You’re Doing it Wrong

So, how are your New Year’s resolutions going? If they’re making you miserable, you’re doing it wrong.

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Resolutions usually involve giving things up, but I think that’s just because we’re blaming our problems on the obvious rather than identifying and resolving their root cause. We get so caught up in the routines we’ve fallen into sometimes that we don’t realise when we’re unhappy; or, more importantly, why. New Year’s resolutions are the perfect chance to reflect on this and make a conscious effort to change things.

Realising that something is hindering your happiness is actually very difficult, especially when everything is ‘fine’, so we often need a little outside help. Fine just doesn’t cut it. Why not ask someone you’re close to if they think you’re happy? If they shrug and reply ‘yeah I guess’ then you’re not. That’s not good enough. Push for details – when do you seem particularly happy? When are you clearly unhappy? Don’t feel like you’re asking too much with this either, that’s what friends and family are for; free therapy.

Once you know when you’re happy, work out why. Places, people, activities – whatever it is do more of it. Place influences our psychology so much more than we realise, but so many of us live in environments we don’t want to when we don’t have to. If you always go somewhere on holiday, why not just move there? Don’t tell me why it wouldn’t work, just find a way. If you’ve allowed hobbies to lapse maybe it’s about time you gave them another go, even if you haven’t done them since you were a child. You never know what will turn into a career, and who doesn’t want to be paid for doing the things we love. As for the people we interact with and make a part of our lives, they affect us hugely, so avoid those who you don’t enjoy being around and make an effort to see those you do – show them at every opportunity how much you value them.

Again, you’re not being self-indulgent with all of this. We’re taught to always work hard and always make safe decisions from the moment we’re self-aware, but you should be absolutely certain that the things you’re working hard for are what you really want. As for what makes you unhappy, identify it. Put it in a little glass box and examine it from all angles, then work out how to make it go away. Give yourself achievable targets and deadlines, and plan very carefully how you’re going to reach them, and the reward you’ll get when you do!

I know that resolutions do often focus on losing weight, and reaching a size and shape that feels good can have a big impact on your confidence, so I’d never suggest taking it out of the picture if it’s something that’s important to you. Be clever about it though, and make it about positive changes rather than just tormenting yourself. Learning about nutrition for example, or an excuse to listen to your terrible music whilst you’re exercising that nobody will let you play out loud. My number one tip would be to keep busy. Frantically busy! I used to go to the gym nearly every day at university, but it wasn’t until I got a real job (and actually didn’t have time for the gym for a couple of years) that I dropped from a UK 10-12 to a 6-8. Rushing around and working hard is an effective and pain-free way of dropping a few pounds, and it’s productive. Double win.

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Being a healthy weight isn’t the only ‘body’ target to consider though – after those gym-free years, I’d lost so much strength and stamina that it actually affected my personality. I became much more cautious, worried about getting hurt or not being able to achieve physical challenges. Tom actually pointed this out to me (there was a lot of sulking, but I did know he was right), so I made plans. I got back into the gym, but I started riding again as well, and took up MMA. Exercise should be fun, not boring, and certainly not torture. I don’t run, because I hate running. It’s boring (sorry runners, you have my respect but you’ll have to tie me to your back to get me out running with you). I do like riding and climbing and hitting things though, so I do those instead.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that so much of modern life is artificial that it’s hard to see what’s real. What’s really happening to you, and the people you care about. Once a year it’s nice to cut through all of that, and devise plans to make you happy that actually work.

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The Liebster Award, and The Versatile Blogger

I’ve been nominated for two more blogging awards over the last month, so thought it about time I got my act together and responded.

Liebster Blog Award The lovely Laurelandlily has nominated me for the Liebster award. (Thanks!)  For this you have to answer the ten questions given to you by your nominator, and then nominate ten other bloggers to answer the ten questions you want to ask. There’s no mention of a logo, but I like blog-award logos (it feels like being given a sticker, and we all know that is a prize to be treasured above all others) so I found one.

The London Scrapbook has nominated me for the Versatile Blogger award, and I got another nomination for this a few days ago from The Infinite Abyss(es). Thank you to both of you! To claim my award (no actual award apparently. Money in the post welcome as always though) I have to:

The Versatile Blogger

  • Thank the person who gave it to you, and include a link to their blog (links above).
  • Tell the person who nominated you seven things about yourself.
  • Then select fifteen blogs that you’ve recently discovered or regularly follow, and nominate them for the award.

another sticker logo, yay!

I thought I’d answer Laurelandlily’s ten questions first, so here goes:

1. What is your earliest memory?

I remember pootling around outside our house on Mount Macedon, looking for garden snails to stomp on like Dad had taught me, and hearing some hikers next to our property exclaiming over a koala. That koala kept us awake all night barking, so I remember deciding to waddle over there to lay claim to the git. I couldn’t talk properly (I must have been two or three), but I went and stood underneath the gum tree it was squatting in until they got uncomfortable and left. My house, my koala.

2. Is there a film, book, object, person or place that makes you cry every time you are confronted with it?

I can’t even look at a copy of My Friend Flicka without feeling a deep well of distress awaken, and I have to leave the area or hide it from view. I don’t even remember what happens, but the horror and misery I felt when I first read it has stuck with me.

3. Who is your favourite architect or artist and why?

Impossible to choose! One of my favourite artists though is Sir John Everett Millais, as his paintings are so vibrant and detailed.

4. If you had to be a different person for a day, who would that person be and why?

I’d like to live in the neolithic period for a day, so I could see what the hell was actually going on at that time, and ask everyone WHY they were doing whatever they were doing.

5. Have you read a book that’s changed your life? How come?

I read Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy for my undergrad English degree, and my own writing suddenly improved hugely. It may have been circumstantial, the result of a  year and a half under my belt of reading all the books in the world, but I carried that book around for weeks like a talisman.

6. Do you have a favourite song? Which one, why?

Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. I first heard it on an audiotape I had of Wind in the Willows, and whenever I hear it again as an adult I am instantly transported to a little rowing boat making its way down a twisting stream, overhung with weeping willows. A flurry of bubbles like pearls cascades over gentle rapids, and spring flowers are just starting to poke their delicate heads through the soil on the river bank.

7. Dr Seuss or Roald Dahl? (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, get thee to Google IMMEDIATELY.)

Dr. Seuss. The only Roald Dahl book I encountered as a child was James and the Giant Peach, which I remember being quite perturbed by. 

8. Do you have siblings? What’s your relationship with them like?

I’m an only child, and very happy to be (sharing?! Ha!) but am always fascinated by sibling relationships.

9. Where did you grow up? Did you like it there?

I lived in Australia until I was four, then on a tropical island called Nauru until I was eight. We then moved to Cornwall, then West Sussex, and finally settled in East Sussex when I was eleven. Most of my formative memories are from my time on Nauru. I’d go to the beach nearly every day, snorkelling in rock pools on the reef, or play in the jungle near our house. There weren’t many expat children and I was home-schooled, so I suppose it was quite lonely compared to most people’s childhoods. In every other way though it was paradise, and I spent nearly all my time exploring.

10. Favourite film? Why?

Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. No explanation needed surely?!

Right, my turn! The ten questions I put to my nominees are (nothing serious, don’t worry):

1) What are your five favourite novels?

2) What’s the best lie/ tall tale your parents ever told you as a child?

3) What one object would you save from your house in a fire? (Nothing alive – presume that even the tropical fish can get themselves safely out without your help).

4) Do you remember the first ever fancy-dress party you went to? What did you go as and why?

5) What would plan B have been, career-wise?

6) What one garment or item of clothing that you own could you not live without?

7) What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?

8) Do you have any phobias, and what do you think caused them?

9) What is your most common typo? (Mine is Englihs . Yes, I know. ‘I am an Englihs teacher’. Sigh.)

10) Why did you first start your blog, and is it the same thing that keeps you writing it now?

Now, my nominees:

Last time I was nominated for blogging awards I put them all into one post, which I’m sure was annoying. So… I thought I’d do it again. Sorry! I really want to hear my nominees’ answers to my Liebster questions, but if you’d rather not then please feel free to accept the Versatile Blogger award, and share seven things about yourself instead. The weirder the better.

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Welcome to the ‘Maison Bentley Style’ Blog Party!

Another blog I follow is throwing a party, and everyone is invited. She’ll give you a warm welcome over at Maison Bentley Style where you can also meet the other blogging guests, see what they’re wearing, and how they’re partying on their own blogs.

I’ve mixed up some of my hedgerow cocktails for you, so enjoy, and let me know which is your favourite!

I’m wearing a 1920s cocktail dress with gumboots, because it’s going to get muddy… I’ve cleared a dance-floor in the middle of a forest, and a jazz band are tuning their instruments as you read this. Fairy-lights and lanterns are glowing all around us, but if that storm hits we’ve been promised then we’ll retire to my seventeenth century pavilion, and continue the party from there. The Rolling Stones have already started on the banquet, but there’s  plenty for everyone!

What’s everyone else wearing, and who have you brought along as your plus-ones?

The Best Things Come in Threes – Blogging Award

I was nominated for two blogging awards a while ago, and have finally put aside the time to respond properly (as a proper response is definitely required. I haven’t been awarded anything since I got an ‘attainment certificate’ for A Level Drama). Then along came a third this morning, so this post is definitely overdue. I don’t get an actual prize (feel free to send me money to make up for this. Anyone?) but it’s an excuse for bloggers to say WELL DONE to each-other, share things they wouldn’t usually share, and point you in the direction of other blogs they like. Read on for tales of crabs and volcanoes.

Firstly thank you to Frances, who nominated me for the Sunshine Award, and to Akeem, who nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award, and to Joseph, who nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. You’re the best.

The Sunshine Award requires the following:sunshine-blog-award

  1. Post this logo ….. (it’s over there – to the right)
  2. create a link to your nominator (easily done: Stories By Frances)
  3. answer ten questions
  4. nominate ten others
  5. inform your nominees

… and the One Lovely Blog Award asks that you:One Lovely Blog Award

  1. Add the “One Lovely Blog Award” image to your post.
  2. Share seven things about you.
  3. Pass the award on to seven nominees.
  4. Thank the person who nominated you.
  5. Inform the nominees by posting on their blogs.

Whilst the Very Inspiring Blogger Award requires you to:


  1. Post the logo
  2. Add a link to your nominator
  3. Explain why they’re great
  4. Pass the award on to 15 nominees



As you can see, there’s an overlap going on here, so I thought I’d kill three birds with one stone (that metaphor doesn’t work, I know, but ‘answer three sets of blogging-award questions in one go’ is worse). Here goes…

Answer Ten Questions:

1. Favourite colour: Green. And red. Red and Green together ideally (Christmas runs through my veins).

2. Favourite animal: Cats, if I have to choose, but I’m also a fan of horses, sheep, owls, ferrets, pigeons, crabs, snails, frogs… and other weird things. I used to have a pet land-crab on Nauru. I’d feed him pieces of coconut… then his hole-under-a-tree flooded and he abandoned it/me. Life is cruel.

3. Favourite number: 7! My Australian grandad was born on 7th January, my dad was born on 7th September, and I was born on 7th January. My other grandad is one of seven brothers, and has seven sisters. All the 7s belongs to us.

4. Favourite non-alcoholic drink: Cider! Oh, wait… non-alcoholic… er, gin? I’m not very good at this.

5. Favourite alcoholic drink: Depends on the season. Champagne or cider in spring/summer, port or scotch in autumn/winter.

6. Facebook or Twitter: Facebook – I don’t have the energy/patience for twitter.

7. My passions: writing, art and the theatre, the countryside, and my fiance Tom (vomit, I know. He is my most time-consuming hobby though).

8. Giving or receiving gifts: Definitely giving. It’s an excuse to go shopping without feeling guilty.

9. Favourite city: London, of course, though Florence does have a special place in my heart.

10. Favourite TV shows: Anything on BBC4 except for foetid programmes about musicals. The Murder Channel (ITV3) is also my comfort channel, as I need something else to occupy my mind whilst I’m working (I’ll often have the tv on mute with subtitles, classic fm on the radio, and a book or my laptop on my lap. I’m female – I can’t just do one thing at once or I’d get bored!) Also, if you need a murder solving, I’m your girl.

Anyone would think that was quite enough sharing, but the One Lovely Blog Award also asks me to ‘share seven things about you’, and I wouldn’t want to disappoint, so…

Share seven things about you:

  1. I didn’t go to school until I was 8. I was homeschooled instead, as the school (yes, school singular) on Nauru taught efl for the first year, and my parents didn’t want me to be a year behind, you know, the world.
  2. My parents have flown inside a volcano, when my dad was flying single-engine planes in Papua New Guinea (I wasn’t there, but I’m appropriating their lives as they’re more interesting than mine). Wouldn’t that be a great date?!
  3. When I was little, like 5-7 years old, I genuinely thought I must have been a cat in a past life, as cats and I got on so well.
  4. I used to work at Denis Severs’ House in Spitalfields, with the most wonderfully eccentric people. The best times were when the rooms were empty of visitors, and I could skip back in time for a while.
  5. I had three giant African land-snails called Porthos, Thundershell and Cat until recently (Tom’s friend Charles procured them from some Nigerian men he met in a ‘market’, ostensibly for food) but they all died of a mysterious disease in January. I am still sad about this.
  6. I wrote my MA thesis about vagrants in early modern drama.  I cannot remember why.
  7. I collect wedgwood jewellery, antique tophats, and I’d like to start collecting Prada handbags. Donations welcome.

Explain Why Your Nominators are Great:

Stories By Frances writes short stories that I can’t stop reading.

The Bloggers Soliloquy takes the time to actually see things, and write about them eloquently.

A Glimpse into My Work has an eye for detail that always  grabs my attention.

My Nominees (I’ve gone for 9, rather than 7, 10 or 15, seeing as I seem to have changed the rules along the way):

Following other blogs is a bit like talking to friends that you like, but you don’t really know. You can share whole conversations, or they can just flash the cover of a book or a sexy pair of shoes at you and smile. Some of the blogs I’ve listed below are conversations, others are flashers (so to speak) but  I enjoy all of them, and many more.

Rowena Dunn writes about books, art and theatre. It’s nice to see what she’s been up to, as it’s often what I should be up to as well – she always inspires me to make the most of London’s art scene.

Bloody Hell Brennan says the things I think, but rarely dare to say. Not many writers make me laugh out loud (really, it’s embarrassing. People think you’re mental if you laugh at books/ your phone/ computer screens in public. They’re the losers though. Yeah.)

Acheebee is someone else I check up on whenever I can, as her writing is both honest and naturally funny.

Imponderabilia gives me regular updates on modern archaeology. Which I love. Like a  cool Time Team.

The Attic Birds do vintage, antiquing, and cracking advice on both.

My Midsummer Garden offers pretty, whimsical pictures, music and thoughts. Fashion, vintage, romance and art – Parisian and floral daydreams galore.

Beautiful Fashion Styles is a flasher – great ‘mood-boards’ of clothes and accessories, that always send me running for my debit card.

Minutiae writes about stars, toads and pottery. And other things, but these are the things that I like.

dartwalker’s Blog reminds me what life (the countryside) is all about. Flowers, toadstools and walking on Dartmoor –  one of many ‘this is what your life could be like!’ blogs that I follow.