Thursday, 20 July 2017

Ashes to Ashes



The Best Boy
how could you NOT miss a face like this?
So, I lost my dog of almost 15 years a couple of weeks ago and, being the crazy dog lady that I am, it hit me exactly the way I thought it would: hard.  Aside from the whole ‘did I give him a big enough cuddle the last time I saw him?’ and ‘God, I hope I didn’t give him a row for doing anything naughty’ initial panic, I actually realised that he had it good.  In fact, he had it great.  He was pampered in a way that I’m fairly certain my children would never be and I generally made sure he was ok before I tended to the needs of any humans.  I think I can assuredly say he was a happy boy and had a very good home with me and, latterly, with my parents.

Since Jake was my favourite dog and the one I’d owned the longest, I decided I had to have him cremated and then take him home with me to Wales. I hadn’t given it too much thought, aside from the fact that I immediately knew I wanted to keep him. I received his ashes back from the vet last weekend and, apart from being upset at the fact that he’s now in a box, I began to wonder quite what I was going to do with him. I hadn’t actually considered it until I held his little biodegradable bamboo pouch and tried to work out my next move.  Not having been in the position of having ashes before (either human or canine), it’s a fairly new experience for me.

My husband suggested I sprinkle Jake in the Irish Sea, since we live on the West Coast of Wales and it’s a beautiful spot.  I quickly informed him that Jake wouldn’t even go for a walk if it was raining, so he would hate that.  I thought I might bury him under a tree in the orchard and then realised he might not like that, either.  What Jake really *would* like would be to lie on the couch, with his chops on the arm rest, the telly on in the background, and soak up the sun’s rays as they filter through the living room window.  And this very spot is currently where he is. I really don’t think he should be, though.  I can’t see me having to tell my visitors that they can’t move the dog from the chair because it’s his seat and he likes it, when all they can see is a box with ‘Jake Gorman’ written on it.  I rather fear I’d gain more of reputation for being a people hater than I already have and that would probably not be such a good thing…regardless of how true it is.

So, yeah, I’m pretty much going home at night and saying ‘Hi’ to the Box of Dog on my sofa before floating off to cook dinner. We then sit later on, me on my rocking chair, and Jakey on his cushion, and catch up with Supervet.  It’s our favourite programme, obviously.  We chat about the dogs (not so much about the cats) and cry with joy every time Noel fashions a Spaniel shoe out of an old croc.  Let’s face it, it’s the only thing in the world those God awful things are actually useful for.  I patted Jake's head last night (by which I meant the top of his box) when I arrived home and I’m not even kidding.  I don’t want to end up like Norman Bates, so I feel I should probably find a suitable spot for him sooner rather than later.  My friend found a company in Essex that makes jewellery from molten glass and ashes and turns them into rings and bracelets and stuff, so I thought I’d do this, regardless of the fact that anyone I’ve told about it has been completely horrified.  Because Jake was a white Staffie, he quite often had the effect of making anyone walking towards us do a double take and head off in the opposite direction (which was funny as he was the biggest scaredy dog in the WORLD), but the knowledge that, even now he’s gone, he can still repulse humans from coming near me simply makes me realise that this is the best thing I could do with him.   Now I just need to figure out what to do with the other 3kg…

Answers on a postcard, please…

Suz x

 

Thursday, 13 July 2017

How to Introvert at Parties

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

A Lazy Girl's Guide to Makeup

A Lazy Girl's Guide to Makeup


I'm the first the admit that I can be lazy but, when it comes to makeup and skin care, I am literally the worst. This is primarily because, well, I've got other stuff to do. Like sitting down, for example. I'm also one of these people who gets out of bed at the last possible moment because I don't want to get up. Ever.  

Because of this, and the fact that I know I should be looking after my skin and maybe making myself look presentable so as not to terrify people that pass me in the street, I have discovered some pretty good products that are perfect for lazy girls:

MAKEUP WIPES:
this one goes without saying, really. These bad boys can be used for everything. I use them to clean up after the gym if I can't be bothered showering when I get home (which is aruond 75% of the time), clean my phone, wipe the sink and, sometimes I even use them for their actual purpose, which is remove any makeup I've been able to casually slap on my face during the day.  There's no fuss, no mess and I have been known to clean my face and brush my teeth at the same time. If that's not the epitome of multi tasking, I genuinely don't know what is. 

COMPACT FOUNDATION:
it comes with its own sponge and it takes, like, all of 30 seconds for me to apply. It might take you a bit longer, but I care not about this. For me, the fact that I even own some, never mind actually *use* is, is a massive win. I need something I can grab fro the bathroom, chuck in my bag, and apply it in the car (or in the bathroom at work) and doesn't impact on the whole 'getting up at the last moment' routine that I've spent my entire adult life perfecting. My skin is almost translucent, so I grab anything that looks easy to apply and comes in Ultra White Girl Ivory shade. 

ROLL ON BLUSH:
I have fallen deeply in love with Rimmel's roll on blush/lip color, which come in the cutest little pot and takes up no space whatsoever. I buy mine in rosy pink and roll it across  my cheekbones and literally just smush it in until it doesn't make me look like Aunt Sally from Wurzel Gummige. I also roll it across my lips because nothing makes me happier than using one product for two uses.  

MASCARA:
Unfortunately, I'm yet to find a mascara that doesn't involve me removing my glasses and desperately trying to squint at the bathroom mirror in order to apply. It's just not on the market. Although, it should be by now, no?? Us long sighted girls need mascara, too.  Anyway, I have no real time saving tips for this step, so I use Rimmel's Shake mascara, mainly because it's as black as hell and it never seems to clump.  And no clumping means it doesn't end up all over my face by mid afternoon. This in itself is a time saver, I feel.

BROWS:
I'm a total brow newbie who recently bought a palette (for reasons I'm still trying to work out) and tried it out one long afternoon when I clearly had way too much time on my hands. I tried it and hated it because it made me look like I had actual eyebrows which, as a very pale blonde, I've really never seen before.  Anyway, I'm slowly getting used to having eyebrows, but that's a whole post in itself. You're welcome. 


DRY SHAMPOO:
I don't think I'm being too overdramatic here when I say that this stuff has changed my life. I actually can't believe I ever lived in a world without it. When I look back at older women and realise that they all had to get out of bed to wash their hair every day, it makes me genuinely sad for them.  Also, for younger me, who also had to do this. However, in my defence, when I was young I used to wash my hair, dry it and then straighten it which, when I think about it now, is ludicrous. How early did I have to get up in those days? And, more to the point, Why? 

What are your favourite lazy girl beauty hacks ?? 


Suz x

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Dog Days

Everyone that knows me, and anyone who has ever read the blog knows that I am a self-confessed crazy dog lady. I love all dogs.  Even the little ratty looking ones.  But my eyes are usually drawn to any Staffy I see as they remind me of my own little meatball, Jake.  Jake is almost 15 years old and when I first met him, he was being kept in a cupboard in his owner's house as his older brother was constantly attacking him. When he was let out of the cupboard to meet us, he went crazy.  He ran circles around the furniture in a furiously insane fashion and the faces of my then husband and step son were a picture. They were less than keen, but I knew I had to take him home.  That was in 2003.   

Jake passed away yesterday and, although I knew he wouldn't live forever, I just hoped that he might.  He was an old man and had slowed down a great deal, having all sorts of problems and vet trips over the past couple of years. But he was always that crazy puppy underneath.  I knew it would happen sooner rather than later and I worried about just how much it would break my heart to have had him around for so long - and for some of the worst times of my life - and then wake up one day and realise he wasn't there anymore.  Today was that day.   

I'm the woman who can't watch Dog's Trust adverts on TV without crying, and if there's a dog on Supervet whose chances are not looking good, I have to switch channels so I don't end up howling for the rest of the night. I don't do dog-related sadness well. 

We knew on Monday that Jake would go back to the vet the following day and we'd made the decision that we didn't want him to suffer with a condition that was only going to get worse. So, when the guy from the accident repair garage delivered me a courtesy car and made me sign to say I wouldn't smoke or have any dogs in the car, I was a mess.  Then my husband suggested that we scatter Jake's ashes in the sea and I cried because Jake hated the rain.  Then I cried because I found one of his hairs on his bed.  And then I just cried.  

I had an easier day than my parents, who actually had to take him to the vet for his last trip.  I was at work in Wales at the time, so I got to avoid the heart wrenching act of sitting with him. But I also didn't get to say goodbye and sat, trying desperately trying to work out what the last thing I said to him was, and then realising it didn't matter because he was a dog and he probably wanted me to go away and stop petting him so he could snooze.

So, for the time you Steve McQueen'd through my expensive leather chair trying to tunnel your way to God knows where; all the times you pushed me out of bed so you could get your massive face comfy on my pillow; for every time you dragged me off my feet and into some damp, soggy puddle; for the time you ran off when I smashed my wrist during our Boxing Day walk; for every time you pulled me away when you spotted a traffic cone, for every time you sat on my head; and for every single time you barked at me to go for a walk and then refused to go outside because it was raining; I forgive you. I wouldn't have changed it for the world. 

You were the best birthday present I've ever had and my best friend through thick and thin. I'm so glad you were mine.  


Puppy Love - Jake
20/10 best boy


Suz x 

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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Trouble With 39

The Trouble with turning 40

Turning 40 has been on my mind since I turned 36, if I’m being honest but, now that I’m 39 it’s like the only thought I have. I think once I’d officially moved into the old ’36-44’ box I started to think about how it was even possible that I could be creeping towards the big 4 0. My mind hasn’t matured since I hit 30, so it seems unfair that the rest of me seems to have sprung forward almost a full decade since then. I am now teetering on the brink of 40 - having turned 39 in January - and I’ve been experiencing an odd feeling that fluctuates somewhere between mild panic and sheer terror ever since. I don’t know how to be 40. I’m not sure if there’s something I should be doing differently? I’ve tried to tell myself of how much I’ve achieved, but I’m worried there’s something I haven’t done that I should have by now. Once I’m in that way of thinking, I start to concern myself with all the things I've missed. I’ve never been to Japan; I’ve never been hand gliding over the Grand Canyon and, to make matters even worse, I’ve never, ever, watched a single episode of 24. I also appear to have missed off a substantial chunk from the list: ‘Things You Absolutely Must Do Before You Hit 30’. At this rate, I’ll be 50 by the time I catch up. What have I been doing with my life, I hear myself ask….myself.  
 

To be fair, when I'm not seized by terror, I realise I’ve actually done a LOT. 


It might not be the same as other people at my advancing age (literally holding back the tears writing those words), but it’s not so bad. In the intervening years that others have spent having kids and, well…looking after kids, I have spent that time wisely*. I’ve been married twice (the second one is still going well, thanks), I’ve travelled extensively, got my degree, overseen 12 years of wicked stepmother duties, become an Aunt thrice over, bought a hundred pairs of shoes, petted over a million doggos, and memorised the lines from every single Miranda Lambert song.  I have been BUSY, people.   

I have noticed, however, that many of my recent decisions have largely been based on my ever nearing descent into my 40s.  When choosing travel destinations this year, I have insisted on going only to places I’ve never been and have dragged Les to Riga, Vilnius and Naples thus far. I’ve also just signed us up for a trip to Brussels and Bruges like a crazy woman who thinks that I’ll be refused entry anywhere else once they check out the date of birth on my passport. I joined the gym just after turning 39 and have been going there 3 times a week since (who even am I?) in an obvious effort not to feel more crappy when The Day of Reckoning finally arrives. I’ve even started buying good wine when I’m shopping as, for some reason, I think that’s what other 40 years olds do. They buy organic fresh fruit and courgetti and expensive coffees, while my basket's filled with midget gems and tequila and whatever washing powder happens to be on special offer. I know it's a completely irrational way to think, but I can't seem to stop it (send help...)

I’ve started reading different books, just so I can say I haven’t spent my whole life reading crime fiction by Jo Nesbo and Michael Connolly. 


Now I’m reading crime fiction by other authors, too. Progress indeed. I’m listening to new music (when I say ‘new’ I mean new country…not new genres, although I did watch a bit of the Stormzy set from Glastonbury at the weekend but mainly because I couldn’t be bothered getting up to find the remote), and I very nearly walked into a no-appointment salon last week in Bangor and asked them to chop all my hair off.  I didn’t, because I had work to do, and also because I was worried the staff would be like: ‘here we go…another middle aged woman panicking about turning 40…’, so I walked briskly past and have been thinking about it ever since. What age do you get to before you no longer have long hair?  What’s the maximum age you’re allowed to keep it?  I must know. These are the questions I have for the hairdressers of Britain, but am too frightened to ask. I do NOT want to be one of those women (I’m looking at you, Donatella Versace) that has the hair style of a 20 year old when they’re in their 60s. I also don’t want to be one of those women who thinks that women in their 60s can’t have the hairstyle of a woman in their 20s, but here I am. 

I guess I just always thought that 40 was so very far away that I hadn’t really given it much thought. I did absolutely assume that I’d end up as a crazy dog lady with mad jumpers and wildly unkempt hair, but that’s a life goal I met many years ago. These days I get the distinct feeling that I’ve been missing something, but maybe that’s just a natural reaction to getting older. Just to be on the safe side, I’ve downloaded the first season of 24 and plan to have watched it all by the time my birthday comes round. If that’s not a worthy goal to have met before for turning 40, I genuinely don’t know what is.  

Suzanne Tam

Age 39 1/2  



* I have spent a *portion* of that time wisely 



Wednesday, 21 June 2017

How To Survive Holiday Season as an Introvert

How To Survive Holiday Season as an Introvert
are we nearly there, yet?
I’ve lived and worked in Scotland for most of my life, so I know what it's like try and survive in Edinburgh during the Festival; in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games, or around Perth when the Ryder Cup was on.  I worked in the tourism industry for many years, so scooting around the country during peak season was second nature to me. I also love to travel elsewhere, so I’m a regular tourist myself.  Although my job dictated that I couldn’t avoid tourists at work, on a personal level, I tend to favour off season breaks for the simple fact that I don’t enjoy being around people.  Don’t get me wrong, I will put up with anything to see the sights I want to see, but that doesn’t mean I’m not inwardly counting down the second until I can get back to my apartment or, at the very least, the back booth of or a bar of cafĂ© where I can escape human interaction for a while.  Being an introvert in a world full of people has its challenges, let me tell you. Taking all this into account, it does make my decision to relocate to a popular tourist destination seem a little ill-considered.  And while this is true of the summer months, in the winter, it’s all kinds of heaven.   

In all my years of travelling for work and pleasure,  I have never, *ever* experienced tourism quite as 'all or nothing' as it is here in North Wales. 


 Holy crap, does it take a bit of getting used to. I know extroverted locals who often hide away until after school holidays are through, but as a local who's also an Introvert, there's no way you'll ever be adequately emotionally and physically prepared for All Of The People. It will break you; I'm not even kidding.  These are my tips for surviving the holiday season as an introvert.  

Time:
Give yourself, oooooh, at least double the time you would normally reserve for doing *anything*.  This includes driving, walking and, if you have a death wish, cycling.  Nothing, I mean nada, nowt, not a bloody thing, will run to schedule.  Think you're popping to the local store for some milk? Think again, sister, cos that ain't what's happening here.  You might be used to small village life and aimlessly wandering around in the winter, not seeing another soul for miles, but buck up, people, that's all but a distant memory now.  Nothing will go according to your plans from Easter ‘til September.  And don't think you can factor in a bit of additional time and everything will just work out for you.  It won’t.  


Shopping:
Your local store that's usually so small and friendly, and even the larger supermarkets, will immediately cease being the calm, relaxed oasis they once were. Instead of two tills open, they're all open. Instead of being able to browse in comfort, you will have to start planning trips with military precision *just* to get near the aisle next to the one you actually want to be in.  Instead of being able to check out a full selection of red wine on a Friday night* you'll have to wrestle with some sunburnt woman from Birmingham just to get your paws in the last shitty bottle on the shelf.  Shopping is literal hell.  And the stores in my part of North Wales are simply not designed for the sheer volume of summer traffic.  Go early (8am), map your exact route, pretend you're Usain Bolt, as you sprint round the aisles (pay no mind to those you knock over) and get the Hell out of there as soon as humanly possible.  Also, and I can't stress this strongly enough: do NOT let your partner/husband/SO deviate from The Plan, regardless of how much he says he needs green beans.  We all have to make sacrifices at this time of the year, so suck it up, sunshine. 


Beach Towns:
I live near the beach, on the glorious Cambrian coast in Snowdonia National Park and I totally get why people come to visit. I came to visit two years ago and I’m still here. Beach towns; particularly those that look as pretty as they do here, are a magnet for families who want to wander along the sandy, splash in the Irish Sea, eat fish and chips on the harbour, and get drunk in The Last Inn.  And that's all brilliant; I just wish they wouldn't all do it at exactly the same time.  When you try to escape your own beach town and, say, go to someone else's, then you're pretty much just adding to the problem. On the recent bank holiday weekend, we took a drive to Aberdyfi in Mid Wales. It looked stunning, gleaming in the summer sunshine and I know this because I looked at it from the car window.  Unfortunately, I wasn't mentally strong enough to actually attempt getting out of the car and wandering along the harbour front with the entire population of Bebington, because I’m simply unable to enjoy being around lots of people. Being and Introvert doesn't mean you can't go out and see the sights, it simply means that you'd rather see them from behind the people-proof safety of your car window.  


Parking:
Holidaymakers will park ANYWHERE. They care not whether this legal or not, as long as they don't have to walk more than 100ft to get to the beach/bar/chippy. Just because you have whole designated parking areas does not mean that people will actually use them.  Also, even when you do have visitor car parks, when the weather's particularly stunning, they'll never be big enough, anyway.  If you, a local resident, have to conduct business in your town, do not count on getting parked.  You can't. 


Even those tiny little hidden spaces that you make use of the rest of the year and you think no one knows about? They do.  


In this instance, you can choose to walk but, I find it way less stressful if you take care of all your errands in the week before the schools break up. Seriously; you know it makes sense. If you don't have errands to run, you won't have to deal with cars parked up and down streets, on double yellows, outside your house, immediately round a dodgy bend in the road, and then you won’t drive yourself nuts in the process.  Insanity is not a good look. 

Eating Out:
I spend a lot of time thinking I might like to give my husband a night off from cooking and go out to eat. However, I spend even more time trying to strategically plan this around when I know it won't become A Thing Of Nightmares.  This, for me, is involves going anywhere that has too many people. And in a tourist hotspot this is everywhere. These days, we tend to visit our favourite eateries before Easter and then refuse to go back until the coast is clear in September. The downside of this is that, living in a small town that thrives on tourism, many of your favourite places close when holidaymakers go home.  But this is just something you have to live with for the happiness that comes from knowing where all your marbles are.   


Hazards:
Most hazards come in the form of drivers who have no idea where they're going and have never experienced the sheer joy that's found in driving on rural roads.  In the summer, your daily commute will take at least a third as long as normal, but this will also be littered with perilous situations and drivers who leave you so frustrated that you verge on committing road rage crimes for which there will be no chance of parole. Rural roads are filled hidden driveways, caravan park entrances, national park resting places, picnic sites, and bends that come at you out of the blue. In the two years I've lived in North Wales, I've twice had my car hit by someone who wasn't paying enough attention, or was driving way too fast and therefore unable to stop in time when a tourist decided, at the last second, that he'd turn into a farm lane.  And on the subject of farms: its not tourists that you need to watch out for, it's errant sheep, tractors, mad bales of hay that roll off trucks and into your path, and sometimes that's just getting out of your own street. I find that playing a few rounds of Mario Kart helps me to adequately cope with the kinds of situations that continually crop up here.  Please note that you really shouldn’t lob mushrooms at the car in front.  I think you can get into trouble for that. 


Relax:
As entirely frustrating as school holidays are for residents, you have to sit back and remind yourself why people want to visit.


When you take your drive to work, you might become immune to the sea gently lapping at the coastline and the mountains stretching out in front of you but, for a lot of visitors, this is the first time they've been lucky enough to experience it. 


Also: they spend a small fortune in the local towns and villages and provide the backbone of the income generated here.  Whenever I'm shouting at the guy with the Liverpool number plate who thinks nothing of backing into my drive when he's trying to find the road to the beach (even though there's a massive sign telling him there is no access), I have to remind myself that, come September, I'll once again be able to work in my front garden in my jammies and no bra, safe in the knowledge that only the local sheep are judging me. 

Basically, if you can do it, just stay indoors.  It's much too dangerous to venture outside. 

Suz x 

PS - seriously though, welcome to North Wales. Don't think I'm rude if I don't come and say hello; it's honestly not you, it's me. 

*Wednesday night