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Heroes & Villains Fan Fest – 27/05/2017

I hadn’t heard of Heroes & Villains before, and it was quite by accident that I saw an advertisement for it. I was on Facebook and an ad came up saying that Robin Lord Taylor was attending London’s Heroes & Villains! For those who don’t know, he plays Oswald ‘Penguin’ Cobblepot in the TV show Gotham. It’s one of my favourite shows, and he’s one of my favourite people in it. I immediately booked a general admission ticket to get in. I decided I simply had to meet him! Imagine how thrilled I was when four other cast members were announced! Originally, it was: David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Drew Powell and Cory Michael Smith. Unfortunately, Cory had to cancel because he’s shooting a new movie! He was replaced by the lovely Jessica Lucas.

I booked a room at the Premier Kensington, a hotel a stone’s throw from Earl’s Court Tube station (read my tips for navigating the Tube here). It was exactly what I needed – not far from the Heroes & Villains venue, small but practical and clean. The staff were really friendly and helpful, too. I only needed it to sleep and shower, so it was a perfect, reasonably-priced base camp.

Then it was simply a case of waiting for six months for May 2017 to come!

heroes & villains banner

On the day, I left the hotel at about 07:30, and walked to the Olympia; it really wasn’t far, about a 15-minute walk. On the way though, I seriously felt faint and sick. I don’t know if it was nerves or tiredness (maybe both?) but it was so unpleasant and a bit worrying.

Will Call (which is where you change your tickets for a wristband/lanyard) was relatively painless, as I got there pretty much bang on time. I got my wristband that said ‘HERO’ on it, and met a nice kid and her mum – we hung out together while waiting to be let into the con. I’m so grateful for them; it would have been really boring if I had to wait on my own.

will call

There was an older guy who appeared on the balcony above us to announce that us peasants (general admission) were to be allowed in half an hour early! Everyone cheered really loudly and he was loving the fame. He had a power trip by making us do a Mexican wave before we were let in.

I legged it straight to Robin’s table and was right near the front of the queue. Robin took ages to show up but seeing him in real life was amazing. He’s so tiny and gorgeous. He was waving and blowing kisses as he got himself situated at the table. Meeting him was in doubt for a horrible while because they were letting so many VIPs through and NO general admission people. I really resent that having more money = guaranteed to meet/chat to the guests. It’s like if you can’t afford it you’re not ‘as good a fan’. It really bugged me because it made the queues horrible at the con. More power to you if you can afford a VIP ticket, but I still feel like it’s not fair on other people who have also paid.

Luckily the guy in front of me (if by some miracle you’re reading this Adam, THANK YOU SO MUCH!) told me to pretend we were there as a group so we could both go at the same time. It’s probably thanks to him that I got to meet Robin at all. His line was crazy long all day – if I hadn’t gone straight to him I doubt it would’ve happened.

So, yeah. I GOT TO MEET ROBIN. I dropped £55 on an autograph/selfie combo but it was so worth it! Instead of a wall of writing about it, I’m gonna bullet point what happened:

  • He shook my hand and asked for my name, then signed my season 2 DVD sleeve. I didn’t really think that one through – there wasn’t much space to write on, so his autograph is really cramped! I said “Yeah good luck writing on that.”
  • He kept calling me ‘darling’ and ‘love’. I usually hate pet names. He got away with it.
  • I gave him this small pride flag pin that I bought for him and he got really excited. “Thank you! Aww, that’s amazing!” He then pinned it onto his shirt.
  • He came around the table to hug me/take selfies and said, “I love your hair!” which threw me off a bit (I’m still not over it, by the way). I showed him my Oswald necklace (“Oh WOW!”) and gave him the biggest hug. He apologised for being ‘so sweaty, it’s SO warm in here!’. He was sort of damp.
  • We took a cute selfie then I said “Be ugly!” and he did an ugly photo with me! Top lad! I then said, “Be nice again.” and got a cheeky third photo. He had his arm tight around me the whole time and was just so lovely.

robin lord taylor 1robin lord taylor 2

  • I said thanks and he said, “Thank you, I love you!” Then I had to go (totally didn’t want to!).

I didn’t say anything that I wanted to tell him – how wonderful and brave and positive he is, and how he makes me feel hopeful despite my depression. I just kind of clammed up (which isn’t like me) and I’m gutted that I didn’t say more/have more time with him. He’s so sweet and so incredibly beautiful as a person.

Straight after I was done with Robin I had to go and pick up my photo op with him (although nothing would top the Hideous Selfie). I got chatting to two girls behind me, Holly and Ali, who were dressed as the Riddler’s henchgirls, Query and Echo. They’d decided on the costumes when Cory was announced and were gutted that he’d cancelled. They laughed when I called him a ‘stupid giraffe man’ (with all the love in the world, of course). We had a great chat about Gotham, our ‘ships’, and how there are always Harley Quinns and Deadpools at cons. They said to wait for them after my photo op and basically adopted me for the rest of the day ♥

As soon as I walked into the op, Robin was like “Hello again!” He held his hand out for me to shake. I was like ‘lol no’ and hugged him again. His pin was gone so I asked after it – he told me it kept getting knocked off so he put it away safely at the table. Then we took our picture and he said, “Bye darling!” Holly and Ali were soon done and we went to pick up our photos together. I look so ugly in mine, I was really upset. Robin, of course, looks adorable. So that was a bit disappointing. I really ought to have known, I always look terrible when other people take my photo.

After we’d collected our photos, Holly and Ali invited me to Costa with them. We hadn’t eaten so we were all feeling a bit rough. While we had cold drinks in the sun, we tweeted Cory about how much he was missing. We got back to Olympia for the Gotham panel. We didn’t manage to get seats so a bunch of us sat on the floor. At one point, Drew Powell pointed his phone at us shouting, “THIS IS FOR THE CHEAP SEATS!” so we’d all cheer on his video.

pre gotham panel
gotham panel
The panel was fun. It was so strange to see them in the flesh. My legs were aching by the end but I’m glad I got to see it. Some highlights:

  • Drew: David has pyjamas with pictures of Christian Bale on. Not as Batman, just photos of Christian Bale.
    David: … I told you that in private, Drew.
  • Jessica: I have the ‘Butch look’ that Tabitha always gives him. I also give Drew the ‘Butch look’.
    Robin: Is it the Butch look or the BITCH look?
  • Robin saying his inspiration was his mum (and finding out his mum was there!).
  • Drew: My first job was a commercial when I was ten. I used the money to by a Pacman watch, which was FREAKIN’ AWESOME.
  • All of them being so astonished that they have so many UK fans, and how much they seemed to enjoy themselves!

After the panel I went straight to Sean’s table. The queue was looooong. I spent my time chatting to two hilarious girls from Dover and a girl with an awesome guy dressed as male Poison Ivy. It took over an hour to get to Sean but his manager thanked me for my patience – he was sweet. I told Sean that I had orders from my mum to give him a big hug and he came around the table and gave me one. I think he thought I was only there because of my mum, which I feel stupid about. I totally forgot to tell him how I also love him. He was such a gent, even though he was pressed for time. He’s so handsome and tanned in real life, with the brightest blue eyes. I took some photos and he told me to give mum his best. So sweet, and he smelled nice!

sean pertwee

Holly, Ali and I wandered around the stalls, browsing for a bit, and went to Pizza Express for dinner. We had a laugh while we ate, especially when I referred to Jack the Ripper as ‘Mr The Ripper’. After dinner we went to their hotel room and watched Doctor Who, then talked about Gotham for ages. I had such a great day!

holly and ali

Overall, Heroes & Villains was a lot of fun and I’m so glad I went. My main objective (to meet Robin) was met, so I was happy. I like that the con is more focused on getting people the chance to meet their favourites, rather than having tonnes of stalls and things like, say, MCM does. The stalls they did have were cute and interesting, and there were other things (like some kind of live-action horror thing) that I didn’t have time to see because of all the queueing. If I were to go again, I think I’ll actually take the plunge and buy a “VIP” ticket, so I can avoid having to stand around for hours. By the end of the day, my bad knee was in agony (and actually collapsed the next day, something that hadn’t happened for a year) so I think it’d be better for both my health and patience to have a shorter wait time for guests. And I’d like to experience more of the con next time, too!

Have you been to a convention or a festival this year? Tell me about it!

Kayleigh x

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Tube Etiquette: 10 Tips For Using The London Underground

I’ve been to London a lot. Someday, I hope to live there (if i ever get the money). The London Underground, colloquially known as the Tube, is an amazing way to get around the city, and I love it dearly – even if it is busy and dirty.

I came up with the idea for this post before I visited London this last weekend. Thinking fondly about the Tube, it struck me that a lot of people don’t know what they’re doing. I hope to help people make their lives, and the lives of everyone around them, a bit easier. You can very easily give yourself a hard time by not knowing how to behave on the Tube.

These are the top 10 things that I see people get wrong a lot. If you don’t want to earn yourself a disapproving tut or head-shake, bear these tips in mind. They work whether this is your first, thousandth, or nth time on the Tube. Obviously, these are based on my personal experience – I’d love to hear your tips if you have any different ones!

1. Stand on the right of escalators.

I cannot stress to you how important this one is. I’ve seen British people actually say something to people who break this rule. That is how seriously it’s taken. You always, always stand on the right of the underground escalators. This keeps the left side clear for people who are in a rush, or who just want to leg it up there instead of standing still (like my bff Lana and I once did, a mistake I don’t think we’ll ever repeat – in our defence, we were trying to get to a Paul Simonon book signing). Also make sure any luggage you’re carrying is out of the way. This is the one that I’ve seen people get the most annoyed about.

2. Let people off of the Tube before you barge on there.

I get it. It’s London. You pretty much have to walk with your elbows sticking out if you want to get anywhere. Barging is a part of life when the city is teeming and you’re in a hurry. But you’re the one who looks like a tosser if you come barrelling into the tube carriage before anyone can get off at their stop.

3. For goodness’ sake hold onto something!

Far too often I see inexperienced people take a spill because they think they can stand up on the Tube without holding onto railings. You will inevitably crash into somebody who does this every day, and they will tut at you (please be aware that tutting is the utmost punishment in Britain). It’s not fair to potentially injure (and severely annoy) other people because you think your balance is better than it is.

4. If you don’t know where you’re going, get out of the way.

There are maps and route plans everywhere in Tube stations. There is even a handy app, but be advised that you don’t get signal in the underground and wifi is patchy at best. So make sure to find out where you’re heading before you descend. If you’re a bit lost or unsure, step out of the flow of foot-traffic because there’s nothing more annoying than being in a hurry and crashing into somebody who comes to a dead stop in front of you. The maps and signs are always on a wall, so stand near to the wall – it’s a double whammy then because you avoid being trampled AND you can peruse the map for as long as it takes for you to right yourself.

london underground sign

5. Have hand sanitiser on your person at all times.

The Tube is old and basically deeper than the bowels of Hell, so there is a lot of soot and nonsense down there (quite aside from grubby human germs – you know some people don’t wash their hands after they’ve been to the loo). This one is less an etiquette thing and more an ‘avoiding a resurgence of the bubonic plague’ thing. If you’ve been riding the Tube all day, you’ll know it because your hands will feel grimy and you’ll need to blow your nose (I call it ‘Tube bogeys’ and it’s as unpleasant as it sounds). So hand sanitiser = good.

6. Don’t stare at people.

It’s hard when you’re sitting opposite somebody on a packed Tube, but this one’s simple. Do you like to be stared at? I didn’t think so. It’s more than likely that person opposite you doesn’t like it either. They know you can’t see anything out of the window over their head, but they probably appreciate you for staring at it like it’s of great interest to you.

7. Don’t block the doors.

You’re running to catch that Tube that’s about to depart. You make a daring leap into the packed carriage and bask in your triumph. Until you realise that half of your body or your bag is outside of the carriage, and the doors won’t shut. Honestly, don’t do it. The Tube comes often enough for you to catch the next one. Blocking the doors in a way that they won’t shut just causes everyone to be delayed. I guarantee no one is impressed with you trying to fit yourself in like a Tetris block at the last second and holding up the whole train.

Tube Train

8. Be helpful.

Heavily pregnant woman? Old man struggling to stay upright? Family with little kids? Give up your seat, don’t be a dick. You will notice that a lot of people will just ignore others around them because they earned that seat, damn it! They didn’t battle through the tides of people and descend into the stuffy heat of the Underground, only to give up their seat. But honestly, do you want to be that person? If you’re able-bodied, it won’t kill you to stand up for what is probably only a few minutes on the Tube. It might kill you to know you were responsible for someone’s kid getting body-slammed when the Tube jerkily pulls out of Baker Street station.

9. Don’t put your bags on the seat next to you.

This one sounds so obvious and ridiculous but I was there, Gandalf. I’ve seen people on a packed Tube with all of their shopping bags piled on a perfectly usable seat. I promise that everybody in that carriage hated that person. Just don’t do it, it’s antisocial and really ignorant. Put your bags between your feet or on your lap.

10. Be prepared for rudeness.

You are now armed with the top tips to tackle the Tube (that was so much alliteration that my head is hurting), but matey on the Victoria Line might not be. He’s determined to get to Oxford Circus you see, and he simply must get there before you or anyone else. You WILL be buffeted about like a pinball, and people are known to make bitter comments about ‘slow people on the fuckin TUBE’. The point is not to take this personally. Even seasoned Tube travellers can end up getting rude because of how often they have to deal with clueless people, or the mass exodus of rush hour.


I hope these tips can come in handy for people who are about to navigate the London Underground. And I hope you avoid tuts and head-shakes from other people. The Tube really is a wonderful invention and a great way to get around. Just be considerate, safe, and smart.

Kayleigh x

 

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Packing For A Weekend In The City (& My Next Adventure!)

It’s about time I wrote about my next adventure – well, mini-adventure. I’ve previously alluded to it, but didn’t want to give too much away. Travel nerves really get to me before a trip – not fear of the travelling itself, but fear of plans falling through and things going wrong. So I tend to stay quiet-ish about it, until it’s pretty much time to go. I’m going to London this Friday for the weekend. London is my favourite place in the world and I haven’t been for ages, so I’m really excited to go back. Here’s a very brief breakdown of my rough plans for the weekend:

Friday

Apart from actually travelling to the city, I plan to spend the first day of my weekend in Camden. It’s my favourite place in London and where I feel most at home.

Saturday

My weekend continues with attending the Heroes & Villains con! I originally bought a ticket because Robin Lord Taylor (who plays the Penguin in one of my favourite shows, Gotham) is going to be there. Imagine how thrilled I was when it was announced that four other cast members were going to be there too. I’m really excited to meet them! Most of the Saturday will probably be spent at the con. On Saturday night, I may or may not go out to some interesting bars I’ve looked up.

Sunday

I want to try to have a chilled out day to round off the weekend. I’m just going to leisurely explore areas of London that I don’t tend to frequent. I booked a ticket for the Sky Garden because I’ve never been and it looks amazing, but apart from that it’ll be a pretty spontaneous day. I plan to just wander and see where my feet take me.

I’m pretty much ready for the weekend. All the tickets I need are booked; my itinerary is more or less written; outfits have been planned. The only thing left for me to do is pack efficiently for my weekend in the city! Obviously in this post ‘the City’ specifically refers to London, but this post can probably relate to most western cities.

packing for a weekend in the city

I find people are pretty much split into two groups when packing for the weekend:

1) Very very Spartan. “I WILL ONLY TAKE THE BARE NECESSITIES. THERE IS NO ROOM FOR FOLLY.” This can be really good because you’re packing super light and won’t have a tonne of luggage. BUT it can also mean you get caught short if you end up wanting to go somewhere fancy, or to the bar, or something else you didn’t plan for. You haven’t packed some fabulous evening wear because you didn’t think you’d need it and now you’re stuck!

2) I tend towards this category and it takes a lot of discipline to stop myself from becoming a full-on Category 2 packer. These people pack every single thing they could possibly, maybe, conceivably need on their weekend away and as such end up lugging around a tonne of stuff. Most of which they probably won’t even look at while they’re on their trip.

I’m trying to strike for a happy medium here. Not unprepared, but not over-prepared to the point of madness. Here are a few ideas and tips for packing for a lovely weekend in the city.

Decide on your luggage and resolve to only use that bag/case and nothing else. If it doesn’t all fit, condense. It’s so much better to just have the one bag, instead of faffing around with tonnes of luggage. You’re going away for one weekend, not a month on safari (something I often have to tell my Mum)!

Make a list! I’m very Type A, in the sense that I make thousands of lists. Unfortunately, this only creates an illusion of organisation. Mostly I am all over the place. But a list is so useful. You at least have a guide of what you want and need to take with you. I often write general ‘categories’ (e.g. essentials, hygiene/beauty, clothes, accessories, electricals, etc), and then write more specific things under each category (for example, under essentials, I would put: purse, phone, tickets, etc). Lists are also useful in showing you that you’re planning to take way too much with you, and you can adjust accordingly.

Remember to consider what you’re doing on your trip. Refer to your itinerary and pack accordingly. For example, if you’re going to be walking a lot (which I always do in London, regardless of my plans), pack some appropriate footwear. After getting Nightmare Blisters on my feet in New York, I cannot stress this enough. I learned the painful way so you don’t have to!

– This is somewhat related to the last point. For goodness’ sake, check the weather forecast! If you have a rough idea of how the weather will be, it will help you with your packing. If it’s going to rain, pack your brolly and a waterproof jacket. If it’ll be sunny, don’t take your knitted jumper. Sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised. I alluded to this on my post about travelling alone too, because there’s nothing worse than not being prepared for crap weather.

Plan your outfits. This sounds a bit silly, but it’s really useful. Obviously, this wouldn’t really be practical for a longer holiday. But if you’re only going away for a few days, you might as well decide what to wear beforehand. If you know exactly what clothing, shoes, and accessories you’re going to wear, you won’t end up packing loads of unnecessary gear. And that will make your life a whole lot easier.

Invest in mini toiletries (or those travel-sized bottles to decant your toiletries into) to save space and make your bag less heavy. I know travel-sized things can be ridiculous when it comes to price vs size, but I would rather carry them around than my huge Tresemmé shampoo bottles!

Think about your check-in and kick-out times. You might have to leave early-ish on your last day – my hotel will kick out at 10am on Sunday, which is sort of horrifying to me. You might end up having to carry your bags around on the last day. Obviously you want to be able to do this without getting stressed or tired. You also want to be able to do stuff on your last day, so my first point comes back in to play again. Having one reasonably sized bag will make your life a lot easier if you have to leave your hotel early. Similarly, you want to be able to carry your stuff around as you waste time before checking in, if you arrive in the city earlier than your hotel is ready for you.

What are your must-haves for staying in the city? Personally, my most important thing to have with me is my portable charger (from Paperchase, naturally). It’s so handy because I take all of my photos on my phone, not having a fancy camera. The worst thing is having your phone die when there’s still so many photos to be taken. I also, obviously, use my phone to consult Google Maps when I’m roaming around, so it’s really important to have enough charge. That’s where the portable charger comes in. At its fullest, it can recharge your phone from nothing to basically 100% again. And it’s easy to carry around, even when it’s attached to your phone.

Do you have any packing tips or hacks? Tell me in the comments!

Kayleigh x

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My Bucket List

Have you got a bucket list?

I find having one is a really great way to document all the cool things you want to experience in life. It gives you a starting point, so you can work towards the things that will fulfill you. I only started seriously thinking about creating a bucket list when I turned 18 (i.e. when I became a Proper Adult), but of course I’d always had idle dreams about the sorts of things I wanted to achieve. There is SO much I want to do and see before I die, and keeping them all in one list allows me to keep track of them.

I have a travel bucket list in the form of my ridiculously extensive Wanderlust page on this blog. To put it shortly (I forgive you if you don’t want to wade through all of that), I want to go everywhere up to and including Mars. I also have what’s called a ‘reverse bucket list’, which is stuff that used to be here on the bucket list, that I’ve now already achieved. Maybe I’ll post that some time – it’s not as extensive though. Keeping track of the things you’ve done is also a really good thing, because you can remind yourself of all the great things you’ve experienced and achieved.

Of course, this list will forever expand as I think of new things I’d like to do. It will also (very rarely) get smaller, as I hopefully tick off the things I experience.

bucket list

The List:

See the Aurora Borealis
Write a book
Buy a house
Study criminal psychology
Shoot a firearm
Learn to play the piano
Kiss Oscar Wilde’s tombstone
Gamble in Las Vegas
Look through a NASA telescope
Be fluent in German
Attend a film premiere
Go to midnight Mass
Stay overnight in a haunted building
View an autopsy
Climb a mountain
Ride a camel in the desert
Visit a ghost town
Act in the theatre
Go in a submarine
Go in a shark cage
Swim with Great White sharks
Go in a hot air balloon
Learn to drive
Go to a festival
See crop circles
Take part in a seance
Go to the circus
Learn to dance
See a volcanic eruption
Go stargazing
Explore an abandoned building
Be on a jury in court
Go to a fashion show
Audition for a TV show or film
Work in a funeral home
Stay in an ice hotel
See a performance at Shakespeare’s Globe
Own an instant camera
Ride an elephant
Sit outside Whitby Abbey at night
See the Turin shroud
Learn to ice-skate properly
Float on the Dead Sea
Have a bonfire on the beach
Go deep-sea diving
Learn to ride a motorcycle
Roast marshmallows on an active volcano
Have my portrait painted
Eat in an underwater restaurant
Chase a tornado
Have a wine cellar
Ride a ferris wheel
Participate in a Zombie Walk
Go in a helicopter
Learn Astronomy
Go wine-tasting at a vineyard
Watch turtles hatching
Attend a masquerade ball
Study Thanatology

What’s On Your List?

Has my bucket list given you any new ideas? Are any of your must-do things on this list? Tell me what’s on your bucket list in the comments – you might even give me some more ideas!

Kayleigh x

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What’s In My Bag?

I’ve seen other people make this post and I always enjoy them because I’m super nosy. It’s interesting to see what people’s must-haves are when it comes to what they carry in their bag. I decided to write my own because I like the idea, and also because (I’ll be honest) I’m having some pretty terrible writer’s block lately. I want to post something but haven’t really got any idea what. Life is quiet at the moment, so opportunities to write about things are sparse. So here’s my total-filler post – What’s In My Bag?

what's in my bag

The Bag

I have many bags, but the one I use the most is this tiny satchel-like thing. I bought it from New Look about 3-4 years ago, to replace a bag that was similar. It’s surprising how much actually fits into this bag, considering how small it is.

Keys

One of the most important things to have in a bag. Have you ever forgotten your keys? It’s horrifying! I especially like my keyrings. The one with theatre-themed charms and a small replica of the Sydney Opera House was bought for me by my Mum at – you guessed it!! – the Sydney Opera House. The tiny plush shark is from SeaLife in Berlin, and the London bus was bought at Paperchase because I love London. I have more keyrings, but it seems a bit over the top to add all of them when I only have four keys!

Purse

Arguably the second most important bag item. The place where all the money happens (or lack of money in my case). Mine is by Banned Apparel, and I bought it in 2012, during my second year of university. It’s held up pretty well in the last five years, though it is starting to fall apart a bit. You can’t really tell unless you see the inside. The bones on the outside glow in the dark, which has startled me more times than I care to admit.

iPod

Essential when, like me, you spend your life on public transport and the sound of people being loud and horrid annoys you to no end.

Pass Case

Another Paperchase item (there are a lot in my bag). I needed a cute case to contain my bus pass and Oyster card, because I have no room left in my purse to hold them. This one was perfect. It’s also easier to pull out of my bag and use on public transport without having to get out my purse and faff around for an age.

Chewing Gum

I always carry gum, even though I don’t often chew it.

Hand Sanitiser

Not just ANY hand sanitiser. This is ‘Hand Maid‘ by Soap & Glory i.e. the BEST hand sanitiser ever. It smells really nice, unlike most. The particular variety currently in my bag is the ‘Sugar Crush’ scent, though I do have a backup bottle in the original scent. I got into the habit of carrying hand sanitiser back in uni because I spent a lot of time in London and, no matter what you do, you always end up being filthy from the Tube.

Lipbalm

It’s a Jelly Belly cherry-flavoured lipbalm. I think I got it for £1 in Primark, but it’s delicious and good in a pinch. I keep my ‘real’ lipbalm, with SPF protection and all the rest of it, at home.

Hand Cream

Another beautiful Soap & Glory product – ‘Hand Food‘. My hands get really dry, especially at work, so I like having some moisturiser in my bag.

Mini Tin

‘BAM!’ PAINKILLERS. That’s what this little Paperchase mini tin contains. Because of my bad knees and general achiness if I overdo things, I’m quite often in pain. I’m very prone to headaches too, so it’s useful to have painkillers on me. I try not to take pills unless I absolutely have to, but there’s nothing worse than needing them when you’re out. I also like to have them in case other people need them – rescuing people from imminent pain feels great! I put the painkillers in a little tin because it looks a bit nicer than having a blister pack just sat in your bag for people to judge.

Pens

I keep two pens in my bag. One fancy Paperchase one, which I use when I’m showing off. The other is a trusty Bic biro (always the best quality biro in my opinion), just in case the Paperchase one runs out suddenly.

Shopping Bag

These have been so useful since England implemented the 5p charge for plastic bags (gasp). Again, this is from Paperchase (and it matches my little pass case!). I have a few of these shopping bags, but this is the one that happened to be in my bag when I took the photo for this post.


Well, don’t you feel enlightened? Just a note: My bag usually contains a bunch of rubbish, but I tidied it up before I took the photo for this post. Or, you know, the entire photo would have been overtaken by piles of screwed up paper.

What’s in your bag? What can’t you leave the house without? Let me know!

Kayleigh x

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25 Things I’ve Learned In 25 Years

On April 7th (last Friday), I turned 25. A whole quarter-century! Celebrations were pretty tame and standard this year. On the Thursday, Caz and I went to see Ghost in the Shell because I have the biggest crush on Michael Pitt, and wanted to see his face on a huge screen. I know it’s been panned by a lot of people, but I personally really enjoyed it. It was visually stunning, and good at telling the story to people who haven’t experienced the manga.

For my actual birthday, I just went to lunch with my mum, brother, nephew, and Caz, which was nice! I didn’t really do anything huge because I’m saving money for when I go to London in May, which will remain cloaked in mystery for now. I got a bunch of money for my birthday too, so that’s gone towards the savings. I’m really excited! I’m also excited because my Nan bought me tickets to the Harry Potter studio tour in July. I’ve never been, and have wanted to go ever since it opened. It’s going to be awesome!

This post won’t be full of whimsy and positivity and yes, it’s mostly opinions formed by me in my years of life, but I’m trying to be as realistic as I can. Life is rich with positive and negative experiences, and I wanted to try to reflect that when I was thinking about things for this list. I’m also ashamed to admit how long it actually took me to come up with 25 things that I’ve learned. I drew from advice I give people younger than me when they ask for my opinion, and also things that I’ve learned about myself as I’ve grown.

25 things I've learned in 25 years

1. Don’t be afraid to cut negative people out of your life.

For years, I let people treat me terribly because I was too afraid of being alone, or ruining friendships. But eventually, I got too old to pander to people and let them walk all over me. You’re not a terrible person for cutting off people who just drag you down and make you feel miserable. Sometimes, you have to be selfish and ask yourself what this friendship/relationship is doing for you, and if it’s doing nothing but causing pain, you have every right to end it and walk away. It took me so long to learn this, and to accept it as something I could and should do.

2. Study hard, and never stop learning.

I am naturally intelligent, but my problem is that I was complacent and lazy in school/uni. I never had to study so I never learned how to discipline myself when it came to coursework and exam revision. I could have done so much better if I’d applied myself, but because I never had to try, by the time it mattered I didn’t have the skills to excel. I don’t have bad grades, I just never reached my full potential. And I’ll regret that every day. So I tell everybody younger than me to work hard at school/university and be the best they possibly can.

The other part of this one is to never, ever stop learning. I cannot understand or abide people who finish school and then go out of their way to not learn. There is so much wonder in the world, so many different things to know. I’m constantly trying to learn things, evidenced by how I’m a font of useless trivia, and did-you-knows. I’ve been told that makes me interesting to speak to, because I like to pass on things that I’ve learned to other people. I can’t imagine not seeking out new things to learn and understand. I want to know everything.

3. Life never, ever turns out how you expect it to.

I thought (rather naively) that by 25, I would have a decent job, my own place, and know what I was doing in life. It hasn’t gone that way at all. No matter what you want or expect for life, I can almost guarantee that it won’t turn out that way. Priorities also change, so what you wanted at 18 might not be what you want when you’re in your twenties. I’m disappointed that I haven’t been ‘successful’ yet in life, but on the flip side, I never thought I would have spent 2 months in the USA when I was 22. Life is full of surprises!

4. It’s ok to not be ok.

There’s so much pressure to always be positive and not ‘bring down’ other people’s moods, and I feel like that’s a really unhealthy way to think. There’s such a culture of holding back and not allowing ourselves to feel bad about something. It’s completely ok to not be happy all of the time. The people who actually care about you would rather you were honest about how you’re feeling, believe me. I’m not saying to bare your soul to every single person, but don’t hide away from the people who know and love you the most. Additionally (and I’m still working on this one), try not to beat yourself up if you have a bad day. When I’m feeling exhausted and unproductive, I have a bad habit of tormenting myself over it, and it’s really unhelpful. I’m trying hard to be nicer to myself.

5. Instagram life vs real life.

Think about the work that goes into your Instagram posts. I’ll bet you take several photos, get the lighting sorted, filter/edit it so it looks just right, and then post it! We tend to forget that basically everybody goes through this process of selection and editing, and it leads to feelings of jealousy and inadequacy. You must remember that social media is where people show the polished, thought-out version of themselves, and that you are also guilty of doing the same. I’m forever feeling envious of the people that I follow (especially those that get to travel a lot), and I could do with remembering this one myself a lot of the time.

6. Money can go a long way towards buying happiness.

I’m tired of the ‘money can’t buy happiness’ thing. To an extent, it totally can. Money pays for shelter, security, food and drink, health, travel, and nice things. It makes it so that you don’t have to worry about where your next meal is coming from, or whether you can afford to go to the dentist this month. I don’t know, I feel like I’d be a lot happier if I could afford to live alone and travel more. I might be wrong.

7. Water is so important – stay hydrated!!

I’m sorry, I’m a Water Bore. As a kid, I never drank water (and by kid, I mean all the way up until age 20), and wondered why I felt so crummy a lot of the time – I’d get terrible, swimming headaches, and feel lethargic by the end of the day. Since I made a concerted effort to drink at least 1 litre of water a day (2 is my daily goal), my body has felt so much cleaner and refreshed. I no longer get swimming headaches because I don’t let myself get that dehydrated any more.

8. Always be open to other people’s opinions and experiences. Be open minded full stop.

This also ties in with the learning thing. Other people and other cultures are so interesting to hear about. I’m not a religious person, but I love reading about religious belief on an academic level. I like to hear perspectives from people of different race, sexuality, and culture to myself. It makes life so much more interesting and exciting. A lot of the world’s problems are caused by intolerance, and I feel like if people were less narrow-minded, everybody would get on a whole lot better. Don’t belittle others for what they think, feel, or believe in. And don’t let others make you feel like crap for your beliefs.

9. Travel is absolutely worth it.

Ok, I may be biased on this one. I’m at my happiest when I’m exploring somewhere new. I love to travel, the whole process of it is exciting. Planning a trip, the physical travelling, and being in a whole new place with so much to see and experience. I feel like it’s so good for you, body and soul. It also can be linked back to the last point on this list – travelling allows you to learn more about other people and cultures different to yours. It opens your mind and expands your tolerance and understanding. I wish more than anything that I had the resources to travel so much more than I’m able to right now. I feel like there’s a whole world I’m missing out on.

10. Mental health is just as important as physical health.

This one took me forever to learn, because society as a whole still doesn’t hold mental illness up to the same sympathetic standards as physical illnesses. It’s unfortunate. But if you do suffer from a mental illness, the most important thing you have to learn is that it is just as valid as any physical illness. Taking care of your mental health is so, so important – not doing so can actually end up having a physical toll on you, and you stop enjoying life as you should. Take care of your brain as well as your body!

11. You don’t get stuff just because you hope for it.

Life is not easy. Apart from very, very few exceptions, everyone works their ass off to get the things they want. You may scoff at the Instagram model who gets thousands of pounds for ‘just taking selfies’, but you haven’t seen her hustle for years, perfect taking portraits of her outfits, reach out to influencers and brands to get the word out, and all the rest of it. It’s easy to deride somebody who seems to ‘do nothing’ and make a living from it, but more often than not, they’ve put in work every day for years before getting any results. It’s like anything you want in life – a career, experiences, or even just material things. You don’t just get given stuff, you have to work for it and earn it.

12. Be honest, but not brutal.

I despise the phrase ‘brutally honest’. More often than not, people use it as a pass to be a dick, and then as a defence when someone reacts badly. “You obviously can’t deal with the truth!” No, there are ways to be truthful and tactful. There’s no need to be hurtful just for the sake of it. I do think that honesty is very important, though. I find that people appreciate a painful truth so much more than a lie. It’s just more constructive, and I don’t see why people feel the need to lie to others, especially people close to them. Linked to this is to be true to yourself. Be open about what you enjoy, what you hate, and what is important to you. There’s nothing worse than someone who changes their personality to benefit those they’re around at the time.

13. Don’t be afraid to be enthusiastic about what you love.

Have you ever been talking excitedly about something and someone says “Calm down!” to you? Yeah, I despise that. I don’t know when it became ‘cool’ to never be excited or express any interest in life, but it’s really rude to shoot down someone who is talking about something they enjoy. I love it when people are passionate. Even if I haven’t got the slightest interest in the subject, I still listen and learn from them because of how infectious someone’s excitement can be. Apathy is so overrated, and I don’t know why people think it’s a good trait to have. I’m only apathetic when I’m extremely depressed so, for me, it’s a ridiculously negative feeling.

14. I think exercise is horrible and only do it out of necessity.

I will never, ever understand people that talk and talk about exercising and going to the gym and calories and all the rest of it. This is a personal preference – I fully understand that some people have an interest in exercise and sports, and that it’s exciting to them. I just.. Don’t get it. I exercise only to lose weight and try to get into shape again. I’m not interested in it at all, and I don’t enjoy it. I suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as well as having problems with the cartilage in my knees, so exercise actually causes me a lot of pain and misery if I overdo it. Maybe if it weren’t for that, I’d like it a lot more. Who knows?

15. A lot of what your mother told you was right.

Occasionally, I’ll experience something in life and think ‘oh shit, Mum told me this’. It’s so hard to admit that all of your Mum’s annoying sayings and experienced advice was right. But it usually is. If you’re still a young ‘un, I would suggest taking a lot more stock in what your mother tells you. Even if it’s annoying and a drag right now, you’ll eventually realise that she’s speaking from experience and is trying her best to forewarn and forearm you.

16. I never want children, but I love being an aunt.

I’m not maternal. I hear a baby crying in a shop and it just makes me want to get out of there. Small kids annoy me because they’re always sticky and they have really loud voices. I’m not even slightly interested in having children, because all I seem to hear from parents is how tiring and annoying and disgusting it can be. I know that’s not what all parents feel like all the time, but it’s not really encouraging to hear more complaints than you hear good things.

I do, however, love being an aunt. I get to have the kids when they’re fun. As soon as they make a smell, or start whingeing, I can just.. Give them back. And that suits me fine. It’s ok to not want children, even though (especially if you’re female) everyone still seems to think that’s something you HAVE to do in life. There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t want to be a parent, and it’s gross that people try to make you feel that way.

17. University isn’t a key to the door any more.

This is probably the hardest lesson I’ve learned in my life, the most bitter pill I’ve had to swallow. As recently as the 90s, degrees were a pretty sure-fire way to kickstart a career, or at least get a foot in the door of the industry you wanted to be in. Because so many people now have access to university, degrees are a dime a dozen and the already-strained job market cannot accommodate so many graduates. It’s a sad reality of the current economic climate. I graduated from university in 2014, and I haven’t used my degree yet. I thought it would be helpful, and the beginning to a great career. It’s been pretty crushing to realise that it’s not the ‘key to the door’ any more. It’s also hard to feel like you’ve wasted so much money and time on something that is essentially useless.

18. It’s really hard to make (non-online) friends as an adult.

Unless you’re naturally a very confident, friendly person, you will struggle to make friends as an adult. It’s easier in school or university, because you kind of have to make friends, and there are so many people around you that it’s easier to just strike up conversations. As an adult, especially one who isn’t very confident or doesn’t go out much, it’s really hard. Things are a bit different now, in that it’s so easy to meet like-minded people online and make friends that way. But it’s very easy to get lonely when you just have ‘virtual’ friends. Whether we like it or not, humans are social creatures, and it’s difficult to feel good when you’re alone most of the time.

19. You’re allowed to feel sad about inadequacies in your life, without it being ‘unfair’ to someone worse off.

It really, really pisses me off when people are quick to point out how ‘other people have it worse than you’. Somebody else’s suffering does not negate the way you feel right now. It’s like turning to someone who’s just won the lottery and saying, “Yeah, well Bill Gates is a billionaire – he’s way better off than you.” It’s just a shitty thing to do. If you’re unhappy with aspects of your life, you are valid and you are allowed to feel that way. For example, I’ve been really depressed lately for fully circumstantial reasons. I’m unhappy in my job because I don’t make enough money to move out, be independent, or do anything I’m interested in. Somebody telling me there are people worse off than me is not helpful to me; it just makes me feel ungrateful when really.. Why shouldn’t I strive for more in my life than just scraping by, living in the box-room in my mother’s house? Why shouldn’t I work to better myself and feel happier in my life? My situation isn’t the worst in the world, but it’s the worst to me. How is reminding me of people worse off helpful or constructive? It isn’t. It’s just making me feel worse.

20. Everybody’s just winging it.

Do you ever look around and think that everybody else has all their shit together, and are doing so well and being so successful in life? Honestly, they’re probably just as scared and confused as you are. Most people I’ve met and spoken to, from all walks of life, from all sorts of careers, aren’t quite sure how they got there. Of course, they worked hard and made choices, but most of the time they were flying blind. Nobody knows what they’re doing in life, we’re all just trying to make it somehow. And I find that incredibly comforting.

21. Reach out for help when you’re struggling.

Don’t be a martyr. No matter what you’re going through, there is someone, somewhere that can help you. Even just talking something through with another person can be helpful. This can apply to any situation be it work, social, school, physical/mental health, or home life. If you’re sinking on your own, it’s not a bad thing to reach out for someone to help buoy you up, or give you the resources to help yourself. It’s uncomfortable to ask for help, and difficult to make the leap. But in the end, you’ll be glad you did.

22. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.

Don’t let people treat you like shit because you’re too polite. Be polite and civil up until the point that they’re not. As soon as somebody starts being abusive towards you, even if it’s just something they’re saying that’s upsetting you, stand your ground. Tell them that it’s not kind and not acceptable for them to be treating you like that. Of course, I’m not saying get into fights and altercations all the time, but if somebody (especially if they’re meant to be a friend/family member) is treating you awfully, you ought to speak up. If you don’t feel safe doing so, remember the last point on this list – reach out to somebody and tell them what’s happening.

23. Not everyone is going to like you.

It’s a sad fact, I know. You’re so brilliant! Unfortunately, not everybody you meet will see that. This one takes a long time to accept, but sometimes people just don’t ‘click’. Unless they’re openly and ridiculously hateful from the off, the best thing is to try not to take it personally. You’re just incompatible (or they have a stick up their ass). There’s nothing you can do about that. If it’s somebody you absolutely cannot avoid, always be polite and cordial with them. It’s not being two-faced, it’s being an adult. It’s making things more comfortable for everybody – no one wants to be in a room with snarky comments and a hateful atmosphere.

24. Don’t take your metabolism for granted!

I was a skinny kid. I was a skinny teenager. Pretty much as soon as I hit 21, I piled weight on. My amazing metabolism deserted me, probably when I needed it most (in university, when takeaways and alcohol were my diet). Now I’m finding it nigh impossible to shift the excess weight and it’s making me absolutely miserable. Please, please don’t take your speedy metabolism for granted, if you’re lucky enough to be born with one. Start getting into the habit of exercising and eating right, even though you don’t ‘need’ to yet. Because one day, it will fail you and you won’t have the discipline to stop getting bigger. It happened to me.

25. There is no time limit on life events

Get a job/career, save up money to buy a house, get married, travel the world, have a family, etc. We still seem to put a time limit on big life events. Like you have to be married by x age, or you’re a useless spinster. Unfortunately, all of these things take more time now, thanks to the recession and subsequent crap job market. Most people in my generation can’t afford to move into their own house; they’re either still at home, or they live with a bunch of other people. Similarly, most people I know aren’t in a long-term relationship because they don’t meet people (I also find Tinder etc are NOT a fix for this). Society is changing a lot in recent years, and I think people need to remember that instead of expecting people to move out at 18 like they could when everyone had a job and the housing market was a doddle to get into.


It took me a long time to write this (I’ve been drafting it for weeks), firstly because it was hard to come up with 25 important things that I’ve learned in life. It was also hard to think of things that could apply to most people, to make this more relatable to read. But it was also difficult because some of these ‘lessons’ have been painful and hard to learn for me. Life isn’t always positive. Unfortunately, I often find it’s far more negative than positive. I’m hoping one day I can turn that around.

What are your important life lessons? Have you learned anything different from this list? What are the experiences that taught you what you know? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Kayleigh x

 

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Valentine’s Pink Velvet Cake!

pink velvet cake

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Now, I don’t actually have a Valentine this year (and haven’t had one since 2012), which is outrageous considering how amazing I am at baking. Instead, I just baked this for my family and friends to enjoy. A super-girly spin on the classic red velvet cake, I wanted to make a pink velvet because a) it’s so much brighter and cuter and b) unlike a red velvet cake, it doesn’t call for cocoa powder in the recipe. I’ve vowed off of chocolate this year, so I’m trying to make recipes that I can partake in. Something that cannot be said for the beautiful raspberry brownie cake I made my brother for his 20th birthday – I just had to watch everybody else enjoy that one. I’m still not over it.

pink velvet full cake

As you can see, I decorated according to the occasion using Love Hearts as well as freeze-dried strawberry, silver balls, and tiny marbled heart sprinkles. However, this is a great recipe that doesn’t have to be exclusive to Valentine’s Day! Do you have a friend who loves the colour pink? Make ’em a pink velvet for their birthday! Are you hosting an event for Breast Cancer Awareness? Pink velvet cake! Are you simply adorable and cooking up something tasty for a tea party with your cute friends? Pink. Velvet. Cake. It’s so versatile, and I daresay you could even go mad and change the colour. How about a blue velvet cake? A black velvet cake? Or a rainbow marbled velvet cake?? The possibilities are endless!

The reason velvet cake is so fab is because of its glorious texture, which I think is caused by the buttermilk in the recipe (although I could be wrong – I don’t claim to be an expert, just a really really good baker). It’s dense but not overly so, with a real melt in the mouth feel to it. ‘Velvet’ is a very apt description. This one was definitely a big success. I say this because it disappeared very quickly.

pink velvet slice

If you’re looking for a recipe for this pretty cake, I originally wrote it up on my baking blog, Sugar Induced Coma. I had made it for my sister-in-law’s birthday. As you can see in that post as well as this one, only the inside of the cake actually resembles the colour pink. This time I’d hoped it would be different as I used ‘professional’ paste food colouring rather than gel. It worked wonders when I made red velvet, but this fell really flat and I was totally disappointed. I don’t feel like the cake looks anywhere near as bright and cute as I wanted it to. Maybe I need a darker shade of pink. Either way, I’m hacked off because I paid out £3.50 for a small pot of that paste. You live and you learn, though. At least it tasted bloody delicious.

I hope everyone’s having as good of a day as they can, whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s or not. If you’ve made a sweet treat for today, please tell me about it! I want to see what cute stuff other people are coming up with. Don’t limit it to baking either – maybe you handmade a card, or crafted a cute gift, or cooked a lovely meal. In any case, I want to hear about it. Drop a comment and have a chat!

Kayleigh x

Do you know someone with a sweet tooth who’d lurve to see this cake? Are you going to try out this recipe sometime? Have my amazing baking skills captured your heart? Share this post, and I’ll love you forever!

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On Depression

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing this post for a few weeks now. I made an Evernote and dumped every thought and feeling on the subject of depression into it, and now I’m wading through it all to bring a coherent blog post into being. At times, I considered not doing it at all. This topic has probably been blogged about a lot, by all kinds of different people. I decided to go ahead because I think we need all the voices and narratives that we can get. Every person that writes a tweet, or a blog post, or speaks aloud about depression increases the awareness of people, and – hopefully – spreads knowledge and understanding. Mental illness is still woefully misunderstood and misrepresented, and if I can do my small bit to keep the conversation going, I will gladly.

First, I’ll start with some statistics. I promise depression is a very known and very personal subject to me, and this will be a personal post. I won’t just recycle facts that you can easily find for yourself. But I think it’s important to lay a foundation, and show how prevalent depression is becoming.

  • The 2013 Global Disease Study found that depression was the most predominant mental health problem experienced worldwide.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that between 35-50% of mental health sufferers in developed countries do not get treatment for their mental illness (this number is closer to 85% in developing countries).

The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (UK), last carried out in 2014 and published in 2016, found that:

  • “In 2014, 19.7% of people in the UK aged 16 and older showed symptoms of anxiety or depression – a 1.5% increase from 2013” (Mental Health Foundation, 2016*).
  • Between 2007 and 2014, the prevalence of depression has risen in the UK from 2.3% to 3.3% of the population (this doesn’t sound like much, but that’s over 650,000 people).

I know these stats are very UK-centric (because I live here), but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they were similar in most other developed countries. The data for other countries is out there, and I would be interested if any of you researched your own countries to see the similarities and differences. Of course, I won’t go into the more triggering statistics and data (as I will not talk about self harm or suicide in this post), but they are out there if you want to find them.

There is so much information out there about the clinical side of depression – the common symptoms, treatment options, prognosis, etc. But the human side of it is just as important. I find it’s better to hear about a topic from somebody who knows it, and lives with it, as they often give a more ‘real’ image of what it’s actually like. Experts can know depression, know everything about it, and quote studies at you all day. But if they’ve never been depressed, it’s difficult to fully describe and understand.

I do not, for one second, claim to be a professional or an authority on the topic. I just wanted to write about depression as, lately, I’ve had a big relapse and have been struggling. I feel like there’s still so much distance between people’s understanding and the actual reality of depression, and still so much stigma and ignorance.

on-depression

Unfortunately for those suffering with depression, treatment for it is often unhelpful, mostly due to underfunding. Governments fail to recognise the importance of researching mental illness and coming to a better understanding of why it happens, and how it can be treated. There is a still a lack of understanding, even in the medical field, with some doctors (one of which I encountered) refusing to medicate for depression as they didn’t believe in it. Understanding depression, and mental illness in general, has come so far in recent years, but is still a long way from fully explaining or treating it.

Treatment can be hit and miss as well, as different things work for different people. The process is slow and arduous, and many people become quickly frustrated with how long it takes to start feeling even slightly better. There is no magic pill that’s a cure-all for depression, no magic combo of meds and therapy that helps everybody in the same way. For example, I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety for the majority of my life and I still haven’t found the right treatment (since 2004, when I started getting treatment). It’s no wonder that many depressed people become cynical towards their treatment.

But what is depression like?

It’s impossible to understand how it feels if you’re somebody who has never experienced it. Sometimes it can be cured, sometimes it’s there forever. Quite often depression fluctuates, like any condition is wont to do. It is definitely affected by external circumstances (such as financial difficulties and bereavement), but is not always caused by them.

The biggest myth about depression is that you ‘feel sad all of the time’ – this is not true. Dictionary.com defines psychiatric depression as ‘a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal; sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason‘, and synonyms listed for depression are all words that can be translated as ‘sad’. But sadness is not the only word, or the most common word, that I would use to describe it.

Mostly, depression is a numbness. It’s a feeling of apathy toward everything and everyone. Occasionally, you become irritable or terribly, terribly melancholy, but mostly it feels hollow. Life feels empty, grey, and bland. It’s like trying to run when you’re waist-deep in treacle (tiring and slugging and slow-going, it feels like you’re going nowhere. It’s an exhaustion that no amount of sleep will fix. It’s like drowning when everyone around you can breathe easily.

On saying that, it’s also important to remember that depression doesn’t manifest the same way for everybody. There are, of course, common symptoms that can indicate to a doctor or psychologist that their patient is depressed. These are the most common symptoms to look out for:

  • Continuous low mood
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Low self esteem and confidence
  • Feeling tearful, guilty, irritable, and intolerant
  • Having no motivation or interest in things (even things you used to enjoy)
  • Feeling anxious or worried, often without reason
  • Persistent thoughts of harming or killing yourself
  • Changes in appetite and sleeping
  • Lack of energy
  • Avoiding socialising/contact with others

These are ‘common’ symptoms, but not everybody has all of them. The symptoms can also be contradictory from person to person. For example, a depressed person may overeat, or have no appetite at all. Some depressed people avoid life and stay on their own, others throw themselves into work or party all the time to avoid being alone with their thoughts. This can make it really difficult to diagnose depression as there are so many complex and often contradictory symptoms.

Why are people depressed?

As I said before, depression can be temporary and circumstantial. The death of a loved one or pet, a divorce, being laid off from a job, or even moving house can trigger depression. Others are affected simply because of their natural brain chemistry. Either way, it can be chronic.

Asking somebody what reason they have to be depressed isn’t productive. Because depression isn’t rational. It cannot be reasoned with. Depression doesn’t care who you are, or how much money you have in the bank. Depression doesn’t care about your race, sexuality, gender identity, or political leanings. Depression hits everybody without discrimination and without remorse.

Nowadays, it’s recognised as a legitimate condition, which is progress (and great progress). But a lot of people are still discriminatory toward people who either can’t work due to depression, or have to have special arrangements made with their employer about when and how they work. This is mostly due to the ignorance and stigma that still surrounds depression and mental illness. I have been told by people that, although they try to sympathise with a depressed colleague, they can’t help thinking ‘you’re just sad, you can be sad at work’. It simply does not work that way. At its worst, depression prevents people from even getting out of bed, showering or feeding themselves. It makes an entire day at work look like a figurative Everest – insurmountable and dangerous.

How can I help?

In my opinion, the best thing you can do if somebody you care about is depressed, is listen to them. Sometimes, just getting out some of the negative thoughts can make somebody feel – if not better – calmer. Allow them to talk to you with no distractions, and if you don’t know what to say, just offer comfort and sympathy. Remember, no matter how well-meaning you are, to a depressed person your advice is probably things that they’ve heard (and tried) before. If somebody wants to be alone, you mustn’t take it personally. However, always make sure that it’s safe to leave them alone – if you have concerns about leaving them, voice these concerns.

It doesn’t work to tell a depressed person to ‘do something that makes them happy’, because at the moment nothing does make them happy. Their usual hobbies don’t interest them, and they never feel like they’re enjoying themselves. It’s frustrating for the sufferer, but I definitely understand that it’s also frustrating for those that know and love them. Everybody involved knows that doing something will perhaps cheer them up, but in the throes of depression, you feel like nothing can cheer you up, and that nothing will ever change. Most people with depression want to be useful and productive, but cannot muster the energy or care enough to do so.

Personally, the only thing that makes me happy and that I enjoy even when I’m depressed is travelling and exploring. Because of depression and chronic fatigue, I only work part-time, so I cannot often afford to go anywhere. I’m lucky if I leave the country once every two years, after saving everything I don’t spend on bills. I logistically cannot do what makes me happy, and it does make me feel worse when people say “Just save up!” “Just go!”, like I have access to that kind of disposable income. I’m not saying this to make people feel sorry for me, but to illustrate that sometimes it’s not ‘laziness’ or ‘quitting before even trying’ – sometimes it’s not possible to do the things you know will make you feel better, and you must try to compromise.

Dealing with somebody who is depressed can be incredibly frustrating, as it may feel like they’re not listening to your advice, or just dismissing you. But it’s unhelpful to get angry, or tell them that they’re ‘not even trying’. I’m not saying you should treat them like glass – you don’t have to take abusive language or actions from somebody, even if they are depressed. Just try to cut them some slack if they come off as irritable or ungrateful. Remind yourself that it is a mental illness, and that their way of thinking is currently disordered. Have patience, and remember to remove yourself from the situation if it’s affecting your mental health negatively. As much as you want to be there for somebody, you shouldn’t do it at the expense of your own wellbeing.

This is just a personal pet peeve of mine, but please resolve to never add the word ‘just’ to your suggestions, if you make any. “You JUST need to make yourself get up.” “You JUST need to think positively.” – as if it’s the easiest thing in the world. It will make them feel worse, guaranteed. Rationally, they know that these are the things they should be doing, but it doesn’t mean that it’s easy or even possible for them at that moment. The word ‘just’ (and I speak from experience here) makes somebody feel like they’re useless for not being able to do this totally simple thing, and makes the speaker come across as impatient.


It’s very difficult to be somebody who suffers from depression now, despite increased understanding and awareness, because of all of the ‘positive vibes’ movements happening online and in the media. It’s so great that mindfulness and self-care are becoming huge; it’s an incredibly positive mindset to strive for. But it can also be a double-edged sword if you’re depressed. ‘Positive vibes ONLY’ sounds exclusionary, like there’s no place for you if you’re not continually happy and healthy. Social media becomes triggering when you’re constantly bombarded with feel good memes, and testimonials about how exercise makes you feel Totally Better. It’s unrealistic to expect someone suffering with depression to run 5k, when getting out of bed and into the shower is an achievement. Obviously I don’t speak for everyone with depression, but I know that I would love to do a kickass workout and loads of productive things, and feel positive and look forward to life. It’s just not an option at this moment in time. Sometimes the best self-care somebody can manage is remembering to brush their hair, or have a glass of water. And that’s also ok.

It happens in offline life too. When you’re depressed, people stop inviting you out. You understand why – you’re a bummer to be around – but that only makes you feel worse. It annoys people that you can’t ‘just enjoy yourself’. You become more isolated as people don’t want to deal with your negativity, and that feeds the depression more. I think it’s just important to try to remember that depressed people are always trying to be involved, trying to care and enjoy themselves, but their legitimate medical condition makes that very difficult to do.

This is why I resolve to never pretend that everything’s 100% good, 100% of the time. I won’t always be positive and bouncy and smiley – that would be misleading, and false. I don’t want to lie to people, but if it gets to the point that it’s all misery, I will take a step back from blogging. I want this blog to be honest, but I don’t want it to be an entirely miserable snoozefest. I said it at the beginning of the post – I have been struggling lately. This blog has suffered because I haven’t been able to put the work into it (evidenced by a complete lack of a post last week). This post has actually taken two weeks to get out, simply because I’ve been so tired and uninterested. I wanted to write this post, but sitting in front of my laptop and staring at the cursor was overwhelming. When I’m feeling ok, I’m excited and enthusiastic about this blog. I love blogging and I love to write and come up with ideas. It’s a testament to how rubbish I’ve felt that I’m not feeling excited about blogging, or about anything really.

It’s not normal to read about JK Rowling’s Dementors and nog sagely at their effects, recognising them completely as your own depression.


IF YOU ARE DEPRESSED OR WORRIED ABOUT SOMEONE YOU KNOW, PLEASE REACH OUT. There are hotlines, charities and organisations that can help you if you can’t afford/can’t face seeing a doctor or psychologist. There’s a wealth of information and resources on the internet. You can even talk to me if you want, just please talk to somebody. Nobody should have to deal with depression on their own. Here are some of my favourite mental health organisations:

Mind – I used to donate monthly to them, but I can’t afford to anymore. They’re a UK-based charity, but the information on their website is incredibly extensive and helpful.

Mental Health Foundation – Another site packed full of information. The statistics at the beginning of this post were found in their paper, ‘Fundamental Facts About Mental Health 2016‘.

Time To Change – This is another UK charity, but their goal is to eliminate mental health discrimination. I made a pledge on this site in 2011, showing my support for them after I saw the wonderful Stephen Fry do the same. Pledges are short messages from people saying what they want to aim to do to help stop the stigma that still surrounds mental illnesses. Almost 100,000 people have made pledges – click here to make your own!

Bell Let’s Talk – This one’s Canada-based, but I heard about them through the hashtag they run on twitter. Bell Let’s Talk aims to break the silence around mental illness, and encourages people to use the hashtag and talk about their experiences.

Kayleigh x

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Remembering The Little Things In Life

I like to remember the little things in life. Those tiny pockets of happiness that just brighten my day that little bit more. Being a huge pessimist (and quite morbid, honestly), I tend to focus on the doom and gloom in life. So finding small things to smile about is part of my self-care. I never used to pay attention to how happy these things made me feel. Now I try to remind myself that it really is the small things that count.

I’ve been working on this list for over a year. It’s taken that long because I don’t want to just put any old thing onto the list. It’s for things that really, really cheer me up in the simplest of ways. Maybe someday there will be a part two, but I wouldn’t hold your breath for that. Small pleasures are hard to identify because they’re things we usually just take for granted.

(Just a note: I published an early version of this list on my old blogspot, but I’ve reworked and added to it since!)

little-things

    • Waking myself up by laughing in my sleep
    • The first drop on a rollercoaster
    • Lying in bed at night, listening to the rain
    • The first sips of a cold, fizzy drink
    • Getting into pyjamas at the end of a long day
    • Walking in the middle of the night when no one’s around
    • Cold cider on a hot day
    • The feeling of ‘slipping away’ just before falling asleep
    • Sweet tea
    • Forgetting the world while reading a book
    • The smell after rain
    • Long walks
    • When someone in a movie says the title
    • Perfect, golden toast with butter melted into it
    • Afternoon naps
    • Crunching ice cubes
    • Laughing fits that go on for ages
    • Comfortable silences
    • When people compliment my baking
    • The feeling after finishing a really good book
    • Buying stationery
    • Spontaneous trips and adventures
    • The smell of the air by the sea
    • Looking at old photos
    • Drinking ice-cold water after exercising
    • Pens that write really nicely
    • Singing really loudly when no one’s home
    • The smell of books
    • Remembering a song I haven’t heard in years and listening to it again
    • Having a hot drink after coming in from the cold
    • Learning a new word
    • Campfires
    • Autumn
    • When old people say good morning to me
    • Train/plane journeys
    • Picking up/cuddling/petting animals
    • The sound of the sea
    • Candlelight
    • The smell of strawberries
    • Soda floats
    • Walking in the middle of nowhere
    • Communal laughter in public places
    • Inside jokes
    • Spotting wild animals
    • Smiles from strangers
    • Free food
    • Long drives
    • Birdsong
    • Making people laugh
    • A bright blue sky with no clouds (or a few fluffy, white clouds)
    • Walking barefoot in the grass
    • Finishing a to do list
    • Wild flowers
    • Running through untouched snow
    • Having a nice, big stretch when I wake up
    • Boozy picnics
    • The smell of freshly-cut grass
    • Family barbecues on hot days
    • The anticipation of seeing a loved one (family, friends, pets, lovers, etc)
    • When my food arrives at a restaurant
    • Going out for lunch/dinner
    • Fruity cocktails
    • Rainbows
    • Having my hair styled by someone else
    • When a package arrives in the mail
    • Being pleasantly tipsy
    • Duvet days
    • Random acts of kindness
    • Twitter notifications
    • Using the London Underground
    • The satisfied tiredness after completing something
    • When a vending machine drops two items at once

Your turn!

Tell me what your ‘little things’ are! What makes you happy or gives you a little pep in an otherwise bad day? Maybe you also enjoy some of the things on my list – what are they? I would love to hear from you. Hey, maybe I’ll get more ideas for my list! Please comment below and tell me all of your favourite little things.

Kayleigh x

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5 Common Blogging Fears (And Why You Should Blog Anyway!)

Starting a blog is a surprisingly scary endeavour. You’re about to put yourself out there, for anyone to see and respond to. Whether you’re blogging about your own life, or a particular topic, you’re still essentially putting yourself up for scrutiny and potential judgement. Because I’ve been blogging for what experts call “a bloody long time”, that stage-fright isn’t what it used to be. But I do remember it. And I’m here to tell you that these fears are valid, but they also should not stop you from starting up a blog, if that’s what you really want. Here are 5 of the most common fears that I’ve heard from people who want to start a blog, but can’t quite muster up the courage, and my response as to why none of them should be stopping you. After I’ve (hopefully) assuaged some of your trepidation, there’s a cheeky free resource at the end of this post, just to give you a starting point for setting up your shiny new blog!

1. “I don’t have the money to run a website!”

This one was my top fear before I started this blog. Due to illness, university debt, and a crappy job market, I currently only hold a part-time job. After bills, I don’t have a tonne of money left over. I have some savings, but not much. So I had to think carefully about the things I wanted to spend money on when it came to starting this whole endeavour, and prioritised the most important things. The only things I’ve paid for so far are: domain hosting (with the very reasonably priced Bluehost), ConvertKit (for all the lovely forms I set up on here), and a couple of Facebook ads. It can be done cheaply!

If you have no money to spare, you can start your blog on a free platform and then upgrade to a paid domain when you’re able to. Don’t listen to anyone who says they don’t take free blog URLs seriously (e.g. (yoursite).wordpress.com). If your content is great, it really shouldn’t matter. Also, take advantage of free program trials! I’m currently using Adobe Illustrator on a free trial (I hope to pay for it one day, as I’ve fallen in love with it); you can test-drive all Adobe products, and I’m sure most well-known programs will offer a trial version.

There are tonnes of free plugins and add-ons for WordPress (if you have a domain and are making use of WordPress.org). Even if you have a free account, most blogging platforms offer lots of free widgets and themes for you to customise. Here is a mock-up site that I made before paying for hosting – all of that was made for free, but it still looks tidy and pretty.

As long as you have access to the internet, you can make a blog!

2. “No one will read my posts!”

This is one that I still worry about. It’s important not to obsess over subscriber/reader numbers (something I’m guilty of), but at the same time it’s very true that most people write blogs for other people to read. It can be really disheartening when you feel like you’re just talking to dead air. The first way you can combat this is to tell all of your family and friends about your new blog. Encourage them to share your blog with their friends, and so on.

In addition to this, you can also share your new blog posts on your social media accounts! The advent of social media has been a total game-changer for bloggers, creating a lot more reach and opportunity. It’s so much easier for somebody to share your post if you’ve already created a tweet or a pin for it.

The number one way to get people to read your blog is to share it everywhere and anywhere that you can. Be sure to create a mailing list too, to keep those readers coming back, and build up loyalty for your brand.

3. “I haven’t the first clue about web design!”

Wait, you think I do? I have some savvy when it comes to HTML – I’ve picked up enough bits and pieces over the years, but I’m by no means an expert. And I’ll let you in on a secret – 90% of my blog was not coded by me! I used a theme that was freely available on WordPress (it’s called Shopstar – meant for online stores, but not exclusively for that purpose), and customised it to death, until I was happy with how it looked. Even changing it wasn’t difficult. Most of the customisation options are already thought of and laid out in easy, clickable buttons. I spent forever tweaking tiny bits of the theme but – all told – once I’d settled on the base theme, it really didn’t take long to get it looking great. Again, utilise widgets and plugins to make your blog look even better. You can use them to edit the sidebar, header, and footer of your site.

Obviously, one day, I would love to have a completely custom theme. But a good designer costs more than I have, and I don’t want to skimp on something so important. If you have the funds, you should go ahead and seek out some fabulous designers to make a theme for you – there are some great ones out there! But you really don’t need to be a coding genius to get a decent-looking site up and running! On saying that, though, I would suggest reading up on basic coding and learning what you can. It’s helpful to know some of the simpler stuff, just in case you need to tweak something small, or to rectify code that has gone wrong.

4. “I don’t have a ‘niche’!”

Lifestyle blogger, food blogger, travel blogger, fitness blogger, etc etc. There are all kinds of bloggers out there, and their blogs mostly have a ‘niche’, or a topic that they base all of their posts around. Many helpful blogging websites will tell you that a niche is simply crucial to having any success with your blog. Personally, I don’t think that’s true. As long as you have a list of categories (like my little pink buttons in the sidebar!), so that people can browse your posts based on what they want to read, you can blog about whatever the heck you like! It’s your blog for a reason. I’ve read lots of blogs that have many, many topics set out in a clear, readable way. Organisation is key – make use of category menus or buttons, relevant tags, and clear navigation. It’s an insult to our audiences’ intelligence if we assume they can’t handle more than one topic at a time.

If you still want to identify a niche to make your blog all about, that’s great! Remember, it’s not imperative to have your niche down as soon as you launch. I’m still finding my feet when it comes to the topics I want to cover. I’ve decided that – aside from a personal blog about me and my life – I will mainly post about travel and blogging itself. I don’t consider myself to be a ‘niche’ blogger, but I wanted to narrow down my vast amount of interests to something at least legible.

Like anything, blogging takes time to get into the swing of things and decide which topics are your favourite, that you’re good at, and that you want to talk about. No human only has one singular interest, so it can be very difficult to narrow it down. Ultimately, don’t worry too much about having a niche, especially not right at the beginning of your blog.

5. “I don’t have many social media followers!”

I hear ya, friend, Gaining followers on social media can be hard. When you’re starting out, it matters more to have some loyal followers, rather than thousands of followers who don’t care about you or your brand. Loyal followers are more likely to share your content and get the word out. This will organically bring more people to your blog.

As for boosting your following on social media sites, there is really only one way you can do this. Interact with everybody. Like, share, retweet, comment, follow – be social! Check out other people’s blogs, leave thoughtful comments, share their posts with your followers.

I personally find this one to be the hardest out of the five fears. Before you start getting super successful and the followers come of their own accord, it’s a lot of graft on your part to increase your following. I don’t have a huge social media presence. But since I’ve started actively trying to improve it, I have seen results from simply interacting more. Next week, I will be writing a post about how I boosted my Instagram by over 100 followers in just under a month. I hope it’ll be helpful to you!


Now that you’re a fearless warrior, make sure you grab my super easy blog starter checklist (see below) – it’ll just remind you of the key elements of starting up your blog. Once all of those are ticked off, you can start to build on the foundation you’ve laid out! I’ve also added a sheet with my favourite beginners’ tools and plugins that help a lot with running a blog. Remember, I’m new to the Real Blogging scene – paid domain blogging, with full control at your fingertips – too, so I’m only suggesting that you use easy but effective tools to start with. The best part? All of my suggested tools are free (kinda ties in with Problem #1 up there)! Click here to download your checklist!

Talk to me!

Do you have any fears that I didn’t mention? Are you wanting to start a blog, but can’t take the leap? Tell me all about it! And maybe you know people who could use a bit of encouragement in their blogging endeavours? Maybe you yourself found this post useful? Maybe you love me so much that you simply must share my wise words? (okay, that last one was a joke) – if you could be a doll and share this lovely article, I’d be thrilled! The social media buttons are there on the left!

Kayleigh x