THE BIRTHDAY

Lifestyle

large (12)It’s that wonderful time of year again where I gain a wrinkle, four grey hairs and have a crisis of age.

I love birthdays.

Obviously the cards, presents and celebratory food cushion the blow, but why do I always panic when I realise that I’m another year older despite understanding – since the tender age of five – the simple concept of time?

Despite this blind, undying ignorance, birthdays aren’t all bad. Because mine happens to fall in the spring time – the season best known for new beginnings, bunny rabbits and general pinterest-worthy joyousness – I always treat them like a second New Year. I pledge vows to myself and set targets for the year ahead by reflecting on the things I’d have done differently, and of course, I rarely stick to my promises. So I thought, why break the habit of a life time?

Because I’m older, and a little wiser now. That’s why.

It’s essential to think about improvement, but it’s equally as important to realise how far you’ve come. So I will start by thinking about the things that I know now, that I wish I knew then.

Here goes:

One. Things take time. This includes everything from projects, to love.

Don’t. Rush. Anything.

Two. Most people deserve a second chance. Rarely do people deserve a third.

Three. Do not, under any circumstances, fad diet. Just maybe cut down on the Kit Kats.

Four. Yoga is a whole lot more than stretching in tight pants. The older you get, the more you’ll realise this.

And five. Having fewer good friends is better than having lots of shit ones.

I could go on and on, as 25 years is actually quite a long time, but the gist is this: things will always be okay. Yes, I have had my heartbroken, but it’s fixed now. Of course, I have failed at things, but I’ve succeeded in so many others. And, much like you, I cut my own hair once. Badly. But it’s grown out now. What I’m trying to say is, despite living with these goddamn freckles and a butt the size of Narnia my entire life, there are plenty of people who would kill to be you or I. So instead of trying to better ourselves each year, why not give ourselves a pat on the back, just for making it this far? Because life isn’t always a lemon sorbet on The Serpentine, if you know what I mean? And we’re probably doing alright, considering.

Behind a haze of pollution and astonishing drink prices, it’s really rather easy to forget why you’re alive, but when your birthday swings round, and people come together just to celebrate the simple fact that you were born, it all, very suddenly, becomes oh so clear.

Always be thankful for what you have. And I’m not talking about that new camera.

Happy Birthday to me.

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THE JOURNEY

Lifestyle

ebeec88a001103e9404aa36dddf55c44There is nothing better than a train ride to cleanse the soul; unless you’re not a fan of thinking, that is.

Larkin’s Whitsun Weddings was where I first saw train journeys as something other than a means to an end. Before sitting in that A level English lesson, trains to me had merely equated to a packet of cheese and onion and a can of coke on the way to Glasgow, running through Victoria because I was late (again), or being way too early for my departure because mum was in charge of the tickets.

After leaving school however, train journeys changed for me and they became the only way to reach the men in my life; I enjoy long distance, and my own space, it seems.

I started seeing a guy on my gap year who was in his second year at Durham, so naturally I decided to go and visit him for the weekend. The four hour train ride up there consisted of me feeling nervous, ticking off a mental checklist about all of the things hidden in my way-too-large-for-three-days bag and growing excited about the historic sights of the north. The return journey was somewhat different. A four hour trip turned into an eight hour test of endurance due to (probably three inches of) snow and a completely unprecedented delay; a tut for every single person who visited the buffet cart to grab their complementary drink due to weather conditions and a chance to reflect on the god-awful weekend I’d just had and how much I wouldn’t fit into Durham life for love nor money.

I then set off for university myself, where my next experience of trains was with the same guy. We were clearly too young and stupid to realise that weekends away didn’t work for us, ending up in him travelling for over ten hours from Durham to Exeter to see me, only to turn around after a further, excruciatingly bad, twelve hours to complete the return journey ahead of schedule. It was at this point that we called it a day. However, all was not lost as he did make the effort to text and tell me how beautiful Wales looked at that time of year and thankfully for him, he still had his untouched cheddar ploughman’s from the journey down to keep him company.

Throughout my university years, the train line between Paddington and St Davids was my time to cope with things; be it the transition of moving from home to a life in halls, an essay that I’d left to the last minute or a never ending break up. It was the place where I did most of my thinking as it was when I was at my most sober and I actually had a minute to stop and think about how weird being a student actually was. Each time I landed at either destination I would feel as though I didn’t belong and missed the former, but for those couple of hours, all of that didn’t matter because it was just me, my music and a mediocre cup of tea.

Being British, I obviously didn’t want anyone to sit next to me, I still feel a completely irrational pang of guilt as the ticket inspector makes his way through the carriage and I never pay for a first class ticket because, well, why would I? Trains are far more poetic than journeys in the sky or on the road, so what more could an extra fiver get me aside from a hot chocolate that tastes like… well… chocolate?

Travelling is a time to reflect, to read, to do the things that you can’t do at home or at work because they seem outdated or a waste of time when you could be checking Instagram; that’s why I pity those who take their laptop along for the ride. Train carriages are that half way house where you’re always leaving something behind and heading towards something else. You’re transient, for the four, five or fifteen hours spent on that train track and it’s a small chunk of time that you have completely to yourself, unless you’ve managed to book yourself onto the same carriage as a BYOB stag do en route to Leeds, of course.

Although you might not realise it, the Great British Railroad is a beautiful thing that connects us all. It’s very easy to forget when you’re surrounded by concrete that, although it might not be aliens, there really might just be something else out there beyond the 9-5 or your morning flat white fix.

So embrace the railway and explore our greener pastures, even if it is through a rain sodden train window en route to a raucous weekend in Newcastle. After all, life is totally about balance.

100

Lifestyle

largeNo, my blog is not one hundred years old. I have, however, published one hundred posts since it all began back in December 2010. And that, I believe, is cause for celebration.

As I sat in my tiny – and very chilly – bedroom in Exeter in my third year at university, I wrote my first few posts. I think they were about tea, or lipstick, or chips; a little insight into what I thought was important at 21. As I threw words out there, somewhat naively, into the internet, I didn’t picture my blog lasting past the Christmas holidays, but here I am, four and a bit years later, writing my 100th post.

I started The London Ladybird as a way to write something other than chapters of my dissertation – which was centred around Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and therefore not wholly uninteresting – as well as to hopefully try and persuade people in the working world that I could string a couple of sentences together and that they should pay me to do so. But not even just that; I hoped that I could make people laugh, or feel a little more understood than they did already.

The feedback I get from people is why this site is still up and running. Those who have provided guest posts to me over the years always say how nerve-wracking they found the whole experience and a lot of people say they would never submit anything to me for fear of being ridiculed. I won’t lie, I still feel a little anxious each time I publish a post – not because I don’t want people to critique my work, in fact, I welcome constructive criticism – but I fear that people won’t enjoy the next as much as the last. However, the conversations that my posts inspire amongst friends and the comments I receive from strangers (be them agreeing with what I have to say or not) make it all worthwhile.

I’ve decided to celebrate all of this by choosing my top three posts since it all began, so here they are:

The Freckle – because it was my first ever.

The Fart – because I can’t believe I wrote about something so grim.

The Betrayal – because it was hard to write and even harder to post.

So, for as long as you are (hopefully) still enjoying this little space of mine on the internet, I’ll continue to write about everything from relationships to embarrassing bodily functions, because, why not? And if you’re contemplating starting one of your own, my advice to you would be to go for it; you really don’t have much to lose.

My one piece of advice? Always remember that:

‘The internet’s not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink’

The Social Network. 

Only post what you really mean. Be honest, be smart, be open to other’s opinions.

Thank you for all of your support over the years. Here’s to the next one hundred posts!