Life in the fast lane: Finisher!

 

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The Great North Swim (GNS) is over. Posts about the upcoming Great Newham London and Great Scotland Swims are appearing in my timeline and it’s with a mixture of relief  and sadness that I am not involved. The build up to the swim was so long and hard at times that it feels a bit weird that is all over for me now.

My family and I arrived in Bowness on Friday afternoon. My nerves, already jangled, were close to peak as the last half an hour of our journey was an awful combination of twisty country roads and the noise of a screaming baby in the back. We unloaded the car and my partner and I drove out to do a recce and figure out the journey in the morning. Then we went for a calming glass of wine before bed. Am sure the pros do that. I saw people walking around the busy town with their finishers t-shirt on and the nerves resumed. I wanted to grab them and shout “TELL ME IT WILL BE OK!” Instead I sipped my wine and fought back tears.

In the morning we arrived early so that I could see the first wave set off. We were due to go at 10am. I felt pretty sick. I was convinced everyone I looked at was a professional, even the 12 year olds, and that I was going to be the worst one there. I could barely speak to my family for nerves. I left them and went to meet the women I knew also taking part in the changing room tent. We struggled into our wetsuits and chatted. It was reassuring to know that I wasn’t the only one with nerves, though it didn’t stop them.

We had some photos taken together and then made our way to the acclimatisation zone. The water was a balmy 17 degrees. They made it sound tropical. It wasn’t. However it was a massive improvement on the sea in Mull. I sank into the water and adjusted to the temperature. I put my face in the water and then promptly took it out again. Oh no. I tried again. Same thing. I panicked a bit. I was having the same problem I had at the lake before. That stupid sensible mammal had reared it’s stupid sensible head and I couldn’t get my face in. We were hurried out and back to the start for the warm up. I tried to relax, tell myself it was fine, I got over it before and I will be OK once I start. We went through the warm up exercises, which I found pretty hard in the wetsuit. Last hugs all round and by this point I was fighting back tears again.

It was time. I walked into the water with everyone and slowly started to swim. I couldn’t get my face in. I decided to take it slow, I wasn’t the only one swimming with their head out, though they all looked more comfortable doing it. I reached the first buoy and stopped to tread water for a bit to try and gather myself to see if I could start again. Unfortunately my head wasn’t having any of it and my face refused to stay in the water. This made the swim a lot harder than I had planned. I couldn’t use my stroke effectively, there was no glide, there was just the stroke. I found I was puffing quite a lot, I think anxiety about not being able to finish, now I was working so much harder, was creeping in.

At the half way point I stopped for a moment and took a few deep breaths, gave myself a talking to and set off again. I managed to get half way to the next buoy swimming with my face in before it came springing back out again. I would think it’s very hard to imagine how little control I had over my own head, but that’s how it felt. However I took it as progress and when I got the the next buoy I tried again. I didn’t make it as far but I was determined and kept on trying. In between I swam some sort of made up side stroke, my face was mainly still out of the water, but I could glide a bit better and it was easier than swimming with my head up. I was starting to get tired now, but the last buoy was in sight. This was cheering, even the rain that had started wasn’t bothering me. I had started to catch up with some swimmers in green hats from the previous wave. I inwardly felt quite pleased that no yellow hats had passed me yet. Then immediately I was overtaken by a man powering past me in a yellow hat. Just one though!

As I swam to the finish I was so relieved it was over. I had done it. Sort of. The man who helped drag me out of the water was so friendly. I told to him to be careful I would probably drag him in with me. He reassured me that it would be fine if I did. Thinking back now perhaps a more reassuring reply would have been “Am sure you won’t!” My legs felt like jelly as I wandered up and collected my bag and I saw my family waiting for me. They started cheering. I felt amazing. I had done it. I put my medal on and went for a hug with my family.

After changing I met up with my fellow swimmers, we had a warm, plastic cup of prosecco and celebrated our achievements. I finished, I made it round, I did it in under an hour (51 mins 15 secs) which is what I had wanted to do, I raised over £1200 for a cause very close to my heart. I was happy. Except, actually I felt a bit disappointed. I had wanted to do it better, not just faster, but better.

I decided not to go for a swim that week, but I have been back to the pool since and it felt good to go because I wanted to, not because I felt I had to. I’ve also had another outdoor swim, lask week I swam in the sea on holiday in Menorca. The water was warm, crystal clear  and calm. It was beautiful. I swam with my face in, gliding through the water, looking at the fish below and loved every minute. I don’t think my outdoor swimming career is over just yet. There is something wonderful about swimming outside. I’m proud of what I achieved. Although I feel like I just managed to complete the GNS, but I didn’t conquer it. I could do better and who knows, maybe next year I will?

 

You can find out more about who I was raising money for and why here: http://www.justgiving.com/Catherine-Hamilton2/

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Life in the (not so) fast lane II: Sensible mammals

The Great North Swim (GNS) is now just days away and the nerves have well and truly kicked in.  I’m currently on holiday in Scotland and each time we pass a loch I get a knot of anxiety in my stomach.  This knot is pretty constant right now.  I’ve started to have worrying dreams based in or around huge bodies of water.  What was I thinking?  I have tried to prepare for this more than I have prepared for anything before.  I am definitely more prepared for this than any exam I have ever taken, or the arrival of my second child.  It’s a shame that I am still feeling woefully underprepared.

Part of my preparation was arranging swimming lessons.  I have never been able to do front crawl without almost drowning and I also wanted to check my technique for my other strokes was ok.  My back stroke was fine, breast stroke good, I just needed to flex my feet, not point.  Too dainty she told me.  This is not something I have been called before.  By the end of the lesson I had swum several lengths of front crawl.  A successful lesson.  I quickly ruled out even attempting the GNS doing front crawl, drowning would definitely be on the cards.  It is completely exhausting.  How can I run for 40 minutes but do 1 length of crawl and need a rest?  Is it like the two stomach thing?  One is full but you have room in the other for desert.  I don’t get it.  Am glad I can do it now and I plan on improving this after I’m done with the GNS, but blimey it was hard work.

My younger sister and her boyfriend arranged a wonderful birthday gift for me (I turned 40 since my last post). I had exclusive use of a 30m swimming pool for a night.  No one else around and my sister had even made me a play list, which I heard some of when my head bobbed out of the water every now and then.  It was such a luxury to swim by myself.  No pool perverts.  Just me and some music.  Nothing like the GNS will be!  Though I should clarify I do not think other participants of the GNS are perverts.  Not all of them anyway.  There have also been more training swims at my local pool.  Some great, some that left me in tears they were so bad.

I also had my first open water swim.  My long suffering and patient partner drove me and our children to Sandhurst Lake.  I was pretty nervous.  It was raining and cold.  I had to put on a wetsuit.  This was not my idea of a fun Friday night, although the my daughter telling me I looked like a superhero made me feel pretty great.  The people at the lake were very friendly.  I told the guy working there that this was my first open water swim. “Just relax” he said “don’t be surprised if you get half way to that first buoy and panic.” Panic? What? Oh god.

I got in the water and I was pleasantly surprised; it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be.  I got used to the temperature and decided to try and swim to short course.  I put my face in to take off.  Then with a sharp intake of breathe I quickly took it out again.  I had no idea what just happened.  It was odd, I tried again and the same thing happened.  It was like I had no control of my head.  I would stop breathing and whip my head back out if the water in what felt like panic.  I stood at the shore of the lake wondering what to do.  A few people were coming in and going out and I told them I was having some issues.  Each one I spoke to said it had happened to them.  I’ve since found out from a very smart environmentalist I know that it’s called a dive reflex.  Seems it proves I am a “sensible mammal”.  Good to know *adds to CV*.  I spent a good 15 minutes putting my face in the water and blowing bubbles before I felt I could do actual swimming.  Eventually I took off for my first lap, face in, concentrating on my breathing and got half way to the first buoy, panicked and couldn’t get my face back in.  I swam that first lap with my head out of water, which is both uncomfortable and hard work.  I felt pretty defeated.  That was just a quarter of the distance I had to do on the day.  How on earth was I going to do it?

I tried again, this time I stopped when I could feel the panic about to start.  I just bobbed about in the water, the suit keeping me buoyant, composed myself and then started again.  I don’t know how long it took but I stopped a lot, at least 6 times.  The third lap was better, I only stopped twice, but now I had developed an annoying humming when I breathed out under water.  I’m not sure where it came from but I figured if it was helping then just go with it.  It was getting close to closing time but I was determined to try again.  I made it round on the 4th lap without stopping.  I felt great and terrible in equal measure.  Exhilarated and terrified.  I felt like I had conquered something, but then had complete dread about what was to come.

I’ve since been for another open water swim in the sea at Calgary Beach on the Isle of Mull.  It was hard work, cold and the water tasted foul.  It hasn’t left me brimming with confidence.  I knew the challenge would be hard, really hard, but now I’m worried I have under estimated just how hard it will be.  I’ve done all I can do now and on Saturday I will find out if it was enough.  Wish me luck!

To find out more about why I am doing the #GNS please go to : https://www.justgiving.com/Catherine-Hamilton2/

Life in the (not so) fast lane

I think I am naturally quite lazy, left to my own devices I probably wouldn’t exercise at all.  I enjoy the feeling I get from exercising, however I don’t always enjoy it when I’m doing it and sometimes the effort to just make myself do it can be exhausting in itself.  However, I have a bad back and a dodgy old lady hip, so to stop myself from falling apart I have to exercise.  Then I can enjoy basic pleasures like walking without pain.  It also helps with my mental health, when I let my lazy ways creep in a bad mood comes with it.  I’m fortunate enough to belong to an online community of brilliant women who help keep me in line.  When I was trying to get in shape a while after I had my daughter I signed up to do a 5K with some of the women from this group.  I train better when I have something to train for.  I hadn’t run in years and was carrying an extra *cough* stones in weight.  I did it.  Slowly.  The women I ran with took it slow and ran with me.  I ran my fastest 5k that day.  I am a plodder.  Whilst pregnant with my son I signed up for a 10k.  Training to run a 10k, 5 months after I had a baby, was in hindsight, a little optimistic.  I didn’t have the time to run as often as I should have and on the day I couldn’t run the whole thing.  Once again a wonderful woman from this group ran and walked with me.  These women have talked me round these courses while I have panted and gasped for breath next to them.  They are encouraging, supportive and motivating.

So when someone mentioned the Great North Swim I got a bit carried away and said yes.  I signed up for it.  My family and I arranged a holiday around it.  The B&B is booked.  I am doing the Great North Swim! Holy shit, I am doing the Great North Swim.  I used to swim a lot when I was younger to help my back and I had done the odd swim before having my son, but nothing serious.  Now I had to swim.  Was this a bad move?  Swimming is such a faff.  The changing, the constant hair washing, the constant shaving of the legs, the dirty changing room floors, other people, the smell of chlorine (actually that doesn’t bother me I just felt the list needed an extra one).

I like to think I am quite thoughtful towards others.  If we ignore the two back stroke incidents (one involving me and another woman’s undercarriage and another involving me and a man’s armpit), then other people are the worst.  I am careful to stick to the ‘medium’ lane.  I am too fast for the slow lane, but I am not fast.  Other people do not care.  They will plod away in the fast lane, or the speed up & down the medium lane with seemingly no regard for the signs.  SIGNS PEOPLE!! LOOK AT THE SIGNS!  It is at times like this I remember what a square I am.  I have had a man swim the wrong way up a lane, towards me & then get the hump because I am in his way.  There have been groups of men standing at the end of a lane to chat, so I have to navigate my way past them to touch the end.  I’m not cutting my swim short because you want to chat in the pool.   There was the man who stopped swimming when I swam past and would just sit underwater looking at me. Creepy.  I moved away from him pretty sharpish.  This has actually happened twice, two different men.  What do I do?  I want to complain about the massive pervert in the pool:

Me:  ‘He’s staring at me underwater’

Pervert: ‘No I’m not I’m practising my free diving technique.”

I think it’s quite hard to prove.  I don’t know why it shocked me the first time, there are disgusting perverts everywhere, but it seemed particularly grim in the pool when you are so exposed.  Now I think about it I’m surprised I’ve not encountered more.  Either that or the pool pervert has been me (See above).

At first it would take me about half an hour to swim 30 lengths of my local 25m pool.  I started to go more often & the day I got to 30 lengths in less than 20 minutes I was pretty proud of myself.  Having a toddler and a baby to look after means I don’t always get to train when I want.  The evenings when I’ve had to go out at 9pm after a night with no sleep and a day with a crying baby have been the worst.  I’m not ashamed to admit it, I have cried because I didn’t want to go.  I have sulked.  I have felt like kicking things.  My ever patient and supportive partner always has an encouraging word for me, I suspect by that point he just wants me out of the house, knowing when I come back I will have a smile on my face.  And he is right, I have always gone and I have always felt better for going.  I can swim a mile now, in around 45 minutes, sometimes less.  I told you I was a plodder.  I can actually swim a lot further than a mile, but I don’t yet know how that will translate once I’m in a wetsuit and in the cold water of Lake Windermere.  I have my first lesson this week to work on my technique; I am also planning an outdoor swim soon, not to mention the dreaded wetsuit fitting.  I will let you know how they go in my next post.

You can read more about why I am doing the GNS on my Just Giving page:  https://www.justgiving.com/Catherine-Hamilton2/

Swipe Right

Being single in London is properly grim.

I mean, I’ve been single in a number of places, (which is tragic in and of itself), but none so mind-bendingly bad as being single in London. At least when I was single in Edinburgh, the place was small and friendly enough that you might actually go to the same bar more than once. You might even go two or three times in a week. You’d probably see other people there doing the same thing. I regularly met people at parties who I’d then meet again in a different context a couple of months later. They’d bring friends, and you’d make friends with their friends and you’d at least feel that you weren’t staring into the dark abyss of your own inevitable spinsterhood.

There were options, if nothing else.

In London you have choices too, but in my experience, they’re almost entirely false ones. You can choose to swipe right, but it doesn’t stop your “match” asking you if you keep your glasses on in bed because they just love the “secretary look”. You can choose to meet up with a seemingly nice guy, but that doesn’t stop them telling you they live “out west”, when “out west” turns out to mean that they live in fucking Reading!

You can chat to a guy on the phone before you meet up with them in an attempt to weed out the weirdos, but that doesn’t stop them putting their mate on the phone to talk to you because they have better chat, something that I am absolutely convinced has happened to me in the past.

The only saving grace is that London is so big, and these people are so unlikely to know anyone that you know, that when you go on a date with a man who includes a run down of his favourite perverts in his first date repertoire, you can look at them in the way you might the dog-fellating transvestite they’re telling you about, and then fling yourself onto a tube train (if not under it), without fear of ever having to see them again.

A consequence of this is that you get used to dating men that you have absolutely no social connection with. Dating becomes so socially risk-free that it doesn’t enter your head that you might one day actually fall for someone who you know. So what happens when finally faced with the option of dating someone that you do?

I recently sent a message to a bloke on OkCupid, asking him what he did in the university he worked at, because I work in a university too. “I actually work in a Students’ Union”, he replied.

Shit. So do I. And I’ve bloody met you before! God, this is awkward.
What do I do now? Do I message him back? Shit, I’ll have to or it’ll be well awkward when I see him again.
Oh, he’s replied… Ok. That’s cool.
Hang on. Is he replying because we’re sort of colleagues and that’s polite, or does he actually want to go on a date with me? Can I date him, or is that weird?
He’s not going to ask me anyway, he’s obviously just being polite.
Oh, he wants to meet up. Oh, god. Ok, well that’s cool. I can do that.
Christ, what if he tells people? I mean, I know I write about my dating on the internet all the time but at least when I’m slagging off Pervert Stories Man I have no idea what he’s telling his pals about his awkward date with, “Ninety Decibel Laugh Lady”.
But what if I don’t like him or he doesn’t like me and then I’ll see him at a bloody conference and it’ll be SO FUCKING AWKWARD.

No. It won’t. Because you’re both adults in your late twenties and because this is what dating is supposed to be like. This is what dating was like for almost everyone when online dating was still for people who only knew how to talk to their cats. This is what dating was like for me before I moved to this stupid, massive city.

So I went on the date. And it was really good. And then I went on a second date, and that was even better.

And now here I am, looking forward to my third date with a man I already sort of knew, but never even dreamed of asking out because I didn’t have the option to swipe right.

Sorry!

So sorry we have been away from the keyboard for so long. We aim to be back soon with some new content for our readers.

If anyone would like to submit to the blog please get in touch via here or our twitter feed and we will get back to you!

x

Sorry!

So sorry we have been away from the keyboard for so long. We aim to be back soon with some new content for our readers.

If anyone would like to submit to the blog please get in touch via here or our twitter feed and we will get back to you!

x

The Beautiful Game?

 

 

Italy players hold aloft the FIFA World Cup trophy.

I loved football once. I’m a Newcastle United fan. We won’t dwell on that for obvious reasons, not least because it’s a source of constant disappointment to my season ticket carrying, Chelsea fan of a Dad. I cried the first time I went to a match at St James’ Park. And not just because we lost. The first time I saw England play at Wembley was beyond exciting. And we won! I had goldfish called Shearer and Sheringham. I went to matches, watched them in the pub, had a dream team every season, had the kit & considered myself a football fan.

The first football I remember watching & taking a real interest in was the World Cup in 1990. Most English people will remember it as the year Gazza cried. When Gary Lineker was a bit sexy and did that “watch him” fingers to eyes signal thing. I remember running next door to the garage to update the lady working there and shouting out “GAZZA’S CRYING”. It was exciting and heartbreaking which pretty much sums up football for an England supporter.

The tournament that really gripped me though was Euro ’96. England went mad for football and we all thought they were in with a chance. Football was coming home. Gazza was back on form (remember that goal against Scotland?), Stuart Pearce was burying bad penalty memories in the back of the net and everyone was excited. We would watch it in the pub and strangers would hug each other and cheer. Everyone was so happy. We could do it this time! But.. we didn’t. Again. The Germans. Again. Cue more crying , more disappointment. I remember walking home from the pub after that game and some guys were throwing bins around in a temper – I thought “tossers”, like most people would. Why do some football fans act like that? I’m not sure when it happened but over the next few years football changed for me.

Maybe it was the burning effigies of Beckham after he was sent off in ’98. Or going to Stamford Bridge and seeing pure hate on the faces of fans as they hurled abuse at the opposition, or the ref, or sang songs about Arsene Wenger being a paedophile. I’m not sure why I hadn’t noticed this side to it all before. I had been so carried away with the cheering and the excitement, the love of the game. Was I just ignoring it or had I just been a bit naive? Football’s violent past is no secret, yet it took a long time to catch up with me.

My mum is Spanish and during Euro 2008 I went to Austria to watch Spain play Greece. It was brilliant. The atmosphere around the stadium and in the town was fantastic. The Greek and Spanish fans sang to each other. Everyone had a good time. It was here I realised how glad I was to not be at an England match. The atmosphere would have been totally different. Always an undercurrent of aggression, waiting for the inevitable violence. Matching what they see on the pitch I guess.

I think that’s what really changed football for me, the players themselves. I was used to heroes. OK they weren’t perfect by any stretch, but their desire to play for their country and club, and their passion was obvious. Alan Shearer, Tony Adams, Stuart Pearce, Paul Gascoigne, they wanted it for them, for us, for England. Then came players like John Terry. I can’t even type his name without letting out a groan of derision. One of a few players who give the impression that they are doing us some sort of favour by putting on an England shirt and we should be grateful. I started to notice more and more things I didn’t like: The way players crowd around and speak to the referee,  the way they roll around on the floor “injured”; it’s an embarrassment when you compare it to a sport like rugby.

Sadly their behaviour off the pitch got worse too. It seemed a weekly occurrence for footballers to be charged with something. Speeding, GBH, match fixing and even more alarming, rape. Suddenly they seemed like a law unto themselves. It was money, status and celebrity which mattered, leaving pride and passion to slip down the agenda. Players are now earning up to £250k a week. A week! They feel untouchable. The money is going to their heads and turning them into caricatures. The in-fighting during World Cup 2010 was shameful, I found it difficult to care at all about how they did that year. Spain seemed like a team, they deserved it. England seemed like a bunch of egos. Nothing to respect at all.

When the Olympics came to Great Britain the country came together. It was brilliant watching these athletes who’ve trained for years for this one event. Everyone cried, cheered and screamed along with passion and excitement. I had been to watch Mexico play at Wembley and spent the evening of Super Saturday in a pub in Baker Street. The atmosphere was electric, everyone cheering, talking to each other. Bringing people together in the way football had done for me in the past. I felt a pang of sadness for Michael Owen who tweeted wondering why people couldn’t get behind football like that. The contrast between these athletes and footballers was unbelievable. He makes a point in his blog that they just want to play football, that they are not role models, just normal people. I don’t agree with everything he said, but even if that is true, if that is your stance and you act like a dick, you can’t expect people to respect you just because you play football. It’s about more than that and currently footballers do very little to earn my respect.

Whilst the video of Royal Antwerp players training by kicking balls at women’s bottoms in their pants this year is a truly depressing example of football misogyny, there are glimmers of hope. There is the Kick Racism Out of Football campaign, teams are being sponsored by the No More Page Three campaign and there is even a women’s football programme on BBC3 now. These are positive signs.

 

Football needs change, they need to build on these positives & create a better future for our teams and fans. As the World Cup starts I will be cheering on Spain again, but it’s with a heavy heart. It doesn’t hold the same excitement for me. I will watch, check the scores and I wish England well, but until I can see changes in attitude from players and fans, my love affair with the beautiful game is pretty much over.

 

 

FIVE BEAUTY PRODUCTS I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT

I have always been a bit shit at hair and makeup. I am a tomboy. Cropped hair and natural face are my go-to look. Don’t be fooled by the plain face though. My bedroom shelves groan with products, some well used, most often full. As do my bathroom cabinet, handbags, gym bag and even my clothes (the other day I pulled out some hair clips, a lip stain and an eye pencil from a coat I hadn’t worn in over a year).

I was on reader panels for a few magazines so was regularly sent new products that would promise to volumise my hair, lengthen my lashes, plump up my skin, minimise my pores. You name it, I’ve tried it. And promptly forgotten that I own it. I pour over magazines and beauty blogs looking for the Holy Grail products. Those magical elements that mean that instead of layering six products on my face I only need two. This has made me develop fairly expensive tastes. I knew I’d crossed a line last Christmas when I bought myself a Chanel lippy for £25 and didn’t feel the usual sickening guilt. Although my judgement may have been clouded by mulled wine…

Whilst recently packing light for a trip away I was forced to filter myself down to bare essentials. I was going to the middle of nowhere so popping to Boots if I had forgotten anything was not an option. It made me realise just how many of the items I own are surplus to requirements.

Here are the five products I cannot live without. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Essie Nail Polish in Lacquered Up

My face may look a bit undone and shit but my nails? Never! I have been a nail polish obsessive since the age of 12. I paint them so often I am surprised they haven’t peeled off completely. I own in excess of 40 polishes, if I am ever seen without colour on my nails people ask if I am feeling ok. My nails are always short, tidy and colourful. They change with the seasons, sometimes they’re matte, and sometimes they sparkle with layers of glitter. I like to keep people guessing.

With so many to choose from what makes Essie’s Lacquered Up so special? I have never been able to apply it badly. I have applied it tipsy. I have applied it in the back of a taxi. I have applied it shaking with first date nerves. And it always looks AMAZING. A true crimson that oozes sex and is so shiny it never fails to catch the light. If you are in a desperate hurry it can be applied in one coat. It’s magical. I have started to stockpile the shade. If Essie ever discontinued it I would hold a candlelight vigil.

TRESemmé 24 Hour Body Sky High Plump Powder

 I first tried this on a girl’s trip to Blackpool three years ago. After a long bus journey we were all eager to hit the town and there was no time for everyone to shower. One of the girls pulled this magic powder from her bag and proceeded to give us all fairly massive hair in about 30 seconds flat.  The process is simple: shake the bottle, open, sprinkle some on roots, scrunch to add volume et voila – hair higher than Dolly Parton coming out of a wind tunnel. Some people moan about the matte texture it gives hair. I couldn’t give a flying fuck. It looks awesome, that’s all you need to know.  Also, despite heavy use I still have some left in the bottle I bought in 2011. Best fiver I ever spent.

Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Lip Balm Stain in Honey

 I had lusted over Clinique’s Chubby Sticks but couldn’t bring myself to part with £17 for a product I probably wouldn’t use every day. I read about the Revlon Chubby Stick dupes on a forum and thought I would give them a go. Less than half the price and purchased during a Boots 3 for 2 promo, what did I have to lose? I picked Honey, the colour most like my own lip shade. Some people are put off by the slightly minty scent but it doesn’t bother me. My thin top lip which sometimes threatens to disappear looked plumped and shiny. The colour payoff is excellent, you can layer for a more dramatic look or just blot after applying for a more natural sheen. They last for hours, though eating, drinking, kissing and they don’t dry your lips out like some other stains. I now own four shades but Honey will always be my favourite.

Soap & Glory The Righteous Butter

I drink litres of water every day, I eat healthy(ish). My skin should glow with vitality! It doesn’t. From the neck down I am an expanse of dry flesh. It’s not pretty. In the winter when I pull up my tights I get leg dandruff. I used to slather myself in Palmers Cocoa Butter every night but there was one major downfall – the smell made me hungry, so much so that I struggled to get to sleep. I wanted to lick my own arm I smelled so good. Five years ago a friend recommended Soap and Glory’s The Righteous Butter and I’ve never looked back. Thick and creamy, with shea butter and aloe vera it’s a real treat for the skin. A little goes a long way; tubs seem to last for months despite daily use and my scaly, stretch marked skin is now smooth and strokeable. The scent is strong and quite girly (a male friend once told me I smelt “pink” whatever that means) but I don’t want to lick my own arm after applying to that’s a bonus…

Bourjois 123 Perfect Colour Correcting cream

 I’ve only started using this in the past few weeks but don’t know how I ever lived without it. I have a lot of patchy redness on my face which used to mean layers of concealer and foundation to disguise it. I saw a friend wearing this and she looked fantastic so I thought I would give it a try. I have always been a devotee of Estee Lauder Double Wear but find it quite heavy going for summer use so wanted something lighter. This oil free, lightweight formula has quite a runny consistency but contains magical colour correcting properties which somehow manage to neutralise redness, dark spots and perk up tired looking skin. I look like me on a good day with minimal effort.

So there you go: five products I can’t be without and can all be purchased for around a tenner or less. Not listed: mascara. I own 21 (!) and could do a whole other post on trying to find The One.

 

Because I’m Happy!

For the last approximately 100 days (give or take a day or ten) I have been sharing with the world the things that make me happy in pictures. The idea is that we don’t take time in our busy lives to stop and recognise (and, because this is the smartphone age, take a picture of and share via social media) the little or big things that make us happy everyday.

Sign up via this website (http://100happydays.com) and hashtag your pictures with #100happydays either on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. At the end of the 100 days you have the option of having a book of your 100 photos made and sent to you.

I was initially sceptical that I could truly find something every day for over 3 months that would be interesting to anyone else and that would take a decent enough picture to share. Most days, and I’m sure this goes for everything are pretty routine. I have a busy social life but the things I do and see everyday are very samey. Wake, shower, walk, train, walk, work, walk, train, cook, sleep. I might slip in dinner or a drink or something else between the second train and sleep but pretty standard behaviour for most people. I had no major travel plans, no massive life changes like moving house or getting married or having a baby. So would normal life be happy enough?

Having to take a picture of something that made me “happy” everyday made me reassess “happy”. Happy, a bit like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. While one day my cat would make me happy, the next day a glass of wine with friends was my happy place. Looking back over the pictures I have taken the cat actually figures pretty heavily, especially during the week I had a life threatening disease (flu) and didn’t have a shower or get dressed for 4 days (days 18-21).

I’ve taken pictures of trees (day 43), orchids and daffodils; I’ve taken 4 pictures of my legs – 3 clothed and one in the bath; I’ve documented dinner, breakfast and lunch, the music I’ve listened to and the clothes I have worn. I’ve snapped my parents and friends, I even took a picture of my separation agreement.

There are innumerable selfies – I am brunette and blonde (ish), smiling and pouting, alone and with others (including the omnipresent cat). I have enjoyed the experiment so much that I am going to continue – 365 days happy is the next challenge I am setting for myself (if we are friends on Facebook this could get very old very quickly).

What have I learnt? Happy is what you make of it. Looking back over the pictures, distilling my life into 100 captured moments I realise that life is happy and I am very lucky to have it and am priveliged to share it with the people who are in it. Try it – you might find out the same about yours.
If you want to see Charlie’s 100 happy days photos then she is charliechips on Instagram.