I, magazine geek: Why I love magazines, Psychologies, and the “changing of the month” in WHSmith

The kind of thing you get on Google if you type in “print is dead”. SIGH.

Everyone says print is dead. I, for one, seem to bear out that theory, spending nearly all my waking hours online, connected.

Like a lot of my peers, I consume media online, 99% of it for free (The Times subscription excepted), and I get mildly peeved when magazines have rubbish websites or news agencies expect me to get my credit card out just to read a piddly 200 words of copy.

Yes, I am part of the “print is dying” problem. And, as a journalist, surely I should know better. After all, I want to be paid for my work (and I consider myself fairly lucky in this day and age that generally, I am paid for it. FINALLY).

But I also want media to be easy to consume, to be Google-able, share-able, bookmark-able. Not only so that I can procrastinate by reading it when I probably shouldn’t, but also so that I can keep better track of the best articles when I want to. Online often means free. Online means easy-to-use and find, with access from various platforms (laptop, phone, tablet).

That’s the theory, anyway.

So why is my life still punctuated by the thrill of seeing new magazines on the newsstand? Why do I still care about layout, sub-editing, and the feel of paper?

WHSmith – my spiritual newsagent home

As a little kid living in France, I used to get excited when I saw the package my grandmother used to send from England ‒ the Beano for my brother, Mizz magazine or Bliss for me.

That thick, paper package heralded the moving forward of the months, a new selection of pages to rifle, a new book of brightly-coloured missives from a community of girls who were, against all probability, like me.

I still feel that way now, even though new technology means that I would never have to wait for such content ever again. Technically, it’s all at my fingertips. So why do I still care so passionately about the first few days of the month – when all the magazines change?

I wanted to work in magazines from a pretty young age, when I realised that I was quite good at spelling and writing, and when I realised that writing for magazines means that in theory, you get to talk to loads of interesting people about their interesting lives (hopefully making up, I thought, for the fact that I never knew what I personally wanted to focus on). It all started with those new magazines, posted through our door every month.

Psychologies_jennifer lawrenceNow, after dalliances with Glamour, Marie Claire, the now-defunct Easy Living and a few affairs with Red, my favourite magazine is Psychologies.

Largely aimed at older women than me, it is nevertheless bang up my street, focusing on mental health, ways to happiness, how to manage depression and anxiety, and how to “let go” of what diminishes and reduces your life. It isn’t obsessed with celebrities, fashion, “aspirational” materialist bullshit, unhealthy diets, and other things that really get my goat about modern women’s magazines.

I am lucky enough to have met the editor, and know a couple of people who write for it. I am always humbled by its content and find it to be that “real magazine thing” – something with which you want to sit down, with a biscuit and a coffee, and get stuck into.

There are no open-mouthed, dead-eyed, under-nourished models in ridiculous outfits here. The relatively-small beauty section focuses on how to maintain your skin/hair/nails health rather than fashion, and the only column on clothes generally talks about the psychological links between dressing and your personality.

It does have celebrity interviews but asks them about their thoughts and feelings, rather than the sensationalist elements of their love life, or how great their cleavage looks in a dress. Features are about the benefits of getting a dog (I recently met the amazing woman who wrote that piece – more on that another day), how to feel happy, the benefits of therapy, how to let go, how to feel calm, how to be confident, how not to hold a grudge.

Its adverts are about health supplements, wellbeing holidays, useful beauty products and slow-food breaks.

For the past five years or so, my ultimate dream has been to launch a magazine just like it, but for women my age. (Despite the fact that by the time I theoretically get to that point, I’ll probably be the right age for the current offering anyway. Such is life.)

Of course, Psychologies has a website, which has recently been relaunched, but it’s not at all like reading the magazine. Good or bad, it still operates on a fairly traditional set-up, in that the website is just an addition to the mag, rather than the main platform, and the magazine the slowly-dying counterpart. I for one, hope that never happens.

Because, despite my online addiction, I love buying the physical magazine. That “change over” time in the shops is still magical for me.

Right now, it’s near the beginning of the month, and I know that one lunchtime soon, I’ll wander through the crowds of the station near my work to the newsagent’s, and spend a happy half an hour poring over all the new issues – considering the thinking behind that cover star, wondering what they’ve got inside this month, sneakily reading the best pieces in the magazines I probably won’t buy (BAD JOURNALIST).

I’ll consider a new purchase, if one particularly catches my eye – such as this month’s Red, or the latest interview in Glamour, which is still a bit of a nostalgic, guilty pleasure. I’ll marvel at the Women’s Fitness issue, or the Yoga World import from the US, and consider the merits of Vogue and wonder why people love it so much.

I’ll look at the newer titles, and hope that they survive, and mentally applaud the people brave enough to launch new paper magazines in this day and age. I’ll rejoice at new ones, and lament the holes that I still see despite their being long gone – the recently-closed Zest (which I used to buy), and the now-online-only Easy Living. I’ll have a triumphant peek at the magazine I work for, have a quick leaf through our main competitor, and still feel a little bit surreal about the fact that these days, I write for, and know people who write for, titles that sit on these very shelves.

I’ll look at the foreign titles in the languages I speak – French and Spanish and smattering of Italian – and wonder if I should buy them to improve my skills. I’ll feel simultaneously happy at the massive selection, and overwhelmed by the choice, and the number of titles I could potentially write for if I was a better, more persistent, more creative, better-at-pitching journalist, with 48 hours in the day.

But I always keep Psychologies until last, appreciating its use of cover stars who aren’t half-naked or dressed in some Dolce & Gabbana contraption, and wondering at its near-perfect ability to align its headlines and focus to what’s going on in my own life. If the best magazines know their readers the best, then Psychologies is up there with the greats.

My love for the magazine has become a bit of a running joke among my friends, who tease me about its supposedly-“boring” focus, it’s middle-aged-woman audience and its earnestness.

I laugh with them because I can totally see what they mean – it’s not as glamorous as the magazines peppered with A-listers and glossy handbags. But when all is said and done, it’s in that magazine that I find my people. My motivation. My feeling that I’m not alone.

It’s that magazine that spurs me on to believe that magazines are not dead. That print still has purpose.

Despite being addicted to the Internet, I still don’t subscribe to Psychologies – despite buying every single copy for the past 4 or 5 years – because I still savour that feeling of going into the newsagents, seeing it on the shelf, and buying a physical copy of it.

It is quite literally an extension of that package my grandma used to send, except now I have my own freedom and money to go out and buy it myself. That means a lot.

Somehow, downloading it on to my phone or tablet, or even getting it through the door, just isn’t the same. That lunchtime trip to WHSmith is like a little escape to my own world, where, despite still being surrounded by people, I remember why I loved magazines in the first place, and how there are people out there, writing, speaking, organising events, on things that I love and that matter to me.

It’s a strange thing that in today’s hyper-connected, “free” world, I still feel the need to pay nearly £4 per month for a collection of dead tree leaves. But there it is.

Print might be dying in many areas and forms, but as long as people like me still relish that physical, expensive copy of their favourite magazine, I harbour a small hope that they will continue to survive.

Not least for the security of my own job – which is, as a trade magazine, still largely focused on the print side of things despite the constantly-updated website and digital issue ‒ but also for my own entertainment and love of intelligent, consumer magazine communities like Psychologies.

Yes, magazines are expensive, take up loads of space, aren’t email-able, and are non-interactive. But they are still small packages of sense – missives of solid, tangible conversations.

And although I can’t bookmark their pages or save them to Instapaper (a site that allows you to “pin” online pages to look at later), every now and again, I find a quiet afternoon to go through my old copies (which are invariably taking up too much space in my bedroom) and clip out my favourite pieces, and stick them in a scrapbook.

It’s a nostalgic, old-fashioned process, reminiscent of school fun with Pritt Stick, and entirely non-computer based. It’s like being a kid again – like those Grandma-sent packages.

Good magazines are like tangible anchors in a frenetic, drifting, ever-more digital world.

I’m not a technophobe: I love the Internet for its many advantages and its ability to open doors to worlds and people you would otherwise never see or meet.

But, against all odds, I also love the “changing of the month” in WHSmith.

Long may it exist.

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Welcome to the inspirational bullshit club!

This week, the relatively-new young women’s website The Debrief published an article called “The Facebook Statuses That Are Giving You Emotional Contagion – Hit Unfollow Now”, by Stevie Martin (@5tevieM).

It struck a chord. Because I am the sixth status they highlighted. I am the “mate who posts OTT inspirational bullshit”. Yes.

And even though they (very nicely) put this bit under the “People you should never unfollow” section, I still sensed a hint of irritation (the words “OTT” and “bullshit” were a dead giveaway). Allow me to explain.

TheDebrief-bullshitLess than two months ago, my boyfriend broke up with me (that’s not it, bear with me).

Even writing that seems foolhardy; like some fatal admission of weakness. Surely, as a young, free, single woman I shouldn’t even acknowledge it – “he broke up with me”. I should write, “We broke up”, or “It just ran its course”, or “Meh, whatever, more fish in the sea, no biggie”.

Sometimes it feels like when your relationship breaks down, you’re expected to cry for a bit and then just go, “Too bad, his loss, move on”. I should be channelling Beyoncé, says the received feminist wisdom, thinking that if some guy I believed in and loved proves himself not to be worth my belief or love, then what else is there to do but pack up and move the fuck on? “Next”, as more than one of my friends has said, not unreasonably.

And yes, to some extent, that is how it feels, and there is a world of truth in it. Some days, I’m like, “Erm, [ex-boyfriend’s name] who?”

But actually, some days it’s more difficult. Because when all is said and done, the split was one-sided. So there we go.

Even after the initial shock of that person no longer being there (and worse, actively choosing to no longer be there), there’s still a lot of pieces to pick up, thoughts to banish or nurture, memories to temporarily block out, parts of your personality to box up that are no longer as needed or as relevant when you’re single, such as being more patient and understanding, or less selfish, or really good at that thing you did in bed (What? It’s true).

And sometimes, motivational slogans are the ONLY thing that gets me through. Same for song lyrics, or snippets of books. They’re the only thing running through my head reminding me to GET SOME PERSPECTIVE, or cheer the fuck up, or remember that life is good and love is out there and that I’m not alone.

And if that’s not your bag, then fine. If you have other ways to cheer yourself up, or prefer to chug through life in a miasma of cynicism and practicality because that’s what works for you, then go ahead. Honestly, I admire it. But it doesn’t work for me.

Despite my belief in rationality, calmness, lack of drama, realism, honesty and completely straight-talking (to the point where I’ve got into trouble) I ultimately can’t deal with too much reality in my own head. And I am not the type to escape into drugs or alcohol to get away from it (beyond a couple of G&Ts and Dairy Milks, anyway).

When you’re single after having not been, the reality is always there, knocking.

Reminding you of your shortcomings and things that aren’t going so right, that you could always sort of mask when you were with someone else, or that were compensated for because you had someone else to focus on.

Sometimes it’s as simple as wishing you could talk to them about whatever just happened, but you can’t. Sometimes it’s that profound feeling of loneliness that hits you, cold in the chest, for no real reason as soon as you step into a hot, packed train. Sometimes it’s the once-joyful memories that used to be shared, that pop uninvited into your head, and are now just evidence of the different paths you were travelling on all along, or that creeping feeling that you’re going to be alone for ever.

Or that raging anger at the fact that some people seemingly find a partner without too much hassle, while the rest of us keep getting our hearts smashed, as if we ACTUALLY LIKE being dysfunctional and heart-broken. You know, for giggles.

I can’t cope with all that shit alone (or other on-going crap, such as my parents’ not-always-great health, the state of my bank account, what the economy might do to my job prospects, whether I’ll ever afford my own place, or hell, even my middle-class guilt at caring about all that).

It makes me feel desperate, panicked and sad. I need my slogans, if you want to call them that. I need my collective wisdom in pithy, memorable sentences to remind me that others have felt similarly and survived (without going to bed for a month). I need the knowledge of crowds and the kind words of strangers.

I was all over this kind of inspirational shit when I started exercising. And I’m all over some other sorts right now.

And sometimes, I see things that are so helpful, and that feel so relevant to life in general, that I post them on Facebook and *gasp* SOMETIMES, on Twitter.

The bad ones are awful, and I hope I have the serenity to never post one.

The good ones help give me hope and power and thirst for life. And for that, I am grateful. And if I post one that pisses you off, then I’m sorry.

So yes, I am that “OTT inspirational bullshit” person. For anyone who hates this, you can just hide my posts or unfollow me. For anyone whose day might be just momentarily improved, once, or a few times after, then great.

Anyway, The Debrief said that you should never unfollow people like me, because, I quote: “it’ll be 4am, you’ll have had your heart broken and be scrolling through your newsfeed desperately trying to avoid clicking on your ex’s profile when suddenly you’ll see ‘8 reasons you should let go and move on’ as shared by your mate who posts OTT inspirational bullshit. And it won’t feel like bullshit.”

They finish: “Nobody ever got hurt by a little uplifting bullshit, OK?”

AMEN TO THAT, OK? Welcome to the inspirational bullshit club. 🙂

I got nominated for a Liebster blog Award! :)

So I got nominated for a Liebster Award! I didn’t even know that was a thing! But it is, and now I know what it is, I’m very grateful! *claps*

As I have learned, via the wonder that is Google, the Liebster Award is a way for bloggers with fewer than 200 followers to celebrate other small bloggers, and “pay it forward” in acknowledging blogs they know (and, dare I say it, like to read).

(If you’re reading this because I nominated you, and you have more than 200 followers, then I’m sorry, please only take it as a compliment! I know that a couple of the people I nominated have WAY more followers than that, but it was just because I was desperate to include you because of how inspiring I find you! So please just carry on with your awesome self.)

You then have to answer, and ask, a bunch of questions from the blogger who nominated you, and then nominate other bloggers, with the aim of sharing a bit of yourself in the blogging community and (hopefully, very hopefully) creating more stuff that other people want to read, and more awareness of the award. Maybe some people would see it as a pain in the butt, but I think it’s pretty cool.

Thanks to the lovely theodd1in who nominated me – it’s so great to know that at least some people like your blog enough to remember it, even if extremely briefly.

I don’t write with a specific audience in mind, and am largely aware I’m basically shouting into a void, but it’s nice to know that there are some people out there sometimes!

Anyway. ONWARDS!

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Blogger guilt: In which I totally fail to review stuff

Wanna read a random list of stuff I’ve done recently with no extra info? Nope, didn’t think so! At the very least, you want to know what I thought about it, right? Whether there’s anything there that might help you, I don’t know, decide which book to read or movie to see?

Well, the short answer is – YES, you should do and do/see/read them.

Being the amiable(-ish) kinda girl that I am, I pretty much enjoyed every single one of the below, more or less, which is maybe the only reason I have to not have ACTUALLY reviewed any of them.

Not a single one. I always think, immediately after an event, or final page, or discovered song, right, I’ll review that – and then promptly don’t get round to it.

WHAT, I ASK YOU, JUST WHAT KIND OF WRITER AM I?

One who has wayyyy more ideas for blogposts than I ever seem to have time to write, that’s what. I admit it.  I have serious blogger guilt. And this goes further than just being a self-obsessed millenial with nothing else to do.

Isn’t the whole point of blogging to share ideas?

In this spirit, in true (cringeworthy, yes) millennial style, I even take photos of pretty much all the restaurant food I eat and find myself making mental notes throughout movies, so I can reference them later.

I also find myself mentally making notes of what it is I like about books, even as I’m reading them – how “real” the characters are, how beautiful the writing, how honest the storytelling, how well they captured that mood or event.

For the most part, I’m also gauging whether they live up to the reviews and hype I’ve inevitably read up on before downloading to the Kindle or watching on Netflix or bought on iTunes or *gasp* actually GONE OUT to the cinema to see.

And yet, I hardly ever ACTUALLY MANAGE TO WRITE THE THING.

Frankly it’s hard enough to find time to even make a list.

Maybe the simple act of writing down ALL THE THINGS will free up some space and time (literally and mentally) for me to actually sit back and consider what I actually thought about something.

I know the world is JUST HANGING on my every word (nope) to see my views on the latest Coen Brothers’ outing, but even though probably no-one will read my thoughts except me, I like to think that, as a journalist who’s interested in a BILLION things, it makes sense to record experiences and reactions to things.

It’s not about showing off or obsessively making notes (after all, a quick look at the list below will disavow you of the thought that I live in any way an especially exciting or noteworthy life).

But what’s the point of personal blogging if not to share experiences and thoughts? Especially about cultural things that other people might enjoy?  

Especially when one of the things I most love about blogging is that it opens up your eyes to a whole world of other bloggers.

People who have done, seen, read, tried the same stuff as you – or stuff you’d love to try but are too busy/scared/poor/disorganised ‒ and whose reviews and tidbits only serve to enhance the experience when you actually get round to it.

Where would I be without those reviews of books, films, restaurants or events?

I mean, I also work on a restaurants and hotels magazine – writing about some of this stuff is pretty much literally what I do for a living.

And yet, I hardly ever manage to apply that experience to my own life.

I hardly ever manage to pay back all those bloggers or Google searchers; anyone who may wish to come across my blog, and for that fleeting moment, go “OMG YES, that’s mildly interesting” or “OMG yes that’s exactly what I wanted to know” (that’s what I think when I read a great blog, anyway).

There comes that blogger guilt again. I need to pay it forward, people. Not to mention practising actually writing stuff.

So, in an attempt to at least make amends, or a start, at reviewing some of the good things I’ve had going on recently, I’ve made some lists (with pictures, to make it pretty).

Maybe it will actually spur me on to tell you whether you should read/see/listen/do any of the stuff anytime soon…that is, if you haven’t already read/seen/listened/done it all already….

Films watched for the first time in the past few weeks

Books read recently

Restaurants/bars I’ve been to recently

Places travelled to in the past few months

Music I’ve discovered

Shows I’ve seen

Other vaguely significant (to me) stuff I’ve been up to

25 reasons NOT to freak out about turning 25

Everyone else is writing these big age-conscious lists, so I thought I’d add my nice two pence (Hey, listicles, if you can’t beat them, join them. Um, *that* sounds dodgier than intended.)

It’s true that when I was 17 – hell, even 21 ‒ I definitely thought I’d have my shit a bit more together by now, when it comes to all those traditional markers of “growing up”. Not sure how, but I did.

Ever since then, it’s been dawning on me that I may have been sold a big fat illusion (along with the rest of my “whiny, endlessly-adolescent, poverty-stricken, city-living, responsibility-dodging Millenial” friends, APPARENTLY).

When I graduated from Uni for the first time I quickly descended into a black depression that lasted for months – nay, years ‒ that was only mildly helped by getting my first job after six months’ thankless unpaid internships, and then dramatically worsened by my then-boyfriend deciding to sod off.

The-DebriefBUT then I saw this list, on recently-launched site The Debrief (which seems generally cool), about why everyone should freak out about turning 25. And, instead of nodding along, I had a realisation.

BECAUSE, while everyone’s telling me I should freak out, and for years I’ve kind of BEEN freaking out, I actually realised that I’m 25, and you know what? I’m OK with it!

I KNOW! Imagine!

I had the obligatory middle-class, graduate, privileged quarter-life crisis that rears its ugly head every now and again. BUT, even though most of the things I was worrying about haven’t been resolved – I STILL don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford a flat, I STILL don’t know if my job is what I want to do forever, I STILL haven’t written that bestselling book, and I STILL haven’t got a ring on my finger, or know if I ever will, I STILL haven’t been to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Fiji or Australia (I know, cry for me, right?) ‒ it’s ACTUALLY TOTALLY FINE.

So here’s my two pence on why I’ve decided there’s REALLY no need to freak out over the big two-five (even if you don’t have a partner, your dream career, any hope of buying a flat, and still find toothpaste on your crumpled shirt three days a week)

  1. Relationships: You’ve probably had your heart completely obliterated at least once, if not a few times, by now, so even if you’re still not sure what the hell’s going on with your love life, you  at least know more about what NOT to do
  2. Flat-sharing: It can properly suck but you’ve shared enough different houses to know that people (even if it’s your boy/girlfriend) don’t mean to be annoying when they leave the mouldy bath mat on the floor for the twelve- billionth time that week. You know your habit of leaving your dishes till morning makes your flatmate want to nail your head against the wall too, so hey, let’s each just do what we can, OK?
  3. Work: With any luck, even if you’re still doing internships and junior jobs, you’re likely to have a few years’ work experience under your belt. So, even though *certain* people might insist on treating you as if you’re still a new graduate, you’re actually way more likely than ever to have an idea of what’s going on (plus, you’re young enough to actually work the computers)
  4. Pretending to like shit because “everyone else does”: Gone. So you prefer to stay at home in your slippers or go to your favourite pub with your mates or fling oil paint at canvases while drinking tequila and singing along to Magic FM (or whatever else you love to do) rather than rub up against grope-happy strangers in some overpriced club with sticky floors, crap music and flabbergastingly-expensive drinks? Yep, and you don’t care who knows it
  5. Accepting that friends come and go:  Equally, you’ve lost a few friends along the way and realised that it’s sad but hey, you’ve got other mates now who they don’t know either, and these things probably happen for a reason
  6. Keeping better track of your chocolate and cheese and G&T addiction: You know what you can and can’t eat to blow up like a balloon (or fade away like hay in a breeze) and even though you don’t always get it right, you’re getting better at it, and feeling better for it too…sometimes
  7. Getting your butt in gear every now and again: Similarly, you’ve had enough years out of Uni to go through the cycle of feeling crap, joining a gym, getting into it, not going, leaving, re-joining, and actually going, to reach the point where that spin class is becoming least a semi-regular habit – or something that actually, you really kind of love
  8. Surviving harsh words: You’ve probably fallen out – and hopefully made up ‒ with a good friend at least once, and lived to tell the tale, most probably with the help of some frank words, copious amounts of wine and several seriously great hugs
  9. Pay: With any luck you’re making a bit more money than you were at 21, and even if living in the city means saving is nothing more than a mythical theory, you’re likely to have a bit more left over than before – or at the very least, have a few more experiences and nice things to show for what you *did* have
  10. Tolerance levels: You have less and less tolerance for rudeness. Someone being an idiot on the tube or bus? Pushing in front of you at the checkout, making a snide comment or fobbing you off on the phone or email? Er, nope, ain’t nobody got time for that. Kill it with kindness. Or, you know, a four-letter word
  11. On marriage, kids and houses: You’re old enough to know  people who are getting engaged and shacked-up and married and pregnant and mortgaged, and happy for them, but you’re still young enough to feel secretly relieved you’re still young, free and single (legally, at least). I mean, do you really want to spend hundreds of pounds and your weekends on replacing guttering, freaking out about table arrangements, and buying washing machines? No.
  12. Buying a house (LOL): And while you’re more likely to hear some friend of a friend talk about buying a house these days, you’re still young enough to chuckle “Oh yeah, you and whose jackpot lottery ticket?” into your drink without feeling like a pariah
  13. Life isn’t over by 25: Ok, so it’s mildly alarming that Lorde and Cara Delevingne are practically yet to go through puberty and Zadie Smith was writing her first novel while still in nappies, but by now you’ve realised that life isn’t over by 21. Rest assured that AWESOME people like Harrison Ford, Sheryl Crow, Alan Rickman, Vera Wang and Tina Fey were well into their thirties before they had their first big break. Hell, even J K Rowling was 32 before the first Harry Potter book came out
  14. On “travelling”: You’ve probably accepted that even though backpacking for months around South East Asia might no longer be a viable option compared to attempting to get and stay on the career ladder, you’d actually prefer to see countries in easy two-week stints where your clothes are generally washed, you don’t have to carry six months’ worth of stuff in your backpack, and never need to sort out twelve visas in one go
  15. Old and happy: You’re still young enough to feel 21 when you want to, but old enough to know that actual 21 year olds are more irritating than a ladder in your tights and an alarm clock on Sundays
  16. On leaving pop culture behind: You already had your favourite pop stars in place before pretenders like One Direction and Justin Bieber came along. Isn’t Harry Styles like…12? (And even if you do like them, you’re young enough to love it and old enough not to care, hello Taylor Swift, looking at you)
  17. “Crafty” discounts: A “Young Person’s Rail Card” might say 25 and under on it, but you know that if you renew at the right time you can get the discounts well into age 26; plus stuff like European Inter-railing passes actually legit go up to and include age 26
  18. Knowing your mind a teeny bit more: You’ve had quite some time to peruse all those blogs about feminism and/or other issues you find interesting and decided whether to get properly involved or not – or at least, decided what you think enough to have a sort-of discussion about it
  19. Absolutely no desire to relive Uni: You’ve graduated – quite literally – on to other conversations than that HILARIOUS time that Hugo did that vodka thing in “first year” and when Sarah got locked out of her second-year house wearing only a tiara and her pants. First year? That’s seven years ago now. MOVE. ON.
  20. Conversation stopper: No-one really cares about where you went to Uni anymore, and the ones that really do serve as a helpful indicator of whether you can be bothered to get to know them (tip: nope)
  21. Finding your happy limits: You’re getting better at judging when to stop on a night out. Six cocktails down and holding your heels in your hand because you can’t feel your feet anymore? Um, how about some hot-buttered toast, tea and gossip in the kitchen, plus a litre of water and a sensible rehydration salt packet before bed (and if you don’t want to wear high-heels, you just don’t. Fair play to anyone who does but wow, I’m done)?
  22. Respecting yourself…most of the time You’ve got the one-night stand thing down, if you like that sort of thing – you’re either always at yours or at theirs, but you’re big enough to know that whatever you say goes, and if not, you’ll pass thanks. ALSO – smear tests and STI tests, GET THEM DONE. It’s really not a big deal, I promise
  23. Pets: You’ve either bought your own pet or know someone who has, and you get to have dog or cat time without being nagged to go walk it or feed it by your mother
  24. Cooking: You have at least one or two great recipes that come out time and time again, but your friends are still only having “dinner parties” once in a turquoise moon, so it still impresses when you rustle it up instead of ordering pizza
  25. The world is your Oyster (card): You’re still young enough to have A LOAD of stuff left to do and learn and see and achieve which is simultaneously completely terrifying and totally exhilarating.

But the absolute BEST thing!? You’re well on your way to not giving three shits about what anyone else thinks. Remember, the people who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t mind.

Twenty-five. You’re going to love it.


My painting: In the style of Mucha

Aren’t Mucha paintings wonderful? To me, they’re a fabulous mixture of dreamlike composition and stunning skill, redolent with silky textures, serene expressions, swirling hair and delicate features.

A Czech artist working in Prague and Paris in the early 20th century, Alphonse Mucha painted adverts, flyers and posters – and sometimes just art for art’s sake – entirely representative of his own, Art Nouveau time (Art Nouveau is up there in my top 5 kinds of design, mainly for its unbelievable “fussiness” and delicate swirls).

The women depicted are more often than not softly curved, swathed in luxurious fabric and haloed by a mass of unruly tendrils and pleasingly-complex geometric shapes, either dancing or triumphant, or laid-back, smoking, drinking, sitting.

They are ladies of understated leisure and artistry, as creative as the artist who paints them. They have all the beauty and traditional femininity of a pre-Raphaelite Rossetti or a Stanisław Wyspiański, without the often-found “downtrodden woman” vibes. Here, the woman is centre stage, the owner of the picture, the mistress of all she surveys, drinks, eats or smokes.

And they’re often incredible records of the design and pastimes of the time, due to their role as adverts and flyers for everything from chocolate to cigarettes to alcohol to play performances. The history geek in me just can’t get enough.

Plus, I also think they are stunningly beautiful.

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