Tips for walking to work

Hola! So, as I wrote last time, I’m now in a new job! Most days, I walk to work and very often walk back too (childcare pick up allowing…) This is fine, except it’s just short of 3 miles each way. I like to walk- I like to see the seasons changing and stomp out any tension. Plus, I had to decide whether I was willing to pay gym fees or after school club fees and, as it’s generally frowned upon to to send your kid to the pub for a few hours after school, my money goes on having him looked after.

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(5)

I am very much dressed for the weather here, although I look miserable.

I’ve been walking to work since I was temping in September and I do really love it- but there are a few things that have made my life easier and more comfortable, which is super important when you’re walking so much everyday.

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(2)

  • Breakfast- I will usually have a cup of tea and a smoothie made of Adagio’s Chocolate Matcha, banana and oat milk. This is good, because a) it means I have a banana before I’ve even woken up properly and b) I like to think that the matcha does me *some* good. It doesn’t have an overly chocolatey taste, but gives it a nice sweetness- just enough for the morning. I might also try and have something like toast or I’ll take something like oatcakes to eat at work, especially as the walk can make me really hungry. I also like using oat milk because it gives the smoothie a bit of a porridgey flavour and a bit of a fibre hit, which is obviously good (I think.)

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(1)

  • What I wear on my feet is very important, especially on a long walk. I will wear Doc Martens if the weather is bad, but they’re heavy. My go-to boots and shoes are Sketchers- they have memory foam and are lightweight, meaning I feel lighter on my feet and my legs don’t ache at the end of the day. (Benn bought me some Sketchers slippers for Christmas too. My feet feel permanently heavenly- and my posture is good as a result, too.)
  • I’d also recommend a good backpack- I hate my arms being restricted! I currently use one I picked up ages ago from the Ollie and Nic sale, but I’m on the hunt for something bigger- along the the lines of the Jansport bag I coveted at school but never got.

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(3) The biggest things that have made the most difference to my walking commute though, are the following:

  • A good antiperspirant- no-one wants to be stinky! I experimented with different brands and found that this one is the best. Also, there’s no point wearing fancy perfume when you’re walking. I’ve resorted to bodysprays and lament the fact that Impuse no longer make Zen and/or O2 scents. Considering a Twitter campaign.
  • Keep Cup– I bought mine in November and I use it mostly on cold days, when I need warming up. With Pret and Costa offering money off hot drinks, and concern about the environment, this is just a bit of a no-brainer for me. Fun fact: as a result of taking this into work, I have caused six other people to buy one. Am awaiting my commission.
  • Bluetooth headphones and Spotify- I used to have rubbish headphones and a rubbish phone. It took ages to listen to anything and I spent a long time trying to get anything to work. My in-laws bought me a great pair of headphones and I treated myself to Spotify Premium and it has honestly improved my commute no end. I have podcasts and playlists and I can honestly say that I look forward to my walk to work every day. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before.

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(4)

*All of these products are here because I love them- there are no affiliate links on this post. I was sent the matcha to review, but will be purchasing this once my sample runs out!

 

 

 

Postnatal depression, music and me

A weird thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago and because we haven’t had any wi-fi, I haven’t been able to write about it (even though I really, really wanted to.)

Back in July, I was listening to Lauren Laverne on BBC6 Music; as part of the show, she has a weekly feature called ‘Memory Tapes’. I’d been listening to a girl talking about her life and listening to Sigur Ros as she flew over Iceland and I thought maybe I could email in my own memory tape. So I did- and promptly forgot all about it. Except about two weeks later, I got an email back asking if I would be free to be on the show on August 10th. OBVIOUSLY, I said yes.

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Source: BBC6Music

My memory tape had been built around Benn and D, specifically songs that reminded me of key moments in my life with both- and I mentioned in my email (it’s on this page here) that I had struggled with PND. Although I’d never been explicit about my struggle with it online, I have been vocal about it away from social media and the blog. I knew that this element interested the producers of the show and I was determined to talk about it openly. So I did. (Despite the aforementioned lack of wi-fi making it bloody hard work to organise the whole thing.)

Now, I’m a massive fan of Lauren and have been for years, so I was dead nervous. Turns out, she’s absolutely lovely and encouraging. It was a bit weird hearing her do radio stuff before my call was cued in, but I tried hard to focus on what was being asked. I talked about how music was the anchor that threaded together my memories of D’s early months-I have huge swathes of stuff that’s forgotten or unknown to me and I can piece them together through a few songs. I spoke about how I knew I was lucky that I had had an excellent health visitor and GP, but that I knew not everyone was so fortunate. I guess I wanted people to know that you can get through it, but that we need to be more open and less dismissive when someone asks for help with their mental health. It took me months to admit that there was something wrong; when I was pregnant, I’d been assessed by a team as to how likely I was to get PND. They had been happy with my prognosis and I felt a bit of a failure when I realised something was up. In fact, I’d gone to the doctor about something else when it all came out. I am so, so grateful that she picked me up so quickly. It meant that it was nipped in the bud relatively early, although I would continue to be on medication until D was nearly three.

The aftermath of the call was slightly surreal; people sent lovely messages to the show which were read out on air and I had loads of supportive tweets. It felt good to talk about something that has been so important and shaped my life not so long ago. I’m fine now, but I know how it felt to not be fine. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Keep asking until you get it. Don’t be fobbed off.

After the call had gone out, I received an email asking if I minded if it went on the website- they’d had a huge response. Of course, I said it was fine. If you want to listen to it, it’s here. (Weirdly, I sound so much like my sister, it’s *creepy*.) I don’t know if it helped anyone, but hopefully it showed that PND is something that can be overcome with the right support. We need to talk about it more openly and make it less taboo to discuss it; to listen when someone asks for help and to notice maybe when they are unable to.

Moving day!

Today, after four years, we’re leaving our flat. Although some of our happiest memories are of here, it’s time to move on. I won’t miss the damp patches, the moths or the upstairs neighbours. I will miss the garden, the higher disposable income and the seemingly endless built in storage…

Anyway, I won’t be posting for a few days until we get the internet back up and running. I thought I’d leave a perfect moving playlist (warning: it’s a bit 90’s-tastic!)

Supergrass- Moving

Everyone needs a bit of excellent Britpop when on the move, I think.

Primal Scream- Movin’ On Up

Bit apt this, really. We’re moving on up… to a house with actual stairs and everything.

Five- Keep on Movin’

Although I’d rather not keep on moving, but this is a chirpy little song nonetheless. I don’t understand why there’s a man washing up in the video though.

M People: Moving on Up

Another song about moving up…

See you in a few days!

 

 

 

Rumours

A few weeks ago, in the middle of the night, I had a bit of meltdown. The reason isn’t really important now, as everything sorted itself out pretty quickly, but it did mean I spent a restless night and an exhausted day with a cloud of something depressing hanging over me.

During that day, I played the album ‘Rumours’ by Fleetwood Mac. I don’t quite know why I picked that album to listen to on Spotify, but I have a feeling it’s to do with a tweet by Caitlin Moran and the fact that Benn’s dad plays it quite a lot in the car. It was an album that I knew all the songs to, without ever actually realising I did. (It turns out that my mum played it a lot when she was expecting me. Apparently, babies retain a memory of music they heard in the womb, even if they don’t realise it.) The songs are pretty familiar to lots of people my age, even if it’s not cool to admit that they are.

What’s brilliant about the album, even if you’re not a fan, is that the songs ‘read’ like the chapters in a novel. Everyone has heard the stories about the complicated love lives of the musicians, which is pretty brilliantly discussed in this joke:

The whole album  is bittersweet and you can imagine that recording it wasn’t a comfortable thing to do. Despite this, it’s a brilliant album with so much contained in its brief 40-minute playing time. There are songs of despair and pessimism on the album, but the most well-known are the ones full of optimism and spirit; everyone knows ‘Go Your Own Way’ and ‘Don’t Stop’. I think the song most people my age know of is ‘Dreams’, after its cover by the Corrs (which I listened to before writing this piece and, oh my words, is that a dated piece of work. All 90s electro-drum beat and bad eye makeup on poor, beautiful Andrea Corr in the video.)  But ‘Dreams’ as it stands is a beautiful song.

What I’ve found interesting since thinking about this album is that it’s cool to worship Stevie Nicks (particularly amongst young women), but it’s not cool to like Fleetwood Mac. I wonder why this is?

Anyway, after a frustrating day of listening to the album on Spotify, what with its endless adverts and missing tracks, Benn decided to buy the album for me for my birthday. And I’ve been listening to it pretty solidly ever since.

 

What’s the matter with Lana Del Rey?

I have had ‘Video Games’ stuck in my head for the last week. I don’t particularly like it, but there it is. I’ve not really paid attention to the hype; I was vaguely aware of her on Jools Holland a few months ago and I knew that ‘Video Games’ was a cooler song to say you liked than, say, ‘Moves Like Jagger’ (some people have no taste. I love that song.) But this week, the hype has upped ridiculously, due to the release of her new album ‘Born to Die.’ Although I don’t care for the song, or Del Rey’s persona, I’ve been pretty puzzled by the vitriol she attracts. There are whole websites dedicated to dismissing her.

I understand that if someone becomes successful (and it looks like ‘Born to Die’ will be the number 1 album  in the UK this week), criticism invariably follows. But some of the stuff I’ve seen this week has been utterly ridiculous. You’d think, if people hated her so much, they’d stop talking about her; maybe the online critics doth protest too much. After all, it’s much cooler to hate something everyone else loves, right?

The main criticisms seem to be as follows:

1) She’s changed her name from plain old Lizzy Grant to Lana Del Rey. This is apparently proof of the fact that she’s fake and should be dismissed instantly. But there hasn’t been outrage at the name changes of Stefanie Germanotta (Lady Gaga) or Myra Amos (Tori Amos). Hell, even Caitlin Moran was given a different name at birth- no one questions the validity of her writing because of this. And forgive me, for I’m a bit young to remember, but nobody was doubting the work of David Bowie, Prince or Freddie Mercury because they changed their names, were they? Show business has always been about creating and maintaining alternate images, so I don’t get the sudden anger in this particular case.

2) She’s from a rich family, she hasn’t had to try as hard; her dad was able to financially back her career. Lots of singers have been fortunate enough to be born into well-off families. Lady Gaga was sent to very exclusive New York schools. Beyonce attended stage school, which her parents probably paid for. Parents generally support their offspring, it’s kind of a given thing, right? Whilst Lana Del Rey’s dad might have gone above and beyond in the supporting stakes, it’s really no different to those parents who encouraged their children to be in the Mickey Mouse Club (Britney, Christina and Justin, to name a few.)

3) She’s changed her face! Those aren’t her lips! Why are we discussing this? Is she famous because she might’ve got collagen injections? No, there must be more to it. She signed up to a better record label to the one she was with before, who saw something they could market and ultimately make money from. It’s not because she had fillers put in her face.  (And yes, I’m guilty of discussing her facial change. It’s only after looking at stuff on the internet that I’ve come to these conclusions. I feel bad.) Loads of singers have plastic surgery. Cher changed her nose, loads of singers had breast implants. It’s not unusual in this day and age, is it?

4) She doesn’t write her own songs! Neither does Beyonce. Or Britney.

So, really, those are pretty shallow reasons to hate someone and declare them ‘fake’, right? I mean, I don’t really like the whole ‘gangster/Nancy Sinatra’ look she’s going for and I really dislike some of the lyrics in her songs, as they seem to be trading on a whole schtick where her entire life centres around the man in her life, rather than being a person in her own right. That disturbs me, as I thought we’d moved away from a lot of those sentiments.

But I can’t deny that ‘Video Games’ is catchy. I wish it wasn’t, but seeing as I’ve spent the week humming it and I’ve watched the video a couple of times, it clearly has something. And Lana Del Rey can sing, although whether that’s after it’s been played with in a studio and not as her voice actually is is debatable. But really, at the end of the day, she’s just a young woman who is succeeding in a career that not everyone could cope with and that is very hard to achieve. So, you know, maybe it’s just jealousy.

I do think ‘Born to Die’ is a terrible title for an album though. It smacks of teenage goth.