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

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

How To Be Extra When You're So Basic

Me, literally none of the time
I have no issue with the word ‘basic’, and I’m the first to admit to taking shortcuts when it comes to girly stuff (apart from shoes…I am EXTRA when it comes to shoes).  I own two wardrobes and a linen cupboard that are literally crammed with clothesand I own more than 100 pairs of shoes, boots and flats. Do I wear them all? Nope. Do I wear the same things over and over again? Absolutely.  Does this fact stop me shopping? Absolutely not. 

I find it a struggle to find a balance between indulging in my 'I don't really care' attitude and the conflicting feeling that 'I should really make a bit of effort'. It's like I have a glamorous, made up, properly accessorised woman (with matching handbag) on one shoulder and a make up free, leggings and baggy jumper clad, jewellery-less, dry shampooed tramp on the other. With me, it's all or nothing. However, I have recently begun to make steps to shift away from this basic mindset and found that I don't have to spend hours getting ready in the morning just to look half normal. These are my tips then how to be extra when you're totally basic:

Hair:

I wear my hair up 99% of the time. There are genuine moments in my life when I've straightened my hair and been completely taken aback by how long it was. If I ever wear it down, I pull some conditioner through it and leave my natural curls to dry on their own. These days, instead of a simple ponytail gathered at the back of my head, I often pull it to side and plait it, or pile it all up on top of my head in a mass of messy curls. This barely takes me any longer than a basic pony and it makes me look as if I care just a *tiny* bit about the state of my head before I dash off to work. If I'm feeling particularly extra, I might even wash it...

Makeup:

I rarely wear much makeup. I am simply not a girl who likes to be caked in goop all day.  Plus, I just don’t have the time to be doing all that crap only to have to take it all off and start again the next morning. If I go out, which is rare for me, I slap on some foundation and even go as far as making the effort to put on some liquid eyeliner, but only if I have an extra 45 minutes to spare because I'm rubbish at it. Over the past few months I discovered that Maybelline makes a roll on liquid blush. And not only is it a roll on blush; it also doubles as a lipstick. IT'S A BLIPSTICK, PEOPLE! If you didn't know, the blipstick is THE perfect accessory for the basic woman who wants to be extra. In other words: me. It now takes me around 5 minutes in the bathroom each day and I can confidently float out the back door to my car looking like I didn't run out of fucks to give in the summer of 2010.    

Jewellery:

I wear the same chain every day with my husband's initial on it, and also my dog.  I'm absolutely serious.  On my hands I wear my engagement and weddings bands and some gorgeous sparkler that my husband bought me before he was my husband. I own other jewellery; both costume and pretty expensive, but I just don’t have the energy to look for it, or rake through boxes trying to untangle it in order to put it on.  My older sister has a Stella and Dot franchise, so I’ve been exposed to SO many bracelets, cuffs, earrings and everything else you can think of for the past 9 months or so and  I also appear to have bought a shit ton of it.  I recently purchased a little pair of hooped earrings and a gorgeous silver cuff bracelet, which I leave on the nightstand when I get home each night and pop on when I'm ready to hit the road.  It’s not much, but these little details do make me feel a little more put together than usual. I mean, how can a woman who voluntarily puts on earrings and a bracelet possibly NOT have all her shit together? And this is the exact impression I'm trying to convey.  The fact that it's in no way a reality is hardly the point. 

Matching Clothes:

I've never had any issue with finding shoes to match an outfit because, well...I have so many of them. I do, however, find it a challenge to fit all of the finding of the stuff in that crucial 5 minute window of opportunity between coming out of the shower and getting in my car.  It will come as no surprise to you that, as a dedicated lazy girl, I have no time for ironing.  I don't even know where my iron is.  Also, I don't even think it's my iron; it belongs to Les.  When I entered this marriage, I did so without the means to uncrease my clothing.  Anyway, when I'm shopping (which is usually in chazzas in Dolgellau), I will only buy clothes that require little maintenance.  It's all very well telling myself that I'll make the effort to iron something pretty that I find but, the truth of the matter is that, when it comes to the crunch, I just won't wear it. I wear simple dresses for work and prefer something I can put in my gym bag when I get changed before my workout and will still look ok when I hang it back up at home. If something doesn't pass this test, it can't be mine.  

What I have found useful is to have a few outfits on rotation that match to some degree and are hung up under the 'Put This On, It's Only For Work' side of my wardrobe.  It's full of non creased clothing that have literally no buttons or annoying necks or collars and can be put on in a matter of seconds.  There are days when I actually look like one of those women I can't stand (the put together ones... you know the ones that get up early and always look good? Yeah, I hate them).  

At the end of the day, I will always be too interested in doing something else (read: sleeping) to really bother much about anything else, but it feels good to fake it a little sometimes and have people think you've got the hang of the whole adulting thing.

Suz xx