#43 How to Jump Out of a Plane (!!)

Back in April, I was sat in my room, bored out my mind, with no idea when this lockdown would end. Everyone has their own coping mechanisms…mine was to seek the ultimate adrenaline rush: a skydive. This way, I had something to look forward to and I was on my way to ticking something off the bucket list.

Yesterday, the day finally came. At 7:30am, my boyfriend and I set off to Go Skydive in Salisbury. The concept of actually jumping out a plane was difficult to get my head around, and so I was practically in denial, very relaxed throughout the 90 minute car journey. On the other hand, a nervous poo reveals itself for my poor boyfriend. I laughed at him, feeling very badass that no hint of fear had entered my body (yet). Little did I know that that same type of poo would make itself known to me during the induction presentation.

We drove through a few miles of fog, and out into clear skies and sunshine – the weather was perfect and therefore not a viable excuse to turn back now. That, and the fact that we’d paid a lot of dollar to do this.

Upon arrival, we have some short training to do. This is when it hits me, that I’m jumping out of a f*cking plane. Tough sh*t for me though, because before I know it, our flight number is called. I meet my instructor who will be attached to me, Pete. He’s done over 5,000 skydives, so I think I’m in good hands. Imagine this being your job. Wild.

With a quick check of my harness, we’re up up and away, with my boyfriend sat behind me. I’m looking out the window, and the views are breathtaking. We’re bloody high up, but the plane keeps going up and up and up. I’d booked to skydive from 10,000 feet. F*ck. At this height, you free fall for 30 seconds, reaching 125mph, before the parachute is released.

Eventually, we reach 10,000 feet. Pete attaches his harness to mine and fits my goggles to my face. “You ready?” he asks with confidence. I give him a nod and a very fake smile. No way am I turning back now. I cannot be the one that bottles it. The plane door opens, with a view for miles: I can see Southampton from here. We’re above the damn clouds.

Me feeling slightly shooketh

Pete gets into position, sitting on the edge of the plane, with me in front of him, literally hanging out of the plane. Luckily, you have to keep your head up for this bit, so I can’t see the pure insanity that’s ahead of me. He starts filming on the go pro, and lets go of the plane. We’re flying. There’s no point in screaming – you can’t even hear yourself. The cold air makes its way into my gloves. I take in the views, making a conscious effort to breathe. My face mask made its way into my mouth, so I bite down on it, as if that’s gonna help calm me.

Before I know it, the parachute is released, and we’re just floating above the world. It’s so peaceful. I gave the go pro a wave to ensure that everyone knows I’m a bad ass.

We make a soft landing on our bums onto the grass airstrip, and it’s all over. And that my friends, is how you jump out of a plane. You just do it. My first thought upon landing is, I need to do that again, and I promise, you’ll be thinking exactly the same.

If I managed to convince you, welcome to the club. The cheapest option Go Skydive offer is falling from 7,000 feet, free falling for ten seconds, for £199. 10,000 feet is £259, and 15,000 feet, the highest height you’re legally allowed to jump from in the U.K., is £318. To film your experience with a GoPro, it’s an additional £119. Yep, it’s not cheap, but for all my fellow adrenaline junkies out there reading this, it’s worth saving up for, trust me. If you ring them up to make a booking and mention, ‘my friend, Georgina Tait said if I mention her name, I’ll get £30 off’, they’ll do exactly that! So go wreck that bank account…after all, you don’t earn money for it to just sit there.

#42 Tips on Planning Your Gap Yah

After cooking 23 different variations of pasta and stir fry, skipping 9am lectures twice a week, getting f*cked over by several student landlords, signing up to 5 different societies that I never attended and puking up cheap Aldi Rosé every now and again, I’ve found myself rather ill-prepared for being an Adult. Of course I am an adult; I’m over 18, but I’m not an Adult, with a capital A – the type of Adult that actually has a job. With my final year of uni ahead of me, I’m assuming another year of pasta and puke is not gonna be the thing that flicks the switch in me to transition from adult – Adult.

People like me usually have two main options in this scenario. 1) Delay entering the Big Wide World by doing a ‘panic masters’ or some other form of further education. Or 2) Delay entering the Big Wide World by…travelling the Big Wide World.

You guessed it; I chose number 2. Don’t get me wrong, I love being intellectually stimulated, but not for 9 grand a year. So, whether you’re planning a gap year for after college, a post-uni gap year, or a little mid-life crisis get away, here are my tips for planning the ultimate adventure.

1) Booking your flights on a Friday night? Think again.

If you’re really savvy with your money, you’ll know that booking your flights on a Tuesday night, around midnight, is when you’ll get a real banger of a deal. If you’re flexible with your dates too…even better, because you’ll want to change your departure and return dates to a Wednesday – that’s when flights are cheapest.

2) You never know who you’ll meet along the way

Now that you’ve saved a bit of £££ by booking your Wednesday flight on a Tuesday night, you might want to consider spending a little extra on an open-return option. Who knows? You might find a group of friends that you just cannot leave behind, or perhaps you’ve fallen in love with a dog that follows you around everywhere (definitely something that would happen to me). Or maybe a worldwide pandemic hits and it’s a race to get home safe! It’s never easy to predict how long you’ll want to spend in each country. Plans change.

3) Don’t waste £££s on hotels you don’t need

Unless you’ve got a sugar daddy, you won’t be able to stay in hotels for the entire time you’re travelling. The solution? Sign up to couchsurfing.com to find people all across the world, offering their couch to surf for free. You’re welcome. Alternatively, pay just £36 for a year-long membership with Work Away, and they’ll help set you up to live at someone’s house, anywhere in the world, for free, and feed you for free too. In return, you work for them for a few hours a day, whether that be helping with cooking or helping on a farm they might have. This is a great way to get involved in the different cultures and learn a new language.

4) Treat yo’self

Despite me recommending couchsurfing and Work Away, it’s always worth splashing the cash every once in a while on something a bit more luxury than a hostel that hasn’t seen a new mattress in 20 years. Maybe after a solid week of hiking in the Switzerland mountains, you don’t have the energy anymore to socialise with yet another stranger. A luxury hotel is what you need.

5) What’s beautiful and still cheap?

Thailand. Thailand. And, Thailand. And I’m saying that before I’ve even been there. Tip number 4 leads me very nicely onto this – if you’re gonna treat yourself to a luxury hotel, make sure it’s in Thailand. You can get some celebrity style villas in Thailand for the equivalent price of a standard hotel in England. Everything is so cheap over there, which usually means everything is a bit sh*t, but in Thailand, the beauty is sure as hell there. Other insane countries that are still really cheap include Slovenia, Philippines, Costa Rica and Argentina.

#41 A Day in the Life of a Care Worker

It’s 5:30 AM. For a lot of people, this is a very normal time to have to wake up for work. Not me though. The way I see it, five thirty in the morning is quite literally the middle of the night. I snooze my alarm a good three or four times, pushing myself for time to the absolute maximum until, eventually, i have no other choice. I get up, chuck my uniform on (which is sometimes still damp from washing it the night before), grab an Oat So Simple porridge bar and munch on it in the car.

Despite it being August, I’ve got the heating ramped up in my car because, as I said, it’s the middle of the f*cking night and therefore a little cold. There’s a podcast playing…it’s something about Jeffrey Epstein today. My mind focuses in and out of it, as most of my porridge energy has to be spent on staying awake to drive a car.

Google Maps informs me that it’s a 22 minute commute to my first client. Not bad, considering some clients live a hefty 45 minutes away from me. I arrive at the client’s house with a couple of minutes to spare. Fabulous – I need those crucial minutes to do a lap around the neighbourhood, in search of a parking space. The best choice I’ve got is a parallel park. Sh*t. Definitely not a talent of mine, but by this point it’s still only 6:28 in the morning, and so the chance of getting an audience whilst I attempt to park is low.

After managing to squeeze my little Toyota Aygo in between two cars, I get my gloves, face mask and apron on and head towards the old lady’s front door. I fumble with the key safe, even with short nails, the numbers are difficult to shift. I remember her key safe code on the first try, grab her key and make my way in.

How to Parallel Park, from Autoglass

“Morning Mary!” I say. I’ve used a made-up name of course, for confidentiality reasons, but then again, who even are you if you don’t know at least one grandma named Mary? It’s a classic. I put on a huge smile, although with my face mask and her deteriorating sight, she can’t see that I’m flashing my pearly whites. All she can see is the dark circles around my eyes. Lovely.

Very slowly, she sits up in bed. A few bones creak. I thought I was stiff this morning. “Good morning Geraldine my love.” Bless her, she’s forgotten my name again. At least she got the first letter right. We make small talk about the weather until she’s ready to stand up. More bones creak. “Ooomphtt.” Being old sounds painful. She grabs hold of her Zimmer frame, and heads to the bathroom whilst I follow behind her, ready to stop her falling backwards. She doesn’t, thank God.

I hold her night dress just above her hips so that she can plonk herself on the toilet. “I’ve been awake for hours!” she moans. The poor woman struggles to sleep most nights.

“Again?” I ask, turning the tap on at the sink. “What time did you fall asleep?”

She shrugs and gives me a cheeky grin. After 4 years, 11 months and 6 days of waiting, a hint of hot water finally starts to come through the tap. I lift her night dress above her head. “I love this dress. You look so elegant in it – you look like an angel,” I giggle. She does. This lady is tall and slim, something I doubt I’ll be when I’m 92 years young. Her nighty is white, with a low cut back and a lace detailing at the front, falling all the way down to just above her ankles.

“Really? You think so?” she says in a high-pitched voice. I nod as I gently rub her back with a hot, soapy flannel. “Oh, duck!” She calls me this, I have no idea why, but it’s the sweetest nickname I’ve ever been given. “What a lovely way to start my morning. Just right,” she smiles. And there it is. That warm, fuzzy feeling beneath my chest. The knowing that I’ve put a smile on someone’s face today and it’s not even 7am yet. That’s why it was possible for me to roll out of bed at such an ungodly hour.

Once she’s washed and dressed, I make her a cup of tea; the first of about 17 cuppas I’ll be making today. Some marmalade toast is her choice of breakfast, and for a side dish, there’s a whole array of different shaped, sized and coloured pills to be taken. Despite this being like the 20th time of me doing her morning routine, I still leaf through her paperwork to be absolutely sure I’ve got the right meds.

They’ve all got stupidly long names…Bumetanide? Atorvastatin? How you’re supposed to pronounce those, or spell them without the assistance of Google, is beyond me. Luckily, I have to do neither of those things. I just have to get the dosage right…is it just one 5mg tablet? Or two? Or one 5mg and one 10mg tablet? Do I have to dissolve it in water first? Is it to be taken before or after food? We get there in the end, anyway.

Once I’ve signed for the medication and written up my notes, it’s on to the next client. I continue on like this until 1:30PM, where everyone has been washed, dressed, and fed lunch and no longer need me until the tea time calls. If my maths is correct, that’s 7 hours of non-stop work. Those 7 hours feel like 3 hours most days: I’ve never known a job to be as rewarding as this one.

I’m constantly getting offered fresh fruit grown in their garden, or a slice of birthday cake from their 85th, or an ice lolly to cool me down when the weather is extra hawt. You’d think my job is looking after them, but sometimes it’s the other way around. They make sure I’ve eaten, and teach me all about the World Wars and their pasts.

One lady was almost in tears whilst expressing how grateful she was for me, when all I’d really done was have a chat and make her breakfast…it makes you appreciate the little things in life. One man I care for is blind, and very almost deaf, so when I talk to him, he likes to hold my hand, to feel that I’m really there, talking to him. It melts my heart every time he reaches for my hand – it makes me feel needed, when only a couple of months previously, I felt quite the opposite, sat on my arse, stuck at home in lockdown, making no real difference to the world.

Now, I’m a key worker. And it feels pretty bad ass.

#40 Men Are(n’t) Trash

TW: rape and sexual assault

In the last 100 years, the feminist movement has come a long way. In 2020, women are allowed to vote, male rape victims are beginning to be taken more seriously, and the gender pay gap is slowly closing. Despite this, only last month, the Facebook confessions page ‘Brumfess’, used mostly by University of Birmingham students, saw a huge surge in posts regarding the phrase, ‘men are trash’. I’ll put it this way, people did not hold back in the comments section to have their say.

In the majority of posts arguing that ‘men are trash’, it appeared to stem from an experience of sexual assault or rape. However, it also referred to cases of men objectifying womenor being in a mentally or physically abusive relationship. One student pointed out that the phrase came into existence ‘from the long history’ of men oppressing women. With this in mind, along with the horrifying statistic that in the last year, there were over 55,000 rape offences in England and Wales, it comes as no surprise that some people use this phrase, and passionately believe it.

Despite this, other students explained that the use of this phrase is in fact hate speech. It takes the small percentage of men who do sexually assault or rape a person, and overgeneralises it to the entire male population. Claiming that ‘men are trash’ completely ignores the fact that men do experience rape and sexual assault too; some men are actually the victims, rather than the ‘trash’. In these cases where men are sexually abused, 79% of the perpetrators are female, according to the Independent. As well as this, other surveys have found that 56.4% of rapists are male, and the remaining 43.6% are female. Although this statistic does make a person more likely to be attacked by a male than a female, the numbers are a lot closer than some of you may have originally predicted. And so, the stereotype that ‘all men are trash’ and ‘all women are harmless’, is actually quite far from the truth.

Google the number for your local helpline with Rape Crisis or use their Live Chat to talk to someone.

Some ‘Brumfesses’ include experiences of sexual assault or an abusive partner, with Facebook users then quick to comment something like, ‘ugh, men are trash!’, when the post hadn’t actually specified if the abuser was even male. This highlights how many of us have a subconscious bias, resulting in an automatic assumption that sexual abusers are male, and sexual abuse victims are female, when in reality, this isn’t always the case.

As a consequence, these assumptions further expand the issue of male rape victims not being taken seriously, which subsequently discourages male victims from coming forward and reporting an offence. According to Rape Crisis, only around 15% of sexual violence victims report it to the police. This percentage is already far too small, and yet males are less likely to report a sexual violence offence than a female, meaning the percentage for men specifically, is even lower than 15%. There seems to be a shame in admitting you’vebeen sexually abused as a man, because it’s deemed ‘not masculine enough’ to be in such a weak and vulnerable position where you’d get raped or abused. F*ck that. It’s the rapists and abusers that aren’t ‘masculine enough’, because they’re barely even human to me.

Thankfully, some of the Brumfess posts did acknowledge that not ‘all men are trash’, but the use of the phrase is still harmful. One male Facebook user pointed out how demoralising it is to see these posts for men like himself who know how to respect a person. There are feminist implications here, whereby some women are wrongly labelling some men as ‘trash’ and thus pushing them away, when really, we should be welcoming the men who have been brought up to learn genuine respect.

Like 1 in every 3 women, I’ve experienced sexual assault, but I’m lucky enough to have really respectful male friends, which has definitely helped me maintain a healthy view of what men are like overall – I know most of them are great people. I would hate to dampen down the feminism in me, by having a pure hatred for men that’s based purely on a few negative experiences with them, vs. multiple positive experiences with other men I’ve come across.

By including all men, women, and people of other genders in the conversation, and in the fight against rape and sexual assault, we can leave the phrase ‘men are trash’ in the past. As one student put it cleverly in the comments section, it’s the system of patriarchy that’s trash, not men.

#39 Period Packaging: The Damaging Taboo

The New Zealand supermarket chain, Countdown, has become the first to explicitly use the word ‘period’, in their packaging for menstrual products, such as tampons, menstrual cups and pads. Usually, in the U.K. and across the rest of the world, we see phrases such as ‘feminine hygiene’, noticeably avoiding the whole reason behind why these products are made in the first place: periods.

To some people, this may seem like a minor linguistic change, but this is political. This is big news, sis. The small change sends a very important message to people that periods are nothing to be ashamed of. The shame that society has created surrounding menstruation, when you think about it, is just ridiculous. It causes people to portray periods as unhygienic, and yes, to be honest, they are bloody disgusting (pun intended hehe you know I’ll never miss a pun opportunity). Sh*t gets messy, and I’m not ashamed of that. It’s pretty damn cool what my body is doing – preparing to make a little human life. So rather than feel shame, I feel pride. I’ve always been known as the one in my friendship group that talks about it very openly – too openly in some of the boys’ opinions. Their inability to stomach a bit of blood exiting my vagina sure as hell doesn’t warrant a blanket of shame to be draped over me, or anyone else.

This wrongfully constructed taboo surrounding periods has always been around. From ‘time of the month’, the ‘P word’ and ‘lady problems’, we’ve always found an alternative to the word ‘period’. However, with roughly 26% of the global population menstruating, it seems long overdue to begin minimising this unnecessary taboo. Surely, if periods are a natural process occurring in over a quarter of the global population, we should be empowering people who menstruate and encouraging an open conversation about periods and period-related health issues. After all, periods are the reason we’re all here today: they’re essential to the reproduction process and therefore should not be something we have to hide every month of the year.

Minimising the taboo has particular benefits for some nine to 18-year-olds living in New Zealand, as many find they cannot afford products for when they’re on their period. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, pointed out that around 95,000 young people therefore miss days of school whilst menstruating. This comes shortly after announcing that menstrual products will be accessible for free in all high schools in the country. Without the taboo, young people will feel more comfortable talking about their periods, including the issue of how expensive some products can be, and will therefore feel more comfortable to ask for help.

Despite this, there’s been a rise in the use of menstrual cups over the past few years. These bad boys can save you huge sums of £££ on pads and tampons. As well as the environmental benefits of using a menstrual cup, we can remain hopeful that there’ll soon be a decline in the number of young people struggling to afford tampons and pads.

I got mine off Amazon for £15 and I’m never going back to tampons/pads. Using a cup basically feels like you’re not even on your period.

In addition to the avoidance of the ‘P word’, the use of the word ‘feminine’ on menstrual products also carries issues. Not everyone who menstruates are female; people who are in the transgender community, or identify with another gender, may still experience periods. By using the word ‘feminine’, supermarket chains are not respecting every single one of their customers, and may harm some of their identities. Simply utilising the word ‘period’ is far more respectful and encourages more inclusivity for some of those in the LGBTQIA+ community. 

The supermarket’s decision comes three years after Tesco became the first UK retailer to remove the tampon tax in 2017. Changes such as these are vital in the feminist movement, in order to gain more equality between all genders. Fortunately, Countdown is a major supermarket chain, operating 180 stores across the country, which means their message will reach a wide audience in New Zealand. With some hope, Countdown will be the first of many to update their word choices, and we’ll begin to see a reduction of the unnecessary euphemistic language like ‘feminine hygiene’. Yes, please.

#38 Hashtag BeKind

TW: suicide

This post has been sat in my drafts for quite some time now. Why? Because I kept putting off actually posting it – it has some sensitive issues, mixed in with my political views. I knew I felt some form of anger, but when I tried to write it all down in my first draft, I’d just kind of puked up a few confused thoughts – it took me a while to really pick apart why I was angry, and if that anger was even valid, and worthy of a blog post. And you guessed it. Damn right my anger is valid.

It all started when I saw the #BeKind circle around social media. Of course, I’m a huge fan of the trending hashtag and what it advocates for. But it’s the context in which #BeKind was being used in, is what I’m not such a fan of.

The hashtag was being used in relation to Boris Johnson, as he sat with his head in his hands, looking exhausted, in a photo. The comments were instructing people to #BeKind to him, rather than criticise his (wreckless) actions, with regards to the pandemic. I’m only assuming here, but the social media users posting this were probably all passionate Tories. Rather than consider the magnitude of the issue that is online hate, they jumped straight to supporting their political leader. Surely it’s disrespectful to Caroline Flack, where the #BeKind movement all started, by comparing her to Boris Johnson?

I’m not usually one to be particularly open about my political stance on the world. The reason for that used to be simply because I didn’t know much about politics. Now, I still don’t know loads about it, but I know more. My reasoning now, is because I’ve realised all it takes is a very reasonable sentence to get a smack in the face or a savage ‘f*ck off’ from whoever you’re talking to. There are some really opinionated people out there. But one thing I am very happy and proud to be open about, is that I am not a Tory.

My initial thoughts about the posts were that #BeKind was just a careless attempt at encouraging others to support his decisions. But then I realised this is not necessarily the case; you can be both kind and unsupportive of his decisions, simultaneously. To be honest, I hope you all don’t support his decisions, both in terms of the pandemic (i.e. refusing a pay rise for NHS workers, refusing to accept much needed PPE, and making inappropriate jokes about covid-19), and in general in terms of his attitudes towards women, people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community. For instance, you can question his thought process behind delaying the lockdown in a respectful manner. If you call him a fu***** c*** though, as tempting as that may be in your moment of anger, you need to re-think your wording there and be a bit more…adult. I know, I hate being an adult too.

As well as attempting to breed the number of Tories, which is already too high for my liking, they aimed to silence and stop the negative posts about Johnson’s attitudes and decisions. They saw that this pandemic has highlighted the flaws in our current government, and they wanted to downplay it as much as possible.

So why is the comparison between Flack and Johnson disrespectful, in my opinion anyway?

First of all, they are two very different people, in very different situations and positions. The Prime Minister is…well, the Prime Minister. He is a powerful man, able to make drastic changes to our country if and when he pleases. He has the power to influence a whole nation, and more. Caroline Flack was just a celebrity. Yes, her popularity would have meant that she had some influence over Love Island viewers, her Instagram followers, etc, but this doesn’t even come close to the power of Johnson.

I find the conflation of political attitudes and the very valuable movement that is #BeKind, entirely disrespectful.

Granted, this whole post is me just assuming. For all I know, the use of #BeKind could simply be to encourage people to put the lessons from Caroline’s tragic death into action. But I’m not stupid. What better way than to use a a hashtag that is deep rooted with such sadness, anger and importance, to apply in aid of your political goals? Using this hashtag for a political reason completely downplays the importance of it, and downplaying the importance of it allows for more disgusting online comments to be made and lead to more potential, avoidable suicides.

I’m not saying that Boris’ outrageous decisions, attitudes and comments make it acceptable for a person to verbally abuse him online, or give him death threats. That defeats the whole point of #BeKind. No one deserves to be told they should go and kill themselves. As well as this, I think that reducing the #BeKind movement down to ‘my Tory political attitudes are more important than respecting Caroline’, is a bit sh*tty, if I’m honest.

The lovingly-made comments and posts about him, along with ‘#BeKind’, paint a picture of an exhausted father (of how many kids, we can’t be sure), hard at work and undeserving of all the online hate. Of course, that is partly true – he is not deserving of the words ‘c*nt’ etc, otherwise I’d be a bit of a hypocrite, advocating for #BeKind. And yes, maybe he is hard working: I’ve never met him personally or watched a ‘Day in the Life of Boris Johnson vlog’. But my point is, using #BeKind for a political goal, rather than its original aim, is just not on.

OK, rant over. Thank you for listening to my Ted talk and goodbye.

#37 Hungry For A Meal OUT

Enjoy consuming (HAHA I’m awful) this rewrite of my newspaper article, concerning food and eating, of course.

As chefs, waiters and managers prepared to reopen their restaurant doors, there was an intense hunger in the air for that restaurant experience we’ve all been craving since the 23rd of March – the start of the lockdown. Of course, a number of restaurants have still been available for takeaway over the past few months, but it’s just not the same. Now that takeaway has become a regular occurrence, the luxury that it once was, has seemingly fizzled out.

If your life is anything like mine, a takeaway night will start out with some technical issues, probably because some restaurants websites are not used to experiencing so much traffic. Once you’re past that hurdle, unlike the typical restaurant experience, the bill is immediately presented on screen, as a reminder that a hefty load of money will soon exit your bank account. Following this, there’s the long, impatient wait ahead, whilst the food is not only prepared, but also delivered. When it does finally arrive, it lasts a maximum of ten minutes; I can eat at an alarmingly fast rate when I’m hungry. This is one of my special talents that I’m considering putting on my Hinge account. What do you think?

Hinge is a dating app, for those of you that don’t know…far better than Tinder.

Actually eating out is a far more fulfilling experience. Right from the onset, it’s an exciting event to look forward to, scheduled into the calendar, perhaps on a wild Friday night, or just a chilled Tuesday brunch date. When the day comes around, you get all dressed up, because the quality food deserves to be consumed by only the best dressed. This is not a casual loungewear dress code, like it is for a takeaway. This is a restaurant. There is less of a long, mouth watering wait for the food and the wait is made much more tolerable anyway with some soft bread to start (I hate olives, ew, I am not part of the olive-eating gang, please join me). As well as this, the whole experience lasts far more than ten minutes (unless you have an exceptionally efficient waiter and chef). It’s spread across one, two or even three courses, ensuring the experience lasts as long as possible.

As of 4th of July, this is now all available, but how do you decide which restaurant to venture to first? As I’ve had a lot of spare time to think about this, I’ve managed to wittle down the numerous options to just one key restaurant.

My all-time favourite should not come as a surprise: Pizza Express. In pre-pandemic times, I’d say I visited this particular chain every three or so months, and it’s not hard to see why. With over 470 restaurants spread across the U.K. and 100 more overseas, I can’t be the only one with a borderline obsession.

Have you ever seen a logo that can symbolise such happiness?

Everyone loves a pizza, and as of last year, the restaurant chain introduced more vegetarian and vegan friendly options, meaning there’s a pizza for anyone. On top of this, they’ve added gluten-free options, ensuring absolutely no-one misses out on the beauty that is Pizza Express. Of course, pizzas can be made in ten minutes in the oven at home. What I love about Pizza Express, is that they don’t just use an oven. They cook their pizza properly and professionally, with a masonry oven, colloquially known as a stone oven. To add to this, it goes without saying that their ability to make doughballs is something that will never cease to amaze me.

So they’ve got the starters right. Their main courses are simply second nature to them, even when ordering a bowl of pasta rather than a pizza. With regards to their desserts, I’d confidently argue that they’re winning in that department too. Whether you’re in the mood for a classic chocolate brownie, or perhaps a Honeycomb Cream Slice, Pizza Express know how to satisfy even the most fussy customers.

Sorry to sound like a basic bitch, but this is the literal key to my heart.

Obviously, no restaurant can be successful with just quality food. Drink specials have been reported as one of the key persuaders for consumers to try out new restaurants, with millennials especially, ‘driving demand for innovation’. This is no issue for Pizza Express: as well as offering the basics, such as red and white wines, beers, and soft drinks (not my thing), they also offer a selection of cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks, acting as mocktails. For a cocktail, I’d recommend their Aperol Spritz; a combination of Aperol, Prosecco, soda and orange. It tastes like juice and is guaranteed to get you pretty bamboozled after a couple of those bad boys. For a more sober meal out, their Raspberry Sparkle is the perfect alternative; raspberry lemonade, served with mint and lime, and just in time for summer. Get in my belly.

Although Pizza Express has been my one and only recommendation, there were quite a few runners up when I was putting this blog together: Las Iguanas, Zizzi’s and Turtle Bay also hit the spot for me on an unhealthily frequent basis. Everyone has different preferences for a restaurant, but whichever eatery you’re gonna find yourself ending up in this month, be sure to make your first post-lockdown meal out a special one. I know where I’ll be; I’m itchy to watch a smiling waiter coming towards me, wearing the classic plain black T-shirt Pizza Express uniform, and hear them say, “Table for two?”.

#36 Why TALA keeps appearing in my bank statements

The other day, my sister demanded to know what I was doing, in order to work out if she could join in or not (she was very bored).

“I’m getting ready to snap up some items in the next Tala launch,” I said, matter-of-factly.

She gave me an unapproving look and then rolled her eyes. “You know you’re obsessed, right?” she sneered.

Like my true self, I went to defend myself because that’s what you have to do with siblings. Defend. Attack. Never admit they’re right. Never admit you’re wrong. But frustratingly, there weren’t any words exiting my mouth. I couldn’t defend myself. Looking down at the Tala hosta shorts I was already wearing, I thought, sh*t, she’s right.

For those of you who haven’t read blog #25, Tala is a new (ish) sustainable clothing brand selling mainly activewear, loungewear and accessories. And when I say sustainable, I mean Sustainable with a capital S. Oh, and ethical. And amazing. And sexy. And comfy. And amazing. Did I already mention that? As I discuss in blog #25, it’s a highly successful brand fighting fast fashion bollock brands like Gymshark, in terms of activewear, but they’re also winning at clubbing/going out outfits too. Now would be a really relevant point to link their latest collection, SOL, which includes their first skirts and dresses. Unfortunately, they’re sold out in most sizes because they’re just that good.

My sister judging all my decisions xxx

This all leads me on quite nicely to why I realised that my sister being right about this one thing is not a bad thing. I re-positioned my posture to a more Queen-like vibe, and said, “Yeah I’m obsessed, and what?” and strutted back to my room.

The main reason I’m obsessed, is because Tala is one of the very few brands that can offer me what I want (and probably what you want too, you just don’t know it yet). Of course, I could get a cute crop top from PLT, but that top also comes with a side dish of supporting the exploitation of garment workers. That doesn’t sound like a very cute top anymore, does it?

Another reason I’m obsessed though, is just because they’re bloody fantastic, and you’re about to find out why…*queue silent screams from all your bank accounts*

Porto hoodie

I think it’s only fitting to kick this party off with my personal favourite: the Porto hoodie, or as I like to call it, the blanket of love and cuddles. I’d say it sums up the brand nicely: it’s more than comfy, flattering in every way and the quality is on a whole new level you never knew existed. Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal – the country where the Tala factory is located, so I can only assume this is where the name originated from? Don’t quote me on that though.

At first, when it was initially released, priced at £50, I thought, suck my tits am I paying fifty quid for a jumper, forgetting that these higher prices are what they should be. We perceive this as expensive, when really it should be the norm. That money is rightfully being equally dished out to the Tala team, the garment workers, etc., rather than giving the factory employees about 32p, and the rest of the 50 quid to the ones in power (ahem, Asda, ahem, Zara…I could go on).

As the weeks went by, I noticed the hype on social media. Everyone was raving about how comfy it is and every single person wearing it looked like a snack. And then one of my close friends bought one, and that was the last straw for me. Fook that. If she gets one, I have to have one too! My 20th birthday was coming up – perfect. I asked my mumma for one and oh boy did she pull through. I have fallen head over heels, proper face planting the floor, in love. With an item of clothing.

I requested the black one, although it was a very difficult decision to make between the grey and the black, in the size medium. I’m gonna be honest, I didn’t anticipate or intend for the medium size to be as oversized as it is, but I’m not mad about it in the slightest. Although I’m a medium in their bras and tops, I could definitely size down if i wanted to in this hoodie for a more fitted look. But you know what they say – the bigger the better…it’s so snug to the point that I want to hug myself in it. With some oversized jumpers, they just make me look bigger than I am, compliment absolutely nothing about my body, hang down five metres past my wrists so I have to uncomfortably roll the sleeves up, and it takes me five minutes just to locate the two ends of the zip because there’s such a huge maze of material. But at Tala, they know how to ace the oversized look. They are the literal kings and queens of oversized jumpers.

So let me tell you, as I mentioned earlier, I never admit I’m wrong, but I’ll admit it now – I was wrong to think 50 squiddos wasn’t worth it for this jumper, because yikes it’s so damn worth it. Thanks mum xxxx

Fibre filter bag

This next item isn’t actually an item of clothing, but you probably guessed that from the word ‘bag’. Don’t be fooled, I’m not about to introduce you to a sustainable version of a Gucci handbag or anything. No, no, this is even better. At first glance, this is just a flimsy bag. In reality, it’s a bad ass weapon that fights off all the microfibres that travel to our oceans and damage them. Basically, you put all your dirty washing in this bag (yes it’ll fit, don’t worry it’s big) and then put the bag into your washing machine as normal. When it’s finished, you empty out your clothes, and then chuck the little microfibres in the bin that will be sticking inside the bag. Usually, these (very) tiny little bitches will find their ways into rivers, streams and eventually the sea. But not anymore, because Tala is here to save the day!

If you weren’t aware of these pieces of scum coming off your clothes and entering the sea, do not fret darling because you’re not the only one. Without Tala, I would still be yeeting microfibres into the ocean without a care in the world. Why the f*ck is this not general knowledge? Why, when my mum bought her Bosch washing machine, did it not come with a filter bag? Or at least a WARNING! Anyway, I’m here to let y’all know. The bad boys are priced at £24 and will last you a life time of saving all the turtles and the sea horses and the fishes (I know this isn’t plural, I’m an English student).

Zahara bra + Zinnia leggings

Here we have ourselves a matching set. I do love a co-ord – whether that be lingerie, activewear or trackies and a cute jumper. But then I also love a pair of non-matching socks, so I guess I’m a bit inconsistent there. But that’s besides the point.

The point is, if you wanna feel sexy rather than sweaty in the gym, fork out £70 for these beautiful babies. The bra is slightly padded to give your girls some support, and the leggings hug your waist at the top, giving you some sexy curves. The Arabic meaning of zahara is shining/flower – I sure as hell feel like I’m shining in this beauty. I got my set in the colour sea, which isn’t on their website at the moment, so the link will take you to baby blue instead (the closest available colour to sea). I’m not sure why sea isn’t available at the mo, because it’s a bloody gorgeous colour, but then so are all of their other colours. And what’s even better: if you’re not one for a matching set, you can mix and match, since they produce all their colours with the mix n’ match option in mind.

Aura bra

Now, in the heading you’ll read ‘bra’, but this is not just a bra. This is a sports bra, a gym top, a crop top and a clubbing outfit all in one. Its flexible function can be styled in endless ways…ways in which I will not go into right now because this blog is already long enough (are you complaining though?). According to google, the aura is ‘regarded as an essential part of the individual’, and, I’m most definitely taking the meanings too far now, but is this a coincidence? I think not. This bra is ESSENTIAL. The wondrous creation hugs the girls in, giving them a nice rounded shape, which is helpful for people like me who have triangle-shaped tits. I think that’s all I need to say really, because the picture does all the work for me…

Hosta shorts

The link above will take you to the neon yellow colour, as this is the only colour in stock – that just illustrates for you how popular they are. That’s right. We’ve reached the cycling shorts section. Neon yellow might not be your thang, being the centre of attention n’ all, but be sure to look out for a restock by following their Instagram, or pressing the notify me when available button on their website. To be honest, you’re still gonna be the centre of attention even if you pick one of the more subtle colours, because everyone is gonna want to get their hands on a pair of these once they see you rocking them.

I first tried on some cycling shorts in primark when the craze initially started (this was before I was aware of fast fashion), and I’ve never been more disappointed. I tried some other brands and they all looked pretty sh*t. I eventually came to accept that I’m just not a cycling shorts gal. My legs were having none of it – my knees looked like mouldy potatoes.

But the Tala shorts – hold up a sec. Not to toot my own horn, but I look f*cking fabulous. I don’t know how they do it. It might be some hallucinogenic drug they put in the shorts, forcing me and anyone viewing me in the shorts to perceive me as a sexy chic when really, my knees still look like mouldy potatoes. They might have some magic Harry Potter spell sh*t in them, that transforms my legs into some Victoria Secret model legs. Whatever they do, I don’t care, it works and I’m here for it. My bank account is ready and waiting for all their future collections.

I can’t say I’m a big fan of gardening, but after a quick cheeky google of the names, I noticed a running theme of plants (e.g. Hosta, zinnia, zahara). This could represent their ‘natural’ vibe, as they’re using what the planet has given us. Or, alternatively I’m an English student stuck in the habit of reading into things way too far and I just really need to go to bed now.

In total, if we’re gonna include what my mum bought me, other items I haven’t mentioned in this blog (otherwise I’d be here for a while), and all the delivery I’ve paid for, which I am gonna include because I want to fatten up this number as much as possible, I have spent well over £350 on Tala. That’s not to flex – I recognise that I’m very lucky to receive the tasty pay I get at my part-time job. And let’s remember that a good chunk of it was kindly gifted by my mum, and this fat number was spent over the course of more than a year.

So please chill out if you don’t have anywhere near that amount right now, because neither do I (damn you covid-19). I didn’t include this number to be an annoying little b*tch, rubbing my cool fashion sense in your face. I included it to illustrate just how much I love this brand and everything they work for. And now you’ll love the brand too. So, say bye bye to your money and hello to a funky, fresh, sustainable wardrobe.

#35 What’s the dress code for a worldwide pandemic?

After what has seemed like an endless waiting time in the queue for a pint and a haircut, the Prime Minister’s announcement that the hospitality industry will now be able to reopen, has shone through the U.K., brighter than our current heatwave, like a big light at the end of the tunnel. This includes the shops and services with the highest demand, such as restaurants and pubs. In the pre-coronavirus times, most people would typically dress up for occasions such as a meal out, or a pub crawl. However, as we’re now gradually transitioning into the post-lockdown phase, I think it’s fair to say that we might see less dressing up, and more dressing down.

The lockdown lasted almost three boring months, taking up a good chunk of the year (yikes). This resulted in a massive 322% increase in the sale of loungewear clothing in the U.K, according to BBC. Before lockdown, I thought any old jumper and oversized trackies that make me look like I’m wearing a nappy, would do as loungewear, since only my family would get this luxurious sight. But then Zoom meetings became a weekly thing, and suddenly I felt like my loungewear style had to be on fleek. Now, with most students’ wardrobes made up of mostly loungewear, is it possible that a more casual style will come into play at restaurants and pubs? Perhaps, the pandemic has made ‘trackies and a nice top’ the new way to dress up.

With many events cancelled and big fashion influencers confined to their homes, there’s also the possibility that there are less trends to follow at the current time. On top of this, the virus may cause delays for both big and small fashion brands to design, prepare and produce on-trend clothes, causing a lack of styles to follow. Already, most fashion brands buy and prepare clothes two seasons in advance. With a pandemic to add to this, there’s the potential for a huge backlog of wasted clothes, unless fashion brands up their game in terms of preparation.

The lack of current trends could cause a return to some older styles…but I don’t think so. In the current climate, it’s not trendy to recycle an out-of-date style. Fashion is so ridiculously fast-paced, no one ever seems to look back and think to re-use a once-loved piece of clothing. So that’s not happening. Rather than reverting back to older styles, it’s possible that individuality will be encouraged more across the U.K. (and potentially wider). Thank f*ck.

You should know by now that Tala is the best place to go for ethical loungewear, and more.

A great place to find inspiration for this new-found individuality is the app, ‘Depop’. The app allows anyone to buy and sell second-hand clothes, for a cheaper price than their original. Here, there are endless options to choose from and now, it seems that consumers have more choice than ever before, as, in April, Depop reported a 27% increase in traffic.With more time to spare due to the lockdown, many new users flocked to the popular app (e.g. me), to provide their unwanted clothes with a new home. Not only does this encourage more individuality, but it also encourages more slow fashion, rather than fast fashion. I’ll warn you though, you may get what I’ve dubbed a ‘DA’ – a Depop addiction.

The effects of the pandemic don’t just end there with Depop, though. After reports of brands cancelling large orders (due to the virus) and subsequently refusing to #PayUp their workers overseas for their hard work, many consumers have taken to social media sites to complain. For instance, Instagram users have posted comments such as ‘PAY YOUR WORKERS!’ and ‘oh so… disgraceful’ on some of Topshop’s posts. This has therefore increased the awareness in the unethical nature of fast-fashion, hopefully encouraging consumers to be more cautious in the future when purchasing clothing items.

You fu**ing tell em’ gals.

On the other hand, it’s possible that social events, post-lockdown, could see people dressing up more than ever before. To cure the boredom of lockdown, I know I’ve spent hours online shopping (only ethical brands don’t worry) and bought so many outfits. Now, as well as a lot of loungewear, it seems I have an overload in bomb ass outfits, raring to go. This, paired with the excitement of being able to go out again, is likely to make a meal out a bigger event than ever before.

In conclusion, it’s fair to say that the virus has caused a bit of a stir in the fashion industry. Only time will tell, when the doors of Wetherspoons, Pizza Express, and other popular restaurants and pubs open up again, if these fashion predictions swing more towards dressing down, up, or somewhere in between.

#34 Mental Health: the stigma

TW: Mental health

Last month involved Mental Health Awareness Week, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation. Hundreds of thousands went online to increase the awareness, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit angry, after seeing some celebrities, microinfluencers and some friends on social media post about it. What annoyed me was how loosely and carelessly the phrase ‘mental health’ was tossed around. They were using it as if it’s a soft ball to be chucked and played with, when in reality, it’s a sensitive, fragile little thing that needs handling with care. You could tell that some people were posting about it, without really taking the time to understand the scale of the problem, or the diversity of it – mental health is not just depression and anxiety. It’s a whole host of different issues.

So there’s me, feeling a bit meh about so many people posting about it irresponsibly, due to the stigma and subsequent misconceptions. And at the same time, I’m feeling angry about how little it’s posted about, due to the stigma. How not enough people are comfortable enough to be open about it. How, it’s still only deemed socially acceptable to discuss your battles with body dysmorphia, anorexia, PTSD, bipolar disorder or postnatal depression in this one allocated week, and then you must go about the rest of the year suffering silently again.

When you Google mental health stigma, it comes up with some of the most common misconceptions like ‘people with depression are just lazy’ and ‘suicidal thoughts are just attention seeking’. These comments are so problematic, because it forces people to doubt themselves, and for me personally, it only encourages the illness in my head further to tell me that I’m lazy, useless and worthless. Trust me, we want to get out of bed and not be ‘lazy’. We just physically can’t. Luckily, there are several groups of people and organisations worldwide that are fighting the stigma: microinfluencers, charities, celebrities, parents, etc.

Steph Elswood, an influencer I follow on Instagram, is one of those people fighting against the stigma. For the #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, she created and shared a video, to reveal some of her close friends and families’ different mental health conditions. I found myself shocked at how common it is, and then feeling silly for being shocked. Of course it’s this common. I knew that. I’m just not used to being able to visualise it like this before.

Due to its effectiveness, Steph’s video was widely shared across Instagram, so that it reached a variety of people, rather than just her 244,000 (!!) followers. And thank f*ck for that, because I think it’s important to visualise how common mental health issues are in this way. She inspired me to try and illustrate the same thing in my own personal social circle – including myself. After all, it would be a bit rubbish of me to complain about the stigma on here, but then hide my own struggles.

Over the past seven years, I’ve suffered from: depression, anxiety, self-harm, intrusive thoughts, suicidal thoughts and issues with self-esteem, particularly regarding my body.

Within a similar time frame, some of my family and close friends have suffered from: depression, several different anxiety disorders, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, OCD, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, anorexia and bulimia.

And that’s only the ones I’m aware of.

If I made a similar list, but with regards to physical illnesses, do you think the length would be the same? Absolutely not, because there is no stigma or misconception when you have a broken your leg from a skiing accident, or low blood pressure, or the flu.

I dream of a world where mental illness and physical illness are treated equally. Saying that though, I’d even argue that depression is actually a physical illness too. It drains you of energy, it limits your ability to get out of bed, and in some cases, physically burns or cuts or bruises a part of your body. But, on a really bad day, if you called in to work sick because you were ‘feeling depressed’, would your boss take it as seriously as the flu?

The main message I want you guys to take away from this post is simply that you’re not alone. Forgive the severe lack of originality in that phrase, but it’s something that for me personally, helped a lot and still does now. With regards to depression specifically, feeling down for no reason and feeling like you’re the only one, feeds into a vicious cycle of then feeling like you’re being ridiculous, and beating yourself up about it, and then subsequently feeling worse and so on. With the awareness that what you’re feeling is very normal, it becomes a lot easier to accept your situation, and work towards feeling better again.

As more and more awareness is spread around, there’ll be less and less insensitive comments, conversations or posts about mental health. I can understand why some people sometimes struggle to discuss the topic properly – mental health is so complex. It’s currently estimated that how much we know (or should I say how little we know…?) about the human brain is about 10% of what there is to know. Everyday, we are constantly learning about the brain in general and mental illness. Everyday, more and more research papers are released, and new ones started. And with that, mental health awareness is also increasing. If you look back 20 years ago in terms of the awareness, we’ve come a bloody long way. In another twenty years, we will have made even more progress. And I can’t f*cking wait!