The Sneezing Hour

Normally I would not consider turning my phone on when I’ve been in bed three hours, especially since I already have a very questionable relationship with it, but I have a cold. I think it’s been a while since I waxed lyrical about the imperfections of my immune system and it’s too late to start, but can I just say that I hope whoever gave me this cold ends up in hell. 

I’m snotty enough to not be sleeping and the one tablet I took has given me a stomachache, but the book I’m reading is mediocre and one of the dogs has been woofing at nothing (I checked and we weren’t being burgled) so I thought I’d come and say hello. Make something useful at 1am instead of pretending to count backwards from 1000. I’m not sure if this qualifies as useful but it has distracted me from the stomachache, so that’s one-nil in Francesca vs Phone Addiction. Phone Wastage. 

At least I’m not scrolling through the popular page on Instagram, basically.

I might put the world service on the radio. I might reattempt the book. I might even get to sleep before sunrise, which would be nice because my shifts in the shop are getting longer in the run up to Sunday, I have vaccinations tomorrow and I have to go out to dinner sometime. Friday? God, Friday’s tomorrow.

I think foxes are waking the dogs up. I can hear both Donnie and foxes yapping. Unless one of the neighbours’ dogs escaped. Weirder shit has happened on my street. I almost wish my ears were even more bunged up because if they keep it up (Don or the foxes) I will have to get up to observe (foxes) and subdue (Donnie). And I have gotten comfortable in the space of this paragraph. Haven’t even sneezed for five minutes.

I think I will chance the book again. I really do need to get some sleep at some point. As I am on my phone I do not have a fun gif to share to emphasise that, but I guess retro/vintage is in fashion. And I have missed popping in to chat whenever I fancy it, not that anything’s really been stopping me lately. Too bad ‘whenever’ has become ‘the witching hour when I’m sharing a bed with a dozen snot-soaked tissues’. Whatever.

See you when it’s light out.

Introducing the Whitest White Girl Problem I’ve Ever Had, ft. Headspace

I was in a bad mood before breakfast this morning and that’s not really happened since I was 15, so I’m going to ask what you guys think about it. I’ve thought about it all day and I’m pretty sure my irritation was completely unfounded… but I couldn’t switch it off and in the interests of personal growth, here goes:

You guys know I use the Headspace app, right? Emma Watson recommended it on Twitter in 2013 and since 2013 was almost as bad as 2016, I gave it a go and have used it, on and off, ever since. Last November I hit a run streak, as they call it, and meditated every day for a week… a month… six months… A couple of weeks ago I hit a year. One entire year of making the effort to sit for 10 or 15 minutes a day and pay attention to my mental health. 365 full days! Okay so sometimes I snatched 3 minutes while I was getting ready to go out, or did the sleeping exercise when I was already 95% asleep, because I was at 232 days and dammit I wanted to hit the next milestone and get an email from Headspace congratulating me. But I did it. I CAN COMMIT.

I carried on after 365 days, partly because I could and partly because the app really works. I always feel better for having taken time out for myself, although it’s a really hard sensation to explain without sounding like a hippie (I literally feel like there is more space in my head. What a well-named product). Yesterday I fell asleep before I finished the session or I left the app open or something, and this morning the counter had zipped back to 1. I was unreasonably upset about it. I felt like the previous 380-something days had been for nothing. I was useless. I should have found time in the day to do it instead of falling asleep partway through. Why couldn’t I just have done better.

FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS feat. HEADSPACE

I already hit the highest milestone on there. I already exceeded my own expectations, both by meditating every day for a year and then by carrying on to meditate for a couple of weeks after. Headspace, and the thinking behind it, is firmly ingrained in my day-to-day life. I am way more chill than I was a year ago, and way better at dealing with horrible situations. So why did I feel like I had let myself down?

I’m over it now, I think… so far today I’ve scratched out two thirds of my to-do list, bought some Christmas presents and successfully avoided the temptation to stop at any of the chocolate stockists/coffee shops in Southend mid-shopping trip. And seriously there’s a coffee chain on every corner my bank account should be murmuring its thanks. So I’m having a Good Day. I’ve had a pretty good week, actually. I don’t currently want to hide from my life, which is always a pleasant sensation.

I just spent half an hour this morning wallowing in completely unfounded self loathing. Do you ever feel like that? Have you ever been unreasonably harsh on yourself? Do I have a complex? If I could afford a therapist I wouldn’t be using Headspace, so help me out.

In Which I’m Drowning in Striped Paper Bags

In the interests of coming home to an organised life Etsy stockpile, I emptied out one of my storage containers so I could refill the drawers more neatly… except I can’t decide how best to store everything, and I’m having a crisis over whether or not I need to buy more supplies before I leave. My mum’s offered to ship orders while I’m away so I don’t need to deactivate any listings, but I counted out my business cards and envelopes and there isn’t enough to cover every potential order there might be.

I know that realistically I don’t need to panic-buy supplies until a few weeks in December because by then hopefully a lot more orders will have sold and I’ll have a better idea of what’s going to be left in January…  but I don’t like waiting, and in the mean time I’m surrounded by approximately three reels of ribbon, thirty paper bags, a set of return address labels, old postcards I can’t shift, a gift box and some price tags to name but a few and I don’t know how to organise any of them.

And no I’m not going to take a photo because the level of untidiness has passed ‘interesting’ and landed on ‘chaotic’. Not Insta friendly.

Possibly I will go and browse Pinterest for Marie Kondo tips. Possibly I will fall asleep on my keyboard and wake up to find house elves have organised everything for me. Possibly it’s time for a YouTube playlist and some elbow grease.

While I’m off alphabetising labels, you can find my Etsy here (and if you’re in the UK, get free P&P on orders over £8 with SNOWFLAKE16). PLEASE ORDER SOON SO I CAN WORK OUT HOW MANY ENVELOPES TO PANIC-BUY THANK YOU. You’ll also get free worldwide postage from Friday through Monday on all individually-listed postcards, because I have lots of spare postcards of designs I don’t print any more and looking at them all lonely makes me anxious.

Seriously please take them.

Turns of Phrase That Can Go Fuck Themselves (part one, probably)

Look, we all hate certain words and phrases. Here are some that make me automatically loathe the person using them.

The word ‘poorly’

One is ill, or sick, or unwell, or puking, or suffering from a mild boat of putrid throat. I don’t think one is ever really poorly, because it only seems to be brandished about when well-meaning adults want to tell you about a serious illness but don’t want to frighten you with actual details.

We got it at school when teachers told us how ‘Michaela is feeling a little poorly today’. Translation:  ‘Michaela recently drank chemicals from the science kit in the toy box and is now vomiting blood but we don’t want you to panic.’

‘The dog’s a bit poorly at the moment, he’s in with the vet.’ Translation: ‘we’ll probably have to euthanise but we don’t want you to cry until it’s absolutely unavoidable.’

Or it’s used during stories of when I was in an incubator getting my left lung drained. ‘Oh darling you were quite poorly!’ exclaims Theresa. Translation: Theresa is not emotionally equipped to express what she’s thinking without using the words ‘that’s completely shit and the world is fucking awful sometimes’.

Theresa, I won’t mind if you say ‘that’s completely shit’. Because, even when you are trying to prepare your nine year old for the possibility their beloved pet is about to go on his final walk, there is rarely a kind way to cover up the truth. Maybe find an alternative word for shit, though.

People who say ‘pee’ instead of ‘pence’

As in ‘the Browns have pawned their grandma’s china and earned themselves thirty four pounds and fifteen pee.’

No dude it’s written 15p

because it is an abbreviation

the word is pence

as in, Mike the dickhead governor.

The word ‘bugbear’

You could say the it’s my bugbear.

Tim Minchin Jesus Christ Superstar
I have no idea where this is from but THANK YOU to whoever made it you gem.

But seriously where did it come from? ‘Pet hate’ makes sense. We all have little, ultimately insignificant irritations in our lives that we love to moan about. We adore and cherish these little dislikes, and sometimes we cultivate them into something we’re known for, like ‘never chew with your mouth open in front of Sally’. Mine include: my neighbour who got a driveway but always parks in the space the rest of us could use, Tumblr users who forget the world exists outside their ideal of it and people who think I’ll embrace Brexit. Oh, and the word poorly. We need pet hates because they distract us from big hates, like Donald Trump’s supporters, and if we focused on them we would wish we were dead.

But bugbear needs to fuck off.

What are your most hated words and phrases? Do other people even have any? COMPLAIN BELOW.

Christmas in September, and Other Small Ways I Damn My Soul to Hell

I wasn’t sure of a lot growing up – books disintegrate in the bath some days, but on others they just go crackly and if that’s not a sign the universe is a risky place, I don’t know what is –  but I was sure of one thing: Christmas marketing in September is for wankers. There is a pure and fiery place in hell for the motherfuckers in charge of Clintons and Smiths and Sainsburys who decide to introduce Christmas stock before schools go back. Before Halloween. Before I’m ready to put my shorts away and get out my scarves.

dishonour-andersonhale-tumblrcow-andersonhale-tumblr

Winter is coming, hiss advent calendars and crackers. The year is nearly over, whisper tablecloths and novelty teapots. We want to access your bank account and bleed you dry, murmur the fake Christmas trees.

DIE IN A HOLE, I retort as I browse for factor 15 or Halloween confetti or regular teapots. YOU WILL NEVER CONVINCE ME THAT CHRISTMAS SHOULD START UNTIL AFTER BONFIRE NIGHT.

I feel like this every year. It’s bad enough that Christmas is expensive and loses its magic a bit more every year; I won’t be bullied into buying cheap seasonal cushion covers. And yet recently I’ve realised that I’m well on my way to becoming a giant hypocrite. I preach, but I don’t practise.

Because here’s a fact they don’t pin to gondolas in Debenhams: when you run a shop, even a tiny one on Etsy, Christmas has to start in July at the latest. It has to. Because if you start it any later, you may as spend the rest of the year with your feet up, picturing money you’ll never hold going down the drain.

There’s stock to order and goals to set, last year’s stats to analyse and shipping times to work out. There’s Black Friday game plans and seasonal packaging, contingency plans and Instagram graphics.There’s custom orders versus regular ones, craft fair table decorations and notes on scrap paper as you calculate how much cash you can tie up in products that might sell. If you’re an artist and you carve out time in your day to make art, you carve up that part of the day to become an accountant, a marketing manager, a PR officer, an HR admin – even more than you would the rest of the year. You worry over minute photo details, because that’s where the devil lives, and rewrite product descriptions until you fall in love with a postcard you’ve seen every day for a year. You sign up to newsletters to learn about ‘streamlining your shipping station’ and ‘managing your brand’.

You actually find it kind of fun, because the aim is to earn as much money from your art as you can during the most affluent time of year… and if you were happy just to make the art, you wouldn’t have started an Etsy shop.

By the first of October, you think you’ve got it. You’ve got notes and stock and to do lists and you can picture yourself emerging from the January sales with triumphant fistfuls of profit that make those fourteen hour work days worth it.

And then you remember –

Halloween is in a few weeks. It’s supposed to be your dry run.

You’d better dig out last year’s stats and grab your confetti. The time for targeted marketing isn’t 6th November, it’s now.

bats-and-paper-bags-and-string-they-are-a-few-of-my-favourite-things

You’re all getting little plastic bats if you order from me until the 31st. You might get little plastic snowflakes in November and December. There’s money in the nation’s pockets and I’d rather it went to me than to Debenhams.

I probably deserve to get cheap seasonal cushion covers for Christmas, but I promise I will never try to sell you a novelty tea pot.

Is It Just Me or Do the Olympics Prompt a Breakdown

I’ve been having really odd reactions to the Olympics so please help me out and tell me if you’ve experienced anything similar (no, I’m not talking about checking out the Team GB diving team, although I do encourage you to do that). When I’m watching TV, usually with a plate of food or a cup of tea, I either think:

This is so incredibly inspiring. Look at that perfectly regular human being who has worked their bones into dust for four-plus years to become one of the best sportspeople in the world. They are so deserving of our attention even if they don’t win anything because they are a testament to the human spirit and work ethic. I think I will put down my food and do my physio and go for a run tomorrow.

Or:

That person is my age. That person is five years younger than me. What was I doing five years ago? I was blogging about MCR, which has clearly propelled me into a fascinating, rewarding and financially secure life. That person has more visible muscles on their stomach than I do in all my limbs. I’ve been curled on Instagram checking out Team GB’s diving team for approximately four hours and haven’t done physio for days. But I’m actually just going to eat some carbohydrates and compare myself to a world class gymnast, and feel bitter that my PE teachers were nearly all so shit that I’ll never know if I could have been able to do a somersault.

BELOW AVERAGE from The Perks of Being a Wallflower from taylorbtw.tumblr.com
from taylorbtw.tumblr.com

Sometimes I veer from one reaction to another in the time it takes an athlete to fall off a pommel horse. Sometimes I eat carbs then do physio then eat more carbs. Is anyone else experiencing this? Is there a cure?

One thing I do like about the Olympics is the idea of working in four year cycles towards a goal. Athletes aiming for the Olympics have a clear deadline and an ambition that will get them out of bed when they would rather be anywhere but where they are, and I could do with that – or anything that would help me focus on something that isn’t my growing resentment toward everything I’ve ever done to ensure I’m a money-strapped freelancer with a broken desk chair and a complicated CV.

This isn’t me drowning in self pity; four years ago I had just finished my GCSEs and was in the middle of learning that supermarket bread wanted to kill me, and now I’m a healthier-ish indie writer who was self employed at 18 with zero debts and a burgeoning business. Not many 20 year olds can say that they decided what they wanted to and immediately did it. My life is not terrible.

But I want it to be better.

I think I might work on those four year goals.

Well, It’s a Good Thing We Weren’t Planning on Winning Eurovision Again

I thought I’d let the dust settle on last Thursday before attempting to write a coherent sentence about it, but at this rate that won’t happen until 2025, so I thought I might as well write anyway.

I’ve not had a hugely pleasant week, to be honest. It’s hard to run marketing campaigns when no one’s reading anything but the news, and it’s hard to have conversations with your family when they all think you’re stupid and wrong (and patronising when you try to explain why you’re not). The fact Nigel Farage now has more political klout than the leader of the opposition is just a mild irritant at this point, although I am genuinely angry that a small portion of racists now think half the population agrees with them – and that half the population now think the other half think they’re all racists… and that I recently renewed my EHIC and might not get my money’s worth.

Gerard Way gun GIF MTV Live
This one never, ever runs out of uses. from sunshinethekatt.tumblr.com

I’ve been tempted a lot over the past few years to pack up and try being a digital nomad (digital nomading?!), and this week I actually found myself doing the maths. To cut a long story short, I won’t be nomading anywhere for a while, at least not until I pass my driving test and learn how to Skype on the move, but I could feasibly visit every country in the EU for a long weekend (a long weekend per country, not a long weekend for all 27 countries) assuming I checked my emails while I was there. I don’t generally like to plan my life in advance, but assuming we’ll be out of Europe by the end of 2018, I could visit everywhere including Lichtenstein (assuming I learn where it is) for a few days without bankrupting myself. If I didn’t eat much on the road and did all of Eastern Europe in one go.

I will continue working on this plan in the coming months. I will also continue walking the other way in certain social situations. If I post on Twitter that I’ve upped sticks to Bruges or Krakow or Helsinki, assume I kept walking.

Also, tell me your own awkward family dinner table conversations. Let’s make a scale from ‘slightly condescending’ to ‘I nearly threw gravy’ and compare notes on staying friends with people you used to be friends with. I think a guide could be useful.

Adulthood is a Lie

I’ve given it some thought in recent days (and weeks and months and years) and I’ve come to the conclusion that adults are dicks. ‘Don’t lie,’ they tell us when someone’s scribbled on the wallpaper. ‘You must always tell the truth.’ So, adults: why did you spend the first two decades of our lives telling us we were heading toward adulthood? You knew we weren’t. You knew you were lying because when you reached your late teens and your early twenties, you realised that you’d been lied to by your parents. You weren’t heading toward adulthood, either. You were just heading toward an age where you were expected to act like you knew what you were doing, to take vague responsibility for your choices and to get up at the same time every day in order to hold down a job.

In three months’ time I will have turned 21 and officially passed the point at which I can make terrible decisions and expect people to indulge me. In a few years I’ll be expected to have gotten my youthful whimsies out of the way and to have a steady job and concrete life plans (I nearly added ‘a home of my own’ there too, but nobody’s that optimistic). I’ll be allowed to drink too much, make terrible purchases on the Internet and forget people’s birthdays, but not for much longer. Young adulthood is the very last stop before actual adulthood, at which point I will become familiar with terms like compound interest and stamp duty.

Except I actually won’t, will I, because adulthood is a lie. No one knows what stamp duty is. No one remembers all the birthdays. No one reaches any age and thinks ‘I’ve really got my shit together, I’m officially a successful human being!’ What’s the measure? Opening a savings account, maybe. Raising children who aren’t serial killers, maybe. Learning to fix the fuse box, maybe.

You don’t reach adulthood, you survive long enough to do things you didn’t or couldn’t do as a child. And if you can’t or don’t want to do them, you improvise and hope. I know this both from my own tentative steps into responsibility and from listening to adults tell stories of improvising.

No one has a clue what they’re doing.

I’m not sure what to do with this information. If I were the preaching sort, I would dedicate my life to educating children about the world’s biggest cover up.

I may yet still do that.