Jessica, the girl who saved Christmas: a new (and true) Christmas story

Jessica, the girl who saved Christmas: A new Christmas story || raeritchie.com

This is a true story about the time my niece, Jessica, saved Christmas.  

Once upon a time, there was a girl called Jessica.

She lived with her dad, mum, brother Joseph and Lola the dog.  Jessica liked dancing and playing the flute, but most of all she loved curry.  Her whole family knew that her favourite breakfast was leftover curry from the night before.

Jessica was a funny girl who made everyone laugh.

She was also very kind and loving – so much so that in 2016 she managed to save Christmas all by herself.

One day in the week before the 25th, Jessica and Joseph went to stay with Auntie Rae while their mum was at work.  They were only going round for an hour but Auntie Rae wanted to think of something fun to do.

Her first idea was to go to Crave, the best coffee and desserts shop for miles around, but it wasn’t open that day.

She racked her brains until she remembered the large box of Christmas decorations sitting in the garage.  Although it was already 19th December, Auntie Rae and Uncle Mark had not put up a single decoration.

They didn’t even have a tree.

This was very unusual.  Auntie Rae had always loved Christmas and often did lots of festive things, from baking to decorating to writing cards.

This year was different.

This year there was no Christmas cake, no Christmas decorations nor had she written Christmas cards.

Auntie Rae was sad that there was no Christmas in her house this year but she couldn’t feel any December magic.  She’d had a difficult year and was poorly with a naughty brain that made her feel sad a lot.

One day recently she’d been so sad that she even missed going to eat turkey and Christmas pudding with her friends.

This showed how bad things had become as Auntie Rae never said no to Christmas pudding.

On the day that Jessica and Joseph were coming round, Auntie Rae decided that although she didn’t want to get the decorations out of the garage, she would retrieve the box because they might like to do something with what was inside.

She went outside and dragged the large plastic container back into the house and left it by the piano.

In the afternoon, Jessica and Joseph arrived with their tablets to play on.  Auntie Rae was pleased that they wouldn’t be bored but also felt a little bit sorry as she had begun to quite like the idea that they might put up some decorations.  So after they’d taken off their coats and had a glass of fizzy pop, Auntie Rae nervously asked if they’d like to have a look inside the box.

Joseph said no thank you, instead he would watch what they were doing.  He did watching very well, sitting in the big winged armchair, curled up with his game, for the next hour.

Jessica, however, did want to see what was inside.

Auntie Rae felt even more sad when she saw all the lovely things that she had collected over the years but hadn’t the energy to get out before now.

She also felt a glimmer of hope, knowing that having Jessica there would make a big difference.

She was right.

Jessica got to work straightaway, finding five matching silver candle holders and putting them on the coffee table.

This first step encouraged Auntie Rae to put the sprig of plastic mistletoe near the front door.  It cheered her up no end, and she smiled as she suddenly had an idea!

Auntie Rae wobbled on a chair as she reached a large glass jar down from the top of the fridge.

She and Jessica sat together on the floor, working like Santa and his top most elf. 

Auntie Rae unravelled the fairy lights and twisted them round the inside of the jar while Jessica sorted out the silver and glass baubles.  Once she had them all, she began to add them into the jar too.  Then Jessica also found a big red ribbon that she wrapped around the outside of the glass.

When they were finished, Auntie Rae carefully placed the almost full jar on the end of piano. With a bit of wiggling and pushing, she managed to get the fairy lights plugged in down the back.

Like the shepherds on the hillside when the throng of angels came down to tell them of Jesus’ birth, they stood filled with both excitement and trepidation as Auntie Rae pushed the button to turn on the three hundred bulbs.

Ta dah!   They worked first time, filling the space with a gentle golden glow.

The two workers stood back, satisfied with what they had created.

They high-fived before eating mini mince pies in celebration.  After that they chilled for five minutes, scrolling through the WAH Nails Instagram feed and discussing which manicure they liked the best.

Rested and revived, they moved on to another project.

This time Jessica hole-punched some Christmassy postcards and Auntie Rae threaded them on to string to make a garland.

After Jessica had gone, Auntie Rae again balanced precariously on a chair so that she could festoon their second creation across the bookshelves.

As she was doing this, Uncle Mark came home from work.

‘What’s been going on?’

he asked, surprised to see there were decorations scattered around their home when Auntie Rae had been uttering ‘Can’t we just skip to January?’ for weeks.

Auntie Rae explained what she and Jessica had been up to.

She gave Uncle Mark a big hug and a kiss under the mistletoe by the door then, with a lump in her throat, whispered ‘I’m actually feeling happy and festive now’

– all thanks to Jessica, the girl who saved Christmas.

 

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Those unforgettable moments of communion with friends: why friendship is good for our soul

Those unforgettable moments of communion with friends: why friendship is good for our soul || raeritchie.com

For Heather, a friend who always speaks straight to my soul.

A reprise of one of my favourite blog post from last December.  It seems as timely as ever.

On Friday I showed up at a friend’s house for lunch.

I knew I was seeing her between meetings she had and was told we’d be eating soup.  I expected to rock up to a tin of Heinz and a few slice of brown bread, but on arrival I was greeted by a table fully decked out for a Christmas celebration, even though there were only two place settings.

We had a festive themed table cloth and party crackers as well as a table laden with homemade soup, crusty bread, croutons, a cheese board, salad and three different desserts.

Reader, I felt thoroughly spoiled.

Topped with paper hats, we had a merry time together, sharing a meal and heartfelt thoughts.

As I left, further blessed with a glass tree decoration that she had forged herself, I knew we had taken communion together.

You don’t need bread and wine to share communion with someone. 

I don’t think you need to view the act of communion necessarily in a religious way, although obviously it comes heavily laden with Christian associations.  At its heart, the act centred on Jesus and his closest mates sharing a meal between them.

Isn’t that something we all know can be a special occasion, one that seems to take on emotional significance beyond the actual act of eating and drinking?

 

Surely that is that purpose of communion, a transformative experience that changes us?

Friendships are important because they help to remind you of who you are, whether at your best, your worst or simply your core.

Unlike familial or romantic relationships, there aren’t rites of passage or dedicated days where we can honour and celebrate our platonic ties.  This seems a shame, an oversight somehow, as if they are not as important in our lives as relatives by blood or marriage.

Yet we are able to mark the significance of friendships over and over again if only we are mindful of what’s happening around us.

We can share communion, a treasured bond, a life-affirming moment with them whenever we sit down and talk, preferably with food and drink on the table between us too.

We can experience the most spectacular thread of connection even if we were only expecting to have half a tin of reheated soup.

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#35at35quest : The second update – is it too late to make a Christmas cake?

#35at35quest: A second update - Is it too late to make a Christmas cake?
My grandad’s handwritten list of Christmas cake ingredients

Most Wednesday mornings, I listen to the Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft as I get ready.  Today I almost choked on my toothpaste as I heard them talk about their eighteen for 2018 idea, inspired by a listener’s thirty-five for their thirty-fifth.

Thirty-five for their thirty-fifth!  That’s what I’m doing too!  

As I explained in my original post, when my friend Catherine at Midlands Minimalist told me about her husband’s fiftieth birthday resolution to do fifty things, I set myself a quest to complete thirty-five activities between my thirty-fifth and thirty-sixth birthdays (19th July 2017 to 2018).

In turn, by the time of my first update, others had also taken up the baton and setting themselves their own version of this challenge.

Unlike the other Happier listener who created a thirty-five at thirty-five list, who cleverly planned a great mix of activities and new habits that would enhance her happiness, mine are a random and idiosyncratic selection.  I’ll bear her thinking in mind for when it comes to #36at36quest!

Here’s an update on how my #35at35quest is going

  1. Read Middlemarch. 

 

 

As my thirty-fifth birthday approached, I felt haunted by the many things I thought I’d have done by now.  I’m not talking about major life events but smaller activities that just seem to have slipped by, like finally getting round to finishing Middlemarch (I’ve read the first hundred pages two or three times).  This feels particularly pressing as George Eliot and I are from the same home town and I’ve always felt some strange connection to her for that reason (and being born in hospital named after her).

I bought a copy with the book token that I received for my birthday.  Good quick progress!  Alas it’s been sitting next to my bed gathering dust since then.

2. Try colonic irrigation.  

Because why not?

Maybe this is a good treatment to try post-Christmas indulgence.  Add to January to do list.

3. Try craniosacral therapy.  

Another ‘because why not?’.  Another with no progress.

4. Visit Paris alone.

My partner gifted me the Eurostar for my birthday but I’ve yet to get round to booking it.  There’s a theme developing…

Visit a Greek island - done || 35 at 35 quest: my second update - is it too late to make a Christmas cake?
Oia, Santorini, Greece

5. Visit a Greek island

Spent a heavenly week in Santorini at the end of September.

6.  Hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak

Ticket booked, going in May.

7.  Watch The First Monday In May.

Hardly a film classic but hey, this is my list!  And this one is now completed.  When I was ill and bored last week, I snuggled up on the sofa and popped this on.  A great insight into the powerful world of high end fashion, culture and publishing, but mildly disheartening watching all the beautiful people while feeling snotty, sweaty and generally gross.

8. Go to St. Ives in Cornwall.  

People have recommended the Minack Theatre and St Michael’s Mount while I’m down there.  A springtime trip, I think.

9. Travel to Stockholm.  

A family friend has conveniently moved there!  I’ve asked for Swedish krona for Christmas and will be heading over early in the new year.

10.  Try African food.

Another with no progress.  I’m going to take up the tip from the Happier podcast and print the list out and pop it somewhere I’ll see it so that I won’t forget what I want to do!

11.  Revisit Warwick Castle for the first time since 1990.

It’s a major historic site just twenty miles from where I grew up and now live again but I haven’t been since a school trip when I was seven.  I’m going to look out for special offers for entry in the new year.

12.  Swing across monkey bars.

From the start, I predicted that this is the most likely not to be achieved.  Still looking that way.

13.  Drive a sports car.  

Thanks to the FCA Group, I spent a happy week in the summer cruising round in a beautiful Fiat 124 Spider.  Huge fun!  I loved it and felt like Elizabeth Taylor the entire time.  Little Niece and Nephew loved it too!

14.  Get a Margaret Dabbs pedicure.

The *ultimate* treat for feet – and one to schedule for when the weather begins to warm up and sandals come out again.

15.  Get a photo at Land’s End.

See number eight.  Will tick the two boxes off together.

16.  Visit Bristol.

This British city seems to have everything going for it, including a vibrant arts and culture scene.  I’m embarassed that I’ve never been , not least because I’ve good friends who live there.

#35at35quest: A second update - Is it too late to make a Christmas cake?

17.  Make a Christmas cake using my grandad’s recipe.

My grandad was a baker and the last proper cake he made was for my christening in 1983.  I have a handwritten copy of his recipe for making a Christmas cake but it’s now 13th December.  Is it too late to make a Christmas cake?!

18.  Learn some German.

Haven’t done this but am learning Swedish thanks to the Memrise app!  Useful for #9.

19.  Go up the Shard.

20.  Visit the British Museum for the first time since 1997. Shocking, I know.

I walk past both of these on at least a monthly basis yet have still failed to go in either building.  However my partner and I are planning a day trip to London between Christmas and New Year so hoping to get two big ticks then!

21.  See Stonehenge.

To do on the way to or from #16.

22.  Learn to make Florentines.  

A friend who is a great baker has offered to show me how.  I wonder if she has time in the next week or so…

23.  Read a book on Korean history.

I wrote this before the current nuclear crisis kicked off.  It feels a bit too terrifying now.

24.  Master a song on the guitar.

I was thinking possibly Take Me Home Country Roads as this was the first song I learnt on it when I was a teenager.  I just need to pick up a guitar.  The one in our living room would suffice.

25.  Rebuild my emergency savings pot.

Hmm, no progress again.  The perils of trying to build up a career as a freelancer!

26.  Try a pickled egg.  

This item provoked more reaction than any other on the list.  Pickled eggs divide opinion!  A friend kindly supplied the goods, a fancy Chinese spiced version.  It was tasty.

I’m building up to try one of the eyeball looking ones from a chip shop as I don’t imagine that they’d be as refined.

27.  Learn the proper names for clouds.

Another reason to print the list off and leave it somewhere prominent.  I’d totally forgotten about this.

28.  Come off all my mental health medication.

A big tick for this one.  I am now off all my medication having gone cold turkey about a month ago.  I definitely DO NOT recommend this course of action.  Not a good idea.

29.  Visit a Japanese garden in autumn.  

My family friend who has moved to Sweden bought me a voucher for this.  We had a lovely afternoon out in October visiting this oriental corner of Lincolnshire.

30.  Go to a fun fair.  

Why is it so difficult to do things that we want to do?!

31.  Learn to use a sewing machine.  

Despite two generous offers of help with this, I haven’t done anything about it.  Retrieving the machine from under the bed might help.

32.  Visit the Lake District for the first time in twenty years.

Another one to be scheduled.  Looks like the next seven months are going to be busy with weekends away!

33.  Have a day out in Leicester.

I live about fifteen miles from this city and haven’t been there for several years, and even then only to a work event at the university.  Maybe another day out for between Christmas and New Year.

34.  Clear out Google Photos.  

2014, 2015 and 2016 are sorted.  A strangely satisfying task!

35.  Get a ninety minute massage.

I wish.

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Three Ethical Christmas Companies

The Recycled Candle Company stall - Three Ethical Christmas Companies || raeritchie.com
Three Ethical Christmas Companies || raeritchie.com

Back in July, I visited the Home & Gift Buyers’ Festival in Harrogate.  It’s a huge trade event where producers display their wares to the retailers and buyers looking to add new lines to add to their websites and shops later in the year.  I wrote a series of posts featuring those makers that I met on the exhibition’s ‘Eco Trail’, including some fantastic festive themed firms.

Somehow it’s now December (how?!) and it seems like a great time to draw attention to those companies with a seasonal edge again.  Keep This Cracker, Nauseni and The Recycled Candle Company have great stocking fillers as well as everything you need for your Christmas centrepiece.

 

 

Let me know what purchases you make!

You can comment below or on social media.  And if you’ve enjoyed reading this post, then please do share – it really does make a huge difference!

Thank you for reading 🙂

Christmas (yes in July): Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 2017

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Keep this cracker

Upon realising the amount of waste generated each Christmas by single use crackers, Bea Thackeray came up with her own solution: reusable ones!

After some experimentation, she perfected her model.  You fill the gift box centre with whatever your choose, thread the snap through and pull as normal – except the whole thing slides apart rather than rips, so you can use them again!  All you have to replace are the snaps, which she also sells.  Genius!

There are also options for wedding favours and other occasions.

From £3.10 for the crackers; £1.10 for six replacement snaps.

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Christmas (yes in July): Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 2017

Nauseni

Founded in response to the 2015 Nepal earthquake, Nauseni (now-se-ni) strives to empower Nepalese women by offering skill development and income generating opportunities.  The firm works closely with teams of women artisans who they have trained to produce needle felted ornaments that reflect the centuries of wool making crafts in the Himalayas.

 

Candles: Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 201720170717_13183120170717_131842

The Recycled Candle Company

You know how there’s wax leftover whenever you’ve finished burning a candle?  Well the clever chaps at The Recycled Candle Company go round collecting this seeming waste product from London churches, pubs and hotels then they recycle all the bits into beautiful new ones.  Isn’t this the greatest recycling story that you’ve ever heard?!

All of their candles, votives and firelighters are beautiful but check out their miniature Christmas trees!

From £6.00.

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World Mental Health Day 2017: Mental Health and Me

World Mental Health Day 2017- Mental Health and Me
World Mental Health Day 2017: Mental Health and Me || raeritchie.com

Today is World Mental Health Day.

I was commissioned to write a piece for it but unfortunately was unable to due to struggling with my own mental health issues throughout last week.

I’m not sure if this is actually ironic or Alanis Morisette kind of ironic.

Despite being thwarted in producing a new contribution to this important awareness day, I wanted to proffer something.  As all writers know, a round up is always a useful fallback when there’s no time or inspiration for anything else. That is what I’ve turned to: my previous work about mental health collected together with helpful clickable links.

A year ago, maybe even six months, I’d have felt like a failure for doing this so my willingness to accept that this is where I am perhaps to speak to some kind of improvement.  I hope so.

 

On my blog

Mental health, the black dog & speaking out: my tribute to Sally Brampton

The bottle or the blade: mental health and self-harm

A letter to my eighteen year old self at the start of the new university year: mental health, hindsight & regret

 

For Welldoing.org

‘Braving The Wilderness by Brené Brown: A Must Read for Enquiring Minds’, Welldoing.org, 22nd September 2017.

‘Is letting go of perfection the secret to happiness?’, Welldoing.org, 10th August 2017.

‘How to integrate self-care into every day’, Welldoing.org, 22nd July 2017.

Understanding Hoarding as a Mental Health Disorder, Welldoing.org, 13th June 2017

‘Managing mental health: small things make all the difference’, Welldoing.org, 19th May 2017.

‘Wise Words #15: from Caroline Knapp to Gretchen Rubin’, Welldoing.org, 15th February 2017.

‘Wise Words #12: from Sally Brampton to Oliver Burkeman’, Welldoing.org, 18thJanuary 2017.

‘When the Therapist You Choose is not Right for You’, Welldoing.org, 3rdNovember 2016.

‘My 3 Therapy Sessions Changed Everything’, Welldoing.org, 15th September 2016.

 

For Mental Health Today

‘It is not wrong to cry, it is human’, Mental Health Today, 18th September 2017.

‘We can rationalise but social media still makes us dissatisfied with our lives’, Mental Health Today, 11th September 2017.

‘And breathe….’, Mental Health Today, 17th August 2017.

‘Greater openness doesn’t mean that you always have to share’, Mental Health Today, 24th July 2017.

Borderline personality disorder is part of me but not all consuming, Mental Health Today, 26th June 2017

When I’m having a bad day, everything feels overwhelming, Mental Health Today, 14th June 2017

‘How do we maintain emotional stability in the face of tragedy?’, Mental Health Today, 24th May 2017.

‘I’ve given myself permission to thrive not just survive’, Mental Health Today, 8th May 2017.

‘Who are today’s mental health heroes?’, Mental Health Today, 26th April 2017.

‘Working around it: Finding time for mental health therapies when you have a job’, Mental Health Today, 6th January 2017.

‘I’m not Cinderella: Realising that mental health problems continue in the new year’, Mental Health Today, 16th December 2016.

‘Can wanting to bin our pills be a sign of improved mental health?’, Mental Health Today, 28th November 2016.

‘Mental Health: A Waiting Game’, Mental Health Today, 12th October 2016.

 

Other

‘Last month I tried to kill myself’, in Sas Petherick ed., Voices Rising: A Collection of Essays, Poetry, Art and Prayers To Inspire Your Voice, 8th March 2017, pp. 81-83.

 

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Thirty Five at Thirty Five: The Quest 

More amusing pictures from in my thirties

Today I am thirty five.  As I commented in Monday’s blog post about signs of ageing, getting older doesn’t particularly bother me but I feel surprised that this is now my age.

There are lots of things that I thought I’d have done by now.  I’m not talking about major life events but smaller activities that just seem to have slipped by, like finally getting round to finishing Middlemarch (I’ve read the first hundred pages two or three times).

IMG_20150307_212947~2

I’ve decided that this is the year I’m going to address these niggling qualms.  Inspired by Catherine at Midlands Minimalist telling me about her husband’s fiftieth birthday resolution to do fifty things, I’ve set myself a quest: thirty five at thirty five.

Here, in the order that I thought of them, is my list of thirty five slightly random and entirely idiosyncratic goals that I plan to achieve before 19th July 2018:

 

  1. Read Middlemarch. See above.
  2. Try colonic irrigation.  Because why not?
  3. Try craniosacral therapy.  Ditto.
  4. Visit Paris alone.
  5. Visit a Greek island. Holiday already booked 🙂
  6. Hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak. Ticket already booked 🙂
  7. Watch The First Monday In May. Hardly a film classic but hey, this is my list!
  8. Go to St. Ives in Cornwall.
  9. Travel to Stockholm.
  10. Try African food.
  11. Revisit Warwick Castle for the first time since 1990.
  12. Swing across monkey bars. This is the most likely not to be achieved.
  13. Drive a sports car.
  14. Get a Margaret Dabbs pedicure.
  15. Get a photo at Land’s End. Ties in nicely with number eight!
  16. Visit Bristol.
  17. Make a Christmas cake using my grandad’s recipe.
  18. Learn some German.
  19. Go up the Shard.
  20. Visit the British Museum for the first time since 1997. Shocking, I know.
  21. See Stonehenge.
  22. Learn to make Florentines.
  23. Read a book on Korean history.
  24. Master a song on the guitar. Possibly Take Me Home Country Roads as this was the first song I learnt on it when I was a teenager.
  25. Rebuild my emergency savings pot.
  26. Try a pickled egg.
  27. Learn the proper names for clouds.
  28. Come off all my mental health medication.
  29. Visit a Japanese garden in autumn.
  30. Go to a fun fair.
  31. Learn to use a sewing machine.
  32. Visit the Lake District for the first time in twenty years.
  33. Have a day out in Leicester.
  34. Clear out Google Photos.
  35. Get a ninety minute massage.

No doubt I’ll explain more about my reasoning as I chart my success (or otherwise) across the year – but feel free to ask if you’re particularly intrigued by any of them!  And I’d love to hear if you have any burning ambitions of a similar scale.  Where have you always wanted to visit?  What have you always wanted to learn?  Is there any food that you fancy trying?

Here’s to the year ahead and the thirty five at thirty five challenge!

Twenty Signs of Ageing

Photographs of me in the first half of my thirties that made me laugh

It’s my birthday this week.  I’ll be 35.  It’s a scary thought, not because I particularly dread getting older but simply because I cannot believe that’s my age.  Surely I’m really still only seventeen… 25… 32?

Over the years, I’ve blogged about signs of ageing that I’ve observed along the way.  Having spotted another only last weekend, I thought I’d collate all of them here.  If nothing else, it’s helped me to realise how much my tech skills have improved; back in 2011 I still pasted entire web addresses in brackets after the text; had I not heard of hyperlinks?!

Hope you enjoy – and let me know which resonate with you!  Are there any that I’ve missed?  When did you first become aware of the passing years in your life?

Observed at 34 years and eleven months:

1 Folding picnic chairs seem like a perfectly reasonable item to own.

Went to a music festival and commented to my partner that we should have bought folding picnic chairs.

20 signs of ageing: me in my thirties

Observed aged 28 years and eight days:

2) You & a friend discuss whether to get the bottle of wine or just two glasses. 

While on holiday, I met up with an old uni friend & we went for dinner.  We both wanted white wine.  And we genuinely debated whether ordering two glasses warranted purchasing the whole bottle.  In the end, we did buy the bottle, but only after consideration.  Clearly the days of ‘buy two glasses get the rest of the bottle free’ are no longer such an allure.

3) Fruit & nut is considered a reasonable choice of chocolate bar. 

As a child, fruit & nut seemed an outrage: why ruin chocolate with other stuff?  Especially vaguely ‘healthy’ things?  Then lo, twenty years on, I find myself thinking ‘Umm, fruit & nut – yummy’.  When & why did this happen?!

4) Going to see the Dutch tulip fields sounds like a lovely mini-break option. 

My grandparents once went on a trip to see the tulips in bloom in the Netherlands.  At the time, this seemed liked the most ridiculous holiday I had ever heard.  The Netherlands?!  On holiday?! (to be said in a Peter Kay ‘Garlic bread?’ tone).  By my mid-teens, the Netherlands seemed far more alluring – well, Amsterdam came calling – but still the tulip fields remained off my holiday radar.  Then the other week I found myself in all seriousness uttering the phrase: ‘I’d really like to see the Dutch tulip fields in bloom’.  The implications of this are profound: I am clearly now more interested in gardening & flowers than sex & drugs.

5) You know your own underwear limitations.

Some time ago, my friend & I vowed that we would give up trying to haul our breasts into strapless bras.  We were in ‘French Connection’ in Birmingham’s Bull Ring at the time.  The ‘hoik wriggle’ move every few minutes, we decided, was a) a pain & b) simply not alluring.  So sufficient have I been in my resolve to ban strapless bras, my brain now simply edits out any items requiring anything other than a standard bra before I even enter the changing room.  The saddest part of all this is that I don’t even miss such skimpy tops, halterneck & boob tube-esque numbers.

Twenty signs of ageing: me in my thirties

6) Social arrangements regularly involve breakfast & always require a diary.

I’m not exactly sure when exactly this moment occurred, but at some point in the last couple of years, breakfast has suddenly become a reasonable time of day to meet up with people.  Hangovers &/or new boyfriends no longer rule any time before 12pm on a Saturday or Sunday out of the equation for when to get together.

Around the same time as ‘breakfast = feasible time for socialising’ occurred, the diary phenomena also emerged.  Even with closest friends, diaries are required to figure out when the next meeting can be arranged.  If you haven’t got your diary with you then you dare not make any definite plans.  Want to meet up on a weekday evening?  A slot about three weeks later can usually be found.  Want to meet up on a weekend?  This requires around three months of planning – & even then it’s likely to be for breakfast.

7) The only current hits you know are familiar thanks to secondary activities.

Despite vowing to never be like our parents & become totally unfamiliar with the music charts, it seems that after a certain point, we only know current songs because we have heard them through some secondary means.  Ie, we stop saying ‘Oh yes, I heard it on MTV/Top of the Pops/the Chart Show’ & start saying ‘Oh, I think I’ve heard this in the gym/at my exercise class/in a shop/in the dentist’s chair’.

8) ‘Last time around’ includes clothing you can remember wearing.

This moment was truly frightening.  Topshop, Saturday afternoon: I spy some oversize shirts.  First thought: ‘Ooo, they’re lovely.  I could wear them with leggings’.  Second thought: ‘Oh ****, I wore them with leggings circa 1990’.  Third thought: ‘Oh **** & double ****, no-one else within a five-metre radius of me was even born in 1990’.

On the bright side, I dug out my 1990 oversize shirt (complete with ruffle, just like some of the Topshop new season collection).  I have changed the buttons & it’s ready to wear.

Advantage *1 of ageing: you no longer have to always buy vintage, you can just dig it out of the back of your own wardrobe.

Observed aged 29 years and two months, on the eve of attending the first thirtieth birthday party for someone in my school year:

9) You start to forget events in your own life. 

This isn’t just about forgetting general stuff, or specific dates, but forgetting things that you have either done or experienced.  See post below for an example of it.  I don’t know whether it’s because as you get older, more stuff has happened in your life or whether it’s because there’s a greater time/distance between some of those events and the present.  Or maybe it’s just increased forgetfulness.

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10) You no longer think about money in Tens and Units. 

When you’re younger, spending projections are along the lines of ‘£5 for x, £20 for y’, with maybe the occasional large expense such as a car thrown in.  Somewhere along the line, your budgetary parameters shift and everything becomes Hundreds and Thousands (at this point I suspect that describing sums in this way – units, tens, hundreds and thousands – does as much to mark my age as carbon dating does for archaeological remains, clearly linking me to a specific phase in the National Curriculum for maths).

11) You bump into people you know in supermarkets, not nightclubs.

[As had happened to me the previous Thursday]

12) More than one person offers to drive on a night out. 

This happened today in relation to Saturday’s thirtieth party; I text friend saying ‘I’ll drive if you like’, she replies saying ‘I don’t mind driving’.  Gone are the days when said friend used to smear kebab across my dad’s ‘taxi’ at 2pm on a Friday and Saturday night.

14) You’re no longer shocked when a friend says they’re having a baby. 

When babies first start appearing among contemporaries, my initial reaction was shock (‘OMG, they’re pregnant/going to be a dad!  How can this be?  What do their parents think?  How will they cope?) followed by a dose of reality (‘We are in our twenties/they are married/own a house with their partner/this is a perfectly acceptable age to be having a child’).  I am now sufficiently old that the shock element has subsided.  News of pregnancy is now met with an instant reaction of ‘Ah, how lovely – great news!’.  Even babies that are a bit of a surprise to all involved are not the shock that they once were.  But that is no bad thing.  One of the most enjoyable nights I’ve had recently was with some old friends, playing with one of them’s new baby and discussing the imminent arrival of another’s.  She joined the world yesterday afternoon and I am very excited about meeting her, maybe even at this Saturday’s thirtieth. [Which friend was this, I’m now wondering].

Twenty signs of ageing: me in my thirties

Observed aged 29 years and three months, while out celebrating a school friend’s engagement:

15. It becomes increasing likely that more than one person in the group won’t be drinking because they’re breast feeding.

16. You are all amazed at how busy pubs get.

17. Booty calls become “How are the kids?” calls.

18. You’re really glad you wore flat shoes.

19. You no longer even humour the strange blokes that magically appear among you when you’re dancing.

20. You think they’ve made a mistake and played the same song twice in quick succession until you realise that you’re so out of touch with current music that you just think all the songs sound same.

 

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