, in the case of the four adorable puppies, there’s wasn’t exactly a ‘wrong’ choice. There was no bad outcome, nothing major at stake. I was either going to get an incredibly cute puppy or an incredibly cute puppy. But what I feel I can take from puppygate is this: I was able to make, what felt at the time, like an incredibly hard decision. I was able to make a choice and not regret it. Often we just have to decide, and get on with it. More often than not, we’ll make the right one. Perhaps there aren’t even any ‘good’ or ‘bad’ decisions. Just decisions. Life will constantly present us with choices that have to be made. The trick seems to be not to panic when they do. I’m going to try and view having multiple options in a more positive light, follow my gut and just get on with it. Another positive note: all future life choices will now be made whilst petting a dog. It might also make me more decisive: ‘Right Pup – One Bark for Yes, Two for No – what do you think?’ The new puppy will be lucky enough to hear me rambling on incessantly, and will in all likelihood become the silent, furry, adorable equivalent of a life coach. God help him. He’ll get lots of cuddles, though.

New Life: Birth and Rebirth

Last Sunday, I wasn’t having a particularly great afternoon. The morning had started off pretty well, in all fairness. The weather was beautiful, a blissful, balmy 28 degrees, more tropical than typical UK weather. I’d gone to yoga for a particularly sweaty session and very much enjoyed it. The afternoon took a turn for the worst, however, when I learnt I’d been rejected for a job I’d been pretty confident I’d at least be elegible to be interviewed for. As usual when I feel inadequate, my thoughts inexplicably and uselessly turned to regulating my food intake and exercise levels. I felt uncomfortable – it was Father’s Day and we’d had a buffet lunch. I suddenly felt weak, out of control and greedy. I felt that I’d over indulged and old, restrictive thoughts started to swim menacingly, shark-like around the peripheries of my mental space. Altough I’d been lounging in the garden with my family, basking in the (rare) sunshine, I’m ashamed to say that I gave in to compensatory behaviours and sneaked off to excericse. My mother followed me and rumbled me in my attempts. I was embarrassed and annoyed with myself – as much as I feel I really have managed to forge a much healthier relationship with food on the whole, some aspects of my mentality surrounding my consumption and my body remain strange. Her calling me out on the ridiculousness of surreptitiously isolating myself in order to ‘burn off’ lunch when I should be enjoying relaxing family time made me realise how selfish I was being. It also made me realise how far I still have to go to feel ‘normal’ again in regards to my thoughts and behaviours. I let my insecurities get the better of me, yet again. 

So I was feeling pretty subdued, on the whole. Tired. Tired of battling with myself day in, day out. Tired of job hunting. Tired of being afraid. 

Things certainly got a hell of a lot brighter when my cousin casually informed me via text that she’d given birth, three weeks early, to her second child. A baby boy. She invited us to go and visit them in the maternity ward of the local hospital. We jumped in the car, eager and excited to do just that. 

I saw him and thought immediately: he’s perfect. He has a dent in his ear at the moment (forceps – ouch). Perfect. He has a slight scratch. Still perfect. He’s healthy. Beautiful. I watched his chest rise and fall, watched his hands curl into into little fists. I traced the oval shape of his tiny fingernails. Perfect. So alive. Babies are the opposite of tired. They are so awake, so raw. They are painfully, stunningly, beautifully fresh. New. I sometimes wonder if that’s why they wail so piercingly. Why wouldn’t they? Everything is a first – every sight, every sound, a sensory overload. Baby L was patient as he was passed around like a beloved, tiny, precious parcel from one adoring, cooing relative to another. I held him in my arms and as he blinked those blue eyes open, peering into mine, the afternoon’s feeling of being irreversibly tired just melted away. He was placid and strikingly peaceful while we held him. He was so content, and holding him, a bundle of purity pernsonified and encased in a teeny babygrow, I felt content too. I looked at my cousin, who’d been so brave in what was, by all accounts, a pretty horrendous birthing experience. I watched her smile down at her first son, and got a reality check on what’s actually important in life. Love. Family. 

Sunday was a day of gains, on the whole. I may have lost a job prospect. Lost some peace of mind, some perceived ‘progress.’ So what? Life is not linear. It has ups and down, and the day’s gains outweighed the losses. I gained a new member of my family. I looked down at him and saw the world through raw, fresh eyes. I gained perspective. I looked at him and felt love: I gained extra room in my heart, as corny as that sounds. A new person to love. 

Last weekend we welcomed 7lbs of joy into our family and into the world. I hope baby L soaks up life. I hope he looks around at the simpering faces cooing down at him (I imagine we look simultaneously idiotic and fairly menacing), and that he is able to sense how much he is loved. I’ve only met him once, in the three days he has so far experienced. He has already made my life better. He has already made me appreciate life more. He has already made me less tired. 

Life is precious. New life is the even more so. Here’s to living like the oversized babies that we all are – curious, soaking up new senses, surroundings, and experiences. Here’s to loving without limits. Here’s to family. Here’s to realising what the important things really are, and taking comfort in the fact that every day is a second chance; an opportunity to be born again. 

Edge of 21

Today is my last day of being 20. I’m not quite sure how to feel about it all, really. I know it’s just a number. It doesn’t really mean anything. Just time, jogging along, as time unavoidably tends to do. Saying that though, it’s undeniable that there just seems to be something symbolic about turning 21. More so than at age 18, I think, there seems to be some kind of auspiciously grown up connotation to 21. I taste the words in my mouth, and they feel slightly strange. Twenty one. A proper adult. Isn’t 21 just for…more responsible people? 

Terrifyingly, I remember thinking as a kid that anyone over 20 was practically ancient. In case I wasn’t already feeling my age today, my yoga teacher informed me this morning that she’s concerned one of my hips is weaker than the other. I’m clearly already a pensioner trapped in an (almost) 21 year old body. Get me to the Mecca Bingo centre and let the good times roll. Admittedly, I always did feel like I was just a bit too invested in the daytime TV programme ‘Cash In The Attic.’ Quite clearly, I didn’t choose the pensioner life, it chose me, fifty or so years too soon. 

Twenty has been quite a strange year for me, to be honest. Not my happiest. I think it’s a slightly liminal age, 20. Not the heady, reckless, ‘look-at-me-I’m-of-age-and-I’m-going-to-drink-jaegerbombs-til-I-puke’ 18 and not the slowly-starting to get settled mid twenties. At 20, I feel like I lost quite a bit of confidence. I’m hoping to rebuild that, slowly. I’m much less sure, in a way, about everything really. Though maybe that’s not all bad. It’s good not to have a too rigid idea of the future. Frightening, but then we can never really know what’s coming round the corner, can we? 20 certainly wasn’t all bad for me – far, far from it. There was a lot of good. I’m so grateful for all my beautiful friends and family – I’m so lucky to have such amazing, supportive  and inspring people in my life. I’m just hoping that in my 21st year I’ll be in a better headspace, able to make the best of whatever opportunities life throws my way. 

Fingers crossed and touch wood, my 21st birthday is shaping up to be a lot better than my 20th, even though the forecast is, weather wise, abysmal. I’m hopeful that 21 will be sunny for me on the whole, however. I’m entering the year happier, which is a good start. On my 20th birthday I was caught in a rapidly spiralling and terrifyingly all-consuming calorie phobia, terrified of gaining weight and dreading eating out to celebrate. I point blank refused a birthday cake or even a solitary bun, and my mum half-joked that we’d have to put a candle in a strawberry. I was the only one that made my 20th birthday slightly sad – it was self-sabotage. I got beautiful presents. I was made a fuss of. I was surrounded my dear friends that celebrated with me on a night out, but I rigidly controlled how much I drank and tallied up the mounting calories in every celebratory cocktail I was offered. Not this year. This year I am getting a cake and I am going to eat it and I am going to enjoy it. I am going to drink as much as I want (though ideally, I’d like to still be fairly vertical at the end of the evening). I am going to be with loving family and friends, as I was last year. But this year I am going to celebrate with them. I am going to be in the moment. I’ve never really been a party girl, and am pretty reluctant to be centre of attention. I hate planning events, especially when they’re centred around me. But the driving force for my 21st plans has just been a sort of quietly defiant voice in my brain saying ‘f*ck-it.’ I’m going to soak up turning 21, and I’m going to milk my celebrations dry. 

I’ve had a pretty lovely last day as a twenty year old so far. I went to yoga. I went and treated myself to new makeup I didn’t need. I got a spray tan, surprisingly. It’s my first one, and though the lovely lady that sprayed me with what she slightly unnervingly called her ‘gun’ has promised it will develop overnight, at the moment I’m looking releivingly unlike a) David Dickinson b) an Oompa Loompa, or c) the shade of a Sainsbury’s carrier bag. The full effect remains to be seen. I’m hoping tomorrow will be a good day. I’m feeling lucky that some of my friends can make it out to celebrate with me, and incredibly touched that people have sent cards and presents. 

The overall mood tonight is: ‘hopeful.’ I’m quietly excited. I’m hopeful that tomorrow is going to be great. I’m hopeful that I’m going to love 21. I’m hopeful. Excited and hopeful. Excitedly hopeful. It’s nice to be excited about things again, even in a quiet way. 

I’m sorry that this post is pretty uninteresting and slightly rambling, as ever. I just felt that I should document my last night of 20, in some small way. But now, I’m going to stop being so self-reflective, possibly pour a small pre-celebratory tipple, and ponder the big issues – i.e is my Burberry ‘Summer’ perfume strong enough to mask the pretty potent smell of my spray tan? If not, one thing is for certain is this – I will enter 21 smelling vaguely of digestive biscuits. There are worse things, I suppose. 

I hope tomorrow is a wonderfully happy unbirthday (or birthday!) for you all. See you on the other side of twenty. ❤️

Love, Lorna. X 

Te Amo, Barcelona

I was recently lucky enough to spend four nights in beautiful, bustling Barcelona. It really is such a vibrant city. It’s absolutely teaming with life and colour. I felt like I only scratched the surface during my time there – I could have happily stayed for weeks. Every side street held a new treasure, and so much beautiful architecture it was honestly impossible to take everything in. From street artists, to markets, to cafés, bars and shops, the city truly is a feast for the eyes. I want to emphasise right from the get-go that should you ever get the chance to visit Barcelona, you should vamos and take it faster than you can say Sangria.  

It turns out that what was, in highschool, a seemingly passable grasp of the Spanish language in real life amounted to me just about remembering ‘hola,’ ‘adios,’ ‘gracias’ and ‘muy bien.’ As you can imagine, I hardly wowed the locals with my fluency. Surprisingly, the GCSE Spanish module on what our school uniform consisted of did not prove useful. I did remember the phrase ‘Dos cervezas, por favor,’ (although I’m not certain I picked it up at my very Catholic secondary school…) which certainly came in extremely handy. Incidentally, Estrella tastes even better when you’re drinking it in Spain.


I think as a tourist with a limited time schedule it can be so tempting to just rush around like a headless chicken, determined to ‘tick off’ sights on a to-do list, as it were. What was great about this trip was that with a ticket valid for ten journeys it was easy to zip about pretty speedily on the Underground. I feel like we packed a lot in to our short stay, but I never felt overly rushed. Over three days we visited Casa Battlo, strolled down La Rambla, wandered the Gothic Quarter, soaked up the sun in beautiful Park Güell, ate breakfast outside the art gallery at Montjuic and were awed by the epic (and still, unbelievably, a work-in-progress – it’s due to be completed in 2026), La Sagrada Familia. I adored all of these places, but La Sagrada is simply unmissable. I cried. Incidentally, if you’re planning a trip to the Catalonia capital it’s well worth booking tickets for both La Sagrada and Park Güell before you go – we had to return much later than we had originally intended as there were no tickets available when we first arrived. But go you must (young Jedi). At the risk of sounding incredibly cliche, the only way I can think to describe the glow cast by the stained glass windows is just a vision of pure magic. The entire basilica looks as though it’s been modelled straight from the pages a fairytale. I felt like I was in a dream. I’m a little iffy on heights, but if I visited again I’d pay the extra money and brave the winding staircase tower – there’s so much detail and intricacy to the entire cathedral I you see something new every time you glance in a different direction. Gaudi apparently explained that he wasn’t too fussed that he would never see his Magnum Opus completed, and enjoyed reminding friends that his most important client in the sky wasn’t in any particular rush. Like Gaudi, I’d say it’s best to take a slow pace in Barcelona. Leisurely soak up the ethereal beauty of the Sagrada and stop to smell the blossom in Park Güell. They’re stunningly beautiful experiences that are worth savouring. I will never forget them.


My dad begged me to get a snap of Camp Nou, which I cared about infinitely less. For those as illiterate in and as oblivious to football as me, Nou is the holy ground of FC Barcelona. I passed it only fleetingly from the confines of a rapidly moving bus, but was determined to get the snap for him. I got the picture, but unfortunately I don’t think it was quite what he was hoping for. I managed to capture the shiny silver ‘FC Barcelona’ sign, but unfortunately the ‘B’ is obscured by an unfortunately (or brilliantly?) placed lamppost. Upon closer inspection of the photo, I realised the sign proudly declares the site as the home stadium of ‘FC Arcelona.’ Excellent. I’m considering selling the photo to rivals Real Madrid, who could presumably use it as inspiration for some suitably pithy football chants.

I did manage to take a couple of pictures that I was more pleased with, however. In all honesty, everything was so beautiful it would’ve been hard to take a bad picture. The city is filled with Gaudi’s stunning architecture. His designs are so intricate and delicate yet at the same time not oppressively stuffy in the way that some ornate European cathedrals seem to me. He seemed to favour mosaic and primary colours over heavy gold. Everything he touched seems to have resulted in an explosion of a rainbow of blues and yellows and green. Even La Sagrada Familia wasn’t in any way gothic, and still invoked the underwater scenes I learnt that Gaudi was so fascinated by. Its curved lines and spiralling pillars made it look sort of similar to what I imagine King Tritan’s Palace would look like in a live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, but presumably with more crucifixes. I did a bizarre kind of interactive tour in Casa Battlo, a kind of stately home designed by Gaudi, in which Pokemon Go-esque figures appeared on a phone screen in front of you as you moved from room to room. All in all, it was a cool idea but I found it kind of distracting. The house is 32 metres of glistening mosaic, and the interior was so beautiful it seemed a shame not to just look up and soak in what was in front of you rather than staring at a screen. The audio segment of the tour was really interesting though, and explained that Gaudi was fascinated by the look of objects underwater, as well as being inspired by nature. This explanation into his aesthetic gave a really good context to his work. It was a happy accident that I visited Casa Battlo and did the tour on my first afternoon in the city, but I’d recommend doing that before you do much else (but after you get an Estrella!). As Gaudi’s architecture peppers the city – as well as Casa Battlo, La Sagrada, Park Guell, Casa Mila are among the most heavily visited spots in Barcelona – it was brilliant to see elements of his work that he drew upon time and time again to create such visually arresting aesthetics. I also noticed that he really liked Salamanders.

Another high point was watching the Magic Fountain. I wasn’t entirely certain that I’d get to see it – we rocked up and waited an hour and a half for the display to begin only to discover that we’d gotten the wrong day and that if we were waiting for the rousing chorus of ‘Barcelona’ to start up and the lights to come on, it’d be a hell of a long evening. Sitting at the top of Mont Juic with it’s panoramic views of the city and watching the sun go down, however, I certainly felt there were worst places to be. There were also lots of lovely vendors more than willing to provide Cerveza, Coke, Agua, or Selfie Sticks, which kept us pretty well catered for the duration of our wait. When we arrived the next day, the display was actually on. It was markedly busier than the night before, and the atmosphere was infectious, the crowd a sea of smiling faces and laughter. A particularly touching moment came when the fountain cast a blue and yellow light and Oasis’ anthem ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ sounded triumphantly in what was presumably a tribute to the tragic events in Manchester. A beautiful sentiment for a beautiful night.

A coincidence that felt closer to fate was seeing an advertisement for the V&A ‘David Bowie Is’ exhibition. I am a self-confessed Bowie super-fan. David Bowie Is a lot of things to me, and I’d read reviews of the exhibit when it was being showcased in London a little wistfully, assuming I’d never get the chance to go. When we saw it advertised, we happily forked out a more than fair fifteen quid and booked tickets for the last day of our trip. The exhibition was incredible. I saw hand-written lyrics, diary entries, dazzling outfits (a personal favourite being the ‘Ashes to Ashes’ Pierrot clown suit). Indeed, I got huge outfit envy – a jumpsuit worn on the Ziggy Stardust tour was particularly beautiful. Sigh. That man had style. Watching an early 70s, orange spiky haired David singing ‘I had to phone someone so I picked on you’ was jarringly emotional for me. At the end of the exhibit, we were reminded ‘David Bowie Is All Around Us.’ An alien angel music man that pioneered the children’s right to boogie, flamboyantly and fabulously demonstrated the fluidity of gender and sexuality, and emphasised the vital need for self-expression, I found this thought infinitely comforting. David Bowie has been, for me, a shooting star in what has sometimes looked like a dark sky. I listened to Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide blaring alongside a gigantic screen of a montage of his live performances, and felt tears come into my eyes. Hearing Bowie emphatically remind us ‘oh no love, you’re not alone…’ in a room packed with other devotees was a pretty special experience. It made my Barcelona experience even more memorable and special to me than it would have been otherwise. It also made my trip a lot more expensive – I bought a miniature LEGO Ziggy in the gift shop for equivalent of about £20. An essential purchase. 

All in all, I don’t have a bad word to say about this stunning city. I feel so blessed to have been able to visit it. My only complaint is that I could’ve done with another week, at least. I laughed, I cried, I sang, I listened to Ed Sheeran’s ‘Barcelona’ in a sun soaked Park Guell, I people watched in the Gothic Quarter over a jug of Sangria. I ate fresh seafood and drank too much wine. I didn’t go far off the beaten track – everything I did was a pretty standard tourist activity. It didn’t matter. It was extraordinary to me. I saw things I’d never seen and I was happy. That is the reason, I think, that we travel. We visit different places to experience the new. Hopefully, we gain joy from this widening of our horizons. The further we go, the wider we travel, the smaller the world seems. There are so many beautiful places to see, to give yourself over to. Barcelona is one of them, and it will always have a little piece of my heart. 

Getting Snap Happy – A Quick Update

This was initially intended to be a different, longer, more thoroughly researched post. I started a piece focused upon my belief that art – from contemporary pieces produced by artists today to work from the old masters – can help us to appreciate the beauty within ourselves and in the world around us. Art is, after all, a tangible record, a documentation and a visual depiction of an aestheticised subject. It’s an encapsulation of that particular artist’s version of beautiful. 

Portraits are particularly useful in considering the ever transitioning standards of beauty. Body goals for Rubens are quite different to the #fitspo that populates the Instagram feeds of 2017. Botticelli’s Venus probably wouldn’t make it down the runway come New York fashion week. Picasso’s painted ladies would need facial realignment surgeries, but I’m actually not sure that having eyes in the side of your face was a good look back then, either. The point I’m trying clumsily to make is this; there’s no one way to be beautiful – there really is just difference, and that difference should be celebrated.  I will write that piece eventually, when the time is right. It just isn’t right today.

Truth is, I started writing, and I felt like an utter fraud. I’ve been having a few rough days body-image wise, analysing my reflection in the mirror far too often. What kind of hypocrite was I? How could I possibly preach about the importance of seeing beauty in all things when I can’t even find peace or acceptance in regards to my own body? I haven’t weighed myself in an age, but I can see changes starting, slowly. As I’m trying to become less rigid in my eating habits and rules (I’ve documented my body/food issues in much more detail in an earlier post, in the unlikely event that you’re interested), allowing myself to eat delicious food with my family, and not documenting every single calorie that passes my lips, I’m slowly but surely becoming less bony, less fragile looking. The bones in my hands and feet are becoming less pronounced. I’m finding that I’m bloating in my belly after eating, but my rib-cage is still pronounced, giving me a shape that I feel is reminiscent of a pregnant stick-insect. Attractive. I’m still thin – too thin for my natural weight. I will undoubtedly gain more weight, and should. I know this, but these perceived changes, real or imaginary, unavoidably send me hurtling down a rabbit-hole of ruminations on my body fueled by self-doubt and insecurity. I find myself spiraling, ridiculously, annoyingly, for not much reason at all, into a pretty damn anxious state. I need to be drawn out of myself, distracted from my preoccupation with thoughts about my own looks. One thing that’s really helped these past couple of days has been photography.

My fabulous mum and dad bought me an DSLR Camera for my birthday, and they really generously presented it to me a little early. I really enjoy taking snaps while I’m out and about, but as of yet have been sticking with the trusty iPhone. Although a lot more cumbersome, there’s something just inherently more satisfying about hearing the click of a full-size, proper camera. I’m still very, very, very much an amateur photographer – I can barely even get the camera to focus. Yet it makes me happy. I’m finding myself looking at the world around me from a new perspective, thinking about something other than myself and seeing the beauty in the small details. Through a photographer’s eyes, I’m noticing the drops of dew on a spiderweb, the symmetry of a ladybird’s spots, the spectrum of colours in a magpie’s wings. I’m looking for beauty in places I wouldn’t have before and finding it. Although this is a slightly rambling, confused kind of post, (admittedly, I am often both rambling and confused myself), I hope it just conveys, in a kind of round-about-way, that we can find something lovely in just about most things. Photography is helping me to become less wrapped up in my own head – instead of wandering around outside, zombie-like and engrossed in thought, I’m actively looking at my surroundings, searching for a chance to get snap happy. Nature is awesome, and the universe seems to be generally pretty willing to provide some kind of photo opportunity. I’d encourage anyone to find an activity that keeps you mindful, even if it isn’t photography. It’s so necessary for our overall well being to be brought back to the present moment, distracted from incessant ‘what-if’s’ and worries. Sometimes, we just have to look up, view life through a rose-tinted camera lens, and appreciate a pretty goddamn flower. There’s so much beauty in the small things – we just need to be willing to see it.


For more excessive pictures of flowers (and a few awkward selfies…), check out my personal Instagram account @lornsmae