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On loneliness

On Thursday I drove to the gym before work and left just as the sun was coming up. When I got into my car the sky was dark navy, like a school pullover. The street was still asleep – no orange glows from windows, no barking dogs nor the hum of car engines starting. I don’t say this to boast about my motivation to go for early morning workouts by the way; just that there was this moment of total stillness before I started my journey.

When this happens I often find myself taking a moment to stand in the street and take it all in. There’s something about being still in the middle of a road that feels almost rebellious to me (we always hurry across a road don’t we? So stopping feels somehow dangerous). There is a chill in the air that signifies the onset of Autumn, and a sheen of condensation lines my windscreen. I throw my gym bag onto the front seat and zip my hoody closer to my neck. This morning I’m not leaving a sleeping husband in bed – Tom is away with work for the week, which adds somehow to the stillness of it all. I know that Bodhi dog will have climbed back into his bed and the house will fall once again silent, with only my leftover green tea cup and the strewn bedcovers to signify my presence this morning.

In the car it feels like the day should start with music in keeping with the quietness of the morning; and so I choose a Calexico/Iron and Wine joint album I’ve been listening to a lot lately. By the time I’m driving through Lyndhurst (a pretty town in the forest with bunting strung across the street) it reaches my favourite track, '16, Maybe Less'.  This song always reaches deep down into something buried deep inside of me.  It’s about being an adult and remembering a teenage relationship (“Time has bridled us both but I remember you too”). There’s something so poignant about it; about longing for the wildness and intensity of youth, and it’s a song I have to be in a certain mood to listen to. As I rounded the corner to a section of the journey where fields and moorland open up to the right I could see that the sun was rising, and the sky was the most amazing deep, vast orange. The warmth of the rising sun against the coolness of the low-lying land had created a mist, and horses lazily navigated the haze, silhouetted against the skyline. There was something indescribably ‘too much’ about it all. It was truly overwhelming. The song, the sunshine, the stillness, that feeling of being completely on your own in the world. At times like this there’s always this odd, primitive yearning that I feel stirring in my gut – a desire to abandon my car and just walk deep into the forest and ensconce myself with nature. I imagine myself calmly parking at the side of the road and just walking; into that dappled sunshine, the near-frost on the undergrowth softening beneath my feet. To walk, and walk and walk until all is trees and horses and dirt and you.

And that’s how it all started, this feeling of loneliness that started at the back of my throat and forced me to breathe deeply and bite my lip.  Because I realised I hadn’t really spoken to anyone in almost 12 hours – which isn’t really a big deal, in the grand scheme of things.  But last night had been a different evening, something I had been building up to for some time.  I’d been to a football training event to discuss playing for a ladies football team – the sort of thing that people do all the time, but that I never do because my overactive brain tells me that I won’t be able to do it, that I’m too old, not good enough, that no one will talk to me, that it’s easier not to go.  For this reason, I’ve been knocking around the idea of going to a training session for months, until it was the point that I had to either go, or abandon the idea forever.  I chose to go, which is a big enough deal for me – to drive to practice, butterflies in my stomach, a bag of nerves and anxiousness.  And it was FINE – of course, and when I arrived back to my car afterwards I felt this whole mix of emotions I couldn’t translate into words. But there were no messages on my phone, no missed calls.  I drove home to an empty house, made dinner for myself and wandered through rooms feeling somewhat lost.  I endured a brief crackly phonecall from Tom, who was out for dinner with colleagues, and went to bed feeling empty. My phone remained silent as I drove to the gym that morning.  And somehow this expanse of sky, this sight that rendered me speechless and opened me up – it galvanised this sense of loneliness. It was just another thing, at that moment, that wasn’t to be shared.  Something that would be internalised and buried deep inside of me; another secret, another stone dug into the dirt.  I longed for the closeness of a teenage friendship, a person who would know the absolute minutiae of your life and be constantly rooting for you.  To have that person, or those people, who hold you in their thoughts and who think of you in times of difficulty, or challenge – in times when you are on your own.

This isn’t a complaint, or a whinge – I think that as you get older, the nature of relationships change so much. And I am guilty myself of living in a bubble and not thinking of others as often as I should. I also pride myself on being a very independent person and so I don't always share when things are tough for me, or when my internal monologue is building something up to be a 'big deal' to the extent that it's all I can think about.  So it's certainly not a criticism of my friends, so many of whom are incredibly thoughtful.  It's just that, I noticed that in that moment I felt incredibly alone in a way that I haven't for some time.  I watched the marmalade tinged sky grow smaller in my rear view mirror and turned up the heaters in my car.  Sometimes you don't even know how you feel until nature shows it to you.  Against the hugeness of that sky and the world turning even when everything else is still, I felt very small.

My Autumn Resolutions

I always find that a change in the seasons prompts me to reflect on the last few months and think about any changes, new routines or habits that I want to kick-start.  This happens particularly when Autumn rolls around, as it makes me think about making the home cosy and maximising all of the time spent indoors whilst it's raining!

R e a d i n g

I really want to spend more time reading, and ticking off some of the books in my to-read pile over the next few months.  I've been spending far too much time lying in bed on my phone when I could be reading a couple of chapters of a book (something that would enrich my life far more than scrolling through Twitter or Facebook).  I downloaded lots of books onto my Kindle before my holiday but for some reason I'm really itching to find the perfect paperback to lie awake at night thumbing through and throw in my bag to read on my lunch break.  I definitely go through phases where I prefer my Kindle and where I find myself reaching for the comfort of a real book! I'm really into crime novels at the moment - I'm just about to start Like This, For Ever, which my Dad read on holiday and said was a total page-turner.

S k i n c a r e

When I went away to France, because we were in the van and usually spent the evenings just relaxing and watching films on the laptop I found myself getting into the groove of a really good skincare routine.  There's something about not having to worry about my morning alarm that makes me take much more time to pamper myself! I found myself spending lots of time on using my favourite exfoliators, cleansers, toners and masks and I really saw a huge difference in my skin.  My skin gets so much drier and more sensitive in the chillier months so I want to take more time to give myself a bit of a pre-bedtime pamper and try and keep my skin feeling soothed even as the temperature starts to drop.  I've been reading on the Nuriss blog about their tips for tired skin and I've been wondering about adding one of their Fibroblast Facials to my to-do list in Autumn or Winter to help pep up my skin! I love to go for treatments or spa days to treat myself when I feel like I need a bit of self-care, and that sounds like it could be the perfect option.

W a r d r o b e

I really love packing away my shorts and vests at the end of summer and bringing out all of my cosy jumpers and coats.  I'm always on the lookout for some new autumnal items however - I feel that this A/W is going to consist of lots of chunky cardigans, ankle boots, midi skirts and thick jumpers.  Here's a few things I have my eye on...

F i t n e s s

Strangely, Autumn and Winter are actually the times when I tend to step up my fitness efforts rather than feeling like I want to hibernate (well, I do that too).  I love going running in the mornings when it's still dark outside and the air feels really crisp and chilly.  I have barely been running at all this year so I really want to pick that back up again, as well as playing more football, as I do really enjoy that (and I'm trying to push myself to try different sports to keep fitness fun!).  I'm still getting a lot out of going to the gym and seeing my personal trainer and I really want to keep that up to keep seeing results.

H o m e

It goes without saying that Autumn is a time when most people want to fill their homes with candles, fairy lights and comfy cushions to make the house feel ultra cosy for those lazy Autumnal Sundays.  I'm still head over heels for our new home and even though it's much smaller than our old house (the lounge is so small it was called a 'snug' in the details from the estate agent) I know it's going to be so perfect during Autumn and Winter - as soon as it starts to get chillier we'll be lighting the wood burning stove and spending evenings under a blanket watching movies! We have a lot of decluttering to do though before I can treat myself to any new homewares, so I really want to have a good clearout and welcome some pretty new bits and bobs in.  I'm loving anything mid-century or retro looking at the moment, my Pinterest boards are bursting at the seams! (PS La Redoute's Homewares section has so many lovely things, and they currently have a 40% off code - most of the below finds are from their site!)

What are you planning on focussing on or changing up for Autumn?

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Tattoo aftercare, and two new tattoos

A few months ago I decided I wanted to build up the tattoos I already have on my legs by getting my calf and thigh tattooed on my left leg.  I already have my right thigh tattooed with quite an abstract design of a woman surrounded by wolves in a forest, but I wanted to keep my left leg in line with the more colourful, traditional style of my other tattoos.

We are lucky enough to have lots of great tattoo artists down on the south coast, as well as several renowned studios that offer guest spots to other artists, so I've never had to travel far to get tattooed.  This time I had decided on two local artists that I wanted to get tattooed by - so I booked appointments with both, one for my calf, and one for my thigh.

// custom propaganda tattoo, southampton

Unfortunately I failed to notice that I had booked one for this Thursday, and one for this Saturday - and it wasn't until the dates started to creep closer that I realised I would be getting two tattoos on the same leg within three days of each other - oops! Luckily I was working from home on Friday and I have the rest of the weekend to relax, and in the end it actually wasn't too bad having them close together (and now I have two awesome tattoos to be excited about, it's such a novelty having two new pieces of artwork to ogle at).

So, on Thursday I arrived at Pauly's Tattoo in Southampton with a bag full of Lucozade and Haribo (important pre-and-during tattoo fuel), ready to get my calf tattooed by Aaron.  I think it's actually the first time I've gone alone to a tattoo appointment, but it was actually much nicer to be able to chat to the tattoo artist and relax rather than worry about a friend getting bored or listening to them chat whilst I winced in pain! As soon as he got the stencil out and we put it on my leg I started to get so excited as I knew it was going to look great.  We started about 11am and I was done about half past 3 - we did have a couple of breaks though so it was probably only around 3.5 hours of actual tattooing.  Several people had told me that your calf is a particularly painful place to get tattooed, but I didn't find it too bad - it was only near the end that I started to get fidget-y and feel like I couldn't sit (or lie!) for much longer.

On Saturday morning I then went over to Custom Propaganda to get my thigh done by Dan.  I found my right thigh quite painful so I was a bit nervous about the pain, and it was definitely just as painful as I remembered! Just like any tattoo, some bits were totally fine, and some bits were really, really sore. We managed to get the linework and the black sections done and I have another two hours booked in in a few weeks' time to get the colour done - I can't wait to see it when it's finished.  I'm totally in love with both pieces and can't wait for them to be healed and looking great.

T a t t o o  a f t e r c a r e

I was recently told by several people (including the people at the tattoo shop) that the previously much recommended for aftercare product - Bepanthem - has changed its formula and is now no longer suitable for tattoo aftercare as it contains lanolin (many people are allergic to lanolin, and as it acts to moisturise the skin by trapping water in the pores of the skin, it may cause a 'soggy skin' side effect that can damage the tattoo).  I always hated using Bepanthem as it's so oily that it tends to stain clothes and bed-sheets so in a way I'm kind of glad that it's no longer being recommended as the best product for tattoo aftercare.

Any products that have lanolin, petroleum, or added colours, scents or parabens are not advised to be used on tattoos.  I've been recommended a couple of different products and have decided mainly to use Tattoo Goo this time - I have the lotion but there is also a salve (although I found the salve a bit more difficult to apply).  Tattoo Goo has olive oil, beeswax, cocoa butter, wheatgerm oil and vitamin E, so lots of natural products that aid in healing and moisturising your skin.  A couple of people also recommended to me Waitrose Baby Bottom Butter (that's a mouthful!) and as there's a Waitrose at the end of my road I thought I'd quickly grab a pot of that for when I run out of Tattoo Goo.  It also has several similar ingredients, including olive oil and other essential oils.  Finally, I'll also be alternating these with the Palmer's Fragrance Free Cocoa Butter, as recommended by the lovely Rachel at Illustrated Teacup.  After my second tattoo they recommended either the Cocoa Butter, or Lush Elbow Grease or Ultrabalm.  Again, both of these products have all natural ingredients and oils and butters that will keep the tattoo moisturised and soothed.  (Elbow Grease also has the added benefit of making any tattoos that you already have look great, it makes them look all shiny and new!)

Everyone has an opinion on the best way to heal tattoos and look after them immediately afterwards so it's definitely worth asking your tattoo artist what they recommend.  Personally I always take a day off after getting tattooed (or try and get tattooed on a Friday so they have the weekend to heal) so that I can rest whichever part of my body is feeling sore at the time! I usually take ibuprofen after being tattooed to help with any swelling and stop it being so sore - there are mixed opinions on whether you can take painkillers before being tattooed (particularly paracetamol, which has the side effect of thinning your blood, which can mean that you bleed more whilst being tattooed) but I see no harm in taking a painkiller afterwards (if you have any doubts however, please do ask your tattoo artist or a GP).

Do you have any tattoos planned?