Does your MP represent your views?

Pointing finger - does your MP work for you?

Politics. You can’t escape it right now. Whichever side of the Brexit fence you sit, I think it’s fair to say we’re in a hell of a mess which shows no signs of abating. Boris appears to be going bonkers and heading towards dictator/despot status, Rees-Mogg can’t even sit upright, and the government has no majority.

Wowsers!

Like (I think) many people, my interest in politics has developed in the lead up to the Brexit referendum and in the time that has passed since. Prior to that I felt (rightly or wrongly) largely unaffected by the political landscape. I held loose views on the political parties but didn’t feel that what was going on in Westminster really made a difference to my life.

So what changed?

As well as the vote on whether to leave or stay in the EU, which began to shape my views and pique my interest, I have become a more avid and staunch supporter of Dignity in Dying and the rights they campaign for. Following an inoperable prostate cancer diagnosis, my Dad started looking into assisted dying as an insurance policy to avoid what he feared may be a horrible death. Due to the UK law this would have meant travelling to Dignitas in Switzerland, where assisted dying is legal. Dad wasn’t able to progress with his plan due to his doctor denying him access to the necessary medical records, but his wife has since shared their experience with Dignity in Dying, and I was invited to Parliament to a debate in January 2018.

The last assisted dying bill was voted on in 2015, and MPs voted 330 to 118 against a change in the law to allow terminally ill people to end their own lives with medical help. I started to wonder how my own MP, Labour’s Roger Godsiff, had voted.

That’s when I found website They Work For You. Here you can find a history of how your MP has voted on matters that are important you.

I was delighted to find that Mr Godsiff had voted in favour of a change to the law, allowing assisted dying, in both the 2015, and the preceding 1997 vote.

More recently…

You may have seen news coverage earlier this year about protests outside primary schools regarding LGBT teachings. Despite the messages being around acceptance of differences than hardcore gay sex (as you might imagine from the uproar), parents and none parents alike were causing disturbances outside the school in the Birmingham suburbs and withdrawing their children from lessons. While at first covered only locally, in time this reached the national news.

Roger Godsiff was, at first, conspicuous in his silence. Then, even worse, he publicly declared that the protestors were correct to be against the teachings and that they had just cause to be unhappy (despite, it later emerged, having not even read the books that were at the centre of the controversy). Once again I turned to They Work For You, to find out how our Roger had voted on LGBT issues.

Turns out that, up until July this year, Rog couldn’t be bothered to turn up to 4 votes regarding allowing same sex marriage, and voted once against it, in 2013. Funnily enough, in July this year, he voted in favour of allowing same sex marriage in Northern Ireland (where it’s currently still illegal). Now, either he’s had a dramatic change of heart (doubtful) or, as the cynic in me believes, is trying to get back in the good books after his misplaced and archaic comments around LGBT teaching in school (for which he was publicly denounced by fellow Labour members, and reported to the Chief Whip).

Back to Brexit

To give Godsiff his due, he has voted against leaving the EU with no deal. But he did vote in favour of a referendum around EU membership in both 2011 and 2013 – which is what caused this mess in the first place!

Just down the road…

In a neighbouring constituency, Labour MP Jess Phillips is a breath of fresh air. She represents Yardley constituency – with a mix of ethnicity, wealth and education. As recently as yesterday she made headlines in her out and out vocal disdain and distrust of Boris Johnson as the current Prime Minister. She’s straight talking, passionate, and in politics for the people rather than the status. She spoke out against the LGBT protests even though they weren’t happening in her jurisdiction. She has been an active part of protests around cutting funding for schools, so that some can only afford to open 4 or 4.5 days per week (her son is one of thousands of pupils affected).

British politics need more people like Jess Phillips. In touch with the people, wanting the best for the country (rather than self promotion and vanity titles), dare I say young? Not that all older politicians are out of touch, but many of them are.

Find out more about your MP

If you get 5 minutes, have a look at the They Work For You website and get an overview of your local MP. Of course you won’t agree with them on everything. But it’s an interesting read nonetheless. It could well be helpful to you if a General Election happens sooner rather than later!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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30 days has September…

30 days has September - autumn coloured leaves on a wooden surface

…and some of those days will be sad.

It’s 3 years on the 12th of this month since my Dad died, and 3 years on the 30th since his funeral. While I’m mostly able to deal with him not being around on an every day basis, special days and anniversaries still hit me hard. And not just on the day either; I can feel the change coming in the lead up. It probably isn’t perceptible to the outside world, because I try not to show it, but there’s a shift in my thoughts; the frequency with which I think about Dad (even more than normal), the way in which I think about him (how he suffered, what he’s missed since he’s been gone), and how bloody unfair it all is.

Grief is an ever changing beast, and there’s no handbook, so you just have to get on with it and know that it will pass.

Of course September will have happy days too!

It started particularly well with a weekend away in Sheffield with bands, music, friends and fun (and, amazingly, no hangover!) The highlight will be next week, a week in my favourite place in Greece with my husband (thanks to Airbnb cancelling our New York accommodation!), during which we’ll celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary. Sadly that date is also the day Dad died, but maybe having something to celebrate helps to alleviate the pain a little. We’ll also be in a place that was very special to my Dad, a place he loved, so we’ll raise a glass of wine and eat amazing food and remember him fondly. Then I’ll probably cry and fall into bed drunk!

I’ve posted before about my general disdain for September anyway; purely because it signals the end of summer and beginning of autumn (which is NOT something to get excited about, no matter how much people try to persuade me!) but having a week in the sun to look forward to certainly takes the edge off that.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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Days out: Warner Bros. Studios Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter

When I bought tickets to the Making of Harry Potter for my sister’s 21st birthday, I hadn’t seen any of the films or read any of the books. I was never part of the Harry Potter phenomenon, as I was 19 when the first book was released, so it kind of passed me by.

In fact, up until a few days before we went, I still hadn’t seen any of the films. We established that I’d probably need to see the first three in order to appreciate anything about the studio tour, so I binge watched them over 3 nights and off we went.

I must admit I didn’t have high hopes for the tour; I expected it to be OK but not brilliant, and probably overpriced for what there is on offer. How wrong I was! There’s so much to see and do, with interactive attractions, photo opportunities and lots of different scenes and props.

It’s your birthday!

Excitingly for my sister, they asked if anyone was celebrating their birthday before we went into the Great Hall, and she was the only one, so she got to open the famous huge wooden doors!

I felt super poorly on the day, having the WORST cold, aches and pains, snotty nose and looking dog rough, all topped off with a 2 hour drive that took over 3 hours, but I couldn’t resist a couple of cheeky poses!

Diagon Alley was my absolute favourite – the lighting colours changed and it was really atmospheric. Just like the real thing!

The tour finishes with a model of Hogwarts, which was absolutely beautiful and mesmerising. The level of detail was incredible, with tiny lights and trees all the way round.

As I said earlier in my post, I didn’t have overly high expectations, and thought the tour wouldn’t be worth the cost of the ticket, but I was wrong. I highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in the Harry Potter series, because it’s so well done. The prop photos and videos which you have to pay for are expensive for what they are (standard for this type of attraction), and the gift shop is extortionate, but there are so many opportunities to do your own thing with photos, and staff dotted around to take pictures for you too.

Have you been to the Making of Harry Potter? Let me know in the comments!

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Visiting Dubrovnik City Walls

Dubrovnik is famous for it’s city walls. Entering the city walls, through Ploce or Pile Gate to gain entry to old town Dubrovnik, is free. Walking the city walls is chargeable, but well worth doing. The walls were originally built as a fortification to protect the city, but are now one of Dubrovnik’s main tourist attractions, and a great way to get a different perspective of the city. They’re also home to some scenes from Game of Thrones, if that’s of interest to you.

Dubrovnik City Walls

The walls are accessed at periodic entry points around the walls. You can buy a ticket online in advance, or buy on the day, which is what we did – from memory it cost about £25 per person, but this also includes entry to Fort Lovrijenac. We started our tour at the entrance nearest to Ploce Gate, and were immediately greeted with lots of steep stone steps. There was moaning and groaning from ourselves and other visitors, especially a group of 5 women just ahead of us with epic hangovers – they got to the top and were already talking about turning round and leaving!

Top tip: try to avoid the heat of the day and take refreshments. There’s very little shelter or cover from the sun up on the walls. There are a couple of cafes which get very busy but aside from that you’re very exposed. We actually changed our plans and brought our visit forward a day to take advantage of some cloud cover, but that soon burned away and it was hot!

Here come the pictures!

Dubrovnik City Walls

There’s a one way system in operation on the walls, which helps to keep people moving and avoid awkwardness on some of the narrower steps. It makes life a lot easier! You can see the throng of people on the picture above, bottom left. It isn’t that crowded all the way around; it thins out as the paths widen and people amble at different speeds.

Because the walls circle the whole city you’ll get views of all vistas – across the red tiled roofs of Old Town, over to Ploce, up to Mt Srd and seawards to Lokrum Island and the horizon.

Dubrovnik City Walls - view from Minceta Tower
View from Dubrovnik City Walls
View of Lokrum Island from Dubrovnik City Walls
View of Lokrum Island from Dubrovnik City Walls
View of Lokrum Island from Dubrovnik City Walls

The picture below is looking back towards Minceta Tower, which was a filming scene in Game of Thrones. The base of Minceta Tower was used as the exterior of House of Undying in the town of Qarth. You can climb up the narrow stone staircase to the top for views over the city.

View of Minceta Tower, Dubrovnik City Walls

Over the water you can see Fort Lovrijenac, which was the filming location for the Red Keep in Kingslanding, for you Game of Thrones fans! Entrance to the Fort is included in the ticket for the walls, but we never got round to getting there. We’d climbed quite enough steps!

View of Fort Lovrijenac from Dubrovnik City Walls
View of Fort Lovrijenac from Dubrovnik City Walls
View of Fort Lovrijenac from Dubrovnik City Walls
View of Fort Lovrijenac from Dubrovnik City Walls

I’ll leave you with some facts and figures about Dubrovnik City Walls

The walls are 1,940 metres long; forming one continual structure. They reach a maximum height of around 25 metres in certain areas. The majority of the land facing walls measure between 4 and 6 metres in thickness. The sea-facing parts are less wide; measuring between 1.5 metres and 3 metres in width. The walls welcome over 1 million visitors each year – a number that is continuing to grow thanks to Game of Thrones, and increasing numbers of cruise ships which dock there over the summer months. Old Town Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has been since 1979.

Have you been to Dubrovnik? Let me know in the comments!

You may also enjoy:

3 days in Dubrvonik

A trip to Lokrum Island

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Blogging and me – which one has changed?

My most recent blog post was about my trip to Santorini, which happened 11 months ago. I still haven’t finished writing about Dubrovnik, which was 13 months ago. My weekend in Lincoln earlier this year, and my trip to Norway for my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday haven’t seen the light of day.

There was a time when I’d have been chomping at the bit to get these trips written up. When I’d have been vocal about the current political situation, or sharing my latest book purchases.

These days I hardly ever blog. And it got me wondering why?

My job is definitely part of it – I look after the social media accounts and some content creation at the company I work for, and in truth it can zap my creativity! I don’t really feel like getting my laptop out after work, or even at weekends. I used to do much of my blogging during my lunch hour in my previous job, whereas in this job there is a much more social aspect to lunches (and somewhere to actually sit away from our desks!) so I tend to spend my lunchtimes with colleagues rather than writing blog posts. I keep telling myself that I’ll spend maybe one lunchtime a week at my desk doing “life-admin” and catching up on blogging, but it hasn’t happened so far.

I don’t read other blogs as much these days either, and I don’t know why. Are people less prolific in promoting their blog posts on Twitter these days? I don’t seem to see blogging mentioned nearly as much, and I guess I’ve just gotten out of the habit of checking in on my favourite sites (other people seem to be posting less too!)

To conclude…I think both blogging and me have changed. Not necessarily for the worst, but certainly not for the better. My blog was never about views or followers, so that isn’t what’s stopping me from posting. I guess, like many people, I just need to get my mojo back!

Watch this space…!

Is anyone else feeling this way? Is blogging dead? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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Santorini sunsets and a catamaran cruise

For today’s blog post we’re looking back 11 months, as I share my memories of Santorini sunsets. Santorini sunsets are renowned as being part of the experience of visiting the island. But their reputation brings with it popularity and crowds.

I don’t like crowds. But I also don’t like to miss out (FOMO). Therefore there can be a juxtaposition between wanting to experience something, and not wanting to experience it, if that makes sense. A dichotomy.

Before we flew out for our week in Santorini I’d seen people I follow on Instagram commenting about how busy the main sunset spots get in Oia, which is where we were staying. Comments from “get there a couple of hours early to bag a good spot”, through to “pre-book a restaurant overlooking sunset”, and “don’t be fooled by the photos, there are people everywhere” made me a little bit wary of what was to come. Not least because the husband is a temperamental bugger (ask him, he’ll admit it) who would rather miss out than put up with unfavourable circumstances.

After our first afternoon foray into the centre of Oia left us feeling overwhelmed, it was an unspoken agreement that we wouldn’t be joining the hordes of people all clambering for the best view and the best photos, and instead would enjoy it from afar.

The location of our hotel was right on the edge of the village; a fact we were most glad about considering how busy the centre was. The pool didn’t have a full on sunset view, but we were able to sit outside enjoying the changing colours in the sky as the sun headed to the horizon.

Caldera views

Over the road from our hotel however, we were able to sit on the caldera wall and look towards the town. Again we didn’t have an uninterrupted view of the sun meeting the horizon, but the silhouette of the church domes and village buildings against the red sky were absolutely beautiful.

An afternoon on the water

In order to get the full “sun hits the sea and descends into darkness” experience, we headed out to the water. We booked an afternoon catamaran cruise with Sunset Oia which left from Amoudi Bay at around 2pm with around 50 people and 10 crew on board. We sailed away from Oia and out for a swim in the sea near Nea Kamini – a small uninhabited island which was created by the volcanic explosion which gave the island it’s unusual shape back in 1646BC.

Following that it was out into the open water, the catamaran gliding through the waves as the sun sparkled on each and every ripple. We sailed towards the South of the island, stopping off for more swimming at Red Beach and White Beach, before heading back towards Oia in time for that all important sunset.

At almost £100 each the cruise was far from cheap, but we had an absolutely fantastic day. Unlimited drinks were included (we drank a lot of white wine!) and a freshly barbecued lunch of souvlaki, fresh salad, feta cheese and olives – all the amazing Greek essential food groups! Plus it meant we got to see an uninterrupted sunset in all it’s glory, with no pushing for a good spot and – more importantly – no moaning from the husband!

Have you been to Santorini? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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How I’m dealing with getting older

Getting older - field of flowers with mountain background

Getting older. It’s a privilege not afforded to everyone so I try really hard not to be ungrateful about it. The alternative is an early death which, unsurprisingly, I’m even less keen on. So getting older it is.

I don’t have a problem with the getting older per se. I don’t miss going out clubbing, or wearing teeny tiny clothes, or functioning on 3 hours sleep. I’m happy pottering at home in my garden and that’s fab. Going to bed after 11 is a late night. I wear comfy cotton pants instead of undercarriage flossing thongs. With age has come a calmness and happiness I didn’t have in my 20s. Passing years have enabled me to do so many things that only come with time and experience, including travelling to many different countries and cities across the world. My earnings cover the lifestyle I have and want. I have a long and happy marriage under my belt and a strong and fun relationship. I’m very content with where I am in that respect.

So what’s the problem?

Truth be told (cringing a little bit at this) part of my problem with getting older is that I’m now surrounded by younger people at work who don’t tell me I don’t look/act my age. Ha, there, I’ve said it! Up until my most recent job I’ve worked mainly with people who are a similar age or older. In my current role there are a lot of people who are younger than me, including my manager, and it seems to have had this weird effect on me where I constantly point out my age / call myself old / talk about when I was younger…AND NO-ONE TAKES THE BAIT!! What they’re supposed to say is “you don’t look any older than us” or “I can’t believe you’re 41”. Stupid work colleagues.

Vanity

Coupled with that, vanity cards on the table, another problem is how I look. I don’t think I look that different, but if no one is picking up on my (not so subtle) hints, then I must do. I’ve started becoming very aware of wrinkles, wanting botox and/or considering a fringe. I’ve even started using face cream more regularly! I’m heavier than I’d like to be which is could be because I enjoy a life of eating and drinking, but could also be down to getting older and a slower metabolism (I’ll keep telling myself that).

Writing it all down sounds, quite frankly, ridiculous, and I’m almost tempted to delete this post and never publish it but I think it’s important to be honest here on this blog, and maybe other women my age will read it and not feel such a loser if they have similar thoughts.

I wouldn’t go back to being in my 20s for anything (not that it’s a possibility anyway), so I need to just get a grip and embrace “the gift of life” (ha ha, I can’t pull that hippy BS off!) Failing that, does anyone know a good botox practitioner?!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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5 things that make me feel like a grown up

Feeling like a grown up - small girl with hands up in the air

Being a grown up is a funny thing. Most people of a certain age, at least in my social circle, say they don’t feel like a grown up, and can’t believe where the years have gone. To me, being a grown up is being a responsible adult, which I don’t always class myself as! That said, there are occasions when it hits me that “woah, I am!”

Most recently was last weekend, when I spent £48 of my hard earned cash on a green recycling bin. Aside from the fact I have to pay when there are other local borough councils who issue them for free, I got really excited about it being delivered! Then got really excited about filling it! The ivy in our back garden has taken a bit of a battering as a result, but at least I feel like I’m properly getting my monies worth.

Here are 5 more things that make me feel like a grown up

Buying myself fresh flowers for the house

Younger me would NEVER have spent money on something so frivolous, but older me feels really together and mature at buying blooms for my dining table

Life admin

Self explanatory really; pensions and life insurance and really complicated but VERY IMPORTANT stuff. I’m currently trying to change our life insurance policy and it gives me a headache.

Cooking a roast dinner

A roast dinner is a grown up meal cooked by a grown up, no? There are so many different elements, and timings. It feels like a grown up way to feed people. I love cooking a roast dinner, especially with a couple of cheeky vinos!

Ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant

There’s something so grown up about going out for dinner and ordering a bottle of wine to share with the husband. Perusing a wine menu seems very mature to someone who orders wine by the glass based on price and percentage! As does paying over the odds for something you could probably get at half the price in the supermarket.

Using a trolley at the supermarket

I use a trolley once a year – at Christmas when I’m buying ALL the food and drink. Most of the time I just get a basket and buy a few bits at a time. Trolleys are for parents with children or people with freezers who buy in bulk or batch cook. Not for people like me!

Are there things that sometimes remind you that you’re an actual real life grown up? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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My first (and last?!) experience with Airbnb

Remember earlier this year when I shared my travel plans for 2019? Including my first foray into Airbnb for a trip to New York in September?

Yeah, that’s not happening anymore.

Last Saturday, with no explanation, I received an email from Airbnb to tell me my 6 night reservation at an apartment in Greenwich Village had been cancelled, and I’d be receiving a refund for monies paid so far.

Say what?

Surely there’s been a mistake?

My first thought was that there must have been some mistake. I sent a message to the host asking him why I’d received the cancellation notice.

Nothing.

I sent a Twitter DM to Airbnb asking if they could help. They checked my personal details and the reservation and confirmed that yes, it was cancelled. Had I contacted the host? (well yeah, duh). In which case they would get a “dedicated case manager” from a “specialised team” to get in touch with me.

In the meantime I obviously started looking for alternative accommodation. We knew when we booked the ill fated apartment that it was incredibly good value for a stay in New York so, unsurprisingly, there was little out there in a similar price range. Hotels were coming up at £600 more than the Airbnb, and there were no other Airbnb apartments in the location we wanted.

Side note – New York accommodation is bonkersly expensive. £200 a night to sleep in a bunk bed with a shared bathroom? Daylight robbery!

Airbnb, while polite, were annoyingly hands off in terms of taking any responsibility. Their response when I asked for some compensation to cover the additional costs of rebooking was “Airbnb is a third party platform that bridges the gap between hosts and guests, and we do not offer compensation when a guest has to cancel a reservation.”

Screw you New York!

At this point we’d pretty much mentally checked out the trip. I’d been in touch with the airline to see if we could get any refund on the flights (we can get the tax refunded, which means losing about £300 total, which is still cheaper than paying £600+ for a hotel).

Meanwhile, the host had responded to advise that his property needs to undergo renovations and repairs (they mus be pretty major, because it’s still 3 months until our trip, sounds a bit fishy to me), and his reply included lots of exclamation marks and a seemingly non genuine apology, so that pissed me off even more!

Airbnb then offered me a £50 coupon (generous…not) and sent through some suggestions of alternative properties, conceding that the coupon wouldn’t cover the difference in cost but it would help. This was then upped to a groundbreaking £75. The apartments were an extra £300. You do the maths.

To cut a long story short…

We decided that one of the suggested apartments might be ok. Wouldn’t have been our first choice, but was better than nothing. And then we went to look into booking it and THE LISTING HAD DISAPPEARED!!!!

What fresh absolute fuckery! Airbnb’s response this time around “if you cannot access the listing then I would assume that it has been removed by the host. We do not have the option to check any further.”

Any last shred of wanting to use them evaporated there and then. Absolutely no faith whatsoever that we wouldn’t end up in the same situation all over again closer to our departure date.

Although I don’t want to use them again, I do now have £75 credit to use within a year! Which means that I inevitably will use them again. Next time will be for a UK stay only where there are no massive repercussions if it does get cancelled, and no flights or travel plans to pay for.

I’ve since heard cancellation stories from 4 different people, which I wish I’d known in advance of the original booking. I had no idea that Airbnb take no responsibility for cancelled bookings. When a host cancels they get charged a 50 dollar “fine” and can’t relist on the Airbnb site during that time period. But if you’ve managed to let your space for more money elsewhere then 50 bucks isn’t going to cause you any heartache.

I’m sure there are way more success stories than negatives out there, but that’s it for me!

Have you ever used Airbnb? Let me know your experiences.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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A life update, and why it’s good to talk

It's good to talk : Wooden scrabble tiles spelling life with text "a life update"

If you’re in the UK and *ahem* of a certain age you might remember the BT adverts with Bob Hoskins declaring “it’s good to talk”. Bob was advertising telephone services. I’m not. But his sentiment is absolutely bang on!

I’ve had quite a lot going on in recent weeks. A weekend away at a festival, a weekend away in Norway, work stuff, family stuff and just stuff. It’s fair to say that my mental health hasn’t been at it’s best. Not in an “I’m going to hide away and not face the world” way. Just feeling a bit jangled and not quite right. It’s hard to explain unless you know, but I’ve been living with my own head for long enough to be able to pinpoint when it’s off kilter. There’s often nothing you can do…just ride it out.

Father’s Day

A contributing factor to the way I’ve been feeling is very likely to be Father’s Day. It’s my third Father’s Day without my Dad this year. It’s a difficult time anyway, but when I’m feeling a bit jangled, I miss him even more. He was a very calming influence in my life and really helped me at times when I was frayed, stressed or angry. He had a way of making me see things more logically instead of my self internalised, often overreacting, often self pitying way. He was a very sensible man, and he was very good at helping me to rationalise.

Now, it’s not that without my Dad I don’t have anyone to speak to. But, for some reason, I have built it up in my head recently that I don’t want to speak about the stuff that’s being going on in my life. So I’ve kept it all in my head, building it up to oversized proportions, feeling like crap, convincing myself that no-one can help me like my Dad could, and basically being a bit of a drama queen! Unfortunately for the husband, he’s been on the receiving end, which is pretty mean of me and for which I have since apologised.

Good news – after reaching boiling point earlier this week, I talked! Well, not so much talked as spewed forth a whole heap of anger, vitriol, stress, upset and frustration. I cried. And I shouted. I said “and another thing” quite a lot.

It’s good to talk

I feel heaps better.

As well as reminding myself that it’s good to talk, I have reminded myself (or been reminded) not to take things personally, not to feel attacked, and that it’s ok that I’m not 100% perfect or successful in everything I do.

Will I remember these lessons? Probably not. But it certainly makes for a happier me in the short term, which makes for a happier husband too!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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