A Little Bit About…Meatballs

You know the feeling when you spend hours making a meal, then you eventually sit down to eat it, but the end result somehow doesn’t seem worth all that effort? Or when you order something in a restaurant because the description on the menu had your taste buds tingling, but when the waiter puts it down in front of you it tastes bland and flat in comparison? Well a few months ago, back when we still attended the office every day, I had a pretty traumatic lunch break in work due to that very type of disappointment – obviously I’m exaggerating about the traumatic part, but I can’t help it, especially when it comes to food. I’d had the cold for about a week (don’t worry, just an actual cold, nothing Coronavirus related), so was feeling sorry for myself – no one else would – and decided I wanted something warm and hearty for lunch instead of the usual sandwich or baguette. So I asked in the canteen if they could do takeaway for the hot food and they said yes, bonus! They always have a selection of at least 3 hot mains to choose from. My choices today were:

  • a macaroni cheese type dish – ruled out because of my lactose intolerance
  • swordfish with a selection of season vegetables – ruled out by being too healthy and not quite cutting it on a day where I wanted nothing but stodge
  • meatballs in a delicious looking sauce with a side of roast potatoes – sold!

I practically sprinted back upstairs so that I could dig in to my calorie ridden, carbohydrate infested meal as soon as possible. Just what the doctor ordered (in this instance, by doctor I quite clearly do not mean doctor and obviously mean the bottomless pit that is my stomach). I made the first cut into one of the meatballs, ready to smush (that’s a word, right?) it about in the sauce and take my first bite. Only to see that the “meatball” was white inside. Hmm, strange right? Well you’ll never guess. What I thought were meatballs, were in fact codballs. That’s right, you read that correctly. Flaked codfish, mushed together and rolled into a ball. Codballs. Yuck! Why someone would come up with such an invention I have no idea. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fish dish, but rolled up…no thanks!

Now I like to think that I’m a fairly positive, smiley person. Well not this day. I was in a terrible mood all afternoon. Unhelpful to my colleagues, unmotivated to go to the gym that night (ha, any excuse, right?) and in an all-round bad mood. All because of a few codballs (it doesn’t get any more normal the more you say it, does it?). Does anyone else let the small things in life annoy them this much?

Do you want to know the only thing that put a smile on my face again later that night? It was when I remembered this…When I was in my late teens/early 20s, my friends and I used to always hang out at the same friend’s house, as he had converted the garage at his mum and dad’s house into a hang-out space for us all (I can’t believe I just used the word hang-out, I feel like that majorly undermines the coolness of it but I’m not really sure what else to call it to be honest). We spent endless nights there, drinking, eating, dancing, singing, laughing. But regardless of the occasion, or who was there, we ALWAYS used to watch the same movie before everyone eventually crashed out, Michael Jackson’s This Is It. So why did this seemingly irrelevant anecdote end up making me smile after the codball catastrophe? Because every single “morning after” the epic night before, when we’d all wake up with sore heads, the TV was always still on and had been playing the advert at the end of the Michael Jackson DVD on repeat. That advert was for the kid’s movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

To this day I’ve still never watched the actual movie itself, but somehow it holds such a strong meaning for me. Somehow, that random thought process cheered me up and put a smile on my face, making me forget about the white mush of a lunch I spent 8.99€ on and making me think happier thoughts, back to the great times spent with friends (and the not so great clean-ups the morning after the party the night before).

A Little Bit About…Close Calls

I’m in one of those phases where I’m trying to “branch out” into listening to new music, something other than the same 5 Spotify Pop Music Playlists I always have on shuffle. So I’ve started to listen to some country music. When I say country, I really mean country pop. Therefore, not that different. But anyway, baby steps.

One of the things I’ve started to love about country music is the lyrics, because for some reason they seem a little bit more profound and insightful than your typical pop song. One of my favourite artists at the moment is Thomas Rhett (who also happens to have a song with the lyrics “ain’t nothing that a beer can’t fix”, but I promise that’s not the ONLY reason I like his music).

Anyway, one of his songs is called Almost and talks about how we should be grateful for the “close calls” in our life, the good and the bad, because they’ve made us who we are today. He uses examples of how he almost gave up playing guitar when he was younger, yet now he’s a world renowned musician, and how he almost didn’t kiss the girl…who turned out to be his wife.

Think about it. I mean, there are so many different types of close calls. It got me thinking a lot about some of my own, and made me realise it’s such a positive way to look at things

The things you ALMOST gave up on but looking back now, you’re glad you didn’t: Like sticking to your diet or keeping running when you wanted to give up. I remember thinking in my Spanish classes so many times throughout school and university that I must be mental to WANT to subject myself to embarrassing myself in front of an entire class by having to speak a foreign language out loud and probably (almost always at the beginning) say something wrong. I almost gave up. But I didn’t, I persevered. And thank goodness. Because if I did, I wouldn’t be fluent and I probably would never have taken the opportunity to move to Spain. When things get tough, it’s human instinct to want to bail. But some things are worth sticking to.

The things you ALMOST didn’t even do in the first place: Like talking to that person in the playground when you were 5 years old who turned out to be your best friend to this very day. Think just how differently your life would have turned out if you didn’t even do some of the things you have done over the years? So I say apply for the job, phone that friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with, start that new hobby no matter what age you are – if something is for you, it won’t go by you (as Grans all over the UK would say)!

The “ALMOSTS” which simply turn out not to be for you: Like certain boyfriends and girlfriends, or jobs you didn’t get but wished you did. When these things start to fall apart, it can feel like the world is crashing down around you. But looking back, you can appreciate some things just aren’t mean to be because you have a different path to take in life.

The “ALMOSTS” that could have turned out worse than they did: Like falling and hurting your foot but thankfully not breaking it, or losing your phone but luckily having all of your contacts and files backed up. One pretty prominent example sticks out in my mind for this one. I was in a car accident with a colleague about 18 months ago (a story for another day!) whereby a large container truck changed lane on the motorway without checking his mirrors, and hit our car, sending us into a spin. THANKFULLY, there were no other cars in any of the 4 lanes right at that moment in time, so our car eventually spun out and hit the crash barrier before finally coming to a halt. Albeit the car was written off and we suffered some pretty sore sprains and fractures due to whiplash, we were OKAY! If it had happened even one second before or after, there would have been more cars involved and the situation could have escalated, meaning it was ALMOST even worse. Looking back, I’m so thankful it happened the way it did (albeit I would rather not ever have to go through that again).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say we have to look at absolutely everything in life through a set of rose tinted lenses and put a positive spin on it all. But I do think being thankful for the “almosts” and “close calls” in life is a helpful way to look at certain things. Even if it is just something as simple as “I almost forgot to stock up on chocolate yesterday at the supermarket, thank goodness they put those KitKats at the checkout otherwise I would have no Sunday night snack” (true story)!

A Little Bit About…Time

A Little Bit About: Time

I know it’s such a cliché, but time really does fly by doesn’t it? As much as lockdown is taking its toll on everyone, I can’t help but feel that time is passing fairly quickly. I last left my friends and colleagues in the office when it was the beginning of March. Suddenly it’s the end of May. How did that happen?

Back in 2016, I had a work trip abroad for 3 days with non-stop meetings. It was great, and very productive, but it left me with a ton of follow up work to do and an accumulation of emails to deal with. So on the plane home I got my laptop out to do some work. I had an important presentation due in the next day and wanted to use my time effectively, instead of wasting 3 hours watching Netflix or listening to Spotify. In the seat next to me there was a young mum, probably the same age as me, with a one-year-old baby sitting on her lap. I made some brief small talk with her as the flight was taking off. The baby, naturally, was wriggling about, arms flailing all flight long. I constantly reassured the mum that the baby was simply doing what babies do best: playing. Until…

Right as the air steward made the announcement that we were approaching landing and so all electronic devices had to be stowed away (side note, do we EVER use the word stowed in any other context?), I was about to save and shut down my laptop when the baby slammed her cute, chubby little hand down on the keyboard, coincidentally (and soul destroying-ly) holding down the delete button. It was ALL gone. All of it. I genuinely thought things like that only happened in cartoons, not real life! Now I’m starting to realise that maybe all of these things have happened to me to give me good blog content….

Anyway, what does this story have to do with time flying in (apologies, that was a looooong tangent)? Well now fast forward to Christmas time 2019 and I was boarding my flight home to Scotland, when in the row in front of me was the very same young mum and the baby who was now FOUR YEARS OLD! This time the woman’s husband was with them and they had another new born baby. I remember that like it was yesterday (clearly traumatised having to re-do 3 hours of work later on that night) yet three whole years had passed.

I was actually talking to a really close friend of mine recently about this, and we got to talking about what our lives might look like in 3 years’ time, because if we look back 3 years, we never would have guessed we’d be where we are. Back then I was travelling back and forth between Spain and Scotland, practically living out of a suitcase, trying to keep on top of work, my personal life and a whole lot of packing and unpacking. Yet 3 years down the line I now live in Spain and it feels like a lifetime ago I was travelling back and forth. Where will I be in another 3 years? Hopefully not still in lockdown at least…

A Little Bit About…Alba

I’ve attempted a few times to write about life abroad or more specifically, my decision to move from Scotland to Spain. It’s funny actually, when I tell people I have a blog, they always assume that is what I write about all the time, when it’s actually what I find the hardest to write about.

It’s difficult trying to express in words how at home I feel in both places. How I rarely feel like I’m in a FOREIGN country. How I feel just as at home in Spain as I do in Scotland. How I absolutely love my life in Spain, and can say hand on heart I prefer the Spanish lifestyle (it’s hard to argue with so much sun and a constant combination of siestas and fiestas). Yet living here has made me more fiercely proud to be Scottish than ever, and makes me miss Scotland and all of its beauty (even if it is shadowed by grey clouds 90% of the year).

Do I miss home sometimes? Absolutely. I’m not trying to pretend that life in Spain is rosy 100% of the time (particularly in current circumstances). But at the end of the day, Scotland, my family and my true friends will always be there for me, regardless of where I – or they – live.

Do cultural differences sometimes drive me up the wall? Of course they do! Like the fact that people don’t queue up for things in Spain, or the fact they are so direct when they speak. But I’ve grown to love these “quirks” and find they make me appreciate an orderly queue of polite people every time I’m back home more than normal!

Do I get sick of speaking Spanish all the time? Yes, and no. I absolutely love being able to speak another language, and feel like I can express myself differently in both languages. But my poor wee brain sometimes gets tired, that’s for sure.   

And Scotland, what can I say! The land of breathtaking scenery, friendly people, square sausages, irn-bru, tattie scones and ridiculously hairy cows. Like I said beforehand, living abroad makes me even prouder to be Scottish than I have ever been. Hearing a Scottish accent or a set of bagpipes is enough to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Bonnie Scotland – I’ll move home one day!

So what made me think about all of this? A good – and very artistic – friend of mine recently drew a cartoon portrait of me and I reckon he summed me up perfectly: he drew me sitting writing at my laptop (he took the liberty of upgrading me to a Macbook, if you’re reading, thanks for that by the way), with a glass of wine at arm’s reach (naturally) and with a window and bookshelf behind me. Through the window you can see some of both Glasgow AND Madrid’s most famous sights. And on the bookshelf, there’s a little Scottish AND a Spanish flag.

I know it might sound silly, as it’s maybe an obvious fact consider I am Scottish and live in Spain. But for me it hit home that both Spain and Scotland make up who I am now, and both play such an important role in my life and heart.

Anyway, why did I decide to write all of this tonight? Because it took me back to why I chose to use the name Alba on this blog. Fun fact, it isn’t a coincidence. Alba is my actual name translated into Spanish. But it also means Scotland in Gaelic. Tell me that is not fate? Oh, and it was just pure luck it also stands for A Little Bit About.

Scotland, I love ye, I’ve always loved ye.

Spain, te quiero, y siempre te querré.

A Little Bit About…Blood Tests

Don’t worry, this post isn’t as ominous as it sounds. I’m fortunate enough to have had very little health issues over the years, but for some reason every time I need to get blood taken, things turn eventful. It’s not that I’m scared of needles, it’s seems to be more a case of being squeamish. I think. Anyway, I have a blood test scheduled for tomorrow and it got me thinking.

The first time I properly remember getting blood taken was when I was in my teens, and I went to the doctor with my mum. I can’t quite remember what I was going for, but the doctor – a small, 5ft 6inch Irishman – decided to take some blood just to check everything was ok. He asked if I was okay with needles, I said yes (as that’s not really something you know the answer to until it’s too late) and he talked me through the process as he was doing it. Aside from what felt like a small and sharp pinch, it was as quick as lightening! He gave me some cotton wool and a plaster to put on and that was me, good to go. He told me the test results would be available in 3-5 working days, my mum and I said thanks for everything and off we went. Well, off my mum went. I on the hand only lasted about 8 seconds on my feet before feeling really dizzy and fainting.

The next time I went to the doctors to get blood taken several years later, it was a different doctor, and she too asked if I was okay with needles. I said yes. Why? Because I figured that one time I fainted was a fluke. So she took the blood, I felt fine, we exchanged some small talk while she cleaned my arm up, gave me a plaster and off I went. This time I made it to the waiting room where my boyfriend of the time was waiting on me. He asked how it went, and I started to tell him as we stood in line at reception to make a follow up appointment. Then BOOM, the room started spinning, I started to feel faint and down I went. Funny thing was (I can laugh about it now, but at the time I was NOT happy), for some reason his instinct was to catch my handbag instead of me!

The time after that was with a nurse who, as seems to be usual procedure, asked me if I was okay with needles. Guess what I said? “Yes, no problem whatsoever”. Why? Well, I lasted a whole 8 minutes without fainting the last time, this time would surely be a doddle I thought to myself. It wasn’t. I didn’t actually faint this time, but I did ask the nurse if I could have a couple of minutes before getting up as I felt a bit dizzy. She took my blood pressure and it was really low, so she let me lie down for 15 minutes before checking on me again. When she did, she took my blood pressure again. This time it was through the roof, so she told me to stay lying down for another 15 minutes until it stabilised. The next time she came back to check on me, the blood pressure monitor just showed two little dashes like this – – as it couldn’t even find my blood pressure this time!! So I had to stay lying down again. 45 minutes later I was finally cleared to go!

And so on and so on. Will I ever learn? I consider myself a very honest and truthful person. Yet when a doctor or nurse asks me how I am with needles, I seem to turn into a pathological liar. Thinking of making a t-shirt to wear tomorrow saying “Ignore me when I say I’m okay with needles, I’m not”. What do you think?

Joking aside, I’ve luckily gotten to know the nurses at my local surgery really well over the last few years since living in Spain. They don’t let me lie. They don’t even ask me anymore, they simply make me lie down from the word go and distract me with all kinds of stories until they’ve done the test and enough time has passed for me to feel ok. I guess being the only Scottish patient makes me memorable. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up for debate!

A Little Bit About…The Things Kids Do

Whether you’re a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, or none of the above, you have to admit that children sure know how to brighten up your day. No doubt half of you will be missing seeing the kids in your life right now due to lockdown restrictions…and the other half of you (the parents) will be run ragged trying to keep them entertained 24/7.

Now I don’t have any children of my own yet, so I’m no expert. And living abroad, away from family and friends, means I don’t get to see my cousins’ and friends’ kids as often as I’d like. It also means they seem to grow up even quicker in between times when I do see them. That being said, everyone is pretty good at keeping me updated with photos and videos of what they are up to and all their new talents. They really do crack me up, and it got me thinking – imagine we did some of the things that kids do, but now, as adults?

At what age does it become socially unacceptable to do the things we used to do when we were 4 years old? Like just staying sitting on the ground when you fall down, like nothing happened. Or using your imagination to pretend a cardboard box is really a spaceship on its way to the moon.

I really think we could learn a lot from kids, and here’s why:

They say exactly what they want, when they want – Kids are so smart and yet innocent enough at the same time to say exactly what they feel at any given time – no frills: “I don’t want to play that game anymore”, “I don’t like that broccoli soup”, “your hair looks funny today”. Wouldn’t adult life be easier if we did the same thing? “I don’t want to go out tonight”, “I’d rather have the cheeseburger and fries please”, “I think you should wear the black t-shirt instead”.

They keep things short and sweet – My friend sent me a funny video recently of her little girl playing with a pretend mobile phone, and she both answered it and hung up on the imaginary person in the space of 4 seconds. Her conversation went something like this “Hello, oh hi, it’s you, ok bye bye”. Now I know she was just playing…but how much do you wish you could hang up the phone half of the time? She has the right idea if you ask me.

They’re determined – Resilience is something we seem to lose a little bit (or a lot) of as we grow up, which in turn leads us to sometimes lose determination and passion about something, out of fear of failure or rejection. Yet kids seem to bounce back so naturally and approach things with such determination. A friend sent me a hilarious video of her daughter trying to give their pet dog a kiss, who was having none of it, paying very little attention, and quite happy just lying where he was. But she continued reaching over, pouting her lips without giving up. Now I’m not saying we should all go around pouting our lips at people we want to kiss until they kiss us back (I’m not going that far to get myself a date!), but what a simple example of going after something you want!

They don’t pretend to be interested when they’re not – This is a bad habit we have as adults, where we’re too polite or empathetic to tell someone when we’re not interested in something, so we nod along, wasting everyone’s time. Yet this is something that even the tiniest babies have mastered. Us adults sing songs, play peek-a-boo and generally speak in a ridiculously high pitched tone trying to make them smile and laugh. And if they don’t find us funny, that blank stare we get back sure does let us know!

They wear whatever outfit they have on with confidence – whether it’s a clown-like outfit their mum put them in (thanks mum, you can tell I’m still not over that, even 29 years later haha) or an outfit they pick out themselves, kids have the confidence to wear whatever wild outfit combination they please. And the best bit, people still say “aww look, how cute”. Yet how many of us change top at least 3 times before leaving the house purely out of self-doubt?

They are fearless – my cousin is terrified of spiders, always has been. Yet her little boy has been cracking us up this week by being nature’s best friend, reaching out and touching spiders as if it was a big fluffy teddy bear. I love this about kids! They’re so brave and daring.

Adulting is damn hard, let’s not lie. So why not take the best bits of our childhoods and give them a comeback? A little bit of curiosity, imagination and creativity could go a long way.  

A Little Bit About…Lockdown

Up until now, I’ve tried to avoid doing a post specifically about lockdown or Coronavirus, because lets face it, who am I to tell you things you should or shouldn’t do while self-isolating? If you want to use this time to learn 3 new languages, to bake 3 loafs of banana bread a week and to Marie Kondo your entire house, go for it. If you want to do only one or none of those things, that’s okay too. I’m on day 46 of lockdown and I have had all kinds of days so far; some where I’ve been so productive I even ironed my couch cover and cushion covers (don’t know about you, but that was most definitely a first for me!), then other days where all I want to do is lie about and watch TV. I’ve also had the odd day where even watching TV feels like too much.

While personally I feel that having a routine does me good (things like working from home Monday to Friday, having certain videocalls planned in with friends and family), the key to survival for me has been doing what I want when I feel like it. The only rule of quarantine (apart from the ones the Government puts in place….) is that there are no rules. Want to have a kale and spinach smoothie for breakfast on Monday to kick start the week? Go for it, I fully support it. End up having 2 chocolate chip cookies for breakfast by the time it comes to Tuesday? That’s acceptable too.

 The rest of this week’s post is a little bit different, in that I’ve written a poem. A poem about my attitude towards lockdown. Over the past few years I’ve found I really enjoy writing poems. The ones I’ve done have all been very light-hearted and (attempting to be) humorous, and all for family and friends for birthdays or special occasions. I’m no expert, but it’s something I find quite enjoyable and one of the best ways to focus my mind and avoid it spiraling into overthinking. So here it goes, A Little Bit About Lockdown…

How many people have made a bucket list over the years?

Of all the things they want to do to conquer their fears.

I know I have, in fact I’ve thought about it quite a bit.

But it has more things “still to do” than I’d like to admit.

If you’re anything like me, which I’m sure many of you are,

Your lists will not belimited to things like just travelling far.

You’ll want to do something different, something special, something more,

Something you never even really thought possible before.

Like saving someone’s life, how amazing would that be?

But am I really capable, just little old me?

I’m certainly not a doctor, if only I knew how.

I never thought it would be possible, that was until now…

We’re in a brand new world, one we’ve never seen before,

Where we have to think twice before we even open the front door.

We have to remember every day to maintain social distance,

Is this really happening, is this our new form of existence?

Yes, we’re all anxious and our emotions are up in the air,

And our biggest decision each morning is what pyjamas to wear.

The big event of each day is getting to take out the bins,

Followed by making some dinner and having a few mid-week gins.

Our body clocks and sleeping patterns are all out of sync,

We’re at a loose end and our nerves are on the brink.

But despite all of the days beginning to merge into one,

We applaud the key workers and all the great work they have done.

Because we have the ability to stay positive in our mind

And choose what to tell our grandkids about that time we were confined.

Yes, the entire world stayed home because Coronavirus was rife,

But I choose to call it “that time I stayed home and saved a life”.

A Little Bit About…Friends

I don’t know about everyone else, but being in quarantine (day 39 for me) has shown me how many great friends I have in my life. It’s unusual for everyone, all over the world, to come to a halt at the same time the way we all have recently due to the COVID-19 outbreak. And I guess one of the positives to come out of the surreal situation is that we can all, to some extent, understand and empathise with what each other are going through…because you’re going through it too, albeit to a varying degree depending on personal circumstance.

I honestly feel like the luckiest girl on the planet knowing I have so many amazing friends and family around me for support (sorry, should have given you some kind of cringe alert there in case you wanted to avert your eyes to such a girly gush of emotion). It got me thinking a lot – no matter how frequent or infrequent you keep in contact or whether you know a little or a lot about each other’s lives, friendships can make everything better.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve never been one of those “one best friend” kind of girls. In fact, I’m the opposite. I have so many groups of great friends that I thought it might be fun to talk through some of the different types of friends I have and see how many of you guys can relate. Now there’s no one “recommended” type of friend, nor is one category more important than the other. It’s just my take on some of the amazing people I have the privilege of calling my friends:

THE FOREVER FRIEND: also known as the OG. These could be friends you made back on your first day of school, family friends or childhood friends and have generally been around so long they now form part of the furniture! The best thing about these guys is that they probably know and remember more about you than you do yourself. But that comes with a down side…they also normally have the most ammunition to use against you in an embarrassing maid of honour or best man speech!

THE UNI FRIEND: Even if you didn’t go to University, I bet you everyone still has THAT group of friends which were the first people you met out-with the group of OGs, and who probably shared similar interests and goals to you. In my case, I met people who share a passion for learning languages and travelling to new places, and who to this day are some of my biggest supporters in life. What is funny about this group of friends for me is that I STILL consider them to be my “newer” friends, despite the fact that our first day of University was actually 12 years ago (ahhh, how did that happen?).

THE FIRST JOB FRIEND: There’s always something about your first job being your first that makes it stick in your mind forever, even if that was years ago. The people around you at that time therefore tend to stick around too. If you’re lucky like me, they’ve literally stuck around, not just in your mind. These guys were are for you when a customer shouted at you for the first time, or when you received your first pay check and realised just how much the tax man takes at the end of each month. Those things bond you for life!

THE COLLEAGUE FRIEND: Now fast forward a few years after your very first job. You’re now in your current job but the people around you are just as important. Unfortunately, customers STILL shout at you and the tax man STILL takes money off your pay check every month. Therefore you need these guys around you to build you back up!

THE FRIEND OF A FRIEND: Have you ever met someone through a friend and hit it off just as well with them as with your actual friend? I love being able to consider some of my friends’ boyfriends, girlfriends, school friends, family etc. to be good friends of my own. It’s all about sharing the love, right?

THE SOUL SISTER: Have you ever met someone and thought to yourself, “Wow, there’s two of us”? There’s no better feeling than knowing there’s someone else out there who is just as neurotic as you or someone who loves that TV show that all your other friends hate. This is a rare find, but boy is it a special one!

THE POLAR OPPOSITE: Do any of you have a friend who is the complete opposite of you? And you sometimes wonder how on earth the two of you get on? I love this type of friend. There’s no one better to call you put when you’re being needy, or selfish or pedantic. They tell you exactly how it is and make you see that there’s always another side to the story.

THE OPPOSITE SEX FRIEND: This one can sometimes be controversial as unfortunately even in today’s society, some people see a guy and girl being friends and assume there’s something “romantic” between them. When that is not the case at all, nor should it be. I’m lucky to consider some of the guys in my life as my best friends and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

THE “SITUATIONAL” FRIEND: Now this type of friend sometimes gets a bad rep, and I really don’t understand why. There’s something beautifully mature and realistic about being able to recognise you were friends with someone at a certain point in life because you were both in the same situation at the same time. And if you’re not now, making it harder to keep up the friendship…that’s okay too!

Whether you are the loud one, the loyal one, the wild one, the smart one or the late one, I can bet you are a better friend to more people than you even realise. Friends for me are everything, they really do become your family. However, what I don’t want people to take away from this post is some unattainable view of friendship whereby everything’s rosy and everyone loves each other 24/7. One of the best parts about friendship is laughing and making fun of each other (as long as it’s in gest) and being up front and honest, even when we don’t want to hear it.

We can’t all have Joey, Chandler, Ross, Rachel, Phoebe and Monica in our lives. But we sure can try and get close!

A Little Bit About…Procrastination

How many times have you convinced yourself “it’s okay” that you didn’t manage to do something because of how busy you were? I know I have, multiple times. So much so in fact, that I’m starting to realise that procrastination is an art I’ve fine-tuned over the years.

But one of the most common mistakes we can make is confusing being busy with being productive. Spending 12 hours a day in the library does not mean you are going to score 100% on an exam. Especially not if those 12 hours actually equate to only 2 real hours of studying, then 10 hours of snacking, checking emails, online shopping and chatting to the other people next you. Spending 2 hours in the gym every day doesn’t guarantee you’re going to be fitter than anyone else if what you’re actually spending more time doing is posing at the squat rack rather than burning calories. But we all do it (procrastinate, not pose at the squat rack). We convince ourselves we’re SO busy, ALL of the time that unsurprisingly, certain things fall off of our ‘To Do’ lists every single day. Here are some classics:

Keeping that new dress for a “special occasion”

Now this is something I do ALL THE TIME. I end up wearing the same clothes to work every single week because I don’t want to “waste” my new clothes just sitting about an office. Which means I now have way more clothes than places to wear them to. And the only way I could possibly get through them all is if I were to dress up every single day for the next 3 months (hmm, maybe that’s an idea for when quarantine is finally over?). I even have fancy socks which I don’t ever wear because I’m saving them. For when? Who knows! The more I thought about it as I started to write this, I realised just how ludicrous it sounds. So I’ve decided tonight is the night to wear my fancy socks. That’s right, tonight, my 5th Sunday night in quarantine, feels like as good a time as any to debut my sparkly pewter-coloured socks. Okay so no one will see them, but boy do I feel fancy!

Putting that item in your online shopping basket…“for later”

How many of you spend hours browsing online for the perfect item, reading reviews, checking sizes, colours, materials….all for nothing? Just out of interest, I went onto my Amazon account to see what I currently have sitting in my shopping cart and I found a hairdryer, a phone cover, a memory card, a hoover, a book and a picture frame. Now the only item I actually NEED out of those is a hairdryer as mine broke the other day. The others are things I at one point seemingly deemed SO important that I had to spend time looking them up – probably instead of doing the dishes or putting a washing on – only to leave them sitting in my online shopping basket, abandoned and ignored.  

Saying you’ll start your new exercise regime come Monday

I’ve grown to love fitness in the past 5 years. Or so I thought. What I’ve realised is that I’ve actually grown to love the social scene fitness has opened up for me. Be that going to the gym with a friend, meeting new people at an exercise class or playing a team sport. So as soon as I don’t have that social interaction as my motivation, BOOM, procrastination level shoots up to 100%. Right now I have the “excuse” that we’re not allowed outside here in Spain to do exercise, but I technically have millions of YouTube workouts at my mercy and a perfectly good open space on my living room floor I could be taking advantage of. And I’m not. The exercise I have decided to do in the past month has been either because a friend challenged me to do it, or because I was joining friends to do an exercise class via Skype. But hey, at least I’ve made an effort, right?

I’m now on day 33 of quarantine and I’m starting to look at being “stuck in” as a blessing in disguise, as it’s giving me the chance to do things I should’ve done a long time ago. Like wearing my sparkly socks (none of you can see, but my feet look so great right now, even if I do say so myself).

I say quarantine is our time to face procrastination head on! Who’s in? Do that workout, call that friend you’ve been meaning to, sort out that kitchen cupboard, learn how to dance, paint that picture, read that book. Whatever it is you feel like doing, do it, it’s worth a shot, right?  

A Little Bit About…Personal Space

Personal Space is a funny concept isn’t it? It’s one of those unwritten rules in life. Were any of you ever taught it in a classroom, or sat down by your parents and told about it? I didn’t think so, because me neither. Yet somehow we grow up knowing what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to interacting or coming into physical contact with others.

Do you agree that a personal space slip-up can cause some of the most embarrassing and awkward moments? Let’s be honest, there’s nothing more cringe-worthy than relaxing a bit too much while getting your nails done and unknowingly holding the beautician’s hand. But our perspective on personal space can also cause a million other emotions – happiness from a hug, annoyance from someone hogging the armrest on a plane, or frustration when you want some me-time and people won’t leave you alone.  

I’ve lived in Spain for the past 3 years and I can confidently say that living abroad and submerging yourself into a different culture challenges your own concept of personal space more than you would imagine. As you may know, people in Spain, as is custom in many countries, often greet each other with a kiss on either cheek. In Scotland where I come from, aside from hugging your family and friends, we generally stick with a very non-invasive wave (if you’re lucky)! So for me, it definitely took me a minute to get used to meeting strangers and kissing each other on each cheek (and if like me at the beginning you are wondering if you have to greet your boss and your colleagues like that every single day when you go in to work, you will be glad to know, like me, you do not).

Now back when I first moved here, I thought that was one of the biggest challenges I would face when it came to personal space. But with the current self-isolation and lockdown situation, our concept of personal space is being challenged more than ever. In very, very extreme ways!

We’re used to going about our daily life, walking the streets without even thinking. Now we have to remain approximately 2m apart from anyone who doesn’t live in the same household as us.

We’re used to getting out of the house and spending time at work, or with friends and family to let loose. Now we have to stay in and see the same faces all day every day.

We’re used to seeing our work colleagues in suits and ties in meeting rooms. Now we’re seeing them wearing a t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms sitting at their kitchen tables via video conference.

I live alone, so suddenly I’m surrounded by nothing but my own space. Last week a package I had ordered prior to lockdown got delivered, and as per the no contact policy the delivery company has in place, the guy rang my flat buzzer from downstairs then sent the package up in the elevator by itself. Quite a humorous sight to see a little brown box staring up at me as the elevator doors opened.

But as scared or intimidated or alone as we might feel right now, staying home if you can is the best thing we can do to keep ourselves and others healthy. Even if that does mean not being able to go wherever we want with whoever we want, or having to queue up at the supermarket and stay 2m behind the person in front of us as if it’s a real life game of Monopoly and we’re just waiting to pass go,

We need to remember this is temporary. Just like those annoying roadworks on your way to work, or that bruise on your arm you want to go away, or crop tops being in fashion. Things WILL go back to normal, the only unknown is when.

So for those of us who are missing friends and family, just be thankful you have those people to visit once this is all over (and do a hell of a lot of video calls in the meantime).

For those who are going stir crazy seeing the same few faces every single day, try to appreciate the company you have and enjoy any flashing moments you do get by yourself, even if those are few and far between.

For those who are alone, stay in touch with people as much as you can and take comfort in thinking about all of the things you’ll do and the people you’ll meet once this is over (or do what I did and take a leaf out of Tom Hanks’ book in Castaway by making a household friend – my kitchen roll now has a drawn-on pair of eyes and a mouth, wears my spare pair of glasses and is called Roland. And no, I’m not joking. Call me temporarily insane if you want, but Roland is a GREAT listener).

Stay safe everyone!