Thursday, 4 September 2014

9 ways to decide who you should marry

Every couple should have at least one day of the year that they don't waste fannying about on the internet.

And for us that day is today: our very first wedding anniversary.

But because I'm dedicated to this blog of mine (and a master of holiday packing avoidance) I wrote this week's post in advance of our anniversary trip.

I've been thinking about this one for a while, about what this year has taught me. And aside from the fact that being referred to as 'Mrs' makes you feel at least 20 years older and that changing your surname results in more trips to the Post Office than any human should have to endure, the main lesson I've learnt is what marriage is all about: getting on extremely well with another human being, regardless of what life throws at you.

So to celebrate the fact that we've managed to get along for a whole year, I thought I'd share what I think it takes to do just that. Because what could be more romantic than a good checklist?

1. Marry somebody who feels the same about the apostrophe as you do. That sh*t will tear you apart.

2. Marry somebody who is willing to move train carriage just because the dude behind you is tapping his foot like an inconsiderate MORON. It's crucial that you share the same level of hatred for strangers.

3. Marry someone who doesn't judge you for binge consuming crisps/doughnuts/fried egg sweets. (And who understands that BINGERS DO NOT SHARE.)

4. Marry somebody you enjoy sitting in silence with.  Marriage is at least 50% silence (eating, sleeping, staring at your phone) so you might as well make it comfortable.

5. Marry somebody who takes a different route to work from you. Everybody hates couples who commute together. Don't be those people.

6. Marry a person who understands that just because they see you in pyjamas more frequently than actual clothes, it doesn't mean you're not still a hugely attractive and sexual being. You just also happen to enjoy wearing comfortable waistbands.

7. Marry somebody whose bath water you're happy to share. What are you - made of money?

8. Marry somebody you can still fancy after seeing them throw up. Wedding vows do not protect you from food poisoning, as I found out ON OUR HONEYMOON.

9. Marry somebody you like very much. Forever is a long time.

Now, I'd better get on with my packing. And seeing as it's such a special occasion, I may even leave my pyjamas at home.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Adulthood: Where did all my energy go?

Our kitchen is being refurbished tomorrow.

And, in preparation, we have had to spread its entire contents around our very small flat. The plates and glasses now live in the bath, the dining chairs and table are on the sofa, and the iron stands right in front of the television, taunting me when I try to relax.

I want this work to be done. I requested it and I'll even pay for it in a few months' time (thank you interest free credit), but it doesn't stop me dreading getting home from work tomorrow to remember that the fridge is out of action and that the dishwasher - my dearest friend - has been unplugged until further notice.

I haven't even had to put in that much effort. Although I came up with all the ideas - wooden worktops, an easy-wash floor and a cupboard specifically dedicated to housing Cadbury's products - I don't have much to offer on the physical front. I was in charge of moving the wine glasses into the bath (a location I might stick with post-refurb) and putting all the food that went out of date in 2012 in the bin. That's it. But I am still shattered. Not so much from the tasks themselves (although I did have to throw an inexplicably high volume of 'vintage' flour in the bin *sneezes*), but from the chaos that now surrounds me and the promise of more to come.

This is what being an adult feels like: desperation to make things better and then exhaustion at the thought of the effort involved. I don't know where all our energy goes. Perhaps we grow out of it.

Take yesterday. I wanted to buy new jeans. If you've ever been shopping for denim you will know that no activity on earth will bring a grown adult closer to tears. In fact, purchasing jeans would be an ideal punishment for somebody who has done something terrible - like saying 'pacific' instead of 'specific' or talking during Coronation Street. It is the single most frustrating and exhausting type of shopping and I just can't do it anymore. My new strategy is to order a gazillion pairs online in the hope that one of the bastards fits, and then sending the rest back. Though how I'm going to muster the energy to try them all on, I do not know.

But for every tiring endeavour comes a silver lining. With a refurbished kitchen comes a week of eating takeaway and with an online shopping order comes post, and who doesn't love post?

In just a week's time I will have a brand new kitchen, cupboard space big enough to hold a year's supply of chocolate, and a need to find something new to complain about.

And I reckon that 'thing' will be that I can't fasten my new jeans. A week eating prawn crackers and egg fried rice for tea is bound to take its toll on my waistline. I'll probably have to jump up and down just to get them over my hips and, to be honest, that's more effort than I'm willing to put in.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

How to relax: 4 easy ways to chill the hell out

This weekend I have learnt a new skill: relaxing.

With so many screens to look at and people to see and stuff that constantly needs cleaning, how's a person supposed to get a minute to themselves in 2014? Well, it turns out that it is possible; you just have to be disciplined. Here's a four step guide to chilling the hell out:

1. Do one thing at a time
I have always been terrible at this. I can't even walk down the stairs from my bedroom to the kitchen without treating it like it's the last time I will ever make the journey. Heaven forbid I should descend without every used glass, load of washing and handbag in my hands in case I never get the opportunity again. Of course I could make a second trip but that would use up my essential letter opening/fridge reorganising/catching up with Coronation Street time - these tasks won't do themselves, you know! Well, no, but doing one at a time will reduce the chances of tumbling down the stairs and landing on the floor with the entire contents of my bedroom on my head. And doing just one thing at a time is much more enjoyable. Fancy reading a book? Then just do that - don't read it whilst simultaneously loading the dishwasher, changing the bed and alphebetising your CD collection. Want to spend time on ASOS selecting clothes you don't need? Do it. But not with 35 other pages open that'll distract you from the task at hand. (Particularly any online banking sites - your statement can really kill the mood). 

2. Don't feel guilty 
The way to do this is to a) realise that whatever else you think you should be doing whilst you're reading a book/watching a film/purchasing yet another leopard print dress will still be waiting for you when you're finished and b) enjoy yourself so much that you stop caring about it altogether. I sat and watched Annie Hall last night even though my brain was telling me that I should really be hanging the washing on the line and putting the dishes I used to make my very healthy pasta, sauce and loads-of-cheese dinner in the dishwasher. In the end I didn't do any of it until the morning (admittedly partly because I fell into a cheese-induced coma on the sofa). Well, la-di-da.

3. Put your phone down 
Managing to get 1 and 2 nailed will feel like a major achievement and what do we do when we achieve something these days? We put it on social media. But in this instance we must refrain. If you're waiting to see how many of your chums 'like' the fact that you're kicking back with a novel and a tube of Pringles, how are you going to concentrate on the plot? And what if they don't like it? Or you see that everybody on there is actually out drinking mojitos and dancing to (ENTER NAME OF POPULAR MUSIC I HAVEN'T HEARD OF) and you just end up feeling bad about yourself? That won't be very relaxing, will it? Now I come to think of it, point 3 should really just be 'Delete Facebook' and I'm sure we'd all feel a lot better.

4. Don't wait until you start crying to admit that you need to chill the hell out
Here's a useful fact to remember: you don't have to be on holiday to relax. Unfortunately I only realised this when I became so overwhelmed by my self-imposed 10-item domestic task list that I cried. My husband put me on a chair in the garden with a book and a glass of water and told me not to come back in until I had finished both. It shouldn't have to come to this (also the book was The Fault In Our Stars. If you've read it, you'll know that it only made me cry more but it's the thought that counts) - it's important to notice that you need to relax before you become a blubbering wreck.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take my own advice, turn off my computer and pop on another film. Chomping through a Fruit and Nut whilst I do so does technically class as multitasking but I think we can all agree to let this one slide.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

How to make your relationship last: Stop being offended by everything

He didn't want to talk to me because he was playing FIFA.

"Hiya!" I said when he picked up the phone.

"Hi." he said, distractedly.

I know that tone. It's the one he uses when he's playing on the X-Box and I have had the audacity to call mid-game.

It's amazing how somebody can say so much by saying so little. What he really meant was: "I don't understand why you are phoning me. If you're not in danger, please can we talk about it later?" but in the interests of brevity, he stuck with "Hi" and I figured out the rest on my own. I just laughed, asked if we had any peanut M&Ms left in the cupboard (which was the real reason for my call) and said I'd be home in 20 minutes (to eat them).

Now, you might think this is a post about how rude it was of my husband to put the X-Box before me or about my outrage at the fact that he wasn't just sitting at home waiting for me to return and tell him about the exceptionally well-priced fish and chips I had for my dinner (seriously though, they were just so reasonable) but that's not the case. I wasn't offended at all. And that's because I'd have done exactly the same thing to him if he'd called whilst I was participating in my own hobbies - i.e. watching Coronation Street or singing along to the Bee Gees whilst loading the dishwasher ('Now you can tell by the way I wash my fork, I'm a woman's man, no time to talk' is the lyric I'm probably most proud of.)

If you are going to stay together, it has to be OK that sometimes (assuming the other person is indeed safe, well and not deprived of purse-friendly fried goods) you need to have a bit of time to yourself. Not everything you do is about the other person, sometimes it's just about doing what you want - be it kicking an imaginary ball into an imaginary goal, or single-handedly improving popular music through the use of cutlery-based puns - whatever you need, that time is yours.

The alternative is to spend your entire relationship being offended by the other person's actions. In a long term relationship, it's not possible to keep up the perfection of the early days. People don't always text back within five minutes because they have jobs and travelling and Sudoku to do. They don't always want to hold your hand when you're walking along the road because sometimes it's boiling hot and a sweaty hand sandwich is not everybody's cup of tea. You'll also find that sleep is a lot more comfortable when everybody keeps to their own side of the bed. It doesn't mean they don't love you, it just means that lying like a starfish will always be more comfortable than spooning, I don't care what anybody says.

It's best just to not get cross about any of this stuff because it doesn't mean anything. Actually, that's not entirely true - it does mean that you're comfortable, which is nice, and that you're clear on your collective view about whose side of the bed is whose, which is pretty much as important as it gets.

With comfort and trust comes that lovely moment when you can both just chill the hell out. He can prioritise the performance of 11 little footballers for a while and I can see what's been kicking off in Weatherfield without anybody getting offended.

That is, of course, until he calls me into the lounge to ask me to watch a replay of a goal one of his electronic men has scored. I always say they're 'great' but I know he doesn't believe I care.

It's amazing how somebody can say so much by saying so little.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Growing up: Five things I didn't expect to find on my to-do list

I cleared out the freezer on Friday night - because I am a party girl who cannot and will not be tamed.

And when my husband came home I made him listen to a short presentation on the new world order, freezer-wise, which went something like this:

"Drawer 1 is now home to frozen vegetarian meats and green veg. We've got loads of the bastards - if you ever see me trying to buy broccoli again, please confiscate my credit card.

Drawer 2 is where we keep fun goods - Mars ice creams are in here (no, you can't have one until after dinner) as well as these two Mini Milks I'd forgotten ALL about. I know, right, what a way to end the week! And breads are here too. I know they're not really 'fun goods' but I had already named the drawer before I put them in.

Drawer 3 is where this unnecessarily large bag of cauliflower now lives, as well as all our frozen herbs and the ice tray. Not a classic combination but I'm sure they will find a way to get along.

And drawer 4 is where we keep all fish goods. The cost of frozen prawns really is getting out of hand, don't you think?" (He didn't respond. I think I lost him at 'Mars'.)

Your concept of what qualifies as an achievement expands as you get older. In addition to your work and your relationships, there are now extra smaller scale things which, if achieved, can secretly make you feel that you're really winning at life. Here are four more to keep 'Freezer Gate' company:

1. Sorting out your underwear drawer
In an ideal world your knickers would live on one side of a drawer, your bras on the other, grouped by tone and genre (e.g. day wear/special occasion /misguidedly garish /that one you never wear because you don't have any knickers to match), and your socks would never dare to cross paths with anybody except their identical twin. But we don't live in a perfect world. Take your eye off them for just a few days and you'll have pants buddying up with bras with whom they have nothing in common, socks flying solo, and forgotten thongs jumping to the top of the pile in the hope of an outing (I've considered using one to wrap up an open bag of peas before but I'm not sure that counts). So when you do find the time to get everything in its correct place (which in the thongs' case is either the bin or the freezer) it is an achievement deserving of a lengthy lie down.

2. Gardening 
I might have given myself a little too much credit with that title. What I actually mean is 'very basic gardening that only done when we're about to be overwhelmed by a Jumanji-style vine monster'. But when I do get round to doing it which, for the record, has only happened once (I prefer to be more of a back seat gardener, shouting orders from the lounge whilst eating crisps), my word do I feel proud of myself. People have been given medals for less, I'm sure of it.

3. Giving the dishwasher a bath
It's only when the dishwasher starts refusing to wash all the grated cheese and cheese puff residue off my crockery that I realise it's time to give it a clean. Popping a bottle of dishwasher cleaner into the machine I love more than pretty much anything else in the world (aside from the fridge, of course), and seeing it come up all shiny and new, ready to make all my crisp crumbs disappear makes me understand what all those love songs are really about.

4. Preventing post-mageddon
I love post - who doesn't? But not post that asks me for money or that thinks my name is Mr Charlotte Buxton. But it keeps coming and so finds itself in our filing system - AKA the giant pile of paper on the desk which, if left alone, will eventually collapse on top of me and paper-cut me to death. I decided to tackle it just last week and after two hours of envelope opening, recycling and the unexpected discovery of a cheque made out to my husband which I definitely didn't consider using to buy that ASOS dress I want, I was overwhelmed by my sense of accomplishment. A desk I could see! An in-tray that didn't collapse when I sneezed! It was like Christmas but BETTER.

If you don't show your veg, your weeds, your mail and your smalls who's boss then nobody will so you might as well take as much joy from it as you can. Otherwise you're just some idiot who's spending a hard-earned Friday night attempting to decide which part of your freezer would best suit four bags of half-eaten broccoli without so much as a smile on your face.

And that would just be foolish.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Relationships: How to cope when your looks change

I've often been told that I need my eyes tested.

By my mum when I claimed my childhood bedroom was tidy, by my brother when I missed the goal yet again during an ill-advised game of FIFA, and by my husband when I suggested that it's him that's taking up too much space in our wardrobe (which by having anything in there at all, he clearly is).

So on Friday I went for such a test and, as a result, now find myself in possession of not one but two pairs of glasses. My tendency to sit on breakable objects means that I have to buy two of pretty much everything (which, when purchasing chocolate bars, is no bad thing).

My mum likes to remind me that when I was a child I used to pretend to be unable to read the little letters on the optician's screen in the hope of being given glasses. But I wasn't paying back then, was I. There was definitely no pretending when it was my credit card on the line. That F was just f-ing tiny.

But it's OK because glasses are cool. They are an accessory that I have to spend money on for the good of my health. Like a handbag that cures headaches or a bracelet that stops eczema or a pair of shoes that makes the stomach ache I get after eating 120 grams of Fruit and Nut just magically disappear.

But there is no denying that glasses change the way you look. I'm not sure if you've ever noticed but they sit right in the middle of your face.

My husband and I have changed a lot since we met at university in 2005. We were a lot younger then, much more casual about getting our hair cut on a regular basis (who wants to spend money on neat locks when you can buy chips covered with cheese?), and I wore borderline indecent skirts as frequently as I now wear my dressing gown (most of the day).

He didn't sign up to be with a 29-year-old woman with half brown, half blond (and just a teeny bit of grey) hair and thick rimmed glasses. He signed up to go out with a 20-year old girl with young skin, and a penchant for parties, staying up late and consuming Jaffa Cakes with gay abandon (OK, the latter is still true though I will always use a plate now - this isn't a zoo, you know.)

And I didn't expect to end up with a 30-year-old man who thinks it's reasonable to still not have unpacked his luggage after a holiday which ended five days ago (that point really isn't relevant to this post but I just needed to get it off my chest). I guess nobody gets exactly what they bargained for.

But the changes that happen to our looks and our likes are all just part of the little story we build together - the khaki trousers from my 'let's dress like a park ranger' phase, the unkempt curly hair from his student days, and the extra pounds of weight I'll inevitably gain from the pot of mini doughnuts and melted chocolate I consumed last night just because it was Saturday. Whatever happens when I try to zip up my trousers tomorrow, I will never regret that decision.

Wedding vows talk about all the times it'll be important for you to stick together - for richer for poorer, in sickness and health - but I really think it would be helpful if they covered a bit more of the day-to-day; something like 'For bitchier for warmer; in fitness and in a disgustingly hung over state' - because, if you're lucky, those things will test you much more frequently. If you can look at a person who drank so much the night before that they couldn't remember where the bedroom was in your one bedroom flat and tell them that that they're scrumptious (or that they will be after a good shower) I'd say you can get through anything.

Whether it's a new pair of glasses, an inexplicable fondness for camouflage coloured trousers or a bad trip to the hairdressers, we're signed up for life, so we'd best make sure we like it. Because something tells me that there's going to be plenty more change to come. We'll get older, our hair will go greyer, and the pair of us will surely eventually discover the consequences of consuming our body weight in chocolate each day before bed.

And they'll be no hiding from it either. Just like the table that needs dusting, the dishwasher that needs emptying and that weekend bag that is getting no closer to unpacking itself, in these glasses, I can see absolutely everything.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Four things you should not do in hot weather

It's hot out there. Even hotter when you have a laptop resting on your legs, as I'm currently discovering.

And though summer lifts our spirits, sends our consumption of cucumber filled drinks through the roof, and gives our feet a well-earned break from their usual woolly prisons, there are some aspects of life that are a little trickier during a heatwave.

This doesn't mean summer is a bad thing - it is, in fact, the best thing since spring - we just need to adjust ourselves to cope with the sudden presence of a burning ball of fire in the sky.

And whilst magazines tell us what we should do in the heat - wear sun cream, buy a hat, consume our five-a-day (one Mars ice cream, two Soleros, and two Mini Milks), they don't tend to tell us what we shouldn't do. So I am here to do just that - here are five things I recommend you avoid doing on a hot day:

1. Sit down for any length of time
I'd forgotten how much a human being can sweat from the leg: a lot. And the problem with sitting down - the main activity a person wants to do to avoid passing out from heat exhaustion - is that it gives your legs the opportunity to really get cooking. It's a well-known fact that there are places on the human body from which one is expected to sweat. I'm not saying I like it; I don't have a photograph of a damp armpit as my screen saver; it's just that everybody knows that it happens and generally has the manners to ignore it. But if you stand up to reveal that the backs of your legs have suddenly turned into Niagara Falls, that is going to come as something of a surprise to nearby citizens. So I recommend that you keep moving. Or if you do have to sit down for a long period, you may wish to adopt my extremely attractive tactic of rearranging whichever piece of clothing you've chosen to wear that day so that any such perspiration is absorbed by your chair. Form an orderly queue, boys!

2. Attempt physical contact
I tried to hold my husband's hand last night on the way back from a restaurant. The last time he looked at me like that - like perhaps I didn't know how life works - was when I managed to hit him on the head with a stone I was attempted to skim, even though he was standing behind me. Of course he didn't want to hold my hand; it was all he could do to get through the walk home without melting. Advertising would have us believe that summer is such a sexy time of year - I'll prance about in a bikini before my other half carries me across the beach on his back and then hilariously pretends to hurl me into the sea. This is not reality. What couples actually do in hot weather is go on strike from all physical contact. There is no prancing, more dragging of our hot, swollen feet. There are no piggybacks, just one person walking ahead of the other saying "I JUST WANT TO GET HOME AND INTO THE SHOWER!" and there are no amusing attempts to throw me into open water (though if I try to grab my husband's hand again, that may change). It's every man and woman for themselves in this weather. We'll put our wedding rings back on in the autumn.

3. Straighten your hair
Let me ask you a question - do you feel like doing ironing right now? No? And, how about ironing your hair? Of course not. This is not the time to be subjecting your boiling brain to hot metal plates. And even if you did, and you managed to survive the experience without drowning in a pool of your own salty tears, if your hair is anything like mine, it'll either just stick to the sides of your head (making me look like Peter Andre in the Mysterious Girl video) or it'll expand to the size of a small bush. It's just not worth the effort.

4. Wear make-up
The other day I left the house wearing a full face of make-up. Two hours later I went to the bathroom to discover that said make-up had travelled so far from where I had originally put it that it looked like somebody had taken a damp flannel to my cheeks. And to make it even better, I'd had at least two face to face conversations during that time with people who, unless temporarily blinded by the perspiration shine on my forehead, will definitely have noticed. Thanks for letting me know, guys! So I won't be doing that again. These cheeks are staying bare until the weather drops a few degrees (that's my facial cheeks, before you panic. It'll never be that hot).

*mops brow* So there you have it. If you keep your hands to yourself, your foundation in its bottle, your hair in a ponytail and your legs-a-moving, you'll survive the heatwave no problem.

Oh and one more thing - if the last two hours has taught me anything it's that if you must use a laptop on a hot day, make sure you put it on a table. My knees are now so warm that I don't think even an ice cream could cool me down. Though I will, of course, give it a try.